Oberon poked a finger through the cage of his hyperactive owl, ignoring the people milling about him to brush his fingers through his feathers. The little black-eyed tawny owl fluffed itself and peered around it with the wild curiousity Oberon didn’t seem to possess. It had occurred to him that perhaps he should feel something- excitement, perhaps, or nervousness- but he still felt numb, in shock. His sister did all the organising when their parents weren’t there, fluttering in confusion. He felt almost sorry for them. Discovering that their children were different, were other, had been an unpleasant shock for them. They had tried to be proud of the twins, but since Heaven collapsed on the kitchen floor, their concerns for the twins’ welfare had only deepened. They felt helpless. Their helplessness made Oberon feel guilty, like he and Heaven had been some sort of curse, while Heaven herself drifted along in her own world.
Thinking of her, he glanced up, his gut jumping to his throat in the moments where he couldn’t see her. Her name forced itself up his throat but got caught behind his teeth, which he clenched when he finally spotted her chatting to a robust, talkative old lady. Heaven didn’t seem to be paying much attention to what the woman was saying; the woman didn’t seem to be paying much attention to Heaven. Instead she talked endlessly with grand gestures, smiling to disguise glazed eyes filled with forced cheerfulness. People like that annoyed Oberon. They reminded him a little too much of a defective nanny.
Rasputin squaked as someone bumped his luggage trolley and Obe twisted to shout out to the offender… But a hostile glare from the sharp-faced boy silenced him. As a ten-year-old, Oberon wasn’t yet aware that a face like that belonged to cruelty. He only saw an ugly curl to the lip, a squint to the eyes, some kind of passive anger that had nothing to do with him.
Heaven was calling.
Struggling with the sideways drift of the luggage cart, Oberon made his way over to his sister, tugging his beanie down to his eyebrows. Heaven was looking about with incredulity, seeming almost affronted with whatever information the lady had provided her with. He responded with the sluggish glance of a boy who really, really didn’t want to be standing in the middle of a crowded train station with a crazy sibling and assorted animals. He glanced around for the sharp-faced boy, but he was nowhere to be found. Something uncoiled in his belly. Oberon hadn’t realised it, but he’d been on guard since the collision.
“Did she just tell us to run ourselves, our pets and our trollies straight into that brick wall? That very sturdy and painful looking brick wall? Do you think she’s mad?”
Oberon frowned. His sister threw him a glance to tell him a facial expression was not an adequate response. Expressing just how much attention he had paid to his parents efforts to teach elecution and poise, he added, “I dunno?”
The brick pillar in question seemed quite solid. A little too clean for a packed station, but it could be clean for any number of reasons. He was sure that if he threw paint at it, the paint would stick. Or chewing gum. Or soot. All things he didn’t have in his possession. Heaven’s expression was beginning to flicker with the uncertain panic she picked up in new or unexpected situations. Soon she would either burst into tears or into an anxiety attack, or both, and the last thing Oberon wanted was a scene. He could just imagine having to explain it to a police officer: “I’m sorry sir, see, my parents just dropped us here… Yes, yes, even though we are under the legal age limit to be alone… and we are trying to get to a station that doesn’t apparently exist so we can go to a magical school where they teach us, well, magic, and my sister couldn’t figure out how we should walk through that pillar over there so she freaked out. Oh, and she is a bit weird in the head. A bit of a spaz. Would you mind directing us to platform nine and three quarters so all this can be sorted?”
That wouldn’t go down well at all.
It couldn’t be the case anyway. He had already invested too much hope into this. To find out it was all fake would be heartbreaking to he and Heaven both. They had taken this as a sign that they weren’t evil or insane or some kind of mutant. There were others like them. Others like them who could teach them how to make it stop.
A place where Heaven wouldn’t be a freak anymore.
A place where Oberon wouldn’t be the freak’s weirdly-named brother.
He couldn’t give up on that.
“Hev, I don’t think…” He twisted his trolley around until it faced the aburdly clean pillar. “This is supposed to be a school of magic, right? We’ve come this far.”
Just in case, he tugged an apple from his pocked and tossed it between his hands before lobbing it at the pillar. It flew cleanly through the air before colliding messily with the bricks, transforming smoothly from apple to apple puree and splattering nearby passengers with yellow sludge.
Oberon hadn’t expected that.
Heaven’s lower lip began to quiver imperceptibly.
No. I’m not giving up this easily. His stomach churned at the thought. He was the brother. He was older, if only by a couple of minutes.
It was his job to look after her. One more glance at that confused, fragile face and he knew what he was going to do, with a child’s foolish determination.
Oberon lifted Rasputin’s cage with a grunt (he was an awfully heavy bird) and plonked it atop Heaven’s luggage, just in case this went exactly as he expected it to. School had introduced him to any number of bruises and he hoped that maybe this time wouldn’t be too different.
Screwing up his face and shutting his eyes, guiding the trolley with one hand and an elbow as he held his glasses to his face, he launched himself forward. There was enough distance between himself and the brick for him to build up some speed. Soon he was running, hearing the pillar come ever closer, closer, closer- and expecting that crash, he braced himself…. and kept on running.
Oberon opened his eyes and immediately fell over, losing his grip on the trolley, watching stunned as it drifted away from him at speed down the platform, eventually drifting to the left and smashing into the side of a fire-engine red steam train.
Wizards still used steam engines?