Chapter 4 : Challenges and cousins
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It was early in the morning when I woke up, got dressed, and made my way down through the castle. There was a light breeze blowing in from outside, carrying the clean smell of the snow that had fallen the night before. I allowed myself a few brief moments at a sunlit window to soak up the atmosphere and chill. It was the light that made me pull away in the end, not the cold. I loved the cold, the snow and ice that it brought. I loved the puffs of steam that everyone breathed and the promises these signs made of Christmas. Another big part of it was that in cold weather it was easier to ignore the sun, the cold held the nausea at bay and actually stopped me from shivering rather than causing goose bumps.
As I stepped back from the window I looked out and just absorb the sight. The little cabin with a small river of smoke coming out of the chimney. The forest behind it that looked menacing yet magical with dark bows adorned with a softening blanket of white. The lake ringed in ice, with open water towards the centre that had tentacles lazily waving through the air.
“It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?” said a voice whilst I jumped back and tripped over someone’s feet. “Whoa there!” said the voice again as strong arms stopped me from falling flat on my back and making even more of a fool of myself.
“Thanks.” I said, blushing and looking down. “Yeah it is. I love winter.” That was a wonderful insight Aaron. A really interesting way to open a conversation. Well done.
The other boy smiled, seeming not to notice my embarrassment. “Me too. There’s something about it being cold outside that’s so comforting.” He said, making my comment sound even more stupid. “I’m Albus by the way, Hugo’s cousin.”
“Hi.” I said, taking the proffered hand. “I’ve seen you about the common room.” Yet more genius straight from the brain of yours truly. “I mean, Hugo’s pointed you out.”
“Well, good.” Albus said with a smile. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while. Has my young cousin mentioned that you’re invited for Christmas?” I nodded. “Did he mention that your mother is also more than welcome to stay? My Mum and my Aunt have said it’s ok since when they last met your mum she didn’t seem to know that many people. We’ve got room to spare and you could share with Hugo.”
“Oh.” I said. “He didn’t mention all of that. Um... thank you. I’ll have to talk to my mum obviously, but that sounds really nice. Are you sure we won’t be intruding?”
“Of course not.” Albus said, waving his hand, “It isn’t a Weasley Christmas without everyone we know attending and anyway, this means that Hugo will be forced to step away from his room every so often to engage with humans.”
“I don’t know” I said dubiously, “I am also rather fond of reading.”
Albus threw up his hands in mock despair, “Being a nerd myself I understand the pull of books. But on Christmas day? Well at least he’ll have someone to speak to up there. Or someone to mutually not speak to I suppose.” He smiled then, looking at me kindly, “I’ve said the same to Hugo, and before long you’ll be like family anyway so if you ever have any troubles or issues, you can talk to me you know. Think of me as your older brother, a person who’s supposed to be all wise but really just covers you when you get into trouble.”
“Thanks” I said, truly grateful, “I will do. It’s been really lovely meeting you.”
“Right back at’cha” Said Albus, waving as he left, “See you over Christmas.”
“See you.” I said, waving back.
* * *
“We...” Announced Lorcan, approaching our table at breakfast a bit later.
“Have a proposition.” Finished Lysander, which was odder than usual since they hadn’t come into the hall together.
“What, might I ask, i this great proposition?” Lilly asked, popping a bit of bacon into her mouth. “And why should we be interested?”
“All in good time.” Lorcan said, grinning wickedly. “We think you’ll like it. Something to alleviate boredom. “
“Something to actually challenge us. Let’s face it, second year isn’t exactly going to be difficult enough not to have free time.” Said Lysander. “So we want you lot to meet us in the Library at lunch...”
“We always meet in the library at lunch.” Lilly cut in, “It isn’t like you need to tell us to meet you there.”
“If you’d let my dear brother finish Lils” Lorcan said, “We want to make sure you all turn up ready to do a little research.”
“You will turn up.” Lysander continued. “And all of you will come fed and ready to work.”
With that they walked off. I shook my head, wondering what the crazy twins had planned for us. It would either be brilliant, or extremely dangerous. I suppose it could also have been both.
* * *
The first couple of lessons had been beyond boring. I couldn’t wait until we actually moved up a yea, then perhaps get a little bit of a challenge, though I highly doubted it. It wasn’t even necessarily natural talent, but my friends and I spent all of our spare time learning, it was what we enjoyed doing. Especially me. To come from a muggle world and discover... well, this! It was amazing. I was suddenly surrounded by spells and potions and a version of History I’d never suspected, how could not want to know everything about it? The muggle world was so boring and this one was alive.
“Aaron! Wait up.” I turned around to see Hugo making his way towards me. “So, ready for this big surprise?” He said grinning as he fell into step beside me. “Do you know what it is?”
“Well,” I began, having given it some serious thought throughout the morning. “They probably have some stupidly complex bit of charm work for us all to try, just so they can shove it in our faces when they do it faster.”
“That does sound like the sort of thing we’d do.” Said a voice to my left.
“Pity we aren’t all that predictable really, although you’re close.” Came a second off to my right.
“We wouldn’t have to be guessing if you just told us.” Hugo said, scowling at the twins who had just materialised on either side of us.
“All in good time my little monkey” Said Lysander, grinning.
“What?” Hugo asked, looking confused.
“It’s a reference to... never mind” Lorcan said, smiling at his brother. “So are we going to tell them yet, brother dear?”
“I don’t know, beloved sibling, but perhaps we had better wait for the ladies to arrive, they would try to kill us if we didn’t and I would hate getting blood on my robes.” Lysander answered.
“How would you notice if you were dead?” Said Lilly, appearing behind Lysander with a wand pressed to the back of his neck. She gave him an innocent look.
“Slytherin through and through I see.” Lysander muttered.
“Good for you Lilly.” Lorcan complimented his fellow snake.
Just before we reached the Library, Anna dashed up to meet us, looking slightly out of breath. She came to rest, panting between me and Hugo. Ok so maybe she was a lot out of breath.
“Sorry I’m late.” She said blushing, “I was talking to Hagrid ad lost track of time.”
“No worries.” Lilly said, cutting off the question I was about to ask which was why she had been talking to Hagrid. I’d have to ask him later.
“You’re not late anyway.” Hugo said, patting the wheezing Anna on the back, “You are, in fact, just on time.”
“Well if you four are just going to stand out here all day.” Lorcan said.
“We’ll just go and start by ourselves.” Lysander finished.
* * *
When we were all, finally, present and seated around our table in the back of the library, Lorcan and Lysander began telling us of their plan. They argues that there was no way we were currently working at full capacity if we were always ahead on homework and being moved up a year. Even the second year would hardy be a stretch, judging by the extra curricular books they were all reading. They said that rather than promoting us, the school system was actually stunting us if we continued to work at the pace we were going at now. We had more than enough spare time to put it to even better use than they were now.
“So” Lorcan said, “We think that each of us should try and master a very complicate bit of magic from our respective specialities then try to teach that bit of magic to the rest of us.”
“We don’t have to decide now.” Lysander cut in, “We have time to research, but if anyone had an idea...?”
“Animagi” I said immediately, “We should all try to become Animagi. It would be so cool to be able to turn into a magical creature, especially if they could fly.” I went into a dreamy longing for swooping in the air with wings on my back. I would get to see the castle from the air.
“That’s a great idea!” Lilly exclaimed, “What would we be though? I’m gong to have to think about that long and hard.”
“We won’t” Lysander and Lorcan said together. “We’ll be Dragons.” Lorcan finished.
“But they’re quite big. You might be spotted.” Anna said, looking nervous.
“No we won’t.” Lysander said, “We’ll be Peruvian Viper-tooths. They are the smallest type of dragon and come in blue and green for me and my brother. Plus it’s not like we don’t all know how to disillusion ourselves.”
“Hmm...” Said Anna, looking thoughtful, “In that case I want to be an Occamy. It’s my favourite animal and has the most gorgeous silver eggs.”
“Aren’t they really aggressive?” I asked, surprised my shy friend would like such a vicious creature. She wasn’t Hagrid after all.
“I know.” She said looking down. “But I wouldn’t be. And they really are pretty. What do you want to turn into Hugo?” Anna asked, looking away from me and into Hugo’s eyes.
“Umm...” He said looking thoughtful, “I think I want to be a Thestral. Most people wouldn’t be able to see me and I could give people rides if they wanted.” He looked at me and smiled as he said the last part.
“Um... You do realise that WE won’t be able to see you?” Lilly said.
“Ah well I’ve thought of that.” Hugo replied, “We’ll simply go and help out in the ward at St Mungo’s. That way we’ll be doing some good, learning healing magic and seeing the death we need to see Thestrals.”
“Are you sure they’ll let us in?” I said, “We’re only young after all.”
“We’ll take aging potion or similar spells.” Anna said, “After a while of being strangers helping out with small stuff, they’ll trust us enough to help with larger things, especially if we do it for free.”
“I suppose.” I said warily, getting an encouraging look from Hugo.
“Well if you’re going to be a Thestral.” Lilly said, “I suppose I’ll have to be a Granian.”
“What’s a Granian?” Lysander and Lorcan said.
“Well,” Started Hugo, “You know how most little girls want a pony?” I nodded, though actually it had been me demanding a pony from my Mum since I was three. “Well Lilly here decided that not only was a pony not good, enough, but she deserved the fastest type of winged horse for her fifth birthday. And every birthday since.”
“Well It should have been mine.” Lilly said, pouting, “When I didn’t get it two birthdays in a row I decided that I didn’t need a winged horse to fly and tried to flap my arms hard enough as I jumped out of my bedroom window.”
“Luckily” continued Hugo, “Teddy had attempted something similar when quite drunk so the burrow was installed with cushioning charms outside every window.”
“So if I can’t have a Granian,” Lilly pronounced. “I’ll just have to be one.”
We all sat in silence for a minute, thinking in excitement of being able to turn into other species when Hugo looked up at me and said “Aaron, you haven’t told us what you want to turn into. It was your idea so must have given it some previous thought.”
I blushed. “Um... I don’t mind really so long as it doesn’t mind the sun. I’ll admit that being able to go outside was a major perk of this idea. But I suppose it would be awesome to be a carnithore.” Carnithores were beyond awesome really. They were what muggle legends of Angels were based on, though really they didn’t resemble humans all that much.
They had a vaguely human torso, though it was elongated and just muscle. Their arms were stupidly long and on a person a carnithore’s stretched, bony fingers would have reached almost to the ankles. Not that the carnithore had ankles. From the waist down carnithores had a very long, almost snakelike tail, but instead of scales it was covered in white feathers. This is where the long white robes of the angels came from. Carnithores had little nose to speak of, although they had more than a snake, (or Voldemort).
Their eyes always seemed to freak people out. They were completely black except for white, slit like pupils. The eyes were also set further apart than on a human, which looked odd above long white fangs on a human face. Carnithores had two sets of ears, both were furry and the first pair were fairly small and pointed, poking out from the long, dark hair of their kind. The second pair were thin and also white, curving in opposite spirals above the head forming the ‘halo’ of the angel.
The bit that always had me impressed were the wings. The enormous white-feathered wings growing from the shoulder blades than had a span of about ten metres. Not only were they huge but they glowed when it was dark, along with the tail, the pupils and the ‘halo’ ears.
Apart from appearance very little was known about the carnithore, which would make it difficult to transform into, but fun. They lived all over the world, not seeming to have any preference but lonely. They didn’t like people and never hung around long enough to be studied properly. They had some limited intelligence and beautiful songlike voices. They may very well be more intelligent than was thought but as far as I knew, they didn’t understand Humans very well.
Carnithores would also eat absolutely anything. Newt Scamander said in his ‘Unusual Beasts and what we don’t know about them – edition two’ that “We weren’t surprised when we found that carnithores had been known to eat; livestock, fruit, plants, humans, bark and even furniture, though enjoyment wasn’t registered with the latter.”
“It suits you.” Hugo said, squeezing my hand once I’d explained to them what a carnithore was. “I think it would be awesome to have a flying torch with us in the dark.” I smacked him lightly an then apologised as he bent over winded.
“But seriously Aaron.” Lilly said, “How on earth are we even supposed to begin turning ourselves into these animals.”
“Another time.” I said, shifting uncomfortably, still checking if Hugo was ok. “I need to do some extra reading on it and anyway you lot haven’t told us what you’re going to make the rest of us learn.”
“Felix Felicis.” Lilly said instantly. “I’ve been wanting to try it for ages and this is the excuse I need to start. Liquid luck. I’m telling you we could do ANYTHING with that stuff.”
“That would be so cool!” Anna said, bouncing up and down. “We could do... all sorts with that sort of power.” She looked a little dazed, probably thinking about being allowed to stay up late or something equally Anna-like in ambition stakes.
“What about you Anna, what do you think you’ll do?” Lilly asked, obviously pleased at Anna’s reaction.
“Um... I think possibly Occlumency and Legilimency. Quite useful and also challenging.” She said with a smile.
“Whoa.” Said Lysander, “Does our Anna think that Legilimency would be useful?”
“Who’s brain do you want to peek into?” Said Lorcan with an eyebrow wiggle.
Anna looked like she was about to be sick at the thought of being so mean to someone, “No one! I meant the Occlumency was useful.” But she glanced over at Hugo very quickly but guiltily, only I noticed.
“Well I’m going to pick speaking Patronuses.” Said Hugo, breaking a somewhat awkward silence. “And to make it fun, we aren’t allowed to use the method the old order used. They had to prepare a message in advance whereas I want ours to act more like talking through the floo network.”
“That sounds awesome.” Ly said.
“But won’t we have to master a simple patronus first?” finished Lorcan.
“It shouldn’t be too difficult.” Said Anna, the gleam of a hard task ahead in her eye. “I can’t wait to get started.”
“We still haven’t heard from Lysander or Lorcan.” Hugo pointed out.
“Oh yeah.” Said Anna, looking guilty. “Sorry guys, what are your ideas?”
“Well I’m going to be attempting the fidelius charm.” Lysander commented. “I like the idea of ‘accidentally’ making Hogwarts invisible to anyone but us. I’m not sure the teachers would be too pleased about it though.”
“You wouldn’t do that would you?” Anna squeaked, looking horrified. “Tell him it’s a bad idea Hugo!”
“He’s only joking Anna. Or mostly joking anyway.” Hugo said, shooting a slightly wary glance at Lysander.
“He was joking.” Lorcan said, “But I’m not when I say that you all will learn the protean charm. It should come in handy and will probably keep us occupied for a short time.”
“That’ll be brilliant!” Lilly exclaimed, looking towards Lorcan with respect in her eye, “Good choice Lorca.”
“Lorca?” Lysander asked.
“Yes, Ly. These are your new names.” Lilly replied smugly.
“It’ll never catch on.” Lorcan muttered. “Well, it seems that our promise of research was a little empty, but I hope you all had a good time anyway.”
“No research?” I asked incredulously, “Are you mad? We all have to start researching NOW, if we want to finish any of these before July.”
“We should pick one to start on.” Anna said, “It’ll be less confusing if we focus on two at once, we might get them done quicker that way.”
“That’s a great idea.” Hugo said, “Which should we start on do you think?”
“I think,” Lilly began, looking more than slightly evil. “That we should start on Animagi and Patronuses.” She looked between me and Hugo grinning, “I think those match up well together.”
“Right,” I said before Hugo could punch Lilly or anyone else could comment on that, “are we all agreed?” Everyone nodded, “Well them I’m going to do some research on how to get started. I’ll be back with you in a few hours.”
“Erm... Aaron?” Hugo said, “You are aware that we still have lessons? A week’s worth of them. We can always take day trips here during the holidays if you want to do long periods of research without sneaking past teachers in the middle of the night.”
“Oh” I said, blushing, “Well that sounds good. I was wondering how I’d survive so long away from the library.”
As they all laughed at me I smiled at the fact that the next year was going to be much more interesting than I had previously thought. I was looking forward to being able to fly.
* * *
Me, Aaron and Lilly were on the train going home with the blinds closed. The twins were staying at Hogwarts over the holidays as their parents were in Peru, for some reason examining dragons there and getting information. So naturally Lorca and Ly weren’t complaining. Anna only lived in Hogsmede so didn’t bother coming with us, she’d only been on the train on the way to Hogwarts because she’d been staying with her Dad who was working away for the ministry. However all of them had been invited over to the Potter/Weasley household over New Year so we’d see them then.
Just as I was being sprayed in the face by a particularly vindictive gobstone the door to our compartment slid open and three people stepped inside. All three were stunningly gorgeous, two girls and the youngest a boy.
“Hi there” The blonde boy said tucking a stray lock of thick wavy gold behind his ear, bright silvery eyes taking us in, “I’m Louis and these are my sisters Dom and Victoire. We were wondering whether you three would be interested in entering our talent contest we’re hosting this holiday.”
“We’re going to have it in the castle so you can use magic if you don’t want to sing or dance or whatever.” Said the girl called Dom, flicking her hair and grinning to show perfect teeth. “We hear your group is quite talented and wanted at least interesting first year entries.”
“Second year entries actually.” Lilly piped up, “Sorry Domi but we’re being upped a year. We’ll still enter of course but we’ll be second year entries.”
“Urgh!” Victoire grunted in way that still managed to be attractive “You know what, we should just not let first yeas enter, we’ll claim it’s too dangerous what with the unknown spells that will be chucked around.”
“Good idea.” Said Louis “So if you guys could just give us the name of your entry or entries in a couple of days, you can enter as a group of three if you want but – “ his eyes rested on me, a teasing gleam in them, “I’d really be fascinated to know what you’d do on your own. Especially you,” he said pointing at me, “I am, to some degree, aware of the capabilities of my cousins. Your show should be... interesting.” His gaze lingered on me a little longer before he said, “Anyway we have to go and spread the word.”
They were gone with three perfectly flowing exits. I was still a little dazed form the intensity of the younger sibling who seemed to be the leader of the little group nonetheless.
“Well now you’ve met even more of our family.” Hugo said, a wry smile playing across his lips though with furrowed brows. “Most people in the school call those three the sirens. They really are lovely but obsessed with appearance. Louis leads them because he’s the brightest, though his brain still isn’t all that much to shout about.”
“Hugo!” said Lilly pushing him, “They aren’t that thick, they just lack a little common sense. They’re still getting very good grades.”
“He... they seemed nice enough” I stammered.
Hugo gave me a pitying look, “They can be a bit much on the first meeting. Don’t worry, you’ll have ages to get used to them this holiday.”
“Oh yay..” I mumbled, scowling at my toes.
Hugo cam over and sat next to me, smiling and saying “come on, let’s all start looking through the books we’ve got and try to find out more about what we’re going to turn into. That is the first step isn’t it”
“Yes.” I said “We have to know our creatures as well as we know ourselves, not just the species but the individual. Then later we use all of that knowledge with a culmination of spells, rituals and potions all performed under the full moon, the sign of change and transformation, but before that we’ll need to register for the attempt with the ministry. All in all the book says the preparation needs at least a year if you’ve done it before or are getting help from someone who has. But I think we’ll be able to do it in six months considering how long it takes the potions to brew.” I pulled out a book to show Hugo.
“Can I see that recipe?” Said Lilly, looking curious.
“Sure” I said handing it over to the potions master.
“Pah.” She said getting out a quill and crossing things out. “You can easily cut the time it takes for these to brew by replacing the knotweed with a mixture of unicorn hair and lemon grass, just as potent but more volatile so the absorption of the relevant tinctures is actually naturally going to happen without this.” She snorted again. “And whoever sad put it on a low light was just afraid of the board for the regulation of brewing safely, only an idiot who’d used a pewter cauldron would need a low light, with the brass one I AM getting for Christmas,” she glanced at Hugo here, with a meaningful glance, “the imbalance between element shifts will be reduced so we can put it on a higher light and reduce the time again.” She started scribbling calculations muttering about how fireweed would increase the speed a little perhaps if the only got river growing stock and only used a little. “I think we could make the potions in a little over a month and a half. How long till we’re ready to start brewing Aaron?” She looked over at me smugly.
“Um...” I said, shocked at her staggering capacity for potions. “Well if we really focus over the holidays I think we could be ready by the end of January.”
“Lovely.” She said snapping her book shut. “Now not that I need to know more about them, but I think I’ll read my book on Granians, I still need to chose what I want to look like.” She rummaged around in her bag and stuck her nose in a book entitled, “Granians: fast and fabulous, the official guide to the anatomy and varieties of the highland winged horse – by Equinny Trot”
I stuck my hand into my own sack and pulled out one of the very few books on carnithores the library had. As I started turning the pages a hand crept into mine, squeezed and stayed there for the rest of the journey. None of us looked up from our contented silence.
This was just great. Christmas was coming so I had a break to concentrate; finally I was going to have an excuse to learn some complex, helpful magic under the guise of a challenge. No one would suspect anything. Particularly not Hugo or Aaron, over the past few months they had seemed quite distracted enough with each other, cute if you were into that sort of thing. I’m not. However it does mean that they are quite nicely out of my way. The search for the resurrection stone continues and my research into souls and minds is going swimmingly. I was gong to have to do some looking into Vampires as well, there was something tickling the back of my mind and I just had to find out, though topics of such a dark nature would not be readily available. Still, shouldn’t be too hard. Certainly easier than stealing that book on Horcruxes and the look on that old wizards face as an eleven year old had tortured him for its whereabouts. It seemed that even foreign wizards in Romania weren’t willing to admit possession of those sorts of books. Still he wouldn’t be spreading the story at all, I heard his funeral had been quite nice.
The book was only the beginning though, I wasn’t one for Horcruxes, there was something and tearing your soul to shreds that was just so, inelegant. There had to be a better way and I would find it. It should be fairly easy once he’s back. What might I not achieve with the dark lord as my bitch... fun thoughts for another time, right now research.
A/N Hey guys so here's the next chapter and thanks for reviewing it people, I'm glad you're enjoying it. This has a bit of naughty language in it so I apologize if anyone didn't like that. This has been a bit of a preparation chapter, more stuff will be going on later, most of it has been promised already so we will get to see the talent show and duel. So yeah I don't own most of the characters or situations and I made a small reference to wizard of OZ if anyone got that then pat yourselves on the back. If not then it was obscure. Again, I don't own it.
Most of the creatures I've mentioned can be found in 'fantastic beasts and where to find them' if you're interested but the carnithore is mine so I'd love to know what you think of it. Also if there's anyone people wnat to see more/less of then please shout, I'm writing this for you lot.
Thanks guys, love you lots.
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