DISCLAIMER: I do not own these properties. JK Rowling owns Harry Potter, Joss Wheldon owns Buffy.
Watching Anya’s lifeless body fall to the ground was one of the few images that Andrew Wells could not forget.
It was right up there with Jonathan’s look of puzzled betrayal and hurt, Neo’s realization that the Matrix was reality, Spike’s careless taunting of the Fett, the death of Spock and the Owl.
The sneering, arrogant bird that had been the bane of his existence since his older brother Tucker’s eleventh birthday. It had shown up, with the parchment letter in its beak. Who ever heard of a bird carrying a letter in its beak anyway? It was illogical, it just didn’t make sense.
Andrew had once tried to tell the story of the letter to Warren, but had gotten stumped on the letter itself. Warren had torn into him, mocking him. Lecturing him on the sheer idiocy of birds carrying mail that way.
He remembered the confusion, the way his parents tried to analyze the letter. It didn’t fit very well into the balance sheets and columns of their world. They had been ready to assume that it was all an elaborate joke staged by a rival accounting firm... the bird had been unceremoniously lured into the bird carrier to be taken to the SPCA... and then he had arrived.
Blond hair and robes and a voice that still haunted Andrew.
Haunted him in his days and his nights.
The aura of luxury, of almost feminine beauty, wrapped up in power.
Andrew could still remember crouching on the landing of his parents house, peering through the rails of the banister. Watching. Listening.
As the beautiful stranger explained that yes, magic existed. Yes, the letter was real. Watching as his parents exchanged worried glances. They hadn’t wanted it to be real. They liked the world as they knew it. This new world wasn’t one they would be good at measuring and quantifying. It was qualitative to their quantitative. McCoy to their Spock. Obiwan to their Imperial Auditor. Q to their Data. It was WRONG.
And the dark light blond man almost purred in their discomfort as he “explained” the situation. “I’m not supposed to be here,” he started, his voice smooth and melodious. “But you have to know the truth. Magic exists, and your son has some small talent in that direction. You could accept the invitation. Send him to school.” But his tone didn’t match the words. His tone said they’d be stupid to do so.
And Max, “Maximillian” to his friends wasn’t a stupid man.
“There’s a catch.” His father’s voice was assured. Almost confident. Infinitesimally questioning.
“The world of magic is one of old families. On the surface, this is a ticket in. But your son will never be truly part of it. He’ll be an outsider to them. And he won’t be taught the skills to thrive in your world either. So he’ll be stuck as a “trusted” advisor or aide de camp in a world he can never truly become successful in. Is that what you want?”
His father’s eyes had narrowed. “If he truly has the talent, can’t he push past that?”
The responding laughter had been brief. And dark... oh so wonderfully dark. “If he had THAT much of it. But they rig the system. The truly powerful potentials never get letters. Just those who’ll comfortably be powerful enough to be useful but not enough to be a challenger. Then they can say that they DO let outsiders in but they’re not really up to par. They make their... how do you say it... “quota” without really being fair to the children whose lives they tarnish. Who could have been superstars in your world, but are reduced to being minions in my own.”
His father’s lips had narrowed. “My son has potential.”
“Of course.” The smile had been almost mocking. “But not if they rig the system against him. A mage born child is tutored in the tricks of the trade since birth. Its an old way of doing things, Mr. Wells. Its been that way since before this young country of yours began and it needs changed. But change is slow in such things. And your boy only has one shot.”
“Tell me why you care. Tell me why you’re even here.”
“I admit, I used to support this whole idea. I’m even on the Board of Directors... but I have a young child, Mr. Wells. Since he was born I look at young boys and I see him. I want, I need to know that I’m not doing something that will hurt any child.”
The two men exchanged a look full of meaning.
Max Wells scowled. “You’re right of course. But if this is all true, I just hate giving up the opportunity for him to utilize it. But its not worth it if it limits his potential.”
A blond smile. “I can understand that, and I can help you. Much of the curriculum of that school is outdated and almost useless. The richer families tutor their children individually. It gives them the edge. There are a number of children in young Tucker’s situation living not too far from here. If you would reconsider relocating, I could arrange for him to sit in on lessons with them. Perhaps an evening or so per week?”
“Which would cost?”
“I was born and raised in that subculture, Mr. Wells. But I find it increasingly difficult to stand by and let my son grow up limited by its constraints. I’ll need quite a bit of advice and someone I can trust to shift my assets into your financial system. I’m willing to pay, but need someone willing to keep quiet about it all. They..” his flowing gesture indicated an amorphous gathering, “are very secretive about such things.
Thus began OWL MARK 2s’ visits to his brother. The elegant letters. The sneers and arrogance of his brother’s superiority.
Andrew almost cried when no owl came for his eleventh birthday. Then he remembered that the really powerful kids weren’t supposed to get them.
So he wrote a letter. On beautiful paper. Begging for a chance. Begging to be noticed by the haunting lord of his daydreams. The response was brief.
“Its too dangerous. They watch you. Learn what you can from your brother. ~~M”
It felt like a brush off.
Sometimes, when things got bad, Andrew would hold his brother’s letter in his hands and remember the Owl. He would close his eyes and remember that he was special. That he had so much potential that they hadn’t dared train him. And he knew it was true. Knew it as he hadn’t known always. Knew it despite the doubts that plagued him for years... that he wasn’t good enough. That was less than his brother.
Less than the man who had unleashed Hellhounds on the Prom and accomplished NOTHING.
Less than a Redshirt getting assigned to a Star Trek away mission.
He had potential.
He knew it.
Willow Rosenberg hadn’t gotten an owl either.