Of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Because chapter one was kind of short, here’s another. Thank you for all the kind reviews and insights!
*Chapter Two: Of Witchcraft and WizardryIn which Alexander Summers receives a series of unexpected invitations
Alex Summers was in something of a pickle.
He wasn’t supposed to be in Giles’ office in the first place. He definitely wasn’t supposed to be picking the lock on Giles’ desk, but, well, needs must – and Alex needed
to sate his curiosity. It was hardly his fault that Giles kept the juiciest slayer journals locked away! Of course, the Watchers’ Chronicles were also something that were completely off-limits to eleven-year-old boys named Alex, but that was completely irrelevant. It wasn’t like anyone was going to tell him about the really good stuff of their own accord.
go away,” Alex addressed the twenty-odd birds that had descended on him through the open study window. “I’m in enough trouble already!”
“Alex? What in the Hellmouth’s name – ”
Alex spun around guiltily. His mother stood in the open doorway, but she was staring past him at the assembled flock.
“Would you believe me if I said I had nothing to do with this?” he tried hopefully.
A large crow cawed
loudly from the back of Giles’ desk chair, and a rumpled-looking barn owl lost control of its bowels on an open copy of The Slayer Handbook, Revised Ed.
Buffy gave him a look.
It took them nearly half an hour to coax the majority of the birds back out the open window, even with his mother’s superior reflexes. Alex personally thought things would have gone a lot quicker if she hadn’t stopped every five minutes to berate his carelessness; it was hardly Alex’s fault the window had been left open. Honestly, didn’t Giles know they had air conditioning? So really, if Alex was blamed for pursuing his academic curiosity, or for Giles’ lack of energy conservation, well, it was terrifically unfair.
Luckily, his mother was distracted from the original trespass by the two dozen envelopes, scrolls, and one extremely elaborate pop-up book they found amidst the feathers and dung.
“They’re all addressed to ‘S. Summers,’” Alex read, handing an envelope to his mother. “That doesn’t make any sense – no one in the family has a name that starts with the letter ‘S’.”
Now it was Buffy’s turn to look guilty. “Well…actually
“My name is Sirius?
” Alex demanded. “You’ve been lying to me all these years?”
“Only technically,” Buffy defended. “Alexander is your middle name.”
“You told me I didn’t have a middle name! And what kind of name is Sirius, anyways?”
His mother sighed. “Your father named you Sirius, after a relative of his who died when he was a kid. I chose Alexander, after Uncle Xander, obviously. When your dad and I split up, I started calling you Alex. You were like, six months old.”
“My entire life has been a lie,” Alex said dramatically.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Buffy snapped, reaching for the nearest scroll. She undid the ribbon and tossed it aside.
“It’s a federal offense to open other peoples’ mail, you know,” Alex grumbled, sinking further into his chair.
“You’re eleven,” Buffy said unworriedly. She scanned the page. “And as your mother, I have the right to know if you’ve been practicing magic without supervision.”
“What?!” Alex sat up indignantly. “I’d never!”
(This was a lie, but never mind that now. He’d never do anything big. He wasn’t completely stupid.)
He tore open an envelope addressed in periwinkle blue, and unfolded the thick sheath of parchment inside. “Monsieur Summers,
” he read aloud, “Nous avons le plaisir de vous informer de votre acceptation dans L’ Académie de Magie Beaubâtons
…”* He looked up in surprise. “Holy cow, they think I’m a French warlock!”
Buffy pursed her lips. “I think this calls for a Scooby meeting.”
“So let me get this straight,” Uncle Xander said later that evening, once everyone who was available had been rounded up for Buffy’s impromptu family meeting. “Alex is a witch and he’s going to Magic High?”
“According to these letters, the proper terminology is ‘wizard,’” Aunt Willow, the only real witch at the table, interjected. “This particular community of magic users obviously distinguishes between the genders of the spell caster.”
“Does anyone else find it, I don’t know, suspicious
that Alex was accepted to a dozen schools we’ve never heard of without filling out a single application?” Xander continued, scratching at the edge of his eye patch. “I mean, I know I barely finished high school –”
(This was more due to the giant snake demon that killed half of the graduating class than Xander’s grades and attendance record, actually, thank you very much.
“ – but even I know you have to apply to these fancy boarding schools. And what’s this about wands? Are they serious? Is that some kind of euphemism? ‘Cause I’m really not liking the direction that’s
“I’ve found references to wand users in several of the older texts,” Aunt Dawn, who was Alex’s only biological aunt, put in from across the table. She had a pile of ancient tomes on one side, and a laptop with an open web browser on the other. “Plenty of magic requires a focus. Crystals, talismans, staffs…”
Xander rolled his good eye. “Okay, Gandalf.”
“But look at the supply list!” Willow interrupted. “A cauldron – okay, well that’s actually useful, but hats, robes, toads
–” she shuddered. “This one even mentions a policy on broomsticks!” She threw the offending letter down in disgust. “It’s completely stereotypical and offensive.”
“Jealous, Wills?” Buffy said, failing to hide her grin.
“Little bit,” Willow pouted.
“If it’s a joke, it does seem to be in very poor taste,” Dawn admitted, waving the letter from the Salem Academy for Young Witches and Wizards.
Buffy and Willow winced, remembering the time they were almost burned at the stake by their own mothers.
“Giles, have you ever heard of these schools?” Xander asked, directing his question to the laptop where Giles was videoconferencing in via Skype.
“I’m afraid not
,” Giles admitted, pinching the bridge of his nose as he removed his glasses. “I will contact the Devon Coven as soon as we’re finished here. They may be able to shed some light on the mystery
“So you never came across anything like this back in your misspent, spellcasting youth,” Xander confirmed.
” Giles snorted. “We were summoning demons and reveling in chaos and anarchy. Academics were the last thing on our minds.
” He looked sharply at Alex. “Let that be a lesson to you, young man!
“Sweetie, you haven’t been trying to cast any big magic, right?” Willow asked Alex kindly. “Because if you have, I totally understand, I mean, pot calling the kettle black, but you know it’s very dangerous, and none of us want to see you get hurt…”
Alex, who had learned by now that the best way to get information out of his over-protective family was to stay quiet and hope they forgot he was there when they started talking slayage and demon-summoning, shook his head vigorously. “I haven’t, I swear. Cross my heart.”
“Funny story about that saying,” Dawn said, perking up. “It actually originates from…some place that’s not relevant to what we’re talking about. Sorry.” She returned hastily to her books.
“No one’s accusing anyone,” Buffy said firmly. “But Giles – I need answers. I don’t like this many people knowing Alex’s name.”
“You think it’s a dastardly scheme to infiltrate the Council through seducing the young, impressionable son of The Slayer with sweet promises of the dark arts? Yes, ve-ry
clever…” This came from Uncle Andrew, who was prone to outbursts of melodrama and scifi (SyFy) references.
“Ugh, give me a straight forward kidnapping any day,” Dawn groused.
“It’s more than just his name,” Buffy said, waving an envelope for emphasis. “These things are addressed down to the room he was standing in. How could anyone know that?”
“And why birds?” Andrew wanted to know. “If these “wizards” are as “magical” as they “claim”, why waste the time training that many owls? Because let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it looks.”
“I think there was one too many air quotes in that sentence,” Xander said dryly.
“I don’t “follow”,” Andrew air quoted back. “All I’m saying is, couldn’t they just, “Poof!” the letters?”
“Or use a computer,” Willow muttered, rolling her eyes. “Most covens have at least one techno-pagan, these days.”
They considered this and all of their other unanswered questions for a long moment.
“Anyone hungry?” Buffy said finally, breaking the silence.
Xander perked up. “Ooh, snacks!”
“I’ll order pizza,” Dawn said, pulling up the website. “The usual?”
“I think that’s my cue to sign off
,” video-Giles said. “I’ll be in touch as soon as I’ve spoken to Althenea
“Tell her I said hi!” Willow piped up.
“Of course. Oh, and Alex?
” Giles leveled a heavy, HD stare at him through the screen. “We will be having a long talk when I return concerning invasion of privacy.
He closed the chat window with a ping.
Alex groaned loudly and banged his head on the table.
A tall woman at the back of the old fashioned tea shop rose to greet him as he entered. She wore a leather motorcycle jacket over a flowing sun dress, and Giles found himself momentarily distracted by wondering how that combination worked in practice. Then again, this woman was a witch.
“Mrs. Martin, I presume?” he said, offering his hand to Althenea’s contact.
“Ms,” she corrected, smiling warmly as she shook his hand. “But please, call me Elspeth. I took the liberty of ordering a plate of sandwiches. I hope you’re hungry.”
“Starved, actually. Thanks very much.”
They sat down at a quiet back table. Elspeth poured Giles a cup of tea from a steaming pot and fixed it with two lumps of sugar without asking how he took it.
“Althenea wasn’t entirely clear about the specifics of your situation, I’m afraid,” Elspeth admitted, spreading a napkin across her lap and helping herself to a sandwich from the plate between them. “I gather that someone connected to your organization has received an invitation to one of the schools for magic?”
“My adoptive grandson, as it were,” Giles clarified. “And it wasn’t just one letter – as of this morning, Alex has received letters from twenty-eight institutions claiming to be magical teaching establishments. Curiously, two appear to be all-girls schools.”
Elspeth nearly spat out her mouthful of tea. “Twenty-eight?
” she repeated. “That must be every school on the map!”
“You’re saying they are legitimate?” Giles pressed.
“Yes, yes, of course they are, but…twenty-eight? I’ve never heard of anything like it!” She sat back, amazed. “I didn’t even realize there were that many! The wizarding world is very small, you know.”
“What, exactly, do you mean by ‘wizarding world’?” Giles asked. “You’ll forgive me if I sound skeptical, but I can’t understand how a supernatural community of this magnitude could be unknown to the Council.”
“Wand wizards are very secretive,” Elspeth said with a small smile of indulgent affection. “My mother was a squib, you see, which is how I know as much as I do.”
Giles stared. “I’m sorry, your mother was a what?”
“A squib is a person who is born to wizarding parents but possesses no magic of their own,” Elspeth explained quickly. “Of course, that is a very wizarding
definition. My mother was a witch – just not the same kind. Wiccans, as you know, may have an inherent potential for magic, but primarily draw their energy from outside sources. Gaia, and…other places. Wizards actually possess an internal source of magic, which they can channel through a focus; usually a wand. Some wizards have the same aptitude as powerful wiccans (although they don’t know this!) and are also adept at some wandless spell-casting.
“It’s much more complex than that,” Elspeth continued, “and there are many conflicting schools of thought. But there you have the basics. The wizarding world is very secretive and reclusive, to such a startling degree that there remain many misconceptions on both sides.” She smiled suddenly. “You should have seen my grandfather’s face the first time he saw me cast a spell – he simply could not understand how I was able to perform magic but couldn’t so much as create sparks with a wand!”
Giles moved to clean his glasses on reflex. “Indeed.”
Two pots of tea and a shared plate of buttery lemon scones later, many of the aforementioned misconceptions had been cleared up to both parties’ liking, but one question remained.
“The one thing I still don’t understand is the mass volume of letters,” Elspeth mused. “It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve never heard of a child receiving more than two or three letters at most; and only then in very particular circumstances – and never in the case of a muggleborn!”
“Let it never be said that Alex Summers is a conformist,” Giles said dryly.
Elspeth’s lips twitched. “That may be, but it’s all determined magically. Whatever district – for lack of a better term – Alex lives in is the only one he should receive an invitation from. I believe there are currently five or six schools in North America. Not being a particularly strong student of geography, I couldn’t say whether Toronto or New Orleans would be closer.”
“Toronto,” Giles said absently. “Although the letter from New Orleans was quite popular amongst the family; Cajun French is a fascinating dialect.”
“Regardless, it’s highly irregular. I can’t see how –”
“Good lord,” Giles blurted, sudden comprehension dawning. “I’ve just had a thought: the Council – it’s an extraterritoriality. Our continental headquarters and safe houses are treated as embassies, although we claim no nationality. We have an agreement with the United Nations. Alex has spent most of his life living in international zones. Would that be enough to skew the results of the…locator spells?”
Elspeth raised her eyebrows. “I suppose that could be it.” Then she laughed. “It doesn’t really make perfect sense, but then again, this is
wizarding magic we’re talking about here.”
“So Ace here’s a real Sabrina?” Aunt Faith clapped Alex on the back and nearly sent him sprawling across the training mats. “Nice!” She grinned at him. “Mom gonna let you go?”
Buffy pursed her lips. “We’ll see,” she said doubtfully.
“Mo-om,” Alex whined, ducking Faith’s attempts to ruffle his hair. He was largely unsuccessful, because, well, slayer
. “Giles’ friend said I hafta go, or I’ll start blowing things up!”
“You already blow things up,” Buffy said archly. “You got that from me.”
“Don’t be a spoilsport, B,” Faith egged. “I thought Giles said it all checked out?”
“Well…yes,” Buffy admitted. “But that still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for Alex to be doing magic.”
“Not to stick my nose in your decisions – ” Willow popped her head in as she passed the training room.
“Doesn’t everyone in this family?” Buffy muttered rhetorically.
“ – but I’ve got to say, I’m all for getting Alex proper magical training. He has internal magic; it’s not going to just go away.”
“But can’t you teach him?” Buffy said hopefully.
“Buffy,” Willow sighed, “it’s not the same.”
“I don’t see why not,” Buffy said stubbornly, folding her arms over her chest.
“Hey, Ace, whaddya say we go raid the freezer for ice cream?” Faith said loudly. “I’m starving!”
Alex recognized the offer as a distraction and gave her a look that clearly said Are you kidding me?
Faith shook her head at his expression. “Not a suggestion, babe.” Before he could protest, she picked him up and tossed him over her shoulder. “Wanna come, Little Red?” she asked Willow’s shadow.
“Yeah!” Taryn squealed, bouncing away from her mother. Faith scooped her up as well, earning another delighted screech. Faith had always been a great favorite with the exuberant child.
Taryn-Anyanka was Aunt Willow and Uncle Xander’s six-year-old daughter, even though Aunt Willow was gay and Uncle Xander usually dated demons. Alex still didn’t know the whole story of his not-cousin’s origins, but he knew it would be worth finding out eventually, because anytime anyone brought it up all of the grownups turned bright red and made excuses to leave the room.
Even though Taryn was only six she was insanely smart and silly, and Alex usually loved hanging out with her, but as they both swayed in time with Faith’s stride, he wished she would stop babbling so he could hear what Buffy and Willow were saying.
“Afterwegeticecreamcanicomewithyoutomagicschool?” she demanded unintelligibly.
“I think you’re afraid,
” Willow’s voice floated down the hall. “You’re afraid Alex is growing up and won’t need you anymore, but don’t you think you’re being a little selfish? Alex needs to learn control…
“…and then we’ll turn all of the homework into frogs!”
“What?” Alex said, equally distracted by the feeling of all the blood rushing to his head and Taryn’s unsettling love for amphibians. “Shut up, Taryn! I’m trying to listen!”
Faith swatted him on the behind. “Watch your tone with the ladies, Ace!”
“…maybe you’re right,
” Buffy said distantly. “Maybe I’m just being selfish and overprotective.
“You’re being a mom, Buffy. That’s completely normal.
There was a long pause in the conversation, and Alex made a face as they reached the limit of even his hearing. Evidence was inconclusive. He hoped Willow was wearing her resolve face.
“Okay, kiddos,” Faith said, jarring him from his thoughts when she put them down on the kitchen table, and moved to open the freezer. “What’ll it be? We’ve got strawberry, fudge ripple, rocky road, that weird flavor with the gummy bears…”
Buffy found him later curled up in his favorite nook of the library. She often teased him about this hiding spot, but had to acknowledge her own hypocrisy: everyone in the family hid out in the library when they wanted to be alone or take a nap.
“When I can’t sleep I read the encyclopedias,
” Uncle Xander told him once. “By the time I get to A’Avssshk Demons, I’m out like a light.
“The medieval weapons manuals soothe me,
” Buffy had once admitted.
(In fact, until he was eight, Alex had believed that libraries were the place everyone went to take naps and conquer insomnia.)
“Hey,” Buffy said, trying to be quiet even though he’d heard her coming from all the way down the hall. “What’chya reading?”
“It’s not magic,” Alex defended immediately, showing her the cover.
“Ancient Sumerian for Dummies
,” Buffy read aloud. She made a face. “Ugh. Why?”
Alex shrugged, tight-lipped.
Buffy sat down across from him. “I’m sorry about this morning.”
Alex turned the page.
“I guess we’ll need to get you a wand, huh?”
Alex’s head snapped up. “Really? I can go?!”
“Really,” Buffy confirmed. “You can thank Aunt Willow later.”
“Mom! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” Alex yelled. Launching himself out of the armchair, he threw his arms around his mother’s neck. Unfortunately, her chair was somewhat less stable and the force of his excitement sent them both crashing to the floor.
“Are you sure you didn’t inherit my strength?” Buffy teased as they untangled themselves from the broken chair bits.
“As long as I didn’t get your height!”
“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry sweetie! Sometimes I forget you’re not as tough as the girls!”
*If my French is off, please excuse me (and tell me how to fix it!). It’s been awhile.