Harry Potter and the Secret Link Part 6
He awoke in a hospital. At least, it looked like a hospital. Bottles and vials of brightly colored liquid stood glowing on a shelved wall. Medical books were quietly resting in a miniature bookcase in a corner. Empty beds made with crisp white sheets lay side by side in a long row, partitions folded back as prepared shields. His head was only slightly fuzzy, but otherwise his supposedly broken ribs, sprained wrist, and particularly dangerous concussion were numb to him. Once he had a moment to feel, he even went as far as to suspect his numerous injuries had been miraculously cured.
The presence beside his soft bed drew his attention. The braided apparition smiled softly as a hand drew a path across his forehead.
"Hey, sleepy-head," teased the ghost, "feeling better?"
Quatre Winner blinked up at the shadow, feeling his throat tighten at the sight before him. "Oh, Duo..."
"Are you tearing up, Q-Bean?" said the phantom teasingly. "Nothing to cry about. I'm here."
Quatre swallowed his tears and gave the boy a watery smile. "They told us... the others thought... I couldn't feel..."
The hand tracing patterns on his forehead paused. "Who told you I was dead? Bastards," he claimed calmly before resuming his calming touch. "I'm sorry. Things have been so hectic lately. I didn't even think to get in touch with you guys."
"A 'hey, I'm alive and kicking' postcard would have been nice," Quatre murmured softly, "but I'm relieved you're all right, all the same."
Duo Maxwell grinned. "How are you feeling?"
"Amazingly well for someone with broken ribs, a sprained wrist, and a concussion."
Duo chuckled. "Yeah, that's pretty much what Nurse Poppy diagnosed. She fixed you right up, though, so you haven't got any problem other than dizziness. From exhaustion, apparently." The braided boy cocked an eyebrow. "Have you been overworking yourself again? Q, we seriously need to have chat about your tendency to break your back while bending over backwards."
Quatre's smile died a merciless death on his lips. "I haven't g-gotten much sleep..."
"Quatre?" Duo sounded alarm. Quatre felt his heart weigh with regret and he swallowed his sadness. Duo had to know.
"It's... Duo, they're calling for the Gundam pilots' persecution. The colonies, the people of Earth, everyone except Lady Une and her followers are demanding our heads on p-pikes. Lady Une tried to protect us to the best of her abilities, but we've... I was separated from the others, I don't know...."
Duo had lost whatever color he had in his face at Quatre's news. "But why? We... Damn it, we saved them! We helped them, we...! How could they do this to us?!"
"They're frightened," Quatre explained in a whisper. "They don't know what to do with us. They think children with such dangerous abilities... shouldn't be allowed to grow into something potentially more dangerous."
"Those ungrateful Muggle trash! I can't believe I defended them in the first place, and the colonies against us! Should've let them all become enslaved! It would have saved us the hell!"
"Duo, please calm down! They're frightened, and they don't think we-" Quatre stopped and clasped his lips together helplessly.
"They don't think we're human. Go ahead, Quat. Lay it down like it sounds." The braided boy was out of his seat, and Quatre watched him with wide eyes as the other bent over him in an unknowing but intimidating manner. Anyone who didn't know Duo Maxwell as well as Quatre did would have cowered before him.
"We're a subspecies because we're all products of outer space, is that right?" the violet-eyed demon hissed angrily. "And the colonies don't want anything to do with a bunch of mass-murdering, remorseless, cold-blooded killers who would dare attack OZ in the name of them! Let's do the ultimate witch hunt! Let's stalk them down and take justice into our own hands! Is that it?"
"They think we feel nothing for what we've done! They're wrong! They're wrong!"
The windows of the infirmary exploded into shards of colored glass. Quatre would have dived off the bed and tilted it over for protection under an impending attack... if he hadn't felt the power come from Duo.
"There isn't a night that goes by that I don't hear the screams of dying men echo in my mind," the braided boy whispered furiously. "I hear screaming children begging for their mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers. I hear old parents mourning the death of their child! The crumbling of demolished buildings, the explosives I detonated myself with the simple push of a button! I hear these things and I mourn for them and I want to die because of it! And every night Sister Helen asks me in her dying breath why I deserted them in their final moments. Father Maxwell's ghost comes to me and whispers prayers for my condemned soul, and Shinigami stands silently behind me, beckoning for all who come too close to me to come with Him." The voice, having raised in fury, died in a broken whisper. "And Solo demands why I hadn't died a martyr like he had done; we were together forever, Solo and Kid, and I would have died slowly and painfully to spare him his agony."
Quatre, tears streaming down his face, wordlessly opened his arms to the broken teenager; Duo accepted his invitation without hesitation, burying his face into Quatre's soft, thin shoulder, shaking in contained sorrow.
"I see the disappointment for my violent choice to end OZ's tyranny in my father's face as he dies," the blond boy whispered, heart-broken. "And I can hear the dying screams of the innocence I have stolen away from the colonies I've destroyed in saddened fury. My mother sings me lullabies until my weariness is gone, until her singing stops. And still it holds no candle to the misery you -all of you- radiate for days on end.
"But Duo, Duo, you hold your innocence so well-"
"I have no innocence," the boy rasped.
"You do," Quatre said with a sad smile, tangling his fingers through the other's braid. "You do, Duo. That's what makes you special. No matter what world-weary events that have occurred in your life, you will always hold that small speck of something that makes your soul less blackened than you think. We all do. And we'll always have that. No one can take it away from us without our explicit permission."
Both were silent for a moment. Then Duo smiled into Quatre's shoulder and lifted his head minutely to eye the blonde from the corner of his own eye.
"If I'm an innocent," Duo said heavily, "you're a bloody saint."
They both chuckled.
"Not one of us is higher than the other," Quatre said after their laughter died down. "Always remember that. You and I are equals, as we are equals to even Heero, Trowa, and Wufei."
"If you keep telling me this," Duo said softly, "I think I'll start considering it."
"Well, consider yourself constantly reminded."
Neither boy inside the infirmary noticed the two opposites listening from the outside. One's hand covered the other's mouth to prevent interruption, but there was no need; the other was just as curiously stunned as the one.
Slowly one removed his hand and waved the other in the opposite direction. Draco expected a fight from Potter, so it was surprising that the Boy Who Lived followed without question.
"What was that?" the Boy Who Simply Couldn't Die asked himself ponderously, staring into the distant moon as if looking for answers.
"An emotional breakdown due to betrayal brought about by ignorant Muggles of the panicky variety, I would say," Draco drawled in reply, drawing an irritate glare from Potter.
"But didn't you hear them? Duo said he-"
"Something about being a blood-thirsty killer without feelings, yes?" Draco replied dully, rolling his eyes at Potter's shocked countenance. "Yes, well, that was the general populace's belief, if you recall. Clearly, he does regret what he's done in his life. A little too much, I should say. Doesn't he know bitter guilt such as that lead to kamikaze postal workers and the like?"
Potter stared at him incredulously. "This is serious, Malfoy!"
"I'm well aware of that," Draco snorted. "However, don't you think Maxwell would have been kept from this school if Dumbledore even suspected that Maxwell could be a threat to us? I may not think much of the old codger, but I'll say this much: that man is a crafty old fart."
"Indeed, Mr. Malfoy. Though I'd much prefer the term 'artful but respectable older gentleman.' It has a certain ring of respect, don't you think?"
Draco's eyebrows shot up as he was suddenly facing the headmaster over Potter's shoulder.
Draco grimaced. Oh, wasn't this just grand?
Dumbledore's twinkling blue eyes studied the blond boy with an oddly amused smile. "Indeed. I do believe it would be imperative for the two of you to return to your respected dorms. I believe I need not emphasis the importance of keeping this entire situation from prying ears."
Draco stared expressionlessly at the headmaster. Does he really expect Potter to keep this secret from the dastardly duo? Of course, I suspect Potter is thinking the same as me at this moment. Otherwise, after a long, considerable pause, Draco slowly nodded his consent. Potter's head bobbed absently, a strange suspicious look flying toward Draco from the corner of those wide, green eyes. And give the smart little Slytherin a treat.
"Excellent," Dumbledore cheered, smiling an enigmatic smile before shooing the two of them away. "Off you go then. Have restful nights, the both of you."
The two continued on the same direction without much of a word to each other until they came to their separate paths. Potter hesitated from the stairs up, turning to give Draco a warning look. "Malfoy-"
"The same to you, Potter," Draco sneered before beginning his descent, not allowing the green-eyed boy a chance to reply.
Things just got a little more interesting.
Quatre watched the odd golden ball's fluttering wings in awe, holding his hand toward the darting object with slow, delicate ease. Amazingly enough, the Snitch deigned it worthy to hover over the small blonde's calloused hands. It came to rest softly in his cupped palm.
"It's so small," remarked the boy softly, his eyes lifting to meet the laughing violet gaze of his friend.
"It's from a game called Quidditch," Duo replied with a wide grin. "Very popular sport here. Not generally a fan of sports, but the broomsticks are just awesome. There's a game in three weeks, too! If Madam Pomfrey lets you out of the infirmary before you're twenty, maybe you can come."
Quatre smiled at his friend dazedly, still reeling from the fantastic tale Duo had woven for him; fantastic, however, very much real. Duo had proven this much with a simple flick of his stick -wand- to cause a delicate crystal glass filled with an odd blue liquid to... levitate.
Once the container was safely on the solid shelf, a harried woman in a nurse's outfit had appeared behind Duo to pop him non-too-gently on the back of his head.
"Mr. Maxwell, need I remind you that your wand is NOT a toy, and the infirmary is the farthest thing from a PLAYGROUND!"
"Ow," Duo had groaned softly, clutching his head. "Jeez, Poppy! Doncha know that's soft territory?"
"More like cemented, it is," defended the nurse hotly before moving into a blocked off section of the medical wing.
"She loves me," Duo had commented with a pleased grin. Quatre had humored him with a barely serious nod.
"We can send them owls," Duo pondered to himself out loud, startling Quatre from his own musings. "Owls can freaking well find everyone, I think. Grab an owl, give it a letter, tell the owl who it goes to... yeah, an owl can find 'bout damn near anyone."
"Are you sure owls can find those three? Especially Trowa; he's too good at blending in," Quatre fretted quietly.
"Hey, found me, didn't it? Granted, Trowa's into uber-espionage, but I'm confident the super-smart delivery owls can find Trowa. Plus: animal magnet." Duo's grin dampened a little. "It's the other two I'm worried about. Heero will sooner shoot an owl than let it near; Wufei would ignore it on the general sense of it being an oddity."
"Well, you can always send this friend of yours a howler," came a drawling familiar voice from the doorway. Duo blinked and glanced over his shoulder at the cool icy blond Slytherin. "Howlers are certainly hard to ignore."
"Remind me what a howler is," Duo jibbed, and Malfoy smirked slightly.
"A form of letter used to reprimand the recipient through public humiliation in the form of a red enveloped letter that adopts the voice of the sender and reads itself aloud in the tone of said sender's express anger, resentment, disgust, disappointment, and so on. It's very useful when attempting to put one of the many Weasleys in line. May I see that?" Malfoy suddenly requested, pointing to the golden Snitch resting in the palm of Quatre's hand. Wordlessly Quatre held it out to him.
"Wicked," Duo commented in awe as the Snitch tried vainly to dart away before Draco's fingers could close in around it. Draco's hand snapped forward automatically and snatched it in mid-flight. "You'll have to help me with that sometime."
"Is there something wrong with it?" Quatre asked curiously, watching the stranger study the golden winged-ball intently for a moment before opening his palm. The Snitch immediately fluttered to Quatre and nestled into the many folds of his hospital gown.
"There shouldn't be," Draco said offhandedly, staring at the strange ball with an oddly closed look. "I've never seen a snitch act as if it's an actual animate being craving for human attachment and comfort. I've certainly never seen it actively seeking out any form of being like it has at this moment."
Quatre nodded, his brows drawn together in a furrow before clearing as he looked toward the stranger. "I don't believe we've met. My name is Quatre Raberba Winner. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Draco Malfoy," he replied smugly, nodding his greeting toward the bedridden blond boy. "Likewise."
Duo glanced between the two guiltily. "That was the part I was supposed to do, wasn't it?"
"I'm sure you were occupied with more important ponders," Quatre said with a secret smile.
Draco snorted. "More like he was too busy plotting the immediate harassment of the unfortunate howler recipient."
"You're too kind," Duo said sarcastically.
"There's something I never hear uttered when spoken of," Draco smirked. To Quatre, he explained haughtily, "I'm not very well-liked. Some would go as far as to say I'm outright cruel and unjustly prejudice against those who aren't me."
"Don't forget vain and pompous," Duo chirped.
"Yes, and who can forget that?"
Quatre smiled at both of them serenely. "Oh, I'm sure there's more to you than that, Mr. Malfoy."
"I hope you aren't willing to bet galleons on it, Mr. Winner."
"And I hope you utter rejects don't keep this 'mister' stuff up, or Mr. Maxwell will be forced to take Mr. Magic Stick and shove it up collective Mr. Piehole." Duo rolled his eyes. "The both of you are almost seventeen years old. Grow down, people!"
"Shall I regress to the mentality of a common plebeian, or are you simply requesting more familiarity with a peer I've just recently become acquainted?" Draco sneered, almost polite in his ridicule.
Duo flexed his fingers. "Right. Will it be my magic stick or your magic stick?"
"Your magic stick with preferably your so-called 'piehole'."
Duo stared incredulously. "I can't believe you... You just told me to go-"
"Duo!" came the startled admonishment from Quatre, who'd been listening to the conversation with sick fascination one would fix on a car wreck.
"-myself with my wand without losing that freaky aristocratic I Am Better Than You Therefore I Shan't Resort To Plebeian Insults attitude!"
Draco's glance said it all. "This means what in the language of your people?"
Duo... swooned. "My Heero!"
Quatre took pity on Draco when he noted the feeling of confusion coming from the taller blond. "Duo appreciates anyone who can coolly tell him he's something of an idiot without outright saying it. Though sarcasm is the lowest form of humor, it's Duo's favorite form."
Expressionless eyes met Quatre's for a moment. Quatre knew the boy was slightly surprised and a tad suspicious, but the Winner heir couldn't fathom why.
"The rivalry between Slytherin and Gryffindor must be paradise," Malfoy surmised with a slight smirk. "Slytherins thrive on sarcasm."
"And the use of it with Gryffindors short tempers. The compound's very explosive," Duo chimed with a grin. "Which, when you think of it on a totally insane level, is ironic considering we have Potions together."
"I'm positive Professor Snape is damning your theory as we speak," Draco added calmly.
Severus Snape, feared Potions Master of Hogwarts and all around most hated man that made this lonely corner of the Earth his home, relaxed in a chair commonly seen on the white sands of beaches, sipping a rather colorful beverage with a small umbrella as he carelessly reached for a meticulously written sixth-year summer essay. He merely glanced at the name on the paper before balling it up and nonchalantly tossed it into the direction of a garbage can.
It neatly bounced off of the orange and white hoop-and-net set above the can. He "Hmmm..."ed before easily marking, "Zabini, Blaise" a B.
Some would disagree with his method of grading... that is, if he ever let onto his method of grading, which was unlikely in the sense of Voldemort renouncing violence and joining Ms. Queen of the World in her urge to spread complete pacifism. While on the subject of Ms. Peacecraft, he couldn't help but note that only a teenager could attempt such an impossible and foolish goal.
Absolute Peace. Yeeeaahh. Right.
He took another essay into his hand, glanced at it, snorted, balled the parchment up, and tossed. Honestly, he wasn't even aiming for the damn can and the bloody thing still went through the hoop with an audible whisk. "Granger, Hermione", yet another A.
Damn Fate. Or O'Toole; Severus thought it was only fair to damn Murphy while he was at it.
Then he evilly marked a minus beside the A. He really couldn't allow a Gryffindor know-it-all to get a leg up, could he? It wouldn't mold with his "I Could Care Less About Your Puppy Dying And Your Mother's Bout Of Chronic Illness This Summer, It Doesn't Give You The Excuse To Fog Up Homework" persona.
Another paper. Another snort. Another shoot. This time the essay slammed into the backboard and bounced away from the trash can, useless. "Weasley, Ronald" earns an ugly C-.
He relaxed into his beach chair, margarita in hand, and sighed.
Ahh. Life was far from wonderful, but... it was acceptable.
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