Chapter Eight: Stringendo
"My story begins over four thousand years ago, when humans first came into contact with a benevolent alien race." Dumbledore paused, searching for signs of disbelief on their faces. Scully looked skeptical, but Mulder's eyes shone with enthusiasm. "The extraterrestrial colonists left their home planet for reasons that have been lost to us over the millennia, though I suspect one of the reasons included their abhorrence for violence and respect for all forms of life. They were intelligent, innovative, spiritual and had far greater knowledge about the workings of the universe than the Paleolithic human societies that were emerging. They also had abilities that are shared by modern wizards and witches, including a heightened control over matter. I also suspect them of having highly mutable genetic material so as to explain quick proliferation and adaptation to their environments-" he cut himself off, eyes smiling. "I get ahead of myself. Having reached a habitable planet, they pledged to assume the shapes of native life forms so as not to disrupt the planet's ecology. Some became plants, while others became animals, depending on their interests. Because they retained their knowledge and innate abilities in any form, they slowly imbued all life on earth with what we call magic."
"Let me see if I have this all: magic is extraterrestrial in origin, and every Magical denizen of this planet has the ability to change matter though this innate power." The disbelief in Scully's voice belied her neutral expression.
"To some degree, though not all magic manifests itself in ways we understand, especially in non-humans. Believe me, when the worldwide Magical community went into hiding, we had a dickens of a time deciding which animals were magical enough to need protection. Creatures like dragons and unicorns were obvious, but creatures like retroviruses and flobberworms defied classification. In retrospect, we probably should have hidden the dolphins, but we had no idea that Muggles would realize that the speed of their swimming is impossible given the "laws" of physics. Fortunately for us, the dolphins' attempts to share their knowledge have been grossly misinterpreted by the Muggle community."
"So the creatures of myth are real? Minotaurs? Pegasi?" Mulder was grinning.
"Yes. In less than 400 years of hiding, generations of oral tradition have been reduced to a handful of folk tales; an unfortunate side effect that wasn't even considered at the time." He sighed heavily, removed his glasses and polished them on a handkerchief he had produced from somewhere.
Scully looked thoughtful. "So wizards have known about extraterrestrials for ages, then."
"My dear Dr. Scully, you have put your finger on the crux of the problem. You see, the knowledge I have just imparted to you and Mr. Mulder was uncovered within the last hundred years by my dear friend, the late Nicholas Flamel."
Mulder's gaze jerked to Dumbledore. "Alchemist Nicholas Flamel? Philosopher's Stone Nicholas Flamel?"
"The same, though Nicholas prefers to be remembered by his work in the field of Magipaleontology than his dabblings in alchemy."
"So he did it then. He produced the Elixir of Life." Mulder shook his head in disbelief.
"Yes, but the Stone has been destroyed for the benefit of mankind. Nicholas and his wife went on to the next great adventure nearly seven years ago."
Scully looked at him shrewdly. "By 'went on to the next great adventure' do you mean 'died after long and fruitful lives,' or 'covertly continue to fight the forces of evil as members of Dumbledore's Legion of the Officially-Deceased'?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Nicholas and Pernelle have enough Elixir to live another 200 years if they so desire. And yes, we are in cahoots, a phrase which here means 'using the secrets of the past to save the world.'"
"Is there any particular reason you're keeping the origins of magic secret from your community?"
"Aside from Nicholas's phobia of peer review, we have very little concrete proof. Our theories exist largely in conjecture and personal experience. It's been a very frustrating experience. We've researched and investigated lead after lead, but it's as if there is an equal and opposite force working against us, trying to remove all evidence of our extraterrestrial ancestors."
Mulder and Scully exchanged glances.
"You have run up against similar problems in your work?"
Mulder took a deep breath. "Are you aware that in 1947 aliens crash-landed in the southwestern United States?"
"Do you know why it was covered up?"
"I assume because the extraterrestrials were bent on the destruction or enslavement of the human race."
"What makes you think they had hostile intentions?" Mulder's eyes gave nothing away.
"Why else would their craft have been destroyed?"
"Unexpected atmospheric conditions?"
"Mr. Mulder, among the theories Nicholas and I have about the early colonists who helped contribute to the biodiversity of this planet is that they did their best to protect the planet against hostile invaders. The ships that arrived on July 4, 1947 were not the first to visit. There were reports of unidentified flying objects months before; the preliminary scouts, I suspect. They had ample time to study the atmosphere, topography, and inhabitants of the planet and plan their attack. There was no reason for them to fail. Something sensed their intent and caused them to crash."
Scully cut in. "Why colonize our planet?"
"I don't know, Dr. Scully. Perhaps for the same reasons generations of humans destroy one another over a tiny strip of land. Perhaps for other reasons. Who can say?"
Mulder looked thoughtful. "Do you and Nicholas have any idea what sort of powers are protecting the earth?"
"We suspect that the surface of the earth is covered with something like a protective ward which is generated by hundreds of powerful magical generators. We believe the ward can sense intention, reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian magic that has survived. For example, the Fidelius charm, which dates back to the Ptolmeic Dynasty, is still the most effective for concealing a person's secrets inside another human being. The charm can only be broken if the secret-keeper deliberately breaks the charm." Dumbledore tapped the side of his nose with his index finger. "For those of us in the know, it is considered very unwise to torture a secret- keeper because of the protection given by the Fidelius. The charm protects the secret by any means necessary. Sometimes there are unexpected detriments to those who would interfere with the charm. Based on Nicholas's work in the 1700s, we've surmised that the wards protecting this planet function similarly. A group of extraterrestrials landing for reconnaissance purposes would be fine, but three ships full of beings that mean to obliterate a planet might have problems getting their plans off the ground, so to speak. "
"Then how do you explain alien abudctions?"
"Any number of possibilities. An abduction is not always done with intent to harm. Perhaps the ancient magic has a liberal definition of 'nonhostile.'"
Scully jumped in again. "How is this ancient magic different than modern magic?"
"To grossly generalize, it's less precise. Rather than using one type of magic, ancient spells use them all at once. It takes a great deal of will and determination to wield ancient magic; much more so than modern spells. But there's no need for me to babble on into infinity about such things, as I have these for your perusal." He pulled a handful of matchbook-sized books from his pocket, and with a wave of his wand they expanded to their normal size and came to rest on the bed next to Scully.
She fingered their spines reverently. Magical Theory. Standard Book of Spells v.1-10. One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. Her gaze lingered on the last title, for some reason a nameless suspicion stirred.
"Mr. Dumbldore, what happened on the plane?"
He looked very sad for an instant, but met her gaze unflinchingly. "Not understanding your circumstances, I engaged you in magical conversation. When I realized my error, I erased a bit of your memory." At Scully's aghast expression, he continued hurriedly. "In my defense, Muggle-born witches are not common in the US, especially Muggle-born witches who are completely unaware of the magical world. Had I any idea I would have seen you again, I would not have done it."
"You would have left me ignorant? I could have been a danger to myself or others!" Scully's frayed nerves were beginning to show. Remembering the exploding flowers, Mulder busied himself with flipping through Magical Theory.
Dumbledore's eyes were gentle. "It wasn't my place to help you. I did what I could: I informed the Ministry that an unregistered witch was in the country, and they've been keeping an eye on you since your arrival."
"Yes." His eyes were grave. "Percy was one of my best and brightest students. Unfortunately, he's had to learn many things the hard way, not least of which, the fallibility of the Ministry."
"What about Dr. Wei?"
"Another one of my former students, and an interesting story. As I'm sure you've noticed, Dr. Wei is uncommonly intelligent and hardworking. What you may not know is that the Weis are a very old and very powerful Wizarding family. When Cho's mother married Liangru Chang, a philanthropist in the Muggle world, both had very high hopes for their daughter, and she has exceeded all expectations. In the Magical world, Dr. Wei goes by her father's name, where it will give her no special advantage. In the Muggle world, she uses her mother's, for the same reason. She is equally distinguished in both worlds."
"Severus Snape teaches potions in my former school. He has been, in order, the protégé of a powerful dark wizard, a spy against said dark wizard, an assassin of the supporters of said dark wizard, researcher extrordinaire, and, most recently, my mole in the Brisbin Institute."
"I see, and what about Harold?"
Dumbledore's face paled. "Harold?"
"The desk clerk. Every casual acquaintance I've made on this trip has turned out to be involved in this somehow. Why not Harold?"
"I see." Dumbledore had calmed visibly. "To my knowledge, the desk clerk is not involved, though should you have the pleasure to meet a Harry Potter, give him my regards. Not that he'd believe you, with my being dead and all, but it would make me feel better."
"Well, it seems to be getting late, and I'm sure you'll want to peruse some of these books before you meet with Dr. Wei tomorrow morning."
"Mr. Dumbledore, what exactly do you want us to do tomorrow?"
His gaze drifted from her to Mulder, then back to Scully. "I want you to do what you would normally do in such a case. Dr. Scully, I want you to note but not mention anything magical you may sense or see. When you are finished at the Brisbin Institute for the day, Percy will meet you back at the hotel to discuss what must be done regarding your status with the Ministry. He will also take you to get a wand. Oh yes, and Severus would like his back, if you don't mind, seeing as you'll soon have one of your own tomorrow."
Scully reluctantly handed the beautiful wand to Dumbledore. He rolled it delicately in his fingers. "I'm surprised you were able to get any results from this wand. Like Severus, this wand looks to be quite temperamental. "
"Well, I did manage to blow up a vase of flowers outside Liangru's office."
"I see. Most accidental magic happens during moments of emotional stress, usually fear or anger." Dumbledore looked pointedly at Mulder, then turned back to Scully. "Do your best to avoid agitation until you are able to gain a little more control over how your skills manifest themselves."
Scully let out a harsh chuckle. "If confusion counts as agitation, then agitation is inevitable."
"I daresay I've filled your heads enough for this evening. Hopefully they'll be nice and empty again by the time I see you again, and we can discuss Nicholas's works further. Mr. Mulder?" He extended his hand to Mulder, who shook it. "Dr. Scully." Instead of shaking her proffered hand, he kissed it gallantly. "Good luck, my dear. You're everything I could have hoped for in an ally. Until next time!" Dumbledore swirled his cloak around himself theatrically and vanished with a pop.
"People come and go so quickly here!" exclaimed Mulder in his best Judy Garland voice.
"Magic. Aliens. 500-year old Alchemists." Scully flopped backwards on the bed and began massaging her eyelids. "Is it just me, or do you also feel like your brain is leaking out your ears?"
Mulder ruffled her hair, and she smacked his hand away half-heartedly. "No agitation. I might blow you sky high."
Mulder snorted and just managed to repress a comment about being blown by Scully. At his reaction, she realized her unfortunate wording and smacked his arm.
"What did I say?"
"Honestly!" She huffily turned over on her stomach and began leafing through volume one of Standard Book of Spells. He smiled at the back of her head, and lay down next to her with One-Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi.
They lay there reading in companionable silence until Mulder began snoring softly. His head lay on the open book in front of him, and the mandrake in the illustration (which moved, naturally) protested silently. His hair was sticking out in odd directions and she could tell that he'd have red marks on the bridge of his nose the next day from sleeping in his glasses. She smiled to herself, then impulsively leaned over and affectionately kissed him on the forehead. He murmured in his sleep, then began snoring in earnest. Taking care not to move the bed too much, she gathered volumes 1-3 of her spell books and retired to Mulder's daisy-scented bathroom to work on her pronunciation.
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
"Expel-lee-yaaaaaar-mus. Expel-li-yaaaar-mus. Ex-PEL-ee-yarmus. Expelliarumus!"
Mulder awoke around 1AM to the sounds of strange chanting coming from his room. Oops. Guess he'd kicked Scully out of her room. It didn't sound like she was sleeping though. He crept quietly to the bathroom and peeked around the door. Scully was holding a pencil in her hand and brandishing it threateningly at her reflection. She waved the pencil at her reflected self.
"Stoooo-pi-fieeee. Sto-PEEEE-fy. Stupefy!"
She broke eye contact with her reflection and consulted the book on the counter.
"Im-ped-eeee-mentia. Impedi-MEN-tia. Impedi-Mulder!" She finally noticed him peeking around the corner and flushed. "I was just trying to memorize a few helpful spells."
He flipped through the book, noticing the pages she'd marked. "Disarming spells? Stunning? Why don't you just turn them into frogs or something?"
"That's transfiguration, and I don't know anything about how to do it. I think I can figure out charms fairly well, so long as I'm not pronouncing them incorrectly." She yawned, suddenly exhausted. "Maybe Dr. Wei can help me tomorrow. What time is it?"
"It's about 1. Don't you think you've done enough studying for tonight? You have to be awake for the autopsy tomorrow."
She yawned again. "I wish I had a wand now. There's just so much to learn." She looked very small and pale then, with her hair falling in her face.
Using great care, Mulder guided her back to her rose-covered bed. He turned down the blankets for her. "Hey Scully, what's the difference between a spell and a charm?"
She allowed him to help out of her jeans and into bed. "A charm is a spell utilizing trigger words to activate the magical energy. A spell is a general term for magical energy released with a specific intent."
He pulled the covers up over her. "What's your favorite spell so far?"
She sleepily pondered the question. Settling into her sleeping position and fanning her hair out over the pillow, she murmured. "Accio." Sme smiled sleepily. "Definitely Accio."
Mulder leaned close and whispered, "You'll be brilliant tomorrow, Scully." On a sudden impulse, he kissed her forehead tenderly. She murmured something unintelligible, and her breathing fell into slow and regular intervals.
He turned off the lamp by her bedside and allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkness. The ambient light from the street below cast a bluish glow over the room, darkening the rose hues to deep purple and illuminating her fair skin. He allowed himself a few moments of watching her, unburdened in slumber before returning to his own room.
He fell into a deep sleep and had very strange dreams that he couldn't remember the next day.
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