"Damn, a couple of weeks of not grooming and they get knots the size of Russia." Cosmas moaned, trying to gently brush out the knots in Radomir's coat. When they had first seen the Seraphinas, they had believed that the fire that made up the feathers, mane, and tail were tongues of real flame flickering out of the skin. Master Eachann had sat them down one day, before Shyamal was start the riding training and told them about the Seraphinas.
The so called flames weren't actually flames in the since of the word but rather it was more of the living energy in the steed. It could actually be used as a self-defense mechanism that would actually 'burn' the person who was attempting to ride the Seraphina, leaving wounds on the magical core of the person if they had one. In the mating season, the mare would breed with the stallion that had the strongest and brightest fires.
The only reason why the Blood Elves were able to ride the Seraphinas was that the fiery steeds were hunted for their hooves, the material used in various expensive potions, and meat, which was a delicacy in some foreign countries. The herds in Romania currently were guarded by the laws held by the Romanian Ministry and by the Blood Elves themselves. The Seraphinas had noticed the protections given freely by the Elves and so allowed them to ride them.
"It's getting close to winter so you know their winter coat is growing in." Shyamal said, running his brush over Isocrates' thickly muscled neck. The steed snorted, munching on the barley in the trough. Already, most of Isocrates' coat was gleaming under the sun.
Radomir whinnied, stomping his feet as Cosmas accidentally snagged some hairs on the brush. "Sorry, boy." He rubbed the spot, knowing the steed could hold a grudge and make him pay for it. "I heard that some Gryffindors overheard Edward complaining to his dad and his mom."
Shyamal groaned. "Black's already mad at me for embarrassing him. Do you know if Potter's father going to come down on me?"
Cosmas shrugged. "Don't know."
"For trying to fit into the student population for safety reasons, we're not doing a good job of that." Damian gave Radomil one last brush before putting the tool away in his satchel. "So far, you've put up wands with Draco Malfoy, one of the head Slytherins, and Potter."
"You've also been pulling pranks. Granted, they're not as grand as the Weasleys who seem to be in a class of their own, but pranks are attention grabbing."
"Tell me about it. Damian and I were sleeping on sleeping with our faces against the ceiling yesterday. They had cast floating charms." Shyamal had seen that as he couldn't miss both of his brothers swimming through the air, trying to reach him before he left Gryffindor Tower for breakfast. The first few attempts of trying to get them down had caused various parts of their bodies to change color.
While his siblings laughed, Shyamal felt something brush up against his senses, familiar and calming. Keeping an eye as Cosmas chased Hala around the edge of the paddock, he throughout out his magical aura, searching for the party heading toward them. Damian caught sight of the smile on his older brother's face.
"What's up Shyamal?"
"We have an old friend about to arrive."
"I see you have not forgotten your training, Shyamal." Owain stepped out from the shadows of the Forbidden Forest, garbed from head to foot in traditional wood toned clothing. His bright red hair was tucked under a dark green hood. From his waist, hung an Elven short sword while an Elven long bow was slung across his back. "My traveling companions are stationed on lookout."
"Owain what are you doing here?" Hala squealed as Cosmas finally grabbed her. All of them were continuing their movement, making it look to outsiders that nothing was happening where they were. Shyamal was sure a spectator up in the castle wouldn't be able to see Owain as his clothing helped him to blend in with the surrounding brush. "Last, I heard you were in the Southern Borders."
"You were correct, young Hala, until I heard from Father had not received word from you. Once I had recovered from my temporary illness, I rode back to the palace. Akane wanted to be the one to come but you know if she gets hurt, the Elven Royal Houses will go berserk, so I came instead. On the way here, we have heard news of this-" Owain's face scrunched up in disgust. "Woman who is now the High Inquisitor."
"Oh, she's a lovely little short woman." Cosmas sarcastically laughed. "Resembled a pompous evil toad."
"She's been checking owl posts for any signs of treason. Even Shyamal's new owl, Hedwig was attacked as she flew around the castle to stretch her wings." Hala explained. "Even though he's her spy for Gryffindor Tower."
"Is that wise?" Owain leaned forward. "Shyamal, you may have been trained in stealth and tactics but spying is something else altogether."
"I have found that out now. She's been implying that if we were to leave Hogwarts, she would try to find a reason to imprison all of us. It may be due to the fact we're passing off as Durmstrang students. And since she has Minister Fudge in her pocket, she has almost absolute power."
"Do you want to leave?" The siblings traded glances, unsure of what to say. Owain sighed, almost knowing what they were thinking. "The longer you wait, the more likely you will be found out. If that happens, leaving here relatively unseen will no longer be possible."
"With all the attention we've garnered, the teachers have an interest in us already." Damian admitted. "Shyamal has already dueled Potter and stopped another student from taking advantage of his new position." Damian pulled one of Radomil's legs to him, checking the hoof for any bumps and deformities.
"That's not good. The situation has already become dangerous and precarious." Owain's face deepened into a frown. "They already know your button, I assume, Shyamal. All they would have to do is threaten one of your siblings and they will come down on you, whether it is the teachers or Umbridge, the Potters, or the students. You're not just missing with one wolf; you're messing around with at least four."
Shyamal swept a hand through his hair. "The moment we leave, I have a feeling that Umbridge will know. And I'm sure Mr. Potter won't just let our disappearance. Not after embarrassing his son in front of the whole school. He does have the whole Auror department behind him."
"We can't even leave if we wanted to." Hala said. "The students here are lambs to the slaughter. The more the Ministry keeps them in the dark, the greater the chance they'll die once they go out into the real world."
Shyamal looked at his sister. "You heard Hermione talking to me today in the morning."
"Well, you guys were talking near the girls' staircase. I'm surprised you didn't put up privacy charms."
"What are you guys talking about?" Cosmas asked curiously, giving Radomir one last stroke before beginning to pack up the grooming tools.
"She wanted me to start an illegal student group for DADA." Shyamal thought back to the moment when Hermione had pulled Shyamal off to the side before breakfast that day.
"I have something to ask you, Shyamal. Something really important." Hermione was looking around them suspiciously. The students were heading out of the Gryffindor Common Room, to go eat breakfast before classes started. A few were lounging around near the fireplace, trying to finish one last essay that had left for the last minute and was soon due.
He immediately tensed up, wondering what was on Hermione's mind that would be important enough or bad enough for her to pull him off to the side while being suspicious of her peers.
"Where did you learn how to duel like that?"
"I told you last night, Hermione. Durmstrang teaches students on dueling techniques, whether it be a gentlemen's duel or dirty and gritty."
Hermione bit her lip, looking worried about what she was going to ask next. "Do you think you'd be willing to teach a couple of students your skills?"
Shyamal froze for a second. Whatever he had been thinking, it was sure as hell wasn't that. "What exactly do you have in mind?"
Words started to spill from the fifth year Prefect, her hands slightly wringing in front of her. "The rest of the students in the other Houses are being picked on with most of the younger students falling prey to the Inquisitorial Squad. While I was out on patrol last night, I came upon a first year Hufflepuff that had been teased around with by Millicent Bulstrode from Slytherin. They need someone to teach them how to fight back and I know Umbridge is not going to do that."
"I don't think they'll learn from a Durmstrang student."
"That's because they don't know you. You're the best dueler I've seen here, better than Potter who's been trained by an Auror himself. Sirius Black is one of the best."
Shyamal looked out the window, seeing the morning Sun rising. "I don't know, Hermione. I can't risk the safety of my younger siblings. Umbridge has me in her sights, just like Potter, waiting for me to step out of line." Hermione's face fell, crushed by his denial to get involved. "I'm sorry. Perhaps you should ask Potter or maybe lead them yourself. You could be a leader, Hermione. Just because you read more doesn't make you a follower." He left her standing there, next to the window, looking after him as Ron came down the staircase with a sleepy Neville.
Shyamal told Owain and his siblings a brief summary of Hermione's idea of a DADA student group.
"It's dangerous, having a group of students learning how to duel effectively. The bigger the group, the greater the threat of discovery of the organization is, especially if you have a snitch among the group. Then there's the fact that you have to find a way to tell them all of the meeting time and the fact you have to search for an area that's big and secret enough to hold you all." Owain warned.
"I know but I'm planning to not do it. I've been hearing Hermione and Ron might."
"Why not?" Hala demanded, her Gryffindor side coming out. "That toad has attacked another student today, a Ravenclaw who had to be taken to the infirmary for a Calming Draught. We can't just let her take over the school." Cosmas and Damian nodded.
"Hala's right. Our safety is in danger if we let her have free reign. We need to keep her from coiling her rings around Hogwarts any tighter." Damian said quietly.
"Fine, I'll think about it." Shyamal shrugged off the feeling that the situation was rapidly spinning out of control. "It's getting late, we should be heading back."
Owain nodded. "If you need me, I will be in the forest near the centaur herd. They have allowed us to stay on the edge of their territory for the time being." They quickly said their goodbyes and the Blood Elf prince disappeared, blending into the shadows until his form disappeared.
It was now about three weeks before the first game of the year and Ginny had her stalker following her again. Edward had seemed to recover his overconfident attitude after the duel with Shyamal a week ago. As if to make up for the embarrassment, Edward became even more unbearable.
At least in her opinion.
"Potter, move out my way!" Ginny all but yelled, furious that the Golden Boy was back up to his usual tricks. Ever since Ron had hexed him in her second year, Edward had kept a good distance between him and her. But now, he was trailing her again, asking her to go out on a date with him to the Hogsmeade trip at the end of the week. "If you're any slower, we're going to be late for practice."
"Come on, Ginny, you know you want to go out with me." Edward said, his hazel eyes looking down at her, walking by her side. "You've had a crush on me for ages."
"Until I finally realized how foolish that crush was. The reality of it is much worse." Ginny retorted, her pace fast. "Why don't you go bother someone else who's willing to stoke your big ego?"
Edward danced in front of her. "You're acting just like my mum. She said the same thing about my dad and looked what happened. They've been married for over twenty years."
"A fact that still astonishes me." Ginny huffed when he moved in front of her again, pulling out her wand. "Don't make me hex you, Edward. We have to practice and I can't do it with you throwing yourself all over me. Why Angelina made you Reserve Seeker is beyond me." She murmured.
Edward tensed at the indirect mention of Shyamal. "Why do you hang out with that Dark Wizard, Weasley? He's not but trouble and dangerous. How many students has he already hexed during his stay here?"
"You're just mad that he beat you in a duel, got Malfoy good the next week after that when he decided to jump Shyamal, and that his brothers have made you their favorite target to prank." Ginny gave a small smile when she remembered the first practice the Gryffindor Quidditch teams had. Edward's Nimbus 2000 had been charmed to carry a small banner that unfurled behind him, stating the large words 'Bested by Suha' as he flew. Of course, the Weasleys did one better and had temporarily tattooed Potter with a miniature caricature of the duel in brilliant colors on his forehead. That one had taken a whole day to remove. "His reasons for attacking Malfoy were a sound one as the git was attacking his sister and him later on and your duel was during the first meeting. You're just mad that you fell for it."
They walked out on to the grounds, heading for the Quidditch pitch. "If I had known Snape knew Suha was a better dueler, than I wouldn't have. So you are going to go out with me?"
"The answer is no, Potter." Ginny opened the door to the dressing room, seeing Shyamal there, tugging off his robes and hanging them neatly in the Seeker locker. "Shyamal."
"Hey, Ginny." Shyamal gave a nod to Edward who was ignoring him. "Angelina's already on the field and running the starting Chasers on Ron. She wants to have a mock game today."
"Doesn't she always?" Ginny grumbled, removing her outer robes and putting on her Quidditch ones. She tied up her long red hair in a braid. Edward was down the aisle further, putting on his Reserve robes. "Where are your brothers?"
"Fred and George took them to the other side to practice their aim since they have the strength."
"Temporary truce on the Quidditch field?"
"Wouldn't know but seeing as there hasn't been any bangs or screams, I would guess so." Shyamal slung his Firebolt over his shoulder. "See you on the field." He swept past Edward who looked pointedly away from him.
"I can't believe you talk to him."
"I've already told you, Potter, he's a close friend." More closer than you'll ever be. Ginny thought in her mind.
"You barely even know him!" Edward continued to hound her as they made their way up to the field, Shyamal talking to Fred, George, Cosmas, and Damian. Ron was too busy trying to protect the hoops from Angelina, Katie, and Alicia to pay attention to the ground. "Plus you're not going out with anyone and who's going to take you besides me?"
Anger exploded in Ginny. Turning around she jabbed her finger into his chest. "Just because I'm not going out with you doesn't mean another boy won't go out with me, you prat. I don't like you as a friend or as a boyfriend. So go find some other tweet to go out with you. Now leave me ALONE or I WILL hex you!" Ginny spun around and mounted her broom, kicking off into the air.
The wind blowing past her calmed her agitated nerves as she flew a couple of laps around the field. The only real spell she knew was the Bat-Bogey Hex and she had a feeling that Potter would learn the counter curse after the first time. She knew Hermione was planning on having a group meeting that would help students learn tactics in duels and such. Maybe it would be a good idea to join. That way, if Potter ever decided to go past certain lines, she would be ready. The first meeting was to take place in the Hog's Head down in Hogsmeade during the trip and she knew Neville was going.
Slowly the plan formed in her mind. She would have Neville escort her as a friend that way Edward would back off and both of them would join Hermione's group to learn how to duel. Finally decided, Ginny flew back to the middle of the field, throwing thoughts of Edward into the back of her mind, focusing on the mock game as it started.
A black robed figure appeared in the center of a Wizarding village, a bone white mask on. The difference, however, was the skull mask was fanged, the edges sloping into lupine features. Green eyes shone with a fierce light as the new comer raised his wand, whispering a dreaded curse.
The residents screamed as the Dark Mark rose into the sky, the giant snake blossoming from the ghastly skull's gaping jaws.
Jets of green light flashed in the night, tongues of angry orange and red flames flickering from collapsing houses.