Warnings and Disclaimers: Slight manipulation of canon. Oh, and consider Dumbledore to be asexual for all interactions with the students, please.
Three heads popped up to look at him as he stepped through the portrait hole, their owners the common room's only occupants at the early hour. "James!" Sirius exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "About time the old girl let you out. Moony was complaining about taking another day's worth of notes for you."
Remus had risen more slowly, and now he flushed and ducked his head as James glanced in his direction. "I don't mind, really," he protested quietly.
James gave him a quick grin. "I'm just glad it's you doing it and not one of these two," he replied, jerking his head towards Sirius and Peter behind him. "I'd fail everything. And who says Poppy let me out?"
With that said, he dashed towards the stairs, his goal firmly in mind. By the time his surprised friends had caught up with him, he was digging around inside his trunk. "Sneaking out was easy enough, because Poppy was busy with another patient. Girl our age, hurt really bad. I'd have been out last night, really, except I had to wait for Dumbledore to stop hovering over her."
"One of the other students?" Peter asked, perching on the edge of his bed.
James shook his head. "No way. I'd know hair like that. Gorgeous hair… not as beautiful as Lily's, of course," the other three mouthed the 'of course' along with him, well-used to his desperate crush on his fellow prefect, "but still really nice."
"Sounds interesting," Sirius said, grinning. "Get her name?"
"What do you think I'm doing now?" James frowned. It wasn't inside his Transfiguration textbook where he'd left it… "All right, who's got the Map?"
"Me," Remus replied, briefly disappearing behind his bed curtains. "I wanted to try adding a couple of classrooms."
His wand out, James took the bit of parchment and tapped it. "Marauders. Did it work?" he asked as lines began to darken and expand into a primitive map of Hogwarts. Sirius and Peter jostled each other for the space to peer over his shoulders.
"Mostly. I had some trouble getting it to accept the Charms classroom, probably because of all the ambient magic in there. We might need to tweak the parameters more, like we did for the Great Hall and the hospital wing." Remus frowned as he watched the lines seem to stutter, then slow to a crawl. "And the basic structure needs reweaving. I think the classrooms put too much strain on the power matrix."
James bit the inside of his mouth to keep from smiling. All three of them were convinced that Remus was a genius- especially when it came to charms and jinxes- but a childhood full of prejudice against the young werewolf had left him without the self-confidence he needed to truly let that show. They did what they could to shore him up, but anything to obvious just made the Gryffindor blush and retreat back into his shell.
At last the lines formed into the walls of the hospital wing James had just escaped, with two dots inside: one labeled 'Poppy Pomfrey', and the other, oddly faded, read 'Duo Maxwell'.
There was a long moment of silence. "Duo," Sirius finally said. "Odd name for a girl."
"Maybe she's American?" Peter offered. "I heard they have weird names over there."
"Dunno, maybe. Close," James ordered, tapping the parchment again with his wand. It wasn't a good idea to keep the Map going too long; they still hadn't figured out how to either cut down on the energy it used, or tie it to an external power source. Just before the lines faded out entirely, he thought he saw a dot labeled 'Albus Dumbledore' step inside the hospital wing.
Nothing hurt. That was... strange. Duo was used to being in severe pain whenever he woke up in a place he didn't recognize. Especially when said place had white walls, beds with white linens, and to his regrettably extensive experience screamed 'hospital'.
The teenager lay perfectly still in his bed, with only bare slits of violet showing to indicate he was awake. He could hear the sounds of someone moving around: a quiet rustling of cloth, and once the clear, bright clink of glass tapping against glass. It wasn't long before he heard whoever it was move towards him with brisk, efficient footsteps, and Duo quickly shut his eyes again.
It was a woman, he decided after a moment. Not Sally Po- her movements were too unfamiliar- but whoever she was, she had that same feeling of "I'm going to help you get better if I have to kill you to do it." Duo was starting to suspect that he wasn't in any danger, even if he couldn't quite bring to mind whatever had happened to leave him in a hospital. If nothing else, he could count on the nurse, doctor, or whatever to protect him from anyone who tried to bug him before he was fully healed.
A door opened, but with the woman still hovering over him Duo couldn't open his eyes to see who it was. "Ah, Poppy!" he heard a man's voice call out in a distinctive British accent. Upper-class, too, if he was any kind of judge. "How is your patient this evening?"
"Better than he was when you brought him in, Headmaster, but he's not leaving that bed for another few days," the doctor replied in a tone that was about as inflexible as gundanium. "I've healed his broken bones, but I want to keep an eye on his spleen. Those don't always heal correctly after rupturing, and I'll need to catch any complications before they get too far along."
Inside, Duo was cringing. In almost two years of war, he'd never been hurt even half that badly. What the hell could have gone so wrong as to mess him up so seriously?
And how long had he been lying in hospital to be so fully healed?
"Will he be out much longer, do you think? In these times, perhaps it would be best for him to be on his way quickly."
A hand brushed aside his bangs and covered his forehead. Duo only just controlled his flinch of surprise. "The fever from the potions is nearly gone. I'd expect him to wake within the hour."
Duo knew he'd have to 'wake up' eventually if he wanted any kind of answers. He didn't seem to be in any danger, given how much effort his hosts must have put into healing him; yes, he knew she might have listed fake injuries for him to overhear, but assuming that they knew he was awake and were already trying to manipulate him reached a Heero Yuy-level of paranoia that Duo had vowed to stay far away from. It was awfully tempting to twitch then, to prove her right, but the ex-pilot suppressed the urge. It'd be too much of a coincidence, fun as it'd be.
Under his breath, he started counting to six hundred and sixty-six. He'd start with the groaning and the usual 'just woke up' motions then.
Albus decided, as he matched stares with their guest, that it was well past time to replace the chairs in the hospital wing. Poppy might insist that uncomfortable chairs meant fewer people bothering her patients for long periods of time, but sitting in one for what would likely prove to be a delicate conversation wasn't doing his back a lick of good.
"I trust you're feeling better, child?" he ventured as his opening gambit, while sipping the tea he'd had a house elf bring in, the little being popping quietly into an out-of-the-way corner that was out of the young man's sight.
The muggle's eyes narrowed at the word 'child'- and such odd eyes they were, too! At first glance one would label them simply as a medium to dark blue, but continued observation would add in the tinges of lighter color that made them nearly purple. There was wariness in those eyes, which didn't surprise the wizard. Waking up in a strange place in the middle of a war (though a muggle couldn't be expected to know that, really) without being suspicious would have made him much more uneasy.
"That depends. Better than what?" the boy finally answered, and his American accent really was a surprise.
"The, ah, vehicle you were in crashed, I'm afraid. You were a bit dinged up. Is there any lingering pain?" As Albus watched, recognition finally flared in those interesting eyes.
"My jet… is it…"
There was a palpable dread in his voice, and Albus felt true regret as he shook his head. "I'm afraid I don't know much about flying machines, but I don't believe it's repairable."
The boy slumped, grief flashing over his face. "Damn… spent so much time working on that thing to get it airworthy again…"
"I'm sorry for your loss. And I apologize, I haven't introduced myself. My name is Albus Dumbledore, and I am the Headmaster of the school you are currently residing in." The wizard bowed slightly from the waist.
His guest stared at him for a long minute, and then finally nodded. "Duo Maxwell."
Albus clapped his hands, pleased, and ignored the way the boy jumped at the sound. "Excellent! Since you seem to be suffering no ill effects, where might we send you off to, Mr. Maxwell? I'm sure you're eager to be getting home."
Maxwell winced. "Oh, man, the guys are never going to let me live this down… can't believe I crashed on a routine flight, after all the hair-brained stuff I pulled during the war." He sighed and looked up at the wizard, who had frowned at the child's last sentence. During the war implied that it was already over, and he'd heard of no such war in the muggle world. "If you contact the Preventors they'll send someone to come get me."
"I beg your pardon, but… who might these Preventors be? I've never heard of them." It sounded rather like a government agency, but could easily have been the name of a business as well, and Albus rarely ventured out into muggle territory. They always stared so.
The boy gave him a startled look. "You guys must be pretty isolated out here. I know we haven't been around long, but we're in the news a lot. I know we are, 'cause I usually have to be in the damn press conferences. Do you know how boring those are? Well, boring and annoying, because the reporters-"
Albus pointedly cleared his throat, and Maxwell flushed. "Right. Um, we're a counter-terrorist agency. Paramilitary and all that. Lady Une founded us after the Colony Wars to prevent any more from happening, hence, you know, the name."
The Headmaster frowned again. "I should think that if these Preventors were founded after the American Colonies seceded, they've been around for rather a long time. That was nearly two hundred years ago, after all."
The muggle snorted. "What history books have you been reading? The American Revolution was six hundred years ago. I think. School kind of took a back seat, whenever I actually attended one."
"My dear boy, that's quite impossible. My father used to tell me stories-"
Albus found himself interrupted as the Fat Friar came gliding through the doors of the hospital wing, wringing his hands in worry. "Headmaster! You really must come quickly. Several of the Ravenclaw children are stuck to the ceiling, and no one can bring them down!"
The wizard began to reply to his longtime acquaintance, and then caught himself as he recalled that his guest was a muggle and would no doubt wonder why his host was chatting with thin air. That would undoubtedly cause concerns about his sanity, which would make it difficult to correct the strange ideas the lad had about history. Albus turned to apologize for the lapse of his attention, and then to make his excuses so he could leave to sort things out, but was astonished to see Maxwell's eyes riveted on the ghost.
"Holy shit…" Maxwell breathed, shock and awe warring over his face, and the wizard found himself sighing.
Well, didn't this complicate matters.
A/N: Expect this first story of the trilogy to be rather rushed. It's really just introductions and setting up the real story, which will be in the second and third parts. For now, I'd appreciate any comments/critiques on my characterization of the Marauders. I've written adult!Sirius and Remus before, but never their younger selves, and never James or Peter.
In regards to canon: it's stated somewhere that the Marauders created the Map during their sixth and seventh years, but I'm taking the position that the Map is a work of genius and would have taken much longer than that. They began it in this year, their fourth, but it doesn't have much to it yet. They also haven't yet set it to that wonderful password. Oh, and as in all my stories, muggles can't see ghosts, so draw your own conclusions from that last bit.
19 November, 2007