Chapter #1

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 He bounced that infernal red ball of his against the wall of our room. Bang, bang, bang. My ears pick out the individual vibrations of the sound. Wall, floor, bed. Wall, floor, bed.

"Will you stop that already? I swear, I'll turn you into a frog if you don't." I spit at him, sneering. I do that a lot. Sneer at Simon. Simon Snow, the Chosen One. The one that's going to end me, once and for all. The one I love.

"That's an empty threat and you know it. You'd have to turn me back, and to do that you'd have to kiss me. You wouldn't do that in your most terrible nightmares," he says back. He doesn't know how wrong he is. It's not like I'm going to tell him that, though. He stops, of course. I think he's afraid of me. I know it, actually.

It sucks having to share a room with Snow. I can't even say his first name anymore. Well, I choose not to. He'd never let me forget it if I did.

Simon Snow is just about the worst chosen one I've ever seen or even heard of. The kid can't even hold his wand straight. All he ever does is light the world on fire. My world on fire. He goes off on whatever is in his way. Simon blows up - literally - and gets a pat on the back from literally everyone. The Mage's weapon really. Simon is the only reason my parents and the rest of the Old Families haven't sieged at Watford's front door. They've never been fond of the Mage, but it's only ever gotten worse.
The Mage has everyone at Watford School of Magicks either wrapped around his little finger, or kept at bay with threats. And we have more than enough proof that they're not empty ones either. He's raided my family's property, the Pitch estate, nine times this month. Nine. That's two more than last month, and the month before that. I think it's his way of displaying his dominance over us all.

Snow stays pouting on his side of the room. He never crosses over onto my side. We've shared this room for seven years - now coming up on the eighth, in fact. I'll tell you, it's not easy sharing a room with the person who's most likely going to kill you, but that you've been madly in love with for seven years. He's the Mage's puppet, and I'm a Pitch. The enemy of the Mage. The enemy of Simon. And he's so powerful - even regardless of his lack of control - that there's no doubt he'll finish me. I'll probably let him, the fool that I am. If I don't do the job for him. It's what my mom would want for me. Ever since I was a vampire.

They attacked Watford on a beautiful, sunny day. It was almost as if the world was playing a joke on us all. Like it was saying, Screw all of that. Let's be happy. Like it was mocking us. The vampires attacked the nursery that day, so long ago, and because Natasha Grimm-Pitch (my mother) was headmistress, she came immediately, spitting curses and conjuring walls of fire with but a whisper. She was so powerful. I was four, but I remember vampires, then a blinding flash of light and fire. The flames licked at my skin, and the room was so hot. Then, one of them had me. I was in their gray, bloodless clutches. It sank its teeth into my throat.

Then there was twice the fire, and in a flicker, I saw one of those beasts Turn her. And she erupted into flames of her own creation. Right then, I blacked out. Right then, my mother died.

My mother killed herself because she had become one of those vile creatures. I am too, I suppose. Nothing but a vile creature in her eyes. I am a bloodsucking thing.

"If you hate me that much, why don't you just go outside? Simon says, snapping me out of my trance. I almost forgot that he was in the room. I almost lost myself in remembering.

"Are you really that stupid?" I snap back, still bitter from thinking about my mother. "The smoke. Did you think it just went away, all of a sudden?"

"No," Snow responds. "I don't even know if it can anymore," he says, low. He thinks I can't hear him. No human should be able to hear at that frequency. But I'm not human. Maybe he knows. With all of the late nights out someplace mysterious (the catacombs beneath the school), my hopelessly gray complexion. Red flags left and right. Or maybe he just thinks I have a girlfriend. As if.

We sit in silence for a while, letting his words sink into every pore of our existence. I can barely remember a time before the smoke. I feel like its name doesn't quite do it justice. It's more of a melancholy gray that seeps into your soul; a blanket of silence that has fallen over the entire world, and refused to lift. I guess that's what we get for going so industrial. We were so caught up in our "progress" we didn't see that we were choking ourselves. And here we are, not even living anymore. Not even going outside. And then they started the fires...

When I was four, when the accident happened, the sky was still blue. Now that seems foreign and unreal, like a dream dreamt too close to waking. Too impossible to tell if maybe it really did happen. Or perhaps it was just a dream. Maybe we all just had some sort of mass hallucination, and had just imagined the perfect life, the perfect sky, the perfect air. I'm starting to doubt that it ever happened at all.

"Are you going to practice your articulations?" I ask Simon.

"What?" he snaps, surprised. "Why do you even care? It's not like you've ever cared before, in the seven years that we've shared a room and almost all of our classes. Why start now?" He's the bitter one this time.

I can tell that he's skeptical, too. He has a right to be, though. The number of times that I've tricked or made him miserable in one way or another are too numerous to count. I have not been kind to Simon Snow.

"Well it's eighth year, and I figured maybe you wouldn't like to blow yourself up this time around. I thought that I could give you some pointers."

"Baz, are you serious?" he asks me. He sounds like I've asked the most ridiculous question of the last decade. I practically have.

"Do you think I'm kidding?"

"Well, um... no, I guess not."

"See, this is why you can't cast a spell for your life!" I explain to him.

"This is exactly why I never talk to you, Baz! You can't be humble for more than thirty seconds!" Simon screams at me, exasperated. He growls under his breath.

"Ugh, no. I meant stuttering. If you stutter, instead of lighting a match, you very well might burn down the whole town." I start off quiet. "Or not do anything at all. I'm trying to help your sorry arse, but you just yell at me!" I say, screaming too, now. "That's all you ever do! You yell at the Mage, you yell at your degressing number of friends, you yell at whatever's trying to kill you now! You yell in your sleep for God's sake!" I'm wailing now. I'll bet everyone in all of Watford can hear me. My mask of calm has slipped completely. "This was a mistake," I whisper. "I should never have tried to help you. Crowley, you're such an ungrateful ass, Snow."

He just stands there, staring open-mouthed at me. The air around him shimmers and blurs like he's about to go off on me, red clouding the space between us. It's the only sign that he cares. Snow always cares. It's one of his issues. His many, many issues.

I storm out of the room, slamming the doors behind me. I shouldn't give a shit what he thinks of me. Hell, I already know! But it still hurts. I love everything about him, and he hates my guts. I certainly don't blame him. He knows that I'm a vampire - how could he not? Everyone knows my family's politics. Anti-Mage. Our only conversations have been arguments, and he questions me if I act the slightest bit nice towards him. I'm everything he hates and more. And that hurts more than I thought it ever could.

My family doesn't even think I should be alive anymore. And if it were up to my mother, - if she were still alive - I wouldn't even be here. Maybe I would be better off that way. Maybe the world would just be better off without a Baz Grimm-Pitch. The World of Mages doesn't need another useless mage. And it certainly doesn't need me.

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