Duo made his way slowly and carefully back into the Slytherin common room. There was no one there when he arrived and he realized he had once again managed to get in and out of the school without anyone being the wiser, with the exception of Heero, Dumbledore, and perhaps Harry, who had the Marauders Map in his possession. Allowing a deep, almost dark sigh to escape his lips, he leaned back against the wall closest to the shadows of the fireplace and closed his eyes. Tonight had been terrible. He had once again delved into the world that had once held so much appeal for so many, and which now only spelled death. In his time with the Dark Lord, Duo had killed more than once. Those whom he could not pretend to have killed and help them at later times had found themselves on the receiving end of a quick and painless death. While Duo was a skilled killer and was able to kill without a second thought, he had found himself enjoying his darker side more and more with each new assignment. He could feel his normally cheerful exterior fading away with each use of his more darker and twisted personality.
"Duo?" a light, sleep rumbled voice called from the shadows of the stairway leading to Draco's more private quarters. Duo reopened his violet orbs to see Draco standing at the steps, looking a little lost and very sleep rumbled. He gave Draco a tiny smile before feeling it fade from his lips. He had trouble keeping his once constant smile on his lips anymore. Time with the Death Eaters had caused himself to fall into a mode of smirks and sneers. Smiles were almost non-existent to the former Deathscythe pilot. He had also realized the news that he would have to pass along to his dorm-mate and pretend boyfriend this night, and it wasn't a job he relished having to do.
"Yeah, Drac, it's me," Duo answered, moving away from the shadows and showing his black Death Eater robes off in the soft light from the fireplace. Draco moved over toward his long-haired friend and with a well placed spell, he waved off the robes and sent them back into their hiding place inside of his trunk. After a moment, he turned serious gray eyes on Duo's face, noting the lines of strain and darkness that had seemed to come out on the former pilot's face.
"Things must have gone pretty bad, you don't look so well," Draco said, leading Duo over to the common room couch so that he could sit down and take a breather. Duo allowed himself to be moved, realizing that the more he allowed Draco to do things for him, the harder it would be for him to tell his newest friend that he was the main cause in his father's death.
"You have no idea. I found myself on the receiving end of the Cruciatus curse this evening. I also wound up having Heero catch me in the act." Draco's eyes widened and concern colored them as he looked Duo over.
"Are you all right? Do you need to see Madam Pomfrey?" he asked. Duo couldn't help the small smile that fell from his lips at his friends concern, yet he shook his head at the thought,
"No, I'm all right, Drac. Really, you don't need to worry. After all, we are both supposed to be in bed. What would she say if we came to that point when we have to explain why we are there? I can't very well tell her the truth. She'd never believe that Dumbledore would allow someone as young as myself to be a part of the Order, let alone fight for him and work undercover in it." Draco sighed and after a moment, he relented.
"Your right. Yet I expect you to go see someone if things get worse for you. We don't need you out of commission for Dumbledore. I think there are a lot of people counting on Snape and you." Duo swallowed deeply at those words and looked away from the boy beside him. While Duo had become more of a darker person, he had been turning Draco into more of the kind of person he used to be. It was becoming rather ironic, at least to Duo's frame of mind. Granted, Draco never acted this way in front of others, but it was a step in a direction almost no one had expected him to be going in. One even Duo couldn't have expected. Before Draco could stand and head back to his room, Duo held out his hand, snagging the soft gray shirt Draco was wearing by the edge and effectively stopping him. Draco looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and concern in his eyes. "What is it?" he asked, turning to face his friend, who seemed surprised he had reached out to stop him in the first place.
"There is something I need to tell you. Something that you have to know before I can get some sleep this night. It's important." Draco seemed to stare at him as if he'd gone mental. There was absolutely nothing that couldn't wait until morning, especially if it had anything to do with Death Eater business. After all, Draco had just barely escaped that fate, thanks to Duo's arrival.
"Have you gone daft, Maxwell? It's late, or early, however you want to look at it, and I'm fairly certain that anything you want to talk about can wait until the morning." For a moment it appeared as if Duo was going to agree with the other boy and leave things as they were. Yet Duo's face seemed to become set in stone as he turned his full gaze on Draco, his violet eyes deadly serious.
"It could, Drac, but I won't let it. This is really serious. I'm certain you believe there isn't much more important than your sleep, but actually, this is a lot more important than even that." Draco seemed to turn skeptical eyes on him, but Duo went on, refusing to be detoured in any way. "Your father was a part of the team I was with tonight, Drac," Duo began slowly, almost as if he wasn't certain the correct words could fall from his lips. Draco sat down very slowly then, his eyes locked on Duo. The seriousness of his tone having effectively brought about how serious this was.
"He's out of Azkaban? But I thought the Ministry was going to take care of it? That they were going to make certain neither he nor any of the other Death Eaters could escape this time, even without the Dementors." A small trace of fear could be heard in Draco's voice. The torture his father had put him through was still fresh in his memory, even if it had been a while ago. Duo drew a deep, calming breath, before continuing on.
"He was out of Azkaban," Duo muttered quietly. Draco seemed to relax at those words.
"Then that means he's been sent back. No harm done, then," Draco said, moving to stand up once again. Duo shook his head, his long brown hair seeming to swirl around his shoulders with the move. Draco found himself pausing, looking at Duo with eyes that almost seemed to scream for him to not go on. Yet Duo couldn't stop, not even if it would hurt his friend. The only one who could really understand the darkness inside of him. Duo couldn't believe he was going to say something like this without being able to say there was nothing he could have done. If he hadn't of been messing around with Heero, he could have prevented all of this. It was his fault Lucius had died.
"He was killed tonight, Draco. One of those we were after, killed him before he could kill them." Draco's face fell, but he pulled it together, just as a real Malfoy, and refused to cry.
"You did everything you could have, I'm certain, Duo. It just meant my father wasn't as skilled as he always said he was." Duo froze and as his eyes slid close to hide Draco's expression, he finished his tale.
"That's just it, I didn't do anything. I wasn't even there. I was busy with Heero at that time and wasn't with the others as I should have been." He hung his head, letting his jaw touch his chest. It was while he was like this that the unexpected happened. The sharp punch came out of nowhere, connecting with Duo's jaw with a resounding snap, causing his head to come up and his eyes to open. Pain radiated from his jaw, but without as much power as Heero had thrown his way. Needless to say, he'd have a bruise there anyway. It was also at that moment that the last of his compassion flew out the proverbial window as Draco's words sank into his pain fogged brain.
"You call yourself a champion for peace! You are nothing more than a Death Eater now. You enjoy the kill, admit it. Otherwise, there would be a lot fewer deaths reported in the Daily Prophet. You've become You-Know-Who's right hand man, through and through. You probably even stayed away tonight because you knew my father was going to die." Duo's eyes glazed over with ice, and his countenance seemed to freeze over. Duo stood up and glanced out the small window and into the courtyard.
"Perhaps you are right, Malfoy. I'm just a killer now. A Death Eater in the making. Yet remember this, when Voldemort falls and peace can at last reign, that it was a killer who helped bring it about." That said Duo stood up and left the room, without a backward glance. Draco, left to himself, sank onto the couch and cried, not for the father he had lost, but for his mother, who would be lost without her husband.
Dumbledore found himself frowning as he watched Duo's behavior fall from happy-go-lucky to dark and brooding. He couldn't understand what had happened with the boy he had first met. The school was a becoming a rather unpleasant place to be in when in Duo's presence. The first years refused to even walk down the same halls as Duo, for fear of his displeasure. Second and third years turned and went in a different direction whenever Duo wore a frown on his lips. Even several teachers seemed to give him more space, due to his ever present scowl when he was around his fellow classmates. All in all, Hogwarts had never seen such a time until this very moment. Shaking his head, he motioned toward the wall, gaining the attention of one of the portraits, this one of a former Headmistress.
"I would like you to get Mr. Maxwell for me," Dumbledore said to her. She nodded and slipped out of her portrait. Dumbledore knew that she would not be handling the job entirely on her own, but she was most certainly going to make certain it was done. If anything, Duo would be here before the end of the hour, seeing as he would be coming from all the way down in the dungeons, from his potions class. Dumbledore didn't have long to wait either. Almost as if Duo realized he would do well not to dally on his way here, he arrived within the hour, just as Dumbledore had predicted. Duo gave the password, which was now sugar babies, and went up the staircase without much hesitation. Yet along the way to Dumbledore's office, many students had moved far out of the Slytherin's way. Knocking on the door with a single, loud tap, Dumbledore knew this meeting was not going to be an easy one.
"Enter," Dumbledore called in his clear, calm voice. Even though he wanted to discuss something serious with Duo, he didn't want the boy to turn around and leave without hearing him out. Duo entered, his expression closed to everyone. The bright expressions that had once shown on Duo's face without little trouble were missing from him. Dumbledore felt himself frown even more, although he didn't physically show it.
"You summoned me, Professor?" Duo asked, his violet eyes like dark ice. Dumbledore sighed softly and nodded.
"I was wondering why you haven't been to our classes for the last two weeks, Mr. Maxwell?" Dumbledore asked, looking at Duo with serious eyes that seemed to twinkle with less mirth with each passing day.
"I've been busy for the order, Professor. I'm sorry I haven't been keeping up with my studies." Dumbledore shook his head at those words.
"On the contrary, Duo. With the exception of my class, you've been performing exceptionally well in all classes. You even got O's in all of your O.W.L.'s except for the one in History Of Magic, which is understandable, I must say." Duo simply shrugged off the good news.
"It was simple memorization, Professor. I just needed to recall the right things at the right moments. Sadly, I slept though History of Magic more times than I like to admit." While Dumbledore could feel himself smile at those words, it wasn't as wide as it could have been. There was no humor in Duo's expression. It was just as bad as Heero's, which was saying a lot. Heero was another one who refused to show his feelings, but at least he wasn't always showing an air of danger that seemed to scare even the Hogwarts ghosts.
"Modest, I see. In any case, there is something I wish to show you, Duo. If you would follow me," Dumbledore said as he led the way out of his office and along a lot of twisting paths through the castle. It was obvious that this path was taken a lot by the Professor, but Duo had no clue why he was being led along the path. He had work to do and taking time out to do things with Dumbledore wasn't wise. Yet he had to humor him, seeing as he couldn't get away with this without Snape blowing his cover wide open with a sawed-off shotgun. In the last couple of days, Snape had been trying to get Duo to leave the Death Eaters. Snape had even gone so far as to mention that Duo was losing himself to the Dark Lord and that eventually, there would be nothing left of the boy but a puppet that the Dark Lord controlled. Duo had laughed off his words, knowing that the only person in control of himself, was himself. Shinigami never allowed anyone to control him. Why couldn't anyone accept that? Only death could control him, and Voldemort wasn't her.
"Professor, where are we going?" Dumbledore stopped at a single silver door and smiled softly. He then waved his hand and several locks seemed to open at once. Duo blinked and was impressed for a second at how good he was and just how much he still had to learn. It wasn't a real surprise. After all, Dumbledore was the only one Voldemort feared, and he had every right to fear him. Even Duo was nervous around Dumbledore for fear of what might come of it. No matter how much he wanted to be just like Dumbledore, there was a lot more that he didn't know and would possibly never learn, not at this moment anyway.
"You shall see, Duo," was all Dumbledore said. He then led the way through a small maze of old items, some even Duo was surprised to see. The whole history of the wizarding world was behind this door. "This is the history of Hogwarts. Thanks to the former Headmasters and mistresses, this collection has been collected for a very long time. This shall pass to you once Hogwarts accepts you as its Headmaster in your time. You'll add your own items to here, I'm certain. Yet there is one item in particular I want you to see." Coming around a corner, Duo was soon treated to the sight of a single item which was covered by a white cloth. Dumbledore motioned for Duo to stand just a little ways away from it. He then motioned with his hand and the cloth fell from around the item, revealing a large mirror. Duo recognized it instantly for what it was. At least, he believed he knew what it was. Yet as he stared at it, he realized that it couldn't be what he had first thought. For nothing showed in the mirror, not even his own reflection. In fact, the longer he stared into it the longer nothing showed. It was almost as if there was nothing there for him to see. He turned to face Dumbledore, who was standing behind him. He blinked cold eyes at him and raised an eyebrow.
"What was this? Some broken joke mirror you wanted me to see? Seems you have a really twisted sense of humor these days, Professor. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why you would show me something like this." While Duo had his back to the mirror, an image soon began to take shape. While Duo stood there, his alter image seemed to be a total opposite of the one who was standing there, facing Dumbledore. Duo's black school robes, green and silver wrap, and lose brown hair was replaced with an image of Duo in flowing black robes in a style almost equal to Dumbledore's. His long brown hair was still lose, but it was more silver in color instead of its rich chestnut color. From the slightly turned profile, one could see half moon glasses resting over twinkling violet eyes. An old witches hat that bent backwards rested over the crown of his head in place of his once preferred ball cap. If one didn't know better, and knew that Dumbledore had a long beard to match, they would swear they were looking at Dumbledore himself. Dumbledore caught sight of the image and a small smile crossed his lips. Seeing as the mirror was his, he was one of the few who could actually see what the mirror showed to others. Behind the image's head was a full grown Scythe, flying behind him. It was a really beautiful sight to behold, especially since this meant that Duo's true dream hadn't changed. It had just become hidden from view.
"I do believe you should look again, Duo," Dumbledore said softly, his gaze slightly laughing while the smile grew on his lips. Duo sighed and shrugged his shoulders, turning once more to look into the mirror. His eyes widened and his mouth fell open as he beheld the same image Dumbledore had been looking at. It was his dream; his desire come to life.
"I. . .I'd forgotten. . ." Duo mumbled as he continued to stare at his reflection. So his first thoughts had been correct. It was the Mirror of Erised. It showed those who looked upon it their deepest desires. While being with his fellow pilots and especially Heero were some of his deepest desires and dreams, this one was his most ardent one.
"So, it seems you aspire to be like me, Duo," Dumbledore said, his smile bright. A soft sheen of tears rested in his twinkling eyes, showing that he was moved by the vision, and not insulted. It slapped Duo in the face like an actual hand. When was the last time he actually worked toward his dream? He couldn't remember. All he could think of lately was setting the scene for the final battle. He had been so wrapped up in being the perfect Death Eater, the perfect undercover boy, that he hadn't been focusing on what was really important. True, he had let Dumbledore know about Maleficent and her reason for being there, but he hadn't tried to find out what she was looking for or why she was still at the school. In the five days since that one, Duo hadn't really worked for the Order as he should have been. It wasn't an easy feeling. Not to mention, Draco hadn't said a word to him since that fateful night when Duo had to tell him his father was dead. "I am most certainly flattered by this. Seems there are a lot of students here who value my company." Duo looked away from the image. There was too much innocent blood on his hands again. He couldn't become what he so dearly wished to be. There wasn't anything in this world that could change that. He was stuck as he was now. No one could change that, not even Duo himself.
"There are a lot of people who wish to be as you are, Professor. You are the symbol of power and righteousness for this school. Without you a lot of students would be lost." Duo then turned fully away from his image and began walking away. "If you don't mind, I've got other classes to attend to." Dumbledore nodded, the mist in his eyes having cleared.
"Of course, Duo. Take care of yourself. I expect you at our next scheduled class. No excuses." Duo gave him a small grin before it fell away from his lips once more. He then left before another word could be said. From the shadows stepped someone whom it was rather surprising that Duo hadn't realized was there. "Do you really believe this will work, Malfoy?" Dumbledore asked. Draco stared after the tail end of his friends retreating form and nodded.
"It had better, Professor. If the others and this doesn't bring him back, then nothing will and he'll eventually become nothing more than the very thing we are trying to stop. We can't allow You-Know-Who to win. Not after what has already happened to so many people." Dumbledore nodded his head in approval and couldn't help but grin at Draco's actions.
"I do believe Mr. Maxwell has become a good influence on you." Draco glared at the Headmaster and eventually rolled his eyes.
"Don't go there. I just don't want anyone taking my place as the bad boy here. I rather miss the attention it granted me. Besides, I'm certain he had no hand in what happened to my father and I learned from my mother that he managed to keep her from joining by saying that the possibility for losing both parents because of him would be too much for me to handle. Mother always did have a soft spot for me." Dumbledore nodded.
"As all mothers should for their children. I am happy to say that he hasn't entirely lost himself. He's just pushed his true self into a place so far back that he can't seem to find it. Perhaps this little push will help. How are things with the Maleficent matter?" Draco sighed and glanced toward the mirror, yet didn't look long enough to see anything for himself.
"She's still looking for what ever it was she was sent in to find. She's not very pleased with how slow things are going either. Apparently, having the house-elves around whenever she gets to spend time on her own in a certain area is slowly her down."
"It appears Miss Granger has a lot of good ideas," Dumbledore remarked. Draco smirked.
"Of course. She is a rather smart girl. For a Muggle-born, anyway," Draco came back with, not able to allow himself to be perfectly nice, even around the Headmaster himself.
"Of course," Dumbledore agreed, not believing Draco's attitude for even a second.
"Let's just hope this works," Draco muttered, knowing it was quite possible it would take a lot more than this to help Duo come back around. He wasn't one to admit that he was actually beginning to miss the braided idiot. A lot more than even he would be willing to admit to himself.
Walking along the halls toward the Great Hall, Duo came upon a sight that disturbed him greatly. One of the girls he had befriended earlier in the year was being picked on by several Slytherin's from sixth year. It seemed as if they took great delight pushing her around between each other. Duo swiftly moved over toward them, breaking up the action with his presence alone. The tallest of the boys seemed to look at him with fear in his eyes, but he held himself in a way that tried to belie that fear.
"Hey Maxwell, wanna help?" the boy asked. Duo's cold eyes narrowed on him as the girl was rudely shoved onto the floor.
"I don't particularly enjoy seeing an innocent girl picked on by several boys. It isn't as good as torturing several boys who enjoy torturing a young girl." The boys went white as a sheet and some of them turned and ran before they could even blink. "Stupefy," Duo said quietly, sending a red bolt of light from the tip of his wand at the one who had asked Duo if he wanted to help. Duo stepped over him and shook his head slightly before bending down toward the girl in question. "Are you all right?" he asked. The girl looked up from the floor, ready to say thanks, when her pale blue eyes widened in more fear as she looked upon Duo.
"Oh, please don't hurt me! I'm sorry!" she cried out, averting her eyes from Duo's. Duo blinked, pain filling his violet eyes for a second before they went cold once again. He leaned back and looked away.
"Don't worry. You have nothing to fear from me." He felt as if someone had squeezed his chest. He had always had everyone looking at him with a smile, even though he was in Slytherin and sometimes rude to people. This reaction was something he had never expected to see. He stood and brushed off his robes before casting one more glance at the girl, whose name was Rosemary. "Just don't go walking all alone down these halls any more, Rosie. Who knows what might happen." That said, he continued on his way to the Great Hall, wanting to get something to eat before his next class.
Duo walked into the Great Hall to the sound of several dozen gasps of fear and Quatre's out-cry of pain. Moving swiftly, Duo witnessed Quatre almost fall foreword in pain, clutching his space heart with both hands. Trowa moved swiftly, as he always did when it concerned Quatre, only to be thrown back once he even so much as tried to touch his lover. Duo's eyes widened in surprise. That wasn't normal. There had never been a time when Trowa couldn't touch his boyfriend, especially when he was in pain from too many negative emotions. Wufei attempted to help when Trowa was pushed back a second time, but the same happened to him. Heero then attempted to see what he could manage, seeing as he was a black hole usually when it came to emotions, but he too was knocked back. Many people seemed to want to keep away from him after that, leaving Duo no other choice but to try to help him himself. There was something about seeing his friends in pain that seemed to disturb Duo more than what he had seen and heard earlier with Dumbledore.
"Come on, Q-bean, ya gotta snap out of it," Duo mumbled before plunging in and wrapping his arms about
his blonde friend. Instead of being knocked back at the first contact with him, Duo was assailed with dozens of emotions. The majority of them was fear. They were all afraid of one person, and that person wasn't Voldemort, as Duo had first thought. It was someone much closer to them and even he would have never guessed. With wide eyes, Duo realized that it was he, himself, whom they were all afraid about. It was because of him coming into this room that Quatre had been assailed with all the fear and worry that was coming from everyone in this room. It was because of Duo that Quatre was hurting now. Even his fellow pilots had taken to being afraid of him. That fact shocked him the most. He hadn't expected anything to be able to scare them, especially seeing as they were so good at so many things. It then hit Duo even harder than the mirror. He had become the very thing the other pilots and himself had sworn never to be. He had become the bad guy. Even Heero was scared of him. It was his fear that hurt Duo the most. For nothing scared the Perfect Soldier. Nothing. With a frown on his lips, Duo fell backward, letting go of Quatre and almost hitting the floor. At the last second, Heero caught him. Dumbledore rushed over as Quatre also fell over from the pain. This time, Trowa was able to catch him. The silence in the Great Hall was deafening. Dumbledore looked at both boys before motioning to the two who were holding the ones who had fallen over.
"Bring them. We need to take them to see Madam Pomfrey," Professor Dumbledore said as he led the way out of the Hall, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Sylrina, Wufei, and Araki all following behind them. As soon as Heero and Trowa had followed Dumbledore out, the Hall was filled with whispers and noise as everyone tired to figure out what was going on. One thing was certain, there wasn't one person around who didn't suspect something big had happened. Something very big indeed.