Harry Potter and the Secret Link Part 5

"Potter's looking a little green," Goyle rumbled, having just queued into the spectacle the other four Slytherins were well-enraptured in. The tall, thick-looking 'thug' quietly folded the parchment he had laid out in front of him and hid it inside his pocket.

Draco had taken the time to watch this action, smiling minutely before looking back at the five mortified Gryffindors. That small smile turned into a well-trained malicious grin. "Short Fuse Weasley, Thick Witted Thomas, and Magical Disaster Finnigan were just listing all of Mad Master Snape's faults to Flirtatious Maxwell. Snape, sadly, had arrived just in time to, oh, hear just about the entire debacle." Draco knew his tone suggested this was far from 'sad', and the malicious grin turned true for a moment or two. "I expect Golden Boy's realizing just what a fine piece of eye-candy he has as a professor."

"I wish," Blaise huffed wistfully. If the Slytherin pretty boy had any designs on Potter anytime during their six years attending Hogwarts, Draco had never heard of it. The Malfoy heir was more or less putting Blaise's desire-filled tone to the school-wide bet questioning Potter's sexuality he had sacrificed ten galleons to.

There was a light chuckle that came from Millie. "Blaise actually had the courage to speak with the Gryffindorks two minutes ago," she said lightly, so different from her answering grunts served to so many other students that bothered asking her anything.

Maybe there was something to that idea of Blaise crushing on Potter... Draco's look was undefined as he corked a brow at his closest friend-slash-interhouse-rival.

Blaise only smiled mysteriously. "Today is a very good day."

Draco felt something spit fire in his ribs at the very idea of Blaise having anything to do with Potter. He covered it with an indifferent snort and a soft, "I bet," before he turned down to finish laying out his equipment before him.

Snape had been quick to dole out punishment to Weasley, Thomas, and Finnigan, managing to include Granger AND Potter for failing to 'prevent the slandering of an upstanding Master of Potions.' Twenty points lost ("And five points from you, Mr. Potter, for failing to be a good role model for your fans.") the Gryffindors were anything but cowed. They were almost feral in their anger.

"Snape's getting pretty creative with ways to take points away, doncha think?" Vince snickered. Draco snorted and nodded in amusement.

"I shouldn't have to continue to break up this little party back here in the first place," Snape sneered pointedly at the four Gryffindor boys. "Ten more points will be taken from your house for obviously not being able to learn from your mistakes. Now spread out."

The four seemed to almost argue, thought better of it, gathered their belongings, and dejectedly weaved away from one another in search of seats that were approvingly far away from each other, but only just.

Draco practically heard the light of an idea flare to life behind the eyes of his friend. With slow, deliberate movements he picked up his packed belongings. "I believe I'll go keep a Gryffindork company," he drawled quietly, his eyes meeting Draco's searching gaze firmly before adding confidently, "Wish me luck, Malfoy."

Draco tilted his head to the side thoughtfully, unsure of what to make of Blaise's new boldness to Gryffindor. Finally, softly, he wished Blaise good luck.

The dark-haired boy nodded once jerkily, and for a second, composure was lost behind those sunset orbs, replaced by uncertainty, fear, and a healthy dose of discomfort. It all disappeared under snarky calm before he even turned around to stride purposefully toward the unofficial Gryffindor side of the room.

"What?..." Vincent asked himself, and then realization hit him only moments faster than it hit Greg. Millicent nodded firmly in affirmation, and the shorter, stockier boy nodded sagely. "Ah..."

"What?" Draco finally couldn't take not knowing what everyone else seemed to pick up on. True, Vincent unusually perceptive for one who struggled so much in school... and Greg was typically three seconds behind Vincent... and Millie was Blaise's confidante and naturally knew any secret Blaise had... Well, no damn wonder Draco was left in the dark. Self-absorption-slash-pity does great things to a person's need-to-know status, groused a voice that sounded freakishly like his mother. That is, owning a reputation of being a self-absorbed, self-pitying prat too intent on misery to be entrusted with anything that needs to be known.

Oh, yes. Most. Definitely. Just. Like. Mother.

So open your eyes, you little bratling, and SEE.

So Draco did. And he was quiet for a moment.


Well, at least he'd been right about that crushing on a Gryffindor thing. And he supposed, with careful consideration, the person Blaise had calmly floated beside was rather roguishly charming and ruggedly good looking in his own way.

"Finnigan?" Draco questioned faintly, though it was more out of affirmation already given to Vince and Greg than an honest-to-God guess.

Millie nodded, a secretly amused look given to Draco. "Finnigan."

"Wait, what did we miss?" Iva Moon fumbled with her possessions on the other side of Millie, who had chosen a seat in front of Draco. She and Pansy, obviously, had made it just in time for class.

"An epiphany in the making," came Millie's whispered reply. Nothing else was said as class quickly began.


Harry didn't know what to make of Zabini's sudden departure from the Slytherin side of the dungeon. A perplexed expression crossing Malfoy's face told Harry that Zabini's biggest rival for 'Best Looking Boy in Slytherin' was just as off-balance as Harry himself was.

"How cute," he thought he heard Duo murmur from the seat in front of him. The braided boy, too, was staring at Zabini as he nonchalantly claimed the seat beside...

No. No, Zabini had not been checking out...

He almost whimpered in realization.

Zabini had.

Seamus Finnigan, confused glance at the calm Slytherin at his side, looked at Dean's questioning expression and shrugged his shoulders uncertainly. Oh, GOD, was Seamus suddenly blushing?

This time Harry didn't mistaken the sighed coo that came from Duo... and HERMIONE?!

A flurried glance caught sight of the suddenly flabbergasted Draco Malfoy, staring at Zabini and Seamus. His lips moved and formed a question ('Finnigan?' Harry was sure he read) followed by a nod from Bulstrode's turned head.

Malfoy's face cleared, and he looked so... relieved. Relieved? No, Draco Malfoy should not have been relieved at this dawning realization. Draco Malfoy should have been spitting fiery prejudice and foul tantrums left and right. Draco Malfoy should have been planning vengeance against anyone of his house having designs for a halfblood. Malfoy should have been coldly finding ways to use this against both Finnigan and Zabini!

Stormy grey met jade green before the dark clouds moved toward the front of the classroom.

What the hell had that been?!

"Interesting," Harry heard Duo whisper. He quickly averted his gaze, eyes landing on Duo... only to find the braided boy turned front, slumped in his chair... and head turned just enough to have a good view of Harry and Malfoy at the same time. A mysterious tilt of heart-shaped lips, and the equally mysterious boy was turned forward.

What the hell? Harry wondered dizzily. His lost inquiry was left unanswered.


"I've figured it out!"

Hermione dropped her quill, startled at the sudden exclamation in the silence of study hall. She blinked away her train of thought, fumbling to catch her quill before it fell to the floor as she stared at the one suddenly exclaiming things left and right. Well, it was only the once... but really! Hermione had never had anyone interrupt the entire study hall for something he'd 'figured out'.

Those equally curious by said exclamation looked toward the braided figure. The boy had stood up, dramatically puffing out his chest as he held his shoulders straight back, his chin in the air as he held up one single finger.

"Gryffindors," Duo announced finally, "suffer from lack of sex. You, my dear house mates, are uptight, self-righteous little know-it-alls that seem to get off more on adventure than down and out bunny lovin'. I should disown you all!" He served the shocked Gryffindors with a self-sacrificing look. "However, I've taken pity on you poor, sheltered souls. I've taken it upon myself to get you all laid. You'll be little nymphomaniacs by Christmas."

Duo Maxwell left study hall with great flourish. Hermione, under her humiliation and shock, was stunned by her house mate's declaration.

"Well," she heard a familiar voice say softly from her left. She turned to the table, surprised to see that Malfoy was staring at Duo's exit intently before glancing at Zabini. "That certainly was a surprise."

"Give it up for Draco, ladies and Slytherins," Vince cracked. "Master of the Obvious."

"That's Mister Moto to you, you great hulking thug," Draco murmured with a grin. Hermione nearly fainted at this uncharacteristic show of good-humor amongst the Slytherins.

"That Maxwell will certainly stir things up a bit this year, don't you think?" Pansy said flippantly, studying her nails with intensity that belayed her curiosity. "I mean- well, what do you see about him, Draco?"


"You should work on this one right here, Pansy," Zabini said kindly, placing a soft finger unto something in her notes and tapping the parchment pointedly. "You're really weak around your protection runes, and you know those can come in handy."

"... Yeah," Pansy murmured. "Sorry."

Hermione tilted her head to the side minutely, allowing her wild hair to fall over her face. Beneath her veil she frowned in trepidation. What was going on in this school?


"Hey, Sexy, I've found you a theme song!"

Oh, merciful gods both Muggle and Wizard... Severus Snape picked up his pace, hoping to all gods that this... this... thing would catch the hint and. Back. The. Hell. Off.

No such luck.

"It's a bit old- hey, I might as well admit it's before the colonies were even dreamt of! But I think I'm going to sing it to you after I graduate from this fabulous institution of magic and witchery. Have I mentioned I was raised in a Catholic church? Do you have any idea what Catholics do to witches? Gallows come to mind. Pendulums. Iron maiden, the wheel, the fork... no, that's for heretics..."

Severus clenched his teeth and walked faster. Let it pass, he told himself firmly, let it pass. Don't react. It will only slow you down and allow the... creature... closer.

"Anyway, the song's by someone named Christina Havnohaira or something like that. It's called 'Fighter'. I thought it matched you to the T, sans the parts about you being romantically involved with me mainly due to age differences, but I bet we can fix that..." Lewd grin inserted here.

Hold your tongue, hold your tongue, hold your tongue...

"Do you ever require oxygen?" Oh, damn it all. Severus whirled around to face down the grinning youth, the fire of Hell in his black eyes as he glared at the nonchalant Gryffindor. The braided boy remained uncowed.

"It'd be cool if I didn't, wouldn't it?" the boy murmured with a dreamy smile. "Maybe I wouldn't have had so many problems before..."

If Maxwell accomplished such a feat, Severus thought fearfully, the Potions Master would surely have to hang himself.

"Is there something you wanted, Mr. Maxwell?"

"Duo," the annoyance corrected happily, ignoring Severus' mounting irritation. "Nothing in particular. Just wanted to see what mad experiment you were up to."

"I see."

"Right. So?"

Severus was surprised he even bothered to stifle his tired sigh. "Nothing that concerns you, Maxwell. Are we through, or is the Spanish Inquisition still on?"

Maxwell, still with his infuriatingly easy-going smile firmly fixed in place, chirped, "Oh, so you are familiar with medieval torture devices!"


Two months flew by quickly enough as Duo settled down into a the routine of a normal student. Well, as normal as a student could be when he was suddenly thrust into a world filled with magic and other strange things that fairytales had only scraped the surface of.

Duo had Herbology with the Hufflepuffs and the rest of the Gryffindor class one Friday afternoon on Halloween. It was there that he sorted out his carefully accumulated information.

Hermione Granger. He flickered a tiny smile at her over the table of potted belladonna and sekals, and she returned it with a soft smile and a nod of acknowledgment. Resident Hogwarts genius, notorious overachiever, known to break rules (but not very many), and had a tiny frizzy problem with her hair. It was rare that she let that mop of hair down, and even if she did it would still be to inform those of 'interesting facts' she had read in a book. She was all in all a clever girl... and the most likely to find out his secrets.

Ronald Weasley -not the brightest crayon in the box, but most seemed to think he had his heart in the right place most of the time. Brash, rude, and ignorantly sexist, the redheaded sixth son of a litter of seven was renowned to be a brilliant strategist if he cared for the subject enough -chess, Quidditch plays, etc. He was often overlooked in favor of his two friends; Duo made a special note not to make that same mistake. It was always the unassuming ones that got the braided boy in a tight fix.

Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, defeater of You Know Who ("No, I don't know who. Who what?"). Potter was celebrated as a hero, but the boy was both mortified and resentful of it. Mortified because, Duo surmised, he wasn't raised as a hero. From whispered rumors, Harry had been abused by his Muggle family, and he had never known of his hero status until after he was informed that he was a wizard. Harry was also resentful due to the fact that he believed he really had nothing to do with You Know Who's fall ("No! Who?!"). He was only a child, after all. A little over a year old! He was, as Hermione, too curious for his own good. If Potter even scented a good mystery, he was bound and determined to somehow find himself in the middle of it. Yet the other boy did have something special about him; something Duo couldn't quite put his finger on...

Lastly there was Draco Malfoy, spoiled Malfoy heir, stinkin' filthy rich, and not afraid to flaunt his connections. Malfoy with the Lesser Evil Jerk of the school- as in, evil, but not as evil as the big cohuna himself. Duo was positive there was more to it than that; Malfoy wasn't all mudblood hate and snooty aristocratic attitude. Those cold grey eyes flickered with a burning emotion when his father was brought up. They shown silver with the mention of Harry Potter, and darkened to stormy clouds when there was utterance of You Know Who ("Oh, freakin' well forget it!"). He was so hard to read, yet so easy at the same time.

Potter would be the guy who would accidentally stumble into a situation where his presence could make or break Duo's low profile. Weasley was, as of then, an unknown variant that required a certain amount of caution when dealing with him. Granger was most likely to figure him out, yes; but Draco Malfoy was most likely to keep his mouth shut about it until it could become of use to him. Everyone else was too wrapped up in the goings on around them to even give Duo much of a passing thought.

"Place your clippings into the containers and make sure to carefully seal the lip before putting your instruments away. Remember to clean up around your-"

The ground shook beneath their feet. Instinct kicked in. "Everybody under the table!" he demanded forcefully before the land quaked harder. Several students fell from the tremors before his directions could be acknowledged, and still some others stood in stupid confusion and fear. He yelled, "I said get under the damn table!"

Most followed his instructions... except Harry, Hermione, and some kid whose name he hadn't caught. Harry and Hermione also had themselves in Duo's balancing stance, wands out and held at ready. The Hufflepuff boy- Ernie something-or-other- stood in incomprehension.

"Mr. Macmillion, please-" Sprout started, motioning for the boy to follow the example of the other students. "Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, Mr. Maxwell, please, under the table..."

A sealed plant fell and shattered against the ground, a brightly colored flower standing out against the dull grey-brown. Duo's breath sped up as he saw the flower, even with the still trembling of the ground that was not an earthquake rocking him. It reared back, face pointing toward Ernie's back, and Sprout let out a startled denial.

Duo acted swiftly. When the tremors died down, students were slowly crawling from underneath the table, all whispering. When noticing their professor staring far off, they followed her look.

Against the wooden shelf bottom, the flower's stem had been severed. Poisonous needles left unloaded fell from the drooping opening of the flower. A dangerous looking dagger firmly pinned the flower's head to the baseboard.

"M-mr. Maxwell..." Sprout murmured. Duo felt the eyes of the entire class on him in that single moment. It hadn't mattered; he was staring out toward the south, his eyes drawn to the area just above the Forbidden Forest.

"There's a battle," Duo said softly. Students glanced uneasily toward each other. "Not far from here; just across the forest. I'm not sure..." Louder, he continued, "We should gather inside. I don't know if outside is the safest place to be right now."


Most of the students had been herded into the Great Hall. Nervous energy mixed with fear and quiet confusion suffocated the air around him, and he felt as if he could physically choke on it. Dizziness rocked his mind, but he was determined to show nothing in the presence of so many that could use his weakness against him.

Draco Malfoy turned to his Slytherins. They were all stuffed in a corner, dark and foreboding to anyone who could even comprehend drawing nearer to them. Prichard and Baddock shared secret looks that were unreadable. Zabini had taken a casually relaxed position against the wall, arms folded up and behind his head. Parkinson, Bulstrode, and Moon looked disgruntled about the interruption of class, Pansy and Iva loudly complaining about how the disruption was ruining their carefully applied make-up while Millicent looked threatening in her own right.

Draco looked to Zabini. The boy smiled without humor.

"I heard a couple of Hufflepuffs sixth years whispering about Maxwell predicting whatever is happening," Zabini said lowly, words meant for select Slytherin ears only. "Apparently, word has it Maxwell nearly impaled MacMillion with a broad sword and almost succeeded, if not for the tumbling plant that had fallen in the way."

Draco rolled his eyes tiredly. Hufflepuffs. Since the death of their star Seeker and captain, they all felt as if everyone was out to get them.

"That's precisely what I thought," Zabini murmured. "However... I did notice a dagger on Maxwell's person. It was stained with rustic fluid when he came in with the rest of the Gryffindor menaces. I've only seen plant fluid that color from the Moria- a brightly colored flower resembling a Muggle sunflower with a snout. It shoots poisonous needles should it be disturbed."

"The trembling distressed it," Iva said knowingly. "Maxwell stopped it from harming anyone, and now due to his drastic actions, Hufflepuff -instead of thanking him for the great save- is alienating him for being a potential threat to an otherwise unpromising member of their house."

"That explains one part of the rumor," Pansy said drily. "What of the prediction? Could he have some sort of seering capabilities?"

"No," Draco said without hesitation. "Maxwell's simply unnaturally perceptive. We weren't outside, and even we could tell it wasn't a simple earthquake. The ground was shaking at intervals, as if heavy things were being slammed into the ground or blown up. He surmised a battle, and he followed his instincts accordingly."

"Yes, but what could possibly be so big or powerful that we can feel the battle from here?" Bulstrode inquired.

"Voldemort?" suggested Graham, and Malcolm answered for them.

"No, not possible. Even if he is insane, Voldemort would not be so bold as to attack Hogwarts so early in the school year with the wards at their strongest," Malcolm concluded logically. "It's a suicide mission otherwise."

"Wait, could it be in Hogsmeade?" Pansy suddenly realized, and Draco recalled Defense Against the Dark Arts, where the Slytherin sixth years had been when the quaking began.

"No, it's some ways west from Hogsmeade," Draco finally decided. "I wouldn't be surprised if they suffered from much more damage from it then us, but it should be relatively safe unless the 'battle' moves."


"Oh, no..."

Duo interrupted his own analyses of the situation to turn his attention to Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley, narrowing his eyes slightly at their frustratingly horrified expressions. He saw their problem when he noted the absence of the dark-haired Boy Who Lived.

"He always does stuff like this," Weasley exclaimed in a low voice, frustration echoing from his tone to his face. "He never seems to invite us along anymore! He just up and leaves... Doesn't he know he could get hurt?"

"Just as we can if we're with him," Granger sighed tiredly, rubbing her forehead. "You know he doesn't want a repeat of Cedric..." They were both silent.

"Tell me Potter did not go looking for the source of the quaking," Duo deadpanned. Dread overcame him at the expressions on their faces. "Oh, for the love of GOD!" He began stomping for the giant doors, his face a dark cloud, when a hand landed on his shoulder. It took him all he had to hold back the automatic response of wielding the dagger and...

"Where do you suppose you're off to, Mr. Maxwell?"

Oh, figures. Snape.

"To find an idiot with a terrible haircut," Duo bit out. Snape physically turned Duo around and non-to-gently shoved him in that immediate direction.

"I do believe Weasley is that way," said the Potions teacher coldly. Duo looked him in the eye.

"Potter's gone."

Snape met his gaze for a moment before averting his gaze to Duo's neckline. "Dumbledore is preventing anyone from going out to look for him."

Duo heard the cold disdain in the Potions Master's voice. "He thinks he can improve Harry if he allows him to do dangerous things."

Snape met his eyes again. "Ten points to Gryffindor, Mr. Maxwell. Now join your house. Dumbledore will soon be sending out the Potter Hunters after he's sure the brat's gotten his experiences' worth."



What are you doing? There's a town here!

He jerked his damaged Gundam, panting heavily as he led his pursuers away from the village. He saw people swarming into the streets, brightly colored clothing pinpointing their location as they shaded their eyes with hands. Some pointed up frantically; others stood there, aghast.

Can't you see them? You waited until we were out of civilians' eyes to attack; why continue over this village?

The cockpit shook and cracked as a beam cannon caught his back. God, no... his thrusters...

One pilot would say the Gundam was equipped with an advanced cloaking device. The other pursuer would insist the hated machine disappeared from mid-crash. The stunning truth of it was that, as soon as the Gundam Sandrock began its descent into the dense foliage of the forest below -with neither pilot feeling the particular urge to enter such a malevolent forest- it shimmered and vanished.


Harry heard it before he actually saw it. A strange hissing, like pressure escaping into the air or the sound of fire being doused with cold water. Perhaps it was a mixture of both for what he knew; all he saw at that point was the damage that had been wrought on the Forbidden Forest. Trees had fallen, roots had been torn from the ground, and what little foliage there had been was smoking in burnt crisps of blackened leaves. Ahead of him he could see something blocking the path, huge and imposing and ominous... A giant?

He drew in a harsh breath when he could finally see it.

A robot.

A huge, hulking, horrendous robot colored gold and white trimmed with black. It rested on one knee while the hand that would have been rested against the rocky, hard soil was only left with electrifying wires and cords; the hand had been severed. The knee standing off the ground was badly damaged, the metal blackened around the gaping hole wires fell through. The gem-like chest was open, gaping, though it wasn't a 'wound'; he could see the darkened cockpit from where he stood, frozen in shock.

He looked at the scorched ground and choked. At the feet of the machine lay a body.

Harry hurried forward, his cloak wrapped firmly around his body before he kneeled beside the body, his teeth chattering in anxiety. Slowly he reached out, feeling the soft hair and noting the pale skin...

Malfoy? What was he doing?...

No. No, not Malfoy. But the resemblance from behind was uncanny. Hair almost as pale and bright as the sunlight, skin porcelain against the black earth, he was on his side, back to Harry. Gulping, the Boy Who Lived placed an invisible hand on the thin shoulder.

The body moaned. Harry's breath quickened, hope coursing through him as he slowly turned the figure onto his back. The first thing Harry noticed that, if not for the childlike roundness of his face, the boy would be Draco Malfoy. As it was, the other could pass off as Malfoy's double.

Eyes opened to reveal dilated teal eyes. The unfocused eyes narrowed and stared just passed Harry's shoulder.

Harry licked his lips nervously. "Hello."

Eyelids lowered slowly before inching back up in a move to focus. Harry didn't think the other boy would reply until he managed a thin whisper of a greeting.


Duo wasn't terrible at Divination. In fact, he'd like to say he was pretty good despite the disagreement of the local 'Seer', Professor Trelawney. However, Duo felt any 'Divination' skill he had was more intuition and thinking ahead than real fortune telling.

Duo could tell that if he continued his course of action, he would be lynched. Badly. By his own house. In deciphering this startling 'vision', he surmised he had gone a little too far with the knock-knock jokes.

He went in search of a more appreciative audience. The Hufflepuffs practically shunned him with suspicious and fearful glares. The Ravenclaws stared at him impassively, and Duo didn't think he'd made a good impression on that house by mocking their star Seeker. Most of Slytherin House looked downright hostile... all except for the small group in the corner...

"With an atmosphere like this, who needs funerals?" he said off-handedly when he appeared beside a girl he was unfamiliar with. He smiled widely at her. "Hi."

She blinked. "Hello."

"Nice weather today, ne? 'Course, with all the 'shut up!' and 'argh!' and 'Die, Spawn of Satan!' I'm picking up on my Duo Maxwell Has Inspired Homicidal Tendencies Again O Meter, I say rain is heading in from the north."

The pretty boy against the wall allowed a small smile of acknowledgment. "Does it always rain when friends seriously consider murdering you?"

"Oh, no; that's just a prediction," Duo chirped. "I've always got a friend or three ready to strangle me at any given moment. Makes me feel homey. Speaking of people looking ready to commit murder, where are Tweedledee and Tweedledum?"

"They've escaped to the kitchen, no doubt," Draco Malfoy replied with a tired roll of his eyes. "Maxwell."

"Malfoy. Hey, have you noticed our initials are the same?" Pause. "You can spell 'moral' with some of the letters of your name, too. That's gotta be a waste." A grin should his jibe was in jest.

"And with yours, lewd. Well, at least one of us is accurate," drawled the aristocrat, cocking an eyebrow curiously. "If you're saving yourself from murder, you certainly are going about it the wrong way. The Weasel looks like he could smother you with a pillow."

"Oooh, kinky." Duo hid a smile at Draco's expression; the other boy didn't know how to touch that one, and wasn't even sure he wanted to. "I'm not over here to win points. I'm over here because I've exhausted Gryffindor humor, Hufflepuff patience, and Ravenclaw wit. If I'm going to roll on the bad side, by Bob I might as well roll on everyone's bad side."

"How thoughtful," the pretty boy murmured with a wider smile. "It seems our analysis is incorrect; it's not the Hufflepuffs alienating the Gryffindor. It's the Gryffindor estranging himself from everyone else."

"Aw, I'll always have you guys," Duo replied in mock tearfulness, wiping at an imaginary tear running out of the corner of his eye. "Oh, pause. Rewind. I don't think we've been introduced. I'm Duo Maxwell. I run, I hide, but I never tell a lie."

"Blaise Zabini, Iva Moon, Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, Graham Pritchard, and Malcolm Baddock," Draco pointed out lazily, ticking off on his fingers as he went. "The Tweedle twins are Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe."

"Eh, it's a pleasure," Duo chirped with a wide grin. "So what's this little group gloomin' and doomin' about? Pretty ladies and handsome fellows shouldn't be wearing those frowns." To Pansy, he said knowingly, "It adds ten years to your life, did you know?"

"I did not," Pansy said with one of her Secret Looks, "but I thank you for informing me."

"That's me," Duo cheered. "Preserving the beauty of women everywhere. You think they give medals for that?"

Blaise grinned. "Are you mental? Complimenting Slytherins is a hangin' offense, Maxwell. It might just add to our already humongous egos, therefore fueling our inner ids."

"Oh, speak not of any execution to me, Mr. Blaise Zabini," Duo shivered melodramatically, placing the back of his hand against his forehead and holding a forlorn pose. "I, too, have almost met a tragic end. Trapped in a prison of a dastardly Muggle organization set to rule the universe, I was merely hours away from my... Sob... scheduled prosecution by such a barbaric method. It was only through the determination of my partner that I escaped with barely any dignity intact..."

"Have you ever gotten the feeling you overdo it sometimes?" Iva murmured with a reluctant smile, Millie and Pansy giggling behind their hands while Graham and Malcolm swooned mockingly at Maxwell's apparent 'bravery under pressure.' Blaise and Draco exchanged strange looks that Duo barely had time to read before both boys' attentions were back on him.

"Overdoing it would be to tell you I thought my partner would kill me in my cell, the pretentious bastard," Duo proclaimed matter-of-factly. "I even told him I was destined to be killed by him. Sounds ridiculous when I actually think about it, but every now and then I'm expecting him to pop up and get me killed some way or another."

"Actually, that would be blowing exaggeration out of proportion," Blaise murmured lightly, "if we thought you were lying."

Duo blinked. "You mean you're actually taking me seriously?" Draco rolled his eyes. "Wow, that's a rare commodity. Usually it's something along the lines of 'shut up, Duo, stop blowing things up, Duo, Duo, put down that detonator, no one is taking you seriously, Duo.'"

The Great Hall doors flung open at that moment, revealing a disheveled Boy Who Lived, a smaller carbon copy of Draco Malfoy supported against his side. Half-aware teal eyes blinked open weakly, and the other's eyes immediately honed in on the staring braided Gryffindor.

Duo recoiled as if he'd been bitten, staring. "Q-Quatre?"

A small smile graced the other boy's lips before those eyes closed and the small body slumped silently against Harry Potter.



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