Harry Potter and the Secret Link Part 13

Duo smiled in satisfaction, readjusting his red and gold striped scarf wrapped tightly around his neck as he moved back to survey his work. He quickly charmed the small black bits of coal he had used for the eyes and placed the finishing piece on the ball of white snow that made a head.

The American had plenty of time to kill since most of the student body had left for Yule holiday, leaving him all by his lonesome with the company of his four partners, Harry, some lower-year Hufflepuffs, and Draco Malfoy. Unfortunately, a lot of the time he actually found himself alone, save for Harry's company and, potentially, Draco's. Too bad Harry and Draco couldn't be in the same room with each other without throwing mental Death Glares at each other within the first thirty seconds.

Personally, Duo thought it was sexual tension. One of his many plots was to lock the little Slytherin brat in a broom closet with the typically oblivious Gryffindor hero. Either they'd get over it and make out, or one of them would take the initiative and kill the other. Either way, no more glaring.

Friends give each other alibis. Real friends help each other hide the body. As it was, Duo liked both of them well enough, so the whole cliche closet bit was still in reserve as Option E.

Heero and the others were taking cram classes much like he had during the summer, hoping to catch up by the start of the New Year. The professors were having a lot of doubts about the other pilots' abilities to make their self-proclaimed deadline, but with those guys, Duo knew it was very possible that they could make it.

Behind him, there was a strange chuffing noise that, weirdly enough, reminded him of laughter, followed by a small chuckle. "Look, Snuffles -a SnowHarry."

Duo threw a quick grin over his shoulder, quickly inspecting the man that had come to inspect his work. He was about middle-aged, with tawny hair that was greying around the temples and gentle amber eyes. Beside him sat a huge black dog that looked a bit like a mutt; the dog would have looked vicious if it were not for the wagging tail and the tongue that lolled out of its mouth. That, and the man had named the thing 'Snuffles'. Duo thought it looked more like a 'Killer'.

"This is a shot in the dark," the new guy said drily, "but I'm guessing that second one is supposed to be our friendly neighborhood Potions Master."

"Sharp man." Duo laughed, swinging his braid over his shoulder. Both man and dog seemed to blink and take an involuntary step back. The braided boy had gotten that look a lot at the beginning of term; it was the "hold up, she's a guy?" expression that all wizards and witches alike had in common. The dog, though... Duo glanced at the Grim-like mongrel. Dogs weren't supposed to have that kind of reaction.

The other guy got over his shock quickly enough. "Do you mind if I...?"

"Survey away, man," Duo said, taking a step back. "Critiquing welcome. Hey, do you think I went underboard with the carrot? It was the biggest one I could find."

The man coughed into his fist, amber eyes immediately focused on SnowSnape's large carrot nose. And the dog did that strange... chuff. Definitely like a dog's version of laughter. Weird.

"Well... you could have used a potato," the man said lightly. "Though I applaud the rather realistic scowl on its face."

"I get that look a lot. The potato, though... too heavy," Duo replied offhandedly. "After about the seventh time it fell off, I broke down and went looking for the carrot."

"I see," the man replied with an amused chortle, turning his attention back to SnowHarry. SnowHarry was facing SnowSnape's turned back, its mouth zig-zagging across it's lower 'face' with a 'tongue' sticking out, blowing SnowSnape a silent raspberry. "Those look a lot like Harry's glasses," he noted absently.

"Oh, I just found those lying around," Duo said, waving his hand casually. "So are you here looking for Harry? He's probably stumbling around the Gryffindor dorms. I'll walk back with you."

"Thank you," the man said, falling into step beside Duo. The dog jogged to catch up, letting out a cheerful bark of appreciation. "Stumbling around? Interesting choice of words."

"Yeah, I hear he lost his glasses," Duo said cheerfully. "Poor guy's blind as a bat without them. Hope he finds them... eventually."

The man looked a bit off-guard, but the dog started... howling. It sounded amused. Duo looked at it again.

If that's a dog, Duo thought to himself with a smirk, then I'm Relena Peacecraft's long lost twin. He paused and marveled, shuddering violently... and it wasn't because of the cold. Gah... Need a better analogy.

"Settle down, Snuffles," the man said, giving the dog a sharp look. Too late, guy, his cover is officially blown.

"That's a terrible name for a dog that looks like it eats small children for breakfast," Duo decided to point out.

"He's a big pussycat, really," the man promised. "I don't believe I recognize you from my tenure as a professor here..."

"Oh, I'm new," the American replied. "You taught here? Let me guess -Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, right? From what Ron tells me, it's the only position that's ever open by the end of the school year. And he said the only decent professor who didn't have designs on being a pompous ass or being an evil henchman of the Dark Lord was Remus Lupin. I'm guessing you're that guy, huh?"

"Five points to Gryffindor," the newly named Remus Lupin replied with a soft smile. "And Harry's only mentioned one new Gryffindor student... You would be Duo Maxwell, yes?"

"I run, I hide, but I never tell a lie," Duo parroted gaily. "Nice to meet you."

"The pleasure's all mine, Mr. Maxwell."

"Duo. Only Sev actually calls me Mr. Maxwell anymore. He's a stubborn bastard when it comes to formalities." To give Snape some credit, the man was dropping the 'mister' bit; apparently the man found it amazingly simplistic just to snarl out a biting 'Maxwell, you idiot' whenever Duo did something he didn't approve of... like accidentally-on-purpose charming the man's robes purple. Oh, the "on purpose" part had been the charm; the "accidentally" part was that he hadn't meant to hit the man's robes, but his hair.

But he wasn't about to explain that to Snape.

"Sev?" Lupin murmured, sounding bemused. "You mean Professor Snape?"

The dog growled threateningly in the back of his throat.

"You call Professor Snape 'Sev', and... you're not in a state of perpetual humiliation and degradation?"

"Well, the optimist in me says he likes me, but the realist pointed out that he just can't figure out a way to slip me a deadly poison without getting caught," Duo replied cheerfully. "He used to hand out really gross detentions, like cleaning out the bedpans in the Infirmary, but he rarely does that anymore." Not since the man had walked in and found that Duo had taken the initiative and, to relieve boredom, had donned a sanitized bedpan as a makeshift hat as he slid around in his little bedpan skis.

The dog chuffed. Again, it sounded like laughter.

"Does Snuffles have a cold?" Duo asked innocently.

"Erm, yes," Lupin replied hurriedly.

"Aww," Duo crooned, scratching the mutt behind the ear. The dog wagged his tail, his tongue lolling out of the side of his goofily grinning mouth. My ass. Lupin needs to work on his deception skills. He's a terrible liar.

They were almost halfway to the Gryffindor Tower when a familiar voice shouted Duo's name. The American boy turned, a wide grin on his face as he shouted back jovially, "Oi! Quat! Wu! Tro! Hee-chan! You guys are out early!"

"That's Wufei, Maxwell," the Chinese boy corrected him tersely.

Quatre, always one to keep the peace (and knowing a declining conversation when he saw one) exclaimed rather cheerfully, "Our Transfiguration assignment was easier than Professor McGonagall had anticipated, which leaves us to spend the rest of the day with you. Are you going to the Gryffindor Tower?"

"Yep," Duo replied. "Guys, this is Mr. Lupin and his dog Butch. His name is actually Snuffles, but I think he looks more like a Butch. Mr. Lupin, this is Quatre, Heero, Trowa, and Wuffie."

"Wufei, Maxwell!"

"It's a pleasure, Mr. Lupin," Quatre said politely, offering the man his hand. The blond's curiosity appeared piqued after the handshake, but he shook it away quickly before turning back to Duo. "We're going back to our houses and putting away our stuff. Meet you at Gryffindor Tower?"

"You bet," Duo said cheerfully. "Hey, be on the lookout for Harry's glasses, will you? He's been looking for them all morning."

"The same glasses we saw you putting on your rather convincing snowman version of Harry out on the grounds?" Trowa said mildly.

"Probably," Duo shrugged innocently. "I mean, gosh -they certainly looked like Harry's specs, didn't they?"

"Perhaps he'll have them back later this evening," Heero said, monotone, the look on a his face only a minor glare that translated into "or else." Duo wasn't worried; he'd been on the receiving end of much, much worse.

"Maybe," the American responded with a whimsical shrug.

"An odd assortment of friends," Lupin mused as the five boys parted ways. "Two of those boys are Slytherins, aren't they?"

"That's right," Duo replied. "Wack-a-mole." This, of course, was not a reference to the actual arcade game, but the new Gryffindor password. (1)

"Harry," he sang out gaily as he breezed through the common room, removing his scarf, winter cloak, and worn gloves as he went about the toasty room, dropping his articles of clothing and letting them lie where they fell. "You have visitors!"

Snuffles bellowed out a rambunctious bark, tail wagging as the dog literally zoomed to the stairs. "Snuffles!" Harry yelled out joyously, nearly tripping and falling down the stairs in his excitement to hug the mutt. "Come to spend the evening with me?"

Snuffles yipped and slathered Harry's face with sloppy tongue-lashes. Harry made a happy yet disgusted sound, pushing the dog's muzzle away from his ear. "Ew, Snuffles..."

"Snuffles is very happy to see you again, Harry," Lupin said with a fond smile. Harry glanced up, squinting at Lupin, who must have been a vague blur without his glasses.

"Remus!" Harry exclaimed, standing quickly and sprinting the short distance to greet the man. Unfortunately his feet became entangled with Duo's cloak; luckily, the American was there to correct his fall.

"Watch your step, kid," Duo laughed. "You really need to find those specs before you do something completely unbefitting -like break your neck tripping over a lump in a rug."

"Oh, yes," Harry said sardonically, "mustn't make it easy on Voldemort or anything. Course, that megalomaniac might actually die from the shame of having been defeated by a klutz like me."

"What," Duo said with a chuckle, "getting his ass kicked by a baby wasn't enough? Look, here's the voice of reason talking -if I got knocked off by a toddler, I would just stay dead. Less humiliation that way."

"No one ever claimed Dark Lords had much sense."

"Of course they don't," Duo pointed out. "Because then they'd win."

Remus found himself hard-pressed to cover his smile. Couldn't quite argue with logic like that.

"Mind if my friends sleep over for Christmas Eve? It'll be our very first actual Christmas together -you know, with presents and the tree and everything. They're like the closest thing to a family I've had in years."

"Of course not," Harry replied. "Do you... want me to make myself scarce?"

"Yes, Harry. You can sleep in the drafty corridor while my friends and I roast by the fire drinking cocoa and exuding jolliness."

Harry blinked, stunned. It wasn't Duo's casual dismissal more than the image of Heero, Trowa, and Wufei smiling and being merry. The imagery alone was enough to put Harry's brain on a three second standstill.

Duo maintained his stoic attitude for less than five seconds before he laughed, throwing his arm over Harry's shoulder and giving his head an affectionate rub. "I'm kidding! Look, man, I know we've only known each other for a couple of months, but you're like family, too. And it be a really prick move to kick you out of your own house on Christmas Eve. I say, since we're all going to be stuck at -blargh- school for the holidays, we might as well cause some mischief while we're at it. You know... in that wholesome white bread family sort of way that you only see on television."

Duo paused. "Besides, I don't think Heero or Fei know how to be jolly. That scenario wouldn't have worked at all, and if it did, it be slightly terrifying and on the left side of weird. And I'm only cool with the right side of weird."

"There are sides to weird now?" Remus said, bemused.

Snuffles promptly made a small woof that could have translated into A) "I think that kid's on the left side of weird", B) "I heard the word mischief, and I like it", C) "Meh. Kids", or D) all of the above. Judging by the cheerful wag of the large black dog's tail and the long tongue lulling from the corner of his gaping maw, Remus tentatively went with B, or a good-natured A.

"Complicated system of deducing weirdness," Duo explained glibly. "I'd go further into detail, but it's been known to stump lesser men who tend to think horizontally or vertically, whereas I'm all about the angles. Heero smiling -left side of weird, unless it's in a maniacal sort of way, and that's all right. Clowns are on the right side of weird, but mimes are on the far, far left side. There's no excuse for mimes."

"When did you move clowns from the left side to the right side?" Quatre asked pleasantly as Trowa helped him to his feet after crawling through the portrait hole. Heero was already moving toward one of the comfortable red couches when Wufei rounded off the group through the entrance.

"When I found out Trowa's part-time job is in a circus," Duo said cheerfully, "which, coincidentally, remains on the left side of weird. Not the circus itself, but Trowa being a clown. It only makes sense if I know daggers are going to be thrown at him, though."

Harry stared at Trowa. The taller boy shrugged nonchalantly. "A... clown. And yet, I can't see it."

Heero smirked. "Hn. He's good at blending in."


Heero promptly lost his smirk as he glared at the American boy. "Hmph."

"Yes!" Duo yelped, jumping around in his exuberance. "Direct hit!"


"Damn it, Heero, you're cheating!"

"How can I cheat?" Heero demanded. "The coordinates are in your head. It's not my fault you have a faulty strategy."

"My strategy is not faulty!"

"Duo," Heero said, "A-1. D-2. G-8. B-10. 11, 42, 68, 210. Use the alpha numeric designation for the stars, and anyone who doesn't drool in his cheerios will realize that you're using L2's primary coordinates in space on every winter Friday at 19:00, which happens to be dinner time. Your favorite time on your favorite day during your favorite season. (2)"


"I couldn't have figured it out," Trowa pointed out airily.

"I think anyone could have figured it out if we actually cared what Maxwell's favorite season, day, and time of day was," Wufei muttered.

"Do you think it's Heero's attention to detail that gave Duo away," Remus overheard the polite blond ask his taller friend quietly, "or do you think it's because of Heero's crush?"

"I think it's Heero's full blown obsession," Trowa said mildly in a tone that clearly stated, 'bully for him.' "When he starts dedicating poetry to Duo's hair is when I'm locking the two of them in a closet together." Remus couldn't help but note that the Slytherin boy had said 'when', as if this was already an inevitability.

"I can't believe you know these things," Duo muttered grumpily, throwing himself down on the couch Heero was occupying. The braided boy took the opportunity to lay his head in the Japanese boy's lap. "It was a damn good strategy!"

"If you say so."

"It was!"

"Now you're just pouting."

"I'm not pouting!" Duo pouted, looking up at Heero with wide doe eyes.

Harry sighed and shook his head at the scene, glancing at his fugitive godfather and werewolf ex-professor as he sardonically quipped, "And welcome to a day in my life. Have you seen my glasses?"


The Yule Feast was glorious.

The fun to be had was certain.

And Duo... was hyper.

So far he'd stolen everyone's crackers and had proceeded to set every single one of them off in Heero and Severus' direction, showering the two glowering Slytherins with sparkling sprinkles, confetti, and various small toys that entertained him a lot. Duo thought that Snape's glares, while not as vocal as Heero's, spoke sheer volumes. Heero's Glare seemed prominently fixed somewhere between "I'm only tolerating this because I know I can smother you with your pillow in the dead of the night" and "A paper cut really isn't the worst kind of pain."

"Draco," Duo said casually, "study Heero's expression. What does it say to you?"

Draco raised an eyebrow and looked at Heero, whose glower darkened slightly at the scrutiny. "I hear humans make good fertilizer and my cornish glowsprout in Herbology is starting to wilt?"

Duo snickered. "Close. Right now it actually says 'I know how to use thumbscrews.'"

"Hn." Heero gave Duo a look.

"That one says 'Give me the time, the day, and the place, and I'll bring the lube,'" Draco said casually, going back to his meal. Duo choked on his butterbeer, speechless. Snuffles chuffed in amusement, and even Snape was hard-pressed not to look less-than-amused.

Heero thought he might have to assassinate Draco in the messiest way possible -but efficiently. The Japanese boy didn't do anything by halves.

With his superior thieving skills, Duo had managed to hide a small box of Bertie Bott's Ever Flavored Beans inside Dumbledore's beard, a box of chocolate covered cherries under McGonagall's hat, gummi bears on Flitwick's chair, and various other small items of sweet candy goodness where ever he felt like hiding them for some random person to find. He'd exhausted Draco's tolerance for friendly banter, and every time he said the word, "Baka!" Quatre would flinch. (He'd been terribly amused that "baka" had a completely different meaning in Arabic -apparently something to do with camels. It made him laugh quietly on the inside...)

And that was just fifteen minutes into the meal. Thirty minutes into the meal, he'd taken to humming and belting out funny little commercial tunes.

"O-S-C-A-R M-A-Y-E-R... Oh, I wish I were an Os-car Mayer wie-ner! That is what I'd tru-ly like to be-"

Draco promptly dropped his fork in surprise. He stared at Duo, the expression on his face this close to comical. The Malfoy heir looked like somebody had struck him in the face with a large, uncooked fish. Repeatedly.

"You are bloody mad," Draco muttered once he recovered.

"It's never been disputed," Duo replied gamely. "Pass those cookies, will you?"

Malfoy fled from the table, leaving Duo (and a great many other people) to stare at the boy as he ran for the proverbial hills.

"Strange fellow," Duo commented, giving Harry a thankful look as he passed the plate of cookies. "Thanks."

"Maxwell, you've been eating sweets all day," Wufei pointed out stiffly. "Surely you can limit yourself to one cookie."

"Hey, a balanced diet is a cookie in each hand, Wuffers," Duo replied glibly, adding through a mouthful of peanut butter cookie, "And don't call me Shirley. Ow! Tro!" The American boy looked at Quatre plaintively. "Tell your boyfriend to stop picking on me!"

Quatre blushed hotly, but when he spoke, his voice was even. "For that last joke, Duo, I think you almost deserved it."

"Quat!" Duo looked flummoxed that his has-a-nice-word-to-say-to-everyone-and-self-proclaimed-savior-of-puppies-and-Christmas friend would tell anyone that they deserved a swat to the head for anything short of baby sacrifices.

Trowa burst out laughing (3), much to the amazement of the teachers and Harry.


Yule wasn't actually Draco's favorite time of year; nor was it his birthday or Valentine's Day. While people his age got excited over presents and holiday cheer and chocolates from secret admirers, the Malfoy heir had found that he'd grown numb to that entire situation years ago. Yule lost it's shine when he knew he was going to get everything he wanted; the same went for his birthday. On Valentine's Day, he tended to get a flood of cards professing hearts and kisses and marriage contracts, and enough chocolate to feed a third world country for months. But of course, what took a third world country to consume in months, took Vincent and Gregory a week to devour.

"If there's ever a freak famine," Pansy had muttered with a smirk, "we're eating those two first." Draco wouldn't have doubted such a statement would be true, even if Pansy were teasing; it was a sound, logical conclusion. Not only would their bulk feed the Slytherins for a few weeks (if rationed out carefully), but what food they would manage to scrounge up would be preserved a lot longer.

Draco liked St. Patrick's Day. Mostly because no one could actually pinch a Slytherin, since a Slytherin's uniform was all about the green. Most Slytherins, in fact, adored St. Patrick's Day for the simple fact that it gave them an excuse to pinch random Gryffindors mercilessly, since they were too proud to ever sport the rival house's colors. And Dumbledore never said anything about it; the old codger actually encouraged it, even! And, well, besides the Halloween, Draco didn't really like any other holidays. St. Patrick's Day was just about the only one from which he derived any actual pleasure.

He expected this Yule to be like any other Yule, only at Hogwarts and not at the manor. He would seclude himself in his room, curl up with a book, and read until he fell asleep. He would then proceed to sleep in, pick through his presents to find the ones that really mattered, and spend the rest of the day in various states of flying, eating, or sleeping. Yule was just another day that lost it's magic in muggle traditions long ago, and he wasn't about to try and fake it any other way.

"Hey, Dragon Boy."

Draco almost cursed out loud. Luckily, he managed to withhold that urge. "Maxwell. What are you doing here?"

"Oh," said the braided American glibly, peering around the room in the same manner as a curious puppy sniffing around for something to play with, "I've always wanted to check out the Slytherin digs. I must say, defying the laws of physics sounded very appealing when Hee-chan told me about the whole set up of the place." He waved his hand around. "Has ambience."

"We try," Draco replied, lying his book across his knee. He noticed that Heero and Trowa were silently tilling around their beds, gathering articles of clothing, toiletries, and other things. "Sleepover or mass orgy?"

Duo smirked. "Would they be bringing clothes if it were a mass orgy?"

Can't argue with logic. At least he'd get the dorm to himself. (Not, he realized in retrospect, that it would matter because Yuy and Barton were hardly what one would call "chatty" in the first place, and anyone who would claim otherwise needed so much psychiatric help that he wasn't even sure a Malfoy could foot the bill.)

"Have fun, then," Draco said lazily. He'd planned to turn back to his book, but a twinkle in Duo's eyes gave him pause.

"What are you doing tonight, Dragon Boy?" Duo asked innocently. Such a facade was almost laughable.

"Reading," Draco said flatly. "Sleeping. Don't call me Dragon Boy."

"So we're having a massive sleep-over in Gryffindor," Duo said brightly, that annoying selective hearing problem of his kicking in. "You're welcome to join. We convinced contacts alcohol and everything."

"Me, spend the night... in Gryffindor?" Draco said slowly, testing the very idea in his mind. That would be... almost disastrous. He wasn't sure he would be able to survive the chaos of the moment the Slytherin Prince set foot in lion territory. It would be apocalyptic, mayhem, disorder in the universe as he knew it. Up would be down and down would be sideways, the sky would be green and the grass purple, Crabbe would make a passing score on a Charms exam, and Draco would suddenly start thinking backwards.

It would be insanity.

Which was a damn sight better then what he did have planned.

"I'm in."

At least Potter would be infuriated.


(1) I don't know why, in fanfiction, Harry and his Gryffindor buddies are always so indignant about the Slytherin passwords always being something derogatory against Gryffindors and muggle-borns in general. Being indignant about the muggle-borns bit is understandable, but in the first book, the Gryff. password was "caput draconis" which means "kill the snake." Can we say hypocrites? I knew we could.

(2) This is all, of course, banking on my theory that the colonies rotate in Earth's gravitational field much like the moon does.

(3) YES! It IS possible for Oh Stoic One to laugh! Remember in that episode after Heero self-destructed on J's order, and Trowa nursed him back to health? Heero said something like, "Let me give you some advice. Dying hurts like hell." Trowa laughed SO HARD.


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