The corridors were deserted, bare stone walls with torches burning at regular intervals to stave off the darkness. As I walked, my pace swift with my anger, I noted that they seemed to only create alternate patches of darkness with slightly less darkness.
After a suitable period of contemplation that I admit to anybody else probably looked more like sulking, I began to pay more attention to the area around me. I had been walking for a good five minutes and I was starting to suspect that I was walking in circles. It was hard to tell with all of the corridors looking identical and no windows to provide any sort of contrast. I eventually resigned to the fact that I was lost after walking past the same door at least three times.
"We are walking in circles," I said out loud. It was definitely not a question. More a statement and if Harry provided another useful statement, perhaps one that pointed me in the right direction, then that would be fine.
"It's actually more of an octagon."
Of course he would say something like that, something not helpful whilst being masked as a fact. I gave him a look. It was a good one; my mum used it on my all of the time. I put hands on my hips and everything, even raised an eyebrow. Apparently he knew the look because instead of wilting he returned it with a mildly amused expression of feigned interest.
"You are quite possibly the most annoying person I have ever met."
"People have been known to say that about me, but that’s only the ones who know me."
"Don't you mean the people who don't know you?" I asked.
"Hmm? No, it’s definitely the people who know me. If they didn't then they wouldn't be talking about me would they. Besides I have had longer to practise being annoying, I'm sure you will get there eventually."
I rolled my eyes at this, "You're not that much older than me, what are you fifteen? Sixteen?"
He laughed. I was giving him my best evil look and he laughed at me.
"I'm actually closer to sixty. Now come on we are never going to get anywhere if we spend all night walking in octagons." Without another word he turned and walked down corridors, taking turns swiftly and decisively until we reached a staircase that took us up to a much more comfortable level of the building complete with windows and carpets.
"Sixty, how can you be sixty and look like that?" I asked the question as we walked along.
"Wizards live a lot longer than mundanes so we age slower."
"Then how come every other wizard I have seen looks like a grown up?"
"Not as dumb as you look are you? If you must know I was raised by the Fae, it means I stopped aging a little earlier than most and leaves me looking like this."
"Did you know that Fae from down there then?" I asked as we moved past rooms that looked like offices from what I could tell from a brief glimpse as we rushed on, "And I don't look dumb." I added with an afterthought.
"Not that one particularly. There are two courts of the Fae, Summer and Winter. I was raised in Summer and he was Winter. But I know enough about Fae to know that getting involved with them is rarely a good thing. It generally gets messy quickly. Fae are not exactly trusted in our world. They enjoy tricking mortals and you can never trust anything they say."
"So he wasn't telling the truth about me and my parents?" Now that I was finally getting answers I was keen to learn more, my anger forgotten.
"I don't know. I can't say for certain but I sort of believe him. You are not normal. A wizard can sense another's magic, especially that of an untrained one. But your power is different somehow, being half Fae would explain that. I need to look into it further."
The office we entered was warm and well furnished. The decoration was all wood and leather, an aged look that left the room feeling comfortable, more of a study than an office. As I crossed the threshold the warmth spreading from the roaring fire on one wall enveloped me. Thomas was stood staring into the flickering flames, his back towards us. Beside the fire there were two armchairs that looked well used and I filled one as quickly as I could, the warm air relaxing my aches away.
"I still don't know why you did it Harry." His voice was low and thoughtful as he continued to stare into the fire, his eyes reflecting the orange glow. Harry didn't answer immediately, instead he busied himself with a cabinet and emerged a moment later carrying two glasses filled with amber liquid, one of which he handed to Thomas before taking the seat opposite me. I noticed that I didn't receive a glass but decided that I wasn't that thirsty anyway.
After a long gulp of the liquid Harry sat back in the chair with a sigh and then spoke, "She is half Fae, or at least so they claim. We had a visit from one of the Lords of Winter during the trial. Apparently the Queen wants Lily alive for some reason. I assume it’s not for her witty conversation."
"Hey!" I spoke with indignation, but I couldn't think of a good reason why the Queen of Fae wanted me alive so my protest sort of died there on my lips.
Harry met my eyes for a moment and then when I didn't continue he looked once more towards Thomas. "I need to find out why she is important, and she needs to learn to control her powers before she kills everyone around her or the council kills her."
"Wait what? You didn't say anything about me killing myself!"
"If you don't learn to control your powers now that they have surfaced it will consume you," Thomas said this in a matter of fact tone that utterly failed to reassure me and then continued as if this was the end of the conversation, "Harry, how can you be her mentor. You are a strong Wizard, capable even but you hardly have the temperament for teaching a novice."
Harry didn't say a word, just carried on sipping his drink.
"Ahh of course that is why you are here. You want her to have a place at Beacon don't you."
"Now that you mention it that is a fantastic idea. One I hadn't thought of."
"Hmm strangely I don't believe you Harry." A look of mock horror crossed Harry's face at the words. "Fine, I will talk to the headmaster and have a place arranged for her. I highly doubt that she will fit in though Harry, the others come from strong families that have known our ways for generations."
"I'm sure she will be fine," Harry swallowed the last drops of amber liquid before regaining his feet, "now we mustn't keep you a moment longer. Lots to do." He handed over the glass and moved towards the door, "Always a pleasure to see you Thomas."
The feeling didn't seem quite mutual from the look that passed between the pair. Reluctantly I left my seat by the fire and left the study behind me. "Where are we going now? And what's Beacon? And how do I learn control?"
"We are going to the hospital, Beacon is a school for magic and you learn control...it’s complicated. Now come on and no more questions for the time being."
~ * ~
As we left the subterranean parking structure I got my first look at the building where I had been held. What had felt like a dungeon underground, from above seemed like any other office building. It was all glass and clean cut lines. I noted some large letters above the doorway but in the gloom and our swift departure I couldn’t make them out clearly enough.
With the building receding into the distance I settled back into the seat while Harry drove. It seemed that Wizarding paid as he was driving an E-Type Jag that even I could tell was worth a large sum of money. He told me about the engine and its top speed but not being interested in cars I didn’t listen so the only thing I can tell you is that it was fast and the engine worked.
When I didn’t respond the conversation came to an end and we drove through the darkened roads in silence, with only the purr of the engine for company. I was lost in my own thoughts as I sat staring at the passing streetlights, my own face reflected in the window. Could I see any sign of magic in me? No I just looked like me, plain old me. But I couldn’t ignore everything that had happened tonight and apparently I had to learn control otherwise I would be dangerous to those around me.
All of this was causing me trouble but the real thing that was nagging at my mind was the fact that I was about to see my parents again and if the Fae was telling the truth then my dad wasn’t my dad. Had they known that I was a Wizard? Had they been lying to me all of my life?
Before I could find an answer, or at least decide what I was going to say, we started to travel through busier streets as we entered the city once more. It was still early, I couldn’t say the time exactly but the sky was beginning to lighten around the edges which was a sure sign that morning was coming on fast. Would everything still seem as confusing in the light of day? Only time would tell.
We parked across the road from the hospital in an almost empty carpark. We sat in the car for a while, listening to the engine tick as it cooled.
“There are a few things you should know before we get out,” Harry spoke for the first time in a while, “mundanes don’t really react well to magic. There is a reason that it’s not widely known that wizards exist.”
I had been wondering about this but it didn’t seem to be the most pressing issue at the time so I hadn’t got round to asking it.
“There are relatively few Wizards left now compared to mundanes and if they knew about us they would either want us to solve all of their problems with magic or they would try to kill us and that’s not even factoring in vampires, werewolves, demons and ghosts. So it’s just better if they don’t know about us. You are a part of our world now, so you have to keep it secret just like the rest of us. Can you do that Lily?”
I thought about this carefully before answering. I could see what he meant, I knew loads of people who were lazy and would expect magic to solve every little problem they had if they only knew it existed. “Yes I can keep a secret, but if I really am half Fae then one or both of my parents knew about it anyway.”
“Yes that’s true, just keep it in mind.”
As I climbed out of the car the chill of the air reminded me that I was still wearing the clothes I had left the house in, they were thin and hardly suited to walking around Dublin in the early hours. Fortunately it was late July and the weather was relatively warm, at least compared to what it could have been. As I thought about my clothes I realised that the rest of my belongings had probably burnt in the fire back at my house and this was probably the only outfit I now owned.
Harry lead the way across the road confidently, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his long jacket that flowed to his knees. His collar was turned up and the red hood of the hoodie beneath was left down for the time being to reveal the mess of brown hair atop his head. His face was set in a grim determination and as I looked closely I noted the small cuts that covered his face from the brawl earlier in the evening.
My parents were in the entrance of the hospital, arguing with the nurse at the front desk who looked like she had been repeating the same line over and over again. I could see the look of fear and anguish on my parents faces as they pleaded with the nurse for information. My mum was clinging tightly to my dad’s side and tears slid slowly down her face in silence. I caught the tail end of the conversation as we drew closer.
“As I have told you, we have nobody under that name in the hospital,” the nurse said patiently, her tone resigned.
“It was a house fire; they said that they brought her here. Please she is only a child,” my dad spoke quickly, his voice tight with anguish.
“Nurse its ok I can deal with this,” Harry spoke into the gap in the conversation, his voice level and full of confidence. As he spoke my parents turned and immediately rushed towards us, my mum enveloping me in an embarrassing hug that rendered my hearing useless for at least a minute which meant I missed most of the ensuing conversation.
Eventually I was released from the bone crushing strength of my mum’s arms to only have a repeat from my dad. Fortunately this was briefer and I could once again stand on my own two feet with no fear of broken bones, which being in a hospital at least meant I was in the best place for it.
“Lily, we were so worried. We got a call from the police and rushed home as quickly as we could. Everything was a mess, there were firemen, police and paramedics everywhere. We saw Abby being taken into an ambulance but we couldn't get any information about you, nobody could tell us where you were.” My mum gripped me in another hug and I took the opportunity to add to the conversation.
“Mum, I’m fine really. How is Abby?”
“They won’t tell us, we aren’t family after all. Her parents arrived not long ago but we have been here since and haven’t had a chance to talk to them after they saw her.”
As my mum spoke I managed to get a look at my dad over her shoulder and saw him looking strangely at Harry who was standing a little to one side, looking out of place and uneasy with all of the emotion being displayed. With a polite little cough he interrupted and spoke at last. “Mr and Mrs Bowden, I’m sorry for all of the confusion it seems you failed to get my note at the house. Lily was brought to the hospital and checked over by a doctor. Seeing as how she was deemed to be fine medically she has been helping me with my enquiries since then.”
“And who exactly are you?” My dad said rather rudely, anger clear on his face. My dad is a very conservative sort of man. He likes things to be all normality with a clear routine. Golf on a Sunday, that sort of thing. Clearly Harry’s appearance was causing him some concern. His unkempt hair and minor cuts losing him vast points on my dad’s scorecard.
“All will be explained I promise you, let’s just go somewhere a little quieter to talk. I think McDonalds should be still be open, shall we?”