Author's Note: So I was sitting in front of the computer, right? Twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do... And I thought, "Hey... I have an entire chapter of HpatSL all typed up and ready to post... So why don't I post it?" Yeah, I said I'd do it on Christmas day. That was the schedule. I tend to ignore schedules; don't even know why I bothered to make one, really. So... Tada! Happy early Christmas!

As of 12-25-05: Made some minor typo corrections and whatnot. Apparently, Draco threw a lamb instead of a lamp; I figured the ASPCA might fine me for encouraging cruelty to animals, so a change needed to be made. Thanks to Calic0cat and Omnicat for pointing out typos and minor inconsistencies.

Harry Potter and the Secret Link Part 22

The land between unconsciousness and waking was not unchartered territory for the sixth year Gryffindor.

First came tactile property -a strange, numbing tingle in his fingers and toes that swept quickly over his limbs and torso, causing him to feel slightly disjointed with the rest of the world. After feeling generally came olfactory perception. The air was stiff, stale, and smelled of mildew and something else that was a bit alliaceous. After smell came auditory sensation. His sensitive ears picked up soft footsteps muffled by walls and nonsense murmurs, words he couldn't quite decipher over the rushing of his own blood in his head. Gustatory sensation was next; besides having to almost consciously remind himself that, no, his tongue wasn't super-glued to the roof of his mouth, besides a bad case of morning breath, the taste in his mouth was surprisingly drug-free. Visual modality -poor. It was too dark to distinguish much of anything, even for eyes as sharp as his.

Finally came memory.

Belatedly Duo realized that, yeah, he probably should have stayed in bed that morning.

They weren't after Harry.

Of course they weren't. While Duo had done his best to get Harry out of Hogsmeade while the going was good, he'd realized that all of the thrown curses and hexes weren't meant for Harry at all. It didn't make sense; Harry was supposed to be numero uno on Mr. Big and Bad's shit list. So why had the Boy Who Lived been put on the back burner?

They were after me.

But why?

Why me? What did I do to put myself on Voldemort's list of Students He'd Like To Kidnap and Possibly Torture? I haven't voiced any strong opinions against him, nor have I said anything that could translate as me being pro-Death Eater, so he can't possibly hope to recruit me. Maybe... he thinks I'm teetering on the line?

No. No, Voldemort wouldn't take his chances on a supposed child who wasn't sure of his allegiance. Perhaps... A spy from Voldemort's faction of little potential Death Eater Juniors? The screening process is murder; I can't see how any potential spy aside from Trowa could get through that... and even then, Trowa would have to break a mental sweat just to get past the first round. Those guys are more paranoid than Heero...

A horrible thought struck Duo like a physical blow. Does he know... about Gundams?


Just the idea that Voldemort was potentially aware of such muggle means of attack pounded home the fact that Duo needed to get away or die trying. Quick.

Step 1: Assess the situation.

He listened carefully before he dared to move, his breathing even and heavy, reminiscent of a deep sleep. Besides his own breathing and heartbeat, he heard nothing to indicate there was anyone in the room with him. That didn't rule out any magical means of spying, which Duo belatedly realized he should have probably looked into possible ways to counter such measures while he was at Hogwarts. Too late now... He'd just have to take his chance and hope these guys were all about quantity instead of quality when it came to intelligence.

Step 2: Look for potential weapons.

He already knew without looking that they took his wand; however, wizards were strangely close-minded against more "primitive" muggle ways of defending oneself, or using foreign objects as Bludgeoning Tools of Death. Messy, loud... but useful in a tricky situation. Unfortunately, Duo had to rely on tactile sensory more than visual modality, and he found very little in ways of weapons. His lock picks were in his hair; if he could somehow break the leg of the chair in the corner without drawing attention...

A thought struck him. Of course! He tried to make his movements appear casual in case he was being watched. In the leg of his boot, he pulled out a small gun with a full clip already in place. His fingers went to the heel, sliding the barely visible panel from the sole of his boot and stealing away two clips of ammo in his spacious pockets. From the folds of his other boot, he found his treasured silencer, and he eagerly screwed the device onto the gun. His secreted scythe was also where he left it strapped to his forearm. Score!

Right. He was armed, but he was sure there were spells that could stop bullets. He'd have to rely more on stealth and the element of surprise for that.

At least he was armed. One gun, silencer, three clips of modified ammo, and his untested scythe.

Are you really willing to kill again?

The thought gave him a moment's pause. Over a year. It had been exactly seventeen months since he last took a life. It was something he could be proud of, for once. Did he want to give up that one thing that he'd been able to cope with after the Eves War? The idea that he would never again have to take human life... Did he want to give that up?

No. No he didn't.

But taking into consideration the sheer amount of innocent lives the Death Eaters had stolen away as if it were their given right, to steal away the lives of men, women, and children who were only targeted because some fascistic view on the purity of blood demanded that they were unfit to live.

Did he want to kill again? No. Was he going to? Yes, he was. He already had, in fact.

Peace could never be obtained without the loss of life... and Duo was willing to bloody his hands so that someone else didn't need to in order to preserve the delicate peace.

Step 3: Plan for escape and hopeful retraction from enemy territory.


"01, status."

"They have the castle on full alert," came the quiet reply. "Armed guards at the main entrance of the Great Hall and Hogwarts itself -numbering four, sometimes six. Twelve Aurors and six of what appears to be some kind of rebel faction working against the enemy are sweeping through the school for stray students. Three Aurors and two non-military personnel stationed near the Infirmary. The rebels are Dumbledore's -they go to him for orders. Dumbledore seems to have some of his men infiltrated into the Auror guards. From what I've been able to garner, there is a small faction numbering from twenty to fifty en route."

"03, casualties."

"None." The tall green-eyed boy leaned against the pillar all four pilots had reclined against, eyes closing as he crossed his arms in silent deliberation. "Two missing."

"02 and Draco Malfoy."

"Yes." Heero bowed his head for a moment, exhaling steadily so as not to show weakness to his companions. Duo, how you manage to always get yourself into these messes...

"05, report."

"I was nearby when 02 and Malfoy were attacked," the Chinese boy said quietly. "Four Disapparated after they managed to put out the flames of one enemy's robes. I was on my way to take care of the stragglers when I stopped to attempt to revive a woman who appeared to be rendered unconscious. The enemy appeared to be targeting 02; everyone seems to think the enemy was after Potter."

Nearby. God, aid was that close...


"None satisfactory," Wufei said grimly, his eyes focusing on several first year students that seemed to be absolutely terrified at the very idea that the Dark Lord would be targeting Hogwarts next. "Either Maxwell made a mistake and said the wrong thing to the wrong person -unlikely- or the enemy has heard tales of our actions during the war. Maxwell is the most recognizable amongst us. His abduction could have been something close to convenience."

"Is there any way the enemy could forcibly convince 02 to take action against us?"

"Physically?" Wufei snorted derisively. "Maxwell is too hard-headed for that. Magically, however... I've been doing extensive research for weeks. There are possibly dozens of spells and potions that could effectively brainwash anyone of us to join the other side. Most of them have been labeled as Dark."

"The Unforgivable?"

Wufei shook his head with the barest of movement. "Not possible. 02 is too strong-willed to have his mind overtaken by another. We all are."

"Too stubborn to let someone else have control," Quatre said with a soft sigh, leaning closer to Trowa for comfort. The silent boy grasped the loose sleeve of his lover's robes; it was as close as the two ever got to holding hands in public. The state of affairs was far too dangerous for either of them to risk the chance of being used against one another in the event of a hostage situation.

Though Heero wouldn't admit it to anyone, he was envious of that moment and wished Duo was there, where the stoic pilot of Wing could see him, grinning mischievously, the plans of his next big prank forming behind his amethyst eyes. The Japanese boy firmly shook away that desire -Duo needed him to be clearheaded and able to focus on the extraction from enemy territory. "And Draco Malfoy?"

"Oddly enough," Trowa murmured, "Draco Malfoy resisted being taken. That suggests what we've been told by the rest of Gryffindor House, as we originally thought, was nothing but rivalry hype."

"Should we tell Dumbledore about the tracer spells?" Quatre broached the subject cautiously, not even glancing at the old man at the head of the hall, speaking quietly with Remus Lupin. Heero narrowed his eyes at the man; he'd seen Lupin a number of times, always accompanied by his loyal companion. The large mongrel was no where to be seen.

The tracer spells. Though all of them had deemed the spells necessary, Heero had always hoped that it was just a result of a soldier's paranoia that called for them. Wufei had been the one to introduce the concept after the Chinese boy had come across the information in the library, and Duo was possibly the biggest supporter of having the spells implicated. "A paranoid soldier is a breathing soldier," was the braided boy's quip, but they all could see that Duo was actually very serious about it. Theoretically, when the secondary incantation were spoken after the primary spells were in place, they would automatically be led in the precise direction of the one who was missing. Wufei quickly shot down the idea of informing the Headmaster. "Dumbledore is out of the question," he said lowly, keeping his voice even so as not to draw attention. "The man treats this as a chess game. Potter is the piece that will win his game, but Maxwell was an unknown variant to him. He has made no plans to rescue 02 and Malfoy at all."

"I would rather have more skilled wizards on our rescue endeavor," Heero said stiffly, hiding a grimace. He didn't like admitting that, while he'd been excelling in all of his classes, he was only a novice to these magic tricks. "Potter would feel responsible, and he appears to be a very powerful wizard compared to his peers, but he has no restraint. Granger appears to be his calming influence, but 02 worries that her biased knowledge would impair her judgement. Weasley is competent and loyal, but he's even more brash than Potter is."

"Let's not forget that Potter is also the Dark Lord's biggest threat," Quatre pointed out quietly. "We should keep him out -Duo mentioned that there is some sort of destiny that dictates that Harry would be the only one capable of defeating the Dark Lord."

"What about Snuffles?"

Heero wouldn't have been surprised if the comment had come from Wufei as a jest. What surprised him was the fact that it came from Trowa, and he sounded completely serious. "The dog?"

"Duo is always claiming that if Snuffles is a dog, he would eat his hat," Trowa explained evenly. "I tend to agree with 02 on that. The dog is entirely too intelligent to be what he is pretending to be. I believe he is an Animagus, like McGonagall. Snuffles shows a remarkable fondness for Potter -perhaps he will volunteer if we promise to keep Potter out of this little operation."

"Or a notion of owing Maxwell for protecting Potter at the risk of himself, as they are led to believe," Wufei added thoughtfully. "These wizards -they take honor very seriously. Even the Dark ones honor their debts to others."

"And Lupin?"

"Unknown," Heero replied with a shrug. "The man seems fiercely loyal to Dumbledore. I do not think it wise to test that loyalty."

"The dog is too much of an unknown variant," Wufei said after a moment of thought. "If we want to do anything right, we'll have to do it ourselves. We're not so dependant on magic that we cannot extract one of our own from a hostile enemy."

"A hostile enemy with magic," Quatre pointed out. "Can we go against something magical with a so-called muggle approach?"

"We'll have to be more cautious," Trowa murmured, "and use what we know. I believe we can manage this alone if we combine our magical knowledge with our training."

"Wufei, you should be able to handle their magical defenses and our magical offense, right?" Quatre asked. "You've spent more time in the books than we have. I heard Flitwick tell Hooch that amongst the four of us, you've progressed the most in your education."

"I have a few spells in mind," Wufei admitted with a stiff nod. "Mission accepted."

"Good. Trowa, can you find a way to maybe help us sneak away from here and out of the anti-apparating charms?"

"I have a good idea," Trowa murmured absently. "I'll need to persuade Potter of something before I can come up with anything concrete."

"Tell him enough to satisfy his curiosity," Heero warned, "but not enough to give him an actual idea as to what we're up to. Potter's just the type of heroic fool that dives in head first without thinking of the consequences."

"I might not have to tell him anything," Trowa mused aloud. "Mission accepted."

"All right," Quatre said. "We leave tonight, activate the tracer charm, and take it from there." He leaned heavily against the pillar, eyes sliding closed. "It's not the best of plans, but it's the only one we have. This is a wing-it mission, guys, and as much as it irks me, we're flying by the seat of our pants on this one."


"Those boys are up to something."

"I would be more surprised if they were not," Albus replied quietly to Remus' comment, not even sparing a glance for the huddled mixture of friends. "The loyalty they show towards one another is remarkable. We can only hope that what they are planning is not in vain."

"Albus?" Remus questioned softly. "You can't be thinking that it would be alright to allow them to simply leave the safety of Hogwarts to go against Voldemort, of all wizards. That's insane! They're just children!"

The wizen man looked thoughtful as he considered his goblet of wine absently. "If there has been anything I've learned from having those five in my school for these few months, Remus, it is that they are not normal students. More people would do well to model themselves after them, in fact.

"They have Quatre Winner -a brilliant strategist, their unofficial leader, and the embodiment of what they strive to fight for, whatever their agenda may be. Quatre has the makings of a great politician, and I've no doubt that, should he pursue that career, he would be the best Minister of Magic the wizarding world could hope for. He is fair, hard-working, loyal, and, most importantly, crafty in his ways.

"Chang Wufei is the warrior and the scholar -a rare combination of learning and strength. Where most students would simply worry about how they would finish their next essay, or how their next exam would go, Wufei has been diligently learning the necessary wizarding skills to apply to what he knows how to do. He's been adapting both dueling and fighting where most would never think to combine the two.

"Trowa Barton is their spy. While Quatre has been keeping tabs on everything that is above the table, Trowa has been fruitfully studying and participating in all of the underhanded politics amongst the students. True, it took me quite some time to realize what the boy was up to, which should only prove just how seriously he takes his duty to those he considers his family.

"And Heero..." Dumbledore fell silent, thoughtfully studying his goblet of wine with a faraway glint in his normally bright, twinkling eyes.

"What about Mr. Yuy?" Remus asked quietly.

Dumbledore smiled finally. "Heero has finally learned how to truly love. And I doubt, with everything in my heart, that he would allow his chance at love to slip away." He favored his former student with a genteel smile.

"Did I ever tell you about when I first met Heero, Remus?"

Remus started at the seemingly sudden turn in the conversation. "I... I don't believe so, Albus."

"He reminded me of a boy I once grew up with. In fact, one could say this same boy was a very good friend of mine." Dumbledore sighed. "The same mannerisms, the very same ways of dealing with his emotions... suppressing what he did not think was important, or useful. In the end, he was consumed by his convictions and became the very man I defeated half a century ago..."

Remus blinked. "The Dark Lord Grindelwald..."

"The very same," Dumbledore said quietly. "The difference is that my friend never learned to open his heart, while Heero has finally decided he no longer has need of those barricades. The presence of his steadfast friends has taught him that much -as well as the influence of the one who has managed to ensnare his heart.

"So you see, Remus, there is no one else in this castle that I would be able to expect to do what I know those four young men will succeed at."

And, unknown to either man, the large but strangely silent dog slipped away, padding after the same topic of discussion as the Japanese boy slipped out of the Great Hall.


"You disappoint me, Draco."

The Malfoy heir resisted the urge to flinch under those softly spoken words, said by a man he had admired and attempted to imitate for most of his short life. No matter his chosen allegiance to his own life, he cared for his father, and desired to have his father's pride.

His father's disappointment was a harsh blow to Draco's ego.

The Malfoy heir knew exactly where he was -his lavish bedroom suite in Malfoy Manor, just outside of Madrid Shire. To anyone who didn't know better, it appeared Draco was offered all the comforts of a guest. Draco knew differently. Before his father had arrived, the door had been locked, and the window would not slide open no matter how much he forced it. He was a prisoner here. Just a comfortable prisoner.


"Why did you resist?"

Draco could have claimed that he hadn't wanted Dumbledore's little sycophants to see him go willingly, but his father was sharper than that; the man always seemed to know when Draco lied, no matter how good the Malfoy heir was at it. As much as he detested the thought of telling the truth, he realized that now was probably as good of a time as any.

He refused to show weakness by bowing meekly and mumbling; his father would never take him seriously if he did that. Instead, he raised his head and met Lucius Malfoy's disapproving blue eyes brazenly, a confident tilt to his head as he replied strongly, "I resisted because I don't like the implication that I'm to become more than just a follower to the Dark Lord."

Lucius' eyes flashed dangerously. "So you would rather be 'just a follower', son? I taught you better than that."

Look at the example I'm given, Draco retorted mentally. What are you, Father, but a mere follower? You may be in his inner circle, but you by no means have as much freedom as you lead me to believe. "No, Father, and that's the problem. I am not a follower."

Lucius raised an eyebrow casually. "So when you hear of these supposed rumors of you becoming more than just a follower, more than just a Death Eater... you resist? That's nonsense, Draco."

"I don't know what the Dark Lord wants from me," Draco said softly, "but I want no part of it."

"He wants you to be his heir."

Draco wanted to deny his father's claim, but suddenly he was struck with doubt. It couldn't be that simple. It just couldn't. Why him? Why would Voldemort chose Draco to be his heir? But...

No. No, it couldn't be that.

"He lied to you," Draco said firmly.

Lucius looked at Draco sharply. "Don't take that tone with me, son. The Dark Lord told me himself that he wishes you to be his heir -that should please you, not make you rebel against him."

"Didn't you just hear what I said?" Draco asked. "There's more to it than that."

"That's ridiculous," Lucius snapped, standing from his seat. "In two hours, I will come back to take you to the Dark Lord. I want you to spend that time alone thinking about what's more important -these crackpot rumors, or your honor in being the heir of the most powerful wizard alive."

Knowing that his father was going to deliver him to Voldemort made his blood freeze in his veins. "Father, please-" But the man was already at the door, leaving. "Father! Listen to me!"

The door slammed shut, and the lock clicked into place, the sound of it echoing around the large room.

"Damn it!" Draco screamed, throwing the nearest object -in this case, an oil lamp- at the door, the sound of the glass shattering and the lamp clattering loudly to the floor strangely unsatisfying to his ears. He threw himself on the couch and sat there, slumped, face in his hands as he felt the urge to cry or scream or even vomit nearly overcome him.

Suddenly, the lock clicked again. Draco jerked, staring at the door wearily. Had his father come back to finally listen to him? Was there actually such a thing as hope?

The door creaked open, revealing the figure of one Duo Maxwell. Maxwell smirked at him, two long, thin, small metal things in his left hand as he stared at Draco in bemusement.

"Well," Duo said wryly, "this presents a bit of a problem, doesn't it? Looks like I'm not the only idiot here against my will." He raised his eyebrows suggestively around the comfortable room. "How come you get the nice digs? My cell smelled like an old pantry. 'Bout as small as one, too."

"Duo?" Draco questioned slowly, standing up. "What... How?..."

"Think you can help me find my way out of here?" the American said, leaning against the doorframe casually. "I mean, it is your family coat of arms plastered all over the damn place."

Draco jumped at the chance. "Let's get the hell out of here."

"That's the spirit!"



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