It was Friday and Hala still hadn't talked to Shyamal, choosing to ignore him or speak in barely civil tones. As it was, Shyamal was beginning to worry that Hala would never forgive him.
When they had been taken in by King Shahriar and his family, Hala had been secure that Shyamal would never leave them, always being there if they called for him. Something that Edward did not do on that August night. Time after time, Shyamal had proved that right, coming to Cosmas' need when he had been lost in the forest and later when Hala had been bucked off her Seraphina or when Damian had accidentally made a potion wrong. When she wanted to play in the creeks, he took her. When Damian and Cosmas wanted to run, Shyamal would already be shifting, letting them race through the Carpathian forests.
He was their big brother, their protector.
It all shattered when she realized what he was thinking as he hung from the broom stick. It didn't matter that he didn't do it; it mattered that he had been entertaining the thought to get one up on Edward by risking his life and leaving all of them behind.
Her head bowed further as she moved faster along the halls, hands tightening around her books.
And then, the bloody git had the audacity to try and justify himself? That he remembered he had three other siblings who doted on him. That only made it worse. That he had balanced out their safety and the opportunity to win Edward's spot with the latter winning out in the end. She sniffled. She would NOT cry, no matter how much she wanted to.
The next thing Hala knew, she was on the floor, her books scattering everywhere. Hala climbed back to her feet, eyes, already searching for her items. "Sorry. Didn't see where I was going."
"You should be, you filthy little mud blood." She looked up to see a pale faced boy glaring down at her, fury written all over his face. On either side of him, two big students stood wearing the colors of Slytherin, no doubt his goons. "You should watch were you are you going or haven't you been taught like a normal human being?" The great buffoons guffawed at the barb, Hala getting red in the face.
"First off, I'm not a mud blood. Second, I believe part of the blame is on you. Third, I take back my apology as it will be undoubtedly wasted on the likes of you." The slight jab was obvious enough that the two boys cracked their knuckles, looking menacing at her as the boy smirked.
The boy drew himself up to his full height, puffing out his chest. "I am Draco Malfoy, fifth year Slytherin Prefect and leader of the Inquisitorial Squad-"
"Never heard of it." Hala Summoned her books, interrupting the prat. "Now, if you excuse me, I have better things to do such as heading for my class." She was stopped by Draco grabbing her arm as she attempted to pass on by.
"You should learn to respect your superiors." Draco hissed.
"Well, then, I don't have to worry in regards to you." Hala's head flew back as Draco's hand lashed out from nowhere, smacking her against her cheek.
"That's for the disrespect, mud blood." Draco raised it again.
A jet of red light struck him in the chest, missing Hala by millimeters. The Slytherin Prefect flew backward, skidding down the corridor five feet, his wand rocketing the other way. Before the other two could draw their wands, they too were struck in the chest. No one noticed that one of the portraits emptied of its occupants, no doubt going for a professor.
Hala was startled to feel another pair of hands touch her. Her eyes fell on the concerned face of her brother. "Are you alright?" Shyamal touched her reddening cheek, anger building up on his face. "Did they touch you?"
"Just one slap and a hard grip." She saw his eyes darken as his eyes flicked toward the boys who were climbing back to their feet.
"He slapped you?" Shyamal glared at the leader.
"You'll regret hexing me. Once Umbridge learns of this, you will pay." The pale faced boy snarled, grey eyes flicking to where his wand lay.
"You touched my sister. Come on." But before she could even take a step away, the short pudgy Ministry worker was walking toward them.
"Bloody hell." Shyamal cursed under his breath. "Yes, professor?" His emotionless mask falling into place before the woman.
"Did you attack a student?" Her beady eyes locked on to him, wide lips forming an ugly smile.
"For touching my sister inappropriately; I won't have her slapped by another student." Shyamal answered. He groaned when Professor McGonagall also appeared.
McGonagall's eyebrow rose at seeing him there, no doubt thinking of what they talked about on Monday after the Quidditch tryouts. "Madam Umbridge, I will take over here since you cannot punish students for misbehaving."
The smile on Umbridge's face widened gleefully. "I must disagree, Professor McGonagall. I just received this notification from the Minister himself." She handed a letter to the Transfiguration professor, Shyamal catching a glimpse of the Ministry seal on the bottom right. "I can now by Ministry decree remove or add points to Houses and assign detentions, which has been removed from the Deputy Headmistress along with some other duties from the Headmaster."
"What about this Inquisitorial Squad?" Hala spoke up, remembering what Malfoy had said minutes before.
Umbridge's smile was sickening. "The Inquisitorial squad reports directly to me. They will have the same powers as the Prefects except their word is higher. They will report to me as I am the High Inquisitor."
McGonagall's nostrils flared in barely controlled anger. Shyamal didn't think that Umbridge noticed it or rather the consequences of that anger if McGonagall would ever to be able to leash it upon the smaller woman. "I must protest, Madam Umbridge. The House system has been in place for centuries."
"The Ministry no longer believes this system to be efficient, Minerva." Umbridge turned to Shyamal who was standing quietly next to Hala, eyes hooded. "Now, for attacking a student, Mr. Suha you will be assigned detention with me. As you have practice on Friday night, I expect you to be at my office Saturday night at 8pm. Are we clear?"
"Good. I look forward to you then. As for you, Mr. Malfoy, it would be prudent if such fine students as yourselves report to your class." Draco nodded glumly, sending Shyamal a death glare who knew what it was; a promise of payback later.
Shyamal grabbed Hala's hand, leading her away from that corridor where the two professors were staring at each other, the three Slytherins going the other way. Once they were out of earshot, Shyamal opened a classroom and beckoned Hala in. "What were you doing in that corridor?"
"I was heading for my Charms class."
"Your Charms class is one floor below and you were moving up." Shyamal moved closer to her, eyes taking on a look that made Hala unable to look away. "Please, Hala, tell me what's wrong. I can't do anything until you tell me."
She stiffened her jaw, unwilling to say anything. Minutes passed. Hala stood there, refusing to say anything and letting her eyes roam around the room but steadily ignoring Shyamal. Finally after a short time, Shyamal's patience ran out. "You know what? You can have it your way." Shyamal turned around, hand reaching for the door. "Have it your way."
He was leaving again, her mind cried. Don't let him go! "Shyamal! No, don't go, please!" She lunged at her oldest brother, almost tackling him against the walk. "Don't go."
"What do you want me to do, Hala? You're expecting me to fix this thing but I can't if you don't tell me what I did wrong? I'm not a mind reader."
Hala looked at her hands, wringing the hem of her top between her fingers. "You remembered that you had two brothers and a sister depending on you for their safety and care. When it came down to it, beating Edward won over us-" The words caught in her throat, tears starting to trickle over her cheeks. "You chose that over me and it hurt."
Shyamal was shocked. Sure, Ginny had told him this but to him, it didn't seem that much of a big deal. His arms went around her as her hastily constructed walls broke under the emotional strain on the twelve year old girl. "I'm so sorry, Hala. I didn't know." He murmured into her hair, rubbing her back and arms as she cried into his shirt. "I wasn't thinking. I'm so sorry." He rocked his sister back and forth, murmuring apologies into her long hair.
After a while, she quieted, head tucked under his chin, hands gripping onto his robes for dear life, believing if she let him go for a second, he would disappear without a word.
"What made you do it?"
Confusion clouded Shyamal's mind. "Do what?"
Made you think about getting the Snitch rather than finding a safe way to get off that wild broom."
He was quiet for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "A number of factors, I guess. I would be lying if I said that I did it because I know how skilled I am at flying and it come easily." Shyamal's hand stopped moving. "I think the most urging thought was the fact that I wanted to prove to whomever was watching that I can do something right. That I had more talent than Edward and more daring."
"You don't have to prove anything to anyone that you're good at something Shyamal. Especially not to us." Hala looked up at him, seeing him looking off at a wall but not seeing it.
Cocking his head, he looked at her. "It's a need in me, Hala, something that I had since longer than I can remember. The Sorting Hat saw that and wanted to put me into Slytherin, the formal House of the Ambitious. For a second during Monday, that need was stronger than the need to make sure the three of you were safe."
"Will it happen again?" She asked in a child-like voice.
"It's a good bet to say yes. I don't know when or if it'll be soon or later but it will. I can only hope that you forgive me after you're done knocking some sense into me."
Hala gave him a watery smile. "Sure." Shyamal stood up, helping his sister to her feet and picking up their things from the floor. As he slipped his book bag over his shoulder, Hala kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks."
"It shouldn't have been needed."
She shrugged, her hand going to her check to cover the bruise with a glamour charm. Shyamal made a note to give her the healing balm later that night. "We have our moments."
"Come on, we've probably missed two class periods. I'm sure Snape will love taking more points off me for missing the morning class." Shyamal groaned, seeing the time.
Friday night, Shyamal reported to Umbridge's office at the moment she assigned, knowing probably what she wanted.
"Mr. Suha, thank you for coming so promptly." Umbridge sat at her desk, a large steaming teapot sitting next to her on a silver platter with two small teacups. "If you would take a seat please, we can get to the matter at hand."
He sat down on the large comfy chair, resting his hands on the rests. "You asked Fudge to pass a new Decree giving you the power to assign detention."
The ugly smile was back on the DADA professor's face. "Of course, how else would I be able to get you to come to your assigned detentions without arousing suspicion from other groups?"
"What else was in that Decree? I haven't seen it yet in the Daily Prophet."
"Besides granting the power of a normal professor here, it allows me to create the Inquisitorial Squad, trustworthy students who will be willing to carry out my orders despite the objections from the other staff members. As you have seen, Draco Malfoy is the leader of that group. He does not know you are the spy in Gryffindor Tower so he will be treating your group as any other."
"If he touches any of my siblings, it will be my right to punish him."
"As long as he is not damaged too poorly to not return to classes; I need him." Umbridge waved off the warning. "I am sure that his father will raise objections, however, to your mistreatment of him."
"As long as we are clear on that, I do not care."
The smile widened. "Good, this brings me to another point of the Decree. I have sole power of who shall be expelled or suspended from Hogwarts, something that Dumbledore will no longer be able to do."
Shyamal's eyes narrowed. "You are not concerned with Draco's health and I will refuse to go as far as to maim him permanently, why would you need that?" Realization dawned in him even though he stopped it from spreading to his face. "You want to expel Potter."
"That would be a benefit but most importantly I want to teach Potter a lesson about upsetting the fragile balance in our precious world. I cannot do that if he was expelled. He must be taught." Her voice was fierce, a wild look coming into her eyes. "Yes, he must be taught along with his blood traitor father and mud blood mother." The slightly in control woman didn't notice the involuntary tightening of Shyamal's fingers. "They have been allowed too much free reign in our world and must be taught their place."
"What would you have me do?"
"Engage Potter in fights and I will be allowed to assign him detention where I can teach him." Umbridge's eyes flicked to the side of her desk. He could see a single thin black quill on there with a sharp tip. It was an illegal Blood Quill. "He will learn and it also will allow you to report to me."
"You are asking me to threaten my stance with the rest of the school?"
"Mr. Suha, you must see that for me to do something for you, I must get something in return. Obviously Mrs. Potter has been instructing her son to keep a cool head and to not speak in the presence of others.
"Would explain in the sudden shift of his personality."
"Yes, something we can't have. I would like for you to engage him, to push him over the edge of his control. He already seems to despise your very presence."
"It's because I refuse to bow down to an obviously spoiled Potter brat. Would his parents' withdraw him from the school if these fights were to continue? And what about the Hogwarts staff and Dumbledore?"
"The Potters will not remove their boy as Dumbledore dotes greatly on him. As for your stance, Dumbledore can do nothing." Umbridge pour herself some tea, giggling somewhat girlishly. "You are now stuck in these grounds unless you are to withdraw yourself form Hogwarts to go back to your home in Romania."
The way Shyamal heard it made him think if he were to leave, Umbridge would find a way for him to be detained and perhaps thrown into prison for any number of suspicious acts that would threaten the safety of Britain's citizens. "Be assured that I will not leave. I will find a way to engage Potter as you say but nothing harmful. Can't have the Golden Boy dying on me."
"That would be correct."
An hour later, Shyamal left Umbridge's office, shielding his hand from the Hufflepuff Prefect who was making her way down the corridor on her shift.
High above the world, the Sun burned brightly, the day warm and breezy. It being Saturday, the students were out of class, quite a few taking advantage of the day to go strolling on the Hogwarts grounds. A few groups were even in the water, wetting their feet as they studied by the edge of the lake.
The sight of the growing teenagers enjoying the day warmed Dumbledore's heart.
Young lives still carrying a fleck of childhood innocence.
He also knew that once they left Hogwarts a final time, they would be forced to enter a new and demanding world and in the process lose that final shred of their childhood.
His thoughts came back to the issue he had been brooding over. Last night, Dumbledore had visited the Medi-witch that had taken care of young Harry when he was born. She had readily given him the memory of that night and agreed to be obliviated so she would not remember the meeting with Dumbledore before he left.
The vial sat on his desk, next to the Penseive, mocking him with the sparkle from the sunlight , the memory swirling gently inside.
Picking it up, the headmaster uncorked the vial and poured the memory into the Penseive, After a moment's hesitation, Dumbledore stuck his head in. . . . finding himself in the Maternity Ward at St. Mungo's. A red-faced Lily was in the stirrups already, a hand gripping the rails while the other was clasped tightly around James' hand, her husband standing nervously next to the bed.
A senior Medi-wizard was sitting in front of Lily's open gown, monitoring the arrival of Edward Sirius Potter. "His head is almost free. Mrs. Potter, just one more push."
"WE'RE NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!" Lily screamed, grunting in pain as she gave a final push. Edward's bloodied head slid free, the baby wailing in discomfort as he fell into the waiting hands of the Medi-wizard. Another Medi-witch bustled forward, taking the wailing infant as the one in charge directed James into cutting the umbilical cord with a severing charm. The newborn was then taken to another curtained section of the ward for weighing and preliminary checks.
"Time of birth; 11:56 on July 31st." The Medi-witch taking care of Edward stated, another taking down the time.
Lily screamed again, the labor pains coming back. Her hand tightened reflexively, James wincing as the pain transferred up his nerves. "So help me, Merlin, YOU ARE NOT TOUCHING ME AGAIN!" More curses and profanities fell from Lily's usually clean mouth.
"Good, your second son is coming along nicely." Already the baby's bloodied black hair could be seen as he crowned. "Push." The Medi-wizard coached. Dumbledore could see Lily draw up on her will power for another. Three minutes later, Harry James Potter slid free, the headmaster freezing the memory in place as his feet left the birth canal.
With some trepidation, he looked at the clock and almost collapsed from horror at the revelation.
The clock on the wall read 11:59 with the hand counting the seconds just right before the 12; a second before midnight.
Three boys born as the seventh month died. The last candidate actually being born as the final seconds ticked away.
The memory started again, Lily fainting from the delivery, James panicking, Medi-wizards and witches running around, the second Potter child carried off. It wasn't until five minutes later that the Medi-witch recording the births had noticed no time of birth had been recorded on file for Harry Potter.
The Medi-witch who had taken Harry was heard saying it had been cool to see a child born at midnight exactly, like she had been. She never told anyone that she hadn't been paying attention to the clock, watching the chaotic bustle around Lily Potter instead. Later when she was asked if she was sure that the boy had been born on August 1st, she said yes, never knowing the consequences of her bias and of her negligence.
The memory turned silver, Albus being dumped back into his office.
Shakily, the headmaster sat in his chair, realizing the consequences of that night and of his decision a year and a half later. On that night, Dumbledore had discarded the idea of Harry being a choice as he had been born on August 1st, the eighth month. By default, Edward had been the obvious answer at the time.
He had played the chances, a 50-50 chance of getting the right boy.
Had he lost?
Edward had shown signs of being a powerful wizard, producing a Patronus that was able to hold off dementors in his third year when Pettigrew had escaped and tried to kill him before disappearing back into the depths of the world. The report from Azkaban had determined that the anti-Animagus charm not been replaced on his cell. At the time, Dumbledore had seen the great amounts of raw power that Edward had, knowing once that reserve had been mastered, Edward would be one of the most powerful wizards for the forces of light.
Harry on the other hand during the few times Albus had seen him, no evidence of the boy had presented itself. The boy had been quiet, shy little boy. He had been playing with his younger siblings the one-time Albus had entered into the second story. That was until Albus had been informed James had caught Harry playing with a snake, speaking to it in parseltongue. The snake had disappeared with Harry telling James he had been wondering if he could keep it so he and his younger siblings can play with. After that, James and Lily had restricted their time outside, something that Albus had agreed with.
Then when the older boys were barely ten years old, the Death Eaters had attacked Godric's Hollow. Edward had claimed later that Harry had lured him, Daniel, Jonathon, and Evangeline Potter outside to go play by the creek which James had told them was off limits. Daniel and Jonathon had been the first to go down, attacked viciously by werewolves and dragged away, presumably dead. Edward had tried to use a spell that Remus Lupin had taught him, on his training wand but to no success. Evangeline was taken by another Death Eater soon after that.
Alone, Edward had run back to Godric's Hollow, trying to keep ahead of the Death Eaters. Once he had passed the ward, James had been alerted by the activation of the ancient wards when the vicious spells the Death Eaters had been casting landed on them. Soon, the Order and Auror members had Apparated on the boundaries, immediately engaging on the Death Eaters who were still looking for Edward. Kingsley Shacklebolt had seen Harry going with the lead Death Eater as the Dark force retreated back. A second gang of Death Eaters were later found who also retreated immediately.
Lily and James had been distraught. For the months following the attack, the Auror and Magical Law Enforcement departments had searched tirelessly for any signs of Evangeline Potter, following lead after lead. By the end of the first month, the leads had dried up after leading to nowhere. Three months later, hardly anyone believed the youngest Potter was still alive. The end of the first year saw the hopes of the remaining Potters disappearing. The second year saw the official declaration of death of Evangeline Grace Potter.
But if the facts of Harry's birth were wrong than what else was wrong?
Albus upended the memory back into its vial, sealing the precious container with a flick of his wand. Gently, he placed it in his desk, making sure anyone but he and James would be able to open it.
Kingsley's memory of seeing Harry had been enough along with the ability to speak parseltongue that he had been identified as a traitor and a Dark wizard. Now with everything in doubt and the possibility of Harry being the Boy Who Lived, Albus would have to go and look over every shred of evidence to find the real truth.
And if this information was to fall in the wrong hands, then Cornelius would have his way. Already, James was under suspicion from the Minister in regards to his loyalty. This was why James had told Edward to keep the events of that night to himself. He wondered if that was the right action now. During the few weeks after the horrible ending of the Triwizard Tournament, Cornelius had been dragging the Potters name and his own through the dragon covered mud in the attempts to destroy their credibility.
No, Albus would have to wait until the right time.
If there ever would be.
Off the Southeast coast of Vietnam, lay a few islands, uninhabited by humans. In the few sparse trees, a large woven nest lay, nestled among the branches. Sitting upon this nest was a black phoenix, her long glossy neck stretched out as she plucked more feathers from her chest to have her partner weave it into the nest.
Fawkes, Dumbledore's red phoenix, was sitting on a branch close to the nest, keeping guard.
In years past the two was nearly as inseparable as their Bonded. Until that day when their world had exploded in a maelstrom of light and whistles. That night, the black phoenix had become unbounded, losing her name and identity when her Bonded had shifted onto a course phoenixes despised. That moment, she had lost her chosen while Fawkes' chosen was set on a course to duel his one time friend, leading to the darkened man's defeat.
It had been so long.
Fawkes had stayed with his Bonded through the years. Always yearning for the mate he had lost. Most Bonded phoenix left the realm where Earth resided to go back to their ancestral home. The beautiful bird had thought Zora had done the same. It had been a surprise when he had been flying around the Hogwarts and had heard her trill.
Now, here they were, sitting on a nest together, expecting.
The phoenix once called Zora shifted, lifting herself to peak at the egg underneath her. Nestled among the moss Fawkes had recovered was coppery-red egg, as large as an ostrich. Even in the pre dawn light, the two parents could see the glowing aura as it pulsed from within the new life. A new fire burning inside, pulsing gently with a heart far away even though the boy did not know it yet.
The black phoenix settled again, trilling softly as she preened her mate's flight feathers. With a trill of his own, Fawkes flamed off, appearing a second later in Dumbledore's office, watching the old man sitting at his desk as he stared at his empty Pensieve.