Friday 23 September 2016

Rose, A Harry Potter Fanfic - Chapter Ten

[This is a work of ‘fanfiction’, essentially a tribute to the world created by JK Rowling. No infringement of copyright is intended, and neither is any commercial exploitation.]

Previous Chapters

Chapter 10


Martin Lovegood was an enigma wrapped in a riddle to most people at Hogwarts. He was a sharp-featured, wiry boy with fair hair and a ready smile who rarely spoke much of his own accord. For the most part, he seemed more than happy to be a quiet foil to the more domineering Elk, as Rose was to her flamboyant cousin Albus. He had inherited a keen intelligence and sunny personality from his mother, Luna Lovegood, that quirky, dreamy heroine of the last war. Who his father was, no one really knew, though Rose thought she could guess. It was something neither he nor his mother ever spoke about, and the Wizarding World largely respected that. Next to Scorpius, he was probably the smartest student in Rose’s year and unlike the Malfoy boy, Martin was not a show-off, preferring to laugh off any references to his talents.

Rose found a smile crossing her face as she contemplated him. As so often happened when Martin got his mind around an interesting problem, he was engrossed in the book. He murmured to himself and scratched notes on a parchment as he read slowly through the large pages. Occasionally he sniffled into a tissue he had conjured, a reminder of the cold that had kept him confined the previous day.

At around eleven, Filch turned up, Mrs. Norris in tow, to shoo them out.

“We’ve got permission,” Albus pointed out, presenting the slips that he had taken from Neville Longbottom.

“Permissions are only valid till eleven o’ clock,” he replied gruffly.

“Says who, may I ask?” said Albus,

“Says Argus Filch,” he replied, “and that should be good enough for you. Now get out, before I march you straight to the Headmistress!”

They marched out, Martin still clutching Rose’s book and a few others.

“Well, what now?” asked Rose.

“Let’s head to the Gryffindor common room,” suggested Albus.

“Let’s head to my office,” countered Hugo. “There’s always a chance of there being a swot or two staying up to do an all-night studying session in the common rooms.”

“Isn’t there a chance of Filch catching hold of us there?” asked Albus.

“Not unless he’s learnt spells to counter my concealment spells,” said Martin. “Hugo had me cast them last week.”

“Well, Martin’s spell-casting I can trust,” agreed Rose. “Lead on!”

For the second time that day, Rose found herself in Hugo’s little hovel. In many ways the place felt Dickensian, with the wooden furniture, rolls of parchment and at least three layers of dust stacked on everything. Martin sat on a low chair, still muttering to himself as he translated. Albus and Hugo managed to transfigure a chair into a cricket bat and fished out a rubber ball from one of the drawers. Since the bat was rather by way of being crooked, all the shots went in the general direction of Rose, who was trying to catch a nap in a corner behind Martin.

Finally a frustrated Rose stormed over to the window and looked out into a starry night. It hadn’t snowed that day, but the air was still cold and they had kept the window shut against the draft.

“Got a telescope? It’s a lovely night for stargazing.”

Hugo stopped in his bowling stride long enough to flick his wand at a cabinet in the wall.

“It’s really a glorified spyglass at best,” he admitted, “but it should do.”

Rose accio’ed the instrument over into her hand and open the window. Luckily it wasn’t a windy night, so the draft was not significant. Rose wasn’t exactly a fan of Astronomy class, but she found the stars fascinating this night. The section of the castle where Hugo had made his den was facing the lake, and from where the window looked out, Rose could see not just the sky above, but also the reflection of it on the calm surface of the lake. It had only thawed a couple of weeks ago, Rose reflected. The whole of December had been beautiful for skating. She, Albus and Martin had often waltzed around it, with Elk practising playing ice hockey with a few other enthusiasts in another corner of the lake.

The tableau persisted for a while. Martin continued to read while Albus and Hugo proceeded to play out nearly a complete five-test series. Finally at nearly a half-hour past midnight, Martin laid down his quill and leaned back. Instantly the other three stopped and turned to face him, questions writ large in their eyes.

“Well, there’s a lot of stuff here,” said Martin, getting up and stretching his arms. “I’m really not helped by the fact that the Sanskrit is a language with more adjectives than any other I’ve ever encountered, and this damn author seems determined to use each and every one.”

“So they’re all by one author then?” asked Albus.

“Oh, they may or may not be. They’re all attributed to one chap called Yuyutsu, but it may be a bunch of different people for all I know.”

“Never mind who wrote it,” said Rose impatiently. “It could be Stephanie ruddy Mayer for all I care. Did you find anything useful?”

“I may have,” replied Martin. “If you’ll give me a chance to begin.” He began to pace around the room a little gingerly at first, his legs obviously a little cramped from the long time spent sitting. “It’s a series of stories told by this chap, supposedly heard by him from various people he met during his travels all around India. There’s a bit about the creation myth – it’s a pantheonic religion, so there’s a lot about various Gods and Goddesses. There’s a ruling triumvirate – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Below them are the gods. The King of these gods is a guy called Indra – think Zeus with the thunderbolts et al. There are various minor gods under him, Varuna of the Sea, Agni of Fire, Yama of  Death, Vayu of the Wind and so on and so forth. It was Brahma who created the world and everything in it, including humans, animals, plants, demi-gods, demons and all other magical creatures. Humans – we – exist on a certain plane of existence and cannot ascend or descend to any other.  However, the power to summon creatures from a lower plane has always been entrusted to us. A trained wizard or witch can, using the right spell, bring to this world many creatures. The highest of such creatures are the Asuras, a humanoid clan of demons possessing immense strength, magical and physical. They look not dissimilar to humans, though some choose to disfigure themselves in many ways to distinguish themselves from us. There are Asuras who can wield fire, water, cold and such and often adapt their appearance in alignment with their powers. For the most part, though, these rely on brute physical strength and wizards have been known to summon entire armies of Asuras to achieve their own ends. In particular – well, I won’t delve into the details, but there have been at least three recorded instances of Asuras being summoned to fight large-scale wars across the Asian continent.”

“So it’s possible that the Routers could…” the question was left unasked by Rose.

“Well, we don’t know how much they know. Certainly the creatures from the lower plans of existence are not very difficult to summon, if this text is anything to go by. It talks of one war – the Battle for Uttarakhand – where the Emperor Hadji Diom summoned an army of half-a-million Asuras and twenty thousand assorted animals to lay siege to the capital of King Puru.”

“And won, I suppose?” asked Albus.

“No. King Puru was, at the time, married to an Apsara named Urvashi who it seems was insanely powerful. Despite being outnumbered by almost fifty-to-one, the siege was broken and the Emperor had to sue for peace.”

“Sounds like a dangerous woman to cross,” said Hugo. “So I’m assuming Apsaras are from a different ‘plane’ as well?”

“Yes, the highest one in fact. Apsaras could not be summoned until the time of this King Puru. There’s an interesting story about how that came about. As a prince, the young Puru often had the opportunity to visit the court of Indra, King of Gods, as his father was one of the trusted allies of the divine powers. He was fascinated by the heavenly courts and their prized adornments, the Apsaras. When he assumed the throne himself, he too often fought by the side of the Gods in their perpetual battle against the evil demons of the netherworld. It was during a feast after one such battle that the Apsara Urvashi first noticed the young man and was smitten by his looks. She stole away with his men, disguised as one of them, and managed to enter his palace, which she found fascinating, particularly the gardens, where she fell in love with the growing grass, the frolicking animals and singing birds.”

“Stop getting poetic,” admonished Hugo.

“Oh, yes, I was rather quoting there,” agreed Martin. “Anyway, to cut a long story short, she fell asleep in the garden, where Puru found her the following day. They fell in love, blah blah, lots of sex, some wars and finally Indra, getting rather pissed off by the fact that his favourite Apsara was enjoying life on earth rather too much, kills the King so that he can have her back in his abode. She returns but is so distraught with grief that she cannot dance and, if my vocabulary is not completely off, she is no longer able to enjoy sexual relations with anyone, which leads her into a slow decline. Finally, Indra relents and offers to bring her lover back to life if he promises never to summon her again. She agrees and they go to the God of Death to negotiate the resurrection of the earthly King. Finally a deal is struck with Yama, the death-god and her King comes back to life. Indra allows Urvashi one final rendezvous with her lover before he must make a vow to renounce her forever. She gives him a parting gift – a tiny statue of herself. And here’s where she tries to play a trick. She imbues a magic in the statue such that by placing the statue in the grove and chanting a summoning spell, which is essentially a song they used to sing together, her lover will be able to recall her for one night, once more before he dies. But she doesn’t get the time to tell him what the statue can do, because Indra, realising what she has done, takes her away before the appointed time for parting. The King dies, never seeing his Apsara again and the statue passes down through the ages, until a descendant of the king moves the statue out from the palace in the garden. This chap has a young daughter who, while tending the garden, happens to sing that same song. The spell takes effect, the Apsara is summoned, and with her – who but old Indra himself, livid with her for allowing herself to be thus summoned again.

“Now here’s the twist. Indra now sees this young princess, and like all pantheonic Gods, being inclined to think with his nether regions, immediately falls in love with her and moves in to seduce her. The girl is frightened and calls for her father, who falls upon the King of Gods with a sword. Indra moves to kill the father, but the Princess threatens to kill herself if he does. The Apsara, sensing her chance, offers to intercede on Indra’s behalf with the girl’s father. She will stay on Earth with the girl’s father for as long as the daughter stays with Indra in heaven as a hostage against the girl’s safe return. Apparently, having sex with a God was not a bad thing – what her father was angry about was the possibility of her being spirited away and preventing him from marrying her off into a powerful neighbouring royal family. Indra agrees, and here Urvashi makes her bargain with her master final – he will allow her to be summoned to the Earth by whoever places the statue in the grove and sings the song. Indra adds a caveat – that she must return when the person who has thus summoned her dies or when he or she sings the ‘song of parting’, again placing her statue in the grove.

“That, according to this story, is the original of the summoning magic of ancient India. As the years passed, the other Apsaras also struck similar bargains, their taste for earthly pleasures increasing with each visit. It wasn’t long before the magical communities began to refine the summoning spells and charms to bring it to the more scientific form that is being used today. Each summoning requires a spell to be incanted, but the more powerful the being you wish to summon, the more parameters enter the equation.”

Martin sat back in the chair, exhausted, and conjured a glass of water for himself.

“So…magical statues, eh? I suppose Hubstein found enough of those in his studies of eastern magic,” said Rose, “and learned the spells as well.”

Martin nodded. “I would not be surprised. I’m wondering how he managed to reconstruct the garden, though.”

“There’s probably an easier way that actually growing a garden, I’m sure,” said Albus.

“Oh well, I guess that tells us something, though I’m not sure how useful it is,” said Rose. “Anything else in there?”

“Well, a number of stories about the Apsaras. Your friend Cherry, or Chitralekha appears to be a particularly dangerous one – she appears in many stories as a clever manipulator, usually functioning as an assassin. The Fire Apsara – Maitreyi, the favourite of the Sun God, if you’re interested in knowing her name – is the most commonly summoned one, used as a brute battering ram of force. There are some Apsaras who chose not to be summoned at all, including Jananidhara the life-giver and Mrityunjayi, mistress of death.”

“So how many can be summoned, then?”

“Apart from Chitralekha and Maitreyi, there is Ragini the mistress of weapons, Saudamini the weather-witch, Ayushi the healer and the one who started it all, Urvashi.”

“I wonder how many the Routers have succeeded in summoning.”

Martin passed a hand over his brow.

“We only know of one so far. Let’s hope it’s not more than that. I hope they haven’t got Urvashi, though. Did you know about the connection between her and Hogwarts?”

“Hogwarts!” the other three cried out together.

“Yes, Hogwarts. Interesting little story. Not in the book. Deduced it.” He gave them a mysterious smile.

“What are you driveling about, Martin?” asked Rose.

“Not driveling. Think, guys…I’ve told you everything you need to know.”

“If you have, then we’re Watsons to your Holmes,” said Hugo matter-of-factly.

“Can’t you tie it in with Hogwarts, a History?”

“Martin,” said Rose, speaking slowly, “if you are under the impression that any of us has read that book…”

“Ah yes, of course,” said Martin, jumping to his feet, “you wouldn’t have. Well, then, let me give you the prĂ©cis version. The four founders of Hogwarts all hail from different parts of the British islands. They came together when they united against the tyrant Emperor Brusillian who conquered all of Wizarding Europe and launched an assault on England in the eleventh century. Brusillian’s charge was led by his consort Ursula, the most devastating battle-mage of all time. She wielded a mysterious wooden staff rather than a wand, and could wipe out entire armies single-handedly. Beautiful, proud and utterly devastating, Ursula led Brusillian’s navy to the coasts of Dover from where they invaded the country, destroying all that they saw right up to the borders of Caledonia – or Scotland, as we now know it. It was here that Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, the four mightiest wizards in England made their last stand, from a strategically located forest. The few remaining Wizards gathered to make their last stand from an ancient castle on the borders of the forest. The final battle was fought over a lake and Ursula was finally defeated when the foursome challenged her to fight them without her army behind her. She successfully fought and defeated Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw in single combat, and had almost defeated Gryffindor when Slytherin, as had been planned previously, cut through the personal guard of Emperor Brusillian himself and assassinated him. The moment co-incided with Gryffindor firing the killing curse at Ursula which seemed to hit, though her body was never recovered. Naturally, the site of the great victory was where the Founders chose to build Hogwarts, their legacy to posterity.”

He gave them a half-smile, as if daring them to say what was so blindingly obvious to him.

“So this Ursula…?”

“I would be very surprised if it was otherwise,” he said simply.

“Well, what I’d like to know is,” said Albus. “What do we do next?”

“Tell your father what we’re up against,” said Rose.

“Oh yes, of course. That’s right. Tell him WHAT? And HOW?”

“It’s not as easy as just dropping an owl to Uncle Harry.” said Hugo, “For one thing, we definitely do not want him to know that we are…aware of what’s going on.”

For people who, as kids, invariably poked their noses into the business of their elders, Uncle Harry and his friends were certainly very conservative when it came to their own children. Rose and Hugo had never quite been told by their own parents the events of last war, apart from some vague explanations about why the wizarding world regarded them with such awe. It wasn’t until coming to Hogwarts that they had quite realised how famous their parents were, or how young they had been when they had done the deeds that made them famous. It had been the same with James and Albus, she knew, the brothers barely knowing of the deeds of their parents or the people they were named after until fairly recently. Rose wondered how much Lily knew, or had bothered to find out, about the family of which she was the most attractive and least intelligent part.

“No, we don’t,” agreed Albus. “Father would throw several fits, and mother would have us get home-schooled if she found out we were involved in this stuff.”

“I guess it falls to me, then,” sighed Martin.

“Yes,” Hugo concurred. “It will.”

“What?” asked Rose and Albus together.

“Mrs. Scamander is the one person who probably has a practical view of the world,” replied Hugo, “ironic as that might sound. Where our parents would go ballistic about our safety and how we acquired the information, I’m suspecting she would, with perhaps an odd reference to snorcacks and nargles, go to Uncle Harry or Mom, tell what she had learned and refuse to divulge the source. Is that correct?”

“Who is Mrs. Scamander?” asked Rose, curious to know about this new person.

Hugo, Albus and Martin gave loud sighs.

“Rose, you attended the wedding!” said Martin at last. “Don’t you remember getting drunk and dancing the tango with Yuki Uribe from your house? It was during last year’s Christmas hols!”

“I have no…”

“Why do you think half the school is convinced your bisexual?” asked Albus, looking genuinely surprised, “At least twenty of us saw you dance most suggestively indeed with her!”

“I…erm,” Rose coloured as the recollections flooded across her brain. “Well, that’s not important anyway. What’s important is that I now remember that Martin’s mother married Rolf Scamander the naturalist. Anyway, I agree with Hugo, that’s our best bet.”

Martin got to his feet.

“I’ll owl mother first thing tomorrow morning and tell her I’ve seen a spotted camel or something. That should bring her down by tomorrow evening. We can all meet her then. For now, I think it’s best we get to bed.”

Albus yawned.

“I second that. Who’s guarding Rose today?”

“I refuse to be guarded! There’s nothing to be concern…”

She didn’t get to complete the sentence, as her cousin Lily chose that moment to wander into the room and say, turning a vacant gaze upon her brother,

“I thought I might find you here.”

“Lily! What on earth are you doing here?”

“I was looking for you. I went up to Rose’s dorm but she wasn’t sleeping there. So then I went into Albus’s dorm but he wasn’t there either, only that strange boy Ruthven, who tried to persuade me that Albus was in bed with him and I could find him by getting under the sheets with him.”

“Ruthven’s a dead man,” said Albus, matter-of-factly.

“I’ll have a chat with him,” said Hugo. “But WHY were you looking for us, sister dearest?”

“Oh. I had something to tell you.”

“What might that be? We don’t have all night.” said Rose testily.

“What I’d like to know is how she got in here,” said Hugo. “Martin, I thought you said you’d put protective spells on this place against anyone entering without my permission.”

“It’s a blood ward,” replied Martin, “and she’s half a Weasley.”

“Well, someone put her back in bed before she enters another boy’s wet dreams,” said Rose.

They trooped out of the room and entered the corridor. Hugo locked the door behind him with a tap of his wand.

It wasn’t until they were at the place where Martin had to separate from them to go to the Ravenclaw common room that Albus remembered to ask,

“What was it you’d come to tell us anyway, Lily?”

“Oh yes. I remember. James and Scorpius are duelling out on the grounds, near the lake. I think they’ve been at it nearly half-an-hour by now.”

"What!" Rose's alarmed expression was apparent to her cousins even in the darkness.

"Oh yes, and Scorpius looked badly hurt when Estelle told me to run and get you. He was lying on his back and just...what's the word...twitching."

"Don't let anyone tell you apparition isn't possible inside Hogwarts," said Hugo to Albus and Martin as they watched Rose bolt in the direction of the main door of the castle, "When a girl can move that fast, it becomes irrelevant. Shall we follow, gentlemen? And you too, of course, my fair cousin. Onward, march!"