Untitled NaNoWriMo Work By: J L R Webbie **Please be advised: This is a work in progress for National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org). This work is not complete and is a very rough first draft, typos and grammatical errors and all. Check back frequently for an updated version as the month of November rolls on!** Smashwords Edition, License Notes Thank you for downloading this free ebook. Although this is a free book, it remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy at Smashwords.com, where they can also discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support. Chapter 1 "Alli, Alli, oxenfree!" Cade Moorebyrn's call echoed through the gymnatorium, followed by a loug gffaw that could be none other than Cade's idiot sidekick, Brian Garrett. Alli Callahan ducked behind the main curtain, panting hard. She was out of breath and likely going to be late for class. Of all the days for the creton's to harrass her, today was possibly the worst. "Whatsa matter, gothy snuggles not around?" Brian sniggered at his attempt at wit. Brian Garrett was possibly the largest imbecie at Finn Murdoch academy, it was a wonder he even managed to get in. "Quiet, doofus!' Cade barked, "Listen!" Aware that her ragged breath would draw unwanted attention, Alli clapped a hand over her mouth. If only she hadn't forgotten her supplies in her locker, she would have missed these two entirely. A soft clearing of a throat drew her attention, Alli turned to see Ronnie Wilson across the stage, motioning for Alli to make a dash for it. When Cade and Brian lumbered into the hallway, Alli bolted to the pretty girl in stage blacks. "What are those two about now?" Ronnie sneered. "What are they always about? They just want to piss off Adrian." "When are they gonna learn?" Ronnie shook her head, "Oops, they're coming back!" Ronnie shoved Alli behind some stacked stage weights as the cretons ducked back onto the stage. Suddenly, Ronnie disappeared. In alarm, Alli stood to see where her bestie had gone, too late did she realize that she also revealed herself to her persuers. " Hello, Alli!" Alli jumped as Cade suddenly appeared before her. Tall, muscular, and blonde, he towered over Alli. She turned away fromt he hulking teenager, only to find herself face-to-face with Brian. Brian was the polar opposite of Cade, scrawny and barely taller than ally, with greasy lank hair shoved under a grody baseball cap. "Come on, pretty, lets dance!" Cade grabbed her arm and forcefully pulled her from her hiding place. Alli screamed as the stage went black. Cade's grip loosened in the sudden darkness. Suddenly blind, Alli was struggling to get her bearings when a smaller hand took hold of hers and guided her away from the would-be captors. Moments later, Alli found herself in the little used corridor off the side of the stage. "Thanks, Ronnie!" Alli spoke just as Ronnie was bolting the door. "No prob, but we gotta bolt!" Just then, a shout of rage emanated from the other side of the door. Giggling, Alli and Ronnie ran through the corridor, weaving around the few other students. Following their noses they soon found themself ducking into the kitchen. The delicious odors warm and welcoming. "What are you two up to now?" A pleasant woman in an apron brandished a whisk at them. "Just evading some idiots, Ms. Rossi." Ronnie grinned as she snatched a warm biscuit from the counter. "Hey!" Ms. Rossi made a half-hearted attempt to stop the bubbly techie, but Ronnie was quick, "why those two are permitted to stay on here, I'll never know. Bad news, the lot of them." "What's for lunch today?" Alli spoke up. "A nice beef lasagna, if you must know!" Both Ronnie and Alli wrinkled their noses in disgust. "Relax, girls, of course I have a meat-free version for the picky eaters among us" Ms. Rossi fixed the girls with a glare. "Don't blame me! Blame the cute little piggies!" Ronnie darted out of the reach of the cook's whisk. Both Alli and Ronnie were strict vegetarians, a lifestyle choice that baffled the merry Italian cook. Luckily, Ms. Rossi was more than willing to accommodate their dietary restrictions, so long as they ate every bite. "So, Alli, what did those ruffians want?" Ms. Rossi said as she returned to beating her eggs. "What do they always want?" Alli sighed and collapsed into a chair and held a hand to her forehead. She could feel a migraine starting. Alli's companions' sudden silence startled her. Slowly, she opened her eyes. Ms. Rossi had a knowing look, Ronnie was more overt. Stifling a chickle as her eyed darted between Alli and the doorway behind her. Cautiously, Alli turned. A pale youth dressed all in black with untidy black hair was framed by the doorway. He wore a leather jacket and a work backpack was slung over his shoulder. Most people would probably pass him off as a loser or druggie. Alli moved fast. The boy barely had time to drop his backpack before she fell into his arms. "Adrian!" Alli whispered into his chest. Adrian fixed their audience with a look. Ms. Rossi returned to her work. Ronnie, after claiming another biscuit, winked playfully as she left the kitchen and disappeared down the hall. Satisfied, the youth led Alli slightly down the hall so they would be out of the eyesight of the cook, then tilted her chin up to place a soft kiss on her lips. "Happy Birthday, Alli." Alli reached her arms around Adrian's neck and kissed him again, but he broke away before they got too passionate. He kept his arms about her waist as he spoke. "Mind telling me what has you so upset this morning?" "Who says I'm upset?" Adrian gave her a similar look to what he gave Ronnie and Ms. Rossi, Alli relented with a sigh, "Fine, your half-brothers were being assholes again." "I might have known. One of these days..." "Don't bother," Alli had felt Adrian's muscles tighten and was afraid he might do something reckless that would get him expelled, "I'm handling it." "Yeah, clearly it's not working or you would have met me upstairs like usual." "Relax!" Gently, Alli stroked his arms until he calmed down. They paused when they heard cheerful humming. Ms. Rossi bustled out of the kitchen and nodded to the couple as she passed, evidently she had buisiness in another part of the school. Alli and Adrian were now completely alone, "It's not like we'll see them anyway." "You're right, that's one good thing out of this whole mess, Cade is too young and Brian is too stupid to be in advanced classes like us." Adrian groaned in aquiescence and looked away from Alli. Gently, she placed a hand on his cheek. "We better get to class." Adrian was just reclaiming his backpack when Cade's loud baritone echoed through the hallway. "Well, if it ain't the golden boy and his bonny lass." "Cade, are we really gonna do this today?" Adrien kept his voice calm and measured, but he pulled Alli more snugly to his side. "Well, when else are we gonna do it, huh?" "Why don't you two just leave us alone? Neither one of us has ever done anything to you." "Ha, you hear that, Cade? I think little Alli is trying to stand up for herself!" "I heard it, I don't believe it. You better step aside, little girl. This is between brothers." Cade glowered at the couple. "You know I never wanted to be a part of your gang, Cade." Adrian stepped forward, forming a barrier between Cade and Alli. "Ah, but we want you. Wouldn't daddy want all his little princes on the same side?" "He said he wanted no part of it, leave us alone," Alli's eyes flashed in anger, but he pressed on. "Cut the shit, Cade, we both know what you really want." "Oh, do we?" Brian cut in. " Pray, enlighten me." Cade crossed his arms in a challenge. Alli suddenly broke free from Adrien and planted herself solidly between the half- brothers. She jabbed a finger at the big brute's chest. "Look, you can bully me all you want, but leave Adrian out of this. He's made it perfectly clear that he will never side with you!" "Watch it, little girl" Brian leapt to his brother's aid, brandishing a stick. Adrian seized Alli's shoulders and shoved her out of the way as a streak of light erupted from the end of the wand. The wall behind where Alli had been standing was charred and smoking. They stared in disbelief. Alli's eyes flashed again as she whirled upon Brian. "That was your last warning, how dare you mess with wizards who are both older and much more advanced than you!" Alli grabbed Adrian's arm and pulled him towards the steps. When the cretons moved to block her, she glared at them in fury, "Oh for heaven's sake, BACK OFF!" Before either party knew what was happening, Cade and Brian were thrown back several feet and slammed into a brick wall. They fell in a heap, out cold. Both Adrian and Alli stared, wide-eyed. "What the hell just happened?!" Adrian was shocked. "I've no idea!" Alli clung to his arm, "should we get the nurse?" The two bullies began to stir. Alli and Adrian looked at each other before dashing up the steps. Chapter 2 "We're gonna be late for Advanced Spellcasting, and I still need to grab my stuff!" Alli ruminated as she and Adrian weaved through the corridors of Finn Murdoch. "Relax, Al, we've got five minutes." They came to a sudden halt before a wall of lockers. Alli turned to him and batted her eyelashes. "Pretty please?" Adrian sighed and placed his hand over the lock. A moment later there was a click and the door swung open. "Thanks, sweetie!" Alli planted a kiss on his cheek before reaching into the locker to retrieve her backpack and wand. "You know, I could get into so much trouble for doing that." "I know, but you're so much quicker than the combo, especially when we're running late." She slammed the locker shut and they took off at a brisk pace. Finn Murdoch Academy looked like any other elite prepatory academy: antiquated architecture, vaulted halls, uniforms, and a sense of superiority. Students from here consitently shone on the various standardized tests prevalent in modern American Education and many of their graduate went onto the Ivy League. What an outsider wouldn't suspect is that the curriculum not only covered the basic subjects, but also covered the history and practice of magic. Finn Murdoch was a famous white wizard from the 19th century and she had opened this academy to train other young wizards in the style of european boarding schools. Only a select few were invited to attend. The selection process was so secretive that no one ever suspected that one of the core requirements was an aptitude for magic. In fact, the only hint at all to the Finn students' unusual lessons was the fact that they carried sticks to school. The master craftsmen that make the wands take care to make them as unassuming as possible. Alli's wand was made of a springy branch from a Purple Smoke tree with a core of lavender, coriander, and other herbs. Alli and Adrian were in a remote wing of the school used only for advanced magic classes to minimize accidents involving younger pupils. They hel hands until they reached the door to their classroom just as the final bell rang. The separated and pushed the door open. The classroom looked perfectly ordinary, students milled about, tossing paper airplanes and partook in typical horseplay. On the blackboard was written: "Advanced Spellcasting" in large block letters. Written in cursive below was "Ms. Adena Moriah, professor." As it was the first day of the new term, neither Adrian nor Alli expected that the young woman seated comfortably on the teacher's desk was more than a new student. "Welcome! Names, please." The young woman spoke as she leaned back to sieze the role-book. "Uh . . ." they stared at her in disbelief. Ms. Moriah looked barely old enough to teach, let alone be a master wizard in charge of an advanced classroom. "I believe I asked for your names," Ms. Moriah tapped her pen against the book impatiently. "Sorry, I'm Allianna Callahan, I prefer to go by Alli though." "Callahan . . . Callahan . . . Ah, here you are!" She made a mark in the book, then glanced pointedly at Adrian. "Adrian Raffello." "Alrighty. you two may have a seat," Alli and Adrian shrugged and made their way towards and empty table near the back, Ms. Moriah continued in a low tone before they got out of earshot, "I should warn you that any overt PDA will lead to a change in seating arrangements." "How did she--?" Alli whispered, but Adrian shushed her. Once they were seated, the classroom was called to order. Adena Moria stood authoritatively at the podium and delivered her start-of-term lecture. "Good morning, class. I am Professor Moriah and I will be undertaking your Advanced Spellcasting class this term. A few ground rules for my classroom: One, you are free to socialize and be kids until I take my place at the podium, at that time you are to immediately go to your seat and wait silently until you receive further instruction; two, tardiness will not be tolerated; three, I realize I may look barely older than yourselves, but please remember that there is a reason I am here and you are there and disrespect will be dealt with accordingly; finally, you are here to learn and will follow my directions carefully or there will be consequences. Remember, this is an advanced class so you are expected to be responsible for yourself and others, however, I can't prevent mishaps caused by sheer stupidity take that into account before you start goofing off. First instruction of the day: please put away your wands." "But, Professor Moriah, how are we supposed to cast spells without our wands?" Alli didn't see who asked that question. "Your wand is merely a tool, every wizard worth his or her salt should be able to manage some level of wandless casting and as such, we will be focusing on wandless casting for the duration of this class. There are numerous advantages to performing magic without a wand: the most obvious one is to not be completely defenseless should you find yourself in a perilous situation without a wand. When you must resort to utilizing magic in public, wandless casting draws less attention; though thankfully modern society is more open minded, most humans are not ready to accept that wizards exist. But beware, wandless casting comes with heightened challenges as well. It is harder to control your magic and often times it is weaker in power. Without a wand, your entire body becomes a channel for magic, which can take its toll. "Some of you will be more adept than others in this class, though all of you should experience at least some success. Today we will be working on silent wandless casting which is one of the most challenging forms of magic, but I'm sure each of you has experienced a surge of power when you experienced an intense emotion be it fright, passion, or anger; but I hope we will not have to resort to extraordinary circumstances. A select few of you might even develop a particular stregnth, extraordinary skills centering on a particular element such as fire or water." Alli slunk back in her seat, arms crossed. Her mind was already wandering to her other classes. She always zoned out during these wordy lectures. She knew she should be paying better attention, but she just coudn't bring herself to listen to yet another speech about how some young wizards will have special skills. She knew not to expect such skills to develop in her, she could barely manage the simpler spells. Clearly she wasn't alone. The professor paused in her recitation, sensing most of the teenagers had already dismissed her warnings. Silently, she raised her hand and snapped her fingers. She smirked as the entire classroom jumped as the flame she summoned flickered above her fingers. She flicked the flame into the air and caught it in her palm, where it grew in size and intensity. When the flame was about the size of a softball, the performed a motion with her free hand and a cabinet across the room opened to reveal a target. In a blink, she hurled the fireball towards the cabinet. It disintegrated upon impact, leaving a charred mark directly in the center of the target, a perfect bull's-eye. "Now that I have your attention," Professor Moriah continued calmly as if nothing had happened. Every set of eyes was riveted towards her, any doubts about her qualifications vanished with the fireball. "As I was saying, a very select few wizards develop an compatibility with a particular element. As you can probably deduce, my element is fire. We won't be summoning any elements today, instead we are going to practice 'pushing' and 'pulling' with some small objects provided by myself." Professor Moriah indicated her desk where a plethora of random objects could now be found. "You will each select an object from my desk and attempt to silently and wandlessly 'push' the object away from you, and then 'pull' the object back towards you in a similar manner. Like so:" Ms. Moriah selected a Rubik's Cube and placed it before her. The students watched in awe as the cube slid several feet away from Moriah with a twitch of her hand, then flew back and into her waiting hand. "As you can see, it is much like 'the force' used by Jedis in the popular Star Wars movies. Now, if you would proceed to select and object in an orderly manner, we can begin the lesson. " Professor Moriah retreated behind her desk and watched the students calmly approached the collection of objects. Since all the items were of a similar size and weight, there was little conflict. Soon nearly everyone has returned to their seats. Alli grabbed a paperweight while Adrian ended up with a sturdy-looking box. Among the last students, Alli watched in amusement as Joey Fisher in the front row strain to complete the task, his face was red. "Now, Mr. Fisher, do try not to hurt yourself. You are trying to hard, it more of a mental nudge rather than a shove, your book truly doesn't weigh that much." Ms. Moriah had begun her rounds. For her part, Alli returned to her seat and placed her paperweight in front of her. Adrian was just settling himself when she closed her eyes and imitated the hand movement. "Very good, Miss Callahan!" Professor Moriah's praish startled her, Alli stared in alarm at the teacher's hand, in which lay the paperweight. "Try again, only this time, try to limit yourself to the spece provided, if you like, you may use my desk." When Professor Moriah walked away, Adrian leaned over and whispered, "How'd you manage that? And on the first go, too!" "I'm not sure, I wasn't even really trying . . . must have been a fluke." Satisfied with this rationalization, Alli reset her paperweight. Adrian watched intently as she once again made the hand motion, this time the paper weight slid to the edge of the table. "Try it without the motion." Adrian suggested. Once again, Alli reset her paperweight and glanced at her boyfriend, too late. The weight sailed accross the table, headed directly for Adrian. His hand shot out and caught the rogue paperweight before it could hit him. 'Sorry!" Alli squeaked. "S'okay" Adrian responded as she sheepishly took the weight from him. "You try," Alli instructed, gripping the weight with both hands. After several vain attempts, Adrian finally managed to 'push' his box a couple inches. "Ms. Callahan, I won't tolerate idleness," Moriah's warning brought Alli to attention. "Sorry, Professor." Alli answered with a blush, Ms. Moriah probably thought her one of the troublemakers of the school by now. When Moriah was assiting another student, she turned to Adrian, "Here, switch with me; maybe the paperweight slides better or something." Adrian stared at her incredulously, but made the switch. Alli resettled and regarded the box in front of her. She found herself wondering if the 'pushing' might force the box open by accident. Her eyes widened as the lid, as if by command, slowly began lifting. Alarmed, she slammed her hands over the box, effectively re-closing it. "What is up with you, Al?" "Nothing!" She removed her hands and stared at the unassuming box before her. What had made it open like that. But the blasted thing was doing it again! Alli slammed the lid closed, loudly this time, drawing the attention of everyone in the classroom. "Ms. Callahan, you are being disruptive. Either work on the task at hand, or kindly take yourself to the principle's office!" Professor Moriah was losing her patience. "Sorry, I think the catch is bad." With a groan, Alli focuses on the box once more, this time picturing it moving across the table. The box had other ideas apparently, Alli watched in shock and awe as the box flew off the desk and across the room, sailing towards an unsuspecting Joey Fisher. "Joey, watch out!" Adrian yelled, Joey turned just in time to see the box halt inches from his face. Everyone stared. First at the box floating in midair, then at the frozen Alli standing with her hands outstretched, and look of horror on her face. Sensing the unwated attention, Alli nervously chewed her bottom lip as she made a pulling motion with her hands. The box sailed neatly back into her waiting hand. The silence seemed to last forever, Alli was beet red with embarrassment. Slowly, Professor Moriah began to clap. Soon the entire class hand joined in and Alli was surrounded by thunderous applause. So overwhelmed, she didn't notice that the one person who was not clapping was the one closest to her. The bell rang, signalling the end of class. Adrian and Alli lingered behind. "Class, Class! Remember to practice before our next session!" Professor Moriah called after the rapidly retreating students. Alli was just about to exit herself when Moriah stopped her, "A moment please, Ms. Callahan." Chapter 3 Alli froze, the last thing she needed was to draw even more attention to herself. She looked hopelessly at Adrian. "I'll be waiting just outside," he said as he slung his backpack over his shoulder. When Adrian had made his exit, Professor Moriah returned her attention to the nervous girl before her. "Alli, I must commend you for your work in class today." "I--thank you! But--!" "Wait, before you say anything, I need to ask you a few questions. Few students experience such success without practice. Have you ever done wandless magic before?" "No, I mean, not since I was a kid, of course, but that was more finding the lost remote rather than nearly bludgeoning kids." "I see, no inexplicable surges of power?" "No, not in hindsight. In fact, until today I could barely perform well enough to pass. Adrian's the gifted one, not me!" Alli paused, the professor said nothing, then she murmered,"Although..." "Yes?" "Well, there was something this morning... but it's crazy. If it wasn't for the fact that we were alone I woudn't think it was possible.." "Pray explain, Ms. Callahan," Moriah prompted, somehow Alli felt she could trust the young fire wizard. "I was with Adrian outside the kitchen this morning when some other students came and were antagonizing us. Suddenly they flew backwards several feet and I have no idea how that could have happened!" "I see..." Professor Moriah whirrled and pulled a large book from the shelves behind her. "Um, Professor?" Adrian poked his head in, "Alli and I need to head to our next class." "One moment Mr. Raffello!" Professor Moriah was flipping feverishly. "What are you looking for?" Alli queried. "What? Oh!" Moria paused in her page-turning, "I was just trying to see...I think perhaps you may have developed an affinity for one of the elements--" "Say what, now?" Alli's mouth was agape. "An aptitude, perhaps air. If what you are saying is true and until now you were barely capable of performing your magical coursework, it is one of the only explanations..." "One of the--? Professor! There's no way I have an aptitude for air!" "No way, Ms. Callahan? How can you be so sure? These sorts of things seldom manifest themselves until a young wizard has advanced enough in their studies to handle the surges of power. Now, as master Adrian has kindly pointed out, mine is hardly the only class you have today, so I would suggest you run along." "But--! "Go! I'll let you know if I find anything." Adrian held out his hand, Alli hesitated but when Moriah glanced up from her volume and glared, Alli turned and left with him. Her head was spinning, an affinity! Her! So absorbed in her own thoughts, she barely registered the cheerful greetings from her fellow students and in incredulous glances directed towards her and Adrian. Teenagers at Finn Murdoch were just as judgmental as ordinary high schoolers. Few could understand why Alli Callahan, the popular and bubbly class treasurer and theatre department darling, would waste her time with the brooding and surly Adrian Raffello. Alli was brought back to the present as Adrian casually draped his arm around her shoulders and brushed his lips against her hair. She was startled to find herself standing by the stage door. "I'll see you next period," Adrian gave her another squeeze before releasing her. "Okay." Alli was sill befuddled as she raised her hand to wave, but Adrian had already vanished around the corner. "Alliiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!"Alli barely had time to register the energetic squeal before she was slammed into by a petite figure with wild curly hair. "Nice to see you too, Ronnie," Alli replied as the pretty techie released her just as quickly. "I'm just glad we got away from those two cretons, maybe we won't have to deal with them the rest of the day." "Didn't you hear? The were thrown into a wall this morning. They've been in the infirmary since first period." Kyle Winston spoke as he was coming through the door. Ronnie flushed and ducked behind Alli, who barely noticed as she exclaimed." "What?" "Yeah, it's the damndest thing, it's like they were just picked up like nothing and thrown. They're all kinds of banged up." Kyle expanded upon his declamation, then titled to the side to say, "Mornin', Ronnie." Kyle's face broke into a grin as Ronnie squeaked into Alli's shoulder. Alli shook her head and crossed her arms. "You know, you really should just ask her out and get it over with, I'm sick of my shirts getting wrinkled every drama class." Alli addressed Kyle, who just chuckled and walked away. Alli and Ronnie settled themselves into their usual seats as the remainder of the class filed in. When Professor Alleyn strolled in, he smiled at them. Alli and Ronnie had been in Professor Alleyn's classes since they started at Finn Murdoch and were usually his first pick when he needed help. Even though everyone else in the class were returning drama students, Professor Alleyn opened his role-book as a matter of course and marked off names. A straggler came in at the bell and Alli couldn't help but stare. He was gorgeous! Tall and tan with broad shoulders; she racked ber brain trying to place him, but she could not recall ever seeing him before. "Professor Allen?" his voice was rich baritone, the kind of voice that would put Jude Law to shame. "Hmm, yes?' Alleyn, distracted by his markings, took a moment to register that he was being addressed. He looked up and visibly jumped at the strange new face, "Oh! You must be, um..." Alli and Ronnie were struggling to hide their amusement as the flustered drama teacher feverishly scanned his book. "Braeden, Sam," the strange youth offered helpfully. "Ah, yes, Mr Samael Braeden." Mr Alleyn, evidently finding the name, made another mark in his book. "Just Sam is fine." Sam was cooly scanning the class, his eyes lingering ever so slightly longer as his gaze found Alli, before continuing on their course "Noted," Alleyn's eyes darted around the classroom for a moment, "Why don't you have a seat, Mr. Braeden. there's an empty space by Ms. Callahan." With a nod, Sam crossed to the aforementioned seat. Ronnie gave a knowing nudge and Alli turned to scowl. "Ms. Callahan, I presume?" Alli turned towards the sexy voice, her eyes widened as Sam lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. "Uh, I'm--" she snatched her hand away and cradled it against her stomach, "Alli! I'm Alli, this is Ronnie." "Charmed." Sam winked before taking his seat next to Alli. Luckily, as it was the first day, they only did a few 'improv' games and, as Alli was chosen to judge, she had little contact with Sam again until the end of class. When the bell rang, she rushed out the door, barely taking the time to tell Ronnie good-bye. She ran into Adrian halfway down the hall. "Woah!" he caught her by her shoulders, "where's the fire?" "Nowhere, just had an .... interesting drama class." "Two for two," Adrian muttered as he dropped his hands. "What?" "Anything you want to talk about?" "Uh, not really." "Fine," Adrian answered and turned away to walk down the hall. "Oh, don't start brooding!" Alli was exhasperated. "I'm not!" "You are," Alli pulled him into an empty classroom, "I know you too well." Adriam merely crossed his arms, attempting to guard himself from Alli's prying. She wasn't going to let him get away with his usual tacktics of surliness and distance, "Come on!. You can't be seriously still miffed about first period. So I outperformed you once! Big deal!" Adrian snorted and turned to study a poster of the periodic table. "You know as well as I that without you, I'd have been lucky to scrape a pass in spellcasting last spring. I'm sure today was just a fluke and you'll be back on your game with the next lesson . . . what use would opening a box with my mind be anyway?" "Oh, I don't know, that stopping the thing in midair might come in handy," Adrian snidely remarked. "Okay, you got me there, but other than that, what could I really do . . . work in a jewelry shop?" Alli touched his shoulder, "You know I usually struggle with the simplest of spells, you're the great wizard here." Adrian sighed and turned back towards her, "It's not you, it's just . . ." "What?" "That was the first time I failed to complete a magical task before the end of class..." "So," Alli smiled in spite of herself, "this is about pride?" Adrian averted his eyes and his cheeks colored ever so slightly, "Adrian, I'm surprised at you! You're not the golden boy magician for one day and--!" Adrien snapped his head up and glared angrily at her, "Sorry! Bad choice of words! But you know what I mean." "I know," Adrian softened hi features, "I don't think you fully understand how much I want to be a better man than my father, but, I owe it to my mother to be everything he wasn't." "You already are," Alli barely spoke above a whisper. The corner of Adrian's mouth twitched with the flicker of a rare smile and he opened his arms. "C'mere." Alli fell into his embrace and he kissed her hair, "I'm proud of you, I really am. Don't you dare ever think otherwise. I'm just disappointed in myself is all." "Well, we haven't had a study date in a while, why don't you come over tonight and I'll help you practice?" "I'd like that," Adrian said with a soft growl. Together they left the empty classroom and made their way to History. Some of the more rambunctious 'younguns' were playing simple games with their wands in the corridor. Adrian pulled Alli closer and glared at the students who stared too long, forcing them to glance away in embarrassment. It didn't matter that Alli and Adrian had been dating for nearly a year, they constantly drew excess attention. Most of their classmates couldn't comprehend how Alli could possibly be so devoted to the moody Adrian. They didn't care though; all that mattered was that they were happy. Chapter 4 "Are you about ready to go?" Ronnie was bouncing from one foot to the other. She had exchanged her stage blacks for a sparkly silver halter top, skinny jeans, and boots. "Just a minute!" Alli was winding a final lock of hair around a styling wand, her silver cuff glinted in the fluorescent lighting. Alli was boho chic in a green peasant dress and leather gladiator sandals. "Come on, birthday girl! The party'll be over before we get your lazy butt there!" "Okay, okay! Lord, you'd think the party was for you!" Alli unplugged her wand and grabbed her jacket. "I take it the location is still a closely guarded secret?" "The blindfold's in the car," Ronni grinned impishly. "Remind me why I agreed to this, again?" "Cuz you love and trust your roomie?" Alli rolled her eyes as Ronnie grabbed her wrist and pulled her out the door. "Tada!" Ronnie announced fifteen minutes later and Alli untied her blindfold. "A bowling alley?" "Ya! Black light bowling!" Ronnie leapt out of the car and opened Alli's door. "Who will be the ultimate champ?" Alli smiled, "You know I always win!" "Not always, I won once last semester!" Ronnie pouted. "Ah, but I'm the birthday girl!" Alli laughed and ran to the doors, Ronnie was at her heels. The sudden darkness caught her off guard. Alli stumbled to a halt. Only to be suddenly lifted off her feet and swung around. "Safely delivered, as promised!" Ronnie gave a bow with a flourish. "Thanks," Adrian offered as he set Alli back on her feet. "You're on my team, right?" Alli poked his chest. "Course I am!" Everyone was bowled out and ready to return to campus in plenty of time to make the 9:00 curfew. Alli was pleased to note that Kyle and Ronnie were on the same lane and seemed to be getting quite cozy. Since she planned to head back with Adrian, she let the budding romance bloom. Before long, Alli and Adrian had pulled through the school gates and were walking up the sidewalk hand in hand. As they passed the large Weeping Willow tree that stood sentinel outside the dormitories, he pulled her through the vines. "What's this?" She murmered "I know you've always loved this tree," Adrian studied the patterns of the leaves above them, "I thought it's be as good a place as any.." "For what?" In response, Adrian reached into his pocket and produced a small package wrapped in holographic paper. Speechless, Alli opened the gift to reveal a jewelry box. She gasped as she lifted the lid and saw an elegant silver charm. "Is this?" "The Celtic Tree of Life. Well," Adrian shrugged, "Most of it." He reached into his collar and tugged at a silver chain Alli hadn't noticed before. A simple silver ring hung from the end. "Yours fits in the middle." Alli smiled and turned, lifting her hair. Adrian obliged and clasped the chain around her neck. "It's beautiful!" Alli lifted her tree charm and held it next to Adrian's. The charms snapped together as if magnetized. Alli lited her eyes to Adrian's and the joined charms glowed with a warm light. The power coursed through their bodies, Alli's hair lifted as if she were touching a Van de Graaff generator. "Wow, didn't expect that," Adrian spoke in an awed voice. The power left them nearly as quickly as it arrived. The charms fell apart, cold and unmarked. They could only stare at the now perfectly ordinary jewelry. "That . . . was weird," Alli was the first to speak. "You're telling me . . ." Adrian agreed. The school bell tolled signaling curfew. Adrian and Alli looked at each other for a moment before dashing for the doors. They made it inside just as the locks clicked into place. "We still on for our study date?" Alli asked. "If you aren't too weirded out by..." "Adrian, we attend an elite boarding school and study magic in the basement. Some freaky jewelry isn't gonna weird me out," Alli's hands were on her hips, "besides, Ronnie wont be in until late, she has rehearsal for that show she is ADing. It will be just you and me and--" "Alright! I'll meet you in five minutes," he gave her a peck, "I gotta grab my stuff." Alli shook her head as he disappeared into the boy's dorm. Finn Murdoch was rather lax in dorm rules, it was not uncommon for study groups to meet in one another's rooms, though students were encouraged to use the lounge for such activities. True to his word, Adrian returned five minutes later, his backpack in toe. After ally took a precursory scan of the girl's corridor for any prefects or professors, she led Adrian to her room. Alli and Ronnie's room, like most Finn Murdoch rooms, was large and comfortable. They had opted to leave their beds bunked and had brought in a comfy couch for movie nights. Each girl had her own homework cubby, though they typically ended up sprawled on the plush rug instead. Their walls were plastered with Broadway and movie posters and they had an entire bookshelf filled with their various theatrical books. Adrian pulled off his hung his leather jacket on the back of a chair and sunk onto the couch while Alli pulled her hair out of its pins. She glanced in the mirror as the final pin came free and saw Adrian half asleep on the couch in his simple black tee shirt. "Wore out already?" he jolted awake at the sound of her voice and lifted his arm so she could settle snugly against him. "Been a long day," he offered, then turned towards her, "but today is your day." Alli pressed her lips against his, reveling in the sweetness of the moment. She pulled away as Adrian moved to envelop her in his arms and playfully patted his thigh. "No rest yet, it's time to practice!" "But it's your birthday, homework can wait!" Adrian admonished as he grabbed her hand from his leg. "No, I said I would help you, and that's what I intend to do." Adrian seized hold of her with a playful growl and pulled her into his lap. Alli's laughter brought a true smile to his face and she suddenly sobers. "I love it when you smile," Alli murmered as she gazed at him. So few people got to see this side of him, she relished every moment he let his guard down. She closed the distance between them and kissed him fully. He eagerly returned the gesture. The heat intensifies, Adrian gently lowers Alli onto the couch and their hands roam freely. Alli's hands trail down his chesht, energetically searching for the hem of his shirt. When they finally reach their quest, he gasps as her fingers brush the bare skin of his abdomen. Adrian lifts himself off of Alli just long enough to pull the shirt over his head and toss it to the floor before returning to her. Alli was turned on, no doubt about it. The way she was so aware of his arousal was hardly helping. Her breath quickend as Adrian's gentle hands found the sensitive skin of her midriff which had somehow been exposed in their passion. Neother notice the soft rasp of a key in the lock. "Oh my god!" Ronnie's exclamation immediately brought them to attention and they sat up and assumed a more dignified position. Alli feverishly attempted to smooth her hair while Adrian had found his shirt and was now holding it in his lap with obvious embarrassment. "I thought you had rehearsal!" Alli blurted. "I do, I just need my shorthand pen." Ronnie made her way to her desk as the Puckishly continued, "Please don't stop on my account." "Ronnie!" Alli and Adrian sat squirming as Ronnie ruffled through her drawer at an agonizingly slow pace. Alli suspected it was on purpose. Finally had found the pen she wanted from her stash of bewitched writing implements. "Kay, I'm really gone now," Ronnie crossed back to the door and pulled it open, "you know, we really should come up with some kind of signal for times like these--" "Oh!" Alli grabbed Adrian's shirt and threw it at the door just as Ronnie ducked out with a wide grin. She shook her head at the now-closed door. This little incident was likely to crop up every so often for months. Alli turned back to Adrian. "We probably should actually practice, yeah?" She offered. "Sure," Adrian responded, clearly glad that he wasn't the only one who wasn't really in the mood anymore. "Good! Now, try again, and for God's sake, stop scowling!" Alli admonished Adrian an hour later. He was dong quite well now and was now mentally 'pushing' her Calculus book. "I'm not scowling!" Adrian once more slid the book half way across the room, "I'm concentrating." "Then don't think so hard!" Alli snapped. Adrian shifted his glance away from the large volume to stare at her. Shaking his head he stood and grabbed his jacket. "Wait," Alli's voice stapped him, "I'm sorry. I'm just tired." She collapsed on the couch and hugged a throw pillow to her stomach. "Do you want me to go?" "No," she studied him from her position, "I'm just overwhelmed and confused about everything. Why now?" "Why what?" Adrian crossed and sat next to her on the couch. "Why has my magic suddenly exploded? I mean, for three years, I've been the student they showed off to the media, the one who excelled in all the traditional subjects; the one they didn't have to worry would draw undue attention to herself. Now suddenly I've had two huge surges of magic in one day and no clue as to how to control it!" "I wish I had answers for you," Adrian spoke earnestly, "but I don't. Maybe it just took longer for your magic to mature. I was in my second year here before my magic became something to speak of." "You were never quite as hopeless as me, though," Alli gave a half smile. "Perhaps not," he admitted, "but I also knew I had magic before I was accepted to Finn Murdoch." "To think, when they offered me an application, I thought I was prepping myself for Princeton, not signing up for a real-life Hogwarts." Alli's laughter was echoed by Adrian's warm chuckle. "Well, as it is still your birthday, I vote we be very bad and forget about homework for the night." Adrian stood and offered his hand, "Dance with me." "But we have no music!" Alli exclaimed as she took his hand and was pulled to her feet, "At least let me turn on Pandora first." "Nope," he spun her before placing his free hand at her waist, "you stay right here." Adrian stared at Ronnie's clock radio for a few moments before the sound of raspy music reached their ears. "Ronnie and her big band music," Alli shook her head, "She refuses to wake up to anything else, even though the reception here is crap." "Who cares?" Adrian spun her again and dropped her into a low dip, which caused Alli to erupt into a fit of giggles. Unbeknownst to them, a pair of eyes watched the Alli and Adrian through the open window. The figure brought its hand to its mouth and then released a small insect that flew up and landed on the sill to wait until the time was right. Chapter 5 Alli only lasted two dances before she said she was too tired and just wanted to relax. Adrian obliged and put in a DVD while she went to change into some pajama pants and a loose tee shirt. He had kicked of his shoes by the time she returned from brushing her teeth and they settled comfortably on the couch once more before he pressed 'play' on the remote. "What're we watching?" Alli asked just as the tell-tale theme music of the Harry Potter films began. "Order of the Phoenix," Adrian supplied. Both were more tired than they realized, their eyes were starting to droop before Harry, Ron, and Hermione had even boarded the Hogwart's Express. By the time Ronnie returned from rehearsal, the closing credits were rolling and her roomie and Adrian were fast asleep. She merely pulled Alli's comforter off her bed and draped it over the young lovers and they lay contentedly in one another's' arms. After Ronnie had gone to bed and all was quiet, Adrian's metal circle glinted in the moonlight where it still lay exposed against his black shirt after Alli had absentmindedly tugged it free while they were still semi-awake. Alli stirred in her sleep and her tree charm slipped from beneath her collar. The two charms fused The insect, sensing that everyone was finally asleep, took flight once more and fluttered over to the couch. It lingered in midair, as if trying to decide which of the two people lying on it was more comfortable to land upon. Evidently decided, it started to descend, making a beeline for Adrian. When it was still a foot or so away from him, a thin beam of light shot out from the fused necklaces and the insect dropped. It disintegrated as soon as it hit the carpet, a mere imitation forged for dark ends. Everyone slept on, dreaming pleasant dreams, and the necklaces just as silently separated once more, still glinting softly in the cool white light of the moon. Loud, staticy big-band music suddenly switched on, Alli groaned and attempted to hide her eyes against Adrian's chest. "Rise and shine, sleepyheads!" Ronnie cheerfully announced as she dropped from the top bunk and immediately began bopping about the room, swaying to the music soming from her radio. "I hate morning people," Adrian's chest vibrated against Alli's cheek. With a giggle, Ronnie took hold of the edge of the comforter and yanked. "Hey!" Alli sat up and rubbed her upper arms to tame the goosebumpts that had appeared in the sudden change of temperature. Adrian merely glared at Ronnie for a second before covering his eyes with a pillow. "Come on, lovebirds. It's a brand new day!" Ronnie relentlessly switched on the overhead light. "Must you torture me every morning?" "Yup yup yup!" Ronnie imitated her favorite cartoon character. "Fine," Alli reached over and yanked the pillow away from Adrian, "Ducky has declared sleeping later than her a felony." Ronnie curtsied playfully and easily dodged the pillow hurled by Alli. An hour later, Ronnie had dragged Alli to the cafeteria for breakfast and Adrian had returned to the boys' dorm to take a shower before class. They had just sat down with their vegan pancakes when Sam slid into the seat next to Alli. "Good morning, Ms. Callahan!" He said with a smile. Alli could only stare at the hunky new boy, at a loss for words for his brazenness. "Hey, Ronnie," Kyle stood awkwardly, clearly shocked by Sam's actions as well, "Mind if I join you?" As Ronnie's mouth was currently making a perfect 'o', Alli answered for her, "Sure, the more the merrier." She cast a sidelong glance at Sam as she kicked Ronnie under the table. "Oh!" Ronnie exclaimed and made a face at her best friend, Alli cocked an eyebrow, Ronnie turned towards Kyle "I'd love for you to join us." Allie was shocked. Ronnie clapped her hands over her mouth as it registered, her cheeks burning a bright red. Sam watched in great amusement at the roommates. Kyle was the first to attempt to break the awkward silence. "So, Alli. Where's Adrian?" "He wanted to grab a shower," Alli shrugged, "you didn't see him before you left?" "Naw, I went to the gym this morning," Kyle shook his head, "Just noticed his bed hadn't been slept in a figured he was with you." "Who's Adrian?" Sam asked between bites. "My roommate," Kyle jumped in, "been dating Alli her for awhile now. " "Aha!" a knowing glint was in the new kid's eyes, "I knew someone as great as Alli couldn't be single!" "You barely know me!" Alli was incredulous. "Maybe not, but you got that vibe." "Vibe?" "You know, that vibe that emanates from the girl every guy wants, the kind of girl you don't screw around with." "Well, glad I'm not the kind of girl who should be 'screwed around' with, are you implying you're the kind of guy who likes to screw around with girls?" Kyle nearly choked, though Sam seemed perfectly collected. "Not at all," he leaned in close, Alli dropped her gaze to avoid his gorgeous green eyes, his lips barely moved as he whispered just loud enough for her ears,"Unless, of course, that's what turns you on." "Ooh, girl," Ronnie teased, "Adrian better watch out, boy's got some moves!" "Alli?" She whirled in her seat. "Adrian," she swallowed, "Finally! Please, sit down." She clumsily shifted down a space so Adrian could sit between her and Sam. "What's going on?" "Nothing, just Sam here trying to flirt with Alli," Ronnie chirped. Adrian turned to size up the muscular boy next to him. Alli looked hopefully from one to the other, uncertain of how Adrian would react. To everyone's surprise he gave a half smirk and responded, "I hope he's at least treating her like a lady." "Of course, man," Sam cooly replied, "Alli here deserves only the utmost respect." "That she does," Adrian agreed, giving Alli's shoulders a squeeze. Since Advanced Spellcasting took place every other day; Alli and Adrian found themselves in an extended lab period for Healing Arts. This has always been one of Alli's best 'magic' subjects because the potion and poultice making was much akin to Chemistry and in fact was called "Alternative Organic Chemistry" on official transcripts sent out to colleges and potential employers. And since Ronnie had ended up in the same Healing Arts lab as Alli for once, she was quite content. "Pity Kyle got the afternoon slot," Ronnie ruminated as she ground dried Marjoram with her mortar and pestle. "You mean you can be in a class with him without hyperventilating now?" Alli commented. "Well . . ." Ronnie stammered, "all the same!" "Hey, I don't judge . . . I'm just glad that Sam kid isn't in our lab. He's kinda starting to freak me out." "At least he's hot." "Ronnie!" Alli warned and indicated Adrian who luckily had turned on his iPod to help drown out Alli and Ronnie and what he called their 'crazy roomie banter'. "Chillax, You know he likes to wallow in his own dark thoughts whenever he finds himself in a class with the both of us." "I heard that," Adrian cut in, "I just switched my iPod on, I'm not deaf." "Oops." Ronnie mouthed before flicking an almond neatly into Adrian's mortar. "Thanks, how'd you know I needed an almond for my poultice?" "I don't know how you put up with him--hey!" Adrian had retaliated by flicking a ginger root towards Ronnie's mortar and it bounce of the edge of the heavr marble bowl and rolled into Alli's hand. Before long all three were flicking various ingredients at each- other until it was no longer clear what type of medicine they were working on. "Ms. Callahan, Ms. Wilson, and Mr. Raffello," Professor Hachi's voice halted their revelrie, "What on earth is going on here?" "Uh . . . we were just . . . erm" Ronnie bit her lip. "Ronnie was helping Adrian with his poultice," Alli hastily tied together a story, "he was out of almonds and Ronnie, being Ronnie, decided she could get the almond into his mortar by tossing it like a tiny basketball and...well, things got a little out of hand." "Does that about some thing up, Mr. Raffello?" Professor Hachi could be a formidable woman in spite of her petite stature. Adrian nervously nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I forgot I needed almonds for today" he explained, "Sorry, professor." "Points will be taken for the day from the lot of you," Professor Hachi pointed threateningly at Adrian, "And that's double for you, Raffello, for unpreparedness--" "But, Professor Hachi--" Alli began, but Adrian held up his hand. "And all three of you will stay behind to clean up this mess," Hachi finished and, with a final teacher's 'look', truned her attention to the other students in the class. "It's okay, Alli," He whispered, "I'll make up the points tomorrow." "Sorry I got you in trouble," Ronnie said with a puppy dog pout. "It's fine, there's neer a dull moment with you, is there?" "But I should be the one who lost double points, not you, I started the whole thing." "But it was me who told Professor Hachi that the reason you started it was because Adrian didn't have one of his ingredients," Alli reminded her, "It's my fault he got double points off." "And I told you it's fine!" Adrian snapped. "But--!" he turned up the volume on his iPod, effectively cutting Alli off. Neither one of them spoke a word for the rest of the period. "I don't get it," Sam announced later in drama class. Mr. Alleyn was still MIA, probably still running off copies because he never remembered until class was ready to start. "Get what?" Alli humored him, though she was hardly in a cheerful mood. Adrian had slipped out of Healing Arts without a word, leaving Alli to walk with Ronnie to drama. "You and Adrian," he paused, "I mean, he doesn't really seem your type, if you don't mind me saying." "And who are you to be able to judge what my 'type' is?" "No one, just remarking," Sam continued in feigned innocence. "Well don't," Alli warned, her hand at her forehead again, "Just like everyone else, you judge Adrian by his appearance and never bother to actually get to know him." Sam opened his mouth to counter, but Mr. Alleyn came in and announced. "Romeo and Juliet," He held up his photocopies with the name of the play clearly printed at the top, "will be our cumulative production this term." Alli sat up strait, half the class groaned audibly. Ronnie gave a soft squeal of delight and beamed at Kyle who seemed less than thrilled. Sam seemed non-chalant. "Now I know that you had to study this play ad-nauseum in ninth grade," Professor Alleyn continued, "but the problem with English Literature classes is you never get to really know the play. You never get to really understand the artful intricacies that is characterized by Shakespeare. So!" AT this he fumbled with his pile and produced a single sheet with various terms printed, "I've also taken the liberty of running of a page with some common Shakespearean terms and their meanings. Please use it for reference as you re-aquaint yourself with the play, we will begin the casting process next week." "Oh boy," Ronnie leaned over and whispered to Alli, "they're in for quite a shock, aren't they?" "Ha, wait til they see how lewd act I is!" Alli agreed and they sniggered in shared understanding. Mr. Alleyn clumsily handed out the scripts and term pages. Alli was pleased to notice the face of Brant Sullivan, the jock who signed up for drama thinking it would be an easy A last term and found out he actually enjoyed it, was bug-eyed as he scanned the term list. Alli always thought English teachers should point out all the sexual innuendoes istead of skipping over them, because then their students would be much more engaged when it came time to study a Shakespearean play. "Now that you all have your Romeo and Juliet papers, please put them aside and choose a scene partner," Alli and Ronnie glanced at eachother in mutual understanding, "and come chose a scenario out of the basket." Mr. Alleyn had barely finished before the roomates had come down and claimed a piece of paper. Chapter 6 Adrian didn't come to lunch. Alli found herself missing his steady, albeit usually silent, presence. Sam Braeden had once again joined them as did Kyle. Needless to say, Ronnie was much more pleased with the arrangement though Alli was slowly becoming more comfortable in the enigmatic presence of the dashing new boy. She was even strting to smile when an unwelcome voice assailed her ears. "Finally moving on to a more suitable paramour, are ya?" Cade Moorebyrne limped slightly but was otherwise seemingly good as new. "Ooh, 'paramour', that's a mighty big word for you," Ronnie snidely commented, "Learned to use a dictionary, have we?" "Can it, you little gremlin," Cade planted his hands on the table and loomed over her. "Woah, back off, man!" Kyle stood and got into Cade's face. "Relax," at this Cade stood and jabbed at Kyle's shoulder, "man. It ain't your pixie I'm interested in." "What do you want, Cade?" Alli interjected, "Adrian's obviously not here and I've no idea where he is right now; so either state your buisiness or get the fuck away from this table." "Ooh, little girl has claws!" "Dude," Sam stood, his stature making Cade seem pathetic, "I belive Alli had made it clear that you are not wanted, so kindly leave." "Harumph, dya know what that bitch did?" Cade puffed out his chest in feigned courage, "Lil miss perfect there slammed me and my brother into a brick wall yesterday, Brian's still in too much pain to leave his room. Sam made a production of studying first Alli, then Cade, mentally taking note that the latter was nearly twice her size. "Somehow I find that hard to believe." "Well what would you know! She used magic," Cade pointed threateningly at Alli,"Didn't you?" "Alli?" Kyle spouted in disbelief, "You seriously think she's capable of that kind of magic?" "Yeah, creton, it's no secret that Alli isn't exactly the top student in magic," Ronnie cut in, then dropped her voice, "No offense." "Uh, none taken," Alli supplied half-heartedly. "Well, who the else could it have been then, huh?" "Look," Sam continued before anyone else could speak, "I believe you were hurt and probably you' brain's been rattled around a bit; but I seriously doubt that any student here would be capable of mentally picking up two strapping young lads of you're stature and slam them into a wall!" "But--she!" Cade looked helplessly at the four young wizards now regarding him with contempt, "You can all go to hell!" He whirrled on his good heel and stalked away. "Not so tough without his idiot back-up is he?" Ronnie said with a smirk. "Uh, thanks, Sam," Alli muttered, "you didn't have to do that." "No problem," Sam winked at her, "Someone's got to stand up to the douchebags of the world, eh?" Alli was relieved to see Adrian in his usual seat when she slipped into 20th Century History that afternoon. Sam nodded in greeting as she passed, but she barely noticed. She gratefully slid into her usual seat next to Adrian and he reached over and squeezed her knee under the table. After a brief introduction, Professor Alcott put in Modern Times. "Missed you at lunch today," Alli whispered to Adrian, having watched Charlie Chaplin suffer a nervous breakdown while working on an assembly line too many times to mention. "I was helping Nate with his spellcasting," Adrian referred to the ninth grader he was mentoring through his first term at Finn Morgan, "I didn't mention that I was spending lunch with him today?" "No," Alli shook her head. "Oh," Adrian shrugged, "sorry about that." "It's fine--" A 'shush' sounded and they looked up to see Professor Alcott scowling in disapproval. Adrian leaned over and muttered, "Uh oh, looks like Professor Scrooge is in one of his moods again." Alli couldn't help herself, she burst out with an audible giggle, only to recieve an ever sterner look and even louder shush from Alcott. All at once, the screen went black. An audible 'aww' sounded as Professor Alcott moved to fiddle with the player. "What'ya kn--!" Alli had turned to address Adrian and stopped short. He sat perfectly still, his eyes blank. "Adrian?" When she received no response, she waved her hand in front of his eyes, "Yoohoo." When she still got no answer, Alli rose so she could lean close and peer into his lifeless eyes. "Hey!" She nearly shouted, Adrian's hand shot out and seized hold of Alli's shoulders, hard. "Ow!" "It's coming!" He rasped, his eyes glinting feverishly. "Adrian, what?" She struggled against his iron grip, "You're hurting me!" "It's coming," Adrian hissed again. "What's coming?" Alli continued to fight, ignoring the tree charm as it weaved and bobbed in the struggle, "Adrian! What's coming?" He released her, Alli nearly fell with the abrupt absence of his hands. Instead, Adrian's eyes were locked onto the Tree of Life, one of his, now free, hands reaching. Alli watched him blink: once, twice, shake his head and lift his gaze to her startled face. "Alli?" He looked around the room, everyone was staring; Alcott held a wand at the ready, "What happened?" "Are you okay?" Alli said with a sigh of relief. "I'm fine," he reassured her, "Why is everyone so freaked out over a technical glitch?" "They're not freaked out about the movie," Alli explained, "they're freaked out about you." "Me?' "You don't remember?" She asked in disbelief. "What am I supposed to remember?" "Professor?" Alli turned towards the instructor still weilding his wand, "I think I better take him to nursing." "Good idea, " Alcott acquiesced, finally lowering his guard, "Make sure he gets there without further incident, Ms. Callahan." "Thank you," Alli grabbed Adrian's elbow and steered him out of the room. She noticed Sam staring at the with narrowed eyes, as if pissed about something, she shrugged it off until they were safely in the hallway. "What the hell is Alcott yammering on about?" Adrian wrested his arm free of Alli's grip. "You really don't remember anything?" 'All I remember is that movie cutting out just as Chaplin was going after that broad in a trench coat," He ran his fingers through his hair, making it stand up in messy spikes, "Would you please explain why I had a wand pointed at me?" "I dunno, maybe because you were all freaky delivering a doomes-day message in a demonic voice! She accosted him, pulling her sleeve down to show Adrian the marks from his fingers. "What?" he tenderly reached out a hand and brushed the angry welts, "Did I do that?" "Yes!" She snapped. Adrian jumped in alarm, she took a breath and continued in a calmer manner, "You weren't yourself." "Alli, you know I would never dream of hurting you!" "I know," she held up a hand to silence him, "it was like you were possessed." "But . . ." Adrian sputtered, "how?" "That's what I'd like to know." "Your necklace was glowing," his exclamation caused Alli to jump. "My what?" "Your necklace!" He crossed over and lay hold of Alli's charm, "It was glowing when I came to." "So?" Alli's eyes widened in understanding, "What about yours?" Adrian dropped her tree of life and unbuttoned the top of his black oxford shirt. "Woah, that's freaky," Alli commented as he pulled his circular charm free, a perfect impression of the charm glowed softly on his chest. Adrian eyed his necklace curiously as Alli lightly traced the mark with her finger. The glowing faded with her caress. "What does this mean?" Adrian breathed as he watched what was happening. Alli lifted her eyes to meet his gaze. "I think we better get to nursing." "Why?" He was taken aback by her frank announcement, "I'm pretty sure there's nothing they can do." "No," Alli agreed with a smirk, "But you know Professor Scrooge will check in with them later, so we best make an appearance." Much later, Alli insisted upon seeing Adrian returned safely to his dorm room. They walked through the boys' corridors in easy companionship, paying hardly any heed to the strange looks coming from the other students they passed. "They act as if they've never seen a girl before," Alli commented. "I think they;re more concerned that it's you and me," Adrian shrugged, "I've lost count of how many times I've ran into girls in their underwear in the bathroom." "Good to know," Alli drolled. "Alli!" Adrian wheeled around and pinned her against the wall with a mischievous glint in his eye. "Gee, Adrian, if I'd known you were accustomed to seeing strange girls in their lengerie, I would have been more selective in my sleep attire last night." Alli returned his mischeif. "Vixen!" he gasped in mock horror. A throat cleared and Adrian and Alli's head's whipped towards the sound. "Now I got to put up with you two's mush in my dorm too?" Cade sneered, he was wearing only a towel around his waist. "Who I bring to my room for a visit is none of your buisiness, Cade," Adrian said warningly, nudging Alli behind him. "It is when it's clearly written that boys and girls can't visit eachother in their rooms." "So's keeping cannabis in your sock drawer," Adrian retorted. "That's prescribed for Brian's insomnia!" Cade was bug-eyed. "Yeah, well medical marijuana isn't legalized here yet," Adrian stated matter-of- factly. Cade's moth opened and closed several times before he finally came out with, "Screw you, Adrian!" and stalked away. "Can't win with him, can you?" Alli commented. "Nope," Adrian sighed, watching the bully disappear into the basthroom, "but he's right." "About what?!" "About the fact that we are breaking the rules," he turned back towards her and smirked, "rather blatantly." "Who cares?" Alli said and pulled Adrian in for a kiss. When they separated, Adrian took er hand an dled her to a plain door, where he stopped to fumble in his pocket. He pulled out a generic 'Finn Murdock Prep' lanyard and placed the key at the end into the lock. The door opened before he had the chance to turn it. "Adrian!" Kyle said with mild surprise, "I thought it was somebody knocking." "One handed" Adrian told his roommate, Alli waved her free hand. "Oh!" Kyle finally noticed her, "hi, Alli. What brings ya over here?" "Adrian, obviously," she chuckled, "No, Ronnie's not hiding behind us." "Uh," Kyle reddend slightly, "why don't you guys come in." "Thanks," Adrian grunted, eyeing the embarrased boy. "Actually," Alli cut in, "I just wanted to make sure he got back to his room okay," they stared at her, "Ronnie and I were gonna read through some of Romeo and Juliet for Drama . . . I'm sure Ronnie wouldn't mind if you wanted to join us, Kyle." "No thanks," Kyle replied, "I have come Chem homework I have to get done for tomorrow." "Oh, that's too bad!" Alli turned to Adrian, who remained speechless, "I'll come by later." She stood on her tiptoes and brushed his cheek with a kiss. "Don't worry about it," Adrian spoke up, "Have fun reading Shakespeare." Taking this as her dismissal, Alli nodded and raised her hand in good-bye. She watched Adrian go and collapse on his bed beneath a Metallica poster. Kyle smiled apologetically and quietly shut the door. Alli hesitated for a moment, her hand poised to knock; but then she thought better of it and took off down the hallway. "Hey, Alli!" Ronnie was cheerfully bustling about the room nd tidying up when Alli stalked into their room. "Hey," Alli's dispirited greeting caused the energetic girl to turn. "What;s wrong? I thought you were gonna spend the evening with Adrian?" "I was too," Alli informed her, "But when we got to his room, Kyle was there . . . and then it just got really awkward." "Awkward how?" Ronnie sat on the foot of Alli's bed and patted the blanket next to her. "Well," Alli continued, seating herself next to her best friend, "I'm not really sure. One minute, he was telling that jerk Cade off; the next, he was saying not to bother coming back later and disappearing into his room without saying bye!" "Did something happen?" Ronnie prompted, actually sitting still for once. "Well, Kyle invited us it, of course and I noticed Adrian give him one of his glares. Figuring they just needed some time to straighten things out, I made up some story about you and me going over some of the play for drama." "Oh" "So I told Adrian I'd see him later; and he just coldly told me to forget about it!" "Well, you know Adrian," Ronnie commented, "moody and distant . . . but with a good heart." "I know, it's just . . . sometimes I wish he gave some sort of clue before completely shutting down." "Don't worry, he'll come 'round," Ronnie hugged her, "He's crazy about you!" "Thanks," Alli hugged her back. "I suppose we might as well read some of the play," Ronnie announced a few moments later. Alli stared at her BFF, dumbfounded. "What?" Night enveloped the dormitories of Finn Murdock Prepatory Academy. All slept peacefully. The dark figure passed silently through the corridors, unnoticed by those who rest on just the other side of the doors. The figure paused before one door and particular and reached for the doorknob. A moment later the door swung free and and figure slipped inside. The residents of that room slept just as quietly as all the rest. The figure hesitated, perhaps uncertain as to why it was there. Soon it crossed to the bed beneath a Metallica poster. The figure leaned over the sleeping form of the boy within it; an inaudible whisper, a flash of light. The dark figure left just as silently. The residents of the room slept on, ignorant of what had passed in the still of the night. Chapter 7 Two weeks later, Professor Alleyn was making his final casting decisions for Romeo and Juliet. To Alli's shock, and secret pleasure, she was one of the top picks for the role of Juliet. Romeo was pretty much tied between Kyle and Sam and Professor Alleyn was trying various combinations to determine which young actors had the best on stage chemistry. "Alli and Sam," professor Alleyn pronounced as the next pair to read. Sam seemed quite at ease as he mounted the stage, but Alli suddenly felt extremely nervous. Ronnie leaned over to her friend and whispered, "Break a leg, girl!". Alli muttered a "thanks" and stood. As she clambered up after Sam, her mind wandered to thoughts of Adrian; he had been more distant than usual since that day in the boy's dorm. He hadn't exactly been cold, in fact he joined her for every meal and met her between nearly every class; but she could sense that something was off, though she couldn't bring herself to ask him what was wrong. "Alright," Professor Alleyn's voice called Alli back to reality, Sam eyed her with concern, "Lets take the scene where Romeo and Juliet first meet. It will be Act I, Scene 5 in your scripts." Alli flipped absently through the pages until she found the scene in question, then turned another page to find the exchange. Her eyes widened in alarm, "Professor?" "Yes, Alli?" Professor Alleyn peered at her over his spectacles, full director mode. "Um, we don't have to do the kissing, right?" "Not unless you want to," he informed her. "You don't want to kiss me?" Sam teased. "No!" Alli exclaimed, then thought better of it, "I mean--oh, I don't know!" Suddenly her mind was racing. Part of her really wanted to kiss her hunky classmate, what was acting for. Oh god, his full lips beckoned, but what about Adrian. "It's okay!" Sam said with a chuckle, "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do!" "Any time, please," Professor Alleyn interjected. "Sorry professor!" Alli called, then turned to Sam and murmered, "Let's just do it." Sam's mouth dropped, but Alli did not bother paying attention. She didn't want to lose her resolve, but when else would she get a chance? "Okay," paper crinkled under Professor Alleyn's hands, "whenever you're ready." Alli and Sam retreated to opposite sides of the stage to geve themselves a moment. She was rediculously nervous, but she refused to let it take hold. She turned towards Sam, who already stood waiting for her signal, and gave a nod. The show had begun. Sam began, gently clasping Alli's hands in his, "If I profane with my unworthiest hand This holy shrine, the gentle sin in this My lips, two blushing pilgims, ready stand To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss." His warm lips brushed her knuckles and Alli gasped as it shot electric tingles through her veins. He looked up at her, his green irises hypnotic in his perfect face. Alli stumbled over the next few words. "Good pilgrim," she gulped, "you do wrong your hand too much, Which mannerly devotion shows in this, For saints have hands that pilgrim's hand do touch, And palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss." Shocked at her own frankness, she pressed her own palm against Sams. She marveled at how small it seemed, she looked up in alarm as she realized just how much more Herculean Sam was than Adrian. "Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?" Sam's line brought her out of her revery. "Aye, pilgrim," the words flowed freely now, "Lips that they must use in prayer." "Oh then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do:" How naturally Sam's mouth caressed the old verse, "They pray. Grant thou, lest faith turn to despair." "Saints do not move, though grant for prayer's sake," "Then move not while my prayer's effect I take," his fingers gently interlaced with hers as he spoke, "Thus from my lips, my sin is purged." He closed in, as Sam's lips met hers, Alli giddily thought that this must be just how Juliet felt. Without warning, an image of Adrian flashed in her mind and she broke away. Her fingers shot to her lips in alarm. "Then have my lips the sin that they have took!" Alli spurted, somehow, Shakespeare had coined the perfect words to express her guilt at the pleasure now humming throughout her body half a century in the future. "Sin from my lips?" Sam's wry humor came so naturally, "Oh trespass sweetly urged: Give me my sin again!" They kissed once more and all fears and doubts in Alli's mind disappated as the forbidden passion swept her away. All too soon, it was over and Alli stood bemused, gazing into the face of Samael Braeden, momentary uncertain as to how she got there. Almost as an afterthought, she delivered the final line. "You kiss by th' book." Silence reigned for a full minute following the end of the delivery. Alli and Sam merely smiled at eachother in pleasure. Then Professor Alleyn started clapping. He started out slowly, the sound echoing strangely in the noiseless gymnatorium. Soon everyone in the class joined in and the room filled with thunderous applause, Ronnie Wilson the most energetic of the lot. Alli and Sam acknowledged their audience gracefully and hopped down from the stage as the sound began to fade. "I'm pretty sure I don't need to say this," Professor Alleyn began, "but just to be official, I think we have our Romeo and Juliet!" The applause started anew, Alli made it back to her seat, blushing furiously. Ronnie gave her a huge congratulatory bear-hug. "I knew you could do it!" Ronnie exclaimed. She would have said more, but Professor Alleyn held up his had, indicating that the class needed to quiet down. When they did, Professor Alleyn began. "Now, as thrilling as this class period has been, the bell is about to ring. I will post to official cast list by the end of the day and I expect each and every one of you to begin looking over your parts tonight." The bell sounded and the class noisily exited the gymnasium. Everyone was wanting to offer their congratulations to Alli. Because of this, she wasn't able to make it to her locker until the bell for the next period had already rung. She quickly grabbed her bag and ran to Calculus. "I'm soo exited, I can't believe I got Mercutio!" Ronnie was excitedly relaying everything that had happened in drama class in the communal lounge that evening. Alli nodded and smiled while snuggling against Adrian's side, not even attempting to add her own input. "Brant got Tybalt, of course, so it's gonna be hilarious when we face off and Kyle here will be an excellent Benvolio!" Kyle flushed slightly while his eyes scanned his already battered copy of the play. "D'ya think Alleyn will splurge and get us actual scripts this year?" "Huh?" Alli had tuned out Ronnie's endless babble, the pixie-like girl glared, "I dunno, maybe." "I hope so," Ronnie continued, undaunted, "I hate working with photocopies. They're always so big and floppy . . ." While Ronnie went on about how sucky photocopied scripts were, Alli's eyes were drawn to the window. It was pretty late so the view was pretty much a black square with a ghostly reflection of her and Adrian. Something caught her attention and she dislodged herself from the sofa. " . . . you'd think it's be in the budget to--Hey!" Ronnie's recitation was abruptly cut off, the girl noticing her best friend walking towards the window in a daze. "Alli?" Kyle queried, setting his script on the end table next to him. She did not hear them, her focus completely on the dark expanse before her. She raised her hand, so insubstantially reflected in the glass, and pressed her hand against the pane. Alli wateched in curiosity as her mirror self faded, as did all that was reflected behind her. Without the reflections, she had a clear view of the night outside. There was a shadow, darker than the night around it, loitering beneath the old Willow tree. It seemed to be digging with a spade. Alli's brow wrinkled in confusion. Suddenly the figure turned and Alli knew instinctively that whatever it was knew she was watching . . . and that she shouldn't be. Alli jumped back in shock. "Oof!" A male voice grunted and strong hands caught her. Alli spun to see who was behind her. She fond herself looking at a black tee-shirt. She impulsively wrapped her arms around the shirt's owner. Adrian was momentarily taken aback at finding himself in Alli's arms but returned her embrace soon enough. "What the--?" Alli released him just as quickly. She looked around at the faces now looking at her in concern in confusion. Without preamble, she took off towards the girls' dormitory, leaving everyone speechless in her wake. "Woah! Where're you goin'?" Sam asked as she blew past him near the external door. "None of your buisiness," she curtly answered without checking her stride. Sam opened his mouth to say something else but Adrian was following Alli and fixed the brawny lad with a glare. Adrian finally caught up with her at her door, Alli was fighting with her key. "Crap!" She pounded the door in frustration. Adrian reached towards her, as if he wanted to catch her wrists as they lifted to strike the door again. He pulled his hand back, shaking his head. He crossed his arms instead. "Want to tell me what's going on?" He ventured. "I would if I knew what the hell was going on!" Alli burst into tears. "Hey, hey!" Adrian finally took her in his arms, "It's okay . . . shh . . ." Alli buried her face into his chest, breathing in Adrian's comforting scent as her tears soaked the fabric of his shirt. Adrian stroked her hair uncertainly, fighting some hidden battle within himself in order to do so. "Is she okay?" Ronnie's voice seemed out of place. "I think so," Adrian informed her, "she's just confused I think with everything that's been going on." "It's been a long day," Ronnie conceded, "I think you need some sleep, Alli." "Probably," Alli agreed, pulling away from Adrian and wiping her eyes. He kept an arm around her, though Ronnie noticed he looked uncertain as to why he felt the need to. The petite techie shrugged and unlocked the door, she was more concerned with Alli at the moment. Alli passed through the doorway with Adrian at her heels, an intense weariness settled over her now that she caught sight of her inviting bed. Without thought she went and collapsed into it, her eyes were closed before her head hit the pillow. "Well, thats new," Ronnie commented, "She didn't even take off her shoes!" Adrian stood awkwardly while Alli's roomate pulled Alli's sneakers off and covered the sleeping girl. Satisfied, she turned her attention to the pale youth. "What have you got to say for yourself?" She challenged. "Huh?" Adrian was caught off guard by Ronnie's frank question. "Why are you acting so . . . I don't know. " She threw her hands up in eshasperation. "What are you talking about?" "You! And Alli!" Ronnie exclaimed, "on her birthday I was covering you two up while you slept in eachother's arms, now you seem disinterested whenever you're with her. What gives?" "I--I didn't realize . . ." he sputtered, unsure of how to answer, "I've been feeling a bit off lately, but I didn't realize you had noticed." "It's not just me," Ronnie softened her voice, "Alli's noticed too, though she refuses to talk to me about it." Adrian could think of nothing to say. He knew, deep down, that Ronnie was right, on all counts. He just wished he knew why. His gaze alit on Alli, so peacefully sleeping and snug in her warm bed. He reached out a hand and brushed a stray lock of hair from her forehead. He gasped and yanked his hand away, as if burned. Startled, he looked up at Ronnie, who stood with her arms crossed, clearly waiting for further explaination that he could not give. Without a word, he gave a half nod and left the room; leaving Ronnie alone and puzzled with more questions than answers. Chapter 8 Professor Moriah glided into the classroom. The banter petered out and all eyes turned towards her. "As you can see," she began, "I am not your usual intructor, Professor Iskander has been called away to Iraq for expert support, so I have agreed to take on your Defensive Magick course until further notice." Alli stared, she liked Professor Moriah, but the young professor had been singling her out more and more for demonstrations in Advanced Spellcasting and Alli was afraid the process would repeat in this class. Alli's sudden adeptness at advanced magic was still novel and no one could explain how it was possible. If only her defensive magic scores were as high as those in Advanced Spellcasting, it might actually be worth something for Alli to study magic at levels beyond those covered at Finn Murdock Prepatory Academy. "We will begin with elimental shields," Professor Moriah was, as usual, cutting right to the chase, "One of the most fundamental uses of Defensive Magic and the one that every decent wizard masters at a relatively young age." There were several audible groans, shield charms were usually covered in beginner's Defensive Magic courses. "We will experiment with a variety of types of shields that span all the basic elements," Moriah continued, undaunted, "even if you are not one of the select few blessed with an affinity for an element, each of you should have a more noticeable bond with a given element which will, in turn, enable you to shape and use it better for your magical purposes." "But, Professor!" Alli did not see who had spoken, one of the other girls in the class. "Yes?" "We already can do a basic shield charm . . . at least most of us can." Alli did not need to be able to see the speaker to know that the last comment was not so subtly referencing her. "I'm not talking of a beginner's shield," Professor Moriah fixed the unseen speaker with a glare, "but an elemental shield. Much more powerful than any mere shield charm, a proper elemental shield can be held longer and repel more dark magic, and can usually be shaped to protect more than just the wizard forming it." "Sounds useful," Ronnie leaned over and muttered to Alli, who nodded awkwardly. "Before you are four vessels, each containing a representation of the four basic elements: incense for air, some soil for earth, water for water, and a lit candle for fire." Professor Moriah gracefully indicated four identical marble bowls, "These will serve as a focus point and should assist you in channeling the energy needed to produce an elemental shield as you will not have to summon the element forthright." "Will we get to use all four of them today?" Lottie Carr, a sweet but dense girl, inquired. "You will certainly have ample oppertunity to attempt to channel all four elements, yes, but be warned. Not all of you will be able to channel all of these elements, not today. And fewer still will be able to channel them without an anchor. Today is a day for experimentation; and when you learn what element you are best suited for, all the other pieces will begin falling into place." Alli sunk lower still into her chair, her cheeks reddening as Professor Adena Moriah's gaze hesitated as their eyes met. Ronnie elbowed her in the ribs, "Ow!" she exclaimed. Her friends freckled face watched Alli with amusement. Suddenly, she ws glad Defensive Magick was the onewizarding class she did not have with Adrian. The last thing she needed was to be enveloped in his brooding again. To be honest, Alli was beginning to become very irritated with Adrian's mood swings. "Now, wands out, if you please," Professor Moriah instructed, holding up her own as an example, "and repeat after me." The young professor cleared her throat before speaking the incantation aloud, "mé iarr scaoil sciath chosanta chun a chosanta féin." The Irish syllables flowed easily from Professor Moriah's mouth and the flame on the candle danced to obey. The students watched in awe; a soft, warm light exploded from the end of Professor Moriah's wand and formed a slightly concave shape. The roar of a fire assailed their ears, though in a welcoing manner rather than a frightening one. Professor Moriah only held the shield for a few moments before releasing the element once more, her purpose served. The candle flame too settled, cheerily burning as before. No one thought the lesson was beneath them. "As you know, I am blessed by Brighid to have a unique bond with fire. The wood that my wand is made of reflects that, as Rowan is sacred to the fire goddess. Look to your own wands to offer a hint as to what element you are best suited for. The incantation remains the same regardless of your element save scaoil can be substituted with uisce, aer, or talamh to reflect the element you choose to summon." Alli stared at her Willow wand. Professor Moriah had suggested she had a gift for the element Air, but Willow was typically associated with water, wasn't it? Hough there was a scratching at he back of her mind that suggested Willow was also tied to the fire goddess Brighid as well. Her head began to ache. "I have divided you into pairs," Professor Moriah turned and waved her wand in a single arc in front of the board and neatly written names sparkled into existence, "Please rearrange yourselves so you are near to your assigned partners." There was a great rustling and rumble, Ronnie groaned when she saw she had been paired with Lottie. "At least one of us will have fun this period," she chided before bouncing away in typical Ronnie fashion. Alli wrinkled her brow in confusion and turned to study the chalkboard, which she had not looked at yet. "Howdy, partner," Sam Braeden's warm baritone made Alli jump and spin around, "Opps, didn't mean to scare you!" "Don't you know it's rude to sneak up behind someone?" Alli repremanded. "Didn't know saying 'hi' was a crime," he held up his hands in innocence. "Sorry," Alli relaxed, "you just startled me." Sam chuckled, Alli felt she should be angry with him, but his soft laughter seemed to cast a calming spell over her. "So, what element should we try to channel first?" Sam asked. "I don't know, won't make much of a difference to me." Alli's shoulders slunk. "And why's that?" "Ha," Alli spat, "you obviously haven't heard." "Hear what?" Alli crossed her arms and look directly at him, "I'm not the most accomplished wizard." "Oh?" Sam wasn't judgmental, he even had that mischevous glint in his eye again, the one that told Alli he was not quite buying her eplanation. She felt the urge to continue in an equaly lighthearted tone. "Quite pathetic, really," she said with a hind of a smile. "Mr. Braeden, Ms. Callahan," Professor Moriah's sharp tone brought both out of their merriment, "I do hope you plan to practice this term?" "Sorry, Professor," Sam grinned sheepishy, the very image of contriteness. "I expected better from you, Ms. Callahan," Professor Moriah continued, peering directly at Alli. "Sorry," Alli muttered, then she closed her eyes and began mouthing random words, as if she were saying the enchantment under her breath. Satisfied, Professor Moriah went to assist Ronnie and Lottie; and Alli re-opened her eyes. "Well, that was close," Sam comented. "She's right though, we should actually be practicing." Alli replied. On a whim, Alli attempted to summon aer, or air in the modern tongue. As usual, it took her several tries before she managed to produce the slightest puff of air. Alli resorted to claiming the bowl with incense from the table where she and Sam were working with another pair of Defensive Magick students. When she fared only slightly better, she began shaking her wand in frustration. "Hey, hey, hey!" Sam's hand went to her wrist, the familiar tingle stilling Alli's frantic movements. "I give up!" She exclaimed. "No, you dont," it was Sam's turn to reprimand, "maybe you are just trying to manipulate the wrong element." Alli narrowed her eyes at him, disbelief crowding her features. In spite, she shoved the incense aside and seized the only other marble bowl not in use, the candle. She held her wand daintily, not expecting much to happen, and softly spoke the enchantment with perfect pronunciation and cadence. Instead of being shaped into a shield, the flame flared up. Eyes wide, Alli tossed her wand to the floor. The flame just as quickly calmed and returned to the merrily flickering candle as if nothing had happened at all. Alli saw that the rest of her table and half of the classroom was now staring. Without consideration, she grabbed her schoolbacg and stalked out the door. Sam swept up the fallen piece of willow and chased after her. "Alli, wait up!" his call echoed in the empty corridor. "Why should I?" She spat, still intent on her course. "Because running away from your problems wont solve them." His honestly spoken words caused her feet to stop. Tears were now streaming down her cheeks. "I don't belong here," Alli told him without turning to face him, "I never have." "I don't believe that." Tentatively,Sam rached a hand towards her. "Why should you, you don;t know how utterly worthless I am when it comes to magic." "That's not what I've heard." Alli turned towards him then, her eys glistening. "Yeah, and what have you heard?" "That you are actually quite impressive," he held up her wand, "When you don;t have to worry about this." "Great, I'm a wizard who can't use a wand to save her life, wonderful," she commented with sarcasm. "I think it is a great stregnth," Sam responded, "it means you will never be helpless." Gently, he laid the wand in her palm, "I think you need to try the elementl shield spell again, without the wand in your hand." "Alli?" Alli and Sam whipped their head around to see Adrian jogigng down the hallway. "What are you doing here?" Alli couldn't leave the shock out of her voice. "I felt," Hid hand started towards his chest, but he evidently thought better of it with Sam there, and his hand dropped, "something told me I should find you," Adrian's eyes narorwed as he took in Sam and how closely Alli was standing next to him, "clearly the matter is well in hand. "Adrian, wait." Alli reached for him, "Sam was just returning my wand." "Uh huh," Adrian was incredulous. "It's true, man," if Sam felt Adrian's appearance was an unwelcome intrusion, he didn't show it, "There was a slight mishap in Defensive Magick, she ran out in a hurry and left her wand behind." With a bow, Sam took his leave, disappearing in the opposite direction from that which Adrian had come. 'What was that about?" Adrian said a minute later. "Pretty much what Sam said," Alli told him, noting that Adrian had yet to take her outstretched hand, "We were working on elemental shield spells. As usual, my legendary wizarding skills came to the forefront and I'm pretty sure Fire is pissed at me." Chapter 9 It was a balmy autumn day. Alli Callahan was strolling contentedly by the stream that ran through the campus of Finn Murdock Prepatory Academy. It was Saturday, which meant no classes. Normally, Alli would have a visit with her family on weekends, but this week her parents were taking a getaway weekend for just the two of them. Ronnie had gone home last night, but Adrian had roped her into dinner with his mother. Since Sam was also stuck at Fynn Murdock for the weekend, she had agreed to go over lines with him as Professor Alleyn wanted them to start getting 'off-book' next week. Alli found a shady spot, a rock right at the stream's edge. She sat down and pulled off her shoes, allowing her feet to dangle. She reached a toe into the water, but it was much too cold, her feet hung out in the air. She felt at peace. They snuck up behind her, Alli had no chance to escape before she heard, "Oy, not so tough without lover-boy are ya?" With a groan she peered over her shoulder at the unmistakable shape of Cade and Brian, "Great," she muttered and deliberatly returned her attention to the horizon before her. "Hey, I don't think she heard you," Brian explained. "Course she did, dolt; she's just to skared to face us," Cade sneered, baiting her, "I bet she doesn't even have a wand!" "Not that she could use it anyway," Brian attemted to be witty. Alli's fists clenched, but she kept her resove to ignore them, "What about it, little girl?" Cade continued, "Hey! I'm talking to you!" Cade pressed his hands solidly against her back and shoved. Alli had no time to scream, the water was like a thousand knives pricking her skin. Luckily the stream was not deep, but she was soaked and covered in mud. Hypothermia would be inevitable if she didn;t dry off and soon. Angrily, she spun to face them. "As graceful as a duck!" Brian was rolling on the ground. "And as gorgeous as a pidgeon!" Cade joined in his brother's merriment, though he stayed standing. "I'm warning you," Alli hissed. "Oh, I'm sooo scared!" Cade did not see the light flash in her eyes Alli thought, if looks could shoot daggers . . . Without warning, the stream started churning about her ankles. Sharp spikes began forming as the anxious water froze. The ice crystals shot towards Cade and Brian. "EEEEEEEE!!!!!" Cade screamed, higher pitched than anything Alli could muster. He grabbed for his brother and yanked, clearing the area just as the frozen spikes came crashing into the ground right where he had been standing. Alli watched in wonder as the ice vanished upon contact and the water stilled. She stepped out of the stream, which somehow seemed less cold now and was amazed to find that her clothes were all but dried; Dried mud still caked her shirt, but it would wash out. She returned to the dormitories in a daze. A shower was the first order of business. That done and her soiled clothes already in the washer, she went in search of the one person she could think of that might be able to help her make sense of whatever the heck had just happened: Professor Adena Moriah. "I was wondering when you might come to see me," Professor Moriah spoke in her usual cadence as Alli entered. Professor Moriah's office was pleasant, much more welcoming than any of the other offices Alli had ever visited. It was open and filled with books. A fireplace crackled merrily and a huge picture window looked out over the school gardens. "I know it's a little early for the hearth, but the fire comforts me, as I'm sure you can deduce from what you know of me." "Uhh . . ." now that she was here, Alli wasn't quite sure how to voice her concerns. "Relax, Ms. Callahan, I don't bite," Professor Moriah laughed then, an equally merry sound. Alli was suddenly reminded how close in age she was to the young professor. "Please, call me Alli," she offered, opening the wondow to the possibilty that maybe one day she could address Professor Moriah in such an informal manner. Perhaps after graduation. "Well, Alli," Professor Morah prompted, "Why don;t we begin with what brought you here today; what was 'the straw that broke the camel's back' so to speak?" "Well . . ." Alli took a breath, "I was relaxing by the stream, alone, and these two guys came and started giving me a hard time--" "Cade Moorebyrne and Brian Garrett?" Professor Moriah cut it for clarification. "Yes." "Those two are troublemakers . . . pray continue." "Well, I was trying to ignore them because they are always giving me a hard time. Of course, that riled them up more and Cade shoved me into the water." Alli waited for further comment from Professor Moriah, but none came, so she continued, "that of course made me angry and the next thing I knew the water started bubbling and ice crystals went flying after them!" Alli waited, barely breathing, for the professor to process this information and probably tell her she was imagining things. Who would believe that she, Alli Callahan, and sent ice flying at the school bullies? It's not like there was any evidence of this impressive bit of magic. Heck, Alli barely believed it herself. "It certainly is an unusual case. . ." Professor Moriah spoke carefully, "But it's certainly not unheard of for a young wizard to be a late bloomer." "But, professor, I don't think I can be counted as a 'late bloomer' if I'm still as useless with a wand as ever." "Possibly not," the young fire mistress aquiesced, "but it certainly is singular." "What am I supposed to do?" Alli pleaded, "I can't go on like this. I never know when something is going to happen! I can't control it." "Alli, listen to me," Professor Moriah bent don so she was face to face with Alli, "Don't ever call yourself worthless. You can't channel your magic through a wand. So what? Clearly you're meant for far more than mere wand twirling. I would suggest working on channeling the gifts you have been blessed with rather than trying to force your magic to conform to what Fynn Murdock expects." "Are you telling me to give up in class?" "Not at all!" Professor Moriah sounded generally horrified, "I'm proposing you change your tactics. You are in your final year, wands are no longer required in all your classes and most professors should push you to perform magic without one. I believ that with the wand out of the equation, you will find magic much less challenging. Your tool has become a thing of hinderance for you, set it aside for now and see what happens." Alli was uncertain, it was clearly written in her features. Nonetheless, she agreed to a trial run of Professor Moriah's proposal. She would forgo using her wand in all wizarding courses for the time being. Thus with an handshake and the promise that Professor Moriah would be willing to answer any and all questions to the best of her ability that might come up, Alli went to meet Adrian in much higher spirits. Daniella Raffello stood nervously at the main gate. She refused to enter the grounds of Fynn Murdock and instead would wait for her son out in what she deemed the 'real' world. After Adrian's father had left her alone and pregnant all those years ago, she wanted nothing to do with magical world or the people within it. She had nearly suffered a nervous breakdown when her son had been accepted into Fynn Murdock and she had been informed that her baby boy was a wizard. Still, in spite of her personal prejudices against the craft, Daniella Raffello tried to be supportive. Alli served as a neutral buffer between mother and son; she made Daniella more comfortable because of her less than stellar magical abilities and she made Adrian more comfortable because he wasn't the only wizard present. It was an unusual arrangement to be sure, but one Alli took on gladly. Adrian needed his mother and Daniella needed her son. Alli warmly greeted her. "Daniella!" Alli had been addressing Adrians mother by her given name for months now, "How nice to see you!." "Alli," the nervous woman relaxed and gave her a hug. She released Alli and regarded her son; Adrian stood awkwardly with his hands in his pockets, "Aren't you going to come give your mother a hug?" "Of course," Adrian murmeres and wrapped his arms around Daniella for a few seconds before releasing her again. "Well, now that that's settled," Daniella continued, "Where should we have dinner?" Daniella Raffello was an atttractive woman, sun-tanned with golden hair. If one didn't know any better, they would think she was the mother of the bubbly Alli rather than the surly youth beside her. Personally, Alli thoght this caused more than a lottle contention between mother and on growing up, if Adrian didnt take after his mother, that meant he must take after his father. Considering how Daniella avoided magic in all forms, to the point where she wouldn't even take Adrian to magic shows when he was a kid, the fact that Adrian must take after the man who sparked that avoidance, how could it not effect their relationship? "Um, I--" Adrian turned to Alli for help. "Well, there's a Chinese buffet not too far away," Alli offered helpfully, "and the Marina has a nice seafood and salad selection. If you want to go a little farther, there's also a nice family restarant about 20 minutes out that has the best spaghetti for miles around." "One of these days," Daniella looked pointedly at her son, "You will have to come over and have some real Italian cooking." "Uh . . .You remeber Alli's a vegetarian, right mom?" Adrian sputtered. "Of course!" Daniella laughed, "I'd make sure I had sufficient meat-free selections." "As lovely as this is, it's getting late and I'm more than a little hungry," Alli cut in, emparrassed. "Right, my car is at the public lot down the block," Daniella anwered, glancing nervously at the Fynn Murdock facade, "Why don't we talk while we walk." Adrian shrugged, Alli rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand, tugging him along in Daniella's wake. "So, umm," Daniella began, "How's your studies this term, Adrian?" "Good," he supplied, "I'm doing pretty well in English and History, and Alli's helping me in Trig. My . . . other classes are still my strongest, though." "But Adrian could probably get into just about any college," Alli broke in before Daniella could distance herself from her son, "we were planning on touring the local university next weekend, weren't we?" She nudged Adrian. "Oh, yeah," he wrinkled his brow in confusion, "that's next weekend, is it?" "Wonderful!" Daniella brightened, luckily she did not catch on to Alli's hastily formulated story. "Yeah, we thought cince this was such a nice town, maybe the university might catch at least one of our fancies." Alli said with a laugh. By this point they had reached Daniella's car and they climbed in. Daniella was much more talkative now that the discussion had veered away from the touchy subject of wizardry and she openly chatted with Alli while Adrian sat brooding with his arms crossed. At the restaurant, they had opted for the one at the Marina, they were seated in a bright window booth. After they had ordered their meals, Alli opted for a garden salad and a creamy potato soup, Daniella attempted to engage the teenagers in conversation. "So, what sort of mischeif have you two been getting into lately?" "Well, I've been mentoring a freshman guy named Nate," Adrian offeed something his mother might approve of, "he's a good kid, though sometimes his nerves get the better of him." "That nice of you," Daniella tried to sound pleased, but the looming that her son was mentoring a fellow student at a wizarding school cast a shadow in her speech, "What about you, Alli?" "I've been reharsing Romeo and Juliet for drama class . . ." "Oh? DO tell!' It was obviousDaniella found drama class a safe subject "Erm, Professor Alleyn wanted to do the play and my roomate Ronnie is playing Mercutio . . ." "Isn't mercutio a boy's part?" "Traditionally, yes. But if you think about it, when the play was written, all the roles were played by men so," Alli shrugged. "And what role do you have?" "Alli is playing Juliet," Adrian startled them both by speaking. "Really?" Alli bshfully nodded, "Congratulations!" Daniella turned to her son, "Have you been helping her learn her lines, yes?" Adrian's jaw dropped, "I think I might draft adrian to help backstage," Alli came to his rescue, "I wouldn't subject him to goin over lines with me." "Pity," Daniella commented. Just then, the waiter arrived and placed a bowl of clam choder in front of her, "Oh, thank you!" Alli took her potato soup in turn, smiling her thanks at the waiter. Neither noticed Adrian staring at Daniella's bowl. Without warning, he knocked the spoon from his mother's hand. "Adrian!" Daniella was horrified. Alli watched in confusion as the waiter retreated with the same pleasant expression as before, as if nothing unusual had happened. Realization dawned and the leaned over to study Daniella's soup. "Look what you've done!" Daniella chided her son, grabbing a napkin to dab at the chowder decorating her pants, "What on earth has gotten into you?" "Skullcap?" Alli asked no one in particular. "Excuse me?" Daniella halted her actions, Adrian nodded. "Someone put Skullcap in your clam chowder, mom," Adrian explained. "Is that bad?" Daniellas eyes widened in fear. "Not necessarily," Alli attempted to console her, "but too much can cause some . . . issues." Daniella's lower lip started trembling, both Alli and Adrian could see the anxiety. "It's not fatal!" Adrian reached for her, but Daniella shrugged away from his hand, "it more like the effects after you have too much alcohol." "Yeah, too much skullcap can make you dizzy, or put you in a stupor," Alli chimmed in, Daniella allowed her to place her hand on her arm, "and just like alcohol, it has been linked to liver damage." "But you'll be fine, "Adrian continued, "You didn't have any." Alli caught sight of the same waiter and left Adrian to comfort Daniella. She reached him right before he disappeared into the kitchen and tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me." Alli spoke. "Yes, may I help you?" if the waiter was irritated, he didn't show it. "I was just wondering if you've made any changes to your clam chowder recently." Alli asked sweetly. 'Not that I know of, why?" "Well, we just happend to notice that the clam chowder you gave my boyfriend's mother over there had an unusual herb sprinkled on top. I was wondering if you could tell me what it is." "Miss, the only herb we place on top of our clam choder is a bit of parsley for a garnish." Teh waiter appeared helpless, "I'd be more than willing ot get a fresh bowl if you like." "That won't be necessary, I was just curious," Alli replied, "thank you for your time." The waiter looked after her with a baffled expression. Alli had confirmed her suspicions. "What was that about?" Adrian asked as she resumed her seat at the table. "Just as I thought, the waiter had no clue the soup had been tampered with," Alli then leaned close to adrian wo whisper, "He was under a spell." "I think i'm ready to leave," Daniella announced, some semblance of composure returned, "Would you two like to finish your dinner before I call for the check?" Alli and Adrian looked at eachother. Alli had lost her appetite in the excitement. "I think we're good," Adrian spoke for the both of them. "Fine, I'm going to run to the ladies' room." They watched Daniella go. A moment later, Alli rose to follow; someone was targeting Daniella and neither she nor Adrian felt comfortable leaving her alone until they were certain she would be alright. "Adrian's not his father, you know," Alli said when the door was closed, they were alone, "He tries so hard every day to prove it too." "I know, he's a good boy," Daniella dug into her purse for a tissue to dab her eyes. "It's hard for him," Alli sighed. "Well, I don't make it any easier," Daniella sniffed, "but you do." "Me." "You don't think I see the way he looks at you?" Daniella turned, "or the way that soemthing is not right today?" "Oh, you noticed too," Alli flushed again. "What is going on, Alli." "I wish I knew," Alli paced, "One day we were as happy as ever, and the next he just started keeping more and more to himself." "Mybe he just needs time to think about his future," Daniella shrugged, somewhat calmer, "he'll be eighteen soon . . . old enough to make his own decisions." "Maybe," Alli conceded, "but it's odd all the same." "Don't worry," Daniella placed a comforting hand on Alli this time, "he'll come around sooner or later. What's that?" Alli had absentmindedly began toying with her tree of life. "This? Just something Adrian gave me on my birthday." "Let me see that," to Alli's shock, Daniella took up the charm and stared at it intently, "I've seen this before . . . something very much like it anyway." Daniella's eyes snapped up, "is there another part of this?" "Yeah," Alli was alarmed, "Adrian has another that this one fits into." "Of course!" Daniella dropped the tree and ran her fingers through her hair, just like Adrian sometimes did. Alli couldn't help but smirk at this shared idiosyncrasy shared by mother and son. "Daniella, what--" "Promise me you will never stop wearing that!" Daniella's exclamation made her jump. "I--" "Promise me!" Daniella was wild, she shook Alli. "I promise!" Alli spat.' "Good," Daniella relaxed, "wonderful." "Um, forgive me for asking . . . . but why should I never stop wearing this?" Alli clasped the charm, it was warm against her palm. "Oh, um . . ." Daniella visibly wracked her brains for a plausible explantion for her outburst, "because you should never foget your first love." This answer was dissatishfying, but it was abundantly clear that Daniella intended to say no more on the subject. Alli suspected that Daniella held some knowlegde that might explain why the necklaces reacted so strangely sometimes. But whether it was she didnt want to say anything because it was magic related, or something magic was keeping her from saying, Daniella wasn't going to reveal anything more today. Chapter 10 Somewhat reluctantly, Alli went to meet Sam. Since the gymnatorium was closed for set construction, they had agreed to meet in one of the magic practice rooms. Daniella's strange actions were on repeat in Alli's mind. Sam had not arrived yet, so she relaxed on a 'foof' and closed her eyes. "Good morning!" Sam cheerfully called. Alli jumped awake, uncertain whether she had dozed off or not. "Jesus, Sam, you scared me!" "Soory, I thought we were rehearsing, I can come back later if you prefer?" Sam teased, and made to leave. "You're an ass." "Now, is that a polite way to address you're pretend husband?" He cocked an eyebrow, Alli was once again in awe at how he possessed that disarming charm and good looks and weemed to put so little effort into it. "Romeo and Juliet don't get married until the end of act II." "A thousand pardons, my lady." Sam bowed. "Might as well get started," Alli shifted her weight and attempted to stand. "Ho!" Sam reached a hand out to her, "I think your 'foof' has other ideas." "These thing's are so hard to get out of sometimes!" Alli begrudgingly took his hand. Sam evidently had overcompensated because suddently Alli found herself falling into his well-muscled chest. Hastily, she backed away, "Sorry about that." "Believe me, Alli," Sam's pleasant laughter rumbled, "I don't mind." Alli smiled awkwardly, "So, should we start with cueing eachother, or do you want to just cover the scenes we share?" "How about we just do our scenes for now." Sam said after a few moments consideration. Te play was mostly blocked by now, so Alli and sam went about arranging the various furniture in the room to represent the set pieces they needed for direct interaction. Scene y sc3ene, act by act. They went over some scenes multiple times. A rather low=key rehearsal until they reached Act III, scene 5. Somehow, the intimacy of the scene struck Alli as she and Sam organized some 'foof's into a bed. "We're really doing this play, aren't we?" Alli wondered aloud. "Of course we are," Sam commented, placing the last 'foof', "What did you think we were doing?" "I know," Alli glared, "It's just suddenly so real now, I mean . . . in a few weeks we'll be doing this for an audience." "It's alright to be nervous," Sam conceded, giving her shoulder a squeeze, "Do you need a break?" Alli sighed, "No, just a moment to collect my thoughts." Sam stepped away. Alli was glad, he did not need to see the conflicting emotions coursing through her mind right now. Her body's betrayal with its physical excitemnt at her gorgeous co-stars nearness. She loved Adrian, Alli knew this without a doubt, but somehow, Sam turned her on so much more than Adrian did. She sent a silent prayer that her inhibitions wouldn't completely vanish and allow her to take this role farther than it should. She also hoped Sam was the kind of guy who would not take advantage of her uncertainty, because lord knows this play provided ample oppertunity. When she was ready, she turned to face Sam, but he was already reclining comfortably on the 'foof' bed. He beckoned her with a look. With an eye roll, Alli went and lay next to him. A few more shift and they were in readiness. Alli closed her eyes to feign sleep, as Professor Alleyn had directed her to do. She concentrated on her breathing to try to take her ming off the warm stregnth of Sam she was currently snuggled against. It was not long before he moved. Alli kept her eyes closed, but she could sense him rising, gazing upon her as he did so; fully consumed by his role as Romeo to her Juliet. His lips brushed hers. Somehow, it seemed they lingered much longer than they should have. Alli wasn't sure whether she was pleased or disturbed by this. Her cue given, Alli stretched as if she had just been awoken. "Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day. It was the nightengale and not the lark That pierced the hollow of thine ear:" Sam had crossed to the other side of the room, where the door to the balcony would be on the stage. Following his blocking, he came to crouch by the 'bed'. Alli's heartbeat quickened at teh sight of those emerald gree eyes of his, she continued her line, "Nightly she sings on yond Pomegranate tree. Believe me, love, it was the nightengale." "It was the lark, the herald of the morn," Sam easily managed the transition between her lines and his, "no nightengale. Look, love, what envious streaks do lace the severing clouds in yonder east. Night candles are burnt out, and jocund day Stands tiptoe on the misty mountaintops. I must be gone and live, or stay and die." Alli looked towards where the windo was in their fictional world. Inexplicably, she could almost see the light of the dawn, even though she knew in was night and she was really looking at a poster of the Wiccan Rede. Juliet's desperation sunk into her core, her voice pleading that what she suggested was really true, though she knew Romeo was speaking reason. "yond light is not daylight, i know it, I: it is some meteor that the sung exhales to be to thee this night a torch bearer and light thee on thy way to Mantua." That same giddyness swelled up, Alli could hardly belive it, but it looked like Sam found her equally entrancing. Curious, that she too could possess the same type of magnetism that drew her to the cheerful new boy. Surprising herself, instead of tugging at Romeo's hand for the next line, she seized hold of Sam's beltloops, "Therefore stay yet, thoug needst not to be gone." Sam's eyes widened at Alli's sudden change in the blocking.Alli felt strangely turned on by this. Therefore, she sudeenly found she did not mid the closeness, she was actually desiring more. Eagerly, Sam leapt onto the 'foof's. "Let me be ta'en; let me be put to death; I am content, so thou wilt have it so. I'll say yond grey is not the morning's eye; 'Tis but the pale reflex of cynthia's brow." Sam's hands roamed freely, caressing Alli in a way that would certainly make her blush if she were not equally as exploratory with her own. Sam was fully on top of her now, which was most assuredly not in the blocking. Between his ministrations, Sam somehow managed to remeber his lines, "Nor that is not the lark whose notes do beat The vaulty heaven so high above our heads. I have more care to stay than will to go:" The carresses were peppered with kisses now as he continued, "Come, death, and welcome; juliet wills it so. How is't, my soul? Let's talk,it is not day." "What the hell, Alli?!" The new voice immediately halted all actions. Dreading that her ears had not decieved her, she looked towards the classroom door. Adrian stood there, his pain clearly reflected in his posture and expression. The hallway was unusually quiet, perhaps more Fynn Murdock students had gone home for the weekend than Alli originally thought. Her hear was pounding, she was half surprised it didn't echo. She was not sure what had possibly posessed her to be so open with Sam. Now she was going to pay the price, but she had to try to save what little face she could. She took a deep breath and knocked on Adrian's door. There was no answer, but heavy metal music screamed in the room. "Adrian, open up!" She pounded the door again, "I know you're in there!" Still the door remained obstinently closed. She pounded the door still harder, refusing to give him the satisfaction of shutting her out. Not this time. "Adrian!" When he still did not respond, Alli took a breath and thought to herself for a moment. Resolved, she placed both her hands upon the door, palm to wood. The music grated against her ears, but she fought to tune it out. She gave a push and the door flew open. "Jesus Christ!" Adrian whirrled, his wand aimed strait at Alli's heart. Alli did not miss a beat, the door swung closed again, though she did not touch it, or even look at it. Another glance at Adrians stereo sent silence throughout the room. That done, she started walking towards Adrian. "I don't wanna talk right now, Alli," he growled. ' She shook her head, her eyes were bright, she could feel the power coursing through her as it had at the stream. This was different though, less frantic, bred of frustration and passion rather than fear. "Back off, or I'll--" his wand flew out of his hand. He was helpless now, his face betrayed him. Alli closed in. She seized him and pressed her lips against his, her power adding to her stregnth so he could not push her away. The kiss deepend and he began to yield. The hardness of Alli's Tree of Life pressed against her skin, she could feel it growing hotter. The back of her mind screamed that the charm would burn her, that it should be torn away. Alli's consciousness refused to listen, however. Without warning, there was a clink and Alli knew the neclaces had fused again. With a groan, Adrian lifted Alli without breaking the kiss and carried her over to his bed. Alli wrapped her legs around his waist until she felt the soft mattress against her back. He pulled away and Alli was about to protest, but then she saw his focus. Suddenly, she was immensly glad she had worn a button-down shirt today. Adrian's fingers deftly released the buttons, trailing each opening with soft kisses. When the final button opened, his wand brushed the fabric away. Alli raised herself up so He couls pull her shirt off the rest of the way and toss it to the floor. Not wishing to be outdone, Alli found the hem of his shirt and began pushing it up to reveal his torso. When they came to the fused necklaces, Alli let out a cry of disappintment. Adrian took one look to determine the problem, then he tore his shirt. Alli sat up and straddled Adrian, who leaned back as her fingers deflty traced the lines of his chest and abdomen. She leaned over to kiss him again. This only lasted a few moments before he lifted her while he sat up. Alli sighed in delight as she felt Adrians welcome weight press her into the matress once more. Then his fingers found the waistband of her jeans and she squirmed as he worked to free her from them. She kicked them away , leaving nothing between her and him except her bra and panties. He pressed against her, the pressure of his arousal spurred her to action. Without hesitation, she tugged at the fastenings of his pants. Chapter 11 Alli streteched and opened her eyes. This was not her room. She flipped over to gaze upon Adrian whol looked to be still fast asleep. She nuzzled against his side, breathing in his scent and warmth. She wrapped her arm around his stomach and relaxed, intending to go right back to sleep. "Nope," Adrian murmered and pulled her more on top of him. "You're ornery," She teased, Adrian smiled sleepily, his eyes still closed. "Go back to sleep," he slurred in a sleepy morning voice, "no school today." With a contented sigh, she lay her head on his chest. The sight of Adrian's circular charm glinting against his bare chest caoused her to pause, she did not remeber when they had separated. Tenderly, she traced the chain and then lifted the charm, her thumb running over it against her palm. "Adrian?" "Hmm?" He was almost unconscious again. "Wher'ed you find the necklaces?"She lifted her eyes to look at him without lifting her head she could only see the underside of his jaw. "Why?" "Just curious," she told him, "It's weird how they glow and fuze at odd times." "At that little New Age shop on Main," he sighed, "Teh saleslady helped me pick it out. I told her it was for my girlfriend's birthday. She told me these were very special. I thouhgt she just meant it was a romantic gesture, now I wonder if maybe she saw my lanyard." "And you didn't go back later and ask why they act the way they do?" Alli pressed on. "You're not gonna let me go back to sleep, are you?" It was Alli's turn to smile, "Nope." "Well then," quicker than Alli would have thought possible for Adrian in the mornings, he had flipped her over and pinned her beneath him. "Adrian!," Alli laughed. He grinned and held her to him, he kissed her. After a few minute, Alli broke away and asked, "Aren't you going to answer my question?" Adrian sat up then and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Alli pushed herself to her elbows and curiously studied his back. Then she got to her knees and hugged him from behind, her chin resting agaisnt the base of his neck. "Somehow it didn't seem that important," Adrian sighed and turned towards her, "I've got to ask . . . that little show you and Sam were putting on . . . that's not quite how that scene is supposed to look, is it?" Embarrassed, Alli looked away. She knew it was only a matter of time before that was brought up. "No," she admitted, no point in lying. "I thought so," Adrian commented, his mood impossible to read. "Look," Alli oleaded, "Hinestly, I don't know what happened . . . but you weren't exacly warm and welcoming these past few weeks, either" "I know," Adrian looked away now, "I can't explain it, but it's like there's been this weight pressing against me." "A weight? You've been downright cold most of the time. God! We haven;t been anywhere close to . . . this!" She gestured vaguely about the room, "Since my birthday over a month ago!" "Alli,"Adrian grabbed her wrists and looked into her eyes, "I just told you why I've been acting like an ass and I wish I could give you a better explanation, but there it is. There was something pushing me to be cold and vanished the moment our necklaces fused last night." Alli sunk, "A spell?" "I don't know, maybe," he shrugged, "It' wasn't exactly helpful watching Sam Braeden draw your attention the way he does. " "I guess not, I don't want it to happen, it just does!" "Shh, Alli!" Adrian gentrly brushed a lock of hair from her eyes, "I understand . . . Sam is charming. He's one of those guys that all the girls are after and any attention he gives them flatters." Alli opened her mouth to speak, but Adrian pressed a finger against her mouth, he continued, "I just don't like that he is targeting my girlfriend." "I'm sorry!, "Alli broke in as soon as he removed his hand, "I--" Adrian silenced her with another kiss, "I know. You don't need to apologize . . . unless you've done more than get caught up in a scene, I don't want to hear it." "Of course not!" Alli expounded, "Adrian, I--" "Don't worry about it, you are here with me, "he caressed her cheek, "not Sam." He pulled her in for a kiss again, a gentle one. "I love you," Alli whispered. Adrian smiled, a twinkle in his eyes, "I love you too, don't ever forget that." They went to the cafeteria for lunch. Their laughter and merriment was infectious, the few students there couldn't help but be amused. People who would have never given Adrian Raffello a second glance now openly gaped at his newfound joy. A slam sounded from somewhere behind them as Alli reached across Adrian for a muffin. They turned and Adrian instictively pulled Alli close to his side. Sam quickly offered an explanation, "tray slipped." He set about righting his meal. Alli and Adrian found a table and sat down. About ten minutes later, Nate stopped at their table. "Someone left this for Adrian," the freshman explained in a flat voice as he dropped an envelope on the table. While Adrian stared at the letter addressed in sharp, bold handwriting in black ink, Alli thought to thank the boy, but Nate had already gone. "Who's it from?" She asked Adrian instead. 'Don't know, there's no return address," he gingery lifted the envelope. Now that Alli could get a good look at the envelope, she could see it was high quality stationary. "Why deliver it on Sunday though?" Alli queried. Adrian shrugged, "No stamp." "Must have been hand delivered by someone." "Probably," Adrian tucked the letter into his pocket, "I think I should open this in private. Maybe we could track down Nate and see if he knows who sent it." "Unlikely," Alli stated. "Why?" "He had the same dazed expression as that waiter yesterday." "You think someone enchanted him?" Adrian leaned in closer. 'What other explanation can there be?" After lunch, Alli and Adrian sat under the Willow tree, enjoying what was one of the last Sundays they would be likely to have nice weather until spring. They had not noticed anyone for a while. The anonymous letter was pressing on both their minds, finally Alli spoke. "Might as well get it over with." Adrian eyed her before begrudgingly pulling the envlope out of his pocket. The crispness had not wavered, the envelope was as pristine as before. He stared at the address, the letters cutting almost cruelly against the creamy paper. His hand began to shake. "Do you want me to open it?" Alli asked. Wordlessly, Adrian nodded and handed it over. Alli took the paper, it was strangely cold, even though it had spent the past couple hours in Adrian's pocket. She turned the envelope over. It was sealed with black wax, a sharp-clawed paw print decorated with silver triskels embedded in the seal. She reached towards the wax, "Ow!" She snatched her hand away, "It bit me!" The letter flew out of her hand and made its way towards Adrian. He scrambled away, the note settled on the ground beneath him. When he made no move to touch it, the paper inexplicably jumped up and started nudging him. Adrian swatted at the envelope, but that just made it more insistent. "I don't think it's going to stop until you open it," Alli commented, barely containing a giggle. "Fine," Adrian grunted and grabbed the note before it could attack him again and tore open the seal. Its mission complete, the now empty envelope floated to the ground as paper should and stayed there. Alli watched Adrian scan the letter, written on the same premium paper, then toss it to the ground, a horrified expression on his face. Curious, Alli scooted closer so she could peer at the letter lying face-up in the dirt under the tree. Right away, she could tell that the same meticulously neat hand as in the address penned it. Then she read the words: My dear boy, By now you should realize that the magic inside you is very great. Soon you will be eighteen and all that potential will blossom and you will be the wizard you were born to be. While I regret my absence in your life and fear that it might have given you a rather negative opinion of me, I hope that in time you will come to see that it was necessary. Believe me when I say that I loved your mother and that your very existence is a reflection of that. But the time has come for you to take your rightful place as my son and heir. I have many great things to teach you and I look forward to our meeting at Samhain. I will be waiting in the forest under the gnarled oak tree. Your Father, Ciar Riaghán,Toirdhealbhach,An Asarlaí "Bit full of himself, isn't he?" Alli attempted humor to help Adrian out of his black mood. "Very formal,"Adrian responded in a flat tone. "Please!" Alli grabbed the letter and read in a mocking voice, " 'Ciar Riaghán,Toirdhealbhach,An Asarlaí', its obvious the guy has a Narcissism Complex, does he really need to sign his letters with 'the sorcerer' tacked onto the end of his name?" "Can you be serious for a minute, Alli, please?" He begged. "Fine," she curtly answered, as an afterthought, she grabbed the fallen envelope and stuffed it into her pocket, "so, are you gonna go?" Monday afternoon, Alli rapped upon Professor Moriah's door, half expecting her to be out. She was about to leave when the door swung open and a sophomore boy came out. Alli nodded at him in polite greeting. "Are you coming in, Ms. Callahan?" Professor Moriah's voice echoed from inside the room. "Oh, yes," Alli quickly answered and scurried inside. Professor Adena Moriah sat regally behind her desk, lightly tapping her Rowan wand against her palm. Alli was once again struck by the professor's seeming youth. When she failed to say anything, Professor Moriah rose and addressed her kindly. "Now, what brings you here this afternnon? I can see you are troubled about something." "I was wondering if you might be able to identify a spell for me." "It depends, what nature of spell is it?" "Well . . ." Alli produced the rumpled envelope, "Adrian received a letter yesterday-" "And you want to know from whom it comes?" "No, not exactly," Alli turned over the envelope to show Professor Moriah the strange seal, "It was sealed with a triskel pawprint. I went to open it for him, and the thing, this will sound strange, but it bit me and then started attacking Adrian until he opened it. Have you ever heard of a spell like that?" "I can't think of any," Professor Moriah shook her head, "Speels to ensure the note is read by the person it is addressed to are fairly common, but not ones that physically attack people." "So," Alli hesitated, uncertain how to voice the concerns that had been growing in her mind since Adrian had read the letter, "Do you think it is pretty reasonable to assume that this is magic of a different sort than what we learn here?" "Officially, i'm not supposed to discuss that sort of thing with studemts," Professor Moriah paced about her office, 'however, I can see no harm in agreeing with your suspicions . . . I can't recall coming accross any spells like what you describe in my books." She halted suddenly and tured towards Alli, "I would say it's pretty safe to assume that the spell was not perfimed using respectable means. Have you made any progree on discovering your elemental association." "Excuse me?" Alli was caught off guard my professor Moriah's non sequeter question. "I would have thought my question was quite plain, have you experienced any more strange magick since last we spoke." "No, Brian and Cade have been leaving me alone lately . . except" Alli's face quickly turned bright red as the remembered the other night. "I take that as a yes?" yhe young professor seemed to smile. "Nothing I would want to discuss with my professor!" "I see . . ." Professor moriah's eyes twinkled as if she could read the memories now pervading Alli's thoughts. Perhaps she could, the new thought burst through her, less than G- rated thoughts. "Uh, i better go," Alli awkwardly backed away, "play rehearsal, you know." Professor Moriah's merry laughter followed her through the corridor. Chapter 12 True to their word, Alli and Adrian planned to visit the local university the following Saturday. Ronnie and Kyle joined them for the jaunt as well. And, since Adrian drove a tiny Chevy Metro, Ronnie offered to drive. As they were pulling out of the schol parking lot, Alli exclaimed. "Hey, before we leave town, let's check out that Wiccan shop on Main!" "Why?" Kyle asked from the passenger seat. "I wanted to see if they knew about something, and I was too busy to go last weekend." Alli explained. They were rehearsing Romeo and Juliet every night now so between that and homework, it was hard to find time to slip off campus. Adrian stared at her, not wanting to alert Ronnie and Kyle to Alli's ulterior motives. "The Celtic Cornerstone?" Ronnie exclaimed, "I LOVE that store!" "Of course you do," Adrian spoke under his breath, his hand covering his eyes. "If you're game, I'm game," Kyle said. Adrian gave Alli a sidelong glance as Ronnie took a way too sharp turn and made her way toward Main Street. It was not long before they were pulling up to the curb. A sight with green lettering decorated with Celtic knots advertising 'The Celtic Corner' at the intersection of Main and Eighth. 'The Celtic Corner' was like many of the so-called 'Wiccan' stores, eccentric. From the dim mood lighting to the slightly overpowering incense smoking on the retail counter, everything was tailored to the stereotype. A woman parted a beaded curtain in the back and bustled forward. "Why hello!" the woman cheerfully greeted them, "Might I help you find anything specific?" "No thank you, Mrs. Shepard," Ronnie waved, "Mind if I check out the back room?" "Ronnie, my dear! Of course you can!" Alli offered her thanks and grabbed Kyle and pulled him through the beaded curtain. "Now," Mrs. Chepard turned her attention towards Alli and Adrian, "I remeber you." "Huh?" Adrian had been distracted by a cabinet decorated by pentagrams and devils. "Yes, dreadful display," Mrs. Shepard commented, "unfortunately so many walk-ins expect that nonsense no matter how many times I try to explain to them that Wiccans do not worship the devil." "So you're a Wiccan then?" Alli asked. "Me? I'm a wizard. But I do follow alot of the practices of Wicca, yes." Mrs. Shepard studied Alli, "I take it this is the girl you were talking about?" "Oh, yes," Adrian answered, "this is Alli." "Hmm, yes . . ." the store owner circled Alli, quite like a hawk, "Yes, I see." Quickly, the woman halted her path and directed her next comment at Adrian, "It suits her well." "Excuse me, but," he scratched his head. "What suits me?" Alli said at the same time. "Why the Tree of Life, of course!" In a trice, Mrs. Shepard had placed herself between them and directed them by their wrists through the beaded curtain. Ronnie and Kyle barely looked up from the smudge bowls they were perusing. "Ah, here is where I keep my wares for the more serious wizards," Mrs. Shepard told them, "I take it you have discovered certain properties of the necklaces?" Ou of the corner of her eye, Alli noticed Ronnie tiptoe over under the guise of examining the ceremonial knives in the display behind Mrs. Shepard. Not that wizards believed in human sacrifice, but sometimes a spell called for blood and it was more impressive to use a knife rather than a thumbtack to prick a finger. There was no doubt that Ronnie was listening to evry word. "Something like that," Adrian muttered. "Is it normal for them to glow?" Alli came right out with it, Ronnie would have found out soon enough. Alli bit her lip to keep from laughing when Ronnie gasped. "Ah, so I was right!" the woman seemed very pleased with herself. "Excuse me, but right about what?" Adrian leaned in with his question. "My dear boy, that you and Alli's destinies would be tied together!" "You mean they're gonna get married?" Ronnie exclaimed, rather loudly. Kyle turned around. "Goodness no!" Mrs. Shepard laughed, "At least not necessarily. There'es more to destiny than who married whom, Ms. Wilson." Sheepishly, Ronnie dropped her gaze and shuffled back over to Kyle. To Alli's surprise and secret pleasure, he put a comforting arm around her curly-haired impish roomate. "With all due respect, what does it mean?" Undistracted by Ronnie and Kyle, Adrian pressed on. "That I cannot tell you," Mrs. Shepard shook her head, "I am a wizard, not a seer. But the fact that a draíodóir ceangal was formed in ones so young speaks of great things. "Um, I think he was asking what draíodóir ceangal meant." Alli told the woman. "Why, draíodóir ceangal is the wizard's bond, some of the most powerful magick that exists in our world . . . surely they cover that at Fynn Murdock" "Come to think of it, I think I did read something about it in one of my textbooks," Alli remarked. "If it doesn't work for young wizards, why sell the necklace to me?" Adrian inquired. "Because the necklaces don't make the draíodóir ceangal the wizards do; it just happened to be formed through the necklace. But the bond could be through a ring or a piece of pottery. On rare occasions plants an animals serve as the vessel for a draíodóir ceangal, but that is another set of variables in an already complicated bit of magick." "Because the living things can die," Alli whispered. "Exactly, or be killed," Mrs. Shepard nodded grimly, "You're lucky it formed through the necklaces. The bond will last throughout your lives so long as the necklaces are never destroyed." "So basically, I'm stuck with him?" Alli questioned. "Not in the human sense of the word, no. Once a draíodóir ceangal is formed, the wizards in question are forever linked, but that doesn't mean you don't have your separate lives. There is documentation of draíodóir ceangal that spans continents, some wizards hadn't seen eachother in thirty years or more and yet the bond called them together in times of need." "What exactly does a draíodóir ceangal do, I mean, more than just unite two wizards, but what kind of powers does it entail?" Adrian vocies the question that had been pressing on Alli since she had first heard Mrs. Shepard mention draíodóir ceangal. "Well, again, that really depends on the wizards," Mrs. Shepard shrugged, "i'm hardly an expert on the subject. I think it has the power to prevent or even break spells when the wizards are in close proximity. As well as alert the other when one is in danger, or experiencing a string emotion." "Like that day in Defensive Magick!" Ronnie exclaimed. "What are you talking about, Ronnie?" Mrs. Shepard did not seem perturbed by the girl's outburst. "Ronnie, shh!" Alli waved her hands in dismay. "Well, we were practicing elemantal shields," Ronnie ignored Alli, "and when Alli worked with fire, it just went . . ." In explanation, she waved her hands wildly above her head, making whooshing noises. "She means that instead of a shield, a wall of angry fire was formed." Kyle explained. "Then she ran off." Ronnie finished. Alli, Adrian, and Mrs. Shepard all stared in disbelief, "What?" "Thanks," Alli muttered, her face red. " Of course fire didn't work for Alli," Mrs. Shepard cut in, "Even I can tell Alli's is a much calmer power than a fire elemental's." "What?" Alli spat. "Yes, don't tell me you didn't know?" Mrs. Shepard watched all of the teenagers stare blankly at her, "No? And you eighteen! Goodness, what are they teaching in that school nowadays?" "You mean to tell me, I have an affinity for an element?" Alli questioned. "Goodness me, no! I'm not that gifted, but I have been trained that certain elements reflect certain characteristics. For example, I can tell Adrian has a hidden anger, a hidden fire." Adrian gasped, "You, on the other hand, are the calming one, the inviting one; like a pool of water on a hot day." "What about me?!" Ronnie bounced over. "You, my child, are the overly energetic one," Mrs. Shepard gave Ronnie a look that said quite plainly that it was not her turn for questions. Ronnie gulped. "So, he's fire, and I'm water?" Alli seeked clarification. "So you're characteristics reflect, from what little I can gather from having just met you, but there may be more as well. As I said, I'm not a seer." A bell somewhere announced the arrival of a new customer. Mrs. Shepard offered her apologies. "No need, we probably should be going anyway," Alli told her and followed Mrs. Shepard back through the curtain. She did not see who had come in, she turned to make sure evryone else was coming. "Why Adena! How good of you to come visit me!" Mrs. Shepards cheerful greeting caused Alli to return her attention the the new customer; who was currently hidden in an embrace by the storemistress. "Good morning, Alli," Professor Moriah nodded when she was released, "And Adrian, Ronnie, and Kyle; how nice to see all of you on a Saturday morning." "We were just leaving," Ronnie piped in. "Yeah, we were going to visit the college about thirty minutes away," Alli clarified. "Lovely," Professor Moriah smiled, "I hope you have a good time." "Thank you, we will!" Ronnie beamed. They waved as they exited the store, one after the other. They overheard Mrs. Shepard refer to them as 'charming students' before disappearing through the beaded curtain, closely tailed by Professor Moriah. Alli found herself wondering how the women knew one another because it was clear that they were quite close. The campus was beautiful, though small as far as universities go. The students seemd happy and not the least bit surprised by a couple high school aged kids wandering around aimlessly. Alli had arranged to meet with one of the admission counsellors who graciously allowed the other three to tag along on Alli's tour of campus with one of the current university students. After the tour, the counsellor shook each of their hands in turn and invited them back any time. Released from their obligations, they decided to explore things a bit more thoroughly. Kyle and Adrian headed to the science building with a promise to meet the girls later in front of the student center. "Now, lets go take a better look-see at that theatre!" Ronnie exclaimed, pulling Alli behind her. "One would think you're going to Disney World!" Alli said with a smile, allowing herself to be guided back to the performing arts center. "Like you aren't just as thrilled as I am, a real theatre! With a big fly system and everything!" Ronnie was practically drooling. "You mean the community theatre isn't enough?" "Please, while I accept your criticism, the community theatre has almost no fly space to speak of, they're lucky they have a fly-rail at all!" "I suppose it would be more interesting than the gymnatorim at Fynn." Alli ruminated just as they pulled open the door. The lobby was large with windows instead of walls on all four sides. Brick arches decorated the cavernous space. A few students were studying on plain couches tucked off to the side and an upright piano lingered in the corner begging to be played in spite of its sign requesting the opposite. The college student paid them no mind as they slipped through the double doors into the theatre proper. Someone had left the work lights on, but the tehatre seemed to be empty for the time being. Free standing chair were stacked neatly at the back of the house and a large platfor jutted out from the front of the stage, which was currently blocked off by plain black curtains. Ronnie giggled as the pulled Alli towards a set of steep stairs at the stage right side. Alli stared in wonder, dropping her arm from her friend's grasp. It was way different than being on stage in the gymnasium. Way up near the cieling, three windows looked into the theatre. Alli suspected the middle one, which was currently dark, was the tec booth. Up above her head was an iron grid interspersed with lights, there was a catwalk but clearly whoever hung those lights had to be pretty sure footed because there was no possible way to reach most of the lights from the catwalk. "Dare we view what's behind curtain number one?" Ronnie asked in a mock gameshow host voice. Before Alli could respond, Ronnie had slipped through a gap in the curtain next to the proscenium arch. Alli rolled her eyes and followed, nearly running into Ronnie in the process. The petite girl had halted mere feet from the gap, her mouth agape in wonder. The stage was HUGE! "Our whole set-up could fit in here!" Alli exclaimed. Even if the stage was not quite big enough for a full gymnasium, it was pretty darn close. "Omigod!" Ronnie had just laid eyes on the fly-rail. It was shiny and new, the tour guide had explained it had just been replaced a few years ago. What really struck them, however, was the sheer magnitude of lines. Some were labeled as electrical lines, or ones meant for lights. Alli's eyes followed the ropes up, up, up until they disappeared over the edge of the grate above the stage. "They even have a bridge!" Ronnie pointed at the hanging catwalk just inside the proscenium arch. "Pretty cool, isn't it?" The new voice drew the attention of both girls. A boy stood there, struggling to hold onto a pile of 2x4s, he looked young, perhaps twenty. "I'm Jake by the way." "I'm Alli, this is Ronnie," Alli spoke for them as her friend had apparently been struck dumb. "Cool, you thinking of transferring?" "Us?" Alli burst out, "No! We're still in high school!" "Too bad," Jake stepped around a pole and stumbled into the fly rail, "woops, I'm a terrible techie!" Past the roublesome pole, he dropped the 2x4s in the down left stage corner where a power drill was already waiting. "Maybe I'll see you here when you are out of high school." "Maybe," Ronnie said in a soft voice. Alli barely registered though, she was distracted by a low groan. "Uh, Jake--"Alli began too late. One of the lines suddenly released, an electric line was sailing down, directly above Jake's head. Ronnie screamed "HEADS!" "Woah" Jake dived out of the way. The Line came to a jarring halt about five and a half feet above where Jake had been working. Alli stared, wide eyed, chest heaving. Ronnie rushed over to the fly-rail and quickly found the problen, one of the line breaks had been opened. "Little help?" Ronnie called. Alli shook her head and crossed to her friend. Together they pulled the line until the lights were back up where they should have been and Ronnie pushed the break back into place. "Holy shit!" Jake exclaimed, "that was a rush!" Much to the girls' surprise, Jake began to laugh. "Dude, you were just about killed!' Ronnie expounded. "Naw," Jake shook his head, "It can't go lower than five feet." "What?" Alli spat. "The fly line. I guess when they replaced the old system, they opted for a different set-up so instead of being able to lower the poles all the way to the ground, they stop at about five feet." "So, i shouldn't have called 'heads'?" Ronnie ventured incredulously. "Of course you should have, if one of those lights went swinging . . ." Jake did not finish his thought. "The technical guy here is pretty safety conscious, all the lights have to have a safety cable as well as be clamped into place. He's gonna be pissed that I knocked the brake loose though." Alli opened her mouth to scold Jake for his lackadaisical approach to the peril that had just occured, but Adrian's voice echoed in the theatre. "Alli, you okay?" Adrian burst through the curtain and seized her in a big bear hug. Kyle was not far behind. "Who are you?" Jake asked. "I'm Kyle," Kyle pointed to himself, then indicated the youth still fussing over Alli, "That is Adrian." Ronnie waved. Kyle smiled at her. "Ugh, I'm fine!" Alli finally broke free. "I was so worried!" Seeing Jake's confused look, Kyle cut in, "We heard a scream, so we came running." "How did you--?" "We can talk about it on the way home," Kyle cut off Ronnie's question with a gesture towards Jake. "I think that is a brilliant idea," Adrian agreed. "I'm very confused right now," Jake interjected. "Right, sorry," Alli offered, "Adrian's a little . . . protective. So much so he can be quite rude at times." Adrian glared untill Alli elbowed him. He doubled over with an "oof!" "Yes," Ronnie joined in, "It was nice to meet you, Jake. But we do need to be going, curfew, you know." "Oh right, you guys are still high schoolers! It's weird that you don't have parent with you though." "That's because we came on our own," Kyle explained cheerfully, "We go to Fynn Murdock Prep." "Oh!" Jake's eyes widened at the name, since Fynn Murdock was prestigious even without the wizarding aspect as a factor. "Guilty!' Ronnie raised her hand, "We are preps." "Uh, Jake?" A new voice called from somewhere off stage. "Woops, gotta go to the shop!" Jake waved and scuttled through a back door leading off stage left. "What a strange kid," Adrian commented. "Now what really happened?" Kyle turned towards Ronnie. "Nothing much, slipped hand break on the fly rail," Ronnie quickly answered," did you really hear us scream?" "Not exactlly . . . " Adrian trailed off. "Loverboy here just took off while we were watching the pendulum in the science building." Kyle pointed at Adrian with his thumb. "Oh," Alli blushed. "Ooh, does it have something to do with that . . . what did Mrs. Shepard call it . . . " Ronnie wrinkled her nose in concentration, "the draíodóir ceangal?" "Uh, maybe," Adrian stumbled, "shouldn't we be heading back by now?" "Quite right!" Ronnie jumped, "Especially if we wanna stop by CiCi's for dinner!" Ronnie led the charge as the made their way out of the theatre and hopped down the stairs into the parking lot. "So, do you think it was wizardry?" Adrian posed the question that evening while they were alone in Alli and Ronnie's room. Ronnie had taken Kyle on a quick Wal-Mart run for some popcorn as they planned to watch a movie later. "Honestly, I don't know," Alli sighed, "I mean, I felt the power, but then Jake said that the fly-lines are incapable of going lower than five feet above the stage. Somehow I find it hard to believe the aircraft cables would have broken, especially if the Tech director is as safety-conscious as Jake claimed." "I'm not so sure Jake is a reliable source, seemed kind of an idiot to me," Adrian grinned. "Maybe so," Alli smiled in response, "but aircraft cable is pretty hard to break no matter how you look at it." Chapter 13 Sam caught up Alli after rehearsal a few days later. Opening night was coming up fast and Alli was secretly glad. As much as she loved Adrian, Sam always had a way of making her question her loyalties. "Alli, hey!" he said when he was close enough to be heard. "Yes?" Alli said with forced politeness and pivoted to face him. "I was wondering," San, strangely seemd nervous for once, scratching the back of his neck in an unconscious gesture, "What with tech week coming up . . ." "Spit it out, Sam," she was losing her patience and exhausted. Alli really wanted to go to her room and relax for a little bit before bed. "Would you wanna do dinner sometime next weekend?" "I don't think that would be a good idea," the memory of the last time she and Sam had been alone together was all too clear in Alli's mind. "As friends, of course," Sam was not going to give up that easily. "Look," Alli sighed, "Even if I wasn't seeing Adrian, I am going home this weekend; one of the last chances I have before term is over." "Oh, okay," the strapping youth seemed crushed. His fists clenched. Against her better judgement, Alli found herself pitying him. "But maybe we could do a cast thing after opening night," Alli offered. "Sure," Sam forced a smile, "That might be cool." Alli watched him go, still pretty uncertain as to what had just happened. She shook her head and turned back in the direction of her room. She needed bed desperately. Advanced Spellcasting was getting quite interesting as of late. It was a week later and Alli and Adrian were working on disarming an assailant. Or, more specifically, Alli was disarming Adrian and then borrowing his wand so he could practice. She had not brought her wand to class as she seldom did anymore as per Professor Moriah's advice. Somehow she felt Adrian was not getting the whole effect. His Ash wand was uncomfortable in her hand, Alli was half afraid it would rebel. Taking into consideration mrs. Shepards comments about their nature, each had been focusing on tasks more akin to fire or water. For the most part it was working pretty well. Much to Alli's surprise, she seemed to have a knack with the plants as well. "Alright!" Professor Moriah clapped her hands for attention, "You all seem to be doing reasonably well at disarming. Let's change the pace, sometimes you sinply cannot disarm your assailant before they attack a time or two, lets work on shielding." "Your specialty," Adrian commented, Alli just shoved him. In truth, she had been practicing her elemental shields with Adrian. "Okay, partner one will attack first," Professor Moriah announced, "use only light power, though," She said warningly, her gaze directed at a group of troublemakers int he back, "We don't want any accidents, do we?" Obligingly, Alli took her position and Adrian braced himself for the attack. There was no worries about her using too much power, a splash of water is hardly life- threatening. She picked up a bowl of water as she had yet to be able to summon anything outright. She was slightly more concerned when time came for Adrian to attck, a candle flame could still burn. Adrian easily deflected her splash with a small fire shield. The water vaporized into steam upon contact. The repeated the task, Alli used more water this time, once more Adrian's shield worked. The third time, Alli smirked as she studied the bowl of water and then made it freeze into a snowball. This time the fire shield melted the snow, but Adrian still got a face-full of water. "Cheater!" Adrian expounded. Alli bobbed in a mock curtsy. In retaliation, Adrian sprinkled the water he wiped from his face at her. "Mr Rafello! Ms. Callahan!" Professor Moriah's voice halted their revelry, "Please remember that this is class, not playtime!" "Oops," Alli mouthed. Adrian shrugged and picked up the lit candle. "Ready?" He asked. "Hold on," Alli closed her eyes, "Let me try to call a shield first." She had yet to successfully call an elemental shield, so Adrian obliged. Alli took several deep breaths, willing the power to seep into her veins. It was more challenging without any external trigger which caused an intense emotional reaction. Slowly, a tingle. It started in her core, then spread througout her body. Alli opened her eyes. At first, Alli saw Adrian, staring in wonder, then she too noticed the cool blue light surrounding her, barely percievable. She binked and it was gone, but the power still hummed, ready to jump at her beck and call once more. She nodded at Adrian, and the assault began. He started simple, he held the candle up and lightly blew on the flame. Instead of going out as candles are wont to do, the flame grew and stretched into a mini-flame thrower. Alli recalled her shield and it immediately responded, a coil of steam marking where the flame made contact. Alli smiled and released the shield. "Alright, let's up the ante," Adrian rubbed his hands together. He held them over the flame and closed his eyes. Alli barely had time to react ad a small fireball came towards her and she threw up the shield at the last moment. The fireball fizzled out with a hiss. "That was close!" Alli said in wonder. "Excellent, Ms. Callahan; you really are improving!" Professor Moriah offered polite praise. "You okay?" Adrian asked. "Yeah," Alli gulped, "Fine, once more." Adrian shrugged and readied himself once more. Right before he attacked, the door slammed open. "RAFFELLO!" Cade yelled. "Huh?" His attention distracted for the moment, lighting exploded from his fingers. Alli's eyes widened in shock. Instictively she knew water would not produce an effective shield against raw electricity. She had no time to thing, no time to dive out of the way. There was another pair working just behind her. She sent a shield, without fully understanding what element she had called. A loud thunderclap, a flash of green light; all the students dived to the ground. Alli and Adrian stood frozen. There was silence. "What just happened?" Professor Moriah was the first to break it, aside from Alli and Adrian, she was the only other person still standing in the room. "I--I--" Alli could not explain. "I don't know," Adrian admitted. "Whatever it was," Professor Moriah commented, "It certainly reveals that each of you posesses a great power." "What element did I even call?" Alli asked. "What element do you feel you called?" Professor Moriah answered with another question. "Not water, I know that," Alli scratched her head, "Somehow water plus lightning seemed like a bad idea, even in elemental form." "As it very well might have been," Professor Moriah did not mince words, "Calling Earth was possibly the smartest move you could have made, Ms. Callahan." "Earth?" "I think that is enough for the day," the professor addressed the rest of the class, "take the extra few minutes to practice!" The class hustled to take this rare gift, it was unlikely that they would be released from Advanced Spellcasting again. "Not you two," she pointed at Alli and Adrian, who sheepishly waited. "Um, where'd Cade go?" Alli asked as the last student left. "Musta been scared off," Adrian shrugged. "What's that?" Alli pointed at the floor near the door. There lay, no worse for wear in spite of an early dismissal stampede, was a creamy white envelope addressed in a spiky hand. Adrian stopped and claimed the envelope while Professor Moriah finished putting away the supplies. Another note addressed to him, Alli saw before he pocketed it. She was about to mention something about it, but Professor Moriah returned her attention to them. "That was an impressive bit of magick," she eyed both of them, "for both of you." "Excuse me, professor Moriah, but what exactly was that?" Alli asked. Instead of answering, the young professor held up a finger, "It is clear that each of you has some bigger role to play in the grand scheme of things--" "I don't understand, surely that was a fluke--" Adrian cut in. "but don't let that cloud your judgment and go to your heads," Professor Moriah continued unperturbed, "for with this powerful gift comes expreme responsibility, and heightened danger. There are those who would seek to manipulate you for the power you possess." "Why does this sound like something from a B-Fantasy movie?" Alli groaned. "Because, Miss Alli, al fantasy filmes, b-rated or otherwise, are at least partially based in truth!" Alli pursed her lips in consideration While the professor continued," to be honest, I have been suspecting that something like this might occur. I think it is best if we go see the president now." "What?" Adrian spat. "No time for questions, her time is very precious and I fear we cannot afford to hesitate!" Before either of them could voice one more argument, Professor Moriah had seized their arms and was steering them out of the door. Fynn Murdock Prepatory Academy's president's office was located on the top floor. It was one of the largest rooms available, and one seen by few who were not in trouble. Even though Alli knew that she was headed there, not because she was in trouble, but because she might be more gifted in magic than initially thought. She found the idea not a little frightening. If there was one thing that made this journey less intimidating was the fact that Adrian was going with her, Professor Moriah did not speak again and Alli was not about to ask more questions. As for Adrian, he was shutting himself off, retreating into wherever it is inside himself he goes when he distances himself fromt eh world around him. Normally this would concern Alli, but for now she felt envious. Her stomach was doing somersaults as they climbed the stairs. Clearly, professor Moriah was not a fan of elevators. Before long they found themselves in front of a stately mahogany door with a large brass dorrknocker in the shape of a tree spirit. Actually Alli would call it an 'Ent' after the tree-creatures illustrated in J.R. R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Professor Moriah rgracefully raised her hand and took hold of the handle. The resounding knock echoed strangely loud in the largely abandoned upper hallway. "Come in," came the muffled voice of the president. Alli squeezed Adrian's hand for comfort as they ducked into the doorway. The President's office was lined with bookshelves. There was barely any wall-space not taken up by volumes. What wasn't a bookshelf was taken up by a big picture window that overlooked the National Forest behind the school. At first, Alli didn't notice the school President up on the ladder replacing a book onto an upper shelf that was nearly as big as she was. "Good Morning, Adena," *president* greeted from her perch, "And I see you've brought me company." Alli concentrated on not looking comepletely simple as *president* descended. "Yes, President *name*, Ithought you might be interested in Ms. Callahan and Mr. Rafello's progress in Advanced Spellcasting." "Oh?" The president sounded interested and raised an eyebrow. Alli was struck by the sense of authoritativeness emulating front the four-foot nothing woman before her. "Yes," Professor Moriah confidently answered, "Why don't I allow them to explain the situation?" "What an excellent idea," to Alli's horror, *president's name* focused her gaze on her, "Well?" "Um," Alli gulped,"We were working on elemental shields. Adrian, I mean, Mr. Raffello--" "No need for formality, Alli," *president* held up her hand, "just use your own words." "Right," Alli nodded respectfully, "As I was saying, Adrian was manipulating fire while I called on Water to protect me. He was using more and more power each time, but the last time someone was yelling and . . . " Alli's eyes unconsciously drifted towards Adrian who stood with a carefully conceived mask on his face, "Well, somehow his fire turned to lighting and I . . ." "Continue, Ms. Callahan," Professor Moriah encouraged her good-naturedly. "Yes?" *president* prssed at the same time. "I don't really know for certain, but professor Moriah said I called Earth to my aid in reaction to the lighting." "An excellent move," *president name* was impressed, "Had you ever done that before?" "No!" Alli shook her head, "I didn't even know I could." "Curious," *president name* paced in a wide semi-circle, "And you, Adrian, what have you to say?" "Much the same as Alli," Adrian said, indicating Alli with an incline to his head, "only instead of unconsciously calling Earth, I seemed to have got in touch with Air." "I take it, like Alli, you had never done that before?" "Nope, I was strictly a fire guy." "Hmm . . ." *president name* took in Adrian from head to toe, "You're one of Ciar,Toirdhealbhach's boys, aren't you?" "Unfortunately," he answered with a roughness that Alli feared would offend the president. "Ah yes, I remeber now, " *president name* returned to her desk, "You were quite put out when you found out Cade Moorbyrne and Brian Garrett's shared your bloodline." Adrian did not say a word. "Don't worry, I would be too," inexplicably, *president name* smiled, "those two are cheeky little devils." Alli's mouth dropped in shock, *president name* had a sense of humor! She had always seemed so serious in assemblies. "Oh, don't act so surprised, Ms. Alli," *president name* caught her amazed look, "We all must put up a front in certain situations." "President *name*, as enlightening as this conversation is proving, have you any suggestion as to what the manifestations of their powers is sggesting?" Professor Moriah broke into the conversation. "Unfortunately, no," President *name* shook her head, "I've not much more to go on than you do. But I think you must have come to the same conclusion I will, otherwise you would not be here." "Please, president *name*, she said we 'have a role to play in the grand scheme of things'" Alli offered. "And she would be right," *president name * sighed, "there has been trouble brewing for some time, I've suspected that something might crop up. And, in light of this new information," here she regarded them each in turn, "I fear it will be sooner rather than later." "What kind of trouble?" Adrian asked. "Come, lets not talk of that right now, eh?" *president name* clapped her hands, "no need to worry about anything major, we must work on harnessing your gifts!" "Excuse me?" Adrian said in disbelief. The bell rang. "Ah, there's the bell, why don't you scurry to class now!' *president name" ushered them towards the door. "But, President *name*--" Alli was cut off at the mahogany door closed in her face. After class, Alli and Adrian were relaxing in Adrian's dorm, Alli had a couple hours before she had to go to rehearsal. Adrian was fiddling with the envelope in his hands, he had yet to open it. "She's scared, you know." Alli commented, her eyes scanning a copy of Ronnie's Allure magazine that she had brought with her. "Who?" "President *name*, of course," Alli dropped the magazine into her lap, "She's worried about something and won't tell us what it is." "Probably because it's not something we need to be concerned about . . ." Adrian studied the seal, identical to the previous correspondence. "You mean you're not curious?" Alli knelt next to him. "Of course I am," he turned towards her, "but clearly she's not sharing and I don't want to press the issue." "Even if it has to do with us?" "*President name* never came out and said--" "It was implied," Alli stated matter-of-factly, "besides, it's not like she forbade us from exploring the issue on our own . . ." "Alli," Adrian warned. "What?" Alli stood and tossed the magazine on the bed, "I don't want a rude surprise!" "I kind of have my own problems right now," he waved the still-unopened envelope. "Oh," Alli crossed and, when Adrian lifted his arm, settled herself onto his lap, "what do you think it says?" "Harumph," he scoffed, "probably 'meet me on Samhain or I will sacrifice a first born child'" "Adrian!" Alli slapped his shoulder, "Don't joke about that sort of thing!" "It's my father," he glared, "Very little would surprise me." "Oh, just open it already!" Alli reached for the envelope, then checked herself, evidently remebering what happened last time. With a grumble, Adrian broke the seal and pulled the scrawled note from its shelter; that done, he wrapped an arm about her waist and he and Alli read the letter together: Son, I hope this letter finds you well and fully intending to join me on this coming Samhain night. However, should you be nursing some doubts, allow me to express the importance that you meet me under the Oak tree. There are dark times ahead, for you and for me (and dare I say, your little girlfriend as well?). We have much to discuss. Come alone. Your Father, Ciar Riaghán,Toirdhealbhach,An Asarlaí Adrian stared at the note for a moment, then dropped it as if it were on fire. His fists clenched, Alli could feel the fabric of her shirt bunching in his grip. Evidently, he did too, for he released it with a gruff, "Sorry." Alli gve a small smile and took his free hand in both of hers, gently stroking the smooth skin on the back of his hand. "Well, at least it was a brief letter," She said after a few minutes. Adrian mumbled noncommittally and Alli turned to see his scowl. She pressed her palm against his cool cheek and kissed his forehead before resting her own against it. "No need to worry about it right now," Alli spoke softly, his eyes lifted in response. Slowly, Adrian loosed his hand and weaved his fingers through Alli's hair. She smiled. "What would I do without you?" He asked in an equally soft voice. Alli did not give him a vocal answer. Their lips brushed. Afterwards, Adrian locked his arms around Alli, his anchor. Alli echoed the embrace and there they sat, comforting one another for an indeterminate amount of time.
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