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Mermaid Merlynn by Maitri Harys
Chapter 43 : Once Upon A December - Part 2
 
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 Once Upon a December - Part 2 (contd. from previous chapter)



 

“You look mighty different, Harys, if you know what I mean.”

 

 

Maitri looked up at the silhouette of Gideon Prewett against the cold sun in the snow-covered landscape. She was sure that a few days in Ottery St. Catchpole’s harsh winter would turn her snow-blind; thank goodness for the Weasleys’ warm Burrow!

 

 

“I don’t know what you mean, Gideon,” Maitri replied levelly before turning back to William Arthur Weasley as the little boy poked her with a long, pointy carrot. She took the vegetable from him and stuck it into the middle of the face of the snowwizard that the duo had been trying to create for over an hour. “Can’t you conjure a cloak for the snowman, though?”

 

 

“Isn’t he frightfully awesome, Uncle Gid?” Bill asked Gideon Prewett, reaching his little arms out for a hug from his uncle. Gideon consented and picked up the boy, and whirled him around once before letting him down to the snowy ground.

 

 

“Oh, yes; absolutely handsome, I’d say,” Gideon said, praising the kid and nodding seriously.

 

 

Maitri looked back at the Burrow, which was releasing a picture perfect trail of smoke, and saw the familiar outline of Fabian Prewett leaning against the kitchen window, his back to the world outside.

 

 

“Maitee made him awesome-looking!” Bill said excitedly, his hand tugging the back of Maitri’s coat as the girl sighed; it wasn’t that Bill couldn’t pronounce her name – but he insisted on cutting off the ‘r’ in it, purposefully.

 

 

“That’s nice,” Gideon replied, glancing at Maitri’s face. “Did she teach you to draw as well? Maitri’s a great artist, you know?”

 

 

“You just made that up,” Maitri interjected their conversation. “Didn’t you?”

 

 

She stuck her tongue out of her lip in a thoroughly cildish manner that made Gideon Weasley laugh. He pulled out his wand and swirled it around at the snowwizard, who immediately gained possession of a new cloak and two funny twig-hands, before offering to carry drowsy little Bill.

 

 

“Let’s go for a walk, okay?” he suggested to Maitri, who tried to brush off the snow in her new, red mittens. “It might warm us up somewhat. Brrr! It’s cold up here, isn’t it?”

 

 

Maitri spared a last glance to the Burrow, and wondered how warm could a walk on a chilly hilltop be, rather than that warm house just yards away.

 

 

“Okay,” she complied. The three of them, Maitri, Gideon and Bill, who was nestled in Gideon’s arms, set off towards the little sprig of woods that bordered the Burrow’s neighborhood.

 

 

Soon enough, Maitri found her breath coming in fogs as Gideon’s strides became too long for her to keep up with and Bill had completely fallen asleep, his muffler pulled tightly across the top of his head. His dutiful uncle kept the boy’s face shielded from the icy wind by holding his palm in a suitable direction over the child’s head.

 

 

“How is it that both of you are over so often this holiday?” Maitri asked Gideon. “You came over only once when I was here the last time.”

 

 

“You stayed here only for a week, Harys,” Gideon reminded her, laughing.

 

 

“Yes; but this is my third day here in the Christmas break,” she retorted again. “All the same, it feels as though you couldn’t stay away from here too long this time.”

 

 

Gideon remained silent, his eyes not straying anywhere near the gaze Maitri had set on him. He would not admit his answer-less-ness.

 

 

“Is something wrong?” Maitri pressed again, sensing the sudden drop of warmth in Gideon’s presence.

 

 

“Father’s not especially well this year,” he confessed so softly, that his voice did not rise higher than the breezes around. “He returned back from his five-year long Far East tour just two months back, and when he heard that Andromeda had, too, spurned her back on the family, it had distressed him. He left England ‘coz Molly married Arthur against his wishes – rather, against the family’s wishes.”

 

 

“The Prewett family?” Maitri asked incredulously. Seeing the two brothers and their sister, it was hard to imagine the rest of the family could be anything unlike them – the kind of upbringing suggested that.

 

 

“The Gray family, and the Blacks,” Gideon answered bitterly. “Of course, the Blacks; Mums was a Gray before she was married, and her mother was a Black – which brought us into the muddle, actually. The majority of the Prewett estates are under the control of Orion Black, Father’s associate in the business, as well the vice-chairwizard in the company. Father does not like to get Orion Black angry.”

 

 

“Is he – Orion Black – scary?”

 

 

“Merlin! More than that!” Gideon grimaced at his private memory of Orion Black before continuing. “Father’s really ticked off; the Blacks have been crawling all over the estates when he’d been away, and he couldn’t even confront htem because of this uproar. He’s become cranky and has been yelling at everything back at the Gray Manor, where we live, you know? It’s become very tiring for Fabian and I, especially with all the crap the Auror training has been doing to us. No one likes to come home from a firing session for another one; I can’t juggle my brains all the time, can I?”

 

 

Maitri didn’t disagree, but she didn’t tell Gideon how for her, at Hogwarts, that was the case, pretty much – from the glares of Anti-Slytherins to the glares of the Anti-Muggleborns. Maybe, it was different for the Prewetts, them always being in the lighter side of the magical society.

 

 

“Listen, Harys,” Gideon said softly, pulling Maitri’s attention back to himself. “I wanted to ask you something.”

 

 

“Mhmm?”

 

 

“W-would you go with me to the Potters’ New Year’s Party?” he asked, his face taking up the shade of deep puce as the words slipped out. “You know, it’ll be fun… But I’d understand if you don’t want to.”

 

 

“I’ll come,” Maitri assured him. It would surprise Alex and Dorcas, she thought to herself. “Are Molly and Arthur coming, too?”

 

 

“I don’t know.” Gideon sighed. “It might be difficult with Bill and Charlie, you see.”

 

 

“What about Andy and Ted?”

 

 

“The same, Harys,” Gideon told her, fixing her with an exasperated look. Maitri chuckled, knowing that it had annoyed him.

 

 

A few minutes of snow strolling later, they heard Molly’s call for them. Bill stirred at his mother’s voice.

 

 

“We better get back,” Maitri said. Gideon nodded.

 

 

“Hey, Harys, remember what I said earlier? That you look different?”

 

 

Good different or the bad kind?”

 

 

Gideon smiled. “The good different,” he confirmed.

 

 


Maitri reflected his smile. “You should really start calling me Maitri sometime.”


 


 

 

The Tonks’ arrival at the Burrow on Christmas Eve created quite a stir. Andy’s belly protruded forward, and Maitri couldn’t believe she was only a few months along. However, her doubts were hushed up by Molly Weasley, who told her magical pregnancies were often much more progressive than muggle ones. It wasn’t until the Christmas morning that Gideon and Fabian, who’d stayed over that night, called her aside and informed her about the possibility that Andy and Ted may have been husband and wife much before they got married.

 

 

Maitri did not understand a word of it, though she nodded as though she did. It seemed to satisfy the Prewett twins, who left off greeting Galahad Weasley, who had only then arrived with an armload of presents.

 

 

The young witch had a commendable load of presents that Christmas, and found that her friends sent her new books, quills and a charm (in the case of Alex), which completed her essential stock. Even Phyllis the house-elf had sent a surprise gift of Indian sweets to last er for the remainder of the holidays, which made Maitri decide that the idea of gifting a house-elf with a berry-basket just before holidays worked miracles.

 

 

 

 

Molly and Arthur left Maitri incharge of Bill and Charlie Weasley one morning about two days after Christmas, and disappeared mysteriously off to London, for a ‘date’, as they explained to her. All Maitri could do to contain the two energetic boys was take them outside and teach them to make snow angels, before bringing them in and warming them up as they ate off the lunch left for the three. It was sunset before the grown-up Weasleys came back home, their faces red from all the cold winds, and their arms laden with new purchases for the Burrow, as well as a new dress for Maitri to wear for the New Year’s party, sponsored by Gideon, who’d apparently met them in London.

 

 

Even as Maitri tried out the dress – rather, gown that they had brought back for her, she could not help but bite her lip, standing in the front of the mirror, wondering why she looked so grown-up in it. More than anything, the dress looked like the ones Narcissa might wear – too elaborate and of the deepest royal blue dye – it only succeeded in exaggeragerating Maitri’s body in a way she didn’t really think possible.

 

“Is it too tight?” she asked Molly Weasley, as she stared into the mirror. “I don’t feel uncomfortable, but it looks like it, doesn’t it?”

 

 

Molly laughed. “Don’t be silly, dear,” she chided. “It’s perfect.”

 

 

Maitri frowned at continued to stare at the corset. “It’s so English,” she despaired.

 

 

“Ah, that happens.”

 

 

Maitri was so reluctant to meet Gideon on the evening of the party that Bill had to, literally, drag her out of Charlie’s rom, where she was staying. Gideon sucked in his breath when he saw her wrapped completely in her cloak, and Maitri assumed that he was holding back his laughter. Molly shooed them out of the Burrow and resumed cooking the dinner, whose aroma made Maitri want to stay back again.

 

 

“You look beautiful,” Gideon whispered as they walked down the hill.

 

 

“Yeah, right.” Maitri held her silver cloak tightly, lest anyone saw how the dress looked underneath. She desperately wished she had her old green dressing robes, but they grew too small for her. And Narcissa’s black ones… they looked too normal, according to Molly.

 

 

“You can’t spend the whole evening in a cloak, you know that, right?”

 

 

“It’s cold,” Maitri responded, gesturing to the snow around them. Gideon seemed to have cleared the path of snow, but the sides were still heaped with fresh, white snow.

 

 

“Come on,” Gideon said, clearly amused by her irate behavior. “Molly didn’t pick something with cuffs and lace, did she?”

 

“I’d rather she had,” Maitri answered. “This one makes me look like an Anglo-Sri Lankan immigrant.”

 

 

“A what?”

 

 

“Never mind,” Maitri told him. “How are we going, then?”

 

 

It was the second time Maitri had experienced a side-along Apparition, though it did very little to ease her affinity towards the process. To feel like being forced head long into a tube would never appeal to Maitri, never ever.

 

 

It took a moment for Maitri to regain her breath, and the first thing she noted was the warmth. The next, the fairy lights installed around the area where they had Apparated into; it looked as though they were in a folly porch or garden. It was, nevertheless, beautiful. A house-elf appeared out of the shadows and offered to take their cloaks.

 

 

Gideon raised an eyebrow at her, as if to ask her whether she was still going to hold on to her cloak like it were a lifeline. Maitri sighed as she unfastened the cloak from her shoulders and felt the air hit her shoulders, which were almost bare.

 

 

She looked at Gideon, who looked gobsmacked.

 

 

“That bad?” she asked him, slightly perturbed by his reaction. Gideon quickly shook his head, smiling.

 

 

“No, no,” he told her. “You are just… breathtaking, that’s all. Make sure to spare one dance for me tonight.”

 

 

Gideon put an arm around her shoulders as they walked off the Apparition spot and towards the building where the Potters held the New Year’s Party – presumably, their house, which towered above them in any case. Maitri heard another crack of guest’s Apparition behind them, just as they turned into a corner.

 

 

“Must I really dance?” Maitri asked in trepidation, looking at Gideon and finding, to her disappointment, that his face was hidden in shadows and the sliver she could see was smirking.

 

 

“I don’t think many wizards in there would intend to let you rest, especially with that dress on you,” he commented lightly. Maitri went red, blood flushing to her face at the thought of seeing other people seeing her. “In fact, I might have to carry you to the Burrow after all this is over, because your feet would have become too swollen and tired to walk.”

 

 

Maitri shuddered at his words and tread extremely softly as they came upon a doorway that looked entirely hidden with holly and mistletoe wreaths. Another house-elf stood below it, smiled at the pair of them, and offered to show them the way to the Grand Parlor, where the party was taking place.

 

 

She soon found out that Gideon was right. The moment the pair of them stepped into the room, people all around craned their necks to get a glimpse. Maitri edged closer to Gideon, who slipped his arm from her shoulder to her waist, pressing her to him as he smiled at many witches and wizards, all of whom who were unknown to her. From here and there, she saw young faces peering out at her, many of those belonging to Hogwarts students whom she knew, and like wise; but the looks on their faces suggested that they were viewing her as if she were an alien. Maitri tripped lightly on the hem of her new dress, and though it was almost an invisible action because of Gideon’s grip, she still felt like a klutz – a klutz in a world of perfect people. She had only begun to understand how much she might have given the impression that she wanted to mix into the crowd, like a sheep among wolves, in the borrowed fur of the species. Even Carli Hathaway and Patil, who were among the crowd, looked at her in a rather strange fashion.

 

 

“Don’t they recognize me or something, Gideon?”

 

 

“I’d seriously second that doubt,” Gideon mocked her as he steered her to the very centre of the room, where a witch and wizard stood clothed in magnificient dress robes; Maitri let out a small gasp as she recognized Healer Potter as the wizard – and, obviously, the host.

 

 

“Hello Charlus,” Gideon greeted the older wizard. “It’s good to see you when not in St. Mungo’s.”

 

 

Healer Potter laughed as he hugged Gideon. His wife, Maitri noticed, smiled prettily, with a dimple adorning her left cheek as she, too, leaned to hug Gideon.

 

 

“You’ve grown a lot, Gid,” she commented in a light, husky voice. “Where’s Fabian?”

 

 

“Thanks, Aunt Dorea,” Gideon replied to her. “Fabian’s with Father; he’s not rather well at the moment. Fabian’s always been the more caring one between us both, you know?”

 

 

Mrs. Potter was a beautiful witch, with the traces of the Black features in her – the sharp, aquiline nose, the dark, luscious hair, and the unistakeable grey eyes; she was the very same person Maitri remembered seeing two summers past, at Regulus’ birthday. Even elegant, rigid poise reminded Maitri of how Narcissa sometimes stood while conversing to older witches at Hogwarts.

 

 

“Is this who I think it is?” a playful voice turned Maitri’s attention from Mrs. Potter to the easy grin of tall, lanky Healer Potter with the twinkling eyes that rivaled Albus Dumbledore’s. Maitri returned his smile, seeing that he actually did recognize her.

 

 

Gideon apologized immediately, and introduced Maitri to the Potters, upon which declaration Mr. and Mrs. Potter exchanged a glance.

 

 

“So, you are the Maitri Harys, the legendary muggleborn Slytherin?” Mrs. Potter asked Maitri, her eyes full of happy mischief.

 

 

“The only one, actually,” Maitri replied, blushing with embarrassment. “I don’t think I have earned an adjective yet.”

 

The Potters chuckled at her reply before bidding them to mingle with the other guests, or proceed to the dance floor.

 

 

“Why did you have to act all modest before them?” Gideon demanded as he pulled her towards the dance floor.

 

 

“I wasn’t being modest,” Maitri answered, a bit surprised at his reaction. “I’m not used to being called ‘legendary’ and all, and it sort of freaked me out.”

 

 

“Freaked you out of what?”

 

 

“Are we really fighting over what I said to Healer Potter?”

 

 

“We aren’t fig- Wait,” Gideon paused in his stride for a moment, and looked at her incredulously. “How do you know Charlus Potter’s a healer?”

 

 

Maitri returned his gaze with a roll of her eyes. “It’s a long story.”

 

 

Gideon smirked as he guided her into the dance posture. “We have all evening,” he reminded her. “Do you know how to dance, you know, the English stuff?”

 

 

By the time Gideon left for drinks and a break, Maitri felt like she had stretched her limbs at least a thousand times. Gideon Prewett was even taller than Hadir Ferguson was, and, even though Maitri had grown a bit over the holidays, she still had to reach up to his shoulders with some difficulty. The dress made it more impossible for her to balance, with all its elaborate weals of flowy garment poising to trip her up every few minutes. With two goblets of pumkin juice in his hand, Gideon returned to where she stood, flushed with all the dancing, and guided her to a table.

 

 

“For someone who has to practically stretch your neck like a giraffe, you balance very well,” he commented.

 

 

“For someone who is built like a giraffe, it’s a miracle you don’t have two left feet,” she retaliated. Her arms protested as she bent them slightly in order to regain some form of normality. Gideon chuckled.

 

 

“I didn’t almost recognize you, M!”

 

 

Maitri suddenly found herself engulfed in a warm hug supplemented by someone in magenta robes and used citrus shampoo that made her nose itch dangerous.

 

 

“Alex, you’re taking the breath out of me!”

 

 

Alex Messiers released her with a grin and flopped himself into a seat near Gideon.

 

 

“You really made this one look like a puppet,” he informed the older wizard, gesturing to Maitri, who tried to sniff her pumpkin juice in order to get the citrus from under her nostrils. Just then, another person came across the trio, paused a bit, and settled into the only empty chair, beside the sniffing girl.

 

 

“The pranks went perfectly,” Dorcas whispered into Maitri’s ear.

 

 

“That’s good to hear,” Maitri replied, looking for any sign of the Marauders in the crowd of guests. “Is it anyone’s turn tonight?”

 

 

“Nope,” Dorcas said, winking at Maitri. “Mrs. Potter caught Alex and I laughing in a corner just as Pettigrew grew a tail (that was his’, remember?), and, in a jiffy, she knew! Well, it was the last one, though, fortunately.”

 

 

“Marvellous woman, that Dorea Potter is,” Alex agreed with Dorcas, nodding his head up and down like an elderly wizard. An actually old, wrinkled wizard walked past them, but paused at Alex’s little spectacle, his eyes extra large behind his thick glasses. “A perfect embellishment of a smart, modern witch.”

 

 

As Dorcas and Maitri chuckled at Alex, Gideon jumped up as soon as he caught sight of the wizard ogling at the boy.

 

 

“Mr. Doge!” he greeted the old wizard. “How splendid to see you tonight! I hope you are doing well, sir?”

 

 

Alex, Dorcas and Maitri watched as Gideon and the wizard walked away from their table, without even a second glance.

 

 

“Well, that was rude,” Alex commented sourly as he turned his attention back to his friends. “I thought Prewett might at least introduce us to his boss.”

 

 

The girls agreed, not knowing what else to do, and glanced at each other. Maitri shrugged at Dorcas’s raised eyebrow, and took another, refreshing sip of her pumpkin juice. Her arms still protested against movement.

 

 

“C’mon, Dory, let’s go pester Gideon Prewett!” Alex announced suddenly, a mischievous gleam appearing in his eyes. “M, catch your breath; we might need you to rescue us if we get caught pranking anymore, okay?”

 

 

Alex grabbed Dorcas’s hand and disappeared into the crowd behind Gideon. As Maitri sat and continued to gulp down her pumpkin juice, a fuming Lily chose to sit with her, and gave her a brief glance.

 

 

“Do I know you?” the redheaded girl asked Maitri irritably. Then, her emerald eyes widened and the frown was replaced with a smile. “Bloody Hell! Maitri, is it really you? Golly! I didn’t recognize you at all!”

 

 

“Hey, Lily.”

 

 

“Gosh, that dress is a killer on you!” Lily continued, ignoring Maitri’s greetings. “I bet half the wizards here gave a Holy Merlin look when they saw you!”

 

 

“Lils-”

 

 

“Merlin’s Beard! I think I’m going crazy, you know, Maitri?” Lily continued, her frown pulling itself on her face again, and her eyes focusing on a spot somewhere high above Maitri’s right shoulder. “It’s so damn crazy in here, with James Potter and all, you know? Argh! I can swear those four wizards are going be my life’s bane!”

 

 

“Uh, Lily?” Maitri called meekly, but Lily Evans looked dangerously out of control. Maitri couldn’t remember when she’d seen Lily swear this much anytime earlier.

 

 

“And that Alex Messiers!” Lily’s voice became shrilly now, and her cheeks red with anger. “If he thinks pranking the Marauders is the best thing in the world, then he ought to leave the others out of it!” Her green eyes flicked back to Maitri’s face. “You want to hear about the pranks? They were tactless, but ingenius, you know.”

 

 

Maitri shrugged. She looked for any hint Alex and Dorcas, but they seemed to have merged with the hundreds of guests milling around. Gideon was in a far corner still talking to the ancient-looking wizard.

 

 

“Why not? Say, let’s go to that balcony over there; I’ve a feeling it’ll be quieter.”

 

 

Lily smiled at her friend and the two girls headed out to the aforementioned balcony, and sat themselves on a flat platform that served as the base of a pillar. As Lily launched into the description of the pranks Maitri had helped design, both girls lost track of time. Since it was a new moon night, Maitri wasn’t even sure how much time had lapsed when they finally got past the stories; the noise and light from the parlor behind them hadn’t seemed to have changed in any way.

 

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Potter are really nice, you know,” Lily said quietly. Maitri glanced at her friend as the Gryffindor girl continued. “Do you know Mr. Potter, Maitri?”

 

 

“We’ve met,” Maitri admitted softly. “Why?”

 

 

“He mentioned you the other day,” Lily confessed. “Or, I suppose it was you he mentioned; something about a Slytherin girl defending muggles in London…?”

 

 

 Her eyes looked at Maitri’s questioningly. The latter stayed expressionless. Lily continued after a short pause.

 

 

“James Potter was complaining about how sordid Slytherins were, at breakfast on Christmas morning,” Lily began softly. “I don’t know why it began – it might have been Alice (complaining about some Ball at the Malfoys’ place) or me – I can’t remember. But I know it was aimed for me; you see, Potter’s not so fond of Severus, and he keeps bringing up Sev’s other thuggish friends and their deprecating behaviours – just to annoy me or to amuse Black (who knows more enough to keep Potter fuelled)… Anyhow, the matter is that Mr. Potter heard his son, and he just called all of our attention – even Messiers and Dorcas, who could not stop grinning evilly over something – and told us of an incident. About how he had to heal a Slytherin the year before who was seriously injured ‘cos she was protecting muggle children in a Death Eater ambush. He also mentioned that she might be someone we saw everyday, and how the Marauders would like to hurt someone who had such a kind soul.”

 

 

“Seriously injured?” Maitri mused. “Did he really say all that, the soul stuff?”

 

 

“Not exactly; it went more like ‘You boys would like to pick on someone who’s on your side, now, would you? Coz you’d just mess it up for the Aurors if you turn good ones dark just coz you thought Slytherins were all born dark.’ It sounded really awesome when it came out of his mouth, I promise,” Lily said with a small laugh. Maitri let out a short laugh for her friend, and figured that Lily would not be the smartest witch in their year if she had not figured it out. But, then again, Alex could have told her the truth.

 

 

“Are those scars still there?” Lily asked after a while of keeping quiet.

 

 

“Did he tell you the entire story?”

 

 

Lily turned red. “He told us you were brought in with some serious amount of metal embedding into your skin,” she explained. “That it was an almost miracle that the metal missed your circulatory system and chose to adapt to blood vessels instead of ruining them off to die out of cancer or something.”

 

 

Maitri’s fingers flew to her neck. Cancer? It hadn’t ever crossed her mind that the gold particles mayhave been harmful. How could they have been harmful; even if they had entered her bloodstream?

 

 

Lily looked at Maitri’s neck, interested and curious, but her face fell when she couldn’t see anything there. It took a little while for Maitri to divulge the information about the Beguilement lotion she applied every month in order to hide the spots, which, by now, had taken the gall to start turning gold from purple. Soon, she might not use the lotion, since gold is almost invisible on human skin. Still, it didn’t discourage Lily from staring hard at Maitri’s neck, as though the spots would magically appear at her bid to see them.

 

 

“It’s a little freaky, Evans,” said a voice behind them. The girls whipped around to meet the silhouette of Sirius, who smiled at them cockily. “Never took you to be a vampire.”

 

 

Maitri rolled her eyes. The British and their vampire jokes. Sirius Black nodded at Maitri, who nodded back to him.

 

 

“You look very nice tonight,” he complimented. “Did Cissy design it for you?”

 

 

Maitri shook her head. “Madam Gladrags did.”

 

 

“Ah, obviously.” Sirius nodded seriously and then, turned to Lily. “It’s almost midnight; James’ is searching for you. I suggest you move quickly – I was supposed to be an envoy.”

 

 

Lily looked at him suspiciously. “You’re telling me to hide before Potter comes?” she clarified, to which Sirius solemnly agreed. “Why is he searching for me, though?” Lily’s expression turned into one of curiosity and of very suspicious interest.

 

 

“The New Year’s Midnight Kiss ritual,” Sirius informed her in a very bored voice before pulling out an ancient looking silver pocket-watch. “The clock strikes in five minutes. And, Evans,” he added, looking back at the girl. “This is in strict confidentiality to the incident that happened on the first day here – I owe nothing no more.”

 

 

Lily stuck out her tongue at him, gathered the skirts of her sunshine yellow dress-robes and sped past the two, but paused to look at Maitri for a moment.

 

 

“We’ll catch up at school, okay?” Lily waited forMaitri to answer, but her wait got cut short by a shout coming from, unmistakeably, James Potter.

 

 

“Evans! Hey, Lil- are you LILY EVANS?”

 

 

With one, last, frightened look, Lily disappeared. Sirius snickered from where he stood beside Maitri as they watched James Potter blur past them.

 

 

“He’s got it,” the Black muttered. “And he’s got it bad.”

 

 

“Hmm.”

 

 

“It was a muggle reference, Harys,” Sirius informed Maitri, who, like him, had her arms crossed in front of her, and head slightly cocked.

 

 

“I get it.”

 

 

“No, he’s got it! Don’t you see?”

 

 

“Hey, Harys!” someone called out from inside the parlor. Maitri stood on her toes and saw Gideon’s vivid red head bobbing in here direction. She waved.

 

 

“I’m here!”

 

 

Sirius suddenly looked uncomfortable, and fidgeted with his pocket-watch. “I, uh, I better get going,” he said, stoving it back into his navy blue robes and rubbing his hands together. “Midnight’s about two minutes away, and I need to find someone for the New Year Kiss.”

 

 

He, too, was gone in a flash. Maitri stared in the direction of Sirius’ departure when Gideon joined her on the threshold of the door to the balcony.

 

 

“Merlin help all! You have that look on your face,” muttered the older boy when he caught sight of her expression.

 

 

“What look?”

 

 

“The one of intrigue,” Gideon explained. “You have hundreds of questions waiting in the corners of your mind…”

 

 

“No, only one,” Maitri told him, biting her lip. “Gideon, what’s the New Year’s Midnight Kiss?”

 

 

Gideon looked at her, astonished, for a moment before bursting out in laughter. Maitri, however, waited for him to answer, her eyebrows furrowed in deep, serious thought.

 

 

“That’s a ritual,” he managed to say, after his laughter became controlled. “People in the Western Europe and North America believe that the best way to wish someone ‘Happy New Year!’ is to hug and kiss them.”

 

 

“Oh.” Maitri’s enthusiasm dimmed considerably. “That’s… sort of… nice, I guess.”

 

 

“GUESTS, FRIENDS & DEAR RELATIVES! IT IS TIME!” boomed Mr. Potter’s voice, as the person himself stood on some kind of pedestal in the centre of the parlor.

 

 

Everyone in the party grew silent suddenly, and the tolling of a grandfather clock made itself loud and clear in the silence. Gideon nudged her into the parlor and bent down so that he was about her height.

 

 

“Look at the chandelier,” he whispered into her ear. Maitri obliged and saw that a magical sphere with dates all over it spin right under the main chandelier of the Grand Parlor of the Potter’s house. Above it, hovering in midair, was the number ‘1973’. The sphere spun faster with every toll of the bell, and grew larger, like a huge, graffiti balloon. With the end of the eleventh toll, the sphere burst into a thousand magnificent firecrackers that went about the whole room, gleaming and glittering in all sorts of colors known to humankind.

 

 

The guests shouted in appreciation just as another, cleaner sphere began to spin in the place of the old one. This one had no apparent dates on it, and the new tag ‘1974’ shone under it. The new sphere then suddenly came to a stopstill, in synchronization with the twefth toll, with the letters January the first emblazoned on it.

 

 

A moment of quiet passed as the audience of this show savored the antics, before screaming in joy and grabbing the person nearest to them.

 

 

Gideon hugged Maitri tightly and planted a kiss on her cheek. “Happy New Year, Ms. Harys!” he wished her, and then offered his cheek for her to return his greeting.

 

 

But, at that exact moment, someone threw the great oak doors of the Grand Parlor open. A blurry moment later, the person had raced everyone to the side of Healer Charlus Potter.

 

 

The audience, who had been screaming joyously until then, grew still when they realized there was a new number among them. All of them watched as the new person, who stood in back robes with a hood pulled over, and Mr. Potter converse; the latter’s face seemed to get paler by the minute.

 

 

After what seemed like a lifetime, they both stopped whispering, and Mr. Potter nodded. He then looked up, searched the crowd for a while until his eyes fell on Gideon, who hadn’t yet let go of Maitri. He then gestured in their direction to the hooded person, who turned in their direction, and began to part the crowd to reach them.

 

 

There has been a Death Eater attack,” Mr. Potter announced gravely from his place in the centre of the room. “On the Tonks family.”

 

 

Gideon winced noticeably when Mr. Potter said ‘Tonks’ and stiffened as his grip on Maitri grew tighter. Gasps and whispers grew rapidly from around the room. Maitri struggled over Gideon’s arm to see the hooded person who, she was sure, was headed towards them.

 

 

“All those who want to disperse immediately, please note that, on emergency notice, we have three Floo stations ready on this floor,” Mr. Potter continued. “Also, my house-elves will help in setting up two more Disapparition points in the garden. All those who want to stay…”

 

 

The instructions continued, but Maitri couldn’t hear anymore because the blood rushing to her ears. The hood fell back from the person to reveal a bloodstained Fabian Prewett, whose nose looked broken and misshaped.

 

 

“We need to go,” the boy informed his unharmed twin and reached out an arm. Gideon clasped it and pulled Maitri along with them as they rushed out of the parlor.

 

 

“Are – is anyone hurt?” Maitri managed to ask in midst of her shock.

 

 

Fabian’s face looked pinched as he turned to face them, eyes empty.

 

 

“Father’s gone,” he said his voice suddenly raspy, and his eyes avoiding Gideon’s shocked ones. “And Andy’s having the baby now.”

 





 

 


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Mermaid Merlynn: Once Upon A December - Part 2

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