Marie Hattison Paris had always had a good picture of how her life would turn out - pretty much like her own mother's life had gone, with only a few changes. She would build up her name as a witch, letting people know that her fame was not only because of her heritage. By the time she was 50, she would already be known to be following her mother's path, but by her own efforts. In her late sixties, she would let everyone know that she was going to continue their legacy by finding a suitable warlock to help her have a child - a girl, of course. That little girl's name would be Elisabeth, after her mother. To avoid confusion, though, she would be called by her middle name, Diana. Elisabeth Diana Paris was going to be amazing, she just knew it. She would have already accomplished enough by then that she could rest into early retirement, dedicating the rest of her life to raising an amazing little witch. And then, if she were lucky, she would be called upon to assist in a great endeavor, having one final heroic moment. It would be alright if that moment took her life, as it did her mother's. Having lived such a life, she would be allowed to retain some consciousness in this realm, to continue guiding her amazing daughter.
Hattie did want to integrate into non-magical society more than her mother ever did, though. It was easier now. That's what she told herself. There was a little part of her that knew, though - separation from mundane society was simply more difficult than ever before. It was hardly possible to build a little cabin in the woods and live off the land anymore. Land was definitively claimed, and forested areas were more often than not popular camping areas for mundane people.
And if Hattie had to be honest with herself, she would admit that, yes, she liked the various amenities that came with modern mundane society. Magic was wonderful, of course. She didn't need most kitchen appliances, because she had magic to do that. The same went for housecleaning. But magic couldn't compare to the majority of the technology rolling out every day, the things labeled as luxuries. Hattie loved them, loved playing with them and testing them. And enjoying them meant integrating into mundane society, getting a mundane job, and so forth.
True, there was a certain amount of derision in the magical community for those who relied too much on modern technology. At conventions, there was always that one group who display techmagic, infusing computerized machines with spells for different effects. It was big in the 90s, especially. Two decades later, though, there was more giggling than marveling at such things.
Eldritch Dean Paris tried to massage the migraine from his head. It had been a long day, running errands for his mother's boss - his boss, now - and he still had to study for an exam. He looked around the lobby outside of Farrah's office, making sure he didn't see anyone. It was a very modern art inspired room; Dean imagined that was what had drawn his mother to this marketing company in particular. The design of the place really exemplified her favorite things about mundane society. The room was off-white, but still bright, with chairs a grey that was just dark enough to contrast, but light enough to not draw attention. Amanda, secretary to both his boss Farrah and his mother, took calls in a quiet voice behind a starkly black desk in the corner opposite the door. When Dean was fairly certain that Farrah wasn't around, he let himself slide into one of the grey chairs. They weren't uncomfortable, but not plush enough to encourage too much lingering. After his long day, though, he thought he could spend forever there.
He didn't know how much time had passed when he could feel someone peering at him. Assuming it was Amanda, put off that he was loitering in the lobby, he didn't open his eyes, but leaned forward with his head in his hands instead. He recognized the sound of someone clearing her throat, and realized it wasn't Amanda. It was his mother.
"Eldritch," she said sternly, using the modified family name rather than the name she'd given him, "is everything alright?"
He sighed and straightened himself, seeing his mother for the first time that day. They technically worked in the same building, but all of her work was done from this little section, whereas most of his took him to every different office and sector. Hattie was dressed in a typical blue pantsuit, accented with black boots on high heels - one thing from her magical attire she would never give up. Her curly brown hair hung free, which meant she hadn't had to meet with any clients today. She had probably been sitting at a computer the whole time, arranging print ads and sending out demos to potential clients.
"Everything is fine, Mom. Just a little sore and tired. You know, never enough hours in the day, right?"
Hattie crossed her arms and leaned forward, dropping her voice to a whisper. "You could always do something about that for yourself, you know."
"I can't waste my power on things like that," he said, matching her whisper. "I'm not like you."
He could see concern and disappointment mix on her face. Early on in his life, Hattie had barely concealed her disappointment in his existence. He never quite knew why until the first time she took him to a magical convention, when he was thirteen. His mother had been well-known, he could tell. Just about everyone they met would compliment her on various feats, before saying, "Oh, this must be your…son." By the end of the first day, he had felt more shame than he thought possible, without even knowing why.
That evening, there had been a ball held for new witches and warlocks, those just hitting the age that their family traditionally began allowing them to attend conventions. For most, that age was 13, but there were some as young as 11 and others as old as 16. At the ball, he was met with more whispers and stares than even during the day. Finally, a girl in a pretty purple gown with enchanted sparkles on it approached him, making polite small talk. He appreciated her attempt at making him feel better, but he tried to leave her quickly enough. It was almost more embarrassing to have someone go out of their way to make him feel welcome. Just as he started to turn, though, she grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the crowd.
"You don't know, do you?" she asked.
"Know what?" His face burned red and he wanted nothing more than to bolt.
"Why everyone seems to already know who you are." He shook his head. "Your mom, Marie Hattison Paris," she said with breathy reverence. "She's famous. Your whole familial line is famous!"
He shrugged. "I kind of got that feeling."
"But there have only ever been witches in your line. Hattie Paris is the first of her line to ever have a boy. No one is really sure what to expect from you."
It didn't really hit him then, but over the years, he had had plenty of time to reflect on that fact. After the ball, when the time had come for him to start getting lessons in magic, his mother had hired a tutor. It wasn't exactly unheard of, but typically in the older families with stronger lines, the teaching came from the parents. That way, family traditions in methodology were upheld. Again, it wasn't something that had an immediate impact on Dean's outlook. But every time that stodgy old man with dusty looking white hair came by their apartment in New York, it sank a little deeper.
Dean was snapped out of his reverie by a cooling sensation in his forehead. His mother had her right spell finger on his forehead, and her brow was furrowed a little.
"That should help. You need to get to the root of your problems, though." She moved her fingertip to his throat. "Reiki isn't my strong suit, per se. We could get you-"
"Not your strong suit? You're Hattie Paris. Everything is your strong suit, isn't it?" She sighed and let her hand fall to her side.
"It's a little more difficult with such a stubborn patient. When you're blocking your own powers, there's only so much I can do." She turned away and crossed her arms. Dean could almost see the teenage girl he'd heard that his mother was, before she had become one of the most renowned witches of her day. "Particularly if you can't even admit to me that I am your problem."
"Hi, I'm looking for Dean? Dean Paris? I don't know if you remember me, but this is Margaret Thayer. Or, you know, Maggie. Um. We met years ago, at a convention. It's been a while, I know. But I just wanted to…see how you were doing and all. I'd love to hear back from you!"
The message had been waiting for Dean when he got home. Normally he checked his phone throughout the day, but it had been so hectic that he couldn't pay attention to anything that wasn't from Farrah or another of her minions - that is, assistants. And anyways, he rarely cared to check his voicemail.
Maggie had to be a witch, though. It's not like he went to any mundane conventions for anime or video games. What kind of witch would leave a voicemail? Even Hattie, queen of the modern witches, only used magical means to communicate audibly. She texted plenty, but voicemail was the most awkward mundane communication.
He contemplated calling Maggie back. He knew that his lifestyle was the reason most witches and warlocks resisted integration into mundane society. He had never bothered to try to make friends within the magical community. Conventions were unavoidable, so he attended those with Hattie, but that was as far as he went. Since he had gone to school in the mundane world, he had just never had much reason to integrate in the other world.
Hattie had never made an effort to bring him into her life in that aspect, although he was aware that most of the people in her life were magical. Even right now, he knew that she had invited a friend over from the Veiled Realm, but she hadn't introduced him. He had seen the blonde woman before and assumed that she was a close friend of his mother's, but he had never met her or heard his mother talk about her. It was always that way. If he didn't know differently for sure, he would think that his mother had no witch or warlock friends.
Although Dean had always considered himself something of an introvert, he had always done well socially and romantically. He hadn't lacked for friends, even when they weren't always wanted. Nothing had ever been too serious, but he had had several girlfriends in the past few years. Doing well in high school and making the right connections had gotten him into a great program at NYU - granted, accounting was about as mundane as you could possibly get.
Dean dribbled a pen on his desk beside his open textbook, gleaning over highlighted phrases while he debated internally on whether to call Maggie back. It's too late now anyways, he reasoned. He tried to ignore that his watch only read 8 PM, a perfectly reasonable time to call someone. Texting wasn't out of the picture though, right? Less awkward in general, and it didn't matter if she saw it now or later. But after she went through the trouble of calling, it might seem dismissive to text her.
He sighed, knowing that he needed to get the matter out of his head soon so that he could study. Trying to convince himself that he was totally casual about it, he unlocked his phone and went to the missed call. He hovered between the options to send a message or call the number, before finally landing on adding the information to his contacts.
Tea spilled into Hattie's cup neatly, and then the teapot glided away towards the counter. It was almost there when it paused.
"Oh, sorry, 'Til, can I refill your cup?" she asked the blonde beauty across from her. Matilda shook her head, and Hattie let the teapot sit with a tidy clink onto its tray.
"You're awfully scatterbrained tonight, Hattie," her friend said matter-of-factly, and picked up her tea. There wasn't a question of why in her voice, but there rarely was with Matilda. It wasn't in her nature to really worry about others, but the years had taught the stoic witch that people liked when you noticed their state-of-being.
Hattie shrugged gently. "I guess it's just…Dean. I wonder if it's my fault that…" She trailed off. She did her best to keep it a close secret that Dean's power wasn't up to the standards expected from Paris women. Of course, Dean wasn't a Paris woman, but he was from her line. But of course, she had gone through similar conversations with Matilda that the other woman knew what she meant.
Matilda wrinkled her nose and set down her cup. "How can that be your fault? If he is unable to keep up, well, he is a warlock after all. You can never expect the same caliber from them." She cast a look around the patio that Hattie recognized. Matilda had always kept a clean, almost barren home. Hattie's was more traditional, in its own way. A witch should have everything she needed close at hand, as her mother had always told her. That in mind, she made sure to keep plenty of herbs on her patio, growing year round with a little help. Then there were the tools - a few small cauldrons with scattered ingredients around them occupied a corner shelf, astronomical devices cluttered a work bench, and the mundane tools that Dean used to keep up the herbs for her.
"But maybe…maybe he could have been more, 'Til. I never wanted to stunt his growth, but -"
"Didn't you?" Matilda interrupted her.
When Hattie looked up to her friend in surprise, she found those green eyes staring into her. "Didn't I what, Matilda?" A slender shoulder rose and fell.
"Didn't you want to stunt him? You were so angry, those first few years." Matilda paused, squinting her eyes a little, and Hattie could tell there was an empathy she had rarely seen on that pointed face. "I'm not sure you aren't still angry, Hattie. Angry that he got in the way of your plans."
Hattie only stared at the steam rising from her cup of tea. She had never thought of herself being angry at her son. It wasn't his fault that he had been born a boy. And technically, there was nothing that made men weaker at magic. There were certainly plenty of strong warlocks who accomplished as much as many women. But still, the idea was present in most minds. It was an unfair stigma, like all stigmas, but it was the general consensus that women had great control over the powers in the world.
Hattie herself was one of the most powerful witches alive. She knew that, and would not be modest about it. Just like the other women she was descended from, she had held the darkness at bay with the power of ten witches, freeing those others to do other things. Whenever the darkness would break through, she had often been the first to spring into action against it.
When she had gotten pregnant at 54, she had of course been praised. The magical population wasn't in a crisis yet, but there had been too many times in their history when their numbers had dwindled dangerously. Being long lived, there were still many among them who remembered those days. Any time a witch had a child, it was something to celebrate. But when a witch from an old, well-known family had a child, it was especially exciting.
"Do you remember the party?" she asked Matilda. "My baby shower?" Hattie waved her hand to make her now cold tea disappear, and summoned the teapot. Matilda nodded and also vanished her own cold tea.
"Of course. It was probably the biggest party in the Veiled Realm since Giselle's first ball." Hattie often forgot Matilda's age. The blonde witch integrated into mundane society so well that she seemed far younger than her 173 years. Now that Hattie took a good look at her friend, though, she could see that some of those blonde hairs were lighter and had more of a glisten to them. It was always harder to see white hair in blonde than grey hair in brown.
"No one questioned that I would have a girl. We only even had Yvonne do the test out of tradition." The teapot was empty now. Hattie pointed her spell finger at the cabinet, bringing out the tea leaves and kettle and setting them to work. "I had her name picked out, you know." Matilda sighed.
"Yes, Hattie, I know. Elisabeth Diana Paris. A beautiful name. Your mother would have been delighted." The other witch wrinkled her nose. "Poor Dean. What kind of first name is Eldritch? If you weren't going to be able to keep your mother's name because he was a boy, you could have just changed it altogether." Hattie laughed a little.
"I guess I could have. But you're right. I guess I was a little angry at the time."
She had never given Dean any credit, no chance to prove himself. Some of her most successful colleagues in the Veiled Realm were men, who had clearly developed plenty of control over magic. There was just that old prejudice that she could never get past, a little niggling reminder in her head that this son of hers could never be what a daughter could have been.
"How is Thatcher, anyways?" Matilda asked, a playful smile on her lips. Hattie scoffed and turned away from Matilda, fixating on a bird hopping its way across the yard.
"Who even knows? Who even cares?" Her left hand gripped her teacup tightly, while the spell finger on her right hand twitched anxiously. "I haven't talked to him in months, and even then, he didn't even ask about Dean."
"Hattie, you did spend a decade of all your lives telling Thatcher he had no place in Dean's life. And everyone knows that the Paris women don't make a habit of including their sons' fathers in anything." Matilda would bring that up.
"Well, I changed my mind. Ages ago. I'm Dean's mother, I have the right to decide what he needs at different points in time." True, when they had found out she was having a boy, Thatcher's excitement had rankled her. Just because one thing had changed didn't mean that all of tradition could just go out the window.
"You blame him, don't you?" Hattie's head snapped around to stare at Matilda. When did that woman start actually using her empathy?
"I wish that I could blame him, Matilda."