Duo and the Sorting Hat A Parallel sidefic by Stormy

Rating: PG 13

Pairing: 1x2 and 3x4 hints

Summary: Duo's curious nature won't let him rest until he knows where he belongs…

Warnings: Some language, Spoilers of Parallel, TPS, CoS, PoA, GoF, (HP), Endless Waltz (GW)

Notes: This fic is a side-fic – a companion, kind of future glimpse at what's in store in Parallel but not too many plot hints will be given. The pilots, being guests, are not being sorted in Parallel anytime soon, but after learning more about the houses, Duo just has to know where he belongs.

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28 November 2002

Duo lay awake in the dormitory, staring at the sliver of moonlight that shone through the oddly shaped windows, splattering against the wall. He couldn't sleep. He'd tried counting sheep, reciting the programming codes he'd once used in Deathscythe, and finally, recalling almost the entire lecture he and the others had been subjected to in Professor Binn's class the other day. The memory of that interesting-yet-boring class made him grin.

While he'd called himself death on the battlefield, he'd never actually seen a real ghost outside of his nightmares. The first time Headless Nick had popped through the fruit basket at the Gryffindor table, he'd had to exercise every reflex he had not to pull his gun. The idea of ghosts walking around grew on him though – especially after deciding since he was from an alternate future, no one he'd killed would probably show up to haunt him. So, ghosts weren't bad. But Binn's as a teacher?

Duo chuckled softly. That was probably why he was still awake – he'd slept through the entire two-hour lecture Binn's had given them that day. After the initial shock of having a ghost for a teacher, he'd quickly learned – with Heero and Ron's help – that Binn's class was made for sleeping, not studying.

Duo turned his head and studied the sleeping profile of his boyfriend. McGonagall, as Head of House, had made sure enough beds had been added to the fifth year wing so that the pilots could stick together when out of class, and had told Heero and Duo firmly that each individual bed was expected to be used.  Yeah. Right.

Two years of being with Heero. Two years of being held and reassured, of nightmares being held at bay, of feeling cherished and loved in Heero's strong arms – and with a  simple word, she thought she was going to keep them apart? Duo muffled a snicker as he recalled Heero's demonstration of a privacy charm which kept the curtains tightly closed, only able to open from the inside, and a silencing charm which they had then proceeded to test that very night.

How would he have survived if Heero had come back here by himself? The thought of being without Heero made his stomach hurt and his heartache. After being alone for so long, he had fallen again, and fallen hard. Separation was impossible.

Which was a good thing they hadn't been Sorted. Duo contemplated all that he had learned since arriving at Hogwarts with the others, and realized so far, that was the only thing left that bothered him.

Oh sure, the Boggarts hadn't been much fun, and neither had the Dementors despite the hilarity that ensued when he had called his Patronus – one of the few spells he'd managed to get right after a little practise. Certainly there were enough creepy-crawly creatures in the Haunted Forest to give his nightmares sufficient fodder, even if Trowa was a lunatic and wanted to visit real man-sized spiders, probably just to show off his commune-with-nature talent or whatever Dumbledore had called it.

But the thing that stood out in his mind was the Sorting Hat that Heero had told him about.

The fours houses all had their good points, he supposed. He could tell why Heero was a Gryffindor – his stubborn bravery, willingness to do whatever it took to complete a mission successfully, and the way he looked out for his friends, even if he acted like a cold-hearted bastard while he was doing it. Duo fought the urge to poke Heero. Hermione and Ron had had a caring and affectionate Heero/Harry. He'd had to chip through a block the size of Antarctica to get a friendly response.

Still, it was worth it. And now that he had Heero, he'd never let go of him, Sorting Hat or no Sorting Hat. And that was what frightened him.

They hadn't been there long, not even a whole semester, but he could already see how much Heero thrived in this place. The other pilots liked it well enough, but Heero absolutely loved it, and Duo didn't need words to know that. If it came down to a choice between staying here, or returning to the other world, he had a sinking feeling Heero would stay at Hogwarts.

He bit his lip. If Heero stayed, then so would he. It was a given. And it wasn't like there was a ton of people back in their war-torn-and-recovering world that would miss him too badly. Maybe Howard and the Sweepers, but they were busy enough clearing up the space ways and wouldn't have time to miss him.

So. If Heero stayed, then he stayed. Bottom line, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, papa's coming home to roost and so on. But that meant he'd have to be sorted if he wanted to stay at Hogwarts. They couldn't have a houseless wonder scurrying through the halls.

Where would he go? Without a doubt Duo knew he would beg the Hat if it came to it to be allowed to stay with Heero in Gryffindor. Heero had told him how the Hat wanted to place him in Slytherin but that he'd chosen his own path. Maybe the hat would do the same thing for him?

But Heero was powerful. Very powerful – Boy-Who-Lived powerful. Duo was a know-nothing street rat that was quick with his fists and his mouths but not much else. And based on what he'd learned of the four houses, he had a feeling he'd wind up in Slytherin.

Didn't Heero say Slytherins were sneaky? That a frightening amount of them grew up to be Death Eaters – murderers for Voldemort, whom Duo had come to think of as simply a high-profile terrorist? Septum on crack with a wand. He almost giggled at the mental image but stifled it quickly when he saw Heero curl up tighter under the blankets, reaching for Duo's braid.

An idea flashed through Duo's mind and he deftly inserted a portion of rolled up blanket in Heero's hand, sweeping his braid just out of reach. Maybe it would just reinforce the Hat that he was a sneaky bastard, but he simply had to know. It was obvious he wasn't going to get much more sleep that night anyway.

Easing himself out of the bed, he quickly pulled his duffle bag over to him – he and the others didn't have proper trunks yet – and changed from his boxers and t-shirt into his black priests uniform. More then just memory, the black helped him blend into the shadows, and the collar reminded him of who he owed his life to, to keep him human in a war where he thought he'd become a murdering animal. It was a suitable choice to go skulking through the castle and trying to break into the Headmaster's Office.

Heero had told him that the Headmaster chose candies and sweets for his password, and just recently had a fondness for Muggle treats, which made his choices much easier. Duo grinned and pulled the curtain back, checking to see if the coast was clear before slipping outside. He crossed the Gryffindor Common Room silently, noting the big, black dog out cold on the hearth and fought the urge to greet Sirius. From the way he hadn't woken at Duo's passing, it was obvious Sirius hadn't gotten much sleep that week, running errands for the Order of the Phoenix thing that Dumbledore had told them about.

Whispering the password, the Fat Lady yawned and swung open, letting Duo climb through the portrait hole. Once outside, he nicked a torch off the wall and set off.

Thanking his lucky stars for his incredible memory, Duo found the passageway that led to the Headmaster with relative ease. He kept his ears pricked for any signs of Filch, or the telltale padded footsteps of his main snitch Miss Norris, but didn't sense anyone else nearby.

The gargoyle that stood guard was big and ugly. Duo hadn't liked it much any of the other times he'd seen it. Gargoyles belonged on old-fashioned French church spires and Disney movies. Swallowing his fear, he stepped up and began reciting as many candy bars as he could remember.

" Snickers, Eat More, Oh Henry…" Nothing. Duo scowled at the impassive Gargoyle. " Oh come on – Kit Kat? Crispy Crunch?"

The Gargoyle shuddered and Duo blinked as it began spiralling upwards. He grinned. " So the Dumbledore has good taste in candy after all." He hopped on the staircase, letting it take him up.

He paused outside the door, wondering if Dumbledore was in there but then he realized it was silly to presume that the Headmaster slept in his office. After all, all the other teachers had their own rooms. He gingerly placed one hand on the old wooden door, and pushed.

It opened easily. Duo swallowed hard.

Slipping inside, he quickly scanned the room, not seeing anyone inside, and definitely no one with long white hair and a matching beard. Safe so far. His eyes lit on a golden perch and Fawkes on top of it.

" Oh shit." Would the bird rat him out? Start screeching in bird-language that there was an intruder? He held up his hands beseechingly, watching as the bird cocked an eye at him. " Hey Fawkes. I'm not here to take anything. I just..." his voice trailed off and he glanced at the Sorting Hat perched on the shelf. " I just have to know."

Fawkes stared at him for a long moment, and Duo let him, not moving. After all, he was the intruder here.

Then the phoenix let out a very soft trill that warmed Duo inside, and flew across the room. Plucking the Hat with its talons, it flew to Duo and dropped the hat on his lap. Duo froze, watching wide-eyed as the Phoenix flew back to his perch and returned to its original, observing position, looking every bit as regal and wise as it did the first day Duo had seen him.

" Thanks birdie," Duo mumbled, dropping his gaze to the battered hat in his hands. It seemed to have a faint smile on its – lips? Duo took a deep breath, raised the hat, and jammed it down over his ears.

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Oh my, you are interesting. Very interesting indeed!

Duo nearly squawked as the nasally voice echoed in his ears. " Huh?"

You want to know where you belong, eh? Where I would put you? If you would stay with your friends, or be sent to the dark?

Duo swallowed. " I need to know. "

The hat snickered. Aren't you worried?

Duo sent the hat a mental growl. " No. That's why I'm here. Because I'm not worried. What do you think?"

The hat found his attitude funny. Sarcastic and sneaky, I don't think you need me to tell you where those kinds of qualities fit in.

Duo froze.

Ah yes, Mister Maxwell. You have such a complex and unique mind. Truthfully, I feel you have qualities that suit all of our humble houses.

Duo scowled. " Heero told me about this. He said you try to confuse the wearer."

I don't confuse – I enlighten. The Hat sounded insulted. Your loyalty to your friends is the stuff legendary Hufflepuffs are made of.

The American growled.

No Hufflepuff? I see you are a hard worker; you stick at a job until it's done. And you'd do anything to save your friends. Loyalty and hard working – and you don't think you're Hufflepuff material?

Duo glared at the inside lining of the Hat. " I am not a Hufflepuff. Anyone in Gryffindor can be called loyal and hardworking."

When it suits their purpose.

" I ain't going in Hufflepuff. Too boring."

The Hat seemed to be smiling again. Yes, that active attitude of yours would be kind of wild for our tame little Hufflepuffs.  In fact, your mind has a real thirst for knowledge, a need to know why things happen they way they are. You've created a great many gadgets that have helped you in your battles, haven't you? Ravenclaw is perfect for those who wish to learn.

" Ravenclaw?"

Think about it. Combining muggle technology with magic to create devices only dreamed of. You have the capabilities.

" I'm smart, but not that smart….right?" Duo's voice sounded a little unsure.

You know, a great many medi-wizards – magical doctors – have come from Ravenclaw. They have helped find solutions, cures for diseased. They help save lives. Wouldn't that be something you could use?

Duo's mind had a brief, violent flashback. Holding Solo in his arms, helpless to save his life despite the antidote he'd brought. Solo had just been too far-gone. " Cure diseases…"

You would do very well in Ravenclaw I think.

It was tempting. It was very tempting. Duo thought about the lives on L2 and how decent, caring doctors were in short supply. They could have done something.

But that was L2. And there wasn't even a guarantee that he would be going back. Still, it was a noble profession. But all those books…

" Aren't Ravenclaws the ones who always have their nose in a book, their hand in the air, and the right answer every time?"

The hat laughed. Unless they're Hermione Granger, yes.

Hermione. The smart little witch that Heero valued as a friend.

" You don't have to be in Ravenclaw to prove you have brains," Duo protested.

" Hermione could be anything she wanted – your career isn't chosen by your house."

Still-

" Next."

The Hat huffed. Very well. That bossy attitude of yours can get you into trouble you know. So can sneaking around and breaking into people's offices. What does that remind you of?

" I'm not a Slytherin, " Duo said firmly, but his voice trembled a little. The Hat pounced.

You're not, hmmm? I see great ambition in you, young Maxwell. Your background isn't as illustrious as Quatre's, or the great Dragons that Wufei descends from. You aren't a star performer like Trowa, or have the power and abilities – and now, family ties – that Heero has. You've always felt the need to prove yourself – that you can survive anything, and become someone important. You do what it takes to complete your missions, and your loyalty to the cause is strong.

" I am not a Slytherin," Duo repeated, his voice a near whisper. " I'm not."

You may not lie, but you obscure the truth to hide your true motives. You hide, able to strike from the dark, and rely on your cunning to win. You attack when an enemy's guard is down, hiding in plain sight and ruthlessly pursuing your goal. These don't sound like Slytherin qualities to you?

" I was doing my job!" Duo choked out. " The colonies were depending on me – on US – to do our job!"

Finding it hard to argue? You're best thief on L2, skilled in being crafty, sneaky—

" I'm NOT a Slytherin!" Duo yelled. His fists clenched. " I did what I had to, to survive – NOT for my own personal gain! Stealth and cunning are skills I used – tools I developed to help the colonies! I did what I had to, to try and save my home! To save the earth!" He growled. " You're making me out to be the bad guy I'm not."

The Hat sounded interested. Really.

" Don't you think I've doubted myself? You're reading my mind, you know what I've done, what my motives were, what I set out to accomplish.  I hated myself for a long time – me, the survivor. Me, the street rat. Me, the ragtag little nobody that had to prove I had what it took. And I did. " He smiled. " Heero loves me. Loves me and all my faults. He wouldn't love me if I were the scum you seem to think I am."

It was true. Duo felt the rightness of his words flow through him. He had always known that he was unworthy of Heero's affections. Heero should have rescued the girl and lived as a prince. That's what Relena wanted for him.

But Heero had chosen him in the end. Chose him, told him he loved him – and Heero wouldn't lie to him. Duo trusted Heero like he trusted no one else. Even the other pilots were still a shade behind when it came to his trust.

Heero was the other part of his soul. If he was as sneaky and underhanded as the Hat told him, there was no way Heero would want anything to do with him. He smiled triumphantly.

" I'm NOT a Slytherin."

The Hat laughed again. No, I don't think you are, it said, much to Duo's amazement. You have the qualities of all – but in the end, there can only be one choice.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

Duo ripped the hat off his head and held a finger up to his lips. " Quiet you! You wanna get me caught or something?"

The Hat smirked. Too late.

Huh? Duo whirled around – to see the solemn eyes of the Headmaster watching him quietly. Duo felt his heart sink into his shoes. This was bad.

Duo swallowed as the Headmaster moved forward, and dropped his eyes, trying to stifle the fear that rose up within him. He'd been caught before. While he didn't think his punishment was going to be as severe as what the OZ soldiers had done to him, he couldn't help but jerk wildly when Dumbledore's hand rested in his shoulder.

He looked up; shaking slightly, and saw to his amazement, a twinkle in those sky blue eyes. "S-sir?"

" Young Mr. Maxwell," Dumbledore smiled gently. " While entering my office after hours is not something I will encourage in the future, you needn't fear me child. I know why you were here, and it is a testament to your goals, that Fawkes didn't 'sound the alarm', so to speak." He gazed over at the Sorting Hat, which had returned to its inanimate state. " I trust you learned something here tonight?"

Duo let out a relieved breath and felt his heart rate return to normal. " Yeah, I did." He smiled weakly. " More then I thought I would."

Dumbledore chuckled. " I suspect you have. And not just what you thought you wanted to hear." He helped Duo to his feet. " I could have told you where you belonged, to allay your fears, but the Sorting Hat proves it in a much more effective manner."

Duo stared at the ground. " But it was right about so many things—"

" Heero had the same problem," Dumbledore said gently. " And the Hat is right – you, like Heero, have many of the fine qualities that would place you equally in any house."

" Fine qualities?" Duo snorted. " I'm a thief, sneaky, ruthless—"

" All traits of Slytherin, yes," Dumbledore nodded. " But those traits allowed you to survive." He sighed. " Slytherin will forever be tainted by Voldemort and his followers. Until he is completely defeated, Slytherin will continue to have the stigma thrust upon it."

He looked at Duo closely. " Do you truly believe all Slytherins to be evil?"

Duo thought about Professor Snape. Not his favorite Professor by any means, but risking his life for the Light like that took a courage not many had. Or even Draco Malfoy, whom Duo had wanted to punch out at their first meeting. Wufei had befriended the boy, and was slowly bringing him around. If Draco were truly evil, would he be able to change?"

" No, " he said finally, meeting Dumbledore's eyes squarely. " No. Not all of them."

He saw approval in the Headmaster's gaze and blushed. He motioned to the clock on the large desk. " I think I'd better go back to bed."

Dumbledore nodded. " Good night, Mr. Maxwell."

Duo grinned and slipped out the door. As soon as the Gargoyle spun back to the ground, he leaped out and sprinted down the hallway, his feet flying, his heart lighter then it had been now that his fears had been allayed. He sang out the password to the Fat Lady who smiled at him, letting him enter.

He crawled through the portrait hole and squawked as his arm was grabbed. Pulled the rest of the way through, he looked up and blinked to see Heero standing there with Ron, Hermione, Sirius and the other pilots. " Um…hi?"

" Where have you been?" Hermione demanded, her hair sticking out in all directions. " You were gone and there was no note or anything!"

" We don't even have the map since we lent it to Professor Lupin," Ron added.

The pilots were silent, watching their friend turn bright red. Sirius watched as well. He had come to care for the cheerful American almost as much as Heero, and when he learned that Duo had slipped past him so easily, it had both scared and disappointed himself and his alertness. His eyes followed Heero as the boy stepped in front of the blushing American.

" Did you find what you were looking for?" he asked.

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When Heero had woken up and found his boyfriend gone without a trace, the Harry part of him wanted to search automatically. The Heero part of his mind however, called up numerous memories of Duo not sleeping, his mind troubled by something. When Duo had something worrying him like that, it was best to let him come to Heero. Nagging didn't do anything but drive him away. Heero had gotten up and waited in the Common room, alerting the other pilots and Ron, whom he knew would never forgive him if he left him out. Seeing Sirius in the Common Room had been a pleasant surprise even though it had been somewhat tempered due to Duo's disappearance. Crookshanks had raced up the hall to the girls dorm, and sure enough, Hermione had wandered out, wanting to know what the fuss was all about. Heero stepped up to Duo and crouched down in front of him.

" Did you find what you were looking for?" he asked softly.

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Duo smiled at Heero and reached out, grabbing his hand. He let the Japanese boy pull him up, and he looked at the worried group circling them. The Hat was right.

He could have gone anywhere and succeeded. But only here did he fit in. Only here was home.

" Yeah," he said to Heero's question. He hugged the boy tightly. " I did."

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OWARI

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^^ So did you like that? I hope it didn't spoil Parallel too much but I was hit by the idea of Duo secretly arguing with the Sorting Hat. It's true – Duo could be placed anywhere and do great things. But his heart and soul will always be more Gryffindor then the rest. ^^

Feedback is cool. So is the one who gives it. ^^