Harry Potter and the Secret Link Part 17
A successfully Yule time holiday for a Weasley is rightly defined as thus: no one smuggled in baby dragons, no one brought any strange devices that the patron of the Weasley family could declare "muggle" in any way, and no one found themselves semi-permanently transformed due to a prank gone horribly, horribly wrong, there and of itself, leading to a successful winter break.
Ronald Bilius Weasley could rightly say that he had a relatively peaceful holiday save for, oddly enough, a gift from one Duo Maxwell (who had heard of Arthur Weasley's strange fascination for all things muggles from his youngest son) to the patron of the Weasley brood. It was something called 'Tetris', though Ron hadn't had a chance to find out what a tetris was; Molly Weasley had a hard enough time trying to pry that odd muggle thing from her husband after the man realized the purpose of such a game. The youngest son had made a note to himself to ask Duo what this Tetris stuff was all about, but he soon forgot upon his initial arrival back at Hogwarts.
Harry Potter, Ron's best friend since first year, was in the company of Draco Malfoy the Amazing Bouncing Ferret... with no amount of bloodshed in sight. True, the two seemed to be in a heated debate about something, but still...
Upon the sight of a Slytherin -that Slytherin!- sitting in the common room as if he belonged there forced Ron to immediately search for the Four Horsemen of the Apacolypse (which is actually a wizard legend). He expected to see at least three Horsemen arrive over the horizon any moment with a note from Famine informing everyone that he was going to be late because he had to stop for a beef bowl (1).
"That doesn't change the fact that it's morally wrong to simply take someone else's stuff, Malfoy," Harry was saying irritably.
"Morals! Hah!" Malfoy retorted. "I don't know the meaning of the word. If someone doesn't want something to get stolen, they shouldn't leave it out in the open. And yes, Potter, I do classify leaving one's trunk unlocked and unwarded 'out in the open'!"
"You're insipid, but you don't see me complaining about that."
"You just did," Duo Maxwell pointed out in amusement; the American wizard's gaze had been ping-ponging between the participants of the debate since Ron (alongside his fellow gobsmacked Gryffindors, for that matter) had unknowingly walked in on something they never thought they'd see -or wanted to see, for that matter- in their very own common room.
Maxwell. Of course. Ron probably would have yelled at him for rocking the very foundation of Gryffindor life if it weren't for the fact he seemed to be curled very, er, intimately around one Heero Yuy, who was another, more common sight to behold in Gryffindor territory. Heero was just scary, and Ron wasn't about to risk his neck to yell at someone who appeared to be in any sort of relationship with the guy. Well, not while Heero was in hearing range, anyway.
"Bloody hell," Seamus muttered dazedly. Four heads turned toward the entrance to Gryffindor Tower simultaneously.
"Hey!" Duo said cheerfully. "Welcome back! You guys have a good holiday?"
"We've been invaded," Seamus went on to mutter, not even acknowledging that Duo had spoken.
"By pod people," Dean added helpfully, though Ron didn't quite know what 'pod people' were; he suspected he'd agree with Dean if he knew.
"What?" Harry said, appearing and sounding honestly befuddled by his housemates' gawking.
"Oh, no," Seamus said dramatically, falling to his knees and clutching his head in horror, "they've assimilated Harry!"
"Don't be so childish," Hermione said waspishly, which was a mood that had permanently been in place since Ron had met up with her on Platform 9 3/4. Ron sincerely hoped the flobberworm that had found its way up her bum found its way back out again before it suffocated from sheer anal retentiveness.
"And you sleep in the same room with these people?" Malfoy asked Duo haughtily, smirking all the while. "I'm surprised you're not even more stranger than I already think you are."
"You're strange," Duo retorted good-naturedly, "and at least I'm still pretty in the morning."
"I'll always be prettier," Malfoy replied with a toss of his stupid head.
Ron would have cried if he were a lesser man. A Malfoy! In the Gryffindor Tower! Godric Gryffindor himself would be rolling in his grave! Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, however, couldn't be happier, being long-time secret members of Malfoy's own fan club. ("His hair! His eyes! Oh, if only he had a more pleasant attitude!" bemoaned the members frequently.)
Hermione approached the mixture of Slytherins and Gryffindors (the horror!) with a sense of determination, completely ignoring the presence of one Draco Malfoy as she seemed particularly fixated on Harry. "How was your Yule break, Harry?"
"It was okay," Harry replied offhandedly. "Quiet as far as life at Hogwarts goes." Which probably didn't really say much in reality, as Harry rarely went a year without something going on in the background.
"That's nice," Hermione said vaguely, her gaze going over Duo and Heero before she eyed Malfoy wearily. "Malfoy."
Malfoy replied with a jaunty, mocking return of, "Granger." Despite what it sounded like, Ron was sure there must have been an insult in that word somewhere.
Hermione brushed him off quickly enough, raising an eyebrow toward Duo and Yuy's intimate state. "You two look... close."
Duo grinned saucily. "Aw, Hermione, you can have a snuggle bunny too; it's perfectly okay! You just can't have my snuggle bunny. I'm selfish. Find your own."
Ron blinked. "Snuggle-bunny?" he mouthed incredulously at Harry. The Gryffindor Golden Boy rolled his eyes and grinned at his redheaded friend.
Hermione seemed unphased. "I read that men generally aren't comfortable with intimate touching unless it eventually leads to intercourse," she said evenly. "Cuddling is either a manner in which a man gets what he wants, or a sign of insecurity."
"You read too much," Duo said lightly, the smile never leaving his face. Ron noticed that the American boy had easily shifted away from his previous position from Yuy, whose Prussian blue eyes, for once, didn't display flat hostility, but suddenly thoughtfulness.
"So I've been told," Hermione said before turning back to Harry. "I'm going to the library. I'll see you at dinner, Harry. Ron."
"But we just got back," Ron protested feebly as the girl disappeared through the portrait entrance. "Spirits! That girl and her books..."
"I told you I wasn't exaggerating," Harry informed Malfoy smartly. "Hermione really does live in the library."
"I never said you weren't exaggerating," Malfoy retorted cattily, "I just said that it was stupid to devote all of one's time to the library. Granger clearly needs either a hobby or a boyfriend. Girlfriend, if she's so inclined. Hey, Weasley -you're slacking off. I expected the bookworm to have you on a leash months ago."
Ron bristled, hard-pressed to keep the flush from enveloping his face. "Shut up, Malfoy."
But the ferret just wouldn't shut up. "Just snog the girl! C'mon, she's gagging for it! That's how it works with you Gryffindors, right? You snog, you get married, you have a score of redheaded weasel-like offspring -hey, what do you get when you cross a beaver with a weasel, anyway?"
Ron was this close to jumping Malfoy when Harry's calm retort stopped him. "I don't know, Malfoy -what do you get when you cross a ferret and a bulldog?"
Malfoy narrowed his eyes at Harry. "Touché, Potter. I do not look like a ferret. And Pansy happens to be a very nice girl."
"Meanwhile, Ron looks in no way like a weasel, and Hermione isn't a beaver," Harry replied. "Square?"
Somehow the exchange left Ron feeling a little disappointed. Where was the bloodshed? His inner Gryffindor called for controversy! This suddenly getting along with all Slytherins bit just wasn't on.
Hermione felt vaguely irritated.
There was something going on with Duo Maxwell and his friends -all of whom are suddenly wizards who were never called themselves. Not surprisingly, she devoted most of her weekend to the Hogwarts Library to sort everything out. As usual, the library held at least some clues to the questions she had.
She went over the evidence in her mind. She'd read the newspaper with the newcomers' picture, over and over until the article was practically ingrained into her memory. There was very little said, despite it being front page news. Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Quatre Raberba Winner, and Chang Wufei were wanted by Preventers, a newly established Earth Sphere-wide prevention agency formed to protect against terrorist acts. Even Vice-Minister Dorlian, former Queen of the World Relena Peacecraft, made a public announcement for the five suspected terrorists to turn themselves in for questioning peacefully, though she clearly stated that it was in hope that their cooperation would appeal to the government. Lady Une promised they would not be harmed while under their custody, and everyone from the President of the Earth Sphere Alliance to traffic police were fairly demanding that the five suspected terrorists turn themselves in "before things get out of hand."
Terrorists... in Hogwarts? How could Dumbledore even go along with something so dangerous! What if the five of them had been hired by the Dark Lord to take over the school, or kidnap Harry, or... or any other nefarious plot?
They didn't act normal, either. Perhaps Trowa Barton and Duo Maxwell, and maybe even Quatre Winner, but that would only go so far. Duo, always cheerful and vibrant and alive... it was a rare sight to see the boy unguarded, but Hermione had seen him in that state several times. The dark emotions lingering behind those amethyst orbs made her shiver with uncertainty. Sometimes his eyes darkened with anger or resentment, glittering almost malevolently in the firelight of the common room or some random hallway. Sometimes those noticeable violet eyes would dim and dull with sadness or disparity or lifelessness.
She'd yet to see hate in his eyes. She had a feeling she would rue the day that ever happened. Duo was someone who didn't just feel -he felt passionately, with every fiber of his being.
Quatre was almost a different matter. Polite, genteel, eager to please and susceptible to other's emotions. Quatre was like the naive little brother that made one want to immediately protect him, shield him from the evils of the world... but sometimes, Quatre had a sort of disposition that screamed 'I've done things far worse than anyone else in this world, and if it were necessary, I would do it again'.
Once Quatre witnessed someone shove a little first year down, calling her a mudblood. Quatre was shocked and hurt and sad... but something almost maniacal flashed behind those teal orbs, and gone was the innocent little brother, in his place a man with murder in his eyes. Then he snatched that side of him back and hid him once again; instead of going after the abuser as Ron or Harry would have done, he knelt and helped the crying little first year gather her things, murmuring sweet words to comfort her.
Trowa Barton was a mystery. Quiet, reserved, and prone to glaring at anyone who even looked at his best friend Quatre funny. Trowa rarely said or did anything that drew attention to himself. Largely he went ignored; but when Trowa did say something, most would find themselves paying complete attention to him. When Trowa said something, it tended to be thoughtful and riddled with wisdom. He was possible the least Slytherin attitude-wise, and when he was seen in the Gryffindor common room, no one made any protests.
Once Duo was practicing his summoning spell with a wicked dagger he vaguely explained as a present from someone he used to know. He was having a hard time of it, and seemed to focus a sort of single-minded obsession with getting the spell down. So focused on his task that he was completely surprised when Ron and Seamus deck of cards started popping so suddenly. The dagger sailed through the air, thunking sharply against the wall... hardly a few centimeters away from Trowa's ear.
Trowa didn't even flinch. No reaction, not even a sign that he'd noticed the dagger at all. The entire common room was staring at him, wide eyed and breathless. After a moment, he reached over his shoulder and easily plucked the dagger from the wall, flipping it end over end casually before sending it whistling through the air back toward Duo.
The dagger thunked once more into the wall, centimeters away from his cheek. The boy grinned wildly and chuckled, saying, "Thanks, man."
"No problem," Trowa said softly before turning his gaze back to the crackling fire.
The exchange had been more than a little unnerving.
Wufei Chang (though the Chinese boy clearly preferred to keep with his culture and introduce himself with his surname first) was a complete enigma. Ravenclaw and usually seen in the company of at least a few of the new students, he spent about as much, if not more, time in the library as Hermione did. Chang appeared to be the loner of the group, preferring the company of books instead of his friends. Hermione wouldn't have worried about him as much... if not for the fact she could swear he was sneaking out books from the Restricted Section frequently. It was only several evenings ago that she was coming out of the library near closing, only to pass him in the corridor, a familiar potions text hidden between several apparently harmless books.
The last time she had checked, Most Potente Potions had a permanent spot reserved in the Restricted Section, and it was not accessible to any students as far as she was aware.
And then there was Heero Yuy, the second newest Slytherin that was somehow unlike the rest. His gaze was something to shy away from, for Heero always seemed to be weighing the pros and cons of everything from his choice of breakfast to answering a question when called on for class. His speech was rather... deadened, with no emotional connotations attached, though he spoke rather matter-of-fact. The things he said largely went unchallenged, even if someone didn't agree with him. That stemmed from an incident in the Great Hall, when the earnest Colin Creevey had sneaked up on the boy and snapped a photo.
The reaction was instantaneous. Yuy rounded on the boy, pointing not a wand like most wizards were want to do, but an honest-to-goodness gun -something illegal in Muggle England. Hermione was sure things were to end in disaster, if not for Duo suddenly making an appearance, cheerfully burbling about how his Slytherin friend was so jumpy, always carrying around a paint ball gun to scare folks, now, see, Colin, it wasn't a good idea to take a photo without permission first. With an irritated glance at Duo, Yuy holstered his so-called paint gun... but not before he subtly switched the weapon to safety -things paint ball guns simply did not require.
Hermione needed to know what purpose it served to have five no doubt dangerous criminals at Hogwarts. She decided to start with the source -Duo Maxwell himself. With small abuse to her prefect privileges, she managed to accost a copy of Duo Maxwell's records... only to find them suspiciously empty of information a normal student would have. Duo Maxwell had no birth record, nor any mention of parents other than a small blurb mentioning that his mother was a pureblood witch, and his father was halfblood, yet oddly enough, Duo himself was listed under the status of pureblood despite his sire. His progress in extra studies was phenomenal, and his grades were meticulous despite his tendency to forgo studying. What was more was that Duo Maxwell was under the close scrutiny of all of Hogwarts professors, and it was stated quite clearly in his file that should Duo show a tendency to lean toward Darker learning, a prefect, Head Boy, or Head Girl was to go to the Headmaster himself immediately.
Trowa Barton and Heero Yuy's records were no better; in fact, they were less informative than Duo's had been. Neither had any listed relatives aside from an adopted sister of Trowa's, a professional knife thrower in the circus. In fact, Trowa's former occupation happened to be a clown -which boggled Hermione's mind, as the boy didn't seem to be the type. Heero's file was even less fulfilling -it seemed to warn the reader to be cautious of Heero's moods, for he tended to react negatively towards surprises and comments that could be interpreted as threats. Both were tentatively listed as muggle-born.
Quatre Winner's file was actually a well of information. Just as Hermione had thought, Quatre was the only heir of Raberba Winner of Winner Enterprises, and the last child of thirty children; twenty-nine of which were all female, and none of them showed a talent for magic at all. There was a small mention that it could have something to do with Quatre's sisters being test tube babies, not born naturally as Quatre himself had been. His mother, surprisingly, was Quatrine Malfoy Winner, a pureblood witch who had renounced her family early on in the first rise of He Who Must Not Be Named. She promptly married Raberba Winner, a muggle man. He was halfblood, and a Malfoy relation to boot.
Chang Wufei was the last of the proud Dragon Clan of L5, a Colony that had self-destructed in the face of falling to the OZ Alliance one year ago. Despite his origins, he was a distant relation to Cho Chang and her family line, who were all pureblood. It was assumed that Wufei's line had given up on the concept of magic long before Wufei was born, so while it would seem he was muggle-born, he was tentatively listed as a halfblood.
No prior school records, no medical documentation -even Ron's file mentions he's allergic to shellfish (2), Hermione thought to herself with a mental scowl as she shoved the files back into the cabinet. Duo's parents could have attended a different school -but they aren't even named! What could Dumbledore possibly be up to? And why has Hogwarts all of a sudden become a host to criminals? Why has the Earth Sphere Alliance suddenly declared them criminals, anyway? All war crimes and warrants were annulled and became void after the Eve War!
There were too many questions and not enough answers.
Okay. She went to her scroll containing her hurriedly scratched notes and read over them carefully.
1. Something is going on.
2. Mx GP; possible his friends are too.
2. HP knows something, but he isn't telling.
3. DM probably has a clue, but he's suspiciously tight-lipped, as well.
4. W has M connections, but possibility of being in league with the family is doubtful. W is ½, therefore, beneath the M family's notice.
She stopped there and hesitantly added as a side note, DM appears to sometimes appreciate W's company. DM unaware?
5. All may be ter.
6. AD is in on it, some profs appear to know; possible plan?
7. Mx PB, but parentage M - PB, F - ½; Y and B possible MB, W and C ½.
A. Why are all wanted?
B. What connection is there between Mx and HP?
C. What leverage could Mx hold over HP to keep secrets from friends?
D. What is DM's involvement?
Current Conclusion: More data necessary.
Hermione was bound and determined to figure this out, whether Harry helped her or not.
Unbeknownst to Hermione, the curious Gryffindor prefect was being closely monitored. And Chang Wufei did not like the implication that some upstart know-it-all woman was sticking her nose in just the place where it didn't belong.
He, of course, informed his fellow ex-Gundam pilots of the matter. "She's been hanging around the library a lot. I happened to ask Flitwick for an example of privileges a prefect had that other students didn't. The list is surprisingly long, and one happens to be access to student records."
Duo nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, I've been feeling a little of the Granger cold shoulder, as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Hermione's figured something out. I fingered her a trouble spot since I met her."
"Do you think she knows something?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if she expected something," Duo replied to Trowa's quiet inquiry. "In any case, we shouldn't act any differently around her. If she finds out, she finds out. Hopefully she'll use her good sense and confront one of us before she goes off spouting all of our secrets to the general populace."
"Hn," Heero grunted gruffly, probably liking the idea of someone poking around in his business least of all the pilots.
"Relax, Hee-chan," Duo said cheerfully. "Harry has some idea to my past, and Dragon Boy knows something nefarious happened. She'll go to Harry and Ron before anyone else, and Harry would probably convince her that we're not bad people. We just have to sit it out. No worries."
"I'm sure she means well," Quatre said softly, "but it really doesn't give her an excuse to pry, Duo, and you feel the same way we all do about that. We have a future to look forward to now; our pasts may not be spectacular by some standards, but people who've never experienced true war could never understand what soldiers like us fought for."
Duo sighed, smiling softly when he felt the weight of Heero's grip on the end of his braid. "I know, Quat, but showing her that it bothers us will just make her dig deeper. All we can do is hope she'll listen to the sermon before she cooks the missionary."
Wufei snorted wryly. "Only you, Maxwell."
The American boy grinned. "I try, Wubear!"
"You always say that, and yet, it never helps," the Gryffindor laughed. "Give it up, man -I'll never stop!"
(1) This lovely imagery, I'm sorry to say, did not come from my own creation. I read it somewhere years ago, and I've forgotten the source.
(2) Hermione would be the kind of person who would go looking through someone's medical file just because she could, especially with her nifty prefect status. :tisks: How unethical.
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