Two days later, Alexis climbed the steps of Hogwarts with her uncle Crowe by her side. It was January, and cold. A fresh layer of snow had fallen around the school that made everything sparkle and shine in the late afternoon sun. Cadfan circled high above them in his own excitement.
“It’s been ages since I’ve been back here.” Crowe said with a tone of nostalgia. He paused on the stairs and looked around him, a jovial smile on his face. “I found Cadfan in the Forbidden Forest my fifth year here.”
“You entered the Forbidden Forest?” Alexis teased.
“I heard Cadfan’s cries. I couldn’t ignore them.” Crowe answered. “Hagrid helped me patch him up…he was only a youngling, just leaving his nest. I thought I’d never see him again when we let him loose, but a week later he flew to my window. We’ve been together ever since.
“I didn’t think crow’s live that long.”
“There are many unusual creatures in the Forbidden Forest, and I think Cadfan is one of them. Wesley never liked him. He always shrieked when Cadfan flap his wings over his head.” Crowe laughed at the memory. Alexis smiled too. This was the first time Crowe had opened up to her about any memory he and her father had as children. She hoped to hear many more now that the two were getting along better.
Stepping into the open foyer of the school Headmaster Miel was already standing there, waiting. He came forward and shook Crowe’s hand.
“It is good to see you again Avery. Alexis, I’m also glad to see you back, safe and sound.”
“Thank you Headmaster.” Alexis said, her gaze distracted by the open doorway to the Great Hall. Whiffs of dinner rushed out to greet her that made her stomach gurgle with hunger. The sounds of the other students made her hesitate.
“You two must have had a long trip, Avery we still have a few issues to discuss in private,” Headmaster Miel said, noticing Alexis’s sight. “Miss Rune, why don’t you reacquaint yourself with your house and get a bite to eat. I know rumours of your absence has circled the school countless times. Time to give out the truth.” The Headmaster smiled at Alexis an took Avery to a private chamber.
With a deep breath, Alexis Rune walked into the Great Hall. Everyone fell silent as she walked past and towards her House table. It was Opening Ceremonies all over again, Alexis mused to herself. Yet, the moment she reached Gryffindor’s table, every Gryffindor sprang from their seat and cheered. It was Lilly who reached her first, followed by her friends from the other Houses, Skye and Eloise.
“You’re back!” Lilly shouted and wrapped her arms around Alexis’s shoulders. “Everyone’s been speculating what happened to you since the raid on the Rune Manor.”
“Wait, you know about that?”
“It’s in all the papers.” Skye said.
“Including everything about Leon Draper.” Eloise said with a sorrowful tone. “Oh, I didn’t want to believe it. Professor Draper was such a heartthrob, and so nice and fun… despite being head of Slytherin House. I mean almost everyone liked him, and to hear he was a Liberator and recruited people here of all places!”
“It was a shock.” Lilly said, ending Eloise’s rant.
“But what about you?” asked Zoe MacMillan. “They found you outside the Manor, how did you escape?”
“More importantly, why were you kidnapped in the first place?” Amelia King said from the Gryffindor’s table. She was one of the few who had not jumped up to welcome her back, yet she stayed within earshot of the conversation.
“Amelia, stop it.” Lilly scorned. “Dad said it was because Alexis were the heir, and Draper was next in line.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Alexis said.
“So the snake was his?” Eloise asked
“Yeah… and the Kuri Senshin.”
“The what?” The group asked at once.
“Never mind… I’ll tell you about it later.”
“Tell us everything now.” Eloise demanded.
It was a long meal, everyone kept interrupting Alexis’ story for more details between forkful of food. It was hard to keep the story going with all the interruptions but as Alexis saw the faces on all her friends she realized how close she had become to them. She knew had any of them been through what she had, she too would want to know everything.
“Wait, you mean you used magic without a wand?” Skye asked.
“Yeah, well you know… magic came before wandlore,” Alexis said. “It was rough, completely unrestrained magic. I hurt myself just as much, but I escaped.”
“OH MY GOD!” Eloise said, her eyes wide with admiration and wonder. “Teach me.”
“I… don’t think I can.” Alexis said, finding the way Eloise looked at her disturbing. “It was all a fluke, I’m glad they found my wand.”
“That must have been how the Aura’s found you.” Lilly said with sparkling eyes.
“The Underaged Wizard Act.” Skye said.
The group continued to talk, ask questions and theorize Alexis’ escape, while Alexis’ eyes searched the tables until she spotted the one person she wanted to see the most. Zack Rowle sat amongst the Slytherines, their eyes met and he gave her a wink.
“He’s not that bad, you know.” Lilly said, noticing the exchange. “Zack was the first to notice you weren’t on the train. He searched each compartment for you. We all thought he was being rude after all there are other ways to get back to Hogwarts. But when you didn’t show up for classes that first day back, he was the one asking the questions.”
“Really?” Alexis asked.
“Rowle didn’t even accept the story you went back to Japan. He sent a note out that night to your Uncle.”
“The note…” Alexis mused to herself.
“Yeah, I saw him in the owlery. The next day it was all over the newspaper.” Lilly said. “I still don’t like him, but he cares for you and – well – I won’t bug you two anymore if that helps.”
Alexis smiled at Lilly, impressed by the turn of leaf she had shown. “Thanks.”
When dinner was over, Headmaster Miel stood up from the Teacher’s table and gestured for everyone’s attention.
“It is with great pleasure that I welcome one of our own back. Alexis Rune has proven to be a courageous and resourceful young woman. Ten points to Gryffindor.” The applause at the Gryffindor table was almost deafening. Headmaster Miel raised his hands again to regain attention of all. “I will also like to take this time to introduce our new, temporary Charms Professor Avery Rune. He has accepted to fulfill the position until the end of the year.” There were applause from every table as Avery Rune stepped forward. Alexis just stared at him, a shocked expression on her face.
“That’s your uncle?” Eloise asked. “I take back everything I said about Leon, your uncle is a hunk!”
“Oh, please no.” Alexis said towards her friend. “Don’t get that idea about him.”
“He’s a rock star you know.” Albus Potter said to the group. “A good one at that.”
“I know.” Eloise said with a giggle. “This will be the best second semester ever!”
“He’s a musician, not a teacher.” Alexis complained. “Don’t you have substitutes or something?”
“Nobody could teach here unless the Headmaster and the Board of Directors aprove.” Skye pointed out.
“Deal with it, your uncle’s the new Charms teacher.” Zack Rowle chimed in as he approached the table.
“Zack!” Alexis said jumping to her feet. Her friends turned to face each other and giggled under their breaths. Alexis blushed but walked out of the Great Hall with Zack. “I heard about the note.”
“Well, you aren’t someone who goes back on your word. You promised to sit with me on the train.”
Alexis blushed again and nodded her head. “Thanks, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here now.”
“It still took over a week to find you.” Zack said in a low tone. “I wish I could have helped more.”
“It was enough. I’m alive.” The two smiled at that.
“What about Draper?” Zack asked.
“He’s still out there.”
“Are you alright?”
“I’ll be fine. Crowe is sticking around to watch me for the rest of the year – but I don’t mind. I surprised Draper with my magic once before, I’m not afraid of him now.”
“Strong, fearless, yup you’re a Gryffindor.” Zack said with a sigh.
“Is that supposed to mean something.” Alexis teased.
“Naw, just stating the facts. Nobody will question your house now. Not after all that. You sounded amazing though. No wand. Shouldn’t be surprised, you fought that spirit thing without a wand. Makes me think about the roots of magic…”
“You’re sounding like a philosopher.”
“Maybe I’ll be one.” Zack said with a cheerful expression.
The two had reached the stairs, Zack turned to go down to the dungeons while Alexis stood at the foot of the stairs that lead up to the tower. Before Zack was out of reach, Alexis reached out and grabbed his arm. She pulled him in and kissed him on the lips.
“Thanks again.” She said with a blush before dashing up the stairs, leaving Zack breathless and dazed.