Chapter 31

Ines, to her regret, spent much longer in the common room than she wanted to. The cause of her regret being her lack of resilience towards Sirius. He and James had gotten into a competition to see who out of the two of them could resist hiccuping after eating a package of Hiccup Sweets from Zonko's joke shop. An hour later they reluctantly left the sunlit common room for the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom four floors below. Lily was already queuing outside, carrying an armful of heavy books and looking put-upon. "I got so much homework for Runes," she said anxiously, when Ines joined her, having had a class during Ines' and the boy's free block. "A fifteen-inch essay, two translations, and I've got to read these by Wednesday!". "Shame," yawned Ines. "You wait," she said resentfully. "I bet Merrythought gives us loads.". At the sound of her name, the door swung open and the kids filed in. But, instead of the rows of desks, they were greeted by an empty space. Once all inside, Merrythought began her dramatic introduction.

"The Dark Arts, are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible. Your defenses must, therefore, be as flexible and inventive as the arts you seek to undo. These pictures" — she indicated a few of them as she swept past — "give a fair representation of what happens to those who suffer, for instance, the Cruciatus Curse" — she waved a hand toward a witch who was clearly shrieking in agony — "feel the Dementor's Kiss" — a wizard lying huddled and blank-eyed, slumped against a wall — "or provoke the aggression of the Inferius" — a bloody mass upon the ground. The majority of the class quivered in fear. "You are all, I believe, complete novices in the use of nonverbal spells. What is the advantage of a nonverbal spell?"

Lily's hand shot into the air, sticking out as she stands from the front of the crowd. Throughout Merrythoughts explanation Ines had slinked towards the back of the crowd, going to stand with the rest of the girls. Dorcas was incredibly excited for this lesson and had been awaiting it all year as she believed she would be incredibly good at it. Believing her immense focus on divination and using her mind for magic would give her top marks.

"Your adversary has no warning about what kind of magic you're about to perform, which gives you a split-second advantage." Lily's answer was most likely verbatim from the textbook but Merrythought took it anyways. "Yes, those who progress to using magic without shouting incantations gain an element of surprise in their spell-casting. Not all wizards can do this, of course; it is a question of concentration and mind power which some lack.". Emmeline practically snorted at the sentiment, very confident in her abilities. "You will now divide," Merrythought went on, "into pairs. One partner will attempt to jinx the other without speaking. The other will attempt to repel the jinx in equal silence. Carry on."

Dorcas grabbed Ines' hand, pulling her towards her, "I know you're one of the best at jinxes, so if I can beat you I can beat just about anyone." Ines looked at her, eyes wide "I'm not so sure about that.". Dorcas rolled her eyes as if it was a joke, "Oh please, I saw you jinx those Slytherin boys in the corridor yesterday for trying to gang up on Remus". Ines smiled discreetly, thinking nobody had seen that. Remus bag had ripped open and in the process of picking up all his papers, a group of about four 7th year Slytherin goons had crowded around him, teasing him for his tattered bag and scarred face.

Ten minutes into the lesson Dorcas, who was supposed to be jinxing Ines, was purple in the face, her lips tightly compressed to save herself from the temptation of muttering the incantation. Ines had her wand raised, waiting on tenterhooks to repel a jinx that seemed unlikely ever to come. Despite Dorcas' immense amount of confidence, she wasn't as good at the lesson as she thought. Just when Ines spotted Dorcs spit out a jinx she repelled it, but instead of stopping it, it ricochets right back to Dorcas, which was not her intention. Dorcas staggered backward, falling slightly, before lifting her face up to reveal a nasty boil on her forehead. Merrythought scurried over at the sound of a gasp from Peter and Remus next to them and immediately took Dorcas by the shoulders, "Dear Merlin! Miss Meadows were you hardly even trying? Or, Miss. Avery was you too brutal! Either way, Miss. Vance, off to the infirmary.". Dorcas walked out, holding her hand over her boil. Once Merrythought walked away, Ines looked around surveying the other groups. Mary and Emmeline, Marlene and Geoffrey Hooper, Peter and Remus, and - surprisingly - James and Lily. They were both equally minorly scuffed up, with offset ties, Lily with purple hair, and James with broken glasses.

Then the realization hit her just as it stepped in front of her. Sirius, with his hands in his pocket, "I was working with Marlene and Geoffrey but, looks like you're free now. Hope you don't ruin my perfect face like you did Dorcas'.". The two of them backed up, wands at the ready and in a dueling stance. "I hardly even touched Dorcas, she was convinced she would ace this assignment with her infinite brain power, thanks to divination. I've no clue what Babblings done to that poor girl, probably told her that she could repel jinxes using the power of the moon.". They both chuckled, still stalking each other in a circle as if they were dueling. "What was that crockpot thing she told you in the fourth year? I remember we probably laughed for at least the whole rest of the class." Ines remembered it exactly, it had always strangely stuck to her. "She said that I would one day experience something that 'inspires stars to climb into the sky and light up the world'. How she got that from the crystal ball, I can't even imagine.".

As Sirius threw his head back to laugh Ines hit him with a momentary Jelly-Legs Jinx. He snapped his head back up, meeting her challenging and playful stare with an equally as powerful one. They paced for a few seconds more, a sinister grin forming on both their faces. He blocked her attempt at another Jelly-Legs Jinx and she blocked his Impediment Jinx. They parred, slowly coming closer and closer to meet each other in the center, Ines giggled "Get ready to kiss the cold floor". Sirius smile turned into a mischievous grin. "You're one to laugh. You moan about the cold floor more than anyone else that I know." She straightened as the students around them gave hesitant smiles, unsure if they were serious. "If I recall correctly, you complain about every time I wipe the floor with you when we duel.". "Oho!" James cried, and Sirius' brows rose higher. Ines gave him a grin. "Dangerous words," Sirius said.

Ines hit him with a Trip Jinx, the only indication she was doing a thing being her grin growing wider. Sirius hit the floor, and surrounding students paused to laugh. The smart ones either didn't laugh at Sirius and stifled it or used the opportunity to jinx their distracted partners. Ines held out her hand to help him up, which he took gladly. Their hands were in each other for quite a while, before she slipped his fingers from his. The feeling of his touch leaving her ran through her like a storm.