Chapter 11 ~ Loss

Muriel left a note at Professor Kettleburn's place at the Head Table before breakfast the next morning. It was imperative that no one but her dorm mates knew she had the bird back, but Rena was sick. Muriel couldn't figure out what they'd done to her. The professor seemed to understand, and she didn't hear from him until her Care of Magical Creatures class the next day.

"Miss Deesia! That is NOT the correct way to handle a bow truckle. Five points from Ravenclaw for your ineptitude and you will stay after class today!"

"Yes Professor Kettleburn," she answered humbly. This caused the marauders to look up. It was rare for Deesia to say anything humbly. Sirius tried to catch her eye. He highly doubted that she'd been handling her bow truckle wrong and he could think of only one reason why she might need to speak with the professor. He hoped that she had been able to get Rena back.

Muriel took care not to look toward the Gryffindors at all. She was getting good at determining which thoughts in this chorus around her belonged to Sirius, however, and she appreciated his worry over Rena.

When she was sure the rest of the class was out of hearing, she pulled the dejected little bird out of the pocket of her robes. Rena didn't twitter at all, she only blinked stupidly at the sudden light. Mur had done her best to take the spell-o-tape off without hurting her, and there was no indication that she'd been injured. She just wasn't acting like herself anymore.

"She doesn't even like her treats anymore, professor," Mur said sadly, trying to feed Rena a little blue seed. The bird only turned her head.

Professor Kettleburn had never seen anything like it. Although he knew what the birds ate and how they behaved, he had never actually dealt with one before, and had no idea what was wrong with her now. "Perhaps you would let me keep her in my quarters? If I can observe her for a while I might be able to find a way to help her."

Muriel nodded. "But professor, it really is very important that no one knows I got her back." She told him what she'd gone through, and that 'several others' might get into trouble if word got out. She agreed to bring him the cage and seeds after dinner as they walked back to the castle together.

But when she got to her room she saw a horrible sight. Marisa appeared beside her and gasped. Their things were scattered over the room. And in the cage beside the window was the badly deformed body of a little blue bird. Muriel took it out of the cage, not understanding. It looked just like the bird she'd given to Professor Kettleburn, and she KNEW he would never have let anything happen to her.

Before she could help herself she sat down on the floor with the little bird in her lap and cried. Marisa took another look around the room. "I'll get Severus," she whispered, and she ran for the Slytherin dormitories.

She nearly ran into Jolina Avery and her friends on the stairs. Marisa had never dealt with the Slytherins at all, because of her mother's warning. But she'd seen Mur do it dozens of times.

She took the girl's arm, hoping to talk her into fetching Severus from the common room. But Jolina wrenched her arm back out of her hand. "Don't touch me, you filthy mud blood!" she spat angrily.

Marisa realized immediately that much of the respect they had for Muriel was because she was pure blooded. She was about to resort to the OTHER reason people respected her dorm mate when a cold voice behind her brought her around.

"It wouldn't be wise, so close to the Slytherin dungeons, for a mud blood like yourself to go hexing Miss Avery." It was Severus, and though his voice was taunting, his face was worried. He knew Marisa wouldn't be down here for no reason.

Jolina was looking at him appreciatively but he kept his disgust from registering on his face. "Run along," he said to Marisa. But she stood, uncertain as to whether he would follow or not. "And tell Mur that next time she sends someone to find me she ought to choose with a little more taste."

Now she was really infuriated. She turned without another word and huffed back up the stairs as the Slytherin girls laughed wickedly. Severus followed her at a distance, not sure what could have gone wrong.

Marisa could hear him behind her, but she didn't turn. When she reached the portrait hole she said the password clearly and went inside without a backward glance. Severus shook his head. There was no sense in trying to make the girl understand. If he had appeared to approve of her presence there, it would have complicated things to no end.

He respectfully waited a moment, but it must have been a moment too long, because Marisa stuck her head out again. "Are you coming or not?" she asked irritably.

He smiled: a real smile that was the closest to an apology as he could come, and followed her into the Ravenclaw common room. Marisa thought briefly that he really wasn't so bad looking when he smiled like that. Maybe that's how Muriel saw him.

Mur had come down to the common room, and was surrounded by her house mates. They made room for Severus to sit beside her and she showed him the broken little bird, crying silently.

It was a tough moment for Severus. Did he act like a cold Slytherin git and maintain his reputation, or did he comfort his best friend. Silently he put an arm around her and took the lifeless body out of her hands, placing it gently on his robe. The Ravenclaws drifted away, then, except for Marisa, who sat staring at the bird with her head in her hands.

A few minutes later, Muriel had composed herself, and snatched Rena back from him. "Incendio," she whispered. Several of her housemates gasped, and Kyle even shouted in alarm as her hand appeared to catch fire. But when the flames went out her hand was unmarked except by a pile of ashes, which she threw unceremoniously in the fireplace. Marisa was looking at her as though she was mad, but Severus understood. She was done mourning. It was time to move on. He sat with her until dinner time and even let her hold his hand all the way down to the Great Hall.

They parted ways silently and Muriel went directly to the head table. Severus had ventured a guess that Malfoy had transfigured some other creature into a Cornish Wren to trick them, and she wanted Professor Kettleburn to find out and change it back. For all they knew, it could have been one of his house mates. Malfoy wasn't above such things.

"I'll kill them one day," Muriel whispered to Marisa as she sat down. Marisa felt a chill run down her spine. She said it so matter-of-factly that there could be no suspicion that it was an idle threat. "When I'm an auror and they're death eaters, I'll really enjoy killing them."

Marisa ate in silence. She had just been reminded again of the vast difference between her and her friend. It was better not to speak of it.

Avery had no proof that Mur and Severus had taken the bird, but that didn't stop him from keeping an extra close eye on them. But Muriel spent only a few days in sullen silence before she came into the great hall for breakfast, the day before their first exams, and threw a fillibuster firework onto the table in front of the marauders. She was determined that it would appear that everything was back to normal so that the Slytherins would have no reason to suspect Severus' involvement. That would truly be dangerous.

The marauders answered in kind, and for the last few days before summer, everyone but the 5th and 7th year students thought life was pretty good again.

FIN A/N: Year 4 for Severus and Muriel has already been written and will be posted as a new story! Look for it under my user ID: 468209, along with all my other fics! Each one is numbered in the title, so if you picked up in the middle, you should be able to go back and catch the beginning.