Author's Note: This entire bloody chapter was taxing as hell. Nngh. :moans: Go easy on me. It's totally unrefined...

Harry Potter and the Secret Link Part 26

Timing had a lot to do with Heero's overall hesitation to break from the cover of the thick foliage of the forest that spread around a good portion of what Black claimed to be Malfoy Manor. Approximately thirty feet separated Heero from the looming entrance of the castle before him, and Heero felt every one of those feet between him and his goal as a personal offense. Black was hunched down next to him, almost thrumming with an interesting mix of trepidation and excitement.

"What are we waiting for?" Black whispered suddenly. Despite the fact his words were whispered, it sounded like an explosion on Heero's delicate pre-mission nerves. He instantly fought the urge to flinch, and he didn't bother to send the older wizard a stern glare. Black was not one of his fellow pilots; he didn't know that talking this close to executing a mission could very well risk exposure. It would be completely useless to berate the man for being so bloody incompetent.

Heero pointed at his watch and hoped that Black got the message. No more speaking until Heero gave the signal. Unfortunately, Black wasn't quite that quick as he raised an eyebrow in bemusement and whispered, "Nice. A muggle thing, right? So what are we waiting for?"

Heero ground his teeth together and finally gave in, giving the convict a deadly glare. Slowly, he mouthed to words, "Shut. Up." And then he mouthed, "Time." with another insistent point at his watch. Black frowned and made like he was about to talk again, prompting Heero to glare acid at the man again. Finally understanding that Heero wasn't really in the mood to hear anything he had to say, Black closed his mouth with an audible clack of his teeth.

Thank. God.

Heero checked his watch again. Nineteen minutes had passed by since Black had apparated him just outside the anti-apparation borders. It had only taken the man a moment to disapparate again and repeat the process with his fellow pilots before coming back to Heero, upon which began their journey through the forest and up to just on the outskirts. The purpose of the wait, of course, was to give the others enough time to achieved their desired positions and place the Gundams enough distance apart to compensate for the sheer size of each mobile suit before the spells were negated.

Muggles didn't have magic. That was fact. However, wizards -even those that sympathized with muggles- had an unfortunate tendency to regard beings without magic as harmless and defenseless; this made wizards complacent and secure in the knowledge of their own superiority. They were about to prove that such an assumption was a dangerous one, and they were probably going to bruise some egos while they were at it. And Heero was in the mood to demolish some overinflated egos.

Twenty minutes. Heero nodded sharply to himself before bringing his ever-present Glock to hand, methodically ejecting the clip and taking inventory of his ammo under Black's curious gaze. Once assuring himself that he had a full clip, he easily inserted it back into the handle of the gun and took the time to take the safety off. He placed his more familiar weapon into his right hand before taking the wand with his left. While he was uncomfortable not having the freedom of an extra hand, there was a rare chance that he'd run out of ammo before he'd run out of enemies. Having his wand prepped would be better than taking a few precious milliseconds to retrieve it from the place he stored it, giving his enemy the perfect chance to cast a hex while he was unarmed.

He was set. He nodded sharply at Black before breaking cover, going to the entrance of Malfoy Manor at a dead run. He heard Black follow closely behind him, but he paid little attention to the man as he quickly scanned every visible window of the castle. In all appearances, no one was watching; they arrived to the entrance unmolested. Apparently, those inside were confident that no one would even fathom their location.


But it worked to Heero's advantage.

Once at the darkly polished double-doors that dwarfed them, Black took his wand and whispered, "Alohamora." There was a faint click, and Black was cautiously pushing one of the doors open soundlessly.

Black waved Heero inside after checking for Death Eaters himself. The elegant antechamber was decorated to near perfection. If Heero hadn't known that Draco came from a wealthy background, it still wouldn't have taken much to assure him of the matter; the foyer alone positively screamed old money. The only imperfection with the antechamber was relatively new; a rather large bloodstain spread across the marble floor, chunks of bloody grey congealed into the liquid. A quick inhale was all Heero needed to detect the faint smell of gun powder that had yet to be masked by the overpowering stench of spoiled blood. Along one wall, Heero's keen sight detected the faint gleam of metal -a bullet casing.


"Is that...? Ew. What's floating in it?" Black whispered faintly.

Heero thought that Black probably didn't want to know, but he told him anyway. "Brains. Headshot," he whispered curtly, his mind racing. Judging by the scene, Duo had attempted an escape. Heero expected no less of his boyfriend; the American was never one to bow gracefully before his captors. However, the attempt was probably thwarted, judging by the bloodstain and the casing. Duo only had enough time to get a single shot off... but the accuracy of the shot indicated that he was probably threatening his captors before actually following through. The distance between the bloodstain and the casing also proved that one of the captors was standing at a distance, and Duo would have shot the closest one. Duo's captors had given him a wide space... If they had converged on him, he would have had plenty of time to get off a few more shots before being overtaken. Duo would have put up a rather efficient struggle, but the foyer showed no signs of it. And Duo wouldn't have left Draco behind, so the Malfoy heir was, no doubt, with Duo at the time.

This was Malfoy Manor.

"Hostage," Heero muttered.


"Duo took Draco hostage," Heero elaborated. "No doubt using Draco as leverage against Malfoy Senior, who is a Death Eater from what I gather."

"How the hell did you come up with that?" Black demanded.

Heero wasn't about to explain it to him. Instead, he gave the man a sharp glance and continued his path, making sure to avoid the large puddle of blood staining the otherwise immaculate floor. With an irritated grunt followed by a muttered word that sounded a lot like "brat", Black followed behind him.

It wasn't long before they heard voices. Angry voices.

"You mean that mudblooded filth actually took down Jansen? I won't believe it! He doesn't even have his wand!"

"Said he didn't need one. His eyes... If you'd been there, Avery, you would have seen the look in his eyes. That little bastard's dangerous. Didn't even hesitate when he took out Jansen. I'm almost sure he would have done the same to Malfoy's son if we gave him the chance!"

"Theo said they were really close friends -surely, he wouldn't have..."

"Trust me, Nott. He would have done it with a smile on his face."

Nott. One of his roommate's was named Theodore Nott. Either the boy was a Death Eater sympathizer, or he'd just been innocently informing his family about the current happenings at school without any ill intent. The boy didn't say anything that could indicate Death Eater propaganda (besides the general norm for a Slytherin, anyway), but he could have been hiding his allegiance. Heero tightened his grip on his gun as he hovered beside the open door, immediately not liking the odds of a spy sleeping in the same room as them.

"If you are quite finished discussing cold-blooded mudbloods," someone said testily, "and the danger my son was in, we have a duties to attend to. While it's safer to have few of us here, I feel uneasy about leaving our Lord unguarded for as long as we have. Especially when we left that mudblood with his muggle weapon."

"B-but Malfoy... You heard our Lord. He wanted to be left alone with your son and the mudblood."

"That mudblood is dangerous -you said so yourself, McNair. Any punishment I receive for disobeying our Lord's orders would be well worth ensuring his safety."

Right. Heero had heard enough.

Sirius seemed to catch on to Heero's intentions only a second before the Japanese Slytherin executed his plan. If he had any prior warning, he probably would have tried to talk Heero out of it. Instead, he had just enough time to make a low, guttural moan of frustration as Heero rounded the doorframe, took aim with that weird muggle metal thing and-

"What the hell?" Sirius heard Avery gasp... right before the tip of Heero's gun gave off a small explosion that nearly deafened the Animagus. Almost instantly, Heero bore down on the trigger again, elighting a startled cry from someone who sounded like McNair. The sound of heavy things hitting the floor registered a millisecond later, and Sirius braved a peak around the doorframe to see Avery lying on the floor, unmoving with a puddle of blood spreading underneath his head. Half hidden by a couch, he recognized another Death Eater in much of a similar position.

Heero turned his gun to the other shocked Death Eater; the resemblance between this man and his roommate was almost startling in the quick second it took to size the man up. Same auburn hair and bright blue eyes, the same square jaw. He didn't know what made him intentionally lower his aim and shoot the man's kneecap instead. Later, the Japanese boy would realize he had no desire to see the expression on Theodore Nott's face if he ever heard that his father was dead... killed by Heero's own hand. In any case, he chose to disarm and injure the man instead of killing him.

Even though he felt entirely vindicated in killing the Death Eaters known as Avery and McNair, he couldn't help but feel as if killing him was nothing more than a hollow victory. Keeping the blood off of his hands for over a year was satisfying; knowing that his hand was forced in this left a sour taste in his mouth.

He wasn't sure if he could spare Malfoy Senior the same courtesy when he saw the man raise his wand for an attack. He was already aiming for the man's third eye, his finger easily bearing down on the trigger before Sirius raised his wand and called out, "Expelliarmus!" The spell knocked Malfoy Senior off of his feet, the man's wand flying right into Sirius' hand. As an afterthought, the man summoned Nott's abandoned wand to his hand, as well. Nott didn't even seem to notice as he desperately clutched his injured knee, biting his own tongue against the pain.

Malfoy Senior slowly climbed to his feet, his steel grey eyes spitting cold fire. "Black!"

"Lucius, old boy," Sirius said cheerfully. "So good to see you!" Sirius pointedly didn't look at the lifeless corpse bleeding profusely on the rather expensive looking Persian rug. He expected a lot of things to happen, but he certainly didn't know that Yuy had any intention of killing anyone, Death Eater or not!

"This is my new friend Yuy," Sirius went on in the same glib manner, nodding his head toward the Slytherin. The boy still had his muggle weapon poised, watching Lucius with a hawk-eyed interest. "He's a bit of a brat, really. He's kind of upset you kidnaped his friend... but I'm sure you realized that already."

Malfoy sneered derisively at Heero. "Should have known there would be more like that little monster."

"Where is Duo's wand?" Heero demanded coldly, not bothering to rise to the bait. When it looked like Lucius was going to refuse to answer, Heero continued, "I can just as easily frisk your corpse, Mr. Malfoy."

Malfoy scowled and looked pointedly at Avery's body. "You can... frisk... Avery, then. He was the one responsible for keeping up with the wands."

Wands. Right. Apparently, Draco had been disarmed, as well. "Black, have at it."

Sirius shivered. Creepy kid... but he did as he was told, hesitantly searching through the dead man's robes before he found two wands stuffed in the lining of his inner robes. As an afterthought, he collected Avery's wand in case Nott or Malfoy got any bright ideas.

"Good," Heero snapped. "Now you're going to take us to Duo and Draco. We'll be leaving, unharmed and unmolested, shortly after."

"And what makes you think the Dark Lord will allow you to walk out of here under your own power, boy?"

Heero spared a glance toward the large French windows before he smirked humorlessly. "Those."

Sirius couldn't help but to look, dying to know the ace up Heero's sleeve. He was completely shocked to see five ominous shapes a short distance away, two of which were in a kneeling position while three more seemed to be standing in wait. The moonlight was just enough that he could vaguely recognize that these shapes were humanoid, if a bit oddly dressed in blocky armor. And by the spirits, they were bigger than giants! Even at a quarter of a mile away, it was clear that these things dwarfed the ancestral home of the Malfoys. With a secreted glance toward said Malfoy, Sirius couldn't help but feel a little vindicated by Malfoy's sudden uncertainty. If he were in Malfoy's shoes... ew. Bad thought. In all honesty, if he were in Malfoy's shoes, he'd probably have to kill himself in a messy and violent manner for being such a git.

"What are those creatures?" Lucius demanded, his eyes flittering between the boy with the muggle weapon and the things outside.

"They're not creatures," Heero replied promptly. "They're not even sentient. However, my companions control them. If they don't see Black, Duo, Draco, and myself leave this place in approximately fifteen minutes, they'll assume the worse and demolish your home. Should you refuse to comply with our demands, I'll be forced to give them the signal, and your home will be razed to the ground anyway. Fair warning, Mr. Malfoy -those that see a Gundam or its pilot are usually disinclined to living a full and healthy life. Your only option is to surrender Duo and Draco to us, or die."

Malfoy narrowed his eyes on Heero, as if gaging the truth to the boy's words. Finally, he said, "I don't see how I have much of a choice. I'm beginning to think Maxwell's attitude isn't all because of a pre-genetic disposition to back me into corners."

Heero didn't even smirk. Instead, he moved out of the doorway and motioned for Malfoy to start walking. "Make one wrong move and I'll shoot you in the leg. Any further move to go against me will be followed with a wound you won't be recovering from."

A nerve under Malfoy's eye jumped; it was the only sign to his irritation. Sirius found himself smiling smarmily at the man. "I told you he's a brat."

"Quite," Lucius sniped, moving to lead them to Duo without even sparing a glance for Nott, who looked a little pale because of the blood loss.

How could this have gone so wrong? Lucius silently fumed as he led both the convict and the boy to their desired destination. It wasn't like they were dealing with the bloody Boy Who Lived, who continued to somehow bungle his way out of every plot against his life time and time again. Maxwell was supposed to be harmless! The boy had only less than a year's worth of learning when it came to magic, and Lucius was reluctant to admit that he hadn't counted on Maxwell falling back onto his muggle form of defense. And how had Maxwell's friends found him? They just had to have been similarly skilled in wielding those odd exploding weapons, too. Realizing that Dumbledore had such... powerful looking things like those giant creatures threatening his very home on the side of the Light wasn't a comforting thought, either. To top it all off, his son had decided that then was a perfect time to execute that silly notion of rebellion that Narcissa had warned him all teenagers went through.

Things weren't going exactly as planned, and Lucius was feeling a dire inclination to blame somebody or something. His current choice was Pettigrew; where was that useless lump, anyway? Probably cowering in fear on the upper floors somewhere.

Lucius led them to the closed door of his study, ignoring the sudden tremors that wanted to overcome him. The boy stopped him before he could reach for the doorknob.

"Who's in there?"

"Draco, the Maxwell boy, and the Dark Lord," Lucius said smoothly, casting a glance over his shoulder in hopes of seeing that little bastard in a state of uncertainty. Black, at least, appeared to be a little unsure about coming face to face with the Dark Lord, but the little mudblood bastard had the nerve to not even bat an eyelash at the revelation. Instead, the Japanese boy nodded sharply and indicated that Lucius should open the door before he got impatient.

Lucius, fuming silently (cheeky little bastard!), twisted the doorknob and entered the freezing room without actually taking in the scene before him. He entertained himself with images of the Dark Lord putting the insolent whelp through hours of torture followed by a merciless death before he looked up and found his heart suddenly jumping into his throat.

Black cursed vilely, but Lucius really didn't hear it.

A dementor was there, having backed its shivering, frightened victim against the wall. The hood was lowered, revealing such a horrible visage that Lucius had never wanted to see in his entire life. Long, spindly fingers wrapped in sickly, mottled grey-green flesh were cradling the parched face as one would a dear lover. The Malfoy Senior took in unfocused, hazy mercury eyes that were too wide, skin too pale...

And the Dark Lord, instead of stopping the horrifying scene in front of him, was laughing.



Duo did the only thing he could think of doing as the creature moved further into the room, the door eerily swinging to a close behind it. Crude and to the point, it tended to work rather well in the place of diplomacy and pleading.

He raised his gun to it and confidently took aim, bracing himself for the kickback before he fired. The creature jerked back as the sound of the bullet tore through its robes and flesh... but it didn't stop. Neither did Duo. He fired, again and again and again, watching with ever-mounting horror as all the thing did was flinch back with every impacted bullet. No blood fell from the wounds, nor did the creature fall to the floor and stop moving. Nothing.

Fire, smoke, devastation...

Duo shook his head violently, trying to shake away the sudden images that came to his mind as his body shivered uncontrollably. There had to be a way... There had to be a way to stop it! There was nothing that couldn't be killed, nothing that the God of Death himself couldn't take down!

"You can't kill what doesn't live, Duo," Voldemort said softly, a note of triumph in his voice.

"Watch me," Duo growled, bearing down on the trigger again. The shot rang out, and the American boy celebrated when the creature's head suddenly buckled back... but the exhilarated mood immediately left when he saw that the creature simply straightened itself and hovered forward again. Draco backed away in terror, but Duo couldn't let himself see that... Couldn't let himself see that all of his efforts were useless...

"Sister Helen!..."

"I'll always watch over you, little one... Put faith in my God... He hasn't lost his faith... in you..."

The smell of disease and decay as pustule-marked corpses littered the alleys and streets...




"Come now, Duo, don't lose yourself yet."

Again, Duo had to shake himself from the memories of a past he refused to forget, meeting the shadowed red eyes of the monster sitting calmly in his chair as the dementor came ever-so-closer to the shivering Malfoy heir. Not one glimmer of regret or concern was in those eyes. Monster...

Voldemort smiled smugly. "I see... So it's the death of the ones you once loved that haunts you. How interesting..."

"Get out of my head," Duo snarled, angrily throwing his useless gun at the dementor, taking little satisfaction in seeing it impact heavily against the creature before falling heavily to the floor. "God damn it, stop it!"

Smoke filled his lungs, painful hacking, burning eyes as he searched the ruins that still burned for signs of life...

"Sister Helen! Father Maxwell!..."

What could he do? He cast a despairing look toward Draco, hating that the usually confident Malfoy heir appeared so defeated and resigned to his fate, hating that the boy whimpered when the creature lowered its hood, revealing a faceless thing with pustules and rotted skin and a sucker-fish, toothless mouth. The Malfoy scion appeared as if he wanted to close his eyes tightly, as if this alone would drive away the monster as its' clammy hand clasped around his chin, but the boy couldn't look away from the thing before him, couldn't resist watching as the otherwise sightless thing leaned forward, sucker-fish mouth coming ever so closer to Draco's parched lips.

Duo could hear the distant sound of Voldemort laughing madly echo in his mind...


Duo snapped back into action, suddenly driven by a purpose. His right wrist jerked and the warm comfort of a cylinder slid into his palm. Three hard taps against the table and the hidden scythe was revealed, but there was something different about it that the American hadn't the time or the inclination to notice. Duo pushed power into it, the blade glowing a sickly green as he rushed forward just as the dementor closed its lips around Draco's. Duo swung the scythe, putting everything he could behind the devestating blow as the blade neatly tore through the monster's torso.

The creature tore away from Draco and let out a terrible, soul-shattering moan as the top half fell to the ground, the bottom half tipping forward and hitting the ground with sound thump. The creature exploded in a burst of white light, thousands of tiny dancing wisps of light hovering in the atmosphere before fading completely.

Nothing remained of the dementor, save for a ragged, torn robe.

Draco, trembling violently with the knowledge of how close he came to being dementor food, stared down at the remains of the dementor. Then he roughly wiped his hand across his mouth, resisting the urge to vomit.

"What did you do?" Voldemort raged, finally standing from his chair. His eyes were like churning fire from the deepest pits of hell as his monstrous face twisted in absolutely fury.

Duo had no problem matching that gaze. "Don't you dare presume to tell me what can or can't be killed," he hissed, swinging his scythe to point at Voldemort threateningly. "I'm the fucking God of Death! Family, friends, the innocent and the guilty! Brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, lovers, husbands, and wives have all died by my hands and by my actions! I can kill anything! I can even kill you, Daddy dearest, and I wouldn't lose a damn bit of sleep over it!"

"Dad," Draco croaked suddenly. Duo's attention snapped to the boy, and he followed his gaze to the doorway. Malfoy, some unfamiliar guy that was looking at Duo fearfully, and...

Duo almost dropped the scythe. "He... Heero..."

Heero Yuy met Duo's eyes, and the American saw... relief. "Deathscythe Hell and Wing Zero are waiting for us," he said quietly. "It's time to go, Duo."

Duo didn't react for a moment, so intent on memorizing every feature of his boyfriend's face. The adrenaline was quickly fading, and Duo's knees felt like they were made of gelatine... but Heero was there, for him. Heero had come; Duo didn't need to worry anymore.

He didn't need to worry anymore.

There was just one more thing...

"Don't ever bother me again," Duo whispered brazenly, glaring at Voldemort. "Don't ever think that just because... you don't have a right to ever approach me again. You are nothing to me. If our paths ever happen to cross again, don't waste your time trying to appeal to me. I won't hesitate to kill you."

Voldemort stared at Duo coldly before finally saying, "Likewise... Duo Maxwell."

Duo nodded sharply. "Come on, Draco. We're leaving."

Draco cast another nervous glance at the empty pile of rags lying in front of him, severed in two. He scrambled to follow Duo to their freedom, forcing himself to meet his father's eyes as he passed by the older man. Instead of seeing the disapproval he feared, he only saw a bland expression that almost made him look away. It was the look in the older man's steel grey eyes that forced him to keep eye contact. His father was... relieved. Regret was there, as well; perhaps remorse over almost witnessing his son and heir lose his soul to a dementor? Whatever that regret was, Draco felt less burdened because of it. His father wasn't angry at him for defying the Dark Lord.

That was enough.

The scythe that had appeared in Duo's hands had disappeared. Heero glanced Draco over for a moment before his eyes went back to his lover, and the Malfoy heir barely paid the tall stranger any mind as Duo and Heero suddenly broke into a dead run, forcing both the stranger and Draco to follow at the same pace.

His father didn't follow. They left the manor unmolested, escaping into the cool night air as they raced across the neatly manicured lawn. Draco almost skidded to a stop when he saw the tall things that stood just outside, two kneeling giants where three more were standing erect. The stranger paused and jostled him, silently urging him to follow the other boys.

"Black, you're with me," Heero said curtly once they reached the base of one kneeling giant that appeared to be made entirely of armor.

"That means you're with me, Dragon Boy," Duo said, not even taking his eyes off of Heero as he tugged the Slytherin into his arms and planted a forceful kiss on the other boy's lips. Heero didn't seem to mind the sudden need for comfort; truthfully, Draco wouldn't be adverse to a hug or two after this shattering experience, either.

"I love you," Duo whispered soulfully once their lips had parted, and the American rested his head against the other's shoulder.

The Japanese boy wrapped his arms tightly around Duo for a brief moment. "Ai shiteru, Duo.(1)" While Draco didn't know what the words meant, it wasn't hard to guess that Heero returned the favor by the sudden look of elation on Duo's face.

Duo kissed Heero once again before reluctantly unraveling himself from the Japanese boy's arms. He tugged on Draco's sleeve before running to the other kneeling, immobile beast. Draco frowned as they arrived at the base; two long robes dangled from the thing's exposed, open belly. The Malfoy heir found it ironic that he was to apparently willingly put himself in the belly of this beast while avoiding sating the hunger of another.

"Put your foot in the harness," Duo said, slipping his own foot into the loop of the rope, "and hold on tight."

Draco followed his example without complaint, yelping involuntarily as the ropes suddenly snapped, the slack disappearing as he was lifted into the air alongside Duo. Once the robe had brought them up far enough, the American helped him into the exposed belly, which looked more like a grounded chair surrounded by strange, muggle contraptions than an actual stomach.

"Crawl into that space behind the chair," Duo instructed him. "It's a bit of a tight fit, and you won't have a harness, but I don't exactly plan to be doing anything that would require one."

It was a tight space, and Draco couldn't help but to shift uncomfortably as something pressed into the small of his back. He clutched at the headrest that was between his legs, closing his eyes tightly to the sight of the ground below. They were still tilted at an odd angle that was beginning to prove to Draco that gravity was working just fine as Duo went about strapping himself safely into the seat. Once the boy was finished, he reached out and pressed several buttons that caused the hatch to close around them, incasing them in the belly and plunging them into darkness.

"What is this thing?" Draco finally asked when the small space came to life. There were strange, transparent windows that surrounded them, somehow showing them the view outside despite the fact that the walls were rather solid. The thing moved suddenly, and Draco could both see and feel that the giant was coming to its feet. The thing's movement seem to come into accordance with Duo's menstruations; the boy's fingers were flying over odd buttons and switches before the boy finally grabbed the lever in front of him.

"My Gundam," Duo said softly. "It's a war machine, Draco."

War machine...

One of the screens blinked, and Draco was startled to see Quatre's face on it. The Hufflepuff appeared relieved to see that they were both alive and well. "Duo! Draco! Thank Allah both of you are okay!"

A goofy grin spread across Duo's face as he cheerfully said, "Hey, nobody can keep me down! I tell you, Quat, even God knows there's never a party without me!"

Wufei's face appeared next to Quatre's, his disposition almost grim. "I suppose, as the life of the party, you want to take out your frustration on the site before us?"

"Nah," Duo said casually, shrugging. "It's Draco's home. I just want to blow this popsicle stand. You guys ready to split?"

Draco could see Wufei frown at Duo, but the solemn Asian boy merely nodded. "After you, Maxwell."

Duo smiled crookedly. "Always knew you'd follow my lead one day, Wuffers!"

Quatre smiled weakly as the Chinese youth grunted before both screens went blank.

Draco was treated to the discomforting feeling of something rumbling under his derriere before he saw the image on the screens shift away from the manor. The rumbling increased until Duo released a lever, and the imagery on the screens blurred and shifted. They were moving...?

Duo was oddly quiet, and the Malfoy heir found himself biting his lip nervously. "Duo...?"

"Draco," Duo said quietly. "Don't... mention anything to the others. I don't want them to worry. I'll tell them when I'm ready, but... I just want to forget today even happened right now."

"What are we going to tell Dumbledore and his lot?" Draco asked somberly, not even arguing with Duo. He understood why the American preferred to keep secrets for now. Suddenly finding out one's father happened to be who everyone in wizarding Great Britain feared -and with good reason- was a devastating blow. If it became common knowledge, Duo would most likely be treated as if he was carrying some deadly plague, and Draco doubted that even the good graces of the American's fellow Gryffindors would stay in his favor.

"Dumbledore already knows. He called me Mr. Riddle once," Duo said tiredly. "Anyone else beside that... Voldemort wanted you. I just happened to be in the way. It's not lying because I did get in the way, and Voldemort really did want you. I killed the dementor, Heero and the guys showed up, we booked it. Sound reasonable to you?"

"... Well, yes, that might suffice," Draco said slowly, "except that no one's ever killed a dementor before."

"Well, I can't say I drove it away," Duo said irritably. "We don't have our wands... Damn!" Duo quickly pressed several buttons that prompted Heero's sudden appearance on one of the many screens.

"Heero! Did you grab our-?"

"Black has your wands," Heero said smoothly, as if chiding Duo for expecting him to be any less thorough than he was.

Duo grinned crookedly. "What god did I please to ever deserve you, love?"

Draco, driven by curiosity, asked, "Hey, can he see me?"

"No," Heero replied. "You're out of sight. But I can hear you."


"Cover story?"

Duo sighed. "You bet. Hee-chan, I... I really don't want to have to explain why Voldemort was dead set on meeting me. I suspect Dumbledore wouldn't be surprised, but... the less I associate myself with that bastard, the better."

"And you can't lie," Heero said calmly. "Understood. You and Draco will report to the infirmary while I explain to Dumbledore and his troupe that you were merely a bystander that got in the way, and Draco was the real target. You'll need to tell me what that thing was and why Voldemort intended for it to kiss Draco."

"It was a dementor," said a low voice that startled Draco. It took a moment for him to remember that Heero was also in the company of a strange man. "The only reason it would lower its hood is to give someone the Dementor's Kiss -basically, Malfoy almost had his soul sucked out of him, but for what reason? Couldn't tell you. I always thought the Malfoys were in good with the Dark Lord."

"Oh, they are," Duo said with a humorless smile. "From the shock on ol' Malfoy Senior's face, he thought so too. Turns out, Voldemort's having a little vanity issue, and it's combined with his fear of dying. I don't know if you've noticed, but Dragon Boy here's a pretty boy, emphasis on both the pretty and the boy parts. He wanted to have Draco's soul removed so he could take up residence in Draco's place. Guess he thought Malfoy the Elder wouldn't have minded. Bastard."

"Right," Heero said. "That's our story. And the others?"

Duo sighed tiredly. "I'll tell Quatre, Wufei, and Trowa when I'm ready to come to terms with it myself."

"And Harry?"

"Would not hurt my feelings if he killed the bastard," Duo said casually. "He doesn't need to know. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are my friends, Heero. I'd rather they see me as Duo Maxwell, quirky American Gryffindor. Not Keary Riddle, Voldemort's wicked spawn."

Heero's Prussian blue eyes softened marginally. "I understand, Duo."

Draco understood, too. For once, he didn't plan to hold such secreted knowledge over a companion's head. Duo had done something for him that he never thought anyone would, besides his own father. That was enough to keep his silence.

They were friends, after all.


(1) "Ai shiteru" -a very passionate way of saying "I love you" in Japanese; it's mostly used in fan fiction, so you'll rarely see it in manga or anime. I almost considered using "suki desu", which is what one would normally say upon the first declaration of love, but ai shiteru is a little more recognizable. I wasn't going to use a lot of Japanese, but it struck me as a Heero thing to do, expressing his love in his native tongue. Couldn't resist.

While I'm not quite satisfied, I think this is the best I can do. I dunno. I'm kind of blandly "blah" about it right now; it's one of those unfortunate things where one finds herself tired of looking at a project after spending long hours on it. It would be nice if you kindly readers would review and honestly tell me if it's up to standards. It certainly would make me FEEL a lot better about it...

At least it's my longest chapter to date. That's gotta count for something. (Or is that my second longest?...)


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