Chapter 26 : VYY
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‘Good morning, Teddy,’ Bill Weasley looked up from the kitchen table, laconically repairing the young Auror’s damage. ‘I see you take after your mother when it comes to making an entrance.’
Teddy’s hair turned pink. ‘Ha ha, very funny, Bill’ the nineteen-year-old remarked, sarcastically. ‘We need Louis to come to the lab in Oxford, now,’ the Auror breathed. ‘We think we’ve found something out.’
Bill raised his eyebrows. ‘Really?’
‘Yeah,’ Teddy confirmed, ‘but they need to do some more tests, and that’s why they need him now,’ he took a breath. ‘Is he up yet?’
‘I doubt it,’ Bill smiled. ‘We tend not to see much movement round here before ten o’clock.’
‘I’ll go and get him, then!’
‘Be my guest,’ Bill nodded. ‘You know which one his room is,’ he watched his distant cousin charge headlong down the hallway. ‘Mind the…’
‘Umbrellas?’ Teddy called back, seconds later, after a second loud crash had filled the house. ‘Too late.’
Bill rolled his eyes. ‘I suppose you might wake Louis up with all that racket, at least…’
Louis’ father was right, and as Teddy pushed the boy’s bedroom door open, the redhead was slowly stirring. ‘Teddy…?’ he blinked, rubbing his eyes.
‘Yep,’ the teenager answered. ‘Come on, get up, they need you at the lab.’
The eleven-year-old shot upright. ‘Is something wrong?’ he fretted. ‘What was that crash?’
Teddy’s hair turned pink again. ‘That was me,’ he admitted. ‘Umbrellas. Now come on, they need you! See you in the kitchen in two minutes!’ The Auror closed the door again, leaving the boy with enough privacy to get dressed and follow the instructions he’d given.
‘Ready,’ Louis announced, moments later, arriving downstairs having picked out the first set of clothes he could find, which happened to be the same jeans and creased shirt he had worn the previous day.
‘Good job your mother hasn’t seen you, looking like that,’ Bill remarked, with a wry grin. ‘Good luck, Lou,’ he stood up, drawing his son into a warm embrace. ‘Hope you have a good day’s work.’
Louis smiled, flicking his fringe away from his eyes as he did so. ‘Thanks, Dad,’ he replied, turning to take Teddy’s hand before vanishing into the morning air, leaving his father to face his wife only moments later.
‘Good job your mother hasn’t seen what?’ Fleur challenged him. Bill picked up his morning copy of the Daily Prophet.
‘Hi, Louis,’ Alexander Corner greeted his friend moments later, as he and Teddy Apparated into the corridor outside Philip Llewellyn’s laboratory.
‘Hi, Xan,’ the redhead echoed, reaching out to brace himself against the corridor wall. ‘Good job I didn’t have any breakfast,’ he winced. ‘I hate Apparating.’
Alexander smiled. ‘It’s okay, you’re here now,’ he noted, turning to knock on the laboratory door. ‘Dad! Philip!’ he called out. ‘Louis is here!’
Almost immediately, Philip Llewellyn had pushed the door open, slipping outside to talk to the boys. ‘Good morning, Louis,’ he began. ‘We have some… well, interesting news. Is there somewhere you can sit down?’
‘There is now,’ Teddy flourished his wand, conjuring a simple stool against one of the corridor walls. Slowly, Louis settled down on top.
‘What do you know about chromosomes, Louis?’ the scientist asked.
The eleven-year-old winced. ‘A bit,’ he offered. ‘Xan tried to explain something to me, but I don’t really remember.’
Philip nodded. ‘Well,’ he began, ‘for humans, it sex chromosomes are straightforward. Everybody has two: women are “XX”, and men are “XY”. Wizarding genetics is a very new science, but Michael has told me enough to establish that Veela, genetically, are “VV”, or – in the case of the part-Veela in your family – “VX”. That would mean you would expect human male/Veela offspring to be “VY”.’
‘They don’t exist, though, do they?’ Louis prompted the man. ‘I remember Xan telling me that was impossible…’
‘Correct,’ Philip confirmed. ‘Which means you’re not “VY”. You’re “VYY”.’
Louis blinked. ‘I thought you said everybody only had two?’
‘I did, didn’t I?’ the scientist asked, rhetorically. ‘Well, I suppose that’s not strictly true. Sometimes, very very rarely, something doesn’t go as normal when cells are reproducing, and you get what we call a mutation. In this case, it means embryo – the unborn baby – ends up with a different number of chromosomes... sometimes more, sometimes less. The human equivalent of this, called XYY, happens to maybe 1 in 1,000 boys.’
Louis gazed, open-mouthed, back at the man, noticing that his Ravenclaw friend wore a similarly amazed expression.
‘You know that “VY” doesn’t work because the Veela genes overwhelm the Y-chromosome, right?’ Alexander tried to think out loud.
‘That’s what your father said,’ Philip concurred, ‘although I would need to do significantly more research before I was confident…’
‘Well,’ Alexander continued, unwilling to be distracted. ‘Couldn’t this just mean that the extra “Y” that Louis got just meant that he had enough human in him to survive the Veela genes, and survive being an embryo?’
Philip hesitated. ‘Well,’ he exhaled, ‘in very, very simple terms… maybe,’ his voice quickened, ‘but there’s no proof to that, no proof at all, which is why we would like to conduct some more tests.’
Louis nodded. ‘That’s fine,’ he breathed, ‘as long as this will help Charlie.’
‘Yes, yes,’ the scientist assured him, ‘we are trying to pinpoint which part of the genome is responsible for magical imprints or magical signatures: we want to see what happens to your DNA as you’re exposed to magic… we want to see what changes.’
‘Alright,’ Louis answered in a small voice. ‘What do I need to do?’
‘Just come through into the lab,’ Philip instructed. ‘We’ll need to wire you up for the first few tests, so we can monitor what’s going on…’
Come that evening, Louis didn’t think he’d ever worked so hard. He’d spent almost all morning running through physical test on top of physical test, with wires attached to almost every part of his body, following his every move. In the afternoon, he and Alexander had subjected each other to all the curses, hexes and spells that they could remember, leaving the men to check and analyse their DNA samples every few moments. This wasn’t the worst of it, though: the scientists saved that for the end of the day.
‘One last test, Louis,’ Michael announced, as the eleven-year-old slumped onto a seat in the laboratory, grabbing eagerly for a glass of water. ‘What do you think provokes you to take the Veela form, Louis?’
‘When people are mean to me,’ he answered, bluntly, downing the glass and avoiding eye contact with the man, ‘or when I’m angry or upset.’
The scientist nodded. ‘Alex,’ he turned to his son, ‘have you ever seen it happen?’
‘Once,’ the Ravenclaw shuddered.
‘Did you see what caused it?’
Michael took a breath. ‘Do you think you could make it happen again?’
The twelve-year-old’s face paled. ‘I… I don’t know,’ he swallowed. ‘I’m not sure. It was horrible.’
The scientist put a hand on his son’s shoulder, turning back to the other first-year. ‘Louis,’ he asked, ‘are you happy for us to try and do this?’
Alexander winced. ‘Then I’ll try.’
‘Excellent.’ Michael clapped his hands together. ‘The testing room is sound-proofed, as you know, so please don’t hold back for fear of what we might think.’ He paused a moment, watching his colleague fasten a device to Louis’ left arm. ‘This will take a sample of your blood, and therefore your DNA, when required. Please keep it attached at all times.’ The man stood up. ‘All yours.’
Moments later, the two first-years found themselves back in the testing room, facing each other nervously across its white walls.
‘Veela boy,’ Alexander offered weakly, his voice almost apologetic in its tone.
Louis shook his head. ‘You have to sound like you mean it, Xan,’ he reasoned.
‘I don’t, though,’ the twelve-year-old protested. ‘You know I don’t. You know I’m not like her.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ Louis assured him, ‘but maybe you can make the Veela part of me think that you do.’
Alexander nodded. ‘Veela boy!’ he shouted. ‘Veela, Veela, Veela boy,’ he repeated the chant that Miranda, Rose, Albus and Daniel had made up in their first week of school. ‘Sorry,’ he apologised, quickly realising he was having no effect.
‘Try swearing at me,’ Louis suggested. ‘Pretend I’m Miranda, just get really angry,’ he offered, but Alexander shook his head.
‘I can’t,’ the black-haired boy argued.
Alexander took a breath, steadying himself, before raising his voice into a yell. ‘I hate you, Louis!’ he screamed. ‘You’re a disgrace to your family, you’re an attention-seeking little bastard, you’re a fucking, a fucking…’ he tailed off, his eyes watering as they burned red. ‘I’m sorry,’ he looked away, ‘I can’t do this.’
Louis turned, rapping his knuckles on the glass of the window that connected the testing room with the laboratory. ‘This isn’t working!’ he yelled, in spite of the fact that he knew they would not be able to hear him. ‘Look at him!’ He banged on the glass again, angrily this time as the scientists shook their heads. ‘Look at him!’ Louis yelled again, feeling his fingers twitch as their nails sharpened, before a sudden burst of pain jabbed into his left arm.
‘Xan,’ he stammered, slowly realising what the soreness meant. ‘Xan,’ he swallowed, ‘it’s over, mate. It’s okay.’
‘I’m sorry,’ the Ravenclaw apologised, again. ‘I tried, really I did…’
‘What have you got to be sorry for?’ Louis dismissed his friend’s apology. ‘Not being able to swear at me?’ He rolled his eyes. ‘Merlin, how are you going to live with yourself after that?’
Alexander managed a thin smile.
‘Come on,’ Louis insisted, ‘let’s go.’ He led his friend from the testing room and back into the laboratory. ‘How could you do that?’ he challenged Michael, even as Philip stepped forward to unfasten the device on his arm. ‘How could you make him do that?’
‘He agreed to it, Louis,’ the man reasoned, slowly walking over to take his son’s hand. ‘Science isn’t always straightforward,’ he argued. ‘Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.’
The redhead shook his head in disbelief, even as Michael comforted the twelve-year-old.
‘Whatever,’ Louis shrugged off the man’s explanation. ‘I’m not doing that again. What good is it if that’s the only way I can transform? I’m not making my friends do that to themselves.’
‘We won’t need you to,’ Philip assured him, fixing the sample of Louis’ Veela blood securely into a machine. ‘You’ve done all you can today. Michael and I have more to do, but we have everything that we need from you.’
Louis blinked. ‘So I can go home?’ he queried, breathing a sigh of relief when the scientist nodded a confirmation. ‘Can Xander come with me?’ he suggested. ‘I mean, if you’ve still got work to do…’
Michael looked towards his son. ‘It’s fine by me,’ he accepted. ‘Alex?’
The Ravenclaw nodded, slowly. ‘Yes,’ he offered a watery smile. ‘Yes, please.’
‘Cool,’ Louis grinned, turning to call for his distant cousin. ‘Teddy!’ he shouted. ‘It’s time to go!’
The teenage Auror sauntered over from the edge of the room. ‘Yes, sir!’ He completed a mocking salute. ‘At your service!’
‘Xan’s coming with me,’ Louis ignored the nineteen-year-old’s sarcastic humour.
‘Right on,’ Teddy noted, holding out his hands. ‘You know what to do,’ he instructed. ‘Now,’ he continued, ‘I couldn’t help but hearing you talking about transformations. Might I remind you that this is my particular area of expertise…?’
All of the Slytherin first-years, plus Alexander, were present at the end of the Borthwick Ward the following morning, when the two scientists arrived, bleary-eyed and, Louis noticed, still wearing the same clothes as the previous evening. The two Aurors, Joshua and Teddy, flanked the men, and Harry and Greg were in close pursuit.
Nathan had been the first to ask his friend what exactly he had done the previous day, but the redheaded boy had not been keen to share the details, and Nathan hadn’t pressed him, settling instead for Alexander’s stilted summary.
‘It was lots of important tests,’ the Ravenclaw had explained, skipping any further details, ‘and Dad thinks they might have worked it out.’
Now, as Lucas Brand read studiously through the scientists’ briefing, it looked as if the first-years would find out what exactly had been discovered.
‘I’ll put up a shield around him,’ Harry decided, ‘we can’t risk affecting the rest of the ward.’
‘Good call,’ Joshua agreed, watching his boss conjure a shield across the room, adding a dose of the Muffliato spell around Charlie’s bed for good measure.
Lucas was still engrossed in the computer printout that Philip had given him. ‘You think you have isolated the source of the magical signature?’ he asked, coming to the back page.
Philip nodded. ‘It occurred to us after we found Louis’ karyotype,’ he began.
‘Karyo-what?’ Harry blinked.
The scientist hid a grin. ‘His DNA, his genetic code,’ Philip clarified. ‘I’ll explain more later, but it made us think that this magical signature would be hidden in the DNA too.’ He paused. ‘Particularly when I thought about what Greg said last summer, about an affinity that passed from generation to generation. We looked through the rest of the boys’ genome, trying to identify which genes were active when they were casting spells. As far as we can tell, there is a cluster of proteins on chromosome 18 that are central to any magical activity.’
‘Lucas,’ Michael took over the explanation, turning to the Healer, ‘for some reason, this boy has a mixture of magical and non-magical proteins on his chromosomes, which may well explain why normal medicine hasn’t roused him.’ He produced a syringe from his lab coat. ‘We believe that we can awaken this boy by directly stimulating his blood with the Rennervate charm.’
Lucas stared back at the older man. ‘I have almost no idea what you are talking about,’ he admitted.
Michael took a deep breath. ‘In its simplest terms, we would like to perform a blood transfusion: remove the blood, manipulate the proteins, and then re-infuse the blood back into his body.’
‘Alright,’ Lucas nodded, ‘I think I follow. Is this safe?’
The two scientists shared a glance. ‘It should be,’ Philip answered. ‘Storing and transfusing a patient’s own blood has been used reasonably regularly in muggle medicine… and for more nefarious purposes…’
‘Such as?’ Harry’s Auror senses kicked in.
‘Sport,’ Philip explained. ‘Athletes store their own blood, before injecting it again before an event, giving them a significant performance boost. Entirely immoral, of course,’ he concluded, ‘but safe, so long as you look after the blood.’
‘We’d still like you to monitor his condition,’ Michael added. ‘Manipulating the blood outside the body has rather fewer precedents.’
‘Are you happy with this, Lucas?’ the Head Auror checked.
Lucas grimaced. ‘Not entirely,’ he argued, ‘but he’s been here four days now, without any sign of change in his condition. I suppose we can give it a go,’ he conceded, ‘but if he deteriorates, that’s it. We stop. Instantly.’ He took a handful of steps forward, drawing a stool beside Charlie’s beside, and taking hold of the boy’s right hand as he set his wand down on the patient’s shoulder. ‘Over to you.’ The Healer watched hawkishly as Philip carefully inserted the end of a needle into Charlie’s left arm, slowly draining a bagful of the boy’s blood.
‘Now for the new bit,’ the scientist remarked, drawing a final sample into a small syringe. ‘We make sure the structure is as we had expected,’ he opened a silver briefcase, decanting the syringe into a container within, before closing the case again as a motor inside whirred furiously. ‘All clear?’ Philip showed the readings on a display built in to the case to his colleague, who nodded once, before holding his wand to the sample of Charlie’s blood for a split second and closing the briefcase once more.
‘Moment of truth,’ Michael narrated, waiting for the metal case’s insistent whirring to die away, before inspecting its display for the second time. ‘All clear,’ he announced, bringing his wand to the crimson blood bag, which shimmered for a brief moment, ‘and now for the re-infusion. Is he holding up, Lucas?’
The Healer nodded, briskly, clearing the scientists to proceed with the next stage of their plan. Carefully, Philip fitted a fresh needle into the eleven-year-old’s arm and began the slow process of returning the blood to Charlie’s system.
‘I’m going to talk to the boys,’ Greg decided, watching the blood bag start to empty. ‘They’re not idiots,’ he explained, ‘they’ll know a Muffliato when they see one. They’ll have questions, and they deserve answers.’ He turned away, leaving the range of the enchantment, to face the other first-years.
Daniel was the first to speak. ‘What’s going on?’ he asked, abruptly. ‘Is Charlie okay?’
The teacher nodded, picking his way across the room before conjuring a stool beside Nathan’s bed. ‘Your Dads think they’ve figured it out,’ he replied, looking from the bed-bound Slytherin to the waiting Ravenclaw. ‘I’m not going to pretend I understand it, but they said something about DNA and chromosomes,’ his gaze shifted to Louis, ‘and something they found out about you last night.’
Louis shuddered, feeling his friends’ attention turn towards him. ‘It’s complicated,’ he murmured, ‘but they think they worked out what’s wrong…’
‘There’s nothing wrong,’ Alexander contradicted his friend almost immediately. ‘You’re just different.’
Louis looked away.
‘Anyway,’ Greg continued, ‘Philip and Michael are trying something complicated, involving removing Charlie’s blood and injecting it again. I can’t tell you any more than that. I don’t think I understand any more than that.’
‘Is he going to be a wizard?’ Nathan asked
Greg shook his head. ‘I have absolutely no idea,’ he admitted. ‘I’ve just told you everything I know, guys… I know it’s not much, but I figured you deserved to know.’
‘Thanks, sir,’ Albus acknowledged.
‘That’s okay,’ Greg smiled, getting back to his feet. ‘I’ll let you know if anything else happens,’ he added, before turning and heading back into the confines of Harry’s Muffliato charm.
‘At least we’ve got one adult that we know can trust,’ Albus remarked, caustically, ‘not like my Dad.’
‘You don’t really mean that, Al, do you?’ Louis challenged his cousin.
Albus shrugged. ‘He won’t even talk about it to me,’ the black-haired boy defended his assertion. ‘It’s like he still thinks I’m a little kid,’ he protested.
‘You’re only eleven, Al…’ Louis hazarded a counter-argument.
‘That’s old enough to go to Hogwarts!’ Albus snapped back, ‘and old enough to get attacked, and put in hospital, in case you haven’t noticed!’
‘Okay, Albus,’ Daniel intervened, ‘I think we’ve all noticed that,’ he tried to calm his friend, before deciding that an abrupt change of subject was in order. ‘Has anyone started the Herbology homework yet?’ he asked.
Meanwhile, the contents of Charlie’s blood bag were slowly draining back into the boy’s arm.
‘Still good, Lucas?’ Michael asked.
‘Still good,’ the Healer echoed, tightening his grip on the eleven-year-old’s hand as he felt his wand arm waver. ‘Maybe better than good.’
The adults fell silent again, staring at the deep red liquid as it sank down the transparent tubes and back into the veins of the still-unconscious boy.
‘Almost there,’ Philip announced as the last droplets filtered down the tubing, leaving the bag empty but for a trace of residue, before the scientist reached to detach the apparatus. ‘Any signs?’
‘Yes,’ Lucas nodded. ‘Yes, but they’re faint. Give him time.’ The Healer lifted his wand from Charlie’s shoulder, placing it over the top of his ribcage and whispering a series of quiet incantations as the boy’s breathing grew deeper. ‘I think he’s coming around,’ Lucas announced, withdrawing his wand as he watched Charlie’s eyes slowly blinking open, before the eleven-year-old’s whole body convulsed with a fearful scream.
Lucas let go of the boy’s hand, instinctively.
‘Get away from me!’ Charlie yelled out again, curling himself up into a tight ball. ‘Where’s Nathan? What have you done to him?’
Harry turned to prompt Greg to find the blond boy, but the teacher had already turned to do so.
‘Nathan,’ he blustered, steadying himself against the rail at the end of the boy’s bunk. ‘We need you. Now.’
Nathan looked up. ‘What?’
‘Charlie’s awake,’ the teacher explained, ‘but he’s… I don’t know… he’s shouting for you,’ Greg swallowed. ‘Can you get up?’
‘I’ll have to,’ the eleven-year-old swung himself to his feet, stumbling for a moment, before Alexander reached out to steady his fall. ‘Thanks, Xan,’ he smiled, thinly, before making his unsteady way across the ward, edging past the gathering of adults towards his friend’s bed. ‘Charlie…?’ he stammered.
‘Nath…?’ Charlie’s eyes flickered between the blond boy and the near-motionless Healer. ‘You’re not, you’re not…’ he blinked. ‘You’re alright.’
‘Yeah,’ Nathan nodded, ‘I’m fine. Are you?’
Charlie mirrored his friend’s nod.
‘Charlie,’ Greg spoke softly, kneeling down beside the eleven-year-old’s bed. ‘My name’s Greg. I’m one of Nathan’s teachers. Who’s Kevin?’
The boy shivered. ‘You mean,’ his eyes darted back towards Lucas twice more, ‘he isn’t?’
Greg shook his head. ‘This is Lucas Brand. He’s a Healer, a doctor,’ Greg switched into muggle-friendly language for a moment, ‘and one of my oldest friends.’
‘Oh,’ Charlie relaxed in an instant, his legs slumping back down onto the bed again, and his words starting to come out in a tangled hurry. ‘It’s just, he looked like someone who I saw once, who was trying to catch me, and I thought, I thought it might have been him again, he might have been trying to get me…’
‘It’s okay, Charlie,’ Greg reassured the boy, reaching out to take his hand. ‘You’re safe here,’ he promised. ‘Who did you think he was?’
Charlie glanced towards Nathan.
‘Go on,’ the blond boy encouraged him. ‘We’ll believe you.’
‘Well…’ Charlie took a deep breath, turning to look at his old schoolfriend. ‘You know all of the Just Like Magic things that kept happening?’ The eleven-year-old rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes. ‘Well, they came to my school. They said they were a charity, but I know they weren’t,’ he recalled, ‘and the guy that came, he was called Kevin, and I thought he looked, he looked like you…’ Charlie turned to face the Healer, whose had now turned ashen white. ‘I’m sorry,’ he began to apologise, only for Greg to cut him off.
‘Lukie,’ the teacher used one of his friend’s old nicknames. ‘You don’t think…?’
Lucas nodded. ‘I do think,’ he swallowed. ‘There’s nothing that bastard wouldn’t do.’
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