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

  1. #21
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 14 - The Hunt Begins



    October 31, 1993






    Takara Aozaki would freely admit that she was no expert on reading people’s faces. She didn’t socialise enough, as a general rule, to pick up on every micro-expression and posture change, much less enough to be able to interpret what they meant. But her upbringing gave her some rudimentary tools to do so, nonetheless. Moreover, after almost six years’ worth of interaction - whether as implanted background or true history was inconsequential, because it felt just as real - she felt she had a decent handle on the habits and reactions of Galen Salvatore.

    On seeing Hermione smile at him, he blinked. Not a standard blink, an “I have just been surprised, and need to process this” blink. His face also went carefully blank, meaning the surprise was potentially a bad one, forcing him to assess - or reassess - something important. If it was just Hermione’s teeth, he’d simply have asked. But he was looking at her as though . . .

    As though he was surprised to see her here at all, Takara thought. But he knew she was coming to Hogsmeade with us. She was terribly upset about having to leave him behind . . .

    She glanced at Hermione, who was very red as she stared at Galen, eyes almost pleading, one hand creeping up to her chest seemingly without thought.

    . . . Maybe she didn’t, Takara realised. Hermione has the Time-Turner - she can actually be in two different places at once! The Japanese witch shook her head. Sneaky - she gets to enjoy Hogsmeade and spend time with him. But no one’s supposed to know she has it . . . And no one would, if she made him promise not to tell she was with him!

    Takara couldn’t help a grin. No wonder she wasn’t too upset about my date - she got to have her own! Then she scowled, in memory of the end of that date. Bloody Draco Malfoy . . . Just when we’d started to make progress!

    She rejoined the conversation around her when she heard Galen say, very sharply, “He hexed you?”

    Every flame in the Great Hall suddenly flared for an instant, as though they had been hit with Engorging Charms. The sight was even more impressive with all the jack-o’-lanterns and floating streamers about for the Hallowe’en feast, and Takara shivered. They’d never been able to determine just how powerful any of them were - if there had been a direct translation of magical capacity when they arrived, they’d have all been gods, effectively - but there was no denying that they were all much stronger than the “average” witch or wizard. Galen’s displays in the moments when his control slipped certainly were proof enough of that. Because, if nothing else, both she and Shirou could keep up with him.

    “I’m fine,” Hermione insisted. “I even got my teeth fixed out of it, and in a way such that my parents can’t complain. Besides, it wasn’t as though he meant to hit me - he was aiming at . . . “ She trailed off, no doubt suddenly realising that telling Galen his best friends had been the actual targets was not likely to calm him down.

    “I’m fine,” she repeated softly. “All in all, this has been one of the best days I’ve ever had - even with the hexing.”

    She gave him a half-smile, and Galen relented, if he didn’t entirely relax. Takara had no doubt that he still wanted to crucify Malfoy on the Quidditch hoops and use him for target practice - in which case, she would happily volunteer her broom for transportation purposes in exchange for about twenty minutes of range practice - but he shoved it to the back burner, for the moment.

    “We’re going to have to cut the feast short,” he warned in Japanese, which was itself a warning that the next part of their conversation had to be private.

    “Black,” Takara said. “He . . .” She paused, bringing the exact memory to the fore. “He attacks the Fat Lady.”

    “Right,” Galen said.

    “We don’t know how he gets into the castle, though.”

    “We don’t have to,” Galen replied. “The portraits never saw him leave - and after attacking one of them, they’d be watching. So would Peeves, who reports the attack in the first place. So, from the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, there are only a couple of ways out that he could’ve used.”

    “Could the Room of Requirement make an exit?” Shirou queried. “It’s the closest hiding place to the Tower.”

    Galen shook his head. “It could, but Sirius never mentioned the Room to Harry - and it doesn’t show up on the Marauder’s Map, even when it’s in use. There’s no way the Marauders wouldn’t have used it, if they’d known about it.”

    “The Map,” Takara said. “We should get the Map - it would help us track him down.”

    “Not to mention all the help it might be later,” Galen agreed. “Any ideas how to get it off Fred and George, though?”

    Takara couldn’t help it - she giggled.

    “You’re kidding, right? Even if they weren’t inclined to help out the ‘Discoverer of the Room,’ or their teammates, Shirou saved Ginny’s life last year - Percy’s, too, but they might not feel too charitable about that. Still, add that to a two thousand Galleon gift, and I’m pretty sure they’ll figure they owe us one or two things.” She shrugged. “For once, we can be direct - just ask for the Map.”

    “Better do it now,” Galen said. “We’ll never get a better shot at getting Sirius alone without needing to track him down ourselves - and stay ahead of the Dementors and everybody else while we do it.”

    Neville glanced around at the Great Hall before asking, “You want the rest of us to cover for you?”

    “Pretty please,” Galen agreed, and Takara had to suppress another giggle at Ginny Weasley’s expression. Apparently, she hadn’t expected a Dark creature, who was also one of the scariest wizards she knew, to use such expressions - especially in a sugary tone of voice.

    Neville, however, simply nodded. “Will do.”

    Takara had to admit, she was impressed. She had no doubt that Neville preferred that task than tracking down and confronting Sirius Black - even knowing he was an innocent man - but his calm acceptance of staying out of the thick of things reminded her that she would be far more irritated performing the same duty. More, she had no doubt that had they asked him to come with them, he’d have done that, too, with the same acceptance.

    “You’re getting impressive, Neville,” she admitted quietly, and he surprised her again by grinning.

    “I’m improving,” he admitted, “but I know my limits. You guys can go confront the half-mad, homicidal wizard - I’ll stay here as long as I’ve got the choice, thanks.”

    “I’m coming with you,” Hermione stated.

    “It’s going to be hard enough hiding three of us,” Galen countered, “and the teachers will take your word over almost anyone else’s.”

    The bushy-haired witch wilted. “But I want to help.”

    “Help Neville,” Galen advised, and she nodded in defeat.

    Takara rose, and turned to the Weasley among them. “Mind giving me a hand, Ginny? They’re your brothers - and you’re liable to be . . . persuasive.

    Ginny grinned. “They’ll hand over your map, or else.

    The two girls made their way to the older Gryffindors, who sat between Lee Jordan and Oliver Wood.

    “Hello, boys,” Takara greeted. “We need a favour.”

    Fred slapped his hand over his heart. “And what may we do for two of the most beauteous flowers of the Scarlet Seven?”

    “Oi, Fred,” George pointed out, “one of those is our sister.”

    “And if we don’t call her beautiful, what do you think she’ll do to us?”

    “. . . Good point.”

    Takara was torn between laughing and frowning. “That’s twice now - exactly how long do you guys plan to keep up this ‘Scarlet Seven’ thing?”

    The twins grinned and said in unison, “Until you add an eighth member, of course!”

    “Hard to alliterate ‘eight,’” George pointed out.

    “True - but if they lose someone, we could still manage with ‘Scarlet Six . . .’”

    Ginny cleared her throat ominously. “Fred? George? The favour?”

    Both boys sobered instantly, and Fred said, “Right - what d’you need?”

    Takara phrased her request delicately. “We need something you have, so we can get some mischief managed.” She smirked. “And I solemnly swear that we are up to no good.”

    Surprise flitted across both twins’ faces, and they traded a look.

    “You know,” Fred said lightly, “last year . . .”

    “When we called Galen ‘all-knowing,’” George added.

    “It was supposed to be a joke,” the twins finished together.

    Nonetheless, they produced the parchment.

    “Thanks, guys,” Takara said gratefully. “We do appreciate it.”

    “And we appreciate your appreciation,” Fred assured her.

    “But it’ll be a while before we’re square, at the rate you lot keep doing us favours,” George finished.

    Ginny smirked. “And I won’t let you forget that, either.”

    “Ginny, torment your big brothers later,” Takara mock-scolded. “We’re on a deadline, remember?”

    With an enthusiastic nod, she followed Takara back to the table. Once in their customary seats, she activated the Map. From there, it was a simple matter to focus on Gryffindor Tower - and see a dot labelled “Sirius Black” approaching it.

    “He’s already on the move,” Galen cursed.

    Takara stood up. “Then we need to be, too.”






    Shirou was surprised to see Galen reach for the back of his collar, once they were in the corridors, and tug - until the Deathcloak came free and revealed the dragonhide duster he’d been wearing over his school robes.

    “I figured, one way or another, this would come to a fight,” Galen said with a shrug, before he tossed the cloak to Takara. “You’re faster - get to the passage on the third-floor corridor and into the Honeydukes tunnel. If he gets past us, you’re our last chance.”

    “Right,” She donned the cloak in a swirl, leaving only the map visible for a moment, as she studied the route.

    “The passage opens when you tap the statue with your wand and say ‘Dissendium,’” Galen instructed. “The map would tell you, but we’ll need it.”

    The parchment page drifted in front of Shirou. He grasped it, felt it loosen as Takara let it go, and heard a faint tapping as her footsteps pounded off.

    “Now what?” Shirou asked as they moved.

    “The fourth-floor passage is supposed to be blocked after a cave-in last winter - but maybe not now, depending on whether or not the basilisk was the cause,” Galen murmured, recalling text through half-closed eyes. “Filch monitors four of the passages - he’d have caught Sirius going through them. The passage he most likely uses is the one under the Whomping Willow, to the Shrieking Shack - but I can’t imagine his getting that far out on the grounds without being seen. And the shack’s door is purely decorative, from my understanding - the passage is the only way in or out of the building. Makes sense, since it was supposed to contain a transformed werewolf. While that makes it an ideal place to take captives to, I can’t see Sirius using a dead end to escape, even if he came in that way, That makes the Honeydukes passage his most likely point of exit.” He paused. “Except . . . Damn.

    “What?”

    “Black hasn’t got a wand,” Galen hissed. “You need to tap the damned statue with your wand to make it open - that might have been his way in, depending on how the other side of the door works, but he can’t use the same way out.

    “Fourth-floor passage, then?” Shirou asked

    “Maybe - but Fred and George were sure it was blocked.” Galen’s expression turned grim. Once again, Shirou could see possibilities flashing behind the blue eyes as a lifetime’s worth of imagination and years of playing role-playing games were put to work in order to answer one question: How do you break into - and more importantly, out of - Hogwarts?

    “It has to be the Whomping Willow,” he muttered. “I remember now - they said they were leaving the Shrieking Shack in school, so there has to be a workable door. He said he lived in the Forest while he was here, but how do you get from the castle to the grounds without being spotted by at least one portrait? Can’t fly, can’t Apparate - broomstick? No - no broken glass, or evidence of an open window, and that lets out climbing or jumping, too. Another passage? Maybe, but where?

    “Does it matter?” Shirou asked. “We have the map - we can use it to follow him.”

    “True,” Galen admitted. “It just rankles. Especially since I never thought about it until I had to counter it.”

    By now, they’d climbed four flights of stairs. Sirius had a lead on them, but they weren’t constrained by as great a need for stealth, not yet - and the escapee would lose time confronting Gryffindor Tower’s guardian portrait. They could catch up with him - but what then?

    “You do have a plan, don’t you?” Shirou asked as they ran.

    Galen snorted as they approached the sixth floor. “Depends what shape he’s in. He’s been on the run for weeks, half-starved - and he’s more than little nuts. We might have to use force to subdue him.”

    Shirou absorbed that grimly. “Wands out, then - we can’t take him in a physical fight.” Galen blinked in surprise at the statement, so Shirou elaborated, “Training aside, we’re thirteen and fourteen, and he’s not. He’s half-starved, but also half-mad, you said, which means he’s basically a berserker. If we have to literally beat him down, one or more of us could be killed. And you’re still recovering from last night, however good you seem right now. In a straight-up physical fight, he’ll have the advantage.”

    “So wands out,” Galen agreed, and the lignum vitae wand appeared in his hand as Shirou drew his own holly wand.

    Midway up the stairs to the seventh floor, Galen paused, then dragged Shirou back down to the sixth floor landing and into a side corridor. Heartbeats later, a faint rushing came from above - bare feet making almost no sound on the stone. Faint echoes followed - the spectral laughter of the poltergeist, Peeves. To their surprise, Black didn’t continue downwards, but crossed the landing to the area that housed the Divination tower. The explanation as to why wasn’t long in coming - Peeves’ laughter grew louder as the poltergeist swept down the stairs in an otherwise silent fashion, apparently following the same route as Black had taken.

    “Your hearing never ceases to amaze me,” Shirou muttered into the other wizard’s ear.

    “Says the guy who can follow the path of the Snitch from the Quidditch stands - in a raging downpour, no less.”

    Shirou nodded to acknowledge the point, then quietly, the two wizards followed the poltergeist’s trail. With his each of their acute senses, keeping the wizard and poltergeist within range while remaining far enough behind so as to not draw attention was relatively easy. Inwardly, though, he was curious. The Forbidden Forest wasn’t too hard to get to from the castle, but there was a lot of open ground between the two. Even if Black could get there without incident in dog form, exactly how did he get out of the castle without being spotted?

    For Takara or myself, it’d be easy - our Animagus forms have wings. Even Ginny or Luna might manage it, because they’re relatively small creatures. But Black is supposed to be a dog big enough to cow a werewolf - so how will he? Especially from here, on the seventh floor?

    Shirou considered. The path they were following led to the Divination classroom, according to what he’d been told. If the batty-looking professor habitually left a window open, he supposed Black might try to climb out and down the tower until he hit lower ground - like the outer wall, or one of the bridges that connected the towers to the castle core.

    Risky and impractical, Shirou thought, but he might be daring - or desperate - enough to try it . . .

    Then they heard Peeves cry out. “Awww! Where’d you go, Mister Black? Mister Blaaaaack, come baaaaack . . .”

    Shirou blinked. Black had vanished? But the only thing around the corner was -

    “No,” Galen whispered, and they charged forward. They were just in time to see a swirling pattern was fading on one wall - the door to the Room of Requirement.

    Bugger,” Galen spat. “Of course. He didn’t need to know it was there to begin with, or what it could do - it just mattered that it was there when he needed it. And having used to it to escape Hogwarts once, he’d go back afterwards, assuming it was still there. And of course, it would be.” He shook his head. “And it explains why he never mentioned it to Harry - why tell him about a one-way tunnel out of the castle?”

    “We’d better go collect Takara,” Shirou sighed. “If we leave her there waiting all night, she’ll have our hides.”

    “Yeah,” Galen grumped. “We should.”






    Galen fumed the entire way back to the Great Hall, as they followed the rest of Gryffindor. The attack on the Fat Lady had been discovered, and arrangements were being made to keep the students in the Great Hall while the castle was searched.

    And it only took them two years to come up with this plan! Galen thought sarcastically. I wonder what it is about an unarmed wizard that’s more dangerous than a mountain troll - they let everybody go back to the dorms for that one.

    Truth be known, he was angrier at himself than anything else. For all his skepticism regarding other elements and events of the Harry Potter series, the methods by which Sirius Black entered and exited the castle had never been questioned. It was ridiculous, in hindsight, because Rowling herself eliminated the possibility of using the Honeydukes tunnel by stating that no break-ins had ever been reported. And with the Whomping Willow elsewhere on the grounds . . .

    If it had been planted in a courtyard, say, it might make sense for Sirius to sneak in. But it isn’t, and the Honeydukes tunnel needs the use of a wand to be opened - which Sirius never had. And since those are the only two unmonitored tunnels . . . Why did I never think about it?!

    Because it was authorial privilege, of course. She wrote that Sirius had gotten in and out, so the reader (or viewer) simply accepted that he had. The details were largely unimportant, and once they uncovered the two passages in the narrative, the mind filled in the details. Only careful examination of the circumstances would reveal that it couldn’t have been done that way, and until now, he’d never had a reason to examine things too closely. Now Galen wished he had, and not blown this. It had been their best chance to get at Sirius before the Dementors did - their best chance to get an answer as to Pettigrew’s fate. And they’d blown it. Things seemed to be going just like last year - every attempt they made to forestall things just got thrown into the crapper.

    We buggered up last year in so many ways - I thought this one would go easier. I mean, it wouldn’t be hard to avoid the Dementors, and compared to a basilisk, Sirius isn’t all that dangerous. Easy as pie, frankly . . . Ha! Shows what I know.

    “The faculty will be conducting a thorough search of the castle,” McGonagall announced, once the students of all four houses had been gathered. “Until we have concluded, all students are to remain here. Prefects, guard the entrances and exits. Our Head Boy and Girl will be in charge.”

    She waved her wand, and the dining tables were pushed aside by the conjuration of sleeping bags and pillows for each student.

    “Any disturbances are to be reported immediately,” McGonagall instructed. “Send word through one of the ghosts.”

    The four house ghosts remained, patrolling with the prefects, and to serve as messengers, if necessary. The seven Gryffindors found a corner and set themselves up for as much privacy as possible.

    “It’s not your fault,” Hermione assured him in whispered Japanese, on hearing the full story. “There was no reason for you to consider his using that method to escape - your premises were quite logical.”

    “And very wrong,” Galen muttered. “A year to think about this, and it never even occurred to me to wonder about how he got in and out . . . I’m starting to wonder if this world isn’t deliberately making us think along certain lines just to get its own way.”

    Everyone shuddered. It was a frightening thought.

    “Still,” Takara admitted. “It’s been a long day, you’re exhausted - if your brain’s not working at top capacity, it’s not surprising. Besides, we can just get him next time. That’ll be . . .” She paused. “When he gets into the tower and frightens Weasley. At least a month away, and we’ll have made better plans by then.”

    Galen nodded, then froze. “Oh no.

    “What is it?” Hermione asked.

    “He’s not getting in.”

    “Why?” Luna asked.

    It was Takara who answered, “Because he’ll need Neville’s list of passwords.”

    “But I don’t keep a list,” Neville said, puzzled.

    “Because your Occlumency bolsters your memory,” Galen agreed. “But even if we wrote one out, the list is given to him by Crookshanks.”

    Hermione’s eyes widened. “Why would Crookshanks give him a list of passwords to the tower?”

    “Exactly - they’ve never met, and Crookshanks has no reason to trust him . . . And that’s my fault, because you got him two years early.”

    If possible, the bushy-haired witch’s eyes got bigger. “Poor Crookshanks was going to sit in a store for two whole years?” She shook her head. “That’s terrible! I’m glad I got him when I did.” The Great Hall was too dark to tell, but Galen suspected she might be blushing as she added, “I really needed him, right then.”

    “I thought you might,” he murmured. “But it basically means we have only one option now. If we want to find Sirius Black, we’ll have to go looking for him - and that means . . .”

    Galen swallowed hard and whispered, “That means that we’ll have to go into the Forbidden Forest.”

    Nobody in the Great Hall got a lot of sleep that night - but for the “Scarlet Seven,” as Fred and George called them, the reason behind the insomnia was quite different.

  2. #22
    Master of Hermione Alter Kieran's Avatar
    Join Date
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    According to most, my own little world
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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 15 - What Friends Are For



    November 6, 1993






    Shirou sat astride his broom, grimacing as another bolt of lightning blinded him. Even with the water-repelling enchantment of his goggles, the wind made this storm no picnic to see in, much less fly in. And knowing that lightning struck higher targets first didn’t please him one bit.

    Which idiot decided to hold a Quidditch game in this kind of weather?

    Shirou might not have minded the playing conditions - as a reserve player, he rarely got a chance to contribute to the Gryffindor team - if the preceding week hadn’t been as miserable as the weather. The castle was abuzz for days following Sirius Black’s entry, and the Fat Lady had been replaced by a knight named Sir Cadogan. He was a roaring lunatic, changing the passwords on a thrice-daily basis, challenging people to duels at random - though he did seem to make some exception for Neville, Hermione and Takara, on basis of their being “comrades-in-arms” for some unfathomable reason.

    Other than those three, however, the only person who could really handle his personality was Galen. The werewolf had declared himself a “free knight, released from the oaths of service to his lady fair,” and been perfectly willing to duel Cadogan. In other words, he met lunacy with lunacy - and if the painted knight wasn’t exactly friendly to him, they had a mutual respect thing going. In any case, the word was out: crowds of Gryffindors now gathered routinely outside the tower to wait for one of the four to show up, so that they could enter the dorms without headaches.

    I hope the Fat Lady’s painting is fixed soon - otherwise, I’m writing to Ilya for advice on how to handle a psychotic knight. She managed to do it for years, after all . . .

    Their mission to contact Sirius Black had also taken a hit with their failure on Hallowe’en, reducing them to the same old option: hurry up and wait. The fact was, with Black hiding in the Forbidden Forest, the odds of them actually finding him was almost zero - especially when compared to their odds of finding trouble.

    Like trolls, angry centaurs - oh, and let’s not forget the hundreds of giant, man-eating spiders . . .

    If they were going to do it, Galen reasoned, it would be best to wait for the full moon. Their Animagus forms - most of them - were far better suited to tracking someone hidden in the forest. And the task would be especially easy with the predatory senses of a werewolf on hand. And much as he hated to admit it, Shirou couldn’t say he disagreed with the analysis. That left them with almost four full weeks with nothing to do but concentrate on school.

    Well . . . Almost nothing to do, he amended mentally.

    In the last week, their calisthenics had included practising the Patronus Charm. Without guidance, they weren’t likely to actually manifest a corporeal Patronus, but knowing that the Dementors might show up at this game, none of them had thought the practice a foolish idea. Trapped in the stands as they’d be, avoiding the Dementors would be impossible - therefore, they had to develop their defences.

    Shirou could admit that a large part of his irritability came from the idea of being on a broomstick, in a raging storm, surrounded by Dementors, and without his wand. After their effect on him the last time, the situation was literally the stuff of nightmares, as far as he was concerned. If only Alicia Spinnet hadn’t decided to ask him to play Chaser so she could get a little extra work done on one of her OWL projects!

    Then again, I’d have been out here in the storm anyway, to support Takara. And this is a Firebolt - maybe I can outrun the damned things, at least. Still wish I had my wand, though.

    The only bright spot in all this (and it was very dim, as bright spots went) was that Draco Malfoy’s attempt to use his injury as an excuse not to play, and have Gryffindor play Hufflepuff instead of Slytherin, had failed spectacularly. His continued attempts to milk it had been ignored or derailed by Gryffindor in general, but when Flint had sent the letter informing Wood that the team wouldn’t play Slytherin on account of the injury, Shirou had put something Galen had brought up into motion. With Wood, they’d gone to Professors McGonagall and Sprout to protest the changeover, citing it as unfair to Hufflepuff, given that the other team likely wasn’t prepared to play a game on such short notice, and demanding that if medical reasons were going to be cited as a reason for forfeiting, a signed note from Madam Pomfrey be provided, just as would be necessary if a student missed a class.

    Naturally, Madam Pomfrey had pronounced Draco fully recovered from the Hippogriff attack (her actual phrase was “long recovered”) and certified him fit to play the next day. Word from Fred and George had it that Marcus Flint wasn’t too pleased - the Slytherins had been planning to use Draco’s injury from the start, it seemed, and slacked off in their practice sessions, assuming they’d be able to get out of playing the first game of the year. Needless to say, even with Alicia’s loss, Wood was greatly anticipating the opportunity to beat Slytherin into the ground.

    And after that stunt Malfoy pulled in Hogsmeade, I can’t say I mind the idea, either.

    Interrupting his date just when they were getting to the heart of things between them was bad enough. Even worse that he’d attacked them from behind from behind like that (and he must be losing it, to have let that happen!). But that curse . . . Shirou was very well aware of how incredibly lucky he was, that the spell was so relatively harmless. He’d never have chosen to hit Hermione - they called them “accidents” for a reason, after all - but what if it had been something more lethal? He would have had to tell Galen that she’d died . . .

    I don’t think Galen would’ve blamed me - but he’d have torn the castle apart stone by stone, and slaughtered every living soul inside, if that was what it took to get his hands on Malfoy . . . And I would have helped him, because it would still be partially my fault she was dead, and I couldn’t ever make that right. And then, after all the damage was done . . . What would I be then?

    Worse than the spirit who’d become Archer to escape being a Counter Guardian. Something closer to the homunculus Emiya Shirou of the Sixth War, or the child of the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart. Everything I was willing to die, and kill, to escape. But I’d have done it, because Hermione’s blood -
    innocent blood - was already on my hands, and because my best friend needed me to help him.

    If there was any justice in this universe, Malfoy would never know what kind of nightmare he’d nearly unleashed, and just how close he’d come to setting it loose . . . But Shirou did, and he was inclined to punish the blond wizard for it, just the same.

    Shirou shook his head, tightened his grip on his broomstick, and concentrated on the game.

    As had been proven last year, the Nimbus 2001s used by the Slytherin team gave them a distinct advantage, but Gryffindor had the better players. The current match conditions bore that out. While faster and more manoeuvrable than the school brooms, in weather like this the top-flight brooms were actually something of a hindrance - akin to driving a top-of-the-line sports car at high speed in similar weather - because the Slytherin players simply weren’t good enough flyers to compensate properly. Chasers and Beaters overshot their marks, or were blown hither and yon by the howling winds.

    By contrast, the Gryffindors were accustomed to getting the most out of their broomsticks, and had a solid foundation rooted in control. And if Shirou wasn’t quite on the level of the remaining “Flying Foxes” as a Chaser, the raw ability of his Firebolt made up for the lack. Takara, perched on her own Firebolt, was a natural a flyer as there ever was. The weather was no problem for her whatsoever, nor likely to be. And Oliver Wood, on the Nimbus 2000, was just as comfortable now as on the clearest day imaginable.

    As a result, at the time the Snitch was released, the score was actually sixty-forty in favour of Gryffindor - a marked contrast from their last game with Slytherin, where only the Snitch had won them the match, in the end. And when Katie Bell faked out the Slytherin Chasers to pass him the Quaffle, so that he could dart forward faster than they could follow, Shirou increased the lead by another ten points.

    The play continued like that for quite a while. Lee Jordan, for all his bombastic announcements, was silenced by the winds, and the rain grew even harder and thicker, becoming a virtual curtain over the air. Sporadic flashes of lightning increased in both tempo and intensity, along with rolling waves of thunder that vibrated in Shirou’s chest.

    After a while, Wood signalled to land, which Shirou did, joining the rest of his team.

    “I’ve called for a time out!” he roared. “Come on, under here -”

    The team huddled under a large umbrella at the edge of the pitch.

    “We’re a hundred points up,” Wood announced, “but unless we get the Snitch soon, we’ll be playing into the night.”

    Takara shook her head, and it was a measure of how soaked her hair was that droplets didn’t immediately start spraying - in fact, her tresses were so saturated, they hardly moved.

    “Sorry, taichou,” she said. “The rain’s too heavy - I’m having trouble discerning small movements at any real distance. It’ll have to be almost on top of me, I think.”

    Shirou nodded - it made sense. Her goggles, like his own, might repel water - but not having it collect on the lenses didn’t mean it wasn’t still hard to see through.

    Just then, Galen and Hermione approached, huddled under one cloak while holding another above their heads.

    “Warming Charms,” Hermione said briskly, as the two Gryffindors began waving their wands. “Cold, stiff muscles don’t react well - and you’re all soaked to the bone.”

    “And they should last the entire game,” Galen added, before continuing in an undertone only Shirou and Takara could hear. “So if you start getting cold, something is very wrong.”

    Shirou was grateful for the sudden heat, but he caught the warning, too - the Dementors’ arrival couldn’t be far off, and the chill would warn that they were coming.

    Still, it was a blessedly warm Gryffindor team that mounted their brooms, and took to the air again.






    Galen was about as tense as he’d ever been when he and Hermione returned to the stands. He never liked watching his friends play Quidditch, not really - every near-miss with a Bludger, or foul from an opposing player, put his heart in his throat. In conditions like this bloody monsoon, he felt even worse - and knowing what was coming had Hermione and Luna on either side of him, hands on his shoulders. Partly as a comfort, yes, but also as a restraint, lest he draw his wand and“win” the match by blasting every Slytherin player out of the sky.

    I have to stop the Dementors - but how?

    If Ilya hadn’t scrubbed out his head, if he’d still been as big a suicidal sociopath, he might actually have been at an advantage against them. “Seeing” as they did, through emotions, he could’ve used his Occlumency and natural talent for disconnecting himself from his feelings to become effectively invisible. Of course, his wand would be rendered useless with no passion to drive it, but it would’ve been enough to escape them, perhaps. Not what he wanted, but knowing it was an option could’ve been some comfort.

    My best friends are flying at frightening speeds, metres above my head - and at least one of them is already proven Dementor bait. Hermione and Luna are right beside me, Neville and Ginny are trusting me . . . I have to be able to protect them. Stupid bloody Patronus Charm . . .

    It was irritating beyond words - and for a writer, that was saying something. Every defensive spell he’d ever learned, every counterspell, had come as naturally as breathing. Protecting others had always been a part of his nature, and that trait had apparently carried over to give him this knack. Moreover, his wand was naturally aligned to this: it responded to what he wanted, needed to do. The greater the desire, the greater the power behind the spell - and with his friends’ souls on the line, he couldn’t remember ever wanting anything more. Adding insult to injury, Takara had cast this spell, with his wand - so the flaw obviously lay in him.

    It was as he’d told them: he had very few truly happy memories. He’d lived long enough to grow old, cynical, and bitter. Pleasant family dinners were tainted with the reminder of what that “family” had become. Most of his friends had eventually been cut loose - or lost to the passage of years. Even the simple joy of his dogs . . . Galen winced. Almost fifteen years, and their loss still hurt. They’d been old, and in pain, and prolonging their suffering would have been cruel . . . But they’d been his friends, his puppies, since he was six years old, and theirs had been the first close deaths he’d ever experienced. Even now, thinking of them made him cry - though in this weather, no one would notice.

    The Christmas I’ve been using isn’t enough - Neville and Luna can do silver sparks, and against the Dementors’ natural aura of despair . . . I need a stronger memory, a happier memory. Is there anything . . .?

    Most of his strongest happy moments involved animals - he related to them better than to people. Was anything good enough? His first glimpse of a white tiger, at the zoo . . . Horseback riding lessons when he was ten . . . The first cat who’d ever claimed his lap? She had been a surprise, after years of dealing with aloof cats - one that was not only pleased by attention, but eager for it. The problem had been keeping her out of his lap - but she’d died too, poor thing, and even the little beauty who’d eventually claimed him as her throne couldn’t displace that cat from his memory. No more than the neighbours’ dogs could replace his own, though they’d both been pleased enough to make friends with him, especially . . .

    Taz!

    Half-pug, half-Chihuahua, a squat little black dog that while far from hideous, would never win any beauty contests. To make matters worse, she had a pronounced dislike of people - barking and shying away from almost everyone, much to her owner’s dismay. The only exception had been his neighbour’s middle daughter, and Galen. For whatever unfathomable reason, the little dog had decided that she liked him - no, “like” was too weak a word. He’d seen Taz lose bladder control when he got close, she was just so excited to see him. When they met on her walks, she tugged on her leash, tried to drag her owner closer, because she wasn’t getting to him fast enough. And having seen her aggressive reactions to other people . . . How could you not love a dog that was always so happy to see you, just because it was you?

    If he had a happier memory to draw on, Galen couldn’t think of it right now. And the Dementors would be hard-pressed to counter this one, even without his Occlumency shields - ten minutes of time with Taz had never failed to put him in a good mood for hours. This was his best chance at the Patronus Charm, and he hoped it was enough.

    Let’s be honest, here, his inner tormentor said acidly. You know perfectly well that if it fails, there’s another option.

    So there was - Fiendfyre, the cursed flame that destroyed Horcruxes, because it devoured souls as greedily as flesh and bone. Easy to call up, especially with his wand, but as a consequence, nearly impossible to control. And as it burned, it assumed animal shapes. Fiendfyre seemed very much like an Anti-Patronus Charm - but it would likely be just as effective in fighting Dementors.

    And you’ll use it, let’s not kid ourselves - you just don’t want to see the looks Hermione and Luna will give you if you do. After all, they’ve been fairly tolerant, so far, but remind them that you’re called a Dark creature for a reason . . .

    Galen grimaced. He’d seen Hermione afraid of him once, and never wanted to again. And Luna . . . Her innocence was precious, and spoiling it a sin beyond redemption. He didn’t want to have to resort to Fiendfyre, and wouldn’t if given another workable option - but if it really came down to a choice between his conscience and their lives - no, their souls . . .

    Then conscience be damned,
    he thought.

    Galen hoped his memories of Taz were strong enough to do what he needed them to - and as the rain suddenly turned to falling chips of ice, he knew he was about to find out.






    Takara scanned the skies urgently for the Snitch - there was still a chance she could catch the stupid piece of metal before the Dementors were due to arrive, and she wanted to seize it if she could. Her Firebolt might be able to outrun the creatures, if she tried to, but she’d really prefer not to find out. She really didn’t like this situation - herself high above the ground, effectively alone, with no super-wand to fend them off this time. No wand of any kind.

    What I wouldn’t give to have my old Mystic Eyes back for an hour or so - I’ll bet even Dementors have lines of some kind!

    In the meantime, she had to content herself with the fact that she was one of the most agile flyers in Hogwarts, on a state-of-the-art broomstick - and that her friends would do everything they could to protect her, and Shirou. Scared as she was, Takara was even more worried for him than herself. The Dementors had deliberately targeted him last time, and there was no reason to think they wouldn’t do so again.

    In the meantime, Takara had to deal with the fact that she was being targeted - by Bludgers, by Slytherin’s Chasers, and its Seeker, Draco Malfoy himself. She’d been expecting this, however - the Quidditch pitch was the one place he could take out his grudge in a semi-approved fashion, and so far, she’d managed to frustrate his designs. As she’d noted last year, Takara was a much better flyer than he was, and her broom was even better than his. Still, ducking the attacks took time she needed to search for the Snitch. She desperately needed to end the game before -

    A sudden, deathly chill, accompanied by rain turned to hail, informed Takara that she was too late. The sound they made was almost inaudible - even the wind was lost, as though the world was holding its breath in horror. And in the distance, with Seeker’s eyes, she saw them - a horde of black shrouds, swarming like a plague of locusts, but deadlier by far.

    The Dementors of Azkaban had arrived.

    Takara felt a momentary panic, as some of her worst memories boiled to the surface - the sight of her father, her hero, wasting away, and the certainty that her mother could care less - but the passive Occlumency defences Kiritsugu-san had drilled into her head over the summer bought her enough time to actively raise her shields. Clear-headed once more, her peripheral vision caught a golden glitter among the falling ice.

    If I can get it quickly enough - end the match before the Dementors get close enough to the pitch, so we have time to evacuate . . .

    Takara opened up her broomstick’s proverbial throttle. She hadn’t tested the Firebolt at top speed yet - it was a racing broom, and supposed to be the fastest in the world. It would be like flooring the accelerator of a Formula 1 racer, fun in theory, but if you weren’t absolutely sure of your terrain and your skills, it could go very badly, very quickly. Nevertheless, desperate times called for desperate measures, and Takara launched herself forward like a rocket, the entire world little more than a blur around her, as she stretched out to snatch that tiny, gleaming hope . . . Her fingers closed around the Snitch, and it ceased its struggles in her cupped palm - but by then, it no longer mattered.

    The Dementors made no noise as they entered, but judging by the reaction of the crowd, it could be justifiably said that they screamed their way onto the pitch. The stands were a melange of frantic activity and numb listlessness - waves of the former scurrying around pockets of the latter.

    Takara’s peripheral vision caught bursts of silver - a brilliant phoenix charging into the mass of Dementors, scattering them, even as a comparatively tiny tabby cat ran rings around the spectators, warding against future attacks. She also noted a silver haze, stretched out over a pocket of the stands, standing thin but luminous. One or more of her friends, she knew, unable to fully materialise a Patronus, but apparently enough to conjure the misty barrier form to block their approach.

    She jerked to one side, avoiding a sudden charge by a Dementor, and the change in perspective brought Shirou into sharp relief, desperately attempting to resist a small pocket of the creatures, his struggles growing ever fainter. Scowling, she hit top speed again, deliberately striking Shirou’s broomstick as he streaked by, and positioning herself so that he landed into front of her, on her own.

    “Hang on tight,” Takara murmured in his ear, as she powered off again, a full complement of the creatures in hot pursuit. Time proved her right - the Dementors could not overtake a Firebolt at its maximum acceleration, even when it was carrying two people in heavy padding.

    Unfortunately, with Shirou to reach around, she wasn’t fast enough to turn it away from a Dementor who’d decided to come up and cut her off from underneath. Takara stared helplessly, horror-struck, at the black, ominous form as it waited hungrily for its rapidly-approaching meal . . .

    And then a brilliant silver flash sent it flying off - literally!

    Takara’s heart took a moment to remember how to beat, and it thundered in her ears as she saw the silver lioness that kept a long, ground-eating pace beside them (if it wasn’t flying, anyway). Brilliant white eyes, shining like tiny stars, gazed at her, before the lioness swooped in to give her an affectionate, insubstantial nudge, the sheer positivity of the Patronus scattering her fear to the four winds. Then the great cat padded down to the stands, and presumably, its creator.

    Once away from the shining construct, Takara felt her mind settle into a more contemplative mood.

    So, Galen’s Patronus is a lioness . . . Three guesses why. Still, I suppose I shouldn’t moan - it did just save my life, and she is good for him. I wonder what memory finally did the trick . . .?

    Takara shuddered. The Patronus had helped a little, but the presence of so many Dementors was still a fairly big shock. She needed to land, and she needed chocolate - and if it really came down to it, she wasn’t picky about the exact order those things came in.

    Still, at least she’d won the game for Gryffindor. Wood-taichou ought to be able to produce a Patronus of his own, once he’d heard.






    Some hours later, after a bar of chocolate, and with a mug of hot cocoa in her hand, Takara rejoined her friends in the Gryffindor common room.

    “Shirou will be all right with some rest,” she informed them then said her next words with heartfelt sincerity. “Thank you, Galen - your timing with that Patronus was impeccable.”

    “It wasn’t me,” he replied bluntly.

    Takara proved that she’d acquired at least one of Galen’s habits - she blinked.

    “Then who - ?”

    “Um, it was mine,” Hermione said, sounding almost embarrassed. “But I don’t think I could have done it without Galen shielding the rest of us - it made it ever so much easier to think happy thoughts.”

    Galen gave her the soft smile which Takara had learned meant, “Thank you for trying to salve my feelings, but it isn’t really necessary.” She considered that Hermione had been the first of them to master the Patronus Charm, while arguably the most powerful defensive wizard - with certainly the most powerful wand - had only been able to produce the incomplete form. Impressed, she shook her head.

    “Brilliant, but scary,” she pronounced with a grin, which widened as Hermione blushed.

    “And as it stands,” Neville said, “Gryffindor’s come out pretty well. In addition to the points for winning the game, you earned ten for your daring mid-air rescue of Shirou, and Hermione earned ten more for her Patronus.”

    “And Professor Lupin said he would tutor us on the Patronus Charm,” Luna added. “He seems to see the necessity now.”

    “That’s good,” Takara admitted in relief. “I don’t ever want to be that helpless again.” She glanced at Hermione. “Thanks again.”

    Hermione blushed again, and said, in what sounded like honest puzzlement, “What else are friends for?”

    Takara couldn’t help laughing at that one. It was stupid, perhaps, but she needed the stress release. Once she had her breath back, she asked, “So, out of curiosity, what memory did you use?”

    “Oh!” Hermione said, startled. “Um, it was Crookshanks, actually.”

    Takara knew Hermione fairly well by now, including the fact that the girl was quite simply a horrible liar. And she could tell that the other witch wasn’t lying - but the pink in her cheeks and her sudden avoidance of Takara’s eyes meant she wasn’t telling the whole truth, either. However, it wasn’t until after curfew, as they both settled in for bed, that Takara was able to confirm her belief.

    “So, what memory did you use?” Takara asked again.

    “I told you ! It was Crookshanks.”

    “What about Crookshanks?” the Japanese witch persisted. At her friend’s hesitation, she added, “Hermione, it’s not like I’m going to announce it in the Great Hall!”

    The bushy-haired girl sighed. “It was when I first got him.” She raised her eyes to look into Takara’s own. “You remember our first year, of course - I didn’t make many friends. You tried, but you and I didn’t have too many interests in common, so we weren’t exactly close. Galen tried, but he wasn’t as deep into researching subjects as I was, not all of them, at any rate. He was also a boy - and while I’d never had too many friends at all, there were things I really would’ve liked to talk to other girls about. And remember that you had all those conversations with each other in Japanese, which I couldn’t follow.

    “The professors liked me - for the most part - but think about the other students in our year. Lavender, Parvati . . . Pansy Parknison and the Slytherins. After almost three weeks of school, it was rapidly becoming clear to me that being at Hogwarts wasn’t going to be that different from a mundane education. I was going to be ignored as a bookworm at best, or tormented for working hard and wanting to learn. And I’d so hoped it would be otherwise . . .” She sighed.

    “There I was, about to turn twelve, about to spend my first birthday away from my family in a place that was just like the one I’d wanted to escape, even if the subjects I was studying were fascinating. I couldn’t sleep, I felt so miserable, so I went down to the common room to read for a bit - and there he was, a big, warm, cuddly ginger kitten that pounced on my lap the moment I sat down. He knew who he belonged to - and once I saw the card in his box, so did I.” Hermione’s eyes looked even more liquid than usual, and Takara realised that she was trying not to cry.

    “Crookshanks started purring almost from the minute he saw me, Takara. He didn’t care that I had big teeth, or bushy hair, or that I did almost nothing but read. It was just decided: I was his, and he was mine, and that was good enough. And he was soft, and warm, and just glad I was me. And somebody knew it would be like that, and brought him to me, with a pretty scarlet bow around his neck. Somebody cared, Takara - and to me, it was the best feeling in the world.”

    Having more than enough memories of being a lonely little girl herself, Takara could understand that.

    “We do,” she said aloud. “Of the three of us, Shirou had the most well-adjusted childhood - but even he’s been on the outside looking in from time to time. It’s why Galen was so determined to help you - and Neville, and Luna. And it’s why we went along - because we understand what it’s like to be lonely, to be teased - ”

    “To not fit in,” Hermione concluded. She looked at her. “I still have trouble believing that of you.”

    Takara snorted. “Spend some time in the really ultraconservative areas of Japan, Hermione. I’m as much a ‘mudblood’ to them as you are to Malfoy - maybe more, because I’m so unladylike. And with Shirou’s eyes and hair, he’s not well thought of, either - but at least he’s male.”

    Hermione’s eyes blazed. “Why, those hidebound - “

    Takara cut her off with a smile. “It’s OK, Hermione. I learned to live with it, and here, I don’t have to.” She shrugged. “But anyway - we get it, too, and we’ll always do our best to be there and support you all, because of that.” She smiled wider. “Like you said - what else are friends for?”

    Hermione smiled back, and Takara felt absurdly pleased. While she and Hermione had always gotten along - “the girls” to Shirou and Galen as “the boys” - she admitted that they were never all that intimate, given their wildly varying interests. And yet, if Takara had to name her closest female friend, it would probably be Hermione. Certainly, between classes and summer vacations, they spent more time together than with any other girls.

    And now it looks like we might be on the way to becoming really close friends, and not just good ones. On top of that, I’m on track to get a boyfriend, and Galen and Hermione seem to be matching up well - or at least that they could. We survived the Quidditch match, we’re all going to learn the Patronus Charm, and we have the beginnings of a plan for dealing with Sirius. Everything’s looking up.

    Takara fell asleep before the Nanaya-ish voice in her head could remind her that it was when you were looking up that someone usually yanked the rug out from under you.
    Last edited by Kieran; March 27th, 2011 at 06:44 PM.

  3. #23
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors lethum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran in Chapter 8
    himself, ]i\and when Hogsmeade weekends crop up, see if I can find the wizard equivalent to granola bars, or something, for snacks in-between classes. Between our usual calisthenics and time travel, Hermione’s going to be burning calories like crazy this year - and she’s a growing teenager, to boot.[/i]
    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran in Chapter 15
    But I’d have done it, because Hermione’s blood - innocent blood - was already on my hands, and because my best friend needed [i]me to help him.
    So, yeah...

  4. #24
    Master of Hermione Alter Kieran's Avatar
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    Got 'em. I don't know where I went wrong in that last one - I had to physically delete all the coding and do a "highlight and tag" to get it to work, but I couldn't see an error that would've caused it to fail. *shakes head* Oh well - I'm that much closer to being done with this bloody catchup - and then I won't have to worry about these errors any more! Yay!

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    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors lethum's Avatar
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    ^_^!

  6. #26
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 16 - New Problems on the Horizon



    November 7 - 8, 1993






    Early the next morning, Galen opened the door to the Room of Requirement, and was pleased to see a sitting room. It had a fireplace, comfortable armchair and footstool, an end table with a reading lamp (or in this case, an exceptionally bright candle as its wizarding equivalent), and a waist-high bookcase filled with volumes on the other side. He closed himself in, locked the door behind him, and strode to the bookcase to locate and begin reading Most Potente Potions. The reason was simplicity itself: it was time, and past time, that he understood the nature of the Animagus Potion.

    Hermione’s unconscious morphing had always bothered him, to say nothing of her behaviour as a lioness. She’d never hurt him, and he had to admit, the cuddling session on Hallowe’en had been quite pleasant, if unexpected - but the problem was that it was unexpected, all of it. Her behaviour seemed atypical for what he understood of Animagi. And Neville’s near-transformation in Potions, which Shirou had mentioned, was even more disturbing - because it suggested that it was a problem that would affect all his friends, eventually. And last night had added further evidence of that.

    Takara had been keyed up since the Quidditch game. That wasn’t unusual - her adrenalin always got going for a while, but in this case, it was at least half panic, in addition to her usual excitement. The Dementors had spooked her, even if they hadn’t managed to do her any real harm. It was understandable, but the way she chose to deal with it had surprised everyone - she’d had Hermione open the window of the girls’ dormitory, and transformed into an owl to go flying after curfew. To the best of Galen’s knowledge, she’d never done that before, preferring to fly on a broomstick. In fact, none of his friends used their Animagus forms much outside the full moon - though he suspected that Ginny might occasionally have used her fox form over the summer to chase the gnomes out of the Burrow’s gardens.

    Something was going on, and he had a terrible feeling that it was something bad. In which case, he was unquestionably to blame - they’d only done this for him in the first place. Heck, he’d practically suggested it! So if they were suffering side-effects because of it, it could only be his fault. But were they, and what kind? Reading the recipe, Galen hoped, would tell him.

    Most Potente Potions was written in a dialect Galen had always mentally referred to as “Ye Olde English.” It was the kind of thing he’d seen in records of the seventeenth century, like the Salem Witch Trials. The language was a little flowery, and littered with turns of phrase appropriate to the time period. The spellings weren’t always letter-perfect with the modern equivalent, either, but he’d seen enough of the type to decipher it as he went. And it wasn’t nearly as thick or obscure as some of Shakespeare’s stuff. That being the case, it didn’t take long to find what he was looking for.

    As he read through the brewing instructions, he was impressed anew with both Hermione’s and Takara’s skill. Remembering that Polyjuice Potion was so complex that it wasn’t taught until sixth year, and that Hermione had managed it in her second, was an achievement all by itself - but this stuff looked like it should belong on the final year’s syllabus, and they’d started it in first year! His worry increased, however - if it was that difficult, there was that much greater a chance that something had gone wrong.

    Without access to a Pensieve and the appropriate memories, he couldn’t view every step the girls had taken to create the potion - and he didn’t want to panic them, in case he was wrong. But from what he could see, it looked as though they’d done everything right - even down to brewing “the number of lunar cycles needed to create new life” - or forty weeks.

    If not the steps, then maybe the ingredients? Galen wondered. He read the list carefully. Water, a butterfly’s chrysalis, the crushed shell of a serpent’s egg . . . And, of course, the hair and fur of a werewolf -

    The scene from almost two full years ago suddenly replayed itself for him.



    Takara patted his head. “Good boy. Now, we’re just going to take a few hairs . . . how many do we need?”

    “One for each dose,” Hermione replied.

    “Four, then.” She removed her knife and delicately cut the strands off.



    Four
    hairs. But they’d ended up making six doses, including Luna and Ginny in their circle. They’d diluted the potion - or at least, proportioned it wrongly.

    Which means what? Galen asked himself. A weakened solution usually means it isn’t as effective - but the others are all clearly capable of Animagus transformations. What got diminished when they parcelled out the doses?

    . . . And most importantly, what can I do about it?


    Snape was a Potions Master, but asking him for help on something like this was like asking a hungry wolf to guard sheep. Dumbledore was an alchemist, and had been a Transfiguration professor, but much the same applied - they knew too much of Dumbledore’s manipulations to trust him. Ideally, Madam Pomfrey might be able to suss something out, and her practice of confidentiality regarding her patients would keep her mum on exactly what was wrong with them - but he had no idea whether her oaths as a Healer exactly mirrored those of a physician, or how far they might extend. Was she bound to tell McGonagall - or worse, Dumbledore - anything she learned? Even if she wasn’t, was she a good enough Occlumens to resist his - or Snape’s - efforts to pull it out of her head?

    Probably not - it’s supposed to be an esoteric art, not well known or practised. So if no one at Hogwarts can be trusted, then who . . ?

    Shirou or Takara’s parents were the next obvious choices - but given that they were illegal Animagi, maybe not the best ones. Irisviel and Kiritsugu might be able to claim diplomatic immunity to protect Shirou, given that she was effectively the German Ministry of Magic’s ambassador to England, via the ICW - but Takara’s family had no such recourse. It would be a major blow to their careers and reputations.

    And in her current condition, the stress wouldn’t exactly be good for Ciel. So if not the faculty, or the family, then who can we trust to help us, with the ability to do so?

    No one sprang to mind. For the moment, at least, it seemed they were on their own - again. Still, maybe Takara or Hermione - or Luna, come to that - would have some idea of the likely effects, and how to deal with them.

    I’ll bring them here at lunch, Galen decided. We can figure out a strategy then.






    Lunch, however, brought its own surprises - beginning with Headmistress McGonagall’s absence from the staff dining area. Takara, in particular, looked worried about it.

    “I overheard her talking to Professor Dumbledore when I was out last night,” she whispered. “She wasn’t at all pleased about the Dementors entering the school grounds uninvited. She called somebody in the Minister’s office to complain - she went on for quite a while,” the Japanese witch added, sounded impressed. “I never knew our prim and proper Headmistress could swear so well.”

    McGonagall did?” Hermione gasped, scandalised.

    “Yeah,” Takara agreed. “She was really ticked that of the three incidents we’ve had this year, two of them were caused by the Dementors - and the third, the one that Sirius Black actually had a hand in, they were useless at preventing. From the sound of her, I thought the old lady was going to burst a blood vessel . . .” She trailed off, before finishing pensively, “Maybe she did.”

    As if summoned, the Headmistress chose that moment to walk through the door. She strode through the Great Hall as if on a mission vital to national security, her heels clacking out a staccato rhythm on the stone floor. When she reached the podium that stood proudly in front of the staff table, she cleared her throat, tapping her wand to the side of it. Only by concentrating could Galen make out her whispered “Sonorus.

    “May I have your attention, please?” she called, her voice now magically amplified. Silence fell across the house tables, and students turned to regard the former Transfiguration professor.

    “Thank you,” she said briskly. “As most of you are aware, yesterday’s Quidditch game suffered an unexpected interruption with the arrival of the Dementors dispatched by the Ministry to hunt for Sirius Black. While present, the Dementors took it upon themselves to attempt to attack several of the players. This marks the second such incident since the term began on September first - and while I acknowledge that I am partially at fault for taking the Ministry’s assurances at face value following the first attack, I have absolutely no intention of allowing there to be a third.

    “I have filed several complaints with the Ministry of Magic regarding the presence of the Dementors in the vicinity of Hogwarts, and requested their removal. I have also requested the presence Ministry officials to provide oversight, in the event they are to remain. Thus far, the Ministry of Magic has not seen fit to oblige me in either arena. Therefore, I have spent this morning in an emergency meeting of the Board of Governors, to determine what may be done about the situation.”

    McGonagall levitated a pitcher of water and conjured a goblet to pour it into. Taking a few deep swallows, and after banishing the pitcher back to the staff table with a flick of her wand, she continued.

    “The Governors and I have reached an accord and decided on what seems the only reasonable course of action, though we profoundly wish this path was not the sole avenue open to us. Insofar as the presence of the Dementors of Azkaban represent a clear and active threat to the safety and well-being of the students and staff of Hogwarts - and despite the Ministry’s beliefs, it is clear that this is so - there is no other sensible course of action but to . . .” McGonagall took another swallow of water, and it was clear that she wished it was something much stronger.

    “There is no other sensible course,” she repeated, “but to close Hogwarts, until such time as the Dementors are recalled to Azkaban.”

    Cacophony ensued, to the point where even Galen’s hearing couldn’t pick out an individual voice, just the sound of mass disbelief - and hysteria.

    “QUIET!” McGonagall snapped, though with her spell’s power, it was more like a roar. The wave of sound trickled down to a low buzz, then silence.

    “Arrangements are being made to bring the Express back to Hogwarts,” she informed them. “It will depart at eleven o’clock tomorrow morning. You have until that time to prepare yourselves to return home - though it is my hope that you will not need to remain there long. I will now leave you to your meal.”

    Her whisper of “Quietus” nonetheless echoed through the Great Hall.

    Galen groaned. While he applauded McGonagall’s common sense, the woman had the worst possible timing.

    What will happen to Sirius now? And without access to Hogwarts’ resources . . .

    What will happen to my
    friends?






    When McGonagall made her announcement, Takara was certain that things couldn’t get any worse. Then Galen ushered them into the Room of Requirement, and “worse” became a utopian dream.

    “I’m sorry,” he finished bleakly. “I should never have suggested - ”

    “Don’t be an idiot!” Takara snapped. “Hermione and I both brewed it, we both knew the recipe backwards and forwards by the time it was done, and we portioned out the phials. One of us should have caught the mistake, and neither of us did. We should be grateful you realised anything was wrong at all - we might have been ignorant for years, and by then, who knows what kind of damage might have been done?”

    Shirou was grim. “The question is, what kind of damage has already been done?”

    Hermione had assumed her classic “worried pondering pose” - biting her lower lip, eyes slightly unfocused and dark in concentration. Takara was thinking as well, reviewing everything she knew about the Animagus Potion, and comparing it to what she knew about potions in general. Specifically, she considered the properties of certain catalysts, and the reactions of individual ingredients when mixed with others. And unlike most students at Hogwarts, she knew a lot, because she read up on the subject out of interest. This was Snape’s weakness as an instructor - he “taught” by writing instructions on the blackboard, or assigning pages from a textbook. There was no background or context given, no explanation as to why things happened as they did, no opportunity to ask questions - and his “corrections” generally consisted of insults hurled out after things had gone wrong.

    It’s a miracle Neville doesn’t have more accidents than he does, a corner of her mind noted, as she sifted through the Animagus Potion’s elements, individually and collectively. When Takara thought she had the answer, she spoke up.

    “The werewolf hairs - human and bestial - link the Animagus form to the wizard, and help to establish control,” she said. “With an insufficient dosage of one or the other, the more complete side would dominate, but with an overall lack . . . It would be like if you bit us while you were in human form. We might not get full lycanthropy, but there would be traces of it in us, just the same. And the effects might vary from person to person - Shirou, Luna and Ginny haven’t shown much in the way of problems . . . But then again, I think Hermione, Neville and I might use our Animagus forms more than they do.”

    Galen glanced guiltily at Hermione and Neville, knowing full well that if they were more often in their animal forms, it was because he was relying on the power inherent in them to keep his wolf self in check, and so wanted them to be comfortable and capable with them. Shirou’s eagle form couldn’t see well at night, and while Ginny and Luna might be able to harry him, they were so much smaller that he was afraid for them, if they ever had to deal with his condition without Wolfsbane Potion - or one or more of the others - on hand.

    “In the long term,” Hermione said pensively, “we’ll probably end up picking up traits from our Animagus forms. How extensively and how many will likely depend on the amount of time we spend changed. But there has to be a limit as to how far we can be changed - it’s taken a year to show as much as it has, and the potion was otherwise perfect. I rather doubt that we need to spend time worrying about our human bodies sprouting tails, or feathers.”

    She glanced at Galen speculatively. “We’ll probably end up somewhat like you, with brains adapted to use our senses differently, more efficiently. Neville might gain some extra strength and endurance, Takara and Shirou some more agility - but we won’t be monsters, Galen. Just . . . Just odd.

    “I’m already odd, to most people,” Luna pointed out. “It’s not so bad.” She added, offhandedly, “I do hope I don’t start exuding a skunk’s odour, though - the Crumple-Horned Snorkacks will smell me coming from a mile away.”

    The laughter that remark generated bled a lot of tension out of the room - which, Takara suspected, had been Luna’s intention. She didn’t hang out with the little blonde much, as they had too few interests in common, but she’d seen enough to know that Luna Lovegood had a level of empathy, intuition and perception that many people would envy. If she ever chose to become a Healer, she would no doubt be brilliant at it.

    And so, it was with some reluctance that Takara broached the next problem. Nonetheless, she had to ask, “What do we do about Sirius?”

    Tense silence filled the Room of Requirement again, as Hermione went back to thinking, and Galen did, as well, visibly conceiving and discarding possibilities and strategies.

    Finally, he said, “I’m open to suggestions.”

    Hermione looked grave. “I’ll go with whatever you decide, Galen - after all, he’s your family.”

    “WHAT?!” echoed from nearly half a dozen throats.

    Sighing wearily, Galen explained - about his grandmother, and her decisions and their repercussions. About what he’d discovered in the records the Room of Requirement had provided - and that his mother, as yet, knew nothing of the situation. Takara could feel only sympathy, given that she had her own experiences with family secrets coming back to haunt you . . . And from what she knew of Shirou’s past, his own expression of sympathy reminded her that he was all too familiar with knowing about horrors yet to happen, and praying that they might never come to pass.

    “So . . . He’s your uncle?” Ginny said, wide-eyed.

    “Unless there’s such a thing as a ‘half-uncle,’ yeah,” Galen responded. “I doubt he knows, though. Nothing in my original memories suggests that my grandfather’s family bothered with my mom at all. So either they didn’t know, or they didn’t care - and I don’t see any reason for that to change, now that the family is the Blacks. If anything, it makes even more sense.”

    Ginny quietly absorbed that. “So . . . When Sirius Black was saying, ‘He’s at Hogwarts,’ he wasn’t talking about you?”

    “No,” Takara said, hesitating. They’d known that, eventually, this was going to come up, but had never figured out the best way to explain it. Finally, she said, “We aren’t the first unregistered Animagi to come out of Hogwarts, Ginny. Before us, was a group called the Marauders. They called themselves Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. They created the map I got from Fred and George last night, among other things - but their real identities were Remus Lupin - ”

    “Professor Lupin?” Hermione and Ginny said in disbelief, then traded embarrassed looks.

    Takara nodded. “The others were Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and James Potter. The four were the best of friends in school, and remained so as adults.”

    “Until Sirius Black betrayed the Potters,” Luna responded, before adding calmly, “but you’ve never thought so, have you? You know something we don’t.”

    Takara felt an unexpected sympathy for Galen, understanding for the first time just what it was like to know things, and be in front of an audience demanding to know them too, with the understanding that presenting that knowledge in the wrong way could be disastrous. Hermione had worried herself to near-insanity over their secrets, and Neville had been perfectly content in his ignorance. Now she had to break two young girls’ illusions - particularly Ginny’s - and there was no way to gauge the consequences.

    As such, she chose her words carefully. “We know that Sirius Black was never actually given a trial, or even questioned, regarding his crimes - they just threw him directly into Azkaban. We know that the only piece of Peter Pettigrew ever found was a single finger. We know that Pettigrew was ‘Wormtail’ of the Marauders, called that because he was a rat Animagus.”

    Takara looked directly at Ginny, and said, very quietly. “And we know that before Black escaped prison, the Daily Prophet published a picture - a picture of a family that included a very long-lived rat with a missing toe.”

    Ginny’s brow furrowed in confusion for a moment, before she went deathly white. “You mean - Scabbers? My brother’s rat is . . . “

    Takara nodded grimly.

    “But why?” Ginny demanded. “Why wouldn’t he let people know he’s alive? Why hide like this?”

    It was Luna who answered. “Because he had something to hide from, Ginny.” Her silvery-blue eyes had taken on that rare clarity they only assumed when she was deadly serious, and the musical tone of her voice was low and solemn.

    “Everyone believed Sirius Black betrayed the Potters, because Pettigrew shouted it before everything blew up. And with everyone involved dead, there was no way to question the story, short of asking Black himself. But no one did, did they? Not in twelve years.”

    Ginny was pale, almost green, and trembling. “For almost my entire life . . . A follower of You-Know-Who - in my home! With my brothers! He could’ve killed us all . . .!”

    Shirou shook his head. “You were his smokescreen, Ginny. His safety net. He needed your family to hide him. After all, even if someone knew to look for him, why would they suspect such good people as the Weasley family?”

    It was as if a switch had been thrown. Ginny’s complexion went from snow white to a red that rivalled her hair. Her brown eyes glinted like burnished copper, narrowing into serpentine slits. By all rights, smoke should have been wafting from her ears and nostrils.

    “He used us,” she growled, and no one who heard that tone would have trouble believing that she was a fox. “Betrayed his best friends, killed two and sent one to prison in his place, while he hid away, all safe and comfy - because we took care of him. And if he’d ever been found, we would have been ruined . . .”

    She whirled on Galen, so quickly that even he took a step back.

    “Anything you need me to do to save your uncle, I’m with you all the way,” she said fiercely. “But I get first dibs on the rat!






    Shirou emerged into the Great Hall the next day for his last breakfast at Hogwarts for the foreseeable future. Try as they might, it had been impossible to put together a workable, last-minute plan that would allow people to believe Sirius Black had been captured, and escaped custody. It was the only viable solution they could conceive of - as long as Sirius was considered to be on the run, away from Hogwarts, the Dementors would be withdrawn. But given the scrutiny his capture would be given, none of them had any real hope of lying their way out of it. And even if people believed he’d been captured, his escape would be even more closely examined.

    While they all agreed it was possible to do, putting together an airtight scenario in a matter of hours - to say nothing of executing it - was beyond their capabilities. They’d slip up somewhere, and all hell would break loose. Shirou sighed, as he considered the implications of this new twist.

    Sirius will be on his own - and it’ll be a coin toss as to whether or not he realises the school’s been evacuated before the Dementors get a hold of him. “Scabbers” will be back with the Weasleys . . . Will Sirius think to try and get him at the Burrow? The name of the family that “owns” him had to have been in the paper as well - and while everyone might be keyed up at his being at large, nobody will be expecting him to specifically attack the Weasleys. He doesn’t have a reason to, that they’re aware of.

    Maybe it’ll be easier to catch him there,
    Shirou considered. But first the idea has to occur to him, doesn’t it?

    Of course, there were other problems associated with that idea. Outside of Hogwarts, they’d again be subjected to the restrictions on underage magic. The fact that the struggle would take place at the Burrow might alleviate the problem - the Ministry assumed that the adults in magical homes would monitor their children, after all - but it still threatened to reveal a lot of their secrets. Worse, it threatened to reveal them to the Weasleys, a number of whom had been proved to be untrustworthy, or at the very least, in Dumbledore’s pocket. And Dumbledore was one of the people they’d desperately been trying to hide from.

    His thoughts were derailed by the arrival of the morning’s edition of the Daily Prophet and the Quibbler. To his surprise, both papers had the same story on their front page - the closing of Hogwarts for safety issues, as a result of decisions made by the Ministry of Magic. While not necessarily a shocking topic for the Prophet to cover, to see such a serious matter in the Quibbler - and from a glance at the article, seriously handled, as well - was definitely unusual. Shirou glanced at Luna, who surprised him again by giving him a small smile.

    “I thought this was the kind of thing our readers ought to know about, so I owled Daddy after lunch yesterday,” she said offhandedly. “It looks as though I wasn’t the only one.”

    She was right, Shirou realised. The leading photo in the Prophet had the Minister of Magic sitting at his desk, half-buried in letters - protests from a number of witches and wizards over allowing some of the most dangerous creatures in the world within sight of their children.

    “Looks like your mother’s gotten in on this too, along with my Gran,” Neville commented to Shirou. “She’s directly quoted, ‘Aurors exist specifically to track down and capture Dark wizards - why, then, was the task turned over to creatures like these? Especially given that Black has already managed to escape their custody?’”

    “That’s the mildest comment here,” Hermione remarked as she read her own copy. “Your grandmother reminds me of a priest I heard once - preaching all about hellfire and brimstone. I’d almost think she was trying incite a riot at the Ministry.”

    “She might get one,” Galen replied. “The Board of Governors replaced Dumbledore following the basilisk incident, but this . . . The wizarding government has sanctioned the activities of soul-devouring monsters around schoolchildren - despite the reported problems. Fudge will be lucky if he’s still in office by teatime . . . On second thought, scratch that. He’ll be lucky if he’s not in Azkaban by then. The level of negligence shown by giving the Dementors free rein has to be at least approaching criminal -”

    As if summoned, the doors to the Great Hall suddenly boomed open, revealing the man himself. He was followed by an entourage of three people: a toad-faced woman in a pink cardigan sweater and skirt, an older woman with a monocle, whom Shirou recognised as Amelia Bones, the Director of Department of Magical Law Enforcement. And bringing up the rear, clad in black and crimson robes, was . . .

    Dad?

  7. #27
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors lethum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chapter 16
    Maybe it’ll be easier to catch him there,[/i] Shirou considered.
    Nyoron.

  8. #28
    Master of Hermione Alter Kieran's Avatar
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    Computer's running slow - I probably caught that one before you did, just took too long for my system to fix it before you saw it. But thanks.



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

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



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



    Chapter 17 - An Unusual Gift



    November 8 - 22, 1993






    Takara would have dearly loved to be a fly on the wall in the Headmaster’s office - or an owl lurking outside the window. The Minister and his toady - and she used the term deliberately - would no doubt try to bluster and intimidate McGonagall into rescinding the decision to close Hogwarts, or at least issue an apology for her defamatory comments regarding the Ministry’s actions. However, this version of Minerva McGonagall was not liable to be cowed by Ministry threats - not if she was willing to go so far as closing the school. And what little she knew of Amelia Bones suggested that she wasn’t liable to back down, either, whichever side she was here to support.

    The puzzling aspect was the presence of Kiritsugu-sensei. If he was here in uniform, it was as a member of the ICW’s Security Division, not as the father of the boy who’d twice been attacked by Dementors - which would have been a reasonable explanation for his inclusion in the group. Instead, he was obviously on duty, when he had no writ, so far as she was aware, for intruding on an internal, domestic matter. Yet no one in the Minister’s party had seemed surprised by his presence.

    Did the British Ministry ask for ICW assistance in tracking down Sirius Black? Takara wondered. Kind of overkill, if they did. On the other hand, isn’t that what Father and he do best - track down Dark wizards, across international borders, if necessary?

    Takara purposely didn’t remind herself that the other half of their job was usually to execute them, and forced herself to concentrate on her Potions lesson that morning. McGonagall had issued orders that until they were otherwise informed, classes were to continue as normal, before vanishing off with their uninvited guests. So all the third-year Gryffindors were trying to switch gears from “prepare to go home” to “pay attention to next Potions lesson” - and it thankfully wasn’t hard. Malfoy seemed a great deal more subdued after an up close encounter with Dementors - he didn’t even try to mock Shirou over nearly dying in their embrace. That thought made her shudder. She hoped Professor Lupin would start their lessons on the Patronus Charm soon.

    Lunch was a quiet affair, at least at first. She noted that Galen was once again surreptitiously slipping more food on Hermione’s plate - and that the witch, buried in her books, mechanically devoured it. The fact that she never complained about a stomachache, or gaining weight, implied to Takara that she needed the extra nourishment. It made sense, she supposed. Who knew how many extra days Hermione was living, using the Time Turner? The real question was, was she getting enough sleep?

    About midway through lunch, McGonagall entered the Great Hall, and stood at the podium as she had the day before, and called for attention.

    “As you may have noticed, you did not depart Hogwarts at eleven o’clock this morning,” she began drily. “All parents and guardians were informed of the change of plans upon the Minister’s arrival, and we have spent the last several hours - debating as to the best course of action in regards to your continued safety at Hogwarts. We will inform them as to its outcome, as well, but first, allow me to enlighten you.”

    Her smile was wintry. “I am pleased to announce that the Ministry has agreed to withdraw the Dementors from Hogwarts, in the interests of public safety, and replace them with a contingent of trained Aurors. As before, they will be stationed at every entrance and exit to the grounds - and please, use caution. While the Aurors are less inherently dangerous than the Dementors, they take their jobs no less seriously. Do not attempt to tease or provoke them. They are empowered to respond with lethal force, should they feel the situation warrants it.”

    She glared specifically at the Weasley twins, who sat next to Lee Jordan, before nodding briskly at the room. “You may resume your meal - and your normal schedules. Good day.”

    Relieved glances were traded at their corner of the Gryffindor table. Their plans could proceed as they’d intended. But, Takara realised, there was a snag.

    “Do you think Professor Lupin will still teach us the Patronus Charm, without the Dementors?” she asked aloud.

    Shirou looked grim. “I don’t intend to take ‘no’ for an answer. That’s twice those damned things have come after me - and one way or another, there won’t be a third time.”

    “Language,” Hermione said halfheartedly. She didn’t really seem inclined to disagree with his opinion of Dementors.

    He nodded in acknowledgement, but continued, “If I have to, I’ll go back to Flitwick, or to McGonagall. He isn’t the only person who knows that spell.”

    “Well,” Hermione said, “let’s wait and see what he says. We do have Defence next, don’t we?”

    It almost didn’t sound rhetorical. Takara wondered if Hermione was having trouble remembering what day it was.

    “Yep,” Galen confirmed, glancing at Luna and Ginny. “And you ladies are off to Herbology, right?”

    Ginny nodded.

    “Have fun,” he told them, getting up. “Come on guys, we’d better hurry, or we’ll be late.”

    As they entered the classroom, one of the first things Takara noticed was that Professor Lupin had a large covered box on display on his desk. She felt a sense of deja vu at the sight, remembering the incident with the Cornish pixies last year. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one - Dean Thomas took one look at it, before turning around and calling, “Hey, Aozaki! Got your knife handy?”

    This generated more than a few chuckles throughout the room, causing Professor Lupin to tilt his head in curiosity.

    “Knife?” he asked.

    Blushing, she explained Lockhart’s challenge of the year before.

    “Impressive,” Lupin admitted quietly. “You did very well at the Quidditch match, as well, Miss Aozaki - but you can rest easy today. This particular creature isn’t immediately life-threatening, though in the right circumstances, it can be dangerous.”

    He whipped off the cover, revealing a one-legged creature that seemed to be made of smoke.

    “Can any of you tell me what this is?” he asked, and two hands shot up immediately. Lupin smiled, and said, “I think, Miss Granger, I’ll let Mister Salvatore try first.”

    “It’s a Hinkypunk,” Galen answered confidently. “Also known by the names will o’ the wisp, corpse candle, jack-o’-lantern, and ignis fatuus, or ‘foolish fire,’ among various others.”

    Lupin’s eyebrows rose. “Point to Gryffindor for such complete knowledge of the subject, Mister Salvatore. Do you know what a Hinkypunk does?”

    “It lures travellers into bogs, by means of the lantern in its hand,” he answered. “People assume they’re following distant companions, or someone who might help them find their way, as they themselves are usually lost. Then, of course, they drown.”

    “Very good,” Lupin said. “And quite correct. The Hinkypunk feeds on the panic of its victims, not unlike a Boggart - though as you’ve been told, their methodology is quite different. Now, let me show you a charm to repel them, and similar creatures . . .”

    The class passed quickly, and at its end, Lupin said, “Miss Aozaki, Mister Einzbern, Miss Granger, Mister Longbottom and Mister Salvatore, please stay behind.”

    Trading cautious glances, the five Gryffindors did so, regarding their nominal Head of House with curious looks.

    “To begin with - Miss Aozaki, I would like to apologise,” Lupin said quietly. “It’s quite clear, given the events of Saturday, that you were right to be worried about the Dementors attacking Mister Einzbern, and I shouldn’t have dismissed you so quickly. I’ve also asked some questions of Headmistress McGonagall and a few of the other teachers, and learned quite a bit about you five.”

    He shook his head. “Some of it, I have to say, I find hard to credit - but given the sources of my information, I don’t have much choice but to believe it.” His smile was a little wistful. “I almost wish you’d gone to school in my year - I think you might have given my group of friends a run for their money when it came to spectacular stunts.”

    Lupin straightened up, as though reminded himself of who and where he was, before continuing, “In any case, it’s quite clear that any effort I expend in teaching you the Patronus Charm will not be wasted - and that you five should be a core component in the Duelling Club the Headmistress wants me to start. Indeed, Professor Flitwick seems to think students would join just to be able to challenge you!”

    He laughed, but sobered as no one else did. Neville gave him a disarming grin and pointed to Galen.

    “Blasted a mountain troll with a Shield Charm in first year, then topped it by stopping a thousand-year-old basilisk’s killing gaze the next year,” he said, then moved his finger to Shirou. “Actually killed the basilisk, without using a wand at all.” He pointed to Hermione. “Smartest witch in Hogwarts, and probably knows more spells than half the seventh years in school.” He moved to Takara. “Youngest Seeker in a century, and fast enough to win every match she’s ever played. Also took out a dozen pixies in about as many seconds using single-shot spells.”

    Neville turned back to Lupin and said, “Professor, the only people who wouldn’t want to try them in a duel are the ones smart enough to learn after getting their heads handed to them the first time!”

    “That lets out Malfoy,” Takara muttered - generating a wave of laughter throughout the room.

    “Be that as it may,” Lupin said, his lips twitching suspiciously, “I think we should begin scheduling lessons on the Patronus Charm - say, eight o’clock on Thursdays?”

    They all nodded in agreement, and were dismissed.






    Dinner was a spirited affair that night, as the Gryffindors indulged their relief over things occurring as they’d wanted them to - for a change, as it lately seemed. Still, Shirou supposed he couldn’t complain, as the Dementors were gone, and the Patronus Charm tutoring he needed was now going to happen. It was basically the best possible outcome he could’ve asked for. Still, one thing bothered him.

    What the heck was Dad doing here?

    The sudden arrival of an owl startled him out of his thoughts, but the message it carried brought him right back to them: Defence classroom, after supper. Bring your friends, if they can come. It was in Kiritsugu’s handwriting.

    “Dad wants us in the DADA room after supper,” he said aloud. “Assuming everybody’s caught up on their homework?” He grinned, knowing full well that Hermione had reinforced their study habits well enough that their homework was almost always done early.

    Luna looked at him curiously. “Your father works with Takara’s mother, doesn’t he?”

    “Same division,” he affirmed. “Ciel-san is an instructor, however. My dad is an active field agent. So’s Takara’s.”

    “Does he use those - “ she hesitated over the word - “guns that Professor Aozaki showed us?”

    “Sometimes,” Shirou said. “He taught me how to use them, too.”

    “And Galen?” At the quizzical look, she shrugged. “I overheard somebody mention her demonstration to your year.”

    “He gave us basic instructions, but if you’re asking if he taught Galen to shoot that well - no. The guy’s just a gun god.”

    Galen winced. “I really wish you’d stop calling me that. It has bad connotations.”

    “Maybe - but after that last laser tag showing, you don’t think you’ve earned it?”

    Galen’s eyes lit up. “That was fun, wasn’t it?”

    “For you guys,” Takara mock-grumbled. “I can’t figure out how I can beat you both in speed draws using a wand, but not when you have a gun in your hand.”

    Shirou jerked his thumb at Galen and repeated, “Gun god. And hey, it got us lifetime passes - the tournament raked in money, with all the guys who tried to beat us.”

    Galen sighed. “Come on, let’s go see what Kiritsugu-san wants - at least it’ll end this conversation.”

    “Just postpone it,” Shirou corrected cheerfully.






    Kiritsugu looked over the group as they came in, appraisingly, and Shirou couldn’t blame him. While he knew Hermione and Neville fairly well, Ginny and Luna were new to their group - having spent the Christmas holidays at the castle last year, and the summer out of the country, neither girl had really had a chance to be introduced to him. Luna’s usual attire, in particular, generated a raised eyebrow, but no more than that.

    Shirou made the necessary introductions, and he accepted the girls with a nod.

    “Planning on adding any more to your inner circle?” he asked drily.

    “I don’t think so,” Luna said absently. “Fred and George Weasley said they would have an awful time coming up with an alliterative name for our group, if there were eight of us.”

    The other eyebrow went up, along with a corner of his mouth. “And what do they call you now?”

    “The Scarlet Seven,” Ginny mumbled, her face achieving that very hue. “And after we leave here, I’m going to kill my brothers for inventing that stupid nickname.”

    “You get used to nicknames,” Kiritsugu told her, a touch of amusement in his voice. “Especially if you’re good at what you do - and if you’re going to hang around with this bunch, you’d better get good, fast.” He sobered. “Now, officially, I’m here to debrief you on your encounter with the Dementors. Unofficially, I’m here to check up on your progress, too.”

    Shirou filled him in on the Quidditch game first, and Kiritsugu shot a grateful look at Hermione.

    “Miss Granger, if you ever need anything I can give you, just ask,” he said firmly. “And I feel quite sure that Iris and Ilya will agree with me. On a professional level, let me say I’m impressed - not too many fourteen-year olds can generate a corporeal Patronus, much less in the presence of multiple Dementors.”

    Hermione blushed. “They weren’t really bothering me, sir. I . . “ She paused, analysing. “I think Galen’s Patronus shield helped - I didn’t feel nearly as bad as I did on the train. In fact, I barely felt anything at all, and there were so many more of them . . .”

    “Dumbledore and McGonagall might’ve helped there, too,” Galen pointed out.

    “It’s a noteworthy accomplishment, nonetheless,” Kiritsugu said. “Now, how are things on the Sirius Black front?”

    It took more time to explain everything that had occurred from September first, but Kiritsugu was a good listener by nature, as well as trained to take things in quickly and efficiently. Like Shirou and his two companions, he was also battle-hardened, capable of evaluating intelligence and devising strategies from it. In that regard, he was probably even better than Shirou, having done it longer.

    “So you’re related to the Pink Devil, huh?” Kiritsugu said to Galen. “My sincerest sympathies, kid.”

    “As far as I know, she doesn’t know that. We’ve never met, and I hope and pray that we never will,” Galen muttered.

    “Pray hard,” Kiritsugu advised, scowling. “Simpering, shortsighted, brainless . . . If her head was any farther up Fudge’s ass, she’d have to - ” As though abruptly realising there were children in the room, he cut himself off there.

    “I take it your meeting was fun,” Shirou said drily.

    “I’d rather have had the Grangers give me a root canal without anaesthetic,” Kiritsugu muttered darkly. “Fudge with his ‘I’m the Minister, so just do as I say,’ and her with ‘The Minister is God, why are you defying divine will?’ attitudes . . . I’ll give McGonagall credit - she wasn’t backing down to either of them. Her charge was the safety of this school and the people in it, and the Dementors were a proven threat. Worse, a pointless threat, since they hadn’t actually managed to accomplish anything.” He grinned. “I thought the best part was when she challenged him to set the Dementors around the Ministry, as surely, it was critical that all the very important people there be protected from Black.”

    “I’ll bet Great-Auntie Dolores loved that,” Galen’s expression might have been considered a smile - it involved baring teeth, anyway.

    “I thought she was going to have a stroke,” Kiritsugu confirmed. “After all, it wouldn’t do for a Senior Undersecretary to dismiss the Ministry of Magic and its employees as ‘unimportant,’ would it? But she couldn’t outright agree, as it would look like she was siding against Fudge - and nobody sane wants to be anywhere near a Dementor, in any case.”

    “That lets her out,” Takara muttered. “Keep an eye on her - she’s got sociopathic tendencies, if she’s not just an out-and-out psycho.”

    “Will do - and so should you. She strikes me as the vindictive type, and your Headmistress is in her crosshairs now.”

    The four students associated with mundanes nodded, then explained to the pure-bloods the meaning of the expression. Since Neville, at least, had used a mock gun before, it didn’t take long.

    “In any case, you’ll now have a series of Aurors patrolling the grounds. Some of them will be under Disillusionment Charms or invisibility cloaks - more the former than the latter, since cloaks are rare, not to mention expensive. Any idea when or where Black will appear next?”

    “No,” Shirou told him, “but we know where he is now.” He explained, and Kiritsugu’s face darkened as Galen proceeded to fill him in on the other denizens of the Forbidden Forest.

    “An Acromantula colony, here?” he sputtered. “How many are there?”

    “I’m not sure,” Galen admitted, closing his eyes to relive some of his least-favourite scenes. “I’d guess at least a few hundred - “

    Hundred?” Kiritsugu shook his head. “At the moment, that’s a problem for another day. We’re not going in if we don’t absolutely have to - the Forest would be a deathtrap.” He glanced around. “Any ideas for luring him out?”

    “At the moment, we were planning to go in after him,” Shirou admitted.

    WHAT?

    “Well, we’d have a bloodhound with us,” he said, jerking his thumb at Galen again. “He’d be able to avoid the spiders, and not much else in that place would mess with him if it had a choice.”

    “Good for him,” Kiritsugu said tightly. “That doesn’t help you, though, does it?”

    Shirou sighed. “Well, Dad . . . You see . . . Um, there’s something else you don’t know about us . . .”






    The next week or so went relatively peacefully. Relatively in comparison to having to prepare to fight a basilisk, or venture through a trap-filled labyrinth to reach a legendary artefact, or . . . Well, it was more peaceful.

    Galen thought Kiritsugu had taken the Animagus thing fairly well. At least, nobody had been arrested. He wasn’t happy about it, mind you - they got a long lecture about the potential dangers, the consequences of not registering their forms, how he was going to deny all knowledge and let the book get thrown at them if they were caught . . . But he hadn’t actually hindered them, so Galen assumed he approved of having an ace of sorts up their collective sleeve.

    I wish the Patronus training was going half as well.

    “Expecto patronum!”
    Hermione called, and was once again rewarded with the sight of a silvery haze billowing from the tip of her wand. The bushy-haired witch stared at it, and growled in frustration.

    “I don’t understand it!” she snapped. “I did it perfectly, in the presence of actual Dementors! Why can’t I manage it now?”

    “Sometimes a stressful situation can cause everything to come into focus,” Lupin admitted. “But with this spell, I wouldn’t have thought . . .” He trailed off, and said, “Galen, would you cast the charm again, please?”

    Galen obliged, and was once again rewarded with the same amorphous form Hermione had conjured. It spread outwards, as though trying to engulf the room within itself, and hide it.

    “Maintain that, please,” Lupin instructed, before turning to Hermione. “Try again, Miss Granger.”

    Expecto patronum,” Hermione responded, and the silver lioness reappeared, stalking the boundaries of the room warily.

    “I thought so,” Lupin murmured. “Everyone try, please - Hermione, Galen, just hold onto yours.”

    The incantation echoed from nearly half-a-dozen throats, and the lioness was soon joined by several silvery puffballs - one of which resolved itself into a plump-bodied, billed figure.

    “OK,” Shirou queried, “who belongs to the platypus?”

    “It’s mine,” Luna said. “Is that what it’s called?”

    “Yes,” Galen grunted, trying to respond and maintain his focus simultaneously. “Platypuses - are - unique.

    “How so?” Luna inquired.

    “I think it best if we ask questions like that later, Miss Lovegood,” Lupin said kindly. “All right, everyone - you can stop now.”

    Hermione and Luna slumped, more than a little exhausted. While both of them might be powerful for their ages, with the potential to be fearsome witches, they were still little more than children at present, trying to do things that would have many adults stymied. Galen, by contrast, looked more frustrated than weary.

    Lupin gazed at him appraisingly. “I’ve rarely heard of a corporeal Patronus that powerful, Mr. Salvatore. I confess I’m puzzled as to why yours did not materialise.”

    Galen shrugged. “Couldn’t tell you.” He tilted his head. “What do you mean, ‘powerful?’”

    “You didn’t feel that?” Hermione blurted, causing everyone to look at her in surprise. “It was like your Shield Charms, but . . . It was more. I felt warm, safe, as light as air . . .” She shook her head. “How could I not conjure my Patronus, with that around me?”

    “I’ve felt it before,” Takara said quietly. “Just once, when my father was ill, and an attempt was made to heal him directly.”

    Galen recalled casting a heal spell, when he was pretending to be Kieran Holt. The ultimate expression of positive energy, a powerful recuperative spell that was also deadly to undead and vampiric entities . . . He supposed there was a parallel.

    “Well,” Lupin mused. “It appears you can support others in their castings, even if you can’t do it yourself. A strong Patronus like that will at least hold off Dementors, and if one of your companions can cast a corporeal one, they can banish them. Not ideal, perhaps, but it’s a workable strategy.”

    He regarded the room. “And I think we’ll use it as a teaching strategy, as well. Try to cast a Patronus with Galen’s aid, and then we’ll gradually make it harder, by lessening his support. In the absence of an actual Dementor to practise on, it will have to do. Hopefully, by the time we’re finished, you’ll be able to cast one regardless of the circumstances. Now, shall we move on to plans for the Duelling Club, while Misses Granger and Lovegood are recovering?”






    Between the practices, plans for restarting the Duelling Club (now postponed to after the Christmas holidays), waiting on the full moon, and normal classes, Galen was surprised when his birthday came around. He’d honestly forgotten all about it. His friends, on the other hand . . .

    “Happy 14th, Galen,” Ginny said, and he resisted the urge to correct her about his age. It wasn’t usually a good idea to point out that he was twenty years older than he was supposed to be - which may have been a part of why he’d forgotten about his birthday. They had basically lost their fun once he’d passed thirty.

    Of course, I only had the one after thirty, given that I died the following August . . .

    Aloud he said, “Thanks, Ginny. Everybody ready for the morning ru - hey, where’s Takara?”

    Confused glances were exchanged, and Hermione finally asked, “I remember seeing her at dinner, and then the Headmistress wanted to see her - but I don’t remember her coming back to the dorm. Then again, I was working on an Arithmancy assignment, so I may just not have noticed.”

    The bushy-haired witch darted back up the stairs to the girls’ dorms, and was back down in moments.

    “There’s no sign her bed’s been slept in,” she reported. “What do you suppose happened?”

    “We’ll ask McGonagall at breakfast,” Shirou decided. “Getting her up now wouldn’t put her in a mood to answer questions.”

    Uncertainly, they resumed their usual calisthenics schedule - but Galen’s mind couldn’t leave the question alone, to the point where his distraction cost him more than a few punches and kicks in the sparring matches. Even with his injuries, however (which would heal quickly enough), he was the first one of their group down to breakfast that morning.

    Of Takara, there was still no sign, and the Headmistress wasn’t up yet, either. The urge to just start blasting until someone told him where Takara was rose up, and his hand twitched eagerly . . . He was so eager, in fact, that only his last-minute recognition the owl that landed in the middle of their table as belonging to the Aozakis kept fresh-roasted poultry from becoming a breakfast option.

    He offered the owl some bacon, as he took its package - a collection of envelopes tied in baby blue ribbon, one addressed to each of them. The significance of the ribbon made sense as they read the cards within.


    Shiki, Ciel and Takara Aozaki are pleased to announce
    the birth of their newest family member,
    ALEXANDRE GALEN AOZAKI, at 6:39 AM, November 22, 1993.
    The new arrival weighs 8 lbs., 3 oz.

    You are formally invited to attend his christening on December 22, 1993.
    Please RSVP no later than December 8th.


    Added to the back of Galen’s card was a note in Takara’s handwriting, As your birthday present, they decided to officially recognise the fact that he’s your fault!

    “Mrs. Aozaki wasn’t due for another week,” Hermione murmured. “I hope everything’s all right.”

    Ginny said with utter certainty, “Mum says that any baby after the first is never as predictable as you’d like.” She grinned. “She ought to know, I suppose.”

    Galen shook his head. “Interesting coincidence.” When they turned to look at him, he explained, “I have an honorary aunt who shares my birthday. She was one of the nurses who took care of me at the hospital. And now it looks like I have an honorary little brother, too.”

    A second owl, bearing the Einzbern crest, abruptly landed beside the Aozaki owl. To Galen’s surprise, it oriented on him, rather than Shirou. The letter it bore explained it, however. It was a birthday card, whose blank interior bore only six words in Ilya’s flowing script.


    Good things can repeat themselves, too.

  9. #29
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 18 - Conversations under (and with) the Moon



    November 29 - 30, 1993






    It never got any easier to watch, Takara decided, as the wracking spasms caused by reshaping flesh and bone ravaged Galen’s form. By now, she’d seen the full moon pull the beast out of his body dozens of times, enough that she ought to be jaded by the sight of a fanged muzzle forcing its way out of his jaws, or those warm hands, with their long, delicate fingers, crushing inwards to form paws. By now, she should be used to the screams of agony that threatened to tear his voice box apart, assuming he could find enough breath to scream, or the empty void of those black, inhuman eyes.

    But it never got any easier.

    The lupine beast, like always, lay quiescent for a moment following the transformation, panting and shuddering as the final effects wore off. As always, the people with him held their breath. There was always a question as to whether or not the batch of Wolfsbane Potion would be effective - whether or not they’d face Galen, or his curse. And there was no way to know for certain until one or the other confronted them . . .

    A deep sigh, instead of a snarl, proved answer enough.

    Under the Deathcloak, Hermione pointed her wand at the window and whispered, “Alohamora.” It opened silently, and Takara flew from Hermione’s shoulder to sit on the windowsill as she waited for her friends. They’d considered carefully for this expedition. Human forms were a bad idea, considering that they had to sneak past the Aurors, and all the nocturnal predators in the Forbidden Forest. Moreover, the cloak could only hide so many people. They’d had to realistically decide who could join Galen in hunting for Sirius, and who would be most useful in doing so - because they might only get one chance.

    Luna, for all the fearsomeness of a skunk’s defences, was ultimately a prey animal. And while Shirou could fly, his night sight was better as a human than an eagle. Neville would be too hard to hide covering the open ground from the castle to the Forest. That had left Hermione, Ginny and Takara. And while Takara was ideal for a nocturnal hunt, Ginny was really too small to go up against a human who could also be a dog that was big enough to cow a werewolf. Therefore, they’d had to include Hermione, despite the fact that it was really too cold and wet for the lioness, because her raw power was essential.

    Hermione whipped the cloak off, but not before Takara noted that she’d heard their breathing faintly. She wondered, as she watched her friend fold the silvery mass to store in her robes, whether it was because her hearing was so much sharper as an owl, or because animals were generally more sensitive to the approach of death? According to the Tale of the Three Brothers, the cloak had been the only Hallow not specifically made by Death on the spot, but rather, Death’s own invisibility cloak. It hid its wearer from Death, at least as well as death was hidden from most people - but there had been stories of dogs, cats and rabbits hovering around people prior to their deaths.

    Still worth noting, Takara thought. The cloak still makes them invisible to me, but the muting effect it has on the other senses isn’t as strong against an animal. I’ll have to remember to tell Galen and the others, tomorrow, just so they’re aware of the weakness.

    For now, though, it was time to fly, and her owl side revelled in finally having the freedom of the darkened skies that her soul insisted she should. Eagle owls weren’t the most graceful of birds - they didn’t snatch their prey out of midair, preferring instead to pounce from an overhead perch - but her natural grace and agility, honed by hours of physical training, carried over quite well. Takara launched herself aloft, and quickly gained enough altitude to gain an overhead view of her friends, and much of their surroundings.

    Galen cleared the window in a casual leap, and paused. No doubt he was breathing in the surrounding scents and sounds, to get as clear a picture of the area in his way as she had. It should be safe - Shirou had gotten the Aurors’ patrol routes from Kiritsugu that morning - but they weren’t inclined to take chances. Getting caught like this would be an unmitigated catastrophe . . . Takara paused at her word choice, and concluded that she’d apparently spent far too much time around Hermione. Her vocabulary was evidently contagious.

    As if summoned, her golden form landed just as easily beside Galen, with a smaller form clinging desperately to her back. Ginny might have made the jump, but had apparently decided not to risk it. Her petite form - Takara suspected that it might take three of her to equal Crookshanks - dropped to the ground from a smaller distance, and after all three adjusted themselves to their surroundings, they darted off for the relative safety of the forest. Takara circled one last time, to make sure the path was clear, and then followed.

    Of their group, Ginny was the slowest - though that was down more to size than anything else. Proportionally, she’d have matched them, had she been big enough. Galen was ostensibly faster than even Hermione, but her own size allowed her legs to eat up enough ground to keep up with him. Takara wasn’t sure of her own air speed, versus their ground speed - but so long as she could see them, it really didn’t matter. Within minutes, barely, they were all ensconced in the trees, and catching their breath. Galen recovered first, as canids were built for endurance more than speed, and accordingly, Ginny was next. Hermione and Takara took a little longer, but as they needed time to adapt to the woods again, it was all right to wait.

    This was the trickiest part of their plan, because it relied on Galen’s being able to scent human, or dog, out of all the myriad aromas that permeated the Forbidden Forest. Takara’s sense of smell as an owl was basically useless - she relied primarily on her sight and hearing, like humans did. She might spot Black, and could certainly follow him once they’d flushed him out, but it would be down to the terrestrial hunters to hunt him down first. And she imagined that, in here, it would be like trying to pick out a specific instrument from a full orchestra - possible, but hardly easy.

    Especially in this rain, she thought ruefully. The trees provided them with some cover, but the moisture in the air and on the ground would wash away scents fairly thoroughly. Worse, even though it was only a light drizzle, it was November, and in Scotland, no less. They were going to be cold and soaked when they got indoors - she could see Hermione shivering already. They had to find Black quickly, or call it off entirely, otherwise they were liable to end up sick.

    Galen glanced around at his companions, checking to see that each was ready, and they all tensed, waiting for the call to action. Finally, he sprang off into the underbrush, breathing far deeper and harder than the actual exertion called for. Ginny and Hermione prowled at a more sedate pace behind him - they’d wait for a clearer indication before breaking off to circle and flank their prey. Takara took to the skies again, playing overseer and hoping to glimpse their quarry early.

    After about twenty minutes of loping through the woods, in which time Galen avoided a thicket of Devil’s Snare, an Acromantula web, and a game trail that showed signs of Hippogriff use, she saw his head snap up, and he abruptly changed direction. While he could no more speak English in his bestial form than she could, being an Animagus gave them all a knack for reading the body language of animals - and their animal forms were adept at employing it. He’d found the scent. Takara flew harder, trying to race ahead and spot Black. Finally, straining both her wings and her eyes, she spotted a ragged-looking canine shape near a hollowed-out tree. She let out a cry of victory, and was rewarded by the sight of her friends splitting up - she’d been heard and understood.

    Hermione circled wide, hoping to cut him off from up ahead, even as Ginny moved in from one side. Galen continued his path directly forward, even as Black’s ears twitched, and he abruptly bolted for the underbrush, no doubt hoping to lose himself in the thickest cover. Galen sped up, eager to run him down before he got too far - and was thus totally surprised as the massive dog lunged out to meet him, its superior weight driving him to the ground even as its teeth clamped down on Galen’s left shoulder. As he circled around to press the advantage, Takara could see the wet, fresh blood on Black’s muzzle. Galen’s blood . . .






    Fire burned through Galen’s shoulder, and it was only the fact that Sirius moved too quickly for him to retaliate that kept the werewolf from burying his own fangs in the dog’s neck. His rational mind pointed out that this was probably a good thing - who knew what lycanthropy would do to an Animagus infected in animal form - but the blazing heat in his left side drove the thought temporarily from his head. Instead, he tensed to take a second attack, growling in inhuman fury . . .

    And was answered by a equally furious, equally inhuman screech. A gray form rocketed out of the sky, and Sirius jumped back with a yelp of pain, as Takara’s talons raked across his back - just before a large golden form slammed him to the ground, fangs locking in a vicelike grip around the dog’s windpipe.

    Galen barked a warning. Hermione was literally twice Sirius’ weight, and nearly as big in proportion. In order to talk things out, they needed him alive and conscious, and she could kill him without meaning to.

    The lioness’ snarl was an answer in itself - he had been attacked, he had been hurt, and she damned well meant to kill Sirius for it.

    Galen repeated his warning. If she didn’t let up, he would attack her.

    Her head lifted in sudden surprise, and she shifted back to her human form. Hermione immediately stopped shivering, as she’d worn appropriate clothing for the outdoors.

    “He hurt you,” she said icily. “That’s not allowed.”

    Galen wished he could see in colour, to get an idea of what her eyes were like - was their colour human brown or leonine gold? There wasn’t quite enough light to see the shape of her pupils, either . . .

    “You’ve been hanging around Galen too long, Hermione,” Takara advised, dropping from a low-hanging branch. “You’re starting to sound just like him.”

    The Japanese witch stepped towards him, presumably to check on his injury, but Galen shied away. He had no idea if blood contact could spread the infection - but given that a bite in human form was contagious, he wasn’t about to risk it.

    “Fine,” she said disgustedly. “But so help me, if I hear one word about your shoulder tomorrow - ”

    Kids?” said a hoarse voice.

    Hermione glared down at him, before rolling gracefully off Sirius’ now-human form and to her feet. Backing away to a safe distance, her wand was abruptly in her hand.

    Sirius stared, bewildered, and said blankly, “You’re not Aurors . . .Kids? Kid Animagi?”

    “We’re precocious,” Takara said coolly. “It seems to run in the family, Uncle Sirius.”

    If the man had been confused before, he was now well and truly gobsmacked. “What do you mean, ‘uncle?’ My brother never had - ”

    “You have a half-sister,” Hermione said crisply. “Unacknowledged by your family - and unknown, even to her. But her son knows . . . And you just took a bite out of him.” Her eyes flashed angrily.

    “Hermione,” Takara said sharply. “We came to talk to the man, not shred him to pieces.”

    “Right,” Ginny agreed, appearing out of the underbrush. “So why did you decide to slice his back up like that?”

    I don’t like seeing him hurt, either,” Takara said sharply.

    Sirius regarded them all warily. “He can’t talk for himself?”

    “Not tonight,” Hermione said. “He’s not an Animagus, you see.”

    Sirius focussed on Galen, and his features lit with understanding. “Another Moony, eh?” He shook his head. “So, why are you here? Somehow, I doubt it’s to turn me in to the Aurors.”

    “You’re right,” Takara said. “We want to talk about a certain rat - ”

    Pettigrew,” Sirius snarled. “Where is he?” He blinked abruptly. “How do you know about him?”

    “I solemnly swear we’re up to no good, Padfoot,” Takara replied, smiling slightly. “No good for him, anyways. But before we decided what to do with him, we wanted to talk to you about it.”

    “The way we see it, Mister Black,” Hermione continued, “is that there are two choices. Firstly, we can try to expose Wormtail as the traitor he is, and clear your name. Or we can simply kill him. But if we do that, you’ll be denounced as a betrayer and on the run for the rest of your life - and Galen didn’t want to force you into that. He insisted that we give you the choice.”

    “Galen?” Sirius said in puzzlement.

    “Galen Salvatore,” Hermione clarified. “Your nephew.” She nodded in his direction.

    “Galen,” Sirius repeated. “. . . Salvatore? That’s not a pure-blood name.”

    “His father is mundane - what you would call a ‘Muggle,’” Takara explained. She gave him a small smile. “He’s also a Gryffindor, like the rest of us.”

    Sirius began to laugh hoarsely. He continued for some time, building to a hysterical pitch before breaking into something more like sobs.

    “My mother would be spinning in her grave - which is where she belongs, the old bat,” he rasped. “A blood traitor and a half-blood - the last of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, ‘always pure’ . . . and Gryffindors to boot!” He began laughing again, before continuing darkly, “I suppose you’d have to be Gryffindors, to come out and confront such a dangerous murderer by yourselves. Always charging in, us Gryffindors - that’s what got me caught.” His dark eyes gleamed. “And now, I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for.”

    “Are you sure?” Takara asked quietly. “You’ll be hounded the rest of your life - ”

    “At least I’ll deserve it,” Sirius spat. “Not that I don’t, anyway. They died because of me, you know - James and Lily, and Harry. Oh, Harry . . .” His voice broke. “Looked just like his father, but with his mother’s eyes, and you never saw a sweeter smile . . . I wanted to protect them, so I got clever. And it got them killed . . .”

    The black eyes hardened to obsidian pits that matched those of the werewolf watching. If Galen was reading the looks on their faces right, none of the girls present had any doubt that the men in their midst were related.

    “No chances, this time,” Sirius snarled. “No confrontations, no hesitations - just kill the rat. Don’t give him an opportunity to slip away again, or destroy more lives.”

    “And what about Moony?” Takara asked, still in that quiet voice.

    “Moony?” Sirius said in bewilderment.

    “He’s here at Hogwarts, Mister Black,” Hermione supplied. “Doesn’t he deserve the truth? Doesn’t he deserve revenge, too?”

    “ . . . Yes,” Sirius agreed. “James wouldn’t have let me kill Peter alone if Remus had been killed. He would’ve demanded to be part of it.”

    “And afterwards?” Hermione said. “What will you do? Run and hide for the rest of your life?”

    “I won’t go back to Azkaban!” he growled.

    “There’s a third option,” Takara said, her tone once again cool, measured. Not as soft as Nanaya’s, but undeniably the voice of the huntress.

    “What’s that, girl?”

    “It’s Galen’s idea - and we should have Professor Lupin here to discuss it, because we may need his help. It’s the most dangerous thing you could possibly do, and it may ultimately end in your death, Mister Black.” She smiled icily. “But if you can pull it off, it will give you your revenge.”

    His grin was feral. “Call me Sirius. I think I could get to like you girls.”

    “My name is Takara Aozaki, Sirius. That is Hermione Granger.”

    Hermione nodded to him.

    “Ginny Weasley,” the redhead introduced herself. “And Galen you’ve met.”

    Thinking this deserved some kind of response, Galen snorted.

    “We’d best be going,” Hermione said. “We’ll need to be rested tomorrow - and it’ll be harder to evade the Auror patrols now if we’re cold and tired.”

    Takara nodded, before turning to Sirius. “If you can base yourself in the Shrieking Shack, it’ll be easier to meet in a few days, when Professor Lupin and Galen have both recovered from tonight.”

    He nodded in turn. “Less dangerous than trying to track each other in the Forest. I assume you know where all the passages are - you do have the Map?”

    “We do,” Takara said. “We can give it back, next time, if you’d like.”

    Sirius shook his head. “I think it’s in good hands.” He offered them a tentative grin. But in return, I want the story of how my nephew managed to end up with three girlfriends - even I was never that good!”

    The reddening of the girls’ face was punctuated by a groaning whine from Galen, and an almost literal howl of laughter from Sirius . . . But Galen supposed that they couldn’t really begrudge the man - it was his first laugh in twelve years, after all.






    “So,” Shirou summarised the next day, “now we have to figure out how to corner Lupin and get him to listen.” He sighed. “I suppose it wouldn’t be worth it if it was simple, huh?”

    “It’s not so much a question of getting him to listen,” Takara replied. “I mean, the Map could make the point, if we caught Weasley at the right time. Getting him not to talk to Dumbledore about it, though . . .”

    “Because he owes him, or feels he does,” Shirou nodded in understanding. “And we still don’t want to give away more than we have to.”

    “Speaking of that,” Takara said suddenly. “Did you owl your father with what we know?”

    “Yeah - so he’s up to date.”

    “Good.” Her blue eyes narrowed. “But have you responded to your invitation to Alex’s christening yet?”

    Shirou realised, abruptly, that he hadn’t. “Uh, no, now that you mention it. But that’s OK, isn’t it? I mean, the deadline’s still a week away, after all . . .” He took in Takara’s slitted eyes, and finished lamely, “but I’ll go take care of it now.”

    “Good,” she repeated.

    Sighing mentally, he grabbed parchment and a quill, and inked out a formal response to the Aozakis, before dashing off to the Owlery.

    That was stupid, he admitted. I should’ve taken care of it the day it arrived, but between Quidditch practice, class, and trying to run down Sirius Black and avoid the Aurors at the same time . . .

    It’s funny how easily I’ve settled into this new life. A couple of years ago, I’d have laughed off the idea that being a teenager was hard, in comparison to what I’ve already done. And it isn’t, really - but my focus has changed. I can look at this life with an adult’s perspective, but I still throw everything I have into it, as though everything about it matters as much as it would if I knew of nothing else. My grades, my Quidditch performance - it all
    matters, as much - or nearly as much - as someone’s life.

    And as crazy as it seems, I haven’t been as happy as this for a very long time. The only way things could possibly improve is if my family was here with me. Dad, Iris, and Ilya - I wonder how she’s doing? She must get awfully lonely at Durmstrang, all by herself . . .


    Shirou’s train of thought was broken by the sight of a trio of larger boys in Slytherin colours (was there a rule that said all Slytherins had to be built like trolls? It sure seemed to describe the majority of them) surrounding a familiar head of pale blonde hair. For a brief moment, he considered confronting them, before shaking his head. Drawing his wand, he cast three Stunners in rapid succession.

    Sniping them from a distance - in the back, no less - might not exactly be the “Gryffindor” thing to do, but it’s definitely the smart thing to do.

    “Hello, Shirou,” Luna greeted him, in her usual voice - warm, and slightly dreamy. Fuji-nee had sounded like that after a few drinks.

    “Hey Luna,” he acknowledged. “Walk you to class?”

    “Thank you - you’re very kind.”

    “Galen’s rubbing off,” he joked, and was surprised when her eyes widened to comical proportions.

    “Something wrong?” Shirou asked, puzzled.

    “. . . I just didn’t think you’d be interested in Galen’s sex life,” she said frankly. “Draco Malfoy, perhaps - he does wear a lot of hair gel - but not you.”

    Shirou blinked, completely lost and more than a little revolted. “Um, I think this is one of those cases where I’ve unknowingly run into a piece of British slang that doesn’t match what I actually meant. I was trying to say that I’m picking up Galen’s habit of being a nice guy where you’re concerned.”

    “Oh.” Luna blinked. “That’s a bit of a relief, actually - I would hate to think that the Weasley twins wasted all that time and money.”

    Shirou blinked again. “On what?”

    “The betting pool on who you’ll end up with as a girlfriend - you and Galen,” Luna explained. “Apparently, the odds of it being Takara are higher lately for you, and lower for Galen.”

    Shirou made a mental note to grab Galen after finishing at the Owlery so that they could express their annoyance to the twins.

    I’ll even be nice and offer them a choice: they can take their licks from us, or we’ll go tell Takara and Hermione what they’ve been up to.

    “You know, you look quite evil when you smile that way,” Luna commented.

    “Sorry,” Shirou apologised.

    “It’s all right,” she assured him. “It feels nice, seeing you all smile like that - and knowing you’re my friends.”

    Shirou blinked, and wondered fleetingly if Galen was this perpetually off-balance with her. He seemed to take anything she said in stride, but how?

    She looked at him, and her eyes held none of their usual mistiness. “It’s like owning a large, vicious dog that loves you very much. You know you’ll always be safe around it, and that anyone who wants to hurt you won’t. It’s why I asked to be in Gryffindor - because Galen was very nice to me, and also quite terrifying.”

    They paused outside the door to the Transfiguration classroom. “Thank you for the walk, Shirou,” she said calmly. “See you at dinner.”

    Shirou stared at the closed door for a moment, before shaking his head.

    He liked Luna, he really did. But understand her? Not even close.






    Additional Writer's Notes: I was going to post the whole second half - I spent the last four hours recoding it. But my computer is being a gold-plated piece of **** right now, so I'll hold off until another time. The good news is, the hard stuff is done, and once I can get the system to cooperate, I can get it finished quickly.
    Last edited by Kieran; March 28th, 2011 at 09:27 PM.

  10. #30
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 19 - The Severing of Snape



    November 30, 1993






    Galen’s shoulder did ache, the first day, but he kept quiet about it. It helped that the wound had healed at daybreak, leaving only the ache and a lingering stiffness. He had to admit that between his own physical conditioning, the Veela medicines, a wizard’s inherent resiliency and a lycanthrope’s endurance, he survived his condition reasonably well. He suspected a mundane werewolf would be far worse off. Indeed, from the state of the canon version of Professor Lupin, it was evident that even a wizarding werewolf would be exhausted for more than a day after a full moon. As it was, a good twelve hours of rest and he was at least functional, if not back to a hundred percent. Which meant that although he missed that morning’s Potions class, he was in plenty of time to join his fellow Gryffindors in Defence Against the Dark Arts.

    When he saw Professor Snape sitting at Lupin’s desk, he almost wished he hadn’t.

    “Professor Lupin has not left any record of the topics you have covered so far,” Snape began.

    “Please, sir, we’ve done Boggarts, Red Caps, Kappas, Grindylows, and Hinkypunks,” Hermione said immediately. “And we’re due to start - ”

    “Be quiet,” Snape snapped. “I did not ask for information. I was merely commenting on Professor Lupin’s lack of organisation.”

    “He’s the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher we’ve ever had,” Dean Thomas proclaimed, before glancing at Takara. “Except maybe your mum, Aozaki.”

    The class murmured in agreement, which only made the Potions teacher look even more forbidding than usual.

    “You are easily satisfied. Lupin is hardly over-taxing you - I would expect first-years to be able to deal with Red Caps and Grindylows. Today we shall discuss - ”

    This is out of sequence, Galen thought furiously, before realising that it made sense. Snape had taken over the class before the Quidditch match Gryffindor had with Hufflepuff - Slytherin, in this timeline - because of the full moon. But since this universe matched the actual lunar calendar, instead of just arbitrarily declaring a full moon when it was convenient, this would be the first opportunity for Snape to cover the class.

    Which means, of course, that today’s subject will be -

    Snape flicked his wand at the textbook, which flipped through to a chapter near the end.

    “Werewolves,” he pronounced, dark eyes gleaming as he gazed at Galen.

    If he’d expected Galen to pale, or gasp, or do something incriminating, Snape was disappointed. Even if he hadn’t been expecting the topic, he’d had two full years of Occlumency training, along with several years of martial arts - controlling his reactions wasn’t that hard. It didn’t mean he couldn’t be surprised, or be obvious about what he was feeling, but it meant that it was hard to pry a response from him if he concentrated on showing nothing. His friends were proficient enough, as well, to show no sign that the new subject disturbed them.

    Galen did note, however, that Hermione didn’t protest as she had in canon, which meant she had to be concentrating on her control fairly hard - so she was disturbed.

    “Turn to page three hundred and ninety-four,” Snape said grimly. When not everyone immediately complied, he roared. “All of you! Now!

    With a sullen undertone of muttering, the rest of Gryffindor complied.

    “Which of you can tell me how we distinguish between the werewolf and the true wolf?” Snape demanded.

    Hermione’s hand shot into the air, as did Galen’s. Neville, Shirou and Takara evidently saw no reason to hide their knowledge, either, and so they too raised their hands.

    “Anyone?” Snape called, as though no one had moved. He assumed his customary sneer. “Are you telling me that Professor Lupin hasn’t even taught you the basic distinction between - ”

    “Half the bloody class is trying to answer you, in case you hadn’t noticed,” Parvati Patil said suddenly. “Maybe being down in the dungeons for so long has ruined your eyesight.”

    Only the fact that he was still concentrating on his Occlumency kept Galen’s eyebrows from disappearing into his hairline. Parvati had always struck him as something of a ditz, frankly. Her obsession with boys and her appearance, and the way she hung on Trelawney’s every word, didn’t exactly endear her character to him. She seemed to be in Gryffindor as a placeholder, more than anything else - because Hermione couldn’t be the only female student in her year. But hearing that, he wondered if there might not be a reason the Patil twin wasn’t in the house of lions, after all.

    Then again, she could just be fed up. Double potions with Snape in the morning, followed by this after lunch - talk about too much of a bad thing!

    Silence fell upon the class, as Snape stormed over to her, robes billowing.

    Neat trick - wish I could figure out how he does it . . .

    “Detention, Patil,” he said coldly. “And if I ever hear you criticise the way I teach a class again, you will be very sorry indeed.”

    Snape likes having them clean things by hand, as I recall - I think I can spare a little of Ilya’s salves for Parvati’s skin. It might not help her nails, but she deserves something for that.

    He stomped back to the front of the room, and resumed lecturing. “Well, well, well, I never thought I’d meet a third-year class who wouldn’t even recognise a werewolf when they saw one. I will make a point of informing Professor Dumbledore how very behind you all are . . .”

    “Please sir,” Hermione said, that evidently having been the final straw, “the werewolf differs from the true wolf in several small ways. The snout of the werewolf - ”

    “That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger,” Snape said icily. “Ten points from Gryffindor for being such an insufferable know-it-all.”

    Galen was well aware that most of Gryffindor had called Hermione a know-it-all at least once a month - sometimes more frequently - and rarely meant it to be complimentary. Nonetheless, Snape’s pronouncement still managed to elicit glares from all the students. While none of them spoke up, after the example made of Parvati, Galen suspected he could have killed Snape and they’d have been happy to help him hide the body.

    Hermione flinched, but her face was a mask as cold as Snape’s tone - concentrating on her shields again, he realised. He supposed it was an improvement on threatening to burst into tears.

    The rest of the class went quietly, as notes on werewolves were made from the textbook. Galen made a point of only skimming the book, and then reproducing it word-for-word - a handy demonstration of Occlumency. And if he added more information than the book actually possessed, well, his hobby of studying magical creatures, and especially Dark creatures, was reasonably well-known.

    Snape paced the rows, looking over people’s work and prior notes.

    “Very poorly explained . . . That is incorrect, the Kappa is more commonly found in Mongolia - ”

    That is incorrect,” Takara said sharply. “The kappa” - and here her pronunciation was slightly different in its emphasis - “is a creature of Japanese origin, hence its Japanese name.”

    Snape’s eyes narrowed into obsidian slits, even as his nostrils flared in fury. “Twenty points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all, as you evidently didn’t learn the first time!”

    Galen winced as he saw Takara slip into her “Japanese pureblood” mask, looking as coldly inhuman as a porcelain doll. Her head tilted elegantly as she regarded him in much the same manner as a entomologist might observe a new species of insect.

    “As students, we are here to learn,” she said, in the cold voice her mother used when she was truly angry.

    The Potions professor turned an interesting shade of purple, his black eyes actually managing to blaze - something Galen didn’t think dark eyes could do. Then they caught Takara’s own . . .

    And the screaming began.






    She observed Snape within her mindscape for several moments prior to deciding what to do about it. Master Occlumens the man might be, but his Legilimency skills were quite poor. All brute force and surprise - for a Slytherin, and particularly one who prided himself on being a master of the “exact art and subtle science of potion making,” it was quite disappointing.

    Takara, on the other hand, had been studying Occlumency under a professional duellist, and then a Master Auror, for two years now. While that wasn’t much, by comparison, she’d also been absorbing what little of her family techniques she could get her hands on ever since coming home from Hogwarts last year. The Nanaya clan had been diviners and assassins - shinobi - and so had more than a few practices regarding the mind arts. Then, too, the two formidable women who were her aunts were the Japanese equivalent of Unspeakables, who had their own techniques.

    As a result, while she might not have Galen’s talent for impenetrable walls, or Hermione’s for organising her mind’s defences, Takara did have access to an array of private techniques that were hers alone to employ, and not at all commonly known. Such as the ability to recreate a mental realm, like the one where Severus Snape now found himself.

    “What the devil?” Snape demanded, glaring at his surroundings - a grand chamber formed of greyish marble, shot through with veins of purest white. A long, crimson carpet bisected the chamber, leading from massive double doors to an ornate, but empty throne. Above that throne, however . . .

    Takara Aozaki hung above it, suspended in a web of leather and ivory restraints - human flesh and bone, to be fully accurate. She was garbed in the dark blue sailor suit that had been her high school uniform in Fuyuki, a colour that did not match the darker hue of her hair, which had fallen forward to obscure her face.

    “Aozaki!” Snape bellowed. “What is the meaning of this?”

    Though her figure made no visible movement, her voice echoed throughout the throne room, as soft and cold as falling snow.

    ‘Come into my parlour,’ said the spider to the fly . . .

    “What nonsense are you babbling?” Snape’s fists clenched, and his eyes narrowed. “Answer me, or you won’t like the consequences!”

    Uninvited guests should not complain of their welcome,” said the quiet voice.

    Snape’s face was approaching the puce that Malfoy’s complexion so frequently favoured. “Insolent Gryffindor! I’ll see you expelled for this! Release this - whatever-it-is - at once!”

    If you wish, I will grant you release,” she agreed, raising her head. Her hair parted slightly, revealing a single, silver eye. “The release of death.

    Snape’s wand was in his hand so quickly, she doubted any but she would have seen him draw it.

    “Why, you - AVADA KEDAVRA!

    The jet of green light shot forth, and had she not chosen that moment to literally burst free of her bonds, she might have died. Instead, the Killing Curse struck one of the bone links of her restraints, and exploded it into powder.

    As she fell, her knife was swiftly drawn and expertly thrown. It bisected Snape’s wand, forcing him to drop the useless splinters - though the Potions professor was admirably quick and dextrous enough to snatch the knife up for himself. He brandished it familiarly, and the silver-eyed huntress might have found that fearful, save that he held the blade as someone know knew the use of a knife as a tool, not a weapon.

    Nanaya permitted herself a tiny smile as her feet touched the ground. This would be pleasant.

    The two stared at each other for a timeless interval. Snape seethed with hatred, and killing intent, glaring at her as though he could already see the blood erupting from the wounds he planned to inflict. By contrast, the last Nanaya studied the prey before her with icy dispassion, noting the web of vermillion lines, sparkling faintly with green, that spread across his body.

    Finally, she dashed forward, even as the professor raised the knife to stab upward, impaling her heart by means of her own momentum. But she was quicker still, and sidestepped the attack, even as she raked her nails across the slender threads she could see along the back of his right hand. Almost instantly, the hand began to mortify, becoming a blackened, withered husk.

    Snape began to scream . . .






    Takara watched with satisfaction as the greasy teacher’s hand twitched spasmodically for an instant, before stiffening and curling into a clenched claw. He screamed in agony, before his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he collapsed.

    “Professor!” Hermione shrieked - managing to be audible even above the roar of excited and talkative Gryffindors. “Quick, Takara - do what you can to help him! I’ll go and get Madam Pomfrey!” The bushy-haired witch broke into a run, and the younger witch’s eyes were sharp enough to notice that her hair was a shade or two lighter than its normal colour.

    Maybe Galen’s right to be concerned, Takara thought. If she starts threatening to change every time she gets emotional - and the rest of us have the same problem . . . A sudden, gruesome image of what her wedding might one day be like flashed through Takara’s mind, and she shuddered. Nonetheless, she moved next to Snape, lest people wonder why she hadn’t, and began checking his vitals, as she would if she was a Healer and Snape her patient.

    Muffliato,” Galen murmured, as she realised he and Shirou were next to her. “Nobody will notice the buzz with all the other conversations going on. Now - what did you do?

    “Snape apparently figured he could use my anger as a distraction while he read my mind - and maybe did some damage while he was at it,” Takara explained. “So I used an aggressive Occlumency defence. It’s kind of like what Shirou did to him, but - more.”

    “What kind of defence?” Galen said.

    “Family secret,” Takara said flatly. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to either kill you or marry you.”

    “Haven’t you been trying to make up your mind between those two options for years?” Shirou asked, earning himself a pair of withering glares that failed to diminish his smirk.

    “Anyway,” Takara continued. “Depending on how good that technique actually is, and how skilled the Healer, he may have real problems ever using that hand again.” She stared at Galen, who was suddenly looking at her with empty eyes. “What? He deserved it! He was basically trying to out you and Lupin to the entire class - and with the gossip network in this place, the entire school!”

    “Yes he was,” Galen agreed in that too-calm tone that meant he was very, very angry. “And it worried me, for a minute. And then I remembered that Hermione was the only one who managed to put the pieces together.”

    “And you can’t deny that you’d like to feed him to a dragon - ”

    “Very true. I often feel that way - until I remind myself that Snape is the one who makes my Wolfsbane Potion - which will be bloody hard to do with only one hand!

    Takara could literally feel the blood drain away from her face. A simple “oops,” much less an “I’m sorry,” wouldn’t cover this. In her enthusiasm to defend herself from Snape’s intrusion - and punish him for trying it - she had condemned Galen to the mercy of his curse.

    And after watching this summer, she knew damned well that it didn’t understand the concept.

    “Bloody hell,” Shirou muttered.






    “Bloody hell,” Shirou repeated later, in the privacy of the Room of Requirement. For once, Hermione didn’t chastise his choice of words.

    Ginny glanced around the group worriedly. “Does it really change that much? I mean, he’s locked in at night anyway, to prevent anybody from coming across him by accident - and we have our Animagus forms specifically to help keep him calm, right?”

    “It changes everything,” Takara said flatly.

    Shirou shook his head. “We saw what the curse really does to him, while you guys were on vacation - if we can’t keep Galen calm, he’ll tear himself to ribbons if he can’t get at anyone else. And Takara and I weren’t really enough by ourselves - he’ll need more than two of us, or maybe just Neville and Hermione.”

    “His recoveries will be worse, too,” Takara said. “Even if he doesn’t hurt himself, the beast will push him hard, unrestrained as it is. Now, he’s got it down to most of a day’s rest - without the potion, it could be two or three before he’s functional, and most of a week until he’s back to normal.”

    “And that doesn’t even include Professor Lupin,” Hermione said seriously. “He’ll be suffering, too - and with two werewolves around, it can’t possibly take long before someone notices the similarities, puts two and two together . . .”

    “And gets them kicked out of the school,” Shirou finished. “Assuming they don’t decide to do the job of removing them personally.” Malfoy immediately sprang to mind, of course - but given the reactions Neville, Hermione and Ginny had to Galen’s lycanthropy, it wasn’t a big stretch to assume that lynch mobs were a definite possibility.

    Shirou buried his hands in his face for a moment, before running them back over his hair with a sigh.

    “So,” he asked the room at large, “what do we do, besides pray that Takara didn’t cripple Snape as badly as she thinks she might have?”

    Luna tilted her head. “We’re quite fortunate, in a way - the next full moon is during the Christmas holidays. Galen would’ve been without the potion anyway, assuming you plan to go home?”

    Galen shook his head affirmatively. He’d been uncharacteristically quiet throughout this - Shirou assumed he was brooding over possibilities.

    “Even if it wasn’t Christmas, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss Alexandre’s christening,” he replied, shrugging as he added, “I’ve never been to one.”

    “In any case,” Luna continued, “it means we have several weeks before we’ll need to worry about his experiencing a full moon at Hogwarts. It’s possible that Professor Snape might have healed by then.”

    “But could we trust anything he brewed?” Neville asked seriously. “I mean, even assuming he doesn’t make a real mistake, he could always claim anything that goes wrong was an accident because of his injuries - and you know he wouldn’t hesitate to use Galen to punish Takara.”

    “True enough,” Shirou agreed grimly. “Is Snape the only person who can make this potion?”

    “Dumbledore, maybe,” Galen offered. “He worked with Flamel - so he must know at least a little about alchemy. And alchemy is an art that’s ultimately rooted in Transfiguration and Potions. Although if Snape heals in time, Dumbledore will probably insist that it’s his job to prepare it.”

    “That assumes he’s capable of it,” Shirou noted. “If he is, why wouldn’t he brew it himself, rather than having a man who hates Lupin do it?”

    “Dumbledore’s big on forgiveness, second chances, and forcing situations where such things can occur,” Galen said drily. “He fails, however, to take the odds of it actually happening into account.”

    “He’s not in charge any more,” Ginny pointed out. “Headmistress McGonagall wouldn’t take any crap from Snape, Dumbledore, or anyone else when it comes to the safety of the students here. The potion would be brewed, and brewed right, or else.

    “True,” Galen mused. “But that still doesn’t guarantee that either Snape or Dumbledore can, or will, do it.”

    “Then we need another way,” Neville said. He glanced at Takara and Shirou. “Your parents work in the ICW - I don’t suppose Wolfsbane Potion is part of their arsenal?”

    Takara shook her head. “Wolfsbane Potion has to be taken in advance to be effective. It’s not something that’s usable in a combat situation. They could probably order or brew it if they needed to - “

    ”Paper trail,” Shirou broke in, shaking his head. “If they start ordering it - or the ingredients - there’ll be questions as to why. All the wrong person needs to do is get their hands on that list . . .” He shook his head again. “They could get nailed for abuse of power or resources - at worst, they’d do time, and Galen and Lupin would still be kicked out of school.”

    Neville looked puzzled. “But that’s not a problem here?”

    Shirou shook his head. “This is a teaching facility. It uses a wide range of potions ingredients for any number of concoctions, in bulk amounts. And it has its own greenhouses, and a forest filled with magical creatures, that it also teaches classes on. Whatever supplies the Wolfsbane Potion requires can probably be acquired from the school’s own resources, or from things needed to keep those resources at optimal levels. Say like, certain fertilisers, or dietary supplements for Hippogriffs.”

    He shrugged, and continued, “The ingredients in Wolfsbane Potion are probably common to at least half a dozen others, so here it can be made without arousing too much suspicion. In the Security Division, though, resources have to be requisitioned and accounted for - you can’t just brew a potion without explaining what and why, to someone. Better if we can get someone here to do it.”

    “Which leads to the simplest option,” Takara said crisply. “We do it ourselves.”

    Hermione paled. Shirou doubted anyone else would’ve noticed - her colour came back almost immediately - but he did.

    Takara turned to Galen. “You’re still on good terms with Moaning Myrtle, right?”

    “I learned my lesson with Hagrid in first year,” he said by way of reply, before adding, “I try to visit him and Myrtle at least once a week. Myrtle’s not bad company, so long as you’re willing to let her vent, and I’ve been helping Hagrid with his lesson plans a bit.”

    “Ah,” Hermione said. “That explains why we haven’t heard of any more accidents, and why some of the creatures have been . . .” She hesitated over the right description, before deciding on, “More reasonable.”

    Galen shrugged. “When I can’t talk him out of something, I help him figure out the necessary precautions. He really doesn’t want anybody hurt, he just doesn’t quite grasp that certain things are more dangerous for other people than they are for him.”

    “But the bottom line is, Myrtle won’t mind us using her bathroom as a potions lab again?” Takara pressed.

    “I don’t think so, so long as we ask nicely.”

    Shirou snorted. “You mean so long as you ask her.” Galen shrugged in response.

    “. . . We don’t have brewing instructions,” Hermione pointed out quietly. Out of the corner of his eyes, Shirou saw Galen give her a sharp look - which made him observe her more closely. Hermione was definitely uncomfortable about something - she was refusing to look at any of them directly.

    “We’ve got two months to find them,” Shirou said at last. “Either the library, the Room of Requirement, or getting them from Snape. Honestly, I think McGonagall can help us there - she’s got a vested interest in seeing Galen and Lupin contained.”

    “You mean we can forget about sneaking around, and be up front about something we want twice in the same year?” Takara muttered. “Hallelujah.”

    Shirou grinned. “It is kind of refreshing, isn’t it?” Then he sobered. “We’ll have to push ourselves a bit, I think - now that we’ve made contact with Sirius, I doubt he’ll want to wait long before taking out Pettigrew. But I think we can settle things in time to deal with the potion problem - Lupin can probably help us out with both. And then it’ll just be a matter of getting through the year.” His grin widened. “With no deadly threats, mortal combat, or anything like them, to boot!”

    Galen sighed. “Here’s hoping - it’d make for a nice change.”
    Last edited by Kieran; April 15th, 2011 at 09:07 PM.

  11. #31
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 20 - Conversations on a Rainy Day



    December 4 , 1993






    The repercussions of Snape’s enforced absence - on top of Professor Lupin’s - left the school with a fair amount of free time, but even so, it was Saturday before they could actually find the time and opportunities needed to begin work on their various projects. Takara was grimly aware that it meant four days out of the fifty-one they had were gone. And in actuality, they had even less time, because the Christmas holidays would take them away from the castle and its resources. As a result, her search through the Library’s books on remedies, palliatives, and medical advances was more than a little frenzied, and she didn’t hear Hermione’s words at first. When Takara finally realised that Hermione had spoken, she asked her friend to repeat herself.

    “I said, ‘I can’t do this,’” Hermione said quietly.

    Takara was bewildered. “You can’t do what?”

    Hermione waved at the growing pile of tomes in front of them. “This! I can’t - “ Huffing in frustration, the bushy-haired witch drew her wand. “Muffliato.” Once the privacy charm was enacted, she turned back to Takara and said, “I can’t make this potion.”

    Takara blinked, gobsmacked. “You’re refusing - ?

    “No,” Hermione stressed. “I’m just not capable of it. It’s too complex.”

    Takara blinked again, and wondered if one of the Weasley twins had spiked her pumpkin juice this morning - because hallucination was the only reasonable explanation she could devise for the words coming out of her friend’s mouth.

    “Hermione,” she said carefully, “we haven’t even found the recipe yet. And even if we had, you’ve brewed complex potions before. The Animagus Potion, Polyjuice Potion - ”

    “And I got them wrong!” Hermione shrieked. “I made mistakes, and things could’ve gone horribly - and even if they didn’t, there were still side effects!”

    “Some of which are emerging right now,” Takara murmured tightly.

    Hermione followed Takara’s gaze, and clenched her suddenly clawed hands into fists.

    “See?” she hissed. “I got it wrong, and this happened!”

    Takara looked at her. “You weren’t this worried when we were making the Animagus Potion, as difficult as it was. And even with the side effects it had, you weren’t worried at all the next year, when we were brewing the Polyjuice.”

    “Galen wasn’t taking it then,” Hermione snapped. “This isn’t the same as before - it’s not a potion we’re making because we think it will help us, something we can give up on if it turns out to be a bad idea. It’s a potion we absolutely have to have - it’s Galen’s mind, his life we’re playing with, and he can’t afford a mistake!”

    Hermione’s chest was heaving by the end of her speech, the consequence of her voice having risen higher in both pitch and volume with every sentence. Without the spell in place, Madam Pince would have no doubt thrown them both out headfirst by now, and likely banned them altogether. Takara had seen Hermione angry, seen her panicked - but this was verging on hysterical.

    Hermione closed her eyes, took a deep, shuddering breath, and repeated slowly. “I can’t do this.”

    Takara regarded her in silence, feeling her heart sink. While she herself was good - probably Hermione’s equal, possibly her better - in terms of potion-making skill, Hermione’s aptitudes, and her confidence, were reassuring things to have. Her attention to detail was second to none - one reason Takara was sure the errors with the previous potions rankled - and given how rarely made Wolfsbane Potion seemed to be, it must be fiendishly complex. While Takara felt she had no choice but to try it anyway, she would’ve felt much better with Hermione at her side.

    There was guilt, too, because her own actions had led to this necessity. If she hadn’t let her annoyance overrule her good judgment, Snape would never have been injured. Being one of Madam Pomfrey’s favourites had its perks - she’d learned that the damage to Snape’s hand appeared self-inflicted, a consequence of his mind directing his own magic to render the hand inoperable. He’d probably get the use of it back, but not without several weeks, or even months, of treatment. And if she hadn’t hurt him in as much a fit of pique as anything else, her best friend wouldn’t be in this predicament. And her closest female friend wouldn’t be in this state. Desperation and guilt, then, were at least partly at the root of her response.

    “And I thought you loved him,” Takara said quietly.

    Hermione rocked back sharply, as though she’d been struck. Her eyes widened and her face began to flush red - whether in shock, anger, or embarrassment, Takara didn’t know, and didn’t care. She rose from her seat at the table and grabbed Hermione’s forearm, hauling the British witch out of her chair one-handed, ignoring her pained protest to silence her with a frosty glare.

    “Come with me,” Takara said, still in that dangerously quiet voice. “There’s something I want you to see.”






    The shed was clean, though a patina of discoloured stains, the colour of rust, lay in patches along the stone walls and floor - as though they’d soaked into the very stone, to become one more layer in the sediment, and as though the heavy steel door had truly rusted through. As a fresh layer of bright scarlet sprayed across the surface, their origin became apparent - it wasn’t rust, but blood. Wolf’s blood.

    From this perspective, Takara could see herself, tucked in a corner in the crossbeams that held the roof up, gazing with dispassionate-looking orange eyes that were actually anything but. From time to time, she’d swoop down to taunt the wolf, trying to give him anything but himself to focus his rage on, but it did little good. Denied the ability to escape, to hunt, he always returned his attention to the only thing in the room that smelled human - smelled like the prey he was so desperate to kill.

    Black claws scratched, and ivory fangs sank into legs, haunches - anywhere they could reach. They tore at fur, muscle, all the way down to bone, until he was so badly mangled he couldn’t move, couldn’t force his body to obey, to attack. Weak and weary from blood loss, whimpering in agony, the wolf lay on the stone floor . . . And then it healed. Slowly, inexorably, bones and muscle knit together, wounds sealed themselves, fur bristled anew - and panting and snarling with rage, the frenzy resumed, as the beast attacked itself again.

    “Werewolves are faster than just about anything that isn’t a unicorn,” Takara said, forcing her voice to stay calm, dispassionate. “But like all canines, they’re built more for endurance than quickness. They can run at top speed for hours. And that’s how long this lasted. From moonrise to sunrise, once he’d determined that he couldn’t get out, he attacked himself - mutilated himself to the point where he couldn’t stand, couldn’t see - and then he healed, got up, and did it again.”

    She gazed at Hermione. “I now understand why werewolves are considered as dangerous as a full-grown dragon - not just because they’re infectious, but because they’re so hard to put down and keep down. I really think that if that troll had come after you on a full moon, Galen would’ve torn it to pieces.” Her voice went from flat to icy. “I also think that I will be damned before I let him go through this if he doesn’t have to.”

    Hermione looked green, and Takara couldn’t blame her - she’d wanted to vomit, too, on seeing the level of carnage inflicted, and re-inflicted, over and over. Only the fact that she’d had nothing in her stomach at the time prevented her from doing so.

    “The Wolfsbane Potion is probably incredibly complex,” Takara admitted quietly, her voice a softer kind of quiet now, almost fearful. “There has to be a reason it was only concocted recently, when lycanthropy’s existed for millennia. Even if I find the recipe, there’s a good chance I’ll mess it up. But when this is the alternative . . .”

    Takara shook her head. “If they can’t replace Snape with someone capable, they will lock him up - they’ll have no choice. They do it anyway, even with the Potion. And even if we’re there with him, even if we can calm him, make his mind wolfish instead of a raging beast’s, he’ll still be a trapped animal. And he hates being forced into anything even when he’s human.

    Hermione shuddered, no doubt considering what Galen as a trapped wolf would be like.

    Takara continued softly, “We can’t hope that McGonagall can find a replacement for Snape in time - or that Galen would trust whoever that might be. I need to do this, Hermione, because he needs my help. Because he trusts me to help him. And because if I don’t, he’ll suffer for it.” She gazed at the Pensieve memory, which was still going. “And I can’t watch him be hurt like that. I won’t let him be, not when I can stop it.”

    She took a deep breath. “And to do that, I need your help.”

    Hermione’s eyes were dark, to the point they were nearly black. “If we get it wrong, he could be damaged forever. He might be trapped as a wolf, his mind might go and never come back - he could kill someone. Or infect them.”

    “He wouldn’t blame us for that - ” Takara began, and Hermione interrupted.

    “No - he’d blame himself. And that would be worse.”

    “The alternative is to let him suffer this,” Takara said.

    Hermione watched the wolf savage itself again, visibly forcing herself to observe the attack. After a moment, she said, very quietly, “ . . .Third time’s the charm?”

    Takara tried not to wilt in relief as she replied, “We can only hope.”

    They exited the Pensieve, and then the Room of Requirement, before reconfiguring it and re-entering. They had work to do.






    Shirou was restless, and he could hardly be blamed. Research and books weren’t his area of expertise - he was very much a physical individual, given to impulse and action over reasoning and contemplation. Added to the fact that it had been raining pretty solidly - not heavily, but constantly - for the last week, restricting outdoor activity, and it could be understood why he was chafing to do something. Oh sure, he could’ve watched Hufflepuff play Ravenclaw, but that would’ve made it worse - the only thing worse than being unable to do something was watching someone else do it instead.

    So when Professor Flitwick asked him to help set up Christmas decorations in the Great Hall, Shirou was more than pleased to do it. It was fairly simple - all Flitwick really wanted was someone capable of levitating him so that he could get the best possible angles to hang his fairy lights, and capable of casting a Cushioning Charm, just in case. The ability to manage a Colour Changing Charm didn’t hurt, either. But in any case, it was an activity to help fill an otherwise dull and dreary Saturday.

    The worst of it was, there really wasn’t any help for it. Unlike Neville, Ginny and Luna, his homework was up to date, so he didn’t even have that as a potential distraction - though Shirou supposed he could pop in and give them a hand. Sirius Black hadn’t met him, so he was just as likely to be attacked if he went to try and help the man (assuming Shirou could find him), and he wasn’t one of the “Library Trio” - he couldn’t ransack the stacks as effectively as they could for obscure tomes or other sources that might lead to discovering the Wolfsbane Potion. And since potions (and especially medicinal ones) weren’t his interest, he wouldn’t even be able to decipher those sources as quickly as Takara would . . .

    It wasn’t until Shirou passed Remus Lupin in the halls that he realised there was something he could do, after all. He broke into a sprint, and managed to climb all seven flights to Gryffindor Tower in record time.

    “Halt!” roared the knight’s painting - Sir Cadogan, Shirou reminded himself. “Who seeks entry to this most hallowed place?”

    Grimly, Shirou called up every exchange Galen and Ilya had ever had, and replied, “I am Shirou of the House of Einzbern, charged by the Lady Ilyasviel von Einzbern to hunt a traitor to the House of Potter, who have long been my lady’s allies.”

    “A just and righteous cause!” Sir Cadogan proclaimed. “I have heard of the Lady von Einzbern - a gentle soul, renowned for her beauty and wisdom.”

    Shirou restrained himself from incinerating the painting, but only just.

    “To complete my quest, I needs must have access to the Tower, and what it contains,” Shirou said flatly.

    “At once!” Sir Cadogan agreed. “Enter, noble warrior!”

    He managed to restrain himself from rolling his eyes until he’d reached the middle of the staircase.

    If I’d ever tried to talk to Saber that way, she’d have taken my head off. Then again, it worked, didn’t it? Who am I to gripe?

    . . . The guy who has to look and sound like an idiot spouting that flowery crap, so if
    I can’t gripe about it, who can?

    He passed through the common room easily enough, doing no more than nodding at his three younger friends as he legged it up to the third-year boys’ dorm. A quick sweep verified that no one was in sight (including a certain rat) and so Shirou went immediately to a specific bed.

    Please don’t let Galen have taken it with him . . .

    He hadn’t - the piece of parchment was being used as a bookmark. Unfortunately, The Monster Book of Monsters was right next to the book in question, and it growled in warning, turning to face Shirou. Quickly, Shirou made an effort to stroke its spine.

    “It’s OK,” he said softly, feeling like an idiot for talking to a book. “I’m a friend, and he’d give this to me if I asked.”

    The book snarled, but halfheartedly. Shirou snatched the parchment and closed Galen’s trunk, shaking his head as the locks and wards automatically reset themselves.

    Sneaky bastard, leaving that thing to guard the map when he doesn’t have it on him. Of course, it’s usually wrapped in the cloak, rendering both items invisible and undetectable to magic. But the book is a good backup, I’ve got to admit. If you don’t expect it, don’t know how to subdue it, and aren’t fast enough . . . He shuddered.

    And that’s assuming you know it’s there in the first place, Shirou admitted. Unless you’re looking for the bloody thing, it’s just one more scrap of parchment, a common bookmark. And there’s only a few people that would know to look. He shook his head, and repeated to himself, Sneaky bastard.

    He was back in the corridors of the castle before he activated the map. It really was an interesting - and complex - piece of magic. Shirou hoped that someday soon, he’d be able to sit with Lupin and Black to discuss how they’d managed to create it.

    Maybe it’ll help me revive my blades . . .

    There.
    There it was - the evidence he needed. For a brief moment, Shirou wondered how it could’ve been overlooked for so long, before he realised that the Weasley twins would hardly have spent time watching their brother’s dormitory on the map, and “Scabbers” was rarely anywhere else. It was useful, in this case - the little traitor wasn’t liable to move in the time it took Shirou to point him out.

    Now I just need to find Professor Lupin.

    That was a little trickier - Hogwarts was a big place, after all. But Shirou knew where he’d seen him, and a few of the likelier places he’d be headed to from there, so it didn’t take much time at all to trace him to one of the staff break rooms - there was one on every floor, for the sake of convenience. In this case, it was the same one the Boggart had been in. He knocked carefully.

    The door was opened by Professor Sprout. “Yes, Mister Einzbern?”

    “I need to speak with Professor Lupin, please,” he said. “It’s urgent.”

    “Of course. Wait here a moment.” As a Head of House herself, Professor Sprout wouldn’t question his need to see his own, unlike some teachers.

    He restrained a smile at the thought of Snape. Inconvenient as it was, he had to admit Takara’s “aggressive defence” (whatever it was) was impressive as hell. His just caused pain, but hers caused actual damage. Shirou suddenly recalled his Sorting, when he’d told the Hat that things always came in threes, and the third was the worst. Galen, if he managed such a defence, would probably have a lethal one. He wondered what it would be - and then kicked himself. He knew exactly what it would be, though how he’d set it up was a mystery . . . Further musing was cut off by the arrival of Professor Lupin.

    “You needed to see me, Shirou?” he inquired.

    “Yes, Professor,” He paused. “Could we speak in private, please?”

    “Of course. We’ll use my office.”

    It was a bit of a walk, but Lupin was polite enough not to pry - whether from some sense of British reserve or his own nature, Shirou wasn’t sure. Either way, he appreciated it. Once ensconced in his office, however, Lupin sat at his desk and said, “Now Shirou - what’s on your mind?”

    “Well, sir, I came into possession of this map . . .” Here he brandished the thing, and only because he was watching did he see Lupin’s eyes widen slightly.

    “Where did you get that?” Lupin said, in a voice that would’ve sounded calm to anyone who didn’t know he wasn’t.

    “The Weasley twins,” Shirou said. “They’re the school pranksters, and they said they ah, ‘acquired’ it from Filch’s office years ago. Anyway, it’s some kind of real-time map of Hogwarts and the grounds, and it occurred to me that you might be able to figure out how Sirius Black got in if you had it - but I’m not sure how useful it would actually be. You see, there seems to be a glitch, sir.”

    “‘Glitch?’” Lupin repeated, puzzled.

    “Yes, sir - it’s a mundane term meaning an error. It relates to computers.”

    “I’ve worked in the Muggle world from time to time,” Lupin admitted, before pausing to examine his face. “You have something against Muggles?”

    “Against mundanes? No, sir,” Shirou said. “I’ve lived among them most of my life. “I just dislike the term ‘Muggle.’ It makes them sound like they’re something less than human.”

    Surprise flashed across Lupin’s face, and his voice was impressed as he said, “You’re a very open-minded young man.”

    Shirou gave him a deliberate look. “Consider my choice in friends, sir.”

    Translation: You and I both know Galen is a werewolf, and the standard prejudices. Do you really think I’d be friends with him if I wasn’t open-minded?

    Lupin nodded. “Quite so. Mister Salvatore is very lucky to have a friend like you.” His tone turned wistful. “Friends can make all the difference in the world, for a boy with his problems.”

    Shirou nodded in acknowledgement, and said, “In any case, about the glitch . . . This map keeps insisting there’s someone in the my dormitory. It’s not a student, or a faculty member, or a name I recognise - and there’s never anyone there when I check, even though the map insists that there is.”

    Bafflement spread across the professor’s features. “A name, but nobody there? That’s very odd - who does it say is in the dorms?”

    Shirou shrugged, and did his best to sound casual. “A guy named Peter Pettigrew.”

    The teacher’s face went ashen.

    WHAT?!






    While he’d never been in the kitchens before, Galen knew where the entrance was and how to open it. He also knew that the house elves within were only too pleased to serve, and while Hermione might raise holy hell about it next year (although, maybe not - she’d never heard of Dobby in this reality, and might not be too clear on their existence), he felt no compunction about taking advantage of them to assemble a picnic lunch. In less than a minute, he had fresh fruits and vegetables, some roast beef and chicken sandwiches, and bottles of water, pumpkin juice and milk, all packed into a convenient, easy-to-carry basket.

    With thanks on his lips and lunch in hand, Galen left the kitchens and donned the Deathcloak. Invisibly, he made his way out of the castle, and towards the Whomping Willow tree. Safely out of range, he paused to study it for a few moments. As he recalled, the movie didn’t use the device of a touching a knot to freeze the limbs, but there were only so many visible, and it needed to be in a place only a rat - or perhaps a small boy - could reach . . .

    Locating a likely candidate, Galen drew his wand and whispered, “Expelliarmus.” The force of the spell struck the knot, and the tree suddenly seized up, allowing Galen easy access to the tunnel concealed under its roots. Carefully, he made his way into the passage, and headed for the Shrieking Shack.

    Trickier to get in and out of, but otherwise it’s got the Forbidden Forest beat all to hell, Galen decided. He much preferred having to get by one tree to get to Sirius than all the things that lived in lots of trees. Not that he’d mind a good ramble through the Forbidden Forest just to see some of the stuff there - he liked nature walks, and he’d played a druid for a reason . . .

    But not without a native guide and a lot of firepower, thank you very much.

    Entry into the Shrieking Shack was simple. He carefully set down the basket, then removed the cloak and tossed it over it - making both vanish.

    Lumos - Padfoot?” Galen called quietly, hoping the use of that name would make him listen. “Padfoot? Are you here?”

    He wandered up a crumbling staircase to a second-floor landing, and spotted a partially-opened door. Sirius’ room. Quietly, he crept in - and red stars exploded in front of his eyes as rough hands seized his throat from behind.

    Years of sparring practice came to the fore, and Galen broke the hold, whirling down in a legsweep to knock his attacker’s feet out from under him. Sirius was quick, though, and bounced back up to lunge forward, snarling.

    Protego!” There was a silver flash, and Sirius Black bounced off the shield and back into the doorframe.

    Galen rose, pointing his wand firmly.

    “Hello, uncle,” he said sarcastically. “See if I bring you lunch ever again.”

    Dark eyes glittered, seeming confused. “Uncle?”

    “Yeah - we’ve met before. I’d put my fur coat on again so you’d recognise me, but it’s not really an option for a few more weeks.” He tilted his head to one side. “Now - are you hungry?”

    “Hungry - you have food? Real food?”

    “Fresh from the Hogwarts kitchens,” Galen confirmed.

    “Real food . . .” Sirius muttered. “Even if you’re not my nephew, I’d adopt you now for a chicken leg.”

    “A chicken sandwich good enough, or am I out of the will?”

    Sirius let out a bark of laughter. “Cheeky - I could get to like you.”

    Galen let him downstairs, and drew the Deathcloak off with a flourish. “Ta-da.”

    Sirius stared at him. “That’s . . . That’s - WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?”

    Galen replied calmly, “Somebody gave it to me for my birthday, a couple of years back. I don’t know who.” It was true enough - he expected it was Dumbledore, but he didn’t know.

    “That’s James’ cloak,” he whispered. “James - I watched him put it on so many times . . . It’s James’ - why do you have it? Why?

    “I don’t know, Sirius. I’ve never been able to find out. But given that it’s saved our lives a few times, I’m not inclined to question it too deeply.” Galen pulled out the beverages, and began unpacking the sandwiches.

    “James . . .” Sirius whispered, stroking the Deathcloak. “If he’d had this, he might have gotten away. He, Lily and Harry might still be alive. Why didn’t he have it?”

    “I don’t know,” Galen repeated - and he didn’t. He’d never fully understood why James Potter hadn’t asked for it back when the family went into hiding. Possession of such a thing might have saved their lives that Hallowe’en night. At the very least, it might have saved Lily and Harry.

    He offered Sirius a chicken sandwich and the bottle of pumpkin juice.

    “Eat,” Galen ordered. “You won’t think well on an empty stomach.”

    Mechanically, not really paying attention, the escapee did so - but soon was tearing into his food with gusto. He was hungry, and the house elves knew how to cook. Galen took half a roast beef sandwich for himself, and laid out the vegetable platter and the fruits. After so long in Azkaban, Sirius was no doubt suffering from several vitamin deficiencies. He couldn’t correct them all in one meal, but this would be a start.

    The food and drink did seem to relax him, and he regarded Galen with more curiosity than wariness. “So . . . Nephew, eh? How exactly did that come about?”

    Quietly, Galen laid out what he knew about his family - and what his mother did not. The knowledge that his great-aunt was Dolores Umbridge, professional creature-hating bigot, brought a dark chuckle from his lips.

    “I’m sorry for you, kid,” he said. “But I’ll bet it would make the family reunion a lot more entertaining if she knew!”

    “There would be a temptation to see if I could make her drop dead of a stroke,” Galen admitted, smirking.

    Sirius chuckled again. “There’s a dark streak in you - reminds me of me.” He turned serious. “Now, your girls were saying something about you having a third option, besides killing the rat or turning him in. Since you can talk now, mind telling me what it is?”

    “They’re not my girls, Uncle,” Galen said sharply. “They’re just my friends.”

    Sirius regarded him intently. “You’re not that way, are you?”

    “Do I look like Lucius Malfoy?” This provoked another barking laugh. “I’m fourteen, Sirius - a little young to be dating.”

    “You sound like a seventh-year,” the man observed. “I wasn’t sure.”

    Galen shrugged. “Anyway, one of them has a boyfriend, and the other two will soon. None of them are interested in me.” Or if they are, he amended silently, that’ll change shortly.

    He shook his head. “My third option is very dangerous, Uncle. For starters, I have to ask - have you ever heard of Occlumency?”

    Sirius snorted. “I’m from an openly Dark pure-blood family, kid - we’re taught how to keep secrets.”

    “You any good at it?”

    Sirius clutched his chest dramatically. “You’re doubting a Marauder?

    “Withdrawn,” Galen said. He turned grim. “You’ll need to bury this as deeply as you can - so deep that no one will ever suspect it’s there, much less find it. I’m going to tell you why the Potters went into hiding. I’m going to tell you why they died. And then I’m going to tell you how to get what you really want . . .

    He bared his teeth, but no one would ever say he was smiling.

    “Revenge worthy of a Marauder.”
    Last edited by Kieran; April 15th, 2011 at 09:15 PM.

  12. #32
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 21 - Missing Malfoy



    December 4 - 18, 1993






    By the time curfew was called, Shirou was exhausted. The doldrums of the morning aside, the afternoon had been anything but boring. It had taken every ounce of physical and mental strength he’d possessed to keep Professor Lupin from rushing out to the boys’ dorm to confront the rat, or Dumbledore’s office, to report him. Leading him to the Shrieking Shack, where he knew Galen had been headed, was comparative child’s play. But once there . . . The meeting between Black and Lupin had been almost painful to watch - two long-separated brothers, estranged by suspicion and circumstance, reunited in memory of a third, and for vengeance on a fourth. It had been too personal, too private, and his Japanese sensibilities had been embarrassed to intrude on it, though there had really been no choice.

    He’d been struck by two things, though. First, the bond between the two men had been powerful, and recognisable. He, Galen, and Takara were much the same - friends who were family to each other. Whatever he and Takara might be, and however much he and Galen irritated one another, they would always be that. The second thing had been how much Galen resembled Black - if not in looks, then in temperament. If he hadn’t known this wasn’t Galen’s world of origin, then he would have assumed they really were relatives. Both men had shared a grim demeanour, a dark sense of humour, and an undeniable cruel streak - as well as a profound sense of honour, integrity, and guilt. It was for these reasons that Black and Lupin both had agreed to Galen’s plan.

    Shirou shook his head. It was the first time he’d ever heard Galen’s “third option” vocalised, and he had to admit that it would be a hell of a thing to pull off. It was intricate, risky as hell, and damned soft on details at the moment. If it went wrong, a lot of people would probably die, including themselves, and there were a lot of ways it could go wrong. But if it worked, it could save just as many or more lives, at minimal cost. The remaining risk still chafed at Shirou’s sensibilities - he’d prefer no one’s life be sacrificed - but at the same time, he couldn’t fault the motivations or choices behind it.

    Once again, the plan required a “hurry up and wait” state of mind. Some of the most vital elements weren’t in place yet, and they couldn’t be without some very important conversations, somewhere very secure. Still, it was a two-week wait, at most. Shirou could be that patient, especially as the rat wasn’t going anywhere. With the Dementors gone, and no repeated attempts by Sirius - or attempts that actually got him inside Gryffindor Tower - Pettigrew had no reason to run, and in fact, every reason to stay. And for the plan’s end result, it made no difference whether or not it was enacted now, or six months from now. For the first time in a long while, they had the time to wait.

    And with that in mind, Shirou collapsed into bed, eager to recover from the day’s events - and looking forward to tomorrow.






    The next Hogsmeade weekend was announced to be the last weekend of the end of term, the day before the Express headed back to King’s Cross. Hermione was ecstatic about it.

    “We can do all our Christmas shopping there! Mum and Dad would really love those Toothflossing Stringmints from Honeydukes!” Her eyes sparkled impishly. “And maybe I’ll get Miranda a bar of that really good chocolate, just to set them off!”

    For all her enthusiasm, though, Shirou suspected her excitement had less to do with the fact that she could go Christmas shopping than it did with the fact that Galen would be able to join them this time. Of course, if they went that route - himself and Takara, and Galen and Hermione - that left Neville as the odd man out . . .

    With that in mind, he cornered Galen early on to clarify what he had in mind for the day.

    “Group shopping,” he said. “Maybe pop in and see my uncle - he did show us the secret entrance.” The older wizard tilted his head. “Did you have something else in mind?”

    “Not really, but the girls might,” Shirou admitted. “And I don’t want to leave Neville by himself.”

    “It really isn’t fair - I’ve been in that position before,” Galen agreed.

    “That,” Shirou noted, “but I was thinking more about the fact that Malfoy’s been quiet lately.”

    It was true. After the last Hogsmeade weekend, and the subsequent loss of Professor Snape, Draco had taken to avoiding, or at least remaining silent, around the Gryffindors.

    Dumbledore would be hoping he’d finally learned his lesson, Shirou thought. I figure he’s just biding his time. With Snape gone as well as his father, he’s not as well-protected - but that doesn’t mean he’ll give up. And given that Snape went down teaching a Gryffindor class, it’s a sucker’s bet that he’ll blame us for it. He’ll be right, mind you, but he’d blame us, anyway.

    Galen grunted. “The last time he tried to take on Neville, it didn’t go so well.” He grinned at the memory of the Slytherin’s expression, after his spells were halted by a Shield Charm.

    “Yeah, but that was two years ago,” Shirou pointed out. “Time enough for Malfoy to improve himself to the point where he can figure it won’t matter - and it’s been long enough for him to convince himself that it was a fluke.”

    “Hm,” Galen agreed. “And while Neville could probably handle all three of them in a physical fight, Malfoy’s started shooting from behind, at a distance. Not a good setup, even if his wand was up to snuff.” He scowled. “You’re right - we need to worry.”

    Shirou smirked. “At least it’ll be easier next year - Ginny or Luna can stay with him then.”

    “Or I will,” Galen countered, smirking as he added, “At least ‘til Neville gets a girlfriend of his own, or a new wand.”

    Shirou shot him an annoyed look, which Galen returned as he said, “Takara’s dating you, and by this time next year Hermione will be over the moon regarding her upcoming Yule Ball date with international Quidditch star Viktor Krum. Whatever you think, I highly doubt she’ll settle for me when she realises she’s fully capable of getting the kind of man she deserves.”

    “You think this Viktor Krum deserves her?” Shirou asked pointedly, knowing very well that it was highly unlikely.

    “He’s a bit of a playboy, I think,” Galen admitted sourly. “But he’s handsome, intelligent, honourable, famous, and probably rich. If she can tame him - and I’ve no doubt she can - it wouldn’t be a horrible match.” He shook his head. “But that’s next year’s problem. Let’s worry about today, shall we?”

    Shirou sighed inwardly. Ultimately, this was Hermione’s problem to deal with - but he admitted that he wanted to see Galen happy, which was why he kept pushing at this despite knowing it would be an exercise in frustration. Whether it ended up that he be happy with Hermione, Takara, Luna, or someone else entirely, he didn’t know - but whoever it was, they’d have a hell of a time breaking through his inferiority complex. Although admittedly, at fourteen, romantic entanglements weren’t exactly something they ought to be worrying about. As with Pettigrew, there was time.

    In the meantime, they worried about protecting Neville - and the rest of themselves, of course - while out and about at Hogsmeade.






    Muffliato,” Takara intoned as the carriage set off, before turning to Galen. “That really is a useful spell.”

    “Means we can ease up on the Japanese, though it won’t hurt to stay in practice,” Galen agreed. “What’ve you found out?”

    Hermione beat her to the punch, grinning all the while. “That the Room of Requirement is brilliant! It not only provided us with the recipe for the Wolfsbane Potion, it also gave us copies of Snape’s own notes on it!”

    “And given some of his notations as a student, I imagine those are very interesting.”

    Takara nodded. “The man’s an evil git, but he is a genius when it comes to potions. It’s like . . .” She hesitated on a description, before saying, “If the difference between you and I in potions skill is the difference between a kendo instructor and an Olympic competitor, then he’s Miyamoto Musashi.”

    Galen and Hermione both nodded, but Neville looked confused. Galen said, “The difference between somebody who plays Quidditch for Gryffindor and a professional player, versus someone who plays on a national team.” He nodded in understanding.

    “Anyways,” Takara continued, “he’s actually worked out some potential improvements on the Wolfsbane Potion - though from the described effects, I doubt he’s used them on your doses.”

    “Hardly surprising,” Galen said with a shrug. “Think about it - if he’d actually released the techniques in the Half-Blood Prince’s book to the general populace, they’d be part of the standardised text. But they aren’t, because he doesn’t actually care about improving things. He does it because he can, to give himself an edge on the traditionalists, and prove to himself that he’s smarter than anyone else.”

    Neville broke in. “You can make the potion, though, can’t you?”

    Hermione bit her lip. “Probably. The ingredients aren’t much of anything special, it’s how and when you put them together that makes it so tricky - there’s elements of Arithmancy and astronomy involved. And the potion has virtually no shelf life at all, so you can’t mix up a big batch for future use. You have to make it fresh for every full moon.”

    “Which explains why most people don’t bother,” Takara said disgustedly. “It’s too much work for too little gain.” She smiled. “But we can do it, Galen. Maybe not without Snape’s improvements, but we do have them.”

    The look of relief Galen gave Takara was palpable. She hadn’t realised just how much the idea of not having the Wolfsbane Potion at Hogwarts had been bothering him - though she really couldn’t blame him, having seen how terrible the transformations really were firsthand.

    “That means we can really enjoy our time in Hogsmeade,” Hermione said brightly. “I’m sure you’ll like Honeydukes, of course - but they’ve got so much more than chocolate, even . . .” Her eyes widened. “Oh! I never asked - Galen, Honeydukes sells blood-flavoured lollipops. We assumed they were for vampires, but we couldn’t fathom why they’d be sold at all? Do you know?”

    Galen pursed his lips for a moment, and then said, “Three reasons. First, Honeydukes is like Nestle, or Cadbury - it might be based in Britain, but its markets extend far outside it, like to Romania, where most vampires tend to congregate. Second, vampires aren’t the only things in the magical world with a taste for blood, so it’s a broader market than you’d think.”

    “And the third?” Takara asked.

    Galen grinned. “Given the legal status of vampires in Britain, I could make a comparison to gourmet dog biscuits - but it’s probably more accurate to compare it to making nicotine gum for smokers. The lollipops are a candy, so they have no real nutritional value, but they do apparently ease the bloodlust. Handy thing to have around here, given the aforementioned legal status - though I’d imagine that a steady diet of them just makes the bloodlust worse when it does rise up, since they’re pretty well starving themselves. But as something to tide them over . . .” He shrugged.

    Hermione nodded. “That makes sense.” She tilted her head. “Where do you learn this stuff? None of that information is in any volume available in the Hogwarts library - well, outside of the Restricted Section, perhaps.”

    Galen’s grin widened. “The Einzberns let me ransack their library. Kiritsugu-san is an Auror, and his wife’s a Veela, an international ambassador, and the only heir to a prominent pure-blood family, so you’d be surprised at some of the reference materials they keep on hand, even at home.”

    Takara flushed. She liked to read, but somehow she’d never considered looking through her parents’ books before - well, not the work-related ones. She supposed she ought to start. Who knew what she might uncover? As she pondered the idea, the carriages proceeded in relative quiet, the conversation light. Takara cursed the fact that unlike the Express, the carriages could only seat four - Shirou was with Fred, George, and Lee. Still, the Thestrals were swift, and the village not far, so it wasn’t long before they were in Hogsmeade.






    Takara was not pleased at the prospect of having no private time with Shirou, but she couldn’t really argue with the boys’ concerns. Malfoy had done enough to spoil their first date, and now he’d had time to plot. And if he’d cast a more lethal spell last time, Hermione might be dead. She shuddered at the prospect.

    Of course, if by some miracle we didn’t kill him for it, Malfoy would’ve survived only until he reached the castle, and Galen found out what he’d done . . . But it would’ve hardly been a comfort to the Grangers, and I don’t fancy having to deliver similar news to them now, or to anyone else.

    She accepted the necessity of safety in numbers, for now - but at the same time, Malfoy moved up on her list of targets that needed to be dealt with. She was not going to cower for the rest of her life at Hogwarts over what the blond bastard might do. They were going to have to make it clear to Malfoy that crossing them was something he didn’t want to do, and soon.

    If he shows up while we’re on the Express tomorrow, I’m going to ask the boys to help me throw him out -
    the window, Takara thought darkly.

    They wandered about the village, doing bits of Christmas shopping for their families - and occasionally for each other, when the others could be talked into distracting the gift’s intended recipient. Hermione bought her parents their mints, and Miranda a sampler set of chocolates. Galen bought a quill set from Scrivenshaft’s for his sister Maeve, and made an odd purchase in Dervish and Banges - a pale blue ribbon that had been charmed to repel dirt and stains.

    Takara looked at him oddly. “What in the world is that for?”

    Galen blushed. “Well . . .” He sighed. “I kind of figured your parents would get all the ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ ornaments, and things like that, so . . .”

    “You want to give Alexandre a ribbon for Christmas?” she asked incredulously.

    “Or his christening, if it’s an appropriate gift - I know you’re supposed to bring one.”

    “But why a ribbon? That’s a strange thing to buy a baby boy.”

    “Only because I haven’t bought the teddy bear whose neck it goes around, yet,” Galen explained.

    “Oh,” Takara said in comprehension - and then she understood. “Oh! Like your teddy bear!”

    Galen’s teddy bear had been his best friend forever, and the family story went that his mother’s friend had asked, when making it, whether to put a blue or pink ribbon on it. His mother, certain that Galen was going to be a girl, had said “pink” - which had necessitated a frantic phone call later.

    He nodded, a sheepish expression on his face, and asked shyly, “Too corny?”

    Takara smiled, and corrected him. “Corny - but very sweet. Thank you on his behalf.”

    Galen shrugged. “Since he got my birthday, he should get my favourite toy, too. And hopefully with this, his Teddy will have an easier life than mine did - no need to go through so many washes.”

    Takara laughed. “You do remember that we can use Scouring Charms and Vanish things, right?” She giggled as his expression clearly told her that he’d remembered no such thing.

    “It’s not that funny,” he muttered, and she was tempted to laugh harder, before her manners reminded her that it would be a terrible thing to do to a friend who had only been trying to be kind.

    “You’re right,” she admitted. “And this means we won’t have to use many of those, either - so the gesture is still very practical, and very sweet. Thank you.”

    She gave him a quick hug, and nearly froze in mid-embrace. Takara had known intellectually that the years of workouts had given him a much more built form than the skinny kid she’d known, or the painfully gaunt Servant he’d originally been - but it was one thing to know it, and another thing to feel the difference. While Galen would probably never be one of those bulked up bodybuilder types, there was a wiry strength to his lean frame. Combined with the natural heat he always exuded, being close to him was quite - pleasant.

    I wonder if Shirou would feel as nice . . .


    “Takara?” Galen said abruptly - or seemed to, before she realised he’d been calling her name for a while.

    “Are you OK?” he asked. “You kind of faded out there for a minute.”

    “Fine,” she replied, even as she could feel her cheeks flushing. “I’m just finding it a bit warm in here all of a sudden.”

    “Well, let’s grab the others and walk over to the Three Broomsticks,” Galen suggested. “By the time we get there, you ought to have cooled off enough that a warm butterbeer will sound good.”

    “Sounds like a plan,” she agreed. “Let’s go.”






    Pleasant as Hogsmeade was turning out to be, Galen never fully relaxed. With Malfoy’s quiet spell, he figured he couldn’t afford to. The little ferret was never up to any good when he was lying low, and he figured after the last Hogsmeade visit, there was no way in hell he’d pass up another shot.

    When it comes down to it, Draco isn’t much brighter than his minions. He gets hexed and/or humiliated every time he confronts Harry on the train, but still does it. He has the Hogwarts rumour mill telling him all the things Harry’s accomplished - sixty-foot basilisk, anyone? - and his own father to verify that yes, Harry’s managed to escape the Dark Lord himself, and go into battle with five friends against twice as many Death Eaters and battle them to a standstill - but he still feels compelled to try and beat Harry. The one time they actually duelled for real, Harry nearly killed him!

    Given Draco’s seeming inability to learn, I can’t afford to think that the fact that there are five of us versus three of them will cause him to reconsider the wisdom of picking a fight - because it never has before.


    Not for the first time, Galen considered the benefits of just killing Draco out of hand. He’d never really bought Rowling’s “poor Draco is a misguided kid who wound up in over his head” concept. Draco had been a dyed-in-the-wool bigot, perfectly content to cheer on the deaths of “mudbloods” and “blood traitors,” up until Daddy had managed to screw up and get himself sent to Azkaban. Even then, he’d continued to serve Voldemort, however reluctantly - and given that he showed no qualms about using his Dark Mark to intimidate people into getting what he wanted, how reluctant was he, really? It argued that he was more afraid of his status on the chopping block than about any doubts he had regarding serving the cause itself. No, for poor misguided kids in over their heads, Sirius’ brother Regulus was a far better example. He had actually been prepared to die in an attempt to stop Voldemort, once he’d realised the depths he was swimming in. Draco had never had the courage.

    Draco Malfoy was an annoying irritant with the potential to become really dangerous if they allowed him to proceed unchecked. Certainly, if not for some very lucky coincidences, his actions in sixth year would’ve killed at least two students, as he attempted to assassinate Dumbledore - and without the Felix Felicis, one or more of the DA or the Order certainly would’ve been, as well. He contributed nothing truly useful to their plans, and by just about any measure, they were safer with him in the ground. Legalities aside, killing him was by far the best thing they could do to him.

    Except . . .

    Except that at the moment, Draco was simply an irritant. He’d proven no match for them collectively, and probably not individually, so long as they were prepared. Frankly, he posed no real physical threat to their well-being, and as far as political influence went, Shirou and Takara had their parents’ Auror contacts, and Baroness Einzbern to match the Malfoy money. It wasn’t a perfect counter, as foreigners didn’t necessarily carry too much weight in British politics, but it would deflect the worst of just about anything Draco could throw at them.

    If Galen killed Draco at this point in time, then, he’d be doing it simply because the Slytherin boy was annoying. And as one of his favourite detectives said, If I shot everybody who annoyed me, I’d go broke buying ammunition. So Draco got a pass - for now. It might even be permanent, depending on how well they changed the timeline this year. But if he made one move that suggested he’d prove himself an actual threat, the Acromantulas were going to discover the concept of a restaurant that delivered. Unlike Dumbledore, Galen wasn’t about to risk others’ lives on the hope that Malfoy could be redeemed.

    Speaking of risking lives, he reminded himself.

    Muffliato,” he murmured as Madam Rosmerta brought them their drinks - with the crowd in here, the buzz would go unnoticed. Then he glanced at his friends and said, “We have a problem.”

    “Just one? That’s new,” Neville quipped.

    Hermione rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Neville.”

    Galen turned to Hermione. “You nearly killed Sirius.”

    She shivered. “I know. I feel terrible about it.”

    “It’s not in your nature,” Galen agreed. “But you didn’t stop to think of other options - you went right for the kill. Takara, too - or nearly - but I’ve come to sort of expect that from her.”

    The Japanese witch scowled. “Hey!”

    Galen smiled to take the sting out of it as he said, “You have to admit, with your training - and origins - a kill response makes more sense for you than it does for Hermione.” He turned grim. “The animals aren’t settling as easily - or as quickly - as we hoped. Maybe it’s because you’re teenagers, and the hormones are stirring things up, but I don’t think we can afford to wait it out. Somebody could get hurt, or killed, and I don’t think you want that on your conscience.”

    Shirou acquired a smirk. “Sure - and the idea of being cornered by a three hundred pound lioness in heat has nothing to do with it.”

    Galen and Hermione’s faces acquired a hue to match Shirou’s hair, and Takara slugged his forearm - though even she and Neville were looking pink.

    Galen cleared his throat. “I’ve been looking over the Animagus Potion and its described effects, as well as similar mixtures and methods. If I’m reading things right, the animal is part of your unconscious, basically your instincts made manifest. It’s you, if you were born as that animal - which is why I’m thinking it might not be so dangerous for you to try . . .” He trailed off, as if unsure of how to continue.

    “Try what?” Hermione prompted.

    Galen frowned. “Have any of you ever seen a picture of Fenrir Greyback?”

    Neville nodded, suddenly a bit pale. The rest shook their heads, but indicated they knew who he was.

    “Looks a bit bestial, doesn’t he?” Galen said to Neville. “Sharp teeth, not quite human eyes . . . Ever wonder why that is?”

    “Why?” Neville asked.

    “Because he revels in his lycanthropy. It’s not a curse, to him. He works with it, encourages it, and draws strength from it. As a result, he’s less human - and it shows. But he has less trouble with the pain of the transformation, and more strength in human form.”

    “How do you know that?” Hermione asked curiously.

    Galen was grim. “Professor Lupin’s been studying Greyback a long time. He wants revenge as badly as I do.” He shook his head. “Anyway, I was thinking that it might be possible for you guys to make similar deals with your animals - let them out a little in your human states, for better control over your instincts in animal form.”

    Shirou looked askance at Galen. “Won’t it be obvious what we are, then? I mean, if Greyback is as noticeable as you say - ”

    Galen shook his head again. “That’s a function of the curse. It marks us, sets us apart, to remind us that we’re not the real thing, even when we look it - like the difference between a werewolf and a natural wolf. Greyback’s just more visibly so, because he doesn’t cling to his humanity as hard as the rest of us. You guys shouldn’t have any problems.”

    “Famous last words,” Takara muttered, before she shook her head in turn. “Well, I don’t fancy sprouting feathers when I lose my temper, so I guess it’s worth a shot. I just hope I don’t develop a sudden taste for mice, either.”

    Galen nodded. “Thanks - it’s a load off my mind.”

    “So, how do we do it?” Neville asked.

    “Best guess? You’re all Occlumens - you know the ins and outs of your own minds. Find your animal, and try to hash things out with it.”

    Nods of varying degrees of enthusiasm went around the table.

    Hermione glanced at her watch. “It’s nearly time to go back to the castle - we should head for the station.”

    Paying their bill (with an appropriate tip), the group left the Three Broomsticks and boarded a carriage back to Hogwarts. As they headed up towards the castle, Neville inquired, “So - should we be relieved, annoyed, or worried that Malfoy didn’t try anything?”

    “I’d go with worried,” Galen said. “Definitely, worried.”
    Last edited by Kieran; April 15th, 2011 at 09:15 PM.

  13. #33
    Master of Hermione Alter 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.

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



    Chapter 22 - Revelations and Revenge



    December 28, 1993






    Takara wasn’t terribly surprised when Luna was the first of them to reach a balance with her animal self - she’d always seemed the most spiritual of them, and the most adaptable. Therefore, it wasn’t shocking to learn that she’d managed to meditate and mediate the night following their discussion, and be sorted before they even got on the train home. The changes were minimal, as well - the part of her hair was highlighted by a pair of pale blonde streaks, and that was all. No suddenly going raven-haired, or exuding a skunk’s calling card aroma, just a lightening of part of her tresses. Then again, Luna had spent the least amount of time in her animal form, so it made sense that the signs of it were least visible on her.

    Hermione had been a more interesting case. She’d managed to do it on the train ride home - like Luna, she had a brilliant mind and psychological inclinations that lent themselves naturally to Occlumency. It had taken her half the trip to pull it off, but she’d calmly announced success, and the only visible change in her was a lightening of her eyes from chocolate brown to a dark amber colour - something you’d only see in the right light, or if you paid very close attention to her features. Given that she spent the most time in her animal form, that was surprising . . . And then, Takara had noticed the other changes.

    Hermione had always sat next to Galen, when she could. That was nothing new. It was new, however, for her to lean into him as she did so. She hadn’t touched him overtly, but she was almost always in some form of contact, even when she was just brushing her leg against his. When she’d gotten up to use the loo on the train, Takara noted the change in her walk. Hermione had never been clumsy, and years of martial arts training had honed her balance and coordination, but now she moved with an unconscious, feline grace. Curious, Takara had tossed an empty Chocolate Frog box in Hermione’s direction while she was reading, and the bushy-haired witch had snatched it out of the air with barely a glance - and then stopped, as she realised what she’d done.

    “Meow,” Takara had said carefully, and Hermione had bitten her lip.

    “I guess the lioness is more a part of me than I’d guessed,” the latter admitted. “Still, I don’t have a tail, and I haven’t suddenly gone blonde.”

    “Your pupils are still the right shape, too,” Galen had assured her. “The cat smell’s a little stronger, though.”

    She’d blushed, and mumbled something like an apology, but Galen had shrugged. “I doubt anyone not close enough to kiss your bare skin will notice - and probably not unless their noses are especially sensitive. Besides, it’s a fairly comforting smell, for me.” He grinned, and the sparkle in his eyes suggested he was being wicked as he added, “I could fall asleep right here.”

    Hermione had gone from pink-cheeked to full-faced crimson with that remark, and Takara couldn’t understand what it was meant to imply. Asking had merely had her respond, a bit frantically, “Nothing! Nothing at all!”

    Still, it was clear that spending so much time in her Animagus form had brought forth some mental as well as physical adjustments when she finally reached an accord with her inner lioness. Everyone had gotten big hugs when they’d separated at King’s Cross, and she’d held hands with Miranda and her mother on the way out. Having studied a little about lions, Takara supposed it made sense. Of all the big cats, they were the only social ones, often sleeping next to or atop one another. Hermione would apparently be behaving as though they were her pride now, and the rest of them would probably have to get used to her being as physical with them as she’d always been with Galen. Given her mother, Ginny might gripe about it - but Takara doubted Luna would complain.

    That said, Takara wondered what it meant for her. She, Neville and Hermione had spent the most time in animal form - her less so than either of the other two, but more than the rest. How would her owl form influence her body, her thinking? Would she notice? The thought had been in the back of her mind all through the holidays, never quite going away even during Alex’s christening ceremony, or on Christmas itself.

    The christening had been pleasant. All her friends had appeared, bearing gifts for her baby brother. She noted with some amusement that Alex did appear to like his new teddy bear - or at least, he never complained when it was placed in his crib. It would be a while before they had any idea of whether he was really attached to it or not. In any case, she was quickly growing accustomed to sleeping with a frequently-crying baby in the house, though the presence of an eager-to-please Veela godmother helped. As long as Alex wasn’t hungry, Arcueid had few difficulties caring for him through the night. She didn’t do it every time, every night, but often enough for her parents not to lose too much sleep.

    It had made for a pleasant Christmas, having all her family - including its newest member - with her. Alex was adorable - his eyes were the same sky blue hers were, and he showed signs of having the same hair colour as well (it made her wonder whether or not he’d have had the same dark chestnut she did, in the universe she’d come from, or if he’d have still inherited their mother’s hair). But even he couldn’t fully keep the owl out of her thoughts, and now she’d reached the decision time. With the full moon tonight, she could either try to strike a balance with her animal now, or leave Galen to suffer, and hope some of their other friends would help him. Because if she transformed without bargaining . . .

    If I do that, the owl will be that much stronger when I finally manage it, and I’ll lose that much more of me.

    She went to the dojo area that had been set up, and grabbed a bokken. Of all the many changes Takara had undergone since arriving on the Hogwarts Express, this had not: she was still very much a physical being. Occlumency and meditation were things she was capable of in stillness and contemplation - but she was most focussed and at peace when in action. And so, she closed her eyes, began a kata, and sought the eagle owl within.

    As she lost herself to the rhythms of her bladework, Takara became aware of the wind, rustling through the trees. She opened her eyes to find herself standing in an autumnal forest, the ground carpeted with coloured, frost-rimed leaves. A full, silvery moon shone in the night sky above, and not so high up, perched on a denuded branch just out of arm’s reach, was the eagle owl.

    “Hello,” she said tentatively, unsure of what was supposed to happen next. If she’d been expecting the owl to reply in the Queen’s English, however, Takara was disappointed. It did cock its head inquisitively, however - an expression she read as easily as if it had actually spoken.

    “I want to reach an agreement,” Takara tried. “I want better control over the change, and the ability to think more clearly, less instinctually.”

    Owls the size of this one - and she was one of the largest owls extant, bigger than even the snowy owl - did not “hoot.” They made an entirely different noise. The sound in question was closer to a bark, and this one had an interrogative quality that Takara equated to “Why?”

    “Because I don’t want to end up in Azkaban or St. Mungo’s!” Takara snapped. “I’m rather fond of being free - and human.

    Another tilt, as though to ask why she’d bothered becoming an Animagus, then.

    “Because it would help Galen,” Takara replied. “Not that I’d ever say that where he could hear it - he already blames himself for this problem, I won’t give him confirmation of it so that he can keep blaming himself.”

    The owl barked again, and Takara scowled, flushing crimson.

    “He is not my mate!” She rolled her eyes, and asked the moon, “Why does everybody - including my own damned subconscious manifestations - think we should be a couple?!”

    “Because I know what you want,” came a familiar whisper. “Even if you refuse to let yourself admit it.”

    Takara locked her eyes on the branch. Nanaya’s eyes were now the same blazing orange as the eagle owl’s, and she wore a cloak of its feathers instead of her school uniform. The hint of an icy smile played about her lips as she regarded her counterpart.

    “Don’t look so shocked,” she informed Takara. “You know that owls are symbols of death in most cultures - and to you, that’s me. Besides, you’re the one who called me up with the ‘aggressive defence.’” The corners of her mouth sharpened into what might be considered a demure smile on anyone else.

    “But you don’t exist any more,” Takara protested. “I can’t see lines, and the Nanaya bloodline doesn’t exist.”

    “Oh, it exists,” her doppelganger countered. “Your father’s birth name is still Shiki Nanaya, after all. What you mean is that you shouldn’t have a separate, murderous personality any more - but I was here long before your blood awoke, and I wasn’t considered separate then. I’m the little voice that whispers in your ear. I could be your conscience, your impulses, your doubts and fears. I could even be the echo of the Takara Aozaki who was born into this world, the one you ignore - but whatever I am, I’m always here.” She shrugged her shoulders elegantly. “At the moment, however, I’m the owl consciousness, filtered through your own mind. We’re both creatures of instinct, after all - how else would you really interpret me?”

    Takara paused. “What do you mean, I ignore Takara Aozaki? I am Takara Aozaki!”

    “The one who was born here? The source of eleven years’ worth of memories? Friends with Galen since she was four, and Shirou not long after?” Nanaya’s orange eyes blazed. “No, you aren’t - or you wouldn’t be ignoring me.”

    “I’m not ignoring you!”

    “Then why aren’t you at least trying to date Galen?”

    “Because I don’t want to!”

    Nanaya stared at her wordlessly for a moment, and when she spoke, her voice had dropped lower and colder, which Takara would’ve sworn was impossible.

    “Oh, but you do,” the orange-eyed girl said. “That’s the whole problem, isn’t it? You want him, and you’re not supposed to. It’s always been the problem, and it’s worse now, because you might’ve been content to give up on your Servant, but the Takara of this world loves Galen, and she won’t be ignored.”

    “You’re talking like she’s a separate person,” Takara complained. “From what Ilya told us, it’s just a backstory invented by the world to give us plausibility.”

    “But they’re still memories, and experiences, and feelings,” Nanaya countered. “And they’re ours. Barring a Memory Charm, they aren’t going to disappear, or stop influencing us - and that makes them just as real as anything else.” Nanaya snapped out the next four words like chips of ice. “And we love him.

    “I don’t - “

    ”First kiss.”

    The memory surfaced immediately, around them, as a hesitant Galen said goodbye for the last time, as they would leave for Japan early the next day. He’d moved shyly forward, and she’d had no idea of what he was about to do until his lips brushed her cheek - and no time to react beyond a widening of the eyes before he bolted for home.

    “Before, you’ve felt grateful, admiring, obligated, frustrated, angry and confused,” Nanaya hissed. “And now he’s been your first friend, your best friend - your first love. There are actual feelings involved in your relationship with him, rather than arising from them. And you still ignore them.”

    Takara closed her eyes. “You’re my impulses, you said. So to you, it’s simple. See something, want something, take something. But it’s more complicated than that - ”

    “Seeing if there can be anything between you, once and for all, is complicated?” Nanaya demanded, before proving she was picking up British parlance as well by adding, “A bloody date is complicated?

    “A date?” Takara repeated blankly.

    Nanaya regained her icy smile. “You thought I’d suggest throwing him down, tearing off his clothes, and riding him into the ground?” The smile widened. “I’d prefer that, but I’ll settle for you acknowledging your feelings. The longer and harder you bottle them up, the more I’ll fight - and you will never be free.”

    Takara closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and remembered why she’d originally done this. “If I do this, will I have control of my Animagus abilities? Will I have reached the same balance that Luna and Hermione did?”

    Nanaya did something she’d never done before - she laughed. It was soft and sinister, and the sound of it sent chills across Takara’s spine.

    “Stop fighting your impulses, you will be amazed at what you achieve,” Nanaya informed her, before shrinking down into the eagle owl and flapping off into the night . . .

    Takara’s eyes snapped open at the final stroke of her kata. Having stopped, she began to feel the strain of it - dripping sweat into sodden clothes, rasping breaths, and aches in harshly-worked muscles. She needed to clean up in here, and then she needed a hot soaking in the bathtub. Given everything she now had to contemplate, she needed a very long hot soak.

    Like, say, until the New Year.






    Galen approached the house nervously. He didn’t want to be - he’d always been welcome there before - but this outing involved breaking a number of rules, and revealing a number of secrets, one or more of which was not likely to be well-received. And the worst of it was, it was going to be done all for his own comfort.

    Screw it, he decided, spinning around on his heel and beginning to walk away - but he only taken a single step when he heard the front door open.

    “Galen! Come in, happy holidays! What brings you by?”

    Damn it, I should’ve worn the cloak. Tossing a loathing glance at the winter sky, and whatever Powers That Might Be there, he turned around again and attempted to look happy. “Hello, Mrs. Granger. Happy holidays. I was kind of hoping to speak to you about a favour . . .”

    The woman who’d given Hermione the texture of her hair, if not its colour, smiled. “Well come in and tell us about it! No reason to stand out there in the cold!”

    “Yes, Ma’am.” He’d never quite got the hang of pronouncing it “mum,” like most Britons.

    In a trice, he was in the Grangers’ sitting room. Mr. Granger was poring over the morning paper, Miranda was concentrating hard on the wizard’s chess set Hermione had bought her. The empty opponent’s seat was likely Mrs. Granger’s. Hermione herself was nowhere in sight, but even without his advanced hearing, Galen would’ve caught the sounds of her moving around upstairs. Her mother’s call was quickly answered, and the sounds intensified as she hurried through whatever she was working on.

    “So!” the lady of the house said. “Can I get you some tea? Coffee? Cocoa?”

    “No thank you,” Galen replied.

    Mrs. Granger blinked. “You’re turning down coffee and cocoa? This must be a serious favour.” She said it in jest, but sobered at the expression she saw on his face. “This is serious.”

    Galen nodded. “I’d prefer to wait until Hermione gets here to discuss it - ”

    “I heard my name?” Hermione asked, strolling into the room with Crookshanks purring in her arms - until he spotted Galen. Then he writhed out of his mistress’ arms with a screech, and landed, bristling and hissing.

    “Crookshanks!” Hermione scolded. “It’s eleven-thirty in the morning! It’s nowhere near dark yet - he’s fine!

    “Hermione, it’s not his fault - ” Galen began.

    “He’s smart enough to know it’s not a problem until nightfall,” Hermione snapped.

    “He’s also smart enough to know that I haven’t been taking the potion,” Galen countered. “And I’m standing in the middle of his family, Hermione - would you react any differently?” He sighed. “It’s instinctive, and as smart as Crookshanks is, he’s still an animal.”

    Mr. Granger cleared his throat. “Would you mind letting us in on the conversation, kids?”

    They traded looks, and Galen gestured, as if to say, “Ladies first.” Hermione turned to face the room.

    “Galen is a werewolf,” Hermione said quietly. “Without the application of a specific potion, when the full moon rises, he turns into a raging beast that hunts and kills humans. At Hogwarts, he can receive regular treatments - but here . . .”

    “Tonight’s the full moon,” Miranda said, staring at Galen. Whether in shock, awe, terror, or an inability to equate the boy who’d sing her lullabies with a “raging beast,” he didn’t know.

    “Yes,” Galen said. “And tonight, my parents will lock me in the shed until dawn, and lacking any other humans, I’ll tear myself to ribbons, heal up, and do it again.” He took a deep breath. “But I came to ask Hermione to spend the night with me.”

    To his surprise, this didn’t bring gasps of disbelief, shouts of outrage, or screams of horror. They simply looked at him, until Mrs. Granger said, “Tell us the rest of it.” He blinked, and she continued, “Unless things have changed drastically, I don’t think any of us believes you want my daughter killed. So why ask her to stay, when you’re so dangerous?”

    Hermione answered, “Because I can help him stay calm, more like a real wolf.”

    “Does this have to do with why your eyes are a different colour?” Miranda asked suddenly. Her parents stared at her, and she shrugged. “They are - it’s just not easy to see.”

    “They are, and it does,” Galen confirmed. “There’s a type of witches and wizards known as Animagi, who can turn into animals. Animals aren’t in danger from werewolves - they hunt humans almost exclusively. In the company of an Animagus, my mind will be more like a real wolf’s than a monster’s, and I won’t hurt myself as badly. And if I somehow manage to escape my prison - which hasn’t happened yet - Hermione’s animal form is fast enough to catch me, and big enough to beat the daylights out of me.”

    “It is?” Miranda said. “What are you, Hermione? An elephant?”

    Hermione bit her lip, and Galen said, “Your rec room’s big enough if we move the billiard table - you can show them.”

    She turned to him, and he shrugged. “Animagus transformations are internalised - the Ministry won’t detect it. I checked with Kiritsugu-san.” Galen grinned. “It’s the first bit of magic you’ve learned that you can actually show off.”

    Put like that, Hermione couldn’t resist. It had been a source of frustration to her to have learned all these marvellous things over the last two and a half years and not be allowed to show them to her family. She led the Galen and the Grangers to the basement (Crookshanks warily bringing up the rear), and she and Galen helped her parents moved the table over by the bar with more than a little effort. Still, there was soon a large cleared space, which Hermione stood in the centre of, critically scrutinising the available room.

    “It’ll do,” she decided.

    Miranda stared. “How big are you, Sis?”

    In answer, Hermione flashed her sister a smile, baring her teeth - which soon became exposed fangs as the lioness made her appearance. Now the gasps appeared, and Galen noted that Miranda was especially pale.

    “It’s OK, Mira,” he said quietly. “It’s just your sister, honest.”

    “She just,” Miranda began. “She - ”

    Hermione lay down on her side, and batted the air. Miranda let out a squeak of terror, eyes locked on the clawed tips of her sister’s paws.

    “It’s OK, Miranda,” Galen repeated. “That’s just the way Hermione says ‘come here’ - she can’t talk as a lioness.” To Hermione, he said, “You’d better roll over and tuck your paws under - “

    Before he’d finished the sentence, Hermione was on her belly, crouched on all fours.

    “There you go,” he concluded.

    Mrs. Granger stared. “Hermione?”

    An ear twitched in acknowledgment, and she looked at her mother, eyes bright and expectant.

    “It really is her,” Galen assured the Grangers. “If anything, she’s more playful like this because she’s not fully grown yet - there’s a little bit of cub left in her. Actually, I find she’s kind of a suck for attention - “

    Hermione huffed irritably, and the glare she levelled at him would have looked right at home on her human face.

    “I wasn’t complaining!” Galen assured her. He walked over to the crouched cat, and began kneading behind her ears. Hermione’s eyes closed, and she rumbled contentedly.

    “Hermione acts like a really big cat when she’s like this,” Galen said. “She likes being stroked, and being close to those she loves. Lions sleep something like twenty hours a day, so she’s perfectly pleased to just lie around, and the werewolf is calmer when she’s near.” Galen gave them a tentative smile. “Look at it this way, Mister and Missus Granger - any burglar or mugger that Hermione runs into is in for the shock of their lives.”

    Miranda slid down off the bar top and hesitantly approached. Tentatively, she stuck a hand out to touch Hermione’s shoulder - and the older Granger girl turned her head and licked it, causing a yelp of surprise.

    “Just a cat,” Galen said quietly. “She just happens to be a really big one, that’s all.”

    Really big,” Miranda agreed.

    “But she’s still Hermione,” Galen said. “And when has Hermione ever hurt you?”

    Nodding resolutely, Miranda knelt down and rubbed the top of Hermione’s head. The rumble increased, but that was all.

    “Her fur’s not as thick as I thought it would be,” the younger girl commented.

    Answers were cut off by the sudden ringing of the doorbell from upstairs.

    As her mother went up to answer the door, Hermione’s eyes opened, and she stood up, startling Miranda before she shifted back.

    “Sorry, Mira,” she apologised. “But it would be awfully hard to explain a lioness in the house.” She paused. “Do I need to brush my hair again?”

    “No,” Miranda said, puzzled.

    “Good,” Hermione said. “The only downside to all that petting is that it musses my hair something awful - and it’s quite bad enough normally.” She grinned.

    Miranda blinked. “You like it, then?”

    Hermione’s grin widened into a genuine smile. She reached out and began to stroke her sister’s hair gently.

    “. . . I see,” Miranda said.

    “The pads of her paws are ticklish, if you’re gentle,” Galen murmured to her, earning a dirty look from Hermione. Before she could retort, however, the Granger matriarch came down the stairs, Shirou trailing grimly in her wake.

    “Your mum told me you were headed here,” he said to Galen. “Your family doesn’t get the Prophet, do they?”

    “I do,” Hermione said, “but I haven’t taken a look at it yet this morning. I got absorbed in a book I got for Christmas . . .” She shook her head. “It hardly matters. What’s wrong?”

    Shirou, if at all possible, got grimmer. “Snape and Malfoy have gotten their revenge - and it’s all over the front page.

    “Galen has been outed as a werewolf at Hogwarts.”

  14. #34
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 23 - War Councils



    December 28, 1993






    Shirou was expecting an explosion. Not from the Grangers - they simply remained silent, either too confused to fully understand implications, or numb from whatever shocks they’d already gone through to react to any more. Shirou figured it was a combination, since Galen’s lycanthropy and Hermione’s Animagus status had to have been discussed - why else would he have come here, the day of the full moon? No, he was waiting for Galen to yell, scream, hit something. Instead, he walled himself off, the barriers visibly falling into place. Hermione, on the other hand, was deathly pale, save for two rapidly-reddening points on her cheeks.

    “I’ll kill them,” she hissed, before whirling and storming upstairs, presumably to retrieve and read the article for herself.

    Privately, Shirou was impressed. A couple of weeks ago, such an obvious fit of temper would’ve had her sprouting claws, fangs, and maybe even fur. But whatever her method, or its aftereffects, she’d definitely halted the unconscious morphing.

    I need to look into doing the same. I may not use my form as much as Hermione, or even Takara - eagles attract more attention, even in the wizarding world, than eagle owls - but it would be good to put that concern to rest before it becomes a problem.

    “I’m not sure I understand,” Mr. Granger said hesitantly. “Galen is a werewolf, but why precisely is that a problem?”

    “Werewolves really aren’t any better thought of in the magical world than in the mundane,” Shirou said. “Officially, they’re classed as Dark creatures - monsters. Galen’s been registered with the Ministry since he was bitten, just like a sex offender in the mundane world.” They gave him blank looks at that statement, and Shirou realised he’d probably referenced something that was still a few years off. He clarified, “Like a career criminal on parole. They always have to know where to find him, he’s subject to employment restrictions - he’s grown up with it.”

    “Why?” Miranda said, bewildered. “Galen said as long as he took a potion - ”

    “He’d have his human mind when he transformed,” Shirou finished. “And that’s true. But the potion is difficult to make, and isn’t government-issued. Even if it was, not all werewolves are as . . . Well, let’s say ‘civic-minded.’ The one who bit Galen certainly wasn’t. He enjoys infecting people, especially children.”

    “And I will kill him for that, if I can,” Galen said suddenly. He looked at the Grangers and sighed, “Look, my condition is controllable, and even harmless, with a few precautions, but let’s say Hermione attended a mundane school, and you learned one of her teachers or classmates had AIDS.” The Grangers flinched, and Galen said, “There. Just like that - that’s how witches and wizards react. It’s the horror of the curse - and it is a curse - as much as its actual effects that they fear. We’re the lepers of the wizarding world.”

    “Which is bloody stupid,” Hermione snarled, as she came down the stairs.

    “Language, Hermione!” her mother scolded, and the witch ducked her head in apology.

    “Sorry, Mum - but it is. Honestly!” She shook her head. “It’s like Takara said last year: the wolf is a monster, and it will kill you if it can, but that’s only thirteen nights out of every year. The rest of the time, Galen and those like him are as human as you are - but they’re not treated that way. And when they finally snap under the prejudice and strike back at their tormentors, they confirm the stereotype.” She locked eyes with Shirou. “The article names Professor Lupin, not Galen.”

    “But anyone with half a brain can connect Lupin’s symptoms to Galen’s,” Shirou riposted. “Granted, that lets out a good ninety percent of the wizarding world, but now that werewolves are on everyone’s mind, it’s a good bet that some of Galen’s quirks will get noticed - and understood. That’s what Snape wanted in class, that day - and now it looks like he’ll get it.”

    Hermione nodded, biting her lip worriedly.

    “They don’t even need to confront me directly,” Galen muttered. “All the right reporter has to do is compare the registry with the Hogwarts enrollment list, looking for a followup story on Lupin about the danger he poses to the students.” He shook his head. “If I didn’t know Headmistress McGonagall despised Divination, I’d suspect her of being a Seer. She warned me about keeping out of trouble, because if something like this happened, she didn’t have the political or financial pull to protect me.”

    He shook his head. “I’ve got to hand it to Snape - he’s finally thinking like a Slytherin. He couldn’t do anything against Takara or Shirou, so he went after our Head of House. He can claim he was out of his head on potions when Draco ‘overheard’ him, so McGonagall can’t penalise him. And he gets rid of a childhood enemy, and potentially me as well. And Draco can claim he was acting in the best interests of the safety of the students of Hogwarts by informing them of the presence of a dangerous Dark creature, making himself look good and incidentally restoring some of the prestige his father’s actions cost his family. And potentially, he can get rid of me, which will hurt you and Takara in the bargain. It’s a win-win situation for them, whatever happens next, and there’s no way we can stop it or turn it around on them. Revenge served in full.”

    “There has to be something we can do!” Hermione insisted. She looked at Shirou. “Your parents have some influence, don’t they? Can’t they do something?”

    “I don’t know,” Shirou said honestly. “But Dad did want to talk to you, Galen. Mister and Missus Granger, may I use your phone, please? I need to call him so he and Mom can come pick us up.”

    “Your mother? Certainly - go right ahead,” Mr. Granger said, perhaps a little too eagerly. His wife and daughters scowled. “There’s one in the kitchen."

    Shirou walked out, but caught Galen saying, “It’s not something she or Mister Granger can help - it’s simply part of who she is.” The rest was lost as he dialled home, confirmed his and Galen’s locations to Kiritsugu, and hung up. The doorbell by the time he’d rejoined the group.

    “Hello, boys,” Iris said. Like Luna, her voice had a musical quality to it - and like Ilya, she seemed perpetually cheerful. “How was Christmas, Galen?”

    “Not bad, Missus Einzbern, and yourself?”

    “Perfect - and how many times am I going to have to scold you into calling me ‘Iris?’”

    “At least one more,” Galen replied with a grin - his standard answer.

    Kiritsugu cleared his throat. “Iris, I’m sure Galen has things to do, and it gets dark early this time of year . . .”

    “Oops - sorry, Galen. I forgot you’re on a timetable.” She smiled, and if they weren’t capable Occlumens, Shirou had no doubt they’d be prostrating themselves at her feet. Mr. Granger looked halfway to doing that already - only his daughters’ hold on him prevented it.

    Galen, for his part, shrugged. “No harm.” He turned to the Grangers. “I’m sorry for intruding - and the shocks. I’ll be going now, thanks for your time. And Happy New Year,” he added, moving to grab Kiritsugu’s arm. Before Shirou could react, Iris had thrown her arms around him and pulled tightly.

    His last sensations were threefold - the smell of Iris’ skin, the feeling of being squeezed through a tube as he was Side-Along Apparated back to the Aerie, and the sight of Hermione collapsing into her own mother’s embrace, presumably to weep.






    They reappeared in Kiritsugu’s private study. It was dominated by a wide mahogany desk, and at the moment, six high, straight-backed chairs were in evidence, circling the desk instead of having a central one dominate the other three.

    Iris released him, and Shirou automatically sat in one of the seats, as Kiritsugu waved his wand and summoned six glasses.

    “Normally, there are prohibitions to drinking on duty,” he remarked. “But I’m on holiday, and this isn’t exactly official - not yet, anyway.” Another wave brought a bottle of Firewhiskey to his hand, and Kiritsugu muttered, “I always seem to need this stuff when you kids are involved, lately.”

    “Dear,” Iris chided lightly. “It’s not entirely their fault.”

    Shirou read the two of them. “You told her?”

    “I can keep a secret,” Kiritsugu replied. “Your sister, on the other hand, has proven to be pants at lying to her mother, to borrow a British phrase.” He offered the bottle to Iris, who shook her head, before Banishing it back to the liquor cabinet, and summoning a bottle of white wine. This Iris took, and poured a generous measure of, glancing at Kiritsugu. He transfigured the whiskey glass into a wineglass with another wand wave, and she smiled appreciatively.

    “Butterbeer, pumpkin juice?” Kiritsugu offered. “Or something more mundane?”

    “Butterbeer, please, Dad.” A few waves transfigured the glass into a mug, summoned the appropriate bottle, and heated it for him. Shirou watched all the movements carefully, trying to memorise how changing glass to ceramic was done.

    “Cocoa, please?” Galen asked evenly - and that told Shirou he was stressed about this, however calm he was acting. Chocolate was his favourite food, and a comfort food.

    One of the things he and Takara always found common ground on.

    Kiritsugu stared into his glass. “We’re waiting on two more before we start this unofficial debriefing - ” The study’s Floo connection flared green as he spoke, so Kiritsugu quickly added, “Come on through!”

    The flames flared brighter, and Takara and Shiki Aozaki erupted from the fireplace.

    “Have a seat,” Kiritsugu offered. “Drink?”

    “I suspect I’ll need a glass of Firewhiskey before the meeting’s over,” Shiki said. “Just the one, though - Ciel will hit the roof if I come home too liquored up.”

    “Cocoa, please?” Takara said, with almost exactly the inflection Galen had used.

    The drinks were poured, and the newcomers seated. Kiritsugu stared into his glass before clearing his throat.

    “In light of today’s events, I think this will go on a little longer than I planned,” he admitted. “However, as important as discussing the implications are, I’m going to start with the business that had me call this meeting in the first place.” He looked at Galen. “Status report?”

    “He’s in - actually, both of them are,” Galen replied. “Assuming you can get the necessary permissions, of course.”

    Kiritsugu smiled. “The current climate works well in that regard. The longer Sirius Black goes uncaptured, the more likely the existence of an underground support chain becomes. And given the recent actions of the Ministry, and Dumbledore, the likelihood of another Dark Lord’s rise in England seems more and more likely - due to incompetence, if nothing else. Voldemort wasn’t a big problem on the Continent, but no one kids themselves into thinking he would’ve been satisfied with just Britain. And they’ve never forgotten Grindelwald. So on our end of things, permission was almost too easy to get.” He shrugged.

    “So we’ll have to let them know when we get back to Hogwarts,” Takara said, before glancing at Galen. “It will be ‘we,’ won’t it?”

    Kiritsugu sighed. “And now, on to more recent events . . .”






    Galen used his years of Occlumency training to force his rage down. It wasn’t easy - anger had been the driving force in his existence for far too many years, and its fiery caress was almost sweet in his veins - but he was old enough, and occasionally wise enough, to realise that it wouldn’t be productive. If a solution was going to be found, he had to consider the problem logically and dispassionately. And so he’d done so, from the moment Shirou had arrived at the Grangers and told him the news. He’d forced himself into the role of game master, that antagonistic but ultimately neutral force, and analysed what was at hand, and what had to be done. The answers he came up with were surprising.

    “In all honesty, this isn’t really a problem,” he announced to the table.

    WHAT?!” came from two ends of the room - Shirou and Takara, respectively.

    Galen closed his eyes, inhaled and exhaled slowly, and explained, “With the current social status of lycanthropes in Britain, it was basically a given that barring a major paradigm shift, I’d eventually either have to live completely mundane, or leave the country for somewhere more hospitable. Heck, I’m only here because Dumbledore made Wolfsbane Potion part and parcel of my attendance, and my parents jumped at the opportunity.

    “More to the point,” he continued, “as soon as this plan’s put into motion, I’ll have no real reason to stay at Hogwarts. Pettigrew will be dead, Sirius taken care of, and with that, Voldemort’s resurrection delayed indefinitely. You all are certainly capable of acquiring and destroying the remaining Horcruxes without me, so the actual need for my presence here will be minimal, at best.”

    “Some of us disagree with that,” Takara said fiercely.

    Galen held up a hand. “I’m not saying that I want to go, necessarily - I’m saying that this situation isn’t quite as bad as it seems. With things in motion the way they are now, my leaving Hogwarts voluntarily or otherwise isn’t an earthshattering disaster. Is it annoying? Yes. Am I pissed about it? Absolutely. Do I want to shove Snape and Malfoy’s genitalia into a running wood-chipper while they’re still attached to it? Oh yeah.” The last two words had a dark, hungry tone to them, and his grin could appropriately and accurately be described as “wolfish.”

    “However,” he added, “we need to remember that my cover isn’t gone, just fragile - and that as long as we can get The Plan off the ground before it’s broken, then what happens next is overall superfluous.” His smile was sardonic. “This is a sacrifice to the Greater Good I can live with.”

    Takara frowned, and asked suddenly, “Why didn’t he?” In response to the questioning looks, she clarified, “Break your cover, I mean. It would’ve been just as easy to out you as it was Lupin. He could’ve gotten rid of you both in one stroke.”

    It would have, but after years of first-hand observation on top of the material in the novels, Galen had a handle on Malfoy’s personality.

    “Because it’s more fun to humiliate me,” he responded. “To hold that secret over my head for the rest of our days, and have me suffer with the knowledge that he can destroy my life at any time. That he owns me. And if he figures out you know the secret, then he’s got leverage over you, as well. And that’s what he really wants. Draco is a Malfoy, after all, and entitled to the all the benefits of his superiority - including slaves to lord over.”

    Shirou said flatly. “So, what do you plan to do about it?”

    “Some of that depends on Lupin,” he admitted. “The girls are pretty certain they can brew Wolfsbane Potion, so McGonagall and he don’t have to worry on that score - but if he chooses to resign anyway, it could be a real problem. None of us have mastered the Patronus Charm yet - ”

    “If worse comes to worst, I’ll hire him as a consultant,” Kiritsugu said. “After all, he’s the greatest living expert on Sirius Black - and he’ll be constantly surrounded by a team of Security Division personnel, so they can hardly claim he’s dangerous.”

    “Good,” Galen said.

    “That doesn’t answer the question,” Takara persisted. “What do we do about you?

    Galen glanced at Kiritsugu and Shiki. Iris might grant him leeway, but they were Aurors, and if they had no real legal authority in Britain, they were still bound to obey and uphold the law.

    Shiki shrugged. “I owe you, remember?”

    Kiritsugu grinned. “Diplomatic immunity - anything you say, Iris and I can’t be prosecuted for not reporting to the proper authorities.”

    Galen chuckled, and it wasn’t a particularly pleasant sound. He glanced at Shirou and Takara. “You two have had all the usual training in pure-blood customs and rules, right?”

    “Yes,” Takara said carefully, and Galen smirked.

    “Up until now, we’ve mostly played nice,” Galen said. “Not necessarily model students - we’ve broken enough rules, and gotten into enough spats - but we’ve avoided using lethal measures, or just about any kind of strongarm tactics except when lives were actually at risk. Intimidation, yes, but so far we’ve used very little physical force, at least against anything human. You two agree?”

    Shirou shrugged. “It was necessary, since we were supposed to be ordinary students, but there’s been very little need until now, either. Stinging Hexes and Stunners have worked just fine.” He looked at Galen carefully. “You’re saying we should kill him now?”

    Galen shook his head. “I’m still not ruling it out as an eventual solution, but not this soon after the article, anyway. That’ll just bring out the torch-bearing mobs, screaming for the werewolf or sympathiser assassin who killed poor, martyred Draco.” His eyes emptied. “No, I say we show the little snake exactly who and what he’s up against - and then we give him a decision to make. Since Draco’s first loyalty is always his own self-interest, I’m willing to bet a Galleon which option he’ll choose.”

    He explained what he wanted to do, and the others agreed that it was possible. The action required was one just about every magical learned, even as children.

    “So, when do we do this?” Takara asked.

    “Hogwarts Express,” Galen said immediately. “He’ll be popping in to brag, and explain the new rules of life to us - at which point we’ll announce that the game has changed.”

    The smirk that formed on his features wouldn’t have looked out of place on Malfoy’s own.

    Kiritsugu drained his shot. “Kid, I’m only going to say this once: finish your NEWTs, whatever you have to do to pull it off. I’ve almost got Shirou up to snuff, and I’m pretty sure Shiki’s got Takara on at least the same level - but with you added to the mix, there isn’t a Dark wizard alive who’ll be able to take you kids on.”

    Anata, they might not want to be Aurors,” Iris chided. “Don’t pressure them so.” She then turned to Galen and said disapprovingly, “That plan is vicious, cruel, and borders on the outright evil.” The Veela smiled. “Ilya taught you well.”

    “High praise, from my mistress’ teacher,” Galen said with a more relaxed smile.

    Kiritsugu cleared his throat. “In any case, I suppose we ought to be moving on - I’m sure you all have things to do. Thanks for coming, and we’ll see you all back for the party on New Year’s Eve.”






    Takara rushed out of the fireplace and was met by her mother almost immediately.

    “Hermione called,” she was informed. “The poor girl sounded almost hysterical - go and call her back, would you?”

    She nodded, went to the parlour on the ground floor, and closed the door behind her before picking up the phone and dialling. Takara briefly considered casting Muffliato, but decided it wouldn’t really matter.

    “Hello?!” came a frantic answer.

    “It’s me,” Takara said.

    “OH, THANK GOD!” came the explosion. “Where were you? Have you talked to Galen or Shirou? What does your father say about - ”

    Breathe, Hermione,” Takara advised. “Father went to the Aerie to talk with Galen and Kiritsugu-san, and I managed to talk him into letting me tag along.”

    “What did they say? What are we going to do?”

    Takara summarised the meeting. This took some time, given the number of questions and exclamations that interrupted her, but she did manage to get the salient details across.

    “It’s a clever plan,” Hermione admitted. “Ruthless, too - but they haven’t left us much choice, have they?”

    “You approve?” Takara said with some surprise. Hermione was a natural rule-follower. While she did develop something of a rebellious streak in fifth year, it seemed unusual for her to just shrug this off.

    “I wouldn’t say I approve,” Hermione said hesitantly. “This is sinking to their level - but if the alternative is Galen’s leaving the school . . . I’ll support this, Takara.” She huffed. “Honestly - it should never have come to this at all! The prejudice that runs through the wizarding world about this is utterly ridiculous! Yes, caution is necessary, but lycanthropy is a perfectly controllable condition!”

    Takara could almost see Hermione shaking her head, and refrained from grinning.

    “I should start a protest group,” Hermione muttered. “Bring the ridiculousness of this to light . . . I’ll call it the Society for the Promotion of Equality for Werewolves - what do you think, Takara?”

    “I think it’s a nice idea,” Takara admitted. “But I’m not sure naming it spew is going to help your cause any.”

    “It’s not! It’s S.P.E.W.” She spelled it out.

    “Yeah, but why hand your opponents ammunition when you don’t have to?” Takara countered. “You know they’ll use the joke.”

    Hermione sighed after a moment’s consideration. “. . . I suppose they will. All right, if I can rename it, would you want to join?”

    “Sure,” Takara admitted. “But we’ll have to be careful. Professor Lupin gives us a reason to start, but if we protest too strongly, too quickly, they might start looking for the werewolf among us.”

    Hermione laughed. “I thought I was the cautious one and you were the impulsive one. When did we switch roles?”

    “Where Galen’s concerned, you throw caution to the winds, because you want to do anything you can to help him. I’m careful, because I don’t want him hurt.” She hesitated. “Speaking of impulses . . . Hermione, I managed to achieve my balance today.”

    “You did? That’s wonderful! My parents said I could go tonight, too - not that it wasn’t embarrassing.” Takara could almost feel Hermione’s cheeks flush. “My mother interrogated me as to how much ‘petting’ Galen and I had done, since I complained about how much of a mess it made of my hair. I had to explain that it was just the once, because he was upset, and animals don’t tend to like him. Of course, Crookshanks’ reaction this morning helped - ”

    “Hermione?” Takara interrupted. “I really would like to hear about this, but there’s something you need to know. Before the owl would let me have control, I had to promise I’d date Galen.”

    “. . . What?” Hermione squeaked.

    One date, Hermione,” she said quickly. “Just to put all the expectations and pressures and doubts to rest, once and for all. I’m still not interested in him that way, but everybody’s thinking we should be a couple has been a part of my life for so long, I don’t think I’d ever be at peace until I proved it wouldn’t work between us.”

    “. . . And what if it does?”

    “It won’t,” Takara said. “I know Galen, and I know myself, and this is a bad idea - but it’s going to keep nagging at me until I prove it. Just . . . Let me ask him to the Einzberns’ party on New Year’s, and he’ll be free and clear for Valentine’s Day in Hogsmeade. Is . . . Is that all right, Hermione?”

    There was silence on the other end of the line for several minutes, before Hermione said, “I don’t really have the right to stop either of you. And it would be a relief to know once and for all, wouldn’t it?”

    “So you don’t mind?”

    “I mind,” Hermione said quietly. “But there’s nothing else to be done about it, is there? You’re right - this will nag at all of us, until it’s tried. So we might as well get it over with.”

    “Thank you, Hermione.”

    “. . . If you’re right, I’ll be thanking you. See you tonight.”

    She hung up, and Takara wished Hermione had sounded more confident about the possibility.

    . . . And she wished that the whisper in the back of her head sounded less confident, too.
    Last edited by Kieran; April 15th, 2011 at 09:22 PM.

  15. #35
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 24 - New Year’s Eve



    December 31, 1993






    Shirou was no stranger to meditation, though, like Takara, he preferred action to contemplation. Not so much as he had as a younger man - enough close calls had taught him wisdom enough to look before leaping, finally - but given the choice between doing something and nothing, he would inevitably choose activity. Thus, it would come as no surprise to anyone that knew him that Shirou’s choice of meditative techniques involved Zen archery. It wasn’t long before he found himself standing on a mountain path, staring at the sweeping vista below, and the towering peaks in the distance.

    “Hmph,” Shirou muttered. “I was half-expecting the Hill of Swords - ” He paused in mid-gripe. There was something, buried beneath the rock he stood upon. Like the sensation of a lava flow, pulsing silently under the cold, unfeeling stone, as it flowed through bright, cold veins of metal. It was difficult to discern, as he stood under the open skies, caressed by warm thermal breezes . . . But it was there.

    Shirou felt an honest grin spread across his face. It was reduced to the very basic rudiments of its potential, and nearly lost in the new surroundings, but the core of Unlimited Blade Works - the potential for hundreds of swords - was still within him. It was buried, and perhaps changed by the nature of this world’s magic, but not gone.

    Not gone.

    He restrained the urge to whoop, and jumped so badly he nearly fell off the trail when a primal scream that exactly matched his feelings echoed through the air. It was followed by the sound of mighty wings, sweeping downward, as the golden eagle perched comfortably on a ledge above him.

    “My subconscious, I take it?” Shirou inquired. “Or my primal urges given animal form, anyway?”

    The raptor gave him a baleful glare, which said in essence, “Of course, you idiot.”

    Feeling a sudden sympathy for Emiya Shirou during the Fifth Grail War, he said, “So, I’m supposed to bargain with you over the Animagus transformation. I get better control of my shifting abilities, and fewer alterations to my personality, and in exchange, you get a little more leeway overall - including in my human form. That about sum it up?”

    The glare persisted.

    Shirou persisted, “Now, Takara said she had to bargain with the owl - give it something it wanted in order to close the deal. What about you?”

    The eagle screeched.

    “Tired of being cooped up, huh?” Shirou shrugged. “Yeah, I suppose I really don’t use you much, but there isn’t a lot of call for an eagle when you live in a castle - especially when you’re trying to keep a secret. I mean, at least Takara can pass herself off as a post owl. But I suppose I can try.”

    Another shriek.

    “What do you mean, ‘by the way, think blonde?’ What kind of advice is - ?” The eagle flew off abruptly.

    “Hey!” Shirou called.

    “Hey!” insisted a familiar voice, and Shirou’s eyes snapped open to peer into fiery blue ones, peering at him in concern.

    “You all right, Onii-chan?” Ilya asked.

    “Fine,” Shirou said. “Just having a talk with my Animagus form - apparently, it likes being cryptic.”

    “I wish I could do that,” Ilya scowled. “Stupid Veela genes. Strong enough that I can’t be an Animagus any more than Galen can, but not strong enough to give me anything except feathers when I try to change.”

    “Well, between you, Iris, Arcueid, Takara and I, I’ve become quite a connoisseur in the last couple of years, and I can assure you - they’re very pretty feathers.”

    That got a giggle out of her, before she turned serious again. “Speaking of Takara, are you all right with her plans tonight?”

    Shirou rolled his eyes. “If Galen can be mature enough to accept my dating her, I think I‘m more than mature enough to handle watching him escort her for one night. Besides, she’s not wrong - after so many years of having everyone around her assume he and she should date, it’s going to dog her the rest of her life until it’s put to rest.

    “Besides,” he added, “contrary to our experiences, to the world at large, we’re only thirteen. It’s too early to be picking life partners - we’re still young, and who knows what might happen in the next few years?”

    “Galen looks at it the other way,” Ilya said casually. “That his physical age is an illusion, and what matters is the life experience in his head. He thinks of himself as a paedophile for lusting after girls barely into their teens.”

    “I won’t deny it can be a little creepy, at times,” Shirou admitted. “But what else should we do? These are the lives we have - and as far as our lives are concerned, we’re kids. Again, but the rest of the universe doesn’t know that.” He shrugged. “It’s why I’m not really concerned over what Takara does, at the moment. She’s interested, and I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t interesting, but we’ve made no solid commitments yet. If it happens that somewhere down the line, we wind up together, then all to the good. She’s one of my best friends, and I think we can be happy. But if not . . .” He shrugged again. “There’s time to find someone else. We have entirely new lives ahead of us. There’s not much point in dwelling on the past.”

    “Like Rin?” Ilya said softly, and Shirou stilled.

    “She’s not here,” Shirou said flatly.

    “No,” Ilya agreed. “And I’m sorry for that - for you, at least. We never got along. But she was too far away for me to reach when the Kaleidostick overloaded - it was everything I could do to hold the four of us together, and insert us here. I had the power of miracles, Shirou, but even then, I had limits.”

    “I know,” Shirou’s voice was heavy. “And if Rin was here, it would be different . . . But she isn’t, and if I walled myself off - again - over her, she’d kick my ass when she found out. So I’ll take what comes, because I’ve lived the misery of the other path - and I don’t see a reason to do it again.” He sighed. “Which is why what Galen’s doing is so frustrating. Takara’s right - nothing probably will come of this. Not because it can’t, because he won’t let it.”

    “It’s not entirely his fault,” Ilya said quietly. “He was never a very social child, and when he tried to be . . .” Her lips thinned. “It was made very clear to him in school that he was not a boy that girls would ever like, and thinking otherwise was a waste of time and energy. So he tends to put girls on pedestals - and for girls with low self-esteem like Hermione or Takara, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But just because it’s not as painful to remember now, it doesn’t mean the lesson’s been forgotten. He thinks they deserve better than him, and won’t choose him of their own free will.”

    “Well, it’s a lesson he needs to unlearn, damn it,” Shirou muttered. “Not unless he wants to teach it to Hermione as well . . . And I still think Takara would take him, too, if the circumstances were right.”

    “Maybe they ought to,” Ilya said with a giggle. “I mean, if one of them can only get so far, it might take both of them to break down his defences. And it isn’t as though Japan or England doesn’t have a long tradition of mistresses . . . At certain points in time, the position was almost respected.”

    “Tell them that,” Shirou suggested, smirking. “And if you survive, I want to see the Pensieve memories.”

    Ilya stuck her tongue out at him, and he said with a laugh, “Hey, it’s no worse than my plan - I was going to dose him and one or both of them with love potion, then lock them in a broom closet until they got it out of their systems.”

    “We do learn to brew Amortentia in sixth year Potions,” Ilya said brightly. “And I’ll be at Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament next year - I’ll be eligible to compete, since I’m of age.”

    Shirou smirked again. “Great - that’s our backup then, if Galen still has his head up his arse by then.”

    Ilya giggled, before sobering. “So, if Takara and Galen were to get together, it wouldn’t break your heart?”

    “No,” Shirou said. “She’s one of my best friends, and I love her - but falling in love with her will take time. I’m willing to put in the effort, because I know it will be worth it. We’d have a good life together. But it won’t destroy me if she doesn’t love me.”

    Ilya looked at him penetratingly, before she smiled. The smile was catlike, and it sent a shiver creeping across his spine. Rin had smiled like that, and it had almost never meant anything good - the last time being an obvious exception.

    “Good,” she said firmly, and Shirou said a silent prayer for Galen’s soul.

    It was a bit confusing once he thought about it, though. Not the fact that Ilya wanted to look out for Galen - Shirou knew that she still felt a little guilty about her part in contributing to his emotional problems, and more than that, they’d been friends a long time. So wanting to see him paired off with someone good for him made sense. The thing was, there were two witches who fit that description, and Hermione actually seemed interested in a relationship, judging by the obvious crush symptoms she’d displayed for years.

    So why, Shirou asked himself, would Ilya try to set him up with Takara, who’s nominally attached, versus the single and - unlike Takara, at least from her protests - highly willing Hermione?

    He got the impression that there was an important piece of information he was missing that would make Ilya’s behaviour make sense, and that he’d feel like a complete idiot when he figured out what it was . . . But apparently, that wasn’t going to happen today.

    Sighing to himself, Shirou turned to regard his target at the other end of the range, pleased to see the normal groupings - and paused.

    “Um, Ilya? Did you or Iris lose an earring recently?”

    She blinked. “Yes, why?”

    “Because there’s one lying on the ground by the target rack, near the door.”

    Ilya blinked again, and looked at him in wonder.

    Shirou smirked again. “Gotta hand it to the eagle - a diamond earring from a hundred yards away isn’t the same as every rivet in a girder at two or three miles, but it’s not bad, either.”






    Takara tried to ignore the butterflies in her stomach, she really did. They shouldn’t have been there, after all. She was going on this date with no romantic intentions whatsoever - in fact, for the specific purpose of proving the utter lack of romance between her date and herself. So why, she asked herself why was she feeling so nervous? Takara thought about it, then sighed at the realisation that it was because a part of her who had known him - and yes, she admitted grudgingly, loved him - since she was a little girl was finally getting her wish. Or at least, most of it. She wasn’t wearing white, after all.

    Takara sincerely wished that Galen hadn’t been so eager to please her as a child. It would’ve made latching on to him harder. But to a four-year-old, finding a boy who not only wanted to play with her, but would play house, tea party and Barbies with a smile? Obviously a boy worth his weight in chocolate - she’d had no concept of gold then, and really, which would a kid rather have? She’d determined to never let him go . . . And then she had.

    Takara grimaced. She realised that had influenced her behaviour when they met over the Prophet article. She remembered how badly it had hurt to be away from him - to know that he was all alone, when it had always been them, together. The thought of going through that again made her feel sick inside . . . This plan of his to shut Draco up had to work. But the time to worry about that was on the Express, two days and a night from now. More immediately, there was tonight to worry about.

    The boys had been thankfully levelheaded about everything. Galen had agreed to escort her, and Shirou hadn’t been jealous over it. It was a formal ball, unfortunately - it meant Galen might be playing the chivalrous knight tonight - but he hated formal affairs, and understood this as an obligation, so it might not be so bad. He wouldn’t be trying so hard, then.

    And why are you afraid he’ll try to be romantic? said the mocking little voice in the back of her head. Because it has a chance of working?

    Takara scowled at her reflection in the mirror, even as she took stock of herself.

    At almost thirteen and a half, Takara just didn’t have the build for anything really racy yet - not up top, anyway. Between her daily runs, savatte, and the ballet lessons she’d had when they’d lived in Canada and France, she had legs to die for, and her dress had appropriate slits to show them off. It was the same shade of royal blue as the yukata she’d worn in the Sixth Grail War, and otherwise fit her like a body wrap, leaving her arms and shoulders bare. There was a slender fringe of lace around the collar, running down over the chest area, like the crest of a wave. She wore low, enclosed heels that gave her just enough height to stand level with Galen - and her mother had Cushioning Charms on them, so her feet wouldn’t be killing her by night’s end. The shoes were white.

    As for herself, her face was powdered only lightly, as her skin had always been naturally smooth, to give her complexion an alabaster glow. In light of this, she’d worn no eyeshadow, but did use a hint of eyeliner, and the lipstick she wore was an equally subtle pink. Her hair had been washed and brushed to hang like a dark veil down her back, and it gleamed like a moonlit river at midnight. She’d dabbed a cinnamon-scented perfume on her neck and chin, and between her breasts. It wasn’t overpowering, but combined with the heat of her body, it would be strong.

    All in all, as bait went, she thought she looked pretty irresistible. Takara took a deep breath, and went over her goals for the evening. She was all dressed up to have a New Year’s Eve to remember, so that when things felt awkward, or ridiculous, no one could say it was because she hadn’t tried.

    “Takara!” her mother called. “Your date’s here!”

    The girl winced. Mother was having entirely too much fun with this. Having her help in coordinating her outfit and makeup brought back memories of her real first date, that Tanabata festival during the Sixth War - and what had come of it.

    My first date, and my escort tries to kill me, my second date - with the same boy, more or less - and we get attacked . . . Either I’m cursed, or Shirou is. Well, like Hermione said, third time’s the charm. She stopped at the thought, and reminded herself, Except that I don’t want to be charmed!

    She glided downstairs, which was usually a neat trick in heels, but most grown women didn’t have her balance. A hint of a smile played about her lips, because by now she thought knew Galen well enough to predict the exact expression on his face. She waited until she’d reached the bottom of the staircase before allowing herself to look up. As expected, his eyes were wide with a little bit of shock, but there was something there she’d seen before, if only she could remember where . . .

    “Angel of the night,” he whispered, and she remembered. He’d looked that way at her Nanaya form once - and at Hermione, when she changed for the first time. Awestruck by the sublime, lethal beauty of whatever he was observing. Takara had known that, once upon a time, Galen had found her pretty. She hadn’t realised that she was still so, and more, in his eyes. She smiled in embarrassed appreciation, finally taking a good look at her date - and Takara froze.

    Galen had always been one of those people that cleaned up well, and he’d made an obvious effort tonight. Where her colour scheme for the evening was blue and white, he’d chosen gray and black - charcoal gray, lighter than his usual duster. And he’d dressed in formal wizarding robes, as opposed to her more mundane attire. He did wear a bow tie instead of the typical necktie he wore as part of their Hogwarts uniform, but it was about his only concession. Except . . .

    “Is that a clip-on?” she asked.

    Galen smiled sheepishly. “I didn’t really want to wear another noose while on holiday - I have to put up with it for far too long at Hogwarts. Normally, I reserve ties for weddings and funerals.”

    Takara thought about chiding him, but given the enchantments on her footwear, she supposed she couldn’t really fault him for that. And besides, he looked good. The clothes hung on his frame, hinting at the power it contained, and if he wasn’t as muscularly built as Shirou (or Neville, the way he was shaping up), there was a quiet strength there, nonetheless. If Shirou was the rock you could hide behind, Galen was the tree you could shelter in. And despite having seen him naked over the summer (regardless of her best efforts), she had to admit the tailoring made him seem more enticing. It was almost as good as when he wore his duster, which Takara thought was still his best accessory. It was like James Bond - he could look good in anything, but he was perfect in the tuxedo.

    He would never grace a magazine cover, but she realised for the first time that Galen could look attractive, as well.

    Galen held out a small velvet box. “When your mother described your dress, I thought it had to have these to complement it.”

    Puzzled, she opened the box to find a wrist corsage of white roses.

    “It’s beautiful,” she said, meaning it even as part of her was not liking this at all. Mainly because . . .

    “You remembered,” Takara murmured.

    “You looked lovely then, as you do now,” he whispered in her ear, as he slipped the band onto her arm. “How could I forget?”

    Naturally, nothing would do but that they pose for photographs before following her parents to the Aerie. While not a fan of Floo travel, she had to admit that Galen was very conscientious about making certain she didn’t fall - he held onto her the entire trip, only letting go when he himself began to fall. Fortunately, she was fast enough, and strong enough to catch him.

    The food served was a long buffet of various hors d’oeuvres, against one wall of the Aerie’s grand ballroom. Naturally, dancing was part of the affair, as was talking and chatting with the guests. Here, at least, Takara was lucky - in the matter of formal dance steps, Galen was proficient in only the waltz, so their time on the dance floor with each other was limited. She made time to dance with Shirou and Neville, and Galen waltzed with their escorts, Ilya and Hermione. In Luna’s case, she seemed disinterested in dancing when Galen offered - but she seemed to have cornered Neville once, as did Ginny. The latter, however, focussed on Shirou. Unfortunately for her Ilya was fairly adept at running interference. Ginny got her dance, but she failed to monopolise the wizard’s time.

    Still, it was a nice party. The food was good, the company better, and Galen was always attentive, trying to make certain she had what she wanted. Takara knew very well that he hated formal affairs like this, but it didn’t show, presumably because he thought seeing him angry or annoyed would spoil her own mood. She really couldn’t have asked for a better date.

    How annoying.






    Galen leaned against a corner of the wall unobtrusively, observing the party as he waited for Takara to come back from the bathroom. Ginny had shanghaied her earlier, and he expected a good ten minute wait.

    Having no prior dating experience, he had to assume this was going well. He hadn’t stepped on Takara’s feet that he was aware of, he’d tried to make sure she had refreshments when she wanted them, and taken pains to keep aware of her without crowding too closely. He’d also tried to give her ample time to dance with Shirou, which he presumed she wanted, and managed to snag a few himself with his other friends. He’d avoided touching anywhere she didn’t want touched, and managed not to fall on his head when either Floo travelling or dancing. Best of all, from the point of view of the assigned goals of this date, Takara hadn’t reacted to him at all - and he thought he’d managed to keep his reactions from her.

    He’d only really seen Takara dress up once, after puberty - the summer festival where Shirou had tried to kill her. She’d looked good then, but he’d only observed her at a distance. Now he was up close and personal, and capable of getting input from all his senses.

    Takara’s hair and skin were smooth and soft, and if her body wasn’t fully mature yet, he knew the end result of what it promised to be. Her eyes were big and bright, with both intelligence and emotion. She smelled of cinnamon, and her voice was musical - not like Luna’s, born of an accent, but in her tone. Takara, he well knew, was a beautiful singer, and it showed even in her speaking voice.

    As a Servant, he’d admired her beauty, her spirit, and her love for her family. Now living again, teenaged hormones saw a very pretty girl, and he knew what it was to desire her, as well. And it was taking a fair amount of willpower to lock that desire away. Takara had been very clear: she expected nothing to result from this. She wanted nothing to result from this, so that she could date Shirou with a clear conscience. Ergo, he needed to show no reaction, no hint that he wanted anything more - and hope that anything he did failed to incite a similar reaction in her. Because Takara had also been very clear that she expected his best efforts tonight. There was no especial reason to think he could actually woo her successfully, of course. Even aside from the fact that she knew him too well for his attempts at being charming to be effective, he had years of failure at the task to draw upon as proof of his inability to accomplish it. Then again, with his luck, this would be the time it worked.

    Still, Galen thought he’d succeeded. Takara had never been easy for him to read unless she was angry - and as she wasn’t, he had to assume things were going well. And the night was nearly over. One way or another, the task would be at an end.

    “Ladies and gentleman,” Ilya called. “As it’s nearly midnight, we’re beginning the final dance of the evening. Please, grab your partner of choice, because by dance’s end, the year will, too!”

    “Mother always told me,” Takara said, abruptly at his elbow, “that you save your last dance for the man who brought you to the ball.” She crooked her arm. “Shall we?”

    Ma belle ange de la nuit,” he responded, taking her elbow and leading her to the dance floor. Ilya waved her wand, and from the first notes, he shot her a glare. Using this song was just cruel!






    Takara felt Galen stiffen slightly when the music started playing, meaning that he recognised the tune, although she didn’t. However, he forcibly relaxed (an oxymoron, but somehow accurate). As before, he took her in his arms, and they began to move. Takara had always been sensitive to the touch, and since joining with the owl, that sensitivity had seemed to increase somewhat. As a result, she read a number of subtle nuances in Galen’s embrace.

    Warmth. He was always warm, and that heat was easily shared. His grip, always strong, was firm but gentle - so gentle. So careful, not as though he was afraid she’d break, but was afraid of hurting her. And he could, she knew. That heat could flare into a terrible fire, one that a dark part of her admitted excited her as much as it scared her. Where she had been trained through her martial arts to use control, he surrendered to his passions, in the end. And he could do so much. He had killed. He had saved lives. He had died, and lived, and died and lived again. He had faced spirits and demons and gods, created and destroyed worlds. He was a bitter old cynic, nihilistic and self-destructive . . . And he was gentle, because he was afraid of hurting her. He was shy, to the point where he had to steal a kiss rather than take it. He’d said he loved her - and he treated her as though he cherished her.

    Midnight was called, and he leaned in to kiss her. His technique was no different at fourteen than it had been at seven: soft, gentle - chaste. He would take no more than she offered, and be grateful for it. As powerful and dangerous as he was, she was the one in control. If she asked, he would stay with her. He would love her the rest of their lives, and do whatever he could for her. And if it wasn’t precisely romantic love between them, it could be, given time enough. On the other hand, one word, one gesture, and he would disappear . . . Not because he wanted to, not now, but because she’d asked him to. He wasn’t mindless, or spineless - but he regarded her wishes as paramount.

    Takara knew now. Galen did love her, as much as he could - as much as whatever he understood of love allowed him to. If she wanted him, he could and would be hers, as loyally her love as he’d been her Servant, or Ilya’s knight. The choice was, and always had been, hers.

    “Happy New Year,” Galen whispered, as they parted and left the dance floor. He escorted her to her parents, who would see her home - he had to rely on being Side-Along Apparated by one of the Einzberns.

    . . . So the question is, what choice do I want to make?

  16. #36
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 25 - New Term, Old Troubles



    January 2 - 16, 1994






    Takara felt more than a little silly, perched on the luggage rack of their compartment, but there hadn’t been a whole lot of choice. The Hogwarts Express berths were designed to seat six, at most, and that made a group of seven a problem. Up until now, none of them had managed to take the train all at the same time - Galen had used the Floo to get to Hogwarts this fall, and even in the preceding summer, Ginny had been engulfed by her family - but upon doing so, getting things arranged was something of a problem. Granted, Luna and Ginny individually were small enough that they might be able to share a single space - or sit in someone’s lap - but it wasn’t going to be a feasible option forever.

    In their upper years, Takara imagined they’d siphon off into groups of two and a trio, or a group of three and four, but at the moment they were all young enough and potentially vulnerable enough to want to not be separated. Thus, she found herself in owl form, nesting between trunks, as it she was the only Animagus of their group small enough to pull it off - and with a form the wizarding world wouldn’t question, beyond wondering whose owl she was. And to be wholly honest, she was wondering that herself.

    She’d slept poorly in the hours following the party. Up until this point, while she had considered Galen as a potential partner, she hadn’t actually thought of him in a romantic sense - foolish, as his inherent nature was definitely a romantic one. Given that he was prone to grand gestures, melodramatic fits, and had a certain naivete about practical matters, “romantic” was a description that fit his personality quite obviously. And it had been one of the things that irritated her, hadn’t it? That he could be so sweet, and so obviously intent on making her feel special - and then turn around and do the same for Hermione, and to a lesser extent, Luna. It was that the efforts weren’t exclusively for her that had bothered her.

    But they could be. If she chose him, if she asked, he would be as faithful a partner as she’d wish. He would still care for Hermione and Luna, still look out for them, but to him the truest expression of love was loyalty - with his history, it couldn’t be anything else. He would stay with her, be hers, if she asked . . . But did she want to ask? The problems associated with a relationship with Galen hadn’t changed. He seemed a little less suicidal, but he was still a werewolf in a world that loathed his kind. Still a gaijin, which she had sworn never to marry.

    And then there’s Hermione . . .

    Hermione loved him. How deeply, and to what extent, Takara couldn’t be sure. Up until the end of the Harry Potter movies, she’d been sure Hermione would end up with Harry - she was far more affectionate, and shared far more intimate moments with him, than she did with the man she’d apparently ended up marrying. So the fact that Hermione behaved much the same with Galen as she did with Harry obviously meant little - judging by what Takara had seen, Hermione preferred someone who would indulge her masochistic streak. Therefore, it might not be so terrible if Takara wound up with Galen. But if she was wrong, it could destroy her friend - and it would destroy Galen, to do that to her.

    Takara’s musings were cut off by the compartment door opening to admit Draco and the Bookends, and she fidgeted in anticipation of the show as they shut the door behind them.

    “Well, well,” Draco said haughtily, his smirk firmly fixed in place. “I’ve got to admit I’m surprised, Salvatore - I didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to show your face after that article in the Daily Prophet.

    Galen matched the smirk with his own and replied, “Whereas I was certain you’d show up here, Malfoy - I know you are that stupid.”

    Draco’s smirk vanished, and his eyes were like rings of gray ice. “Maybe you don’t understand your situation, Salvatore - the right words from me, in the right ears, and you’ll be chased out of Hogwarts by a torch-bearing mob. Assuming, of course, that somebody doesn’t feel like getting a new rug from your hide. From now on, you and your friends will do as I say, when I say - or pay the forfeit.”

    Galen’s smirk remained in place. “Malfoy, there are only a few words you’ll ever speak about this - “

    Stupefy!” called Shirou and Ginny, and twin scarlet bolts struck the Slytherin’s two thugs.

    Colloportus,” Galen called, and the compartment door gave off a squelching sound as it wedged itself firmly shut. “Muffliato.

    Expelliarmus,” Luna said coolly, and the blond Slytherin slammed up against the door, his half-drawn wand sailing forward into her lap.

    Draco struggled to rise, but Galen was already out of his seat, and snapped, “Locomotor mortis.” With a snapping sound, the blonde boy’s legs pulled together as though magnetised, rendering Draco’s efforts to get up next to impossible.

    “You’ll pay for this, Salvatore!” Draco shouted. “I’ll tell the entire castle what you are! By this time tomorrow, you’ll be gone - or dead!

    “That’s the second time you’ve given me a choice, Draco,” Galen replied, advancing on him. “So to be fair, I’ll give you the same. Your first option is to swear an Unbreakable Vow to never mention my condition to anyone, under any circumstances.”

    Draco was pale, but still defiant. “An Unbreakable Vow? Ha! What makes you think you can threaten me into that? Figure you’ll offer to let it kill me instead of you? You wouldn’t dare kill me - everyone would know what you are, then, werewolf!

    “Oh Draco,” Galen said, and Takara shivered. His voice was a breathy, singsong tone, as though he spoke to a lover. “I’m not going to kill you. I’m going to share. As you just pointed out, I am a werewolf - and we’re infectious even in human form.”

    Galen’s eyes seemed darker than normal, but they glittered with a fey light that was half-madness, half-malice. He knelt down, and stroked the blond boy’s throat. “You have an artery, right there - oooh, such soft skin. It will be easy to tear with my teeth. It’s a pity you came in so far away from Hogsmeade - you might bleed to death before Madam Pomfrey can reach you. Still, our kind heal quickly, so you might survive . . .” He added curiously, “I wonder if you’ll want to?”

    Draco’s eyes were almost entirely white, because even Takara could see it. Galen wanted to bite him. He was very nearly salivating over the prospect of ripping out the Slytherin’s throat. She remembered what he’d told them about Fenrir Greyback, and suddenly understood - this is what Galen would’ve been like if he’d embraced his curse. If he’d never had friends to help him learn and remember the value of being human.

    “Y -You . . . You wouldn’t,” he stammered. “They’ll throw you in Azkaban - they’ll execute you.”

    “Maybe,” Galen said in a cheerful, almost manic voice. “But that won’t help you, will it?” His voice regained that husky singsong quality. “What’s it to be, Draco? Will you take the Vow . . . Or do I get a new baby brother?” He sounded genuinely excited about the prospect.

    He stroked the Slytherin’s hair gently, smiling all the while as Draco trembled under the contact. Galen’s smile widened into something that couldn’t really be called a smile, showing his teeth, and he leaned over as if to kiss the other boy. Takara’s owl sight saw Draco flinch the moment Galen’s breath touched his neck.

    He bleated like a lamb being slaughtered. “I’LL SWEAR! I’LL SWEAR! I’LL SWEAAAARRR!

    “Shirou,” Galen said in a low tone, and he was there almost instantly, placing the tip of his wand over their clasped arms.

    “Will you, Draco Malfoy, never reveal my nature by word, thought, action or inaction?”

    “I will,” Draco said fearfully.

    A tongue of scarlet flame spat from Shirou’s wand, looping around in a Mobius strip to bind the two wizards together, before flaring gold and vanishing.

    Galen smiled. “Then that’s all I could ask.” He stood up. “Finite Incantatem.

    Rennervate,” Shirou and Ginny said, as Galen sat back down, plucking Draco’s wand from Luna’s grasp, and tossed it in his direction before unsealing the door.

    “Goodbye, Draco,” Galen said mildly.

    Draco picked up his wand and fled, the two goons following close behind.

    Takara watched as Galen sagged, shuddering once, before saying cheerfully. “That was almost fun.”

    Shirou stared. “OK, honestly, that is why you scare me - the fact that you can change moods like flipping a switch.”

    Galen closed his eyes, and said wearily, “Roleplay long enough, especially on the game master’s side of the table, and you learn to get in and out of character fast.”

    “And what kind of character was that?” Ginny demanded incredulously.

    “A blend of equal parts of the Master from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Bellatrix Lestrange.” Galen winced. “Sorry, Neville.”

    “It’s . . .” Neville broke off, swallowing hard. “. . . It’s OK. Are you?”

    “I wouldn’t say no to a Chocolate Frog,” Galen murmured, his eyes still closed. “Haven’t had to play things that dark in a while, and it’s draining . . . But things should be safe now. He can’t discuss my condition with anyone who doesn’t know about it - which means Snape, since he can’t be sure anyone else does. Even Legilimency will break the Vow, since I included ‘thought,’ and he’ll be forced to protect my secret from other people trying to discover it, or break the ‘inaction’ clause.” Galen smiled. “Of course, he’ll want revenge worse than ever - but Draco values his life over everything else. Short of outright Obliviating him, my secret’s now as safe as anything in the world possibly can be.”






    Galen was still a little weary when they got off the train - aside from the efforts he’d undertaken, it was a long trip - so upon hearing that the Headmistress wanted to see him immediately, his first impulse was to ignore it. Fortunately or unfortunately, however, his mind wasn’t so far gone as to do so, and he immediately made his way to the cat statue that guarded her office.

    Once inside, McGonagall was straight to business. “Firstly, Mister Salvatore, I want to assure you that I am doing everything possible to secure a Potions Master of sufficient skill to brew your medicine while Severus Snape is recovering from his injury - but it is difficult, and there may not be sufficient time.”

    “Takara and Hermione are fairly confident they can brew it themselves,” Galen replied.

    The old witch’s eyebrows vanished into the brim of her hat. “Are they indeed? I was unaware that they even knew of your condition . . .” Galen simply looked at her, and McGonagall added, “Though I suppose it should have gone without saying. Nevertheless, while both are bright young ladies - Miss Granger in particular - I am given to understand that the Wolfsbane Potion is a highly complex and demanding one to create, one of the main reasons that it is so infrequently used.”

    Galen cleared his throat. “Actually, Headmistress, they gained access not only to Professor Snape’s copy of the recipe, but his own personal notes regarding it. It seems our esteemed Potions Master has worked out a process that makes it simpler to brew - and potentially more beneficial to the lycanthrope.”

    McGonagall’s eyebrows did their vanishing trick again. “I see.” Her gaze turned measuring. “And would their method of gaining access have involved the use of Miss Granger’s Time-Turner?”

    “No,” Galen said flatly. “Having been there when it happened, I can assure you it didn’t.”

    She held that measuring gaze on him for a moment longer, then relented. “Technically, Mister Salvatore, I should punish the lot of you severely for having the audacity to rifle through a teacher’s private files - but in this case, I can understand the need. And as Severus is still recovering at St. Mungo’s . . .” The old witch pursed her lips.

    “At the moment,” she said carefully, “I have been able to convince the Board of Governors that every possible security measure has been taken in regards to Professor Lupin, and that they have been effective thus far. My case was helped by the fact that in the months since Professor Lupin’s appointment, there has been no threat to the staff or students caused by his presence.” She smiled thinly. “Indeed, I will admit taking some pleasure that when that damnable article was thrust in my face, I could proudly point out that until that moment, no one at Hogwarts had even suspected the presence of a werewolf. As there is no legal reason to dismiss him at this time, they have agreed to continue retaining Professor Lupin until the end of the year, at which point the impact of his presence on school grounds will be reevaluated.

    “It would be greatly beneficial,” McGonagall admitted quietly, “if a continued lack of incidents could be included as part of that reevaluation. Both to Professor Lupin’s suitability as a professor, and my own as Headmistress.” She looked at him steadily. “Are you absolutely certain, Mister Salvatore, that Miss Granger and Miss Aozaki can do what they claim?”

    “I’d trust them both with my life,” Galen said firmly.

    “In this case, Mister Salvatore - you are. And with the lives of everyone else in this castle, as well.” She wavered for a moment, and then said, “Very well. I shall ask Professor Dumbledore to oversee their work, but I suppose Severus would not describe Miss Aozaki as “the only adequate brewer in Gryffindor” if he was not impressed by her abilities. And it would be ridiculous of me to say I have no faith in Miss Granger, when I went to such lengths to procure a Time-Turner for her use.”

    She paused. “That brings us to the second reason for my asking to see you, Mister Salvatore. How is Miss Granger faring?”

    Galen closed his eyes and mentally evaluated how much of the truth to give her before he answered.

    “So far, she seems to be all right,” he said finally. “She’s taken to eating more at meal times - which makes sense, since she’s burning more calories, and we’d notice two or three of her in the Great Hall at the same time.” He neglected to mention that she was eating more because he was slipping it onto her plate, not because she was choosing to do so herself.

    “I am concerned about her sleeping habits,” Galen said. “With the Time-Turner, she can actually get ten or twelve hours’ worth of rest, but if she stays up for a full day to study or work on assignments, that won’t help her - and knowing Hermione, she’ll be tempted to do just that the closer we get to final exams. She’s limited, though, in that the girls’ dorm is the only place she can sleep. Could you maybe instruct Madam Pomfrey to set a cot aside for her, and write Hermione a note about it? With the privacy shades, no one needs to know it’s Hermione in the bed, and it’s a private place where no one will think to look for her, and she won’t look out of place if they do.”

    There’s also the Room of Requirement, but we use that often enough that she can’t necessarily trust it will be open. The Hospital Wing is a constant, on the other hand.

    “An excellent suggestion,” McGonagall admitted. “Point to Gryffindor.” She set quill to parchment, sealed it with the Time-Turner inside, and handed it to Galen. “Very well, Mister Salvatore - deliver that to Miss Granger, please. You may inform her that I will be speaking to her and Miss Aozaki about their extracurricular Potions project later this week. For now, you’re dismissed.”

    Nodding, he left the office, and headed downstairs to the Great Hall for supper. He handed Hermione the package, and told her that the Headmistress had instructed that she not open it in public. Hermione nodded, her face betraying no hint that she knew what it was.

    Dinner was pleasant, although Galen was aware of several venomous looks Malfoy shot his way. He didn’t let it bother him - Malfoy’s lips, willingly or unwillingly, were sealed, and in just about any other area, Galen was confident that he and his friends could take him. In the meantime, he considered what having to brew Wolfsbane might do to Hermione’s schedule.

    She nearly burned out in the original third year from all the course work, and researching Buckbeak’s defence, and the fights with her friends, and trying to protect Harry from all the typical weirdness. We’ve eliminated the last two, but added brewing Wolfsbane, our own version of the usual weirdness, and, from what Takara was telling me, possibly a revamped version of S.P.E.W. While the level of life-threatening stress might be a bit lower, Hermione’s got enough on her plate now to work herself to the bone. Is there anything else I can do . . .?

    The main problem was food and rest. As long as she was getting enough of each, Galen had confidence in Hermione’s ability to function. Food he could handle himself, but the only way to check her sleeping habits was to actually be in the tower with her - and the enchantments on the staircase wouldn’t let him up . . . Ah!

    After dinner, as they ascended to Gryffindor Tower, Galen pulled Hermione aside, away from the portraits and with no one else within sight or hearing range.

    “With all your courses, you looked a little peaky by the end of last term,” he said quietly. “I don’t quite know what your schedule’s like, but if you feel the need for a kip, and can’t use the girls’ dorms for whatever reason . . .” He withdrew the folded Deathcloak and handed it to her. “This should let you crash in ours - or anywhere else - without too many rumours starting.”

    Hermione stared at the silver bundle in her hands, before stowing it out of sight in one of her robe’s pockets. “I’ll take care of it,” she promised, then looked at him sharply, eyes narrowed in thought. “Galen?”

    “Yes?” he said calmly.

    “Why do expect this to be useful to me? I mean, under what circumstances could I need to sleep, and not be able to use my own bed - or able to use one of yours?”

    “The same circumstances that lets you take three separate classes scheduled for nine o’clock, I’d imagine,” Galen countered. “I’m just trying make sure you don’t burn yourself out, Hermione. You’re smart enough, and capable enough, to take care of yourself - but when you get focussed on something, you tend to overlook little things.”

    Her shoulders relaxed. “Fair enough.”

    Mentally, Galen sighed in relief. He hadn’t lied, hadn’t necessarily evaded the question, just created circumstances where she had to drop the line of inquiry or break her own confidences. Curse McGonagall for swearing him to secrecy! Still, he was much relieved that Hermione had better options when he went to sleep that night. And if Galen thought he felt a presence join him in the night, he was still mostly asleep, and not inclined to confirm it. And when it was gone in the morning, convincing himself it had been his overactive and hormonal imagination was that much easier.






    The days passed quickly as the new term began with new subjects - Palmistry for the Divination students, and Salamanders in Care of Magical Creatures. Transfiguration was resumed, at least temporarily, by the Headmistress, while Professor Dumbledore was the substitute Potions instructor. The Mind Healers at St. Mungo’s were still attempting to undo the damage Snape’s magic had done to his hand when Takara had attacked. It amused Shirou when he thought about it. Her Occlumency defence might have resembled the use of her old powers, but in application, she was cribbing Galen’s.

    Ravenclaw trounced Slytherin, but Gryffindor was still well in the lead for the Quidditch Cup, and Arithmancy was beginning to cover how to use numbers to break down spells for analysis. Here, Shirou had an advantage - Galen had learned, and subsequently taught them, a number of diagnostic charms in first year. They weren’t wholly applicable, bur he was able to use some of them, and things he’d learned while using them, to excel at the process. He was beginning to learn how to identify various functions and parameters of a spell. Hopefully, he’d also learn how to create them.

    In the meantime, there was the Duelling Club.

    The notice had gone up within the first week of returning to Hogwarts, and there was enough interest left over from the previous year to generate excitement about its return. Shirou admitted that he’d enjoy it just for the chance to take the rust off his magical combat skills - formalised duels would have rules that their usual spars didn’t, but at the same time, it would be a much wider variety of opponents, including a number of older students, presumably. Maybe he’d learn something.

    Of course, Wood was holding Quidditch practice five nights a week, which made the idea of attending a fantasy. The older Gryffindor was entirely too set on the idea of winning the Quidditch Cup to even consider the idea that his players might have other things they wanted to do. And of course, Takara was stuck, as well - and with her schedule, Hermione couldn’t participate, either. That left Galen and Neville by themselves, with Luna and Ginny to look after, since the latter was definitely interested in the club, and Luna would go where her friends did.

    Not good, he decided. It wouldn’t be so bad after the Ravenclaw game - assuming Gryffindor won, their lead would basically make the Cup’s appointment a formality, and Shirou and Takara would be free to join the Duelling Club. But that was at least two weeks away, and in the meantime, the four of them would have targets painted on their backs.

    It wasn’t that they couldn’t take care of themselves - actually, they were better prepared for fights than the majority of the castle. It was that duels were one on one, where none of them could protect each other, and while they might not fight anyone but their own year-mates (depending on how Lupin organised it), Malfoy was certainly carrying enough grudges for five people - and wouldn’t be above bribing people to send them against Ginny and Luna, just to hurt the rest of them.

    And we’ve always made an effort to hide just how good we are, so that we have a surprise up our sleeves for real fights. That’s going to make this so much harder.

    Add that to the fact that most people were tense around Lupin, now that his condition was publicly known, and the Duelling Club could get really interesting, in the ancient Chinese sense, really fast.

    Normally, I’d ask Fred and George to keep an eye on things, since I can’t do it myself, but they’re with me, and there’s nobody else I’d trust. Creevey would try, but he’s too damned young to be effective, and all the older students I know are on the Gryffindor team. Damn it, we’ve got to start cultivating friends - or at least allies - in the other houses. We’re too isolated, as situations like this prove. It’s a flaw in the house system, that the only way we really interact with the others is competitively. Even classes are opportunities to score points for Gryffindor over the others, which makes it awfully hard to make friends.

    Shirou ran through a mental list of students he might trust to watch over his friends in the other houses. He knew a couple of Ravenclaws in Arithmancy, but neither of them struck him as the combative type. Slytherin was the source of the problem . . . Did he know anybody in Hufflepuff?

    Maeve, he realised. Galen’s sister was only a first-year, but she might be able to get him in the door. Beyond that, he knew Susan Bones’ aunt was the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement - he could trust her to be fair and watchful, if not necessarily effective in stopping conflicts. But the Hufflepuff Seeker had struck him as a decent guy, and Galen had mentioned his being good enough to represent the school in a tournament next year, which meant he had to be fairly impressive.

    And Hufflepuff prizes loyalty and fair play - I can trust them to cry foul, at least. It’ll back them up when it comes to reporting conflicts, even if it doesn’t give them much in the way of extra firepower during a fight.

    His course decided, Shirou remembered that the Hufflepuff dorms were supposed to be in the dungeons - as indicated by informal jokes about “the Badgers’ Den” - but also remembered that they’d never actually found them last year, when hunting for the holder of Riddle’s diary.

    That could be problematic, Shirou realised, before remembering that they’d found something this year that could prove helpful.

    Once again, Shirou ventured to Gryffindor Tower, and rooted through the heavy security on Galen’s trunk.

    “I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” he informed the Marauder’s Map.

    I’m hoping to do a lot better than “good,” actually.

    He hurried down the staircase, and paused as he heard a steady crackling sound. Puzzled, Shirou traced the sound to its source - a window that was rapidly, inexplicably covering over with a thick layer of frost . . . And outside it, in the distance, a fleeting ripple of black on black in the night sky that only an eagle might’ve seen.

    A Dementor? But what would they be doing here again, unless . . . Sirius!

    Shirou ran.
    Last edited by Kieran; May 27th, 2011 at 10:48 PM.

  17. #37
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 26 - The Return of the King



    January 16, 1994






    Expecto patronum,” Ginny called, and a thin streamer of silver mist emerged from her wand. Scowling, she stared at the dissipating substance as though it had mortally offended her.

    “Stupid charm . . . Why won’t it work?

    “It’s very advanced magic,” Hermione reminded her. “Most adult witches and wizards can’t create one, and you’re only in your second year. The fact that you can conjure even a little wisp like that is very impressive, Ginny.”

    “Says the girl who can call up hers without Galen’s help now,” Ginny muttered under her breath.

    “It seems to be one of the benefits of harmonising with my Animagus form,” Hermione said, as though Ginny had spoken at a normal volume. “My emotions are . . .” She hesitated, as if unsure of the proper word, before settling on “clearer.

    “Hearing, too,” Takara noted with a grin.

    “True,” Hermione noted ruefully. “All of my senses seem to have been augmented to some degree - though they’re still not as powerful as when I’m in my lioness form.” She canted her head to one side in order to regard Takara. “How are yours?”

    “My eyes are sharper,” Takara admitted. “Especially in the dark - they’re about as good as Shirou’s, then. Hearing’s a little more sensitive, too - especially for quieter sounds. Owls don’t have much of a sense of smell, though, so you and Galen still have a sharper nose than I do.”

    “Speaking of Galen,” Ginny said slyly, “how was it? And how did it compare, exactly?”

    Takara blinked. “How was what? And compared to what?”

    Ginny snorted. “Takara, you’ve been on dates with both the guys now - I want details! Surely you at least got a kiss out of them both!”

    “Malfoy started hexing us before Shirou and I got anywhere near that point,” Takara said sourly. “And Galen was playing the gentleman escort on New Year’s Eve - aside from one peck on the lips at midnight, he only kissed my hand.” She blinked as something penetrated. “And you’re twelve - what kind of ‘details’ are you expecting, exactly?”

    Ginny shrugged. “Well, you are older, right? You must know some things.”

    “I’m thirteen,” Takara pointed out.

    “No you’re not, you just look it.”

    “OK, my body is thirteen, and as far as the world is concerned, so is the rest of me - which means there are things I’m not ready for, or even capable of!” She paused, before admitting softly, “Yet, anyway.”

    “Oh,” Ginny said disappointedly. “I was kind of hoping you could tell me if Shirou’s a good kisser.”

    Takara smiled. “Still into him?”

    “After the basilisk?” Ginny exclaimed. “Are you kidding? I had a front row seat to that fight, and I’ve never seen anybody look so good in my life!” She shook her head. “He used a sword as an arrow, Takara - people don’t get any wickeder. Even with how scary that cloak is, I was flushing like I had a fever.”

    “Scary?” Hermione said curiously. “What do you mean, Ginny?”

    “Every time I’m under it, I shiver so much it feels like I’ve stepped into a winter breeze,” Ginny shivered. “It’s not so bad when I’m with other people, pressed beside them - but there was just Percy then, and he isn’t exactly the - what did Galen call it? The ‘touchy-feelie’ type?”

    Takara frowned. That wasn’t a described effect of the cloak that she knew of - but they’d already determined that the Deathcloak had attributes beyond what the novels spoke of. It seemed a true Deathly Hallow, rather than a wizard-wrought artefact, as Dumbledore believed.

    “I know I’m not fond being under it,” Takara said. “Being invisible throws some of my reactions off - but I handle it better than Shirou does. Then again, I’ve had some stealth training he might not have . . . Hermione, has the cloak ever bothered you like that?”

    The bushy-haired witch frowned. “No, but I’m usually with Galen when I use it.”

    “The ultimate teddy bear?” Ginny teased. “Comes with its own set of fangs and everything?”

    Hermione flushed red, and if Takara was reading her body language right, she was as much embarrassed as angry. No one would know going by her voice, though, which was sharp.

    “That’s hardly fair, Ginny! Galen is a very nice person - ”

    “When he’s not threatening to tear someone’s throat out with his teeth?” Ginny finished. “I was sure he was going to bite Draco for a minute.”

    “Well, it convinced Malfoy to take the Vow, didn’t it?” Hermione countered. She shook her head. “I’ve been looking into some of the laws surrounding werewolves - did you know Dolores Umbridge is trying to pass a number of new ones to prevent them from holding jobs?”

    “What’s that got to do with it?” Ginny asked.

    “When you treat werewolves like monsters, how should you expect them to react?” Hermione responded. “They’ll get angry, they’ll get desperate, until they’re willing to do anything they can to strike back at the people who are hurting them.” She glared at Ginny, brown eyes very cold. “That’s why Voldemort had so many of them follow him - because he promised them better treatment than they were getting.”

    Ginny flinched at the “Alias-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named,” though perhaps she had more right than most witches, having actually met an incarnation of Tom Riddle, and held up her hands in surrender.

    “Sorry.” The younger girl shook her head. “It’s just - well, being a werewolf doesn’t help, but he’s not exactly the friendliest of blokes, is he?”

    Hermione blinked. “I don’t understand.”

    “You wouldn’t,” Ginny said assertively. “You’re part of the clique. But in your entire year, there’s the five of you, and then the others. If we split it into boys, it’s Galen, Shirou and Neville - and then Dean and Ron. And while Galen’s friendly enough with Dean, he deliberately excludes Ron - and Neville and Shirou follow his lead, mostly.” She turned to Takara. “I’d figure you know him best, so maybe you can tell me what his problem is. Galen seems to have no problems being friends with me, or the twins - so what’s he got against Ron, specifically?”

    Takara winced inwardly. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to try and explain this - assuming that she could.

    “Part of it’s the rat,” Takara offered at last. “Galen figured he’d try to kill it as soon as he saw it. That would let to a fight, or explanations, and he decided it was better to let sleeping rats lie. That’s how it’s lasted this long, and there was no point hanging around it, letting it pick up information, in case Galen couldn’t kill it, and it got away.”

    Ginny grimaced, no doubt picturing the fight that would’ve erupted if Ron caught him in the process of trying to kill - or outright killing - Scabbers. Still, she persisted, “And what’s the rest of it?”

    Takara grimaced. She didn’t want to discuss this, especially with Hermione there.

    The witch in question chose now to add her two cents. “Come on, Takara - you said the rat was only part of the problem. What else is there?”

    That he spent seven years mentally and emotionally abusing you to varying degrees. That he did things in sixth year from no other reason than to deliberately hurt you. That he abandoned you, potentially to die, of his own free will - and that the act was so predictable that Dumbledore set up a return mechanism at least a year in advance by willing Ron that lighter gizmo. And that despite all that, you chose him, married him - and that his behaviour at the end of the movies showed he hadn’t changed at all. That thought makes him sick over what Weasley might be doing, and have done, to you - the fact that you didn’t say a word to Harry, your best friend, gave him the shivers.

    And given that the universe seems to go to extreme lengths to follow the original plot at times, his greatest nightmare that it’s going to happen again.


    Takara shook her head, and replied, “You’ll have to ask Galen.” She tilted her head and looked at Ginny. “Why the sudden interest?”

    Ginny blushed. “Well . . . You know how Malfoy always has it in for Shirou? Ron’s like that with Galen. He seems to think that Galen stole Shirou from him as a friend - he’s been really bitter about it since Shirou got all that attention over killing the basilisk last year. And since the twins and I made friends with you three. . .”

    Takara blinked. “I’m surprised - he hasn’t said or done anything about it, and he’s never been shy about telling people how he feels.”

    “Because Galen’s hardly ever alone, almost never near Ron, and I’ve managed to talk him out of it so far,” Ginny replied. “But I was hoping I could get Galen to lighten up before my brother does something drastic.”

    “Don’t you mean to say, ‘before my brother does something stupid?’” Hermione queried.

    “I know my brother - that’s too much to ask for,” Ginny said with a grin, before her expression turned sober. “I just don’t want to see Ron end up in the Hospital Wing - or worse - because he decided to start shooting his mouth or wand off.”

    Takara considered that, and finally replied, “They’ll never be friends, Ginny, but Galen’s managed to ignore Ron up to now, in spite of how much he dislikes him. I don’t see that changing any time soon.”






    Sooner or later, I think I’m going to have to kill Ronald Weasley - and probably sooner.

    This thought played in Galen’s head as Ron ranted at a volume that indicated he’d never heard of the concept of an “indoor voice.” The current topic was his whining over having to serve a detention McGonagall had assigned with Filch, polishing the trophy cases by hand.

    You’d think after getting so many detentions for failing to hand in assignments, he’d be used to doing it that way by now, Galen thought. But every time, he treats it as though it’s unexpected, and a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Between the way he gripes about physical exertion and the way he eats, I’m amazed he doesn’t weigh three hundred pounds.

    Normally, Galen would care less about Weasley’s location, condition or attitude. Unfortunately, he needed a decent idea of the redheaded idiot’s habits so as to concoct an optimal time and strategy for snatching the rat - and with The Plan approved by the official authorities, he saw no reason to put it off any longer.

    I should’ve asked Neville to do this, Galen sighed. Why, oh why, don’t they teach us Silencing Charms until fifth year?

    It might’ve been easier to tail Weasley if he hadn’t given Hermione custody of the Deathcloak, but he made do. In all honesty, few people usually paid attention to him, compared to Shirou or Takara - he wasn’t a Quidditch player, or had done anything really public like killing a Basilisk. His more impressive feats were talked about, but not fully believed, so staying unnoticed wasn’t too hard. He’d simply followed Weasley from the dungeons to the Gryffindor common room, and found a spot by the fire to read while Weasley and Dean played chess by a window. Granted, the dungeons had been the tricky part - but with Maeve in Hufflepuff, he had a ready-made excuse for wandering them if asked.

    I really should make more time for her this semester - but the situation with the Wolfsbane Potion has taken up most of my time. Still, after we get the rat . . . He shook his head, and lifted his eyes to Weasley - to find the redhead glaring at him.

    Did he spot me? Galen wondered - but Weasley didn’t get up and confront him. The conversation level did drop in volume, but not beyond the range of Galen’s hearing.

    “Look at him,” Weasley muttered. “Sitting there, totally clueless as to what a lucky bastard he is.”

    “Lucky?” Dean muttered. “You ever notice how often he winds up in the Hospital Wing?”

    “That’s usually ‘cause Longbottom blew something up,” the redhead said dismissively. “And it blows over quick enough. And then he goes back to Einzbern and Aozaki, and Granger - ”

    “And your sister?” Dean inquired mildly.

    “And that’s another thing! How the hell did he snare Ginny, eh? Turns her back on her own flesh and blood to be with him.

    Galen mentally ran through anything he might have ever said or done to piss off the youngest Weasley boy, and came up with zilch. He’d made a habit of outright avoiding him for the last two and a half years - and if Pettigrew wasn’t playing at being his rat, wouldn’t be bothering with him now. So what the hell was his problem?

    “They offered to be her friends,” Dean pointed out. “She should have said ‘no thanks?’”

    “Yes! Well, no - but why be friends with him?”

    “Because her friends are friends of his?” Dean asked drily. “Lovegood hangs around with them, she idolises Aozaki, and as for Einzbern . . .”

    “Yeah, but . . . It’s not fair, Dean! Einzbern has money, and gets him invited to fancy parties. Aozaki’s one of the best damned Quidditch players there is, and she’s a good-looking bird, and Granger does his homework for him! And it should’ve been me!

    Ah, jealousy. Now things begin to make sense.

    Dean said rationally, “According to Neville, they’ve been friends since they were practically in nappies, so the invite shouldn’t be surprising. Aozaki’s more interested in dating Einzbern than Salvatore, from what I’ve heard - and Granger doesn’t do his homework, she just helps him.”

    “Yeah, and his grades are through the roof!”

    “Because they study, Ron.” Dean sounded exasperated. “How many times have you seen them here with piles of books and parchment? Do you really think Granger does all their work?”

    “Well, no, but - ”

    “They work for their grades, even if they make it look easy,” Dean interrupted. “I’d bet money that’s a textbook Salvatore is studying. And Neville and Lovegood are in the library now, working on a Herbology assignment.”

    “That’s another thing. How can they be friends with a squib like Longbottom, and Loony Lovegood, of all people, and not with me?!”

    Because they’re nicer than you are, you bloody twit. And if Ginny and your brothers wouldn’t be on my case about it, I’d rearrange your internal organs without the use of magic or anaesthetic for that remark.

    Conversation stopped as Shirou entered the common room. Galen noted it, but since Shirou had a “man on a mission” expression, assumed he’d ask for help if he needed it. As it was, they exchanged nods of acknowledgement, but there was no urgency in the motion. He went upstairs without a word.

    “Lucky bastard,” Weasley grumbled, glaring at Galen afterwards. “Einzbern says hi to him, ignores us, and he acts like it’s no big deal. For two Knuts, I’d challenge him to a wizard’s duel.”

    “Good luck,” Dean snorted. “Weren’t you paying attention in the Duelling Club last year? Hexing any of those three is almost impossible. Even if you’re fast enough to keep from being hit, you’ll never hit Aozaki. Einzbern’s almost as fast, and his spells pack a punch like a runaway Hippogriff. And Salvatore must’ve gone through every book on counter-jinxes in the library - nothing sticks long enough to throw him, if it even gets to him in the first place. Besides, you’ve heard what they say about his Shield Charms . . .”

    “Rubbish,” the redhead proclaimed. “Shield Charms are for fourth-years, and no kid could cast spells like that anyway. Aozaki’s mum did something when the basilisk showed up, and Salvatore somehow got the credit. Like I said - he’s a lucky bastard.”

    “Maybe,” Dean admitted. “On the other hand, those two keep hanging around with him for a reason - you have to think he’s able to keep up.”

    Shirou came back downstairs, carrying a familiar piece of parchment half-concealed in one hand. He said nothing, but began heading back out the portrait hole and downstairs. Galen kept half an ear on his friend’s steps as they pounded the stone stairs - still no urgency.

    Wonder what he’s up to? Galen mused. If I have to listen to much more of this, I’ll ask to join him . . .

    Abruptly, the quality of Shirou’s steps changed, rapidly fading away.

    Something’s wrong.

    Galen set down his book, rose and began walking out of the common room as fast as he thought he could get away with, and not draw unnecessary attention.

    “What’s the matter?” Weasley called. “Don’t want to let Einzbern out of your sight? Scared he’ll make a better friend?”

    Screw it.

    Galen flicked his wrist, and put on a burst of speed. His aim wasn’t ideal, but apparently good enough - he heard Weasley cry out as at least one of the two Knuts he’d thrown struck home. As pleasant as the sound was, though, he shunted it aside to concentrate on Shirou’s footsteps. Whatever was up, he suspected his friend would need backup. Unfortunately, Shirou was a faster runner, even though Galen had longer legs - and he had a head start.

    Just hang on until I get there. That’s all I ask. Whatever happens, just hang on.






    Chasing a black-cloaked Dementor across a black sky (it was January in Scotland - the sun never stayed up long, when it came out at all) wasn’t the most difficult thing Shirou had ever done, but it was a new Top 10 entry. Realising that he didn’t dare lose track of it, Shirou had taken to following its route on his current level, using the many windows as guidance. Of course, if the Dementor really was chasing Sirius, there was the question of how he was going to get from the seventh floor to ground level in time to stop it, but it wouldn’t matter if it got away beforehand.

    Gradually though, Shirou realised that the Dementor’s route didn’t seem to involve chasing anything across the grounds. It was going in a straight line, overtop of the castle as though its prey wasn’t running away - there were far too many structures in the way to have seen anything, much less for an earthbound person to have run. The Dementor had to be going after a stationary target, then, and it wasn’t heading for the Whomping Willow, which was the only passage on the grounds which lead to the Shrieking Shack.

    So, it’s not after Sirius? This doesn’t make sense - any of it! Why would a Dementor be on the grounds if not to deliver the “kiss on sight” order Fudge put into place regarding Sirius Black? Why a single Dementor . . .?

    Shirou realised something abruptly, and added, And why is the Dementor flying so high up, where the Disillusioned Aurors aren’t likely to look?

    After another few minutes of trailing the creature, its destination wasn’t too hard to guess.

    It’s headed for the Defence tower, which means its target has to be Lupin. But why . . . Stupid question. Lupin is a werewolf, and you already know Umbridge has a zealot’s hatred for halfbreeds and creatures - and sufficient authority to dispatch Dementors. Removing a threat to the school - by her lights, at least - and damaging McGonagall’s credibility in the process, possibly allowing the Ministry to step in. Dad was right, she’s a vindictive bitch - and not completely brainless, either. Then again, I suppose that assessment should depend on how she planned to explain away a Dementor attack, given that the only reason they’re trusted at all is because they’re supposedly all under complete Ministry control.

    . . . But the better question is, how exactly am I supposed to stop the damned thing?


    Like most of his friends, Shirou had so far not managed to handle casting the Patronus Charm beyond a basic silver mist. While he had enough confidence in his Occlumency to be certain he wouldn’t be affected by the Dementor, he was nowhere near capable of driving one off yet. Lupin was, but if he was caught off guard, or somehow overwhelmed by the Dementor, then he’d have to manage it, somehow.

    Should’ve grabbed Galen - his incomplete Patronus could’ve at least held it off for me, and maybe helped me drive it off, as well. I always seem a little closer under his shield. As it is, I’ve got to hope that striking a balance with my Animagus self will work as well for me as it did for Hermione.

    It was a matter of some frustration among the trinity that none of them could conjure a corporeal Patronus - especially when there was no indication that power or focus was the issue. The only reasonable explanation Shirou had been able to work out for himself was that the happy memory he’d chosen simply wasn’t strong enough to do the job.

    But if not Kiritsugu hauling me out of that ash pit, then what? I can’t use Rin - much as I love her, there’s too much pain associated with memories of her, as well. Damn it, I’m in the same boat as Galen - I’m too old, I’ve seen too much joy turn to ashes. True happiness just isn’t in me to feel . . . But Lupin’s life could be in danger. I have to try.

    Kiritsugu would’ve tried. So would Rin. He believed that, and so he would as well, because they would’ve expected him to. Even if it got him killed, even if it was hopeless, he had to try. He’d given up on that for a while, but hanging around with the kids at Hogwarts was bringing it back to him. He had too many good friends - too many good people - around him to give up on that belief entirely a second time.

    Then again, why am I surprised? These are her people, and she did what she did for them, as well.

    The memory of her, of their first meeting, filled him. Though those days had been filled with uncertainty, and no small amount of fear and darkness, he’d walked away from it knowing that what he dreamed of was possible, embodied in the woman whose ideals matched his own. And whatever it had become later, he remembered the hope he’d had then - that she had given him. And he thought, perhaps, it would be enough.

    For your people, Shirou resolved as he approached the classroom and hurried up the stairs to Lupin’s office, where the Dementor had to be heading. He threw open the door, and saw the Dementor approaching the window, over Lupin’s shoulder. It wasn’t close enough to be felt, yet - but it was too close for Lupin to act in time, as the older man was thoroughly distracted by Shirou’s abrupt entrance.

    “Mister Einzbern?” Lupin said in shock. “What on earth is the meaning of - ?”

    To protect them, as you once did me, Shirou thought, ignoring the man. And as the legend says you promised them.

    “EXPECTO PATRONUM!
    ” Shirou roared - and the rush of air which came with the blinding silver flash that followed was a matching roar unto itself, as the near-blazing form of his Patronus charged without hesitation into the fray. It streaked forth at the Dementor, sending it fleeing into the night, before looping around the tower, wings outstretched as it traced a lazy spiral over the grounds. Had it been able to speak, Shirou had no doubt the Patronus would be roaring in victory - and warning, to those who would dare invade its territory.

    As it stood, the great, shining dragon drew itself level with the window to gaze at Shirou before nodding in acknowledgement, before fading away.

    “Shirou . . .” Lupin began, then trailed off. “What . . . I’ve never seen such a large - or powerful - Patronus! How on earth did you manage to summon it?”

    “I asked an old friend for help,” Shirou said quietly. “My partner, a very long time ago - and it seems she hasn’t given up on me yet.”

    Thanks, Saber.

  18. #38
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors lethum's Avatar
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    Is there anything [i]else I can do . . .?[/o]
    Typo.

  19. #39
    Master of Hermione Alter 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 27 - The Countdown is Set



    February 5, 1994






    The weeks following the aborted Dementor attack were not good ones - if you were employed by the Ministry of Magic, anyway. It was a real contest as to who the media attacked harder. The candidates were the Azkaban staff who’d allowed one to go missing, the Aurors who allowed the Dementor onto the grounds of Hogwarts, the Ministry which insisted on employing the foul creatures and constantly assured people they had “total control” over them, the Ministry employee who’d taken it upon themself to loose the Dementor, or the Minister under whose watch this all occurred.

    Under normal circumstances, the Ministry might have managed to quietly sweep all this under the rug - but unfortunately for them, the political implications of the attack were too explosive to simply ignore. Baroness Irisviel von Einzbern, German representative of the International Confederation of Wizards (and therefore an ambassador to and guest of magical Britain) had very clear, publically stated thoughts on the matter. Her son had been attacked by agents of the Ministry - again - and she would have the head of the person responsible, even if she had to remove it herself.

    To give the Ministry credit at their ability to find a scapegoat, they’d tried to focus the blame on Hogwarts - slipshod security, setting themselves up as a target by employing a Dark creature in the first place. Minerva McGonagall, however, was blunt in her responses. Firstly, Hogwarts had never before needed to be secure against an invasion by the Ministry of Magic, and thus defences against its agents had not been considered.

    Secondly, owing to rumours of a curse on the position, the post of teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts was an extremely difficult one to fill - and was required to be so on at least an annual basis. However, McGonagall had pointed out, whatever his status, Remus Lupin had proven himself to be an excellent teacher, as test scores across all seven years were at their highest level in the last decade. Indeed, he had managed to teach a third-year student the NEWT-level Patronus Charm, as evidenced by said student’s daring act to shield his professor from an assassination attempt apparently sanctioned by the Ministry itself.

    No, it was not a good time to be Cornelius Fudge, or any of his political appointees. If you were Hermione Granger, however . . .

    “That’s three more badges I’ve sold - and the day’s just starting!” the bushy-haired witch said excitedly at breakfast. “At this rate, LAPIS will have most of the school as members by the end of the year.”

    Hermione’s new name for her venture was the Lycanthropic Awareness, Prevention, and Integration Society, and its symbol was an ultramarine-coloured crest with Da Vinci’s famous human figure sketch in scarlet, encircled by a white crescent moon. Her crusading zeal had been tempered a little - the pamphlets she handed out weren’t the excoriating essays on the injustices of werewolf life in magical society she’d originally planned. Instead, she spoke of her aims: to bring about societal changes which would allow werewolves to live peacefully within the wizarding community, without fear of being harmed, or of doing harm to others - and end predation by werewolves on witches and wizards.

    Neville and Shirou had helped her refine her pamphlets, both having relatives who worked extensively (and successfully) in politics. Ginny had added her two cents as a representative of the “average witch or wizard,” having been raised in the magical world her entire life. Luna had volunteered the Quibbler’s printing presses for fast distribution, and the twins had helped Hermione charm the badges - not incidentally picking up some nifty tricks to help them mass-produce items for their intended joke shop.

    None of this was cheap, but Hermione had helped raise money by patenting Snape’s less elaborate version of the Wolfsbane Potion with the Ministry of Magic. They had tested it the night after the Dementor attack, and it did work as well as the original recipe. While it still wasn’t easy to prepare, the ingredients were common enough that it wouldn’t be horrendously expensive to make - and no werewolf trying to stay under the radar would arouse suspicion by buying them. Which, of course, is why Hermione had the Quibbler run a copy of the recipe. It might not reach everyone, but hopefully it could help a few of them.

    As for LAPIS’ success at school, it helped that Remus Lupin had been considered a favourite prior to the Prophet article, and one of the best teachers they’d ever had. Only the Slytherins were refusing to participate - but with the pressures that Baroness Einzbern was applying, to say nothing of Augusta Longbottom, werewolf rights might soon be a cause too fashionable to refuse championing.

    And it’s all thanks to Great-Auntie Dolores, Galen thought with a smirk.

    Whatever the official investigation turned up, he knew quite well who was responsible for the Dementor’s presence. The only question was whether she’d be caught, or the Ministry would use someone else as a scapegoat - and if the latter, whether Fudge would let her continue on, or take her out himself. Fudge was, first and foremost, a political animal - and however useful Umbridge might be, she’d now proven herself capable of going to extreme lengths to achieve her aims. He might have been ignorant of her behaviour before, but he certainly knew now, and Fudge had a history of dealing harshly with perceived threats to his power and position.

    If it means we don’t have to deal with her in fifth year, I’m all for it. Of course, if we manage to stave off old Voldie’s resurrection, fifth year won’t be a problem, anyway. Well, aside from our O.W.L. exams, anyway. But even if we fail to stop Voldemort’s return, LAPIS could do him some major preventative damage. In canon, he supposedly had a tenth of the Death Eaters he did during the first conflict, and while he was always a terrorist as opposed to a general, the lack of numbers forces him to rely more on shock value than before. So, he recruits the monsters and the disenfranchised: Dementors, giants, werewolves.

    But if we can make enough changes - or create enough hope for change - in wizarding society, there’s a good chance the majority of werewolves will support the status quo over Voldemort’s ambitions. That denies him one weapon, and maybe places it in our hands at the same time. And with mass access to the Wolfsbane Potion, the Ministry’s werewolves will have control on the full moon, and be able to coordinate attacks with the Aurors . . . Hopefully, anyway. If so, werewolves like Greyback won’t last long - not against a pack that can really
    think.

    “Galen?” Neville’s voice broke into his thoughts. “I could use some help on this essay for Professor Lupin.”

    “Sure, Nev. That’s the vampire one, right?” The other boy nodded. “I’m impressed. He just assigned it this week - you’ve got quite a while before it’s due.”

    “Yeah, I know - but I figure, why put it off? Especially with the Hogsmeade weekend coming up.” Neville shrugged. “Anyway, I still don’t understand about the garlic. Do they have to eat it, or - ?”

    Galen chuckled. “If you could get one to, I’d imagine it would be quite effective. No, it’s the smell, Nev. Remember how Quirrell used to hang the stuff in bunches in the classroom? If they had to eat it, it would’ve made more sense for him to carry it around in his pockets.” He smirked. “Although, if you ate it, I imagine you’d be fairly unappetising.”

    “OK - and why garlic?”

    “Like most vampiric weaknesses, it’s a purifying agent. It works on a spiritual level as well as the physical - garlic rubbed on doorways and windowsills is supposed to repel evil spirits. And on the physical level, it works specifically on blood, making it particularly nasty to vampires. I’ve never heard of one being killed by garlic exposure, but they can’t bear being near it.”

    Most weaknesses?” Neville queried.

    Galen shrugged. “Fire, sunlight, anything blessed - purity, or agents of it, seems to be the root of a vampire’s weak points. Some legends even state that the stake used through their heart needs to be a special wood - in one case specifically, the same wood as Christ’s cross.”

    “OK,” Neville nodded as he looked over his essay notes. “I’ve got a lot of that here. But you said ‘most’ weaknesses.”

    “Well, decapitation will kill just about anything, for example,” Galen pointed out. “And you may have noticed that vampires are based mainly in Romania. They don’t tend to come to Britain, or much of anywhere else. Care to guess why?”

    “Aside from that ‘legal status’ thing you mentioned? I did look that up, by the way - and if I was going to be treated that way in a foreign country, I’d cross it off my vacation list.” Neville grinned.

    “That’s part of it. The other part is they’re tied to their native soil, somehow.” Rowling really bought into Stoker’s stereotypes, apparently. “And yeah, they could line a coffin with the stuff and travel, but what if it got lost or destroyed? Much safer to stay in your home country, where there’s plenty of it handy.” Galen shrugged again. “It’s why they didn’t take a big part in the Voldemort War.” He ignored Neville’s reflexive flinch, and finished, “Apparently, hiring out vampiric help is expensive, because of the risks to the vampire.”

    Neville nodded. “Where did you get that from? It wasn’t in any book I checked in the library.”

    Galen grinned. “Restricted Section - Professor Lupin decided he could do us a few favours. Just the monster books, though, nothing too flashy.”

    Neville smiled. “I do like him. You think he’ll last out the year? Quirrell and Lockhart didn’t.”

    “We can only hope,” Galen said solemnly. Then he glanced at his wristwatch. “Oh crap! Come on - Gryffindor’s match is about to start!”






    Takara was looking forward to the game against Ravenclaw. Not that she didn’t always look forward to Quidditch matches - she wouldn’t play if she didn’t enjoy it - but this one promised to be especially fun. There was no vicious rivalry against Ravenclaw house, no possibility of a Dementor attack, and clear weather. Yes, this Quidditch match would be a great deal of fun - but there was one snag. Shirou wasn’t there.

    Officially, her favourite redhead was in the Hospital Wing with a twenty-four hour bug, but Takara knew that had she possessed the ability to see through the Deathcloak, she might’ve spotted him heading for the Whomping Willow from her position on the pitch. Kiritsugu-san had warned them not to enact the plan after the Dementor attack: the patrolling Aurors were too keyed up, too angry at the media bashing they’d received. Among the better ones, there was also a note of recognition that the Prophet had been entirely wrong. The end result was that they might’ve shot first and asked questions never - too volatile an environment for their scheme.

    But the Hogsmeade weekend on the eighteenth would do nicely - everyone should’ve calmed down by then, and relaxed their vigilance. And so Shirou was off to inform Sirius - and deliver the official messages from the ICW Security Division regarding their endorsement of the plan.

    By this time next week, the major problems of the year will all be accomplished, Voldemort’s return will have been dealt a possibly fatal setback, and all that will be left is to pass our classes this year . . . And master that bloody Patronus Charm!

    With Shirou’s success, Takara was annoyed at her own continued failure to perform the complete spell - she knew for a fact that he had darker and bloodier mental baggage than she did. Yet even with the help of Galen’s own Patronus Charm, she was unable to materialise her own into a coherent form. She wasn’t the only one - neither Galen nor Neville could manage it, either, and Ginny had only managed to conjure her eagle Patronus (quelle surprise, as her mother would say) a week ago, with Galen’s help - but it was still frustrating.

    I’m saying the proper incantation, and moving my wand correctly. I have enough power. I know I do. And I can’t imagine it’s a lack of focus - between martial arts and Occlumency, focus hasn’t been a problem for quite a while. So if that’s not it, then . . . Then, what?

    She’d made her peace with her inner owl, accepted the primal connection to her instincts and emotions - and yes, they did make them “clearer,” to use Hermione’s term. She reacted more strongly than she had in the past, felt things more intensely. If anything, it should’ve made conjuring a Patronus easier, as it had for Luna, Hermione, and Shirou. But the ability still eluded her.

    The only thing left is the strength of the memory. But what? When I asked him, Shirou suggested that the memory I wanted had to contain pure, unbridled joy. It’s anathema to Dementors, because whatever the author suggests, Dementors can’t feed on positive emotions. If they did, they’d eat a Patronus like candy - and according to Galen, the original description of the spell in the book suggests that they should, that it’s meant to be a decoy to give the caster time to escape. But the actual effect of the spell is to send them fleeing.

    She remembered Galen snorting at that when they discussed it, and saying, “Tossing raw, bloody meat at a hungry dragon is not going to make it run. Make it kill you for attacking it, before or after it eats the free food, sure - but it won’t flee. And it makes even less sense as a protection when Lupin explains that the reason Dementors can’t feed on a Patronus is because they’re pure positive emotion, and incapable of despairing. If they really fed on happiness, that would just make it a feast. And we’re told that they breed in gloomy, dank places, revelling in despair and hopelessness. Not exactly smart, if they want to be able to feed themselves and their offspring. Predators don’t nest in barren grounds.

    “No,” Galen had said. “The only explanation that makes sense is that they feed on negative emotions like despair. They ‘drain the happiness’ out of things by bringing those darker emotions to the surface, let them run rampant, until they poison all the happiness in you. Until what once thrilled your soul brings you no joy whatsoever, and there’s nothing left but the dark, bubbling forever.” He’d shaken his head. “I ran on anger for years, until it burned out everything else and left me hollow inside. It’s why I am the way I am, why I’m having such trouble now. I lost the ability to give a damn.”

    But Takara knew she wasn’t like that - so what was wrong with her, that she couldn’t create a corporeal Patronus?

    It has to be the memory. But I’ve used everything I can think of - my first beach trip, the first kendo tournament I won . . . Not even my very first taste of chocolate ice cream seems to be enough! But I did it with Galen’s wand, which means I have to be able to - not even the Wand of Passion can create spells that don’t really exist. So what’s left that’s strong enough, that I haven’t already tried?

    Madam Hooch ordered the game to begin, and Takara shook off her musings. It was time to fly.

    Ravenclaw was not the best Quidditch team at Hogwarts, even ignoring Gryffindor. As a rule, Ravenclaw was stuffed with the brightest minds - academics, scholars, geniuses, idiot savants and ivory tower bookworms. This did not translate into people who excelled at athletics. Hermione, as a case in point, was an idealised Ravenclaw - and she would only get on a broom to save her life. This was not to say they were pushovers. What they lacked in brute athleticism, they made up for in strategic capability, and they were frighteningly capable at adapting their tactics. This made the game challenging for the Weasley twins, and Gryffindor’s “Flying Foxes,” as Lee Jordan was known to call them. Takara, meanwhile, had her own challenge. It was pretty, petite, and answered to the name of Cho Chang.

    In her own favour, Takara was working the Ravenclaw Seeker hard. She was at least as good on a broom as Cho, and with a better model under her. More to the point, she was not a teenaged male, so Cho couldn’t dazzle her with sex appeal as a distraction. This gave Takara on her Firebolt the edge in their confrontations, but she was still playing cautiously. Cho didn’t have the build of a serious athlete, but she had one that was ideal for a Seeker - light and compact. And she’d no doubt been playing since she was small. She was a good Quidditch player, and that meant that Takara couldn’t afford to become overconfident. Cho would be waiting to take advantage of any slips on her part, and the Firebolt could only compensate for her mistakes to a certain degree, after which she was on her own.

    On the whole, though, she was grateful for the challenge. Firstly, because she liked challenges like this. Secondly, because it kept her mind off her failure to cast a full Patronus . . .

    And thirdly, because it kept her from wondering exactly how Shirou was doing in Sirius Black’s company.






    Sirius stared at the length of silvery fabric draped on a nearby chair, even as he munched on a sandwich. “It seems so strange - so wrong - to see you with that,” he said. “After all the times James used it . . .”

    Shirou shrugged. “It was passed to Galen by someone, that’s all we know - and we’re glad to have it. It literally saved lives last year, mine included.”

    “You can use it, then?” Sirius inquired. “Without . . .” He seemed to hesitate over the right words. “It doesn’t bother you to use it?”

    “I don’t particularly like it, but I can deal with it,” Shirou said. “Some of our other friends, though - ”

    “Peter used to really hate using that cloak,” Sirius said grimly. “Now, of course, I think it’d be brilliant to hang him with it. And I admit, I never really liked the thing. It somehow took all the fun out of being invisible. Never bothered James, though. We always figured it was a Potter ownership charm, to help keep it in the family. Spent quite a while trying to figure out how they did it, too.”

    It’s something, Shirou agreed mentally. The Deathcloak - damn it, even he’d started using the term now - seemed to be a little choosy regarding who used it. It worked for anyone, but it wasn’t as easy for certain people as it was for others to operate under the cloak.

    Takara handles it better than I do, and Ginny takes it worse. Neville just dislikes the idea of being invisible - too many years of being ignored or patronised at his gran’s - so we can’t really say how much of his reaction is personal preference. Luna’s never tried the cloak on her own, so there’s no way of knowing how well she can manage, and Hermione . . .

    Shirou shook his head. Hermione had never had a problem with it, she’d said - but she’d been with Galen every time it had been used.

    Shirou said carefully, “Was the sensation any better when you were with James? When he was under the cloak, as well?”

    Sirius’ eyes grew thoughtful. “Yeah, it was. You think . . .?” He paused, then started again. “You think it ties into the presence - and maybe proximity - of who owns it?”

    “I think if it makes someone uncomfortable when they have permission to use it, a thief would be in for a heck of a surprise.”

    Sirius’ black eyes glittered. “Wonder if we could convince Wormtail to nick it, just to see what it does.”

    “It’s a possibility,” Shirou admitted. He looked at the cloak, so innocuous, just lying there.

    And it’s the most common of the three Hallows - there are other invisibility cloaks, after all. But if the cloak has this kind of power, what can we expect from the other two? One of which is, first and foremost, the most powerful wand in the world? And the other, at present, a Horcrux which contains part of someone who’s acknowledged to be the most powerful Dark Lord in centuries?

    The redhead shivered. All the Horcruxes were dangerous, as the diary had proven. And even though the diadem hadn’t seemed to be booby-trapped (no time, Shirou supposed, and little need. Voldemort had assumed he’d found the ultimate hiding place, where it would never be discovered), he’d heard of the defences surrounding the rest. And even with that in mind, the ring containing both the soul of Voldemort and the Resurrection Stone might be the most dangerous of them all.

    But that was for the future. Today, he had Sirius to worry about.

    “The next Hogsmeade weekend is set for the twelfth of February,” Shirou said. “That’s one week from now.”

    “That’s when it’ll be done, yeah?” Sirius said.

    “If you think you’re ready,” Shirou replied.

    Sirius considered. “Between the regular meals - real ones, not just rats or somebody’s table scraps - and the time I’ve had to exercise, not to mention the lack of Dementors . . . Yeah, I think I can be ready for action then.”

    “All right,” Shirou said. “You’ve got the credentials you’ll need, now, and we’ve got a timetable. It’s all just a matter of planning out the details, and keeping ourselves fit and ready.”

    “Might be an idea to send Moony out a few times,” Sirius said. “Just to hash things out between us. It’d keep me from going stir-crazy, too.”

    Shirou nodded. “It might be tricky, scheduling it. Between classes, the media attention from the Dementor attack, and the Duelling Club McGonagall wants to set up - oh! Galen said he’ll need access to your mother’s house.”

    Sirius’ eyebrows abruptly reached his hairline. “Why?”

    “There’s something there we need to get,” Shirou said. “He wasn’t specific, and I didn’t ask. When he says we need to do something, I just accept it as right and move on - because he usually is.”

    “Sounds like Moony,” Sirius snorted. “Bloody pain in the arse, sometimes, when he was right. At least half our detentions came from not listening to him when we should’ve.” The ghost of a smile settled on his face. “Of course, if we’d listened every time, school would’ve been bloody boring. I’ll tell that itinerant nephew of mine how to get past the protections on the house - but the house elf is his own problem. You just tell him that if he wants access to the ‘Noble and Most Ancient House of Black’” - the sarcastic pompousness dripped from his voice like venom from a snake’s fangs - “he’d better start upholding the family traditions.”

    “Meaning?” Shirou asked warily.

    “That if he’s not going play pranks, or even fly a broom, he’d better start pulling the birds in!” Sirius grinned. “Black men have a deserved reputation, and I demand he do it justice!” His tone and expression darkened. “Doesn’t look like I’ll have the time.”

    Shirou regarded him for a moment, then said quietly. “You can still back out of this.”

    “Not a chance in hell,” the older man growled - one that would’ve done credit to Galen’s werewolf form. “I want revenge for James and Lily . . . And Harry,” he added softly. Harry’s seemed to strike him the hardest, even more than the loss of his brother-in-arms. Shirou could understand it. Such innocence, such potential - abruptly and maliciously gone. Having spent time with baby Alex, Shirou could certainly understand . . .

    I’d track his murderers into Hell and through it, if I had to. And Galen would be right beside me - though we’d both have to work to keep up with Takara.

    “Okay,” Shirou said, still in a quiet tone. “Then if there’s nothing else, I’d better get going.”

    “Right,” Sirius said. “See you in a week, kid - and good luck.”

    “To all of us,” Shirou agreed fervently, before vanishing under the Deathcloak.






    Takara looked between her two best friends in all the world. Gryffindor had won, putting them well in the lead for the Quidditch Cup and the House Cup - but the rush that knowledge brought had worn off with Shirou’s report, given to the two of them in the Room of Requirement.

    “So that’s it, then,” she said. “We’re all set.”

    Shirou grunted in acknowledgement, and nodded grimly.

    “Are we really sure this is a good idea?” Takara asked. “I mean, this is a really big risk -”

    “Sirius knows the dangers,” Shirou reminded her. “And there shouldn’t be any threat to bystanders.”

    “Forget them - I’m talking about us!” Takara snapped. “Have you stopped to think about what’s liable to happen after this is done, when they figure out we’re behind it? Or are you hoping to get away with it completely?”

    She rounded on Galen. “If this blows up in our faces, it’ll destroy everything we’ve built here! And it will be your fault!

    “Yes,” Galen said flatly - and his face was empty again, his heart locked away.

    Damn it, how does he do that?

    “I’m open to better suggestions,” he said quietly - and Takara realised that, every single time she’d heard Galen use that phrase, he was absolutely out of ideas, and frustrated beyond endurance. He would genuinely take a better suggestion, if she had one.

    “Go public,” she said. “Full disclosure.”

    Galen said, very carefully, “And if that means that Sirius gets killed?”

    “Then we can do this another way!” Takara said. “Do we really need to go with this idea?”

    Galen looked at her, and still, very carefully, asked, “Do you want to bet Alex’s life on the possibility that I’m wrong?”

    For just a moment, red flashed around the corners of her vision. How dare he invoke her baby brother?! How dare he -

    Takara stopped, suddenly understanding. He didn’t dare - that was the point. He didn’t dare take the chance that he was wrong, because if he did, it could mean people’s lives. Potentially, everyone’s lives. And he was gambling with the life of the only extended family he had, a man who had already been through hell for almost Galen’s entire lifetime, to make sure of it.

    “There’s no other way to be sure,” he said softly. “And we have to be sure.”

    Takara was silent. If this went bad . . . But, given the stakes, was there really another choice?

    “It’ll be down to the three of us, in the end,” she murmured. “If it all goes bad, all we’ll have left is each other.”

    “It could be a lot worse,” Shirou said. He reached out and clasped their arms. “And I can’t think of many other people I’d want beside me, in the end.”

    She smiled. “Me, either.” Her eyes flicked to Galen. His own gleamed with mockery, but his tone was utterly sincere as he bowed from the waist.

    “Now and forever, my Lady.”
    Last edited by Kieran; March 28th, 2011 at 10:33 PM.

  20. #40
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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 28 - To Trap a Rat


    February 12, 1994






    The morning of the Hogsmeade visit started early in the third-year boys’ dormitory of Gryffindor Tower. In point of fact, it always did - morning calisthenics usually had two-thirds of the dorm up around dawn - but that morning was especially early, given that it started with a scream.

    “SCABBERS!” came the horrified wail, causing at least three wands to point in its direction, ready for battle. Barring any further sound, bed curtains were flung aside to see what the hell the matter was. For his part, Shirou caught a glimpse of a ginger-coloured blur heading down the dormitory stairs, either fleeing for its life, or in hot pursuit of something.

    “That bloody cat!” Weasley snarled. “It’s been watching Scabbers all year, and Granger finally slipped up and let it loose! If it hurts him, I’ll kill it - and then her!”

    Really?” Galen asked dangerously, and Weasley abruptly became aware that three wands were pointed in his direction - and none of their wielders looked especially friendly.

    “Well, she ought to keep that thing caged up!” Weasley protested, flushing red to the tips of his ears.

    “So should you,” Shirou said flatly. “You’re in a place which has owls and cats regularly come in - didn’t you think at least one of them might eventually get hungry?”

    The other redhead’s complexion turned pale, and he leaped out of bed, crying “Scabbers!” He dashed down the stairs, intent on catching his rat before Crookshanks sated the appetite the chase was working up.

    Galen stretched out his arms even as he swung his legs around to sit on the edge of his bed.. “Remind me to give Crookshanks a treat for his hard work,” he murmured in Japanese.

    “I’m still impressed that Crookshanks understood well enough to do what Hermione wanted him to,” Shirou said in the same language.

    “It’s an Animagus skill. Besides, he’s exceptionally intelligent.” Galen smirked. “There’s a reason I picked him out as a pet for the most brilliant witch in Hogwarts.”

    He stilled, surprised by a sudden warmth on the back of his neck, but nothing followed it. Mentally shrugging, Galen got off his bed and finished stretching. Then he switched to English. “Well, shall we go grab the girls and watch the show?”

    “Sure.”

    Neville shook his head. “This is a crazy idea.”

    Galen glanced at him. “Your point being?”

    “No point,” Neville said, shrugging. “I just thought it needed to be said.”

    No other conversation was made as they donned their exercise gear and joined the girls for morning calisthenics. In fact, no attempt at conversation was made until Shirou was almost in the lead of their group, just shy of Takara, and they approached Hagrid’s hut, which was considered the halfway point on this route of their morning run. To everyone’s surprise, the front door opened and the big man stepped out to call to them.

    “Do any of yeh recognise this rat?” he asked, fishing Scabbers out of a pocket.

    Ginny sighed. “He’s my brother’s - I’ll take him up to the castle. Thanks, Professor Hagrid.”

    “Ain’t no big thing, Miss Weasley,” Hagrid rumbled. “But tell yer brother he ought ter mind his pet better - all sorts o’ creatures ‘round here who’d find him a right tasty snack.”

    “I will. Thanks again, Professor.”

    “No problem - and I’ll see most of the rest of you lot in class!”

    The older students nodded, and Ginny pocketed Scabbers in her exercise clothes, where the rat quickly fell asleep. Still, Shirou made certain to whisper as he spoke.

    “That’s one phase down. The next is on you girls.”

    Hermione and Ginny nodded.






    Shirou watched, later, as Weasley argued with Hermione.

    “I’m very sorry, Ronald,” she said. “I had no idea Crookshanks had gotten out of the dorm.”

    Sorry?” Weasley repeated. “HE NEARLY ATE SCABBERS! That bloody cat is a menace! Get it a cage or something, Granger!”

    Hermione turned frosty. “Why doesn’t your rat have one, Weasley? It’s very small, and easy to lose, after all.”

    “Scabbers has never been any trouble - not before that oversized hairball showed up!”

    “Crookshanks has been with me since first year, “ Hermione said sharply. “And he’s never been any trouble, either.”

    “Well, he bloody is now! You’d better do something about it, Granger, because if anything happens to Scabbers, I’ll hex the hide off that cat - assuming it has one under all that - “

    His tirade was cut short by a loud crack, as Hermione landed a textbook-perfect, nose-breaking punch. Weasley’s head snapped back, and the momentum behind Hermione’s blow knocked him onto his arse.

    A Galleon says Galen finally has a Patronus-worthy memory now, he thought, mentally smirking.

    “He’s just being a cat,” Hermione said coldly. “And you’re just as responsible - if you didn’t let your rat run free, you wouldn’t need to worry about it.”

    Bl’ddy ‘ell!” Weasley mumbled, clutching his nose.

    Hermione stalked up towards the stairs, and Ginny came down a moment later.

    “What did you do now, Ron?” she demanded.

    “Threatened to flay Crookshanks alive if anything happened to his rat,” Shirou said blandly. “She hit him.”

    “Idiot,” she muttered under her breath, drawing her wand. “Hold still - Episkey.

    There was another sharp crack, and Weasley screamed.

    “Look,” Ginny said, “Scabbers is old and sick - ”

    “Exactly!” Weasley bellowed. “Last thing he needs is to be stalked by some ruddy nightmare of a cat - ”

    “ - And at least being eaten would be a quick way to go,” Ginny said stubbornly. “But if you’re that worried, see if Dervish and Banges can sell you a cage with a cat-repelling charm on it when you’re in Hogsmeade today.”

    “What if they do?” he asked sullenly. “Not like I can afford it.”

    Ginny scowled at him, then said, “Hold on.” She raced upstairs, and came back with a small drawstring pouch. “Ten Galleons - that’s all I’ve got for spending money.”

    Ron blinked. “What were you going to do with it? Not like you can go to Hogsmeade . . .”

    “My friends can,” she pointed out. “And they’ll tell me if whatever you buy costs less, Ron - so I’d think carefully before spending any change. I will miss it.” With a last glare, she turned and walked away.

    “Hanging around that know-it-all nightmare’s turned you into one, too,” he muttered under his breath.

    She whirled. “And for that remark, you’d better take Scabbers with you to Hogsmeade today - or I’ll be tempted to feed him to Hermione’s cat myself!

    Now it was Weasley’s turn to scowl. But Shirou noted that when they lined up to take the carriages to Hogsmeade, he was cradling the rat in his hands.

    Phase two, complete.






    Takara bit her lip worriedly - a sign that spending time around Hermione made her habits contagious. She glanced back and forth between the other occupants of the carriage - the boys who sat opposite her, and Hermione, at her side.

    “What is it?” Galen asked finally.

    Takara hesitated. “Well . . .” She glanced at Hermione again. “Um, we had a bit of . . . A bit of an incident in Divination, a couple of days ago - ”

    Hermione huffed, though her cheeks reddened.

    “Trelawney stiffened up, and started issuing a prophecy . . .” Takara said. “. . . And Hermione stormed out.”

    Shirou looked at her incredulously, noted Hermione’s increasingly scarlet face, and handed Galen a Galleon with a sigh.

    Hermione’s eyes widened. “You bet on me?”

    “I really shouldn’t have,” Shirou admitted. “Not with him. But I was sure you’d never give up an opportunity to learn something.”

    Rolling his eyes at Shirou, Galen replied, “About leaving that class? Absolutely. Your defence, I’m sure, is that Divination is a very ‘woolly discipline,’ and fraught with guesswork.”

    Her eyes narrowed, now. “How bloody complete were those publications? Did they use my diary as a resource?”

    “You keep a diary?” Galen countered.

    “Yes - but that’s not the point.” Hermione shook her head. “Trelawney was attempting to recover her reputation by imitating a genuine oracular trance. Any halfway decent book could tell her how it was done - there are enough mundane histories on the workings of Delphi, and other such things.” She snorted. “And it was appropriately vague, and ultimately useless. I told Professor McGonagall I was dropping Divination - and Muggle Studies, as well. I’ll ask to write the O.W.L. for it, but judging by the course content, I won’t actually need to take the class to get it, it’s so badly out of date.”

    “I recognised the prophecy,” Takara said quietly. “‘The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Today, before midday, the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant’s aid, greater and more terrible than ever before.’ And then she repeated, ‘Today, before midday, the servant will set out to rejoin his master . . .’

    “The original was, ‘tonight before midnight,’ but that’s otherwise correct,” Galen agreed.

    Takara stared, amazed he should be so calm about it. “Shouldn’t we be worried?”

    Hermione blinked, and said in an astonished tone, “You mean that rubbish was genuine?

    “In the original timeline, it was,” Galen agreed. “One of her two true prophecies - but given that the other one was about Neville and Harry Potter, and it doesn’t seem to be working out, that’s the first reason we won’t worry about the accuracy of this one.”

    “And the second?” Shirou inquired.

    Galen grinned. “That unlike witches and wizards, we’re smart enough to learn from mundanes. From Greek mythology, to Merlin, to the Scottish play, to bloody Star Wars - there are countless examples of the lesson. Any attempt to circumvent a prophecy brings about exactly the circumstances required for it to come to pass.” He shrugged. “So we continue on with what we had planned, acting as though we never heard it. If it’s false, it won’t matter.”

    “And if it’s true?” Takara persisted.

    “If it’s true, then maybe we can throw it off by not doing what’s expected of us,” Galen said. “As I said, actively trying to prevent a prophecy from coming to pass always has the opposite effect. So if we do nothing, maybe the opposite effect to what you’d expect will occur here as well.”

    He shot her a look that as good as said, I told you so. Takara nodded hesitantly, and lowered her eyes. If the prophecy did come to pass . . . Well, that was why he’d chosen this plan, after all.

    She tried to stay relaxed as they wandered through the village, but she couldn’t help but be irritable - firstly, because of what they’d planned, and secondly, because yet another dating opportunity was going to be ruined.

    Honestly, Takara thought to herself, as she and Hermione left the boys at Dervish and Banges to watch for Weasley, as they went on ahead to reserve a table at the Three Broomsticks. At this rate, I’m going to check in to St. Mungo’s and have myself checked for curses. Between that disastrous Tanabata, Malfoy’s ambush, and now this . . . ! The only date I’ve ever had go well was New Year’s Eve!

    “Maybe that’s a hint?” Hermione said softly, and Takara jumped almost six inches off the ground. She abruptly realised that she’d vocalised at least some of her thoughts, and felt her face flush warmly. For her part, Hermione’s cheeks were a little pink, and she wouldn’t meet Takara’s eyes - but what Takara could see of them was distant.

    “How much did I say out loud?” Takara mumbled in mortification.

    “Enough that I got the gist of it,” Hermione said quietly. “And while I’ve little faith in Divination any longer, if I did, I might think that the universe was trying to tell you something.”

    “Yes - that Shirou was right, and I’m too young to date right now,” Takara said firmly. “The only reason New Year’s Eve went so well was because there were no romantic tensions - or intentions - behind it.”

    Hermione gave her a disbelieving look.

    “How would your parents have reacted if you’d told them last year that you were dating Galen - and maybe with an eye towards marrying him?” Takara challenged. “Thirteen is too young, but with Hogsmeade opportunities available, most witches tend to start thinking along those lines, and I got caught up in it - especially since my mind’s of an age to consider a serious relationship.”

    Takara shook her head. “No, I should put this off for a year or two - trying now was a bad idea.”

    “Then why do it at all?” Hermione asked curiously, really focussing on Takara for the first time in the conversation, and this time it was the Japanese witch who looked away.

    Takara was silent for a long moment, then met Hermione’s eyes and admitted, “Because I was afraid.”

    “Afraid?”

    “I don’t make friends any more easily than you do, Hermione - and the boys are my oldest, my best friends. I always thought I’d end up with one of them eventually, but between you and Ginny - ”

    What?” Hermione said disbelievingly.

    “Shirou might not be interested in her now, but Ginny won’t stay a child forever,” Takara pointed out. “And she’ll be a very pretty girl in a few years. She’s also passionate, stubborn, occasionally catty - just his type. Just like you are Galen’s.”

    Hermione’s expression was as doubtful as her tone had been.

    “You’re brilliant,” Takara said. “Kind. Compassionate. Courageous. Loyal to a fault. You prefer to read quietly at home rather than play sports, or be a socialite - but you’re not afraid to work or fight for what you want. And you’re on your way to growing into an absolute knockout. He couldn’t honestly ask for anything more in a woman - and he’d never dare.” She smiled faintly. “Between you two girls, I have plenty of reasons to be afraid - although from the looks Ilya’s been giving me all year, not to mention Shirou, I think I should be more worried about her than Ginny as competition.”

    “I hadn’t noticed,” Hermione said.

    Takara sighed. “I just . . . I wanted a chance, to see if there could be something more between us than just friendship. So I pushed things, and this is what I’ve gotten for it. One big mess.” She shook her head. “So I’ll put it off, and try again later.”

    “And if they’re dating other people, then?” Hermione asked in an oddly tense voice. Oddly, at least, to someone who hadn’t watched her watch Galen for almost three solid years.

    Takara looked at her, and said carefully, “I chose to go after Shirou for a reason, Hermione.”

    “But . . .” Hermione bit her lip. “You said your only successful date was with Galen.”

    “Because I went into it wanting to prove that I wasn’t in love with him,” Takara snapped. “That what everybody thinks we have is . . .” She paused, and deliberately selected her words with their irony in mind. “A midsummer night’s dream.”

    “. . . And did you?” her friend whispered.

    “I chose Shirou for a reason,” Takara repeated flatly.

    Hermione looked at her for a long moment, obviously trying to decide whether or not Takara was telling the truth - and whether or not Hermione would believe it because it was true, or because it was what she wanted to believe.

    In the end, however, the sounds of spells going off, and a few screams, drew their attention back the way they’d come.

    Phase three was underway - the trap had been sprung.






    Galen had, above all else, strength of will. What had once been sheer stubbornness had been tempered by death and rebirth, and battles against spirits, demons and gods. His will had been strengthened to the point where he had once managed to subdue an entire planet’s collective consciousness into obeying his command, and reveal the Holy Grail. Only briefly, and not without extreme effort on his part, or help from others, but he had. And Occlumency training had further enhanced his control over that potential, enabling him to build the ultimate (to his mind, anyway) in aggressive defences. With all that in mind, then, it was truly saying something that it took almost all his concentration not to pace in nervous anticipation.

    Shirou glanced at him, a corner of his mouth tilting in a half-smirk as he whispered in Japanese, “Anxious, much?”

    “You don’t like waiting any more than I do,” Galen muttered under his breath, knowing Shirou would catch it.

    “If he can be patient,” Shirou answered, nodding to the shadowed alleyway around the corner, filled with rubbish bins, “then so can you.”

    Grimly, Galen nodded, running through his Occlumency exercises to help tamp down his nervousness. Being so keyed up was understandable - they were so close to finishing this - but he needed to stay calm, give no sign until it happened . . .

    There. Weasley, headed up towards them, with the rat clutched firmly in his hands - though he was aiming for the shop whose window they were glancing in. And Professor Lupin, escorting Neville, who was saying, “I’m really hoping you can help, sir. The last time I was here, I didn’t understand half of what the shopkeeper was saying about the features on his Dark detectors . . .” And out from behind the rubbish bin, a bear-like black dog padded over to them, tail wagging hopefully as it licked its chops.

    “Sorry, friend,” Galen said. “No snacks on me . . . And you don’t have a collar. I wonder if anyone around here knows who you are?” He turned to the approaching professor and called loudly, “Professor! Have you heard anyone asking after a lost dog?”

    Weasley stopped, eyes widening in shock at the sheer size of the animal. “Bloody hell - AAAAH!” He raised his hand to nurse a bitten, bleeding finger, as Scabbers scurried away with a squeal. The dog let out a snarl, and lunged after it.

    “Scabbers!” Weasley moaned, trying to draw his wand, but he couldn’t hold it properly, the rat having bitten the hand he usually held it with. He began to run after the animals - only to suddenly fall on his face. Galen blinked, surprised, before deciding that it had to have been bad luck. He hadn’t heard anyone cast a Tripping Jinx.

    Maybe the universe is being nice, for once?

    Lupin, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate. He sent a pulse of blue-white light after the dog - only to miss, as the black beast leaped aside, and strike the rat instead. Its terrified squealing became an equally terrified shrieking, coming as it did from suddenly-human lungs. And then the tone of the cry changed to one of pain, as the big dog sank its teeth into the calf of the pudgy man who, seconds before, had been a rat.

    . . .Scabbers?” Weasley squeaked in astonishment.

    “No, Mister Weasley,” Lupin said, grimly and clearly. “An illegal Animagus I knew at school, named Peter Pettigrew.”

    “Pettigrew?” Shirou said. “Didn’t he get a posthumous Order of Merlin for getting killed by Sirius Black while trying to capture him?”

    “Apparently, it was awarded prematurely,” Galen drawled. He drew his wand. “If that’s Pettigrew, even money says . . .”

    “Yes,” Lupin said. “That” - he performed the blue spell a second time, revealing a human figure who quickly wrapped his arms around Pettigrew’s mauled leg - “is Sirius Black.”

    “Remus . . .” Pettigrew gasped. “Remus, my old friend . . .!”

    Diffindo,” Lupin said coolly, slicing off a portion of Pettigrew’s sleeve, and exposing a midnight-coloured symbol for all to see.

    Death Eater,” Lupin hissed. “Very clever - you betrayed the Potters, and set Sirius up to take the blame. Very clever, Peter.”

    “It’s was Sirius’ idea!” he squealed. “He made me - !”

    “LIAR!” Black roared. He twisted his grip, drove his nails into Pettigrew’s wounded leg, and the Death Eater howled.

    Enough,” Lupin snapped, casting both men in a Full-Body Bind. “Mister Einzbern and Mister Weasley, I’ll need you with me to speak to the Aurors patrolling Hogwarts. Mister Salvatore and Mister Longbottom, if you’d please help me haul these two to the castle? It’s time, and past time, that we got some answers as to what really happened the night the Potters died.”






    With six wands on them at all times, once the girls had joined them, neither Pettigrew nor Black seemed inclined to try anything, even after being released from the binding, once they reached the relatively safety of Hogwarts’ grounds. Of course, Black insisted on keeping his grip on Pettigrew, anyway - in Hogsmeade, it had kept him from Disapparating to safety, and here, it prevented him from escaping as a rat. Not that Pettigrew would get very far, anyway - no one had bothered to heal his injured leg, and a non-wizard might’ve bled out before now. As it was, Pettigrew couldn’t possibly have walked or scurried off, even if he’d managed to overcome their numbers.

    They’d split off once reaching Hagrid’s hut - Lupin went with Shirou and Weasley, to the Auror patrols, while Takara and Hermione went to Madam Pomfrey and Headmistress McGonagall, respectively, to inform them of the situation and obtain aid. That left Neville and Galen to “guard” Sirius, though only Pettigrew didn’t know that it wasn’t truly necessary. The half-giant was, thankfully, up at the Hog’s Head, and not in the habit of locking his doors. And Fang was even warier of Galen than Crookshanks - unless the full moon was very close, the cat was content to ignore him. Fang simply ran and hid until he went away.

    So, until Lupin and the rest returned with whichever Auror team was assigned guard duty today, they were free to chat.

    “So, tell me about yourselves,” Sirius said. “I knew your parents, of course, Neville. Good Aurors and good people, the both of them.” His face twisted. “My cousin spent a lot of time bragging over what she’d done to them while her Master was facing Dumbledore . . .” He acquired a suddenly feral grin as he added, “At least, when the Dementors weren’t too close. Then, she was too busy whimpering.”

    Neville’s face was hard. “She deserves it.”

    “She does,” Sirius agreed. “The only decent members of my family were disowned by it. But she’s one of the worst of them, even so.” He blinked. “That’s your dad’s wand, isn’t it?”

    “Yeah,” Neville said quietly. “Gran thinks if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me - but I dunno if I’m good enough for it. I have to train really hard to get spells to work right, and I’m sure if my friends didn’t help me drill on them, I’d be barely more than a Squib.”

    “Well, sometimes wands are just a poor match,” Sirius said. “On the other hand, that one’s seen a lot of fights - it might be damaged. Mind if I have a look?”

    Neville hesitated, and glanced at Galen, who shrugged. Finally, he handed over his wand.

    Sirius examined it closely. “I’m no expert, but it certainly seems to be in pretty good shape, considering its age and how much use it’s seen - not to mention the kind of use. Maybe the damage is in the core . . . Incarcerous.

    Ropes abruptly materialised out of the air to engulf Neville, binding him fast. Galen drew his wand and shouted, “Prot - !

    A silent Disarming Charm sent it flying through a window before he’d finished the Shield Charm to protect himself from it, and the shock allowed a scarlet Stunner to cross half the distance between them before he’d realised it had been cast (damn silent incantations!), but he still tried to move from its path -

    It clipped his left shoulder, sending him spinning into the air, duster whirling around him, and through Hagrid’s table with a resounding crash.

    Neville had given up struggling with the ropes, having thought of another way. With an alarming creak, and several cracks, the ropes burst apart, unable to contain a half-grown grizzly bear as easily as they did a schoolboy - but not without managing to break a few of his bones under the strain. Neville collapsed on broken forelegs, letting out a sound that was half-roar, half-groan.

    Petrificus Totalus!” Black roared, and the bear stiffened.

    That will hold you,” he sneered. “Long enough, anyway. For twelve years - twelve years! - I rotted in Azkaban! Without a trial, without even an interrogation, because nobody was interested in the truth! Not even the high and mighty Dumbledore, champion of the Light!” He spat. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s worse than Voldemort - at least he stuck to his principles!

    “So Pettigrew dies today,” the prisoner of Azkaban hissed, “And someday, Dumbledore. Because all of this - James, Lily, Harry, your parents, me - is on his head. And I’ll have it.”

    He ran out the door, and the bear’s eyes glittered in frustration as it struggled against the spell which bound it . . . And had they been able to, they would’ve widened in shock as a groan emerged from the floor.

    Galen rose unsteadily to his feet, every muscle in his back screaming, and his ragged voice taking a running commentary as he attempted to get his bearings.

    “Duster took the brunt of it all . . . Neville out . . . No wand . . . How long was I out? Can’t tell, gotta go, can’t lose him . . .”

    He shook himself. “Sorry, Nev - nothing I can do for you. And I can’t let him get away.”

    Galen walked quickly out the door, gaining speed and steadiness as he went, eyes locked on a distant figure, skirting the edges of the Forbidden Forest in the direction of the Auror patrols.

    There’s a traitor that needs killing . . .
    Last edited by Kieran; March 29th, 2011 at 11:04 PM.

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