Duo awoke slowly, uncertain of where he was for a moment before the sterile smell of the infirmary assailed his nostrils, letting him know instantly where he was. Even for a magical infirmary, it still had the smell of a hospital. Looking around for a second, he realized Quatre and himself were the only two in the small area of the infirmary that housed the beds. Behind the white curtained off area Duo could hear Madam Pomfrey putting away in her office. Who knew what the woman was doing in there, seeing as she was almost always in this room. There was something eerie about someone who never seemed to want to leave the place they called their work room. Professor Trelawny was another such teacher. She almost never left her tower. Closing his eyes, Duo allowed his mind to wander over everything that had occurred during his time as a Death Eater. He flinched from everything he realized he had did and he couldn't help but hate himself for the things he had inflicted on other people. No one deserved such treatment, especially those who went to Hogwarts and had to deal with the problem of Voldemort being back. It was a rather dark time and Duo had done nothing but make it worse for everyone here, especially for Dumbledore himself.
"It's not your fault, Duo. It was just too much for you to handle on your own," Quatre's soft voice remarked from the bed next to Duo's, startling the American and causing him to turn to look at the Arabian.
"I'm not even going to ask how you knew what I was thinking, Q-bean. I've become too used to ya being able to read me like a book to even wonder why your even better at it now." Quatre gave Duo a small smile.
"I've missed that nickname, Duo. I've missed a lot of things. Most especially, I've missed you. The real you. Not the one you've created for Hogwarts, or the you created for the Death Eaters. I haven't even missed Shinigami, whom I know resides inside you. I simply missed the person I got to know through out the wars. Duo Maxwell, who may run and hide. . ." Duo could feel a tiny smile cross his lips, even though he was feeling tears fill his eyes at those words.
"But I never tell a lie," Duo finished for him, a lone tear falling down his cheek. "I've made a real fool of myself, haven't I, Quat?" Quatre slowly sat up and moved over to Duo's bed, pulling him into a hug.
"No more than usual, Duo," he said softly, smirking softly. Duo laughed at that, hugging Quatre in return.
"I was rude to a lot of people. I even wore my hair down just to fit an image. Man, do you realize how hard it is to take care of out of the braid. Sleeping in it alone kills it. Adding normal wear and tear is just insane." Quatre laughed outright at that and pulled Duo into an even tighter hug.
"I think its time to let all facades fall and just be yourself. So what if someone doesn't like the attitude. You're Duo Maxwell and you can make up your own rules. To hell with anyone who can't get along with ya." Duo heard his own words coming back to haunt him, and for a moment, his smile faltered, as his mind remembered all the blood he had spilled, even if it wasn't actually on his hands this time.
"I've had to kill again, Quat. I've become the bad guy in order to help the good guys. Yet I let Shinigami take over so easily that I never stopped to think that perhaps I wasn't doing everything as I should and instead was choosing the easy way." Quatre let go of Duo and shook his head, his aquamarine eyes serious.
"Nothing you chose was easy, Duo. You were struggling to do what you believed to be right. The fact that things weren't going right just made it harder to do what was just." Duo stared at Quatre for a long moment. He had always known why Quatre had been their leader. He was always right when it came to how every one of the pilots felt, especially Duo.
"I see. So I was just going about it the wrong way," he said, slowly coming to grips with his decisions. Quatre nodded and after a moment, he laughed softly.
"Besides, you did something that was necessary. You may have killed, but they would have killed others had you not stopped them, wouldn't they?" Duo nodded, knowing it was true, seeing as one of them had killed Lucius.
"You're right, Q-bean. It would most certainly happen to be the way you said. I suppose my biggest mistake was thinking I would be good handling this alone." Quatre attempted to give him a stern look, but it fell just a little short.
"Not to mention you went into this without any back-up. The first and only rule as a Preventer, and as a former pilot, NEVER go into an assignment without your back-up." Duo ducked his head, appearing sufficiently cowled as Quatre berated him.
"Sorry, Quat. If I promise never to do it again without back-up, will you let me slide just this once?" Duo asked, turning bright and begging eyes on his friend and leader. Quatre tried to keep up his serious expression, but seeing Duo almost back to his usual attitude had sufficiently made him unable to keep serious.
"Of course, Duo. Just promise me you'll never do this on your own again!" Duo held up his hand and made the old boy scout sign for swearing, both index and middle finger held high.
"I solely swear to never go into anything like I did without back-up." Quatre couldn't keep the smile off his face any longer. He smiled and hugged Duo once more, agreeing whole-heartedly with Duo's words. Duo never lied. He did many things, but he never lied. He also never broke his promises. This was something Quatre could be certain of. Just then the door opened and Madam Pomfrey could be heard speaking to someone before in walked Heero, who wore a stern look on his face, and Trowa, who seemed worried until he saw Quatre sitting beside Duo, hugging the other boy. It was then that Trowa smiled brightly, knowing that both were going to be just fine now.
"Glad to see you both awake," Trowa remarked as he placed his arms across his chest. Quatre looked up from beside Duo to see his smiling boyfriend and smiled brightly at him in return. He jumped off from beside Duo on his bed and rushed over to Trowa, throwing himself into his arms.
"I'm sooooo sorry, Trowa. I didn't mean to knock you back like that. I just couldn't control it." Trowa simply shook his head, waving away the apology from his lover as he held him close.
"Don't worry about it. I know you care and simply knowing you regret it is enough for me. Are you all right now?" Trowa took Quatre's face into his hands and examined his face, watching his eyes closely with his own emerald ones.
"Hm, I'm better than all right now. We've got our very own Duo back. That's the best thing that could have happened." Trowa looked up at Duo then, giving the American a smile.
"Glad to have you back," Trowa remarked. Duo smiled and nodded his head in agreement.
"Glad to be back, Tro-man." Heero seemed to nod slightly at those words. It was obvious that Duo was actually back to normal. Using those nicknames was something only the real Duo would do. Yet Heero couldn't help but miss some part of Shinigami, whom had claimed him as no one else ever had before. Trowa couldn't help but grin at the nickname as well. Duo was most certainly back.
"I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I've missed the nickname. Welcome back Duo. I was tired of Shinigami. He's good at what he does, but he doesn't need to have complete control of you all the time." Duo flushed at Trowa's words. It was embarrassing when he pointed out certain things that just certainly wouldn't have been figured out in any other situation. Only silent Trowa was able to point out what no one else could see.
"I've missed myself as well," he said softly. He then looked over at Heero, his cheeks still a little red. "I'm sorry for the way I've been acting Hee-chan. I'm sorry I didn't realize I needed help and that I was too stubborn to ask for it." Heero sighed and gave Duo a tiny smile, one he had found himself holding solely for him due to his actions from just five nights before.
"Just don't attempt a solo mission again, baka." Duo smiled a soft smile in return and nodded enthusiastically.
"Understood," Duo replied. "And for the record, I really am an idiot. You don't have to point it out anymore." Heero simply rolled his eyes.
"Hn," was all he replied. Yet he came to realize that was all he needed to say as Duo smiled and nodded in agreement.
"It couldn't have been said any better, Hee-chan." Just then Draco entered, rushing over to Duo's bedside.
"I was told just a short while ago, yet Dumbledore told me I wasn't to bother you right away. Stupid Headmaster. I have every right to see how you're doing. I was worried about you. Things haven't been well since I found out my father was killed. I was wrong in how I handled it and too proud to realize that even if you were there, there couldn't have been much you could have done." Duo nodded, his eyes solemn.
"Don't worry about it, Drac. I wasn't very kind to you myself. So I guess we should both agree we were a little wrong and leave things at that, shouldn't we?" Draco nodded, realizing Duo was giving him a way to handle being wrong without making him feel as if he was going against everything he had learned to deal with.
"Agreed." Just then Draco's robes began to smoke. Duo's eyes widened and with a wave of his hand a ton of cold water suddenly came crashing down around Draco, putting out whatever fire was beginning to burn. Duo's expressive eyes turned on Heero, who was glaring hotly at Draco as if he wanted the boy to burn up. Why, if Duo didn't know any better, he would have thought Heero had purposely attempted to turn Draco into a crispy critter.
"What in the hell was that about!" Draco exclaimed, now dripping wet from Duo's spell. Duo glanced once more at Heero before looking back at Draco.
"I'm sorry, Drac. It was the first thing I could think of when I saw smoke coming from your robes." Draco wiped a wet hand across his forehead, clearing the water from his brow. His gray eyes were flashing fire at Duo as he caught sight of a small smile on his lips.
"Sure you are, you dime-store reject! You were just looking foreword for a reason to use that spell on me to be able to go back to your joking ways, admit it!" Draco yelled at his room mate. Duo grinned sheepishly, but he couldn't help laughing slightly, due to the fact that it really was a good excuse to go back to joking.
"Maybe a little bit, Drac. But don't be like that. It's really not all that bad." Draco began to stomp off, muttering as he did.
"Not that bad my ass," he grumbled. "Next time he should walk all the way to the Slytherin common room soaking wet and see how he feels." As Draco stormed off, the group could hear Madam Pomfrey's words as he exited the room.
"Oh, kids these days. They never learn." Trowa and Quatre shared a look while Duo shared a look with Heero and everyone else before they all began laughing at those words.
"If she only knew the half of it," Quatre muttered with a chuckle, causing the others to laugh as well. Finally, Duo turned his full attention on Heero, wanting to figure out what it was that had caused that fire in the first place.
"What was it you did to the poor boy, Hee-chan? And don't even try to say it wasn't you, because I've seen odd things like that happen when we've been working together and I don't expect you to be able to slip out of answering me." Trowa gave Quatre a look and motioned with his head for them to leave. Quatre nodded and slipped out of the infirmary with Trowa, talking Madam Pomfrey into letting him go with a promise to return if anything became too difficult to handle. Madam Pomfrey had even reassured Quatre that it shouldn't happen again, as long as he remembered to keep his emotional shield up as far as he could, and kept an even tighter reign on his own emotions. Quatre agreed and allowed her to give him a once over before slipping out of the room with Trowa.
"My powers are showing themselves more and more. I don't know how to control it." Duo remembered when his own abilities had back fired on him to cause small sayings to become reality around himself. Saying he'd be there with bells on had been one of the worst things someone could say.
"So heated death glares set things on fire, huh? Remind me not to anger you anymore. I don't need to become an extra crispy Duo. I don't think I'd be very good to eat." Duo laughed softly while Heero flushed a little in embarrassment and looked down at his shoes, almost as if he was wishing he could burn a hole in them. Yet as things seemed to progress, Heero, himself, began to smoke. Heero's eyes widened in surprise while Duo once again repeated the same spell he had for Draco. Heero stood there, soaking wet, glaring at Duo. This time, Duo once again waved his hand and caused him to get even more wet, which made Heero start in surprise.
"What was that for?" he growled at the American. Duo smirked.
"You were in need of a little cooling off. It wouldn't have been good if I had allowed you to fry me, now would it?" Heero gave Duo a rather dark look.
"It's a good thing you're in an infirmary. This way you don't have far to go when I kill you." Duo swallowed thickly before holding out his hands in a placating matter. He didn't want Heero really angry with him.
"Come on, Hee-chan. Can't ya take a simple joke? I mean, Draco and I are nothing more than friends, Heero. We were pretending to be boyfriends to gain Harry's and your attention. We wanted you to notice us as more than just friends, but it seemed like the more we acted the less you two reacted. It was frustrating. So don't get upset with Draco for what I planned from the beginning, all right?" Heero seemed to stare at Duo for a second before looking away. As faint pink stole across his cheeks he was certainly not in the mood to have all of this tossed into his face like it was being done. Yet he couldn't help but slightly admire Duo for the idea in the first place. After all, it took a lot of guts to attempt something like that, even if it was a little stupid in the first place.
"You were pretending? It was all an act?" Heero asked. Duo flushed this time and looked away from Heero's piercing Prussian blue eyes. It wasn't as if Duo had actually planned the whole thing all the way through. He just hadn't expected things to become as crazy as they had. "That kiss was all an act?"
"Actually, that was a bet, I told you. It wasn't done because we wanted to kiss one another, Hee-chan. It was all part of a bet to make Harry and you notice us. Draco loves him, Heero. Just as I really love you. I couldn't take it when my words were always shoved aside. I wanted to you love me as much as I loved you. If you didn't want me as I wanted you, then I'd let things drop. Yet I wanted to help Draco win his love as well. I couldn't just leave things as they were. Can you understand, Heero?" Heero didn't say anything as he walked over beside the bed. Without even thinking, Duo waved his hand and once again Heero was dry. Heero seemed startled at first by the action. While at first he had begun to believe that he was nothing but someone like Draco to Duo, he had come to realize that there was a big difference between the two of them. The biggest one being that Heero had Duo's heart. Stepping behind Duo, he slipped a hand into the bedside table and pulled out a brush with a single black hair tie on the handle. Taking a seat behind Duo, Heero began to brush out the tangled mess that was Duo's chestnut locks and was finding it hard to respond to such words.
"What do you want me to say to that?" Heero asked, wanting to know what it was Duo wanted from him. After all, emotions weren't very new, but they were still uncertain to him. The only way he could understand this was to have someone like Duo, who was very well skilled in understanding emotions, tell him.
"I don't want anything from ya, Hee-chan. I just wanted to let you know this isn't some joke. I'm not teasing you with that fact I love you and I'm not sitting there trying to make you feel something for me if it isn't there. I just wanted to tell you. I wanted to be able to love you freely, and perhaps someday have you love me in return. I can understand if this bothers you. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. Not one bit." Heero could feel a part of himself melt at such heart-felt and honest words. While he had really become addicted to the Shinigami side of Duo, which touched a whole new area in Heero's mind, this Duo was touching the formerly frozen places in his heart. Finishing up with Duo's hair and once again replacing it into the classic braid that Duo had once always worn it in, Heero finally decided he needed to answer, his lips moving softly against his cheek before speaking.
"I. . .I like you too. . .baka. Just. . .don't let Shinigami fade away entirely. I. . .kind of like that side of you." Duo's cheeks turned bright red but he couldn't help but nod in agreement.
"As long as were together, there will always be moments when Shinigami gets to be with you." Duo stopped a moment and smirked, turning to face Heero and look him in the face. "We'll always be together, ne, Hee-chan? After all, we're partners. In everything." Heero looked into Duo's eyes and nodded, sensing Shinigami just below the surface of Duo's personality.
"Hai. . ." Heero answered, enjoying this moment. Duo's smirk grew and before Heero could realize it, Duo kissed his nose.
"Hai, what Hee-chan?" He asked, his voice more like Shinigami's than Duo's happy one. Heero swallowed thickly, his eyes going wide in surprise. Yet he licked his lips and answered as he knew his Shinigami wanted him to.
"Hai, master," he whispered. Duo smirked deeply and leaned in closer.
"Very good, Hee-chan." That said, Duo leaned in the rest of the way and pressed a very deep and anything but innocent kiss to Heero soft lips.
Draco walked along that hallways of the school, scowling deeply as people stopped to giggle at his soaking wet appearance. It wasn't a very good day for him. This wasn't something someone could just write off as normal. Draco Malfoy did not go walking down the halls of Hogwarts in soaking wet robes with his blonde hair plastered to his face. It was just something that screamed victim of a prank, and a Malfoy was anything but a victim of a prank. Some people were more vocal about their mirth at his appearance, doing so much as to bust out laughing at such a look from him. Draco's scowl merely deepened with each new chuckle and laugh that came his way. Oh he was going to kill Duo once he came out of the infirmary, mark his words. There was nothing that could possibly make this day any better, but there was almost certainly to be a lot that would make it worse. After all, this was pick on Malfoy day and anything was possible.
"Draco? What happened to you?" Harry's light voice questioned suddenly as he rounded the corner toward the stairs that led down toward the Slytherin dorms. Draco felt himself curse under his breath. If ever there was one person he was not in the mood to run into, it was Harry Potter. The prince of Hogwarts himself and Draco's every fantasy come to life. If he had a choice in the matter, of which he didn't, he would have made the boy-who-lived his from the moment he had laid eyes on him in Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. Yet as things had been proven, things rarely went the way he wanted them to. Wasn't today just a perfect example of such things?
"Duo seemed to be rather interested in something our resident stoic didn't like and thus went on to soak me from head to foot in the coldest water I have ever had the pleasure of getting put on me and I must say, I don't like it. Not at all. If I ever talk to that annoying little prat again, it will be a long time coming." Draco was so busy with his rant that he hadn't seen the surprise and then hope that had flared to life in Harry's forest green eyes. Harry had constantly been trying to show his support of Draco's choice of boyfriends, but it was difficult to keep something like that going when one was trying so hard not to show how it really made him feel.
"That's terrible. I hope this doesn't hurt your relationship," Harry said sympathetically toward the blonde, even though he really didn't feel that was. Draco stopped short in his stomp toward the dorm and turned his gray eyes on Harry as if he was suddenly the dumbest person he had ever heard speaking to him in his entire life.
"The only relationship I have with that dim witted idiot is one of complete understanding. We pretend so we can get the attention of the ones we really care about and that is the extent of it. I can't believe I lost that bet with him and had to kiss him. Granted, he's not bad at it, but it was more like kissing a relative. If he was one, anyway. Yet it looks like he wins his prize and I've lost all hope of winning mine. Not unusual, mind you, seeing as being a Malfoy these last six years have suddenly made me realize that I am anything but lucky." Harry stopped dead in his train of thought. Had Draco just admitted that it was all an act? That Duo and him had been doing what they had with the sole purpose of making someone become jealous enough to admit they liked them?
"It was all an act?" Harry asked, wanting to make certain he was entirely clear on what was said to him. Draco wiped more water from his hair and rolled his eyes at the green eyed young man before him.
"That's what I said, isn't it? How dense are you, anyway?" Draco seemed to refuse to say anything else and began on his way back toward the common room once more. Yet he stopped only a few steps away from Harry and turned back to him, his gray eyes blazing with determination. "Haven't you figured it out yet, Potter? I'm gay! As crooked as the stairs toward Trelawny's class room and perfectly content to remain that way for quite a few more years. I'm also besotted with the Boy-Who-Lived. Yet said boy hasn't even realized it. I even fell asleep beside you in Duo's time so I could try to show it. I even enjoyed waking up beside you, but I was too stubborn to show it then. So what are you going to do about that, Potter? Going to laugh at me and tell me to keep up my schooling because I've obviously been looking the wrong way?" It took Harry only a few moments to process what Draco was saying in his rant. Once he was done, Harry's lips were curved into the brightest smile he had ever felt like having and he was certain that it was now his turn to surprise Malfoy.
"Actually, I was thinking more of doing this," Harry answered, before leaning in close and pressing his lips against the others. Draco was momentarily off guard and off balance. He couldn't believe that after all his wanting and daydreaming, he had finally gotten what he had been wanting for a very long time. He swiftly gave into the moment and clung to Harry, returning the kiss just as enthusiastically as Harry was giving back in return. It was obvious that Harry didn't mind getting wet by the close contact. It was even more obvious that neither one wanted to break off any time soon. Yet they soon found themselves breaking away for air, taking in big gulps as they stood in each others arms.
"Well then, Potter, it would seem this has been a very long time in coming. I would hope your willing to explain why you didn't do that sooner." Harry laughed and hugged the other boy tighter.
"Of course, Malfoy. Just as soon as you let me know why you didn't do it yourself." Draco smirked and pulled Harry in closer for yet another mind shattering kiss, knowing neither one would give in soon enough to explain what had kept them apart for so long.
Maleficent stood in the doorway of yet another room that just happened to have house-elves at work. This was getting to be extremely annoying. If she couldn't find the horcruxes1 that Dumbledore had managed to acquire, then she would be facing a very angry and ready to kill Dark Lord. Not to mention that she was to succeed where others had failed and kill Dumbledore once she had gained what she had come there for. He was not happy that in the five says she had been at the school, not even one step had been made in being able to retrieve something that was very valuable to the Dark Lord himself. When the Dark Lord had first told her of this mission, she had no clue what he expected of her. After all, almost no one knew what a horcrux was now a days. Yet he had been quick to instruct her on what it was and what she was to do after she found it. As it turned out, a horcrux was something that held a part of a wizards soul. It was believed, that when a wizard killed, they tore their soul. By killing more, they were able to actually tear their soul into two parts and place one part of it into an object. Doing this made the one who had done it believe that he was impossible to kill. Immortal, one might say, until such time as it was found and the soul destroyed before the wizard was. Then he would be vulnerable to attack, just like anyone else.
Yet what Maleficent was surprised to learn, was that Voldemort hadn't just done such a thing once, but seven different times. On top of that, they were no ordinary objects that he had used for his horcruxes either. Sytherin's locket, Hufflepuff's cup, Marvolo's ring, Riddle's Diary, his trusted snake, Nagini, Ravenclaw's wand, and he, himself, made up the seven pieces of his Horcruxes. The Dark Lord seemed to believe that seven was a very powerful number in wizardry. As he had told one of his old teachers long ago:
"Wouldn't it be better, make you stronger, to have your soul in more pieces. . .isn't seven the most powerfully magical number. . ." 2
While the Dark Lord was certain Nagini, himself, the wand, and the cup were safe at the moment, he wondered about the ring and the locket. He already knew that the diary had been destroyed. His attempt to return to power during Potter's second year at Hogwarts had failed, thanks to Dumbledore's phoenix and Potter's own luck. Even now, she wasn't having any luck herself, seeing as there was almost no way to find out what the old man was hiding here in this school. It was more guarded that anyone could have imagined. Just getting in had been the easy part. Finding where something could be in a place of this size was proving to be more difficult than she wanted to admit. Drawing a deep breath, she plunged on, attempting to slip into the Gryffindor dorms. Yet she was caught just as she was about to use a charm to manage herself a way in. Standing there at the other side of the now open portrait was none other than one Ginny Weasley and one Hermione Granger. Before either of the girls could react, Maleficent was at the ready. One hand on her wand, she had them both under the Impediment Curse before either of them could blink. Moving up to the two girls, a slow grin crossed her lips.
"Well. . .well. . .well. . .what have we here? Two little girls away from their protector. I do believe my luck may have just changed. I was never told I couldn't enjoy myself." At these words, Hermione and Ginny's eyes grew wide in fear. Both believed that what they were about to hear wasn't going to be something they would like and they were both more than correct in that way of thinking. "You see, my little captives, I aim to have fun torturing you till you beg me for mercy. Yet I'll give you none. Before I can do that, though, I'll get what I need by using Duo and his compassion for innocent people at this place. You'll all fall eventually. Be thankful you get to fall at my hand." Hermione and Ginny tried to scream as the portrait door seemed to fade from their sight yet the only thing they could do is find themselves trapped to a fate they hadn't asked for and praying that Harry and the others would find them before it was too late.