Eric stared at Craig's hand in confusion.
"Have Americans never greeted properly? You shake hands here." Craig said and took Eric's hand firmly, shaking it. "Like this."
"Who's that, Craig?" Another boy had just emerged from the shop across the street called Olivanders. He had wild and messy blonde hair like Kenny's, but he was a lot paler and his green eyes were cradled by dark circles.
"Haven't heard his name yet," Craig replied, letting go of Eric's hand. "He's one of those Americans."
"Um..! Shouldn't we b-be careful around people not from here?" He stammered. "They could carry the plague!"
"Don't be rude, Tweek." Craig said and pulled him over by the arm. Eric swallowed a lump in his throat. He wasn't used to socializing with strangers.
"...M'name's Eric." Eric said, offering his sweaty hand like Craig had done, eyes shifting to Craig unsurely as if to confirm he was doing it correctly. Craig gave him a look of approval while he nudged Tweek forward until the shaking boy took Eric's hand with a soft yelp.
Eric shook it once before wiping his hand off on his pants.
"The train will be leaving in less than an hour," Craig said. "Haven't you got all of your supplies?"
"...No, cuz... I ain't got money." Eric mumbled. Craig seemed surprised at this and glanced at Tweek who looked very irritated.
"You can't go to Hogwarts without robes! That's like- going *naked!*" He exclaimed. "That's so unacceptable! You really can't do that!"
"I..." Eric looked troubled. He didn't know the rules were so strict in this school. What would they do to him when he got there without robes?
"It's not his fault he's poor," Craig said, ruffling Tweek's hair. He met Eric's eyes. "I could speak to my father. First-year robes are very easy to come by, even with Dragonskin gloves included."
He held up his left hand, showing off one of those gloves. Tweek smiled and rubbed the material of the glove.
"Dragon skin is my favorite because the leather gloves irritate my skin." He said. "I don't know how the others wear those."
"They don't have a choice if it's out of their price range," Craig said and tilted his head to the side. "So what do you say, Eric? I'll spot you gloves and a robe. No one needs to know you're a peasant."
"Why you bein' nice t'me?" Eric asked, cheeks a little red. Tweek looked at Craig as if he was wondering the same exact thing. At that moment, Kyle Stan and Kenny emerged from the store behind Eric with brand new robes.
"I would feel uncomfortable if I had to be stuck with certain people just because you're from the same country," Craig said.
"Hey! He wants to be in our group." Kyle said with an intense glare. "Leave him alone."
"Consider me a friendly face in case you ever want some new company." He said while looking Eric up and down observantly before walking away, Tweek's wrist in hand as he stumbled along.
"...What was that about?" Kenny asked while adjusting his robe tie. Eric's eyebrows furrowed.
"They was bein' nice, Kahl." Eric said.
"No one's been nice to us since we got here! They're probably tricking you!" Kyle snapped back at him. "We have to stick together, asshole. Don't forget who brought you here."
Eric's face paled and he had a twisting feeling in his gut at the thought of hanging out with other people after what Kyle did for him. His jaw tightened and he stared down at his feet, fidgeting a little.
"I wasn't tryin' t'leave or nothin'." Eric mumbled. Kyle's expression softened and he put a hand on Eric's shoulder.
"I don't want you to wait outside for us anymore." He said, turning to Kenny and Stan. "A lot of people don't like America here and they're gonna pick on him if he's alone."
Eric met Kyle's eyes, cheeks heating up a little.
"I can handle m'self, Kahl." He said. Kyle smirked.
"Sure you can." He teased. Eric was a bit irritated by that, but he tried not to think about it too much. He looked up at Randy as he emerged from the store, who nodded towards the wand shop.
"Let's go. Time to make you boys Gerald's problem." He said.
"You've been very mean to us. It's not our fault that you drank too much, Randy." Kyle said and scowled at Randy as he let go of Eric's shoulder. Stan tensed up a little.
"Aw, you gonna tell your Papa I was mean to you?" He taunted. Kyle bristled.
"Stop it, Pa!" Stan exclaimed, stepping forward. Randy rolled his eyes and walked into Ollivanders without looking back. Stan looked at Kyle apologetically, but Kyle just followed Randy.
Eric held his breath as he realized just what kind of shop this was. A wand shop... He had vivid images in his mind of the famous duelers Stan went on and on about during the trip here. He stiffened up when they walked inside, realizing something that made his heart sink.
"What is it?" Kyle asked, pausing at the door while Stan and Kenny went in with Randy.
"I ain't got money for a wand." He said quietly.
Kyle dug in his pocket and pulled out five galleons, putting them in Eric's hand. Eric stared at the gold coins. "..."
"It's wizard money," Kyle said and smiled at him. "That's how much a wand costs to make. I know you don't have a material, but Pa spent a lot of time this summer traveling all around London to find materials that could be used as wand cores for Ollivanders."
"..." Eric's face was blank and Kyle chuckled.
"In other words," He pulled Eric inside. "You're getting a wand."
Eric's eyes widened as he looked around. It was like the library store but... small rectangular boxes instead. And there were many boxes stacked all the way to the ceiling from the shelves. Eric's eyes fell on a tall skinny bald man behind a desk who smiled wide when he looked up from his newspaper.
"Kyle!" He exclaimed and Kyle ran forward, arms wrapping around the man as soon as they were able. Kyle's smile was wide as he clung to his father.
"I missed you!" He exclaimed.
"I missed you too," The man laughed softly, ruffling Kyle's hair. He looked up at Randy with a smile still on his face. "I hope they weren't too much trouble."
"You owe me, Gerald," Randy replied with a dry look. "I'm hungover and I still did this shit for you."
"Alright, shh." Gerald waved him off and looked over his shoulder. "Gervaise! My son is here with his friends."
An old man with strange looking binocular-like glasses came into view. He was riding a ladder on wheels as it glided across the shelves of boxes.
"Oh! Hello!" He exclaimed, smoothing his sweaty greying black hair to the side. "Here for your first wands and not just a heartfelt reunion I expect. Though your father made yours, of course, Kyle."
Kyle took out his wand and presented it to Gervaise as he walked over to them. His eyes were twinkling as he took it and held it up to the bright flickering lamplight.
"Ah... How very interesting." He said, turning it in his hand. "10.2 inches in length. Rigid. Very neat craftsmanship, impressive, hard to work with silver limewood is. And the core... Hmmm..."
"It's from Arkansas, sir. In America." Gerald spoke up, spine straightening. "My best work if I do say so myself. I used the spine of a fierce looking fish in the white river."
"A white river monster. Strange. Strange, and yet..." Gervaise slowly handed the wand back to Kyle who took it eagerly. Kyle's eyes lit up when he saw Gervaise watching.
"Yet what?" He asked.
"That is a very powerful wand, child. And it is inarguably attached to you." Gervaise said. "I doubt any other wizard could successfully steal it away, though, I'm certain they might try."
"I always double check that my wand is at my side, sir." Kyle piped up. "I feel the need to, actually."
Kyle ran over to Stan and Kenny excitedly.
"Mm," Gervaise looked over his shoulder. "I'm sure the use of silver limewood was no mere coincidence, Gerald."
"Of course not. His abilities will come in time." Gerald agreed with a smirk. "I want that to be a surprise."
Eric wondered what that meant. Gerald's eyes flashed to him and suddenly his face went blank. He walked over to Randy and the other boys in a hurry.
"Who is this?" He asked Randy as he pointed to Eric, noticing his American clothing. Randy looked up from the bread bowl at the front desk, mouth full.
"Wha?" He asked. Gerald's jaw tensed.
"Pa..." Kyle started, eyes going back and forth between a nervous Eric and his very apprehensive Father.
"The child, the large one!" Gerald said. "I sent for Kyle, Kenneth, and Stanley. Who is this boy?"
Randy looked at Eric as if looking at him for the first time, swallowing down the food in his mouth.
"I thought you knew," Randy said. "I-"
"Three kids! Three!" Gerald snapped. "Can you count?!"
"Oh, so this is my fault now?" Randy retorted. "You didn't even gimme the right brick wall pattern asshole!"
Gervaise met eyes with Eric. Eric just looked down in response, suddenly feeling guilty for being here in the first place.
"Pa! I brought him." Kyle interrupted. Gerald sputtered and looked at Kyle as if he'd been slapped in the face. Randy rolled his eyes and walked right out the door without a goodbye.
"Wha- Why? Kyle!" Gerald said, shoulders tensed. Stan stared at the door, hurt in his eyes as he watched his Father disappear through the crowd, clearly having no intentions of returning or seeing his son off on his first year at school.
"I couldn't write to you in time, and he's a wizard too, he can see us so, um... Eric! his name's Eric." Kyle said and pulled Eric over gently. Eric was tensed, avoiding eye contact with everyone.
Gerald looked at Eric and then back to Kyle, eyes squinting in confusion at what his son was saying.
"Kyle." He deadpanned. "...God damn it, how long did you know that this boy could see you?"
"Um..." Kyle gave his father a sheepish smile. "A few.. years maybe?"
"Years!" Gerald snapped. "Kyle Broflovski-"
"I know! I know, I should've told someone, but, he didn't know he was a wizard Pa! And he doesn't live in the village so Stan's mom wouldn't know to find him or anything, so I-"
"How could he not know he is a wizard?" Gerald asked and directed his attention to Eric. "Where's your Illormorny letter? They've all got theirs."
Eric hesitantly looked up.
"...Iller...um...? Ma reads the mail..." He mumbled.
"See?" Kyle said. "He-"
"Eric have you ever actually done magic?" Gerald asked cutting Kyle off. Kyle bristled.
"Well?" Gerald said sternly. Eric slowly shook his head no. Gerald closed his eyes and pinched his nose, starting to pace.
"He-He just hasn't YET!" Kyle insisted. "He can see us Pa, he's gotta be a wizard! And his folks are so bad to him, he-"
"Kyle!" Gerald yelled. Kyle's mouth shut tightly. Gerald looked at him with a sharpness in his eyes. "He's just a squib."
"A what?" Kyle asked, looking confused.
"Oh dear," Gervaise sighed and motioned for Stan and Kenny to follow him. "We best make those wands while this gets sorted out. Right this way boys."
Stan and Kenny followed Gervaise very slowly, watching Kyle and Gerald in concern. Kenny gave Eric a sympathetic look before disappearing behind a large shelf.
"A squib, Kyle," Gerald growled under his breath. "It means he has magic parentage but he can't do magic."
Eric's stomach felt hollow at those words.
"...That - That makes no sense! What?" Kyle said. "How can that even be a thing?"
"Your great Uncle Erving was a squib, Kyle. It happens. They can see us and they're allowed to know about magic, but they can't actually do any," Gerald explained irritably. "So there's no point in trying to smuggle him into Hogwarts. I'll let this go because I know your heart was in the right place and that you didn't know any better. I'll contact someone from the ministry to escort him home safely."
"No!" Kyle snapped. "You can't!"
"Excuse me?" Gerald demanded, baffled at his son's defiance.
Kyle grabbed Eric's wrist and pulled him over to where Gervaise had brought the other boys, ignoring his Father's protests. Eric swallowed thickly and stared at Kyle's face which looked charged with determination. He didn't resist Kyle's pull and followed close behind, pulling his hand away once they had made it over to Gervaise who was speaking to Stan animatedly.
"Finding a werewolf nail in an American forest!" He held the fang up to the light. "It's just magnificent! What a discovery!"
"Haha, thanks." Stan said, eyeing Kyle and Eric warily.
"Yeah. All I got is this long black hair I found in the carriage on the way here." Kenny grumbled, holding it up. Stan rolled his eyes.
"I told you dude, there's nothing in your hand." Stan argued. Kenny scowled at him and dangled what looked like nothing in his face. Gervaise smiled and took whatever Kenny thought he was holding, seeming to humor him, but with a twinkle in his eye.
"Sometimes the things we can't see are the most real." Gervaise said to Stan and gave Kenny a wink, taking the invisible hair and the werewolf nail with him down the hall. Kenny smiled happily and put his hands on his hips confidently.
"I bet it's from one of those horses you can't see but I can." He boasted. Stan looked over at Kyle.
"You guys okay?" He asked. "Is Eric going home?"
"Kyle!" Gerald said and walked towards him. "I wasn't done talking to you!"
"No," Kyle growled to Stan, ignoring his father, and ran over to Gervaise. "Mr. Ollivander?"
Gervaise laid the two materials down on his workbench, not looking over to Kyle.
"Yes?" He asked. Measuring tape floated over to Kenny and Stan, beginning to measure their arm lengths.
"Can Eric try a wand?" Kyle asked confidently. Gervaise's expression did not change. Gerald crossed his arms as he observed the exchange while Eric just wanted to get eaten by the floor beneath his feet.
"Your Father just told you the boy was a squib, did he not?" Gervaise asked, waving his wand. Different colored wood panels rose up to face him as he seemed to be torn between which to choose.
"I know he thinks that but... I *know* he's a wizard." Kyle insisted passionately. Eric's eyes landed on Kyle as he said this. He didn't understand why he would be so sure of him when Eric couldn't seem to do anything right.
"Do you sense something of him we cannot?" Gervaise inquired as he began forming two wands with ease and swiftness. Kyle met Eric's eyes, and Eric couldn't help but shudder at the redhead's intense stare. He felt like he was being memorized.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do." Kyle said finally. Gervaise gave Gerald an intrigued look and waved his hand. Gerald scowled.
"Sir, my son's intentions are kind, but-"
"Why doubt an intuition that has been passed down for generations?" Gervaise asked as he completed the wands, taking them in his free hand. He turned to face Eric and his eyes held a gentleness in them. "Would you like to try, son?"
Eric's mouth felt very dry. His lips parted and he looked around at everyone hating how they all stared at him expectantly. His eyebrows came down and he gripped his shirt.
"..Sure." He said. Gervaise smiled and turned his attention to Stan and Kenny. Their eagerness was apparent when Gervaise held up the fruit of his labor.
"Woahh!" Kenny whispered under his breath as he took his wand, feeling the wood pulse against his fingertips before going still in his grip. It was a shade of light brown and just a little crooked, but all through it were jagged etches of black that looked darker than any night sky he'd ever seen. "..."
Stan seemed a little thrown off by the appearance of his wand as it was held out in front of him. It was a darkened grey and had thorn-like spikes peeking out and pointing in a curl all over it. At the base was the large werewolf nail he had given, and the wood of the wand had seamlessly embedded roots around and inside of the nail itself.
Eventually, Stan took his wand. He gasped, face becoming red with a sudden heat that seemed to whip up and down his spine repeatedly. It only lasted a few moments, vibrating, and then suddenly glowing a bright blue before falling still.
"Your wands have accepted you," Gervaise explained, amused by their bewildered expressions. He placed a hand on Eric's shoulder, making the boy flinch which only Kyle seemed to notice. Gervaise smiled down at him. "Hold out your arm."
Eric's arm was quickly measured and he was given about four wands to try. He felt nothing as he held them, no heat or vibration, no pain or pulsing, nothing. He was just holding a stick. It made no sense after witnessing the way his friends interacted with their wands. Gervaise rang up Stan and Kenny for their purchases, leaving Eric with the fourth wand he was given.
Gerald was becoming impatient, turning to Kyle angrily.
"Do you believe me now, Kyle?" He asked exasperatedly. Kyle watched Eric with sadness in his eyes as he tried to wave the wand around desperately. Kyle's heart pulled in a sickening way.
"I..." Kyle began but trailed off.
"Bleeding hearts cause more harm than good. Look at him. Now he has to return home like I suspected, but you've made it worse by giving him a false sense of hope." Gerald said, shaking his head. "He would've been better off if you left him where he was. Squibs have a chance at a normal life with nomajs, but now he'll always remember what he can't have."
Gerald's words struck Eric hard, and he stared at the wand in his hand, tears welling in his eyes. Watching that made Kyle feel sick. Kyle's hands balled into fists and he turned his back on Eric, staring at his Father in anger.
"Stop talking like that in front of him, okay?" Kyle said.
"No," Gerald said, stepping forward. "Let his pained reality be a lesson for you. Let this sink in, Kyle. Let it teach you to be selective with your pity."
Eric gripped the wand hard as tears slipped down his cheeks. He didn't know what that word meant for sure, but he had heard it before. His Uncle told him that his mother only loved him out of pity, that he wasn't really loved. His Uncle always told him things like that, saying he was worth nothing, or that he was just like a mule that pulled a cart of hay for slop.
And his Uncle was gonna put him on a farm to live with him. That meant punishment every single night. Eric's insides felt like they were squirming around, his eyelids lowering as the room seemed to spin around him.
"He's my friend!" Kyle insisted.
"You can't be friends with a squib, it's cruel!" Gerald snapped back at him. "And the very idea that he could go to school with you is idiotic! You should've known that he couldn't-"
Gerald stopped mid-sentence when the lights all around the store flickered all at once and the candle flames went out. Gervaise turned his head, eyes widening at the sight in front of him.
The wand in Eric's hand was glowing a bright red and making a high pitched ringing noise as it vibrated in his fist. Black shadows swirled all around his feet, whipping at his legs angrily as a wind began generating from him.
"Ha... HA! I knew it!" Kyle exclaimed victoriously.
Kyle started towards Eric, but Gerald yanked him back protectively. Gervaise approached Eric, but with less concern for him and more concern for the crying wand.
"Eric... The wand... Put-Put it down please," Gervaise begged softly, inching his way over. "Please, it's hurting..."
All Eric could think of was what that farm would be like... Working like a damn dog, barely eating, and his Uncle's punishments. He squeezed his eyes shut. Eric could hear the scratchy low voice in his ear as though it was happening right now, the sickening cold fingers on his stomach, the weight on his back.
The awful stinging inside...
"I ain't goin' back..." Eric whispered, the wind picking up. It became so strong that it knocked Gervaise over. The wand cracked audibly in Eric's hand and every single window in the shop shattered, glass raining down on everyone.
Gerald let go of Kyle and took out his wand, waving it. Ropes formed and attempted to bind Eric, but they were set on fire the moment they touched him and fell to the ground pathetically. Eric let out a grunt of pain, and the wand exploded in his hand. This made the building shake violently, boxes falling and shelves toppling as though there was an earthquake.
"Shit!" Gerald helped Gervaise up, frantic. "We have to get out of the store, sir!"
"No...! The wands!" Gervaise wheezed.
"That's not important right now!" Gerald insisted and looked back at the boys. "Kids get out of h- KYLE!"
Kyle was climbing the turned over front counter to get to Eric, fighting the wind that was furiously pushing him back. Stan and Kenny followed, looking unsure, but equally as determined. Gerald conjured a shield above the boys' heads to protect them from falling debris.
"Get away from him!" He snapped. "There's something wrong with him, he's going to hurt you! Boys! *Please!*"
"Eric!" Kyle called.
Eric's eyes opened, but he just stared at the ground, his eyes almost entirely black. Kyle gasped at the terrifying sight, freezing. Stan yanked on Kyle's shoulder.
"Kyle...! Kyle, let's go!" He insisted. "This is crazy!"
Kenny jumped off the desk, slowly pulling his way closer to Eric. Kyle watched Kenny for a moment, snapped out of his fear, and did the same. Stan gritted his teeth, but followed behind his two friends, all of them ignoring Gerald's yelling.
"Eric!" Kyle called again. "Can you hear me? You're not-"
"They can't hurt you now!" Kenny yelled over Kyle, who promptly shut his mouth in surprise at his quiet friend's outburst. Eric's head turned to Kenny in a sharp motion that seemed almost inhuman, the wind getting weaker. This made Kenny falter a bit, but he forced a reassuring smile onto his face and held his hands out. "It's okay, dude! Look at all this cool shit you can do! They can't hurt you even if they tried!"
"...Yeah!" Kyle joined in, standing next to Kenny. "He's right! Look at all the magic you're doing!"
"...Magic..." Eric spoke, his voice sounding unfamiliar and distorted as he slowly looked around.
"A-And without a wand!" Stan added, almost tripping. "Jesus Christ...! You're breaking so much stuff."
The black in Eric's eyes began receding and the wind died down. The black shadows became one singular shadow, his own, and he stared at his friends. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed backward, Stan and Kenny rushing forward to help Kyle lower him to the ground. Kenny checked his pulse and sighed in relief.
"He's just passed out..." Kenny said.
Gerald rushed over, pulling Kyle away from Eric the second he was able to.
"That was the most reckless thing you've ever done!" He reprimanded. "That child is cursed!"
"Oh, now he's cursed? I thought he was a squib!" Kyle scoffed. "Just admit it! You were wrong!"
"That was very dark magic..." Gerald mumbled. "I know that much. Don't you touch him again until I know what's wrong with him."
Gervaise limped over, holding his arm which was bleeding from being grazed by the broken glass.
"I've never seen a wand hurt like that... He murdered that poor wand..." Gervaise whispered in horror.
"It's unsettling, to say the least." Gerald agreed, his grip on Kyle becoming insistent. "No Kyle, you're not going near him."
"Stop it!" Kyle exclaimed and pushed his Father away. "He's just different! Everyone treats him so bad and it's not fair! Eric's got magic so he's going with us!"
"There was so much of it!" Kenny added and looked up at the adults. "He had so much power even a wand couldn't hold it! That makes him cool! Not cursed!"
Stan remained quiet, looking at Eric unsurely.
"He looks really sick." He muttered. Kyle and Kenny looked over and saw what Stan was talking about. Eric's skin was pale, completely drained of color, and his breathing was shallow.
Just as Kenny was about to go to him, there was a pop, and a tall woman in a cloak appeared in the middle of the room.