The two rounded the corner onto a busy street, packed with people who occasionally stopped at a window or enter a shop. They joined the crowd, Alexis trying hard to keep up with her uncle’s large stride. Her eyes scattered from window to window, wanting to take in the sights, but also not wanting to get lost. Finally, Crow turned into a rather dull, musky looking bar with dark windows. Above the door, hung a sign that read ‘The Leaky Cauldron’. Alexis looked around, noticing that nobody else seemed to take issue with the establishment that seemed old, rustic and completely out of sync with the rest of the modern looking street shops and architecture.
A bell rang above them as the walked in. A real bell, not some electric sound effect knock off. Alexis smirked at the antique, and followed her uncle in. Everything was lit by candles, people in long cloaks of every colour imaginable sat around tables, or the bar, eating and talking merrily to each other – or had been. The moment Crow and Alexis stepped in, everything went quiet, an awkward silence rose up to greet them. Heads turned, and the conversations grew lower as they passed. Alexis got the distinct impression that neither of them were overly welcomed. She was glad when her uncle kept walking, the place was tightly packed and with the smoke from the numerous pipes, the teenager doubted she’d be able to breathe much longer.
Crow headed for a back door that led into a dead-end alley with a brick up wall.
“Doesn’t England have a no smoking policy for public venues?” She questioned, rubbing her eyes.
“Not for those places.” Crow said and took out his wand. Alexis watched with a curious expression as he tapped a serious of bricks in what at first looked like random order, but suddenly the blocks began to move, creating an opening for the two to pass through. “Remember that, if you ever need to come here for supplies, you’ll kneed to know the combination.”
“Ah, right.” Alexis said, and immediately went through the bricks in her mind. “So that was a wizards pub? A real one… why do they wear all those old clothes?”
“Old clothes, that’s all the latest fashion in the wizardry world.” Crow said with a harsh laugh.
“You’ve got to be kidding, it’s like they never left the sixteenth century.”
“You all wear kimonos and such still.” Crow pointed out.
“Yeah, but even the muggles wear those. It’s tradition, not…” Alexis paused, searching for the right word. “… Out of date.”
“Don’t say that too loud around here. The line between the muggle world and wizardry world is pretty solid. I know things have changed in other parts of the world, but the English here seemed to be too stubborn and set in their ways.”
Alexis grew silent as they walked down the cobble stone street. Diagon Alley was pretty impressive, even with the pointy hats and long robes. They passed several shops along the way, including book stores, clothing stores, potion ingredients and even a joke shop that seemed to be bursting with children all scrambling to get inside.
“Are there other streets like this around?” Alexis asked.
“A few, this is the most popular.” Crow answered. Before them stood a massive building with the name ‘Grnigots’ printed above the four roman columns. “That’s the bank. Run by goblins. You won’t have any reason to go in there, but it’s a good landmark if you get yourself lost.” Crow stopped and turned down one of the side streets, darker and more moody than the bright, cheerful Diagon Alley. “Leaky Cauldron at the end, Gringotts in the middle. If you do ever need gold, come to me first and I’ll arrange your funds.”
Alexis nodded, but kept silent. It seemed her uncle was trying to help, and at least seemed to care about her, if only to avoid her from getting lost in the wizardry world. But, he rarely looked at her when he spoke, and all his words seemed logical instead of heartfelt.
“Do you even want me here?” Alexis asked out of the blue.
“Did you really want to come here?” He asked back. “Listen, you’ve got a month before school starts. If you want to head back before than, I’m fine with that. Until then, I’m your legal guardian and we’ve both got to deal with that particular fact.” He strode off again, take a left down another street. Everything was tightly compacted with twisted roads and even more twisted looking buildings. Magic was Alexis’s only answer to how such buildings could stay up. There were fewer people they passed as they followed the uneven path, the buildings looked ill-kept, with broken windows here and there and nasty oddities displayed in the windows. Alexis didn’t like this street and kept herself close to crow, wanting more than anything to reach out and hold his arm… but reframe from doing so. She wasn’t a child anymore.
The pair stopped in front of a three-story yellow brick building with the name ‘Winlex Solicitors’ above the door. They climbed the uneven steps and entered through the black door. The first floor was neat and tidy, as one would expect from a lawyer. There were a line of bookcases along the far wall, as well as a number of photographs enlarged and framed on the bare walls of past employees and owners of the firm. Some were sleeping in their portraits, others were gathered in groups playing games or talking about business. Before them was a front desk with a woman with blonde hair and wearing a dark purple dress and white blouse. She seemed to be in her mid twenties, young, with dark brown eyes.
“Avery Rune, with Alexis Rune.” Her uncle told the receptionist. The woman glanced at her, running those eyes up and down as if evaluating her credentials on sight alone.
“Mr. Winlex is waiting. You’re late.” She replied back, her voice low in an annoyed tone. “Upstairs, second door to your right.” Avery bowed his head and moved the stairs while the woman went back to work.
“Thank you.” Alexis said, out of habit from the manners her mother ingrained on her since childhood. The woman paused, gave Alexis a look of surprise before turning her back on the teenager.
More photos, and portraits lined the walls going up, several of those inside seemed to be hurrying back and forth from upstairs to down, and downstairs to up. On the second floor, Avery headed to the door they were directed too and knocked. A muffled but loud answer came from within and they entered.
A man was seated behind a long solid oak table, filled with papers, and folders, with what looked to be paper planes flaying about own their accord above him. As soon as the door opened, they flew out and scattered to the other doors and floors of the building.
The man looked up from his half-moon glasses. He had dark-skinned, aged with wrinkles, his dark hair was streaked with grey. He didn’t stand to greet them, instead Alexis thought he gave them a detestable, loathing look as if he regretting this meeting that hadn’t even begun yet. Two chairs were laid out before the desk and he motioned them forward, an unspoken command to sit. Already Alexis felt put out, disrespected and annoyed. One look at her uncle gave her the impression he was feeling the same thing. The door closed sharply behind them the moment they cleared the doorway. Alexis took one of the seats offered, while her uncle remained on his feet, choosing instead to lean against the window sill that looked out over the street.
“So, you’re this mysterious Alexis Rune.” The aged man said, his eyes resting on her, sizing her up, evaluating her. Alexis shifted, feeling increasingly insecure. “Silver eyes, just like your grandfather. A Rune trait, always can tell a Rune by their eyes they said, or used to say. You, my girl are the last one.”
“Pardon?” Alexis asked. If the man wasn’t going to use proper etiquette, than she would.
“The Rune lineage is all but gone. It’s a sad day when an old house dies off.”
“But… uncle…” Alexis’s voice fell silent by the look the solicitor gave her. Somehow it seemed that her uncle, who stood right behind her, who had the same last name, and eyes, was somehow not part of the conversation, or even of the family will.
“I’m sorry Mr. Winlex, I’m surprised by all of this. I didn’t even know my Grandfather Rune, I didn’t think he knew about me either.”
“Of course he didn’t know about you.” Everett Winlex said with a small chuckle. “I bet Baldric’s turning in his grave now that you’ve showed up. If he knew about you, and your power, I’m sure he would have tried to take custody of you years ago.”
Alexis heart was beating wildly, she had to grip the arm of her chair tight to prevent some adolescent burst of emotion explode out of her. Why did the solicitor talk in that tone, like taking her away from her parents would have been the best option? She would have fought everyone if that did happen. Japan was her home… always will be.
“You see, Ms. Rune, your grandfather was part of a very proud and pure blood clan. Certain responsibilities lie within the name. Unfortunately your father did not fit the criteria, and was thus stroked off the list. To imagine he, a squib, would produce the next heir to the Rune’s Legacy. It’s almost a cruel joke.”
Again Alexis gripped the arm of her chair tightly. He was insulting her father! The outrage was growing, the unprofessionalism of this man was intolerable. “Why am I here?” Her voice held a bite to it, her tone sharp. Mr. Winlex cleared his voice, and proceeded to pull out a scroll of parchment.
“Right, back to business. The Rune Legacy is inherited through a spell, at least it’s artifacts and buildings are. Basically when the heir dies, the spell is activated and produces the name of the next, closest family member with enough magic to warrant the inheritance.”
“But what about Uncle Avery?” Alexis asked, she knew she was crossing some line, but given all that she had just listened to, she wanted to see the man squirm, if only for a second.
“Your uncle has been disowned, thus taken off of the spell locator. We had thought you’re father’s name would have been taken off as well. But it obviously wasn’t. I’m sure Baldric thought, with him being a squib, nothing would come out of that line that would worthy him to take his name off. So, there you have it, Ms. Rune, you are now the heir to the Rune family fortune.”
Winlex pushed the parchment before her. Sure enough, her name could be clearly seen along the bottom of the page where it states who the inheritor was to be. Alexis had never heard of a will that was heavily protected by spells to avoid a squib or some other unworthy family member from getting it’s fortunes. It made her uncomfortable, technically she really shouldn’t be getting this at all. If her father had been disowned, shouldn’t that affect her?
“What does the legacy include?” Alexis found herself asking instead.
“Oh, well, a fair bit of gold.” Winlex said with another chuckle and a wink. “Your grandfather was an amazing healer, and made a small fortune of his own, most of which he has donated back to St. Mungo’s and other charities he’s worked with over the years.”
Crow huffed behind Alexis’s shoulders, unimpressed by what the solicitor was saying. There was another silence as the two men in the room exchanged deadly glances.
“The remainder has been placed back into the family vault, which you now have access to.” Winlex continued, handing Alexis a heavy, metal key. “Like I said there are a number of ancient artifacts that are associated with the Rune family, some are kept in the vault, the others in the old Rune Mansion that your grandfather and many of your ancestors lived in. There used to be more land, the Runes were once landowners, Lords even. But, as times progressed, and muggles invaded many of our communities, the land was sold. The house though, they made sure to always keep it in the family. It would be a great place for you to find out more about your family heritage.”
“Ah, yeah, thanks.” Alexis said.
“Now, here is the house key.” Winlex offered the second key, this one larger, with more of a flourish than the first. “If you have any questions, please don’t be afraid to come by. My family has served the Runes for generations as their legal advisors. It would be an honour to continue the tradition with you Miss Rune.”
Alexis turned to Crow, looking for some sort of direction to go. She wasn’t here to make roots, or settle down, she didn’t want to deal with another house with more family things to go through, divide up and sell off. He just looked out the window, seemingly indifferent to what she decided to do.
“Mr. Winlex, do I have to accept all of this?”
“But girl, why wouldn’t you? You’ve spent all those years in the east, missing out on your own family’s history. You belong here Miss Rune. Besides, everything is already set in the will. It’s a magical binding. The only way to remove your name off the list is to somehow disown yourself, or die.”
“There’s no other way?” Alexis asked, now feeling a little scared. It felt as if this parchment had signed her soul away without her permission.
“Now, don’t get so flustered my girl. You can always leave your own will if you do not wish to keep the house. The vault, that will be in your name until you die. Think of it as an education fund, or retirement fund. You don’t have to use it, but it’s there if you ever need it.
“Yes, you’re right.” Alexis said, forcing herself to smile. All she wanted to do was get out of the office and throw up somewhere. She stood, wanting to end this meeting quickly. This time, Mr. Winlex stood with her, offered his hand while she gave him a respectful bow. She didn’t even see the hand but turned quickly and retreated to the door. She flew down the stairs, and rushed out the main door back into the street. Turning instantly onto Crow the moment they were out.
“What the hell was that!?” She shouted.
“Congratulations, you just inherited the hell house.” Crowe said. Alexis didn’t know if he was jealous or amused.
“I don’t want it.” Alexis continued to shout.
“Well, unfortunately, you can’t break that spell.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this was going to happen, that I was going to be insulted like that.”
“He was rather nice at the end, once you took the keys.” Crowe mused.
“He insulted my father, and you! I don’t know what sort of family these Runes are… but back in Japan, family means everything. You insult one family member, you insult as all.”
Crow took Alexis hard by the shoulder and led her off into a small corner.
“I have no idea what you’re like. If you’re like them, or not.” Crowe said in a harsh whisper.
“So this was a test?” Alexis spat, “What now, you just going to drop me off at this hell house, as you just referred to it as?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve passed in my books.” He gave her a smile, but it only made Alexis angrier.
“Fuck you!” Alexis shouted one last time. This at least seemed to grab her uncle’s undivided attention. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been through these past few days? I saw my parents die right in front of me! I was in that accident, and almost was burned alive! Since then I’ve been led around in some sort of haze, afraid out of my mind that those guys will come back for me. Here I am, hoping against hope that I may learn something about my father, about his family and mine, only to be pushed into some altercation with a lawyer while my uncle watches and scores my answers behind my back. I… I want to go back. I don’t want to be here anymore. Here…” Alexis threw the keys at her uncle. “Take them.”
The keys bounced off of Crow’s chest and fell to the ground with a light ping sound. She was about to push her uncle away, to run, somewhere, anywhere, when an odd sensation fell into her clutched hand. Eyes full of tears she looked down and saw the house key the lawyer had just given her back in her hand.
She turned and stared at the ground where she saw it bounce off of. The vault key was still there, but the house key… was back in her hand. “I… how…”
“It’s part of the spell” Crow said, his voice dark and low as he bent down to pick up the vault key. “You’re the owner until death. Like it or not. If you want to hear my advise, don’t go anywhere near that place. It’ll be better for everyone if it just becomes neglected and falls down.”
Alexis stared dumbly at her uncle, then back at the key. Crow placed an arm around her shoulder, and lead her down the street, “Hungry?” he asked, Alexis nodded. “Let’s pick up some good old fashion fish and chips on the way to my place.” Agains Alexis nodded dumbly to the suggestion.