"I'm not going to let you copy." Damian ignored the puppy eyes Cosmas was giving him from across the table. "No, Cosmas. You had how long to write it?" He shoved his brother back into his seat, pulling his parchment closer to himself. The four Suha children were sitting with Hermione, Ron, and Ginny in the Gryffindor Common room, working on assignments that were due that week. Shyamal was reading up on Potions as he hadn't really focused on it when they were with the Blood Elves.
Just that morning, Umbridge had announced that the Inquisitorial Squad would now be patrolling the halls of the school, the students having been hand-chosen by Umbridge herself. The students had instantly recognized that the entire Squad was from Slytherin House, Draco Malfoy being the leader. Even though the day was already ending, quite a few points had already been taken from the other three Houses, with Gryffindor dropping from first to last within a span of twelve hours.
To say the Gryffindor Common room had a depressing air about it was an understatement.
"Fine, I had seven days but come on we had that Quidditch tryout on Monday. How about I write it and you correct it?" Cosmas finally giving in after twenty minutes of wheedling with no results and seeing the glare Shyamal and Hermione had given him.
"I can do that." The older twin turned the page in his History book. "When did Professor Binns die?"
"A long time ago." Cosmas thumped his own copy down on the table, causing the ink pots and items on it to rattle. "Probably around the time of Grindalwald from what I hear."
"Huh, I could have sworn it might be longer than that as he just focuses on the real ancient stuff from the 1600's." Cosmas flipped a page. "They need to get a new teacher that's more up on the modern history or at the very least make it more interesting."
"Why don't you try talking to him after class?" Cosmas stopped for a moment, his mind going off on a tangent. "How does a ghost read our essays when he can't touch anything physically?" The twins looked at each other. "But he does use his notes so I guess he's corporeal enough to grade them."
Shyamal blanked out the twins debating on how Binns could carry out his responsibilities as a professor when he was a ghost, trying to focus on who to properly create a Bone Inflammation Potion, which was used to treat individuals suffering from inflammation in the joints and bones. Movement from the corner of his eye had him turning to the right. Stepping toward the bulletin board with a single determined purpose was Angelina Johnson, a parchment in her hand. As everyone noticed her, the Gryffindor Common Room went silent, eyes following from afar.
Angelina took her time, walking up there. She slowly unfurled the parchment, placing the pins into the top and bottom very languidly. It seemed like an eternity for the Quidditch captain to go back up into the girls' dorms.
The moment her cloak swept around the corner, the Quidditch hopefuls stampeded to the board, bustling over one another to get there first. Groans and small cheers sounded from the packed space, even one Gryffindor jumping up onto the closest table and taking bows as he announced he was one of the Reserve Chasers.
"Yeah, I got onto the Reserve team!" A young girl squealed, hugging her friends.
"Damn, I didn't place at all."
"The veterans made it through."
"That's favoritism." Shyamal craned his neck over the crowd to see Cormac McLaggen turning red as he stared at the parchment, jabbing his finger into it as if it were going to change the name.
"Angelina had a talk with Professor McGonagall. Be glad that you made the Reserve." Hermione called out, not removing her eyes from her book.
"You only defend him because he's your boyfriend."
"He's not my boyfriend. Ron is my best friend."
Shyamal stood up, facing off against McLaggen before Ron could do anything. "If you can't handle the fact that another slid past you, then go complain to McGonagall. Otherwise, if you're just going to stand there and insult a Gryffindor Prefect while whining about the fact that you came in second, I suggest you shut your mouth and sit down." McLaggen's best mate grabbed him by the arm, dragging him over to the opposite corner, whispering into his ear the whole time.
"We actually have a shot for the Quidditch cup." A first year gushed, jumping up and down on his feet.
"The Slytherins are going to be gob smacked. Even Umbridge can't touch that."
A young Gryffindor walked up to Shyamal, hesitantly talking to him. "Congratulations on winning the spot for starting Seeker." She blushed as Shyamal looked at her in surprise before running away back to her spot in the unofficial first year corner.
"I think Shyamal has an admirer." Cosmas laughed, dodging the splatter of ink Shyamal gave him with a flick of his finger. "I need to get my robes cleaned again. Thanks." The group laughed as another younger student came up to the group, congratulating the Suha twins on making the Reserves and Ginny on snatching the last spot as a Reserve Chaser.
Leaning around the latest fan, Shyamal gained his siblings attention. "Would you mind coming up to the fifth year dorms?"
"You can't go up the girls' staircase." Hermione called out. "It'll turn into a slide. Ron tried that in second year. Didn't even make it to the first year girls' dorms."
"Oh." Hala's eyes widened. "Does it happen on the boys' side?"
Hermione continued on. "The girls can go into the boys' dorms. For some reason the Founders believed that the boys were untrustworthy while can girls be more trustworthy with their privileges."
"That's quite unfair." Cosmas muttered, finishing his first paragraph. He capped the inkpot, standing up as he did so. "I'll finish this later."
"You'll forget about it." Damian warned, drying his own essay and rolling it carefully. "Binns let you pass on the last time because you're a new student." Cosmas just waved him off.
"I only want to show them something in the boys' dormitory, Hermione. Something I don't want the others to see just yet." Shyamal got up, placing his books in his bag as he wouldn't be coming down. "It'll be quick." Hala closed her copy of Advanced Transfiguration and followed Shyamal up, the twins a minute later.
"You do know that I have an exam for Potions even though Cosmas doesn't care."
Cosmas snorted. "How come you didn't get Sorted into Ravenclaw? You would be brilliant for that House, literally."
His twin shrugged. "It wanted to but I liked Gryffindor better."
"You just didn't want to be separated from me." Cosmas dodged the elbow Damian tried to dig into his side. "You don't want to be alone from your darling little brother."
"Don't make me throw you over the banister." They bickered up the rest of the way, Damian denying the accusation he didn't want to be separated from Cosmas.
The group walked out onto the fifth year landing. The dorm were Shyamal was sleeping in was completely empty except for the slumbering plant Neville had placed on the window sill, it's pale sea green leaves trembling lightly as soft snoring noise came from it. Kneeling before his trunk, Shyamal inserted his key into it and as he turned it, nonverbally casted the counter password. The locked clicked open.
He pulled out a box and stood before his siblings who immediately recognized the logo on the top. Opening it, he removed something from the inside and setting the box carefully aside. A nonverbal spell later, the item was held in his hands, fully restored to its original length.
Hala squealed in delight as both Cosmas and Damian muttered curses at it. All three of them were drooling at the item in Shyamal's hands.
It was a real, good to honest Firebolt.
Shyamal lightly threw it to Damian who caught it and held it reverently. Another couple of reaches into the box and both Cosmas and Hala were holding theirs.
"When did you get them?" Hala traced the line running from the glittering handle to the straight and tightly packed birch twigs in the tail. The word 'Firebolt' was imprinted in gold across the head, the hand-printed registration number underneath. She stared at the super fine ash handle, eyes unfocused on the numbers. Hala could feel it vibrating with barely leashed energy as if it were eager to zoom off into the horizon. She let it go, the broom instantly hovering over her hands. "Bloody hell."
"When we were Diagon Alley." Shyamal answered, his eyes flicking from the broom to Damian who was gaping at him now.
"But we didn't make the team." Cosmas stated. "It's pointless."
"Doesn't matter. How long has it been since we had a flyby together?" Shyamal shrugged. "At the very least, consider it an early Christmas present."
"Oh yeah." Cosmas piped up. "Let's have a nighttime flyby."
Shyamal smirked. "You still have that essay to finish." Cosmas could only groan in despair, ignoring the laughs from his brothers and sister.
The Great Hall had been renovated for the Dueling Club by Monday night. The candles that had floated over the four House tables had been raised another eight feet while their flames were now burning hotter. The tables themselves had disappeared, leaving a more open area for the students to use. A long platform had been raised in the center, three feet off the ground so the students could see. Another platform was located where the Head table would have been, a little higher than the central platform. As the students funneled in, they could already see Professor Black there and behind him, a slightly older looking man stood, dressed in shaggy robes and Professor Snape standing stoically on the other side.
Shyamal's group moved to the center of the room, next to the platform, talking excitedly about what they were expecting. Ron and Hermione had just finished telling them about their experiences with Lockhart and Snape, detailing how the latter embarrassed the former greatly. In the end, it turned out Lockhart hardly knew anything of the Dark Arts and their Defenses.
"It can't be as bad as Lockhart's Club. That one was a complete disaster." Ron described, using his hands. "The git didn't know anything about fighting or spells in general. Only knew how to accidentally vanish a person's arm."
"I would think a best-selling author would know some spells to fight." Damian replied, looking unsure of what to think.
"You would think so but we found out later that Lockhart knew only how to use the Memory Charm. He wiped out a number of people's memories and used them to garner his own reputation. When he used Ron's broken wand at the end of the year, it backfired on him, causing him to lose his own memory. He's in St. Mungo's now." Hermione shrugged at Damian's shocked expression. "It was why we didn't learn anything in that year as well. He was clueless as to what he was doing."
"Oh, look who's here." Cosmas nodded toward the doors and the group turned to see Edward walking in, slinking along the wall until he was before the teachers' platform. Inwardly, Shyamal bristled at the smiles he received from the two adults.
"I heard he's taking private lessons with Black." Neville Longbottom was there behind them, a shy expression on his face as he looked at his feet. "When I'm coming in from the green houses, I see him entering Black's office. Luna from Ravenclaw told me that Dumbledore as ordered Black to teach him advanced spells and fighting techniques."The group traded glances.
"No doubt it's for the battle against Voldemort." Shyamal muttered. He turned back to the platform, seeing Lupin kneeling near the edge to talk to Edward. You would think they would take the time to train him more efficiently once he arrived here at Hogwarts in his first year. Why would Dumbledore wait so long to train him? Why wait now when Voldemort has returned and is at full strength?
A bang went off, everyone's attention jumping to Black. "Welcome to the first meeting of the Dueling Club here at Hogwarts. The reason for this student organization is to go further into the lessons given in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. You will not have homework here and are not obliged to practice the spells outside of the classroom or in study time. However, you will not waste my time, Professor Snape's nor Mr. Lupin's with some silly little wand movement. This is will be a serious practice session. Is that clear?"
The attentive audience nodded. "School rules will be obeyed here. You will not endanger your fellow students nor threaten them. Unforgivables are not allowed and any use of Dark spells will be reported to Headmaster Dumbledore for punishment. You will follow my instructions and those of the Hogwarts staff present here. When we say stop, you will stop."
"Now, as this is the first meeting we will start off with the practice of the spells given to you in class, namely the Disarming spell and the Shield Charm. You have given me essays on them so the practical use should be fairly easy."
"Now, each region has different techniques on fighting. Some emphasize sheer raw power behind the spells. Others emphasize cunning and strategy and yet even more emphasize speed and agility in casting." Black lectured as he paced the floor. "Here we will teach you how to use what you know to a maximal use. Due to the inconsistent teaching methods here the past decade, we will try to teach you to use the limited amount of spells you know to your advantage."
Some of the audience shifted nervously. A hand raised in the air, the Ravenclaw bouncing on her feet to get Black's attention. "Can we have a demonstration of techniques? The only demonstration we have seen was the short duel between Professor Snape and Lockhart three years ago, if you could even call it a duel." At the mention of the past duel, Snape's lips curled into a small smug smile.
"I agree with Ms. Brocklehurst." Snape stepped forward, eyes flicking through the crowd until it landed on Shyamal who stared back. "We do have a Durmstrang student here who can adequately represent the styles of such a prestigious school if I'm not mistaken." Shyamal grounded his teeth, knowing instantly Snape was up to something.
I wonder what he's doing. He wouldn't bring up my fighting skills and it wasn't adequate. I'm sure I kicked three of his students' backsides when they tried to touch my sister. Shyamal thought savagely. If I'm adequate, than I wonder what Malfoy is. Shyamal was just as shocked as the rest of the audience when Snape continued speaking.
"How about a duel between him and Potter?" Gasps sounded as the students moved even more restlessly.
"I do not think that's a good idea, Professor Snape." The sarcasm was evident in the words, dripping with hate. Black was staring intently at the Potions Master. "Edward is a fifth year as well as-"
"He has been receiving private lessons under your tutelage. Why not show how much he knows in a test of skill and cunning? It would be an opportunity to see where he stands in his lessons." Snape interjected. "Unless of course, you doubt he can handle the danger of one single student." The Potions Master looking pointedly at the Boy Who Lived.
"I can take him on!" Edward yelled, stepping forward from the shadows. The urge to bang his head against a wall rose up in Shyamal who looked at his brother. "I know enough to fight him and win."
Oh, no you don't. I've been taught by Blood Elves in both magical and physical fighting techniques. Too bad you didn't get mom's intelligence. Shyamal thought. Or maybe just inherited too much of the older Potter's recklessness.
"Edward, you've only started taking lessons this year." Black looked beseechingly to Lupin who was moving toward his godson. Lupin bent down to talk to him, whispering furiously.
The hairs on the back of Shyamal's neck rose. Subtly, he looked around and spotted Umbridge standing just barely in the entrance to the Great Hall. She was looking pointedly at him and Edward.
Grabbing the wolf by the ears. Shyamal thought. What in Merlin's name made me come here? Or rather, what made me dance with the bloody she-devil? Stepping forward, he looked at Black. "I wouldn't mind taking part in a duel, Professor Black. You are quite right that different regions emphasize different techniques. If Black doesn't want to endanger Potter, I'm sure you can find a suitable opponent-"
"Which would be Potter as he is our Triwizard Champion. I believe that Potter is a suitable opponent by any one's standards." Snape sneered at Edward who flushed a deep red. Ignoring his godfather, he catapulted on the platform, glaring hatefully at Shyamal who eased himself up. "I believe dueling rules apply?"
Black could see this was out of his hands with both students unwilling to back down. Hiding his hate at Snape, he nodded to the combatants. "Same rules as stated earlier. First to be disarmed loses." Edward fell into an offensive stance while Shyamal took a defensive one. "On my count; three, two, one, GO!"
Edward was the first one to cast as Shyamal was unwilling to take the first shoot even though he wanted to wound his older brother's ego. "Avis Oppugno!" A flock of brown eagles flew from Edward's wand. The crowd gasped when the dozen or so birds dive-bombed, claws stretched out for attack as they fell toward Shyamal's uncovered face.
"Serpensortia!" A large black rattle snake dropped before the flock, interrupting their dive bombing. Rearing back, it sunk its long fangs into the closest bird and throwing it away before snatching another one. The flock dispersed, flying up into the rafters. The snake reared back, its hood opening as it hissed at Edward, slithering closer.
Edward stepped forward and said something low enough for Shyamal not to hear it. The snake slithered forward, snapping its jaws at the startled boy. As Edward sent a Severing charm that the snake dodged, Shyamal flicked his wand. "Stupefy!"
"Protego!" The scarlet jet ricocheted off Edward's shield, landing on the snake that didn't move fast enough, disappearing in a puff of dark green smoke. Edward dropped the shield, sweeping his wand in a wide arc. "Deprimo!"
A powerful gust of wind swept the platform, the students close to it yelling and shrieking as it passed over them. Shyamal brought up his own shield as the gust rippled past it, forcing Shyamal back a few feet.
Back and forth, the two traded curses, hexes, jinxes, and spells, trying to break through the other's shield. Shyamal was struggling not to use any more of the advance and Dark spells he knew as the moment he did, Dumbledore would be alerted and in the present situation, it would be a worst case scenario. As it was, he was surprised Edward had learned so much in a few short weeks what took others much longer to learn.
Guess they've been teaching him at a fast pace. Shyamal thought to himself, dodging a Body Bind curse. No one can that learn that many in a couple of weeks. Only one way to take him down. Using the focusing techniques the Blood Elves had taught him, Shyamal started to concentrate his magic in his arm, dodging the stinging hexes, Disarming charms, and Stupefying spells coming at him from the other side. The moment came when he saw Edward falling into a lull to draw breath and to ease his aching muscles, balancing precariously on the edge of the dueling platform. Shyamal twisted his body around, his arm sweeping up in a slashing movement and releasing his spell, his magic speeding down his arm and out of his wand.
"Confundo!" The extra powerful jet of magic struck Edward right in the chest, shattering his hastily casted shield charm, the boy unable to dodge anywhere as he had been balanced on the very edge of the platform. Confused and vulnerable, he couldn't dodge Shyamal's next spell. "Levicorpus!"
The room exploded in laughter as Edward's ankle was gripped by an invisible hook, jerking up into the air. His robes fell down around his face; a swath of pale white skin was exposed as his shirt fell around his armpits. Jeers from the Slytherins were thrown at Edward as the boy struggled to shift the black layers of clothing from his face. "Accio wand!" Edward's wand rocketed into Shyamal's outstretched hand from where it had fallen when Edward had been hoisted into the air. Flicking his wand, Edward was raised even higher to the jeering crowd.
"So much for the Golden Boy!" A Slytherin called, inciting more laughter from the crowd.
"Not so big are you now, Potter?"
"That is ENOUGH!" Professor Black bellowed, the room quieting immediately.
"Liberacorpus!" Shyamal caught Edward before he could slam into the platform, lowering him gently. Turning to the Slytherin who had spoken first, he looked at him. "Would you like to duel or would you rather prefer to hide among your slimy companions?" A few snickers were heard from the Gryffindors as the boy flushed red but kept his mouth shut. "Thought so; worse than Potter I have to say." Shyamal jumped off the platform after handing Edward's wand to Lupin, watching Snape out of the corner of his eye.
The Potions Master had an unreadable expression on his face but Shyamal could read the glee burning brightly in his dark eyes. Edward had regained his feet, Black helping him up.
"That was bloody brilliant!" Ron breathed, bouncing on his feet. "Where did you learn to duel like that?"
"Durmstrang as Snape put it. Our teachers don't settle for adequate or even above average. They want us to be the best." Shyamal answered quietly.
"I don't know if Potter qualifies as such." Ron muttered.
"That's because Snape offered him up for slaughter." Shyamal nodded his head toward Umbridge who was walking steadily up to the platform, the students quickly getting out of her way.
"Hem, hem, Professor Black, I must speak with you."
"Can't you see that I'm busy at the moment, Madam Umbridge?" The anger in Black's voice could be heard. It looked like he was ready to explode.
"I'm afraid that this deals with the Dueling Club." She handed a rolled up parchment to Black who unrolled it. The assembled students watched as Black's face reddened.
"What's the meaning of this?"
"Just as it states, Professor Black. Any and all student organizations, study groups, Quidditch teams, and such are hereby disbanded unless given permission by me. Any student found to be in direct violation of this Decree will be expelled." Umbridge sweetly said, patting her hair.
"Students, you are dismissed. Head back to your dormitories." Black roared, his anger boiling over. Lupin moved to him, placing a calming hand on his shoulder even as Umbridge flashed him a look of pure disgust. Snape also stepped up to Umbridge and began speaking with her.
"Oh, didn't see that one coming." Hermione said, as they followed the Gryffindors back to the Common room. "Should have though as it seems pretty obvious now. It was pretty doubtful that Umbridge would let Professor Black get one over her."
"Foresight is 20-20." Ron remarked, shooing off another Gryffindor who was creeping up on Shyamal to gawk at him.
"Man, what I would give to be in there just to see Black yelling at her. He seemed pretty ticked off there at the end." Damian noted. He looked over at Shyamal. "He might come after you, Shyamal, as he's protective of his friends and family. Shyamal?" He nudged his brother who started. "Are you okay?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Why don't you guys go on? I need a breather after that duel." Shyamal waved his hands. "Go on, I'm fine."
"If you're sure." Cosmas started.
"I'm fine. Go." Ron shrugged and led the group up. Shyamal walked down another hallway. A few seconds later he was on the stone bridge leading to the green houses, looking out into the small canyon that was between the castle and the Forbidden Forest, the Black lake just peeking through the incoming mists.
"You were holding back." Startled, Shyamal turned back to see Ginny standing there.
"You were holding back when you were dueling Potter. I could tell." Ginny joined him, resting her arms on the stone ledge, leaning out just a bit. "Also, I have a feeling if you really dueled; you would have kicked his bloody arse back to Godric's Hollow."
Shyamal snorted. "Maybe. Potter is a better dueler than what I thought him to be." They fell into silence. A lone bird somewhere called out, the distorted sounds echoing in the mists. Already, the night was beginning to encroach upon the day, the eastern sky a deep purple and the western a blood red color as the final lines of the Sun disappeared. A breeze gently swept past the bridge, bringing with it a scent of green and musky earth and the clean smell of rain water.
Shyamal peeked over at Ginny. The red strands of hair not caught up in her ponytail gently bounced in the breeze, riding the currents. Ginny turned to him. Shyamal blushed and turned back to the canyon. "What?"
"Nothing. Just thinking."
"Nothing." He paused. "Everything. You were right that I was holding back."
"Why were you holding back?"
Shyamal cocked his head to look at her. "I came here to protect my siblings. I don't think it's in their best interest if I kicked Dumbledore's Golden Boy in front of the whole student population. Still did it anyway. I already have Umbridge on me. Don't need the rest of Hogwarts too."
"You can't help it. There something about you that draws people to you." Ginny stopped. "I think it's the fact that you're mysterious as you've suddenly popped up from Durmstrang which most people think is a Dark school."
"People fear what they don't understand and let's face it, if it's foreign, they don't understand the culture."
"True. Ron was like that. Not one to upset the status quo but he's changed. Got a shock with Potter as that boy could be just as arrogant as any Slytherin."
"What about you?"
Ginny was quiet for a second. "I guess I thought the same but the incident with the Chamber changed me in more ways than one. Not only have I lost my innocence at that time but also some beliefs as well. Like what makes something Dark or Evil. Being Dark doesn't make one Evil just as Light isn't always good. Reminds me of a muggle book that I found once. I remember reading the quote that the Darkness may hide things in the shadows but the Light can also blind a person when they look directly into it. Now that I've seen and been inside the thoughts of a truly Evil person, I can tell the difference."
"Hmm, I can empathize with that since I'm from Durmstrang. I heard some wacky tales from the students who came here last year. How some people were naturally distrusting from them, especially after they sat at the Slytherin table, refused to mingle with the Durmstrang students." Shyamal paused. "Anyway, now that everyone knows I kicked Edward's arse, I'm sure people are going to be afraid of me. After all he is the Savior of the Wizarding world."
Ginny laughed. "Or they just might rejoice in you knocking him down a few pegs. Come on, I'm sure the rest of Gryffindor Tower is waiting for your remarkable return."
Shyamal snorted. "Right." But following the redhead back into the castle.
The cheer when he entered the Gryffindor Common room was deafening with the noticeable absence of one particular boy noticed by Shyamal. When he went to bed, Shyamal was smiling in his pillow.