Hello everyone! Sorry for the long time in between updates, schedules aren't always going smoothly ^^" Again, I am really impressed by the number of review. Thank you everyone!
KK: outch :s (I kinda relate…except I was the kid ^^")
Guest: yes, motion sickness
Opinr: Thank you :D
Lisou: pas qu'un peu la pression ^^". Bravo pour tes exams d'ailleurs :3 faudrait qu'on se voie un de ces 4, j'ai un bouquin qui pourrait te distraire…
Many thanks to KatHarkness-Katara for betaing!
And special thanks to AnimaFera who kindly helped me with the Russian parts :)
I don't own Harry Potter or the Avengers (too bad :P). Enjoy :) –won't blame you if you don't.
Yasha was all too glad to step on the solid, stable ground when the train came to a stop. He was one of the first down, but once again, he was set for another surprise altogether.
"Firs' years! Firs' years over here!"
At the end of the platform, a huge man was waving at the crowd of students. Big black beard, taller than anyone he had ever met, impressively large. Yasha bet he was a half-giant. Master Pietor had mentioned those people once, during his drunken moments. Stronger than any human, fast in spite of their size and exceptionally dangerous if they were angry at you. The boy could understand what his old mentor meant back then. That man –half-giant –could probably crush his skull with one hand.
"He's huge!" he heard someone whisper in awe besides him. He didn't need to turn around to recognize Weasley's voice. The redhead kid hadn't tried to approach him since they'd gotten down the train and he didn't spot Malfoy-the-Pureblood among the crowd either. A part of him wanted to apologize for emptying his stomach on the boy's clothes. Another part also felt that he wouldn't be sorry for it later.
A hand brushed his shoulder and Yasha didn't jump in surprise, although he came too close to turn around and punch whoever had initiated a physical contact with him. He was glad he didn't though. The Granger girl would have certainly not appreciated it.
"I looked for you everywhere!" she said in an annoyed tone. "I left the boys after they found Trevor but I couldn't find your compartment anymore." Then she dropped the tone and asked: "Are you all right?"
"I feel much better," Yasha replied lightly. "The lady selling candies gave me something against motion sickness and I went for a walk."
A total lie, but he wouldn't admit he'd had to sneak out by the window and use his wandless magic to climb and lay back on the roof of the train for a while. And yes, he had nearly frozen to death thanks to the wind and cool air but at least he hadn't been sick for the rest of the trip.
The crowd of first year students started moving and Yasha and Granger followed the pack. The half-giant led them to the border of the lake, and Yasha had to admit that the landscape was well-damned worth the long hours of suffering. The night has fallen like a dark velvet cover, and yet the castle was dominating the whole background, standing proudly on the stone, illuminated by tons of small windows. He wished Natalia was there with him. She would have loved this scenery.
"Come on Yakov, we need to get on a boat!" Hermione hissed impatiently. He followed her on a small embarkation and climbed in with two others kids. Everyone around him was fascinated by the landscape, eyes wide opened and Yasha could understand their reaction. He was engraving every bit in his memory himself.
"Everyone in?" the half-giant shouted. "Right then –FORWARD!"
They crossed the lake, arrived at the shore. Then, they stopped in front of a huge door and were led inside. The architecture didn't impress Yasha as much as he'd hope. Hogwarts was a fine castle, no mistake there, but he'd seen better. Take all the refined castles all over Europe and the magnificent churches…
"They say the castle was built centuries ago by the Founders." Next to him, the Granger girl kept babbling about things she had read in Hogwarts A History. Apparently, just like the Weasley boy, she had decided he was worthy of being her first friend. "And the ceiling of the Great Hall was bewitched to look like the sky."
He turned around and sent her an unwavering stare.
"Granger, this is all very interesting but no-one is listening. Please be quiet."
The girl looked hurt, but complied when she realized he was right. They climbed up the stairs until they reached the top, where a severe-looking witch was waiting for them.
'Do all wizards have a thing for drama?' Yasha wondered as the elderly woman started her introduction speech with a pinning stare and a strict voice. And he clearly noticed when she mentioned Gryffindor first and Slytherin last. Favorites much? She looked very scholarly in a witch-y way, with her hair tied back in and her body wrapped in that emerald green robe and tilted hat. Very English, although her accent was more Scottish. He noticed she didn't keep her wand at hand; probably in her pocket or in a wand hostler. She obviously didn't expect any of the students to be a danger to her.
When she left and no-one followed, Yasha glanced at Granger and asked:
"Where is she going?"
The girl stared at him in disbelief.
"She just said she'd be back. Weren't you listening?"
He was. He just hoped he had somehow missed a part of her speech.
Someone up there had decided Yasha wouldn't be able to reply to anyone today without being interrupted, for a boyish gasp caught everyone's attention. About twenty transparent, black and white picture-like men and women had just entered the room from a main corridor and some were welcoming them in turn. Yasha cursed. Goddamn ghosts. He hoped these ones wouldn't try to live up to French ghosts' reputation and haunt the corridors seeking out living gossip.
Next to him, Granger gasped in surprise and fear. He felt compelled to reassuringly pat her shoulder. She gave him a grateful smile, which he didn't know how to reply to. Most of the kids had apparently never met a ghost before and they were all gawking. Yasha took advantage of that moment to glance at his surroundings and, out of habit, identified the exit routes. None of the ones he found were favorable for a discreet escape, he noted, but in every old castle there were hidden secret passages. Now that was one thing he'd have to figure out this year whenever he had the time.
"What are you looking at?"
Granger again. Yasha didn't bother answering this time, since inevitably fate would prevent him from doing so. And he was right, as he spotted the elderly witch returning from wherever she had been. Had she departed on purpose to let the newcomers be impressed by the ghosts?
"Move along now," she said sharply –what was her name by the way? She hadn't introduced herself yet, had she? "The Sorting Ceremony's about to start."
Large doors opened in front of them, and the bunch of first years entered what Yasha supposed to be the Great Hall. His eyes immediately darted upwards. Candles were lighting the whole room, and above, a blue night sky replaced the ceiling. He had to admit whoever created it had been good at his job. The crowd of students stopped at the edge of the tables, and the elderly witch set an old hat on a stool. The hat twitched. A rip near the brim opened wide and it began to sing.
"Oh you might not think I'm pretty…"
Yasha wanted to roll his eyes. A singing hat? Really? He listened to the lyrics and understood the hat was basically asking the kids to trust him with the sorting. So the Sorting Ceremony was nothing but a future student sitting on a chair, and waiting for the name of a house to be screamed by an old hat? Yasha was truly disappointed. He was hoping for some wrestling or something more challenging. But according to the reaction of majority of students, perhaps the gentle method was the best. He just sighed, crossed his arms, and waited.
Crabbe and then Goyle were both sorted to Slytherin. Next to him, Hermione started fidgeting, tensed and edgy but impatient all the same. She had kept quiet since he had told her to, something he was grateful for; since he had a vague impression she tended to babble when nervous.
She inhaled sharply and moved forwards. Yasha watched her with some form of amusement as she sat on the chair and eagerly set the hat over her eyes. The hat didn't take long to make a decision.
Hermione's grin was so bright the boy figured the candles were a waste. Still, he ignored the dejected feeling settling in his guts as he watched her leave to join her table. He was starting to like her and really wished they would stay in contact if he was sorted in another House. After reading Hogwarts: A History; he had a feeling he'd end up in Slytherin.
Students went by. A few faces he remembered from the crowd were sorted. The Neville boy was sent in Gryffindor. Everyone was thrilled and the Head of each House tried their best not to look too smug when a new student was sent among them.
After a while, Yasha noted the hat didn't have a precise time set to make a choice. Some kids –take Longbottom - made the suspense last a full minute; unlike Malfoy, who was sorted the moment the hat brushed his head. How did the hat sort them, by the way? It appeared that it made its choice according to the things it read in the students' mind, but Yasha hadn't given it much thought until now. What did the hat see exactly? Would it report to the headmaster, or anyone?
Yasha climbed the steps, one by one, slowly, and discreetly took a closer look at his future teachers. They varied in size and age and some were staring at him intensely. Yasha frowned noticeably as his gaze crossed the oldest, probably the headmaster, Dumbledore. Something clicked and his instincts screamed not to trust him. An odd glint appeared in the man's eye and right after, a gentle nudge in his mind. Was that old goat trying to read…Yasha nearly stopped to call the mighty wizard out, but figured he might as well be subtle for now. He conjured in his mind instead a vivid image of him flipping the bird. The headmaster blinked in surprise and Yasha smirked smugly.
"Please sit," the elderly witch ordered when he arrived. The large hat fell over his eyes, hiding the Great Hall from his view. And suddenly, he heard a voice in his head.
"Well, well, what do we have here?"
Yasha nearly jumped out of his bones but somehow managed to keep his position stiff –if she'd seen him, Natalia would be so proud.
"Calm down boy, calm down," the hat said, clearly amused by his reaction. "I'm just here to sort you in your house; after that, you'll have no more interaction with me."
"Thank God for small mercies," Yasha mumbled. The next sentence made him freeze though:
"It is surprising you have been invited at Hogwarts as Yakov Romanov, and not Harry Potter."
"Harry Potter? I thought that guy was dead." Yasha said innocently. The hat 'tss-ed' and went on:
"You and I both know you are him. Although I do feel a deep change in your magical core, as if something has been withdrawn from your soul…"
"If you are referring to the ritual Goblins practiced on me to get rid of some nasty piece of dark magic an asshole stuck in my soul, then yeah, my magic core has been meddled with." Yasha replied dryly. "My mother largely overpaid those creeps for that and trust me, it wasn't an easy process."
The hat's interest peeked at that, but Yasha didn't want to remember that particular moment any longer. The extraction had been a nightmare –bloody and painful and he had nearly died he recalled- but once done, Yasha had truly felt like a weight had been lifted from his mind. On the minus side, he had lost that scar on his forehead. He kinda missed it afterwards, the strange lightening shape made him look totally badass.
"So they retrieved the…'nasty piece of dark magic' from your soul, but you kept its properties…Interesting…Boy, are you a Parselmouth?"
"Can you speak to snakes?"
"Is that any of your business? Are you actually a voyeur-stalker in disguise?"
"You have one of the most distracting mind I've ever read." The hat protested. "I'm actually having fun trying to figure it out."
"Glad to be your one-time magazine. But don't overexert yourself, I already know where I want to go."
"Slytherin, eh? You are not taking the easy way."
"I'm not particularly brave or hard-working or creative or loyal –except to mother." Yasha pointed out. "But I can play others better than most people and I love it. And you're giving me a choice between a House of Nerds, a House of Sheep, a House of Idiots and a House of Backstabbers. Seriously, my mind's been made up since I read Hogwarts: A History."
"I wouldn't rush if I were you." The hat tried to smoother his determination. "You have an extraordinary path waiting ahead," Yasha peeked up, suddenly interested. "Every house could…"
"Wait a sec, you're saying you can see my future?"
"I have glimpses of where some paths might lead you" the hat admitted.
"Will I become a violinist?" he asked, suddenly more excited.
"Sorry, whatever I see needs to be kept quiet."
" козел" (goat) Yasha cursed under his breath.
"Pardon? What did you say?"
"You don't understand Russian? I thought you were a magic hat."
"Watch your tongue." The hat warned, although it did sound a little annoyed.
"Whatever. So, where are you sending me? With the Idiots? The Nerds?"
"I'm still trying to figure that one out." It mumbled, apparently annoyed at having a first-year arguing with it.
"How come you're so slow? I've been sitting here too long. It took between ten to fifty seconds for everyone else. Barely one if you include that bleached haired kid."
"Yeah, him." Yasha paused, suddenly thinking over something. "Did you make it quick because you didn't want to find out what was in his head?"
"Kid, I'm warning you…"
"Given the way he talks, he's just an arrogant know-it-all. Lemme guess, his head was a black hole and you were scared of being sucked into it?"
"Why do I even try?" the hat muttered, dejected. "You'll get what you want anyway. Slytherin!"
"Ты всю малину испортил! (you spoilsport)" Yasha protested out loud this time –he was starting to have fun with that odd mind-reading hat- and glared at it as the elderly witch retrieved it.
She gave him a surprised look, to which he apologized quickly before hurrying to join the Slytherin table. Most of his classmates –or housemates?- welcomed him with crocked grins and snobbish attitude. He disliked them already but grudgingly sat at a free spot. A few of them –including Malfoy, stared at him warily from afar. He ignored them and checked out for Hermione at the Gryffindor's table. The girl looked truly disappointed. Yasha shrugged apologetically. She replied with a soft smile of her own before being sucked in a conversation with her neighbour. Yasha then managed to catch Weasley among the yet-sorted crowd and the redhead was literally glowering at him. Yasha stared back with his eyebrows lifted in a way that would have made his mother proud until Weasley looked away.
"Hi, my name's Lucian Bole!" a boy, perhaps a year or two older, sitting next to him said cheerfully. Yasha stared at him for a few seconds, searching for any signs of him being an idiot or a manipulative bastard, and since he found nothing, reluctantly replied:
"I know; you were just sorted." Yasha stared at him blankly, but it didn't discourage Lucian. "Are you a Pureblood? I heard the Romanov family was very influent in Russia."
Pureblood. Malfoy's kind of family. Yasha felt that word would annoy him a lot in the future.
"Don't know, don't want to know and honestly don't care." He replied dryly. "What's that thing with blood anyway? Blood is blood. No matter how pure it is, if you don't have any in your body, you die, period. That's the only important thing."
His words were met by uneasy silence. A few snorted in amusement. Lucian Bole seemed to immediately lose interest and leaned away, as if not being a Pureblood was a sort of disease. An older student explained:
"Calm down, we're talking about whether your parents are wizards or no. If one of your parents is a muggle you're a half-blood. If both your parents are muggles, you're muggle-born. If both-"
"-if both are wizards, I'd be a pureblood, I got that." He paused and smirked: "So what happens if your grandmother is a muggle, but your mother a wizard, and your father comes from a Pureblood family? Am I a half-blood? A pureblood?" When the student didn't reply, he added: "I stand by my word. Blood is blood. Without any in your body, you die."
"You're morbid." A girl sitting across him said with a frown on her face.
"Thank you," he replied with his best charming smile. "And you are?"
"Daphne Greengrass," she replied reluctantly, like she would rather feed a snake. Yasha felt he'd have fun teasing this one and returned his attention to the remaining students to be sorted. It was Weasley's turn and he was sent to Gryffindor. Hermione looked annoyed as hell.
"Are you looking at the Gryffindor table?" The older student asked, and Yasha knew that one would not leave him alone.
"Is there a problem with that?"
"It's just surprising. Gryffindors and Slytherins are rivals."
Please, tell me something I don't already know, he thought, annoyed. While the older student kept babbling about the history of the two houses he had already read, Yasha let his mind wander. This place, Hogwarts, didn't quite live up to his expectations aesthetically-wise, but he was still impatient to start classes. Especially Transfiguration and Potions. Those would be useful in unexpected situations.
Suddenly the headmaster stood up and gave his welcoming speech. Yasha listened to the announcements –forbidden forest, no magic in the corridors, Quidditch and…forbidden third level? Well if that wasn't a call for curious students to take a look…Figuring he had heard enough, Yasha only halfway listened to the rest of the speech and busied himself observing the rest of the students. The elders paid mild attention to the old wizard while the younger recruits stared at him like he was a superstar. Dumbledore, Yasha remembered, was a war hero and a powerful wizard after all. Those didn't mean he was trustworthy though. Take the recent mind-reading attempt. In contrast, Natalia was a spy and an assassin, and yet a better human being that most 'normal' people he'd met out there.
The boy smirked and stared back at the dishes as they magically got filled with well-prepared food. No-one looked surprised and started digging, so he imitated them. He'd have to ask what the cook put in the sauce that made it so tasty. He liked to know who prepared his food anyway.
Conversations flooded over but he paid no attention to them and with the answers he had given earlier and his aloof attitude, no-one was eager to engage with him either. He finished his meal quietly, musing over what would tomorrow bring. If the school didn't live up to his expectations, he decided he would quit after a few months and enter a music school like he had originally planned.
Hogwarts, Headmaster's office
Snape breathed in deeply to sooth the irritation he felt inside. Ten years ago, Lily, his childhood friend, his first love, had died, leaving him heartbroken with nothing but memories to hold onto. He had tried to get over her, really, but the news of her murder had destroyed him. He wasn't overly upset by the loss of Potter himself, but the kidnapping of the youngest member of the family had shaken him. The child was Lily's son, a part of her he could have grown to accept. On the other hand, that child was Potter's too, so maybe not accepted, but tolerated. But whoever had the boy had vanished to some unknown location and Black had been as quiet as a tomb on the subject. Still, a part of him had hoped to see that lost boy attending Hogwarts, but no Potter had been Sorted tonight.
Dumbledore of course, had been tight-lipped about the whole matter, which didn't help his mood at all. And on top of that, the headmaster had asked him to come to his office to 'discuss' something while he perfectly knew his potion teacher would not be inclined to listen to whatever he had to say. Snape had long ago accepted that the old wizard was the greatest of his century, but he resented being ordered around like a lackey. But he wouldn't leave Hogwarts. It has become his home for the past ten years.
"You called, headmaster?" he asked once the entrance was granted, not bothering to hide his annoyance. Dumbledore nodded and gave him one of his grandfatherly smiles that unnerved him so much.
"Yes, and thank you for coming so quickly. I have a favor to ask of you; would you keep an eye on Professor Quirrell please?"
"The new DADA teacher?" Dumbledore nodded. "Fine. Anything else?" he asked sarcastically.
"Actually, yes. Could you send young Yakov Romanov to my office immediately?"
Snape raised an eyebrow.
"Yakov Romanov?" he repeated.
"Yes, he was sorted in your house tonight. He had a long conversation with the Hat."
The potion master vaguely remembered the dark-haired boy and his indignant face as the Hat had screamed his house. He himself hadn't paid attention, too busy hiding how defeated he actually felt.
The old man caressed his beard absentmindedly, already deep in thoughts.
"I suspect Yakov Romanov is not his real name." he said, and the next sentence shocked Snape: "Harry Potter might still be alive after all."
3 days later, Paris
Natalia hadn't gone to Paris for a while, so she was quite sure the apartment she kept as a safehouse hadn't been compromised. At first glance, given the layers of dust, she was right. No bugs, no cameras, just books and abandoned furniture. But she wasn't satisfied all the same.
She had chosen this one for the location; not too far from public transportation for Yasha, next to a shopping center for the groceries, fourth floor next to the fire escape. It contained a living room, a kitchenette, two small bedrooms…a little small perhaps, but big enough for an adult and a child. The escape routes were easily accessible and the security good enough with her reinforcements, but she didn't feel comfortable.
Her tail had vanished the previous day. Natalia wished she could give the credit to her skills, but she knew better. Whoever had been following her had backed off for some reason and it made her uneasy. She'd have to cover her tracts even more cautiously from now on. This place was a good start. If she was lucky, she could keep it a few weeks and –
The window of the living room exploded and an arrow embedded itself in the nearest mirror. Natalia barely had the time to catch the blinking dot on the head before it detonated.
The blow sent her flying against the nearest wall but not hard enough to knock her out. She hastily grabbed her guns and ran out of the room, ready to bolt out through the door. Unfortunately, she wasn't alone anymore. A man dressed in black was standing in the corridor, a bow in hand, arrow in place ready to shoot. A quick glance at the remains of the window's glass coming from the kitchen and she knew he had likely jumped off the opposite building and through that opening to sneak in.
"Don't move," the man ordered coldly. "Drop the weapons."
If she tried anything now, he would release the arrow and even she wouldn't be able to dodge it. Her head was spinning a little thanks to the blast and she was in no state to take him down now. Cursing herself for letting her guard down momentarily, Natalia obeyed and threw her guns on the floor. The man didn't want her dead right away, or she'd already be.
"Back against the wall," he ordered again. And she obeyed again, raising her hands in a defensive posture. She still subtly pushed her breasts forward and bit her lower lip. Any trick likely to distract him would come in handy now.
"What does the mighty Hawkeye wants with me?" she asked in her best husky and purring tone. The man barely blinked.
"You know my name." It wasn't a question, but she replied nonetheless:
"Not many colleagues use a bow nowadays." A charming smile grew over her features. "Now maybe we can settle whatever grudge you have against me without your blood staining the carpet."
"You are in no position to make a deal," Hawkeye said briskly. "I only have one question and you better answer it." She nodded like an obedient little girl. "Where is the boy?"
On a side note, "Ты всю малину испортил!" actually means 'you spoiled the strawberries' (unless I've misunderstood?) which is an equivalent to spoilsport.
Till next time :)