A long train ride, and two busses later, Alexis stepped onto the main square of Farnham. She looked around at her surroundings, the town had a rustic feel to it with old brick landmarks. It was all new to her, the style, the materials, Alexis seemed to discover she had inherited her mother’s interest in cultural history. She wished she had more time to sight-see, but she only had a few hours before the last bus leaves. Then there will be the commotion of trying to get back to London before her uncle. Thankfully Kaylee had given her a new iPhone to keep in touch, actually it was her uncle who had bought it for her. She had promised both Kaylee and her brother that if she ran into any problems, got lost, or missed a bush or train she would contact them and one of them would come out and get her.
It was already closing in on midday, as Alexis began her search for Bleak Lane. There were many streets in Farnham, sides streets and crescents. The iPhone had a mapping system and she used the technology to help navigate herself around, but she could not find the street. After an hours search and asking many locals about the street, she began to assume that the house and most likely the street were protected by magic. Nobody knew of Bleak Lane, it wasn’t on any maps, and a few laughed at her as she asked them. She had her wand in her bag – Alexis never went anywhere without it since the accident; and knew of a revealing spell that could work, but there were always enough muggles around that she could not even use it without being caught.
With a heavy sigh, Alexis crumbled onto a nearby park bench and pulled out the key from her bag. So much for finding the house on your own, she thought miserably, twirling the key around in her hand. This trip had been a complete waste!
“Are you the one looking for Bleak Lane?”
The voice came from behind Alexis, she jumped off the bench, hide the key behind her back and stared at the teenager in front of her. He had icy blue eyes and short, wavy brown hair. The smug look on his face made Alexis feel as if she had just done something taboo.
“Apparently it doesn’t exist.” Alexis replied.
“Why are you looking for it?” He asked.
“Well… it’s really not any of your concern.” Alexis said, unsure how much to really say in this situation, she didn’t know if he was a muggle or wizard. He wore baggy jeans with a striped t-shirt, and around his neck were a set of stereo headphones. “My grandfather just died, and… well… I just wanted to see the place where my dad grew up, you know poke my head around. I have the key… supposedly the place had been inherited to me.”
“Grandfather? You don’t mean old man Baldie?”
“I… don’t know. I’ve never seen him before, he could be bald. Was his last name Rune?” Alexis asked, a small flutter of hope welled up inside of her. Maybe this boy could help her! “Is there some spell or something blocking me?” She asked outright.
“Shhh!” The boy said, frantically, turning his head to make sure nobody heard them. He then jumped over the bench to land next to her. “Be careful what you say around them.”
“Who? Muggles?” Alexis asked. So far nobody took notice of the two teenagers, they all seemed wrapped up in their own world.
“Exactly. And yes, there is a small spell. I guess you’re new here. Everyone knows how to get past it, usually the adults can just apparate inside. I’m Zack. Zack Rowle.” He extended his hand towards Alexis.
“A Rune, really? I really didn’t know there were any Rune’s left. My mom said that old man Baldie, or, sorry, Baldric was the last of his namesake. That with his death, another old wizardry family name has died off.” Zack said. He sounded surprised that Alexis existed, and at the same time sad of the old name.
“Is Rune really an old name?”
“Don’t you know anything about your heritage?”
“Well, no, I don’t. My dad never talked about his past.”
“Where did you grow up? I mean, every witch and wizard in England knows about the Runes, your grandfather was some big master Healer back in the day. At least my mom keeps saying that.”
“I grew up in Japan actually. I’ve only recently moved here with my uncle. All of this sort of just got landed on me.” Alexis said holding the key up to Zack. “Can you show me his place? Please?”
“Yeah, sure.” Zack said, a grin on his face. “Japan, huh. What sort of magic do you do there?”
The two talked about anything and everything that came to their minds as Zack led her around the town. Alexis was able to learn a little about her family, while Zack seemed interested in the magical societies of Japan. The two had a lot to share, and once their identities came out, it was easy for them to talk. Alexis didn’t know how much she missed talking to someone her own age. Eventually Zack began to lead her outside the town limits. Alexis grew concern, that maybe Zack was just playing along, when he turned down what looked like a shoddy back alley. Hesitantly, she followed, and the moment she stepped over the line the view changed. Before her were rows of amazing houses, some were two stories high, others three or more. They were all brightly painted with a number of unusual lawn ornaments that moved or chimed as they walked by.
“This is one of the new magical developments. A closed community sort of thing for witches and wizards,” Zack explained. “They began to build them a few years ago. There were already a few older family homes down here, and since it was on the outskirt of town the Ministry didn’t have much trouble accumulating the land and building the houses. The muggles don’t even know we’re here.” Zack added, looking proud at the accomplishment.
Alexis said nothing, she didn’t understand why the magical communities here in England wanted to be kept separate from the muggles. It felt some sort of segregation was going on and it made her uncomfortable.
“Here you go. Rune Mansion.” Zack said stopping outside of an iron gate. The place was larger, one of the oldest hones on the block from what Alexis could tell. Three stories, of dark brick and stone. The shutters were painted black and were all closed. The grass was overgrown, and one of the ancient maple trees in the front yard looked to be half dead. It gave off a bad vibe, that made Alexis’s skin crawl.
“Has it always looked like this?”
“Broken, creepy and ugly? Oh yeah. My entire life it’s been like this. My brothers and I had dared each other many times to knock on the front door when we were kids.”
“K. Thanks for that.” Alexis said sarcastically. “But, seriously thanks for helping me.” She gave the teenager a smile as she pushed the iron gate open, and walked across the front yard towards the black door with what looked like a gargoyle’s head as the knocker.
With a deep breath, she pushed the key into the lock and turned. Hollow sounds of metal clicking echoed inside the door before it opened up for Alexis with a creepy moan.
A whistle sounded from just behind Alexis’s shoulder that made her jump.
“Didn’t expect it to be this nice on the inside.” Zack said, his head peering in over Alexis shoulder.
“Don’t do that!” Alexis shouted, shoving Zack back. “You startled me. I thought you were too scared to come to the front door?”
“Hey, I didn’t say I didn’t do it. Just that we dared each other to. I was the only one who made it all the way.” He winked at her and sauntered on through.
The place was well-kept, clean, tidy and organized – despite the dark drapes and shutters covering the windows preventing any form natural light in. There were book shelves, cabinets full of oddities, and pictures; photos and paintings that covered the wall. All of which moved of their own accord. Some were sleeping in their frames, others were causally talking amongst themselves, none seem to take any immediate notice of them. A small shiver ran down Alexis’s spine, something here wasn’t sitting right. For some reason, she had the impression she’d been here before.
“So, great detective and long-lost family relative. Now what?” Zack asked, breaking Alexis’s train of thought.
“We look around, I guess.” She said with a shrug of her shoulders. She had no idea what she was looking for, if she was looking for anything at all. Zack didn’t need to be told twice and already began poking his head in unlocked rooms. Alexis pulled out her flashlight and began to wander aimlessly through the hallway, looking at the photos on the wall. None of which looked familiar. For the house of her father and uncle, she didn’t see one photo of them, anywhere.
She entered a room, filled with bookshelves and books, a desk in the centre, with the boarded up window behind. She began to read the titles on the spine, many of which she assumed was associated with potions, and other healing and medical spells. She soon found some of her grandfather’s paper work from St. Mungos, the local wizardry hospital. Letters of congratulations for some new potion he founded, some of which seemed to be signed by important people by the way they were kept. It certainly seemed that her grandfather had been popular.
“You know it’s rude to fiddle through other people’s drawers?” A gruff, elderly voice echoed in the room. Alexis spun around to see a painting of and old man hanging on the wall. He was staring down at her with those silvery eyes. His hair was grey, and his nose rather stubbly, but the rest of his facial features reminded Alexis of her father.
“Technically these are my drawers now.” Alexis replied back, continuing her random search.
“You? The Rune’s new Heir?” The old man in the painting laughed. “Who are you then? A Winslow? Or Carrow?”
“My last name is Rune.” Alexis said, her voice strained. “My father was Wesley Rune.” She peered over her shoulder just in time to see the man in the painting shift uneasily, and grumble something inaudible to himself.
“What do you mean was?”
“He’s dead.” Alexis said, abandoning her search to approach the picture, reading the name below it. “Baldric Rune. So you’re my grandfather?” She smiled, noticing the man’s discomfort. Though she herself became uneasy now that she could see him clearly. The man staring back at her was non other but the one from her dreams. The old man in the bed, the one whom she saw die several times in her dreams back in Japan.
“Unbelievable, the daughter of a squib inheriting everything. Maybe Leon had a point…” He mumbled to himself as he walked out of the frame.
“Alexis!” Zack called from the hallway. “Check this out,” He came in with a dragon skull in his hands. It was the size of an ox head. “This place is full of awesome things! Not just odd, but dark magic too. Wow, and I thought the Malfoy’s hide things away. This is a gold mine.”
“Glad you found something worth while.” Alexis sighed and slumped into the nearby chair.
“Did you find what you were looking for?”
“No, not really. Instead I just found out who the mystery man in my dreams was.”
“Dreams?” Zack asked, hesitantly, setting the dragon skull down on the desk. “Are you a fortune-teller too?”
“Sort of. More of one in training.”
“I hate divination, though my mother keeps the hope that one of her kids would be good at it.”
Alexis checked her watch, surprised at how late it was getting. “You can take that if you really like it.” She said to Zack, pointing to the skull.
“Really!?” He asked, his face bright with excitement.
“This is all mine now.” Alexis shrugged. “And, skulls have never been part of my decor.”
“Then don’t go into the last room before the basement. Full of skeletons of all sorts of creatures, and I think a few humans.”
“You’re joking.” Alexis said, not taking Zack’s assessment seriously.
“There are stories about this place, of screams coming from the basement, missing people from town.”
“K, no telling creepy tales in the creepy house.” Alexis said, stopping Zack before he could work himself up. “Take the skull if you want, I need to catch my bus.” Zack grabbed the skull and the two-headed out, Alexis making sure to lock the front door.
“Are you coming back?” Zack asked casually.
“I don’t know, probably not… my uncle doesn’t like the place, and I’m not really supposed to be here, you know.”
“So, you’ll be going to Hogwarts then?” He sounded excited.
“Hogwarts? Is that the magical school?”
“Yeah, it’s amazing, maybe I can show you around there this September.”
“Maybe… I’ve never been to a magical school outside of Kitsune Academy.” She smiled at Zack as he escorted her back to the bus stop. “Do they have a spirit guardian?”
Zack laughed, and the two fell back into their conversation.