Author's Notes: Hah! LESS than a month between updates! Go me. :grins: I can almost excuse the fact that it's half past four in the morning and I have to work tomorrow. (But I'm still gonna be feeling THIS one tomorrow...)
Thanks for reviewing, and I hope you like the latest chapter!
Harry Potter and the Forgotten Heirs Part 13
Astronomy was perhaps the most unusually scheduled course that Hogwarts had to offer. For one, students were only required to attend once a week, and it was for three hours. One unfortunate condition to this special case was that all four houses were strongly represented in a single period at the same time. Professor Sinistra had the luckiest break of any teacher that would normally dread having paired classes. The students were usually too tired, yawning over their individual steaming mugs of hot, black coffee to make a fuss over house standings. The class was held at midnight, of course, and ran until two in the morning. No one was in a mood to do much of anything in the way of antagonization.
The exception to this rule of behavior, however, was any period that involved Draco Black. His crankiness tended to rub off on everyone, even the teacher herself. There had been many times she had been tempted to throw her own mug of scalding coffee at the cranky little son of a bitch. This is a direct quote from the woman herself when she broke down during Draco's fourth year and ranted about all of the horrible, terrible things she wanted to do to the smarmy aristocrat. Some of the things she fantasized about doing even shocked Severus Snape, who was well versed in terrible ways to make people suffer.
Draco Black was to Professor Sinistra the equivalent of Duo Maxwell to Professor Sprout and Harry Potter to Severus Snape. However, while Professor Snape only sought to punish the Boy Who Lived, and Professor Sprout was just overly paranoid about "that Maxwell menace's" interest in her students, Professor Sinistra was both paranoid and vengeful. And she wanted him to suffer.
Now. Not later.
So, as a result, Draco Black was shocked into silence when Professor Sinistra threw a rock at him. The seventh years, as one, stared at him with varying expressions of dumfounded disbelief, abject terror, and bleary befuddlement. (The last, sadly, was because they'd been very close to snoozing at that point. Some didn't seem to have the presence of mind to take a nap before Astronomy, and therefore missed the entire spectacle.)
Then Duo started cackling like a madman, nearly falling out of his chair in laughter, only to be saved when he threw himself against Heero. The usually somber Japanese Slytherin, in a rare show of emotion, was smiling in amusement more over his boyfriend's hilarity than Sinistra throwing a rock at Draco to shut him up. The reaction spread, and even the confused students found themselves laughing at Draco's stupefied "I can't believe she just did that!" expression.
Sinistra, black eyes glittering with malicious glee, patted her large bucket of rocks that sat directly on a table beside her podium for easy access. In a sweet, gloating voice, she said, "Now, Mr. Black, when I call your name during roll, you will not respond by saying 'where the bloody hell else would I be, asleep?' Do you understand, or must I waste mine and everybody else's time by explaining it in simpler terms?"
"You threw a rock at me," Draco exploded in indignation. "You can't throw a rock at me, I can press charges! Ow, bloody -you did it again!"
She picked up another rock and tossed it into the air before snatching it back without taking her eyes off of Draco. "None of your backsass today, Mr. Black. I am not in the mood for it."
As one, anyone sitting anywhere remotely near the stewing Slytherin quickly fled out of harms way, either under the impression that Draco would result to a physical assault of his own or driven by compulsion to keep themselves from being hit by stray rocks. Harry smiled sheepishly when Draco gave him a dirty glance for moving farther away, shrugging and attempting a facade of complacent innocent. It was his way of assertively informing his recalcitrant boyfriend that if he was going to further provoke a woman who was ready to throw rocks in the first place, Harry wasn't going to stick his neck out and act as a human shield.
Then, rock still in hand, she turned her attention back to her roster and called out sweetly, "Millicent Bulstrode? Where is Ms. Bulstrode?" Her eyes searched the myriad of faces, successfully seeking out the unusually stocky girl. Millicent was staring back at the woman in worshipful reverence; finding a way to tame Slytherin House's infamous Cranky Dragon was nothing short of a miracle, in Millicent's books. "There you are, dear. Drink some more coffee, Ms. Bulstrode, it'll perk you right up."
And, perhaps for the first time since their first year in Astronomy, Draco Black's fellow year mates had a relatively peaceful class. Boring, but a marked improvement from the usual upset Draco caused by lashing out because of sleep deprivation.
Wednesday's Muggle Defense class marked the occasion of a very unusual practice that most of the purebloods came to dread. Instead of simply waiting until Agent Marquise began his lecture, he calmly handed them wrapped parcels and requested that, in groups of five girls and five boys, they would each go to the nearest bathroom and change into the outfits he provided them. Bemused by this turn of events, the first group of students dismissed themselves to the lavatory to do as they were asked. When they came back five minutes later, the girls clutching their outer robes tightly around themselves as the boys tugged self-consciously at their knee length wind-slicker shorts (thankfully boasting their respective house colors) and simple white T-shirts. Duo, who had the unfortunate luck to be stuck with staying for this time around, had a greater idea of where Zechs' was going with this.
He grinned approvingly at the man. "Oh, you wicked, wicked man."
Agent Marquise raised an eyebrow cooly at the American before he handed the boy his own parcel. "This one is special." Then he shooed his assistant away along with the rest of his class.
Again, five minutes passed; the girls who had already changed were still warily clutching their robes about them when the rest of the students came back. Hermione Granger, likewise clutching her outer robe to her body, said haughtily, "Agent Marquise, these clothes are really indecent!"
"No, they're not," Marquise parried with a small smirk. "The clothes I've provided you are standard issue for any boarding school with a proper physical education class. This is Muggle Defense, Ms. Granger -the lot of you are going to be breaking a little more than just a mental sweat."
"Cripes," Ron muttered, snickering as he glanced at Draco. "You are one pale little git, Black."
Draco shot the redhead a disgusted sneer before, his voice loud and echoing, he complained, "Agent Marquise, Weasley's exposing his freckles. Make him stop. It's revolting."
"Be glad I had your workout clothes House-specified," Marquise said lazily, casually leaning against the desk he and Sirius shared. The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was snickering into his palm at Pansy Parkinson, who was obviously very proud of her assets and was showing all that she wasn't body-shy at all. Her green shorts cut at about mid-thigh, and her shirt displayed her ample bosom and curves proudly. Pansy's preening, of course, emboldened most of the other girls to remove their outer robes as well, smiling coyly when some of the boys, most flushing horribly, began sneaking glimpses of them at the corner of their eyes.
"Duo gets to wear trousers," Draco pointed out insistently. "Be realistic -the sight of the Weasel's freckly legs is making me nauseous."
"Then stop looking at them, you git," Ron snapped, held back only by the collective effort of Harry and Seamus.
Duo's new outfit did separate him from the rest of the class; instead of windbreaker shorts, he was wearing loose white sweat pants that cuffed around his ankles, allowing him a lot of room to maneuver in. He wore a black wife-beater that displayed his lithe muscles for any and all to ogle, and block white letters that spelled out "ASSISTANT" were ironed across the top of the back; thankfully, most of the word was obscured by his thick braid. The others, unfortunately, wouldn't be so lucky.
"Wufei's going to kill you if you make him wear this," Duo said calmly, dropping his bag next to his desk. The "special" clothing obviously mimicked the Chinese Ravenclaw's preferred style of dress; the almost mocking word across the back would only serve to irritate the boy.
"See me quiver," Marquise replied dryly before waving the students to their seats.
"I see you've all made it back," the Preventer said, mildly pleasant. "Good. We'll all launch into reviewing Monday's required reading. Mr. Weasley," he called, immediately seeking out the distracted redhead sneaking covert glance toward Hermione, gho had finally given in and had taken her fellow female classmates' example. The boy snapped to guiltily, his face turning a none-too-subtle red. "Define physical defense."
"Uh, well," Ron said hesitantly, looking a little uncertain. "It's using your body to... protect yourself?"
Marquise mouth tilted at the corners; a small sign of the man's amusement. "I'll accept that on the grounds that you are correct. Next time, however, please form your answer as a statement, not a question. Ms. Parkinson," Marquise called, immediately swiveling his attention to the girl, having noticed her blowing a kiss and winking at Duo in a teasing manner. Duo, in response, was grinning from ear to ear and visibly struggling to hold his laughter at bay. "Give me one example of physical defense."
The Slytherin, unabashed, literally purred when she murmured confidently, "One example is martial arts, which you had Chang demonstrate Monday." Then, with a proud toss of her head, she continued, "Of course, there are many styles of martial arts, some of which incorporate weaponry such as swords or long wooden sticks. These martial arts are more traditional for Eastern cultures, but the Western World also utilized swords and fighting styles as well, one of which even purebloods practice -fencing."
Marquise appeared suitably impressed. "Someone has been reading ahead."
"Ravenclaws aren't the only one's allowed to be thirsty for knowledge," Pansy responded demurely, still exuding a certain amount of pride in herself. After Wufei and Nott's little performance, she'd found herself morbidly interested in how the odds played out. It didn't hurt that she actively pursued Heero, Trowa, and (surprisingly) Draco to "dumb down" what she didn't understand about it. In fact, it had been Draco who had informed her that fencing, something pureblood aristocratic boys were destined to pick up learning in early childhood, had very muggle roots, as well.
As promised on Monday, Marquise spent the first twenty minutes reviewing in this same manner. Instead of allowing the students to volunteer their answers, he would first call on them, seemingly at random. Then he would pose his inquiry, and instead of denouncing students for not doing their homework as assigned when it was obvious they didn't know the answers, he would take a short moment to explain the answer.
Once the muggle was satisfied with their comprehension, he moved straight into the main portion of his lesson. "Today we're going to start our first official day of improving your physical fitness and increasing your stamina." He paused, glancing over the faces of his students pointedly. "I'm not going to lie to you. This portion of the class isn't going to win me any brownie points from a number of you, and you'll be cursing the day I set foot in your world in the morning. By the end of the semester, however, every single one of you will show a marked improvement in your overall health, and we'll finally be ready to teach you basic defense. Until then, we take baby steps."
Marquise was right. The next portion of the class was physically grueling, starting off small with innocent stretches to limber their muscles. That was all fine and well until the Preventer introduced sit ups, crunches, and jumping jacks. A myriad of different exercises later, Marquise led them outside and ordered them to run around the perimeter of the castle in five complete laps. He even promised that they could complete the fifth lap at a brisk walk; however, that only seemed to prolong the torture.
When the last student stumbled across the line, knees wobbly and chest heaving, Marquise took pity on them. "You have thirty minutes to hit the showers before lunch. I promise it will help."
Grumbling, the students took their chances to wash away the sweat before they trudged to the Great Hall, nearly falling into their seats and wolfing down their meals. They attended Potions a little worse for wear (a lucky few, like Ron Weasley, were able to sleep it off), but they really didn't start feeling the effects of their strenuous workout until after dinner, when the first signs of the physical strain kicked in.
"I hurt," Ron mumbled piteously, sprawled across his bed with a pained grimace on his face as his muscles protested vehemently. "I hurt in places I didn't even know could hurt."
"It can't be that different from Quidditch practice," Duo mumbled, actually feeling rather refreshed from the taxing workout. He took a moment to seriously consider the differences between honest exercise and participating in a sport that didn't require much in the way of running and grimaced. "Then again..."
"It'll only last for a few days," Harry promised, equally unaffected by their workout. He had been training with Draco and Wufei for over a month, after all. "You're just sore because you aren't used to it."
Seamus groaned, burying his face in his pillow. "I cannae imagine what we'll be doing Friday," he said thickly. "It's torture, I tell you."
The soreness did fade.
Only two weeks into the new school year, the Gryffindor Quidditch team decided to hold their tryouts. Most of the positions were filled already, but due to Katie Bell's graduation just last year, they were short one Chaser. Still, in the spirit of the game of which he held so dear in his heart, Gryffindor Quidditch Captain Ronald Bilius Weasley decided it would only be fair to have the rest of the team tryout with the hopefuls. In a bold move, he'd devised a plan to pluck some of the younger hopefuls for a second string, having them prepped and ready in the case that one of the first string team members were put out of the game.
Even he was surprised, however, when amongst the younger hopefuls for the coveted Chaser position, he found one Duo Maxwell beaming excitedly at him, his arms hooked around the moderately new and expensive Nimbus 3000 broom that was supported by his neck and shoulders in the imitation of a scarecrow.
"Er," Harry ventured hesitantly, "you're trying out, Duo?" Harry had no doubt that Duo would be an excellent Quidditch player; he'd seen the boy fly only on a handful of occasions, and it was safe to say that the late-bloomer knew his way around a broom. However, Duo should have been aware that the odds of a seventh year gaining a position on the Quidditch team were stacked against him, no matter how good he was. The team needed players that would have the experience to continue on when the seventh years graduated.
"Something like that," Duo said cheerfully, grinning lopsidedly. "What can I say? I'm a sports addict, and AD won't let me play basketball in the Great Hall." That hadn't stopped the American from attempting to rally at least eighteen students in order to play a friendly game of baseball. At least Quidditch was a game executed while flying, and Duo loved flying.
"You must know the chances of you making it as Chaser aren't very high, right?" Ginny pointed out, glancing skeptically at the bouncing boy beside her.
"Yeah, I figured as much," Duo said with a rueful grin, taking his broom in hand and firmly thumping the end of it against the turf. "But the other guys are trying out for Quidditch, and I didn't want to be the odd man out. Being a spectator just isn't any fun."
Ron felt the bottom of his stomach drop out. Eyes wide and face pale, he glanced uncertainly at Harry, who appeared equally concerned about this revelation. "The others?" he probed weakly.
"Yep," Duo said, nodding. "Quatre and Trowa are going for Keeper positions, Heero's leaning toward the Beater position, and I think Wufei likes the Seeker bit. I don't know for certain about Wufei, though, because he was considering the open Chaser position on the Ravenclaw team, as well."
"Harry," Ron hissed, pulling his friend closer to whisper secretively on his friend's ear. "What are the chances of Black putting Trowa and Heero on the Slytherin team?"
"Does it matter?" Harry hissed back, reluctant to admit that such an event was almost guaranteed -Draco knew better than anyone just how capable the late-bloomers could be. "I've seen their reflexes, Ron -they're good. Damn good. Trowa's quick and sneaky, and I imagine a Bludger hit by Heero would do some devastatingly accurate damage. Wufei and Quatre aren't slackers, either." Not to mention the fact that Quatre could calculate strategies and counter-strategies in his sleep, and Wufei pursued winning with a single-minded determination that nearly matched Harry's zeal. "If any of them make it on their House Quidditch teams, we may have to work harder than ever before to stay on top."
Ron stifled a groan, rubbing his forehead with a wince. "And Duo would know those four best. We have to get him on the team." Any other course would be suicide.
"He'll have to try out," Harry amended reluctantly, "but at this point, he's our best bet." And it wasn't like Duo was a terrible player; he would have been a boon for the team otherwise. The fact that the others would be going the same route only countered the issue of age verses eligibility.
"Why do I get the feeling that you planned this?" Ginny murmured coyly, watching as her brother and his friend held their hushed, private debate.
Duo's eyes widened innocently. "Why, what do you mean, dear Ginerva? You know Heero. If he doesn't do bodily harm every once in a while, he gets a bit cranky and paranoid." The truth was in the twinkle of his eyes, however; Duo certainly had planned for Ron's reaction to cause such a shift, though for what reason he wanted to be on the Quidditch team was still up for debate.
Honestly, Duo just wanted to play a sport. Any sport. The lack of any to chose from left him with only one option -Quidditch.
"I thought that was a normal thing for him," Ginny muttered.
"There are levels," Duo pronounced knowingly. "Hee-chan's currently at a level of paranoia that it can be considered cute. When he starts giving the school nurse weird looks, we should start worrying."
Ginny didn't even want to know what Duo was implying by that statement. Needless to say, the American effortlessly blew the competition out of the water. His new position as Gryffindor Chaser was made official when Ron posted the tryout results the next morning.
Coincidentally, by the end of the week, the rest of Duo's peculiar group of friends had successfully procured positions on their respective House teams. Draco nearly pulled his hair out in frustration when he'd heard Wufei had managed to take over the freshly graduated Cho Chang's mantel as Ravenclaw Seeker.
"Just what Hogwarts needs," he muttered darkly over his breakfast, "another overly-competitive Seeker." Which brought the total up to three.
"Strong word of advice," Trowa said mildly, "don't cheat."
Anyone privileged to be within hearing range of the quietly spoken suggestion immediately fell quiet before, as one, staring at Trowa. Slytherins were infamous for thumbing their noses at the rules of the game. The school provided them bats (perfect for wholloping people with), attacking balls (again, perfect for wholloping at people), and permission to physically incapacitate the opposing team. Within limits, of course, but who really cared about limits? Slytherins had a lot of pent up resentment-against-the-world they needed to work off, and what better way than the Quidditch pitch?
Also, it was sort of fun proving the exception of the famous ethical rule that "cheaters never prosper." It shattered the illusions of others; that life was fair and just, and the hero always wins. Real life wasn't that simple, and it was time for their fellow Hogwarts students to realize this.
"Why?" Blaise Zabini said flatly, clearly not liking the idea of changing what, so far, proved to be a good thing. It didn't necessary help in winning matches, but it certainly helped in working off a little steam.
"Because Wufei won't like it," Trowa responded blandly, "and he'll make sure we fully realize this." He paused for a moment before continuing, his voice hinting at his inner mirth as he murmured, "Duo's probably going to cheat, but only to get a rise out of Wufei."
"Which may inspire Wufei to look away if we attempt to incapacitate Duo through any means necessary," Heero finished, seemingly unconcerned about the implications of such a suggestion.
"Did you just offer your boyfriend up for slaughter?" Blaise exploded incredulously, unable to keep his Slytherin face on.
Heero smirked. "He'll appreciate the challenge."
"Good," Draco said with a sharp nod. "So cheating is still in, only in moderation." He turned his eyes to Pansy, a speculative gleam in his gaze as he said, "We need something to distract Weasley. It's time to retire 'Weasley Is Our King'. It's beginning to lose it's affect, and it's becoming rather redundant."
"No more taunting songs like that, either," Blaise said with a sour expression on his face. "Touting Weasley as our King was beginning to make me physically ill."
Heero and Trowa exchanged knowing glances before Trowa raised his hand casually. "Cheerleaders."
Again, everyone but Heero stared blankly at him.
"Isn't that what the spectators are for?" Draco asked pointedly, frowning at Trowa in befuddlement.
Heero smirked. "We'll explain later."
The next morning, Pansy Parkinson went straight to Dumbledore's office, blonde hair pulled back in a perfect French twist and face made up in a more conservative manner. The Headmaster, outwardly pleased that one of the Slytherins would go to such lengths to support their Quidditch team, informed her that she had his full support, as long as she could convince her Head of House to allow it.
Professor Snape, however, was treated a little differently.
"I'll have your love-child if you let me have a Cheerleading Squad," Pansy said coyly, peering impishly at him from under her thick lashes as she leaned over his desk.
Severus, hardly even pausing from grading a stack of essays, said calmly, "Pansy, what have I told you about offering your firstborn child as incentive to get my permission?"
"It was worth a shot." She smirked before straightening, adopting a casually innocent posture. "Headmaster Dumbledore said it's okay with him as long as you agree to it."
"How nice of him," Severus murmured cynically, finally taking a break from his marking to eye the Slytherin girl suspiciously. "The Slytherin House cheers enough -why would you need leaders?"
"You know how the Slytherin Quidditch team always overlooks females as viable Quidditch material," Pansy said, her eyes narrowed. "We want to participate, as well. And Heero and Trowa suggested it, so you know it can't be anything too bad."
On the contrary... "I don't care. Do what you want. Just stay out of my hair. However," he added sharply, giving the girl a stern look, "if Professor McGonagall barges in complaining, I reserve the right to use you as a test subject for my next potion project." It wasn't a threat to be taken very seriously, as the Head of Gryffindor House almost always came to Snape to make her displeasure with his House's conduct known.
Pansy smirked triumphantly.
On the last day of Duo's detention (detention, Severus had been led to believe, that the boy would be too busy to attend, which taxed the bitter Potions Master's tolerance quite enough, thank you), the relatively young professor was irritated to find that Maxwell had so-casually welcomed himself to Severus' private suite.
"How did you get in here?" Severus snapped irately upon seeing the boy relaxing in his chair next to his fire and propping his feet on his ottoman. "My suite is warded against every kind of unlocking spell imaginable."
Maxwell's small, content smile lifted at the corners lazily. "Not good ol' fashion lockpicks. And what do you know -I had mine handy."
... What an incredibly stupid oversight. Severus actually felt ashamed and vaguely embarrassed that he hadn't thought of such a simple approach to locked doors. The small flood of humiliation only seemed to fuel his irritation, and he snarled, "You have two seconds to explain yourself before I decide to assign a month of real detention. And Peacecraft was considerate enough to inform me of a suitable punishment."
"That bastard," Maxwell muttered before sighing forlornly. "That's actually what I came here for. I haven't found the library yet; I need a little more time." Another sigh, and Maxwell cast a thoughtful look to the flickering fire in the hearth. "A little more manpower wouldn't hurt."
Severus, some of his upset draining from him, decided to put aside his decision to truly exact revenge against the troublesome terrorist. That wasn't to say that he didn't intend to ever punish the brat for his behavior, but it simply wasn't the time to serve cold vengeance to the American. "Who else knows what you're looking for?"
"Draco. The guys. Orie," Maxwell listed absently. "The Gryffindor Trio doesn't have a clue. They're working on their own little mystery."
Severus raised his eyebrow in keen interest before drawling, "And that would be...?" There was no doubt in his mind that Maxwell knew exactly what Potter and his little band of merry heros were up to.
"Unsporting," Maxwell quipped, grinning cheekily at Severus. "C'mon, Sexy -you should know better than to try and drill a guy like me for info. I would be disappointed in you if you didn't figure it out on your own."
It had been worth a shot. "I can give you detention without arousing any suspicion; your friends aren't as disruptive as you, and giving Draco detention for his errant distractions would seem out of place." If he had started off treating the boy poorly as some unspoken word of fidelity to the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters, the scenario would not have been so unfathomable. It was at Lucius' request that Severus treated his disinherited heir just as he normally would, and the spy hadn't questioned the Malfoy's unusually blatant exposure to any sort of manipulation on Severus' part. The request had felt brought on a nostalgia for their younger days, when a favor between friends and fellow Slytherins wasn't tainted with the everyday corruption of Death Eater protocol. Anything to win the favor of the Dark Lord, Severus thought bitterly, disgusted with his fellow Slytherin alumni.
"Good point," Maxwell said casually. "I have a plan."
Severus never liked the sound of such a simple statement. From the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters, it generally meant trouble. From Headmaster Dumbledore, it meant that Severus was going to have to do something to stop the Dark Lord's plan without blowing his cover. From Maxwell, however, it meant mischief and guaranteed a headache for the unlucky sod who managed to get caught up in the boy's web.
Severus really hated other people's plans. Especially when the plan involved him. "Are you going to elaborate?"
"Nah," Maxwell said, shrugging nonchalantly. "I think I'll keep it a secret. There's nothing like having the element of surprise." And then he smirked.
Maxwell stood up and shouldered his satchel, moving away from Severus' chair and meandering his way closer to the door. He fell still and turned suddenly. His face lost its mirthful quality, fading away under a moment of thought. Then, surprisingly sincere, he said kindly, "Thanks for doing this for me, you know? I didn't expect you to go along with it, but I had an inkling, and I went with it. I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear from somebody who gets on your nerves. Let me be honest -I really like getting on your nerves," Maxwell added wryly. Then, with a congenial smile, he murmured, "Despite the fact you probably think about murdering me daily, you're my favorite teacher. In fact, I think you're the best professor this school has to offer."
For one full second, the world stood still.
"I think I'm going to be ill," Severus murmured vaguely, suddenly having problems comprehending the laws of nature. Gravity, for example, felt... thicker. Heavier. A little shaky, he sat in the chair Maxwell had just vacated, completely oblivious to the boy's worried start. Breathing was a problem, as well -he kept forgetting to do it.
A student of this school finally agreed to what Severus had been thinking since the beginning. Oh, sure, his Slytherin brats loved him, but they wouldn't actively sing his praises to save their lives. They merely used his blatant favoritism in their favor, and he'd been completely all right with that. Somebody had to stick up for them, no matter how sly and vicious they could be at times.
And it was Maxwell, of all people.
"Are you okay?" Maxwell blurted, shaking Severus out of his daze. "Oh, God, I knew I should have kept my mouth shut. 'Carry on walking, Duo,' I said, 'just let it go. He's happier not knowing.' But I wanted to be up front and honest, and look! I broke you." He made a sour face. "Aw, hell. You're going to be pissed when you snap out of it and realized you just broke down in front of me."
Severus narrowed his eyes dangerously at the Gryffindor. With an uncomfortable chuckle, the American rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Maybe I should have kept that observation to myself..." he said ruefully, trailing off when he noticed the poison churning in those black, depth-less eyes. "Yeah. So. That's my queue to leave." Then, stiffly, he turned on his heels and began marching toward the door at a clipped pace.
"Two things, Maxwell," Severus said, barely able to keep the snarl out of his voice. The boy stopped dead in his tracks, viciously hissing a curse under his breath before he cautiously looked at the Potions Master from over his shoulder. Holding up one finger, he said monotonously, "One. This library you're searching for -does it have anything to do with what Potter and his gang of misfits are up to?" I at least deserve this much, you little brat.
Maxwell opened his mouth, obviously about to deliver his reply before he hesitated, his eyes reflecting startled wonder. Then, in a soft, bemused tone, he admitted, "Yes... and no." He turned back around to fully face Severus, a thoughtful smile on his face as he elaborated, "Y'know, it should have everything to do with Harry. He's the one with the destiny issues. Yet, even when my suspicions that what I'm doing will directly affect the chances of Harry succeeding by tilting the odds in his favor... I haven't been thinking about him at all." He tilted his head to the side, his smile dimming somewhat, his eyes hooded. "It's been all about me."
Leaving Severus with no room to formulate a response, Maxwell again turned to make his way for the door before Severus stopped him, raising another finger. "Two." Maxwell paused, not even bothering to turn around this time. Pitching his voice in a low snarl, Severus said coldly, "Tell anyone about what happened here, and I will eviscerate you with a smile on my face, Maxwell."
Maxwell hummed in amusement before whirling around to face Severus with his usual exuberance, his eyes twinkling as he grinned from ear to ear. With a saucy wink, he drawled, "Same to you, Sexy." Then, with a lazy wave, he added, "Ta," before he was finally able to flee Severus' private suite.
Severus couldn't prevent the rueful smirk that crossed his features when the door closed behind the boy.
The moment he stepped over the threshold of the Potions classroom, Chang Wufei had a sinking suspicion that he was about to fall under attack. It was perturbing, how easily one's soldier's instincts returned the moment a possible threat had been perceived as such. He frowned to himself as he took a seat next to Mandy Brocklehurst, glancing around the classroom with suspicious narrowed eyes.
"What's wrong?" Mandy murmured as she set up her potions equipment, noting the tension in her companion's posture.
"Everything," Wufei grunted, still looking around for the source of his upset. No visible traps, no fools giving him any weird looks... He was pretty sure he hadn't angered anyone lately, and even Nott didn't seem to hold any ill will against him for that debacle in Muggle Defense... So what had his nerves on edge?
Mandy looked at him, nonplused. "I don't know how you function on a day to day basis with an attitude like that."
"My instincts have kept me alive and relatively uninjured for the last several years," Wufei said, lifting his chin arrogantly. "Right now, my instincts are screaming that someone is on the prowl."
"Are you sure Yuy's paranoia isn't contagious?" his companion inquired with an air of skepticism. Wufei had enough time to glare at her before Snape finally began conducting his lesson.
Most of the lesson passed by relatively uneventful. The first half of the class began with Professor Snape lecturing (in a rather grating, condescending manner) over the potion they were going to be brewing for Madam Pomphrey, who was running low on Skele-Grow. Wufei thought it sounded like a very useful potion to master, especially when it came to the things he and his companions tended to become involved in, so he made sure to be especially attentive to the directions Snape was going over. However, he couldn't completely smother the sinking suspicion that something was amiss.
So it was no surprise to him when the enemy struck when he was least prepared, poised to pour precisely one pint of armadillo bile into his bubbling cauldron. Something wet, slimy, and disgustingly warm splattered the back of his skull, sliding down the back of his neck and into the collar of his robes. Vaguely horrified, Wufei lifted his hand and peeled the slimy mess coagulating in his hair away and brought his disgusting evidence to eyesight.
Eyes smoldering, he turned in his chair to glare at the possible culprits. Barton and Winner sat right behind him, both oblivious to what had just happened; the angle at which they were located to him was all wrong, anyway. On the other side of Barton, Yuy was frowning at Maxwell, who was softly humming what sounded like I'm A Little Teapot while gleefully chopping a shrivelfig to pieces. Black, eyes wide and mouth slack with disbelief, was staring directly at Wufei. When the Chinese youth narrowed his eyes at him, Black unwittingly glanced at Maxwell with a morbidly curious expression on his face.
Wufei followed Black's gaze, his eyes narrowing furiously when he saw Maxwell's self-satisfied smirk. The lack of salamander intestines around his workspace gave the culprit away. Bingo.
"What," Wufei snarled lowly, "do you think you're doing, Maxwell?"
Maxwell blinked, glancing at Wufei innocently before peering into his cauldron. After a short pause, he announced, "Making what appears to be really gross gumbo."
"Why did you throw salamander intestines in my hair?" he growled loudly. By this point, anyone within hearing range paused and stared at the two. Brocklehurst even made it a point to scoot her chair away, and Yuy turned his frown from Maxwell to Wufei.
Maxwell shrugged nonchalantly. "I thought it was funny."
Time to die.
Too bad Snape snagged the back of his collar before Wufei managed to wrap his fingers around Maxwell's throat. "Explain," the man said shortly, bodily shoving Wufei back into his seat as he snapped, "Now!"
"Wuffers is so tense," Maxwell said innocently. "I thought he could use a hug."
"So you threw intestines in my hair?" Wufei fairly raged, glaring furiously at his unrepentant friend.
"Those intestines were thrown out of love," Maxwell insisted earnestly.
"Start bottling your potions," Severus broke in tersely, addressing the entire class. "Label your products and place them on my desk. You'll pick up where you left off on Friday." Then, glancing meaningfully at Wufei and Maxwell, he said coldly, "The two of you can remain after class to discuss your detention."
Detention? Chang Wufei?
I'm going to kill him. Wufei mechanically bottled his potion and scrubbed his instruments clean. I'm really going to kill him. After packing away his belongings, he stiffly walked to Snape's desk and placed the labeled bottle amongst the others. Not even Yuy will be able to identified his mutilated corpse. He silently waited for the rest of the students to evacuate, some of which casting him remorseful and/or frightened glances as they left. Black even spared a moment to murmur darkly, "Tough luck, having Snape interfere like that. I was ready to see divine retribution."
The moment the door shut behind the last student, Snape immediately dropped his sinister glower before raising an eyebrow at Maxwell, the air around the American saturated with satisfaction and triumph. "That was your brilliant plan?"
"It worked, didn't it?" Maxwell retorted, grinning lopsidedly.
Wufei clutched his hands into fist, staring stonily at the Gryffindor. "Plan?" he echoed flatly, the dark tendrils of suspicion choking him.
Snape glanced at Wufei, frowning. "He didn't tell you?"
"Tell me what," Wufei demanded through gritted teeth.
"That I masterminded his earning a detention to serve my own purposes, and that you're in on it?" Maxwell suggested cheerfully. "Nope, he's clueless. How long have we got?"
"A month," Snape drawled, actually smirking when he eyed the seething Chinese Ravenclaw once more. "Now get out. I suggest running to safety before Chang snaps to."
Too late. "Die, Maxwell!" Wufei yelled, lunging for the American.
Maxwell shot out of reach, already running for the door while he cackled insanely. "Gotta catch me first, Wu-Changles!"
The chase persisted from the bowels of the dungeon to just outside of the Great Hall, Duo laughing the entire way. He'd just managed to burst into the hall where the rest of Hogwarts was dining, only to be tackled by Wufei from behind in the entryway. It took the combined forces of Heero Yuy and Zechs Marquise to pry the enraged Chinese Ravenclaw's fingers away from Duo's tender neck, and the American was still laughing weakly when they finally managed to pull Wufei off of him.
The entire Hall stared at the group of four huddled in the doorway, the same thought crossing everyone's mind as the bore witness to Duo's almost maniacal laughing and Wufei's snarled curses in languages most of them didn't even recognize.
Barking mad loons.
Anybody else notice that Snape kept getting my attention, or is that just me?
(So sorry for not taking up on that proofreading offer. I got impatient. :grins sheepishly:)
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