The Exorcism Displacement
Disclaimer: This person does not own DGM nor Harry Potter. She'd like the money, though.
Warning: This chapter is highly angsty and introspective, and is not funny in the slightest.
Scroll Nine: Of Kisses, Kittens, and Allen's Magical Abilities (or Lack Thereof)
The morning sun's rays streaming through heavy curtains awoke the white-haired boy by forcing themselves underneath his fluttering eyelids. He groaned, flailing one arm around before it finally fell onto his eyes, providing a temporary solution to the blinding glare. His body still felt heavy with sleep; although he had no sense of the time during the holidays, he did know that he could afford to go back to sleep at the moment, and would like nothing more than to do just that.
One of the first things Allen became aware of, however, as consciousness unwillingly crept upon his fuzzy mind, was the feeling of something pressed against his lips.
It took all of a split second for Allen to realise that whatever was kissing him, it wasn't Lenalee. For one, Lenalee's lips didn't feel cool, hard, and somewhat round…
"Ugh, Timcanpy…" Allen waved the reddened hand at his forehead, swatting at the golden golem perched on his mouth. "Ew…"
A weight was suddenly lifted from his face. Allen cracked open one grey eye. The first thing he noticed was the giant, toothy grin of Timcanpy hovering just inches away. The boy scowled at it, evoking no reaction from the golem.
"That was mean," Allen muttered before turning onto his side, wrinkling his nose and moving his left hand down to scrub his lips vigorously. Although sleep still clouded his mind, it would not be long before he was fully awake and conscious; there was no hope of returning to the same deep, peaceful state of sleep he'd been in a few minutes earlier. With a sigh, he let his arm drop to his side and gave into the oncoming awareness. Timcanpy had stirred a recent memory into his conscious thoughts, and he still felt a powerful shock and joy as the events replayed in his mind.
Lenalee had kissed him last night.
Out of the corner of one eye, Allen caught a flash of moving gold: Timcanpy bobbing in the air, the wideness of his grin showing his amusement. Blushing, Allen realised he'd been smiling just as widely as his golem, and with far more silliness. He took a calming breath and pressed the corners of his lips down, then pushed himself upwards to a sitting position.
I am going to think about this seriously, Allen told himself. I don't want to look like an idiot during breakfast.
Which, he noticed with a surreptitious glance at the clock, was now. In fact, he'd be late if he didn't start getting dressed right this moment.
Allen continued to stare at the clock for a moment, fully aware of the fact that he should be climbing out of bed at any moment to get dressed, and perhaps even think objectively about the events of last night. After all, he would probably see Lenalee at the morning meal. Shouldn't he consider how that kiss might affect their relationship, at least in the very immediate future?
He should, but…
A sudden laugh burst from his throat, and Allen flopped back onto the bed, his head falling onto the corner of the pillow. Lenalee had kissed him! Kissed him! It hadn't been a dream; it had really happened!
"Lenalee kissed me," Allen said aloud, grey eyes widening with joyful disbelief as the last syllable fell off his lips. I never thought I'd say that. I never thought I'd get to say that!
In the air, Timcanpy slowly rolled over, never dropping his grin. It seemed Allen's happiness was somewhat infectious. Not that Allen noticed, as he'd begun to roll around on his wide bed, untidy hair falling into his face as he turned onto his stomach at the edge of the bed. Still laughing, he pushed himself away with one dangling foot, rolling back the other way-
And this time, Allen fell off the other side with a loud thump.
Still hovering above the bed, Timcanpy chuckled, bobbing up and down. A second later, the golem turned sharply to one side as a pillow flew in his general direction, going straight through what would have been his left wing. Without losing its grin, Timcanpy turned downwards to face Allen, the boy's playful pout barely suppressing a smile.
"I'm going to get you next time," Allen warned in a barely menacing voice before picking himself up off the ground, supporting himself on the bed. As soon as he'd gotten to his feet, his stomach growled, eliciting another snicker from Timcanpy. "After breakfast," he added. He might meet Lenalee there, or he might not, but he'd have time to think on the way downstairs. Assuming the stairs didn't shift on him again, that is – even after three months, Allen still hadn't figured out their patterns. It had just been last week when he'd been late to Divination due to a futile quest down what had looked like the right hallway…
Yet despite plenty of time to think on the way to the Great Hall (and getting lost twice on the way; it seemed the inhabitants of Hogwarts' paintings had had quite the Christmas party the night before, and most were still asleep or hung over and therefore unable to give him directions), Allen didn't even have the faintest hint of a solution as to how to approach Lenalee by the time he found himself in front of the enormous pair of doors.
His stomach was flip-flopping, though empty of even butterflies, and Allen knew he wasn't prepared to face her if things weren't going to go as normal. However, he also knew that he could have spent days thinking about the problem and would likely never have come up with a solution. Besides, he was hungry. Breakfast came before any awkward moment in his social life.
So Allen took a deep breath, braced himself, and entered the Hall.
Allen hadn't realised he'd unconsciously been praying for Lenalee to be absent until his eyes fell upon the Gryffindor table and he discovered that, in fact, his normally terrible luck had remained consistent. Lenalee was sitting at the table, alone, and with a plate full enough that he wondered if he must have just missed her in the Gryffindor common room. And as if that wasn't bad enough, she looked up at the very moment he noticed her.
The white-haired Exorcist gulped. If God hated him this much, there was no way Lenalee would treat this as a normal morning and he could get away without having to seriously think about how to treat her now that their relationship might have changed. Not that he'd ever come up with an answer.
After all, Allen realised as he attempted a calm stride towards the table, he didn't feel any different.
He'd woken up that morning the same person he'd been when he fell asleep last night – or perhaps the night before last night would have been a more apt comparison. He'd been happy, sure, and that wasn't the most familiar of feelings for him, but neither was it all that rare. It certainly wasn't unique for him, unlike the experience of being properly kissed by a girl he liked. And when he'd seen Lenalee for the first time since… then… he'd only felt panic and worry at the situation he might face. Nothing about Lenalee had changed, to him.
So, Allen concluded as he stiffly sat down next to Lenalee and gave her a weak smile and nod, if this was really just a normal morning for him, could he be blamed for not knowing how to react as if it weren't?
"Good morning, Allen-kun," Lenalee murmured in response, violet eyes flickering in his direction briefly before she turned back to her breakfast.
And with that, an awkward silence descended.
…It wasn't good enough! Allen ran his fingers through loose white bangs as he stared at his now full plate. He should have said something right away, shouldn't he? He should be saying something right now! Usually, it was Lenalee who started the conversations – unless he arrived first, although that had only happened once or twice in three months. If she was silent, did that mean he couldn't just behave as if everything were normal?
"So…" Allen began, turning to Lenalee with a wide smile. She looked up, seemingly startled at the sound of his voice. "Um… How…" Desperately, he wracked his brain for any conversation topic that wouldn't relate to the previous night, day, or feelings. Unfortunately, most topics – including the reliable ones such as 'how did you sleep last night', or 'isn't it sad that Christmas is already over' – were instantly eliminated by those criteria alone. Wasn't there something else he could ask about?
The weather? Allen's grey eyes flickered upwards, to where the ceiling of the Great Hall reflected a moderately sunny day outside. Almost immediately, he grimaced; if he was considering talking about unremarkable weather, things must be bad. Why now, of all times? He'd never had problems talking to anyone before… although, Allen had to admit, that was mostly when someone was friendly enough with him to take the initiative in starting a conversation. There was a reason he and Kanda could go on a mission without murdering each other before the end of it (most of the time).
A soft wriggling in the sleeve of his robes alerted Allen to Timcanpy's presence. Almost immediately, the question popped into his mind.
"How is Jeanette?" Allen finished. Lenalee gave a start; he suddenly became aware that she'd been staring at him with a worried look, and had been for a few minutes now. However, as startled panic faded and the question processed in her mind, she promptly lit up and reached for her bag.
"She's doing very well," came Lenalee's voice from below the table. A moment later, the dark-haired head popped up again, the girl's hands now filled with a wriggling kitten. "It was such a surprise to wake up to her this morning," Lenalee continued, gently stroking Jeanette's head with one finger. "I haven't had a pet before… that I can remember… so I've never had someone wake me up like that before!"
"What happened?" Allen asked weakly. Timcanpy had generally been a good companion, but if such behaviour was not unique to the feline species, Allen had some idea of what might have happened to Lenalee. On the rare occasions that Allen had slept longer than the golem, he had been met with rather rude awakenings. Nothing like the prank Timcanpy had played that morning, but anyone who encountered him that morning would have found a very different Allen than the perky, polite boy they knew.
"Well…" Lenalee's cheeks flushed pink at the memory. "When I woke up, I felt something warm and heavy on my neck…"
Allen nodded in response. Timcanpy preferred other sleeping locations, and the one time he'd kept a cat nearby it had been too fat a creature to sleep on anyone's neck or chest without choking them, but it was no surprise that the kitten had immediately gone to the nearest source of warmth it could find.
"…It tickled," Lenalee admitted with a sheepish laugh. "Her fur is short, and whenever she shifted…"
That was definitely not an experience Allen had ever had with the smooth Timcanpy, regardless of the sleeping location. Still, although the thought hadn't crossed his mind, it was hardly difficult to believe that it could have happened. Blushing faintly with embarrassment, Allen murmured an apology. "I didn't think of that when…"
Lenalee blinked and cocked her head to one side, looking puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"That she'd wake you up like that…" Allen scrubbed a hand through his long bangs. Rude awakenings made him think of Timcanpy earlier that morning, which inevitably led back to thoughts of the previous night. And even though things felt normal for him, if he couldn't think of a proper reply soon, the topic of awakenings might inevitably make Lenalee think about- "Are you going to spend today with her, then?"
"I might…" Lenalee continued to scratch the kitten's head, violet eyes softening at its pleased purr. "She seems to like me so far. I thought maybe I'd spend today at the library, if I'm allowed to bring her there."
"I can take care of her if not," Allen offered quickly. The library seemed an odd place to spend a holiday afternoon, especially after Lenalee's intensive studies during the school term, but he was sure she had her reasons. Lenalee wasn't the type to simply sit around and read, not if she couldn't have her closest friends nearby. "Are you looking for anything in particular?"
The girl nodded. "Cat care books, actually." She gave a soft laugh, and Jeanette stirred; Timcanpy gave a startled rustle at the sudden movement of the cat. "I always wanted a pet, but we weren't really allowed to have them in the Order."
Allen gulped; he hadn't thought of bringing her back to the Order, either. What if cats weren't allowed? It was common knowledge that they didn't get along with golems, after all, and if it came down to one or the other…
"But I'm sure it'll be fine now," Lenalee continued. Allen silently sighed with relief. "I can take care of her all on my own."
"Everyone else would be too busy to take care of a small pet," Allen agreed.
"Because of that, though… I want to know exactly how to take care of her. And maybe…" Lenalee's expression changed to a slightly worried frown. "I don't know how much money we have left, but…"
"Food?" Allen asked worriedly. That hadn't been something he'd thought about when he'd bought the kitten! Of course their care wouldn't be inexpensive. Now that he thought about it, the shopkeeper had mentioned some of the costs… but he'd been too excited at finding the perfect gift for Lenalee to pay close attention.
But Lenalee shook her head, her smile restored. "The pets are all cared for at Hogwarts. One of my dorm-mates – Hermione; you've met her – has a cat, and I know she doesn't feed him herself. I could probably ask her about this sort of thing when she comes back…"
Allen felt a deeper shudder within his sleeve, and the sensation of cool teeth against his arm. He raised an eyebrow at the movement; what was Timcanpy so uncomfortable about? Did Lenalee mean that strange-looking cat they'd met that one time…
Before he could ask what Hermione's cat looked like, Lenalee continued.
"I was thinking about toys, actually. If it's all right to spend some money on it…"
Allen nodded quickly. "Definitely! Jeanette's part of our team now, right?"
"But you and Lavi might want to spend it on something for yourselves-"
The white-haired boy waved one hand in front of him dismissively. "Not at all. Besides, your birthday is coming up soon, right? You won't buy yourself anything for that, so it's your share anyway."
Lenalee nodded, but the smile had slipped from her face again. As her hands slipped under the kitten to scoop it up and hold to her chest, Allen wondered what he'd said to cause the pensive look in those eyes that wouldn't look at him anymore… and the pink blush appearing on her cheeks…
Oh no… He could have slapped himself, and nearly did. All this work to avoid mentioning last night, and he'd just had to bring up the subject of birthdays. The entire reason that kiss had happened… "Um… Lenalee…?" he began, desperately hoping it wasn't too late to change the topic, yet his fears were realised.
"About that, Allen-kun…"
Allen gulped. Normal mornings didn't include serious talks about kisses that may have happened the night before. Things might otherwise be the same for him, but this was one situation he'd never had to deal with before.
And with that realisation, his previous composure began to waver.
"Y-yes?" Allen managed to give her a shaky smile. Maybe, just maybe, she was thinking about her own birthday after all, and-
"Speaking of birthday presents…"
It was all Allen could do to refrain from making some comment on a potential gift for Lenalee in the hopes it might distract her. Instead, he continued to smile blankly, as if he didn't yet understand what she was talking about.
It's a normal morning. Nothing strange relating to birthdays could possibly have happened. Nothing worth commenting on.
"…I think," Lenalee finished, eyes falling to her lap, "we need to talk."
Ah, and there were the dreaded words. A chill ran down Allen's spine at the soft, hesitant tone of Lenalee's voice. Why did she sound so worried?
"About what?" Allen forced himself to say through his fixed, fake grin.
"Allen-kun…" Lenalee's eyes flickered back to him with a momentary glint of frustration. "You know what," she continued, gaze dropping back down to the eerily still kitten in her arms. "Last night. What I… what we…" She broke off, blushing a deep red, to Allen's surprise; he couldn't remember ever seeing her so embarrassed, not even when he'd found her asleep with Johnny that first night in the new Headquarters.
Things definitely weren't the same for Lenalee. Had she decided that in the time they'd both had to think about it? But how could a kiss have any real impact on things at all? It wasn't as if feelings could change that easily, not after knowing that person for over a year. That had to be true for Lenalee, too. Did she think he might believe otherwise?
Lenalee still hadn't said anything, or even moved, by the time Allen knew what he had to say. Taking a deep breath, he began to speak, words tumbling out of his mouth as if translated directly from his previous thoughts.
"Why do we need to talk about it?"
The young woman's head snapped up, mouth falling open in surprise.
"Because…" Allen ran one gloved hand through his hair nervously. His voice, however, held only gentle confidence. "Whatever happened doesn't change the fact that we're friends, right? We've known each other for so long already; we've been through so much together, fighting akuma and the Earl, and now this. If that hasn't changed this friendship, then why would…" For a moment, his mouth moved silently; confident or not, the word 'kiss' was evidently impossible for him to say at the moment. "Why would something like that even be worth commenting on?"
"Allen-kun…" Lenalee shook her head, strands of short, dark hair flying around her cheeks. "It's not like fighting akuma! How could you…" She inhaled deeply, visibly calming herself. Why was Lenalee so frustrated? "You know how small things can have a huge impact," she hissed in a suddenly low tone. "One moment, and everything changes."
"It hasn't so far," Allen pointed out defensively.
Lenalee's shoulders abruptly sagged. "That doesn't mean it can't."
"We've been through so much," Allen repeated. "Even those little moments – if things didn't change after… after that announcement…" If anything, finding out I'm… not myself… would have mattered more to Lenalee than this, right?
Yet she shook her head. "Those moments are different."
"No matter what we might go through," Lenalee explained, still unable to meet his questioning gaze, "whatever bad things we might face, I… I can't let go of you. You're a part of my world, Allen-kun, no matter what may happen to make it difficult to keep you there.."
"And what makes this any different?" Allen asked gently, gaze softening. His heart clenched painfully in a way it hadn't since… well, last night… yet it felt warm and light at the same time.
"This isn't about a choice." Lenalee's voice trembled as she spoke; Allen wondered, with that warmth temporarily becoming ice, if he was just imagining the tears forming at the corners of her eyes.
Please don't cry, Lenalee, he silently pleaded.
"No matter what happens because of this, you're not leaving my life… I hope," she added. "It's not about whether you're there or not, but what you are…"
Allen almost gave an exasperated sigh, inappropriate as it might have been at the moment. Lenalee was obviously very concerned about their relationship, just as he'd worried, but hadn't he attempted to address that already? He'd never meant to imply that their friendship would end!
As his mind struggled to find the right words to fix the situation, he shifted closer to pat her shoulder gently. Lenalee promptly looked up at him, his concerned and caring gaze suddenly meeting eyes glistening with unshed tears. That clenching of his heart suddenly felt uncomfortably tight, and a previously forgotten thought from the previous night echoed in his mind.
Lenalee doesn't want anything to change.
Even though I've said I don't feel any differently, even though it feels like a normal morning for me, if anything did change between us… if Lenalee did want to kiss me, and… I-I wouldn't be unhappy about that. Nothing has changed, even though I wouldn't mind if it did.
…Right. But Lenalee… Lenalee's worried that things might have changed, and she doesn't want them to. It's the opposite of how I feel.
I can't just try to end the conversation quickly to avoid any awkward discussion. Things are already awkward. My thoughts are still the same… I have to focus them better!
Allen almost nodded to himself in affirmation of that thought. If I concentrate on convincing Lenalee that things don't have to change, instead of that they haven't… because they haven't, but… I didn't think about how they possibly could change…
Well, he had, but somehow, the logic of last night had flown straight out of his mind with sleep. Delighted bliss had turned directly into worry over the conversation that was currently happening, and somehow, the thought of what this could mean instead of what it did had never once crossed his mind. He'd spent so much time thinking of the past that he'd neglected the future.
And now he knew exactly what to say.
"Lenalee," he said quietly, letting his arm slowly drop down to her elbow in a comforting stroke. "I am still the same to you, right?"
She gave a half-hearted shrug.
"And you're the same to me. We're still friends."
"But…" Lenalee took a deep breath; the tears still had not fallen, but Allen could tell that only strength of will kept them from doing so. "Allen-kun, I kissed you…"
Allen stiffened momentarily at the first actual mention of the word. "And?"
"It's not about what we do," Allen said calmly, pulling his gaze away from hers, "but how we feel about each other. You still think of me as a friend, right?"
"I…" Lenalee was silent for a moment, then slowly nodded. "Of course."
"Me too. So… It doesn't matter if friends don't… don't… We'll decide what happens to us, and to our relationship. Things won't change if we haven't, or if we're not ready to." If you're not ready to.
For a moment, Lenalee was silent, a thoughtful look on her face as Allen's words began to properly sink in. "It'll really be all right if we continue as usual?" she asked slowly, hesitant realisation dawning.
Allen nodded. "Why wouldn't it be?" he answered.
"But about the…"
"Forget about it." To his mild surprise, Allen found it difficult to say those words, and they came out somewhat forced. He certainly wasn't going to forget about it, and the thought that Lenalee might do so made his heart squeeze painfully – even with the knowledge that he was encouraging it for the sake of their relationship and Lenalee's emotional health. "It was a nice birthday present for me, and… that's it, right?"
"So if it never happens again, that'd be all right, Allen-kun?" The confidence was slowly seeping back into Lenalee's voice.
No. "Of course." Allen gave another wide, forced smile. "Not as long as you don't want to. Er, you know, if you don't feel that way." He couldn't force himself not to blush at that sentence, though, and it only deepened when a memory of his thoughts from last night followed it. He'd wondered if Lenalee did feel that way… and even if she didn't want things to change, that didn't necessarily mean she didn't… feel… There could be other reasons for wanting their relationship to remain the same.
But, Allen reminded himself, he didn't know. Moreover, he certainly wasn't going to push the issue with Lenalee feeling so uncomfortable. Things weren't going to change, no matter how either of them felt.
And somehow, that didn't make him feel all that upset, either, especially when he saw Lenalee's relieved smile.
"Thank you, Allen-kun," she said quietly. "I know you're probably saying this to make me feel better – I don't know what you think, and for all I know it could be the opposite-"
Allen opened his mouth to reassure her of the truth being otherwise, but Lenalee continued before he had the chance to speak.
"-But right now, with our current situation being what it is, it really means a lot to me that our friendship is a constant in my life. Allen-kun, you know how important everyone is to me, and…" A tear slid from the corner of one eye, but Lenalee's soft smile prevented any panic from rising in Allen. "Thank you," she finished, letting go of Jeanette with one hand to clasp one of his over his knee, "for understanding."
Allen gave a slightly weaker smile in response. "I'll always be here for you, Lenalee." I care for you very deeply.
After that, things went back to normal. Lavi arrived just as the pair finished breakfast, with no clue that anything out of the ordinary had even happened since he'd last seen them.
That is, if he didn't notice the barest hesitance in Lenalee's responses, almost as if something else was on her mind the entire time.
"Remember how I was telling you guys about that pretty girl I saw a few times?" Lavi threw one arm around Allen's shoulders playfully as they walked down a decorated hallway; the younger boy squirmed and pulled away, grimacing. "Well, I saw her again last night, under the mistletoe."
"You and girls, Lavi," Allen muttered. Behind him, Lenalee could imagine his eyes rolling. "And what did you say to her this time?"
"What, me?!" The usual feigned shock sounded oddly realistic this time. "No, it was weird…"
"She didn't say no?" Allen asked incredulously.
"Well… We didn't…" Lavi shook his head, looking somewhat pensive. "It was weird, Allen. She's kinda…"
"Pretty, we know, you said-"
"No, no… I don't think she's… okay, you know?"
Allen finally managed to get out from under Lavi's now-slackened grip. "Huh?"
"In here." Lavi tapped the side of his head with one finger. "She mentioned her ex."
"To reject you?"
"Allen, you're so mean!" Lavi clutched his heart dramatically. "Straight through the heart! Nah, not this time, I think. She said he was dead."
The younger Exorcist gave a visible shiver.
"And that he was the last person she kissed. Creepy, huh?"
Allen nodded slowly. "You're right…"
"So, think it was a rejection?"
The boy's jaw dropped. "You actually care?!"
"Well, no, not after that, but… My reputation, Allen! My pride as a man! I don't wanna kiss her after that, but would she want to…"
Allen shrugged weakly; Lavi didn't seem satisfied by the response. "Maybe… Why would I know?"
"You've had experience, right? Kissing a creepy girl?"
For a moment, Allen gave him a bewildered look. Slowly, however, horror crept onto his face.
"Yeah, so would she have said something li-" Lavi cut off with a sharp inhalation and a yelp. "Allen," he croaked a minute later, doubled over and clutching his stomach, "that was not necessary…"
"You brought it up," Allen said coldly. Lenalee idly wondered if the sound of knuckles cracking was just her imagination.
"Y-yeah, but… a kiss is a kiss…"
"That was assault," Allen muttered sullenly, turning to continue walking down the hall. Lavi immediately straightened, wincing as he dashed forward to catch up with Allen.
"You don't count it? Ah," the Bookman apprentice continued with a sly wink (could it be called that when he had just one visible eye?), having remarkably recovered from an elbow to the stomach in mere moments. "So you've never experienced the feeling of lips warm on yours, the passion ignited in that mere instant, the desire-"
In a remarkably Kanda-like move, Allen gave a soft "tch" and pointedly refused to look at Lavi.
It was, however, different enough from Allen's usual behaviour that Lavi took notice.
"Really?" The sly grin was back as he sidled up to the younger boy, whose stare was fixed on the vanishing point of the never-ending hallway. "Could it be that this beansprout has actually kissed someone of his own will?"
Allen might have agreed to forget about the kiss as anything potentially relationship-changing, but with the talk having happened little more than an hour before, it was still very present in his mind. Unfortunately, the blush rising on his cheeks was very obvious for the observant Bookman Junior.
"You have?" Lavi practically squealed with glee. "And before me, too! When did it happen, Allen?" He nudged the white-haired boy eagerly. "When?"
Allen opened his mouth as if to argue against Lavi's conclusion, but just a few seconds passed before he gritted his teeth and silently continued walking.
"So, recently, huh? Since coming here, I bet… Lots of that sort of thing going on around here, eh? But I haven't seen any girls around you… Just those other fifth-years, and…" Slowly, the red head turned around to present a knowing smile to Lenalee. "What do you think, Lenalee? You certainly spend a lot of time with our experienced friend here…"
Lenalee blinked, startled by the sudden question. She hadn't realised how preoccupied she'd been until Lavi had reminded her that, while she'd been aware of the content of the conversation, it really hadn't registered in her mind. It wasn't like her at all. "What? Sorry, Lavi, I wasn't paying attention just now-" she began apologetically. Lenalee never managed to finish, however, since she was immediately distracted once again – this time by a white-haired boy who had abruptly turned on his heel and ran straight back to Lenalee the moment her name had left Lavi's lips.
"Lenalee," he interrupted, wearing a familiar too-innocent grin, "isn't it great that we can all spend the day together again? There was a time during breakfast when I thought I'd have to find something to do around here on my own…"
"Oh, come on, Allen, you'd have spent the day with Lenalee in the library looking up cat things anyway," Lavi pointed out with a slightly accusing tone. "And what about me?"
"You'd probably spend the day reading history books," Allen retorted. Lavi didn't seem to notice the way Allen drew them away from Lenalee with careful steps backward, continuing the playful argument as he walked.
Once she was certain Lavi's attention had been completely diverted, Lenalee's shoulders slumped as she gave a silent sigh of relaxation. By the time Lavi's question had sunk in, Allen's change of subject had been enough to warn her of the dangers of answering, even in a nonverbal form. They hadn't explicitly agreed to keep it a secret, but if the kiss really hadn't meant anything, why would anyone need to know? Besides, if Lavi of all people found out, Allen, at least, would never hear the end of it. She trusted the Bookman apprentice not to tell her brother once they returned home (and they would get back home!); she hadn't heard a thing from Komui about inappropriate hand-holding, after all, despite the redhead's suggestion back in the Ark…
It wasn't inappropriate! Allen-kun was helping me walk up the stairs, that's all. I didn't want to trouble him, but he said it was all right…
But I didn't want to let go…
I needed your strength… I needed that comfort…
Lenalee's steps slowed, but neither boy noticed as they continued their squabbling.
If it hadn't been for Allen-kun, I wouldn't have been able to get through that and become strong. I wouldn't be able to be so carefree and happy now. I could believe in the future, but I wouldn't be this strong.
…I still have a long way to go before really becoming strong, don't I, she added with a wry smile. There will come a day when I no longer have to fight to protect everyone. I'll need to be strong then, too.
Allen-kun, what will you do when that day comes?
"Hm?" Allen suddenly turned his head, startling the female Exorcist. "Lenalee, did you say something just now?"
Did I say that out loud again?! Lenalee shook her head. "I… don't think so…"
"Oh. Sorry, then." He flashed her a smile before turning back to a flustered Lavi, having interrupted whatever the older boy was saying to pay attention to Lenalee. With a relieved sigh, Lenalee lifted one hand to her rapidly pounding heart. That had been quite a shock!
Yet the shock was quickly overwhelmed by the uncomfortable knowledge that surprise hadn't been the only reason her heart had been beating faster than usual.
"Thanks for changing your plans, Lenalee," Lavi commented over his shoulder. "Sorry about this, but-"
"It's all right," Lenalee told him, waving the apology away. "My plans weren't definite, anyway. Besides, whatever it is you want to show us is also in the library, right?"
"It's not much…" The redhead somehow managed to shift his weight while maintaining an even stride. "If we need to discuss it, though…"
"Will we really be allowed to talk?"
"We've done it before." Lavi shrugged. "If we keep it down."
"Is that even possible for you?" Allen muttered under his breath. It was loud enough, however, for the other two to hear.
"Wha- Of course! I'm not… not…" Lavi wracked his mind, attempting to come up with an example of someone particularly loud, or at least louder than he was. It took a few moments. "I'm not Komui!"
Lenalee was torn between raising an eyebrow questioningly and bursting into a fit of giggles at the truth of the implication.
"W-we'll just have to be careful," she finally managed to say, the mixed emotions converging in a shaky smile that barely suppressed any giggles threatening to escape. "A-And if not… the common room…"
Allen gave Lavi a sceptical look as Lenalee caught up to the other two in pace. By the time they arrived at the library, she'd managed to calm herself completely, although time and self-control weren't the only reasons. Walking beside Allen for ten minutes had given her a new anxiety to become preoccupied over; any amusement or displeasure quickly faded at the sudden tension she felt whenever she became aware of his presence.
I'm sorry, Allen-kun, she silently breathed as the trio sat down at a table at the far end of the library from the doors. Lavi disappeared for a minute to retrieve the important texts, leaving Lenalee alone with the object of her distress for a few minutes. It was due to him that she'd been somewhat dissociated from reality prior to Lavi's sudden interruption, yet only now, alone and near to Allen, could the thoughts she hadn't been clear of at breakfast, and that she hadn't been able to form afterward, be voiced, even if only to herself.
Even with your reassurance that nothing will change – and it made me feel so much better – I can't completely feel comfortable around you now that I know how you feel. You didn't tell me about it… I think you may even have hidden it… if you even know. But I can't just think of you as just another friend now that I'm aware of it. It's changed something, and it's all my fault.
And not only that, I wasn't honest about how I feel, either…
Actually, I'm not really sure what I feel. No, she mentally corrected herself, I do know that I'm scared. I know we don't have to change just because something happened, and that isn't why I feel so nervous every time I'm reminded of it. We don't have to change just because you like me, not like that, but that isn't the only reason, either…
I don't know what I want… and that's what scares me…
Lenalee's head snapped up to find a concerned look on Allen's face directly across the table from her.
"Is everything okay?"
She nodded stiffly. "Of course. W-why?"
"You don't seem like yourself today." The concern slipped into worry for a moment as a thought seemed to strike him. "This morning…"
"Huh? N-No, it's not that." Lenalee shook her head and flashed him a bright smile. "It's nothing."
Allen nodded slowly, looking only half-convinced.
"I'm very content with what we discussed before," Lenalee reminded him. Why would Allen still be thinking about that? Had her misgivings been more obvious than she had previously thought? Or had Allen just become more perceptive than she realised? If he suspected she knew how he felt, and that he'd probably been going against his own desires for her sake- Internally, she cringed at the thought of a possible sacrifice; it made her feel guilty for not recognising what he wanted, even when the thought of doing what he did made her feel uncomfortable.
"All right." He smiled back, seeming more relaxed now.
"Hey," came Lavi's voice a moment before the redhead appeared from behind a row of books, "what're you two talking about over here?"
Allen responded with a dismissive mutter.
As Lenalee watched the amusement of Lavi react with shock and petulance, the smile she'd been wearing slowly faded.
You were wrong, Allen-kun, she thought, violet eyes wandering to him unconsciously. Something did change. And neither of us could help it…
"All right, then." Lavi slammed a book onto the table in front of Allen, ending their squabble. "It isn't much, but it's what we've been looking at for the past few months…"
"Evidence of another wizard in the Order?" Allen asked nervously.
"Not quite…" Pale fingers flipped through the pages nimbly, finally stopping about three-quarters of the way through the book. He didn't even need to scan the page before pointing to a paragraph halfway down the right-hand page. "But it's worth noting."
Lenalee leaned forward as Allen read scraps of the passage aloud. "New kind of magic… possibly discovered… This isn't a history book?"
"It's an old discovery," Lavi explained. "Anyway, just keep reading; you'll see it."
"…unknown origins… Did they ever find those out?"
Lavi shrugged. "I'm sure they're known somewhere. Not in this book, though."
"…documented… assassins… Assassins?!" Allen almost bolted out of his seat. "Assassins using magic?!"
"It's more familiar than you think." Lavi rolled his eyes. "Besides, what do you think we are?"
"Exorcists?" Allen suggested.
"We do kill akuma," Lenalee pointed out. "It's for the sake of the world, but it may not seem that way to ordinary citizens. They might not even know what akuma are."
Allen sank back into his seat, sobering. "I suppose…"
"Anyway, these are real assassins. Just keep reading," Lavi reminded the pair.
"But what do assassins- wait a moment…" Allen held up one hand as his eyes quickly scanned the material. "Wearing red robes?"
It was as if a rock had dropped into Lenalee's stomach. It couldn't be – but it had to be so. "It's…"
"Crow." Allen turned away from the material to give Lavi a questioning look. "But they're just recorded here as possible users of an alternative magic. We don't know if they're related to these wizards at all. And we already know they have weird spells and such."
"We should still be cautious," Lenalee warned. The mere mention of the group had made her nauseous, and caused memories of the past to flash uncontrollably in front of her eyes. No… "Even their presence in the Order is something to be concerned about. If we have to be even more careful around them…"
Allen groaned and collapsed onto the book. "Is that possible? I share a bedroom with one… And he…" An unreadable expression flickered in his eyes for a brief moment, but Allen didn't elaborate except to say, "Link knows… quite a lot of things."
"They might never have gotten in touch," Lavi pointed out. "Just worth being aware of, that's all. Maybe some of the others have an eye on 'em. That could mean their attention is off of us, or…"
"Or they're even more vigilant for knowledge of their kind," Lenalee finished. "At least we know it's a different kind of magic. Not what… what I use." The realisation was still new to her, in ways; the rapid pace of her recent studies had made the time feel almost surreal, and once she was allowed to relax with her old friends again, it was hard to remember that those times had happened. Using magic was a delight, but after so many years of exposure to a very different sort of power, it was difficult to reconcile this new ability with her daily life. The future time period didn't help, nor did the presence of only two familiar figures. Perhaps the unreal, almost dreamlike feeling of these months made it easier for her to deal with the separation from her family… her…
As Lenalee broke off the thought before it could continue, and possibly become painful, she noticed two sets of eyes wearing near-identical looks of realisation.
"That's right… Lenalee, you don't have to worry about this," Lavi said slowly.
Allen nodded. "You're a witch, right?" he said, sounding somewhat more solemn – was it her imagination or did he even sound unhappy? – than Lavi.
"Yes, but…" She suddenly grasped what the other two had been thinking. "They wouldn't have a reason to remove my memories, would they?"
"Not back home. Here, maybe." Lavi shrugged. "But we don't know much about this time period. Can't really bring anything back to screw things up."
"You're one of them, after all," Allen pointed out.
"But I still have to be as careful!" Lenalee shook her head. She certainly hadn't thought of that when she'd started using magic. The only things that had been on her mind were returning home, and doing something new and exciting. The possibility that it might affect her relationship with everyone else had never occurred to her, and it took all her mental resources to struggle against the new negative thoughts that threatened to overwhelm her. "It won't be any different."
"You don't have anything to risk." Lavi shrugged again and moved to sit on the table. "Well, neither do I, come to think of it. I'm a Bookman. The old man will probably be happy I know about this. Gotta learn at some point."
"That's good," Allen muttered weakly. "You'll have nothing to worry about."
"What could we do? Walk up to some guy and tell him we know magic?" Lavi chuckled. "It's fine, beansprout. We've probably been overreacting the whole time. Can't be hard to think up an excuse about why we've been gone, and unless Lenalee starts waving that wand around the place, we won't attract attention-"
"Right," Allen agreed, sounding just as confident as before. "Yeah, it's fine."
It was very obvious to Lenalee, however, that to Allen, it was anything but fine. "Allen-kun…" She'd lifted one hand off the table, unconsciously reaching out to clutch one of his, before she realised what she was doing. Placing her hand back down, she continued, a little faster than she intended. "These memories are important to all of us, and so is the fact that we share them. If we were ever discovered… I'd rather forget than remember an experience we had that you don't."
Allen blushed pink for a moment; was he thinking about the kiss? Lenalee almost blushed at the thought. "O-Of course…"
"I have just as much to lose," she said softly. After a raised eyebrow from Lavi, she quickly corrected, "Lavi and I do. It'd be too difficult to remember when you…"
"I understand." Allen gave her a warm smile, and she gave a silent sigh, relieved at the stronger tone of his voice. "It wouldn't be your world otherwise, right?"
"Your…" Lavi gave each of them a bemused look. "World?"
"It's nothing," Lenalee assured Lavi before turning back to Allen. "Right. Discovering that I can do magic hasn't changed anything, either." She resisted the urge to wink after emphasizing the last word, knowing Allen would understand her reference to his own speech just a few hours ago.
Except things did change for me, if not for Allen-kun. If they're the same for him, does that mean he's always liked me? For how long? He said he feels the same way towards me… Other than knowing that he likes me, I don't think I feel any differently towards him… Does that mean things really haven't changed at all? The Allen-kun I knew was always someone who felt this way towards me? But can I really act the same towards him from now on, knowing that?
It's as if everything changed even though this changed nothing at all…
Yet Allen nodded nonetheless, giving a soft chuckle at her choice of words.
"You two…" Lavi's green eye was narrowed in a sceptical frown. "You're hiding something, aren't you?"
"What makes you think that?" Allen asked, sounding completely innocent. Lenalee stared at Lavi with an equally puzzled expression.
"Since this morning… Could it be…" The frown slowly transformed into a triumphant look. "Ah…"
"What?" It was Allen's turn to glare. "What are you talking about, Lavi?"
"Lavi…" Lenalee said in a warning tone.
"Hey, if you two can have secrets, why can't I?" Lavi gave a carefree shrug. "Maybe I'll tell you what I know… one day… after you've confirmed my suspicions for me…"
"There's nothing to confirm, moron," Allen muttered, rolling his eyes. Lenalee hoped Lavi didn't notice the momentary, unconscious glance he'd given her immediately before. The Bookman apprentice did seem rather preoccupied with his smug grin to notice such small details…
"We'll see about that, won't we?"
Lenalee sighed. If this escalated any further, how many times would they have fought this morning? Perhaps she'd have expected this if Lavi were Kanda, but… "So while we're here," she interrupted just as Allen opened his mouth to respond, "can you two please help me find those cat care books?"
Neither boy could resist that pleading, cute smile of hers. Lenalee silently filed the fact away in her mind for use in future spats as they set off down the aisles. Now if only it worked on Kanda…
It was not the first night in the new year that dim moonlight had shone upon the hunched figure of an Exorcist in the Gryffindor common room, poring over an open textbook with the shadowy shape of a wand in hand. A soft whisper accompanied the faint swoosh – promptly followed by the frustrated grumble that had accompanied it every time before.
Of course, it couldn't be Lenalee failing so spectacularly at even the simplest of spells.
With a sigh, Allen ran one gloved hand through his loose bangs. Lenalee had made the charm to move the books look so easy that one morning! She was certainly more intelligent than he, and generally a faster learner, but she'd shown as many signs of the ability as he had before coming to the future. If she could do it…
Frowning, Allen prodded the shining silver needle on the table with the tip of the wand. Maybe Transfiguration just wasn't his thing.
Or maybe he was just refusing to accept the obvious: that Lenalee was a witch and he wasn't.
The fact that she hadn't gone to Hogwarts at the appropriate age didn't mean everyone in the care of the Order from an early age could have. (Allen shuddered at the realisation that this might include Kanda. As amusing as it might be to watch Kanda fail his classes, he would really prefer not to give the idiot any further tools to antagonize him, or anyone else. Or, for that matter, allowing Kanda to learn something Allen himself couldn't do. It was a matter of pride). At least she'd been in the Order – unlike himself, healing the injured nerve in his left arm at Mother's home.
Then again, he had been in the care of Cross… an Exorcist… and a wizard…
Allen shook his head; it was a foolish hope. If he couldn't even perform first-year magic – from their first class, at that – even with practice and decent if not above-average skills at some non-magical subjects, then there was really only one conclusion, with the statistical likelihood of it being so even if he had no evidence one way or the other-
Perhaps he'd have more success with Charms.
After fifteen minutes, the very same needle had not budged, and Allen had run out of ways to potentially mispronounce the complicated-looking name of the spell for flight. He slumped against the soft back of the couch, grey eyes reflecting discouragement as they focused on that silver line against the dark tabletop. He probably hadn't practised enough, but after days without even a sign of ability, and nights with less sleep than he needed thanks to these practice sessions… It was enough to make him question why he was doing this at all.
No, he knew exactly why he tried this, and why he wanted this; it was his strength of will that he questioned – not just for magic, but for anything he ever wanted. His reason for living was to save akuma and humankind, and until recently, he couldn't think of anything else he really wanted at all (besides another meal cooked by Jeryy, but he'd easily give that up to save a life). Why had that changed?
The dark ceiling held no answers, but looking at it prompted Allen's mind into giving one. After months of living in the future, in a time where akuma no longer existed and where the dangers to humans were all ones he could do little or nothing about, it was easy to forget that he had such a mission. With no constant reminders of the Order, or even something reminiscent of his life back home, it faded to a memory with only the increasingly distant knowledge that in a few months, he would return to the battle once more. For now, all he could do was live each day as it came, with the simple obstacles of classes and friendships, and slowly, a peaceful life was starting to become… normal.
Allen almost chuckled at the thought; he'd never considered his life to be peaceful. He'd never thought he'd be able to imagine a peaceful life for himself, either. There had never been any thought to what might lie beyond the Earl's defeat, if he even thought he might defeat the Earl in his lifetime, or survive doing so. What would he do without that goal to drive him, to direct his thoughts, actions and feelings, and motivate him to survive?
But it wasn't the Earl, or even akuma, that encouraged you to fight. Allen squirmed at the uncomfortable thought, yet he knew it to be true. Was it the fact that made him feel so uncomfortable, however, or the memories it was associated with? You only regained your strength when the lives of those important to you were at risk-
How long since he'd thought about the Fourteenth, too? He'd grown so used to seeing that shadow in mirrors that it no longer triggered any thought or worry about his situation, and while the scar running down his chest served as another reminder of what he was, it too seemed distant when the Noah were no longer a constant threat to him, or to those he associated with every day. As long as his mind remained his own, with all the time that had passed without developments he was conscious of (perhaps he shouldn't let down his guard in case he wouldn't notice any changes), it was equally easy to forget he, or those he cared for, were in any danger at all.
So was this what it would be like? If, by some miracle of fate, everything ended and he remained himself, alive, with everyone important to him also alive and well – and somehow, he could almost feel optimistic about it right now – would this be the kind of life he would live?
Somehow, it didn't feel as if he had nothing to live for. There were still reasons he wanted to keep walking, even if the scale was much, much smaller: to enjoy each day with others, to accomplish the little goals in his education (perhaps in a career, one day), to consider the possibility of liking someone, and someone liking him back, and maybe-
That was how everyone lived, wasn't it? They found their life's purpose in their careers and their families, and for every person suffering from loss that he'd met, there had been at least two others with hope for the future. Even some of those facing loss had carried hope.
Allen wrinkled his nose in a brief scowl; it seemed awfully selfish to suddenly want to live for oneself when he had previously felt so driven for the sake of others, whether they be human or akuma – and just thinking about that goal sent a surge of renewed desire through his heart for it. It almost made him want to jump out off the couch and take action, despite knowing he could do nothing until he returned. But perhaps he could have some hope, too. It wasn't wrong to want a future.
If that's ever accomplished, if I can continue to walk, I will. I promised you that, Mana.
Besides, his life was important to others. It was something he had begun to realise more than a year ago, yet he was still willing to give it up for the sake of his ultimate goal despite that knowledge. Even this epiphany hadn't changed that fact. Nonetheless, knowing that others valued his life did make him feel better about wanting to live even beyond the achievements of defeating the Earl and saving the akuma. Even that was for the sake of others.
Lenalee… He had to admit that it was difficult to think of a future beyond the Order without her. She'd played such a big role in his life since entering the Order, particularly during these past few months of peace, and had become the only real constant in his life in doing so. Regardless of the role she would play in his future – the thought made him blush; he knew exactly what role he'd imagined her in, or perhaps hoped, if that was the right word – he didn't know if adjusting to that life would be so easy without her. It might be that he'd need more aid than these months of experience to adjust to a life without that goal of saving akuma, something to help him in the transition. Perhaps he could help others in doing so. He'd been a support for Lenalee early on, but Allen knew that she'd been the same for him, too, if not in such an overt manner. Lavi had been important too, of course, and Allen wasn't sure Lenalee alone would have made him feel quite so relaxed and content, but it was Lenalee who had been the most important.
And it was because of Lenalee that he was here right now, trying to perform magic.
It wasn't that he had the same goals as she did – as much as he wanted to return home, he had little hope of ever discovering the spell even if he did perform some kind of magic, and he also knew enough of pride and cared enough for Lenalee that he didn't want to take that accomplishment away from her. It also wasn't out of his own pride; he might have wanted to be Kanda's equal, or even Lavi's, but somehow, he felt no wound to his ego at Lenalee's ability (not even to his manly pride; somehow, Lenalee was strong enough that he felt no need to be more powerful and protect her. Not that he should, but he was male…). However, it was an injury to his self-esteem, if not actual pride, that he fought to correct.
He didn't need to be better than Lenalee, or even as good as her. He merely had to be good enough for her.
The thought might have made Allen squirm with one interpretation of the thought; he still hadn't accepted the full weight of his feelings for her, and wanting to kiss her (again) was far from being on the same level as considering that kind of a future. Yet even in their absolutely platonic relationship, it mattered to him. Knowing any man in the Order was a wizard would have made him feel somewhat uncomfortable, but Lenalee was so much closer to him, so much more important to him, that for reasons he knew were irrational and unreasonable, it somehow mattered that he become a socially acceptable… comrade to her.
Of course, it didn't matter to Lenalee, but he knew how witches and wizards viewed Muggles, even when they'd grown up around them. Lenalee may have been different, but it wasn't Lenalee whose opinions he was concerned about. Not every witch could view Muggles as true equals, partners – not that they even were – and there were those who could not refrain from passing judgement. He didn't want Lenalee to suffer because of his association to her, and it was not merely for her sake that he wanted nothing less than to distance himself from her, much less break off their relationship entirely. The only thing he could do was to become a suitable partner for her, no matter what their relationship was or would be.
All for the sake of a future he could only hope for, but would be equally necessarily for Lenalee's happiness.
Would he ever have focused this much on her if his other goals weren't quite so distant?
Allen sighed again and closed his eyes tightly. These thoughts were going around in circles, and it was starting to give him a headache. He really needed to stop thinking about this – he nearly smacked himself for immediately associating it with his earlier reflections on forgetting his original goals, as if it only proved his point on how he never thought about them anymore – and get some desperately needed sleep.
With a yawn, he stretched his arms above his head and turned to stand up-
-but the presence of a silhouetted figure behind him made him pause.
A moment later, panic flickered in his chest. He'd been innocently thinking for a while now, but if they caught a peek at the page his textbook was open to…
Allen gulped. No fifth-year would be practising such simple spells. Was his secret out?
I'm sorry, Lenalee, Lavi…
"Allen-kun, why are you still awake at this time?!"
The white-haired boy breathed a sigh of relief as the figure stepped closer to the light surrounding him, revealing Lenalee's familiar figure. "Oh, it's just you, Lenalee…"
"Why would you…" It was too dark to see the expression on her face, but he did notice that she shook her head as she cut off the question. "What are you doing up so late?! It's past midnight!"
Allen stifled a yawn. "Homework."
"But it's vacation!"
"I left it to the last minute," Allen explained. That was true, even if it wasn't what he was doing that night. He'd really have to work hard tomorrow! "And there's only two days left…"
"You know I'd be happy to help you," Lenalee told him, walking around the couch. Allen gulped, reaching out with his right hand to quickly close the textbook and shove it to the side as she sat down on his left. He prayed she hadn't seen it… "What happened to your parchment?"
"Oh, I was… studying. Not actually writing."
Lenalee's level stare told him he wasn't good enough at lying to fool her. "Allen-kun, what were you doing?"
She isn't going to look for herself? "It's nothing." He shifted a centimetre away from her, feeling uneasy being so close to that knowing and concerned look. "It isn't homework, but… it's nothing important, either."
"You're not sleeping properly. You've been tired recently… this isn't the first night you've stayed up like this, is it, Allen-kun?" she asked.
He could only nod. "You didn't… you knew I'd be here?"
It was Lenalee's turn to squirm. "I wanted to make sure…"
"Lenalee…" Allen knew he couldn't ask her not to worry about him; as much as he'd like to, he knew she would anyway. Lenalee always worried about those she cared for. "I'll try to get more sleep after tonight."
"…I can't promise that. This is the only time I can… do this."
"And it's absolutely necessary?" Lenalee's voice sounded just a little higher than normal.
"It's important to me," Allen told her. "It isn't… necessary, but I feel as if I need to do this."
"I understand." Lenalee nodded. "Just try to sleep more, okay? You can't work your hardest in school or for this, whatever it is, if you're not in good shape."
"I'll try. Thank you, Lenalee." He couldn't help but smile; Lenalee was really an amazing person. She must have been worried, to lie awake and sacrifice her own sleep just to ensure that he was all right, yet she trusted him enough to accept his reassurances without even knowing what he was doing. It almost seemed wrong of him not to trust her in return. One day, if he were ever successful in doing magic, or maybe even if he wasn't, he'd tell her. Unless she stumbled across his practice again, but…
She flashed him a weaker smile in response and reached out to squeeze his hand once, lightly, before standing up to make her way back to the girls' dormitory entrance in silence.
No, this isn't right. I have to tell her.
"Lenalee," he called, and she turned around barely a foot away from the entrance.
Maybe she'll understand.
"It's magic," he said weakly. "I was… trying… to… learn… to be… like you."
Lenalee seemed frozen with shock for a moment, but slowly, realisation dawned on her face as if it had been so obvious she should have known from the very beginning.
"You're trying to learn magic?" she repeated, walking back towards him but choosing to sit in a chair across from him this time. From the way she collapsed into it, she must have still been somewhat stunned at his confession. "But… you can't just learn; you have to be born-"
"I know, I know. I thought maybe… somehow… since they never came for you, what if I… It's silly," Allen said sheepishly, "but I thought there might be a chance."
Lenalee slowly nodded. "We were both in unusual circumstances at the time…"
"…But I've had so many failures," he confessed. "I've tried for days, and… nothing." Allen decided not to tell her of the level of those failed spells; his pride refused to make him look that bad.
"I didn't succeed the first few times, either," Lenalee pointed out. "It took more than a night or two."
Did you try turning a needle into a matchstick? "A-And there were those sparks that day with the wand… Nothing happened to me."
"Oh…" Lenalee sounded almost deflated. Had she really been hoping for the possibility? Allen's heart sunk; he knew Lenalee wouldn't end their friendship because of this, but he'd never thought his success might actually make her happy. Were his attempts not just for himself, after all? "That's true…"
"I… I don't know. It was a slim hope." Allen shrugged. "And yet I've kept trying…"
Lenalee didn't appear to be listening, however. Her violet eyes seemed to stare right past him, as if she were lost in thought. Finally, at least a minute after he fell silent, she spoke again.
"Allen-kun, I think you should continue."
He gave a start. "Continue?!"
"Don't give up."
"But the chances that someone with unknown family and abilities like me could really be a wizard are so low-"
"It isn't… That…" Lenalee slowly trailed off, nodding to herself even as her words grew fainter. Finally, her head snapped upwards decisively. "Allen-kun, if you'd like, I would be very happy to help you practise magic, even at these late hours. Just not every night; we both need to sleep."
Allen blinked at her, startled. "R-Really?" The last thing he'd have expected was for Lenalee to encourage him! Even with the sudden knowledge that she'd be happy if he were a wizard, he'd never imagined that she would actually offer to help him like this!
Is this really such a good thing? What if she sees me fail over and over again, and grows depressed… What if she cries?!
"Um, actually, Lenalee," he began, "I'm not sure if that's-"
But she was already getting up from the chair. Allen fell silent, mouth still open.
"We should go to sleep for tonight," Lenalee continued, leaning down to pick up his textbook and hand it to him - or rather, hold it in front of her until he managed to reach out with one hand and take it. "You should sleep tomorrow night, too. The first day back? Or perhaps the second…?"
Lenalee would be a good leader, he managed to think. I can see why she's Komui-san's sister…
"…so we'll stay after everyone has left the night before classes begin again. If you'd like, I can help you with that homework you left until the end, too; it'd make a good cover-up. Does that sound all right?" she finished sweetly.
All Allen could do was nod dumbly. She had all this decided already…
"Bring that Transfiguration textbook," Lenalee added, turning to return to the dormitory. "It's all right to start with Transfiguration, isn't it?"
Lenalee flashed him a bright smile over her shoulder and then disappeared up the stairs, leaving Allen alone in the common room with the Transfiguration textbook in one hand, staring numbly at where Lenalee had exited.
Whatever his intentions were, and whatever his motives had been, Lenalee had practically made them all irrelevant – and he was going to learn magic whether he believed he could or not.
But somehow, he knew it'd be worth it to see Lenalee so happy again.
Now if only he had some of her confidence. Why did she believe he could do it, anyway?
Being an assistant professor at Hogwarts, Lavi was in an unusual situation. Of no House, yet not an established figure at the school nor in the magic world, his knowledge and love of history had given him a reasonable cover story for why he was at Hogwarts. Initially, this unusual status – assistant professors were practically unheard of! – had posed a problem with regard to living quarters; fortunately, there had been an unused room or two in the professors' hallways. After the initial surprise of finding an unfamiliar young man living so close by, no one gave him a second thought, not this far into the school year.
Naturally, this meant he was granted access to all of the facilities enjoyed by the faculty… including the bathrooms.
Tonight, he needed a bath. After whispering the password – lemon-scented shampoo; who came up with these things? – to the inconspicuous-looking door, he opened it into the largest bathroom he had ever seen. Even after three months, he couldn't help but be shocked by the size, the features, and the money that must have been- well, unless magic was somehow used to reduce costs. He still knew relatively little about it, even after watching Lenalee practice; for now, history held his interest.
At the very least, it was nothing like the Order baths. He'd never have to share a bath with anyone else here!
Not that he wanted to, not with that kind of an age gap…
Humming a happy tune to himself, he closed the door behind him and strolled over to the large bathtub – if it could be called a bathtub, since it could rival some of the shared Order baths for size. He turned a couple of the taps with a familiar ease, allowing hot water and tiny bubbles floating on the steam to gush into the basin, then, while waiting, pulled a towel from the rack and placed it close to the tub.
Did he have time to deal with his clothing before the bath filled up? A moment's pause for consideration made him decide to wait; an overflow could be problematic, and he had taken considerable care to both be inconspicuous and yet maintain a positive reputation among the faculty. Just to be careful…
Once it was full – and containing some kind of pale blue foam; he was in an experimental mood tonight – the taps were promptly turned off, and Lavi began to remove his clothing.
First came the robes he was required to wear to fit in among the magic users. Then the uniform coat that kept him warm during the icy-cold winter, and next, the knee-high boots. He pulled the shirt underneath over his head, giving a frustrated head-shake when it caught on his bright red mane of hair, and then tugged off the green headband he'd forgotten about until his difficulty with the shirt. His pants came off almost casually, and Lavi tossed them onto the disorganized pile of the rest of his clothing for the time being; nothing would suffer from not being folded. And finally-
Once he was done, Lavi strode over to the filled bath with a happy grin. He shivered, happily anticipating the warmth of the hot water on his bath-deprived skin, when a sudden, pleased hum made him pause with one foot over the rim of the water-filled basin.
Warily, he looked over one shoulder, and then the other. There was no one else in the room. Could he have imagined it?
Yet the moment he placed his foot on the edge, the hum came again – and this time, it was followed by a giggle. A female giggle.
He was being watched!
"Oi," Lavi called, stepping back from the bath and looking around the room cautiously. One hand twitched, instinctively wanting to protect his… more vulnerable areas. "Who are you? What are you doing in here?" Was it a student, sneaking in without permission or attempting to pull some sort of prank? Was it a painting? He didn't see any pictures of women on the walls…
"Oh, you heard me?" A soft sigh came from the bath. Lavi spun around and stumbled backwards, catching himself before he tripped, at the sight of a bespectacled girl in robes sitting on the bathtub taps. A girl!
And at that, he did a double-take. She couldn't be sitting in such an unusual place. Unless… and now that he looked at her, she did look awfully smoky, perhaps even translucent-
"Are you a ghost?!" he gaped.
She giggled again. "Well, of course."
"Do you usually haunt this bathroom?" he asked slowly, hoping that his lack of previous encounters with her meant that he could assume she wasn't a regular inhabitant of a place where he'd once enjoyed (or believed he'd enjoyed) privacy.
Lavi was indeed correct. "No, I usually haunt the girls' bathroom on the first floor. No boys ever come in there… not until recently, of course." Her pleased grin turned slightly secretive for a moment, as if she were remembering an incident where they'd done just that – more than just enter the bathroom, or else it would hardly be such a secret. Lavi couldn't help but be curious about the circumstances. "When I heard about you, though…"
"Heard about me?" Lavi repeated, swallowing nervously. What exactly had she heard?
"Oh, you know…" She waved one hand in the air vaguely. "It's not every year I get to see such a handsome man." The ghost girl giggled again. "The last time this happened, I closed my eyes first, and then… ooh, I never thought I'd get the chance again, and you're older, too…"
"Right…" Lavi cast a quick glance towards his clothing. She may have been a ghost, but she was also, well, female, and he would have felt just as uncomfortable wounding his pride by retreating – she was dead; what could she possibly do to him? He had nothing to be afraid of! – as he would by being so exposed for a prolonged period of time. "I don't suppose you could… shut your eyes again while I take a bath?"
She pouted, but obliged by covering her thick lenses with translucent hands. "Well, all right, but don't expect me to stay like this any longer than I need to. It's no fun talking while you can't see."
I hope she can't see, the Bookman apprentice thought before quickly sliding into the now-tepid water. Cringing, he quickly sunk below the cloud of bubbles, wishing they were thicker. If only the ghost wasn't sitting on the taps…
Despite the cover the bubbles provided, the ghost girl's continued presence meant Lavi was unable to thoroughly enjoy his bath. As he climbed out, sighing and promising himself a better one the following day, a faint call drifted from what sounded like the pipes to his perked-up ears:
"Ooh, he does have such a nice bottom…"
Lavi couldn't remember the last time he'd blushed such a dark red. With this ghost here, and the knowledge of others back at the Order, it was possible he'd never be able to enjoy another bath again…
The first day of the new term dawned on a dormitory once again full of its five male inhabitants. Allen had discovered during the holidays that he actually missed them, somewhat; it felt awfully lonely to be in such a large room all by himself, particularly with the four empty beds looming eerily in the darkness. On later reflection, Allen had realised that it wasn't the boys themselves he really missed. He'd grown far too used to sharing a bedroom over the previous year, and while the four of different hair colours were far more conspicuous and loud than Link ever could be (if not more obnoxious – well, most of the time they were, but Link had his moments, and only Kanda could possibly be more annoying then), they were still a presence.
So it was with a pleasant sense of familiarity and contentment that Allen followed the boys down the stairs to the common room. Unlike most days, and most certainly unlike the holidays, a large crowd surrounded the notice board.
"What's going on?" Allen asked the others as they attempted to wriggle their way through the mass of people. Unfortunately, with some of the students being of earlier years, his height proved not to be an advantage for sneaking around larger people.
"Dunno," came a response. "Though it's about time for-"
Allen attempted to spin around, which turned out to be impossible this deep in the crowd. Fortunately, Lenalee managed to grasp the sleeve of his robes and pulled him to the message board, where a large notice was pinned to it.
"Good morning," he said automatically, eyes wandering to the notice. Was this what everyone wanted to look at? "What is this?" he asked her, barely noticing her reply to his greeting as his eyes skimmed the unfamiliar words.
"Apparition lessons," Lenalee answered cheerfully. "I signed up for them just now."
"Apparition?" Allen repeated questioningly. "Oh – you have to be seventeen…"
"It's sort of like teleportation, I think. We haven't seen it done since learning about magic, since you can't do it on the Hogwarts grounds. Wait-" Lenalee tugged on his sleeve again and moved back towards the crowd. "Let's get out of here first."
"They'll be disappointed," Allen muttered with an amused smile, gesturing to the crowds. "My dorm-mates. They won't be old enough, either."
"It's just for sixth-years," Lenalee agreed. "Maybe a seventh-year that didn't take it last year…"
"There'll be another chance next year." Allen shrugged. "So you're going to learn?"
She nodded, flushing pink with excitement. "I'll ask Professor McGonagall if I'm ready to, but I think it'll be all right. I'm capable of doing sixth-year spells, after all."
"That's great!" Allen smiled warmly. "So when do the lessons begin?"
"It didn't say, but-"
The smile slipped at the chorus chiming his name. "Hey…" he said weakly, noting the dejected expressions on the faces of the four boys.
"Not until next year," Will pouted.
"It was the same thing last year, too," Albert pointed out. "If we remembered-"
"You signed up, Lenalee?" Sean asked her. It hadn't taken the boys long to become curious about her, though months had passed before they'd formed an acquaintanceship through Allen. Gryffindor wasn't such a large House that names weren't known outside of one's own year. "We saw your name on the list."
She nodded. "I'm really excited."
"Damn…" Will sighed again. "Waited five years for this…"
"You'll have the chance next year, right?" Lenalee pointed out to them.
"W-Well, of course…" The blond boy suddenly perked up, nodding to himself. "And we're all sure to pass on the first try, too. I am, anyway."
Allen gave him a sideways glance; he'd seen Will behave like that before, and he knew what it meant. This time, he'd picked the wrong target. Strange that he'd start behaving like this now of all times, though, when Lenalee had been around for months before, and by Allen's side, no less. What was with this surge of confidence? It would have to be crushed somehow.
The Exorcist didn't notice the boys recoiling at his devious smile. Komui would be the perfect threat…
"S-So, Allen," Sean began, wearing a shaky grin, "a-are you excited for next year, too?"
"Hm?" Allen was startled out of his dark thoughts at the question. "Excited for what?"
"Apparition lessons next year. You'll be around, right?"
Now that the question had been asked, Allen realised he was surprised the subject hadn't been brought up before. How could he tell them that, with luck, he wouldn't even be in the same time period at the end of the year? "Actually, probably not…"
"No way!" Four jaws dropped. Lenalee gave him a worried glance, seemingly wondering if he should have told them. "But you just got here this year!"
"Where're you going? Another magic school?" a stunned Chester asked.
"Well…" Allen's eyes flickered to Lenalee, bewildered. She shrugged, equally wide-eyed. "Something like that…"
"I guess you'll learn Apparition there," Albert said sourly.
"I don't know," Allen said slowly, giving a nervous chuckle. "I'm not sure I'd be very good at it."
"It can be dangerous," Chester agreed.
"I hear lots of students don't pass right away," Albert warned. "And bad things can happen. Like leaving parts of your body behind-"
"Don't say it," the redhead said quickly, looking rather green. For that matter, none of the other boys, including Will, looked much better. Allen merely stared at them, puzzled; leaving one's body parts behind sounded very unpleasant, but he couldn't imagine how that could happen, and didn't want to try.
"I'm just concerned about all of that," Allen said quickly.
"But they can fix you right away," Albert added. "Most people learn eventually."
"Eventually…" Chester repeated grimly.
"Nonsense, I'm sure it's not too hard." Will clapped Allen on the back cheerfully, already recovering from the grisly thought. "Besides, you get pretty good marks. You'll learn fast."
Allen tensed at the comment. Not with magic, I won't… "Y-Yeah, but that's just Potions, and D-Divination, and… Not the same at all."
"Yeah, that's true…" Sean nodded thoughtfully. "Those don't really require magic."
"Come to think of it," Albert said suddenly, "we've never seen you do magic, have we, Allen?"
Lenalee's eyes were suddenly impossibly wide.
Allen gulped. They'd noticed something else, now, too – and this would be much more difficult to explain away.
The Daily Prophet: Thousands Dead in Countryside Village Massacre
A small village in the English countryside was found destroyed last night, and its six thousand residents have been assumed dead, after a Dark Mark was seen floating in the sky over its remains by a travelling businessman.
"I was driving to London for a business meeting the next day when I saw what looked like smoke in the distance," the man, who asked to remain anonymous, reported. "As I got closer, it formed a shape- It's horrible; it really is. All those people dead."
Police say there is no reason to believe this is not the work of Death Eaters, whose use of the Dark Mark above their victims identifies their crimes. So far, however, there are no leads on possible suspects. A search is especially difficult due to the anonymous nature of most Death Eaters-
The more he read of the article, the deeper the ruts in Lavi's forehead grew. He finally tossed the paper onto a larger pile in the corner of his bedroom, each folded as nicely as a worn newspaper could be. From the back, a smiling witch with shining hair displayed a shampoo bottle in her hands.
Every day, it was the same thing. Numerous casualties, and all the fault of these Death Eaters that had returned after fifteen years of peace. From what Lavi could tell, things had been just as bad before.
"Another war," he muttered to himself before picking up the next day's paper. They'd stepped out of one sorrowful battle and into the midst of another, only without the means to fight and protect this time. Some might even say this war was worse, if they didn't consider the conditions that led to what the Exorcists fought.
War created despair, and despair created akuma. If the Earl were around today, how long would it take the world to succumb to his cause?
Before he joined the Order, Lavi had thought humans were foolish, creating battle after battle for him to witness, and record in history – for they would otherwise be forgotten as time passed and new battles were waged once more. Finding that even a hundred years could manipulate even the largest of battles, however, had had a great impact on him. It was one thing to wonder if his colleagues would be excluded from history; it was another to know they would be.
And something else to know that these battles would never end.
There would always be despair in human hearts – the conditions for the creation of new akuma.
Authour's Notes: Notes, notes… what do I have to say? Link "knowing" things refers to Allen's comments about Mana made in his presence during the G arc. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I can't think of anything else that would need explaining.
Oh! The last scene with Allen, Lenalee, and the four stupid boys? It's intentionally similar to the previous scene. Originally, it (and what follows) was going to be in the middle of this chapter and then I decided it would make a nice cliffhanger instead.
I realise that I've lost my humour in this chapter and I hope to regain it for chapter 10. I despise this chapter; I really do. There's all this angst and thought and attempting to fix mistakes I made in the past while creating even more and it just didn't come out as I wanted it to. No matter; chapter 10 will be funny and interesting and full of Harry Potter references.
I think I made a mistake with something Cho said, and… blah. Whatever. Pretend their memories suck.
I think I also made some continuity errors from the last chapter – but really, after ten months, would you remember every little detail?!
Reviews are appreciated, particularly if you have some sort of criticism or, better yet, complaints (pointing out typos I made is nice but by no means necessary unless they're particularly embarrassing – just saying that it isn't the kind of criticism I'm thinking of). Questions are always loved, as are suggestions for things you want to see resolved by the end… because I do forget, and I do change things. Many things.
I initially wanted to update chapter 1 to include Link with this update, since at the time of starting this story, he wasn't yet a character in DGM. Re-reading chapter 1 not only made me unable to find a way to fit him in (er, pretend he's… busy… baking pies or cakes or something), it also made me realise how funny this fic originally was and how unfunny it now is. It's depressing. I love that chapter.
My apologies for not updating sooner, and for the length of both this chapter and these notes.
Yes, there is a good reason for Allen attempting to learn magic that isn't "the plot needs it".