Author's Notes: Be patient with me, please. I'm now... :grimace: ... employed. (Oh, woe...) Updates might be a little slower than usual. On that matter, I know I promised some of you that I would have had this out a lot sooner, but I actually have to train for my job, and if I don't pass my certification test... I don't have a job. Which would SUCK after all the trouble I went through to get the damn thing. :grumbles:

As a secondary thought, sorry if this is a little rough around the ages; I'm too damn tired to proofread the entire thing. Again. (This is really becoming a habit with me...)

Thanks to everyone who reviewed! It drove me to finally pull away from studying to finish this! YAY!


Harry Potter and the Forgotten Heirs Part 10

He was in unchartered territory, thrown into a strange world filled with magic and unicorns and dragons, where time in relation to technology had come to a standstill ages before he was even born. Though his perceivable aura of collectiveness never cracked, he found it difficult to mask an amazing amount of awe and trepidation every time a wizard or witch so casually proved the existence of mystical powers that he'd been ensured since childhood was not real; magic was supposed to be nothing more than smoke, mirrors, and slight of hand. Never real.

Wrong. It was real, the laws of reality could be warped, and Relena Dorlian was fascinated by it. She was joined by Lady Une in that respect.

Thus Milliardo Peacecraft's presence at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His sister, her inner-politician brimming with new ideas, wanted a firsthand account of the inner workings of the wizarding world. Unfortunately, as Vice Foreign Minister, Relena was much too busy keeping the delicate peace between the colonies and the Earth Sphere Alliance healthy to have time to take on the role herself -but who better to take her place than her brother, we tended to have a lot more free time on his hands than he was willing to admit.

Of course, he had Lady Une to thank for putting him in this situation in the first place. She had been the one to suggest it to Relena, after all; though the Head of the Preventers Organization had other things on her mind that inspired her to make the suggestion.

"I worry about those boys, Agent Wind," Une had said, her attention focused on the beautiful skyline view outside of her office window. "I want you to keep an eye on them. Keep them out of trouble -but provide backup if they need it."

On the plus side, Zechs couldn't help but to be secretly amused when he finally noticed the five Gundam pilots staring at him from across the Great Hall, especially when he noticed Heero Yuy's gun hand spasm once before clenching into a fist. Subtly raising his glass to the wary former Gundam pilot (and favorite rival), Zechs obviously found that the old saying proved true: old habits really did die hard.

The chatty man beside him dropped his hand from its' jubilant wave. With a covert glance from Heero to Zechs, the Englishman asked keenly, "You know Yuy?"

Zechs smirked lazily. "We've met."

"Sounds like an interesting story," the man said with a touch of wicked humor before he offer his hand to Zechs. "How rude -I've been talking to you for fifteen minutes, and I've yet to introduce myself. I'm Sirius Black -the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor."

The former White Fang leader tilted his head to the side as he reconsidered the man beside him; more specifically, his appearance. With longer, unkempt hair and a less jovial expression, take away a few pounds... "As in the escaped convict?" Very rarely did a Preventer cast his eyes to the myriad of wanted posters crowding the office board; Zechs Marquise was not one of this particular breed of Preventer.

"I was acquitted," Black chimed promptly, his offered hand never wavering.

Interesting. "Milliardo Peacecraft," he said, finally accepting Black's hand. "From what I understand, we'll be working very close together."

"Will we?" Black mused aloud, leaning forward to look at the twinkly-eyed Headmaster sitting comfortably on Zechs' other side. "I haven't heard anything about that."

Albus Dumbledore smiled whimsically. "It's a fairly recent effort by the muggle Vice Foreign Minister and the Head of the Preventers Organization to create better understanding of muggle culture and physical fitness. I've been lead to believe that there are many forms of defense the typical wizard takes for granted in place of magic -Agent Peacecraft's new Muggle Defense course will directly correspond with your DADA classes, Sirius, in hopes of teaching our students what to do in the unfortunate event that he or she lose his or her wand."

Black's eyebrows rose curiously. "'Agent' Peacecraft?"

"I occasionally answer to Zechs Marquise," Zechs said evenly, casually sipping from his goblet as he watched lingering students find seats at their respective house tables. "As we'll be working together, I would prefer Zechs." It was at Relena's request that her brother take on his real name while escorting her on diplomatic matters that prompted him to introduce himself as Milliardo Peacecraft -as far as he was concerned, he would always be Zechs Marquise first and foremost.

"Still doesn't shed any light on that fascinating title, Zechs," the man said gamely.

Zechs chuckled quietly. "I'm a Preventer. Ah... the muggle version of an Unspeakable, I believe is the analogy Headmaster Dumbledore used."

"Quite right, my boy," the wizen man said gaily, popping what appeared to be a round yellow candy into his mouth before offering the bag to Zechs with a dotty smile. "Lemon drop?"

Zechs politely declined.

"Like an Unspeakable, you say?" Black hummed, casting a searching glance toward the Slytherin table, eyes landing on Heero Yuy. Almost as if instantly becoming aware of eyes on him, the Japanese pilot's shoulders stiffened rigidly. "And... you know Yuy."

"I do," Zechs replied evenly, sipping at his goblet again. He wasn't sure he liked the pumpkin-flavored concoction, but he noticed it seemed to be a wizarding world favorite.

"He's different," Black hedged softly, sending Zechs a pointed glance.

"He is." Said with such absolute certainty that it left no doubt to the validity of his agreement. "I'm guessing I'm not the only one who has had the pleasure of meeting Heero Yuy."

It was Black's turn to smirk lazily as he drawled, "You can say that. He's the brat that got me acquitted." Zechs wasn't surprised by that announcement. For someone labeled by the public as having such little value for human life, the pilot of Wing Zero had a remarkable capacity to do the right thing, no matter the costs. "Your Muggle Defense -will it encourage students to be different, too?"

"If they're willing to learn," Zechs replied in quiet confidence.

Sirius Black smirked, obviously pleased. "Excellent! I do believe you and I are going to make a marvelous team, Zechs Marquise."

Well, this was going even better than expected. "Likewise, Sirius Black."

And, a little further down the table, Severus Snape couldn't help but to bare witness to the entire damn exchange. As it sounded to him, it appeared that the mongrel had a new cohort on staff.



"I remember him," Draco said, narrowing his eyes intently on the long-haired handsome man sitting innocently between Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore. "He came last year with that muggle chit who was all kissy-face with Heero." Then, in a tone heavier with accusation, he added indignantly, "He's a muggle."

Pansy Parkinson tapped the tips of her perfectly manicured nails against the scarred wood of the table, a thoughtfully introspective gleam in her pale green eyes as they roamed over what she could see of the handsome man. "Should that really matter if he has the body of a god?"


At Draco's acidic glare, Blaise Zabini murmured smoothly, "She does have a point, Draco. The muggle is yummy eye-candy. There's no denying the obvious."

"The point is," Draco said bitingly, giving both of his friends nasty looks, "he's a muggle. He has no place in a school for wizards, so what's his purpose here?"

"Dumbledore realized that there is a serious lack of handsome fellows on the payroll for us sex-starved deviants to ogle?" Pansy said innocently, fluttering her eyelashes when Draco sighed noisily in irritation. "Just a suggestion, mind you."

"I give up," Draco grumbled in disgust, turning away from his friends to pout.

"I'd like to know why Zechs is here, as well," Trowa murmured thoughtfully, his visible green eye absently straying to the muggle man. "His presence is certainly unexpected, don't you think, Heero?"

The Japanese Slytherin grunted gruffly in response, reminding Draco of Duo's previous complaint, waged just before the group separated to find seats at their respective house tables. "Fabulous. The freaking Lightning Count is here. Now Hee-chan's going to revert back to his monosyllabic non-responses and cranky mission face." So far, Duo's words were proving true.

When Pansy and Blaise were busy catching up with Millicent Bulstrode and Ivanna Moon, Draco leaned closer to Trowa and murmured, "What's the story between Heero and that muggle? And don't tell me there's no story. The vibes are a dead giveaway."

Trowa glanced at Heero and, when receiving no indication that the Japanese boy would prefer to keep such things private, he said quietly, "They are... rivals. In the truest sense of the word."

"Rivals in what?"

"A lot of things," was Trowa's vague response.

Before Draco could inquire about the matter further, the large doors of the Great Hall swung open. Professor McGonagall, head held high with her typical Gryffindor gusto, led a trail of pint-sized first years between the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff House tables and to the front of the hall.

"Blond kid with the exotic tan," Blaise pointed out quietly, indicating an incoming first year with hair bleached by the sun and skin darkened by the same harsh exposure. "Slytherin for sure."

The age old game underway, Pansy inspected the new first years with renewed interest before she finally said, "Dark-haired girl with the brown eyes -the one walking with a slight limp. Definite Slytherin material."

Draco only glanced up for a moment before he said confidently, "Auburn-haired fellow with the beaky nose. That one's a shoe-in."

Blaise tilted his head critically. "Isn't he the Newfounder Heir? Nathaniel or Nathan or something."

"Nicholas, actually," Pansy corrected Blaise primly. "I'm surprised to see him here -his family usually sticks to Durmstang."

"I don't recognize the blond kid," Draco said absently as the first years huddled in front of McGonagall, the Sorting Hat waiting patiently atop the stool beside her. "Definitely pureblood -either that, or he's really good at hiding his surprise."

The chatter died instantly when the brim of the Hat split open, and the Sorting Hat burst into a song.

In times of old when I was new
And Hogwarts barely started
The founders of our noble school
Thought never to be parted:
United by a common goal,
The had the selfsame yearning,
To make the world's best magic school
And pass along their yearning.
"Together we will build and teach!"
The four friends decided
And never did they dream that they
Might someday be divided,
For were there such friends anywhere
As Slytherin and Gryffindor?
Unless it was the second pair
Of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?
So how could it have gone so wrong?
How could such friendships fail?
Why, I was there and so can tell
The whole sad, sorry tale.
Said Slytherin, "We'll teach just those
Whose cunning is greatest."
Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those
Whose intelligence is surest."
Said Gryffindor, "We'll teach all those
With brave deeds to their name."
Said Hufflepuff, "I'll teach the lot,
And treat them just the same."
These differences caused little strife
When first they came to light,
For each of the four founders had
A House in which they might
Take only those they wanted, so,
For instance, Slytherin
Took those of great cunning, like him
And only those of sharpest mind
Were taught by Ravenclaw
While the bravest and the boldest
Went to daring Gryffindor.
Good Hufflepuff, she took the rest,
And taught them all she knew,
Thus the Houses and their Founders
Retained friendships firm and true.
So Hogwarts worked in harmony
For several happy years,
But discord crept among us
Feeding on our faults and fears.
The Houses that, like pillars four,
Had once held up our school,
Now turned upon each other and,
Divided, sought to rule.
And for a while it seemed the school
Must meet an early end,
What with dueling and with fighting
And the clash of friend on friend
And at last there came a morning
When young Slytherin departed
And though the fighting then died out
He left us quite downhearted.
And never since the Founder Four
Where whittled down to three
Have the Houses been united
As they were once meant to be.
And now the Sorting Hat is here
And you all know the score:
I sort you into Houses
Because that is what I'm for;
But this year I'll go further,
Listen closely to my song.
Though condemned I am to split you
Still I worry that it's wrong,
Though I must fulfill my duty
And must quarter every year
Still I wonder whether sorting
May not bring the end I fear.
Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
The warning history shows,
For our Hogwarts is in danger
From external, deadly foes
And we must unite inside her
Or we'll crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you...
Let the Sorting now begin.

"Cheerful," Trowa said evenly as, hesitantly, students began to applaud while murmuring questioningly amongst themselves.

"Hat's been a real downer lately," Draco said dismissively. "Doom and gloom and, spirits, the lecturing..." He made a sour face.

From across the Hall, Duo clearly agreed with Draco's sentiments when he loudly called for someone to slip the hat some happy pills, spurring many students who were muggle-aware to snicker and laugh while purebloods looked at the laughing students, nonplused.

McGonagall cleared her throat pointedly, sending her student a stern glare that clearly demanded that Duo remain on his best behavior (which, admittedly, meant very little when one considered just who McGonagall was facially berating). Undeterred, the American waved jauntily at his Head of House before settling back into his seat, the perfect picture of innocence -if one didn't take note of the wickedly mischievous gleam in his amethyst eyes.


A singing hat.

Zechs almost asked if Disney had the copyright patent collecting dust somewhere in it's ancient archive, but he had a suspicious feeling no one would understand the jest.

"Someone get that hat some Zoloft!" Duo Maxwell called out jovially from his seat at the table situated at the farthest left of the Hall. Clearly, the boy wasn't so concerned about certain students being confused about a popularized 'muggle' thing.

After Minerva sent the American a warning glance that prompted the boy to settle back into his seat, a wild unrepentant grin splitting his face, the woman finally turned her attention back to the roster in her hands.

"Adams, Amara."

A dark-haired girl swept forward and took the Sorting Hat from its resting place, settling on the stool. She quickly lifted the hat and rested it on her head, completely silent.

After a moment, the brim opened again and bellowed, "SLYTHERIN!"

The table of students at the far right began to applaud as the girl... limped?... to a seat at the empty end of that table. Before she sat, Zechs noted that the girl's left leg was perhaps a quarter of an inch shorter than her right, which was something he was going to have to make adjustments for in his class.

His class. Dear God, I'm in way over my head...

"Bertram, Reynold."


"Burton, Yasmine."


"Callahan, Frederick."


"Connally, Michael."


One after the other, the Deputy Headmistress whittled her way down the list of students, and the Sorting Hat diligently fulfilled its purpose, its booming voice bellowing House names before, applause, and the new member joined their cheering House mates. Some of them Zechs found interesting; first years that certainly stood out in the crowd.

"Quraishi, Karim."(1)

That was definitely the one that topped them all. Zechs visibly straightened in his seat, flickering his icy blue eyes upon the remaining first years. The boy was easy to spot in a crowd, with such contrasting fair hair and dark skin. Perhaps his most prominent feature was his eyes, specifically, the pale silvery color of his irises.

And the kid was the bloody prince of Saudi Arabia. Zechs even remembered attending the little prince's eleventh birthday celebration with his sister; not as Vice Foreign Minister and Preventer escort, but as Princess Relena and Prince Milliardo Peacecraft. In fact, Zechs recalled with amusement, the boy's father had been very eager to arrange an engagement between the eleven year old prince and the much older Princess of Sanq. The man insisted to pursue such arrangements, not through Relena herself, but through her brother.

Relena had not been amused. She wouldn't speak to Zechs for weeks after the incident, even though he defended his uncontrollable fit of laughter at her expense as something she would have done if the tables had been turned.

Zechs pulled away from his musing just in time to witness the Sorting Hat bellow, "SLYTHERIN!"

As the House cheered, Sirius Black leaned closer to Zechs, mumbling from the side of his mouth, "Why do I suddenly want to stand up and bow?"

Dumbledore chuckled knowingly and murmured in response, "Perhaps it's best that you curb such an inclination, dear boy, lest the students begin to think they hold rank to professors that bow to them."

Sirius blinked and straightened in his seat, mumbling, "Right... not asking."

When the last student ("Xanatos, Amelia.") was sorted into her appropriate House ("RAVENCLAW!"), the entirety of the Great Hall broke out into a smatter of applause, the older students looking quite relieved that the first feast of a new year was soon to be underway. The Headmaster, smiling jovially, waved his arms in grandfatherly exuberance as he made his opening statement.

"Welcome to students both old and new," the man said before clapping his wizen hands together; almost immediately, a spread unlike any other filled all of the tables as numerous delicious smells wafted around the Hall. "Now let's chow down!"

Students and staff alike took the man by his words, immediately turning to their eagerly anticipated meal. Zechs paused only long enough to glance to the Headmaster, wondering just what kind of youth Albus Dumbledore had to be so informal as to utter the words "chow down" with a straight face, and why his former Headmaster couldn't have been so lenient in his words.


"I'm starting to get the suspicious feeling that the Lightning Count could quite possibly be in an official position to boss Heero Yuy around," Duo said gravely, staring down at his previously anticipated scrumptious meal mournfully, highly saddened by his sudden lack of appetite. "We are doomed."

Ron, clearly not as affected by the possibility as Duo, mumbled thickly around a generous amount of roasted chicken, "Lightning Count?"

"Honestly, Ron," Hermione said sternly, "could you at least swallow first?"

The redhead shot his girlfriend an annoyed scowl before he obediently swallowed. "Better?" the youngest Weasley son sniped sarcastically.

"Much," she replied primly, satisfied with the progress (even if Ron was just patronizing her; at least he was listening). "The Lightning Count was the nickname for Zechs Marquise, OZ Special Forces' best mobile suit pilot and the right-hand man of General Treize Khushrenada." She stared hard at Duo before continuing incredulously, "Are you telling me that Prince Milliardo Peacecraft and Zechs Marquise is the same person?"

"Wait," Harry blurted, snapping his gaze up from his plate to stare at Hermione in shock. "That guy is a prince?"

"Wicked," Ron breathed, staring in the direction of the Head Table in awe.

"Calm down, children," Duo said mildly. "Ron, don't call him His Highness. He hates that. Harry, he's prince in name only -his younger sister is the official heir to Sanq, and he prefers it that way. Yes, Mione, they're one in the same. It's why he's a Preventer now -once you go soldier, it's kind of hard to shake the instincts." Satisfied that he'd answered all of their questions, he said politely, "Pass the peas, please." After all, even if he didn't feel like eating didn't mean he should go about skipping meals.

Sensing that Duo wasn't interested in explain the matter a little more explicitly, Hermione decided to pursue another avenue of interest. "I wonder what he'll be doing here? The only thing he can conceivably teach is Muggle Studies..."

"I doubt he'll do that," Duo said dryly. "Too boring. Zechs is like Heero -he wouldn't be able to stand the tedious misrepresentation of muggle culture. Besides, the current Muggle Studies teacher is still on staff."

"But what else could he do?" Ron wondered absently.

"Good question," the American replied, eagerly snapping up a dessert when the meal disappeared, only to be replaced by every sweet dish imaginable. "Dumbledore usually makes announcements like that after the feast, so we'll probably hear about it then." Not that Duo didn't intend to pay a little visit to Zechs after the students were dismissed for the evening. They did have several unanswered questions that didn't pertain to Hogwarts inasmuch as Zechs' presence at a school for magic. To be more specific -what had been planned that involved the former Gundam pilots that said pilots didn't know about.

True to tradition, as soon as the last student had his fill of dessert and the tables were cleared of all dishes, Dumbledore called for attention by tapping his fork against the crystal glass from which he drank as he slowly came to his feet.

"A delicious feast befitting the beginning of a new school year," the Headmaster said jovially, his voice echoing loudly around the Great Hall, reaching every student's ears. "As I'm sure you've all noticed, we have several new additions to the staff today-"

"Yes!" came an exuberant exclamation from the Slytherin table, followed by a crow of, "Eye candy!"

Dumbledore paused as several female students broke into pleased titters. "Sirius Black will be filling the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Working in close relation with Professor Black is Agent Milliardo Peacecraft, who will be teaching a new course we recently added to the curriculum -Muggle Defense. I hope you will all take this opportunity to improve not only your physical well-being, but perhaps your way of thinking, as well."

Most students applauded at the sudden development; others remained stubbornly silent and still. The purebloods on either side of the fence clearly had their doubts as to how a class touting Muggle Defense would be of any use to them, seeing as how wizards were not defenseless muggles. Wizards had magic -what could muggles have that could be superior to that?

"The first mistake is always underestimating a potential threat," Wufei muttered scathingly when he overheard Terry Boot asking this very same question to his equally pureblooded counterpart. "As much as I hate to admit, this will probably be good for the purebloods."

Mandy Brocklehurts was far more enthusiastic about the new curriculum for entirely different reasons. "Can you imagine Parkinson or Brown or Parvati Patil doing anything that requires strict physical discipline? Oh, God, I hope I'm in a paired class!"


Zechs hadn't lingered in the Great Hall long after the students were dismissed for the evening. After making plans with Black to meet with the man early the next morning to map out corresponding syllabi -an attempt that would more than likely take most of the weekend to complete -he excused himself for the night and went straight to the suite provided to him by the Headmaster.

The teacher's quarters consisted of four richly decorated rooms; a master bedroom with a canopy bed stained a rich maple color, a private bathroom, a private office, and a den with antique, well-preserved furniture comfortably situated around a large, ornate marble fireplace. His only complaint about the room was the large portrait of a decadently dressed brunette who happened to have been painted in what appeared to be the library. Most of her attention tended to be solely on a book she'd pulled off of the shelf behind her; sometimes she would even disappear from the frame, only to eventually return with a new book in hand.

When she did pay attention to him, she would insist on discussing things he knew nothing about -things that involved magic and magical history. When she realized his ignorance, she decided to rectify his unfamiliarity with the magical world by explaining everything she spoke of, her attitude bordering on haughty conceit.

If this was going to be a habit, he was going to relocate the portrait inside the fireplace, light a fire, and plead ignorance should anybody question its whereabouts.

He'd just removed the uncomfortable outer robe he had been required to wear to the Sorting Feast when there was a slow, measured knock on the entrance to his suite. The prim lady in the portrait glanced up curiously from the book in her lap when Zechs went to the entrance and prompted it open. The seemingly blank wall folded back in on itself until a doorless entryway appeared in its place.

"Students aren't supposed to be in here," the lady in the portrait said primly. Zechs spared her an irritated glance before the wall folded closed after the last pilot filed in.

01, 02, 03, 05... "Where's Winner?"

"Good question," Maxwell mused, glancing questioningly at Barton.

"He had some business to take care of," Barton explained blandly.

Maxwell snorted caustically. "Uh-huh. On a scale from one to ten -how bad is this Smith guy going to get it?"

Zechs' eyebrows rose in interest. He was no fool -the Winner boy was in possession of a wicked ruthless streak when the situation called for it. He also knew Winner wouldn't be foolhardy enough to actively harm a civilian in a world where his slate had been wiped clean.

"Depends on which scale we're talking about," Trowa replied solemnly.

"Surprise me," Maxwell said, obviously amused.

"On a bloodlust scale: three."

"Okay," Maxwell said approvingly, nodding his head agreeably. "Not bad. Certainly not good, but not bad."

Barton spoiled the illusion when he continued offhandedly, "On the retribution scale: nine."

Maxwell's carefully erected optimism crumbled under a painful cringe. "Ouch. No good can come of this."

Barton, taking on the role of the optimist, pointed out calmly, "On the bright side, it's not bad enough that Quatre wants to maim him. And years of extensive therapy should take care of any lingering mental and emotional trauma."

... That was the bright side?

"Oh, and that's such a bright light at the end of the tunnel, isn't it?" Maxwell said sarcastically, his arms falling to his sides as he rolled his eyes. "You forgot the Quatre-shaped bullet train attached to that light."

"Hm," Barton hummed, giving Zechs the impression that he hadn't forgotten said Quatre-shaped bullet train as much as he'd simply neglected to mention it. With a pointed glance at Zechs, he murmured, "Going back to the matter at hand..."

Ah. Just as Zechs expected.

It was Yuy that waged the question on all of their minds. "What are you doing here?"

"Relena and Lady Une sent me," Zechs answered truthfully as he moved to seat himself next to the fireplace, a large fire merrily flickering in the hearth. "Relena's fascinated with the wizarding world -she wishes to learn more about it. Une, on the other hand, is a little more concerned about the five of you."

"Why?" Wufei demanded, welcoming himself to the seat directly across from Zechs. The other three pilots remained standing, obviously on guard.

"Why not?" Zechs parried with a knowing smirk. "The last time we were here, one of you got into a bit of trouble. She's uncertain as to how seriously the faculty at Hogwarts would take you in the state of a real emergency. I'm here to aid you if you need it."

"This could be useful," Barton mused.

"Aw," Maxwell grinned saucily, "and we didn't get Une anything."

"And the Muggle Defense class?" Wufei inquired, a little less hostile now that Zechs' intentions were clear. "Who's idea was that?"

"Mine," Zechs replied, shrugging. "I needed a reason to be here. The Headmaster was open to the idea, but the only course I could possibly teach would have been Muggle Studies, and I shudder to imagine wasting my time explaining the basic function of a toaster." That would have been sheer hell.

Maxwell snickered devilishly at the very thought. "Good move. Most of these kids wouldn't have a clue what to do if they lost their wands."

"What would we be doing in your class?" Yuy grunted, obviously disturbed by Zechs position of authority; they had been, after all, enthusiastic rivals from their very first meeting. Zechs wasn't at all surprised by the Japanese pilot's wariness.

Zechs was probably going to make Yuy's day when he said, "None of you are required to attend."

"Sweet!" Maxwell crowed. "Free period!"

"However," Zechs said meaningfully, smothering a smirk when the American cursed under his breath, "you still need to earn credit for the class. Some of the teachers were rather indignant that I wouldn't force the five of you to attend, even though I assured them that it would be a waste of our time."

"Snape," Maxwell muttered, pouting. "Grouchy git."

Zechs didn't deny the accurate accusation. "I suggested that you five sacrifice at least one free period a week to help me teach some of my classes; after all, nothing would impress a student more than watching a competent demonstration by two instead of one. Dumbledore decided that was acceptable, as long as the five of you agreed to it. Otherwise, you'll have to attend Muggle Defense like everyone else."

"Teacher aids, huh," Maxwell murmured, absently stroking the length of his braid. "It's better than the alternative... and it's only one free period a week."

"We'll discuss it with Quatre when we have a chance," Yuy said tonelessly. "We'll have to leave now if some of us want to return to our dorms before curfew." The Wing pilot glanced particularly at Barton and Maxwell. Zechs vaguely recalled 02 and 03 were the only former Gundam pilots that had not become prefects, who were allowed -encouraged, even- to linger the halls after curfew to search for students who were late returning to their dorms.

Wufei raised an eyebrow, appearing vaguely amused. "Should one of us look for Winner?"

"Um..." Maxwell started with a reluctantly guilty grin. "No, I have a feeling I'm going to need to establish an alibi."

"He can take care of himself," Trowa agreed, following Yuy to the door.

"I bet," Maxwell said dryly before turning to Yuy with an impish smirk. "So, honey... gonna escort me to my lonely tower now or what?"

Wing's pilot considered his over-the-top companion for only a silent second before, without taking his eyes off of Deathscythe's pilot, he said to Barton, "I'll meet up with you later."

Barton nodded in silent understanding, a reserved smile of amusement the only crack in his stoicism. Chang rolled his eyes and said, rather irritably, "For my sake and the sakes of the other prefects, don't let Granger catch you two fornicating in the hallway. Otherwise, the rest of us will have to listen to that woman lecture about responsibility and setting examples and whatever drivel she decides to natter about in the meeting tomorrow morning."

"Please," Maxwell scoffed as Yuy, instead of taking the Gryffindor's offered elbow, threaded his war-calloused fingers through Duo's and began tugging the American out of Zechs' suite. "As if we'd ever get caught. G'night, Wuffers!"

"That's Wufei, Maxwell!" Shenlong's pilot growled loudly; his only response was faint laughter that echoed throughout the cavernous corridor that the two pilots disappeared into.

"By now," Barton said helpfully as he and Chang turned the corner, leaving Zechs to close the entrance behind them, "you must realize that he's never going to listen to you."

"Even I'm allowed to hope, Barton," Chang muttered darkly just before the wall folded closed. After he was safely out of sight, Zechs finally allowed a wide smirk to grace his features. If interaction between the pilots was going to be that amusing all year around, maybe accepting Relena and Une's proposal wasn't necessarily a bad thing.


With the dark, cavernous corridor stretching into the inky darkness before them, nothing but the muffled sounds of their shoes almost inaudibly echoing in the comfortable silence, Duo pondered on what it was like returning to Hogwarts. The event itself was a rarity, as he couldn't remember ever actually "returning" to a boarding school after leaving it for an extended period of time. It was perhaps one of the more obvious indications of just how much his life -their lives -had changed once the wizarding world had opened up to them almost one whole year ago. Then again, his one-year "I'm a what now?" anniversary had already passed, though the same could not be said for his comrades.

He honestly liked his new life. No longer did they require their many aliases (though they were handy to keep around for emergencies), nor did they find need to worry about missions (unless they were self-appointed for a good cause), wars (... okay, that was pushing it...), and the Earth Sphere Alliance. While the drastic change (hardly) in lifestyles did have several key low points, even Duo had to admit that the gains far outweighed the whole new set of problems. He had Heero, his comrades, and new friends, most of which trusted him to an extent. His life was the best it had ever been.

He just wasn't sure how long the novelty would last. He hoped to live out the rest of his life with no regrets; his inner pessimist enjoyed stomping all over that hope with metal-spiked cleats.

"It's almost surreal, being back here," Duo said finally, his voice oddly subdued by his warring thoughts and feelings.


Okay. New tactic.

"I mean," Duo backtracked airily, "after sequestering ourselves in Draco's fancy manor for so long... it almost felt like old times."

Heero was silent. Duo was certain his lover knew exactly what he was trying to say, but he continued his one-sided chat anyway. "I kind of like being back." He paused. "Old times... they were good. Mostly hectic, sometimes really terrible, but I wouldn't trade it for the world."

"Even so," Heero finally murmured, "a time best left in the past."

Duo smiled ruefully, glancing curiously at his companion from the corner of his eye. "We're not doing such a bad job at this normal thing considering the circumstances... right?"

"I think we're doing well," Heero replied quietly, allowing a short hesitation before he added, "considering the circumstances."

Duo gave his boyfriend a warm smile, inwardly pleased that Heero's agreement alleviated most of his niggling worries. Playfully, he added, "Good. So no reverting to Perfect Soldier-boy for you. It's a real downer when Heero Yuy can't muster one of his rare smiles because he's too busy calculating the risks of taking a bite of food on the chance that some disgruntled house elf poisoned it -or whatever imagined danger fuels your adorably over the top paranoid delusions-"

Heero's feet suddenly came to a standstill; so abrupt was this that the chattering American only stopped because of their joined hands. Blinking, Duo cast a questioning glance down at Heero from over his shoulder. Thoughtful Prussian blue eyes met his, as if Heero was systematically decoding his lover's own form of verbal encryption in order to better understand what was the deeper meaning behind Duo's words. The Gryffindor would not have been surprised if that was exactly what Heero was doing.

"Hee-chan?" Duo prompted, tilting his head to the side questioningly.

Finally reaching a conclusion, Heero's face hardened in resolution before he stepped upward to the next stair to meet Duo at eye level. The Japanese boy firmly rested his right hand on Duo's hip (his left hand still entwined at the fingers with the braided boy's) before, pressing against Duo's body, he swopped forward and stole a lingering, softly passionate kiss that left Duo weak at the knees, his brain fogging up in blissful euphoria, effectively slowing any and every thought zooming along the multiple tracks to a crawl. By the time Heero pulled away, Duo was still wordless and breathless. Upon the prolonged silence, Heero seemed oddly satisfied.

"Okay," Duo finally agreed, far too dazed to consider what he was even agreeing to. Or, in this case, that there was nothing to agree to.

"Duo," Heero said, obviously amused if the slight lifts at the corners of his mouth was anything to go by, "I didn't say anything."

Oh. "Oh. What?" Finally the fog of euphoria lifted, and Duo blinked rapidly at his now blatantly smiling boyfriend. The smile was almost enough to bring the fog back; good God, that smile...

"Not that I minded that lovely show of affection," Duo said mildly, "but would you mind explaining to me why bringing up your paranoia earned me a kiss?" With a short pause, he added wickedly, "Oh, there's that word again. Following your logical deduction, I get another sugar, sugar."

"Hm," Heero hummed in amusement. Sobering slightly, the Slytherin said quietly, "Someone once told me to always follow my emotions."

"Wise words," Duo said; there was no doubt in his mind who he could thank for Heero's pearl of wisdom. J had been too much of a crotchy bastard to have encouraged Heero to do much in the way of feeling; though Heero rarely spoke of the assassin that raised him, Odin Lowe was the only other person that could have influenced Heero so greatly for the Slytherin to take such advice to heart. "So your emotions were channeling classic Disney love songs? '(lyrics), just kiss 'de boy?'"

"More like that you needed reassurance," Heero replied, completely serious. "We both know I'm not very good at verbally expressing myself. I decided to approach in a manner I'm comfortable with."

"Can't go wrong with a Heero kiss," Duo agreed amiably, his heart melting under the incredible heat of love and adoration. Socially stunted or not, God, he had such a sweet boyfriend... in his own way. "Speaking of Heero kisses," Duo purred, looking at his lover through thick, lowered eyelashes, "I wouldn't say no to an encore."

Humming again in amusement, Heero leaned forward to oblige Duo's unsubtle request; likewise, the American began to meet his lover halfway. Just before their lips would connect, both hypersensitive teenage soldiers froze, tensing as they became aware of an approaching presence. They hadn't enough time to pull away from their tender embrace before Draco appeared at the top of the staircase, obviously just on his way back from Gryffindor Tower.

Taking in the sight of the entwined figures halfway down the staircase, Draco smirked knowingly and drawled, "Just so you know, it's almost two minutes until curfew."

The snobby brat was probably jealous that they were getting some action, Duo thought spitefully, groaning quietly in frustration as he bowed his head and laid his face on Heero's broad shoulder. "This House thing is going to suck," he mumbled moodily, his words muffled against the collar of Heero's robes.

Pressing his lips chastly against the side of Duo's head, Heero vowed confidently, "We'll find ways around it. We always do."

Now grinning uncontrollably, Duo lifted his head with renewed spirits. The Gryffindor noisily kissed the side of Heero's face before reluctantly pulling from his lover's embrace. He tightened his fingers around Heero's marginally and finally broke their hands apart to continue up the stairs, intent to make it to his dormitory before Hermione had a reason to scold him. "Night, Hee-chan."

"Oyasumi, koi," the other responded, watching as Duo walked away from him.

Oh, yeah. They were definitely going to find a way around conflicting schedules, House walls, and curfew. No doubt about that.

"Shameless deviants," Draco murmured slyly as Duo passed by him.

Without hesitating, Duo retorted airily, "Envious virgin."

Draco sniffed haughtily, turning his nose up at Duo's rejoinder. However, he made no reply, and Duo could only smirk smugly over his supposed victory.

I rock so hard.


The next morning for the recently appointed Head Boy and Head Girl was absolutely abysmal; and it was all the fault of Hurricane Quatre. At least, that's who Draco blamed, and he made damn sure the cheerful little demon know it through subtly delivered accusing glares across the Ravenclaw table. In return, Quatre would smile apologetically, though the cheerful tilt of his eyes lacked any real remorse.

After the fourth repeat of this nonverbal communication, Trowa said, completely out of the blue, "You have to admit, it's not completely his fault."

"On the contrary," Draco gritted through his teeth in a vain attempt at keeping his temper in check, "he made a bad morning even worse. It's completely his fault." But he knew what Trowa said was true, at least in the context of Draco's bad morning as a whole.

Not long into his late night rounds, the Head Boy had been checking the Astronomy Tower for illicit after-hours rendezvous when a sudden storm rolled in, bringing heavy winds that rattled the window panes with fat drops of rain; bright flashes of lightning lit up the entire sky milliseconds before thunderous booms echoed down as far as the lower levels of the dungeons. Unperturbed, Draco continued his rounds for an hour longer before he decided to finally call it a night.

The moment he was in the dungeons, he knew something was wrong. The dungeons were unquestionably Slytherin territory; as a Slytherin, years of prolonged exposure to the damp, cold, stagnant (or drafty, depending on which area of the dungeons one would be referring to) atmosphere had given him an immunity to such bleakly miserable conditions. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there were some unfortunate Slytherins who would become rather ill all year around, suffering frequent chronic chest colds and lung infections. Of the number, Gregory Goyle and Daphne Greengrass were two examples. Meanwhile, Draco hardly even noticed the unfavorable conditions, so when the thickly soggy, heavy air was palpable, Draco had reason to worry. It slid along his exposed skin, sank into the fabric of his robes, and caused his nostrils and sinuses to sting painfully.

He cursed harshly, knowing exactly what the problem was. The last time the dungeons flooded was in Draco's third year. The Slytherin prefects at the time did as much as they could to take care of the flooding on their own, as neither of the seventh year prefects had the privilege to know the other Houses' passwords, nor did they know the Headmaster's password. Even worse, Professor Snape couldn't be found, and the flooding grew too great for six prefects to handle, forcing them to recruit every member of Slytherin House to help minimize the damage.

And it was happening again. This time, however, the Head Boy was a Slytherin; unlike the prefects, he did know the other Houses' passwords, and he wasn't above spoiling everybody's night.

Pansy, Heero, and the other four prefects were obviously already aware of the matter, as they were already gathered in the Slytherin common room when he breezed in, immediately taking charge.

"Graham, Angelica," he addressed the two prefects curtly, "head to Ravenclaw and gather the prefects. The password is astrophysics. Mark and Zelda, same with the Hufflepuff prefects. Their password is fortuna minor. Pansy, I need you to gather some volunteers and arrange for the Slytherins to relocate to the Great Hall for the night; the conditions are too deplorable to chance the entire House falling ill. Heero, you need to make sure Professor Snape is aware of what's going on and start looking for the source. I'll brave Gryffindor territory."

"Wow," Pansy said, suitably impressed. "The man has a plan."

It had taken all night to locate and isolate the leak; only the lowest level of the dungeons had been affected, though almost the entire level was under water. Draco and Hermione were too busy organizing clean-up with the teachers to notice a slight irregularity with the Hufflepuff prefects.

Susan Bones, however, did notice. "Has anyone seen Zacharias Smith?"

Quatre, the picture of innocence and sincerity, replied, "Not since last night."

"That boy," Susan huffed in exasperation before flagging down one of the fifth year prefects to order her to retrieve Zacharias pronto. The fifth year returned fifteen minutes later and reported that Smith was nowhere to be found.

His stomach sinking in horror-stricken suspicion, Draco flickered an apprehensive glance toward Quatre. The Winner heir met his glance was an air of equanimity.


The faculty, however, feared that a missing student could have been the work of Death Eaters. Quatre innocently suggested that Zacharias could have gotten lost somewhere in the dungeons. They were, after all, extensive, dimly lit, and hard to navigate. Draco noticed that Quatre made it implicitly clear that he was only suggesting possibilities that were far more logical than Death Eaters slipping by unnoticed. Though they had already had a long night, the teachers and most of the prefects reluctantly agreed that the only way to confirm this possibility was if they immediately searched the entirety of Hogwarts, top to bottom, inside and out. As soon as the flooding was dealt with, search parties were arranged; to increase their chances of finding Smith before their entire morning was utterly wasted, each House representative went back to their House dormitories and recruiting all of the seventh years for stupid Hufflepoof hunting (as Draco bitterly thought of it). It wasn't until four in the morning when Harry, exhausted and fed up with their lack of success, finally decided to call on the Marauder's Map for aid.

"You couldn't have thought of this earlier?" Draco griped sourly when he and Harry sneaked into the Gryffindor dorms to retrieve the map.

Harry didn't acknowledge Draco's snipe. "There," he pointed at his map. Then, clearly bemused, he revealed, "He's on the Quidditch pitch."

Knowing now where to focus their search (and Harry vehemently insisting that no one find out about the map), they gathered groups of seventh years under the guise of sweeping the grounds and combing the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. Draco, Harry, Quatre, and Pansy were the ones who found Zacharias Smith. It was the condition they found him in that most of them hadn't been expecting. His ankle manacled to the goal post, a dull butter knife tightly clenched in one trembling fist, a crinckled slip of parchment in the other, Smith had apparently worked himself into a blind panic attack if his heavy, labored, fast-paced panting was anything to go by.

Taking the initiative, Draco swept forward and kneeled on the wet sand with a displeased grimace. He reached out and methodically pried the note safely from the younger Hufflepuff's stiff fingers, hardly sparing Smith a mildly reproachful glance. Once the parchment was free, Draco read the curt, mercilessly impartial message.

You've been poisoned. You have one hour to administer the antidote which can be found in a sealed container next to your spleen.

X marks the spot.

Happy hunting.

Fantastic. Grimacing once more, Draco reluctantly took it upon himself to lift the hyperventilating prefect's pajama shirt; just as the note had promised, there was a noticeably bold black X precisely where one's spleen would be located.

Raising an eyebrow, the Slytherin threw a long, searching stare at Quatre, calculating the risks of the mild-mannered blond going so far as to poison a student for such a tame offense as insulting the blond's boyfriend. He decided it was unlikely, judging by Quatre's lack of guilt. In fact, all things considering, the Hufflepuff seemed rather... perky.

"Pans, go find Professor Snape. Tell him to bring a poison detection potion. For the sake of the spirits, Smith, pull yourself together. You're only embarrassing yourself."

One poison detection potion later, Snape declared Smith poison-free. Obviously still unsettled by the presumed attempt on his life (perhaps "unhinged" was a more accurate description for Smith's state of mind), he was bounced off to St. Mungo's for a forty-eight hour psychiatric evaluation. The Healers were optimistic that Smith would be able to attend some of his more mundane, blatantly unhostile classes after he returned to Hogwarts, perhaps picking up more classes as the weeks went along. This ruled out Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Muggle Defense, and (probably) Charms.

Sprout was vehement in her belief that it was the work of "that Maxwell demon, mark my words!" She even went as far as publically accusing the baffled Gryffindor in front of the entire Great Hall during breakfast. "The Headmaster says there's no proof -but I'll be watching you, Maxwell!" the hysterical woman ranted before stalking out of the Hall to motherly hover at her heavily sedated student's bedside.

Stunned and despondent, Duo plaintively asked the silent students staring at him with wide, wary eyes, "Why do I always get blamed?"

No one could provide an answer. Not one that would have made Duo any happier, at any rate.

"Technically, you should be blaming Smith," Heero said logically, interrupting Draco's mental recount of his disastrous first night (and morning) as Head Boy. "It wouldn't have happened if he hadn't upset 04."

Ah. 04. Silly muggle lingo Draco didn't even really want to understand. The numerical designations the others sometimes referred to themselves by when there was a chance they'd be overheard, from what Draco understood, had more to do with colony representation than any sort of rank.

"He's too busy sleeping it off in the psych ward for me to glare at him," Draco said snidely. "'04' is the secondary physical representation of my displeasure. Just let me stew."

Trowa shrugged passively, calmly continuing with his meal.

Then, ever so quietly, Heero murmured curtly, "We go tonight." Draco didn't need to ask what Heero was implying.

The Slytherin fan-boy that dwelled within him squealed in fanatic delight. Chamber of Secrets, here we come!


(1) Karim Quraishi has absolutely nothing to do with the fic other than to have an interesting character to pit Draco against in Lingering Interludes. (You'll see why I think he's an interesting character later.) I'm not fond of original characters, and I tend to throw them out and discard them without much of a thought. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I just mentioned him occasionally as time progresses. I'm weird like that. And if you know where I got the name from, you get a cookie. :grins:

(Special note to Calic0cat -I am so sorry that it's taking me so long. I promise you'll have the rest of the chapters by this weekend. As you probably realized from my AN, real life has totally swamped me. :grins sheepishly:)


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