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Harry Potter Had it Easy

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Mission:  Infiltration of Hogwarts

Purpose:  Locate and acquire Innocence
Location:  Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Active agents:  Yuu Kanda, Allen Walker
Supporting agents:  Headmistress Minerva McGonagall

xXx

A pale green light shown in the darkness of the closet, pale eyes narrowed on cupped hands. A thin trail of sweat slid down a pale cheek, dripped from the chin. Stained the robes.

Just a little more...

Footsteps. The light went out, and the footsteps passed.

Too risky. It was time to return to bed.

xXx

It was late Summer, Fall on the horizon and just barely starting to tint the colors of the trees, when a pair arrived in front of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. One was very pale in coloring, the other dark. One smiling faintly, the other looking like he could be doing anything at all in the world other than this, and he'd be happy.

"It's not so bad," the slightly shorter male murmured as they stopped before the gates. "Right?"

The black-haired male scowled and clamped a hand down on the pommel of his katana as yet another small child jostled him. "Moyashi, the only thing that is 'not so bad' is that we didn't have to share a compartment with these brats."

Several of the brats looked over at that, expressions ranging from hurt to offense.

The lighter male's brow twitched. "Don't call me that," he grumbled, aware of the curious stares. "Didn't I tell you to hide that? She said they might try to take it away... hurry before an adult sees, Kanda."

"A moyashi is what you are. And why the fuck should I hide it? They are waving their wands out for all to see." Still, Kanda closed his coat over the long sheath and glared at the gawkers.

Allen heaved a sigh, making a mental note to get revenge later. When there wasn't at least half the student body watching them curiously. Mostly Kanda. He was... well, he kind of stood out. Even if he'd at least made an attempt to blend in by wearing the weirdo robes. Actually, Allen probably stood out a bit too, but it wasn't his fault...

He cleared his throat and opened his mouth to say something else to Kanda, but a loud, booming voice spoke up before he could, not more than ten feet away. "Firs' years! Firs' years over 'ere! C'mon now! Firs' years! Ah, transfers too!"

Trans- oh right, us. "That's us-" He frowned when he realized that Kanda was already walking away from him, and hurried after him.

"School," the Japanese boy was muttering. They have us enrolled in a fucking school. Like we have nothing else to do but sit in a classroom filled with students. He stalked up to the group gathered around a huge bear of a man and snarled at the brats who dared look back and up at him. Kanda very quickly acquired personal space as the new years shifted two feet away from the aggravated young man.

Allen scowled at the other's back as the big man continued calling for first years obliviously through the dark. He waved a lantern above the heads of all like a beacon, yelling loud enough to make some of the people Allen knew extremely jealous.

Finally, however, the man decided that everyone had gathered that was going to and beamed down at them all. "Hullo! Well, jus' follow me t' the boats, then! This way!" he rumbled, and lead them off.

The surge of children towards the boats could be acredited to excitement, but Kanda could taste the tang of nervousness and fear. Too bad the beansprout wasn't going ahead with the sensible ones.

He levelled a glare at the other exorcist. "Get." Someone had to take the guard position and he didn't like anyone at his back.

Allen rolled his eyes. "You're so paranoid," he muttered, but walked ahead anyway. He peered around as they approached a line of boats on the edge of a lake.

"No more'n four to a boat!" the big man ahead was calling back to the students.

Allen frowned faintly when he barely cast a glance back. Don't they pay attention at all? "Hey, Kanda..."

"What?" grunted the other, black eyes scrutinizing the boats, the shore, the road behind them.

"I just..." Allen stopped to reach out and catch a younger boy as he tripped over a root in the dark. The boy mumbled a quick thanks and stumbled ahead to his friends once more, casting Allen an unreadable look. The pale youth sighed. "Nevermind, it's not important, I guess."

They climbed into the boats, though with Allen and Kanda, there was just one other child since the two of them were so much bigger than the others. And after a couple of minutes, it became very obvious that the little boy was staring at Kanda. Trying, and failing, to be subtle about it.

Their boat wasn't even halfway across the black waters before Kanda, fed up of staring at the dark shore, whipped his head around and snarled at the brat, "What?"

The little ginger boy was completely not intimidated. If anything, he seemed to fall more fully into the grips of spell-bound awe. "Is that a sword?" he whispered, eyes wide. "My uncle has a sword, but yours is cooler! It looks like one of those swords in the museum!"

Kanda barely felt the muscle under his left eye twitch. "No," he said."It's a fu-Ooof!" A sharp elbow dug into his side. The boat rocked wildly as Kanda swung an arm out in retaliation only to sweep through cool air. "What the hell was that for Moyashi?"

Allen straightened from his duck, trying very hard - and mostly successfully - not to laugh. "Watch your language. If you keep up like that, you'll get detention." He gave his partner an evil grin.

The Japanese male growled. "My manners are just fine. But I bet yours would improve after a washing." One hand was already gripping the gunwale while the other was readying to grab the smug white-haired annoyance.

Grin vanishing, the 'white-haired annoyance' in question scowled instead. "What was that, you girly-faced bastard?!" he snarled back.

The child was looking back and forth between the two of them with wide eyes, alternated with eying the sword oddly.

"'Girly'?" That was it! Kanda planted one foot in the middle of the boat and kicked out with the other. "DIE WALKER!"

xXx

"In all my years as a teacher at this school, I have never seen such a shameful display from two young men!" the woman before them seethed. "And to think that you not only endangered your lives, you also put the life of another student in peril!"

They may or may not have heard a small voice pipe up that they didn't mind, but McGonagall was still talking so it was impossible to determine.

"I have half a mind to lock the both of you up with cleaning the main hall every day for the next month!" Allen winced and shot Kanda a veiled glare. "What do you have to say for yourselves, Mister Walker and Mister Kanda?"

Kanda's scowl didn't budge. "No blood and the brat's not wet." In other words, this was a minor display at most. If the water hadn't slowed their movements or if they had been able to activate their Innocence, the damage would have been much more satisfying. Then again, the boat would have been drifting in as splinters. No promises on the bystander either. The Science Division managed to stay in one piece. Why not a boy wizard?

Oh he's going to get us in more trouble, Allen thought, giving the woman a panicked look.

McGonagall didn't say anything for almost a minute, obviously working to keep her own temper in check. She looked up toward the other student. "Mister Weasley, you are dismissed. Please check in with Madam Pomfrey in the medical ward after dinner. You can have another student show you where."

The ginger haired child gave Kanda a sad look even as he left. McGonagall turned her attention to Allen and Kanda. "If you two cannot act in the manner that all Hogwarts students are supposed to act, I will be force to rescind the offer of assistance to the Order. As I understand, this would not be good for you two, so I suggest you behave yourselves."

When Kanda opened his mouth, Allen elbowed him as hard and subtly as he possibly could. "Yes, ma'am," he said quickly, looking properly apologetic. "We understand, and we apologize sincerely for the slip of control. If there was any damage done to the property, please send Komui a bill."

That'd serve him right for teaming me up with this jackass!

McGonagall frowned at them a moment longer before nodding. "Fortunately, there was no damage," she said slowly.

Damn, the two of them thought.

"However, I cannot let other students decide to take your example. The both of you will have cleaning duty this Saturday and Sunday in the kitchens. I will have someone instruct you further on that at the end of the week."

"Yes ma'am," Allen repeated with a guiltily downcast expression.

School and chores. Kanda wiped all expression from his face and nodded. The woman was not going to make the investigation easy. She was already taking steps to cripple their efforts, even if it was keep up appearances. Rules and regulations. They would just have to be careful not to be caught.

"Good," the woman said, relaxing. "Well then. Let's hurry to the dining hall. You'll need to be sorted."

Allen blinked. Sorted...?

Beside him, the older boy had stiffened. Komui hadn't mentioned anything about a 'sorting'. Kanda was sure of that. Was this not a coed school? Perhaps it was broken down by age? Ability? Surely not social standing...

It wasn't that the two exorcists were strangers to segregation at home. The finders stood apart from the exorcists. The Science Division stood apart from the finders and the other support groups. Was this the same thing?

As the two fighters were ushered to the long line of new and nervous students, Kanda began to scowl. The Chief probably did know and had kept this information to himself as a surprise. Fucking idiot.

Allen was thinking along the same lines (though he was a great deal more subtle about it) when he noticed who was in front of him. "Oh! Hello," he whispered, biting back a smirk.

The redhead turned and blinked. "Oh!"

Taking his place at the end of the line behind the shock of damp white hair, Kanda glanced down as Allen half-stepped to the side to include him. Not that it was necessary, he had no inclination to join the conversation. However... One quick survey of the Weasley child showed no injury.

Satisfied, Kanda went back to ignoring the students ahead of him who were staring at the sopping wet clothing of both exorcists. It was worth it. Subtly, the Japanese boy shifted his jaw. Already healed. Which was more than he could say for the shadow forming on Allen's right cheek.

Allen smiled right through the weird hat song and the explanation, and the first half of the long list of names. And then...

"Kanda, Yuu!" the headmistress called, face impassive.

"Your turn to be sorted," Allen said, biting back a smirk.

As if Moyashi knew anymore than he did about what the hell was going on. Kanda scowled as he stalked forward. Was it like Hevleska? Some sentient thing that could sense compatibilities? As far as he could tell, the brats before them knew what was going on. There were actually very few disappointed faces among the 'sorted'. So it had to be more than just random selection. Even Kanda could understand some of the nonsense it had spouted.

He looked at the hat nestled in the teacher's hands. The hat twisted up to look at him. Fuck it. He plucked it up from the professor, sat down, and dropped it on his head. The things he did for the Order.

Well? Now what?

"Now we decide which house you go into."

FUCKING HELL! That voice was in his head.

Unknown to the rest of the hall, the hat started to talk very fast as the Japanese man jerked in the chair in startlement. Its first impressions were of pain, anger, betrayal, and weapons. Specifically a sword that was on Kanda's person right now.

"There's no need to panic! This is normal. Hmm... to the wizarding world at least. But then, you're not from here at all... A Black Order? Vast endless enemies... Loss..."

GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HEAD! Kanda's hands came up to grab the floppy folds of the leather hat and he jumped to his feet. I'm going to rip you into shreds, you spying piece of shit!

"Language Mr Kanda!"

FUCK YOU! That may have been said out loud... because a familiar elbow dug into his stomach out of nowhere. "And you Moyashi!"

The hat must have sensed that its time was drawing to a close; as Kanda's arms tensed to throw it off him, it yelled out, "Gryffindor! And god help us all." That last was muttered so low, Kanda nearly missed it as he pulled the ancient thing from his head.

Baring his teeth at the multitudes of staring eyes, the Japanese man spared one furious glare at the leather in his hands before dropping it on the chair.

There was a put-upon sigh from somewhere nearby - it was impossible to tell from whom - as well as a pair of eyes following Kanda as he stalked to the Gryffindor table. And not a one of them seemed particularly perturbed by the fuming glare he gave them.

A few more students passed their turns, Hufflepuff, another Gryffindor, a Slytherin, Hufflepuff again, before the Headmistress called out, "Walker, Allen!"

Reluctantly, he walked over and sat, feeling the woman drop the hat onto his head. And he braced himself. After all, Kanda had been pissed.

"Hello there... Another one hmm?" The warm, inquisitive voice sounded and echoed inside his head.

That's unnerving. What are you? Allen thought with wide eyes that locked onto Kanda. The other male was still scowling.

"I am the Sorting Hat," it replied, as if that gave it all the authority in the world to dive through Allen's memories and thoughts. Maybe in this world it did... "As I have been for centuries... Now, you seem more agreeable than your counterpart. Shall we see where to put you? Bravery, oh yes. A large heart, fearful and strong for those under your protection. However..." If leather could shiver, then the hat had done just that. "You aren't... Oh... Slytherin!"

Allen blinked as the hat was lifted away, and he received a reluctant, scattered applause mostly originating from one particular table. The boy after him - Kanda's fanboy - looked at him with deep suspicion as he walked down the room. Several people scooted over, giving him a seat, and he glanced toward Kanda.

Well this worked out better than I thought it would. With them both in separate houses, they could probably poke around far more efficiently. At least, he hoped so.

He glanced toward the front as Weasley, Adam was sorted into Gryffindor. His brow furrowed as the boy made a bee-line for Kanda.

As far as Kanda was concerned, the whole sorting fiasco was a big hoax, probably plotted out by a leather hat that liked to nose into things it had no right to be in. Allen? In Slytherin? Him in Gryffindor for that matter?

"This is bullshit." At least this time, he swore in Japanese. And now, here was the kid, Weasley, standing right in front of him. "What?" English this time.

The boy opened his mouth to say something, but an older boy suddenly dragged him down onto the seat between he and Kanda. "Aaadaaam," he cheered, grinning.

"Oh don't bully him, Albus," a girl across the table scolded, frowning. But the dark haired boy putting the ginger one in a headlock ignored her, and her eyes narrowed. "Albus Severus, do not make me tell your father!"

Reluctantly releasing the protesting Weasley, Albus offered a sheepish shrug. "Sorry, Rose." He leaned back, peering up, and offered Kanda a bright smile as he held out his hand. "Hi! Nice to meet you! I'm Albus Potter. Yuu, right?"

That tick under Kanda's left eye grew more pronounced. He still hadn't sat down, so he had the height advantage as he stared down at the wide earnest eyes of the brat who really couldn't be blamed for what he was starting. Couldn't be. At all.

"No," he answered frostily. "My name is Kanda." The Japanese male finally sat down and ignored the outstretched hand.

Albus frowned at that, dropping his hand. "Alright, sure. I didn't mean to offend you, so sorry. Oh right, that girl in Hufflepuff- what was her name? The Asian one?"

Rose frowned at him thunderously. "Misaki," she said stiffly.

"She mentioned that the manners with names were different," Albus continued, ignoring his cousin's increasingly irritated expression. "Rose, eat your dinner."

She blinked and huffed but picked up her fork. "Is he right, Kanda?" she asked, looking at the older boy. "So we know what you'd prefer."

The tall boy in question wasn't paying attention though. The food... just appeared. Between one word and the next, the Headmistress McGonagall had summoned a feast. There was a startled shout of laughter from the Slytherin table and Kanda snorted. There would be no pulling Walker away from this place now. Free, endless food. Fuck, these wizards had it easy.

"You should try the Pumpkin juice," Albus continued, amused, even as he reached for a pitcher of pumpkin-colored liquid and poured it into his cup. He glanced at the boy between he and the new seventh year, and his brow furrowed. "Adam, are you alright?"

The little boy jolted and smiled guiltily at his older cousin. "Mmhm, yeah," he said, blushing.

On the other side of Adam, Kanda levelled a flat look on his filled glass. "Pumpkin juice," he deadpanned, frowning down at the bright cheerful orange concoction. It rippled back at him. "Why?" It wasn't very clear whether he was asking why he should try it or why it existed in the first place.

The redhead spoke up shyly. "It's delicious," he said, smiling. "It's my dad's second favorite drink in the world, though I think Butterbeer is better. Try it! You'll like it."

Rose reached across the table and set a couple of rolls onto Adam's plate. "You should be eating, not worrying about Kanda. He can decide what he wants on his own, Adam. Eat!"

Blinking for a moment in lieu of Adam's enthusiasm, Kanda lifted the cup and sniffed. Nrrrggghh. Enough sugar to kill a level two. "Is there any tea?" he asked, setting the beverage back down.

"Um, well-"

"Yep!" a third voice inserted and a boy reached over Adam and snagged a teapot that was nearly hidden amongst other things. He was tall-ish with hair just as bright orange as Adam's, and a cheerful smile plastered on his face. He set the teapot down before Kanda and grinned at him. "Yo! Hugo Weasley, third year. So you're the new seventh year! Nice to meet you!"

"Hugo, sit down somewhere!" Rose hissed, but she was waved off.

Reserving judgement for the moment, Kanda lifted the lid of the pot. It was a strange cherry blossom blend. Subtle, but clearly refined. Brows arching, the Japanese man set the porcelain back down. It would suit.

"Kanda." He nodded in greeting.

Hugo finally sat down on Kanda's other side, and pointed at a plate of sushi. "What's that? Also, there are these dumpling things on sticks at the other end of the table. Taste really good..." He shook his head. "Ahh, don't you just love it when another culture gets added to the mix?"

Adam scowled at him, but was again ignored. Rose had a bit more attention granted her, mostly because she'd hit. "Hugo, would you stop being so rude?"

"What? I just asked a question!" Hugo protested, eyes wide.

"And you're being rude about it!"

"Sushi and dango," Kanda grunted. Apparently, the Headmistress had done some homework. Or her chefs had. Whoever. Hmm... He scanned the table and quickly picked out a plate of yakisoba and oden. Mine.

Hugo, meanwhile, was eying the rest of the cafeteria. "So anyway... Albus! Did you bring it?"

"SShhhhh!" Albus looked around suspiciously to make sure no one was looking. "Yeah, you idiot. Don't talk about it here, though!"

Hugo grinned widely. "Yessir!"

Chopsticks halfway up to his mouth, Kanda glanced up sharply. He took in the excited grin on Hugo's face and the nervous look on Albus'. Kanda shook his head and went back to his food. Porn.

"What are you two up to?" Rose demanded, frowning at them.

"Ah... it's just this... uh, thing, yeah," Albus said, looking embarrassed.

"Wait, uncle George didn't catch you did he?" Hugo asked, frowning at his cousin.

Albus blinked, blue eyes widening. "What? No. Course not. C'mon, Hugo, it's me."

"So in other words, James ran interference," the Weasley muttered.

Adam sighed heavily.

Across the cafeteria, several students were watching with wide eyes as Allen inhaled food at an extraordinary rate.

One of the nearest students, a girl, wrinkled her nose. "Where did you learn your table manners? A barn?" she demanded haughtily.

"No, he must have learned it at a Weasley's," a boy across the table snickered.

This prompted a round of stifled laughter from the nearest students.

Swallowing down his third helping of roast beef, Allen looked up with a beatific expression. "At a circus actually." Before that was the streets, but that didn't count. Table manners didn't exist there, nor tables for that matter. "All the girls there were jealous of my metabolism. They had to stick to diets." He opened his eyes earnestly at the girl. "If you want, I can tell you their meal plan; it's very effective."

There was dead silence at this, and a dark scowl from the girl. "Excuse me?" she growled furiously.

Allen merely tilted his head, for the moment just considering her. She really wasn't bad: straight platinum hair, perfect complexion, large gray eyes-angry ones, but her mouth was set in a very unlady-like sneer at the moment. Completely ruined the image. BaKanda is prettier than her and he hates being taken for a girl.

Shaking his head and snickering, Allen shot her one last look. "Just offering," he said mildly, going back to his meal.

The girl growled and grabbed her plate before moving several seats to the left. Apparently the other students took this as cue to ignore that Allen even existed and went on about their dinner. A few minutes passed before the boy across from him frowned and glanced about. "Oh, that's weird..."

"Mm? What is, Greg?" another boy to his left asked.

They both paused and shot Allen surreptitious looks, and the first - Greg - shrugged. "Nothin'."

"Hey, where's Scorp-" another right beside Allen began, only to be pelted with about five rolls. "Ack!"

Blinking, Allen dropped one hand down on tumbling bread and turned a quizzical face towards the boy across from him. "Why did you do that for?" he asked, setting the roll next to the breadbasket.

The two boys across from him exchanged mischievous glances. "Just feeding the pig," Greg drawled.

"We missed," his friend replied, grinning. Then perked. "Oh! There 'e is! Oy! Scorpius!"

"Your missing friend?" Allen asked the boy who had been pelted. He received no answer, so the exorcist twisted in his seat to look himself.

The tall, pale boy was wandering boredly in their direction. He had grey eyes and white-blond hair, and a handsome face complete with haughty expression. Seemed to be the norm with Slytherins.

The boy came to a stop about two seats away from Allen, meeting his gaze calmly. "So this is him? The mud-blood that wants to pretend he's somebody."

"He's a rude pig, Scorpius," the girl from earlier simpered.

The boy gave her a cool look. "Hmph." He walked past Allen and stood over the boy sitting next to the girl. "Move."

"Ah! Yeah, Scorpius, sorry." The boy hurriedly got up and took the empty seat next to Allen.

Scorpius sat in his place and proceeded to ignore everyone as he quietly ate his dinner.

Allen's eyebrows had shot straight up into his shaggy white hair. Kind of reminds me of Kanda on a good day; caustic. Huh. "So, I've got a question," Allen chirped, as expected he was largely ignored or glared at. "Does that hat creep anyone else out? I mean, it pokes around in your head, looking at all your experiences. Feels rather dirty, don't it?"

"Hah! Shows what you know, mudblood," the girl snipped. "I'd expect nothing less from an uncultured fool!"

The boy beside her glanced at Allen, obviously fighting a smile, but didn't draw attention to himself. It was just as well, since Greg had taken it upon himself to start complaining about how the stupid school should just chuck the thing.

He said it a bit too loud, though, because several Ravenclaws from the next table over gave him furious looks. The girl from before told him to shut up, giving the other students a poorly disguised nervous look.

"So what's your name, anyway, mudblood?" the pale-haired Scorpius demanded. "I was unable to be around during the sorting, so I'm afraid I missed it."

Turning his head from his scrutiny of the girl-she can't seriously be saying she had no secrets to hide-Allen leaned forward to smile at Scorpius. "Allen Walker, and you are?" For a table that accused him of little manners, no one had done introductions.

"Scorpius Malfoy, and this is my sister, Ameli," he said, gesturing toward the girl beside him, who sniffed. "Nice to meet you, Walker."

"I'm Greg Goyle the second," the boy across offered quickly. "This is my mate Evan Crabbe, and that's Stewart." He motioned toward his friend beside him, who just waved, and the roll-boy, who ducked his head in a quick nod. "Eh, nice to meet you, yeah."

So Scorpius brings the manners to the table. Allen smiled at everyone, including Ameli. "Hello everyone. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. If you have any questions about food, I'm the guy to ask!" He meant that only half as a joke. With all the places he'd been to, he really did know cuisine.

"Yes, so it would seem," Scorpius said with a faintly disgusted glance at the stack of empty dishes near Allen. He turned his head toward the dais as the hall started to quiet. "Hm. Seems we're about to leave. Well then."

"But you hardly ate anything-" Allen protested, one lone voice in the settling silence. Oops. He cringed, feeling the glare from Kanda all the way across the hall. Smiling sheepishly, he whispered, "Sorry" to Scorpius and turned to face the front of the hall like the rest of the students. Those who weren't staring and snickering at him anyway.

xXx

Yeah... so... there you go. Chapter one... ^^; Actually, am only posting this because ST is finished (posting) and Azhwi gave me the Puppy Stare of Doom. Which is impressive, considering she lives in another country, and we weren't on Skype at the time.

Anyway! So yeah. There are a couple OCs I need to point at- Ameli Malfoy, and Adam Weasley. Both were created for our own purposes. They will BOTH have places in the plot. Don't like it? Bite me and deal.

Also. Like my beloved Co-Writer, I am posting this on my story blog, too. Well, I haven't posted for a while... Erm, right. But I'll get around to it... eventually...

….

Review? Please? They FEED me. And... and... remind me to update... *ahem* Please and thank you!

Posted: 3/7/13

Chapter Text

Beyond the incident with the Sorting Hat, there were a few... other times of note, where the culture shock was particularly evident. For instance, the first round of classes, for seventh years, in Herbology. The class was re-evaluating ways to handle Fanged Geraniums. Of course, it wouldn't be a Hogwarts Class without a bit of chaos...

"Oh dear, oh dear," Professor Sprout tutted. She hurried over to the table where Kanda was being chomped on by one of the toothy plants, clucking her tongue worriedly. Beside the twitching Japanese boy, the resident Potter was trying not to lose a lung.

Kanda eyed the carnivorous flower for a few seconds, then pulled the entire thing out of its pot. Dirt fell in clumps from twisting white roots as the plant thrashed.

The laughing boy who had fallen to the floor had a split second to realize the danger he was in before Kanda shoved a terrified Geranium straight into his face.

As the teenager squawked and scrabbled at the roots that tried to take hold, Kanda turned a flat look at the teacher. "Be thankful I didn't put it down his throat."

"Detention," was the exasperated answer. The teacher then helped James up, and set to work replanting the flower.

xXx

Care of Magical Creatures turned out to be nearly as entertaining... for some. To the absolute delight of his fellow Slytherins and their Gryffindor classmates alike, Allen got a bit toorelaxed around the odd little creatures Hagrid had brought for them to see.

Albus Potter howled with laughter as Allen - in the tight clutches of a very enraged Chaos Fairy (which had previously been an Earth Fairy... until Allen pissed it off) - dropped to the ground with a large enough thud that it startled several more fairies.

"Oof!" Opening his eyes, Allen blinked at the expression on the creature's face. Ah shit. Who knew it would understand English? "Ano... I'm sorry? I'm sure that you are actually very very smart!" Smart or not, you still got stuffed into a jar. Anyone would be pissed.

The small, glowing red fairy chittered furiously at him, flying into his face and pulling back a tiny fist. She never got the chance.

"No, don't-!" Hagrid started as another Slytherin jumped into action.

"Stupefy!" Malfoy shouted, watching dispassionately as the fay froze stiff and fell to the ground. "Professor Hagrid!" He spun, nose in the air and looking every bit the haughty Pureblood Prince he was. "Perhaps you should keep a better eye on the creatures you bring here! To have such a thing attack a student! You should be fired!"

Of course, not a one of the Gryffindor students were particularly fond of this assessment. The loudest supporter of the uncertain-looking groundskeeper being Potter, who got right up in Malfoy's face with a snarl.

At least the Chaos Fairy looked satisfied.

xXx

"I saw that, Kanda," a seventh year Slytherin announced after Potions Class on Friday. Technically, this class was a special extended class, since seventh years could only take it as an elective. But since Kanda hadn't been taught in any similar class before, he'd been slotted in among a handful of others. This particular class was mixed house, since there were so few in it, and partnered.

Kanda had been forced to join efforts with a Slytherin - Chance Motley - for the duration, and the tanned boy wasn't against blackmail. He'd seen what Kanda had done; he wouldn't need much to make it seem ten times worse.

The other teen stopped where he was, two feet from the door. They were the last ones in the room. "So?" Kanda asked, free hand reaching out and pushing the door closed.

Change smirked at him knowingly. "So... how upset d'you think the Headmistress would be if she heard you were cheating? She might expel you, you know," he drawled confidently. He knew he could hex the boy if he so much as twitched near him. He was the quickest wand-draw in class.

"Cheating?" Kanda sneered, throwing the lock on the door. "Fucking students. All they think about is school and rules and petty squabbles." He brought out his wand with a flick of his wrist to tap the door, then tossed it on a desk.

Chance frowned, watching the other boy discard his bloody wand. "... what are you doing?" he asked uneasily, but his confidence didn't wane much. The guy might have a scary sword... but surely he wouldn't be stupid enough to use it on another student.

… right?

In a way, Chance was correct. Kanda never did draw the katana. The Slytherin had one moment of doubt as the Japanese male dropped his book bag. Weren't Japanese muggles also known for hand to hand combat?

xXx

By the end of the first week, the exorcists hadn't found a single lead on the case. Not one, no indication of Innocence, no faint feeling of the stuff nearby. Nothing. The only developments in anything were the fact that Ameli Malfoy positively loathed Allen, her brother barely noticed him when he wasn't keeping the Slytherin image intact, and Kanda...

Well, he somehow managed to be extremely popular. Mainly among the younger children. Well, specifically a certain one...

"Ohhh, pleaaassseee? I just wanna see it! Just for a minute!" Adam pleaded, clutching Kanda's leg and refusing to budge, much to the older male's chagrin.

"No." Even as he said that though, Kanda's hands dropped to his hip. It wouldn't even take a second to knock the kid out with the dull side of the blade. It was doubtful that anyone would even see his motions. Adam was already laid flat out on the floor belly down.

"Aww, lay off it, Adam!" a familiar voice chirped, backed by the soft laughter of another person. Hugo appeared beside them and heaved the younger Weasley off the floor, despite his protests. "If he doesn't wanna show ya, he doesn't have to!"

"You don't even know what I'm talking about!" the younger redhead snapped, jerking away and nearly tripping. However, instead he just backed into Kanda, and whipped around. "Oh, please, please, pleassseeee, Kanda-sama?!"

Twitch. "You're not-" Kanda cut himself off. "No."

"'Sama'?" the voice belonging to the earlier laughter asked, as a boy about Kanda's age, James Potter, stepped in beside Hugo. "What does that mean?"

"It's an honorific!" Adam said with a self-important nod. "Like Mr. or Ms. Yanno, polite stuff! Misaki said!"

"Eh, the girl in Hufflepuff?" Hugo asked, brows furrowing. "So it means Mr?"

"Nooo, it's like lord!"

Kanda twitched again. "I am not-"

"Hold on, Kanda," James inserted, one hand up. He smiled as the exorcist scowled at the interruption. The oldest Potter boy turned back to Adam. "So, you're calling him a lord then? Meaning you respect him? Follow his wishes and all that?"

Adam narrowed his eyes at James suspiciously. The older boy was doing his 'I'm the son of Harry Potter' thing again. "Maybe," he said reluctantly, as Hugo stifled a grin.

"You do or you don't? I don't think the Japanese take respect halfway."

Kanda snorted, settling back on his heels. Oh there were various levels of respect, different degrees. Calling someone lord and master in a classroom setting among fellow students was ridiculous though. Kami help him if Walker heard of this.

Adam frowned at him, now more baffled than angry. "What's that gotta do with it?" he asked, now looking curious. "'Course I respect 'im. Cause he's cool!"

The pained look that crossed Kanda's face had the two older boys struggling to keep their own faces neutral.

"Well," James choked out, "if you respect him so much, you gotta respect his wishes. And he doesn't want to show you..." here he gestured at the scene: Kanda gripping his belt, Adam standing well within the Japanese man's personal bubble. "Whatever it is you're begging him to show you."

Now James was the one receiving a flat glare from Kanda. The insinuation was not lost on that one!

Adam crossed his arms, visibly thinking about it for a very long moment. Finally, he nodded. "Alright! I have homework anyway! But this doesn't mean you're any less cool!" he declared, and hurried off.

As soon as he was gone, Hugo burst into helpless laughter, leaning heavily against his taller cousin who was grinning widely.

Letting out a huff of irritation, Kanda nodded once to the other boys and stalked off towards his room, to which he had originally been heading before Adam had attached himself.

This whole place is insane. Shifting staircases, sentient paintings, spell casting, potions, flying brooms. Kanda wasn't sure if it assured him or alarmed him that he was decent at most of the wandwork. Allen found the whole experience entertaining. Maybe the Slytherin house has less... annoyances.

"Oh, Kanda!" a voice yelped when he walked into the dorm room. On the other side stood Albus and another dark haired boy, both hovering near what Kanda knew to be James' bed. The boys grinned sheepishly. "Fancy that! This isn't our dorm. No wonder things are so mixed up..."

Dark almond eyes narrowed. "What are you doing?" Kanda's hands were inching back towards his katana. James' bed was just next to his own afterall.

"Um, we just got lost, that's all," Albus said sheepishly. "Got turned around. I think someone put something into my drink."

"I told you," his cohort muttered. "You should watch what you drink, man."

"Maybe you should go see-" What was that woman's name? Oh. "Madame Pomfrey. Now."

"What a splendipidus idea," Albus agreed quickly, hurrying toward the door (though careful to keep just out of Kanda's reach). "Bye, Kanda! Have a beautificus day!"

"That's not even a word!" his cohort hissed, hurrying after him.

Unfortunately for the second boy, he didn't make it out of the room. Kanda's long arm snaked out and caught him by the back of his robe. "Potter drank it. You didn't."

The boy yelped, and Albus stopped in the doorway with a frown. "Hey, Kanda... Let 'im go," the slightly shorter male said.

The look Kanda gave him was flat, unimpressed, and irritated. "Not yet. Move." Half hauling the nameless boy out of the dorm, Kanda marched back into the common room. Various students, sprawled on and across the assorted pieces of furniture about the room, looked up in curiosity.

James and Hugo were sitting in armchairs, textbooks just being opened in their laps as Kanda loomed over them, prisoner in tow. Potter looked up just as the boy was shoved forward.

"He was messing with your bed. Deal with it," Kanda snapped out before turning on his heel and leaving for his room again.

Hugo blinked after him then looked at James, and Albus stepped into Kanda's path before he got three steps up. The Potter did not look happy. "That's pretty dirty, Kanda."

"Your excuse covered only you," Kanda replied. "Next time, cover for your partner as well."

Blue eyes narrowed at him, but Albus huffed and smiled at him. "Sure thing! Since that's actually some pretty good advice, I'll be fair about this. I don't like people that rat their comrades out, so watch your back." He stepped out of the way.

Kanda only rolled his eyes, pointing at the older Potter brother. "Dorm mate." Besides, James had just done him a favor, but Albus didn't need to know that.

Albus shrugged and walked off, going over to his brother. "Oy! James, it wasn't him. It was me," he said, grinning. "Payback for that ink thing!"

"Oh, you!" Rose huffed, stomping over to him. "Albus, were you playing pranks again!"

In the meantime, James was helping Charlie stand back up; Kanda could shove hard. "And the Grouch caught you," he observed, laughing. "I keep telling you, post a lookout."

His younger brother smirked. "True, true!" he said cheerfully. "I will next time."

"Uhg, how does anyone ever tolerate you delinquents?" Rose growled. "I have half a mind to take points!"

Albus stuck his tongue out at her. "Meany book head!"

"Why you!"

And unseen, a miniature redhead snuck upstairs after Kanda.

Homework, Kanda seethed, staring at textbooks and papers and a wand. He couldn't do what he was sent to do because he had to do fucking homework. Walker and he had determined early on that because the dorms didn't have a lock, it would be idiotic to do their meetings and note comparisons here or at the Slytherin rooms.

The two times Walker had brought him into that house, both exorcists were amused by the amount of comments they received. Some were even creative.

There was a sudden, timid knock on the door, almost hesitant. "... Kanda?"

The Japanese man growled. "No." It seemed the only thing he was saying to Adam these days. That and: "Go away."

Silence followed, and then sadly retreating footsteps.

For a brief moment, Kanda was tempted to open the door and yell at the boy. If anything to avoid the absurdity of doing homework on a Tuesday night. However, he was never one to shirk his duties. The sooner night falls, the better. I need to break something.

xXx

Braced by both feet and an elbow, Kanda waited for the pair of prefects below him to continue walking. A few slow breaths later and they had turned the corner, taking their wand lights with them. The Japanese man let out a silent snort-security was abysmal-and dropped to the floor ten feet below. For a world that had flying abilities, the guards should look up on a regular basis.

Padding along the cool tiles, the dark clothed exorcist slipped up a hall and carefully ducked through an unassuming door.

The Room of Requirement was a strange thing. It had enough space for sparring. Mats stacked along the walls. Padded weapons, a fresh water supply, and interestingly enough, rolls of bandages and smooth sticks for splints. Those last two weren't there in the first week. But then Kanda cracked a bone in his lower leg. The room could apparently learn. Again, Kanda wasn't sure how to feel about that.

As the door closed behind him, a golden ball of wings and metal fluttered over to him in greeting.

"Moyashi here yet?" Kanda grunted, looking around. Sometimes they ambushed each other. It kept their senses alert.

In answer, a blur flickered toward him from above, and Allen cursed as Kanda dodged. "Almost!"

Kanda snorted. "Maybe in ten years," he said, happily drawing Mugen.

Allen smirked and slid into a fighting stance. "So I think I found something," he said, and darted forward, using his arm to bat away the incoming blade and going in to punch Kanda in the stomach.

"Finally." His free hand snapped out, tapping the incoming punch aside and he spun with Walker, neither leaving an open flank facing the other. Kanda brought the hilt back towards an unprotected temple, but switched tactics and instead brought up a knee to block a front snap kick. "So?"

The two of them jumped apart and circled carefully. "Well, there's this one kid in fifth year. Keeps to himself mostly, but he goes missing a lot. No one seems to know where to, except his sister, and she won't even look at me, much less talk."

He shrugged, twisting around as Kanda darted in, and grabbing the older boy to throw him. Kanda rolled into the movement and dragged Allen through it, ending with Allen pinned beneath Mugen's blade. He grinned sheepishly.

"Anyway, I know it's not much," he muttered, barely winded. "But it's more than we've gone on for the last month or so."

Nodding sharply, Kanda shifted up off Walker, Mugen held at ready. "His name?"

"Scorpius Malfoy," Allen replied, rolling to his feet. He snatched up a practice katana from the rack off to the side, and got back in a stance. "If you're going to look into him yourself, watch out for his sister. She's a real gem," he said sarcastically. "Follows him pretty much everywhere, unless he pulls one of his disappearing acts. Oh, right!"

The grey-haired youth flashed forward, swinging his hand toward Kanda's head as the other moved to block the blade. There was a moment's pause in speech as Kanda changed the direction of his swing, forcing Allen to risk getting cut or move back.

He chose the latter and they circled again, while Allen continued. "He's good at that. Disappearing, I mean. I tried tailing him once, but he plain vanished. Went around a corner, and when I got there he was gone. Three seconds."

The other exorcist scowled. "Magic." It seemed reasonable. They were in a school for it after all.

He rolled under the wide slash of Walker's blade, rising up inside his opponent's reach. His free palm punched out for Allen's solar plexus while Mugen was braced along his spine, clanging against the return of the larger sword.

"Have you been approached for Quidditch tryouts?" Kanda asked abruptly as they sprang apart. James had been pestering him lately about the game. Something about being a beater.

"Ah, yeah... Actually, a couple of my classmates wanted to know if I'd be interested. But I turned them down. I don't know how to use a broom, and frankly, I'd be useless." Allen frowned faintly. "That reminds me... I've been asked about you."

Well there went that idea. Scorpius was following in his father's footsteps and was entering into tryouts. Both James and Hugo had made sure to stress that. If Walker could find a position on the team, he would have another reason to tail Malfoy.

Wait. "What for?"

"No idea. Some girl from Hufflepuff was curious." He grinned. "I think she has a crush. Doesn't make sense, since you're such a girl."

Growling, Kanda lifted Mugen. "She can keep her attentions. Or do you want me to direct them to you? Since you're such a moyashi that you're not noticeable?"

"I'm socially off-limits, didn't you know?" Allen said, grinning and lifting his own practice katana. "Feminine face!" He darted forward.

"Die Moyashi!"

Chapter Text

Soft voices down the corridor, arguing it seemed like. As Kanda drew nearer, they became more distinct. Albus Potter - or rather, just his head - and a very pale youth holding a lantern.

"-should I know? It's not like they tell me anything," the unnamed youth was grumbling, brow furrowed.

"Alright, alright... Sheesh." Albus huffed. "I was just asking. Seemed like the sort of thing we should know, just in case. After that incident last year-"

Kanda glanced at Walker, but the Moyashi only shrugged. The reference could be to anything.

"Yeah, I know, Albus," the other snarled. "Of course I know!" He abruptly calmed, like flipping a switch. "Sorry, I know you're just worried. I can't keep this up. Ameli keeps lying for me..."

Albus grimaced, and shook his head. "Tell her to knock it off. Or make her forget, you can-"

"No!" the boy yelped, green and black robes fluttering slightly as he took a sudden step toward the Gryffindor. "Hell no, Albus. I can't do that to her!"

At least there was some honour among the snakes, Kanda thought, which was more than what the Gryffindors had said of them.

"Okay, okay," Albus said quickly. "You're right. It was dumb to even think about it. I was just... well, we don't want her taking the heat..."

The other nodded glumly. "I'll think of another way. Anyway... We should move on before anyone comes along. The other prefect from Slytherin will be coming through here in about ten minutes. You need to get back to the Tower."

"Yeah... Scorpius, you'll tell me if you need anything, right?" Albus asked worriedly, eying his friend. "I mean, if there are any troubles or whatever."

Scorpius nodded. "Yeah, I will." He offered Albus a warm smile. "Now go."

"Yeah, yeah, snakey git," Albus joked, and suddenly disappeared. "Good night."

"Night." Waving, Scorpius turned and started walking in Kanda and Allen's direction.

There was a touch at Kanda's elbow, and when he scowled at his partner, Walker pointed up. Kanda shook his head sharply. Walker scowled back. The Japanese man smirked, crossed his arms, and leaned back against the wall, gesturing with his finger to shoo. If Moyashi didn't want to be here, he was welcomed to leave.

When Scorpius was five feet away, Walker sighed and stuck out his tongue at the other exorcist, then leaped up into the dark dusty spaces above them. Kanda just waited.

The youth turned the corner and stopped, eyes locking on Kanda and narrowing. A cool, detached mask had already snapped into place. "What are you doing out in the halls so late, Gryffindor? That'll be five points for being out of bed after curfew."

"Wanted to talk to you," Kanda replied, letting his arms drop down to his sides.

"It can wait until the daytime, when you are allowed to be up. Now go back to bed before I take more points," Scorpius snapped.

Kanda gave the blond boy a flat look. "You wouldn't talk to a Gryffindor in daylight." It wasn't a question. "I'm looking for something. It grants power, but only to the one who wields it. And I'm not the only one who is searching for it. Odd things happen to the wielder and those around him. Dangerous things. And they get worse the longer I go without finding him."

There was silence for so long that he began to think the boy wouldn't answer without more prodding. Finally, though, pale fingers tightened their grip on the handle of the lantern. "Why are you looking for this object? What purpose does it serve for you? If you can't wield it, it's pointless for you to look, isn't it?" he demanded tightly.

Shaking his head, Kanda scowled. "I said I'm looking for it. Not that I want it. I have my own. My purpose it to find, and bring back the wielder and his power. I belong to an organization that teaches those wielders to control the power. And to fight against our enemies that seek to destroy us."

The pale youth seemed even paler in the darkness of their surroundings. "Prove it," he said firmly.

Not here with all the Prefects wandering around. Kanda rolled his eyes. "Fine. Follow me." He headed back towards the Room of Requirements. It was getting a lot of use tonight. "And Moyashi, get down."

The boy's head snapped around when Allen dropped out of the eaves. Those eyes narrowed. "I might have known," he said, eying the other pale-haired male suspiciously.

"Right back at you," Allen said smirking. He folded his arms behind his head and skipped ahead, turning to face his partner. "So... demonstration?"

Kanda grunted. "Obviously." He cut his eyes at Malfoy. "Douse the lamp."

Scorpius nodded and put the lamp out, not reacting to a faint, invisible brush against his back. His heart started to slow, however, in relief. Albus must have realized something was up. "Alright," he said.

A few halls later, with little conversation (Kanda seemed to have used up his word quota of the month), the three teenagers and the invisible one, reached the now familiar door.

Allen reached out, and snagged it open, ushering the other two inside. Scorpius however paused at the threshold, eyes wide. Kanda had already swept through, drawing Mugen and scowling in impatience.

"You wanted proof," he said, gesturing for Malfoy to walk in.

A faint press on his back eventually came, so Scorpius walked slowly forward. Then he backed up against the wall, watching the Japanese boy warily. "So? Demonstrate," he commanded imperiously.

Chortling as he closed the door, Allen grinned. "Round... five?"

Kanda flashed a shark's grin of teeth in reply. And both exorcists intoned, "Invoke!"

There was a sense of satisfaction that thrilled through Kanda's body as Mugen took its true form, blue light shimmering along its length.

"So! What we will be doing is-" Allen swept up his arm to block the incoming jab from Kanda. "BaKanda! I was talking!"

The other exorcist merely rolled his shoulders and stepped back, but Allen could tell Kanda was already feeling much better. This had been their first invocation since enrollment. It had been a while.

"Anyway," Walker continued, "what we'll do is show how Innocence, that's our weapons, work. They are different for everyone. However, they all have something in common. They hurt our enemies called Akuma, but not people. Now... Say, if I hit BaKanda." Allen shot his claws out at his partner, who leaned out of the way. "Hey!"

"Moyashi," Kanda growled. He sheathed Mugen and grabbed Allen's normal arm. "Do this properly." He marched over to Malfoy, dragging Walker with him.

Malfoy stepped back, bumping into the wall, eyes widening almost comically. "Wh-what? What are you-?"

"You're too far away to see," Kanda said as he stood in front of the boy. "Allen, claws up." The younger exorcist sighed and complied. Kanda hooked a finger around one of Allen's armoured digits. "Look."

Grey eyes lowered to focus on the strange white-plated hand, and narrowed. "What is it?"

"Innocence." Kanda let go. "Now stab," he told Walker. "And this doesn't count as a hit."

Scorpius' eyes widened, but he relaxed when the other boy moved to hit Kanda, and not himself.

The claws surged forward, sinking to the last knuckles straight into Kanda's chest. The Japanese man barely twitched. There was no blood, only a faint green fire that flickered at the joining of weapon and torso.

Allen left it in for a second, wriggling his fingers for a moment, before he slid the weapon back out. "Mine is a parasite type; it's part of me," Allen explained. "That's why I eat so much."

Kanda motioned at Malfoy. "Hand."

Scorpius paled. "What?"

The taller male sighed. He drew his weapon and held it sharp edge up between him and the boy. With his free hand, he swept his palm along the edge, letting the blade bite into his flesh. He showed his unmarked skin to the blond. He kept the sword up between them.

A brush against his arm, that was probably meant to be reassuring, brought him out of a horrified stupor. Slowly, he lifted his hand and held it out, eyes wide and face devoid of blood. Still, he was pretty sure Albus would be proud of him.

Kanda could have been more impressed. He had meant the boy to copy his motions, to test the Mugen's edge, but... With a twist of his wrist, he sliced through Malfoy's hand, squarely through the palm.

Beside him, Allen sighed and facepalmed.

Scorpius blinked and looked at his hand. No injury. "Wow," was all he could say for a moment. Finally, though, he looked between the two other boys, brow furrowing. "I... just... one more thing... You said that someone else was looking for this stuff too?"

"Akuma, led by beings called the Noah. Their leader, the Millenium Earl, creates Akuma, demons using human souls." Allen's voice was a cross between aching pity and fury. "He tricks grieving people, good people, into a trap made of their own bodies. And they rise as Akuma and follow his orders. To seek and destroy life and the one thing that can harm them: Innocence."

The Slytherin boy stared down as his unmarred hand thoughtfully before he finally brought up the other one. The one that, somehow, he always kept lowered. He curled the fingers of that hand into a fist and turned it over, back facing up so they could see the knuckles.

On his middle finger was a ring, pale silver and fashioned with dragons on the surface. And on the top of that ring was a small clear gem. "Is this it?" he murmured.

Kanda shrugged as Allen leaned close to peer down at it. "Why do you think it is?" the Japanese male asked.

"So you can't just tell?" Scorpius asked shrewdly. Interesting. "I've used it before. Last year, this... thing came and attacked my sister while she was in Hogsmeade. I used it then to escape. After that... I don't know what happened to it," he admitted. "It disappeared, I guess."

Though that wasn't exactly the truth. He knew exactly what had happened to the thing, but he wasn't quite ready to reveal his own partner. That was his ace in the hole, should these men be the enemy after all.

"It's easier to tell when it's invoked," Allen said readily. The incident with Miranda sprang to mind and he amended, "And depending on the Innocence, not even then."

The Akuma disappeared? Kanda frowned. "Or it was destroyed," he mused. A passing exorcist? "What did your ring do?"

The Malfoy hesitated, pulling his hand close to his body again. "Glowed a lot," he said slowly, eying them both. "Then..." He trailed off again, reluctant, but forged ahead. "It... created some sort of... bubble, I guess. I think the uh... Akuma? I think it couldn't find me anymore, or something, because it stopped coming after me. I was able to get away with my sister."

The two exorcists traded glances and took a few steps back. "Can you invoke it now?" Allen asked.

"... I guess," Malfoy muttered, and lifted his hand again. He peered down at the ring for a moment, before mumbling something. And then he was gone.

Allen leaned over to Kanda, his eyes still trained on the spot where Malfoy had been. "That could be very useful."

His partner nodded. "More so because he can hide more than just himself." And a normal person too. Kanda frowned. "Are you moving, Malfoy?"

No answer, no response, nothing. However, after a moment, Malfoy reappeared, about five feet to their left. "You said something? I couldn't hear you. What did you say?"

Kanda shook his head. "No audio communication. Either way."

"But he can still read or receive visual signals," Allen pointed out. He turned to Malfoy, "He just asked if you were moving. One to test if we could hear you, two to see if you could and if you were then detectable. That's a very useful Innocence!"

"Uh, thanks," Scorpius muttered. "Is that all? I'm kind of tired, now..." And he looked it. Tired and worn.

Allen grimaced. "Yeah, it takes a while to get used to it. That's why the training is so important. So you can use it when you really need it. Here," he dug around in a pocket and brought out a handful of candies. "Any food is good."

There was a grunt from Kanda. "Will you be able to finish your rounds, Prefect?"

Scorpius straightened, taking the food and lifting his chin. "Of course. I'm a Malfoy." Then he grimaced. "Not that that says much these days. Well, I'll be fine." Albus was definitely going to haunt him until he went to bed now.

The two exorcists looked at each other. Neither had a family to take pride in. Though... "No," Allen smiled. "You're a Malfoy and an exorcist." He deactivated his weapon in a flash of light as Kanda sent Mugen back to sleep in its saya. "So, of course you'll finish your duty."

Kanda shot Allen an impatient look. "Stop blabbering." The tall male nodded once to Malfoy. "Good night."

The blond smiled at them and turned, going to the door and opening it only to pause. He glanced back at them. "Thanks," he muttered, and hurried out.

"Sweet dreams!" Allen's voice drifted to him as the door closed.

Kanda scowled.

"So... was it just me, or... was someone else here that entire time?" Allen asked, brows lifting thoughtfully.

His partner grumbled. "A pause coming in, hesitation going out. Noise when there shouldn't have been." He hated working with an audience. Especially one that had as many tricks up his sleeve as Albus Potter.

Allen heaved a sigh. "I guess it couldn't be helped, though. Malfoy obviously trusts him, and he didn't mention him. He probably felt safer with the other boy around." He shook his head.

"That's not going to help when he has to leave," Kanda muttered heading towards the door.

"And that will take some convincing," Allen agreed, following. "Not just because of his friend, but his sister too. Man, he would like that ice queen." He frowned. "Hey Kanda, there's just something that bothers me, though..."

"The disappearing Akuma?"

Allen nodded. "Yeah, exactly. Maybe I should contact Komui, ask him if he knows of any exorcists that were in the area around that time..."

Pausing by the door, Kanda frowned as he looked back. "I'll do it. You're pathetic when you miss a meal."

"If I wasn't already prepared to go eat, I'd beat you up again," Allen said halfheartedly, and headed out the door. "Jerk."

xXx

Kanda didn't bother sleeping the rest of that night. Instead, he snuck out the castle, settling himself down by the pilings of the dock.

The brief call with Komui was enlightening, and not.

Yes, there had been a report of an Akuma last year in the summer. No, there had not been an exorcist present. Yes, the Akuma has either been destroyed or withdrawn as no, there had been no rash of deaths in Hogsmeade.

"It's good that you found another exorcist," Komui congratulated Kanda.

"But?"

Komui almost sounded apologetic. "The finders believe that there may be a second Innocence there."

"What?!"

xXx

"You're smiling more than usual."

The smile faded as Scorpius gave his younger sibling a guilty look. "Sorry."

She scowled at him and propped her hands on her hips, and proceeded to scold him about what he should and shouldn't apologize for. And was still glowering moodily at him as they made their way up to breakfast. His eye met Albus' across the cafeteria, and he sneered at the other boy. Albus sniffed and made a face like scenting something rotten before visibly dismissing him.

The Potter-Malfoy rivalry was infamous, after all.

"Oh, it's the mudblood," Ameli sniffed as they sat down across from Allen, Crabbe, and Goyle. "And as usual, you're being completely messy."

Strangely, Allen didn't even look up as he polished off yet another plate and stacked it carefully on top of the growing pile.

Scorpius sighed and poked at his food as Ameli made a few more attempts to engage Allen. When it became obvious that it wasn't going to work, though, she huffed and gave up, redirecting her attention to her brother. "You should eat, Scorpius."

"Huh? I am eating," Scorpius said, blinking at her.

"No, you're systematically disassembling your toast," she retorted.

He looked down at his plate to find that she was right; the toast was barely in chunks, it was so battered. "Ah."

A plate full of eggs, bacon, gravy, and biscuits was shoved under his nose. Allen smiled from across the table. "You should eat."

Scorpius gave him a cold look before sniffing and at least pretending to eat. Ameli took the opportunity for what it was. "What are you doing? You don't know if he's poisoned that!" she hissed at her brother venomously.

I really doubt it, Scorpius thought, frowning at her. "Would you like to taste test it for me, if you're so worried?"

She bristled. "What? No! Gross! I'm on a diet anyway!" She sneered at Allen.

The white-haired boy merely blinked at her. "Students poison each other in this school? How rude." He went back to eating with no lack of enthusiasm.

"Urg! You're so gross!" she yelped, and shuddered.

Scorpius sighed and got up. "I have business to attend to," he muttered, climbing off the bench. He waved a hand in a royal-esque manner when Crabbe and Goyle stiffened. "As you were."

The table watched as Malfoy left the hall. Even Allen. "I don't think you should have said that," he told Ameli. "He might have stayed to eat more."

"He always eats; he's probably headed toward the kitchens so he doesn't have to deal with mudbloods," she retorted, sticking her nose in the air. And she too got up, only to move to the other end of the table to chat with some other Slytherin girls.

Shrugging, Allen was about to turn back to his breakfast when he saw his partner storm into the hall. Oooh, this doesn't look good.

Kanda's expression was somewhere between a black thundercloud and psychotic slasher. Students tumbled out of his way and when he finally sat down, the rest of the table cleared out.

Hell, even Albus Potter looked reluctant to go near the older boy, though he hardly seemed intimidated. In fact, he was the only student that remained within six seats of Kanda. It may have helped that he was technically out of reach.

Silence fell for five whole minutes before the boy decided to break it. "You look ticked. Stub your toe?" he asked, feigning great boredom.

Twitch. A few students shifted even further away. Kanda's signals were now part of the Gryffindor's common language. You learned them, or you suffered.

Kanda snatched up a roll and tore it open. Then he picked up another and repeated his actions. Not one word crossed his lips. English ones anyway. There was, however, a solid litany of Japanese words dropped like razor blades from his mouth.

"Cat got your tongue?" Potter continued mockingly.

By now, Kanda had denuded the entire table of untouched breakfast rolls. He acknowledged Albus' droning with a flick of his eyes and picked up a tea pot. For a moment, he sat there, glaring down at the hot vessel cradled in his hands. His bare hands.

Albus' brow furrowed, the faintly present grin fading in the face of curious confusion. However, his attention shifted after only a moment. "Adam, stay away from the ticking time bomb."

The little boy, whom had inched closer behind Kanda, paused. "But..." He frowned. "Are you okay?" Adam asked worriedly.

Setting the pot back down on the table, Kanda let out a long sigh. "Duty," he muttered. "Fuck." Turning dark eyes towards Adam, he said, "I'm fine." One pink hand reached out and picked up the tea again, pouring a cup. "Just need to meditate." Kanda took the tea cup and pot with him as he left the hall.

Adam pouted after him, and turned toward Hugo when the older Weasley ruffled his hair. "Don't worry, squirt. Kanda'll be alright, right, Albus?"

The Potter grinned. "Definitely! No way someone that unpleasant would be otherwise."

Adam scowled at him. "Don't make fun of him! I'm sure he's just upset about something!" he said, and threw a bit of decimated roll at his cousin.

Far across the hall, Allen watched thoughtfully. If Komui had ordered Kanda to leave with Malfoy, then the exorcist would have been happy, not psychotic. He popped a sausage into his mouth and chewed slowly. So what had BaKanda in such a mood?

xXx

The common room was unusually subdued when James and Hugo walked in. It was crowded as usual, but the noise level was far from its normal strength.

"What's going on?" James asked as he sat down next to Albus. Hugo took a nearby armchair and leaned forward to listen in.

Albus looked up from his homework and shrugged. "The Grouch is being especially grouchy today, so Adam did the doe eye thing and got everyone to quiet down while he 'meditates'," he replied, and stifled a yawn.

He really should have gone to bed earlier last night... he'd barely gotten three hours sleep, between watching over Scorpius on his rounds, and then checking to make sure thatworked still... "Anyway," he said over the end of the yawn. "Where've you two been?"

"Talking to Fred about Quidditch," the older Potter said grimly. "We need Kanda."

Albus gave the Seeker a luke-warm glare. "Why?" he demanded. "You don't even know if he can play."

"Better than the alternative," Hugo piped up. "Besides, he's a good flier. He was tested the first week, remember? Took to it like a natural. And his arm- well, after that lake scuffle, nobody would blink at the thought of him becoming a Beater. Face it, we lost Ted; Kanda's our only hope!"

"I know he doesn't look like a team player," James acknowledged the snort from his brother and the other listeners, "but I have to at least get him to the tryouts. Maybe he'll appreciate the stress relief."

"Well he definitely needs that," Albus said thoughtfully, and sighed. "Well, alright, but you should probably wait to pester him about it until after he's done 'meditating'."

Smirking, James looked towards the dorms. "Probably. But I gotta get stuff from my room anyway."

"Blackmail?" the younger male asked, grinning.

Hugo groaned. "Oh no," he muttered.

"We'll see," James replied, standing up and padding to the stairs and up. Pausing at their dorm door, he knocked. "Kanda?"

The door jerked open and a pair of brown eyes glared up at him. "Ssshhh! He's meditating!" Adam whispered.

Before James could argue-it was his room too!-Kanda spoke up. "Weasley."

Adam gave James another glare before reluctantly opening the door and stepping aside for his cousin to enter.

Chuckling, James ruffled Adam's light hair before walking in. "You have him well trained, O Kanda-sama."

Over the weeks of sleeping in the same room, the two older teens had reached an understanding. James wouldn't ask Kanda about his late night excursions and Kanda would give James a decent chance in every conversation. It gave James some leeway in teasing and Kanda room to relax without questions.

The Japanese male who was sitting lotus style and eyes closed on his bed snorted.

"Right." Potter strode over to his bed and collapsed on it, staring up at the ceiling. "So? Want to talk about it?"

Adam sniffed and plopped down on the chest at the end of James' bed (Kanda had already informed him that sitting on his would not be tolerated). And then eyed James suspiciously.

"No," was the short and predictable reply.

James smiled. "Do you need to talk about it?"

There was a silent beat. "Unlikely."

"But?"

That one question was so similar to Kanda's conversation with the Chief, that he growled. "I'll be staying longer than expected."

Over on his bed, James sat up, frowning. Staying? "You were going to transfer out again." No wonder he didn't show any interest in Quidditch.

Adam shot Kanda a wide-eyed, hurt look, but kept his mouth shut. He knew that as soon as they remembered he was here, they'd probably kick him out.

Above closed eyes, Kanda's dark brows knitted together. "That was the plan. Yes."

"And now?"

Several weeks, hunting down one Innocence. A freak chance that Walker had caught on to the one boy who was their target. Not a single whisper of a second Innocence. It was hard enough chasing down the various leads, ending in a 'simple' magical explanation, but McGonagall expected them to behave and fill the role of a model student in her school. Meaning that in the oncoming months, this idiotic sham of being a studious drone would have to be real.

Granted now, Malfoy would be an ally in all of this, but he had his own responsibilities. And that damn headmistress would not allow them to disrupt her bubble of a castle simply because they needed two soldiers from her students to assist in a war where exorcists and finders alike were dying every day.

Not only were he and Walker, two competent fighters, mired in this idiocy, but they were not able to pull Malfoy out like he had planned to. No, now four possible fighters were trapped here until the fourth was found.

Which did not even include the time it would take to convince two wizards to abandon home, school, family, and culture, to join in the war.

"It could be months," Kanda ground out, finally opening his eyes to glare at his roommate. Meditation was shot to shit anyway.

James was watching Kanda carefully. "You really don't like it here."

"What I like is irrelevant," the exorcist snapped back. Only my orders.

But James was shaking his head. "Is it the classes? The people?"

The people he could and did deal with. The fucking homework though... "Fine, it's the classes."

The other teen leaned forward, a calculating gleam entering his green eyes. "What if I could find a way for you to drop several of them? Free up some hours?"

Kanda's eyebrows shot up. "You."

"Me."

"How?"

"Quidditch."

Scowling, Kanda growled. "Not that again."

"Think about it," James cajoled. "Take up practice, claim you're going for pro, and you can drop two, maybe three, classes. Most of those who need to know already saw your testing at the beginning of the month. You're a natural on the broom with quick reflexes and a strong arm." And we can hope that you're around long enough for the finales or that by the time where ever you came from calls you back, it won't be worth returning so close to the end of the term.

But he could see the way Kanda was considering his words by the way those dark eyes were lowered in thought.

"You also get some leeway with handing in assignments a day or so late."

Kanda snapped his gaze back up to James. Heavy handed negotiations yes, but Potter's argument had a potential to solve some of his problems if not all. "Maybe," he allowed.

For his unenthusiastic response, Kanda received a brilliant smile in return. "That's better than 'no'," James said, satisfied.

"Not a yes."

James nodded, acquiescing. "But you'll think about it."

"Maybe."

Chapter Text

When Christmas came around, the list of people staying behind for the Holidays was taken. Very few signed up, but of those few were both Potter boys, Allen, Kanda, and Rose Weasley.

The Potters because one wanted to keep an eye on Rose and the other was keeping an eye on his brother (or so he said), and Rose because she insisted upon doing over-the-break studying. Naturally, her mother approved.

As it was, only they, five other students, and most of the teachers remained.

"Well it's convenient, at least," Allen murmured as he plopped down on the seat beside Kanda in the Great Hall. All tables but one had been removed, forcing all the students to sit at the one regardless of house. "So few people being here, that is... Scorpius went home, though, so we probably won't be getting any leads from him-"

He cut himself off as James, Albus and Rose came over and sat across from them. The redheaded girl smiled at them. "Good morning! Can you believe it? A week until Christmas! Oh, we should do a gift exchange, don't you think?"

"Good idea, Rose!" Albus chirped. "I'll get you an attitude adjustment."

Predictably, she swatted him on the shoulder, and he winced. "Excuse me? I'd think you'd be a bit more grateful!" she huffed. "After all the trouble I went through last night-"

"Yeah, yeah, you're right, I'm sorry, now shush!" He glanced around to make sure none of the teachers were nearby and sighed in relief. Then grinned at the others cheerfully. "Morning!"

"Good morning Albus!" Allen returned easily and added with a wide smile, "James, Rose."

Kanda meanwhile ignored the greeting. It had been months since he and Albus had exchanged any civil words. Mutual apathy as it were. However, he did look up and nod a greeting to his roommate and Rose, then went back to his meal.

Rose gave Kanda a brief smile when he looked at them, then sighed as she started to dish herself up. "Oh, it's such a shame, though. I still haven't found a teacher that's willing to give me a pass into the forbidden section... Honestly, I only want to do some research. It's not like I'd be behaving like a couple of little mischief makers." This was said with a pointed glare in Albus and James' direction.

Feigning hurt, James muttered, "Ouch," before recovering miraculously. "What is your research for? A paper? Because if you think about it, if the teachers give you a pass, they will need to give everyone else in the class a pass as well just to make things fair."

"Not necessarily. It's an independant study anyway," Rose replied, splitting open a biscuit to butter it. "I had a long talk with Professor Sprout during the second week of school about it. I asked, should I do a paper on different plants all over the world, if I would be able to turn it in for extra points on my OWLs."

Albus blinked, mouth full of bacon. "Really?" he asked around the food, prompting a disgusted look from the sole girl at the table. He ignored it. "Why d'ya need to get into the forbidden section?"

"Well, the really lethal plants are there- no, don't give me that look, it's important to know which ones are the most dangerous! People could use them against us!" she said, and paused to eat some of her biscuit. Above them, a few owls entered, one of them dropping the daily paper before her.

"Sounds... important," Allen said hesitantly, then blinked as beside him, Kanda snorted and got up. "Oops!" Allen said brightly. "I'll see you all later!" Snatching up one last sausage roll, the smiling boy left the table, jogging to catch up with the long strides of his partner.

James chuckled. "For two people in opposite houses, those two are near inseparable."

"Yeah, and total creepers, too," Albus replied with a faint frown, only to get hit by Rose. "OUCH! Hey!"

She glared at him for good measure. "They're very nice. Stop being so rude!" Albus just pouted, so she rolled her eyes and changed the subject. "Anyway... I brought it to your room once I'd gotten through the spell. You'd better be lucky that Uncle George told me how to get into it."

Albus perked at that. "Ohhh, yeah? New shipment, eh? He didn't tell me what was coming, in his letter."

Shaking his head, James was smiling. "Of course he's not going to tell you. Plausible deniability should your letters ever get out." Raising one bushy brow, he turned to Rose. "You think Kanda is 'nice', huh?"

She blinked at him. "Well, nice enough," she amended. "So long as you don't bug him too much. Unless of course Allen's in the room, then it's pointless to even try talking to him."

Albus smirked. "Whaddya wanna bet they're gay for each other?"

She smacked him again, face burning bright red. "Albus Severus Potter, you shut up!" she yelped, voice slightly squeaky.

James only snickered. "You know, that was the same speculation that went on between our dad and Ron. So many people asked Aunt Hermione that exact question."

Rose got even redder as Albus burst into laughter. "Ohhh, you!" she fussed, jumping to her feet. "I don't have the time for this! I have to study!"

"But it's holiday!" Albus protested, trying to get his laughter under control as she scooped up her newspaper and a bit of bacon. "Why d'ya gotta study so much?"

She frowned at him. "Unlike you two, I take school seriously! Anyway, I'm going to see if Professor Sprout's at school. Maybe she'll give me the pass." She frowned some more, but when neither of them looked particularly apologetic, she just huffed and left.

Albus watched her go, and turned his gaze onto his brother. "So?"

Since James was still chewing, he only raised his eyebrows. So?

The younger brother grinned. "So Hugo pointed something out to me the other day, and I found it particularly fascinating..."

Swallowing, the other Potter picked up his glass of pumpkin juice. "And?" he prompted, taking a sip.

Albus waited until his brother's mouth was full before dropping the bomb. "He says you've been moony-eyed over Kanda."

The normally calm James coughed and sputtered; thankfully the glass took most of the spray. His little brother just grinned smugly the entire time, holding up a napkin when James managed to get the liquid out of his lungs.

Snatching the offered cloth from Albus, James wiped his mouth, eyes, and finally blew his nose. Looking down at the crumpled napkin, he grumbled, "I don't know who is worse, little brothers or best friends." He stuffed the evidence into the glass before facing Albus, grimacing. "And I certainly am not 'moony-eyed'."

Albus smirked. "Yeah, keep telling yourself that," he said, grinning widely. Then he sobered. "If you ask me, though, I'd stay away from that guy. He's an ass."

The older brother coughed once to make a point, giving Albus a flat look. "So are you."

"At least I don't rat people out without a reason," Albus retorted. Or keep dangerous secrets. Though, maybe he did. Still, gave the man no right to rat out his housemates, regardless of the reasons!

Sighing, James rubbed a finger between his brows. "Are you still going on about that? In case you have forgotten, he did that in consideration of me. And since then, you've done plenty of pranks, some that he's even caught you at, and he didn't do anything then." Mostly because Albus had taken Kanda's advice, providing an out for all the guilty and, unknown to his little brother, James had asked Kanda to leave the interactions between the siblings alone.

Albus had to concede that, even if the older boy gave him bad vibes. "Well, fine then, don't take my advice. At least just be careful, alright?" What he didn't say was that he flat out didn't trust the man, and if Kanda did anything that got James in danger... Albus didn't know what he'd do. He might just lose it completely on the Japanese boy.

Blink. "I'm more careful than you give me credit for; I don't needle Kanda like you do," James said, tilting his head and giving his brother a penetrating look. "One incident doesn't result in months of antagonism. Not from you. Unless it's Malfoy, and we both know that's an act."

Albus shrugged; his friendship with the Malfoy heir wasn't news to either the Potters or the Malfoys. "Your point?" he asked almost boredly, though he knew what James was insinuating.

"My point is," James leaned forward, throwing an arm around smaller shoulders, "you're my brother and I trust you." He looked into matching green eyes. "Tell me why you want me to stay away from Kanda, a real reason. The reason why you don't like him so much. Then I'll consider your advice."

Albus looked away. "There isn't a real reason," he admitted quietly. "I just... you remember that one Summer, when Dad told us that we should listen to our gut instinct? That's what I'm doing."

Hugging his brother tightly, James brought his free hand up to ruffle Albus' hair. "And Kanda is an ass. Yes, I know that too. Makes me wonder why Rose thinks he's nice," he mused, backing away from the younger Potter's swatting hand. And it was true, but instinct said his roommate was caustic and dangerous. But, and maybe this was because he was around Kanda more, he got the feeling that Kanda was trustworthy.

For a moment, James frowned. Had he been moony-eyed? Sure, being on the same Quidditch team meant that he and Kanda spent time on and off the pitch together. The new Beater still wasn't too clear on the rules and kept getting in James' way when the Snitch buzzed by too closely.

Worse, Kanda had a habit of actually snatching the golden ball out of the air and pelting it at Allen whenever the Slytherin was in the area watching. Why he threw the Snitch after catching it baffled the entire team. Which was one of the reasons why James still had his position. At least he didn't let go of the flying target!

"You're doing it again," Albus deadpanned, getting up as the end of breakfast bell rang. He smirked. "I suppose I'm just going to have to hex him pink in retribution!"

"What?" James blinked. Then laughed and pelted a bread roll at his brother-much like Kanda at Allen come to think of it. "You're an ass!" Pause. "Make sure to get pictures." May as well get Kanda used to the pranks if Albus was going to give him a bit of a chance.

"Of course! Then I'll have to sell them to Allen. I have a feeling he'd like some blackmail," Albus said thoughtfully. He turned toward the doors, grinning faintly as he headed that way, but paused. "Oh, yeah... I almost forgot."

This time, James put down the fresh glass of juice without drinking and waited.

The younger snickered. "Uncle George wanted to talk to you. Send him an owl?" His eyes danced with mischief.

Curious, James nodded. "Sure. Anything I should know?"

"Probably not," Albus said with a shrug. "Least, I can't think of anything. Anyway, I'm gonna bring some bacon to Rose..." He scooped up some and put it in a napkin. "She barely ate anything. See ya later."

The older brother waved and was already pulling out parchment as Albus left the hall. What could Uncle George want? James wondered.

xXx

In one of the many classrooms, now abandoned in lieu of the holidays, the two exorcists were pouring over reports and notes. White papers full of text and scribbled notations were scattered over two tables pushed together. Some had fallen on the floor. Some had been tossed there intentionally.

Just because Komui finds owl post amusing and quaint, does not mean he has to send his paperwork to us to look through! Kanda snatched up another report and scanned through the introduction, searching for the location note. Like this one! It's not even for England, it's for Germany!

Flinging the report to the discard pile, Kanda picked up another. They had already gone through all the communications from the local finders. There were some leads for this month, but not many. With most of the student body gone home, it wasn't surprising.

What was frustrating Kanda into gnashing his teeth was that of all the leads that they had shown Scorpius, the wizard boy had shaken his head and pointed out most could be explained away. Goblins and house elves, floo powder, drunken brawls involving mispronounced spells, defective potions, cracked wands, ghosts, magical creatures... the list went on and on. The finders were doing their best, but without their involvement with the wizarding world, they weren't able to distinguish between what was Innocence and what was 'normal'. And even then, Kanda still found what passed as common day in Hogwarts to be... fantastical. And fucking useless!

They still didn't know if spells could affect Akuma and without seeing the Innocence they were searching for in action, there was almost no chance of finding it on hearsay.

Looking through the newspapers from the wizarding world was almost painful. Things that the exorcists would find common with Akuma were credited to curses and hexes, resurgences of dark wizards or a bad batch of butter beer. Their two cultures were so removed from each other, interpreted events so differently, that it was hard to choose whether to disregard information or not.

Thankfully, Malfoy was helping. When he wasn't being trained by either exorcist or fulfilling his student responsibilities, he helped them with the reports. The blond boy had quickly formed an opinion of the Chief.

Kanda glowered at the paper in his hands and then realized that he had been staring at the same cover for the past five minutes without even reading the title.

"FUCK!" he burst out. "Moyashi! Outside. Now." he barked. I need something to hit.

Allen blinked and looked up, brow furrowing. But he didn't argue, since he knew how frustrating this was first hand. "Alright. Let's go to the Room of Requirement though. Don't want anyone blundering into the middle of it." That was one headache he'd gladly forgo.

But his partner was shaking his head. "No, I want to hit something. No Innocence, just hand to hand." Kanda slanted a look at him. "Besides, I think you've gotten slower."

The answer he got was a twitch, and then Allen was stomping out the door. "Courtyard," he bit out.

"Perfect." Kanda closed the door after them and flicked his wand at it. The door disappeared into the brickwork. At least some of what they had learned in this blasted school was useful.

xXx

Before they knew it, Christmas had come. The lot of them promised to gather in the Gryffindor common room (Kanda was dragged down by Albus, who had perfected the art of pissing him off, and then lured him downstairs). Once there, Rose started the 'mystery exchange' by giving James a present. James gave one to Albus... Albus gave one to Kanda...

There was a brief moment of silence as the grinning Potter held the innocently wrapped parcel out to the exorcist, and Allen briefly wondered if maybe the thing was booby trapped. There was certainly no telling with Albus. And Kanda hadn't taken it yet, either, so he was probably thinking along the same lines.

"Oh, for Merlin's sake!" Rose muttered in exasperation after a moment. "He didn't hex it! I already threatened to tell his mother if he did, so it's safe!"

The Japanese male eyed the girl, then the gleeful younger Potter. Albus had made various attempts to prank him in the past week; three alone in the last two days. Kanda knew you didn't have to hex something for it to blow up in his face. "Just put it down on the floor Potter," he told Albus, then passed a green box to James.

Albus grinned and set it down on the floor. Of course it wasn't hexed. Not even he was fool enough to get the wrath of Ginny Potter brought down on his head. None of them would cross her; she wasn't afraid to hex them in retribution. "Don't worry, Rosie," he protested under the redhead's suspicious glare. "No harm done."

She sniffed and put another box beside Albus', offered Kanda a smile and held one out to Allen. "Here. I wasn't sure what to get you, but... I figured it'd be good."

The younger exorcist blinked but accepted the box with a smile in return. He shook it gently by his ear and sniffed it. "Chocolates?"

Kanda blinked as the package croakedAnd Europeans say Japanese cuisine is odd...

Chuckling at the expression on his dorm mate's face, James shook his own present by his ear. It swished. Cloth? All the Weasleys, and by extension the Potters, knew what clothing in a box sounded like. The sweaters were legendary. "Is this... clothing?" he asked, puzzled.

All he got was a shrug. Though Allen was smiling wide as Kanda shifted his eyes away.

Albus would have snickered, but a box was thrust into his face at that moment, and he grabbed it, lowering it to frown at Rose. She just smiled brilliantly at him, so he shrugged and put it in his lap. "Alright!" the ginger girl gushed. "Has everyone passed out their presents to everyone else-?"

"Oh!" Allen gasped, patting his pockets frantically. He frowned when he came up empty handed. "What? Where did I... Ah!" He twisted around and scooped up a small parcel from behind him, holding it out to Rose, who beamed as she accepted it.

"Anyone else?" She got shrugs and murmurs that basically meant they were all done. "Alright! You can open them now!" she chirped cheerfully.

Of course, the first thing Allen opened was the food. He peered curiously at the chocolate frog, tugging open the casing... and nearly jumped out of his skin when it jumped out of the package and on top of his head. "Eeh!"

Albus nearly ruptured an organ, he was laughing so hard.

Just as amused, James thumbed open the box from Kanda. He blinked. Running a palm over the soft dark grey material, he thought he recognized a collar... "Is this a shirt?" He lifted up an edge and tilted his head as the cloth came up without any buttons or zippers. Very unlike any sweater he had ever received.

Albus peeked over curiously. "What is it?" he asked, looking at James first, then Allen. The pale-haired boy pretended not to notice, busy opening his second present as he chewed the chocolate frog. So Albus was forced to look at Kanda.

Sitting across the circle in a wooden chair, Kanda was frowning down at his own present. What is this? It was a small red-enameled palm-sized object. Made of metal. Narrow, almost rectangular. There were polished flat pieces hinged and folded into the sides. Notches near the ends... The Japanese exorcist flicked open the long blade of the Swiss Army knife and blinked. Interesting.

Albus' brow furrowed faintly, before he shrugged and went back to his own presents, and Rose smirked slightly. That was when she picked up the parcel Allen had given her. After opening it, her entire expression brightened. "Oh! Allen, they're beautiful!" she gasped.

Allen grinned as she lifted the white-glass, engraved hairsticks gingerly. They probably hadn't cost much, but they were still gorgeous, with swirls and dots in various different colors, designed to write out her name on both sticks. Probably magicked, in fact.

"I'm glad you like them," he replied with a nod.

Looking up at Rose's exclamation, Kanda's face smoothed into polite neutrality. He turned to the younger Potter. "Thank you for your gift," he said, sliding the blade back into place. "It's very practical."

Albus met his gaze, teeth currently trying to rip open James' present (which had been purposely over-taped). He quickly released it and nodded. "Yer welcome," he said hurriedly.

At that moment, James lifted the entire 'shirt' out of the box. It looked like a... robe? The closest thing he could think of was a house coat, but it was far too thin. It was nice, but he already had a house coat. "Kanda? What is this exactly?"

There was a snort. "Did you give him a dress?" Albus said, voice choked. Any possibility of civility between he and Kanda ended right then.

Sighing, Allen watched as his partner's expression frosted over. Ah well.

"No," Kanda grated out. "It is not a dress. It's a sleeping yukata," he added for James' sake. Beside him, Walker dropped his face into his hands.

"A sleeping... yukata?" Albus asked slowly, eyes narrowing. "That sounds dirty. Like... lingerie dirty."

Rose's face turned bright red at this. Oh no.

Twitch. "Fuck you," Kanda said flatly.

Lowering the yukata, James obviously was realizing something. "Oh... This is what you wear to bed isn't it?" He chuckled a little guiltily. "I was wondering about it."

"Bed..." Albus had an odd expression on his face. He looked like he was about to continue, however for his own good - and probably the rest of them - Rose hexed his mouth shut.

Chapter Text

New Years came pretty quickly after that, and to the delight of everyone, the Headmistress announced that they'd be taking a special trip to Hogsmeade for the evening. They were to stay with a teacher, or in groups of at least three, she declared. Anyone caught breaking the rules - here she frowned at Albus and James - would be escorted back to the castle and watched over by teachers there.

They set off for the wizarding village a little after six in the evening, set to stay until the fireworks display at midnight. Of course, as soon as they got there, James, Albus and Rose split off, headed for Honeydukes. And when they came out, Rose was trying her hardest to keep Albus from eating so much sugar that he got cavities.

"Uhg! Alright, fine! Let's at least go sit down somewhere!" she said, giving up.

Albus nodded. "Good idea. James, any ideas where? I don't really feel like hanging around the teachers, though, so the Three Broomsticks is out."

"No one wants to hang around the teachers," James replied with a smile. "So, best place would be-" A bright flash of green lit up the street, followed by a loud crash. "What the heck?"

"Fucking hell, Moyashi! I'll get you for that!"

"Oh." James started to laugh.

There was another flash of green and this time the pressure in the air made their ears pop. A screech rent the air. "My Muffin!"

"BaKanda! How could you do that?"

"You ducked!"

The strange voice wailed, "Muffin! Oh, Muffin!"

"Oh, tha's not good... Not good at all... Erm, s'cuse me, miss... lemme see if I ken help ya out," a deep, rumbly voice murmured.

Albus grimaced. "Did that violent Japanese guy just hex a puppy?" he stage whispered to his companions. "See, James? What did I tell you?"

However, his brother was in no state to listen. The teenager was currently holding his sides and howling with laughter.

"You two are impossible," huffed Rose, frowning as Hagrid fussed over the apparently hexed animal. "Can we go? Before they decide to round us up and go home because of overly violent tendencies?"

Albus snickered and grabbed his brother. "Shrieking Shack," he decided. "Get ahold of yourself, man."

Gasping and grinning widely, James wrapped an arm around Rose's waist. "But they are so much fun!" he said gleefully. "I mean, from my point of view, if they draw all the attention, so much the better. Right Albus?"

There was no arguing with such excellent logic. "Right you are, James!" the younger Potter agreed. "Let's hurry!"

Rose rolled her eyes as the three of them quickly retreated from the commotion, heading out of town and down the long path toward the Shrieking Shack. Eventually, she pulled ahead of them and turned around to walk backwards. "Do you two plan on eating all that candy right now?" It was a valid question, since they were stuffing their faces even as they walked.

"Yes," James answered for both as, of the two, he was the only one without bulging cheeks. He quickly popped a handful of chocolate in to rectify that.

She wrinkled her nose as Albus chewed and swallowed just enough to talk. He opened his mouth, but she rolled her eyes and shook her head. "No, please don't bother talking, that's so gross," she said, turning around again. "Huh? Who is that?"

Ahead of them was a girl that looked like one of the local villagers, standing on a hill facing the Shrieking Shack. Rose picked up her pace curiously. "Oh, that's... that's the daughter of Honeyduke's shopkeeper, isn't it?"

Albus blinked, brow furrowing faintly as he closed the bag.

Humming, James nodded and swallowed. "Beth's second." He winced. "Beth's mum passed away just last month. There was a flower arrangement near the kitchen and I saw the placard." Picking up his pace to match Rose, he said, "We should say hi. Maybe she'd welcome some company."

"Yes! Oh, maybe some sweets too," she agreed, beaming up at her older cousin. "Oh what was her name... oh right! Sarah! Saraaah!"

The girl on the hill turned to look at them, face expressionless. "Yes?" she asked blankly.

Rose hurried up, snatching the bag of sweets from Albus. "Want to share with us?" she asked cheerfully.

"Not hungry," Sarah said, turning away. "I only want... Never mind."

Taking a step forward, careful not to crowd her, James offered his arm. "Would you like some company then? There's fireworks later tonight."

After a hesitation, she looked up at him. "Company?" A faint smile flitted across her lips. "That would be nice," Sarah said, linking arms with the older Potter.

There was something... something wrong with her. It was the only thing that Albus could think. There was this twisted feeling in his stomach like dread. What was it...? No don't get near her... something's wrong... What was it?

Rose was oblivious, however, and beamed. "Wonderful! This'll be fun! Do you have any friends? Maybe we can have them join us too!" She turned her head to say something to Albus, but realized that he was standing almost ten feet behind. "Huh? Albus?"

James only saw it because he was watching Sarah. The girl on his arm had been looking at him, then shifted her gaze to Albus. Her smile widened and a sparkle lit her eyes. He blinked. Do they know each other? He was even further confused when she spoke.

"Albus is it?" Sarah cinched her arm tighter and James frowned. That wasn't a friendly tone. "I think I've been searching for you," she continued.

The dread solidified, and the hand that was already in his pocket tightened around the coin he always kept on him these days. His eyes were widening with panicked horror. James and Rose. "Have you?" he asked, voice barely even. "Then you should come get me. You know I have it. I know you want it."

Rose stared between them, eyes wide. Just what is going on?

On a normal day, in regular company, Albus did have a tendency to make raunchy jokes and blatant innuendos. James' frown deepened. But this didn't feel right. His brother wasn't smiling. In fact, Albus looked downright white as the snow around them.

"Albus? What's wrong?" The older Potter took a step forward, back to his sibling, but the girl hauled back on his arm. He nearly fell back against her. "Sarah?"

"What dad said, that one Summer," Albus said slowly, not looking away from the girl as he slowly pulled his hand out of his pocket. "What you should always do... But this is beyond Kanda."

Rose frowned. What was going on? Why did it feel like her cousins were suddenly so serious? And Sarah... she was... she didn't look sad anymore. She looked... hungry. Like one of the boys after a long Quidditch practice, only about ten times worse. She took an instinctive step away from them all, wondering just what she was missing. Why are they acting like this...?

"Rose," James spoke up, voice easy and cheerful, but she could tell he was forcing it... "I think I dropped my wallet." He grimaced and patted his back pocket. "I'll stay with Sarah. Could you and Albus go see if it's at Honey's?"

But James didn't keep his wallet in his pants. He kept it in his front breast pocket...

Rose nodded slowly, realizing something must be very wrong. "Oh, right!" she said quickly, a little relieved as she stepped out of reach of the others, closer to Albus.

Inside, James felt something inside loosen in relief. If Rose could get away, then perhaps this wouldn't be too bad, but then Sarah breathed in and the world around them seemed to still.

"No..." the girl half-sighed. "You should stay. I'd like that. He would like that." And then something shifted in her eyes. "Innocence..." she hissed. Albus' closed fist moved over the other and unfolded...

"By Merlin," James choked, wrenching himself away. "Run Rose!"

The redheaded girl stumbled past Albus as the boy dropped his now empty hand and flicked his thumb to send the coin flying. "Invoke!" he whispered, and it stopped mid-air, thunking to the ground right before him. The coin then seemed to... grow, from the second it touched the snow, leaping up into the form of a javelin, which Albus snatched at immediately.

By the time he'd finished, the akuma had shown its true form. Then the gently glowing javelin shot right through its face, cutting through to bury itself in the snow on the other side of the hill.

Staggering to the side, James had a fleeting image of light spreading like cracks over a howling face. Sarah... Sarah was a mechanical ball... and... With a shout, James flung himself across the few feet and crashed over both Albus and Rose as what he thought was Sarah exploded.

"What the fuck is going on?" James demanded, face inches from his brother's as ash and fire rained down.

"I'll explain later," Albus hissed, shoving his brother off him. He scrambled up and skidded out of sight down the hill, presumably after his odd glowing javelin thingy.

"J-James?" Rose said, voice high and fearful.

The scowl over the older brother's face dropped away and he sat up, brushing her hair back from her wide eyes. "It's okay. It's okay." Ignoring the snow, the ice, the destruction around them, James pulled the shaking girl into his lap and wrapped singed arms around her. "We're okay."

Moments later, Allen and Kanda sprinted into sight, a puffing Hagrid just behind them. "James!" Allen called. "Is anyone hurt?" Is anyone dead?

His partner skidded to kneel by the two wizards, eyes darting over faces and exposed skin. "Where is Albus?" There were no empty discarded clothes. So there was a chance...

For a moment, James blinked at the exorcist. "Fine. He's fine." He looked across the hill, following the fresh tracks in the snow. "He's fine." And then Potter went back to hugging Rose and refused to answer any more questions.

Which was just as well, since his brother chose that moment to burst into breathless laughter from down the hill. The younger Potter stumbled up the hill, giggling, and nearly tripped as he got to the top and found a root. "You're late for the party," he pointed out.

For a minute there was silence punctuated by Hagrid's heavy breathing as he jogged up to the group. Allen was frowning at Albus; Kanda's lips twisted into a sneer as he stood; Rose was shaking her head, face buried against James' chest; and James was scowling at his brother.

This explanation had better be damned good, James thought. And soon.

Albus' faint smile faded then, as he eyed them all. "Rosie? You okay?" His gaze darted over her and James, silently asking his brother the same thing with only a look.

She lifted her head and gave him a watery smile. "Yes... I'm okay... Are... are you? And Sarah..."

"I don't think that was Sarah," the boy muttered, not looking at the exorcists. "Didn't look like her. Didn't look human."

"No," James said slowly. "Definitely did not look human after that." He sighed and looked down. "Are you ready to stand, Rose?"

Standing over them, Kanda extended a hand as Allen scanned over the hill.

James blinked up at Allen, focusing on him for the first time. "Allen? What's that over your eye?" The white-haired boy suddenly had a tattoo over his left eye, and it glowed, but that was nothing compared to the strange gear-like thing that hovered before it. And it moved.

Albus looked up at the other boy, eyes widening. What the hell? He shifted closer to Rose and James, eying the boy warily.

"Wha's goin' on, then?" Hagrid asked, confused as he eyed the debris. "Wha's this?"

Cutting a glance at the Moyashi, Kanda let his hand drop and turned to the teacher. "An akuma-a demon-was destroyed," he said shortly, then turned to Albus. "What happened?"

The younger boy could feel his gaze, but he didn't meet Kanda's eyes as he murmured cryptically, "Magic."

Allen realized that James was still staring at him; he hadn't answered the question. Sheepishly, he shrugged. "Uh, well, it lets me see the souls chained to akuma," he explained. "Normally, an akuma could hide from pretty much anyone when they're in the human body, but... I can see them even then, with this." He let the curse relax, returning to its standby state. "More importantly, we should get you guys back to the village. It's freezing out here."

Akuma, strange curses, and my brother neck deep in it. Beautiful. James sighed. "Alright. Rose? Time we got up out of the snow."

She nodded and climbed to her feet, holding her hand out to Albus. "Al?"

He gave her a bright smile. "Right!" He grabbed her hand, starting forward and releasing the hand again after only a moment. However, then he slung his arm over her shoulders and dragged her along. "Whaddya think, Rosie? A song to brighten our day? Shouldn't let the other students know about this! Don't wanna let 'em know how much fun we had!"

Rose scowled immediately. "You! This is no time to be joking around, Albus Severus!" she protested, though she let him tug her away.

Still sitting in the snow, James sighed and crossed his arms over his upraised knees. He'd let his brother play distraction, he wasn't sure if he was up to it just yet. Or standing for that matter. Holding up one hand, he was a little surprised that it wasn't shaking. And then he blinked as a pale hand reached down, wrapped itself around his upraised one, and hauled him up. Guess standing is a must.

"On your feet, Potter," Kanda muttered, his other hand coming up to brace James' shoulder.

The taller male slanted a look at his support. "I'm expecting a better explanation for this," he warned, though left unsaid that he was expecting one from two people.

Kanda didn't say anything, but nodded.

Allen watched Hagrid hurry after Albus and Rose worriedly, then glanced at Kanda. "Mm... I think I'm going to do a sweep. You got this alright, Kanda?" he asked.

The other exorcist snorted. "We're fine. Don't get caught."

The younger boy waved him off. "Pfft. I'll be back in ten."

Both older teens watched as Allen wandered over the crest of the hill and out of sight. Which was when James realized he was still leaning on Kanda. Oops.

Straightening, he magicked off the melting snow, unobtrusively testing his legs and balance. Not any worse than falling off a broom, he decided. "Kanda," he said, waiting for the other man's eyes to swing back to him. "Does the word 'innocence' mean anything to you?"

xXx

Being a wizard had its benefits: wet clothes became dry in moments, dirty jackets were cleaned in an instant, torn robes were repaired in seconds. However, being a wizard did not save Albus from an interrogation as soon as James was dry and warm.

"Rose? Would you excuse us for a moment?" The smile on James' face wasn't exactly cheerful, and the question wasn't really a question.

She gave him a frown, but nodded and got up. "Goodnight," she murmured.

When their dear friend had evacuated the bedroom, the older Potter flicked his wand and soundproofed the room. Then blanked the windows just in case. Then added visual warnings on the door to be paranoid. Only then did he turn to Albus.

"Right. Talk."

Albus grimaced, and pulled a coin out of his pocket. "This is what it was looking for," he muttered, unable to meet his brother's gaze. "I found it at the beginning of fourth year, in the prefect's bathroom. Scorpius and I were sneaking a bath in there, 'cause you know how much better the bath is." He sighed, staring down at it. "I hung onto it for a while, started thinking of it as my lucky charm."

The coin was reverently set down on the covers of his bed. "Well, I didn't know it could be used for anything until Ameli was attacked."

"Ameli? Malfoy's sister?" James looked up from staring at the coin in startlement. "What happened?"

"Erm... It was a Hogsmeade trip, a bit like tonight. There was this kid in an alley... Well... eh..." Albus cleared his throat. "Scorpius ran with her while I used the javelin to distract it... and I killed it."

No sooner had the last words left his mouth, than James was wrapping his arms around him and hugging tight. "And of course, you didn't tell anyone," the older brother muttered into Albus' hair and then sighed. "You're okay then? No missing parts?"

Albus, for once, didn't tell his brother to stop it with the weird mushy shit. Instead, he sighed. "Yeah, I'm fine. Didn't touch me. I was just glad that Scorpius and Ameli got out alright. She fainted and refused to remember it for a month. Me... the worst I got was a couple pesky dreams. Really, I had it the easiest."

He finally pushed James away and his brother let go with a smile. "Anyway..." But he didn't seem sure what to say next, and so just shrugged.

Sitting down on the bed, the coin between them, James peered down at it. "So this is an innocence?" James murmured, then grimaced. "What a term to give it." He tilted his head. "Does it do anything else? Besides the glowing stick thing, I mean."

The question seemed to surprise Albus, who shook his head. "No, I don't think so," he said, but then thought about it. "Not that I'm really an expert. But it's never done anything else, so I doubt it."

"Can I look at it?" James asked hesitantly.

Albus nodded wordlessly and watched his brother pick the tarnished coin up.

"Huh. I wonder what currency it is," James mused, turning the coin over. A Roman helmed head on one side, soldiers on foot on the other. He hefted the brass disc once, then handed it back to Albus. "So, you toss it to get it to change?" He vaguely remembered something glinting in the air.

"I flick it off my thumb, like for the heads or tails game, yeah," Albus replied, fingers closing around it.

A faint smile flickered to life. "Have you ever dropped it?" he asked, brows raised.

Blink blink. "What? No... it's always in my pocket unless I'm using it," he said, surprised. In fact, he admitted privately, he'd been afraid to drop it. If he lost it, or it broke...

James chuckled. "Sorry. I just had an image of a shining spear of light coming down through the ceiling. Glad to hear you're careful with it."

Albus rolled his eyes. "Don't worry, it wouldn't hurt anyone. It only hurts akuma," he reassured his brother. "Hell, it doesn't even work unless I say 'invoke'. I mean, it did the first time, but after that..." He shrugged.

"Hmm, any idea if spells work on them?" He hadn't even had a chance to snap off a spell today. Albus had reacted that quickly, which he was still rather proud of.

"I don't know," Albus replied. "At the time, I think Scorpius was too freaked out, and both last time and today... I just kind of reacted. It's kind of weird, now that I think of it..." His brow furrowed. "I've 'trained' longer with a wand, but with the innocence... it's like I just immediately defaulted to using that instead. At least where akuma are concerned."

An odd wistful expression flew across James' face. "Well, I guess that means I don't have one of my own," he said lightly. "I still reached for my wand."

"Not all of us are destined for greatness, Mr. Potter," Albus replied, straight-faced.

James blinked once, then burst into laughter. "Thank Merlin for that!" he finally said when he had calmed down. "But you know," he looked over, eyes serious, mouth quirking, "No, never mind. I assume that you are what Kanda and Allen are here for?" he asked instead.

Albus looked down, all mirth vanishing. "I guess so. Or at least, why they're still here."

Reaching over, James ruffled his brother's hair. "I won't say anything to them, but I won't stop you whatever you decide." Kanda had said they were here for the innocence and that they would leave once it was found... Meaning, the 'exorcists' would be taking his brother away if Albus was discovered. Talk about leaving the nest...

Albus' fists clenched in his lap. "I don't want to go," he muttered, voice tight. "I don't want to leave. My family, my friends... You and Rose... I don't want to lose you guys... I don'twant to be part of a war!" He abruptly scooted to the edge of the bed and got to his feet before beginning to pace. "You saw it, you told me. When we were kids, remember? And sometimes we got woken up... middle of the night... Dad was..." He swallowed. "Merlin's sake, Dad was a lucky one, too!"

"Yes," James agreed, voice low. "Lucky." He was going to drop the topic, but if Albus wanted to talk... "How lucky will you be from now on? Hunted by akuma in human skins?" If you are with someone like Allen, you could be safer. Have warning.

"I can handle the occasional akuma," Albus said, stopping in place. But this time, his words were less certain. Couldn't I?

Wincing, the older brother gave Albus a pained look. "You throw your weapon. And then after, you have to run to grab it again. I saw how far up that thing floated. It didn't look like it was within stabbing reach. What happens if there are more than one? Someone out there is bound to notice that their demons are being killed off one by one." In fact, Kanda hadconfirmed that there was a leader.

"That Earl guy? I'll just hide from him like I've hidden from the exorcists," Albus snapped, then sighed and flopped down on the bed again. "I guess that wouldn't work forever, though. Nothing ever does..."

James rubbed a hand down his face and nodded. After all, the akuma had discovered Albus, not the exorcists. "If..." he started and his expression firmed. "If we can determine that spells work, then maybe you don't have to go. We can protect... We'll stand together," he amended. "We can learn the signs and act faster. If we tell the teachers, tell Dad, then everyone will be aware and safer." For that matter... "Why haven't they gone public... Oh right, mass panic." And magic affected everyone not like innocence.

"We can't anyway," Albus muttered. "I don't want Dad to have to go through that again. Him and Mum, and grandma Molly... They all spent so much time... akuma rarely pop up around wizard settlements." He sighed. "So... it'll be fine, if I just go..." He grimaced. "Maybe even better... Because Sc-" He stopped, grimaced again.

James was staring at the floor, mid nod-their parents were such heroes; they would involve themselves-when he froze. "Because...?"

Albus had the audacity to give his brother a bemused blink. "Hm? You say something?"

"No," James drawled, giving his brother a narrow-eyed look. "Actually, it's the other way around. You were about to say something."

"Nope, pretty sure I was done," the younger Potter said, the picture of wide-eyed innocence. However, when James' glare became more pronounced, he knew he'd lost. "Alright, alright. Uh... Scorpius-has-one-too," he said quickly.

Merlin... James dropped his face into his palms and groaned. "You two are... unbelievable." Draco was going to flip.

"Well..." Albus shrugged. There was just no arguing with that.

Scratch that. Mum was going to flip. Because there was a good chance both brothers were going to war. As if I'm letting my baby brother go with just Scorpius! James sighed. Guess it's a good thing I like Kanda.

James blinked. Wait. What?

Albus blinked as his older brother groaned and flopped face-first onto the bed. "Uh... You okay there?" The older boy mumbled something into the mattress.

"That's not a very intelligent answer, dear brother. Try again," the younger Potter advised.

There was a frustrated expletive told to the bedspread and then James lifted his head just enough to clear his mouth. "If, and that's a big 'if', I ever do go moony-eyed over Kanda... Hex me."

Albus got up. "Where'd I put my wand?"

Unluckily for his younger brother, James still had a wand within reach. Thankfully, the soundproofing stopped anyone from hearing, the windows were opaque, and the signs were blatant. The steady stream of pillows that pelted Albus' head did not stop for quite a while.

Chapter Text

It took three days after the students returned before Scorpius and Albus were able to arrange a meeting. So, on the fourth night back from Holiday, the duo met in front of the Room of Requirement.

"It's not in use?" Scorpius asked softly, glancing around though no one should be in the area.

"Nope. I'll explain when we're inside, but I have it covered. When was the last time you saw Allen?" Albus asked.

"He was pretending to sleep in the dorm when I left half an hour ago," Scorpius replied. He shrugged and opened the door to the Room of Requirement. Indeed, it was not in use.

The two of them shut the door behind them to find themselves within a neatly arranged room just like the Gryffindor dorm rooms, only instead of five or six beds, there was only one and a desk. Albus sighed and tugged off the invisibility cloak fully, setting it on the bed and watching in amusement as half the bed went translucent to the floor. Scorpius sat beside him.

"So?" the pale youth asked after a moment had passed.

"... James knows, about both of us," Albus replied with a sigh. "He said he'd distract Kanda for tonight- I honestly don't want to know how, though."

The Malfoy eyed his friend worriedly, ignoring the innuendo. One rarely got anywhere in a conversation with Albus if they paid any mind to his blatant perversion of reality. "Did something happen?"

Getting back on his feet, Albus shrugged uncomfortably. "Another akuma showed up... it attacked while Rose, James and I were celebrating New Years in Hogsmeade."

Scorpius' pale blue eyes widened in surprise. "She's alright-? You're alright?"

A part of Albus unclenched at that. Rather than upset he'd spilled the secret to the others, Scorpius was concerned for his welfare. That was so him. "Yeah." He sat down again and quickly went over the details, ending with his and James' discussion later New Year's night after returning to the castle.

He could tell immediately what Scorpius would say. The sheer force of the other boy's relief was almost tangible. "So you're going to go?" he asked hopefully.

"That's why I wanted to talk to you... I wanted to know what you think about it," Albus admitted carefully. "I haven't decided yet..."

Scorpius sighed, gaze sliding away as he thought about it. He knew that Albus wouldn't like the thought of leaving everyone behind. Especially his father, the person he looked up to the most. There was also Rose, and Albus' mother that occupied his thoughts... but it was probably James that gave him the most trouble.

James had always been there, after all. Even when their father was working the odd hours at his Auror duties, or in the night when the boy was too prideful to go to another and admit he was scared. Hell, that same pride still got in the way, but James always found ways around it.

Malfoy lifted his head and met Albus' gaze, realization dawning. "You've already decided, haven't you?" he asked softly.

There was a brief moment of panic, and then firm resolution. "Yeah, I guess so."

Scorpius nodded sharply, and lifted his chin. "Well then, spend tomorrow preparing. Tomorrow night is the night."

Albus gave him a wan grin. "I think I'm gonna puke."

"No you're not," Scorpius retorted, and got up. "I have to hurry up and finish my rounds now. You want me there too, tomorrow?"

"Yeah. I'd like that," Albus replied, hopping to his feet. He scooped up the invisibility cloak and swung it on, leaving only the head visible. Pause. Inhale. Slow exhale. "Well, suppose I should look on the bright side!"

Scorpius gave him a skeptical look. "Seriously? What's your idea of a 'bright side'?"

Albus grinned. "I forever get to haunt the steps of my brother's boyfriend." He punctuated this with an evil cackle.

"You're incorrigible," Scorpius muttered. But he was smiling anyway.

xXx

So this was... interesting. James sat back, bright eyes flickering back and forth, following the spar. After Kanda had basically laid the whole situation out for him, the Japanese exorcist had actually... relaxed around him.

He had thought that before, Kanda was at least less edgy around him, but since New Years there really was a noticeable difference. All because he explained a few concepts? James mentally shrugged.

The past week had been a turbulent mix of adjustment and self-examination. Now that he knew why Kanda was in the school-even knew for whom-James no longer stopped himself from asking about his roommate's night time activities. Those new questions had at first startled Kanda, but instead of turning sour, the man invited Potter to accompany him. That was where the self-examination really came in. Because James was delighted at the invitation.

I am not going moony-eyed! James Potter told himself one more time as he tore his gaze away from Kanda's shoulders. Those robes really didn't do him justice.

He had never seen the 'uniform' that the exorcists wore, but Kanda told him that the skin-tight sleeveless turtleneck was part of it. James had just hinged his jaw back in and nodded dumbly. Sure. Okay. Not arguing. Whoever had designed their wardrobe had to be either a woman or a muscle-fetishist. You could see every single curve and plane.

This whole new consciousness of Kanda's physique had James questioning something else. Had he always been looking? And only now that he had consciously realized his attraction, he realized what he was doing?

Is this what Hugo meant when he had first mentioned it to Albus?

Dear Merlin, have I been watching his ass this whole time?

No... that couldn't be it. If so, Kanda would have said something. No, not said; he would have beaten James into the floor for being a lecher.

I think he would have, James thought. But then... Why isn't he beating me now?

Oh, the questions... Sighing, he found himself contemplating how long black hair would feel against his skin. Merlin, I'm helpless.

In the end, maybe it wasn't whether he would follow his brother to the exorcists' home, but if he would stay if his brother didn't reveal himself. Would Kanda stay here if Albus didn't speak up?

Shaking his head, James dismissed his whimsical thoughts. I stay with my brother. Simple. Attraction was only that. Family was where his priorities lay.

"James!"

Snapping to attention, James looked up. "Yo?"

Allen was beaming at him as Kanda walked around picking up various articles of clothing. "It's time for dinner!"

Blinking, James looked at the clock on the wall. Then smiled. "So it is." Never doubt the mealtimes as dictated by Walker's stomach.

Busy repairing the rips in his pants, Kanda snorted. "Shower first."

"Aww!"

During the walk back to the dorms, James was very distracted.

xXx

Ten minutes later, while Kanda was showering, James was given a note by one of the third years while he was waiting in the common room. The girl leaned over, clearly expecting him to open it right then under her nose. One that was curiously scrubbed clean.

Frowning, he turned her face towards him with a hand. "Don't you usually wear make up?"

Hazel eyes flashed to the note in his free hand and then away. She blushed.

Ah.

"You shouldn't read other people's notes, Jessica."

She pouted. He shooed her off. She left with a huff. He sighed.

Well, it has my name on it... Gingerly unfolding the paper, James peeked at the writing. His eyebrows climbed up into his bangs.

"The second wielder is walking forward tonight. Be at the Room of Requirement at midnight. This message will self-destruct in eight seconds upon being read. - SM*"

Aw hell. James hurriedly tossed the note into the crackling fireplace where it wrinkled up into a tight little ball and disappeared in a burst of green flame.

Someone really needed to talk to Scorpius about his flair for the dramatic.

Chapter Text

When Scorpius opened the door to the Room of Requirement, he was clearly unsurprised to find that his greeting was met with a flat stare and a curiosity-tinged smile. Kanda was unreadable. Still, he stepped aside, letting them in.

It was the usual dojo they used, but there was one very odd difference. While Allen and Kanda were well aware that Albus tended to lurk when they met with Scorpius - almost every time, in fact - the boy had not ever revealed himself. It was mutual knowledge that everyone knew he was there, yet Albus had preferred to pretend he was secret.

Thus, when they entered the room, it was with some small surprise that they found the younger Potter boy fidgeting near the back of the room, uncloaked. He was twisting something shiny in his hands, but Allen couldn't really get a good look at it.

When the boy didn't so much as look at them, however, Allen turned his gaze onto Scorpius. "What is this about?" he asked, as this boy had been the one to call them here. He'd claimed to have important information, but refused to be more clear on the matter.

"I told him to call you here," Albus replied quietly.

It was faintly disturbing to see Kanda's face drop all expression, but James didn't stick around to puzzle it out. He gave the Japanese man a small smile and crossed the room to stand by his brother. 'I'm here,' he said by placing a hand on Albus' shoulder. James squeezed once and turned to face the exorcists. 'And here, I'll stay.'

Albus nodded and straightened his spine, looking up to meet Kanda's gaze. "I'm the one you're looking for."

Kanda's eyes flickered from the younger brother to the older. Then over to Scorpius. Finally, it cut over to Allen.

The other exorcist shrugged and sighed. "No killing, BaKanda."

James held his breath at the reminder and then forgot he needed the air when Kanda glanced back at him. Without changing expression the Japanese slid his attention back to Albus, whom had pressed his coin into James' hand.

"You have ten seconds to prepare yourself," Kanda told the boy calmly as he pulled Mugen in its saya from his belt and handed it off to Allen who stepped back to the wall. "And then I'm going to kick your fucking ass."

"Go stand with Scorpius, James," Albus ordered flatly. The only thing he could think was 'this is really gonna hurt'.

Scorpius' brow furrowed, but Albus had already told him to stay out of it, so he just watched... and waited.

Seven seconds later, James cringed. Three seconds after that, he frowned. Five seconds further on, he winced. He shifted closer to Malfoy. "At least he's not crippling my brother for life..."

"Yet," was the bland reply.

Long story short, ten minutes later, Albus was laid out on the floor, with probably a couple broken ribs (his nose was pretty broken too). The worst Kanda had to show for it was a bruise on his arm that would be gone in moments anyway.

When the Japanese male stepped back finally, Scorpius frowned with worry. "You didn't knock him out, did you? Least, not from a head wound? Because that would mean a concussion and I just realized I didn't bring a tonic for that."

Allen blinked and looked at him. "You brought tonics?"

There was a snort from Kanda. "Someone does think in this school," he said, picking up his robe.

"No headshots," James confirmed. He was a little more used to following Kanda's moves. Scorpius was probably more used to dodging them. "Albus? You with us?"

The only answer was a tired grunt, but Scorpius looked relieved. "Can you get up?" Albus groaned, and the Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Broken bones?"

"Mmhm."

"You want me to help?"

"No."

Scorpius rolled his eyes. He had never in his life met anyone else that could put that much pride into a single syllable. Especially when injured. "Just let me help, Albus."

Meanwhile, James was watching Kanda take Mugen back from Allen. "Is that over now?" At Kanda's flat look, he extrapolated, "No more hard feelings between you and Albus, I mean."

"None over his silence," Kanda replied stonily, then turned on his heel and left the room.

Albus groaned. I hate that guy, he thought uncharitably, then sighed and let Scorpius help him up. Though, if he were perfectly honest with himself, that was kind of one beating he had coming. I also hate being honest with myself... ouch.

"Come on, here," Scorpius said. He held up a bottle of skelegro. "Stop pouting, and just a sip."

"Uhg." Albus grabbed the bottle with a wince (Scorpius rolled his eyes again), and the boy took a sip as ordered. Then he lifted his gaze to Allen, frowning.

The one exorcist in the room was leaning against the wall, legs crossed at the ankles, hands clasped behind his head. His eyes at half-mast, Allen only exuded polite interest. "Yes?" he asked with a neutral smile.

For some reason, Albus was abruptly reminded that it was this guy, and not the other, that had been put in Slytherin. Allen was always so damn polite and smiling that the Gryffindor tended to forget that he wasn't one of their own.

Had he been any other person in the world, Albus may have thought twice about opening his mouth. However, he had Weasley blood in him; there just wasn't a filter. "Just wondering what's next," the darker haired youth replied.

The smile dropped away and Allen pushed up off the wall to stalk over. "Months Potter. Three long, frustrating months." The white-haired boy stood over Albus. "You knew about us within four weeks." His grey eyes narrowed as his hands clenched. "You know first hand what an akuma is, what they do."

James took a step forward, hand outstretched. Albus can't take anymore of a beating tonight...

Allen closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, the smile was back. "We leave for headquarters, Potter. That is what's next." Then he too, turned and walked away.

Albus sat there on the floor in the sudden silence of the room for a very long moment. Then he carefully pushed himself to his feet. "Guess this is it, then," he said softly, and looked at Scorpius first, then his brother. He swallowed, feeling a little lost. But he'd decided to do this, right? Just so that Rose and James, his parents, his family wouldn't have to worry about any of it.

Still, his heart hurt at the thought. Not seeing any of them for a while, possibly ever, if his assumptions were correct.

"Albus?" Scorpius asked, letting the other boy pull away from him.

"We should grab the essentials. I don't think we'll be able to bring much," Albus replied, and walked stiffly past his brother. He couldn't do goodbyes. He wouldn't be able to look James in the eye...

There was a sigh from the older Potter. "You're not thinking, Albus," James said. "You'd be surprised how much you can take when you can shrink your luggage bags. Also, baby brother?"

Albus stopped, swallowing. "Yeah?" he asked after a minute.

"You forgot your coin."

Oh shit, Albus thought with a grimace, and turned around. He held out his hand wordlessly, eyes downcast.

"Hmm." James shook his head and tucked the coin into his breast pocket where things were spelled not to fall out. "Maybe I'll hold onto it until we reach 'headquarters'. You're kinda out of it."

Startled green eyes finally lifted. "W-wait... what? We?" he echoed, a bit dumbly.

"You didn't tell him?" Scorpius asked, exasperated.

Smirking, James hummed again. "Did he really think he could leave me behind?"

"What?" Albus repeated, eyes wide.

Scorpius sighed. "I suppose he probably deserved it, but that was cruel." He smirked at the taller boy. "He's coming with us, Albus."

Albus just blinked at them dumbly.

"No, Scorpius," James' smile turned sad. "What is cruel is that my brother did not tell me anything of tonight. He would not have said good bye." Reaching out, he brushed fingertips through Albus' sweaty bangs. "And that hurts me. So I'm keeping his coin for a while. Just so I know, for sure, that he won't just leave me behind without at least a willing word. Can you understand that, Albus?"

Albus' eyes lowered, in guilt, in shame... "I understand," he said softly. "I... I'm sorry."

The older brother stood gazing down at his sibling for a long moment. "Scorpius," he said, eyes still on Albus. "Please tell your sister good bye."

Scorpius looked up at the older boy, glanced at Albus and nodded. "Okay," he murmured. "I'll see you later, Albus." He hurried off.

Waiting until the door thudded closed behind Malfoy, James sighed and reached out, pulling his brother into a loose embrace. "You stupid, stubborn, prideful fool."

Shoulders shaking, Albus grabbed his brother back in a somewhat return of the hug as he sobbed softly. He could be prideful and stubborn and stupid later. Right now, the only thing in the world he wanted to do was cry like a dumb little boy.

xXx

"Rose?"

The Gryffindor girl paused, having been about to head out of her room toward the bathroom. She now stood in the doorway, staring at her cousin leaning against the opposite wall. Her mouth pulled into a frown. "Albus, this is the girls' side. You're not suppose to be here!" she scolded.

"Sorry. It's important, Rose," he replied, sighing. "Can you wake Lily?"

Rose frowned more deeply, but finally nodded and turned, heading toward the third year girls dorm room. She slipped inside and shook Lily awake, the younger girl rolling over to peer up at her cousin blearily.

"Mm? Rosie?" she asked, voice groggy. "What'sa matter?"

"Albus wants to talk to us," Rose replied. "He says it's important. Get dressed."

Lily nodded, sleepily bemused, and quickly wiggled into some slacks and a t-shirt. She didn't bother running a brush through her hair yet, since it was just Albus, and followed Rose back out into the corridor.

Albus was still waiting in the same place, and looked up at them sadly. "Alby?" Lily mumbled, walking over to her big brother. "What's wrong? Were you crying?"

He leaned over and gave her a hug, tight and maybe a bit desperate, but she didn't mind. Albus rarely gave hugs. After a moment, he pulled back and sighed. "I'm sorry to wake you up, Lily. I have to go, and I wanted to tell you and Rose goodbye first."

"Go?" Lily blinked large green eyes up at him, startled and not at all sure what was going on. Beside her, Rose looked like she was trying to figure it out with very little information. In the end, they were both looking at him, at a loss as to what to say or do about it.

Finally, though, Lily shook her head. "I don't get it," she muttered. "Where are you going? Why? When will you be back?"

"I don't know," he murmured, sighing. "Not for a long time... if ever. But I had to come tell you both goodbye, at least..."

"But Alby!" Lily protested, eyes widening. "You can't go away! What about me and James, and mum and dad?"

"James..." Albus swallowed. "He's coming with me, but he can probably come see you guys whenever he wants. He doesn't have the same obligations I do..."

Rose frowned, crossing her arms and glaring at him. "What? Just like this? Just... Albus, is this about that... that thing that attacked us?" she asked. "Please, just tell me what's going on. I can help!"

He shook his head, grimacing. "Not this time, Rosie."

Lily hugged him again, and he didn't push her away. "Why are you leaving, Alby?" she said into his collarbone, voice muffled by his shirt. "Why?"

He brushed his hand through her hair, sadly amused to find tangles in it, and slowly worked them out. "I have to go become an exorcist, I guess... I'll be fighting to protect everyone, just like Dad did. Fighting akuma." He swallowed hard, and kissed the top of her head. "I'm gonna be a hero, just like Dad. I'll be someone you guys can be proud of. And don't worry about me being alone. I'll have Scorpius and James... and a whole lot of other people helping out too. Other exorcists."

"Won't you be able to send us letters?" Lily asked, looking at him.

"Maybe," he replied uncertainly. "I really don't know. I'll have to ask." He smiled at her. "If so, then I'll send you as many as I can get away with. I have Tiki, after all."

She beamed up at him brilliantly. "Okay. Pinkey promise?" She held up her hand, and giggled when he groaned exaggeratedly and locked pinkies with her. "Alright! And if you don't keep the promise, I'll find you and break your pinkey."

"I believe it, you little monster," he retorted fondly.

"Okay! Wait right here," Lily ordered, and hurried off back to her room.

Rose took her absence as an advantage and hit Albus upside the head. "OW! What was that for?!"

On came the mighty Rose scowl of doom. "For being a great bloody jerk and not telling me, Albus Severus Potter!" she hissed. Then added, "and keep your voice down. People are sleeping."

"Sorry," he said contritely, with a guilty expression. "I've been screwing up a lot lately, I guess... But I promise I'll be fixing things, alright? And if I can, I'll write to you too."

She pinched him. "You'd better!" she snapped, and stalked off. She had to go to the bathroom.

He smiled ironically as he rubbed his arm and looked toward Lily's room as the door opened again. She hurried back to him and held up the little bit of thread their mother had fashioned into a bracelet for her. "You have to wear it! So you don't forget to write to me, Alby," she said firmly, and thrust it into his hand. "Alright?"

"Alright."

xXx

"No."

Well, what else did I expect? James met Kanda's gaze from across his bed in the early morning light and shook his head just slightly. "That wasn't a question, exorcist."

Scowling, the other man turned and shoved another folded pair of pants into his travel bag. "And I don't remember giving you permission, wizard."

"Why not?"

Kanda let out a growl of frustration. "Because you're a civilian."

AKA, read canon fodder. James' lips quirked. Hey Merlin! Guess what? He cares! Not even bothering with any sense of order, the taller teen tossed robes and pants, sweaters and books into a large trunk. He paused for a moment, then pulled the robe he wore off and pitched that into the box too.

"Potter, what the fuck are you doing?"

Slanting his eyes to the side, James took in Kanda's thunderous expression, his stiff posture, and twitching facial muscles. "Packing."

"Were you not listening? You're staying!" The Japanese man yanked on the drawstrings of the bag and straightened, arms crossed and dark eyes glaring.

And James stubbornly returned the gesture in full. "You weren't listening. I said, I am following Albus. He's my brother. I will not abandon him."

The two of them stood staring at each other and James swore he saw the slanting golden light move half an inch by the time the other man unclenched his jaw.

"And what if this war forces you to leave him?" the exorcist asked him with a sneer. "What if you have to fight him? What then?"

Sarah's empty body, plodding through a parody of living.

James smiled. "Then I will know I have done my best, and stayed true. I will never leave him willingly."

The exorcist sighed. "Pain in the fucking ass, James." Some of the tension in his body seemed to seep away. Still, Kanda pointed at the large three-quarter full trunk, declaring, "You can't bring that."

Smirking, the wizard turned to eye his luggage. He tossed a pillow in for good measure and snapped the lid down. Under Kanda's skeptical gaze, James pulled out his wand and moments later, he pocketed the tiny box of belongings. "Why not?"

The other man gave him a thoroughly disgusted look. "Fucking smartass." And then the exorcist dragged out a similar trunk and began to load it up.

If I were brave, I'd say he was sulking. James chuckled. "I'm gonna say my goodbyes. See you at McGonagall's office."

"Eat shit."

Chapter Text

Probably the only one that wasn't fidgeting a bit under the stern gaze of Professor McGonagall had to be Kanda, and Albus was pretty sure that was simply because the guy was a sodding rock. Hell, even Allen looked like he didn't want to duke it out with the lady (and as it turned out, this was a wise thing indeed).

"All of you," she said flatly, frowning at them.

Albus knew what she was thinking. The two Potter boys and the heir to the Malfoy fortune. Oh, their families were going to be so thrilled with her. He could see the reactions now...

Astoria Malfoy, beautiful, deadly, bitchy... Crashing into the Headmistress' office and demanding an explanation, while her husband just kind of lurked like a pro in the background. And then in would come Harry and Ginny, the latter enraged and the former concerned and serious. Voices would be raised, panic would ensue... So glad I told Rose and Lily... they should be able to handle it... I hope.

Unless, of course, Ginny Potter decided she was pissed enough. Then they might just have another Dark Lord (Re: Lady) on their hands. Holy crap, wouldn't that be a sight? It's almost worth the wait.

And McGonagall was still ranting at them, wasn't she?

"... last time I agree to help you out, am I clear, Mr. Kanda, Mr. Walker?"

She was answered by a very, very loud rumble, and Allen turned faintly red. Hickory-colored eyes narrowed at him, and he nodded quickly. "We understand! We'll let Komui know as soon as we return," he said sheepishly.

Albus almost felt bad for the poor guy. They were late for breakfast, and he had to deal with that glare. Man, I hope my mom doesn't show up at 'headquarters'. Holy crap.

"...ry well then. When do you plan on leaving?" the woman demanded sharply.

That was when the living statue called Kanda actually moved. Its mouth opened and Albus saw the throat shift, but whatever Kanda had to say was drowned out by another gurgle that whined more than it thundered.

Albus turned his head and gave Allen an incredulous look. Seriously, man?

The pale shadow to the Potter's right cleared his throat. "Perhaps we should hurry up and get some food..." Scorpius suggested, Not Looking at Allen.

There was a slight smile on James' lips as he nodded to headmistress McGonagall. "I believe that we are leaving right after breakfast." No one wanted to travel while Walker was hungry. Might eat us instead.

The now scowling Kanda turned to face the woman. "Immediately after breakfast," he confirmed. Then grimaced. "I ask for permission to take necessary provisions from the kitchen as well."

McGonagall frowned at him but nodded. "Of course," she said, voice like iron. "Now, if I may have a moment with my former students? You may both go on to the Main Hall. I'll send them along in a few minutes."

Albus exchanged a curious look with Scorpius, whose icy calm expression didn't change. However, the Potter could read him well enough to know his friend was just as bemused. So he nodded to the Headmistress.

As the two exorcists bowed to the headmistress, James took a deep breath and kept his eyes on McGonagall. She didn't look happy, but if what he heard was right, she knew this would happen. And if she was expecting this, then the war she was allowing them to walk into was worth it. The door behind him clicked shut.

For a moment, the woman before them said nothing. She took the time to eye all of them separately, before exhaling slowly. "I'm not going to waste apologies on you, for what you're going to go through. I'm not going to tell you that it's going to be okay, and everything will be easy, because the fact is... it won't be." She frowned at them. "All I can hope is that you will be able to watch out for each other in the time ahead. I want you to be careful, all three of you."

She pushed away from her spot leaning against the desk, and stepped around it, picking up an opened letter. "Now normally, this entire process would have been slowed down considerably not only because of your age, but also because we would have to wait for permission from your parents..."

The younger Potter frowned. "But?" he ventured when she hesitated.

"But it's already been given." She held out the letter.

"What?!" both Potters exclaimed. James reached out and snagged the letter a scant half inch before Albus. He started to read aloud:

"To my two sons, James and Albus Potter, and to Scorpius Malfoy,

The Headmistress McGonagall has informed me of the situation at Hogwarts and has forwarded all information on the Black Order that she has. I daresay, it's a sight more than you boys have combined.

I cannot say it is an easy matter sending my boys to war. Draco is none too pleased (Scorpius, expect a howler as soon as you reach Headquarters. I don't envy you. I've already received a few). However, I cannot deny the danger in keeping two fledgling exorcists from learning to control their powers and protecting those unable to save themselves. I'd be branding myself a hypocrite. I've done many dangerous (Draco insists 'imbecilic' is the proper term) things in my time at Hogwarts. I only hope that you will be safer alongside those who have been trained and who have years of experience (Please don't show this letter to either Ron or Hermione. I don't like being hexed, no matter what others say).

Do not expect to disappear into the night without hearing from me, Draco, or your mothers. And this is an implicit warning: We Will Hunt You Down if you fail to send an owl every month.

James, I know you will follow Albus. You're just that stubborn.

Albus, for Merlin's sake, don't let James out of your sight!

[Here the handwriting changed] Scorpius, I will be sending you a private letter shortly, but for now I will say this. You are a Malfoy. I have faith that you will succeed and thrive in whatever atmosphere you will encounter at this so called Headquarters. I know you will make me proud. You always have.

Your mother is writing you a howler at this instant. She is... Well, let's just say it will take a while for the screeching to wind down. I love you, son. Be well.

Signed,

Draco Malfoy

[Then the writing changed back] And with that, I shall also end the letter saying: Take care, both of you. All of you are loved very deeply by your parents, your siblings, your friends. We all look forward to LETTERS and PICTURES, and the occasional VISIT. And I am proud of you both.

Oh, and boys, you are not going unscathed; Ginny is also writing a howler. Aren't you lucky? There is one for each of you.

Signed,

Harry Potter

PS: You didn't think we wouldn't know, did you?"

He didn't know about the other two, but James was feeling a little dazed. His younger brother grabbed the parchment from his loose grip as the older Potter staggered to the side and sat down. His own words to Albus came back and he had to smile. No, they hadn't told their parents what was going on. Nor had they said good bye to them.

"We do deserve every one of those howlers," James said with a sigh, rubbing two fingers over his brow.

"May I see that?" Scorpius asked Albus softly, and took the letter when it was held out. His eyes ran over it and the tall youth smiled faintly.

Albus grinned. "Ohhh, yes. You still know that muting charm, right? The one that lets only the one addressed hear?" he asked his brother.

One dark brow lifted. "You really think Mom hasn't found a way to get around that already?" James asked sardonically.

"Yeah, I forgot it too," was the cheeky reply.

McGonagall sighed. "Alright, I'll need the letter back, Mr. Malfoy. And you had all best be on your way before the others get concerned."

Scorpius reluctantly relinquished the letter to her, though he was obviously pleased by the contents (even the threat of a howler couldn't dampen the words 'I love you'). "Yeah, I'm hungry," he agreed softly.

"Food!" Albus said, grabbing his brother's arm and hauling him up out of the seat. "Let's get some before Allen eats it all."

Chuckling, James allowed himself to be dragged out. "Not even Allen can eat that much!"

The three young men nodded and said their farewells to their now ex-headmistress, and slipped out into the now bustling halls of the school.

"Our last meal here," the older Potter said softly, voice all but unheard in the surrounding clamour.

A dark shadow came up on his left. "Thank fucking God for that."

James blinked. "Kanda?"

"Moyashi went on ahead," the shorter man said, strides lengthening to match Potter's.

The younger two wizards were pulled away, jostled by the crowd. James lifted a hand and waved to Albus who had looked back. "You didn't have to wait," he said to the exorcist by his side.

Kanda snorted. "The less time spent around that walking vacuum, the better." They walked through two halls in companionable silence before he spoke again. "No regrets?"

James was watching the students milling about him, taking in the familiar walls, the smiling faces, the movement in gilded frames. "I'll miss this," he admitted, "but no, no regrets." He turned to smirk at his friend. "You?"

For a moment, the Japanese transfer student blinked. Then Kanda rolled his eyes. "You have to ask?"

James laughed.