Title: Holly, Phoenix, Diamond, and Elm
Disclaimer: Captain Fangirlhumper… err, J.K. Rowling owns the Harry Potter universe. Stan Lee made the X-Men and mutants and such. Wish they were mine so I could do utterly retarded things to them and watch my bank account get steadily larger, but sadly not mine.
Summary: On a fateful Halloween, Harry Potter's parents fall to Voldemort and Harry becomes the Boy-Who-Lived. The affair attracts unwanted attention and the course of Harry's life is changed for the… stranger?
Joe's Note: This originally started with the intention of being yet another rewrite of SilverAegis's infamous, oft-abandoned Harry Potter and the New Life. I wrote seventeen chapters. I paused. I rewrote seventeen chapters. And I still didn't really want to associate my name with it. So I excised all the parts I brought to the fic, stuck 'em in my laptop bag, and wandered off to start something new. And if you're reading this, it means I've written a few chapters of it already. Oh, and just for ease of merger, the Harry Potter side of things is accelerated ten years. Meaning Harry was born on July 31st, 1990 and his parents died on Halloween 1991.
October 31, 1991
"Wait. There. The wrecked house. The source is in there. Stop the car."
Her driver obeyed without question, a useful quality when one wanted to stay in her employ, and Emma Grace Frost opened her door, pulling her white fur coat tighter around her body as she emerged into the chilly October air. She'd been enjoying a glass of the scotch she'd acquired during the Highlands portion of her British voyage while the car rolled down the A399, heading back towards civilization after visiting the family of another prospective student for her school. Then a chilling, wordless psychic scream had torn through the night and a paler than usual Emma had ordered the car to divert down the B3358 as she searched for the cause.
And now here she was.
Godric's Hollow. An interesting name for a town. Strangely enough, it hadn't appeared on any of the signs on the highway that advertised other approaching settlements. As she barked terse directions at her driver, a side street had called out to her and they'd turned right onto it. A red sign with gold letters proclaiming 'Welcome to Godric's Hollow' had greeted them, followed by a peculiar mix of extreme old and modern cookie cutter houses.
Staring at the still smoking house in front of her, Emma decided that further analysis of the town's architecture could wait. She could already feel the inquisitive minds of the townspeople beginning to make their way towards the house and if there was a mutant child inside, she wanted to investigate and be gone before they got there. Especially if they were the cause of… whatever had happened here. She of all people knew what could happen when adults reacted poorly to a child with special abilities…
Entering the house, Emma had frowned at the sheer destruction before her. A single powered individual run amok was looking less and less likely; a battle had clearly been fought here. As she wandered further into the house, she was given a reminder as to why she ought not to rely entirely on her telepathic powers as she stumbled over the corpse of a man with wild black hair and wide hazel eyes. Scowling as she rolled her ankle to shake off the discomfort, Emma looked around the living room and, failing to find any other people - alive or otherwise - headed for the stairs.
There was someone alive up here and rather than waste her limited time exploring the other rooms, Emma let her powers guide her directly to the proper place. This room was just as bad as the living room and home to another casualty: a green-eyed redhead she presumed to be the wife of the man downstairs. And lying in a crib, silent aloud but mind a whirl of noise, was an infant she presumed was their child.
Emma had never seen anything like it. Inside the mind of the boy, a dark entity resided, clawing at the child's soul as it tried to establish a foothold. But incredibly enough, this infant had the mental fortitude to fight the possession, lashing out at the being with a power Emma had never seen or felt before. On one side of the astral battlefield was an amorphous black blob, held at bay by a glowing white stag that continually charged the blob, driving it back with its antlers. With the boy distracted by his battle, Emma easily entered his immature mind and accessed his short-term memory…
"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"
"Stand aside, you silly girl… stand aside now!"
"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead! Not Harry! Please, have mercy… have mercy…"
A shrill voice laughing…
A burst of green light…
…so someone had come here, killed the boy's parents with his powers - some kind of energy projection ability that fired green blasts - and then attempted to kill off this child only to be disintegrated when the boy's own power lashed out and saved him. Fascinating. Pulling out of his memories, Emma returned to where the entity and the boy were doing battle, noting that he was slowly losing ground and the entity was beginning to take hold.
There would be none of that. This child was coming with her, she'd decided, and she couldn't afford to bring back any mental hitchhiker that could potentially infect her weaker students. Idly, she wondered what this thing was and where it'd come from… but then she realized it didn't matter. It was an infection that had to go and if 'Harry' couldn't do it alone, then she'd have to help him.
Maneuvering around the astral landscape so she could approach the being from behind, Emma raised her hands and extended tendrils of white psionic power. Wrapping them around the being, she pulled it back away from Harry before transforming them into coils of razor sharp barbed wire. A quick flick of her wrists saw the blackness torn into a hundred pieces, a haunting scream echoing through the mindscape before silence descended. The stag eyed her for a moment before lowering his head and disappearing, Emma pulling herself free of the empty whiteness a moment later.
"Hey! Who are you! What are you doing with Harry?" Emma's head snapped up, whirling around as she cursed herself for becoming so involved with the boy's mind that she lost touch with the outside world. A wild-eyed man with black hair was standing in the doorway, pointing a… stick at her? How very odd. "I don't know who you are, lady, but you've got five seconds to back away from my godson before…"
The man never managed to complete his threat. Reaching out with her mind, Emma slammed herself into his consciousness with the subtlety of a tank and knocked him out, sending him crumpling to the floor. Turning back to Harry, Emma scooped the infant up into her arms. Before she could even take a step towards the door, her mind alerted her to new people appearing all over the property. In a peculiar bit of serendipity, whoever was teleporting these people in completely avoided the road, giving her a clear path by which to retreat.
While it was far from her preferred exit strategy…
The one word mental message was the only warning Tempest McClain received before a section of the house's second floor exploded outward. A glittering figure sailed through the air, hitting the ground with a thunderous crash that drove her to one knee before rising and sprinting for the car. Tempest turned the key, the car roaring to life as her boss wrenched the left rear door open, diving inside and yanking the door shut. "Drive."
Having experienced weirder while in the employ of Emma, Tempest didn't even blink before putting the car into gear and roaring off down the road. "Were you successful in finding what you came for, m'lady?"
"I found something." Tempest shot glances at her boss through the rear view mirror, watching as the again flesh and blood Emma awkwardly wiggled out of her coat and wrapped a now fussing baby in it. "If this is what I've been looking for? That remains to be seen."
November 3, 1991
"He's not a psi talent."
Looking up from the reports her administrative assistant at Frost International had sent her to read over, Emma's brow furrowed. "That's impossible. I told you what I saw."
Nathaniel Essex shrugged, thrusting a bundle of papers at her. Emma flipped through them quickly before dismissing them when she recognized that she wasn't anywhere near educated enough in genetics to make heads or tails of what was there. "He's not a psi talent. He's not a mutant. He doesn't even carry a latent X-gene that could be artificially activated. He's a completely normal flatscan as best I can tell."
Glancing over at the white and gold pram containing what she'd thought would someday be her greatest student, Emma let out a sigh of disgust. Well, at least she'd only blown four days and a bit over ten thousand dollars on the boy. "So now what, Essex? Apart from you telling me 'I told you so' and charging me for the comprehensive tests you said were a waste of time when the simple test came up negative?"
"I told you so." Emma narrowed her eyes and Nathaniel offered her a smile full of sharp teeth before holding up a second folder. "Moving on… I have a proposal for you. I have a rather questionable experiment I wish to run. You have a child you are disappointed with and favorable genetic material. Why don't we make a deal?" One blonde brow arched and Emma gestured for him to continue. "I now have the ability to analyze a person's genes and determine which material came from which parent. Erik has been after me to begin treating followers of his who have inherited undesirable traits from their parents… mental illness, chiefly, but there are a host of other conditions that I could potentially cure by way of…"
Not particularly in the mood to listen to the questionably sane scientist pat himself on the back all morning, Emma rolled her eyes and gestured for him to get on with it. "While Harry and I are young, Essex?"
Nathaniel's eyes narrowed at her before he took a slow breath, face smoothing out once more. "Very well. I wish to sample your DNA, combine it with the DNA of Harry's mother - given the trends mutant DNA exhibits when being combined, I'd rather use hers than the lad's father's to prevent your powers from being accidentally suppressed - and then grow a body from that combination to see what happens. If the result is acceptable, I will transfer Harry's consciousness into it and digitally insert records into relevant databases so that your new blood kin exists legally as well. If whatever power you claim he possesses came from his parents, he will likely still have it, combined with your own formidable abilities."
That was an idea with potential, she had to admit. It would buy her time to investigate his abilities further, while wrapping him in a package that would be acceptable to Charles and Erik so his presence in the Savage Land would go uncontested. "Very well. That sounds… acceptable… to me. I have only one question for you." While her interactions with Essex had been limited to official business for Charles and Erik before this, she knew how the man operated based on what the two men had told her. "What do you want from me in return? Other than temporary use of my DNA and Harry?"
Rather than look insulted, Nathaniel only offered one of his shark like grins at her question. "Jean Grey. Or her DNA, at any rate."
Emma rolled her eyes. Everyone wanted that little brat these days. Charles had taken a personal interest in her, removing the redhead from Emma's general telepathy classes for personal instruction. Erik was even 'lowering' himself to work with her, using his own trials and tribulations with mastering magnokinesis as a base for instructing her in the use of her telekinesis. And now Nathaniel too wanted a piece of her. Well fine. If it got her what she wanted, she'd chop the damn brat's hand off and deliver it in a box. "Agreed. Payment on delivery of the newest Frost."
"Before I begin."
"A quarter of a million now to cover your material expenses and time and Grey's DNA when I take delivery." Nathaniel opened his mouth but Emma cut him off with the wave of a hand. "I won't be returning to the Savage Land for a few more days. If you start now, by the time I've flown down, checked in, and returned for my 'follow up visit' with a student I'll claim to have had a favorable meeting with, you'll be done and I'll have what you want. Agreed?"
Inclining his head, Nathaniel spread his hands in a gesture of surrender. "Very well. Now, if you'll follow me, I'll take my samples and then you can say goodbye to Harry…"
November 22, 1991
Watching the man colloquially known as 'Mister Sinister' push a pram across his laboratory towards her was a strange and strangely amusing sight that Emma would treasure for some time to come. Then he reached her and it took Emma only a fraction of a second to realize that she had been double-crossed. Shooting to her feet, Emma's hands curled into fists as she glared at Nathaniel. "What the hell is this?"
"I take it you're not talking about the blonde hair." Emma narrowed her eyes and Nathaniel held his hands up pacifistically. "I'm sorry for not warning you about this particular side effect of the process. I honestly didn't realize until after you left that you might not realize for yourself that it was an inevitable change. But, ignoring the physical changes, your child is perfectly healthy and possesses an X-gene completely identical to your own in every way." Reaching down, Nathaniel ran his fingers through the child's blonde hair, eliciting a noise of distress as the infant squirmed away from his touch. "Perhaps you might want to call her Harriette from now on?"
Emma cooed softly as she lifted the unhappy girl from the pram, bringing her new daughter up to rest against her chest in an attempt to calm her. As she bounced Harry - who would most definitely need a new name now - up and down gently, Emma closed her eyes. Nobody save Tempest even knew of Harry's existence, so there'd be no change to explain away; everyone in the Savage Land would be meeting Harry for the first time in this form. And, at least assuming he was telling the truth, Nathaniel had come through on his end of the bargain. He'd just… changed a bit more of Harry than Emma had anticipated. Opening her eyes, she sighed. "I take it you've held off on the records because of this?" Nathaniel nodded and Emma stared down at the girl that had once been Harry, watching as she looked around with wide green eyes, the sight of Nathaniel causing her to turn and burrow in against Emma's chest. "Very well. Call her Hazel. Hazel Zoe Frost. It's about time someone did something to make people remember that name."
"I could recommend a fellow doctor if you want to discuss those mother issues of yours, Emma darling."
"Shut up, Essex." Shifting to hold Hazel with one arm, Emma brushed the soft blonde hair back and frowned at the scar that still stared up at her from the child's forehead. "Did you disfigure my daughter's forehead? Because correct me if I'm wrong, but imperfections like this should have been left behind when you grew the new body."
Nodding, Nathaniel attempted to approach the pair, only to stumble backwards when Hazel grunted and shook one tiny fist at him. Two pairs of wide eyes stared at the infant and in her head, Emma crowed in victory. Telekinesis was not a power she possessed herself and therefore wasn't a power Hazel would have received from her X-gene. Whatever Hazel had just done, it hadn't come from the Frost half of her family tree. She wasn't crazy after all. There was something special about this child. "Fascinating. I think I'll be spending more time analyzing young Har… Hazel's genes after you leave. As for the scar, it wasn't there until I performed the consciousness transfer. Then she began wailing like she was being tortured and as I watched, the scar slowly etched itself into her forehead. I could do nothing to stop it. The cosmetics I sent my assistant out to purchase dissolve when applied and while I'm no Hollywood plastic surgeon, I know enough about cosmetic surgery to repair a simple scar. It would hold for mere hours before the process repeated itself and the scar reappeared on her forehead… just as painfully, might I add."
Emma scowled; she'd been pondering using the former as a temporary fix if she'd returned to find that Nathaniel's experiments had failed with the latter as a long-term solution. She eyed Hazel before sighing. What to do, what to do? Hmmph. By all accounts, wearing white after Labor Day was a major fashion faux pas, as was wearing nothing but one color, but neither of those 'rules' slowed her down. Hazel would just have to wear bangs. And if they weren't popular by the time Hazel had to start making public appearances at her side? She would be another trend breaker, just like her mother.
Coughing to get her attention, Nathaniel's red eyes flicked down to Emma's hips, staring pointedly at the sizable bulge running along her left hip. Sighing, she withdrew a pair of glass tubes from the pocket of her white leather pants with her free hand and placed them on the counter. "Hair and blood. I wasn't sure which would be more useful."
"Blood. Thank you for your consideration. Please keep me in mind for all your future questionable scientific needs." Smiling cheekily, Nathaniel pocketed the two vials and gestured to Hazel's pram. "You can show yourself out, I imagine?" Emma didn't even bother to dignify that with a response, gently depositing Hazel in her pram and offering Nathaniel a parting glare for his cheek before stomping off towards the front of the warehouse he was currently holed up in.
Waiting for her beside the white Bentley Mulsanne parked at the curb, Tempest closed the newspaper she was reading and tucked it under one arm as Emma approached. Her eyes roamed over Emma for a second before she raised an eyebrow inquiringly. "Is everything okay, m'lady?"
Emma nodded as she brought the pram to a stop, reaching in and bringing Hazel to rest against her chest again as Tempest broke the pram down and stored it in the trunk. As the younger blonde came back around to open the right rear door for Emma, she turned to let Hazel see Tempest. "Tempest, meet Hazel Zoe Frost. Hazel, meet your new Aunt Tempest. She's going to look after you when I'm busy."
"Hello, Hazel. It's nice to mee…" Tempest leaned in, reaching in with a finger to poke at the infant's stomach, only to go stumbling back just as Nathaniel had. Worse, in her case; Tempest had the misfortune of tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and falling onto her ass. "What the fu…"
Clearing her throat, Emma narrowed her eyes at her personal assistant. "Ahem. There are young ears present, Tempest."
Tempest blushed as she clambered back to her feet. "Yes, m'lady. But… what just happened? I thought she was a flatscan who was going to get your powers? Did Master Essex do something to give her extra powers? Is she a telepath and a telekine like Miss Grey?"
"In a fashion. She's got my telepathy and transmorph powers, at least according to Sinister, but… well, you're the second person she's shoved away today. Evidently, the power that I saw on Halloween and Sinister claims doesn't exist… exists." Emma eyed her new daughter; they'd have to do something about the girl's antisocial tendencies and quick. As cute as it was when it was happening to a man Emma disliked or her young assistant, Emma knew Erik wouldn't find it anywhere near as amusing to be pushed around by a baby and neither would some of his Savage Land followers. "You're not going to ask the obvious?"
Looking from Emma to Hazel and back, Tempest offered a faint shrug. "You told me that the new body was going to be a combination of Harry's mother and you, right?" Emma nodded. "One woman plus one woman equals one woman. Where would the boy bits come from?" An extremely simplistic version of what Emma had come to realize must have happened, but accurate enough. "Besides, think of it this way, m'lady: you'll be much better equipped to raise a daughter than a son. After all, you've already lived through everything she'll go through."
Emma nodded. Tempest had a point. One that hadn't even occurred to her, strangely enough. Then again, she hadn't exactly had the time to indulge in deep thoughts about the situation. "Door." Tempest jumped to open the door for Emma and the blonde slid into the car, placing Hazel in the - unsurprisingly - white car seat before buckling herself in. Tempest took her seat behind the wheel and as the engine growled to life, Emma opened a small white cooler resting in the middle of the back seat, extracting a bottle of scotch and a glass with three ice cubes conveniently resting in the bottom. "Onward to Heathrow, Tempest. The sooner we get back to the Savage Land, the better. I positively cannot wait to let my hair down and…" She trailed off as she looked up to find the woman staring at her oddly in the rear view mirror. "What?"
"While it's not really my place to say anything, m'lady, should you really be drinking while…"
"I'm not pregnant, Tempest, I'm the mother of an adopted baby that became a test tube baby that was then growth accelerated. I can drink if I damn well please." Raising her glass, Emma took a large pull of the fiery liquid to demonstrate. "That's why I pay you: so I can drink and still get places. Now kindly remember why I employ you and return your eyes to the road."
September 1, 2001
Yawning, Hazel Frost blinked as she stared up at the ceiling. A starscape? The ceiling of her bedroom didn't have a… oh, wait. Shaking off the fuzziness of sleep, she sat up and looked around at the lavish hotel room. Right, she wasn't at home anymore. Her family had come to London a week ago, taking up residence in a suite of rooms so she could explore the city a bit and acquire her school supplies before heading off to this mysterious 'Hogwarts' place.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. While Hazel had always known she was slightly different from the rest of the mutants inhabiting the Savage Land, managing to do all sorts of odd little things that weren't the least bit related to her mutant powers, she hadn't seen that one coming. She was a witch. Supposedly. A real witch, and boy had that pissed Wanda Lehnsherr off to no end when she'd heard.
Sliding out of bed, Hazel grabbed the white silk dressing gown she'd thought to lay over the back of the nearby desk's chair the night before and padded down to the end of the bed. Kneeling down in front of the oversized wood and metal trunk - and Lordy had she gotten odd looks from the bellhop for that one - she removed the necklace she was wearing and grabbed the key hanging from it, sticking it into a lock with a snowflake painted beneath it and turning it to the left. The lock clicked and the trunk opened, displaying a wide variety of clothing both magical and muggle, all white.
What else would one expect from the eldest daughter of Emma Grace Frost, White Queen of the Savage Land and the Hellfire Club?
Not sure exactly what the customs of the school were in regards to uniforms on the first day, Hazel decided to wear one of hers rather than casual clothes just to be safe. With her luck, if she wore something else they'd be required to change into their uniforms in mid-journey and she had no desire to try her luck at dressing and undressing aboard a rocking train. Digging through the trunk, she began placing articles of clothing on the end of the bed: a white button-front blouse, a white vest featuring a badge with the crest of Hogwarts - which featured some sort of curious magic that would transform it to match her house once she was 'sorted' at school, according to the seamstress at Madam Malkin's - and a black tie that would likewise transform to match the coloring of her house, a pair of white slacks, and white socks. A pair of white leather loafers were left sitting beside her trunk as she grabbed a white bra and panties from the far right side of the trunk and headed for the bathroom.
Stripping down and stepping into the shower, Hazel turned up the water as hot as she could stand it, closing her eyes and letting it wash over her upturned face as she thought about what was to come. Harry Potter was a name nobody had used for her since… well, she'd become a her. Now she was returning to the land of her birth, the land of her birth parents, and to a past she had long ago abandoned.
And the best part was, they had no idea 'she' was coming. Even though their method of delivery - and who was the genius who'd thought up sending mail by slow-flying, pellet regurgitating birds? - could figure out that Harry Potter and Hazel Frost were one and the same enough for her to receive letters from the school, someone had evidently failed to inform the staff there about her transformation. All her letters had come addressed to 'Harry Potter' and she'd declined to correct them. They'd find out soon enough… when she arrived at Hogwarts. A bit mean to be sure, but it was their fault for not doing their jobs right, she reasoned.
Pulling back out of the spray, Hazel blinked the water out of her eyes before reaching for one of the bottles of shampoo she'd brought from home. Not that the hotel wasn't well stocked with all manner of products in miniature bottles, but she really did prefer the lavender scented shampoo, conditioner, and body wash she had made for her in the Savage Land. A nice floral scent without being overpowering, and the organic products were far better for her hair and skin than the harsh chemicals flatscans preferred. Squirting a dollop of the purple shampoo into her hand, Hazel began working it through her thick blonde curls as she pondered what her future held.
While her copy of Hogwarts: A History remained unopened and unread at the bottom of the second compartment of her trunk, she'd heard enough by eavesdropping during her visits to Diagon Alley to have a vague idea of how the student body at Hogwarts operated. At the beginning of each year, the incoming students were sorted by means unknown into one of four houses, named after the founders of the school and reflecting different traits: Gryffindor for the brave, Hufflepuff for the just and loyal, Ravenclaw for the clever, and Slytherin for the cunning and ambitious.
Fortunately or unfortunately for her, she was rather certain she was Slytherin bound. Not that she particularly minded; cunning and ambition were positive qualities in her book. But Hazel had also heard the derision with which the name Slytherin was spoken… the house was almost universally reviled by the other three-quarters of the wizarding world, supposedly the birthplace of all dark wizards and witches. How would they react, Hazel wondered, when their precious savior ended up there?
Oh yes, she was aware of that quaint little fact. The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts had contained the story of her defeat of 'You-Know-Who', among other interesting… well, Hazel had a hard time thinking of them as anything more than fairy tales. After all, if they actually thought she had defeated some incredibly evil wizard back when she was still crapping in diapers, how accurate could the rest of the book be?
Although it was nice to know the names of her birth parents finally; Emma hadn't been able to mine the corpses' brains for information and her year-old brain hadn't contained anything other than 'mummy' and 'daddy'. James Potter and Lily Potter née Evans. The latter being more relevant to her than the former, seeing as how Lily was still one of her two biological parents, but the information as a whole satisfied a need deep down inside her that she hadn't even been aware existed.
Stepping back under the showerhead, Hazel let the water run through her hair, washing the shampoo away. In all honesty, she could have done without the famous name. She got enough of that when dealing with flatscans because of her mother's wealth and in the Savage Land because of Emma's position. Sadly, though, she could think of no way to get 'Hazel Frost' on the school's rolls apart from showing up and claiming her past as her present.
She wasn't looking forward to it, either. Rubbing conditioner into her hair, Hazel paused and shuddered as she thought back to her two encounters with the creepy old man who'd sold her a wand. His reverence regarding her hideous facial disfigurement had been more than a little disturbing, almost but not quite eclipsing his excitement at selling her a wand that was somehow connected to the wand of her parents' murderer. Claiming it had been a two step process, actually; the damn thing had exploded in her hand the first time she'd waved it for him, her quick reflexes and diamond form being the only things that saved her from severe burns. After that little incident, the wand's phoenix feather core had been stripped of the fragments of charred holly clinging to it and resheathed in eleven inches of rich, reddish brown English elm.
Still, if Ollivander's behavior was anything to go by, Hazel wasn't looking forward to her time in the wizarding world in the least.
A familiar presence approached the bathroom door and Hazel turned, leaning back to dip her head back under the water as three quick raps sounded. "Yes, Vi? And before you ask for the thirty-seventh time, I know it's you because I'm a telepath."
"You know, I still say it's not fair of you to make fun of me for things I think because I'm half-asleep but aren't stupid enough to say out loud." The door opened just wide enough to admit a slim, purple-haired girl, Violette Nowak stumbling over to the room's sink and splashing some cold water on her face to help shake off the remnants of her grogginess. "Are you almost done? We…"
"…have to be there at 11:00 AM. Leaving the hotel no later than 10:00 AM. It was 8:13 AM when you rolled out of the bed and came in here. I can take another forty-five minutes in here if I feel like it and still be out in time for you to have an hour of your own. Crud. Loofa?" A white puff came sailing over the top of the shower stall and hit her in the face. Hazel scowled at her attendant's giggles, catching it before it hit the tile floor. "Thank you, serving girl 'o mine. You may go now."
The frosted glass of the shower kept Hazel from properly seeing Vi but the exasperated sigh often accompanied a roll of the purple-haired mutant's eyes and so Hazel felt safe in assuming she was probably the recipient of both. "Yes, Mistress. Right away, Mistress. Seriously, though, I'm going to go put in the call for breakfast for us and the rugrats. I know I'm sticking with British, Laurel's keeping to her carnivore thing, and the quints are a mixed bag. Continental or British for you?"
Pausing, Hazel turned to eye her attendant as best she could. "That's a really stupid question, Vi."
"Right, right, Continental. Girlish figure and all that crap." Squirting a large glob of body wash onto her loofa, Hazel closed the cap on the bottle and hurled it up and over the top of the shower stall, grinning when Vi let out an indignant squeak and dodged, the bottle hitting the floor with a clatter. "Brat. I'm just saying, the good parts on women are made of at least some fat. It wouldn't kill you to eat eggs and bacon once in a while instead of fruit and brioche."
Scrubbing at her arms, Hazel shrugged even though Vi turning away to pick up the bottle of body wash meant her gesture went unseen. She tended to emote when talking telepathically to people in other rooms, too. Old habits just died hard. "And you could stand to eat a bit more fruit and a bit less fatty, greasy junk, especially with how much you like to wear skirts. The only reason Mother isn't on Laurel for her eating habits is because she burns more calories than she takes in."
The body wash came sailing back into the shower stall to hit Hazel on the head before dropping to the floor of the shower. "There's nothing wrong with my thighs. And just for that, I'm going to order you the same thing I'm eating for breakfast. And if you don't like it, you can go hungry."
Rubbing the top of her head, Hazel scowled as Vi sniffed and stalked out of the bathroom. Like hell would she be eating a greasy English breakfast. Someone was looking for a free one-way ticket to Lobotomyville. As she let the water run over her, washing the suds away, Hazel realized she wouldn't have it any other way. While Emma couldn't understand why Hazel allowed Vi so much freedom, Hazel in turn couldn't understand how her mother tolerated surrounding herself with weak-willed people who just nodded and smiled and followed orders. Given Vi was a constant fixture in her life and would be for the foreseeable future, Hazel found it easier to treat the girl as a close friend as opposed to a Blackberry with a pulse.
Then again, her mother often preferred the vinegar approach while she was more of a honey…
Turning off the water, Hazel slid the shower door open just far enough to find one of the two towels she'd laid out for herself, giving herself a quick rub down before wrapping it around her body. The second went around her head, helping leech water out of her mass of wet curls as she opened the bathroom door and reentered the bedroom. Seven heads turned to look at her and Hazel raised a brow. "Since when was my bedroom the official family dining room?"
"Something came for you. Knocked on my window." Laurel Frost nodded in the direction of the not-quite-identical quintuplets, who were flopped out across Hazel's bed, carefully avoiding her uniform. "They followed me over when I came to bring it to you." Bring what, Hazel wondered. Then Laurel pulled her hand out from behind her back, a very dead owl impaled on her glittering diamond claws, a box tied across both its legs. "Sorry. It kinda attacked me and… yeah."
Sighing, Hazel began mentally setting aside galleons to send to Flourish and Blotts as restitution. A good owl was expensive and the one stuck to Laurel's claws looked particularly sturdy. Fifty galleons; better safe than sorry, she decided. And another five for their trouble. "Next time, do us all a favor and just leave the window shut, yeah?" Laurel ducked her head, holding the owl out towards Hazel, who recoiled. "Err, thanks but no thanks. Go get a newspaper from Mother, put that down on the desk, then put the owl on that. Vi, shower. Runts… get the heck out of my room."
"Eek! Mom! Esme just burned me!"
"Mom! Celeste tried to choke me with one of the plants!"
"Mom! Sophie just soaked us!"
Emma groaned and lowered the paper she was reading before reaching up to rub her temples. Hazel had been a joy to raise - when she was there doing the work - and despite her accidental conception, Laurel too was a lovely child… well, except for her refusal to acknowledge the lower two tiers of the food pyramid. Then she'd visited Nathaniel Essex again on Erik's behest. 'Look at Erik. More children would mean more personal power. You could handpick their powers by bringing me the right DNA. You wouldn't have to carry them. Hire another nanny, you won't even have to do anything until they're old enough to be useful.' It had all sounded logical and brilliant…
Then her new 'quintuplets' had grown up.
Her youngest daughters had been little monsters by the time they entered school, sorely taxing the patience of the residents of the Savage Land who had chosen to take up teaching. Then their powers had kicked in automatically at age eight thanks to the trigger Nathaniel had installed… and dealing with them had gone from irritating to hellish.
While it was easy to blame Tempest and Xi'an for not raising her children better, Emma realized most of it was her fault. She wasn't around much to handle problems herself and when she was, they got to see her favoring Hazel over them. Well, she couldn't change her lifestyle, she couldn't bring the little monsters places with her until they were brought under control, and Hazel… Hazel was her future heiress. Of course she was going to favor her eldest. Still. Maybe it was time to take a more active role in the upbringing of her daughters. "Sit down, all of you. Celeste, I don't care what Esme did, you don't use your powers on her. Esme, no lighting your sister on fire. Sophie… thank you for trying to help with your sisters, but I still don't want you five using your powers against each other. So in the future, let Tempest, Xi'an, or I deal with things. Okay?" Her youngest nodded and Emma turned her attention to the second oldest of her seven. "…Laurel? Please tell me that's not a dead bird."
"It's not a dead bird?"
Emma sighed. The things she had to deal with. At least Laurel wasn't gnawing on it… yet. "Alright, let's try something else. Why don't you tell me why you've got a dead bird?"
"Erm, it turns out Hazel ordered some stuff and had it mailed to us. The owl freaked and attacked me for some reason." Laurel held out the very dead owl for Emma to inspect. "Hazel told me to come get a paper from you to put down on her desk and put the owl on it until she can deal with it." At least one of her daughters had a good head on her shoulders, it appeared. Emma dug through the paper until she located the sports section, handing it to Laurel. "Cool. Thanks. Oh, and Vi took care of our breakfast. It'll be here in a bit."
Laurel disappeared to take care of her mess as the quintuplets seated themselves around the table, returning a moment later with Hazel right behind her. "Vi put in a breakfast order and then hopped in the shower. Hopefully she'll be out before it gets here, because I don't want to listen to her whine about cold food."
Grinning, Esme made a fist and then opened it to reveal a small flame dancing over her palm. "I can heat it back up for her."
"Please. I heard Mother yelling at you from my room. You're not going to be heating up anything for a while, Zippo." Leaving a seat between herself and the quintuplets, Hazel folded her hands in her lap and nodded at Emma. "Good morning, Mother."
A good head on her shoulders and good manners to boot. And the others wondered why she picked Hazel to accompany her when she left the Savage Land. Emma returned a slight nod as she folded up the Times, wanting to clean off the table for the breakfast that would be arriving for the girls. "Morning, Hazel. All ready to go?" Hazel nodded again. "Good. Oh, and one more time… what do we say if someone challenges you about Violette coming with you?"
Adopting a suitably snooty look - a key part of all things French in Emma's mind - Hazel dutifully recited the phrase that Emma had taught her in flawless, unaccented French. "J'ai entendu qu'il ya une belle école en France, à côté de Marseille."
"Perfect. Now…" A knock on the door interrupted Emma and she turned her attention to Phoebe. "Can you get that?" Nodding, Phoebe twisted in her seat and stuck her hand out towards the door, furrowing her brow in concentration before making a twisting motion. The knob slowly turned and then the door creaked open as Phoebe pulled her hand back. "Thank you, dear. You, standing in the hall with our food. Come in. You do deliver all the way to the table, don't you? If I'm going to pay you an outrageous fee to bring food to our rooms, I'd like to think this place will give me my money's worth…"