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Chapter 3: Talents
He laughed as he ran, letting his friends chase him, and left their joyful laughter behind him, knowing without a doubt that they could not catch him. He stopped once he deemed himself far enough away and took slow, calming breaths to steady his pulse. Only when he turned around did he realize his mistake; his friends had snuck up on him, close enough to cover his face in snow. He took a step back, the force of the hit along with the cold making him lose his balance, and let out a highpitched shriek. Which only caused the three boys in front of him to laugh harder.
"You will live to regret that, Gareth," he said with a small hint of malice showing through his grin.
The smirk that graced Gareth's soft features seemed more like a smile in his opinion, and his friend pushed his black hair out his eyes. "A threat, sir? I'm terrified. Exactly what you want out of me, of course, your Majesty." The other two boys threw their heads back, laughing as Gareth bowed mockingly.
He joined in, as though unable to help himself, but schooled his features quickly and locked eyes with Gareth, serious. "It would be in your best interest to remember that."
It was calm and quiet for only a few seconds before they had all burst into laughter again. Gareth moved forward and wrapped his arm around the boy's shoulder, their foreheads touching. "Of course. It is a best friend's duty to listen to the threats one gives." He chuckled lightly and patted him on the back. "Come, friend. I think it's time we head back; the snow is falling thicker and I don't like it."
"That's because you blend in," the boy on his left snickered, gesturing to his pale complexion. It earned him a blow to the ribs with Gareth's elbow.
"Gareth is right," he said, stopping any fighting, playful or otherwise. "It's getting too cold to stay outside and if we do not go in now people will start looking for us."
"That's because we're not supposed to be out here," the final friend pointed out.
"Ah, Chris; the faithful goodie-goodie."
"Say what you will, Daniel," Chris replied. "I don't care. What I do care about is that we go home in three days for Christmas, yet no one is packed."
"Except you," Gareth laughed.
They made their way back to the castle, walking at a leisurely pace despite the cold, and didn't hear the sound of footsteps crunching the snow. Except him.
He turned to face the sound, curious, and stopped in his tracks. His heart rate sped up, he could feel it beat against his chest like it was ready to explode, and his mouth went dry.
But the figure just stood there, completely unmoving except for a slight nod of the head at the boy, acknowledging him but making no attempt to approach him. He jumped when a hand touched his shoulder.
"Are you alright?" Gareth asked, worried. He turned to their other friends, then to the empty space where the figure had been standing, then to Gareth. "I'm fine," he promised, his smile strained. "I just thought I saw something, but it was nothing. Let's go, I am freezing."
They quickened their pace to the school, and the whole time the hairs stood up on the back of his neck, the feeling of being watched never leaving him...
Tristan jumped up, waking himself from his nightmare, and sat up straight. He ran his hands over his hair, pushing it back, controlled his almost unnoticiable shaking and looked outside his window, into the village. He noticed the carriage slow down and pulled his mobile phone out from his pocket, pressing the number one on his speeddial. Tristan pressed the device to his ear and listened to it ring impatiently, waiting for the one on the other line to wake up so he would answer it. He knew his friend was still sleeping, he was the poster boy of stereotypical vampires; sleep all day, feed at night.
Tristan heard a murmured hello on the other end of the line as the carriage pulled to a stop. "And you wonder why every Muggle story has it written that they're safe during the daytime," he said, getting out of the carriage, only laughing when his friend swore at him in reply. He patted the Thestril affectionately on its head and waited for the carriage to leave before speaking again. "I'm here."
"I'm already settled, just tell me what to do."
"It went according to plan?" Tristan asked, a hint of worry laced into his otherwise casual tone.
With a slight nod of the head, Tristan gave him his instructions, pressing the phone harder to his ear to be sure he could hear clearly due to little reception. "Nothing much as of yet. Just be noticed, gain their trust, find out everything you can and report back to me."
He heard a muttered "Yes, Boss," in reply and knew the man was falling back asleep.
"How you get anything done when you spend most of your day in bed is beyond me," Tristan sighed. "Good luck." He hung up as soon as the words had been uttered, not expecting a reply anyway, and put his phone back in its place in the front right pocket of his jeans.
Tristan forced his hands into his pockets, his only indicator that he was more frustrated than calm, and surveyed his surroundings, walking slowly. Some people around the village nodded their heads in greeting as he passed and he did the same out of politeness; he didn't need any unnecessary trouble.
He stopped at the edge of the village and tilted his head upwards slightly, staring ahead. He could see the faint outline of the place he needed to go, the great school of magic, a castle hidden from Muggles, and one of the safest places in the Wizarding world; Hogwarts.
Tristan heard murmurs from people behind, whispers of what he could be doing, and turned his head a little, though not enough that they would know he could hear them. He ignored them, they weren't his problem, and pushed one step forward, leaving Hogsmeade.
Tristan slowly continued on his way to the school, each step seemingly heavier than the last; it had been so long since he had been to Hogwarts. But he made it to the gates and he held his hand up, running his fingers just above the metal bars. Tristan could feel the ancient magic that protected the school and its students, and the new incantations added; he knew the difference. Summer was over; everything was ready for September, for the students who would be returning in three days and for the new first years starting. He still remembered when he was a first year, so long ago. He pressed his palm to the middle and watched the gates open for him.
He didn't step in. Tristan cast his gaze around the front entrance, stopping at the huge wooden doors of Hogwarts school.
"Home, sweet home."
Weasley Wizard Wheezes, Diagon Alley, London.
A bump. A poke. A nudge.
She squeezed her eyes shut, forgetting each and every one. She was so tired.
She jumped at her name, her head rising from her folded arms, which she had been using as a pillow, and let them drop from the counter. Roxanne rubbed her eyes, removing any trace of sleep, and turned to her brother, Fred, who was taking a customer's purchase. She watched him take the money and place it in the till, giving the young boy his change, and waited for him to finish. When he was done, Fred faced her, turning his body to sit on the counter right in front of her. "Are you okay, sis? You're falling asleep on the customers."
"Hmm," she muttered, nodding. "I was just making sure I had everything ready for tomorrow last night; new books, uniforms, regulur clothes, homework, accessories," she gestured to the pranks and jokes in the shop around her and they both laughed, "It's all packed, bro. But by the time I finished, it was late, or early I should say. I lost track of time and didn't realize, now I'm paying for it."
Fred took his bottle of water from the counter and twirled it in his fingers. "You should listen to Aunt Hermione; organize your time and pack as the summer goes along, then all you need to do is double check the day before. That way you won't lose sleep."
Roxanne tilted her head to the left and tapped her finger on her chin. "Oh, let me think. That's right; no," she chuckled, folding her arms over her chest. "It's my way or no way. Since when did you listen to Aunt Hermione anyway?"
Fred looked at her like it was obvious. "Since her help with my interview got me the job. She knows what she's talking about."
Roxanne moved closer, studying her brother, before smirking. "She found out it was you who glued her and Ron together and your trying to get back into her good books."
"Do you think it's working?" Roxanne shook her head, grin still in place, and pushed her hair away from her face. "Damn," Fred cursed, his eyes narrowed slightly. "Well, I give up. In fact, I think I did them a favor; they weren't talking except to argue, spending that day together forced them to solve their problems. Everybody won."
Roxanne laughed loudly as he walked away, feeling more awake than before. "If you say so!" she called out to him. Her laugh only got louder when he gave her the finger.
"James is outside," was the last thing Fred said before disappearing out of the shop and into the alley.
Sitting back in her chair, Roxanne turned it to the side to rest her arm on the counter and played around with one of the multi-colored bubble makers on display, spinning the bottle in circles while she waited for her cousin. She knew exactly why he was coming, of course, considering he'd got everything he needed for school the week before and had more than enough Quidditch supplies. He wasn't coming to raid the joke shop, that was her thing.
There was only one other reason and James was coming to Roxanne because she would be the only one who knew. He was coming to use her other talent, as she called it; gossip. Since James didn't usually care, she knew his questions would be centered on one person.
Roxanne knew her cousin extremely well, they were best friends. Though she'd thank Lily later for tipping her off about James' visit, she knew she'd have figured out his reason the moment he stepped into the shop. And she'd have his answers.
Roxanne Weasley was the one you went to for information; she was a people person.
Whether she gave her cousin his answers, however, was another story. At least not straight away.
The door opened and Roxanne glanced up for only a second before focusing her attention on the bubble maker. She didn't understand how anything so small and simple could keep young kids entertained for hours and keep them so quiet, but they did and she was proud of her idea to bring them to the shop all those years ago; they were one of their biggest sellers and brought more customers than ever.
Weasley Wizard Wheezes; suitable for all ages (causing trouble for parents from age three).
"Over here, Jamie!" Roxanne called back, the sound of his voice pulling her from her thoughts. James made his way over to the counter with ease, as it was still early and the shop was relatively empty, and leant across the counter. Roxanne turned her chair back and copied, pulling herself up a fraction so they were eye level. "Can I help you, Cuz?"
James raised an eye brow. "Spill."
"What's in it for me?" James held up a small bag and shook it for Roxanne to hear the galleons clanging together. She tutted. "I can't be bought."
James threw it to her anyway and grinned, pulling out a gold chain with a small key hanging from the bottom. He swung it from side to side slowly and watched her eyes narrow; how the hell did he get that?
"What have I told you about letting Hugo anywhere near you? He has light fingers," James told her, smug. He pulled it back when Roxanne tried to grab it. "I am a man on a mission, Miss Weasley. Spill."
Groaning, Roxanne sat back slowly, pocketing the gold as she did so. She hated her cousins right at that moment; Hugo for being a little thief as usual and James for ruining any chance of messing with him. "She's really looking forward to seeing you at school. She hopes you'll find her on the train and sit with her."
James punched the air. "Yes!"
"Personally, I don't know what you see in her," Roxanne said. Sure Emily Porter was nice and relatively popular; a good girl, with good grades and good friends, but that's all Roxanne could see. Who wanted good when you could have the best?
Turning his grin into a small smile, James dropped her chain to the counter and pushed it to her; she took it and hung it around her neck, where it belonged. "You'll understand one day, Cuz. People see things differently, that's all. I'll see you at Kings Cross tomorrow," he said, walking away and waving. "And thank you. I owe you one."
"Hugo owes me more!" she shouted. "Damn kid," Roxanne grumbled, but couldn't stop the small appreciative smile. He was good, better than that, he was the best, she couldn't deny that. And to do that to her? Completely unnoticed? Hugo had guts.
Her thoughts turned from murderous and vindictive to thoughtful. I'll use that later, she said to herself as she served another customer.
A/N: After so long, I've finally got the next chapter up. t feels so good to go back to this story. I hope it becomes more regular. :)