A.N: Thanks to everyone who reviewed, you're all very encouraging ^_^ Well, this chapter didn't turn out the way I thought it would and I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy with it, but here we go.
Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK or HP.
Pairings: I was reminded that I forgot to mention this, so here goes. This story will probably be KaiShin in the semi-distant future. You may have noticed the change in the summary outside. As for other pairs . . .I'm probably not going to touch on any in the worlds unless they're established, in which case they'll probably be whatever is normal for said world.
2: Aurors and Detectives, Magicians and Wizards
(World 2: Harry Potter)
For the briefest of moments he felt grass beneath his shoes and saw the clear expanse of a pale, blue sky against which a European castle stood tall and stark, but then everything seemed to twist and jerk and he was falling. He landed on a hardwood floor with a thump, cracking the back of his head and sending stars spinning across his vision in shimmering waves. He groaned, squeezing his eyes shut in an attempt to make the spinning lights go away. Somewhere off to the side he heard a corresponding groan followed by a familiar voice.
"Ow. Man, the last landing wasn't this painful. Should've worn a helmet."
"Oh my god!" gasped an unfamiliar voice—in English. "Are you two all right?"
Startled, Shinichi sat bolt upright and immediately regretted it as his head throbbed. Biting back another moan of pain, he clutched at his temples, willing the ground to stop rocking.
"Well, this certainly is a surprise," Shinichi heard KI—Kaito mutter.
Off to the side in the same direction from which the female voice had spoken a male one hissed. "What did he say? I didn't understand a word."
"It sounded like Japanese," a third voice hissed back. "Oh no, what do we do if they don't speak English?"
At that point Shinichi cracked open one eye to peer across at the speakers. "We do speak English," he told them. "Or at least I do."
"As do I," Kaito announced in a flawless British accent. "Could one of you tell us where we are? I could have sworn I was headed somewhere with a lot of tall, dark trees."
On the other side of the small room, two boys in their late teens and a girl turned to look at him. They were all dressed in what Shinichi could only call robes and their faces were adorned with almost identical expressions of confused anxiety—though the girl with the bushy brown hair was also exuding an air of exasperation. They were also each carrying a thin, wooden stick which reminded Shinichi of the shape the gemstone had taken.
At the thought of the gem he opened his eyes completely and made a quick search of the room. It was nowhere to be seen. Other than the five humans currently occupying it, the only other things in the room was a stack of books, several sheets of paper, and an assortment of chalk, rulers, and tape measures. The floor was covered in chalk diagrams and the windows were covered by heavy curtains through which barely any sunlight could seep. The only real light in the room came from the ball of fire which was . . .which was . . .
Floating above their heads in the middle of the room.
Shinichi stared. He would have gone on staring if the tall, redheaded stranger hadn't decided to answer Kaito's question.
"This is one of the Ministry's auror train—ow! Harry, what was that for?"
"You aren't supposed to just tell people that," the dark haired one hissed at the redhead so quietly that Shinichi wouldn't have heard him if he hadn't been straining his ears.
Kaito coughed pointedly to get the strangers' attention. "Forgive me if I'm wrong, but as you three are apparently responsible for the redirection of our travels to this lovely storage chamber, I feel it would only be fair that you give us an explanation."
Now the three looked embarrassed as they traded silent, meaningful looks. It was obvious they had known each other for a very long time. They interacted with the natural ease of people who could all but read each other's minds.
"Can we ask you a question first?" the girl inquired.
"You can," the thief replied amiably, "though we might not answer."
That got a few raised eyebrows but the girl, who was apparently the strangers' current spokesman, continued. "What were you doing before you, um, got here?"
Kaito glanced over at Shinichi who shrugged a bit helplessly. Would these people think they were crazy if they told the truth? Then again, there was a ball of fire floating above their heads. Anyone who didn't find that strange probably had an open mind when it came to inter-dimensional travel.
"We were translocating," the magician said finally, recalling a term Yami had used in reference to their (not so accommodating) ride. "Incidentally, does this world of yours play complex card games with giant holographic monsters?"
The three strangers stared.
"Um . . .no?" the redhead ventured after several seconds had gone by with no one making a move to speak. "What are you talking about?"
"Translocating?" the black haired boy asked, obviously having decided to focus on the less weird bits of the question. "Is that another term for apparating?"
Shinichi fought the urge to sigh. Was there going to be a new set of vocabulary for every world they came to? "I'm sorry, but what's apparating?"
"It's—like teleporting," the boy explained. "You know, when you disappear from one place and end up somewhere else without having to walk in between."
"That sounds about right," the detective mused. "Is that common around here?"
"Only if you can pass the licensing test," the redhead supplied.
"Is it different where you're from?" the girl asked curiously. "There isn't much in the books I've read about apparition regulations in Asian countries."
Kaito laughed. "I don't think they care about these sorts of things where we're from. Most people in our world don't believe in magic."
The girl's expression went from curious to puzzled as her companions traded similar looks. "Your world? You mentioned something about that before too, but I thought . . ." She trailed off and her dark haired friend picked up the questioning with a half confused half intrigued look on his face.
"Are you saying you're actually from a different world?"
Kaito nodded (too cheerfully, in Shinichi's opinion). "Yep. This is our second cross-world jump actually. Though, as I said before, I don't think we were headed to this particular location before. So, now that we've answered your question, shouldn't you answer ours?"
Now the three traded guilty looks before all three pairs of eyes turned to focus on a spot on the floor. The two travelers followed their combined gaze first to the chalked designs on the bare, wooden floor, then to the book that lay amidst one of the circular diagrams linked to the one they were currently sitting in. Shinichi blinked. He recognized that cover.
"Is that a copy of A Study in Scarlet?"
"Yeah . . ." The red haired boy scratched the back of his head in obvious embarrassment. "We, uh, were supposed to read it for our Deductive Reasoning class. That's kinda how this whole thing got started . . ."
"So . . .we're here because you were assigned a book to read?" Shinichi couldn't suppress the incredulity in his voice so he didn't try. "How?"
"We were going to try this new spell we found," the other boy explained, pushing his glasses farther up his nose. "It was supposed to let us go into the book."
"You mean you were going to go into A Study in Scarlet? As in actually inside the story?"
"Uh oh, now Tantei-kun will want to go," Kaito murmured, torn between rolling his eyes at all the hype over a fictional detective novel and laughing at the starry-eyed expression on Shinichi's face. He hadn't realized the detective could actually pull off looking like an excited five-year-old—while being full grown no less.
"That was the idea," the redhead said a bit sheepishly. "But the spell doesn't seem to work."
"Of course it doesn't," the girl snapped, exasperation clear in her every syllable. "I already told you it wouldn't! It was the end result of a failed study into allowing books to be experienced visually—like a 3D movie. But the human imagination was found to be too much of a factor in the reading experience, and since imagination is something that can't be predicted they gave up on the project. Next time when you get lazy and don't want to read go rent the movie!"
"So it doesn't work?" Shinichi's face fell and he sounded like someone whose favorite pet had just died.
Kaito started to laugh but he turned it into a cough when the detective shot him a glare. "Cheer up Tantei-kun. You never know, maybe one of our hops will land us in a world where your idol isn't fictional."
Blue eyes brightened so quickly it was almost creepy. "Do you think that's possible?"
Struggling to hold back another laugh (of the rolling around on the ground sort), the magician shrugged. "Hey, everything's possible. However," he added, turning his attention back to the three strangers. "I'm not sure what your attempt at traversing fiction has to do with us."
"I suppose you guys must have been mid-travel spell when we cast ours," the girl mused, frowning. "It's possible that our spell somehow linked itself to yours since you were traveling from another world and we were, in effect, trying to get to one. Since the world we wanted to go to doesn't exist the spell latched on to something that felt like what we were asking it for."
The room fell silent as its occupants sorted through the past several minutes in varying degrees of thoughtfulness. Finally the silence was broken by a soft, inquiring coo. Four pairs of startled eyes turned to Kaito from whom the distinctly inhuman sound had originated. A small, white bird peered out from where it had sort of hidden itself from view behind the magician's head.
"Uh, is that a bird?" the redhead asked finally. There was a beat of absolute silence, then laughter broke out throughout the room and the tension shattered like so much broken glass.
"We're sorry about dragging you here," the black haired boy said. "We didn't mean to, but we'll do our best to help you get back to wherever you were going. I'm Harry by the way—Harry Potter."
"Kaito Kuroba. And that's all right. We weren't headed anywhere in particular anyway. We just need to find our translocater and we can be on our way. Although we would appreciate it if you could put us up for a few days while we look . . .?"
Shinichi shifted uncomfortably, fiddling with the sleeves of the black robes the girl called Hermione had resized for him (meaning she had pointed a stick she called a wand at the piece of clothing and it had writhed and shifted like a living thing until it fit him). He still couldn't quite believe he was wearing it. The moment it started wiggling again he was changing back into his own clothes and never touching it again. He felt like someone about to go out on Halloween, but apparently wizards and witches in this world really did dress in robes on a daily basis. Wizards and witches . . . Now there were terms that he definitely needed to work on not stumbling over if he was going to be staying here for any length of time.
Apparently he and Kaito had landed in a training academy for a type of magic user called an auror. From what Harry had told them it sounded like these aurors were the wizarding world's equivalent of police. It was a top secret facility and, as outsiders, he and Kaito should, according to academy policy, have had their memories wiped and been sent away. Shinichi hadn't liked that idea at all. For one, it struck him as a huge invasion of privacy to tamper with someone else's memories. Memories made up so much of who a person was. What could possibly give one person the right to decide that another should or should not be allowed to remember something? The mere thought of it made him feel slightly ill. On a less moralistic note however, having holes in their memory could only be detrimental in Kaito's and his current situation. Luckily, their three hosts apparently understood this. They also agreed that, as the travelers weren't technically even from their world, the usual rules of the academy probably couldn't be applied. Anyhow, it had been decided that it would be easiest, and probably safest, if the two travelers were to temporarily take on the role of students.
They were in luck, the redheaded Ron Weasly had told them, because there were a handful of students who had been unable to make it to the beginning of term for one reason or another who were scheduled to arrive that very afternoon. And most of their classes wouldn't involve practical spell work for another few weeks. Aurors liked to make sure their trainees were well grounded before letting them go at each other with real spells. Hopefully they would be able to find their translocater before they had to figure out how the two non-wizards were going to con their way through practicals.
And that was why Shinichi was now dressed in borrowed robes standing with a similarly garbed but much less nervous Kaito and a handful of strangers. Less than an hour ago he had watched with mixed feelings as his travel companion and their hosts broke into the academy's records room so that the thief could forge their registration papers. It was slightly disturbing how quickly the whole matter had been accomplished.
"My name is Grayson Rook," the grim-faced man now standing in front of the new arrivals announced. "You will refer to me as Professor Rook. As you know, special circumstances have led to your delayed arrival. Consider yourselves honored. We expect every last one of you to work extra hard to make sure you catch up to the rest of your classmates and do not fall behind. While you are here you are expected to work hard and to treat your fellow students and instructors with the utmost respect. You are responsible for all your actions and the maintenance of order both of your own schedules and quarters, etc. Rooms will be inspected regularly. The rules of the academy can all be found in the academy guide you will find in your rooms. Anyone found to be in violation of any of our policies will be removed from the premises immediately. There will be no second chances."
"What a jolly personality," Kaito murmured so quietly that only Shinichi could hear him.
The man continued on in a similar vein for nearly an entire hour before handing out the keys to their assigned rooms and ordering them to familiarize themselves with the facilities and not be late to their classes on the morrow. The two travelers had been put in the same dormitory as their coconspirators and given a room right next to Harry and Ron's and across from two girls by the names of Lilly Lovelace and Caroline Hittlemer. Being at the end of the hall, their room had two windows instead of the standard one and a rather nice view of a dark, glassy lake.
The first thing Kaito did upon entering the room was to throw open both windows and let the bird who'd spent almost the entire day perched on his shoulder sidle onto one windowsill. Dropping with a sigh onto one of the beds, Shinichi watched the bird begin to preen itself. Then he frowned. There were two doves on the sill. He recognized the Duel Monster from its blue eyes, but the other one . . . Turning, his head, he wasn't particularly surprised to find Kaito grinning at him.
"How many of them do you have with you?"
The magician laughed. "Let's see." There was a sudden flurry of white feathers and where there had been two doves now there were six. "I guess that makes five discounting Aome. Don't worry, they're all very well trained if I do say so myself."
Shinichi rolled his eyes then paused. "Aome?"
"Well, Noah's Messenger is hardly name material, and everyone should have a name, no?"
"I guess," Shinichi assented, eyeing the bird in question. "At least it'll be easy to remember. I don't suppose you have any ideas how she's supposed to be our guide?"
As if on cue, the bird in question turned its head to look at him with an inquiring coo.
"Maybe we should ask?" the magician suggested. "She does seem to understand that we're talking about her."
Shinichi gave him a look. "Are you serious?"
"Of course. No harm in trying, right?" Reaching over, Kaito offered a finger to Aome who hopped obligingly onto it. With the ease of someone well used to the handling of animals, he lifted her up to eye level and asked conversationally, "Could you see if you can find our translocater for us? You know, the long green stone we had that brought us here?"
Shinichi watched the performance a bit skeptically, but it seemed that Kaito might be right and the bird did understand human speech for it bobbed its head as though in agreement to the magician's request before spreading its wings and disappearing in a white streak through one of the open windows. Both the detective and the magician watched the open window for a while but there was no sign of the bird, returning or otherwise.
"I guess we wait then." Kaito flopped onto the other bed and laughed. "We're in a school for witches and wizards! Can you believe it? This is going to be awesome!"
Shinichi could only shake his head. "You really seem to be enjoying this."
He was answered by an all too familiar smirk. "And I say you should try and do the same. What's the point of world hopping if we can't have a little fun? This is a once in a lifetime chance we've got here! Don't tell me you aren't at least a little curious about what else could be out there."
"I . . .guess it is pretty interesting," Shinichi admitted after a moment's pause. "But you can't say it isn't bizarre."
"Ah, but that's where all the fun comes in."
Shinichi found himself laughing too, though he wasn't sure if it was out of strain or relief. "It's all about the fun with you, isn't it?"
The magician hummed in agreement, producing several balls and beginning to juggle. "What's the point of living if you can't enjoy it? When the shadows creep in it's up to you to light the light. Others can help, but in the end whether you let the shadows win is a choice and no one can make it for you." He paused, turning serious, indigo eyes to meet Shinichi's surprised gaze. "Wouldn't you agree, Detective?" Without waiting for an answer he bounded to his feet and every last one of his juggling balls exploded into a cloud of multicolored confetti. All signs of seriousness vanished with the balls and he grinned, mischief bright in indigo eyes. "Come on Tantei-kun, we're supposed to familiarize ourselves with the facilities. We have an hour before dinner right? So let's go familiarize."
Shinichi had the strong impression that "snoop" would be a better word for whatever they were about to do, but he stood up anyway and helped close the windows before following the magician out the door. Like it or not, they were stuck here for a while, and maybe Kaito had a point. This was a once in a lifetime experience, why waste it? He was a detective anyway so he had every right to be nosy.
By the end of their first dinner Kaito's name was known by every student and teacher in the complex. By the end of their second day he was getting show requests from assorted students. Apparently people who could do real magic were even less prone to looking for the trick than the average human being and Kaito was having the time of his life watching the wizards scratch their heads and try to figure out what kind of spells he was using, especially since they could never find his wand.
The classes themselves were strange but interesting. Or at least they were for the first few days. There was, Kaito thought, only so long listening to people drone about stuff you couldn't do could be interesting. Not, frankly, that he felt any desire to be able to do what they did. There was no fun pointing a stick and just having things happen, that just made things too easy, but it was good to know what these people could and couldn't do. After all, he needed to know that in order to find ways around them or to emulate them on his own terms. Now that was interesting. It would also come in handy if they were still around when practical spell work began.
As time wore on, Kaito found himself observing his fellow students more than the class materials. People-watching had always been a hobby of his and there was certainly no lack of subjects. For instance, he noted with great amusement that Shinichi was actually taking notes on their lessons. The detective was also spending long hours in the library reading what looked to Kaito like every book he could lay his hands on. Why he was doing this the magician wasn't sure, but he suspected it was Shinichi's way of finding some sense of security. He was really quite impressed at how well the detective was dealing with the situation. If he'd thought about it, he'd probably have expected someone so logical to have freaked out by now. He was pretty sure the situation would probably have shut Hakuba down for at least a day or two, but he supposed that just meant there were different types of logical.
Pulling his gaze from the hurriedly scribbling detective, Kaito turned his attention to the rest of their rather small class. Other than Harry, Ron, and Hermione—their original welcoming party—there were four boys and three girls, all of whom occupied rooms located in the same dorm he and Shinichi had been assigned. Apparently each class was encouraged to spend as much time together as possible in order to get to know each other in the hopes that it would improve future performance where they would very likely have to work together. Of the rest of the students, two had turned out to be old school friends of Harry and company and been introduced to the travelers as Dean Thomas, who liked soccer almost as much as Shinichi did, and Nevile Longbottom, who was rather skittish but obviously dedicated. The former had been one of the late arrival group he and Shinichi had 'come in with' due to some kind of urgent family matter. The remaining male students consisted of a lanky, darkly tanned youth named Johan Skitt and his large, silent roommate Ector Lyne. Neither of them struck Kaito as particularly interesting people, though apparently Johan was supposed to be an expert in what they called wizard dueling. He'd done a bit of research on the subject and extracted a promise from Harry and his friends that they would give him a demonstration some time. It was against the rules for dueling to occur without a supervising instructor present and the dueling grounds wouldn't be open to entry level students for another few weeks. The demonstration therefore had to wait, but at the rate things were going the magician felt they probably had all the time in the world. Aome hadn't returned since her impromptu departure via dormitory window and neither he nor Shinichi had seen or heard of anything that might resemble their jewel. Their three hosts had vowed to help them find it—apparently still feeling a bit guilty—but they hadn't made much headway either. Hopefully the thing hadn't landed where they were originally going to set down or they might end up having to search the country. That would be just what they needed. Anyhow, that left the three girls, two of whom where his and Shinichi's neighbors from across the hall. The last was Hermione's roommate Annemarie Bovell, a pretty but painfully shy girl who stuttered if she had to say more than one sentence at a time.
"Mr. Kuroba! Are you paying attention to anything I'm saying?"
Turning back to Professor Rook, Kaito offered the glaring man his best good-student smile. "Of course I am." It wasn't entirely a lie really. This instructor taught about disguise and concealment, subjects the thief found interesting for various reasons, so he'd made a point to keep an ear tuned in to the lecture. Though frankly he doubted there was anything they could teach him.
"Then you won't mind coming up here and demonstrating one of the charms I have been explaining," the man stated with a very pointed look. "As we are not technically supposed to start practical work until next, next week, I will allow you to choose which charm you will attempt."
Harry and company paled as Shinichi shot Kaito a worried look, but the magician just allowed his smile to widen into a grin and bounded up out of his seat and up to stand in front of the class. Spinning on his heel to face the rest of the students, he swept them all a deep bow. There was a puff of blue smoke and when it cleared the students all stared. There were now two Professor Rooks standing at the front of the classroom.
"Well that's . . .certainly impressive," both Rooks admitted reluctantly, stopped, and stared at each other with matching expressions of shocked confusion.
In his seat, Shinichi was torn between groaning and laughing. It just seemed like such a typically KID thing to do and he found himself wondering if the magician pulled this kind of thing when he was in his own school. It had to drive all the teachers nuts.
"Stop that!" the professors snapped. At this point both of them looked like they were about to blow a gasket.
Getting up hurriedly from his seat, Shinichi made his way to the front of the room where both men shot him equally unwelcoming glares.
"Go back to your seat!" they both demanded before shooting each other venomous looks.
"I'm sorry," Shinichi said, bowing to one of the professors before he turned to the other one with a frown. When their eyes met he caught the faintest glimmers of amusement—and was that a wink? Shinichi reached out quickly, pinched the 'professor's' cheek, and pulled. Several people in the class screamed and Nevile fell out of his chair with a loud thud when the face came away—it probably looked rather grizzly to people who couldn't even begin to suspect what was really going on—only to gasp in shock when they were met with Kaito's laughing face. There was another plume of smoke, white this time, and the magician was himself again.
"And that," he announced in mock serious tones, "is what we call a disguise." Chuckling at their stunned stares, he swept them another bow and dragged Shinichi back to their seats, leaving the temporarily speechless Professor Rook frozen by the blackboard.
"You know, I'm surprised Rook didn't give you detention," Shinichi couldn't help but tell the magician later that day after they had retired to their dorm for the night.
He could hear Kaito laugh from the other side of the room. "Me too actually, but hey, why look a gift horse in the mouth right?"
"Maybe he just didn't want to have to spend more time in your presence."
"It wouldn't be the first time," came the cheery reply and Shinichi could practically hear the grin.
"I don't suppose you pull these kinds of stunts at your own school too?"
"It alleviates boredom and helps people relieve stress," Kaito declared.
"Right . . ." the detective replied skeptically, recalling Rook's anger-reddened face. "Does it relieve enough stress to compensate for the stress it causes?"
"That would depend on who you asked. Aoko'd probably say no."
Shinichi blinked up at the dark ceiling, turning the name over in his head. It sounded oddly familiar. "A friend of yours?"
"Yeah. Nakamori Aoko. You might have met her before at one of my heists."
"Nakamori?" Shinichi repeated. "She's not related to Nakamori-keibu is she?"
"His daughter actually," the magician chuckled. "She'll probably kill me if she ever finds out I'm KID."
Shinichi cast a sidelong look towards Kaito at that even though he couldn't see anything in the dark. The magician had made the comment in the same light, cheery manner as everything else, but for a moment he could have sworn he'd detected a hint of resigned bitterness in the words.
"Even if you told her why?" he asked finally, not entirely sure it was his place to say but feeling like he had to say something.
Kaito was silent for a long moment before he spoke. "To some people the world is black and white. Not everyone reacts well to having those lines blurred for them, and for most it would probably be kinder not to. It's hard to believe in white if there are too many shades of gray."
There was another long stretch of silence before Shinichi let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding in a quiet sigh. "Sometimes the only choice we have is between the frying pan and the fire."
Kaito chuckled, the sound half amused half wistful. "Yeah."
It was late on their sixth evening when Aome finally reappeared. Kaito had been feeding his doves and Shinichi had had his nose buried in yet another record of wizard history when a tapping at the window drew their attention away from their respective tasks. Reaching over, Kaito unlocked and opened the window and in came the small, blue-eyed bird. He offered it his hand but instead of landing it fluttered in circles around both travelers' heads, chirping excitedly. Then it darted out the open window and back again to repeat the whole cycle.
"Well, I'd say it's fairly obvious what she wants," Kaito mused, doling out the rest of the crumbs he'd been feeding his doves with and moving over to the window. "Coming, Tantei-kun?"
The two of them climbed out the window and followed Aome's pale form as it flitted through the darkness. Slightly damp grass rustled beneath their feet but otherwise the only sound to be heard in the stillness of the night was the soft chirps and buzz of insects and the occasional hoot of an owl. Almost all the lights in the complex had been turned off or dimmed but the sky was clear and the mixture of star and moonlight was just enough to help light the way. The two travelers followed the bird up to and along the side of the academy's main building for several minutes before Aome banked her wings and landed on a windowsill to peck at the darkened glass.
Gliding silently up to the indicated window, Kaito peered inside. Seeing only an empty corridor, he fiddled around for a moment then opened the window and slipped over the sill. Shinichi let out a quiet sigh before following. Once they were both inside, Aome took off again and led them down the deserted hallway. Oddly enough, the window that they had come through was the last one they saw before they came up to a dead end. Here the bird cooed softly, pecked the wall once, then flew back to land on Shinichi's shoulder. The detective and the magician traded equally confused looks before moving to inspect the wall in question.
It looked for all intents and purposes like a smooth, stone wall. Totally unremarkable. But upon closer inspection the stone it was composed of was of a slightly different shade than the stone of the corridor walls. Otherwise however the wall seemed normal. Leaning against its cool surface, Shinichi pressed his ear against the stone, but he couldn't hear anything. Beside him, Kaito raised a fist and tapped the wall with his knuckles.
"Sounds solid enough," he murmured, stepping back—only to halt abruptly in mid step.
Confused, Shinichi turned around to follow his gaze. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. He was one hundred percent sure that the wall had been blank, but now it just as clearly wasn't. On the wall, written in glowing, silver lines of light, were several lines of text.
To those who need
Step back and see
To those who greed
Turn back for thee
Shall find no fortunes
But those you reap
Ill intentions to ill ends lead
"Ah, so it's some kind of treasure vault," Kaito breathed, a delighted gleam in his eyes. "Am I right in assuming then that our sparkly friend is behind this wall?"
On Shinichi's shoulder, Aome cooed and bobbed her head up and down.
"Well, I have yet to meet a vault I couldn't break into."
"That's hardly something to brag about."
"I beg to differ! A skill is a skill is a skill. You do want the translocater back, don't you?"
"Of course I do," Shinichi sighed, giving the wall a resigned look and absently noting that the silvery message was fading. It had probably been triggered by the wall being knocked on and set to fade if the wall went untouched for a set period of time after it was triggered. "Has it crossed your mind that this vault was made by wizards? It might have to be opened with some kind of spell."
"There is always another way for those who look. We just have to think about it," the thief pointed out, unperturbed. "Besides, the way in may just as easily not need a spell. That little poem for instance looks promising to me."
"True," Shinichi assented, pulling out his notebook automatically to jot the poem down. He grimaced inwardly when he realized that he was discussing how to break into a magical vault with a master thief. On the other hand there weren't really any other choices to be had. Their ticket home might very well be on the other side of that wall, and they weren't going to take anything else.
Kaito must have guessed what he was thinking because he reached over and gave Shinichi a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "If it makes you feel any better, that jewel is practically ours anyway. We'll just be taking it back. It's like retrieving a ball from a neighbor's yard."
They retreated back to the window once Shinichi was done writing and made their way back to their room. As they approached however they were surprised to see lights shining from several windows that had been dark before. Once they were back inside their room they could also hear raised voices coming from the corridor outside their door. Striding quickly across the room, Shinichi looked outside to find several students gathered in the hall. In fact, a quick headcount showed that their entire class—and therefore their entire dormitory—was there. Everyone was ringed around the shaking form of a girl Shinichi recognized as Lilly Lovelace. She was holding her hands awkwardly, her face set into a pained grimace. The detective's trained eyes noticed the sign of fresh burns all over her fingers, palms, and the insides of her wrists.
Hermione was pushing through the spectators as Shinichi and Kaito arrived. She had several long strips of linen in her hands along with her wand and a small jar of cream colored ointment.
"What's going on?" Shinichi asked, turning to the nearest student who happened to be Ron.
"Not sure," the redhead replied with a confused frown. "I was sleeping then there was this scream and everyone came out here. That's when we saw Lilly there."
"It was that letter!" the girl Shinichi recognized as Lilly's roommate exclaimed, her own face pale. "She got a letter. I'm not sure what it said or when it got here but she was holding it when it just caught fire."
"Was it a howler?" Harry asked.
The roommate, Caroline, shook her head. "It didn't say anything—and the envelope wasn't red."
"Do you know who sent it?" Johan inquired, edging past several students to peer into the still open door of the girls' room.
"It wasn't signed. I came back from the bathroom and it was lying on my desk."
Everyone's attention turned to Lilly at the sound of her slightly strained voice. She had recollected herself as Hermione muttered incantations over her blistered hands and was gazing back at them all with a semi-defiant air that made Shinichi's eyebrows rise. It seemed almost like she was facing down a challenge.
"So . . .what did it say?" Harry prompted when the girl didn't say anything more. She cast him an unreadable look before answering.
There was a long moment of silence before Dean spoke up, sounding just as baffled as everyone else in the corridor looked. "Is that it?"
Lilly's eyes narrowed as she focused in on him. "Yes," she snapped. "Were you expecting more?"
"No, no, of course not." He put up his hands as he took an involuntary step back. "I was just asking—I mean, leave? Why would anyone send you a letter if that's all they had to say?"
"I would have thought that would be obvious. Whoever it was doesn't like the fact that I'm here and wants me gone."
"But why would someone want you gone?" Shinichi asked, edging forward a little so that he could get a better look at Lilly's face. For the briefest of moments an expression of pain flashed across the girl's features before her expression hardened and she glared at him.
"I don't know. I suppose they just don't like me."
An obvious lie, he noted, but the set of her shoulders and clench of her jaw indicated that she wasn't about to explain. And here he didn't have any authority to ask.
"We should tell the teachers," Harry said, frowning.
But Lilly shook her head, sending them all a hard look. "No! It's just a stupid letter."
"Yeah, that exploded," Dean muttered. "I agree with Harry. This kind of thing should be reported."
"Well it was my letter and I say no. It's just a prank. There's no point making a big fuss over it." The finality of her tone brooked no argument and she turned to Hermione with a short bow. "Thank you for treating the burns."
"Oh, um, you're welcome. This is my first time dealing with that particular healing charm though so if they start hurting again you should go see the nurse."
"I will. Thank you again." Without another word, she turned on her heels and marched back into her room. Her roommate glanced at the rest of the students with a helpless shrug then followed her in. Their door shut with an audible click.
"That was . . .interesting," Johan remarked into the ensuing silence. "I guess I'll be headed back to bed too then. Night."
All eyes turned in surprise at the quiet voice to find Annemarie. She turned red and shuffled a bit where she stood. "I—I just thought we should . . .you know, try to—to figure out who sent it. I mean—it didn't arrive by owl, right? So—so it might be, you know, someone here . . ."
"No one here would do that," Ector spoke up for the first time that night, a frown making its way onto his broad, naturally placid face. "We have no reason to wish any ill upon a fellow student. We are all here for the same goal. We will be comrades in the future. Such tactics would be beneath any decent man or woman who seeks as we do to become the seekers of justice."
The others all stared at him for a moment, many visibly working out what exactly he had said, before Johan cleared his throat and agreed. "He's right, so let's just go back to sleep. We've still got classes in the morning, remember?" That said, he cast one last look around at the others before disappearing into his room. His roommate followed suit.
"Maybe we should talk more about this tomorrow," Hermione suggested to the remaining students. Murmurs of agreement skittered around the hall and the students retreated to their respective dorms.
It wasn't until Shinichi saw Kaito idly shuffling a deck of cards in their room that he suddenly realizing that he hadn't seen the other traveler since they'd arrived on the scene of the aftermath of Lilly's anonymous, combusting letter.
"Where were you?" he asked.
The magician shrugged but he had that anything-but-innocent grin on his face. "I just went to have a look-see in Miss Lovelace's room."
Shinichi glared. "You snuck into her room?"
The magician dismissed the accusation with a careless wave. "While you were all talking. You can stop looking at me like that. I only went because I thought you'd want to know what was there. All considered you can't go snooping around yourself."
"I don't snoop," the detective said a bit defensively. "It's my job to investigate things. It's different."
Kaito shot him an amused look. "Call it what you like, it's still snooping."
Deciding it was pointless to try and argue the point, Shinichi moved back to his bed and the book he'd abandoned on it upon Aome's return. "So what did you find?"
Kaito shot him a knowing smirk which he diligently ignored before answering. "Well, there were ashes all over the floor. Looked like she tried to run out of her room when the thing caught fire. They left the window open too though there's this huge, thorny bush thing outside. Never seen the breed before."
"I don't suppose the envelope was still there?"
"Not a trace."
Shinichi sighed, flopping onto his back and staring at the plain, white ceiling. "I guess for all I could tell someone magicked it in there. It could've been anyone."
Kaito hid a smile at how disgruntled the detective sounded. "Actually, there are apparently a lot of spells on this place to stop people from, ah, magicking themselves into other people's private spaces. The details are in that guide book they gave out when we first got here."
Shinichi blinked, processing the information, then sat up abruptly and pulled open his desk drawer in search of the guide in question. He emerged with it and a triumphant grin a few seconds later and returned to the bed to read. Kaito watched him for a moment then snapped his fingers. Instantly the lights went out.
"Hey!" Shinichi squawked in surprise. "I'm trying to read something here!"
"And if we don't sleep now we'll probably miss breakfast. You can read it tomorrow."
Despite the fact that several of the students professed the belief that the combusting letter had been an ill considered but once-in-a-lifetime prank, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were often to be found working on a timetable of people's locations with occasional imput from the other students. Shinichi noted with approval that they'd done a pretty thorough job. According to their chart, there was only a fifteen minute slot of time during which Lilly had been in the bathroom that the letter could have been placed on her desk. During that time, Dean and Nevile had been engaged in a game of wizard chess—an alibi confirmed, to Shinichi's great befuddlement, by the game pieces themselves (it was frankly kind of creepy. Moving paintings? Fine, they were like interactive television screens, but little wooden game pieces that moved and talked and gave their players bad advice . . .). Other than those two however most everyone had had a chance to be the person behind the so-called prank. Well, there was Shinichi himself and Kaito who couldn't be at fault due to their inability to do wizard magic, but other than that . . . Annemarie had been on her way back from the library. Both Hermione and Ector had been alone in their rooms studying. Johan had been out jogging. And Harry, Ron, and Caroline had all been asleep.
"Which means Caroline's the one with the most opportunity," Harry concluded. "Since someone else would have to make sure she didn't wake up and catch them at it."
"Though if it was someone else he or she probably levitated the letter in through the window," Hermione mused, tapping thoughtfully on the timetable. "Well, at least we don't have to wonder if it was someone from a different dorm. Their window looks into our dorm's personal yard and this complex has a lot of anti-broom spells on it."
"What I don't get is why someone would send a letter like that," Ron said. "I mean, you can't possibly not realize something like that could really hurt someone."
"Says the person whose brothers made candy that causes tongues to swell to unnatural sizes."
At that point the investigation had come up to a dead end. Although, Kaito noted, if the number of family record books Shinichi was bringing back from the library these days was any indication the dead end was actually still twitching.
It was Friday of the week after the combusting letter incident that they discovered for sure that said letter hadn't been a freak prank.
They had been assigned individual projects focused on assorted part-humans. The beaky instructor for the Magical Society class had had them draw lots to see who would be doing their project and presentation on what species. For once, Kaito's luck had turned on him and he'd drawn the merfolk card. He'd spent the rest of that day trailing after Shinichi and employing every trick he could think of to try and get the detective to trade topics with him.
"Honestly, I thought you'd like studying mermaids," Shinichi had snapped at him finally.
Kaito had shuddered violently at the very thought. "Perish the notion!"
Propping his chin up on one hand, Shinichi eyed the magician seated across the library table from him with a frown. "What's your problem anyway? Or are you really that interested in harpies?"
"Not particularly no," Kaito replied before pausing and looking away. "I just—don't like fish very much."
Shinichi waited but apparently he wasn't going to be getting any more of an explanation than that. Heaving a longsuffering sigh, he pushed the books he'd been reading across the table to the startled magician. "Fine, you can do harpies and I'll look up the merpeople. Happy now?"
Kaito's face split into an impossibly wide grin and he vaulted right over the table—stacks of books and all—to give Shinichi a bone-crushing hug, eliciting an undignified squawk of protest which he ignored.
"Thank you!" he crowed, letting go of the winded detective and sweeping up the research material he'd just been handed. "Oh and by the way, I think I might know how to get our gem back."
Shinichi jerked bolt upright in his chair. "What? You do? How?"
"It's a secret! We'll just have to find time to try it."
The detective groaned. "Why can't you just tell me?"
"Now where would the fun be in that?"
Shinichi opened his mouth to comment but the distant but unmistakable sound of a scream brought both their heads around. Kaito dropped the books back on the table as Shinichi leapt to his feet, knocking over his chair in his haste and sending it clattering loudly across the hardwood floor.
The source of the scream was standing in the courtyard right outside the library with her back pressed flat against the library wall and her face the color of paper. One of her hands was clenched in front of her throat as the other clutched at her robes. She didn't appear to be injured. Following her terrified gaze, they saw that her book bag had been dropped a few yards away, its contents strewn across the ground as though said bag had been thrown aside while wide open. And there, lying in gleaming coils by the mouth of the bag, was a snake. Judging from the pattern and the shape of the head it was probably a common adder, Shinichi noted, most likely female from its brownish coloring. They were venomous, but their bites usually weren't fatal. But adders were timid snakes. What was one doing here in the middle of a human establishment?
"Are you all right?" Kaito asked, approaching the frozen girl with cautious steps. "Did you get bitten?"
Lilly's eyes flickered to the two travelers then back to the snake like a moth being drawn to a flame. But the color was gradually returning to her face and her hands relaxed to fall limply to her sides. "N—no, it just—it was in my bag and I.." She swallowed, making a visible effort to recollect her thoughts. "It—startled me."
"In your bag?" Shinichi repeated, shocked and slightly disturbed. Unlikely to be fatal or not, adder bites were painful and poison was still poison.
The girl nodded. "I—I was just checking to make sure I remembered to bring the book I was returning and I felt it in there moving and . . ." She trialed off, her entire body shuddering in obvious revulsion.
It was at that moment that Harry, Hermione, and Ron came charging around the corner of the library. They skidded to a halt at the scene before them before turning confused eyes to Lilly and the travelers. Kaito waved them over and the three summarized what had happened.
"That's awful," Hermione exclaimed in outrage. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Lilly nodded, looking down at her feet, her mouth pressed into a thin line. The others traded looks.
"Someone must have put it there," Shinichi said a bit hesitantly, watching the others faces. Their lack of surprise confirmed that they had come to the same conclusion.
"Give me a moment," Harry said before walking towards the snake. Confused, Shinichi watched as the dark haired wizard knelt down in front of the snake—which, oddly enough, neither ran away nor moved to attack him—and began to make hissing sounds. When he stopped, the snake hissed back. This went on for several minutes as Shinichi stared. It looked . . .like two people having a conversation.
"Are they talking?" Kaito asked from somewhere behind him, sounding more interested than surprised.
"Yeah," Ron replied offhandedly. "Harry speaks parseltongue."
"I assume that means snake-ese?"
Harry straightened from his conversation and the adder slithered away with an almost purposeful air. The wizard watched it go for a moment before turning to rejoin the group around Lilly.
"She said someone caught her on the edge of the woods across the lake yesterday afternoon," he announced. "I think she was stunned. She didn't come to until she was already inside the bag."
"Does she know anything about the person who caught her?" Hermione asked.
"I asked but she didn't remember anything other than being stunned. Oh, and she said she wasn't in the bag for very long."
"I think we should talk to people about this," the brunette said decisively, glancing around for the others' agreement. "I mean, this kind of thing isn't funny."
Shinichi doubted it was meant to be funny, but he kept the thought to himself for the time being. It wasn't impossible that someone just had an extremely skewed and stunted sense of humor. Still . . .
The five of them helped Lilly recollect her scattered belongings. The girl in question accepted the aid with a grim face. She was going back over her belongings to make sure everything was present and accounted for when she paused. Her face closed off like a window being slammed as she stared at the piece of parchment in her hands.
"What's that?" Ron, who had been standing closest to her, reached for the paper. She started at the sound of his voice and made to shove the paper back in her bag but the redhead had already taken it. He froze, his eyes going wide as the paper slipped from numb fingers.
Kaito caught it before it touched the ground and turned it over. "A skull and a snake? I assume this means something?"
"It—it's the Dark Mark," the redhead stammered, still staring at the paper like it was going to sprout fangs and bite someone.
Harry's face darkened and he snatched the paper from the magician before turning and marching in the direction of their dorm. "Come on, we're going to get to the bottom of this."
The atmosphere in their dormitory common room was distinctly uncomfortable. All the residents of their dorm sat scattered around the room, their eyes mostly trained on the paper lying accusingly on the table in the room's center. The bold, black image of a skull with a serpent for a tongue glared up at them all, its grinning visage seeming to laugh without sound at their discomfort. The chairs nearest to the drawing were empty.
Leaning slightly over the back of one of the room's long, plush couches, Kaito observed the play of tension with a critical eye. According to Shinichi and the mountain of reading he'd apparently not only looked through but absorbed, the Dark Mark was the emblem used by a group of wizard-world criminals created by a particularly skilled and unsavory character who had only recently been dealt with at the very school Harry and his friends had attended. Said wizard and friends had all been listed as key players in the conflict and their faces were certainly grim enough now. Those were the eyes of people who had faced real danger and come out the other side alive if not unscathed.
A corner of the magician's ever active mind wondered if his own eyes ever looked like that. He had certainly caught brief glimpses of the look in Shinichi's face before. It was there now hidden beneath the contemplative gleam in his eyes.
"D—does that m—mean someone here is a . . .a . . ." Annemarie paused, swallowing hard before the last words escaped her throat in a rasping whisper. "A Death Eater?"
"All the Death Eaters were caught or killed when we defeated Voldemort," Harry said firmly, making several people in the room flinch. Green eyes glared through the lenses of his glasses. "Whoever did this has a sick sense of humor."
"But what if it's more than that?" Johan demanded, leaning forward in his seat. "What if there's someone here who really is related to the Death Eaters?"
"That is impossible," Ector argued. "Every student admitted to this facility had to undergo thorough background and character tests. They would not have admitted someone who would be a danger to the rest of us."
"But what if they didn't know? Or were tricked?" his roommate countered. "Maybe the person fooled them somehow."
"But even if that was true why would they keep threatening Lilly?" Caroline demanded, eyes flashing. "If there was a Death Eater sympathizer here I would have thought they'd target Potter."
Everyone looked at Harry who shifted a bit uneasily under their scrutiny.
Hermione frowned, her gaze growing distant. "Then it's either a bad joke, or . . .maybe it's some kind of message . . ."
"Don't you mean threat?" Dean asked dryly. "Come on, it's obviously someone trying to scare Lilly here for whatever dumb reason. We should just go tell the teachers and let them deal with it. I mean, finding out these kinds of things is what being an auror's all about, isn't it?"
"Hey you know," Ron said suddenly. "What if it's some kind of test? After all Dean's right, this is the kind of thing aurors do."
"I don't know . . .I don't think the teachers would go so far as to use the Dark Mark if it was just a test," Caroline countered. "It seems too, well, too much of a loaded topic, especially considering present company."
"But if it is a test," Ron persisted. "Then it's something we're supposed to solve."
"I doubt it's a test," Lilly's flat voice cut through the debate and all eyes turned to her. Her face was void of emotions, but Kaito's experienced eye could detect the frustration seething beneath the surface. She had obviously had enough, though what exactly she'd had enough of was up for debate. "And it's not from a Death Eater sympathizer. It's a threat aimed at me because my father was a Death Eater."
"What?" Nevile gasped in horror as Annemarie's hands flew up to cover her mouth. Harry and Hermione both sat stunned and Ron's jaw forcibly dislocated itself. Similar reactions ran around the room. There was a beat of utter silence, then Lilly stood up abruptly, turned on her heels, and marched out of the room. The doors leading back outside slammed behind her with a final sounding bang.
Shinichi let out a sigh of relief as the dormitory door shut behind them. He had been in his fair share of tense situations through the eighteen odd years of his life but that didn't make them any more enjoyable.
"You know who's sending the threats don't you? And I'll hazard a guess that you also knew why."
Shinichi made a noncommittal noise in response as he looked around to find Kaito watching him from over by the windows.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
There was a long moment of silence before the detective finally answered. "They need to be able to do this on their own. It's better to take your chances and make mistakes with the little mysteries before you have to move on and deal with the big ones."
There was another long pause. "Why do you ask?"
"So, what do you say we go look at the nice vault?" the magician suggested, the famous KID smirk surfacing in the blink of an eye. "It's dark, everyone's preoccupied . . ."
Personally Shinichi would rather have gone to bed, but he found himself following the thief and Aome out the window again. This felt disturbingly like being the magician's accomplice, and he rather thought from the laughter in said magician's eyes when he glanced back at him that he wasn't the only one the thought had occurred to. For once though, Kaito refrained from making a comment.
"So what did you have in mind?" Shinichi asked as they arrived back in front of the smooth, stone wall.
"Well, while you've been eating away indiscriminately at the library I did a little research of my own about, ah, protective spells."
"Of course you did. And?"
"And you'd be surprised how often the keys are laid out right there for you," Kaito non-answered, grabbing Shinichi by the shoulders and spinning him around so that he was facing away from the vault wall. More than a little confused, the detective waited for his companion to explain himself. He should have known better. Instead Kaito positioned himself to Shinichi's right and began walking backwards. "Don't look back," he advised as he went.
Shinichi hesitated a moment before doing as instructed. If one of them was going to run into the wall it was going to be Kaito anyway since he'd set off first. It was about thirty steps later that Shinichi realized they'd walked a lot farther than the length of the corridor should have allowed and it seemed to him that the empty hall in front of him was getting hazier with every step. It was almost like the entire place was gradually filling up with fog, only the air was dry as a bone and fog didn't glow like that.
He halted mid step, staring into the haze of warm, golden light. Where was it coming from?
"Keep walking," Kaito's voice said from somewhere behind him. He complied automatically, never taking his eyes off of the fog. Again it grew thicker. Soon he couldn't see the hall at all. All that remained was a blaze of golden light that, while not exactly blinding, couldn't be penetrated by the naked eye. He was so caught up in the strange sight that he backed right into the magician who laughed and caught his arm to steady him.
"I think this is far enough," he announced. "Oh, and don't forget to keep looking forward."
"What is it?" Shinichi asked, reaching out as though to touch the strangely solid light. He half expected his hand to fade like it would if he'd stuck it out while in a heavy fog, but his hand remained clear.
Kaito chuckled, answering with a single, simple word. "Magic."
"But we must have walked through the wall . . ." And he knew he couldn't do that. Heck, even KID couldn't do that.
"We were just following directions Tantei-kun. Remember that poem? It wasn't a riddle, it was a set of instructions."
"So . . .what do we do now?"
"Hmm, I was kind of expecting—ah ha! And here we go."
Shinichi blinked, resisting the impulse to turn around and ask what the magician was talking about. Instead he counted to ten and waited. Then he blinked. Were those . . .letters? They were whiter than the gold not-fog and looked more . . .solid, almost as though they could be plucked out of the thin air they rested upon. Yet at the same time they seemed to be far away like images being viewed through the bottom of a glass of water.
"What do you seek?" he read aloud. As though in response the words flashed brighter.
"The Angel's Passing Grace," Kaito said in a loud, clear voice. Shinichi wondered briefly what the heck he was talking about before a memory from what felt like eons ago resurfaced in his mind. That had been the name of the jewel that had started this whole mess. He'd almost forgotten it in all the ruckus. It had become The Gem in his mind lately, complete with capital letters.
More letters materialized in the golden haze, spelling out the magician's words like an answer being written on a test.
"And now we wait," Kaito murmured. "I believe it is supposed to judge if we really deserve what we seek or not."
"And if we don't?"
"Oh, we'll probably be stuck here until someone comes and lets us out."
Then the letters shattered so suddenly that Shinichi flinched. The sparks of brilliant, white light surged forward, swirling around the travelers in a hurricane wind only they could feel before the entire world went white. Then they were back in the hallway and staring at the blank, vault wall, though Shinichi knew for a fact that he hadn't turned around.
"I . . .guess it didn't like your answer," he said finally, still feeling more than a little dazed but infinitely glad that Kaito's prediction about being trapped had been wrong. Had that really happened?
"Guess again," his companion sang out, appearing apparently out of nowhere and holding up a long, emerald shape. "Not the most challenging venture ever, but it sure was an awesome light show, ne Tantei-kun? . . .Tantei-kun?"
Shinichi blinked slowly at the gem, then shook his head and turned away. "I think I'm going to go to bed now."
Kaito watched him wander back towards their entry window for a moment before shrugging. With a flick of the wrist the gem disappeared and he followed the detective back out into the night. Although he wasn't particularly tired himself. Maybe he'd make a small detour.
Lilly cracked open the door to her dorm room and slipped inside. Through the darkness she could barely make out the shape of her roommate fast asleep across the room. Letting out a quiet sigh, she shut the door as quietly as she could and made her way over to her own bed.
Something caught her eye as she made to sit down and she paused, frowning. Leaning closer to her desk, she reached out and prodded the new additions on its surface.
It was a flower. Picking it up curiously, she turned it over and spotted a small, white card. Bringing it right up to her nose, she read the elegantly printed script aloud to herself in a whisper.
She snorted, dropping the blossom back onto the desk and climbing into bed. The sentiment was nice and all, but it wasn't luck she needed—or wanted. Not that it mattered. If only . . .
Harry grimaced as he found himself rereading the same paragraph about centaur coat colors for the fifth time and still not understanding it. And that was just sad in so many ways. The problem was that he just couldn't seem to focus. All he could think about was the argument they'd all had the previous evening and the whole situation with Lilly. Admittedly he was just as surprised as the others at the discovery that she was, well, of what her father had been, but that didn't justify the threats. The thing was, who was sending them?
Whoever it was, he really wanted to give them a piece of his mind.
And there went the sixth reading. Ugh.
Tearing his eyes away from the simple yet nonsensical words, Harry glanced around the common room. The only other person there at the moment was Shinichi who was reading some kind of history on the conflicts between the wizarding and muggle worlds. He was almost as bad as Hermione when it came to books. Why he was putting so much effort into classes he didn't have to take, Harry wasn't sure. He certainly wouldn't have. On the other hand, the blue-eyed traveler did seem to know a lot.
Speaking of the travelers, he noticed that neither of them had been particularly surprised by Lilly's revelation the other day. Of course, they might not have known what Death Eaters were, and even if they did it wouldn't have the same significance to them that it did to the wizards. Still, with all the reading Shinichi had been doing it was unlikely he hadn't run across the term.
Harry frowned slightly. Come to think of it, the travelers hadn't been the only ones not surprised by the revelation. Oh everyone had looked shocked, but Harry had the odd feeling that some of them had been more surprised by the admission than the fact. Of course, at least one of them must have known to be sending the threats to begin with. But who would? That wasn't the kind of information people spread around about themselves.
A memory from a few days ago drifted across his mind. Ron had been explaining more about the Ministry of Magic to Shinichi and had mentioned on a side note that his father worked for one of the departments. Shinichi had asked if it was common for auror students to be from families already working for the Ministry . . . That was it! The Ministry would have records of the Death Eaters and their families. The information had been deemed too sensitive for the media, but someone with Ministry connections might be able to get a look at it. Other than Ron, Harry recalled, Ector, Johan, and Caroline all had Ministry relatives. But if he remembered correctly Ector's mother worked in the games and sports branch.
Harry's thoughts began to race as he tried to remember everything he'd learned about his classmates in the time since he'd arrived at the academy.
The traveler looked up from his book and turned to Harry with a questioning look. "What is it?"
"Could you go find Lilly for me? Tell her to come to the common room?"
Blue eyes studied him for a moment before Shinichi nodded and stood up. "She said she was going to the library, right?"
He found Lilly Lovelace rather unexpectedly when he took a detour through one of the academy's small, inner courtyards on his way to the library. She was sitting on one of the courtyard's three benches, her bookbag by her feet and her head bowed. It wasn't until he'd called out and she jerked her head up to stare at him that he noticed the redness of her eyes.
It was incredibly awkward realizing that he'd unwittingly barged in on her when she'd obviously been crying, but now that he knew she'd been crying he couldn't well just walk away either. So he stepped forward instead.
"Miss Lovelace? Are you all right?" Which of course was one of those inane questions people asked when they weren't sure what else to say but it was better than saying nothing. Socializing had never been his forte but he knew that much.
The girl gave him a look then shrugged. "Fine, I guess."
Shinichi hesitated another moment then sat himself down on the other end of the bench. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"What is there to talk about?" she shot back, voice bitter. "It's not as though there's anyone who doesn't know what's going on."
"What are you going to do?"
She didn't answer for a long moment. When she did speak her tone was weary. "I guess I'll go home."
"Is that really what you want?"
"Of course not!" she snapped, rounding on him with a glower. "I worked hard to get here!"
He cringed at the outburst but forged onward. "Okay, then why are you thinking about leaving?"
"They obviously don't want me here, duh."
"Someone doesn't want you here," Shinichi corrected. "But there are people who do too. A lot of people are doing their best to help you."
"They're not really trying," she snapped, but her voice had lost most of its bite. "And you saw their faces when they found out. And anyways, it's not like it's going to do any good."
"You'll never know if you leave now though right?"
She snorted. "I suppose not. What are you doing here anyway?"
"Oh, Harry asked me to look for you," Shinichi replied, having almost forgotten it himself. "I think he has something he wants to tell you. He's over at the common room."
"I guess I might as well go then." Standing up, Lilly straightened out her clothes before casting Shinichi a last glance over her shoulder. "Uh, I . . .thanks." That said, she turned and left with quick, sure steps.
Shinichi blinked after her, slightly taken aback. He couldn't recall doing anything that would warrant a thank you. Well, at least she didn't seem to be as upset anymore. Getting to his feet, he continued on his way to the library. He still needed to find a Mermish dictionary. Then he'd head back and see how it went.
He never noticed the shadow hidden in the branches of one of the trees overlooking the courtyard. Said shadow watched him go with a thoughtful gleam in bright, indigo eyes.
Harry knocked on the door, feeling a bit nervous. When it opened to reveal Ector's amiable face he wasn't sure if he was relieved at the delay or irritated by it.
"Is Johan here?" he asked.
"Can I speak with him for a moment?"
Ector disappeared and there was the mutter of voices before the lanky wizard in question greeted Harry.
"Can I help you with something?"
"There's something I wanted to ask you about," Harry explained. "Would you mind if we talked in the common room?"
The two wizards retreated back down the corridor and out into the thankfully still empty room. Once there, Harry turned to face the other who was giving him a slightly confused look.
"Are you the one who sent that letter to Lilly and put the snake in her bag?"
Johan started, taking a step back before his expression turned to a scowl. "Why would you even ask me that?"
"Because your grandparents both work in law-enforcement branches of the Ministry. And I remember you spending a lot of time by the window in class last Thursday afternoon."
"Ch. What does that have to do with anything?"
"That window overlooks the lake. It would have been hard to spot a snake on the other bank but not impossible, and from what we've all heard about your dueling skills hitting it with a stunner from the classroom shouldn't have been a problem for you. You were also the one to immediately suggest that the threats had something to do with someone 'related' to a Death Eater."
Johan's tanned visage stilled as he stared hard at Harry. The former Hogwarts student wasn't sure what he was expecting the other to do (maybe demand more reasons), but he certainly didn't expect the shrug.
"So what's your point?"
Taken aback, Harry fumbled for a moment with what to say. "I—well, I wanted to let you know that if you don't stop harassing Lilly I'll take this to the instructors."
Johan's eyes narrowed in sudden outrage. "You're threatening me? Don't you realize that I'm just trying to do us all a favor?"
"A favor?" Harry repeated incredulouskly. "How is trying to drive someone away a favor to anyone?"
"So you want that kind of person here? She's related to a Death Eater! The Death Eaters killed my parents!" he spat, eyes blazing. "You more than anyone should know how that feels! Their kind of people can't be allowed to be aurors! It doesn't make any sense."
"You're right, I know how that feels," Harry cut in before the other boy could say anymore. He was having trouble keeping his own voice calm. "But the Death Eaters are gone."
"That was her father, not her." And he knew what it was like to be accused of things he hadn't done too. It was a terrible feeling. No one deserved that.
"But why do you think a Death Eater's daughter would even want to be an auror?" Johan challenged. "The damage a person like that could cause—"
"I'm here precisely because my father was a Death Eater."
Both boys started at the new voice and they turned to see Lilly standing in the doorway, her face set. Stalking forward, she came to a stop directly in front of Johan and stared determinedly up into his face.
"Do you think I'm proud of what he was? What he did?" she continued, each word edged with steel. "I used to look up to him when I was little. Do you know how it feels to find out that someone you admired turned out to be a—a heartless killer? And to know that for the rest of your life people are going to jump at every little twitch you make just because you were related to someone like that?"
Johan took an involuntary step back, shock clear in his face. "I—that doesn't—I mean—"
"Just shut up and listen here. You want to know why I'm here? Well, I'm here because I don't want to be like that. Because I want to be able to do something good with myself. And if you have a problem with that, then you really need to get some help, but I'm not going anywhere just because some idiot thinks blood determines what a person will be." She stopped, panting hard but still glaring at the visibly shaken boy.
Johan's gaze dropped after a moment, unable to hold her gaze. "I—I'm sorry."
That seemed to give the girl a moment's pause. "What?"
He scowled at the ground then squared his shoulders and dragged his eyes back up to meet hers. "I said I'm sorry. It was . . .wrong of me . . .to make assumptions . . ."
"Oh . . . Well, that's all right then, I guess."
Harry, who had ducked into the corridor leading to the dorm rooms when Lilly had started shouting, let out a sigh of relief.
"That went well."
He jumped, spinning around to find Shinichi—and everyone else currently living in their dormitory—all piled up in the hall behind him.
"When did you all get here?" he spluttered in a loud whisper.
Kaito flashed him a smirk and a victory sign. "We were here the whole time."
"So this is that translocating gem you two were telling us about?" Harry turned the stone in question over in his hands. It looked perfectly ordinary, but then again that had never stopped something from being magical before. Still . . . "It's kind of hard to believe something so small can actually allow people to cross between worlds."
Kaito shrugged. "Nevertheless, it does. Great things can come in small packages." For some reason he seemed to find his own statement amusing as he laughed and shot Shinichi a sidelong look which caused the other boy to scowl at him. "Now, if you're done gawking, I think we'll be on our way."
"Wait, take this with you," Hermione said quickly, holding out a small, black box with two lids, one on either end. "I was thinking that, since you said you didn't know how long you'd be traveling and can't seem to take anything with you that you aren't carrying, that this might do you some good. Especially since you might not always land somewhere civilized. It's a sort of storage box, but it's a lot bigger on the inside. The compartment on the left is refrigerated and the compartment on the right isn't. We also packed some food and things in there we thought you might need."
Kaito grinned, sweeping the girl a deep bow. "You, Miss Granger, are truly amazing."
Hermione reddened with pleased embarrassment. "I just hope it turns out to be useful."
"Do you know how you're going to cover for us leaving?" Shinichi asked, a bit worried. He didn't want to cause some sort of panic, but they had already put off leaving a little too long, having opted to wait for the next full moon. Staying longer would mean risking having their non-wizarding status discovered and he was not going to let anyone wipe their memories.
"Don't worry about it," Harry reassured them. "We've got it covered."
"Yeah, we used to have to do this kind of thing all the time," Ron added cheerfully.
"And the others will help."
"The others?" Kaito repeated, sounding genuinely surprised. "You told them about us?"
The wizards traded sheepish looks but Harry nodded. "We thought it'd make things easier."
"They wish you luck too," Hermione said. "In fact, some of the things we packed were their idea."
Shinichi smiled, feeling a sudden pang he didn't really want to think too hard about. "Can you thank them for us?"
"Will do," Ron agreed.
"Oh, and tell Johan we appreciated the duel demo," Kaito added, flashing them a grin. "It was very educational."
Something about the way he said it made Shinichi want to edge away. Instead, he walked to the window and pulled the curtains open. They were back in the room in which they had first arrived and the moonlight spilled in over the bare, wood floors, revealing the faint traces of chalk marks not yet entirely erased. In the middle of the room, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all watched in wonder as the stone in Kaito's hand morphed into a flat, circular thing with shapes etched into its surface. One of said shapes was a triangle that exceeded the boundaries of the circle to give it a few odd spikes.
"So that tells you where you're going?" Hermione asked.
The magician glanced down, turning the almost pendant-like stone over in his hands. "Technically speaking. Though I can't say this looks particularly familiar."
"All we know is it should somehow represent our next destination," Shinichi said, returning to Kaito's side and peering at the gem. "I guess we'll know soon."
Next: The Alchemist [Fullmetal Alchemist]
A.N: The next one might time a while to write because I need to review FMA to do it right, but I'm hopeful it'll turn out better than this one did. In the mean time, I do have an AU set loosely in Naruto that's almost done though so if anyone's interested just keep an eye out. Questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome. Happy New Year's!