The Road Less Taken
Disclaimer: I have no life, therefore I own nothing.
A/N: This story is heavy AU. If you don't recognize it, odds are it's mine. I don't mind sharing, as long as you ask.
A/N: I'm Warning you guys, there is an amount of bad language now. It's only in dialogue, I'm a firm believer that the English language has much better adjectives than F*** this and F*** that; however it keeps the characters in character.
Chapter 7: Bad Impressions
"Don't worry about him Sweetthing, he's just worried that you'll be too busy planning revenge on him for closing your school, to give him a legitimate chance." It was the woman from before back with her southern drawl and quirky smile. "Now, my name's Louisa Lork; Major Lork, US Army, and if Smarty—Pants over there were to get his head out of his-" She was quickly cut off by a caramel colored hand that slapped itself over her mouth.
"Alexandre Gregori Jewlerz, Colonel Jewlerz, Master War Mage, US Army."
"What's a War Mage?" Harry didn't really know why, but his question had evoked a full toothed smile from the Major Lark, and a quirked smile from the Colonel. It was a simple tilt of the lips on one side of his mouth and a warmth in his eyes. "I don't understand, did I insult you Colonel?"
"Alex, is fine-"
"The WMG, or War Mage Guard, is an elite group of men who perfect the science of killing and make it an art. To be a simple War Mage you must be proficient in a martial art, necromancy, runes, Dark Arts, the defense of the former , charms, and potions. They must also know a foreign language and many choose to also learn swordsmanship. To be a Master, you must master all that and much more. It often takes an entire lifetime to get the certification of a War Mage, let alone a Master war Mage, so it is most often undertaken by those who have an incredibly long life such as Elves, dracken, lamia, valkry, or Warlocks. Hehehe, Did you know how powerful your seat companion was when you picked him Harry?" The tone was cold and sneering, mocking his ignorance. Harry was instantly reminded of several of the Slytherins from Britain and he didn't like it. Turning so as to face the newcomer, Harry didn't catch how Colonel Jewelerz had to restrain the major, nor how the Colonel's normally obsidian gaze flashed with restrained magic.
"I didn't tell you that you could address me so familiarly. We haven't even met." Harry said in his most posh British accent and didn't turn around no matter how hard his knees shook behind the seat. It would have ruined the image he was going for, so instead he glared at the man who was now in front of him.
He was ugly; a physical manifestation of the theoretical love child between a Malfoy and a Snape. His nose was straight, but too large for his face. His eyes were blue, but dingy and set to close to his nose. The man's chin was too prominent; his lips to thin and bleached of color. His hair hung long, stringy, and greasy, a thin and dirty blond color. Utterly unappealing, and if Harry hadn't missed his guess, a physical manifestation of his character.
"Well if it isn't the Crabapple himself. Mahan Bartholomew Crabtree III, if we wanted your opinion we would've asked for it." Major Lark practically spit at him from where she stood behind Harry and the Colonel. Harry saw out of the corner of his eye the Colonel's hand come up and push gently against the Major's chest, just hard enough that she was pushed back into her seat.
"Major, I do believe you owe Mr. Potter a hot chocolate. Why don't you go make good on your promise. We'll still be here when you return." As with all the other instances that Harry had seen the Colonel operate he was calm and controlled. Even when Harry had the distinct feeling that Mahan Bartholomew Crabtree III had insulted him. "By the way, we're still in the Winter Blue Uniform, didn't you get the memo?"
Harry had to bite the inside of his lip to keep his laughter contained. The Colonel has much more restraint then anyone Harry had ever seen, except perhaps Remus, Remus had a lot of restraint. With an unbecoming shade of red infusing his cheeks Mahan Bartholomew Crabtree III marched away from their section of seating shoving unsuspecting MiliOffs this way and that, pissing off more than one strangely colored officer.
"Ugh, that ass always puts me in a foul mode. Here Harry I promised you a hot chocolate before you left, and as this wise-ass reminded me, I always keep my promises." A hot paper cup was gently placed in his hand and an elbow went to the Colonel's head, but of course the Major missed.
Harry watched them play around for a moment, startled at how calmly they rough housed in front of the men and women they had to lead and teach. Then, just out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of something awesome. It looked like a wall of translucent iridescent water. But Harry knew that that couldn't be water, nothing was getting wet, and it was staying in one place. Forgetting himself for a moment Harry asked, in awe, "What is this?"
"That marvel of magic is a Hayden Ward; particularly hard piece of magic that is normally limited by the mental strength and magical aptitude of the caster. In this case though the train has these built in wards around every section of seating. We, those in the barriers of the ward, can see out and watch everyone come and go, but those outside the ward only see an iridescent barrier and can only hear the calm wash of the ocean. We could hear out too if we wanted to, but we don't want to." The laughing tone in which the Major responded reminded him that not thirty minutes ago his questions had gotten him in trouble and his seatmate into a great deal of awkwardness that neither one wanted.
Turning around from the barrier Harry kept his head low, "I'm sorry I ask you so many questions. I don't know very much." Harry could already hear the scoff of Snape or Malfoy saying he didn't have the intelligence, and the calluse remarks from Hermione about his and Ron's levels of aptitude, about how people could really only learn so much and that they probably couldn't contain that much information. She had said it on a particularly rough day when she hadn't really been ready to forget their hurt. Her words had stayed with him for quite a while though.
"Hey, don't worry about it! There's nothin' wrong with asking questions, and whoever told you otherwise should be hung. How would we learn if we didn't ask questions? See, I just asked you a question, are you mad 'cause I asked it?" the major waited with a hand on his arm, her head peeking over his shoulder.
"But you and the Colonel, you must be important people who have better things to do than answer annoying questions from a nobody like me!" by the end of his remark he had spun around, so now facing the two others in the 'compartment' Harry was caught off guard by the other man.
Reaching a hand out the Colonel snatched Harry from his secure position near the ward-wall and plopped his little form into the very comfortable chair beside him. "First off Harry- may I call you Harry?" After getting a timid nod the Colonel continued, "First off, my name is Alex. If you're exceptionally mad you could call me Alexandre, or Jewlerz, or some combination thereof. It's just a tad hard to have a non-professional relationship with someone who calls you by your titles." Then with a smirk the Colonel went to work breaking down the damage that he could see lying just beneath the surface of Harry's defenses. "Second," he intoned with a smirk, "I just asked you a question, were you mad that I asked it?"
Harry's brain stuttered to a stop. Of course he wasn't mad! Why would he be mad? "No?."
"Is that a question or an answer? Gotta believe what you say, else wise why'd you say it?" Major Lork's input was more a sassy remark than any deep, thought provoking, comment; but Harry could see that they believed it as more than just a nice thing to say, they stood by the idea that they meant what they said. Without thinking about it, Harry said,
"Bet, you don't get into a lot of fights because you can't hold your tongue."
"Oh, I don't know about that, Louisa has a nasty tendency to only tell you what she really thinks of you at the top of her lungs after nearly body slamming you. It's gotten her into plenty of fights."
"Yep, that's right!" Her easy acceptance was something Harry had never really encountered before. Ron hated being told he was stupid, and lord forbid if anyone had ever thought to tell Snape he was a bastard. No, not very many people from his home, nor his small family, took it well when someone pointed out a fault of theirs. Yet here were two people he barely knew willing to make fun of themselves so that he would feel more comfortable with them.
"Oh." It was all Harry could say on that matter and took a sip of the cooling chocolate in his hand. Though, with a look out from under his fringe, Alex didn't look as distracted as Harry had hoped he'd done his little stunt. 'No,' Harry thought, 'Alex has something he wants to say to me and he wants to make sure I hear it. That's why he let me get him off track.'
"Questions, Harry, are the only way you learn new things. Even if you never ask them out loud, you've still asked a question." Here the Colonel stuttered a moment, as though he didn't know what to say, but Harry didn't think that had ever happened to him before, so it must be something else. "Sometimes there are certain times when you want to impress an image of yourself to someone; maybe as a commander before troupes, or a politician before enemies. So you do things you wouldn't normally do, or don't do things you normally would. Like with Crabtree earlier, I've only known you a little while, but I know that's not how you normally act." Here again Alex paused, "I want you to know, both Louisa and I do, that no matter your question you can come to us. We will always try our hardest to answer them." With a rather quirky grin, one side of his mouth up, the other staying down, white teeth flashing, Alex finished with one last thought, "Now before we go onto any other items of business, do you have something to ask us?"
Harry sat and thought, taking time to sip his increasingly cool hot chocolate. "Why did Crabtree sound like he was insulting you?"
Alex sighed, "Because he thought he was, but I have long developed a thicker skin than most of my peers. Oh, how should I explain this dilemma?" Harry allowed Alex time to gather his thoughts, it was obvious the question he had asked was more than he thought it was.
"I am a Warlock, this is not something I hide but many people are under the impression that it should be something I am ashamed of." Holding up a hand Alex forestalled any comments from Harry, and a certain look told him that while Alex wasn't ashamed of what he was, it was hard for him to tell. "Real Warlocks aren't like the Warlocks of England and Old Europe. Real Warlocks have often been so traumatized by life and what their values have forced them too that they can never do true white magic.
"Often Warlocks are magic users who make deals with demons and devils for the lives of the ones they love. Once the demon or devil possesses the Warlock, the selfless love a Warlock has for his family forces the purification of the demon or devil." He sighed rubbing his hands over his face and assuming a tired, no weary, expression. "The problem becomes the after-effects of the possession. The soul becomes soiled. It becomes hard to maintain the better emotions: joy, happiness, or gentleness. It also becomes harder to maintain control.
"Warlocks' also give up a hell of a lot of morals. We just stop caring." Alex paused, Harry didn't say anything. Trying to withhold any formation of an opinion before he had all the facts. Harry noticed that Louisa had ceased to make any noise whatsoever, or any that he could hear. "In turn we love obsessively and without halt, our jealousy is easily roused and we covet our partners to the point of stifling them. Our commanding officers and bosses are continually worried about unconnected Warlocks, they are rash and impractical and their thinking becomes impaired. They eventually have to be put down. We live for our partners, the people we love."
Harry suddenly understood that Alex was telling him more than just the stereotypical characteristics of Warlocks.