A/N: Er, yeah. It's only been a year and a half, right? I apologize, though I can't actually promise updates since I'm working on my own original fiction now. Still, I want to assure you all (all five of you, most likely) that Uric is the only fic I write that will never be fully abandoned. I always enjoy writing Uric and can't imagine not doing so, even if there's long gaps in between chapters.
Thanks to my beta, Ashfae. And thank you all reviewers:) I'll be using the review response feature from now on, so if your questions aren't going to be answered within the story then you can expect a reply. Cheers!
Chapter 10 – Old and New
"Now, if you add porcupine quills, ground into a fine powder with a proper quartz pestle, the Plaid potion turns into a lovely blue, yellow, and grey mixture. Hmm… Duck!"
By the time Professor Darshan had finished shouting the entire Advanced Potions class had ducked behind their desks and homemade shields or simply cast shielding charms. Unfortunately, they were useless against the plaid fog that billowed from Darshan's cauldron coating the floor and everything below knee level in a blue, yellow and grey pattern.
"And that is what happens when you get some powdered bicorn horn mixed in with your porcupine quills," said Professor Darshan, giving them a big grin. It looked quite strange on a face that was half plaid. "And since I haven't been near any bicorn horn today, I'm assuming one of you sabotaged it." He was still smiling.
"It was me, sir," said Hector Sansom one of two Gryffindors in the class, and one of Hogwarts many pranksters. "I was actually trying to make a cloud of bubbles."
Darshan nodded. "Ah, yes. That would have happened if I had made the more common variant of the Plaid potion. Bicorn horn and troll toe nails make excellent bubbles, though the smell is a bit off putting. Write out what you were trying to do and what you think happened this time and we can try to figure out which ingredients will create bubbles while combined with bicorn horn." He was beaming at Hector as if the boy had discovered a new type of Truth potion. Mena was left trying to figure out if Professor Darshan meant the assignment as a punishment or a reward.
"Since I don't have time to brew a new potion, that'll be all for the day. Please bottle your own potions and give them to Mena. Mena, there's a crate over in the corner you can place them in. Homework is the usual scroll on today's potion, and I'd be interested in your thoughts on Mr. Sansom's little experiment. Please read up on Eternal Illumination potions for next class. Dismissed."
Mena collected the potions as she had been told, all the while trying to remember how long it would take for the Plaid potion to wear off. Her stockings looked awful in blue, yellow and grey.
"All right there, Mena?" asked Professor Darshan. He was a handsome man, his body still lean from the years spent as a professional Chaser on the Raging Tigers in his home country of India. Mena couldn't imagine giving up that job to teach Potions at Hogwarts, but that was exactly what the man had done. Even weirder, he seemed to be insanely happy here.
"So silent?" he said, and she realized she had never answered him. "They must be keeping you busy."
"Yes, sir," she said, shouldering the crate of potions. Darshan often called on her to assist him after class and she knew the procedure by heart. She followed him out of the room and towards his private lab where he would chat with her for awhile about his favourite and perhaps only subject – potions.
Sometimes, she felt exhausted by the sheer enthusiasm he held for the subject, but she was also pleased that he trusted her to share his interest. Professor Darshan had even had her help him on some private projects that she knew no other students had been privy too. It was refreshing to be back at Hogwarts where people trusted her. Her stepmother's suspicions and outright hatred had been harder to bear than she thought they would be.
Her stepmother was pretty, she would give her that, but everyone in the family knew her father had married out of duty. He needed an heir. Mena couldn't inherit her father's smithy business, and she was training to be a witch as well. She frowned to herself as she wondered for the thousandth time if her father would have allowed her to go to Hogwarts if she was a boy. The thought sent a sharp jolt of anger through her. It made her want to punch something.
Still, her father hadn't needed to choose a woman who had such an obvious hatred for the unexplainable and for the abnormal. From their very first meeting, her stepmother had acted like she had the plague…
"I wonder if Mr. Sansom knows that adding bicorn to trolls toe nails would have made the effects of the potion near permanent?" mused Darshan, breaking into her thoughts. She stared at him in horror, but he didn't seem to notice. "What's this?" he said.
Mena broke her stare to see a woman walking down the corridor towards them. Her black robes were dyed with colourful green swirls around the edges and they seemed to hug her body. She was beautiful, with long, dark hair and a perfectly proportioned face. Mena blinked in shock. The woman looked different, but there was no doubt it was the same dark witch the three of them had tangled with under Paris, and later, in Varys' house. There wasn't even a flicker of recognition in her eyes when she saw Mena, yet Mena couldn't help shuddering when the woman smiled at them both. She took a step back while Professor Darshan took a step forward.
"Ah, what can I do for you Miss?"
The witch's smile grew wider and she looked him in the eye. "Josiane Dacourt. I am ze new Dark Arts professouer." She put on an affected French accent to prove the point.
"It's wonderful to meet you!"
Mena had never seen Professor Darshan so excited over something that wasn't Potions.
"What can I do for you, Miss Dacourt?" asked Darshan, motioning with his free hand that they should enter his lab. Mena followed.
"Josiane is fine, Monsieur Darshan."
"I am Bhanu then, Josiane, but not in front of the students." He winked at the witch, completely forgetting that Mena was even there. "What can I do for you?"
"Lots of things, I imagine," said Dacourt. Her face looked entirely innocent of the double meaning of her words. "But today, I am in need of a strong Burn Salve. Madame Reinhart told me you kept the stronger ones in your own lab." She held out her right hand which she had been hiding in the pocket of her robe. Both Mena and Darshan flinched at the sight. Her hand was a red and black mess that extended well past her wrist. There was a faint smell like burnt charcoal and hair that made Mena take a step back and hurriedly look for some clear table space so she could put down her burden and leave.
"What happened?" asked Darshan, reaching out to touch her hand, then pulling back before he could make contact.
"A cursed amulet. I have many enemies. That's why I am so late to arrive," she said sadly.
Mena wasn't sure what to think. Dacourt seemed sincere, but the image of the crazed woman leaping through their circle a few days ago and into the embrace of her "master" kept popping into her head. And what had happened to the demon anyway? Louis had said he never got a straight answer out of Uric – if Uric even knew. Mena hoped he did, and that it had nothing to do with the dark witch in front of her. Things were bad enough with the goblins threatening Scotland and Hogwarts.
"That's horrible!" said Darshan. He turned around to look for the salve and spotted Mena. "Ah, Mena. You can put those on the table over there. Five points to Hufflepuff."
"Yes, professor," said Mena, reluctant to draw attention to herself. She quickly put down the crate, sparing a moment to regret loosing her usual chatting time with her favourite professor. She turned back to face the professors and found them both watching her.
For one moment, Mena though she saw Dacourt's eyes burn with some emotion, but then the woman smiled at her. "Are all students this helpful?" she asked playfully. "I can give her another five points, yes?"
"Of course," said Professor Darshan, beaming.
"Good. Five points to Hufflepuff. I shall see you in class."
Mena didn't bother correcting the woman, and instead fled the room as fast as possible. She didn't take Dark Arts, but Louis certainly did, and Uric was likely to drop in on the class. They would both have to be warned.
Uric loved visiting the house elves. They always listened to him, and were very kind. Louis said it was because they were creatures of un-ending patience, but Uric thought it was because they shared a love of exploring Hogwarts. He had spent his entire second year convinced that he and the house elves were playing an undeclared game of hide-and-seek around the castle as they went about their duties. It had stopped when his father and Mr. Kurze had told him to leave the poor things alone, and could he please stop telling them how good they looked in rouge?
Despite that, he still visited in the kitchens sometimes, especially when Simon wanted a midnight snack, or in this case, when Louis and Mena wanted snacks for their midweek meeting.
"Thank you, Luffy," said Uric, bowing to the grinning house elf that handed him a fully-packed basket of "study food". Leaving the kitchens at a dead run. He stopped to have an animated conversation with a tapestry of Cynogene the Cryptic, but left after she complained that he made no sense. He wandered his usual meandering path back to their study room – a small room about half way between the Hufflepuff and Slytherin common rooms that was decorated entirely in pillows and cushions of all sizes.
Inside, Louis was lounging on his favourite pillow. It was filled with some sort of stuffing that made it mould to his body. Mena, by contrast, was doing her best to pace back and forth without slipping on the countless pillows strewn across the floor. She must have been really hungry.
"Uric! Why do you always take so damn long?" she demanded.
She waved her hands in front of his face. "What's the point in you apologizing if you don't know what you've done wrong? I've told you before to come right back here from the kitchens."
"Yes, mother," said Louis. "Why are you complaining if you already knew he was going to do it? That's why we send him out a half hour before we get here."
Mena turned to glare at him. "I'm complaining because we have something important to talk about."
Louis immediately sobered, and motioned for her to speak. Uric wandered over to sit on one end of the form fitting pillow, wiggling around so he had his own seat. He began to set out the food for them on a low table nearby, and thus missed his friend's conversation while he considered whether marmalade or blackcurrant jam was stickier, and which would make the better glue.
He smiled at Mena. "Yes? I have all types of jam."
"How nice for you," said Mena in a cold tone. "Did you hear me say our new professor is a dark witch, the same dark witch that tried to kill us this summer and summoned that horrid demon?"
Well, he had now, but there was never really a right answer when Mena was annoyed. "Maybe?"
She rolled her eyes. "Good enough!"
"You need to be careful if you join us in Dark Arts, Uric," said Louis.
Uric nodded, unsure of what he should be careful of, but he was willing to let it go. Technically, he was only enrolled in Alchemy, Care of Magical Creatures, Ancient Magics and Runes, and Advanced Transfiguration, but his father, in what he called "a brilliant scheme" had set it up with the teachers that Uric would attend every class that was offered to the seventh years. The teachers had agreed that so long as Uric attended a few classes and was able to pass any tests they set for him, he would be allowed to take the BATS in their respective subjects. His father had even gotten Headmistress Kurze to agree, which in Uric's eyes made his father the greatest politician and former Slytherin in existence. When he had told his father that earlier in the summer, Father had laughed and said, "Let's just say I helped her with some family trouble and leave it at that."
"Why are we taught Dark Arts anyway?" asked Mena, breaking Uric out of his unconscious staring contest with his teacup. "Isn't it evil?"
"Maybe," said Louis in that slow tone that meant he was thinking really hard before he gave his full answer. "Technically, the name "Dark Arts" was assigned by wizards and witches who were disgusted by the darker side of their own magic. Dragon blood, for instance, is classified as a dark ingredient because if you want it at full potency, it has to be taken from a dragon that died defending its young. So mothers are often killed while nesting, and those who like dragons – nasty, brutal creatures that they are – consider it a dark practice. It's true that many of the practices used by true dark wizards – unicorn blood, human and animal sacrifice, demons, etcetera – are completely evil, but a lot of the dark arts are just curses people consider too nasty to use in polite company. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if it's removed from our curriculum completely sometime in the future. It used to be a full time course back in our father's days, but now it's almost redundant since we tend to learn all the dark curses in Defence anyway."
"I'll bet you already know everything Dacourt will teach," said Mena. She sounded strangely proud.
Louis gave her a slight bow. "Maybe," he said with a small smile. Uric wondered if Mena knew that Louis only smiled like that when he was talking to them. He watched as Louis' face went calm and his eyes hardened. It was Louis' Slytherin look, as Uric had taken to calling it.
"Will you be joining the Duelling Society, Mena? Uric?" Louis asked. It had been announced at dinner, along with the arrival of their new Dark Arts professor, that all societies from last year would be starting again at the end of the week. The Chess Society and Portraiture Society were being particularly voracious this year. Uric had thought it was quite ingenious how the Portraiture Society painted that portrait of the Headmistress that was always smiling and cheerful whenever the Headmistress wasn't looking at it. The Hogwarts Chorus would restart with a new leader since their last one had been a seventh year. It was the same for the Duelling Society. As a result, the new leader of the Duelling Society was the Head Boy, Varys Nachleen. This had made Mena very happy for some reason Uric couldn't comprehend.
Mena was smiling. "I think it'd be a good idea for us. You should join too. Look at all the trouble we get into together!"
"Funny," said Louis. "Your argument last year for us not joining was that with all the trouble we get into we'd have an unfair advantage."
"Well, maybe you still have an unfair advantage," she said. Her smile had vanished. "But I'm going to join and see what I can learn. I didn't like being helpless this summer."
Louis shook his head. "You weren't helpless. You just acted before thinking – like you usually do."
"Goat!" Uric said, wanting to join in on the fun. The other two stared at him, making Uric check self-consciously if his braid had come undone. Both Mena and Louis began to laugh, their argument forgotten.
"You will make an excellent politician someday, Uric. I mean it," said Louis once he had stopped chuckling. He reached for a scone, deliberately ignoring the dancing badger, drawn in blackcurrant jam that was gracing the top of it. Uric only hoped the badger was happy with its sacrifice to Louis' hunger.
"What are you doing for your Charms project?" asked Louis, and their conversation turned to study and theories while Uric very quietly encouraged a line of ants to climb the blackcurrant mountain he had built for them.
The first meeting of the Hogwarts Duelling Society in the year of 1686 began on a dismal note. It was stormy outside, so the main hall had a gloomy cast that wasn't helped by the early hour. Varys Nachleen and their new supervisor Professor Kurze had decided the early meetings would help weed out the less dedicated members of the club.
Uric stared at the main hall from a hole in the Hufflepuff crest and wondered why so many girls had joined the Duelling Society this year.
"You're either paranoid or extremely prudent," said a voice from behind him.
"Actually, that's you," said Uric absentmindedly. Any other person would have known from the deep silence behind him that it was the wrong thing to say. Uric didn't even remember saying it. He was more concerned with calculating the exact number of dust particles that was occupying the Great Hall.
"Uric the Oddball?" said the voice after a long moment.
"Not yet," said Uric.
"That's not my name yet," said Uric, finally turning away from his view to look at the voice. He had been assuming there was no body attached to it, and was disappointed to find it was simply Professor Kurze. The professor was wearing a crisp black robe, and not a single lock of his dark red hair escaped from the tight braid it was woven into.
"Oh, I can see how you drive Mother insane."
"I can't drive," said Uric. Father and Mother had both been very insistent about that, even if the chances of him ending up in Muggle London driving a wagon filled with fertilizer again were extremely low.
Professor Kurze's grey eyes were focused and hard. "Do you deliberately misunderstand everything that is said to you?"
"Either you're insane, or you're not."
"I'm not," said Uric with a smile, and he had a piece of paper from a doctor to prove it. "Do you always have fire in your eyes?"
Professor Kurze flinched. "Still doesn't explain why my father likes you," he muttered. He straightened out his robes, then abruptly jerked back his left sleeve and thrust his arm out under Uric's nose. There was a tattoo just above the inside of his wrist. It was a mass of twisting lines like two snakes tying themselves in a knot.
"Do you know what this rune means?" asked the professor.
"It's very important to me – and to the Wizarding World." The fire was growing in his eyes again.
"Yes, Sir," said Uric politely. "Did you know it looks a lot like a butterfly doing a traditional Russian dance?"
There was a moment where Professor Kurze simply stared at him. Then it was broken by a soft chuckle. The Hogwarts Caretaker, Olman Kurze, stepped into the room. "He's good at that. I've seen him take the wind right out of your mother's sails more times than I can count." Mr. Kurze's grey hair was cut short and he wore old brown robes that held a fresh stain of cleaning potion.
"And yours too, I hope," said Professor Kurze. He was glaring at the older man.
Mr. Kurze kept smiling, but there was something sad in the air around him. "Of course. Uric doesn't discriminate in his targets. I've never been able to decide if it's the universe's way of playing a joke on us – or him."
"How philosophical of you," spat out Professor Kurze.
They stared at each other for a long moment. Uric thought Mr. Kurze wanted to speak, but he decided against it and shifted his gaze to Uric. "What part of the padlocked, seamless door did you not understand, Uric?" he asked.
"There's a door?" That explained why the ceiling had been so reluctant to open.
"Yes, and it's charmed only to let teachers in."
"Oh. Why?" asked Uric.
"Because of the thirty-seven ways there are to spy on the Great Hall, this is the one that belongs to the teachers," explained Mr. Kurze patiently. He turned to his son. "Don't you have a Duelling Society to attend to?"
"Yes, Father." He stalked out of the room.
"I'm sorry," said Uric. He could tell Mr. Kurze was upset, even if nothing showed on his face.
"Aedan will always blame us for Bran – his brother's – death. And maybe he's right to…" He shook his head. "I shouldn't have mentioned it. Just get out of here Uric and don't come back to this room. I'm adding it to our list of forbidden places, all right?"
Uric nodded, hoping he would remember. He liked Mr. Kurze and always tried to do what he said when he could. He headed out the door, leaving Mr. Kurze hunched over and staring through the Hufflepuff spy-hole at the Duelling Society below.
Next chapter: The Duelling Society, Seraph Cahzer and more.
Reviews are always appreciated:)