View Full Version : Trinity II: The Chamber (Type-Moon/Harry Potter X-over)

March 23rd, 2011, 05:04 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 1 - Lazy Summer Days

August 18, 1992 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u-9hqeVBP8)

The battlefield was littered with bodies. Dozens of bodies, splayed out across the ground where they had fallen - where they had been ambushed. Some of them had taken each other out, some of them he had done in, and the rest . . . The rest were his.

Shirou admitted, somewhere in the back of his mind, that the skill required to create this kind of carnage was admirable. Almost every kill had been made with a single shot, straight to a vital point. He was very good with guns, Archer class notwithstanding. The bow might be his traditional weapon, but he was also a warrior of his time. Firearms might not be the stuff of epic legends, save in a very few cases, but they were just as common and widely used as swords, in modern times. As such, Shirou knew how to use them, and use them well - and also, how to judge the skill of those who used them against him.

He was good. Very good. As good as Shirou himself. Possibly even better, though Shirou was loathe to admit it - at least with these particular weapons, at these close distances. Where firearms were concerned, he was first and foremost a rifleman. Shirou believed that if he could see the whites of his enemies’ eyes through any other means but a sniper scope, he was too damned close to use guns. Whereas he thrived on being at the centre of it all, a whirling storm of leather and lead that tore down everything that stood against it.

Shirou had no choice, though. The circumstances were what they were, his weapon was all that was available - and he had reasons enough to go on, regardless. Those reasons had names: Neville Longbottom, Hermione Granger, Takara Aozaki - and Ilyasviel von Einzbern. Every single one of them had been cut down, ruthlessly and efficiently, with as much thought and effort as Shirou would put into swatting flies - and an equal amount of remorse. For them, Shirou would fight under any conditions, even these.

His eyes scanned the gloomy interior, seeking cover and concealment points. Evenly matched as they probably were, his best bet for victory involved spotting his target first - a tricky proposition, since he had to make an extraordinary effort to keep quiet, lest he lose the element of surprise . . .

The sound of a weapon being primed brought an abrupt halt to Shirou’s stealthy efforts. Shirou turned, and saw the killer standing before him, weapon not raised but ready, as if he planned to give him a fighting chance.

All we need is a tumbleweed to roll between us . . .

Shirou felt a lazy smirk cross his features at the image, as he held his own weapon in a similar position.

“You know,” he said, almost casually, “I always figured that somehow, it was going to come down to you and me one day.”

The right side of Galen’s mouth twitched, a spasmodic half-smirk. “Bring it.”

Shirou’s reflexes were faster than those of anyone else he knew, bar one - and she was gone. That said, Galen had never been a slouch when it came to reacting to a threat, and especially when it came to protecting himself. Every shot Shirou took wasn’t dodged, it was countered - negated in mid-flight. One, two, three, four - not one was allowed to hit. Shirou abandoned the tactic as useless and dove to one side, hoping to exploit a vulnerable angle . . .

Galen, however, had spent hours learning to read Shirou’s body language in self-defence practice, and countered by rolling in the opposite direction, out of Shirou’s field of fire. The two warriors rose as one, fired another exchange of blocked shots, before Shirou dove behind a raised plate for cover and took off running.

It was a delaying tactic. While Shirou was a far faster runner, especially over longer distances, Galen had better endurance. Shirou could run at a good clip, and for far longer, but Galen would recover his breath faster and be able to put on bursts of quickness for a longer period than Shirou could maintain his best speed. He could gain a lead, even hold it for a long while - but Galen would run him down in the end.

Shirou cursed. He hadn’t really believed they would be that equal . . . But then again, he should have. Pistols were his weapons, as much as a sword was Saber’s. Where Shirou could kick Galen’s ass in a match of blades, bows, even bare hands - though admittedly, not without at least a few licks in the latter arena - this was what Galen was made to use. This situation was precisely his kind of fight. So if Shirou wanted to win, he’d have to do what Galen usually took as his own prerogative: change the rules.

The converted warehouse they were fighting in was large, spacious, with many nooks and crannies to hide in, and more than a few things to hide behind. It had been designed to be the ideal arena for large groups of competing forces to fight it out . . . Not that those facts had saved anyone here. No matter their age, conditioning, experience or allies, every single person here had fallen . . . A desperate plan suddenly blossomed in Shirou’s mind.

Worthy of Galen himself, noted a corner of the selfsame mind sardonically. Lacking better options, he ignored the commentary and decided to run with it. He ducked around a corner and into a room. As expected, it was filled with bodies - five of them. Each lay where they had been shot, scattered across the surface area, but he quickly spotted a space sufficient for him to have a good field of fire for the room’s only entrance, and he threw himself into it.

Shirou had never been much into meditation. He was a creature of action first and foremost, and the concepts of stillness and quiet communion ran counter to his natural inclinations. Still, he’d managed to pick up the gist of it, and so he ran through techniques in his head to slow his breathing, relax his body, and quite simply, play dead. Having done so successfully, he watched the room through near-closed eyelids - and waited.

It took a while. Galen was many things, but never stupid, not when it came to dealing with threats. Once Shirou was out of line of sight, Galen would have slowed his approach, quieted his movements, opened his senses. When ambush became a possibility, the key lay in awareness of one’s surroundings and above all, patience. It had now become a waiting game between them - and the first to break would fall. With that in mind, Galen wouldn’t be in any hurry to pursue, so Shirou had to resign himself to waiting, silent and still.

Eventually, of course, the stalemate had to end. Shirou didn’t hear Galen enter, but he was aware of the blur through his slitted eyelids that moved into the room. He might have been able to pop off a shot immediately, but given Galen’s proven reflexes, Shirou forced himself to wait for the ideal opportunity, when Galen’s weapon was so far out of the zone he couldn’t possibly bring it to bear in time.

. . . Of course, if Galen remembered how many bodies he’d actually left in this room, waiting would probably get him killed.

It seemed not, however, as the gunslinger scanned the area carefully before stepping into the room cautiously. Given the areas of potential cover, he’d actually have to step past Shirou to examine every possible hiding place, and eventually, he did. Shirou allowed him one step further before he shifted to raise himself up . . .

Shirou would never be entirely sure what betrayed him - a noise he didn’t hear over the sound of his own pounding heart, Galen’s natural paranoia suddenly realising there was an extra body, or maybe just the blind luck that seemed to follow him around like an overexcited puppy. Whatever the case, as Shirou began to aim, Galen turned to look behind him, his own gun raising.

Shirou fired, and so did Galen - at his own head. Shirou wondered if he’d decided to go for suicide rather than allowing Shirou to beat him, but decided it didn’t matter as he saw the other stiffen and fall to the floor . . . And then he realised that the bastard had managed - somehow - to simultaneously hit him with a ricochet of his last shot.

“Son of a bitch!” Shirou snapped.

“OI!” Galen’s “corpse” snapped, as he got up and dusted himself off. “Don’t talk about my mother that way!”

“You managed to refract the beam off your glasses to hit him?!” Hermione said in disbelief. “Do you realise the odds of a shot like that?”

Her voice was mostly inaudible, over the din in the pizza parlour. It was partly why they’d chosen the place - so much noise, a careful conversation could be held in private without the use of magic to assure it.

“Never tell me the odds,” Galen grumbled, in a lousy impersonation of Han Solo.

Takara chuckled. “Hermione, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, he excels at impossible things. It’s the normal stuff he’s rubbish at.”


She smirked at him, not at all happy about his taking her down earlier. She’d been faster than him, and expecting it - though admittedly, she’d thought it would be Shirou who’d be the one to eliminate her. Galen had managed to play on that expectation expertly. She’d never seen it coming.

Still, it had been fun to do, so she pressed on, “So, the manager was pleased?”

“The manager was ecstatic,” Shirou corrected. “Said the footage will make for a great ad campaign. He even offered to double what we’d agreed to if the two of us would come back next summer for an exhibition match in a tournament he’s planning.”

Galen shrugged. “With the exchange working out to an extra twenty Galleons, I was game if Shirou was.”

Takara read the unspoken subtext: he’d needed the money. She knew very well that his parents had raised hell over his expenditures last year - though they couldn’t say much, as they’d all been gifts for other people - and set a strict limit over what he was allowed to withdraw for spending money this year. They would also be keeping his Gringotts key, after school supplies had been purchased and said amount had been withdrawn.

To his credit, Galen hadn’t exactly shirked earning money to replace what he’d spent. In addition to his usual paper route, he’d been doing yard work for the neighbours all summer. Combined with enduring two full moons without Wolfsbane Potion, and she was privately impressed the guy was still conscious, much less capable of a conversation.

Shirou shrugged in response to Galen’s statement. “It’s extra money. And besides, it was kind of fun. The guy also said that as long as we called ahead so he could set up a few extra cameras and competitions, we and our friends could get in for free any time we wanted.”

Neville shook his head. “No thanks. This ‘laser tag’ thing is fun, but I think it’d get old if we did it too often.”

“Still, it was a nice birthday present,” Takara admitted. “Thanks, guys. I had fun then. I even had fun on this trip, despite the fact that you killed me this time.” She scowled at her onetime Servant.

“He killed me, too,” Ilya grumbled. She pouted at him. “Some chevalier you are.”

Galen smiled apologetically. “Sorry, Milady. We had to do our best, to make the footage for the commercial worthwhile.”

“I’d say taking out the entire population in less than twenty minutes counts,” Shirou drawled.

Hermione shook her head. “The pair of you are monsters, you know.”

Shirou mock-scowled. “Hey, I’ve been trained to use firearms - he’s the freak of nature.” He gestured at Galen, smirking. “Bloody gun god, right there.”

Takara watched as a shocked expression crossed Galen’s face, followed by his visibly deciding that Shirou couldn’t possibly have meant whatever Galen thought he did. She supposed it was a testament to how relaxed he was becoming around them that she could read his face at all - usually it was so hard.

But as the day got closer to Hogwarts’ beginning of term, she knew he wouldn’t stay that way. Not with what lay ahead of them.

In a way, Takara knew, they were lucky. They knew what was going to happen, and the easiest way to stop it. They knew who, where, and when. With a little bit of luck, they could forestall everything with an hour’s work, and enjoy a nice, quiet year at school.

If they couldn’t . . .

If they couldn’t, a lot of them would be in danger. First and foremost, to Galen’s way of thinking, Hermione. And that would drive him crazy.

Takara admitted to herself that the boy in front of her was more than a little frustrating. He said he loved her, but didn’t treat her . . . No, that wasn’t fair. He did treat her as someone special. It was just that she wasn’t the only one he did that for. Hermione and Ilya got the same treatment - though in Ilya’s case, it was quite clearly and firmly demonstrated to be platonic on both sides. Hermione, though . . .

Galen fixated on her like only an otaku could. Her well-being seemed to be his obsession. He went out of his way to compliment her, give her presents, keep her safe. And for this, he’d managed to inspire a level of devotion and affection from the young witch that could best be described as “puppy love.” Yet he never seemed to acknowledge that, beyond friendship. It confused Hermione, and it confused Takara - did he love her, or not? He certainly acted as though he did, but there would always come a point where he’d pull back, or ignore what was in front of him. Takara wasn’t sure why that was . . . And she was afraid to ask if it was because of her. Afraid, because it might not be - and afraid because it might.

Takara had promised herself, as a small girl, that she would marry a Japanese boy. That her children wouldn’t have to suffer the same kind of prejudices she had, growing up. It was cowardly, prejudiced, and shameful - but it was also part of who she was. She didn’t like it, didn’t usually think about it, but it was there. If Galen was holding back from Hermione on her account . . .

He can be a good man, even if he is infuriating and occasionally frightening. He’s even kind of cute, when he makes an effort to dress up - here, memories of Neville’s birthday party, a formal dinner, flashed through her mind - but he’s not Japanese. Even if I gave in, he’d always be an outsider . . .

Except . . . We’re not in Japan, are we?

At Hogwarts, they’d been isolated from the world. It was only this summer that she was coming to realise what staying here, in this reality, really meant. She might be Japanese by birth and upbringing, but she was living in England. She was a witch, in a society of witches and wizards which set less store by racial and ethnic background than blood purity - though from what she remembered of the visit to Hogwarts by Beauxbatons, it wasn’t entirely ignored.

In the issue of blood, she was still somewhat behind, being half-blood - but Galen’s blood was no less, and neither her European nor her Japanese features counted against her. So long as she lived here, there was a real possibility that she could marry and raise a family without being subject to the kind of circumstances she’d endured while young.

Except . . . a little whispering voice in her head reminded her.

Except that Galen was a werewolf, a Dark creature who was required to be registered with the government, and subject to laws and restrictions not applied to the rest of the citizenry. No matter how nice a person he was, the curse would be all they saw.

And that would apply to his wife and children, as well - assuming he was ever allowed any, Takara thought grimly.

Perhaps that was why he was shying away from Hermione. Galen had to know the status of werewolves in British wizarding society better than she did. It was entirely believable that he was trying to ignore Hermione in order to protect her, as being “Muggle-born,” as they called it, would count against her as it was - but was still tempted by her.

Takara wished her own motivations were as noble.

She came back to her senses just in time to hear Galen say, “So, everybody up for Diagon Alley tomorrow?”

Hermione nodded. “I’m looking forward to Flourish and Blotts. We have a lot of books to buy this year.” She smiled. “I’ll be able to use that certificate you got me for Valentine’s Day, and maybe some of the gold in my Gringotts vault . . . “ She paused, glancing at Ilya.

Guessing at the reason for Hermione’s hesitation, Takara supplied, “She knows.”

Hermione paused to assimilate that, then pressed on. “Did you have any luck getting hold of Nicolas Flamel?”

Takara winced. They’d been dreading this question since the Daily Prophet had released the Flamels’ obituaries three weeks ago. Now it was a matter of how much Galen was willing to lie . . .

“He’s dead,” Ilya said bluntly. “He and his wife both.”

Takara froze, not having expected that. Shirou winced. Neville shrank into himself. Galen flashed his lady a look just shy of murderous.

Hermione, however, went white. She whispered, “We killed them . . .”

“You did not,” Ilya said sharply. “They created the Philosopher’s Stone in the first place, and the first thing any idiot would do is stockpile sufficient quantities of Elixir in order to sustain them long enough to create another one, in the event the Stone was lost, stolen, or destroyed. They’d lived for over six hundred and fifty years, and they chose to let the Stone go out of their possession for nearly a year - so that stockpile existed, all right.” Her face and voice softened. “You didn’t kill them, Hermione. If they died, it was because they chose to, not because they had no other choice.”

Takara found herself snorting. “Ten Galleons says Dumbledore convinced them it was ‘for the greater good’ that the knowledge of how to create the Stone be lost.”

“No bet,” Ilya said. “I hate wasting money.”

It was a measure of how disturbing they found the conversation - or the weakening of their faith in Dumbledore - that neither Neville nor Hermione leaped to the Headmaster’s defence. The “protections” around the Philosopher’s Stone hadn’t kept them out, and Dumbledore had been responsible for them. Given how he’d chosen to guard a priceless magical artefact, some sarcasm was probably justified.

Takara changed the subject. “The Animagus potion is nearly ready, by the way.”

Ilya’s eyes lit up. “Oho! How long have you been planning this?”

“Since November,” Takara answered. “After you gave Galen . . .”

Ilya nodded. She remembered the time perfectly well, of course.

“And you’ve managed to keep it from your parents all summer?” Ilya giggled. “Perhaps there’s a bit of Slytherin in you, Little Miss Gryffindor.”

“If so, I’m hardly the only one,” Takara said in a lofty tone.

“True enough,” Ilya agreed. She glanced at her watch - an old-fashioned mechanical timepiece. “Oh, my! We’d better finish our food - we’re supposed to meet Papa in the car park in ten minutes.”

Predictably, there was a run on the last of the pizza.

Thus far, Galen admitted, the summer is an overall success.

It hadn’t been perfect, by any means - and the full moon was only part of that. Without Wolfsbane Potion, he had no control over himself, and no real awareness save hazy flashbacks long after the night was over. No, problems had been had in the form of his parents - neither of whom had been particularly pleased at his spending three-quarters of his vault’s contents in a single year. Only the fact that his marks ranged from acceptable to excellent had kept him from being completely grounded all summer.

Besides, I’m twelve years old and never really had money to spend before - what did they expect?

The excuse was flimsy, because he wasn’t really twelve and he knew it, but he’d stick to it, nonetheless.

Still, by working like a dog, he’d managed to put back a good chunk of what he’d spent, and today’s bonus money actually put him in better shape than before. His expenses would hopefully be lower this year, to - it helped that he didn’t plan on buying the full set of Lockhart books. He, Takara, and Shirou had come to an agreement - they’d each buy two (he’d won the draw that got him out of buying a third), and share as necessary. Only the fact that they were considered required had them buying the books at all, since they all knew they were effectively worthless. Well . . . It was possibly useful if you could read through the florid self-aggrandising, but he didn’t really have the patience for it.

Still, Lockhart was only an annoyance. Unlike last year, the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was not a lethal threat, and thus could be (relatively) safely ignored. No, this year the problems came from much higher up, on the Hogwarts’ Board of Governors.

Lucius Malfoy.

Lucius Malfoy was, without a doubt, one of the most dangerous characters in the Harry Potter series - possibly the most dangerous. This year was the proof. The only reason to give the diary to Ginny Weasley was if he knew exactly what it was, and what it was capable of doing. He had gambled with the anchor for his Dark Lord’s soul, knowing it could be the only thing tying Voldemort’s spirit to this earth (though, presumably, not knowing about the others. Galen wouldn’t have trusted any follower with the knowledge that he had more than one Horcrux). He might not have intended for the diary to be destroyed - but Galen wouldn’t have made a similar risk unless he was absolutely certain of being either beyond the Dark Lord’s reach, or his superior in power and resources. But if the diary hadn’t been destroyed, Malfoy could’ve retrieved it at his leisure, with Voldemort presumably none the wiser.

No, Lucius was the most dangerous Death Eater alive - Bellatrix, for all her terrifying power, was simply a mad dog. Lucius was a spider, content to weave his webs and wait.

Malfoy had to have been nearing a position that would’ve allowed him to fully take over wizarding Britain - until Harry Potter mucked it up by killing the basilisk, and causing a chain reaction that saw him ousted from the Board. No, Malfoy was more dangerous than any other Death Eater - Bellatrix was simply vicious. And none of them was Harry Potter. None of them was a Parselmouth, capable of opening the Chamber of Secrets. If things went that far, if it became necessary to do so in order to save someone, or stop something . . .

If it comes to that, we’re finished, Galen thought.

And if it came that, Hermione would’ve been attacked already . . .

No. I’ll forge transfer papers to Beauxbatons first. I’ll pick her up and throw her through the damned Floo network. I will not let her come to harm!

Galen took a deep breath, trying to calm the sudden surge of adrenalin. He got up from his bed and began to pace.

It was happening again - puberty. Hormones that had already come and gone once before were reasserting themselves, and he was already sick of them.

And I’m not even thirteen, yet.

His temper had been terrible as a teenager. The arguments he’d gotten into with his parents had nearly landed him in the street, more than once - or the hospital. He was not looking forward to going through it again.

And God only knows what else puberty does to a werewolf . . .

Worse yet, he wasn’t in the body of the proverbial 98-pound weakling anymore. He’d been exercising, getting combat training . . . Only his self-preservation instinct - the voice that said anyone could slaughter him - had kept him from getting violent before. And the situation was different now. There was every possibility that his next fight could turn nasty, and he might seriously hurt or kill someone.

If it was Malfoy, I might not mind. But Hermione, say?

He’d mostly repaired his relationship with Hermione over the summer, he thought. She’d been upset because he’d been keeping secrets from her, when they were supposed to be friends. Given how many he actually was keeping from her, he could see her point. But she’d also made it a point to tell him that she was learning how to read him - that one day his ability to lie to and manipulate the people around him would fail against her, and she would be able to start understanding how it was he knew what he knew.

That would be bad.

In his defence, he didn’t particularly like lying to her - or lying in general, for that matter. But what was he supposed to say?

“Oh, by the way - you’re a fictional character in my home universe, but I won’t hold that against you? . . . And while I think of it, I don’t suppose you’d mind going out with a guy almost twenty years older than you are, biological appearance aside?”

Galen cursed his hormones for adding the last part, and cursed Hermione for being cute.

It didn’t matter. If he opened his mouth and said anything like that, he’d be hauled off to the psych ward of St. Mungo’s hospital, or Oblivated before sunrise. It was just as bad an idea to tell Hermione that as it would have been to tell Takara and her family . . . And in the latter case, if he did it now, only Takara would have a clue as to what the hell he was talking about.

Takara and Shirou seemed to have a better handle on this - but Takara didn’t have as many years between the age she was and the age she looked, and Shirou seemed to be living the life he’d always wanted. Settling into being a kid again wasn’t hard for him, under those circumstances.

Galen . . . Well, it could be argued that he’d never grown up, but he had grown old. He wore his age not well, but familiarly. And now that it was gone, he was off-kilter. He didn’t know what he wanted. He wasn’t sure what he should want. Or “if” - experience had taught him that wanting anything was leaving an opening for the world to hurt you.

Especially in the feminine aspect of life.

Fact: No girl has ever been interested in you, romantically or sexually. Fact: While different, your existence here isn’t that different. Ergo: They won’t care, either of them. Even if they show signs of it now, that will change when something more appropriate to them - more right for them - comes along. We’ve been through this already - repeatedly.

And even if those facts weren’t self-evident, they’re children, you pervert. Hands off, eyes off, mind off!

Galen decided he’d had enough angsting for one day. Takara and Hermione were friends, which was as much or more than he’d ever had with a girl before - largely, they’d just ignored his existence. In any case, their feelings weren’t and never would be his problem, end of story. There was need to concentrate on more important things.

The diary . . .

Tom Riddle’s diary was the key. If they could get to it before Ginny found it in her things, they could chuck it in the Room of Requirement with the other Horcrux until they had a means to destroy them. No diary meant no basilisk, no attacks on mundane-born students, and a nice quiet year to worry about inconsequential things until Sirius Black showed up. He might even have time to try making friends with people in other houses - like say, Ravenclaw’s Luna Lovegood - she was supposed to start this year, wasn’t she?

Galen consulted his memory.

. . . Yup, she was! Poor girl could probably use a friend now instead of three years from now.

Takara was fast enough. Shirou was sneaky enough. He could cause distractions with the best of them, if Lockhart and Arthur Weasley’s fight with Lucius wasn’t distraction enough. They should have enough time, and it would be easy. He’d even bring the cloak, just in case.

A little vigilance, a little luck, a lot of speed, and this year’s problems could be secured in less than an hour. Outright eliminated in twenty-four hours. It was just a matter of timing, and hard work.

Galen yawned, and found himself deciding to get ready for bed. A very taxing day was scheduled in the A.M.

It might be almost two weeks before school started again, but as of tomorrow, summer vacation was over. It was time to go back to work.

March 23rd, 2011, 05:05 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 2 - Moody Morning Musings

August 19, 1992

Takara was up late the next morning, as was her habit when she could get away with it - she liked sunshine, but generally preferred not to face it until she had to. As it was still summer holidays, the usual fuss wasn’t made over it - it wasn’t as though she had to be somewhere. Well, actually, she did, but that wasn’t until the afternoon.

Takara’s family lived in a townhouse not far from the Ministry of Magic building in London - one of several government housing facilities leased by the International Confederation of Wizards. It wasn’t as spacious as the cottage she’d lived in back in Japan (which now had two slightly different sets of memories attached to it), much less the mansion she’d been preparing to move into when her world had been that of a Slayer, but it was comfortable enough for a three-person family, even if it lacked the association of “home” she had with the other places.

Or, she added, a certain suburban two-storey house in Canada. That place felt like home to her, as well - though she only remembered living there, and never actually had. While it, too, had been a wizarding home, it had been much closer to the mundane world than any of the others. The townhouse, on the other hand, was most assuredly a wizard’s house, in a wizarding neighbourhood - mundanes need not apply.

Because of where her family lived (and where her parents worked), Takara had the shortest commute to Diagon Alley of any of her friends, assuming one didn’t use the Floo network, as Neville and Shirou undoubtedly would. As such, she could afford to take her time dressing, choosing what to take with her, and deciding where she needed to go. Galen and Hermione, being further from the magical side of things, would have a much longer trip, using less efficient methods.

Takara considered her closet carefully. She wasn’t exactly a fashion plate - she tended to prefer practical clothes that she could move and fight in easily - but she liked to look pretty as much as any girl, and so she chose to consider her outfit carefully. Her friends had agreed to meet at Gringotts bank in Diagon Alley itself, so she didn’t necessarily need to dress in order to blend in with mundane London. On the other hand, if they decided to go out afterwards . . . It would all come down to their success or failure at retrieving the diary, she supposed.

To be honest, she was nervous. It was one thing to steal the Philosopher’s Stone when the entire school’s attention was rivetted elsewhere, and another thing entirely to snatch something in a crowded public venue - especially in front of Lucius Malfoy. The man was dangerous, and revealing herself as an enemy of his would not make her life very pleasant - or much longer, probably. And given what they were trying to prevent, failure wasn’t really an option. They had to get the diary, and they couldn’t be caught.

But hey, she thought to herself sourly, no pressure.

Hopefully, the spectacle that was Gilderoy Lockhart would hold everyone’s attention. If there was one thing the man was good at, it was taking full advantage of an audience. With luck, everyone would spend all their time paying attention to him.

Including Hermione, Takara realised suddenly. I wonder if Galen remembers she’ll have a crush on Lockhart? And I wonder what he’ll do about it? If nothing else, it might force him to be clearer about his feelings . . .

Yes, she was twelve - but she was also eighteen, and thought more about things than a twelve-year-old would. Things like boys who told her they loved her (more accurately, one to date), and then proceeded to toss mixed signals in her direction. If she knew for a fact that he loved her, or that he didn’t because he was, perhaps, interested in Hermione . . .

Well, the decision about what to do with him might not be easier, but it would be simpler.

Takara finally decided on a yukata made of leaf green silk, stamped with a pattern of pink cherry blossoms and matching-coloured obi. It wasn’t a witch’s robe, but it looked similar enough to draw no real attention, and she was well-accustomed to moving in it. The fact that she knew how to hide things in its wide sleeves was also handy. That it also resembled, at least superficially, the outfit she’d worn to the last summer festival she’d attended was a coincidence . . . Although Takara admitted to herself that she did remember Galen saying he’d liked that one.

He might like it more if I had a figure to fill it out with, she thought ruefully - but at twelve, she really hadn’t. Her growth spurts were a couple of years away.

Cleaned and dressed, Takara went downstairs for breakfast and grabbed a chocolate-chip muffin. It was another advantage to living in England - chocolate wasn’t nearly as scarce. The English breakfast, though - ugh! Tea was about the only part of it she could handle easily, Much of the rest was far too heavy for her stomach, at least first thing in the morning.

Her culinary cultural musings were interrupted by her father entering the kitchen.

“I’ll be taking you to Diagon Alley today,” he told her. “Just let me know when you’re ready to go.”

Takara’s eyebrows lifted. “Don’t you have a case to work on?”

“Loads,” her father confirmed. “But nothing that can’t wait a day - especially since you’re home for so few of them.”

Takara smiled, touched. “Thank you, Father.”

“Any time, Takara - you should know that.”

She did. It was one of the things that had made deciding to stay in this world and live this life so easy - as different as it was, her parents, however changed, were still fundamentally her parents, and they loved her just as much as they always had. Still, it was one thing to know it, and another to hear it. The affirmation, while not strictly necessary, was always appreciated.

“I do,” Takara said, vocalising her thoughts, “but it’s nice to hear anyway. I love you and Mother both for that.”

“And we love you,” he assured her. “Now, do you have your booklist?”

“Yes - and they’re almost all Gilderoy Lockhart books.”

Shiki winced. “Not cheap.”

“No - that’s why Galen, Shirou and I agreed to only buy a few each. We’ll share.”

His eyebrows lifted. “Is that a good idea? I mean, I’m not really in favour of blowing that much money, but for study purposes - “

Takara shrugged. “We almost always study together anyway, with Hermione and Neville. And you know Galen’s reading speed - he’ll be finished his by the time we hit King’s Cross and borrowing at least one of our books to read on the train. It should be fine.”

Shiki chuckled. “I suppose he will, at that. Well, if that’s how you want to try it, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. How many Lockhart books do you need?”

“Seven, total - but I only need two. Shirou lost the toss, so he’s the one who gets to buy three.”

“Seven?” Shiki repeated. “OK, I take it back - this plan has my full approval!”

“I’ll also need to restock my Potions ingredients,” Takara said,”pick up some new parchment and quills . . . Unless I have a growth spurt, my robes should be fine for another year, but a broom-servicing kit would be nice - and could we stop at Florian Fortescue’s for ice cream, after?”

“That will depend on how long this takes,” Shiki said. “And are you planning to meet anyone there?”

“Galen and Shirou - and Hermione wanted to show her parents Diagon Alley,” Takara admitted, “so we were going to meet at Gringotts before heading over to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch.”

“That’s still a couple of hours away. Get your list of what you need together - go through all your things from last year, just in case there’s something else that you’ve forgotten about . . . And Takara?”

“Yes, Father?”

He smiled sadly. “You look very pretty, and I’m sure the boys will appreciate it - but try to not grow up too quickly on me, please?”

Takara blushed slightly, but she was smiling, too.

“I’ll always be your little girl,” she said softly. “No matter how old I get.”

Physically or mentally, she added.

In his original life, Galen had been born almost three full months prematurely. At five years old, he had begun a tradition of sneaking downstairs at six AM to watch cartoons. Starting school at nine in the morning for thirteen years had reinforced the habit. As a result, he was hardwired to be an early riser, often awake and active long before the sun’s arrival. And once awake, falling back to sleep was almost impossible unless he was very, very ill.

Unfortunately, he was no more a morning person than Takara was. And coffee wasn’t going to be an allowable option for at least three more years. So it was with no small amount of staggering and grumbling that he’d removed himself from his bed to go eat a small breakfast and double-check his shopping list for Diagon Alley. Potions supplies, textbooks, quills and parchment - why weren’t paper and pens acceptable? They didn’t even have the excuse that magic would interfere with their internal electronics!

Because it’s not traditional - or more accurately, it’s Muggle. Can’t have that, of course - it’s so much better to pretend that the other five billion people on the planet are incapable of good ideas . . . Or better yet, that they don’t exist at all.

Galen paid attention in History of Magic class, unlike most of his year. History was actually one of his best (and favourite) subjects, even if the current teacher was quite possibly capable of boring people to death - rumour had it that Professor Binns had managed that feat on himself, hence his current ghostly status.

In any case, despite diligent research, he’d yet to hear of a witch or wizard landing on the moon - a feat the mundane population had managed almost thirty years beforehand. Witches and wizards appeared to have no knowledge, much less understand of, DNA. Certainly, there might be less pure-blood mania (or at least less inbreeding) if they had. And for all their spells and the horrors of their Killing Curse, they sure as hell didn’t seem to have anything even approaching a weapon of mass destruction.

The magical population’s consistent inability to grasp the potential of the mundane world was their single biggest flaw. Society seemed to regard them as quaint, at best - like house pets who could do clever tricks now and again, but certainly were nothing like equals. Lucius Malfoy was an exemplar of the worst of them - he treated them like game animals, at least when he could get away with it.

Voldemort used the prejudice, but he wasn’t the cause. The Death Eaters believe in what they do, as much as any mundane extremist - and magical society is too willing to foster the environment that spawns them.

So many Death Eaters had bought pardons from Azkaban using the Imperius defence - but what of the ones who hadn’t? Left in Azkaban, whatever their crimes - but not killed, oh no. Torture, rape, murder - with the exception of Sirius Black, most of the inmates there had been guilty of what they’d been accused of. More, they’d revelled in it, and jumped right back into it fifteen years later, despite a decade and a half at the “mercies” of the Dementors. If the Ministry had intended to imprison them as a deterrent, it hadn’t worked.

And then they’d been free to pick up right where they’d left off.

Not this time. They always called this a war - and unlike them, I intend to fight it like one. Whether it makes us Light or Dark, I don’t care - we don’t fight to capture the Death Eaters, we kill them. We kill them because they’ll kill us if we give them the chance. We kill them as a warning to the rest that they get no more free passes - turn aside from Voldemort or die. We kill them so they can’t harm anyone else, ever again.

Galen shook his head. He must still be half-asleep, he was brooding after being awake for only twenty minutes. God, he missed coffee.

In short order, he’d poured a bowl of cereal, and reread a favourite Forgotten Realms novel while he ate - the book much newer now than when he’d first started reading them a decade hence. His reading selection was a lot more limited nowadays - so many of his favourite authors and works hadn’t been published yet. The same was true of beloved movies and TV programs - the latter much more difficult to deal with, as England’s programming was entirely different. And he didn’t dare do any writing. Fiction, he might be able to get away with - but he was too afraid of being tempted to do a journal entry - and in whose hands it might end up.

Galen sighed to himself and thought, I need a hobby. Unfortunately, reading and writing were his hobbies, and neither was capable of satisfying him at the moment.

By the time his parents awoke, he’d fed and dressed himself, delivered his morning papers, run through his self-defence katas, had a shower, and changed clothes, finished his list, packed all his school nonessentials (the summer homework he’d finished three weeks ago, the supplies he wasn’t going to need until he got to Hogwarts, the textbooks he’d used last year which would be continued in certain courses), and was back to his novel. The clock read ten forty-five.

It was going to be a long wait until Diagon Alley.

Shirou went to the practice room as soon as he was awake, and ran through a few exercise routines to wake up. Like Galen, rising with the sun had become an ingrained habit over the years - born of having too much work to do over the course of a day, whether menial or militant in nature.

By the time he stepped out of the shower, Ilya was awake and yawning cutely into her morning tea.

“Diagon Alley today, huh?” she said. “Papa’s going with you, right?”

It was still a little strange to hear Ilya speak with English with a slight Germanic accent, but Shirou was getting used to it well enough to parse out the bits of her speech that the accent altered.

“Yeah,” Shirou confirmed. “They didn’t think Iri . . . Kaa-san coming was a good idea.”

Calling Irisviel “Mother” still wasn’t quite natural to him. He felt bad about that - to all intents and purposes, she was the mother he’d never known, and she wanted to be. She made Kiritsugu and Ilya happy just by being there, and it wasn’t as though she was a horrible person. She was the kind of woman he’d have been happy to have as a mother. But it was still so new to him . . .

He was fortunate that his parents seemed to be taking it as some kind of phase. He hoped that by the end of this year, he’d have adjusted.

His thoughts were startled by Ilya’s sudden giggle. “I almost wish she would - Lockhart’s reaction to a Veela would be priceless!”

Shirou grimaced. “It’s still annoying that you know more about this stuff than I do.”

Ilya shrugged in a casual way that would’ve sent many teenage (and some grown) males scrambling for either a cold shower or a private place. “You know why I do.”

Shirou did - it was the reason she was able to be here at all. When they’d been flung across dimensions, Ilya had been joined and partially manifest in her Servant, Galen. Using that connection, she’d piggybacked herself along for the ride, escaping her existence as the Grail spirit, using what power she could bring with her to write herself into the local reality. But that joining had cut both ways - what Galen had known at the time, she knew, and that included memories of the Harry Potter series.

“Yeah,” he said aloud. “And I’m willing to live with it, if it means I can have you here.”

Ilya’s smile could’ve been mistaken for the sunrise.

“I love you too, Onii-chan,” she said. “I’ll miss you when I head back to Durmstrang - especially when I know what you’ll be getting into.”

Now it was Shirou’s turn to shrug.

“It should be OK,” Shirou said. “Galen’s plan seems reasonable, and if we can pull it off, we’ll be able to avoid the whole mess this year - just go around as normal students.”

Ilya shook her head, smiling sadly. “Oh, Shirou . . . You don’t know the rules of this world like I do.”

Shirou tensed slightly, trying to read whether or not she was teasing him. The worst part was, he didn’t think so.

“What rules?” he asked.

“In this case, at least, an important one. What it boils down to is this: every year, things are bad. But every other year . . . They’re so much worse.”

Takara was unsurprised to see the boys waiting for her outside of Gringotts - neither was particularly patient. Galen especially, once he had an appointment to keep, a task to accomplish, could be a ball of nervous energy that as much annoyed people into going out the door and getting moving as anything else.

Seeing Hermione wasn’t much of a surprise, either. The better part of a year spent rooming with her meant that Takara could pretty accurately guess how she’d react to a day trip with her friends and parents to shop for school supplies. Offhand, the same way most kids would react to an upcoming trip to Tokyo Disneyland.

Nobody seemed to have minded the wait - Hermione’s parents were deep in conversation with Einzbern-san and Galen’s mother, a round woman who measured “five-foot-two-and-a-half,” according to herself. Galen’s eyes, particularly with the glasses, were hers, and maybe something of the nose. Her hair was a dark chestnut to Galen’s light, though, and his face was far more angular.

Takara’s memories of her were of a warm, welcoming woman that made really good chocolate cupcakes filled with cream cheese and chocolate chips (hey, she’d been five, and it was chocolate!). She’d actually taught Takara bits and pieces of how to bake, which helped Takara master brownies at ten.

She could be stern, though, she wasn’t prone to yelling. Takara mentally tagged Mrs. Salvatore as “Molly Weasley Lite.”

Takara smiled a bit at the thought before heading off to join Hermione and the boys.

“Sorry, am I late?”

“Right on time,” Shirou assured her. “These two are just eager beavers.”

Hermione flinched slightly, and Takara winced, saying quickly, “It’s just an expression, Hermione. He didn’t mean anything by it.”

“No, I didn’t,” Shirou agreed. “But I’m sorry anyway.”

“Still haven’t talked your parents into letting you shrink your teeth?” Galen asked in a low voice.

Actually, Takara reflected, almost all his voices were low. He seemed to have two primary volume modes: Too Quiet to Really Hear, and Too Loud to Miss in Australia.

Hermione shook her head. “I think they’re being unreasonable.”

“Understandable - but maybe they’re afraid of being rendered obsolete?” Galen offered. “What’s the use of their skills if you can just wave your wand to get better results? And if you don’t need them as dentists, how long until you decide you don’t need them as parents?”

He shook his head. “It’s why we’re trying so hard to let them feel welcome, Hermione - you disappear for most of a year to school, and then, for the little time you are home, they’re not allowed to share in what you’ve learned because of the underage magic restrictions. Think about what that will be like four or five years from now - how big will the gap be then, when you’ve spent a third of your life and most of your formative years in the magical world, and they’ve been forced to sit on the outside. What will you talk about? What connection will be left? Will you still be the Hermione Granger they know and love, or just the Smartest Witch of Her Generation?”

Galen’s tone darkened. “And would the Smartest Witch care too much about a pair of Muggles?”

Hermione flinched again, and Takara suspected that Galen’s choice of words was as much to blame as his voice. After a year to deal with the implications, “Muggle” was a term none of them used unless forced to, such as when referring to “Muggle Studies” class, because they all felt and disapproved of its derogatory connotations. Hermione was observant enough to have noticed that, and had probably figured out why, even if she’d never outright asked about it.

“That’s enough,” Shirou said firmly. “Calm down, man - you’re scaring her.”

It was like flipping a switch. Suddenly he sighed, seeming to expel the tension with a long breath. Takara couldn’t help a tiny headshake. Once again, mention harming Hermione and he jumped all over whatever the cause was - even himself.

“The magical world is isolationist by nature,” Takara said quietly. “While there are some valid security reasons for this, the conditions created by that nature have given rise to at least the last two Dark Lords. All their atrocities can ultimately be blamed on a sense of superiority fostered by the magical world’s view of the mundane. Whereas we, who have been raised in the mundane world, see the value of such people as people, rather than slaves, livestock, or sport. Galen is - passionate about the subject, but he’s right. We want you to be able to live in this world and still be a member of your family. We don’t want to see you forced to grow apart as you grow up.”

“Family matters,” Galen said, and if his voice was no longer so angry, it was still grim. “Ultimately, it’s the only thing that matters.”

“. . . Not even friends?” Hermione said hesitantly.

Takara couldn’t help it - she laughed. The other her’s experiences told her the answer to this one, and her own experiences said it was just as true. Shirou and Hermione gave her bewildered looks.

Smiling, she leaned in to whisper in the other girl’s ear, “He counts his closest friends as family, Hermione - and some of his relatives as simply ‘blood.’ Believe me, though - you’re on his list with the rest of us.”

Shirou glanced between the two girls, trying to figure out why Takara seemed amused, and Hermione was suddenly blushing.

His confusion did not end when they got to Flourish and Blotts.

“All these people are here to see Gilderoy Lockhart?”

The crowd was so thick around the front doors he could’ve walked on it if he’d wanted to.

“Disgusting, isn’t it?” Galen whispered.

“Now, now,” Takara chided gently in his ear. “They don’t know he’s a fraud.”

Hermione hadn’t noticed their conversation, but that had less to do with their attempts at stealth than with the fact that she had suddenly gone starry-eyed.

“We can actually meet him!” she squealed. “I mean, he’s written practically the whole booklist!”

“Yes,” Galen agreed, “but ask yourself who set that booklist?”

Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to hear him.

Takara had that Cheshire cat grin on her face again. Shirou had to admit that on her, it was a becoming expression - although it was almost as terrifying as Rin’s.

“You had forgotten about this, hadn’t you?” she teased Galen.

“Yesss,” came the weary answer. Then, surprisingly, he shrugged. “Ah, well.”

Takara blinked. “‘Ah, well?’”

“It could’ve been worse - the last thing I forgot was a dragon.”

Shirou laughed at Takara’s expression. When he saw Galen smirk, he knew there was a bigger laugh coming.

Galen stepped closer into Takara’s space and said, just loud enough for the three of them to hear, “If you were expecting my eyes to turn as green as that pretty little yukata of yours, O Former Mistress, I’ll admit I’m surprised. Knowing Lockhart as you do, exactly what did you expect me to be jealous of?”

Shirou laughed as Takara’s expression soured further. Whatever she’d hoped for, this was clearly not it. Then Shirou’s eyes spotted something that drove all humour out of his thoughts.

“Red hair at ten o’clock, about thirty metres and closing,” he reported. “The Weasleys are here, guys - it’s show time.”

March 23rd, 2011, 06:49 PM
You have a [i[refract[/i] in the beginning of the second scene of chappie 1. The fics still seems nice.

March 23rd, 2011, 07:00 PM
Thanks, fixed it.

. . . On the one hand, I can avoid errors like these by recoding them just before posting, using the "I" buttons, and so on. But by manually recoding them, I can prepare to upload multiple chapters in one go - hard to say which is better.

March 23rd, 2011, 07:04 PM
Mm...you can always open several "+ Reply to Thread" tabs, one for each chapter, I think.

March 23rd, 2011, 07:51 PM
I only just noticed the youtube hyperlink on the date - were they always there? Nice song, regardless.

Also, you have written oodles of fic, Kieran. Oodles upon oodles.

March 23rd, 2011, 08:17 PM
Mm...you can always open several "+ Reply to Thread" tabs, one for each chapter, I think.

*shakes head* My writing computer is not my Internet computer, so I have to transfer files physically from computer to computer. My current method is manually recode several chapters at once, save them as separate files, and upload in sequence - but as you've seen, I make errors. The other option is to not both adding the [] stuff to the chapter files until I'm ready to post, and use the buttons here - but that means it takes longer to upload them, as opposed to having a bunch ready to go.

I only just noticed the youtube hyperlink on the date - were they always there? Nice song, regardless.

Nope - I wanted to add that the first time around, but never got around to it. So I added it this time. Hope it suits.

Also, you have written oodles of fic, Kieran. Oodles upon oodles.

The Trinity series alone comprises 1400+ pages - so I have to agree. It just makes reuploading all this stuff a pain . . . But worth it, because it's appreciated. :)

Nice to see you back, too.

March 23rd, 2011, 11:18 PM
Advanced posting'll let you preview, if that helps any.

Of course, you probably already know that, so... I'm gonna go bug someone else now.

March 23rd, 2011, 11:23 PM
I did - but I so rarely used it, I'd honestly forgotten about it. Thanks. :)

March 24th, 2011, 08:14 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 3 - The Fireworks Begin

August 19, 1992

Galen resisted the urge to growl as they literally squeezed into the store. He hated crowds. It was part of why he’d stopped going to conventions - he’d had claustrophobia attacks just trying to view the vendors’ stalls. Lines had never been his thing, either, and there was a big one winding its way to the back of the shop, and the blond fop perched there signing autographs.

Fortunately for his sanity and the probable continued existence of the bookstore, he had no intentions of joining the queue. Getting Lockhart’s signature on his autobiography was a pleasure he ranked right below having the Grangers fill a cavity for him after he’d announced his intention to have sex with Hermione. Unfortunately for Galen’s aforementioned sanity, he was required to at least keep an eye on the damned thing because the Weasleys were going to join in.

Timing was going to be everything here. They had to wait until the Malfoys showed up, and Lucius slipped the diary into Ginny’s Transfiguration book, and then try to steal it while everyone was distracted - probably by the fight between Lucius and Arthur Weasley. It was a very small window of opportunity, but unless they could come up with a better one, it was all they had.

Galen patted his left side pocket. In there, folded too many times to be believed, was the Peverell cloak of invisibility, the third of the Deathly Hallows. Takara was quick, and this might give her the edge she needed - but they had to be careful. An advantage like this was only useful if no one knew about it - and the Malfoys were the last people they wanted to reveal its existence to.

Galen considered. By itself, the cloak was a silvery mass of fabric, light as air and thin as spider silk. It was only when it covered something (usually people, but he’d found it worked on objects, too) that it became “active,” and therefore undetectable. They’d considered hiding the Philosopher’s Stone with it, but ultimately discarded the idea as useless, since Dumbledore had given them the cloak in the first place - for a reason that Galen still did not know, and was therefore suspicious of. If nothing else, he’d have wondered where the cloak had vanished to, if he chose to search their belongings.

There were any number of ways it could be useful, so long as they weren’t seen using it . . .

The Weasleys were getting closer to the middle of the line - the confrontation with the Malfoys would happen soon after they hit the head of it. Draco had to be somewhere in the stacks, though Galen couldn’t see him. He chose to focus on his shopping, first, picking up The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 and Lockhart’s Voyages with Vampires and Wanderings with Werewolves. If he absolutely had to have the man’s books, they might as well be about stuff he was interested in.

He also selected a gift book for Hermione’s birthday and prayed she hadn’t decided to buy it already - though with the expense of Lockhart’s books, he hoped she wouldn’t be able to afford much more. After he’d paid for his purchases, Galen joined Shirou and Takara - neither had elected to join Hermione in line.

“Anybody have any clearer ideas about what to do?” he whispered, though the crowd noise hardly made it necessary.

Both shook their heads.

“I wish we could use magic,” Takara muttered. “We’d be assured of a distraction with the right spells.”

Galen shook his head. “No good - the Trace spell on an underage wand will go off around any nearby magic, and while this is Diagon Alley, I’d rather not give the Ministry reasons to look at us too closely.”

“Speaking of wands,” Shirou said abruptly, “Ilya said it might be helpful to remember yours.”

Galen scowled. “Well, I brought it, even if I can’t really use it. It just seemed silly to not have it when it’s expected of every wizard to have . . . A wand from Ollivander’s,” he finished in a breathless tone. “Ilya, you clever, deceitful, brilliant little minx!”

Takara looked at him. “Meaning . . .?”

“My wand isn’t British-made - and it’s a custom job,” Galen smirked ferally. “Anybody want to bet Galleons that Ilya didn’t tell the wandmaker it was for an underage wizard?”

Both of them had parents who were Aurors - they got it instantly.

“OK, so magic’s an option,” Takara said in a hushed voice, “if we’re careful. So what can we do?”

Galen began flipping through the Grade 2 spellbook quickly, before sighing. “Damned little. I’d give a lot to be able to do a Summoning or Banishing Charm right now.”

“What else do we have to work with?” Shirou asked.

Galen looked at his spell repertoire - and the answer was, not much. Basic levitation, several counter-jinxes, the Shield Charm, the bluebell flame spell Hermione had taught him . . .

“We’re in a bookstore,” Galen murmured. “That means wood and paper, lots of it. And my wand loves fire.”

“That’s Veela hair for you,” Shirou murmured back. “Ilya’s got the same knack - she can conjure fireballs without a wand. No transforming outside of turning her hair feathery, though.”

“That would be pretty,” Galen mused.

Takara glanced at them impatiently. “They’re getting closer to the head of the line, boys. What’s the plan?”

Galen frowned. “On second thought, this place has to have Flame-Freezing Charms, or something like them - fire and explosions are too common around wizards. Short of maybe dragon’s breath or Fiendfyre, I doubt I could do any real damage.”

“You’re sure?” Shirou asked. “These are wizards we’re talking about. They’ve got a knack for doing bloody stupid things.”

“Have to assume the worst,” Galen said grimly. “If we don’t, and we’re wrong . . .”

“OK, then what?” Takara prodded. “We’re almost out of time to get into position!”

Galen glanced over at the Weasleys - it looked like everyone short of the two oldest boys, who didn’t live at home. Ginny was a cute little sprite, looking much more vivacious without the shyness produced by Harry Potter’s presence. She was talking animatedly to her twin brothers, Fred and George . . .

A page from the book flashed into his head.

“New plan,” Galen said. “Shirou, I need you to play spotter - help me get under the cloak unnoticed. Then I need you to head over to the twins, and tell me where they’ve hidden something we need . . .”

Shirou kept all his senses open as they disappeared into a corner of the store, two boys hunting a particular book. While the enclosed stacks hindered his sight, motion was easy enough to spot in a place like this, even from the other side of a bookcase. And while his hearing wasn’t on par with Galen’s, he was far from deaf.

“Are you sure this is going to work?” Shirou hissed. “This could endanger a lot of people.”

Galen vanished along with the cloak, and the voice that emerged from the empty air where he stood was eerily muted. Almost always quiet, his whispers could be almost impossible to hear - and under the quieting of the cloak, it was more like hearing a voice in his head than actual sound. Shirou had to fight the urge to shiver.

“Your dad and Takara’s are trained Aurors - they can minimise the damage, hopefully. I’ll use a Shield Charm if I have to. We’re just trying to make people look in one particular direction - away from her and Ginny’s cauldron. And you have to make sure they don’t look at me.”

“Right,” Shirou agreed. Invisible or not, if someone sees a flame emerge from somewhere . . . It would lead to questions nobody wanted to have to answer.

“Get to the twins - we’re almost out of time.”

Shirou got, and emerged from the raised level to meet Takara in mid-conversation with the twins.

“Galen’s going to be a while,” Shirou informed her. “He just found three new books on magical creatures, and his allowance will only let him buy one.”

“He’ll be at least twenty minutes, then,” Takara said, playing along with the ruse. When the chaos started, there had to be a reason Galen wasn’t seen.

“Blimey,” said Fred (or was it George?). “The only other bloke I know as monster-mad as Galen is Hagrid.”

“On the other hand,” added George (or Fred), “Galen’s just plain mad, isn’t he?”

“No argument,” Shirou said with a laugh. “He’d even agree with you. Although, it makes choosing next year’s electives easier for him.”

They all got a good laugh out of that one.

“Shirou,” said one of the twins, “you should meet the last ickle firstie of the Weasley clan, our sister Ginny.”

“Ginny,” said the other, “this is Shirou. His eyes are Japanese, his last name’s German, but it’s obvious from his hair that he’s a Weasley who got adopted.”

“We figure that Mum decided she couldn’t handle twins again after us,” the first one grinned, “and gave him up to keep Ron.”

The other snorted. “She picked the wrong one to get rid of, obviously - Shirou’s loads more fun!”

The little girl (and she was little - Ilya-chan’s size, he thought) had alternated looking at her brothers as they spoke, before turning to stare at him with incredulous brown eyes.

“They’re having you on,” Shirou assured her, before smirking, “Although, I was adopted, so then again . . .”

The twins staggered back as if struck, hands clutching their chests in unison.

“Brother!” they cried at once, grabbing him in a simultaneous bear hug, actually managing to lift him off the floor. “Welcome back to the family!”

Takara smothered a laugh, and noticed the Weasley matriarch beckoning in their direction.

“Ginny, your mum wants you,” she said, gesturing with her eyes.

The girl scampered back to her place in line.

“So . . .” drawled one of the twins. “Anticipating any more interesting problems this year?”

Translation, Shirou thought, “Need another dragon’s egg smuggled out of Hogwarts, or something similar?”

“Actually,” Takara said calmly, “we’re hoping to avoid all kinds of problems this year.”

“Pity,” said the other twin. “On the other hand, it’s not as if -“

”- We don’t have our own ways of livening things up,” finished the first. He opened his bag, and gestured within.

Shirou glanced in, and saw exactly what he needed to see.

Bingo, he thought.

Takara was a bundle of nerves, however stoic she seemed. Years of kendo practice and tutoring in Japanese tradition had given her the ability to put on that traditional mask of inscrutability, regardless of her actual feelings, and she’d learned to wear it well. It had made learning Occlumency relatively easy - she was already halfway there.

She watched as Ginny and her mother moved to the head of the line with a cauldron full of books. Ginny was not what she’d expected. She’d been waiting for the girl to be shy, almost mute - this one never seemed to shut up. She was definitely the twins’ sister - a bouncing ball of a girl, full of questions about Hogwarts. Hermione hadn’t been this inquisitive . . . Well, all right, she had - but Hermione had actually waited for the answers, and paused to take breaths.

The bushy-haired Gryffindor appeared as if summoned, signed autobiography in hand, and an expression of pure delight on her face. She took one look at Takara’s face and laughed.

“Wore you out, did she?” Hermione asked, amused.

“She’ll be the second coming of Fred and George,” Takara muttered. “All by herself.”

“Really?” asked one of the twins. “You hear that, George? We trained her well.”

“Always a bittersweet moment,” George agreed. “When the student outstrips the masters.”

Takara glanced at them. “Since when do you two know anything about martial arts?”

Fred shrugged. “We see you lot down by the lake every morning, and we got curious. That stuff really work?”

Takara smirked. “There’s a reason I’ve never been afraid of Malfoy and his goons, boys - I could put all three of them in the Hospital Wing without my wand.”

George looked thoughtful. “Might be worthwhile to know a few moves ourselves, then. Like the Muggle lock-picking tricks - always handy to have when wands aren’t useable.”

“Mundane,” Takara stressed. “‘Muggle’ makes them sound like a different species. And the pure-bloods didn’t just drop out of the sky, you know - we’re all human.”

“How magnanimous,” drawled a new, and definitely unwanted voice. “Such sympathy for the Muggles - though I should’ve expected as much from a half-blood like you, Aozaki.”

Takara met Draco Malfoy’s gaze unflinchingly, even contemptuously. He wasn’t Japanese, but he was otherwise every inch the type of bigot she’d faced growing up. She knew his kind, and had dealt with them for years. She could play their game, as well.

Takara schooled her face to its coldest mask, and made each word an icy needle of utter disdain. “The Aozaki clan has been a recognised and respected family in Nihon since the eighth century A.D., Malfoy - has your blood endured so long? ‘Mal foi' is ultimately French, after all.” She gave him a copy of his own sneer, and from the twins’ expressions, she copied it well.

“My family has gained wisdom in its time that upstarts like you have yet to even conceive of,” she said. “I have little time, and less patience, for the mewling of ignorant children.”

Draco’s face was nearly purple. “When my father hears of this - !”

“He will no doubt remind you that you will soon be at school, beyond his reach - and trapped within mine,” Takara purred. “My bloodline has plied many trades in our centuries, Malfoy, but we have excelled at one above all others . . .” She gave him an icy smile, and whispered, “Death.”

Had Crabbe and Goyle been anywhere nearby, Draco might have held. Had his father been in sight, he might have felt more secure. As it was, he was alone, facing a girl in whose eyes he could read his own bloody end.

He ran, leaving a whiff of urine behind.

Takara sighed, relaxing. That had been kind of fun, but it wasn’t a mask she liked to wear - any more than she’d enjoyed letting Nanaya loose.

Fred and George were staring at her as though she’d suddenly become a panther.

“What - “

“ - the bloody -“

” - hell - “

” - was that?!” they demanded.

Takara could feel herself blushing. “That was every pure-blood bigot I ever met back home,” she said quietly. “You hear something often enough, and you can copy it pretty well.”

Hermione looked subdued. “Is everywhere in the wizarding world like the Malfoys?”

Takara glanced at her in surprise. “No - that was because my mother was a gaijin, not a Mundane-born. Being a witch had nothing to do with it.”

“Explains why you hate the pure-blood stuff so much, though,” Fred mused.

“Yeah - you’ve heard the Muggle - sorry, mundane version all your life,” George added.

Takara flashed him a grateful smile for the correction, then shrugged. “My childhood wasn’t all bad.” She smiled at a sudden memory. “When I was four, some of the kids in my neighbourhood thought I looked weird, and didn’t want to play with me - but I met a boy who thought I was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen, because I had ‘pretty kitty eyes.’”

“I suppose they do sort of look that way,” Hermione admitted. “With the shape, and the colour.”

“They do,“ Takara admitted. “And I liked pretending that I was a cat, so it was a very big compliment. But then, he always has been sweet that way - right, Hermione?”

Hermione blinked. “You mean Galen - ?”

“Who else?” She laughed, as much for the irony of her next statement as anything else. “We didn’t just appear on the Hogwarts Express as best friends, you know.”

Any other discussion was cut off by the hollow, metallic thunk of a cauldron hitting the ground - and Takara whirled in horror. She’d been caught unprepared - and the fight was on! She’d really need to hurry if she was going to make this work!

Galen resisted the urge to curse aloud as he saw Takara talking to the twins - and Hermione. First the Quidditch match last year, and now this - ! That girl seemed to have an unwitting knack for drawing people into conversations at the worst possible times!

He kept an eye on Arthur and Lucius, otherwise. Malfoy had already handled Ginny’s book, and dumped it into the cauldron - that part was in play. Now it was just a matter of waiting for -

The Weasley patriarch lunged at the long-haired platinum blond, and the fight was on.

Chaos reigned supreme for several minutes. Ginny was shrieking, her mother was trying to convince her husband to calm down, Ron was egging him on - and now Takara and the twins were on-scene. The twins were focussed on the fight, and no one seemed to notice as Takara bent down to gather the spilled books up and out of harm’s way . . .

Things began to wind down almost immediately after the crowd got involved - quick reactions on Shiki and Kiritsugu’s parts, but Takara hadn’t quite finished yet. Looked like there was no choice but to go for the second distraction . . .

With a whispered incantation, Galen conjured a tiny bluebell flame and sent it speeding towards Fred and George’s open bag - and a collection of “Dr. Filibuster’s Fabulous Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks.”

As the world exploded into rainbow flashes and thunderous cracks, Shirou’s only consolation was that nothing was burning. It already felt like a war - being trapped in a blazing bookstore would only have gotten people killed.

Of course, as no one could tell immediately that there wasn’t a fire, it hadn’t stopped people from trampling themselves on the way to the exit. Or conjuring streams of water, or casting Flame-Freezing Charms and stunning people who were standing behind the explosion of the firework.

Lockhart had been the first to flee under the onslaught. The crowd hadn’t noticed in its panic, but Shirou was hopeful that somebody would point it out eventually. As it was, he had his hands full getting to Takara, and then his father, and helping gather everyone to evacuate the building - and keeping anyone from noticing Galen’s absence. Though Shirou knew he wasn’t that absent - the odd silver flash was definitely a Protego being cast, and they seemed to occur around the Grangers, in particular, whenever a firework or stampeding patron got too close.

Takara had a look on her face when she joined them that, to anyone else, would’ve been impassive. But he was Japanese, too, and he’d known her for years - she was tense. Whether because she was worried or elated, he couldn’t tell. But there was hardly anything to be said when they were surrounded by people they didn’t want to overhear. It would have to wait.

Once outside, Takara handed off Ginny’s cauldron of books to Mrs. Weasley, who thanked her for her kindness, before drawing off her family for what would no doubt be a royal raking over the coals for their behaviour. There was no sign of Lucius Malfoy or his son - like Lockhart, they’d been among the first to go. Hermione was the first after Galen’s mother to notice his absence, and the very first to tackle him when he emerged from a side alley.

“I’m okay, Hermione,” he grunted. “I headed for a wall when the explosions started and worked my way around to a side door. I figured it was safer keeping the bookcases between me and the booms rather than try and walk out the front door. Sorry to worry you all.”

She released him, reluctantly, then followed his gaze to Takara, then Shirou. Shirou thought he was the only one to see her eyes narrow slightly.

Galen had turned his attention to the Grangers. “I’m very sorry for the mess - if you want to go home now, we’d understand. But is there any chance we could talk you into ice cream first? There’s a quiet little parlour not far . . .”

Galen’s mother looked at him oddly.

He turned to her and shrugged. “They were the ones most at risk in there, Mum. They couldn’t defend themselves, and Hermione wasn’t allowed to defend them. I know Aozaki-san and Mr. Einzbern could have and would’ve, but . . .”

Shirou broke in. “It doesn’t change the fact that they were helpless - and that’s a terrifying thing to be.”

The Grangers gave them both odd looks. The three of them got them on occasion, and there really wasn’t much helping it - they sounded like adults in children’s bodies because they were. But sometimes, it made it easier to get people to listen to them, too.

Hermione gave them the look the three of them called the Mystic Eyes of the Sad Puppy. “Please? I’ve heard about Fortescue’s - it’s supposed to be very good, very peaceful. It would be nice, right about now.”

The Grangers acquiesced, the shocks of the trip apparently overriding their dental instincts to avoid sugar, and the group walked towards Florean Fortescue’s, the Grangers subtly ensconced in the middle, Hermione on their right side.

She glanced to her own right, at Shirou, and asked in a casual tone, “Are wizarding fireworks usually silver?”

Shirou shrugged, and said truthfully, “They can be pretty much any colour you want them to be, Hermione. Why?”

“An odd pattern,” she responded, and Shirou winced, reminded anew of just how dangerous Hermione Granger’s mind really was. She might not notice things in the heat of the moment, but once she was given time to calm down and think about it, she could notice very minute details that others would easily overlook.

And Hermione had very good reason to know the colour of an active Shield Charm. She might not know what had happened, and certainly not why . . . But there was no way she didn’t have a damned good notion of who was involved.

Still, as long as Takara had managed to get the diary, it wouldn’t really matter. This would all be over and done with . . .

It wasn’t until halfway through the meal, however, while Hermione had gone to the washroom and left them alone in their booth, that he was able to look Takara in the eye and ask in quiet Japanese, “Well?”

Takara lowered her eyes. “I didn’t get it.”

Shirou swore a quiet oath in German - a fine language for invective. Galen’s language of choice sounded like Italian. He hadn’t even known that Galen knew any Italian swear words.

Takara looked mortified. “I almost had it, and then the fireworks went off, and there was such a rush to get outside . . . I’m sorry.”

Shirou shook his head. “Not your fault.” He glared at Galen. “And not your fault, either - so don’t even start. They would’ve caught her anyway, if you hadn’t. We need to focus on a backup plan.”

“Meet her on the train,” Galen said immediately. “Takara needs to become her best friend, so that she can get access to Ginny’s things more easily. With luck, she’ll have the book with her on the train, but she might not notice it until classes start - depends on how soon she opens her Transfiguration text. No matter what, we’ve got to get it before she starts using it, or Riddle’s soul fragment might be able to call her to it no matter how we hide it.”

“And we’ve got to be careful,” Shirou added. “Hermione’s already suspicious - too many Shield Charms.”

Galen looked defensive. “I wasn’t taking chances.”

Shirou shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. None of it matters right now, beyond that book. So far, we’ve got strike one. Let’s not get to three, shall we?”

March 24th, 2011, 08:15 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 4 -Terrible Truths

September 1, 1992

Shirou double-checked that he had everything packed before he headed out to King’s Cross station to meet the train to Hogwarts. Books, clothes, supplies, wand . . . Yes, everything seemed to be in place.

The redhead admitted to himself that he was nervous. Last year, they’d appeared on the train proper, without the need to do this. Even coming back from Christmas break, they hadn’t faced this - the mad scramble. There would be a new crop of first-years this year, more people to get lost in.

Ilya had already left the day before, needing extra time to reach Durmstrang as it was on the continent. It had been - interesting - living with his big/little sister for the summer. She wasn’t quite as silly an older sister as Fuji-nee had been, but there was a smaller age gap between them, and that only physical. Like Galen, he’d died nearer to thirty than twenty. Ilya might have been older than he was at the beginning, despite her looks - but the reverse was now true.

Still, Ilya was obviously enjoying herself in this world - certainly, she seemed to like wearing the skimpiest outfits she could get away with. When Shirou had called her on it, she’d responded with a glare and a fringe of fire licking around her fingers.

“I’ve waited over twenty years for boobs and legs like these,” she’d told him. “I intend to enjoy them.”

What could you say to that? Although, he suspected her allure “accidents” were less frequent than she made them appear - especially since he was often in the vicinity when it went off. Unfortunately for her, he was about as immune to the allure as Galen - it only worked when she caught him by surprise, and never for long. Whether that was because his mind was hardened against it by virtue of his experiences, or because his body didn’t have enough of the right hormones yet to really respond, Shirou wasn’t sure. . . He was definitely praying for the former, though.

Still, that was a problem for another year - his sister was safely ensconced in her castle, as he was soon to be in his - with a soul-devouring diary and killer snake.

That, he admitted, was something else that made him nervous. They’d missed the best opportunity to get their hands on the diary - and breaking into the Burrow to get it hadn’t been an option. Aside from whatever standard wards might be around the place, Galen had pointed out that the eldest son was a professional cursebreaker, and almost certainly would have tweaked them for his family’s security. While the three of them had some interesting talents and magical items handy, none of them would’ve likely helped.

That had limited their window of opportunity even further. The train was the next best bet - either Ginny would have it on her person, or in her luggage. If they eliminated one possibility, they could pursue the other freely. Getting into the first-year girls’ dormitory to ransack her things would be tricky, but doable - but if they didn’t have to, why borrow trouble?

We never need to borrow trouble, Shirou snorted to himself. It throws itself at us, free of charge.

He grabbed a drawstring pouch on a leather thong holding a collection of pocket money for the snack trolley, and tapping the rune on his trunk that activated the built-in Shrinking Charm, placed the trunk in the pouch as well. Checking to make sure that his wand was snugly secured in its wrist-holster - Ilya’s latest birthday present to him - he glanced around his room one last time to ensure he hadn’t forgotten anything. Seeing nothing obvious, he put the thong around his neck and tucked the pouch under his shirt, out of sight.

He then headed downstairs to meet his dad for the drive to the station. Kiritsugu had been irritated by the fiasco at Flourish and Blotts, but he didn’t seem to suspect Shirou of anything specific. His questions to Shirou had been phrased more as though he was confirming his own suspicions of what he’d seen and heard. Like Hermione, he’d noted a number of silver “fireworks” in and around the red and blue bursts - but he’d said nothing about other than to note their existence . . . And their frequent proximity to the only mundane people in the store that he knew about.

It was a sobering reminder to Shirou that his father, while perhaps not a genius, was no dummy, either - and he was not only trained to detect and neutralise Dark wizards, he excelled at it.

It wasn’t until they’d pulled into the nearest parking lot to the station, however, that Kiritsugu stopped to really speak to him. He turned off the car and turned to face Shirou.

“I used to face Filius Flitwick on the duelling circuit, a long time ago,” he remarked casually. “He was a tricky little guy, even then - our matches could usually go either way. So when he tells me that my son and his friends are some of the most natural wand-wielders he’s ever seen, I know he’s not saying it just because he thinks I’ll like to hear it. More to the point, I’ve never heard of him taking students in duelling - Charms, yes, but not duelling.” Kiritsugu’s voice turned dry. “Then again, I suppose any first-years who can successfully tackle a fully-grown mountain troll might be impressive enough for him to want to train them.”

Shirou’s surprise must have been visible in his eyes, because his father laughed. “You thought because I didn’t say anything, I didn’t know? Come on, Shirou - I work in the same department as Shiki Aozaki! The only reason I didn’t make a fuss was because I knew he and Ciel were handling it - or your mother would been down there in full feathers and flame within the hour afterwards, believe me! She was ready to tear that castle apart stone by stone to get at whoever had let that thing in - and drop them all on Dumbledore’s head for allowing it to happen!” He chuckled. “Why do you think Arcueid went with them? She was a compromise!”

Kiritsugu sobered. “The point is, son - I know you’re good, especially for your age. Fil says that your spells have got punch and range like nobody’s business, and with Takara and Galen backing you up, there’s damned little a second-year should encounter that you can’t handle without breaking a sweat - but the troll thing has still got us uneasy. Dumbledore’s one of the best alive, but he’s been alive for a long time - and time takes its toll. And with the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher this year being Gilderoy Lockhart, well . . .”

Shirou widened his eyes, as if in surprise, and said, “Dad! Are you telling me you don’t believe in Gilderoy Lockhart, after everything he’s done?”

Kiritsugu snorted. “I hunt Dark wizards - and your mother’s not only a Baroness, she’s been a model and an ambassador, too. I know how to spot liars, Shirou. Lockhart hasn’t broken any laws I’m aware of, but if he’s as competent as he says is, it’s time for me to retire.” The older Einzbern’s face turned hard. “The point is this, Shirou - if things turn dangerous this year, don’t try and throw yourself into it. Contact us, first. This is our job, after all.”

“I’ll try, Dad,” Shirou promised.

Kiritsugu sighed. “Best I can hope for, I guess. Well, good luck at school, enjoy yourself but try to stay out of trouble, and we’ll see you at Christmas.” He reached over the seat to hug his son.

As Shirou was leaving the car, Kiritsugu added, “And Shirou?”

“Yeah, Dad?”

Kiritsugu’s eyes glinted with amusement. “Tell Galen I’ll understand if he doesn’t want to say how he managed to stay hidden, but he throws a nice Shield Charm - and damned quickly, too. If you and Takara are as good as that, the Aurors could use you all.”

Shirou turned as red as his hair.

Galen arrived early at King’s Cross station mainly out of habit - the train left at eleven sharp, period. And it wasn’t as though they’d been dealing with a desperate house-elf all summer . . . Hm, that sounded like a potential series of bodice-rippers: Desperate House-elves. The first book’s title was almost too easy - At Her Master’s Pleasure . . .

Dear God, he was actually considering writing romance novels! He needed a hobby, stat!

Problem was, the wizarding world didn’t seem to have a whole heck of a lot by way of entertainments. He didn’t fly by choice, so Quidditch and Quodpot were out. He’d never been any good at chess, even without pieces that would back-talk him. Gobstones was basically marbles, which he’d never gotten the point of. Exploding Snap was a card game like Concentration - a quick diversion, but nothing to build anything on. He could collect comic books, but the only one he knew of was The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle . . .

No. Bloody. Way. Not even to stave off romance novels.

It was strange that for a society capable of animated photographs and Pensieves, they hadn’t yet developed the motion picture, or television. Their sole mass media outlet that wasn’t printed appeared to be the Wizarding Wireless Network, which was radio. Not much to be done with that, either, at least in terms of a hobby - unless he could somehow rig a pirate radio station . . . Hmm . . .

“Well, here we are,” his father announced, drawing Galen from his musings. “This is where we part ways, son.”

“Thanks, Dad - see you at Christmas,” Galen said. “Take care?”

“You take care,” his father returned. “The potion will help - but your godmother told us about the other times you landed in the infirmary.”

Galen reddened. “Sorry, Dad - didn’t have much choice. It was either me or - well, her.”

He pointed at the rapidly-approaching Grangers - Hermione being early wasn’t unexpected. She was going back to school, to learn. Naturally, she couldn’t wait.

“Hello, Hermione, Mr. and Mrs. Granger,” he greeted them with a smile. “Good to see you. I hope you’re all right, after the problems at the bookstore?”

They assured him they were.

Galen spotted another form, and bowed his head. “I’m sorry, Miranda. You were hidden behind your sister - I didn’t see you. How are you today?”

“Good,” Miranda said brightly.

Galen smiled. Miranda Granger had quickly become one of his favourite people - or maybe it was the other way around. Like the Grade 1 students he’d had co-op with, once she’d found out he’d read stories or sing to her, it was never long into his visits before she’d turn up. Not that he minded much - it was nice to be able to make someone so happy with something so simple. It had beating off trolls as a way of making friends beat by the proverbial country mile.

He glanced at Hermione. Though that method isn’t without its benefits . . .

“Well, you be a good girl, and we’ll see you at Christmas,” he told her. “If you’re really good, maybe I can talk Dad into making some fudge for you.”

Hermione gave him a mock glare. “I remember that fudge. It’s almost pure brown sugar!”

Galen grinned. “I know.”

The Grangers, being dentists, tended to avoid the usual sweets with their daughters. However, like all small children, the mere mention of candy was enough to set Miranda’s mouth watering.

“OK!” she chirped.

“Deal,” Galen agreed. He glanced at the station clock. “We’d better hurry if we want good seats - goodbye, Grangers. Bye, Dad - love you.”

He walked through the barrier, Hermione tagging along seconds later.

She gave him a puzzled look. “Why didn’t your father bring you through to the platform?”

“He can’t,” Galen said flatly. “Not any more than your parents can.”

Hermione blinked. “I thought your father was a - “

”Mundane-born? No, he’s pure vanilla mundane, the only one in the house. Think about that, Hermione. He has to handle the stresses and arguments of a marriage, and raise and discipline two children, knowing that any of them could accidentally or on purpose blow him through a wall, or turn him into a toad, if they got upset - and you know my temper. Then add the fact that his only son has a disease that turns him into a rabid killing machine every four weeks.” Galen shook his head. “Anybody with any sense would say he has plenty of reasons to turn alcoholic, or just cut and run - but he never has. And to the magical world, he’s practically nothing. Just another common Muggle, after all - and it’s not as though they matter.”

Hermione gazed at him appraisingly. “That’s why you’re so against the pure-blood agenda. Why you’re so careful of my parents. Because of your father.”

“Oh, I think the prejudices are stupid on principle - but yeah. I’ve seen firsthand what the magical world can do to mundanes if they’re not protected, or at least prepared. And I’ve lived in their world all my life - I think they deserve at least courtesy, if not respect. I’m not saying that the entire world is ready to embrace witches, wizards, and all that comes with them, but given the rising number of mundane-born versus the declining birthrates of pure-bloods, only a collection of idiots would continue to run things the way they are.”

“Really? I haven’t studied that.”

“Just look around the school. Most of the major pure-blood families have only one child enrolled. One heir, and not even a spare, with very few exceptions. Whereas mundane-born usually end up having family members who enroll, too. The pure-blood gene pool gets shallower with each generation - pretty soon, they’ll evaporate it altogether.”

Galen shook his head again, and caught sight of a familiar form with the movement. He called out, “Hey, Nev!”

The stocky boy turned, and it was fun watching his face light up. Here, too, was a simple pleasure - that he could bring them pleasure just by being there, and being glad to see them.

“Galen! Hermione!” he called, as though it had been a year instead of a week and a half since they’d all last seen each other. “Come on - I’ll save you a compartment!”

Neville boarded the train, and Hermione bit her lip.

“Should we wait for Shirou and Takara?” Hermione asked.

Galen shook his head. “They said something about wanting to talk to Fred and George Weasley - they’ll catch up. But we should grab one more person, just to have filled up the compartment when they do arrive . . .”

He scanned around for a familiar, friendly face - and caught sight of a tiny blonde girl struggling with a trunk that was nearly her own size. Her robes were a bright, flamingo-like pink - and even at a distance, her wand was visibly tucked behind her ear.

Perfect. Galen strode over to the girl with the biggest smile he could muster.

“Need a hand, miss?” he asked politely.

Wide, silvery-blue eyes locked on to his in surprise. They gazed at him searchingly for a moment.

“Yes, please,” she said in an almost dreamy voice, an Irish lilt adding music to its tone. “Daddy forgot to put the Featherweight Charm on my trunk before he left. He’s a wonderful man, but a bit absent-minded.” Quickly, she added, “I’m Luna, by the way. Luna Lovegood.”

“Nice to meet you, Luna - I’m Galen Salvatore, and that’s Hermione Granger.” He gestured. “Hermione, mind grabbing the other end with her? We’ll get an idea of whether this thing’s really heavy, or just awkward.”

“Awkward” proved to be the winning option, so Hermione was relegated to the role of spotter - making sure the train corridor was clear, and the doors open, as Galen hefted the trunk through it, and into the compartment where Neville was waiting.

“Oof!” Galen grunted as he heaved the trunk into the upper holding bay of the compartment. “Wow, that was work! I thought I was in shape - guess I’ll have to exercise harder.”

“I’m sorry,” Luna said contritely.

Galen shook his head. “It’s not your fault, Luna. If I needed the workout that badly, I’m glad I got it. So tell me, are you just starting Hogwarts?”

“Yes - I expect I’ll be in Ravenclaw, like my Mum and Dad. You’re not Ravenclaws, are you?”

Neville shook his head. “We’re Gryffindors.”

“Oh, sorry,” Galen realised. “Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood. Luna, Neville.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Luna said, and she sounded genuinely so.

“Ravenclaw’s not so bad,” Galen said in a thoughtful tone. “I know the Head of House, Professor Flitwick, fairly well - if you have any trouble, go to him and he’ll fix it. And if he doesn’t . . . Find me, Luna - and I’ll fix it.”

His tone was soft but dire, and Hermione flashed him a sharp look.

“You think I’ll have trouble?” Luna said quietly.

“You shouldn’t,” Galen stressed. “Your house is supposed to be your family at Hogwarts - and real family looks out for each other. But you’re also going to be with kids, and kids aren’t always nice, are they? Professor Flitwick should be able to keep anything bad from happening in Ravenclaw house - or stop it quick if it does. But if he doesn’t, or can’t, then find a Gryffindor - and they’ll find me, and my friends . . . And I promise you that anyone who hurt you will be very, very sorry.”

“Galen!” Hermione protested. “You can’t just arbitrarily declare war on Ravenclaw!”

“I let it slide in Gryffindor last year, Hermione - and you almost got killed,” Galen said sharply. “Not this time. Anybody I find bullying another student is going to get a taste of their own medicine - and I intend to shove whole damned bottle down their throats, sideways.”

“You can’t just do that! They’ll expel you!”

Galen’s eyes emptied of any quality that could qualify as human, and the other three students held their breath. Fred and George Weasley would have recognised the look instantly - Takara had worn it when dealing with Malfoy. More than their age or dimensional origins, this was what separated the trinity from the rest of the Hogwarts student body. A Nanaya, a Counter Guardian, and the Holy Grail’s judge - all three of them were killers by nature, if not necessarily inclination, and in that moment it was plain for everyone in that compartment to see.

Then he blinked, and said mildly, “A school which permits such abuses like the ones I’d be fighting is not one I’d consider worth attending.”

Neville’s cheeks suddenly had colour back in them. “Y - you . . .” He swallowed. “You can be really scary, you know that?”

Galen deliberately pitched his voice softly, so as not to frighten them further. “I have rules, Nev. There are things I’ll do, and there are lines I won’t cross. I will keep my word when I give it, if I can. I won’t allow an innocent to come to harm if I can prevent it. I don’t lie if I can avoid it - I may not speak, or I may not tell the whole truth, but a deliberate lie is rare from me. And I will support my family as best I can - including defending them, any way I have to, from any and all threats.” He paused. “ . . . And that includes myself.”

Luna, surprisingly, was the first to break the silence. “Interesting - I’ve never met anyone who can actually frighten away Wrackspurts before. What kind of effect do you have on Nargles?”

Takara took a deep breath as she saw the Weasleys cross to the train. As she’d hoped, Percy went directly to the Prefects’ car, and Ron was corralled by Dean Thomas for another football-versus-Quidditch argument. That left Ginny and the twins, and she had Shirou grab Lee Jordan in anticipation of that. With a call and wave, they managed to entice the remaining Weasleys into sitting with them.

“Hi, Ginny,” she said to the girl who’d ended up sandwiched between her and Shirou. “All ready for school?”

“I hope so,” the redhead said. “You’re all in Gryffindor, right?”

“That’s right - is that where you want to be?”

Ginny smiled. “Well, the entire family has been - it’d be weird to not be.”

“Being the only girl’s weird enough, huh?” Takara smiled. As an only child, that wasn’t a specific condition she could understand - but she understood what it meant to be unique in a crowd.

Ginny nodded, smiling back. She asked shyly, “What do you use on your hair?”

Takara blinked. “Just shampoo - why?”

“Oh - it’s just so straight,” Ginny said. “I get all kinds of kinks, especially in the morning. I thought maybe you had a special potion . . .”

Takara shook her head. “Sorry - afraid it’s just good genes. At least your hair’s a normal colour - mine’s supposed to be black, but in the right light, it looks blue! Like I don’t look odd enough!”

“But you’ve got ‘pretty kitty eyes,’” Shirou teased.

“Quiet, you!” she huffed. “He was five!”

“He who?” Ginny asked, confused. Then her eyes widened in shock. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No,” Takara said, and Shirou said with a smirk, “Yes.”

“We’re not dating!” Takara protested, her skin darkening in embarrassment.

“Yet,” Shirou qualified. “Next year we’re allowed Hogsmeade visits. Think he’ll ask you, or Hermione?”

Ginny goggled. “Your boyfriend’s cheating?”

“No,” Takara repeated through gritted teeth, glaring at Shirou, daring him to contradict her.

After a moment, she continued, “Galen’s an old, good friend - and we’re both friends with a girl named Hermione. Hermione likes Galen, but he hasn’t figured it out yet.”

Shirou snorted, but said nothing.

Takara ignored him. “Even if I did like him, though, I’m just twelve, and he’s thirteen - we’re too young for boyfriends and girlfriends.” And I’m getting flustered by an eleven-year-old - this is ridiculous.

Ginny pouted. “It would’ve been nice to have a friend I could ask about that stuff for when I get a boyfriend.”

“Like T.M. Riddle?” Shirou asked suddenly, and Takara snapped her head to stare at him. What was he playing at?

Ginny looked at him in confusion. “Who?”

“Takara was telling me that a strange book came out of your pile of books when she was picking them up in the store,” Shirou said. “It had ‘T.M. Riddle’ written in it. It’s not a textbook either of us had, so we wondered if it was something new they added to the list this year, or a gift from a relative . . .” He paused, before adding with a smirk, “Or a boyfriend.”

Ginny stared at him, before shaking her head. “I never saw anything like that - and it wasn’t in my cauldron when you handed it back, Takara.”

“Maybe it fell out again when all the fireworks went off?” Takara said, an uneasy feeling growing in the pit of her stomach.

“Probably,” Shirou said. “It was a madhouse in there.”

Ginny giggled. “Mum lost her voice for three days after yelling so much at Fred and George for that.”

Takara barely heard her, instead concentrating her attention on Shirou. His face, to anyone not versed in the subtleties of Japanese expression, was a mask - but she was, and more importantly, she had a pretty good understanding of Shirou, in particular.

And his eyes were letting her know that Ginny had been telling the absolute truth - she’d never seen or heard of the diary before.

But, if she didn’t have it - who did?

Strike two . . . Takara thought glumly.

March 24th, 2011, 08:15 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 5 - That Which Is Most Feared

September 1, 1992

“What was that all about?” Hermione demanded after Galen and Neville had helped Luna and her trunk off the train - the former to Hagrid, the latter to where the castle’s house-elves could transport it.

“What?” Galen asked.

“You seemed awfully keen on Luna’s safety,” she remarked. “Do you really think she’ll be bullied?” Her eyes narrowed at a sudden thought. “Or do you know she will be?”

Galen closed his eyes and sighed. “When I was in first grade, there was a boy like Luna. I never found out exactly what was wrong with him, but I know the medications they had him on made him more than a little loopy - he kept talking about things like tomatoes on the ceiling. His condition persisted for years. The kids made fun of him, few of us felt comfortable around him, and while I tried to be polite, I wasn’t always kind.” His eyes opened, and they were as angry as his voice. “And I had more reason than anyone to sympathise with him.”

It was a small regret - one of those you didn’t get until you were able to look back as an adult, and see where you’d gone wrong. But it hurt, just the same, especially when the boy’s older sister had once thanked him in high school for being as much of a friend as he’d been to her brother . . . And he’d realised that he could have, should have, done so much more.

He sighed. “Luna is one of those people who mean no harm to anyone, but will be harmed, simply because they’re different - ‘odd.’ Surely, Hermione, you can understand why I’m concerned?”

Her lips pressed into a thin line, but she nodded. “I’ll get us a carriage.”

Neville glanced at her retreating back, then turned to Galen and said accusingly, “You did it again.”

Galen blinked. “Did what?”

“You answered her question without actually answering it,” Neville said. “That really annoys her, you know.”

“I’m not doing it - well, all right, I am doing it deliberately,” he admitted. “But I’m not trying to annoy her.”

“Then why -?”

Galen looked away from Neville for a moment, and then locked eyes with him. As before, they were empty of all recognisable emotion and human traits. The pupils were gaping voids into endless dark, limned with rings of bright blue fire.

“I don’t lie, Neville,” he said softly, like a dagger’s tip drawn slowly across skin. “Remember that, before you finish that question. Ask yourself whether you really want to know the answer of who and what I am, and why I act as I do. Think very carefully.”

Neville paled, then shook his head so fast that it seemed in danger of flying off.

“I - I don’t need to know!”

As before, Galen blinked, and the terrible emptiness went away. His voice, while still quiet, held warmth again.

“All right,” the older boy said. He shook his head. “I don’t mean any harm, Nev - I swear I don’t. But I think you’re all better off just leaving the questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ alone where I’m concerned, all right? Just be aware that I’m trying to do the best I can for everybody, even if I can’t explain it.”

Neville was quiet. “You are scary,” he admitted. “All three of you are, but you show it more than they do. You’re not . . . You’re my age, but you’re not kids. You’re like some of the Aurors I’ve met who worked with my parents. They look as though there’s something missing from them, sometimes.”

“A good enough description,” Galen agreed. “And we know it, and value it, when we see it in others - it’s why we’ll fight so hard to protect it.”

“Protect what?”

“Some might say, ‘humanity.’ I prefer innocence.”

Galen shrugged. “Come on - Hermione’s waiting.”

Shirou brooded as he, Takara, and the twins rode the Thestral-drawn carriages up to the castle. He’d run into a situation which required brooding - Galen had been wrong. It had happened before, but not often, and not about something this big. Every fact they’d had, every plan they’d developed, had revolved around the fact that Ginny Weasley was given Tom Riddle’s diary. Without that, nothing of this year could be sure - nothing could be trusted. And they had absolutely no idea what to do next.

Galen was going to go spare. This was his strength, the thing he relied on to let him equal Shirou’s and Takara’s more physical assets - that he knew what was happening, what was going to happen, and could predict what might. It was how he’d survived the Grail War, it was how they’d made it through the last year with as little trouble as they’d had. Even when he’d forgotten something, it hadn’t been major, and they’d been able to cope.

Galen hadn’t forgotten this. He had been wrong.

Shirou was disturbed to realise just how much that disturbed him. He realised that he, too, had come to rely on Galen’s - and, to a lesser extent, Takara’s - knowledge. It was comforting to know that he knew what was going on, that he was always at least one step ahead - that he always had a plan, or at least an idea, of what to do when things were bad. As much as Shirou had learned about this world, he didn’t know it as his friends did, and to find himself in a situation where even they would be stymied . . .

It scared him. And he hadn’t been scared in a very long time. He found that he hadn’t missed the feeling.

Every other year, it’s so much worse, he thought, recalling what Ilya had told him. And he also remembered a theory Galen had been half-convinced of last year: that the universe was intent on following the same pattern, regardless of their efforts. If that was true, then anything and everything they did to try and change things for the better was ultimately useless.

Shirou shook his head. Galen didn’t want to believe that, Takara didn’t, and he wouldn’t. In his original life, that had proven true - but he had fought the world then to make it otherwise, and he’d do it again if he had to. Because this world was different, and he had more to fight for. Not just an ideal, but family and friends who shared it, who would support him in it.

Alone, he had failed. Together, they would change the world.

If, he added with a touch of mordant humour as they walked into the Great Hall, I can keep Galen from dissolving into screaming hysterics over this.

Takara’s preoccupation with their current situation was broken by a touch of humour as she saw everyone arrange themselves in what had become the customary position at Gryffindor’s table: Neville and Hermione across from Shirou and Galen, respectively, while the boys sat on either side of herself, corresponding to the marks she bore on the back of her hands - Shirou to her left, Galen to her right. The space in-between the two British natives was usually piled with books, or used as “guest seating” whenever somebody wanted or needed to talk to one or more of them. As yet, no one had complained about the permanent empty seat.

Of course, given their reputations, who would? Takara was one of the youngest and fastest Seekers in the last century, Shirou was one of the most aggressive and multi-talented Quidditch players around, with a positive genius for Transfiguration, Hermione knew more spells (and presumably jinxes, hexes, and curses) than were contained in half the library, and Galen was reputed to have blasted a twenty-four-hundred-pound mountain troll through a wall with a single spell (this last was not entirely accurate, but close enough to make people wary). Neville, as yet, didn’t have a particular trait or achievement ascribed to him - but he hung around with the rest of them, and most students had long ago figured out that attacking one of them meant attacking all of them.

. . . In short, despite being known as a near-Squib, and therefore an automatic target, Neville Longbottom was all but officially the safest student in Hogwarts. Even Professor Snape, the meanest (and most anti-Gryffindor, most especially Neville Longbottom) professor at Hogwarts, treaded lightly around them. Oh, he was still a bastard - but he seemed to have figured out exactly where the line was, and took great pains not to cross it. A repulsive example of a human being Snape might be, but he’d never been accused of being an idiot.

Speaking of idiots . . . Takara thought, staring at Gilderoy Lockhart, who was resplendent in golden robes. The widely-smiling man was the subject of a number of stares throughout the Great Hall, most of them female - including one Hermione Granger. Takara noted that Galen didn’t seem to notice, but while she was distracted . . .

“We talked to her,” Takara said in quiet Japanese. Neville had begun learning, but didn’t have enough understanding of it to follow their conversation - not when all three of them spoke it as natives, with the corresponding speed.

“And?” Galen asked.

“And . . . Shirou asked her directly about the diary. She had no idea what we were talking about.”

Galen’s complexion, always tending towards pale, went bloodless.

“What?” he mouthed.

“Focus,” Takara hissed. “Panic, scream, and beat yourself up later, focus now - what happens next?”

The question set off flashes of ideas behind his eyes. Galen didn’t have Hermione’s raw, analytical intelligence, or her ability to memorise complicated logistics and facts - but his imagination equalled or outstripped hers. Given a concept, he could create and discard a dozen scenarios with incredible speed. Given the paradigm shift she’d outlined, he immediately set himself to reconciling it with what he knew, and considered what effect the change would have.

“Possibility one - the diary’s still in the shop,” Galen said. “Best case, someone finds it and turns it into the Aurors as a suspicious or Dark artefact, and they either impound or destroy it. It’s out of our hands, but it can’t be used here. Next worse case, it’s still there, waiting to get picked up. We’ll really lose track of it, but again - it won’t be here.

“Possibility two - someone else picked it up in the chaos. If Malfoy retrieved it, no harm no foul - we know where it will be, even if we can’t get at it. If it’s someone else . . .”

“It could be anyone who was in the store,” Takara said. “Anyone here, or somewhere else.”

“And with no handy Parselmouth to hear the damned thing, the only way to know is Hallowe’en,” Galen murmured. “That’s when the attacks start - it seems to be a rule that bad stuff happens on Hallowe’en. Other than that, we watch the roosters - if they start being killed - ”

He broke off as the first-year students entered the hall, since that focussed everyone’s attention. Luna was easy to spot - the pallor of her hair contrasted sharply with the black of the school robes she’d changed into. It didn’t hurt that she gave their part of the table a shy smile as she walked by - almost skipped, in fact - with the rest of her year group.

Takara gave Galen a flat look. “Hermione, Miranda, now her - how do you manage to charm every young girl you come across?”

“I wasn’t trying to charm her,” Galen protested.

“Well, she wasn’t smiling at me,” Takara pointed out.

Hermione muttered waspishly, “I’m amazed she didn’t take one look at him and run.”

Takara blinked in surprise. Hermione rarely said anything bad about Galen, unless it was to chide him over forgetting homework. She was practically stuck to his shadow, in fact.

“All right,” Takara demanded. “What happened?”

Hermione tossed Galen a glare. “He basically threatened to flay every Ravenclaw alive if they so much as touched a hair on her head - and he was very convincing. I thought poor Neville might wet himself.”

There was more to it than that, Takara suspected. That Galen was taking an interest in a strange girl, maybe?

“Well, he never has liked bullies,” Takara offered.

“It’s different when he automatically assumes that someone is going to be bullied,” Hermione retorted. “Especially someone he’s never met before.”

Ah, Takara realised. It’s not that Luna’s sweet, cute, and vulnerable - at least, not totally - but that Galen once again knows things, and isn’t sharing.

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “And you’re not surprised, either, are you?”

Takara shrugged, and said truthfully, “I’ve given up questioning why he does what he does. It’s enough that he usually means well, and is right more often than not.”

Of course, she added silently, when he’s wrong, apparently he’s really wrong.

McGonagall’s voice called out a familiar name which caught the attention of the entire group.

“Lovegood, Luna!”

Galen watched with a smile, and Takara couldn’t help one herself. The book and movie had skipped over the Sorting, because Harry and Ron had missed the feast. It would no doubt have been a treat to see Luna get Sorted, especially if the movie had included any conversation with the Hat . . . It was unlikely that the book would have bothered.

The little blonde seemed to dance more than walk towards the Deputy Headmistress. Takara heard Shirou murmur, “She looks kind of like Ilya-chan when she was a little girl.” Takara had never seen Ilya young, but she agreed on reflection that the half-Veela’s pale blonde hair and eyes gave her a superficial resemblance to Luna’s.

The girl in question plunked herself on the stool, presented the crown of her head for the Hat, and almost disappeared under its brim. The Hat hummed and hawed as it always did to outside listeners - whatever conversation was taking place between it and Luna was strictly private, otherwise.

Still, Galen and Takara knew how this would go, and with a shared glance, began to mouth, “Raven - “

”GRYFFINDOR!” the Hat announced proudly.

Galen’s mouth hung open as they traded stares again. Takara’s thought process boiled to down to one word - WHAT?

Luna slipped into the empty seat in front of her, a serene smile on her face. “Hello, everyone. Do they serve pudding at this feast?”

Galen had a headache. Not just the “been on a train for eight hours straight and was hyperactively up six hours before that” kind of headache, but the “I have no idea what the hell is going on anymore and we’re probably all going to die because the universe hates me and revels in my suffering” headache. Last year, they’d been caught by surprise when they showed up, but had managed to handle things relatively well. They’d settled in over the summer, made plans, and been prepared to tackle things this year quickly, efficiently, and easily.

Ginny didn’t have the diary. Luna was a Gryffindor. He wanted to ask what was next, but knew better than to even voice the thought jokingly - only an idiot tempted Fate, because the woman had absolutely no self-control.

As he sat on a sofa in the common room, skimming the last chapter of Voyages with Vampires, he became aware that Hermione was glaring at him.

“What?” he asked quietly.

For a moment, he thought she’d answer - but her eyes suddenly darted upwards, over his shoulder, and narrowed.

“I’m going to bed,” she muttered.

Galen blinked, glanced over his shoulder and saw Ginny and Luna entering the Tower, escorted by Percy Weasley. By the time he’d turned back, Hermione was halfway up the stairs.

Galen leaned back and glared up at the ceiling. Terrific - now I don’t have to say anything, Fate can apparently read my mind!

Shirou sat down beside him, and said in Japanese, “You do realise that Hermione has a crush on you the size of Gryffindor Tower.” It wasn’t a question.

Galen sighed, replying, “I was afraid of that . . .” Then he shrugged. “She’ll grow out of it.”

Shirou gave him an annoyed look. “She certainly will if you keep this up.”

Now Galen looked bewildered. “Keep what up?”

“Oh, come on,” Shirou protested. “You really don’t know? To start with, you’re keeping things from her, again. She’s never liked that.”

“Nothing I can do about it.”

“You could tell her the truth.”

“So could you. Or Takara. Neither of you have opened your mouths yet.”

“Because it all sounds in - !” He paused, then conceded, “All right . . . But you could at least warn her of what you know, if not how.” Galen gave him a look, and Shirou glared back. “You’re the creative one, you figure out how!”

“Because that’s the first thing you did with Rin, right?” Galen said quietly. “Or don’t you remember?”

The blood drained from Shirou’s face. “Leave her out of this.”

“No, let’s not,” Galen retorted sharply. “Let’s discuss your qualifications as a relationship counsellor before we get into the psychoanalysis, eh? Establish bona fides. You ignored the girl who would’ve done anything in the world for you, walked away from the one who loved you for a dream you already had the word of a man you believed in above all others couldn’t be accomplished. And when you finally figured that out, you played puppet master with the only friend you had left when she was young, innocent, and believed in you - for yet another dream you were more than half-convinced you wouldn’t be able to pull off in the first place!” His voice was quiet and dangerous. “Let’s not pretend you have the moral high ground here, Emiya Shirou.”

“And you do?” Shirou snapped.

“Not a chance in hell,” Galen fired back. “But I won’t pretend otherwise - that just because what I’m doing serves a ‘greater good,’ if it does, that it’s right.”

Shirou closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and said, “Look, this is getting out of hand. All I’m saying is that I’ve been where you are, when it comes to women and relationships. I’m trying to prevent you from making my mistakes - ”

“No problem,” Galen said immediately. “I won’t.”

“Oh?” Shirou scoffed. “You have two, maybe three girls interested in you now - “

Galen snorted.

“You have to have noticed.”

“I did - it just doesn’t matter.”

Shirou stared in utter bewilderment. “How the hell can a guy who goes absolutely ballistic when one of those girls is even under the threat of being hurt say that their hearts don’t matter?”

“Because they’ll never be mine,” Galen said flatly. “It’s why I won’t make your mistakes with relationships, Shirou - there won’t be a relationship to screw up in the first place.”

“Hermione, at least, seems to think otherwise.”

“Hermione’s twelve - when she’s grown up enough to know what, or more accurately who she wants, she’ll go after him.”

“And you're so sure it won’t be you.”

Galen’s answer contained absolute conviction. “I know it won’t be.”

Tired of the conversation, Galen got up and stormed off to bed. His hearing, however, was sharp enough to catch Shirou’s followup comment.

“OK - I’m beginning to see why Hermione hates it when he ‘knows’ things.”

Takara’s hearing was pretty good, too - enough to catch raised voices firing Japanese back and forth, anyway. Unfortunately, the distance between the common room and the dorms - not to mention the stone walls and thick, wooden doors - muffled the sound too much to catch more than the odd word, so she couldn’t be sure whether or not she had to go and play peacemaker.

And in the current circumstances, she wasn’t sure she could’ve gotten away, anyway.

If Galen’s the one with the weakness for crying girls, she thought, what am I doing here?

“Hermione?” she said tentatively.

“Go away,” came a muffled moan.

Takara frowned. The four-poster’s curtains were closed, so she couldn’t tell just how badly off Hermione was - but given that the last time she could actually remember Hermione crying, they’d ended up having to fight off a troll, Takara figured it was bad.

The Japanese witch walked over to the foot of Hermione’s bed and opened Crookshanks’ cat carrier. The ginger-furred cat leaped for his mistress, and mewled pitifully as it became apparent that the curtains were held in place with a Sticking Charm. Velvet paws batted at them ineffectually.

“Sorry, Crookshanks,” came the apologetic reply, “but if I let you in, she’ll come, too.”

“And I shouldn’t?” Takara snapped, offended. “You’re hurting! Should I not care about that?”

“Why should you?” came the angry retort. “You’re just like him - you know things, and you won’t tell me, won’t trust me - and he’s even got a new charity case for this year! Will she get a cat too, or is she worth an owl?”

Takara hissed. She hadn’t realised the situation with Luna had hurt her this badly.

“I’ll kill him myself,” she muttered. “He’ll try to do it when he figures out what he’s done, but I’ll beat him to it - literally.” She glanced heavenward. “Could we have one thing go right this year? Just one?!”

She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and asked, “Is that what Miranda is? A ‘charity case?’”

There was a stunned pause from behind the curtains. Then, finally, “I was talking about Luna.”

“I know - but if Miranda walks into a room with a book, he’ll drop almost anything to sit and read to her. If she asks for a lullaby, he’ll go tuck her in. I also noticed, when we were at your house last week, that there’s suddenly a supply of chocolate ice cream in the freezer . . .” Takara trailed off. “Does he do these things for Miranda because she’s a charity case? Does he pity her, for some reason?”

“. . . No - at least, I don’t think so . . .”

“He does it because he’s putty in the hands of little girls,” Takara informed her. “Throw in the fact that he’s got a ‘saving people thing’” - I’m quoting Hermione, the irony! - “and there’s a fairly good reason why a scared-looking Luna Lovegood, or a crying Hermione Granger, can get him to give them almost anything to make them happy. Ilya once told me that he needs to feel needed - so in this case, it’s got almost nothing to do with you, or her, and everything to do with who he is.”

“. . . So I really am nothing special,” came the miserable reply.

“I never thought I’d meet a girl whose self-esteem was as low as his,” Takara muttered to herself. “I didn’t think there could possibly be two of them . . .” She sighed.

“Hermione, I’ve watched Galen be shot, burned, and impaled - and get up again to fight back,” she said. “I’ve watched him fight things that could kill him in a heartbeat, if they were so inclined, and not flinch - I’ve watched him deliberately piss them off. Pain means nothing to him, and fear . . .”

She shook her head. “As near as I can tell, there are only three things in this, or any other world, that he’s really afraid of - because they’re the only things, I think, that can really hurt him. One of them is Ilya. One of them is you.”

Hermione’s curtains opened, just enough to show a sliver of face, and a single chocolate eye. “And the third?”

Takara took a deep breath, and admitted it to herself, as much as her friend.

“. . . Me.”

March 24th, 2011, 08:16 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 6 - Conversations

September 2, 1992

Shirou was not a happy camper at breakfast the next morning, so the gray, cloudy skies of the Great Hall suited him just fine. Sleep had been hard to come by, as he’d tried to figure out what the hell to do about . . . About anything.

The diary wasn’t where they thought it was, and it could be up to a month before they found out if it was even a problem. Galen was in full sulk mode, and not inclined to listen to anyone - or at least not him - at a time when he needed to be devising possible plans for ways to track down the diary if it did go active. Hermione was miserable, and angry at them for keeping secrets, so there was no chance of her help until this mess was resolved, either.

And, if he was honest with himself, some of what Galen had said last night had stung. It wasn’t as if he was wrong about what happened - put the worst possible slant on it, maybe, but not wrong. He’d ignored Sakura the first time around, when she had really needed his help. He had followed his ideal past every warning, every well-meaning piece of advice, and wound up in a hell literally of his own making. And he’d manipulated Rin to get what he wanted - because at that point he’d cared more about what he wanted than her. If he’d told her the truth from the beginning, she might even have helped him - but it had been easier to lie, because he’d known her so well. He’d known which buttons to push, and how, to get what he needed from her.

Shirou supposed that he wouldn’t be keen to accept advice from him, either.

They were too much alike, really. Dark reflections of each other. A small change here or there, and they’d be each other. It made it easy for there to be understanding between them, but trust was harder. For Ilya’s and Takara’s sakes, there was tolerance, even a certain mocking friendship - but Galen didn’t trust himself, much less Shirou. Shirou’s history had too many betrayals in it for a man who prized loyalty so highly to blindly ignore.

On Shirou’s part, he thought Galen was a self-destructive idiot who was deliberately cutting himself off from his humanity, and then having the nerve to cry “woe is me” over it. Takara or Hermione could do a lot about that, if he’d just let them - but if they started acting interested, he’d be looking for mind-control spells, potions, or anything else that would explain it. Because he was honestly convinced that there could be no other reason for it.

And the worst part was, he was completely open about that fact, and just about anything else. He didn’t claim to be a saint, or unfairly maligned. His existence was what it was, just a collection of facts. Any feeling he had about it was muted, at best. He just seemed occasionally sad.

Like now, Shirou thought.

Their usual six-person area was full again, but that was because Ginny Weasley had taken over Galen’s usual seat, and was chattering away with Neville and Takara, with the occasional comment to Luna across the table. Galen had deliberately placed himself as far from any of his friends as he could get, on the other side of the Gryffindor table. Several of the other Gryffindors, including Luna as she went by, engaged him in conversation, but soon gave up. His answers were flat, and monosyllabic where possible. He wasn’t impolite, but neither was he enthusiastic about conversation. The implication was quiet, but clear: Leave me the hell alone.

He’s shutting down, Shirou sighed. If he could get away with it, I doubt he’d bother eating - and it’s Hermione’s doing, again.

He was tempted to dose the pair of them with the strongest love potion he could lay his hands on and lock them in a broom closet long enough to see if that sorted anything out. Maybe throw in Takara for good measure, too, judging by the non-looks that Hermione was giving her. The fact that it would be nearly impossible to get a hold of and illegal to use didn’t stop him so much as the fact that he wasn’t sure they were biologically capable at this point in their physical development.

Shirou made a mental note of the idea, however. If they were going to go through this every damned year, then sooner or later, it would be an option. And if they did go through this every damned year, it’d be an option he’d take.

McGonagall passed out the schedules, and the first class listed was a double period of Herbology with the Hufflepuffs. Shirou was mildly relieved - in present circumstances, he’d almost certainly have to keep Draco Malfoy from being killed the minute he opened his mouth, along with anyone else stupid enough to stand between them, within reach, or just in the line of sight. Galen might have locked himself away for the moment, but if he had an actual target for his frustration and bad feelings . . .

No, Hufflepuff was much better - lower potential body count.

As the group got up from the table, Luna and Ginny scarpered off to join the rest of the first-years, and Galen lagged to be the last of their year to follow - but Hermione deliberately brushed by Takara to lead Neville ahead.

“All right,” Shirou sighed as they walked out to the greenhouses, “what happened?”

Takara’s face darkened. “Let’s just say that when trying to comfort a heartbroken girl, it’s a really bad mistake to out yourself as her competition.”

Shirou raised an eyebrow.

“She thinks Luna’s her replacement - that he wasn’t looking out for her because she’s special to him. I tried to point out that only three people could really hurt him, because they mean something to him.”

“Ilya, Hermione, and you,” Shirou finished. At her startled look, “I don’t need an Archer’s eyes to see it, Takara. Part of me fought him for you once, remember? It didn’t matter if he had silver knives impaling his limbs or Hydra venom running through his veins, he still got up to try to get to you. Not to kill his enemy, not to save himself - you. He came for your mother knowing full well that I knew his identity, and had probably passed it on to every Servant waiting there. For all he knew, he was dead the moment he arrived - and he came anyway.” Shirou shook his head. “Most Servants aren’t anywhere near that loyal.”

Takara was silent as they joined the group outside, only to move again when Professor Sprout instructed them head to Greenhouse Three, where the “interesting” (dangerous) plants were kept. Then she continued, in quiet Japanese.

“In any case, Hermione’s convinced that if comes down to her - the buck-toothed, bushy-haired bookworm - or me - his oldest friend, who’s also popular, exotic - ”

“And has ‘pretty kitty eyes,’” Shirou couldn’t resist adding.

Takara scowled. “Stop that. In any case, she’s convinced that she’s already lost, has no friends, no hope - it’s first year all over again, and we’re fresh out of trolls.” She glared at him. “Tell me you did better with Galen.”

Shirou wasn’t sure if that was a challenge or a plea. Either way, he sighed.

“It’s hard giving advice to a guy who knows damned well that you made the same mistakes - and a few more he never would,” he admitted. “And there’s that damned self-esteem problem - he seems utterly convinced that Hermione would never want him, or at least not once she wised up and found something better, which she ultimately would, of course . . .”

Takara closed her eyes and moaned. “She thinks she’s replaceable, and he thinks he’s expendable. They’re a match made in hell, I swear.”

Shirou grunted in acknowledgement of the point. Then he considered a little longer, and said, “Maybe we’re too close to this? Galen wouldn’t listen to me, because I’m too much like him, in this regard. Hermione won’t listen to you, because you’re the ‘other woman,’ but maybe . . .”

Now it was Takara’s turn to raise her eyebrows. “Switch?”

“Hermione’s less mad at me than either of you - and you are his mistress.”

“Deal - when we partner off in Herbology,” Takara said. “I mean, what have we got to lose?”

“Four to a tray,” Professor Sprout instructed. “There is a large supply of pots here - compost in the sacks over there - and be careful of the Venemous Tentacula, it’s teething.” She gave a sharp slap to a spiky, dark red plant as she spoke, making it draw in the long feelers that had been inching sneakily over her shoulder.

Takara and Galen were joined at their tray by two Hufflepuffs: a curly-haired boy and a blonde girl with pigtails that she recognised - Hannah something.

“Justin Finch-Fletchley,” said the boy, extending his hand. “Know who you are of course, Miss Aozaki - youngest Seeker in a century. And Galen Salvatore, the only boy who actually manages to stay awake during Binns’ lectures.”

“Nice to meet you, Justin,” Takara said politely, taking his hand to shake it. Galen did so as well, but there was a definite neutrality to his tone and movements. Not impolite, exactly, but distant.

Takara glanced over at the others. “Would you excuse us for a moment or two? I need to have a word with Galen regarding some problems in Gryffindor.”

Hannah smiled hesitantly, but her eyes glanced over to where Shirou was speaking to Hermione, with Neville as an uncomfortable spectator. Takara supposed that in a house that prized loyalty, the split between their group was noticeable. Aside from Quidditch matches, they had rarely been apart for over a year. When Hannah’s eyes moved back to hers, Takara nodded.

“We can wait a few minutes,” the blonde said.

“Thanks,” Takara said gratefully. She turned to Galen, and switched to Japanese.

“Fix this,” she hissed.

“I am open to suggestions,” Galen said flatly.

“Tell her the truth - all of it. Tell her you love her. Tell her you’re sorry. Tell her anything, because you have managed to hurt her so badly that there’s a good chance she’ll give Moaning Myrtle a run for her money! So badly that she should be back in that bathroom you worked so hard to get her out of!”

Takara’s cheeks were flushed, and if she weren’t whispering, she’d be screaming.

“And you don’t even know how you’ve done it, do you?” she asked bitterly, noting the utter lack of expression. “You were the first person to ever try to be her friend. You gave her presents - whether you told her or not - you saved her life, repeatedly! Any time she was in trouble, any time she needed someone, you were never far away, and she felt special. But you keep things from her, you won’t tell her why . . . And when you see another odd little girl on the train, you treat her exactly the same way you treated Hermione.”

Takara closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her voice was very quiet. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be treated like you’re the most important person in someone’s world - and then watch them turn to someone else so easily?”

“. . . Do you?” came the soft response.

Takara opened her eyes, and saw the first flicker of something on his face all day - regret.

“We’re not talking about me,” she said sharply. Even if you said you loved me, and then went straight to her . . .

Now it was Galen’s turn to close his eyes. For a brief moment, he looked the age he should have been in her time period - which, on a twelve-year-old face, was so terribly old.

“Your father talked to me about that, you know,” he said wearily, not seeing the look of shock cross her face. “While we went after the Grail, before fighting Illyria. He was more than a little concerned about someone like me loving his daughter . . . And he had every right to be.”

Takara wasn’t sure whether to feel grateful that her father cared, or annoyed that he didn’t trust her enough to make her own decisions. Galen’s next words drove the ambiguity right out of her head.

“I told him that I wasn’t in love with you - though falling wouldn’t be hard. But even then it wouldn’t matter. Any woman is too smart, and too good, to ever fall for me - but a girl like you, or Hermione? Even dreaming’s a waste of time.”

“And what we think or feel about it doesn’t matter?” Takara’s voice was uncomfortably close to its Nanaya range, and she felt a certain wistfulness at the lack of a cross-hatching pattern over his skin.

Galen responded with a heated edge to his voice that would’ve thrilled her killer personality - the rival predator was rousing. “Inasmuch as such thoughts and feelings, in my experience, never include me - no, it really doesn’t.”

Takara was fighting contradictory urges - on the one hand, she wanted to throw him down and beat him to within an inch of his life for even thinking such a thing. On the other, a quieter part of her wanted to throw him down and kiss him until the lack of oxygen to his brain caused it to realign its train of thought. It would be hard for him to sound so certain of his beliefs then.

She settled for doing neither. Instead, her crueler impulses hit on a new plan. He liked blunt statements and melodrama, so this should work just fine . . .

Takara pulled out her knife, opened it, and handed it to him hilt first.

“You’ll need this, then,” she told him coldly. “Because compared to what you’re doing to Hermione now, killing her is kinder.”

Hermione had glanced at Shirou once since they started repotting the Mandrakes, but said nothing. Neville looked uncomfortable, bordering on miserable. He didn’t necessarily understand what was going on, but he knew things were bad between his friends. Really, Shirou felt sorry for the guy - if he chose Hermione’s side, he was up against the three of them (or so it seemed, at least), whereas if he didn’t, Hermione had no one. It was a lose-lose scenario, at least from an outside view.

Finally, Shirou decided that she wasn’t going to begin any conversation, and took it upon himself to do so.

“Do you have any idea, Hermione,” he asked casually, “just how amazing you really are?”

Hermione stared at him. Whatever she’d expected him to say, that definitely wasn’t it.

“Last year, on the Express, Galen was ready to die,” Shirou said. “I think, once he’d figured out we were happy, he would’ve just quietly faded away. At most, he would’ve kept his head down and not bothered anyone while he went through the motions of living . . . But he met you, and once he’d realised who you were, he was desperate to keep you safe, to keep you happy.”

“Because it’s what he does,” Hermione said bitterly. “It had nothing to do with me.”

“‘Because she’s brilliant, and dedicated, and lonely, and she doesn’t deserve to die. She’s one of maybe a dozen people in this bloody world I’d go out of my way to save - otherwise I’d be perfectly content to let this insular, inbred society burn to the ground.’”

Hermione stared at Shirou, who said, “His words, when I asked him why it was so important we work to save you from the troll. You’re right, to a point - he’d help innocents in trouble, and he’d die for them if he had to. But even if that was the only reason for acting as he did, Galen could’ve never stopped the troll. He cast a NEWT-level Charm, with all his potential power. You can’t do that just out of habit, Hermione - you have to want it, more than anything. He tried to save you because it’s what he does - but he succeeded because it was you he was trying to save.”

Hermione absorbed that in silence.

“There are three people in all the world who can not just cause him pain, but hurt him,” Shirou continued. “One of them is Ilya, because she’s his sworn lady, and he’s given her that right. Another is Takara - at least in part because he swore to her once, as well . . . And the last one is you. He wouldn’t give you that right unless he considered you their equal in importance, Hermione. And it’s not something he does lightly.”

“But I’m not important enough to tell secrets to,” Hermione retorted. “Not to any of you.”

“Because he thinks you’re safer and happier not knowing, and we’ve followed his lead,” Shirou answered. “But if you’re sure you want to know, ask him. Make him give you his word to tell you the truth, the complete truth - and you can do that - and then ask him. At worst, he’ll keep silent, but he won’t lie. Not to you.”

Hermione was silent again. “. . . Maybe I will.”

Shirou sighed internally. He supposed it was the best he could hope for.

If you ever needed concrete proof that you need to stay the hell away from Hermione Granger, that was it. Even Weasley didn’t fuck her over so badly - he just abandoned her in situations where she could die. You make her want to. Even with all his abuse, his belittling of everything she was, knew, stood for, and believed in, Weasley never managed that.

Of course, from all indications, she’ll get the joy of that, too. Something sure as hell seems keen on making this come out as close to the original ending as it can, Harry notwithstanding. Absolutely no reason for her to be in the bathroom, but come Hallowe’en, there she is! Absolutely no reason not to be able to grab the diary - but oops, it’s gone, and to add insult to injury, Ginny hasn’t got it! Which means we’re back to Harry’s square one - without a fucking clue!

Wonder if she’ll be in the Chamber, this time . . .? Wonder who she’ll end up with, without Harry? Well, there’s a skinny, glasses-wearing kid with a thing for redheads here, isn’t there? Molly will have to break out the love potions to get it to work, but you half-suspected she did that, anyway. It’s the only logical way to explain the sudden eruption of feelings, when it wasn’t even hinted at when they were staying at the Burrow a couple of weeks prior.

. . . Of course, Rowling having the romance writing capabilities of George Lucas works, too, but as an in-universe explanation - the woman admitted that’s how she landed her own husband, didn’t she?

Screw this. Shirou and Takara can handle the snake - for Hermione’s own good, you need to get the hell away from her now. Call your parents, arrange a transfer to Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, back to fucking Canada - anywhere but here, where you can keep hurting her!

If Herbology was bad, Transfiguration was worse. Turn a beetle into a button? Hell, no. Turn a beetle into a bonfire? Don’t even have to think about it!

After the desk had finished burning, Professor McGonagall had sent him to the Hospital Wing for a Calming Draught - she recognised that his temper had been set off, though by what, Galen hoped she wasn’t sure. Regardless, she advised him to not use his wand again until he’d drunk the potion, because, “You caused enough damage the last time this happened.”

By the time lunch rolled around, he was feeling less inclined to explode - if no better about the situation. He was on his way to the Owlery to put his plan in motion when a petite brunette with wild hair was suddenly blocking his path. If she hadn’t been the person he least wanted to see right now, it might have been fun, given the confines of the corridor.

Then she said the four most dreaded words in the female vocabulary, and the remotest possibility of “fun” died a horrible death.

“We need to talk,” Hermione informed him.

They went to the spot by the lake where, in another world, Harry Potter would go when depressed, and wanted to be alone. Usually, it was Hermione who found him there, and coaxed him out of his shell. Galen was in no mood to appreciate the irony.

What do I do here? The smart play would be to finish it - drive her away, before she gets in any deeper, so she can move on. But if Takara’s right, “moving on” means she’ll be wading into the lake straight afterwards. I keep thinking of Hermione as mature - and she is - but she’s also twelve, not fifteen or sixteen. The more confident Hermione of the later series has yet to be born - and even she was heartbroken when the twit left, when she could mention rewriting her parents’ minds almost as an afterthought. Hermione isn’t quite thirteen yet, as well as shy and insecure about her looks, and general appeal - she can’t handle it if I treat her roughly. But if I don’t . . .

Damn it, even if I deserved her, she’s twelve, and I’m not . . .

Hermione’s words broke his train of thought.

“You need to promise me something.”

“Yes?” Galen said carefully.

“When I ask you a question, you will tell me the complete truth, or refuse to answer. No more evasions, no more misdirections.” Her eyes blazed, in a striking counterpoint to the chill of her voice. “I want your word, Sir Knight.”

Galen groaned. “If Shirou coached you on this, I’m going to kill him.”

Hermione was implacable. “Your word,” she repeated.

He closed his eyes. I’m going to regret this . . .

“I swear, on my honour, at this time and place, to answer all questions Hermione Jean Granger puts to me with complete truthfulness, or to abstain from answering entirely, for as long as we remain on this spot, on this day.”

“Very precise,” Hermione noted coolly.

“Oaths are important in the magical world - so you want to be very careful about how they’re worded, and what, exactly, you’re agreeing to. This should cover until the end of lunch, unless there’s a reason to return here before sunset. I’d suggest you ask your questions quickly, but carefully.”

Now she hesitated. He could understand that. As of now, she could literally learn anything she wanted to - so she had to wonder what she really wanted to know. And beyond that, what first?

“. . . Do you love me?” she said quietly.

“Yes,” he said instantly, before adding, “but I don’t think that’s what you really want to know.”

Indignation flashed in her eyes. “Oh? And what do I want to know?”

“Whether or not I’m in love with you.”

She paled. He was right, and they both knew it. The real question was whether or not she would ask. At seventeen, she had been confident enough to ask boys out on dates, strong enough to make her jealousy clear. At twelve, not quite thirteen . . .?

“. . . Are you in love with Luna?” she asked at last.

“No, though I’ll admit I probably could be.”

“Are you in love with Ilya?”

“No, though I’ll admit I probably could be.”

“Are you in love with Takara?”

“No, though I’ll admit I definitely could be.”

Galen waited for the last one, her own name. He wouldn’t hand it to her - she had to ask.

“Why do you keep secrets from me?” Hermione asked, and he couldn’t decide whether or not he was disappointed.

“Because a lot of what I know would derange, disgust, or frighten you. I think’s it better for you overall if you don’t know - I value innocence, remember?”

“Would the bookstore incident qualify?”

“Only in that explaining how we knew would have done that, and taken too much time.”

“We,” Hermione said fiercely. “So you all do know . . .”

“Takara knows some of it. Shirou relies on what we tell him. I’m the only one who knows it all.”

“What, exactly, is ‘it?’”

“What’s going to happen over the next six years.”

Hermione bit her lower lip. “Six years . . . No, seven altogether. You somehow have records of someone’s time at Hogwarts - from this time period - don’t you?”

“We’ve had access to them. They’re not available to us here.”

“Whose records?”

“Harry Potter’s.”

“Harry . . . Who?” She blinked. “Didn’t Voldemort wipe out the Potters? They were his last victims before the Longbottoms, weren’t they?”

“Yes, and yes.”

“Then how can you know what happened when a dead boy came to school?”

“Because in our timeline, he was the Boy-Who-Lived, the boy who defeated Voldemort.”

Galen was skirting the very edge of his oath here. It was the complete truth - it just failed to mention that he was a fictional character in their timeline.

“You’re claiming to be from an alternate timeline?” Hermione said in disbelief.

“I think that’s the best explanation for what happened,” Galen said carefully, and her eyes narrowed in anger.

“You’re equivocating,” she said.

“Hermione, I don’t know what to call this! We had lives waiting for us when we got here, ones that were reasonable parallels to our own, with all the associated memories! That shouldn’t be the case in a true alternate timeline. You have a sister you didn’t previously possess, and most major alternates have only one branch point - which in this case, should be the premature death of Harry Potter!”

“What happens this year?” Hermione said.

“Lucius Malfoy was supposed to slip a cursed diary into Ginny Weasley’s schoolbooks. Under its influence, she would open the Chamber of Secrets hidden in Hogwarts, and release a basilisk to attack mundane-born students. Due to a series of accidents, none were killed, only petrified - including you. Harry eventually found his way to the Chamber, killed the basilisk, and destroyed the diary.”

“You said ‘was supposed to.’ Why?”

“Because we attempted to stop it, but lost track of the diary in the scramble. Ginny has no knowledge of its existence, and therefore it isn’t in her possession. We have no way of knowing if the diary is here at Hogwarts until someone is attacked - and even then, we don’t know who might have it.”

“I knew it was you,” Hermione said. “I knew that spell.”

Galen blinked. “What do you mean?”

“Your Shield Charms,” Hermione said. She blushed. “They’re - warm.”

He blinked again. He’d never felt anything like that - then again, when had he cast one to protect himself?

Hermione turned back to business. “So you think something bad might happen, but you don’t go to the professors. Why?”

“Because Dumbledore set Harry Potter up as a sacrificial lamb to stop Voldemort. He showed either gross incompetence, or a chilling willingness to use any means necessary to achieve his ends - including the lives of innocent people - and all for the ‘greater good.’”

“But he’s the greatest wizard alive!”

“And he follows the same credo as Gellert Grindlewald, the last Dark Lord he defeated, just with a slightly different interpretation. And there are signs he’s trying to manipulate Neville as he did Harry.”

“What do you mean?”

Galen glanced at the Clock Tower. “If I answer that, we’ll be late for Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

Hermione struggled, obviously torn between answers and a class with Gilderoy Lockhart.

“I promise I will answer that later, in a location I’m convinced is secured against prying ears and eyes,” Galen said. He sighed wearily. “You know enough now, Hermione - you can hear the rest. God knows, we could use your help.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” she warned.

“It’s why I promised,” Galen told her. “And, Hermione? I’m sorry I hurt you. I wasn’t trying to.”

She blinked.

“Still here,” he pointed out. “Still compelled to tell the truth. Thought I’d use it while I had it.”

She stared at him, and he saw her eyes begin to glisten.

“Lockhart awaits,” he reminded her, and she jumped in surprise, before picking up her books and dashing off.

Galen took a moment to ponder the question she hadn’t asked, and wondered if Hermione regretted that she’d kept silent.

He wondered if he did.

March 24th, 2011, 08:16 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 7 - Practices with Pixies

September 2 - 13, 1992

As two of the last to enter the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Galen and Hermione were forced to grab seats where they could. Unfortunately, this split them up, as only Takara had been able to save a seat for one of them - Shirou and Neville were sitting together. As Galen gestured for Hermione to sit first, he manoeuvred his way to a seat on the far side of the room.

Takara didn’t like the implications of that. They’d thought Shirou’s idea would smooth over the argument between them - but Galen was isolating himself, still. Then again, maybe she was overreacting - the class was fairly packed. You had to take a seat where you could find one, at this point.

Hermione, sitting down, looked lost in thought. Her eyes glanced over to Takara once, then Shirou, and back to Galen, before locking onto the front of the room - but her mind was obviously elsewhere. It wasn’t even a matter of her continuing to ignore Takara, so much as she seemed to be a million miles away. Whatever Galen had said was visibly weighing on her mind.

Did he actually tell her the truth? Takara wondered. He never did that unless forced, in her experience - although, to be fair, his powers had depended upon the suspension of disbelief. If she’d known who and what her Servant was from the beginning, he’d never have been able to accomplish what he did.

Gilderoy Lockhart swept into the room, garbed in turquoise robes and a matching pointed hat. The colour looked hideous with his rosy complexion - and especially the cherubically curly, golden hair that was no doubt a reason for his name. He walked to the front of the room as though it was a fashion show runway, and Takara heard more than one feminine voice sigh was he swept past. Reaching the front of the class, he swept up one of Neville’s textbooks and pointed to the animated photograph of himself on the cover.

“Me,” he said, pointing at it and winking in unison with the picture. “Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, third class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League, and five times winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award - but I don’t talk about that. I didn’t get rid of the Bandon banshee by smiling at her!”

When no one laughed at the joke, he continued, “I see you’ve all bought a complete set of my books - well done. I thought we’d start today with a little quiz. Nothing to worry about - just to see how well you’ve read them, how much you’ve taken in . . .”

After he’d handed out test papers, he returned to the front of the class and said, “You have thirty minutes. Start - now!”

Takara glanced at it briefly, noted that every question was about Gilderoy Lockhart in one form or another, and traded glances with the boys. Shirou looked as though he’d swallowed something bitter, and Galen was rubbing his fingers together as though itching to draw his wand and set the paper on fire.

She considered, briefly, just doing the quiz and going along with the flow. Then she remembered that they’d be stuck here for almost two months before the basilisk attacks would begin, and mentally shrugged. If there was nothing they could do, she might as well have some fun. Her parents might crucify her for this - well, her mother, at least - but . . . Takara set down the test, gathered her books, and stood up. Hermione, beside her, gave a sudden start, and stared with wide eyes as Takara made her way to the door.

“Miss?” Lockhart questioned. “Is there a problem?”

“Yes, Professor,” Takara said politely. “I’m very sorry for causing a disruption, but I’m apparently in the wrong classroom.”

Lockhart was nonplussed, and a number of the students suddenly turned to look at her.

“What gives you that idea?” the blond wizard finally asked.

“Because according to my timetable, I’m supposed to be studying Defence Against the Dark Arts right now, not Popular Wizarding Culture,” Takara answered, still in the oh-so-polite tone her mother had drilled into her. Had someone placed butter on her tongue, it would not only have failed to melt, it might actually have churned itself into whipped cream.

Lockhart’s face reddened. “I assure you, Miss - ”

“Aozaki, Lockhart-sensei,” she replied, adding a perfunctory bow. Just the picture-perfect Japanese schoolgirl here, nothing special.

“Miss . . . Ow-saki,” Lockhart said, “I assure you that everything you learn from my books will serve you well in defending yourself from the many menaces that lurk within the darkest corners of our world.”

“Truly, Sensei?” Takara said in wide-eyed innocence. “Please, tell me - which deadly creature can be repelled by your favourite colour? What horrible curse can be countered with the knowledge of your ideal birthday gift?” Her tone and posture didn’t alter one iota - she still projected complete respect, in spite of the words coming out of her mouth. It was sarcasm at its finest.

Shirou’s eyes glinted with sardonic amusement. Galen’s body was shaking in an attempt to hold back laughter. Neville’s eyes looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets, and Hermione was so pale Takara was afraid she was going to faint. Judging by the ruddy colour of Lockhart’s face, however, he’d obviously somehow drained the blood from Hermione remotely.

“That will be five points from Gryffindor, for cheek,” Lockhart ground out. “And as you think you’re so well-prepared . . .” He placed a large, covered cage on top of his desk.

“I had intended this exercise to be for the entire class - but you’ve just volunteered to demonstrate your prowess, young lady,” the teacher informed her, “Let’s see how you handle these!” He whipped the cover off to reveal -

“Freshly caught Cornish pixies,” Lockhart said in a dangerous tone.

Takara’s birthday gifts had included a wand holster, such as Galen wore. Strapped to her right wrist, it could, by means of a ritualised gesture or mechanical trigger, release her wand into her hand instantly. She took advantage of that fact now to allow eight inches of holly wood and a dragon heartstring core to settle into her palm.

“When you’re ready, Lockhart-sensei,” Takara said coolly.

“Don’t be so confident,” Lockhart said smugly. “Devilish tricky little blighters they can be!”

He opened the cage.

Takara was the Gryffindor Quidditch team’s Seeker - the youngest in a century - for good reason. Her reflexes were more or less unparalleled, as far as anyone could tell. And unlike most witches and wizards, she also had no reason to shout her spells when a whisper worked just as well.

Four of the dozen pixies were hit with Stinging Hexes almost the instant they left the cage. While a Stinging Hex didn’t do much of anything against a huge, tough-skinned brute like a troll, against an eight-inch tall pixie, it was the equivalent of flinging lightning bolts. What hit the desktop were just mangled, electric blue remains.

The rest of the pixies attempted to spread out - but she hit three who were heading for the blind spot to her left before they could get out of reach, and then another three circling to her right. The other two circled above her head at high speed, making spirals and figure-eights, until one dove straight for her.

Takara stung it, but the last pixie used her focus on its brethren as a distraction, and actually managed to grab her wand. It zipped around the room, buzzing with laughter.

Lockhart looked smug as he saw Takara fidget with something under her robes, taking her actions for a sense of dismay at the loss of her wand. He leaned back, placing his right hand on his desk to balance himself.

“A fair showing,” he admitted, “but you lost badly at the end there. It just goes to show that no matter how good you think you are, you have so much still to lea - “

His statement was interrupted by a sudden thunk, and he was suddenly aware of the cold touch of metal around his hand. Lockhart looked down in astonishment.

The final pixie was impaled through its chest on a long knife whose hilt bore an elaborate crest. The blade had buried itself in the wood of his desktop, at least an inch deep, and the sharp edges of it just barely avoided kissing the flesh of his splayed fingers. Droplets of blue blood slid down the sides of the knife, and as its wings beat spasmodically, but with increasing slowness, the pixie dropped Takara’s wand.

Lockhart stared at the tableau in an uncomprehending daze, until Takara reached out to retrieve both her weapons. Returning her wand to its holster, she removed a silk cloth from a pocket in her robe and began to carefully, almost lovingly, wipe the blood off the knife. When it was clean, she folded the blade closed, and replaced it as well.

“Did the aftermath of your battles teach you any useful spells for removing blood from cloth?” Takara asked innocently.

Several days later, Shirou and Takara were halted from their morning exercises by the sudden appearance of Oliver Wood.

“Quidditch practice!” said Wood. “Come on!”

Takara grumbled loudly. She’d been forced to go without a lot of sleep for the last few days. Despite answering Lockhart’s challenge, and slaughtering all twelve pixies in less than thirty seconds, she’d only been given back the five points she’d lost earlier - and a week’s detention for “reckless endangerment and damage to a professor’s property.” The detentions in question so far had ranged from eight PM until midnight, and seemed to consist of answering Lockhart’s fan mail. Shirou was therefore unsurprised that Lockhart insisted she bring neither her wand nor her knife with her to serve them.

If she did, she’d be too tempted to use them, he thought.

Shirou dug out his Quidditch robes and headed back down to the common room. Only a couple of heartbeats after he and Takara had reached the portrait entrance, he heard the clatter of someone else in a much bigger hurry come down behind him.

“I thought I heard your voice, Takara! Do you go running, too?”

The speaker was a very small boy with wide eyes and mouse-brown hair, bearing a camera around his neck. He was a first-year student named Colin Creevey - and following the tales that had emerged of Takara’s pixie takedown, he was her number one fan. For the last three days, he’d been following her, asking for photographs. It was almost cute, in a stalker-ish kind of way - and he was so innocently earnest that she hadn’t had the heart to tell him to go away and make sure it stuck. The girls’ dormitory had been her only refuge from him, and she’d managed to avoid him during their morning calisthenics because Colin didn’t want to get up that early, and no one had told him she participated. Not that new people hadn’t joined them.

Ginny Weasley preferred her beauty sleep, but the twins had taken to them with good humour, saying that they weren’t nearly as tough as Wood’s practice drills. They’d been suitably impressed when Neville, whose coordination hadn’t been exactly stellar last year, had managed to disarm and take down both twins in less than two minutes. Granted, he’d been exhausted - the boys were two years older, and not exactly slow, weak, or light - but Neville had felt pretty good that day.

Fred and George freely admitted they’d probably never get as serious about it as the rest of them, but looked on the skills as just another opportunity to prank people - most wizards relaxed once an opponent had lost his wand. Finding out that their target was just as deadly without one . . . In any case, they tended to join in a few times a week, rather than daily, but they seemed to be noticing improvements, anyway.

Luna had started coming because all her friends did, and she seemed to be enjoying it just for the company. Not being particularly violent by nature, the martial arts she picked up tended towards the softer styles - but she learned them, regardless. As to the general exercise, she’d seen the benefits immediately, since there was no telling where in the world, or under what conditions, she might have to hunt for creatures like the apparently elusive Crumple-Horned Snorkack. The better shape she was in, the easier it would be for her.

Shirou admitted that he was baffled by Luna, and took solace in the fact that it seemed to be the general consensus. Only Galen and Neville really seemed comfortable around her - the former, because he was prepared for her, and the latter, because they seemed more on the same level. They were general outcasts who weren’t supremely fast, powerful or confident. Not that they weren’t grateful that their friends were, but it was easier for them to relate to one another - especially since they were also both pure-bloods, and wizard-raised. They could talk about certain things and not get strange looks - or be totally lost in a conversation peppered with references from the mundane world.

Hermione had accepted Luna’s presence with some tolerance. The younger girl was surprisingly open about the way she was treated, and Hermione was nothing if not sympathetic. The matter of Luna’s menagerie of unusual creatures, like Snorkacks, had initially caused some friction, until Galen had asked, “Hermione, how does it feel to not exist?”

Hermione had given him a puzzled look. “What?”

“Well, there’s no such thing as witches, wizards, or magic. Everyone knows that. Five billion people can’t be wrong - there’s empirical evidence to prove that magic is all tricks, or outright impossible, as any library can tell you.”

Hermione had reddened. “But that’s different!”

“How?” he’d asked reasonably. “Five billion people, and five hundred years of reason and rational thought, can collectively know and prove that magic doesn’t exist, except as deception - but we’re here. If Luna believes that there’s a creature out there that the magical world says doesn’t and can’t exist, who’s to say it doesn’t anyway, as we do? In the face of a lack of concrete proof, Hermione, it doesn’t hurt anyone for her to believe, and look for the truth. That kind of faith is rare . . . And while I may not understand it, I can respect it where I find it.”

That had effectively silenced Hermione on the issue of Luna’s strange beliefs - she still didn’t believe the younger girl was entirely sane, but had been forced to acknowledge that there was nothing truly wrong about her beliefs, as she did no harm by believing. And, as Galen had pointed out, one never knew - tomorrow might bring the possibility of evidence.

Aside from that issue, though, the two girls were actually getting along well. Luna’s thought processes were more intuitive than Hermione’s analytical thinking, but both of them were quite intelligent, and the discussions between them on higher-level spell mechanics had everyone, including Galen, quickly fleeing a room in search of migraine medicine.

Shirou’s thoughts were interrupted by the babble of Colin Creevey as he followed them out to the Quidditch pitch. He was trying to get Takara to explain the game to him - Colin was mundane-born, like Hermione - and she was attempting to be polite, as usual, although Shirou suspected that in about five more minutes, it would be a good thing her Quidditch uniform didn’t have a pocket for her knife. Thankfully, Colin shut up and disappeared into the stands to watch as they reached the pitch.

Overall, he noted, the Gryffindor team did not look entirely up to snuff - no doubt owing to the early hour. He and Takara were used to rising around dawn, but the rest . . .?

Fred and George looked a little owlish - their infrequent presence at calisthenics meant they weren’t totally unused to being up so early, but neither were they especially accustomed to it. The Chasers, on the other hand - Alicia was sagging against the wall, her head bobbing up and down, and Angelina and Katie were holding each other up and yawning in sequence. Wood was the only one other than him who was really awake, as even Takara was a little sluggish, given her recent late nights.

Shirou followed Wood’s complicated new plays - more or less - but even he couldn’t resist a snicker as George said, “I’ve got a question, Oliver - why couldn’t you have told us all this yesterday when we were awake?”

Wood scowled. “Now listen here, you lot. Gryffindor may have won the Quidditch cup last year, but that’s no excuse for resting on our laurels. We’re easily the best team, but if we get lazy . . . “ He shook himself. “So this year we train harder than ever before . . . OK, let’s go and put our new theories into practice!”

Shirou was the only one who followed him easily out of the changing rooms.

Practice was a little more complicated as a steady, mechanical sound echoed through the stadium.

“What’s that funny clicking noise?” Shirou heard Fred ask.

Colin was firing away with his camera, exhorting shrilly, “Look this way, Takara! This way!”

“Who’s that?” asked Fred.

Shirou smirked as he heard Takara answer, “I wish I didn’t know.”

Naturally, the fuss attracted Wood.

“What’s going on?” he demanded. “Why’s that first-year taking pictures? I don’t like it. He could be a Slytherin spy, trying to find out about our new training programme.”

Shirou ascended to join the conversation. “He’s a Gryffindor, Taichou.”

“And the Slytherins don’t need a spy, Oliver,” said George.

“Why’s that?”

“Because they’re here in person,” answered George, pointing.

Green-robed, broomstick-carrying people were entering the pitch. Shirou, from his higher vantage point, saw someone else nearby, and waved as discreetly, but forcefully as possible. An answering wave, and abrupt change of direction and speed, came in response.

“I don’t believe this!” Wood growled. “I booked the pitch for today! We’ll see about this!”

He rocketed down to a hard landing. Shirou, Fred, George, and Takara followed at a safer speed, to lighter impacts with the ground.

“Flint!” Wood roared.”This is our practice time! We got up specially! You can clear off now!”

The Slytherin Captain, Marcus Flint, was bigger and burlier than even Wood. Unfortunately for him, he had a troll-like brain to accentuate the physical resemblance. However, no one could accuse him of being low on innate nastiness, and it showed in his grin.

“Plenty of room for all of us, Wood,” he replied.

The rest of the team clustered around Wood, focussing on the Slytherins, who by and large out-massed the Gryffindors. For his part, Shirou had to work to keep the smirk off his face. This was going to be good.

“But I booked the pitch!” Wood protested, enraged. “I booked it!”

“Ah,” Flint replied with a smug satisfaction, “but I’ve got a specially-signed note here from Professor Snape. I, Professor S. Snape, give the Slytherin team permission to practise today on the Quidditch pitch owing to the need to train their new Seeker.”

Wood opened his mouth to reply, when an almost purring voice from behind the Slytherin team drawled, “Really.”

As everyone turned, Galen glanced over to his right, “Hermione, you’ve studied the school bylaws - remind me of the relevant ones regarding pitch time?”

She replied, as though reading directly from them. “Practice times on the Quidditch pitch are pre-booked by the team captains, with permission of their Head of House. In the event that practice times are required to be rescheduled, and conflict with an existing session, twenty-four hours notice is to be given to the interrupted team’s Head of House, who will inform the team.”

Galen turned to Wood. “Did Professor McGonagall mention anything to you yesterday, Wood?” he asked casually.

Wood’s face, which had been flushing red in anger, was rapidly acquiring a beatific grin.

“No,” he replied delightedly. “No, she didn’t.”

Galen shrugged. “There you have it, then. I admit, I’m surprised Professor Snape didn’t think to do things through the proper channels - but he’s a busy man. Best go back and remind him of existing procedures, Captain Flint.”

Flint’s face began turning the same colour Wood’s had. “I’ve Snape’s permission to be here! You can’t tell us to clear off!”

Galen glanced to Neville. “Remind me - we just told him his note isn’t worth the parchment it’s written on, and to clear off, didn’t we?”

Neville nodded. This movement wasn’t as fearful as it might have been a year ago.

Flint focussed on Neville. “Why, you - !”

“Careful there, Flint,” Fred advised with a grin.

“Ickle Neville knocked us both arse over teakettle a couple of days ago,” George explained. “Did it with his bare hands, too - “

”- And he says he’s the least dangerous of the lot,” Fred finished.

Shirou chuckled. “Seems like a pretty simple choice, guys - book yourselves a practice time like you’re supposed to, or - “

”Or what, Einzbern?” came a familiarly sneering voice. The mass of massive Slytherins parted to reveal Draco Malfoy’s form.

“Or you leave anyway,” Shirou advised him. “It’s just a question of whether you walk out of here under your own power.”

“You think we can’t take a bunch of shrimps like you?” Malfoy sneered. “They’re only four more of you, and they’re all scrawny - “

”But armed,” Galen said quietly. “Unless your nice new Quidditch uniform has a pocket for your wand, Malfoy, I’d really recommend clearing off. Because this won’t be a duel - it’s a fight.”

The Slytherins whirled at the statement, and saw the four Gryffindors with wands drawn and raised. The situation was plain: not only was the Quidditch team prepared to fight the Slytherins, the others would hex them in the back while they did.

Malfoy’s face reddened. “Professor Snape will hear about this! And my father!”

“We’ve already told you to tell Professor Snape, you idiot,” Shirou said with disgust. “And as for your father - does he enjoy hearing how you make a fool of yourself?”

Malfoy’s face was nearly purple. “This isn’t over!”

“Of course not,” Takara said loftily. “See you at the game, Malfoy. Well, actually, I’ll probably be in front of you, catching the Snitch - so I guess not.” She smirked.

For a moment, they thought the fight would start anyway - but Malfoy whirled and stormed off in high dudgeon. Apparently his self-preservation instincts were still working. The rest of the team followed.

Wood sighed in relief. “Thanks for the assist, I guess. You realise they’re be hell to pay.”

Galen shrugged. “They had no right to show up in the middle of Gryffindor’s practice and expect to be handed the pitch, note be damned. No spells were fired, and no one was hurt. Snape aside, there’s not much they can really call us out on.”

“Shame,” Neville said, surprising everyone. “After our run, I was all warmed up for a hard-contact sparring session, too.”

Galen chuckled. “Well, we should get back to our practice, and we’ll leave you to yours - cheers, guys.”

With that, the four Gryffindors jogged off the pitch. Wood turned to Shirou with a gimlet eye. “And they just happened to show up?”

“I may have spotted them passing the pitch when the Slytherins showed up,” Shirou admitted.

“And they came in anyway? You might’ve just been waving hello.”

“I don’t wave,” Shirou said flatly.

Wood had a thoughtful look on his face. “That Lovegood girl’s small enough for a Seeker, and if you could teach Longbottom and Granger to fly decently - they move well enough for Chasers. I’d like to see the Chaser who’d dare try to score on Salvatore when he’s a Keeper - bloke’s right scary. I reckon he could make a Bludger change its course with a look . . .”

“Uh oh,” Fred said.

“Wood’s thinking again,” George added.

The larger boy flushed. “I was just considering that with Shirou here, and the rest of them - you’d almost have enough for a reserve Gryffindor team, never mind just one player.”

“Have to coax Hermione, Galen and Luna out of the library first,” Fred informed him,

“And good luck on that,” George agreed.

Wood sighed. “Pity.” Then he grinned. “Guess I’ll just have to settle for having the best team at Hogwarts, rather than the best team and a bloody good set of alternates.”

Shirou found himself grinning. “Then we’d better get practising, if we’re going to stay that way.”

Wood roared, “Now that’s what I like to hear! Let’s go!”

Galen awoke with the usual symptoms: extreme weariness, lingering pain in the joints, bones and muscles, and spasmodic twitching of the extremities as his nerves readjusted to their former positions. Roiling nausea, too, as his stomach and other internal organs were returned to their original shape and distribution. His eyes were blurry again, his ears felt stuffed with cotton, and his nose was practically dead. Still, he was at least vaguely aware of another presence.

“I was half-afraid Snape had poisoned that batch of potion,” said a familiar voice. Takara. “I thought he might, after that stunt with the Slytherin Quidditch team last week.”

“Mkgngll . . .” His throat was raw, and his tongue didn’t want to work properly.

“Yes, I know Professor McGonagall backed you - and so did the Gryffindor team. No points lost because you were being rule-abiding, no detentions because it was just their word that you threatened them. But if he was going to get revenge, this would be perfect. You know he’s that petty.”

Galen tried to shake his head - and then tried not to wince at the dizziness and pain the movements brought him.

“Too . . .” He forced himself to speak carefully. “. . .Ob - vi -ous.”

“Good point,” Takara admitted. “Since’s he’s brewed it for a year with no problems, a botch now would be harder to explain - and the faculty knows about the scene on the pitch.”

“Why . . .?” Galen began.

“Am I here?” Takara finished for him. “A couple of things. First, I thought I’d remind you that with luck, this will be your last full moon alone: the Animagus potion will be ready in two more weeks. I’m actually looking forward to it. I wonder what I’ll turn out to be?”

She smiled at the thought, before turning serious. “The other bit’s a little less fun. Since it’s Sunday, and Neville and Hermione know to leave you alone on these days, Shirou and I figured that we could discuss how, exactly, things went with your little talk with her, without eavesdroppers or classes to get in the way.”

Her smile returned, but was distinctly more predatory. “And you’re in no condition to run or lie your way out of it.”

March 24th, 2011, 08:17 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 8 - Understandings

September 14 - 19, 1992

Shirou entered the infirmary and went straight to Madam Pomfrey. The heavyset, matronly witch gave him an appraising look.

“And what seems to be the trouble, Mister Einzbern?” she inquired briskly.

“Galen asked me to fetch a Pepperup Potion, some Essence of Murtlap, and Essence of Dittany,” Shirou said. This was a lie - Takara had asked him, not Galen.

The nurse’s eyebrows raised. “Problems with his transformation? He doesn’t usually need more than a day’s rest and some easily digestible food.” She normally wouldn’t have said as much, but Shirou and Takara’s medical history cleared placed them in Galen’s company for several years - she was aware they knew his secret.

“He has an assignment due for Professor Snape that he hasn’t finished,” Shirou explained. Another lie - Galen, with Hermione’s help, made a habit of completing any work due around the full moon early because he’d be laid up.

Madam Pomfrey frowned disapprovingly. “He ought to be resting - but I suppose it makes no sense to antagonise Severus, if it can be avoided.” She handed Shirou several vials. “Pepper-Up, Murtlap, Dittany. He’s to drink the first, and the other two are rubbed on where the pain is. And tell him not to force himself to stay awake - if he needs to sleep, he’s to sleep!”

“Yes, ma’am,” Shirou said earnestly. “Thank you.”

“Thank me by getting him to work more diligently,” Madam Pomfrey sniffed. “The boy’s under enough strain as it is - no need to make it worse!”

You don’t know the half of it, Shirou thought.

He wasn’t entirely in favour of cornering Galen like this, but they needed confirmation that he’d cleared the air with Hermione. In the last week and a half, the girl had been less hostile, but still distant - and without knowing what had been said, they had no way of figuring out what to do next. Granted, it wasn’t all Galen’s fault - between Quidditch practice, class, and the near-constant presence of Ginny and Luna (not to mention Colin Creevey), finding a quiet time and place to talk hadn’t been easy to do. Even switching to Japanese would’ve alerted Neville and Hermione that something was up, as both of them were becoming passably fluent after almost a year of study.

Today, on the other hand, was ideal. Neville and Hermione knew that Galen would be effectively useless all day, and wouldn’t try to disturb him. Neville, at least, would attempt to distract Luna and Ginny if they came looking - as neither girl was yet aware that Galen was a werewolf. His and Takara’s absence might be noted, but hopefully not long enough to make anyone suspicious. With luck, they could get the information they needed from Galen, and leave him to his rest. And then they could settle things with Hermione.

Shirou wondered what Galen had told her. If Hermione had extracted the oath like Shirou expected, possibly everything. How would she handle it? Could she handle it?

. . . Could his father?

Kiritsugu was not a stupid man, and he already suspected something. Also, Shirou could understand the need to lie to him, but it didn’t mean he liked it. It wouldn’t take much to blow his cover entirely, one way or another. He had to consider the possibility it might happen, and what could result from it.

Shirou shook his head as he entered the deserted classroom where Galen had spent the night. “What if” was Galen’s thing, not his. Maybe if there was time later, he’d pick the other guy’s brain over it . . .

Takara watched Galen to make sure the medicines were administered properly, though her face was scarlet when he began rubbing the two Essences into his sore muscles - mostly because it involved Galen’s taking his shirt off to do it. The twelve year old’s physique wasn’t exactly a champion bodybuilder’s - but it showed a certain wiry strength, nonetheless.

“OK,” Galen said in Japanese, with deliberate slowness. “I’m as awake as I’m going to get, and in less pain. What do you need to know?”

“What exactly did the two of you say?” Takara demanded in the same language.

Galen repeated their conversation, and Shirou was certain it was pretty much verbatim. When he got to the bit about an alternate time line, however, Takara interrupted.

“You lied,” Takara said, her eyes wide. “Under an oath to tell the complete truth - you broke your word.”

“I did not,” Galen snapped. “She made an assumption, which I agreed with in principle. She did not ask for a detailed explanation of just how ‘alternate’ our timeline was - and I wasn’t obligated to provide one unless she did.”

“That’s pretty thin,” Shirou observed.

“It was the only option I had,” Galen hissed. “I was not about to tell a girl you described to me as being borderline suicidal that she doesn’t really exist!”

“Is that how you see her?” Shirou asked. “Really?”

Galen closed his eyes, weariness evident in every line on his face.

“I agree in principle with the idea that all fictional creations are alternate realities whose existence can be tapped into by certain minds,” he said. “Coming from where I do, however, it’s difficult for me to think of Hermione Granger as anything but a book character - or at best, a beautiful young actress that I will never be lucky enough to meet. And then she sits down besides me, and smiles - at me - and . . .”

He shuddered. “My grasp on reality was never that good to begin with - this place isn’t helping.”

Shirou snorted. “Like our universe was any better?”

Galen’s eyes snapped open.

Takara shook her head. “We might not be as smart as Hermione, Galen, but we’re not stupid, either. Whether here, at home, or in that twisted Slayerverse, you’ve reacted exactly the same way - like you know everything that’s going on, and everyone of importance . . . And you usually do. Knowing why you act that way in two of those realities, it’s not that big a stretch to assume it’s true about the third, as well.”

“So what were we?” Shirou asked. “Book, movie, TV series?”

“Visual novels,” Galen said tiredly. “And associated anime adaptations. Though the main one was about Takara’s dad - she came as a complete surprise.”

Takara grinned. “So Mother has often told me.”

Galen stared. “You think this is funny?”

She shrugged. “Why not? You’ve said my reality is fictional, to you - but to me, it’s real. You’ve even pointed out that you weren’t expecting me, which means I’m closer to real than the fiction you know. And I’m sure there’s every possibility that somewhere out there, there’s someone to whom you and your life are just fiction, too.”

“A Self-Insert writer,” Galen muttered. “I’m the only person I know who’s a big enough bastard to put me through all this.”

Shirou said, “The point is, whatever our realities were to you originally, here and now, for us, it’s just real. Anything else gets into a level of metaphysics I really don’t want to think about - because there’s no point to thinking about it.”

“Nice sentiment,” Galen said with a yawn. “Wonder if Hermione will see it that way.”

“Maybe she will,” Takara offered, “but for what it’s worth, you were probably right to hold back - she was pretty fragile.”

“One step at a time,” Shirou agreed.

“Let’s hope it’s just not off a cliff,” Galen murmured, before falling asleep.

Takara found out when Hermione joined her in Myrtle’s bathroom a day or two later to oversee some of the Animagus potion’s final stages.

“What happened to me - the other me, I suppose - last Hallowe’en?” she asked quietly.

Takara didn’t take long to understand. “When the troll’s presence was announced at the feast, Harry realised you didn’t know and snuck away from the Gryffindors being led back to the tower, convincing Ron to go with him. When they saw that the troll had already found you, Harry jumped on its back to distract it, and Ron managed to levitate its club and drop it on the troll’s head.”

“He had to convince Ron?” Hermione said sharply. “He was the last straw, and he had to be convinced to come and rescue me?”

Takara shrugged. “So it seems, anyway.”

Hermione said nothing to that, biting her lower lip in thought. “So I really would be dead now, if you hadn’t come. There’s no Harry here to have saved me.”

“He didn’t want to have to,” Takara said. “Galen tried everything he could think of to keep your spirits up, to keep you out of that bathroom - “

”And when that failed, he came running anyway,” Hermione finished softly. “And unlike Harry Potter, he knew exactly what he was walking into when he did it - but he still came.”

“We all did,” Takara said. “But would you have believed us if we’d told you?”

Hermione shook her head. “Maybe if you’d pretended one of you was a Seer - Divination is a course at Hogwarts, after all - but time travel and alternate universes? It would’ve been a bit much.”

“And now?” Takara asked gently.

“. . . I suppose I can’t really complain, can I?” Hermione said. “Your reasoning for not saying how you knew makes sense - they’d probably be locking you up in wizarding Bedlam if you went around mentioning it. And it’s saved my life a number of times now - about as many as it’s nearly gotten him killed in the doing.”

Hermione held out her hand. “Hello, I’m Hermione Granger - and I think I’d like to be friends.”

Takara smiled, and shook it. “Aozaki Takara desu, Granger-san. Pleased to meet you.”

Hermione smiled briefly, before turning serious. “Galen doesn’t trust Headmaster Dumbledore. He said it looked like the Headmaster was trying to manipulate Neville.”

Takara nodded. “That’s what we think.”

“Is that why the traps last year were so easy? It was a test?” Hermione nodded to herself. “Yes - foreknowledge might’ve helped you prepare for them, but any serious defences would have been beyond the physical or magical skill of a bunch of first-year students. You’d have only known that you couldn’t beat them. Fluffy was vulnerable to anyone who knew Greek mythology and enough magic to create music. The Devil’s Snare acted too slowly to be more than an impediment unless you’d landed wrong. The flying keys - I’ve read about Summoning Charms, they’re taught in fourth year, apparently - the broom wouldn’t have been necessary. And it would’ve been smarter to have all those animal Transfigurations go off when the wrong key was touched - bury the thief under a horde of beasts rather than just one target at a time.”

“That one had us worried,” Takara admitted. “It was supposed to be a giant chess set.”

“A chess set?” Hermione repeated. “Why would anyone use a giant chess set as a security measure?”

“Because Ronald Weasley is good at chess.”

“. . . Tailored traps,” Hermione whispered. “It’s too big a coincidence to really be one. It really was all a test.”

The young witch’s expression hardened. “Do you know why?”

Takara’s mouth set into a grim line. “There’s this prophecy . . .” She repeated it for Hermione, who grew thoughtful.

“Neville’s birthday is July 30th,” she admitted, “and I don’t know anything about his parents - but he was never ‘marked as an equal.’ And Dumbledore was the one who beat him.”

“For the moment, anyway,” Takara said.

“For the moment?”

“Who do you think was controlling Quirrell?” Takara asked rhetorically.

Hermione paled.

“It’s a long story,” Takara said, “and the time and place for it isn’t here and now. What you need to know is that both Dumbledore and Voldemort apparently believe in the prophecy. And we’re only assuming the prophecy is the same as the one about Harry. It might be different here, but we can’t access it to find out. We’ll have to wait for an opportunity to try - and in the meantime, we help out Neville as best we can.”

“And any other people you happen to come across?” Hermione asked with a lifted eyebrow.

Takara shrugged, but she was smiling, too. “What can I say? Galen and Shirou both have a ‘saving people thing’ - and if I don’t keep them out of trouble, who will?”

Hermione laughed with her, before her face sobered.

Takara tilted her head. “What is it?”

“Galen,” she admitted. “I’ve been treating him badly, again.”

“You had reason to, this time,” Takara pointed out. “We weren’t exactly being open and honest - and where Neville, Luna, and Ginny are concerned, that’s not likely to change.”

“It wouldn’t be much of a secret if everyone knew,” Hermione admitted. “And few people would believe it. Even if they did - “

”We’d end up in a research lab, or a mental ward, or something,” Takara finished.

“Good reasons not to say anything,” Hermione agreed. “And if it was just that, I wouldn’t be upset - but it’s not the first time I’ve made a snap judgment about him, is it? I cried about his not trusting me - but I don’t seem willing to have much trust in him, either.”

“He doesn’t make it easy to trust him,” Takara admitted. “I think he honestly likes it that way - or maybe he just figures that anyone willing to trust him in spite of everything is someone he can trust.”

“Do you?” Hermione asked curiously.

“With my life? Absolutely,” Takara said. Then she added softly, “With my heart, though - that’s another story.”

“You think he’d break it?”

“. . . Not intentionally,” Takara said at last. “But he’s lied to me, when he thought he had to. And I look at what he does - at how easily and often he throws himself into situations where he’ll get hurt, or killed, and I can’t honestly say to myself that I could survive loving him. Because he’s always been that way, and he always will - and I don’t know that I can stand it, waiting for the day to come when he isn’t fast enough, tough enough, or lucky enough to survive.”

Hermione was quiet. “Is he trying to die?”

Takara closed her eyes. “Ilya has his word he won’t kill himself, but that’s not the same as saying he won’t be killed by one of these stunts. And as Shirou said once - Ilya’s given him a reason to exist, which is not the same as a reason to live.”

“So you think he is.”

Takara had asked herself this a lot, over the last year. “I think . . . He’s reached a point where living or dying don’t matter to him - any more than it makes a difference whether he wears a red or blue shirt.” She opened her eyes. “You should keep this in mind, if you plan to start dating him next year.”

Hermione flushed red. “Who said that I - ?”

“You’ll both be fourteen, and Hogsmeade weekends are an option next year,” Takara pointed out. “I figured you’d want to try.”

“. . . Do you think he’d want to?” she asked hesitantly.

“If you can get him to take you seriously, probably.”

Hermione gained a puzzled expression. “What do you mean?”

“Shirou says Galen’s had a - a complicated history with girls. He’s not likely to believe that any girl really wants to date him. If you want to convince him, you’ll have to do it carefully, I guess - slow enough that he doesn’t start checking you for love potions, but firmly enough that he can’t just ignore you, either.”

Now it was Hermione’s turn to cock her head. “You’ve always sounded mature, Takara, but . . . How old are you?”

“In the timeline we came from, I was about to turn seventeen before we ended up here. The boys are older.”

“How much older?” Hermione asked, a little fearfully.

“I’m not completely sure - but older. It’s another reason you’ll need to be careful. Galen will probably feel like a dirty old man.” Takara looked at her. “Does it change things, to know he’s that much older than you are?”

Hermione considered this for a long while, before she finally decided aloud, “He’s been the same age since I’ve known him - it’s just what makes him who he is. And no matter how old his mind is, he’s my age now.”

“Try telling him that,” Takara muttered. “Repeatedly and loudly - and if we’re lucky, maybe it’ll sink in.”

Hermione was pensive as she finished the last steps for this portion of the potion’s progress.

“I still need to find a way to apologise,” she muttered. “He said he was sorry days ago, and I never gave him an answer.”

Takara considered. “Well, it is your birthday in a few days - and it might be a good first step . . .”

Hermione looked at her friend with a mixture of confusion, anticipation, and nervousness. “What?”

Galen had spent the last week in relative peace. The moon’s effects had passed, allowing him to resume his regular routine. His classes were going reasonably well - due to Hermione’s influence on his study habits . . .


Their relationship was cordial, now, but cool - as though she was channelling Crookshanks. She didn’t make a point of sitting close, or exchange much more in the way of words with him than would be considered polite. She didn’t insist on looking over his work, though she would if he asked. She was speaking to Takara, though - which meant that it was all on him.

And that was good, Galen reminded himself. He was dangerous to Hermione - and far beneath what she deserved, in any case. Hell, Weasley looked like a better option than he did, at this point. It was far better that she realise it now, rather than later.

You always knew it would come to this. You can’t be surprised that it has. And you know, damned well, that it should. So let it be.

And he did. He did his work, did his exercises, practised his duelling. He was Hermione’s acquaintance, at best her friend. And he could be content with that. It was all he’d ever expected.

He’d watch over her regardless. Over all of them. It was what he did. And when it was done with - when Voldemort was finished, and Ilya’s last command was carried out - maybe then, he could finally rest.

. . . In the meantime, Hermione had a birthday to celebrate, and he wouldn’t spoil it for her. As he couldn’t just sneak it onto her bed, he’d wish her well, hand her the gift, and get out as quickly and quietly as he could politely manage so that she could enjoy herself with the rest of her friends.

With that thought in mind, he walked into the Gryffindor common-room, brightly wrapped package in hand. Hermione was just coming down the stairs of the girls’ dorm.

Timing is everything, he thought.

“Good morning, Hermione,” he said pleasantly. “Happy birthday. I hope you’ll enjoy it - and the gift, of course.”

Gently laying it in her hands, he nodded to her, then moved to head down to the Great Hall for breakfast.

“Galen,” she called.

He turned.

“Thank you . . . For the gift, I mean,” she said awkwardly. “But I wanted . . . I wanted something else.”

He shrugged. “You can exchange it, or get a refund - I always keep the receipts for that reason. I’ll go get it - “

”No!” she blurted. “It’s not that.”

His eyebrows raised. “Then what?”

“Will you - hold still?”

“‘Hold still?’” Galen repeated.

She nodded, flushing. “Just hold still.”

Galen considered. Detecting no Fred and George specials, flying knives, or trap doors in the immediately vicinity, it seemed safe enough. Maybe she wanted to hit him, and needed to be sure of her target. Or hex him. Either way, he could hardly complain - it wasn’t as though he didn’t deserve it. And it was her birthday - she should get what she wanted.

He shrugged. “All right.”

Hermione firmed her resolve, visibly. Her jaw set, her eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, and she stalked in feline fashion into his personal space, reaching around to pull the back of his head down until her lips were level with his ear.

“I forgive you,” Hermione whispered. “And I’m sorry, too.”

Then she kissed him.

March 24th, 2011, 08:17 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 9 - Awakening the Beast

October 4, 1992

Takara stared into the cauldron full of bubbling liquid. Like many potions, it smelled terrible. In this potion’s particular case, it had an animal stench, raw and rank - leather, fur, feathers, fish. While appropriate in the case of this particular potion, it wasn’t at all pleasant. She didn’t look forward to drinking it.

“So,” Neville asked, “it’s done?”

Takara nodded. “All set. A dose of this, and our Animagus forms will be - unleashed.”

Shirou winced. “I thought bad jokes were Galen’s thing.”

“Hey!” Galen protested.

Takara shrugged. “It fits.” She glanced at Galen and smirked. “In both cases.”


“How many doses do we have?” Neville asked.

Hermione answered, “We couldn’t use a really big cauldron, and you’re only supposed to take it once, so we weren’t trying to make a lot . . . But then again, the dosing phials aren’t very large. Three, for certain, but perhaps as many as six?”

“Thinking of Ginny and Luna?” Galen asked.

Neville coloured a bit, but didn’t stammer. “Yeah - they’ve been around us so much since school started, it just seems wrong to leave them out.”

“You realise,” Takara said carefully, “that we’ll have to tell them why we’re doing this.” She glanced at Galen.

“I don’t think Ginny would blab,” Galen said. “Not intentionally. On the other hand, if her mother finds out - ” Visions of Howlers broadcasting throughout the Great Hall filled his head. There would calls for his expulsion as soon as the school owls could get the word out.

“You’re not worried about Luna?” Shirou asked.

Galen gave him a look. “She’s one of the most accepting souls around - I really can’t believe she’d tell.” He glanced at Hermione. “How long does this stuff keep, anyway?”

“One lunar year, once it’s brewed,” Hermione answered.

“So we don’t need to worry about mentioning it right away - we can dose you all first, and if it works, and if we have enough left, we can think about asking the girls.”

Takara nodded. That seemed sensible.

Neville nodded, too. “I wonder what I’ll be . . .”

Takara did, too. Galen had told them that according to the author, one’s Animagus form and Patronus form were the same animal. This was a nice theory, Galen had said - until you considered that Dumbledore’s Patronus was a phoenix and Snape’s a doe. Magical beasts had never been mentioned as possible Animagus forms, only animals - hence the name. And the transformation was so keyed to the specific witch or wizard that constantly-worn items such as glasses were part of the animal form, in the form of markings. With that evidence, a spontaneous sex change seemed unlikely in an Animagus transformation. Therefore, to hell with the author’s idea. It was another case of using an opportunity to screw with her readers’ minds.

And in her case, it really didn’t matter, as she hadn’t learned the Patronus charm yet, anyway. Though Takara expected she’d have to, next year.

But first, we have to see if we need to - and can - survive the basilisk . . .

Neville’s next question interrupted her thoughts. “Should we just take it now?”

Galen shook his head. “Not here. If somebody turns out to be an elephant Animagus, things are going to get awfully cramped in here.”

“The Forest, then?” Shirou offered out loud. When he saw Neville shiver. “Not in it, but around the borders, like Hagrid’s hut. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t tell.”

“Not intentionally,” Takara agreed, “but he does have a habit of spilling secrets accidentally. And it’s fairly open to unintended spies, not to mention far from the Hospital Wing if something ends up going wrong.” She shook her head. “What we need is a room inside the castle.”

Galen stiffened suddenly, then said with profound venom, “Idiot! What the hell do you use for brains?!” He got up, and ran out of the bathroom, still cursing. “Right there in front of you, just bloody waiting the whole damned time, and you sit here . . .”

Neville, Hermione, and Shirou exchanged bewildered looks for a moment. Takara, on the other hand, had seen him in similar circumstances, and so her voice held a curious mixture of dry amusement and genuine relief as she remarked, “Oh, thank God - he’s thought of something.”

Then she got up to follow him. Hermione, after grabbing the cauldron, was right behind her, then Shirou and Neville.

Galen had, impressively, managed to navigate three levels of the staircases ahead of them. Takara could tell, because she caught glimpses of his fast-moving form above them, and the acoustics allowed them to hear echoes of his curses as he ascended.

Neville was breathing hard, but evenly, as they ascended the fourth level staircase. Without wheezing, he said, “He has to be running full-tilt, up flights of stairs, and he’s still swearing. Who’s he so mad at?”

Takara answered, “Himself. He’s been reminded of something so obvious it should have occurred to him straightaway.”

“What?” Hermione wondered.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be trying so hard to catch him.”

The sound of rumbling stone above them caught their attention - one of the staircases had decided to move. More surprising, however, was the roaring response it provoked.


Improbably, the sound of movement stopped - and then began to recede back in the direction it had emerged from.

Shirou’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “Did he just intimidate a staircase?”

Neville shivered. “I’ve never heard him that angry. It’s scary.”

Scary. Uh-huh. If anyone asked Takara why she was shivering, fear was the excuse she was using. Of course, she was more flushed than pale . . .

Her Nanaya side had always been intrigued by Galen when he was angry - wondered whether the fires that drove him could be snuffed by her own icy precision, or whether he could manage to melt her down, instead. Takara had always assumed that it related to a need to determine which of them was the better killer, an intolerance of rival predators.

Now, though, hearing the passion running through that command, and feeling her reaction to it, she was forced to consider the idea that it was Nanaya’s twisted idea of foreplay.

A hungry whisper in the back of her mind, like that snow-soft voice, remarked, Fire can do more than simply destroy . . .

Takara shuddered. Damned hormones - if they were this bad already, the next five years were going to be hell.

The sound of shoes storming up steps had stopped, and they soon caught up to where Galen had gotten off the staircases, which turned out to be the seventh floor. His steps were still audible, but slower, quieter.

He’s looking for something - but what? All I said was that we’d need a room -

And then it hit her.

“I’m an idiot,” Takara muttered, causing everyone to look at her. “I just realised what he’s looking for, and I should’ve thought of it, too - it would’ve been perfect for so many things.”

Shirou raised an eyebrow. “Care to enlighten us?”

Takara glanced around - no portraits in sight, but that didn’t mean they weren’t in earshot. She lowered her voice as a precaution.

“It’s called the Room of Requirement . . .”

Shirou looked at the ornate door, which Takara opened without hesitation. The idea of a room that only appeared at great need didn’t seem too farfetched, but Shirou wondered about the level of magic that would have to go into something that could adapt itself to fit any circumstance. It seemed at least partially similar to his Reality Marble, and Shirou wondered - if he understood what had gone into making the Room, could he recreate Unlimited Blade Works?

Wouldn’t they be in for a surprise if I could?

Galen stood before a massive, ornate bowl, reading intently from a book in his left hand, his wand upraised in the other. The room had no other features.

“What’s this?” Shirou asked.

“This,” Galen indicated the bowl with a wave of his wand, “is a Pensieve. And this is instructions on how to use one.”

“And a Pensieve is . . .?”

Takara answered, “It lets you review memories - but not just from your perspective. It recreates them like one of those hollow thingies on Star Trek.”

“Holodeck,” Hermione supplied, causing everyone to look at her. She shrugged and said, with some embarrassment, “My mother likes Patrick Stewart. And Miranda thinks Wesley Crusher is gorgeous.”

Shirou understood Galen’s purpose immediately. “The bookstore.”

Galen nodded, holding his wand to his temple, and carefully drawing out an iridescent silver strand, halfway between light and mist. He flicked it casually into the bowl.

Neville appeared confused. “What bookstore?”

Shirou explained briefly, and to his amazement, Neville simply nodded. When Shirou remarked as such, Neville replied, “This is something Galen knows - by now, I’ve learned not to question it. I just wish he didn’t know only about bad things.”

“Well,” Galen drawled, “the next time your grandmother gives you a hard time about your Charms mark, you can always remind her that she failed her O.W.L. in the subject.”

Neville goggled. Galen just smirked, and added, “Gather round, folks - we’re all set. Just look into the bowl, hang on, and remember - keep your eye on the little black book.”

Shirou leaned over the bowl, and was caught in a sudden vortex . . .

The Pensieve’s recreation was astonishing. It was like being in spirit form as a Servant, except reversed - the world was the illusion.

He watched as Draco’s father picked a fight with the eldest Weasley male - and Shirou could see, as he wouldn’t have as a teenager, that it was deliberately provoked. Clearly, though, brawling hadn’t been expected - Malfoy Senior had his hand on his wand, ready to duel, not fight. Neither combatant was really built for hand-to-hand combat, much less trained, so the fight was more or less even, in Shirou’s mind . . . But it wasn’t ultimately important.

Shirou ignored the fight in favour of the cauldron. Takara was going through the books as quickly as she could, but not quite fast enough, and then the world exploded as the fireworks went off. From then on, it was harder to keep track, but he saw one firework explode too close to Takara, causing her to accidentally hurl the diary into the air . . .

. . . Where a second firework collided with it, blasting a new flight path that caused it to sail overhead and through an upper window.

As the group emerged from the Pensieve, Shirou groaned, “If it ended up outside, anyone could’ve picked it up.”

“I don’t remember seeing it - but I was headed out of the alley at the time,” Galen remarked.

“And we weren’t looking,” Shirou grumbled. He sighed. “No choice, then, I guess - we’ll have to wait until Hallowe’en before we can find out if it’s here.”

Neville frowned. “There’s no chance it was destroyed, is there? I mean, that firework was pretty big - ”

Galen shook his head. “Afraid not, Neville. That thing is as Dark as it gets - and powerfully protected in the bargain. If the firework did more than ruffle its pages, I’ll be surprised.”

“So if there’s still nothing we can do,” Shirou mused, “we may as well try the potion now.”

The Pensieve, as if sensing it was no longer needed, vanished, leaving only an empty room. The five friends glanced at each other, and Galen said, “Hermione and Takara had better go last - they brewed it, they’ll be better prepared and equipped to handle side effects if something’s wrong. That leaves you and Neville, Shirou.”

Shirou glanced at Neville, who responded immediately, “You first.”

Shrugging, he took one of the empty potion vials Hermione handed him, dipped it in the cauldron, and raised the filled glass to his eyes. It looked the same - a mixture of brown, green, and gray, and smelled like a zoo. A zoo that, unfortunately, hadn’t been cleaned in a while.

“The vials have been charmed to be unbreakable,” Hermione assured him. “You needn’t worry about dropping it.”

“Good to know,” Shirou muttered. Bracing himself, he said, “Kampai” - and downed it in one shot.

Then the world began to whirl away . . .

When Shirou came to, the others were all kneeling over him, staring. He stared back, and was suddenly aware that he could count the pores on their faces. He had his Archer vision back - and judging by the size of that bowl, he was now a lot smaller.

He opened his mouth to ask a question, but all that came out was a raucous cry.

“It shouldn’t last more than five minutes,” Hermione said, “and probably less than that. The idea is to force the transformation, so that the witch or wizard’s body and mind can become aware of, and used to, the possibility of it. Having done it once, they can then practice to achieve it again.”

“Anybody figure out what kind of bird he is?” Galen asked. “Aside from snowy owls, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles, most raptors are just birds to me.”

Takara held out a book. “Golden eagle.” She glanced at Shirou critically. “Maybe half-grown, from the look of it.” She turned to Hermione. “How long have you been carting these around?”

“Just since last week,” Hermione said, colouring. “I wanted to be sure we could identify what we became when the potion was finished. Although maybe it didn’t work - I would’ve expected Shirou to be fully grown.”

“Well, we are still kids,” Galen pointed out. “You’d assume the forms will grow with you.” He smirked. “Then again, he is kind of a shrimp - AAH!” His arm flew up to block a suddenly-launched avian form.

“Son of a - ! Those talons are sharp, y’know!” Galen yelled. Then he sighed. “Well, I guess that proves he’s in there. If that potion wears off in a few more minutes, it ought to be safe for the rest of you.”

Sure enough, after a time Shirou found himself to be - himself. He launched a fierce glare in Galen’s direction.

“The eagle glares better,” Galen informed him smugly. “And is someone sensitive about their height?”

“Laugh it up, beanpole,” Shirou growled. “I could snap you like a twig.”

Galen grinned. “You’d have to be able to reach the other end of me, first.”

Hermione and Takara rolled their eyes in unison. “Boys.” Galen and Shirou gave them looks that they ignored.

“Shall I try next?” Neville asked, obviously hoping to avert another fight by changing the subject.

Shirou nodded. “Go ahead.”

Neville quaffed his dose, and assumed a large ursine form.

“Grizzly bear,” Galen murmured. “Either that, or a Kodiak. Has to be, with that size. Well, no worries now - an animal that size can definitely keep a werewolf in line . . . OK, one worry, based on a caveat: it can keep me in line, assuming that it can catch me. Bears are fast runners, but I don’t know if they’re werewolf fast.”

The bear grunted.

Shirou shrugged. “I can probably strafe you long enough for him to catch you, if it comes to that - and there are still the girls to reckon with. It’s part of why we decided to do this as a group, remember?”

“Point,” Galen admitted.

“Speaking of us girls,” Takara interrupted. She reached out to acquire her dose, and brought to her lips, nose wrinkling.

“I really hope this tastes better than it smells,” she muttered, before downing the liquid. There was a brief instant in which her face registered that it unfortunately did not - and then she shrank in wide-eyed surprise. When the change was done, she remained wide-eyed.

“A great horned owl,” Galen murmured, then paused. “No, sorry - it’s an eagle owl in this part of the world. Silent in flight, tends to pounce on its prey, and excellent vision in the dark.” He reached out to gently stroke the top of Takara’s head.

“It suits you,” he admitted. “But I think between you and Shirou, I’ll have to get some falconry gear. Shoulder pads, gloves - give you two somewhere to land.”

Takara cried out at that, and the tone, at least, was not complimentary. For his part, Neville chose that moment to resume human form, and he blinked in astonishment.

“That was . . .” His mouth worked silently. “I was huge. I felt like I could tear Snape in two without even trying.”

“Hold onto that thought,” Galen advised. “It might come in handy.”

Takara changed back shortly after, and she, too, blinked rapidly.

“First it’s too bright, now it’s too dark,” she grumbled.

“I got a little of that,” Shirou admitted. “Getting used to having eyes that sharp will take time.” Though hopefully, in my case - not much.

Takara grinned. “But flying will be cool.”

Hermione shuddered. “I really hope I don’t turn into anything with wings.”

Nervously, she dipped her vial in the potion, and swallowed it hurriedly.

She blurred, brown-and-black becoming tan, then gold, and finally settling into . . .

“Oh my,” Galen said softly. “Here, kitty kitty.”

Shirou said in a deadpan voice, “Still have that weakness for ‘pretty kitty eyes,’ huh?”

Takara punched his shoulder.

Neville looked a little more afraid. “She’s a lioness?”

“Well, she is a Gryffindor,” Shirou pointed out.

“Well, yeah - but . . . Hermione? Takara I could understand, but Hermione’s not . . .”

“Hermione’s a lot more than most people have let her be,” Galen said quietly. “And she could be even more than that. Just like you.”

The lioness rose from its crouch and padded over to the bespectacled wizard. As one of the truly big cats, lions were incapable of purring, but the growl coming from Hermione’s throat was reminiscent of it just the same, especially when her flank brushed against him. Of course, even a half-grown lioness outweighed Galen, and he was knocked to the ground by the gesture.

Neville gave a cry of dismay, which he echoed louder when the lioness whirled in obvious alarm at Galen’s fall, her forepaws landing on either side of his head. The chuckles coming from the body underneath her own allowed the lioness to relax - though she sniffed at his face worriedly.

“I’m fine,” he assured her. “Just startled, that’s all. You don’t know your own strength yet.”

The lioness bared her teeth in a mock-growl before heaving a sigh.

Takara looked at Neville and said in an undertone, “What’s wrong? It’s just Hermione.”

Neville swallowed hard. “Yeah, but . . . She’s really big. And look at her teeth!”

“The bear’s bigger,” Shirou pointed out.

“Yeah, but I’m the bear!” He sighed. “When you guys were so small, I figured she’d be something . . . I don’t know, harmless. Not something scary, anyway.”

Galen proved his hearing was still uncannily sharp. “That’s what she is, Nev - ‘brilliant, but scary.’”

The lioness rubbed her face against his - gently, this time, still rumbling low in her throat.

The potion abruptly chose that moment to wear off, and Galen suddenly found himself with Hermione lying curled up on his torso, as she was no longer big enough to straddle him as the lioness had been. Suddenly realising her new position, Hermione rolled off with a squeak, her face a furious scarlet.

Shirou turned to Takara abruptly and said in a frantic tone, “Quick - how do I get that Pensieve back?!”

March 24th, 2011, 08:18 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 10 - An Unhappy Deathday

October 27 - 31, 1992

The next few weeks passed quickly. October proved to be cold, and damp, and brought with it the expected spate of cold and flu sufferers. Galen, thankfully, wasn’t one of them. It was one of lycanthropy’s little side effects - while he was basically as human as anyone, the curse protected him a lot of the more common ailments, for the same reason that it bolstered his healing: it wanted him to suffer as long as possible. Dying from a severe flu attack because the strain of the change had weakened his immune system did not serve that purpose, and so it was eliminated.

It wasn’t perfect - Galen doubted he’d be immune to an Ebola virus outbreak, and he doubted it would dispel genetic ailments like certain cancers - but it was an edge he could live with, especially given how much of a hypochondriac he’d become in his later years. From the congested sounds of Shirou and Takara that morning, neither of them were so lucky - but that could be blamed on Oliver Wood’s insistence on holding Quidditch practice in the pouring rain a few days ago. Still, while it was painful to hear them, it was nice knowing that he couldn’t catch it.

The full moon for October had passed two weeks earlier, and to his delight, all his friends had managed to achieve their transformations in the week prior to it. Access to the Room of Requirement had helped - a nice, private space where no one could see you, find you, or interfere with you was invaluable. Still, it had been fun watching them try, seeing Shirou grow talons on his feet, Takara’s hair turn into a mane of gray feathers, or Hermione’s eyes go catlike. Neville achieving a Wookie-like appearance, all dark fur, had to be the prize-winner, though.

As he still took the Wolfsbane Potion, Galen didn’t have any different reaction to his friends in animal form - but their closeness, their scents, would no doubt help the werewolf recognise them when the time came for him to change without its influence. He realised that for the first time, as long as one or more of his friends went with him, it might actually be possible to take an extended summer vacation somewhere, rather than risk being out of reach of his prison.

That would be cool, he admitted to himself.

His musings were interrupted by the sudden appearance of a silvery figure.

“Hello, Galen,” Myrtle said, a little shyly. “Are you busy?”

Galen closed his Potions book. “For you, I can make time.”

The silver of the ghostly girl’s face darkened, but it was true - the assignment wasn’t so arduous that he needed his full concentration, and it wasn’t due so soon that a ten or fifteen-minute break was impossible. Besides, it was rare to run into Myrtle outside her bathroom. She wasn’t always there when they visited, but wherever she roamed, they’d never come across her. That she had come looking for him . . .

“Well . . .” Myrtle said with hesitation. “Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday is coming up - his five hundredth. He’s throwing a party, and I wondered if you might . . . That is . . .”

Galen smiled. “If Sir Nicholas will allow a living guest to intrude upon the festivities, Miss Myrtle, I will happily escort you. Please ask him, and see whether or not it’s to be a formal affair - I would hate to be underdressed.”

Myrtle’s eyes widened. “Really?”

“Considering what we’ve asked of you, Miss Myrtle, it seems a small thing to give in return. And between you and Sir Nicholas, I can be assured of pleasant company.”

Her blush was incandescent now - literally. “I’ll ask him right now!” She shot away through the wall, giggling madly.

Galen shook his head. He was aware that Myrtle could be childish, spiteful, and prone to tantrums - but considering the circumstances of her life and death, it was understandable. And a little kindness, in that light, was so little to ask for . . .

It was then that he remembered that Sir Nicholas’ Deathday was on Hallowe’en - the eve of the first basilisk attack.

In the words of the immortal Captain Jack Sparrow - “Oh bugger.”

“You’re going on a date with Moaning Myrtle?!” Ginny Weasley said in stunned disbelief at the lunch table.

“I’m a little young to date,” Galen drawled. “But I’m escorting her, yes. Sir Nicholas was kind enough to agree.”

“A date,” the redhead repeated flatly. “With Moaning Myrtle. Are you mental?”

“Yes,” said Galen and Shirou simultaneously - though in the latter case, his smirk was cut off by a series of sudden coughs.

Ginny’s eyes widened at the response, before turning to Shirou with sudden sympathy. She passed him a goblet full of hot tea, which he gratefully drank.

Galen leaned over and whispered to her. “Don’t let your brothers know you fancy him - he’s not well enough to fight them all off, and I’ll have to.” Then he considered that the one most likely to raise a fuss was Ron, and added, “On second thought, do.”

Ginny drew back sharply with a wide-eyed look and a blush.

Hermione glanced at Shirou worriedly. “Maybe you ought to do what Takara did, and go to Madam Pomfrey - Pepperup Potion can cure that quite quickly. Of course,” Hermione added, “she went right to bed to recover from the aftereffects.”

Shirou nodded mutely. “Not a bad idea.” He rose unsteadily, and began walking out of the hall. Ginny glanced at everybody, and said, “I’m going to make sure he gets back to the Hospital Wing.” With that, she rose and left.

Neville stared after her. “If she wasn’t so young, I’d say she fancies him.”

“She’s old enough,” Hermione said primly. “She’s just too young to really do anything about it.”

“So the bounds of decency and good taste would have you hope for, anyway,” Galen muttered under his breath. Not really wanting to debate it, given Hermione’s proximity, he turned to Luna. “Did you owl your dad about the party?”

“Oh yes,” Luna said excitedly. “Daddy was ever so pleased - the Quibbler will be the first newspaper to ever have a story like this.”

Hermione’s eyes widened. “Luna is going?”

“And Colin Creevey,” Galen said. “I convinced Sir Nicholas to allow them to do a feature on his Deathday party - so, a writer and a photographer. It’ll look good on their resumés to have a published news article, and Sir Nicholas will get some publicity and a commemorative copy, which will make him look good in the spectral community - including the Headless Hunt, who have snubbed him again this year.” He shrugged. “Besides, we’re Gryffindors, and he’s the Gryffindor ghost. Why shouldn’t we celebrate and support him?”

Neville shook his head. “I really don’t understand you.”

“Oh?” Galen asked.

Neville shrugged. “You are the scariest person I have ever met. Two of the coolest people I know usually do what you tell them to, without even blinking. You get a look in your eyes sometimes like you’re measuring someone for a coffin - like killing them means nothing to you. You treat mountain trolls and three-headed dogs like garden gnomes, and even Professor Snape walks around you carefully, like he’s afraid to provoke you.”

Neville looked at him steadily. “And every time somebody’s in trouble, you’re right there between them and it. You insist on mundanes being given as much consideration as wizards, and you treat ghosts like they’re living people, even flatter them, because you think it’s the right thing to do.” He shook his head. “I don’t understand how you can be two different people - and such different people - at the same time.”

“I could be schizophrenic, hypocritical, or just a very good actor,” Galen replied.

Neville shook his head. “I don’t think you are. I just don’t how to explain it.”

Hermione glanced at Galen, who shrugged and said, “I’m complicated.”

Neville laughed. “No kidding!”

“In the case of ghosts,” Galen said, “let’s just say I’m not without sympathy for their condition. It can be a terrible thing, to be a spirit. Not fully dead, but not truly alive, bound to the earth but unable to affect it. A forced observer of events, as the world moves on without you, taking everything you knew with it, in time.”

Not so dissimilar from my original life, he mused.

“A little kindness, a little respect,” he continued. “These aren’t a lot to ask for - and it’s almost all they can appreciate any more.”

“You sound as though you’re speaking from personal experience,” Luna said curiously, her large eyes peering at him.

Galen closed his eyes, and remembered falling, fire, and then darkness. He remembered the light which had followed it, and the voice, saying that he could still make a difference, if he would agree to perform just one service . . .

“Close enough,” he said wearily.

To Takara’s extreme annoyance, her ears released wisps of smoke for the better part of an hour after consuming a Pepperup Potion. She could’ve lived with that, except that between the weather and other students, she continually caught the same cold, requiring repeated doses. She felt like an incense burner by the end of the week. By the time Hallowe’en rolled around, however, it seemed as though the virus was finally dying out around the castle, meaning no more trips to the Hospital Wing.

Just in time for the snake, she thought. If things went to the usual plot, it would happen tonight, near the end of the feast - and catch the caretaker’s cat. Much as she liked cats, Takara didn’t feel much sympathy for this one, although she supposed it gave the vile caretaker a more human touch, that he could be so distraught over her.

Takara toyed with the idea of borrowing the invisibility cloak and staking out the bathroom while Galen was at Sir Nick’s party. With luck, she could catch whoever had the diary when they opened the Chamber (if there was such a person), and steal it from them. On the other hand, while the cloak might protect her from the basilisk’s killing gaze (could it truly meet her eyes if she was invisible?), there was no guarantee of it - and the least she could expect would be petrification. Not really fancying the idea of being trapped in her own body for months, assuming anyone even found her under the cloak, Takara decided all she could safely do was wait. Instead, she prepared herself for the feast - and the confirmation as to whether or not they’d have problems this year.

It felt strange, going to this without Galen. Oh, they’d had meals and such without him before - he generally missed breakfast, and often lunch, the day after the full moon - but it was the first time she could remember him being off doing something without them since they’d started at Hogwarts. Even when she was playing Quidditch, he was in the stands.

Hermione was somewhat more anxious about it, though, and the amusement that generated kept Takara from dwelling on it too much.

“You should switch forms,” Takara informed her. “Then you can lash your tail - it’s the only thing missing.”

Hermione glared. “I can’t help it! Galen’s going to be alone, in a room full of strange ghosts, with only Luna and Myrtle to look out for him!”

“Don’t forget Sir Nick and Colin Creevey,” Takara pointed out with a grin.

“Neither of whom inspire confidence, either! Peeves is an annoyance, but ghosts like the Bloody Baron are dangerous! What if he runs into one - or more than one?”

“Do you really think he can’t protect himself?” Takara said, before taking in Hermione’s expression and guessing, “Or are you more afraid of who he might have to protect himself from? Jealous of Luna and Myrtle, maybe?”

Hermione slumped. “A little. Myrtle’s the obsessive type, you can’t deny it - and he still dotes on Luna.”

“The same way he dotes on Miranda,” Takara pointed out. “He’s been better about that, since you got upset. He adores Luna, but he’s not looking to date her.”

“I guess,” Hermione sighed. “It’s just . . .”

“He’s your first friend,” Takara said softly. “Your best friend. You miss him when he’s not around, there’s nothing in the world like seeing him again - and you’re afraid to lose him.”

Hermione nodded. “I was really hoping to enjoy a Hallowe’en feast at Hogwarts with all my friends - you know, as opposed to last year.”

“A bad Hallowe’en seems to be a tradition at Hogwarts,” Takara sighed. “We’d better get used to them. In the meantime, most of your friends will be happy to eat with you. Shall we go?”

“Let’s,” Hermione said.

The Great Hall was a definite sight. The jack-o’-lanterns were almost the size of a dining booth, glowing lambently. Live bats flapped in circles across the ceiling, casting ominous shadows. Much of the food was orange, black, or red - including pumpkin-flavoured ice cream topped with dark chocolate sauce. Entertainment was provided by a troupe of dancing skeletons, of all things. Takara wondered whether they’d used necromancy, or some kind of spell to make dancers appear skeletal, like a lesser version of the invisibility cloak.

She was quite sure that, either way, Colin Creevey would’ve been snapping photos - and trying to get her into them. There was no way that he wouldn’t have, given the spectacle. Takara was just as glad, then, that Galen had roped him into going with him, instead.

I owe him something extra nice for his birthday, she reminded herself. The chance to enjoy a party like this without having to dodge photo flashes was worth more than Galleons, especially since it was unlikely they were doing the same.

His description of the party - a freezing dungeon, rotten food . . .Ugh! Not exactly a pleasant setting. Hopefully, they won’t be long.

Hermione was quieter than usual, Takara noted, but Ginny Weasley was making headway on getting her to open up. The two girls had Luna in common, if nothing else, and Hermione was intrigued to hear stories of what the little blonde had been like as a child. Ginny, for her part, seemed fascinated by Hermione’s description of her own home life - mundane instead of magical, and with only one sibling - and that one younger and female, to boot!

Neville was chiming in now and again, too, adding details of what he’d seen of the mundane world over the summer, or explaining facets of magical life to Hermione.

Shirou, on the other hand, was almost grim. Of course, it wasn’t hard to guess why.

“How much longer, do you think?” he murmured in Japanese.

“End of the feast,” Takara answered in the same language. “We’ll spot it as we’re let out.”

Shirou resumed brooding throughout the meal. He wasn’t unfriendly to anyone that engaged him in conversation, but his mind was clearly elsewhere.

Hermione leaned over to Takara. “I miss Galen, but Shirou shouldn’t feel the need to imitate him for me.”

Takara couldn’t help it - she giggled.

Finally, the Hallowe’en Feast was declared over, and the students were gathered up to return to their dormitories. Takara unconsciously held her breath - this was it. The proof of whether or not this year was going to be a major problem.

Here we go.

Shirou had been prepared for this for weeks. In some senses, this was easier for him than for Takara or Galen, neither of whom were really warriors. Oh, they fought well enough, and had been through some major battles - and there were few people he’d trust or want at his back more. But they lacked the years of honing themselves for the fight, in fights, that he had, and the skills that came with them. Foremost among those was patience. It was a sniper’s greatest tool - the ability to wait, until the critical moment presented itself.

By the end of the night, he would know whether or not a battle was coming. He knew that, and could wait for it. It wasn’t what troubled him. No, what troubled him was what would happen after that confirmation, embodied in a single question: Should he tell Kiritsugu?

If he did, there was every possibility the Aurors would get involved. It would surely have repercussions that would invalidate what his friends knew of the timeline, and almost certainly make their efforts to stop or counter them impossible. It would be very difficult to sneak around the castle when it was swarming with Dark wizard hunters on high alert. And even then, there was no guarantee that the Aurors would be able to stop it - that they would be able to find anything, or that they might not make it worse.

But he’d promised Kiritsugu - and promises were as important to him as they were to Galen. And that was perhaps the worst thing, that neither of them would likely be angry about it if he did tell. Galen wouldn’t necessarily like it, but he’d understand, and if Takara didn’t for some reason, Shirou felt confident that the two of them could convince her.

But what if it made things worse?

Galen was hoping the Chamber wouldn’t be opened because he was apparently afraid of snakes. Takara was hoping the Chamber wouldn’t be opened because she wanted a nice, normal school year. He agreed with their hopes, for his own reason - that it wouldn’t force him to make the choice.

But as he walked out of the Great Hall with the rest of the student body, he was quickly shown that his hopes were in vain. Clearly visible, in foot-high letters of blood, a message was visible on the wall, glistening in the torchlight:


From one of the torch brackets hung the limp form of a cat - the caretaker’s cat. Shirou studied it, and his eyes narrowed. If the cat was magically petrified, it shouldn’t be limp . . .

The cat wasn’t petrified, he realised. It was dead.

“Enemies of the Heir, beware!” he heard Malfoy crow suddenly. “You’ll be next, Mudbloods!”

They emerged from the Pensieve provided by the Room of Requirement not a full hour later, after reviewing that very scene. “They,” in this case, meant Shirou, Takara, Galen and Hermione - Neville wasn’t yet in on enough to have useful ideas.

“The cat wasn’t petrified,” Shirou said. “It was dead. What changed?”

Galen closed his eyes, no doubt reviewing the scene. Then he cursed, “My fault.”

The other three stared at him.

“There was no water on the floor,” Galen explained. “Nothing to catch its reflection in. So Mrs. Norris got the full thing, and it killed her.”

Takara blinked. “And that’s your fault because - ?”

“There was no water because Myrtle hadn’t flooded the bathroom,” Galen explained. “She was in too good a mood to throw a tantrum.”

Hermione did her best to sound casual. “Oh?”

Galen shrugged. “After fifty years of ridicule, even a little attention goes a long way. And as her escort, I was obliged to at least try to make sure she enjoyed herself.” He sighed. “I didn’t expect it would cost Mrs. Norris her life.”

“Feel guilty later,” Shirou said brusquely. “Does this change anything?”

Galen’s eyes unfocussed as he went through every possibility he could think of. Finally, he shook his head. “I don’t think so, beyond an increase in tension. It was just a cat, after all. As long as nothing interferes with the petrifactions after this, it should still follow what we know.”

“That doesn’t eliminate all our problems,” Shirou sighed. He explained about his conversation with Kiritsugu. “He’s already suspicious - if I don’t bring him in on this . . .”

To his surprise, however, Galen immediately said, “Call him in.”

Shirou blinked. “Are you sure?”

“Look, the killing shows signs of advanced Dark magic - which means they’ve got probable cause to investigate. If they investigate, they might find the Chamber, and be able to deal with the giant killer snake so we don’t have to. At the very least, an actual investigation might turn up enough evidence to keep Minister Fudge from hauling Hagrid off to Azkaban ‘to be seen doing something.’”

“Hagrid?” Hermione repeated.

“Long story, fill you in after,” Galen promised. He turned back to Shirou. “There’s a legitimate concern, you gave your word. More to the point, it’s stupid to say we’re going to try and change the timeline for the better, and then not make the attempt when we have a chance to. By all means, call him in.”

Shirou still hesitated. “You realise they could close Hogwarts down - ship us off to other schools.”

Hermione paled.

“If it’s not safe here, then I would be disappointed if they don’t,” Galen said. Then he grinned. “Besides, Ilya made me promise to fight Voldemort and his evil whenever possible - but she never said I had to do it from here. Now go on, write your father.”

“I’ll get my parents in on this, too,” Takara said. The two took off at a quick but stealthy pace, as they were out of bed after hours.

Hermione stared at him. “You’d really let Hogwarts be closed down?”

“If the alternative is to see somebody killed by keeping it open, yes,” Galen said. “I’ll burn it down myself, first.”

“But . . . What happens then?”

“There are other schools of magic in Europe, Hermione. You could just transfer to one of them - or, since home-schooling is an option in the magical world, see if Shirou’s parents will hire tutors. They probably would - I don’t see Shirou willingly going to his sister’s school.”

“And you?” Hermione asked.

He shrugged. “I’m only at Hogwarts because Wolfsbane Potion is readily available here. Magical Britain isn’t that hospitable to werewolves, so I’d probably either forget about magic altogether and live mundane, or leave the country and start over. Depends on what my parents want to - OOOF!”

In retrospect, he probably should have seen a Hermione Tackle Hug coming. Fortunately, the Room was quick enough to provide cushioning to land on.

“I don’t want you to go,” came her sobbing voice, somewhat muffled by his body.

Galen fell into his standard response to soothing crying girls: embrace tightly and stroke hair. Keep your voice quiet and warm until crying ceases.

“It’s a worst-case scenario, Hermione. It might not happen. We could always get lucky, and the Auror investigation will turn up what needs to be found. It’s not a certainty, it’s just a case of, ‘if this happens, then this.’”

Hermione looked up at him, her teary eyes suddenly blazing. “Then we need to plan, don’t we? We need to find a way to show the Aurors exactly what they need to see.”

March 24th, 2011, 08:19 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 11 - A History Lesson

November 1, 1992

The day that followed the opening of the Chamber were was tense. Filch patrolled the spot of his cat’s death incessantly, as though hoping he’d catch the culprit returning to the scene of the crime. Students speculated in hushed whispers about Mrs. Norris’ fate, and the nature of the Chamber. Shirou and Takara grimly awaited the results of their letters home, while Hermione tackled the library voraciously, bemoaning her inability to bring her own copy of Hogwarts: A History to school because she’d needed room for her Lockhart books. Apparently, the rest of the student body had decided to snap up all the library’s copies before she could get to them.

While there wasn’t any way to research the legend of the Chamber, or speed up responses from their parents, Takara decided that there was something she could do to take one mystery off her mind.

“Berserker,” she said to Galen, mid-Sunday morning. They were in the library, helping Hermione run down references.

Galen blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“You beat Berserker, in the Grail War,” Takara said. “Mother couldn’t do it - Saber couldn’t do it - but you did. I want to know how.”

“A year and more since, and you’re only asking now?”

“We didn’t have access to a Pensieve before now,” Takara said. “I want to see that fight.”

“Me, too, come to think of it,” Shirou said, emerging from the stacks. “I fully expected him to kill you, you know. It should’ve been easy.”

Galen considered, then shrugged. “I suppose there’s no harm. Let me just tell Hermione where we’re going.”

Takara wasn’t sure that was a good idea, and was proven right when the bushy-haired girl followed him out of the stacks.

“Hermione, it’s OK - we’ll only be about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes,” Galen was saying.

Hermione was adamant. “If you’re reviewing memories, I want to see it. Maybe I can help.”

“It’s nothing to do with the Chamber - it’s just something they missed out on.”

“I want to see it,” she repeated. Hermione turned a look on him, and Takara knew it was over. Hermione had somehow managed to mix her own brand of steely determination with the Mystic Eyes of the Sad Puppy. Galen didn’t stand a chance. And from the way his shoulders slumped as he sighed, he knew it, too.

They trudged up to the Room of Requirement, with Takara shooting This is a bad idea looks at Galen, and his expression all but shouting, I’m open to better suggestions.

As before, the Room opened up to display a Pensieve, and Galen dropped memory threads in the stone basin.

“I’ve seen the show before,” he murmured dryly. “I’ll wait.”

Takara nodded, exchanged a glance with Shirou, and dove in . . .

The three students stood atop a tower composed of stone slabs - a tower of black, red-veined marble. Dark clouds hung in the sky overhead, and what little breeze there was wafted over them like the chill of the grave. On the far side of them, across the tower’s breadth, stood a tall, ominous figure in black armour.

“Berserker,” Takara whispered, as the memory of the Servant’s power, his seeming invincibility, returned to the forefront of her mind.

Hermione blinked. “Who?”

“Someone Galen killed,” Shirou said. “Even though he was supposed to be impossible for anyone to kill.”

“Galen - killed someone?” Hermione repeated. “When? How?”

“The ‘how’ is what we’re here to find out,” Shirou answered. “As for when? Right about . . . Now.”

The crimson veins of the marble stones glowed with a sudden, ominous light. The air above that light rippled, seeming to gather wisps of the dark clouds from the air, and shape them into a human form. Finally, the mist seemed to blow away, revealing a human figure in a forest-green cloak, a sword at his hip.

“Pretending to be Lancer again,” Takara murmured.

“I guess he hoped I hadn’t told everyone who and what he really was,” Shirou remarked.

Hermione opened her mouth, no doubt to ask another question, when the armoured figure sighed abruptly, and spoke in a low, rolling voice.

“So - instead of a worthy opponent, I am forced to deal with you. How unpleasant.”

“For you, it will be,” Lancer’s usual growl was laced with enough venom to make a cobra envious.

“Bah! I do not wish to sully my hands on such as you when such a warrior as the woman knight is available! I will leave you to my pets - TAKE HIM!”

Snarling wolves sprang from the shadows, of an unusual size for their breed. Lancer snarled in turn, with all the anger at his command, and the pack immediately became docile. Berserker stormed forward five yards, banishing the wolves with a gesture.

“Stop wasting my time and DIE!” Bats plunged out the clear sky in a screeching cloud that would have obscured the sun, much less the moon. They descended on him like a plague of locusts - and were immediately descended upon by a silent horde of owls, seeking the treat of flying mice that their summoner had promised them.

Berserker advanced again, trembling with fury. “How dare you mock me? Storm, rise!”

A tempest sprang from nowhere, equal to a hurricane in force, yet its howling winds seemed to have no effect at all upon the cloaked warrior. Lightning flashed, and impossibly, missed. With a gesture, Lancer caused the storm to vanish, revealing the clear, bright moon once more.

“My turn!” the druid snarled, drawing his blade in mid-lunge, moving at inhuman speed as he brought the wicked edge of the sword to bear on the weak point in the black knight’s neck armour . . . And as though his enemy was moving in slow motion, Berserker drew his sword, slamming the hilt forward towards the other’s face.

Lancer exploded as though made of glass, fragments of his body dissolving into wisps of smoke. The back of Galen’s skull impacted the tower floor some fifteen feet away, and Hermione screamed, recognising the face of the man who lay at the point of impact, wasted though he was.

Takara turned to Shirou. “So he knew.”

“They all knew. I intended to win, Takara - any way I had to. As long as Galen could keep surprising him, he could fend him off - but in a direct, physical confrontation . . .”

For his part, Berserker sneeringly ignored the blood dripping from the pommel of his sword. Even this much of the fool was unfit to be worthy of his attention.

“Arrogant worm - you attempt to make me break my vow? I will not sully my hands with your destruction - you are not worth it! You are a pretender, a snivelling stripling who deludes himself as the equal of legends, when even the merest of us could slay you in the blink of an eye - and Dracula is far from ‘mere.’ To face you is an insult to my power, and I will not debase myself by personally meeting you in combat.” He spat, blood-tainted spittle impacting the stone beneath.

“Fortunately, I have many means at my disposal. If beasts cannot slay you, nor the elements, there remains the dead. Come forth, my armies!”

Black stone cracked, erupting into the air, as pale, ragged arms clawed at the sky. From beneath they emerged, the walking, rotting dead, eyes gleaming with crimson hunger. First in pairs, then quartets. Then tens. Then scores. In minutes, thousands of ghouls - possibly all those Vlad the Impaler had slain in his lifetime - seemed to be standing around him. And they were undeniably dead, they nonetheless walked. And they were hungry.

“Inferi,” Hermione whispered with horror.

“Kill him,” their lord commanded.

To his credit, he tried to resist. Despite being outnumbered by more than he could reasonably count at a glance, and having the physique of a scarecrow, he nonetheless made a game effort to deal with his attackers. He ducked, dodged, went for vital points, tried to turn them on each other. In short, he used any and all tactics he could think of to try to buy himself even a few more seconds of life.

What he got was one second. More specifically, a fraction of one. Quantity has a quality all its own, and it was more than enough to outdo anything and everything the Servant could manage. The tide of undead swarmed him, and he could do nothing. Bony hands clamped on his limbs, even as he thrashed in resistance, and he was literally buried under bodies, and the armoured man literally hovered into view, hanging in the air above the mountain of flesh.

“Insolent fool!” cried the watcher. “You still attempt to master my will with your feeble mind? You can never be my equal! I am Vlad, called Tepes, Prince of Wallachia! I am the Lord of the Undead! The King of the Night! A spirit so powerful that I was given immortality by the earth itself!”

Hermione whirled on Takara. “I thought you said he won!”

“He did!” she protested.

“This is winning?!”

A sudden, literal splash of red caught their attention - arterial blood spraying into the air. And the world suddenly went black . . . Then white . . .

Abruptly, the three of them were standing on gray concrete, at the heart of a maze of alleys. Faint stars shimmered in the sky, but weren’t bright enough to diminish the blackness. A blue-white crescent moon illuminated the piles of scattered autumn leaves on the ground, and the shimmer of frost that coated everything, casting odd shadows in the cold, clear, but undeniably dark night.

“Thank you.” The voice echoed through the alleys, coming from everywhere and nowhere - but it was unmistakably Galen’s. “I had forgotten how weak you truly were.”

The armoured man didn’t like hearing that, as he began to tremble with rage.

“WEAK?” he bellowed. “WEAK?! How dare you - come forth, my armies, and make him crawl before he dies!”

Silence and emptiness were the only responses, followed by a weak chuckle, threaded with malevolence.

“These are my mean streets - and your Romero rejects don’t belong on them.” A shadow shifted, some twenty feet away, and Galen’s form detached from it to face his opponent. He was whole once more, and his eyes gleamed with a malicious confidence.

“Of course, even if you had them, I would still kill you.”

The armoured man drew his sword. “I will not tolerate such insults from a lowly - “

None of the observers saw him move - they couldn’t. Galen was just suddenly there, and his casual backhand drove the armoured warrior through a Dumpster to impact the wall behind it. Almost immediately, however, the offending garbage container was hurled into the air, to land on a low roof above them. The armoured man stood, and his body contorted, darkening with rage and power, even as his words increased in timbre and volume, until they filled the alley with a force not unlike the Voice of God. His body doubled, then trebled in mass, becoming batlike and undeniably demonic, and as he changed, before rage consumed his human mind completely, the Servant bellowed a challenge.


The transformation complete, the man-bat creature that had been the black knight managed to find enough mental strength to repeat its demand.


Hermione screamed at the sight and sound, and Takara shivered. As terrifying as the Servants she’d fought had been, they’d all looked human. This thing wasn’t. It was a creature of nightmares, the kind of monster conjured by the word “demon.”

Galen answered in a voice that was human only, and so soft that few humans would be able to hear it clearly. Nonetheless, it rang throughout the alleys with a hardness, a conviction, that rivalled diamond. It was a voice they all recognised - his killing voice.


The bat-thing lunged at him, but Galen was ready. The pair spent several seconds trading brutal blows - there was no finesse or skill about their technique. It was about causing pain to the enemy, nothing more. Bones broke, flesh tore, and organs were crushed. Blood spilled on both sides - but their bodies repaired themselves nearly as quickly as they were broken, leaving neither the victor.

Hermione stared. “How is he doing this? It must outweigh him by a factor of four, at least!”

Shirou answered grimly. “He’s as strong as he believes himself to be - and right now, he thinks of himself as being realer than his enemy. And if nothing the creature can do to him is real, then he can win.”

The monster’s body slammed abruptly into the asphalt street, returning their attention to the fight. Galen had it pinned momentarily by his weight, and was holding the creature’s head in his hands, pressing with all his might, trying to pop the bat-thing’s skull like a balloon.

“Scream, damn you!” he roared. “SCREAM!!”

The bat-thing slapped its wings up, boxing Galen’s ears hard enough that they heard his skull crack, then pushing off the ground to heave the injured man off before taking to the sky. The creature screamed, and the force of the sound drove Galen to his knees. The alleyways shattered, revealing the roof of the obsidian tower - and the storm Berserker summoned to rage above it. The three students covered their ears in agony - even outside the physical reality of the memory, its sheer strength was agonising. Galen had it worse. He was driven to his knees with the force of the howl, audible even over the thunder, his ears bleeding from the pain - and still it came. The monster screamed across the raging tempest, untiring, eternal, and Galen writhed in torment.

Suddenly, he stilled, and a pair of guns snapped into his hands, one stainless steel, with a smiling face imprinted on it, the other matte-black, with a frowning one. He let loose a fusillade of bullets, which hurtled through the sound waves as though they didn’t exist, and ripped through their target like wet tissue paper. In seconds, the bat-thing had exploded into a bloody mist, raining down with the now-dissipating storm.

Galen slowly began to rise, visibly gathering the strength left to him, dropping the gun in his left hand to push himself slowly, shakily, upwards. Slowly, casually, he walked to the bloody stain that was collecting on the ground, which began dissolving into mist as he watched, and then past it.

Hermione stared at the scene, then turned to her companions. “Are you going to tell me what this was all about?”

Takara opened her mouth to answer, but was distracted by Shirou’s muttering, “I can’t believe it was that easy.”

The storm clouds faded from view, revealing the clear night. Under the renewed moonlight, the mist coagulated into the armoured form of the warrior once more, silently gliding forward, hands poised to rip the head from Galen’s shoulders . . .

Takara only saw it because she was watching for Galen - a length of wood slipping into his left hand. It wasn’t until he thrust it up and back without even a glance, and Berserker staggered away, that she realised what it was: the wooden blade she’d inadvertently used to summon him in the first place. He’d brought it with him, knowing even then he might need to use it.

Galen whirled, and slammed the muzzle of his stainless steel gun against Berserker’s throat before pulling the trigger. Dropping the gun to steady the falling body, his empty hand snapped up to catch the flying head.

Gripping both pieces tightly, he tensed, then roared, “BUUUUURRRRNNN!!”

The air swirled in heat shimmers around his hands, before the remnants of Berserker ignited into blue-orange flames. They were consumed to ash in a heartbeat, even as Galen’s own skin began to blacken. The sheer heat swirled upwards, lifting the ashes above and beyond, across the night.

“That’s - how you kill . . . A Romanian vampire!” he rasped. “Never -.mess with a - monster otaku . . .”

Galen’s eyes were watering. His limbs were trembling. His hands had been burned almost to the bone, and he sank to his knees again, this time in weariness.

Shirou’s tone was impressed. “He used the illusion against itself. Since it acted like a traditional vampire, he destroyed it like one - and so it was destroyed.”

Neither of the girls answered. Their eyes were locked on Galen. Takara found it a little strange, to be seeing his original self again after so long - she could only imagine what it was like for Hermione, to see him like this, not merely older, but so painfully gaunt and malformed. And clearly, used up. In addition to the blackened ruins of his hands, his skin was an unhealthy gray tone, exhaustion plain with every breath. But there was something else, too - an expression even Takara had never seen on his face: satisfaction.

She understood. He’d won his victory, and even if it cost him his life, he’d done his best. He could trust Saber to care for her father’s health - and he’d managed to eliminate a major threat to their well-being. As she watched, the gray pallor of his skin softened, grew pale and bright, as he began to dissolve into light . . .

A sudden crimson flash erupted from his core, reaching out to encircle his fading being, granting it renewed solidity before he vanished altogether.

Takara gazed at the remains of the mark on her hand - his mark - and murmured, “Avenger, come to me.”

Then the world was whirling away, as the trio was ejected from the Pensieve . . .

Shirou thought, for a brief moment, that Hermione could give Takara a run for her money in terms of reflexes, given the speed with which she whirled on them, demanding, “WHAT WAS THAT?!”

The look in her eyes reinforced Galen’s description of her, weeks earlier: “Brilliant, but scary.” He wasn’t entirely sure that her pupils weren’t catlike. He saw Galen out of the corner of his eye, leaning against the wall and smirking, his chest shaking silently. The look on his face was as plain as spoken words: See how you like dealing with her.

Takara’s voice, uncharacteristically quiet, interrupted his fuming anger. “You’ve never asked about the scars on my hands, Hermione.”

Hermione blinked in obvious confusion. “What does that have to do with anything? You said they were . . .” The light dawned on her face. “They’re not from kenjutsu practice, are they?”

“No,” Takara said simply. “In our timeline . . . My father was sick. Dying, in fact, and my mother didn’t seem to care. I entered a ritual - a tournament, almost - where the winner could be granted a wish, any wish, in order to see him healed. The tournament was participated in by witches and wizards, who used the spirits of ancient warriors to fight. The strength of the losing spirits would empower the ritual. And every witch and wizard was branded with a mark, to show their mastery over a spirit.”

“That can’t be legal,” Hermione said.

“Times were different, by then,” Takara said simply, proving that she could use half-truths as well as he or Galen. “By then, I wouldn’t have cared, anyway - I was desperate. And my desperation called to a particular spirit, one that would do anything he could, to help me.”

It was a sign of how well she knew him that Hermione automatically turned to glance at Galen.

Takara continued, “And he swore an oath to me - ”

“In blood,” Hermione finished, understanding. “That’s what Ilya meant.”

Takara nodded. “We fought a number of battles, and in time I acquired a second spirit from my mentor in magic. When I got my wish, it rewrote my family’s history so that my father’s illness didn’t happen - so that it never could. And because I was still connected to them, it brought them with me. And we’re the only ones who’ll ever remember that.”

“Except Ilya does, doesn’t she?” Hermione said. “She knew about the oath.”

Shirou chose to answer that one himself. “Because she was my master, in the original history.”

A lie, but true in its way. All that Emiya Shirou had ever done was try to save her, in any version of history he’d lived or encountered him, upon learning of her existence. Saber might be his inspiration, Sakura his love, and Rin his companion - or the other way around, depending on the timeline - but Ilya was his last tie to Kiritsugu in addition to being the Einzbern heir. It made her simultaneously the only family Emiya Shirou had left in the world, an innocent victim, and the Grail, as well. In a very real sense, Ilyasviel von Einzbern had always been the true master of his fate.

Hermione accepted his statement at face value, glancing between the two boys. “But you’re not dead - and you” - she looked at Galen - “you look - better.”

“My original condition was replaced with lycanthropy,” Galen said quietly. “So I have an entirely different set of problems. In many ways, though, it’s an improvement - even if going through puberty again is going to be a pain in the ass.”

Hermione scowled at him. “I’ve let your language slide for far too long.”

He shrugged. “If you can break me of the habit, please do. I never wanted to pick it up in the first place.”

Hermione’s eyes gleamed wickedly. “Challenge accepted.”

Shirou interrupted. “So, now you know the hows and whys of our arrival, in a nutshell. Is there anything else?”

Hermione obviously considered the question, then shook her head. “We’d best get back to the library. I’m still hoping we can find something on the Chamber of Secrets . . .” She trailed off as she looked at them. “Since you know what’s in it, can I assume that you also know where it is?”

Shirou nodded. “We just can’t get in.”

Hermione flushed angrily. “And you’ve let me ransack the library all morning, desperately trying to find information, without telling me?”

“Because there’s no knowing how what you learn by trying to find this might help us later,” Galen said. “What if you don’t research a particular topic, because we already know the answer, but something you found along the way originally proves vital down the road? It doesn’t hurt to look, even if there isn’t as much urgency to it.”

Hermione grumbled. “All right, then - back to the library it is.”

Neville met them on the stairs. “There you are! It’s time for lunch!”

Hermione looked even more disgruntled at this, but followed them down to the Great Hall for food. In mid-meal, the owl post arrived - including letters for Shirou and Takara, from their parents.

“That was fast,” Galen commented. “I’d have thought it would take more time - that they’d be busy, if nothing else.”

“‘Dark magic’ and ‘murder’ are magic words all their own,” Takara said dryly. She looked up at Shirou. “Does yours say the same thing mine does?”

Shirou finished scanning his letter, and sighed.

“Dad says thanks for the information, but as it doesn’t involve his own child, he can’t personally investigate - and until an actual student is harmed, the British Aurors aren’t likely to make an effort. And by law, he has to let the local establishment have priority, unless it poses a clear threat to someone or something within ICW jurisdiction. In the meantime, keep my head down and my eyes open, and report anything substantial immediately.”

Takara nodded. “That’s pretty much it. Essentially, until a real person is harmed with Dark magic, there’s no legal basis to raise an alarm. They assume it was Dark magic used on Mrs. Norris, but there’s no actual proof. We’ll have to wait until it attacks again.”

“Then, assuming the schedule’s still accurate, we have a week,” Galen said grimly.

Shirou’s tone was equally grim as he responded, “Of course, the way things have gone so far, why should we be so lucky?”

No one had an answer to that.

March 24th, 2011, 08:19 PM
Chapter 12 - On Their Own

November 2 - 8, 1992

The rest of the week passed in something of a blur. Knowing the attack was due to happen had them on edge, and wishing it would hurry up so they could either try to stop it, or report it and get the Aurors in. On the other hand, they needed time to plot, and plan, so the wish that it would get put off was equally strong.

As directed, Hermione asked the question in History of Magic that got Professor Binns explaining the legend of the Chamber of Secrets. Not that any of them needed it, per se, but the information needed to be out in the school for some of the later events to occur, and there was always the possibility that Galen had forgotten something. His recall was good, when it came to book text - with his Occlumency, it was verbatim almost every time - but he’d managed to overlook things before, so the refresher was worthwhile.

One of the things he’d missed was how Hermione had managed to get her hands on a copy of Most Potente Potions last year (the source of the Animagus potion), when it was a book housed in the Restricted Section of the library. When he asked, she blushed and admitted she’d snuck a look at it when one of the older students had accidentally left it in the common room. However, as they needed it again, it was necessary to convince a teacher to give them a pass to the Restricted Section. Enter Gilderoy Lockhart, who was all too pleased to help “the best student of the year.” He signed the pass with nary a glance - they had more trouble getting Hermione to release it to Madam Pince.

“Just win the essay contest, Hermione,” Galen murmured in her ear. “Then you’ll have a book with his signature on it - and he might even personalise it for you.”

That did the trick. Madam Pince (looking disapproving all the while) retrieved the book for Hermione. Once the text was in her hands, Hermione charged off to their former potion-brewing sanctuary: Myrtle’s bathroom.

Shirou gave Galen a glance. “You’re encouraging her crush on Lockhart?”

Galen shrugged. “Is there a specific reason I shouldn’t?”

Takara stared at him. “There are so many things wrong with that question, I don’t even know where to start.”

Galen shrugged again. Lockhart was an idiot, but mostly harmless. Hermione could have worse crushes. Himself, for example.

“So,” Shirou said, as they headed to join Hermione, “remind me again: why are we trying to prepare this Polly-something potion?”

“Polyjuice Potion,” Galen supplied. “Simply put: it’s a backup. If the attack happens like we think it will, you can call in your parents - but they might not find anything. In which case, we’ll have to hunt for the diary ourselves, and this will make it easier. Considering that anyone could have it in their possession, we’ll need to search every dorm we can get into. Kind of hard to do that, looking like ourselves.”

“There’s the cloak,” Shirou said.

“Oh, I fully intend to use it,” Galen said, “but as a backup for whoever searches the dorm. It’ll be too difficult sneaking in and out while invisible, unless a student who belongs to the dorm helps out. And if the potion wears off too quickly, or something else goes wrong - there’ll be an extra wand there that no one knows about to lend a hand.”

“Sounds like a decent plan,” Shirou admitted.

“With everything that’s gone wrong so far, I intend to take no chances,” Galen said grimly, as he pushed the door to Myrtle’s bathroom open. “From here on out, the contingency plans will have contingency plans, damn it.”

“Language!” Hermione snapped, without looking up from her book. Neville, sitting beside her, gave a sudden start at the explosion.

“Sorry,” Galen muttered.

“I’m going to start using Rictusempra on you,” she threatened, still reading. “See how a minute or two of uncontrollable laughter works to help you remember to curb your tongue.”

“Or I could just tickle him,” offered Myrtle, as she emerged from her customary stall. She was blushing slightly. “Hello, Galen. Another project brewing, I see.”

Galen smiled. “Yes, Polyjuice Potion this time. May we be so presumptuous as to once again rely on your discretion, Miss Myrtle?”

The ghostly girl got a sly look on her face. “It’s almost Christmas, you know. They’ll be hanging mistletoe in the castle soon . . .”

Galen’s smile widened into a smirk. “I suspect this potion will need such care taken in its brewing that we’ll have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas this year. Would I be correct, Hermione?”

The girl flipped through the book and winced. “This is the most complicated potion I’ve ever seen. Lacewing flies, leeches, fluxweed and knotgrass. Well, they’re easy enough, they’re in the student store-cupboard - we can help ourselves. Powdered horn of a Bicorn - don’t know where we’re going to get that . . . Shredded skin of a Boomslang - that’s tricky, too - and of course a bit of whoever we want to change into. And even assuming we can get all the ingredients, it’ll take a month to brew!” She sighed. “Yes, I would say we will definitely be here for Christmas - and my family won’t be happy about it.”

“Nor ours, I’d imagine,” Galen murmured, “but in this case, it’s for a good cause.” He turned back to Myrtle. “Shall we say a kiss for each of the twelve days of Christmas, and one for New Year’s Eve, Miss Myrtle?”

“Deal,” Myrtle said quickly. “Though I think I’m being far too soft. I should hold you to all thirty-one days of December.”

“But then, what would we bargain for the next time we need your help?” Galen asked innocently.

Myrtle’s dark eyes took on a gleam. “Quite right. Always better to have a goal to look forward to. Well, I’ll be off for a bit - always easier to say I don’t know what you’re doing if I’m asked when I haven’t actually seen you do anything. See you later.”

Neville stared at the spot where Myrtle went through the wall, then at Galen, and then shook his head.

“Are we going to need to brew potions in here next year?” Hermione asked carefully.

“I doubt it,” Galen admitted, “but it never hurts to leave options open. And compared to what she could be doing, Myrtle has been very generous about letting us invade her private space.”

“Any ideas how we’re going to get some of the harder ingredients for this potion?” Shirou asked, really wanting to change the subject.

“Somebody is going to have to raid Professor Snape’s private stores,” Galen said grimly.

“I think I’d better do the actual stealing,” Hermione volunteered. “I’ve got a clean record. All the rest of you need to do is cause enough mayhem to keep Snape busy for five minutes or so.”

Galen grinned. “Nev, Potions mayhem sounds right up your alley. I’ll even give you a hand. When you need those ingredients, Hermione, just say so, and we’ll give you as much cover as we can.”

“Me too,” agreed Takara.

“And me,” Shirou added.

“Well, it’ll be a ways off,” Hermione muttered, double-checking the instructions. “It’s got to be fresh, and the potion won’t be ready to add those ingredients for weeks, yet.”

“In that case, we may as well start preparing what we can, and move on,” Galen said. He turned to Shirou and Takara. “You two have a Quidditch match to win tomorrow.”

“I thought you didn’t like Quidditch - or anything to do with brooms,” Takara said, puzzled.

“I don’t - but I’ll take any available chance to see Malfoy plow himself into the ground at high speed,” Galen answered with a grin.

As eleven o’clock approached the next day, the school as a body headed for the Quidditch pitch. Takara admitted to herself that she was slightly nervous as she sat down on the bench in the Gryffindor changing rooms. This, she vividly remembered, was the movie with the rogue Bludger. She did not enjoy the thought of trying to duck an iron ball hurtling through the air with the express purpose of making her too hurt to stay at school.

Of course, Galen had reminded her that their lives had been house-elf free all year, so it was unlikely Dobby would start interfering now - a consequence of not having the great Harry Potter in need of protection. Comparatively speaking, she was a nobody, so even if the elf had gotten into his head to do that, why would he pick on her?

It didn’t fully ease her tension, unfortunately. Still, Wood-taichou’s speech did help.

“Slytherin have got better brooms than us, no point denying it. But we’ve got better people on our brooms. We’ve trained harder than they have, we’ve been flying in all weathers - ”

“Too true,” George Weasley muttered. “I haven’t been properly dry since August.”

“ - And we’re going to make them rue the day they let that little bit of slime, Malfoy, buy his way onto the team,” Wood finished, as though he hadn’t heard. He gazed at Takara intently. “It’ll be down to you, Takara, to show them that a Seeker has to have something more than a rich father. Get to that Snitch before Malfoy or die trying, Takara, because we’ve got to win today, we’ve got to.”

“So no pressure, Takara,” said Fred, winking.

With all due respect to her captain’s coaching ability, the possibility of a Takara-seeking Bludger was putting far more pressure on her.

The game proceeded, and Takara got as high a vantage point as her broom could manage, hoping to spot the Snitch early and end the game before the madness started.

Malfoy shot up from underneath her in a deliberate attempt to intimidate her, and show off his Nimbus 2001's speed.

“All right there, Slant-eyes?” he yelled.

That insult had been old when she was six. Takara rolled the eyes in question, which gave her peripheral vision plenty of opportunity to spot a shiny black Bludger headed for her skull. A quick barrel roll swung her safely out of its way.

“Close one, Takara!” George called, lining up to give the Bludger a powerful whack towards Adrian Pucey. Takara tensed, waiting for it to rebound towards her - and watched in surprise as it knocked the Slytherin off his broom.

Right, she told herself. No Takara-seeking Bludger - so let’s go get that Snitch!

It was a gruelling game - the Slytherins’ brooms did give them an edge, but the game was easier for Takara than it had been for Harry, because no Bludger was trying to kill her, and the Weasley twins weren’t forced to focus on her for her own safety, allowing other players to get nailed by the normal Bludger.

By the time it started to rain, Lee Jordan was announcing, “Slytherin lead, sixty to twenty.” When it got heavier, he said, “Slytherin lead, ninety to forty.” Clearly, if she wanted to get Gryffindor a win, she’d have to find the Snitch soon, before Slytherin’s score became too high for it to matter. And that meant she’d have to deal with Malfoy.

In all honesty, Takara wasn’t too concerned about the Slytherin Seeker. Yes, he had a better broom, and yes, he was nearly as good a flier as Harry Potter - but he’d never been Harry’s equal, and she wasn’t a scrawny, malnourished twelve-year-old boy. She was an actual athlete, and martial artist. Her overall conditioning was far better than Harry’s, and that meant she was actually in a better position than Malfoy altogether. After all, a faster broom wouldn’t help him without the strength and reflexes to keep up with it.

As a result, she launched into a dizzying series of aerobatics such as even Shirou, when he’d filled in as Seeker last year, hadn’t, and wouldn’t have attempted. He simply wasn’t light enough, or quick enough, to perform the subtle shifts and movements needed to pull them off.

“Training for the ballet, Aozaki?” Malfoy called, apparently amused. Takara, however, saw the Snitch hovering just above his left ear, and knew her plan had half-succeeded. She hadn’t managed to goad him into trying to keep up with her, but she had distracted him long enough for her to lock onto the Snitch before he realised its location. Now to make the most of the opportunity.

She launched into a power dive, straight at Malfoy. No doubt presuming she meant to attack him, Malfoy called upon the full acceleration of his Nimbus 2001 to dive out of her path - which meant that she could grab the Snitch easily. By the time Malfoy realised what she was doing, he was much too far away to stop her.

“Aozaki grabs the Snitch!” Jordan announced gleefully. “Gryffindor win, 200 - 130!”

“Thanks for the assist, Draco!” Takara called sweetly.

Even at the distance between them, she could see his too-fair complexion flame to a scarlet hue. And because it was Draco, she was half-expecting what came next - a charge at top speed, intending to force her to the ground. However, this was where she proved Wood-taichou’s point about being the better person on a broom. It took very little effort on her part to dip out of his way. He only managed to ruffle her hair.

Of course, suddenly getting a face-full of long dark hair didn’t help Draco’s flying at all. It might not have mattered, had he not let go of his broom in shock - a bad thing to do when pointed downwards and moving at a high rate of speed. The Slytherin Seeker hit the pitch with an audible crunch.

Takara stared, aware that he was still moaning, and moving, and clutching his arm. When she saw Gilderoy Lockhart stroll out onto the pitch, decked in resplendent jade-green robes, she started giggling. She’d seen the movie - she knew what was coming next!

And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

“Not to worry, Mister Malfoy,” Lockhart said brightly - literally, as his teeth were gleaming. “I’m about to fix your arm.”

“No!” Draco cried, apparently more intelligent than past actions gave him credit for. “Get away from me, you quack!”

“Doesn’t know what he’s saying,” Lockhart announced loudly. “Poor boy must be delirious with pain. Lie back, Mr. Malfoy, it’s a simple charm I’ve used countless times.

“Stand back,” Lockhart announced, rolling up his sleeves.

“No!” Draco protested, but Lockhart was already twirling his wand. Takara’s eyes and position gave her an almost-literal bird’s-eye view of the bones vanishing from Malfoy’s arm.

“Ah,” Lockhart said. “Yes. Well, that can sometimes happen. The point is, the bones are no longer broken. That’s the thing to bear in mind. So, Mr. Malfoy, just toddle up to the Hospital Wing, and Madam Pomfrey will be able to - er - tidy you up a bit.”

Takara descended to the ground, still snickering as she went off to the changing room. That memory was going in the Pensieve for her repeated viewing pleasure!

The morning after the Quidditch match, Shirou was tense. The reason was simple - he knew that another attack had been due to happen, and should be announced today. That would require writing Kiritsugu, and setting the Aurors’ investigation in motion. Whether they’d turn anything up or not, not even Galen could be sure - hence the backup plan. But there was every possibility that the plan wouldn’t be necessary - and every possibility that it would.

The one bright spot had been viewing Takara’s close-up view of Malfoy getting deboned by Lockhart. Because of the way a Pensieve portrayed memories, they’d even been able to get a view from the ground. He, Takara, Neville and Galen had thought it uproariously funny. Hermione hadn’t been so pleased.

“Anyone can make a mistake,” she said of Lockhart’s actions, defensively.

Still, he thought the seed of doubt had been planted - which meant, hopefully, that she would soon go back to mooning over Galen, so that he could go back to mocking the guy. It had rapidly become one of his favourite hobbies.

Shirou shook his head. He was trying to distract himself from the possibility that someone had been hurt - or killed. It wasn’t supposed to be that bad, but nothing so far this year had gone the way it was “supposed to.” He wondered why that was. Was Harry Potter really that critical to the unfolding of events in this world, or was it their own interference - or was Ilya simply right, and the “every other year” curse was just screwing them over as best as it possibly could?

If the latter, I don’t want to be here for fourth and sixth year, Shirou decided.

Morning calisthenics was tricky in the winter at Hogwarts - it got bloody cold in Scotland, and adding snow slowed their runs and movements considerably. Luckily, snow was still a ways off, it seemed, but it was going to mean a lot less sleep for them all.

Or maybe not, he realised. The Room of Requirement could configure itself into a track with a set of practice mats, couldn’t it?

Shirou was now beginning to understand why Galen and Takara had been mad at themselves for not thinking of the Room sooner - it really would have saved them a lot of trouble last year.

Still, for the time being, he went on the regular routine with the rest - as of yet, neither Luna nor Ginny knew of the Room, although Shirou suspected they’d have to let slip some of their secrets soon. Luna was inquisitive by nature, and Ginny showed a tendency to be pushy. If they weren’t told something, they’d keep looking until they discovered the reasons for themselves . . . And Shirou had seen for himself just how well that had worked out with Hermione.

And if I happen to upset Luna as badly as she was, I’ll have to kill Galen in order to keep him from killing me.

No, explanations of some form were surely due the girls - but not now, not when Aurors of British or ICW stripe were likely going to be crawling all over Hogwarts soon. Some time later, somewhere safer, yes - but their secrets were going to be hard enough to hide as it was.

When the sparring sessions were done, the six Gryffindors trooped back into the castle, changed, and went down for breakfast. They had no sooner sat down to eat, however, when a sudden flash lit the air.

Three wands were out and pointed menacingly before anyone else had reacted. Hermione and Neville had their wands drawn, but not aimed - and Luna’s was half-drawn. Shirou noted all this at the same time he noted who they were targeting.

“I - I’m sorry!” Colin Creevey gulped, clutching his camera and crossing his eyes trying to watch all three wands that were just shy of touching his throat. “I just - I didn’t get a picture of Takara yesterday, at the match. I didn’t think you’d mind!”

Shirou didn’t, but judging by the looks on Galen and Takara’s faces, they found something wrong, to be sure.

I get the feeling I’m not going to like this . . .

He didn’t.

“What do you mean, he’s supposed to be Petrified? Why isn’t he?” Shirou’s nerves were approaching a breaking point. Galen had been wrong about something critical - again!

Galen’s eyes were closed as he sifted through the contents of the book. After a moment, he said wearily, “This one’s on Harry.”

“Meaning?” Shirou demanded.

“After hurting himself trying to outrun Dobby’s Bludger, Harry was supposed to get his arm buggered up by Lockhart, and spend the night in the Hospital Wing. Colin would’ve snuck out to try and see him, and been caught by the basilisk. Since it wasn’t Harry, and Takara wasn’t hurt, he would’ve never left the dorm - never been caught.”

“So who did?”

“Maybe no one,” Galen offered. “The basilisk is being set against mundane-born students - if it can’t find any . . .”

“Then maybe nothing happens,” Takara finished. “What does this change?”

Galen grimaced. “A lot. Tensions aren’t as high, so we can’t guarantee the Duelling Club - I was looking forward to trouncing Malfoy, damn it - ”

“Language,” Takara chided, in a fair imitation of Hermione’s tone. When he gave her a glare, she shrugged. “I figured I ought to stand in.”

“On the other hand, we have more time to use the Polyjuice and conduct a search.”

“Always assuming,” Shirou said dryly, “that something else doesn’t go wrong.”

Galen’s grimace deepened. “Don’t remind me.” He closed his eyes. “The next scheduled attack is the week before Christmas - that Hufflepuff, Justin Finch-Fletchley. And Sir Nicholas, as well - he takes the brunt of it. And Hagrid mentions losing a second rooster around the same time . . . There’s our in. If we can manage to catch whoever it is when they’re killing the rooster - ”

“Then we can grab the Horcrux from them, and go about disposing of it,” Shirou finished, understanding.

It wasn’t a particularly good plan. It would need a lot of work - but they had time to iron out details. And they’d still avoid having to fight the basilisk, and prevent the Hufflepuff kid from being hurt.

If, Shirou reminded himself, we can pull it off. So far, nothing has gone right about this year, has it?

Still, no humans had died yet, and the Polyjuice Potion was still an option. They had ways out of this mess. They could still manage to prevent anyone from getting hurt, or killed. In the end, all the hassle would be worth it if they could manage that.

Still . . .

“December’s weeks away,” Shirou pointed out. “Isn’t there anything we can do right now?”

“Train, and keep our eyes and ears open for clues,” Galen said heavily. “Even the Polyjuice won’t be ready before Christmas. We’re back to the same problem - it’s a waiting game, and none of us like waiting. But trying to force a confrontation won’t help, because we don’t know who to go after.”

“Can’t we - I don’t know - bust into the Chamber now and just kill the damned snake?” Shirou asked.

Galen gave him an odd look. “I swear you’re regressing - that suggestion is way more Shirou than Archer.”

Shirou grunted. “Active hormones and the natural impatience of youth . . . So, can’t we?”

“Not without a Parselmouth - can’t open the door. And I’m betting it’s immune to most unlocking and blasting spells, if it managed to stay hidden for a millennium. Dynamite might work, but we’d have to get it here - and there’s another problem. The chamber’s under the school, and the rock isn’t exactly stable. There’s at least one cave-in while Harry’s down there. If we try to blow a hole into the Chamber, we could end up collapsing the whole thing. And while that might deal with the basilisk, tearing up the foundation of the castle over an open cavern wouldn’t do Hogwarts much good.”

Shirou grunted again, knowing what he meant. They could end up collapsing it, trying to get into the Chamber. That would be bad. So Galen was right - they were effectively back to a waiting game, unless something unexpected happened, or information fell into their laps.

The situation, in Shirou’s estimation, wasn’t good. They didn’t know who their enemy was, or have a firm grasp of when or where he or she might choose to strike again. Kiritsugu couldn’t do anything, and even Galen and Takara’s knowledge base was in danger of becoming completely useless, due to all the changes. For the first time since entering this world, the three of them were, to all intents and purposes, truly on their own.

From the looks on Galen’s and Takara’s faces, they realised it, too. And they were just as frightened as he was.

March 24th, 2011, 08:20 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 13 - A Change in Plans

November 11 - 12, 1992

Takara yawned as she made her way down the stairs to the Gryffindor common room to meet the others for breakfast in the Great Hall. Owl animagus or not, she still wasn’t a morning person, despite almost a year of going running at virtually dawn. And spending the last night sleeping as an owl, whose instincts insisted she ought to be awake, hadn’t helped.

Being an owl was strange. Her sight and hearing were so sharp - she could almost hear the heartbeats of her friends while they rested in the same room. Her sense of touch, always sensitive, was also different. She could feel the air around her very keenly, and the sensation of it sluicing through her feathers . . . Takara shivered.

And the owl form came with a set of its own instincts - almost like its own personality - that influenced her behaviour. She tended to go to the highest corner in whatever room Galen was spending the moon in and roost - partly to watch for food, but partly because there were four large, dangerous predators in the room. Eagles and owls were natural rivals, and the rest of them had fangs and claws. And at the same time, they were her friends . . .

Neville and Hermione, oddly enough, seemed to be having the least trouble adjusting. Or maybe it wasn’t so odd - Takara imagined that bears were fairly confident and easygoing, being the biggest, meanest things around generally. And lions were social animals - Hermione’s lioness self probably just translated “friends” as “pride,” and no matter that they didn’t look or smell like lions. And certainly, Galen had no trouble - but his mind remained human, thanks to his potion. The real test would be in the summer, when he had to go without it.

As she hit the common room, she saw no one waiting for her - not unusual, they might’ve gone on ahead rather than hold the entire group up, and they’d save her usual spot - but she noticed Fred and George coming down from the boys’ dorm. That was odd - while the twins weren’t early risers, exactly, they generally were halfway through breakfast by the time Takara and her friends entered the Great Hall.

“What’s up, boys?” she asked curiously.

Fred turned to her. “We’ve just been up to check on Ronniekins - ”

“ - And he’s still asleep,” George added.

“And?” Takara asked with a shrug. Ron Weasley’s love of sleep could only be challenged by his love of food and his love of Quidditch - it was always a gamble as to which would win out at any given time.

“Well, we noticed a few empty beds in the second-year dorm,” Fred said.

“Shirou and Galen - no surprise, really,” George continued, “what with those mad exercises you lot do every morning, but - ”

“Dean Thomas isn’t exactly known for being up at the crack of dawn,” Fred finished.

Takara frowned. Admittedly, of just about anyone in her year, she’d had the least contact with Dean Thomas. He and Ron Weasley comprised “the other boys in Gryffindor,” as Shirou, Galen and Neville were fairly close. Still, the twins had a point - what little she knew of Dean suggested that while he wasn’t as lazy as Weasley, neither was inclined to give up sleep he didn’t have to. Of course, she could be wrong. All she really knew about Dean was that he was a football fanatic (a sport which was still soccer, to her mind), he liked to draw, and that he was -

Takara gasped as the last fact percolated through her tired brain, along with an implication that hit it like a direct injection of caffeine.

Dean Thomas was mundane-born.

“You’re right, guys, someone should look into it,” Takara said quickly. “I’ll let McGonagall know.” Right after I tell the others . . .

She waited until she’d cleared the Fat Lady’s portrait before breaking into a run. Only her reflexes saved her from three near-collisions through the hallways, but unfortunately there was no sign of Dean anywhere in the vicinity. She ran into the Great Hall, only slowing to a walk when she’d crossed the threshold.

Her eyes, so sharp on the Quidditch pitch, scanned the Gryffindor table for a trace of Dean. Unlike her group, he didn’t have a set spot - but he wasn’t there at all. She broadened her search to the other tables, hoping against hope that he was visiting a friend . . . No, no luck there, either.

Praying he’d gone to the bathroom, or the library, or something, Takara leaned into usual seat without sitting down and asked, “Have you seen Dean Thomas?”

Looks of confusion passed back and forth, and Takara’s heart sank.

“Should we have?” Ginny asked, puzzled.

Takara shook her head. “Fred and George said he wasn’t in his bed - which is strange, because he’s not usually up early.” She flashed Shirou a look.

Shirou’s face said he’d caught the implication.

“I don’t get it,” Ginny complained.

“They think the Chamber of Secrets has claimed its first victim,” Luna said. The sombre tone in her voice was at odds with its naturally dreamy qualities.

Takara was reminded anew of just how perceptive Luna was, her flaky behaviour aside. She wondered if the latter was on purpose, so that people would naturally underestimate her. Hermione, for her part, was pale, and Takara couldn’t blame her. Having confirmation that there was a monster hunting her just because she existed would make Takara sick to her stomach, too.

“We ought to visit the Hospital Wing before class,” Takara said in a low voice.

“Don’t be late,” Hermione admonished them. “Professor Flitwick won’t like it.”

“I’ll come with you,” Neville offered. “I wanted to check on Galen, anyway.”

“He’s in the Hospital Wing again?” Ginny said in disbelief. “This is what - his third trip this year? I thought Neville was the accident-prone one?”

Neville flushed in mortification, and Shirou scowled - but seemed to remember at the last moment that she was only eleven. Still, another statement like that and Ginny was liable to end up with a goblet of pumpkin juice in her hair.

“It’s a very bad allergic reaction,” Takara said quickly, but with conviction. “He’s had them ever since he was a little boy, and they flare up every now and then. The attacks don’t usually last more than a day or two, but they’re pretty awful for him.”

“They must be really bad,” Ginny said, her face suddenly sympathetic. “What’s he allergic to?”

With a completely straight face, and a deadpan voice, Shirou said, “Moonlight.”

Luna chose that moment to suddenly remark, “Oh, dear - moon allergies are awful. The best treatment is to use a salve made from the powdered horn of a Crumple-Horned Snorkack mixed with honey, but they’re terribly rare and shy creatures. They’re very difficult to find - Daddy and I have been looking for years.”

The group commiserated with her on her lack of success, but Takara wondered, given the intuition she’d shown earlier, if Luna had already figured out Galen’s secret. If so, she didn’t give any sign of being unsettled by it . . . But Luna rarely gave any sign of being unsettled, period.

Galen trusted her, and Takara thought she understood why. There was an innocence to Luna, mixed with that odd but insightful wisdom. She made you want to protect her, even when she didn’t need it, because that innocence was precious. It was pure. And the only the risk of ruining that prevented Galen from declaring his lycanthropy.

Ginny was trickier. She was a nice enough girl, but she was - normal. She didn’t have incredible intuition, or a brilliant mind, or an extra lifetime’s worth of experiences. She was an average girl, which meant her reaction to the revelation of Galen as a Dark creature could go badly. It was even more likely considering how - opinionated her mother was. Ginny had a similar stubborn streak.

But they’d all agreed that they couldn’t leave her out. If they told Luna, they told them both. And so for the moment, the issue waited.

“Well, if we’re going to do it,” Takara said aloud, “we’d better hurry. C’mon, boys.”

Takara, Shirou and Neville left the Great Hall, and were about to turn the appropriate corner to head for their destination when Takara’s peripheral vision caught sight of a flutter of black robes. Curious, she peeked around the corner, then turned back.

“Can either of you think of any good reasons why Lucius Malfoy would be here? First thing in the morning, no less?”

“I can think of lots of reasons,” Neville said in an uncharacteristically dark tone. “But unfortunately, none of them are good ones.”

Galen didn’t sleep in the Hospital Wing, so much as he lay still in a bed, with periods of a drowsing half-awareness. His body was too attuned to being awake and up during the daylight hours - if not for the sheer exhaustion and lingering pain brought on by the strains of his forced transformation, he would be - and sleep did not come easily. The problem was exacerbated by his natural attunement to soft, subtle sounds. He’d been known to sleep through a fire alarm (a false one, thankfully), but surreptitious sounds, as of someone trying to sneak up to him, immediately roused him.

As a result, he was aware when a patient was brought in, with three of the staff.

“What happened?” Madam Pomfrey whispered - and the response told Galen it was to Dumbledore.

“Another attack. I found him near the kitchens.”


“Yes,” answered a third voice - McGonagall. “But I shudder to think . . . If Albus hadn’t been on his way downstairs for hot chocolate, who knows what might have . . . What does this mean, Albus?”

“It means,” Dumbledore said gravely, “that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open again.”

“But Albus - surely . . . Who?”

“The question is not who . . . The question is, how . . .”

Cold terror shot through Galen, as his weary mind processed those words entirely differently from how he’d usually understood them, because they indicated a factor he’d never before considered.

Dumbledore knew. He knew the Chamber existed, and who had originally opened it, and even possibly some idea of what was inside. He also had to have some idea of the method needed to open the Chamber - he had to, or he would be more concerned with who than how. Which meant . . . He knew Voldemort was responsible, if not how, and might even have an idea of who his proxy was. There was, of course, no way for them to get it out of him - but it meant that the old wizard was even more culpable in this than Galen had initially believed.

Was the whole Chamber incident allowed to go on simply as another “test”? Maybe . . . And it’s not so far-fetched. He was willing to allow Katie Bell to be cursed and Weasley to be poisoned in sixth year, so that Draco Malfoy might have a chance at being redeemed. I’m certain the possibility of his turning to the Light would’ve been of great comfort to the students’ families, had Harry not been quick enough, and lucky enough, to save their lives. And certainly, the deaths of the Flamels as a consequence of his scheme with the Philosopher’s Stone never seemed to trouble him, either. But then, any man who can claim he wanted Harry to have a “normal” childhood, and in the same sentence declare that he[i] knew Harry would never have any such thing . . .

Galen felt sick - and it had nothing to do with his physical condition. He’d always known that Dumbledore played puppet-master with those around him, but he’d hoped that believing he did it to this extent was sheer cynicism on Galen’s own part. Apparently not, however.

Right. This just proves the validity of Harry Potter Self-Insert Rule Number One: Figure out when you are on arrival, and then determine whether you need to kill Voldemort or Dumbledore first - because you can’t trust either of them.

Killing Dumbledore might not be necessary, in this case - but trusting him was an absolute impossibility. If they were going to stop things, the Headmaster (and by extension, his Order) were going to have to be planned for, and worked around.

It wasn’t until he was nearly asleep that Galen realised the dialogue regarding the camera hadn’t occurred, and he began to wonder who the victim was.

Shirou had plenty to think on following their visit to the Hospital Wing. Galen had been dead to the world, but Dean Thomas had been there, Petrified - which meant that after a number of delays, it looked like Fate was finally getting things back on schedule. However, what had his attention at the moment was the snatches of argument they’d caught between Dumbledore and Lucius Malfoy, the latter having caught the Headmaster in the halls as they were leaving.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t be seen eavesdropping, so they’d had to be far enough out of sight not to be noticed - which had cut back on what they’d been able to hear, as well. However, it had been clear that Malfoy had not been happy, and several pointed threats had been made. The name “Lockhart” had come up in conversation, and so Shirou surmised that Malfoy had heard about Draco’s arm almost the minute it had grown back. That was confirmed at lunch - the look of venomous glee on Draco’s face as he stared at Lockhart, and the man’s own depressed demeanour, were easy to spot. However, it wasn’t until supper that any official announcement was made, when Dumbledore rose from his customary seat at the Head Table, and addressed the student body.

“Before we begin what will no doubt be another excellent repast,” the Headmaster announced, “it is incumbent upon me to inform you of coming changes at Hogwarts. Recent events have unfortunately forced our Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart” - here, Dumbledore was forced to pause, as a large segment of the female population began applauding - “to tender his resignation from his post in order to tend to personal matters. However, he has consented graciously to remain in his position until the end of term, that your schooling be disrupted as minimally as possible by his departure.”

Shirou snorted. Reading between the lines, Malfoy had demanded his head, and Dumbledore had negotiated a compromise. However, that left them without a teacher - Galen had told him that Lockhart had gotten the job by virtue of being the only applicant. Did that mean the course was cancelled?

As if in answer, Dumbledore continued, “In order to ensure a smooth transition, and consistent continuity in your lessons, Professor Lockhart’s replacement will be joining us at Hogwarts to observe your classes and the castle’s routines, and formally assuming the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher when classes resume in January. While she may not possess the charisma of Professor Lockhart -”

Shirou almost didn’t need the natural sharpness of his eyes to see Dumbledore’s own twinkling from where he sat.

“We are fortunate in that she has spent several years teaching professional Aurors much of what she will teach you.”

Takara blanched. “Oh, no.”

As if on cue, the doors to the Great Hall opened, allowing a compact figure in a hooded cloak to pass through them. Little was visible under the lengths of the cloak, beyond heavy, high-cut combat boots and tantalising hints of shapely, muscular legs.

“She has served for nearly twenty years as an agent of the International Confederation of Wizards’ Security Division - roughly half of that in the investigative arm,” Dumbledore pronounced, “and the last ten years in the capacity of Combat Instructor, with regards to their accelerated training program. The rank she holds within the Security Division is equivalent to a Senior Master Auror’s within Britain.”

The figure stopped, turning in a swirl of cloak, and reached up to lower the hood as the Headmaster concluded his speech.

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce - Ciel Aozaki!”

Amidst the polite applause, Shirou winced. This wrinkle was no doubt going to change a lot of things.

“Mother! What are you doing here?!” Takara hissed. The named woman looked away from the shelves of books in Gilderoy Lockhart’s office smiled at her daughter.

“I thought the Headmaster made it fairly clear,” Ciel answered. “I’m to take over your Defence Against the Dark Arts classes from January until June.”

“But - don’t you have duties with the ICW?”

“I do,” her mother acknowledged. “But Dumbledore was in a bind, and I volunteered. Since he’s the Supreme Mugwump, it’s an official reassignment.”

“You volunteered?”

The older Aozaki woman explained, “Lucius Malfoy pulled every string he could manage in order to get leverage on Albus Dumbledore - including the Board of Governors, Gringotts, and the Ministry of Magic. I suspect he wanted Dumbledore removed for incompetency, Lockhart jailed for criminal malfeasance, or both - and the attack on your classmate put Dumbledore in a bad position to defend himself. Are you with me so far?”

At Takara’s nod, Ciel smiled, and it wasn’t a kind one. “Unfortunately for Mister Malfoy, he wasn’t exactly subtle in his power grabs - Kiritsugu was already keeping an eye on events involving Hogwarts after your letters, and notified me of what was up. With me in place, Dumbledore has a qualified instructor and an experienced investigator in matters of Dark magic in residence at the castle. I can hunt for the culprit quietly, without the media fanfare of a full investigation - and my record as both teacher and investigator are good enough that Malfoy can’t question my competence. As such, Dumbledore’s own competency is no longer in doubt - he had to hire Lockhart, because no one else applied, but he fixed his mistake as soon as the opportunity presented itself.”

The iciness of her smile dissipated, and she continued, “Besides - you told us you wouldn’t be home for Christmas, so this gave us a chance to come to you!”

Takara winced. On the one hand, her mother’s ability as both a warrior and teacher couldn’t be denied - she’d been in training for one form of combat or another since she could walk. On the other hand . . .

Trying to sneak around under Dumbledore was bad enough - add Mother to that, and we’re in real trouble.

“Isn’t this a good thing?” Neville asked - quietly, as they were in the library. “I mean, we wanted the Aurors to come and investigate, didn’t we?”

Shirou’s voice was dry. “The Aurors, yes. Our parents, specifically - no. The Aurors could just have us imprisoned for interfering. They can do worse.” He paused. “How would you like to have your Gran teaching health class?”

Neville blanched.

“And we do have to give up Professor Lockhart to have Mrs. Aozaki here,” Hermione pointed out, a mournful expression on her face.

Shirou glanced at Galen, who seemed engrossed in his textbook. Granted, Lockhart wasn’t much to be jealous of - but he’d expected some reaction to her behaviour.

Instead, all Galen said was, “We’ll have to be careful - Ciel’s not an idiot, and she knows most of us well. We can’t do anything to arouse her suspicions . . . But at the same time, we can’t take the chance that she won’t catch onto the diary, either. We’ll need to keep as low a profile as possible.” He glanced at Takara. “It means you can’t act as cover in Potions - she’ll come down on you if you do. It’ll be up to me, Neville, and Shirou to get Hermione the distraction she needs.”

“She still might ask me what went on,” Takara pointed out.

“Yes, but as long as you’re not directly involved, it should be OK. And Neville’s well-known for accidents in Potions - sorry, Nev, but it’s true - so it shouldn’t seem too suspicious. But three cauldrons going off at the same time, and all of them ours?” Galen shook his head. “That screams ‘conspiracy,’ which will lead to her investigating.”

Shirou grunted. “So we have to work around a competent eye, not just Dumbledore’s - terrific.”

“Gets worse once you think about it,” Galen pointed out. “Ciel will be here for Christmas, which probably means Shiki will be coming, too. If the Polyjuice Potion’s ready by then, there’ll be no way Takara can use it - her family isn’t likely to let her disappear for a couple of hours with little to no explanation.”

“And Kiritsugu, at least, might show up too,” Shirou mused. “Just for a progress report on Ciel’s findings. Which means neither of us will be able to search the dorms, at least for this first pass.”

“That leaves Neville, Hermione and myself,” Galen murmured. “I’d really like another girl, just in case. I can stay with Neville, but even with the cloak, I couldn’t enter the girls’ side of the dorms . . .”

“Ginny’s staying,” Takara said. “Her parents are off to Egypt to visit the oldest brother, so the rest of the family will be at Hogwarts for Christmas.”

“And Luna’s going back home to be with her father,” Galen finished. “I guess we’ll have to start bringing them into things now, instead of later.”

Hermione sighed. “At least we have time to ease them into things.”

“Unless there’s another attack,” Shirou said grimly. He shook his head. “I don’t get it - you were only off by a day or so. Does this thing actually run to a schedule?” Or is the universe really trying to conform to a predetermined series of events? he added silently.

“And why Dean?” Shirou continued. “Yes, he’s mundane-born, so a valid target - but what was he doing up and out of the dorms? He’s not the type to go wandering at night.”

“Dumbledore said he found him outside the kitchens,” Galen added.

Takara’s eyes widened, and Shirou could see a connection being made on her face.

“What is it?” he demanded.

“Fred and George were up yesterday, when Dean was found. They said they’d shown their brother how to get to the kitchens - ”

“And Weasley is just the type to go for a midnight snack,” Shirou finished. “Whether Dean got dragged along, or he followed to try to keep Weasley out of trouble - he wasn’t alone.”

Galen’s voice was ominous. “We need to talk to Weasley. More specifically, we need him to talk.”

His tone suggested he would enjoy making that happen.

“We’ll have to find him, first,” Shirou pointed out. “But there’s no time like the present. Let’s go.”

They went.

March 24th, 2011, 08:20 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 14 - Conflicts

November 12, 1992

Galen was not a happy camper. In fact, saying that was an understatement which was nearly criminal in its intensity. The source of this unhappiness could be summed up in three succinct words: Ronald Bilius Weasley. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for the reasons he’d prefer - or rather, not only for those reasons.

Shirou had pulled him aside as they left the library, and said three succinct words of his own. “You can’t come.”

If the redhead had been offering to bear his child, Galen couldn’t have been more shocked. It was only because of proximity to the library that he managed to hiss, and not roar, “Why?”

“Because you want this too badly,” Shirou had replied grimly. “You’ve been frustrated by our lack of progress since August, and now you finally have an outlet for it - and it happens to be a guy you’ve wanted to tear into pieces since we got here. You’ll use the slightest refusal or hesitation, the weakest excuse, to start breaking bones until he tells us what we want to know, or what he thinks we want to hear. And that’s not keeping a low profile.”

He wasn’t sure what look had been on his face, but Shirou had added, “I’m not judging. There are more than a few people I’d happily do the same to - if someone handed me Kotomine practically on a silver platter, for example . . . But you were the one who said we had to stay under Aozaki-san’s radar, and torturing a student nearly to death isn’t going to do that.”

Shirou’s look had firmed. “If you can promise me you’ll hold your temper, that you’ll let us try every means at our disposal before resorting to physical force, you can come.”

Galen had considered it, and concluded that he could probably keep himself under control, but depending on Weasley’s responses, it wasn’t certain.

“I can promise that I’ll try,” he said.

Shirou’s eyes had glinted. “Are you still willing to promise, knowing that if you fail to keep it, it’s Hermione’s life you’ll be endangering?”

Galen had to hand it to Shirou - the son of a bitch knew which buttons to push. Takara, Ilya, Hermione, Luna - the girls’ names were the ones to conjure with, if you wanted him to do something. And the redhead wasn’t wrong. The basilisk was being set upon the mundane-born students, which meant Hermione was at risk the longer it was loose. If there was a chance to get something out of Weasley that might stop it, and he blew it . . .

Further proof, if any were needed - and it isn’t. Look at what’s happened already. Ignore the damage you’ve done to her psyche with your lies - as though that isn’t bad enough - and just look at her behaviour. She doesn’t study as obsessively, because you’ve got her exercising, and told her you know everything she needs to worry about. She’s been following you around like a puppy for over a year! Hermione Granger, who “would never lower herself to settle, or change herself, for a boy.” Taking that as true . . .

A treacherous whisper pointed out that it wasn’t quite accurate, given some of her behaviour over Weasley.

TAKING THAT AS TRUE, repeated his inner voice, what does that say about what you’ve done to her? What does it say about what you will do to her? You’re fanatically overprotective - you’ll wrap her in cotton, and box her in, until there’s nothing left in her world to focus on but you. You’ll stifle her, when she could do - could be - so much more.

It’s already started, hasn’t it? How much time does she spend around you? How much does she do, just because you do it? How much time does she spend with her other friends, if you’re not there?

I’ve hurt her since I met her - with the best of intentions, perhaps . . . Or, in all honesty, perhaps not. The fight we had almost destroyed her, but she was safe. She was away from me. And then my idiot friends decided that I had to fix that - and now if things end up not changing like they should, she’ll be destroyed anyway.

. . . You’ve got to get her out from under your influence before it’s too late. Before there’s nothing of Hermione left, just this little doll she made of herself for you. She’s not a prize, she’s not a toy - and she’s not yours to play with!

The proverbial $64 000 question, of course, was how? How in the world could he make this right?

How do I get her to break away from me without breaking her in the bloody process?

Galen didn’t know much of anything about destroying relationships of this kind - in his case, they just never materialised in the first place! In fact, the only expert he could think of -

- Is on his way to question Weasley. Damn it, Shirou - where are you when I need you?!

Galen paced around the corridors, still quietly seething. Lunch was almost over, which meant Defence Against the Dark Arts was up next. Unable to think of a better way to spend ten minutes, he stalked over towards the classroom, turned a corner, and grunted as a smaller body abruptly collided with his own.

Galen grunted at the impact, but remained standing and relatively steady. It was also a testament to the results of his training that he was able to grab at the other person before they could fall too far off-balance.

“Sorry about that,” Galen muttered automatically. “I wasn’t paying - “ Recognition hit, and he stopped short. “Luna? What are you doing here?”

Silvery-blue eyes blinked guilelessly as she answered, “I was following the Wrackspurts. There are a great many of them around you, suddenly - your thinking must be very fuzzy.”

Shirou could feel Takara’s eyes on him as they headed out of the Great Hall, and towards Gryffindor Tower. As Weasley wasn’t accessible at lunch - and for this kind of conversation, they really wanted privacy, anyway - the dorms were the next most likely place to find him.

Finally tired of having a pair of holes burned between his shoulder blades, he turned to the girl and said, “What?”

“Why did you leave Galen out of this?” Takara said quietly.

Shirou didn’t have to look at Hermione or Neville’s expressions to know that they had the same question on their minds.

“We need cooperation,” Shirou said calmly. “If Galen even suspected that Weasley was holding something back, or outright lying, what would he do?”

Takara grimaced. “I withdraw the question.”

Neville frowned. “Would he actually . . .? I mean, I know he’s scary, but Weasley’s not exactly a threat, is he? Galen wouldn’t really -”

“Either way, I’m not about to tempt Fate,” Shirou snapped in reply, as they walked through the portrait. Scanning the common room, he scowled. “Neville and I will check the boys’ dorm - wait here.”

The acoustics of the tower staircase, and the girls’ proximity to the foot of it, allowed Shirou to follow the conversation as he and Neville ascended.

“He would, wouldn’t he?” Hermione said quietly.

Takara answered, “If he thought that we weren’t hearing the full truth, and the answers were needed urgently enough? In a heartbeat. He might feel badly about it, afterwards - but in Weasley’s case, he’d enjoy it.”

“Why? I mean, Ronald Weasley isn’t my favourite person, either - certainly not after Hallowe’en last year. But Galen’s barely spent any time around him - so why does he seem to inspire such hatred?”

Takara was silent, at first, and Shirou could picture the conflict in her head, imagine her expression as she debated what to tell Hermione. He didn’t know what, exactly, the problem was, but it had to be something big if Takara needed to actually think about her response.

“. . . Because of you,” the Japanese witch said finally.

“Me?” Hermione’s puzzlement was evident in her voice. “Why? I mean, yes, there was the troll, but that was one incident - ”

“There are records of more,” Takara said heavily. “Galen takes them very personally.”

Shirou popped open the dormitory door, and scanned the room. No sign of Weasley, so unless he’d managed to get his hands on Galen’s cloak . . . Yielding to paranoia, Shirou checked its hiding place, and found it present.

“He’s not here - let’s go,” Shirou said to Neville.

Back in the staircase, they rejoined the flow of conversation, though they’d obviously missed the conclusion, as the girls had moved onto another topic.

“What kind of things do you think your mother will be teaching us next term?” Hermione asked. “Will she be as thrilling a professor to deal with as Professor Lockhart has been?”

“Mother takes her duties as an instructor very seriously,” Takara said solemnly. “Believe me, she taught me half of what I know about fighting.”

“And the other half?”

“Father, of course.” Shirou could picture the smile accompanying the answer. “Between the pair of them, I was in pretty good shape when I got here. Working with Flitwick-sensei has only improved that.”

“I wouldn’t want to fight you,” Hermione said. “Any of you. I’m not sure which of the three of you is more dangerous.”

“Me,” Shirou said, entering the conversation as he and Neville hit the last step. “That is, if you let me hit you. Takara, if you let her make the first move. And Galen, if you don’t take him down fast.”

“He’s right,” Takara agreed. “Shirou’s spells have power - even a glancing hit can take you out. I’m the fastest of us - I can have two or three spells off before most people cast one. And fighting Galen is an endurance match. He’ll cast Shield Charms and counterspells until you start to tire, make a mistake - and then he has you.”

Shirou grinned. “In terms of fights to watch - and this applies to physical as well as magical combat - Takara’s are over pretty quick unless we manage to surprise her. If I don’t strike first, or Galen doesn’t time his counters just right, we’re pretty much done in the first exchange. On the other hand, Takara’s fighting style requires her to be mobile - if we can box her in, she can’t rely on a lot of her usual techniques.”

Takara nodded. “Galen and Shirou are usually the fun ones to watch - neither of them is really faster than the other, so it’s always a question of which one of them will break first. Either Shirou will land a spell hard enough to penetrate Galen’s shield, or trying to keep up the pressure will exhaust him enough that Galen will manage to get his shots in. Applies to hand-to-hand, as well. Shirou hits like a wrecking ball - you would not believe the amount of bruise remover I go through after a sparring session. And that’s when I’m lucky enough that he just grazes me - I’ve broken bones a couple of times.”

“And it almost doesn’t matter, because Galen’s so damned stubborn,” Shirou muttered, shaking his head. “I swear, even if I ever managed to crack that thick skull of us, he’d still get up to try and kick my ass.”

“Language!” Hermione said sharply. Her eyes were drawn to a clock on one of the tables. “And we’re going to be late for class - come on!”

The group ran out, and Shirou noted that they’d have to try and corner Weasley after class - but it was odd. If he wasn’t at lunch, or in the dorm, then where, exactly, had he been?

. . . And why did Shirou have a sinking feeling that he wouldn’t like the answer?

If asked, Takara would admit to some nervousness about Defence Against the Dark Arts. Having her mother and her professor in the same room would make any student nervous, she expected, though she doubted it would really come to anything. The only time Lockhart had ever crossed swords with her was the pixie incident - and it wasn’t the kind of thing she could see the egomaniac mentioning. He didn’t exactly come out of the incident looking well. Still, knowing that her mother was going to be watching in some corner of the room caused her some worry.

Apparently, however, it wasn’t as much worry as the elder Aozaki caused Lockhart. The man was positively green. Or maybe it wasn’t the presence of an ICW Security Division instructor - perhaps Lucius Malfoy had threatened him. Subtly, of course (unlike Draco, he knew the meaning of the word), but it was a good possibility. The man probably couldn’t do much to Lockhart inside Hogwarts - but Lockhart wasn’t going to be in Hogwarts much longer, was he?

Defence classes had become terribly boring since the pixie incident. They just ended up reenacting scenes from Lockhart’s books, and if they were reading them anyway, what was the point of that? This wasn’t a drama class.

However, today Lockhart put on a serious mien, and addressed the class.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as you’ve been told, I will be leaving Hogwarts come the end of December,” he said solemnly. Amidst the groans of several female students (Takara was polite - she refrained from rolling her eyes), he continued, “I realise this will be a terrible loss to many of you, but I’m afraid I have responsibilities to attend to that I simply cannot put off any longer. Fame brings with it certain duties, after all - noblisse oblige, and all that.”

He flashed the award-winning smile. “However, I’m pleased to announce that in light of recent events - ”

A low murmur swept through the classroom, then - Dean Thomas’ condition had become well-known, thanks to the Hogwarts grapevine. Even knowing that Professor Sprout’s mandrakes would cure him soon did not relieve the tension which had begun to grow in the student body.

“ - Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start up a little duelling club, to train you up in case you ever need to defend yourselves, as I myself have done on countless occasions - for full details, see my published works.”

This time Takara did roll her eyes.

“Now, I realise not all of you may be interested in duelling,” Lockhart continued heartily. “Nonetheless, a little knowledge of the basics can’t possibly do you any harm, and will serve as an excellent way to introduce yourselves to my eventual replacement - Senior Master Auror Aozaki.”

Most of the Gryffindors glanced her way at the name, and Takara sighed. Between the last name, and the hair and eye colour they shared, she would’ve thought it obvious. Why, then, did so many of them look curious?

“Ciel-sensei will do,” her mother said, drawing those same eyes to a back corner of the room, where she’d been unobtrusively observing.

Mother always did like high vantage points, Takara thought wryly. As it filtered through her head, her mother walked from the rear of the class to stand beside Lockhart. She was caught between amusement and disgust at how many of the boys’ eyes followed the movement.

“The lovely Auror has sportingly agreed to help me with a short demonstration of duelling practices and etiquette,” Lockhart said winningly. “Now, I don’t want any of you youngsters to worry - she’ll still be able to teach when I’m through with her, never fear!”

Knowing full well that her mother could kill Lockhart bare-handed, fear was the last thing to cross Takara’s mind.

The two adults stood on opposite sides of the blackboard at the front of the room, a few feet from its edges. They bowed - Lockhart with flourishes, and her mother with polite grace. Their wands were raised in an upright position, as though saluting with European swords, instead of wands.

“As you can see, we are holding our wands in the accepted combative position,” Lockhart announced. “At the count of three, we will cast our first spells. Neither of us will be aiming to kill, of course.”

Lucky for you, Takara thought.

“One - two - three . . .”

Ciel Aozaki’s wand flicked out, almost negligently, and her silent Disarming Charm sent Lockhart’s wand skittering towards the edge of the floor.

“. . . Very good!” the teacher cried. “Silent spells are very difficult to master - not that I didn’t know what you were doing, of course. That was a Disarming Charm - as you can see, I’ve lost my wand - ah, thank you, Miss Brown. Yes, an excellent idea to show them that, Auror Aozaki, but if you don’t mind my saying so, it was very obvious what you were about to do. If I had wanted to stop you it would’ve been only too easy. However, I felt it would be instructive to let them see . . .”

Having been on the receiving end of the look Lockhart was receiving before, Takara almost felt sorry for the man.

“But enough of that!” Lockhart said with a laugh - though it had a hollow tone to it. “Who else would like to try their luck against a Senior Master Auror, eh? See if duelling’s really for you, and it’s worth attending the club?” He paused. “Tell you what - if one of you manages to disarm her, or even score on her, I’ll autograph your textbooks for you, personally!”

That, of course, had every girl in the class straining to try. And in true male fashion, the boys lined up to give it a shot, under the belief that anything girls could do, a boy had to be able to do better.

Her mother had shifted position to face the aisle that led to the classroom door, in order to make certain that the field of fire was clear for both. The waiting students clustered in the two corners at the front of the room, and the prospective dueller stood in the aisle. There was plenty of room to fall, if it came to that.

For a number of the students, that room was needed. Her mother was being gentle - silent spells, as a rule, were less powerful, and Takara knew that even then, they were weaker than they were in her usual spars. Then again, this wasn’t a proper duelling ground, and a first-aid kit wasn’t on hand. Had that not been the case, no doubt the spells would’ve flown faster and hit harder. Then again, maybe not - this was just to give them a taste of duelling, after all.

Still, even with her precautions, Ciel couldn’t help but disarm every student. She wasn’t as fast as her husband - Shiki Aozaki was arguably the fastest spellcaster alive, a title his daughter seemed destined to inherit - but she was up against twelve- and thirteen-year-olds who had never before wielded a wand in combat. It didn’t require much effort to overcome them, and more than a few hit the floor as the Disarming Charms proved overpowered for the effort.

By unspoken consent, Takara clustered near the back of the line with her friends. She figured she’d let everyone try, and probably feel bad, then try to make them feel better by giving them a show. Lockhart wasn’t much of an example - let them see what a real duellist was capable of, and maybe they’d be inspired.

She locked eyes with her mother, and mouthed “last.” The elder Aozaki gave a subtle nod of agreement - the final fight would be mother and daughter.

Of the five second-years, Neville went first. As might have been expected, he was easily disarmed - but though he tottered a bit with the spell’s impact, he managed to stay upright. It was actually fairly impressive, considering most people were at least thrown off-balance, if they didn’t fall outright. Neville had just shaken a bit, as though someone had brushed by him.

Hermione went next, eyes ablaze with determination. Takara wasn’t all that surprised - a chance for personalised autographs on all her Lockhart books? The British witch, determined by nature, would no doubt throw everything she had into it for her crush’s sake.

After bowing, the elder Aozaki’s wand flicked out in a silent Expelliarmus.

“Protego!” Hermione cried, making the movement for a Shield Charm - but she couldn’t quite get it fully formed. Still, the makeshift shield blunted the spell’s impact, so that she only lost her wand.

“Very good,” Ciel commented with a raised eyebrow. “A Shield Charm isn’t taught until the fourth year at Hogwarts, normally - that you were able to even attempt it at such a young age speaks well of your abilities.”

To judge by the brightening of her expression, any disappointment Hermione might have felt over the loss of her potential books was quickly banished by the praise. “Thank you, Ciel-sensei - I haven’t actually tried it before, but I’ve seen them used a lot.”

“Perhaps you should get the person who uses them to help refine your casting,” the Auror suggested, following Hermione’s gaze back to Galen. “Ah. Mr. Salvatore, please present yourself next. Perhaps you can properly demonstrate a Shield Charm - according to the report last year, yours is quite powerful.”

Which you know very well, considering that you wrote the report yourself, Takara thought.

Still, this would be an interesting struggle. Her mother would still take it easy on him, of course, given the setting, but at the same time, she’d also need to put a fair amount of punch into her spells to get past that shield. The one saving grace Takara could think of was that with the power of his lignum vitae wand, Galen’s shields tended to disperse spells, rather than deflect them - there would be little chance of her mother or anyone else being hit by a rebound. And the flash of a broken spell was typically dazzling, which could buy one side or the other an advantage, if they were quick enough to use it.

Galen strode the front of the room, his tread slow and steady, robes gliding ominously behind him. It was, Takara had realised after several duels, a deliberate affectation on his part. The walk was meant to unnerve his opponents - to give them the impression of an inexorable enemy, like a glacier, calmly and unrelentingly advancing. Combined with his usual expression, Takara admitted that he made a fairly imposing picture.

With a start, she realised that she was looking forward to this show. Her mother rarely sparred with anyone but her father and her - it would be interesting to see how she handled an opponent with a higher level of patience, instead of one that preferred lightning-fast combat. And it would be interesting to see how Galen’s speed and defensive spells stacked up against an Auror who taught combat for a living. She could learn a lot about both her partners’ styles and weaknesses, watching them fight each other.

Takara watched as Galen’s wand slid from its holster, and he brought it up in salute. Then he assumed the stance she’d seen him take dozens of times - the prelude to casting a Shield Charm. She began assessing the likely flow of combat.

Mother wants him to cast a shield, so he’ll throw everything he’s got into it, hoping to surprise her with its strength. She’ll probably cut loose a little more power than she has been, hoping to do the same - or at least figuring that the strength of his shield will hold, and make for a flashy demonstration of how the spell works. After that, though . . .

Well, either way, I’m betting Mother’s in for a surprise.

“Expelliarmus,” her mother called, the first word she’d spoken in any duel.

“Protego,” Galen snapped.

The scarlet Disarming Charm blazed forth like a missile - and its impact launched Galen off his feet, sending him literally tumbling through the air, hurtling up the aisle until his momentum was halted by slamming his back into the doorframe, and then into the stone floor.

The lignum vitae wand silently rolled to a stop at Takara’s feet.

March 24th, 2011, 08:21 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 15 - A Birthday, Bundled Up

November 22, 1992

“What do you mean, ‘nothing’s wrong?’” Shirou demanded.

“Exactly what I said,” Takara shot back. “According to Madam Pomfrey’s tests, aside from the concussion and some spinal bruising, nothing was wrong with Galen when he went in that day - and there’s nothing wrong with him now.”

“But there has to be! People don’t normally go from being a powerful wizard to almost completely useless overnight - do they?”

“Not without help,” Hermione said bluntly, without looking up from her book - her fourth, that day. “But while there are a few ways to debilitate a witch or wizard like this, none of them are that fast-acting - at least, not without obvious symptoms. He seems perfectly healthy - “

”Just almost totally unable to cast spells,” Shirou finished.

It had come as a complete shock to all of them when Ciel’s spell hit squarely. Had it been anyone else, or any other spell, they might have believed Galen had failed to cast it properly - but not a Shield Charm, not from him. It was, to all intents and purposes, his signature spell. He’d cast it hundreds of times, in practice and under pressure, flawlessly. And from the look of shock on his face, he’d expected to do so this time, as well. Instead, he might as well have held a stick, instead of a wand.

But the problem hadn’t ended there. His spellwork as a whole had suffered - they worked barely, with a more intensive effort than should really be required, and anything combat-related failed completely. One of Hogwarts’ most promising and powerful duellists now ranked near Neville Longbottom, at the beginning of last year, in ability.

Neville, Ginny and Luna were clustered on one side of a long table in the Room of Requirement, poring over other tomes the Room had provided on magical ailments, their causes and cures. The other three second-years were on the other side of the table. Luna and Ginny had been suitably impressed by the Room, and readily agreed to keep its existence secret - why spoil a perfect hideaway? It was one of the smaller secrets, perhaps, but it was a start. Nobody thought dropping everything on them at once was a good idea.

Takara shook her head. “Mother keeps trying to get him to go to St. Mungo’s for a more comprehensive battery of tests, but he refuses. He says it’s ‘fine.’ On the plus side,” she added, “I did find out why we couldn’t find Weasley at lunch last week - he was in the Hospital Wing, visiting Dean.”

Shirou grunted. Weasley had been sullen and shifty lately, but Thomas was his best friend - practically his only friend, really. When they finally had cornered him, the redhead had said something about Thomas going out to distract Percy Weasley so that Ron could slip away with some choice tidbits before the prefect caught them. Reasonable enough, except that a subtle question to Percy revealed that the older Weasley had never seen him. Was it just bad luck that the basilisk had caught him first, or was Ron lying? Shirou was pretty good at spotting lies, so he assumed the former - but he’d been wrong before.

Going to where Thomas had been found had shown a highly reflective window at just the right angle in the torchlight to allow the boy to catch its image, explaining why he hadn’t been killed. But that still gave them no real clues as to the culprit behind it. They knew the basilisk was travelling through the pipes in the castle - though how it was revealing itself was another matter. Sixty-plus-foot-long snake monsters did not just slip through drains to spook people. The Chamber of Secrets had a specially-constructed entrance for a reason, after all. But unlike Dumbledore, they were less concerned with “how” than they were with “who” - especially since time was running out for the next attack.

And yet another problem with Galen was a distraction they didn’t need.

No sooner do we solve one problem, and another one pops up. Was his luck always like this? If so, how did he survive the Grail War as long as he did? Or is it because I’m here, too - some kind of synchronicity effect set up by our mutual bad luck?

And he’s “fine” with it . . .

“Wait a minute,” Shirou said aloud. “Galen doesn’t do ‘fine.’ He should be freaked out and helping us research, obsessively. The only reason he wouldn’t is if - ”

“He already knows what’s behind it, or thinks he has a pretty good idea of it,” Hermione finished. “I worked that much out days ago - I’m just trying to figure out how it was done, and why he’s allowed it to persist.”

“I just h - hope it’s not c - contagious,” Neville said, his stammer returning in his nervousness as he joined the conversation in progress. “I’m u -useless enough as it - it is.”

Hermione shook her head, closed the heavy tome with a thunk, and closed her eyes, while musing aloud, “He’s not sick. Poison would leave more obvious symptoms - loss of appetite, jaundiced skin. A curse isn’t exactly subtle, either. And any of those that suppress or remove magic do so entirely - whereas he can still use it.”

“Sure,” Shirou snorted. “In Potions, Astronomy, and History of Magic - ” He paused, eyes widening in realisation. “None of which uses a wand.”

Silence reigned for a moment as they absorbed that, before Hermione said, “But I don’t understand. He’s been using that wand for a year - why would he have problems now?”

“Remember Ilya’s note when she gave it to him?” Takara said, her tone suggesting she was thinking out loud. “It said the wand was ‘very passionate.’ Do you suppose it’s - I don’t know how to say it . . . Do you suppose that it’s having a temper tantrum?”

“Maybe the Wrackspurts were affecting it, and not Galen,” Luna mused. “I was quite sure that it was him, though.”

Takara’s voice was sharp. “What do you mean, Luna?”

“I saw him, just before he got hurt,” Luna explained. “There were clouds of Wrackspurts all around him. I thought it was strange, because he quite clearly frightened them earlier, but when I asked what thoughts they might be affecting, he gave me a smile and said that it was nothing I could help with.” She paused. “It was a very sad smile.”

Shirou felt Takara’s eyes boring into his throat before he turned to look at her.

“What did you say to him?” she demanded. It was a frightening demand, because her voice was barely above a whisper.

“Nothing that should have caused this,” he said, a little defensively.

Takara enunciated her next words very clearly. “We left him alone for twenty minutes. He was fine when we left - in fact, he was angry, which usually makes his spells stronger. Between our leaving and that class, he suddenly became completely unable to use his wand. Whatever you intended, it sure seems to have had a very different effect. What. Did. You. Say?”

“I pointed out that he shouldn’t come with us if he couldn’t hold his temper,” Shirou said flatly. “That it would be hard, if not impossible, to get information out of Weasley - and trying to beat it out of him, which he so obviously wanted to do, would be counterproductive. He was willing to promise to try and hold his temper, and I asked him if he’d still promise, knowing that the thing we’re trying to stop could kill Hermione if he couldn’t. He obviously didn’t think so, because he just let us leave.”

Takara’s skin paled, becoming almost Caucasian in tone.

“Are you out of your bloody mind?!”

Everyone turned to stare at the source of the unexpected outburst, to witness the seething fury that was Hermione Granger.

Her cheeks were flushed, and her chest heaved as though she suddenly found herself desperate to draw in oxygen. Every muscle was tensed in anticipation of explosion - whether in simple motion or brutal violence, no one could be sure. Her eyes were dancing with hints of amber, illuminating pupils that were suddenly slitted, and her bushy hair was gradually acquiring tawny streaks.

“You can’t do that!” she protested. “You can’t tell him that - use me - and not expect him to . . . You have the emotional range of a teaspoon! Don’t you remember what happened last year?!”

She whirled on Takara, demanding, “Where did he go after he left Madam Pomfrey?”

“Hagrid’s,” Takara replied calmly, with just a hint of frost. From the direction of her gaze, however, that chill was not intended for Hermione. “Try to keep him out of the Forest this time.”

The last sentence had been a waste of breath - Hermione was gone after the first word.

Shirou would’ve sighed in relief, except the look on Takara’s face was just as murderous as Hermione’s had been - and she fought better.

“You told him that he was, and would be, a danger to Hermione’s life,” Takara said icily. “And then you left him there alone, to brood about it. You never thought about what he does to things that threaten her! He might not be able to eliminate himself, but his wand obeyed its master’s wishes, whether conscious or unconscious. Without magic, he’ll have to leave Hogwarts, disappear back into the mundane world - protection by isolation, assuming someone or something doesn’t kill him first.”

Shirou said weakly, “But he swore to Ilya. He can’t kill himself, or let himself get killed -”

Luna said quietly. “But is it really suicide, if you can’t defend yourself?”

Galen smiled at Fang tentatively. The big boarhound was just about his weight - probably a little more - and only his cowardly nature kept Galen from being more afraid than he was. Large dogs had always made him a little nervous, but most of the ones he’d encountered were friendly enough. This, however, was an area in which lycanthropy worked against him. While the werewolf preferred hunting humans to animals, it was still a large, vicious predator. Most animals reacted poorly to its presence, and thus to him. It was part of the reason Crookshanks disliked him so.

It also meant no fur therapy from dogs or cats - basically, ever. That hurt more than the loss of any human contact. He was used to being ignored or despised by people, but the fact that he was more likely to be attacked than allowed to pet anyone . . .

Even if my Samoyeds were still alive, they’d never let me near them, he thought sadly.

Still, Fang wasn’t doing more at the moment than shying away and whimpering, so he’d have to settle for not being barked at, and maybe hope the dog would one day learn to relax around him . . . Assuming he stayed, of course.

Hagrid set the cup of tea in front of him. The big man couldn’t bake worth a damn, but tea was hard to muck up - especially since the half-giant liked it strong, as he did.

“How’ve you been, Hagrid?” he asked quietly. “I’m sorry I haven’t been by sooner. Things have been - hectic.”

“So I hear,” the groundskeeper said gruffly. “Ye’ve been havin’ trouble with yer magic.”

Galen blinked. “Who told you that?”

“Takara’s Mum,” Hagrid admitted. “She was by, couple days ago.”

“Asking about the Chamber,” Galen guessed, and mentally wincing when Hagrid froze.

“How’d ye know that?” he demanded.

“I read, Hagrid. Especially when I overhear Dumbledore say the Chamber’s been opened ‘again.’ You told me you’d gotten expelled last year - looking through the school records wasn’t hard.” Galen’s voice hardened. “Your expulsion was complete crap, of course. They never proved you were actually responsible for Myrtle’s death, did they? And even if you were, why reopen the Chamber now? Why wait fifty years?”

Hagrid blinked. “Myrtle?”

“Also known as Moaning Myrtle. Certainly, she doesn’t seem to blame you for her dying - which is a fairly good indicator you’re not, to my mind. Myrtle’s not exactly shy about handing out blame. But because it’s on record that you did it last time, true or not, of course Aozaki-san would come calling. She’d have to.”

The massive man shook his head, sending his shaggy beard into rippling waves. “I didn’t do it. Not then, an’ not now.”

Galen laughed darkly. “Hagrid, if I honestly believed you had, I wouldn’t be here for tea.” He locked eyes with the larger man. “I’d have set this place on fire, waited to see if you’d get out, and if you did . . . Well, I know where you keep your gardening tools.”

Watching someone Hagrid’s size shiver was actually kind of interesting.

“Ye’re just wrong, you are,” Hagrid asserted with a shake of his head. “No kid should be so bleedin’ scary.”

“Only to people who threaten my friends,” Galen assured him, keeping his voice gentle.

“Or one in particular?” Hagrid said with a sudden, knowing grin. “Ye’ve only got the one Muggle-born friend, far as I know.”

A sudden, fierce pounding on the door startled both of them, and they turned to stare.

“Mr. Hagrid!” Hermione’s voice, slightly muffled, called from the other side. “Mr. Hagrid, I need to talk to you!”

Hagrid chuckled. “Well, if it isn’t the little lady herself! Her ears musta been burnin’, don’t you - eh?”

This last was a startled exclamation, because Galen was no longer in his seat. Nor anywhere that Hagrid could see. Even the teacup and plate set out for him had vanished.

“How’d he do that?” Hagrid mumbled, before a renewed attack on the front door turned his attention to it. He opened it to find a wide-eyed, out of breath Hermione Granger.

“Is he here?” she demanded. “Galen, I mean!”

“He was,” Hagrid admitted. “Soon as you knocked, though, he up and disappeared. Dunno how he managed it - “

Hermione’s ears just barely heard a soft click, somewhere behind the groundskeeper.

“ - he was just gone,” Hagrid continued.

“Oh no he doesn’t,” Hermione growled, before darting off herself.

The thick November snow - what was flying through the air, and piling up on the ground - presented a challenge to Galen’s escape. On the one hand, the flying snow would fill in his tracks as he moved, but not swiftly. That required him to wait for a handful of seconds before taking his next step, lest his trail give him away. On the other hand, if he paused for too long, the diverted snow would reveal his outline. It didn’t seem to accumulate, though - whatever the cloak was made of seemed to naturally repel it. Still, maintaining stealth required a careful balance of stillness and movement.

Galen admitted, if only to himself, that he would miss the cloak. He felt comfortable under its auspices - protected. He imagined it was something akin to what being allowed to take spirit form would have been to him in the Grail War, had he been capable of it. Still, if he ended up leaving the magical world, he’d have little use for it. Which was not to say that it couldn’t be useful, but surely someone else could make more of it.

Maybe I’ll leave it to Luna. She’ll have times when she’ll want to hide - and hopefully, the wisdom to know when not to. It’s just a pity I won’t get to see the look on her father’s face if he ever realises what she has . . .

The attack took him completely by surprise. A swift, silent impact drove him to the ground, sending him tumbling face-first into a snowdrift. He rolled quickly onto his back - and was hit again, just as suddenly, driven into the ground by a great weight that crushed the air from his lungs. Points of red-hot pain erupted along the edges of his shoulders and his kneecaps, along with a matching fire at the sides of his throat. Galen’s vision was filled with obscuring gold, his ears with an ominous rumble, and his nose with a wet, animal musk.

Suddenly, the pressure on his body eased, and it was easier to breathe again - though he suspected that the impacts had at least bruised his ribcage. The pain along his shoulders increased, however, as nails less sharp and naturally built to tear dug deeper to maintain their suddenly weakened grip.

“Caught you,” Hermione said smugly. Then she shivered, suddenly exposed to the cold and blowing snow without the benefit of a winter cloak or proper boots. Galen realised that she must’ve run all the way from the castle in her lioness form, which wasn’t really suited for winter climes - or long sprints, either, come to that. Further thought, however, was derailed by the distraction of her sudden wriggling and shifting atop him - the next thing he knew, the invisibility cloak was no longer a barrier between them.

“Much better,” she declared, before a surprised note entered her voice. “It’s warm under here.”

“The cloak seems to mitigate environmental conditions in much the same way as it does sounds and scents,” Galen said, glad to have something to focus on besides how very close, warm, and soft Hermione was. “It’s not an absolute impenetrability - not like sight - but it does render me very hard to detect.” He paused. “How did you find me?”

Her smile was slightly predatory. “My senses are sharper as a lioness. Your scent was muffled, but not gone - and in all this cold, clean air, there wasn’t anything to cover it.” She frowned. “It’s odd - I’ve never heard of an invisibility cloak that does that before.”

Another difference in the timeline, Galen noted, as Harry’s cloak never seemed to have that effect. I wonder - does that mean that this universe has true Deathly Hallows, rather than some ancient wizard-wrought artefacts, as Dumbledore believed them to be? It certainly seems that this might be a cloak capable of hiding its owner from Death itself - rendering one unnoticed, as Death is. And if the cloak has this much power, what additional traits might be attributed to the other two Hallows?

“But you won’t distract me with mysteries,” she said sharply, and her brown eyes flashed dangerously. “We are going to talk about what an utter prat you’re being.”

He blinked. “Excuse me?”

“No, I won’t! Shirou had no right to suggest what he did - ”

“He had every right, because he is right! I’m a danger to you, and not just physically. Hermione, you’re changing, and you don’t even see it. You don’t study as fanatically - ”

“And my grades remain the same,” she countered. “I just don’t put as much pressure on myself, because you’re sure I’ll do well - “

”And there’s the heart of the problem. You focus every aspect of yourself on me - you’re practically in my shadow every waking moment! I’m swallowing you up, whether I intend to or not, and if you’re ever going to get the chance to be Hermione, then I need to - ”

“To what? Leave for my own protection? And who’ll protect me when you’re gone?”

“You shouldn’t need protection! Hermione Granger is a strong, brilliant, and independent witch who’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself!”

“And I’m not?” Amber flecks danced in her eyes.

“Not for much longer, at this rate,” he said heavily. “Hermione, you need a life that involves more than just me - and if I don’t go, you’ll never get it. Look at what I’ve done to you, in just a year - ”

“Yes, let’s,” she said sharply. “To begin with - I’m alive! I’d be long since dead without you here.”

“Shirou and Takara would’ve saved you - “

”Not unless they know how to cast a Shield Charm that can knock out a mountain troll.”

“They’d have found a way - ”

“They’d have tried, but whether they could stop it before it killed me is another matter entirely. But let’s move on. I’ve been exercising regularly, and studying martial arts, instead of reading every waking hour until my eyes are blurry - ”

“And who knows what you’re missing out on - “

”My memory is near-eidetic,” she informed him coolly. “If anything, I’m not re-reading books that I really don’t have to, because I have absolutely nothing else to do with my time. I also have friends - ”

“Which you don’t spend time with, other than me.”

“How much more time do I spend with just you?” she countered. “We’re almost always a group more than a pair - even in the library now, with Luna joining us. I don’t focus only on you, however it seems. Moving on, I’m an Animagus, now - ”

“Because I gave you the idea.”

“If I’d realised how much fun it was, I’d have tried it on my own. You just gave me a reason to.” She looked at him intently. “And that’s the biggest thing: I’m having fun. Do you know how much my parents love you for visiting over the summer? For insisting that I go out to a movie, mini-golf or laser tag, and not shut myself in my room with homework? For years, if I did anything that didn’t improve my grades, it was because they forced me to. The first time I offered to take Miranda out to a park instead of being asked to, I thought my father was going to have a stroke. When I explained that I missed the fresh air I got on our morning runs, I was sure he would. And Mum joined me to go jogging the next day.” She giggled. “The look on her face when she realised I was going easy to let her keep up!”

Hermione sobered. “How often does the Hermione you think I should be laugh, Galen? How panicked does she get over her exams, because her grades are all she has to make her feel like she’s worth something? How many friends does she have?”

“Quite a few,” he said absently, even as he tried to remember - how often did Hermione laugh in the series? Tears were more common, he thought.

“At this point in her life?” she pressed.

“Two really good ones, maybe two or three more.” Hermione hadn’t really met the Weasleys at this point.

“I have four good friends, and two more I think will be - provided Ginny is willing to work a little harder to join us. I’d call that an improvement in my life, not a danger to it,” she added acerbically, before her voice and face softened.

“I still want to get the best grades I can. I still love to read. I want to take care of my friends, now that I have friends to take care of. In every way that matters, I’m still exactly the same Hermione Jean Granger I’ve always been. If I’m not who you expect me to be, it doesn’t make me less myself.”

“Says the girl who should be utterly mortified at the fact that she’s currently lying on top of a boy,” he pointed out, but there was a teasing glint in his eyes.

Her cheeks flushed, but her smile was mischievous. “I’m part cat, now. The lioness likes body heat and skin contact, and you’re warm and comfy. Besides - it is your birthday.” At his surprised blink, her own eyes widened. “You forgot?”

Shrugging was hard in a horizontal position, especially with Hermione’s hands on his shoulders, but he managed to twitch a little. “It’s been a rough week.” And in all honesty, birthdays had lost their lustre after he’d passed thirty.

“Well, I hope you remembered beforehand to ask somebody for a chocolate cake,” she said seriously. “Takara wasn’t any happier with you or Shirou than I am - you may need to trade it for your life.”

“I suppose I ought to go face the music,” he sighed.

Hermione grinned. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you - and I like it that I can.”

“That’s definitely something Hermione would say,” he murmured, prompting her to punch his arm.

“Prat,” she muttered, but her smile said her heart wasn’t in it.

Galen snaked his arms up and around her waist, startling her. “Hold tight,” he warned, before doing a kick-up that would, were he by himself, have propelled him to a standing position. As it was, he crouched for a moment before being able to spring upright, and gently lower Hermione down to her feet.

“So, all better now?” she asked.

In answer, Galen drew his wand, and said softly, “Lumos.”

Pale blue-white light emerged from the tip - soft, but bright.

March 24th, 2011, 08:21 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 16 - Duelling

December 12 - 17, 1992

“So,” Ginny asked conversationally, “how much longer are you going to stay mad at them?”

Takara blinked. “Excuse me?”

The redhead smirked. “I know arguments - my family’s really good at them. It’s been what, three weeks? How much longer are you going to stay mad at them?”

The Japanese witch sighed, and set down her shinnai. Technically, she ought to be using a bokken, but Ginny had just asked to start training a week or so ago, so she wasn’t ready to handle the heavier practice blade. The girl’s request had startled her, a little - she seemed uninterested in running, or other martial arts. But when pressed, the youngest Weasley had admitted that she’d heard Fred and George rave about Takara’s speed and reflexes, and she hoped to improve on her own. Kenjutsu would do that - most of the work was based in the hands and arms. Hence, Ginny started training to use a sword.

So far, Takara admitted, the girl showed promise. Her athletic experiences had trained her to use entirely different reflexes - broom-riding and wand-waving were very different from the sweeps and blocks of wielding a two-handed blade - but she was innately physical, and surprisingly eager to learn.

“A while,” Takara answered after a moment’s thought. “I’ve sort of grown to expect this kind of thing from Galen, but Shirou should’ve known better. He did know better - he’s the one who made me realise how fragile Galen was last year. He told me that healing would be a long process, if it ever happened - and then he goes and rips open every wound Galen’s got, as brutally as he possibly could, without even thinking.”

“So you’re madder at him?” Ginny prodded.

“Yes,” Takara answered. “Which is not to say I’m not mad at Galen - I’m getting so tired of this. He blames himself for everything, as though the rest of us shouldn’t have any say in our own lives. And when it gets bad enough, he tries to kill himself. And he’s been doing it as long as I’ve known him.”

Ginny tilted her head curiously. “Then why are you friends?”

Takara shut her eyes. “Because when I’ve needed him, he’s been there. He’s fought, and bled” - And died, she added mentally - “for me, and my family. As much as I hate the shadows lurking in his head, I’ve used them to my advantage, too. I don’t really have the right to complain.” She paused, and added softly, “And because a very long time ago, he told a lonely little girl she was pretty.” And not as long ago, that he loved her.

“Kitty eyes,” Ginny supplied, grinning at Takara’s sudden glare. “I do talk to my brothers, remember? Well, not Percy so much - he’s too busy with Prefect duties and NEWT classes - but Fred and George, sure. They think you three are loads of fun, you know that? They haven’t given up on the idea that Shirou’s a lost Weasley brother.”

Takara gazed at the younger girl shrewdly. “Planning to bring him into the fold, Ginny?”

Now it was Ginny’s turn to be startled. Her cheeks began turning to match her hair.

Takara smirked. “I thought so. You’re not as obvious about it as Hermione, but . . .” She stopped. “Did you really want to improve your reflexes - or were you looking to check out the competition?”

Ginny’s face could have doubled as a stoplight, and its expression could have been a textbook illustration of “mortification.”

The Japanese witch laughed - she couldn’t help it. Still, Takara forced herself to swallow her amusement, as it really wasn’t fair to Ginny. The girl was only eleven, after all. She couldn’t appreciate the subtleties or ironies here, even if she knew about them, which she presently didn’t. At the moment, Ginny would assume Takara was laughing at her, rather than the situation - and that wasn’t fair at all.

“Relax, Ginny,” Takara assured her. “I have no interest in Shirou. We’re old friends, and that’s all.” The redhead’s brown eyes narrowed suspiciously, but Takara was firm. “Trust me - if I dated Shirou, it would be a disaster.”

Although, given the memories of our last date, another one isn’t ever likely. Sure, he’s a lot nicer now that he’s not an obsessive psychopath, but that image isn’t likely to fade any time soon.

“So you’re Hermione’s problem,” Ginny said thoughtfully, causing Takara to rock back a little.

Why does everyone assume -?

The redhead’s eyes narrowed again, and her next words disrupted Takara’s thought. “Then where did you and Hermione go, a few nights ago? You were with the boys, weren’t you?”

Takara blinked. She hadn’t thought anyone had noticed . . .

“Luna has nightmares, sometimes,” Ginny admitted. “Less, since she came to Hogwarts, I think - but we were awake when the two of you snuck by our floor. You didn’t come back until just after dawn, in time for your run. Where did you go? What did you do?”

Takara bit her lip, stopping when she realised she must have picked the habit up from Hermione. “It’s a long story - and another secret. We did plan to tell you.”

Ginny folded her arms, a stubborn expression on her face. “Now seems good.”

Takara sighed. “Let’s round up the others, first. It’ll be easier with all of us.” A wicked smirk crossed her face. “I’ll get our Library Trio, and you can go collect Shirou and Neville. If you get them in the right order, it’ll be the perfect chance to have some alone time.”

The youngest Weasley’s face flamed again, and Takara laughed silently. I’m older than you, Ginny - I can tease even better than you can, and faster, too.

But really, you’d think a girl who has Fred and George for brothers wouldn’t embarrass that easily . . .

They gathered in the Room of Requirement, which had configured itself into a replica of the Gryffindor common room. Galen claimed one end of a plush scarlet sofa, half-leaning on its armrest - the full moon had been days ago, but it always took him time not just to recover from his transformations, but to regain the physical and mental equilibrium the transformations disrupted.

Hermione sat next to him, and Takara claimed the other third of the seat for herself. Neville and Shirou had armchairs to themselves. Given that this was going to be a time for revelations for both Ginny and Luna, she’d sat both girls on a love-seat in between all the other chairs. Ginny had an expectant look on her face, tinged with a hint of “tell me or else.” For her part, Luna looked merely curious - though someone who hadn’t spent a great deal of time with her might choose “oblivious” to describe her expression instead. Everyone in the room, however, knew better.

Galen smothered a yawn with his hand before glancing at Takara and asking, “So - what’s up?”

“Ginny wanted to know why we weren’t in our beds a few nights back,” Takara answered calmly. “We had discussed talking to them about this, hadn’t we?”

“Hm,” Galen grunted neutrally.

“It’s all right if you don’t want to include us,” Luna said quietly. “I don’t really approve of unicorn-hunting, anyway. But I would like to know how you manage to grow your hair back each night.”

Most of them stared at Luna in confusion - Galen and Hermione immediately turned red.

“Care to share?” Shirou said dryly.

“Unicorns like full moons, and purity,” Galen mumbled, “and according to some legends, you can catch them in a net woven of a maiden’s hair.”

Hermione blushed harder, and said very quietly. “. . . She thinks Takara and I are bait.”

Ginny’s eyes were suddenly the size of saucers. “. . . Aren’t you?”

Now Hermione went pale - and Neville picked up the blush. For Takara’s part, she channelled her mother at her most teacher-like - disciplined and no-nonsense.

“We would be, if we were dealing with unicorns,” she said, in a voice laced with asperity. “However, you should have looked at the next page of Fantastic Beasts.”

Luna’s eyes widened, and she said, in a very small voice, “Oh.”

“Oh?” Ginny repeated, turning to her friend. “I don’t have the book memorised - what’s on the next page?”

“The entry on werewolves,” Luna replied, in as matter-of-fact a voice as her natural tones could produce.

“Werewolves?” Ginny repeated in disbelief. “Are you telling me Professor Dumbledore let a werewolf into the school?”

“Is that a problem?” Shirou asked flatly.

“They’re monsters,” Ginny said. “And if it doesn’t kill you, all it takes is one bite, and you’ll be one, too.”

“And the other twenty-seven nights of the month?” Takara asked carefully. “Or the twenty-eight days, for that matter?”

Ginny shook her head. “My brother Charlie works with dragons. We visited him last year, on his preserve. Dragons are huge, with really big fangs and claws, and they breathe fire - and the Ministry classes werewolves as being just as dangerous as a dragon.”

“And yet,” Hermione riposted, “if we hadn’t told you, would you have known there was one here?” She fixed the youngest Weasley with a gimlet glare. “You’ve been at Hogwarts for four months, Ginny. Four full moons. Noticed any savage murders so far?”

“Mrs. Norris - “ she began weakly.

“Was killed without a mark on her,” Hermione retorted. “Werewolves use fangs and claws, not Dark magic. And Professor Lockhart, Headmaster Dumbledore, and Takara’s mother - an Auror - are here. You don’t see them worried, do you?”

“Not about werewolves,” Luna said abruptly, startling most of them. “I can only conclude that the rumours of Minister Fudge trying to breed controllable werewolves for use against future goblin uprisings are true.” She peered at them in confusion. “I would’ve thought you were all too young . . .”

More than one face went scarlet - especially among those who were old enough to understand what she was talking about.

Takara tried hard to regain her poise. “With the aid of a certain potion made available at Hogwarts, a werewolf can retain their human mind while transformed - and if the werewolf has no particularly inclination to bite or kill anyone, it’s perfectly safe. We’re practising for those times when the potion isn’t available. We can keep the werewolf . . . Well, not human, but calm. Less likely to attack.”

“How?” Ginny demanded.

Now she smiled. “Has Professor McGonagall used her cat trick on you yet?”

Galen admitted to himself a couple of days later that while that could’ve gone better, it could’ve gone worse, as well.

Neither of the girls seemed inclined to reveal his secret - but Ginny wasn’t exactly comfortable around him, anymore. Not that she’d spent much time with him specifically, but she always made a point of keeping someone between the two of them - usually Shirou, but Takara or Neville worked, too. Of course, having seen Neville turn into a four-hundred-plus-pound bear, Galen admitted that he’d want Neville between him and a threat, too.

It was the damned wizard prejudice again, just as it had been with Neville. For all that the Weasleys were progressive, holding no particular animosity towards mundanes or mundane-born, they had moments where they could be shockingly conservative, too - witness Molly Weasley’s reaction to her eldest son’s choice of bride. Granted, Fleur might have tried harder to endear herself to her future in-laws, but they hadn’t exactly been welcoming, either.

And Ginny and Hermione had shared that reaction. In Hermione’s case, it was almost understandable, given how Ron reacted to Fleur’s Veela allure, but Ginny had been just rude. And that was when she was sixteen - now, at eleven, she’d effectively found out her friends hung out with the Big Bad Wolf. He could hardly fault her response. Werewolves had the reputation they did for a good reason - the wolf was a monster. It was only when it carried over to their human lives that it was unfair.

And to be fair, Ginny didn’t have the experience with him that the others did. He hadn’t had to fight trolls or three-headed dogs in her defence. All she really knew of him was that he was powerful enough to do so - and prone to making dire threats. Not exactly a good basis for a friendship.

Galen shrugged. It would take time, he supposed. At least the girls had taken the Animagus potion - or the phials of it, anyway. They weren’t yet prepared to actually drink them, but they were willing to consider it, which was more than he’d honestly expected.

Well, no - Luna had reacted more or less as he had expected. If his being a werewolf bothered her, she showed absolutely nothing to indicate it. On the contrary, she was now trying to get him to help her with a study for the Quibbler on whether or not lycanthropic senses made it easier to hunt Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, or whether his presence would make it harder by scaring them.

A nature hike might be fun for the summer, he admitted. He’d always enjoyed them when going with his family. And wizard tents are a hell of a lot more comfortable -

A shudder suddenly ran through him - and with it, a memory of camping when he was four. The dark, the beast, and the blood . . .

Galen leaned against the wall until the shaking stopped.

“Right,” he whispered. “No camping - bad memories.” Damn you, Greyback.

It was one reason he hadn’t really integrated well with this universe’s version of him - while he might not have been strictly human for a while, Galen Salvatore had no memories of ever being human. He’d been turned too young to retain anything before the moon dug her claws into him.

Still, bits and pieces kept skittering around his psyche. Not just memories of Shirou and Takara, but also feelings. As Avenger, or Jester, he’d been largely immune to fear - death had burned it out of him, literally. He could face or fight anything, with no trepidation or hesitation. If a cobra had launched itself at him, he’d have plucked it out of the air in an eyeblink. But now . . .

Galen has so many of my old habits, my fears and reactions - and they keep trying to make me stop thinking like I’m dead. They want me to think of myself as alive - and living things fear.

I can’t face the basilisk. I was all right with it on a screen, because it didn’t really look like a snake. The Acromantula freaked me out more. But faced with the living, breathing article? I might freeze - and get somebody killed. I have to let them fight it, because I’m not sure I can . . . Some Gryffindor I turned out to be. Then again, there really wasn’t anywhere else I could go, was there?

As he walked into Gryffindor Tower, a notice on the message board caught his attention.

The official duelling club start - two days from now, at eight PM. The rooster dies the same day, and that Hufflepuff kid is attacked the next day . . . Two days, and it’s our last chance to end this quickly. After that, it has to be the Polyjuice plan.

Galen hoped they were ready.

Shirou gazed at the crowd around the Great Hall - at least half the school had to be here! Obviously Lockhart had built up anticipation for his little duelling club . . . Well, the man was a marketing genius.

In place of the usual House tables was a set of raised duelling platforms - Shirou had used them at home, so he was familiar with the design. Atop them were Lockhart and Flitwick-sensei, which was a surprise - he’d been half-expecting Aozaki-san or, from Takara’s comments, Snape.

Unfortunately, neither she nor Galen was available for an explanation - the pair had taken the Invisibility Cloak and posted themselves by Hagrid’s hut to keep watch for the rooster killer. Hermione likely would’ve preferred to go with him, but Galen had pointed out that the cloak could hide him and an owl perched on his shoulder much more easily than two full-sized people. In any case, Shirou didn’t expect to see them back for some time.

He would’ve preferred to go himself, but Takara had pointed out that her night sight was better, and with Galen to defend her against potential attack, she could probably take out whoever it was quickly and quietly. Then, too - he was more likely to be missed, whereas Galen had a history of absences for medical reasons, and she had her mother as an excuse. So, grumbling all the while, Shirou had rounded up the kids and headed here to keep an eye on things. Although, he had to admit there was an upside: he had an excuse to clobber Malfoy, something Galen and Takara would otherwise have paid money for.

Truth be known, Shirou had about as much problem with Malfoy as Galen normally had with Weasley. The blond was an egotistical, bigoted, pompous little weasel - but Shirou rarely got involved with him, so it didn’t really matter. They barely interacted at all, and while Shirou wouldn’t hesitate to knock out a couple of Malfoy’s teeth as a matter of principle, there wasn’t actually much call for it on a personal level.

On the other hand, he was rude and insulting to Takara, and Neville, and Hermione. Shirou was fairly sure, from descriptions he’d been given, that Ginny would be a “blood-traitor,” and Luna “Loony,” as well. In which case, an object lesson in not insulting his friends (or at least, the consequences for doing so) would seem to be in order for one Draco Malfoy.

Galen had made him promise Pensieve memories afterward.

The pairings for the first round of duels was fantastic - he got Malfoy right off the bat. Hermione was paired with a Slytherin girl named Millicent Bulstrode (and as if the name wasn’t unfortunate enough, her appearance was worse), and Neville with Weasley, the latter looking fairly confident. Ginny and Luna were against one another.

I foresee a bad day for redheads, Shirou thought. Ginny might have started training with Takara, but Luna had been doing so for four months. Her aggression level wasn’t exactly staggering, but Luna’s confidence and competence were both impressive. And Neville had been working with them for over a year. If Weasley was expecting the same kid as last year . . .

Definitely a bad day for redheads.

“Wands at the ready!” Lockhart called. “When I count to three, cast your charms to disarm your opponent - only to disarm them - we don’t want any accidents . . . One - two - ”

On “two,” Shirou snapped, “Protego!”

Like Galen, Shirou was more powerful than the average second-year student, and thus capable of casting a Shield Charm ahead of the normal development curve. He wasn’t as good at Shields as Galen was - but that was like saying an operatic tenor wasn’t a rock-and-roll singer. The base skills were the same - the two just had different focuses in how they applied them. Against most spells a second-year was likely to encounter, and quite a few they weren’t, his Shield Charm worked just fine. In fact, his did something Galen’s didn’t do - they deflected spells on impact, rather than break them to pieces.

Shirou savoured the look of surprise on Malfoy’s face as his own spell rebounded, and sent him flipping like a coin.

“. . . Three!” Lockhart added, pausing as he suddenly noticed the commotion. “Eh? What’s going on?”

“He attacked me!” Malfoy claimed, staggering to his feet.

“He did?” Lockhart said incredulously.

“Did he?” Professor Flitwick murmured, approaching. “Most uncharacteristic of him, I must say.”

Shirou held out his wand. “You are welcome to check my last spell, Flitwick-sensei.”

The diminutive Charms professor took the holly wand murmured a few words. Glowing residue simmered above it, resolving into patterns Shirou couldn’t read - though evidently the teacher could.

“A Shield Charm,” Flitwick pronounced. “Quite difficult to knock someone down with one of those.” His lips quirked into a smile as he glanced at Shirou. “Provided one’s name isn’t ‘Galen Salvatore,’ of course. If it was, I assure you, Mr. Malfoy - you wouldn’t have gotten up again under your own power. Your wand, please?”

With obvious reluctance, the blond Slytherin handed over his wand.

“Ah,” Flitwick murmured. “Strangely enough, Mr. Malfoy, your last spell produces identical effects to what you’re currently experiencing. That will be five points from Slytherin for disobeying a professor’s instructions, ten points from Slytherin and a week’s detention for attacking a student unprovoked, and a further fifteen points, and another week’s detention, for lying to a professor. I will see you after classes, beginning tomorrow.” He handed back Malfoy’s wand.

As the teachers withdrew, Malfoy glared at Shirou. “You’ll pay for this, Einzbern.”

Shirou shrugged. “You must have been sorted into Slytherin on ambition alone, Malfoy - you’re entirely too predictable to be cunning.”

Draco’s face purpled, and he raised his wand -

“I wouldn’t,” murmured a quiet voice, and the Slytherin whirled to face Takara, wand casually in hand.

“I was wondering when you’d get here,” Shirou murmured. “Galen make it back OK?”

“Sure - he’s checking on some of the other duels.” Takara smirked. “I’ve got to say, Malfoy, if you and Bulstrode are examples of Slytherin’s best - I’m not impressed.”

As Takara had no doubt intended, both Shirou and Malfoy’s attention was drawn to the duelling platform where Hermione and the named girl were duelling. It was clear that in the month since she’d first attempted it, Hermione had perfected her Shield Charms - everything thrown at her was bounced back at Bulstrode. And given the other girl’s relative size, Hermione could hardly miss.

Shirou allowed his eyes to briefly rake over the others. Neville was demonstrating why slacking off on one’s homework - including learning spells - in favour of snacks and chess was a bad idea, especially when fighting someone who’d been training to fight for a while. Neville was still more heavyset than Weasley - but the muscle-to-fat ratio was different, now. He was still a pudgy kid, for the moment, but given another few years of exercise, Neville would probably come to resemble his Animagus form.

He had strength, and endurance - though Shirou still outclassed him in the former, and Galen in the latter. Nonetheless, his higher physical conditioning meant he could last longer in a fight, and take more hits. And they hadn’t neglected speed in his training, either. He’d never match Takara - and maybe not even Shirou or Galen - but Neville wasn’t as slow as someone his size usually was, either.

Ginny was faring better - she’d been in better shape than Luna at the beginning, and she was naturally more aggressive, but Luna’s experience was starting to tell. Ginny telegraphed a lot of her spells and movements, and Luna was nothing if not perceptive. In an endurance match, Ginny would probably win, but Luna was quick, careful, and always watching for that fatal mistake. For the time being, it could go either way.

“Hello, Malfoy,” Galen said pleasantly as he emerged from one side. “Professor Flitwick tells me you need me to demonstrate the offensive capabilities of a Shield Charm?”

Draco trembled, and raised his wand again - before suddenly noting three wands at his throat.

“Run along,” Shirou advised with a smirk.

Malfoy whirled and stormed off, muttering.

“‘My father will hear about this,’” Galen quoted.

“So, you’re back early,” Shirou said.

His two friends scowled, and Takara spat, “It was already dead when we got there. And with the blizzard starting up, it washed away any trace of who might have done it. No tracks, no scents - nothing.”

“Damn,” Shirou swore. He glanced at them. “OK, Galen, now I believe it - the universe is out to get us. Should we even try to save the kid, or just go on with the Polyjuice plan?”

“Try, of course,” Galen sighed. “But I think we’re going to have to accept the fact that we’ll need to use the damned potion.”

A sudden thump drew their attention - Luna had finally managed to disarm Ginny, and had taken the further step of tripping her up with a leg sweep.

“Five Galleons says she joins our morning calisthenics tomorrow,” Galen murmured.

“No bet,” Shirou and Takara replied.

Galen sighed again. “Why is there never anyone willing to bet money when I can win?”

March 24th, 2011, 08:22 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 17 - The Polyjuice Plan

December 18 - 25, 1992

Galen spent the morning silently grumbling over lost opportunities to earn money - Ginny Weasley was present, eager, and utterly astonished at how out-of-shape she was, comparatively. Fred and George, who’d decided to join them this morning, weren’t a lot better, but that would hardly make Ginny feel good. The Weasley family pride was taking a real beating.

Fred and George, however, were ecstatic. They’d decided to use the Room of Requirement, rather than run in the blizzard - which of course, necessitated revealing it to the twins. They had “solemnly sworn” to keep its secret, no doubt thinking of dozens of ways to use its capabilities in the future, and begun hailing him as “the Discoverer of the Room.”

The good cheer he liked, but Galen thought the kowtowing was really unnecessary.

After her fourth lap around the track the Room of Requirement had generated, Ginny wheezed, “How - do . . . You all . . . Do this . . . So - easily?”

“Practice,” Takara said. “Luna’s been doing runs with us for months - Neville and Hermione for over a year. Shirou and I have been doing calisthenics and combat training almost since we were old enough to walk. We taught Galen, and while his skills didn’t progress much without us, he kept in the habit.”

Galen shrugged. “It was all I had of you.”

She blushed delicately, but Takara continued, “There’s also the fact that witches and wizards are generally lazier than mundanes. You Apparate or broom-ride rather than walk or bike, use wand-work instead of physical labour . . . Magic is probably the only reason you aren’t all withered or grossly overweight.”

Ginny bit her lip. “You sound like you don’t like being a witch.”

Takara shrugged. “Mother raised me to be able to live in either world, and I think witches and wizards are, on the whole, bloody stupid about a lot of things regarding mundanes. There are definite advantages to the mundane world that so few magicals ever even consider.” She grinned. “For example, I could walk into Auror headquarters and be almost guaranteed to clobber four out of five of them with my bare hands.”

“Unless your mother trained them,” Shirou pointed out dryly.

“Unless that,” Takara agreed ruefully.

“Mundanes do have some useful tricks,” Fred said, emphasising the word, as if to remind himself to use it.

“We feel they’re skills worth learning, even if they are a bit slow,” George agreed.

“On the other hand, any wizard who takes your wand before locking you in a dungeon isn’t likely to search you for hatpins,” Galen pointed out with a grin.

“Correct, oh all-seeing Discoverer,” Fred replied flippantly. “Hey, don’t suppose you’re going to uncover the Chamber of Secrets next?”

Galen’s grin widened into a full-blown smirk. “Only if I absolutely have to - I really don’t want to go down there.”

“Really?” George asked.

“Would you, with a monster bred by Slytherin himself waiting for you?”

“You wouldn’t feel right at home?” Ginny muttered under her breath. Only the fact that Galen’s hearing was sensitive to quiet sounds like that let him hear it, he suspected.

Just the same, he added firmly, “I’d rather piss off a werewolf - it’s much safer.” To his satisfaction, Ginny flushed, but nobody seemed to have noticed anything unusual.

He was willing to cut her some slack - she was eleven, and a product of her environment. However, he wasn’t going to put up with five years of name-calling, veiled insults, and general rudeness. He already got enough of that from dealing with Snape, to say nothing of Malfoy.

Maybe I ought to see if Hermione can improve her manners - she’s got a proven talent for intimidating Weasleys . . . The thought made him grin.

“In any case,” he assured the twins, “I’m hoping Aozaki-sensei can deal with the problem, before I need to worry about it.”

“Right,” Fred grinned. “Let her handle the big stuff - ”

“And you’ll just worry about the odd troll wandering about!” George finished.

“Not to mention, say - “

” - a stray firework or twelve?”

These two always were the brains of the family, Galen reflected, even as he asked, “Whatever gives you that idea?”

“Oh, we’re not mad,” Fred assured him. “Once we thought about it, it was a brilliant display of pranking talent.”

“After all, who’d suspect you when we’re on the premises?” George grinned. “Chaos, mayhem, ready-made fall guys and not a single injury - ”

“Fantastic!” Fred finished. “Takara and Shirou we love already - they make Gryffindor look brilliant on the pitch - ”

“But now we understand why they hang out with you!” George finished. “A barking mad genius, you are -”

“The best kind!” they chorused.

Most of the group laughed, though he noted Ginny had an odd expression on her face.

Probably not sure whether she ought to laugh, or cry.

Galen paused as an idea occurred to him. “Guys, now that I think about it, we could use a hand - ”

Takara and Shirou both shot him incredulous looks. He just smiled.

“See, we’re planning to bust into the other dormitories, but we need some materials collected that you might be able to help us with. In return, if you can think of anything in particular you’d like to see ‘accidentally’ left behind, we could probably see our way clear to delivering it . . .”

“Like a case of Dungbombs, say?” George asked. “Under Malfoy’s bed, maybe?”

“It’s certainly possible,” Galen grinned.

“And if they figure out it didn’t come from one of them - ” Fred mused.

“- They’ll probably suspect us - ”

“ - And we can honestly say - “

”We had nothing to do with it!” George finished, trading looks with his twin.

“And if we time it right, one of the teachers can alibi you,” Galen pointed out. “Like, when Filch has you in detention, maybe?”

“Brilliant,” the twins chorused. “You’ve got a deal!”

Galen smirked.

“What was that all about?” Hermione demanded.

Shirou was curious, too.

“Fred and George are well-known pranksters, but fairly popular, too,” Galen replied. “They’ll be able to collect hairs or skin samples for the Polyjuice with a lot less suspicion than any of us would. If the price of that means we have to prank a couple of people ourselves, it’s worth it.”

Shirou snorted. “Admit it - you’d pay them for a shot at Malfoy.”

“And you wouldn’t?”

Shirou shook his head. “No - but on the other hand, I won’t turn down a free shot, either.”

“Same here,” Takara muttered. “I’m getting tired of being called ‘Slant Eyes.’”

“‘Kitty Eyes’ is so much nicer, isn’t it?” Shirou drawled, smirking when Galen and Takara turned red. The joke was getting a little worn - but since it never failed to get a rise out of one or both of them, it was still fun.

The Gryffindors had split off on leaving the Room of Requirement. The twins had gone to work on their list of targets to get samples from, and their list of targets they wanted pranked. Ginny and Luna, not having Herbology first period, couldn’t take advantage of the break offered by the cancelled class - as the blizzard had made the greenhouse impossible to get to. That had left the five of them, heading for the place where Justin Finch-Fletchley would be found prior to Transfiguration class.

The trick was, again, one of timing. They didn’t know when the attack happened, only when the aftermath was discovered. As with the rooster, it might have occurred too early for them to stop - but surely, one of the prefects would’ve discovered them on their rounds if it had happened during the night.

It was, Galen had said, the oddest of all the incidents in the book. Mrs. Norris had no doubt been attacked because she was on the scene when the Chamber was opened. Colin Creevey was a boy Ginny Weasley had known, in her own year. Hermione Granger was Harry Potter’s best friend, an acquaintance of her brother’s, and dedicated to stopping the attacks. Penelope Clearwater had been with her at the time, which made her Petrification more a case of collateral damage than a deliberate assault. But Justin had been a Hufflepuff, whereas all the other primary targets were Gryffindors, which Ginny had easy access to. And he’d been in the company of Sir Nicholas, which had ultimately saved his life - but why had a mundane-born Hufflepuff been with the ghost of Gryffindor Tower?

As much as the question frustrated Galen, however, Shirou didn’t care. All that mattered was preventing him from being attacked. Fortunately, they had a way to do that - and as he spotted the Hufflepuff boy in question heading down a corridor, he put it into action.

“Justin!” Shirou called. “We were wondering - as Herbology’s been cancelled, did you and Hannah want to meet us in the library to review our notes?” As the boy hesitated, Shirou added, “Galen says he’s also willing to part with his history notes, if you need them!”

That did it. Galen and Hermione were apparently the only two people who could actually stay awake in History of Magic - not just in Gryffindor, but Hufflepuff, too. With a nod, Justin dashed off to the Hufflepuff dorm to grab his Herbology partner, and incidentally, away from where his body would have been found.

Shirou smiled. For once, something seemed to be going right for them.

A couple of hours later, following Transfiguration class, he was revising his opinion. Once again, the trio found themselves in the Room of Requirement, for privacy and security.

“I do not believe this!” Shirou seethed. “We did everything right - and there was still an attack! Why is it that for every step forward we manage, we take at least one back?”

Galen laughed darkly. “I’m used to that. It’s the identity of the victim that concerns me.”

“Why?” Shirou asked.

“Because it’s Penelope Clearwater - and she and Hermione were supposed to be the basilisk’s next victims.”

The Ravenclaw prefect had been found in the fifth floor corridor, with the frozen form of Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington. As with the original assault, apparently Nearly Headless Nick had taken the brunt of the basilisk’s gaze, but Clearwater had still managed to be affected by it. Adding insult to injury, the two had been found by the Ravenclaw’s secret boyfriend, Percy Weasley. The redheaded prefect was still in a state of shock, and nearly incoherent.

Shirou blinked. “You’re thinking that because we had Justin and Hermione with us, the universe just moved on to the other two and arranged things?”

“Scary thought, eh?” Galen muttered. “I don’t like this, I don’t like it at all.”

“Mother’s not any happier,” Takara said grimly. “She’s absolutely furious - evidence of powerful Dark magic, and the wards don’t register a thing. And she was picking up Christmas presents in Hogsmeade when it happened, so she feels responsible. She’s sure she could’ve stopped it, if she’d been here.”

“Not without preparation, she couldn’t,” Shirou answered. “And we know she didn’t have that. So what does she think it is?”

“A powerful Dark wizard, between what looks like a spell capable of harming ghosts whose backlash Petrified the prefect, and Confunded Weasley.”

“Confunded?” Galen asked suddenly.

“Yeah - Percy’s shock is really deep. Mother suspects mental tampering.”

Galen’s reply was sharp. “Like a Memory Charm, maybe?”

Shirou remembered what they’d said earlier, when briefing him on the year to come. “You suspect Lockhart?”

“It’s a possibility - he might have found the diary when it was blasted into the street. And he is a writer, so using it would be perfectly natural. And being Lockhart, he’d try to get the most out of it. All the Horcrux would have to do is tempt him with the tale of the Chamber of Secrets - the newest potential best-seller, with all the involved principles here at Hogwarts, waiting to be Obliviated. And worst of all, we can’t alibi him for the attacks, because we weren’t watching him closely - we had no reason to suspect him more than anybody else.”

Shirou frowned. “Will the Polyjuice Potion be ready in time to search his things, though? He’s supposed to be gone by the end of the term - and everyone goes home in three days.”

“No,” Takara said. “This can’t be rushed. If we search his rooms, we’ll need to find another way.” She tilted her head. “Although, if Lockhart leaves, maybe the attacks will stop?”

“We can’t guarantee that,” Shirou said, shaking his head. “There’s also the possibility that Lockhart’s departure will cause the Horcrux to give up the subtle approach as a farewell - just let the basilisk loose completely.”

Galen shuddered, and Takara cast him a worried glance.

“You really don’t want to do this, do you?” she asked softly. “I’ve never seen you back down from anything before.”

“It’s a giant snake. I hate snakes, always have. When I died, fear pretty much went with my life - I wouldn’t have liked it, but I could’ve handled it. But he’s got the same fears I do, mostly, and I feel them all over again . . .” His shudder repeated itself.

“All the more reason to get the diary as quickly as we can,” Shirou said. “Somebody will need to get detention with Lockhart, or otherwise distract him - long enough for us to search his office and quarters for the book. As long as it’s not actually on him, it shouldn’t be a problem. But we have to hurry - term ends in three days.”

“Right,” Takara said with a grin. “Sounds like a job for his least-favourite student again.”

They spent the rest of the time before lights out outlining a workable plan.

A week later, it was Takara’s turn to curse up a storm. A month’s detention - with her mother after Lockhart was gone - for nothing! Shirou and Galen hadn’t turned up a thing! And she hadn’t seen any suspicious hints, either - Lockhart was clean, at least of being Voldemort’s puppet.

On the other hand, it was now Christmas. That meant food, presents, and the Polyjuice Potion, finally ready. But first, there was one final hurdle - family.

Her father had arrived on Christmas Eve, with a handful of brightly-wrapped packages. He’d said hello before her mother had whisked him away with particular urgency, and Takara had given wordless thanks that the distance between the staff quarters and Gryffindor Tower was such that silencing charms weren’t an issue. One thing she still wasn’t used to yet - her parents were younger, too.

Shirou’s family arrived with Ilya in tow on Christmas Day. Like her father, they had gifts with them, as well. The presence of a half- and full-blooded Veela caused some interesting reactions from the staff and students, and as a result, neither had done much more than say hello, offer a hug and kiss to their son (or brother, as the case might be), and drop off the gifts. Emotions ran high enough at Christmas as it was - no need to aggravate things.

Though Takara got a touch of amusement out of the Weasleys’ expressions, seeing Galen offer Ilya a full, sweeping bow and a gentlemanly kiss on her hand as a hello, and again as a goodbye. Ilya’s aura was pulling at them more than a little, to judge by the jealous looks. Nor was Hermione completely immune, either - but she simply looked sad.

Takara leaned over to the girl and whispered, “Liege lady, not lover. It’s no different from charming Myrtle.”

Hermione glanced at her, frowning, then turned back to the display with a speculative look.

After breakfast, they retreated to the common room - as the Weasleys were the only ones aside from them to stay over the holidays, it was deserted. Percy was still in a funk over Penelope’s condition - understandably - and his brothers and sister had herded him to the Hospital Wing for the wizard equivalent of anti-depressants, or maybe a Dreamless Sleep potion.

Takara sat between her parents on the sofa. Kiritsugu and Shirou had commandeered the armchairs. That left Hermione and Galen to sit on the love-seat, and Hermione was more than a little pink over it. As often as the two sat together, they were rarely so close without a book to study, or an assignment to do - and more often, facing one another rather than side by side. Takara was musing over whether she’d faint if they found mistletoe to put above them when her father spoke.

“We brought your family’s gifts, Hermione. They wish you their best.”

“Thank you, sir,” Hermione said sincerely. “I appreciate your help.”

“It’s no trouble - it’s Christmas.” He glanced at her, Shirou, and Galen. “As for you three . . . Given the problems here this year, the families decided we’d be better off to pool our efforts to get you each a single gift - one we hope will help you.”

He handed Takara a package wrapped in metallic red foil paper, and topped with a golden bow - Gryffindor colours.

Galen’s package had a red satin bow, and was wrapped in green paper festooned with teddy bears and candy canes - Takara smiled, remembering his Teddy. He’d taken it almost everywhere with him. She wondered if he still had it, as she glanced at Shirou’s package. It was blue, and decorated with snowmen, with a sparkly silver bow.

Kiritsugu chuckled as the three students examined the packages. “Well, go on.”

Trading glances, they eschewed taking turns in order to savage the wrapping paper, revealing three identical white boxes, such as were used for clothing. Carefully, Takara lifted the lid, and gasped at what was inside. Slowly, she lifted it out for inspection.

The duster was unmistakably leathery in consistency, looking scaled, like snakeskin. It was blue in colour, but with a silver sheen to the scales that glimmered in the firelight of the tower. Glancing to either side, she saw Shirou with a matching duster in red, and Galen’s -

Her heart stopped for a moment, as she saw him don it in a swirl. The duster was a gunmetal gray, such as he had worn as Avenger. For a moment, she half-expected a pair of pistols to snap into his hands.

“They’re made of dragon hide,” her father explained. “Takara’s is from a Swedish Short-Snout - their skins make the best protective gear. Shirou’s is a Chinese Fireball - very heat-resistant, which I’m told is good, considering how much he likes fire spells. And Galen’s is - ”

“Ukranian Ironbelly,” the named wizard interrupted, his voice slightly strained. “It has to be - it feels like it’s made of lead.”

Her mother nodded. “It’s about as tough as Takara’s, but heavier. She has the same level of protection, but is allowed more mobility. But your fighting style doesn’t require as much freedom of movement - and working with that much weight resistance will help build up your strength and speed.”

“Point,” Galen admitted, more grunting than speaking. “These must have cost a fortune.”

“They weren’t cheap,” her father admitted, “but they’ll help keep you safe, we hope. Although I’m still not sure why we went with coats rather than full armour . . .” He glanced around.

Kiritsugu smiled. “That was Ilya - she insisted that the boys’ gifts be like this. Even paid extra for the Extension Charms that’ll let the coats grow with them. Personally, I think she watches too many movies.”

Takara bit back the urge to laugh, especially considering the black duster that she knew he favoured.

The day went all too quickly. It was nice to reconnect with her parents, even if it was a bit strange to do so at Hogwarts rather than home. It wasn’t all pleasure, of course - all three parents were Aurors, and they spent a good deal of time consulting with each other and the staff about the basilisk attacks - but it was nice, just the same. Takara felt bad for Galen and Hermione both, having no one of their immediate family there. Oh, to be sure, Galen was considered an adopted member of both their families, and they liked Hermione well enough for one year’s acquaintance, but she knew it wouldn’t be the same.

They did have fun trying on each other’s dusters, just to see the difference. Both Takara’s and Shirou’s seemed fairly normal, but Galen’s did feel like it weighed a ton. She’d never have been able to move as she normally did in it, though Shirou’s natural strength seemed to give him the ability to do so, at least for a while, before he got tired.

Resuming bearing its weight, Galen shrugged. “It’ll be good endurance training, if nothing else. A good incentive to work on building my speed back up.”

“It has its advantages, too,” Takara pointed out, rapping the duster with her knuckles. “If we hit that wrong, we might break some bones. It’s tough stuff.”

Galen smiled.

Following the Christmas feast for dinner (in an impressively-decorated Great Hall), the parents said goodbye until the beginning of summer, and the Polyjuice plan could be put into motion. After knocking out Crabbe and Goyle, Galen went to fetch the invisibility cloak while Hermione finished preparing the potion draughts in Myrtle’s bathroom.

“I’ve only got hair from the one girl,” Hermione warned Takara, “so unless you feel like stretching your bra apart, you’d probably better convince Galen to hand over the cloak to you.”

“Right,” Takara agreed. “Whose is it?”

“Millicent Bulstrode’s.”

“Your duelling partner?”

“Yes, when she tried to pay me back for cleaning her clock the next day. She didn’t get very far - Galen was close enough to call for help - but I managed to snag a hair off her robe. Quite lucky, actually.” She handed Shirou a phial before taking one herself, and the pair of them marched into the bathroom stalls.

Takara nodded, suddenly bothered by something. Something about Hermione and Polyjuice - what was it . . .?

Galen’s arrival interrupted her train of thought, and Takara pressed a phial of potion into his hand. Before he could ask any questions, she herded them into an empty stall to down the potion.

Takara drew the cloak of invisibility around her with a sweeping movement. Truth be known, this bothered her - she liked being able to see her the limits of her reach, but the cloak hid her hands and legs unless she was fully concealed by it - and then she was looking through the veil of the hood. It would make fighting difficult.

Her ruminations were interrupted by the emergence of Crabbe and Goyle from the stalls - but not Hermione, or Hermione-as-Millicent.

A worried look crossed Goyle’s face - unsettling, as it was a wholly alien expression. “Hermione? Are you all right?”

The replying voice was unusually high in pitch. “I - I don’t think I’m going to come after all. You go on without me.”

Goyle winced - another odd expression. “Let me guess - you pulled a hair off Bulstrode’s robe?”

“How did you - ? You knew this would happen?!”

“I didn’t know you’d get hair from that source, and if you’d told me, I’d have warned you.” His eyes flicked to the space where Takara had been standing. “I expected Takara to have.”

“What did I forget?” she protested.

Goyle sighed. “You may as well come out, Hermione.”

“Forget it - you’re wasting time! GO!”

Another sigh. “She’s right - come on.”

Takara blinked, not that anyone could see it under the cloak.

“What did I forget?” she repeated.

March 25th, 2011, 08:14 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 18 - The New Defence Teacher

December 25, 1992- January 7, 1993

Shirou was still shivering slightly. Using Polyjuice Potion wasn’t at all like an Animagus transformation. An Animagus transformed smoothly, like water flowing down a hill, into a form it felt meant to take. The Polyjuice transformed you in fits and starts, suddenly adjusting height, or hair colour, as the stretching and contracting of your size and shape literally rippled under your skin, forcing you into an alien form. He suddenly had a whole new appreciation - and sympathy - for Galen’s transformations under the full moon.

Entering the dungeons was easy. They went down there for Potions, after all, and the Slytherins emerged as a group for breakfast each day. It was finding the Slytherin common room in the warren below that proved troublesome. As one might expect, the dungeons were poorly lit, and though none of them normally had much trouble with seeing in low light, their current bodies weren’t nearly as well-suited to it. And Galen’s mental map of Hogwarts faltered a little in this area - apparently they’d never gone so far as to include the Slytherin dorms in the video games he’d played. Still, he could make some reasonable guesses, so hopefully they’d find it before time ran out on the potion.

That was the key thing. As long as they could slip under the cloak before they started changing back, so none of the portraits could see them, they’d have no trouble. But that made time even more precious. They had to find their destination quickly.

A voice called out, and Shirou turned, along with Galen.

“There you are,” Draco Malfoy drawled. “Have you been pigging out in the Great Hall all this time? I’ve been looking for you, I want to show you something really funny.”

They followed Malfoy through the corridors, and Shirou didn’t even blink when Takara’s almost-inaudible voice hissed “Plan B, then” in his ear.

In front of a damp patch of stone wall, Malfoy asked abruptly, “What’s the new password again? Oh yeah - pure-blood!”

Original, Shirou thought sarcastically. And very secure. No one would guess that Slytherin House would use that as a password.

The Slytherin common room was very inviting, so long as one preferred to live in a cave. Light was sparsely emitted from a series of hanging lamps chained to the ceiling, and a fireplace at one side of the room. Glancing around, he spotted what they’d been expecting - a portrait abovef the fireplace, positioned to get a good view of the common room.

Dumbledore’s spy, Shirou acknowledged. Tempting as it was to set the thing ablaze, it would alert the Headmaster that something was horrifically wrong. However, if Slytherin’s layout followed Gryffindor’s, the actual dorm rooms would be empty of portraits. So all they needed to do was get Malfoy to head for them.

“Wait here,” Malfoy motioned to them. “I’ll go and get it - my father’s just sent it to me -”

Shirou and Galen settled themselves in as Malfoy headed for the stairs, and rose on hearing a sudden thump. They headed for the stairs themselves, and paused only when Takara whispered, “Piece of cake. Boys dorms are to the left. You’ve got forty minutes, tops.”

Shirou grunted in acknowledgement. It would have to do. Fortunately, Takara’s Stunner would last longer than that, at any rate. Malfoy would be out until someone revived him - hopefully one of them. In the meantime, the boys picked up his body and put him in a bed with a Nimbus 2001 by its side. As Malfoy was the only Quidditch player in his year, it was likely his own - and being seen “asleep” would decrease the likelihood of Snape coming across him and getting suspicious.

Shirou wasn’t a thief, or law enforcement officer - but in his travels over his lifetime, he’d managed to learn a few things about tossing a room. Galen, on the other hand, had years of experience in tracking down missing books, and knowing how to search the most unlikely places. Between the two of them, they tore through the Slytherin dorms level by level, quickly and methodically. And they were always careful to return things to the state they found them in. It meant they couldn’t check everywhere - anything hidden inside a pillow or mattress was going to stay that way - but given that the user should have easy access to the Horcrux (and vice versa), it was unlikely to be so fully hidden.

After half an hour, they’d completed all seven levels of dormitories, and found nothing. They returned to the second-year dorms, to wait for Takara. They really had no choice - Hogwarts’ wards wouldn’t allow boys into the girls’ dorms, and even if they did, no doubt the Slytherin girls had a few nasty surprises of their own waiting for unwanted male visitors.

The Polyjuice Potion wore off, returning them to their smaller forms. Fortunately, they’d had enough warning to move themselves out of Malfoy’s line of sight - Galen wasn’t sure whether somebody stunned was unconscious or simply immobile. If the latter, they wanted to give him no hint that “Crabbe” and “Goyle” were anyone other than that.

Finally, a soft whisper said, “Nothing - if a Slytherin has it, she took it with her.”

“Same here,” Galen murmured, and the cloak reached out to enfold them both.

Takara looked at them questioningly. “Should we interrogate Malfoy?”

“Not much point,” Galen said. “He didn’t know anything the first time around - Riddle never went to Slytherin for help, and the diary isn’t something he’d feel the need to hide here.” Galen frowned. “The article he wanted to show us, though, was interesting. Apparently Malfoy Senior is making some rumblings over Dumbledore’s fitness, given the attacks at Hogwarts. Nobody’s paying a lot of attention, yet - but if we don’t wind this up soon, Dumbledore could be removed as Headmaster.”

“You don’t like him,” Shirou pointed out.

“I don’t - but it doesn’t mean I’d prefer Snape, Malfoy, or another Death Eater in the job.” Galen frowned. “The original article was about Arthur Weasley, and the repercussions of the flying car - ” He stopped.

Shirou knew that look by now. “What is it?”

“The Weasleys - something tweaked about the Weasleys . . . But I can’t pin it down.” He growled in frustration.

Now it was Shirou’s turn to frown. That meant Galen had noticed something, or remembered something, but couldn’t dig it out of his subconscious mind. With their Occlumency training, that rarely happened - but when it did, it was always about something important.

“Keep trying,” he advised. Forcing it wouldn’t accomplish anything, but Galen would worry at it, and the odds were good that sometime in the night, he’d recall what was bothering him.

“In the meantime,” Takara inserted smoothly, “walk with me, boys, so we can be on the staircase before Malfoy wakes up.” They moved carefully and quietly - which was much harder in Crabbe and Goyle’s clothes, as they no longer fit properly - and at the dorm entrance, Takara pointed her wand and whispered, “Rennervate.”

They were down the stairs and through the portrait hole before Malfoy was fully aware of what was going on.

“So what now?” Shirou asked.

Galen shrugged. “We should get out of these clothes, and probably check on Hermione.”

“Yeah,” Takara agreed. “I want to know what I forgot about.”

Takara was disappointed, at first, as Hermione was still locked up in her cubicle. She began with, “Hermione, you might as well come out - “

”Go away!” came the squeaking response.

“Sweetie, the invisibility cloak’s out here, and I’m not slipping it under the door,” Galen informed her, causing Takara and Shirou to stare at him. Noticing the scrutiny, he glanced back and demanded, “What?”

“‘Sweetie?'” Takara and Shirou chorused.

“It’s just an expression to me, and you know it,” he snapped, but anything else was cut off by Moaning Myrtle shooting from the stall door to pounce on his face. Although initially startled, Galen responded quickly to the assault, and it was almost a full minute before Myrtle disengaged.

“I almost felt that,” she said dreamily. Then she giggled. “Oooooooh, wait til you see - it’s awful!”

“It’s not that bad,” Galen muttered. The tip of his nose was glowing like a cherry, and his lips were nearly blue. Still, he showed no other sign that the unearthly cold of Myrtle’s touch bothered him. Takara marvelled anew at his gift for acceptance - but then again, why should she be surprised? Her heritage had never bothered him, either, for all the grief it had caused her growing up.

The stall door slammed open abruptly, with a snarl of “Not that bad?!”

Takara winced. Hermione’s face was catlike - her lips were gone, and her nose nearly so. She was covered in black fur, her eyes were a gleaming yellow with slitted pupils. Sharp teeth were visible in her muzzle as the ears atop her head twitched and her new tail lashed in annoyance. She wasn’t even a nekomusume - the traditional Japanese catgirl. Her appearance was too animalistic for that. Beyond the voice and clothes, Takara would never have recognised her as Hermione.

“Oops,” Takara said, feeling her cheeks heat up. “Sorry, Hermione - I really should have remembered about this.”

“I can’t fathom how you’d forget!” Hermione wailed.

“You’ll be teased something dreadful,” Myrtle said smugly.

“Do you really want to see someone else picked on, Myrtle - the way you were?” Galen asked. His tone was gentle, but chiding, and Myrtle pouted.

Takara shook her head. She’d admit, she liked this Galen. Warm, caring, open to everybody - it was the one her childhood memories recalled, with a touch of maturity added. She didn’t have too big a problem reconciling it with the casual killer persona he employed - it wasn’t as though she didn’t have the same problem to deal with - but the suicidal one was harder to handle. If she could figure out a way to get rid of it . . . Well, he wasn’t going to be nearly so skin-and-bones as an adult, with the diet and exercise he was getting now. He could be quite fanciable . . .

Takara stopped her thoughts right there. That was years away, and she didn’t want to or have to deal with it right now. Galen came with a lot of baggage as a potential boyfriend - too much to make it worth considering. That was just the simple fact of things, no matter what other people thought.

She was startled to realise Galen had moved, and was now carefully scratching Hermione’s cat ears.

“It’s fixable, Hermione,” he murmured quietly. “Madam Pomfrey won’t ask, and she can undo it. With the cloak, no one even has to see you enter the Hospital Wing - and she’ll put up the screens, if you want. It will be all right.”

“Mmm,” Hermione responded, eyes closed. The moan deepened, and Takara was startled to realise that the girl was purring.

Shirou whispered to her, “She’s got kitty eyes now, too - looks like you have competition.”

Takara glared at him.

He shrugged. “I’m just saying.” Shirou raised his voice. “If we’re going to get her under the cloak, you’ll have to stop petting her, Galen.”

Galen snatched his hand back as if burned, and Hermione made a disappointed mew that had her own hands clapping over her mouth in obvious mortification.

“Sorry,” Galen apologised in a rough voice. “It’s just . . . It’s been a long time since any animal, much less a cat, would let me pet it.”

Takara winced at the obvious longing in his tone.

“Maybe Crookshanks . . .?” Hermione offered.

“Crookshanks is just smart enough to understand why he doesn’t like me,” Galen replied, “and I think it has less to do with my lycanthropy than the fact that I am constantly in his territory - the presence of his mistress.” He smirked faintly. “Anyways, you’re out, so here’s the cloak.” He handed over the mass of silvery fabric. “We’ll help check you in.”

When term resumed, the rumours flew fast and furious upon the student body’s learning of Hermione’s hospitalisation. Takara had to admit, it seemed suspicious - she supposedly wasn’t Petrified, but wouldn’t let anybody see her. Still, she handed in her homework in her own handwriting, even if one of her friends had to deliver it, so the professors never complained.

Takara did, a little. With Hermione out of commission, Galen seemed to decide it was her responsibility to tend to Crookshanks - and while she admitted it needed to be done, his near-fanaticism made it more of a chore than it really had to be. It was like Wood-taichou and Quidditch, except it wasn’t as though the cat would like him more for making sure she did it. And Hermione was already obviously crushing, so what was the point?

Still, it managed to keep her mind occupied to the point where seeing her mother at the head of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom on Thursday nearly gave her a heart attack.

“Good afternoon,” her mother said. “For those of you who don’t recall my introduction, my name is Ciel Aozaki. I work as a combat instructor for the International Confederation of Wizards’ Security Division - equivalent to the British Auror department, on a global scale. My rank, in British terms, is that of a Senior Master Auror. I’m expected to teach Dark wizard hunters how to survive against the nastiest perils the magical world can devise. My job is actually to teach them how to win, but at the very least, they’ll survive. I have been engaged in the same line of work, in one aspect or another, since I was sixteen years old - and for those of you keeping count, that’s almost twenty years on the job.”

She gave the entire class a hard look, continuing, “Therefore, when I tell you I know something - believe that I do. When I tell you to do something - do it. And when I tell you to pay attention, because the information I’m about to give you may one day save your life, understand that I am telling you the literal truth.”

Her mother paused to let that sink in.

“You may refer to me as ‘Professor Aozaki,’ ‘Auror Aozaki . . .’” She paused, smiling thinly. “Or for those of you so inclined, ‘Aozaki-sensei. Now, I’ve read over the class work of the last term, compared it to previous curricula for Defence Against the Dark Arts, and I will begin by telling you what I will not be doing. I will not be giving quizzes on the habits and purported exploits of Gilderoy Lockhart. In fact, if I refer to his books at all, it will be regarding the nature and actions of the Dark creatures mentioned therein, as they are supposed to be the focus of this class.

“I will not be teaching you how to duel. That is the purpose of the Duelling Club, and while those of you who attend have seen firsthand the results of my teaching methods” - here she nodded at Takara, who blushed and resisted the urge to sink under her desk - “I only plan to be here for a single term, and don’t have the time to put into developing your talents to that level.

“I will be teaching you about the Dark creatures and spells that a second-year student is expected to know about. It won’t be easy - you’ve basically wasted half the year with Lockhart - “

”We have not!” Lavender Brown shouted.

Takara winced as her mother’s eyes narrowed and chilled, becoming slits of blue ice.

“That will be five points from Gryffindor for interrupting me, Miss Brown,” was the frosty reply. “We’ll add detention tonight, as well - you and I can spend the time discussing this in detail.”

Takara said a silent prayer for Lavender’s soul. She’d never liked the girl much - too much of a flighty, gossipy type - but anyone that close to invoking the Wrath of Mother (second only to the Wrath of God, and only just) deserved some sympathy.

Her mother cleared her throat, and resumed, “However, as I regard this as a Defence class, first and foremost, I will also teach you some basic survival skills, usable not only against Dark creatures and magic, but mundanes as well - or as you call them, ‘Muggles.’” Her distaste for the last word was visible.

“What’s the big deal about Muggles?” Ron Weasley asked, in a tone that made Takara wince again. He was practically begging to be given one of Mother’s “object lessons.”

“It’s not like they can hex us,” Weasley continued.

The answering smile had Galen, Takara, Shirou and Neville all wincing - they’d seen it before, and it never meant anything good.

“I’m so glad you asked, Mr. Weasley,” her mother said brightly, drawing her wand and conjuring a dummy of human shape and size. “Let’s assume that this is the average witch or wizard, shall we? Proficient in magic, carrying a wand, and capable of any number of things a mundane person can’t possibly manage to do.”

She moved to her desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out a pistol. “This is a gun - a standard weapon for many mundanes in this world. Unlike many of them, this gun is designed and intended for personal defence - it is not considered a weapon of war, or anything like what an Auror would use. At best, it’s equivalent to the sort of spell repertoire one might find in a second- or third-year student, much like yourselves - potentially dangerous if properly employed, but nothing truly spectacular, and very commonplace. Everyone with me so far?”

At the series of nods, she said, “Mr. Salvatore, will you come down here, please?”

Galen did so, and she handed him the gun. He glanced down at it, did the standard safety checks, and suddenly protested, “A .22? Seriously?”

“Yes. Can you still use it?”

Galen snorted. “Please - but if this is supposed to be an object lesson, why not a bigger calibre?”

Her mother smiled, and he finally shrugged. “When you’re ready, Aozaki-sensei.”

She waved her wand over the weapon. “I’ve just dampened the sound, because it’s quite loud when employed. Now, when I cast my spell . . .” Galen nodded, and turned to face the dummy.

“Protego!” her mother cried.

Galen fired two shots into the silver flash of the Shield Charm.

Another wave of the wand levitated the dummy and sent it floating around the room for all the students to see.

“As you can see,” her mother lectured, “any witch or wizard facing one of these weapons would now have two lead slugs lodged in their brain. The Shield Charm, powerful as it is, didn’t stop the shots in the slightest. No known Shield Charm can - and this is among the weakest, least damaging of the guns available to most mundanes, generally used only by people who are either too physically frail to handle the power of the stronger ones - or someone who is confident enough in their shooting skills to trade power for accuracy.”

She took the gun from Galen, who had popped the clip already, and handed him a second, larger gun.

“This, as you can see, is a much bigger weapon, and it does considerably more damage. Once again, it is not considered a true weapon of war, and can be purchased for use by any mundane with sufficient money or credentials.”

Galen checked the .38, hefted it - and as before, punched a pair of holes in the dummy’s skull, despite the Shield Charm. As before, he popped the clip when finished, and handed it back - and her mother handed him a gun of the type she’d seen him use before.

“This is the kind of gun used by mundane Aurors,” she said firmly. “Once again, its primary purpose is personal defence, not warfare. However, its ammunition is designed to punch through stone and steel barriers in order to reach its target. In that respect, it is more terrible than the Killing Curse, which can be blocked by the same.”

The shots, this time, took the dummy’s head off completely, reducing it to scattered fragments.

“These are the least of the weapons mundane people arm themselves with,” her mother said sharply, “and they are terribly common. The weapons they design to wage war among themselves with are far more horrible - capable of spewing out hundreds of these killing rounds in seconds to eliminate crowds, or making accurate hits from a mile away. And that doesn’t include the machines they build weapons into, which can be even more devastating. The mundane equivalent of an Unforgivable Curse can turn a city the size of London into a toxic crater within heartbeats, killing everyone within it and possibly thousands more from the aftereffects of its use.”

She fixed them with a steely glare. “Never think that because mundanes are ignorant of our world, they aren’t potentially dangerous. We hide our world from them for good reason. They have spent thousands of years working out more efficient ways to kill each other - and where there are thousands of us in Britain, there are tens of millions of them here. If they knew of us, and if they decided to, they could wipe us all out within weeks.”

She let the class sit in shocked silence for several minutes.

“This ‘Heir of Slytherin’ thinks wiping out mundane-born witches and wizards is a desirable thing, because so-called ‘pure-bloods’ are superior.” She shook her head. “Let me be quite clear: if he or she continues in these attacks, if the mundanes are given a reason to attack our world - and lest we forget, the Heir is trying to kill their children - the only things pure-bloods will proven be superior in, is their capacity for dying. At least, for as long as the magical world remains alive to remember it.”

“Your mother knows how to deliver a lecture,” Shirou remarked as they left the classroom.

Takara nodded.

Neville looked at his friends. “She was serious, wasn’t she?”

“Oh yes,” Galen answered. “Those ‘mundane Unforgivables’ she was talking about? They’ve been around for the last fifty years, almost - and every civilised nation considers their use Unforgivable, because it could potentially wipe out every living thing on Earth.”

Neville paled. “But - they don’t seem that bad.”

“They’re not - most of them,” Takara assured him. “They’re just people, like us. But all people have good and bad elements, and the bad mundanes, like Dark witches and wizards, are capable of terrible things.”

“And as fascinating as this discussion is,” Galen announced, “I need to head to the Hospital Wing.”

“Can’t wait to see Hermione?” Shirou quipped.

“More a case of my forgetting what a bitch the recoil is on those pistols when you’re just thirteen,” Galen muttered. “I think I sprained my wrists.”

March 25th, 2011, 08:16 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 19 - Overlooking the Obvious

February 7 - 13, 1993

“Well, that was certainly interesting,” Luna said brightly. “It did look rather painful, though. Does it hurt you as much to do that?”

“No,” Hermione said in a whisper. “And try to speak quietly, Luna. His hearing’s sensitive at the best of times, but today it’s going to be intolerable - or nearly nonexistent. It fluctuates.”

“S’fine,” Galen slurred, shaking off yet another full moon. “Jus’ don’ scream . . . S’fine.”

He tried not to lean too hard against Neville or Hermione as they held him up, tried to focus on maintaining his balance and walking. As tempting as it was to just collapse in the corridor, he really wanted to reach his bed first. The two younger Gryffindors had opted to see what all the fuss was about before taking the Animagus potion, and followed them to this month’s empty classroom of choice to watch his transformation. Galen hadn’t liked it at all, but there wasn’t much he could do about it - he was outnumbered, outvoted, and outgunned.

He wasn’t at all sure their reactions were positive, either. Luna seemed curious, still, but Ginny . . . The redhead trailed behind the two older Gryffindors, next to Luna. A flash of reflection in one of the windows showed her eyes as wide with what looked like shock, or fright, and locked onto his back. It wasn’t exactly an encouraging sign.

. . . And looking at her, there it was again. A niggling at the back of his mind, that said you should know this. He knew something, or had seen something, heard something, that was connected with the Weasleys . . . But still, nothing. He was sure it was important - what was it?

It was like looking at a word in a crossword puzzle, a word you knew, with enough letters in its configuration to make it seem familiar, obvious - but missing that key letter that would make it clear. His conscious mind couldn’t recall it, his subconscious mind didn’t seem capable of working it out, but every now and then, it surfaced, that certainty about something which was the key to this.

But he couldn’t figure it out - and he was so tired . . .

“Focus, Galen,” Neville said urgently. “If you drift off now, you’re more deadweight than either of us can carry without changing forms.”

“S’rry,” he mumbled. He tried to concentrate on walking.

“You are quite large,” Luna remarked. “Well, you two, anyway. Will we be like that?”

“No way to know until you change,” Neville said. “That’s what the potion’s for. It unlocks the capability, and from there, you have to practice.”

“Hermione must have practised too much, then,” Luna said blithely.

“I - what?” Hermione sputtered. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, you tend to start changing whenever you’re upset,” Luna said reasonably. “Therefore, it must be too easy for you to do, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to change without really thinking about it.”

Silence. Galen guessed there wasn’t much that could be said about that.

Luna resumed, “I think I’d like to try the potion. Shall we go to the Room after we put Galen to bed?”

A sudden sensation of heat near his arm - Hermione was blushing, he thought.

“Wait until Shirou and Takara are back from Quidditch practice,” Neville advised. “Less trouble that way.”

Luna made an affirmative noise, and Galen realised they were now ascending the steps of Gryffindor Tower. Soon, sleep would be his . . .

Shirou emerged from the Gryffindor changing room in a grim mood. Practice had been fine, as expected - they’d be all set for the game against Ravenclaw next week. But it wasn’t Quidditch he was worried about. Since the December attack, the Heir of Slytherin was laying low. Given the pattern thus far, Shirou had expected a January strike - but the spirit of the diary seemed content to wait . . . And they still had no idea where it was.

On Galen’s advice, they’d waited for Hermione to be released from the Hospital Wing before attempting to search Ravenclaw Tower - and once Shirou had understood how the entrance criteria worked, he agreed wholeheartedly. They’d done so yesterday, Polyjuicing themselves as first-years with a little help from Fred and George, the latter being delighted by the ruckus caused in Slytherin when the case of Dungbombs they’d left under Malfoy’s bed had gone off after the Christmas break. The timer had been charmed to disintegrate on reaching “zero,” so there was no evidence it had been planted in advance - and the twins were in detention with Filch for an hour before when it went off.

In any case, the Ravenclaws didn’t seem to have the diary, either. They’d managed to cut their search time a little using the Pensieve generated by the Room of Requirement, and concentrating on the faces of the people who’d been there on riot day. Ultimately, however, it hadn’t netted them any results.

It was odd that after monthly attacks, January had passed without trouble. Galen had said things went quiet for a while, because Ginny had rid herself of the diary and Harry Potter had acquired it - but they couldn’t count on the same thing here, because she never had it, and Harry died as an infant. That meant, if the Horcrux was lying low, it had a reason. But what?

Shirou’s musings were interrupted by the sound of Neville’s voice, “ - think he’s getting worse? Last year, he could at least stagger to bed or the Hospital Wing without help. Now we practically have to carry him.”

“It’s puberty.” Hermione. “As if the change wasn’t bad enough already, the hormonal and physical shifts that come with being a teenager are rendering him unstable to start with! He’s so out-of-balance that his system doesn’t know how to handle it, and basically crashes. He’ll be practically catatonic after a change in a few more years!”

“Is there anything we can do?” Shirou asked, as the group walked around the corner. “I don’t like the idea of his having set periods where he’s basically helpless.”

Hermione bit her lower lip, as she was wont to do when thinking, worried, or some combination of the two. Finally, she shrugged and said, “I’ll have to look. There must be a potion or a spell somewhere . . .”

“I hope so.” Shirou’s tone was grim.

Takara emerged from the changing room, hair straight and shining as recently washed tresses tend to, before she wrapped a red-and-gold scarf around her head.

“What are we talking about?” she asked.

“Ways to help Galen recover faster from full moons,” Neville said. “Speaking of, Luna’s decided she wants to try the Animagus Potion in our hideaway. Got some spare time?”

“Sure,” the two Quidditch players chorused.

As they headed up to the Room of Requirement, Shirou mused, We can’t predict when the next attack might be, we can’t find the source . . . And if we let this run all the way to its conclusion, we can’t get into the Chamber to stop things.

I’m almost afraid to ask what’s next.

Takara noted the grim scowl on Shirou’s face, and guessed the reason for its presence. She also knew why Galen hadn’t come with them, and made a note to tell him about Luna’s Animagus form later. She was pleased that the blonde had decided to join them, and a little sad Ginny hadn’t done the same, yet. Ginny was naturally athletic, and Takara related to her better than Hermione or Luna. Not to say that both girls weren’t great fun and excellent company, but while they were diligent in their martial arts training, neither of them were really interested in sparring outside of it, or Quidditch. Ginny, on the other hand, liked those things.

Suddenly realising that it wasn’t like Ginny to be so quiet, Takara dropped back to speak to her.

“Are you OK?” she asked softly.

Ginny jumped, startled, then shook her head. “I . . . I just . . .” She took a deep breath. “I thought he’d never stop screaming.”

“The Wolfsbane Potion might let Galen keep his mind when he changes, but it has its drawbacks, too,” Takara commented. “Usually, the beast takes over, and Galen just goes away - but the potion leaves his mind in control. There’s no way for him to avoid the pain.” She took a deep breath of her own. “It’s called a curse for a reason, Ginny - and he’s been living with it since he was four years old.”

Ginny paled. “Four?”

Takara nodded. “Picture yourself at four years old, screaming like that - worse, because you don’t understand what’s happening to you, or why. And living with that pain every month, of every year, for the rest of your life - and praying that when you wake up the next morning, you won’t have killed someone.”

Ginny’s skin tone turned a worrying shade of chartreuse.

“Then picture yourself being glared at by anyone you meet,” Takara said sharply, “or simply ignored. At worst, you’ll be threatened with violence. Picture mothers hauling their children away from you because they don’t want them anywhere near the ‘monster.’ Picture being subjected to government rules that say where you can or can’t go, where you can live, what jobs you can hold - whether or not you’re even allowed to marry.”

As far as Takara knew, those particular laws weren’t in force, yet - but if things followed the pattern they expected, they eventually would be. She continued, “Not that it’ll matter much, because most women would sooner hex you than look at a Dark creature like you. Imagine what it’s like to grow up, knowing that - and never knowing anything else, because you were turned too young to ever remember not being a werewolf.”

The green intensified in hue.

“Galen will throw himself into near-death situations without even thinking - and he does it, in part, because he wants to die. But the other part of him . . .” She paused, and looked at Ginny intently. “The other part of him casts Shield Charms that repel mountain trolls trying to attack little girls, spends ridiculous amounts of money to make people smile, and makes friends with people the world considers strange, or freakish, or just plain wrong - because he thinks they don’t deserve to be lonely.

“Galen is a werewolf, Ginny - and yes, the wolf is a monster. It will kill you if it can, and don’t ever believe otherwise. But he’s a wolf only thirteen nights of the year, and you need to find a way to deal with him for the time left over, because he’s never hurt you - and I won’t let you hurt him.”

“We,” Hermione corrected sharply, causing both girls to jump, as neither of them had heard her approach. The brunette’s expression was all the more fierce for the distinct lack of leonine traits in it. She was looking just as angry as she had in her last few outbursts, but not animalistic at all.

The door to the Room of Requirement opened, allowing them into a room with their customary scarlet chairs, but a great deal of space between them, sufficient to allow the sudden appearance of an elephant, if necessary. The group settled in, and waited for Luna to take her place at “centre stage,” as it were.

“So,” Luna said, “I just drink this?”

“Yes,” Shirou said. “The transformation will happen, last for a few minutes at most, and after that, you’ll have to concentrate and practice to make it happen again. It’s like learning to exercise a muscle you never realised you had.”

“The animal form has some instincts that get passed onto you,” Hermione warned. “Getting control over them can be difficult.” She paused, then added with a blush, “Especially if you like what they’re telling you to do.”

Luna nodded. “In that case, I hope I’m not a Crumple-Horned Snorkack - they like to hide, and no one might ever find me again.”

She removed the phial of potion from a pocket in her robes, popped it open, and drank it down. An expression of disgust crossed her features - which was quickly replaced by an expression of bewilderment.

The tips of Luna’s hair began to darken, spreading like a stain upwards and inwards. At the same time, the hair on the crown of her head seemed to lighten beyond its normal pale blonde. Her fingers curled inward, becoming thick and stubby. And then she began to shrink . . . In a matter of seconds, Luna Lovegood was replaced with a chubby, black-and-white striped creature, which carried with it a rather pungent scent.

“A skunk?” Ginny said in surprise. “I’d have bet on a lot of things, but not a skunk.”

The skunk in question glanced at each of them curiously, before beginning to waddle in Neville’s direction.

“I had a Galleon on her being a platypus,” Shirou muttered.

“Don’t startle her, Neville,” Hermione said carefully. “Skunks aren’t naturally aggressive, so just let her satisfy her curiosity, and we can all escape unharmed.”

Neville froze in fright as Luna sniffed cautiously at his feet, before she managed to hop up onto the armrest of his chair and continue her explorations of him up close . . . And then the potion wore off, leaving Neville with a lap full of warm witch.

Luna smiled disarmingly. “You have a very pleasant scent, Neville. So many flowers and plants . . .”

“I . . . I like working in the g - g - greenhouses,” Neville stammered, swallowing heavily.

“You were working with the mandrakes,” Luna agreed. “I can tell.”

Takara coughed delicately. “Luna, perhaps you should find a chair for yourself.”

Luna nodded agreeably, and got up, to Neville’s obvious relief. Then she paused. “Oh my - it appears someone else was curious.”

Everyone’s confusion was answered with a yip! It was immediately followed by a “Yeow!”

Shirou readjusted his posture to account for the sudden weight of the adolescent red fox which had found her way into his lap.

Takara and Hermione traded glances. Obviously, lessons on mastering their instincts was going to have to be a priority.

The week went by fairly easily, with nothing new developing in regards to the Chamber of Secrets. As of yet, they hadn’t attempted to search the Hufflepuff dorms, because they couldn’t find them. Like the Slytherins, their den was underground, rather than in a tower - and Galen had no idea where that might be.

I can sort of understand the passwords, for security reasons, but why hide the dorms? All this talk of inter-house unity Dumbledore and the teachers spew, and they do everything possible to separate the students. They even throw in the Quidditch and House cups to get the students to compete with one another - and then they’re surprised when the students fight, or turn Dark. Why shouldn’t they? Who is anyone outside their own house, but a rival at best, or an enemy at worst? And that’s assuming that those things aren’t to be found in their own house, as well!

. . . I mean, how many times did Harry have almost all of Gryffindor against him? The people who were supposed to be “like his family” while he was at school?

Ideally, he would’ve liked to say that he was missing the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw Quidditch match out of a protest for its detriment to school unity - but the fact was, he had a paper due that he just had to finish. The full moon the week before had cost him valuable time. Hermione, bless her heart, was helping him hunt down the last of the citations, though it was slower going when she had yet to look him directly in the eye. He wasn’t sure what was bothering her - did she know he knew about the “get well” autographed copy of Magical Me she’d kept under her pillow in the Hospital Wing? He couldn’t think of anything else that might make her as flustered as she seemed . . .

Still, it didn’t seem to hurt her skills at proof-reading, which Galen admitted he needed - he was usually pretty good at avoiding errors, but when rushed, he tended to make mistakes. Their materials were spread out all over the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall.

Though I make fewer with a parchment and quill than I do with a keyboard . . .

“May I sit here?” asked a tentative voice, and Galen glanced up - it was Ginny. He blinked, surprised - she had the whole table to choose from, practically, and she was asking to sit with them?

“Sure,” he said, tilting his head. “You’re not watching the match?”

“I’d like to,” she admitted, “but Professor Aozaki assigned a paper I have to finish if I want to make up for my last test mark - she’s waiting in her office for me to hand it in.”

“Let me know if you need a hand.”

“Galen!” Hermione scolded. “It’s nice that you’re offering to help, but you need to finish your Charms essay!”

He shrugged. “My brain could use a change of topic, and Defence is one of my best subjects. Twenty minutes or so to help her won’t hurt me.”

“I appreciate it,” Ginny said ruefully. “Between Ron’s best friend and Percy’s girlfriend being Petrified, the last thing the Weasley family needs is more bad news.”

“Percy . . . And Penelope Clearwater?” Hermione said incredulously. “I didn’t know they were dating!”

Galen’s head snapped around to look at Hermione so abruptly that there was an audible pop in his neck, matching the snap in his voice as he demanded, “Say that again.”

“I . . . I didn’t know they were dating?” Hermione repeated hesitantly.

His eyes widened, and both girls could see thoughts flying fast and furious behind them.

“Christmas shopping . . .So obvious,” he whispered. Then, louder, “Idiot!”

“What?” Ginny demanded. She looked at Hermione. “What’s he talking about?”

Before she could answer, he left the Great Hall at a run.

Idiot! Galen berated himself. You should’ve had this solved months ago - by Christmas, at least! The clues were all there after the last attack!

You could be wrong, pointed out his inner voice.

How likely is that? Galen fired back. Too damned many coincidences, otherwise. No, this fits too well. It has to be -

A sudden sound (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-G-uiuFSNdY) caught his ears in the empty corridor. It was soft, particularly underneath the sound of his footsteps and breathing, but because it was soft, it was the kind of thing his hearing was attuned to. And it was familiar . . . Occulmency-bolstered recall brought the source immediately to mind - as well as its likely destination.

Oh God, no. We overlooked the obvious again . . .

I can’t do this.

You have to!

I can’t -

Have to -

- Can’t -

You promised! You have to try!

He thundered down the corridors without regard to stealth or safety. Panic bolstered his running speed to the point where he felt dangerously overbalanced with every step. A luck that could reasonably be termed miraculous kept him on his feet. His wand was in hand with a gesture.

Only one chance, if I’m lucky. It won’t be the door - I’m coming through it. Not the window - too high up. Sound was from this wall, which means it has to be coming from - there!

Please, God - let this work. Even if it doesn’t, let me be in time . . .!

He threw his weight against the doors - and combined with his momentum, they were sufficient. A peripheral glance took in the scene, and he responded the way he’d been priming himself to from the moment he’d understood what was going to happen.


Takara skimmed the pitch, carefully avoiding a Bludger as she searched for the Snitch. The twins were good, but Ravenclaw’s Beaters had obviously been training over the last year - that was the second time she’d had to duck one of the iron balls in this game.

Ah, well, she thought. It makes the game more interesting.

A sudden flicker of light to her far left caught her eye - not the yellow glint of a Golden Snitch in flight, but a silver flash, as though a lightning bolt had just struck.

Shield Charm, her mind registered. Hermione-is-about-to-be-squished-by-a-troll, more-accidental-magic-than-actual-spell Shield Charm.

She was in motion before she’d finished the thought, heading for the tower window where she’d seen the light at top speed. She heard the crowd cry out as she left the Quidditch pitch, but paid it no mind, overwhelmed by an entirely new sensation - a cold spot on her right hand, in the precise location of a certain mark.

Takara remembered what it had meant, the last time she’d felt anything through that scar.

Don’t be dead, don’t be dead . . .

She dropped to a lower window at the last second, not wanting to burst into the centre of a potential firefight. Pulling up at the right instant drove her feet-first onto the spiral staircase, where she landed. The broom was her only potential weapon right now - her Quidditch robes had no provision for wands, or even her knife. It would have to do.

“Galen?” she called. “Galen, answer me!”

Don’t be dead, don’t be dead, please don’t be dead.

“Hermione!” she cried - who else would he have been defending?

The answering silence caused the coldness in her hand to wind its way up her arm and around her heart.

Don’t be dead - you can’t be!

Ignoring caution, she raced up the stairs, through doors that had not fully closed - because they were blocked by a leg.

Galen lay deathly still, his expression one of sickened fear, clutching his wand in his hand.

“No,” Takara whispered. Nonononono . . .

How did you tell the difference between dead and Petrified? She couldn’t tell, she didn’t know -

Don’t be dead . . .

Then her eyes travelled upwards, and the ice around her heart abruptly filled her entire being. It numbed her very self with horror, to the point where she didn’t immediately recognise the cry that filled the air as human, much less coming from her own throat . . .


March 25th, 2011, 08:21 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 20 - Parents and Children

February 13, 1993

Under the circumstances, it might be expected to find Takara in the Hospital Wing. Alternatively, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume she was in her bed in Gryffindor Tower, or even the Room of Requirement, had she a particular desire not to be found, or an urge to do violence and a need for something to vent it on. To Shirou’s amazement and dismay, she was in none of these places. He finally spotted her on one of the balconies of the Clock Tower, staring silently at something only she could see.

“Petrified,” he told her, when he finished climbing the stairs. “They’re Petrified, not dead. The Shield Charm couldn’t stop it, but it blunted it enough. When the Mandrakes are ready, they’ll be all right, Takara.”

“He didn’t know that,” she said softly. “He couldn’t have. He gambled, and he was lucky - again.”

“That’s still a good thing, isn’t it?” Shirou asked, surprised. “They’re both still alive.”

“Yes.” Takara was silent. “My mother didn’t have her wand out.”

“It must’ve caught her by surprise - ”

“She’s not as quick as Father, but she’s at least as fast as me,” Takara said sharply. “If Galen had time to draw his wand, then she had more than enough. He must’ve been on his way to her already - and he heard something, or smelled something, and he knew it was coming for her.”

She sounded angry, and Shirou was more than a little confused. “Takara?”

“He has been absolutely terrified of the prospect of facing this thing all year. Maybe since we left Hogwarts last summer - maybe even since we arrived,” she continued sharply. “Berserker, you, Illyria - none of that scared him, dying doesn’t scare him, but this did. A thousand-year old basilisk with a killing gaze, and no real way to stop it - and he went anyway.” She repeated the words Hermione had said to her, months ago. “He knew exactly what he was walking into when he did it - and he still came.”

“And isn’t that a good thing?”

“Don’t you get it?” she snapped. “He didn’t do it because he was trying to die - he did it to save my mother! For me! I owe him - again! If he was just a suicidal coward, I could ignore him - but he keeps doing this, and . . .”

Shirou stared at her, bewildered. “Takara, you’re not making any sense.”

She stared back at him, and finally shouted “Boys!” in frustration, before storming off.

Shirou stared after her, before finally shaking his head. “Women.”

A movement in his peripheral vision caught his eye - two black-clad figures approaching the castle in measured haste. They were accompanied by a third figure, very pale, whose outer edges were tipped with hints of gold.

“Oh good,” Shirou muttered. “Our parents are here.”

Takara was still seething as she made her way to the Hospital Wing. Shirou just didn’t understand! Galen had told her he loved her - and while he might pay a great deal of attention to Hermione, he wasn’t exactly stinting where she was concerned, either. But he was so self-destructive, so angry -

So not Japanese, a corner of her mind whispered.

- That she normally wouldn’t even consider it. But then he’d do things like this - sacrifice himself not in eagerness to end it all, but for her sake. For the sake of her family. He would do it without thinking, without hesitation - and she’d be reminded of what else he was: kind, loyal, and fiercely protective. She saw him so often at his worst, that she was always surprised to be reminded of his best - and when she saw that . . .

Entering the Hospital Wing, she paused just long enough to reach his bedside before completing her thought. People often thought that she and Galen were a couple - that they belonged together. Takara, for her part, disagreed - but in moments like these, she actually found herself wondering . . .

Damn you, she thought at his still form. My lifetime isn’t long enough to repay you for all you’ve given me. You saved my parents, just because I asked you to. You died for me - more than once! Even if I don’t love you, I owe you everything I have now, and will ever have. Worse, as deeply as I am in your debt, you’d give me more if I needed it, or wanted it - and every now and then, I start believing that maybe, just maybe, there’s something in you worth asking for.

You told me I have your love . . . And times like this - actions like these - make me think I might actually want it.

Damn you!

“The first day you brought him home,” her father’s voice said contemplatively, “your mother was very displeased.”

Takara whirled in surprise. “Father?”

Shiki Aozaki gave his only child a sad smile, as Arcueid Brunestud brushed by Takara, examining the prone form on the bed intently. Her long, silvery-blonde hair held unusual shadows as it moved through the light, like a tracery of feathers. Her pale blue eyes seemed unusual, as well - her irises were luminous rings, dancing like gaslight flames. Her long, delicate fingers were hooked into a position reminiscent of talons, and her nails seemed longer, too.

Takara’s brain restarted itself over the shock of their appearance, and caught up to the conversation.

“Mother didn’t like him?” she asked in surprise. “But she never showed any disapproval.”

“You were four,” Shiki said gently. “And you’d never brought a friend home before. You know your mother can be very judgmental when it comes to non- or part-humans - ”

“No joke,” Arcueid muttered.

Shiki continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “- and of all the children in the neighbourhood, her little angel had to bring home the local Dark creature! No, Ciel was not pleased. She was even less pleased when you didn’t drop him in favour of Shirou, once his family had moved in.”

“Why would I?” she asked. “He was my friend! He thought - ” She paused, blushing.

“He thought you had ‘pretty kitty eyes.’” Her father smiled, a little wistfully this time. “I remember, Takara. I was there, too. I hadn’t seen you smile so widely at anybody who wasn’t family before, or anything that wasn’t chocolate. It was then that I decided that Ciel wouldn’t ruin this for you. Your friend would always be welcome in our home, and in time, he proved that you chose well. He was quiet, polite - your mother couldn’t fault his manners, or his upbringing. He wasn’t perfect, but what child is? Eventually, she saw the little boy, not the curse.”

Takara felt a spurt of relief. She vividly remembered crying for days when they’d moved to Japan, and her mother comforting her. The thought that her mother might have been lying to her, might have been pleased to get her away from Galen while pretending otherwise, made her ill.

“You chose even better than we knew,” Shiki said grimly. “Based on the last victims, this - attack - Petrifies only as a fringe effect. It’s meant to kill, and it’s powerful enough to harm ghosts. Galen’s wand is out - ”

“And it cast a Shield Charm,” Arcueid said triumphantly, rising from her examination of said wand. “As before, one of great power - he has harmed himself again.” Her tone turned grim. “It is well that he is Petrified - the chevalier might not have survived long enough to receive care, otherwise.” She shook her head. “That is the wand’s doing, I expect - it desires so, and does not consider trivial things, like the limitations of mortal flesh.”

Takara laughed, a little bitterly. “Sounds like Galen exactly - he never worries about getting hurt or killed, he just throws himself in front of whatever trouble’s there. As long as he can stop it, he doesn’t care what it costs him.”

“A great - or terrible - match, then,” Shiki agreed. “In this case, though, I can hardly complain. My wife is alive because of it, and quite probably, only because of it.” His tone was grave as he looked over to the adjoining bed, where her mother lay, equally still.

He turned back to Takara. “I said before that Galen was always welcome in our home, Takara. With this . . . He’ll never be unwelcome.”

Takara looked at him curiously.

Her father took a deep breath. “The only thing I value enough to repay him for what he’s done is you. These days, you’re too young to consider it - but if this was fifty, or even twenty years ago, I’d be negotiating your dowry with his family right now.”

She stared at her father in astonishment as he continued, “I don’t even like to think about it, Takara - no father does - but if the day comes that you choose to marry, and you decide that it’s him you want . . .” He shook his head. “That’s all you’ll have to say. Whatever else Galen is, or might become, he’s already proven worthy of my trust.”

“. . . You’re telling me I should date him?” She couldn’t quite wrap her head around the idea of marriage yet, so she went with the lesser concept.

“I’m telling you that if you decide to, I won’t object,” Shiki corrected, before smiling slightly. “But I still reserve the right to terrify any other boyfriend you bring home.”

Takara’s jaw didn’t drop, but it was close.

Just when I thought he couldn’t make my head spin any harder, he’s gone and earned the Holy Grail of boyfriends - parental approval! Damn you, Galen!

“This is the fourth attack, counting the cat,” Kiritsugu said grimly. “It’s stricken a highly-respected member of the ICW’s Security Division, and one of your best friends. If there’s anything you know about this, Shirou, the time to say so is now.”

Shirou opened his mouth, and Kiritsugu responded, “Don’t bother trying to evade this, Shirou - you brought it to our attention in the first place! You’re not stupid, and you’ll have kept your eyes and ears open, even if we hadn’t told you to.”

His dark eyes measured Shirou’s face. “Arcueid is furious over this - the closest thing she has to a sister has been attacked, and two of her godchildren are suffering over it. In fact, it seems to be only sheer luck that they’re still alive. Would you rather discuss this with her?”

Shirou winced, childhood memories recalling a few incidents where an enraged Arcueid Brunestud had been in evidence. They had impressed firmly on his young mind the fact that he never wanted that anger directed at him.

“Based on what we’ve heard of the Chamber of Secrets, we think there’s a basilisk in the school,” Shirou said finally. This was a lie - they knew there was, but explaining how they knew would take too long. “It fits the legends of Slytherin - he was supposed to be a Parsel - A Parsel - ”

“Parselmouth,” his father supplied. “If true, then it’s not unreasonable to think that he or his ‘heir’ could control the so-called ‘King of Serpents.’ And a basilisk might be capable of surviving the thousand years between Slytherin’s lifetime and now.” He shrugged at Shirou’s surprised look. “I may deal in Dark wizards as a rule, son, but I’m not unfamiliar with Dark creatures, either.” An ironic smile graced his lips. “Certain circles would argue that I married one, after all.”

Shirou nodded, and Kiritsugu continued, “Still basilisk gazes kill - and all the victims but the first are Petrified. Why?”

“Galen figured it was because no one but the cat got a head-on look at it,” Shirou answered. “There were a lot of reflective surfaces where Thomas was found, and Clearwater probably saw it through Sir Nick, who couldn’t actually be killed again, so . . .”

“And Ciel and Galen?” Kiritsugu pressed.

Shirou almost smiled. “Takara saw the flash of a Shield Charm from her position on the Quidditch pitch.”

He had a moment to savour the rare look of Kiritsugu’s eyebrows threatening to vanish into his hairline.

“Damn,” the older wizard breathed softly. “He was always the quiet one of you three . . .”

Shirou shrugged. “Defences and counters are his thing. I’m mostly attack power - and range. Takara’s speed and evasion. If I hit hard enough, or if she hits soon enough, we can get through or around them. On the other hand, he can fight us until we tire out - and then we’re screwed.”

Kiritsugu regarded his son intently. “Pass your NEWTs, all three of you. If the British Aurors don’t want you, believe me, the ICW will. I’ll train you myself, if I have to - talent like yours is too good not to use, especially when none of you are idiots.”

“Gee, thanks Dad,” Shirou said drily.

“Speaking of idiots,” Kiritsugu said, “we got an interesting reply from the British Ministry when we were on our way here. Does the name Rubeus Hagrid mean anything to you?”

“He’s the groundskeeper,” Shirou said immediately. “A big guy - a nice one, too, if not too bright. Galen likes him, goes to talk to him every now and then. Why?”

“We received personal assurances from Minister Fudge that the matter was handled - a suspect implicated in prior attacks was going to be taken in.”

“Hagrid?” Shirou said in disbelief. “Not likely. He might be interested in a basilisk - he likes strange creatures - but if he’s a Parselmouth, I’m a Kabuki stagehand.”

“Unfortunately, we’ve got no evidence to prove that it is a basilisk,” Kiritsugu said. “But at least it gives us a line of questioning to start with. Let’s see if we can catch them before they give Mr. Hagrid over to the Dementors.”

Shirou heard a familiar, oily and distinctly unwelcome voice as they approached Hagrid’s hut.

“The appointment - or suspension - of the Headmaster is a matter for the governors, Fudge. And as Dumbledore has failed to stop these attacks . . .”

“Now look, Lucius,” said an unfamiliar voice, “if Dumbledore can’t stop them - I mean to say, who can?”

“That remains to be seen,” Lucius Malfoy said, and only a fool could fail to hear the undercurrent of malicious pleasure in his voice.

“But we shall certainly give it every effort,” Kiritsugu said in a full voice, causing the four men in Hagrid’s hut to whirl in astonishment. “Mr. Rubeus Hagrid?”

“Yeah?” asked the big man in some confusion.

“Excellent,” Kiritsugu said. “Rubeus Hagrid, you are hereby bound by law for the purpose of questioning in the matter of an attack on ICW Security Division personnel. You are allowed to retain a barrister in defence of your legal rights, and one may be appointed at your request if you unable to secure one. Any action, vocal or physical, may be taken as evidence in or against your favour. Do you understand these rights as I have declared them to you?”

“Er - I thought the Minister was arresting me?” Hagrid said, confused.

“No,” Kiritsugu said firmly. “As the latest attack involves Security Division personnel, this incident is now a matter for investigation under the Security Division’s mandate.” He glanced at the man in the bowler hat - whom Shirou took to be Cornelius Fudge. “Though on behalf of the ICW, I would like to thank the British Ministry for its assistance in holding Mr. Hagrid until he could be properly transferred to our custody.”

Minister Fudge sputtered. “Now, see here - I’m the Minister, and he’s a British citizen, attacking British subjects! The ICW has no authority here!”

“Alas, Cornelius, I’m afraid they do,” Dumbledore interrupted - though his twinkling eyes belied his choice of words. “Madam Aozaki is a highly-ranked member of the Security Division - and although her presence at Hogwarts was originally meant to be covered by her vacation leave, I found it necessary for paperwork purposes to have her assigned here as a detached duty. She was therefore not only a member in good standing of her department, but on active assignment when she was attacked. If you’ll review the mandate of the Security Division, Cornelius, you’ll find that places investigating the attacks at Hogwarts squarely under their auspices.”

Minister Fudge was turning all sorts of interesting colours. Shirou spent time mentally brushing up on his English by trying to remember the appropriate words for all the shades.

“Of course, under that mandate, Hagrid will be tried under the judicial system of Madam Aozaki’s home country,” Dumbledore remarked.

“If there’s enough evidence to charge him, yes,” Kiritsugu agreed. “The same applies to anyone implicated by our investigation. They’ll be tried under Japanese law, in accordance with Ciel Aozaki’s primary citizenship.”

Shirou was watching Malfoy, and thus noticed when his already-pale complexion turned slightly pasty.

Gosh - a system you won’t be able to influence through the old pure-blood boys’ network, hates foreigners about as much as you do mundane-borns, and still executes offenders. Better start praying that you’ve covered your tracks, Lucy.

It took all his Occlumency training to resist the urge to smirk, or show any emotion on his face.

“Come along, Mr. Hagrid,” Kiritsugu said. “Thank you for your time, gentlemen. Come along, Shirou - you can clear the way ahead of me, please.”

The two British wizards looked disgruntled as the Japanese wizard led Hagrid away, but Dumbledore had a subtly satisfied look on his face. Shirou caught the ringing echo of Dumbledore’s voice as he, Kiritsugu and Hagrid climbed the hill.

“If the governors want my removal, Lucius, I shall of course step aside. However, you will find that I have only truly left this school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

I’ll have to ask Takara what the hell he’s talking about.

“Fawkes,” Takara answered as they walked along the corridors, heading for supper, as strange as it seemed after a day like this one - a familiar routine, in spite of all that had happened.

“What’s a fox have to do with anything?” Shirou asked in confusion.

“It’s the name of his phoenix. It can be called to those loyal to Dumbledore, and it helped Harry.”

“So to us, it’s pretty much useless advice?”

“Yes,” Takara said.

“So, how will we fight the basilisk?” Shirou asked. “Any ideas?”

“I’m going to nail its hide to my wall,” Takara said softly.

“Galen said” - she stiffened at his name - “that it was something like sixty feet long. I don’t think either of us has a wall that big.”

Takara’s voice was a pitch-perfect match for her Nanaya mode. “I’ll build one.”

The basilisk had taken her mother. It had taken her friend - and however confusing her feelings towards him, he was her friend. The basilisk was dead, no matter what she had to do to kill it.

“Speaking of useless advice,” Shirou said carefully, “did you, Hermione and Luna ever figure out what he was talking about - before?”

Takara winced at the memory. Hermione had joined her vigil in the Hospital Wing. She’d looked at Galen, reached out to give his fingers a tentative touch, and promptly burst into tears.

“It doesn’t feel like him,” she’d said, once Takara had filtered out the sobbing. “It feels like a department store mannequin. Galen’s fingers are warm, soft - he used the pads of them when he was scratching my ears, not his nails.” She blushed. “It felt - nice.”

“Is that why you haven’t looked him in the eye all week?”

Hermione’s voice was very small, and her face very bright. “I . . . I wanted . . .” She had taken a deep breath, and proceeded to compress an entire sentence into a single word. “Iwantedhimtorunhisfingersthroughmyhair.”

Takara had kept her face carefully neutral, while inwardly reminding herself of the fact that, even if she was interested in Galen, there was competition. Hermione’s crush from last year, far from fading (especially given some of the revelations this year, and contrary to Galen’s opinion), had appeared to grow more intense. Or at least, her feline forms had no problem expressing it physically. As for the human version of Hermione - she was still young, but she was obviously coming into her hormones, if she was beginning to fantasise.

“I wanted to see . . .” Hermione had explained hesitantly, “. . . I wanted to see if it was the fur that made it feel so good - or him.”

“He does have a gentle touch,” Takara had admitted quietly. “Warm hands, too.”

Hermione had looked at her.

“He traced my jawline, once,” Takara admitted. “Just before he said goodbye, and went to fight the last fight in that ritual.”

“I’ll keep my promise to you, because I said I would - and because I love you.”

Would she never escape those words?

Takara had shaken her head, and met Hermione’s eyes. “Did he say anything before he ran off? Do anything?”

“When I said I was surprised to hear that Percy had a girlfriend, he said, ‘Christmas shopping . . . So obvious,’” Hermione had recited. “Then he got mad at himself, like he was about the Room.”

“That’s the only clue? Christmas shopping?” Shirou exclaimed. He sighed. “Damn it, why couldn’t he have said something to Hermione before he bolted?”

“He was on his way to Mother - he would’ve told her,” Takara murmured. “Just his luck, the basilisk chose to attack then.”

Shirou had obviously picked up some habits from Galen, because he suddenly went still in the same way the older wizard did when something important occurred to him. Takara glanced at him curiously.

“Luck,” Shirou repeated sharply. “Christmas shopping and luck. Your mother wasn’t here for the attack on Clearwater because she was out picking up gifts in Hogsmeade. Bad luck, we assumed - but if it wasn’t?”

“The attack was timed, because whoever has the diary knew Mother was out of the castle?”

“And that has to be a short list of people,” Shirou agreed. “I can’t see telling anyone but the staff, really.”

“So we’re back to Lockhart?” Takara questioned. “None of the other teachers were in the bookstore, or outside in Diagon Alley - they couldn’t have picked up the book.”

“Maybe,” Shirou said thoughtfully. “I can’t see how that wouldn’t have occurred to your mother already, though. Galen must have picked up on something else . . .”

He began thinking out loud. “You’re after mundane-borns, and Dumbledore hires one as a Defence teacher - an ideal target, if you want to cause panic. After all, if even a qualified expert can’t protect herself . . . Aozaki-san had a target painted on her the moment she got here. But she’s not just another schoolkid, she’s an Auror, and a highly-respected one. So you tread carefully, stage an attack she can’t stop, just to see what she’ll do, measure her responses. Then you wait a while, until she drops her guard . . .”

“And it would’ve worked, if Galen hadn’t gotten there in time,” Takara said grimly.

Shirou nodded. “It’s clever - multiple reasons for the last two attacks. So what about the first one? Not the cat, I could buy that being coincidence, but Thomas? What did getting Thomas give this guy?”

“Aside from panic, not much,” Takara mused. “I mean, Dean’s a nice guy, most people like him, but he doesn’t really register much, aside from being Weasley’s only - ” Her eyes widened.

“What?” Shirou demanded.

“Malfoy - he gave Ginny the diary to discredit her father when she was caught,” Takara said. “Because he’d been getting close to catching Malfoy out. There might’ve been something about a new legal initiative, too - I think Galen mentioned that, but I don’t remember it being part of the movie.”

“All right . . .”

“Creevey was Ginny’s classmate,” Takara said, “and all the other victims were connected to Harry, because Riddle hated him . . . But Dumbledore killed him in this reality.”

“So he’d be looking to discredit Dumbledore - your mother really was the perfect victim. But, if we assume the Weasleys are secondary targets, then hitting Thomas makes sense. But why Clearwater? Other than her being a Prefect, which ties into Dumbledore - ”

“She was Percy’s girlfriend,” Takara pointed out.

“But how did Riddle know that?” Shirou asked. “Even his brothers didn’t know, until she was attacked . . . Oh, damn it.”


“Percy. Weasley sent Thomas out to distract him on his rounds when they raided the kitchen - never saw him, my ass! And it’s his girlfriend who was attacked - ”

“And if Mother was going to be unavailable for consultation, she might tell the prefects,” Takara finished.

“No wonder Galen was ticked,” Shirou muttered. “We’ve been looking at this all wrong from the beginning. Luck had nothing to do with anything that’s happened - it’s always boiled down to Weasleys and timing.”

Shirou’s temper flared briefly. They could have stopped this months ago, if they’d only realised that Ciel’s absence during Clearwater’s attack hadn’t been coincidence. Ciel and Galen wouldn’t be lying in those hospital beds . . .

“I’m going to skin him alive,” Shirou growled.

“You can use my knife,” Takara muttered, as they made a turn towards the hallway leading to the Great Hall.

Suddenly, Professor McGonagall’s voice erupted from the air, echoing through the corridors.

“All students to return to their house dormitories at once. All teachers return to the staff room. Immediately, please.”

Shirou stopped. “What on earth - ? Another attack?”

Takara’s face was pale. “Shirou . . . When this happened before . . .” She swallowed.

“Ginny was in the Chamber of Secrets.”

March 25th, 2011, 08:25 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 21 - Into the Chamber

February 13, 1993

“It’s too soon!” Takara hissed to Shirou in Japanese as they joined their group of friends in as isolated a corner of the Gryffindor common-room as they could find. They had to resort to that language - there were portraits in the room, and too many people to overhear. Fortunately, Neville and Hermione were reasonably fluent by now (Hermione, in particular, had as much a flair for languages as anything else), as long as Takara and Shirou spoke slowly. The only people who wouldn’t be able to follow their conversation were Luna and -

“Where’s Ginny?” she asked suddenly.

That much Luna could translate, because she answered, “She went to see Percy for some help with her Defence paper.” She peered around the common-room. “I don’t see him, either.”

The two dimensionally-displaced students traded eloquent glances.

“Galen said this wasn’t supposed to happen until May!” Takara snapped.

“Galen didn’t count on the ICW getting involved,” Shirou pointed out. “Once they’re done questioning Hagrid, your father and mine will tear this castle apart trying to find the basilisk and the guy controlling it - literally, if they have to. That could be a matter of hours from now, or even less, and Dumbledore’s gone - if the Horcrux is looking to regenerate itself a body, it won’t get a better opportunity.”

“Why take Ginny, though?”

“She saw something, and there was no time to silence her any other way,” Shirou said, as though reciting from a list. “To increase panic, to regenerate faster by draining two people, to hurt the Weasleys - hell, it could be even simpler than that. The damned basilisk needs to eat, doesn’t it?”

Takara fought down a roiling nausea.

“Takara, your hair is dancing,” Hermione pointed out. “And there’s no breeze. You need to - ”

”Calm down?” she snapped. “Ginny is missing, and liable to be killed. It could be hours before the ICW arrives, or the governors’ board finishes reinstating Dumbledore, so nobody with authority or power is likely to show up in time to help. Even if someone does, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll ever find, much less breach the Chamber of Secrets. The bastard who went after my family is going to get away with this because no one will get here in time, and we can’t go after him, because speaking Parseltongue is a such a rare ability that nobody in Britain outside of Riddle seems to have it!”

“Could we fake it, somehow?” Shirou asked.

“They did in the movies,” Takara admitted. “Ron managed it, based on what he’d heard Harry use - but when he demonstrated it to Harry after explaining how he’d done it, he proved that it shouldn’t have worked.”

“What do you mean?”

“Harry hears Parseltongue as English,” Takara explained. “They’ve made a point of emphasising that. Even in the second-last movie, there was a conversation held in Parseltongue that Harry didn’t react to it as anything unusual - but it was deliberately held out of Hermione’s hearing.”

“Because I would’ve heard it as a different language,” Hermione agreed, and then she stopped abruptly. “Wait - movies?”

“The life and times of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived,” Takara said with a shrug. “It’s a famous story - did you think they wouldn’t immortalise it?”

Neville stared at them all in confusion. “What are you talking about? What does Harry Potter have to do with anything?”

“It’s a long story that we don’t have time for now, Neville,” Shirou said firmly. “We’ll explain later, when the crisis is over.”

“It has to do with why they’re acting so young, when they’re so very, very old,” Luna said gently.

Shirou and Takara looked at her sharply, but she just gave them a soft smile.

“Anyways,” Shirou said, “the reason imitating Parseltongue doesn’t work?”

“Because when Ron demonstrated how he’d supposedly done it, to open the Chamber, Harry heard a hissing noise, not the word ‘Open.’”

“Which he should have, if it had worked,” Shirou realised.

“Although, only Ron would think you could imitate an inborn magical ability,” Hermione scoffed. “I can use Compulsion and Confundus Charms on men, and even dye my hair silvery, but that doesn’t make me a Veela.”

No, it doesn’t, Takara agreed, having grown up with one.

Shirou sighed. “So what do we do?”

Luna considered. “Are Parselmouths common in your home country?”

Takara and Shirou exchanged glances.

“Not that I know of,” Takara said. “I’ve never heard of the Aozaki or Nanaya clans having the ability, at least.” Mother said that vampire she hunted did, I think - but he was European, wasn’t he?

“Nor the Einzbern or Emiya families,” Shirou agreed. He hesitated, as a sudden thought occurred to him. “Although . . . I don’t know about my relatives.”

Takara blinked for a moment, before she remembered. “That’s right - you’re adopted.”

Shirou nodded. “Speaking Parseltongue might be an ability in my bloodline, I suppose. It’s not like I’d know.”

“You wouldn’t know if you could do it?” Hermione asked in surprise.

“Galen hates snakes,” Shirou explained. “Refused to go anywhere near them when we visited the zoo, or the museum. I never got closer to one than rubber toys, because of that. And after we moved, I just never saw one. And it’s not like I would’ve thought of talking to one, anyway. But it’d be a hell of a coincidence if it turns out I can.”

Takara resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Improbable coincidences were a hallmark of this universe, it seemed - and it wouldn’t be the first time the universe worked to make things occur despite their efforts, just the first time it was doing so in a way they desired -

Something Arcueid had said came back to her.

“I think I know a way,” Takara said. “But we need to get to the Hospital Wing.”

“This is your plan?” Shirou hissed in disbelief.

“You’ve said yourself it’s a powerful wand,” Takara said. “We know where the door is, we just can’t open it - but maybe a strong enough Unlocking Charm will.”

“Did you or did you not get Ollivander’s lecture on how you’ll never get the best results with another wizard’s wand when you bought yours?” he demanded, still whispering. “‘The wand chooses the wizard,’ and all that?”

“It’s believed that when a witch or wizard casts a spell through their wand, part of themselves is put into it,” Takara said. “If that’s true, then while this wand might not choose me, there’s no way it wouldn’t know me.”

“Terrific,” Shirou muttered. “That still leaves the problem of actually getting it. Short of breaking his fingers - ”

Takara felt herself flushing, and Shirou stared at her.

“You were planning to break his fingers?!” Hermione gasped in horror.

Her cheeks burned hotter. “It’s not like Galen would feel it right now. He’d understand why we had to do it - and Madam Pomfrey can heal them easily enough . . .” She trailed off.

“He’s Petrified,” Shirou pointed out. “As hard as stone, and on some level, frozen in time. You’ll have to break them off, not just open.”

“Absolutely not!” Hermione snapped, forgetting to whisper.

Madam Pomfrey stepped into the Hospital Wing, and all three Gryffindors froze under the cloak, barely daring to breathe. After a few moments, the nurse left, obviously puzzled, and the trio breathed a silent sigh of relief.

Takara thought furiously in the meantime. They knew Galen’s wand was especially strong, and if Arcueid was right, it might be powerful enough to open the Chamber, if she wanted to badly enough.

But how to get it out of his hand? Even when he wasn’t Petrified, Galen had a grip like a vise - breaking it was far from easy. In terror and combat, he’d have had a death-grip on his wand, and now like this . . .

The wand jutted from his first, thrusting outward and upward like the legendary Sword in the Stone - and just as unreachable.

She reached out to take hold of it, hoping against hope that Galen’s grip wasn’t as solid as it looked - and suddenly recoiled, as soon as she touched it.

“What is it?” Shirou asked.

“It’s - warm,” Takara said in wonder. Movie scenes flashed through her head - Harry’s wand erupting in a Lumos spell without his holding it, so he could find it in the darkened underpass - and the same wand turning to face Voldemort in battle while Harry was barely conscious, because it recognised the Dark Lord’s presence. A wand that didn’t have the awareness of the Elder Wand, but was nonetheless deeply attuned to its owner’s will, and desires . . .

It was once believed that a samurai’s sword was his soul. Is the wizard’s, then, his wand?

“I think . . .” Takara said, before she paused to halt the tremor she heard in her voice. “I think it recognises me. The part of it that’s part of him, at least.” She reached out again, tentatively, and braced herself as she took hold of the wand again.

The wood once again warmed at her touch, and the scar on her hand abruptly pulsed, once, in response. Wild hope, bordering on desperation, flared in her chest, and she put that emotion fully into her voice as she spoke - to the wand, to Galen, to whatever bond might still exist between them, that the mark that she still bore on her hand symbolised.

“Help me,” Takara whispered - and she staggered, nearly fell, as the resistance was suddenly gone, and the wand released itself into her hand. In her surprise, she nearly dropped it - but quick reflexes and force of will maintained her grip.

“His hand didn’t open,” Hermione breathed, her eyes impossibly wide. “It’s still closed tight. How on earth could you have - ?”

“I didn’t - it did,” Takara said tightly. “He did, whether he knows it or not - and now we’ve got a chance. Come on - Ginny’s life is still in danger . . . And we’re running out of time.”

As he and Takara headed for Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, Shirou couldn’t help staring at the wand in her hand. He still couldn’t quite believe that had worked. But she had, and maybe that made all the difference.

Shirou wasn’t a Jewel Mage. He didn’t understand all the complexities that made up parallel realities, how they differed from one another, or what translating something from one reality to a second, quite variable one might be. But she and Galen were obviously still connected, and she’d been a powerful potential magus - sufficient to qualify to become a Grail. And he’d been a spirit of belief, whatever name he used. So perhaps the wand’s response to her wasn’t so surprising.

The wand itself intrigued him, he admitted. Artefacts, particularly weapons, were a core element of him, and always had been. In his original universe, that had manifested as his primary mage talents, culminating in Unlimited Blade Works. Here, he’d developed an interest in wandlore.

The materials used in the wand weren’t common in Britain, and so far as he knew, had never been used in combination before. Lignum vitae, the so-called “wood of life,” was an ironwood, and pretty much the strongest wood known, almost on par with steel in terms of hardness. Associated with holy, purifying properties, it also meant a rigid dedication to order - but the Veela hair that made up its core was temperamental, emotional, and definitely not well-ordered by nature.

It was, he supposed, a good match for Galen. Supremely, often wildly emotional, but dedicated to a series of core principles that were an absolute in his world, and capable of throwing everything he had into them, with surprising passion.

Which might explain why the wand yielded itself to Takara. Protecting her - helping her - was always his purpose, in any incarnation I ever met him in.

They’d returned to Gryffindor Tower to leave Hermione behind - fighting a basilisk in an enclosed space wasn’t something she was ready for yet -

I’m not sure I’m ready, Shirou admitted.

- and they couldn’t guarantee her safety. And so Hermione was entrusted with the truth. If anything happened to them, if they failed, Hermione would tell the ICW Aurors everything.

By then, our secrets won’t matter - we’ll be dead anyway, he thought.

The pair also wore their dragonhide dusters. There was no guarantee that they’d stop the basilisk’s fangs from penetrating, but every little bit helped.

They slipped into Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom with nary a sound, but Myrtle somehow heard them coming anyway, because she emerged from a stall almost immediately.

“Who’s there?” she demanded, the ghost’s voice equal parts fear and annoyance. “If this is someone’s idea of a joke - ”

“It’s us, Myrtle,” Takara said quickly, throwing off the cloak.

“Oh!” Myrtle said, startled. “I haven’t seen an invisibility cloak like that since . . . A long time ago, anyway." Her dark eyes roved over them. “No Galen?”

“He’s been attacked, Myrtle,” Takara said. “He and my mother. They’re both in the Hospital Wing.”

“He’s not dead, is he?” Myrtle asked, a tiny bit of hope in her voice.

“No,” Shirou said, a little shortly.

“Oh,” Myrtle said. “That’s good, I suppose. But why are you here?”

“Because the thing that attacked them is the thing that killed you,” Shirou answered.

Myrtle let out a sudden shriek, sailed up over the bathroom stalls, and dove into a toilet with a splash.

“Subtle,” Takara said dryly.

Shirou shrugged. “We’re on a tight schedule, remember? I’ll apologise later, if there is a later - and I’m sure Galen will try to soothe her feelings, once he’s up and around again.”

The Japanese witch’s lips quirked, as though she was trying not to smile. Her eyes began darting around the bathroom, searchingly.

“That one,” she said at last. Taking a deep breath, closing her eyes, and visibly centring herself, Shirou watched as she raised the wand as if it was a bokken, clasped in a two-handed grip.

She stood there for a silent moment, and the entire world seemed to still itself, waiting. Suddenly, her eyes snapped open, and she brought the wand down like an executioner’s sword, crying at the top of her lungs.


This wasn’t the first time Shirou had seen the spell performed - Hermione had used it a couple of times last year, when they gone after the Philosopher’s Stone. When she cast it, there was a brief surge of light which centred on the lock it targeted, and a crackling noise as it was undone. Hardly worth noticing, really.

Therefore, seeing what amounted to a lightning bolt blast the sink in question understandably shocked him more than a little - especially when, after crackling around the target for a couple of seconds, it exploded the sink out of the way, revealing a human-sized pipe in the floor. Fortunately, those few seconds had given Shirou time to get his wand out and cast a Shield Charm to deflect the debris of the sink.

“I guess that wand likes you about as much as it does Galen,” he remarked. “None of you does anything by halves, do you?”

Hearing only heavy, ragged breathing in response, Shirou whirled to see Takara collapsed on the floor, leaning against a stall door.

“Overdid it . . .” she rasped. “Wand - really drains you . . . When it wants something.”

Shirou smirked, but he knew it wouldn’t reach his eyes. “Hey, at least half of that’s you - and hey, you just cracked a bloodline protection that’s been pretty much unbreakable for a thousand years. Not bad - what’re you going to do for an encore?”

Takara was pale, almost gray, as she staggered to her feet. She took several deep breaths before answering.

“Make it to the Hospital Wing under my own power,” she gasped, giving her head a sudden shake. “Sorry, Shirou, that took too much out of me. I won’t be able to help you . . . Take my duster.”

Shirou blinked. “What?”

“It’s as tough as Galen’s, and as light as yours - better protection without slowing you down. You’ll need . . . “ She paused, and took a couple of deep breaths before finishing with, “Every advantage you can get.”

Shirou’s expression turned rueful. “Makes sense - there won’t be much fire in the Chamber, will there?”

Takara didn’t answer, concentrating instead on removing her duster without collapsing back to the floor in the process.

Shirou looked her worriedly. “I need to get you to the Hospital Wing.”

“I can make it . . . I’m just tired,” Takara said wearily. “Ginny, on the . . . She could be dead. You need to hurry.”

Shirou traded dusters with Takara, and was startled as she pressed Galen’s wand into his hand.

It warmed, but sullenly. Shirou could no longer read the histories of weapons or objects with his touch, but a remnant of that talent, combined with his knowledge of wands in general and Galen in particular, made him understand what that meant. It didn’t fully trust him. He and Galen been allies in the past, and were even friends now, but they’d tried to kill each other, too, and Galen wouldn’t have forgotten that. The wand would serve him if he truly needed it to - it wouldn’t abandon Galen’s friends any more than Galen would, and the core had come from his mother - but in the end, not nearly so willingly or well as it did Takara, much less Galen.

Shirou spared a fleeting thought for how well it might serve Ilya, or Hermione. As well as it did Takara, worse, or possibly even better?

“I’m better off with mine,” Shirou said. “You may as well take this back to him. It’s done its work.”

She nodded. “Shirou . . . Be careful, if you can’t be safe. And good luck.” She surprised him then - she kissed his cheek.

From the look on Takara’s face as she pulled back, she’d surprised herself by doing that. He stared at her questioningly.

“You’re my friend, too,” she said defensively, not quite meeting his gaze even as her cheeks darkened. “And if this is anything to go by” - she glanced down at the mark that scarred the back of her left hand, and his eyes followed - “I’m connected to you, just as much as I am to Galen. The last time I was in this kind of situation, I didn’t say anything - and I lost him. And I . . . I don’t want to lose you too, Shirou. So please, be careful . . . All right?”

“I’ll be as careful as I can be,” Shirou promised, touched by her sentiment. It reminded him of how different his life was, now - that he had family and friends who cared.

For them, he’d do all he could, not to just accomplish his mission, but to come back alive.

With a last look at his one-time Mistress, Shirou wrapped the cloak around himself, vanishing from her sight - and then sight vanished from him, as he dropped into the pipe, and descended into the darkness.

Until that day, Shirou had never worn the invisibility cloak for any length of time - it had been given to Galen, and while the guy was certainly willing to share its use, they largely left it in his keeping. Almost any time which saw it necessary for Shirou to don it usually had two or three other people under it with him - and at one point, four. As a result, though he was aware that Takara was uncomfortable under it, as it threw off her reactions, he’d never had time to formulate an opinion about it himself.

Following the slide down into the Chamber’s entry tunnel, he was grateful that the cloak’s power repelled things that would make it or its wearer visible - such as, for example, the foul-smelling slime that coated the slide. By the time he hit the ground, he was extremely grateful for that fact. It meant that, with only a few steps, he could be well away from the stench, leaving it only as a memory.

“Lumos,” Shirou murmured. That was another neat property - under the cloak, the lit wand would be invisible, yet it illuminated just as well as it would in the open - though in this case, that wasn’t saying much. The tunnel had apparently been designed with the words “dank” and “gloomy” in mind. An endless stretch of damp gray stone, nearly black in the minimal light provided by his wand. Faint sounds of water were audible, but nothing else. The overall silence was oppressive, especially given the cramped size of the tunnel.

Shirou was well-trained in stealth techniques, and the little noise he might have made was muted altogether by the cloak. He moved unseen and unheard through the environment, a ghost to all intents and purposes. It reminded him, a little uncomfortably, of trailing Rin in spirit form, during the Grail War.

To distract himself from the unpleasant memories, even as his eyes raked the shadows, Shirou asked himself just how stupid Salazar Slytherin had actually been. For starters, would it have killed him to put in stairs? In fact, shouldn’t he have? Shirou had a hard time imagining anyone with an ego like his was reputed to be sliding down a slimy tunnel to get here. And why had there not been a security system triggered when Takara had forced the tunnel open? Was he that confident that no one could find or get into the Chamber?

Probably, he admitted. If the Malfoys are typical Slytherins, lack of confidence is not their flaw. Although I can’t see them climbing up that slide any more than I can seeing them going down it. I wonder how they got out of here? Or myself, for that matter.

He paused on spotting a flash of poison-green scales, but after a moment’s observation, Shirou determined that it was too still to be a living creature.

Only about twenty feet long - I wonder how long ago it was shed?

Walking past it, Shirou eventually reached a wall engraved with stone snakes, their eyes carved of eerily-glittering emeralds.

Another door locked to everyone but Parselmouths, Shirou determined. And from the ways those “eyes” are glowing, I’m betting this one is capable of “dealing” with unwanted intruders.

For a moment, he wished the cloak could grant him intangibility as well as invisibility. He wished he could generate a Broken Phantasm - or just about any normal Noble Phantasm, for that matter. Protected or not, he doubted the door could stand up to Caliburn, even a Traced one.

Unless I can figure out a way past this door, this is a dead end - Ginny’s dead end. Her brother’s, too. And without a certain lignum vitae wand, I don’t think a simple Alohamora is going to cut it.

Shirou pondered for several minutes, before he decided on the only course of action he could probably take.

If this doesn’t work, I’m liable to be killed. If it does, it proves that the universe is either highly unimaginative, or really out to screw me . . . And I’m not sure which possibility I dislike more.

Taking a deep breath, Shirou commanded, “Open up!”

The stone serpents parted from their tangle, withdrawing smoothly. The wall slid aside to let him pass.

His last thought before entering the Chamber of Secrets was, I think I’m going to prefer having been killed.

March 25th, 2011, 08:28 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 22 - The Serpent and the Sword

February 13, 1993

Shirou slipped inside the Chamber quickly and silently, before hiding himself behind a column entwined with snakes. He might be invisible, and virtually inaudible, but the door he’d entered through was not. There was no way for his entrance not to have been heard by anyone else in the Chamber.

Sure enough, within a moment of his concealing himself, a tall, black-haired boy in Hogwarts robes came striding towards the entrance. There was a prefect’s badge on his chest, and Slytherin colours denoted his house affiliation. His overall appearance was blurry, not quite in the manner of a ghost - more like an out-of-focus photograph.

“Who’s there?” the boy demanded in a cold voice. “Show yourself!”

Shirou sat calmly, patiently. It had taken him a long time to learn how, and he still didn’t like it, but he could embrace patience, when he had to. He kept his breathing minimal, where it would be hard to hear even in the acoustics of the Chamber. With the dampening effect of the cloak, it was silent.

The boy raised a wand - Percy’s, Shirou assumed, as it wasn’t Ginny’s - and shouted “Hominem Revello!”

A pulse of magic swept through the Chamber, and for a moment Shirou was truly worried. According to Galen, this was supposed to be a spell the cloak was vulnerable to, in the books - but it apparently had no effect on this version of the Deathly Hallow. More weight for the argument of its being the genuine article.

The boy looked puzzled, but finally relaxed. “I suppose it’s the solitude, my dear - I must have slipped into Parseltongue without realising it. Now, where was I? Ah, yes. I opened the Chamber of Secrets, and the basilisk did its work well. Unfortunately, I think Professor Dumbledore suspected me, despite the fact that I managed to shift the blame onto that oaf, Hagrid. Dumbledore never seemed to like me as much as the other teachers did - he certainly kept an annoyingly close watch on me after Hagrid was expelled. I knew it wouldn’t be safe to open the Chamber again while I was still at school . . .”

Why is every evil person I’ve ever met in love with the sound of their own voice? Shirou wondered. Kotomine, Gilgamesh, Caster - hell, even Shinji bragged. Is it a requirement of being evil, I wonder, or a side-effect?

He slipped out from behind the pillar, keeping one eye and ear on Riddle, even as he surveyed the Chamber. The ceiling (some distance under the lake bed, he guessed) was held up by a series of paired columns, entwined with serpents. The floor was primarily a stone path, with a series of grooves for water to flow on either side, rather like an ancient aqueduct system. At the far end of the Chamber was an enormous carving of a face, presumably Salazar Slytherin’s. The whole design had a very cathedral-like feeling to it - or perhaps more accurately, an ancient Greco-Roman temple. It gave Shirou uncomfortable flashbacks to the fortress Caster had made of Ryudoji.

Still, the design was spacious, allowing him room to move, and the water would help his plan. He and Takara had only worked out vague ideas for dealing with the basilisk - the cloak’s potential shielding effect had been her contribution - and he had an equaliser that, he hoped, would handle its killing gaze - but water would help, too.

Preferably, he wouldn’t fight the basilisk at all - just destroy the Horcrux, and let the damned snake rot in here. But destroying the Horcrux was beyond his capabilities, at the moment, so he’d had to plan for the basilisk’s presence.

Near the sculpture of Slytherin, Shirou could make out the spirit of the Horcrux - becoming decidedly clearer as he watched - and the prone forms of Percy and Ginny. From her open-eyed expression, he suspected Ginny had been hit with a Stunner, or Petrificus Totalus - Percy was flat-out unconscious. Between them and the spirit was the diary.

“And then Percy found me,” the spirit was saying. “Ambitious, status-conscious Percy. He has such desires for his future, you know - such plans. And he studies his history - he recognised my name on the diary straightaway. Prefect, Head Boy, an award for special services to the school - he’d hoped my diary could help him on the path to success. And when he realised that I’d charmed a part of myself into the diary - well, Percy was quite certain of it.

“Your brother is an ideal Slytherin, in many ways - frightfully ambitious, and cunning enough to place himself in Gryffindor, where no one would suspect him of being what he is - cunning worthy of a Slytherin, indeed. He was a very willing student - and very shortly, became my unwilling puppet.”

Shirou walked closer to the diary.

“Of course, young Percy does have his flaws,” the spirit admitted. “He’s not all that imaginative, so he never connected what I was doing with the deaths of the roosters, or the cat - but when the basilisk came so close to harming his baby brother, Percy finally became more worried about the effect I might be having on him. I had to teach him a lesson about who was in charge - and a true wizard wouldn’t associate with a Mudblood in any case. So I took care of both problems at once, in the form of that Ravenclaw.”

“And then Dumbledore - Dumbledore! - hired that Mudblood as a Defence teacher! Of course, Percy had caught me up on recent history - how the greatest wizard of all time had been done in by that meddling old man. How could I resist so tempting a target? A Mudblood with an overblown reputation killed, and Dumbledore’s own reputation in ruins.”

The boy shook his head angrily. “I don’t know how that foolish half-blood anticipated the attack. Percy warned me of him - arrogant, intransigent, disrespectful of authority. I believe something the boy did frightened him, at some point. Whatever the case, Percy really didn’t like him, and was deeply concerned about your physical and moral health when you began spending time with him and his friends. Of course, given Percy’s personality, that indicated to me that the boy might be worth something - but even so, I never would have believed a simple Shield Charm could dilute the basilisk’s gaze to the point where it wouldn’t kill.”

Shirou was almost there . . .

“And now I need to rush my plans,” the spirit said bitterly. “Of course, you’ll do wonderfully to distract people, dear Ginevra. With your tearful proclamations to convince people, even if anyone realises your brother isn’t the Heir of Slytherin, I’ll be long gone beforehand. Of course, I’ll need to Obliviate you first - place the appropriate memories - but I’m quite good at that. Once I’ve taken everything Percy has to give, I’ll show you just how good . . . Not that you’ll remember it.”

He laughed, a high, cold sound. At the same moment, Shirou stepped over the diary, enshrouding it within the cloak, and bent down to scoop it up. Even through the Quidditch gloves he’d donned, on Takara’s recommendation, it still felt cold.

“What?” the spirit snapped, eyes darting around the Chamber of Secrets. “What happened? Where’s the diary? Who did that?!”

Shirou said nothing, merely moving out of the position where the diary had beenm and off to one side.

Tom Riddle’s spirit raised its stolen wand. “Stupefy! Stupefy! STUPEFY!”

The Stunners were randomly shot, their paths easily predicted, and never came close to touching Shirou.

“HOMINEM REVELLO!” Riddle roared, and again the pulse of magic shot forth, an order of magnitude stronger. Despite this, however, the Deathly Hallow proved proof against the spell.

Riddle stood frozen in place, eyes raking the Chamber, visibly seething at his failure to locate Shirou. Abruptly, he straightened, and assumed a maliciously smug expression.

“Very well,” the spirit said calmly. “I don’t know who, or what you are - or how you’ve managed to hide from me. But I’ll wager you’ll find it far more difficult to hide from this! Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four!”

Here we go, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUs8FEsDUZ4) Shirou thought. He kept his eyes on the floor - more specifically, on the water, as the basilisk emerged from the opening mouth of the carving.

Even as a reflection, where he could see only the underside, Shirou understood just why Galen had been afraid to face the basilisk. Nothing alive on earth today existed on the that could truly prepare one’s mind for the idea of a sixty-foot snake. Even the closest creature he could think of, a Tyrannosaurus, existed only as a skeleton. Bones gave an idea of size, but not the coiling, sinuous movements - nor the reaction a reptile that size could provoke in a mammal.

This was no fossilised relic, or empty skin. This was a living, breathing, lethal creature, and for a brief moment, Shirou was terrified.

“Find the intruder,” Riddle hissed - literally, as the command was in Parseltongue. “Kill them.”

This was the biggest gamble of Shirou’s plan. If he wasn’t fast enough - if the Basilisk didn’t react as he expected to the bait - then it was all over. But more than that, it had to be able to find him.

The cloak was not impermeable, Shirou knew. It muted sounds, and scents, but didn’t erase them entirely. Only soft or subtle ones would be rendered as undetectable as the wearer was to the eye - or magic, it seemed. Even the Horcrux couldn’t find him, or its vessel, though he was holding the latter in his hand. But if he shouted, he’d be heard. And the basilisk might smell him . . .

The reflection reared back, as a snake always did when preparing to strike. Shirou tensed - and as it sprang forward, he rolled to the side, hurling outwardly as he did.

The basilisk reacted as all predators did when something entered their mouths - its jaws snapped shut, even as it impacted the stone walkway headfirst.

Riddle screamed, even as an echoing scream emerged from the basilisk’s mouth. He writhed and flailed on the ground, even as beams of light cracked through his body - and he was gone.

Part one - success, Shirou thought. Horcrux destroyed.

The basilisk rose again, and reared up and back . . .

Part two - failure, Shirou thought, even as he dove to the side again. Destroying the Horcrux did not neutralise the basilisk as a threat. Now it’s just free to do whatever the hell it wants.

He brought his equaliser to bear, before the basilisk could rise again - Ciel Aozaki’s demonstration model Desert Eagle. He blasted three .50 calibre rounds in the direction of its left eye without looking at where he was aiming. He knew by the frenzy of peripheral movement, and the agonised hissing, that they’d successful destroyed their target.

Damn, Shirou thought, I didn’t penetrate its brain -

Watching the basilisk’s reflection in the water - which, when combined with the effect of seeing it through the cloak, appeared to nullify its eyes’ killing effect - Shirou snapped off another trio of shots at a nearby column. The rounds cracked the stone on impact, and whined as they ricocheted off the column, towards the right side of the basilisk’s head.

At least one round bounced off its thick hide - but the pained writhing indicated that at least one shot had hit its intended target.

Heh - anything Galen can do by luck, I can do by skill, Shirou thought. I still didn’t manage to kill it, but at least it’s blind. No more killing gaze. Still, I’ve only got one round left . . . And Galen was right, the recoil on this thing is a bitch.

His wrists were throbbing in agony - this was really too much gun for somebody his age to use one-handed, despite what he’d done. Even if he’d had extra ammunition - and there hadn’t been time to look - he wasn’t sure he could have made accurate shots. That left just one bullet -

“Is someone there?” a girl’s voice called suddenly - Ginny. The basilisk reacted by immediately whirling on the prey it had been reminded was there, lunging down - until Shirou fired his last shot, and the impact of the round caused it to flinch away, hissing madly.

Shirou wrenched off the invisibility cloak, and hurled it over Ginny and Percy. “Stay under this and be quiet!” he barked, leaping to one side as the blinded basilisk followed the sound of his voice to attack again.

No more bullets, Shirou thought frantically. No spells more powerful than a Stunner, which is nowhere near enough to kill this thing, even with the power I can put into it. I might be able to manage a Killing Curse . . .

The basilisk lunged again, and he dove again - this time, not quite quickly enough. He felt the fangs of the creature tear into the rear fringe of the dragonhide duster, and as the fang tore itself free of the leather, the momentum of the basilisk’s charge hurled him forward, towards the entrance to the Chamber.

Shirou sensed more than felt the impact - the air rushing from his lungs absorbed all his attention. A sound that seemed to echo throughout the Chamber told him he’d broken at least two ribs - and the abrupt awareness of a hissing sound had him shucking the duster before the midnight-black venom burned through it and began to devour his spine.

The corner of Shirou’s mind that belonged to Archer, that world-weary warrior, observed, Galen’s cloak is gone - and now, Takara’s duster. Images of Galen, lying Petrified in the Hospital Wing, and Takara, looking ready to literally drop dead of exhaustion, flashed through his head. My friends protected me - but they’ve taken me as far as they can - all I’ve got left now is me.

The part of him that was twelve-year-old Shirou Einzbern responded, And I won’t let them down!

He staggered to his feet, every breath a fiery effort, even as he launched the most powerful Stunner he could conjure in the basilisk’s direction. To his dismay, it failed to even dent the creature’s scales.

Damn it! Shirou raged. No spell I know will penetrate this thing’s hide deeply enough to do damage, if .50 calibre rounds couldn’t!

The basilisk, seemingly infuriated by his attack despite its ineffectualness, lunged again. While Shirou did manage to dodge it, the basilisk’s head collided with one of the columns, splintering it in two, and forcing Shirou to duck wildly as the top half landed somewhere behind him.

He stared at the snake, head buried under the remains of the lower half of the column. Please let that have killed it, or at least stunned it . . .

As if it had heard, the basilisk’s body thrashed wildly, realigning itself to dig its head from the rubble. Shirou was forced to back up frantically in order to avoid its oncoming coils as it attempted to worry itself free.

His own words, from another life, another world, came back to him, “If you can’t defeat your enemy, imagine something that can.”

A piece of advice meant to start Emiya Shirou on the path to Imaging, not simply Tracing weaponry - and it had worked. But without that power, those words seemed useless now. Otherwise, Shirou would’ve simply Traced Excalibur, or Caliburn . . . He stopped retreating abruptly, as his hand brushed something metal. Whirling around, he stared in disbelief at the source of the sensation.

A thin, gleaming sword stood proudly erect in the remains of the column, its length thrust point first in the largest piece of the wreckage. Massive rubies adorned its cross-guard, and even in the dim light of the Chamber, Shirou could make out letters etched on the silvery surface of the blade.


If it wasn’t the sword in the stone he’d had in mind, it would serve nonetheless. With a will born of desperation and a grunt of exertion, Shirou grabbed the weapon with both hands and hauled it free. Immediately, he got a sense of its reach, balance, and quality. For such a slender-looking longsword, it was remarkably heavy - dense material composition. Despite that, however, it swung easily enough, and was balanced so that he wasn’t liable to fall trying to wield it.

He could use this. Muscle memory from wielding copies of Caliburn and their ilk would let him. However, at his current level of physical development, the odds of actually penetrating the basilisk’s hide were almost nil. He’d have to nail the basilisk’s soft tissues to kill it - drive the sword through its eye or mouth and into its brain. Either required getting awfully close to those venomous fangs . . .

Shirou shifted the sword to his right hand, and pulled out his wand. This was a long shot, but no more unlikely than the appearance of the blade he held in his hand. Shirou pointed at the piece of rubble which had contained the sword and concentrated. He brought to bear every lesson McGonagall had taught them, all the hours he’d spent practising, and the certainty that, in the end, he could do this because it was what he was.

Luck, fate, or stubbornness was with him - the stone became exactly what he required. He dropped his wand, picked up the Transfigured weapon, and positioned himself as he paired it with the sword.

The basilisk burst free of the rubble with a horrific grinding of stone, and a matching hiss of fury. Its head whipped back and forth, scenting, trying to locate the stubborn prey that had so maddeningly eluded it - that had hurt it.

Shirou intoned in a full voice, “I am the bone of my sword.”

The effect was immediate. The basilisk looped over on itself and lunged, letting gravity and weight as much as muscle propel it forward. Clearly, it meant to strike before he could move out of its way. But Shirou had no intention of doing that.

Staring into the gaping, fang-rimmed maw of his target, the boy who would be Archer loosed his arrow . . .

. . . And the Sword of Gryffindor buried itself in the roof of the basilisk’s mouth.

The great serpent jerked upward at the impact, its momentum disrupted. It wavered back and forth, unsteadily, as its primitive nervous system attempted to convey the notion that its brain currently had a length of sharpened metal lodged in it. As a reptile, it was capable of remaining unaware of death for a length of time . . . But it was dead, and eventually yielded to that fact, crashing to the floor of the Chamber. Shirou winced as a piece of stone from the broken walkway dug a bloody furrow across his cheekbone, just under his left eye.

Ow! That bloody stings - but considering the alternative, I’ll take it.

Exhaustion abruptly hit Shirou like a twenty-pound sledgehammer. He felt like he would cheerfully sleep for a week, if somebody would let him. Adrenaline crash, he realised. Despite the feeling, he staggered over to where he’d hidden the Weasleys and snatched the cloak off them, folding it back up and storing it in a robe pocket.

Duster’s ruined, and it’s not even two months old, yet. Takara is going to kill me.

“Was that an invisibility cloak?” Ginny asked. “I didn’t know you had an invisibility cloak!”

“I don’t - I borrowed this one,” Shirou said. “And no one knows about it, understand?”

Ginny’s eyes widened, and she nodded solemnly.

“How’s your brother?” he asked wearily.

“As . . . As well as might be expected,” Percy said sombrely. “I have a great deal to answer for. I expect I’ll be in Azkaban by this time tomorrow.” His tone was flat, but his complexion was ashen.

“Maybe,” Shirou muttered. “Maybe not.” He picked up the remaining, untainted portion of Takara’s duster, walked over to the dead basilisk, carefully reached into its mouth, and using the dragonhide as a protective barrier, ripped both the sword and the diary from where they were impaled. The sizzling venom ate more of the coat away, but Shirou was able to retrieve both items safely and tuck them into his belt.

“The . . . ICW - is in charge,” Shirou said, finding it hard to concentrate - God, he was tired. “Not . . . British. Might - avoid A . . . Az . . . Azka . . .That.”

“Are you OK?” Ginny asked.

“Tired,” Shirou wheezed. “Fight took a lot out of me.”

Percy raised a sardonic eyebrow as he surveyed the corpse of the basilisk. “No doubt.”

“Not sure - how we - get out,” Shirou admitted.

Percy’s face was grim. “The Chamber has multiple exits, assuming one doesn’t mind climbing through the piping. In your state, I’m not sure how likely the possibility is.”

Shirou resisted the urge to just collapse. Had he gone through all this, just to be trapped down here? Damn it, he’d managed to kill both the Horcrux and the snake - didn’t he deserve even a little break?

With a rumbling of stone, patterns began forming in the wall. Familiar patterns, shaping themselves into the form of an elaborate door. With a grinding of stone and a creak of metal hinges, it opened to reveal . . .

Hermione, Neville, Luna, and Fred and George, all with wands out and ready for battle.

“Oh!” Hermione said with a blink. “You’re all right . . . You are, aren’t you?”

Shirou stared at them. “Guys, don’t ever think I’m not glad to see you - but what the hell are you doing here?”

“When Takara came into the Hospital Wing and said she’d had to let you go on alone, I thought you’d need help,” Hermione explained. “So I went back to Gryffindor Tower . . .”

“And we were up for anything that involved rescuing our wayward sibs,” Fred said with a grin.

“Weasleys stick together,” George added.

“So do friends,” Neville said solemnly. “And we’re supposed to be Gryffindors.”

“The real trick,” Hermione said, “was figuring out how to get to you. We couldn’t take a large group down seven floors of the castle to Myrtle’s bathroom without being spotted, so we needed another way in - and I have to admit, Luna had a brilliant idea.”

The tiny blonde girl blushed. “There was already a room on the same floor that would give us whatever we needed, after all. All we had to do was tell it we needed a door to the Chamber of Secrets.” She shrugged. “It was only common sense.”

Shirou stared at her, slack-jawed. He could only think of one response to that, and it ran through his head with the force of prophecy.

Galen is going to be screaming at himself for weeks for not thinking of that.

March 25th, 2011, 08:30 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 23 - Three Visits

February 20, 1993

Air rushed into his lungs, and the world went dark. For a moment, the terror running through his system climbed even higher, until the utter absence of sound, or sight, registered with his conscious mind. There was nothing there that should frighten him . . . At that thought, long, delicate fingers began stroking his hair, and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

But as time passed, and no further contact was forthcoming, he paused his panic again to consider the sensation. He didn’t like being touched, and whoever was doing this was obviously aware of that - the contact, while intimate, was so light as to be almost imperceptible, as delicate as a spider’s web. It was comforting, without being too close. There were only a few people who would know - and know how - to do this for him.

“Mom?” he tried, and his voice was a dry, rusted croak. He had trouble hearing it clearly - but from the immediate response, his caregiver obviously didn’t.

“Not quite, chevalier.” A deep but feminine voice, not whiskey-soaked husky like Urara Takano’s, but smooth, like dark honey. Michelle Ruff in her more ironically amused moments. A moment later, a small ball of blue flame appeared, cupped in an ivory hand. It illuminated eyes of a matching hue, and long, silver-blonde hair.

“Godmother,” Galen acknowledged. He considered shaking his head, but gave it up as a bad idea - he felt too tired to move if he didn’t have to. “Ilya’s Germanic, you’re Slavic, more or less - I’ve never understood why you use the French form of that title.”

“In my own case, I find it appropriate for one born under the sign of the Horseman,” Arcueid informed him, and even if he hadn’t been watching her face, he would’ve heard her smile as she said, “I believe my niece simply finds it prettier.”

He chuckled despite himself, and winced.

“You have done yourself great damage, chevalier - again,” Arcueid said in a severe tone. “Though, as ought to be obvious, you have done so in a noble, and successful, pursuit.”

“Ciel?” he croaked.

“She is well, and awake,” Arcueid confirmed. “You are the last of the victims to be restored - Takara insisted you would be most wrathful, if it was otherwise.”

“She knows me well.”

“She does - and my goddaughter has asked me to inform you that your Valentine’s gift, while thoughtful, will not save you from her wrath, for frightening her so.” Her lips formed that smile he’d come to know so well - amusement at the antics of her children. “I believe Miss Granger is helping her devise an appropriate punishment, though she seemed quite pleased by gift, as well.”

So the roses were delivered - good. Luna and Ginny had gotten one each, Hermione and Takara two. The younger girls’ were white, for purity and innocence, in the hopes that their new relationship as his friends might continue. The elder girls’ had received peach roses, for sincerity, devotion and friendship, and his gratitude for both. All of the flowers were blooming buds, symbolically appropriate for girls too young for the more intimate forms of love.

“How long was I out?” I remember the Mandrake Draughts being ready at the end of the year, so that means something like four months’ worth of class work to catch up on?

“A week,” Arcueid supplied.

“A week? I thought the Mandrakes - ”

“The ones in the school greenhouses are not yet mature,” Arcueid agreed, “but were you not taught that it is a powerful restorative, for a wide variety of transfigurations and curses? St. Mungo’s Hospital does keep a supply on hand.” Her voice chilled, and the fire in her hand burned correspondingly brighter. “And as Albus Dumbledore can no longer keep the attacks at Hogwarts quiet, requisitioning some was a simple matter of paperwork for the Security Division.”

“About the attacks . . .” Galen trailed off, hesitating. Arcueid, like the rest of the adults, wasn’t in the know about what they knew. If he wanted information on what was really happening, he’d have to ask Takara or Shirou - not that it sounded like Takara would be in a forthcoming mood.

Arcueid smiled. “All is well - though I expect you will wish confirmation of that. Your friends have asked to be informed when you awoke, and I shall do so now.” Her expression turned stern. “With strict instructions that they are not to tire you unduly, nor release your wand to you until I have deemed you strong enough to retrieve it. Nor are you to try and sway them - you have quite exhausted yourself, however successfully you achieved your task.”

“My wand?” Galen blinked, only now realising that the length of lignum vitae he’d had clenched in his hand moments ago - or so it felt like - was gone.

“Safe in Takara’s care,” Arcueid assured him. “And it responds to her touch nearly as it does to yours. It is a rare thing, for a wizard’s wand to serve so well, or so willingly, in another’s hand.” She gave him an insinuating smile. “The wielders’ magic must be very compatible, for it to be so.”

He closed his eyes and sighed. Arcueid had been playing matchmaker for her goddaughter since they were children. Being Veela, she felt no need to restrain herself to simple smiles and looks about it, either. But it was a patently ridiculous idea. Sure, Takara was beautiful, intelligent, kind, principled, and skilled - admirable and attractive traits, all of them. But what the hell would she ever want with him?

“Regardless of our potential compatibility,” Galen said carefully, “of which I harbour doubts, I feel I must remind you that her parents are two of the scariest people I know. I am quite sure that, however accepting they are of me as Takara’s schoolmate, and even as a friend of the family, their views of me as a potential romantic interest for their daughter will be in the resoundingly negative range.”

Arcueid’s response to that statement as she left the room was chilling, because it was absolutely the last thing he’d ever expected her to do.

She laughed.

Takara entered the room first, followed by Hermione. Galen stared at them from his bed, then paled slightly. She could read it on his face - he knew there was no one else coming. He was trapped with the two of them - and Arcueid had obviously made good on her promise to deliver the message Takara had given her.

His voice, however, was quite steady as he drawled, “Let me guess - I get a kiss and a shot to the groin again?”

Hermione whipped her head around to stare at Takara, eyes wide. “‘Again?’”

Takara felt her face flush, angry to find herself suddenly on the defensive when she’d been prepared to take a strip off his hide.

“I have a knife, now - and a wand,” she retorted, holding his in plain view. “In fact, I have two. I could make it so you’d prefer I knee you in the crotch.”

“Point. Or, you could just tell me what I missed.”

“After you scared me half to death, you mean.” Takara glared at him. “I thought you were dead.”

“Not for the first time,” he pointed out.

“No,” she agreed, “but when it be the last time, Galen? When will you finally stop risking your life - or take one chance too many, and stop having a life to risk?”

Now it was his turn to get angry. “What was I supposed to do, Takara? Walk away and let it attack your mother?!”

She flushed deeper. “Of course not!”

“Then what, Takara?” he said tiredly. “I barely had time to try what I did - if I’d yelled out a warning instead, we’d both be dead.”

“I . . .” She paused, and tried again. “I just wish you didn’t have to get hurt.”

He looked at her, and she saw something flash through his eyes - but she couldn’t read what it was. His voice, however, was softer.

“I keep forgetting that you had a normal life before all this,” he said quietly. “That you’re still not used to dealing with life-and-death battles on a regular basis, or supernatural creatures, the way your parents are. I forget how scared you were, when it all started.” He shook his head slightly. “I wish I could say things will be peaceful - but you know they won’t, Takara. Not on this world, not at this time. The Blood War is starting up again, unless we can stop it. People will be hurt, and people will die - and I can’t guarantee that one of them won’t be me.”

“I know . . . But I don’t have to like it.” She took a deep breath. “I’m glad you’re all right - and next time, take someone with you. We’re supposed to be a team, and you wouldn’t get hurt nearly as often, or as badly, if you’d trust us to work with you.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Galen said, and Takara left. As she reached the hallway, she head Hermione ask, “You really care about her, don’t you?”

Takara quickened her pace, not wanting to hear his answer. He would either tell Hermione that he loved her, or that he didn’t . . . And it was a testament to the confusion of her feelings right now that she couldn’t decide which response would be worse.

Shirou had barely sat down by the hospital bed before Galen said simply, “Tell me what happened.”

“Takara didn’t tell you?”

“No. What happened?”

Shirou gave him as much detail as he could remember.

“Damn it, I should’ve thought of using that way into the Chamber,” he muttered. “I only read the damned book once, that’s the problem. I couldn’t stand to read it again.” He shook his head. “Never mind - what happened afterwards?”

Shirou said, “Well, let’s see - I remembered you mentioning the Horcrux in the Room of Requirement, so I hacked out a fang, got to the Room, had it reconfigured, and stabbed the diadem - so we’re actually a Horcrux ahead of the game. We got back to McGonagall’s office, and I earned about a hundred points for Gryffindor for ‘bravery, daring, and skill.’ You and Takara managed twenty points apiece for your help, and apparently we’ll all be getting awards for ‘special services to the school.’ I was nearly killed by a hug from Ginny and Percy’s mother - ”

“Yeah, she does that.”

“And I turned over the remains of the Horcrux to my dad, when he arrived with the ICW contingent. They’re taking it, and the basilisk carcass - apparently, I’m going to be getting some bounty money out of killing the thing. They’re not just dangerous, their component parts are valuable and rare, too.”

“How much?”

“Depends on what can be gotten for it.”

“All right. And after that?”

“Takara’s dad took her mom to do a debriefing and full medical checkup,” Shirou said. “They’re currently on stress leave together - but Aozaki-sensei will be back to continue teaching Defence for the rest of the semester.” He took a deep breath. “The ICW is still investigating, but based on preliminary findings, Dumbledore’s in a lot of trouble.”

“Malfoy got his wish, then - Dumbledore out of the school.”

“Maybe, but he’s not enjoying it,” Shirou said with a smirk. “When Ginny and Percy went missing, the Board recalled him, handing over evidence of threats against the governors by Malfoy to get him removed in the first place. That’s causing the Security Division to look at him pretty hard - and he’s been suspended from the board, pending the results of their investigation.”

“You may want to mention a close look at the drawing room in Malfoy Manor to your dad,” Galen said. “I think there’s supposed to be a hidden door in the floor.”

Shirou’s smirk widened. “Will do. On the other hand, while Dumbledore’s back at the board’s request, there’s every possibility he won’t be reinstated as Headmaster - too many errors in his handling of the affair.”

“The man’s charismatic, and revered in Britain - I’d wager he’ll be back,” Galen grumbled. “What about the Weasleys?”

“No legal trouble for the family - with the Horcrux as evidence, it’s obvious Percy wasn’t in control of himself. It’s just a matter of discovering where it came from, and in the meantime, Dumbledore’s stirring up the Wizengamot, using the attacks as evidence for the need for Mr. Weasley’s Muggle Protection Act.”

“Oh, the Malfoys will love that,” Galen chuckled.

Shirou’s smirk became positively evil as he replied, “Yeah.” His expression sobered. “As for the Weasley kids, Percy’s shaken, understandably. The thing used his ambitions against him, and he got a good look at the kind of path they could lead him down.”

Unspoken was the fact that Shirou himself had experience with that kind of experience - plugged into his head was the memory of meeting himself as Archer, and the confrontations that had resulted.

“And Ginny?” Galen asked.

Shirou hesitated.

“What?” Galen demanded sharply. “Was she hurt?”

“No . . .”

“Then what?”

“. . . She won’t look straight at me,” he said finally. “She keeps blushing every time I catch her eye, she seems to be there every time I turn around . . .”

Shirou trailed off, seeing the widening grin on Galen’s face, and said sourly, “Yeah, I knew you’d react like that.”

“How could I not?” Galen retorted with a laugh. “A year and a half of putting up with your jibes about Hermione and Takara, and now you’ve got a little red-haired shadow of your own! Karma is finally working in my favour - and I’m going to savour every second of it!” He burst into almost five solid minutes of laughter.

“She’s a kid!” Shirou protested.

“I know! And just wait ‘til her mother cottons on!” More laughter.

“You’re a bastard.”

Galen’s laughter subsided. “Tell me about the Chamber again.”


“I’ve missed an awful lot of obvious things this year - I want to make sure I don’t screw up again.”

Shirou recited the tale again, from the time Ginny and Percy were taken. When he’d finished, Galen was frowning.

“What is it?” Shirou asked.

“We missed a lot, this year,” Galen muttered. “The Room’s a big one, but it’s not the only one - and some of it was really obvious. But more than that, it’s the parallels. Hermione discovers the basilisk’s nature, and how it gets around, but is Petrified before she can tell anyone. Ron and Harry go down to save Ginny, but Ron’s trapped, and Harry’s forced to go on alone . . .”

He looked up at Shirou. “The details are different, but the pattern’s the same. For everything we did, and tried to do, nothing really changed. More to the point, things we could have done to make things change didn’t even occur to us, even though they should have. The pattern not only didn’t change, despite our efforts, it’s almost as though it can’t be.”

Galen concluded, very softly, “And if nothing can be changed - if nothing we know, nothing we do, can make any real difference in how this all turns out . . . Then what is the point of us?”

Shirou countered, “Things are different. We’ve made some changes - ”

“Little things,” Galen spat. “Lockhart’s memories are still intact, and his reputation, relatively so. Dobby’s still enslaved to the Malfoys. And Dumbledore, who for all his faults is considered the most powerful wizard in the world, and someone the Death Eaters fear - even more than originally, given his defeat of Voldemort - is gone from Hogwarts, removing a major deterrent against open attacks.” He shook his head. “That argues that, what little we have managed to change, we’ve actually made worse. And if that’s all we can do . . . Then why try?”

Shirou was silent for several moments. He recognised the signs of a major depressive episode coming - but more than that, he recognised the point at which Galen found himself. This was the moment he had reached, long ago - a time when he found that all he’d done, all he’d sacrificed, meant nothing. Was ultimately for nothing. This was the moment when Emiya Shirou had become Archer.

Emiya Shirou had turned him from that path, once. He hoped Shirou Einzbern could do the same for his friend.

“If we had never come here,” Shirou said carefully, “what would have happened? Think carefully - use that imagination of yours, and tell me every detail.”

“Hermione would be dead,” Galen said tonelessly. It was no surprise to either of them that the first major detail to spring to mind was that. “Dumbledore would’ve tried manipulating Neville into playing the prophecy boy - and probably failed. Neville as he was last year wasn’t adventurous enough to do what Harry did without being forced to. Even if he did, Neville wasn’t confident or - and I’m sorry to say this, but it’s true - competent enough to survive it. Voldemort would’ve likely had the Stone, and revived, but even if Dumbledore stopped him, he’d have considered the prophecy fulfilled with Neville’s death, and the magical world doomed. He might have fought, but his heart wouldn’t have been in it. Sooner or later, Voldemort would win.”

“You keep judging this world by the one in the books, or the movies,” Shirou said sharply, “but it’s not the same world. There are people here that aren’t in that reality - and people there who aren’t here. That future you just described? That’s what this place was heading to, before we came. That is why we try to change things. We may not be able to make everything better than you remember it being, but we’ll try - and if we can’t, we’ll settle for ‘as good as.’ Because as much as you hate the world the books and movies describe, for this world, the alternative - what this place will be, if we don’t try - is so much worse than even that.”

Now it was Galen’s turn to be silent.

Finally, Shirou said, “Now, enough of this depressing crap! I killed a giant snake, saved the school, and finally got to use a real weapon. Granted, the Sword of Gryffindor isn’t a katana, or a Noble Phantasm - but it’s better than a stick.”

Galen snorted. “I’ll bet they were surprised to see you with that.”

Shirou chuckled. “Yeah - I thought McGonagall’s eyes were going to pop out of her head. Even Dumbledore looked surprised. He stopped dead when he saw me, and -” A memory came back to him. “Oh yeah, he muttered something. I could barely hear it, but I think I made it out. It sounds familiar, but I can’t place it - and it didn’t make a lot of sense, so maybe I heard it wrong.”

“Try me,” Galen said.

“‘Mark him as his equal,’” Shirou recited. “Does that make any sense to you? . . . Galen, why are you looking at me like that? Do I have something on my face?”

To Be Continued in Trinity: The Prisoner

March 25th, 2011, 09:33 PM
all the hours he’d spent practising, and the certainty that, in the end, he could do this because it was what he [i]was.]/i]
A wild nitpick has appeared!

March 25th, 2011, 09:55 PM

. . . Curses. I actually thought I'd gotten them all this time - even those bloody asterisks that pop up for who-knows-what reason. It's a good thing somebody pays attention. :)

March 25th, 2011, 10:08 PM
Odd. That it's me who is paying attention, I mean.

March 25th, 2011, 11:00 PM
Not usually a trait attributed to you, I take it? :)

March 25th, 2011, 11:12 PM
Yup, as far as I've let everyone know.

March 26th, 2011, 01:51 PM
As with the first one, as good as I remembered, if not better. I just finished the book, and you could give a run for her money to Rowling, Kieran (that's the expresion, isn't it?)

The thing is, now that I had read earlier the story, I paid more attention to the little details, and that makes me find things I missed the first time. Like Galen watching at Shirou's new scar in his cheek. Or imagine scenarios for some alternatives or futures (thinking about Shiki terrifying, or at least trying, Shirou if Takara at the end choses him was funny, going from Shirou utterly scared of mr God of death to Shiki trying to cope with the idea that maybe traumatizing Shirou isn't that good if only because Kiritsugu can be as terrifying as him, by example)

Also, Mrs. Weasley and Ginny attemp of murder in Shirou by big hug at a wounded teenager (a hug when you have your ribs bruised is a bitch, so having it broken...) was even funnier this second time, or Ginny as a little fox tackling our red-headed hero.

In short, well done, sir.

March 26th, 2011, 05:04 PM
Thanks. And now for round three . . .