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

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    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    [FF] Trinity III: The Prisoner (Type-Moon/Harry Potter X-over)

    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,
    Hermione


    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?!
    Last edited by Kieran; January 15th, 2013 at 11:30 PM.

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    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.

    Toys?!

    “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 . . .”
    Last edited by Kieran; January 15th, 2013 at 11:29 PM.

  3. #3
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.
    Last edited by Kieran; May 27th, 2011 at 10:36 PM.

  4. #4
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.”
    Last edited by Kieran; March 26th, 2011 at 09:11 PM.

  5. #5
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.

    Obliviate.

    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 . . .

    Shirou.

    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.

  6. #6
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.

  7. #7
    British Invasion Elf's Avatar
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    You know what's really hilarious in hindsight where in Book two Takara said she would never date Shirou.

  8. #8
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.

  9. #9
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six lethum's Avatar
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    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
    Last edited by lethum; March 26th, 2011 at 08:39 PM. Reason: Forgot about saying where it was. D'uh

  10. #10
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    Would help if I was patient enough to do it, too. Thanks, fixed it.

  11. #11
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six lethum's Avatar
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    In my experience, you Ctrl+B(F?) and write the [ or ]. The end. And No prob.

  12. #12
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.

  13. #13
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six lethum's Avatar
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    Ok, then.

  14. #14
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.”

  15. #15
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.
    Last edited by Kieran; March 27th, 2011 at 06:46 PM.

  16. #16
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.
    Last edited by Kieran; May 27th, 2011 at 10:42 PM.

  17. #17
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    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.

    “What?”

    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.

  18. #18
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    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.

  19. #19
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    According to most, my own little world
    Age
    35
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    Male
    Posts
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    156
    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.”

    “HEY!”

    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.

    STUPEFY!

    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.

  20. #20
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    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.

    “Surname?”

    “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.

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