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Rendezvous with Snuffles by Natasha

Format: Novella
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 13,622
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Spoilers

Genres: Romance, Angst, Young Adult
Characters: Dumbledore, Filch, McGonagall, Pomfrey, Lupin, Hagrid, Snape, Lily, Sirius, Lucius
Pairings: Sirius/OC, James/Lily

First Published: 09/02/2017
Last Chapter: 12/03/2017
Last Updated: 12/03/2017

Summary:
Maya is a fifth year Hogwarts student. She only knows Gryffindor's infamous trouble makers from rumor. Or so she thinks.....


Chapter 1: Marauders Aboard
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Maya looked at the scenery that was speeding by as the Hogwarts Express sped away from London. She had the entire compartment to herself and she thought the evening would be just right if the trolley came early till she hear a voice holler.

"GUYS! THIS COMPARTMENT'S ALMOST EMPTY!"

A group of sixth year boys filed in dragging trunks and cages.

"No, really, come right in." Maya muttered.

They stuffed their belongings out of sight and a weary looking boy brushed the hair out of his eyes and smiled at her.

"Hello, I'm Lupin. Nice to meeet you. Are you expecting somebody?"

I shook my head. Even if I did have a bunch of friends, it doesnt seem like they would be the kind that this bunch would like.

I eyed the two tallest well known figures. A gryfindor chaser and their seeker. They played very well and was well known in contrast to the other two.

Sirius Black was chatting away with a mousy looking boy about their summer.

"The Potter's place was fun. Your parents were really cool about letting me stay, James."

"It's not a problem. They wanted more kids and a full grown one is less hassle."
"Oh, for heaven's sake, James. There's no need to parade the badg-"

"Didn't quite catch that, Remus. I wonder which compartment Evans is in..." said James as he walked out.

"I have to go patrol the compartments. I'll bring him around again" Remus said, also standing up.

Sirius put his leg up on the seat opposite to him and sunk down into his seat.

"Leave him be. Evans is probably at the Slug Club, remember? He'll find his way back, if he escapes King slug's hands."

Lupin chuckled and headed out.

Sirius turned to the little guy. "So, what did you do over the summer, Peter?"

"I don't think I can make auror, Sirius. I didn't get the grade for the transfiguration owl."

Sirius was not really listening

Sirius leaned against the glass, his eyes twinkling. He was clearly looking forward to going back. Maya was acutely aware of how good looking he was. Sirius must have felt eyes on him because he looked around suddenly.

"What?" Sirius asked dryly "You're staring."

Maya felt her cheeks grow hot and looked out the window.

"Nothing. I was wondering who would be our quidditch captain this season."

"You're not my type." Sirius said easily catching my bluff.
She knew she wasn't the prettiest but this upstart was outright rude. Maya glared at him and Sirius casually ignored it. The truth was she didn't want to be selected for the Slytherin quidditch team even by accident. The team resorted to rather distasteful tactics when they got frustrated and people got hurt. If she wanted that, she reckoned she'd join the trained tactical teams at the ministry. At least she'd get paid.

"Come to think of it, you're a good flyer, aren't you? Why aren't you on the Slytherin team?" Sirius commented in an off-handed way.

Maya stared at Sirius. How could he know that? I made sure to fly at really odd hours when everyone would be sleeping.

"I am not that good. Besides, I've never liked taking orders, so I wouldn't be a good fit.”

"Slytherin isn't that good to begin with." Sirius said disparagingly.

That stung. They were still Maya's house team.

"Your brother is seeker! Why are you insulting family?"

"They aren't my family." Sirius said looking irritable.

He suddenly looked surprised at himself and looked out of the window again.

Potter and Lupin returned around noon. Apparently, Potter had run into the slug club but instead of escaping, stuck around for Evans. The compartment got steadily more boisterous and Maya was relieved when the lunch trolley arrived.

Once she had had her fill she leaned against the window and watched the group. They were all so close.

Must be nice, Maya thought miserably.

Unfortunately, her character and the current Slytherin crowd was not a good mix. She was the only one who had only a purely professional interest in Dark Magic or the Dark Arts. Everyone else where often talking about the Dark Lord and vociferously agreeing with his plans for muggles and muggle borns. Bellatrix and her group were particularly frightening. Maya proactively stayed clear of these people but this meant that she did not have any close friends. The one time she had the courage to say what the Dark Lord was doing was wrong was when everything about her social circle went horribly wrong. Very few people agreed with her and they were too scared of the baby Death Eaters to speak to her.

'If they knew any better, they would never treat me like this.' Maya thought.

Night crept in and swallowed the train. It was an unusually cold night out and the trains windows misted over. She pulled her the collar of her turtle neck over her mouth and curled and went to sleep.


She slept fitfully until Lupin woke her up. She was so drowsy, she didn't understand at first

"Hey. Wake up, miss! We're almost at Hogwarts."

"Her name is Maya, Moony"

Moony? Was she still dreaming? I sat up straight with the Turtle neck still up my face and saw the castle in the distance. I stood up, alarmed.

"Whoa, I need to change! I need to pack!"

"Calm down." Potter said grinning at my panic and looking dapper in new robes.

"We'll gather up your stuff, while you change, k?"

I took them up on the offer and changed quickly.

I sprinted for the carriages with the bare essential and prayed the one I got into did not have Slytherin students in it.




Chapter 2: First week blues
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Maya never expected OWL year to be easy but this was ridiculous. The teachers gave so much homework, she was actually overrun.

"Shame we can't drop classes" Maya said grumpily. "I'd lose History of Magic in a heartbeat."

Adrian looked up from his essay not having gone past the title, "Describe the summit called by Elfrida Craig".

"What?" He said grinning "You want less classes?”

“Very funny. At this rate, I won’t have time to do any research.”

“Did you assign yourself a reading list again?” he asked eyeing the stack of books next to her. “Look, you told me trained healers looked at your father and -“

He broke off abruptly seeing Maya's expression turn. He was as abrupt and brusque as ever.

“I’m just saying you should talk to the teachers. If you want more information like that, it won’t be in any book.”

“I know. You think I haven’t tried? That’s the first thing I tried. They all say the same thing: 'Trust the healers.They will find something.’ They don’t have the time to help. I need to learn as much as possible and do my own research.”

Adrian looked glum.

“I know you do. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. You were trying to help.” She looked down at her essay and started to work again. If she could get all the points down quickly, she could go visit Hagrid.

“Hey, wanna go see Hagrid later?” She asked Adrian.

He rolled his eyes.

“The gamekeeper? It’s that sort of thing that gets you alienated, you know.”

“Good, who wants friends who don’t like him?” Maya said peevishly.

“Okay, okay. I’ll come with you if you give me your pent” he said eyeing the pen she enchanted to take notes on dictation.

“It’s ‘pen’.” Maya said handing it over to him and pulling out a second one.

It was golden hour on the Hogwarts Grounds when they set out towards Hagrid’s cabin, and there was a pleasant breeze blowing towards the castle.
Maya knocked on Hagrid’s door and called “ Hagrid? Are you home?”

They heard a chair drag along the floor and Hagrid’s heavy footsteps but when Hagrid opened the door Fang came flying out so fast, Maya barely had time to duck.

Fang missed her head by a hair’s breadth and collided with Adrian. He collapsed under the weight.

“Are you okay?” Maya asked, trying not to laugh.

“Just peachy. Just get the cow off my chest.” He said, sounding completely winded.

“Sorry, sorry.” Hagrid said pulling Fang off Adrian. “He’s jus' happy ter see yeh.”

“Hi, Hagrid.” Maya said smiling broadly as Adrian stood up and dusted off.

“Hello. Come on in, I had jus’ put on tea.”

The two of them walked in and found Lily Evans at the table.

“Gotta lotta guests today.” Hagrid said, shutting the door behind him.

Lily smiled at Maya. Adrian pulled up a chair and sat at the table.

The atmosphere got a little awkward. Maya didn’t deal well with strangers.

Lily got up and said “I’d better get going, Hagrid.”

“Yeah. See yeh later.”

As the door closed behind Lily, I looked up at Hagrid and asked “How was your summer, Hagrid?”

“Can’ complain. It had ter be better than mos’.” Hagrid said shrugging. “What did yeh do?”

“My neighbors had a very colorful wedding. I kept praying it wouldn’t catch a Death Eater’s attention the whole time.”

“Maybe they took a personal day.” Adrian said examining his rock cake.

“You mean personal week. Indian weddings are long. I was sweating bullets every time they turned the music up.”

They talked for a while.

Adrian got up from the table and said “Better head back. I don’t wanna be late for dinner.”

Maya’s stomach growled in agreement. She stood up with him, a little embarrassed.

“Good night, Hagrid.”

“Good ni- What’s with the look?’"

Maya was squinting at the edge of the forest, certain she had seen a pair of antlers.

“Nothing. Let’s head back.”

She loved the forest. There were a lot of creatures there. She tried to sneak into it whenever she thought she could get away with it. But she had rarely seen deer near the edge of the forest. They were rarely that bold.

She made a note in her mind to visit it again as soon as she could.

Chapter 3: Bad moon rising
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A few weeks into the new term, Maya and Adrian, were happily munching on breakfast when the post arrived. A beautiful barn owl landed next to her orange juice delivering her Daily Prophet. She patted the owl's head and she hopped closer to Maya so she could take the paper.

Maya removed the paper and took out her coin bag to pay the bird.

"Do you want a little sausage?”

She hooted at her and took off. Maya opened the paper and carefully scanned each page. There was plenty of news of people going missing including a few muggles. She sighed and closed the paper. Adrian asked to see it.

"This always makes me nervous." he said looking through it "I hope no one we know gets hurt."

"Yeah." said Maya privately thinking about her dad and house-elf at home by themselves. She could trust Gili to keep her dad out of trouble but she'd be no match for a dark wizard. She wrote to the little fellow every other day, so she could stay on top of it. Or feel like she was. Half of her was feeling guilty for leaving her father behind in a helpless state and half of her wished her father would want to hear news about her life.

“Let’s go to class, Addy. I want to talk to Professor McGonagall before class starts.”

“Of course you do.” sighed Adrian “Let her have breakfast, for goodness sake.”

She waited patiently till 8.30 and left for class.

“Professor?” She said poking her head into class.

“Come in, Sayre. You’re really early.”

“Yes, professor. I wanted to talk to you about a doubt.”

“Go ahead.” She said smiling slightly.

Maya frequently ambushed teachers after or before class.

“I was reading about Conjuring spells yesterday and I read about how animals may or may not be turned into humans. What does that mean?”

“It means it’s extremely difficult magic - unknown territory, you might say - and the author considers it as a possibility. I’m not going into the moral ramifications, of course, because that’s too vast a topic. However, only an extraordinarily gifted wizard could even attempt it.”

“Has professor Dumbledore tried it? He is unquestionably gifted, right?”

“Not that he has mentioned to me. But my dear child, why would you even want to?”

“What do you mean, Professor? Hasn’t anyone gotten that curious?”

Professor McGonagall frowned at her.

“Even for a gifted which, there is no guarantee of the transfigured being’s mental capacity. There’s just no telling what might happen.”

“But -“

“But nothing! It’s extremely irresponsible and dangerous to try it! Haven’t you thought about the fate of the human you might create?”

She rose from her chair.

“That’s enough.” She said when she opened her mouth again “Take your seat and I will bring you your dog.”

“Dog?" Maya said distracted “I thought I was vanishing cats?”

“You successfully vanished one last class. You might as well attempt a level higher.”

The rest of the class had arrived now and Maya walked glumly back to her seat.

                                                 ************


“You had more trouble than I thought you would, considering how well you did in the last classes.” Adrian said suspiciously as we walked to Potions.

“That was such a cute dog!”

“Urgh. Is that what was going through your head? You looked like she told you to eat it.”

“You trying vanishing a dog when it’s wagging it’s tail at you and trying to lick your face.” Maya sniffed. “Poor doggy.”

“You can’t afford to be that gentle in today’s world. You did what you had to do.” He said sounding amused at having to comfort her like she had done something horrible.

“My dear children, what happened?” Professor Slughorn said appearing right behind them and making them jump.

“Maya had to vanish a dog in Transfiguration, sir.” Adrian said trying not to roll his eyes.

“Aren’t you a gentle soul.” Slughorn chuckled. “Well, settle down, settle down he said as they clattered around, pulling books and quills out.

“Do you all have your essay on the most dangerous potions?”

“About that, sir, we had to write about what we though were most dangerous, right?”

“Yes, that’s right. So the only thing you’ll be assessed on is how well you researched the potion.”

Everyone in the class looked happier as he went around collecting essays.

“Let’s get started on an easy potion. Today, we will be mixing an Invigoration Draught..”
After potions, they had double Herbology. Professor Sprout was in a cheerful mood and Slytherin was awarded nearly 30 points in total making the Gryffindors give the smirking Slytherins looks of varying degrees of ugliness.

“What are they upset about? They won points too.” Maya asked Addy who shrugged and kept smirking.

After dinner, Maya curled up in the common room to read her books.

“Great fort.” said someone peering over the stacks of books.

“Regulus?” She said sitting up.

“Yup.” He said he said carefully stepping over the books and sitting next to the cushion next to me.

“Why aren’t you over there, at the Dark Lord’s Black Court?” Maya said jerking her head over to where Bellatrix was talking animatedly to the people sitting around her.

“Bellatrix has a flair for drama” Regulus said smiling in her direction, annoying Maya no end.

“If you’re selling the same bilge, I ain’t buying.”

“Don’t be so snappy.” Said Regulus “Where’s Brewster?”

“Addy’s gone to bed.”

Regulus, despite his inclinations, was the better ones of the ‘Dark Lord Worshippers’ although the two of them often had heated arguments about the fate of muggle-borns and muggles. He has apparently never mentioned her views to the more aggressive baby death eaters. Else, Maya would definitely know. She hated the part of herself that didn’t argue more loudly against people like them.

“Then, you don’t mind me sitting here?”

“Knock yourself out. How are classes?”

“You tell me. It’s O.W.L year for you, isn’t it?”

“It’s busy. but I’m alright.”

“Clearly. What are you writing?”

“I’m writing home.”

“Want to borrow my owl?”

“No, thank you. I’ll go use a school owl tomorrow.”

Regulus frowned at me.

“Why do you keep pushing people away like that? I know you like being independent, but accept help once in a while. You can make friends that way.”

“I don’t wanna make friends who would support Voldemort.”

“Say You-Know-Who” he hissed, wincing when she mention his name.

“I refuse to sound like a bad knock-knock joke. What are you afraid of? You’ve never met him.”

Regulus looked angrily at her for a moment then gave a huge long sigh like he was trying to breathe the anger out.

“Look, I’d like to be friends so can we not discuss this?”

“How can we be friends when we will be enemies in the future?”

“Will we be?”, he asked quietly.

“Will we?”, she retorted.

Then many people started to leave for bed. Bellatrix had apparently dismissed them.

“If you are always argumentative and grouchy like this, you’ll lose the friends you have.” he said getting up.

He looked at Maya for a moment, then turned around and went to bed.

In an hour or so,the entire common room had emptied and Maya snuck out of the common room. She knew a place in the forest where Dittany grew and she wanted to get it. She could just order it from a good potions shop but she wanted to learn how to brew it and she didn’t want to miss a chance to see the creatures.

Magorian and the other centaurs will get annoyed at her again if they found her but she missed the forest. Maya carefully placed a Disillusionment charm on herself and crept up towards the Entrance Hall. She felt inexplicably better when she reached the hall but kept out a vary eye out for unsavory characters. She paused next to a cabinet and was about to step out towards when she heard quiet footsteps approach from the other end of the hall.

Alarmed, she climbed into the cupboard and quietly shut it. The footsteps grew closer.

“Ouch! Peter, you stepped on my foot.” whispered someone “Just change already.”

Peter? The kid from Hogwarts Express? Was that Black or the others there too just then?

They moved quickly after that.

After she felt sure they had left, she left too. She sprinted towards the Greenhouses and around them, gave Hagrid’s House a wide berth to keep out of earshot of Fang and reached the edge of the forest.

“Easy Peasy. “, she said after checking again for prying eyes.

With that, she walked into the forest.

Maybe I should tell Addy about this, she thought feeling guilty.

Nah, he’ll try to talk me out of it. He would break the rules for a good reason but consistently risking his life to see animals is not his thing. Besides she didn’t want to get him in trouble if they got caught.

She looked up through the trees and smiled. Little beams of moonlight were still beaming through the trees. On a full moon day like today, the Hogwarts grounds was not dark. But tonight, without a single cloud for it to hide behind, it was lit up almost like day.

“Oh yes. It’s a Harvest Moon.” Maya said excitedly. She’d never been in here on a harvest moon. She adjusted her bag determined to see what effects it had on magical plants and to bring as much back as possible.

The path was small and it got steadily darker after that and she had to proceed by wand light. After a while, she heard hissing and in contrast to most people’s reactions, she turned to see snakes crawling after her with a smile.

“Great.”, she said happily “Let’s get to a clearing and we can talk.”

“Yessss.”, said an adder as it glided along the leaves.

She kept the fact that she was a Parselmouth strictly to herself after Gili, her house-elf said they were considered to be the mark of Dark Wizards. But it had only ever helped her. The animals were all helpful to be honest. She was the most informed person when it came to what happened in the forest thanks to that.

The forest opened into a small clearing after that. Maya felt like she was in a spotlight and crouched down to talk to the snakes that were arriving.

“Come on out, you all. It’s me.” Maya said hissing and spitting in parseltongue.

Then she crouched down and talked to the adder first.

“So anything new happen here while I was gone?” she asked.

“A unicorn will give birth in the coming month.”

“Oooh. I wanna see the baby."

Apparently, the birth was going to be deep in the forest near the time of the next full moon. The centaurs were being more careful than last year and have become more reserved. One of Hagrid’s Thestrals was sick and he has been visiting frequently. The Acromantula colony is as unwelcoming as ever. (Well, yeah. They’re not fond of snakes.)

“Alright, I came here to collect a few magical herbs. I have a list and pictures here if you need ‘em. But first, let’s go get the dittany and keep an eye out for Hagrid. He’s not going to be happy if he saw.”

He should be sleeping, but no harm in being careful, she thought climbing over a huge tree root that stood a few feet over the ground while the snakes crawled under it easily.

She wished she could help the Thestral but she couldn’t even see the symptoms or even the Thestral in question. No point in stumbling around when Hagrid can take care of it.

She collected as many as she could in an hour and celebrated her stash. She even found a Bowtruckle in a willow tree.

“Hey, bud. Can you come with me?” she asked. She had Care of Magical creatures tomorrow and this would be a great find. “I’ll bring you back tomorrow.”

The Bowtruckle climbed off the branch and onto my shoulder. Such a friendly little guy.

She conjured a bottle for his woodlice supplies and decided to call it a day.

She caught a bunch of frogs for the adders and said “I’ll leave them here but please don’t eat them in front of me.”

Then she turned to the adder.

"This is pretty deep in. Can you show us a path out?”

“It’ssss not that deep. We’ve just strayed farrr.”

He lead the way towards a path and disappeared into the underbrush.

"I'm sssurprised you came on a full moon. It isss more dangerouss for humanssss."

"Why?" She asked

"I hope you won't ssseeee.."

He was right. They reached the edge of the forest in fifteen minutes.

She started to cross the grounds as carefully as she could. There was just no cover there between her and the castle.

Suddenly, she felt the hairs on her neck rise and turned around to the strangest sight she had seen in her life.

About fifty feet from her, a wolf, a stag and gigantic, shaggy black dog was heading towards the castle too.

Maya stared.

Then the wolf turned and looked at her.

Then it hit her. That’s no wolf, that’s a werewolf.

She gasped audibly. As if he was waiting for this cue, it snarled and started to bounded straight for her.

She felt strangely clear headed. She sent a stunning spell straight at it. It missed its shoulder and it kept coming.

“IMPEDIMENTA” She screamed.

It froze in place.

It was only a matter of time before the jinx wore off. But Maya couldn’t move. She could feel her her heart beating and she was afraid her legs would give if she did.

I can’t outrun a werewolf! she thought desperately. If I tried I’ll have my back towards it and be hunted down. Better to be wand-ready. That’s my only shot.

But then the stag and the dog came running around it and turned to face the werewolf, standing between her and it. Then the stag charged forward antler’s down and lifted the werewolf into the air. It hit the ground painfully and it struggled to stand up. The jinx was wearing off just as the dog reached it. It grabbed the wolf by the foreleg and started dragging it away. The werewolf howled in pain and twisted in it’s jaws to try and reached for the dog. The stag hooked his torso in his antlers and kept pushing it away. For the first time, Maya saw a mouse running around the scene. Soon, the bizarre group had dragged it over the hill and went out of sight.

I have to run. They might come back.


But she couldn’t move. After a few seconds she tried to walk and her legs felt like jelly. She ran towards the castle tripping and falling.


Chapter 4: Protective Instincts
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By the next day, Maya was half-convinced the whole episode last night was simply a realistic nightmare. If it weren’t the small cuts and bruises on her palm from scrambling to the castle, she wouldn’t have believed it at all.

“Did you want the sauce or the toast?” asked Regulus, eyeing her absently dumping maple syrup on her mushrooms.

“Yeah – uh.. hmm?”

What was with that group? Why was there a werewolf wandering around the grounds? There aren’t any werewolves in the forest! Wasn’t that a silly rumour the teachers encouraged? There were wolves, of course, but no werewolves.

“HELLO! Maya, come home from La-la Land!” Addy said, suddenly six inches from her face.

“Whoa!”

“Geez! What’s up with you today? Is that a bowtruckle on your shoulder?”

“Er, yeah. I thought I’d show Professor Kettleburn today. Pass the toast please.”, she said vanishing the unsavory combination from her plate.

“Pretty sure he knows what they look like.”

Still lost in thought, they both started to head to the grounds for their next class when someone bumped into Maya from behind making the bowtruckle topple off her shoulder. Maya lunged to catch him and caught him gently but her bag slipped off her arm and hit the floor. She heard her ink bottle smash in the bag.

“Oh no!”

She opened the bag to find a corner of all her books a brilliant royal blue.

“Watch it!” shouted Addy, above her head.

Someone kneeled down pulling out his wand. Maya looked up and saw Lupin helping her.

“I’m so sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

He siphoned off the ink and repaired the bottle. He pulled out his own ink and offered it to her.

“It’s alright. I have ball pens.”

“No, this was my fault.”, he said standing up with her. “I’m really sorry.”

Maya was looking at his weary face. He looked positively ill. There were prominent lines on his wan face and he looked really tired.

She quietly took the bottle.

“It’s not that big a deal. Forget about it.”

He smiled weakly and turned to leave. As he was walking towards his waiting friends, Maya shoved her hand in her pocket.

“Lupin!”, she called.

Lupin turned around and saw the Chocolate Frog lobbed at him. He caught it looking surprised.

“Relax. You worry too much.” she said grinning.

“Watcha got there, Moo- Remus?” Black said peering over his shoulder at the box. Potter was staring at her with an oddly wary look on his face.

Maya left the scene and Addy and she jogged to their first class.

Professor Kettleburn took some interest in the little bowtruckle.

“They are normally quite shy but this one seems so friendly. Where did you say you found him?”

“I saw him in the grounds. I imagine there’s quite a big branch in the forest.”

“Yes, yes. The forest has all kinds of creatures.”

“What kinds do you reckon, professor?” she replied, trying to broach the subject casually.

“Oh. All kinds. Hogwarts grounds as a whole is quite a habitat.”

“You wouldn’t say there are dangerous creatures as well, surely? Not so close to where students spend idle time?”

Addy, bored of watching the girls with the unicorn, started to listen in.

“There are some but they keep to the forest and don’t endanger the students.”

“But the rumour that the forest contains werewolves must be false, right? They spend most of their time as normal humans.” Maya said, pressing on.

Professor Kettleburn quickly met her eyes.

“I’m not an expert on what resides in the Forbidden forest, it’s too large to say exactly.”

He quickly straightened up and walked to the others and shut the conversation down.

“What was that about?” asked Addy “She’s right, right? No werewolves?”

“If you’re worried, don’t risk a full moon. Problem solved.”

“Heck. I’m not going out of the castle at late in the night at all. Anyway, hear from Alice?”, Addy asked turning a little red.

Alice was her older sister. Actually, they were not blood relatives. Her family were actually Maya’s neighbors who were like her foster family after her father fell sick. They were muggles. She was always a dedicated sister and she noticed Maya was different quickly. Hagrid explained to her about Hogwarts and Alice’s education when she was 17. She took the revelation exceptionally well and insisted they be part of Maya’s life.

Maya was proud of her protective sister. They shared identical lockets (which was enchanted to act like a phone) through which they kept in touch.

Adrian sometimes spoke to her and was a little smitten. He was a nice guy and a good friend to have. Not many people in Slytherin was openly friends with her after she aired her views about muggles in a rather loud argument with Mulciber and his ilk. She was afraid they might hurt Adrian if they got the chance just for that reason.

“She’s alright. She’s working long hours at the university.”

The rest of the day grew busy and she learned nothing new about the werewolf gang.

*****

That night she decided to take the little bowtruckle back to the forest although she was nervous this time. She carefully crept out into the grounds.

“I’ll let you go near the edge, okay bud?”

All was well till she reached the edge of the forest. She let him down and he took off towards the edge.

She turned around to return and she saw the giant dog running towards her. Still frightened, she pulled out her wand. He slowed down and stopped about 10 feet away. The dog sat down there wagging his tail innocently as if he had no intention of attacking her. She lowered her wand. She was never wary of animals; they were usually (or unusually) friendly to her. But this one was special. She decided to try her luck with him.

“Hey, boy. Why are you here?”

At this he got of his haunches and trotted up to her. He took a mouthful of her robes and started to tug at it.

He started to pull her away from the forest.

“Oh. I see. You’re worried about me going in the forest.”, she said, privately thinking that this animal was way too clever. It was showing concern for a stranger, protectiveness and knew to find her tonight.

“It’s okay, bud. I never go far and even when I do, I never get in trouble.”

He huffed at this disbelievingly.

“Hehe. You are such a cute doggy. Do you have a name?” Maya said kneeling and ruffling his fur.

He wagged his tail vigorously and opened his mouth so his tongue hung out to the side. It looked like a lopsided grin. Maya giggled. He was so big and snuggly and his eyes were big and full of warmth. He made Maya feel a little comfortable.

“I know. You’re my Snuffles.” He wagged his tail harder. He took her hand in his mouth and started to lead her away from the forest.

“You were just leading me on, weren’t you?” She laughed.

She gave up and raised her eyes to the castle and tensed up. There was a figure creeping across the grounds towards them holding a covered lantern. There was a small animal next to his feet.

Filch! He must have seen us from a distance.

“Quick, Snuffles. The Forest.” She whispered looking towards Filch in alarm.

Filch must have noticed, because he picked up the pace.

Snuffles turned around for a look and then bounded behind her towards the forest.

Me, a huge dog, Filch and Mrs. Norris. Weirdest procession ever.

She raced for the cover of the trees, Snuffles close on her heels. They leapt over some of the underbrush and made their way in deeper. They could hear Filch jogging behind them, gasping out things like ‘I’ll catch you lot today’ and ‘not getting away’.

They went off the path after a while and hid in the bushes. Snuffles seemed to understand and kept real quiet. Filch, who Maya did not take for a brave person, had actually followed her in. He had taken the cover of the lamp and was skulking around as if he was trying to see how far he could shine the light and not see too much at the same time.

Maya ducked behind the bush when he turned her way. Filch edged forward along the path reluctantly. Mrs. Norris paused and looked in their direction but Snuffles gave a low growl in his throat and she leapt after Filch.

After the bright light in the grounds the forest was dark. She could barely see her surroundings and she accidently put her hand on the rather damp ground.

Suddenly, they heard a nasty cackle from behind her, gave her a quite a jolt. She whirled around but couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of her.

“Lumos.” She whispered, halfheartedly. She instantly regretted it.

The light fell on a painted face, not feet from them. A pair of wide, bulging, jaundiced eyes. An insincere sneer that showed a set of rotten teeth with plenty of gaps. A faded clown’s hat with unwelcome bells. The nose that was supposed to be cute and round was scrunched up to make room for the grin. Its torso was wide and the arms waere held aloft as if it was about to either hug or pounce.

The sight made Maya freeze on the spot. She hated clowns. She hated them in broad daylight but in the darkness of the forest, it was worse.

She stood there in petrified silence. Her mind made the jump but she still didn’t do anything.

It began to sway towards her this way and that moving fantastically, unnaturally, it’s cackling now reaching high pitched scream.

But Snuffles took charge. He moved in between them and barked loudly.

The sound made her snap out of it. She raised her wand said “R-riddikulus!”

Crack! It tripped on the balloons tails and landed on its face. She snickered.

Fumbling footsteps could be heard as Filch made his way back towards the noise. The boggart gave up on her and charged past her in his direction. She could see it’s form melt away and form something a lot hairier as it headed that way.

Uh-oh. Filch was a squib. She ran after it as quick as she could. She could hear Snuffles’ heavy footsteps behind her. Up ahead, she heard a strangled cry. There was a thud and she didn’t wait to see as she rounded the corner to yell “Riddikulus!”.

Filch was sprawled across a jumble of tree roots and the boggart had vanished in a wisp of smoke.

“Huh. He’s passed out. Serves him right. Who told you to follow me in, you crabby old man?”

Maya heard a chuckle behind her. Snuffles was apparently still enjoying himself.

“Glad you’re having a grand old time!” she chided. He wagged his tail in wide arcs.

“Mobilicorpus.” She mumbled. She heard a great sniff from behind her.

“Well, we can’t just leave him here. That’s heartless.”

“You come too.” She said, directed at Mrs. Norris who was looking on from around a tree.

And the second bizarre procession in so many days started towards the castle.

Snuffles was gamboling around like it was all good fun. She put a confundus charm on Filch so that he would believe he never made it to the forest. She was just around the greenhouse when the front doors opened once more.

“Oh, what fresh hell?” she said under her breath. Much to her relief, it was Hagrid waving his arms, trying to swat Peeves.

“Get away, yeh ruddy poltergeist. I’m goin’ home!” Peeves blew a loud raspberry and hung around after him.
“Great. How will we get around Peeves? Snuffles?” she looked around but he was gone. Where did he go? Man, that dog was unpredictable.

She put the best Disillusionment charm on herself and crept as near as she could. She put filch down near the castle doors behind Hagrid, who was well on his way, complete with his lamp. As the doors swung shut she slid in.

“I hear ya, I hear ya, heard you before too! You may be hard to spot but you can’t fool Peevesy. What did ya do too old Filchy?”

Peeves was hanging upside right above the door. Maya had just about enough without Peeves waking the whole castle up. Peeves seemed to guess where her mind was at.

“If you don’t show yourself Peevesy shall make much trouble!”

Oh yeah, like you’ll give me a kiss goodnight if I did show myself.

She heard the doors groan again.

On an impulse, she took off running. First get rid of peeves then she’ll take Filch.

She kept running with filch zooming at full pelt after her until she ran gasping straight into the someone’s back taking him clear off his feet.

“Oof!”

“Ugh. Why is someone walking around?”

She looked at the guy to find Sirius Black albeit with his face planted on the floor.

“That is an excellent question.” Sniffed the voice of a Lady from behind a portrait that had swung forward. There was a hole in the wall right in front of them.

“Could you please get off my back? Literally?” said Black in a muffled voice.

“Hurry, hurry!” she said grabbing him by his robes and shoving him through the hole when she heard Peeves cackle around the corner.

She quickly climbed through and shut the portrait behind her.

“Ah, Sirius. Did you head he- ?”

She looked around.

Sirius was climbing to his feet rubbing the back of his head.

Staring back at her from behind him was James Potter.

“Yeah. I know.” Maya said as James struggled for words staring at her “I’ll get out of your hair as soon as Peeves leaves.”

She looked around after she removed the charm. This was clearly the Gryffindor common room. It was empty but for the four friends. James was sitting on the back of an armchair with his wand stuck behind his ear. Pettigrew was curled up in a couch fast asleep. Lupin was sitting on the floor with a piece of parchment in one hand and a quill in the other with a few books spread out around him.

There was silence for a few seconds. Then, Lupin started awkwardly

“Er, why are you here?”

“Peeves chased me through the corridor.”

Sirius straightened up and grinned.

“Welcome to the Gryffindor common room! You must be the first Slytherin here in - ever.”

“And last.” Muttered Potter under his breath.

“Well, that didn’t last.” She commented ”I told you, I’ll go as soon as Peeves leaves.”

“It’s fine, James didn’t mean it. Come sit down by the fire. You look cold.” Said Lupin smiling.

“Thanks, Lupin. What are you doing? Homework?” Maya said ignoring Potter and squatting next to him.

“No, I’m just editing Peter’s Wiggenwald potion essay.”

“Oh, cool.” She said ignoring Black and Potter silently arguing about her presence.

“Do they always fight like an old couple?” she said resting her chin on her hands.

“Most of the time.” Chuckled Lupin.

Suddenly, she felt her locket vibrate. She hastily pulled it off and let it sit on her palm where it grew to the size a small saucer. She snapped open the catch and opened it.

“Hiiiiii!!!” screamed Alice’s face from inside the locket surface.

“Sis! Keep it down! Do you know what time it is?”

“Nope!” she answered promptly “I look track of time these days. Besides, you’re awake. What’re you up to?”

She sounded suddenly suspicious.

“Is that your sister?”

“You have a sister?” said Black and Potter crowding me.

“I’m sitting in the common room”, Maya replied, carefully neglecting saying which.

“How’s it going, squirt? How’s your new term?”
“Eventful to say the least.”

“Meet any boys? “, she teased.

“Hardly.” She replied, rolling her eyes.

“Well, that’s just not true.” Said Sirius loudly from behind her.

“I heard boys’ voices. Who are they? Do I know them?”

“I think I may have mentioned them. This is Sirius Black.” She replied. And in a rather transparent attempt to get Alice away from the topic asked “So, how is Thomas?”

“Hmm, Sirius Black, Sirius Black… Oh! You mean the one with 10% body weight, 90% head weight?”

“Alice! They can hear you!” I said over Lupin and Potter’s raucous laughter

“Ah, don’t worry. He can handle it. You did say you admired him once after all.”

“Sis! TMI!!” She said, going scarlet and snapping the locket shut.

“I think Peeves must have gone.” She said, standing up, trying her damnedest not to look at Sirius in the eye.

“You admire me? That’s only natural, but what do you admire? Clarify, please.” Sirius asked, the smirk evident in his voice.

“It’s not what you’d think, okay?”, she said collecting her things and sprinting for the portrait hole.

As she pushed the portrait open, she heard Sirius call “Which is it?” after her.

Peeves had apparently gone to find another sport. She ran all the way to Slytherin common room half laughing half embarrassed.

As she changed and clambered under the sheets, she thought about what was going through her head when she told Alice she admired Sirius even though she was surprised his head fit in the great hall.

Maya knew better than elitism because she had a rockstar muggle family who accepted her despite her differences and taught her to be kind.

His entire family had been in Slytherin. They were all pure blood elitists. Judging by Bellatrix and the other Blacks attitudes he had been brought up with everyone believing muggles and muggle-borns to be second class, to say the least. But Sirius alone believed in something kinder; he was prepared to question everything he had been told since he could understand. He stood up to the only family he had when he disagreed. That took a kind of courage that Maya didn’t have. Especially if she could have her father back she would never want to disagree with him….


Chapter 5: Rumour mill
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The weekend was a welcome break after the trying week.

Addy waited for Maya to scramble down to the common room. She had overslept spectacularly and hopped down the staircase pulling her shoes on.

“Honestly, what do you do at night? You’re never well-rested!”

Addy was already dressed wearing his Quidditch robes. He played Chaser for the Slytherin Quidditch team.

“Let’s get down to breakfast. I’m starving.”

“I need to go to the Owlery for a bit. You should go ahead, Addy.”

They both went on their ways.

She borrowed a school owl from the Owlery to send her letter home and hurried down to the breakfast past a few Hufflepuff final years headed the same way.

She quickly rounded a corner ahead and came skidding to a halt. Ahead of her, she saw a foot disappearing into a broom cupboard.

Infinitely curious at who would be skulking around before breakfast, in broad daylight and on a weekend, she sauntered to it and opened the door with a flourish and paused at the contents.

She promptly shut it again.

Huh.

The Hufflepuff girls walked past her and one of them looked pryingly at her.

“Come on, Bertha. We’re already late.”

Maya rearranged her expression quickly to an unconcerned one and waited for them to round the corner.

The cupboard door opened and a hand pulled in by her collar, hissing “Stop loitering around, attracting attention!”.

Maya was staring at Sirius who was dressed in a singular towel.

“Why the blazes are you hiding in cupboards dressed like that?” she demanded, trying to look anywhere else. This would have been an extraordinary feat. Sirius towered over her and there was very little room in the cupboard.

“It’s not intentional! I was taking a shower and I made fun of James. He struck back by making off with my clothes and wand!!”

“So, basically, you’ve been trying to creep from the bathroom without being seen.” said Maya trying and failing to not snicker.

“It’s not funny!”, he said, the corners of his mouth turning up in spite of himself.

“Sorrihihihihi!!”

“Enough already. I know I look great but – you wanna help out?” he said spreading his arms out and accidentally hitting the door.

“Sure. I don’t want to look at your ugly butt.”, she said smoothly (and rather untruthfully. He looked great) and pulled out her wand. “Move back, if you don’t want your eye poked out.”

He shuffled backward as much as he could, sending a bucket clattering and a broom handle knocked him on the head.

Maya resisted the urge to conjure a sundress and conjured a set of clothes and belt instead. Then, she quietly crept out of the cupboard and kept watch.

Black would look great in the ensemble I have in mind, she thought as she heard him dress with a lot of scuffle and bumps. Maneuvering in there can’t be easy. While she waited, she twirled her wand. A Fedora appeared revolving and landed neatly on her hand.

“We have to stop meeting like this.” said Black, stepping out, tucking his black shirt into his jeans and rolling back his sleeves.

“Tell me how.”, she said, rolling her eyes.

“Nice. It fits and everything.”

“You’re not even listening anymore, are you?” she sighed “Stand still.”

Maya stood on her toes and placed the hat on his head. It suited him so much that he looked like a model.

Black, however, looked a little taken aback. He recovered fast though. He leaned back on to his back foot and smirked at her with his hands in his pockets.

“Thanks. I owe you one-”

Maya stomach rumbled so loudly, it was not possible to ignore it.

“It’s rude to answer with your stomach.”, he teased.

She felt hot under her collar but retorted “You sure are debonair in contrast – when you have clothes on anyway.”

They walked to the Great Hall quibbling in this vein.

When they walked in, heads turned towards Black. The Gryffindors around Potter ventured several ‘moon’ jokes and promptly dissolved into laughter.

Boys will be boys.

Black turned the heads of several girls as he strode over to Potter and his friends. He began to play-wrestle with Potter with a good natured grin and his lopsided hat, seeming lazily unconcerned with the attention he was getting from girls. The hilarity rose to such a din that McGonagall came down from the Teacher’s table to quiet it.

Maya, now thoroughly famished, very nearly sprinted towards the food. She pulled out the chair Addy had saved and started making a teetering tower of French toast.

The Hufflepuff table next to them was abuzz.

Addy didn’t miss a beat.

“Why are Hufflepuffs so interested in you today?”

She looked up in time to see Bellatrix give her her best scathing look and Maya returned one of her own to match. It can’t have been as ugly as she wanted it to be because her cheeks were so full.

“I duffo. Ish no juh ‘em. Mayfee eh’ er ‘ookin eh Blagh?”

“No, no. They are definitely looking at you.” Addy replied, decoding miraculously.

“ “Ookin’” ?”

Maya turned around to see two Hufflepuff girls looking at her. She met their eyes and they turned away hastily, whispering.

?

“Dof no, dof kay.” She said, reaching for milk.


After breakfast, she ran to the library and found as many Transfiguration Today’s as she could that had the articles she wanted. The magazines under her arm, she walked Addy to the Quidditch training ground. They sure were starting off the season early, although it might also be their attempt to keep Gryffindors from booking the ground as much as possible.

I watched Addy play thinking about how much she missed Soccer. She was obsessed with it when she was a kid. Quidditch made her queasy. Way too many degrees of freedom. She loved to fly for short periods of time though.

“HEY! THIS FIELD WAS BOOKED FOR SLYTHERIN! BUZZ OFF!” bellowed Avery at two girls attempting to sneak a look at the game.

They squealed and ran off.

How strange. Why were the other houses sending little girls to spy on them?

They called it quits before lunch.

It was such a good Saturday that Addy brought food out to the lawn. They kicked back and started to munch on the food. Maya had ‘rescued’ a kitten that had escaped Professor McGonagall’s class, probably destined for non-being. She was mischievous little tabby and Maya named her Pepper. She followed her around in the castle, but wouldn’t approach the forest at all.

A group of girls had gathered not far off and were pointedly whispering. Maya turned to look at the cause when she saw the superfecta lope towards them. Black skidded down the slope and came to a rest next to Maya. Potter and the others gathered around them.

“What now?” said Maya exasperated.

“Oh come on, don’t be nasty. We just want to get to know you.” Said Sirius, lying back, propping his head on his hand and turning towards Maya.

“You want to get to know us…” repeated Addy faintly. “Of the hundreds of students at Hogwarts, you want to get to know two Slytherin students.”

“More precisely, we wanted to know why a Slytherin seems so…. Alright.” Potter corrected. “Or rather, Sirius did.”

“Then you guys clear off.” Said Addy who disliked the group on principle.

“You too, shrimp.” Said Potter, pulling his wand out and gesturing towards Maya “We wanna talk to her.

“Put that away or she is leaving too.” Maya said, getting increasingly irritated.

Lupin was trying to get them all to calm down.

“Let these two talk. We’ll get out of their hair.” Then Lupin looked at Addy and started in a kind voice. “Your name is Adrian Brewsworth, right?”

Lupin led him away and Adrian looked back reluctantly at Maya. Potter and Pettigrew followed them at a distance.

“What the heck was that all about? Why do we need to talk? You still like the hat by the looks of it.” said Maya, scowling at the girls who were now openly staring.

“Ignore it. They were just messing with your friend.”

There was a short silence when she went back to reading the magazine.

“Why were you walking around the other night after hours?” he asked, suddenly.

“I could ask you the same thing.”

“It’s dangerous at night inside or outside the castle.”

“I could be too, for all you know.”

“I’ll tell you what I do know. You are friends with Hagrid, you love animals and are oddly alienated from the other Slytherins. You are one of the few who is well-liked by other students but nobody knows you that well. Well, except that kid and Hagrid.”

“Are you getting in the vicinity of a point?”

“I’m just curious. You seem to be too much of a straight shooter to break rules on a whim. But, you did anyway.”

Maya picked up a glass of orange juice, not commenting. At this point, one of the girls from the group strode over.

“Hi.”, she said shyly. She was a pretty girl from Ravenclaw and she was eyeing Black reclining on the grass with the hat shading his eyes.

Sirius, however, frowned at the interruption.

“What?”

“So, it’s true then? What everyone are saying? You’re dating her?” she said pointing from Black to Maya.

Maya spat out the orange juice spectacularly.

What?!!? Why are they saying that? Who said that?” said Maya looking from Black who looked mildly surprised, to the girl, shaking orange juice from her socks.

“So, it’s not true?” she asked hopefully.

Black who was now grinning at Maya’s reaction replied before she could answer.

“Well, the idea was to ask her out eventually. You kind of ruined the climax.”

“HEY!”

“Run along now.” He said shooing her away.

The girl looked disappointed and returned to her friends who gasped and started whispering away.

“So, where were we?” said Black, turning to Maya who was flabbergasted.

What did you do that for?!??

Black shrugged.

“It’s a pain to set it straight.”

“At least find out what they were saying.”

“Why? What’s the point?”

“Argh!” she said getting up to chase after the girls.

“Wait a sec.” said Black also getting up, but she was already off.

From what she could find out by evening, some gossip named Jorkins said she’d seen them make out before breakfast. Since they came in together right after this piece of news was debuted and later confirmed by the girls from the grounds, her denials were met with derision.

Black was popular and well known, sort of Hogwarts own star along with Potter. Maya actively avoided attention as it kept her out of trouble in Slytherin. But this rumour put her in the spotlight in such a fashion that she swore to leave naked boys in cupboards alone next time.

Bellatrix along with many other Slytherins seemed to take this personally. She shrieked derisively about the rumor and Maya’s apparent taste in men whenever she was within earshot. At least Regulus had the sense to ask her about it.

“No, I’m not seeing Black and I didn’t make out with him! I’m going to force feed that Jorkins Hagrid’s Treacle Tart when I see her next. Is there any way to shove it down Bellatrix’s throat too?” She said, gritting her teeth, unable to focus inside the common room anymore.

“Oh, I see.” Regulus said, looking rather relieved “Forget about it then. It will die down in time. Sirius is just popular with girls.”

“Then why is it such a sensation?”

“Maybe because you’re a Slytherin?” offered Adrian “Let’s go to the Library. It’s quieter.”

“Forget it, it’s close to curfew anyway.”

“Since when has that stopped you?” Addy muttered slyly.

She stomped up to bed.

What did Black want anyway? she fumed as she changed into bed clothes.
Something about her being out at night and being dangerous..

****

Next day, she intentionally left the castle for the grounds during the day and brought her books with her, leaving Addy in the library with the ‘Whisperers’. She took them out into the sun and plopped down under a beech tree with a large shade. Splashes of sunlight fell on the grass and across her book and moved in waves across the lawn when the wind blew. It was a lovely morning.

The incidents of the day before had driven all thoughts of animals out of her head. Now that she was alone again Maya was contemplating the eccentric group once more. She was thinking about why the stag had been so protective and absently conjuring a stag of ice and poking at it to correct the details. The stag gleamed as it looked at her and pranced around after a dragonfly.

She finally sighed and leaned back with a copy of the book on her face.

“Is this some new way to absorb knowledge?” a voice said.

She lifted the book and peered out. Sirius was grinning at her, a broomstick over his shoulder and dressed in Gryffindor colors.

She scowled at him. Was he following her around?

“Nice deer.” He said, pointing and then sitting next to her. “You’re already good at conjuring. Are you practicing here?”

“No. I would have made him inside but he keeps leaving little puddles all over the place and that’s just not charming.”

“I can fix that.” He said brandishing his wand and tapping the deer.

“I was joking, Sirius. He’s not melting. Anyway, don’t you have anything else to do? Why are you always here?”

He smirked insolently and pointed his wand. A phoenix of ice flew out and flew in a wide arch around the tree.

“Nice one.” Maya admitted grudgingly.

“Why a stag? Pick something a little more difficult.”

The cheeky, little -

She pulled out her wand too. She conjured a big betta fish with an elaborate tail and clear white body that flitted ahead before floating into the sun.

Hmm, maybe the tail could refract a little light to show colour. And maybe I could make its movement a little more realistic.

She looked at Black and he was rolling his sleeves back.

She grinned. This could be fun.

She was already laughing when 10 minutes had gone by.

“Hey! Keep your panther away from my stag!” Maya complained.

“Your stag is easy prey and it’s open season.”

“Well, then I’m giving him real hard hind hooves. So, it can take your Panther's jaw off when it gets close.”

Soon, they had quite a magical menagerie around them showering them in snowflakes and refracting bright colours into their eyes. Maya was trying to make the stag’s crystal clear and light a small, bright light near its heart. Pepper was leaping up at the fish apparently annoyed at how high up it was.

“This is good work.” Said a quiet voice.

Maya looked around to see that the Gryffindor team had gathered there, watching, and among them was Professor Dumbledore. He brushed away a jellyfish bobbing up past his glasses and peered at the fairy with large wings of changing color.

“You’re a really good Transfiguration student.” He remarked, nodding at the stack of magazines next to her.

“Me? What about –”, She wheeled around. Sirius had slipped away before she realized it.

Does he have poltergeist blood?, she thought with a vague feeling of Deja vu.

“I’m going to see Hagrid. Would you like to come too?” he asked, peering through his glasses at her.

“I would.” She said grabbing her magazines and sprinting behind him.

“Minerva says you asked her about cross species transfiguration.”

“Yes, professor. I was actually looking for the articles you wrote on the subject just now. I think I made her nervous.”

“Yes, yes. It would make a lot of people nervous, the idea of being able to create fake humans.”

“What can you tell me, professor?” then she added nervously, “If- if you would.”

“I guess so.” He said, obliging “Any sort of Human Transfiguration is considered N.E.W.T level difficulty, and the closer the original form to the final form the easier it would become- However- with a skilled wizard I guess you may be able to go from inanimate object to human. The easier route might be something like- Monkey statue to Monkey- Monkey to Human. So the difficulty level will definitely differ depending on how drastic the change.”

“As to mental capacity- the animal is under the control of the Wizard- but there is some leeway - that birds can fly away for example- so some sort of basic intelligence must be bestowed. In a similar train of thought- advanced intelligence is also a possibility but would increase the difficulty dramatically. If the wizard took it in step he may be able to install memories with a memory charm to synthesize learning experience, language and skills. I'd suggest the entire process is well beyond the ability of most wizards, except for Transfiguration specialists. There is also the possibility that it would simply revert after a time.”

“What a frightening thought.” she said after a few minutes of silence. “An army created from rocks or chairs or whatever- I suspect there would be limitations on effect time though. As you create your fourth or fifth soldier, the first one may start to de-transfigure, for example.”

Dumbledore looked at her.

“Do you want to try it?”

She thought about it.

“Heck no. I am not even sure I want it to succeed. It’s like the invention of the gun or the Unforgivable Curses, isn’t it? Your invention runs amok? People can be scary enough as it is. Give me a boggart to face any day.”

Dumbledore chuckled.

“‘Hell is empty and all the devils are here’”

“You read Shakespeare, professor?”

“Oh yes, there are so many literary works that waiting to be read.”

“Aren’t there?” Maya said, skipping now.

“You enjoy reading, do you?”

“Yes, professor.” Maya said happily “There are so many thoughts to read of smarter men – and women.”

“And women.” Agreed he, smiling.

“So why don’t you think it would work, professor?”

When Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at her, she went on.

“I expect you don’t think it would work anyway?” she asked wryly “That’s why you explained it to me?”

“I think you might just end up with a human doll. No amount of skilled Transfiguration can create a human soul.”

“What?” she yelped “Animals don’t have souls?”

“You are skipping too far ahead in expressing your thought process, but that would be a conclusion, yes.”

“That’s not fair, sir.” She said thinking of all the creatures she had met and one, in particular, she’d met a few days ago. “Why would intelligent creatures not have souls? They can be kind and warm and they are often nobler than we.”

“C’est la vie. Most of them are a bundle of instincts. Whether possessing a soul is solely a good thing is another topic. Again, this is just conjecture. I may be wrong, you know.”

“I bet your conjectures are based on a little evidence.” Maya remarked, kicking a stone sulkily, thinking of how she’d never seen the ghost of an animal.

“You keep yourself busy, don’t you? Excitement, cheer and gloom in 5 minutes.”

Hagrid who was washing his hands in the barrel outside looked over as they came up.

“Hullo, Hagrid.”

“Hello. What are yeh doing here?” he said looking from Dumbledore to Maya. “Yer not in trouble, are yeh?

“We’re just here for a cup of tea, Hagrid. If we may intrude?”

“O’ course, professor, o’ course.”

*****


Chapter 6: Badgered vs Snakes
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Sitting in the library with books all around wasn’t as calming as you'd think with your best mate hissing in your ear.

The first Quidditch game of the season was the next day. Unusually, the game was scheduled between Hufflepuff and Slytherin. This was fine with the Slytherins of course, because Gryffindors fielded Potter and putting that face-off off gave them more time to prepare. Hufflepuffs had only one great player and that was it.

Maya couldn’t get Addy to stop analyzing out loud and she couldn’t just tell him she didn’t care much for Quidditch because it mattered so much to him.

“Hufflepuff team is all head, a lot of tail and no body. If it weren’t for Bagman, they would have dropped out of running straight away.”, Addy said, a little harshly, Maya thought.

If you can’t beat 'em join ‘em, thought Maya.

“Maybe. But he has a lot of upper body strength and flies very well, so don’t underestimate what he could do even on his own.”

“Why can’t you play?”, sniffed Addy “You blow off the Quidditch team every year.”

“You know why. Besides, I’m not a team player.”, she replied “Not this team. I hate Laughalot and some others. It would gall me to play for them.”

“You’re a great team with me when you want to play.”, Addy pointed out. “And don’t play for them, play for the house and to make the Gryffindors nervous.”

“I’m not a good idea for long term. You know I can’t stay in the air long. Belching from high altitudes seems that charming to you, does it?”

“Get a potion from Madam Pomfrey.”

sigh Addy was stubborn.

At this cue, Laughalot came like some sort of bear in a hurry.

“Adrian, I want a word.”

Maya gave him a neutral look, half-heartedly wanting to be on good terms with her best friend’s dangerous-pastime-mate. Laughalot returned what appeared to be a queasy look although it might have been his best effort at a smile.

They went behind bookshelves for a few minutes and had a urgent hushed conversation, starting when a lamp stand shushed them sounding remarkably like Madam Pince.

“You ask her and be nice.”, Maya heard Addy say when he got shoved in her direction.

“She had better be good.”, growled Laughalot.

‘Her’?’She’? Maya wondered, looking around. But they were looking at her.

Laughalot shuffled towards her.

“Guess what your Gryffindor pals did?”

“Who is that?”, Maya’s tone chilling, in spite of herself.

“Potter and Black.”, he spat.

“Dunno, don’t care and we’re not ‘pals’.”

“They hexed Pugh!”

“Who?”

“Our chaser! They hexed her! It looks like a difficult combination of hexes and Madam Pomfrey won’t be able to fix her up before the match.”

“Touching concern for your friend. My condolences. What does it have to with me again?”

He rearranged his face to a queasy look again. Maya was remotely amused by the attempt.

“I’m saying- asking you to take responsibility for what your friends. No, don’t interrupt- I don’t care what they say she was doing.”, Laughalot said reading multitude of looks on her face. “You have to play in her place tomorrow.”

“Okay, I’m going to need a list to keep track of why this a bad idea. First of all, it does matter what she was doing. Next, Potter’s gang are not pals. As for the match, even if I agreed ,you have no idea how I play! And there’s no way a temp will play well with your team tomorrow. Also, the more match gets drawn out, the worse I’ll-”

Addy shushed her, looking nervously around him.

“I know you play great moves with Adrian. He keeps trying them out with other chasers but we can’t match the coordination between the two of you or your speed."

“Then, you know why my worst weakness makes me a bad idea.”

“I know. We’ll figure it out tomorrow with the team and cover for you somehow. You can play your plays with Adrian to score some points.”

She stared under his arm at Addy who looked rather pleading.

“Alright, but don’t blame me when this goes sideways.”

“ALRIGHT!” celebrated Addy and they were all piled out of the library forcibly.

The news seemed to have gone ahead when she got to the common room that night and she was greeted by a mixture revulsion and doubt to the team’s discussion. She went and sat down next to the friendlier faces of Regulus and Addy.

Regulus grinned at her. “Thanks for agreeing.”

“Don’t thank me yet.” she replied darkly.

“Okay, listen up. We are going to go over our plays for the newbie’s sake. She is taking the place of Pugh. Just in case, we need it.” Laughalot said quickly when Maya opened her mouth to object.

“Sayre, for all her reputed skills gets queasy if she plays fast for too long, so our aim is to finish the game as fast as possible. Since she’s a temp and we need to score to we can’t ask her to play more slowly or steadily and drag this out too long. Bagman’s a chaser so it’s a given that Regulus will get the snitch first.”

He looked at Regulus. Regulus nodded determinedly.

No pressure. Maya thought, privately. Poor Regulus.

The night was long and soon Laughalot’s advice began to seem like noise. At this point, Laughalot dismissed the team.

She kept dreaming that she woke up for the match to find that she was dreaming and hadn’t really gotten up and tried to wake up again. Like a strange mobs strip. She finally woke up to find one of her roommates had taken away her blankets to make sure she got up.

Sure. Go Slytherin. I am raring to support them.

She found she was surprisingly anxious and looked blearily out the window. A clear light shone from the surface of the lake making even the lake water look not unfriendly. Good weather then.

She pulled on Slytherin colors and went to breakfast with her Nimbus 1001, dragging her feet. Addy tried her best to encourage her but it felt like the entire house was not-glaring very loudly. She was walking to the grounds with very little memory of anything in the Great Hall (which was strange) and even less food in her stomach (which was fortunate). Addy and the other chaser, Nord was dividing roles of the chasers in the plays between them and made her more nervous. So she jogged ahead, weaving between the groups heading for the grounds.

In next to no time at all, she was walking on to the pitch with the team. Everyone seemed a little down except Regulus and Addy.

Bagman and Laughalot shook hands and the teams kicked off at the whistle. Regulus instantly flew high up out of reach, scanning for the snitch. His serious and determined look, so different from his brother, made him look rather attractive. Bagman got the quaffle so fast it was a little funny.

But Addy’s best points as chaser was not that he had great reflexes. His greatest strength was how shrewdly he picked out patterns and read other player’s movements. Whenever Maya played with Addy, she often suspected he used Legilemency or something because she could swear the moment she chose a move, Addy had already started his counter.

Bagman was surprisingly fast for his heavy build. Maya raced after him with a glance at Addy who dived down and followed. She pushed her new broom forward so that she caught up with him surprisingly quickly and looked at her a little surprised. Maya winked at him and darted out a hand to push the Quaffle out of reach and Bagman prepared to throw the quaffle to a Hufflepuff chaser on the other side. Addy shot up between them and snatched the quaffle away quickly and they were off in the opposite direction with a collective groan from the crowd.

“Your party now.”, Addy said grinning and passing her the Quaffle, away from Bagman who was tearing after him now. Bagman quickly shifted targets.

What’s with this guy? He can’t simply tail the Quaffle the whole match like he’s the only player in the whole team.

She rolled over backwards to avoid both Bagman and a well-hit bludger and noticed another Hufflepuff chaser shoot out of the sun at her. There was a remarkably slow second where she very nearly got the Quaffle, but Maya hung on to it by shooting in towards the Slytherin goalposts while she was still upside down. Ugh, at this rate, her motion sickness will kick in much much quicker.

While she got her balance back by hanging still for a second and instantly all the other five chasers were after her again.

But, Addy was right, it’s my turn.

She zoomed towards the Hufflepuff goalposts, quickly dodging both chasers. She had eked out the best speed her broom had to offer before when playing with Addy so she new exactly how the speed could make her lose a little control. So she feinted possession of the quaffle and sped past the keeper who lunged after her. But now the quaffle was hanging behind and the goal was easy pickings for Addy. She pulled up at the edge of the field to hear the mixture of cheers from the slytherin and the commentator shouting -

“Ten - zero to Slytherin!”

Most of the school groaned.

With great help from Addy, good coordination from tiny Nord-ey and no small amount of whirling, rolling and what-nots from Maya, the score was forty to ten in Slytherin’s favor. Maya was in much better spirits now, even though it felt like stomach was where her heart should be.

If Addy had stopped to think however, he would have known this was mostly because of his follow through. Maya's flashy style needs a proper back-up and if it weren’t for him, this temp thing would never have worked out. But Addy was punching the air, slapping her back and celebrating so happily when they scored that both Slytherin and Hufflepuff team thought it was her prowess. But this was obvious to Maya and she was certain the crowd below was not fooled. She was happy for his oblivious nature because it affected the team’s morale so much.

When the score reached sixty-twenty, the was really starting to feel the broom-sickness. Her head was spinning and she had trouble focusing. At this point, however, madam Hooch blew her whistle, signaling a timeout. Bagman had apparently called for it and they went in to a huddle. Maya neither knew nor cared at this point that they were looking at her.

Addy flew up next to her, looking concerned.

“Hey, you alright? You look like The Grey Lady.”

“Ugh. Addy, I think the cat is among the pixies now. If the Hufflepuffs notice I’m sick they’re going to focus on me. Then, I swear, it’s man down. So when the game starts and you pass to me, I’m passing it right back to you or Nord. Just fly below me or behind me or something.”

“Alright. I got it.”, he flew off to tell the others.

It seemed Bagman trusted his seeker too. His plays began to block or jostle Maya suddenly so she had to act like a weird spaceman and the other chasers did the same often. Slytherin keeper was good but he was no match for Bagman.

It was soon Seventy-Fifty in Slytherin’s favor.

Slytherin’s young beater, Vanity got so mad that at one point she aimed a bludger at a chaser behind Maya and nearly beat it to the other chaser on Maya’s left. But Maya took the chance to make a wobbly pass to Addy who had to slow down and lost the Quaffle to Bagman who scored again.

But, Maya reacted to an odd thud and a strangled yell from her left drowned in Hufflepuff cheers. She didn’t see what happened but the other Hufflepuff chaser had toppled off her broom.

The broom and the player were now falling. Maya gripped her broom and dived down after her. She just got a grip on her arm and tried to pull the girl on to her own broom but she was dead weight. Her eyes were half open and the fact that Maya could only see white past it was a little scary. But she was feeling very sick herself and only managed to zigzag slowly to the ground and ease her on to the ground before she herself collapsed on all fours and fell sick. She heard a whistle blow somewhere and the noise of the crowd was dying away. She wasn’t even sure if she had made it to the ground safely, everything was spinning and growing dim.

She came to again but there were many players around her and the still-unconscious chaser. She tried to get up and immediately felt nauseous. Regulus towered over her with the snitch in his fist. Addy was looking at her grinning.

“Well, you had fun judging by how your face matches your robes. Can’t you even get sick normal?”

“Oh, go jump in the lake. What happened?”

Regulus had caught the snitch and looked back down to see them fall. Most people were focusing on Bagman’s spectacular play on the other end of the pitch. Between the snitch being caught and Bagman’s flying almost everyone missed what happened to the chasers at the other end.

She sat up still feeling sick when Regulus got dragged off by Laughalot and the others. They pointedly ignored the other chaser after a few curious looks. Addy put her arm around his shoulder to help her up but she shook him off and stood wobbly on her feet like she had a rJelly legs Jinx on her.

Bagman strode up to the two of them looking apologetic.

“Hey, you’re alright! Thanks for looking after Zhao.” he said, offering her a strong hand. She leaned forward to take his hand and toppled into him.

“Er- Okay.” He said, patting her on the back awkwardly. “I only meant to shake your hand but -"

She heard Addy roaring with laughter before she passed out.

She woke up to Addy grinning from ear to ear. She was in the hospital wing lying in the bed next to the chaser who passed out.

"Her entourage and your Prince just left."

"Who? What happened?"

"Bagman caught you and princess carried you here. Wouldn't even conjure a stretcher." He replied, stuffing his face with the poor chaser' s sweets. "He might be sweet on you by the way."

"Don't be ridiculous. Hey, did you see anything when the chaser fell?"

"No, I was chasing after the Quaffle Bagman nicked. Even madam hooch didn't see you two fall for a sec. Why?"

"She fell out of the blue. She was flying better than me one moment, next she was falling pdown."

Maybe she imagined it.

They left the hospital wing after Madam Pomfrey gave the ok. She ushered Addy to the celebration and she went to the kitchens. She had remembered, she had a request for the house-elves.

She knew the approximate way from all her night time wandering but she couldn't find it exactly.

She was halfway spread eagled against a wall when she heard a familiar voice.

"I get the feeling you're looking for something."

She looked around to see Black grinning down at her from under his hat.

"Nice flying today. Although towards the end you looked like a lightweight on tequila. What are you doing anyway? You want privacy with that wall?"

"Har, har. I'm looking for the kitchens."

"It's this way.", he said confidently and loped down the passage. "Why are you going there?"

"I want the house elves' tips with cooking."

He looked at her questioningly. She sighed. Why was she going to tell him anyway?

"I cook and send food to my dad from time to time and I want to make something the way he likes."

"What the heck? That's sweet." He said tickling a pear on a painting. "Mind if I stick around?"

"Knock yourself out." She said wrenching the handle open and going into the kitchen.

Soon she was sauteing vegetables in a pan with many house-elves shouting instructions.

Black was chuckling and eating a toffee.

"I'll never remember to put less vegetables in the pan if you don't tell me the reason!"

"Miss, you mustnt do that because you will crowd the vegetables and they will get less heat."

"Oh, I see."

"Why do you send him food so often? Can't he cook?" Called Black over the din.

"He's ill. I'm just improving my skills here. I'm not gonna send these to him. I'll cook for him everyday when I get home."

"Maybe that’s why he's sick."

Maya threw a tomato at his head which he deftly caught, but they were both grinning.

"Just for that, you can't have my dish." She said turning away towards her sausage and peppers. "Regulus will be happier for it."

Silence.

She turned again to see him scowl. Did she step on a land-mine there?

"Sirius?"

"I should be going. I stuck around too long." He said coldly as he climbed out of through the wall.

She didn't talk to him for a while after that. When she waved at him, he would look sulky and turn away.

What a baby. That's nothing to get mad over. Did those two not get along?

If they didn't, Regulus showed no sign of it. He talked about his brother calmly and happily ate all the food but somehow it didn't feel as nice as it used to. Now, she realized, she inexplicably wanted Sirius to eat it. She wanted to be his friend.


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