Author's Notes: Many of you are probably thinking the same thing.
"About damn time!"
In fact, I know that is exactly what many of you are thinking. I know because I thought the same thing myself. It's a tediously long story, so I'll just sum it all up: The bastard was caught, extradited, and is awaiting trial. Not quite the end of all of my troubles, but it's a damn good start. (And no, the event of which I'm referring to is nothing that would, say, crush my soul and shatter my fragile world. Just something that really pisses me off and causes my family financial turmoil.)
Unfortunately, up until I heard the good news, I was emotionally exhausted and mentally devastated. During this, I tried to write. I made an honest-to-God effort, but I hated every word I typed, it took hours to do so much as a paragraph before I would give up, and I was completely uninspired. Stresses like these, I find, are not conductive towards the writing process. Pile depression, self-loathing, and moping on top of all that crap, and Cappy just hasn't been a happy larker at all.
However, I've had my head surgically removed from my ass since then. Depression is a wasted effort when finding something to smile about makes me feel better; self-loathing just sucks all around, and there are plenty of other things I'd rather be doing in place of moping. Granted, staring at my toenails for an undetermined amount of time isn't the best way to spend my time, either, but at least it sort of entertains me.
So enough with my petulant puling. Let's not spoil the happiness that is Lady Lurker finally poking out of her hole and updating.
WOOT! An update! Mwahahahahahahahahahahahahah... :throws confetti about left and right hands readers party favors: YAY!
Has anyone seen my beta? I think I've lost her... :goes around pinning "LOST" posters to every hard surface:
Enjoy the chapter! (Please be kind and review. My shattered ego needs reinforcement.)
Harry Potter and the Forgotten Heirs Part 17
By the time all nine of them had sifted through the entrance of the library, Ravenclaw had been putting the finishing touches on her redecoration of the room. The comfortable, eclectic furniture grouped in the center of the room were transformed into cushioned chairs, while the forlorn table had been moved and extended to comfort ten. The Lady Ravenclaw, of course, placed herself firmly at the very head of the table in order to keenly preside as a silent observer. Quatre sat on the Lady's left; Hermione, on her right. Trowa seated himself directly on Quatre's right, and from there was Duo and Heero. Wufei took the seat across the length of the table from Ravenclaw, followed by Draco on his right, Harry next, and Ron rounding off next to Hermione.
They couldn't exactly be called a 'Trio' anymore; that description had become obsolete the moment Draco barreled into their meetings like a catastrophic typhoon barreled into a defenseless village. By now, their numbers had grown so that their group could be classified as an actual council. A council of what, Hermione wasn't quite certain -she suspected the teachers would find an apt term, but doubted it would be particularly favorable. 'Trouble-makers' immediately came to mind. Several less flattering terms followed after that.
Duo, despite his friends' rather unaffected dispositions, was almost vibrating in his chair from eagerness alone. Wufei must have been completely serious when he said that the American would be ecstatic over being brought into the fold; for when Duo spoke, his words came out excitedly hurried. "So? So? What's the what? We're going to make Moldy Shorts dead, right?"
"Hopefully," Harry muttered, somewhat tiredly. Duo may have been eager, but the Boy Who Lived just wanted to end it all.
Duo snickered. "Harry, with us on board, there will be no 'hopefully' about it." He held up two fingers. "There is success or failure. Hee-chan, what do we think about failure?"
"Failure is not an option," Heero said flatly.
"Precisely," Duo chirped, beaming at his boyfriend before he turned back to Harry. "So spill. How do we make Moldy Shorts dead?"
Hermione couldn't stop the grin that was teasing the corners of her mouth; the enthusiasm was certainly refreshing, and she had no doubt in her mind that the five new members would provide a fresh, more militaristic viewpoint towards accomplishing their goals. She was still reserved about the highly suspect terrorism that haunted their pasts, but their willingness to throw their lots in with Harry paired with those same past experiences would only prove to be an asset.
Harry pulled a folded sheet of yellowed parchment from the inner pocket of his robes. He removed his wand as well, unfolding the parchment so he could place the tip at the very center of what appeared to be a blank bit of parchment. With a soft murmur of Latin, black ink bled onto the front. Removing his wand, he handed the parchment to Duo.
Without even looking at the words, Duo handed the parchment to Trowa, who then passed it off to Quatre. The blond studied it for a moment, eyebrows raised.
"It's written in Olde English," he noted absently, decisively considering the odd spelling and the even stranger letter shapes. Finally, satisfied, he began reading out loud,
"The eve is when the veil Between is thin,
and the spirits of before roam the earthly ground.
Death's Devourers, restless and wicked of their own merit,
prowl the earth in search of fear and blood and death.
Two children, little less than two summers gone,
and both cursed by the hands of the Fates.
One escapes Destiny, but suffers a far greater loss.
One is marked by Destiny, thus begins his treacherous journey.
For when Death's Magic comes for the child,
Death is blinded to the child, and he is refused.
"The Disinherited Snake, defeated by what he did not possess,
flees Death's Embrace and retreats to the unknown.
Many winters pass, and the magic world plunges into peace.
Homage is paid to those lost, and praise to the child hero.
He Who Death Refused is ten and one summers and loved by all,
save by the wicked, the influential, and his earthly bonds.
He is welcomed back to the world of magic for learning,
but with his coming is the dark resurrection.
Thwarted once, twice; then, with the hand of the Betrayer,
The Disinherited rises, again the enemy of the earth.
"The world of magic refuse to hear, to see, to believe.
The Enlightened are gathered and despair the ignorance.
The only defense remaining is that which sways to no influence
Built to unite all within, to protect Her and Her sovereignty.
Within Her, a chamber, a library, a hall, a room;
By grace of Her, secrets, knowledge, legacies, and a weapon.
The Snake's secrets will lead to absolute truth,
the Raven's knowledge contains the Pactum Quinque,
the Badger's treasured legacies will brighten the path,
and the Lion's hammer will deliver swift justice.
Underneath the signature of profession was the same strange symbol of a snake eating its own tail, circling around a Celtic cross entwined with vines. Then, added as if an afterthought, were two short sentences.
"Four by blood, Heirs to Hogwarts.
One by Fate, touched by Destiny."
"We think," Hermione began, stopping at Ron's wry snort. Scowling slightly at him, she continued evenly, "Well, I think the last two lines refer to the Pactum Quinque, which translates into Covenant of Five. Draco theorized that the covenant is actually a blood ritual of some sort, since most of the participants are heirs."
Quatre handed the prophecy back to her thoughtfully. "And the rest? Do you know what it means?"
Hermione grinned, eager to introduce a fresh mind to her research. "Well, 'the veil Between' is Halloween, when the realm of the dead bleeds into the living world," she said. "It's also the night the Dark Lord went after the Potters," Hermione added, her cheerful disposition dampening a little as she ventured a quick glance to her friend. When Harry only became thoughtful at the mention of that night, Hermione went on, "Death's Devourers is a bit obvious, but I didn't really understand the mention of a second child that 'escapes Destiny.' That's when Harry told me that Trelawney's prophecy applied to Neville, too."
Draco, having been unaware of this detail, looked properly scandalized. "You mean we were this close to having Longbottom, of all people, parade about on the mantel of the Boy Who Lived?" He shuddered violently, visibly unsettled by the mere idea.
Harry grinned reluctantly. Teasingly, he said, "You know, Dray, that sounds an awful lot like Ron's reaction when I mentioned it. Except Ron said, and I quote," he added, adopting a terrified expression, "'Neville Longbottom, Boy Who Lived? We would have been doomed.'"
"I don't know why everyone insists on thinking he would have been utterly useless as a boy hero," Hermione grumbled testily, shooting her two friends a glare. "Well, I understand why Draco would assume that since he's a vile little prat on his better days-"
Draco preened. The following months he'd been accepted into their ranks (albeit reluctantly in regards to two-thirds of the Trio) had been pockmarked by Hermione's casually delivered insults toward his character. He was starting to take pride in just how often the buck-toothed beaver would take the time to malign his character. The more furious the delivery, the better he felt about getting her into that state.
"-but we can't be sure how anything would have turned out if Neville had been the Boy Who Lived," Hermione ended in exasperation. Ending the subject there, she immediately dived into the next part of the prophecy.
"Most of the prophecy is pretty self-explanatory," Hermione pointed out primly. "I think 'the Disinherited Snake' refers to the Dark Lord somehow, though the phrase is a bit unusual." Pausing, she turned to Ravenclaw and asked curiously, "Did Slytherin know one of his descendants was part of the prophecy, Lady Ravenclaw?"
"Yes," said Ravenclaw. "Young Sal followed by saying that no murderer was an heir to him. Even so, he pitied this Dark Lord more than he reviled him. Not even Lady Hufflepuff could encourage him to explain why that would be so."
"I don't get it," Wufei said with a frown. "From what I understand, Slytherin detested muggles and muggleborns. Why would he disapprove of Voldemort's activities?"
Ravenclaw's eyes narrowed dangerously before darting in Wufei's direction. There was fire in her dark eyes, as well as icy indignation. "I beg your pardon?" she murmured softly, her tone low and hinting at suppressed rage.
Duo shared a secretive glance at Quatre before mentally giving Wufei a thumb's up for a job well done. Wufei, despite the honest sincerity expressed on his face and by his posture, must have carefully planted that interesting little tidbit about Slytherin's infamy over hating muggles and muggleborns into the conversation on purpose. What better way to find out more about the Founders than to underhandedly interrogate a source that was personally involved?
"According to historians, Slytherin wanted to refuse muggleborns admittance to Hogwarts in the beginning," Wufei explained, raising his eyebrow at the Founder's memory. "Are you implying that this is incorrect?"
Ravenclaw's anger faded behind thoughtful wonder. Slowly, she relaxed her tense shoulders and shook her head with a dainty sigh of resignation. "In the beginning... yes. Salazar wished to keep those born of the earth from attending our school. To be completely honest, I agreed with him."
Duo sat forward in his seat quickly, intrigued. "Is that so?"
"What?" Hermione blurted, sounding hurt. "But why-"
Ravenclaw cut her off with an exasperated sigh. "Oh, spare me those eyes of despair, young Granger! I assure you, neither I nor Salazar wished to keep those of earthly bonds from learning our ways for anything as petty as bigotry. Our reason -and, apparently, my involvement in the dispute -has obviously been forgotten by time.
"It was because of Salazar that the argument did not end at a stalemate," Ravenclaw added, somewhat wryly. "Lady Hufflepuff claimed it was unfair to educated those who's parents were of our world and refuse others, and Lord Gryffindor typically laughed in the face of reason. He claimed that those of the earth needed to know bravery, so what better way than to embrace enlightenment?" She sniffed haughtily. "Salazar relented because his senses were not only governed by his mind, like me, but by his heart, as well."
She closed her eyes and bowed her head, and the expression on her face was one of remembrance, empathic pain so fresh that it showed by the faint worry lines that crinkled the corner of her eyes and across her forehead. "He was heartbroken when the first four children of the earth we invited were killed for consorting with evil in accordance to the religious beliefs of the outside world."
A somber silence was broken when Duo said, "That's right... There were numerous witch hunts in your era, right?"
Hermione frowned. "I thought no real witch or wizard suffered because of the Freezing Charm. The flames would only cause a tickling sensation."
"Children wouldn't have that defense, Hermione," Quatre said quietly.
"Not to mention the Freezing Charm had been invented for just that reason," Ravenclaw pointed out in slight irritation, visibly upset about the misrepresentation of what the earliest of the witch hunts were like. "A lot of spells were created during those dark times that hid us sufficiently from the earth. Spells to evade notice, charms to hide our homes; we found a way to travel through fire in order to avoid risking an encounter with one of the earth. Where we once were allowed to mingle with those of the earth, we were then forced to hide ourselves from them." She looked at Hermione pointedly. "The Freezing Charm took years to develop, Granger, made even longer for word of it to spread to every witch and wizard."
"Why didn't you just use owls?" Ron blurted, wincing when Hermione sent him a sharp glance.
Ravenclaw, however, was excited to explain in a sort of cheerful, hushed whisper, "Actually, we have the Green Mages to thank for that clever little feat -they made a bonding pact with the owls on behalf of all our kind, especially after the use of cats became... well, rather well known."
Green Mages? Wufei mouthed to Quatre, intrigued.
While the blond, too, was just as interested in hearing the very beginnings of modern wizarding society, they were farther from the point of the meeting. Smiling apologetically at Ravenclaw, he abruptly pulled Hermione from her bubbling questions to focus on the prophecy.
"I'm assuming the Child Who Death Refused is Harry," Quatre prodded with certainty. "The wicked are perhaps Death Eaters or those who affiliate with them; the influential might be politicians, which is very likely considering how the wizarding world looks up to Harry as a hero. As for earthly bonds... If I'm guessing correctly from what Lady Ravenclaw has mentioned in passing, I believe it may have something to do with... muggles." That, and the Oracle had already explained the unfamiliar terminology to them. The Gryffindor Trio hadn't had that pleasure.
"Well, maybe," Hermione murmured speculatively. "I couldn't for the life of me figure out what 'earthly bonds' could mean, nor why it wouldn't like..." She stopped suddenly, her frown deepening in realization. "It doesn't mean just any sort of muggles. 'Earthly bonds' is another expression for muggle family." With an irate huff, she muttered quietly, "Should have guessed. A description like that is probably what spawned 'mudblood'."
"It helps that mudblood is a really catchy word," Draco said with an impish smirk, only to grunt when Harry roughly elbowed his boyfriend in the ribs.
"Anyway," Harry said loudly, just in time to cut off Hermione's no-doubt scathing retort, "The rest of that part is about me going off to Hogwarts, and how many times I faced Voldemort until my fourth year." His face darkening, he added tightly, "The Betrayer is Wormtail. The last line is very literal -Pettigrew cut off his own hand to complete Voldemort's resurrection."
When Harry appeared as if he was going to stew over his own dark thoughts, Duo decided to lighten the mood. With a maniacal tilt to his smile, he said soothingly, "We'll make him dead again soon enough. And, hell," he chuckled as if laughing at a private joke, "someone was good enough to leave us a recipe!"
"An unusually detailed recipe," Wufei muttered, giving Hermione a flat look. "I'm not exactly an expert on prophecies, but I've been led to believe that the majority of prophecies do not guide the beneficiaries to victory. Tell me I'm not the only one who noticed this."
"I had two theories about that," Hermione said evenly, holding up one finger. "One -the difference between a Seer and an Oracle is the clarity and frequency of true visions." She held up a second finger. "Two -the entire prophecy was an elaborate goose chase set up by the Dark Lord, with the obvious favoritism towards Harry added to throw us off. Seeing as the library in the prophecy really does exist, it may very well be the former."
Yet, something still plagued Hermione; something tickling at the back of her thoughts. It struck her sudden enough to startle a gasp out of her. Her back straightened in her chair, her light brown eyes wide and staring in front of her, where Quatre was frowning at her in concern.
"You already knew," she murmured softly, stunned.
Shit! Duo screamed in his head, immediately blurting, "Er, say again?" She knew! How did she know? They hadn't given any indication that they had any knowledge about the prophecy! His brain rushed to find a reasonable explanation, but before he could open his mouth to say anything, Hermione immediately turned her head to Ravenclaw.
"You already knew about the prophecy!" Hermione said eagerly. "So... So most of it is a true prophecy, but the last part... the last part is self-fulfilling!"
Duo was struck by the sudden need to have a lay down. With a silent heaving sigh, he bowed his head and closed his eyes. That had been a close call; Hermione's realization had nearly given him a heart attack. After flickering a quick glance towards his friends, he realized that they were just as relieved to find out that Hermione wasn't addressing them. What was more, he nearly blew everything by jumping to conclusions.
Then again, a bitter part of him whispered, I wouldn't have to worry about giving anything away if I weren't so damn secretive in the first place. Skulking around doing a good bit of the dirty work himself had taken a lot out of him, both physically and mentally. He had hoped forcing their two groups to work together would help everyone involved. However, the first cooperative effort left him feeling emptier than before.
The Gryffindor Trio was getting shafted -and Duo was the one doing the shafting. A small part of him was okay with that, but the fair majority felt lower than pond scum. It was time to let the cat out of the bag.
"I really need to tell you guys something before this goes any further," he was going to say. However, he didn't manage as far as the second word before Ravenclaw's words cut him off.
"Of course," she said. "Clever girl, Granger; but here is a quandary." She smiled and leaned a little towards Hermione. "'A chamber, a library, a hall, and a room. Secrets, knowledge, legacies, and a weapon.' The words of the prophecy are not obscure on this matter, Granger. A chamber involving secrets?" she implored knowingly. "There is only one of those within these walls."
"Well, yes," Hermione admitted a little hesitantly. "To be honest, after hearing what was found down there in our second year, we were all a little wary to make a second trip." The endeavor had been put off by Ron, who claimed that there could be hundreds of curses and traps down there, all set to trigger when a muggleborn stumbled upon them. Harry hadn't found that likely, but the three of them -with a surprisingly adamant agreement from Draco -had decided to err on the side of caution.
The woman tilted her head thoughtfully. Then she smiled ironically and shook her head. "So you found it so soon. I was concerned that such a task would have taken too long." With a small laugh, she added knowingly, "Many secrets lay within his chamber, young Granger. Perhaps a visit would enlighten you."
She slanted a quick, speculative glance towards Duo before deliberately making eye contact with the rest of those sitting around the table, as if expecting everyone to agree with her. Duo knew the suggestion for what it was; the Lady of the Portrait most likely had enough pieces of the puzzle to realize there was an entirely different part of the adventure about which three of the Gryffindors were clueless. Now that the Gundam pilots had underhandedly forced a merger, it was time to lay down his hand.
He was a little miffed that Ravenclaw had assumed he hadn't already come to that conclusion himself, but still... Duo smirked briefly. Perfect.
"Let's go tomorrow night," Duo volunteered, his smirk transforming into a beaming smile. "The Chamber of Secrets is supposed to lead us to absolute truth, right? So let's get our facts straight." He ignored the surprised looks of which he was on the receiving end. Heero frowned thoughtfully, Trowa didn't look affected at all, Quatre lowered his chin slightly in silent understanding, Wufei stared at Duo with an almost smug air of satisfaction, and Draco gawked at him as if he thought the braided-boy had lost his mind.
Lady Ravenclaw even gave him an oddly startled expression that eventually became a reluctant smile of approval. Duo mentally blew the woman a raspberry as he internally gloated over getting a leg up on her. He only did anything on his own terms, as he hadn't given anyone permission to make decisions in regards to his life.
"That's not a bad idea," Quatre said, smiling at Hermione. "You will never know what's in the chamber if we don't look, and the Chamber of Secrets is mentioned in the prophecy."
Hermione was reluctant; Duo had a feeling it was more to do with leaving Ravenclaw's Library for a night than any actual reservation about going to Slytherin's Chamber. He was proven correct when she asked, "But what about the ritual?"
Lady Ravenclaw hummed before she lifted her hand with her palm facing up. Almost instantly, a book slapped safely into her palm, having come from one of the higher shelves. With a satisfied smirk, the Lady handed the leather bound book out to Hermione, who accepted it with trembling hands.
"I expect to see Potter and the Heirs here on a frequent basis," she informed them. "It will take time to memorize the details of the ritual, all of which are explained in that book. Depending on how receptive the participants are, learning how to execute the ritual will take several months."
"Months?" Ron groaned, aghast.
"Either you make the necessary sacrifices," Ravenclaw nearly snapped, "or you kill everyone in this school with your ineptitude. This is a blood ritual, Gryffindor. Such things are not to be taken lightly."
Duo was a bit more flippant in his response. He lazily raised his hand, grinning at Lady Ravenclaw as he quipped, "Will there be a test on the material?"
Though he meant the comment as a joke, he was stunned to find that Ravenclaw appeared to contemplate it as a suggestion. "That is a rather brilliant idea," Ravenclaw said speculatively, drawing a blank stare from the American.
"Duo!" Ron wailed, horrified. Classes were bad enough -and learning a blood ritual wasn't even something he could use on his academic record, considering that such things were outlawed by the Ministry ages ago. They'd be sentenced to time in Azkaban if word of what they were doing actually slipped out.
"Hush, Ron," Hermione said, smiling. Ron shot her a sour look; of course, she would be thrilled about it, seeing as Hermione Granger was enthusiastic in learning period. Never mind that the material they would be learning could be classified as Dark Magic. "It really is a good idea, even if Duo didn't mean it. Draco has already pointed out that blood rituals are to be followed to the letter, and Lady Ravenclaw said much of the same. It's imperative that you and Harry take this more seriously than you do classes."
"It's not like he has to do it," Ron muttered sullenly, looking dejected.
"Yeah, actually, I do," Duo replied in a matter-of-fact manner. His serious gaze bled into a cheesy grin as he held up a victory sign proudly. "But no worries -we'll all suffer the consequences of my fat mouth together."
It took a while for Duo's words to sink in. Ron's jaw dropped open, boggling over why the American would voluntarily learn a blood ritual that, to his knowledge, the braided boy had nothing to do with. At first Harry was equally confused, until his eyes widened slightly behind his glasses as he stared at Duo in wonder. Hermione's mind raced to connect the dots until, finally, she gasped and stared at Duo incredulously.
Everyone else's expression were quite different, of course. Quatre was visibly relieved that he didn't have to maneuver around topics he wasn't supposed to know about and still remain helpful. Trowa nodded approvingly, satisfied that his friend had finally overcome his reluctance. Wufei, finally understanding why Duo would suggest visiting the Chamber of Secrets knowing that the Oracle was lurking down there, settled into a rather relaxed posture (relaxed for Wufei, at least, since he still sat with a straight back). Heero silently reached for Duo's hand under the table, twining their fingers together as a gesture of comfort.
Draco was the only one who actually verbalized his reaction. "It's about bloody time, you secretive pillock."
Immediately after the words left the blond's mouth, Hermione blurted, "Oh my God, it's so obvious now!" She pointed at Duo, though not in an accusing way. "You aren't a victim of circumstance! That day in February, in Hogsmeade -the Death Eaters didn't just overlook Harry in favor of Draco. You were taken, too! At first I thought it was because the Death Eaters wanted revenge for what you did to their companions, but... They wanted both of you, didn't they?"
"Yeah," Duo said without a hint of hesitation. "They did."
"Wait," Ron interrupted, holding out his hands to stave the conversation. "Wait, wait, wait. You," he pointed to Hermione, "are trying to tell us that he...?" His sentence trailed off as he wordlessly pointed at Duo, unable to put what Hermione was implying into words.
"Yep," Duo said nonchalantly, nodding. "That's exactly what she's trying to tell you. Hard to swallow, huh?" He snickered darkly. "Personally, the thought of Snake Face making it with anyone makes me want to vomit. I mean, who would want to?" He shuddered, repulsed by the idea. He could only hope his mother had been heavily influenced by alcohol at the time.
Draco cringed at the American's imagery, disgusted that Duo would even go that far to make a sick joke. Still, he found himself marveling at how Duo was controlling the conversation. By making light of the matter, Duo was putting the initial reservation someone would normally feel when a friend announced that they were the son of the Dark Lord himself at ease. On top of that, the American still avoided having to say outright that he was Voldemort's son.
"That's disgusting, Duo," Harry muttered, looking equally ill by the thought. "No one was thinking that until you mentioned it."
"Feel my pain," Duo quipped dryly, smiling at Harry. Voldemort's Number One on the list of People To Kill Before World Domination was taking the news a lot better than the American could have hoped. Well, at least Harry wasn't trying to throw anything at him.
"So it was you who sent me that letter," Hermione said, narrowing her eyes on Duo. "Would I be wrong in assuming you four knew about Duo all along?" This time, she was addressing mainly Quatre, with the other three included for good measure.
Quatre smiled with a little regret; but not very much, and he certainly wasn't apologizing for their actions.
"Quid pro quo, Granger," Wufei said evenly. "We told you about the library in our own way, and you told us about the prophecy. Now we're letting you in on the rest of it."
"Which is why we'll be going to the Chamber of Secrets tomorrow," Trowa added. "It's only fair that you officially meet Orie."
"Orie?" Hermione repeated. "How is he involved in-?" Cutting her words short, she quickly glared at Draco. "You already knew?"
"Hey," Duo protested before Draco could open his mouth and say something that would be vaguely (or even openly) insulting. "Don't blame Draco for not saying anything, 'Mione. I made him swear a Wizard's Oath long before this Heir stuff came about. As far as I know for sure, until the first of September, the only people who knew were me, Voldie, Draco, Heero, and Sirius. And Dumbledore, only he knew all along. Bastard," he tacked on as an afterthought, still smoldering over his personal discontent with the Headmaster. "Lucius, too, if he was paying attention. I doubt it; he looked like he was going to pass out from relief when Draco didn't get his soul snogged out of him."
"Don't be vulgar," Draco snapped, fiercely kicking Duo's shin under the table. The American jumped, wincing in pain as he untangled his fingers from Heero's grip to nurse the throbbing hurt. He smiled in an earnestly apologetic manner at Draco, who was only marginally mollified.
"I didn't even tell the others until I got a mystery letter from the Oracle," Duo added, looking at Harry. "Honestly, I probably would have taken that secret to the grave with me if this prophecy business hadn't popped up." He rolled his eyes peevishly, making a face. "It was bad enough that Sirius was in on it. I know Draco and Heero can keep a secret, but your godfather wasn't under any sort of obligation to do the same. Then we met the Oracle, and he tells me, in no uncertain terms, that I was going to have to eventually confess."
"The Oracle?" Hermione dazed inquiry was almost an inaudible whisper. "You mean... Orie!"
Duo grinned. "Yeah. Orie the Oracle -named him myself."
"Because he won't tell us his real name," Draco added bitterly. Harry turned his head slightly to look at the blond speculatively. He remembered thinking it was strange that the Slytherin Prince was always cynical about both the Oracle and the prophecy. Apparently, his boyfriend was the only one that felt suspicious of the man; either that, or the others were hiding their own dislike very well.
"Sirius never said anything about what happened," Harry mused out loud. "In fact, he never even brought that evening up. I'd almost forgotten he had gone with you." The fact still rankled his nerves a bit. Duo was a good friend to him, and he had wanted to help. Even so, he hadn't held it against the parties involved.
"He was there when I was telling Moldy Shorts to go to hell," Duo said with a wry smirk. "He decided not to tell anyone of his own violation. He said something about how he understood what it felt like to be judged by the same standards as one's twisted family." Not that the reason for Sirius' vow of silence matter much to him, at the time. He was content in the fact that he would never have to publically acknowledge Voldemort as anything more than an enemy.
"That is precisely why this will never be discussed outside of Ravenclaw's Library and the Chamber of Secrets," Draco pointed out with a stern glare that was directed at Ron. The redhead bristled angrily. "No matter how much people like Duo now, that admiration is like a candle in a hurricane compared to the truth behind his heritage. Society would be in an uproar, and even Dumbledore's vote wouldn't stop the Ministry from exiling Duo from the wizarding world."
Gee, Duo thought, hiding a wince. Way to hit it home, dragon boy. Knowing the wizarding world for a habit of lumping everyone by family standings as he had heard, he realized that Draco wasn't exaggerating about the widespread panic and upheaval that would occur if the son of the Dark Lord was found mingling amongst the best and the brightest of the next generation. It didn't help that he was charismatic and had most of the student body charmed out of their socks, nor would it settle well with the wizarding world that he had become a close friend of the Boy Hero. They would be screaming for his blood before the ink dried on the morning edition of the Daily Prophet.
Still, no matter how bluntly Draco outlined the possible reality, he was grateful that the blond was apparently looking out for him. It was actually sort of... touching.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Draco demanded curtly, just shy of glaring at Duo's sappy smile.
"No reason," Duo volleyed off with a chuckle of amusement. Though he was touched, he wasn't going to call the Slytherin Prince on his act of kindness. Draco would probably become flustered and mutter something that equated to Duo being an idiot. However, he did intend to thank Draco for his painfully blunt interjection about the importance of keeping his heritage secret the next time they were alone.
"It's passed curfew now," Quatre announced. "We should probably head back to our dorms and get some sleep if we're going to the chamber tomorrow night."
"You three," Ravenclaw interjected, pointing at Harry, Ron, and Duo, "will be here first thing Saturday morning."
"But we have Quidditch practice," Ron protested, somewhat meekly. The Founder flinched, obviously annoyed by the mention of a sport she found detestable.
"Then you will be here after twilight," she gritted through her teeth. "You shall also be coming back here after practice." The last word was spat out like a curse. To Ravenclaw, Quidditch probably was a curse. Even Duo quailed at the acidic hiss in her words.
"Yes, ma'am," he agreed quickly. Ron didn't think it was wise to complain that they had Astronomy early Saturday morning from midnight until two in the morning; the woman might have insisted they come right after their class.
Note to self: Self, never mention Quidditch in front of Rowena Ravenclaw. End note.
It was going to be a long year.
They met Thursday morning with jaw cracking yawns and an abundance of caffeinated beverages of which included the likes of coffee, tea and, in Heero's case, an energy drink. By the time breakfast was over and they were shuffling off to their first class of the day, Harry couldn't rightfully claim that he was ready to face the day. He suspected he would get by either way.
Transfiguration was the first class, and all of them would be attending. The nine of them cloistered themselves near the very back of the room, to Hermione's chagrin. Instead, she chose to seat herself (and Ron by proxy) at the table in front of the others. This put her near Pansy and Blaise; on the other side of the Slytherins sat Mandy and Susan Bones. Hermione thought that perhaps if the two Slytherins could ignore her, she could very easily return the favor.
Everyone's energy renewed when McGonagall launched into her lecture, especially when she revealed what they would be going over for the next few days. She passed out personality charts and directed them to a large section of their Transfiguration textbooks that was dedicated to Animagi.
"You'll use the personality charts to determine what sort of animal you have the potential of being," she announced. "You will be using the second set of charts to determine the exact species. I don't expect many of you will have an easy time of this, so your homework assignment will be to complete your charts to the best of your ability. For now, I want you to spend the rest of your class time working on this project."
Eagerly, everyone started on their assignments. No words were spoken to mask the sound of quill meeting parchment. It wasn't until halfway into the class that Harry finally sat up straight, putting his quill down on the table as he curled his spine, grunting as several faint pops followed.
"Okay, I think I've got it narrowed down to two possible species," Harry said slowly, tilting his head as he carefully considered his chart. If he was going to be any animal, he would be something that flew. Hopefully a breed of bird that was stronger than, say, a sparrow. He was also tentatively leaning towards something long-legged and furry; not necessarily a stag like his father, but more like a horse or something similar. "That's a good start, right?" He glanced at Trowa from the corner of his eye, waiting for some response. Trowa casually turned the page of his textbook, his eyes never straying from the text as he absently lifted his chart for Harry to glean over.
The Gryffindor boggled. "You have thirteen suspected species?"
Draco let out a low whistle, smirking as he wryly quipped, "So much worse than my five suspected species."
"Is ferret on that list?" Ron asked, feigning innocence.
"So sorry to disappoint," Draco replied sneeringly, "but no, it's not." And he would be utterly devastated if it did show up on his list. He had intentionally stayed out of the 'rodent' section of Secrets of the Animagi. "You, on the other hand, might as well put weasel and be done with it," Draco added snidely.
"Trowa is having trouble finding his animal?" Duo murmured in shocked wonder, his eyes trailing back to his own Animagi chart and his detailed book about animals. "Cause I keep thinking 'big freaking cat' for some reason..."
Quatre apparently overheard Duo's random comment, blinking at his own chart and glancing over at the American in surprise. "Really? I always thought he'd be a wolf."
"Nah, that's so Heero," Duo said, throwing a grin at his boyfriend, who was already thoroughly scanning the lupine section of the book. "Trowa's a fuzzy kitty with really sharp teeth and claws."
"Maybe," Quatre murmured, strongly considering it. "He does like cats... What do you think Wufei would be?"
Duo turned and looked around Heero, catching the attention of the aforementioned Chinese Ravenclaw. Wufei glanced up from his book, scowling darkly when he saw that Duo was giving him a complete once-over in a very clinical manner.
"Panda bear?" he suggested helpfully. The Chinese boy flushed indignantly when Heero snorted in amusement as he calmly wrote something in neat, precise handwriting on his chart.
"Shut up, Maxwell," Wufei snarled stonily, shooting the American a look that strongly resembled some of Heero's fear-inducing death glares. Duo, having obviously developed a strong tolerance to such common occurrences, merely smiled cheekily in response.
"You don't really think it has something do to with culture, do you?" Quatre blurted, stricken with horror. He groaned, planting his face in his hands as he moaned, "But I don't want to be a camel!"
"I think you'd make a cute camel," Trowa said simply, turning his attention from what he was reading for a quite moment to glance reassuringly at his boyfriend.
"And they spit," Duo quipped, whipping his head around to grin impishly at Quatre. "A lot. It's actually more like hocking a loogie."
"I can't be a camel!" Quatre wailed piteously, almost loud enough to earn a stern reprimand from McGonagall if she hadn't been so occupied with Justin, who was looking up at the woman in helpless confusion.
"Stop helping, Duo," Heero said, pointedly tapping on Duo's half-finished chart. Unrepentantly grinning, the American obediently went back to his Animagus chart and set to work.
"Yeah, right," Draco said, rolling his eyes. "If Quatre's anything, he's a desert hawk." The Winner heir was entirely too refined for something as filthy as a dumb camel. "Duo's just jealous that he's going to be something small that requires a shell and lives in the ocean; more typically found cooked and served with some kind of sauce."
Duo's head turned up from his book, eyes gleaming dreamily. "Really? I want to be a crab. They walk sideways."
Everyone within hearing distance paused in their searching to turn and stare at Duo; even the students seated in front of their table twisted in their chairs to give the boy incredulous looks.
"Is that the only reason you want to be a crab?" Pansy finally asked, unable to keep her disbelief hidden.
With a silly grin, Duo quipped, "Doesn't matter, as long as I think it's cool." Besides, he wasn't going to be a crab, or any sort of crustacean. His choices were narrowed down to a spider monkey and a black panther. Mmm, tricky devil or happy killer... What to choose, what to choose?
By the end of the class, the quandary was sadly left for homework.
After Transfiguration was a rather uneventful Charms class, which wasn't to say it was completely boring inasmuch as it was relatively unremarkable compared to the usual chaos. Neville, in reviewing the Summoning Charm, accidently summoned a book right into the side of Dean's head. It would have hit Wufei, but the Chinese Ravenclaw ducked fast enough to avoid that potentially embarrassing scenario.
"Aw, well," Duo sighed, feigning disappointment as he comfortingly patted the sorrowfully apologetic Gryffindor on the back. "You'll get him next time."
Wufei's spine went rigid as he corrected his posture, his black gaze swiveling to drill into the side of Duo's head. Neville squeaked meekly, slumping in his seat and mumbling vaguely, "I didn't mean to..."
"I know," Duo replied cheerfully, beaming. "But you have to admit that it would have been pretty funny to see Waffles get beamed in the head with a book."
If Wufei were capable of shooting lasers from his eyes, Duo would have been classified as 'extra crispy'.
After lunch came separate classes. Trowa, who had a free period, sacrificed his time to help Zechs teach Muggle Defense to third years from Slytherin and Ravenclaw. The rest of them attended classes -for Heero, Duo, Hermione, and Wufei, there were Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. For Quatre and Ron was Herbology and, after Trowa's tutoring session, Care of Magical Creatures. The afternoon passed by rather quickly since their classes either required a lot of attention or were more hands on than others.
They attended dinner that evening at their respective House tables, spending their meals in the company of housemates rather than each other. Quatre thought it would be best for them to separate and foster good relations with the same people they shared room and board with, if only to prevent any ill feelings for their outer-house preferences.
Wufei really couldn't have cared less about maintaining any sort of bond with most of those in Ravenclaw House. So far, Mandy was the only one he found tolerably decent and fairly intelligent. There was only one thing Mandy did that rankled Wufei's nerves.
The girl lived to encourage her. Luna Lovegood, Ravenclaw House's social equivalent to leprosy. Mandy insisted that Lovegood's otherworldly charm was a refreshing change from the bunch of stuffed shirts she was forced to endure day in and day out. Wufei had been left wondering how someone as sharp as Mandy could confuse an unhinged dissociative personality with "otherworldly charm".
Today, Mandy slid a tin box along the table, bumping it against Lovegood's elbow. Then she leaned away, planting her elbows on the table while supporting her head with her palms. She was watching Lovegood attentively, radiating avid interest.
At first, Lovegood did nothing to acknowledge the worn, colorfully adorned tin box, her attention focused solely on the raspberry pastry in her hands. Once that was gone and her fingers sucked clean of sugary icing, the younger Ravenclaw blindly reached over and picked the tin box up, using her other hand to push her empty plate away so she could place the box in front of her.
She pried the lid from the tin, absently placing it to the side as she peered at the objects within. There were dozens of brightly colored pins, all sporting a strange saying or cartoonish picture. Long, thin fingers reached inside and lifted on of the pins to eye level. Wufei managed to catch a glimpse of the words printed on the striped pin.
Comfort the disturbed.
Disturb the comfortable.
His eyebrow ticked dangerously before he shot Mandy a sharp glance. The girl ignored him in favor of watching Lovegood. The eccentric Ravenclaw hummed absently before -click -she casually popped the semi-circle of wire that made up the pin from the back.
Mandy grinned triumphantly. Wufei was almost certain that his yearmate gave things to Lovegood just to see what the younger girl would do with them. Mandy was almost never disappointed, either.
The Lovegood girl made quick work of the pins, tossing the wires onto her plate as she placed the buttons in four neat rows at her right. After she was finished, she brought what appeared to be a spool of fishing wire from the folds of her robes, as well as a sharp needle that had been inserted in the fabric of her folded collar. She threaded the fishing line through the eye of the needle before carefully selecting one of the buttons.
Wufei frowned, wondering what Lovegood was intending to do. He was surprised when she managed to push the needle through the top of the button from the front with ease, pulling the fishing line-cum-thread through with it. She repeated the process through the back of the button, this time at the bottom. With this accomplished, she carefully selected a second button, this one sporting the words Jesus is coming. Look busy. Lovegood then repeated the same process.
While Wufei was puzzling over what Luna Lovegood was doing, Quatre was having an enjoyable conversation with a number of his own yearmates. He, Susan, and Justin were laughing at Hannah, who was pinching her lips together with her fingers, pulling the skin out as she crossed her eyes. Her efforts made her look uncannily like a mentally deficient platypus, which had apparently been her goal.
She let go of her lips and uncrossed her eyes, grinning at her laughing friends. "Hah! Try to top that. I dare you."
"I don't think any of us can," Justin managed between bouts of laughter, holding his head in his hands.
Tentatively, Susan said slowly, "I think I might be able to..." Then, with a sheepish sort of smile, she warned, "But it's kind of gross. My aunt would murder me if she knew I was doing it in public. Or at all, for that matter."
"Mums the word. Go for it," Justin responded encouragingly, leaning forward. He didn't even think girls were capable of doing anything disgusting, but he had been proven wrong before.
Quatre, on the other hand, knew differently. With twenty-nine sisters, all of which had their own strange little quirks, women were just as capable of lewd behavior as men. The fairer sex just hid it better.
With another embarrassed smile, she stuck her tongue out. Quatre was startled to find that it was rather long, and he had a nasty suspicion as to where it was going. Sure enough, Susan lifted her tongue up and stuck the tip directly into her left nostril.
Justin nearly fell out of his chair from laughter. Susan quickly retracted her tongue, ducking her head sheepishly as she rubbed the back of her head.
Quatre chuckled quietly. If Susan ever did that in front of Duo, no power on this earth could calm down the hyper American.
"I can see where your aunt Amelia would disapprove," Hannah said, also laughing. "For the Head of the DMLE, she's really prim and proper, isn't she?"
Quatre started before mentally berating himself. He'd completely forgotten that the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and his housemate shared the same last name. It was only logical that, in a society as close-knit as the magical world, Susan and Madam Bones would be related in some way. "Wufei told me about Madam Bones. He was really impressed by her," Quatre thought to mention, smiling at Susan.
The girl straightened her shoulders with a certain amount of pride, grinning slightly. "That's awesome because Wufei and Heero made a really good impression on Aunt Amelia. I think she wants to offer them an internship into the Auror program, or even draft them for the Unspeakable Division."
Quatre was surprised by that admission. While his two friends had known the risks of making names for themselves amongst the Wizengamot, none of them had expected to garner that kind of attention from the Head of the DMLE. Still, the reality made sense.
Finally, he shook his head and told Susan, "You may want to tell your aunt that, before she makes any solid decisions, she will want to confer with Lady Anne Une of the Preventers." He smiled ironically. "After all, Lady Une has committed to enlisting them for her Preventers after they graduate."
Quatre was included for recruitment, but he had already decided he was going to politely decline her offer. That wasn't to say he would not involve himself in his friends' lives if they chose that particular path, but Quatre had different goals altogether. He would help his friends where he was needed, but ever since he was introduced into this world of magic, he was itching to dip his fingers into the wizarding world's highly corrupt political system. He considered it broken, but not beyond repair.
Quatre was a man who fought with words. He had his fill of bloodshed; after the war against Voldemort was over, if the situation arose, he would plunge himself into the role of a soldier again. Even so, he had always fought his battles differently. Going into politics -wizarding politics, especially -seemed like a happy medium.
"Lady Une?" Justin repeated thoughtfully. "Isn't that the woman who came to Hogwarts with the Vice Foreign Minister and Agent Marquise last year?" His voice lowering slightly, he murmured, "My da said Lady Une used to be General Khushrenada's right hand woman. Marquise was too, though he defected and went on a peace stint to the colonies before joining that other group -the White Fang."
Quatre tilted his head slightly. Justin, being muggleborn, was more likely to have a keen perspective of the war if he had been interested in those events. Still, that much in depth knowledge about the OZ hierarchy suggested that the Hufflepuff may have had family that served in the army at some point. "Is your father in the military, Justin?"
"He's a military analyst, actually," the boy amended.
"What's a White Fang?" Hannah asked innocently, looking between the two muggleborn boys curiously.
"It's really difficult to explain," Justin murmured hesitantly. "It involves a lot of muggle politics... anyway, there were something like three sides to the war. White Fang tried to drop one of the colonies on Earth, I think. They were going to settle for a piece of their ship before that Gundam stopped it. You remember that, right?"
"Oh... yeah, I do," Hannah mumbled. "The Ministry said there wasn't anything to worry about, though."
Someone made a rude noise; three sets of astonished eyes turned to Quatre, who calmly placed his glass of pumpkin juice onto the table. The blond looked unguardedly annoyed for a moment before he forced a polite smile on his face.
"I would not suggest that you place a lot of faith in the Ministry when it comes to muggle affairs," he explained vaguely, "or anything else, at the rate the political climate is going." Quatre, finished with his meal and noting that several members of Gryffindor House had already retreated from the Great Hall, stood from his seat and excused himself from the table. "I'm late for our study group, but I should be back a little after curfew. I'll see you guys later."
"Have fun," Susan said in bemusement. Quatre nodded with a smile before making a beeline towards the Ravenclaw table. He stopped behind Wufei, noting that the Chinese youth was shaking his head at a girl Quatre absently recognized as Luna Lovegood. She was donning what appeared to be makeshift jewelry -a row of long earrings consisting of five circular objects, hooked through each ear, as well as two bracelets on each wrist. Luna seemed pleased with her accomplishments.
"Most people would just pin them to their satchels," Wufei muttered.
"Luna isn't 'most people'," Mandy said smugly, looking somewhat pleased with herself, as well. To Luna, she said, "You're welcome."
Luna returned the words with a simple, if not dreamily vague smile.
Chuckling slightly, Quatre volunteered his own thoughts on the matter. "You have to admit, Wufei, that is rather creative."
Wufei craned his neck to look up at the blond behind him. Women, he'd already decided with firm resolve, were not worth the headache. With that oath to live by echoing around the dark corners of his mind, Wufei quickly excused himself from his housemates' company and fled the Great Hall at a brisk pace. Quatre followed him, amusement radiating from the set of his shoulders as he jogged after his friend.
A minute later, Draco, Heero, and Trowa dismissed themselves from the Great Hall, as well. They caught up with Quatre and Wufei just outside of Moaning Myrtle's favorite haunt and, after checking the corridor for possible strays, they skulked into the lavatory.
As soon as they were in, Duo turned and grinned at them before giving Myrtle a thumbs up. Giggling shyly, she disappeared -supposedly to keep watch over the corridor outside and to spurn any who would be desperate enough to visit her lavatory.
In the beginning, Duo thought a girl's bathroom was a strange meeting place for a group in which the members contained a Y chromosome. Adding a girl into the mix just made the experience that much weirder... but only if he thought about it too hard.
In the end, he made it a point not to dwell over it too much.
"The floor is yours," Duo said graciously, beaming at Harry. With a hesitant nod, the black-haired Gryffindor found the faucet with snake marked fixture and moved closer to it.
"Open," Harry murmured quietly, stepping back as the entrance to the chamber opened. Duo flickered a quick glance to the other Gryffindor's back, frowning slightly.
"It sounds just like English to me," he mentioned casually. Was there a reason for that? Usually, Duo was pretty good about differentiating between the many languages he knew, some of which were passably polite; others of which he only knew how to insult the unfortunate recipient's heritage. Parseltongue wasn't something he heard often, and it was almost guaranteed that he would fail a few times before he would actually slip into the snake's language.
Harry started, turning his neck to meet Duo's eyes. He grinned suddenly. "It was like that for me, too. You can usually tell the difference by listening for the hissing sound underneath the words. In fact," he added, eyes glittering in amusement, "when you hear the snake tongue, a snake speaker will automatically feel compelled to verbalize in kind."
"That is so creepy," Ron murmured, shuttering, his face pale enough to accentuate his freckles.
"Eh?" Duo grunted, blinking at Ron.
"You two," the redhead explained, waving his hand in Duo and Harry's general direction. "Just gabbing along in Parseltongue."
The American looked a little dumbfounded for a moment before he recovered, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry. Harry was just explaining to me that Parselmouths tend to slip into Parseltongue when they hear it."
Personally, Draco thought it was... hot. Hearing Harry hiss like that made his spine tingle, forcing him to add Parseltongue to his list of Things Harry Does That Turned Him On. He snorted, shaking his head. That same list was growing way out of hand...
Ron, thinking that Draco was making fun of him, bristled and snapped, "What?"
Draco sneered at the redhead. "Nothing." Like hell he was going to admit to the Weasel that he'd been going over his naughty list for the nth time that month.
"Hn," Heero grunted, not at all eager to witness another Weasley/Malfoy spat play out. Without preamble, he stalked forward and descended down the dark, steep tunnel while leaving the others behind. He was confident that they would take the hint and follow him.
"And that, my friends," Duo announced simply, "is Heero Yuy's way of telling us to get the lead out." He saluted the group before leaping into the pit of darkness, his exuberant yell of, "BONZAI!" echoing down the tunnel.
Centuries ago, when the Oracle would turn his eyes to the great beast Azraiel, he foresaw a great deal of potential for the future. It was not that he thought she would be a grand creature to tame, like the Lord Gryffindor; nor did he think the basilisk would be a tool to be utilized in keeping wayward students in line, like the Lady Hufflepuff (though the sentiment was made with great reluctance on the Lady's part). When the Oracle cast his gaze to Azraiel, the first thing he saw was a plethora of wealth. Her scales and fangs, for example, were prime for wand-making. Her blood and venom would work miracles in the most complex potions and elixirs, and her eyes, while only marginally less dangerous out of her skull than within, were desirable for the possession of one who was true of heart.
The Oracle was a practical man. There were occasions that he allowed his heart to guide him; in the case of Azraiel, such was not the occasion for matters involving the heart. Basilisks were rare and hard to come by, so when he had found what remained of her carcass with the rest of her rotted away, he could not help but to feel a little disappointed.
It was when he surveyed the state of Azraiel's remains that he realized his opportunity had not been wasted. There had still been marrow in her bones; with marrow, regeneration of flesh would be child's play, if not a little tedious. The Oracle made her carcass his project by weaving the old magic, which took a day to complete. Renewing her life would have been impossible if he had been inclined to do so, but her body was his to make anew.
Once his self-appointed task was completed, he stood back to critique the results of his hard work. Her venom was lost to him, dried long ago. Her eyes, as well, were a lost cause; wounds inflicted pre-mortem could not be helped. It was perhaps best that way, as he did not have the tools or the gumption to harvest such dangerous rarities without petrifying himself. The scales and her blood, on the other hand, were his to do with as he wished. That much would suffice him.
It was then he went to work prying her scales away from her body before using his athame to carve into the soft meat underneath, all the while using a large ceramic bowl to collect the blood that spilled from her body. It was in the third hour of this daunting task that he heard a sound from the entrance of the cavern. Though his view was blocked by the body of the basilisk, there were few that had the ability or the knowledge to enter Slytherin's Chamber.
He was not disappointed when a familiar drawl broke the silence. "Wow. Orie's been busy. The mural is coming out of the tunnel now," Duo pointed out. The Oracle nodded thoughtfully, though remained silent as he replaced the blood-filled bowl with an empty one. It was true that he had a lot of time on his hands, confined to the chambers. Completing the flittering firefly mural extending into the cave of his relics was just one of his many projects.
Then Duo laughed and said playfully, "We really need to get him a social life."
The Oracle considered this idea for a moment before neatly discarding the notion. He could understand objects. Objects served the purposes for which they were created. People, on the other hand, were fickle and somewhat difficult to understand, as the same standards for one man rarely applied to another. Such was the gift of free will.
Duo's comment was followed by a rather high-pitched squawk that came from an unidentifiable source. "Cripes, Harry, I thought you killed it!"
Harry? The Oracle absent-mindedly swept a lock of ruby red hair from his face, unknowingly smearing blood along his left cheek and forehead. Was it that time already? Though the Oracle had been gifted with a Sight that was nearly omniscient, he had learned at an early age that it was also difficult for one of his caliber to decipher events in an orderly fashion. His visions came to him in snippets that were out of sequence and left him deaf to sound while within the grasp of the Sight.
A lesser known drawback was his own understanding of time. In other words, there were occasions when a Tuesday would feel eerily like a Thursday to him.
"Relax, Ron," Trowa said calmly. "The basilisk must be dead, or it would be moving by now."
"Even though it still appears to be a bit... gooey," Quatre agreed hesitantly.
On a whim driven by his subconscious inner-sadist, the Oracle 'bumped' against the long body of the beast, his lips twitching in amusement when the one named Ron shrieked meekly for a second time.
"It moved!" the boy wailed pitifully.
"Orie," Duo called out, his tone colored with good humor. "Stop teasing Ron. He has a weak constitution when it involves deadly monsters."
Called out from hiding, the Oracle lifted himself from his kneeling position, purposefully ignoring the blood and gore that stained his pale green robes before he added to the filth by wiping his hands along his sleeves. He walked around the corpse of the basilisk to face his visitors, schooling his facial features into an expression of detached serenity.
There was the girl, Hermione Granger, whom he met in the library. She stood to the side, appearing slightly awkward in the dank surroundings of the main chamber. Almost hiding behind her was an ashen-faced redhead with freckles that stood out starkly against his blanched skin; he would have succeeded in hiding if he did not tower over the girl by almost a head. And there, standing close to Draco was a boy with dark messy hair and impossibly bright green eyes that had haunted the Oracle's dreams as early as childhood.
Before enlightenment, the young Oracle had been content to know this boy merely as the cupboard boy. It wasn't until he was but seven summers that he began knowing the one called Harry by a different name.
"I regret causing you discomfort," the Oracle murmured, his lingering gaze leaving the Child Death Refused to land on the tall redhead. "I do require assistance in harvesting what is left of Azraiel. In my time, just one of her scales would bring a wizard riches beyond measure. I shall allow you to keep whatever you can harvest for yourself as atonement."
"Go for it, Weasel," Draco drawled, smirking. "One basilisk scale is worth more than your entire family." The redhead's face flushed with color as he shot an acidic glare in the young blond Slytherin's direction.
"You regenerated that thing," Wufei inquired flatly, as if the Asian youth could hardly believe his assumption, "just so you could hack it to pieces again?"
The Oracle smiled serenely. "Basilisks serve better uses dead and dismembered than alive and whole."
"Hear, hear," Harry muttered in agreement.
In the end, only Ron, Heero, and Trowa would come close enough to the corpse to help pry away its scales while the Oracle cleanly sliced the meat. Duo contented himself with taking its blood, casting a spell over the oozing liquid every time it began congealing in order to refresh it. The others stood apart from them, still watching in interest except for Hermione. Her nose wrinkled in distaste before she turned away just enough to ignore what the boys were doing.
"So the Oracle is the secret we were supposed to find down here?" Harry asked. "And how did he get here, anyway?"
Quatre and Trowa exchanged glances. "He calls himself a Time Lord," Quatre explained slowly. "There's a room inside that stone effigy where the basilisk used to nest. Duo's blood triggered a..." For a moment, the blond appeared at a loss before he looked to the Oracle for an accurate explanation.
"Time fold," the Oracle supplied dutifully, his voice slightly rough as he threw a large section of meat behind him. The clean cut pound of flesh landed wetly on top of the pile he had harvested so far. "In essence, Duo unknowingly activated a prepared ritual that brought me safely from one point in time to another."
Hermione looked at the Oracle, eyes wide in awe. In all her years of learning magic, she had never once heard so much as a rumor of such a fantastical sort of ability. Then again, creating alternate realities within portraits and reversing decomposition to such an extent as to make it whole again... both were concepts that were completely beyond her. Yet, seeing these things done, and executed so craftily! She was itching to get back to Ravenclaw's Library to learn of what else lay hidden beyond the scope of her imagination.
"How do you intend to get back?" she asked, curiosity piqued.
The Oracle paused, glancing at the young Gryffindor girl with a touch of sincere sadness in his ruby eyes. Without speaking, he turned back to his task and speared his athame cleanly into the remaining flesh, careful to cut around the beast's still heart.
Duo looked to the ruby-haired man with a frown. Going by his silence and the mournful look in his eyes, it didn't take a genius to figure out that the Oracle's little venture to the future was a one way trip. "... Damn, Orie. That must really suck."
"The past is as it should be," the Oracle said quietly. "The present is now, and what we make of it will shape a better future." The man paused for a moment before murmuring, "It was my sacrifice to have, Duo."
"Maybe, but I don't think it would have been one I could have made," Duo pointed out logically, his eyes trailing to the head of the corpse they were enthusiastically dissecting. He shuddered lightly; the basilisk had been frightening when it had just been a skull. Now that it was a bit meatier and had skin, Duo could only imagine how scared he would have been if the thing had actually been alive.
"Harry, I can't believe you faced off against this thing without pissing your pants," Duo lamented, shaking his head despondently. "You were, what, twelve? If I were in your shoes at that age, I honestly think I would have soiled myself." To hell with maintaining his dignity. Basilisks, he decided firmly, were freakishly scary.
"I was too busy staying alive to note the state of my bladder at the time," Harry replied dryly, "but I wouldn't be surprised if pants wetting had been on my list."
Draco shot his nonchalant boyfriend a queasy glance before he scowled at Hermione, as if to say, 'Now you see why this idiot needs a keeper?' In response, the girl shrugged delicately and nodded in silent agreement.
"Duo found Ravenclaw's Library, by the way," Trowa thought to mention. "We'll be looking for Hufflepuff's Hall soon."
"Which you conveniently neglected to mention," Duo added dryly, his pointed stare degrees shy from exasperation.
The man had to grace to appear at least slightly apologetic, though he was not at all flustered. Orie, obviously having a comeback prepared in advance, easily replied, "That is a reasonable allegation. However, you would have known, Duo, had you taken the initiative and approached those with my written prophecy without delay."
Duo winced at the subtle jibe.
"Point to the Oracle," Wufei said, smirking.
Oracle: 1. Duo: 0.
I am only PARTLY satisfied with this chapter. :shakes head sadly: These past few months just haven't been good for writing, I'm afraid... :sighs:
Hoped it was satisfactory, in any case...
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