Chapter Five: Of Wands and Wiccans
In which magic works differently than Alex expects.
"You turn left at the statue of the kneeling leper, right at the tapestry of Archibald the Deceiver playing cribbage, and take the second staircase on your left down three floors. You will appear to arrive at a dead end, but scratch the cat beneath its chin and the doorway will reveal itself. You will then find yourselves in an antechamber off the Entrance Hall."
"There's a cat?" Alex said, completely mystified.
The helpful portrait they had stopped to ask for directions adjusted his monocle. "Yes," he said in a long suffering sort of way. "Now begone, young wizards!" He waved his quill at them emphatically.
"Come on," Will said, hoisting his school bag back onto his shoulder. "We'll figure it out. Thank you, Sir."
"Hmmm," the portrait hemmed, returning to his notes.
"This place is insane," said Alex.
"It's Hogwarts," said Will. "What did you expect?"
They followed the portrait's directions through the winding halls of the castle, and down three flights of stairs, where they indeed reached a dead end, and a massive painting that seemed to be nothing but cats.
"Good grief," Alex muttered, and began scratching all of the chins he could reach.
They finally got the door open (the gray tiger in the bottom left-hand corner) and hurried through. By the time they reached the Great Hall, breakfast was in full swing. They found empty seats at one end of the Hufflepuff table and were about to dig in when a swarm of redheads descended upon them like locusts.
Alex was somewhat alarmed, and reached for his stake impulsively. Will recognized this new evil for what it truly was – his family.
"What's going on?"
"How'd you manage –"
"Will! What did you – "
"Quiet!" Max, the oldest and only male Weasley said, holding up his hand for silence. "Now," he said, looking between them, "I know you're Will –" he pointed at Will, "because I recognize your bag, so you must be Sirius." He pointed at Alex. "Summers, wasn't it?"
"It's Alex," Alex said exasperatedly. "Alex Summers. Alexander if you're being stuffy."
"I was sure the hat said Sirius."
"Oh, never mind," broke in Selene. "His name doesn't matter! Why does he look exactly like Will?"
"Hey – sitting right here!"
"Why do you look exactly like Will?" Grace demanded.
"It matters," Max explained patiently, "because Sirius Black was the name of Uncle Harry's godfather who died in the War."
Amaryllis screwed up her face in confusion. "So what does that mean?"
Will glanced sideways at Alex, and shrugged. "He's my brother."
"We're twins," Alex added helpfully, as though it wasn't painfully obvious. He did his best to imitate Will's expression of carefully composed boredom and reached nonchalantly for his goblet. This composure broke when he took a generous swing and nearly had to spit the mouthful back out. "Oh my god, what is this? It's disgusting!" He glared down at the offending drink.
"Pumpkin juice," Will said, and passed him a glass of water.
"Merlin," Amaryllis breathed, remembering the ice cream incident of only the week before.
"How can you be twins?" Helene, who was a twin herself, demanded. "You only met each other yesterday!"
"If they really are twins, I'd dare say they've met before," Roseline pointed out dryly. "For nine months minimum."
Helene threw her cousin a dirty look.
"It's simple," Will said, wisely interrupting before things god ugly. Helene and Roz always managed to rub each other the wrong way. "Our parents broke up when we were babies. Dad took me, Mum took Alex, and neither of them bothered to tell us the other existed. Pass the bacon, please."
"I always assumed your Mum was dead," Selene said, wide-eyed. "Ow, Amaryllis!"
Amaryllis had stomped on her foot under the table.
"Not recently," Alex quipped, but since he hadn't exactly broached the topic of their mother's numerous brushes with death, not even Will understood the joke. The Weasleys, for their parts, all looked at him oddly.
"Alex?" Max tried the name out. "You're American?"
"Yup," Alex said, popping his P loud enough to make any So-Cal native proud. He'd never actually been to California, but he'd learned from the best. "Look. Before you start asking a zillion questions, I'm going to tell you that the answer to all of them is probably 'we don't know'. If Will and I hadn't both ended up at Hogwarts – and believe me, the only reason I did was because Mom has always had a thing for pigs, my first choice personally was that crazy French school in Louisiana – we might never have even met. We need to answer our own questions first, and hey! – who the heck are you guys anyways?"
The Weasleys were stunned into silence. Will had never been prone to lengthy speeches, and to suddenly be confronted with his babbling doppelganger was startling.
"I guess we should all introduce ourselves," Max, ever the practical one, decided finally. "Will, do the honors?"
"I'm Will," said Will, and took a large bite of toast.
Amaryllis groaned. "You are such a loser sometimes. I'll do it."
She sat up straighter and flipped her wavy auburn hair over one shoulder. "Hi! I'm Amaryllis Weasley." She stuck her hand out for Alex to shake. "We're all Weasleys, actually, so I'll leave that off for the rest. My parents were best friends with Uncle Harry – that's your dad, I guess."
She beamed brightly.
"This is Roseline, she's my older sister, and Grace, Helene, and Max are all Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur's kids. Helene's twin sister, Elise, goes to Beauxbatons, and they have a little brother named Arthur but he's too young for school. Don't worry, I don't expect you to remember all of this immediately, it's very complicated, I'll make you a spreadsheet later so you can learn everyone's names, occupations, etc…"
Amaryllis rattled off a dozen other names and relationships, but even though he was genuinely interested in learning everything there was to know about this newfound branch of his family, it wasn't even eight o'clock, which was like, two or three in the morning according to Alex's internal clock. He focused on the names he could put faces to, and the left the rest for Will to reiterate later.
The Weasley family was apparently ginormous, but there were only (ha!) six of them currently enrolled at Hogwarts. Amaryllis, Roseline, and Max were all in Gryffindor, the red and gold house that had cheered so presumptuously at Will's sorting. Grace and Selene were both third year Ravenclaws, and Helene was the lone Slytherin in the family. Apparently there had never been a Hufflepuff in recent memory.
When Amaryllis finally finished, which coincided with everyone else finishing their breakfasts, Alex introduced himself more formally.
"I guess my real name is Sirius Alexander Summers," he told them. "Mom dropped Sirius when I was a baby and started calling me Alex, after my Uncle Xander. And you were right," he addressed Max. "I'm pretty sure I was named after that Sirius Black guy, whoever he was."
Will eyed Amaryllis, who looked like she was ready to launch into the Weasley-Potter Family History, Part II, and decided to intervene. "I'm William Ronald Potter," he introduced again, because full names were something twins were supposed to know about each other. "Uncle Ron's been Dad's best friend since school. I honestly don't know where the name William came from."
"Probably Aunt Willow," Alex said cheerfully. "She's a seriously awesome Wicca."
They all looked at him blankly.
"What's a Wicca?" Grace asked curiously.
There was no time to explain what a Wicca was, which was probably for the best. One of the prefects came around with schedules (Alex was disappointed to discover that Care of Magical Creatures was only offered to third years and above), and then a bell rang to signal that breakfast was over and classes were about to begin. As all of the Weasleys were older, Will and Alex would be on their own for the rest of the day.
Their first class was Transfiguration, which was actually located down one of the corridors they had mistakenly wound up in earlier that morning, so they found the classroom in plenty of time. Along the way, Will told Alex that he was disappointed that Headmistress McGonagall, who was an old family friend and often came for Christmas Eve dinner, only taught N.E.W.T. level classes. She was a strict witch with a no-nonsense attitude and steel grey hair pulled in a severe bun, but Will had always gotten on famously with her.
Alex was simply relieved to find that they weren't expected to tackle anything beyond basic mice-to-snuffbox transfigurations before the end of their first term; he had always been a bit leery about transforming humans into animals or vice versa. You never knew when someone might get stuck.
For their first lesson, they were given matchsticks to transfigure into needles, but no one had much luck. One girl managed a sort of overcooked piece of spaghetti, and Will got his match to change colors, but then Alex set the entire back row on fire and the professor let them all out early.
Their second class of the day was Charms, with tiny Professor Flitwick who actually had to stand on a pile of books to see over his desk. He was funny and kind, however, and apparently an ex-dueling champion if the rumors were true, and both boys couldn't help but take an immediate liking to his class.
Flitwick began the lesson with an introductory lecture on charm theory, but managed to keep everyone's interest by doing several practical demonstrations. He made streams of violet bubbles cascade out of the tip of his wand, charmed a folded up paper crane to flap its wings and fly around the room in circles, and levitated several objects in quick succession.
Alex, who was unused to such casual displays of magic, was extremely impressed.
Flitwick set them wand movements to practice with a partner for the remainder of the period, and moved between the desks observing and offering advice.
"A little lighter on your flick?" Will suggested when a stream of particularly angry-looking red sparks fizzled out of Alex's wand. They weren't performing real spells, but Flitwick told them to concentrate on producing differently colored sparks for each wand movement, to get a feel for things. "Let's not set anything else on fire today!"
"Ugh!" Alex cried, shaking his bone-white wand forcefully. "I think this thing is broken! I don't understand why I have to use it in the first place," he pouted. "I can already do tons of stuff without it."
He dropped his wand on the table and levitated Will's quill wandlessly.
"Mr. Summers!" Flitwick squeaked as he passed their table. Alex dropped the quill immediately and grabbed for his wand. "Oh my! That's very – well, we aren't scheduled to begin levitation charms until October! How did you – I never!" He looked like he was about to burst from excitement, but controlled himself. "I really must ask you to stick with the lesson at hand, but perhaps we can talk later in the term about assigning – oh, I'm getting ahead of myself, but it's just so refreshing to discover a natural! 1 point to Hufflepuff for enthusiasm!" He beamed at them before moving on.
"That was incredible!" Will whispered. "Your back was to him so he thought you were just copying his charm from before, but…that was something else. How did you do that?"
"Aunt Willow taught me," Alex whispered back, pleased by his brother's admiration. "And I can levitate a lot more than a feather!" he boasted.
(The largest thing Alex had ever levitated was a house cat. It had not gone well.)
Will's eyes gleamed with anticipation.
"I'll teach you at lunch," Alex promised, accurately interpreting the expression. "It's totally easy. We'll have Flitwick eating out of the palms of our hands for the rest of the year!"
They later agreed that the lunch table was not the best place to practice wandless levitation.
Will took to it naturally, which probably had as much to do with Alex's heartfelt encouragement as it did with any inborn talent, and after they had both mastered the basics on scraps of parchment and small vegetables, they began challenging each other to successively heavier objects.
Part of the game was that no one else was allowed to see them do it. Alex surmised and Will confirmed that eleven-year-old wizards were not, as a rule, capable of performing wandless magic.
Will managed to float a fifth year's cutlery from several seats down the table, to which Alex responded by attempting to levitate a large tureen of soup. It was heavier than he'd anticipated, however, and he had barely managed to get it off the table before his control slipped and it fell, splashing broth and noodles everywhere.
One of the professors descended immediately and docked several points from the group of fifth years for playing with their food. Alex and Will had to stuff their sleeves in their mouth to stop from laughing out loud and giving the game away.
Deciding enough was enough, they turned their attention back to their own meals and resumed sorting out their family history for the rest of lunch.
By the time their after-lunch break was over, Will had explained that their father was something of a war-hero, which in turn gave Alex an opening to explain what a Vampire Slayer was.
Both of their parents had been "Chosen" by prophecy and mystical powers to save the world. They had been drawn to each other not knowing this, had two children, and when they broke up they returned to their old lives, never knowing that the partner they were leaving behind was as close to a kindred soul as they were ever likely to find in a hundred lifetimes.
And now their sons had found each other again. And they were about to be late for double Herbology in Greenhouse 1.
They ran like a pack of Hellhounds was snapping at their heels and managed to slip in just as the final bell sounded. They were given a standard safety lecture in which it was highly emphasized that they should never, ever touch anything they couldn't identify if they valued their fingers. Which is pretty much a good life rule, when you think about it.
"The Professor's staring at us," Alex muttered sideways at Will as they practiced repotting some of the harmless herbs used for potion-making.
Will glanced hastily over his shoulder.
"That's Uncle Neville," he whispered back. "One of Dad's old friends."
"You have too many Uncles," Alex complained. "I can't keep track."
They split up when Professor Longbottom called for them to switch groups. Will found himself working alongside a couple of boys he'd met in passing before Hogwarts, and Alex was always quick to make new friends. The time passed quickly and cheerfully.
"Mr. Potter, stay behind," Professor Longbottom called out as the bell rang signaling the end of class.
Will dropped back and Alex, who was already halfway out the door, hesitated as well.
Will shook his head. "Let me handle this. I'll meet you at dinner."
Alex shrugged. "Okay. Hey, Ysolda! Wait up!" He jogged off after one of the girls from his herbology group.
Will turned away from the door. "Is there a problem, Professor?"
"You can call me Neville when we're alone," Uncle Neville said kindly. "I changed your diapers, you know." He began clearing off the tables. "Which is how I know there was only one of you until yesterday."
Will began stacking extra pots. "Um…"
"If I didn't know better, I would say Mr. Summers is not a Summers at all," Neville continued conversationally. "At the Sorting Ceremony I was startled, but it's hard to get a good look at anyone once they're under the Hat."
"Godric Gryffindor had a pretty big head," Will agreed.
"But then I looked for him again today. There were too many Weasley's in the way at breakfast, but I watched the two of you at lunch - which one of you was the soup tureen, by the way?"
"Alex," Will admitted.
"Interesting. Anyways, I started thinking things through, and I realized that in fact, I did know better, because once when your dad was very, very drunk," Neville continued, "he told me that your mother's name was Buffy Summers." He paused in his work to fix Will with a long stare. "Do you understand what that means, Will?"
"I already know Alex is my brother, Uncle Neville," Will said softly. And then, a little bolder, "I'm not exactly stupid, you know!"
Neville laughed. "I know you're not. But I wanted to make sure. Have you written to your father yet?"
"No." Will hesitated. "Would you…not tell him you know, please? I want to tell him myself, and ask – " He stopped, his voice catching.
"Ask him why he never told you," Neville finished for him. "Did Alex know?"
Will shook his head.
Neville considered him thoughtfully for a long moment. "All right," he said finally. "I'll leave it alone until you tell me otherwise. But you've got to tell him eventually, Will. Your mum, too. They'd want to know."
"We will," Will promised. A pause. "After we torment them a bit."
Neville laughed again, and shooed him out of the greenhouse.
"Why is Hufflepuff so yellow?" Alex asked later that evening. They were in the house common room, which was a cozy affair with low ceilings and an earthy vibe. They were tucked up head-to-foot at opposite ends of a squashy yellow couch. Mr. Cat was sprawled out on the floor beside them, belly up and purring.
"I guess Helga Hufflepuff liked yellow," Will guessed sleepily. He was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. It had been a long first day.
Alex propped himself up on his elbows. "Who's Helga Hufflepuff?"
Will forced his eyes open and gave his brother a funny look. "Weren't you paying attention at the Sorting Ceremony?"
Alex looked at him blankly. He had been paying attention – to Will. Obviously he had missed something important.
"She was one of the four Hogwarts Founders," Will explained. "All of the houses are named after one – Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, Godric Gryffindor, and Salazar Slytherin." He waited for some sign of recognition from Alex, but none was forthcoming, so he went on. "They build Hogwarts and divided the students into four houses. Did you really not listen to any of this?"
Alex shrugged and settled back down. "I was distracted. I remember the hat saying something about being brave and smart, but I thought it was just complimenting me."
Will's gaze was already directed at the ceiling, or else he would have rolled his eyes. "It was trying to sort you, you idiot. Bravery – that's Gryffindor. Didn't it tell you why it put you in Hufflepuff? You were under there for a long time."
"Not as long as you were!" Alex laughed. "I thought it had swallowed you."
"We had a long chat," Will said evasively. "It wanted me to…consider other options."
"Yeah, me too," Alex admitted. "'Course, I told it Hufflepuff or else." He smiled in satisfaction at the memory. "It kept muttering about Slytherin cunning, but it saw things my way in the end. I can be very persuasive." Alex sounded extremely proud of this fact.
"Slytherin?" Will repeated, a little surprised. Alex seemed to him too…loud for the serpent house.
"What's wrong with Slytherin?" Alex asked curiously, misinterpreting his tone. "Isn't Helene in Slytherin?"
"Nothing," Will said quickly. "I was just surprised, is all."
"I've heard a couple people talk about Slytherin that way," Alex remembered, furrowing his brows. "Nothing bad, but they sort of…hesitate. I don't get it – don't they like green?"
As if on cue, Will hesitated. "Slytherin has a bit of reputation," he said finally. "Voldemort was a Slytherin, you see."
"So people don't like them because of that? That's silly!"
"Well, a lot of other dark wizards were in Slytherin," Will defended. "And everyone says Salazar Slytherin was dark, too."
"But he must have died a thousand years ago! That makes no sense," Alex huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "And you said Voldemort's dead – why do people still care?"
"Dad thinks it's stupid," Will agreed. "He says people are just touchy. It's getting better, but a lot of death eaters were in Slytherin. Everyone talked about it when Helene was sorted. I was really young, but I remember everyone was really surprised because Weasleys hardly ever get sorted into Slytherin. But no one minded. Our family's not like that."
He was suddenly anxious to assure Alex of this fact. From what little he had gleaned of Alex's side of the family, he already knew they were very keen on tolerance and second chances.
"Good," Alex said firmly, and that was the end of that. He nudged Will's shoulder with his toe. "So where'd the hat want to put you? Not Slytherin?"
"It talked about all of the houses, but no, not really. It just couldn't decide."
"Hmm," Alex said thoughtfully, reaching down to scratch Mr. Cat's chin with two fingers. "I like Hufflepuff," he decided cheerfully. "What's our thing supposed to be? Ferociousness?"
"What?" Will said, wrinkling his nose.
"The badger," Alex elaborated. "They're fierce."
"Oh, yeah, I guess they are. But Hufflepuffs are supposed to value patience, hard work, and loyalty. And fair play. That sort of thing."
Alex was quiet for a moment as he considered this. "I like that," he said finally. "Loyalty – that's a lot more important than being smart or brave, don't you think?"
"Loyalty," Will repeated, testing the word out on his tongue. "Sounds right to me."