A Rose For Emily
“She’s a Hufflepuff,” declared Sirius one fine December morning three mornings after the Marauder’s Grandest Prank of the Year 1974.
Maitri didn’t look up from the niffler she was drawing, the one she had named Gold-eyes after his tendency to go for anything that gave off a golden glint.
“And how do you know that, come again?” she asked him, while he sulkily looked at the near perfect drawing. Sirius Black wouldn’t draw; he could, but a wizard who drew was not considered macho enough. Especially not among the Blacks or the Marauders.
“She sat at the Hufflepuff table,” he explained.
“And Reg was sitting at the Gryffindor table just before that,” she said, and looked at him, her brown eyes wide behind the glasses.
“So?” Sirius asked immediately, disliking her bossy tone. “He sat with me because there was no one in the Great Hall, and when she’d come, he’d also gotten up from the Gryffindor table. It is only natural that she sat at her own house table.”
“True,” Maitri agreed, chewing her lip. “But I still don’t understand why you told me you wanted to talk to me about this… little crush of yours. You could’ve just asked her out to Hogsmeade for that trip weekend after next.”
Sirius would’ve liked to tell her very much that he’d wanted to, but the truth was that he hadn’t been thinking straight in front of that beautiful girl.
“Ah!” Maitri exclaimed, and grinned. “You couldn’t do it because she slapped you, of course.”
Sirius scowled. “Thanks for rubbing it in, Harys,” he muttered, and fended off his own niffler’s growing attempts to seize his watch. “But there is something you can do, actually.”
“There is?” Her voice was ever skeptical.
Sirius sucked on the spot on his finger where his angry niffler had furiously swiped at, and had drawn blood, and nodded. “I’d like you to find out who she was.”
“Hard,” Maitri commented, and looked closer at the cut he was nursing, and muttered the same Sanskrit spell she’d used months ago in the bookshop. The cut healed up immediately, and Maitri looked back up at the eyes of the older Black boy. “But tell me anyway, how to find her?”
Sirius’ irritation at Harys melted away readily, and he began describing the angel who haunted his dreams. Maitri listened attentively, as though it were just another class and not the dreamy praise of a lovesick teenager.
“Blue eyes,” Maitri repeated after he finished. “That remind you of a sunny ocean. Blonde curly hair just the right shade of ripe corn. About my own height, but with her head held high. Has delicate fingers. Is about as pale yourself. And a muggleborn from Hufflepuff. And are you sure Reggie does not know who is despite the fact that he knew what she is?”
Sirius felt a stab of annoyance shoot through him when she called his brother ‘Reggie’; in his mind, no one called his brother by that nickname other than himself – mostly because Regulus was quite clear that it was a mark of closeness the brothers shared. Somehow this nondescript girl had entered into that boundary of trust.
“I asked him the other day,” Sirius told her. “He said she was pointed out to him by Mark Higgins, and told that she was – quite – not the right company for purebloods. She is not in his year, though. She is in ours.”
“Holy Merlin!” Maitri swore softly. “You should have told that me earlier! Don’t you realize that this information potentially decreases the search for her about 7 times?”
“Of course it does, nitwit,” she chided him, and fell into deep thought. “Don’t you even have classes with Hufflepuffs? You could just wait and stare at her until she responds to the roll call – Bingo! You’d have her name!”
“Well, I tried that,” Sirius said defensively. “But the Hufflepuffs have been on a propaganda about one of their Prefects being cheated out of the Hogwarts Gobstones Club and haven’t been attending classes for a few days now…”
“I’ll ask Dorcas Meadowes, don’t bother,” Maitri cut across his rambling and glanced at his poor, incomplete illustration of his niffler, who by now had gone ambling away to Hagrid’s pumpkin patch. “She’d know.”
“Thanks,” Sirius grinned, his doubts quenched by her assertion. Even though he had no idea who Dorcas Meadowes was, he was sure that, if Harys was sure that witch would know, than he, too, was.
“Can – can I just draw that niffler for you?”
Sirius Black had to admit that he didn’t somehow feel that he was going to get bad grades in his Fourth Year Care of Magical Creatures if he continued to be Maitri Harys’ friend who drew rather abysmally.
“That’s Emmy,” Dorcas answered as soon as Maitri spouted the exact definition of the features that Sirius had given her.
“Emmy?” Alex asked in between two spoonfuls of peas. The three of them were dining in the kitchens, and had been doing so since the Marauders had terrorized the Great Hall the previous Friday with their biggest prank of the year.
“Yeah, Emily Rose MacArthur,” Dorcas said in a matter-of-fact voice. “Daughter of Jacob Neil MacArthur and Emma Marie MacArthur of Churchville. Her dad’s the entire village’s only postmaster.”
“Wow,” commented Alex. “What do postmasters do?”
“Assort the letters that arrive to the residents of a place, Al,” Maitri informed her friend.
“Ooh, interesting! Does that mean he works in the Muggle version of the Magical Communication system in which they get to read all those letters in order to discover who’s plotting to become the next Dark Lord of the Decade?”
Dorcas looked like someone slapped her with a long, slippery fish.
“Where on earth do you even get these weird ideas, Alex?”
“From Witch Weekly, of course,” he answered coolly. “Alice keeps up a whole stack of them for bedside reading whenever we go to live at the Malfoy Manor.”
“Oh, I can imagine.”
Dorcas rolled her eyes to Maitri, who shook her head nonchalantly as Phyllis the House-elf once again began to converse with Alex Messiers.
“It’s a beautiful name,” was the first thing to come out of Sirius’ mouth as soon as he heard his angel’s name. “Befitting a beautiful girl.”
Maitri looked at her friend skeptically. She was, as usual, feeling the Plimpies when the Black boy joined her. Something about the other Marauders in detention had apparently left him free.
“But, she’s a muggleborn,” Maitri reminded him, ever so softly. “Wouldn’t it be dangerous… for you to like her?”
Sirius snorted. “Not more dangerous than being your friend, is it now?”
Maitri forced a smile. Deep down, the actual question she wanted to ask was “Wouldn’t it be dangerous for her to get associated with you?”
“That’s generous and brave of you,” she commented lightly.
Sirius wanted to be smug, and answer like a big-headed prat – the sort James Potter would turn into as soon as the name Lily Evans was mentioned anywhere around him. But he couldn’t pretend anywhere around Harys, and she wasn’t the sort to fall for dramatizations. Her statement was simple, and straight-forward, and all he could do was get flattered.
“There’s a Dueling Club coming up next week,” she informed him. “Professor Dumbledore will be announcing the details tomorrow morning. I heard that the interested students get grouped with all other houses, to improve House Unity.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Is it possible to be a Slytherin, and not know?”
Sirius had a sudden flash of the words coming out of his brother’s mouth, instead of the girl’s. Although Regulus had never told him this way, somehow Sirius understood that this was the same reason his brother had always kept himself updated about all happenings around; the stereotype of a Slytherin was something that Slytherins took very seriously.
“That’s what Reggie tries to tell you, yes,” Maitri broke his silence, startling him. Sirius was lost for moment, and contemplated whether he’d thought aloud about his views on his brother, but Maitri diverted him with a laugh.
“It’s simple to figure out, Black,” she said. “It’s called common sense.” She tapped the side of her forehead with a finger.
“Yeah, yeah, absolutely fine,” Sirius conceded, exasperated with being reprimanded for the same thing over and over again. “But what’s the club going to do with Rose and I socializing?”
“Em-,” Maitri started to correct, but stopped midway, realizing he was using the girl’s second name. “Well, I did say students from all houses get to be on a team, right? The Headmaster mentioned that there will be a captain from each house for each year – someone who would have to choose their team mates…”
She sighed irritably when he still looked confused. “If he picks you or me as a captain, I could make sure Emily McArthur is part of your team.”
Sirius beamed at her. “I can understand why you’re a Slytherin, and I’m not,” he said appreciatively.
“Because I have all answers ready?”
“Because you know the questions you shall be asked.”
The Hogwarts Rose Garden was one of the most exclusive gardens to ever exist in the magical world. Pomona Sprout, the Herbology professor, was also the Supervisor of Magical Fauna, and could be seen watching over all the gardens of the Hogwarts courtyards, while fairies and nymphs made sure the plants were pruned to perfection.
Sometimes, Pomona Sprout would think as she watched the beautiful blooms, it was good to be a half-breed, especially on the gnome side. Five generations past in her family tree, witches and wizards have been born with various percentages of gnome blood in them; while her younger cousins lacked them, Pomona had managed to retain a large amount of the magical gnomic blood in her system – a factor that made her see half the things normal witches and wizards couldn’t without the help of specialized detectors.
However, even Professor Sprout couldn’t deny the excellent maintenance that the Rose Garden seemed to have gotten from her predecessor, Late Lady Abilene Morgan, who had also been the matron during her time. There had been rumors that Lady Morgan had descended from Goblins, whispers that might have made Professor Flitwick happy if he had met her; Pomona herself enjoyed that sort of camaraderie with Filius Flitwick, the rare sort of joy that resides in knowing that there are, indeed, other hybrids of magical races that are sane as her own.
Maitri, of course, gleaned as much information by carefully filtering the long, colorful conversations Professor Sprout had had with her. The girl partially suspected that the Herbology professor was trying to imply that Maitri herself was a half-breed, and that she should admit it; had only Maitri known about any such details about herself, she knew she wouldn’t hesitate telling that to Pomona Sprout… though the teacher didn’t seem to get that point.
Maitri Harys got hold of more than just the information about the Rose Garden. She found out that Hagrid tended to it – something she should’ve known, but something that had been kept a secret from her for this long. She found that no students could get into it unless they knew a password that was personally set by the Headmaster – and was often the same as the entrance to the Headmaster’s Office.
She also found out the three different ways to get into it – one from the castle, one from the forest, and one from under the lake (though Maitri doubted the sincerity of Kent when it came to the existence of the last route – to probably ensure that she wouldn’t stray too much underwater, he might’ve even blocked up the entrance). She found out the correct date for the Mass Blooming Festival of the roses – a specific date in the mid of February, something she wanted to coordinate with the entry of Sirius Black and Emily MacArthur into the Rose Garden… if all went according to plan.
It was still a day until Professor Dumbledore would divulge the captains for each year in each house. Maitri dreaded getting any Gryffindor except Lily, Peter or Sirius in her team; though she knew she couldn’t do any selecting unless she was chosen captain.
Dinner was happily forgotten as Maitri chose instead to sit on the low wall of the Rose Garden, somewhere near the entrance from the forest. She looked up at the starlit sky and wondered how many potential captains could be there in her year:
1) James Potter – Gryffindor. Ruthless when it came to Slytherins. Fast, but not very, had trouble in dodging, lacked shrewdness. He was one of those people who wouldn’t fight unless his opponent stood in front of him, wide alert and healthy enough to fend the blows. One thankful thing about him was that he wouldn’t ever select her to be part of his team. Something about a grudge against the ex-Slytherin Seeker and the accident of the poor, unfortunate Ms. Rozvitz – if Peter was right
2) Marlene McKinnon – Ravenclaw. Smart and fast. One of Professor Byrne’s top student, and with both parents as Aurors, she easily knew more about dueling than any other Fourth Year student. A very efficient team mate, if they ever ended up in the same team. Maitri supposed she could let the girl know that it would be nice to be in her team rather than not.
3) David Knight – Hufflepuff. Hardheaded, gentle and extremely fair. He wouldn’t hurt a fly unless it had proven its guilt. Not very fast in his moves, but could dodge neatly and place hexes perfectly when it was required. His advantage was probably the fact that he could mix up lines of charms and hexes without batting a lash – while many found it difficult to switch from hexes to charms, spells and curses. A good variety, if any, would make a successful partner in a duel.
4) Severus Snape. Even at extreme odds, they’d never be on the same team, even though they were best friends.
5) Lily Evans – Gryffindor. Natural leader, and had the sharpness to go with it. Fiery, but made decisions too fast. Unless she had someone with some grounded practicality as her second, she was heavily volatile… and her obvious choice, if chosen captain, would be Severus, unless he was a sure captain of another team. Warm, loyal and well-liked. For now, she seemed the best choice to Maitri.
6) Alex Messiers – Ravenclaw. Probably her best ever choice. He admitted to be able to read her thoughts, and she could read his’. It would be phenomenal if they worked as a team. And he was willing to be what was required out of him and was, unlike some others, malleable, and had a sensible head on him.
7) Dorcas Meadowes – Hufflepuff. Formidable, because she could imitate her opponent with high efficiency. Sometimes, Maitri wondered if Dorcas would have ended in Slytherin had her mind been scrutinized deeply; the girl was as tricky as a Redcap or Hinkypunk with a passionate hunger! It would be deeply beneficial to be in her team, for the girl could synchronize dueling moves with an ease that was unparalleled.
Maitri bit her lip, deep in thought. There were, of course, the other possibilities. She knew that her own name was among the possible captains in the list in Professor Byrne – the Dueling Club Professor-In-Charge has ostentatiously prepared. Among the other hopefuls were Alice Messiers, Remus Lupin, Rudolph Yaxley, Arnold Macmillian, Kore Kerenyi and Edward Moon.
There were exactly forty-five Fourth Years. If the teams were to split as four, there would be at least three captains from each house, and eleven different teams. If there was luck, the one other person might have to fall back into a team from another year – or stand as a lone competitor.
Somehow, Maitri couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was the intended odd one out – never fitting anywhere… However, if she had luck, she could be added on to the teams from the upper years, and get to know a lot of things.
In fact, it would be completely educational!
Maitri sighed and softly caressed a pale peach rose that leaned against her knees. All she had to do know was figure out how to persuade students from her year to not select her, and an upper year team to recruit her. All things said easy and done in impossible ways.
Maitri stretched out and doubled back out of the Rose Garden from the Forest entrance. As she walked from the forest to the lake (through which she could reach her destination of her secret room), her mind kept running over all the methods she could use to implore the Founders’ portraits into making a her a better dueler, and a way to let Hadir announce to the OWL, pre-NEWT and NEWT students about a potential ruthless dueling force from a lower year Slytherin.
It was a cloudy morning, and eager students sat tentatively at their house tables for breakfast, though food was far from their thoughts at the moment, as their professor of DADA stood before the staff table with a resolute expression and many, many scrolls of parchment. Even though some of them were fighting off sleep, many of them looked pale and pinched.
As she had expected, Maitri was called out as one of the captains for the dueling teams for the fourth years. It took her barely a second to whisk over to Professor Byrne’s side and whisper out her request.
The beady eyes of the professor surveyed her face and determined jaw, before he returned his gaze to the parchment containing the names of the students and selected captains for all the seven years.
“We’ll see, Harys,” he said finally. “You’ll need to wait.”
Encouraged, Maitri sat at the edge of the Slytherin table and waited patiently for him to call out the captains for the fifth, sixth and seventh years before she accosted him again as the student grumbled their way out the Great Hall.
“Meet me in my office after classes today.”
The first class of the day, fortunately, was Transfiguration. It meant spending the hour with Alex – who was also chosen one of the captains, and, hence, wouldn’t pressurize her into being a team with him.
“I’m taking Peter,” Alex announced as she sat down next to him. Maitri raised her eyebrows.
“I know you thought I’ll take Sirius in, didn’t you?” he asked her accusingly. Maitri nodded slowly, wondering if the boys had gotten into any fight without her knowing any of it. “I just thought both of you could be a good team, see?”
Before Maitri could open her mouth, Severus was upon their bench, his eyes almost wild.
“I’m taking Pettigrew,” he declared, in a strangled voice which, Maitri realized, made him sound weak. “Please!”
Alex did a double take. “I… er, Snapey, er… what?”
“There’s no way I can take in your twin, Lupin or Black,” he almost gagged at the last word. “I already asked Pettigrew – and he agreed.”
“More like bullied him, I’d say!” Alex said loudly, standing up in an alarming speed that almost made Maitri fall down on the other side. She stared up in shock at her best friend – the one she thought couldn’t get angry with her other friends (his anger with his sister was understandable), and it was rare for Alex to lose his cool.
Severus did not even flinch. He only leant closer to Alex and spoke in a low, clear voice.
“You will not change his mind,” he warned.
“And if I do?”
“You will not change his mind, Messiers.”
“I can, and I will!”
“You will not change his mind,” Severus repeated for the third time, and this made Alex gasp in surprise.
"No-!” he cried out, but Severus finished his warning anyway.
“If you do, you will find yourself unable to do so,” he finished with what seemed almost a triumphant smile. Alex looked shock and his eyes shifted from Severus to Maitri and others in the room before he slid back into his chair, seemingly still in shock, just as Professor McGonagall entered the room.
“I cannot believe his nerve!”
“Mr. Messiers!” Minerva McGonagall shouted. “Do not interrupt the class with unintelligible phrases.”
Alex fell silent, but Maitri could sense his visible anger. His fingers shook against their stance on the desk, and all she could do to stop them from trembling violently was fixing them with an unwavering gaze.
“Why are you so angry about Severus’ warning?” she whispered as soon as the professor set them to work on huge beetles.
Alex didn’t look up. “It was no warning that Snape issued,” he said quietly, trying to change his beetle into a butterfly. A wing started to grow out of his beetle.
“Then what?” Maitri asked, confused. “Peter’s our friend, and you could just easily ask him to be in your team.”
“Alas,” Alex replied, grimacing. “Your friend Severus just saw to it that I will not be able to.”
Alex finally looked up, and met her eyes. Maitri was startled to see that they held none of the mirth or twinkle or even sparkle that she was so accustomed to.
“Because what he essentially performed here was an ancient Scottish curse,” the boy explained in a deathly monotone that Maitri found strangely unsettling. “So ancient and so dark that it is almost extinct now. Extremely powerful, though.”
Maitri looked around at Severus as he worked with Narcissa on his beetle, which had woven itself into a cocoon, and frowned. Why did he have to place an ancient, dark curse on Alex over a simple thing such as Peter Pettigrew joining his team?
“But why…?” her question hung in mid-air as she realized Alex had been listening in to her thoughts.
His mouth was pursed tightly and a mild apologetic look seeped into his eyes as he answered.
“He knows about this – this curse, because it was I who pranked him with it first.” He seemed to regret it now. “It was rightfully tit for tat. Pete would have to do without me.”
And so, Alexander Messiers had to grudgingly ‘decide to choose’ Sirius by lunch, because he didn’t know Remus Lupin as much as he did Sirius or Peter. It left a bitter taste in his mouth when he was firmly told by two people – his best friend and his new teammate – that Sirius Black’s inclusion meant the immediate recruitment of the Hufflepuff member known as Emily MacArthur, to whom, strangely, the requester, Sirius, seemed very reluctant to speak unless Alex or Maitri promised to formally introduce the two of them to each other.
Very, very curious, and very, very tiresome; he felt like a lamb caught in crossroads. Moreover, it meant some double play, which Maitri assured she’d tell him later (though neither of them specified when later was), and which Sirius adamantly denied to his face. Probably, the Black boy didn’t know that Alex was present when the discussion about Sirius’ affinity to a certain blonde, blue-eyed Hufflepuff was discussed between Maitri, Alex and Dorcas.
“Who’s on your team if I have these two?” he asked a hyperactive Maitri, who’d decided to make Ravenclaw her dinner table that evening. She had a strange twinkle in her eye that he didn’t particularly approve of.
Alex couldn’t understand how the tables had turned for him that day – Snape threatened him, and now, he was all exhausted and dramatically dark, while Maitri Harys was all cheerful and bursting with exuberance, her eyes twinkling, for Merlin’s sake… it almost mirrored his usual behavior, so much so that it made him feel guilty for feeling low. He didn’t like the feeling one bit.
Moreover, he knew Sirius was decidedly closer to Maitri than he was with Alex – something to do about karma and regret, he’d understood from glimpses at Sirius’ thoughts – and for no reason could he fathom why she’d not chosen Sirius… nor Peter, nor Lily, nor Potter, nor anybody for that matter.
But Maitri flashed him a bright grin. “That’s a… something I’ll need to discuss with Professor Byrne.”
It meant that she was mortally afraid of choosing anybody in their year, or didn’t wish to extend her friendship to those she wasn’t closely acquainted to, or that she wanted to stand as a lone competitor… Unless-
“You bloody didn’t!” he cried hoarsely, making half the Ravenclaw table turn and look at him, his eyes wide, and mouth hanging open with all the inner portions of a chicken casserole spectacularly displayed, staring at Maitri as if he’d never seen her before. “You bloody, scheming, brilliant, sneaky genius!”
Maitri gulped, not exactly understanding whether she was being awarded with an accusation or a compliment. It felt odd to have so many eyes boring on to her form, but she couldn’t help chiding her smart friend.
“If you go on hanging your mouth like that, Al, a biology teacher would probably start explaining the respiratory tract of that poor chicken,” she told him rather seriously. Alex immediately shut his mouth and proceeded to chomp down the remains of the poor little, roasted bird. “And what ‘didn’t’ I do, exactly?”
It was with great difficulty that Alex managed to swallow that chicken piece without tearing his food pipe, and finally opened his mouth again.
“You went to Professor Byrne to ask if you could be grouped with students left out in other years, didn’t you?”
“Very good, Messiers,” Maitri said appreciatively. “You’d make a really good Law Enforcement Squad Detective one fine day.”
A/N:- An improvement? :D? Things are getting more dynamic... And yes, this is only half of the chapter... Will update the next one asap... Until then, please read and let me know? :)