Hermione sat next to Hala Suha in the stands, a book tucked under her arm. "So you've decided not to try out for the Quidditch team?"
"Yeah, I don't think I'll be able to handle this schedule and my coursework. Maybe if we come back next year, I'll try out for a spot on the Chasers. I might have a better chance than." Hala tucked a lock of dark brown hair behind her ear. "It looks like they are starting."
The crowd around them roared with approval as they saw the Beaters take to the air. Hala cheered on her brothers as they flew past them on the school brooms they were borrowing. As the try outs continued, Hermione knew the Weasley twins would be the first string as they had the experience of three years behind them. With great timing and placements, they would aim the Bludgers just so they could knock off the Quaffle from the Chasers without any permanent injury to their victims. The Suha twins were close but slightly rough in their shots and flying; good enough to be on the reserve team, Hermione concluded.
A little later, the Keepers were flying around the posts in order, trying to block the five shots thrown at them from Angelina, Katie, and some seventh year Hermione didn't know. Ron was able to save all of his goals which made Hermione proud. Her best friend had come a long way from the reserved and shadowed boy in her first year that wasn't quite sure of his place in the world. She remembered how Potter's shadow of fame had hid him from everyone including himself, not allowing the youngest Weasley boy to find out his limits and abilities.
That had changed when Ron had turned on Potter for harassing his sister in his third year. Hermione had been afraid that Ron's desire to be more than his brothers would override his loyalty to his family and himself but Hermione had been happily wrong. Once he had broken free from Potter, Ron had come into his own. He had taken to protect the younger students from Draco, Edward, and their cronies. Their friendship had deepened in their third and fourth year to where they were now quite inseparable.
It had been no surprise to Hermione that McGonagall had given the Fifth Year Prefect badge to him.
"Go, Shyamal!" Hermione reverie was broken by Hala's yell of encouragement. Hermione had been so engrossed in her thinking that she had missed the tryouts for the Chasers. Hopefully, Ginny wouldn't ask her how she did. She watched in disgust as Edward dive-bombed Shyamal who did a 180 degree barrel-roll to avoid being knocked off his broom.
"Ugh, he's attacking like Malfoy." Someone sitting above them muttered. "I hope that Durmstrang student or the third year wins. I won't come to the games this year if Potter stays as Seeker."
"You and me both." Agreed another Gryffindor.
Hala jumped suddenly. "Oh, he's seen a Snitch!" The crowd watched in fascination as Shyamal sped off after a group of three that were bunched up heading for the far end of the pitch. Hala and Hermione cheered with the rest of the Gryffindors as all three Snitches were captured.
Shyamal started coming back, the third year now trailing him after giving up on Potter.
"He's trailing him." Hermione said, realizing what the boy was doing a second after Hala noticed.
"Shyamal's noticed. Look!" Her brother dived, rocketing to the ground as he picked sped.
"He's going to crash!" Yelled a first year muggle born.
Hala shook her head. "No, he's not but he is." Shyamal pulled up just in time, spiraling away as the other boy flattened into the ground. "It's never ideal to trail another Seeker. You may never know if they'll do a Wronski Feint on you."
"Potter's fighting for his spot." A girl said as they saw Edward snatch one from Shyamal as the Snitch flew up alongside the Gryffindor tower.
"Doesn't matter. He had his chance." A second year said, cheering as Shyamal caught another one.
The happy mood changed when the crowd noticed the broom Shyamal was using starting to buck uncontrollably. The Gryffindors started to panic, fear spreading through them all. No one wanted to lose another Hogwarts student so soon after Diggory's death last term.
"Someone's jinxing the broom." Hala turned to Hermione. "Someone did that to Edward in his first year. The broom was acting the same way." Hermione kept the fact that it was Voldemort himself that had been jinxing the broom to herself. If Shyamal found out, Hermione had no doubt that he would go back to Durmstrang or perhaps even Beauxbatons to protect his family.
Below them, Angelina went running off, presumably to get a professor.
An idea hit Hermione. Grabbing a startled Hala's hand, she pulled her through the shocked and frantic crowd. "Come on, we have to get to the field." Finally they broke through, running down the stairs as they possibly could.
Ron, George, and Fred were arguing with Cosmas and Damian, both of whom were mounted on the brooms to go after their brother.
"We have to go up there! I'm not going to let my brother die!" Cosmas yelled, trying to shrug off George's arm.
"He's only thirty feet in the air. There's a chance that he'll survive. If you go up there, the person who's jinxing the broom will make it go higher, increasing his chance of dying."Ron said, trying to get the boy to see reason.
"The only thing we can do is stay on the ground and hope to catch him before he falls." George added. Cosmas stopped fighting, realizing the truth in the older boys' words.
"Where's Angelina?" Ron looked around for the older girl.
"She's gone to get Madam Hooch or the first professor she sees." Hala moved over to her brothers, eyes on Shyamal's figure as he tried to stay on the bucking broom.
Hermione ran up to her best friend. "Ron, give me your broom."
"Because I'm going to Banish it to him." Understanding, Ron handed over his broom to Hermione just as Shyamal was flipped over the broom handle, dangling by his fingers, legs hanging in the open air. Hermione pulled out her wand from beneath her robes. With a flick of her wand and quickly muttered incantation, the broom rocketed in the air, speeding toward Shyamal.
A second later, the broom Shyamal was holding on to gave way, Shyamal letting go.
He twisted in mid air, his hand flashing out.
Panic rose in Hermione; she changed the path of the broom to fly down, angling to cross Shyamal's path. As it rushed past, Shyamal was able to hook a leg and arm around it.
Relief flooded through her, the pulsing of her heart slowly returning to normal.
"Good one, Hermione!" Ginny yelled as they started running toward Shyamal who was heading back to them. Hermione was barely able to stand upright as both George and Fred pounded her on her back.
"That's Gryffindor's brilliant witch."
Cosmas and Damian were running up to Shyamal as he landed. The broom haired boy waved them off. "I'm fine, just suffering from an adrenaline rush."
"What do you think you were doing?" Hala started face turning bright red with anger. "I knew what you were doing. You saw that Snitch right below you and you let go."
"She reminds me of mum." Fred whispered as Hala continued to yell at Shyamal who was just staring at her, a muscle twitching in his jaw.
"What is going on here?" The group turned to see Angelina leading Professor McGonagall and Madam Hooch to them. "Mr. Suha, are you alright?" The Gryffindors had followed the two professors, keeping a distance away but close enough to hear the conversation between them.
"Yes, professor, as much as I can be after being yelled at by my sister."
"How did you get down?"
"Ms. Granger helped me by Banishing a broom up to me as I fell. Thanks for that, by the way."
"We believe someone was jinxing the broom." Ron told her. "The broom was acting up like when Potter was attacked four years ago."
McGonagall's lips pursed as Hooch gasped. "Are you sure, Mr. Weasley? Why would anyone want to jinx the broom? No offense meant to you, Mr. Suha."
Madam Hooch waved her wand, Shyamal's broom heading toward her. "The only way to find out for sure, Minerva, is to test the broom for anything." She looked at it. "There isn't anything out of the ordinary about the broom except for the fact that it is one of the older ones. There can be a chance that it was old and finally broke down."
"What about the tryouts?" Someone asked, the Gryffindor crowd bustling at that. Edward Potter was standing outside of the circle, glaring at Shyamal with unconcealed hate. Shyamal ignored him, focusing on the professors before him.
"Professor?" Angelina looked up at her Head of House. She received a nod. The Gryffindor captain whispered a spell, summoning all of the Snitches back. Out of the ten now hovering in front of her, three red and another six silver, the rest their usual gold. "It looks like Shyamal is the new Gryffindor Seeker." The rest of her words were drowned out as the Gryffindors yelled.
Shyamal was immediately set upon by everyone, each want to talk to him.
A bang sounded, freezing everyone.
McGonagall looked at everyone. "If everyone here goes back to their dormitories, I would like to speak to Mr. Suha in my office, unless of course, the try outs are not over?"
"The Seekers were the last ones." Angelina told her, getting her clipboard from George.
"Mr. Suha if you please. Oh, Ms. Granger, ten points for your quick thinking and excellent use of the Banishment charm." Shyamal and his siblings followed Professor McGonagall up to her office. She sat at her spot as they took seats in red plush chairs before the oak desk. "Do you mind telling me what happened on the Quidditch pitch, Mr. Suha?"
Shyamal took a moment to gather his thoughts before speaking. "Everything was running smoothly until just after I caught the fifth Snitch. The broom started bucking on its own and no matter I how much I tried to regain control, it bucked even more. Finally it was able to flip me over the broom handle. I was trying to find a way to get back on it when I was able to catch a glimpse of the broom Hermione had sent to me."
"What about the reason why your sister was screaming at you?"
A blush appeared on Shyamal's face as Hala snuffed in anger, turning away from her older brother. "She was able to see me catch the sixth Snitch. She's mad about it."
"I see." McGonagall didn't say anything for a moment. "Is there anything that has happened to the school that I don't know about?"
"Not really. Just a slight misunderstanding with Mr. Potter. It was in regards to something personal about Hala." Might as well as come across as a polite boy.
McGonagall's face hardened. "Hogwarts does not look down favorably upon fighting between students. If there are anymore uncivil interactions between you and Mr. Potter, I will be forced to take points from my own House and assign you detention."
"We haven't had any altercations since then."
"Do you know if there any other student who may take offense against you?"
"No, ma'am." The others shook their heads. "At least none that we are aware of. Though I'm sure there are a quite a few people that take interest in the fact that we are from Durmstrang which is not a favorable school here with its reputation."
"The school is on edge now after the events that have occurred several months ago with the loss of one of our own. If anything happens that concerns you or threatens your siblings in anyway, you can come to me or one of the other professors here. You can be rest assured that Headmaster Dumbledore will take care of it."
"Of course, Professor." They were about to leave when McGonagall spoke again.
"Now, you wouldn't by chance know about the jinxes placed on the fifth floor corridor regarding the Transfiguration of students into kittens and such?"
The library was silent, the barely audible scratches of quills against paper and the rustling of parchment and books were the only things breaking it. Madam Pince was in her corner of the library deftly looking over books that had been carelessly torn or needed extensive restoration. Shyamal passed the dozens of aisles of ancient tomes and books, looking for his sister.
Ever since yesterday, she had been quiet, deftly ignoring him or sending him heated glares when she caught sight of him staring at her throughout the day. He knew it was because of what happened at the Quidditch tryouts but didn't exactly know why. He paused when he caught sight of familiar dark brown hair down in a high ponytail. Readjusting his bag, he walked over to her. Hala looked up at him, eyes narrowing in anger before looking back down at her essay, writing a few more words furiously.
Keeping his voice down in a whisper, Shyamal leaned toward her. "Hala, we need to talk." Another line was written down. "I know it's about the tryouts but I don't understand why-"
"Of course you don't." She hissed back, hand tightening on the quill. Shyamal could see the beginning of bright red blush forming around her face.
"Then tell me why."
"No I don't have to."
"Yes, you do. I am your big brother and guardian."
"Oh, now you remember." Shyamal was startled at the sarcastic tone in her voice.
"I always remember-" He started.
"Did you remember when you decided to go after that stupid Snitch?" Hala asked, her head finally snapping up to glare at him. Her voice was in a low but forced whisper. "You were dangling 30 bloody feet in the air with your broom acting up and you decided to let go?" The last word was dripping with something Shyamal couldn't quite put his finger on. "What would have happened if you died, Shyamal? We don't have anyone left to take care of us. We would have been placed under someone's care and probably broken up since hardly anyone can take in three children who are going to Hogwarts. They wouldn't have left us to go back to Romania. And all for what? Just to show Edward up? Would it have been bloody worth it to leave us behind?" Hala spat at him, gathering her books and shoving them into her book bag, she left, sending one last glare at him.
Shyamal rubbed at his face, feeling an unknown weight crushing down on him. So that's what had been bothering Hala.
She felt like Shyamal had left them just like Edward had done. And both for stupid reasons.
"She still hasn't forgiven you for catching that last Snitch?" Ginny was standing in front of him, an armload of books in her arms and a battered quill tucked behind her ear. "I saw you guys fighting while I was down the aisle. She seemed pretty angry enough."
"Sure I was thinking about it but I wouldn't have really down it." Shyamal groaned. "The broom had already begun to fall when I did. There's was not point on holding onto a broom that was falling. Plus I had seen the second broom Hermione sent heading for me out of the corner of my eye. I just decided to catch the Snitch while I was in freefall."
"I never accused you." Ginny set her books on the table, taking a seat across from Shyamal. "Can I tell you something?"
Shyamal opened his arms. "Go ahead and slam me with both Bludgers."
He received a wry grin. "As being a last child who happens to be a girl, I can tell you she's afraid. Ah, let me finish." Shyamal closed his mouth. "Hala doesn't want to be seen as weak. She's angry at you for even thinking that you were going to risk everything for a Snitch and at herself for being so afraid of losing you. Since all four of you lost your parents, you are all she has left. You're the older brother and her father, the man that she could count on to there and to protect her if it comes down to it. But yesterday, she realized you're not invincible as she first thought, that she can lose you at any time like her parents. Now she can't stop thinking that what would happen if she did."
Shyamal looked at his hands. He hadn't thought about that. He was ashamed that he hadn't seen that earlier. He had always prided himself on being there for his siblings. When did he forget that? When we bloody came here to Hogwarts and saw Edward."How did you get so mature?"
"I have six older brothers, any of which I could lose at any moment if what Potter tells is true. And that's not including my parents." She paused. "I had to grow up after the incident in my first year. Made me realize a lot, things that I've never considered before. To me, Voldemort was just a nightmare in the dark, nothing substantial until I stumbled on his diary."
Hearing her mention her first year, Shyamal's anger sparked at what happened after, the image of a thirteen-year-old Edward touching a twelve-year-old Ginny burning in his mind's eye. Clenching his jaw, he shoved it away. It wasn't his place and he had a feeling if he did anything about it, Ginny would take offense at it as she wasn't the type of girl to let a man fight for her. "I guess. I'll have to wait for Hala's anger to subside. She's still spitting fire at me and won't even think of listening to me."
"She'll come around. You might want to get her some chocolate."
"I hope so. I would hate to lose my sister after this." Shyamal raked a hand through his hair. "So is there anything that I should know about regarding the other three House teams?"
Ginny leaned forward and began bringing him up to date on the stats, abilities, and weakness of the players on the Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw teams.
"The Dark Lord will look to increase the boundaries of your grand kingdom, my liege. He knows that before the Blood Elves were forced back into the Carpathians, your lands were vast and wide." The silky voice of the Death Eater was loud in the silent halls, the lords and ladies of all of the high houses sitting quietly in the shadows along the walls. King Shahriar studied the being before him, refusing to call him a man.
Standing tall, he was covered from head to foot in black robes, a white skull mask covering his features. He knew the purpose was not only to intimidate but to hide his identity from everyone if one should run to the ministry and turn him in for the prize money. The other two men were dressed the same, though one was definitely shorter than the other and was rounder.
"All you would have to do is join the Dark Lord."
Shahriar leaned forward on his throne, the silver chainmail he was wearing crinkling slightly. "Bowing to the Dark Lord is not favorable for me and how I would know that he will be able to fulfill his promise of greater wealth and more land for my kingdom and my people? All we have is his word and sadly that is not enough."
The speaker for the Dark Lord paused, Shahriar able to see that he was searching for a way to appease to him. "Surely you must know how the English Ministry has denied the return of my Master. They are nothing but fools and will fall the moment Lord Voldemort attacks. With your might joined with his, our victory will be assured."
Akane spoke up then. "Your Master was defeated by a mere infant who is now grown into his fifteenth year. If he couldn't destroy the Potter Heir then, what makes you think he can defeat him now when he has come into his own?"
"You underestimate the Dark Lord. He knows more than what he did then and is much stronger for it." The wizard's fingers caressed his wand. "The boy will be no threat soon."
"We have heard your request for an alliance. As of now, we have no definite answer. Return in one lunar month and you will get it then. May Ceridwen look down on you fairly on your journey home." The Death Eaters bowed as one before being escorted out by a squad of Elven warriors. The moment the large oak doors slammed shut behind them, another squad of Elven warriors were roaming through the room with spells and incantations, searching for anything.
A couple of them weaved and drew on more power until finally the squad leader nodded toward his king. "A few spells that would have recorded what was spoken here have been found. All have been tweaked to record only mundane speeches and such. They will be monitored you command to remove them, King Shahriar."
A Lord on Shahriar's right snorted with disgust. "They dare come here and request for an alliance while they scout on us?"
"They are pureblooded fools." Whispered another. "They have no common decency among them. Why should we join them?"
Shahriar raised a hand, the murmurs and whispers ending. "We must decide whether the Blood Elves will join in this war or remain neutral as it has in the last one and for millennia."
A young Lord shook his head. "Why should we join when it is obvious the foolish humans refuse to defend themselves? We have heard that they have been alerted by those who have fought in the last war that this so-called Dark Lord has returned and yet they do nothing but stick their heads in the sand."
"I must agree, Shahriar, with Lord Merari. We have seen the young boys and have heard how their family of light neglected and believe them to be traitors. They do not understand that Dark does not mean Evil."
Akane stood. "We cannot afford to stand back and watch innocents die. If their Ministry cannot protect who will?'
"I must disagree, Princess. They cannot come to us every time a new Dark Lord arises and have our own people slaughtered while they cower behind their little wards." Lord Merari banged his fist on his chair. "I have seen the same images as you and was disgusted by their cattle mentality. They have the choice to be wolves or sheep and sadly, they have chosen the latter."
"The humans have lost their sense of responsibility. Look at those who have not wielded magic for millennia. Even now, the Great Mother cries in pain from the devastation wrought upon her as they build their harmful machines and wage war with one another until the fields are red with blood. Look what happened fifty years ago when they dropped that weapon of chaos on two cities. How many died then and how many die now?" Cried out an elder Lord, his blood red hair streaked with silver.
"And that is why we must interfere with this war. We have our own sense of responsibility to this realm and theirs for all of us are entwined by the Great Mother. If their world falls, so will ours." Akane looked at her father. "But I see what you all are saying and thinking. I ask that our armies prepare for possible war. Perhaps we should send a treaty to Dumbledore and the English Minister to help them fight back."
Shahriar rested his arm on the throne, gazing at his daughter. "I have sent scouts to the office of the English Minister and I must say that he is quite an unfit individual for the upcoming war if it must come down to it. I have yet to receive word from Shyamal which leads me to believe that post from Hogwarts maybe monitored. The campaign against Dumbledore is wielding favorable results for the Minister, one that may do more harm now than good."
"Then I will go, Father, and keep Shyamal updated. You know how personally this is for him as his brother is the Boy Who Lived and mortal enemy of Lord Voldemort." Akane pleaded with her father.
"I will need you here, Akane. You are the commander of my forces out there and thus cannot risk you. The Ministry consider our kind to be Dark creatures and they will harm you if possible."
"Then I will go, Father." Every head turned to the great doors to see an Elf standing there. "I have returned when the news of the war beginning to brew reached the Southern Borders."
"Brother." Akane rushed to her younger brother, embracing him warmly. "I have missed you ever since you moved."
"We just saw each other last month, Akane."
"Too long when I used to see the Suha children every day, Owain." Akane huffed.
An elder Lord coughed. "Perhaps we should stick to matters at hand. I'm sure your celebration can hold for a later time."
"Lord Fannar is right. Owain, what did you say when you arrived?"
Owain glanced between his father and sister. "Akane is held to her duties here but as the youngest, I can journey into England and act as a messenger for all parties-"
"But brother, you have not been trained as deep in war."
"Akane, you are forgetting that we are Blood Elves. Hogwarts is surrounded on all sides of pure wild forest that the students rarely enter. They are only monitored the wards of Hogwarts. I am sure I can keep easily there."
"It is too risky." Akane started.
"I am trained to defend myself and I'm sure that the guard Father will send me will be more than adequate."
"How did you know I will send a guard with you?"
"Father, you are highly protective. I believe everyone who saw you with the Suha siblings will attest to that." The Lords chuckled around them.
"Ah, well, what do the Lords say?"
"Before we engage ourselves fully into the war, I must ask that the Ministry change their stance." Lord Fannar stately replied. "Lord Merari brings up a strong point. If we are to enter into an alliance, our allies must be willing to fight for themselves." Murmurs of agreement surrounded them.
"So, mote it be. Owain, you will leave for Hogwarts Castle in three days with three guards with you, one of which will return to notify me of your safe journey. I cannot stress enough that the Ministry does not find out that the Blood Elves have been travelling past our ancient boundaries much less into another country."
Owain bowed. "Of course, Father."
"The Lords are dismissed." Shahriar waved his hand, leaning back in his throne as both of his children approached him. As the last Lord left, the guards inside followed them out, closing the door behind them. "Akane, I know how close you are to the Suha siblings but you must understand the position the Blood Elves are on this. Ever since the turning of the wizards and witches, we have retreated back to our homelands, foregoing any further contact with them. It has been thus for centuries."
"Father, you know Lord Voldemort is taking the time the Ministry is giving him to recruit beyond the English boundaries. There have been reports of Death Eaters visiting the Giants in the bare lands of Russia and the werewolf packs in the Carpathians to the north."
"The Ministry look upon our kind as Dark Creatures. If they could, they would have persecuted us already, Akane. The Romanian Ministry has been very lenient in keeping to the treaty set long ago."
"I am sure they are dealing with any Death Eaters caught on their lands." Owain said. "Lord Voldemort will not risk any chance of the foreign Ministries coming down on him and exposing him to the English public. As long as he keeps his dark claws inside the English border they will not interfere."
"So they will let him recruit into their own country."
"Plausible deniability and they don't have to carry the burden of responsibility. At least, not until they murder an innocent or commit a foul crime on foreign lands, of which I am sure they will not do." Shahriar turned to his son. "I will assign two of Miroslav's best students and one of Eachann's best Riders."
"I will make sure to not let myself be captured."
"That is all I can ask you to do, Owain. These are very delicate times."