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                “W-What was that?” Chris stammered as he stumbled after Josh. He seemed to know the woods a lot better than he did, so Chris was constantly tripping over hidden roots and getting tangled up in weeds. Josh sped on, every so often glancing back to make sure Chris was still there. With a wave of his hand trees limbs bent out of their way.                 

                “A hex,” he said. He pressed onwards, taking turns that Chris would never have known to take.

                “So…So not good, right?” The look Josh threw him over his shoulder told him that that was a stupid question.

                “Only dark magic requires blood—of any kind. Death itself is a form of power, and it takes a very dark witch to channel it into their spells. It’s dangerous and forbidden,” Josh explained. They passed trees Chris didn’t remember passing before, but in a forest like this that didn’t mean anything. He couldn’t remember every tree they passed.

                “And that hex, w-what does it do exactly?” Chris asked, his coat snagging on an outstretched limb making him jump.

                “It’s like an anchor; a magical waypoint. Whoever made it marked that area with their magic. It means whoever they are, they’ll be able to find that place again or-or use it as a doorway. I don’t know,” Josh climbed over a fallen log, offering Chris a hand in assistance.

                “It didn’t look like that other doorway, the one your sister opened,” he huffed.

                “That’s because they’re not the same—I’m not even sure it was a doorway. The glyphs looked like passage points but there were some I didn’t recognize. The one Beth opened was for people to pass through. If it is some kind of portal, it’s not for humans,” Josh’s face was drained of color, like it had been the night before. It made Chris feel distinctly unsafe.

                “Are we safe?” Chris asked, his voice squeaking slightly. He looked over his shoulder, suddenly afraid they were being followed.

                “Yes, there’s all sorts of protection charms around the house—powerful charms and stuff. It was built by the strongest witches in our coven. Nothing’s getting through it,” Josh reassured, though the expression on his face looked more like doubt.

                Finally, they broke through the tree line and Chris was surprised to find they’d come out on the opposite side of the house from where they’d left. He looked around in confusion, but Josh didn’t seem affected and continued speed walking towards the house. He didn’t even stop when they went inside. Instead, he went room to room calling out his mother’s name. She silently appeared in one of the entranceways, almost startling Chris to death. Josh approached her, opening his mouth to say something, but stopped. His eyes flickered to Chris and his mouth snapped shut.

                “I think I conveniently left something important in my bag that’s upstairs and not in this room,” Chris took the hint. Josh gave him a thankful nod as he backed out of the room.

               

                Josh told his mother what they’d seen, trying his best to explain the strange glyphs. He’d have taken a picture on his phone or tried to redraw them, but capturing or recreating such dark magic wasn’t safe. She nodded gravely as he spoke, her eyes distant.

                “Come with me,” she said, leading the way up the stairs. They went straight for the attic, a place even Josh wasn’t usually supposed to go. The air there was thick with magic, protection charms not only keeping things out, but keeping things in. His mother roamed the shelves, picking out a few thick tomes that had a sinister air. Their covers were dark and wordless and they looked older than both their ages combined. She carefully opened one, gently turning the pages. She stopped on one with glyphs written all over the page in large black scripts. Words were written beside them, but they were in a language Josh had never seen before. From the images decorating the borders of the page, skulls and winged demons, that this was definitely a book on ancient black magic. “Do any of these look familiar?” she asked.

                Josh looked over the page. Nothing immediately jumped out at him, but—wait. “This one. It was at the top of the pentagram,” he pointed to a mark towards the bottom of the page. His mother frowned, her fears confirmed.

                “I don’t want you going back there, not until we find him. It’s not safe, he’s up to something dangerous,” she said as they left the attic, his mother locking the door with magical charms behind them. “As for Chris—“

                “I know, I know. You want me to take him home and never speak to him again,” Josh interrupted. He knew it was coming, but he didn’t want to think about it. He’d grown rather fond of Chris, and rather quickly—perhaps too quickly.

                “Actually, Alan was saying that it might actually be safer for him to stay as close to us as possible. He suspects Vincent may be targeting him already, but we can’t be certain. Either he stays with us, or he leaves and you erase his memories. I say give him the choice,” she corrected. Josh was surprised. His mother was against their interacting with mundanes; nothing good usually came from witches and mundanes coming together. Maybe she was expecting him to want to forget. Secretly Josh hoped that maybe he wouldn’t.

                “Where is Alan anyways? He said he wanted to speak to me,” he questioned, looking down the hall towards his room when they came to the second floor landing. His bedroom door was ajar.

                “He had to leave. He said something about some kind of urgent business. Knowing him it could be anything. I don’t know, I’m not clairvoyant,” she sighed. “I’ve got some work to do. I’ll have to make some counter curses and send someone out to investigate. When your sisters get home make sure you guys complete the protection charm,” she told him as she continued down the stairs. Josh made his way to his bedroom.

                Chris was sitting on the edge of his bed staring out the window. He jumped when Josh came into the room.

                “Oh I, uh, found the thing,” he said, though he was holding nothing. Moving past Chris, Josh flopped down into his desk chair, twiddling with a seemingly normal pen. “So, nice talk? With your mom?”

                “Yea,” he released the pen and it began to walk across the table on its own. They watched it teeter towards the edge, and with the slightest flick of his hand, it fell forward off the table, returning to an ordinary inanimate object. He was trying to arrange the words in his mind. “So, mom says you have two options. One, you can go home and I can make sure you forget this ever happened. Two, you stay as close to me as you possibly can. The closer the better. Probably not as safe, but still pretty safe. No one in their right mind messes with the Washingtons.”

                “I’m guessing the man we met the other night isn’t in his right mind?” Chris asked.

                “Yea, not really,” he grinned, glancing at Chris from the side of his eyes. Chris stared at his wall, deep in thought. On one hand, he could go back to his normal and safe mundane life. He’d go back to his normal family, showing up to his normal classes, having a normal crush on the boy in the back of the room. On the other, he could stay. He’d be close to Josh and he’d be exposed to this crazy society of witches and magic—but he could be putting his life on the line, maybe even his family’s.

                He thought long and hard on the matter, weighing the pros and cons. Logic told him to go home, that there was no need to unnecessarily risk his safety, but another more reckless side spoke to him. “I’ll stay,” he said. Maybe it was his imagination, but Chris could’ve sworn Josh looked relieved.

 

                As the last rays of sunlight sank beneath the trees Josh’s twin sisters came strolling through the trees. Josh watched them from the kitchen window. Chris was sitting at one of the bar stools, idly drinking from a glass of water. The door opened and the twins came in. From the happy expressions on their faces, it was obvious that neither of them had seen what they had.

                “Well, now that you’re here we can all get started,” Josh clapped his hands together. Chris looked between him and his sisters with a look of concern. He’d never heard of a protection spell and he wondered what it involved.

                Josh lead them to one of the upstairs rooms they hadn’t been in before on their tour earlier. It had a wooden floor with a pentagram already drawn on it in white chalk. The windows had thick maroon curtains shutting out the light and the room was bare of all furniture., except candles scattered all around the room.

                “I’ll go get the stuff. Josh, do you know where you put the other half of the crystal?” Beth asked, drumming her fingers on the doorframe.

                “Should still be on the table,” Josh replied, crossing to a small box sitting on the floor in the far corner of the room. Chris, unsure of what to do followed him. The box was filled with pieces of chalk. Josh took one and crouched down by the pentagram, drawing symbols Chris didn’t understand and muttering under his breath. Hannah went about the room lighting all of the candle with flicks of her hand. She caught Chris watching her and offered him a friendly smile. Magic hung heavily in the air around them, even Chris could feel it.

                “So what am I supposed to do exactly?” Chris asked. The siblings looked at each other.

                “You don’t actually do anything,” Hannah said.

                “Yea, you’re not even going to be in the room when we do it,” Josh added.

                “I’m not?” Chris felt a mix of relief and concern.

                “Nope. It’ll be easier for the magic to flow if it’s just witches in the room. Sorry man,” he clapped Chris on the shoulder as he stood, dusting off his chalk covered hands on Chris’ jacket sleeve with a sly grin. Beth entered the room, holding various small bowls full of various things. In her hand she held a small crystal. She signaled to them it was time to start. “You can either wait around in my room, or we have a game room downstairs. There’s TV, movies, games. You’ll find something to keep you entertained. I’ll come get you when we’re through,” Josh led him from the room, giving Chris one last devious grin before closing the door behind him. Backlit by candle light, Chris had to admit he’d never looked so attractive.

 

                He meandered around downstairs for a while, looking through their seemingly endless supply of movies and eyeing the games curiously. For a while he played pool by himself, though the silence unsettled him. He turned on the television just to have some kind of noise, flipping to a nature documentary about butterflies. Like hypnosis, he was drawn into watching the entire thing, and even the following documentary on bees. Almost three hours had passed by time he checked the clock. Still no sign of Josh.

                Quietly he made his way up the stairs, wondering how much longer the Washingtons would be. He tiptoed passed the room they were in, pausing to listen. He heard nothing but the muffled sound of one of the girls presumably chanting. Releasing the breath he didn’t know he was holding, he continued down the hall to Josh’s room.

                He took a seat in Josh’s desk chair, slowly spinning in it with his eyes unfocused. When that made him dizzy and kind of nauseous, he wheeled over to Josh’s bookshelf. The books there were a combination of magical tomes, books he probably had to read in high school, and volumes on the history of the film industry. There were books containing details and behind the scene facts on nearly every classic movie ever made. Towards the bottom there was even a pile of Psychology texts. Chris picked one up, thumbing through the pages.

                Another hour must have passed while he was reading about the different parts of the human brain and their functions. He pulled out his phone to check the time; it was getting late. He scrolled through his apps, checking his email and replying to messages. He looked at the latest news stories, catching up on current events. He was so absorbed from the light of his phone that he didn’t notice the door opening. Josh cleared his throat and Chris jumped, nearly falling out of the chair. “You’ve got to stop sneaking up on me,” he laughed.

                “Sorry,” Josh grinned, taking a seat on the edge of his bed. His eyes flickered to the floor and he toyed nervously with something in his hand. “Well, here you go,” he held out a crystal tied to a thin leather cord: a necklace.

                Chris took it into his hand. He could feel the tingle of magic singing from the stone. One side was smooth like a polished crystal should be, but the other was jagged, as if it used to be part of a larger crystal. Josh pulled out a similar necklace from inside his shirt. His crystal seemed to be the other half to his. “So, is that it?” Chris asked, slipping the cord around his neck.

                “Well, almost. We used the same protection charm on your pendant that we used on mine. There’s one last spell I gotta do that’ll bind you to the pendant so the charm is complete,” Josh explained.

                “What’re you waiting for?” Chris was rather curious and excited to see a spell performed. Josh, however, didn’t seem so enthused.

                “Um, well, the strongest form of protection is a spell bound in affection…” he began, but his words were lost on Chris. Josh inwardly groaned as he was forced to continue his explanation. “Spells have to be sealed a-and this one it’s, uh, well it’s sealed…with a kiss,” he finally managed. Chris froze at the realization, blood rushing to his cheeks. Oh.

                “Sorry, I know its we—“

                “No, it’s..it’s fine. I mean, so what. N-no big deal,” Chris stammered. Josh nodded. In the low lighting it looked like Josh was blushing too. He sat forward, clearing his throat. He closed his eyes, whispering something in another language, maybe Latin. Chris watched the way his lips moved, the words whispered over them. His face felt hot, like he had a fever, and his throat was dry. When the spell was finished Josh opened his eyes. They seemed to pull in all the light in the room, glimmering like stars. The tension between them was thick enough to be physically felt.

                Slowly Josh leaned forward, inching closer to his face. Chris wasn’t sure what to do. Should he close his eyes? Should he kiss him back? Should he just sit there and pretend nothing was happening? Before he could think of an answer to any of his question, or even prepare himself before Josh pressed their lips together. His lips felt warm and a little dry, and it took every ounce of will Chris had not to melt into it. To Chris’ disappointment, the kiss ended as quickly as it had happened. Josh pulled back, his face as red and as warm as Chris’.

                “There. It’s done,” Josh whispered, his voice a little hoarse. Chris couldn’t think, he had only one thing on his mind.

                “A-Are you sure?” he licked his lips, “Maybe you should try again, j-just to be sure, ya know?”

                This brought a smile to Josh’s face and he let out a breathy laugh. It sent shudders down Chris’ spine. Chris swallowed hard as Josh’s hand cupped his face. That devious grin of his was pulling at his lips. “Well, just to be sure…” Josh leaned in, pulling Chris’ face forwards and pressing their lips together a little harder than before. This time Chris kissed him back, humming softly against his lips. Josh’s hand slid to the back of his neck, carding through his hair. Chris could feel the flow of magic flowing from his finger tips and could taste it on Josh’s tongue. Everywhere their skin met Chris could feel the energy pulsing between them. Josh pulled Chris onto his bed, eager for them to be closer. It was bliss, better than anything Chris had ever felt. He couldn’t imagine forgetting this he thought as Josh’s tongue danced in his mouth and his hand slid beneath his shirt. He was definitely staying; no matter what danger lies ahead.