If I'm at all erratic posting this I apologise in advance; I'll post this on Tuesday possibly in lieu of Wednesday as we have a vet visit for little girls to be spayed and if they're not well after what are big ops for little girls, they come first.
Leo had thrown an un-Leo like huff over Lydia going to the World Cup with her parents.
"I suppose you're going to snog Viktor Krumm afterwards too, either to congratulate him or commiserate him" he said snippily.
"I dunno" said Lydia "I might. He's Bloodkin after all so he's an appropriate boyfriend; and he's really nice and he's special to us Mad Marauders because we rescued him. What's wrong with that?"
Leo got very red in the face.
"Because I don't want you to" he said too loudly.
Lydia looked at him shrewdly.
"You mean you're jealous because you fancy me too?" she said bluntly.
Leo blushed more.
"Yeah" he said.
Lydia sighed. Men were so very difficult to cope with when they were fancying one. It would almost be easier just to never grow up and never have to be anything but friends with all of them.
"The thing is, Leo" she said "If it's not going to work between you and me, and we force it, it'll be an awful rift in the bloodgroup. I need to be sure. I don't know if I want to snog Viktor. You and I tried it and it kind of got less interesting then going in search of something to eat; 'cos we were too young. I think I still feel too young to make up my mind. I think if it IS going to work between you and me we'd be stronger for standing back for now and getting closer when we're older. We're only doing OWLs this year for goodness sake!"
"Well I don't see why that matters" said Leo sulkily "I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"I can't be sure you mean that though, can I?" said Lydia "You got all dewy eyed listening to Sophrana Crotchet quavering away on the Wireless and said she was some woman. AND she doesn't sing from her chest though goodness knows she's got enough to sing from."
"NOW who's acting jealous?"
"Maybe I am. I think we're both being childish and I think we should get all our childishness out of our systems snogging other people for practise until we're ready to see if we want to settle down. I'll make a pact, I'll only snog people out of the bloodgroup if you do too; 'cos I wouldn't want to hurt Viktor any more than you. I don't even know if he looks on me as more than the kid of a friend, y'know? He's attractive….he's not good looking but he's attractive. The thing is, Leo, I guess if push came to shove just about any of the Kindred could get together with any other and still have a better relationship than most people outside of it…but we DO have our special ones too. And that's why I'd rather wait and see if you and I ARE each other's special ones. Or if we haven't even MET our special ones" she sighed "It's all very well for Jade, she met Wulf and KNEW. We're too familiar to each other Leo. Like Hermione and Ron; and look at all the trouble THEY had. At least we can talk about things."
"Well you lecture and I listen."
"Excuse me, you're QUITE ready to put in your two-knut's worth when you feel like it" said Lydia. "I'm not so unrealistic as to expect to have what mum and dad have; their love was forged in shared fear, pain, terror and expectation of death. It has a rather profound effect I should think. It's why they can afford to have Sirri and Dione as extra wives because there's so much love there they can afford to share to those who need it most. I don't know I'd even want anything that deep, profound, and scary. But I DO want to be sure, Leo. And if I am sure about someone else, that means so will you be when you find yours, and better to find out we're not just drifting into a relationship because we're always knocking around together and everyone expects it."
"Mei's settled to Mad."
"Well that's nice for them. Chad and Polly aren't a couple though. And they've got the sense not to try to be. I wondered if Mei would end up sharing them at one point but I don't think that's going to happen; but there's piles of Belle Marauders following us. Hey, Kinat's not settled with anyone yet, even if Lynx has managed to have Hawke's babe rather unplanned. Those two are an item and that's been obvious for ages. I'm two years younger than Lynx; and a year younger than Mei for that matter. I'm going to wait and see. I love you very much; but I'm just not sure yet if that's in a boyfriend sort of way or a favourite brother marauder sort of way. Please give me room?"
Leo shuffled his shoulders.
"Of course; how can I not?" he said gruffly "But…. Well anyway, don't snog creeps all right?"
"I don't think I would" said Lydia, wondering if anybody not Leo would constitute a creep in his book!
Lydia had the chance to speak alone to Viktor when they had all gone in David Fraser's enchanted Catalina flying boat to Belsornia, a magically unplottable land likely to be a long term venue. David landed on the lake downstream of the river that divided the dragon reserve from the hilly portion of the unplottable area and the Snapes set up camp near the Bulgarian team to help keep an eye on Viktor. Lydia had no trouble getting private speech with the hawk-faced Bulgarian seeker.
"Viktor, this is a tad embarrassing" she said "Leo got all embarrassingly jealous about me liking you; and the thing is that I don't feel more than the love that is the blood-bond for either. You look on me as a child of a friend, don't you?"
Viktor smiled warmly.
"I look on you too as a kind friend to my little sister" he said "If more was going to grow in after years that would be another matter. Zvetelina wants me to marry you – she wants you as a sister! But I am not ready for romance; I do not know if it would even be right, for I am a fighter against Odessa; and now a declared one and therefore the sort of high profile target they would be glad to bring down. I wait I think for love to hit my between the eyes out of the blue like a snitch that wants to be caught."
"Viktor, you great big softy!" laughed Lydia "I hope you find it. You're so very nice; I could love you I think. But….. I don't know where I am right now" she added forlornly.
Viktor kissed her hand.
"Then stay being nowhere, little Lydia, until there is somewhere you want to be" he said. "You don't have to be content with kissing frogs until you meet your prince. One day, you will know; and that's all that will be important. Do not force any issues."
Lydia stood on tiptoes to kiss his cheek.
"Thank you Viktor" she said.
The kiss was of course photographed; and then reporters were demanding a story.
"Acch, you are such silly fellows" said Viktor to the questing scandalmongers. "Lydia is the child of dear friends of mine; she is as family to me. She is a schoolgirl! You think I take a romantic interest in a scrubby child with skinned knees? She is chaser for her school house and has played seeker; that is what I take interest in!"
Lydia, through the bloodsong felt a tacit apology for calling her a scrubby child with skinned knees – though such a condition was not entirely uncommon still – and was grateful that Viktor passed off the incident with such aplomb.
In response to questions over how long she had known Viktor she laughed.
"Oh since the infamous Triwizard Harry and Cedric won when Viktor was also a schoolboy….. I lived in school with my parents you see and got to meet people. Viktor's always been a bit of a hero of mine, like Harry; having grown ups to look up to is important, isn't it?"
And that disposed of that story if Viktor was no more than a grown-up to look up to.
So banal a story would not even appear in The Daily Prophet.
It was the first Quidditch World Cup ever to be opened by a muggle.
The Princess Josefina made a brief speech proclaiming her interest in Quidditch and her joy at the glad co-operation between those of the magical community and those who were their friends among the muggle world and thanked the wizarding world for setting up Wizarding Wireless listening stations for such of her muggle subjects as were interested to participate in this great honour to their little country.
Belsornia had never signed an agreement to hide magic from muggles; it had been forgotten about by the larger countries. It was not therefore breaking any laws and tentatively the wizarding world watched how the acceptance of their existence by the small number of muggles here was working.
The Belsornian wizarding community, a small contingent since most of those of magical blood had long since withdrawn to the magical country of Zorn, hidden by fidelius charm, put on a display with the magnificent winged horses that lived in the mountains between Zorn and Belsornia. They were delicate silvery white beasts unlike any of the familiar four kinds of winged horse; closest to the Granian but smaller and lither.
There were gasps of admiration at the tight formation flying of the horses, unridden save the leader who bore Prince Franz, the wizard husband of Princess Josefina. The display ended with the Belsornian Steeds bowing their heads to the box of dignitaries and equally saluting each team before Prince Franz dismounted and they flew away in equally perfect formation.
Lydia knew, because Jade had told her, that these horses were semi-sentient and would never be for sale; but she still longed to fly on one!
Next the teams came out with their mascots; the dancing singing Veeli supporting the Bulgarians and half confunding all males of appropriate age; and dancing in a wilder fashion the jaguar spirits of the Brazilian jungles, shape-shifting fey whose usual chosen forms were that of humanoid shape with jaguar heads and fur on their bodies. They had females dancing lithe erotic dances and males doing wild war dances and snarling.
Lydia hoped that whatever pact the Brazilian team had made with their dangerous looking fey had been quite watertight. The Amazonian tradition was also stiff with naming magic, or rather the magic of avoiding the use of names and using nicknames to avoid the notice of the Yolok spirits.
Then the teams came out.
The Bulgarians were a vigorous team who held nothing back – though they had been gentler playing the Hogwarts school team last year, Lydia had noted, than their usual reputation for almost rough play; but in her opinion the Brazilians looked like a bunch of thugs.
"HEY,VIKTOR! Don't play them until you've heard them talk!" she yelled merrily.
There was laughter from around her.
"Look like a bunch of 'alf trolls, don't they, missus?" said a cheery little cockney wizard nearby "Cor, no wonder they got the reputation for the most penalties in fifty years!"
Volkov and Vulchanov, whilst perfectly charming chatting to schoolchildren off the pitch had enough of a reputation for not caring if it was the Bludger they hit or a chaser who was in the way; but the Brazilian beaters Antecume and Rodrigues looked as though they would prefer to maim a person to hitting the ball.
The Brazilian supporters raised a massive cheer as their Seeker came out; Sueli Silva was known as La Mariposa, the butterfly, and she was dwarfed by the rest of her team, a tiny delicate looking woman who was as tough as old boots and flew with the grace and skill of a butterfly, seeming to float aimlessly about until finally she would swoop and seize the snitch often from under the nose of the opposition.
Viktor would have his work cut out.
The game was on!
The crowd was knowledgeable, cheering clever feints and good moves, booing fouls; and fouls there were in plenty. Antecume and Rogrigues both made as though to swing at the bludger and hit, instead, Ivanova in the midriff; and the miss was far enough off to be obviously intended.
This was enough for Volkov and Vulchanov to start retaliating for their chaser.
It was the dirtiest match any of the Snapes had ever seen, even those who had been involved in the match against Durmstrang where the reserve had been jinxing their opponents. The jungle spirits snarled every time one of their team got a penalty; and the veeli tried desperately to distract the referee from his duty.
Next time that might even be David Fraser; he was taking his International Referee's exams after the World Cup, having to mark this match too for every foul in a viva voce exam as it went on for the examining body, he and every other entrant marking this as well as sitting a written exam rather than refereeing an actual minor league match. It was considered quite as valid; after all he had proved his flying skills as a National level referee.
Lydia did not envy David!
Jade sat with her sister.
"Crikey, I'm sorry for the Ref!" she said.
"Yes, vamped by Veeli, jinxed by jaguars and barged by beaters" said Lydia. Jade laughed.
"You're as fond of alliteration as Dad!" she said. "I've missed you, being at the other school."
"Me too; but we have the blood tie" said Lydia "Jade, d'you think Leo and I are going to be an item?"
"If you don't know that yet yourself, Lydie, no-one else can say for you" said Jade. "Hermie and Ron needed a kick start because neither of them would TALK to the other; reckon you and Leo manage that at least?"
"Yeah" said Lydia. "OUCH!" as Viktor took a bludger to the side of the head. The blood group had absently dissipated the pain and damage between themselves in automatic reaction when Lydia added "I say, did we just cheat?"
"Dunno" said Jade "Evened up the cheating on the other side a little maybe. Filthiest game I ever saw!"
The Bulgarian chasers were obviously more talented – now Ivanova had received medical attention – and the Brazilian Beaters started taking refuge in Bumphing, hitting the bludger towards the crowd to cause a halt in the game at crucial moments in a scoring run.
The crowd booed.
David Fraser, inside his examination booth, said to his examiner,
"Sir, why don't you have a skilled chanter to put up a protective circle around the pitch and bounce the bludger back so these stupid interruptions need not be made?"
"Probably because, Mr Fraser, there aren't that many that talented ritual magicians out there" said the examiner.
"With due respect sir, nonsense! I'd need backup to do it myself, three others of similar ability; but Severus Snape is out there, who was my guardian; and he could do it alone, let alone if he had backup from his kids and wives."
The official snapped his fingers for a house elf and sent a message to Severus.
The elf apparated directly to the Snape family and put the request.
"It'll take a few minutes" he said.
A time out was called; and Severus placed Lydia, Jade, Krait, Dione, Sirri, Erich and Tala at strategic points.
The chant was not complex; and needed only about a quarter hour chanting with several of them to intertwine the protective wall. It might not be a dome since a player might fly as high as they wished so long as they did not leave the area of the pitch; and the protection was against, effectively, missiles, which brooms might also count as if flying fast enough.
The Jaguar spirits tried to set up a counter chant; but Severus absently dropped a silencing spell on them without breaking chant, or even getting out his wand.
Several Veeli went and kicked them.
The referee called in the examinees to back him in breaking up the disgraceful little fight that ensued between the mascots; and David Fraser was voted an excellent man to have along since he seemed to be impervious to the Veeli's charms and snarled back at the snarling jaguars.
The charmed wall was in place; and naturally the Brazilian beaters had to try it out.
The trajectory of the direct shot into the crowd hit the wall – it has to be said that the crowd behind the invisible wall winced and ducked – and bounced directly back, taking Rodrigues by surprise and knocking him clean off his broom.
"Thought that might happen" said Severus in some satisfaction "they should study muggle physics and snooker."
"It'll lead to some interesting new tactics" said Jade. "I can think of all sorts of ways of using that and I'm not even a beater by trade."
"I can think of a few things to do with a quaffle" said Krait.
"But you, my dear, already applied snooker tactics to an elastic collision between snitch and quaffle for Harry back at the Durmstrang match" said Severus equably. "Beautifully weighted and avoiding the foul of snitchnipping since you never touched it. Hello, is that a Brazilian down?"
It was; Volkov and Vulchanov were getting a severe talking to for cobbing; an elbow on each side.
"Rather an interpretive rule that" said Jade "EXCESSIVE use of the elbows. When does use of the elbows become excessive and when is it only part of a high spirited jostling? I say ban ALL elbow use. Hello, they're off again!"
It was well into the afternoon before the shout went up that La Mariposa had seen the snitch!
She was across Viktor and on it before the Bulgarian could react; but then he was in pursuit, neck and neck, the chase for the snitch taking them dangerously close to the ground, then up again! The blood group fought NOT to synchronise heartbeats with Viktor, so exciting was it and so tempting so to do; and then he was reaching over Silva's shoulder, his long, uncoordinated looking arms reaching further than hers; and the whistle blew!
There appeared to be an altercation between Viktor and the diminutive Brazilian seeker; and the referee came over, expostulating and waving his arms a lot.
The officials all went into a huddle.
It lasted long enough that the crowd started booing and the more imprudent threw things – which promptly bounced of the magical barrier on the crowd side.
The announcer was consulted.
"The officials have informed me that the snitch had been examined for the blood-memory of who first seized it and that it was grabbed simultaneously by both seekers!" he said "This has never happened in all the history of Quidditch…. Therefore the referee had awarded one hundred and fifty points each to Brazil and Bulgaria, bringing the score to Bulgaria three hundred and ninety and Brazil, three hundred and seventy!"
The crowd went wild.
And it was over bar the interviews, Princess Josefina saying a few words to the effect that she was glad that such a level of penalties was not considered normal and that she was glad that the team that behaved itself least worst had also been the victors; and that if such shocking behaviour was displayed at the next international match Belsornia hosted she would have to seriously reconsider the donation of this ground as a venue.
It was to be hoped that being reprimanded by a muggle might shame the players into better behaviour in future!
Lydia stayed for the celebration party; then she must get back to England. Last year it had been Jade's duty to be separated from the family to see to Wulf; this year it was her turn to go with the Mad Marauders to get to know Mortimer Bane, ward and protégé of the Malfoy twins – Hawke in particular – before he started in the sixth at Hogwarts. Hawke had described him as 'rather like me, a bit hardboiled on the outside in a good layer of armour'. He would be defensive at 'posh kids' no doubt; it was up to the mad marauders that they could survive his rough environs to impress him so that he would take advice about how to survive THEIR environs.
She kissed Viktor goodbye with deep affection; and kissed his sister Zvetelina almost as affectionately. Zvetelina was disappointed not to see a more passionate leave-taking of her brother; Lydia was a nice person whom she would have loved to have welcomed as a sister, but apparently it was not to be despite the so-romantic saving of Viktor's life where Lydia had chanted over him to save him!
Such was life.
And at least her dear brother WAS alive, and safe!
And she, Zvetelina, had managed with the aid of such as Lydia and her group – most of whom were not taking OWLs until the following summer – to gain nine OWLs all at 'E' grade, quite respectable for any Hufflepuff and a poke in the eye to that horrid Bernard Corbin of Ravenclaw who had called her a 'stupid foreigner'.
Besides, she distinctly recalled HIM getting hot and flustered over the three nice curing potions they had to brew for the Potions exam; that she had found quite easy. And she knew that she had gained the higher grade for improvising and producing the snow-blindness curing potion because Lydia had asked her to help her look it up in the school library to send a copy to Professor Snape in Austria where such things were necessary. It would be sweet to ask Bernard what grade he got at potions.
It served him right for declaring that as there had been one year's departure from the Draught of Peace it was bound to be set again. The examiners were just getting a little more creative, that was all.
Or, as Lydia had caustically said, had dug out a load of past papers and were recycling them which would be, said Lydia, just like Horace. Whoever Horace might be.
"Hello!" said Lydia "I'm Lydia Snape, Hawke and Abrax are my cousins, are you Mortimer Bane?"
"Yeah" said the boy, cautiously taking the hand that was thrust at him.
She saw a slender boy with the marks of goblin heritance about his sharp face that had filled out from half starved into gamin; framed by now clean chestnut hair brushed back in imitation of Hawke's own firmly Malfoy style. His eyes glittered black as he regarded her. He saw a china doll of a girl with pale blonde ringlets, magnolia skin and huge dark blue eyes in a perfect face with a little but straight nose and a veritable rosebud of a mouth. If anything she was lovelier – thought Mortimer – than Erica Malfoy, whom he knew slightly for the fact that she and her adoptive brother Gorbrin often visited the neighbourhood to visit friends.
"Why then, as you're Hawke's ward, I guess that makes us courtesy cousins then" said Lydia. "It's a wonderful name; if you shortened it to 'Mort Bane' you could have people wondering if you were a dark wizard on account of 'Mort' being Latin for death. Like in 'Voldemort' you know, meaning 'One who flees from death' but death BANE kinda had a better ring like you get your retaliation in first to death…. I talk a load of crap don't I?" she grinned.
He grinned back.
"It's handy to know things like that I guess…. I never knew what his name meant."
"It's like Deatheaters; they wanted to defeat death. Which you can't of course; all you can do is learn not to fear it and then meet it with a smile on your face."
"Easy for you to say; some of us have come close to it."
Lydia pushed back the curl on her forehead, revealing the zig-zag scar.
"They don't hand these out with the school uniform" she said dryly "You have to have been part of the pact that bounced the killing curse. I have. More than once. Do you make the mistake that because I look harmless that I am? I'm not. I've fought dark wizards and werewolves and Huorns and erklings. I'm not as clever or as hard as my big sister, but I'm not some wimp with fortunate relatives to get me into Hogwarts you know. I'm the first one here but you're being met by the Marauders; and we go out of our way to stand into danger and fight for what's right. Hawke thought we should vet you out to maybe join our gang, or the Dell-Tuthill group who do the same sort of thing only not quite as much so. We already have six; which is large but we shan't quibble if Hawke's right and you're the right stuff. But you'd need to prove yourself able you know."
"I'm fairly able. Death here comes more from the empty belly than from violence; and some people face it with numb acceptance, but I say you HAVE to fight death or you cave in and fade away!"
She regarded him thoughtfully.
"In that respect, yes, I agree wholeheartedly. I just meant that if you are in a situation where you can choose to run away and leave your friends in danger, or stand into danger yourself and damn the consequences, it's a poor prune who funks out."
"Yeah, I agree with that" he said. "Though I reckon that's easier to do in the heat of the moment than for some of the people down here to go on living."
"Yes, Lucius is sticking his oar in to improve matters but it'll take time. There's only so many creeps he can manage to ruin in any given year; and even with mum and dad investing in things – like cousin Albertine's muggle goods stall, 'cos she won't take anything more than a partnership 'cos she's dead proud like all Snapes – it'll take a while."
"Albertine Gregg's your cousin?"
"Yes, on my dad's side. He had a wicked uncle who was a bit of a tart. Why are you laughing?"
"Hearing a man described like that – it seems odd."
"Well what should I call him? He wasn't a whore, he was only an amateur and scarlet man is a bit silly sounding. He isn't any more; dad got sick of fishing abandoned women and kids out of the gutter and jinxed him so hard he can only use it to pee with. NOW what have I said?"
"I guess you look so like a picture out of a society magazine it's funny hearing you say things so coarse!" chuckled Mortimer.
Lydia smiled primly.
He laughed again.
"And specially when you look like that!" he added.
"I've found that an air of prim innocence gets one out of an awful lot of trouble" said Lydia, equably. "It even works on Madam McGonagall, who's fairly on the ball and cynical. Anyway, Albertine's our cousin and she's profiting from the new law that muggle goods can be converted to being powered by wand so long as they've been ministry-checked for safety. Lucius poked it through on the grounds that as there was plenty of muggle stuff in our society it was better for it to be sanctioned and licensed and checked than faulty. After all the MSHG has had a toaster for years and never cared how illegal it might be. Mind you, when we were fighting Voldemort, with the dickheads in the ministry then, nine things out of ten that we did were illegal so I suppose we're not very good examples to set everyone else" she twinkled at him. "What NEWTs are you sitting? Mei – she's the one of us in your year – is sitting seven but she took twelve OWLs at 'O' 'cos she's what Ravenclaws are supposed to be – sharp enough to be a walking diffindo spell."
"And I note there's no jealousy in your voice there" he said. "I'm taking five; the Professors Malfoy thought I could do it."
"Excellent! What are you taking?"
"Charms, Potions, Transfigurations, Arithmancy and Defence against the Dark Arts" reeled off Mortimer. "I got 'O' in all of them at OWL!" he added proudly.
"You are a high flyer then" said Lydia, impressed. "You started in the fourth of course – that's an awful lot of hard work catching up as well as raw talent!"
Mortimer looked pleased.
"Well I had the run of the library in the holidays too" he admitted.
"And the will to use it properly" said Lydia dryly. "Like my mum; well, she's my adopted mum, we were all in an orphanage together; it swallowed magic. She was fifteen when she got to school, was put back to the fourth and proceeded to catch up to her own age. With a very respectable number of NEWTs too; though anyone who was in the front line against Voldemort DID get DADA at 'O' as a gimme, though I bet it was a stiffer exam than anything the ministry could set so it was deserved! She wanted to please my dad, he adopted us, see, my sister Jade and me, and married mum. Are you going to take extra OWLs in things Hawke and co can't offer yet?"
"I don't know; Professor Hawke suggested I might if I wanted. He told me about Geomancy and Comparative Magic and seems like there's some new ones, Chanting and Metalwork."
"Yes, Leo and me thought we'd see if we couldn't catch up two years in metalwork in one, or if not take it in the Lower Sixth" said Lydia "You could either do the same – so YOU take it in the Lower Sixth – or take it alongside NEWTs if you wanted to. There's a goblin metalcrafter has agreed to teach the SERIOUS students; he's not demanding an OWL in enchanting, or that people should be studying it but he's quicker to take those of goblin blood or those already showing an interest in enchanting. Chanting's cool, we all picked an OWL up for using it for real and Lucius gave us a stiff viva voce exam based on the older ones' written. It helps no end with enchanting and also for healing cursed wounds; which is why dad taught himself. We all worked together to teach ourselves too" said Lydia fairly modestly as she had been the one leading the classes.
"What do you think's most useful?"
"Well I'm not taking geomancy because I'm not as good at it as some; and I figured I couldn't really fit in more than eleven OWLs just for sheer time in the day" said Lydia "Not if I want a life as well. Which I do. And I'm dead keen to try the metalworking because it's new and – well, partly it's because it's something my sister HASN'T done. I think chanting is tremendously important but only if you can ally it with DADA or Potions or Enchanting; and if you don't have Arithmancy you're not going to be much cop at it at higher levels. Still, at OWL level you don't need MUCH Arithmancy and it still adds to other stuff; but if you're arithmancer enough to have an 'O' at OWL you're one of life's brainy people and well capable of taking ritual magic as high as you care to risk."
He shot her a look to see how much she was joking.
She wasn't; and he realised it.
"What was the riskiest magic you performed then?" he felt he had to ask.
"At the time, because nobody knew anything about it, being part of the Blood Pact; and my sister and I were included at six and seven years old because then we could be tracked if Voldemort kidnapped us. The stiffest one I knowingly chose to take part in was the eight hour chant to free house elves from the compulsion to self punish. I have very good reasons; two of my adoptive siblings are elves; and my dear friend and fellow marauder Polly. I hope you're not racist? 'cos here come the rest now."