Odi et Amo: The Necromancer's Psychomanteum

Chapter 18: The Room of Runes

The end of January ushered in a bitter squall to accompany Lily's ardent birthday plans. Using the supplies she could find, Taylor was able to wrap the chess set in an iridescent burgundy tissue paper. Along with the game, the Slytherin fixed the tears and refined the stains on her friend's masquerade dress, which she folded neatly upon the claret colored package. Much to Taylor's satisfaction, Lily became engrossed with wizard's chess; upon the gift's opening, she requested to play immediately. Together, they spent hours practicing the rules, techniques, and algebraic notations. Both girls were surprised when the pieces began to destroy one another. Lily's knight tried to give her advice, while Taylor's ebony bishop shouted curses to the ivory queen.

With a new hobby to pass the time and detention behind her, Taylor once again began to enjoy her stay at Hogwarts. Lengthened to the atypical twenty-nine days, February receded from the Gregorian calendar to herald in the milder spring months. Students exchanged sentimental Valentines and the cold melted away entirely, but Taylor chose to focus on her studies instead. The Avifors Spell soon became her favorite to cast, especially when tempted by procrastination. Jezebel, who watched Taylor intently, ruffled in irritation whenever her master conjured a hummingbird from a crumpled paper ball. Still sore about her grandmother's opal, the girl often kept the white raven locked away. She dreaded the idea of setting Jezebel free, without retrieving the precious gem first.

March arrived shortly after Gryffindor's victory over Hufflepuff in the recent Quidditch match. Morale was high throughout Gryffindor tower, completed with scarlet and gold banners strung about the common room in celebration. By the players' request, the extravagant decorations remained intact for the whole month; the streamers and pennant flags boosted house spirit and supported good humor amongst the students. Amidst the commotion of accomplishment and the daily academic grind, Remus took a holiday. The full moon heightened the week of the werewolf's birthday, which put a damper on Remus's plans. James, Sirius, and Peter noted his abrupt disappearance, but attributed it to his consistently ill mother. Unaware of their friend's true nature, the boys agreed to combine Remus's belated party with James's sub sequential celebration. As March quietly drew to a close, the Gryffindor common room was transformed into a boisterous den of revelry.

A frosty round of butterbeer was dispersed to an eager crowd of partygoers. Gryffindors of all years, crammed into the common room to clap James and Remus on the shoulder, supporting them with the best possible wishes. Fabian Prewett, along with his brother, Gideon, distributed cases of syrupy butterbeer, while simultaneously encouraging the escalating raucous. Although the boys were a few years older, the redheaded siblings embraced any occasion to carouse with their fellow students. Sirius took a seat on the floor next to Peter, who greedily guzzled his second bottle of butterscotch beer, while Remus and James watched the entertainment from the couch.

On a weekend visit to Hogsmeade, Gideon scored an enchanted top hat from a local bartender. Classical Victorian in model, the umber hat would continuously produce bottled butterbeer for anyone celebrating their birthday until the following morning. The Prewetts entrusted the high hat to James, so long as he promised pass it on to Gryffindor's next worthy first year. Through the course of the evening, James would dip his hand into the headpiece to retrieve an icy drink, similar to the way magicians procure rabbits for astounded audiences. Fabian, who was a year older than his third year brother, clasped his brother's shoulder affectionately. Nonchalantly, he checked his wristwatch and tapped it forlornly.

"We ought to be rounding up these shenanigans, don't you think?"

Gideon stretched and smiled with a sudden burst of energy. "Right! Can't be having all the little chicks up past midnight, especially after the ransacking incident. Fenwick would knock our heads in, if that happened again." He clapped his hands and singlehandedly shepherded the groups up the spiral staircase to their dormitories.

Without complaint, the guests of honor followed the herd. James settled into his downy four poster bed. He placed the hat at a crooked angle on his head. Lying back in satisfaction, James noticed Sirius perched on the edge of a luggage trunk. His friend was intently tying his plain black shoelace into the perfect bow knot.

"Where are you going?" James inquired casually. The top hat upon his head dipped over his hazel eyes. Sirius snorted in reply, catching the attention of a concerned Remus and an oblivious Peter. "Come on mate, the Prewetts claimed this topper will shell out butterbeers until tomorrow's sunrise. What could be so important that you'd want to miss this miracle?" To exaggerate his point, James tipped the hat from his scalp, reached in dramatically, and pulled out a frosty bottle. He brandished it toward Sirius tauntingly. "I mean, I like them frothy warm better, but it would be straight complicated to pull a tankard from a top hat."

Amused by James's enthusiasm, Sirius hopped to his bedside. He grabbed the butterbeer from his friend's hand and took a swig. "I won't be gone long. I have an appointment in the Room of Runes."

"An appointment?" Remus sounded skeptical.

"I challenged that dodgy Slytherin to a duel." Sirius admitted under his breath. When Remus's faced whitened with protest, the boy quickly justified himself. "If any of us had destroyed the Slytherin dormitory, we would have served at least two weeks of detention. It's about time I took justice into my own hands."

Remus threw his hands up defensively. "Hold on there, Zorro. You can't just go accusing random Slytherins of breaking into our secure dormitory." The other three boys looked up in confusion.

"Zorro?" Sirius quipped, feigning interest.

With exasperation, Remus rubbed his eyes. "Yes, Zorro. The early twentieth century vigilante, who avenges the helpless and punishes cruel politicians!" Both Sirius and James held back a laugh. Peter, seeing his chance to ascend the hierarchy, pointed his finger to the ceiling pretentiously.

"Oh, don't you mean Robin Hood?"

"No. Almost the same premise though." Remus looked toward his bookshelf in dismay. "Seriously, the three of you need to pick up a book."

Sensing his friend's discomfort, James coyly changed the subject. "Brilliant suggestion, Remus. The fact remains, that Sirius cannot duel Wilkes." He jumped up, pausing only to catch a stray empty bottle headed toward the floor. "At least not alone! The four of us should go. You can always tag me in as your second. I bet the Slytherin'll bring a couple of people along with him anyway."

Sirius hesitated. "If more people come along, than there is a greater chance of getting caught by prefects."

"I got just the cure for that." James bent over his trunk, tearing through its contents.

In the brief rest in conversation between James and Sirius, Remus voiced his position on the subject. "I hate to spoil any plans, but I am not going with you guys." The werewolf almost always refused to go on their missions, based on the principle that he did not want to test Dumbledore's patience. "And I think you should really reconsider—"

"Found it!" James whipped a sleek cloak from his luggage, the celestial designs shimmering like liquid silver. He draped it over his hands and presented it to Sirius. "An invisibility cloak. My father gave it to me during the holiday. It's some sort of family heirloom, but it'd be a waste to lock it away."

"You are a scoundrel." Sirius rushed over to touch it. His hands slid over the material effortlessly. "Try it on! Give it a test." Without hesitation, James wrapped it around himself. Instantly his figure disappeared from their view. "Cor, blimey!"

Peter clapped his hands in excitement and Sirius reached his arms around blindly. Concealed from their vision, James freely weaved around Sirius and toward Remus, who squinted dubiously. The invisible boy picked up Remus's bedside book and threw it toward Peter.

Clumsily, Peter caught the volume and tossed it in the air excitedly. "I am definitely coming with you two." James popped his head from the cloak and smiled. His cranium floated ominously.

"So what do you say, mate? Can we tag along to scare the little Slytherins?" The hovering head's pouting face caused Sirius to chuckle.

"Every Zorro needs his merry men, right? Let's show Wilkes that we aren't blokes to be messed with." Sirius smirked excitedly. The crossover of literature and his friends' rancorousness caused Remus to cringe internally.

Taylor saw the roaring green fire in the Slytherin common room as an invitation to catch up on her History of Magic reading. By eleven, all of the girls were tucked away in their beds, except for the single student who craved light to read by. In an attempt to be considerate, she chose to extinguish her wand and study elsewhere. The circular den was completely empty of students, except for herself; this was the environment she needed to avoid the demons of procrastination. Strewing her notes around the floor, Taylor leaned her back against a mahogany end table and read a chapter on Muggle witch hunts.

Indeed, Wendelin the Weird enjoyed being burned so much that she allowed herself to be caught no less than forty-seven times in various disguises. More Muggle deaths were recorded during this time, with mortality rates speculated between 40,000 to 100,000. Small populations of magical folk were executed during both the North Berwick and Swedish Torsaker witch trials. Sub sequentially, no witch or wizard was killed during the infamous American Salem trials.

Taylor placed a bookmark on the page. Perhaps the dream is about a witch trial. It didn't seem like the soldiers were looking for magic though. Her reflection was interrupted by the hurried thump of footsteps against stone. She peeked around the furniture cautiously. Fionn, wrapped tightly in a green cloak, hastened toward the dungeons exit. His brisk pace caused the girl some alarm, so she chose to speak out.

"Where are you headed after hours?" Taylor joked. The Slytherin boy flinched at the sound of her voice, but halted at the doorway. Fionn refused to make eye contact, which made it difficult to observe his face. Instead, he stood awkwardly and adjusted his elegant necktie. "You've been acting strange lately. Why are you so distant? Is everything alright?"

Her inquisition threw him into a fit of hysterics. "So many questions! I should be able to go for an evening walk if I want to. Stop mothering me for once, I am perfectly fine. You'd think you'd have better things to do."

Affronted by his outburst, Taylor narrowed her eyes. She got to her feet, allowing the book to slide from her lap to the floor. Subduing her intrinsic rage, Taylor calmly pointed a threatening finger at the ground.

"Excuse me for showing a bit of concern for my fellow housemate! I was under the impression that we were friends, but if you're going to act this way I will find better things to do!"

"You're going to wake the whole house with your squawking." The boy grumbled, but as Taylor moved toward the girl's dormitory he followed after her. "Wait, wait! I apologize." A boiling temper urged the girl to discard his apology or push him into the burning hearth. Turning toward him, however, her bitterness melted away. For the first time, she was able to look passed his stony stare at remorseful gunmetal blue irises. "I'm just really stressed and I've never been very good at opening up to people."

"You have to stop lashing out at me."

Fionn's face grew pink as he swallowed his aggression. "There are times where you make that difficult for me. As much as I would love to continue this riveting exchange of emotion, I have to go duel a repulsive Gryffindor."

Taylor blinked in surprise. "Sirius?"

"Other people know about this ridiculous affair?" Fionn felt for his wand under his cloak. "The louse will get what's coming for him—"

"Sirius will probably bring James. You could be outmatched." They would jump him without any sort of chance. I can't let that happen.

"I can handle it." The boy reassured her. "I'll see you in class tomorrow."

Before she could think it through, Taylor offered her assistance. "I am coming with you." I don't know the first rule of dueling. What are you saying? Her reason was followed by Fionn's startled body language. He went to argue, but she held up her hand in retaliation. "I can't let you get blasted to a pulp or cursed with bogies. I am not cleaning up that mess. Besides, we are friends and friends help one another."

Fionn sighed, exasperated by the girl's determination. "You always have to have it your way don't you?"

"Forgive me for selfishly caring about my only friend in Slytherin." Taylor defiantly placed her books on the end table and waited for his retort. Fionn could not help but chuckle from the absurdity of his predicament. Never before had he met a girl as fiery as himself.

Assuming the role of a gentleman, he allowed her to go first through the door. As she passed him, however, he added coyly, "We share a book for a week in one class and somehow I am shackled to you for life." The Slytherin girl stuck out her tongue at him childishly and scooted through the passageway.

I've never dueled before. What if I get smashed to pieces like my knight on Lily's chess set? What if wizard duels are violent and always end in extreme pain or death? Together, the two Slytherins lurked the castle corridors in search of the Room of Runes. Breaking curfew still charged Taylor with an intoxicating surge of electricity, although the sensation was slightly poisoned with the acrid aftertaste of January's detention. After a long flight of stairs, Fionn finally gestured to a plain oak door. You would think that with a name like "The Room of Runes" that the door would have cryptic writing all over it.

"That's it. It's not too late for you to go back to your books." Take him up on that offer.

Anxiety twitched in her fingers. To mask her doubt she grabbed the door handle before Fionn could. "I am ready to meet my maker; whether my maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter."Famous last words. If only I had Winston Churchill's true relentless passion! This is going to be interesting.With both mental and physical exertion, Taylor pulled open the heavy door.

Once inside, the Slytherins marveled at the space's magnitude. Like many other rooms in the castle, the area was circular with high vaulted ceilings. There were, however, no windows; the only source of light emanated from eight dragon sconces etched into the beige marbled walls. Instead of slabs of granite, blue volcanic pebbles crunched under their feet. The gravel was intricately combed into swirls and spirals, and near the center of the room rested three colossal boulders. Sharp runes were engraved in corkscrew patterns along the massive stones. An indoor Zen garden. Islands in a sea or maybe the peaks of mountains rising above the clouds. I wonder what the runes say. Maybe at one time, this room was meant for peace or meditation. Much to her disappointment, the moment of awe inspiring beauty was shattered by Sirius's arrogant tone.

"You brought her as your second? A girl? Fighting a girl might actually go against my conscience." Sirius appeared from around a boulder, followed by James. Their feet destroyed the simple geometric beauty created by the raked lines. I want to blast them already.

"Don't pretend like you have ethics, Black. I'll only jump in if James does." Taylor growled defensively. Fionn chose to remain silent, but his hand hovered over his wand instinctually.

Prepared for the challenge, Sirius held up his wand. "Well it can't get clearer than that, can it? Wands only, which means no physical contact." Reveling in the moment, the boy paused and leaned close to James. "We'll see if Salazar can keep her hands off me." He whispered, loud enough for both parties to hear. The hairs on the back of Taylor's neck bristled with irritation.

"On the count of three." Redirecting the confrontation, Fionn caught Sirius's attention. "One—"

Flamboyantly, Sirius drew up his arms in an arc and dipped a bow for his adversary; Fionn, however, only reciprocated with a terse nod of his head. The refusal to defer took Sirius by surprise and a flicker of resentment rippled across his face.


As the numbers rattled in the air ominously, James used his index finger to stroke his wand. He watched Taylor's movements intently, as she attempted to prepare a defensive spell. "Three."

"Everte Statum!" Orange light exploded from the tip of Fionn's wand toward Sirius. Reflexively, the young Gryffindor jumped out of harm's way, twisting around to return fire.


Prepared for the counterattack, Fionn blocked the green sparks by mumbling a weak defensive charm. Sirius's spell ricocheted away from its target and at James, who barely escaped in a spray of gravel. Concerned for his comrade, Sirius took a moment to observe James through his peripherals before blasting another jet of sparks at Fionn. The incantation marginally surpassed the Slytherin boy's left ear.

In the mayhem, Taylor's arsenal of spells disintegrated into an inconvenient oblivion. Should I jump in? I can't think of any offensive spells! For a brief interval, she watched the exchange. Taylor was mesmerized by Fionn's swift gallant counterassault, complete with faultless composure. In a matter of seconds, however, the possibility of victory crumbled. An unexpected beam of cerulean collided with Fionn's right shoulder, veering him backward into a wall. The boy's cherry wood wand shot to the center of the room and bounced off a scripted stone.

Spurred into sudden action, Taylor aimed at James and shouted, "Expelliarmus!"

James's mahogany sprig violently jerked from his hand and skittered across the room. Swearing at the top of his lungs, he hastily dove after it. Blinded by hubris in the heat of battle, Taylor neglected to follow up on her second opponent. Mercilessly, Sirius rounded on the inexperienced witch, who was not quick enough to evade his scarlet blast. She was catapulted toward the ceiling. As she fell toward the ground, her stomach quivered, unnaturally snuggling against the lungs and heart. James retrieved his wand and attentively pointed it at Fionn, who was within reach of his own magical armament.

"Tarantallegra!" James bellowed. Fionn's legs began to dance uncontrollably; a marionette puppeted to perform a solo samba. Taylor struggled to her feet, but halted when she noticed the tip of Sirius's wand in her face.

"Don't move Salazar. Drop your wan—"

"You cheated!" Taylor's voice caught in her throat. "There is someone hiding in here. I know it!"

"Don't be paranoid." Sirius teased, mocking Taylor's tone from the previous day. Forced to dance provocatively, Fionn reluctantly unfastened his necktie and threw it at Jame's feet. The crunch of gravel from Fionn's servile shoes and her captor's leering smirk triggered Taylor's headstrong retaliation. I don't have to follow his rules. A fight is a fight. Defiant of his unwavering wand, she glared up at him. Taylor lurched forward, knocking Sirius to the ground.

"Petrificus Totalus!" Sirius's body stiffened instantly.

Without a second thought, Taylor jumped over Sirius and tackled James to the floor. Fionn regained control over his legs. He grabbed Taylor by the shoulders, pulling her off the baffled Gryffindor boy. Filled with adrenaline, the girl reached down to retrieve her friend's tie. Fionn pushed her toward the exit and together the pair fled from the room for the sanctuary of the Slytherin dungeons. James groaned in pain. As he sat up, he rubbed his side and hobbled over to Sirius, waving his wand to undo the hex. Peter materialized from underneath the invisibility cloak, his forehead sweaty with the thrill of battle.

"How'd I do?"

"You could have been a tad bit more involved at the end, when that tart was petrifying me!" Sirius snapped sourly. Peter recoiled and looked at James for praise.

"I was distracted. That Slytherin git was really dancing. It was hilarious stuff, James." Honored by Peter's flattery, James puffed up proudly.

"Don't feel bad, mate." James nudged Sirius optimistically. "You were ace. They both ran for their mothers. Besides, this may cheer you up." He held up a springy holly wand. "When she tackled me, Taylor dropped her wand. Jabbed me in the gut when we collided, but I suppose it was worth it. Shall we celebrate with a round of butterbeer?"

Sirius's spirits lifted, as he snatched the wand from his friend's hand. "James, you never cease to impress me." A rush of cold wind extinguished several of the fiery sconces.

A refreshing wave of relief comforted both Taylor and Fionn, as they stepped through the stone wall and into the Slytherin sanctuary. The green fire and plush sofa cushions had never felt so inviting. That was a headache. I thought my days of tackling boys were over. The girl walked to her unbothered textbooks and then turned back to observe her friend. I bet Fionn feels terrible. What was I thinking?

"Sorry I wasn't much help back there." She apologized. Fionn waved her apology away. Much to her surprise, the Slytherin boy was smiling.

"I only went to save face. In my opinion, losing is better than cheating. Some people don't know fair sport." The tired boy gestured to the ceiling. "Thank you for grabbing my tie last minute. I wouldn't have wanted Black's sticky fingers to take it as a replacement trophy."

Replacement trophy? That's odd. Does he know about Sirius's abducted stolen stash? Mindlessly, Taylor reached into her robes to retrieve Fionn's green and silver necktie. Maybe I am thinking too much into it—An oppressive feeling swept over the girl. Blood drained from her face, as Taylor began to pat herself down vigorously.

"Did you drop it? It's not an issue, Taylor. Really, I can always buy another." Shaking her head, Taylor pulled his tie out and handed it to him. After allowing the tie to exchange hands, she moved for the exit. Surprised by his friend's alarming attitude shift, he followed in the wake of the fleeing presence. "Where are you—?"

"I must have dropped my wand in the Room of Runes. I need to find it before Sirius and James do."

"I'm coming along." Running to keep up, Fionn added, "Don't worry, Taylor. If they have your wand, I'll make them regret it. They will be vomiting newts and earthworms until their tongues fall out." That's a generous offer.

Retracing their steps, the pair navigated the halls toward the Room of Runes once again. As they approached, an eerie howl reverberated off the stone walls. The hairs on Taylor's arm bristled and the air became colder. Sir Henry Baskerville must have had nausea when he crossed that foggy moor in the dead of night. Without a wand, I am sickeningly helpless.

"Just stay behind me." Fionn pried open the heavy door and peered in hesitantly. Without an explanation, he closed it quickly.

"What?" Taylor asked. When he did not reply, she moved to open the door. He grabbed the handle protectively.

"I think we should get out of here while we can."

Taylor studied him for a moment. Something's not right. She inserted herself between him and the door, nudging him away from the entrance. Battling him physically, she threw open the door. A thick fog engulfed the dark room, covering a swarm of forty Gytrash. The only available light source came from the glowing mist and flashes of scarlet and blue. Streams of sparks shot through the haze, as Sirius, James, and Peter sent curses at the bloodthirsty canines. Despite its transparent frame, a hefty hellhound pounced on James, who fell to the floor with a thud. Terrified, Peter screamed every jinx that came to mind.

"F-flip-f-flipendo!" Peter wavered. "Bloody F-flipendo!"

"A little help here!" James shouted, straining his voice. The jaws of the animal were uncomfortably close to his face. Sirius tried to escape the circle of beasts around him, but they tightened the gaps and snapped at his calves.

Dismayed by the boys' struggle, Taylor took a step into the room. A violent force pulled her backward. She stumbled against Fionn, who held onto the girl firmly. Giving the door a firm kick, he slammed it shut before the Gytrash noticed their arrival.

"We can't just leave them! They'll be ripped apart, maybe even killed." She struggled against him. "We know how to fend them off!"

"They'd be getting what they deserve." Fionn responded darkly. "Think of all the violence and trouble they've caused for innocent people. Besides, they aren't like us, Taylor. They might as well be blood traitors." He's serious. However deserving they may be, leaving them would be a heartless act. I can't live with that guilt. Using her aggression to her advantage, she gave Fionn's foot a heavy stomp. He dropped her and recoiled into a fit of swearwords. Wandless, Taylor turned away from him, rushed passed the door, and into the pack of spectral hounds. Surprised by the sudden aid, Peter and Sirius paused to watch Taylor's ambush. Several Gytrash perked up their ears and converged on the fresh target.

"Use Lumos!" Arms waving wildly, Taylor ran toward the center of the room.

Heaving at the chest, three rabid beasts galloped after the lively Slytherin girl. I shouldn't have jumped into this mess without a wand. Pebbles shifted rhythmically underfoot, as Taylor darted for the central rock formation. A sharp twist in her ankle caused the girl to fall into a spray gravel. Within seconds, a cumbersome weight crashed down onto Taylor's spine.

"Someone use Lumos!" She called out desperately.

Across the room, jagged fangs tore into James's shoulder, grazing his clavicle. Despite the pain, he pointed his wand at the hellhound's snout and through clenched teeth conjured a stream of white light. The Gytrash on top of him, along with several nearby, withdrew with a shudder. The largest of the pack snarled fiercely at James, who held a steady gaze with the menacing creature. Blood dripped from the boy's arm to the floor, but he valiantly continued to ward off the ghostly canines on his way to help Taylor.

The Slytherin girl covered the back of her neck with shaking hands, as the Gytrash's teeth tore at her knuckles. Peter squealed deafeningly as two hounds shredded the lower portion of his cloak. Sputtering from fear and frustration, the mousy Gryffindor boy could not muster the incantation needed to fend off the brutes. Distracted by his ally's shriek, James lost concentration, causing his wand to darken. The creatures converged on him again, taking advantage of the momentary weakness. Following James's lead, Sirius lit his wand, thrusting through the crowd of ruthless Gytrash toward Peter. Noting Taylor's predicament, he reached into his inner coat pocket to retrieve her wand.

"Taylor! Your wand!" With his extra hand, Sirius chucked the holly wand through the air toward the girl.

Turning toward the sound of his voice, Taylor saw the wand land just within an arm's distance. Daringly, she reached for the weapon. Unexpectedly, her wrist was intercepted by another spectral dog. Trying to pull back her hand, Taylor yelped as the creature ripped into her exposed skin. From the door, Fionn rushed to Taylor's side, blasting the converging animals with radiant white phosphorescence. Through the pain, the Slytherin girl grabbed her wand and blinded another impending assailant.

With the exception of Peter, all wands were illuminated with blazing flares. The pack of creatures circled the group, attempting to find a weak point. The fog diluted as the students began to huddle together. Taylor limped close to Fionn, her wand stretched out toward the flickering specters. In order to move faster, Fionn wrapped Taylor's arm over his shoulder and hurried toward the exit. James and Sirius shepherded Peter toward the Slytherins. A frustrated howl echoed into the hallway, but the Gytrash did not follow the group. The beams of candlelight were powerful enough to deter the shadow thriving monsters. One by one, the Gytrash dissipated into the mist. Without an exchange of words, the group hurried to the Grand Staircase. As Taylor and Fionn descended toward the dungeons, Sirius called after them.

"Hey, thanks for your help back there. I never would have thought to use Lumos." He talked passed Fionn and to Taylor. The Slytherin boy ignored this; he was too busy watching for prefects and professors.

"Yeah. Sometimes it's the unlikeliest of spells, right?" Taylor saw the Gryffindor's sincerity and for once did not detest him. "Thanks for giving my wand back." Sirius coughed back a laugh.

James held a hand over the gushing wound in his shoulder. "I hate to be the whiner, but this hurts something awful. I just want to go have a butterbeer."

"The Prewetts may have a trick for that." Sirius sized up Taylor's blood-splattered hands. "What about you? Are you going to be alright? We could get you some help."

Impatiently, Fionn walked down a few steps, trusting that his friend would not fall into the Gryffindor boy's sympathetic offer. Absentmindedly, Taylor waved away Sirius's concern.

"I'll be fine." She turned to follow after Fionn, leaving the Gryffindors behind to tend to their wounds.

Silently, the pair made the descent down winding stairs toward the inviting security of the Hogwarts dungeons. Occasionally, Taylor thought she could hear the low throaty rumble of canine vocals. The girl grasped her wand tightly, comforted by Fionn's company. His companionship, however, was tainted by a singularly sinister aspect. If Fionn agreed with what Regulus said about blood traitors and muggleborns at the Winter Solstice masquerade, does that mean he believes he's better than others? Would he really have let the Gytrash kill those boys, just because they make him angry? If I am not careful, he could see me as his enemy also. Questions churned in her entrails. What if Sirius is right? Maybe Fionn is helping Professor Greer. Perhaps they summoned the Gytrash together to hurt the muggleborns or blood traitors. Safely inside the common room, Fionn headed straight for the boys' dormitory without sparing another moment for his comrade in arms.

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