Say it with me now:


My only excuse is that work has been a bit time consuming and draining lately; we had several employees quit, so we've been a tad bit short-staffed for the last several months because, no matter who we put in those empty seats, none of them last very long. :sighs: It's a perpetual headache, but I'm only sorry that I let it distract me from writing. I plan to have the next chapter out BEFORE the New Year, so no worries. :grins and holds up three fingers: Promise. Brownie Scout's honor.

So thanks to all who have prodded me steadily since the passing of my November deadline, which I obviously didn't make. I tried to reply to all of them, but I'm afraid I was not successful, and I apologize.

I blame Sparky for my update because she did hers and made me feel bad. :grins: So everyone -dog pile on Sparky!

Now go on. Enough of me. ONWARD!

Harry Potter and the Forgotten Heirs Part 14

"You can't be mad at me forever, 'Fei."

No response. Not even so much as a twitch that would indicate the sullen Chinese youth had even heard him. Duo suppressed the urge to sigh, steadily walking only two steps behind and to the right of his reserved friend. He had known Wufei wouldn't be happy with him when he tossed those innards in the Ravenclaw's general direction, but the decision had been spur of the moment; most of the class had consisted of Duo plotting ways to goad Wufei into losing his temper to the point that he would actually strike back, and entrails seemed like the best bet at the time.

Duo calmly added potions ingredients to his list of Shit Not To Throw At Chang Wufei, of which included the likes of volatile explosives, dangerous chemicals, and a variety of food that mainly consisted of desserts. The last group was added due to the fact that the American had found that wasted ice cream actually made him a little sad when all was said and done, no matter how amusing it had been when Wufei's baritone voice had hit a tremulous tenor after the impact.

Wufei's horrified expression after Duo had offered to lick that particular treat off of his skin had almost been worth it, though. Almost.

"C'mon, Wufei. You know I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think it was important." Wufei's anger probably had nothing to do with the intestines, anyway. Yeah, sure, it was a little nasty, but Duo had a feeling it was the month of detention that had riled the Chinese boy above everything else. Despite Duo's frequent affiliation with said pass time, Chang Wufei actually made the effort to avoid such a mark on his record. His friend abhorred detention like Ron Weasley despised homework.

To be honest, Duo wouldn't have even targeted Wufei if he thought one of the others would take the bait. Quatre would have stared at him with those doleful teal eyes, silently wondering why the American would do such a thing to him. (Not to mention that Trowa might have hurt him for trying.) Trowa probably would have calmly returned the favor before going back to his potion, and Heero would more than likely give him one of his reprimanding glares that promised Duo he wouldn't be seeing the inside of his boyfriend's bedroom for some time to come. Wufei was the only logical choice for his plan.

Of course, Duo mused absently, I could have just told the guys what I was planning. But where was the fun in that? Well, for one, Wufei would actually talk to him instead of giving him the cold shoulder. Duo thought his priorities might have needed a little work. Friends were more important than a few laughs, even if having fun was almost equal in worth.

"Okay, I give up." Duo stopped walking; raising his hands in defeat. When Wufei noticed the American was no longer dogging his footsteps, he stopped and craned his neck slightly, glaring coldly at Duo from over his shoulder. "I'm a thoughtless, selfish moron with little to no regard about my friends' feelings. On the scale of being a decent human being, I score abominably low. If my mom lived long enough to get to know me, she probably would have considered drowning me. I suck, and I'm sorry."

Wufei's eyes widened marginally; then something in his gaze snapped, and he whirled around and stalked toward Duo, visibly angrier than before. His friend only stopped moving when he was toe to toe with Duo, and for one, lingering moment, the American thought Wufei was going to hit him. Instead, the Chinese boy hissed heatedly, "Don't ever say that to me again!"

Taken aback by Wufei's vehemence, Duo leaned back slightly, confused. "... Wufei?"

"You," the Ravenclaw snarled lowly, jabbing Duo's chest with his finger, "are the most irritating human being I've ever met. In the first few weeks of our meeting, you noted every single one of my character traits and proceeded to pick and prod at the ones you found lacking to your heart's content, in a manner you're most familiar with. You're better at it than my wife ever was, and Meiran had more ammunition on me than you could ever hope for!" His rant ended sharply, his voice raised perhaps a tad bit louder than Wufei had intended. Something in his face changed at the mention of his wife; his expression softened, and he said quietly, as if without much thought, "She would have liked you."

It wasn't the first time Wufei had mentioned his wife, though he did it sparingly. He also never went into detail about her, so Duo didn't know what kind of person she was or how Wufei and his wife had gotten along. Sometimes he was under the impression that their relationship was a rocky one, as he imagined most arranged marriages would be. Other times, however, when Wufei would mention her -always in passing -he would remain quiet for a time, lost in his own thoughts.

"I would have liked to meet her," Duo said softly.

Wufei tilted his head slightly, his eyes narrowed. Then he snorted and looked away, replying evenly, "You would have. She was the original pilot for Natak- Altron."

Duo started in surprise. He hadn't known that particular little detail, and he felt vaguely unsettled by it. How differently would events have turned out if the fifth pilot had been anybody but Wufei? More importantly, where would Wufei have been during the war? The answer that immediately came to mind turned his stomach. Wufei would have been safe and sound on L5, living his life until the point... until the point the colony self destructed.

Duo didn't like that. He didn't like it at all.

"My point is this," Wufei said suddenly, turning his blazing ebony eyes back to Duo. "Even if you know how to push my buttons and persist to do so with enough enthusiasm that it would be admirable if it didn't irritate me, you are not thoughtless, nor selfish. You care more about your friends than you do about yourself, and if your mother had thought you would have been a terrible human being, she wouldn't have given you the chance to live. As for being a decent human being, I only know a handful of those, and you happen to be on the list." He narrowed his eyes intently. "I never want to hear you say otherwise. Do you understand me?"

Duo felt his breath hitch, sincerely touched by Wufei's defense of him from... well, himself. He almost didn't know how to react to such an uncharacteristic show from the Chinese boy, so he decided to do what he did best.

"Oh, 'Fei," he gushed, throwing his arms around Wufei with a fake sob. His friend's body grew taunt at the contact, but he didn't immediately pull away from Duo's embrace. "You do love me!"

"Cut it out," Wufei grumbled, vaguely uncomfortable. "We're late for detention."

Duo let go of him and stepped back, grinning sheepishly. "Ah... about that. We won't be serving detention tonight. Or any night, actually. I wasn't kidding about my nefarious planning, you know."

"That's typical," Wufei muttered wearily, rubbing his forehead with a sigh. "And you mentioned Snape is involved. So, Maxwell, what are we doing for the duration of our supposed detention?" The stern, reprimanding look on the Ravenclaw's fave spoke volumes as to what Wufei was thinking, which Duo interpreted as This better not involve some insipid prank, or I really will throttle you.

Out of habit, Duo glanced around the empty corridor for any sign of a stray student out of his dorm so close to curfew. He also listened intently, searching for any slight scuffling of footsteps and movement. When he was confident that no one was near enough to eavesdrop, he said quietly, "We're looking for her library."

Wufei narrowed his eyes, immediately noting Duo's candid response. He frowned severely, obviously bothered by his friend's proposal. "Based only on a vague riddle and the -his even more vague advice?"

Duo knew what Wufei was implying. They had little to go on and no idea where to even begin. Hogwarts was a massive structure in and of itself, with more nooks and crannies than any one of them could shake a stick at. The number of the secrets the castle (and even the grounds) held were innumerable to date. The others had taken a different approach to finding Ravenclaw's Library by way of researching Hogwarts' history as thoroughly as possible, going far beyond what Hogwarts, A History could offer.

Yet, Duo felt the itching need to do more than just sit down with a dry book. He was an action man, through and through; so, while the others had taken upon themselves to explore other methods, Duo actively searched and even went to Orie on occasion for more information. It was through the Oracle that he knew it was useless to search the dungeons, no matter how vast that specific area of the castle was.

"Lady Ravenclaw," Orie had murmured thoughtfully, sitting atop the massive stone carving of the wizen face of Slytherin, "is a wise woman, whose knowledge surpasses any man in any number of fields of study. Suitors from miles around came to court her, yet she spurned them all with due scorn." He had smiled fondly then, his ruby eyes introverted. "They wished for a beauty to fawn and simper and remain a dutiful, subservient mate. Such behavior was above the Lady of Ravenclaw, as she has reminded all on numerous occasions."

"Sounds a lot like the women of today," Duo had noted in amusement, enjoying the rather vivid picture the Oracle was painting of Ravenclaw.

"Lady Ravenclaw is like no woman I have had the pleasure of meeting," Orie murmured, sounding equally amused. "Her arrogance is far too staggering to compare to any other." He had glanced at Duo then, a pleased smile teasing the corners of his mouth. "Though it is heartening to hear that the fairer sex of the present emulate her. Not even Lord Slytherin, a traditionalist to the very core, could fault her sheer tenacity."

"So, if you could pick a place -any place -within the castle, where do you think she would hide her library?"

"That is a very difficult question," Orie said quietly, pensive, "and the query quite possibly has a very simple answer. One of which I do not have." He had flickered his gaze to Duo again, adding mildly, "I can, however, say this: do not bother searching the dungeons. Lady Ravenclaw would consider entrusting her library in such a climate blasphemy."

"That helps, actually," Duo murmured thankfully. Then he raised an eyebrow and said, slightly incredulously, "Don't tell me such a wise, silver-tongued hellcat was too dainty to step foot in the dark, dank dungeons."

Orie threw his head back and laughed, loudly and genuinely amused. When the laughter tapered off to controllable chuckles, he said with merrily dancing eyes, "No, perish the thought. Lady Ravenclaw simply thought the addition of dungeons to what was to serve as a school was tawdry and lacked a sense of class, no matter that Hogwarts is, first and foremost, a castle." Then, grinning slightly, he added mischievously, "Lady Hufflepuff was adamant about the decision, however. She claimed she would most certainly require an area to banish the more unruly students."

And hadn't that admission knocked Duo for a loop. No matter the reputation of the House, he had a strong suspicion that Lady Helga Hufflepuff was anything but a pushover.

Duo broke away from his memories and shook his head thoughtfully, running his fingers through his bangs. "I know where not to look. According to Orie, the dungeons are out of the running, and I've searched the ground floor and most of the second. We just need to start where I left off last."

Wufei's frowned deepened, and Duo winced at his little slip. He steeled himself for what was to come, and Wufei didn't disappoint him. "You've been looking by yourself? Maxwell, you..." Duo expected Wufei to lecture him about the great and wonderful uses of friends, and how he had plenty that were willing to jump in as soon as asked. The Chinese youth trailed off, however, a look of realization dawning across his face.

"You've made it personal." It wasn't a question, nor was it spoken with any sign of disbelief. It was the greatest taboo to the pilots; no matter how deeply they were involved, no matter how close to home the events they participated in, the golden rule was to never take it personally. Allowing emotions to cloud the mission left room for error and rash behavior, and that was something they simply could not afford in their line of work.

"Yeah," Duo murmured, evenly meeting Wufei's eyes. "I have."

For a long moment, nothing else was said, though Duo wouldn't have been surprised if his admission was met with his friend's derision. Instead, however, Wufei merely shook his head, obviously displeased. "That's your prerogative." Then, face solemn, he said seriously, "Just don't let it affect your better judgement."

"I won't," Duo promised, determined to keep his word. This couldn't be about him. Never about him. This was about the mission, the ultimate goal; this was about helping bring about the downfall of one of the most notorious Dark Lord the wizarding world had come to know. There was no room for personal vendettas in something so vitally important. Even so, helping topple Mr. Big, Bad, and Unhygienic off of his self-made pedestal sure as hell went a long way in making him one happy camper.

Wufei nodded sharply. "Good." He turned on his heels, heading for the nearest staircase at a determined pace. "Come along, Maxwell. I want to start on the third floor before the night is over."

Grinning, Duo jogged to catch up, slowing his pace to match Wufei's as soon as he was beside his friend. Tone teasing, he playfully said, "Y'know, during your touching little tirade about how much you love me, I can't help but notice you didn't mention my being a moron."

Wufei snorted. "I actually agree with that part."

"Ah!" Duo cried, clutching his fist over his heart dramatically as he swooned. "Oh, it stings. I don't know how I shall ever recover. Hold me, Waffles, I think I've lost the will to go on!"

Wufei did nothing of the sort; instead, he twitched violently at the newest addition to his list of hated nicknames before glancing at Duo from the corner of his eye. "I accept your apology." Then, with a rueful smirk, he added, "You still suck, though."

Duo felt a well of relief rise up when he received his confirmation -all was forgiven, and don't make the same mistake again.

"I swallow, too," Duo said with a perverted leer, nudging Wufei playfully. "Ask Hee-chan. He'll tell you." The absolute disgust on his friend's face cinched it for him.

"Gods, Maxwell, don't be vulgar! And stop laughing, damn you!"


November 4th marked the first Quidditch game of the season, which happened to be a Gryffindor vs. Slytherin match. This, of course, created quite a bit of tension between the two Seekers, as neither one of them were what one would call gracious losers. To this effect, Draco seemed to drive his team harder than ever before, going as far as spending any and every spare second (when he wasn't studying, attending class, fulfilling Head Boy duties, and researching the lineage of the Founders) on the field chasing after the Snitch and executing infamous Seeker maneuvers to his heart's content. This, unfortunately, left him no time to cultivate his budding relationship with Harry.

Not that this by any chance meant that Harry was slacking off, nor did it seem to matter that Draco was too busy for him; in fact, the Boy Who Lived was just as driven as the Slytherin Prince. Both were set and determined to win their first match of the season, and to hell with any hard feelings on either side, boyfriend or no. Ron had been relieved upon noticing Harry's fanatic zeal during practice, confident that Harry wouldn't show any restraint towards the opposition despite the fact his own boyfriend was playing for the other team.

Duo and Heero, however, took to treating the upcoming match with some lighthearted ribbing (Duo) and smug glances (Heero).

"You're going down, Yuy!" Duo cried, voice echoing across the Great Hall as he stood from his seat at the Gryffindor table and pointed triumphantly at where his boyfriend sat. "Prepare for defeat!"

Heero's derisive snort was audible. Apparently, the new Slytherin Beater wasn't worried at all.

"Oh, yeah," Duo said, grinning from ear to ear as he settled back into his seat, preening. He glanced at Harry mischievously before he murmured enthusiastically, "Heero's going to have that team try to cream me."

Harry stared at Duo incredulously. "Why do you sound happy about that possibility?" Duo did sound very excited despite his own conviction that his boyfriend would seek to take him out before the match was over. Harry was practically a nervous wreck, his stomach churning violently at the very thought of even taking one nibble of the scrumptious breakfast that was spread out before him.

"The operative word here is 'try'," Duo said eagerly, rubbing his hands together gleefully as his eyes gleamed with visible anticipation for the upcoming match. "I do so love a good challenge."

It seemed as if no time had passed between breakfast and the nearing game. Students, teachers, and a handful of proud parents were filling the stands; some were even wandering the pitch, cutting from one side to the other without all of the hassle of walking around. Duo, primed and prepped for the first big game of the season in his spiffy new Gryffindor Quidditch uniform, stood in the very center of the pitch, the eager grin stretching across his face speaking volumes about his excitement as he turned the full circle.

God, he loved sports. The thrill, the challenge, the unbridled determination to win -these were all things for which he lived so passionately. The fact that the famous wizarding sport combined both competition and flying only made it sound too good to be true, as it included two of the activities he excelled at.

A flash of a familiar ruby red caught his attention; pausing, he narrowed in on Orie, who was sitting ever-so-calmly next to Neville Longbottom. The man, smiling serenely, seemed to be holding an easy conversation with the awkward Gryffindor seventh year. By the look of Neville's face, the Gryffindor had taken quite a shine to Orie in a purely platonic way, going as far as offering his treats to the congenial man. In return, Orie seemed both fascinated and amused as his Chocolate Frog vainly attempted to escape his grasp.

Duo shook his head, smiling softly. Blending in while making an impression. Oracle Man sure knows how this incognito thing works. He wasn't upset that Orie had escaped the confines of the Chamber of Secrets; he'd expected it, rather. No one deserved to be exiled in that dark place for a prolonged period of time, no matter what interesting things the Chamber held.

"It's time to join your team, Maxwell," Madam Hooch said briskly, marching to the center of the pitch with her broom in hand. "The game's about to begin."

Duo turned and gave the golden-eyed woman a cheerful thumbs up. "Gotcha." He glanced toward Orie one last time, finding that the man's ruby eyes had found him. Neville, noticing that his new companion's attention had strayed, also found Duo looking back at them. Duo waved enthusiastically at the two of them before running off to join his awaiting teammates huddled just inside the entrance of the locker room.

Clearly brimming over with pre-game adrenaline, Duo smiled wildly at his teammates, some of whom matched his contagious grin, like the Gryffindor Beaters and his companion Chasers. Harry and Ron, on the other hand, both looked incredibly pale and somewhat nauseated. "You guys ready for the victory party?"

"Hell, yeah," Jimmy Peakes crowed triumphantly, slapping Ritchie Coote a high-five. Ginny and Demelza Robins exchanged amused glances.

"We haven't won this game yet," Ron said darkly, his pallor blending into an interesting (though worrisome) grey hue.

"Don't be such a downer, Captain Ron," Ginny said mildly, sending her brother a reproachful look. "Optimism is a good thing."

"And with one of the best Seekers this school has ever known, how could we lose?" Demelza added, grinning when Harry snapped out of his self-induced daze long enough to blush.

"Don't let Draco hear you say that," Duo said teasingly, nudging the younger girl slyly. "He'll only stop being indignant on his own behalf long enough to give you the evil eye for moving in on his territory, whether that was your intention or not." And, knowing the Slytherin Prince as well as he did, Duo had no doubt that would be the case. Jealousy, thy name is Draco.

"Time to put the game faces on," Ritchie commented once Madam Hooch gave the sign. As one, the team swept to the side, looking back at Ron (puce by this point) with expectant eyes. "Lead on, oh captain, my captain."

Swallowing back his urge to sick up all over the front of his Quidditch robes, Ron Weasley steeled his resolve and lead his team to the center of the pitch just as Draco Black guided his teammates from the opposite end of the field. The crowd in the stands cheered them on wildly as the two rival teams stood face to face, both Captains a step in front of their respective teams. The only obstacle separating the two was Madam Hooch, who was giving the both of them stern looks.

"I ought to make the Captains hug," she said sharply, smirking lightly when both of the seventh years nearly recoiled in horror. "I'm sure we can settle your differences with a stern warning. Getting the two of you to be civil toward one another on the pitch would be like trying to pull a dragon's teeth, so I'm not even going to make the effort. I expect a clean game, gentlemen -don't disappoint me."

After being drilled with those intense eyes, Duo would hate to see what Hooch would do if she were disappointed.

"Mount your brooms, please."

They did so. Duo, standing directly across from Heero, gave his lover one last wink before the game officially began.

"What are those Slytherin girls doing on the field?" Jimmy whispered to Ritchie, his eyes having strayed to the seven pretty girls dressed in emerald green cloaks that were secured just under their necks, the hems nearly touching the ground. The girls were lined up in front of the Slytherin stands, all giving off the attitude that they had every right to be on the pitch.

"Eyes front, Peakes," Ron muttered lowly moments before Hooch blew sharply into her silver whistle. Almost as one, fifteen players shot up into the sky, waiting for the Quaffle to be thrown.

Hooch launched the ball into the air, and Duo was there to snap it up, easily rolling his broom out of the path of the Heero's partner Beater, Theodore Nott, who attempted to hinder his progress.

"And the Quaffle is in the possession of Duo Maxwell of Gryffindor," Seamus crowed, his voice echoing above the roar of the wildly cheering crowd. Duo wasn't paying attention; couldn't pay attention. He was in the game, apart of it, living it as he tore down the field with a single-minded determination. He'd just noticed the bludger sailing directly at him when Jimmy was there with a battle cry, swinging his bat with all of his might and redirecting the projectile towards one of the Slytherin Chasers that had been aiming to get in Duo's way. The Chaser easily dodged the sluggish bludger, and Duo only had a moment to register Jimmy's pained cry before he was once again bearing down on the goals.

"Are you okay?" Harry called out, circling around Jimmy as Duo rolled out of the way of the second bludger, this time hit by Theodore Nott.

Jimmy grimaced, rolling his right shoulder painfully. "That Yuy may be scrawny-looking, but he packs one hell of a wallop!"

Harry had been afraid of that. He turned back to the game when the stands erupted into wild cheers; Duo, face to face with Trowa, had apparently passed to Ginny, who was positioned near the goal furthest from him, at the last moment. The girl had immediately sent the Quaffle sailing through the hoop, scoring the first goal of the game. Duo, letting out a loud whoop of triumph, flew to his teammate and slapped her a high-five before immediately launching back into the game.

The Quaffle was in the Slytherins' hands. Duo made what promised to be a highly successful steal, if not for the well-aimed bludger barreling toward him a la Heero. He swivelled and shot off just in time for the bludger to clip the bristles of his broom. He lost control for only a second before quickly and instinctively regaining his momentum, and he was off after the Quaffle again.

That's when, out of the corner of his eye, he vaguely registered the movement of seven forgotten female powerhouses of Slytherin. He slowed only for a cursory glance, if only to settle his screaming soldier instincts. After all, a secretive few of the Slytherin House were loyal to Voldemort despite their Prince's mutiny. The pack of woman were the beauties of Slytherin, of whom included the likes of Iva Moon, a handful of sixth and fifth years whose names, if he recalled correctly, were Silvia Donovan, Antoinette Marion, Viola Paschal, and Yvonne Flint; a single fourth year named Zelda Reynolds; and, leading them in every movement, Pansy Parkinson.

And they were disrobing.

Jimmy and Ritchie, as young as they were, didn't stand a chance. Harry was outlandishly gaping, completely losing sight on the game. Even Duo had stopped in midair, utterly oblivious that the opposition was still blazing down the pitch with the majority of the Gryffindor team distracted.

"What the fuck are you idiots doing!" the outraged shriek resounded loudly, immediately snapping all four of them out of their lustful-slash-incredulous dazes. It was more of whom was shouting at them than the actual act itself, and the inclusion of a rather unfeminine vulgarity startled them. Ginny Weasley was glaring at them heatedly, and then pointed out the equally infatuated Keeper just in time for the entire team to bare witness to an effortless score by the Slytherin team. "Wrong brain, perverts!" she snarled above the baffled and disbelieving roar of the crowd below.

The Slytherin House, at this point, were the only students cheering, stomping their feet loudly against the stands. They had plenty of reason to; not only did their team just score, but they had seven scantily clad cheerleaders, proudly standing in formation with self-satisfied smirks and beaming grins, to lead them on.

That's right. Cheerleaders. Green and silver pom-poms, ridiculously short green skirts with sleeveless green vests with silver lining that cut at mid-drift, proudly displaying their snake mascot around their ribs and elegant silver stitching that spelled out SLYTHERIN -the whole shebang.

Duo honestly thought Ginny couldn't blame them too much for falling for the ploy. Cheerleaders were certainly an unexpected sight to behold, as most professional Quidditch teams had little more than mascots to contend with. Even Harry and Duo had taken the bait, and it had been confirmed that the both of them were currently chasing for the other team.

"NOT IN MY SCHOOL!" Professor McGonagall thundered close enough to the voice amplifying spell cast around the announcer's booth. Apparently, even Seamus Finnigan had been shocked into hormonal-fueled silence. The game came to an immediate halt as the stern figurehead for Gryffindor House called for a delegation, which was held out in the center of the pitch and included not only the Headmaster, but Madam Hooch and Professors Snape, Sprout, and Flitwick. Soon, however, all of the professors were represented, beginning a heated debate about legitimacy of cheerleaders.

After a moment (and seeing no end to the discussion soon, what with McGonagall's wildly flailing arms as she shouted at Snape, who had adopted a defensive, standoffish posture), both teams congregated along the sidelines, completely unsupervised.

A recipe for disaster, if Ron's glower at the cooly smirking Slytherin Seeker was anything to go by. Duo and Heero instantly took it upon themselves to govern the situation.

"Slick, guys," Duo said in mocking admiration. "Real slick."

Unfortunately, before Heero could make his rejoinder, Draco had the audacity to preen. "All credit goes to our two newest teammates."

As one, the entire Gryffindor team turned to glare accusingly at Heero and Trowa, both of whom appeared unrepentant. The only one not shooting poison daggers out of his eyes was Duo, who glanced at Heero long-sufferingly before quickly and silently conveying his thoughts: You had to have known this wouldn't go over well.

Heero shrugged minutely, as if to say, I can't be held liable for the unanticipated irresponsible actions of both the faculty's oversight and Draco's big mouth. The fault is on them.

Smartass. "Hee-chan, is there something you want to tell me?" Duo posed, feigning innocent concern over the validity of his boyfriend's currently-gay standing.

Heero smirked slightly. "The girls have a uniform in your size."

Duo was silently mortified as Jimmy, Ritchie, and Ron gave Duo strange looks. Harry, chortling quietly (the bastard), murmured, "Jeez, Heero, what's with you and trying to get Duo in drag?"

Duo winced, crossing his arms indignantly. He grumbled sullenly, "That's what I want to know."

Trowa, clearly amused, said mildly, "We all have our little kinks."

I bet yours is dominate!Quatre, Duo thought, half-spitefully, half in amusement at the concept. In the end, he chalked up that particular idea as just one other of the things he didn't want to know about his friends' love life. He had his suspicions, and that was enough.

Finally, Hooch called their attention; the committee had come to an agreement, and McGonagall looked absolutely murderous while Snape radiated smugness. Dumbledore, beaming mischievously between them, announced that there were no rules against any of the houses having mascots, which was what they were obviously labeling the Slytherin cheerleaders. When he welcomed the other three houses to have their hands at it, the Head of Gryffindor nearly went into conniptions.

"Now let's allow the match to continue, shall we?" Dumbledore ended on a bright note, smiling almost wryly as the Slytherin House roared their approval over the ultimate decision. It wasn't often said house approved of anything he usually had to say, and he decided to enjoy the rare praise while it lasted.

The match was once more underway, each team determined even more than before to gain the advantage. The score was dead even, and the atmosphere on the pitch and amongst the stand was almost electric in its' intensity. The cheerleaders' chants echoed slightly above the pitch of the roaring crowd, but none were as noticeable as the Slytherins, who often joined the seven girls in unified cheers. The game itself was absolutely invigorating for Duo as he wildly dipped and dived, blocking the Slytherin Chasers when he did not have the Quaffle, and darting effortlessly from their attempts to steal it away from him when he did. The two erratic bludgers were a bonus challenge, as he found them heading his way more often than not. He winced sympathetically when Jimmy, arm strained from defending Duo from Heero's bludgers, actually had to switch out with Ritchie. The other Beater had his fair share of sympathy, as well, the first time he lodged a bludger hit by Heero toward a redirected target. Anyone within hearing heard his pained yell, and those too far away for the sound to reach them could see it plainly on his pained face.

Trowa was clear favorite of the onlookers in the stand, as he proved to be very talented in the area of Keeping. He blocked attempts to score more often than he didn't, and the few times he missed was because of Duo. Ron, no slacker in the Keeper department, was only a score behind Trowa before the Snitch was finally sighted.

Draco was closer and had the advantage of spotting the golden glint hovering near the Slytherin hoops first, and though Harry was not far behind his rival Seeker, it was almost assured that Draco would get to it first. He was already reach out, ready and eager to grasp his triumph when Duo darted from below just in front of him, forcing him to abort his direction with such speed that he momentarily lost control of his broom, all to prevent an unfortunate collision.

"You bogtrotting bastard!" Draco bellowed murderously the very moment Harry's fingers closer around the snitch. His insult was directed not at his boyfriend, who had lifted his fist in the air in victory amongst the ecstatic roaring of the spectators, but at Duo, who was smiling at him rather sheepishly.

"Sorry, man," the American said, rubbing the back of his head ruefully. "For love of the game, you know?"

Once they were on the ground, the Gryffindors eagerly dog-piled one another, Harry the unfortunate center of six simultaneous tackles from every direction. The Slytherins, reserved in comparison, huddled a fair distance away from them.

"What happened?" Draco grounded out, not upset with his teammates, but the ultimate loss of the game. There was supposed to be a Beater on Duo at all times to prevent such an occurrence.

Heero answered evenly, "I was trying to prevent Ginny Weasley from successfully stealing the Quaffle."

"Someone," Henderson, a sixth year Chaser, looked at Nott pointedly, "decided to lob a bludger toward boy Weasley."

Nott shot Henderson an acidic glare. "I was trying to give Reynolds a clear shot!"

"We are not playing the blame game," Draco spat, drawing his quarreling teammates' attentions away from each other. "We'll just have to practice harder -if we play the next two matches right and Gryffindor flubs it during their game with Ravenclaw, we're still in the running for the Quidditch Cup." Despite their unrest, Draco sent them off to the showers before sparing the congratulatory Gryffindors a glance. He found haunted green eyes staring at him. Harry broke away from his excited teammates, stopping halfway between them and the lone Slytherin.

Draco couldn't stop the reluctant smile that spread across his face and mouthed, very clearly, Next time, Potter. The Gryffindor Seeker grinned, appearing slightly relieved before mouthing back, Bring it on, Black.

The season wasn't over yet.


The moment the snitch had been caught and the Gryffindor team's win had been assured, Hermione was back in the library continuing her efforts to find any information about Oracles that she could glean -which wasn't very much at all, much to her disappointment. From what she did gather, there had not been a certified Oracle in quite some time, and the position was lauded sparingly. In the hierarchy of those with the sight, most of which included Seers, Prophets, fortune tellers and voodoo priests and priestesses, Oracle seemed to be the creme de la creme, firmly at the top of the totem poll.

Besides that, she knew nothing. Documented Oracles were long forgotten due to the loss of centuries' worth of history because of numerous goblin rebellions and, most recently, the sudden crop of aspiring Dark Lords and their followers. And the purebloods were always complaining that muggleborns were to be blamed for their dying culture, always overlooking their own mistakes.

Aside from Oracles, Hermione was steeped in books about ancient magical rites and rituals, though she had very little to go on. She knew it involved specific bloodlines -the Founders' Lines, which only made sense as they were the foundation of Hogwarts itself, and this ritual mentioned in the prophecy was supposed to be the school's biggest defense. She knew, in fact, that the ritual was supposed to involve between four and five people, one of which she knew for a fact was supposed to be Harry. It was not clear whether or not Harry was the Heir of Gryffindor, but it seemed to be a widely accepted idea that her friend didn't put a lot of faith in.

She wove through the stacks, grabbing potentially useful books as she went. She was only vaguely aware that Draco Black had entered the library, making a beeline for the genealogy section with a single-minded determination. She didn't bother acknowledging him, nor he, her; just because he was dating one of her best friends didn't make them get along any easier, though they managed to remain civil when it came to Head duties. She would always see him as nothing more than an arrogant prat with very few redeeming qualities, and she imagined he would always see her as a bossy know-it-all mudblood, even if he hadn't used that specific vulgarity against her in quite some time.

The stack of books in her arms were almost unmanageable, towering from her waist to the bridge of her nose. She finally decided that her selected reading material would be a good start, and she turned to head toward an empty, secluded table where she would not be bothered during her research. Unfortunately, she hadn't noticed there was someone standing nearby, perusing the shelves for his own book. The both of them stumbled, her stack of books tumbling to the ground with multiple thuds that echoed around the library.

The younger boy recoiled away, scowling. "Watch it, mudblood!"

For one brief, painful moment, Hermione felt tears stinging her eyes upon hearing the one bigoted insult she despised the most. Then, her senses coming back to her, she bristled and began to sharply deduct points from the boy's house (Slytherin, she thought, rolling her eyes. Typical.) when she was faced with the back of a stranger.

He was taller than her -a full head taller, with hair such a true, deep shade of crimson that it could only be called ruby. His shoulders were set both proudly and confidently, and though she could not see his face from her position, she could only assume his expression was not a pleasant one by the cowed demeanor of younger boy, who skulked off as quickly as possible, his book forgotten.

The man turned to her, any sign of a scowl completely washed clean until there was nothing left but a pleasant smile set perfectly on bow-shaped lips that were crafted into a rather handsome face. He was pale -as pale as Black, if only more noticeable because of the dark color of his hair and eyes. His eyes were like rubies, like his hair; his nose was slanted in a graceful arch.

He was devastatingly handsome, she realized with a blush as he kneeled to the ground and began the task of collecting the fallen books without question. Belatedly she realized she was supposed to be doing the same, and she quickly dropped to the floor to assist him, obstinately refusing to meet the thoughtful eyes she could feel piercing through the layers of her wiry hair.

"Do you intend to read all of these before the day is over?" he asked mildly, startling her. She clutched the few books she gathered to her chest, noticing that he already had the rest of them carefully stacked by his side.

She nibbled her bottom lip uncertainly for a moment before nodding cautiously. "I hope to, at any rate. I'll most likely end up checking the majority of them out of the library for the evening." She stood up then, her books pressed guardedly to her chest as the man copied her movement. She waited only for a moment before she realized he wasn't going to hand her the rest of the books. In fact, he seemed to be patiently waiting for her to move, so move she did, going for one of the more sequestered tables.

When he placed the stack of books at the edge of the table, he took the first and glanced over the title. "The Hierarchy of the Second Sight." Then, the book under that. "Rites and Rituals of the Deep Magicks. Ambitious choice of reading material."

Now he was just fishing. "I'm working on a school project."

He smiled serenely. "Of course you are. Unfortunately," he said, his voice pitched to a low murmur as he wielded a book with a knowing glance, "you won't be finding what you are looking for in these texts."

Her shoulders tensed as her eyes shot to his face in suspicion; there was nothing there but open honesty and a visible sense of harmlessness. Still weary, she said evenly, "With all due respect, sir, but what would you know about what I'm looking for?"

"More than you think, I imagine," he said sincerely before leaning closer to her. She resisted the urge to back away, stubbornly refusing to give up her ground no matter by how much he was invading her personal space. Almost in a whisper, he murmured huskily, "Please, do not worry. In three days hence, you will have the information you're looking for come your way with no effort on your part. It is best that you enjoy the companionship of your friends and house mates so soon after a victory."

Hermione's eyes widened, and she stared at the stranger questioningly. Who was he? What in the world did he know about what she was doing? Before she could pose these questions, however, an unexpected visitor interrupted her.

"What are you doing here?"

Hermione turned, eyeing Black suspiciously. He wasn't looking at her, but at the stranger... as if they knew each other. What has he been blabbing to people? She wondered, upset by the discovery that Black might have been telling complete strangers things that were to remain secret. He had a large book of old newspaper clippings tucked under one arm, and he seemed to be staring at the stranger with a rather blank face that she'd come to learn meant that he was being cautiously distrustful.

The corners of the stranger's mouth ticked up in a smile. "It has been a long time since I've seen Hogwarts. I wanted to see how much has changed since I was here."

Black's expression, if possible, became even more closed off as he flickered his gaze at Hermione. "So why are you bothering Granger?"

"Don't be rude," Hermione said stiffly. "He's not bothering me." Just giving her yet another puzzle to muse over.

"Only offering a little advice," the stranger said softly, seemingly not bothered by Black's inquiry. He smiled at Hermione again, radiating an aura that gently coaxed her into trusting him. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Ms. Granger. Please, take what I said to heart."

Hermione looked him over thoughtfully, hesitantly chewing on her bottom lip again before she made her decision. "I'll think about it if you tell me your name."

Black snorted, muttering something under his breath that sounded like he was wishing her luck in that particular department. The stranger, unruffled, smiled again and said, "They call me Orie." He nodded to her then, murmuring a quiet goodbye before repeating the same with Black. Then he was leaving the library, with one bemused Gryffindor and one suspicious Slytherin left in his wake.

"Friend of yours?" Hermione asked pointedly, glancing at Black.

He grimaced at her sourly, shaking his head while muttering, "Hardly. I'm surprised anybody trusts him, as secretive as he is." He gave her a searching look, asking in a droll, "So what advice did he give you?"

For a moment, she honestly thought about keeping it to herself. Deciding Black, knowing the stranger at least a little better than she did, would be ideal in gaining input on the validity of the man's words, she said quietly, "He told me to stop looking for three days." She didn't say for what, since they both knew her part in the field of research.

"Did he?" Black mused, glancing back to the doorway the man had disappeared through, unnoticed. "As much as I hate to admit it, he's probably right. That man knows a lot more about what's going on than any of us do. And no, Granger," he added snidely, giving her a dark glance, "I didn't go spilling your little Gryffindor secrets to him. He already knew about it when I met him."

He turned on his heel and stalked back to his own table, leaving Hermione to ponder the events by herself. She glanced down at the mountain of reading material on the desk uncertainly, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth in thought before she stacked the books in alphabetical order, leaving them for the house elves to sort.

After all, it wasn't too late to join the Gryffindor's celebration over their triumph in Quidditch.


It was only an hour after he'd seen Granger leave the library, and Draco was still agonizing over his disastrous loss in Quidditch.

And it was all Duo bloody Maxwell's fault.

Draco Black was a sore loser. He knew it, his house knew it, his friends knew it; everyone in the whole bloody school knew it. He saw no point in denying the obvious. He hated being second to anyone, as it would mean that someone was better than him, and the elitist snob that had attached itself to Draco's soul like devastating cancer raged at the stark proof that he wasn't as perfect as he would like to think.

He was amazed, yet, quite pleased with himself that he managed to civilly request a little alone time when Harry hesitantly approached him, worrying questions silently asked through soulful green eyes and aching, raw expressions that rampaged across his face. It was perhaps that aspect of Harry that inspired Draco to give him a warm smile before turning and retreating to Hogwarts unnoticed -that sincere puppy face that gave one the impression that this puppy was no stranger to being kicked.

Draco vaguely wondered if Harry was aware that he had Draco's inner snob so tightly wound around his little finger. Knowing Harry, it wasn't likely. In any case, he wasn't as upset over the loss as he would have normally been, and he managed to drive away any lingering irritation by continuing his search for the Heir of Gryffindor.

That, of course, opened a whole new channel for Draco's irritation to bloom. He traced the bloodline as far as he could, and he was summarily met with a dead end. Anthony Tryndell was the last Heir of Gryffindor. He'd died before siring any children; before getting married, even, though he'd only been a week away from achieving that milestone. Any other lineage that had the potential to supply an Heir to Gryffindor died out long before Tryndell kicked it.

What was that annoying phrase Duo had coined from that damnably long muggle game he frequently roped people into playing? Oh, yes. "Do not pass Go. Do not collect two-hundred dollars." Whatever dollars were; Draco assumed the colorful paper rectangles with the numbers were involved.

The former Malfoy heir grunted irritably, planting his elbows on the table and supporting his heavy head by his temples. He'd run out of leads; an Heir of Gryffindor just didn't exist, no matter what some stupid prophecy said to the contrary. Either the prophecy was flawed, or Draco was right to think that Duo's Oracle pal was just playing puppet master with the world as his stage and the people in it as his marionettes.

Sighing, he idly sifted through numerous yellowed newspapers and opened genealogy books, his eyes listlessly scanning anything that even mentioned the last Heir of Gryffindor. He absently skimmed the front page article announcing the passing of Anthony Tryndell, survived only by his fiancee, Gail Summers. The smiling, cherubic-faced woman with the pronounced dimples and the happy, shining eyes was pretty, in a homey sort of way. Kind of reminded him of...

Draco froze, his eyes widening in disbelief. Suddenly, he launched from his chair, frantically searching the disarrayed stack of papers until he finally found what he was searching for.

Gail Summers married Robert Prewitt only two months after the death of her fiancee. Seven months later, she gave birth to a daughter.

Draco fell back into his chair woodenly.

Could it possibly be that simple?...


Ever notice how cliffhangers only make you cackle when you're the one doing the hanging? Bwahah... :cackles madly as she dodges rotten fruit and runs away:


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