View Full Version : [FF] Trinity III: The Prisoner (Type-Moon/Harry Potter X-over)

March 26th, 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 1 - The Summer of Love

July 31, 1993

Takara Aozaki lay on her stomach, atop her bed, and pondered a problem. It was a problem which had started becoming apparent at the beginning of the summer, and only increased in difficulty over time.

She was, on the whole, a normal teenaged girl, and had been the entire time she’d been a teenager. The fact that, biologically, she’d been thirteen for only two days, but was mentally seventeen as of two years ago, was part of the reason she wasn’t entirely a normal teenaged girl. The other part involved the fact that she was a witch. Not a practitioner of Wicca, but an actual, stereotypical, broomstick-riding, cauldron-stirring witch.

However, she was first and foremost a teenager - just oddly mature-seeming for her supposed years. However, this wasn’t always a blessing. Her additional experiences left her thinking far ahead in terms of her peers - in just about every way. They were just noticing boys now, dealing with crushes and heartbreak. She’d been thinking about boys for some time, however - two of them in particular.

The first was a boy she knew most commonly as Galen Salvatore. He’d had other names, in the years only she had experienced, but here and now, Galen was who he was. In both sets of memories, he’d been one of her fiercest supporters, going so far as to die for her causes. In the newer set that went with her younger body, he’d been her first friend her own age. The newer memories described a child Galen who was shy, withdrawn - almost afraid of contact. He was always happy to see her, grateful to spend time with her, and eager to please. He was a far cry from his counterpart, a grim, melancholy man who raged against the world frequently - and took life-threatening risks without a second thought. Yet, if she looked closely enough, Takara could see the seeds of that man within the boy.

The other was Shirou Einzbern. In the life that now never was, she’d first known him as Shirou of the Emiya family, an albino upperclassman at her school - popular, and even handsome, despite his disability. Thoroughly Japanese, he’d been the guy every girl at school had wanted to impress - herself included. She’d been ecstatic, and terrified, when he’d agreed to take her on a date . . . and later switched to just being terrified, when he’d tried to sacrifice her for a mystical ritual. That version had been a psychotic magus, hellbent on achieving his goals no matter the cost. As Shirou Einzbern, however, he’d been the second of her two best friends - and the one she’d kept when she’d moved to Japan as a child, because he had, too. He was passionate, idealistic - and quite cute, as a child.

As small children, they’d been inseparable for years, until the move to Japan. Then the trinity had become a pair, reduced to exchanging letters until reuniting on the Hogwarts Express two years ago. At least, so claimed the newer memories. The older ones told a far different tale . . . But to all intents and purposes, the new memories were their history, their lives now, and so in some respects, what had gone before didn’t really matter.

Except when it did.

This summer had been fun. Most of their fellow witches and wizards whom they counted as friends were on holiday with their families, out of the country - Hermione Granger had gone to France with her parents and sister, Luna Lovegood was in Sweden with her father, Ginny and the rest of the Weasleys were in Egypt after winning a lotto draw, visiting the eldest Weasley son, Bill. Even Neville Longbottom and his Gran had gone off to the coast for a seaside vacation. That had left it the same way their childhood memories insisted it had been, and ought to be - the trinity, Takara and her boys.

It had been a great chance to reconnect, drawing on their memories, and speak fairly openly with one another about things, with no need to keep secrets. Unfortunately, Takara had found it necessary to hide a few, anyway. Being old enough to reconsider boys physically, and marriage, mentally, had her evaluating her two best friends - and she was well-aware they’d had a few peeks at her, too, an altogether new experience for her - in a light she’d never before considered them: romantically.

In her original life, Takara had been outcast for her heritage in Japan. Despite being three-quarters Japanese, her appearance had been European enough for those with bigoted tendencies to make her life a living hell in school. As a result, she’d promised herself a long time ago that she would never put her children through the same experience. She would marry a Japanese boy, and hope that traits like her blue eyes and brown hair, her proportions and complexion, weren’t passed on. It was a prejudice in herself she didn’t like, but it had spent years burrowing into her psyche - she wasn’t sure she could change it.

This meant that of her two best friends, Shirou was the better choice. He was Japanese, even with his red hair (of a shade not unseen in Japan), though his gray eyes were concerning. And she couldn’t quite erase the memory of his albino doppelganger. But her real memories saw him as her best friend, the friend she’d kept in a strange country, when it had been the two of them against the world. He was still cute, and with the amount of regular exercise he put himself through, he might actually be even better-looking than the evil version of himself, by the time he reached that age. If one threw in the fact that his family was rich and politically connected, you couldn’t get much better as a potential boyfriend than Shirou Einzbern.

Unfortunately, there were three problems with that idea. First, he’d never shown much interest in her as a romantic partner (although the occasional look this summer indicated that things may have changed). Second, she had undeclared competition, in the form of one of her best friends, Ginny Weasley. The redheaded girl was a year younger than her, and had been nursing a crush on Shirou since she’d met him - one which had only intensified in strength after Shirou had saved her life - and her elder brother’s - six months ago. Even if she got Shirou, Takara would risk destroying a friendship she enjoyed.

The third problem, appropriately, was Galen.

His original self would’ve been wholly unsuitable as a boyfriend. Leaving aside the fact that he was dead, and not especially handsome, he was a gaijin, a foreign barbarian. A kind barbarian with his own code of nobility, who had fought and died to save her family’s lives, simply because she’d needed him to, but foreign nonetheless - not what she wanted. And yet, she owed him . . . And he’d told her he loved her. Had he been Japanese (and alive), she would have pinned him up against a wall somewhere and kissed him until one or both of them had passed out from oxygen deprivation, for all he’d done for her.

(In point of fact, part of her had, a couple of years ago, done just that. That same part had also reduced his testicles to a bloody paste for making her watch him die, but he’d been wearing a body that even he admitted deserved it at the time.)

In the here and now, Galen was her first real friend, telling a lonely four-year-old girl who’d been outcast for her strange looks that she was pretty. He’d played with her whenever she wanted, helped her learn to read, and when she’d left him she’d cried for days. Nowadays, he was still the first and fiercest to her defence, perfectly willing to challenge heaven and hell together if he had to, to protect her and what she cherished. And living in the magical society of England, her Asian heritage was considered of less account - she was a witch before she was a foreigner, here, at least to most. And a Canadian wizard drew even fewer negative responses.

The childhood crush her newer memories had nurtured had grounds to become something stronger, if she wanted it to. And most people who knew them seemed to think it would, or should. After he’d saved her mother’s life six months ago, her father had even indicated that he’d approve - or at least not object - if she decided to marry him. A powerful endorsement, coming from a man whose daughter was only twelve at the time!

But if a relationship with Galen had more weight in its favour now, the problems associated with one were likewise enhanced. While freed of whatever childhood condition had crippled him originally, here he was a werewolf - with a social status even worse than her own, in mundane Japanese society. Few who knew his true nature would consider him anything other than a Dark creature, a monster - something to be tolerated only grudgingly, and only when absolutely necessary. Marrying him might not even be legal, and any children they had would be ostracised as she had been, which was what she sought above all else to avoid.

And there were additional problems. Galen had self-esteem issues - and while Takara admitted that she did, too, his led him towards suicidal tendencies. These spurts of self-destruction were wearying to deal with, and while they’d been forcibly abated, they showed no signs of ever being over, either. And as with Shirou, there was competition, in the form of Hermione Granger. Hermione hadn’t explicitly stated her feelings, but they were hardly a secret, either. She was practically his second shadow at school, rarely out of his company, and almost never far away when she was. Galen was more than her crush, he was her hero - he made a girl who’d been bullied and belittled feel safe - a sentiment Takara could fully understand.

And Hermione was more his type - quiet, scholarly. She’d enjoy a day at a museum, or scavenging through a used bookstore for rare and interesting tomes. Takara would rather be out doing something physical, like dancing, or Quidditch. To all intents and purposes, Takara honestly believed that Hermione was the better match for the Galen she knew - and besides, he’d showed no real interest in her beyond the one declaration - and yet . . .

And yet, he showed no more interest in Hermione than her. He either ignored or missed her attempts at flirtation. Shirou said it was psychological - tied into those self-esteem issues. And perhaps it did, but might it also mean that Galen considered his heart already taken? Takara had been given the opportunity to use his wand last term, and it had responded to her immediately, working well for her. According to her godmother, the wand would not have done so, if he felt nothing for her - its very nature made it a wand of passion, and passion was what drew out its power. So whatever he had or hadn’t said, he felt something for her. But was it enough? And even if it was, did she want to take the risks associated with finding out?

Takara sighed in frustration. If she was going to make a decision - make an attempt on either of the two boys - it would need to be soon. Ginny was younger, but approaching an age where she could be more overt. Hermione was older than she was - older than Galen, too, if only by a couple of months. And if she remembered correctly, there was a fancy dress ball next year - surely, if neither of the other girls had made a move beforehand, they would then. So if she hadn’t made a choice yet, there was every possibility it would be made for her.

And the choice might be “neither.”

The ginger-furred tomcat was a large specimen, as domestic cats went - closer to thirty pounds than twenty. He would never win a beauty contest, as his face looked as though someone had deliberately rammed it into a wall a few times. The fact that he was bowlegged didn’t help his appearance, either - but his yellow eyes gleamed with an uncanny intelligence, even for a cat. As such, the intent stare he gave the front door of his home would’ve unnerved many people. The boy who walked through it, however, just smiled.

“Good afternoon, Master Crookshanks,” Galen said cheerily. “Ready for lunch?”

The teenager was tall and slender - though thanks to regular exercise in this incarnation, less skeletal and more muscular in build. He’d gone from “whippet” to “wiry,” in his own estimation, weighing as much as he did now at thirteen as he had when he was thirty. His ears were still too big, and his face too long, if not quite as sharply angular, but he looked better, this time around. More or less, anyway.

Galen shut the Grangers’ front door, and walked into the kitchen with Crookshanks following avidly. The cat which had been described as possibly being “quite a small tiger” normally disliked him, as most animals did werewolves - but after weeks of being Crookshanks’ meal provider, litter box cleaner, and almost sole human contact, the half-Kneazle had grudgingly deigned to acknowledge his existence as worthwhile. No doubt when the Grangers returned from France, that would change, but for now, he enjoyed the attention. He’d always loved cats, even though he’d never been allowed to have any - in either lifetime.

“Sorry, no Maeve today - Little Sister’s out with friends.”

Crookshanks made a disappointed sound, then hopped up on the kitchen counter while Galen opened a can of cat food, and a can of tuna he’d bought, and mixed the two. He glanced at Crookshanks and said scoldingly, “You know perfectly well that you’re not supposed to be up here . . . But I won’t tell if you don’t. Just remember that once they’re home, you’ll have to stay off, eh?”

The cat mewled in acknowledgement. Coming from a magical heritage as he did, Crookshanks was more intelligent than any mundane cat - though Galen would’ve talked to him thus, anyway, as it was just his nature. Nevertheless, he had little doubt that the cat fully understood him, or nearly so.

“You may eat on the counter - I’ll clean up any mess, never fear,” Galen said. “I’ll just refill your water dish for you, and go fetch the post, shall I?”

Crookshanks made no acknowledgement beyond attacking his food dish with gusto, purring as he did.

Galen returned to the front porch, grabbed the mail from the mailbox, and sorted through it. There wasn’t much - most bills had been stopped for the duration of the Granger family’s vacation, or prepaid to cover the expense - but he still dutifully stacked any bills on the front hall table, discarded the junk mail, and placed any individual mail in prearranged places - usually the side tables next to the Grangers’ usual living room chairs.

There was one anomaly - a brown-wrapped package addressed to “Crookshanks Granger,” in handwriting he recognised as belonging to the mother of the family. It wasn’t large, but it was curious.

“Somebody has been missed,” Galen announced as he returned to the kitchen. “Your loving family has sent you a souvenir from their trip, Master Crookshanks - care to do the honours and open it yourself, or shall I?”

While the cat busily shredded the cardboard packaging, Galen double-checked the list of chores on the fridge. He’d watered the plants this morning, cut the lawns yesterday, and dusted and vacuumed the day before - he’d give the litter box a cleaning tonight, and otherwise, so long as Crookshanks was fed and watered, everything else should be all right for another week.

House-sitting had actually been kind of fun. Ordinarily, he doubted the Grangers would’ve bothered, but Crookshanks would’ve spent their vacation in quarantine if they’d taken him to France - and Hermione hadn’t wanted to board him at a kennel, since he spent so little time outside of Hogwarts, anyway. So she’d gotten her parents’ permission to have him look after the cat, and do a few little chores while he did. The Grangers saved some money, he got some time with a pet who didn’t outright despise him - Crookshanks wasn’t fond of him, but he wasn’t overtly hostile, either - and Hermione could relax on her vacation, knowing full well that her cat would be well looked-after for the summer.

Her parents hadn’t been difficult to convince, either - true, he was a thirteen-year-old boy, but with Hermione to vouch for him, they’d had little hesitation about handing over the key to the house. His parents had also promised to make sure he was watched about how he handled it, and he had been - the most he’d done to meddle with the house was to use his wand-servicing kit on Hermione’s while she was gone. And he’d ordered some flower bouquets that he’d pick up for their return, along with a few cans of soup and boxes of Kraft Dinner for potentially hungry travellers who didn’t have the energy for more complicated meals.

Normally, his parents might have chided him about the expense - but in addition to his paper route earnings, Shirou had handed him seven thousand Galleons in bounty money for his part in helping him kill a millennium-old basilisk. Affording school supplies would not be a problem this year - and in point of fact, he’d used some of it to finally buy an owl - a tiny gray one he’d named Hermes. With half his friends living fully in the magical world, it now seemed a worthwhile expense. If nothing else, it let his mother send mail regularly, rather than rent one for the purpose.

A metallic clinking caught Galen’s attention, and he turned to see Crookshanks batting around cans of cat food with French labels, before turning his attention to a catnip mouse wearing a tiny blue beret.

“Ah, it appears they want you to have the joys of experiencing French cuisine,” Galen said with a grin. He put them in the cupboard, reading the labels more closely as he did so. “Would you like filet mignon for supper?”

A yowl of approval - of course, that might’ve been for the mouse.

“Very good, sir,” Galen said drily, in his best English butler impression. He picked up one of the last cans - and paused as he spotted an envelope with his name on it, in Hermione’s painstakingly neat handwriting.

Dear Galen,

I hope Crookshanks isn’t giving you too much trouble, and I want to thank you again for taking care of him this summer. I know how sad it makes you when cats and dogs react to your condition, so I really appreciate the fact that you’re willing to spend time with him despite his usual reactions.

In all honesty, Galen suspected that Crookshanks’ reactions to him were based more in jealousy over his mistress’ attentions, or fear for her safety, than any perceived danger to Crookshanks himself.

I’m also sorry that, with everyone on vacation, all our hard work at a treatment for your summer problem was almost useless. I hope Shirou and Takara are company enough to help you through it.

In point of fact, they weren’t too much help. Having animals around that smelled familiar helped calm the wolf on full moon nights - but only to a point. And neither Shirou nor Takara’s avian forms had the power to really keep it subdued. Still, he’d harmed himself less, which counted for something. Unfortunately, neither Arcueid nor the Einzberns could help him, as they had in the past - with his hormones in flux (thank you, puberty), her Veela aura couldn’t calm him any more. Rather the opposite, in fact. But their salves still healed the wounds he suffered faster and better. Only centaurs were superior to Veela when it came to healing.

I’ve been getting the Daily Prophet delivered, it’s so good to keep up with what’s going on in the wizarding world. Did you see that picture of Ginny and her family last week? I’ll bet she’s learning loads. I’m really jealous - the ancient Egyptian wizards were fascinating. But knowing how much you enjoy History of Magic, you probably already knew that.

There’s some interesting local history of witchcraft here, too. I’ve rewritten my whole History of Magic essay to include some of the things I’ve found out. I’ll let you read it on the train, I’m sure you’ll be fascinated. I hope it’s not too long, it’s two rolls of parchment more than Professor Binns asked for.

Galen chuckled. Hermione was not entirely as she’d been in the books and movies - interacting with him and the others had changed her, and occasionally those changes worried him . . . But statements like this proved that she really was the same old Hermione, after all.

Is Maeve looking forward to starting her first year at Hogwarts? Miranda is still hoping she can go - but we haven’t seen signs of magic yet. Of course, it’s possible that anything she’s done was attributed to me at the time, or she’s simply a late bloomer like Neville. She doesn’t turn eleven for another couple of years, so she holds onto the hope - oh, and she asks that you give Crookshanks her love.

“Miranda sends you her love, Master,” Galen repeated dutifully. “She and your mistress really do miss you.”

Crookshanks’ response was to twitch his tail haughtily, as if to say, Well then, they shouldn’t have left me, should they?

Did you see the letters sent out from Hogwarts, yet? It will be very strange having Professor McGonagall as Headmistress - I wonder who’ll replace her as Deputy? She won’t be Head of Gryffindor anymore, either - she’s not allowed to show favouritism. Do you suppose she’ll give up teaching Transfiguration, too? Trying to do too many jobs at once is what got Headmaster Dumbledore sacked, after all.

There had been a little more to it than that - negligence and reckless endangerment of students on a criminal level over the last two years had just been ascribed to overwork in a man at the century-and-a-half mark. Dumbledore had been quietly removed as Headmaster in lieu of facing charges (he still had that much clout), and he still held his other two positions, as neither entailed full-time administrative duties - the Wizengamot didn’t meet that often, nor did the ICW. But in the latter position, he was definitely treading on thin ice. One more slipup would probably see him removed there, too. Dumbledore would have to tread carefully, for the moment . . . And so would they.

They’d gotten way too exposed, last year, to pass themselves off as clueless-but-lucky students. If Dumbledore wasn’t already suspicious (and he probably was), he certainly had to be now. And Galen couldn’t see removing him from Hogwarts as being sufficient to end his influence there. If nothing else, McGonagall had a proven habit of jumping every time Dumbledore said “frog.” Still, they’d see . . .

Depending on the international postal service, I hope you get this before we come home - but not too long before. I’ve missed you, and hope to see you again soon - and everyone else, of course.

Love from,

Aye, he thought, and therein lies the rub.

He’d dealt with Hermione’s crush for the last two years by gently ignoring it, reminding himself that however tempting it might be to indulge, the feelings wouldn’t last. Sooner or later, she’d wise up to the fact that he was not boyfriend material for anybody, much less a girl of her quality, and move on. And he couldn’t stand that from her, because he could easily fall for her. Better to let it die quietly and unexpressed - much less awkward and painful for both of them.

Except that she didn’t seem to be doing that. Of course, it was possible he was reading too much into what she said and did - it would hardly be the first time, and certainly not the last. Nonetheless, as long as they weren’t fighting, he always found her close by, always eager for his company.

Takara was easier to deal with in that respect. If she had any reaction to his declaration of love two-plus years ago, she’d obviously moved beyond it long ago, as she should have. To her, he was a frequently-annoying best friend - period. And no matter how much he might consider other possibilities, that was always how it would’ve ended.

Now, if only he could somehow convince Hermione of that.

I only have to last one more year, he reminded himself. After that, Krum will ask her to the Yule Ball, and she’ll realise that she can attract better men than me. Then I just have to make sure she chooses someone worthy of her - first and foremost, not Ron Weasley - and I can quietly fade into the background, or fade away entirely, depending on what she needs.

My bloody hormones won’t make it easy, but I just need to hold on for one more year. I’ve got to - Hermione’s future well-being and happiness depend on it!

As gales of silvery laughter erupted into the air, Shirou Einzbern scowled.

“You know, Galen had pretty much the same reaction,” he muttered sourly. “I didn’t think it was funny then, either.”

Ilyasviel von Einzbern was too busy holding a hand over her mouth to reply, with her other hand wrapped around her mid-section. A great deal of giggling and shaking in her shoulders, however, was answer enough.

“If you’re not going to help - “ Shirou began.

The half-Veela witch, who had hit sweet sixteen this year, shook her head, sending rippling waves down the cascading length of her silver-blonde hair.

“I’m sorry,” she gasped. “But after all the grief you give Galen over Takara and Hermione - to have it turned around is - ”

“Indicative of my life?” Shirou sighed. “Ilya-chan, she’s eleven! Maybe twelve, tops! It’s like being hit on by you!”

Ilya’s blue eyes widened, then narrowed. “Really?” she purred, rising from her chair to sashay over to Shirou’s side of the table and lean over to entwine her fingers with his, and press her breasts against his back.

Her voice was a silken whisper in his ear. “Does she do this to you?”

At the word “this,” her Veela aura flared. He’d never been this close to her when she’d set it off before - skin contact made magnified the effect. His body reacted, despite being not quite thirteen yet.

“Do you want to play with her, Shirou?” Ilya breathed. “Do you want to hear her scream? Shall I scream for you, instead? Would you like that?”

Her mouth pressed against the outer rim of his ear, and he could feel her smile, even as she moved her head to the pulse point just below his earlobe.

“Would you like me to scream your name, Shirou?” Ilya murmured, before she pulled back with the wickedest grin he’d ever seen on her face. In her normal voice, she asked, “Or would you rather be moaning mine?” She giggled.

“You’re evil,” Shirou said hoarsely, feeling his heartbeat slowly return to normal. “Have I ever told you that you’re evil, Ilya?”

“Once or twice,” she said impishly.

“Well, I’ll say it again. You are pure, unadulterated evil.”

“Thank you,” Ilya did a small curtsey before sitting down again.

“And speaking of evil . . .” said a new, familiar voice.

The two Einzbern children turned to see their father, Kiritsugu Einzbern, standing in the gazebo doorway. While his expression was frequently grim, this time it looked forbiddingly so.

“We just got word from the British Ministry, Sirius Black, one of the most feared Death Eaters in the country, has somehow managed to escape from Azkaban Prison . . . And they have reason to believe that he’s making his way towards Hogwarts.”

Kiritsugu took a deep breath, gazed at Shirou solemnly as he continued, “Hopefully, he can be recaptured quickly - but if he can’t, then it’s likely you won’t be returning to Hogwarts this year, son.”

Both children exclaimed, “WHAT?!”

March 26th, 2011, 05:08 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 2 - Discussions at Daybreak

August 3 - 4, 1993

The first, overriding sensation on his return to consciousness was pain. This was not unusual - he’d grown up with it, once upon a lifetime ago - but rarely on this level. And there were additional symptoms layered on top of the pain. Foremost of these was dizziness and a sense of imbalance, despite the fact that he was lying on the floor, unmoving. Nausea roiled through him, and his extremities twitched spasmodically. His eyes found the light too bright, and at the same time, his mind insisted that it was too dim. His head felt stuffed with cotton, his nose and ears blocked and muffled. What little he could detect through them was the faint, fresh scent of blood, and snatches of conversation, like high buzzing more than human voices.

Gradually, however, the buzzing became recognisable words, and eventually, recognisable voices.

“What are you doing here? Where’s Godmother?” Takara.

“Auntie and Mama insisted that I should learn to take proper care of my toys.” Ilya.


“Iris’ idea of a joke.” Shirou. “Who do you think Ilya gets her sense of humour from?”

“I’ve got the salves and potions. Where’s - oh my God.”

“If you think it’s bad to look at, you should try having to watch him do it to himself,” Shirou’s voice was grim. “Anywhere lupine jaws or paws could reach, he attacked.”

“I never knew it was this bad.”

“None of us did. Godmother said as his healer she was sworn to secrecy, and he’d never tell.” Takara sounded like she was about to be sick. “And from what he has said, this is a lot tamer than what he usually does.”

“‘Tamer?’ He’s covered in blood!”

“The actual wounds stopped bleeding quickly, and they scabbed over when he changed back,” Shirou said, almost clinically. “A survival mechanism tied to shifting his shape, I guess. But they’re wounds inflicted by a Dark creature, as bad as most magical ones. He should be covered in scars, but he heals too well to retain all but the worst ones.”

“Of course,” Ilya said hollowly. “This has been going on for years. Long enough that normally, he’d build up enough scar tissue to be unable to feel or move well enough to keep hurting himself like this. The curse wants him to suffer. And I’m about to help it . . .” A sigh. “Help me roll him over - anti-nauseant and pain-killing potions first, then we’ll see to the lacerations. And work gently. We don’t want to reopen those wounds.”

Hands on injured flesh, then, drawing a hiss of pain - too much damage for the contact not to hurt. One rough hand on his jaw, prying it open, and then a foul-tasting liquid entered his mouth. A massaging hand on his throat forced him to swallow, nearly choking him - but he no longer felt like he was going to be sick.

“That’s one,” Shirou muttered. “Painkiller next . . .”

Ilya said, “Not the thermos - that’s for after. It’s the silver flagon.”

Takara asked, “After?”

“We need to talk, the four of us,” Ilya answered - but Galen lost whatever else she might’ve said, as the next potion went down his throat and he concentrated on not drowning in it. The pain receded to manageable levels, which his experience at resisting dulled still further. He was now no longer in agony, simply exhausted beyond measure.

“Stuff smells awful,” Takara commented. “What’s in it?”

“Essence of Murtlap and Essence of Dittany are the key common ingredients - the rest is Veela-specific. Give me a hand, and this will go faster.”

“What?!” and Galen flinched.

“Not so loud - the shed’s soundproofed, but it just makes the noise in here worse.” Without looking, he could hear the smile in Ilya’s voice. “It’s no different from rubbing on sunblock . . . Of course, you do have to cover everywhere.”

“But . . . He’s practically naked!”

“Mm-hm,” Ilya agreed. “So you have a choice. You can help me out, or leave the two of us alone for a while . . . Although, if you can’t handle your best friend like this, I don’t know how you’ll handle a complete stranger. You do still want to be a Healer, don’t you?”

“It’s the handling that’s the problem,” Takara muttered under her breath - but soon afterwards, four hands were applying a cold cream to his skin. Inside of ten minutes, he was covered in it.

“Now, while we let that soak in,” Ilya said, “it’s time for the last potion - Pepperup.”

“Pepperup?” Takara repeated. “But, he usually sleeps for the day, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, but I need him awake and functioning for a bit, so I’ll have to give him this. Fortunately, I think he’ll take it, and it’ll be doubly effective.” Galen heard the sound of a lid unscrewing, and liquid being poured - along with a heavenly aroma.

“You see,” Ilya explained, “I added the potion to some very strong - “

”. . . Coffee?” Galen croaked.

Takara wasn’t sure how she managed to avoid blushing as she watched Galen, leaning heavily on the railing, stagger down the stairs from his bedroom, once again fully dressed. She hadn’t realised until last month that he changed in only a pair of boxer shorts when not on Wolfsbane Potion - but she supposed it made sense. Clothes changed with the werewolf, as they did with Animagi - and if he was going to try and rend himself to pieces, why wreck a perfectly good outfit? Last month, though, she hadn’t been forced to take a really good look at him - hiding in the rafters and turning her head had sufficed.

Now she had a much better idea of what his pyjamas and bathrobe were hiding - and how it felt under her hands.

I should be red enough to match his face, Takara thought, as she watched the Pepperup Potion take effect on Galen. As the steam faded from his ears, she finally decided, It must be the shock.

“What do you mean, your father’s going to pull you out of Hogwarts?” she demanded of Shirou. What about my plans?

“I mean exactly that,” Shirou said. “Dad says he’s not going to send me to a place where a dangerous mass murderer is heading - and given that Fudge is going on about Black’s rambling ‘He’s at Hogwarts’ before he escaped Azkaban to anyone who’ll listen, everybody’s pretty sure he’ll end up there at some point.”

“They’re not wrong,” Galen rasped, taking a long pull on his coffee. Despite the raggedness of his voice, his expression was almost blissful, as it marked the end of two solid years of coffee deprivation.

“Which means, unless Black is captured before September 1st, I won’t be on the Hogwarts Express,” Shirou finished.

“I won’t, either,” Galen admitted, drawing surprised looks. He shrugged minimally, and that he did it without wincing proved that the salve was working. “Full moon that night, and the Express doesn’t get in until after dark. It would be kind of hard to explain why I got on the train and a wolf got off, eh? McGonagall says I can Floo to her office directly - and they’ll mail me my daily doses of potion the week prior.”

Takara stared at him. “Then how was Lupin on the train?”

Galen snorted. “I’m guessing Rowling never consulted a lunar calendar when she wrote the books. Heck, if you go back and check the years the books are supposed to take place in, there are date errors as far back as first year. In this case, September actually has two full moons - the first and the thirtieth.”

Takara winced. “This could be bad, then. If the Dementors stop the train, and no one on board can cast a Patronus Charm . . .”

Ilya frowned. “In this case, there’s very little you can do about it. I haven’t learned the Patronus Charm yet, and I’m a few years ahead of you in instruction.” She glanced at Galen significantly.

Takara winced again. Learning from Ilya was out, then, even if they could somehow master it in less than a month. That meant their parents - and explaining why they wanted to learn would be . . . “Complicated” wasn’t a strong enough word.

Her mind worked furiously. If there was nothing to drive the Dementors away, somebody could be Kissed - maybe even them. There had to be something . . .

“Could I borrow your wand?” she blurted at Galen. “For the train ride, I mean. I may not be able to cast a Patronus, but maybe an overpowered Shield Charm like you’ve used before . . .?”

She watched his expression turn grim. “Are you sure? It’s a powerful wand, but very dangerous to use . . .”

Takara shivered in remembrance. She’d cast exactly one spell with that wand, a simple Unlocking Charm, and it had drained her to the point she was barely conscious. Shield Charms were far more advanced magic, not actually taught until next year. What would trying to cast a spell that powerful do to her, through that wand?

“There’s not much choice,” she said, as grim as the boys. “They can see through invisibility cloaks - ”

“Maybe not the Deathcloak,” Galen said. “It seems more powerful than it’s supposed to be.”

“Maybe,” Takara agreed. “But even if it worked, that would only cover, what, three of us at most? What happens to anyone else in our compartment - or on the train?” She paused, processing what he’d said. “Wait, ‘Deathcloak?’”

Another shrug. “Well, rare as they’re supposed to be, we’ll be seeing more invisibility cloaks soon - and this one’s more powerful than most. So, since they call the Elder Wand the ‘Deathstick’ - ”

“Deathcloak,” Takara agreed. “And I guess you’ll use ‘Deathstone’ for the Resurrection Stone?”

“You got it.”

She shook her head. “Again, what about everyone not under the cloak? We just let the Dementors roam freely?”

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught an odd expression on Ilya’s face. She was looking at Galen with measuring eyes, almost cold. Takara didn’t understand why, and was even more confused when the half-Veela witch spoke, in a very clear voice, “What better defence against the Dementors’ despair, than the Wand of Passion?”

Takara could hear the capital letters in the phrase, though she didn’t understand why they were used.

“What more terrible weapon, than passion unrestrained?” Galen returned, and if his posture was weary, none of that was in his voice, or his eyes. “It knows no limits - it could kill her.”

Ilya was unfazed. “Then teach her what she needs to know. We both know you can.” She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “This is an order, my chevalier.”

Galen’s eyes closed, and he sighed “All right, Takara - it looks like I’m teaching you the Patronus Charm. And yes, you can have my wand for the trip. Does that settle everything? Can I go to bed now?”

Takara’s jaw honestly dropped. “You’re teaching - ? Didn’t we just finish discussing it, and decide there was no way we could learn it?”

“I said I hadn’t been taught it,” Ilya said. “I didn’t say I didn’t know how to cast it. Most spells come down to incantations, wand movements, focus, and power. Your Occlumency will help your focus, and while you’re no slouch in power, Galen’s wand will help. You know the incantation, don’t you?”

Takara nodded.

“Then that leaves wand movements, and he’s seen the movies and video games enough times to know them - how else did he cast a Shield Charm in first year? And of course, that also means I do, as well. You might not be ready to cast a Patronus with your own wand, Takara - but with some practice, we can have you ready to use Galen’s by the first of September.”

“Great,” Galen grumbled, still seeming unhappy about something. “Now can I sleep?”

Shirou shook his head. “It solves the train problem, but not mine. Dad isn’t about to let me go into a known danger zone - and by all reports, Sirius Black is as dangerous as they come. If he knew about the Dementors, I’d be pulled out of Hogwarts now.” He took a deep breath, and glanced between Takara and Galen. “The only way to convince him to let me stay is to make him understand that Sirius isn’t a threat, and that means explaining why . . . I want to tell him everything.”

Silence greeted his pronouncement, so Shirou spoke quickly to fill in the gap, before they’d processed it enough to begin raising objections.

“Look, he already suspects that something’s going on. He knows it was us behind the thing at the bookstore last year, even if he doesn’t know why we did it - although, given the Horcrux I showed to Dumbledore and the rest, he might have some ideas. And we’ll need allies, given what’s coming - especially after things last year seem to indicate that we might not be able to stop Voldemort from resurrecting. You don’t trust Dumbledore - and for good reason, I guess - but we can’t do this, just the three of us. We’ll need resources and connections we don’t have, if this does come down to an outright war. Kiritsugu sure as hell isn’t a bad place to start.”

Takara said softly, “And?”

He looked at her sharply, but her expression was just one of sympathy. He supposed that made sense - like him, he’d spent two years lying to his family. Granted, they seemed much happier with the lie, but it was still lying. Galen, on the other hand, seemed to shrug it off - but he’d admitted that his family in this world was virtually unchanged from what it had been. The lie wasn’t as big, for him, as it was for them.

“And I’m tired of lying to him,” Shirou sighed. “He was more than my father - he was my ideal. And I want so badly to be honest with him . . .”

“Will you still feel that way when he drops you off at St. Mungo’s for long-term psychiatric care - or the wizarding equivalent?” Galen asked sourly. “Even if we agreed to do this, we can’t prove a damned thing, remember? It may as well be a dream - or, as most people around here will agree, a delusion.”

“The kids at school - ”

“Had over a year of watching us predict things - Hermione was on the verge of figuring it out herself, or going mad trying! It’s the only reason she was told! Neville had decided he was better off not knowing, and still wouldn’t, if Takara hadn’t forgotten to watch her mouth!”

“I’m sorry, OK? I was a little more concerned with saving lives at the time!”

“And even then,” Galen continued, “they still don’t know everything. They think their adventures were dramatised as a historical entertainment, not that it’s all a complete fiction!”

“Not a problem for our parents,” Ilya countered. “They’re from our world, too - and they needn’t know that our world is also - to you, at least - fictional. As for proof, the Einzberns are old enough, and wealthy enough, to possess a Pensieve. Memories from so many of us, so obviously not tampered with, will convince him. And Occlumency is a standard skill of Papa’s profession - he is likely better trained than you.”

“But can you face your father, and tell him that the girl looking out of his daughter’s eyes is not the one he raised?” Galen asked quietly.

Ilya flinched. It was small, but Shirou knew her well enough to see it. Evidently, so did Galen, because he sighed.

“Fine. I’m not your babysitter, and we’ve probably done enough damage to the timeline that it won’t matter, anyway. If you think this will best protect you, Ilya-dono, go ahead.”

“And you’ll provides memories to corroborate?” Shirou asked.

Galen’s eyes never left Ilya. “If you wish.”

Ilya nodded, and he shrugged.

“Then if you’ll excuse me, I had a very long, painful night, and today is not shaping up to be an improvement. I would really like to get some sleep.”

The unspoken conclusion hung in the air, So get the hell out of my house.

“What is with him?” Takara griped as they left. “I mean, he’s never been that grumpy after a transformation before!” She paused. “Granted, he’s not usually awake . . .”

“He’s been living with the consequences of family secrets and their revelation for half his life,” Ilya said solemnly. “Hardly surprising he dislikes being told that we’re going to reveal his for him. But even so,” she added, “he did seem rather prickly. Was there a problem last night?”

“Beyond the transformation?” Shirou asked. “No. He came home from dinner out with his folks, let us into the shed, locked us in - ”

“Dinner out? Where did they go?”

“His grandparents,” he supplied.

“Ah,” Ilya said, and there was a clear note of understanding in her voice.

“You know what’s going on,” Takara accused.

“I have his memories - of course I do,” Ilya replied. “No one knows him better than I.”

“Including his wand?” she pressed. “You might have talked him into helping me learn the Patronus Charm, but that wasn’t the conversation you were having. What were you talking about?”

Ilya was silent for a moment, before she said, “His wand is powerful - you agree?”

Takara nodded.

“Does it also look familiar? Have you seen one like it before?”

“Yours,” Shirou said instantly.

Takara, however, had a different answer. “Dumbledore’s. It looks like Dumbledore’s.”

Ilya nodded. “The Elder Wand has passed through many hands in its time. Most of these people have been thieves, duellists, and would-be conquerors. One of its most recent holders, however, was a wandmaker named Gregorovitch. He didn’t use the wand, but he did study it - and Galen’s wand and mine are the results of his labours. Brother and sister wands, as close a match to the Elder Wand as can be fashioned by mortal hands. Neither are a match for their progenitor, of course, any more than one of Shirou’s Traced copies could equal the true Excalibur - but they are powerful, nonetheless. And if they are not the Wand of Destiny, they still embody concepts which resonate throughout the world.”

“The Wand of Passion,” Shirou said thoughtfully.

“Yes,” Ilya said seriously. “The embodiment of desire, of need, of want - the thing he denies himself most in life. I had hoped that in gaining that wand, he would allow himself to feel again, to enjoy the life before him.” She smiled ruefully. “So far, it doesn’t appear to have worked.”

She looked at Takara. “Galen was right - his wand is dangerous. It will draw magic to suit your desires, regardless of whether or not you can spare it. It has no concept of risk, or safety - only to want, to need. Without a strong will to temper it, it could kill you. That much, he has learned, and so, he does not lose his temper so quickly or easily anymore.”

Takara goggled. “You mean he used to be worse?”

Ilya smiled, and it made Takara shudder.

Shirou studied Ilya carefully. “So, if the nature of your wand follows his - given that your Veela blood, your spells must be nightmarishly powerful.”

Ilya shook her head, sending ripples through her hair again. “Though it is the same length, and holds the same core, my wand is different. To use it best, I must possess what I need most in my life, particularly as a half-Veela with a powerful innate allure.”

Takara couldn’t resist asking, “What’s that?”

Ilya gazed at the pair of them. “Peace.”

Shirou confronted his father in his study. “Dad, we need to talk.”

“About?” Kiritsugu inquired.

“Hogwarts - ”

“My decision’s final, Shirou. I didn’t know about the troll, or the basilisk - but I will be damned before I let you walk into a place where some insane madman is going to be lurking about.”

“. . . And other things,” Shirou said quietly.

An eyebrow arched. “Like?”

“Ilya’s getting out the Pensieve - could you meet us in the training room? There’s some things you need to see.”

Obviously puzzled, Kiritsugu nonetheless complied. He was even more obviously surprised when Shirou began tossing memories into the stone basin.

“How do you know how to do that?” Kiritsugu demanded. “I’m amazed you recognised this for what it was, never mind knowing how to use it!”

“Dive in, and learn for yourself,” Shirou said grimly. “There are things you need to see.”

Though nettled, Kiritsugu complied.

“I’m going to be a hero of justice when I grow up, and save everyone!”

“If you try to save everyone, you’ll end up saving no one.”

“. . .I ask of you, are you my Master?”

“I am the bone of my sword . . .”

“. . . I have no regrets - this is the only path. My whole life was Unlimited Blade Works.”

Kiritsugu emerged from the Pensieve, his breath heaving. “What the hell was that?”

“A life,” Shirou said calmly. “Once upon a time, my life.”

“It doesn’t end there, Papa,” Ilya said softly. “You need to see . . .” She withdrew memories of her own, contained in phials, and tossed them in.

Taking a deep breath, Kiritsugu dove back in.

“I want my father to be well again.”

“The Grail . . . A relic of vast mystic power - the power of miracles . . . I will fight for the Grail - in your name.”

“Who are you?”

“Avenger. That’s the truth of me. And you asked what I am? I’m yours - then, now, and always.”

“We share a divided mind, but in the end, I am still you. Your shadow, your reflection, your dreaming self. If you are hurt, I will bleed. If you choose to protect something, I will fight for it. And what you love . . . What you love, I must cherish - even if you are a fool.”

“I know that you are not an Epic Spirit. However, I believe that for what you have tried to accomplish, what you have chosen to do, and why - you are a hero.”

“It’s time I took responsibility for creating you.”

“That was for dying to save my family . . . And that was for making me watch.”

“I’m not the hero, Shiki-san - I’m the monster.”

None of them needed Takara Aozaki’s Mystic Eyes to see the web of neon-blue cracks that erupted across Illyria’s form, or the white lightning that raced through them from the point where the sword had pierced her body. Both were powerful, and they increased in intensity as each of them realised what was about to happen.

Archer struggled to rise . . .

Takara, still in mid-fall, threw her arms in front of her face . . .

The ragged knight darted forward at inhuman speeds, as though trying to throw himself between the two and the incoming blast . . .

. . . And the world went white . . .

Kiritsugu reemerged, clutching his skull. His breathing was ragged, and his colour was fluctuated badly.

“Shirou . . . Ilya . . . What on earth . . .?”

“On another Earth, Dad,” Shirou said seriously. “One very different from the world we know now. It’s a long story - but we’ve decided that if you’re going to understand what’s going on, you need to know.”

“It begins with you and Mama, over thirty years ago,” Ilya said. “When you became involved in a contest for a powerful artefact called the Holy Grail . . .”

March 26th, 2011, 05:09 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 3 - Family Planning

August 4 - 7, 1993

Kiritsugu listened, for the better part of an hour. He said little, other than to ask questions to clarify certain events, until Shirou and Ilya had run through the events of the Fourth Grail War as they understood them, as well as the Fifth, Sixth, and the aftermath. He simply looked at them steadily, in turn, throughout. And when they had finished, he walked over to the liquor cabinet in his study, removed a glass tumbler and a bottle of Firewhiskey, and poured himself a large drink.

Following a long swallow (and accompanying pyrotechnics), he said, “So you’re telling me that this entire world isn’t real. That my life - my family - is a lie.”

His voice was flat, his face carved from stone, but both children knew that tone, that expression. Kiritsugu’s temper bursts were rare - certainly, rarer than their more outwardly passionate mother’s - but terrifying to behold once unleashed.

“No,” Ilya said sharply. “This life - this family - is the way things should have been. Would have been, without the Einzberns and their quest for power, their damned Grail War. It killed all of us, Papa. Mama, you, me . . . Even Shirou, in the end.”

“But we’re alive now because you - what? Forced this world to accept you, and your memories of us? The same thing you say that demon tried to do to your world? What gave you the right to do that here?”

“You’re not just a memory given shape - I resurrected you,” Ilya said flatly. “As the Grail, I had that power - it was why the Einzberns wanted me, made me! None of us were people, or family to them - just pawns, tools. Usable if useful, disposable if not. I didn’t want to make that mistake - and I learned from what Illyria did. I forced this world to accept us, yes - but on its terms. We’ve adapted to suit the world’s nature, not the other way around. We’re witches and wizards, not magi. Mama is a Veela, not a Grail spirit. And Auntie Arcueid doesn’t live with the isolation and horror of being the last True Ancestor.”

“And Galen isn’t crippled, he’s a werewolf,” Kiritsugu spat. “Did you even think about what you were doing to him? To the Aozakis?”

“The Aozakis were dead, or dying,” Ilya said. “The safety of their lives was Takara’s wish, which I granted as part of this. It’s how I could do this - because it fit what I was commanded to do. When the Kaleidostick malfunctioned, Shirou, Galen and Takara’s souls would’ve been shredded, and scattered across a thousand different realities - I saved their lives, too!”

Kiritsugu sipped the Firewhiskey. “And created this little fiction for all of us in the process.”

“It’s not fiction!” Ilya snapped. “All I did was entreat this world to accept us as its own, use my power to weave us into the fabric of this reality. I gave you life here - but what you made of that life is entirely your own doing. Mama, too.”

“And Galen? He would’ve chosen to be a werewolf?”

“Not this type,” Ilya admitted. “But his body was afflicted in life, and he saw himself as a monster - my monster, but a monster nonetheless. The world took that into account when it made him who and what he is.”

Kiritsugu was silent for a long while, before he asked, “And what happens when you get bored with all of this, Ilya? How will you rewrite reality to your whim then?”

“I couldn’t,” Ilya said steadily. “I’m no longer the Holy Grail - that was the whole point. For better or worse, this is my life. This is our reality.”

Kiritsugu drained the Firewhiskey and poured himself a second glass.

“Then let’s talk about that,” Kiritsugu said grimly. “Tell me how a trio of students knew about a diary that was fifty years old. Tell me how a second-year student knows how to enter a chamber no one had supposedly discovered in a thousand years, armed with exactly the right weapons to kill a basilisk that no one knew was there.”

Once again, Ilya did most of the explaining. Kiritsugu once again said little, glancing back and forth between his children. He did, however, ask a few choice questions - questions that grew angrier as the telling went on.

“A book series? OK, we’ll table that one for the moment - if nothing else, it’s no crazier than the rest of what you’ve told me. Tell me more about what happened to this Potter kid . . .”

“Wait - knowing it was one of those two families, and that Voldemort would come after them, he didn’t set any traps or ambushes in case the Dark Lord came calling? Just set them inside this Charm, and hoped for the best? How long, exactly, did he think they could hide - the entire life of this ‘chosen’ kid? And why use an outside Secret Keeper if they were worried about traitors? Lily Potter had a one year old child - she wasn’t going to be leaving the house much, if at all - and nobody could’ve forced her to tell the secret, since they couldn’t find her unless she told them!

“. . . And Black was just thrown into Azkaban? No trial, no evidence, just on sheer belief that the Secret Keeper couldn’t have been anybody else, and the word of a dead man? They didn’t even bother questioning him to find out what he might know about Voldemort’s operation, or passed onto Voldemort about theirs? Even about what kind of curse might kill a dozen people at once, and explode its target so thoroughly that they only found a finger? Nothing about the incantation or wand movements, so they could predict when it was coming, or at least how many other Death Eaters might know it? Hell, no wonder the war went on for ten years - these people have no idea how to fight one!

“Philosopher’s Stone? In a school? How did anyone know it was there? . . . The centaurs in the goddamned forest knew?! Why the hell would they know - what did he do, take out an ad in the Daily Prophet? Tell me it was well-protected. . . What kind of defences? And the only one that was actually potentially effective just handed it over under the right conditions? Tell me it was a fake, and the real one was sealed in the Headmaster’s office, maybe under that Fidelius Charm . . . And he waited until after it was almost stolen to destroy the damned thing?! Moreover, he knew the bloody professor was the thief for most of a year, and never bothered calling the Aurors, or confronting him at all?”

The ranting did not improve once they hit Harry Potter’s second year.

“They didn’t close the school immediately, they didn’t call in the professionals to investigate, they didn’t even go after the person they thought was responsible for the prior attack until four people had been Petrified?! And once again, straight to prison, no questioning at all - because the Ministry had to be seen ‘doing something?’ Not because they thought they had the right man, just because it looked good?

“How the hell does a second-year figure out in less than a year what’s responsible, and how it was getting around - and Dumbledore doesn’t, despite having fifty years to consider it? . . . If his damned phoenix could carry four children and an adult out, why didn’t it take Dumbledore down there to fight it, rather than relying on a twelve-year-old with no combat training to do it? . . . The kids had to inform the Ministry to let Hagrid out of Azkaban - Dumbledore didn’t Floo or send his own owl?”

Kiritsugu was seething. “If I’d known he was this damned incompetent a human being, I’d have enrolled you in Durmstrang with Ilya, Shirou. What about this year - any improvements?”

Ilya outlined the events of Harry’s third year. Kiritsugu was not happy.

“Dementors?! Aurors exist to do exactly this job, and he sends Dementors to a school full of children? Is Fudge out of his mind?! Tell me he at least sends Ministry personnel to act as minders - WHAT?! What kind of idiot lets those things run around loose?! . . . And after Potter’s attacked repeatedly, Dumbledore still doesn’t have them expelled? They’re a proven danger to his students, and he doesn’t even request Ministry support in controlling them?

“ . . . Let me get this straight: the story being told by a man who was unconscious for most of the time is the one believed, because the kids were obviously Confunded? The school nurse didn’t confirm that, did she? . . . Somehow, I didn’t think so. And they don’t even wait for the other professor to regain consciousness to corroborate it? And Dumbledore doesn’t, as head of the Wizengamot, demand that Black actually be tried for his current crimes, much less his old one, but just accepts the Minister’s decision to summarily execute him? And then relies on a pair of students with a Time-Turner to fix things?”

Kiritsugu glared at Shirou. “Explain to me, in very convincing terms, why I should let you go back to Hogwarts. Hell, I’ll settle for compelling reasons not to request reassignment as far out of Britain as we can get.”

Shirou looked at him. “Because if we leave, people will die. Thousands - maybe millions.”

Kiritsugu stilled. While Kiritsugu, much like Shirou as Archer, had long since abandoned the ideal of saving everyone, he was still not so cynical as to allow people to die if he could prevent it. And whatever changes his existence in this world might have wrought on him, that belief was still at the core of Kiritsugu - whether he be Emiya or Einzbern.

“Tell me,” Kiritsugu demanded.

Ilya did. She told him about the resurrection of Voldemort, the prophecy, the Horcruxes, all of it. Even though they’d covered the first three years, it still took quite a while to tell - enough to go through a plate of sandwiches, and another glass of Firewhiskey - and Butterbeers for the kids.

Kiritsugu was silent and visibly struggling at the end of the tale. “You’ve acted to change some of this.”

Shirou shrugged. “Harry isn’t here - and we couldn’t do nothing.”

“And this year could see all the pressure unravel. Stop the rat, and Voldemort won’t be resurrected. We’ll have time to get to the Horcruxes and destroy them, so that he can’t be.”

“Potentially, yes,” Shirou said.

Kiritsugu closed his eyes, seemed to come to a decision, and sighed.

“You have this year, Shirou. If you can’t pull it off, I’m pulling you out and shipping you off to Durmstrang. Helping is one thing, but the level of corruption and incompetence already in place tells me this country is going to self-destruct sooner or later, Dark Lord or not, and I’ll be damned if my family is here when it does.”

“You’re awfully accepting about all this,” Shirou noted. “Not the situation, but that all of this is real.”

Kiritsugu smiled wolfishly. “Anybody who progresses far enough into Occlumency picks up at least a smattering of Legilimency - to test with, if nothing else. I’m no Master in either art, but however good your active defences are, your passive ones are crap. The memories in the Pensieve weren’t tampered with, and neither were your minds. You’re either all utterly delusional, or it’s the truth. And since it’s hard to believe all four of you have gone mad at the same time . . .” He shook his head.

Kiritsugu continued, There’s not a lot I can do about Black or his situation, since this is a domestic matter - but I can help your build up your Occlumency, all of you. It should afford you some protection from Dementors, at least . . . And Dumbledore and Snape, too.”

He fixed Shirou with a hard stare. “One year, Shirou - and then we’re gone. And if Takara doesn’t tell her parents what’s going on, I intend to warn Shiki about what’s coming, anyway. He won’t want to risk Ciel and Takara - and he sure as hell won’t want to put the new child in danger, either.”

“Expecto patronum!” Takara called, and was rewarded by a silver light flaring at the tip of her wand.

“I’m not even getting the smoky stuff, never mind the animal,” Takara muttered. “Why can’t I use your wand again?”

“Because it might kill you, trying to pull out enough magic to do it,” Galen said flatly. “You’re learning with your wand first - if nothing else, it’ll give you an edge on trying to master it over the year, with Lupin.” He gazed at the doors which led out of the training room her family used - the one with enough security to conceal even the use of underage magic from the Ministry.

“Are you sure your mother won’t be checking on us?” he asked nervously.

“Positive,” Takara replied. “She went for a nap not ten minutes before you showed up. She’ll sleep for at least an hour - maybe two or three.”

“Still no energy, huh?”

She nodded. “She’s getting better, though. Bigger, too. The baby’s started moving in the last couple of weeks.”

Galen smiled. “Excited about being a big sister?”

Takara smiled. “A little. It’s weird, though - in the world where we were Slayers, Mother and Hisui-san were both pregnant. Now Mother is again. I have to wonder if she would’ve turned up pregnant after the Grail War, too.”

“Only if your parents have some sort of karmic destiny involving having babies following near-death experiences,” Galen said with a smirk.

“I think I’ll blame you instead,” Takara retorted.

“Huh? Why me?”

“Because if you hadn’t saved her life, Mother and Father wouldn’t have gone on that second honeymoon.”

“I thought it was a stress leave.”

“Officially, it was stress leave. Unofficially - ”

“Granted,” Galen said quickly.

Takara hesitated. “I never thank you for this, do I? You keep saving my parents - and I yell at you for risking yourself . . . But I’ve never actually said ‘thank you.’”

“When I want thanks, I’ll pass you the salt,” Galen quipped. “Besides, I did get a thank-you, once. The first half was great - the second half, not so much.”

Takara felt her cheeks flush. Nanaya might’ve initiated the kiss, but that didn’t mean she didn’t remember it.

“Now, let’s get back to practice. Show me your wand movements again - maybe I missed something. If that’s not it, we’ll try switching memories. The books say happy ones, but I’m thinking joyous might be a more appropriate description . . .”

“Why don’t you show me how it’s supposed to be done, ‘Professor?’” Takara teased. “I could use a visual aid.”

Galen’s face blanked immediately. “No.”

Takara stopped in surprise. “‘No?’”

“No,” he repeated.

“Well, why not?” she demanded.

“Because I can’t do it.”

“What do you mean, you can’t do it? You’re a genius with defensive spells!”

“Not this one.”

“Why not?” she pressed.

Anger sparked in Galen’s eyes. “Because you need a happy memory to cast a Patronus, Takara - and at this point in my life, I don’t have a single one left untainted by time. Nothing happy that isn’t touched by regret, or grief, or just plain old bloody cynicism. If a Dementor comes, my options are simple: I run, or I throw myself in front of it for someone else - because that’s all I can do.”

She stared at him in disbelief. “Nothing makes you happy?”

“Not nearly happy enough,” Galen snapped. Then his face blanked again, and his voice followed, as he returned to a businesslike demeanor. “Now, the wand movements, please?”

Shirou, she decided. I’ll have to try for Shirou. It’s been two years, and he’s still this bad - I don’t think I can wait on the chance that he might be get better. Although, I should probably warn Hermione. If she wants a happily ever after with Galen, she’ll never get it - and there’s no point in breaking her heart.

Galen was stewing as he let himself in to the Granger house to feed Crookshanks his dinner. The cat, apparently sensing his mood, kept his distance at first. He didn’t begin eating until Galen had left the room.

Galen wandered upstairs with the vacuum cleaner, and began doing the bedrooms. The roar would keep Crookshanks away, and hopefully the work would give him something to do to take his mind out of its current setting. After finishing the master bedroom, though, he had to admit that it didn’t seem to be helping much.

Takara looked surprised, but what did she expect me to say? I was an outcast and social parasite before I died, with almost no friends or family worth the name, and no prospects whatsoever for success in life of any kind. I was a pretender as a Heroic Spirit who mostly blundered his way through things, surviving on either the mercy of my opponents or the raw magical power of her, and her mother. Without those, Saber would’ve killed me in our first battle.

And look how well that turned out - Illyria slipped through the crack they had to open to allow me through, and nearly destroyed the world. Once again, I blundered through, and wound up sending us to the Land That Common Sense Forgot. We’re caught in the opening stages of a magical civil war, unable to trust either side - and most of the so-called “good guys” would run screaming if they knew what I was.

More to the point, it’s a reality that seems obsessed with repeating its prior patterns, regardless of the loss of its star performer. And even when we do manage to change things, get just a little bit of progress, we seem to take at least two steps backward. Lucius Malfoy might not be on Hogwarts’ governing board any more, but he’s no less dangerous. Even more dangerous, maybe, because now he knows us. We can only hope the ICW Security Division manages to catch him soon, to hand over to the Japanese authorities.

Galen felt a smile brush his features as he left Miranda’s room, now with dust-free carpeting - he’d do the furniture tomorrow. The warrant for Lucius Malfoy’s arrest, though, was a bright spot. He likely wouldn’t be in nearly as much trouble, had he not attempted to flee after being raided by the Ministry following a tipoff about the secret trapdoor in Malfoy Manor’s drawing room. Following his flight, Fudge had been pressured to have the warrant issued.

Not that it’s done much good, he thought grimly. Almost the entire summer, and still no trace of Malfoy. Where would he go to hide in Britain? They were pretty sure he hadn’t left the country . . .

I bet Draco will be interesting to deal with when we return to school. About one-third of his standard conversational phrases is now unusable. Although, maybe his father will still hear about things, somehow . . .

Galen paused, hesitating, outside the door of Hermione’s room.

Hermione . . .

This is the year she starts crossing the line from “cute” to “sexy.” And I’m getting the hormones now to respond to that. Damn it, they’d finally started levelling off when I hit thirty, and now I have to deal with them all over again!

And this is the one year I can’t protect her - not from Dementors, not with her using that Time-Turner to be in three different places at once. For the first time since we started Hogwarts, she’ll be on her own.

Nothing I can do. There rarely is, and when I can, it’s never enough.

Galen pushed open the door, and began to vacuum. He knew the details of her room - like his own, it was largely composed of bookcases and wall-mounted shelves for more books. He’d never investigated too closely - her privacy was her privacy, and she was trusting him by allowing him access to her room when she wasn’t home.

It was a nice room, he had to admit. Hermione had chosen to have her walls painted a pale yellow, like daffodils. A little too bright for his tastes - his bedroom had been light blue for years - but it was cheery, and warmer than his own.

Of course, that might be because it’s Hermione’s . . .

Stop it. You can’t have her - once she’s grown out of this crush, she won’t want you, and you’re too damned old for her, anyway. Hell, you’re too old for Takara, and she’s a lot closer to your age than Hermione - though not by nearly enough.

He turned off the vacuum cleaner, and was tripped by the sudden impact of a furry missile to his ankles. He twisted to land in a sitting position on Hermione’s bed, and was immediately startled by a second impact on his legs.

Crookshanks gazed at him, rumbling in his throat.

“What’s up?” Galen asked. “I’m past the full moon - you don’t usually start smelling the wolf this soon.”

Crookshanks batted his head against the boy’s chest, and he automatically began stroking the back of the cat’s head. Crookshanks’ rumbling purr increased, and he turned in little circles, kneading Galen’s pants before flopping down contentedly in a massive ginger heap.

“Missed some people contact, huh?” Galen sighed. “I suppose I could use some fur therapy myself.”

He smiled. “You remind me of a cat a friend of mine used to have. She wasn’t like you - she was skittish, because they used to chase her as a kitten. If I took a step towards her, even if I had no intention of going anywhere near her, she’d bolt. And it broke my heart, because she was the most beautiful cat I’d ever seen. But when she got older, she decided, as some of my friend’s other cats had before her, that my lap was the best chair in the house. If she saw me come in, and I wasn’t sitting down in about fifteen seconds, I got yelled at. And she smacked any of the others who got too close while she was in my lap - I was her throne, and she was not sharing.”

He looked into Crookshanks’ gleaming yellow eyes. “I know you’re not looking to make friends - you miss Hermione and Miranda, and I’m the only one here who can pet you. So, I’ll understand when you resume ignoring me once they’re home. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this.”

Even so, he sighed. He’d have maimed for this, not too long ago. He’d always liked cats and dogs - and when his own dogs had died, he’d taken to pampering any he came across. Most of them were happy for the attention. But the same animals didn’t react well to lycanthropes, so he’d had to let that part of himself go, too. Having Crookshanks in his lap was wonderful, even though he knew it wouldn’t last. Nothing good in his life ever had.

Just survive the year. If you can get the rat, no Voldemort resurrection - and the Triwizard Tournament can go on like it was supposed to. Krum will ask Hermione out, she’ll start to gain the confidence she deserves as a beautiful young woman . . .

And then you can take Ilya’s goddamned oath as fulfilled, Hermione and Takara as happy, and do what you should have had the courage to do two years ago, when she came to you with the offer in the first place.

All you need is the rat as a prisoner, and you’ll finally be free to die.

March 26th, 2011, 05:11 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 4 - Rendevous in Diagon Alley

August 27, 1993

Takara double-checked her supplies before heading out that morning. Her wand was in its holster, and strapped to her forearm. Unlike the boys, she could place it on either arm - she’d retained her ambidextrous nature in the transition. Today, she picked left, as most witches and wizards would assume she was right-handed. She wore the same emerald yukata she had last year - the style of it allowed it to be let out as she grew, and she still liked the pattern and colour. Moreover, the garment was Muggle in design, but close enough to robes to not draw undue attention among magical folk, either. Her Galleons were in a small mokeskin pouch that hung from around her neck. This allowed her to carry quite a bit, and call for it as necessary, while making it difficult for potential thieves to reach.

Her hair was freshly cleaned, with a cinnamon-scented shampoo, and tied up and back into a ponytail, as she did during kenjutsu practice. And she’d put on a touch of makeup, based on her mother’s actions during her first (and only) date, a lifetime ago. A light base makeup, to make her skin look smoother, and a little paler, as going more golden wouldn’t mesh well with her outfit. A light lipstick made her mouth a very mild pink, to match the sakura blossoms on her yukata, and the ribbon in her hair.

She wasn’t quite as dressed up as she would’ve been on an actual date - and to really complete the yamato nadeshiko image, she needed a fan - but she looked much less the tomboy than she usually did. Enough to remind Shirou that she was a girl. Granted, with his mother and sister, trying to catch him purely on looks was a fool’s errand . . . But it never hurt to point out that she had them, either.

. . . At least, she was under the impression that she did. Still, even if she was plain, it might work in her favour - a refreshing change from Veela glamour.

With a sigh, she accounted herself finished, and headed downstairs to the fireplace. She was due to meet the others in Diagon Alley shortly.

“Goodbye, Mother,” she called out to the garden. “Take care.”

“Do you have your booklist?” her mother called back.

Takara reddened at the realisation that she did not, in fact, have it - and it was rather ridiculous to shop for school supplies without it.

Coming back downstairs she called, “All right, now I’m going - do you need anything before I leave?”

“I don’t think so, treasure,” her mother assured her. “I have sunblock, a book, some snacks, some water - and the chair isn’t so low that I can’t get out of it.” At a volume Takara was obviously not meant to hear, she added, “For now, at least.” Then, in a normal voice, “Your father’s due home shortly, anyway.”

“All right, Mother,” Takara replied. “Don’t be out too long - sunblock or not, you don’t want to burn.”

“My skin’s itchy enough,” came the agreement. “Have a good time, be careful, and I’ll see you when you get back.”

Takara nodded out of reflex, calling, “I will - goodbye!”

She walked over to the fireplace, snatched some Floo powder, and called out the name of Shirou’s home, where she would meet him and their chaperones while shopping. She found it appropriate, for a home belonging to a family that consisted of snipers, Dark wizard hunters, and avian creatures like Veela.

“The Aerie!”

In a rush of green flame, she was swept away, finally tumbling out of a white marble fireplace to make a perfect two-point landing.

The Einzbern manor home was not a grand mansion, but neither was it a standard home. It could have served admirably as a bed-and-breakfast, with four guest rooms in addition to the family’s own bedrooms. The furnishings were low-key in appearance, but expensive - and mostly wood. The exterior was English in design, but Japanese and German influences (more of the former than the latter) were definitely visible in the interior decorating. And Takara had to admit, she liked the grand windows the house had - the lake view reminded her of the bungalow her family had lived in back in Fuyuki.

A tall, willowy figure clad in black robes glided into the room, the sable-trimmed cape trailing in tandem with a long curtain of silver-blonde hair. Blue eyes the colour of flame swept over Takara, twinkling with amusements, as a face that would launch a thousand ships stretched languorously into an amused smile.

“Hello, Takara-chan,” Ilyasviel von Einzbern greeted, her voice as silvery as her hair, and more than little teasing. “Dressed to impress, are we? I’m sure Galen will appreciate it.”

“He didn’t last year,” Takara grumbled, annoyed at the sudden reminder. Then she smirked. “And I’m not dressed for him, anyway.”

Takara usually took a perverse pleasure in shattering Ilya’s poise, because it was so hard to do. This time was no different, and was in fact especially amusing, as the half-Veela witch actually stumbled for a moment. Sadly, the elder witch was no slouch in the reflexes department either, and quickly regained her balance and elegant movements.

“Oh?” Ilya inquired. Her tone was cool and casual, but her fiery eyes seemed dangerously bright.

Takara was not a born assassin any longer, nor was she especially adept at these kinds of social interactions, having been shunned by most girls in her life. That said, she still knew when there was a sword at her throat. Normally, she’d happily meet the challenge, but this really wasn’t the time and place to do so, if she wanted to meet her goals. Luckily, she had an answer prepared - and it was even true.

“Ginny Weasley has had a crush on Shirou since last year, and he’s not really sure how to handle it,” Takara explained, smiling. “I thought I’d help out by gently reminding Ginny that she’s out of her league.”

Ilya looked thoughtful. “Maybe I ought to dress up, too, then.”

Takara’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re coming with us?”

Ilya’s smile was bright again. “Of course I am! Who did you think was going to shepherd you through Diagon Alley?”

“I assumed your father -” Takara’s statement was cut off by a headshake from Ilya.

“He’s at Security Division HQ, trying to quietly trying to dig up anything that might help you with Sirius Black - or convince people to let him try.” Ilya replied. “And Mama’s at a charity meeting for most of the afternoon. You’re stuck with me, sorry.”

The elder witch paused. “And I suppose it’s time I do my job.” She stalked out of the room, calling “Onii-chan! Grab your things - Takara’s here, so it’s time to get going!”

Takara’s heart began sinking the moment Ilya left the room. Trying to subtly hint at her interest in Shirou would’ve been hard enough with the other Gryffindors around. Trying to do it under the nose of his overprotective big sister was going to be practically impossible.

Who was it, exactly, she wondered, that decided my that my life ought to be a soap opera? I want to break their jaw.

Luna Lovegood skipped down the street, humming softly to herself. Even in the outlandish atmosphere of Diagon Alley, she drew more than her fair share of stares. To most people, even witches and wizards, bottlecap necklaces and vegetable earrings were not part of a fashionable ensemble - and few people tucked their wands behind their ears. If Luna was bothered by them, however, she didn’t show it - even when it was Maeve or his mother who looked at her askance. Galen envied Luna’s composure.

Finally, Maeve and his mother went off to Ollivander’s, to get Maeve her wand, leaving Galen to take Luna to Flourish and Blotts for their books - Maeve having the good fortune of being able to borrow most of his first-year books, rather than buying new copies. The wizarding world didn’t update textbooks much, it seemed.

“I’m surprised that the Weasleys didn’t offer to escort you, Luna,” he commented. “They’re a lot closer to your home than we are, after all.”

Luna stopped, and her eyes looked a little wide. “Oh no - they were still away in Egypt when Daddy and I came home. Besides, Mrs. Weasley has five children to watch.”

“And you didn’t want to intrude,” Galen said softly. “Or perhaps, you didn’t want to feel like an intruder?”

She glanced away from him for a moment - confirmation enough. Her return, however, caught him by surprise. She looked at him directly, and said, in utter calm, “Like you do?”

Now it was his turn to stop. Luna pressed her advantage.

“Having to play at being an innocent child, when you haven’t been either for a very long time. Surrounded by family and flesh that all looks, sounds, and feels like your own - and yet, not quite. It must feel very intrusive, to know that you don’t belong, even though it seems like you do.”

“Luna, keep your voice down, please,” he murmured quietly. “They don’t know - ”

“I didn’t think so,” she admitted. “You cling to your secrets so tightly, wrap yourself in lies and half-truths until you’re barely aware of the world around you.” Her silvery-blue eyes peered at him intently. “And I have to wonder, just what it is about the world that frightens you so.”

Had any man pressed him like this, Galen would’ve likely killed them. Even most women he knew wouldn’t have gotten away with it. But Luna wasn’t probing like most women, either. Takara would’ve used her words like sword thrusts, trying to carve the truth out of him, until he responded in kind. Hermione would’ve interrogated him outright, her thirst for knowledge and innate zeal driving her forward, rationalising it as being for his own good to get it off his chest. Even Ilya, who knew him better than most, would’ve teased the truth out of him, using a combination of sarcasm and their special relationship to force him to reveal whatever he might be hiding.

Luna did none of those things. Her voice was calm, and undemanding. Her expression was curious, but placid. There was no sense of demand, or threat, in her words. She wanted to know, but wouldn’t push for an answer he truly didn’t want to give. And that made telling her that much more attractive an option.

Fortunately, he was saved from the decision by the sight of a crowd of redheads, approaching a quartet of people - one of whom sported a familiar head of hair . . .

“Look, Molly dear! Muggles!” came the excited voice of Arthur Weasley, and Galen winced. The Weasley patriarch didn’t have a bigoted bone in his body, but he sounded like a tourist discovering a zoo exhibit.

“Honestly, Dad,” piped up Fred (or was it George?) Weasley. “You sound like one of the tour groups at Charlie’s preserve - ‘Look Molly dear, Hungarian Horntails!’”

“And ‘Mundanes’ is a nicer term, more or less,” added the other twin. “At least it’s a word we have in common.”

Even at a distance, he could see both Weasley parents turning red, but as Molly Weasley opened her mouth, Arthur said, “You’re quite right, boys - I hadn’t realised how that sounded. Please accept my apologies, Mister and Mrs. Granger - and might I compliment you on how marvellous a daughter you must have raised, for her to have such a positive effect on these two pranksters of mine?”

The sight of a gobsmacked Weasley matriarch, jaw hanging open, was definitely one for the Pensieve. It might even make a decent Patronus.

“Actually, Dad,” the first twin said, “with all due respect to Hermione, we’re more scared of her friends. If they thought we’d upset her, our lives wouldn’t be worth a wooden Sickle.”

“Although they always describe her as ‘brilliant but scary,’ so if she frightens them, maybe we ought to be afraid of her?” suggested his brother.

Galen, by now, had managed to creep up behind the twins, and caught Hermione’s eye. He mouthed, “Smile.”

Hermione responded with a wicked grin, amusement twinkling in her chocolate-brown eyes.

“Oh dear,” the first twin said, in mock horror. “We appear to have poked a sleeping dragon.”

“Whatever shall we do, brother mine?” asked the second.

With as much gravitas as he could muster, Galen boomed, “Pray.”

The twins jumped at least three inches into the air.

“Gotcha,” he murmured. “Hello, Weasleys and Grangers. Lovely weather we’re having. Did you enjoy your trips?”

Ilya, shepherding Takara and Shirou, chose that moment to arrive. As they were now beginning to block the entryway, by mutual accord, the conglomerate went into the store and broke off into groups. Molly took charge of the twins and Percy, while Arthur found himself entertaining the Granger parents and Miranda, with Ilya in tow to gently tone down his enthusiasm, and occasionally translate mundane or magical terms for one side or the other.

That left the six Gryffindors in a group, gradually passing through the store to acquire what they needed for the new school year.

Hermione was the first to speak. “To answer your question, France was lovely. We went cycling, spent some time at the beach - ”

“I did notice the tan,” Galen murmured. Hermione’s skin was several shades darker than normal - and her face darkened further in response.

“And as I said in my letter, we managed to find a fair bit of local history, as well.” She smiled. “Thank you, by the way - for the flowers. And taking care of Crookshanks.”

He shrugged. “It was hardly an imposition, Hermione. It’s not like you were asking for a kidney.”

“Still,” she persisted.

Anything else she might’ve said was disrupted by the approach of the manager as they neared the bookshop’s display window.

“Hogwarts?” he snapped. “Come to get your new books?”

Galen asked, “How many of us are taking Care of Magical Creatures this year?”

He raised his own hand - that and Ancient Runes had been his electives of choice - as did Hermione (whom he knew was planning to take every subject), and Takara.

“Three, please,” Galen said politely.

“Get out of the way,” the manager said, as he drew on a pair of protective gloves and picked up a long stick before heading for the cage in the front window containing The Monster Book of Monsters.

“Would you like to know an easier way to get those to behave?” Galen called after him.

The manager couldn’t possibly have Apparated back to them - there was no telltale crack of displaced air - but he certainly moved fast enough to give that impression.

“If you’re serious, and it works, you can have all your books for free,” he said passionately. “I’ve been bitten five times already this morning!”

Galen smirked. “Give me your gloves, just in case I get swarmed, and I’ll show you how to handle them.”

He strode over to the cage, gloves in place, and snatched up one of the books before it could react. Gripping it by the top (the left side of its “mouth,” given the design of the tome), he ran a finger lightly down its spine.

“Shhh,” Galen murmured gently. “Silly thing - no need for all this fuss.”

The book’s beady black eyes glittered, and its entire body quivered in his grip - but when he shifted to hold it by the spine, the book fell open easily, with a sound almost like a purr.

“That’s how you do it,” Galen said simply. “I’d be after the distributor if I were you, about not giving out proper handling instructions. In the meantime, you should probably warn anybody else who purchases a copy.”

Takara had already followed his example, her Seeker reflexes giving her a natural advantage to snatching up and stroking a book before it could move to attack her. Hermione stared at the pile of aggressive tomes a little more uncertainly, but managed to stroke one before she picked it up, or the other books could tear it apart.

“If I had to give you every NEWT-level book I have,” the manager muttered fervently, “it would still be worth it. I thought we’d seen the worst when we bought two hundred copies of The Invisible Book of Invisibility - cost a fortune, and we never found them . . . Well, is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Yes,” Galen said. “I can find The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Three for myself, but I’ll also need Intermediate Transfiguration, and . . . Rats. Hermione, remind me of the title of the textbook for Ancient Runes, please?”

Shirou had a pleasant time walking Diagon Alley with Ilya and Takara, replenishing their potions stores at the apothecary’s. They’d run into Neville Longbottom and the battle-ax otherwise known as his grandmother there. The old woman had given him an appraising look that Neville had explained while they were scooping up scarab parts, once Ilya had distracted her attention.

“She’s not sure what to make of you,” he’d confided in a whisper. “Giving me a thousand Galleons like that seems like charity to her - on the other hand, you are the future head of the Einzbern family - she can’t decide whether or not we’re being bribed, insulted - ”

“It was a gift, Neville,” Shirou sighed. “That’s all. You came after me, even knowing you might be killed - from what I heard, you volunteered. That kind of bravery - and loyalty - deserves to be rewarded, so everybody got a thousand Galleons - except Galen and Takara, who helped me figure out what was down there, and how to get in - and whose stuff I borrowed in order to survive and win in the first place.”

“Thanks for that, by the way,” Takara had interjected. “ I managed to talk my parents into letting me buy a Firebolt for my birthday - I’ll give my Nimbus 2000 back to Professor McGonagall for the Gryffindor team to use.”

“My parents got me one for my birthday.” Shirou admitted. “I’m not as into flying as you are, though. Still, I suppose it’ll come in handy one way or another, eh?”

Neville had grinned. “Gryffindor’s going to win the Quidditch Cup again this year, I guess.” Then he’d done a double-take. “Wow, Takara, you look really pretty.”

“Thanks,” Takara had said, almost shyly, before her voice turned sharp. “It’s nice that some boys notice.”

While far from an expert on women, Shirou had managed to pick up some survival skills, and he employed them at that time.

“You’re naturally pretty, Takara,” he had responded. “I just treat it as a given fact, and don’t consider it worth mentioning, generally. It just is - like gravity.”

He hadn’t expected Takara to flare red. After parting ways with Neville, they’d joined up with the rest at Flourish and Blotts. He’d managed to avoid Ginny Weasley, more or less - with some unexpected assistance from Takara. She wasn’t blatant about it, by any means, but she did manage to head off a number of Ginny’s attempts to speak to him, when the redhead had a particular look on her face.

It wasn’t that he disliked Ginny - she was funny when she was of a mind to be, determined, outgoing, and in general, a cute kid. The emphasis, however, was on the last two words. He’d no more consider dating her than he would have considering dating Ilya during the Fifth War.

His mind flashed a picture of Ilya’s current appearance, and his body shivered in remembrance. That allure of hers was only effective on him when she caught him by surprise, but when it worked . . . He shuddered. He wondered if Ilya kept flirting with him because she appreciated the irony - that he looked more or less the age she had, during the Fifth War, and she looked more or less the age he had. There was certainly no doubt that she kept flashing her Veela powers at him because he kept reacting, much as he would keep teasing Takara about her “pretty kitty eyes” until she stopped freaking out over it. It was just too much fun to wind her up.

And on that train of thought, what was with that remark about noticing her looks? he wondered.

Shirou remembered her dressing in much the same outfit last year, trying to get a rise out of Galen by teasing him about Hermione’s crush on Lockhart - until he’d turned it around on her. She hadn’t been wearing makeup then, though. Or restyled her hair.

Maybe she thinks that if she tries a little harder, this time, he’ll start noticing her?

It was plausible, he supposed. Certainly, he’d noted Takara was pretty even when he was a soulless psychopath bent on turning her into the new Grail core and sacrificing her life for his own purposes . . . Shirou shook his head. Those particular memories weren’t ones he wanted to dwell on.

In any case, that Takara was pretty was rarely in question. That Galen certainly thought so was evident to anybody who watched him look at her for any length of time. Getting him to admit it was easy - getting him to follow up on it was the hard part.

Shirou shook his head. For reasons he’d never fully understood, Galen had never even tried to respond to either of the girls who had feelings for him (and he wasn’t entirely sure that Luna didn’t, either). That implied that Galen had either a will of steel, or brains of tofu - and while he’d seen evidence to support the former assumption, he wasn’t ready to rule out the latter, either. Especially lately - he’d been in such a sour mood for the last few weeks, and Shirou had no idea why . . .

. . . But as he watched Ilya all but frog-march him out of the store, Shirou expected he could shortly find out.

Moving as quickly as he could while remaining unobtrusive, Shirou followed the silver-blonde streak of Ilya’s hair to a side passage of the alleyway. While his hearing lacked Galen’s sensitivity, the acoustics of the alley allowed him to follow the conversation when he concentrated on doing so.

“All right, what is your problem?” Ilya demanded. “You might be hiding it from the kids, but you have been in an utterly miserable mood, and a pain for everybody to deal with, for weeks - ”

“Which is my prerogative,” Galen said quietly - too quietly. He apparently wasn’t in the mood to play games.

“Don’t think you can threaten me,” Ilya warned him. “I can blow you through a wall, if it comes to it.”

“Keep pushing and it will.” Shirou was alarmed - the last time he’d heard that tone, Galen had killed the ersatz Berserker of the Sixth War.

Ilya huffed audibly, but he cut off whatever she was about to say with, “It’s my life, remember - which I never wanted in the first place. And if you’re about to argue about that damned oath, don’t.”

Galen’s wand was suddenly in his hand, and Shirou nearly leaped out to disarm him, but it fell from his grip almost immediately.

“‘You will find neither oath nor wand as easily broken as before,’” he intoned, and Shirou remembered those words from Ilya’s letter, two years ago. “The wand, maybe not - but the oath? All I have to do is nothing. What penalty will you invoke? My life? Gee, what a shame. My magic? Likewise. I may not be able to threaten you - but you have nothing to threaten me with.”

Ilya’s voice was icy calm - a sign that her temper was fraying, too - as she said, “If you feel that way, why did you make it?”

“Because I was naive enough to believe, for just a second, that this world might be different,” Galen spat.

Ilya stiffened abruptly, and Shirou was afraid, for a moment, that Galen had struck her. Her next words, however, dispelled that - although he had to strain to hear them, even in the alleyway.

“What did she do?” his sister asked. At Galen’s silence, she continued. “You’ve been miserable for weeks - three weeks. Since you visited your grandparents - what did she do?”

“The news of Sirius Black’s escape came over the wireless,” Galen said flatly. “And my grandmother subtly and quietly freaked.”

“You’re sure?” Ilya said intently.

“I think I’m more observant - and sure as hell more suspicious - than I was at fifteen. I’ve been waiting for a reaction like that since we arrived. I’m as close to sure as I can possibly be without using Veritaserum or Legilimency.”

“But - it can’t be him!”

“No, it can’t - but he ties into it somehow,” Galen responded. “You are, however, missing the point. Last year drove home the fact that this world was going to run its plots the way it wanted, completely independent of our input. The people I want to save will die, regardless of any effort whatsoever that I make to protect them. And now it looks like my personal life is headed straight for the garbage pit it was in before I died - and I won’t go through it again. I absolutely, categorically refuse to.”

He raised his voice. “So from here, milady, you have two choices, and only two: you can kill me personally, right here and now, or you can get - DOWN!”

Shirou had noted Galen observing something, and tracked the angle to over his own shoulder. As such, he was already in motion, rolling down and to the side when Galen grabbed Ilya and hauled her to the ground - just under a yellow burst of spellfire. He came up facing the mouth of the alley, wand drawn.

Draco Malfoy stood just behind his two bookends, Crabbe and Goyle, grinning maliciously.

“Well, well, Einzbern,” he drawled. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you that bad things happened to people who lurk about and eavesdrop?” His grin widened. “. . . No? Then I suppose I’ll have to pass on the lesson myself.”

March 26th, 2011, 05:11 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 5 - Ilya’s Choice

August 27 - September 1, 1993

For an instant, Galen was tempted to do nothing. Malfoy was a sanctimonious little prick, but he was reasonably versed in Dark spells - and if his goal was revenge on Shirou, he’d have done his best to learn as many as possible. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that he’d extracted Sectumsempra from his godfather, which would make death rather swift, if somewhat painful. All he had to do was wait - and step in front of the right spell, and Malfoy might even go to Azkaban for it . . .

Then an even darker part of his nature pointed out that Malfoy was effectively a guilt-free target, and that was all he needed to hear.

Malfoy was talking - he always talked, when he should be fighting - and seemed completely surprised when Galen sprang into motion. He was too far away to get to him before at least one spell flew his way, but he’d have to deal with it -

Behind him, a dreamy warmth flared. Ilya’s allure, reaching out to ensnare - him or the boys? If the former, too bad - anger trumped infatuation, and he had a mad-on like rarely before. His body was a raging inferno, fury turned to poison in his veins, and it had to get out. And with Malfoy and his cronies stunned into insensibility - spineless milksops, all of them - he had a beauty of a free shot.

Grip the wrist, and twist - a dropped wand and one dislocated joint. Foot stomp - at least three broken bones there - and whirl, slamming his shoulder under Malfoy’s armpit while pulling forward, up, and - over!

Oops - landed headfirst. Guess he didn’t pay attention when Ciel was teaching us how to fall.

Take the smaller one first - fast and tricky. Shot to the solar plexus, and the throat - wonder if wizards understand the principles of tracheotomies. Doesn’t matter - he’s out. Now the big guy.

Big and bulky. Looks like he can take a few hits . . . Good.

Move back, out of reach of those ape arms. He’s slow and stupid, but more mass and taller. Take hits if you have to, but don’t give him openings. Couple of quick punches, just to see how well he takes it - just to get him riled, and not thinking.

Fist met flab, hard enough that they’d both be bruised later, but Goyle made no reaction other than a couple of low grunts. Dark, hungry pleasure thrilled through Galen’s veins. Here was a target for all the rage - all the frustration of watching the same things happen all over again. A target that could scream, and bleed, and break . . .

It was a slaughter. Goyle was big, mean, and relatively strong and tough - but he relied on those things, with no real notion of how to fight. Whereas Galen, even enraged to the point that he wasn’t actually cognizant, still had hours of muscle memory to draw on. Certain attacks and patterns triggered rote responses - and unlike in sparring, he had no earthly reason to hold back.

Flesh bruised, and bone cracked. Blood spurted from several places, and Galen showed no sign of slowing down. When Goyle dropped to his knees, he simply adjusted his aim. When he collapsed entirely, Galen dropped into a position where he could continue to hit him. Even wizards, who admittedly had magical aid in their ability to endure injury, had limits, and Galen seemed determined to keep pounding until his knuckles met the asphalt under the boy’s skull.

“Petrificus Totalus!”

Joints locked, and the rage was suddenly left with nowhere to go. He screamed inside his head, but there was no one to hear . . .

Ilya was scowling at Shirou when he came to, and he glared back. She’d gone full-force on the allure, and he hadn’t been prepared - it was a question of which one of them he was more mad at about it.

Then the scene in the alleyway registered - Malfoy down and cradling his wand-arm, the smaller bookend choking, and the big one . . .

“What is it about you and brutal men, Ilya?” he asked, even as his sister murmured “Anapneo” over the smaller boy, and then “Confundo. Stupefy.”

She pointed her wand at Malfoy, and then what was left of Goyle. “Confundo. Stupefy. Episkey. Anapneo. Confundo. Stupefy.”

She turned to Shirou. “That ought to hold them - and it’s a knack.”

“Won’t you get in trouble for those spells? You are still technically underage - ”

She shook her head. “If that was in force, Malfoy’s spell would’ve registered before anything else. This is Diagon Alley. If the Trace functioned here, with all the spells thrown around on a regular basis, every Hogwarts first-year would have their wand snapped before they ever set foot in the school. Now come on, and help me get Galen out of here.”

“To go where? Even if those three won’t remember their own names for a few hours, Galen has finally and firmly lost it. You heard him - the only place he wants to go is a shallow grave.”

“And I need to fix that,” she insisted. “It’s my fault.”

Shirou raised an eyebrow. “Your fault? How, exactly, are you responsible for the mess that’s his head?”

She didn’t answer until they’d gone farther into the maze of alleys, and she’d placed a number of privacy-based charms on the area.

“Because I’ve made it worse,” she said. “He’s here because of me. When Takara asked for Kieran Holt, I could’ve done the usual - used a wraith to make an approximation of him. But with that wooden sword Zelretch gave to his pupil, I could reach as close to the real thing as actually existed, and I did. Yes, he took my offer - but I promised him what he wanted: a chance to do one thing that mattered before he died, and power enough to make it possible. After that, he would move on, as the dead should, and rest in peace.”

“So he was playing Shinji Matou a couple of hours later because . . .?”

“Because when the Powers of Illyria’s world called him back, I saw an opportunity. I was scared, after the last few Wars, of what might be done because of, or to me, and I asked him to stay, to protect me, when all he wanted was to be finished. And that would’ve been fine - I would’ve copied him, and used it the same way the Throne uses copies. But when the Kaleidostick shattered under the force of Illyria’s demise, and I saw an opportunity to escape being the Grail, and be a girl again, with my family, I took it - and I used him to do it. He’s here because of me, Shirou. Because I couldn’t manipulate the Grail system as the Grail, and needed him to do it for me. And I told you almost two years ago how badly being here would damage him . . .”

She trailed off, and looked at her brother. Her blue eyes were beginning to shimmer - an effect that had nothing to do with Veela flame or allure, and everything to do with very human tears.

“Every time I’ve asked for his allegiance, he’s given it. Every time I’ve asked him to do something, he’s done it - sometimes grudgingly, sometimes with a great deal of yelling, ranting, and cursing . . . But every time, he’s obeyed my wishes. Until this moment, he’s been as loyal and faithful a knight as I could ask for.

“So tell me, Shirou - what have I done to reward that loyalty? To deserve it? Our compact was for one chance, one task - and I asked for more. He gave it, and I took more, without ever asking, simply because he was available to use. As his liege lady, Shirou, what exactly have I done for him . . . Especially compared to what I’ve done to him?”

Shirou shook his head. “What have you done to him, Ilya? I’ve never understood - aside from the werewolf thing, what’s so bad about his life?”

Ilya’s face darkened. “The disease and all its attendant effects would be bad enough, but . . . It starts here, with a secret about his mother’s family that causes her to be cast out from them when she uncovers it. Not long after, his father begins a feud with his family over how Galen and his sister are treated, compared to their younger cousins, and a similar rift forms - not quite as deep, but the consequences will be far worse, in the end. ‘Family’ is redefined for him to mean the four people who live in his home, for the rest of his life.

“Friends are never easy to come by for him, and those few who are true eventually leave him, though not always by their own choice - while he’s forced to endure the continued company of the ones he gradually can’t bear to tolerate any longer. He has no prospects, no social life, nor any hope of any. The lessons take a while to sink in, but he learns them: that nothing can be trusted, nothing lasts, and nothing matters, least of all himself. Gradually, he sees less and less point in his continued survival.”

She shook her head. “He may have died in an accident, Shirou, but at that point, he wanted to. It was only the regret of leaving nothing behind that made him accept my offer - and I dropped him into his own private hell for it, to live its unfolding all over again.”

Shirou shook his head. “He needs therapy. And probably a heavy drug regimen.”

“Yes,” Ilya said softly. “If he could be convinced to go, if there was time - and if we could find a psychiatrist, magical or mundane, that might believe him. But he’s never seen the point of therapy, and we don’t have time to try.”

Shirou sighed in frustration. “Then what - we kill him here, before he kills somebody else, or gets them killed?”

“No,” Ilya said softly, “No, not kill him . . . Although, it’s like killing, in a way. And done properly, just as permanent.”

Shirou’s patience was fraying. “Ilya, I don’t understand - tell me what you want me to do!”

“I want you to never tell Papa about what I’m about to do,” Ilya whispered. “Not ever, Shirou. Hide it behind the strongest Occlumency barriers you can make, and never hint that the memories even exist. Can you do that for me?”

Shirou stared. “Ilya . . . What are you going to do?”

She swallowed hard. Her voice was barely a whisper. “Exactly what he accused me of doing.”

She waved her wand. “Finite Incantatem.”

Galen relaxed, and rose warily. He was tensed to attack, or defend himself from attack - Shirou wasn’t sure which. He wasn’t even sure that Galen knew which action it would come to.

“I have a third choice,” Ilya said to him quietly. “So I’ll do what Hermione never did - and give it to you. Will you take it?”

Galen stiffened - though her words were gibberish to Shirou, they obviously meant something to him, and had likely been deliberately phrased because of that.

Finally, he nodded.

“All right,” Ilya said. “Just relax, drop your barriers, and give me a few minutes to calm down. I need to be calm, or my wand won’t work properly - and I won’t get a second chance at this.”

She raised her wand in a dueller’s salute, and took several slow, deep breaths. When she reopened her eyes, they were clear, focussed, and disturbingly calm to Shirou’s own sight.

She pointed her wand deliberately, the light-coloured wood a startling complement to her fair skin.


Shirou watched as Galen’s eyes glassed over. Ilya bit her lip, concentrating. Finally, she sagged, and Galen did likewise. Shirou prioritised the two, and caught her before she fell, leaving Galen to hit the pavement bonelessly.

“Was that a Memory Charm?” Shirou asked.

“Memory Modifying Charm,” Ilya corrected, sounding out of breath. “I didn’t erase the memories - I’d have had to tear his mind apart. I softened them, made them something that he won’t recall so easily, or hurt as badly when he does. He was in a similar state in the Sixth War, when he was newly dead. He’s still scarred, and always will be, but I think the wounds aren’t infected anymore.”

“You don’t suppose anybody will notice the drastic change in personality?”

“Hopefully, they’ll chalk it up to teenage mood swings - but it shouldn’t be drastic, that’s the point. The things that made him who he is are still there, the negative ones just don’t dominate his life as thoroughly. He might be able to enjoy himself now.” She shook her head again. “It should never have come to this, Shirou. If I’d held up my end of our bargain and looked out for him, it never would have had to. But I was a proper Einzbern - I used him when it suited my purposes, and ignored his existence otherwise.” Her voice was as bitter as Shirou had ever heard it. “Grandfather would be so proud.”

“Oi,” groaned Galen’s voice, half-muffled by asphalt as he struggled to rise. “Angst is my shtick, and I guard it jealously. Find your own medium to work in.”

Shirou looked at him, and asked carefully. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I just had major surgery,” Galen muttered. He looked at his hands and winced. “Anybody got enough energy left to seal these cuts for me, please?”

Wearily, Ilya complied.

“You do nice work,” Galen commented. “They must teach you well at Durmstrang - you remember, that’s the school that’s in another country, where you happen to be for ten months of the year? Kind of hard to keep me in line from that distance, after all. Especially since you had to adjust to this world alone, in a place my memories couldn’t really help you.” He shrugged. “It’s not like a lot of detail was given on the school, beyond its existence and a general idea of its size. That wasn’t much to work with - trying to fit in must have absorbed most of your attention.”

Ilya took a deep breath, and restored herself to some dignity. “Nevertheless, Sir Galen - I am nobility. I was taught the obligations one owes one’s servants, subjects, and inferiors. You bargained with me in good faith, and I reneged upon it, quite cruelly. We shall have to speak at length regarding your rights and my responsibilities in this matter. But not here.”

“Not here,” Shirou agreed. “Come on, guys - it’s time we moved on.”

Takara boarded the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4 with decidedly mixed feelings. On the one hand, she actually enjoyed classes at Hogwarts, when she wasn’t having to dodge trolls, basilisks, or other assorted problems. Quidditch was fun - she liked to fly, and it gave her a chance to show off athletically that her schooling in Japan never had, because she was actually appreciated for her skills. And with Galen not with them, she was free to concentrate on Shirou, and have it seem thoroughly natural, since their status as a trio was well-known. On the other hand, she’d miss the latter half of her mother’s pregnancy, and the birth of her sibling, a Dementor attack on the train was almost certain . . . And Galen wasn’t with them.

It was ridiculous. She’d survived almost seventeen years without him, and according to her memories here, another four of knowing him without being in his presence. Last year, he’d been Petrified for a solid week. It wasn’t as though she was really unaccustomed to not having his presence in easy reach . . . But, it felt like it. They’d spent so much time together - at Hogwarts, and especially this summer - that it felt strange knowing that he wasn’t at least a shout away, if not closer.

The others were affected by his absence, as well. Hermione, sitting beside her, looked resigned - no doubt she’d already determined why he couldn’t be on the train. Luna expressed sadness, but didn’t let it stop her from enjoying the others’ company. Ginny looked a mixture of relieved and guilty - an expression echoed by Neville, who also had a touch of apprehension. That wouldn’t have made any sense, except that Galen had long ago determined that while he scared the living daylights out of Neville as a matter of course, the boy took a great deal of comfort in the knowledge that said scary person would always place himself between Neville and harm.

Takara had seen evidence of this last year, after the basilisk attack that had Petrified Galen and her mother - Neville had walked around Hogwarts afraid of his own shadow for a while. She could relate, remembering what it had been like to see her father - a tower of quiet strength for all her life - waste away before the Grail War. A pillar of her world had been knocked out from under her.

Which, she admitted, is sort of how I’m feeling now.

Surreptitiously, she ran her fingers along her right forearm, where Galen’s wand lay snugly in its holster. Encased in the dragonhide sheath, she couldn’t feel the warmth the lignum vitae wand normally exuded at her touch - but it was reassuring just to know it was there.

“Takara?” Hermione asked, with the air of someone who is repeating something for the third or fourth time.

She jumped. “Sorry - what?”

Hermione looked annoyed. “I was asking whether or not you’re ready for our new classes. You’re in Divination and Care of Magical Creatures, right?”

“Yeah,” Takara said sourly.

She blinked. “Something wrong?”

“I didn’t really want to take Divination,” Takara explained. “My parents insisted, though. Apparently, the Sight runs in my father’s bloodline.” Our equivalent to Mystic Eyes, in this world.

“Really?” Hermione said. “I didn’t know that.” She frowned. “I don’t recall reading about any Japanese Seers named Aozaki, though.”

“We’re Aozakis by adoption,” Takara explained. “It’s - complicated, but my dad’s birth name was Shiki Nanaya.”

Hermione paled for an instant, her eyes widening just slightly.

“I take it you’ve heard of us?” Takara murmured.

Hermione nodded. “Once I made friends with you and Shirou, and you all started using Japanese to speak, I did some research - mundane Britain and Japan were quite close in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, did you know? I think it had something to do with their both being island-based empires . . . At any rate, the wizarding histories made mention of a clan of wizards who were renowned for their ability as - well, as assassins. Supposedly, they could always prophesy the deaths of their targets. And there were rumours they’d learned mundane methods of death as well as magical - I think they’re called ninjas? But all my research said the Nanaya clan was wiped out decades ago.”

“My father and I are its sole survivors,” Takara said softly. “His mentor adopted us into her clan for our protection - my Aunt Aoko. She works in Japan’s equivalent to the Department of Mysteries. She studies death, which I think is what brought Father to her attention in the first place.”

Takara didn’t mention her Aunt Touko, who held a similar position, but studied the opposing subject matter: life. The two sisters really didn’t get along, but held their younger members as “neutral territory,” for the sake of their niece. It had been years before she’d properly understood that. Nevertheless, whatever their arguments with each other, they doted on her and she loved them for it. She wouldn’t disgrace them by bringing up their dirty laundry, even among friends.

Although Takara did wonder - they’d supposedly been a lot more antagonistic before she was born. Would her new sibling cause them to finally bury the hatchet?

Seeming to sense that Takara was going to be tightlipped about the topic, Hermione said, “All right, so you’re not looking forward to Divination - what about Care of Magical Creatures?”

Takara smiled. “That could be fun. Working with animals is physical, at least - and I like to exercise.”

Hermione nodded. “I’m ever so glad that Galen showed us that trick with the textbook, though - I couldn’t imagine how I was going to keep it from destroying my other books, much less use it!” She hesitated. “. . . Takara? Has Galen seemed - different, to you?”

“In the last few days, you mean?” Takara asked. Her bushy-haired classmate (though to be fair, her mane was on its way to becoming more wavy than bushy) nodded again.

“Yes,” Hermione replied. “There’s been a change, since we went to Diagon Alley. He’s - less weary, I think. His eyes are brighter, and he smiles more - really smiles, not just smirks or feral grins.” She hesitated. “He left Flourish and Blotts with Ilyasviel . . .” Her eyes were downcast, and her cheeks pinked.

“Whatever you’re thinking, Hermione, she didn’t do it,” Takara said. “They’ve never had that kind of relationship.”

Luna, sitting across from Hermione, broke in unexpectedly. “Perhaps she cheered him up by summoning the heliopaths that attacked Draco Malfoy and his friends - they were sent to St. Mungo’s quite badly hurt.” She tilted her head curiously. “It’s strange, though - usually heliopath attacks involve far more burns.”

Takara shook her head. She didn’t understand it all, either. She’d asked Galen, when he’d cast the Patronus Charm at their next practice, and actually managed wisps of silver mist. It was equal to what she’d been doing at the time - and he’d been utterly certain, hours before, that he couldn’t do it at all. Something had clearly been up, but he’d just said that Ilya had done her best to screw his head back on correctly, and refused to discuss it further.

So she’d talked to Ilya about it.

“I did what I should have done years ago,” Ilya had said to her. “As his liege lady, it was my responsibility to see to his care - and I failed to live up to it. As a result, we’ve had a discussion. While he’ll always be my Jester, there isn’t a need for the position in these circumstances. So I’ve released him from my service.” Ilya had smiled mischievously, eyes twinkling with amusement, and added brightly, “I suppose that makes him yours again, Takara-chan!”

Out loud, Takara answered the other girls by saying, “I’m not sure what she did - but he seems to be better for it, so I suppose it was for the best.”

As soon as the words had left her mouth, the train began to slow.

Takara and Shirou traded looks. Here it comes . . .

“Uh oh,” Neville said abruptly, staring between the two of them. “You’ve got that look in your eyes again. What’s coming?”

As the roar of the engine died, the sounds of wind and battering rain increased.

“Occlumency shields at full, guys,” Shirou warned. “This is going to be mostly mental, and nasty.”

“What is?” Ginny asked - before everyone pitched forward as the train came to a complete, jolting stop.

Crookshanks let out a yowl, displeased at the sudden movement. Neville cursed as he realised Trevor was, once again, missing.

“Language, Neville!” Hermione scolded. “Really!”

“Not now, Hermione!” Shirou hissed.

A sudden crackling sound caught their attention - the windows were beginning to ice over. The sense of fear was suddenly much higher in the crowded compartment.

“It’s coming,” Shirou said tightly. “Takara, are you ready?”

Takara brushed her fingertips over the holster’s rune, and the wand it contained was in her hand. It pulsed once, warmly - and the sensation seemed to push back the gloom that surrounded her just enough that she could breathe comfortably again.

“Ready,” she said, concentrating. This was no different from a kenjutsu match - so long as she was focussed and centred, her attack would strike true. Takara was dimly aware of the compartment, and her companions - Hermione’s eyes were dangerously wide, and Luna and Neville appeared to be nearly catatonic. Ginny had shrunk in on herself, and was starting to cry.

The aura of despair that had touched her friends tried to reach out to her - but between her Occlumency, and the reassuring potency of the wand in her hand, Takara was effectively untouchable. She concentrated on her happy memory - her first beach trip with her family, when she was very small. It was her first time seeing so much sand, or the sea, and they’d had chocolate ice cream when it got very hot. It was one of the happiest days she could remember, and it had worked to form the beginnings of the Patronus Charm’s mist form, when she’d worked with Galen. With this wand, and her need to protect her friends, she was sure it would do more.

The compartment door slid open, and the Dementor came through, a faceless wraith of ragged black fabric and skeletal limbs. In its presence, the aura intensified, enough that Takara hesitated. It seemed to observe them, before it headed straight for . . .


Takara’s paralysis snapped at the sight of one of her oldest friends in danger. Her movements were so quick as to be invisible, her voice a clarion call.

“Expecto patronum!”

The silver bolt that sprang from the tip of her borrowed wand shot forward like a cannonball, barrelling into the Dementor’s form and driving it back through the train, flashing through the corridor as it swept the creature away.

With the Dementor gone, the atmosphere of the compartment quickly returned to normal - though Takara fought a sudden wave of exhaustion as the lignum vitae wand exacted its price from her.

“What . . .” Neville began, white with terror. “What was that?”

“The black thing . . .” Shirou panted, “or the silver one?” He had an almost grayish pallor, and was sweating.

“Any of it!”

“The hooded thing was a Dementor,” Hermione said listlessly. “I’ve read about them - they guard the wizarding prison of Azkaban. They must be searching the train for Sirius Black.” Hermione gazed at Takara. “What was that spell, Takara?” Her eyes widened. “And why do you have Galen’s wand?”

Takara’s voice, when she spoke, was leaden. “Luna, there’s some chocolate in my bag in the overhead compartment - please get it and distribute pieces to everybody. It helps shake off the Dementor’s effect.” She took a ragged breath. “It’s a NEWT-level spell called the Patronus Charm - it works against Dementors, Lethifolds, things like that. I’m using Galen’s wand because I had to be able to cast it, or we might have been harmed.”

“Patronus Charm,” Hermione said, seeming to taste the words. “It conjures something like a guardian spirit?”

“Yes,” Shirou said, as he bit into a piece of chocolate Luna handed him. “They tell me it usually takes an animal’s form - but I couldn’t tell what that was, it moved so fast.”

“Oh,” Luna said in understanding. “That explains it.”

“Did you see what it was?” Takara asked, feeling sweet chocolate goodness spread warmth throughout her.

“Oh yes,” Luna replied earnestly. “And it makes perfect sense - what else would your guardian be?”

Despite the certainty of her pronouncement, no one could get Luna to elaborate. And they kept trying, as the train restarted, until they finally reached Hogwarts, with no success at all.

March 26th, 2011, 05:14 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 6 - A New Year Begins

September 1, 1993

As a general rule, Galen disagreed with most forms of magical travel - or rather, they disagreed with him. Broomsticks and their ilk were right out - he hated heights, period. If he had been able to fly, it might’ve been a different story, but relying on a gizmo to keep him safe high up and at ludicrous speeds was a no-go (especially given some of the Quidditch matches he’d seen). The Knight Bus was at least on the ground - but it wasn’t a full-time service, and apparently no one involved with it had ever heard of seatbelts. Still, that he could live with, if he had to. He’d never been Apparated, so he couldn’t comment - but reading descriptions of its attendant sensations didn’t thrill him. Portkeys didn’t look all that comfortable, either.

Floo travel wasn’t much better, in his opinion. Physically travelling through a bunch of chimneys - especially when people could spy on or snatch you up in mid-travel - was not exactly comfortable. Still, as it was really the only way to get to Hogwarts (or at least the quickest), it wasn’t as though Galen had much choice. His trunks could be shrunken and shipped via Hermes, if it came down to it, but he couldn’t reach the castle by many other means in the short span remaining - otherwise, he’d have flown to Scotland by British Airways and hiked to Hogsmeade, if he had to.

The witch or wizard who can work out the logistics of a magical cab company will be a wealthy one, indeed, he thought.

Not for the first time in his life (or this year, for that matter) he cursed the full moon. If this had been a matter of going home from Hogwarts, he probably would’ve been OK to take the train. After almost a year of Wolfsbane Potion supplements, blacking out the windows in a compartment would’ve prevented him from changing - the buildup of the potion in his system could’ve shielded him so long as he stayed out of direct moonlight. Once back in King’s Cross, his mother could have Side-Along Apparated him home, with no one the wiser as to his nature. But going to Hogwarts, after a two-month enforced abstinence, was impossible. So he had to get to the school this way.

It meant that the others would be facing the Dementors alone - with his wand, yes, but not his help - and he’d miss his sister’s Sorting, having been locked in a classroom for the night.

He’d often amused himself by wondering which house Maeve would end up in. Aside from the change in name, his little sister of this world was virtually identical to her counterpart - perhaps happier, as she no longer had to be as protective of her big brother (a role which had always grated, since as big brother, he felt the reverse was his responsibility). Werewolf he might be, but Galen had never been physically weak enough to be picked on - especially not after Shirou and Takara had started training him in martial arts.

That meant that Maeve had the loyalty and work ethic of a Hufflepuff, the brains of a Ravenclaw (her grades had been consistently better than his, though he ascribed that more to his dislike of school than any significant gap between their IQs), the courage and principles of a Gryffindor (much like Hermione), and the innate sneakiness ascribed to Slytherin. And for all that Rowling ascribed entire families to the same houses, he thought that was ridiculous. One only had to look to the Weasleys as an example: Ron’s bravery only showed through when someone else prodded him into doing something, the twins’ cunning (and ultimately, their ambitions) made them good candidates for Slytherin - and the less said about Percy, the better.

Although, given his experiences with the diary, that may change, he mused.

The point, to Galen’s mind, was that it was ridiculous to class entire families by house, and then emphasise on multiple occasions that the Hat made its decisions based on personal choice as much as or more than innate characteristics.

He shook his head. Since Ilya’s mental and spiritual housecleaning, connecting with his family had been easier - he felt less guilt, and less reason to compare them with his memories. And so, he really would’ve liked to see Maeve Sorted - but it just wasn’t possible.

Lucky for me, I have friends who will - and access to a Pensieve at school, he thought.

Galen swept his room one more time, to make sure he had all his materials and books. He was especially careful of The Monster Book of Monsters - he didn’t want it reacting badly over the trip. Fortunately, the little beast seemed to have taken a liking to him, so hopefully it would be OK. The Deathcloak was carefully rolled and folded into his wand holster. At present, the holster was otherwise empty, but this way it presented a bulge to people who expected to see one, and hopefully wouldn’t cause awkward questions as to where his wand actually was - and why.

Satisfied that he had everything, Galen shut the lid of his trunk, and was rewarded with the automatic locking sequence. A tracing of a rune on its surface, plus a murmured word, caused the whole thing to reduce itself to the size of a cigar box. A matchbox would’ve been easier to carry, but far more expensive - and he’d cared more about security than portability when he’d bought it.

Placing the box in a zippered pocket in his school robes, Galen strode to the fireplace. The Salvatore home was not, as a general rule, on the Floo network - they lived mostly in the mundane world, and a fireplace that frequently had faces or people appear in it was not a regular occurrence there, save perhaps on the twenty-fifth of December. Special arrangements had needed to be made in this case to allow him to travel to Hogwarts, as a onetime possibility.

Galen picked up the packet of Floo powder that had been dropped off by an owl yesterday, along his daily dose of Wolfsbane Potion and the name of his destination. While Hogwarts had any number of fireplaces hooked up to the Floo network (such as, for example, in the Gryffindor common room), few of them were large enough for actual travel. Only one or two in the castle were usable as anything more than communication points. He was using the one he was most familiar with.

Tossing the powder into the fireplace, Galen shouted, “Hogwarts infirmary!” as they turned green, and stepped inside. There was an abrupt whirling and whooshing sensation, before he tumbled out again, covered in ashes. Fortunately, he’d learned long ago how to fall with minimal impact and injury, and thus managed to avoid cracking his skull open.

Madam Pomfrey made a tsk sound anyway. “Don’t you know how to Floo properly, boy?”

“Effectively mundane-raised, remember?” he grumbled. “For my first attempt, I didn’t think it was that bad.”

Seeing no visible signs of injury, the school nurse allowed, “Maybe not. Now, drink your Potion, and head to the Headmistress’ office. The password is ‘Sloth Grip Roll.’”

Galen nodded. It figures - McGonagall seems to have as big a Quidditch fixation as Dumbledore had a sweet tooth.

The office wasn’t difficult to find, thanks to his Occlumency-boosted recall skills. His whole skill level in that art had increased, thanks to Kiritsugu’s extra training over the last month. None of them were masters - far from it, probably - but anybody trying to break into their heads was at least in for a fight.

It was one of the main reasons he didn’t worry about the memories Ilya had buried, or that she’d implanted a false one of his agreement to the procedure. His Occlumency was now at a level where he probably could’ve detected the tampering - and if he’d resisted at all, fighting the spell would’ve torn his psyche to shreds. Whatever she’d done, she’d done with his willing participation.

Galen paused at the entryway to the Headmistress’ office. Overall, this universe followed the Harry Potter books, but it used the movie elements quite frequently. Hermione resembled Emma Watson despite the actress being considered by many book purists to be too attractive for the part - though like her literary counterpart, Hermione had the buckteeth that Emma had lacked in the role. Dumbledore was the image of the late Richard Harris (who, with all due respect to his successor, was still the ideal man for the part). There were differences, too - the Deathcloak was composed of the silvery fabric of the novels, not the patterned design of the films - but by and large, things could be counted on to resemble their cinematic counterparts, where they didn’t directly diverge from their literary origins.

The Head’s office had been one of the exceptions - in this case, “guarded” by a phoenix statue (instead of a gargoyle, as in the books) which ascended with an entrant, rather than moving aside entirely. With McGonagall’s ascension to the post, however, the phoenix had been replaced by a tabby cat statue, whose posture indicated that it would seem to circle the tower as the staircase rose up. It was a tangible reminder to Galen that things hadn’t always gone as expected in this world - and that the changes they attempted to make had repercussions beyond the anticipated.

“Sloth Grip Roll,” he announced, and watched as the cat began “prowling” upward. When it stopped, he ascended the spiral staircase to the door of the office it led to, and knocked quietly but firmly.

“Enter,” came McGonagall’s voice.

The office, too, was different from the films. The silvery instruments often described as tied to monitoring Harry Potter were not in evidence - small wonder, as they had never been needed - and the perch where he’d expect to find Fawkes the phoenix was not present. The portraits of prior Headmasters, however, were all in their places.

“You summoned me, Headmistress?” Galen asked, trying to sound respectful. His contact with McGonagall had been limited over the last two years, for all that she’d been his Head of House at Hogwarts. Other than Transfiguration class, their paths rarely crossed - he had nothing to do with Quidditch, and he’d deliberately avoided her on occasions, as a means of staying under Dumbledore’s radar. His condition was known among the staff, of course, but it hadn’t ever really been a problem, thanks to the Wolfsbane Potion, and what trouble he raised, he’d never been caught at. So he couldn’t think of any particular reason why she might want to see him . . .

“Mister Salvatore,” she said crisply. “As you’re here well in time, I trust there were no problems with your travel arrangements?”

“No, Headmistress - and the potion doses were delivered safely to me, as well. I need only tonight’s dosage.”

“Good. Professor Snape has a cauldron of it brewing in his office - I expect you’ll have a dose once we’re finished here.”

He nodded, and she eyed him critically.

“Understand, Mister Salvatore, that I hold nothing against you as a result of your unfortunate condition, personally,” she began. “That said, however, you must also understand that Professor Dumbledore went to some considerable effort, that you be allowed to attend Hogwarts - society in general takes a dim view of your kind, though I’m certain this is not unknown to you.” Galen schooled his face to be impassive, but the Headmistress nodded as though he’d responded. “I thought not.

“While I have some influence, given my years of service to the school and the number of students I’ve taught who have gone on to remarkable careers, be aware that I am far from Albus Dumbledore’s equal in terms of political strength, and should you land yourself in difficulty, there will be little I can do to extricate you from it.” She frowned severely. “In the last two years, you have made a habit of ignoring authority, and throwing yourself into life-threatening situations. While I applaud your courage, and the results, such recklessness could eventually expose you, and it would mean the end of your time here at Hogwarts.

“I would find that wasteful, Mister Salvatore. While you are by no means an exceptional student, such as Miss Granger, your achievements to date are far from unremarkable. You and your peer group consistently attain the highest marks in Defence Against the Dark Arts” - she pulled a sour face - “in spite of substandard instruction, and your grades in History of Magic are equalled only by Miss Granger herself - which I recognise as no mean feat, however I dislike speaking ill of my colleagues. Yours is a bright mind, Mister Salvatore, and I think your loss would be a considerable one to the school.”

“Thank you, Headmistress,” Galen said, meaning it. McGonagall was cut from the same cloth as a British teacher he’d had in primary school - compliments given by her were rare, and thus deeply meant.

She waved it off. “Your academic standing is well-earned, Mister Salvatore, and serves well as an argument for your continuing attendance. Your Special Services award, likewise - but I note that your extracurricular activities are, shall we say, a trifle thin on the ground?”

Galen’s eyebrows rose. “Headmistress, if you’re suggesting I try out for the Quidditch team - ”

“Good Lord, no!” McGonagall burst out in horror, before colour rushed to her cheeks. “My apologies, Mister Salvatore - but while I am no longer Head of Gryffindor house, I maintain a fondness for it that I am free to indulge on the Quidditch pitch, if no longer in other venues.”

“And a natural flier, I am most definitely not,” Galen said drily.

“No,” she agreed, kindly but firmly. “However, Professor Flitwick has noted your talent for duelling - which the events of your time here corroborate. And while Gilderoy Lockhart is no longer with us, I believe his duelling club to be an excellent idea, in itself.”

“You want me to join.”

“I do. The reputation you - and your friends, if you can convince them - have developed will garner interest in it, if nothing else. In addition, it’s an excellent opportunity to get to know the club’s faculty advisor, and your new Head of House - Remus Lupin, who will be taking the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor. He too, shares your condition, and has years of experience in concealing and living with it. I’m quite sure he has insights and experiences you would find valuable.”

Galen nodded. “All right, Headmistress - I see no problem with that.” He noted the darkening sky outside, and frowned, trying to determine whether it was simply the rain, or sunset. “Is there anything else, ma’am? I should probably take my last dose of Wolfsbane before it gets too late . . .”

“Quite so,” she agreed - and then hesitated. “There is one other matter, Mister Salvatore. This is not an order, save in that you keep it secret. It concerns Miss Granger’s timetable for the year, and measures I’ve taken on her behalf . . .”

Shirou paid little attention to his surroundings as he staggered into the castle, half-supported by Neville. Though the chocolate had helped, it hadn’t fully flushed out the Dementor’s effects. He still had chills, and periodic tremors ran through his body.

The creature had been horrible. Just looking at it had dredged up memories he’d have preferred never to relive: battlefields where the only thing he could do to save anyone was kill them and put them out of their misery, flashbacks to the darkest parts of the Grail Wars he’d participated in, as both Servant and Master, and ultimately, the sea of flames that had consumed everything he’d been before Kiritsugu found him.

He’d be having nightmares for a while, he knew. You couldn’t live - or relive - that kind of trauma without them. And his reaction to the Dementor, and its to him, terrified him. It had come straight for him, and he’d been helpless, lost in the blackest of his memories. Without Takara and her Charm, it would’ve unquestionably killed him.

I need to learn that spell as soon as possible, he resolved, as Madam Pomfrey suddenly came into his field of vision, and he realised that he was sitting on a bed in the Hospital wing.

“All right, what is it? Somebody sent an owl about someone being attacked?” She paused on seeing Shirou. “Oh, it’s you, is it? I suppose you’ve been doing something dangerous again?”

“It was a Dementor, Poppy,” said McGonagall grimly, causing Shirou to do a double-take. When had she gotten here? For that matter, when had he? She turned to Neville. “Thank you, Mister Longbottom, you may go to the feast - I will see to Mister Einzbern’s care from this point. Miss Granger, please stay - I will need to speak to you afterwards.”

Madam Pomfrey’s eyes narrowed in disapproval. “Setting Dementors around a school - he won’t be the only one, oh no. Terrible things, and the effect they can have on people who are already delicate - ”

“Delicate?” Shirou repeated, managing some sense of outrage. “I am not!”

“Of course you’re not,” she said, as if by rote. “You should at least have some chocolate - ”

“Takara already gave him some,” Hermione assured her, causing Madam Pomfrey’s face to soften in approval.

“Bright girl, that one,” she admitted. “Knows her remedies, I see.”

McGonagall looked as though she’d swallowed a lemon that had been soaked in vinegar - whole. “You can rest assured, Mister Einzbern, that I will be speaking with the Ministry about the accountability of their - agents. If Madam Pomfrey says you may leave . . .?”

“He seems all right,” the matron admitted, in a tone that suggested “all right” was synonymous with “only a real idiot would leave, but I can’t actually stop you.”

“Very well. Kindly wait outside while I have a quick word with Miss Granger about her timetable, and we can go down to the feast together.”

He did so, trailing McGonagall silently, next to Hermione. The girl seemed inordinately pleased about something - she was visibly restraining herself from skipping down the corridor, and her hand constantly moved to her chest, before stopping and settling back at her side.

The Great Hall was lit, as it usually was, by thousands of floating candles. At the far end of the room, dwarfish Professor Flitwick was carrying the Sorting Hat and stool towards a door next to the staff table.

“Oh,” Hermione said softly, “we’ve missed the Sorting!”

Shirou scanned the Great Hall, looking for the round features of Maeve Salvatore - and found her clustered with her fellow first-years.

“Hufflepuff,” he whispered, and Hermione nodded in acknowledgement. McGonagall strode to the throne-like chair at the centre of the staff table even as Neville and Luna waved the two Gryffindors to the empty spaces typically “reserved” for them.

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another year at Hogwarts,” McGonagall announced. “And welcome, too, to those taking their first steps into the wizarding world. This will be a year of great change for Hogwarts, and I hope that it will change things only for the better. To begin with, I would like to introduce my replacement in the post of Transfiguration instructor, a man renowned for the skill who has graciously consented to resume the position he held for a great many years - Professor Albus Percival Wulfic Brian Dumbledore.”

There was a smattering of applause as Dumbledore raised his goblet in salute. For his part, Shirou frowned. While Dumbledore might not be officially in charge, it remained an open question as to how much influence he had over the school through McGonagall and the other staff, even if he had less actual authority on paper.

This could be tricky, he realised. As a teacher, and one without administrative duties, Dumbledore can keep an eye on us a little more directly. We’ll have to be extra careful, at least until we can get an idea of his limitations.

“I would like to introduce you to our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, and Head of Gryffindor house, Professor Remus Lupin,” McGonagall continued. “Unfortunately, circumstances have delayed his arrival at Hogwarts for the immediate future - though I have been assured he will arrive in time to begin his classes, as scheduled.”

From what he’d been told, Shirou would bet money that Lupin was actually locked in the DADA professor’s office, waiting for the full moon to go down. This, however, was not to time or place to speculate, even among his friends. Far too many ears.

“And finally, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, Professor Kettleburn, decided to pursue his retirement at the end of last year. However, Rubeus Hagrid has kindly consented to take up the post in addition to his gamekeeper’s duties. I have no doubt he will serve Hogwarts to the best of his abilities.”

McGonagall turned serious. “Now, onto less lighthearted matters. As you will no doubt be aware, following their search of the train, the Dementors of Azkaban are in pursuit of the escaped mass murderer, Sirius Black, by order of the Ministry of Magic. To that end, they will be stationed at every entrance to the grounds until his capture. Dementors are among the most horrible creatures to walk our world. They know nothing of mercy, or remorse, and anyone who attempts to interfere with them tempts a fate worse than death.”

A murmur of unease - no, outright fear - ran through the seated students.

“That said, I wish to make it clear that no one is allowed to leave school grounds without permission so long as the Dementors are here. And, I am relying on our Head Boy and Girl, and our prefects to help ensure the safety of our students. I cannot overemphasise how dangerous these creatures are, and it is my deepest hope that they will complete their task quickly and depart swiftly.”

Shirou saw Penelope Clearwater nod, and Oliver Wood, as well. Well, that answered who had gotten the Head Student positions.

“With that said, I believe we can now turn our attention to the feast. Tuck in.”

Shirou did so, musing as he did. Apparently, things were very different from what he’d been told to expect, which might make things harder, or easier - it was too soon to tell. And the Dementors were going to be as big a problem as they’d feared. It was imperative that they master this Patronus Charm as quickly as possible. But first, they’d have to wait for Lupin to be available to ask for instruction, and then hope that he would agree to teach them.

If not, it’ll have to be Galen - and it’ll be hard to explain why all of us can suddenly do a spell usually performed by seventh-years, without an accredited instructor to vouch for us.

Yes, this could be very difficult - though if Galen and Takara were right, it could also be over as of this year, too.

It had better be. If not, Kiritsugu will have me out of Hogwarts - and then what?

Shirou didn’t have an answer, and decided it was better that he arrange things so that he’d never need one.

He couldn’t wait for tomorrow, when Galen and Lupin would hopefully be available. He and his friends had a lot of planning to do - and suddenly, it seemed, not nearly enough time.

Shirou looks like I feel, Takara thought listlessly. How the heck does Galen survive using this wand? One spell, and I want to sleep for a week!

In the back of her mind, she knew that he wasn’t regularly trying to cast advanced magic well beyond the standard level for their age. And the fact that it was, after all, his wand might make a difference. But still - the way she felt now, it was a miracle he wasn’t dropping like a sack of bricks every other hour!

She trudged up the stairs of Gryffindor Tower, intent on reaching the girls’ dorm, and her bed. She was vaguely aware of Luna and Ginny behind her, and Hermione beside her, but honestly too tired to pay them much attention. Takara was aware that she and Hermione were the only ones to enter the third-year girls’ dorm - Parvati and Lavender must’ve been down in the common room still, with the new kids . . .

“. . . Takara?” Hermione asked softly, joining Takara in sitting on her bed.

She made a noise of acknowledgement, something like “Mm?”

“Those movies . . . How complete were they?” her friend asked carefully.

“. . . Complete?” Takara repeated, confused.

“Well, you knew about the incident in the bookstore last year, and the Dementor on the train this year . . .” Hermione trailed off, uncertain. “Did the movie mention . . .?”

She brought her hand up to her chest hesitantly.

Takara shook her head, trying to stay awake. “Hermione, what is it?”

The other girl shook her head suddenly. “Never mind. It doesn’t really matter.” She smiled brightly, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “You look exhausted - you should get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.” She rose from the bed and turned, before turned back around again to ask, “Should I take Galen’s wand to him, or would you rather give it to him in the morning?”

“C’n wait ‘til morning,” Takara mumbled through a sudden yawn.

“All right,” Hermione responded. “Good night, Takara. Sleep well, and pleasant dreams.”

“Thanks - you too,” Takara said, even as she reached for her pyjamas. The sooner she got into them, the better.

And so the first night back passed, and all of them waited for the new day, and the beginning of their next - and with just enough luck, their final - challenge.

March 26th, 2011, 07:07 PM
You know what's really hilarious in hindsight where in Book two Takara said she would never date Shirou.

March 26th, 2011, 07:25 PM
Amazing what years of positive contact, and hormone surges will do, huh?

Yeah, you'll note that a lot of things are said in the early years that turn out to be untrue, down the road. :)

March 26th, 2011, 08:37 PM
Trying to subtly hint at her interest in Shirou would’ve been hard enough with the other Gryffindors around. Trying to do it under the nose of his overprotective big sister was going to be practically [i]impossible.

This one I found using the String search function of chrome. It may help you for a final once over. It was on chapter 4

March 26th, 2011, 09:12 PM
Would help if I was patient enough to do it, too. Thanks, fixed it.

March 26th, 2011, 09:34 PM
In my experience, you Ctrl+B(F?) and write the [ or ]. The end. And No prob.

March 26th, 2011, 10:13 PM
Yeah - but when I'm doing it manually, as quick as I can, occasionally I mistype, or miss things - as you've seen.

Ah well, at least once I catch things up to where I left off in "The Tournament," this will stop. And hopefully, that should be in the next week or so.

March 26th, 2011, 10:34 PM
Ok, then.

March 27th, 2011, 05:34 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 7 - Fears and Flying

September 2, 1993

Takara felt much refreshed by her night’s sleep, but the same obviously couldn’t be said about the boys. Shirou was virtually a zombie. When she asked, he answered with one word: “Nightmares.” She supposed that she could see that - he’d been a lot closer to the Dementor than she’d gotten, and it made sense that if its presence bothered her that much, his getting “up close and personal” wouldn’t improve the sensation. As for Galen, he stubbornly remained asleep - another rough moon, she supposed. She knew Ilya and Arcueid had mixed some potions for him this year, though, and hoped that he wouldn’t have to spend the entire day in bed.

His spot at the table was abruptly filled by George Weasley, while Fred hovered close by.

“New third-year timetables,” he said, passing them out. He glanced at Shirou, and asked, “What’s with you?”

“One of the Dementors took a fancy to him,” Neville answered sourly, shivering at the memory. Fred and George looked uncharacteristically grim.

“Nasty buggers, those,” Fred admitted. He cocked his head. “Would you ladies and gents happen to know anything about a particular spell?”

“All bright, shiny, and practically threw the Dementors off the train like they’d been hit with Bludgers?” George added.

Takara raised an eyebrow. “Why are you asking us?”

The twins’ typically cheeky grins returned. “Because you lot are always mixed up in the interesting stuff, of course!”

Takara smiled, admitting, “We were lucky we could get it to work. It’s called the Patronus Charm. Very advanced, we’re told.”

Fred nodded. “Might have to look into that - thanks.”

“ In the meantime, we’d best be off,” George continued. “We’ve got things to meet - “

” - And people to do,” Fred finished. “You know how it is.” They gave the younger Gryffindors cheery smiles and a jaunty wave, before rising and setting off.

“There must be a mistake with your timetable,” Neville said suddenly, looking at Hermione. “They have you down for Divination, Arithmancy, and Muggle Studies - all at nine o’clock!”

“I’ll manage,” Hermione said simply. “I’ve fixed it all with Professor McGonagall.”

“But,” Neville sputtered, “you’d have to be in three places at once!”

“Don’t be silly,” Hermione retorted, “Of course I won’t be in three classes at once.” She turned to Takara with an expression that said she clearly considered the subject closed. “Pass the marmalade, please?”

Hagrid walked past the Gryffindor table a couple of minutes later, absently swinging a dead skunk. Luna shivered slightly at the sight, but Ginny whispered something in her ear that seemed to make her relax.

“All right there, Takara?” the big man inquired. He raised an eyebrow. “No Galen? Hope he’s not sick - you three are in my firs’ ever lesson! Right after lunch! Bin up since five, gettin’ everythin’ ready . . . Hope it’s OK . . . Me, a teacher . . . Hones’ly . . .”

Takara smiled. “Galen will probably be there even if he has to drag himself out of the Hospital Wing - he’s been looking forward to your class all summer. And I’m sure you’ll do fine - Professor.”

Hagrid’s blush was visible even under the shaggy beard. He walked away, mumbling things along the lines of “Aw, shucks.”

“Laying it on a bit thick?” Shirou inquired.

“He’s a nice man, and he means well,” Takara said, a little defensively. “A little confidence boost won’t hurt him. Besides, Galen has been looking forward to Care of Magical Creatures.”

Hermione gave her a look. “You think he’ll make it? He’s been getting awfully worn by these attacks.”

Takara smiled again, and she was certain it resembled Galen’s smirk as she said, “I’m sure wild Hippogriffs couldn’t keep him away.”

The North Tower, where Divination class was held, turned out to be quite some distance away. Takara had a rough idea of where they were going - north as a destination was easy to figure out, and she had the advantage of having flown over the school once or twice in owl form in the last year, so she sort of knew which tower she was looking for - but the internal layout of Hogwarts would’ve been confusing enough without the staircases and doors deciding to change their positions at random.

She knew she was on the right track, however, when they were accosted by a painting.

“Aha!” barked a short, squat knight in clanking armour. “What villains are these that trespass upon my private lands! Come to scorn at my fall, perchance? Draw, you knaves, you dogs!” He drew his sword and brandished it menacingly, but overbalanced and collapsed onto the grass.

“Prithee, good sir knight, we are but humble pilgrims that have become lost on our way to the northern tower,” Takara said earnestly. “We would beseech thy aid and protection, for two of our number are but mere maids, and fearful of the perils of our road.”

She ignored the sensation of Hermione and Neville’s goggling looks burning a hole between her shoulder blades.

“A quest!” the knight roared in joy, as he rose and mounted his pony. “Fear not to put your trust in Sir Cadogan, gentle lady - by my troth, I’ll see you safely to your goal, or perish in the attempt! Come, good sir and gentle ladies! Come!”

In a frenzy of enthusiasm, Sir Cadogan clanked through the paintings across the halls, eventually leading them to the North Tower. He bid them farewell with pledges of valorous assistance, should his aid ever be required.

Neville stared at Takara. “What was that all about? ‘Mere maids?’ Since when are either of you a ‘mere’ anything?”

Takara shrugged, but she was smiling. “I’ve seen Galen play that game with Shirou’s older sister for years, Neville - I know how to talk to knights. And now we’re here, and on his good side. It couldn’t get much better, could it?”

Neville blinked, then admitted, “I guess not.”

Hermione said impatiently, “Come on, we’d better go in before we’re late.”

The interior of the room resembled a Japanese tea house from the Warring States era as much as it did a classroom - low tables surrounded by cushions as much as chairs - and armchairs, at that, as you might find in someone’s study. It was lit by lamps draped in red scarves, adding to the heat of the fireplace. Dim, smoky, intimate, and uncomfortably warm . . . To Takara, it looked like nothing so much as a Gypsy fortuneteller’s wagon from one of those vintage horror movies Galen liked to watch.

“So help me, if she says one of us has the mark of the pentagram, I’m out of here,” she muttered under her breath.

Hermione shot her a confused look, but before she could question the remark, the voice of Professor Trelawney interrupted.

“Welcome,” she said, emerging from the shadows of the room. “How nice to see you all in the physical world at last.”

Takara sighed inwardly. Unless I can actually manage to manifest the Sight - and considering the fact that I was seventeen before my Mystic Eyes woke up, that isn’t likely - this is going to be a long year.

Shirou was surprised, on arriving in Arithmancy, to find Hermione already seated in the classroom - he’d seen her leave with Takara and Neville to make sure they got to Divination in time. More to the point, as he’d come straight here, how had she managed to beat him to class?

“Do you know a shortcut?” he asked quietly, sitting next to her.

“Oh!” Hermione said in surprise, as though she’d forgotten he had the same class. “Um, not exactly . . . I practically had to run to make it here in time.”

“Decided to skip Divination, after all?”

“No, it’s part of the arrangements Professor McGonagall made - you needn’t worry about it, Shirou.” Hermione’s tone firmed with her last words.

He shrugged. There was a secret there, obviously - but if it had been truly important, Takara or Galen would’ve told him. In all honesty, they probably had, but after the Dementor encounter and the subsequent lack of sleep brought on by it, he couldn’t call anything to mind.

Instead, he immersed himself in this new field of Arithmancy - the magical meanings of numbers, and related fields. It had close ties to numerology, but extended in the wizarding world to be the basis of engineering spells and rituals. As such, it was a vital foundation for anyone who wanted to truly understand how to enchant objects . . . Like, say, hundreds of swords.

While mathematics had never been Shirou’s strong point, he had more than a little knowledge of engineering, and this was much the same. Sooner or later, if he continued in this class, Shirou believed he would understand just how the Room of Requirement worked, and be able to adapt its features to recreate Unlimited Blade Works. But even if he didn’t, Shirou expected that he’d get a good grounding in the mechanics of forging magical weaponry.

One way or another - if I have to physically create every weapon, and magically store them all, I’ll do it. But I will have that power back. One way or another . . .

He concentrated so hard on his new class, he didn’t even notice Hermione slipping away - but she must have, since she was with Neville and Takara when they walked into Transfiguration. Neville, for some reason, looked really pale. To his surprise, Galen was there, as well - looking a little like death warmed over, but there nonetheless.

“Pepperup Potion, a concoction of Arcueid’s that tasted like old shoe leather, and a couple of slices of toast with peanut butter on them,” Galen muttered in response to the unasked question. “I’m basically running on about four hours’ sleep, so here’s hoping I can keep up.”

Dumbledore, Shirou had to admit, proved that he knew his stuff. Granted, the first lecture of the term was about Animagi (which, as an Animagus himself, Shirou already knew a fair bit about), but for an old man, he wasn’t near the bore as an instructor that, say, Professor Binns was. Still, despite that fact, Shirou noted that almost every other Gryffindor in class was subdued, even spaced out. Shirou ascribed Galen’s to the usual full moon stresses, but he’d never known Hermione to be so quiet or distracted in a lesson.

Or to pay more attention to Neville than to Galen, he noted sardonically.

“My,” Dumbledore said cheerfully. “While I am aware that it has been some years since I actually taught a class, I cannot recall ever being considered of so little interest by so many students at one time. What, I wonder, could be the cause?”

Everybody glanced at Neville uncertainly, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) it was Hermione who raised her hand.

“Please, Professor, we’ve just had our first Divination class, and we were reading the tea leaves, and - “

”Ah,” Dumbledore said placidly. “I take it from that statement, Miss Granger, that Professor Trelawney has performed her usual greeting at the beginning of a school year, and predicted someone’s death?”

Everyone stared at the old wizard.

Dumbledore said solemnly. “You may take heart in knowing that for all the students that have passed through these halls in the years since Professor Trelawney began teaching at Hogwarts, none have died in the course of her predictions. I believe it is simply her own private joke upon her pupils.” His eyes twinkled. “However, should it so happen that she eventually proves correct, I assure you that the unfortunate student will not be expected to hand in their Transfiguration homework.”

A weak laugh circled the room, and colour returned to Neville’s face. They got on with the lesson, which eventually led them to lunch.

“See, Neville?” Hermione soothed. “It’s Professor Trelawney’s idea of a joke - you’ll be fine.” She scowled. “A fine thing for a teacher to do - if that’s going to be common behaviour, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be taking that class. Divination strikes me as a very woolly subject, anyway. A lot of guesswork, if you ask me.”

“Oh, it can work,” Takara said, “but it isn’t always precise or clear, even to experienced Seers. But trust me, Neville - in this case, you have nothing to worry about.”

Neville still didn’t look entirely convinced. “But - she said neither of you were suited to Divination . . .”

Galen cleared his throat. “Neville, it’s fine.”

Shirou shook his head as he saw the kid visibly relax. Two of the smartest witches in school told him not to worry, and it didn’t help. One of the most revered wizards in the country had told him not to worry, and it didn’t help. His own personal boogeyman (after Professor Snape) had just told him there was nothing to worry about, and obviously everything was fine. Those two had a very strange relationship - but then again, who was he to judge?

In any case, the reassurances (and a good meal) seemed to do them all some good, and in no time at all, it was time to head off - he and Neville had a free period, wonder of wonders, but the other three went outside for their first Care of Magical Creatures class.

Shirou hoped it all went well for them.

Galen still felt a touch wobbly as they headed into the fresh, damp air - easily passed off as lingering strain from the “car accident” that had delayed his arrival at Hogwarts. Still, he was doing better than he’d been the previous years - by now, he’d only be considering getting up. As awful as they tasted, the Veela potions seemed to be doing some good. Even without them, though, he’d have tried to be here. He really didn’t want to miss this class.

It wasn’t so much the prospect of Malfoy getting mauled that drew him to attend (though admittedly, that was a nice perk), even given that, with Malfoy Senior a man on the run, Buckbeak was unlikely to get in trouble for it. No, it was to learn whether or not magical creatures reacted to him as normal ones did. A cat or dog was not a pet a werewolf could have - but a Kneazle or a Krup might be a possibility, if they weren’t as instinctively terrified of him. This class would be a way of finding out.

Galen noted the presence of Malfoy and his goons, but other than venomous glares, the Slytherins let them be. He wondered how much of the alleyway fight they actually remembered - Ilya had a proven knack for mind magic. Maybe they’d forgotten the details entirely.

Hagrid led them around to the paddock at the edge of the forest, and then called, “Everyone gather round the fence here! That’s it - make sure yeh can see. Now, the first thing yeh’ll want ter do is open yer books - ”

“How?” Malfoy said loudly.

“Eh?” Hagrid said in surprise.

“How do we open our books?” the blond Slytherin elaborated, displaying his own, tied shut with a length of rope.

“Hasn’ - hasn’ anyone bin able ter open their books?” Hagrid asked despairingly.

Hermione smiled and raised her hand. Takara and Galen joined in, along with Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown. One or two of the Slytherins also raised their hands, but were careful to be out of Malfoy’s line of sight when they did.

The big man looked relieved. “‘Bout a third of yeh figured it out, then.”

“Actually,” said Parvati sheepishly, “the store manager showed me how.”

Takara smiled. “You bought your book after we did, then.”

Parvati stared. “What makes you think that?”

Hermione answered, eyes bright. “Because Galen had to show him how to open them.”

Hagrid grinned. “Bright lad! Didn’ realise it’d be so hard for everyone - suppose that earns Gryffindor a point, then. The rest of yeh - yeh’ve got ter stroke them.” He demonstrated on Malfoy’s book, then handed it back.

Malfoy scowled, but didn’t comment further.

“Right then,” Hagrid said. “Yer’ve got yer books - an’ now yeh need the Magical Creatures. So I’ll go an’ get ‘em. Hang on - “

He jogged into the Forest, and when he was gone, Malfoy commented, “God, this place is going to the dogs - that oaf teaching classes! If my father were still here -”

“Except he isn’t, is he, Malfoy?” Galen said quietly. “Your father’s still hiding from the DMLE . . . Although, I almost wish he was here. I imagine Minister Fudge would be most pleased to hand over your father to the Japanese Ministry - once the Dementors were through with him, of course. Earn him a lot of points, I’d expect, to be able to hand them a solved problem like that . . .”

Malfoy turned the brightest shade of puce Galen had ever seen, but he simply smiled in the face of it - a smile that failed to reach his eyes. Finally, the Slytherin stormed off.

“And you wonder why Neville’s scared of you,” Takara murmured to him. “Why didn’t you just come out and say, ‘Go ahead - give me a reason to flay you alive?’”

“More fun this way,” Galen assured her, shrugging. “Hey, Ilya set me straight - but she didn’t necessarily make me nicer.”

Anything that might have been said to that was forgotten as Hagrid brought the Hippogriffs into view.

“Magnificent,” Galen breathed, and they were. He’d seen a statue of Buckbeak before at Harry Potter: The Exhibition, so he had some idea of their scale - but that was nothing compared to seeing a Hippogriff as a living creature. Folded wings flexing with each step as though they yearned to unfurl and take him to the skies, powerful muscles rippling under a horse’s hide, orange eagle eyes bright with intelligence, and moving with a smooth, predatory grace.

“So,” Hagrid said, rubbing his hands together excitedly, “if ye want ter come a bit nearer . . .”

Galen moved cautiously but eagerly forward. Takara and Hermione followed like twin shadows - and seeing that, a few of the other Gryffindors followed in their wake.

“Now, firs’ thing yeh gotta know ‘bout Hippogriffs is, they’re proud,” Hagrid said. “Easily offended, Hippogriffs are. Don’t never insult one, ‘cause it might be the last thing yeh do.”

The Slytherin trio were plotting away in an undertone, which the Gryffindor trio had been expecting, to various degrees. They’d be ready if it came to it.

“Yeh always wait fer the Hippogriff to make the first move - it’s polite, see? Yeh walk towards him, an’ yeh bow, an’ yeh wait. If he bows back, yeh’re allowed to touch him. If he doesn’ bow, then get away from sharpish, ‘cause those talons hurt. Right - who wants ter go first?”

Galen volunteered first, climbing without hesitation over the paddock fence, and causing more than a few students to gasp in panic. Even Hermione and Takara looked worried - the former more than the latter.

“Good man, Galen!” Hagrid roared. “Let’s see how yeh get on with Buckbeak.”

He untied the Hippogriff in question, and Galen spared him a glance as Hagrid worked, admiring the storm cloud gray of Buckbeak’s feathers, so close a match for his duster.

“Easy now, Galen,” Hagrid said in a low voice. “Yeh’ve got eye contact, now try not ter blink - Hippogriffs don’ trust yeh if yeh blink too much.”

Galen barely heard the man, fixed instead on the fiery orange eye that gazed at him suspiciously.

“Tha’s it, Galen . . . Now, bow . . .”

Galen dropped to one knee, still watching, and lowered his head in submission - not simply bowing, but kneeling, even as he kept his eyes locked on Buckbeak.

The Hippogriff snorted, as if to say he was unimpressed, and kept staring at him as though deciding whether or not to run him through.

Hagrid sounded disappointed. “Right - back away, now, Galen, easy does it - “

His tone was a perfect match for Galen’s mood.

If something as strong and confident as a Hippogriff feels the need to be wary of me, what hope do I have with anything gentler, or less able to defend itself?

He rose slowly, eyes lowered at last. He didn’t want Buckbeak, to say nothing of his classmates, see his face until he’d restrained the urge to cry . . .

A sudden motion caught his peripheral vision, as the Hippogriff sank into a perfunctory, but unmistakable dip.

“Well done, Galen!” Hagrid called enthusiastically. “Yeh can touch him! Pat his beak, go on!”

Tentatively, he stepped forward, and reached out to stroke the Hippogriff as he might Crookshanks, and as he preferred to be touched - light, gentle strokes, so soft they were almost intangible. Rough play wasn’t in his nature, at least where animals were concerned, whether they were mundane or magical.

“Thank you,” he whispered, and was surprised when Buckbeak tilted his head closer, making it easier to reach.

“Righ’ then, Galen,” Hagrid announced, “I reckon he migh’ let yeh ride him!”

In what was no doubt the universe’s perverse attempt to circumvent his refusal due to acrophobia, Hagrid followed his movie counterpart and hoisted him up onto Buckbeak before Galen had a chance to protest, and slapped the Hippogriff’s hindquarters with a “Go on, then!”

Only his Occlumency training in organising his thoughts and emotions kept him from screaming as Buckbeak’s wings flared, and following a short jog, launched them into the sky. Galen recalled as much as he could of long-ago equestrian lessons - which, unfortunately, hadn’t covered bareback riding or wings. Still, it gave him some sense of balance, and he leaned into close to Buckbeak’s head, arms around the magnificent creature’s neck, to cut down on the wind resistance and give himself a better hold. That, combined with his better condition in comparison to the time he’d taken those lessons, gave him some sense of security.

The rest was a matter of trust in his impromptu mount, and he was determined to give Buckbeak that. He’d shown Galen respect when he didn’t have to, and hadn’t objected to the impromptu flying lesson. He’d earned a little faith . . . Still, Galen suspected he’d prefer Thestrals, as far as flying mounts went. They, at least, were shaped more like what he’d been trained to ride.

However, he had to admit there was a certain element of fun in this, once he’d mastered himself enough to stop panicking. Buckbeak was a superb flyer - swift, well-balanced, and utterly confident in his abilities. He was certainly a heck of a lot sturdier than a length of wood with bristles on the back. And while the speed at which they were travelling was definitely alarming, it had to be said that the view was positively breathtaking.

The impact of landing was a little rougher than he would’ve liked, but he’d tensed himself for it, and didn’t fall off when they hit the ground. Still, if he’d been wobbly at the beginning of class, he was worse now. But he supposed the experience had been worth it.

“Thank you,” he repeated to Buckbeak, bowing a little less elaborately this time before staggering back to lean against the paddock fence and watch the others work.

Hermione hung back worriedly. “Are you OK?”

“Sure,” Galen mumbled, closing his eyes. “Just don’t ask me to do anything more complicated or strenuous than breathing for the next couple of hours.”

“How . . . How was it?” she asked hesitantly.

“Not bad, overall.” Galen admitted. He knew she didn’t like heights any more than he did. “I’d feel better if they could be convinced to bear a saddle - something with a horn I could grip - but I thought it was generous of Buckbeak not to dump me off, considering how little say he’d had in my going up there.” He smiled. “Based on the experience, I’d guess a winged horse might not be a bad way to fly, if we could find any.”

A sudden cry caught their attention - Malfoy, lying in front of Buckbeak, bleeding.

“I’m dying!” he screamed. “I’m dying - look at me! It’s killed me!”

Galen rolled his eyes. “For all the long shots I’ve managed, even I’m not that lucky.”

March 27th, 2011, 05:35 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 8 - The Bothersome Boggart

September 9 -12, 1993

Shirou snorted from his cauldron as he watched Malfoy stroll into class late, playing up his injury among his fellow Slytherins. It had taken a grand total of one week for Madam Pomfrey to fix him up - proof that his injury had been serious, yes, but hardly as crippling as he made it out to be. In fact, from the way his muscles were flexing under that sling, Shirou suspected it not only hadn’t been as bad as he was making out, it wasn’t as bad as he was pretending now - in fact, it had fully healed, or nearly so. Granted, he wasn’t a trained Healer, but he knew a thing or two about injuries and battlefield medicine.

The good news was, Malfoy had learned that wailing to Mummy was not as effective as crying to Daddy when it came to making things happen in the male-dominated corridors of power. A true, traditional pureblood Narcissa Malfoy might be, and wealthy - but few women were truly respected in the circles in which Lucius Malfoy typically moved, and opportunities he might have exploited were closed to her. Moreover, the cloud of scandal that was her fugitive husband still clung to the Malfoy name, distancing even those who might otherwise have helped her.

The end result was that Hagrid had gotten off with a warning regarding the safety measures in his classes, and Malfoy had wound up with a week’s detention following his blatant disregard for a professor’s instructions, in addition to his injury - because every Gryffindor in class swore up and down that Malfoy had been told very clearly, just like the rest of them, about the dangers of provoking a Hippogriff. All Draco could do was stew, and milk sympathy from the Slytherins.

Of course, Shirou hadn’t considered until double potions class that morning that this included the head of Slytherin house, Professor Severus Snape.

“Sir,” Malfoy called from his position at the ingredients table he was sharing with Shirou and Takara. “Sir, I’ll need help cutting up these daisy roots because of my arm.”

Snape’s response was simple, and giving without even looking up. “Einzbern, cut up Malfoy’s roots for him.”

Malfoy smirked, which quickly turned to a scowl as Shirou replied calmly, “That won’t be necessary, sir.”

Now Snape’s dark eyes snapped up. “What?”

“Malfoy’s injured arm is his right one,” Shirou pointed out, “and he’s right-handed. If he was incapable of using that arm, he would be unable to take notes, or use his wand in any fashion whatsoever, making him unfit to attend classes. As Madam Pomfrey has obviously not deemed that to be the case, given that he’s here instead of the Hospital Wing, it logically follows that he’s fully capable of cutting up his own roots.”

“That will be five points from Gryffindor for disobeying a professor, and a detention for your cheek, Einzbern!” Snape barked.

“Of course, Professor,” Shirou said in clipped tones. Frankly, he didn’t care one way or another - according to what he’d been told, Severus Snape had enough crimes in his past to be judged a viable target in his old life, and they’d all agreed that he’d be given just enough rope to hang himself. Whatever Dumbledore thought of his value as a spy (and from what they knew, his actual value was negligible), the truth was that the man was a snake the world was better off without. That they would kill him was a fact - it was just a matter of when.

Following that, Snape seemed in a mood to harangue Gryffindors - which was not good for Neville’s nerves. He was even more terrified of Snape than he was of Galen, and that caused him problems in Potions class when Snape was relatively quiet. Only the fact that Galen was close enough to keep him from going to pieces (or ruining his potion) had kept the accidents to a minimum. Today, however, seemed as though it might be the day even Galen couldn’t help him. The Shrinking Solution Neville was brewing, which ought to be a bright, acidic green, was instead -

“Emerald,” Snape announced, as he displayed a ladle-full for the class. “Tell me, boy, does anything penetrate that thick skull of yours? Didn’t I state plainly that a dash of leech juice would suffice? What do I have to do to make you understand, Longbottom?”

Neville was pale, making his hair seem far darker than usual - and Shirou blinked. It was barely noticeable, even to his eyes, but Neville’s hair was darker. Getting coarser, too, like -

Fur, he realised, and panic struck him then. Hermione had shown a tendency to transform into her lioness form when emotional - a side effect of the method they’d used to become Animagi. Neville was so quiet, generally so self-contained, that he’d never really considered it happening to him . . . But right now, Shirou had no trouble visualising what a frightened (and therefore pissed off) grizzly bear would do to Snape, not to mention the rest of the class.

This is bad, he thought, glancing around for something - anything - he could use as a distraction. Wincing as the obvious solution occurred to him, he knocked a glass bottle into his cauldron with his elbow, and watched as the Shrinking Solution turned rust brown, and began belching great, foul clouds of choking smoke.

“EINZBERN!” Snape roared, vanishing Shirou’s potion with a wave of his wand. “You insufferable clod! That will be another five points from Gryffindor for your ineptness! Adding a full jar of rat livers - you’re lucky it didn’t explode!”

You’re lucky that Neville didn’t explode, Shirou thought, as he watched the heavyset kid’s hair resume its normal colour and texture as the smoke passed over him.

Following his cauldron’s near-eruption, the rest of class passed normally and quietly - Gryffindor lost no more points. Afterwards, they were released to go have lunch, and Shirou noted another odd occurrence - Hermione, who had been right behind them as they ascended the stairs from the dungeons, suddenly seemed to have dropped back. It took almost a full two minutes before she joined them, panting, at the top of the stairs.

“Are you all right, Hermione?” Galen asked quietly. “Do you need a minute to catch your breath?”

“I’ll be fine,” she assured them, but Shirou wondered. Hermione wasn’t the fastest of their group when it came to morning runs, and she’d lost some of her conditioning due to vacationing with her parents for most of the summer, but she wasn’t out of shape, either. For Hermione to be breathing hard, she had to have been putting forth a pretty good effort - more than climbing a flight of stairs really warranted.

“Your bookbag’s split a seam,” Shirou noted. “It’s about to give, I think. Set it down, and we’ll carry your books to the Great Hall. No point in straining either you or the bag further.”

She complied gratefully, pulling out a dozen large, heavy volumes.

“Why are you carrying all these around?” he asked.

“You know how many subjects I’m taking,” she replied breathlessly.

“Yeah, but we only have Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts today,” Shirou pointed out. “You don’t need all of these with you, do you?”

“It would be easier,” Galen said, “to ask permission to leave your books in the classroom. Or, for the closer classes, at least, lay out what you’ll need in the morning and make sure to give yourself enough time to retrieve them from Gryffindor Tower. The back and forth might take longer, but it has to be easier than trying to lug them all around at once.”

An odd look crossed Hermione’s face then. Shirou couldn’t quite decipher it - panic seemed part of it, as did curiosity. But it faded too quickly to be sure.

“Maybe,” she said in a vague tone, before changing the subject. “I hope there’s something good for lunch, I’m starving.” The girl marched off towards the Great Hall before anyone else could say a word.

Shirou glanced between Galen and Takara before demanding, “All right - what’s going on?”

Galen’s eyes flicked along the walls, and he shook his head. Shirou followed his gaze to the portraits. They avoided speaking about anything important within sight or earshot of them out of habit, since Dumbledore or a teacher could compel them to report anything they’d seen or heard. Apparently, the habit was supposed to still be in force even though Dumbledore was no longer Headmaster - that gesture had been Galen’s way of saying “not now.”

Shirou supposed that he could wait - but the explanation had better be a good one.

Galen was careful not to smile at Hermione’s attempts to avoid answering questions regarding her sudden appearances or disappearances. For all her intelligence, she was a very bad liar, even by evasion. Of course, she felt she had no choice - the Time-Turner was supposed to be a secret, and she’d promised McGonagall to keep it.

And I promised not to tell, either - even as I keep an eye on Hermione, just the same.

Galen had to admit, having McGonagall in charge of Hogwarts led to more than a few changes around the school. She was a lot more “hands on” regarding students - Dumbledore might’ve been content to led a student work herself into a frazzle using a Time-Turner unsupervised, but she had a better measure of Hermione’s intensity when it came to her studies, and didn’t want her prize Gryffindor burning herself out. So McGonagall had enlisted Galen as a conspirator to help Hermione make the most of the opportunity she’d been given without destroying herself in the process.

Which means even if Hermione asks if I know about the Time-Turner, I can’t say I do . . . Sigh. Oh, well - at least with Buckbeak not being tried for attacking Malfoy, she won’t wear herself out studying for his defence. Now I’ve just got to make sure that she eats and sleeps properly, without letting her realise I’m doing it . . . Fun and games.

Lunch was delicious, and if anyone noticed that Hermione wound up with more on her plate than she’d actually put there, no one commented on it. Fortunately, she was more than halfway buried in the Defence textbook, doing some last minute revising before their first class, and didn’t seem to realise that Galen was sneaking her extra food. Nor did she complain about feeling sick from overeating afterwards, which made Galen wonder whether her comment about being “starving” was more accurate than she’d realised.

I’ll have to remember to make sure she eats well at mealtimes, he told himself, and when Hogsmeade weekends crop up, see if I can find the wizard equivalent to granola bars, or something, for snacks in-between classes. Between our usual calisthenics and time travel, Hermione’s going to be burning calories like crazy this year - and she’s a growing teenager, to boot.

The classroom was empty when they reached Defence Against the Dark Arts, but everyone sat down and prepped for lessons. While Galen enjoyed Defence Against the Dark Arts as a whole (like Shirou and Takara, it was his best subject), this year promised to be really good. Remus Lupin was the first competent instructor in the subject they’d have - the only other one being the Death Eater impersonating Alastor Moody, next year. So he was really looking forward to this . . . Right up until Lupin walked in.

Galen had noted, in the last two years, that Rowling’s descriptions of lycanthropy left a lot unsaid about the condition. The biggest thing she’d never mentioned was the fact that while the wolf wasn’t in control any night but the full moon, it wasn’t really gone, either. Its presence had notable effects on his physiology - the ability he had to sort out minute sounds and scents, for example, and his capacity for surviving and recovering from injury, generally beyond that of even a wizard.

There were psychological effects, too - when he got mad, he considering ripping people’s throats out with his teeth, and the taste of their blood, or flesh. Usually, that was enough to snap him out of it - with his imagination, he did not want to dwell too deeply on cannibalism - but the thoughts came through, every now and again, when he was weak enough or tired enough to let them.

And upon Remus Lupin’s entrance, he discovered another mental effect. An instinctive bristling and wariness, as the wolf identified a rival predator. No, that wasn’t quite right. There were elements of that, certainly, but it also seemed to be . . .

Ah, a dominance game. Jockeying for position in the pack. That’s going to make dealing with him difficult - especially since I have a favour to ask regarding the Patronus Charm . . . Grand.

For Lupin’s part, if he felt anything unusual, he gave no sign of it - but then again, he’d spent time around other werewolves before. He’d have experience in dealing with it, and he seemed to do so admirably.

“Good afternoon,” he greeted. “Would you all please put your books back in your bags. Today’s will be a practical lesson. You will only need your wands.”

Following that, he led them out of the classroom to the staff room, dealing with Peeves along the way and incidentally demonstrated the Waddiwasi spell - handy if one wanted to use gum as a weapon. After a sniping session with Snape, who demonstrated that he was always ready to tear Neville down a bit (and here the wolf, already aroused, growled), Lupin proceeded to explain about today’s lesson, involving a Boggart in the wardrobe they were standing in front of.

Oh crap, Galen thought, as Hermione reminded him of exactly what a Boggart was, and what it did. Shape-shifters that became your greatest fear . . . And between Shirou, Takara and himself, he was absolutely positive that the Boggart would be at least one thing that shouldn’t be unleashed in a classroom setting.

As he thought that, a replica of Snape emerged from the wardrobe, looming ominously.

“Riddikulus!” Neville cried - with far less hesitation than Galen remembered him having in the movie or the book - and Boggart-Snape was suddenly wearing Augusta Longbottom’s Sunday best. It was ridiculous, and certainly worth more than a few chuckles to see.

Galen moved urgently towards Shirou and Takara, while the class took their turns facing and defeating the Boggart.

“Stall,” he hissed urgently. “Whatever our Boggarts are, I’m betting they aren’t something these people should see!”

“Miss Aozaki!” Lupin called, as if on cue. “Your turn, please!”

Damn it!

Takara moved towards the Boggart - which was at present a legless spider - and its form began to spin and blur into . . . Takara, at her original age. Nanaya Takara, whose cold silver eyes swept the room with an icy, measuring gaze - and gleamed brightly, hungrily, when they lit upon Galen. The huntress glided forward with a predator’s grace, the corners of her mouth sharpening into a feral smile . . .

“Riddikulus!” Takara shouted, and Nanaya was abruptly dressed as a clown, her school uniform replaced by a patchwork of pastels and patterns in a variety of colours, stuffed to make her figure look ballooned, and subdue her usual elegance of motion. Floppy, oversized shoes were added to the effect, fire engine red in colour. Her long blue hair turned frizzy, and Chudley Cannon orange. Her eyes were enclosed cotton candy pink star patterns inked on them, her lips painted lime green.

The laughs were enormous, and the Boggart staggered back, stunned.

“Mr. Einzbern, you’re next!”

Damn it - come on, lesson, be over with already!

Reluctantly, Shirou stepped forward, and the clown whirled into a new form, eminently familar - Archer. Yet as he looked at the tall, red-clad form, and the gleaming, wickedly sharp falchions in his hands, Galen realised his mistake - and how terrible a mistake it was.

It’s not Archer - it’s EMIYA, him as Counter Guardian - as mindless killing machine!

The twin blades were raised, and as Shirou stood still, staring at the Boggart, Galen snapped out, “Riddikulus!” He focussed on the change he wanted to make - the only thing he could think of to reduce the terror EMIYA could produce . . .

The entity that rose up was approximately two-and-a-half feet tall, and made mostly of felt. Its brooding “good looks” were emphasised by a Neanderthal brow and oversized chin. Its wild white hair look more appropriate to a Troll doll than a real person, and the blades it brandished were well-crafted, but obviously rubber.

“Hello, wee little puppet man,” Galen breathed in relief.

The laughter, he’d expected - but the squeals over how cute Puppet EMIYA was surprised him. The Boggart’s reaction was even more surprising, as it exploded, vanishing in wisps of smoke.

“Hm - it hates laughter, but it looks like adoration is even worse,” Galen commented, grinning.

Professor Lupin was not as amused.

“I intended for Mr. Einzbern to tackle the Boggart,” he said quietly. “Why did you interfere?”

“Would you be asking if the Boggart had turned into, say, Voldemort?” Galen countered. As he’d expected, the mention of the Anagram-Which-Must-Be-Avoided caused a series of terrified gasps among the students.

Lupin frowned. “Perhaps not - I don’t think it would be a very good idea to unleash the Dark Lord in a classroom, even a simulacrum.”

“And without knowing our deepest fears, that might have happened.” Galen did his best not to sound angry, knowing the wolf was partly responsible for the aggression running through him right now - but it had never occurred to him until now just how big a risk Lupin had taken with this lesson. Without knowing how dangerous or aggressive their fears might be, he’d unleashed them on a group of teenagers - at least one of whom was already terrified of whatever might appear.

Throw a Counter Guardian into that mix, and . . .

Galen shuddered, and sharpened his voice. “If that Boggart had even a fraction of the real thing’s power and intent, I assure you that all of us would now be dead. And I wasn’t about to find out how good a copy it was.”

Lupin was quiet, measuring him carefully. “Very well - I’ll accept that you had the best interests of the class at heart, and forgo punishment in this instance. For the rest of you - an excellent lesson. Now, let me see . . . Five points to Gryffindor for every person to tackle the Boggart. Homework, kindly read the chapter on Boggarts and summarise it for me - to be handed in on Monday. That is all.”

As they wandered out, Hermione gave all three of them a gimlet glare. “What was that about?”

“An existence I’ll never go back to,” Shirou said grimly. “Not ever.” He glanced at Galen. “Thanks.”

“No sweat.”

“You took a teacher to task,” Hermione said disapprovingly. “And he seems a very good one, too.”

“He is,” Galen said quietly. “But that lesson was unnecessarily risky - he shouldn’t have tried to make everyone face their own worst fears, and certainly have found out what they were before setting them loose. What if he’d called me, and I was afraid of nuclear explosions?”

Hermione winced. “I see your point. But what about you, Takara? That Boggart was you, wasn’t it?”

“Her other personality,” Galen said quietly. “Someone to be treated cautiously, certainly . . . But I’ve never had a reason to be afraid of her, and you shouldn’t be, either, Takara.”

Takara gazed at him sardonically. “You’ve never been afraid of her? I suppose not. After all, you let her kiss you.”

She stalked off in a huff.

Galen blinked. “What did I say?”

“We share a divided mind, but in the end, I am still you. Your shadow, your reflection, your dreaming self. If you are hurt, I will bleed. If you choose to protect something, I will fight for it. And what you love . . . What you love, I must cherish . . . Even if you are a fool.”

Takara brooded, three days later, remembering that long-ago conversation with her other side. It had been one of many hints Nanaya had dropped - hints that were confirmed when she saw the Boggart, as Nanaya, move towards Galen. Of all the things the huntress might have done, for all that her expression had been predatory, Takara hadn’t been afraid that she’d kill Galen - she’d been afraid that Nanaya would kiss him. Again.

That damned kiss! My first kiss, and Nanaya goes and turns it into . . . That! No romance, no gentleness - it was like she wanted to go for his throat with her teeth, and hit his lips by mistake! I was wondering if she’d rip his head off afterwards, like a preying mantis!

Gripes about technique aside, Nanaya wouldn’t have done it as a joke - she had no sense of humour, per se . . . Well, perhaps an appreciation for what was called “gallows humour,” but that was it. No, whatever Takara’s complaints about Nanaya’s methods or mood, her motive was clear: she’d kissed him because she wanted to - and if that earlier statement could be believed, that wouldn’t have happened unless Takara wanted to kiss him, too.

. . . OK, granted - he’d earned a kiss for saving my parents - on the cheek. And tongues should not have been involved at all. And I can’t complain about the crotch shot - he’d earned that, too. But the implications . . .!

To his credit, Galen had never tried to repeat that action, or asked her to. It was mildly frustrating, in that at least it would indicate that he was still interested in her. At least that would settle one of the many questions on her mind regarding him, even if she had absolutely no intention of ever giving him a repeat performance . . .

Arrrgh! Takara thought in frustration, shaking herself as she tried to banish the thought.

The only bright side to this mess is, Galen has no idea what I was really afraid of. He thinks it was Nanaya as a killer that bothered me - and that does give me the creeps - not as someone who’d want to throw him to the ground, rip his clothes off, and start . . .

Arrrgh! Stupid hormones - I hate being a teenager!

It doesn’t matter what the Boggart showed me. I decided to go after Shirou, I had good reasons for making that decision - and I still do . . . Not that Shirou seems to have noticed. Galen might be less angst-ridden now, but he’s still the same person, with the same problems - too many problems for me to handle. And then there’s Hermione - she’s my friend, and she definitely loves him. It wouldn’t be right to take him from her, even if I could, at least not before she even had a chance to try . . .

It boils down to this: no matter what everything thinks I feel for him, or should feel for him . . . No matter what I, or certain psychotic versions of me feel for him, or think I do . . . I don’t love him, not like that.

I can’t.

March 27th, 2011, 05:38 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 9 - Black Thoughts

September 9 - 10, 1993

Snape’s black eyes glittered as he glared at Shirou.

“You will clean all of these cauldrons by hand,” he emphasised. “Absolutely no magic of any kind - and I will be watching to ensure that there is none.”

It took a great deal of self-control not to laugh in the man’s face. Granted, to a normal, magically-raised student, this was no doubt a gruelling punishment - but he was used to such menial chores. Even discounting the work he’d done around his own (or Rin’s) home, cleaning up after the archery club and similar jobs were simply par for the course. Now, had he actually known how to clean magically, the task might have seemed a little more wasteful - but as it was, it was not only a job he was accustomed to doing regularly, it was work that needed to be done. And with that in mind, he got to it.

Shirou worked in silence, giving the task his all - in his mind, there was no other way to work. Gilgamesh might have called him a cheat, and a faker, but in his mind, he had no unfair advantages, or advantages that he hadn’t worked to develop. So he had a Reality Marble that would let him copy weapons and the skills to use them - he’d still put in the time to master it. And compared to the number of Epic Spirits who’d been born with divine blood or advantages, a simple magical talent seemed minor by comparison. It hadn’t been enough to stop Berserker, after all - at least, in one incarnation.

Shirou had trouble with that, occasionally. In bringing them over, Ilya seemed to have taken not just the Shirou from her own timeline, but removed his spirit from the Throne altogether. That meant that, although the Shirou she knew was his core personality, he still had data from other incarnations, other battles, and not just the ones he’d had from the Sixth Grail War onwards. While it gave him a broad base of experiences to draw on, it made it confusing for him, on occasion, trying to remember which one he was supposed to be. In that sense, the “native” him was easy to embrace - it swept away the uncertainty.

He wondered idly if Ilya had a similar problem. As the Holy Grail, she’d existed at a point beyond normal space-time, a plane out of step with conventional reality. Did she have trouble sorting out what was supposed to be “real,” as well? He’d have to remember to write her and ask . . .
“I suppose that is adequate,” Snape said, sneering. Shirou glanced up, noting from the mechanical clock on the wall that he’d been working for three hours.

“You may go,” the Potions teacher continued. “But rest assured, Einzbern - should you blunder in my classroom again, I will ensure that you remain here until each cauldron gleams.”

“Of course, Professor,” Shirou said flatly. The oily tone of Snape’s voice never failed to irritate him - it reminded him too much of that bastard Kotomine.

The dark eyes glittered again. “With your arrogance, I would swear you were a Potter, boy.”

“If you say so, sir,” Shirou answered in the same tone as before. His eyes narrowed as he added darkly, “But we both know better, don’t we?”

It was the first time in three years he’d met Snape’s eyes, and thanks to his intensive Occlumency training, he could feel the greasy-haired man’s attempt to enter his mind. Snape might be a Master Occlumens, but his Legilimency was nowhere near as advanced - though given that he routinely practised it on untutored schoolchildren, how skilled did he really need to be?

Regardless, Shirou took the opportunity to test out a new defence he’d been working on. He allowed Snape access to a specific memory, a very personally painful one (and thus, very tempting a Legilimens that wished him harm). Once the Potions teacher had taken the bait, Shirou sprang the trap - full sensory immersion. Snape would not only see it, but experience it totally, as though it was his own.

He smiled as the man who had been willing to sacrifice innocent children for favour with his master (and had remained willing to do so, so long as the mother of one of them remained unharmed) screamed at the sensations of hundreds of swords forming within his own body.

By the time Snape regained consciousness, Shirou had already gone, whistling merrily along his way.

Takara shook her head as Shirou recounted the detention to them, the next day in the Room of Requirement. “That was a little reckless, wasn’t it? Should we start worrying about trouble from the teachers over attacking a professor, or something?”

“Not really,” he countered. “After all, what did I do that he can prove? And more to the point, without admitting that he illegally entered a minor’s mind without permission or just cause. Legilimency is a rare skill for a reason, for all its usefulness - not only is it hard to master, it’s heavily regulated. No, if he tries to get at me through official channels, he will, at the very least, be out of a job. More likely, on his way to Azkaban before sundown.”

“Dumbledore could still protect him,” she pointed out, and Galen smiled.

“Dumbledore’s influence is less than it was,” he answered. “And more to the point, McGonagall is the one in charge now. Do you really think she’d keep on anyone who’d mind-rape a student as a professor, under any circumstances?” He shook his head. “No, if Snape tries anything direct, he’ll be in for the shock of his life - and he’s smart enough to know that. So we’ll have to watch for indirect attacks. He’ll be cautious, after what Shirou did, but he’s not the type to just let things go.”

Takara nodded, considering what she knew of him. Finally, she asked, “Do we really need him? I mean, it’s not as though he’ll do anything significant for several years . . .”

Galen shrugged. “In this case, the fewer waves we make the better. Snape’s at least a predictable variable - and he’ll stay that way as long as we know he’s here. Cutting him loose means he’s out of our sight and up to God knows what.”

Takara considered that, and acknowledged that he had a point. At least here, they could keep an eye on the traitor - and whatever his motivations, he was a traitor, to one side or the other. Having turned his coat once, Takara wasn’t about to trust that he wouldn’t do it again, with the right motivation or provocation - and this version of Snape was even more vitriolic, particularly against Neville.

Thinking of that, she asked aloud, “Did either of you ever figure out why he picks on Neville as much as he does? I remember him always being insulting - but he treats Neville like he treated Harry.”

Shirou snorted. “That’s easy - the kid lived, and the woman he wanted didn’t. Dumbledore stepped up protection only after the Potters were killed, instead of going all out from the start. So Neville was the special one, the important one - and look at the way he was in first year. All Snape’s work to try and spare the woman, thrown away for that. Small wonder he’s even bitterer than you remember.”

Galen frowned. “We’ll have to watch that. It means he has as much reason to hate Dumbledore as Voldemort - after all, if he could step in to protect Neville, he could’ve done it for Lily and Harry, too. He may try to play both sides against each other in hopes of destroying them both.” His tone turned grim. “I would.”

Takara winced. “So we really can’t trust him - but we can’t let him out of our sight, either. Terrific.”

She sighed, then shifted topics. “So, when do we go after the rat?”

Galen hesitated. “I’d like to wait until we talk to Lupin. Without the Dementors, there’s no reason for him to teach us the Patronus Charm - and the spell’s too useful not to have.”

“Useful?” Shirou queried. “Besides stopping those things, what does it do?”

“It carries messages,” Takara said. “We were trying to work out a way to communicate over distances, weren’t we?”

“Yeah - and it’s not like this is the only time we might encounter Dementors.”

Takara nodded grimly, remembering.

“So somebody will have to talk to him,” Galen continued, “and I’m probably not his favourite person at the moment . . .”

“I’ll do it,” Takara volunteered. “He’s got nothing against me, that I know of - and I was on the train with Shirou, so I have a valid excuse for bringing it up. I’m sure Professor Lupin will want to help me protect my friend.” She shot a sidelong glance at Shirou, who nodded approvingly.

“Sounds good,” Galen said. “You might want to ask about the duelling club, too.”

She blinked. “Duelling club?”

“McGonagall’s idea - Lupin’s supposed to be taking over from where Lockhart left off. She thought it might be a nice idea to keep it going, and it gives us an official reason to duel without raising questions about our having unfair advantages by having Flitwick-sensei teach us.”

Shirou spoke up. “While you’re in an explaining mood - what is up with Hermione?”

Galen glanced at Takara and said, “Go on - I’ll fill him in.”

Nodding, she set off in search of their Defence professor.

She found Professor Lupin in his office. The decor had changed somewhat from last year - Lockhart had plastered his face on just about every available surface. Lupin’s tastes were more Spartan, minimalist, and very much in line with Japanese aesthetics.

Of course, she realised, that could just be because he doesn’t have much to decorate the office with.

“Miss Aozaki?” Lupin said in surprise. “What can I do for you?”

Hearing him speak, Takara was reminded that he didn’t quite have the pronunciation of her name down correctly. She’d noted it in class, but thought it poor manners, if nothing else, to bring it up in front of his students. Here, however, they were alone.

“Actually, Professor, my family name is pronounced ‘Ah-oh-zah-kee,’” she corrected. “Aozaki - but I’ve come on another matter. I would like to ask a favour, if I may.”

“All right, Miss Aozaki,” he said calmly. “What can I do for you?”

“I would like to learn how to perform the Patronus Charm,” she said. “My friend Shirou was nearly devoured by the Dementors who invaded the Express, and - ”

She stopped as the Defence teacher held up a hand. His expression was kindly, in that mildly condescending way that adults used when dealing with children who were working themselves into a frenzy over relatively minor issues. Takara might not have recognised it, had she actually been the age she appeared to be, but she did, and fought down a surge of irritation. Sometimes this new life of hers sucked.

“Firstly,” he said, “The Patronus Charm is a very advanced bit of magic, and likely far beyond your present abilities to achieve. And secondly, if I were you, I wouldn’t really be concerned about the Dementors, They are dangerous, but they have no reason to go after your friend, and he has no reason to seek them out, so it should be easy to avoid them. And between Headmistress McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore, I can assure you that you and your friends be quite safe. I’ve known them a long time, and I assure you that both of them are powerful and responsible wizards.”

Takara arched an eyebrow. “Powerful, sure - but Professor, you are aware that Professor Dumbledore was removed as Headmaster for allowing conditions here to deteriorate to where trolls and basilisks to roam the corridors and attack students, unchecked?”

“So I read, but I’m well aware that the Daily Prophet has a habit of exaggerating things,” Professor Lupin said drily. “Nothing sells papers like screaming that doom and disaster are on the horizon.”

Takara could feel her features settle into the polite mask her mother had trained her to wear, rather than surrendering to her emotions. Inwardly, she wondered why this version of Professor Lupin was being so less helpful than she’d expected.

“A valid point,” she conceded. “So, you won’t train me?”

“I don’t really see a need to, Miss Aozaki,” he answered. “The Dementors shouldn’t be a danger to you at all, unless you’re foolish enough to provoke them. And inside Hogwarts grounds, you should be well-protected.”

“I see. Thank you for your time.” She turned, and headed for the door, pausing on the threshold to address him.

“Professor? For your own sake, I’d suggest you consult Madam Pomfrey regarding the number and nature of injuries she’s treated in the last two years to determine how ‘exaggerated’ conditions here have been. Our last Defence teacher left because he found the situation here worse than he’d been led to believe it was - and more than he could cope with. The one before that died. By comparison, we rather enjoy your classes, and I’d hate to see anything happen to you.”

She left before he made any reply.

Galen was in the library, finishing up the Ancient Runes assignment that Professor Babbling (unfortunate name, that, but the magical world seemed to have a lot of those) had assigned them. In all honesty, this was becoming one of the easiest classes he’d ever taken. He’d been memorising Japanese written characters for the last two years, so he had a good background for doing the same with runes - and the recall abilities granted by his Occlumency training made his memory near-photographic for things like this. Especially since he’d always had a knack for memorising text. He could quote a number of novels (or fanfics) verbatim, if he was of a mind to.

The runes themselves were also interesting. He’d always known that they were often used in Divination, but in this world, they were also the basis for a number of wards and their effects. Anti-Apparition, for example - and a number of curses were based in runes, as well. It would be interesting to see what he could do with them, given enough study . . .

Galen’s train of thought was interrupted by a scowling Takara, storming into the library with as much noise as she dared to make - Madam Pince was no one to cross, especially in the heart of her own domain.

“What’s up?” he asked quietly in Japanese - the library only had one portrait, but it was right by the entrance, tucked behind a bookcase where few would see it, or think about its existence. And he had reason to know that the acoustics of a properly-designed library could carry sound a long way.

“Lupin,” she muttered in the same language. “He won’t teach me the spell.”

Galen’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh?”

“Says he doesn’t see a need for it, since Hogwarts is so safe, especially with Dumbledore and McGonagall in charge.”

Galen snorted.

“That’s what I said - but he won’t.” She sighed. “I wonder what gives? He was always one of the nicest and more helpful and intelligent people - ”

“To Harry,” Galen said, realising the reason for the difference. “The son of his oldest friends.”

“And none of us is him,” Takara said. “This is going to be one of those things that completely screws up what we expect, isn’t it?”

Last year had driven home to all of them just how much of the way things were “supposed” to go relied specifically on the presence of Harry Potter. The changes that occurred because of his absence had spoiled more than one of their plans, and caused a great deal of chaos and confusion. Galen supposed that, given how much of this year relied on Harry and his relationship with his family, and his godfather, Sirius, they ought to have expected more of the same effect to hit this year, as well.

“Probably,” Galen sighed. He frowned. “It means Sirius is going to be different, too - he broke out of Azkaban originally to protect Harry from the rat and to get revenge. Now, it’ll probably be just for revenge - unless there’s something else going on that I’m not aware of . . .”

His frown deepened. Why had his grandmother been so upset about Sirius’ escape? He cast his mind back to that last visit, trying to remember every minute detail. It had been subtle, and he’d only noticed because he’d been watching her for two years for a reaction like it - but she’d definitely been afraid . . .

Especially, he realised, because it was after Mom read the line in the Prophet about his saying, “He’s at Hogwarts.” Does she think Sirius would come after me? And if so, why?

Sirius was younger than his mother, far less his grandmother - they shouldn’t have had any direct contact, and if this situation parallelled that of his original life, the secret she’d been keeping from his mother couldn’t involve Sirius. But if the secret was different, then what was it?

He suddenly realised that Takara had moved very close, and was peering into his eyes intently.

“Back with me?” she said. “Good - what did you think of?”

“Something that will probably bite us on the ass,” he admitted. “Problem is, I’m not exactly sure how - or how to find out enough ahead of time to derail it.”

“And that is . . .?”

“Family business,” he said curtly. At Takara’s annoyed look, he elaborated. “I kept this one from my closest friends for half my life, Takara - it’s not something I’ll share until I’m absolutely sure it still applies. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that I’m entirely wrong, in which case it’s just spreading misery for no good reason. But as I said, I can’t think of how to confirm it without opening the can of worms for the whole family - and I don’t want to do that. Living through it once wasn’t fun, and the idea of going through it twice . . .” He shook his head.

Takara considered that, and reminded herself that, had she any choice in the matter, he wouldn’t have learned half of what he knew about her family, either. Finally, she asked, “Is it something time-sensitive?”

He shook his head. “Not before Hallowe’en, at least.”

They both knew that, according to the typical schedule, that was when Sirius was due to arrive at Hogwarts - or at least, break into Gryffindor Tower and frighten the life out of everyone. Hallowe’en’s connection with Bad Things Happening still seemed to be a constant in this world, its lack of Harry Potter notwithstanding.

“So, any ideas on how to get the rat?” Takara asked, in a tone he recognised as her “I’m deliberately changing the subject, deal with it” voice.

“Not yet,” he admitted.

There were a number of problems with acquiring “Scabbers,” also known as Peter Pettigrew. First, none of them were friends with his erstwhile owner, Ronald Weasley - which limited their ability to make attempts to snatch the rat. Nor, frankly, had Galen any desire to even pretend to be. Even with the purge of a lot of his darker tendencies that Ilya had performed, he was still more than contemptuous of the youngest (and laziest) Weasley male.

What little he’d observed of the boy in this universe indicated that without Harry’s influence, he was even more slothful. If it didn’t involve food, Quidditch, or chess (or complaints about his poverty), Ron didn’t talk - and his grades were worse than they’d been originally, as he couldn’t rely on wheedling help out of Hermione. While she bore him no particular grudge for the troll incident in their first year, neither was she friendly enough to let herself be talked into doing work for him at the last minute.

And this year, she wouldn’t really have the time, anyway, Galen noted. Already, two weeks into the term, Hermione was pushing herself hard. He wasn’t worried about burnout - yet - but having to rescue Weasley’s grade-point-average on top of her own work would’ve been an added strain she didn’t need.

The point was, they couldn’t simply walk up to him and demand the rat - not that he’d believe the explanation as to why, anyway. Galen supposed they could try using Ginny, but she might have trouble getting to him, too, without explaining why, even if she’d do as they asked without questions.

Well, I suppose if we had Shirou ask her, she would, he thought sardonically. Heck, she might even tie a bow around Pettigrew’s neck for him!

They could always use Crookshanks to fetch him, too - but Crookshanks was intelligent enough to pick up on the fact that they didn’t necessarily want Pettigrew alive, and there was no point in getting the cat in trouble.

That’s the key thing we need to decide: do we want him alive, or dead? Alive, Sirius can definitely be redeemed, and Pettigrew made to suffer. On the other hand, how do we explain how we knew what Scabbers was? How do we get somebody to believe us long enough to check it out? Lupin might - if Sirius can recognise Pettigrew after twelve years in Azkaban, he certainly ought to . . .

But if we bring him in, it all becomes a question of how we cover ourselves. While we’ve definitely made some people suspicious over the last could of years - there’s just no way we haven’t - there’s nothing they can directly point to that will have them dosing us with Veritaserum or tossing us in Azkaban. So far, to most people, we’re just awfully powerful and/or lucky students, depending on who you ask. And up until Voldemort is either destroyed or openly moving, it’s imperative that we stay below his radar as much as we can. Dumbledore’s too, for that matter. Maybe especially Dumbledore’s, as we can at least trust most non-Death Eaters not to help Voldemort work against us. But with Dumbledore’s reputation and political clout, they’ll forgive him a lot, knowing that he’s working for the “Greater Good” . . . A shame so few of them remember that Grindelwald was doing that, too. Dumbledore’s just changed the definition, not the overall concept.

Which brings us to the possibility of killing Pettigrew. It’s certainly a lot simpler than trying to capture and hold him long enough to reveal him as an Animagus in disguise. Without Pettigrew, Voldemort won’t be able to be resurrected next year - no one to care for him in his “ugly infant” phase, while Crouch does the heavy lifting. No easy access to “flesh of the servant, willingly given.” If nothing else, that buys us time to collect and destroy the Horcruxes - with the diary and diadem destroyed last year, we’re already ahead of the game from where Harry was at this point. Heck, if we include Harry, and the fact that it’s at least implied that the snake was only made into a Horcrux after he was resurrected, we’re really ahead of things. That makes “dead” a bloody appealing option, frankly.

What it really comes down to, in the end - and the only reason I didn’t just incinerate the damned rat in our first year here - is a question of whether we’re willing to sacrifice Sirius’ life and freedom for the sake of convenience. With Pettigrew dead - particularly if he ends up locked into rat form, which I can’t be sure of - he’ll never be cleared. And with a “Kiss on sight” order hanging over his head, he’ll be running for his life, the rest of his life. Voldemort wouldn’t give a damn, he’d just go ahead and do it. Dumbledore would placate himself with the knowledge that it was for the Greater Good, that sacrifices were necessary - but in the end he’d do it, too.

I don’t want to be like either of them, and last year drove home the consequences of pulling a Dumbledore - I nearly broke Hermione. If I’m going to act that way, I might as well just leave, and let the puppet masters sort out their own damned war. But if the whole point of this is to not be them - to do better, be better than them . . .

If that’s the point, then it has to be Sirius’ choice. That means not forcing him to accept a fait accompli, or manipulating him into making the decision I want. Just lay out the options honestly, and accept whatever path he elects to take. There’s no other way to do this, and still be able to face myself in the mirror afterwards.

Whether or not his friends would accept his decision, he didn’t know. It would have to wait until they reached the absolute privacy afforded by the Room of Requirement. But until then . . .

Galen smiled at Takara, and said reassuringly, “There’s no real rush to move ahead yet. We’ve still got time to think about what we want to do, and how to do it best.”

She nodded, and he hoped she’d agree with him later, too. He hoped that, to borrow Dumbledore’s phrase, he was choosing what was right, and not what was easy. Because if he was wrong . . .

If we screw this up, Voldemort could very well be resurrected next year - and then there’ll be no turning back.

March 27th, 2011, 05:40 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 10 - Heart-to-Heart Conversations

October 7 - 16, 1993

In the end, there was little more they could do at this point. They spent time practising the Patronus Charm in the Room of Requirement, but no one managed significant results. Takara, despite having done it once, found the effort much harder without Galen’s wand in hand, and despite the power of his wand, Galen had no better success. Shirou had a similar problem to Galen, in that “happy” was just not a common state of mind for him. Finding a memory that time and cynicism hadn’t tarnished, or simply letting go to the feeling of happiness, were not easy for either boy.

None of their friends was any better off. Neville had difficulty focussing his magic (as much down to an ill-matched wand as anything else, Galen suspected, but Neville would never hear of replacing his father’s wand), and while the other three girls actually equalled their successes - conjuring streams of silver mist - it seemed that none of them really had enough power to pull off a NEWT-level spell . . . Yet. The three dimensionally-displaced students knew perfectly well that all five of their friends could (and otherwise would) be capable of creating a corporeal Patronus in fifth and fourth year, respectively - but at the moment, they seemed just too young.

It was frustrating to all of them - up until this point, they had managed to be largely self-sufficient. This time, however, they honestly could’ve benefited from some professional help and instruction, but Professor Lupin had made it clear that he didn’t see a need for them to be taught the spell. Pushing him would only irritate him, at best, and at worst arouse suspicion they didn’t need to have circulating. Until the Dementors proved a direct threat, there was nothing to be done that they weren’t already doing.

However, after so many years of needing to wait for specific times or events before certain actions could be taken, the trinity had learned the necessity of patience. It wasn’t an activity they enjoyed, but all three of them were capable of waiting, to one degree or another. And frankly, as any major influx of Dementors was likely to be months away, there honestly was time. And so the weeks went by, as they often did where school was concerned. As much time as they spent worrying over the fate of the wizarding world, and planning for the future, officially they were students in a school, and thus had an obligation to attend classes, do assignments, and such activities as students were expected to participate in. Activities such as one of Takara’s favourites - Quidditch.

The Gryffindor team had been called together for an evening meeting, and sat in the changing rooms in front of their pacing Captain, Oliver Wood.

“This is our last chance - my last chance - to win the Quidditch Cup,” he told them fiercely. “I’ll be leaving at the end of this year. I’ll never get another shot at it.

“Now, I’ve been a prefect for years, and this year I’m Head Boy, and that all looks good on a resumé - but I’d be even prouder if I could say that Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup every year I captained the team.” There was a wild gleam in his eye as he continued, “Not because I’m any great shakes as a captain, mind, but because Gryffindor had the best - ruddy - team - in - the - school.”

He spun to point at Alicia, Angelina, and Katie, and said, “We’ve got three superb Chasers.”

He moved to Fred and George. “We’ve got two unbeatable Beaters.”

Wood whirled on Takara, and Shirou next to her. “We’ve got a Seeker who has never failed to win us a match! And we’ve got a reserve player who can do damned near anything and everything we could ever ask him to do!”

He paused abruptly, and added offhandedly, “And me.”

“We think you’re very good too, Oliver,” said George.

“Cracking Keeper,” Fred agreed.

“The point is,” Wood said, resuming both his speech and his pacing, “This team has won the Quidditch Cup two years in a row, after five years of losses. I’d really like to see our names on the thing for my final year, knowing that I did my best, and that the rest of Gryffindor has a streak to be proud of. I’d say any of us or all of us could turn professional, if we were of a mind, and I want to be able to say that any team this school has, or will ever have, has to go a long way to match this one - because I know it does.”

Takara had to admit, Wood-taichou knew how to inspire a room - even Fred and George were sitting up straighter.

“We’ll do it, Oliver!” Angelina cried.

“Here, here,” added Alicia and Katie.

From then on, Quidditch practices were held three nights a week, absorbing a great deal of Takara and Shirou’s time. Wood was, as usual, a slave driver - no matter how dark, cold, or wet the weather, Gryffindor was out practising, determined to give a performance worthy of the Quidditch Cup. And it was returning from one of those practices, finding the common room abuzz with excitement, that Takara was reminded of another student activity.

“What’s going on?” she asked Galen.

“The date for the first Hogsmeade weekend is up on the notice board,” he said. “Hallowe’en.”

Takara blinked - she’d honestly forgotten about that. But then again, now she had an opportunity to ask Shirou on a date! On the other hand, the timing . . .

“Hallowe’en?” she said carefully. “Will that be a problem?”

“Shouldn’t be,” Galen said offhandedly. “It happens after lights out.”

Giddiness composed of equal parts nervousness and excitement welled up in Takara’s chest. She darted towards the stairs, eager to change out of her uniform and into something suitable to ask a boy out - and stopped short at the sight of Hermione, sitting in an armchair. To anyone who didn’t know her well, she just looked distracted, staring off into space. But Takara did know her well, and her expression had the Japanese witch wondering if her cat had died.

She dropped into the chair opposite. “What’s wrong, Hermione?”

The bushy-haired witch jumped, startled, and mumbled, “Nothing.”

Takara sighed. “Hermione, you look as though somebody hexed Crookshanks into a puddle - eep!” She looked down to see the cat in question winding himself around her legs. “Give a girl some warning, would you? You nearly frightened the life out of me!”

Despite her scolding, however, Takara couldn’t help smiling. Crookshanks wasn’t as sleek or delicate as Aunt Aoko’s cat Ren, but he was awfully cuddly. For his part, Crookshanks gave an amused-sounding purr before leaping into Hermione’s lap, proudly displaying a freshly-caught spider.

“Clever Crookshanks, did you catch that all by yourself?” Hermione asked. Her tone was approving, but there was sadness in her smile.

“Hermione . . .” she tried again.

The other witch sighed. “It’s the Hogsmeade visit.”

“What about it? I would’ve thought you’d be excited about visiting.”

“I am,” Hermione admitted, “but I’d hoped . . .”

“You’d hoped that Galen might ask you to go with him?” Takara said softly. Hermione’s suddenly blushing cheeks were all the answer she needed. “Well, it is still early. He might - ”

“He won’t be going,” Hermione said quietly, causing Takara to blink in surprise. “The visit’s on Hallowe’en.” At Takara’s blank look, she added, “The thirty-first of October.”

The use of the date reminded her - she did study the lunar calendar, just like all of them did. The full moon was the night before the visit. Barring a major shift in the pattern, Galen would be spending most, if not all of the Hogsmeade visit in a bed somewhere, recuperating.

Takara winced, offering lamely, “Well, there’s always next time.”

Hermione abruptly refused to meet her eyes, and the girl’s response was a whisper she was lucky to hear. “He’ll probably ask you, then.”

Takara blinked in surprise. “Me? Why would you think that?”

Hermione still didn’t look directly at her. “Well, isn’t it obvious? You’re so close . . .”

“And you and Galen aren’t?” she countered.

“No - not like you two,” the other girl said dejectedly, and now Hermione did look at her, as she said in hoarse Japanese, “You can use his wand.”

Takara was taken aback, but responded automatically in the same language, “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Children can use their parents’ wands - Neville does, but it doesn’t work very well, does it? Siblings can, too - Ginny says Ron’s wand used to belong to her brother Charlie. He’s not very impressive with it, either, is he? And that makes sense. When I bought mine, Mr. Ollivander was very explicit. ‘The wand chooses the witch, Miss Granger - and you will never get such good results from using another witch’s wand.’ But you do. You did last year - ”

“I explained that!” Takara said defensively. “It reacted because it was part of him, and he would’ve wanted to help me - ”

“Like this year?” Hermione asked. “You had his wand on the train, Takara. That wasn’t a desperate plea for help - he gave it to you ahead of time.”

“Because I asked! I wasn’t sure I could cast the Charm, and I had to be sure - “

”And to protect Shirou, not yourself, you cast a spell you can’t cast with your own wand. His works better for you!”

“Because his wand is ridiculously powerful!” Takara countered. “Neville could’ve cast that spell using that wand, if he wanted to badly enough. And you’ve seen how much it takes out of me to use it - I wouldn’t say that it works better for me.”

She sighed, before continuing, “Hermione, there’s no special reason he should ask me to Hogsmeade over you - ”

“The rose,” she said softly.

Takara stopped. “Sorry? What rose?”

“Last year, he gave me a rose for Valentine’s Day,” Hermione said dejectedly. “I thought it was romantic - I’d never gotten flowers before. But when I was in France, we learned a little about the language of flowers. The rose was peach - which stands for sincerity, devotion, and friendship. And it was a blooming bud, which is what you give to girls you consider too young to be romantically involved with.”

She looked miserable. “I’d hoped the growth spurt and tan I got over the summer might’ve changed his mind, but he still looks at me the same way as he did last year. Even my birthday present - all right, it was lovely of him to get those theatre tickets, I’ve wanted to see that play performed for ages. But it’s not exactly something that says he fancies me, is it? Not with four tickets. He expects me to take my family.”

“I got the same Valentine’s present, Hermione,” Takara murmured. “I’d wondered why he didn’t give me a white rose - he knows those are my favourite. Of course there was a symbolism to it.”

Hermione’s eyes widened in shock. “What? But, Takara - but - but . . . But you’re so pretty!”

“‘Pretty kitty eyes,’ I know,” Takara grumbled. “You’re pretty, too, you know.” As Hermione opened her mouth to object, Takara said with finality, “You are. But if you think it just comes down to looks, then you ought to think about this, too, Hermione - Galen doesn’t like to be touched, and he doesn’t touch other people too often, either. How many times have you hugged him? How many times has he hugged you? Stroked your hair? As many or more than he has with me, probably. Don’t think that just because he doesn’t say anything that he’s not interested, Hermione.”

And he’d better appreciate this . . . Still, if I can get Hermione onto Galen, it’ll be something Shirou can’t use to question my feelings. And I know they’ll take care of each other.

That was important. They were both her friends (and nothing more, she reminded herself), and she wouldn’t be their friend if she didn’t care about them having partners that were suited to them, and would treat them well.

“Now,” Takara said aloud, “I need to change.” And then I need to think about how to ask Shirou if he’ll take me out on Hallowe’en.

Hermione simply nodded, biting her lower lip in thought as the Japanese witch rose and walked away.

Sigh . . . And compared to last year, this one was supposed to be easy.

Shirou worked carefully on the Puffapod, surrounded on both sides - Takara to his right, and Neville to his left. As common as their presence was, in this situation he drew more comfort from Neville’s than Takara’s. While the stocky boy still far from the kind of battle-hardened warrior he was used to dealing with, or a master of spells and wandwork, he had the same kind of genius for Herbology that Shirou himself had for Transfiguration, or Takara for Potions. While Puffapods weren’t inherently dangerous, it was always comforting knowing that an expert was close at hand if things went wrong, no matter what the situation.

Ten minutes later, he was wishing that there was another expert nearby, in an entirely different subject matter. It started with Takara, while Neville was doing his share of the workload in stripping the pink pods off the plant and divesting the pods of beans. She looked at him intently, mouth opening and closing as she began to say something, and then obviously changed her mind. Finally, Shirou stopped observing her out of the corner of his eye and simply turned to her.


Takara hesitated - which surprised him. She was occasionally shy, but when she wanted something, as she obviously did, she never hesitated. It was one of her more attractive traits . . . Shirou blinked at the thought, then shrugged mentally. He’d known her (more or less) for years, and they were close friends. It would be more surprising if he didn’t find aspects of her attractive.

And knowing what she’ll look like in another four years doesn’t hurt, either. The homunculus the Einzberns had made of him had no sex drive to speak of, but his living self could review those memories of her high school incarnation appreciatively.

I’m old, not dead - any more, at least, he thought irreverently, even as Takara’s voice brought his attention back to her.

“I was wondering if you . . .” she began in Japanese, before trailing off. Then, with a deep breath, she continued, “Well, if you wanted to go to Hogsmeade together.”

Shirou blinked again. “I thought we were going as a group - well, minus Galen, anyway.”

She reddened slowly. “Right - sorry, I’ve been listening to the ‘Flying Foxes’ a bit too much - all their talk about Hogsmeade dates, and such. I guess we are a bit young to worry about that, aren’t we?”

Shirou shrugged. “Maybe a little - but they do seem to start things early here, don’t they? I mean, the magical legal age is a year ahead of mundane Britain - and I don’t know that I’d trust a seventeen-year old that far.” He smirked. “Personal experience tells me they tend to get into a lot of trouble.”

Takara scowled, but her eyes glittered with sardonic amusement. “Well, if you didn’t want me to kill you, you shouldn’t have tried to kill me first.”

He sobered. “I am sorry about that.”

She waved it off. “You explained, Galen explained - and I understand. I don’t like that it happened, but I understand that it really wasn’t you.” Now it was her turn to smirk. “Of course, if you even look like you’re thinking about trying again, it’ll be a race to see which one of us kills you first: me, your sister - ”

“Galen,” Shirou said, immediately and with conviction. He laughed at her expression. “Oh come on, Takara! You’ve got to know that anybody that means you harm within his line of sight is a walking corpse - and they won’t be ‘walking’ for long. And if Galen doesn’t get them, I will - but since we’re talking about me doing it, he’s the person I’ve got to watch for.” He shrugged. “He might not be as deeply melded with his other self as we are, but even if you consider just the Spirit part of him, you’re still his best friend.” His lips quirked as he added, “And his Mistress.”

She shook her head, and began saying “That’s Ilya’s,” before coming to a complete halt. Shirou watched her face contort, as though confused as to which expression it should assume, before settling into her yamato nadeshiko mask, when she was trying to uphold her mother’s expectations of a Japanese lady.

“I suppose,” she said neutrally. “But this is a new world, isn’t it? Things aren’t the same, and they don’t have to be . . . Do they?”

She grasped the bucket Neville had filled and went to hand it in to Professor Sprout. Neville glanced at Shirou, a puzzled look on his face. The British boy’s Japanese was getting good, but he was far from ready to handle a conversation between natives - more than any other reason, the speed of their dialogue was just too fast.

He shrugged to Neville, and said, “Nothing important.” The round-faced boy accepted that, and went back to clearing away the mess left by their work. Reflexively, Shirou helped him, but his mind was more on the conversation he’d just had with Takara than on the task at hand.

As the boy Emiya Shirou, he’d not had much experience with women. Part of this was attributable to the fact that he’d pursued his ideal with all the zealousness of a monk - he had no time for distractions like the opposite gender. Another part could be blamed on Fuji-nee - years of her teasing, even well-meant as it was, would cause just about any guy to be frightened of women. Sakura had been too shy to break through his obliviousness, and Rin too absorbed in her own path, for too long, before either of them really understood the feelings between them. And Saber . . .

Saber had been easy to love, Shirou admitted. Her beauty had been appropriately otherworldly, her skills breathtaking, her presence (dare he say it?) regal. But even beyond her physical attributes, how could he not love a woman as passionately devoted to his own ideals as he himself?

If he had been the type to believe in soulmates, in the sense that each person had a second half of their own soul, searching for them as another person, he’d have believed Saber to be that one. And against that perfection, that ideal - his ideal - what merely mortal woman could compare?

A tinge of regret shot through him, then, for the lover he’d had. She’d tried so hard to support him, to understand - had come closer than just about anyone, save Rin - but in the end, it just wasn’t possible for him to give her the measure of himself that she deserved. She’d gone back to her own ideal then, leaving him to his.

In any case, while Shirou Einzbern could hardly claim to be an expert on women, he did have a broad range of experiences on which to draw, and the observational skills of a male far older than he appeared to be. This gave him at least some ability to read girls - at least, his current “peers,” twelve- and thirteen-year olds with little to no guile, or experience in hiding their feelings. “Subtle” was rarely an adjective used to describe prepubescent children, after all. It was why he could understand Ginny Weasley’s reactions so easily, or Hermione Granger’s. Admittedly, Luna Lovegood could be hard - the girl was just plain strange - but he could also read one Takara Aozaki.

Takara was a little harder than most of the others - in part, because she had learned the same stoicism and ability to mask herself in politeness that he had, as part of their shared culture. Just because he could do it too, it didn’t mean that he could flawlessly read beneath it. Then, too, she was older than she appeared, and had access to some of the same perspective he did - and skills. She was far more subtle than her “peers.”

But with all that said, Shirou wasn’t as big an idiot as he had been the first time round, and thought he understood what had just happened.

She just tried to ask me out - really ask me out - but she switched gears when she realised I hadn’t understood. And then I brought up Galen . . .

She always gets so irritated when someone assumes they’re a couple - I always figured she was just embarrassed to be so obvious, but maybe it’s genuine? I mean, why else would she be asking me, and not him?

I can’t figure it out, though. We had four extra years together without Galen, and yes, she’s pretty much the closest friend I have - but he was always special to her. Always. She kept his letters under her pillow until there were too many to have them all there at once! Pretty much anybody who’s known Takara growing up, and seen her with Galen, assumes that when they’re old enough, they’ll at least start dating. Most of them assume marriage is eventually in the cards . . .

Is this an effect of her merger? Is it the Takara from the Grail world that’s causing the change of heart? She always seemed to be the one who adapted the most quickly and smoothly, of the three of us - but maybe there were more changes going on than we realised.

Shirou considered the matter carefully. For whatever reason, Takara seemed interested in him, not Galen. Galen would probably be ecstatic to hear it - at least, before Ilya vacuumed out his head. Now? Who knew what his reaction might be? And he really needed to talk to Takara, understand where she was coming from. It was always possible he was reading too much into this, but he didn’t think he was.

And for his part? Well, Takara was one of his closest friends, intelligent, brave, and on her way to becoming a drop-dead knockout. There were far worse women he could be involved with. While he had admittedly no burning passion to start things up with her, he’d hardly object if they became involved.

But first, I need to talk to both of them. I need to get them to lay their cards out, so I can figure out exactly what game is being played.

March 27th, 2011, 05:42 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, 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 Strange Reaction

October 24 - 31, 1993

Galen paced in front of the Room of Requirement, willing what he needed to appear. Sure enough, the familiar door formed in the wall. He was just about to open it, when a voice called his name.

“What’s up, Shirou?” he inquired, noting the redhead’s sober mien.

“I need to talk to you,” he said seriously. “I’ve been trying to get you alone somewhere private for almost two weeks.”

Galen’s eyebrows shot up, and he commented lightly, “Not a sentence that inspires feelings of security, Shirou.”

He fired back, “I don’t intend to have - or have to hide - your body, Galen. I just figured this was better kept between the two of us. I’d have had this conversation sooner, but this is the best place for it, and it’s always been busy.”

“That’s Hermione’s doing, mostly,” Galen said. “The room makes a nice, quiet place to research, study, or hide when she’s supposed to be somewhere else. Although I think the twins have been in here a couple of times - hard to say without the Marauders’ Map to check. That reminds me - we’ll have to try to get the map from them, it’ll be invaluable for us later . . .”

“Galen?” Shirou said, a little sharply - he was obviously trying to keep Galen in the here and now. “Can we go in?”

“Sure.” Galen opened the door to a room filled with filing cabinets.

“What’s all this?” Shirou asked.

“School records. I searched the library for yearbooks, but apparently Hogwarts doesn’t do that kind of thing.”

“Why would you want - ?”

“It’s personal,” Galen said bluntly, trying to convey Drop it as strongly as he could in his tone.

Shirou relented, and wandered over to the long table to sit on the bench. He gestured for Galen to do the same.

“About why I’m here . . .” Galen was slightly alarmed, looking at the hesitation on Shirou’s face - what could worry him this badly?

“Takara asked me out last week,” was the final answer.

“‘Asked you out,’” Galen repeated. “Like, on a date?”

“Yeah - to Hogsmeade.”

Galen rolled his eyes. “I didn’t think she’d ask you to the theatre, Shirou - not this early in the term, anyway.” He leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and his head atop his joined hands.

“Well, I admit I’m surprised - I hadn’t expected to deal with dating for another couple of years,” Galen said. He rolled his eyes again. “Then again, since it’s you two, I suppose I ought to have expected you to be precocious.”

Shirou stared at him in plain disbelief. “You’re not - ?”

“I’m not what, Shirou? Angry? Jealous? No - I’m not Ron Weasley, and for that matter, neither are you. If Takara had taken it into her head to date him, then yes, I’d probably be pitching him off the Astronomy Tower about now - or dragging her to the Hospital Wing for a full physical in order to figure out what was used on her.” He shrugged. “You two are my best friends - should I not be happy to hear you’re dating, so long as it goes well?”

Shirou continued staring at him, and to Galen’s surprise, he felt a light brushing along the inside of his skull. Annoyed by the other boy’s Legilimency attempt, he wasn’t too gentle in throwing out the intruder - though he stopped short of inflicting anything truly debilitating.

“I have enough voices in my head, thank you very much. Yours is neither wanted nor welcome,” he said irritably, before allowing genuine anger to seep into his tone. “What the hell did you think you were going to find?”

Shirou rubbed his temples for several seconds, wincing. “I keep forgetting how good your defences are.”

“They’re good because the one thing I absolutely cannot stand is the idea of people poking around in my head uninvited!” Galen snapped. “Ilya’s reconnecting me to my emotions makes it harder to put my barriers up, less automatic - but I can still do it. Now answer the damned question!”

Shirou shook his head, whether to clear it or deflect his anger, Galen wasn’t sure.

“Look, I know what she is to you - both as Galen, and as her Servant. I know how strong those kinds of bonds can be. And I’d understand if you told me you were in love with her.”

“To be ‘in love’ with her, I’d have to understand what that is,” Galen countered. He sighed. “Look, this has to be at least the third or fourth time I’ve had this conversation, and I’ve never liked repeating myself. I’ll boil it down to simple statements, all right? She doesn’t love me, I don’t know how to love her, and if I did, it wouldn’t change anything. If she’s interested in you, go for it - better you than just about anybody else, me included.”

Shirou stared again. “You’re still on that kick? I thought Ilya fixed that!”

Galen rolled his eyes. “Ilya made me less bitter about it, less prone to brooding on it - but she didn’t change who I am. She couldn’t, not when she had to be subtle about her work - and it’s not germane to this conversation, anyway. The point is, I’m not who Takara needs anymore, and more importantly, I’m not who she wants. That, according to you, is you. So if you can make her happy, then you need to stop worrying about me. The person who matters in this is Takara.”

Shirou arched an eyebrow, and looked as if he wanted to reply, but he said nothing.

“OK,” Shirou sighed. “Just wanted to make sure you didn’t have a problem with your two best friends dating.”

“The only problem we’ll have is if you hurt her,” Galen said. He smiled. “Then, if by some miracle she, her family, or yours don’t skin you alive, I will.”

Shirou snorted. “I already knew that.”

Most outside observers, judging from their expressions and tones, would assume the two boys were joking. They, on the other hand, knew better. Shirou gave him a nod before leaving, and Galen sighed.

“That’s Takara down, and Hermione to go,” he muttered, before turning his attention to the filing cabinets. There was a broad range of years to cover, but 1947 was the logical starting point . . .

Shirou found time to talk to Takara two days later, as they headed back to Gryffindor Tower following Quidditch practice. He deliberately began lagging behind the older players, and Takara naturally slowed her pace to match, though she shot him a curious look. After he’d judged that they were out of earshot (and reminding himself that they really had to learn some privacy spells), he began to test the waters.

“Is that offer you made still open?” he asked casually.

“Which one?” Takara asked with a puzzled expression.

“The one from last week - about exploring Hogsmeade together,” he elaborated. He added smoothly. “You know, the date you were trying to get me to agree to without sounding like you were really trying to ask me out.”

She stopped dead, her cheeks visibly darkening in the moonlight.

“Y - you mean it?” she said hesitantly.

“There’s a reason I would lie about this?” Shirou countered, before holding up his right hand and grinning as he added, “And I solemnly swear not to attempt to ritually sacrifice you afterwards.”

She punched his shoulder for that one, but the padding of his uniform absorbed most of it.

“So . . .” Takara said carefully, “what changed your mind? I mean, when I asked, you weren’t even thinking it was a date.”

“I had a talk with Galen,” he said - and Takara stopped dead again.

“Oh?” she said, and there was a sudden frost in her voice. “About what?”

“Well, I figured out what you were really asking later, but I thought it might seem a little strange to him, passing out one night and then waking up the next day to find his two best friends dating,” Shirou said carefully. “Especially given how - shall we say, how protective he is of you? So I thought it might be a good idea to get his opinion on the subject first.”

The autumn night, which had been by no means warm, suddenly seemed much chillier. Of course, that might have been because the moonlight made Takara’s eyes look a much paler colour than usual. Almost silvery, in fact.

“So, because he says you can date me, it’s all right?” she said icily. “And if he’d said ‘no,’ you wouldn’t have bothered?”

“Well, I might’ve suggested we be a little more discreet about it,” Shirou admitted. “I mean, is there a particular reason you’d want to run the guy’s heart through a shredder?”

“Not until just now,” she said ominously.

Takara fumed all the way back to Gryffindor Tower, and she would’ve immediately ripped into Galen, had she been able to get to him. Unfortunately, he’d gone to bed, and there was no way to reach him without causing a scene. So she’d had to wait until the next day, after classes, before she was able to corner him in the Room of Requirement.

“Where do you get off dictating my social life?” she snapped.

Galen’s eyebrows shot up. “Excuse me?” His tone was carefully level, a good indication that he was trying not to snap back, to meet anger with anger.

“No, I won’t,” Takara retorted. “Shirou said he had to have your approval before he agreed to date me - ”

“No, he didn’t - he informed me that he intended to, rather than springing it on me later. I thought was rather considerate of him, since I’ll be the one caught between you two if something goes wrong with your relationship. He also thought I might take it hard, since I obviously have a crush on you.” The sarcasm in his voice was palpable, and it caused her temper to flare.

“Do you?” Takara snapped. “I can’t say as I’ve noticed.”

This was a lie. Inexperienced as she was with social interactions regarding the opposite gender, she only had to compare his treatment of Miranda Granger, or Ginny Weasley, with the way he treated her, and the fact was obvious. He felt something more for her than simple friendship, but how that something defined itself was an entirely different kettle of fish. It might be love, but whether or not it was of a romantic nature was never made clear.

There was also the fact that those feelings were echoed in his treatment of Hermione. Perfectly echoed - he made a subtle but definitive point of never favouring one of them over the other. Then, too, there was always a limit, a line he held himself behind. He never came out and said, “I love you,” or anything that would vocalise his feelings. Not since he’d walked away to die over two years ago, knowing full well that he’d never have to face the consequences of what he’d said. Which would have been perfectly true, but for an accident of Fate.

Takara knew all this, yet still she spoke the lie. She was angry enough - over his ambiguous treatment, over Shirou’s implication that Galen was the ultimate arbiter of her life - to want to prod him, to see if twisting the knife could get him talking for once. And if not, then perhaps it could at least give him a taste of how she felt.

His response, however, was just to shrug, as if it was of no importance. She wanted to scream. Instead, however, her voice was very quiet when she spoke next.

“Let me make this very clear,” Takara near-whispered. “You have absolutely no say in who I date, no matter what you, or anyone else thinks. If this ever happens again, you tell whoever comes to you to shove off. We’re friends, and nothing else - no matter what you might feel for me.”

His response stopped her anger cold, because she would never have predicted it: Galen laughed. He laughed so hard that tears formed at the corners of his eyes, as though she’d somehow said the funniest thing in the world. When he finally had enough breath to speak, he wheezed, “I said that - a year ago . . . Knew you’d catch on . . . Eventually.”

Takara could feel the blood rush from her face, as she remembered the argument. That her thoughts and feelings were of no account, compared to his unyielding certainty that even had they begun a relationship, she and/or Hermione would eventually move on to someone else, someone more interesting, or more desirable, or more worthy . . .

In essence, she realised suddenly, that exactly this would happen. The thought set her stomach to churning, because she would’ve sworn a year ago that such a thing would never happen, that if she truly was interested in him, she would stay, would love him no matter the temptation or provocation . . . And she’d just proven that she’d been wrong.

Galen smiled. It was a real smile, though slightly sad, because it was his gentle way of saying, “I told you so.”

“Have fun tomorrow, Takara - both of you deserve to.” He said it with utter sincerity, and without a drop of sarcasm. “Now, as it will be dark soon, I have a dose of Wolfsbane Potion to take, and a classroom to get locked into. Excuse me, please.”

Takara stared after his retreating form. She had achieved her goals. She had the beginnings of a relationship with Shirou, had managed to break herself out of the mould everyone seemed to expect her to fit as Galen’s future girlfriend/wife, asserted her independence with both boys, and managed to retain not only Galen’s friendship, but his goodwill. In short, Takara had everything she could have wanted out of the year, or at least a good start on it, achieved in roughly two months.

Why, then, did she suddenly feel like crying?

Because when he told me that this would happen last year, she answered herself, when he sounded so cynical, and yet so unshakably certain . . . I wanted desperately for him to be wrong.

“She WHAT?!”

“Ginny!” Galen hissed. “The cloak dampens sound, but it does not make you inaudible! And there are portraits in the halls I’m sure are tasked specifically to watch out for me, and anything unusual!”

There was a low, muted buzz. He recognised the general tone of it - he associated it with Hermione’s voice - but he couldn’t make out what she was saying. Considering his hearing, and the fact that she was barely more than a metre away, that spoke volumes about the Deathcloak’s abilities. And for that matter, about the power of the youngest Weasley’s lungs. The conversation went on for a few minutes. Finally, there was a shifting, and the cloak blinked into existence as Hermione tossed it aside, before folding it up to place in a pocket in her robes. Her redheaded companion just shook her head.

“That is a weird sensation,” Ginny whispered.

Galen shrugged. “It’s never bothered me.”

“Neither does this, apparently - and it should,” Hermione scolded.

“Hermione,” he scolded back. “What are you doing here? It’s Neville’s shift this month - and given how late you’ve been up doing homework lately, not to mention all the classes you’ve been going to, you need your sleep.”

Owing to the fact that most of the classrooms weren’t equipped to handle a menagerie, and having all of them up most of the night might’ve given things away, the seven of them had developed a rotating schedule of who was on “wolf watch” each month, working in pairs.

In response to his chiding, Hermione scowled. “I traded with Neville because I was worried about how you’d take this!” she retorted.

“Why?” he asked. “Why does everybody who talks to me about this think I’m either throwing a tantrum, or that I ought to be? My two best friends seem to have found love, and with two of the most suitable people: each other. Shouldn’t I be happy for them?”

“I keep telling her that,” Ginny said, in a slightly sullen tone that suggested that she wasn’t. Small wonder - Shirou was not only off the market, she had to face the worst possible competition for his attention.

“But - !” Hermione sputtered. “She uses your wand as easily as her own! When the two of you had to sing to get past Fluffy, you did it perfectly! You’re so compatible, so well-matched - “

”Except when we aren’t,” Galen said tiredly. “Like I told Shirou, I haven’t been what she needs for a while now, and I’m not what she wants. And as long as things work out between her and Shirou, that’s fine.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Hermione challenged.

“Then Shirou’s a dead man,” he said flatly, and Hermione stopped and stared at him.

“You mean that,” she breathed, surprised. “He’s your best friend, and you’ll kill him?”

Galen shook his head, and began to pace. “It doesn’t matter who it is - nobody hurts one of you girls and gets away with it. If it’s an amiable breakup, fine. If she dumps him because she can’t stand him, fine. But if he cheats on her, I’ll geld him. If he physically hurts her, he’s dead.” His eyes narrowed, and his voice dropped into a growl, seemingly without conscious effort. “One of my best friends was trapped by an abusive boyfriend once. I had to know what she went back to after every visit, and that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Never again.”

He shuddered, and upped the tempo of his pacing. “Damn it, I hate it when moonrise is so close - it’s like a shot of caffeinated adrenalin to the heart. Too hard to stay still, to stay calm, to focus - ”

Hermione’s hand was on the back of his neck suddenly, and Galen froze as he realised he’d been vocalising his thoughts. More, the heat of her hand was like a burning brand on his skin. His senses were shifting into hyperdrive - the moon was really close. The girls’ scents suddenly washed over him. Ginny smelled like a blend of flowers - her shampoo and perfume were complementary, and strong. There was a touch of sweat, as well - nervous sweat, he thought. She still wasn’t fully used to this. And below all that, a whiff of fox fur. She hadn’t transformed much, or it would’ve lingered more strongly around her.

Hermione’s scent was more familiar, and more comforting for it. Vanilla in her hair, parchment, ink and leather on her fingertips, with a hint of dust and mould - the result of handling too many old books, for too long. Her skin smelled of cat, both the milder, masculine scent of Crookshanks and the muskier aroma of the huntress of the savannah. Both, however, were overpowered by the relatively inoffensive overlay of her soap.

Galen realised abruptly that if he could smell all that, Hermione had to be really close, and was suddenly aware that she was hugging him from behind.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered in his ear, her breath awash with warmth and mint, and though he bit back a chuckle, Galen couldn’t stop himself from smiling.

Trust the dentists’ daughter to be diligent in her brushing!

In response to her, he shrugged as best he could with her arms wrapped around his.

“Nothing to be sorry for,” he murmured. “My friend’s problem was another world, another life. And as for Takara . . .” He shook his head. “Even if she was interested, no matter what I look like, I’m older than her father. This was always the way it was going to be, and I made my peace with that a long time ago. So long as she’s happy, it’s all that matters. It’s all that’s ever mattered.”

He shuddered suddenly. “Maybe a minute left - anything else you want to hear, act fast.”

The pause told him, even without looking, that Hermione was biting her lower lip. “Is there anything you want from Hogsmeade?”

“I want you to have fun, be careful, and keep Neville busy so that Shirou and Takara can have space and time to themselves when they want it,” he said immediately.

Her chin brushed his shoulder blade as she nodded. “OK.”

Another shudder wracked him, this one more violent than the last. “Better let go, Hermione - it’s almost time.”

She did, and he heard her step back - but immediately after that, the world was washed away by a torrent of agony.

When it subsided enough for Galen to be aware of himself again, the vixen and the lioness had joined the wolf - and for tonight, at least, there would be no more words.

Breakfast in the Great Hall the next morning was a subdued affair. Takara and Shirou were in a shared state of anxiousness - as much over their friends’ reactions to their dating as the actual date itself. Hermione and Neville were no less unnerved, trying to decide between themselves how much they could politely insist upon keeping company with them, and when and where to leave the two alone. Hermione also seemed distant, biting her lower lip and staring at nothing in particular, as though worrying through some great problem. Ginny seemed a little worse for wear herself, however, so it was possible that the older girl simply shared her exhaustion.

Luna seemed oblivious to the various tensions around her, though she did frown. “It’s a pity Galen will be asleep in the Hospital Wing all day - I don’t think Ginny and I have spent much time with him by ourselves.”

“If he wasn’t, he’d be coming to Hogsmeade with us,” Hermione pointed out gently.

“True. It’s a pity we can’t go, too.”

“There’s always next year,” Neville observed.

Luna nodded. “That’s true. Then we can all go, and be together.”

“So swears the Scarlet Seven!” Fred intoned dramatically as he and George approached.

“Can’t be, Fred,” George pointed out. “There’s only six of ‘em.”

Fred grinned. “He managed to land himself in the Hospital Wing again? What was it this time? Did Neville blow up another cauldron? Somebody let in another troll, or basilisk?”

“Nah, he probably wore himself out capturing Sirius Black,” George opined. When the entire group (minus Fred, of course) stared at him, the Weasley boy shrugged. “Hey, we’ve got a pool going.”

“Five Galleons says you lot will get him before the Dementors do,” Fred acknowledged. “Do us a favour, though, and try to manage it before Christmas break?”

“Oh, my, look at the time,” Fred said. “Best head to the Entrance Hall, ladies and gents, or the carriages will leave without you.”

Hermione stood abruptly. “I’ve got to feed Crookshanks - I’ll meet you all there.” She dashed out.

Ginny frowned. “We could’ve fed him for her. What if she’s late?”

Luna shook her head, her expression one of serene certainty. “She won’t be.”

Sure enough, as the three third-years lined up to get their names checked off by Filch, Hermione was already in line, waiting for them.

“That was fast,” Takara commented.

Shirou smirked. “I suspect her errand had less to do with feeding her cat, and more to do with sneaking a goodbye kiss.”

Hermione walked over to them, her dark eyes challenging. “And what if it was?”

“If it was, I’d be more impressed if you did it while he was awake,” Shirou noted drily.

Hermione simply smiled.

Takara stared at her, not making sense of her sudden shift in mood.

“Hermione?” Takara asked carefully. “You didn’t . . .?”

“Oh look, our carriage is ready,” Hermione said brightly. “Let’s go - I want to see Hogsmeade . . . And I’m sure you’re looking forward to your date.”

I was, the Japanese witch thought, puzzled by the other girl’s strange reaction. Nonetheless, she boarded the carriage with her friends, and as the Thestrals began to trot, they were off for the day.

March 27th, 2011, 05:43 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 12 - Always a Trinity

October 31, 1993

Takara bit her lip worriedly as the Thestral-drawn carriage pulled up to Hogsmeade Station, in unintentional imitation of the source of her worrying: Hermione Granger. The girl had been chatting animatedly with Neville for most of the ride, with the occasional aside to Shirou or herself, and normally that wasn’t unusual. But considering the reaction she’d expected, it was troubling.

I would’ve expected her to be torn between hexing me for breaking Galen’s heart, or thanking me for making sure he was available, she thought.

It was an exaggeration, but probably not by much. The mundane-born witch had carried a torch for their mutual friend since first year, and while she hadn’t been blatant about it, she hadn’t exactly been subtle, either. And a couple of weeks ago, Hermione had all but admitted that she fully expected Takara to win, if it came down to a choice between them.

But I decided to date Shirou, which means he’s free, and I’m not. It’s everything she could ask for - assuming that Galen isn’t really in love with me, of course.

Takara knew better than to try her fledgling Legilimency skills on Hermione to find out what she was thinking. She and Shirou were the only ones with any talent for it, and they had barely begun to learn how. Hermione’s Occlumency, on the other hand, was equal to Galen’s, with Neville’s and Luna’s tied for second place among their group. Given their backgrounds, each of them had experience in building mental walls to protect themselves - and Hermione’s logical, organised mind gave her a natural knack for the art. It would be like trying to blast open a bank vault with a firecracker.

And if she is mad at me, I really don’t want to find out what kind of defences she’s got in place. The ones Shirou and Galen were talking about building were nasty enough - and we call Hermione “brilliant but scary” for a reason.

As they stepped out of the carriage, the witch in question asked, “All right, how would you like to do this? We can give you the morning together, and meet up for lunch and wandering in the afternoon, or the reverse. Or we can stay away all day, if you’d like . . .”

Shirou glanced at her speculatively. “How about we take a look around together, first? Then we’ll have an idea of what’s around to absorb our time separately after lunch, and we’ll know where to find each other, if we need to.”

Takara nodded, sighing inwardly in relief. It gave her time to think about what she wanted to do for her date, and put off the pressure. She so wanted this to go well . . .

By mutual consent, they decided to hit Honeydukes first - the only shop of which they were all really aware, and mostly interested in. Because of her parents, Hermione didn’t have much of a sweet tooth - but she bought a bar of what Takara had always called the really good chocolate, knowing that Galen loved the stuff as much as she did. Takara did the same, but got the next size up.

“You’re sure you want to carry that around in your pocket all day?” Shirou queried.

Hermione smiled. “I’ve heard there’s a wizarding post office in Hogsmeade. I thought I’d try it out - send the chocolate up to the castle for his lunch.”

“If he’s awake by then,” Shirou pointed out. “I know Ilya sends him medicines to help him recover, but he’s still hit pretty hard, these days.”

The bushy-haired witch shrugged. “Then he’ll have it for supper. It’s Hallowe’en - he should get a treat, shouldn’t he?”

“Considering the trick that’s coming,” Takara murmured. She winced as she realised that in some ways, this was an ideal opportunity to get at the rat - when most of the students, and at least some of the staff, would be here. If Galen could wake up quickly enough, snatching Pettigrew wasn’t likely to be a problem. But holding him, on the other hand . . .

It all comes back to the same thing: if we turn him in, how do we explain how we knew? Kiritsugu-san would accept it without question, now, but eventually, some kind of official story would need to be concocted - and we don’t have one ready.

. . . Assuming, of course, that we don’t simply kill him.

The options had been discussed in detail, and thus far, Galen’s wishes fit with their own objectives. They wanted to save everyone they could, and Sirius Black was high on their list of priority targets. Takara had never liked the casual way the man had been killed, dramatic though it was, after all he’d already suffered. Especially with Dumbledore and Remus Lupin dying in each successive year. So, if they could save Sirius somehow, they would. But by the same token, they’d all agreed - Pettigrew could not be allowed to escape. If they had to kill him in order to prevent that, then so be it.

It occurred to Takara that Sirius might be in the Shrieking Shack right now, resting up to make his first foray into Gryffindor Tower - but without a better plan than just walking in and confronting him, there wasn’t much point to checking.

Though maybe Shirou can do it later? she wondered. His eagle sight would be ideal for that kind of reconnaissance.

“Ugh!” Neville’s voice caught their attention. He was standing in the furthest corner of the shop, and it had a sign hanging over it that proclaimed “Unusual Tastes.”

“What is it?” Shirou inquired as they drew nearer.

Neville was staring at a tray of bright red lollipops. “It says these are blood-flavoured lollipops. If we were in Zonko’s, I’d say it was a joke, but - ”

“They’re for vampires, I expect,” Hermione said briskly, before she tilted her head to one side. “That’s odd. Vampires mainly reside in Romania, and their legal and social status in Britain wouldn’t exactly argue in favour of making candies for them, would it? So there can’t be that big a customer base, but Honeydukes makes them anyway. And they’re a highly-respected confectioner based in Hogsmeade, not some tiny specialty supplier or dodgy product dealer in Knockturn Alley.” She bit her lip, thinking.

“Ask Galen,” Takara advised. “He’ll probably know why.”

Hermione glanced at her, then nodded. “Dark creatures are his specialty.”

It was. All three of the dimensionally-displaced students got top marks in Defence Against the Dark Arts, but each had their own area of expertise. Galen’s was creatures, Shirou’s artefacts, and her own, Dark spells and rituals. If anyone knew why a legitimate, respectable company made candy for a dangerous and disliked breed of Dark creature, it would be him.

They moved onto the post office, so that Hermione could send her chocolate bar back to Hogwarts. As it was a local delivery, with some speed required, but not an urgent rush, her parcel was sent via a tiny Scops owl. Takara had to resist the urge to stroke the little thing before it left.

After Honeydukes, they took a quick look around Zonko’s Joke Shop, but as none of them were really into pranks, they didn’t buy anything. They did, however, make a note of the kind of things available. This was for two reasons: first, in case something was used against them, and second, if they found a need for a specific product later on in the year, they could pick it up on a future visit.

Or we can always ask Fred and George if they have any they can spare, Takara thought in amusement.

After hitting only those three places, it seemed wise to start lunch before the rush began - with seventy percent of Hogwarts’ population in the village, any eating establishment was bound to get crowded quickly. So they’d eat a little earlier, and hopefully finish up before the press of people and noise became too much to bear.

And then . . . Takara thought, suddenly finding it hard to catch her breath.

And then, we’ll see if Shirou and I can make this work. But first, there’s something I need to clear up.

“Hermione?” she murmured, falling into step beside her. “Could I talk to you for a minute?”

Hermione nodded, and dropped back behind the boys. Takara followed, and hesitated, glancing at her.

“About Galen . . .”

“We discussed it earlier,” Hermione said briskly. “He seems genuinely pleased with this development, and not upset at all. So, it would be rather foolish of me to be angry with you for doing this to him, when it hasn’t hurt him, wouldn’t it?” She gave the Japanese witch a sharp look. “I just hope you know what you’re doing. If I started dating at thirteen, my father would be having kittens.”

Takara winced. Right - she’d forgotten all about her parents. Or rather, she’d considered their involvement to be a far in the future event. Given the likelihood that they were all going home for the Christmas holidays, though, it wasn’t really that far off.

I really hope Shirou and I can make this work . . .

Shirou considered the situation, as the foursome split into separate pairs. Takara considered this a “date.” While he didn’t necessarily object, his experience in actual dating was surprisingly limited. As Emiya Shirou, he hadn’t socialised much at all, being too busy trying to save the world one task at a time. As the man who would be Archer, he’d done even less - though he’d had a few brief liaisons, as well. The last real date he could recall, though, had been to a Tanabata festival which had ended with his attempted kidnapping and murder of Takara Aozaki.

By that standard, the bar for this date isn’t really all that high, he thought wryly.

That said, dating in general was pretty much a mystery to him - particularly at this age. Going clubbing or out for a pint wasn’t all that possible at a physical age of thirteen, their mental ages and experience levels notwithstanding. And he was pretty sure condoms were not going to be classed as a necessity, either. So the question became, what to do?

They ended up just walking down the main road, taking in the sights. They’d left Hermione and Neville in Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop, and were thus assured of not running into them, at least for a while. And after enough time, they could pop in themselves to look around. Until then, however, they simply walked, and pondered the situation.

Finally, Shirou said, “I suppose we ought to talk about this. Ground rules, expectations, questions . . . Stuff like that.”

“Questions?” Takara said.

“Well, normally, people date to get to know each other, right?” Shirou said with a shrug. “Except I’ve got almost ten years’ worth of memories in here” - he tapped his right temple - “that tell me pretty much all I need to know about you. So I guess the only question left is, why?”

“‘Why’ what?” Takara asked in puzzlement.

“As in, ‘why did you want to ask me out?’” Shirou clarified. “Followed by questions like, ‘what do you want out of this date? Where do you see it going?’”

“Why wouldn’t I ask you out?” Takara countered. “Shirou, you’re brave, handsome - or you will be - clever, determined, compassionate, handy with tools . . . Most girls would throw in ‘popular’ and ‘rich,’ too. You’re pretty much the ideal boyfriend.” She grinned. “If you didn’t have a lousy fashion sense, you’d be perfect - and if you did, you’d be gay.”

Takara paused abruptly, before adding, “Then again, I suppose that would explain the - ”

“Hey!” Shirou protested.

Her eyes gleamed with amusement. “I remember the leather pants and the hair gel, Shirou. I don’t know what Tohsaka-san saw in that look, but I spent a lot of time wondering if I ought to warn my father about you.”


She tilted her head in contemplation. “That would explain Malfoy’s hanging around with those two brutes, too. He doesn’t wear much leather that I can see, but he uses even more gel than you did . . .”

“Malfoy’s preferences aside,” Shirou said, completely committed to changing the subject, “you do bring up an interesting point.”

“What’s that?”

Shirou looked at her seriously. “If Rin Tohsaka called me tomorrow and said she was hurt, or needed my help - or even just that she wanted to see me - I would be on a plane to her before she hung up the phone. No matter what happens in our lives, or what changes we go through, there’s a part of me that will always be hers. You can’t change that about me - no one can.”

Takara blinked. “She isn’t here, is she? Unless she is, I don’t see it being a problem . . .?”

“It isn’t - but I’m not the only one it’s true for.”

He watched the light dawn in her eyes. “Do we have to talk about this?”

“Yes,” Shirou said firmly. “We can’t ignore him and hope he’ll go away, Takara - he’s supposed to be our friend. More to the point, he’s tried very hard to prove that he is our friend - and we owe him the same.”

“He doesn’t have any say in this relationship,” Takara pointed out sharply. “He knows that.”

“He does know that,” Shirou agreed. “But I still know that if you needed comfort, or help, or someone to talk to, he’ll be there. Not many guys could handle knowing there’s another man just waiting in the shadows, Takara.”

“He’ll be waiting a long time, then,” Takara snapped.

Shirou shook his head. “I’m not talking about his romancing you. You’re not the type to cheat, and Galen would never touch you unless you grabbed his hands and put them in place. I’m talking about there being another man you can turn to for support, or care, besides your boyfriend - or your husband. Someone else willing to take on responsibilities that are supposed to be theirs.” He gave her an ironic smile as he recalled certain memories. “It can be hard to take.”

It had been hard, to see Emiya with Rin. Even though he knew it was himself, and that she wasn’t the Rin he knew, not really, not yet - to see her turn to him with those gemstone eyes. And Emiya Shirou had liked Rin’s easy reliance on Archer no better .. .

“It’s not like I asked him to!” Takara protested, bringing him back, and Shirou shook his head again.

“No, you didn’t,” he agreed. “It’s just who he is - and a part of that will always be yours, just like a part of me is Rin’s.” He shrugged. “Now, I know that, and I can learn to live with that, unlike a lot of people you might try to date.”

“But why does it matter?” she asked. “It’s not like I’m going to dump you for him!”

“Because if this is going to work, Takara - really work - we all need to understand the dynamics of it,” Shirou replied. He reached out to take her hands, and ran his thumbs over the scars which had been made of her Command Mantras. “We’re not your Servants anymore, but to a very real extent, you’re still our Mistress. Both of us will prioritise your well-being over our own, or even each other’s. And even if the two of us pair off, we’re always going to be a trinity. Galen will just fade a little further into the background for us, until you need or want him.”

He shook his head. “I admit that if our positions were reversed, I wouldn’t linger as close as he probably will. I’d probably shun contact unless you were really in trouble - I don’t think I could endure having to be your friend, and watch you with someone else. I know if it was Rin, it would work that way. Maybe I’d open up a repair shop to keep myself occupied . . .” He chuckled. “Then again, you’d still have problems if it was reversed - because I think a part of Galen will always be Hermione’s, too.”

“But you don’t have problems?” Takara asked. “I mean, you keep saying that guys don’t like it . . .”

“They don’t, normally,” Shirou agreed. “But we’re not exactly ‘normal,’ however much we pretend to be. We can live normal lives, and enjoy them because they are - but we’re still the same people who fought for the Grail, and against Illyria. We’re bound together, in one fashion or another, by Fate. Whether as lovers, friends, siblings, or bitter enemies - it’s always going to come down to the three of us, and maybe Ilya, in the end.”

He gave her a look. “So if this whole idea of dating me is meant to get him to go away, Takara - it’s not going to happen.”

“It’s not,” she said. “It’s . . . “

She hesitated, and Shirou wondered, looking at her expression, if she could even explain it to herself, much less to him. Nonetheless, Takara appeared willing to try, because after a moment, she continued.

“If we’d never come here, the three of us who are part of this place would still have faced this choice - and I don’t know how that Takara Aozaki would choose. But when you add in us, and what we’ve all been through . . . Galen is a man of grand passions and gestures, of extreme danger and adventure. He’s for big things, not little things. I can’t see him making breakfast in the morning for me while I shower after a dojo session, or going out to a salaryman’s job while I look after the kids. I don’t see him popping out to a grocer’s to pick up milk, or mowing the front lawn. Whatever name you call him by, Galen isn’t real. He’s never really belonged in my world - the world of little things, the things that make up a life.

“I want that, Shirou. I’ve always wanted that. And I can have that, with you. My best friend . . .” She looked at him steadily, but her eyes were a little shinier than normal - the glimmering possibility of tears. “Is it that hard to think that it could become more between us, even if it isn’t right now?”

Shirou considered the question for a long moment, then answered honestly.

“No - it isn’t.”

Takara’s eyes widened in response - and she tackled him to the ground.

Two years as a Seeker had sharpened her peripheral vision - even focussed on Shirou’s face as she was, Takara noted the furtive movements in the distance. Not unlike a Golden Snitch, even down to the colour . . .

Her conscious mind abruptly caught up with her senses, and she realised what - or more properly, who - she was seeing. A fractional movement of her eyes brought the distant figure into focus, and she dove forward as she realised what was about to happen.


The scarlet Stunner passed over where their heads would have been, and blasted a chunk out of the ground to their right. Takara was moving the instant her palms hit the ground, rolling off Shirou into a half-crouching stance and drawing her wand in the same motion.

“Stupefy,” she replied, taking out Crabbe, the smaller (and harder to aim for) of Malfoy’s two henchmen. She followed it up with another Stunner to the larger one.

Malfoy took advantage of her preoccupation with the cannon fodder fire off another spell. “Densaugeo!”

“Protego,” Shirou said calmly, having rolled himself into a stance similar to her own. The silvery Shield Charm sprang into existence set at a deflective position, sending the unfamiliar spell shooting off into the distance at an odd angle.

Hermione’s sudden scream caught everyone by surprise. The bushy-haired witch was on her knees, her upper body curled over herself, making any wounds impossible to see. Takara and Shirou froze in horror, even as Neville rushed to the fallen witch.

Draco Malfoy was many things, but “slow” could not honestly be considered one of them. He fired off another spell while the two Gryffindors were paralysed . . .

. . . But Takara Aozaki was the youngest Seeker in a century for a reason. “Protego!”

The silvery shield blazed a little more brightly than normal, shooting Malfoy’s attack directly back at him as though reflected by a mirror. The light seemed to snap Shirou out of his daze, because he fired a brilliant Stunner into the blond’s torso, even as Malfoy froze in place - and the impact sent him flipping like through the air like a tossed coin.

Ouch, Takara thought, even as she rushed to Hermione. Without supplies, there would be little she could do to help her friend - but even the little Healer’s training she’d had might make a difference.

“Hermione?” she said, observing the witch’s hunched over figure. “Can you hear me? Are you still conscious? Show me how bad it is, Hermione.”

A bobbing of bushy hair was the only reply, along with a muffled sound which might have been a negative response.

“Hermione, if you’ve gotten something broken, you could be bleeding internally,” Takara said. “I need to see if there’s anything I have to do before we try to move you back to the castle - you’ll have to see Madam Pomfrey right away!”

“I’ll just carry her back - “ Shirou began.

“NO!” Hermione interrupted, in an oddly thick voice. She raised her head slowly, removing her arms from where they were wrapped around her to give everyone a shamed look.

Her two front teeth had always been overlarge - now they were ridiculously proportioned, extending past her chin and as wide across as Takara’s thumb, at least!

“I look like a walrus,” Hermione moaned. “This is worse than the Polyjuice Potion!” Her eyes started tearing up. “Why does this always have to happen to me?”

“Usually, it happens to me,” Neville said in surprise, before flinching under the British witch’s glare.

Takara tried her best to keep her voice calm. “It’s all right, Hermione - Madam Pomfrey can fix it really quickly.” An idea sprang into her head. “And if you arrange it right, she might even shrink your teeth down to a normal size, like you’ve always wanted.”

The thought seemed to cheer her a little, and Hermione allowed Takara to take her arm and guide her towards the Three Broomsticks. The Japanese witch was sure that if they couldn’t arrange for Madam Pomfrey to visit them directly via a fire-call, the proprietress would know where to go in Hogsmeade for medical care. The boys, bless them, managed to position themselves so that nobody could get a good look at Hermione as they moved.

“Should we do anything about Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle?” Neville asked out loud.

“We’ll tell somebody they’re there,” Takara said. “There should be a teacher at the Three Broomsticks. If not . . .” She smiled icily. “Well, if we can’t find anyone else to tell, I suppose it will have to be Galen, won’t it?”

Shirou had a dark grin to match her own. “Even if we don’t, he’s going to wonder how Hermione got her new smile.”

Takara nodded. “I’ll tell the twins they need to start a new betting pool: how Galen decides to kill them, and how long he’ll take to do it.”

“I’ve got a Galleon that says he’ll feed them to the Dementors,” Neville said.

Takara shook her head. “No . . .” Hermione said the next part along with her, proving how well they both knew him. “Too quick.”

The Japanese witch glanced at her British friend, and recalled what Shirou had told her. It seemed he’d been right. One way or another, she and Galen were bound as two parts of a trinity.

March 27th, 2011, 05:47 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 13 - “Fur”-tive Actions

October 31, 1993

Galen stirred, feeling soft hands and a familiar scent - Ilya’s salves, for muscles and skin and bones that had been stretched and strained beyond endurance. The hands were strange - not the trailing, delicate fingers of Arcueid or Ilya, nor the calloused, professional hands of Madam Pomfrey. These were smaller, their touch light, but not practised at it, more an act of hesitancy than deliberation. They were thorough, though. In almost no time, he was thoroughly coated in the salve, and the familiar tingling told him the stuff was working as it ought to be. The smell was stronger than he was used to - he’d had an earlier application, perhaps, while still passed out.

“Open your mouth,” came a voice, firm but still fuzzy - his ears were still a little “off.”

“I’m going to give you some water, and then go get some food,” the voice said. “Swallow slowly.”

The water was good - dehydration was one of several problems that accompanied the transformation, as was burning through a fair number of calories - a reason werewolves hunted meat almost immediately after changing. The curse preferred human, of course, but any kind of animal protein would do, ultimately. Of course, in human form, his system was so out of whack that he’d be unlikely to keep down anything more complex than soup . . .

He must have dozed off, because the next thing he was aware of was the sound of a tray being set on the stand beside his bed. The smell of beef broth wafted from its direction.

“Are you still awake?” asked the voice. Hermione.

“Thought you went to Hogsmeade,” he croaked.

“I changed my mind,” she said simply.

Galen sighed. She’d decided not to leave him alone - which was sweet, undeniably, but now she’d miss out on all kinds of opportunities and experiences . . . All because of him.

“I decided you were right,” she continued, before he could go any further with that train of thought. “I was tired. So I kipped after breakfast this morning for a couple of hours, and I’ve been sitting here revising my Arithmancy notes. When Madam Pomfrey brought in your salves, I said I’d apply them for her, if she’d show me how.”

Galen’s eyes opened then, to stare at Hermione. Her cheeks were pinker than usual, but the set of her face was practically daring him to challenge her.

“It’s good to see you’re taking care of yourself, with all the work you’re doing this term,” he said. “Me, too, of course - and thank you for it - but yourself, more importantly. McGonagall would be really upset it if you overworked yourself.”

“Professor McGonagall?” she repeated, a touch of alarm in her voice.

“Well, yeah - she’s the one who got you permission to take every elective there is. I would think she’d feel terrible if you wound up burning out over it,” Galen pointed out. “After all, you said she arranged your schedule - and there’s no way you’d even be allowed to take so many courses without a teacher advocating it. And while she may not play favourites, don’t assume she doesn’t have them - of which I think it’s safe to say you are one, Miss Granger.”

He finished with a faint smile, trying not to let it broaden at the relief that spread visibly over Hermione’s face. She still thought her secret was safe, not realising that it had never been secret. Of course, thanks to his own promise to McGonagall, he’d have had to deny it if Hermione asked, anyway, but . . .

He shook his head.

“You didn’t have to stay here,” he said quietly.

“I didn’t feel like being alone,” Hermione countered, forestalling his obvious reply by adding, “Luna and Ginny still have classes in session - I couldn’t very well lurk about, could I? I knew you’d be here, though, and it’s a quiet place to study.” She smiled. “Besides, it’s been a long time since it was just the two of us together - not since our first year. I’ve missed it.”

He couldn’t help but smile in return. “Thank you.”

Now it was Hermione’s turn to shake her head. “Don’t mention it. Now, come on, your soup will get cold.” Her eyes sparkled with humour. “And if you finish it all, I have a treat for you.”

Galen sat up, allowing Hermione to levitate the tray over to him. The soup was good - a hearty vegetable beef that would give him much-needed protein and vitamins. To that, Hermione added a tall goblet of milk, for calcium-starved bones. Given that he was hungry, Galen finished it all relatively quickly, and so the young witch brought out the promised treat: a bar of Honeydukes’ best chocolate.

“Where did you - ?” Galen began to ask.

“I had it owled up from Hogsmeade,” she replied quickly. “It’s Hallowe’en, so treats should be permissible - and you should enjoy something, since you couldn’t get it yourself.”

“Thanks.” The word seemed inadequate, but what else could he say?

Galen unwrapped the bar, and immediately broke it in half. He then proceeded to re-wrap one of the halves. “Dessert for dinner,” he explained. “My system probably couldn’t handle too much chocolate right now.” He then took the other half, and broke off a half of it, and offered it to Hermione.

She shook her head, and he sighed in mock frustration. “Hermione, sugar issues aside, occasional treats are OK - and you’ve already done some pretty nice things for me in the last day or so. Even if you don’t want to eat it now, take the chocolate, would you?”

With a sigh of her own, and the exaggerated motions of someone acting under great duress, she took the offered piece - and popped it directly into her mouth, a little half-smile on her face.

“I’m expected to refuse,” she explained after her last swallow, her brown eyes warm with amusement. “Dentists’ daughter, and all that. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a sweet every now and again - or did you think that my little sister eats those great tubs of ice cream all by herself?”

Galen shook his head again, unable to keep a grin off his face at her smile. “You are so very different,” he murmured.

Hermione’s expression turned stern. “I told you before - I’m still the same Hermione Granger.” She parted her lips for a moment, then added, “Buckteeth and all.”

“I know - and I mostly believe it. But I can’t remember the last time I ever saw or heard of you being this - relaxed. You don’t stress out over your studies - much. You don’t nag us to do our own homework . . .”

“Occlumency training answers the first,” Hermione told him. “My memory is effectively eidetic, now. I don’t need to reread my textbooks much, if ever. It makes studying and exams much easier - and I’m especially grateful for that this year,” she added, before tilting her head inquisitively. “And when was the last time I actually needed to nag you about assignments - any of you?”

That was true, Galen realised. Takara and Shirou were both diligent students by nature, as were Neville and Luna. Ginny didn’t always enjoy her homework, but she didn’t make a habit of putting it off. As for himself, he’d never liked schoolwork - but since the subject matter was actually interesting, he was more dedicated about it than he’d been the first time around. And the full moon’s unalterable deadlines forced him to keep up-to-date about it. Then, too, all of their own Occlumency training provided the same benefits that Hermione enjoyed, to a greater or lesser degree.

“Outside of the occasional reminder when something’s slipped our minds, not often,” he admitted.

“Exactly,” she said in satisfaction. “So I’m under a lot less stress about my academic standing, and yours. Why shouldn’t I be more relaxed?” She smiled. “Now, if I was friends with, say, Ronald Weasley, I can see where I’d be pulling my hair out on a regular basis - I’ve glanced at some of the essays he’s handed in when I distribute the marked ones to the class.” She rolled her eyes. “Unless he changes his habits, I think Miranda will graduate Hogwarts before he does.”

Mentioning Weasley brought the rat to mind. Now, Galen knew, would be an ideal time to snag Pettigrew - but what to do with him once he had him? He’d have to be able to store the rat until they could get in contact with Sirius, but the escaped wizard wouldn’t even be in the area until tonight, when he invaded Hogwarts? And how could they possibly hold a civil conversation without a portrait or seven overhearing?

If we knew exactly what passage he used to enter the castle, it might be worthwhile staking it out . . . Galen thought, before a thought struck. No - it doesn’t matter how he gets in, because there’s only one or two ways he could possibly get out! With no wand or invisibility cloak, and the portraits watching his every move after he’d attacked the Fat Lady if not before, only a couple of the potential passages could serve to help him disappear out of the castle from the entrance to Gryffindor Tower as quickly and thoroughly as he did. If we stake those out . . .

He abruptly became aware that a pair of big brown eyes was peering anxiously at him from point-blank range.

“Are you all right?” Hermione asked worriedly. “Should I let you go back to sleep?”

Galen considered. He was still tired, but not enough to sleep. And now that he had the rudiments of a plan, his brain would churn over it for at least a couple of hours, preventing him from sleeping, anyway.

He shook his head finally. “I’ll be OK - for a little while, anyway. I think I have an idea, though. Mind if we change venues to discuss it?”

Hermione smiled. “Your robes are over there.” She pointed to a chair before levitating the lunch tray again to follow her away from the bed, and pulling the privacy screen closed behind her.

Galen felt his face go red at the sudden realisation that to have applied Ilya’s salve, Madam Pomfrey had to have stripped him down to his boxers - and if Hermione had applied it as well . . .

I wonder if it’s possible to burst a blood vessel through excessive blushing . . . Then again, neither she nor Takara said anything - I guess they weren’t all that impressed. Quelle surprise, considering I’m fourteen, I suppose.

Better hurry - the less time I spend on this train of thought, the better.

After dressing hastily, he joined Hermione outside the Hospital Wing, and they walked towards the Room of Requirement. It opened to the room of filing cabinets he’d been visiting over the last week.

“What’s all this?” Hermione inquired.

“School records - I’ve been hunting a particular connection,” Galen explained. “Might as well continue now, I guess.”

He moved to a particular cabinet, pulled it open, and began to look.

“What connection?”

“Trying to figure out what it is about Sirius Black that would terrify my grandmother,” Galen answered.

Hermione answered, “Well, he is considered a mass murderer, isn’t he? Wouldn’t that terrify most people?” She hesitated. “. . . But you don’t think that’s it, do you?”

“No, I think it’s personal. I’m just not a hundred percent sure how or why.” He stared in frustration. “Problem is, Hogwarts actually had more students way back when - we have nearly three hundred now, but in the era I’m checking, any witch or wizard that could was trying to escape Grindelwald - Hogwarts offered sanctuary to every student who could get off the continent. And even a couple of years later, most of them were still here, trying to complete their education and waiting for things to settle before going home.”

“How many records are we talking about?”

“Hogwarts has a capacity for a thousand people,” Galen sighed. “Add in the need to check a seven-year span, to make sure I don’t miss something . . . It’s taken a lot of time.”

“Well, if you’re using your grandmother as a starting point . . .” Hermione mused. “What’s her name?”

“Isolde.” Another changed name, but like Maeve’s and his own, similar to the original.


“I don’t know.”

Hermione stared at him in disbelief, and he shrugged. “I know what it was in my timeline, Hermione, but it’ll be some Pureblood name here that I’ve never heard - I’m looking for her maiden name, after all.”

“Alright - what about her age?”

“I never knew that in either timeline - but the key year is nineteen forty-seven.” He sighed. “The problem is, I can’t find an Isolde of any surname at Hogwarts then - there’s no record of one attending.”

Hermione considered that. “Perhaps she changed her mind, and transferred?”

Galen shook his head. “No, she would’ve - ” He stopped. “Stupid. Stupid! She would’ve withdrawn - if not in 1947, the term before! She would’ve had to!”

Hermione blinked. “Why?”

“Because of the scandal,” Galen muttered, concentrating until the filing cabinets vanished, leaving only two rolls of parchment on a table. He picked up the one on the left and scanned it. “Yeah - Isolde . . . Umbridge?!” He turned a pale shade of green. “I think I’m going to be sick - although it would explain a few things about her actions . . .”

“Why? What’s so bad about being an Umbridge?” Hermione asked.

Galen shuddered. “If things go really wrong, you’ll find out in a couple of years.” He shuddered again. “In the meantime, I won’t mention it if you don’t. Now, let’s see . . . Withdrawn November of the previous term at parental request.” He set down the first roll, and picked up the second. “Hm - and if that’s the case, then this list of enrollments for 1946 - 47 ought to have . . . “

He stopped, and stared at the parchment as though trying to burn a hole in it with his gaze. Finally, he set it down, suddenly looking every day of his true age.

“It’s not that I’m always right - it’s that I’m never wrong when I want to be.”

“What is it?” Hermione asked, peering at the roll.

“Orion Black,” Galen said dully. “Heir and eventual head to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Father of Sirius Black . . . And, I will wager every Galleon I have, my real grandfather.”

Hermione’s eyes widened, and he nodded. “Yeah - and my mother was never told. Not when she graduated school. Not when she married, or had children. Not when her children graduated school. She found out only by putting together a lifetime of little slips, and actively searching . . . Maybe ten years from now, my time? And for learning this, she was disinherited by basically the entire family. After all, what right did she have to know the truth - and how dare she think otherwise?”

The parchment abruptly burst into flames, and Galen made a conscious effort to raise his Occlumency barriers, direct his emotions. Anger and outbursts of accidental magic could hurt Hermione. He settled for pacing.

“My grandmother played the wounded martyr, unjustifiably attacked by her ungrateful daughter, and the rest of her children fell obediently into line behind her,” Galen said tersely. “Never mind that her little secrets could’ve potentially endangered us - what if we had a genetic disorder, or predisposition for something, that was passed through my grandfather’s line? We’d never know about it until it was too late, because our medical histories were inaccurate.”

“My mother became a pariah, for no other reason than that she knew the truth. And people wonder why I despise liars.”

Most of all, myself - because Ilya helped me to become so very good at it . . .

A coughing sound caught his attention, and he whirled. Hermione stood there in her lioness form, rumbling softly. Galen was confused - did she think he would hurt her? Galen stood still, waiting. Hermione stalked forward, and beyond him, rubbing her head and side against him as she passed. Then she turned around, and repeated the process along his other side. Finally facing him again, she lay down, looking at him expectantly.

“Fur therapy?” he guessed. “You’re a little big for my lap . . .”

This was true - as a lioness, even one not yet fully grown (as she herself wasn’t), Hermione had to tip the scales at somewhere around two hundred pounds, at least. If she stood on her hind legs, she could easily rest her forepaws on his shoulders, and he would be able to meet her eyes, if he didn’t actually have to look up to do so. For all of her great size, however, she was proportional - leanly muscled, and sleek of build and coat. Her fur gleamed gold, matched by eyes of dark amber that shone with Hermione’s own intelligence, and the enigmatic intensity that was the birthright of cats.

Hermione rolled onto her right side, batting her left paw in the air as though to say, “Come here.”

Galen obeyed. It was Hermione asking, after all - and more, she was currently a cat. And he had once been described by a friend as existing to serve his cats’ whims. That being the case, how could he refuse? He knelt down, and started petting her.

He started gently, stroking along her side. It was different than petting Crookshanks, or even Catgirl Hermione, last year. Being built for the warmth of the African savannah, a lioness’ skin was actually very thin, as was her fur. It was almost like stroking his own hair, after a fresh buzz cut - but Hermione had a lot of muscle underneath her coat, making her more solid to the touch. Despite that, however, she was very responsive to his touch, her skin yielding easily, and she shifted more than once to give him better access to particular points - especially after he stopped simply trailing his hands along her body and moved to mock-scratching with the pads of his fingers, and rubbing deeper with his palms.

He wasn’t a trained masseuse, but he’d once been a gifted amateur, along with having had some experience in pleasing cats. Judging by the rumbling that was vibrating clear through to his shoulders, Hermione believed that he hadn’t lost the knack of either. She might not be able to purr, exactly - but if she was upset about the impromptu massage session, there was no way she could’ve failed to communicate her dislike. He’d have the broken bones to prove it, assuming she didn’t just bite a limb off.

Galen looked at the drowsing lioness, and wondered how much of Hermione’s normal, rational self was in there. According to the books, the primary benefit of being an Animagus lay in the ability to assume an animal form, while retaining one’s own intelligence and memories. This was in contrast to being forcibly Transfigured, like Draco Malfoy, the Amazing Bouncing Ferret. And Hermione definitely retained her intelligence in this form - enough to understand his mention of “fur therapy” and his initial hesitancy, at least. She’d also shown a very human panic when she’d seemed to injure him, in her first transformation. So insofar as that went, she seemed to be a textbook Animagus.

However, at times Hermione (and perhaps the others, though it was clearer with her) seemed to follow the movies’ interpretation more closely. Sirius had said in the third movie that “normally, he had a very sweet disposition as a dog,” implying that his nature changed along with his form. She’d shown evidence of that, as well - certainly, Hermione wouldn’t have allowed him this level of physical contact with her human self! But she’d once called herself “part cat,” and claimed that the lioness liked body heat and skin contact, as though it was a separate entity from herself, at least on some level.

And then there were the partial transformations when she got angry - Animagi didn’t do that in either medium, books or movies, so far as he was aware. So what did it mean that Hermione did?

Galen didn’t know - he couldn’t even begin to guess. All Rowling ever said about becoming an Animagus was that it was dangerous, and could go horribly wrong, one of the reasons for government monitoring - the exact methodology was left a mystery. The way they’d used might not even be the typical one. In fact, given that Pettigrew had needed James’ and Sirius’ help to achieve it, it likely wasn’t.

So what effects does using that potion have, exactly?

Worriedly, he moved from her torso to follow her shoulders down the length of her forelegs, delicately running a finger across the pads of one paw. He was careful - cats could be finicky about where you touched them, and Hermione was currently a very big cat. Galen froze when the paw twitched, but she did nothing else beyond a look.

“Sorry - tickles, I hope?” Galen asked.

In answer, Hermione tilted her head, baring her ear. He obediently began scratching, and the low rumbling she’d been making since they’d begun resumed. She gazed at him through half-slitted eyes as he scratched her ears, chin, and as much of the top of her head as he could reach.

All of a sudden, he became aware that he’d been kneeling an awfully long time - his legs were protesting the lack of blood circulation.

“Sorry, I’ve got to get up - my legs are going numb,” Galen said, as he rose.

It might have been a coincidence that Hermione chose that particular moment to stretch out, herself. Smacking his legs with her back paws could’ve been an accident. And maybe he imagined the impish twinkle in the lioness’ eyes, so much like the one Hermione’s human eyes sported on the rare occasions that she chose to tease - but the heavy paw that landed on his shoulder and pinned him in place after he landed on his side argued very strongly otherwise in all three cases.

“Hermione!” Galen blurted in surprise. “What are you - ?”

The lioness responded by drawing in her paw, pulling him closer . . . And then she closed her eyes and went to sleep, like nothing so much as a small child wrapped around her favourite teddy bear.

Galen would’ve liked to argue the point, but he doubted that waking a sleeping lioness - especially one that was so obviously comfortable - was a wise idea. Besides, this firmly in contact with the familiar warmth and scent of the big cat, mixing with the lingering weariness of the night before, was a strong argument for falling asleep himself.

There’s a joke in here somewhere, he thought drowsily. Something to do with catnaps . . .

When Galen woke up, Hermione was still asleep, but human. As a girl, she was roughly his equal in height, and maybe weight - for the moment, anyway - but more slenderly built. As such, she was able to burrow up against him in her sleep in an almost complete reversal of their earlier position, so that he was engulfing her. Certainly, she was close enough for him to tell, even under the general shapelessness of Hogwarts robes, that her physical development was coming along nicely.

Was her change a conscious decision, or not? And if so, who made it - Hermione, or the lioness?

Lips pressed together in a thin line, Galen attempted to extricate himself from the young witch’s slumbering embrace, but she had her arms wrapped firmly around him. Still, he managed to free his left arm, and glance at his watch. Fortunately, neither it nor his glasses didn’t seem to have suffered, despite his nap - he suspected that Hermione’s feline weight had kept him in place. The time was roughly an hour before everyone would be back for the feast - which meant Sirius’ arrival wasn’t too far off, either.

Resigning himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to escape, Galen reached over to lightly shake Hermione’s shoulder, whispering the girl’s name in her ear at the same time. Hermione’s eyes snapped open, staring into his own in glazed incomprehension . . . Abruptly, they widened, and she shot backwards with a squeak, her face turning a shade of red that would have done Ginny Weasley proud.

“I’m sorry about that,” he said gently.

“You’re sorry?” she barked, sounding as though she was trying to hold back hysterical laughter - or a scream.

Galen shrugged, explaining, “I would’ve let you sleep - but I couldn’t get loose on my own. So I’m sorry I had to embarrass you by waking you up.”

Hermione seemed torn between being unable to take her eyes off him, and looking anywhere but at him. Her breathing was a little more rapid than was normal, and he tensed in case she decided to faint.

Good thing no one’s really in the castle right now - it’d be tough to explain this one . . . He paused as the thought sunk in.

“Hermione?” he asked softly. “Do you still have the Deathcloak?”

“What?” she said abruptly, indicating she’d been lost in thoughts of her own.

“The cloak, Hermione - do you still have it?”

“Yes,” she said.

“May I have it, please? There’s something I want to do before everyone gets back from Hogsmeade, and it’ll be less embarrassing, I think, if you go to back to the dorm alone - fewer ways for rumours to start if anyone sees you before you have a chance to clean up.” He smiled apologetically. “Your hair’s a bit mussed, for example. Anyway, the feast will start in an hour, give or take, and I’ll meet you down there for it.”

“O - ok,” Hermione agreed. She pulled the silvery mass of fabric from her robes, and handed it to him. As always, a quick snap of the wrist extended the Deathcloak to its full length, free of wrinkles and creases.

Galen kissed her lightly, on the top of her head. “Thank you, Hermione - for everything.”

She froze, before blurting out his name. He turned.

“Could you . . .” Hermione began. “Could you promise not to tell anyone about today? Please?”

“. . . I wouldn’t deliberately embarrass you, Hermione,” Galen assured her softly. “And I’m sorry I have.”

“It’s not that!” she said desperately. “It was . . . It was nice today. I just . . . I need you to promise, Galen. Please promise.”

“All right, Hermione - I promise.” He pulled the cloak around him with a swirl, and closed the hood over his head. “Until later.”

“Later,” she agreed, smiling wanly.

He made his way out of the Room of Requirement, more than a little unsettled. Hermione had been loose, relaxed - a little alarmingly so - and then suddenly so tense. Was she that embarrassed about the way she’d woken up? Or maybe what the lioness had made her do? Odd - while she was always fairly conservative in her behaviour, Hermione was also the demonstrative one of the Trio. Hugs and kisses were not uncommon from her.

For Harry, Galen reminded himself. An abused boy who’d had very little positive physical contact of any kind. You are an entirely different kettle of fish. Besides, look at it this way - maybe this means her crush is dying, and we can get the melodrama of her over with, too. Takara and Hermione, both dealt with in one week, instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop years later. My cup runneth over.

Exhaling slowly, he allowed himself to luxuriate in the protective aura of the Deathcloak. He knew that neither Shirou nor Takara was comfortable with it, but he’d never had a problem with being wrapped in its embrace.

Maybe because I long - longed? - for Death so badly . . . Or maybe since the cloak was given to me specifically, its magic reacts better with me under it, because it recognises itself as being “mine?” Like the Elder Wand - anyone can use it, but it has only one Master.

He slipped into the dungeons, and the Potions classroom, with relative ease. A simple Unlocking Charm dealt with both the door and the storage cupboard. Galen grinned. Presumably, Snape would’ve placed some other security on it - there was no evidence he had, but it was the sort of thing he’d do. However, the Potions teacher was in Hogsmeade today, supervising the Slytherin contingent, and the Deathcloak had proven itself against detection magic before.

I might’ve thought of doing this sooner, but so long as I was restricted by class schedules during Hogsmeade weekends, it wasn’t really practical, I suppose.

He gazed carefully around the shelves, sorting through old materials, until he came upon a promising lead. Slipping the cloak around it, he examined it carefully.

Yes! We can make a lot of use out of this right now - so why not grab it early? “This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince” - not any more, Snivellus!

Quietly, he exited through the classroom, locking the doors behind him. From there he ghosted through the corridors, until he reached the boys’ dormitory. From there, the book went into the security of his trunk, and Galen gave himself a quick straightening up, tucking the Deathcloak into his own robes - he’d need it later, if they were going to catch Sirius . . .

His uncle.

Galen paused at the thought. It was an odd one, to be sure. For years, he’d defined his family as the people who lived in his home, and the occasional friend he felt close enough to. Any other relative was simply “blood.” Now, there was a possibility of blood he could call family - though he likely didn’t even know Galen existed.

Sirius always struck me as a good man who got a raw deal. For that alone, I’d help him. But if he’s family, too . . . He won’t die this time. Even if I have to march through the Veil and haul his arse out of there myself, he won’t die.

He trooped down the stairs to the Great Hall - he and the others would have to slip away from the feast at some point to intercept Sirius, but it would be best to make an appearance. The others were already waiting for him, with Neville bouncing up and down in his seat in excitement.

“Galen, you’ve got to hear this!” he cried. “You won’t believe what happened today!”

He glanced at Hermione, who pinked, and gave him a shy smile - and incidentally, displaying a mouthful of perfectly-sized, even teeth.

Somehow, I don’t doubt that at all.

March 27th, 2011, 05:49 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 14 - The Hunt Begins

October 31, 1993

Takara Aozaki would freely admit that she was no expert on reading people’s faces. She didn’t socialise enough, as a general rule, to pick up on every micro-expression and posture change, much less enough to be able to interpret what they meant. But her upbringing gave her some rudimentary tools to do so, nonetheless. Moreover, after almost six years’ worth of interaction - whether as implanted background or true history was inconsequential, because it felt just as real - she felt she had a decent handle on the habits and reactions of Galen Salvatore.

On seeing Hermione smile at him, he blinked. Not a standard blink, an “I have just been surprised, and need to process this” blink. His face also went carefully blank, meaning the surprise was potentially a bad one, forcing him to assess - or reassess - something important. If it was just Hermione’s teeth, he’d simply have asked. But he was looking at her as though . . .

As though he was surprised to see her here at all, Takara thought. But he knew she was coming to Hogsmeade with us. She was terribly upset about having to leave him behind . . .

She glanced at Hermione, who was very red as she stared at Galen, eyes almost pleading, one hand creeping up to her chest seemingly without thought.

. . . Maybe she didn’t, Takara realised. Hermione has the Time-Turner - she can actually be in two different places at once! The Japanese witch shook her head. Sneaky - she gets to enjoy Hogsmeade and spend time with him. But no one’s supposed to know she has it . . . And no one would, if she made him promise not to tell she was with him!

Takara couldn’t help a grin. No wonder she wasn’t too upset about my date - she got to have her own! Then she scowled, in memory of the end of that date. Bloody Draco Malfoy . . . Just when we’d started to make progress!

She rejoined the conversation around her when she heard Galen say, very sharply, “He hexed you?”

Every flame in the Great Hall suddenly flared for an instant, as though they had been hit with Engorging Charms. The sight was even more impressive with all the jack-o’-lanterns and floating streamers about for the Hallowe’en feast, and Takara shivered. They’d never been able to determine just how powerful any of them were - if there had been a direct translation of magical capacity when they arrived, they’d have all been gods, effectively - but there was no denying that they were all much stronger than the “average” witch or wizard. Galen’s displays in the moments when his control slipped certainly were proof enough of that. Because, if nothing else, both she and Shirou could keep up with him.

“I’m fine,” Hermione insisted. “I even got my teeth fixed out of it, and in a way such that my parents can’t complain. Besides, it wasn’t as though he meant to hit me - he was aiming at . . . “ She trailed off, no doubt suddenly realising that telling Galen his best friends had been the actual targets was not likely to calm him down.

“I’m fine,” she repeated softly. “All in all, this has been one of the best days I’ve ever had - even with the hexing.”

She gave him a half-smile, and Galen relented, if he didn’t entirely relax. Takara had no doubt that he still wanted to crucify Malfoy on the Quidditch hoops and use him for target practice - in which case, she would happily volunteer her broom for transportation purposes in exchange for about twenty minutes of range practice - but he shoved it to the back burner, for the moment.

“We’re going to have to cut the feast short,” he warned in Japanese, which was itself a warning that the next part of their conversation had to be private.

“Black,” Takara said. “He . . .” She paused, bringing the exact memory to the fore. “He attacks the Fat Lady.”

“Right,” Galen said.

“We don’t know how he gets into the castle, though.”

“We don’t have to,” Galen replied. “The portraits never saw him leave - and after attacking one of them, they’d be watching. So would Peeves, who reports the attack in the first place. So, from the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, there are only a couple of ways out that he could’ve used.”

“Could the Room of Requirement make an exit?” Shirou queried. “It’s the closest hiding place to the Tower.”

Galen shook his head. “It could, but Sirius never mentioned the Room to Harry - and it doesn’t show up on the Marauder’s Map, even when it’s in use. There’s no way the Marauders wouldn’t have used it, if they’d known about it.”

“The Map,” Takara said. “We should get the Map - it would help us track him down.”

“Not to mention all the help it might be later,” Galen agreed. “Any ideas how to get it off Fred and George, though?”

Takara couldn’t help it - she giggled.

“You’re kidding, right? Even if they weren’t inclined to help out the ‘Discoverer of the Room,’ or their teammates, Shirou saved Ginny’s life last year - Percy’s, too, but they might not feel too charitable about that. Still, add that to a two thousand Galleon gift, and I’m pretty sure they’ll figure they owe us one or two things.” She shrugged. “For once, we can be direct - just ask for the Map.”

“Better do it now,” Galen said. “We’ll never get a better shot at getting Sirius alone without needing to track him down ourselves - and stay ahead of the Dementors and everybody else while we do it.”

Neville glanced around at the Great Hall before asking, “You want the rest of us to cover for you?”

“Pretty please,” Galen agreed, and Takara had to suppress another giggle at Ginny Weasley’s expression. Apparently, she hadn’t expected a Dark creature, who was also one of the scariest wizards she knew, to use such expressions - especially in a sugary tone of voice.

Neville, however, simply nodded. “Will do.”

Takara had to admit, she was impressed. She had no doubt that Neville preferred that task than tracking down and confronting Sirius Black - even knowing he was an innocent man - but his calm acceptance of staying out of the thick of things reminded her that she would be far more irritated performing the same duty. More, she had no doubt that had they asked him to come with them, he’d have done that, too, with the same acceptance.

“You’re getting impressive, Neville,” she admitted quietly, and he surprised her again by grinning.

“I’m improving,” he admitted, “but I know my limits. You guys can go confront the half-mad, homicidal wizard - I’ll stay here as long as I’ve got the choice, thanks.”

“I’m coming with you,” Hermione stated.

“It’s going to be hard enough hiding three of us,” Galen countered, “and the teachers will take your word over almost anyone else’s.”

The bushy-haired witch wilted. “But I want to help.”

“Help Neville,” Galen advised, and she nodded in defeat.

Takara rose, and turned to the Weasley among them. “Mind giving me a hand, Ginny? They’re your brothers - and you’re liable to be . . . persuasive.”

Ginny grinned. “They’ll hand over your map, or else.”

The two girls made their way to the older Gryffindors, who sat between Lee Jordan and Oliver Wood.

“Hello, boys,” Takara greeted. “We need a favour.”

Fred slapped his hand over his heart. “And what may we do for two of the most beauteous flowers of the Scarlet Seven?”

“Oi, Fred,” George pointed out, “one of those is our sister.”

“And if we don’t call her beautiful, what do you think she’ll do to us?”

“. . . Good point.”

Takara was torn between laughing and frowning. “That’s twice now - exactly how long do you guys plan to keep up this ‘Scarlet Seven’ thing?”

The twins grinned and said in unison, “Until you add an eighth member, of course!”

“Hard to alliterate ‘eight,’” George pointed out.

“True - but if they lose someone, we could still manage with ‘Scarlet Six . . .’”

Ginny cleared her throat ominously. “Fred? George? The favour?”

Both boys sobered instantly, and Fred said, “Right - what d’you need?”

Takara phrased her request delicately. “We need something you have, so we can get some mischief managed.” She smirked. “And I solemnly swear that we are up to no good.”

Surprise flitted across both twins’ faces, and they traded a look.

“You know,” Fred said lightly, “last year . . .”

“When we called Galen ‘all-knowing,’” George added.

“It was supposed to be a joke,” the twins finished together.

Nonetheless, they produced the parchment.

“Thanks, guys,” Takara said gratefully. “We do appreciate it.”

“And we appreciate your appreciation,” Fred assured her.

“But it’ll be a while before we’re square, at the rate you lot keep doing us favours,” George finished.

Ginny smirked. “And I won’t let you forget that, either.”

“Ginny, torment your big brothers later,” Takara mock-scolded. “We’re on a deadline, remember?”

With an enthusiastic nod, she followed Takara back to the table. Once in their customary seats, she activated the Map. From there, it was a simple matter to focus on Gryffindor Tower - and see a dot labelled “Sirius Black” approaching it.

“He’s already on the move,” Galen cursed.

Takara stood up. “Then we need to be, too.”

Shirou was surprised to see Galen reach for the back of his collar, once they were in the corridors, and tug - until the Deathcloak came free and revealed the dragonhide duster he’d been wearing over his school robes.

“I figured, one way or another, this would come to a fight,” Galen said with a shrug, before he tossed the cloak to Takara. “You’re faster - get to the passage on the third-floor corridor and into the Honeydukes tunnel. If he gets past us, you’re our last chance.”

“Right,” She donned the cloak in a swirl, leaving only the map visible for a moment, as she studied the route.

“The passage opens when you tap the statue with your wand and say ‘Dissendium,’” Galen instructed. “The map would tell you, but we’ll need it.”

The parchment page drifted in front of Shirou. He grasped it, felt it loosen as Takara let it go, and heard a faint tapping as her footsteps pounded off.

“Now what?” Shirou asked as they moved.

“The fourth-floor passage is supposed to be blocked after a cave-in last winter - but maybe not now, depending on whether or not the basilisk was the cause,” Galen murmured, recalling text through half-closed eyes. “Filch monitors four of the passages - he’d have caught Sirius going through them. The passage he most likely uses is the one under the Whomping Willow, to the Shrieking Shack - but I can’t imagine his getting that far out on the grounds without being seen. And the shack’s door is purely decorative, from my understanding - the passage is the only way in or out of the building. Makes sense, since it was supposed to contain a transformed werewolf. While that makes it an ideal place to take captives to, I can’t see Sirius using a dead end to escape, even if he came in that way, That makes the Honeydukes passage his most likely point of exit.” He paused. “Except . . . Damn.”


“Black hasn’t got a wand,” Galen hissed. “You need to tap the damned statue with your wand to make it open - that might have been his way in, depending on how the other side of the door works, but he can’t use the same way out.”

“Fourth-floor passage, then?” Shirou asked

“Maybe - but Fred and George were sure it was blocked.” Galen’s expression turned grim. Once again, Shirou could see possibilities flashing behind the blue eyes as a lifetime’s worth of imagination and years of playing role-playing games were put to work in order to answer one question: How do you break into - and more importantly, out of - Hogwarts?

“It has to be the Whomping Willow,” he muttered. “I remember now - they said they were leaving the Shrieking Shack in school, so there has to be a workable door. He said he lived in the Forest while he was here, but how do you get from the castle to the grounds without being spotted by at least one portrait? Can’t fly, can’t Apparate - broomstick? No - no broken glass, or evidence of an open window, and that lets out climbing or jumping, too. Another passage? Maybe, but where?”

“Does it matter?” Shirou asked. “We have the map - we can use it to follow him.”

“True,” Galen admitted. “It just rankles. Especially since I never thought about it until I had to counter it.”

By now, they’d climbed four flights of stairs. Sirius had a lead on them, but they weren’t constrained by as great a need for stealth, not yet - and the escapee would lose time confronting Gryffindor Tower’s guardian portrait. They could catch up with him - but what then?

“You do have a plan, don’t you?” Shirou asked as they ran.

Galen snorted as they approached the sixth floor. “Depends what shape he’s in. He’s been on the run for weeks, half-starved - and he’s more than little nuts. We might have to use force to subdue him.”

Shirou absorbed that grimly. “Wands out, then - we can’t take him in a physical fight.” Galen blinked in surprise at the statement, so Shirou elaborated, “Training aside, we’re thirteen and fourteen, and he’s not. He’s half-starved, but also half-mad, you said, which means he’s basically a berserker. If we have to literally beat him down, one or more of us could be killed. And you’re still recovering from last night, however good you seem right now. In a straight-up physical fight, he’ll have the advantage.”

“So wands out,” Galen agreed, and the lignum vitae wand appeared in his hand as Shirou drew his own holly wand.

Midway up the stairs to the seventh floor, Galen paused, then dragged Shirou back down to the sixth floor landing and into a side corridor. Heartbeats later, a faint rushing came from above - bare feet making almost no sound on the stone. Faint echoes followed - the spectral laughter of the poltergeist, Peeves. To their surprise, Black didn’t continue downwards, but crossed the landing to the area that housed the Divination tower. The explanation as to why wasn’t long in coming - Peeves’ laughter grew louder as the poltergeist swept down the stairs in an otherwise silent fashion, apparently following the same route as Black had taken.

“Your hearing never ceases to amaze me,” Shirou muttered into the other wizard’s ear.

“Says the guy who can follow the path of the Snitch from the Quidditch stands - in a raging downpour, no less.”

Shirou nodded to acknowledge the point, then quietly, the two wizards followed the poltergeist’s trail. With his each of their acute senses, keeping the wizard and poltergeist within range while remaining far enough behind so as to not draw attention was relatively easy. Inwardly, though, he was curious. The Forbidden Forest wasn’t too hard to get to from the castle, but there was a lot of open ground between the two. Even if Black could get there without incident in dog form, exactly how did he get out of the castle without being spotted?

For Takara or myself, it’d be easy - our Animagus forms have wings. Even Ginny or Luna might manage it, because they’re relatively small creatures. But Black is supposed to be a dog big enough to cow a werewolf - so how will he? Especially from here, on the seventh floor?

Shirou considered. The path they were following led to the Divination classroom, according to what he’d been told. If the batty-looking professor habitually left a window open, he supposed Black might try to climb out and down the tower until he hit lower ground - like the outer wall, or one of the bridges that connected the towers to the castle core.

Risky and impractical, Shirou thought, but he might be daring - or desperate - enough to try it . . .

Then they heard Peeves cry out. “Awww! Where’d you go, Mister Black? Mister Blaaaaack, come baaaaack . . .”

Shirou blinked. Black had vanished? But the only thing around the corner was -

“No,” Galen whispered, and they charged forward. They were just in time to see a swirling pattern was fading on one wall - the door to the Room of Requirement.

“Bugger,” Galen spat. “Of course. He didn’t need to know it was there to begin with, or what it could do - it just mattered that it was there when he needed it. And having used to it to escape Hogwarts once, he’d go back afterwards, assuming it was still there. And of course, it would be.” He shook his head. “And it explains why he never mentioned it to Harry - why tell him about a one-way tunnel out of the castle?”

“We’d better go collect Takara,” Shirou sighed. “If we leave her there waiting all night, she’ll have our hides.”

“Yeah,” Galen grumped. “We should.”

Galen fumed the entire way back to the Great Hall, as they followed the rest of Gryffindor. The attack on the Fat Lady had been discovered, and arrangements were being made to keep the students in the Great Hall while the castle was searched.

And it only took them two years to come up with this plan! Galen thought sarcastically. I wonder what it is about an unarmed wizard that’s more dangerous than a mountain troll - they let everybody go back to the dorms for that one.

Truth be known, he was angrier at himself than anything else. For all his skepticism regarding other elements and events of the Harry Potter series, the methods by which Sirius Black entered and exited the castle had never been questioned. It was ridiculous, in hindsight, because Rowling herself eliminated the possibility of using the Honeydukes tunnel by stating that no break-ins had ever been reported. And with the Whomping Willow elsewhere on the grounds . . .

If it had been planted in a courtyard, say, it might make sense for Sirius to sneak in. But it isn’t, and the Honeydukes tunnel needs the use of a wand to be opened - which Sirius never had. And since those are the only two unmonitored tunnels . . . Why did I never think about it?!

Because it was authorial privilege, of course. She wrote that Sirius had gotten in and out, so the reader (or viewer) simply accepted that he had. The details were largely unimportant, and once they uncovered the two passages in the narrative, the mind filled in the details. Only careful examination of the circumstances would reveal that it couldn’t have been done that way, and until now, he’d never had a reason to examine things too closely. Now Galen wished he had, and not blown this. It had been their best chance to get at Sirius before the Dementors did - their best chance to get an answer as to Pettigrew’s fate. And they’d blown it. Things seemed to be going just like last year - every attempt they made to forestall things just got thrown into the crapper.

We buggered up last year in so many ways - I thought this one would go easier. I mean, it wouldn’t be hard to avoid the Dementors, and compared to a basilisk, Sirius isn’t all that dangerous. Easy as pie, frankly . . . Ha! Shows what I know.

“The faculty will be conducting a thorough search of the castle,” McGonagall announced, once the students of all four houses had been gathered. “Until we have concluded, all students are to remain here. Prefects, guard the entrances and exits. Our Head Boy and Girl will be in charge.”

She waved her wand, and the dining tables were pushed aside by the conjuration of sleeping bags and pillows for each student.

“Any disturbances are to be reported immediately,” McGonagall instructed. “Send word through one of the ghosts.”

The four house ghosts remained, patrolling with the prefects, and to serve as messengers, if necessary. The seven Gryffindors found a corner and set themselves up for as much privacy as possible.

“It’s not your fault,” Hermione assured him in whispered Japanese, on hearing the full story. “There was no reason for you to consider his using that method to escape - your premises were quite logical.”

“And very wrong,” Galen muttered. “A year to think about this, and it never even occurred to me to wonder about how he got in and out . . . I’m starting to wonder if this world isn’t deliberately making us think along certain lines just to get its own way.”

Everyone shuddered. It was a frightening thought.

“Still,” Takara admitted. “It’s been a long day, you’re exhausted - if your brain’s not working at top capacity, it’s not surprising. Besides, we can just get him next time. That’ll be . . .” She paused. “When he gets into the tower and frightens Weasley. At least a month away, and we’ll have made better plans by then.”

Galen nodded, then froze. “Oh no.”

“What is it?” Hermione asked.

“He’s not getting in.”

“Why?” Luna asked.

It was Takara who answered, “Because he’ll need Neville’s list of passwords.”

“But I don’t keep a list,” Neville said, puzzled.

“Because your Occlumency bolsters your memory,” Galen agreed. “But even if we wrote one out, the list is given to him by Crookshanks.”

Hermione’s eyes widened. “Why would Crookshanks give him a list of passwords to the tower?”

“Exactly - they’ve never met, and Crookshanks has no reason to trust him . . . And that’s my fault, because you got him two years early.”

If possible, the bushy-haired witch’s eyes got bigger. “Poor Crookshanks was going to sit in a store for two whole years?” She shook her head. “That’s terrible! I’m glad I got him when I did.” The Great Hall was too dark to tell, but Galen suspected she might be blushing as she added, “I really needed him, right then.”

“I thought you might,” he murmured. “But it basically means we have only one option now. If we want to find Sirius Black, we’ll have to go looking for him - and that means . . .”

Galen swallowed hard and whispered, “That means that we’ll have to go into the Forbidden Forest.”

Nobody in the Great Hall got a lot of sleep that night - but for the “Scarlet Seven,” as Fred and George called them, the reason behind the insomnia was quite different.

March 27th, 2011, 05:51 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 15 - What Friends Are For

November 6, 1993

Shirou sat astride his broom, grimacing as another bolt of lightning blinded him. Even with the water-repelling enchantment of his goggles, the wind made this storm no picnic to see in, much less fly in. And knowing that lightning struck higher targets first didn’t please him one bit.

Which idiot decided to hold a Quidditch game in this kind of weather?

Shirou might not have minded the playing conditions - as a reserve player, he rarely got a chance to contribute to the Gryffindor team - if the preceding week hadn’t been as miserable as the weather. The castle was abuzz for days following Sirius Black’s entry, and the Fat Lady had been replaced by a knight named Sir Cadogan. He was a roaring lunatic, changing the passwords on a thrice-daily basis, challenging people to duels at random - though he did seem to make some exception for Neville, Hermione and Takara, on basis of their being “comrades-in-arms” for some unfathomable reason.

Other than those three, however, the only person who could really handle his personality was Galen. The werewolf had declared himself a “free knight, released from the oaths of service to his lady fair,” and been perfectly willing to duel Cadogan. In other words, he met lunacy with lunacy - and if the painted knight wasn’t exactly friendly to him, they had a mutual respect thing going. In any case, the word was out: crowds of Gryffindors now gathered routinely outside the tower to wait for one of the four to show up, so that they could enter the dorms without headaches.

I hope the Fat Lady’s painting is fixed soon - otherwise, I’m writing to Ilya for advice on how to handle a psychotic knight. She managed to do it for years, after all . . .

Their mission to contact Sirius Black had also taken a hit with their failure on Hallowe’en, reducing them to the same old option: hurry up and wait. The fact was, with Black hiding in the Forbidden Forest, the odds of them actually finding him was almost zero - especially when compared to their odds of finding trouble.

Like trolls, angry centaurs - oh, and let’s not forget the hundreds of giant, man-eating spiders . . .

If they were going to do it, Galen reasoned, it would be best to wait for the full moon. Their Animagus forms - most of them - were far better suited to tracking someone hidden in the forest. And the task would be especially easy with the predatory senses of a werewolf on hand. And much as he hated to admit it, Shirou couldn’t say he disagreed with the analysis. That left them with almost four full weeks with nothing to do but concentrate on school.

Well . . . Almost nothing to do, he amended mentally.

In the last week, their calisthenics had included practising the Patronus Charm. Without guidance, they weren’t likely to actually manifest a corporeal Patronus, but knowing that the Dementors might show up at this game, none of them had thought the practice a foolish idea. Trapped in the stands as they’d be, avoiding the Dementors would be impossible - therefore, they had to develop their defences.

Shirou could admit that a large part of his irritability came from the idea of being on a broomstick, in a raging storm, surrounded by Dementors, and without his wand. After their effect on him the last time, the situation was literally the stuff of nightmares, as far as he was concerned. If only Alicia Spinnet hadn’t decided to ask him to play Chaser so she could get a little extra work done on one of her OWL projects!

Then again, I’d have been out here in the storm anyway, to support Takara. And this is a Firebolt - maybe I can outrun the damned things, at least. Still wish I had my wand, though.

The only bright spot in all this (and it was very dim, as bright spots went) was that Draco Malfoy’s attempt to use his injury as an excuse not to play, and have Gryffindor play Hufflepuff instead of Slytherin, had failed spectacularly. His continued attempts to milk it had been ignored or derailed by Gryffindor in general, but when Flint had sent the letter informing Wood that the team wouldn’t play Slytherin on account of the injury, Shirou had put something Galen had brought up into motion. With Wood, they’d gone to Professors McGonagall and Sprout to protest the changeover, citing it as unfair to Hufflepuff, given that the other team likely wasn’t prepared to play a game on such short notice, and demanding that if medical reasons were going to be cited as a reason for forfeiting, a signed note from Madam Pomfrey be provided, just as would be necessary if a student missed a class.

Naturally, Madam Pomfrey had pronounced Draco fully recovered from the Hippogriff attack (her actual phrase was “long recovered”) and certified him fit to play the next day. Word from Fred and George had it that Marcus Flint wasn’t too pleased - the Slytherins had been planning to use Draco’s injury from the start, it seemed, and slacked off in their practice sessions, assuming they’d be able to get out of playing the first game of the year. Needless to say, even with Alicia’s loss, Wood was greatly anticipating the opportunity to beat Slytherin into the ground.

And after that stunt Malfoy pulled in Hogsmeade, I can’t say I mind the idea, either.

Interrupting his date just when they were getting to the heart of things between them was bad enough. Even worse that he’d attacked them from behind from behind like that (and he must be losing it, to have let that happen!). But that curse . . . Shirou was very well aware of how incredibly lucky he was, that the spell was so relatively harmless. He’d never have chosen to hit Hermione - they called them “accidents” for a reason, after all - but what if it had been something more lethal? He would have had to tell Galen that she’d died . . .

I don’t think Galen would’ve blamed me - but he’d have torn the castle apart stone by stone, and slaughtered every living soul inside, if that was what it took to get his hands on Malfoy . . . And I would have helped him, because it would still be partially my fault she was dead, and I couldn’t ever make that right. And then, after all the damage was done . . . What would I be then?

Worse than the spirit who’d become Archer to escape being a Counter Guardian. Something closer to the homunculus Emiya Shirou of the Sixth War, or the child of the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart. Everything I was willing to die, and kill, to escape. But I’d have done it, because Hermione’s blood - innocent blood - was already on my hands, and because my best friend needed me to help him.

If there was any justice in this universe, Malfoy would never know what kind of nightmare he’d nearly unleashed, and just how close he’d come to setting it loose . . . But Shirou did, and he was inclined to punish the blond wizard for it, just the same.

Shirou shook his head, tightened his grip on his broomstick, and concentrated on the game.

As had been proven last year, the Nimbus 2001s used by the Slytherin team gave them a distinct advantage, but Gryffindor had the better players. The current match conditions bore that out. While faster and more manoeuvrable than the school brooms, in weather like this the top-flight brooms were actually something of a hindrance - akin to driving a top-of-the-line sports car at high speed in similar weather - because the Slytherin players simply weren’t good enough flyers to compensate properly. Chasers and Beaters overshot their marks, or were blown hither and yon by the howling winds.

By contrast, the Gryffindors were accustomed to getting the most out of their broomsticks, and had a solid foundation rooted in control. And if Shirou wasn’t quite on the level of the remaining “Flying Foxes” as a Chaser, the raw ability of his Firebolt made up for the lack. Takara, perched on her own Firebolt, was a natural a flyer as there ever was. The weather was no problem for her whatsoever, nor likely to be. And Oliver Wood, on the Nimbus 2000, was just as comfortable now as on the clearest day imaginable.

As a result, at the time the Snitch was released, the score was actually sixty-forty in favour of Gryffindor - a marked contrast from their last game with Slytherin, where only the Snitch had won them the match, in the end. And when Katie Bell faked out the Slytherin Chasers to pass him the Quaffle, so that he could dart forward faster than they could follow, Shirou increased the lead by another ten points.

The play continued like that for quite a while. Lee Jordan, for all his bombastic announcements, was silenced by the winds, and the rain grew even harder and thicker, becoming a virtual curtain over the air. Sporadic flashes of lightning increased in both tempo and intensity, along with rolling waves of thunder that vibrated in Shirou’s chest.

After a while, Wood signalled to land, which Shirou did, joining the rest of his team.

“I’ve called for a time out!” he roared. “Come on, under here -”

The team huddled under a large umbrella at the edge of the pitch.

“We’re a hundred points up,” Wood announced, “but unless we get the Snitch soon, we’ll be playing into the night.”

Takara shook her head, and it was a measure of how soaked her hair was that droplets didn’t immediately start spraying - in fact, her tresses were so saturated, they hardly moved.

“Sorry, taichou,” she said. “The rain’s too heavy - I’m having trouble discerning small movements at any real distance. It’ll have to be almost on top of me, I think.”

Shirou nodded - it made sense. Her goggles, like his own, might repel water - but not having it collect on the lenses didn’t mean it wasn’t still hard to see through.

Just then, Galen and Hermione approached, huddled under one cloak while holding another above their heads.

“Warming Charms,” Hermione said briskly, as the two Gryffindors began waving their wands. “Cold, stiff muscles don’t react well - and you’re all soaked to the bone.”

“And they should last the entire game,” Galen added, before continuing in an undertone only Shirou and Takara could hear. “So if you start getting cold, something is very wrong.”

Shirou was grateful for the sudden heat, but he caught the warning, too - the Dementors’ arrival couldn’t be far off, and the chill would warn that they were coming.

Still, it was a blessedly warm Gryffindor team that mounted their brooms, and took to the air again.

Galen was about as tense as he’d ever been when he and Hermione returned to the stands. He never liked watching his friends play Quidditch, not really - every near-miss with a Bludger, or foul from an opposing player, put his heart in his throat. In conditions like this bloody monsoon, he felt even worse - and knowing what was coming had Hermione and Luna on either side of him, hands on his shoulders. Partly as a comfort, yes, but also as a restraint, lest he draw his wand and“win” the match by blasting every Slytherin player out of the sky.

I have to stop the Dementors - but how?

If Ilya hadn’t scrubbed out his head, if he’d still been as big a suicidal sociopath, he might actually have been at an advantage against them. “Seeing” as they did, through emotions, he could’ve used his Occlumency and natural talent for disconnecting himself from his feelings to become effectively invisible. Of course, his wand would be rendered useless with no passion to drive it, but it would’ve been enough to escape them, perhaps. Not what he wanted, but knowing it was an option could’ve been some comfort.

My best friends are flying at frightening speeds, metres above my head - and at least one of them is already proven Dementor bait. Hermione and Luna are right beside me, Neville and Ginny are trusting me . . . I have to be able to protect them. Stupid bloody Patronus Charm . . .

It was irritating beyond words - and for a writer, that was saying something. Every defensive spell he’d ever learned, every counterspell, had come as naturally as breathing. Protecting others had always been a part of his nature, and that trait had apparently carried over to give him this knack. Moreover, his wand was naturally aligned to this: it responded to what he wanted, needed to do. The greater the desire, the greater the power behind the spell - and with his friends’ souls on the line, he couldn’t remember ever wanting anything more. Adding insult to injury, Takara had cast this spell, with his wand - so the flaw obviously lay in him.

It was as he’d told them: he had very few truly happy memories. He’d lived long enough to grow old, cynical, and bitter. Pleasant family dinners were tainted with the reminder of what that “family” had become. Most of his friends had eventually been cut loose - or lost to the passage of years. Even the simple joy of his dogs . . . Galen winced. Almost fifteen years, and their loss still hurt. They’d been old, and in pain, and prolonging their suffering would have been cruel . . . But they’d been his friends, his puppies, since he was six years old, and theirs had been the first close deaths he’d ever experienced. Even now, thinking of them made him cry - though in this weather, no one would notice.

The Christmas I’ve been using isn’t enough - Neville and Luna can do silver sparks, and against the Dementors’ natural aura of despair . . . I need a stronger memory, a happier memory. Is there anything . . .?

Most of his strongest happy moments involved animals - he related to them better than to people. Was anything good enough? His first glimpse of a white tiger, at the zoo . . . Horseback riding lessons when he was ten . . . The first cat who’d ever claimed his lap? She had been a surprise, after years of dealing with aloof cats - one that was not only pleased by attention, but eager for it. The problem had been keeping her out of his lap - but she’d died too, poor thing, and even the little beauty who’d eventually claimed him as her throne couldn’t displace that cat from his memory. No more than the neighbours’ dogs could replace his own, though they’d both been pleased enough to make friends with him, especially . . .


Half-pug, half-Chihuahua, a squat little black dog that while far from hideous, would never win any beauty contests. To make matters worse, she had a pronounced dislike of people - barking and shying away from almost everyone, much to her owner’s dismay. The only exception had been his neighbour’s middle daughter, and Galen. For whatever unfathomable reason, the little dog had decided that she liked him - no, “like” was too weak a word. He’d seen Taz lose bladder control when he got close, she was just so excited to see him. When they met on her walks, she tugged on her leash, tried to drag her owner closer, because she wasn’t getting to him fast enough. And having seen her aggressive reactions to other people . . . How could you not love a dog that was always so happy to see you, just because it was you?

If he had a happier memory to draw on, Galen couldn’t think of it right now. And the Dementors would be hard-pressed to counter this one, even without his Occlumency shields - ten minutes of time with Taz had never failed to put him in a good mood for hours. This was his best chance at the Patronus Charm, and he hoped it was enough.

Let’s be honest, here, his inner tormentor said acidly. You know perfectly well that if it fails, there’s another option.

So there was - Fiendfyre, the cursed flame that destroyed Horcruxes, because it devoured souls as greedily as flesh and bone. Easy to call up, especially with his wand, but as a consequence, nearly impossible to control. And as it burned, it assumed animal shapes. Fiendfyre seemed very much like an Anti-Patronus Charm - but it would likely be just as effective in fighting Dementors.

And you’ll use it, let’s not kid ourselves - you just don’t want to see the looks Hermione and Luna will give you if you do. After all, they’ve been fairly tolerant, so far, but remind them that you’re called a Dark creature for a reason . . .

Galen grimaced. He’d seen Hermione afraid of him once, and never wanted to again. And Luna . . . Her innocence was precious, and spoiling it a sin beyond redemption. He didn’t want to have to resort to Fiendfyre, and wouldn’t if given another workable option - but if it really came down to a choice between his conscience and their lives - no, their souls . . .

Then conscience be damned, he thought.

Galen hoped his memories of Taz were strong enough to do what he needed them to - and as the rain suddenly turned to falling chips of ice, he knew he was about to find out.

Takara scanned the skies urgently for the Snitch - there was still a chance she could catch the stupid piece of metal before the Dementors were due to arrive, and she wanted to seize it if she could. Her Firebolt might be able to outrun the creatures, if she tried to, but she’d really prefer not to find out. She really didn’t like this situation - herself high above the ground, effectively alone, with no super-wand to fend them off this time. No wand of any kind.

What I wouldn’t give to have my old Mystic Eyes back for an hour or so - I’ll bet even Dementors have lines of some kind!

In the meantime, she had to content herself with the fact that she was one of the most agile flyers in Hogwarts, on a state-of-the-art broomstick - and that her friends would do everything they could to protect her, and Shirou. Scared as she was, Takara was even more worried for him than herself. The Dementors had deliberately targeted him last time, and there was no reason to think they wouldn’t do so again.

In the meantime, Takara had to deal with the fact that she was being targeted - by Bludgers, by Slytherin’s Chasers, and its Seeker, Draco Malfoy himself. She’d been expecting this, however - the Quidditch pitch was the one place he could take out his grudge in a semi-approved fashion, and so far, she’d managed to frustrate his designs. As she’d noted last year, Takara was a much better flyer than he was, and her broom was even better than his. Still, ducking the attacks took time she needed to search for the Snitch. She desperately needed to end the game before -

A sudden, deathly chill, accompanied by rain turned to hail, informed Takara that she was too late. The sound they made was almost inaudible - even the wind was lost, as though the world was holding its breath in horror. And in the distance, with Seeker’s eyes, she saw them - a horde of black shrouds, swarming like a plague of locusts, but deadlier by far.

The Dementors of Azkaban had arrived.

Takara felt a momentary panic, as some of her worst memories boiled to the surface - the sight of her father, her hero, wasting away, and the certainty that her mother could care less - but the passive Occlumency defences Kiritsugu-san had drilled into her head over the summer bought her enough time to actively raise her shields. Clear-headed once more, her peripheral vision caught a golden glitter among the falling ice.

If I can get it quickly enough - end the match before the Dementors get close enough to the pitch, so we have time to evacuate . . .

Takara opened up her broomstick’s proverbial throttle. She hadn’t tested the Firebolt at top speed yet - it was a racing broom, and supposed to be the fastest in the world. It would be like flooring the accelerator of a Formula 1 racer, fun in theory, but if you weren’t absolutely sure of your terrain and your skills, it could go very badly, very quickly. Nevertheless, desperate times called for desperate measures, and Takara launched herself forward like a rocket, the entire world little more than a blur around her, as she stretched out to snatch that tiny, gleaming hope . . . Her fingers closed around the Snitch, and it ceased its struggles in her cupped palm - but by then, it no longer mattered.

The Dementors made no noise as they entered, but judging by the reaction of the crowd, it could be justifiably said that they screamed their way onto the pitch. The stands were a melange of frantic activity and numb listlessness - waves of the former scurrying around pockets of the latter.

Takara’s peripheral vision caught bursts of silver - a brilliant phoenix charging into the mass of Dementors, scattering them, even as a comparatively tiny tabby cat ran rings around the spectators, warding against future attacks. She also noted a silver haze, stretched out over a pocket of the stands, standing thin but luminous. One or more of her friends, she knew, unable to fully materialise a Patronus, but apparently enough to conjure the misty barrier form to block their approach.

She jerked to one side, avoiding a sudden charge by a Dementor, and the change in perspective brought Shirou into sharp relief, desperately attempting to resist a small pocket of the creatures, his struggles growing ever fainter. Scowling, she hit top speed again, deliberately striking Shirou’s broomstick as he streaked by, and positioning herself so that he landed into front of her, on her own.

“Hang on tight,” Takara murmured in his ear, as she powered off again, a full complement of the creatures in hot pursuit. Time proved her right - the Dementors could not overtake a Firebolt at its maximum acceleration, even when it was carrying two people in heavy padding.

Unfortunately, with Shirou to reach around, she wasn’t fast enough to turn it away from a Dementor who’d decided to come up and cut her off from underneath. Takara stared helplessly, horror-struck, at the black, ominous form as it waited hungrily for its rapidly-approaching meal . . .

And then a brilliant silver flash sent it flying off - literally!

Takara’s heart took a moment to remember how to beat, and it thundered in her ears as she saw the silver lioness that kept a long, ground-eating pace beside them (if it wasn’t flying, anyway). Brilliant white eyes, shining like tiny stars, gazed at her, before the lioness swooped in to give her an affectionate, insubstantial nudge, the sheer positivity of the Patronus scattering her fear to the four winds. Then the great cat padded down to the stands, and presumably, its creator.

Once away from the shining construct, Takara felt her mind settle into a more contemplative mood.

So, Galen’s Patronus is a lioness . . . Three guesses why. Still, I suppose I shouldn’t moan - it did just save my life, and she is good for him. I wonder what memory finally did the trick . . .?

Takara shuddered. The Patronus had helped a little, but the presence of so many Dementors was still a fairly big shock. She needed to land, and she needed chocolate - and if it really came down to it, she wasn’t picky about the exact order those things came in.

Still, at least she’d won the game for Gryffindor. Wood-taichou ought to be able to produce a Patronus of his own, once he’d heard.

Some hours later, after a bar of chocolate, and with a mug of hot cocoa in her hand, Takara rejoined her friends in the Gryffindor common room.

“Shirou will be all right with some rest,” she informed them then said her next words with heartfelt sincerity. “Thank you, Galen - your timing with that Patronus was impeccable.”

“It wasn’t me,” he replied bluntly.

Takara proved that she’d acquired at least one of Galen’s habits - she blinked.

“Then who - ?”

“Um, it was mine,” Hermione said, sounding almost embarrassed. “But I don’t think I could have done it without Galen shielding the rest of us - it made it ever so much easier to think happy thoughts.”

Galen gave her the soft smile which Takara had learned meant, “Thank you for trying to salve my feelings, but it isn’t really necessary.” She considered that Hermione had been the first of them to master the Patronus Charm, while arguably the most powerful defensive wizard - with certainly the most powerful wand - had only been able to produce the incomplete form. Impressed, she shook her head.

“Brilliant, but scary,” she pronounced with a grin, which widened as Hermione blushed.

“And as it stands,” Neville said, “Gryffindor’s come out pretty well. In addition to the points for winning the game, you earned ten for your daring mid-air rescue of Shirou, and Hermione earned ten more for her Patronus.”

“And Professor Lupin said he would tutor us on the Patronus Charm,” Luna added. “He seems to see the necessity now.”

“That’s good,” Takara admitted in relief. “I don’t ever want to be that helpless again.” She glanced at Hermione. “Thanks again.”

Hermione blushed again, and said, in what sounded like honest puzzlement, “What else are friends for?”

Takara couldn’t help laughing at that one. It was stupid, perhaps, but she needed the stress release. Once she had her breath back, she asked, “So, out of curiosity, what memory did you use?”

“Oh!” Hermione said, startled. “Um, it was Crookshanks, actually.”

Takara knew Hermione fairly well by now, including the fact that the girl was quite simply a horrible liar. And she could tell that the other witch wasn’t lying - but the pink in her cheeks and her sudden avoidance of Takara’s eyes meant she wasn’t telling the whole truth, either. However, it wasn’t until after curfew, as they both settled in for bed, that Takara was able to confirm her belief.

“So, what memory did you use?” Takara asked again.

“I told you ! It was Crookshanks.”

“What about Crookshanks?” the Japanese witch persisted. At her friend’s hesitation, she added, “Hermione, it’s not like I’m going to announce it in the Great Hall!”

The bushy-haired girl sighed. “It was when I first got him.” She raised her eyes to look into Takara’s own. “You remember our first year, of course - I didn’t make many friends. You tried, but you and I didn’t have too many interests in common, so we weren’t exactly close. Galen tried, but he wasn’t as deep into researching subjects as I was, not all of them, at any rate. He was also a boy - and while I’d never had too many friends at all, there were things I really would’ve liked to talk to other girls about. And remember that you had all those conversations with each other in Japanese, which I couldn’t follow.

“The professors liked me - for the most part - but think about the other students in our year. Lavender, Parvati . . . Pansy Parknison and the Slytherins. After almost three weeks of school, it was rapidly becoming clear to me that being at Hogwarts wasn’t going to be that different from a mundane education. I was going to be ignored as a bookworm at best, or tormented for working hard and wanting to learn. And I’d so hoped it would be otherwise . . .” She sighed.

“There I was, about to turn twelve, about to spend my first birthday away from my family in a place that was just like the one I’d wanted to escape, even if the subjects I was studying were fascinating. I couldn’t sleep, I felt so miserable, so I went down to the common room to read for a bit - and there he was, a big, warm, cuddly ginger kitten that pounced on my lap the moment I sat down. He knew who he belonged to - and once I saw the card in his box, so did I.” Hermione’s eyes looked even more liquid than usual, and Takara realised that she was trying not to cry.

“Crookshanks started purring almost from the minute he saw me, Takara. He didn’t care that I had big teeth, or bushy hair, or that I did almost nothing but read. It was just decided: I was his, and he was mine, and that was good enough. And he was soft, and warm, and just glad I was me. And somebody knew it would be like that, and brought him to me, with a pretty scarlet bow around his neck. Somebody cared, Takara - and to me, it was the best feeling in the world.”

Having more than enough memories of being a lonely little girl herself, Takara could understand that.

“We do,” she said aloud. “Of the three of us, Shirou had the most well-adjusted childhood - but even he’s been on the outside looking in from time to time. It’s why Galen was so determined to help you - and Neville, and Luna. And it’s why we went along - because we understand what it’s like to be lonely, to be teased - ”

“To not fit in,” Hermione concluded. She looked at her. “I still have trouble believing that of you.”

Takara snorted. “Spend some time in the really ultraconservative areas of Japan, Hermione. I’m as much a ‘mudblood’ to them as you are to Malfoy - maybe more, because I’m so unladylike. And with Shirou’s eyes and hair, he’s not well thought of, either - but at least he’s male.”

Hermione’s eyes blazed. “Why, those hidebound - “

Takara cut her off with a smile. “It’s OK, Hermione. I learned to live with it, and here, I don’t have to.” She shrugged. “But anyway - we get it, too, and we’ll always do our best to be there and support you all, because of that.” She smiled wider. “Like you said - what else are friends for?”

Hermione smiled back, and Takara felt absurdly pleased. While she and Hermione had always gotten along - “the girls” to Shirou and Galen as “the boys” - she admitted that they were never all that intimate, given their wildly varying interests. And yet, if Takara had to name her closest female friend, it would probably be Hermione. Certainly, between classes and summer vacations, they spent more time together than with any other girls.

And now it looks like we might be on the way to becoming really close friends, and not just good ones. On top of that, I’m on track to get a boyfriend, and Galen and Hermione seem to be matching up well - or at least that they could. We survived the Quidditch match, we’re all going to learn the Patronus Charm, and we have the beginnings of a plan for dealing with Sirius. Everything’s looking up.

Takara fell asleep before the Nanaya-ish voice in her head could remind her that it was when you were looking up that someone usually yanked the rug out from under you.

March 27th, 2011, 06:06 PM
himself, ]i\and when Hogsmeade weekends crop up, see if I can find the wizard equivalent to granola bars, or something, for snacks in-between classes. Between our usual calisthenics and time travel, Hermione’s going to be burning calories like crazy this year - and she’s a growing teenager, to boot.[/i]

But I’d have done it, because Hermione’s blood - innocent blood - was already on my hands, and because my best friend needed [i]me to help him.

So, yeah...

March 27th, 2011, 06:48 PM
Got 'em. I don't know where I went wrong in that last one - I had to physically delete all the coding and do a "highlight and tag" to get it to work, but I couldn't see an error that would've caused it to fail. *shakes head* Oh well - I'm that much closer to being done with this bloody catchup - and then I won't have to worry about these errors any more! Yay! :)

March 27th, 2011, 07:09 PM

March 28th, 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 16 - New Problems on the Horizon

November 7 - 8, 1993

Early the next morning, Galen opened the door to the Room of Requirement, and was pleased to see a sitting room. It had a fireplace, comfortable armchair and footstool, an end table with a reading lamp (or in this case, an exceptionally bright candle as its wizarding equivalent), and a waist-high bookcase filled with volumes on the other side. He closed himself in, locked the door behind him, and strode to the bookcase to locate and begin reading Most Potente Potions. The reason was simplicity itself: it was time, and past time, that he understood the nature of the Animagus Potion.

Hermione’s unconscious morphing had always bothered him, to say nothing of her behaviour as a lioness. She’d never hurt him, and he had to admit, the cuddling session on Hallowe’en had been quite pleasant, if unexpected - but the problem was that it was unexpected, all of it. Her behaviour seemed atypical for what he understood of Animagi. And Neville’s near-transformation in Potions, which Shirou had mentioned, was even more disturbing - because it suggested that it was a problem that would affect all his friends, eventually. And last night had added further evidence of that.

Takara had been keyed up since the Quidditch game. That wasn’t unusual - her adrenalin always got going for a while, but in this case, it was at least half panic, in addition to her usual excitement. The Dementors had spooked her, even if they hadn’t managed to do her any real harm. It was understandable, but the way she chose to deal with it had surprised everyone - she’d had Hermione open the window of the girls’ dormitory, and transformed into an owl to go flying after curfew. To the best of Galen’s knowledge, she’d never done that before, preferring to fly on a broomstick. In fact, none of his friends used their Animagus forms much outside the full moon - though he suspected that Ginny might occasionally have used her fox form over the summer to chase the gnomes out of the Burrow’s gardens.

Something was going on, and he had a terrible feeling that it was something bad. In which case, he was unquestionably to blame - they’d only done this for him in the first place. Heck, he’d practically suggested it! So if they were suffering side-effects because of it, it could only be his fault. But were they, and what kind? Reading the recipe, Galen hoped, would tell him.

Most Potente Potions was written in a dialect Galen had always mentally referred to as “Ye Olde English.” It was the kind of thing he’d seen in records of the seventeenth century, like the Salem Witch Trials. The language was a little flowery, and littered with turns of phrase appropriate to the time period. The spellings weren’t always letter-perfect with the modern equivalent, either, but he’d seen enough of the type to decipher it as he went. And it wasn’t nearly as thick or obscure as some of Shakespeare’s stuff. That being the case, it didn’t take long to find what he was looking for.

As he read through the brewing instructions, he was impressed anew with both Hermione’s and Takara’s skill. Remembering that Polyjuice Potion was so complex that it wasn’t taught until sixth year, and that Hermione had managed it in her second, was an achievement all by itself - but this stuff looked like it should belong on the final year’s syllabus, and they’d started it in first year! His worry increased, however - if it was that difficult, there was that much greater a chance that something had gone wrong.

Without access to a Pensieve and the appropriate memories, he couldn’t view every step the girls had taken to create the potion - and he didn’t want to panic them, in case he was wrong. But from what he could see, it looked as though they’d done everything right - even down to brewing “the number of lunar cycles needed to create new life” - or forty weeks.

If not the steps, then maybe the ingredients? Galen wondered. He read the list carefully. Water, a butterfly’s chrysalis, the crushed shell of a serpent’s egg . . . And, of course, the hair and fur of a werewolf -

The scene from almost two full years ago suddenly replayed itself for him.

Takara patted his head. “Good boy. Now, we’re just going to take a few hairs . . . how many do we need?”

“One for each dose,” Hermione replied.

“Four, then.” She removed her knife and delicately cut the strands off.

Four hairs. But they’d ended up making six doses, including Luna and Ginny in their circle. They’d diluted the potion - or at least, proportioned it wrongly.

Which means what? Galen asked himself. A weakened solution usually means it isn’t as effective - but the others are all clearly capable of Animagus transformations. What got diminished when they parcelled out the doses?

. . . And most importantly, what can I do about it?

Snape was a Potions Master, but asking him for help on something like this was like asking a hungry wolf to guard sheep. Dumbledore was an alchemist, and had been a Transfiguration professor, but much the same applied - they knew too much of Dumbledore’s manipulations to trust him. Ideally, Madam Pomfrey might be able to suss something out, and her practice of confidentiality regarding her patients would keep her mum on exactly what was wrong with them - but he had no idea whether her oaths as a Healer exactly mirrored those of a physician, or how far they might extend. Was she bound to tell McGonagall - or worse, Dumbledore - anything she learned? Even if she wasn’t, was she a good enough Occlumens to resist his - or Snape’s - efforts to pull it out of her head?

Probably not - it’s supposed to be an esoteric art, not well known or practised. So if no one at Hogwarts can be trusted, then who . . ?

Shirou or Takara’s parents were the next obvious choices - but given that they were illegal Animagi, maybe not the best ones. Irisviel and Kiritsugu might be able to claim diplomatic immunity to protect Shirou, given that she was effectively the German Ministry of Magic’s ambassador to England, via the ICW - but Takara’s family had no such recourse. It would be a major blow to their careers and reputations.

And in her current condition, the stress wouldn’t exactly be good for Ciel. So if not the faculty, or the family, then who can we trust to help us, with the ability to do so?

No one sprang to mind. For the moment, at least, it seemed they were on their own - again. Still, maybe Takara or Hermione - or Luna, come to that - would have some idea of the likely effects, and how to deal with them.

I’ll bring them here at lunch, Galen decided. We can figure out a strategy then.

Lunch, however, brought its own surprises - beginning with Headmistress McGonagall’s absence from the staff dining area. Takara, in particular, looked worried about it.

“I overheard her talking to Professor Dumbledore when I was out last night,” she whispered. “She wasn’t at all pleased about the Dementors entering the school grounds uninvited. She called somebody in the Minister’s office to complain - she went on for quite a while,” the Japanese witch added, sounded impressed. “I never knew our prim and proper Headmistress could swear so well.”

“McGonagall did?” Hermione gasped, scandalised.

“Yeah,” Takara agreed. “She was really ticked that of the three incidents we’ve had this year, two of them were caused by the Dementors - and the third, the one that Sirius Black actually had a hand in, they were useless at preventing. From the sound of her, I thought the old lady was going to burst a blood vessel . . .” She trailed off, before finishing pensively, “Maybe she did.”

As if summoned, the Headmistress chose that moment to walk through the door. She strode through the Great Hall as if on a mission vital to national security, her heels clacking out a staccato rhythm on the stone floor. When she reached the podium that stood proudly in front of the staff table, she cleared her throat, tapping her wand to the side of it. Only by concentrating could Galen make out her whispered “Sonorus.”

“May I have your attention, please?” she called, her voice now magically amplified. Silence fell across the house tables, and students turned to regard the former Transfiguration professor.

“Thank you,” she said briskly. “As most of you are aware, yesterday’s Quidditch game suffered an unexpected interruption with the arrival of the Dementors dispatched by the Ministry to hunt for Sirius Black. While present, the Dementors took it upon themselves to attempt to attack several of the players. This marks the second such incident since the term began on September first - and while I acknowledge that I am partially at fault for taking the Ministry’s assurances at face value following the first attack, I have absolutely no intention of allowing there to be a third.

“I have filed several complaints with the Ministry of Magic regarding the presence of the Dementors in the vicinity of Hogwarts, and requested their removal. I have also requested the presence Ministry officials to provide oversight, in the event they are to remain. Thus far, the Ministry of Magic has not seen fit to oblige me in either arena. Therefore, I have spent this morning in an emergency meeting of the Board of Governors, to determine what may be done about the situation.”

McGonagall levitated a pitcher of water and conjured a goblet to pour it into. Taking a few deep swallows, and after banishing the pitcher back to the staff table with a flick of her wand, she continued.

“The Governors and I have reached an accord and decided on what seems the only reasonable course of action, though we profoundly wish this path was not the sole avenue open to us. Insofar as the presence of the Dementors of Azkaban represent a clear and active threat to the safety and well-being of the students and staff of Hogwarts - and despite the Ministry’s beliefs, it is clear that this is so - there is no other sensible course of action but to . . .” McGonagall took another swallow of water, and it was clear that she wished it was something much stronger.

“There is no other sensible course,” she repeated, “but to close Hogwarts, until such time as the Dementors are recalled to Azkaban.”

Cacophony ensued, to the point where even Galen’s hearing couldn’t pick out an individual voice, just the sound of mass disbelief - and hysteria.

“QUIET!” McGonagall snapped, though with her spell’s power, it was more like a roar. The wave of sound trickled down to a low buzz, then silence.

“Arrangements are being made to bring the Express back to Hogwarts,” she informed them. “It will depart at eleven o’clock tomorrow morning. You have until that time to prepare yourselves to return home - though it is my hope that you will not need to remain there long. I will now leave you to your meal.”

Her whisper of “Quietus” nonetheless echoed through the Great Hall.

Galen groaned. While he applauded McGonagall’s common sense, the woman had the worst possible timing.

What will happen to Sirius now? And without access to Hogwarts’ resources . . .

What will happen to my friends?

When McGonagall made her announcement, Takara was certain that things couldn’t get any worse. Then Galen ushered them into the Room of Requirement, and “worse” became a utopian dream.

“I’m sorry,” he finished bleakly. “I should never have suggested - ”

“Don’t be an idiot!” Takara snapped. “Hermione and I both brewed it, we both knew the recipe backwards and forwards by the time it was done, and we portioned out the phials. One of us should have caught the mistake, and neither of us did. We should be grateful you realised anything was wrong at all - we might have been ignorant for years, and by then, who knows what kind of damage might have been done?”

Shirou was grim. “The question is, what kind of damage has already been done?”

Hermione had assumed her classic “worried pondering pose” - biting her lower lip, eyes slightly unfocused and dark in concentration. Takara was thinking as well, reviewing everything she knew about the Animagus Potion, and comparing it to what she knew about potions in general. Specifically, she considered the properties of certain catalysts, and the reactions of individual ingredients when mixed with others. And unlike most students at Hogwarts, she knew a lot, because she read up on the subject out of interest. This was Snape’s weakness as an instructor - he “taught” by writing instructions on the blackboard, or assigning pages from a textbook. There was no background or context given, no explanation as to why things happened as they did, no opportunity to ask questions - and his “corrections” generally consisted of insults hurled out after things had gone wrong.

It’s a miracle Neville doesn’t have more accidents than he does, a corner of her mind noted, as she sifted through the Animagus Potion’s elements, individually and collectively. When Takara thought she had the answer, she spoke up.

“The werewolf hairs - human and bestial - link the Animagus form to the wizard, and help to establish control,” she said. “With an insufficient dosage of one or the other, the more complete side would dominate, but with an overall lack . . . It would be like if you bit us while you were in human form. We might not get full lycanthropy, but there would be traces of it in us, just the same. And the effects might vary from person to person - Shirou, Luna and Ginny haven’t shown much in the way of problems . . . But then again, I think Hermione, Neville and I might use our Animagus forms more than they do.”

Galen glanced guiltily at Hermione and Neville, knowing full well that if they were more often in their animal forms, it was because he was relying on the power inherent in them to keep his wolf self in check, and so wanted them to be comfortable and capable with them. Shirou’s eagle form couldn’t see well at night, and while Ginny and Luna might be able to harry him, they were so much smaller that he was afraid for them, if they ever had to deal with his condition without Wolfsbane Potion - or one or more of the others - on hand.

“In the long term,” Hermione said pensively, “we’ll probably end up picking up traits from our Animagus forms. How extensively and how many will likely depend on the amount of time we spend changed. But there has to be a limit as to how far we can be changed - it’s taken a year to show as much as it has, and the potion was otherwise perfect. I rather doubt that we need to spend time worrying about our human bodies sprouting tails, or feathers.”

She glanced at Galen speculatively. “We’ll probably end up somewhat like you, with brains adapted to use our senses differently, more efficiently. Neville might gain some extra strength and endurance, Takara and Shirou some more agility - but we won’t be monsters, Galen. Just . . . Just odd.”

“I’m already odd, to most people,” Luna pointed out. “It’s not so bad.” She added, offhandedly, “I do hope I don’t start exuding a skunk’s odour, though - the Crumple-Horned Snorkacks will smell me coming from a mile away.”

The laughter that remark generated bled a lot of tension out of the room - which, Takara suspected, had been Luna’s intention. She didn’t hang out with the little blonde much, as they had too few interests in common, but she’d seen enough to know that Luna Lovegood had a level of empathy, intuition and perception that many people would envy. If she ever chose to become a Healer, she would no doubt be brilliant at it.

And so, it was with some reluctance that Takara broached the next problem. Nonetheless, she had to ask, “What do we do about Sirius?”

Tense silence filled the Room of Requirement again, as Hermione went back to thinking, and Galen did, as well, visibly conceiving and discarding possibilities and strategies.

Finally, he said, “I’m open to suggestions.”

Hermione looked grave. “I’ll go with whatever you decide, Galen - after all, he’s your family.”

“WHAT?!” echoed from nearly half a dozen throats.

Sighing wearily, Galen explained - about his grandmother, and her decisions and their repercussions. About what he’d discovered in the records the Room of Requirement had provided - and that his mother, as yet, knew nothing of the situation. Takara could feel only sympathy, given that she had her own experiences with family secrets coming back to haunt you . . . And from what she knew of Shirou’s past, his own expression of sympathy reminded her that he was all too familiar with knowing about horrors yet to happen, and praying that they might never come to pass.

“So . . . He’s your uncle?” Ginny said, wide-eyed.

“Unless there’s such a thing as a ‘half-uncle,’ yeah,” Galen responded. “I doubt he knows, though. Nothing in my original memories suggests that my grandfather’s family bothered with my mom at all. So either they didn’t know, or they didn’t care - and I don’t see any reason for that to change, now that the family is the Blacks. If anything, it makes even more sense.”

Ginny quietly absorbed that. “So . . . When Sirius Black was saying, ‘He’s at Hogwarts,’ he wasn’t talking about you?”

“No,” Takara said, hesitating. They’d known that, eventually, this was going to come up, but had never figured out the best way to explain it. Finally, she said, “We aren’t the first unregistered Animagi to come out of Hogwarts, Ginny. Before us, was a group called the Marauders. They called themselves Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. They created the map I got from Fred and George last night, among other things - but their real identities were Remus Lupin - ”

“Professor Lupin?” Hermione and Ginny said in disbelief, then traded embarrassed looks.

Takara nodded. “The others were Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and James Potter. The four were the best of friends in school, and remained so as adults.”

“Until Sirius Black betrayed the Potters,” Luna responded, before adding calmly, “but you’ve never thought so, have you? You know something we don’t.”

Takara felt an unexpected sympathy for Galen, understanding for the first time just what it was like to know things, and be in front of an audience demanding to know them too, with the understanding that presenting that knowledge in the wrong way could be disastrous. Hermione had worried herself to near-insanity over their secrets, and Neville had been perfectly content in his ignorance. Now she had to break two young girls’ illusions - particularly Ginny’s - and there was no way to gauge the consequences.

As such, she chose her words carefully. “We know that Sirius Black was never actually given a trial, or even questioned, regarding his crimes - they just threw him directly into Azkaban. We know that the only piece of Peter Pettigrew ever found was a single finger. We know that Pettigrew was ‘Wormtail’ of the Marauders, called that because he was a rat Animagus.”

Takara looked directly at Ginny, and said, very quietly. “And we know that before Black escaped prison, the Daily Prophet published a picture - a picture of a family that included a very long-lived rat with a missing toe.”

Ginny’s brow furrowed in confusion for a moment, before she went deathly white. “You mean - Scabbers? My brother’s rat is . . . “

Takara nodded grimly.

“But why?” Ginny demanded. “Why wouldn’t he let people know he’s alive? Why hide like this?”

It was Luna who answered. “Because he had something to hide from, Ginny.” Her silvery-blue eyes had taken on that rare clarity they only assumed when she was deadly serious, and the musical tone of her voice was low and solemn.

“Everyone believed Sirius Black betrayed the Potters, because Pettigrew shouted it before everything blew up. And with everyone involved dead, there was no way to question the story, short of asking Black himself. But no one did, did they? Not in twelve years.”

Ginny was pale, almost green, and trembling. “For almost my entire life . . . A follower of You-Know-Who - in my home! With my brothers! He could’ve killed us all . . .!”

Shirou shook his head. “You were his smokescreen, Ginny. His safety net. He needed your family to hide him. After all, even if someone knew to look for him, why would they suspect such good people as the Weasley family?”

It was as if a switch had been thrown. Ginny’s complexion went from snow white to a red that rivalled her hair. Her brown eyes glinted like burnished copper, narrowing into serpentine slits. By all rights, smoke should have been wafting from her ears and nostrils.

“He used us,” she growled, and no one who heard that tone would have trouble believing that she was a fox. “Betrayed his best friends, killed two and sent one to prison in his place, while he hid away, all safe and comfy - because we took care of him. And if he’d ever been found, we would have been ruined . . .”

She whirled on Galen, so quickly that even he took a step back.

“Anything you need me to do to save your uncle, I’m with you all the way,” she said fiercely. “But I get first dibs on the rat!”

Shirou emerged into the Great Hall the next day for his last breakfast at Hogwarts for the foreseeable future. Try as they might, it had been impossible to put together a workable, last-minute plan that would allow people to believe Sirius Black had been captured, and escaped custody. It was the only viable solution they could conceive of - as long as Sirius was considered to be on the run, away from Hogwarts, the Dementors would be withdrawn. But given the scrutiny his capture would be given, none of them had any real hope of lying their way out of it. And even if people believed he’d been captured, his escape would be even more closely examined.

While they all agreed it was possible to do, putting together an airtight scenario in a matter of hours - to say nothing of executing it - was beyond their capabilities. They’d slip up somewhere, and all hell would break loose. Shirou sighed, as he considered the implications of this new twist.

Sirius will be on his own - and it’ll be a coin toss as to whether or not he realises the school’s been evacuated before the Dementors get a hold of him. “Scabbers” will be back with the Weasleys . . . Will Sirius think to try and get him at the Burrow? The name of the family that “owns” him had to have been in the paper as well - and while everyone might be keyed up at his being at large, nobody will be expecting him to specifically attack the Weasleys. He doesn’t have a reason to, that they’re aware of.

Maybe it’ll be easier to catch him there, Shirou considered. But first the idea has to occur to him, doesn’t it?

Of course, there were other problems associated with that idea. Outside of Hogwarts, they’d again be subjected to the restrictions on underage magic. The fact that the struggle would take place at the Burrow might alleviate the problem - the Ministry assumed that the adults in magical homes would monitor their children, after all - but it still threatened to reveal a lot of their secrets. Worse, it threatened to reveal them to the Weasleys, a number of whom had been proved to be untrustworthy, or at the very least, in Dumbledore’s pocket. And Dumbledore was one of the people they’d desperately been trying to hide from.

His thoughts were derailed by the arrival of the morning’s edition of the Daily Prophet and the Quibbler. To his surprise, both papers had the same story on their front page - the closing of Hogwarts for safety issues, as a result of decisions made by the Ministry of Magic. While not necessarily a shocking topic for the Prophet to cover, to see such a serious matter in the Quibbler - and from a glance at the article, seriously handled, as well - was definitely unusual. Shirou glanced at Luna, who surprised him again by giving him a small smile.

“I thought this was the kind of thing our readers ought to know about, so I owled Daddy after lunch yesterday,” she said offhandedly. “It looks as though I wasn’t the only one.”

She was right, Shirou realised. The leading photo in the Prophet had the Minister of Magic sitting at his desk, half-buried in letters - protests from a number of witches and wizards over allowing some of the most dangerous creatures in the world within sight of their children.

“Looks like your mother’s gotten in on this too, along with my Gran,” Neville commented to Shirou. “She’s directly quoted, ‘Aurors exist specifically to track down and capture Dark wizards - why, then, was the task turned over to creatures like these? Especially given that Black has already managed to escape their custody?’”

“That’s the mildest comment here,” Hermione remarked as she read her own copy. “Your grandmother reminds me of a priest I heard once - preaching all about hellfire and brimstone. I’d almost think she was trying incite a riot at the Ministry.”

“She might get one,” Galen replied. “The Board of Governors replaced Dumbledore following the basilisk incident, but this . . . The wizarding government has sanctioned the activities of soul-devouring monsters around schoolchildren - despite the reported problems. Fudge will be lucky if he’s still in office by teatime . . . On second thought, scratch that. He’ll be lucky if he’s not in Azkaban by then. The level of negligence shown by giving the Dementors free rein has to be at least approaching criminal -”

As if summoned, the doors to the Great Hall suddenly boomed open, revealing the man himself. He was followed by an entourage of three people: a toad-faced woman in a pink cardigan sweater and skirt, an older woman with a monocle, whom Shirou recognised as Amelia Bones, the Director of Department of Magical Law Enforcement. And bringing up the rear, clad in black and crimson robes, was . . .


March 28th, 2011, 08:29 PM
Maybe it’ll be easier to catch him there,[/i] Shirou considered.

March 28th, 2011, 08:37 PM
Computer's running slow - I probably caught that one before you did, just took too long for my system to fix it before you saw it. But thanks. :)

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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 17 - An Unusual Gift

November 8 - 22, 1993

Takara would have dearly loved to be a fly on the wall in the Headmaster’s office - or an owl lurking outside the window. The Minister and his toady - and she used the term deliberately - would no doubt try to bluster and intimidate McGonagall into rescinding the decision to close Hogwarts, or at least issue an apology for her defamatory comments regarding the Ministry’s actions. However, this version of Minerva McGonagall was not liable to be cowed by Ministry threats - not if she was willing to go so far as closing the school. And what little she knew of Amelia Bones suggested that she wasn’t liable to back down, either, whichever side she was here to support.

The puzzling aspect was the presence of Kiritsugu-sensei. If he was here in uniform, it was as a member of the ICW’s Security Division, not as the father of the boy who’d twice been attacked by Dementors - which would have been a reasonable explanation for his inclusion in the group. Instead, he was obviously on duty, when he had no writ, so far as she was aware, for intruding on an internal, domestic matter. Yet no one in the Minister’s party had seemed surprised by his presence.

Did the British Ministry ask for ICW assistance in tracking down Sirius Black? Takara wondered. Kind of overkill, if they did. On the other hand, isn’t that what Father and he do best - track down Dark wizards, across international borders, if necessary?

Takara purposely didn’t remind herself that the other half of their job was usually to execute them, and forced herself to concentrate on her Potions lesson that morning. McGonagall had issued orders that until they were otherwise informed, classes were to continue as normal, before vanishing off with their uninvited guests. So all the third-year Gryffindors were trying to switch gears from “prepare to go home” to “pay attention to next Potions lesson” - and it thankfully wasn’t hard. Malfoy seemed a great deal more subdued after an up close encounter with Dementors - he didn’t even try to mock Shirou over nearly dying in their embrace. That thought made her shudder. She hoped Professor Lupin would start their lessons on the Patronus Charm soon.

Lunch was a quiet affair, at least at first. She noted that Galen was once again surreptitiously slipping more food on Hermione’s plate - and that the witch, buried in her books, mechanically devoured it. The fact that she never complained about a stomachache, or gaining weight, implied to Takara that she needed the extra nourishment. It made sense, she supposed. Who knew how many extra days Hermione was living, using the Time Turner? The real question was, was she getting enough sleep?

About midway through lunch, McGonagall entered the Great Hall, and stood at the podium as she had the day before, and called for attention.

“As you may have noticed, you did not depart Hogwarts at eleven o’clock this morning,” she began drily. “All parents and guardians were informed of the change of plans upon the Minister’s arrival, and we have spent the last several hours - debating as to the best course of action in regards to your continued safety at Hogwarts. We will inform them as to its outcome, as well, but first, allow me to enlighten you.”

Her smile was wintry. “I am pleased to announce that the Ministry has agreed to withdraw the Dementors from Hogwarts, in the interests of public safety, and replace them with a contingent of trained Aurors. As before, they will be stationed at every entrance and exit to the grounds - and please, use caution. While the Aurors are less inherently dangerous than the Dementors, they take their jobs no less seriously. Do not attempt to tease or provoke them. They are empowered to respond with lethal force, should they feel the situation warrants it.”

She glared specifically at the Weasley twins, who sat next to Lee Jordan, before nodding briskly at the room. “You may resume your meal - and your normal schedules. Good day.”

Relieved glances were traded at their corner of the Gryffindor table. Their plans could proceed as they’d intended. But, Takara realised, there was a snag.

“Do you think Professor Lupin will still teach us the Patronus Charm, without the Dementors?” she asked aloud.

Shirou looked grim. “I don’t intend to take ‘no’ for an answer. That’s twice those damned things have come after me - and one way or another, there won’t be a third time.”

“Language,” Hermione said halfheartedly. She didn’t really seem inclined to disagree with his opinion of Dementors.

He nodded in acknowledgement, but continued, “If I have to, I’ll go back to Flitwick, or to McGonagall. He isn’t the only person who knows that spell.”

“Well,” Hermione said, “let’s wait and see what he says. We do have Defence next, don’t we?”

It almost didn’t sound rhetorical. Takara wondered if Hermione was having trouble remembering what day it was.

“Yep,” Galen confirmed, glancing at Luna and Ginny. “And you ladies are off to Herbology, right?”

Ginny nodded.

“Have fun,” he told them, getting up. “Come on guys, we’d better hurry, or we’ll be late.”

As they entered the classroom, one of the first things Takara noticed was that Professor Lupin had a large covered box on display on his desk. She felt a sense of deja vu at the sight, remembering the incident with the Cornish pixies last year. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one - Dean Thomas took one look at it, before turning around and calling, “Hey, Aozaki! Got your knife handy?”

This generated more than a few chuckles throughout the room, causing Professor Lupin to tilt his head in curiosity.

“Knife?” he asked.

Blushing, she explained Lockhart’s challenge of the year before.

“Impressive,” Lupin admitted quietly. “You did very well at the Quidditch match, as well, Miss Aozaki - but you can rest easy today. This particular creature isn’t immediately life-threatening, though in the right circumstances, it can be dangerous.”

He whipped off the cover, revealing a one-legged creature that seemed to be made of smoke.

“Can any of you tell me what this is?” he asked, and two hands shot up immediately. Lupin smiled, and said, “I think, Miss Granger, I’ll let Mister Salvatore try first.”

“It’s a Hinkypunk,” Galen answered confidently. “Also known by the names will o’ the wisp, corpse candle, jack-o’-lantern, and ignis fatuus, or ‘foolish fire,’ among various others.”

Lupin’s eyebrows rose. “Point to Gryffindor for such complete knowledge of the subject, Mister Salvatore. Do you know what a Hinkypunk does?”

“It lures travellers into bogs, by means of the lantern in its hand,” he answered. “People assume they’re following distant companions, or someone who might help them find their way, as they themselves are usually lost. Then, of course, they drown.”

“Very good,” Lupin said. “And quite correct. The Hinkypunk feeds on the panic of its victims, not unlike a Boggart - though as you’ve been told, their methodology is quite different. Now, let me show you a charm to repel them, and similar creatures . . .”

The class passed quickly, and at its end, Lupin said, “Miss Aozaki, Mister Einzbern, Miss Granger, Mister Longbottom and Mister Salvatore, please stay behind.”

Trading cautious glances, the five Gryffindors did so, regarding their nominal Head of House with curious looks.

“To begin with - Miss Aozaki, I would like to apologise,” Lupin said quietly. “It’s quite clear, given the events of Saturday, that you were right to be worried about the Dementors attacking Mister Einzbern, and I shouldn’t have dismissed you so quickly. I’ve also asked some questions of Headmistress McGonagall and a few of the other teachers, and learned quite a bit about you five.”

He shook his head. “Some of it, I have to say, I find hard to credit - but given the sources of my information, I don’t have much choice but to believe it.” His smile was a little wistful. “I almost wish you’d gone to school in my year - I think you might have given my group of friends a run for their money when it came to spectacular stunts.”

Lupin straightened up, as though reminded himself of who and where he was, before continuing, “In any case, it’s quite clear that any effort I expend in teaching you the Patronus Charm will not be wasted - and that you five should be a core component in the Duelling Club the Headmistress wants me to start. Indeed, Professor Flitwick seems to think students would join just to be able to challenge you!”

He laughed, but sobered as no one else did. Neville gave him a disarming grin and pointed to Galen.

“Blasted a mountain troll with a Shield Charm in first year, then topped it by stopping a thousand-year-old basilisk’s killing gaze the next year,” he said, then moved his finger to Shirou. “Actually killed the basilisk, without using a wand at all.” He pointed to Hermione. “Smartest witch in Hogwarts, and probably knows more spells than half the seventh years in school.” He moved to Takara. “Youngest Seeker in a century, and fast enough to win every match she’s ever played. Also took out a dozen pixies in about as many seconds using single-shot spells.”

Neville turned back to Lupin and said, “Professor, the only people who wouldn’t want to try them in a duel are the ones smart enough to learn after getting their heads handed to them the first time!”

“That lets out Malfoy,” Takara muttered - generating a wave of laughter throughout the room.

“Be that as it may,” Lupin said, his lips twitching suspiciously, “I think we should begin scheduling lessons on the Patronus Charm - say, eight o’clock on Thursdays?”

They all nodded in agreement, and were dismissed.

Dinner was a spirited affair that night, as the Gryffindors indulged their relief over things occurring as they’d wanted them to - for a change, as it lately seemed. Still, Shirou supposed he couldn’t complain, as the Dementors were gone, and the Patronus Charm tutoring he needed was now going to happen. It was basically the best possible outcome he could’ve asked for. Still, one thing bothered him.

What the heck was Dad doing here?

The sudden arrival of an owl startled him out of his thoughts, but the message it carried brought him right back to them: Defence classroom, after supper. Bring your friends, if they can come. It was in Kiritsugu’s handwriting.

“Dad wants us in the DADA room after supper,” he said aloud. “Assuming everybody’s caught up on their homework?” He grinned, knowing full well that Hermione had reinforced their study habits well enough that their homework was almost always done early.

Luna looked at him curiously. “Your father works with Takara’s mother, doesn’t he?”

“Same division,” he affirmed. “Ciel-san is an instructor, however. My dad is an active field agent. So’s Takara’s.”

“Does he use those - “ she hesitated over the word - “guns that Professor Aozaki showed us?”

“Sometimes,” Shirou said. “He taught me how to use them, too.”

“And Galen?” At the quizzical look, she shrugged. “I overheard somebody mention her demonstration to your year.”

“He gave us basic instructions, but if you’re asking if he taught Galen to shoot that well - no. The guy’s just a gun god.”

Galen winced. “I really wish you’d stop calling me that. It has bad connotations.”

“Maybe - but after that last laser tag showing, you don’t think you’ve earned it?”

Galen’s eyes lit up. “That was fun, wasn’t it?”

“For you guys,” Takara mock-grumbled. “I can’t figure out how I can beat you both in speed draws using a wand, but not when you have a gun in your hand.”

Shirou jerked his thumb at Galen and repeated, “Gun god. And hey, it got us lifetime passes - the tournament raked in money, with all the guys who tried to beat us.”

Galen sighed. “Come on, let’s go see what Kiritsugu-san wants - at least it’ll end this conversation.”

“Just postpone it,” Shirou corrected cheerfully.

Kiritsugu looked over the group as they came in, appraisingly, and Shirou couldn’t blame him. While he knew Hermione and Neville fairly well, Ginny and Luna were new to their group - having spent the Christmas holidays at the castle last year, and the summer out of the country, neither girl had really had a chance to be introduced to him. Luna’s usual attire, in particular, generated a raised eyebrow, but no more than that.

Shirou made the necessary introductions, and he accepted the girls with a nod.

“Planning on adding any more to your inner circle?” he asked drily.

“I don’t think so,” Luna said absently. “Fred and George Weasley said they would have an awful time coming up with an alliterative name for our group, if there were eight of us.”

The other eyebrow went up, along with a corner of his mouth. “And what do they call you now?”

“The Scarlet Seven,” Ginny mumbled, her face achieving that very hue. “And after we leave here, I’m going to kill my brothers for inventing that stupid nickname.”

“You get used to nicknames,” Kiritsugu told her, a touch of amusement in his voice. “Especially if you’re good at what you do - and if you’re going to hang around with this bunch, you’d better get good, fast.” He sobered. “Now, officially, I’m here to debrief you on your encounter with the Dementors. Unofficially, I’m here to check up on your progress, too.”

Shirou filled him in on the Quidditch game first, and Kiritsugu shot a grateful look at Hermione.

“Miss Granger, if you ever need anything I can give you, just ask,” he said firmly. “And I feel quite sure that Iris and Ilya will agree with me. On a professional level, let me say I’m impressed - not too many fourteen-year olds can generate a corporeal Patronus, much less in the presence of multiple Dementors.”

Hermione blushed. “They weren’t really bothering me, sir. I . . “ She paused, analysing. “I think Galen’s Patronus shield helped - I didn’t feel nearly as bad as I did on the train. In fact, I barely felt anything at all, and there were so many more of them . . .”

“Dumbledore and McGonagall might’ve helped there, too,” Galen pointed out.

“It’s a noteworthy accomplishment, nonetheless,” Kiritsugu said. “Now, how are things on the Sirius Black front?”

It took more time to explain everything that had occurred from September first, but Kiritsugu was a good listener by nature, as well as trained to take things in quickly and efficiently. Like Shirou and his two companions, he was also battle-hardened, capable of evaluating intelligence and devising strategies from it. In that regard, he was probably even better than Shirou, having done it longer.

“So you’re related to the Pink Devil, huh?” Kiritsugu said to Galen. “My sincerest sympathies, kid.”

“As far as I know, she doesn’t know that. We’ve never met, and I hope and pray that we never will,” Galen muttered.

“Pray hard,” Kiritsugu advised, scowling. “Simpering, shortsighted, brainless . . . If her head was any farther up Fudge’s ass, she’d have to - ” As though abruptly realising there were children in the room, he cut himself off there.

“I take it your meeting was fun,” Shirou said drily.

“I’d rather have had the Grangers give me a root canal without anaesthetic,” Kiritsugu muttered darkly. “Fudge with his ‘I’m the Minister, so just do as I say,’ and her with ‘The Minister is God, why are you defying divine will?’ attitudes . . . I’ll give McGonagall credit - she wasn’t backing down to either of them. Her charge was the safety of this school and the people in it, and the Dementors were a proven threat. Worse, a pointless threat, since they hadn’t actually managed to accomplish anything.” He grinned. “I thought the best part was when she challenged him to set the Dementors around the Ministry, as surely, it was critical that all the very important people there be protected from Black.”

“I’ll bet Great-Auntie Dolores loved that,” Galen’s expression might have been considered a smile - it involved baring teeth, anyway.

“I thought she was going to have a stroke,” Kiritsugu confirmed. “After all, it wouldn’t do for a Senior Undersecretary to dismiss the Ministry of Magic and its employees as ‘unimportant,’ would it? But she couldn’t outright agree, as it would look like she was siding against Fudge - and nobody sane wants to be anywhere near a Dementor, in any case.”

“That lets her out,” Takara muttered. “Keep an eye on her - she’s got sociopathic tendencies, if she’s not just an out-and-out psycho.”

“Will do - and so should you. She strikes me as the vindictive type, and your Headmistress is in her crosshairs now.”

The four students associated with mundanes nodded, then explained to the pure-bloods the meaning of the expression. Since Neville, at least, had used a mock gun before, it didn’t take long.

“In any case, you’ll now have a series of Aurors patrolling the grounds. Some of them will be under Disillusionment Charms or invisibility cloaks - more the former than the latter, since cloaks are rare, not to mention expensive. Any idea when or where Black will appear next?”

“No,” Shirou told him, “but we know where he is now.” He explained, and Kiritsugu’s face darkened as Galen proceeded to fill him in on the other denizens of the Forbidden Forest.

“An Acromantula colony, here?” he sputtered. “How many are there?”

“I’m not sure,” Galen admitted, closing his eyes to relive some of his least-favourite scenes. “I’d guess at least a few hundred - “

”Hundred?” Kiritsugu shook his head. “At the moment, that’s a problem for another day. We’re not going in if we don’t absolutely have to - the Forest would be a deathtrap.” He glanced around. “Any ideas for luring him out?”

“At the moment, we were planning to go in after him,” Shirou admitted.


“Well, we’d have a bloodhound with us,” he said, jerking his thumb at Galen again. “He’d be able to avoid the spiders, and not much else in that place would mess with him if it had a choice.”

“Good for him,” Kiritsugu said tightly. “That doesn’t help you, though, does it?”

Shirou sighed. “Well, Dad . . . You see . . . Um, there’s something else you don’t know about us . . .”

The next week or so went relatively peacefully. Relatively in comparison to having to prepare to fight a basilisk, or venture through a trap-filled labyrinth to reach a legendary artefact, or . . . Well, it was more peaceful.

Galen thought Kiritsugu had taken the Animagus thing fairly well. At least, nobody had been arrested. He wasn’t happy about it, mind you - they got a long lecture about the potential dangers, the consequences of not registering their forms, how he was going to deny all knowledge and let the book get thrown at them if they were caught . . . But he hadn’t actually hindered them, so Galen assumed he approved of having an ace of sorts up their collective sleeve.

I wish the Patronus training was going half as well.

“Expecto patronum!” Hermione called, and was once again rewarded with the sight of a silvery haze billowing from the tip of her wand. The bushy-haired witch stared at it, and growled in frustration.

“I don’t understand it!” she snapped. “I did it perfectly, in the presence of actual Dementors! Why can’t I manage it now?”

“Sometimes a stressful situation can cause everything to come into focus,” Lupin admitted. “But with this spell, I wouldn’t have thought . . .” He trailed off, and said, “Galen, would you cast the charm again, please?”

Galen obliged, and was once again rewarded with the same amorphous form Hermione had conjured. It spread outwards, as though trying to engulf the room within itself, and hide it.

“Maintain that, please,” Lupin instructed, before turning to Hermione. “Try again, Miss Granger.”

“Expecto patronum,” Hermione responded, and the silver lioness reappeared, stalking the boundaries of the room warily.

“I thought so,” Lupin murmured. “Everyone try, please - Hermione, Galen, just hold onto yours.”

The incantation echoed from nearly half-a-dozen throats, and the lioness was soon joined by several silvery puffballs - one of which resolved itself into a plump-bodied, billed figure.

“OK,” Shirou queried, “who belongs to the platypus?”

“It’s mine,” Luna said. “Is that what it’s called?”

“Yes,” Galen grunted, trying to respond and maintain his focus simultaneously. “Platypuses - are - unique.”

“How so?” Luna inquired.

“I think it best if we ask questions like that later, Miss Lovegood,” Lupin said kindly. “All right, everyone - you can stop now.”

Hermione and Luna slumped, more than a little exhausted. While both of them might be powerful for their ages, with the potential to be fearsome witches, they were still little more than children at present, trying to do things that would have many adults stymied. Galen, by contrast, looked more frustrated than weary.

Lupin gazed at him appraisingly. “I’ve rarely heard of a corporeal Patronus that powerful, Mr. Salvatore. I confess I’m puzzled as to why yours did not materialise.”

Galen shrugged. “Couldn’t tell you.” He tilted his head. “What do you mean, ‘powerful?’”

“You didn’t feel that?” Hermione blurted, causing everyone to look at her in surprise. “It was like your Shield Charms, but . . . It was more. I felt warm, safe, as light as air . . .” She shook her head. “How could I not conjure my Patronus, with that around me?”

“I’ve felt it before,” Takara said quietly. “Just once, when my father was ill, and an attempt was made to heal him directly.”

Galen recalled casting a heal spell, when he was pretending to be Kieran Holt. The ultimate expression of positive energy, a powerful recuperative spell that was also deadly to undead and vampiric entities . . . He supposed there was a parallel.

“Well,” Lupin mused. “It appears you can support others in their castings, even if you can’t do it yourself. A strong Patronus like that will at least hold off Dementors, and if one of your companions can cast a corporeal one, they can banish them. Not ideal, perhaps, but it’s a workable strategy.”

He regarded the room. “And I think we’ll use it as a teaching strategy, as well. Try to cast a Patronus with Galen’s aid, and then we’ll gradually make it harder, by lessening his support. In the absence of an actual Dementor to practise on, it will have to do. Hopefully, by the time we’re finished, you’ll be able to cast one regardless of the circumstances. Now, shall we move on to plans for the Duelling Club, while Misses Granger and Lovegood are recovering?”

Between the practices, plans for restarting the Duelling Club (now postponed to after the Christmas holidays), waiting on the full moon, and normal classes, Galen was surprised when his birthday came around. He’d honestly forgotten all about it. His friends, on the other hand . . .

“Happy 14th, Galen,” Ginny said, and he resisted the urge to correct her about his age. It wasn’t usually a good idea to point out that he was twenty years older than he was supposed to be - which may have been a part of why he’d forgotten about his birthday. They had basically lost their fun once he’d passed thirty.

Of course, I only had the one after thirty, given that I died the following August . . .

Aloud he said, “Thanks, Ginny. Everybody ready for the morning ru - hey, where’s Takara?”

Confused glances were exchanged, and Hermione finally asked, “I remember seeing her at dinner, and then the Headmistress wanted to see her - but I don’t remember her coming back to the dorm. Then again, I was working on an Arithmancy assignment, so I may just not have noticed.”

The bushy-haired witch darted back up the stairs to the girls’ dorms, and was back down in moments.

“There’s no sign her bed’s been slept in,” she reported. “What do you suppose happened?”

“We’ll ask McGonagall at breakfast,” Shirou decided. “Getting her up now wouldn’t put her in a mood to answer questions.”

Uncertainly, they resumed their usual calisthenics schedule - but Galen’s mind couldn’t leave the question alone, to the point where his distraction cost him more than a few punches and kicks in the sparring matches. Even with his injuries, however (which would heal quickly enough), he was the first one of their group down to breakfast that morning.

Of Takara, there was still no sign, and the Headmistress wasn’t up yet, either. The urge to just start blasting until someone told him where Takara was rose up, and his hand twitched eagerly . . . He was so eager, in fact, that only his last-minute recognition the owl that landed in the middle of their table as belonging to the Aozakis kept fresh-roasted poultry from becoming a breakfast option.

He offered the owl some bacon, as he took its package - a collection of envelopes tied in baby blue ribbon, one addressed to each of them. The significance of the ribbon made sense as they read the cards within.

Shiki, Ciel and Takara Aozaki are pleased to announce
the birth of their newest family member,
ALEXANDRE GALEN AOZAKI, at 6:39 AM, November 22, 1993.
The new arrival weighs 8 lbs., 3 oz.

You are formally invited to attend his christening on December 22, 1993.
Please RSVP no later than December 8th.

Added to the back of Galen’s card was a note in Takara’s handwriting, As your birthday present, they decided to officially recognise the fact that he’s your fault!

“Mrs. Aozaki wasn’t due for another week,” Hermione murmured. “I hope everything’s all right.”

Ginny said with utter certainty, “Mum says that any baby after the first is never as predictable as you’d like.” She grinned. “She ought to know, I suppose.”

Galen shook his head. “Interesting coincidence.” When they turned to look at him, he explained, “I have an honorary aunt who shares my birthday. She was one of the nurses who took care of me at the hospital. And now it looks like I have an honorary little brother, too.”

A second owl, bearing the Einzbern crest, abruptly landed beside the Aozaki owl. To Galen’s surprise, it oriented on him, rather than Shirou. The letter it bore explained it, however. It was a birthday card, whose blank interior bore only six words in Ilya’s flowing script.

Good things can repeat themselves, too.

March 28th, 2011, 08:45 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 18 - Conversations under (and with) the Moon

November 29 - 30, 1993

It never got any easier to watch, Takara decided, as the wracking spasms caused by reshaping flesh and bone ravaged Galen’s form. By now, she’d seen the full moon pull the beast out of his body dozens of times, enough that she ought to be jaded by the sight of a fanged muzzle forcing its way out of his jaws, or those warm hands, with their long, delicate fingers, crushing inwards to form paws. By now, she should be used to the screams of agony that threatened to tear his voice box apart, assuming he could find enough breath to scream, or the empty void of those black, inhuman eyes.

But it never got any easier.

The lupine beast, like always, lay quiescent for a moment following the transformation, panting and shuddering as the final effects wore off. As always, the people with him held their breath. There was always a question as to whether or not the batch of Wolfsbane Potion would be effective - whether or not they’d face Galen, or his curse. And there was no way to know for certain until one or the other confronted them . . .

A deep sigh, instead of a snarl, proved answer enough.

Under the Deathcloak, Hermione pointed her wand at the window and whispered, “Alohamora.” It opened silently, and Takara flew from Hermione’s shoulder to sit on the windowsill as she waited for her friends. They’d considered carefully for this expedition. Human forms were a bad idea, considering that they had to sneak past the Aurors, and all the nocturnal predators in the Forbidden Forest. Moreover, the cloak could only hide so many people. They’d had to realistically decide who could join Galen in hunting for Sirius, and who would be most useful in doing so - because they might only get one chance.

Luna, for all the fearsomeness of a skunk’s defences, was ultimately a prey animal. And while Shirou could fly, his night sight was better as a human than an eagle. Neville would be too hard to hide covering the open ground from the castle to the Forest. That had left Hermione, Ginny and Takara. And while Takara was ideal for a nocturnal hunt, Ginny was really too small to go up against a human who could also be a dog that was big enough to cow a werewolf. Therefore, they’d had to include Hermione, despite the fact that it was really too cold and wet for the lioness, because her raw power was essential.

Hermione whipped the cloak off, but not before Takara noted that she’d heard their breathing faintly. She wondered, as she watched her friend fold the silvery mass to store in her robes, whether it was because her hearing was so much sharper as an owl, or because animals were generally more sensitive to the approach of death? According to the Tale of the Three Brothers, the cloak had been the only Hallow not specifically made by Death on the spot, but rather, Death’s own invisibility cloak. It hid its wearer from Death, at least as well as death was hidden from most people - but there had been stories of dogs, cats and rabbits hovering around people prior to their deaths.

Still worth noting, Takara thought. The cloak still makes them invisible to me, but the muting effect it has on the other senses isn’t as strong against an animal. I’ll have to remember to tell Galen and the others, tomorrow, just so they’re aware of the weakness.

For now, though, it was time to fly, and her owl side revelled in finally having the freedom of the darkened skies that her soul insisted she should. Eagle owls weren’t the most graceful of birds - they didn’t snatch their prey out of midair, preferring instead to pounce from an overhead perch - but her natural grace and agility, honed by hours of physical training, carried over quite well. Takara launched herself aloft, and quickly gained enough altitude to gain an overhead view of her friends, and much of their surroundings.

Galen cleared the window in a casual leap, and paused. No doubt he was breathing in the surrounding scents and sounds, to get as clear a picture of the area in his way as she had. It should be safe - Shirou had gotten the Aurors’ patrol routes from Kiritsugu that morning - but they weren’t inclined to take chances. Getting caught like this would be an unmitigated catastrophe . . . Takara paused at her word choice, and concluded that she’d apparently spent far too much time around Hermione. Her vocabulary was evidently contagious.

As if summoned, her golden form landed just as easily beside Galen, with a smaller form clinging desperately to her back. Ginny might have made the jump, but had apparently decided not to risk it. Her petite form - Takara suspected that it might take three of her to equal Crookshanks - dropped to the ground from a smaller distance, and after all three adjusted themselves to their surroundings, they darted off for the relative safety of the forest. Takara circled one last time, to make sure the path was clear, and then followed.

Of their group, Ginny was the slowest - though that was down more to size than anything else. Proportionally, she’d have matched them, had she been big enough. Galen was ostensibly faster than even Hermione, but her own size allowed her legs to eat up enough ground to keep up with him. Takara wasn’t sure of her own air speed, versus their ground speed - but so long as she could see them, it really didn’t matter. Within minutes, barely, they were all ensconced in the trees, and catching their breath. Galen recovered first, as canids were built for endurance more than speed, and accordingly, Ginny was next. Hermione and Takara took a little longer, but as they needed time to adapt to the woods again, it was all right to wait.

This was the trickiest part of their plan, because it relied on Galen’s being able to scent human, or dog, out of all the myriad aromas that permeated the Forbidden Forest. Takara’s sense of smell as an owl was basically useless - she relied primarily on her sight and hearing, like humans did. She might spot Black, and could certainly follow him once they’d flushed him out, but it would be down to the terrestrial hunters to hunt him down first. And she imagined that, in here, it would be like trying to pick out a specific instrument from a full orchestra - possible, but hardly easy.

Especially in this rain, she thought ruefully. The trees provided them with some cover, but the moisture in the air and on the ground would wash away scents fairly thoroughly. Worse, even though it was only a light drizzle, it was November, and in Scotland, no less. They were going to be cold and soaked when they got indoors - she could see Hermione shivering already. They had to find Black quickly, or call it off entirely, otherwise they were liable to end up sick.

Galen glanced around at his companions, checking to see that each was ready, and they all tensed, waiting for the call to action. Finally, he sprang off into the underbrush, breathing far deeper and harder than the actual exertion called for. Ginny and Hermione prowled at a more sedate pace behind him - they’d wait for a clearer indication before breaking off to circle and flank their prey. Takara took to the skies again, playing overseer and hoping to glimpse their quarry early.

After about twenty minutes of loping through the woods, in which time Galen avoided a thicket of Devil’s Snare, an Acromantula web, and a game trail that showed signs of Hippogriff use, she saw his head snap up, and he abruptly changed direction. While he could no more speak English in his bestial form than she could, being an Animagus gave them all a knack for reading the body language of animals - and their animal forms were adept at employing it. He’d found the scent. Takara flew harder, trying to race ahead and spot Black. Finally, straining both her wings and her eyes, she spotted a ragged-looking canine shape near a hollowed-out tree. She let out a cry of victory, and was rewarded by the sight of her friends splitting up - she’d been heard and understood.

Hermione circled wide, hoping to cut him off from up ahead, even as Ginny moved in from one side. Galen continued his path directly forward, even as Black’s ears twitched, and he abruptly bolted for the underbrush, no doubt hoping to lose himself in the thickest cover. Galen sped up, eager to run him down before he got too far - and was thus totally surprised as the massive dog lunged out to meet him, its superior weight driving him to the ground even as its teeth clamped down on Galen’s left shoulder. As he circled around to press the advantage, Takara could see the wet, fresh blood on Black’s muzzle. Galen’s blood . . .

Fire burned through Galen’s shoulder, and it was only the fact that Sirius moved too quickly for him to retaliate that kept the werewolf from burying his own fangs in the dog’s neck. His rational mind pointed out that this was probably a good thing - who knew what lycanthropy would do to an Animagus infected in animal form - but the blazing heat in his left side drove the thought temporarily from his head. Instead, he tensed to take a second attack, growling in inhuman fury . . .

And was answered by a equally furious, equally inhuman screech. A gray form rocketed out of the sky, and Sirius jumped back with a yelp of pain, as Takara’s talons raked across his back - just before a large golden form slammed him to the ground, fangs locking in a vicelike grip around the dog’s windpipe.

Galen barked a warning. Hermione was literally twice Sirius’ weight, and nearly as big in proportion. In order to talk things out, they needed him alive and conscious, and she could kill him without meaning to.

The lioness’ snarl was an answer in itself - he had been attacked, he had been hurt, and she damned well meant to kill Sirius for it.

Galen repeated his warning. If she didn’t let up, he would attack her.

Her head lifted in sudden surprise, and she shifted back to her human form. Hermione immediately stopped shivering, as she’d worn appropriate clothing for the outdoors.

“He hurt you,” she said icily. “That’s not allowed.”

Galen wished he could see in colour, to get an idea of what her eyes were like - was their colour human brown or leonine gold? There wasn’t quite enough light to see the shape of her pupils, either . . .

“You’ve been hanging around Galen too long, Hermione,” Takara advised, dropping from a low-hanging branch. “You’re starting to sound just like him.”

The Japanese witch stepped towards him, presumably to check on his injury, but Galen shied away. He had no idea if blood contact could spread the infection - but given that a bite in human form was contagious, he wasn’t about to risk it.

“Fine,” she said disgustedly. “But so help me, if I hear one word about your shoulder tomorrow - ”

“Kids?” said a hoarse voice.

Hermione glared down at him, before rolling gracefully off Sirius’ now-human form and to her feet. Backing away to a safe distance, her wand was abruptly in her hand.

Sirius stared, bewildered, and said blankly, “You’re not Aurors . . .Kids? Kid Animagi?”

“We’re precocious,” Takara said coolly. “It seems to run in the family, Uncle Sirius.”

If the man had been confused before, he was now well and truly gobsmacked. “What do you mean, ‘uncle?’ My brother never had - ”

“You have a half-sister,” Hermione said crisply. “Unacknowledged by your family - and unknown, even to her. But her son knows . . . And you just took a bite out of him.” Her eyes flashed angrily.

“Hermione,” Takara said sharply. “We came to talk to the man, not shred him to pieces.”

“Right,” Ginny agreed, appearing out of the underbrush. “So why did you decide to slice his back up like that?”

“I don’t like seeing him hurt, either,” Takara said sharply.

Sirius regarded them all warily. “He can’t talk for himself?”

“Not tonight,” Hermione said. “He’s not an Animagus, you see.”

Sirius focussed on Galen, and his features lit with understanding. “Another Moony, eh?” He shook his head. “So, why are you here? Somehow, I doubt it’s to turn me in to the Aurors.”

“You’re right,” Takara said. “We want to talk about a certain rat - ”

“Pettigrew,” Sirius snarled. “Where is he?” He blinked abruptly. “How do you know about him?”

“I solemnly swear we’re up to no good, Padfoot,” Takara replied, smiling slightly. “No good for him, anyways. But before we decided what to do with him, we wanted to talk to you about it.”

“The way we see it, Mister Black,” Hermione continued, “is that there are two choices. Firstly, we can try to expose Wormtail as the traitor he is, and clear your name. Or we can simply kill him. But if we do that, you’ll be denounced as a betrayer and on the run for the rest of your life - and Galen didn’t want to force you into that. He insisted that we give you the choice.”

“Galen?” Sirius said in puzzlement.

“Galen Salvatore,” Hermione clarified. “Your nephew.” She nodded in his direction.

“Galen,” Sirius repeated. “. . . Salvatore? That’s not a pure-blood name.”

“His father is mundane - what you would call a ‘Muggle,’” Takara explained. She gave him a small smile. “He’s also a Gryffindor, like the rest of us.”

Sirius began to laugh hoarsely. He continued for some time, building to a hysterical pitch before breaking into something more like sobs.

“My mother would be spinning in her grave - which is where she belongs, the old bat,” he rasped. “A blood traitor and a half-blood - the last of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, ‘always pure’ . . . and Gryffindors to boot!” He began laughing again, before continuing darkly, “I suppose you’d have to be Gryffindors, to come out and confront such a dangerous murderer by yourselves. Always charging in, us Gryffindors - that’s what got me caught.” His dark eyes gleamed. “And now, I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for.”

“Are you sure?” Takara asked quietly. “You’ll be hounded the rest of your life - ”

“At least I’ll deserve it,” Sirius spat. “Not that I don’t, anyway. They died because of me, you know - James and Lily, and Harry. Oh, Harry . . .” His voice broke. “Looked just like his father, but with his mother’s eyes, and you never saw a sweeter smile . . . I wanted to protect them, so I got clever. And it got them killed . . .”

The black eyes hardened to obsidian pits that matched those of the werewolf watching. If Galen was reading the looks on their faces right, none of the girls present had any doubt that the men in their midst were related.

“No chances, this time,” Sirius snarled. “No confrontations, no hesitations - just kill the rat. Don’t give him an opportunity to slip away again, or destroy more lives.”

“And what about Moony?” Takara asked, still in that quiet voice.

“Moony?” Sirius said in bewilderment.

“He’s here at Hogwarts, Mister Black,” Hermione supplied. “Doesn’t he deserve the truth? Doesn’t he deserve revenge, too?”

“ . . . Yes,” Sirius agreed. “James wouldn’t have let me kill Peter alone if Remus had been killed. He would’ve demanded to be part of it.”

“And afterwards?” Hermione said. “What will you do? Run and hide for the rest of your life?”

“I won’t go back to Azkaban!” he growled.

“There’s a third option,” Takara said, her tone once again cool, measured. Not as soft as Nanaya’s, but undeniably the voice of the huntress.

“What’s that, girl?”

“It’s Galen’s idea - and we should have Professor Lupin here to discuss it, because we may need his help. It’s the most dangerous thing you could possibly do, and it may ultimately end in your death, Mister Black.” She smiled icily. “But if you can pull it off, it will give you your revenge.”

His grin was feral. “Call me Sirius. I think I could get to like you girls.”

“My name is Takara Aozaki, Sirius. That is Hermione Granger.”

Hermione nodded to him.

“Ginny Weasley,” the redhead introduced herself. “And Galen you’ve met.”

Thinking this deserved some kind of response, Galen snorted.

“We’d best be going,” Hermione said. “We’ll need to be rested tomorrow - and it’ll be harder to evade the Auror patrols now if we’re cold and tired.”

Takara nodded, before turning to Sirius. “If you can base yourself in the Shrieking Shack, it’ll be easier to meet in a few days, when Professor Lupin and Galen have both recovered from tonight.”

He nodded in turn. “Less dangerous than trying to track each other in the Forest. I assume you know where all the passages are - you do have the Map?”

“We do,” Takara said. “We can give it back, next time, if you’d like.”

Sirius shook his head. “I think it’s in good hands.” He offered them a tentative grin. But in return, I want the story of how my nephew managed to end up with three girlfriends - even I was never that good!”

The reddening of the girls’ face was punctuated by a groaning whine from Galen, and an almost literal howl of laughter from Sirius . . . But Galen supposed that they couldn’t really begrudge the man - it was his first laugh in twelve years, after all.

“So,” Shirou summarised the next day, “now we have to figure out how to corner Lupin and get him to listen.” He sighed. “I suppose it wouldn’t be worth it if it was simple, huh?”

“It’s not so much a question of getting him to listen,” Takara replied. “I mean, the Map could make the point, if we caught Weasley at the right time. Getting him not to talk to Dumbledore about it, though . . .”

“Because he owes him, or feels he does,” Shirou nodded in understanding. “And we still don’t want to give away more than we have to.”

“Speaking of that,” Takara said suddenly. “Did you owl your father with what we know?”

“Yeah - so he’s up to date.”

“Good.” Her blue eyes narrowed. “But have you responded to your invitation to Alex’s christening yet?”

Shirou realised, abruptly, that he hadn’t. “Uh, no, now that you mention it. But that’s OK, isn’t it? I mean, the deadline’s still a week away, after all . . .” He took in Takara’s slitted eyes, and finished lamely, “but I’ll go take care of it now.”

“Good,” she repeated.

Sighing mentally, he grabbed parchment and a quill, and inked out a formal response to the Aozakis, before dashing off to the Owlery.

That was stupid, he admitted. I should’ve taken care of it the day it arrived, but between Quidditch practice, class, and trying to run down Sirius Black and avoid the Aurors at the same time . . .

It’s funny how easily I’ve settled into this new life. A couple of years ago, I’d have laughed off the idea that being a teenager was hard, in comparison to what I’ve already done. And it isn’t, really - but my focus has changed. I can look at this life with an adult’s perspective, but I still throw everything I have into it, as though everything about it matters as much as it would if I knew of nothing else. My grades, my Quidditch performance - it all matters, as much - or nearly as much - as someone’s life.

And as crazy as it seems, I haven’t been as happy as this for a very long time. The only way things could possibly improve is if my family was here with me. Dad, Iris, and Ilya - I wonder how she’s doing? She must get awfully lonely at Durmstrang, all by herself . . .

Shirou’s train of thought was broken by the sight of a trio of larger boys in Slytherin colours (was there a rule that said all Slytherins had to be built like trolls? It sure seemed to describe the majority of them) surrounding a familiar head of pale blonde hair. For a brief moment, he considered confronting them, before shaking his head. Drawing his wand, he cast three Stunners in rapid succession.

Sniping them from a distance - in the back, no less - might not exactly be the “Gryffindor” thing to do, but it’s definitely the smart thing to do.

“Hello, Shirou,” Luna greeted him, in her usual voice - warm, and slightly dreamy. Fuji-nee had sounded like that after a few drinks.

“Hey Luna,” he acknowledged. “Walk you to class?”

“Thank you - you’re very kind.”

“Galen’s rubbing off,” he joked, and was surprised when her eyes widened to comical proportions.

“Something wrong?” Shirou asked, puzzled.

“. . . I just didn’t think you’d be interested in Galen’s sex life,” she said frankly. “Draco Malfoy, perhaps - he does wear a lot of hair gel - but not you.”

Shirou blinked, completely lost and more than a little revolted. “Um, I think this is one of those cases where I’ve unknowingly run into a piece of British slang that doesn’t match what I actually meant. I was trying to say that I’m picking up Galen’s habit of being a nice guy where you’re concerned.”

“Oh.” Luna blinked. “That’s a bit of a relief, actually - I would hate to think that the Weasley twins wasted all that time and money.”

Shirou blinked again. “On what?”

“The betting pool on who you’ll end up with as a girlfriend - you and Galen,” Luna explained. “Apparently, the odds of it being Takara are higher lately for you, and lower for Galen.”

Shirou made a mental note to grab Galen after finishing at the Owlery so that they could express their annoyance to the twins.

I’ll even be nice and offer them a choice: they can take their licks from us, or we’ll go tell Takara and Hermione what they’ve been up to.

“You know, you look quite evil when you smile that way,” Luna commented.

“Sorry,” Shirou apologised.

“It’s all right,” she assured him. “It feels nice, seeing you all smile like that - and knowing you’re my friends.”

Shirou blinked, and wondered fleetingly if Galen was this perpetually off-balance with her. He seemed to take anything she said in stride, but how?

She looked at him, and her eyes held none of their usual mistiness. “It’s like owning a large, vicious dog that loves you very much. You know you’ll always be safe around it, and that anyone who wants to hurt you won’t. It’s why I asked to be in Gryffindor - because Galen was very nice to me, and also quite terrifying.”

They paused outside the door to the Transfiguration classroom. “Thank you for the walk, Shirou,” she said calmly. “See you at dinner.”

Shirou stared at the closed door for a moment, before shaking his head.

He liked Luna, he really did. But understand her? Not even close.

Additional Writer's Notes: I was going to post the whole second half - I spent the last four hours recoding it. But my computer is being a gold-plated piece of **** right now, so I'll hold off until another time. The good news is, the hard stuff is done, and once I can get the system to cooperate, I can get it finished quickly.

March 28th, 2011, 09:35 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 19 - The Severing of Snape

November 30, 1993

Galen’s shoulder did ache, the first day, but he kept quiet about it. It helped that the wound had healed at daybreak, leaving only the ache and a lingering stiffness. He had to admit that between his own physical conditioning, the Veela medicines, a wizard’s inherent resiliency and a lycanthrope’s endurance, he survived his condition reasonably well. He suspected a mundane werewolf would be far worse off. Indeed, from the state of the canon version of Professor Lupin, it was evident that even a wizarding werewolf would be exhausted for more than a day after a full moon. As it was, a good twelve hours of rest and he was at least functional, if not back to a hundred percent. Which meant that although he missed that morning’s Potions class, he was in plenty of time to join his fellow Gryffindors in Defence Against the Dark Arts.

When he saw Professor Snape sitting at Lupin’s desk, he almost wished he hadn’t.

“Professor Lupin has not left any record of the topics you have covered so far,” Snape began.

“Please, sir, we’ve done Boggarts, Red Caps, Kappas, Grindylows, and Hinkypunks,” Hermione said immediately. “And we’re due to start - ”

“Be quiet,” Snape snapped. “I did not ask for information. I was merely commenting on Professor Lupin’s lack of organisation.”

“He’s the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher we’ve ever had,” Dean Thomas proclaimed, before glancing at Takara. “Except maybe your mum, Aozaki.”

The class murmured in agreement, which only made the Potions teacher look even more forbidding than usual.

“You are easily satisfied. Lupin is hardly over-taxing you - I would expect first-years to be able to deal with Red Caps and Grindylows. Today we shall discuss - ”

This is out of sequence, Galen thought furiously, before realising that it made sense. Snape had taken over the class before the Quidditch match Gryffindor had with Hufflepuff - Slytherin, in this timeline - because of the full moon. But since this universe matched the actual lunar calendar, instead of just arbitrarily declaring a full moon when it was convenient, this would be the first opportunity for Snape to cover the class.

Which means, of course, that today’s subject will be -

Snape flicked his wand at the textbook, which flipped through to a chapter near the end.

“Werewolves,” he pronounced, dark eyes gleaming as he gazed at Galen.

If he’d expected Galen to pale, or gasp, or do something incriminating, Snape was disappointed. Even if he hadn’t been expecting the topic, he’d had two full years of Occlumency training, along with several years of martial arts - controlling his reactions wasn’t that hard. It didn’t mean he couldn’t be surprised, or be obvious about what he was feeling, but it meant that it was hard to pry a response from him if he concentrated on showing nothing. His friends were proficient enough, as well, to show no sign that the new subject disturbed them.

Galen did note, however, that Hermione didn’t protest as she had in canon, which meant she had to be concentrating on her control fairly hard - so she was disturbed.

“Turn to page three hundred and ninety-four,” Snape said grimly. When not everyone immediately complied, he roared. “All of you! Now!”

With a sullen undertone of muttering, the rest of Gryffindor complied.

“Which of you can tell me how we distinguish between the werewolf and the true wolf?” Snape demanded.

Hermione’s hand shot into the air, as did Galen’s. Neville, Shirou and Takara evidently saw no reason to hide their knowledge, either, and so they too raised their hands.

“Anyone?” Snape called, as though no one had moved. He assumed his customary sneer. “Are you telling me that Professor Lupin hasn’t even taught you the basic distinction between - ”

“Half the bloody class is trying to answer you, in case you hadn’t noticed,” Parvati Patil said suddenly. “Maybe being down in the dungeons for so long has ruined your eyesight.”

Only the fact that he was still concentrating on his Occlumency kept Galen’s eyebrows from disappearing into his hairline. Parvati had always struck him as something of a ditz, frankly. Her obsession with boys and her appearance, and the way she hung on Trelawney’s every word, didn’t exactly endear her character to him. She seemed to be in Gryffindor as a placeholder, more than anything else - because Hermione couldn’t be the only female student in her year. But hearing that, he wondered if there might not be a reason the Patil twin wasn’t in the house of lions, after all.

Then again, she could just be fed up. Double potions with Snape in the morning, followed by this after lunch - talk about too much of a bad thing!

Silence fell upon the class, as Snape stormed over to her, robes billowing.

Neat trick - wish I could figure out how he does it . . .

“Detention, Patil,” he said coldly. “And if I ever hear you criticise the way I teach a class again, you will be very sorry indeed.”

Snape likes having them clean things by hand, as I recall - I think I can spare a little of Ilya’s salves for Parvati’s skin. It might not help her nails, but she deserves something for that.

He stomped back to the front of the room, and resumed lecturing. “Well, well, well, I never thought I’d meet a third-year class who wouldn’t even recognise a werewolf when they saw one. I will make a point of informing Professor Dumbledore how very behind you all are . . .”

“Please sir,” Hermione said, that evidently having been the final straw, “the werewolf differs from the true wolf in several small ways. The snout of the werewolf - ”

“That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger,” Snape said icily. “Ten points from Gryffindor for being such an insufferable know-it-all.”

Galen was well aware that most of Gryffindor had called Hermione a know-it-all at least once a month - sometimes more frequently - and rarely meant it to be complimentary. Nonetheless, Snape’s pronouncement still managed to elicit glares from all the students. While none of them spoke up, after the example made of Parvati, Galen suspected he could have killed Snape and they’d have been happy to help him hide the body.

Hermione flinched, but her face was a mask as cold as Snape’s tone - concentrating on her shields again, he realised. He supposed it was an improvement on threatening to burst into tears.

The rest of the class went quietly, as notes on werewolves were made from the textbook. Galen made a point of only skimming the book, and then reproducing it word-for-word - a handy demonstration of Occlumency. And if he added more information than the book actually possessed, well, his hobby of studying magical creatures, and especially Dark creatures, was reasonably well-known.

Snape paced the rows, looking over people’s work and prior notes.

“Very poorly explained . . . That is incorrect, the Kappa is more commonly found in Mongolia - ”

“That is incorrect,” Takara said sharply. “The kappa” - and here her pronunciation was slightly different in its emphasis - “is a creature of Japanese origin, hence its Japanese name.”

Snape’s eyes narrowed into obsidian slits, even as his nostrils flared in fury. “Twenty points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all, as you evidently didn’t learn the first time!”

Galen winced as he saw Takara slip into her “Japanese pureblood” mask, looking as coldly inhuman as a porcelain doll. Her head tilted elegantly as she regarded him in much the same manner as a entomologist might observe a new species of insect.

“As students, we are here to learn,” she said, in the cold voice her mother used when she was truly angry.

The Potions professor turned an interesting shade of purple, his black eyes actually managing to blaze - something Galen didn’t think dark eyes could do. Then they caught Takara’s own . . .

And the screaming began.

She observed Snape within her mindscape for several moments prior to deciding what to do about it. Master Occlumens the man might be, but his Legilimency skills were quite poor. All brute force and surprise - for a Slytherin, and particularly one who prided himself on being a master of the “exact art and subtle science of potion making,” it was quite disappointing.

Takara, on the other hand, had been studying Occlumency under a professional duellist, and then a Master Auror, for two years now. While that wasn’t much, by comparison, she’d also been absorbing what little of her family techniques she could get her hands on ever since coming home from Hogwarts last year. The Nanaya clan had been diviners and assassins - shinobi - and so had more than a few practices regarding the mind arts. Then, too, the two formidable women who were her aunts were the Japanese equivalent of Unspeakables, who had their own techniques.

As a result, while she might not have Galen’s talent for impenetrable walls, or Hermione’s for organising her mind’s defences, Takara did have access to an array of private techniques that were hers alone to employ, and not at all commonly known. Such as the ability to recreate a mental realm, like the one where Severus Snape now found himself.

“What the devil?” Snape demanded, glaring at his surroundings - a grand chamber formed of greyish marble, shot through with veins of purest white. A long, crimson carpet bisected the chamber, leading from massive double doors to an ornate, but empty throne. Above that throne, however . . .

Takara Aozaki hung above it, suspended in a web of leather and ivory restraints - human flesh and bone, to be fully accurate. She was garbed in the dark blue sailor suit that had been her high school uniform in Fuyuki, a colour that did not match the darker hue of her hair, which had fallen forward to obscure her face.

“Aozaki!” Snape bellowed. “What is the meaning of this?”

Though her figure made no visible movement, her voice echoed throughout the throne room, as soft and cold as falling snow.

“‘Come into my parlour,’ said the spider to the fly . . .”

“What nonsense are you babbling?” Snape’s fists clenched, and his eyes narrowed. “Answer me, or you won’t like the consequences!”

“Uninvited guests should not complain of their welcome,” said the quiet voice.

Snape’s face was approaching the puce that Malfoy’s complexion so frequently favoured. “Insolent Gryffindor! I’ll see you expelled for this! Release this - whatever-it-is - at once!”

“If you wish, I will grant you release,” she agreed, raising her head. Her hair parted slightly, revealing a single, silver eye. “The release of death.”

Snape’s wand was in his hand so quickly, she doubted any but she would have seen him draw it.

“Why, you - AVADA KEDAVRA!”

The jet of green light shot forth, and had she not chosen that moment to literally burst free of her bonds, she might have died. Instead, the Killing Curse struck one of the bone links of her restraints, and exploded it into powder.

As she fell, her knife was swiftly drawn and expertly thrown. It bisected Snape’s wand, forcing him to drop the useless splinters - though the Potions professor was admirably quick and dextrous enough to snatch the knife up for himself. He brandished it familiarly, and the silver-eyed huntress might have found that fearful, save that he held the blade as someone know knew the use of a knife as a tool, not a weapon.

Nanaya permitted herself a tiny smile as her feet touched the ground. This would be pleasant.

The two stared at each other for a timeless interval. Snape seethed with hatred, and killing intent, glaring at her as though he could already see the blood erupting from the wounds he planned to inflict. By contrast, the last Nanaya studied the prey before her with icy dispassion, noting the web of vermillion lines, sparkling faintly with green, that spread across his body.

Finally, she dashed forward, even as the professor raised the knife to stab upward, impaling her heart by means of her own momentum. But she was quicker still, and sidestepped the attack, even as she raked her nails across the slender threads she could see along the back of his right hand. Almost instantly, the hand began to mortify, becoming a blackened, withered husk.

Snape began to scream . . .

Takara watched with satisfaction as the greasy teacher’s hand twitched spasmodically for an instant, before stiffening and curling into a clenched claw. He screamed in agony, before his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he collapsed.

“Professor!” Hermione shrieked - managing to be audible even above the roar of excited and talkative Gryffindors. “Quick, Takara - do what you can to help him! I’ll go and get Madam Pomfrey!” The bushy-haired witch broke into a run, and the younger witch’s eyes were sharp enough to notice that her hair was a shade or two lighter than its normal colour.

Maybe Galen’s right to be concerned, Takara thought. If she starts threatening to change every time she gets emotional - and the rest of us have the same problem . . . A sudden, gruesome image of what her wedding might one day be like flashed through Takara’s mind, and she shuddered. Nonetheless, she moved next to Snape, lest people wonder why she hadn’t, and began checking his vitals, as she would if she was a Healer and Snape her patient.

“Muffliato,” Galen murmured, as she realised he and Shirou were next to her. “Nobody will notice the buzz with all the other conversations going on. Now - what did you do?”

“Snape apparently figured he could use my anger as a distraction while he read my mind - and maybe did some damage while he was at it,” Takara explained. “So I used an aggressive Occlumency defence. It’s kind of like what Shirou did to him, but - more.”

“What kind of defence?” Galen said.

“Family secret,” Takara said flatly. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to either kill you or marry you.”

“Haven’t you been trying to make up your mind between those two options for years?” Shirou asked, earning himself a pair of withering glares that failed to diminish his smirk.

“Anyway,” Takara continued. “Depending on how good that technique actually is, and how skilled the Healer, he may have real problems ever using that hand again.” She stared at Galen, who was suddenly looking at her with empty eyes. “What? He deserved it! He was basically trying to out you and Lupin to the entire class - and with the gossip network in this place, the entire school!”

“Yes he was,” Galen agreed in that too-calm tone that meant he was very, very angry. “And it worried me, for a minute. And then I remembered that Hermione was the only one who managed to put the pieces together.”

“And you can’t deny that you’d like to feed him to a dragon - ”

“Very true. I often feel that way - until I remind myself that Snape is the one who makes my Wolfsbane Potion - which will be bloody hard to do with only one hand!”

Takara could literally feel the blood drain away from her face. A simple “oops,” much less an “I’m sorry,” wouldn’t cover this. In her enthusiasm to defend herself from Snape’s intrusion - and punish him for trying it - she had condemned Galen to the mercy of his curse.

And after watching this summer, she knew damned well that it didn’t understand the concept.

“Bloody hell,” Shirou muttered.

“Bloody hell,” Shirou repeated later, in the privacy of the Room of Requirement. For once, Hermione didn’t chastise his choice of words.

Ginny glanced around the group worriedly. “Does it really change that much? I mean, he’s locked in at night anyway, to prevent anybody from coming across him by accident - and we have our Animagus forms specifically to help keep him calm, right?”

“It changes everything,” Takara said flatly.

Shirou shook his head. “We saw what the curse really does to him, while you guys were on vacation - if we can’t keep Galen calm, he’ll tear himself to ribbons if he can’t get at anyone else. And Takara and I weren’t really enough by ourselves - he’ll need more than two of us, or maybe just Neville and Hermione.”

“His recoveries will be worse, too,” Takara said. “Even if he doesn’t hurt himself, the beast will push him hard, unrestrained as it is. Now, he’s got it down to most of a day’s rest - without the potion, it could be two or three before he’s functional, and most of a week until he’s back to normal.”

“And that doesn’t even include Professor Lupin,” Hermione said seriously. “He’ll be suffering, too - and with two werewolves around, it can’t possibly take long before someone notices the similarities, puts two and two together . . .”

“And gets them kicked out of the school,” Shirou finished. “Assuming they don’t decide to do the job of removing them personally.” Malfoy immediately sprang to mind, of course - but given the reactions Neville, Hermione and Ginny had to Galen’s lycanthropy, it wasn’t a big stretch to assume that lynch mobs were a definite possibility.

Shirou buried his hands in his face for a moment, before running them back over his hair with a sigh.

“So,” he asked the room at large, “what do we do, besides pray that Takara didn’t cripple Snape as badly as she thinks she might have?”

Luna tilted her head. “We’re quite fortunate, in a way - the next full moon is during the Christmas holidays. Galen would’ve been without the potion anyway, assuming you plan to go home?”

Galen shook his head affirmatively. He’d been uncharacteristically quiet throughout this - Shirou assumed he was brooding over possibilities.

“Even if it wasn’t Christmas, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss Alexandre’s christening,” he replied, shrugging as he added, “I’ve never been to one.”

“In any case,” Luna continued, “it means we have several weeks before we’ll need to worry about his experiencing a full moon at Hogwarts. It’s possible that Professor Snape might have healed by then.”

“But could we trust anything he brewed?” Neville asked seriously. “I mean, even assuming he doesn’t make a real mistake, he could always claim anything that goes wrong was an accident because of his injuries - and you know he wouldn’t hesitate to use Galen to punish Takara.”

“True enough,” Shirou agreed grimly. “Is Snape the only person who can make this potion?”

“Dumbledore, maybe,” Galen offered. “He worked with Flamel - so he must know at least a little about alchemy. And alchemy is an art that’s ultimately rooted in Transfiguration and Potions. Although if Snape heals in time, Dumbledore will probably insist that it’s his job to prepare it.”

“That assumes he’s capable of it,” Shirou noted. “If he is, why wouldn’t he brew it himself, rather than having a man who hates Lupin do it?”

“Dumbledore’s big on forgiveness, second chances, and forcing situations where such things can occur,” Galen said drily. “He fails, however, to take the odds of it actually happening into account.”

“He’s not in charge any more,” Ginny pointed out. “Headmistress McGonagall wouldn’t take any crap from Snape, Dumbledore, or anyone else when it comes to the safety of the students here. The potion would be brewed, and brewed right, or else.”

“True,” Galen mused. “But that still doesn’t guarantee that either Snape or Dumbledore can, or will, do it.”

“Then we need another way,” Neville said. He glanced at Takara and Shirou. “Your parents work in the ICW - I don’t suppose Wolfsbane Potion is part of their arsenal?”

Takara shook her head. “Wolfsbane Potion has to be taken in advance to be effective. It’s not something that’s usable in a combat situation. They could probably order or brew it if they needed to - “

”Paper trail,” Shirou broke in, shaking his head. “If they start ordering it - or the ingredients - there’ll be questions as to why. All the wrong person needs to do is get their hands on that list . . .” He shook his head again. “They could get nailed for abuse of power or resources - at worst, they’d do time, and Galen and Lupin would still be kicked out of school.”

Neville looked puzzled. “But that’s not a problem here?”

Shirou shook his head. “This is a teaching facility. It uses a wide range of potions ingredients for any number of concoctions, in bulk amounts. And it has its own greenhouses, and a forest filled with magical creatures, that it also teaches classes on. Whatever supplies the Wolfsbane Potion requires can probably be acquired from the school’s own resources, or from things needed to keep those resources at optimal levels. Say like, certain fertilisers, or dietary supplements for Hippogriffs.”

He shrugged, and continued, “The ingredients in Wolfsbane Potion are probably common to at least half a dozen others, so here it can be made without arousing too much suspicion. In the Security Division, though, resources have to be requisitioned and accounted for - you can’t just brew a potion without explaining what and why, to someone. Better if we can get someone here to do it.”

“Which leads to the simplest option,” Takara said crisply. “We do it ourselves.”

Hermione paled. Shirou doubted anyone else would’ve noticed - her colour came back almost immediately - but he did.

Takara turned to Galen. “You’re still on good terms with Moaning Myrtle, right?”

“I learned my lesson with Hagrid in first year,” he said by way of reply, before adding, “I try to visit him and Myrtle at least once a week. Myrtle’s not bad company, so long as you’re willing to let her vent, and I’ve been helping Hagrid with his lesson plans a bit.”

“Ah,” Hermione said. “That explains why we haven’t heard of any more accidents, and why some of the creatures have been . . .” She hesitated over the right description, before deciding on, “More reasonable.”

Galen shrugged. “When I can’t talk him out of something, I help him figure out the necessary precautions. He really doesn’t want anybody hurt, he just doesn’t quite grasp that certain things are more dangerous for other people than they are for him.”

“But the bottom line is, Myrtle won’t mind us using her bathroom as a potions lab again?” Takara pressed.

“I don’t think so, so long as we ask nicely.”

Shirou snorted. “You mean so long as you ask her.” Galen shrugged in response.

“. . . We don’t have brewing instructions,” Hermione pointed out quietly. Out of the corner of his eyes, Shirou saw Galen give her a sharp look - which made him observe her more closely. Hermione was definitely uncomfortable about something - she was refusing to look at any of them directly.

“We’ve got two months to find them,” Shirou said at last. “Either the library, the Room of Requirement, or getting them from Snape. Honestly, I think McGonagall can help us there - she’s got a vested interest in seeing Galen and Lupin contained.”

“You mean we can forget about sneaking around, and be up front about something we want twice in the same year?” Takara muttered. “Hallelujah.”

Shirou grinned. “It is kind of refreshing, isn’t it?” Then he sobered. “We’ll have to push ourselves a bit, I think - now that we’ve made contact with Sirius, I doubt he’ll want to wait long before taking out Pettigrew. But I think we can settle things in time to deal with the potion problem - Lupin can probably help us out with both. And then it’ll just be a matter of getting through the year.” His grin widened. “With no deadly threats, mortal combat, or anything like them, to boot!”

Galen sighed. “Here’s hoping - it’d make for a nice change.”

March 28th, 2011, 09:38 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 20 - Conversations on a Rainy Day

December 4 , 1993

The repercussions of Snape’s enforced absence - on top of Professor Lupin’s - left the school with a fair amount of free time, but even so, it was Saturday before they could actually find the time and opportunities needed to begin work on their various projects. Takara was grimly aware that it meant four days out of the fifty-one they had were gone. And in actuality, they had even less time, because the Christmas holidays would take them away from the castle and its resources. As a result, her search through the Library’s books on remedies, palliatives, and medical advances was more than a little frenzied, and she didn’t hear Hermione’s words at first. When Takara finally realised that Hermione had spoken, she asked her friend to repeat herself.

“I said, ‘I can’t do this,’” Hermione said quietly.

Takara was bewildered. “You can’t do what?”

Hermione waved at the growing pile of tomes in front of them. “This! I can’t - “ Huffing in frustration, the bushy-haired witch drew her wand. “Muffliato.” Once the privacy charm was enacted, she turned back to Takara and said, “I can’t make this potion.”

Takara blinked, gobsmacked. “You’re refusing - ?”

“No,” Hermione stressed. “I’m just not capable of it. It’s too complex.”

Takara blinked again, and wondered if one of the Weasley twins had spiked her pumpkin juice this morning - because hallucination was the only reasonable explanation she could devise for the words coming out of her friend’s mouth.

“Hermione,” she said carefully, “we haven’t even found the recipe yet. And even if we had, you’ve brewed complex potions before. The Animagus Potion, Polyjuice Potion - ”

“And I got them wrong!” Hermione shrieked. “I made mistakes, and things could’ve gone horribly - and even if they didn’t, there were still side effects!”

“Some of which are emerging right now,” Takara murmured tightly.

Hermione followed Takara’s gaze, and clenched her suddenly clawed hands into fists.

“See?” she hissed. “I got it wrong, and this happened!”

Takara looked at her. “You weren’t this worried when we were making the Animagus Potion, as difficult as it was. And even with the side effects it had, you weren’t worried at all the next year, when we were brewing the Polyjuice.”

“Galen wasn’t taking it then,” Hermione snapped. “This isn’t the same as before - it’s not a potion we’re making because we think it will help us, something we can give up on if it turns out to be a bad idea. It’s a potion we absolutely have to have - it’s Galen’s mind, his life we’re playing with, and he can’t afford a mistake!”

Hermione’s chest was heaving by the end of her speech, the consequence of her voice having risen higher in both pitch and volume with every sentence. Without the spell in place, Madam Pince would have no doubt thrown them both out headfirst by now, and likely banned them altogether. Takara had seen Hermione angry, seen her panicked - but this was verging on hysterical.

Hermione closed her eyes, took a deep, shuddering breath, and repeated slowly. “I can’t do this.”

Takara regarded her in silence, feeling her heart sink. While she herself was good - probably Hermione’s equal, possibly her better - in terms of potion-making skill, Hermione’s aptitudes, and her confidence, were reassuring things to have. Her attention to detail was second to none - one reason Takara was sure the errors with the previous potions rankled - and given how rarely made Wolfsbane Potion seemed to be, it must be fiendishly complex. While Takara felt she had no choice but to try it anyway, she would’ve felt much better with Hermione at her side.

There was guilt, too, because her own actions had led to this necessity. If she hadn’t let her annoyance overrule her good judgment, Snape would never have been injured. Being one of Madam Pomfrey’s favourites had its perks - she’d learned that the damage to Snape’s hand appeared self-inflicted, a consequence of his mind directing his own magic to render the hand inoperable. He’d probably get the use of it back, but not without several weeks, or even months, of treatment. And if she hadn’t hurt him in as much a fit of pique as anything else, her best friend wouldn’t be in this predicament. And her closest female friend wouldn’t be in this state. Desperation and guilt, then, were at least partly at the root of her response.

“And I thought you loved him,” Takara said quietly.

Hermione rocked back sharply, as though she’d been struck. Her eyes widened and her face began to flush red - whether in shock, anger, or embarrassment, Takara didn’t know, and didn’t care. She rose from her seat at the table and grabbed Hermione’s forearm, hauling the British witch out of her chair one-handed, ignoring her pained protest to silence her with a frosty glare.

“Come with me,” Takara said, still in that dangerously quiet voice. “There’s something I want you to see.”

The shed was clean, though a patina of discoloured stains, the colour of rust, lay in patches along the stone walls and floor - as though they’d soaked into the very stone, to become one more layer in the sediment, and as though the heavy steel door had truly rusted through. As a fresh layer of bright scarlet sprayed across the surface, their origin became apparent - it wasn’t rust, but blood. Wolf’s blood.

From this perspective, Takara could see herself, tucked in a corner in the crossbeams that held the roof up, gazing with dispassionate-looking orange eyes that were actually anything but. From time to time, she’d swoop down to taunt the wolf, trying to give him anything but himself to focus his rage on, but it did little good. Denied the ability to escape, to hunt, he always returned his attention to the only thing in the room that smelled human - smelled like the prey he was so desperate to kill.

Black claws scratched, and ivory fangs sank into legs, haunches - anywhere they could reach. They tore at fur, muscle, all the way down to bone, until he was so badly mangled he couldn’t move, couldn’t force his body to obey, to attack. Weak and weary from blood loss, whimpering in agony, the wolf lay on the stone floor . . . And then it healed. Slowly, inexorably, bones and muscle knit together, wounds sealed themselves, fur bristled anew - and panting and snarling with rage, the frenzy resumed, as the beast attacked itself again.

“Werewolves are faster than just about anything that isn’t a unicorn,” Takara said, forcing her voice to stay calm, dispassionate. “But like all canines, they’re built more for endurance than quickness. They can run at top speed for hours. And that’s how long this lasted. From moonrise to sunrise, once he’d determined that he couldn’t get out, he attacked himself - mutilated himself to the point where he couldn’t stand, couldn’t see - and then he healed, got up, and did it again.”

She gazed at Hermione. “I now understand why werewolves are considered as dangerous as a full-grown dragon - not just because they’re infectious, but because they’re so hard to put down and keep down. I really think that if that troll had come after you on a full moon, Galen would’ve torn it to pieces.” Her voice went from flat to icy. “I also think that I will be damned before I let him go through this if he doesn’t have to.”

Hermione looked green, and Takara couldn’t blame her - she’d wanted to vomit, too, on seeing the level of carnage inflicted, and re-inflicted, over and over. Only the fact that she’d had nothing in her stomach at the time prevented her from doing so.

“The Wolfsbane Potion is probably incredibly complex,” Takara admitted quietly, her voice a softer kind of quiet now, almost fearful. “There has to be a reason it was only concocted recently, when lycanthropy’s existed for millennia. Even if I find the recipe, there’s a good chance I’ll mess it up. But when this is the alternative . . .”

Takara shook her head. “If they can’t replace Snape with someone capable, they will lock him up - they’ll have no choice. They do it anyway, even with the Potion. And even if we’re there with him, even if we can calm him, make his mind wolfish instead of a raging beast’s, he’ll still be a trapped animal. And he hates being forced into anything even when he’s human.”

Hermione shuddered, no doubt considering what Galen as a trapped wolf would be like.

Takara continued softly, “We can’t hope that McGonagall can find a replacement for Snape in time - or that Galen would trust whoever that might be. I need to do this, Hermione, because he needs my help. Because he trusts me to help him. And because if I don’t, he’ll suffer for it.” She gazed at the Pensieve memory, which was still going. “And I can’t watch him be hurt like that. I won’t let him be, not when I can stop it.”

She took a deep breath. “And to do that, I need your help.”

Hermione’s eyes were dark, to the point they were nearly black. “If we get it wrong, he could be damaged forever. He might be trapped as a wolf, his mind might go and never come back - he could kill someone. Or infect them.”

“He wouldn’t blame us for that - ” Takara began, and Hermione interrupted.

“No - he’d blame himself. And that would be worse.”

“The alternative is to let him suffer this,” Takara said.

Hermione watched the wolf savage itself again, visibly forcing herself to observe the attack. After a moment, she said, very quietly, “ . . .Third time’s the charm?”

Takara tried not to wilt in relief as she replied, “We can only hope.”

They exited the Pensieve, and then the Room of Requirement, before reconfiguring it and re-entering. They had work to do.

Shirou was restless, and he could hardly be blamed. Research and books weren’t his area of expertise - he was very much a physical individual, given to impulse and action over reasoning and contemplation. Added to the fact that it had been raining pretty solidly - not heavily, but constantly - for the last week, restricting outdoor activity, and it could be understood why he was chafing to do something. Oh sure, he could’ve watched Hufflepuff play Ravenclaw, but that would’ve made it worse - the only thing worse than being unable to do something was watching someone else do it instead.

So when Professor Flitwick asked him to help set up Christmas decorations in the Great Hall, Shirou was more than pleased to do it. It was fairly simple - all Flitwick really wanted was someone capable of levitating him so that he could get the best possible angles to hang his fairy lights, and capable of casting a Cushioning Charm, just in case. The ability to manage a Colour Changing Charm didn’t hurt, either. But in any case, it was an activity to help fill an otherwise dull and dreary Saturday.

The worst of it was, there really wasn’t any help for it. Unlike Neville, Ginny and Luna, his homework was up to date, so he didn’t even have that as a potential distraction - though Shirou supposed he could pop in and give them a hand. Sirius Black hadn’t met him, so he was just as likely to be attacked if he went to try and help the man (assuming Shirou could find him), and he wasn’t one of the “Library Trio” - he couldn’t ransack the stacks as effectively as they could for obscure tomes or other sources that might lead to discovering the Wolfsbane Potion. And since potions (and especially medicinal ones) weren’t his interest, he wouldn’t even be able to decipher those sources as quickly as Takara would . . .

It wasn’t until Shirou passed Remus Lupin in the halls that he realised there was something he could do, after all. He broke into a sprint, and managed to climb all seven flights to Gryffindor Tower in record time.

“Halt!” roared the knight’s painting - Sir Cadogan, Shirou reminded himself. “Who seeks entry to this most hallowed place?”

Grimly, Shirou called up every exchange Galen and Ilya had ever had, and replied, “I am Shirou of the House of Einzbern, charged by the Lady Ilyasviel von Einzbern to hunt a traitor to the House of Potter, who have long been my lady’s allies.”

“A just and righteous cause!” Sir Cadogan proclaimed. “I have heard of the Lady von Einzbern - a gentle soul, renowned for her beauty and wisdom.”

Shirou restrained himself from incinerating the painting, but only just.

“To complete my quest, I needs must have access to the Tower, and what it contains,” Shirou said flatly.

“At once!” Sir Cadogan agreed. “Enter, noble warrior!”

He managed to restrain himself from rolling his eyes until he’d reached the middle of the staircase.

If I’d ever tried to talk to Saber that way, she’d have taken my head off. Then again, it worked, didn’t it? Who am I to gripe?

. . . The guy who has to look and sound like an idiot spouting that flowery crap, so if I can’t gripe about it, who can?

He passed through the common room easily enough, doing no more than nodding at his three younger friends as he legged it up to the third-year boys’ dorm. A quick sweep verified that no one was in sight (including a certain rat) and so Shirou went immediately to a specific bed.

Please don’t let Galen have taken it with him . . .

He hadn’t - the piece of parchment was being used as a bookmark. Unfortunately, The Monster Book of Monsters was right next to the book in question, and it growled in warning, turning to face Shirou. Quickly, Shirou made an effort to stroke its spine.

“It’s OK,” he said softly, feeling like an idiot for talking to a book. “I’m a friend, and he’d give this to me if I asked.”

The book snarled, but halfheartedly. Shirou snatched the parchment and closed Galen’s trunk, shaking his head as the locks and wards automatically reset themselves.

Sneaky bastard, leaving that thing to guard the map when he doesn’t have it on him. Of course, it’s usually wrapped in the cloak, rendering both items invisible and undetectable to magic. But the book is a good backup, I’ve got to admit. If you don’t expect it, don’t know how to subdue it, and aren’t fast enough . . . He shuddered.

And that’s assuming you know it’s there in the first place, Shirou admitted. Unless you’re looking for the bloody thing, it’s just one more scrap of parchment, a common bookmark. And there’s only a few people that would know to look. He shook his head, and repeated to himself, Sneaky bastard.

He was back in the corridors of the castle before he activated the map. It really was an interesting - and complex - piece of magic. Shirou hoped that someday soon, he’d be able to sit with Lupin and Black to discuss how they’d managed to create it.

Maybe it’ll help me revive my blades . . .

There. There it was - the evidence he needed. For a brief moment, Shirou wondered how it could’ve been overlooked for so long, before he realised that the Weasley twins would hardly have spent time watching their brother’s dormitory on the map, and “Scabbers” was rarely anywhere else. It was useful, in this case - the little traitor wasn’t liable to move in the time it took Shirou to point him out.

Now I just need to find Professor Lupin.

That was a little trickier - Hogwarts was a big place, after all. But Shirou knew where he’d seen him, and a few of the likelier places he’d be headed to from there, so it didn’t take much time at all to trace him to one of the staff break rooms - there was one on every floor, for the sake of convenience. In this case, it was the same one the Boggart had been in. He knocked carefully.

The door was opened by Professor Sprout. “Yes, Mister Einzbern?”

“I need to speak with Professor Lupin, please,” he said. “It’s urgent.”

“Of course. Wait here a moment.” As a Head of House herself, Professor Sprout wouldn’t question his need to see his own, unlike some teachers.

He restrained a smile at the thought of Snape. Inconvenient as it was, he had to admit Takara’s “aggressive defence” (whatever it was) was impressive as hell. His just caused pain, but hers caused actual damage. Shirou suddenly recalled his Sorting, when he’d told the Hat that things always came in threes, and the third was the worst. Galen, if he managed such a defence, would probably have a lethal one. He wondered what it would be - and then kicked himself. He knew exactly what it would be, though how he’d set it up was a mystery . . . Further musing was cut off by the arrival of Professor Lupin.

“You needed to see me, Shirou?” he inquired.

“Yes, Professor,” He paused. “Could we speak in private, please?”

“Of course. We’ll use my office.”

It was a bit of a walk, but Lupin was polite enough not to pry - whether from some sense of British reserve or his own nature, Shirou wasn’t sure. Either way, he appreciated it. Once ensconced in his office, however, Lupin sat at his desk and said, “Now Shirou - what’s on your mind?”

“Well, sir, I came into possession of this map . . .” Here he brandished the thing, and only because he was watching did he see Lupin’s eyes widen slightly.

“Where did you get that?” Lupin said, in a voice that would’ve sounded calm to anyone who didn’t know he wasn’t.

“The Weasley twins,” Shirou said. “They’re the school pranksters, and they said they ah, ‘acquired’ it from Filch’s office years ago. Anyway, it’s some kind of real-time map of Hogwarts and the grounds, and it occurred to me that you might be able to figure out how Sirius Black got in if you had it - but I’m not sure how useful it would actually be. You see, there seems to be a glitch, sir.”

“‘Glitch?’” Lupin repeated, puzzled.

“Yes, sir - it’s a mundane term meaning an error. It relates to computers.”

“I’ve worked in the Muggle world from time to time,” Lupin admitted, before pausing to examine his face. “You have something against Muggles?”

“Against mundanes? No, sir,” Shirou said. “I’ve lived among them most of my life. “I just dislike the term ‘Muggle.’ It makes them sound like they’re something less than human.”

Surprise flashed across Lupin’s face, and his voice was impressed as he said, “You’re a very open-minded young man.”

Shirou gave him a deliberate look. “Consider my choice in friends, sir.”

Translation: You and I both know Galen is a werewolf, and the standard prejudices. Do you really think I’d be friends with him if I wasn’t open-minded?

Lupin nodded. “Quite so. Mister Salvatore is very lucky to have a friend like you.” His tone turned wistful. “Friends can make all the difference in the world, for a boy with his problems.”

Shirou nodded in acknowledgement, and said, “In any case, about the glitch . . . This map keeps insisting there’s someone in the my dormitory. It’s not a student, or a faculty member, or a name I recognise - and there’s never anyone there when I check, even though the map insists that there is.”

Bafflement spread across the professor’s features. “A name, but nobody there? That’s very odd - who does it say is in the dorms?”

Shirou shrugged, and did his best to sound casual. “A guy named Peter Pettigrew.”

The teacher’s face went ashen.


While he’d never been in the kitchens before, Galen knew where the entrance was and how to open it. He also knew that the house elves within were only too pleased to serve, and while Hermione might raise holy hell about it next year (although, maybe not - she’d never heard of Dobby in this reality, and might not be too clear on their existence), he felt no compunction about taking advantage of them to assemble a picnic lunch. In less than a minute, he had fresh fruits and vegetables, some roast beef and chicken sandwiches, and bottles of water, pumpkin juice and milk, all packed into a convenient, easy-to-carry basket.

With thanks on his lips and lunch in hand, Galen left the kitchens and donned the Deathcloak. Invisibly, he made his way out of the castle, and towards the Whomping Willow tree. Safely out of range, he paused to study it for a few moments. As he recalled, the movie didn’t use the device of a touching a knot to freeze the limbs, but there were only so many visible, and it needed to be in a place only a rat - or perhaps a small boy - could reach . . .

Locating a likely candidate, Galen drew his wand and whispered, “Expelliarmus.” The force of the spell struck the knot, and the tree suddenly seized up, allowing Galen easy access to the tunnel concealed under its roots. Carefully, he made his way into the passage, and headed for the Shrieking Shack.

Trickier to get in and out of, but otherwise it’s got the Forbidden Forest beat all to hell, Galen decided. He much preferred having to get by one tree to get to Sirius than all the things that lived in lots of trees. Not that he’d mind a good ramble through the Forbidden Forest just to see some of the stuff there - he liked nature walks, and he’d played a druid for a reason . . .

But not without a native guide and a lot of firepower, thank you very much.

Entry into the Shrieking Shack was simple. He carefully set down the basket, then removed the cloak and tossed it over it - making both vanish.

“Lumos - Padfoot?” Galen called quietly, hoping the use of that name would make him listen. “Padfoot? Are you here?”

He wandered up a crumbling staircase to a second-floor landing, and spotted a partially-opened door. Sirius’ room. Quietly, he crept in - and red stars exploded in front of his eyes as rough hands seized his throat from behind.

Years of sparring practice came to the fore, and Galen broke the hold, whirling down in a legsweep to knock his attacker’s feet out from under him. Sirius was quick, though, and bounced back up to lunge forward, snarling.

“Protego!” There was a silver flash, and Sirius Black bounced off the shield and back into the doorframe.

Galen rose, pointing his wand firmly.

“Hello, uncle,” he said sarcastically. “See if I bring you lunch ever again.”

Dark eyes glittered, seeming confused. “Uncle?”

“Yeah - we’ve met before. I’d put my fur coat on again so you’d recognise me, but it’s not really an option for a few more weeks.” He tilted his head to one side. “Now - are you hungry?”

“Hungry - you have food? Real food?”

“Fresh from the Hogwarts kitchens,” Galen confirmed.

“Real food . . .” Sirius muttered. “Even if you’re not my nephew, I’d adopt you now for a chicken leg.”

“A chicken sandwich good enough, or am I out of the will?”

Sirius let out a bark of laughter. “Cheeky - I could get to like you.”

Galen let him downstairs, and drew the Deathcloak off with a flourish. “Ta-da.”

Sirius stared at him. “That’s . . . That’s - WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?”

Galen replied calmly, “Somebody gave it to me for my birthday, a couple of years back. I don’t know who.” It was true enough - he expected it was Dumbledore, but he didn’t know.

“That’s James’ cloak,” he whispered. “James - I watched him put it on so many times . . . It’s James’ - why do you have it? Why?”

“I don’t know, Sirius. I’ve never been able to find out. But given that it’s saved our lives a few times, I’m not inclined to question it too deeply.” Galen pulled out the beverages, and began unpacking the sandwiches.

“James . . .” Sirius whispered, stroking the Deathcloak. “If he’d had this, he might have gotten away. He, Lily and Harry might still be alive. Why didn’t he have it?”

“I don’t know,” Galen repeated - and he didn’t. He’d never fully understood why James Potter hadn’t asked for it back when the family went into hiding. Possession of such a thing might have saved their lives that Hallowe’en night. At the very least, it might have saved Lily and Harry.

He offered Sirius a chicken sandwich and the bottle of pumpkin juice.

“Eat,” Galen ordered. “You won’t think well on an empty stomach.”

Mechanically, not really paying attention, the escapee did so - but soon was tearing into his food with gusto. He was hungry, and the house elves knew how to cook. Galen took half a roast beef sandwich for himself, and laid out the vegetable platter and the fruits. After so long in Azkaban, Sirius was no doubt suffering from several vitamin deficiencies. He couldn’t correct them all in one meal, but this would be a start.

The food and drink did seem to relax him, and he regarded Galen with more curiosity than wariness. “So . . . Nephew, eh? How exactly did that come about?”

Quietly, Galen laid out what he knew about his family - and what his mother did not. The knowledge that his great-aunt was Dolores Umbridge, professional creature-hating bigot, brought a dark chuckle from his lips.

“I’m sorry for you, kid,” he said. “But I’ll bet it would make the family reunion a lot more entertaining if she knew!”

“There would be a temptation to see if I could make her drop dead of a stroke,” Galen admitted, smirking.

Sirius chuckled again. “There’s a dark streak in you - reminds me of me.” He turned serious. “Now, your girls were saying something about you having a third option, besides killing the rat or turning him in. Since you can talk now, mind telling me what it is?”

“They’re not my girls, Uncle,” Galen said sharply. “They’re just my friends.”

Sirius regarded him intently. “You’re not that way, are you?”

“Do I look like Lucius Malfoy?” This provoked another barking laugh. “I’m fourteen, Sirius - a little young to be dating.”

“You sound like a seventh-year,” the man observed. “I wasn’t sure.”

Galen shrugged. “Anyway, one of them has a boyfriend, and the other two will soon. None of them are interested in me.” Or if they are, he amended silently, that’ll change shortly.

He shook his head. “My third option is very dangerous, Uncle. For starters, I have to ask - have you ever heard of Occlumency?”

Sirius snorted. “I’m from an openly Dark pure-blood family, kid - we’re taught how to keep secrets.”

“You any good at it?”

Sirius clutched his chest dramatically. “You’re doubting a Marauder?”

“Withdrawn,” Galen said. He turned grim. “You’ll need to bury this as deeply as you can - so deep that no one will ever suspect it’s there, much less find it. I’m going to tell you why the Potters went into hiding. I’m going to tell you why they died. And then I’m going to tell you how to get what you really want . . .

He bared his teeth, but no one would ever say he was smiling.

“Revenge worthy of a Marauder.”

March 28th, 2011, 09:43 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 21 - Missing Malfoy

December 4 - 18, 1993

By the time curfew was called, Shirou was exhausted. The doldrums of the morning aside, the afternoon had been anything but boring. It had taken every ounce of physical and mental strength he’d possessed to keep Professor Lupin from rushing out to the boys’ dorm to confront the rat, or Dumbledore’s office, to report him. Leading him to the Shrieking Shack, where he knew Galen had been headed, was comparative child’s play. But once there . . . The meeting between Black and Lupin had been almost painful to watch - two long-separated brothers, estranged by suspicion and circumstance, reunited in memory of a third, and for vengeance on a fourth. It had been too personal, too private, and his Japanese sensibilities had been embarrassed to intrude on it, though there had really been no choice.

He’d been struck by two things, though. First, the bond between the two men had been powerful, and recognisable. He, Galen, and Takara were much the same - friends who were family to each other. Whatever he and Takara might be, and however much he and Galen irritated one another, they would always be that. The second thing had been how much Galen resembled Black - if not in looks, then in temperament. If he hadn’t known this wasn’t Galen’s world of origin, then he would have assumed they really were relatives. Both men had shared a grim demeanour, a dark sense of humour, and an undeniable cruel streak - as well as a profound sense of honour, integrity, and guilt. It was for these reasons that Black and Lupin both had agreed to Galen’s plan.

Shirou shook his head. It was the first time he’d ever heard Galen’s “third option” vocalised, and he had to admit that it would be a hell of a thing to pull off. It was intricate, risky as hell, and damned soft on details at the moment. If it went wrong, a lot of people would probably die, including themselves, and there were a lot of ways it could go wrong. But if it worked, it could save just as many or more lives, at minimal cost. The remaining risk still chafed at Shirou’s sensibilities - he’d prefer no one’s life be sacrificed - but at the same time, he couldn’t fault the motivations or choices behind it.

Once again, the plan required a “hurry up and wait” state of mind. Some of the most vital elements weren’t in place yet, and they couldn’t be without some very important conversations, somewhere very secure. Still, it was a two-week wait, at most. Shirou could be that patient, especially as the rat wasn’t going anywhere. With the Dementors gone, and no repeated attempts by Sirius - or attempts that actually got him inside Gryffindor Tower - Pettigrew had no reason to run, and in fact, every reason to stay. And for the plan’s end result, it made no difference whether or not it was enacted now, or six months from now. For the first time in a long while, they had the time to wait.

And with that in mind, Shirou collapsed into bed, eager to recover from the day’s events - and looking forward to tomorrow.

The next Hogsmeade weekend was announced to be the last weekend of the end of term, the day before the Express headed back to King’s Cross. Hermione was ecstatic about it.

“We can do all our Christmas shopping there! Mum and Dad would really love those Toothflossing Stringmints from Honeydukes!” Her eyes sparkled impishly. “And maybe I’ll get Miranda a bar of that really good chocolate, just to set them off!”

For all her enthusiasm, though, Shirou suspected her excitement had less to do with the fact that she could go Christmas shopping than it did with the fact that Galen would be able to join them this time. Of course, if they went that route - himself and Takara, and Galen and Hermione - that left Neville as the odd man out . . .

With that in mind, he cornered Galen early on to clarify what he had in mind for the day.

“Group shopping,” he said. “Maybe pop in and see my uncle - he did show us the secret entrance.” The older wizard tilted his head. “Did you have something else in mind?”

“Not really, but the girls might,” Shirou admitted. “And I don’t want to leave Neville by himself.”

“It really isn’t fair - I’ve been in that position before,” Galen agreed.

“That,” Shirou noted, “but I was thinking more about the fact that Malfoy’s been quiet lately.”

It was true. After the last Hogsmeade weekend, and the subsequent loss of Professor Snape, Draco had taken to avoiding, or at least remaining silent, around the Gryffindors.

Dumbledore would be hoping he’d finally learned his lesson, Shirou thought. I figure he’s just biding his time. With Snape gone as well as his father, he’s not as well-protected - but that doesn’t mean he’ll give up. And given that Snape went down teaching a Gryffindor class, it’s a sucker’s bet that he’ll blame us for it. He’ll be right, mind you, but he’d blame us, anyway.

Galen grunted. “The last time he tried to take on Neville, it didn’t go so well.” He grinned at the memory of the Slytherin’s expression, after his spells were halted by a Shield Charm.

“Yeah, but that was two years ago,” Shirou pointed out. “Time enough for Malfoy to improve himself to the point where he can figure it won’t matter - and it’s been long enough for him to convince himself that it was a fluke.”

“Hm,” Galen agreed. “And while Neville could probably handle all three of them in a physical fight, Malfoy’s started shooting from behind, at a distance. Not a good setup, even if his wand was up to snuff.” He scowled. “You’re right - we need to worry.”

Shirou smirked. “At least it’ll be easier next year - Ginny or Luna can stay with him then.”

“Or I will,” Galen countered, smirking as he added, “At least ‘til Neville gets a girlfriend of his own, or a new wand.”

Shirou shot him an annoyed look, which Galen returned as he said, “Takara’s dating you, and by this time next year Hermione will be over the moon regarding her upcoming Yule Ball date with international Quidditch star Viktor Krum. Whatever you think, I highly doubt she’ll settle for me when she realises she’s fully capable of getting the kind of man she deserves.”

“You think this Viktor Krum deserves her?” Shirou asked pointedly, knowing very well that it was highly unlikely.

“He’s a bit of a playboy, I think,” Galen admitted sourly. “But he’s handsome, intelligent, honourable, famous, and probably rich. If she can tame him - and I’ve no doubt she can - it wouldn’t be a horrible match.” He shook his head. “But that’s next year’s problem. Let’s worry about today, shall we?”

Shirou sighed inwardly. Ultimately, this was Hermione’s problem to deal with - but he admitted that he wanted to see Galen happy, which was why he kept pushing at this despite knowing it would be an exercise in frustration. Whether it ended up that he be happy with Hermione, Takara, Luna, or someone else entirely, he didn’t know - but whoever it was, they’d have a hell of a time breaking through his inferiority complex. Although admittedly, at fourteen, romantic entanglements weren’t exactly something they ought to be worrying about. As with Pettigrew, there was time.

In the meantime, they worried about protecting Neville - and the rest of themselves, of course - while out and about at Hogsmeade.

“Muffliato,” Takara intoned as the carriage set off, before turning to Galen. “That really is a useful spell.”

“Means we can ease up on the Japanese, though it won’t hurt to stay in practice,” Galen agreed. “What’ve you found out?”

Hermione beat her to the punch, grinning all the while. “That the Room of Requirement is brilliant! It not only provided us with the recipe for the Wolfsbane Potion, it also gave us copies of Snape’s own notes on it!”

“And given some of his notations as a student, I imagine those are very interesting.”

Takara nodded. “The man’s an evil git, but he is a genius when it comes to potions. It’s like . . .” She hesitated on a description, before saying, “If the difference between you and I in potions skill is the difference between a kendo instructor and an Olympic competitor, then he’s Miyamoto Musashi.”

Galen and Hermione both nodded, but Neville looked confused. Galen said, “The difference between somebody who plays Quidditch for Gryffindor and a professional player, versus someone who plays on a national team.” He nodded in understanding.

“Anyways,” Takara continued, “he’s actually worked out some potential improvements on the Wolfsbane Potion - though from the described effects, I doubt he’s used them on your doses.”

“Hardly surprising,” Galen said with a shrug. “Think about it - if he’d actually released the techniques in the Half-Blood Prince’s book to the general populace, they’d be part of the standardised text. But they aren’t, because he doesn’t actually care about improving things. He does it because he can, to give himself an edge on the traditionalists, and prove to himself that he’s smarter than anyone else.”

Neville broke in. “You can make the potion, though, can’t you?”

Hermione bit her lip. “Probably. The ingredients aren’t much of anything special, it’s how and when you put them together that makes it so tricky - there’s elements of Arithmancy and astronomy involved. And the potion has virtually no shelf life at all, so you can’t mix up a big batch for future use. You have to make it fresh for every full moon.”

“Which explains why most people don’t bother,” Takara said disgustedly. “It’s too much work for too little gain.” She smiled. “But we can do it, Galen. Maybe not without Snape’s improvements, but we do have them.”

The look of relief Galen gave Takara was palpable. She hadn’t realised just how much the idea of not having the Wolfsbane Potion at Hogwarts had been bothering him - though she really couldn’t blame him, having seen how terrible the transformations really were firsthand.

“That means we can really enjoy our time in Hogsmeade,” Hermione said brightly. “I’m sure you’ll like Honeydukes, of course - but they’ve got so much more than chocolate, even . . .” Her eyes widened. “Oh! I never asked - Galen, Honeydukes sells blood-flavoured lollipops. We assumed they were for vampires, but we couldn’t fathom why they’d be sold at all? Do you know?”

Galen pursed his lips for a moment, and then said, “Three reasons. First, Honeydukes is like Nestle, or Cadbury - it might be based in Britain, but its markets extend far outside it, like to Romania, where most vampires tend to congregate. Second, vampires aren’t the only things in the magical world with a taste for blood, so it’s a broader market than you’d think.”

“And the third?” Takara asked.

Galen grinned. “Given the legal status of vampires in Britain, I could make a comparison to gourmet dog biscuits - but it’s probably more accurate to compare it to making nicotine gum for smokers. The lollipops are a candy, so they have no real nutritional value, but they do apparently ease the bloodlust. Handy thing to have around here, given the aforementioned legal status - though I’d imagine that a steady diet of them just makes the bloodlust worse when it does rise up, since they’re pretty well starving themselves. But as something to tide them over . . .” He shrugged.

Hermione nodded. “That makes sense.” She tilted her head. “Where do you learn this stuff? None of that information is in any volume available in the Hogwarts library - well, outside of the Restricted Section, perhaps.”

Galen’s grin widened. “The Einzberns let me ransack their library. Kiritsugu-san is an Auror, and his wife’s a Veela, an international ambassador, and the only heir to a prominent pure-blood family, so you’d be surprised at some of the reference materials they keep on hand, even at home.”

Takara flushed. She liked to read, but somehow she’d never considered looking through her parents’ books before - well, not the work-related ones. She supposed she ought to start. Who knew what she might uncover? As she pondered the idea, the carriages proceeded in relative quiet, the conversation light. Takara cursed the fact that unlike the Express, the carriages could only seat four - Shirou was with Fred, George, and Lee. Still, the Thestrals were swift, and the village not far, so it wasn’t long before they were in Hogsmeade.

Takara was not pleased at the prospect of having no private time with Shirou, but she couldn’t really argue with the boys’ concerns. Malfoy had done enough to spoil their first date, and now he’d had time to plot. And if he’d cast a more lethal spell last time, Hermione might be dead. She shuddered at the prospect.

Of course, if by some miracle we didn’t kill him for it, Malfoy would’ve survived only until he reached the castle, and Galen found out what he’d done . . . But it would’ve hardly been a comfort to the Grangers, and I don’t fancy having to deliver similar news to them now, or to anyone else.

She accepted the necessity of safety in numbers, for now - but at the same time, Malfoy moved up on her list of targets that needed to be dealt with. She was not going to cower for the rest of her life at Hogwarts over what the blond bastard might do. They were going to have to make it clear to Malfoy that crossing them was something he didn’t want to do, and soon.

If he shows up while we’re on the Express tomorrow, I’m going to ask the boys to help me throw him out - the window, Takara thought darkly.

They wandered about the village, doing bits of Christmas shopping for their families - and occasionally for each other, when the others could be talked into distracting the gift’s intended recipient. Hermione bought her parents their mints, and Miranda a sampler set of chocolates. Galen bought a quill set from Scrivenshaft’s for his sister Maeve, and made an odd purchase in Dervish and Banges - a pale blue ribbon that had been charmed to repel dirt and stains.

Takara looked at him oddly. “What in the world is that for?”

Galen blushed. “Well . . .” He sighed. “I kind of figured your parents would get all the ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ ornaments, and things like that, so . . .”

“You want to give Alexandre a ribbon for Christmas?” she asked incredulously.

“Or his christening, if it’s an appropriate gift - I know you’re supposed to bring one.”

“But why a ribbon? That’s a strange thing to buy a baby boy.”

“Only because I haven’t bought the teddy bear whose neck it goes around, yet,” Galen explained.

“Oh,” Takara said in comprehension - and then she understood. “Oh! Like your teddy bear!”

Galen’s teddy bear had been his best friend forever, and the family story went that his mother’s friend had asked, when making it, whether to put a blue or pink ribbon on it. His mother, certain that Galen was going to be a girl, had said “pink” - which had necessitated a frantic phone call later.

He nodded, a sheepish expression on his face, and asked shyly, “Too corny?”

Takara smiled, and corrected him. “Corny - but very sweet. Thank you on his behalf.”

Galen shrugged. “Since he got my birthday, he should get my favourite toy, too. And hopefully with this, his Teddy will have an easier life than mine did - no need to go through so many washes.”

Takara laughed. “You do remember that we can use Scouring Charms and Vanish things, right?” She giggled as his expression clearly told her that he’d remembered no such thing.

“It’s not that funny,” he muttered, and she was tempted to laugh harder, before her manners reminded her that it would be a terrible thing to do to a friend who had only been trying to be kind.

“You’re right,” she admitted. “And this means we won’t have to use many of those, either - so the gesture is still very practical, and very sweet. Thank you.”

She gave him a quick hug, and nearly froze in mid-embrace. Takara had known intellectually that the years of workouts had given him a much more built form than the skinny kid she’d known, or the painfully gaunt Servant he’d originally been - but it was one thing to know it, and another thing to feel the difference. While Galen would probably never be one of those bulked up bodybuilder types, there was a wiry strength to his lean frame. Combined with the natural heat he always exuded, being close to him was quite - pleasant.

I wonder if Shirou would feel as nice . . .

“Takara?” Galen said abruptly - or seemed to, before she realised he’d been calling her name for a while.

“Are you OK?” he asked. “You kind of faded out there for a minute.”

“Fine,” she replied, even as she could feel her cheeks flushing. “I’m just finding it a bit warm in here all of a sudden.”

“Well, let’s grab the others and walk over to the Three Broomsticks,” Galen suggested. “By the time we get there, you ought to have cooled off enough that a warm butterbeer will sound good.”

“Sounds like a plan,” she agreed. “Let’s go.”

Pleasant as Hogsmeade was turning out to be, Galen never fully relaxed. With Malfoy’s quiet spell, he figured he couldn’t afford to. The little ferret was never up to any good when he was lying low, and he figured after the last Hogsmeade visit, there was no way in hell he’d pass up another shot.

When it comes down to it, Draco isn’t much brighter than his minions. He gets hexed and/or humiliated every time he confronts Harry on the train, but still does it. He has the Hogwarts rumour mill telling him all the things Harry’s accomplished - sixty-foot basilisk, anyone? - and his own father to verify that yes, Harry’s managed to escape the Dark Lord himself, and go into battle with five friends against twice as many Death Eaters and battle them to a standstill - but he still feels compelled to try and beat Harry. The one time they actually duelled for real, Harry nearly killed him!

Given Draco’s seeming inability to learn, I can’t afford to think that the fact that there are five of us versus three of them will cause him to reconsider the wisdom of picking a fight - because it never has before.

Not for the first time, Galen considered the benefits of just killing Draco out of hand. He’d never really bought Rowling’s “poor Draco is a misguided kid who wound up in over his head” concept. Draco had been a dyed-in-the-wool bigot, perfectly content to cheer on the deaths of “mudbloods” and “blood traitors,” up until Daddy had managed to screw up and get himself sent to Azkaban. Even then, he’d continued to serve Voldemort, however reluctantly - and given that he showed no qualms about using his Dark Mark to intimidate people into getting what he wanted, how reluctant was he, really? It argued that he was more afraid of his status on the chopping block than about any doubts he had regarding serving the cause itself. No, for poor misguided kids in over their heads, Sirius’ brother Regulus was a far better example. He had actually been prepared to die in an attempt to stop Voldemort, once he’d realised the depths he was swimming in. Draco had never had the courage.

Draco Malfoy was an annoying irritant with the potential to become really dangerous if they allowed him to proceed unchecked. Certainly, if not for some very lucky coincidences, his actions in sixth year would’ve killed at least two students, as he attempted to assassinate Dumbledore - and without the Felix Felicis, one or more of the DA or the Order certainly would’ve been, as well. He contributed nothing truly useful to their plans, and by just about any measure, they were safer with him in the ground. Legalities aside, killing him was by far the best thing they could do to him.

Except . . .

Except that at the moment, Draco was simply an irritant. He’d proven no match for them collectively, and probably not individually, so long as they were prepared. Frankly, he posed no real physical threat to their well-being, and as far as political influence went, Shirou and Takara had their parents’ Auror contacts, and Baroness Einzbern to match the Malfoy money. It wasn’t a perfect counter, as foreigners didn’t necessarily carry too much weight in British politics, but it would deflect the worst of just about anything Draco could throw at them.

If Galen killed Draco at this point in time, then, he’d be doing it simply because the Slytherin boy was annoying. And as one of his favourite detectives said, If I shot everybody who annoyed me, I’d go broke buying ammunition. So Draco got a pass - for now. It might even be permanent, depending on how well they changed the timeline this year. But if he made one move that suggested he’d prove himself an actual threat, the Acromantulas were going to discover the concept of a restaurant that delivered. Unlike Dumbledore, Galen wasn’t about to risk others’ lives on the hope that Malfoy could be redeemed.

Speaking of risking lives, he reminded himself.

“Muffliato,” he murmured as Madam Rosmerta brought them their drinks - with the crowd in here, the buzz would go unnoticed. Then he glanced at his friends and said, “We have a problem.”

“Just one? That’s new,” Neville quipped.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Neville.”

Galen turned to Hermione. “You nearly killed Sirius.”

She shivered. “I know. I feel terrible about it.”

“It’s not in your nature,” Galen agreed. “But you didn’t stop to think of other options - you went right for the kill. Takara, too - or nearly - but I’ve come to sort of expect that from her.”

The Japanese witch scowled. “Hey!”

Galen smiled to take the sting out of it as he said, “You have to admit, with your training - and origins - a kill response makes more sense for you than it does for Hermione.” He turned grim. “The animals aren’t settling as easily - or as quickly - as we hoped. Maybe it’s because you’re teenagers, and the hormones are stirring things up, but I don’t think we can afford to wait it out. Somebody could get hurt, or killed, and I don’t think you want that on your conscience.”

Shirou acquired a smirk. “Sure - and the idea of being cornered by a three hundred pound lioness in heat has nothing to do with it.”

Galen and Hermione’s faces acquired a hue to match Shirou’s hair, and Takara slugged his forearm - though even she and Neville were looking pink.

Galen cleared his throat. “I’ve been looking over the Animagus Potion and its described effects, as well as similar mixtures and methods. If I’m reading things right, the animal is part of your unconscious, basically your instincts made manifest. It’s you, if you were born as that animal - which is why I’m thinking it might not be so dangerous for you to try . . .” He trailed off, as if unsure of how to continue.

“Try what?” Hermione prompted.

Galen frowned. “Have any of you ever seen a picture of Fenrir Greyback?”

Neville nodded, suddenly a bit pale. The rest shook their heads, but indicated they knew who he was.

“Looks a bit bestial, doesn’t he?” Galen said to Neville. “Sharp teeth, not quite human eyes . . . Ever wonder why that is?”

“Why?” Neville asked.

“Because he revels in his lycanthropy. It’s not a curse, to him. He works with it, encourages it, and draws strength from it. As a result, he’s less human - and it shows. But he has less trouble with the pain of the transformation, and more strength in human form.”

“How do you know that?” Hermione asked curiously.

Galen was grim. “Professor Lupin’s been studying Greyback a long time. He wants revenge as badly as I do.” He shook his head. “Anyway, I was thinking that it might be possible for you guys to make similar deals with your animals - let them out a little in your human states, for better control over your instincts in animal form.”

Shirou looked askance at Galen. “Won’t it be obvious what we are, then? I mean, if Greyback is as noticeable as you say - ”

Galen shook his head again. “That’s a function of the curse. It marks us, sets us apart, to remind us that we’re not the real thing, even when we look it - like the difference between a werewolf and a natural wolf. Greyback’s just more visibly so, because he doesn’t cling to his humanity as hard as the rest of us. You guys shouldn’t have any problems.”

“Famous last words,” Takara muttered, before she shook her head in turn. “Well, I don’t fancy sprouting feathers when I lose my temper, so I guess it’s worth a shot. I just hope I don’t develop a sudden taste for mice, either.”

Galen nodded. “Thanks - it’s a load off my mind.”

“So, how do we do it?” Neville asked.

“Best guess? You’re all Occlumens - you know the ins and outs of your own minds. Find your animal, and try to hash things out with it.”

Nods of varying degrees of enthusiasm went around the table.

Hermione glanced at her watch. “It’s nearly time to go back to the castle - we should head for the station.”

Paying their bill (with an appropriate tip), the group left the Three Broomsticks and boarded a carriage back to Hogwarts. As they headed up towards the castle, Neville inquired, “So - should we be relieved, annoyed, or worried that Malfoy didn’t try anything?”

“I’d go with worried,” Galen said. “Definitely, worried.”

March 28th, 2011, 09:45 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 22 - Revelations and Revenge

December 28, 1993

Takara wasn’t terribly surprised when Luna was the first of them to reach a balance with her animal self - she’d always seemed the most spiritual of them, and the most adaptable. Therefore, it wasn’t shocking to learn that she’d managed to meditate and mediate the night following their discussion, and be sorted before they even got on the train home. The changes were minimal, as well - the part of her hair was highlighted by a pair of pale blonde streaks, and that was all. No suddenly going raven-haired, or exuding a skunk’s calling card aroma, just a lightening of part of her tresses. Then again, Luna had spent the least amount of time in her animal form, so it made sense that the signs of it were least visible on her.

Hermione had been a more interesting case. She’d managed to do it on the train ride home - like Luna, she had a brilliant mind and psychological inclinations that lent themselves naturally to Occlumency. It had taken her half the trip to pull it off, but she’d calmly announced success, and the only visible change in her was a lightening of her eyes from chocolate brown to a dark amber colour - something you’d only see in the right light, or if you paid very close attention to her features. Given that she spent the most time in her animal form, that was surprising . . . And then, Takara had noticed the other changes.

Hermione had always sat next to Galen, when she could. That was nothing new. It was new, however, for her to lean into him as she did so. She hadn’t touched him overtly, but she was almost always in some form of contact, even when she was just brushing her leg against his. When she’d gotten up to use the loo on the train, Takara noted the change in her walk. Hermione had never been clumsy, and years of martial arts training had honed her balance and coordination, but now she moved with an unconscious, feline grace. Curious, Takara had tossed an empty Chocolate Frog box in Hermione’s direction while she was reading, and the bushy-haired witch had snatched it out of the air with barely a glance - and then stopped, as she realised what she’d done.

“Meow,” Takara had said carefully, and Hermione had bitten her lip.

“I guess the lioness is more a part of me than I’d guessed,” the latter admitted. “Still, I don’t have a tail, and I haven’t suddenly gone blonde.”

“Your pupils are still the right shape, too,” Galen had assured her. “The cat smell’s a little stronger, though.”

She’d blushed, and mumbled something like an apology, but Galen had shrugged. “I doubt anyone not close enough to kiss your bare skin will notice - and probably not unless their noses are especially sensitive. Besides, it’s a fairly comforting smell, for me.” He grinned, and the sparkle in his eyes suggested he was being wicked as he added, “I could fall asleep right here.”

Hermione had gone from pink-cheeked to full-faced crimson with that remark, and Takara couldn’t understand what it was meant to imply. Asking had merely had her respond, a bit frantically, “Nothing! Nothing at all!”

Still, it was clear that spending so much time in her Animagus form had brought forth some mental as well as physical adjustments when she finally reached an accord with her inner lioness. Everyone had gotten big hugs when they’d separated at King’s Cross, and she’d held hands with Miranda and her mother on the way out. Having studied a little about lions, Takara supposed it made sense. Of all the big cats, they were the only social ones, often sleeping next to or atop one another. Hermione would apparently be behaving as though they were her pride now, and the rest of them would probably have to get used to her being as physical with them as she’d always been with Galen. Given her mother, Ginny might gripe about it - but Takara doubted Luna would complain.

That said, Takara wondered what it meant for her. She, Neville and Hermione had spent the most time in animal form - her less so than either of the other two, but more than the rest. How would her owl form influence her body, her thinking? Would she notice? The thought had been in the back of her mind all through the holidays, never quite going away even during Alex’s christening ceremony, or on Christmas itself.

The christening had been pleasant. All her friends had appeared, bearing gifts for her baby brother. She noted with some amusement that Alex did appear to like his new teddy bear - or at least, he never complained when it was placed in his crib. It would be a while before they had any idea of whether he was really attached to it or not. In any case, she was quickly growing accustomed to sleeping with a frequently-crying baby in the house, though the presence of an eager-to-please Veela godmother helped. As long as Alex wasn’t hungry, Arcueid had few difficulties caring for him through the night. She didn’t do it every time, every night, but often enough for her parents not to lose too much sleep.

It had made for a pleasant Christmas, having all her family - including its newest member - with her. Alex was adorable - his eyes were the same sky blue hers were, and he showed signs of having the same hair colour as well (it made her wonder whether or not he’d have had the same dark chestnut she did, in the universe she’d come from, or if he’d have still inherited their mother’s hair). But even he couldn’t fully keep the owl out of her thoughts, and now she’d reached the decision time. With the full moon tonight, she could either try to strike a balance with her animal now, or leave Galen to suffer, and hope some of their other friends would help him. Because if she transformed without bargaining . . .

If I do that, the owl will be that much stronger when I finally manage it, and I’ll lose that much more of me.

She went to the dojo area that had been set up, and grabbed a bokken. Of all the many changes Takara had undergone since arriving on the Hogwarts Express, this had not: she was still very much a physical being. Occlumency and meditation were things she was capable of in stillness and contemplation - but she was most focussed and at peace when in action. And so, she closed her eyes, began a kata, and sought the eagle owl within.

As she lost herself to the rhythms of her bladework, Takara became aware of the wind, rustling through the trees. She opened her eyes to find herself standing in an autumnal forest, the ground carpeted with coloured, frost-rimed leaves. A full, silvery moon shone in the night sky above, and not so high up, perched on a denuded branch just out of arm’s reach, was the eagle owl.

“Hello,” she said tentatively, unsure of what was supposed to happen next. If she’d been expecting the owl to reply in the Queen’s English, however, Takara was disappointed. It did cock its head inquisitively, however - an expression she read as easily as if it had actually spoken.

“I want to reach an agreement,” Takara tried. “I want better control over the change, and the ability to think more clearly, less instinctually.”

Owls the size of this one - and she was one of the largest owls extant, bigger than even the snowy owl - did not “hoot.” They made an entirely different noise. The sound in question was closer to a bark, and this one had an interrogative quality that Takara equated to “Why?”

“Because I don’t want to end up in Azkaban or St. Mungo’s!” Takara snapped. “I’m rather fond of being free - and human.”

Another tilt, as though to ask why she’d bothered becoming an Animagus, then.

“Because it would help Galen,” Takara replied. “Not that I’d ever say that where he could hear it - he already blames himself for this problem, I won’t give him confirmation of it so that he can keep blaming himself.”

The owl barked again, and Takara scowled, flushing crimson.

“He is not my mate!” She rolled her eyes, and asked the moon, “Why does everybody - including my own damned subconscious manifestations - think we should be a couple?!”

“Because I know what you want,” came a familiar whisper. “Even if you refuse to let yourself admit it.”

Takara locked her eyes on the branch. Nanaya’s eyes were now the same blazing orange as the eagle owl’s, and she wore a cloak of its feathers instead of her school uniform. The hint of an icy smile played about her lips as she regarded her counterpart.

“Don’t look so shocked,” she informed Takara. “You know that owls are symbols of death in most cultures - and to you, that’s me. Besides, you’re the one who called me up with the ‘aggressive defence.’” The corners of her mouth sharpened into what might be considered a demure smile on anyone else.

“But you don’t exist any more,” Takara protested. “I can’t see lines, and the Nanaya bloodline doesn’t exist.”

“Oh, it exists,” her doppelganger countered. “Your father’s birth name is still Shiki Nanaya, after all. What you mean is that you shouldn’t have a separate, murderous personality any more - but I was here long before your blood awoke, and I wasn’t considered separate then. I’m the little voice that whispers in your ear. I could be your conscience, your impulses, your doubts and fears. I could even be the echo of the Takara Aozaki who was born into this world, the one you ignore - but whatever I am, I’m always here.” She shrugged her shoulders elegantly. “At the moment, however, I’m the owl consciousness, filtered through your own mind. We’re both creatures of instinct, after all - how else would you really interpret me?”

Takara paused. “What do you mean, I ignore Takara Aozaki? I am Takara Aozaki!”

“The one who was born here? The source of eleven years’ worth of memories? Friends with Galen since she was four, and Shirou not long after?” Nanaya’s orange eyes blazed. “No, you aren’t - or you wouldn’t be ignoring me.”

“I’m not ignoring you!”

“Then why aren’t you at least trying to date Galen?”

“Because I don’t want to!”

Nanaya stared at her wordlessly for a moment, and when she spoke, her voice had dropped lower and colder, which Takara would’ve sworn was impossible.

“Oh, but you do,” the orange-eyed girl said. “That’s the whole problem, isn’t it? You want him, and you’re not supposed to. It’s always been the problem, and it’s worse now, because you might’ve been content to give up on your Servant, but the Takara of this world loves Galen, and she won’t be ignored.”

“You’re talking like she’s a separate person,” Takara complained. “From what Ilya told us, it’s just a backstory invented by the world to give us plausibility.”

“But they’re still memories, and experiences, and feelings,” Nanaya countered. “And they’re ours. Barring a Memory Charm, they aren’t going to disappear, or stop influencing us - and that makes them just as real as anything else.” Nanaya snapped out the next four words like chips of ice. “And we love him.”

“I don’t - “

”First kiss.”

The memory surfaced immediately, around them, as a hesitant Galen said goodbye for the last time, as they would leave for Japan early the next day. He’d moved shyly forward, and she’d had no idea of what he was about to do until his lips brushed her cheek - and no time to react beyond a widening of the eyes before he bolted for home.

“Before, you’ve felt grateful, admiring, obligated, frustrated, angry and confused,” Nanaya hissed. “And now he’s been your first friend, your best friend - your first love. There are actual feelings involved in your relationship with him, rather than arising from them. And you still ignore them.”

Takara closed her eyes. “You’re my impulses, you said. So to you, it’s simple. See something, want something, take something. But it’s more complicated than that - ”

“Seeing if there can be anything between you, once and for all, is complicated?” Nanaya demanded, before proving she was picking up British parlance as well by adding, “A bloody date is complicated?”

“A date?” Takara repeated blankly.

Nanaya regained her icy smile. “You thought I’d suggest throwing him down, tearing off his clothes, and riding him into the ground?” The smile widened. “I’d prefer that, but I’ll settle for you acknowledging your feelings. The longer and harder you bottle them up, the more I’ll fight - and you will never be free.”

Takara closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and remembered why she’d originally done this. “If I do this, will I have control of my Animagus abilities? Will I have reached the same balance that Luna and Hermione did?”

Nanaya did something she’d never done before - she laughed. It was soft and sinister, and the sound of it sent chills across Takara’s spine.

“Stop fighting your impulses, you will be amazed at what you achieve,” Nanaya informed her, before shrinking down into the eagle owl and flapping off into the night . . .

Takara’s eyes snapped open at the final stroke of her kata. Having stopped, she began to feel the strain of it - dripping sweat into sodden clothes, rasping breaths, and aches in harshly-worked muscles. She needed to clean up in here, and then she needed a hot soaking in the bathtub. Given everything she now had to contemplate, she needed a very long hot soak.

Like, say, until the New Year.

Galen approached the house nervously. He didn’t want to be - he’d always been welcome there before - but this outing involved breaking a number of rules, and revealing a number of secrets, one or more of which was not likely to be well-received. And the worst of it was, it was going to be done all for his own comfort.

Screw it, he decided, spinning around on his heel and beginning to walk away - but he only taken a single step when he heard the front door open.

“Galen! Come in, happy holidays! What brings you by?”

Damn it, I should’ve worn the cloak. Tossing a loathing glance at the winter sky, and whatever Powers That Might Be there, he turned around again and attempted to look happy. “Hello, Mrs. Granger. Happy holidays. I was kind of hoping to speak to you about a favour . . .”

The woman who’d given Hermione the texture of her hair, if not its colour, smiled. “Well come in and tell us about it! No reason to stand out there in the cold!”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He’d never quite got the hang of pronouncing it “mum,” like most Britons.

In a trice, he was in the Grangers’ sitting room. Mr. Granger was poring over the morning paper, Miranda was concentrating hard on the wizard’s chess set Hermione had bought her. The empty opponent’s seat was likely Mrs. Granger’s. Hermione herself was nowhere in sight, but even without his advanced hearing, Galen would’ve caught the sounds of her moving around upstairs. Her mother’s call was quickly answered, and the sounds intensified as she hurried through whatever she was working on.

“So!” the lady of the house said. “Can I get you some tea? Coffee? Cocoa?”

“No thank you,” Galen replied.

Mrs. Granger blinked. “You’re turning down coffee and cocoa? This must be a serious favour.” She said it in jest, but sobered at the expression she saw on his face. “This is serious.”

Galen nodded. “I’d prefer to wait until Hermione gets here to discuss it - ”

“I heard my name?” Hermione asked, strolling into the room with Crookshanks purring in her arms - until he spotted Galen. Then he writhed out of his mistress’ arms with a screech, and landed, bristling and hissing.

“Crookshanks!” Hermione scolded. “It’s eleven-thirty in the morning! It’s nowhere near dark yet - he’s fine!”

“Hermione, it’s not his fault - ” Galen began.

“He’s smart enough to know it’s not a problem until nightfall,” Hermione snapped.

“He’s also smart enough to know that I haven’t been taking the potion,” Galen countered. “And I’m standing in the middle of his family, Hermione - would you react any differently?” He sighed. “It’s instinctive, and as smart as Crookshanks is, he’s still an animal.”

Mr. Granger cleared his throat. “Would you mind letting us in on the conversation, kids?”

They traded looks, and Galen gestured, as if to say, “Ladies first.” Hermione turned to face the room.

“Galen is a werewolf,” Hermione said quietly. “Without the application of a specific potion, when the full moon rises, he turns into a raging beast that hunts and kills humans. At Hogwarts, he can receive regular treatments - but here . . .”

“Tonight’s the full moon,” Miranda said, staring at Galen. Whether in shock, awe, terror, or an inability to equate the boy who’d sing her lullabies with a “raging beast,” he didn’t know.

“Yes,” Galen said. “And tonight, my parents will lock me in the shed until dawn, and lacking any other humans, I’ll tear myself to ribbons, heal up, and do it again.” He took a deep breath. “But I came to ask Hermione to spend the night with me.”

To his surprise, this didn’t bring gasps of disbelief, shouts of outrage, or screams of horror. They simply looked at him, until Mrs. Granger said, “Tell us the rest of it.” He blinked, and she continued, “Unless things have changed drastically, I don’t think any of us believes you want my daughter killed. So why ask her to stay, when you’re so dangerous?”

Hermione answered, “Because I can help him stay calm, more like a real wolf.”

“Does this have to do with why your eyes are a different colour?” Miranda asked suddenly. Her parents stared at her, and she shrugged. “They are - it’s just not easy to see.”

“They are, and it does,” Galen confirmed. “There’s a type of witches and wizards known as Animagi, who can turn into animals. Animals aren’t in danger from werewolves - they hunt humans almost exclusively. In the company of an Animagus, my mind will be more like a real wolf’s than a monster’s, and I won’t hurt myself as badly. And if I somehow manage to escape my prison - which hasn’t happened yet - Hermione’s animal form is fast enough to catch me, and big enough to beat the daylights out of me.”

“It is?” Miranda said. “What are you, Hermione? An elephant?”

Hermione bit her lip, and Galen said, “Your rec room’s big enough if we move the billiard table - you can show them.”

She turned to him, and he shrugged. “Animagus transformations are internalised - the Ministry won’t detect it. I checked with Kiritsugu-san.” Galen grinned. “It’s the first bit of magic you’ve learned that you can actually show off.”

Put like that, Hermione couldn’t resist. It had been a source of frustration to her to have learned all these marvellous things over the last two and a half years and not be allowed to show them to her family. She led the Galen and the Grangers to the basement (Crookshanks warily bringing up the rear), and she and Galen helped her parents moved the table over by the bar with more than a little effort. Still, there was soon a large cleared space, which Hermione stood in the centre of, critically scrutinising the available room.

“It’ll do,” she decided.

Miranda stared. “How big are you, Sis?”

In answer, Hermione flashed her sister a smile, baring her teeth - which soon became exposed fangs as the lioness made her appearance. Now the gasps appeared, and Galen noted that Miranda was especially pale.

“It’s OK, Mira,” he said quietly. “It’s just your sister, honest.”

“She just,” Miranda began. “She - ”

Hermione lay down on her side, and batted the air. Miranda let out a squeak of terror, eyes locked on the clawed tips of her sister’s paws.

“It’s OK, Miranda,” Galen repeated. “That’s just the way Hermione says ‘come here’ - she can’t talk as a lioness.” To Hermione, he said, “You’d better roll over and tuck your paws under - “

Before he’d finished the sentence, Hermione was on her belly, crouched on all fours.

“There you go,” he concluded.

Mrs. Granger stared. “Hermione?”

An ear twitched in acknowledgment, and she looked at her mother, eyes bright and expectant.

“It really is her,” Galen assured the Grangers. “If anything, she’s more playful like this because she’s not fully grown yet - there’s a little bit of cub left in her. Actually, I find she’s kind of a suck for attention - “

Hermione huffed irritably, and the glare she levelled at him would have looked right at home on her human face.

“I wasn’t complaining!” Galen assured her. He walked over to the crouched cat, and began kneading behind her ears. Hermione’s eyes closed, and she rumbled contentedly.

“Hermione acts like a really big cat when she’s like this,” Galen said. “She likes being stroked, and being close to those she loves. Lions sleep something like twenty hours a day, so she’s perfectly pleased to just lie around, and the werewolf is calmer when she’s near.” Galen gave them a tentative smile. “Look at it this way, Mister and Missus Granger - any burglar or mugger that Hermione runs into is in for the shock of their lives.”

Miranda slid down off the bar top and hesitantly approached. Tentatively, she stuck a hand out to touch Hermione’s shoulder - and the older Granger girl turned her head and licked it, causing a yelp of surprise.

“Just a cat,” Galen said quietly. “She just happens to be a really big one, that’s all.”

“Really big,” Miranda agreed.

“But she’s still Hermione,” Galen said. “And when has Hermione ever hurt you?”

Nodding resolutely, Miranda knelt down and rubbed the top of Hermione’s head. The rumble increased, but that was all.

“Her fur’s not as thick as I thought it would be,” the younger girl commented.

Answers were cut off by the sudden ringing of the doorbell from upstairs.

As her mother went up to answer the door, Hermione’s eyes opened, and she stood up, startling Miranda before she shifted back.

“Sorry, Mira,” she apologised. “But it would be awfully hard to explain a lioness in the house.” She paused. “Do I need to brush my hair again?”

“No,” Miranda said, puzzled.

“Good,” Hermione said. “The only downside to all that petting is that it musses my hair something awful - and it’s quite bad enough normally.” She grinned.

Miranda blinked. “You like it, then?”

Hermione’s grin widened into a genuine smile. She reached out and began to stroke her sister’s hair gently.

“. . . I see,” Miranda said.

“The pads of her paws are ticklish, if you’re gentle,” Galen murmured to her, earning a dirty look from Hermione. Before she could retort, however, the Granger matriarch came down the stairs, Shirou trailing grimly in her wake.

“Your mum told me you were headed here,” he said to Galen. “Your family doesn’t get the Prophet, do they?”

“I do,” Hermione said, “but I haven’t taken a look at it yet this morning. I got absorbed in a book I got for Christmas . . .” She shook her head. “It hardly matters. What’s wrong?”

Shirou, if at all possible, got grimmer. “Snape and Malfoy have gotten their revenge - and it’s all over the front page.

“Galen has been outed as a werewolf at Hogwarts.”

March 28th, 2011, 09:47 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 23 - War Councils

December 28, 1993

Shirou was expecting an explosion. Not from the Grangers - they simply remained silent, either too confused to fully understand implications, or numb from whatever shocks they’d already gone through to react to any more. Shirou figured it was a combination, since Galen’s lycanthropy and Hermione’s Animagus status had to have been discussed - why else would he have come here, the day of the full moon? No, he was waiting for Galen to yell, scream, hit something. Instead, he walled himself off, the barriers visibly falling into place. Hermione, on the other hand, was deathly pale, save for two rapidly-reddening points on her cheeks.

“I’ll kill them,” she hissed, before whirling and storming upstairs, presumably to retrieve and read the article for herself.

Privately, Shirou was impressed. A couple of weeks ago, such an obvious fit of temper would’ve had her sprouting claws, fangs, and maybe even fur. But whatever her method, or its aftereffects, she’d definitely halted the unconscious morphing.

I need to look into doing the same. I may not use my form as much as Hermione, or even Takara - eagles attract more attention, even in the wizarding world, than eagle owls - but it would be good to put that concern to rest before it becomes a problem.

“I’m not sure I understand,” Mr. Granger said hesitantly. “Galen is a werewolf, but why precisely is that a problem?”

“Werewolves really aren’t any better thought of in the magical world than in the mundane,” Shirou said. “Officially, they’re classed as Dark creatures - monsters. Galen’s been registered with the Ministry since he was bitten, just like a sex offender in the mundane world.” They gave him blank looks at that statement, and Shirou realised he’d probably referenced something that was still a few years off. He clarified, “Like a career criminal on parole. They always have to know where to find him, he’s subject to employment restrictions - he’s grown up with it.”

“Why?” Miranda said, bewildered. “Galen said as long as he took a potion - ”

“He’d have his human mind when he transformed,” Shirou finished. “And that’s true. But the potion is difficult to make, and isn’t government-issued. Even if it was, not all werewolves are as . . . Well, let’s say ‘civic-minded.’ The one who bit Galen certainly wasn’t. He enjoys infecting people, especially children.”

“And I will kill him for that, if I can,” Galen said suddenly. He looked at the Grangers and sighed, “Look, my condition is controllable, and even harmless, with a few precautions, but let’s say Hermione attended a mundane school, and you learned one of her teachers or classmates had AIDS.” The Grangers flinched, and Galen said, “There. Just like that - that’s how witches and wizards react. It’s the horror of the curse - and it is a curse - as much as its actual effects that they fear. We’re the lepers of the wizarding world.”

“Which is bloody stupid,” Hermione snarled, as she came down the stairs.

“Language, Hermione!” her mother scolded, and the witch ducked her head in apology.

“Sorry, Mum - but it is. Honestly!” She shook her head. “It’s like Takara said last year: the wolf is a monster, and it will kill you if it can, but that’s only thirteen nights out of every year. The rest of the time, Galen and those like him are as human as you are - but they’re not treated that way. And when they finally snap under the prejudice and strike back at their tormentors, they confirm the stereotype.” She locked eyes with Shirou. “The article names Professor Lupin, not Galen.”

“But anyone with half a brain can connect Lupin’s symptoms to Galen’s,” Shirou riposted. “Granted, that lets out a good ninety percent of the wizarding world, but now that werewolves are on everyone’s mind, it’s a good bet that some of Galen’s quirks will get noticed - and understood. That’s what Snape wanted in class, that day - and now it looks like he’ll get it.”

Hermione nodded, biting her lip worriedly.

“They don’t even need to confront me directly,” Galen muttered. “All the right reporter has to do is compare the registry with the Hogwarts enrollment list, looking for a followup story on Lupin about the danger he poses to the students.” He shook his head. “If I didn’t know Headmistress McGonagall despised Divination, I’d suspect her of being a Seer. She warned me about keeping out of trouble, because if something like this happened, she didn’t have the political or financial pull to protect me.”

He shook his head. “I’ve got to hand it to Snape - he’s finally thinking like a Slytherin. He couldn’t do anything against Takara or Shirou, so he went after our Head of House. He can claim he was out of his head on potions when Draco ‘overheard’ him, so McGonagall can’t penalise him. And he gets rid of a childhood enemy, and potentially me as well. And Draco can claim he was acting in the best interests of the safety of the students of Hogwarts by informing them of the presence of a dangerous Dark creature, making himself look good and incidentally restoring some of the prestige his father’s actions cost his family. And potentially, he can get rid of me, which will hurt you and Takara in the bargain. It’s a win-win situation for them, whatever happens next, and there’s no way we can stop it or turn it around on them. Revenge served in full.”

“There has to be something we can do!” Hermione insisted. She looked at Shirou. “Your parents have some influence, don’t they? Can’t they do something?”

“I don’t know,” Shirou said honestly. “But Dad did want to talk to you, Galen. Mister and Missus Granger, may I use your phone, please? I need to call him so he and Mom can come pick us up.”

“Your mother? Certainly - go right ahead,” Mr. Granger said, perhaps a little too eagerly. His wife and daughters scowled. “There’s one in the kitchen."

Shirou walked out, but caught Galen saying, “It’s not something she or Mister Granger can help - it’s simply part of who she is.” The rest was lost as he dialled home, confirmed his and Galen’s locations to Kiritsugu, and hung up. The doorbell by the time he’d rejoined the group.

“Hello, boys,” Iris said. Like Luna, her voice had a musical quality to it - and like Ilya, she seemed perpetually cheerful. “How was Christmas, Galen?”

“Not bad, Missus Einzbern, and yourself?”

“Perfect - and how many times am I going to have to scold you into calling me ‘Iris?’”

“At least one more,” Galen replied with a grin - his standard answer.

Kiritsugu cleared his throat. “Iris, I’m sure Galen has things to do, and it gets dark early this time of year . . .”

“Oops - sorry, Galen. I forgot you’re on a timetable.” She smiled, and if they weren’t capable Occlumens, Shirou had no doubt they’d be prostrating themselves at her feet. Mr. Granger looked halfway to doing that already - only his daughters’ hold on him prevented it.

Galen, for his part, shrugged. “No harm.” He turned to the Grangers. “I’m sorry for intruding - and the shocks. I’ll be going now, thanks for your time. And Happy New Year,” he added, moving to grab Kiritsugu’s arm. Before Shirou could react, Iris had thrown her arms around him and pulled tightly.

His last sensations were threefold - the smell of Iris’ skin, the feeling of being squeezed through a tube as he was Side-Along Apparated back to the Aerie, and the sight of Hermione collapsing into her own mother’s embrace, presumably to weep.

They reappeared in Kiritsugu’s private study. It was dominated by a wide mahogany desk, and at the moment, six high, straight-backed chairs were in evidence, circling the desk instead of having a central one dominate the other three.

Iris released him, and Shirou automatically sat in one of the seats, as Kiritsugu waved his wand and summoned six glasses.

“Normally, there are prohibitions to drinking on duty,” he remarked. “But I’m on holiday, and this isn’t exactly official - not yet, anyway.” Another wave brought a bottle of Firewhiskey to his hand, and Kiritsugu muttered, “I always seem to need this stuff when you kids are involved, lately.”

“Dear,” Iris chided lightly. “It’s not entirely their fault.”

Shirou read the two of them. “You told her?”

“I can keep a secret,” Kiritsugu replied. “Your sister, on the other hand, has proven to be pants at lying to her mother, to borrow a British phrase.” He offered the bottle to Iris, who shook her head, before Banishing it back to the liquor cabinet, and summoning a bottle of white wine. This Iris took, and poured a generous measure of, glancing at Kiritsugu. He transfigured the whiskey glass into a wineglass with another wand wave, and she smiled appreciatively.

“Butterbeer, pumpkin juice?” Kiritsugu offered. “Or something more mundane?”

“Butterbeer, please, Dad.” A few waves transfigured the glass into a mug, summoned the appropriate bottle, and heated it for him. Shirou watched all the movements carefully, trying to memorise how changing glass to ceramic was done.

“Cocoa, please?” Galen asked evenly - and that told Shirou he was stressed about this, however calm he was acting. Chocolate was his favourite food, and a comfort food.

One of the things he and Takara always found common ground on.

Kiritsugu stared into his glass. “We’re waiting on two more before we start this unofficial debriefing - ” The study’s Floo connection flared green as he spoke, so Kiritsugu quickly added, “Come on through!”

The flames flared brighter, and Takara and Shiki Aozaki erupted from the fireplace.

“Have a seat,” Kiritsugu offered. “Drink?”

“I suspect I’ll need a glass of Firewhiskey before the meeting’s over,” Shiki said. “Just the one, though - Ciel will hit the roof if I come home too liquored up.”

“Cocoa, please?” Takara said, with almost exactly the inflection Galen had used.

The drinks were poured, and the newcomers seated. Kiritsugu stared into his glass before clearing his throat.

“In light of today’s events, I think this will go on a little longer than I planned,” he admitted. “However, as important as discussing the implications are, I’m going to start with the business that had me call this meeting in the first place.” He looked at Galen. “Status report?”

“He’s in - actually, both of them are,” Galen replied. “Assuming you can get the necessary permissions, of course.”

Kiritsugu smiled. “The current climate works well in that regard. The longer Sirius Black goes uncaptured, the more likely the existence of an underground support chain becomes. And given the recent actions of the Ministry, and Dumbledore, the likelihood of another Dark Lord’s rise in England seems more and more likely - due to incompetence, if nothing else. Voldemort wasn’t a big problem on the Continent, but no one kids themselves into thinking he would’ve been satisfied with just Britain. And they’ve never forgotten Grindelwald. So on our end of things, permission was almost too easy to get.” He shrugged.

“So we’ll have to let them know when we get back to Hogwarts,” Takara said, before glancing at Galen. “It will be ‘we,’ won’t it?”

Kiritsugu sighed. “And now, on to more recent events . . .”

Galen used his years of Occlumency training to force his rage down. It wasn’t easy - anger had been the driving force in his existence for far too many years, and its fiery caress was almost sweet in his veins - but he was old enough, and occasionally wise enough, to realise that it wouldn’t be productive. If a solution was going to be found, he had to consider the problem logically and dispassionately. And so he’d done so, from the moment Shirou had arrived at the Grangers and told him the news. He’d forced himself into the role of game master, that antagonistic but ultimately neutral force, and analysed what was at hand, and what had to be done. The answers he came up with were surprising.

“In all honesty, this isn’t really a problem,” he announced to the table.

“WHAT?!” came from two ends of the room - Shirou and Takara, respectively.

Galen closed his eyes, inhaled and exhaled slowly, and explained, “With the current social status of lycanthropes in Britain, it was basically a given that barring a major paradigm shift, I’d eventually either have to live completely mundane, or leave the country for somewhere more hospitable. Heck, I’m only here because Dumbledore made Wolfsbane Potion part and parcel of my attendance, and my parents jumped at the opportunity.

“More to the point,” he continued, “as soon as this plan’s put into motion, I’ll have no real reason to stay at Hogwarts. Pettigrew will be dead, Sirius taken care of, and with that, Voldemort’s resurrection delayed indefinitely. You all are certainly capable of acquiring and destroying the remaining Horcruxes without me, so the actual need for my presence here will be minimal, at best.”

“Some of us disagree with that,” Takara said fiercely.

Galen held up a hand. “I’m not saying that I want to go, necessarily - I’m saying that this situation isn’t quite as bad as it seems. With things in motion the way they are now, my leaving Hogwarts voluntarily or otherwise isn’t an earthshattering disaster. Is it annoying? Yes. Am I pissed about it? Absolutely. Do I want to shove Snape and Malfoy’s genitalia into a running wood-chipper while they’re still attached to it? Oh yeah.” The last two words had a dark, hungry tone to them, and his grin could appropriately and accurately be described as “wolfish.”

“However,” he added, “we need to remember that my cover isn’t gone, just fragile - and that as long as we can get The Plan off the ground before it’s broken, then what happens next is overall superfluous.” His smile was sardonic. “This is a sacrifice to the Greater Good I can live with.”

Takara frowned, and asked suddenly, “Why didn’t he?” In response to the questioning looks, she clarified, “Break your cover, I mean. It would’ve been just as easy to out you as it was Lupin. He could’ve gotten rid of you both in one stroke.”

It would have, but after years of first-hand observation on top of the material in the novels, Galen had a handle on Malfoy’s personality.

“Because it’s more fun to humiliate me,” he responded. “To hold that secret over my head for the rest of our days, and have me suffer with the knowledge that he can destroy my life at any time. That he owns me. And if he figures out you know the secret, then he’s got leverage over you, as well. And that’s what he really wants. Draco is a Malfoy, after all, and entitled to the all the benefits of his superiority - including slaves to lord over.”

Shirou said flatly. “So, what do you plan to do about it?”

“Some of that depends on Lupin,” he admitted. “The girls are pretty certain they can brew Wolfsbane Potion, so McGonagall and he don’t have to worry on that score - but if he chooses to resign anyway, it could be a real problem. None of us have mastered the Patronus Charm yet - ”

“If worse comes to worst, I’ll hire him as a consultant,” Kiritsugu said. “After all, he’s the greatest living expert on Sirius Black - and he’ll be constantly surrounded by a team of Security Division personnel, so they can hardly claim he’s dangerous.”

“Good,” Galen said.

“That doesn’t answer the question,” Takara persisted. “What do we do about you?”

Galen glanced at Kiritsugu and Shiki. Iris might grant him leeway, but they were Aurors, and if they had no real legal authority in Britain, they were still bound to obey and uphold the law.

Shiki shrugged. “I owe you, remember?”

Kiritsugu grinned. “Diplomatic immunity - anything you say, Iris and I can’t be prosecuted for not reporting to the proper authorities.”

Galen chuckled, and it wasn’t a particularly pleasant sound. He glanced at Shirou and Takara. “You two have had all the usual training in pure-blood customs and rules, right?”

“Yes,” Takara said carefully, and Galen smirked.

“Up until now, we’ve mostly played nice,” Galen said. “Not necessarily model students - we’ve broken enough rules, and gotten into enough spats - but we’ve avoided using lethal measures, or just about any kind of strongarm tactics except when lives were actually at risk. Intimidation, yes, but so far we’ve used very little physical force, at least against anything human. You two agree?”

Shirou shrugged. “It was necessary, since we were supposed to be ordinary students, but there’s been very little need until now, either. Stinging Hexes and Stunners have worked just fine.” He looked at Galen carefully. “You’re saying we should kill him now?”

Galen shook his head. “I’m still not ruling it out as an eventual solution, but not this soon after the article, anyway. That’ll just bring out the torch-bearing mobs, screaming for the werewolf or sympathiser assassin who killed poor, martyred Draco.” His eyes emptied. “No, I say we show the little snake exactly who and what he’s up against - and then we give him a decision to make. Since Draco’s first loyalty is always his own self-interest, I’m willing to bet a Galleon which option he’ll choose.”

He explained what he wanted to do, and the others agreed that it was possible. The action required was one just about every magical learned, even as children.

“So, when do we do this?” Takara asked.

“Hogwarts Express,” Galen said immediately. “He’ll be popping in to brag, and explain the new rules of life to us - at which point we’ll announce that the game has changed.”

The smirk that formed on his features wouldn’t have looked out of place on Malfoy’s own.

Kiritsugu drained his shot. “Kid, I’m only going to say this once: finish your NEWTs, whatever you have to do to pull it off. I’ve almost got Shirou up to snuff, and I’m pretty sure Shiki’s got Takara on at least the same level - but with you added to the mix, there isn’t a Dark wizard alive who’ll be able to take you kids on.”

“Anata, they might not want to be Aurors,” Iris chided. “Don’t pressure them so.” She then turned to Galen and said disapprovingly, “That plan is vicious, cruel, and borders on the outright evil.” The Veela smiled. “Ilya taught you well.”

“High praise, from my mistress’ teacher,” Galen said with a more relaxed smile.

Kiritsugu cleared his throat. “In any case, I suppose we ought to be moving on - I’m sure you all have things to do. Thanks for coming, and we’ll see you all back for the party on New Year’s Eve.”

Takara rushed out of the fireplace and was met by her mother almost immediately.

“Hermione called,” she was informed. “The poor girl sounded almost hysterical - go and call her back, would you?”

She nodded, went to the parlour on the ground floor, and closed the door behind her before picking up the phone and dialling. Takara briefly considered casting Muffliato, but decided it wouldn’t really matter.

“Hello?!” came a frantic answer.

“It’s me,” Takara said.

“OH, THANK GOD!” came the explosion. “Where were you? Have you talked to Galen or Shirou? What does your father say about - ”

“Breathe, Hermione,” Takara advised. “Father went to the Aerie to talk with Galen and Kiritsugu-san, and I managed to talk him into letting me tag along.”

“What did they say? What are we going to do?”

Takara summarised the meeting. This took some time, given the number of questions and exclamations that interrupted her, but she did manage to get the salient details across.

“It’s a clever plan,” Hermione admitted. “Ruthless, too - but they haven’t left us much choice, have they?”

“You approve?” Takara said with some surprise. Hermione was a natural rule-follower. While she did develop something of a rebellious streak in fifth year, it seemed unusual for her to just shrug this off.

“I wouldn’t say I approve,” Hermione said hesitantly. “This is sinking to their level - but if the alternative is Galen’s leaving the school . . . I’ll support this, Takara.” She huffed. “Honestly - it should never have come to this at all! The prejudice that runs through the wizarding world about this is utterly ridiculous! Yes, caution is necessary, but lycanthropy is a perfectly controllable condition!”

Takara could almost see Hermione shaking her head, and refrained from grinning.

“I should start a protest group,” Hermione muttered. “Bring the ridiculousness of this to light . . . I’ll call it the Society for the Promotion of Equality for Werewolves - what do you think, Takara?”

“I think it’s a nice idea,” Takara admitted. “But I’m not sure naming it spew is going to help your cause any.”

“It’s not! It’s S.P.E.W.” She spelled it out.

“Yeah, but why hand your opponents ammunition when you don’t have to?” Takara countered. “You know they’ll use the joke.”

Hermione sighed after a moment’s consideration. “. . . I suppose they will. All right, if I can rename it, would you want to join?”

“Sure,” Takara admitted. “But we’ll have to be careful. Professor Lupin gives us a reason to start, but if we protest too strongly, too quickly, they might start looking for the werewolf among us.”

Hermione laughed. “I thought I was the cautious one and you were the impulsive one. When did we switch roles?”

“Where Galen’s concerned, you throw caution to the winds, because you want to do anything you can to help him. I’m careful, because I don’t want him hurt.” She hesitated. “Speaking of impulses . . . Hermione, I managed to achieve my balance today.”

“You did? That’s wonderful! My parents said I could go tonight, too - not that it wasn’t embarrassing.” Takara could almost feel Hermione’s cheeks flush. “My mother interrogated me as to how much ‘petting’ Galen and I had done, since I complained about how much of a mess it made of my hair. I had to explain that it was just the once, because he was upset, and animals don’t tend to like him. Of course, Crookshanks’ reaction this morning helped - ”

“Hermione?” Takara interrupted. “I really would like to hear about this, but there’s something you need to know. Before the owl would let me have control, I had to promise I’d date Galen.”

“. . . What?” Hermione squeaked.

“One date, Hermione,” she said quickly. “Just to put all the expectations and pressures and doubts to rest, once and for all. I’m still not interested in him that way, but everybody’s thinking we should be a couple has been a part of my life for so long, I don’t think I’d ever be at peace until I proved it wouldn’t work between us.”

“. . . And what if it does?”

“It won’t,” Takara said. “I know Galen, and I know myself, and this is a bad idea - but it’s going to keep nagging at me until I prove it. Just . . . Let me ask him to the Einzberns’ party on New Year’s, and he’ll be free and clear for Valentine’s Day in Hogsmeade. Is . . . Is that all right, Hermione?”

There was silence on the other end of the line for several minutes, before Hermione said, “I don’t really have the right to stop either of you. And it would be a relief to know once and for all, wouldn’t it?”

“So you don’t mind?”

“I mind,” Hermione said quietly. “But there’s nothing else to be done about it, is there? You’re right - this will nag at all of us, until it’s tried. So we might as well get it over with.”

“Thank you, Hermione.”

“. . . If you’re right, I’ll be thanking you. See you tonight.”

She hung up, and Takara wished Hermione had sounded more confident about the possibility.

. . . And she wished that the whisper in the back of her head sounded less confident, too.

March 28th, 2011, 09:51 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 24 - New Year’s Eve

December 31, 1993

Shirou was no stranger to meditation, though, like Takara, he preferred action to contemplation. Not so much as he had as a younger man - enough close calls had taught him wisdom enough to look before leaping, finally - but given the choice between doing something and nothing, he would inevitably choose activity. Thus, it would come as no surprise to anyone that knew him that Shirou’s choice of meditative techniques involved Zen archery. It wasn’t long before he found himself standing on a mountain path, staring at the sweeping vista below, and the towering peaks in the distance.

“Hmph,” Shirou muttered. “I was half-expecting the Hill of Swords - ” He paused in mid-gripe. There was something, buried beneath the rock he stood upon. Like the sensation of a lava flow, pulsing silently under the cold, unfeeling stone, as it flowed through bright, cold veins of metal. It was difficult to discern, as he stood under the open skies, caressed by warm thermal breezes . . . But it was there.

Shirou felt an honest grin spread across his face. It was reduced to the very basic rudiments of its potential, and nearly lost in the new surroundings, but the core of Unlimited Blade Works - the potential for hundreds of swords - was still within him. It was buried, and perhaps changed by the nature of this world’s magic, but not gone.

Not gone.

He restrained the urge to whoop, and jumped so badly he nearly fell off the trail when a primal scream that exactly matched his feelings echoed through the air. It was followed by the sound of mighty wings, sweeping downward, as the golden eagle perched comfortably on a ledge above him.

“My subconscious, I take it?” Shirou inquired. “Or my primal urges given animal form, anyway?”

The raptor gave him a baleful glare, which said in essence, “Of course, you idiot.”

Feeling a sudden sympathy for Emiya Shirou during the Fifth Grail War, he said, “So, I’m supposed to bargain with you over the Animagus transformation. I get better control of my shifting abilities, and fewer alterations to my personality, and in exchange, you get a little more leeway overall - including in my human form. That about sum it up?”

The glare persisted.

Shirou persisted, “Now, Takara said she had to bargain with the owl - give it something it wanted in order to close the deal. What about you?”

The eagle screeched.

“Tired of being cooped up, huh?” Shirou shrugged. “Yeah, I suppose I really don’t use you much, but there isn’t a lot of call for an eagle when you live in a castle - especially when you’re trying to keep a secret. I mean, at least Takara can pass herself off as a post owl. But I suppose I can try.”

Another shriek.

“What do you mean, ‘by the way, think blonde?’ What kind of advice is - ?” The eagle flew off abruptly.

“Hey!” Shirou called.

“Hey!” insisted a familiar voice, and Shirou’s eyes snapped open to peer into fiery blue ones, peering at him in concern.

“You all right, Onii-chan?” Ilya asked.

“Fine,” Shirou said. “Just having a talk with my Animagus form - apparently, it likes being cryptic.”

“I wish I could do that,” Ilya scowled. “Stupid Veela genes. Strong enough that I can’t be an Animagus any more than Galen can, but not strong enough to give me anything except feathers when I try to change.”

“Well, between you, Iris, Arcueid, Takara and I, I’ve become quite a connoisseur in the last couple of years, and I can assure you - they’re very pretty feathers.”

That got a giggle out of her, before she turned serious again. “Speaking of Takara, are you all right with her plans tonight?”

Shirou rolled his eyes. “If Galen can be mature enough to accept my dating her, I think I‘m more than mature enough to handle watching him escort her for one night. Besides, she’s not wrong - after so many years of having everyone around her assume he and she should date, it’s going to dog her the rest of her life until it’s put to rest.

“Besides,” he added, “contrary to our experiences, to the world at large, we’re only thirteen. It’s too early to be picking life partners - we’re still young, and who knows what might happen in the next few years?”

“Galen looks at it the other way,” Ilya said casually. “That his physical age is an illusion, and what matters is the life experience in his head. He thinks of himself as a paedophile for lusting after girls barely into their teens.”

“I won’t deny it can be a little creepy, at times,” Shirou admitted. “But what else should we do? These are the lives we have - and as far as our lives are concerned, we’re kids. Again, but the rest of the universe doesn’t know that.” He shrugged. “It’s why I’m not really concerned over what Takara does, at the moment. She’s interested, and I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t interesting, but we’ve made no solid commitments yet. If it happens that somewhere down the line, we wind up together, then all to the good. She’s one of my best friends, and I think we can be happy. But if not . . .” He shrugged again. “There’s time to find someone else. We have entirely new lives ahead of us. There’s not much point in dwelling on the past.”

“Like Rin?” Ilya said softly, and Shirou stilled.

“She’s not here,” Shirou said flatly.

“No,” Ilya agreed. “And I’m sorry for that - for you, at least. We never got along. But she was too far away for me to reach when the Kaleidostick overloaded - it was everything I could do to hold the four of us together, and insert us here. I had the power of miracles, Shirou, but even then, I had limits.”

“I know,” Shirou’s voice was heavy. “And if Rin was here, it would be different . . . But she isn’t, and if I walled myself off - again - over her, she’d kick my ass when she found out. So I’ll take what comes, because I’ve lived the misery of the other path - and I don’t see a reason to do it again.” He sighed. “Which is why what Galen’s doing is so frustrating. Takara’s right - nothing probably will come of this. Not because it can’t, because he won’t let it.”

“It’s not entirely his fault,” Ilya said quietly. “He was never a very social child, and when he tried to be . . .” Her lips thinned. “It was made very clear to him in school that he was not a boy that girls would ever like, and thinking otherwise was a waste of time and energy. So he tends to put girls on pedestals - and for girls with low self-esteem like Hermione or Takara, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But just because it’s not as painful to remember now, it doesn’t mean the lesson’s been forgotten. He thinks they deserve better than him, and won’t choose him of their own free will.”

“Well, it’s a lesson he needs to unlearn, damn it,” Shirou muttered. “Not unless he wants to teach it to Hermione as well . . . And I still think Takara would take him, too, if the circumstances were right.”

“Maybe they ought to,” Ilya said with a giggle. “I mean, if one of them can only get so far, it might take both of them to break down his defences. And it isn’t as though Japan or England doesn’t have a long tradition of mistresses . . . At certain points in time, the position was almost respected.”

“Tell them that,” Shirou suggested, smirking. “And if you survive, I want to see the Pensieve memories.”

Ilya stuck her tongue out at him, and he said with a laugh, “Hey, it’s no worse than my plan - I was going to dose him and one or both of them with love potion, then lock them in a broom closet until they got it out of their systems.”

“We do learn to brew Amortentia in sixth year Potions,” Ilya said brightly. “And I’ll be at Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament next year - I’ll be eligible to compete, since I’m of age.”

Shirou smirked again. “Great - that’s our backup then, if Galen still has his head up his arse by then.”

Ilya giggled, before sobering. “So, if Takara and Galen were to get together, it wouldn’t break your heart?”

“No,” Shirou said. “She’s one of my best friends, and I love her - but falling in love with her will take time. I’m willing to put in the effort, because I know it will be worth it. We’d have a good life together. But it won’t destroy me if she doesn’t love me.”

Ilya looked at him penetratingly, before she smiled. The smile was catlike, and it sent a shiver creeping across his spine. Rin had smiled like that, and it had almost never meant anything good - the last time being an obvious exception.

“Good,” she said firmly, and Shirou said a silent prayer for Galen’s soul.

It was a bit confusing once he thought about it, though. Not the fact that Ilya wanted to look out for Galen - Shirou knew that she still felt a little guilty about her part in contributing to his emotional problems, and more than that, they’d been friends a long time. So wanting to see him paired off with someone good for him made sense. The thing was, there were two witches who fit that description, and Hermione actually seemed interested in a relationship, judging by the obvious crush symptoms she’d displayed for years.

So why, Shirou asked himself, would Ilya try to set him up with Takara, who’s nominally attached, versus the single and - unlike Takara, at least from her protests - highly willing Hermione?

He got the impression that there was an important piece of information he was missing that would make Ilya’s behaviour make sense, and that he’d feel like a complete idiot when he figured out what it was . . . But apparently, that wasn’t going to happen today.

Sighing to himself, Shirou turned to regard his target at the other end of the range, pleased to see the normal groupings - and paused.

“Um, Ilya? Did you or Iris lose an earring recently?”

She blinked. “Yes, why?”

“Because there’s one lying on the ground by the target rack, near the door.”

Ilya blinked again, and looked at him in wonder.

Shirou smirked again. “Gotta hand it to the eagle - a diamond earring from a hundred yards away isn’t the same as every rivet in a girder at two or three miles, but it’s not bad, either.”

Takara tried to ignore the butterflies in her stomach, she really did. They shouldn’t have been there, after all. She was going on this date with no romantic intentions whatsoever - in fact, for the specific purpose of proving the utter lack of romance between her date and herself. So why, she asked herself why was she feeling so nervous? Takara thought about it, then sighed at the realisation that it was because a part of her who had known him - and yes, she admitted grudgingly, loved him - since she was a little girl was finally getting her wish. Or at least, most of it. She wasn’t wearing white, after all.

Takara sincerely wished that Galen hadn’t been so eager to please her as a child. It would’ve made latching on to him harder. But to a four-year-old, finding a boy who not only wanted to play with her, but would play house, tea party and Barbies with a smile? Obviously a boy worth his weight in chocolate - she’d had no concept of gold then, and really, which would a kid rather have? She’d determined to never let him go . . . And then she had.

Takara grimaced. She realised that had influenced her behaviour when they met over the Prophet article. She remembered how badly it had hurt to be away from him - to know that he was all alone, when it had always been them, together. The thought of going through that again made her feel sick inside . . . This plan of his to shut Draco up had to work. But the time to worry about that was on the Express, two days and a night from now. More immediately, there was tonight to worry about.

The boys had been thankfully levelheaded about everything. Galen had agreed to escort her, and Shirou hadn’t been jealous over it. It was a formal ball, unfortunately - it meant Galen might be playing the chivalrous knight tonight - but he hated formal affairs, and understood this as an obligation, so it might not be so bad. He wouldn’t be trying so hard, then.

And why are you afraid he’ll try to be romantic? said the mocking little voice in the back of her head. Because it has a chance of working?

Takara scowled at her reflection in the mirror, even as she took stock of herself.

At almost thirteen and a half, Takara just didn’t have the build for anything really racy yet - not up top, anyway. Between her daily runs, savatte, and the ballet lessons she’d had when they’d lived in Canada and France, she had legs to die for, and her dress had appropriate slits to show them off. It was the same shade of royal blue as the yukata she’d worn in the Sixth Grail War, and otherwise fit her like a body wrap, leaving her arms and shoulders bare. There was a slender fringe of lace around the collar, running down over the chest area, like the crest of a wave. She wore low, enclosed heels that gave her just enough height to stand level with Galen - and her mother had Cushioning Charms on them, so her feet wouldn’t be killing her by night’s end. The shoes were white.

As for herself, her face was powdered only lightly, as her skin had always been naturally smooth, to give her complexion an alabaster glow. In light of this, she’d worn no eyeshadow, but did use a hint of eyeliner, and the lipstick she wore was an equally subtle pink. Her hair had been washed and brushed to hang like a dark veil down her back, and it gleamed like a moonlit river at midnight. She’d dabbed a cinnamon-scented perfume on her neck and chin, and between her breasts. It wasn’t overpowering, but combined with the heat of her body, it would be strong.

All in all, as bait went, she thought she looked pretty irresistible. Takara took a deep breath, and went over her goals for the evening. She was all dressed up to have a New Year’s Eve to remember, so that when things felt awkward, or ridiculous, no one could say it was because she hadn’t tried.

“Takara!” her mother called. “Your date’s here!”

The girl winced. Mother was having entirely too much fun with this. Having her help in coordinating her outfit and makeup brought back memories of her real first date, that Tanabata festival during the Sixth War - and what had come of it.

My first date, and my escort tries to kill me, my second date - with the same boy, more or less - and we get attacked . . . Either I’m cursed, or Shirou is. Well, like Hermione said, third time’s the charm. She stopped at the thought, and reminded herself, Except that I don’t want to be charmed!

She glided downstairs, which was usually a neat trick in heels, but most grown women didn’t have her balance. A hint of a smile played about her lips, because by now she thought knew Galen well enough to predict the exact expression on his face. She waited until she’d reached the bottom of the staircase before allowing herself to look up. As expected, his eyes were wide with a little bit of shock, but there was something there she’d seen before, if only she could remember where . . .

“Angel of the night,” he whispered, and she remembered. He’d looked that way at her Nanaya form once - and at Hermione, when she changed for the first time. Awestruck by the sublime, lethal beauty of whatever he was observing. Takara had known that, once upon a time, Galen had found her pretty. She hadn’t realised that she was still so, and more, in his eyes. She smiled in embarrassed appreciation, finally taking a good look at her date - and Takara froze.

Galen had always been one of those people that cleaned up well, and he’d made an obvious effort tonight. Where her colour scheme for the evening was blue and white, he’d chosen gray and black - charcoal gray, lighter than his usual duster. And he’d dressed in formal wizarding robes, as opposed to her more mundane attire. He did wear a bow tie instead of the typical necktie he wore as part of their Hogwarts uniform, but it was about his only concession. Except . . .

“Is that a clip-on?” she asked.

Galen smiled sheepishly. “I didn’t really want to wear another noose while on holiday - I have to put up with it for far too long at Hogwarts. Normally, I reserve ties for weddings and funerals.”

Takara thought about chiding him, but given the enchantments on her footwear, she supposed she couldn’t really fault him for that. And besides, he looked good. The clothes hung on his frame, hinting at the power it contained, and if he wasn’t as muscularly built as Shirou (or Neville, the way he was shaping up), there was a quiet strength there, nonetheless. If Shirou was the rock you could hide behind, Galen was the tree you could shelter in. And despite having seen him naked over the summer (regardless of her best efforts), she had to admit the tailoring made him seem more enticing. It was almost as good as when he wore his duster, which Takara thought was still his best accessory. It was like James Bond - he could look good in anything, but he was perfect in the tuxedo.

He would never grace a magazine cover, but she realised for the first time that Galen could look attractive, as well.

Galen held out a small velvet box. “When your mother described your dress, I thought it had to have these to complement it.”

Puzzled, she opened the box to find a wrist corsage of white roses.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, meaning it even as part of her was not liking this at all. Mainly because . . .

“You remembered,” Takara murmured.

“You looked lovely then, as you do now,” he whispered in her ear, as he slipped the band onto her arm. “How could I forget?”

Naturally, nothing would do but that they pose for photographs before following her parents to the Aerie. While not a fan of Floo travel, she had to admit that Galen was very conscientious about making certain she didn’t fall - he held onto her the entire trip, only letting go when he himself began to fall. Fortunately, she was fast enough, and strong enough to catch him.

The food served was a long buffet of various hors d’oeuvres, against one wall of the Aerie’s grand ballroom. Naturally, dancing was part of the affair, as was talking and chatting with the guests. Here, at least, Takara was lucky - in the matter of formal dance steps, Galen was proficient in only the waltz, so their time on the dance floor with each other was limited. She made time to dance with Shirou and Neville, and Galen waltzed with their escorts, Ilya and Hermione. In Luna’s case, she seemed disinterested in dancing when Galen offered - but she seemed to have cornered Neville once, as did Ginny. The latter, however, focussed on Shirou. Unfortunately for her Ilya was fairly adept at running interference. Ginny got her dance, but she failed to monopolise the wizard’s time.

Still, it was a nice party. The food was good, the company better, and Galen was always attentive, trying to make certain she had what she wanted. Takara knew very well that he hated formal affairs like this, but it didn’t show, presumably because he thought seeing him angry or annoyed would spoil her own mood. She really couldn’t have asked for a better date.

How annoying.

Galen leaned against a corner of the wall unobtrusively, observing the party as he waited for Takara to come back from the bathroom. Ginny had shanghaied her earlier, and he expected a good ten minute wait.

Having no prior dating experience, he had to assume this was going well. He hadn’t stepped on Takara’s feet that he was aware of, he’d tried to make sure she had refreshments when she wanted them, and taken pains to keep aware of her without crowding too closely. He’d also tried to give her ample time to dance with Shirou, which he presumed she wanted, and managed to snag a few himself with his other friends. He’d avoided touching anywhere she didn’t want touched, and managed not to fall on his head when either Floo travelling or dancing. Best of all, from the point of view of the assigned goals of this date, Takara hadn’t reacted to him at all - and he thought he’d managed to keep his reactions from her.

He’d only really seen Takara dress up once, after puberty - the summer festival where Shirou had tried to kill her. She’d looked good then, but he’d only observed her at a distance. Now he was up close and personal, and capable of getting input from all his senses.

Takara’s hair and skin were smooth and soft, and if her body wasn’t fully mature yet, he knew the end result of what it promised to be. Her eyes were big and bright, with both intelligence and emotion. She smelled of cinnamon, and her voice was musical - not like Luna’s, born of an accent, but in her tone. Takara, he well knew, was a beautiful singer, and it showed even in her speaking voice.

As a Servant, he’d admired her beauty, her spirit, and her love for her family. Now living again, teenaged hormones saw a very pretty girl, and he knew what it was to desire her, as well. And it was taking a fair amount of willpower to lock that desire away. Takara had been very clear: she expected nothing to result from this. She wanted nothing to result from this, so that she could date Shirou with a clear conscience. Ergo, he needed to show no reaction, no hint that he wanted anything more - and hope that anything he did failed to incite a similar reaction in her. Because Takara had also been very clear that she expected his best efforts tonight. There was no especial reason to think he could actually woo her successfully, of course. Even aside from the fact that she knew him too well for his attempts at being charming to be effective, he had years of failure at the task to draw upon as proof of his inability to accomplish it. Then again, with his luck, this would be the time it worked.

Still, Galen thought he’d succeeded. Takara had never been easy for him to read unless she was angry - and as she wasn’t, he had to assume things were going well. And the night was nearly over. One way or another, the task would be at an end.

“Ladies and gentleman,” Ilya called. “As it’s nearly midnight, we’re beginning the final dance of the evening. Please, grab your partner of choice, because by dance’s end, the year will, too!”

“Mother always told me,” Takara said, abruptly at his elbow, “that you save your last dance for the man who brought you to the ball.” She crooked her arm. “Shall we?”

“Ma belle ange de la nuit,” he responded, taking her elbow and leading her to the dance floor. Ilya waved her wand, and from the first notes, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHnZ_vtyJ6E) he shot her a glare. Using this song was just cruel!

Takara felt Galen stiffen slightly when the music started playing, meaning that he recognised the tune, although she didn’t. However, he forcibly relaxed (an oxymoron, but somehow accurate). As before, he took her in his arms, and they began to move. Takara had always been sensitive to the touch, and since joining with the owl, that sensitivity had seemed to increase somewhat. As a result, she read a number of subtle nuances in Galen’s embrace.

Warmth. He was always warm, and that heat was easily shared. His grip, always strong, was firm but gentle - so gentle. So careful, not as though he was afraid she’d break, but was afraid of hurting her. And he could, she knew. That heat could flare into a terrible fire, one that a dark part of her admitted excited her as much as it scared her. Where she had been trained through her martial arts to use control, he surrendered to his passions, in the end. And he could do so much. He had killed. He had saved lives. He had died, and lived, and died and lived again. He had faced spirits and demons and gods, created and destroyed worlds. He was a bitter old cynic, nihilistic and self-destructive . . . And he was gentle, because he was afraid of hurting her. He was shy, to the point where he had to steal a kiss rather than take it. He’d said he loved her - and he treated her as though he cherished her.

Midnight was called, and he leaned in to kiss her. His technique was no different at fourteen than it had been at seven: soft, gentle - chaste. He would take no more than she offered, and be grateful for it. As powerful and dangerous as he was, she was the one in control. If she asked, he would stay with her. He would love her the rest of their lives, and do whatever he could for her. And if it wasn’t precisely romantic love between them, it could be, given time enough. On the other hand, one word, one gesture, and he would disappear . . . Not because he wanted to, not now, but because she’d asked him to. He wasn’t mindless, or spineless - but he regarded her wishes as paramount.

Takara knew now. Galen did love her, as much as he could - as much as whatever he understood of love allowed him to. If she wanted him, he could and would be hers, as loyally her love as he’d been her Servant, or Ilya’s knight. The choice was, and always had been, hers.

“Happy New Year,” Galen whispered, as they parted and left the dance floor. He escorted her to her parents, who would see her home - he had to rely on being Side-Along Apparated by one of the Einzberns.

. . . So the question is, what choice do I want to make?

March 28th, 2011, 09:52 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 25 - New Term, Old Troubles

January 2 - 16, 1994

Takara felt more than a little silly, perched on the luggage rack of their compartment, but there hadn’t been a whole lot of choice. The Hogwarts Express berths were designed to seat six, at most, and that made a group of seven a problem. Up until now, none of them had managed to take the train all at the same time - Galen had used the Floo to get to Hogwarts this fall, and even in the preceding summer, Ginny had been engulfed by her family - but upon doing so, getting things arranged was something of a problem. Granted, Luna and Ginny individually were small enough that they might be able to share a single space - or sit in someone’s lap - but it wasn’t going to be a feasible option forever.

In their upper years, Takara imagined they’d siphon off into groups of two and a trio, or a group of three and four, but at the moment they were all young enough and potentially vulnerable enough to want to not be separated. Thus, she found herself in owl form, nesting between trunks, as it she was the only Animagus of their group small enough to pull it off - and with a form the wizarding world wouldn’t question, beyond wondering whose owl she was. And to be wholly honest, she was wondering that herself.

She’d slept poorly in the hours following the party. Up until this point, while she had considered Galen as a potential partner, she hadn’t actually thought of him in a romantic sense - foolish, as his inherent nature was definitely a romantic one. Given that he was prone to grand gestures, melodramatic fits, and had a certain naivete about practical matters, “romantic” was a description that fit his personality quite obviously. And it had been one of the things that irritated her, hadn’t it? That he could be so sweet, and so obviously intent on making her feel special - and then turn around and do the same for Hermione, and to a lesser extent, Luna. It was that the efforts weren’t exclusively for her that had bothered her.

But they could be. If she chose him, if she asked, he would be as faithful a partner as she’d wish. He would still care for Hermione and Luna, still look out for them, but to him the truest expression of love was loyalty - with his history, it couldn’t be anything else. He would stay with her, be hers, if she asked . . . But did she want to ask? The problems associated with a relationship with Galen hadn’t changed. He seemed a little less suicidal, but he was still a werewolf in a world that loathed his kind. Still a gaijin, which she had sworn never to marry.

And then there’s Hermione . . .

Hermione loved him. How deeply, and to what extent, Takara couldn’t be sure. Up until the end of the Harry Potter movies, she’d been sure Hermione would end up with Harry - she was far more affectionate, and shared far more intimate moments with him, than she did with the man she’d apparently ended up marrying. So the fact that Hermione behaved much the same with Galen as she did with Harry obviously meant little - judging by what Takara had seen, Hermione preferred someone who would indulge her masochistic streak. Therefore, it might not be so terrible if Takara wound up with Galen. But if she was wrong, it could destroy her friend - and it would destroy Galen, to do that to her.

Takara’s musings were cut off by the compartment door opening to admit Draco and the Bookends, and she fidgeted in anticipation of the show as they shut the door behind them.

“Well, well,” Draco said haughtily, his smirk firmly fixed in place. “I’ve got to admit I’m surprised, Salvatore - I didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to show your face after that article in the Daily Prophet.”

Galen matched the smirk with his own and replied, “Whereas I was certain you’d show up here, Malfoy - I know you are that stupid.”

Draco’s smirk vanished, and his eyes were like rings of gray ice. “Maybe you don’t understand your situation, Salvatore - the right words from me, in the right ears, and you’ll be chased out of Hogwarts by a torch-bearing mob. Assuming, of course, that somebody doesn’t feel like getting a new rug from your hide. From now on, you and your friends will do as I say, when I say - or pay the forfeit.”

Galen’s smirk remained in place. “Malfoy, there are only a few words you’ll ever speak about this - “

”Stupefy!” called Shirou and Ginny, and twin scarlet bolts struck the Slytherin’s two thugs.

“Colloportus,” Galen called, and the compartment door gave off a squelching sound as it wedged itself firmly shut. “Muffliato.”

“Expelliarmus,” Luna said coolly, and the blond Slytherin slammed up against the door, his half-drawn wand sailing forward into her lap.

Draco struggled to rise, but Galen was already out of his seat, and snapped, “Locomotor mortis.” With a snapping sound, the blonde boy’s legs pulled together as though magnetised, rendering Draco’s efforts to get up next to impossible.

“You’ll pay for this, Salvatore!” Draco shouted. “I’ll tell the entire castle what you are! By this time tomorrow, you’ll be gone - or dead!”

“That’s the second time you’ve given me a choice, Draco,” Galen replied, advancing on him. “So to be fair, I’ll give you the same. Your first option is to swear an Unbreakable Vow to never mention my condition to anyone, under any circumstances.”

Draco was pale, but still defiant. “An Unbreakable Vow? Ha! What makes you think you can threaten me into that? Figure you’ll offer to let it kill me instead of you? You wouldn’t dare kill me - everyone would know what you are, then, werewolf!”

“Oh Draco,” Galen said, and Takara shivered. His voice was a breathy, singsong tone, as though he spoke to a lover. “I’m not going to kill you. I’m going to share. As you just pointed out, I am a werewolf - and we’re infectious even in human form.”

Galen’s eyes seemed darker than normal, but they glittered with a fey light that was half-madness, half-malice. He knelt down, and stroked the blond boy’s throat. “You have an artery, right there - oooh, such soft skin. It will be easy to tear with my teeth. It’s a pity you came in so far away from Hogsmeade - you might bleed to death before Madam Pomfrey can reach you. Still, our kind heal quickly, so you might survive . . .” He added curiously, “I wonder if you’ll want to?”

Draco’s eyes were almost entirely white, because even Takara could see it. Galen wanted to bite him. He was very nearly salivating over the prospect of ripping out the Slytherin’s throat. She remembered what he’d told them about Fenrir Greyback, and suddenly understood - this is what Galen would’ve been like if he’d embraced his curse. If he’d never had friends to help him learn and remember the value of being human.

“Y -You . . . You wouldn’t,” he stammered. “They’ll throw you in Azkaban - they’ll execute you.”

“Maybe,” Galen said in a cheerful, almost manic voice. “But that won’t help you, will it?” His voice regained that husky singsong quality. “What’s it to be, Draco? Will you take the Vow . . . Or do I get a new baby brother?” He sounded genuinely excited about the prospect.

He stroked the Slytherin’s hair gently, smiling all the while as Draco trembled under the contact. Galen’s smile widened into something that couldn’t really be called a smile, showing his teeth, and he leaned over as if to kiss the other boy. Takara’s owl sight saw Draco flinch the moment Galen’s breath touched his neck.

He bleated like a lamb being slaughtered. “I’LL SWEAR! I’LL SWEAR! I’LL SWEAAAARRR!”

“Shirou,” Galen said in a low tone, and he was there almost instantly, placing the tip of his wand over their clasped arms.

“Will you, Draco Malfoy, never reveal my nature by word, thought, action or inaction?”

“I will,” Draco said fearfully.

A tongue of scarlet flame spat from Shirou’s wand, looping around in a Mobius strip to bind the two wizards together, before flaring gold and vanishing.

Galen smiled. “Then that’s all I could ask.” He stood up. “Finite Incantatem.”

“Rennervate,” Shirou and Ginny said, as Galen sat back down, plucking Draco’s wand from Luna’s grasp, and tossed it in his direction before unsealing the door.

“Goodbye, Draco,” Galen said mildly.

Draco picked up his wand and fled, the two goons following close behind.

Takara watched as Galen sagged, shuddering once, before saying cheerfully. “That was almost fun.”

Shirou stared. “OK, honestly, that is why you scare me - the fact that you can change moods like flipping a switch.”

Galen closed his eyes, and said wearily, “Roleplay long enough, especially on the game master’s side of the table, and you learn to get in and out of character fast.”

“And what kind of character was that?” Ginny demanded incredulously.

“A blend of equal parts of the Master from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Bellatrix Lestrange.” Galen winced. “Sorry, Neville.”

“It’s . . .” Neville broke off, swallowing hard. “. . . It’s OK. Are you?”

“I wouldn’t say no to a Chocolate Frog,” Galen murmured, his eyes still closed. “Haven’t had to play things that dark in a while, and it’s draining . . . But things should be safe now. He can’t discuss my condition with anyone who doesn’t know about it - which means Snape, since he can’t be sure anyone else does. Even Legilimency will break the Vow, since I included ‘thought,’ and he’ll be forced to protect my secret from other people trying to discover it, or break the ‘inaction’ clause.” Galen smiled. “Of course, he’ll want revenge worse than ever - but Draco values his life over everything else. Short of outright Obliviating him, my secret’s now as safe as anything in the world possibly can be.”

Galen was still a little weary when they got off the train - aside from the efforts he’d undertaken, it was a long trip - so upon hearing that the Headmistress wanted to see him immediately, his first impulse was to ignore it. Fortunately or unfortunately, however, his mind wasn’t so far gone as to do so, and he immediately made his way to the cat statue that guarded her office.

Once inside, McGonagall was straight to business. “Firstly, Mister Salvatore, I want to assure you that I am doing everything possible to secure a Potions Master of sufficient skill to brew your medicine while Severus Snape is recovering from his injury - but it is difficult, and there may not be sufficient time.”

“Takara and Hermione are fairly confident they can brew it themselves,” Galen replied.

The old witch’s eyebrows vanished into the brim of her hat. “Are they indeed? I was unaware that they even knew of your condition . . .” Galen simply looked at her, and McGonagall added, “Though I suppose it should have gone without saying. Nevertheless, while both are bright young ladies - Miss Granger in particular - I am given to understand that the Wolfsbane Potion is a highly complex and demanding one to create, one of the main reasons that it is so infrequently used.”

Galen cleared his throat. “Actually, Headmistress, they gained access not only to Professor Snape’s copy of the recipe, but his own personal notes regarding it. It seems our esteemed Potions Master has worked out a process that makes it simpler to brew - and potentially more beneficial to the lycanthrope.”

McGonagall’s eyebrows did their vanishing trick again. “I see.” Her gaze turned measuring. “And would their method of gaining access have involved the use of Miss Granger’s Time-Turner?”

“No,” Galen said flatly. “Having been there when it happened, I can assure you it didn’t.”

She held that measuring gaze on him for a moment longer, then relented. “Technically, Mister Salvatore, I should punish the lot of you severely for having the audacity to rifle through a teacher’s private files - but in this case, I can understand the need. And as Severus is still recovering at St. Mungo’s . . .” The old witch pursed her lips.

“At the moment,” she said carefully, “I have been able to convince the Board of Governors that every possible security measure has been taken in regards to Professor Lupin, and that they have been effective thus far. My case was helped by the fact that in the months since Professor Lupin’s appointment, there has been no threat to the staff or students caused by his presence.” She smiled thinly. “Indeed, I will admit taking some pleasure that when that damnable article was thrust in my face, I could proudly point out that until that moment, no one at Hogwarts had even suspected the presence of a werewolf. As there is no legal reason to dismiss him at this time, they have agreed to continue retaining Professor Lupin until the end of the year, at which point the impact of his presence on school grounds will be reevaluated.

“It would be greatly beneficial,” McGonagall admitted quietly, “if a continued lack of incidents could be included as part of that reevaluation. Both to Professor Lupin’s suitability as a professor, and my own as Headmistress.” She looked at him steadily. “Are you absolutely certain, Mister Salvatore, that Miss Granger and Miss Aozaki can do what they claim?”

“I’d trust them both with my life,” Galen said firmly.

“In this case, Mister Salvatore - you are. And with the lives of everyone else in this castle, as well.” She wavered for a moment, and then said, “Very well. I shall ask Professor Dumbledore to oversee their work, but I suppose Severus would not describe Miss Aozaki as “the only adequate brewer in Gryffindor” if he was not impressed by her abilities. And it would be ridiculous of me to say I have no faith in Miss Granger, when I went to such lengths to procure a Time-Turner for her use.”

She paused. “That brings us to the second reason for my asking to see you, Mister Salvatore. How is Miss Granger faring?”

Galen closed his eyes and mentally evaluated how much of the truth to give her before he answered.

“So far, she seems to be all right,” he said finally. “She’s taken to eating more at meal times - which makes sense, since she’s burning more calories, and we’d notice two or three of her in the Great Hall at the same time.” He neglected to mention that she was eating more because he was slipping it onto her plate, not because she was choosing to do so herself.

“I am concerned about her sleeping habits,” Galen said. “With the Time-Turner, she can actually get ten or twelve hours’ worth of rest, but if she stays up for a full day to study or work on assignments, that won’t help her - and knowing Hermione, she’ll be tempted to do just that the closer we get to final exams. She’s limited, though, in that the girls’ dorm is the only place she can sleep. Could you maybe instruct Madam Pomfrey to set a cot aside for her, and write Hermione a note about it? With the privacy shades, no one needs to know it’s Hermione in the bed, and it’s a private place where no one will think to look for her, and she won’t look out of place if they do.”

There’s also the Room of Requirement, but we use that often enough that she can’t necessarily trust it will be open. The Hospital Wing is a constant, on the other hand.

“An excellent suggestion,” McGonagall admitted. “Point to Gryffindor.” She set quill to parchment, sealed it with the Time-Turner inside, and handed it to Galen. “Very well, Mister Salvatore - deliver that to Miss Granger, please. You may inform her that I will be speaking to her and Miss Aozaki about their extracurricular Potions project later this week. For now, you’re dismissed.”

Nodding, he left the office, and headed downstairs to the Great Hall for supper. He handed Hermione the package, and told her that the Headmistress had instructed that she not open it in public. Hermione nodded, her face betraying no hint that she knew what it was.

Dinner was pleasant, although Galen was aware of several venomous looks Malfoy shot his way. He didn’t let it bother him - Malfoy’s lips, willingly or unwillingly, were sealed, and in just about any other area, Galen was confident that he and his friends could take him. In the meantime, he considered what having to brew Wolfsbane might do to Hermione’s schedule.

She nearly burned out in the original third year from all the course work, and researching Buckbeak’s defence, and the fights with her friends, and trying to protect Harry from all the typical weirdness. We’ve eliminated the last two, but added brewing Wolfsbane, our own version of the usual weirdness, and, from what Takara was telling me, possibly a revamped version of S.P.E.W. While the level of life-threatening stress might be a bit lower, Hermione’s got enough on her plate now to work herself to the bone. Is there anything else I can do . . .?

The main problem was food and rest. As long as she was getting enough of each, Galen had confidence in Hermione’s ability to function. Food he could handle himself, but the only way to check her sleeping habits was to actually be in the tower with her - and the enchantments on the staircase wouldn’t let him up . . . Ah!

After dinner, as they ascended to Gryffindor Tower, Galen pulled Hermione aside, away from the portraits and with no one else within sight or hearing range.

“With all your courses, you looked a little peaky by the end of last term,” he said quietly. “I don’t quite know what your schedule’s like, but if you feel the need for a kip, and can’t use the girls’ dorms for whatever reason . . .” He withdrew the folded Deathcloak and handed it to her. “This should let you crash in ours - or anywhere else - without too many rumours starting.”

Hermione stared at the silver bundle in her hands, before stowing it out of sight in one of her robe’s pockets. “I’ll take care of it,” she promised, then looked at him sharply, eyes narrowed in thought. “Galen?”

“Yes?” he said calmly.

“Why do expect this to be useful to me? I mean, under what circumstances could I need to sleep, and not be able to use my own bed - or able to use one of yours?”

“The same circumstances that lets you take three separate classes scheduled for nine o’clock, I’d imagine,” Galen countered. “I’m just trying make sure you don’t burn yourself out, Hermione. You’re smart enough, and capable enough, to take care of yourself - but when you get focussed on something, you tend to overlook little things.”

Her shoulders relaxed. “Fair enough.”

Mentally, Galen sighed in relief. He hadn’t lied, hadn’t necessarily evaded the question, just created circumstances where she had to drop the line of inquiry or break her own confidences. Curse McGonagall for swearing him to secrecy! Still, he was much relieved that Hermione had better options when he went to sleep that night. And if Galen thought he felt a presence join him in the night, he was still mostly asleep, and not inclined to confirm it. And when it was gone in the morning, convincing himself it had been his overactive and hormonal imagination was that much easier.

The days passed quickly as the new term began with new subjects - Palmistry for the Divination students, and Salamanders in Care of Magical Creatures. Transfiguration was resumed, at least temporarily, by the Headmistress, while Professor Dumbledore was the substitute Potions instructor. The Mind Healers at St. Mungo’s were still attempting to undo the damage Snape’s magic had done to his hand when Takara had attacked. It amused Shirou when he thought about it. Her Occlumency defence might have resembled the use of her old powers, but in application, she was cribbing Galen’s.

Ravenclaw trounced Slytherin, but Gryffindor was still well in the lead for the Quidditch Cup, and Arithmancy was beginning to cover how to use numbers to break down spells for analysis. Here, Shirou had an advantage - Galen had learned, and subsequently taught them, a number of diagnostic charms in first year. They weren’t wholly applicable, bur he was able to use some of them, and things he’d learned while using them, to excel at the process. He was beginning to learn how to identify various functions and parameters of a spell. Hopefully, he’d also learn how to create them.

In the meantime, there was the Duelling Club.

The notice had gone up within the first week of returning to Hogwarts, and there was enough interest left over from the previous year to generate excitement about its return. Shirou admitted that he’d enjoy it just for the chance to take the rust off his magical combat skills - formalised duels would have rules that their usual spars didn’t, but at the same time, it would be a much wider variety of opponents, including a number of older students, presumably. Maybe he’d learn something.

Of course, Wood was holding Quidditch practice five nights a week, which made the idea of attending a fantasy. The older Gryffindor was entirely too set on the idea of winning the Quidditch Cup to even consider the idea that his players might have other things they wanted to do. And of course, Takara was stuck, as well - and with her schedule, Hermione couldn’t participate, either. That left Galen and Neville by themselves, with Luna and Ginny to look after, since the latter was definitely interested in the club, and Luna would go where her friends did.

Not good, he decided. It wouldn’t be so bad after the Ravenclaw game - assuming Gryffindor won, their lead would basically make the Cup’s appointment a formality, and Shirou and Takara would be free to join the Duelling Club. But that was at least two weeks away, and in the meantime, the four of them would have targets painted on their backs.

It wasn’t that they couldn’t take care of themselves - actually, they were better prepared for fights than the majority of the castle. It was that duels were one on one, where none of them could protect each other, and while they might not fight anyone but their own year-mates (depending on how Lupin organised it), Malfoy was certainly carrying enough grudges for five people - and wouldn’t be above bribing people to send them against Ginny and Luna, just to hurt the rest of them.

And we’ve always made an effort to hide just how good we are, so that we have a surprise up our sleeves for real fights. That’s going to make this so much harder.

Add that to the fact that most people were tense around Lupin, now that his condition was publicly known, and the Duelling Club could get really interesting, in the ancient Chinese sense, really fast.

Normally, I’d ask Fred and George to keep an eye on things, since I can’t do it myself, but they’re with me, and there’s nobody else I’d trust. Creevey would try, but he’s too damned young to be effective, and all the older students I know are on the Gryffindor team. Damn it, we’ve got to start cultivating friends - or at least allies - in the other houses. We’re too isolated, as situations like this prove. It’s a flaw in the house system, that the only way we really interact with the others is competitively. Even classes are opportunities to score points for Gryffindor over the others, which makes it awfully hard to make friends.

Shirou ran through a mental list of students he might trust to watch over his friends in the other houses. He knew a couple of Ravenclaws in Arithmancy, but neither of them struck him as the combative type. Slytherin was the source of the problem . . . Did he know anybody in Hufflepuff?

Maeve, he realised. Galen’s sister was only a first-year, but she might be able to get him in the door. Beyond that, he knew Susan Bones’ aunt was the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement - he could trust her to be fair and watchful, if not necessarily effective in stopping conflicts. But the Hufflepuff Seeker had struck him as a decent guy, and Galen had mentioned his being good enough to represent the school in a tournament next year, which meant he had to be fairly impressive.

And Hufflepuff prizes loyalty and fair play - I can trust them to cry foul, at least. It’ll back them up when it comes to reporting conflicts, even if it doesn’t give them much in the way of extra firepower during a fight.

His course decided, Shirou remembered that the Hufflepuff dorms were supposed to be in the dungeons - as indicated by informal jokes about “the Badgers’ Den” - but also remembered that they’d never actually found them last year, when hunting for the holder of Riddle’s diary.

That could be problematic, Shirou realised, before remembering that they’d found something this year that could prove helpful.

Once again, Shirou ventured to Gryffindor Tower, and rooted through the heavy security on Galen’s trunk.

“I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” he informed the Marauder’s Map.

I’m hoping to do a lot better than “good,” actually.

He hurried down the staircase, and paused as he heard a steady crackling sound. Puzzled, Shirou traced the sound to its source - a window that was rapidly, inexplicably covering over with a thick layer of frost . . . And outside it, in the distance, a fleeting ripple of black on black in the night sky that only an eagle might’ve seen.

A Dementor? But what would they be doing here again, unless . . . Sirius!

Shirou ran.

March 28th, 2011, 09:55 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 26 - The Return of the King

January 16, 1994

“Expecto patronum,” Ginny called, and a thin streamer of silver mist emerged from her wand. Scowling, she stared at the dissipating substance as though it had mortally offended her.

“Stupid charm . . . Why won’t it work?”

“It’s very advanced magic,” Hermione reminded her. “Most adult witches and wizards can’t create one, and you’re only in your second year. The fact that you can conjure even a little wisp like that is very impressive, Ginny.”

“Says the girl who can call up hers without Galen’s help now,” Ginny muttered under her breath.

“It seems to be one of the benefits of harmonising with my Animagus form,” Hermione said, as though Ginny had spoken at a normal volume. “My emotions are . . .” She hesitated, as if unsure of the proper word, before settling on “clearer.”

“Hearing, too,” Takara noted with a grin.

“True,” Hermione noted ruefully. “All of my senses seem to have been augmented to some degree - though they’re still not as powerful as when I’m in my lioness form.” She canted her head to one side in order to regard Takara. “How are yours?”

“My eyes are sharper,” Takara admitted. “Especially in the dark - they’re about as good as Shirou’s, then. Hearing’s a little more sensitive, too - especially for quieter sounds. Owls don’t have much of a sense of smell, though, so you and Galen still have a sharper nose than I do.”

“Speaking of Galen,” Ginny said slyly, “how was it? And how did it compare, exactly?”

Takara blinked. “How was what? And compared to what?”

Ginny snorted. “Takara, you’ve been on dates with both the guys now - I want details! Surely you at least got a kiss out of them both!”

“Malfoy started hexing us before Shirou and I got anywhere near that point,” Takara said sourly. “And Galen was playing the gentleman escort on New Year’s Eve - aside from one peck on the lips at midnight, he only kissed my hand.” She blinked as something penetrated. “And you’re twelve - what kind of ‘details’ are you expecting, exactly?”

Ginny shrugged. “Well, you are older, right? You must know some things.”

“I’m thirteen,” Takara pointed out.

“No you’re not, you just look it.”

“OK, my body is thirteen, and as far as the world is concerned, so is the rest of me - which means there are things I’m not ready for, or even capable of!” She paused, before admitting softly, “Yet, anyway.”

“Oh,” Ginny said disappointedly. “I was kind of hoping you could tell me if Shirou’s a good kisser.”

Takara smiled. “Still into him?”

“After the basilisk?” Ginny exclaimed. “Are you kidding? I had a front row seat to that fight, and I’ve never seen anybody look so good in my life!” She shook her head. “He used a sword as an arrow, Takara - people don’t get any wickeder. Even with how scary that cloak is, I was flushing like I had a fever.”

“Scary?” Hermione said curiously. “What do you mean, Ginny?”

“Every time I’m under it, I shiver so much it feels like I’ve stepped into a winter breeze,” Ginny shivered. “It’s not so bad when I’m with other people, pressed beside them - but there was just Percy then, and he isn’t exactly the - what did Galen call it? The ‘touchy-feelie’ type?”

Takara frowned. That wasn’t a described effect of the cloak that she knew of - but they’d already determined that the Deathcloak had attributes beyond what the novels spoke of. It seemed a true Deathly Hallow, rather than a wizard-wrought artefact, as Dumbledore believed.

“I know I’m not fond being under it,” Takara said. “Being invisible throws some of my reactions off - but I handle it better than Shirou does. Then again, I’ve had some stealth training he might not have . . . Hermione, has the cloak ever bothered you like that?”

The bushy-haired witch frowned. “No, but I’m usually with Galen when I use it.”

“The ultimate teddy bear?” Ginny teased. “Comes with its own set of fangs and everything?”

Hermione flushed red, and if Takara was reading her body language right, she was as much embarrassed as angry. No one would know going by her voice, though, which was sharp.

“That’s hardly fair, Ginny! Galen is a very nice person - ”

“When he’s not threatening to tear someone’s throat out with his teeth?” Ginny finished. “I was sure he was going to bite Draco for a minute.”

“Well, it convinced Malfoy to take the Vow, didn’t it?” Hermione countered. She shook her head. “I’ve been looking into some of the laws surrounding werewolves - did you know Dolores Umbridge is trying to pass a number of new ones to prevent them from holding jobs?”

“What’s that got to do with it?” Ginny asked.

“When you treat werewolves like monsters, how should you expect them to react?” Hermione responded. “They’ll get angry, they’ll get desperate, until they’re willing to do anything they can to strike back at the people who are hurting them.” She glared at Ginny, brown eyes very cold. “That’s why Voldemort had so many of them follow him - because he promised them better treatment than they were getting.”

Ginny flinched at the “Alias-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named,” though perhaps she had more right than most witches, having actually met an incarnation of Tom Riddle, and held up her hands in surrender.

“Sorry.” The younger girl shook her head. “It’s just - well, being a werewolf doesn’t help, but he’s not exactly the friendliest of blokes, is he?”

Hermione blinked. “I don’t understand.”

“You wouldn’t,” Ginny said assertively. “You’re part of the clique. But in your entire year, there’s the five of you, and then the others. If we split it into boys, it’s Galen, Shirou and Neville - and then Dean and Ron. And while Galen’s friendly enough with Dean, he deliberately excludes Ron - and Neville and Shirou follow his lead, mostly.” She turned to Takara. “I’d figure you know him best, so maybe you can tell me what his problem is. Galen seems to have no problems being friends with me, or the twins - so what’s he got against Ron, specifically?”

Takara winced inwardly. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to try and explain this - assuming that she could.

“Part of it’s the rat,” Takara offered at last. “Galen figured he’d try to kill it as soon as he saw it. That would let to a fight, or explanations, and he decided it was better to let sleeping rats lie. That’s how it’s lasted this long, and there was no point hanging around it, letting it pick up information, in case Galen couldn’t kill it, and it got away.”

Ginny grimaced, no doubt picturing the fight that would’ve erupted if Ron caught him in the process of trying to kill - or outright killing - Scabbers. Still, she persisted, “And what’s the rest of it?”

Takara grimaced. She didn’t want to discuss this, especially with Hermione there.

The witch in question chose now to add her two cents. “Come on, Takara - you said the rat was only part of the problem. What else is there?”

That he spent seven years mentally and emotionally abusing you to varying degrees. That he did things in sixth year from no other reason than to deliberately hurt you. That he abandoned you, potentially to die, of his own free will - and that the act was so predictable that Dumbledore set up a return mechanism at least a year in advance by willing Ron that lighter gizmo. And that despite all that, you chose him, married him - and that his behaviour at the end of the movies showed he hadn’t changed at all. That thought makes him sick over what Weasley might be doing, and have done, to you - the fact that you didn’t say a word to Harry, your best friend, gave him the shivers.

And given that the universe seems to go to extreme lengths to follow the original plot at times, his greatest nightmare that it’s going to happen again.

Takara shook her head, and replied, “You’ll have to ask Galen.” She tilted her head and looked at Ginny. “Why the sudden interest?”

Ginny blushed. “Well . . . You know how Malfoy always has it in for Shirou? Ron’s like that with Galen. He seems to think that Galen stole Shirou from him as a friend - he’s been really bitter about it since Shirou got all that attention over killing the basilisk last year. And since the twins and I made friends with you three. . .”

Takara blinked. “I’m surprised - he hasn’t said or done anything about it, and he’s never been shy about telling people how he feels.”

“Because Galen’s hardly ever alone, almost never near Ron, and I’ve managed to talk him out of it so far,” Ginny replied. “But I was hoping I could get Galen to lighten up before my brother does something drastic.”

“Don’t you mean to say, ‘before my brother does something stupid?’” Hermione queried.

“I know my brother - that’s too much to ask for,” Ginny said with a grin, before her expression turned sober. “I just don’t want to see Ron end up in the Hospital Wing - or worse - because he decided to start shooting his mouth or wand off.”

Takara considered that, and finally replied, “They’ll never be friends, Ginny, but Galen’s managed to ignore Ron up to now, in spite of how much he dislikes him. I don’t see that changing any time soon.”

Sooner or later, I think I’m going to have to kill Ronald Weasley - and probably sooner.

This thought played in Galen’s head as Ron ranted at a volume that indicated he’d never heard of the concept of an “indoor voice.” The current topic was his whining over having to serve a detention McGonagall had assigned with Filch, polishing the trophy cases by hand.

You’d think after getting so many detentions for failing to hand in assignments, he’d be used to doing it that way by now, Galen thought. But every time, he treats it as though it’s unexpected, and a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Between the way he gripes about physical exertion and the way he eats, I’m amazed he doesn’t weigh three hundred pounds.

Normally, Galen would care less about Weasley’s location, condition or attitude. Unfortunately, he needed a decent idea of the redheaded idiot’s habits so as to concoct an optimal time and strategy for snatching the rat - and with The Plan approved by the official authorities, he saw no reason to put it off any longer.

I should’ve asked Neville to do this, Galen sighed. Why, oh why, don’t they teach us Silencing Charms until fifth year?

It might’ve been easier to tail Weasley if he hadn’t given Hermione custody of the Deathcloak, but he made do. In all honesty, few people usually paid attention to him, compared to Shirou or Takara - he wasn’t a Quidditch player, or had done anything really public like killing a Basilisk. His more impressive feats were talked about, but not fully believed, so staying unnoticed wasn’t too hard. He’d simply followed Weasley from the dungeons to the Gryffindor common room, and found a spot by the fire to read while Weasley and Dean played chess by a window. Granted, the dungeons had been the tricky part - but with Maeve in Hufflepuff, he had a ready-made excuse for wandering them if asked.

I really should make more time for her this semester - but the situation with the Wolfsbane Potion has taken up most of my time. Still, after we get the rat . . . He shook his head, and lifted his eyes to Weasley - to find the redhead glaring at him.

Did he spot me? Galen wondered - but Weasley didn’t get up and confront him. The conversation level did drop in volume, but not beyond the range of Galen’s hearing.

“Look at him,” Weasley muttered. “Sitting there, totally clueless as to what a lucky bastard he is.”

“Lucky?” Dean muttered. “You ever notice how often he winds up in the Hospital Wing?”

“That’s usually ‘cause Longbottom blew something up,” the redhead said dismissively. “And it blows over quick enough. And then he goes back to Einzbern and Aozaki, and Granger - ”

“And your sister?” Dean inquired mildly.

“And that’s another thing! How the hell did he snare Ginny, eh? Turns her back on her own flesh and blood to be with him.”

Galen mentally ran through anything he might have ever said or done to piss off the youngest Weasley boy, and came up with zilch. He’d made a habit of outright avoiding him for the last two and a half years - and if Pettigrew wasn’t playing at being his rat, wouldn’t be bothering with him now. So what the hell was his problem?

“They offered to be her friends,” Dean pointed out. “She should have said ‘no thanks?’”

“Yes! Well, no - but why be friends with him?”

“Because her friends are friends of his?” Dean asked drily. “Lovegood hangs around with them, she idolises Aozaki, and as for Einzbern . . .”

“Yeah, but . . . It’s not fair, Dean! Einzbern has money, and gets him invited to fancy parties. Aozaki’s one of the best damned Quidditch players there is, and she’s a good-looking bird, and Granger does his homework for him! And it should’ve been me!”

Ah, jealousy. Now things begin to make sense.

Dean said rationally, “According to Neville, they’ve been friends since they were practically in nappies, so the invite shouldn’t be surprising. Aozaki’s more interested in dating Einzbern than Salvatore, from what I’ve heard - and Granger doesn’t do his homework, she just helps him.”

“Yeah, and his grades are through the roof!”

“Because they study, Ron.” Dean sounded exasperated. “How many times have you seen them here with piles of books and parchment? Do you really think Granger does all their work?”

“Well, no, but - ”

“They work for their grades, even if they make it look easy,” Dean interrupted. “I’d bet money that’s a textbook Salvatore is studying. And Neville and Lovegood are in the library now, working on a Herbology assignment.”

“That’s another thing. How can they be friends with a squib like Longbottom, and Loony Lovegood, of all people, and not with me?!”

Because they’re nicer than you are, you bloody twit. And if Ginny and your brothers wouldn’t be on my case about it, I’d rearrange your internal organs without the use of magic or anaesthetic for that remark.

Conversation stopped as Shirou entered the common room. Galen noted it, but since Shirou had a “man on a mission” expression, assumed he’d ask for help if he needed it. As it was, they exchanged nods of acknowledgement, but there was no urgency in the motion. He went upstairs without a word.

“Lucky bastard,” Weasley grumbled, glaring at Galen afterwards. “Einzbern says hi to him, ignores us, and he acts like it’s no big deal. For two Knuts, I’d challenge him to a wizard’s duel.”

“Good luck,” Dean snorted. “Weren’t you paying attention in the Duelling Club last year? Hexing any of those three is almost impossible. Even if you’re fast enough to keep from being hit, you’ll never hit Aozaki. Einzbern’s almost as fast, and his spells pack a punch like a runaway Hippogriff. And Salvatore must’ve gone through every book on counter-jinxes in the library - nothing sticks long enough to throw him, if it even gets to him in the first place. Besides, you’ve heard what they say about his Shield Charms . . .”

“Rubbish,” the redhead proclaimed. “Shield Charms are for fourth-years, and no kid could cast spells like that anyway. Aozaki’s mum did something when the basilisk showed up, and Salvatore somehow got the credit. Like I said - he’s a lucky bastard.”

“Maybe,” Dean admitted. “On the other hand, those two keep hanging around with him for a reason - you have to think he’s able to keep up.”

Shirou came back downstairs, carrying a familiar piece of parchment half-concealed in one hand. He said nothing, but began heading back out the portrait hole and downstairs. Galen kept half an ear on his friend’s steps as they pounded the stone stairs - still no urgency.

Wonder what he’s up to? Galen mused. If I have to listen to much more of this, I’ll ask to join him . . .

Abruptly, the quality of Shirou’s steps changed, rapidly fading away.

Something’s wrong.

Galen set down his book, rose and began walking out of the common room as fast as he thought he could get away with, and not draw unnecessary attention.

“What’s the matter?” Weasley called. “Don’t want to let Einzbern out of your sight? Scared he’ll make a better friend?”

Screw it.

Galen flicked his wrist, and put on a burst of speed. His aim wasn’t ideal, but apparently good enough - he heard Weasley cry out as at least one of the two Knuts he’d thrown struck home. As pleasant as the sound was, though, he shunted it aside to concentrate on Shirou’s footsteps. Whatever was up, he suspected his friend would need backup. Unfortunately, Shirou was a faster runner, even though Galen had longer legs - and he had a head start.

Just hang on until I get there. That’s all I ask. Whatever happens, just hang on.

Chasing a black-cloaked Dementor across a black sky (it was January in Scotland - the sun never stayed up long, when it came out at all) wasn’t the most difficult thing Shirou had ever done, but it was a new Top 10 entry. Realising that he didn’t dare lose track of it, Shirou had taken to following its route on his current level, using the many windows as guidance. Of course, if the Dementor really was chasing Sirius, there was the question of how he was going to get from the seventh floor to ground level in time to stop it, but it wouldn’t matter if it got away beforehand.

Gradually though, Shirou realised that the Dementor’s route didn’t seem to involve chasing anything across the grounds. It was going in a straight line, overtop of the castle as though its prey wasn’t running away - there were far too many structures in the way to have seen anything, much less for an earthbound person to have run. The Dementor had to be going after a stationary target, then, and it wasn’t heading for the Whomping Willow, which was the only passage on the grounds which lead to the Shrieking Shack.

So, it’s not after Sirius? This doesn’t make sense - any of it! Why would a Dementor be on the grounds if not to deliver the “kiss on sight” order Fudge put into place regarding Sirius Black? Why a single Dementor . . .?

Shirou realised something abruptly, and added, And why is the Dementor flying so high up, where the Disillusioned Aurors aren’t likely to look?

After another few minutes of trailing the creature, its destination wasn’t too hard to guess.

It’s headed for the Defence tower, which means its target has to be Lupin. But why . . . Stupid question. Lupin is a werewolf, and you already know Umbridge has a zealot’s hatred for halfbreeds and creatures - and sufficient authority to dispatch Dementors. Removing a threat to the school - by her lights, at least - and damaging McGonagall’s credibility in the process, possibly allowing the Ministry to step in. Dad was right, she’s a vindictive bitch - and not completely brainless, either. Then again, I suppose that assessment should depend on how she planned to explain away a Dementor attack, given that the only reason they’re trusted at all is because they’re supposedly all under complete Ministry control.

. . . But the better question is, how exactly am I supposed to stop the damned thing?

Like most of his friends, Shirou had so far not managed to handle casting the Patronus Charm beyond a basic silver mist. While he had enough confidence in his Occlumency to be certain he wouldn’t be affected by the Dementor, he was nowhere near capable of driving one off yet. Lupin was, but if he was caught off guard, or somehow overwhelmed by the Dementor, then he’d have to manage it, somehow.

Should’ve grabbed Galen - his incomplete Patronus could’ve at least held it off for me, and maybe helped me drive it off, as well. I always seem a little closer under his shield. As it is, I’ve got to hope that striking a balance with my Animagus self will work as well for me as it did for Hermione.

It was a matter of some frustration among the trinity that none of them could conjure a corporeal Patronus - especially when there was no indication that power or focus was the issue. The only reasonable explanation Shirou had been able to work out for himself was that the happy memory he’d chosen simply wasn’t strong enough to do the job.

But if not Kiritsugu hauling me out of that ash pit, then what? I can’t use Rin - much as I love her, there’s too much pain associated with memories of her, as well. Damn it, I’m in the same boat as Galen - I’m too old, I’ve seen too much joy turn to ashes. True happiness just isn’t in me to feel . . . But Lupin’s life could be in danger. I have to try.

Kiritsugu would’ve tried. So would Rin. He believed that, and so he would as well, because they would’ve expected him to. Even if it got him killed, even if it was hopeless, he had to try. He’d given up on that for a while, but hanging around with the kids at Hogwarts was bringing it back to him. He had too many good friends - too many good people - around him to give up on that belief entirely a second time.

Then again, why am I surprised? These are her people, and she did what she did for them, as well.

The memory of her, of their first meeting, filled him. Though those days had been filled with uncertainty, and no small amount of fear and darkness, he’d walked away from it knowing that what he dreamed of was possible, embodied in the woman whose ideals matched his own. And whatever it had become later, he remembered the hope he’d had then - that she had given him. And he thought, perhaps, it would be enough.

For your people, Shirou resolved as he approached the classroom and hurried up the stairs to Lupin’s office, where the Dementor had to be heading. He threw open the door, and saw the Dementor approaching the window, over Lupin’s shoulder. It wasn’t close enough to be felt, yet - but it was too close for Lupin to act in time, as the older man was thoroughly distracted by Shirou’s abrupt entrance.

“Mister Einzbern?” Lupin said in shock. “What on earth is the meaning of - ?”

To protect them, as you once did me, Shirou thought, ignoring the man. And as the legend says you promised them.

“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” Shirou roared - and the rush of air which came with the blinding silver flash that followed was a matching roar unto itself, as the near-blazing form of his Patronus charged without hesitation into the fray. It streaked forth at the Dementor, sending it fleeing into the night, before looping around the tower, wings outstretched as it traced a lazy spiral over the grounds. Had it been able to speak, Shirou had no doubt the Patronus would be roaring in victory - and warning, to those who would dare invade its territory.

As it stood, the great, shining dragon drew itself level with the window to gaze at Shirou before nodding in acknowledgement, before fading away.

“Shirou . . .” Lupin began, then trailed off. “What . . . I’ve never seen such a large - or powerful - Patronus! How on earth did you manage to summon it?”

“I asked an old friend for help,” Shirou said quietly. “My partner, a very long time ago - and it seems she hasn’t given up on me yet.”

Thanks, Saber.

March 28th, 2011, 09:56 PM
Is there anything [i]else I can do . . .?[/o]


March 28th, 2011, 10:06 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 27 - The Countdown is Set

February 5, 1994

The weeks following the aborted Dementor attack were not good ones - if you were employed by the Ministry of Magic, anyway. It was a real contest as to who the media attacked harder. The candidates were the Azkaban staff who’d allowed one to go missing, the Aurors who allowed the Dementor onto the grounds of Hogwarts, the Ministry which insisted on employing the foul creatures and constantly assured people they had “total control” over them, the Ministry employee who’d taken it upon themself to loose the Dementor, or the Minister under whose watch this all occurred.

Under normal circumstances, the Ministry might have managed to quietly sweep all this under the rug - but unfortunately for them, the political implications of the attack were too explosive to simply ignore. Baroness Irisviel von Einzbern, German representative of the International Confederation of Wizards (and therefore an ambassador to and guest of magical Britain) had very clear, publically stated thoughts on the matter. Her son had been attacked by agents of the Ministry - again - and she would have the head of the person responsible, even if she had to remove it herself.

To give the Ministry credit at their ability to find a scapegoat, they’d tried to focus the blame on Hogwarts - slipshod security, setting themselves up as a target by employing a Dark creature in the first place. Minerva McGonagall, however, was blunt in her responses. Firstly, Hogwarts had never before needed to be secure against an invasion by the Ministry of Magic, and thus defences against its agents had not been considered.

Secondly, owing to rumours of a curse on the position, the post of teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts was an extremely difficult one to fill - and was required to be so on at least an annual basis. However, McGonagall had pointed out, whatever his status, Remus Lupin had proven himself to be an excellent teacher, as test scores across all seven years were at their highest level in the last decade. Indeed, he had managed to teach a third-year student the NEWT-level Patronus Charm, as evidenced by said student’s daring act to shield his professor from an assassination attempt apparently sanctioned by the Ministry itself.

No, it was not a good time to be Cornelius Fudge, or any of his political appointees. If you were Hermione Granger, however . . .

“That’s three more badges I’ve sold - and the day’s just starting!” the bushy-haired witch said excitedly at breakfast. “At this rate, LAPIS will have most of the school as members by the end of the year.”

Hermione’s new name for her venture was the Lycanthropic Awareness, Prevention, and Integration Society, and its symbol was an ultramarine-coloured crest with Da Vinci’s famous human figure sketch in scarlet, encircled by a white crescent moon. Her crusading zeal had been tempered a little - the pamphlets she handed out weren’t the excoriating essays on the injustices of werewolf life in magical society she’d originally planned. Instead, she spoke of her aims: to bring about societal changes which would allow werewolves to live peacefully within the wizarding community, without fear of being harmed, or of doing harm to others - and end predation by werewolves on witches and wizards.

Neville and Shirou had helped her refine her pamphlets, both having relatives who worked extensively (and successfully) in politics. Ginny had added her two cents as a representative of the “average witch or wizard,” having been raised in the magical world her entire life. Luna had volunteered the Quibbler’s printing presses for fast distribution, and the twins had helped Hermione charm the badges - not incidentally picking up some nifty tricks to help them mass-produce items for their intended joke shop.

None of this was cheap, but Hermione had helped raise money by patenting Snape’s less elaborate version of the Wolfsbane Potion with the Ministry of Magic. They had tested it the night after the Dementor attack, and it did work as well as the original recipe. While it still wasn’t easy to prepare, the ingredients were common enough that it wouldn’t be horrendously expensive to make - and no werewolf trying to stay under the radar would arouse suspicion by buying them. Which, of course, is why Hermione had the Quibbler run a copy of the recipe. It might not reach everyone, but hopefully it could help a few of them.

As for LAPIS’ success at school, it helped that Remus Lupin had been considered a favourite prior to the Prophet article, and one of the best teachers they’d ever had. Only the Slytherins were refusing to participate - but with the pressures that Baroness Einzbern was applying, to say nothing of Augusta Longbottom, werewolf rights might soon be a cause too fashionable to refuse championing.

And it’s all thanks to Great-Auntie Dolores, Galen thought with a smirk.

Whatever the official investigation turned up, he knew quite well who was responsible for the Dementor’s presence. The only question was whether she’d be caught, or the Ministry would use someone else as a scapegoat - and if the latter, whether Fudge would let her continue on, or take her out himself. Fudge was, first and foremost, a political animal - and however useful Umbridge might be, she’d now proven herself capable of going to extreme lengths to achieve her aims. He might have been ignorant of her behaviour before, but he certainly knew now, and Fudge had a history of dealing harshly with perceived threats to his power and position.

If it means we don’t have to deal with her in fifth year, I’m all for it. Of course, if we manage to stave off old Voldie’s resurrection, fifth year won’t be a problem, anyway. Well, aside from our O.W.L. exams, anyway. But even if we fail to stop Voldemort’s return, LAPIS could do him some major preventative damage. In canon, he supposedly had a tenth of the Death Eaters he did during the first conflict, and while he was always a terrorist as opposed to a general, the lack of numbers forces him to rely more on shock value than before. So, he recruits the monsters and the disenfranchised: Dementors, giants, werewolves.

But if we can make enough changes - or create enough hope for change - in wizarding society, there’s a good chance the majority of werewolves will support the status quo over Voldemort’s ambitions. That denies him one weapon, and maybe places it in our hands at the same time. And with mass access to the Wolfsbane Potion, the Ministry’s werewolves will have control on the full moon, and be able to coordinate attacks with the Aurors . . . Hopefully, anyway. If so, werewolves like Greyback won’t last long - not against a pack that can really think.

“Galen?” Neville’s voice broke into his thoughts. “I could use some help on this essay for Professor Lupin.”

“Sure, Nev. That’s the vampire one, right?” The other boy nodded. “I’m impressed. He just assigned it this week - you’ve got quite a while before it’s due.”

“Yeah, I know - but I figure, why put it off? Especially with the Hogsmeade weekend coming up.” Neville shrugged. “Anyway, I still don’t understand about the garlic. Do they have to eat it, or - ?”

Galen chuckled. “If you could get one to, I’d imagine it would be quite effective. No, it’s the smell, Nev. Remember how Quirrell used to hang the stuff in bunches in the classroom? If they had to eat it, it would’ve made more sense for him to carry it around in his pockets.” He smirked. “Although, if you ate it, I imagine you’d be fairly unappetising.”

“OK - and why garlic?”

“Like most vampiric weaknesses, it’s a purifying agent. It works on a spiritual level as well as the physical - garlic rubbed on doorways and windowsills is supposed to repel evil spirits. And on the physical level, it works specifically on blood, making it particularly nasty to vampires. I’ve never heard of one being killed by garlic exposure, but they can’t bear being near it.”

“Most weaknesses?” Neville queried.

Galen shrugged. “Fire, sunlight, anything blessed - purity, or agents of it, seems to be the root of a vampire’s weak points. Some legends even state that the stake used through their heart needs to be a special wood - in one case specifically, the same wood as Christ’s cross.”

“OK,” Neville nodded as he looked over his essay notes. “I’ve got a lot of that here. But you said ‘most’ weaknesses.”

“Well, decapitation will kill just about anything, for example,” Galen pointed out. “And you may have noticed that vampires are based mainly in Romania. They don’t tend to come to Britain, or much of anywhere else. Care to guess why?”

“Aside from that ‘legal status’ thing you mentioned? I did look that up, by the way - and if I was going to be treated that way in a foreign country, I’d cross it off my vacation list.” Neville grinned.

“That’s part of it. The other part is they’re tied to their native soil, somehow.” Rowling really bought into Stoker’s stereotypes, apparently. “And yeah, they could line a coffin with the stuff and travel, but what if it got lost or destroyed? Much safer to stay in your home country, where there’s plenty of it handy.” Galen shrugged again. “It’s why they didn’t take a big part in the Voldemort War.” He ignored Neville’s reflexive flinch, and finished, “Apparently, hiring out vampiric help is expensive, because of the risks to the vampire.”

Neville nodded. “Where did you get that from? It wasn’t in any book I checked in the library.”

Galen grinned. “Restricted Section - Professor Lupin decided he could do us a few favours. Just the monster books, though, nothing too flashy.”

Neville smiled. “I do like him. You think he’ll last out the year? Quirrell and Lockhart didn’t.”

“We can only hope,” Galen said solemnly. Then he glanced at his wristwatch. “Oh crap! Come on - Gryffindor’s match is about to start!”

Takara was looking forward to the game against Ravenclaw. Not that she didn’t always look forward to Quidditch matches - she wouldn’t play if she didn’t enjoy it - but this one promised to be especially fun. There was no vicious rivalry against Ravenclaw house, no possibility of a Dementor attack, and clear weather. Yes, this Quidditch match would be a great deal of fun - but there was one snag. Shirou wasn’t there.

Officially, her favourite redhead was in the Hospital Wing with a twenty-four hour bug, but Takara knew that had she possessed the ability to see through the Deathcloak, she might’ve spotted him heading for the Whomping Willow from her position on the pitch. Kiritsugu-san had warned them not to enact the plan after the Dementor attack: the patrolling Aurors were too keyed up, too angry at the media bashing they’d received. Among the better ones, there was also a note of recognition that the Prophet had been entirely wrong. The end result was that they might’ve shot first and asked questions never - too volatile an environment for their scheme.

But the Hogsmeade weekend on the eighteenth would do nicely - everyone should’ve calmed down by then, and relaxed their vigilance. And so Shirou was off to inform Sirius - and deliver the official messages from the ICW Security Division regarding their endorsement of the plan.

By this time next week, the major problems of the year will all be accomplished, Voldemort’s return will have been dealt a possibly fatal setback, and all that will be left is to pass our classes this year . . . And master that bloody Patronus Charm!

With Shirou’s success, Takara was annoyed at her own continued failure to perform the complete spell - she knew for a fact that he had darker and bloodier mental baggage than she did. Yet even with the help of Galen’s own Patronus Charm, she was unable to materialise her own into a coherent form. She wasn’t the only one - neither Galen nor Neville could manage it, either, and Ginny had only managed to conjure her eagle Patronus (quelle surprise, as her mother would say) a week ago, with Galen’s help - but it was still frustrating.

I’m saying the proper incantation, and moving my wand correctly. I have enough power. I know I do. And I can’t imagine it’s a lack of focus - between martial arts and Occlumency, focus hasn’t been a problem for quite a while. So if that’s not it, then . . . Then, what?

She’d made her peace with her inner owl, accepted the primal connection to her instincts and emotions - and yes, they did make them “clearer,” to use Hermione’s term. She reacted more strongly than she had in the past, felt things more intensely. If anything, it should’ve made conjuring a Patronus easier, as it had for Luna, Hermione, and Shirou. But the ability still eluded her.

The only thing left is the strength of the memory. But what? When I asked him, Shirou suggested that the memory I wanted had to contain pure, unbridled joy. It’s anathema to Dementors, because whatever the author suggests, Dementors can’t feed on positive emotions. If they did, they’d eat a Patronus like candy - and according to Galen, the original description of the spell in the book suggests that they should, that it’s meant to be a decoy to give the caster time to escape. But the actual effect of the spell is to send them fleeing.

She remembered Galen snorting at that when they discussed it, and saying, “Tossing raw, bloody meat at a hungry dragon is not going to make it run. Make it kill you for attacking it, before or after it eats the free food, sure - but it won’t flee. And it makes even less sense as a protection when Lupin explains that the reason Dementors can’t feed on a Patronus is because they’re pure positive emotion, and incapable of despairing. If they really fed on happiness, that would just make it a feast. And we’re told that they breed in gloomy, dank places, revelling in despair and hopelessness. Not exactly smart, if they want to be able to feed themselves and their offspring. Predators don’t nest in barren grounds.

“No,” Galen had said. “The only explanation that makes sense is that they feed on negative emotions like despair. They ‘drain the happiness’ out of things by bringing those darker emotions to the surface, let them run rampant, until they poison all the happiness in you. Until what once thrilled your soul brings you no joy whatsoever, and there’s nothing left but the dark, bubbling forever.” He’d shaken his head. “I ran on anger for years, until it burned out everything else and left me hollow inside. It’s why I am the way I am, why I’m having such trouble now. I lost the ability to give a damn.”

But Takara knew she wasn’t like that - so what was wrong with her, that she couldn’t create a corporeal Patronus?

It has to be the memory. But I’ve used everything I can think of - my first beach trip, the first kendo tournament I won . . . Not even my very first taste of chocolate ice cream seems to be enough! But I did it with Galen’s wand, which means I have to be able to - not even the Wand of Passion can create spells that don’t really exist. So what’s left that’s strong enough, that I haven’t already tried?

Madam Hooch ordered the game to begin, and Takara shook off her musings. It was time to fly.

Ravenclaw was not the best Quidditch team at Hogwarts, even ignoring Gryffindor. As a rule, Ravenclaw was stuffed with the brightest minds - academics, scholars, geniuses, idiot savants and ivory tower bookworms. This did not translate into people who excelled at athletics. Hermione, as a case in point, was an idealised Ravenclaw - and she would only get on a broom to save her life. This was not to say they were pushovers. What they lacked in brute athleticism, they made up for in strategic capability, and they were frighteningly capable at adapting their tactics. This made the game challenging for the Weasley twins, and Gryffindor’s “Flying Foxes,” as Lee Jordan was known to call them. Takara, meanwhile, had her own challenge. It was pretty, petite, and answered to the name of Cho Chang.

In her own favour, Takara was working the Ravenclaw Seeker hard. She was at least as good on a broom as Cho, and with a better model under her. More to the point, she was not a teenaged male, so Cho couldn’t dazzle her with sex appeal as a distraction. This gave Takara on her Firebolt the edge in their confrontations, but she was still playing cautiously. Cho didn’t have the build of a serious athlete, but she had one that was ideal for a Seeker - light and compact. And she’d no doubt been playing since she was small. She was a good Quidditch player, and that meant that Takara couldn’t afford to become overconfident. Cho would be waiting to take advantage of any slips on her part, and the Firebolt could only compensate for her mistakes to a certain degree, after which she was on her own.

On the whole, though, she was grateful for the challenge. Firstly, because she liked challenges like this. Secondly, because it kept her mind off her failure to cast a full Patronus . . .

And thirdly, because it kept her from wondering exactly how Shirou was doing in Sirius Black’s company.

Sirius stared at the length of silvery fabric draped on a nearby chair, even as he munched on a sandwich. “It seems so strange - so wrong - to see you with that,” he said. “After all the times James used it . . .”

Shirou shrugged. “It was passed to Galen by someone, that’s all we know - and we’re glad to have it. It literally saved lives last year, mine included.”

“You can use it, then?” Sirius inquired. “Without . . .” He seemed to hesitate over the right words. “It doesn’t bother you to use it?”

“I don’t particularly like it, but I can deal with it,” Shirou said. “Some of our other friends, though - ”

“Peter used to really hate using that cloak,” Sirius said grimly. “Now, of course, I think it’d be brilliant to hang him with it. And I admit, I never really liked the thing. It somehow took all the fun out of being invisible. Never bothered James, though. We always figured it was a Potter ownership charm, to help keep it in the family. Spent quite a while trying to figure out how they did it, too.”

It’s something, Shirou agreed mentally. The Deathcloak - damn it, even he’d started using the term now - seemed to be a little choosy regarding who used it. It worked for anyone, but it wasn’t as easy for certain people as it was for others to operate under the cloak.

Takara handles it better than I do, and Ginny takes it worse. Neville just dislikes the idea of being invisible - too many years of being ignored or patronised at his gran’s - so we can’t really say how much of his reaction is personal preference. Luna’s never tried the cloak on her own, so there’s no way of knowing how well she can manage, and Hermione . . .

Shirou shook his head. Hermione had never had a problem with it, she’d said - but she’d been with Galen every time it had been used.

Shirou said carefully, “Was the sensation any better when you were with James? When he was under the cloak, as well?”

Sirius’ eyes grew thoughtful. “Yeah, it was. You think . . .?” He paused, then started again. “You think it ties into the presence - and maybe proximity - of who owns it?”

“I think if it makes someone uncomfortable when they have permission to use it, a thief would be in for a heck of a surprise.”

Sirius’ black eyes glittered. “Wonder if we could convince Wormtail to nick it, just to see what it does.”

“It’s a possibility,” Shirou admitted. He looked at the cloak, so innocuous, just lying there.

And it’s the most common of the three Hallows - there are other invisibility cloaks, after all. But if the cloak has this kind of power, what can we expect from the other two? One of which is, first and foremost, the most powerful wand in the world? And the other, at present, a Horcrux which contains part of someone who’s acknowledged to be the most powerful Dark Lord in centuries?

The redhead shivered. All the Horcruxes were dangerous, as the diary had proven. And even though the diadem hadn’t seemed to be booby-trapped (no time, Shirou supposed, and little need. Voldemort had assumed he’d found the ultimate hiding place, where it would never be discovered), he’d heard of the defences surrounding the rest. And even with that in mind, the ring containing both the soul of Voldemort and the Resurrection Stone might be the most dangerous of them all.

But that was for the future. Today, he had Sirius to worry about.

“The next Hogsmeade weekend is set for the twelfth of February,” Shirou said. “That’s one week from now.”

“That’s when it’ll be done, yeah?” Sirius said.

“If you think you’re ready,” Shirou replied.

Sirius considered. “Between the regular meals - real ones, not just rats or somebody’s table scraps - and the time I’ve had to exercise, not to mention the lack of Dementors . . . Yeah, I think I can be ready for action then.”

“All right,” Shirou said. “You’ve got the credentials you’ll need, now, and we’ve got a timetable. It’s all just a matter of planning out the details, and keeping ourselves fit and ready.”

“Might be an idea to send Moony out a few times,” Sirius said. “Just to hash things out between us. It’d keep me from going stir-crazy, too.”

Shirou nodded. “It might be tricky, scheduling it. Between classes, the media attention from the Dementor attack, and the Duelling Club McGonagall wants to set up - oh! Galen said he’ll need access to your mother’s house.”

Sirius’ eyebrows abruptly reached his hairline. “Why?”

“There’s something there we need to get,” Shirou said. “He wasn’t specific, and I didn’t ask. When he says we need to do something, I just accept it as right and move on - because he usually is.”

“Sounds like Moony,” Sirius snorted. “Bloody pain in the arse, sometimes, when he was right. At least half our detentions came from not listening to him when we should’ve.” The ghost of a smile settled on his face. “Of course, if we’d listened every time, school would’ve been bloody boring. I’ll tell that itinerant nephew of mine how to get past the protections on the house - but the house elf is his own problem. You just tell him that if he wants access to the ‘Noble and Most Ancient House of Black’” - the sarcastic pompousness dripped from his voice like venom from a snake’s fangs - “he’d better start upholding the family traditions.”

“Meaning?” Shirou asked warily.

“That if he’s not going play pranks, or even fly a broom, he’d better start pulling the birds in!” Sirius grinned. “Black men have a deserved reputation, and I demand he do it justice!” His tone and expression darkened. “Doesn’t look like I’ll have the time.”

Shirou regarded him for a moment, then said quietly. “You can still back out of this.”

“Not a chance in hell,” the older man growled - one that would’ve done credit to Galen’s werewolf form. “I want revenge for James and Lily . . . And Harry,” he added softly. Harry’s seemed to strike him the hardest, even more than the loss of his brother-in-arms. Shirou could understand it. Such innocence, such potential - abruptly and maliciously gone. Having spent time with baby Alex, Shirou could certainly understand . . .

I’d track his murderers into Hell and through it, if I had to. And Galen would be right beside me - though we’d both have to work to keep up with Takara.

“Okay,” Shirou said, still in a quiet tone. “Then if there’s nothing else, I’d better get going.”

“Right,” Sirius said. “See you in a week, kid - and good luck.”

“To all of us,” Shirou agreed fervently, before vanishing under the Deathcloak.

Takara looked between her two best friends in all the world. Gryffindor had won, putting them well in the lead for the Quidditch Cup and the House Cup - but the rush that knowledge brought had worn off with Shirou’s report, given to the two of them in the Room of Requirement.

“So that’s it, then,” she said. “We’re all set.”

Shirou grunted in acknowledgement, and nodded grimly.

“Are we really sure this is a good idea?” Takara asked. “I mean, this is a really big risk -”

“Sirius knows the dangers,” Shirou reminded her. “And there shouldn’t be any threat to bystanders.”

“Forget them - I’m talking about us!” Takara snapped. “Have you stopped to think about what’s liable to happen after this is done, when they figure out we’re behind it? Or are you hoping to get away with it completely?”

She rounded on Galen. “If this blows up in our faces, it’ll destroy everything we’ve built here! And it will be your fault!”

“Yes,” Galen said flatly - and his face was empty again, his heart locked away.

Damn it, how does he do that?

“I’m open to better suggestions,” he said quietly - and Takara realised that, every single time she’d heard Galen use that phrase, he was absolutely out of ideas, and frustrated beyond endurance. He would genuinely take a better suggestion, if she had one.

“Go public,” she said. “Full disclosure.”

Galen said, very carefully, “And if that means that Sirius gets killed?”

“Then we can do this another way!” Takara said. “Do we really need to go with this idea?”

Galen looked at her, and still, very carefully, asked, “Do you want to bet Alex’s life on the possibility that I’m wrong?”

For just a moment, red flashed around the corners of her vision. How dare he invoke her baby brother?! How dare he -

Takara stopped, suddenly understanding. He didn’t dare - that was the point. He didn’t dare take the chance that he was wrong, because if he did, it could mean people’s lives. Potentially, everyone’s lives. And he was gambling with the life of the only extended family he had, a man who had already been through hell for almost Galen’s entire lifetime, to make sure of it.

“There’s no other way to be sure,” he said softly. “And we have to be sure.”

Takara was silent. If this went bad . . . But, given the stakes, was there really another choice?

“It’ll be down to the three of us, in the end,” she murmured. “If it all goes bad, all we’ll have left is each other.”

“It could be a lot worse,” Shirou said. He reached out and clasped their arms. “And I can’t think of many other people I’d want beside me, in the end.”

She smiled. “Me, either.” Her eyes flicked to Galen. His own gleamed with mockery, but his tone was utterly sincere as he bowed from the waist.

“Now and forever, my Lady.”

March 28th, 2011, 10:15 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 28 - To Trap a Rat

February 12, 1994

The morning of the Hogsmeade visit started early in the third-year boys’ dormitory of Gryffindor Tower. In point of fact, it always did - morning calisthenics usually had two-thirds of the dorm up around dawn - but that morning was especially early, given that it started with a scream.

“SCABBERS!” came the horrified wail, causing at least three wands to point in its direction, ready for battle. Barring any further sound, bed curtains were flung aside to see what the hell the matter was. For his part, Shirou caught a glimpse of a ginger-coloured blur heading down the dormitory stairs, either fleeing for its life, or in hot pursuit of something.

“That bloody cat!” Weasley snarled. “It’s been watching Scabbers all year, and Granger finally slipped up and let it loose! If it hurts him, I’ll kill it - and then her!”

“Really?” Galen asked dangerously, and Weasley abruptly became aware that three wands were pointed in his direction - and none of their wielders looked especially friendly.

“Well, she ought to keep that thing caged up!” Weasley protested, flushing red to the tips of his ears.

“So should you,” Shirou said flatly. “You’re in a place which has owls and cats regularly come in - didn’t you think at least one of them might eventually get hungry?”

The other redhead’s complexion turned pale, and he leaped out of bed, crying “Scabbers!” He dashed down the stairs, intent on catching his rat before Crookshanks sated the appetite the chase was working up.

Galen stretched out his arms even as he swung his legs around to sit on the edge of his bed.. “Remind me to give Crookshanks a treat for his hard work,” he murmured in Japanese.

“I’m still impressed that Crookshanks understood well enough to do what Hermione wanted him to,” Shirou said in the same language.

“It’s an Animagus skill. Besides, he’s exceptionally intelligent.” Galen smirked. “There’s a reason I picked him out as a pet for the most brilliant witch in Hogwarts.”

He stilled, surprised by a sudden warmth on the back of his neck, but nothing followed it. Mentally shrugging, Galen got off his bed and finished stretching. Then he switched to English. “Well, shall we go grab the girls and watch the show?”


Neville shook his head. “This is a crazy idea.”

Galen glanced at him. “Your point being?”

“No point,” Neville said, shrugging. “I just thought it needed to be said.”

No other conversation was made as they donned their exercise gear and joined the girls for morning calisthenics. In fact, no attempt at conversation was made until Shirou was almost in the lead of their group, just shy of Takara, and they approached Hagrid’s hut, which was considered the halfway point on this route of their morning run. To everyone’s surprise, the front door opened and the big man stepped out to call to them.

“Do any of yeh recognise this rat?” he asked, fishing Scabbers out of a pocket.

Ginny sighed. “He’s my brother’s - I’ll take him up to the castle. Thanks, Professor Hagrid.”

“Ain’t no big thing, Miss Weasley,” Hagrid rumbled. “But tell yer brother he ought ter mind his pet better - all sorts o’ creatures ‘round here who’d find him a right tasty snack.”

“I will. Thanks again, Professor.”

“No problem - and I’ll see most of the rest of you lot in class!”

The older students nodded, and Ginny pocketed Scabbers in her exercise clothes, where the rat quickly fell asleep. Still, Shirou made certain to whisper as he spoke.

“That’s one phase down. The next is on you girls.”

Hermione and Ginny nodded.

Shirou watched, later, as Weasley argued with Hermione.

“I’m very sorry, Ronald,” she said. “I had no idea Crookshanks had gotten out of the dorm.”

“Sorry?” Weasley repeated. “HE NEARLY ATE SCABBERS! That bloody cat is a menace! Get it a cage or something, Granger!”

Hermione turned frosty. “Why doesn’t your rat have one, Weasley? It’s very small, and easy to lose, after all.”

“Scabbers has never been any trouble - not before that oversized hairball showed up!”

“Crookshanks has been with me since first year, “ Hermione said sharply. “And he’s never been any trouble, either.”

“Well, he bloody is now! You’d better do something about it, Granger, because if anything happens to Scabbers, I’ll hex the hide off that cat - assuming it has one under all that - “

His tirade was cut short by a loud crack, as Hermione landed a textbook-perfect, nose-breaking punch. Weasley’s head snapped back, and the momentum behind Hermione’s blow knocked him onto his arse.

A Galleon says Galen finally has a Patronus-worthy memory now, he thought, mentally smirking.

“He’s just being a cat,” Hermione said coldly. “And you’re just as responsible - if you didn’t let your rat run free, you wouldn’t need to worry about it.”

“Bl’ddy ‘ell!” Weasley mumbled, clutching his nose.

Hermione stalked up towards the stairs, and Ginny came down a moment later.

“What did you do now, Ron?” she demanded.

“Threatened to flay Crookshanks alive if anything happened to his rat,” Shirou said blandly. “She hit him.”

“Idiot,” she muttered under her breath, drawing her wand. “Hold still - Episkey.”

There was another sharp crack, and Weasley screamed.

“Look,” Ginny said, “Scabbers is old and sick - ”

“Exactly!” Weasley bellowed. “Last thing he needs is to be stalked by some ruddy nightmare of a cat - ”

“ - And at least being eaten would be a quick way to go,” Ginny said stubbornly. “But if you’re that worried, see if Dervish and Banges can sell you a cage with a cat-repelling charm on it when you’re in Hogsmeade today.”

“What if they do?” he asked sullenly. “Not like I can afford it.”

Ginny scowled at him, then said, “Hold on.” She raced upstairs, and came back with a small drawstring pouch. “Ten Galleons - that’s all I’ve got for spending money.”

Ron blinked. “What were you going to do with it? Not like you can go to Hogsmeade . . .”

“My friends can,” she pointed out. “And they’ll tell me if whatever you buy costs less, Ron - so I’d think carefully before spending any change. I will miss it.” With a last glare, she turned and walked away.

“Hanging around that know-it-all nightmare’s turned you into one, too,” he muttered under his breath.

She whirled. “And for that remark, you’d better take Scabbers with you to Hogsmeade today - or I’ll be tempted to feed him to Hermione’s cat myself!”

Now it was Weasley’s turn to scowl. But Shirou noted that when they lined up to take the carriages to Hogsmeade, he was cradling the rat in his hands.

Phase two, complete.

Takara bit her lip worriedly - a sign that spending time around Hermione made her habits contagious. She glanced back and forth between the other occupants of the carriage - the boys who sat opposite her, and Hermione, at her side.

“What is it?” Galen asked finally.

Takara hesitated. “Well . . .” She glanced at Hermione again. “Um, we had a bit of . . . A bit of an incident in Divination, a couple of days ago - ”

Hermione huffed, though her cheeks reddened.

“Trelawney stiffened up, and started issuing a prophecy . . .” Takara said. “. . . And Hermione stormed out.”

Shirou looked at her incredulously, noted Hermione’s increasingly scarlet face, and handed Galen a Galleon with a sigh.

Hermione’s eyes widened. “You bet on me?”

“I really shouldn’t have,” Shirou admitted. “Not with him. But I was sure you’d never give up an opportunity to learn something.”

Rolling his eyes at Shirou, Galen replied, “About leaving that class? Absolutely. Your defence, I’m sure, is that Divination is a very ‘woolly discipline,’ and fraught with guesswork.”

Her eyes narrowed, now. “How bloody complete were those publications? Did they use my diary as a resource?”

“You keep a diary?” Galen countered.

“Yes - but that’s not the point.” Hermione shook her head. “Trelawney was attempting to recover her reputation by imitating a genuine oracular trance. Any halfway decent book could tell her how it was done - there are enough mundane histories on the workings of Delphi, and other such things.” She snorted. “And it was appropriately vague, and ultimately useless. I told Professor McGonagall I was dropping Divination - and Muggle Studies, as well. I’ll ask to write the O.W.L. for it, but judging by the course content, I won’t actually need to take the class to get it, it’s so badly out of date.”

“I recognised the prophecy,” Takara said quietly. “‘The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Today, before midday, the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant’s aid, greater and more terrible than ever before.’ And then she repeated, ‘Today, before midday, the servant will set out to rejoin his master . . .’”

“The original was, ‘tonight before midnight,’ but that’s otherwise correct,” Galen agreed.

Takara stared, amazed he should be so calm about it. “Shouldn’t we be worried?”

Hermione blinked, and said in an astonished tone, “You mean that rubbish was genuine?”

“In the original timeline, it was,” Galen agreed. “One of her two true prophecies - but given that the other one was about Neville and Harry Potter, and it doesn’t seem to be working out, that’s the first reason we won’t worry about the accuracy of this one.”

“And the second?” Shirou inquired.

Galen grinned. “That unlike witches and wizards, we’re smart enough to learn from mundanes. From Greek mythology, to Merlin, to the Scottish play, to bloody Star Wars - there are countless examples of the lesson. Any attempt to circumvent a prophecy brings about exactly the circumstances required for it to come to pass.” He shrugged. “So we continue on with what we had planned, acting as though we never heard it. If it’s false, it won’t matter.”

“And if it’s true?” Takara persisted.

“If it’s true, then maybe we can throw it off by not doing what’s expected of us,” Galen said. “As I said, actively trying to prevent a prophecy from coming to pass always has the opposite effect. So if we do nothing, maybe the opposite effect to what you’d expect will occur here as well.”

He shot her a look that as good as said, I told you so. Takara nodded hesitantly, and lowered her eyes. If the prophecy did come to pass . . . Well, that was why he’d chosen this plan, after all.

She tried to stay relaxed as they wandered through the village, but she couldn’t help but be irritable - firstly, because of what they’d planned, and secondly, because yet another dating opportunity was going to be ruined.

Honestly, Takara thought to herself, as she and Hermione left the boys at Dervish and Banges to watch for Weasley, as they went on ahead to reserve a table at the Three Broomsticks. At this rate, I’m going to check in to St. Mungo’s and have myself checked for curses. Between that disastrous Tanabata, Malfoy’s ambush, and now this . . . ! The only date I’ve ever had go well was New Year’s Eve!

“Maybe that’s a hint?” Hermione said softly, and Takara jumped almost six inches off the ground. She abruptly realised that she’d vocalised at least some of her thoughts, and felt her face flush warmly. For her part, Hermione’s cheeks were a little pink, and she wouldn’t meet Takara’s eyes - but what Takara could see of them was distant.

“How much did I say out loud?” Takara mumbled in mortification.

“Enough that I got the gist of it,” Hermione said quietly. “And while I’ve little faith in Divination any longer, if I did, I might think that the universe was trying to tell you something.”

“Yes - that Shirou was right, and I’m too young to date right now,” Takara said firmly. “The only reason New Year’s Eve went so well was because there were no romantic tensions - or intentions - behind it.”

Hermione gave her a disbelieving look.

“How would your parents have reacted if you’d told them last year that you were dating Galen - and maybe with an eye towards marrying him?” Takara challenged. “Thirteen is too young, but with Hogsmeade opportunities available, most witches tend to start thinking along those lines, and I got caught up in it - especially since my mind’s of an age to consider a serious relationship.”

Takara shook her head. “No, I should put this off for a year or two - trying now was a bad idea.”

“Then why do it at all?” Hermione asked curiously, really focussing on Takara for the first time in the conversation, and this time it was the Japanese witch who looked away.

Takara was silent for a long moment, then met Hermione’s eyes and admitted, “Because I was afraid.”


“I don’t make friends any more easily than you do, Hermione - and the boys are my oldest, my best friends. I always thought I’d end up with one of them eventually, but between you and Ginny - ”

“What?” Hermione said disbelievingly.

“Shirou might not be interested in her now, but Ginny won’t stay a child forever,” Takara pointed out. “And she’ll be a very pretty girl in a few years. She’s also passionate, stubborn, occasionally catty - just his type. Just like you are Galen’s.”

Hermione’s expression was as doubtful as her tone had been.

“You’re brilliant,” Takara said. “Kind. Compassionate. Courageous. Loyal to a fault. You prefer to read quietly at home rather than play sports, or be a socialite - but you’re not afraid to work or fight for what you want. And you’re on your way to growing into an absolute knockout. He couldn’t honestly ask for anything more in a woman - and he’d never dare.” She smiled faintly. “Between you two girls, I have plenty of reasons to be afraid - although from the looks Ilya’s been giving me all year, not to mention Shirou, I think I should be more worried about her than Ginny as competition.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” Hermione said.

Takara sighed. “I just . . . I wanted a chance, to see if there could be something more between us than just friendship. So I pushed things, and this is what I’ve gotten for it. One big mess.” She shook her head. “So I’ll put it off, and try again later.”

“And if they’re dating other people, then?” Hermione asked in an oddly tense voice. Oddly, at least, to someone who hadn’t watched her watch Galen for almost three solid years.

Takara looked at her, and said carefully, “I chose to go after Shirou for a reason, Hermione.”

“But . . .” Hermione bit her lip. “You said your only successful date was with Galen.”

“Because I went into it wanting to prove that I wasn’t in love with him,” Takara snapped. “That what everybody thinks we have is . . .” She paused, and deliberately selected her words with their irony in mind. “A midsummer night’s dream.”

“. . . And did you?” her friend whispered.

“I chose Shirou for a reason,” Takara repeated flatly.

Hermione looked at her for a long moment, obviously trying to decide whether or not Takara was telling the truth - and whether or not Hermione would believe it because it was true, or because it was what she wanted to believe.

In the end, however, the sounds of spells going off, and a few screams, drew their attention back the way they’d come.

Phase three was underway - the trap had been sprung.

Galen had, above all else, strength of will. What had once been sheer stubbornness had been tempered by death and rebirth, and battles against spirits, demons and gods. His will had been strengthened to the point where he had once managed to subdue an entire planet’s collective consciousness into obeying his command, and reveal the Holy Grail. Only briefly, and not without extreme effort on his part, or help from others, but he had. And Occlumency training had further enhanced his control over that potential, enabling him to build the ultimate (to his mind, anyway) in aggressive defences. With all that in mind, then, it was truly saying something that it took almost all his concentration not to pace in nervous anticipation.

Shirou glanced at him, a corner of his mouth tilting in a half-smirk as he whispered in Japanese, “Anxious, much?”

“You don’t like waiting any more than I do,” Galen muttered under his breath, knowing Shirou would catch it.

“If he can be patient,” Shirou answered, nodding to the shadowed alleyway around the corner, filled with rubbish bins, “then so can you.”

Grimly, Galen nodded, running through his Occlumency exercises to help tamp down his nervousness. Being so keyed up was understandable - they were so close to finishing this - but he needed to stay calm, give no sign until it happened . . .

There. Weasley, headed up towards them, with the rat clutched firmly in his hands - though he was aiming for the shop whose window they were glancing in. And Professor Lupin, escorting Neville, who was saying, “I’m really hoping you can help, sir. The last time I was here, I didn’t understand half of what the shopkeeper was saying about the features on his Dark detectors . . .” And out from behind the rubbish bin, a bear-like black dog padded over to them, tail wagging hopefully as it licked its chops.

“Sorry, friend,” Galen said. “No snacks on me . . . And you don’t have a collar. I wonder if anyone around here knows who you are?” He turned to the approaching professor and called loudly, “Professor! Have you heard anyone asking after a lost dog?”

Weasley stopped, eyes widening in shock at the sheer size of the animal. “Bloody hell - AAAAH!” He raised his hand to nurse a bitten, bleeding finger, as Scabbers scurried away with a squeal. The dog let out a snarl, and lunged after it.

“Scabbers!” Weasley moaned, trying to draw his wand, but he couldn’t hold it properly, the rat having bitten the hand he usually held it with. He began to run after the animals - only to suddenly fall on his face. Galen blinked, surprised, before deciding that it had to have been bad luck. He hadn’t heard anyone cast a Tripping Jinx.

Maybe the universe is being nice, for once?

Lupin, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate. He sent a pulse of blue-white light after the dog - only to miss, as the black beast leaped aside, and strike the rat instead. Its terrified squealing became an equally terrified shrieking, coming as it did from suddenly-human lungs. And then the tone of the cry changed to one of pain, as the big dog sank its teeth into the calf of the pudgy man who, seconds before, had been a rat.

“. . .Scabbers?” Weasley squeaked in astonishment.

“No, Mister Weasley,” Lupin said, grimly and clearly. “An illegal Animagus I knew at school, named Peter Pettigrew.”

“Pettigrew?” Shirou said. “Didn’t he get a posthumous Order of Merlin for getting killed by Sirius Black while trying to capture him?”

“Apparently, it was awarded prematurely,” Galen drawled. He drew his wand. “If that’s Pettigrew, even money says . . .”

“Yes,” Lupin said. “That” - he performed the blue spell a second time, revealing a human figure who quickly wrapped his arms around Pettigrew’s mauled leg - “is Sirius Black.”

“Remus . . .” Pettigrew gasped. “Remus, my old friend . . .!”

“Diffindo,” Lupin said coolly, slicing off a portion of Pettigrew’s sleeve, and exposing a midnight-coloured symbol for all to see.

“Death Eater,” Lupin hissed. “Very clever - you betrayed the Potters, and set Sirius up to take the blame. Very clever, Peter.”

“It’s was Sirius’ idea!” he squealed. “He made me - !”

“LIAR!” Black roared. He twisted his grip, drove his nails into Pettigrew’s wounded leg, and the Death Eater howled.

“Enough,” Lupin snapped, casting both men in a Full-Body Bind. “Mister Einzbern and Mister Weasley, I’ll need you with me to speak to the Aurors patrolling Hogwarts. Mister Salvatore and Mister Longbottom, if you’d please help me haul these two to the castle? It’s time, and past time, that we got some answers as to what really happened the night the Potters died.”

With six wands on them at all times, once the girls had joined them, neither Pettigrew nor Black seemed inclined to try anything, even after being released from the binding, once they reached the relatively safety of Hogwarts’ grounds. Of course, Black insisted on keeping his grip on Pettigrew, anyway - in Hogsmeade, it had kept him from Disapparating to safety, and here, it prevented him from escaping as a rat. Not that Pettigrew would get very far, anyway - no one had bothered to heal his injured leg, and a non-wizard might’ve bled out before now. As it was, Pettigrew couldn’t possibly have walked or scurried off, even if he’d managed to overcome their numbers.

They’d split off once reaching Hagrid’s hut - Lupin went with Shirou and Weasley, to the Auror patrols, while Takara and Hermione went to Madam Pomfrey and Headmistress McGonagall, respectively, to inform them of the situation and obtain aid. That left Neville and Galen to “guard” Sirius, though only Pettigrew didn’t know that it wasn’t truly necessary. The half-giant was, thankfully, up at the Hog’s Head, and not in the habit of locking his doors. And Fang was even warier of Galen than Crookshanks - unless the full moon was very close, the cat was content to ignore him. Fang simply ran and hid until he went away.

So, until Lupin and the rest returned with whichever Auror team was assigned guard duty today, they were free to chat.

“So, tell me about yourselves,” Sirius said. “I knew your parents, of course, Neville. Good Aurors and good people, the both of them.” His face twisted. “My cousin spent a lot of time bragging over what she’d done to them while her Master was facing Dumbledore . . .” He acquired a suddenly feral grin as he added, “At least, when the Dementors weren’t too close. Then, she was too busy whimpering.”

Neville’s face was hard. “She deserves it.”

“She does,” Sirius agreed. “The only decent members of my family were disowned by it. But she’s one of the worst of them, even so.” He blinked. “That’s your dad’s wand, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Neville said quietly. “Gran thinks if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me - but I dunno if I’m good enough for it. I have to train really hard to get spells to work right, and I’m sure if my friends didn’t help me drill on them, I’d be barely more than a Squib.”

“Well, sometimes wands are just a poor match,” Sirius said. “On the other hand, that one’s seen a lot of fights - it might be damaged. Mind if I have a look?”

Neville hesitated, and glanced at Galen, who shrugged. Finally, he handed over his wand.

Sirius examined it closely. “I’m no expert, but it certainly seems to be in pretty good shape, considering its age and how much use it’s seen - not to mention the kind of use. Maybe the damage is in the core . . . Incarcerous.”

Ropes abruptly materialised out of the air to engulf Neville, binding him fast. Galen drew his wand and shouted, “Prot - !“

A silent Disarming Charm sent it flying through a window before he’d finished the Shield Charm to protect himself from it, and the shock allowed a scarlet Stunner to cross half the distance between them before he’d realised it had been cast (damn silent incantations!), but he still tried to move from its path -

It clipped his left shoulder, sending him spinning into the air, duster whirling around him, and through Hagrid’s table with a resounding crash.

Neville had given up struggling with the ropes, having thought of another way. With an alarming creak, and several cracks, the ropes burst apart, unable to contain a half-grown grizzly bear as easily as they did a schoolboy - but not without managing to break a few of his bones under the strain. Neville collapsed on broken forelegs, letting out a sound that was half-roar, half-groan.

“Petrificus Totalus!” Black roared, and the bear stiffened.

“That will hold you,” he sneered. “Long enough, anyway. For twelve years - twelve years! - I rotted in Azkaban! Without a trial, without even an interrogation, because nobody was interested in the truth! Not even the high and mighty Dumbledore, champion of the Light!” He spat. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s worse than Voldemort - at least he stuck to his principles!

“So Pettigrew dies today,” the prisoner of Azkaban hissed, “And someday, Dumbledore. Because all of this - James, Lily, Harry, your parents, me - is on his head. And I’ll have it.”

He ran out the door, and the bear’s eyes glittered in frustration as it struggled against the spell which bound it . . . And had they been able to, they would’ve widened in shock as a groan emerged from the floor.

Galen rose unsteadily to his feet, every muscle in his back screaming, and his ragged voice taking a running commentary as he attempted to get his bearings.

“Duster took the brunt of it all . . . Neville out . . . No wand . . . How long was I out? Can’t tell, gotta go, can’t lose him . . .”

He shook himself. “Sorry, Nev - nothing I can do for you. And I can’t let him get away.”

Galen walked quickly out the door, gaining speed and steadiness as he went, eyes locked on a distant figure, skirting the edges of the Forbidden Forest in the direction of the Auror patrols.

There’s a traitor that needs killing . . .

March 28th, 2011, 10:16 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 29 - Hermione’s “Secret”

February 12, 1994

Shirou was a little surprised when they reached the Aurors. His dad’s presence wasn’t completely unexpected, but Shiki Aozaki’s was. They were leaning against part of the Stone Circle, about midway between the castle and Hagrid’s hut, next to a tall, dark-skinned man, apparently conferring about search patterns, and Shirou took a moment to understand what it meant to have both fathers here.

Kiritsugu Einzbern and Shiki Aozaki were two of the Security Division’s top operatives. They typically worked together, and had ever since Ciel Aozaki had been moved to a teaching slot when Takara was born, but that was only when they worked with any other operatives at all. The two men weren’t simply standard security thugs, or even run-of-the-mill Aurors. They operated as two of the Division’s cleaners - the very best there was in regards to tracking and assassinating Dark wizards across international borders. Very often, the presence of a single one of them on a mission guaranteed its success, and when they were paired together, it was because the threat they’d been sent after was assumed to be very, very dangerous.

And since there isn’t one, given Sirius’ loyalties, are they here because they don’t trust us? Shirou wondered.

“Uncle” Shiki spotted him first, and gave him a nod as they approached. Catching his motion, Kiritsugu turned, and gave him a bewildered smile. “Shirou? What brings you here?”

“Peter Pettigrew,” Lupin said tightly.

“Pettigrew?” the dark Auror asked in shock, and Shirou caught hints of an accent that sounded like some flavour of Central American. The older man shook his head. “Not possible. Black killed him twelve years ago.”

“I can assure you, Auror - “

”Kingsley Shacklebolt,” the man supplied.

“- Auror Shacklebolt,” Lupin acknowledged, “that this man is Peter Pettigrew. And there are two other pieces of evidence you need to take note of.”

He thrust Pettigrew’s hand forward. “It’s missing the finger the Aurors found at the scene, of course - he cut it off himself before Transfiguring himself into a rat and escaping. I can testify to the fact that he’d been an illegal Animagus for a number of years. What I didn’t know, until finding him this morning, was about this.”

Lupin thrust the other arm forward, displaying Voldemort’s brand. Shacklebolt drew in breath with a sudden hiss.

“P - please, Remus,” Pettigrew babbled. “You don’t understand. Sirius made me - ”

“Made you take the Dark Mark?” Lupin snapped. “I highly doubt it. Sirius hated anything to do with the Dark Arts, much less Lord Voldemort.” At the name, Shacklebolt and Pettigrew flinched, and Shirou refrained from rolling his eyes.

“But made you be the Potters’ Secret-Keeper?” he continued. “Oh yes - that, I can believe. That’s classic Sirius - he misdirects everyone, while the real prank goes on under their noses. While all the Death Eaters hunt for him to find the Potters, the true Secret-Keeper is safely hidden away, because no one even suspects he exists.

“Tell me, Peter,” Lupin said dangerously. “How long did you wait before telling your master where James and Lily were hiding?”

“What point was there in fighting him, Remus?” Pettigrew said bitterly. “The Dark Lord was too powerful - “

”WHAT POINT?” Lupin roared, and at that point the Aurors stepped in to separate them, the Security Division moving to restrain the werewolf, albeit gently.

“Peter Pettigrew,” Shacklebolt said with admirable calm, “you are hereby arrested on the charge of bearing the Dark Mark, and for questioning in the deaths of James, Lily, and Harry Potter, as well as the wilful murder of twelve Muggles -”

“Avada Kedavra,” said a dark and terrible voice, and the fright-filled eyes of Peter Pettigrew went empty in death.

Shacklebolt whirled, as the voice spoke again. “Confringo!”

“Protego!” Not for nothing was Shiki Aozaki called the fastest duellist alive, but as the clearing exploded into a storm of evaporating snow, flying dirt and falling stone, not even he could sustain a Shield Charm surrounding five people against that onslaught. The bright silver disc shattered under the force of the explosion, sending them all tumbling in different directions. Shirou tucked himself into a defensive roll, using all his training and reflexes to and minimise the impact . . . He must have lost consciousness for a moment, because he was suddenly aware of his father shaking him, even as blood ran down Kiritsugu’s forehead.

“- SHIROU!” Kiritsugu yelled, and Shirou abruptly became aware that he must have been yelling for some time.

“. . . Dad?” he croaked. “You’re hurt.” He shifted for a moment, and winced. “I hurt.”

Familiar hands probed expertly, and with as much gentleness as possible, but Shirou still hissed when they struck a tender point.

“I don’t think you’ve broken any ribs, but they’re definitely bruised,” Kiritsugu muttered. “I’m more worried about a concussion. How’s Shacklebolt?” Shirou blinked, then realised that Kiritsugu hadn’t been asking him.

“Out cold, but he’s still breathing,” Shiki said grimly. “Lupin?”

“Broke my arm - and my wand,” the werewolf muttered. “Pity I don’t have your training, but it’s nothing Madam Pomfrey can’t fix.”

“My training isn’t as useful as you’d think,” Shiki countered. “The fall didn’t hurt me, but a piece of one of the stone columns landed on my foot - I’m pinned, and I think my ankle is broken, or at least twisted.”

Kiritsugu scowled. “We’ll never live this down. Caught by surprise, with four of us to one of him - and none of us are in any condition to pursue him, especially not with injured civilians to care for.”

Shirou’s eyes flickered to a distant point of movement, and the two fathers’ gazes locked on the same.

“I don’t think we have to worry about pursuit,” Shirou muttered. “Keeping Black alive after Galen gets through with him, on the other hand . . .”

Galen was seething by the time he’d worked himself up to a reasonable running speed. One reason for this was the fact that he had to restrict himself to a “reasonable” running speed - but with the throbbing aches along the back of his head, and the uneven terrain, he didn’t dare try to run flat out, and so his best pursuit speed was more like a light jog.

Stupid table, he growled mentally. The duster took the damned spell, and soaked up the impact pretty well - if I’d landed on the floor, I’d have been fine! But the damned table had to be there, and it had to break, and I just had to hit my head on the bloody edge as it did!

Stop and think, his inner voice advised him. You’re about to go up against an experienced, half-crazy, and definitely angry wizard - while empty-handed and injured.

. . . Never mind. If you were thinking, you wouldn’t be in this mess.

I can barely keep him in sight now! There wasn’t time to look for my wand!

So what are you going to do when you catch him, without it?

Wring his bloody neck! Galen shot back, just before an enormous explosion shattered the air, along with plumes of dust, dirt, and wood fragments.

. . . Good luck with that, came the dry response.

Silence held for a moment, and Galen wondered what had happened - before noting a massive black dog charging away from the scene.

He’ll try to get outside the Anti-Apparation wards on the grounds so he can escape - which means he’s headed for the road to Hogsmeade, and he needs speed. Hence, Padfoot. If I can catch him before he changes back . . .

Galen darted off in a parallel course, trying to circle wide and catch the Animagus before he reached safety, or at worst, cut him off. His limbs and lungs burned as he tried to counter the sheer speed of the quadruped - and gradually, the fact that he was closer to the goal to begin with started to pay off. It was going to be close, but he thought he could make it.

With a final, wheezing breath, he did - and the dog drew up short along the well-worn road as he saw the youth, waiting for him in the centre of it, surrounded by trees on either side.

“Neville . . . Broke his arms . . .” Galen gasped. “You’ll - pay for that.”

Snarling, the dog lunged - but Galen’s luck held, even weary and aching as he was. Even as the weight of the animal crashed into him, dragging them both to the ground, e managed to get an arm between his throat and the snarling jaws. The dog’s teeth bounced off the dragonhide sleeve like it had tried to bite steel plating, and Galen brought his other arm up to box its ear.

Black yelped in pain, and part of Galen winced at the sound. He could kill humans and never bat an eye, but he’d never liked seeing animals hurt, much less hurting them himself. Hell, he’d argued long and hard with McGonagall over transfiguring hedgehogs into pincushions, and the like. She’d settled for written reports which proved that he adequately understood the theory, including illustrations of wand movements and various stages of Transfiguration. So the sound of an injured dog was almost akin to the Cruciatus to him, and it showed on his face. And Sirius Black was always quick to take advantages. He whimpered a little longer, then lunged to attack again at the only part of Galen not covered by his duster - the face. A muzzle full of sharp teeth buried themselves in Galen’s right cheekbone, and he would’ve screamed if he could open his mouth to do so.

This time, Galen’s fist slammed into Black’s eye, and the dog flinched back so wildly that Galen was able to throw him off completely, and rise. Sirius rolled away, and then to his feet - his human feet.

Sirius’ obsidian eyes glittered warily as he glared at him. “You are one stubborn punk.” He smiled mirthlessly. “You remind me of me.”

Galen tried to reply, but the mangling of his face made his words unintelligible.

“Bleeding, battered - it’s a wonder you’re still standing, nephew,” Sirius observed. “And I suppose that as long as you are, there’s no way you’d ever let me go?”

Galen shook his head, and winced at the accompanying pain in his neck.

Sirius sighed. “Then I suppose there’s not much choice - Confringo!”

Galen was already diving to the side, trying to avoid the incoming spell . . . The explosion of the trees behind him, however, was unexpected, and lifted him off the road to go tumbling head over heels through the air. His last sight was of Sirius taking a final step forward, and Disapparating. Then there was a flash of red as his skull collided with a tree trunk - and darkness.

After separating from Hermione on the staircases, Takara made her way to the Hospital Wing at a purposeful, but not particularly hurried pace. Pettigrew’s injury was bad, but her own minor healing spells should hold him until Madam Pomfrey could look him over. That wasn’t to say he might not lose the leg, but she couldn’t find it in herself to feel really bad about it. And so she made her way to the school matron, quickly enough that no one stopped her, but not in any real rush.

When the sound of a distant explosion reached her ears as she approached the Hospital Wing, she regretted that, and quickened her pace.

“Madam Pomfrey!” she called as she burst through the door. “You’re needed at the stone circle out by the Forbidden Forest - the Aurors have an injured prisoner to treat.”

“Finally caught Sirius Black, have they?” the matron fussed. “Sounds like he didn’t go down without a fight, either - I hope he was the only one hurt.” She sighed. “Given the size of that explosion, though, I rather doubt it. Give me a moment to pack up a kit of supplies, and I’ll head down.” She started putting things into a valise case. “Miss Aozaki, you’re closer - could you fetch me a bottle of Essence of - ”

A second explosion erupted. While the noise of it was from farther off, this one Takara could see through the window - a massive plume of snow and black ash.

“Essence of Dittany,” the matron said sharply. “Quickly, please!”

Takara turned - and leaped aside as the nearest bottle literally flew off the shelf, hurtling through the window with a sharp crack in the direction of the eruption.

“A good thing I keep my stocks in containers with Unbreakable Charms,” Madam Pomfrey murmured. “But that explosion has to be at least the better part of a mile away - I’ve never known a witch or wizard powerful enough to cast a Summoning Charm from so far.”

“Counting him, I know six,” Takara said hollowly, her voice dropping to a near-whisper as she said, “And the three wizards who aren’t Dumbledore are all down there, right now.”

“We’d best hurry, then,” Pomfrey said grimly. “It’s so far, though, I don’t know how we’ll be sure of ever find - ”

A brilliant silver flare shot up, and began circling in place, and Takara suddenly realised that it was a Patronus. At this distance, not even her eyes could make out the details of what it was - something long-bodied and quadrupedal, she thought. What it was, though didn’t matter at all compared to what it was saying, with its whirling dance.

I’m here. I need help. Please, save me.

Madam Pomfrey’s emergency bag had never been packed so quickly in her lifetime.

The Patronus dove out of the sky long before they reached the spot, but one of the Auror search teams was already moving towards the injured caster, so she and Pomfrey followed them. She still wasn’t certain of the animal’s identity before it disappeared, but it was definitely something with four legs - and from the way it had moved, wickedly fast. Unfortunately, the silver glow had faded by the time they reached its location, the Patronus’ task of guiding them done. Takara didn’t know what it was that had been conjured. But when she saw who had done the conjuring, that became far less important.

Galen lay sprawled amidst a pile of debris, the bottle of Dittany and his lignum vitae wand lying inches from his open hands. Dried blood encrusted his hair along the rear hemisphere of his skull, with at least half a dozen other lacerations along his limbs - and a few smaller ones along his face. Apparently, he’d managed to shield his torso from any major damage, but it was only because she was checking it so closely that she could see that he was breathing.

“It looks like he just poured the bottle randomly onto his wounds,” Pomfrey muttered. “No attempt to gauge wound severity at all. He’s lucky none of his major arteries seem to have been pierced - Dittany or no Dittany, he’d have bled out by now, judging by the size of these cuts. I’m not sure his skull isn’t fractured. Ferula. Anapneo . . .” The matron cast several charms, then turned to Takara.

“That’s all I can do here - we’ll have to move him up to the Hospital Wing for better treatment, and in more sanitary conditions. Still, it’s lucky he managed to stay conscious as long as he did - had that Dittany been summoned a moment later, or that Patronus, I’m not sure even his constitution could have kept him alive.”

Takara said nothing, absorbing herself in helping Madam Pomfrey levitate Galen and move him - it gave her something to focus on, other than his pale, bloodless face.

Galen didn’t wake for two more hours, during which time the Auror teams brought back Shirou, his father, Professor Lupin, her father, Neville, and an Auror whose name she didn’t know, though he looked familiar. All of them were badly hurt, but none quite so badly as Galen - Madam Pomfrey surmised that he must have been almost at the centre of the blast zone when whatever spell was responsible had been cast. Takara answered the questions of the Aurors in a monotone. Yes, she’d been one of the students to escort Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew back to the castle. No, she hadn’t been part of the group - they’d sent her to fetch the nurse, as Pettigrew had been injured at his capture. No, she hadn’t known anything about Black that anyone else didn’t, and had no idea where he might be now. Yes, that was correct - he hadn’t had a wand when she’d left - but Neville’s was missing.

Takara didn’t really care about the questions, or anything else in the Hospital Wing other than her father and her friends. In particular, her attention focussed on the bed in the corner, though she couldn’t really see anything with its privacy screens drawn.

Hermione had spent most of the time beside her, looking as miserable as she felt. From Hermione, it wasn’t a surprise - Galen had been her friend and protector from the moment they’d met on the Hogwarts Express. He’d given her gifts, and encouragement, stood between her and an angry mountain troll. He had been to Hermione what Takara’s childhood memories insisted Galen had been to her, as well: a central support of her world. And while she’d seen him hurt before, it had never been this badly. So Hermione’s reaction, to Takara’s way of thinking, was no surprise at all. Her own, on the other hand, was.

I should be immune to this by now. I’ve seen him hurt before - I’ve watched him tear himself to pieces! I’ve seen him almost die before - I have seen him die, more than once! So why am I so afraid? Why does it feel like my heart is about to jump out of my throat, and bring most of my internal organs with it?

With Hermione, this makes sense. The boy she’s in love with came within an inch of dying today. But I’m not - I’ve only ever gone so far as to admit that I could be.

“This isn’t exactly new territory for me,” Takara whispered to herself. “So why is this affecting me so badly?”

“Because the other times, he was only your ally,” said Shirou, and Takara nearly jumped out of her skin, not realising he’d woken up - Madam Pomfrey had been keeping him asleep while a potion worked on his concussion.

Shirou’s voice was low - and he was speaking in Japanese, so only she or Hermione would’ve understood, sitting as close as they were.

“He was your Servant,” Shirou near-whispered. “He came at your call, fought in your name, and when he was hurt - when he died - it was for your hopes and well-being. And you felt grateful, and guilty, because of it, but you could live with it, because he was only your ally. He didn’t help you with your homework, or cheer at your Quidditch games, or spend a rainy Saturday afternoon curled up on your sofa with a bowl of popcorn and a Kurosawa marathon just because you wanted company.

“You’re not upset just because he nearly died today, Takara,” Shirou said quietly. “You’re upset because your best friend nearly died, and that makes it so much worse.”

The truth of that statement hit her immediately. She always knew, in the back of her head, that the boys were her best friends - she’d called them that often enough, and said as much to Hermione earlier. But it had always been something of a reflex, based on the memories she’d inherited from her native self and the fact that they were the only two people in the world who’d been through what she had. Takara had known that her feelings for Shirou were changing, in that he was becoming more attractive to her - but she’d never stopped to consider that might be true of her feelings for Galen, as well. Nevertheless, some time in the last two and a half years, what had been a cover story had become the truth. He was her oldest and best friend . . . And the thought of losing him terrified her.

“. . . Drunk first, damn it,” came a hoarse muttering. “Drunk first, then hung over.”

Anything Takara might’ve said was cut off by a high-pitched squeal, and a meaty thump. Both were followed by Hermione’s voice scolding, “Don’t you ever, EVER scare me like that again, Galen Richmond Salvatore!”

“Air’s a problem . . .” Galen hissed. “ . . . Hermione . . .!”

Takara gently pried the girl off him, and said, “She’s not the only one you scared - I ought to let her smother you! They’d never have found you, and you’d have bled to death if you hadn’t cast that Patronus - !”

“Patronus?” Galen asked in obvious bewilderment. He twitched, as if he went to shake his head and thought better of it. “I didn’t cast anything, Takara - Sirius disarmed me in Hagrid’s hut. My wand went straight out a window, and there wasn’t time to retrieve it - I’d have lost sight of him if I had.”

“You fought him unarmed?” Hermione demanded shrilly.

“I figured I could take him,” Galen muttered. “Wrongly, as it turned out.”

Takara, meanwhile, was processing what he’d said. “Galen . . . We found your wand by your hand, along with a bottle of Essence of Dittany that had been summoned from the Hospital Wing and used to treat your wounds. A corporeal Patronus led the searchers to where you were lying. Without that, Madam Pomfrey says you’d have died.”

Galen closed his eyes for a moment, then stared at Hermione before looking at Takara. When he spoke, it was in a very distinct fashion.

“Someone could have picked up my wand. They could have followed me out to the road where I confronted Sirius, and treated me afterwards. But I was running on adrenaline by then, all senses at full alert - so I can say with absolute certainty that any person - or persons - who did so would have had to be invisible.”

Hermione blanched, and she glanced at the two of them worriedly.

“How long have I been out?” Galen asked.

“About three hours,” Takara said.

“Four turns to be safe, then - right?”

Hermione’s voice was an outraged whisper. “You kn - !”

“Awake, are we, Mister Salvatore?” Madam Pomfrey’s voice broke in. “You should have informed me at once, Miss Aozaki - I thought I’d trained you better.”

“Sorry, Sensei,” Takara said contritely.

“Well now, he’s awake, and I can guarantee he’ll have my full attention,” the nurse said briskly. “Whereas you two are in desperate need of a kip, or you’ll need my attention, as well. Go back to your dormitories, wash up, and get some rest. I will inform you when Mister Salvatore will be capable of receiving visitors.”

She hustled the pair out of the Hospital Wing mercilessly.

Hermione, meanwhile, was ranting under her breath. “He knew! This entire time, he’s known, and he’s never said a single - !”

“McGonagall swore him to secrecy,” Takara said. “You weren’t to know that he knew, or that he was watching over you for her.”

Hermione’s head whipped around. “You knew?!”

“Of course I did - it was in the movie!”

“Then why didn’t you say anything when I asked?” Hermione exploded.

Takara blinked. “When was this?”

“The first night we arrived!” Hermione raged.

“Would that have been the night I drove the Dementors off the train, and it was taking all my concentration just to stay upright long enough to reach my bed?” Takara drawled.

“. . . I suppose it was.” Hermione admitted, blushing.

“Uh-huh. If you’d asked the next day, when I was capable of actual thought, you wouldn’t have been falling over yourself to hide it all year.” Takara chuckled.

Hermione huffed. “Well, if you already know, then I haven’t broken my promise.”

She led Takara into Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, after confirming that its spectral resident was not currently occupying it.

Hermione drew out the golden necklace from under her cardigan, and Takara was impressed at the craftsmanship.

“We’ll have to be a little too close for comfort,” Hermione warned. “The chain is only so long, even with the Extension Charms built in.”

“Shouldn’t we go and get the cloak, first?” Takara queried.

“I keep it on me,” Hermione replied, drawing it out a pocket in her jeans. At Takara’s questioning stare, she added, “He loaned it to me after the Christmas hols, so I could grab a kip in private . . . Which should have been my first clue,” she groaned suddenly, rolling her eyes. “He’s been trying to hint all year that he knew without actually saying so, now that I think about it.”

“He was afraid you’d be upset about his keeping secrets, after last year,” Takara said softly.

“If Headmistress McGonagall made him promise, then it’s not his fault - she made me promise, too.” Hermione tossed the Deathcloak over them, then beckoned Takara closer, so she could slip the Time-Turner’s chain over both their heads.

Takara abruptly found her arms full of lithe, warm witch - a surprisingly comfortable witch, combining hard but yielding muscles under soft skin. Her nose was full of vanilla-scented waves as her face was suddenly buried in Hermione’s hair.

“Sorry,” she heard a mumble to her left. “I should’ve tied it back first. Just try and hold your breath - I only need a moment.”

Hermione’s voice sounded a little strained, and Takara suspected it was the intimate proximity to another human body. They were of a height, so everything more or less matched up, and certain sensitive areas were a lot closer than they’d ever been to anyone before . . .

“Got it,” Hermione murmured into her ear. “Here we go - one, two, three, four.”

Under the Deathcloak, the world blurred, as the two witches were swept away.

March 28th, 2011, 10:21 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 Prisoner of Azkaban, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.

Chapter 30 - Mischief Managed

February 12, 1994

Takara caught fleeting glimpses of motion - a student using one of the stalls, but more often Myrtle, flitting about the room. The ghostly schoolgirl was inside her usual toilet - the one she’d died in, directly across from the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets - when the tiny hourglass in Hermione’s hand stopped spinning. Sound abruptly returned, as they could hear Myrtle next to them, sighing despondently. Hermione carefully pulled the Time-Turner’s chain over Takara’s head, and slipped the device back under her sweater before pressing a finger to her lips. By now, the girls were old hands at moving in coordination under the Deathcloak, so it was a simple matter to creep out of the stall and the bathroom without attracting Myrtle’s attention.

“So, what now?” Takara whispered.

“Right now, we’re in Hogsmeade,” Hermione hissed back. “So we can’t be seen here - we’ll need to stay under the cloak. But Professor Lupin should be coming back with the prisoners, and us, very shortly.”

“We wait at Hagrid’s hut, then?” Takara closed her eyes, trying to replay every detail. She’d been focussed on Hermione at the time, and hadn’t been paying full attention until the spells starting going off, but out of the corner of her eye, she’d seen . . . Takara gasped.


“We need to be there when they’re caught,” Takara hissed.

“Are you mad? Even under the cloak, we might be spotted - you said yourself animals can detect us, and more than one of us has feral senses!”

“We need to be there, because I think we were,” Takara insisted.

“Hogsmeade’s miles away!” Hermione protested. “Even if we could somehow get a hold of a carriage without being seen, we’ll never get there in time!”

“We’ll take the shortcut,” Takara said.


“The statue of the one-eyed witch on the third floor. Come on!”

The fact that they were parallelling Harry Potter’s path on the same day didn’t occur to Takara until they were halfway to Honeydukes’ cellar. It was a small thing, perhaps - but she was beginning to understand why Galen was so afraid of some of the years ahead. They were still sneaking into Hogsmeade under the cloak, Hermione had still stormed out of Divination - even earlier than before - and she’d still decked someone, even if it was Weasley instead of Malfoy. The details might change, but the overall pattern . . . Would one of them abandon the others in seventh year, hunting Horcruxes? Would one of them have to die facing Voldemort, and, not being a Horcrux, stay dead?

Galen or Shirou would volunteer in a heartbeat, if it meant we’d be safe - and Galen would probably try to knock Shirou out beforehand, because he has too much to live for here. Besides, that would fit the pattern, too - the one set in our world: he always dies, in the end.

Her throat felt like it was stuffed with cotton at the thought. No. Not this time - I won’t let him.

The two witches emerged into Honeydukes’ cellar, and carefully made their way up the ladder. In the movie, Takara remembered Harry bumping into a patron - but despite the fact that they took up more room, the pair of them together were more alert, and far more agile. They managed to make it out into the street without incident, and saw the group of them down the street, as the boys separated off and headed for the candy store.

“Circle around!” Hermione hissed. “We need to be upwind, or Galen or Black might catch our scents even under the cloak, and wonder why they can smell us here when we were headed for the Three Broomsticks!”

They made a wide arc around the candy shop, finally positioning themselves close enough to see what would go on without being close enough to be heard or smelled. Takara felt mildly stupid for not thinking of that - but Galen usually flaunted the sharpness of his ears, not his nose. Still, Hermione had similar sense enhancements, so of course she’d think of it. Hers were sight, hearing, and touch - her skin had always been sensitive, but now she was more aware of subtle changes in air pressure, such as someone moving around her.

Comes from having feathers that do the same, I guess, Takara thought, readying her wand.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Hermione hissed.

At precisely the right moment, Takara fired off a whispered Tripping Jinx, sending Weasley sprawling. Hermione held her breath in terror as Galen started, as though he suspected something, and Takara could feel the other witch slump bonelessly in relief beside her as he moved on.

“All this effort, just to trip him up?” Hermione asked scathingly once they’d gone.

“How else would he fall on a level road?” Takara retorted. “And if I hadn’t, he might have escaped. Still,” she admitted, “that was close. I thought Galen was going to catch us, which would mean I’d guessed wrong about our being here.”

“Perhaps he’s attuned to the Deathcloak?” Hermione wondered. “He is its master - perhaps he could sense its magic, even from so far away, but wasn’t sure why he sensed it?”

Takara shook her head. “He’s just naturally paranoid - trust me, I know. Now come on - we’ve got to beat them back to the castle if we’re going to be set up at Hagrid’s in time to snatch Galen’s wand.”

Galen had never said which window his wand had been thrown out of, so they’d had to stand at a slight distance from the hut in order to get a good view of the windows. Still, both girls’ hearing was sharp enough to catch the shouted beginning of the incantation for a Shield Charm - and catch the brief flashes of light that accompanied spells. The length of lignum vitae sailed out of a window within their line of sight, and disappeared into the snow.

“Silent spells,” Takara muttered under her breath. “I’d wondered how Black caught him - ”

“Petrificus Totalus!” came Black’s distant roar.

“Give it a minute or two,” Hermione advised. “We don’t want to bump into Black - or Galen - on the way out.”

Sure enough, Sirius Black emerged almost as soon as the words left her mouth, and began loping into the direction of the stone circle. A moment later, Galen followed, obviously woozy, and Hermione bit back a gasp at the sight of him.

“He’s hurt already!” Hermione exclaimed. “And he’s still going after Black?”

“Too stubborn for his own good,” Takara remarked. “Fetch his wand - I’ll keep them in sight.”

The other witch parted the Deathcloak and all but sprang to the place where the wand had vanished, while Takara kept her eyes on their fleeing friend, marking their trail. Almost immediately, Hermione was back, her eyes wide as she stared at the wand in her hand.

“I knew lignum vitae was dense, but it’s heavier than I expected,” she admitted. “And - it’s warm.”

Takara smiled. “Like it is when I use it - because the part of it that’s part of him recognises you, and wants to help you.”

A delicate pink suffused Hermione’s cheeks. Takara surmised that Hermione was afraid that the rapport she had with Galen’s wand was unique to her alone, and a sign of something deeper. Now, though, the British witch had tangible evidence that this wasn’t the case.

The Japanese witch shook herself. “Come on, we’ve got to keep them in sight.”

They followed the footprints in the snow, careful to stay within them when they could - at the speed both men were travelling, the trail was fairly obvious and muddled, but Hermione reminded her that an extra set of tracks could be disastrous, even if they couldn’t be traced back to them, specifically. As a result, they were too late to witness the explosion at the stone circle - though its location was now obvious - and Takara knew that too little time elapsed between the two blasts to go check on its victims.

Instead, they followed Galen’s trail, arriving just in time to be in the outer fringes of the blast zone.

“Protego!” Takara snapped, and the Deathcloak’s muffling effect on top of the explosion rendered her incantation unheard. The Shield Charm blocked the debris, forcing it to clear, and allowing them to see Black take the unintentional protection Galen’s body had offered him as an opportunity to cross the ward line and Disapparate. Takara didn’t even have time to think about it, however, because Hermione screamed as Galen hit a tree with a solid thunk, and Takara had to cast a Cushioning Charm before the fall to the ground finished him off.

“Hermione, we need the Essence of Dittany!” Takara cried. “The incantation for the Summoning Charm is ‘Accio!' ’

“A - Accio,” Hermione tried shakily, her widened eyes locked on the spreading pool of blood at the crown of Galen’s head.

“‘Accio Essence of Dittany,’” Takara repeated. “You’ve got to concentrate on what you want, Hermione - that wand is the only one that can reach that far! Say it!”

Hermione inhaled sharply, and yelled, “Accio Essence of Dittany!”

The Hospital Wing was too far away for the sound of the window breaking to be heard, but Hermione’s almost immediate slump indicated the wand had cast some kind of spell. Still, even on her knees the bushy-haired witch had a death grip on Galen’s wand, her face a mask of concentration - and Takara soon heard a whizzing sound that rapidly increased in volume. A potion bottle hurtled through the air, drawn to the wand as if by a magnet, and it took all of Takara’s Seeker-honed reflexes to snatch it in mid-flight.

Hermione dropped the wand from suddenly nerveless fingers, and Takara moved to apply the Dittany to Galen’s wounds - and stopped, as she suddenly realised that her friend was too exhausted to have cast the Patronus. It must have been hers, but if she used Galen’s wand, they’d both be too drained to escape before the Aurors arrived.

I have to have cast the Patronus with my own wand - but I never have before!

She shoved the bottle into Hermione’s hands. “Start pouring this on his wounds.”

Hermione looked at her, bewildered. “You’re better at healing than I am - ”

“There’s no time to argue - just do it!”

Takara realised she sounded more than a little hysterical, but she couldn’t help it. Even with the fact that she apparently already had, she could quite believe that she had finally managed to cast the spell properly.

. . . But if I don’t, Galen will die!

Stop! Calm down, and focus. Freaking out will not help, and you’re running out of time.

Closing her eyes, Takara pulled on every bit of discipline training she’d ever received - be it in martial arts, Occlumency, or tea ceremony - to still her whirling mind. She needed to be calm, clear, and centred. And then, she needed to be happy . . .

Takara concentrated on a new memory, one she hadn’t tried before, but made her as happy as she’d ever been. Alex in her arms, soft and warm and wriggling, eyes blue and bright and eager as he stared at the world, a baby smile on his little mouth. Her mother and father, aunts and godmother beside her, as they contemplated the glowing Christmas tree. Her family around her, as she hadn’t had a chance to contemplate it being since before the Grail War - happy and whole. More than that, grown, with the additions of a somewhat eccentric godmother who nonetheless loved her very much, and the baby sibling she’d always wanted . . .

Together, and happy, and safe . . .

“Expecto patronum!” Takara cried.

The flash was like lightning, a brilliant form streaking into the sky, circling as she directed to draw the attention of the Aurors she knew were close by. It moved so quickly that it seemed to be less a moving body then a shining circle, spinning in place. It seemed oddly two-toned, though - a thinner band of white bisecting a larger, darker one.

“He’s stopped bleeding,” Hermione reported, relief palpable in her voice. “He still doesn’t look good, but he won’t get any worse.”

“Put the potion bottle by his left hand, and the wand by his right,” Takara said. “That’s how he’s found.”

Hermione looked up. “You managed it! What is it?”

“I didn’t get a chance to look,” Takara admitted. “But the Aurors will be here shortly, so I guess I’d better call it down - we need to get back under the Deathcloak before we’re spotted.”

Hermione wordlessly fetched the silvery fabric, and cast it over them as Takara directed her Patronus down to them. The conjuration streaked down, and then prowled toward them silently through the snow. And as it emerged from the trees, Takara’s heart nearly stopped, as she saw what it was and remembered Luna’s words on the train, what seemed like a lifetime ago.

“It makes perfect sense - what else would your guardian be?”

While it was silvery like any Patronus, this one’s body was nevertheless darker in hue than most, like a cloud being illuminated from behind as it covered the sun. Long legs that ended in wide paws designed to balance in snow without any loss of speed loped cautiously in the girls’ direction, as its “fur” bristled warily. The white, shining light which created the glow of its body was centred in the Patronus’ head, in the blazing, angry eyes, and the bared fangs, as though it was holding the moon in its mouth.

Takara watched the Patronus sweep its head back and forth, eyes, ears and nose searching for threats as it circled the girls protectively - and there was no doubt in her mind that if it could, the spirit form would be growling a warning.

Well, I asked for a protector, Takara thought grimly. And pound for pound, there’s nothing meaner - or harder to stop - than a werewolf in full fury.

Hearing the distant sound of approaching people, Takara extinguished the spell, and the two witches made their way silently back to the castle. Hermione didn’t say a word, which Takara attributed to exhaustion - after using Galen’s wand, the poor girl was all but stumbling with every step.

“We need a place to rest, I think,” Takara said. “You look like you’re about to drop - and that spell wasn’t exactly easy for me, either. And we need to stay out of sight for the next three hours. I guess we ought to head up to the Room of Requirement - ”

“I’m already there,” Hermione murmured. “I wanted to make sure my homework was done before we went to Hogsmeade, so it’d be off my mind. I’ll be there until almost dinner.”

Takara cursed mentally. “All right, back to the dorms - ”

“Parvati Patil is there, remember? She decided to have a lie-in today, and then have her sister help her with her Transfiguration essay - she probably won’t be up before two.”

This time, Takara cursed aloud, and it was a measure of how tired the girl was that Hermione didn’t scold her for it. It couldn’t be helped, though - they couldn’t afford to be seen by anyone in more than one place, or be asked how they got somewhere so quickly.

“Where else can we hide for three hours that we won’t be seen?” Takara hissed. “Especially since we’re liable to fall asleep once we stop moving?” Hermione mumbled something, and Takara leaned in closer. “Say that again.”

Hermione made a visible effort to pull herself together, even as her face gradually reddened. “I said, Galen keeps his bed curtains drawn. If we stay under the cloak, we won’t cast a silhouette, and with the curtains closed, no one will notice the depression we make in the bed.”

Takara raised an eyebrow. “You sound like you’ve done this before.”

“. . .” If Hermione’s hair was as red as her face, she’d have passed for a Weasley.

Takara stared. “While he’s in the bed?”

“. . . Sometimes,” she admitted, before protesting defensively, “It’s the only way I can sleep! It’s instinct, now - I don’t feel safe without my pride! I’m all right as long as someone’s in the room, but once I was home for the hols, I’d go to sleep and wake up the next morning to find myself in bed with Miranda!” Her voice quieted in mortification. “I finally figured it out and had Crookshanks give up his basket to sleep with me, just so I wouldn’t go walkabout in the night.”

Her voice was very small as she added, “So sometimes, if I spend an extra day just studying, I’ll crawl under the cloak and sleep next to him because I’m already in my own bed. And even if I need a kip during the day, it still smells like him, so I feel all right. I can sleep, rather than just dozing fitfully.”

Takara stared. “How on earth did you end up this messed up? None of us have this kind of problem with our animal sides, and I used mine almost as much as you did.”

“Because as often as I let the lioness out, I also let her in,” Hermione admitted. “She was strong, fast, confident - and not afraid to show Galen she liked him. And Galen would pet me when I was her - and he was so happy to have something furry he could be affectionate with, and I liked it so much when he was. . .” She shook her head. “I wanted her more than the rest of you probably did, and so she ran deeper in me than the owl probably did in you - and when we balanced, she was a stronger presence than the rest. So I’m more ‘catty’ than I used to be, even in my thinking.” Hermione managed a weak smile at what she obviously know was a terrible joke.

Takara shook her head. “If we hadn’t caught on to the Animagus problem when we did - ”

“Then in a few more months, the fertile period of my cycle could’ve been ‘interesting’ by the ancient Chinese definition of the word,” Hermione said, deadpan. “Not to mention horribly embarrassing.” She sighed wearily. “Can we go, please? I’m utterly knackered.”

Resigning herself to the necessity, Takara followed Hermione to the third-year boys’ dormitory, which was thankfully deserted. As described, Galen’s bed had its curtains drawn, rendering its interior opaque.

“Another hint,” Hermione sighed. “He was giving me a place to hide, if I needed to. I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out . . .”

“You have been a little distracted this year,” Takara said drily. Nervously, she sat down on Galen’s bed. She hadn’t slept next to anyone besides her parents, and that when she was very small, usually after a nightmare - or occasionally, on a vacation, when they could only afford a single room. And that had been years ago, with a much larger bed than this . . .

Hermione’s eyes, while tired, brightened a bit at her obvious discomfort, and there was laughter in her voice. “It’ll be a bit of a snug fit, I know, but I’ll try my best not to molest you in your sleep, Takara. It’ll be enough that you’re close by.”

Takara blinked, confused. “What?”

Hermione sighed. “Honestly . . . I told you that I’m all right as long as someone’s in the room with me - who did you think I meant? I’m a Gryffindor third-year, so I feel comfortable enough with all the other Gryffindor third-year girls, almost as much as I am at home with my family. But as far as my instincts are concerned, my real pride is the six of you.” Her dark amber eyes were liquid and shining as she said softly, “I can sleep and feel safe, knowing that my sister is beside me.”

Takara had spent enough time around Hermione to know when she was being sincere, and she had to wonder, knowing that the other witch had a self-sacrificing streak that rivalled Galen’s, if Hermione would’ve ever said anything about her condition without these circumstances to spur it.

No, Takara decided, probably not. She doesn’t like asking for help - and in the series, almost never did unless she had absolutely no other choice. She’d have preferred to suffer, without letting us know - or passed it off as no big deal, if we found out. If she wasn’t so tired, she might still have tried to do that, but she might as well be drunk at the moment - her defences are down, and she doesn’t have the energy to maintain them.

Still, even without exhaustion to excuse it, Hermione was showing her an awful lot of trust, by revealing some very personal and private things. In the face of that, what else could Takara do but lie down and wait for Hermione to join her?

Almost immediately after she’d settled in, she felt Hermione’s back press against her own, and she felt the other witch inhale deeply into her half of the pillow.

More than a little uncomfortable now, with all the intimacy, Takara attempted to deflect her feelings with a bit of humour.

“So,” Takara said quietly, and slightly teasing. “Are the drawn curtains the only reason you pick Galen’s bed over, say, Neville’s? Or Shirou’s?”

“So,” Hermione said, repeating the word with an identical inflection. “Your Patronus is a werewolf.”

Her voice sounded halfway to slumber, but she was obviously still lucid as she continued, “After all your assurances about who you really wanted, and of all the things you could’ve subconsciously chosen to reflect a powerful guardian, or a symbol of some aspect of your deepest self, or something that holds an intimate meaning to your soul . . .”

There was a pause, before Hermione asked sleepily, “Should we start hexing each other now, or just skip straight to the hair-pulling stage?”

A week passed before Galen was released from the Hospital Wing, and Uncle Shiki and his dad arrived that very day. To debrief them, Shirou was told, about what had happened regarding Sirius Black. Oddly enough, despite its sounding official, the “debriefing” didn’t include Auror Shacklebolt, - just the two Security Division personnel. Professor Lupin, and the five Gryffindors who’d been in Hogsmeade, which would’ve have no doubt raised a few eyebrows among any authorities present. The inclusion of Ginny and Luna would have done even more than that, and Shirou was curious as to what excuse Kiritsugu had used on the Headmistress to get them there.

“Firstly,” Kiritsugu said, “I want to thank you all for your assistance last weekend in the captures of Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew.”

“Why? Pettigrew’s dead, and Black got away,” Neville said bitterly. “He was a bloody traitor, after all.”

“That reminds me . . .” Shiki stepped forward, and handed Neville a small bag. “For the replacement of your wand, and any incurred medical expenses as a result of your injuries, Mister Longbottom.”

Neville stared at the gold inside. His family wasn’t exactly poor, but even they didn’t throw around Galleons casually. “I can’t - ”

“Mister Longbottom,” Kiritsugu said severely, but with a smile playing about his lips. “It is a policy of the I.C.W. to pay its civilian contractors for services rendered - especially when they are injured in the execution of those services. My partner and I could be in very severe trouble if you don’t.”

“Nice McGonagall imitation, Dad,” Shirou muttered under his breath.

Kiritsugu grinned, saying, “Actually, I was channelling your mother.”

Shirou flushed, and Neville simply nodded, and took the bag without arguing.

“Now,” Kiritsugu continued, “we thought you’d all like to know that as of two days ago, Sirius Black was spotted in France, possibly trying to catch a ship to Cape Horn. There are a lot of small islands there he could hide in, even without using magic. If he reaches them, he could disappear for years.”

Grim looks were the only response to that.

“That said,” Shiki added, “We received a report from Agent Grim this morning. He’s crossed into Albania.”

“Agent Grim?” Ginny asked in confusion.

Luna, intuitive as always, sussed it out first. “He means Sirius Black.”

“WHAT?” came from several people at once.

Kiritsugu cleared his throat. “As you might have guessed, recent events in Britain have failed to instill confidence in a lot of international leaders regarding the country’s security. Things like trolls and basilisks wandering the halls of a school supposedly headed by the most powerful wizard in the world tend to make people nervous - even more so when the same wizard is also the head of the British judiciary and the chairman of the International Confederation of Wizards. Even the man in question can’t even safely and properly run a school . . .” Kiritsugu sighed. “The Minister of Magic isn’t much to speak of, either - allowing creatures like Dementors to roam without supervision in order to deal with an escaped convict, when he supposedly employs squads of witches and wizards trained to perform that function?”

His face set into grim lines as he added, “And it gets even worse when a check of the records indicates that the convict in question was never actually convicted - because he was never tried.”

“All that,” Shiki said, “indicates that something is seriously wrong in the state of magical Britain - and when you note the number of Death Eaters who were found ‘not guilty by reason of Imperius Curse’ in positions of influence, either officially or under the table, anyone with any sense can see bad things on the horizon.” Shiki adjusted his glasses before continuing, “Now, officially, the ICW Security Division has no legal authority in Britain, except under very specific circumstances - as is true with any member country. By the same token, we exist to protect the ICW member nations, and it’s clear that Britain is ripe for the rise of another Dark Lord, some time in the near future - and we have a duty to try and prevent that from happening.

“So when Galen came to us with his idea, we were all for it,” he finished.

Neville was visibly puzzled. “What idea?”

“Deep-cover infiltration,” Kiritsugu said. “The use of an operative who could find his way into sources of potential Dark activity, and give us the kind of intelligence we need to take them out before they become a real problem. Your Headmaster had a spy of his own, during the last war, but after reviewing his dossier, we consider him a suspect, if not outright compromised source. We needed our own. Someone who could convincingly be among the Darkest of Dark wizards, but with an integrity and loyalty that was beyond reproach.”

“And he gave you Sirius Black,” Hermione said in realisation.. “A wrongly-convicted man, with as much reason to hate the Dark as anyone alive - but the blackest of reputations, if you’ll pardon the phrasing.”

“Exactly,” Kiritsugu said. “No one would question his hatred, his desire for revenge on the society that locked him away without even a trial for the murder of his family in all but blood. At the same time, he’d want to see the people who got off scot-free brought down before they could start it all again - so that the Potters didn’t die for nothing.”

“It was a setup,” Hermione said flatly, but her voice grew sharper - and angrier - as she continued. “Black’s escape was all a setup - “ She whirled on Galen. “You knew, you nearly died - and it was all a setup, it was your idea, and you didn’t tell us!”

“A necessity for operational security,” Shiki said bluntly. “The fewer people who knew, the safer Black would be - and while your Occlumency skills can be brought up to par now, to keep the secret, it wasn’t plausible to teach all of you to lie well enough at the time to keep things convincing.” His blue eyes were cold. “We seriously considered the option of Oblivating Galen, Takara and Shirou - but given the familial relationship, there was a possibility of his using Galen as a secondary contact, and it was decided that keeping that intact was worth the risk. So we simply told them to give us their oaths.”

The three named teens stared at the Aurors, not having heard that before. Shiki’s return gaze was impassive.

“In any case,” Kiritsugu said quietly. “Because it’s likely that you kids will get involved in this, sooner or later - at least, so your parents seem to think - it was decided that you need to know that Sirius Black isn’t what he seems. There may come a time when you need to trust him, or vice versa, and so we’re telling you that you can. That knowledge needs to be hidden, but it might save your life someday - or his, or someone else’s.”

“And you need to know that I won’t be your Defence professor, as of next month,” Lupin said. “I’ve been offered - and have accepted - a contract to help the ICW track down the notorious mass murderer, Sirius Black.” He grinned. “In point of fact, I’ll be his go-between, but appearances must be maintained, and all that.

“It’s the biggest prank the Marauders have ever tried. To the world at large, Sirius Black is a Dark wizard, a mass murderer, and one of the most dangerous men alive - and to them, he’ll stay that way, because it’s his ticket into the enemy camp. But when it really counts, when it will do the most possible damage to them, he’ll reveal what he truly is - Gryffindor to the core. At the right time and place, or with the right information passed along, it could mean the difference between victory and defeat.”

Kiritsugu gave each of them a look. “I realise that you’ve been deceived, and hurt for this. It would be easy to defend that as being ‘for the greater good,’ but that excuse has already been used to pardon too much - there’s a reason it’s inscribed at Nuremgard. It would be just as easy to say that legally, we shouldn’t even be telling you this much - it could cost us our careers, and we could be facing prison time - but again, that’s an excuse. All I can say is that we’re doing the best we can, within the constraints we have, and I hope you’ll forgive that.”

Looks were traded between the students, and each nodded in turn.

“All right,” Kiritsugu said. “We’ll make arrangements to start your Occlumency training once I step in as Lupin’s replacement for the rest of the year - see you all in March. You can go, now.”

Shirou, Galen and Takara were the last to leave the room - mainly because Galen refused to. He simply leaned against the desk, staring at the Aozaki patriarch.

Finally, when the others were gone and presumably out of earshot, he asked, “Why did you lie?”

Shiki adjusted his glasses again. “Who says I did? Obliviation is a viable protocol for people who witness classified actions.”

“But you never ordered us to keep quiet,” Galen countered.

“No, but you chose to, and I figured your friends were smart enough to know that, and that you didn’t need the stress between you, if things are going to get as dark as we think.” Shiki shrugged. “And besides - I owe you.”

Galen blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“You saved my wife,” Shiki said bluntly. “I owe you her life, and to a very real extent, my son’s, as well. That’s not a debt I’d ever ignore, even if you weren’t Takara’s friend.” He shrugged. “So if it helps you that they’re mad at us instead of you, so be it. But as Takara’s friend, I want to offer you some advice - stop playing around. Sooner or later, this will come back on you.”

Galen held up a hand. “Hadn’t planned on anything else - but this was Sirius’ life I was gambling with.”

“And you got lucky,” Shiki said. “I managed to take out the British Auror without his suspecting, and your friends didn’t fire anything lethal at him. It worked - but you pushed even your luck doing it.” He shook his head. “Still, I can understand you wanting to do everything you can for family, so I won’t ride you too hard - this time.”

“Thank you, sir - for everything.”

He nodded, and made a shooing motion with his hands at the three of them.

Once outside, Shirou said in low-voiced Japanese, “So - the Dementors are gone, Lupin has job security - at another job, mind you, but still - and we have an alternative to Snape if it ever comes down to another war, although we have a better chance of preventing it from coming to that now. You have any other stunts planned for the year, or can we just focus on classes now?”

Galen shook his head. “Nope - I’d say, ‘mischief managed.’”

To Be Continued in Trinity: The Tournament

March 28th, 2011, 10:28 PM
. . . And master that bloody Patronus Charm![/i]
But now it's gone!

March 28th, 2011, 10:34 PM
Got it fixed - and the story is now done. That leaves the chapters of the next one (should be up by Wednesday, I hope), and then it's back to one chapter at a time, and hopefully no more of these! :)

March 29th, 2011, 10:53 PM
“So, tell me about yourselves,” Sirius said. “I knew your parents, of course, Neville. Good Aurors and good people, the both of them.” His face twisted. “My cousin spent a lot of time bragging over what she’d done to them while her Master was facing Voldemort . . .” He acquired a suddenly feral grin as he added, “At least, when the Dementors weren’t too close. Then, she was too busy whimpering.”

Somehow, that seems kinda awkward... Voldemort vs. Voldemort! Black vs. White! Past vs. Future! Ultimate showdown, round 1, FIGHT-O!

March 29th, 2011, 11:06 PM
Nice catch - I managed to miss that through how many read-throughs? :rolleyes:

Thanks - fixed it.