Disclaimer: The only thing I own is the story idea and only some of the witty remarks. I own so little; so please don't steal.
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"Jack, now I know you will be so proud and in awe of me that you will want to kiss the hem of my robes, but I ask you to hold in your praise and worship for the time being."
Jack turned, his hand with the vial of purple liquid tipped ever so gently that nothing dripped just yet. He had thought his lock charm on the door of his laboratory had been adequate to keep his stupid apprentice mage out, but apparently it hadn't been strong enough (or Ralph had discovered some trapdoor into the room, in which he would have to discover later). Roger, his summoned familiar, stood by with a blank look on his face, holding a tray of newt tails. The redhead hoped the neon green fumes coming from the potion beneath him would be enough to suggest now was not the time, but the blonde did not get the hint.
"Look, Jack, look. You told me I wasn't ready. But see? I did it! I summoned my familiar!"
A couple drops of purple liquid hit the surface of the potion, turning it an acid bronze and producing a sulfuric rotten egg smell. Jack swore.
The familiar Ralph summoned, like Jack's Roger, was in human shape – a surprise to Jack as he always thought his stupid apprentice would have made some animal like a dog or an owl to be his magical companion. Familiars were drawn from both the combination of the magical powers within the Earth and the skill of the summoner and molded into a shape appropriate for its usage. Jack had needed something to help him further his magical research and therefore created Roger, who could withstand all sorts of physical and magical abuse in the name of science. Ralph, who had never shown any purpose in his magical studies, was one Jack had written off as a hobbyist: someone who just dabbled in magic but lived their life in a completely ordinary way.
"I named it; I think it's a very good name." Ralph was rambling on even as Jack cleared the failed potion with a flick of his finger. Roger put the tray of tails down and went about to put the whole experiment away. "His name is Simon. Good, huh?"
"Ralph," Jack said, trying to sound level. "I've told you a million times that you aren't ready to summon your familiar. Recite to me what a familiar does."
Ralph's face faltered in its triumphant look. "But Jack, really…I am ready, I did…"
After a moment of debate of whether he should just flee or argue, Ralph pursed his lips and mumbled, "Familiars are the source from which a magic-user draws from to perform any magic that he or she does not have enough internal magic to carry out themselves. They enhance a magic-user's powers and its compatibility with its summoner promotes advancement of skill and is a catalyst to activating dormant sources of internal magic." Jack opened his mouth to speak but Ralph rushed on. "But look, Jack. I summoned him! Doesn't that mean I'm good enough?"
"He's incomplete." Jack ran a hand through his hair as he surveyed the boy standing next to Ralph. "It's glaringly obvious." Walking around the incomplete familiar, he came to a stop in front of Simon and kneeled to get to eye level. "His eyes are completely blank. He has no emotion in his face. He is a blank slate without any sort of personality. You summoned a familiar comparable to a doll. He does not have enough magic to act as a true familiar. He will not actually help you in any way. All he will do is follow your orders, and I don't think that was what you were aiming for."
Ralph sputtered, looking about as put-out as if Jack had slapped him in the face. "But…but…I don't…I don't want to deconstruct him and start over…"
"Well, since you summoned him, you'll have to deal with it. Incomplete familiars are better than Madebris. At least you didn't create Madebris." Madebris was the term given to any failure that resulted from magic – the failed potion, for example – and Jack had known many an inexperienced mage who had tried to summon a familiar and ended up with a smoldering lump of goo. "You can still shape this." Jack brushed the bangs out of Simon's eyes to get a better look at his face. "When you acquire more skill, the familiar will change along with you. When you finally have the amount of skill that would have given you a complete familiar, he will be fine." He turned the boy around. No unusual add-ons, like wings or a tail. Ralph had some inkling of what he was doing.
"Stop being so attached," Ralph grumbled, venting his frustration through another outlet. "He's my familiar." Roger administered the slap across the head that Jack had wanted. Skilled magic users didn't have to speak for their familiars to get the picture. "Ow. Roger, I thought we were friends."
"You deserved that," Roger said bluntly. Familiars also had a faint offshoot of the summoner's personality that molded them into a completely different entity – they were not just blind servants the ordinary folk thought they were. They were whatever their form was, with an added spark. Jack did not know how he had done it, but Roger had turned out to be capable of more snarkiness than he'd thought.
"Well, then," Ralph huffed, knowing he was clearly outnumbered. "I'll just be in my room improving myself and when Simon happens to be better than Roger, I'll show you. Right, Simon?" The boy hardly responded, staring blankly at Ralph. "You should nod." The head nodded curtly, and Ralph took that as a minor victory as he took Simon's hand and marched out of the room.
"That was interesting," Roger mused, as the stomping up the stairs ceased.
Truth be told, Jack Merridew had not wanted an apprentice. He was still relatively young – nineteen was still too young to be considered part of the true magic-user trade – and he was still finishing his studies up at the local magic-user university. But one of his neighbors, an almost obnoxiously kind woman who liked to bake cookies with cheer-up charms mixed in, had discovered a well of magic in her son, but had not had the time to truly cultivate these waters (her husband was ordinary) and his schooling was not challenging enough for someone of his potential. During a lunch meeting Mrs. Merridew (in which Jack swore to himself always to monitor who his mother was meeting with whenever he was at school), she had expressed a desire to find a tutor who would not neglect him as a professional potion master or charmer would, or would charge unreasonable rates, as any jobless magic-user would.
His mother, in an act of betrayal, had volunteered him. While she herself was a stay-at-home witch with all the time in the world, Jack could not fathom why she would push the burden to him instead. Wait, he could; but as a mother…
So Ralph followed Jack around after school, doing more independent exploring than helping. Jack had him fetch ingredients or look up spells and explained when things needed explaining. Ralph had learned quickly that Jack was not a strict, harsh teacher and equally as quickly learned that he could get away with anything because Jack either did not care or did not do anything drastic about his activities. Only recently had Ralph shown any interest in summoning familiars (he had really been in a stage of deviance; wanting to turn leaves to gold and controlling ants to do his bidding) and had been pestering Jack until the redhead gave him no advice besides, "Get better and we can talk." Jack had a feeling it had been Ralph reading the books he found lying around about familiars but it wasn't until now that he had connected the dots.
(He had found the summoning circle hidden under a rug in his library and cursed again when he discovered the chalk Ralph had used was that of the permanent kind.)
So far, Simon had been making slow progress.
"He makes a really good tea, at least," Ralph said one afternoon. He had insisted on making the afternoon tea, which Jack had initially thought unusual until Ralph had ordered his incomplete familiar to do it. The boy was on the petite side, shorter than Ralph who was not on the tall side of fifteen (puberty hit him in spurts and now was an off time), and Jack worried about his kitchen falling into disarray. But he was pleasantly surprised that Simon came back out, no obvious burns on his arms and no water on his clothes, with a tea tray with scones and jam included. He had Roger check the kitchen and Roger came out with a brief nod.
"Milk?" Simon asked, taking the tiny pitcher of cream around to each person. It sounded so sweet and innocent Jack had a feeling that this might qualify as child labor, if he had not been a magic-user.
"We can put it in ourselves," Jack said hastily, reaching out to pluck the pitcher out of Simon's hands as Ralph raised an eyebrow. "And you," he said severely, waving the spout of the pitcher at Ralph, "should know better than to boss your familiar around. Magic-users like you are the ones those radical 'free-the-familiars' wankers like to rant about."
"I'm not bossing you, Simon, am I?" The incomplete familiar shook his head. Jack glowered.
"Familiars aren't playthings," he ground out, before turning to Simon. "You don't have to listen to whatever he says."
The incomplete familiar stared at him.
"Now incompletely familiars are more or less empty husks," Jack said, turning away from the unresponsive boy next to him and focusing on Ralph, who was lazily stirring his tea by directing the tiny tea spoon with his finger. "They won't be able to draw on magic by themselves. Now and then, you've got to exchange some until your skill level improves. And your skill isn't determined by how many spells you can perform or how well you can create things; it's the amount of magic you can withdraw from within yourself to do these, and most complicated spells require a lot of magic. To transfer, you simply have to tap your heads together and…"
Ralph successfully silenced him by flicking at the spoon, which made the metal utensil flick some tea at Jack. As Roger stifled a smile, Jack sputtered and was about to hex Ralph when he heard a sound.
Simon was laughing.
The sincere surprise on Ralph's face suggested he had not expected it either. "I didn't make him do it!" he insisted, more shock in his voice than defensiveness. Jack glanced at Simon, who was now trying to keep his lips together; the boy's eyes were less hollow, although they still lacked a certain glint – but the tiny smile was altogether different from the indifferent mask he used to wear.
Jack felt a part of him stumble.
"You're not going to tell me Ralph is special." Jack chewed the words like tough gristle. Mrs. Castilian didn't seem to catch the rancor in his words and hummed as she bustled with her cheer-up cookies.
"Oh, I always knew he was, dear. He had much more magical ability than children his age when he was younger. Actually, I wasn't sure if he was a magic-user…his father being ordinary and all…but then one day I went outside and saw him producing all sorts of strange flying animals out of thin air, I knew something was special about him. Granted, they were projections, as not even magic can defy the laws of thermodynamics…but still. He was better than the kids who could only produce…say…bubbles. These projections were good."
Jack grimaced. Not only did Ralph get on his nerves, but his internal magic was vast to begin with; whereas Jack had to work years to convert other energies to magic, Ralph had a natural spring to draw upon and did not need the physical contact to transfer magic to his incomplete familiar.
"So when he came home with Simon, I was very happy. Not really surprised…after all, he has you as a mentor, Jack." The flattery produced a fleeting smile on Jack's face before Mrs. Castilian took a rack of cheer-up cookies from the oven. "Now you look upset, darling. Have a cookie. Ralph should be home from school any moment. Oh, and while I remember, tell your mother I still have her jar of soothing tea leaves."
Jack bit into a cookie grumpily and tried to fight against feeling better, which made him angrier, which was being countered by the cookies. He did not want to feel better. He was happy with being angry that Ralph did not need to work for his magic. It was not fair. "How is Simon?" he asked, fighting cheerfulness with bitterness.
"He is a dear around the house!" Mrs. Castilian chuckled. "Ralph can't bring his familiar to school yet…they have a rule that familiars will probably distract the other students, so he has to be an upperclassman first…so Simon stays around. He's very helpful! Salt really likes him." Salt was Mrs. Castilian's familiar; the white cat was created to determine the strength of potions (as Mrs. Castilian had been a potions master before she married and decided to become cheer-up cookie baker for the local families) but was currently used to determine how much more salt or pepper or other spices her summoner's cooking needed. Presently, it reclined in a shaft of sunlight and yawned.
"I finished the laundry, mum." Simon walked into the kitchen, clutching a basket of clothing that reached up to his nose. As he tottered over to a chair to deposit the basket, a couple articles of clothing threatened to fall and Jack quickly waved them back to the top of the pile. Mrs. Castilian looked over the handiwork as Simon stood and watched.
"Did you fold them with magic, Simon?"
Any other boy might have blushed with embarrassment but Simon had not reached that level of consciousness yet. "I tried to," he said, sounding curious. "Ralph showed me how but…" He lifted his hand and tried to reorganize the shirt Mrs. Castilian was holding up; a puff of azure smoke issued from his hand. "I can't, just yet."
"You'll get there," Jack said, the cheer-up charm forcing the words from his mouth.
Simon beamed at him, his eyes still murky. Jack stumbled inwardly again.
"I'm home!" Ralph called somewhere from the front door. As Simon wandered off to greet him, Jack's eyes followed him until Mrs. Castilian's voice distracted him again.
"Ralph says you hold Simon in great interest lately, Mr. Merridew."
"I just want him to have a complete familiar, that's all!" Jack insisted, reaching for another cookie. They fended against bad moods, but not awkwardness, because it grew inside of him as Mrs. Castilian smirked at him knowingly. Salt sneezed from the sink.
"Jack do you think this is cute?" Ralph was absentmindedly waving his fingers along, sending clouds of billowing silver smoke around Simon that changed his clothes on a whim. Currently, the boy was wearing something that might have had fabric underneath all the ribbons. Jack was doing his best to ignore the poof of every change as he scribbled his thesis along. Roger was not helping.
"Hmm…I'm not a fan of lace…and flowers are kind of overrated and girly…" Another cloud descended and there was a butterfly pattern, complete with an ornate sapphire butterfly headband that fluttered now and then. Simon looked amused.
"Would you stop that?" Jack snapped, feeling every thought he was about to write down disappear as the sounds of clouds materializing whisked the ideas away. The changes happening at the corner of his eyes were annoying anyway. Roger ignored his thought to get rid of them. As he turned to face the two, Ralph wiggled his hands and the butterflies melded together to create a fluffy skirt.
"Cute?" Ralph laughed, as Simon looked down at himself and Jack flushed. He flicked a finger at Simon and the school girl outfit melted away to his normal clothes. "Stop being boring," Ralph pouted, puffing his cheeks out. "This paper's not due until the end of the week and you promised to teach me more spells. I even finished all my homework. How can I get my skills along if you won't help me?" When Jack continued to scratch away, Ralph frowned.
Ralph's skill level was increasing quite nicely, Jack thought, if he could give Simon orders mentally. He figured that was what was making the incomplete familiar start climbing over him. "Get off," he grumbled, as Simon let an arm dangle over his shoulder. Simon was just reaching the cusp of puberty and had not grown lanky or bulky enough to be overbearing, but he wasn't just small enough to merit this clamoring like a toddler. Jack heard Ralph snicker.
"Jack," Simon sighed next to his ear. It was just a sigh; no nagging or sulking – it made Jack turn unconsciously toward the voice. Simon's chin was resting on his shoulder, his eyes clearer than before, a look of unusual melancholy about his face. Their cheeks touched and Jack turned back to the paper. He couldn't remember what he was writing about anymore.
"Jack?" Ralph said as they were picking up spell books in the city. "Do you get hot and bothered for Simon?"
Jack nearly dropped all the books he was holding and fell off the ladder he was on. The smell of musty paper surrounded him as the books he had fell on top of him and he sat up, dazed as millions of shelves and bound books stared back at him. Ralph gave him a look from next to the ladder, where he was standing and holding a stack that Jack had given to him. "What…what…Ralph, you…"
"It was just a question," Ralph shrugged, shifting the books to one arm as he scratched an itch behind his ear. "You're always making sure he's alright and stuff. You're paying more attention to him than you do Roger."
"Has Roger been talking to you about this?"
"No, but I just noticed. I looked it up. Familiars have feelings too. I read about a couple of magic-users who marry their own familiars. It's completely possible."
"He's your familiar," Jack grumbled, stacking the books that had fallen around him. "People don't go around stealing other familiars. There's a rule against that. And anyway familiars have a loyalty to their summoner. They're a form of protection against harm. Any sort of outside interference would tarnish that connection."
"So you do like him."
"That's not what I said."
"That is what you said."
"Jack, I'm not mad that you fell for him." Ralph rolled his eyes. "All I ask is that you don't ruin him, okay?"
"Stop wasting your breath and take these books to the front, alright?"
Simon was very nearly complete. Ralph had grown very nicely in terms of skill these past months. Roger had been helping the familiar along in duties and spells, as incomplete familiars do not come with this basic knowledge. Mrs. Castilian was very happy with the results. Simon could now do house chores successful for her now.
Ralph had borrowed Roger for the day to help his classmates fix the telescope in the courtyard. One of his classmates was studying the effects of certain astrological patterns on certain magical spots and the telescope had broken over the weekend due to a freak wind storm. Roger was good at heavy manual labor. For a trade-off, Ralph had let Jack borrow Simon.
"Do you always work on holidays?" Simon asked, sitting on Jack's bed and swinging his legs as Jack worked on some complicated equations. Potion making was serious business. Jack had a feeling that elixirs was something he was better at than casting spells. He had decided a while ago that he wanted to be a potions master when he left school.
"There's nothing wrong with working on holidays," Jack mumbled, distracted as he waved the numbers around on the paper to make coherent sense.
"You'll get sick from all these computations and inhaling all those fumes. Go out and slay some chimeras."
"Chimeras are endangered species," Jack said, glancing up over the piles of papers on his desk. Simon giggled endearingly. "Don't listen to Ralph," he said, turning back to his math.
"Ralph's not that bad," Simon retorted, crossing his arms. "You're always so mean to him. He just wants to show you he can do it too. He admires you, you know. So he's trying to work to be like you."
"Flattery will get you nowhere."
"I tried." Jack glanced up again. Simon had definitely changed these months as well. He could barely tell the boy was incomplete; there was still a spark missing, but more or less. Simon cocked his head at the look and poked in the air; the ink from Jack's quick-calculations quill blotted the page. "Oops."
It was not in his place to discipline another's familiar, but Jack stood up and crossed the room to Simon anyway. As he stood in front of the incomplete familiar, Simon raised his dark, round eyes to his expectantly and smiled; Jack kissed him once, then again. On the third kiss, Simon reached up and pulled Jack down on the bed with him. On the fourth kiss, one of them (Jack couldn't tell which had done it) charmed the door to close and lock (it couldn't have been him; he wouldn't lock the door in instances like this…). On the sixth kiss, Simon broke away breathlessly, looking up at him silently, and Jack stopped counting.
It wasn't until the moment Simon whispered his name, in heat and bated breath and twisted sheets, that Jack noticed the spark in his eyes.
"That was a bad, bad idea. Now I've marked you. Ralph will know."
Simon stared at the slightly glowing mark on his hip, a fading red J in fancy script, and looked back at Jack. "What do you mean?"
"If a familiar has any sort of…intimate relations, it will record the event through a mark of the magic-user who participated. If it was a familiar of a magic-user, that magic-user's mark would also apply. There's no mark if it was an ordinary folk…" Jack groaned, falling back into the pillows with his hands over his eyes. "Ralph will find out, fuck."
"He won't be mad," Simon insisted, collecting the sheets around him and curling up to Jack.
"No, but he'll say I told you so. God, I hate that kid. For summoning you and putting me into this mess. What am I going to tell Roger? I can't have this happen. You were supposed to swear loyalty to Ralph, but once a familiar has been marked, the alliance will branch off between the original summoner and the marker…" He groaned again.
"That's not so bad," Simon hummed.
"A familiar wouldn't understand."
"If it's any comfort, I didn't mind."
"Thank you," Jack mumbled. They lay there in silence for a bit. Simon searched his mind for any way to make this better. He didn't think there was a problem, but if it bothered Jack, there must have been.
"Well…if Roger and Ralph did it, would it be even?"
"Wha—no! What has Ralph been teaching you?"
Note: I guess it's a consensus in my muse that Jack will ALWAYS regret anything intimate with Simon. I think it's kind of cute that way. Yay magic!AU. I'm thinking of writing a sort of sequel to this one about Roger/Eric…hmm. I guess it was timely for the whole release of Harry Potter and such. I haven't had time to watch it yet. Thanks for reading!