The door to her classroom was open when Sarah arrived. That almost never happened and it made her slightly uneasy. After a quick look around, she tucked her keys back into her purse and slipped it into her desk drawer, closing it firmly.
After a quick circuit of the room, she shrugged to herself. There must be an innocent reason. It wasn't important now as the scent of fresh coffee tugged at her from the staff lounge. Who was she to deny the siren song of caffeine in the morning? Maybe she'd find the maintenance man while she was there and ask if anything had happened overnight.
A furtive movement further down the hall caught her attention for a fleeting instant. Was that a student this early? Well, there was an early morning program in the portable behind the building, but those children were rigidly policed. Perhaps someone had a new student. Her own morning class would start soon with a few early birds for breakfast, but not this early.
"Is anyone there?" she called. When no response came, Sarah took a few steps toward the little alcove where she'd spied the reddish flash.
"All right, Miss Williams?"
The deep voice of the on-call maintenance man took her by surprise and she gasped. "Oh, Mr. Lewes, you startled me!"
"My apologies, Miss. I thought you heard me," he pardoned himself.
"No worries, it's quite all right. I just thought I saw a student down the hall, but it doesn't look like it. Is Mr. Reeves ill?" She had no doubt that the elderly gentleman had been some sort of butler before he moved to the island. He was just too refined to have been a building super all his life. There was just something about him…
A door slammed further down the hall and Sarah whipped around. Mr. Lewes caught her before she could overbalance herself. "Do calm down, miss. I promise that you're safe here." He smiled teasingly at her and offered her his elbow. "I suppose it's a bit silly the lengths a crotchety old man such as myself will go to in order to lure a pretty young thing to share morning tea with him."
Sarah blushed hotly, feeling more than a little ridiculous, though she was touched by the older gentleman's efforts to soothe her. "Yes it is, Mr. Lewes," she snapped back, mock-sternly, though she laid her fingers on his arm. "All you had to do was ask. And I'll thank you not to refer to one of my dear friends as crotchety and old."
"My apologies once again, Miss Sarah," he answered, his weathered cheeks showing a hint of pink. "I can't imagine what I was thinking to say such a thing."
The two continued to gently tease one another as he turned her down the hall to the staff lounge. It took more will power than Sarah would have thought to keep her from glancing over her shoulder the entire way.
KT KT KT KT KT
"Whew, that was close, Prince. Was that her?" Jasper asked from his perch atop Iarfhlaith's head.
"I think so," Iarfhlaith, whispered back as he retreated into the small alcove as the two older people turned the corner.
"D'ya think she'll remember you?" the pixie asked as he ate his portion of pilfered shortbread they'd found in the classroom.
"Dunno, it's been three years. Should I just…what should I do, Jasper? You've been around a lot longer than me. What do you think I should do?"
Jasper appeared to consider the question carefully, rubbing his chin with the back of his free hand as he floated in front of Iarfhlaith. "I don't think you should give her your real name. If she remembers you, she'll know it's not the right name. If she doesn't…well, we'll just go on from there."
Iarfhlaith nodded in agreement, but then looked intently at his little friend. "Come here, Jasper, get on my shoulder." The pixie frowned but did as he was told.
"I think it's too soon, Prince. You should wait awhile," Jasper cautioned, though he stood on Iarfhlaith's shoulder and grabbed a fistful of long red hair, holding tightly.
"No, I want to go now." Iarfhlaith closed his eyes tightly and clenched his fists. "I wish I could get home to the Underground and be with my Daka."
For one deep, shuddering moment, it felt like his whole body wobbled from the inside out. He could see his father's face, there in front of him. Reaching out to him, Iarfhlaith called urgently, "Daka! I'm here, Daka!" His father looked tired, then shocked, and then…nothing. Everything was cold, then hot, then just purple. From somewhere far away, Iarfhlaith heard Jasper calling his name.
"Prince? Your Highness? Can you hear me?" A faint tapping on his cheek signaled Jasper's urgency. It was the worst kind of crime for him to actually touch Iarfhlaith, according to Jasper, so he must be very worried indeed to actually hit him on the face. It didn't matter that Jasper's taps felt like the wings of a moth against his cheek; his friend would be full of remorse that he'd done such a thing.
"'S okay, Jasper. Thanks for waking me, I 'preciate you doing that. We could get in trouble if we stay here too long. So what happened?" It took a supreme effort of will on his part not to cry or celebrate, though he very much wanted to do both all at the same time. He hadn't made it to the Underground, but he had seen his Daka, for the first time in forever.
"I think we almost made it, Sire, but it was too soon. And now, it's gonna be a few days before you can try again. Your magic is tired and won't work right. You're too small to be away for so long from the Underground."
He couldn't stop the tears that filled his eyes, no matter how hard he tried. "Did you see him, Jasper?" he asked with a sniffle. "Did you see my Daka?"
"I did," Jasper answered solemnly. "I think he saw us, too, Prince."
Iarfhlaith nodded. "I think so, too," he agreed in a quiet voice, unable to stop the silent tears completely. "How long was I…like that?"
Jasper fluttered up and tilted his head to the side. "I really don't know, but not terribly long. You just don't have the oomph yet. But you did good. It was good to see him—to see home." Iarfhlaith offered a watery smile, matched perfectly by the tearful smile on Jasper's face as he added, "There's a lot of people and kids down that hall. We're gonna need to decide what to do. I think…"
"I think if this is a preschool like the one we visited with Fat-boy, we should go back there. If the lady is the one you wished about in the first place, maybe we can stay here long enough for the king to find us. Maybe she'll remember you," Jasper suggested hopefully.
"Okay," Iarfhlaith agreed, carefully considering Jasper's advice. "What should I call myself? And will she see you?"
"Hmm." Jasper zipped closer and then backed up, winking in and out like a flickering light bulb. Tugging a lock of Iarfhlaith's hair over his left eye—the green one—Jasper waved his magic stick at the hank of hair to encourage it to stay. "Now, I'll just do this," he waved the stick one more time and became transparent. "See? You can still see me, but only if you know I'm here. How's that?"
"That's good. Um, I'm not sure how to spell my real name…so I think I should tell the lady my name is…" he stopped to consider it for a moment and then came up with the perfect name. "Jasper Prince. Okay? My name is Jasper Prince," he announced happily.
"Well, hello there, Jasper Prince!" At the sound of the vaguely familiar voice, Iarfhlaith whipped around, nearly unseating Jasper who ducked under his long hair and grabbed his left ear. "I'm pleased to meet you. My name is Sarah Williams, but you can call me Miss Sarah, since I'm sure you'll be in my class." She leaned down and took his right hand into hers, shaking it once and dropping it. "It's all right, Jasper, don't be embarrassed. Lots of people practice what they're going to say when they're nervous. I do it myself," she confided, slipping a hand between his shoulder blades and urging him forward. "Come along, I'll bet there's toast and juice in the classroom. You're not the only early bird, I'm sure." Just before they reached the crowd milling in front of the classroom doorway, she stopped and looked down at him intently. "I know you must've come in for a summer visit, but I can't help but think we've met before then…" Iarfhlaith opened his mouth to tell her, but anything he might have said was drowned out by piping voices drawing her away.
"Miss Sarah! Miss Sarah!"
"Hello boys and girls! Let me get through to the door and well go have some breakfast. This is Jasper! Be sure to treat him nicely, please. Now make a line so we can all have some toast sticks. And look here, scrambled eggs!"
With a sigh, Iarfhlaith joined his new classmates in the line. Breakfast sounded good. The shortbread had taken the edge off, but he couldn't remember the last warm meal he'd had. Somehow, he'd find a way to let the lady know who he was, or if he couldn't, he'd bide his time until he could wish again. For now, he could eat, maybe even play, and he'd seen his Daka. When he had time, he'd think about that, maybe even cry about that, but right this minute, he was safe and little bit closer to home.
KT KT KT KT KT
"Severus! SEVERUS!" When no response came, Jareth hurled the crystal as hard as he could at the wall, nearly winging a nervous goblin as he dived out of the way, taking an alarmed chicken with him.
The small crystal seemed to shatter and then reassemble itself almost instantly, bouncing back to the startled monarch.
"On my way, Sire," Severus' rich baritone replied the moment the crystal sphere touched Jareth's gloved hand.
Stunned, Jareth arched an eyebrow as he studied the curiosity. "Well, that doesn't happen every day," he murmured. It was obvious to him that Severus' bond to Jareth and their family was beginning to outstrip his wizarding heritage.
Closing his eyes, Jareth leaned back and closed his eyes, picturing Iarfhlaith's intent face as he'd seen it before it had flickered away. As he reviewed the incomplete wish, he brought to mind every facet of what he'd seen.
Iarfhlaith had looked waxen and tired—too tired to be wishing again so soon. His magic had to be much weaker than it should have been—than it would have been if he'd been raised with a family member and had spent the right amount of time in the Underground. But wait…Jareth's brow furrowed. He'd had a pixie on his shoulder. How had that happened? When Severus arrived he'd put the memory in a crystal and they'd look at it together.
A long few moments later, Severus stalked into the Goblin Throne Room. "Come," Jareth ordered as he rose and led the other man down the hall and into his study.
Severus stood until Jareth seated himself and then, at Jareth's nod, took a seat across from him. Tapping his riding crop on his thigh, Jareth organized his thoughts.
"Iarfhlaith made another wish," he announced finally. Severus, bless him, leaned forward, eyes widening slightly, all the while keeping his mouth closed and waiting for all of the information. With a flick of his wrist, a medium sized crystal ball appeared in his palm. "Here is my memory. Perhaps the two of us can suss out where or how he is from it. I'll slow the time as much as possible without marring the memory."
Without taking his eyes off of the crystal, Severus nodded sharply and leaned closer as if afraid he might miss some important detail if he moved away. Jareth tossed the glass ball up and allowed it to expand slightly as the memory began.
The image of a wan Iarfhlaith appeared in front of them, his eyes tightly shut, with a sparkling little pixie perched upon his far shoulder. The pixie's hair was nearly the same shade of red as Iarfhlaith's. That he touched any part of the boy spoke of a close relationship to Jareth and it eased some of the fear and worry in his heart. His child hadn't been completely alone in the world. He'd had a tiny piece of the Underground with him all this time.
"I wish I could get home to the Underground and be with my Daka," Iarfhlaith said firmly, his words clear and strong telling of the years that had passed.
The child's eyes opened and Jareth nearly wept as the wide, mismatched eyes locked on his own.
"Daka! I'm here, Daka!" the boy called, his frantic voice breaking as the memory Iarfhlaith reached out to him.
The memory seemed to freeze for a moment, then wobble, and then Iarfhlaith was gone as if he hadn't been there at all.
Thanks for being so patient with me :o) I'll try to keep the chapters coming, but we all know how real life can be. And if you're looking for Remus and Sirius, they'll be along eventually.