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Quicksilver Thorns

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When he first sees her, she’s standing in a gaggle of other eleven-year-old children, both hands occupied — a blonde slip of a girl on her right, a taller redhead on her left — and her eyes trained forward, chin held high. It’s striking, he thinks, because out of all the children there (and there aren’t that many, he finds out later, not for Hogwarts) she’s the only one who looks truly confident, with that straight-backed posture and a slant to her mouth.

(Later, he will recognize that tilt to her lips as a declaration of war.)

(And later than that, he will wonder why she gazed at a castle like it was a challenge — almost an enemy, but enemies only receive frozen eyes and vampiric smiles, he learns this too — when everyone else was in awe of what would be their new home.)

After that first sighting and that fateful Sorting, he doesn’t have time to waste on watching the girl with blood-red hair and piercing blue eyes narrowed in challenge. He’s busy avoiding the sneers and the whispers, keeping his textbooks safe — they are riddled with holes and tears soon enough — and his homework in-tact — he finds it missing or replaced with foul words — and trying to learn healing despite the Dark-Grey of his core, because his elbows and shins are bruised from tripping and blocking. He’s busy trying to find time to sleep in between taunts, trying to find safety in a House that hates him.

His letters to his parents grow stilted and short, increasingly formal and distant. He is sure they can tell he is almost maddened with distress and frustration (They won’t leave him alone, why can’t they just leave him alone?), with loneliness (He doesn’t want to be alone, he always has been, he thought maybe he’d make some friends in this country…), with betrayal (That Vaisey boy said he’d be his friend and then he just- he-).

It is… the feeling of betrayal, he thinks, that is the worst.

He had come to Britain with the hope that someone would look past his ingrained lack of facial expressions. The children in Germany, they were either purebloods as stoic as he was, or Halfbloods and Mundane-born who don’t understand; he could choose between cold, calculating conversation or intimidated whispers that soon transformed into scathing insults.

But it is the same here.

“Why is your face like that, Bastion?”

“Do you even know how to smile?”

“You’re looking down on me, aren’t you?”

“Stop being so smug, you prig! What? Not gonna say anything back?”

“Can’t even say anything back, can he? What a freak.”

“Freak.”

“Like a statue.”

“Or a gargoyle. Never does anything, just stares.”

“Probably slow in the head, too.”

“Go back to Germany, Bastion. You’re really not bringing anything to Britain but your glares, you know.”

“Why doesn’t he ever react? What a joke!”

“Weakling.”

“Stupid.”

“Are these letters to your parents? Are you a baby, then, Bastion?”

“Ha! As if he has anyone else to write to! Don’t even have friends in your actual country, do you, loser?”

And so on.

(He has been trained since birth to kill his feelings, to hide them, to only express when he feels safe and the other party is worthy and there is true substance and importance to what he feels. A lord must be calm and collected, and it is only under extenuating circumstances that he was allowed to smile in delight or cry in frustration or frown in anger when he was young. He cannot express, not when he is surrounded by enemies and they will use what he feels against him.)

He cannot reach outwards to the the other Houses, because he wears green and silver and in this country, in this school, that is a sign that he cannot be trusted. He cannot reach inwards to his own House because he cannot express what he feels, he cannot bring himself to throw away the training his parents — affectionately, if sternly — gave him. He cannot turn to the teachers, whose looks are pitying and humiliating or cold and uncaring. He cannot turn to anyone in this damned, small place with even smaller people even if he wants to, desperately.

By the time he sees her the second time — truly looks at her, because glancing as she, too, is tripped in the hallways and her things are taken into her hands more worn than they already were, does not count as looking at the entity that is his leader — he is on the verge of withdrawing from this damned school and returning to Germany. In his country, though his peers sneer at his half-French blood or gaze enviously at his status or mirror his own cold countenance, at least he will be treated decently. Perhaps not warmly, but he should not have expected something he was raised to hide away.

But he does look at her the second time.

And she looks at him, too; for the first time, he thinks.

It’s… embarrassing to remember, for sure. His temper is frayed and he so craves privacy that he trusts that empty classroom as soon as he thunders in. His words and hands are harsh as he tried to clean up the ink that exploded in his bag — a gift from his parents, for luck, for success, for finding that he was looking for, a failed gift, look at how tattered it is — and he doesn’t notice her there. (He learns later that she performs Notice-Me-Nots often, to keep away from the bullying of others, and it’s one of the first things she teaches him when he gains the courage to ask.)

“I thought you were German.” were her first words to him.

He almost hexes her, his hand on his wand and his blood already boiling in anger, but her hair is distinctive. He remembers that it flashes in and out of his peripheral during the day, never a color that taunts him or attacks him — though it’s a shade quite close to that Rookwood boy’s, just a bit brighter and obviously shorter-shorn. It’s only that, knowing that she has never directly attacked him and always has a look of distaste when she sees the effects of the others’ campaign against him — he cannot remember if she is ever on-looking as it happens, as Rookwood is — that stops him from snarling at her and leaving immediately.

“Weasley,” he calls, remembering her surname only because of how much ridicule is directed at the mostly-Gryffindor set of siblings, “What do you want?”

(They always want something.)

(Always.)

She has an odd expression on her face. Then she shrugs. “I was here first- Oi, you don’t have to leave, Bastion, I don’t own the place. Merlin. Here-”

He doesn’t remember much after that. Only that she approaches him and tries to help and it sets his nerves on edge because no one helps. He looks for every and any excuse to hiss at her, to make her go away, and then he runs. He can’t take another Lucas Vaisey, sympathetic smiling and Nathaniel Wilkes’ scheming behind him, he can’t take the cold looks of the upper years, Bole whispering hexes into Sebastian Flint’s ears that come out of his wand afterwards, cutting his homework and papers and hands. He can’t.

He just wanted to see if this place would be different from home. It is. It’s worse, and all Dietrich Bastion wants to do is go home.

 

 

Dietrich loses track after that.

The next class, that odd girl Guinevere Weasley takes Rookwood’s normal spot beside him in Potions and smiles at him- no, grins at him, smile crooked but true, and speaks to him as naturally as she would her brothers and sister. He’s immediately suspicious, because he knows she speaks in short-but-polite sentences most of the time, nodding to those who have done no wrong to her, glowering coldly at the backs of those who do, only grinning at her older brothers or her older sister or that small, strange girl in Ravenclaw, the blonde he saw with her the first time. Guinevere Weasley, however, treats him just outside of being that close to her, that close to being her friend or family, and Dietrich burns with mistrust and longing.

And she brings that bright, warm, inane chatter with her in every class. She sits beside him in every class. It evidently frees Rookwood, who was shoved at Dietrich for being the least likely to protest being near the Slytherin pariah, but a part of Dietrich misses the quiet, if not the tension, that Rookwood brought. Guinevere… puts him on edge.

He wants to know how far she’ll go; she is obviously doing this to trick him somehow, to betray him like Vaisey, and the more it hurts him the more ingrained into the main group of Slytherins she will be. He holds her at arm’s reach and wishes he could toss her away completely.

He tries. He does. He ignores her and snaps at her in turn, but she must have Occlumency training because nothing he says causes the reaction he wants. It drives him mad, because she shrugs it off and draws him into conversation so easily, remarking on this or that subject, hinting at knowing things that would undoubtedly help him in classes, and he has to pursue her. It’s manipulative and frighteningly clever, the way she reads him, the way she edges around the mask he was raised to carve into his face and get underneath.

By the third day, he stops snapping at her. He decides to wait, decides to try to milk her information for what it’s worth and get out before she can hurt him.

By the tenth day, he finds himself intrigued by how damnably brilliant Guinevere Weasley is. He initiates the conversation half the time, careful but more curious than that. She grins at him and Dietrich finds himself relaxing at the sight of it.

By the sixteenth day, Dietrich expects her to take her place next to him. He is getting the hang of her studying tips, learning how she color codes notes and abbreviates words in the margins of her old textbooks. He is also learning all the spells she can teach, and is amazed at how accurately she can tell if he’s doing something wrong; even the subtlest of wand movements, she knows if he was off. And odder than that, he trusts her when she says that once he gets the perfect movement down, he can be lazier, his magic will know what he wants to do.

(He trusts her. It’s… frightening.)

“Hey, Bastion! Where are you going?”

She’s running up to him after they’ve returned from classes for the day. Weasley is lucky, in that she has no roommates; she can leisurely enter and exit her room. Dietrich does not have that luxury. At least, he thinks, she casts the Featherlight Charm on his things whenever he looks a bit more tired than usual; and he can’t believe it’s pity, really, because Weasley does the same thing to her own bag — in this case, it’s fairness, she tells him often.

“To eat,” he answers honestly; Weasley is an honest person when she’s comfortable with someone, it makes it difficult to lie to her maliciously. Fair is fair, after all.

Weasley frowns, a puzzled expression on her face. “Dinner’s not any time soon, though?”

Dietrich hesitates. Then, he mutters for only her ears, “I do not eat in the Great Hall at the assigned times.”

He cannot, because then he would starve. Well, perhaps not now; he occasionally eats with Weasley, when she does not explicitly state she will eat with her brothers and sister or her Ravenclaw friend. But before Weasley — and it is both amusing and sad that his Hogwarts experience can already be divided into before-her and after-her — he couldn’t trust anything within reach of Vaisey or Wilkes or Malfoy. Now, though… well, Weasley is strangely good at detecting pranks and tricks of that sort, stating that her brothers taught her constant vigilance, and he finds it safe to eat at the Slytherin table again, as long as she is there.

Weasley nods, and he knows that she understands the reasons immediately. She is clever like that. Her mouth runs off on its own when she doesn’t watch it, but Weasley is very, very aware of the people surrounding her.

“I eat in the kitchens,” he says quietly, “The House Elves… are welcoming.”

When everyone else is not, he doesn’t say. Doesn’t need to say.

Weasley’s eyes flicker with a bit of indignation, glancing towards the common room that they are just outside of, but she beams. “How’d you find the kitchens, then, Bastion? My brothers — prats, you know — wouldn’t tell me where they were.”

“Are these the twins?”

“All my brothers are prats, one way or another, but yes.”

Dietrich nods. “Professor Snape dropped some… hints.”

She copies the motion, looking pleased. “He’s a good Slytherin House Head, that one,” she says cheerfully, “I’m sure you’re his favorite anyways, in our year. He always likes the ones who are good at his subject. If Fred and George weren’t so utterly destructive, I reckon Snape would like them, too, honestly. Even if he never showed it, since they’re Gryffs.”

“…I find it difficult to imagine Professor Snape and your… demon twins… getting along.”

Weasley grins playfully. “Who said anything about getting along?”

He snorts.

And then he pauses. That’s the closest he’s ever gotten to laughing since he can remember. At home, in Schwarzvogelschloss, it’s not uncommon. His mother shares his stony disposition and humor, they are similar in that regard. His father can often coax his close shades of expressions out with his babbling French. But here…

Weasley is smiling at him like she’s just been told all her siblings are coming to visit her with flowers and chocolate and books full of spells she wants to learn. Like he’s given her a gift or she’s earned something incredible. Just because… He didn’t even laugh, but she still looks so unbearably pleased with him that it makes his head spin.

“Would you like to accompany me?”

The words leave his mouth before he realizes it.

Weasley’s eyes widen, and she looks stunned but not… not disgusted, or horrified, or reluctant, or any of the emotions Dietrich supposes he was half-expecting, for no reason at all.

“To the Kitchens? To eat with you?” she says, brightening with every word.

Dietrich thinks he should be more embarrassed than he is. It is unlike him, to say things or act without careful consideration beforehand; that is part of the reason his peers — a term he uses lightly in this small place — say that he is stupid or slow, aside from his previously-declining grades. (He is second in the year, behind Weasley and just ahead of Rookwood. It is a position he will guard jealously.)

But he is of the House Bastion, his mother of the House Rolfhauser, a pureblood heir, and he will not take back his words. He means them.

So Dietrich nods. “…Yes. Tilly will welcome another to feed.” He pauses, thinking of the Elf that so often tries to stuff him with food and mends his things when she spots their wear and tear; she tuts at him when he goes to the Kitchens for meals too often. “She will delighted that you are why I do not go down there so often, I think.”

Weasley’s eyes glint with humor. “Why’ve I got this funny feeling you were adopted by a House Elf named Tilly?”

Dietrich snorts again. “House Elves. Dagby and Effas will be most upset if I neglect to mention their care as well.”

She grins widely. “I think I’m going to like meeting them. Lead the way?”

He does.

(It doesn’t occur to him until much later that this moment is when he truly began to trust Guinevere Weasley; he gave her the path to his only sanctuary and his only quasi-friends in this entire country. She does not ever take anyone there without him being aware, and the funny thing is, he does not think it is a conscious decision on her part. ‘The Kitchens are Dietrich’s safe place’ is surely her mindset, and she guards that as viciously as she does him.

It makes him want to smile.)

 

 

Julius corners him one day; they all do, Harper and Lucas right behind him.

“You’re acting weird.” starts Lucas, painfully blunt.

If Dietrich is honest, everyone is acting ‘weird’. It is weird that the idiot follower Harper so easily detached himself from the larger Slytherin first-year pack, turned to Guinevere and himself, followed them. It is weird that he nearly tied for Julius Rookwood for third place in academics until the boy also turned away from that same group. It is weird that Julius Rookwood took him aside all those weeks ago to quietly apologize for his treatment. It is weird that Lucas Vaisey, who was the self-proclaimed leader of the old pack, now looks to Guinevere and Dietrich for leadership and help and friendship — things Guinevere extends in spades as long as Dietrich does the same, albeit much more hesitantly.

It is weird that these are his friends now. The boy who betrayed him, the boy who watched it happen, and the boy who laughed as it did. Dietrich would go as far as to say that if some such thing happened again, they would descend on the offender with wands and snarls, on Guinevere’s heels. It is weird that Dietrich would do that same, that Dietrich wakes up without dread pooling in his stomach because Julius and Lucas are already up in their room and urging him to hurry so they can meet Harper and Guinevere.

But more importantly.

It is weird that Guinevere — who so warmly twists Julius’ hair into a braid and tells him he is the loveliest person she knows, who so diligently draws out schedules for Harper so the boy can complete his studies without hinderance from his ADHD problem, who so eagerly sneaks out at night so she can watch Lucas fly and bring him water and granola bars to eat — would discard the affection they return to her, invade their privacy with desperate, near-crazed eyes, the excuse of I need to find my diary, Dietrich! on her tongue.

“I am acting as a normally do.” Dietrich replies to Lucas.

“Don’t lie.” Julius reprimands softly.

He makes a frustrated noise. (His temper is so much close to the surface when he is with people he trusts, when he does not sleep.) “I am not lying.”

And the thing is, he isn’t.

Dietrich still finds his head spinning when he thinks about the transitions: from pariah to ally to friend to tutor to leader to Second. He treasures his position as Guinevere’s Second, as her most trusted, as the one the other boys turn to when she retreats for some well-earned solitude. He holds onto that trust and that friendship, and if he emulates his father — and, amusingly, his new leader/crush — a bit and obsesses over protecting them to the best of his ability, mentally and physically both, who can blame him?

He has known loneliness, and he has known hurt, and now that he has people — friends — who make it seem like such things have never existed and never will again, he will protect them.

This is how he does not lie. Guinevere is acting odd, so he will find out why and he will fix it because that is what he took onto himself when he became her Second. He chose to be her right hand, her greatest support, and no amount of fluttering heartbeats or flushed cheeks or fixation on her crooked smile will take away from that.

“You don’t sleep,” Julius says quietly, “I hear you when you get up in the middle of the night, Dietrich. I don’t know where you go since you keep casting Notice-Me-Nots, but you barely sleep. You’re snappish.”

“More than usual.” Lucas adds.

Harper has that scolded look on his face, his teeth worrying at his bottom lip and his eyes wide with concern. Guinevere has often given into his demands for breaks or performing magic because of this look.

“And you and Guinevere aren’t… talking. Is it because she invaded our rooms?” Harper asks.

“That is part of it.” replies Dietrich stiffly.

“She felt bad about it, you know.” Lucas says, shrugging, “Whatever you said to her, she was right and proper scolded about it. Agreed to go flying to apologize and everything! You two should hurry up and stop fighting. The other Houses might not notice ‘cos they’re all stupid, but Slytherin does. That’s the only one that matters, yeah?”

Harper laughs at that.

Julius steps up, looking almost pleading. “Guinevere doesn’t know why you’re angry with her, Dietrich.”

Lucas snorts. “You know her. She lets her guard down around us, becomes as oblivious and rash as a Gryffie. If you two got into a shouting match, just tell her she was being stupid and since it’s been a bit, her head’s on straight enough that she’ll apologize.”

“Apologies will not fix this.” Dietrich growls.

“What will, then?”

Dietrich snaps, “She’s hiding something from us!”

Something dangerous, he thinks furiously, something that makes her betray everything she stands for. She would never betray any of our trust unless it was dangerous enough, and how can I be a good Second if I cannot help her through or out of such a thing?

Lucas rolls his eyes. “She’s a girl, Dietrich. The only girl in our year. Er, in our House at least. Obviously she’s hiding things. Girl things.”

“And with her being on the outs with her Gryffie twin, she’s probably more secretive.” Harper adds.

“Please just try to confront her on whatever’s bothering you?” Julius asks. “We don’t want to take sides because neither of you want any of us to know, so it’s not our right, but Dietrich… it’s not just that you’re the Second and she’s our leader. We’re all… friends, aren’t we?”

He knows that look, that tone, that hopeful hesitance. They all had it at one point, even Guinevere. It was in her eyes when he asked if she’d like to accompany him to the Kitchens for the first time. It was in his own when she reached her hand out to him with that crooked grin and casual manner, albeit his hope was layered with anger and distrust and spite. It was in Harper’s face when Guinevere asked him if he’d like her to tutor him, too. It was in Lucas’ when Guinevere first started bringing him things to support his late-night Quidditch practices.

It is always, always in Julius’ face. He has still never believed that this is real.

Such a look only strengthens Dietrich’s resolve.

More hours in the library, he thinks, More books. I need to know what it is. I need to know what Guinevere has done. I need to help her. I need to fix this. I need to.

Dietrich promises to try harder.

He keeps that promise.

 

 

He knows what the diary is.

Soul-stealer.

 

 

She could have been dead.

Guinevere tells him she’s had the diary since the summer before Hogwarts.

She could have died in her home and I would never had met her.

She tells him of everything the creature has whispered to her, all the knowledge it’s tempted her — successfully — with.

I would have never been her Second.

There are bitter, quieter, shameful parts where she admits she thought they — warm, living, breathing, grinning Guinevere and the monster in a book — might’ve been friends. Of a sort. She says that sometimes she misses it and isn’t that hilariously stupid, Dietrich? You were right.

I would never have been anyone’s Second. Anyone’s friend.

“It was never meant to put anyone else in danger,” she said quietly, “I never meant to put anyone else in danger. I wanted the information, I decided I would risk myself for it. It was my responsibility.”

I would have been alone if you weren’t here, you stupid girl.

Dietrich is a pureblood of Germany and France, of House Rolfhauser and House Bastion. He has been trained since birth to hold back his vulnerabilities, to hide them, because the world was such that it would grip onto such weaknesses and tear. He knows this. He has known this. He does not say everything he thinks. He doesn’t even say half of it.

“Why do you think it is acceptable to sacrifice yourself?”

Her face twitches, as if she is confused and amused and sad all at once. She settles on a sad smile. “‘Cos if it was a choice between me and mine, you know what I’d choose. Gryffindors really do like raising martyrs, you know.”

Dietrich takes a breath. Her attempt at humor is used, this time, to deflect.

This is alright. This is an acceptable level of secretiveness, deflection in the face of whatever unreal power it is that drives his leader to hoard the ones she calls hers like a dragon and its eggs. This is better than the obsession with the soul-stealer. The soul-stealer that might’ve spelled out her death, and with her death, all the warmth she’s brought with her to this cold, cold House of theirs. All the things thus far accomplished and all the good days where Dietrich knows his home is back in Schwarzvogelschloss but there is another, here, as well… those would be gone, she would be gone, and he doesn’t want to imagine a world where this happens.

Dietrich takes a breath.

“We’ll get it back.” he begins.

They will.

They’ll get the damn thing back. Guinevere would never forgive herself if her blunder caused a death. It is pride, yes, but it is mostly that Gryffindor nobility. Dietrich believes that is fair; responsibility is something Guinevere wears well, wears with experience. He understands this. Equality in such matters is important.

Equality. An eye or an eye, so they say in this country.

They will find the damn book. And then Dietrich will watch it burn, for the noose it has tied around her neck, even now. For the threat it has posed and still poses to the first friend he’s ever had in this world.

She tells him to call her Lys. Like he is family. He does so, and they somehow get themselves out of the classroom the others tricked them into for their — frankly — quite therapeutic and much-needed talk.

He practices all the fire and shredding spells he knows after that. Julius helpfully shows him the Darker versions. He perfects them in the dead of the night, while he enjoys the closeness with his friend and leader — all of them do — in the light of the day. The soul-stealer is going to burn by his wand. That is a promise.

 

 

He doesn’t keep that promise.

When he walks in to speak to Malfoy, to try to get answers from the boy’s mouth and finally end this, he knows there is something wrong. Malfoy is arrogant and obnoxious on a good day, and oddly expressive for being the pureblood heir of such a prominent House. If he isn’t sneering, his face is set into a rather poor imitation of what Dietrich assumes is his father’s smug expression. The boy takes care of his appearance, even as he seems withdrawn and angry lately.

Malfoy looks like he is a puppet held up by strings. Mechanical and unnatural and oddly limp.

Dietrich hides his surprise and suspicion behind his stoic mask.

“I wanted to speak with you, Malfoy.” he says.

Malfoy replies, his voice stilted. “Oh? What of, Bastion?”

The boy he knows does not speak that collectedly, not to someone like Lys’ Second. Dietrich fingers his wand handle, strapped to the pockets of his robe, hidden but prepared. He gives nothing away.

“Of Parkinson.” Dietrich says, “And of how she started your fall from grace.”

“Started, yet incomplete. I haven’t fallen yet.”

Too eloquent. Too smooth.

“You fell the moment you decided to oppose Lys,” Dietrich says carelessly, almost flippantly.

Malfoy’s mouth pulls into a barely-there smile. “So loyal. So faithful. How easily she twists you around her fingers.”

A flare of anger in his chest lights and then is forcefully spluttered. This is not the time to defend his friend and leader as vehemently as he would like, his instinct tells him. That is not something Malfoy would ever say.

What are you going to do about it? he asks himself.

(He wonders later if this is what Lys was faced with, with the book in her hands. Danger staring her in the face, people she needs to protect at her back, no means to fight, but not enough time or experience to know who to turn to for help — help that is not wanted, is shameful to accept, but is needed. He wonders if this caging, suffocating, fearful thing in his chest was in hers, too.)

There are fire spells in his head and he is gripping his wand now, hiding the motion in the guise of polite poise, folded hands.

Malfoy smiles, a tilt of his lips. “But Guinevere trusts so easily. So freely. Casts her protection on anyone who she thinks deserves it. That is going to kill her one day.”

Dietrich understands in an instant.

Soul-stealer.

ADUSTIO!” he roars.

A jet of gold-crimson fire flies from the tip of his wand, coiling and running like a Chinese Fireball flies. Dietrich sweats from the heat of it, winces from the power it rips from his core — Lys, if she knew he was working on this spell, would definitely be angry that he’s pushed himself to near magical exhaustion with it — and struggles to control the tongue of fire, more unruly than any whip its designed to copy. It slams into a perfectly formed shield, too powerful to be a Protego, and Dietrich tries to wrap the flames around it, squeeze pressure into the faintly-glowing white barrier, shatter it and catch the diary aflame.

He can see it now, Malfoy’s arm raised for his silently-casted shield, the book in the folds of his robes.

Malfoy chuckles. “My, my. How violent and astute. Were I truly Draco Malfoy, don’t you think such a Dark spell might’ve killed him?”

“I know you are not him, connard! I know what you are. How long were you planning to wear her skin, just as you are doing to Malfoy? Filthy soul-stealer.” he grits out, his flaming whip sputtering as his concentration loosens.

The soul-stealer’s shield holds, and he looks just as relaxed as he was a minute ago. Dietrich’s dislike for the thing rises sharply, from just that smug look alone. He feels something behind his breastbone twinge in pain. Guinevere tells him enough about magical exhaustion for him to recognize it from just the fatigue alone; this more acute warning sign does not fly over his head. He knows he should disengage, that the spells is too strong for him — a small part of his brain wonders how Julius has mastered such a spell, among many similar others, at this point — but if the soul-stealer gets the chance, he will strike.

Dietrich knows very few shield spells, and most of the powerful ones are wards that Guinevere has taught him. Those take time, and he does not believe he has such a luxury. Not here, not with the thing wearing Malfoy’s face wrongly, twisting his expressions like a puppet he does not have full control over.

“Your magic is giving, little boy,” said Malfoy’s voice coldly, amusedly.

His hairs stand on end at the sound of it. He ignores that. “If I can weaken yours, it will give Lys more to work with.” Dietrich hisses, “She will fight you, soul-stealer. She was half believing that you were her friend, but I know what sort of creature you are.”

Grey eyes flash near-red. “You turned her against me.”

He ignores the spike of panic incited by that expression, Malfoy’s childish face contorted into something hateful; Malfoy is obnoxious and irritable, but Dietrich does not think the boy would ever make a face like that. His heart is beating against his breast as furiously as his core rebels against him, but he cannot back down. He is Slytherin, he is a Second, he will not allow this dangerous enemy to do as he wishes.

“Lys will never let you kill anyone, even Malfoy,” he says, “She is too noble for such a thing.”

“Another thing that will kill her,” sneers the not-Malfoy, no doubt choosing his words to unbalance Dietrich as much as possible, “Merlin save us from Gryffindor nobility. I’ll have to train that out of her.”

Dietrich can’t suppress the flash of indignation, not this time. He is too concentrated on his throbbing chest and head, his sweaty palms, the flaming whip unsuccessfully trying to crush a rounded shield. “She is not a dog to train tricks into, you fils de pute!”

Malfoy grins. “Oh, but she will play fetch, won’t she? How willingly do you think Guinevere will walk into my arms if I’m dangling something she wants right in front of her? Something like, say… her much beloved Second.”

He snarls at the soul-stealer. “You can’t have her.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Dietrich Bastion,” the not-Malfoy laughs, “I can have whatever I want.”

The shield flares, shattering Dietrich’s concentration and spell. The fire fades away, he can breathe easily for a moment, his chest aches with too much magic use. He stumbles backwards, desperate to buy time — I need to warn her, I need to tell her we were wrong, I need to fix this, I need to — and then the soul-stealer points his wand and murmurs something, that smug grin on Malfoy’s face still, and Dietrich knows no more.

 

 

Dietrich watches as she babbles under the effect of a concussion and cries in grief for a piece of garbage that doesn’t — didn’t — deserve her. He watches as she scrabbles around the Chamber, leans against Potter limply, calls out for him because she can’t remember if he is okay or not. She is covered in blood and grime and tears, and Dietrich switches cargo with Potter halfway to the cave-in sight where her brother is nearly through — Ronald Weasley’s hands are covered in blood, nails cracked, and he has been clawing his way through rock in pure worry for his sister, which raises Dietrich’s opinion of the boy tenfold.

Potter takes lead with Malfoy levitating at his side, the older boy’s hands checking Malfoy’s pulse in worry every now and then. Dietrich is more worried about the quieter Lys, who he nearly drags all the way through, her wand confiscated after it started shooting out honeybees that glowed odd colors. She is still crying.

“‘M sorry,” she whispers.

“Hush, Lys,” Dietrich says, “There is nothing to be sorry for.”

“Put you in dang’r, di’nt I? Sorry, Dietrich. Sorry.”

She’s clutching at her chest. Dietrich frowns in worry. “Your core… Did you exhaust yourself, Lys? Does it hurt?”

Dietrich’s chest has been throbbing since he Renervate’d him. It feels like glass, spiderwebbed with cracks; not broken, but very fragile. He switched with Potter because it hurt to cast Levicorpus, and he was worried for the girl who is his best friend.

“Hurts,” Lys whimpers, “Stole m’colors. He was red. Dark red, ’n I’m indi- in- purple. ‘M purple. He took a bit an’ now I got some red. Thrashin’. It knows th’host core’s gone, it hurts.

He almost doubles over with the pain his surge of anger brings on. His body aches, but he is furious. The soul-stealer was this close to having her. Dietrich knows what Soothsayers are, of course, and he and Potter have discussed, just seconds ago, that her ranting about colors is likely a sign that Lys is one — which makes so much sense, now that Dietrich thinks of it, and he cannot blame her for hiding such a powerful ability — so he knows. She’s exchanged magic with the soul-stealer. The thing left such a strong impression on her that magic exchange happened.

(She will tell him later of all the shades in her magic, and how the indigo is tinged with greys sometimes and her strings flash silver, and that those are his colors. It will fill him with pride, and he will ask if her own influence is in his core and Lys will smile, nodding, telling him that sometimes his blues shine indigo in the right angles.)

Her hand clutches at his shoulder, almost painfully.

“Put you in danger ’n m’sorry. My… my respons’bil’ty. You hurt ’n I’m so sorry, Dietrich. ’S okay if you hate me.”

“I don’t hate you, Lys.” he says softly, “Thank you for walking into danger, just to come-” (He was going to say ‘fetch’ but the word pisses him off now, makes him think of red eyes and a cold laugh.) “-get me.”

“Always,” she slurs, “M’bes’ friend. Always come get you.”

Despite himself, his chest warms. A month or so ago, his face would, too. But his fixated admiration and childish want has been softened by frustration and panic — the library’s Restricted Section is not a calming place for him anymore, he thinks, not with all the soul-related books there — and it has melted into a fierce loyalty and fondness. Dietrich thinks he likes this better, this warmth, this lovely feeling of camaraderie. Not a need to be with her, or an ache to take her hand in his and press his lips to her temple as he used to think of privately, but a knowing… a knowing that she will have his back and he will have hers, and that is all they need.

“And I, you,” he replies, “Do not be guilty, Lys. You have given me much over the year. I do not think I can pay you back in this lifetime.”

She’s still crying, but it’s slower to come now. “You’re fine, yeah?”

His chest aches. Casting magic aches. “Aside from some bruises and cuts, I am.”

Lys relaxes a little. It makes the lie worth it.

“S’Malfoy okay?”

“…We will not know until he sees a Healer. He is alive. Unfortunately.”

She weakly bats at his arm, but is definitely smiling. “Rude.”

Dietrich shrugs, the shoulder that is not supporting her. “It is Malfoy.”

Her laugh is watery and weak. For some reason, Dietrich slots it into his brightest memories of her, between her crooked-casual grin and her reaching over to ruffle Harper’s curls the way he imagines a big sister might. A quiet and garbled and probably unremembered laugh, but it’s when he hears it that his shoulders loosen and he breathes out and knows they are all battered and bruised and a little broken, but alive.