Author's Note: Oh, look. A plot. :snickers: And quite a speedy update, might I add. And I'm so much happier with this chapter... :sighs fondly: I guess that's just what happens when I get my Cap'n Sparrow fix...
Mmm... New Johnny Depp smell. :inhales deeply: Too bad the cliffhanger in PotC 2 sucks ass. :pouts: It's so... unresolved. The rest of it is good, though. :grins:
Again, thanks to everyone who took the time to review!
Harry Potter and the Forgotten Heirs Part 9
At exactly 11:00 AM on September 1st, AC 197, the whistle of the scarlet train proudly baring the name Hogwarts Express shrilled loudly, signifying its immediate departure. Families waved their final goodbyes to the school-bound progeny on the train; likewise, students of every house were waving from windows or, in some cases, out of the doors. The smoke stacks billowed thick, snowy white clouds of smoke as they train inched forward laboriously, gaining momentum until the infamous Platform 9 3/4 was nothing but a speck in the distance.
Duo Maxwell, omnipresent smile of amusement absently curling his lips as he watched the hustle and bustle of London melt away into the rich English countryside, was inwardly boggling that, despite the obvious technological advances of the muggle world, wizards were still using ancient steam engines to get around. This, of course, inspired his imagination to conjure up images of wizards utilizing a more modern form of a travel, such as bullet trains and shuttles and (God forbid) airplanes... which just meant that Duo was thoroughly entertained by his own imagination for about thirty minutes.
When the novelty of wizarding mobile suits wore thin, Duo found himself in a bit of a pickle.
"I'm so bored."
Trowa looked up at his American companion from the content of his book. Closing his textbook (his finger saving his place), he displayed the cover pointedly.
Duo cringed. "Hee-chan made me read the first three chapters in all of my school books already. Reading is the last thing I want to do."
Trowa raised his one visible eyebrow in faint amusement. "Must have been painful, sitting still long enough to accomplish that much."
"Now you're just trying to be funny," the braided boy grumbled, unwilling to admit that Heero -bless him- had rewarded Duo quite generously for every three chapters read. Such had been the case ever since his stoic Japanese boyfriend realized that the American could be inspired to do a hell of a lot with the proper motivation -in this case, "naughty touches" did the trick admirably.
The reserved Slytherin shrugged passively. "I, on the other hand, still have some reading to do." Meaning that Trowa wasn't really planning on entertaining a bored Duo Maxwell. To be fair, Duo thought Trowa probably would have tired of the effort a lot sooner than Quatre, Wufei, or Heero. "Why don't you visit some of your house mates? I'm sure Ron would enjoy the company -Hermione and Harry are in the same meeting as the others." The others being Quatre, Wufei, Heero, and even Draco.
"Not a bad idea, as long as he doesn't ask me to play chess," Duo mused thoughtfully. The strategy game had always been Quatre's forte, while Duo was more interested in big booms -specifically, causing big booms.
Before Duo could take advantage of Trowa's sage advice, there was a soft knock on the compartment door a few seconds before it opened to reveal a cheerfully smiling pixie-faced woman with ultra violet hair and sparkling blue eyes. The woman wore robes that silently attested that she was one of several Aurors escorting the train and its' inhabitants to their inevitable destination.
"Wotcher, boys," she greeted warmly. "Which one of you is Duo Maxwell?"
Trowa looked at Duo, nonplused.
"I've been with you since we arrived at the platform," Duo said in his defense. "C'mon, Tro, not even I'm that good."
Trowa nodded thoughtfully. In retrospect, even if the Gryffindor had the time to do anything playfully nefarious, Duo certainly wouldn't have been caught so easily.
"What can I do ya for, Auror Tonks?" Duo asked once he was satisfied that his friend's suspicions were laid to rest. (Not that he hadn't earned those suspicions, as Duo had spent a great deal of his life getting into some kind of trouble because of his oftentimes manic, hyperactive behavior.)
The woman blinked, taken aback. "How did you know it was me?"
It was Trowa that responded to her inquiry in a collected, matter-of-fact way. "Your voice and body language. Also, you're the only person I've met who greets people in such a manner. You used the same greeting when we visited the Weasley twins' store."
"I was just going on the voice and physical mannerisms," Duo replied impishly. "Love the hair, by the way. Really blanches your skin, though."
Almost instantly, a healthy tan flushed the woman's skin. "Better?"
"Metamorphmagi," Trowa noted. "Very useful."
Tonks laughed softly before reaching into the inside of her robes, drawing out a thick envelope that she held out to Duo. "This came to you from Gringott's earlier. The owl would have delivered it personally, but the higher ups decided to err on the side of caution -we didn't open it, of course, but we did inspect the envelope itself for any dangerous substances and Dark curses."
"Smart," Duo said, impressed. "Getting poisoned or hexed via mail would have definitely put a crimp in my day. Also -totally uncool, taken out by a freaking piece of paper. It would have been a black stain on my flawless record."
Trowa cleared his throat pointedly, his eyes on the pages of his book again.
"Almost flawless record," Duo amended grudgingly, grimacing at the memory of being captured not once, but multiple times, two events of which Trowa had been involved in while incognito. In any case, he took the envelope off of Tonks' hands with a cursory glance at the front, which merely bore his name and, in the left-hand top corner, the seal that Gringott's was known for. "Thanks."
"No problem," Tonks said with a casual wave. "You boys be good now -while I respect my fellow Aurors explicitly, some of them have absolutely nothing resembling a sense of humor, especially when it comes to playful hijinks, if you know what I mean."
"I don't make promises I can't be sure to keep," Duo quipped with a grin, "but I will promise not to get caught."
"Spirits help you if Moody ever heard that," Tonks replied dryly before stepping out, closing the compartment door behind her.
As soon as the door clicked, Duo frowned in puzzlement as he inspected the envelope a little more intently. "Strange... Gringott's has never sent me any bank statements before..."
Interest piqued, Trowa slipped a spare bit of parchment between the pages of his book and placed it aside. "It's a little larger than the average envelope."
Duo nodded absently as he broke the waxy seal that held the envelope closed. Much to his bafflement, he found another smaller envelope within the first, the parchment-like exterior yelled with age. His name, unlike on the Gringott's envelope, was carefully handwritten in beautiful flowing script. The only clue as to the identity of the sender was a strange symbol.
The outer portion of the symbol was a depiction of a snake eating its own tail; Duo vaguely recalled that the depiction was commonly referred to as the Ouroboros, though he couldn't remember learning of its significance in the wizarding world. Within the Ouroboros was a finely drawn Celtic cross, and over the base of the cross was a stem of tiny flowers.
Instead of opening the second envelope, he peered inside the first and found a precisely folded sheet of parchment.
On the date of (unspecified), the party of the first, the Oracle, bequeathed to the party of the second, Duo Maxwell, in his/her Last Will in Testament the contents as listed:
For further information on this matter, please address all question to the executor of this Will, Lactook.
"Steady on, Watson," Duo muttered as he handed the notice over to Trowa, "there's a mystery afoot."
"Oracle?" Trowa murmured questioningly after skimming over the letter. "Date unspecified... even stranger."
"Not really," Duo said wryly, finally breaking the wax seal on the second envelope. The imprint on the wax seal, he'd noticed, had been identical to the one carefully drawn on the front. "I'm beginning to think I attract weird people like magnets to metal... present company definitely included."
"Now who's trying to be funny?" Trowa retorted calmly, folding the letter from Gringott's and laying it on top of his forgotten book.
Snorting, Duo removed a single folded sheet of parchment from the envelope and unfolded it. The message was short and sweet, written in the same elegant scrawl as his name on the envelope.
The Chamber of Secrets was
named so for a reason.
Think not of the Dark legacy
of your blood, but the bright
future of your destiny.
Instead of a signature, the mysterious sender had signed with the same drawn symbol.
The Chamber of Secrets?
"What's the Chamber of Secrets?" Trowa mused after Duo had silently handed his companion the cryptic note. "And... Dark legacy?..."
Duo stood abruptly, taking both letters from his friend and carefully placing them in their respective envelopes. Once he'd slipped the second envelope into the first, he handed it to Trowa. "Keep that. Don't show it to anyone until the others get back and you're alone. When Heero reads it, tell him I said it's okay -I think I know what the second part of that note means, and you guys most likely need to know too if we're going to get to the bottom of this."
Trowa frowned. "Why won't you tell me?"
"Honestly? I don't talk about it," Duo said, his eyes darkening bitterly. "I don't think about it, and Heero, Draco, and Sirius respect my wishes that it never be mentioned. I didn't neglect to tell you guys because of any misguided lack of trust, Trowa -believe me, I trust you guys with my life. I just prefer to never acknowledge it."
Seeing the earnestness on his friend's face, Trowa nodded as he accepted the envelope, which immediately disappeared into the inner pocket of his robes. "Where are you going?"
"I think I've heard something about a secret chamber before," Duo admitted. "Sometimes Neville, Seamus, and Dean talk about all of the things that have happened since their first year, most of which tends to center around Harry. I don't remember a lot of details-" mostly because he had been scheming over harmless practical jokes, usually at Snape's expense, "-but I do recall the words chamber and secrets being strung together."
"Fishing expedition," Trowa noted, nodding in approval. "One problem -Harry is in a prefects' meeting." A popular rule of thumb amongst the five of them had always been as thus: if they needed information, it was best to get it straight from the source.
Duo grinned. "Ron's not."
"Good point," Trowa said with a small smile of amusement. He didn't doubt that Duo would learn something useful; he was Duo, after all, and despite Ron's better qualities, the redhead wasn't known for his observation skills. Duo would more than likely walk away with a skip in his step, the youngest Weasley son none-the-wiser to the American's original intention.
Duo paused at the open door, looking over his shoulder and winking at Trowa as he cheerfully said, "I know, right? I'm a genius."
The compartment door slid closed, cutting off Trowa's quiet chuckle. His confident smile dimming only slightly, the American sighed softly before wandering the lengths of the train.
There had been, after all, a second reason for Duo's leaving. He simply didn't want to be present when the others were briefed on the situation -especially when Heero would explain the events that occurred when he and Draco had been abducted by Death Eaters.
He wasn't ashamed that he was running away from something he definitely didn't want to face; it was in his opening greeting, along with his infamous never lying policy. He was, however, ashamed that he was relying on his boyfriend to face his demons for him. While he didn't consider ignoring his problems a cowardly act, refusing to face them in favor of having someone he loved do it for him was a little irksome.
And being the son of the most feared Dark Lord in wizarding history was a rather big problem. One that Duo personally didn't want to have anything to do with. He was perfectly willing to aid in bringing about the defeat of Voldemort, but anything beyond that, he felt, was asking entirely too much of him.
Duo immediately banished his dark thoughts when he found Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas sharing a compartment with several Hufflepuff seventh years Duo vaguely recalled were named Justin Finch-Fletchley and Hannah Abbot.
The moment the four of them saw him, they all froze in panic.
"Oh, cripes, you're looking for Smith, aren't you?" Seamus said wearily, appearing a little concerned. Whatever Duo had been expecting, it certainly hadn't been caution.
"I know it sounds like we're just defending a member of our house," Justin said hurriedly before Duo could get a word in, "but don't be too hard on Zacharias. He really does mean well."
"And we all don't think he's right, either," Hannah added. "We like Quatre well enough."
Duo's eyebrows rose. "Okay. Now I'm interested. Who's Zacharias Smith, what did he do, and why should I be upset about it?"
Dean grimaced, realizing the error of their assumption. "You didn't know..."
"He will now," Justin mumbled regrettably. "Bugger."
Duo closed the compartment door behind him. Instead of welcoming himself to an empty seat, he casually leaned back against the door with crossed arms and an openly expectant expression. "I'm listening."
The four seventh years exchanged cautionary looks. It was Hannah that reluctantly explained.
"I was walking my friend Susan to the prefects' car when we ran into Zacharias and Quatre exchanging words. Well, Quatre was patiently waiting for Zach to finish accusing him of hanging out with Slytherins instead of his house mates... Um, he kind of accused Quatre of being a traitor to his house..." Sheepishly, Hannah cast her eyes down at her clasped hands resting in her lap.
"After which Quat calmly explained that he'd been friends with Tro and Hee-chan way before we came to Hogwarts, and he didn't see why stupid house prejudices should matter when it comes to true comradery," Duo said calmly, obviously surprising them. "Only Quatre would have used a description that is way more diplomatic than stupid."
"You just said you didn't know about what happened," Dean said, puzzled.
Duo snorted dryly. "I may not know the details, man, but I know Quat well enough to predict his reaction to baseless accusations. He's classy enough to beat people with common sense in place of his fists."
"Well, yeah, good point," Justin replied absently. "Quatre's always come off as rather level-headed."
"It's the rest of what Zacharias said that almost made Quatre look as if he was going to throw a punch," Hannah admitted hesitantly. "Zach's not a bad guy, but he can be really..."
"Intolerant?" Dean supplied helpfully.
"Hot-tempered," was what Hannah finally settled with, wincing. "He told Quatre that if he liked his slimy Slytherin friends so much, he should petition for a change of house."
Shit. "Slimy Slytherin friends," Duo repeated tonelessly. "Those were his exact words?"
"I knew you'd be pissed," Seamus mumbled.
"It's not me he needs to worry about," Duo said sincerely. "Hee-chan couldn't give a rat's behind about what anyone says about him, and while I'll defend him to the death, I'm not very inclined to do anything more than a few harmless pranks at Smith's expense as retribution. I'm gonna let this slide, though, because Smith sealed his fate the moment he insulted Trowa to Quat's face. Whatever happens to him later is totally out of my hands as far as I'm concerned."
"But..." Justin started. "I mean, if you're not going to get even... what could possibly happen?"
"I can't say," Duo mumbled heavily, "but if your reactions are anything to go by, I have a suspicious feeling I'm going to get blamed for it." With a sigh of resignation, Duo pushed away from the door as he uncrossed his arms. "On a totally unrelated matter -in fact, continuing on for what brought me here in the first place -you guys wouldn't happen to know where I could find Ron, would you?"
"I think he's with Neville and Lovegood in the next car," Hannah replied after some thought. "I remember seeing them while I was coming back from the prefects' car."
"Look at you, the literal fount of knowledge," Duo said teasingly, winking at the Hufflepuff girl as he reached behind himself and slid the compartment door open. "Thanks, Hannah. By the way, good observation skills. I applaud." And he did so, propping the door open with the heel of his boot.
Hannah blushed, obviously pleased with the praise. "You're welcome, Maxwell."
"Never between friends," Duo said cheerfully. "Call me Duo. Only Snapey calls me Maxwell, and he usually attaches a 'you idiot' on the end. You know -as a sign of affection."
Justin burst out with laughter, managing to say, "You're the absolute limit, Duo!" between snickers.
"Justin, my friend," Duo said, preening, "the more you get to know me, the more you'll find that I have no limit."
"This is true," Dean agreed with a sage nod.
"He calls Snape 'Sexy'," Seamus informed the two Hufflepuffs with a gleeful grin on his face. "In the middle of class. All through class, actually. Snape doesn't even flinch anymore."
"God," Justin said, the two Hufflepuffs looking at Duo in awe. "You're a braver man than me."
"Draco says I'm suicidal. Personally, I like your version better," Duo said honestly, taking a step backwards and outside of the compartment. With an exuberant bow, he added, "Hate to chat and run, but I've got me a Weasley to find. I bid adieu to you, you, you, and especially you. In the infamous words of the Black Widow: Ta, luvs."
Hannah's observation skills turned out to be impeccable, as Duo had found his Weasley in the company of Neville Longbottom and an unfamiliar Ravenclaw girl with dirty blond hair; he didn't know much about Lovegood, but he was fascinated as soon as he noticed she was reading what looked like the wizarding equivalent of a tabloid upside down.
"Hey, no fair," Duo teasingly complained. "You have multiple conversation buddies. I just had Trowa -and I don't know if you've noticed, but he's not big on the talking."
Ron grinned ruefully. "Prefects' meeting stole the rest of your friends too, huh?"
"Note that I didn't make it into their sacred club," Duo said dryly, throwing himself into the empty seat beside the Lovegood girl. "It's probably for the best, in my case. Power corrupts. Absolute power is actually kind of neat."
"Doesn't hurt that most of your mates are prefects," Ron pointed out with a sheepish grin.
"True. Fringe benefits rock my socks. Hey, Nev, how was your summer?"
"A little boring," Neville replied; though his response was casually delivered, Duo's fellow seventh year house mate was pleased he'd been asked. Duo had always had a soft spot for Neville, who was a little shy and awkward, but a good guy, nonetheless. The American wondered in quiet amusement how the guy would react if Duo admitted that he reminded the colony brat of Heero quite uncannily, if weighed on certain metaphorical scales. "From what Ron tells me, that isn't the case with you guys."
And the weakest link is, Duo thought wryly, giving the redheaded a secretively amused glance.
... Wait. "Harry didn't tell you anything... strange, did he?" Duo asked, dreading the worst. "Like, oh, something I might have done on his birthday?" Please say no... Please, God, say no...
Instead of snickering, Ron brightened. "Oh, yeah, mate! He told me what you did to those bloody awful muggles in glorious detail. No one deserved it more than them!"
Oh, bless your soul, Harry, my boy! I got a discrete one! "Let's keep that on the DL, okay?" Duo suggested weakly, faking sheepishness. "What I did wasn't exactly... legal. Harmless, but the Dursleys can claim long-term mental trauma, and I can get into a lot of trouble in the muggle world." With a short pause, he snorted derisively, adding sarcastically, "And I'd hate to take the fall for their pre-existing brain damage, anyway. Jackasses."
Ron and Neville stared at him; even the Lovegood girl pulled her attention away from her tabloid long enough to stare at him in a fascinated bug-under-a-magnifying-glass sort of way.
Just when Duo was tempted to feel at his neck for any large unsightly skin tumors, Ron asked blankly, "DL?"
Lovegood finally looked away, her eyes immediately finding a resting place between the pages of the Quibbler, almost as if she'd lost all interest in Duo or anything reality-related.
Strange girl. Duo kind of liked her, in a strange "I have no idea what you're all about, but I think it's swell" sort of way.
"Down low," Duo replied promptly, grinning apologetically. "Muggle slang. In Britishspeak, 'Mums the word.' Whatever the hell that means." He glanced curiously at Lovegood. "Whatcha reading?"
"The Quibbler," she replied absently, her eyes never leaving a (no doubt fascinating) article. "My father's the editor."
"Guess he loves his job," Duo noted thoughtfully. Lovegood spared a quick glance for Duo before nodding in affirmation.
"What makes you say that?" Neville asked curiously.
"Well, she wouldn't read the Quibbler if her father hated his job, right?" Duo shrugged before holding his hand out to the Ravenclaw. "I don't think we've ever met. My name's Duo Maxwell -I run, I hide, but I never tell a lie. That's me in a nutshell."
She tilted her head to the side, regaining her piercing gaze. "What are you hiding from?"
He'd never been asked that before. It was odd, not having a pre-existing quip meant to lighten the mood, effortlessly distracting people from his introductory statement.
So, with all honesty, he replied, "Sometimes memories are too painful to carry around, so I ditch 'em until they come back and bite me in the ass."
She must have heard something she liked because she finally reached out and clasped his hand, her brittle fingers grasping his with surprising firmness. "My name is Luna. Luna Lovegood. I don't like liars very much, so it's good you aren't one."
Yep. Definitely a strange girl.
"Happy to oblige," Duo said warmly. "So what were you guys talking about before my somewhat rude but nonetheless necessary interruption?"
Ron and Neville exchanged guilty glances. Luna, her gaze straying back to her paper, murmured dreamily, "We were talking about what kind of trouble Harry will get into this year."
Ron gawked. "You were listening?"
Good Lord. "Ron, you have no tact," Duo said with a dry chuckle. "We like you all the same, but, let's face it -subtle, you are not."
Ron, realizing his faux pas (if a little belatedly), had the decency to look a little regretful of his blunt exclamation as he muttered a quick apology to Luna.
And, like she hadn't even been interrupted, she continued, "In my opinion, a lot of exciting things are going to happen this year. After all, last year was relatively uneventful for Harry, right? It's like a calm before the storm."
"Ah, well, you know what they say about storms," Duo replied vaguely. "They always pass through. I have a really good feeling about this year."
"You're probably right," Ron said, visibly cheering up. "I mean, it's started off on the right foot. Sirius is free, everyone knows You Know Who is back and, what's best, most people are taking it rather well; the Ministry seems to know what they're doing for once, and we're finally graduating. Maybe this year won't be too bad."
"I didn't say it's not going to be eventful, but it's sure as hell not going to be tragic." I won't let it. "I just have a good feeling about it, is all." Carefully schooling his expression, Duo carefully asked, "What about previous years in the lives of Hogwarts' students, anyway? I remember stuff about the Philosopher's Stone and the year Sirius escaped from Azkaban, and I've heard a little about the Tri-Wizard Tournament."
"In our second year, Ron and Harry drove a flying car into the Whomping Willow," Neville said, grinning at the blustering redhead.
"It was that bloody house elf's fault," Ron said defensively. "He sealed the entrance to Platform 9 3/4 before we could pass through! The same house elf who, by the way, cursed a bludger to chase Harry during a Quidditch match. Harry had to spend the night in the Infirmary regrowing every bone in his arm when that git Lockhart decided to bungle about," derisive snort, "'helping.'"
Duo, eyebrows raised, said skeptically, "A house elf did all of that?"
"Yeah," Ron said. "Dobby. He's the Malfoys' old house elf. Apparently, he'd overheard a plot to open the Chamber of Secrets, and he tried to keep Harry safe by keeping him out of Hogwarts. Barmy house elf, if you asked me."
Bingo. "Chamber of Secrets?" Duo inquired with a vague air of interest. "What's that?"
Luckily, Ron was eager to spill the juicy story in glorious detail. "The Chamber of Secrets is where Salazar Slytherin kept his basilisk for his Heir to sic on muggleborns after he disappeared. That monster stayed down there until the Heir of Slytherin trotted it out for a test run over fifty years ago; he managed to kill one girl before he pinned the blame on Hagrid and his freaky pet spider, which is as big as a house. He managed to do it again through a diary in my second year. For a while, everyone thought Harry was the Heir of Slytherin."
Duo snorted. Harry? Ordering monsters to kill innocent people? Like hell. "What gave them such a ridiculous idea, pray tell?"
"Because Harry's a Parselmouth; the only one there's been since Tom Riddle, the Heir of Slytherin.
Oh, God. "You mean Voldemort," Duo said, ignoring Ron's flinch. "Dragon boy told me he's a Parselmouth."
"Yeah, he's the Heir of Slytherin," Ron confirmed with a nod.
It made sense now -the connection between the Chamber of Secrets and the vague reference to his sordid little Skywalker dilemma. (1)
"In fact, only a Parselmouth can open the Chamber," Ron continued, unaware of Duo's inner emotional upheaval. "The entrance is in a strange place -the third-floor girls' loo."
That was more information than Duo could have possibly hoped for. With a raised eyebrow, he inquired, amused, "The one that's always flooding?"
"That's Moaning Myrtle," Neville said with a grimace. "She's haunts that lavatory."
"She's the girl that died fifty years ago," Ron added. "You Know Who used the basilisk to kill her in that lavatory."
Oh, it was sounding better by the minute. Note the sarcasm. "Nasty. That basilisk -it isn't still lingering in the Chamber, is it?"
"No. Harry killed it with the sword of Gryffindor, which he pulled out of the Sorting Hat. They only thing left is that empty chamber."
The Chamber of Secrets was named so for a reason. The words of the mysterious note echoing in his mind, Duo seriously doubted the validity of Ron's assurance that there was nothing left down there.
Before Duo could say anymore on the matter, the compartment door slid open so quickly and with such force that it banged loudly into the wall. Duo's hand had automatically flown to his gun resting at his side underneath his robes, but he quickly pulled away and settled in a casually relaxed position when he saw Hermione at the door, her eyes glimmering excitedly. Behind and to the side of her was Harry, Hermione's fist twisted in a great deal of fabric of his school robes.
He could feel Lovegood's eyes piercing into the back of his skull, and Duo mentally winced. No doubt she'd noticed where his hand went when they'd been startled. He didn't know how savvy she was when it came to muggle know-how, but she was probably very aware that wizards didn't typically store their wands at their sides.
Duo did notice, despite Lovegood's brutally distracting gaze, that Harry was holding two envelopes in his left hand, the smaller of the two envelopes resting on top. In the upper left corner of the envelope was the same Ouroboros-hybrid symbol that graced Duo's own mysterious letter.
The Oracle strikes again, Duo thought, lifting his eyes to Hermione's face when Harry quickly hid the envelope behind his back with an uncomfortable wince. "Who set the train on fire?"
Hermione blinked, knocked off guard. "What?"
Duo grinned impishly. "Where's the fire? Or were you just that eager to bask in the presence of your redheaded Gryffindor stud?"
As one, two of the infamous Gryffindor Trio blushed hotly while the Golden Boy himself disguised a snicker behind a cough; the attempt had been rather poor, at best.
Hermione ignored his jest. "Draco's looking for you."
Harry grimaced uncomfortably, obviously inspired by guilt when he added sympathetically, "He's in a foul mood."
Duo had no doubt that Harry was directly responsible for Draco's poor attitude. The former Malfoy heir probably hated being left out of the secret circle of Hogwarts' Crimestoppers, and he was probably even more frustrated that Harry was "playing a hero" again. Judging by Hermione's frank dismissal, Duo hadn't made it into the club, either.
He didn't really care, though; he'd found what he'd been looking for. In all honesty, even if Hermione didn't mind his inclusion, there was no way in hell that he would consider returning the favor. It was all merely par for the course as far as he was concerned.
"So what else is new?" Duo retorted drolly, gracefully standing up. "Guess I'll go bare the brunt of dragon boy's full scorn. I'll see you guys after we get to Hogwarts." He turned and offered his hand to Lovegood, and she immediately returned the favor. "Really interesting meeting you, Luna."
She smiled absently. "The same, Duo Maxwell." The American had a strange feeling that there was a double entendre there.
"Pardon me, Mione," Duo said. The girl quickly moved out of the way, taking Harry with her. She finally seemed to notice that her fingers were tightly twisted in the fabric of her friend's robes, and she instantly let go with pink cheeks.
Duo grinned teasingly at her as he brushed passed. Turning back to the occupants of the compartment with a jaunty wave, he said, "Later, guys! Bye, Mione. Harry." With an understanding grin at the green-eyed hero, Duo began to make his journey back to his compartment.
Before he was out of earshot, Harry murmured thankfully, "He took that way better than Draco did."
"A little too well," Duo heard Hermione reply suspiciously. He grinned to himself ruefully; Hermione Granger would be the one to secretly question his motives and privately voice her concerns.
On his way back to his compartment, he idly scanned the corridors of the train for traces of an irate Head Boy, who he eventually found bullying a timid blonde first year girl.
"Hey, hey, dragon boy," Duo protested, clapping his hand on the incensed boy's shoulder. "Now what did I say about using your position to intimidate hapless first years? It reeks of moral repugnancy, man. Bad for karma." To the girl, he suggested gently, "You should run. I'll hold off the big bad Head Boy."
Wide-eyed (and with perhaps the faint beginning of a crush on her savior), the girl muttered a quick thanks before sprinting back down the corridor and disappearing into the next car.
Draco narrowed his eyes on Duo in irritation. "You let her get away, you ponce."
Glancing up and down the empty corridor, the American leaned closer to Draco and murmured prettily, "Draco, what's the symbolism behind an Ouroboros?"
Draco's eyes widened marginally before he said, "So you saw it too."
"I didn't only see it, dragon boy," Duo murmured with a smug grin. "I received a letter that had the same crest. Since Ron and Hermione are going to be stubborn about including you on all the fun," and Duo didn't doubt that Harry was going to rectify that, "why don't you join in on my own mystery in the making?"
"After an invitation like that," Draco replied, his mood visibly improving, "how could I refuse?"
It was exactly what Duo wanted to hear. After all, even if Draco was in the dark about what the Gryffindor Trio was up to now, he wouldn't be for long. Harry would eventually wear the others down enough for his friends to reluctantly accept his decision to involve his boyfriend in on an important aspect of his life. After that, Duo would know at least a little more about what this mysterious all-knowing Oracle person had to say to Harry, no doubt spurring yet another exciting adventure.
"Squeeze in," Duo said cheerfully after pulling the compartment door open -well, after knocking first, in any case. The four occupants of the compartment shifted closer together (much to Wufei's visible discomfort). Duo squeezed into the small space available between Heero and the window. After sliding the door closed and locking it, Draco cast a silencing spell on the door before squeezing next to Quatre.
"What did you find out?" Heero asked bluntly, looking Duo over in concern.
The American smiled at his boyfriend before looking at the others. "You guys have been briefed, right? Well, except Draco, but he knows some of the gory details anyway, so it shouldn't take him long to catch up."
"Heero told us," Quatre said quietly, obviously still turning the matter over in his head.
"Right," Duo said, holding his hand out to Trowa. The reserved Slytherin handed the envelopes to Duo, who then passed both of them to Draco before launching into his report.
"The Chamber of Secrets was Salazar Slytherin's secret sanctum. Inside of the Chamber was a monster called a basilisk, which Tom Riddle -A.K.A. Voodletort -used to kill a girl in a bathroom fifty years ago. She still haunts that bathroom, by the way, so it might be a little tricky getting around her. The entrance to the Chamber happens to be in the same bathroom."
"How do we open the entrance?" Wufei inquired as Draco frowned over the short note from the Oracle, immediately glancing back at the Gringott's notification.
"Parseltongue," Duo replied, adding with a dry snort, "Apparently, Slytherin was one, as are all the Heirs of Slytherin. I'm not an exception to that rule. Got something there, dragon boy?"
"I believe so," Draco said slowly, lifting the Gringott's letter once again. "There hasn't been a Ministry-recognized Oracle in well over centuries -maybe even over a thousand years. No matter how hard we look, we'll never find out who he or she was; the wizarding world lost a lot of important information to attacks from Grindelwald's followers fifty years ago, and whatever they could recover was destroyed during Death Eater attacks during Voldemort's first attempted coup. It's probably why the date is unspecified."
"Okay, that bites," Duo sighed. "We'll manage. What about the crest? Do you know anything about it?"
"A little," Draco replied. "The Ouroboros is an alchemic symbol -the depiction of a snake or dragon devouring its own tail represents time cycling and all things returning to the One. Makes sense for an Oracle, I suppose," he added absently. "It also symbolizes immortality, since the snake kills itself and brings itself back to life. Wufei might be familiar with a different story -the Ouroboros has roots in Eastern myths."
Wufei made a noncommital hum of acknowledgment. "I know of it, but not a lot. I was never interested in mythology."
"The Celtic cross is a little odd -it's a muggle hybrid of Christian and Druid symbolism. A muggle man was shown a stone, marked with a circle that represented a moon goddess. He drew a Latin cross over the circle and vowed to adopt some of the Druids ides and practices into Christian ideology." Draco shrugged. "I can't imagine a pureblood wizard using a Celtic cross in any sort of crest, so the Oracle could quite possibly have been muggleborn or halfblood -exposed to muggles, at the very least. (2)
"The flowers resemble Lilies of the Valley," the Head Boy added finally. "They're used in certain potions for heart conditions, but alone they're poisonous; they can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, slow heart rate, and excessive urination. I don't know what the symbolism behind these flowers are, though -well, aside from the fact they're supposed to protect gardens from evil spirits."
"So... time and immortality, obvious Christian influences, and Lilies of the Valley -which might be another connection to Christian myths, at the most," Duo admitted thoughtfully. "When Eve was cast out of the Garden of Eden, she cried tears that gave birth to Lilies of the Valley. Another popular myth is that when the Virgin Mary witnessed the crucifixion of her son, her tears of sorrow grew Lilies of the Valley, as well."
"At this junction, we won't find out any more until we visit the Chamber of Secrets," Quatre murmured contemplatively. "The crest itself is probably riddled with clues, so it would be best if we kept what we know about it thus far close to mind when we investigate the chamber."
"When should we investigate?" Heero asked. "Tonight wouldn't be adequate. Tomorrow night would most likely be best -it would be even better if someone can convince Harry to let us borrow his map."
Oh, yeah... "Might be tricky," Duo said grudgingly. "Harry got a letter from this Oracle guy, too -and we aren't invited on that adventure."
Quatre frowned. "That's a pity. It would help if we knew the contents of Harry's letter, especially if it has anything to do with Duo's."
Duo grinned wickedly at Draco. "That's where you come in, dragon boy."
"I don't know if you've noticed, hamster boy," the blond responded darkly, traces of a scowl twisting his face, "but I'm not in their exclusive little club, either."
"Not yet," Duo said airily. "C'mon, dragon boy, you don't honestly think Harry's going to leave you in the dark for long. Eventually, he's going to convince Mione and Ron that, as his boyfriend, you deserve to at least know about what's going on.
"Don't get me wrong," Duo said quickly, noticing that Draco didn't seem very enthused about the idea. "If it has absolutely nothing to do with me and my mystery, don't bother telling any of us about it -if Harry doesn't want us to know, we won't pry. If our letters are related, though... I trust that you'll only tell me what you think I need to know. Okay?"
Draco, appeased, shrugged casually. "I don't have a problem with that, as long as you don't expect me to tell you anything unrelated to your mystery. Even as a Slytherin, I have my conscience-niggling doubts about spying on my boyfriend."
"You have a conscience?" Duo questioned in faux innocence, earning a nasty scowl from the blond Slytherin.
"Yes," he said curtly. "I do. Ponce," he added in a mutter.
"Draco, people with consciences don't usually go around bullying first years to tears out of misplaced aggression," the American chided the blond teasingly.
"Mine happens to be perfectly fine with it," Draco said haughtily, lifting his nose in the air. "You're just a soft-hearted ninny who has to be everyone's 'pal'."
"You say the sweetest things to me."
"Train's slowing down," Trowa noted suddenly. The sun had completely disappeared under the horizon, leaving only faint traces of brighter shades of blue that eventually bled into night.
"We shouldn't be too far from Hogsmeade Station," Draco informed them, standing from his seat. "I should probably go do some of those pesky Head Boy duties before Granger catches me slacking off. Bossy beaver-toothed bint."
"Nice alliteration," Duo noted with an impish grin.
"Harry didn't think so," the blond replied dryly. "Neither did said bossy beaver-toothed bint. I'm pretty sure most of the prefects secretly agreed with me."
Wufei scowled irritably. "We endured three hours of hearing that woman lecture us about our duties as prefects. I almost walked out when she started reciting guidelines and school policy straight from that blasted book she's always touting about."
Duo and Trowa exchanged amused smirks. Suddenly, Duo didn't mind that he'd missed out on the whole prefect experience.
It was wasn't long until the Hogwarts Express pulled into Hogsmeade Station. Students, along with their Auror guards, crowded the platform, the majority herding toward a line of awaiting carriages in the distance while Professor Rubeus Hagrid, in his traditional Gamekeeper role, called the incoming first years to follow him to the lake.
When the five of them approached the carriages, they all stopped to study the grim, nightmarish horse-like creatures that were harnessed to the carriages in groups of four.
"No wonder they take the first years across the lake," Duo said wryly, offering a hand to one of the creatures. Much to the surprise of the others, the creature seemed pleased with Duo's attention, nuzzling his hand gently with its snout. "These guys would scare the hell out of an eleven year old. I kind of like them, though."
"Uh," Seamus started as he passed, stopping long enough to give his American house mate a strange look. "Duo, what are you doing?"
Without missing a beat, Duo responded glibly, "Making nice with the scary horsies."
Dean, accompanying Seamus, said skeptically, "What horsies?"
"There's nothing there," Seamus pointed out gently, appearing vaguely worried about his house mate's mental health. Duo dropped his hand quickly, glancing questioningly at Heero. The Japanese boy's nod was barely perceivable, but Duo read it loud and clear -Heero saw the creatures, too.
"That's because they're invisible scary horsies," Duo responded solemnly, his eyes shining with inner mirth when he looked at his two fellow seventh year Gryffindors.
The two boys laughed, relieved by Duo's light-hearted dismissal of his own strange behavior before they moved on.
Duo glanced back at the creature, impressed. "Nice trick. What do you do for an encore?"
"I wonder why no one else can see them," Quatre mused quietly before Trowa helped him into the empty carriage.
"I think the real question is, why can we?" Wufei said lowly, giving one of the creatures a thorough once over before finally climbing into the carriage, closing the small door behind him. As soon as he was seated, the carriage began to amble along after the line of carriages that went on before them.
"Someone else has got to be able to see them," Trowa pointed out logically. "It's almost impossible that we just happen to be able to see imaginary horses. Someone had to have strapped them in their harnesses, and they're tame as far as I can tell. That usually indicates that someone takes care of them on a regular basis."
Duo snickered in amusement. "Now that you mention it, scary horsies are right up Hagrid's alley. We could always ask him about it."
As it turned out, they didn't have to ask Hagrid anything. The moment their carriage had come to a complete stop and the five of them were unloading from the cabin, Draco stalked over to them, dragging Harry behind him.
"Why do you people love to drag me around?" Harry asked plaintively.
When Draco stopped and dropped Harry's wrist, he tossed the Gryffindor a foul look as he muttered, "That better not have been a comparison between me and your annoying bossy friend."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Harry said sardonically.
Ignoring his boyfriend's obvious sarcasm, he looked back and pointed irately at the creatures harnessed to the carriages, demanding, "Tell me you can see those!"
"Oh, good," Duo said nonchalantly. "We're not insane."
"I take it you haven't always been able to see them," Wufei noted thoughtfully.
"I swear they've never been there before," Draco said. "Pansy and Blaise told me to go to St. Mungo's and have my head examined. What are they?"
It was Harry who provided the answer. "Thestrals," he said quietly. "As far as I know, only you guys, Luna, and I can see them. Only those that have seen death can see thestrals."
Duo glanced at Draco and grinned sheepishly. "Whoops."
"That's all you're going to say to me?" the blond demanded waspishly, glaring at the American haughtily. "I see death steeds and you're going to say 'whoops' and carry on walking?"
"Yep, pretty much," Duo said evenly, patting one of the thestrals on the snout fondly before heading for Hogwarts with a slight skip to his step. "I think they're cool."
"I think you're brain damaged," Draco shot back snottily, rushing to catch up with the American. Harry and the other four were only a step behind him, all showing vague signs of amusement as the two boys entered yet another contest of wills.
"They have wings," Duo pointed out.
"Well, that's bleeding obvious, isn't it?" Draco said prickily. "The better to pick us up with their teeth and drop us from deadly heights."
"You really hate Care of Magical Creatures, don't you?"
"I am to CoMC as Longbottom is to Potions," Draco sniped. "Dangerous and most likely to fall prey to injury. And don't change the subject!"
"Look, wouldn't you rather know a thestral is around instead of just blundering about unaware? You should be happy you can see them now -at least you can avoid them."
"They're creepy," Draco whined, obviously for lack of any retort contrary to Duo's logic.
"Suck it up, dragon boy." I win, Duo thought smugly as he entered the Great Hall, the others directly behind them. Two things happened at once.
Harry, eyes wide as he spotted a familiar figure sitting comfortably at the Head Table, blurted, "Sirius!"
As if hearing his godson's surprised cry over the den of the mingling students, Sirius Black turned away from the other familiar man at the Head Table and waved cheerfully in their general direction, an roguish grin on his face.
Heero's eyes, however, were narrowed intently on the blond long-haired man who was smirking faintly at the Japanese boy from across the Hall.
"Zechs," Trowa murmured. "Hmm."
What was Milliardo Peacecraft doing back at Hogwarts?
(1) Duo's such a Star Wars nerd. :grins:
(2) The muggle man was St. Patrick, of course, though this version of the creation of the Celtic cross is only a rumor. No one really knows the significance behind the Celtic cross, so I picked one that suited my needs.
Yes, I was perfectly aware that there had been a serious lack of plot advancement until now. Sirius is probably the reason for that; as you can see, I kind of need him at Hogwarts. :grins: Then Narcissa kept bugging the crap out of me, which should explain chapter eight... I needed to get that woman out of my system. Heheh. I like how this chapter turned out a lot better. :silly grin:
Sorry if there are any words left out, as I'd noticed in the last chapter. I don't get a lot of time on my parents' computer, so the last two chapters have been completely handwritten. I type pretty fast, and sometimes my eyes tend to skip over random words in my notebook when I'm copying everything to the computer. Coincidentally, I don't have a lot of time to proofread, either. :sweatdrops:
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