Chapter 48 : One of Us
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Since Alex had already given her her present (the dragon leather boots), Maitri didn’t expect anything else from him. Lily had sent double-colored scarf that could only be a special edition at Madam Malkins – it alternated between silvery green and reddish gold everytime it was moved. Severus and Regulus, once again, had gotten her a present together, and this time, it was a charmed lock that she could fit anywhere that she wanted. Narcissa had sent her a pretty serpent brooch that turned color to match any dress that she wore it on.
The tiniest present was unmarked by the sender, which Maitri took as a challenge. She knew it could be dangerous, and from an enemy – but she knew that all the presents were monitored and approved by house-elves before they reached her.
Unwrapping the simple, yet artistic leaf-wrap around the present, Maitri found a curious-looking wooden box not much bigger than her palm. The box itself was unlatched, and when Maitri opened it, there were no sparks or curses that shot out at her.
Relieved, she looked in and saw a very familiar ring enter her sight. Too surprised for words, she rummaged her bedside table and robe-cupboard before she realized that it was her own ring – the serpent-shaped one that Hagrid had given her years ago at St. Mungo’s. She must have dropped it somewhere in the grounds, she figured out, since the last time she wore it had been the Halloween ball. The fiasco that had happened then had completely rid her mind off it.
Picking up the ring gingerly, Maitri found a neatly folded bit of a dry, starched leaf underneath. She checked the ring for any curses or charms before slipping it on her finger. The emerald eye of the serpent glowed in the flickering green light of her room. She watched it for a moment before turning to the folded leaf – which had clearly been used to write something on.
Once done, Maitri read and re-read the translated passage several times, her confusion increasing each line. It did not make much sense, but the gist of it was enough to send a shiver up her spine.
Hail to thee, whose spirit is the wand of victory –
Hail to thee, who lost your slithering family!
A snake you dropped in the Thestral lair,
A ring I now return, square and fair;
For you and I are of the blood none can know –
It was eerily accurate until the “blood” part. With shaking hands, Maitri returned her gaze to her ring and pretended that it was a real snake, which would give her answers. The emerald eye did nothing but glow brighter.
“Looks more like shell than wood,” he commented, running his hand over the wand. Maitri intentionally jabbed it, causing a few red sparks to fly out and hit Alex’s arm, who yelped in shock.
They were sitting in the library, two days after the dueling matches, trying to decipher the sender of the mysterious message. Maitri hadn’t shown the letter (or the ring) to Dumbledore, neither had she visited the Founders. However, she had borrowed an Ancient Runes reference guide from the concerned professor, who had gotten very excited aout the runes on the oak leaf – just as wizards had written spells centuries ago before parchment was invented.
“Of course, it’s not wood!” Maitri rolled her eyes at her friend as she explained. “Spiritwood’s an infusion of faerie bones and magical plant cores!” She bit her lip and looked back at the last line of the runic poem. “A friend I never knew…”
“Exactly!” Alex cried, slapping the table wit his palm. “Why would someone you never know not introduce himself by his name?”
Maitri looked at Alex, frowning. “Why is it assumed that it is a ‘he’?”
“Ouch-och! Stop it, you stupid spirit wood!” Alex hissed at her wand, which was acting according to Maitri’s wandless instructions. The Slytherin girl bit back a grin and snatched her wand back from her friend’s hands.
“Alright, alright!” Alex conceded, scowling at his friend. “I think it’s a bloke because it is written too much like a war-cry.”
“Aren’t war-cries, you know, brutal and filled with bloodshed words?”
“Not if it is to an ally.”
The word ally struck a deep chord in Maitri. She remembered Bellatrix saying the exact same thing to Narcissa, when they first became friends. Ally, ally. Slytherin ally.
Maitri scowled and buried her head in her hands. Something of the poem had seemed to pull at a memory, but only, she couldn’t bring to the front of her mind.
Alex looked over at his best friend, worried. A slight scuffle made him turn to the next table, where Remus Lupin picked up a fallen book and handed it to Dorcas Meadowes with a bright smile. Dorcas blushed deeply when their fingers accidentally brushed each other.
The knuckles of Alex Messiers’ hand that held the Rune Dictionary turned white, and an unfathomable expression took over his eyes.
The spine of the dictionary cracked audibly under the pressure of his fingers.
“Sirius,” Emily whispered to her boyfriend. “Sirius, isn’t that your brother?”
“Shouldn’t you say atleast a ‘hi’?” Emily prodded Sirius.
“Not necessary, Ro,” he told her. “It’s not like he exactly wants to talk to me. He would’ve greeted me first if he really wanted to talk to me.”
“Don’t be such a prat,” Emily MacArthur shoved at her boyfriend fondly. “Elder brothers always look after the younger ones; like my big brother Eddie!"
“You’re an angel!” Sirius said, grinning. “I can’t imagine anyone glaring at you, save not look after you; I mean, look at you!”
“Go, Sirius,” Emily pushed him off the boulder they were both sharing as a seat. “The angel commands!” She finished with a waspish smile.
Sirius placed a chaste kiss on her lips before walking in the direction of his younger brother. Even though there was some trepidation in his heart, a corner jumped in joy. None of his friends had ever expected Sirius to talk to Regulus in public audience, especially since after the Slytherin had hexed a muggleborn so badly in his second year that the poor girl had to spend three weeks in the Hospital Wing to get better.
Nevertheless, he was still Sirius’ younger brother.
Regulus froze, but did not turn around to face Sirius. Snape, however, narrowed his eyes on the Gryffindor when he caught up with them. Sirius sneered at Snape briefly before turning to Regulus, who looked at him stonily.
“Regulus!” Sirius greeted, almost too cordially. “I saw your last duel – I knew you had it in you! Always the better fighter than those Ravenclaw weaklings!”
Snape made a noise somewhere between a choke and a splutter. He had lost his duel to a Ravenclaw. Regulus, however, made no reaction.
“Sirius,” he said quietly, in a tone that hinted suppressed anger. “What are you trying for?”
"Why! A quality moment with my brother, Reg!” Sirius even smiled for the effect.
“You had long ago ceased to act as a brother, Sirius,” Regulus pointed out. “You prefer fraternizing with Potter and that Half-blood Lupin than with your own family. Am I supposed to fake out a brotherly act just so that your Mudblood can be pleased?”
Sirius turned red.
“Don’t call her that, Regulus,” Sirius warned, gritting his teeth. Beside them, Snape smirked, knowing that Regulus had touched a sensitive nerve. The Gryffindor restrained himself from hitting either of them, with great difficulty. “She has a name, Emily Rose.”
“A name can’t change a mudblood into our kind,” Regulus snapped. “She is what she is, and you are no longer worthy enough to be a Black, tainted as you are by that creature’s touch.”
All of Sirius’ resolve to be amicable to his brother went out in a flash at the jab towards the love of his life. Sirius lunged at his brother, trying to very physically hit the boy, but Snape intervened and jinxed him.
Sirius froze, rage in expression, and keeled over on his back, as still as a statue. Regulus looked shocked at he looked down at his brother, and slowly turned to Snape with a strange expression, which bordered somewhere around gratitude and bewilderment.
“Sirius!” Emily screamed from a few yards behind. A moment later, he felt her cool shadow fall over him. Her face came into view a second later.
“Finite Incantatem!” she countered in a low voice and jumped up to face Regulus and Snape. Sirius got onto his feet rather shakily, but managed to shield her from the two glowering boys.
“You cowards!” she yelled from behind Sirius’ shoulder. “You narrow-minded, prejudiced little bigots! He only came to fraternize, you know!”
Snape sneered as Sirius shushed Emily.
“It is not good to fraternize with the enemy, dear mudblood,” he said in his slightly nasal voice, sneer still stuck to the corners of his mouth like a twisted mask. “Tell your crup here not to pull anymore such antics, for I may not merely resort to binding spells.”
A small crowd had now gathered around the four of them. Emily and Sirius pulled their wands out, clearly ready to pitch into a duel. To their dismay, four larger Slytherins moved in to stand behind Snape and Regulus. But fear wasn’t in lack in the hearts of Sirius Black and Emily MacArthur; only manpower.
No one noticed as a young first year detached out of the audience and ran as fast as he could towards the office of Professor Minerva McGonagall.
Maitri and Alex heard the shouts from the Great Hall. Maitri recognized Regulus’ voice as he screamed, which made her scramble out of the Ravenclaw table (where she was lunching presently) and out of the Great Hall within seconds, Alex at her heel, panting.
The moment Alex Messiers saw the dueling he immediately joined the disadvantaged team and starting throwing curses at random members of the opposite crew. A burly Slytherin Seventh Year detached himself from helping his friends curse Emily and instead hurtled towards Alex.
Regulus lay unconscious, just beyond the reach of the fighting students. Maitri tried shouting at her friends and housemates to stop, to no avail, before she knelt down and scrutinized Regulus, who seemed to be knocked out by a Stunner.
Pulling her young friend clear off the vicinity of the duelers, she set him up propped against a tree trunk and crossed over to the others to get them to give up the fight.
However, the eight duelers were too much in the thick of fighting to even hear her words. Maitri’s attempts to put in an invisible shield went awry, since there was no definite path for her to create one. Instead, she tried to push duelers from each other by inserting a force field in their midst, so that their spells got sucked into the field and, therefore, destroy the whole concept of a duel.
Unfortunately, she was able to stop only Sirius and Severus, the latter who glared at her to ends and tried valiantly to escape the force field. Another scream highlighted the atmosphere as Emily got hit by a curse, and fell down, grazing her knees and elbows on the lakeside pebbles.
Sirius jumped as though he was the one who’d been hit, disengaged himself from his duel and leapt to her side in a flash. Which was well, considering that the oaf who hexed her down didn’t seem to want to discontinue even after she was incapacitated.
Maitri took the momentary distraction as an advantage and quickly cast a shield, pushing Emily’s attackers backward. One of them sneered at her, no doubt recognizing her clearly.
“Mudblood for mudblood, is it, now?” he spat, trying to break the shield. Severus was outside the range of the shield, but did not move from his spot, frozen by some unknown reason that occupied his gaze from beyond all the students, on the castle.
Maitri ignored the jibe and held the shield. Moments later, someone joined her – Lily, who was breathing hard as though she’d run a long distance in a short time. The Gryffindor girl spelled out a shield, blocking the duelers from another direction.
The older wizards scowled at both of them and tried to retreat out of the shields, when two more students stepped in and blocked off the other two sides, forming invisible shield walls that kept the perpetrators in til the prefects or any teacher came along.
Right on cue, as if by miraculous intuition, Professor McGonagall appeared from behind the throng of onlooking students. Maitri almost believed that the professor had made it on her own before she saw a terrified first year Hufflepuff peeking out from behind the professor’s robes.
Minerva McGonagall looked down at Sirius and Emily, at Severus, at the trapped students, and, finally, at a recently-enervated-and-dazed Regulus, and sighed. Even a fool could have put two and two together and figure what the kids were getting at.
“Why is that I always find you putting up shields in random duels, Ms. Harys?” the professor asked wryly, glancing at the young Slytherin, who looked back rather sheepishly.
The four older students who’d been caught up in the shield-hold had been assigned detentions and sent back to the castle to meet up with Filch right away. Sirius, Emily (who was leaning on Sirius for support), Alex, Severus and Regulus stood in two, extremely quiet lines, covered in slight cut and bruises that had come from attacking each other with unfriendly hexes.
“Professor, it so seems that Sirius here tried to talk to his brother, but ended up in a brawl,” she said quickly, no doubt having gotten information out of one of the onlookers present. “Severus Snape tried to shield Regulus, which was when MacArthur stepped in, and the four of them inevitably began dueling to protect each other’s friends. I believe the others involved just wanted to pitch in for their friends as well.”
“Thank you, Ms. Evans,” Professor McGonagall said, nodding to the young redhead. “But despite what you believe, be it friendship or bloodlust, unauthorized, unsupervised dueling is not allowed in Hogwarts.” She paused for a long minute and let her words sink in deeply. Regulus and Sirius had both turned three shades redder at her words, looking almost identical in their mortified states of humiliation.
“Which means,” the professor continued strictly. “I shall be assigning all the five of you detentions. Mr. Black (Sirius, that is) and Mr. Snape - despite my earlier warning, both of you seem to end dueling each other yet again. With reasons or not, this is unacceptable behavior – for which you both would be assigned weeklong detentions. All the five of you are to come to my office tonight at 7 to arrange the nature of your detentions.”
Sirius flashed Severus an annoyed glare, while the latter merely grimaced in response.
“Ms. MacArthur,” Professor McGonagall addressed the injured, bleeding Hufflepuff. “I suggest you head right up to the Hospital Wing now. The cuts are quite deep. Were you qualified for the next round of the dueling tournament, dear?”
Emily shook her head sadly.
“Good enough,” the professor sighed. “If not, I might have had to remove you from the tournament. Emotions are not always the best weapons in a fight, dear.”
Emily shot a look at the Deputy Headmistress, her eyes filled with anguished tears. However, only Sirius could see them. He reached up softly and brushed them away.
“You know,” Regulus whispered as the three of them – himself, Severus and Maitri – made their way back to the dungeons. “It’s lucky she forgot about the Quidditch finals we have in two weeks. I would’ve probably beaten to a pulp had she banned me from that.”
“What are you giving me that look for?” the younger boy demanded. “Well, ok, fine, thanks for stopping those oafs before anyone procured a serious and longlasting injury, alright?”
“Emily told me all Sirius attempted to do was to be friendly,” she said. “And that you were the one that went all oafish on your brother – and you, Sev, you let him carry on like a crackpot!”
“Hey!” cried Regulus indignantly. “Sirius didn’t come to be all brotherly by himself! I heard that mud- muggleborn tell him to be nice to me!” He was almost shrieking; his voice bounced off the cold dungeon walls. “I don’t want a brother who’s nice to me because his sappy sponge of a girlfriend told him to!”
“Well,” Maitri replied, understanding his point, but noticing that Reggie didn’t look so much harder than his brother either. “If you hadn’t hexed his friends senseless, maybe he wouldn’t have been forced to choose between you or them!”
“Friends or family, Maitri?” Severus cut in sharply. “Whom would you choose in?”
“And what do you believe in?”
Maitri struggled to keep a straight face when she replied.
“World peace, equality and environment conservation.”
It took almost half a minute for the answer to get registered in her friends’ minds, and when it did, Regulus let out a howl of laughter, Severus cracked a lopsided grin, and Maitri allowed herself to smile, knowing that she had successfully evaded one of the most important questions about her future.
“Don’t we all, Maitri, don’t we all?” Severus whispered softly, as Maitri and Regulus put an arm on each other’s shoulders and walked in front of him.
How are you? How is Ted? Nymphadora? (Really, what a name!). Be a good girl, and give my love to them.
Well, ma souer par le sang, as wondrous as it may be to be aware of what ma Cherie, sweet Dora is doing now, I also feel compelled to make you known about what was your beloved school a year ago – especially because of those long novels you send me under the term “letter”.
This British world is so suffocating! So many customs, and ridiculous beliefs! Life in France – even Argentina – was far more rewarding. At least, no one induced me into fighting there; I had lived a peaceful life!
I know you are keen about the dueling tournament – therefore, it is my duty to let you know that your tutelage has not gone to waste! M. Harys and I are through to the Pre-Quarter Finals, which will be held a week from today.
You should have seen us fight! Last week I did down Severus Snape (that slimy snake!), but as a true fighter, I did not let it get to my ego. However, pathetic little Melissa Carter fell within minutes, and no one could understand what distracted her in the first place… I’m betting on my charme.
Poor M. was against Wilfred Klaus – that sycophant – who had had more practice than she did, I’m sure! It was fascinating to watch Klaus simpering, being beaten by a girl four years younger than he, especially when he had an advantage of knowing more curses.
I think M. is getting very inventive with her spells. Or the slimy git, Snape had helped her do it. For all that I know, she flipped Klaus upside down in mid-air, and what should I see, but Snape grinning in pride! Something definitely fishy with those Slytherins, I tell you.
Now for the Marauder Mettre a jour!
Sirius Black got himself into another brawl few days back – and I had to jump in and defend him and his girlfriend. Who from? Regulus Black, Snivellus Snape and four huge brutes with arms as thick as tree trunks. M. managed to separate Snape and Sirius, but the Huffie got injured. And something weird is going on with Dorkie and that Remus Lupin. Peter Pettigrew seems happy and releaved, now that he’s out of the tournament, but James Potter seems all the more happy because he’s in it.
It is strange, Andy, the air here at Hogwarts. I read the Sunday Prophet today. I know those Sullivans in the third page, I do! They lived near the Smithses, in London! Little Joanie got her Hogwarts letter only last Christmas, and she was so thrilled to find out she was magical! Why does this happen, Andy? I know we are safe under old Dumby’s care, but the outer world isn’t exactly safe, is it? Why does that wreck of a fool kill all these innocents?
I know M. feels the same as me when I say this: a war is coming. Heck, maybe Dumby would agree with me, too!
Alexander Kilian Joaquin Messiers
Alex was highly put out when he lost to the Seventh Year Gryffindor, Joe Bryant at the pre-Quarters. The older wizard had literally strained in order to overcome Alex’s vicious lashes (which closely resembled his sister’s methods, Maitri noticed), and had disarmed him in a moment of spontaneous luck. Alex had been shell-shocked, and nearly inconsolable for the next few hours, after which he decided to gnash his teeth together and help Maitri prepare better.
Maitri had been up against a Sixth Year Hufflepuff Prefect, named Ashlyn Cooper, and had found it a very mild match. Neither of them wanted to hurt the other one badly, which made the duel rather tame and docile. At the end of five minutes, however, Maitri’s Stunner by-passed the girl’s shield and cleanly incapacitated her.
Regulus was lucky enough to be across a kid from his own year, Jack Scott. Their duel was declared the most interesting for the day, especially because both opponents hated each other deeply to the point of loathing. The older students, too, watched the duel closely, marveling in the fact that both the boys used simple spells to the height of the potential, not knowing more than the Third Year syllabus. Maitri knew that Regulus knew more curses than most Fifth Year students did, but in a fit of nobility, he stuck to what he surmised his opponent would know.
“That was stupid!” Hugh Montague had hissed at his friend after the duel. Regulus had looked him straight in the eye as he answered without hesitation.
“That was the fun of beating someone with their own weapons.”
Which was why he took the job of tutoring Maitri Harys extremely serious. Alex was not the type of person who offered help - more like forced his help – to anyone so easily. Maitri knew it, and though she hated to admit it, she suffered with him as her dueling mentor.
“Heartless, merciless, lazy…” she muttered under her breath as she threw curses at the wooden mannequin she was supposed to practice on. Alex never dueled with her actually, though there was a constant stream of nagging advice from the corner of the classroom where he’d made himself comfortable while scrutinizing her techniques.
“What was that?” he drawled. “Didn’t quite catch it.”
“Nothing, Drama Queen!”
“Yeah, right,” she huffed, blowing out the strands of hair that had escaped her plait and now stuck to her sweaty forehead. “The help I most definitely did not ask for.”
Alex only chuckled again, and resumed reading Ptolemy’s discourse on metallic transfiguration.
Maitri did not like practicising too much. It curbed her time off her studies (both muggle and magical), off her experiments involving Advanced Charms, off her quality time with Herbert and Kent at the lake, off all the reading she could do at the library, where peace, quiet and non-violence reigned supremely.
“I like that word,” Alex commented idly, looking up from his book, grinning. “Supremely. Like Super-manly, Super-magi…”
The match was over in a matter of minutes.
Everyone was stunned -including the duelers themselves. One of the opponents, a gobsmacked girl with long brown hair, looked down at her wand arm and then, at her wand, which blissfully lay a few feet away to her right.
“That’s it, then,” Professor Flitwick said with a heavy sigh. Afterall, he was the Head of Ravenclaw, and it wasn’t his house that won the match. “Harys qualifies to the Semi-Finals.”
When Marlene McKinnon remained rooted to her spot, even after the announcement/call for the next pair of duelers, Maitri summoned the girl’s wand, and gently nudged her out of the dueling ring. The Slytherin offered the wand back to the witch with an embarrassed smile, hinting truce.
Marlene looked down at her Thornwood wand and took it gingerly, as though she were afraid it was brittle. The Ravenclaw girl was several inches taller than Maitri, but it took a long time for her to meet the Slytherin girl’s eyes.
“You really are a good dueler,” she admitted softly.
Maitri smiled. “I think you are an awesome dueler,” she confessed. “That was one of the most difficult matches I’ve ever been in.”
Marlene laughed, but not in an unkind way. “For me, too! I don’t know how I got lost during that last minute! I know it will sound ridiculous – but I felt Confunded!”
Maitri’s eyes widened, but Marlene dissolved into easy laughter.
Marlene McKinnon bit down on her lower lip. She was one of the Ravenclaw chasers. She was the Vice President of the Hogwarts Chess Club. She was also a president of the Aim For Aurorship Committee. She dearly wanted to finish up all her homework before bedtime everyday, a feat rarely accomplished. Marlene also wanted to desperately jump on the Knight Bus, go to London and viciously kill that vile man, who called himself Lord Voldemort, who didn’t look even a scrap like the girl in front her, innocent and confused.
“Yeah, must be,” she agreed slowly.
“Say, Marl, how was it being defeated by my disciple?”
Alex sauntered over, beaming, and put an arm around Maitri’s shoulders, pinning her to his side. Both the girls rolled their eyes, and grinned at each other.
Alex seemed to be chewing the inside of his mouth for a while as Marlene walked off. He then turned to Maitri with a serious expression in place.
“I’m pretty sure what she meant was ‘pretty-face’,” he said in a solemn voice. Maitri had to bite her tongue from laughing or rolling her eyes. With enormous effort (due to having to reach up to her friend’s height and outmanouvre his arm, which was still wrapped around her shoulder), Maitri put her arm around Alex’s shoulders and rested her head on his shoulder blade as he supported her out of the Great Hall.
“Sure, she did, Al.”
The Quidditch Finals shifted a week forward due to an unexpected bad news: an attack on Inglesson, a village not 30 miles from Hogsmeade. An explosion in the village square and mysterious killings of at least 5 of the village elders had the muggles baffled. The residents wizards of Inglesson just fled to Hogsmeade; or at least, those who survived, did.
Argus Filch prowled the outer edge of the castle like a restless wildcat, eyes darting everywhere in a state of extreme nervousness. He caught the Marauders, twice, when they dropped stink pellets and itch drops on him, and assigned them detentions to clean the dungeons, the Trophy Room and the Great Hall despite the fact that they tried to convince it was all, absolutely, the fault of Peeves, whom they were supposedly aiming for.
Maitri barely saw the Marauders and Severus outside of their classes, since they were always off, finishing their quota of detentions. Regulus, she saw for a bit, after he slumped into the Common Room, swearing at Filch in some obscure language that probably didn’t even exist in the Muggle World.
Now that Maitri was into the Semi-Finals, which got post-poned to a week later (due to the Quidditch Finals’ shift), Alex made her practice even harder. In his defense, he said he only wanted her to give the best fight among the Fourth Years, but Maitri knew he was being extremely paranoid and thought he was preparing her for war. After all, he was one of the very few who knew she was present at both the attacks in the summers of the last two years, and how they had affected her.
Maitri found it slightly annoying that Alex didn’t believe she was capable enough to deal with such attacks on her own, especially after all the practice she’d had as one of the Peacemakers. In fact, he persuaded her to not attend the Quidditch Finals – Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw – so much that she figured she could at least stop him from nagging her about it if she didn’t go.
On the day of the Quidditch Final match, Maitri and Alex had been shooed out of the castle by a very irate Pomona Sprout, who believed that children belonged to the sun and not the shade. Maitri had had a brief spurt of relief when she realized it was a break from practice, but Alex thought otherwise and had argued with Professor Sprout whether he could drag the wooden mannequin outside the classroom or not, in the case that she was forcing them to practice in the open.
In the end, Maitri had to scuff him lightly on the head and pull him out before he turned anymore red and started to develop beaky protrusions, like the part-Veela he was. Although, she did have to promise to practice in the grounds to get him out of the castle before Filch descended on them like a hawk and assign a detention randomly, because of his foul mood.
The screams from the Quidditch Pitch sounded ridiculously magnified near the lake, since the wind blew the noise southward. It took a lot of self-control for Alex to stay near his friend and not run towards the Pitch, screaming like an infant, and cheer for Ravenclaw. Of course, that didn’t mean that the idea never crossed his mind – it was especially tempting when Maitri began to chisel a mannequin out of one of the boulders, using a modified Reductor curse she had formed a while ago.
“We could’ve just dragged out Eames, you know,” he commented, squatting beside Maitri on the ground. Eames was the name he’d bestowed on the battered old mannequin they’d practiced with. “Sprout was beginning to lean in when you pulled me off!”
“Eames is McGonagall’s,” Maitri reasoned. “Moreover, Stoneman is better at deflecting curses.”
“Er, Stoneman looks very real to me,” he commented. Maitri slashed at the stone sharply, almost viciously.
“He gets his looks from a person I don’t really like,” she clarified.
“He looks like Regulus Black to me,” he said. “I thought little Reggie was your friend?”
Maitri spluttered, lowering her wand. Sure, there was a resemblance.
“No, not Regulus,” she confirmed and resumed chiseling the bust. Alex quietened once he sensed the dark undertone in his friend’s voice, and knew better not to prod. One nosy instance ages ago had resulted in a bump on his jaw that had been very difficult to disguise.
“Just so you don’t burst out of curiosity,” she said calmly, glancing at a green-faced Alex, who’d been holding in question for so long that it could have turn out unhealthy for him just a minute longer. “Stoneman is based on Tom Riddle.”
“Who’s that? Another Sixth Year Slytherin scum?”
Sirius and James looked at each other, and their expressions went from gob-smacked to ear-splitting grins in less than the time span of a split second. Lily Evans glared at them suspiciously from the other end of the table, probably because her friend Laura Wilkins was staring at them to a sickening degree of intensity where people could practically see the drool beginning to show on her chin.
Sirius looked away hastily. The Wilkins girl had been nauseating enough on few precious occasions. In doing so, he caught sight of Regulus and Maitri Harys sitting side by side at the Slytherin table, being very, very still, and not looking at each other, or at anyone (including Dumbledore) for the matter. Both of them seemed quite intent to look at their plates, despite the fact that Alex Messiers, who was sitting on the other side of Harys, was nearly jumping up and down in some weird form of excitement.
"What are you two so glum about?” Alex hissed. “You get to fight as a pair – and by Jove – both of you can neatly demolish the entire school with your power, potential and my brains!”
Regulus threw him a grimace that clearly meant ‘shut-up-or-it’ll-be-you-i-neatly-demolish’. Alex gracefully ignored it, and began to plan out an attack strategy under the name the Black-Harys Game of Subtle and Stinging Offense. Though, however, he couldn’t ignore the next few words that echoed all around the Great Hall.
“I just can’t resist this, Minerva,” Dumbledore said in a stage whisper. “But can I just pair them off myself?”
Alex almost groaned loudly, his disappoinment over not being able to pair his friends off evident in his scowl. A few tables across, two Marauders sported the same scowl.
Before McGonagall could agree, Dumbledore swept his long arms around the Hall and called for all the eight selected students to stand before the staff table. Maitri knew that Dumbledore knew the names of all the eight without having to refer to any parchment, because she had spelt them all out over to him in at least 3 consecutive breakfast sessions earlier that week:
Regulus Black, Third Year,
Maitri Harys, Sirius Black & James Potter, Fourth Year,
Emma Rodgers, Fifth Year,
Alistair Marlowe & Mi Chang, Sixth Year, and
Evan Walker, Seventh Year.
It was strange, having to stand between the two Black brothers, who had become very rigid the moment they took their places in the line. Maitri wondered if it were some sort of a regimen, as she glanced at both of them standing in identical positions, hands clenched into fists at their sides, and legs clamped close and straight-as-a-rod backbone. James Potter didn’t seemed to notice, though he winked at Professor McGonagall and shared a knowing look with Professor Dumbledore, and, almost lazily, ran his hands through his messy hair as he glanced over to the part of the Gryffindor Table where Lily was sitting.
Severus sat with Regulus on the Front Steps, talking quietly – probably advising the boy to control his spells against Potter, while the Seventh Year, Evan Walker, was chatting with a girl, grinning happily. Marlowe and Sirius stood at opposite ends of the Front Doors, glaring at each other. James Potter and the Fifth Year,, Rodgers, were discussing softly about their own game plan. Maitri and Chang were pacing across the outside of the Great Hall, going over the list of official attack strategies that they had been following in the tournament all along. All the students had left the Great Hall and many had assured the participants they’d be back in an hour to watch them duel.
The huge clock struck 10, and the doors to the Great Hall opened. Professor Byrne stood at the threshold looking around solemnly. He nodded once and disappeared inside.
The first match (picked out of slots by Professor Flitwick) was Regulus’ and Walker’s against Potter and Rodgers. It was terrible.
Walker was an absolute hypocrite in the ring, barely avoiding to flaunt the rules as he hit the girl, Emma Rodgers, with a barrade of curses and hexes. It was true that he was fast, but his ethics were completely out of the window, and Rodgers struggled with his unethical blows for several minutes before she managed to land a curse on the boy. On the other half of the ring, Regulus and Potter faced each other, glaring daggers in to each other’s eyes. Their spells were lashy, fired neatly and almost evenly matched.
Maitri knew that Regulus was a far better fighter than herself, with all the information he’d gleaned from wizarding martial arts books, but Potter was of a different mettle. He had the build of a chaser, light and quick, while Regulus, as a seeker, was small and seedy. The two of them were as ethical as the other two were not; in the end, Potter scraped a point over Regulus by a surprise feint, which ended with an immobilizing charm and Regulus toppling over, face thunderous.
Professor Sprout, almost disgusted by Walker’s attitude in Disarming Ms. Rodgers, announced in a controlled voice that James Potter and Evan Walker were a team finalist for the tournament.
Maitri caught Regulus’ eyes a few minutes after McGonagall “unfreezed” him. He’d been looking straight at her ever since, but she had been too caught with the unfair practices of Mr. Walker to get to the finals, that, when she finally turned to her friend, she felt kind of guilty. Regulus reacted in no other way than stoic, and nodded once, slowly and deliberately. Maitri lowered her eyes and repeated the gesture.
Alex was curious about the silent conversation between them, and couldn’t figure out for the life of him what had just happened. But Maitri remained silent until the ring was cleared and her name was called. She knew what Regulus had meant by the nod, even without having to hear what his thoughts said.
One of us is getting through this, he had tried to say before the duel. After the duel, Regulus had had very little words to add to it. Since it isn’t me anymore, let it be you.
Maitri had nodded back. I will try my best.
“Ms. Harys and Ms. Chang!” Professor Byrne called out. “Please greet your opponents, Mr. Black and Mr. Marlowe!”
Maitri bid goodbye to Alex as she and Mi Chang entered the dueling ring together. They could see Sirius and Marlowe entering from the other end a t the same time; Marlowe was literally skinning Maitri with the look of pure hunger on his face. The younger girl winced and almost instinctively took a step back, letting the Ravenclaw lead.
The duel was over. Maitri looked at Sirius, tears in eyes.
Hey you wonderful readers out there... For those who checked up again and again - yes, the chapter's over! The next one will be put up ASAP (after this gets updated, that is), and so, please stick with Maitri and miserable old me, whose school starts in a week, and whose hands are itching to write away more.
I just realized; Maitri is still in her Fourth Year. Where does that leave the story?
Less than 50% completed!!!
OMG!!! I know! A big, big, BIG story. But you'll stick through and review, won't you???
With lotsa love and a new chapter in hand,
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