DISCLAIMER: We do now own the rights to Harry Potter, nor do we make any profit from this.
She had become a master of upholding a false smile, Ariana 'Riana' Gryffindor Black noted wryly to herself as she tried to make her way through the crowd towards the red Hogwarts Express. How on earth had she accepted this offer from Dumbledore without asking when the train departed? Ok, so maybe it was her fault that she was running late and therefore did not have time to change out of her Quidditch robes, but it certainly wasn't her fault that the last match of the season had been scheduled to September 1. Bloody idiot!
Finally reaching the somewhat quieter sanctuary of the train corridor, she heaved her trunk in front of her, balancing her owl, Ainur,'s cage on top. The first thing she had to do was to find an empty compartment so she could change into casual robes.
She clenched her Firebolt tightly in one hand as she warily tested the floor for any creaking of cracking sounds. The floor probably had a silencing spell applied to it regularly, so it did not make a sound even when she stomped on it with her boots. White teeth flashed in a relieved smile. Perfect!
There was a small noise to the left and she quickly turned her head, only to stare into the eyes of an astonished third-year Ravenclaw..
"Hey, aren't you…?" he blurted, blue eyes wide.
She smiled at him. "Yes, I am. Pleased to meet you, Mr.…?"
"Mr. Brown", she dropped her broom and gently shook his hand, mentally rolling her eyes at the wide-eyed admiration that they poor boy clearly couldn't hide. "I will see you later, but for now I have to go and find a compartment."
"Oh." The boy pointed down the corridor. "The fifth to the right should be empty, miss Black."
Grinning her thanks, Ariana quickly left young Mr. Brown and hurried towards the compartment door. Sliding it open she found the compartment empty and quiet. Sighing contentedly, she put Ainur's cage on one seat and levitated her trunk to the overhead compartment.
Walking onto the magical platform, a young man with silken black hair falling down to his shoulders calmly pushed his baggage cart in front of him with small flicks of his hand, on a distance it would seem like he pushed it forward with his hand. His long coat flared lightly around his ankles as he walked with a brisk but unhurried pace towards the scarlet red steam carrier. What a horrid color it was, by the way. Way too sharp and visible for his taste.
With no bigger wish to cause a show, the dark robed man fished out his wand and levitated his things inside the train when he reached it and began down the corridor of the carriage he had entered. Letting his things fly above him, near the ceiling, he walked on.
He was a Slytherin... actually, Zerachiel 'Zerel' White on the papers but it was a matter of what you knew and what you didn't know. To anyone else he would be a member of the pure blooded White family but to himself... he would always be someone else.
Riana quickly changed from the Quidditch robes into a soft grey robe, worn under the black school cloak. Her long, golden hair hung loose around her face and fell down to gather in her lap in a pool of what looked like pure sunshine with tints of red.
With a sharp jerk, the train started alive and began to move away from the platform. Slow at first, but faster with each passing second. Ainur hooted softly in mild irritation as a draft from the window made her feathers puff up uncomfortably.
"I know… just be patient. We will be there in a few hours." With that, Riana drew the cloak closer around her body and closed her eyes, dozing off to the rhythmic sounds from the train.
Still walking down the corridor as the train began to move, Zerel never needed to stop by any compartment, just slow his pace, to register if it was full or not by glancing in through the tinted glass. He stopped when he came upon one that seemingly only had one occupant in it. Waiting for a second he then dropped a soft knock on the door before sliding it open.
"Excuse me," he said in a polite tone, not raising his voice more than necessary, which made it sound very pleasant.
Stirring at the low rumble of a man's voice, Ariana furrowed her brow slightly. What now? She quickly reviewed her options. One was to wake up properly and see who was talking to her and why. The second was to continue sleeping. The latter seemed cozier, and she ignored the voice yet again. Whoever it was, she surely would see him later.
Waiting a short moment, Zerel shrugged lightly before silently moving inside and levitating his baggage along with him and stowing it away. Letting his breath flow out softly in a quiet, rolling sigh he sat down on the soft, wine-colored sofa opposite of the girl.
Glancing over he observed his neighbor for a second before letting his gaze move over to the cage beside her and the owl in it. Owls... not quite the animal that went best along with him, but as long as it sat still and kept quiet he was ok with it... especially when he felt like letting out his own pet.
A few hours later, Riana woke up with a start; she had felt an intense gaze linger on her. Unconsciously her hand had grabbed hold of her wand and she was now silently pointing it at the boy opposite her through her cloak pocket. To him, it would only seem as though she had her hand in her pocket.
As she looked into the boy's deep green eyes, she felt a vaguely familiar emotion stir; she could not quite place it and therefore quickly shrugged it away to instead stdy him discretely.
"Hello", she said politely and carefully like the proper young pure-blood that she was.
"Good afternoon, seeing as it is past 3 o'clock," he replied with a light but charming smile. They still had some hours to go until reaching their destination, if he was correct, but at least half the trip was done.
Below Zerel's uniform and school coat, which he had changed into, lay his pet snake twirled around his arm, the cloak sleeve shielding it from being discovered. However, it was possessively curled around his wrist with its top and head, sucking in its master's heat like a child does soda on a hot day. Every once in a while the tongue would slither out to smell the air, there was, after all, an owl in the room... and some of them were known to eat snakes.
"Past three o'clock? Really?" she stretched gracefully and looked outside the compartment window. The Scottish landscape flew past them clad in their intense colors as the sun set behind some mountains. Her eyes flickered back to the young man. The last rays of the sun reflected in his hair, giving him an otherworldly appearance.
"Ariana Black", she extended her hand, but hesitated as her owl hooted softly. Her eyes darted quickly to his sleeve and back to her owl. "Really?" Another hoot. She smiled towards the young man and held out her hand once again. "Pardon me for being rude, but my owl wishes to greet your familiar."
He smiled gracefully at her before raising his hand and taking hers. "Zerachiel White," he said as something moved beneath the sleeve. A slender, pitch black snake with jade green markings on its back crawled out in a spiraling motion, circling his hand once, its cold skin touching her hand somewhat, and stopped with its head by the second joint of his fingers. "Really, I wasn't sure if your owl wasn't to eat it or not. I've had... some such encounters in my life," he excused with another smile as the dark, forked tongue of the animal flicked out, the reptile seeming to be looking at the big bird.
"Ah, I see. Well. Ainur never harms serpents, quite on the contrary." She smiled with obvious affection as she opened the latch to the bird cage. "They are her dear friends."
Riana watched with a smile as the young owl slowly and in a non-threatening manner made her way over to the small snake.
"Say… aren't you America's seeker?" she asked curiously as her attention was drawn back to Zerel.
"Well..." he replied as he watched the pale owl before returning his richly green eyes back onto the young woman who had just asked him a question. "Indeed I am. And you... wouldn't perhaps be China's, would you?" The snake remained in place but moved its head a bit in the direction of Ainur and flicked out its tongue swiftly a few times, as if testing the air.
Ariana smiled. "Yes, I am." She mentioned toward him. "I am glad to see that the bludger didn't do any permanent damage. That would have been a shame."
"Ah, yes, I never got to thank you properly for that. But to tell the truth, it would probably not have done much more damage than could have been healed and if anything, given me a reason to quit," he replied and let her hand go, leaning back onto the seat and placing his hand on top of his lightly crossed knee. The snake made a turn and slithered back inside the warmth of his clothing but could still be seen at his wrist, clinging possessively to it once again.
"Quit?", the shout echoed oddly in the small compartment. "But you are one of the best seekers I've ever see-" The sharp sound from the train whistle cut off her words and she paused, her eyes never leaving the other's face. "So, are you also joining Hogwarts for your final year?"
"Yes, I'm not playing for myself but rather because my father wish it of me," Zerel explained shortly after the noise had died down. There was no need for details since he wasn't about to go in on his relationship with his adoptive parent after all. "I am, and you too, I see, " he said before breaking eye-contact and gazing out. Indeed, they were closing in on their destination and it was getting rather dark too.
Riana shook her head slightly as though trying to clear it, and nudged Ainur back into her cage - something that was greeted with a hotly hoot – before she followed Zerel out from the compartment and down onto the platform. As she looked around the blustering crowd she spotted a huge man waving with lanterns, shouting something that sounded like "firs yeers o'er 'eere!"
Pointing at the man, she turned slightly towards Zerel.
"I think that's Hagrid." She took some steps forward before she realized that the other had not moved. "Shall we?"
"So it would seem and impossible to miss at that, quite effective for the new students," Zerel said, more to himself than her or the crowd, before taking his eyes off the large man and nodded at Riana. "Yes, let's."
From her seat in one of the small boats crossing the Black Lake, Riana found herself mesmerized by the view of the multicolored rainbow sphere, made up of raw and woven magic, which surrounded and protected the castle. Small tendrils of magic reached down to touch her, only to draw back immediately afterwards, as though in greeting. She was so captivated and elated by this that she didn't realize the boat had stopped by some steps carved out of the rock.
Riana reluctantly tore away her eyes and mind from the warmth of the magical greeting. "Sorry professor", she apologized.
Hogwarts was gorgeous, like it always had been, his mind told him, but the full meaning of it he didn't quite get. He hadn't been here before, had he? If he had, it must have been when he was really small so that he didn't remember it now. He stepped out of the boat as it reached its destination and glanced up at the castle again. Somehow... for some reason... it felt like home, in some distant way. There was something there that seemed to almost call to him. Tearing his eyes from the castle he followed the other students up towards the warm halls. The night air was, after all, turning chilly. Though there was something in him that made him forget the cold in the presence of the mighty structure.
Standing in front of a whole school waiting to get sorted, wasn't something that Riana ever had expected to be experiencing again. However, here she was, standing tall and proud. Damn! Could they stop staring at her and Zerachiel and focus on the poor bastard that was getting sorted instead? Shifting nervously she fiddled a bit with the fabric of her cloak. Being the focus of attention was fine while she was flying on her broom, but this intense staring was nothing that she fancied. Especially not since everything was so quiet, except for the occasional claps and cheers when the Hat announced every new sorting. Despite that, she could not help but smile as she glanced up at the enchanted ceiling. Indeed, she had not been able to stop smiling ever since the first tendrils of magic greeted her welcome and filled her with a feeling of warmth and contentment.
Zerachiel, ignoring the crowd in his very own, elegant way, stood calmly with eyes closed and hands lightly clasped behind his back. During the train ride he had tied back his mid-back long hair with a green silk ribbon to clear it from his face as this showed his features better. Rather pale and smooth skin, lean and nicely slender without making him look feminine was what came out as most apparent at first glance. He knew he didn't look bad but there was no point in making any big deal of it - as long as he was comfortable it was good.
"Black, Ariana!" a witch's voice cracked through the air like a whip. Riana looked up and met the smiling eyes of the elderly Scottish witch that presided over the sorting. "Miss Black will be attending Hogwarts for her final year. She is a transfer student from Merlin's Academy of Magic, Merlin House." The witch continued, her voice steady and crisp.
Riana nodded nervously, tucked some stray strands of hair behind her ear and walked slowly towards the sorting hat. The hat seemed to glance at her and opened its mouth before she had made it even halfway there.
"GRYFFINDOR!" it announced loudly.
The elderly witch goggled at it. "P-pardon me?"
"Yes. Gryffindor is where she belongs," replied the hat, almost smugly.
Riana shot a slightly terrified but still controlled look in Zerel's direction before she nodded curtly and started down toward the Gryffindor table.
"Very well then..." the witch shook her head lightly at the hat as if she thought it had lost its marbles, then cleared her throat. "White, Zerachiel!"
Said person had been, ever since the hat had yelled out Riana's new house, been staring at the magical artefact. He'd be damned if that hat wasn't staring back through the corner of its eye.
"Mr. White?" As his attention was called a second time he drew his gaze upwards and onto the witch. "Sorry, ma'am," he said with a nod. On his arm he could feel his familiar tighten its grip a bit and hiss silently at the magical piece of old looking cloth. To tell the truth, he almost felt like hissing himself, but he had no idea why.
As he turned towards the stool he opened his mouth and, not quite aware of it, he spoke. "I'm not putting it on." it was simple and it was direct and it must have been completely odd for the rest of the school.
"And I am not going to let myself be put on your head either," the hat retorted. "But that is because of an entirely different reason than as was the case with Ms. Black. She… is worthy. SLYTHERIN is where you belong." It glared at Zerachiel.
Zerachiel glared back at the rude hat. Had it been possible he would have flamed it but even with wandless magic it would probably only get him in trouble. Instead a low curse in parseltongue slipped from his lips as he passed the hat, something that probably only the hat heard, which also was the point. Making his way over to the Slytherin table he felt something. The colors around that table, the deep, nurturing green that pulled you in and enveloped you in a soothing depth felt overly familiar to him, and it was comfortable.
Everybody sat in stunned silence, completely shocked by the hat's behavior. Albus Dumbledore was the one who regained his composure first. He stood up and raised his arms to gain attention of the hall.
"As you all have noticed, Ms. Black and Mr. White are acknowledged Quidditch players." He paused to look out over the sea of students. "Their teams have chosen to follow them here. Whenever the Quidditch patch isn't booked by the houses, the teams will be there, practicing." His eyes sparkled and twinkled like mad. "Because if this inconvenience, whatever house that wins each game will receive a flying session with their preferred player, and whatever house that wins the cup will receive a training session with the preferred team." He paused to let the news sink in before smiling brightly. "Enough said. Please welcome your new housemates and ENJOY THE FEAST!"
Zerel felt like spluttering but got no further than staring at the headmaster, thinking "old man!". He had sincerely hoped to avoid or even be able to take a break from the game while here, looks like the world wasn't smiling upon him favorably. Sighing mentally he turned back to the table and tried to do just what he had been bid to do; enjoy the feast.
WHAT?! Ariana goggled before she recalled that a good pure-blood girl shouldn't do that no matter what. But seriously, what?! Her team hadn't said anything about this! She absently introduced herself to a bushy-haired girl and two boys: one with messy black hair and the other with flaming red.
"Seriously…" she muttered, and was so distracted that she didn't notice the double-takes her new friends did.
It was not until the middle of dinner that she got to know that the Gryffindors and the Slytherins didn't exactly stand on good terms with each other. A feeling of shock and sadness followed that revelation. Naturally, she had known this while researching her new school, but why did she feel regret that the feud was still going on? It wasn't until all the food was gone and the students stood up to leave the great hall that she dared glance in Zerel's direction. Her new friend had stood up in preparations of leaving for wherever the Slytherin dormitories were located, and was talking to a very pale, blonde boy. Zerel didn't seem to notice anything at first but after a second he paused, glanced in her direction and tilted his head slightly in acknowledgement. With a start, Riana tore her eyes away and quickly followed the bushy haired girl – Hermione- out of the hall. Without realizing what she was doing, she suddenly walked in front of the other girl, heading for what she felt was the Gryffindor tower. Hermione gave her a pointed look and swept in front of her.
"How are you so sure that you are heading in the right direction?" she asked. "You are, but how do you know that?"
Riana smiled sheepishly. "I don't know. It's just a feeling I've got."
Perhaps she had been here before, but that hardly seemed likely. No, it was something else. As they walked through the corridors, she could feel and see the various colors of magic that flowed through the castle… and the castle itself seemed to be whispering its own welcome to her. For the first time in her life, she felt like she was truly home.
Finding the source of the feeling of being watched just before it turned away, Zerel let a small smirk tug on the corner of his mouth before he turned and followed the young man he had been talking to. Even if he had been away from Britain for long he still knew that the Malfoy family was powerful here and the person he had spoken to was, indeed, the heir to that bloodline, Draco Malfoy. Following the pale haired boy out of the dining hall, they turned towards the dungeons. Magic swirled around them, built into the walls, making Zerel wonder if it was natural for it to be this strong or apparent; it hadn't been in any other school he had ever been at after all. As they headed down a corridor he suddenly stopped and turned his head to stare at a blank stone wall.
Noticing his companion stopping, the lighter Slytherin turned around.
"What are you stopping for?"
"This wall... there was something here."
"There has never been anything there," Draco said skeptically.
"Not now, not in a long time... but long ago," he felt it was right, whatever anyone else would say, he was right... somehow.
When Ariana walked down to the potion's classroom the next morning, most of her year-mates were fighting over who would get to talk to her first. Firing off smiles she laughed and chatted with them while mentally following the flow of the magic. She had come to realize that her year-mates apparently didn't know about many of the various hidden passages, classrooms and common rooms, which was really strange. But on the other hand, she didn't understand why she knew about them anyway.
As the students who didn't belong to Slytherin house began to arrive by the potion's classroom in the lower levels of the castle, the "little serpents" as they were called by some, were already there. Zerel included. Personally, he had wanted to avoid most everything related to Quidditch for some time, something the headmaster had made very difficult indeed, but when people politely asked about it and your team, he didn't have much choice but to answer. Zerel didn't want to give the wrong impression and gain enemies so early on, he was tired of that. One thing he wondered over, however, was where that feeling came from, it had never been present at any other school. So why would it start now? Leaning against a stone wall, he smiled lightly and answered a question that one of the Slytherin Quidditch team members had given him. Class would start soon anyway, he noted absentmindedly.
Riana listened at a bewildered Hermione that told her the potions classroom had never been locked before and that Professor Snape must have something to tell them before they were seated, because usually he would swoop in exactly when the lesson started, billowing robes and all.
Harry leaned forward and held a hand against his chin, as though he was trying to stop Hermione from hearing any of what he said.
"Seriously, that girl can talk a lot!" he stage-whispered loudly, and grinned mischievously when an exasperated Hermione smacked him on the arm.
Suddenly everyone fell quiet as a dark shadow fell over them all. Professor Snape had arrived. Leering down at all the Gryffindor, the tall man put on his best scowl and stood there for a few seconds, watching them all with disdain.
"Seeing as we have two new students in this class", the rich, velvety voice sneered. "… there might be"- he eyed Ron and Harry – "... a higher frequency of accidents than usual. Especially if Ms. Black might want to sit with her newfound friends…" he looked around at them all. A curt nod. "White!" he barked. "You studied under another potions master that I know on a personal plane, so I trust you won't make any disastrous mistake." Another glance in Harry's direction. "Sit together with Ms. Black and evaluate her potions skills if I am not able to" an open stare at Ron "check on her during the lesson, due to some disastrous students that I've no idea managed to get through to this course." There was a general snickering among the Slytherin students.
Zerel blinked and looked over at his teacher before giving a confirming nod. "Of course, Potions Master." The dark man walked into the classroom, reminding Zerel of a storm cloud or a small, black tornado. Sitting down in the middle of the classroom he waited for his appointed partner, he sat there mostly due to the others of his house sitting in the front and the Gryffindors sitting in the back... that left only the middle, or most of it anyway.
Riana slipped down on the chair beside Zerel, smiling uncertainly at him. She quickly put her supplies in order in front of her, not even bothering to pull up the potions book from her bag; it only contained simple potions anyway, really. When she heard what potion they were going to brew during this session she barely stopped herself from staring. The Dreamless Sleep potion? Why on earth were they brewing that potion on NEWT level? Bored even before she had started on the potion, she quickly went to the supply cabinet, gathered the ingredients and went back to her seat. Zerel had already lit the fire under the cauldron and the water was almost boiling. She sighed and sat down beside him, neatly chopping and slicing the ingredients evenly with her silver knife while handling him the mortar and the beans that should be pulverized.
"Awfully easy, wouldn't you say?" Zerel asked quietly as he worked, not wanting to disturb anyone else.
"Yes", she replied. "I can't understand why they all are looking at the instructions on the board with such puzzled faces." She glanced around, her knife never stopping. "Besides us, Hermione and young Malfoy are the only ones who have started, and they are still far behind us."
Zerel agreed and glanced around, grounding the beans into near nothingness. He wondered why they had received such an easy potion, but he didn't want to question the professor. Perhaps he could take the professor aside and request for more challenging potions after the lesson. "Are you ready to let it simmer?" he asked as he looked back to his work and then at his work partner, who critically studied the perfect squares of the maci root before looking up.
"Yes", she decided, and added all the prepared ingredients to the cauldron. "Let's see…" she looked up at the board "…stir one time diagonally towards north. Then proceed to stir three times anti-clockwise and then twelve times clockwise." Her brow furrowed. "No, wait. It should be the clockwise first… no!"
She whipped her head towards the cauldron just as Zerel started the anti-clockwise stir. Her shout startled him, making him jerk slightly, bumping the side of her head with his. She watched in horror as one strand of her hair slowly fell into the cauldron. Oh dear. That was definitely not safe. The potion could become poisonous and unstable. It would take on the complete opposite color of the spectrum no matter what, and that could be dangerous itself since the added, unknown, ingredient changed the proprieties into a completely new potion… and if she didn't know the exact composition of ingredients, their compatibility and the precise time when they were added…
"NO!" Riana gasped again as she watched the disaster unfold even more than she could ever have anticipated.
Zerel dropped the spoon in surprise. However, in his shock over her outburst he failed to notice a shorter strand from his forelocks fall into the potion, the hair having loosened at his violent jerk. It beautifully flowed down into the potion and upon touching the brew...
The loud explosion echoed in the classroom. Panicking, Ariana scrougified everything with a burst of magic. What if someone was poisoned?
"You! "she whipped on her partner, but forgot what she was about to say as she glanced at the remnants in the cauldron. "… sky blue with a tint of gold? With a tint of gold?!" she gestured wildly at the cauldron, ignoring everyone's stares. "What is wrong with your hair? It made the contents explode!" she had an odd feeling that she had said these exact words before, and very often as she bit back a venomous 'again' just in time. "My hair should only have turned it blue and maybe made it poisonous." Fuming and still a bit terrified, she slammed her silver knife down on the table and stomped towards the supplies cabinet.
Zerel stared at her in shock, but not the same kind of shock that completely stunned the rest of their classmates into silence.
"My hair? My hair!?" He pushed away from the desk and stomped right after her. "If you would just do like I tell you, every damn time, to tie up your hair we would never get into these kind of situations to begin with! You're a bloody hazard to potions! I don't understand how I got any work done around you without getting someone killed!" He yelled angrily at her, too irritated to register that there was something odd with that 'again' and 'we've done this before' feeling that kept coming back in his speech.
"Oh really?" came the sarcastic reply. "Then you might want to consider doing as I've always told you: to get rid of that stupid fringe! It's equally dangerous! Who is a hazard to potions? As you well recall, we are equally skilled!" she whirled around and almost stomped right over him on her way back to their desk, scrougifying the cauldron. Sitting down, she furiously relit the fire under the cauldron that roared to life with unusual fierceness. A quick wandless 'aguamenti' the water was back in the cauldron. She chopped, sliced and grinded the ingredients quickly, threw them into the boiling water and quickly stirred the required times and directions. The potion turned into a pleasant orange tone, which only seemed to raise her ire further.
"Stupid Slytherin." The name was softly purred in rashintounge without her noticing it. "You know as well as I do that we only mess up potions like this when we are utterly bored." She said loud enough for everyone to hear – not that they weren't doing their best to listen in before.
"You shouldn't talk about my fringe when your tresses are the double of my hair's length in total!" He argued as he followed her back to the desk. Slamming a hand onto the tabletop he glared at her. "And if you knew half of what I did, we wouldn't end up with whole rooms in need of a deep cleansing! I'll have you know I never mess up potions when I'm alone, Gryffindor," the last word was growled out in an almost hiss-like sound in parseltongue, however, it went unnoticed by most. Something he had noticed, though, was her use of his name, and it was not the name itself but the way she had said it. In that same way she always did when she got angry with him. Oh, he would—
"-and for your information," she snapped, as she added the contents of a vial to the potion, watching with some satisfaction when it turned pale pink. "I never mess up when I'm alone either." She held out her hand to accept the vials she knew he would hand to her, never leaving the potion with her eyes, and sure enough, she felt cool glass in her hand. With grim satisfaction she poured their two sample vials to hand in to the Potions Master. She turned toward Zerel and handed him the vials, noticing his glare that she knew so well.
"… and you will what?" she said mockingly. "Forbid me to visit the forest? Lock me out of the dungeons?" she raised an eyebrow. "You know very well that I have ways around that."
"I'll damned well lock you up in my room! I would love to see you get out of there! Doesn't matter how well you know the castle. Or perhaps just burn up that moldy old hat of yours. I would love to see you predict a future move of mine! You can't even read what that airhead would cook for dinner!" He argued right back at her loudly, completely pissed off.
"Hey, are you insulting Helga now?" she eyed him suspiciously. "You know Wen would kill you for that." She tapped the end of the spoon at the dark wood of the desk. "Also, I don't care whether or not you did something as stupid as that!" she said through clenched teeth. "I would only have to lock you into-"
"BLACK! WHITE!" the roar that resounded in the now deadly silent dungeon echoed against the walls, growing stronger each second. Professor Snape towered over them, giving them the Snape glare extraordinaire. "You two dunderheads almost poisoned an entire advanced potions class." His silky voice was barely more than a whisper, and for some reason, it was scarier than when he was shouting. Folding his arms over his chest, he paused, drawing out so much unpleasantness in the air around him as possible. "Do you have to say anything in your defense after this rather… vivid… display?"
Zerel was still angry, oh yes, he was still irritated and he near raised his voice in anger as he turned his head onto the Potions Master, the language of serpents on the tip of his tongue and eyes flaring of different shades of green... like one of the old portraits in the castle come to life. But just as he was about to go at the older man too his conscious seemed to register the time and place... or just the fact that he wasn't facing a... 'familiar' face anymore.
"Yes," the answer came out with a near hiss, like remnants of the thought to use Parseltongue. "Don't pair me with-" he had been about to say Gryffindor but the word got caught in his mouth, as if it wasn't right and he noticed it the last moment, "... Black. Our hair is not compatible and added with a task too easy the result can be quite dangerous... as you may very well see," he explained, making it sound quite like he was telling a colleague about a new potion. Zerel was cooling by the second and as the anger drained away his eyes slowly returned to their normal, cool state of pacific green pools.
"I see." Came the seething reply from the Potions Master. "May I have your vials?" he raised an eyebrow. "After all, she, with little aid from you, managed to brew the potion in less than ten minutes." He turned around, but changed his mind mid-twirl and instead looked at them over his shoulder with his obsidian black eyes.
"Fifty points from Gryffindor and Slytherin each for almost poisoning us all." He drawled. "Twenty points from Gryffindor and Slytherin for disturbing the peace…" A malicious smile spread over his lips. "…and ten points from Slytherin for cheek, Mr. White." He stalked up to the teacher's desk, totally ignoring the furious stares from both houses. "And finally…" he relished. "Fifty points each for excelling at the Dreamless Sleep Potion, and detention on Friday at 6PM!" with that he whirled around, his cape flowing up behind him. "I want all your vials on my desk within thirty seconds!" he barked, regaining the last piece of his demeanor that he had been missing up until then.
Zerel let out a long breath as the last of his irritation disappeared. Well, that went great... sarcastically put. He glanced over at his partner for to see her reaction to this outcome. He could always prove himself some other way if needed be.
Riana sighed with resignation. Now when she wasn't focused on yelling at Zerel, she could not quite understand why she had snapped or said all those strange things. Well, they deserved every lost point and detention. She met Zerel's gaze and mouthed a silent "later".
Zerel gave an almost invisible nod and put his things together, getting ready to leave. Which class did they have next anyway? He just hoped that the rest of the day wouldn't be similar to this lesson, it hadn't really... gone so well. And it had left a big blob of questions over the words they had said. There had been some questioning looks and he was very sure there were those who wanted to ask questions but, thankfully, they must have decided to wait till later since no one came forward when he left the classroom. Next on the schedule was Herbology and Zerel began to follow the crowd as the left the dungeons.
"That didn't go so very well," he heard Draco say, as the blond approached him from behind.
"I know," he agreed calmly. "But I have it covered."
Draco raised his eyebrow inquiringly, but didn't comment any further.
"Ariana," Hermione's voice was sympathetic. "You lost us 70 points and gained us 50, which means you still lost us 20. What a misfortunate first day."
Ariana shook her head. "No it isn't." she agreed. Noticing Hermione's curious glare she smiled apologetically and clutched her bag closer to her body. "I'll tell you later… just not now, ok?" Hermione studied her for a moment, her expression unreadable.
The students reached the designated greenhouse for Herbology without any interruptions or dramatic interludes. Madam Sprout was already present and greeting them with a cheerful "Hello!" when they arrived.
"Welcome back to a new year of school, everyone. Today you're going to learn about the differences between Lothal leaves and the Felacus vine and how they can be used in both potions and divinations," the chipper professor announced.
Zerel watched the professor lecture, listening with a half ear, mostly because he already knew the subject. If everything would continue this way, the day didn't seem like it would be very fruitful at all, but you never knew...
"Right then, students, is there anyone who can tell me the basics on where to find this plant and how to collect it?"
Hermione's hand shot up so quickly that she almost smacked Riana in the face. Mouthing a silent 'sorry', Hermione turned her attention back to the professor. Riana rolled her eyes and smiled. She was surprised that no one else than Hermione was stretching their arms straight up, surely they would all know that? Professor Sprout glanced at Hermione and smiled.
"I know you know the answer Ms. Granger… but", she looked at the other students. "…I am curious as to what the new students know." Her eyes finally settled on a student. "Ah. Mr. White. Could you please answer the question?"
Zerachiel turned first his head towards her and then his whole body. "To render the vine non-poisonous you need to boil it for two and a half hour, however, the southern people tend to boil it for one hour, dip it in oil, olive oil is preferred, and then let it dry. Personally I like the southern way better, it gets rid of the fumes that make your eyes sting when you cut it open. When it comes to location it is native to the southern regions of France and the north of Italy, the further east you go the less you find, it's all due to the climate. Long ago it could also be found up in northern France, but it has since been used to such an extent that that is now completely gone. All in all, it's a rather rare but useful plant. The Lothal leaves are not poisonous and therefore do not need any special means of collecting and can be found in the north of France, Britain and on the Scottish Lowlands." Zerel finally stopped speaking, probably having said far more than anyone, even the teacher thought he would. He wasn't sure how he knew it so well but for some reason he did. Also, most of their uses were of older origins and not often used nowadays either because they were difficult or that most ingredients were hard to find. He knew he had used the vine himself for many different things but he couldn't remember for what.
Silence seemed to spread in the room like a dampening blanket and professor Sprout looked rather taken aback by his words; clearly she had not anticipated such an elaborate answer as he had just given her.
"Very good. Fifteen points to Slytherin. Now…"
As she moved away down a corridor between two rows of green, lush growth, Riana fell behind. There had been something familiar with Zerel's words, like she had heard the exact same rant many times before. Of course she knew the facts that he had said as well, but the familiar and warm feeling still wouldn't shake, no matter how much she told herself that it might well be only coincidence.
"That's all for today!" Professor Sprout announced to the assembled group a few hours later. "Go have lunch and regain some of your energy." She waved them off and everyone began to hurry out to get back to the dining hall.
Well, Zerel had to confess, not too bad a lesson, he had regained some of the lost points so that was all good and well. Exiting the greenhouse he looked up towards the large castle again, observing it for a second before moving again. He was actually getting rather hungry.
Riana gathered the last of her things and hurried after Hermione that was already at the greenhouse's doors. The lesson had been kind of boring but still good. Professor Sprout obviously knew a lot and she looked forward from learning about more advanced plants and herbs under the able witch.
Upon entering the great hall, she noticed that there was a small crowd at the Slytherin table and spotted Zerel in the middle of it all. She shook her head, smiling as she made her way to the Gryffindor table, firing off 'I'll tell you later' in all directions to her housemates that all wanted to know about the potions lesson.
Food was going to appear very soon and Zerel was already sitting at his House table, but leaning his back against it, facing some members of his house that he was talking to. One of the topics apparently was that this year they would beat the others in the House Cup for sure. Even if he had lost them some points on the very first day, Zerel seemed skilled enough to be able to fix what had been taken away, and gain more points too.
Lunch passed uneventfully. The Slytherins and Gryffindor, for some reason, had another joint class in Divination as their first afternoon class. Zerel wasn't sure about this class; he was good at divination, especially when he concentrated and focused all his magic into the craft. For a moment he wondered how Riana would fare but then began to question why he would think that. Did he even know what her abilities were on the subject? For some reason he felt like he did... and he wasn't quite sure why.
Riana thought her jaw would come off from all the laughing and smiling she had done during lunch. She absently rubbed it with her fingers as she, Harry and Ron made their way up the long, spiraling staircase to the Divination Room. She really hoped the long walk was going to be worth it. Entering the vibrant divination room, she took one look at the leaves, crystal balls and other divination instruments and cringed.
"Oh dear… I hope he'll be all right in here." She mumbled.
"Hm? What was that?" Harry nudged her in the side to make them move from the opening where they had climbed through. Riana blinked at him to clear her head.
"Huh? Oh…" she looked away. "It's nothing."
When Zerel entered the room he stopped abruptly and stared, one thought clear in his mind. 'What... the... hell...? This place have certainly changed...' He didn't have a chance to wonder why he thought that because the lesson was about to start and he had to take his seat.
A woman who had stood with her back to everyone while the students trickled in, whirled around dramatically.
"Welcome back, everyone!" she said to the group... and Zerel felt like leaving the room. Good gracious Merlin, was that the professor of Divination? "I see I finally get to meet our two new students," Trelawney continued unbothered. "I had a feeling we would be getting two new members to our school this semester," she smiled at the class, Zerachiel just wanted to take his books and leave. Ok, this class was not going to be worth it, he could safely say now, could the moment he walked through the door.
"Now then, we shall be working in pairs today."
Zerel's eyes jerked towards the woman in the front. 'Oh no… 'No you don't.' "Everyone pair up with your partners from last term. I would like Ms. Black and Mr. White to pair up," professor Trelawney finished, confirming what Zerel hadn't even needed a crystal ball for to predict.
Riana stared at the teacher before finally regaining her composure.
"Oh." She walked to a table in the middle of the room and sat down on a soft cushion, waiting for Zerel. She glanced around and noticed Ron and Harry sitting by a window and Cho Chang, a Rawenclaw, sitting with Draco Malfoy.
This was just great, the sarcastic thought came to Zerel's mind, unbidden... 'Oh well, at least she will learn something worthwhile,' he mused silently while walking over to the table his partner was sitting at. Sitting down, he glanced at her.
"Hello, again," he said quietly.
"Well then, everyone settled? Good, good. Alright, attention please! Today we will be learning how to foretell the future through the ashes of a Mountain Leid," professor Trelawney said as she turned around and picked up a bloody red flower with small leaves and petals. "Alright everyone, one of you go first and second go the other. The one who does not do the reading write down what the other say."
"Alright," Zerel sighed, "you go first."
Riana looked at the flower quizzically. Not this again! Last time she had done this particular divination, she had babbled about some old friend that she would meet again somewhere in the near future. She had made a complete and utter fool out of herself. Sighing, she carefully put the flower in a small bronze bottle and burned it with a quick burst of her magic. She glanced at Zerel before proceeding to move the ashes to the clear crystal cup. He always thought she messed up this part, but she didn't. Honestly! The dark haired young man watched her hands intently. Seemingly satisfied, because he didn't say anything, he let her lift the cup and look into it to begin her reading. She studied the ashes closely, not looking for the contents to show her something, but rather let the revelation come to her instead. The crystal created a rainbow of sparkling colors and cast a pretty pattern on the powder. The sounds around her muted and the colors brightened as the pattern grew clearer by the second.
"I see two men", her voice was dull and monotone, but she didn't notice this as her eyes followed every flicker of the rainbow. "The heirs."
Trelawney noticed something going on at the center of the room and twirled happily to see if any of the students were successful. Arriving at the newcomers' table, she stopped immediately. She knew a half-trance when she saw one, and she knew it was best not to interfere. The girl didn't seem to notice her, with her rich and strangely reddish-golden hair hanging down in her face, eyes focused at the contents of the cup that seemed to spin and glow brighter with every passing second, emitting a rainbow colored shine.
"The heirs", Riana continued. "One closest to the serpents and dragons, the other closest to lions and gryphons. The old fathers have already awakened and are rising."
Blinking her eyes furiously she dropped the cup as the rainbow lights suddenly stopped dancing around on the ashes. She looked up to meet green eyes.
"What happened?" Damn it! Why could she never remember everything that she had said during one of those more successful sessions? And somewhere deep in her chest she felt as though she knew how he would react. He. Him.
"You, for once, did something good... although not completely understandable," Zerel told her but skipped the details. 'Heirs? And old fathers?' He was confused and would need some time to think over everything she had said to make sense of it. But at least she was making SOME sense! Unlike other times... Other times? What other times, he hadn't ever had a divination session with her, right? Sighing lightly, he guessed that it was his turn then.
Realizing she was gaping, she quickly shut her mouth. Blacks did not resemble gold-fish.
"Wh-" she spluttered. "Why can't you ever compliment me without insulting me at the same time?" she eyed him sourly. "And you never tell me exactly what I said." She whipped out her wand and repaired the shattered cup. "How am I supposed to help you when you do not let me?" realizing how childish those last few words had sounded, she winced and waited for the witty retort that she knew was on its way.
"One, because you aren't good at divination. Two, it makes you perform better next time. Plus, your strengths do not lie with the future and obscure things, you are of the present and actions, we both know that," he said simply with a small, dismissive, hand gesture. "Which might also be why you never were a good conversation partner," he said with a light tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Okay, that was it! Riana raised her pointed finger in front of his face as though she was about to scold him, and opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind, when a thought suddenly came to her and she raised an eyebrow, smirking,
"Oh?" she leaned forward slightly. "But I was good at other things, was I not?" she had no idea why her voice had dropped almost to a whisper or why it suddenly sounded so… no. She did not want to take that thought there. She didn't even like him! "But-", she leaned back and popped up another pillow behind her back so that she could sit more comfortably. "-if you really want to be with your obscure and moldy old stuff." She glared at him. "Fine. You never were a good conversation partner either."
He glared at her then snorted. "You still have a lot to learn," he said, turning back to the table in front of them so that he didn't need to think about... about what? There was something there, at the back of his mind, that he couldn't quite place... and it had everything to do with what she just had said.
"Observe and learn," he said as he took a flower and dropped it into the bronze container, incinerating it and putting it into the mended crystal cup. Snatching up the cup he leaned back a bit in his seat so that he was more comfortable and relaxed before focusing mentally. When he felt a vibration in his mind and saw it in the ash he latched on to it and concentrated. He was going to show her! She just wait, he would... The colors suddenly flared to life and danced in wild abandon in the cup as well as in his mind. Something, images perhaps, he wasn't sure, flashed by too fast to be recognized as words resounded in his ears. You couldn't really call it trance, more like seeing something else than what was in front of his eyes. He could still hear anything around him like a murmur, a background noise.
His lips moved softly but no sound came from them, he was just repeating the words he heard silently to remember them more clearly later. 'The harbinger will come and the rose will fall asleep. Frost will clutch onto gold and make it bleak. The serpent's jaws will close on the game, forcing the phoenix to never rise again. Shall black dawn come, the lily will fall to the ground… only to arise nevermore.' The rushing images in his mind slowed down, giving him a moment's pause to bring back his focus. Now seeing what the images actually were, his brow furrowed lightly. Then his body tensed almost imperceptibly. Suddenly he gritted his teeth hard and shattered the crystal cup that was still held tightly in his hand.
"That will so not happen!" He glared daggers at his own fist where the container had been. Thin crystal pieces were clenched hard in his fist, cutting his hand, but that didn't matter. He had just seen the wedding of him and Riana! 'Over my dead body!' he thought heatedly as a few drops of blood began to drop onto the table. Somewhere in the back of his mind he was glad he was angry... otherwise he would probably not been able to keep a straight face around the young woman beside him.
Furrowing her brow, Riana gently took his wounded hand and carefully started to pick out the biggest pieces of crystal from the wound.
"Why do this always happen?" she sighed. Flicking her eyes up to look at his face, she kept her expression carefully neutral. "I reckon you saw something that you didn't like… like the last time you did this, am I right?"
He clenched his mouth shut and didn't reply. It hadn't all been bad... Wait! No! It had! It had all been bad news! Letting out a sigh he stood up, letting a low "thank you" slip from his lips as he did. "Professor, if you will excuse me, I'm going to the medical wing," he said as he held up his hand in front of him.
"Oh! O-of course, Mr. White, as you well should," the professor seemed to come out of a daze and Zerel hurried past her towards the door. "Mr. White!" He turned around halfway. "Will you tell us what you saw?"
"I... think not," Zerel managed to get out before he turned around and opened the door. He was not sure he could stand to be in there too much longer.
Riana sat frozen for some seconds before darting to stand in his way.
"Please let me go with you?" she asked with a low voice, biting back the urge to call him 'Slytherin'. She fiddled some with the front of her robes as she tried to ignore the cold knot of fear in the pit of her stomach. She had no idea of why she had asked that, just that it felt right.
He stared at her for a moment then seemingly let out an inaudible, to all but her, sigh that somehow... sounded like a very familiar sound. The sound of him giving in. "Come on," he said before moving past her and out into the corridor.
The clicking of their boots against the cold stone floor echoed in the big corridors of the castle as they walked in silence to the hospital wing. Riana bit her lip unconsciously. She still had no idea as to why she had asked him for permission to come along in the first place. Surely it had looked strange as they left the astronomy tower: a Slytherin and a Gryffindor leaving together for the hospital wing. Absently observing the paintings as they passed she sighed. Maybe they could get away with the fact that they both were new and thus not prone to house-hostility?
"What is wrong?" he asked worriedly. She always sighed when she was troubled by something or thought about something that was plaguing her and couldn't come up with an answer. How did he know that? He wasn't sure. It wasn't far to the hospital wing but he held onto his hand with the other so not to drop any blood on the floor.
"Huh?" looking up at him, she met his carefully blank face. "Oh... well…" another sigh. "I guess it's nothing." She was silent for some moments as they crossed the entrance hall. "It's just that… all of this-"she gestured with one of her arms, taking in the entire castle and the grounds outside "-is just so weird. I don't know about you, but it feels like I've been here before, like I know this place. Merlin! I can even draw on the magic that surrounds the grounds - that is soaked into every tiny molecule." She stared at a distant wall as she whispered, almost too low for him to hear. "…and it feels like I know you. Not only from when we were small, but from long ago… like I really, really, know you."
Zerachiel halted mid-step and partly turned around to stare at her, making her almost bump into him. As she got flustered and took a bit of a stumbling step back he continued to stare at her, but not in an odd way, just studying her silently as if she was something semi-obscure he needed to figure out. Or was he even completely seeing her, was he just thinking and looking through her?
... She was right. But why, why was she right? He didn't know, and that irritated him to no end. He wanted to know, needed to know. It would leave him no peace until he did. Why did it feel like they knew each other? Why did this place seems so familiar? Why did the magic here draw them in like it was their own...? Blinking suddenly, after an unnaturally long period of just staring, just like a snake, he turned around and started walking again. "Come on, let's get to the infirmary," he half-mumbled and hurried on. Blinking in confusion Riana managed a strangled "huh" before hurrying after him.
The rest of the day flew by like a blur. Riana was not sure of how or why, but she had suddenly woke up in the middle of the night because something was tugging gently at her mentally. Without understanding why she did it, she had sneaked outside Gryffindor tower with the risk of earning yet another detention if she got caught by anyone. Now she stood in the entrance hall, facing the great hall's doors and gazed up at a spot some meters above the doors. The castle was dark and silent around her; she could hear the faint hum of magic and feel it surging towards her, past her and through her in a silent, jubilant, greeting. The only source of light was the pale moonlight that skittered over the cold stone floor and gave her hair an angelic silvery aura.