Daring, Nerve, and Chivalry
“D-did you just say ‘Nicolas Flamel,’ my dear?” Mr. Giles asked carefully, and Willow saw him start to clean his glasses with his shirt through the magical hand mirror.
“Yeah, just something a friend was asking about. Sounded like a name you’d read about in a history book, so I thought you might know something. But that’s not really important right now. Guys! You’re never going to guess what happened to me over the summer!”
“Gee, let me think about that for a sec, Will,” Xander said with a mock-pensive look. “Didja burn down your house?”
Willow felt her face flush, but she did find it in her to stick her tongue out at her friend. “No, doofus! Well, kinda-sorta. It was more like I blew it up.”
“What?! You were the one who blew it up, Willow?” Jesse sounded somewhere between appalled and impressed.
“Well, yeah, but not in the way you’d think. Y’see, I came home and was all sad, ‘cause Cordelia was being… Well, she was being Cordelia. A-and I was sad, and I was hoping to talk to my mom and dad about it. But they weren’t home, and they hadn’t left a note like they usually do. So I… I did something strange to find them. And I found out they were dead. And then I did another strange thing that blew up the house.”
“Pardon me for interrupting,” Mr. Giles said, “but by ‘something strange,’ do you by any chance mean that you performed a feat of what some people might call ‘magic?’”
Xander laughed. “Don’t be stupid. There’s no such thing as magic. I mean, it’d be cool If there was, but there’s not.”
“Well, Xander,” Willow said with a smirk, “in that case, it’s cool. Here, let me show you something. Keep your eyes on me. Well, on my hands, really.”
Willow set the mirror down on her bed so that her friends were looking up at her, propping it up against a pillow so that it would be at a good angle. Holding her hands on her lap, palms up, Willow steadied her breathing and then raised her hands up a bit. As she did, the mirror floated up into the air an inch, then another, and then a few more. She was careful not to have her magic interfere with the magic of the mirror, and the extra effort was more tiring than she thought it would be.
“Whoa! Are you seeing this, Jesse?”
“I’m seeing something, Xander. I don’t know what it is, but it’s friggin’ awesome!”
“Y-yes, I dare say it is,” Mr. Giles agreed.
Willow smiled and willed the mirror back down to her bed, and it fell on top of her pillow and landed with a short, soft fall. Panting a bit, Willow picked up the mirror. “Whew. That’s the most intense levitation I’ve done so far. Took a lot out of me.”
“So, what is this?” Xander asked. “Are you a wizard now?”
Willow giggled. “Kinda. They call the boys ‘wizards.’ I’m a witch, but it’s not a bad thing. And if you make any sort of smart-aleck remark, mister, I will turn you into a newt!”
“Dear Lord! Willow, you shouldn’t be making threats of that nature!” Mr. Giles scolded her.
“Don’t worry, Mr. G.,” Jesse said. “He’ll get better. Right, Will?”
“Of course, silly! Aren’t you British, Mr. Giles? Haven’t you ever seen Monty Python before? Or did you really think I would ever hurt Xander?”
The older man was suddenly looking rather foolish. “W-well, no, not so much. I’m afraid my work has always taken precedence, and I haven’t had the time to…”
The rest of his sentence was unintelligible given the uproar of laughter from Willow, Xander, and Jesse. Willow felt a tad lightheaded as she laughed. “Oh, wow. That spell was more tiring than I thought it was. I think I need to sleep, but I think we can talk to each other with these at any time. Does your mirror have a watch on it?”
“Yeah, it does,” Xander said. “But it’s off. It’s eight hours fast.”
“No, it’s not!” Willow realized. “It’s telling you what time it is where I am, and mine tells me when it is over there in Sunnydale! And the sun and the moon tell you if it’s day or night!”
“Wow! That’ll really help. So, when do you want to talk next?” Jesse asked. “We should probably plan this out, since we’re stuck in school during the day most of the time, and it’s night where you are when we get home.”
“So, same time as today, but next Saturday?” Willow asked.
“You bet!” Xander and Jesse said together.
“Great! And thank you so much for being there for them, Mr. Giles. I don’t know why you’re there, but you must be a really kind person to help my friends when you probably had a great job at the Museum.”
“Oh, think nothing of it, Willow. I am actually collecting research during my time abroad. But before you go, I want to get back to your earlier question. Nicolas Flamel, if I recall correctly, was an alchemist famous for being the only person known to create a Philosopher’s Stone.”
“Really?!” Willow was stunned. She only knew a few bits of legend about the Philosopher’s Stone from a few comic books that Xander shared with her.
And Xander seemed to be sharing her thoughts. “You mean that the Stone is real?”
“Well, I couldn’t say for certain. Nicolas Flamel lived during the fourteenth century, and his work has been chronicled in many volumes. As to whether he did succeed in creating a Philosopher’s Stone, that much is speculation at best, and legend at worst.”
“What’s the Stone do again?” Jesse asked.
“It makes either gold, the Elixir of Life, or both,” Willow answered. “I don’t remember exactly.”
“Indeed,” Mr. Giles said. “How do you come by this knowledge, Willow?”
“Xander and his comic books,” Willow said as she tried not to smirk.
“What can I say?” her best friend said. “I’m a fountain of knowledge.”
“You’re a goof is what you are!” Willow said, sticking out her tongue before her head spun again. “Ugh. I need to lie down. So, next Friday at one slash nine o’clock?”
“Right, Saturday. I knew that. So, yeah. Great talking to you. Missed you lots. Need to lie down so I don’t throw up.”
“Talk to ya soon, Willow! We love you!” Xander called.
“Careful with the mojo, Will,” Jesse said.
“Do be safe,” Mr. Giles said.
“Thanks. Same to all of you. G’night.” Smiling to herself, Willow managed to put her new mirror away before falling onto her pillow and letting sleep take its hold on her.
After relaying what she had learned about Nicolas Flamel to Ron before the break ended, Willow found herself immersed in her studies as school picked up again as though it had never taken a holiday in the first place. The teachers were working them extra hard, as if they had entirely forgotten what they had learned in the first term. Privately, she thought that Ron’s excitement over Flamel’s identity would be better spent on his classes, but she wasn’t about to make a big deal over it.
The classes advanced, and Willow was incredibly happy with the magic she was learning. Every Saturday night, she would talk with Xander and Jesse, and sometimes Mr. Giles would join them. She still didn’t fully understand why the man from the British Museum would go to a tiny town in southern California, but if he meant to harm her friends, he would have had plenty of time to do so without her even knowing about it. And anyone who took the teasing they dished out at him as well as Mr. Giles did was worth respecting.
Time flew by very quickly, and as Spring began, Willow was hoping to avoid a fight between Neville and Tara. The two usually got along perfectly, but there was a Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff Quidditch match coming up, and the fervor surrounding the sport seemed to do strange things to people.
Thankfully, her two closest friends were not very enthusiastic when it came to intramural athletics, so they were able to study in peace together. Neville and Tara were helping Willow memorize the properties of certain magical fungi that grew in the Amazon rainforest in preparation for an upcoming Herbology test. Willow understood the material just fine on an intellectual level, but she was nervous about the practical part of the test. Tara and Neville both seemed to have a natural affinity for the subject, which was proving to be very helpful.
Willow was able to return the favor by helping Neville with his Potions homework. Tara rarely needed any academic help at all, but she often needed encouragement to give her the confidence to move forward, which Willow and Neville were only too happy to provide.
As Madam Pince announced the impending closing of the library, Willow picked up the books they had been using and went to put them away. “I’ll meet you by the door. I’ll be there real quick,” she said as she hefted the heavy tomes into her scrawny arms. Willow was only saved from running into a bookshelf by an older Ravenclaw who gently turned her in the right direction.
With the books back on their shelves, Willow took a moment to breathe and rest her arms before heading back to meet her friends. Unfortunately, her break was short-lived.
Ha! Look at you now, Longbottom, you great oaf! I’ve been waiting for a chance to try that one out. Pity you were so easy,” Draco Malfoy’s sneering voice said.
Willow rounded the corner out of the door and saw that Neville’s legs were stuck together, as he was hopping up and down in place in an effort to keep from falling over.
“L-l-leave him alone!” Tara said meekly.
“Or what, Maclay?” Draco sneered. “Actually, no. I didn’t mean that. What I meant to say was ‘Or what, Daniels
?’” Willow didn’t know what Draco meant, but Tara recoiled as if struck and looked as if she was about to burst into tears.
And she was done dealing with him. “Draco Malfoy!” she shouted, storming towards him and his oversized cronies. “You leave them alone.”
Unfortunately, Draco decided not to back down. There was a small crowd of fellow first year Slytherins gathered behind him, watching from a distance. “Why can’t you have even a tiny sense of fun, Rosenberg? What do you see in these two lowlifes anyway? It’s not like they’re worth your time or attention.”
Willow snorted. “And you are?”
That threw her for a loop, and an awkward silence followed. Willow narrowed her gaze. “What do you mean?” she asked in a hushed voice.
Draco sighed, as if he was about to explain something to a small child. “You’re powerful, Willow. My father has more sway in our society than almost anyone else. You’re new to Britain, but we can offer you so much. Longbottom lives with his measly old grandmother, and Maclay isn’t even a Maclay. The Maclays are an old pureblood family, but her father was a filthy Muggle. Why would you bother associating with such scum?”
Thoughts of calling Draco a Nazi to his face came and went in an instant. He wouldn’t understand the term, and he probably wouldn’t care if he did. But there were other ways to get under his skin. “Draco, do you even realize how stupid you’re being right now?”
“What?” He obviously hadn’t expected the question.
“Just look at you! You walk around the school and treat people like garbage, and so they hate you for that. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re better than everyone else. If you make everyone your enemy, they’re going to talk to each other and say, ‘Hey, whadaya know? We all hate that stupid Malfoy guy. Let’s team up to take him down.’ And then instead of facing a few helpless targets, you’re going to find a mob coming to get you. And you don’t even seem to care. Ergo – I always wanted to use that word – you’re stupid. Now undo the curse you did on Neville and go away.”
Malfoy seemed stunned into silence. He clearly hadn’t been thinking very much, to Willow’s lack of surprise. He just assumed he could walk all over everyone. His non-committal shrug was infuriating. “Don’t know how to undo it,” he said calmly. “You’ll have to help the blood traitor yourself. Unless the half-blood is any help. I doubt it, though.”
Neville fell over at Malfoy’s insult, and Tara burst into tears and fell to her knees.
Willow glared at Draco and felt a familiar cold rage build up inside of her. It felt good, but this time she remembered Dumbledore’s warning. She called her meditation practices to mind, and she steadied her breathing. As she calmed herself, she felt the power from her anger respond and begin to warm up. She was still angry, but she wasn’t letting the power control her. She wasn’t going to let it explode. She’d let it simmer and brew inside of her while she had a word with Malfoy.
He must have sensed something, as he was backing away from her. “You really think you’re so much better than us, don’t you? I can see your fear, Draco. You’re afraid of me. You’re afraid of my power, and you do seem to think I have quite a lot of power, don’t you? I bet you never even stopped to think that such power could come from the hands of a mudblood,
did you?” Willow knew the term was meant to be insulting, but she decided she’d take the label and wear it proudly. Thoughts of a yellow Star of David came to mind.
Draco paled and started sputtering. “You… You’re a… You can’t be…”
“Oh, I can. And I am. I am a witch, and I am in Slytherin, and neither of my parents have magic. Your family may mean something to you, but I can do this, Draco Malfoy,” Willow said as she raised her arm and swung it across in front of her.
Three meters away, Draco’s face was slapped with an invisible hand, and he yelped in pain.
Willow smiled. “I can do that, Draco, because I do have the power you thought I did. It’s simmering inside of me, just waiting to come out. I’m being very careful this time. Part of me doesn’t want to hurt you, but another part of me just wants to let loose and see what happens when I’m not in control of my magic.”
She took a step forward, and Draco recoiled, falling onto his rear. “What about you, Mr. Malfoy? Do you wanna see?”
Draco Malfoy was many things, and among those things was a boy who knew when he ought to cut his losses and run like hell, which he did almost immediately when Willow finished speaking. The crowd of Slytherins quickly bolted after him, save for one boy and one girl who looked at Willow curiously before moving off more slowly.
Willow turned her attention to Neville. She could feel Malfoy’s curse: it was so obvious. With a wave of her hand, Neville’s legs unstuck themselves.
“W-willow?” Tara said nervously between tears from the floor. “A-are you okay? Your eyes… They’re black.”
Shame washed over Willow like a tidal wave. Tara had been forced to endure relentless insults and had been reduced to tears by Malfoy’s words, and here she was looking after Willow as though she was the one in need of care.
The power drained out of her, and Willow rushed to Tara’s side to help her to her feet. “I’m fine, Tara. I don’t know about my eyes, but I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you. I just got so angry and I wanted to help, and you must think I’m so terrible now. And Neville!” she cried, moving over to check on her friend now that he was standing upright again. “I didn’t mean to make things hard for you. I don’t know if he would have gone after you if it wasn’t for me, but he did, and I’m so sorry. And I-“
Willow’s babble was cut off as both Neville and Tara wrapped their arms around her in a warm embrace.
“You stood up for me, Willow,” Neville said quietly. “I didn’t think anyone cared enough to do that for me.”
“A-and me,” Tara added softly. “You’re always there for me, Willow. You make me feel special and cared for. Y-you and Neville are the only ones at Hogwarts who really do that. I mean, my housemates are nice and everything, but I don’t feel connected to them like I do with you guys. I won’t pretend that your eyes weren’t strange, but you’re still you. And I really, really like you, Willow.”
Somewhere in Willow’s stomach, a flock of giant butterflies did a round of aerial somersaults. Her friends not only forgave her, but they were glad to have her with them. It was humbling, especially as Willow recalled the words of a wise man from a movie she’d seen back in Sunnydale. ’Anger, fear, aggression: the Dark Side are they.’
Whenever Willow had drawn on the deep wells of power inside of her, it had been in a moment of anger. Even the show of power at the wand shop had been a fit of pique.
“Don’t ever give up on me,” she begged of her friends. “If I ever start to go bad, please bring me back.”
“Don’t be stupid, Willow,” Neville said. “You’re a good person. You’re a really
good person. Don’t ever think you’re not.”
“And we’ll always be there for you,” Tara added confidently. “No matter what.”
Willow closed her eyes, gratitude washing over her. “And I’ll always be there for you, too. I swear it.”
The days kept passing until the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff Quidditch match had arrived. Like the other Quidditch matches before it – whether or not Slytherin was playing – Willow stayed in her dormitory, not wanting to be surrounded by her housemates so high up in the air. The game days allowed her some nice time for peace and quiet, when she could study or read for pleasure without anyone getting in her way. The common room could be quite nice once one got used to the green tint of the place.
It was strange when Willow wandered down from her bedroom to find that there were two other occupants in the common room. She recognized their faces immediately as the two students who hadn’t fled quite so quickly from her showdown with Draco the previous week. A moment of thought added names to the faces: Tracey Davis and Theodore Nott. It was clear that they were both waiting for her.
Willow sighed and resigned herself to some sort of torment. “What do you want?” she asked without any enthusiasm.
To her surprise, the two other Slytherins looked nervous. They were shifting on their feet and looking at the floor.
Sighing again, Willow put on a kinder face. “Look, I’m sorry. I thought you wanted to give me a bad time. If you don’t want any trouble, then I won’t make any. I definitely don’t want any trouble.”
Theodore Nott laughed, but quickly hushed himself up, as if afraid that such a reaction would prove fatal. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s just that you’ve already made a lot of trouble. The good kind, I mean.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well,” Tracey Davis said carefully, “you told Draco Malfoy of all people that you’re Muggle-born. That’s either really brave, really stupid, or maybe both.”
Willow sat down in a bean-bag chair and closed her eyes. She did not need this. “You were there, too. I saw you. Did you want to make fun of me or something? Can’t I just read for a bit without anyone picking on me?”
“You’ve got it all wrong, Rosenberg,” Nott said quickly. “We’re not upset or anything. We’re actually impressed.”
That got Willow’s attention, and she opened her eyes. “What? Why would you be impressed with me?”
Tracey took a seat next to Willow with a kind face. “I know what it’s like to feel isolated in Slytherin house. I’m a half-blood, and I was terrified to tell anyone. I still haven’t, except for Theodore and now you. I was so afraid that I would be shunned and ridiculed. But you stood up and seemed proud of being Muggle-born. And the Malfoys are really rich and powerful. Most people don’t want to get on their bad side.”
“My dad didn’t,” Theodore said. “That’s how he got mixed up with You-Know-Who. Lucius Malfoy dragged him into it. And it was only Malfoy’s word that kept my dad out of prison. If we were to say anything against him, we might be homeless or worse. You’re braver than us, Rosenberg, and more powerful, too.”
Willow sat up straight and looked from face to face with wide eyes. “Are you coming to me for protection?” she asked incredulously.
“No, Willow! That’s not it,” Tracey said quickly. “Well, all right. That’s not it entirely,” she amended. “Protection wasn’t the main reason, but it’s kind of an added benefit. It’s just that you seem, well… You seem cool. You’re really good at magic, you’re brave enough to stand up to Malfoy, and people in other houses seem to like you.”
Theodore hung his head and sat down. “It’s not easy being in Slytherin when you’re not as close to Malfoy as everyone else is. You can only keep your head down for so long before you’re dragged into stuff you don’t want to be a part of. And Slytherin House has a nasty reputation going back to Salazar himself. But you look all of that in the eye and just say ‘no’ to all of it. I figure that if you can do that, then I want to join you.”
“We both do,” Tracey added.
Willow was dumbfounded, and she took a few moments to get her bearings. The silence must have been awkward for her two housemates, given the looks on their faces when she came to her senses. “A couple of things. Don’t use the word ‘Muggle.’ It’s insulting. So is ‘Squib’ as long as we’re on the subject. And if you wanted to be friends, that would be one thing. You just want an alliance.”
Tracey laughed. “Friends, interesting. That’s not a really familiar concept in Slytherin, as far as I know. Most people in this house are too busy scheming for power within the House, the school, or the world outside. I guess that’s what makes you special, Willow: you’re not looking for power. You have it, but it’s not what you’re about. And that’s really what we’re trying to say. We don’t want to be defined by a struggle for power, either. Friendship would be kinda nice.”
Nott looked curious at the two girls. “I haven’t really had a ‘friend’ since I was really little. I guess it’d be nice to have one again.”
Willow smiled at the thought of two Slytherins other than herself going by a set of lifestyle rules apart from the rest of their house. “All right. Let’s try it out,” she said with a smile. “If we’re going to be friends, then we need to trust each other. Let’s try a game of Truth or Dare.”
“What’s that?” Theodore asked.
“It’s a game,” Tracey explained. “And it can get really weird at times.”
“Yup,” Willow said with a smile. “We’ll all be forced to do incredibly stupid things and to reveal our darkest secrets, all in the name of fun. What do you say?”
Tracey smiled, and Theodore groaned. “Is friendship supposed to feel this strange?”
“You get used to it,” Willow said, a smirk lighting up her lips. “We’ll start with Tracey. Now observe, young grasshopper. Tracey: truth or dare?”
Author’s Note 1: Yes, I did edit Tara’s history a bit more so that the family she is with is still the Maclays while also being her mother’s side. I missed that bit of common sense earlier, so I am invoking my right to creative license in this case. If there are any other similar things I missed, feel free to point them out.
Author's Note 2: Also, I see Willow’s relationship with Ron/Harry/Hermione that is friendly, but not nearly as close as the bonds between the three Gryffindors. She probably feels about them the way they feel about Ginny and Luna once they join the main plots: glad that they’re there, but not really able to interact too much with them, hence the lack of closeness.
As always, thank you all for reading and reviewing and making this story worth writing.
Special Thanks to Meneldur for beta-reading this chapter.
I hope you enjoy this latest addition to the story! ^_^