WHO WE ARE
Disclaimer: I don't Harry Potter, nor do I own Fate/Zero. If I did, then I wouldn't be writing fanfiction. Though, I do own this little story.
Summary: Triwizard Tournament was full of tales of glory, gore, despair, deceit and triumph. A battlefield for the best of the best, the cream of the crop. Well, not anymore. Because one small slip of paper had ensured the Champions would be confronted with the most dangerous pair of the fourth Holy Grail War.
Shout Out: Promise is a promise, so I am releasing the first beta-ed part of Who We Are.(The inspiration is self-same song by Imagine Dragons - Who We Are - if you want to listen to it, go to Youtube.) I am giving my heartfelt thanks to Luna13 who is the Queen of Beta-ing for this monster. All the (purposefully, might I add) failed frenchisms are also her work, as I wanted to incorporate the legitimate French-flavored butchering of Queen's English in the story. And she delivered marvelously! Additionally, I am in search of new Beta, so any takers/masochists (Ahem! /clears throat/) in great demand. If you are intrested, PM me and we'll see if you have what it takes.
As for everything else - Fire And Ice is officially in works, hopefully I will manage to update it either in the first or second week in October. This is also official closing of Scrapbook Jewels. Thank you for sticking with me on this long ride through different universes and I hope you will join me on the journey when I expand on the stories written herein.
Warnings: AU-verse. You already knew that. SLASH - yeah, you also knew that - but I repeat, SLASH, meaning male/male pairing - this time it's Kotomine Kirei (Harry Potter)/Kiritsugu Emiya (Yes, yes, I went there. And I am still alive.-/cheesy grin/), and mentions of bloodshed. The following warnings will be included as the story progresses, When the next chapter comes out of beta-ing, the story will be posted separately on my account here, so you will get double notice - for this, and the new chapter.
Humans have always been competitive. It was a necessity at first; survival of the fittest wasn't just a phrase, but a cruel reality. People were born into the cold world without sharp teeth , claws or armor; and neither did they have wings or fins or warm fur or thick hide. They had nothing. By all accounts, they should have perished in droves, because surely, such a weak species was only an affront to the mightiest of the Nature's laws - the law of the strongest.
However, it wasn't so. The first humans weren't born with weapons or any appropriate defense against predators. Instead, they've learned to use whatever was at hand – be it a sharp stick, fire, half-eaten cadaver, hides of dead animals or parts of poisonous plants. Slowly, but surely, they began to fight back, and then, they discovered metal and how to shape and wield it.
From then on, it was only a question of time when a Man would conquer the land. From South to North, and from West to East, they climbed the highest of the mountain peaks and discovered the deepest depths of the oceans. They survived in the harshest of deserts and walked through the wildest of the jungles that were filled with the most poisonous animals.
Finally, the only worthy competitor against a Man was his fellow Man. Thus, the skirmishes and wars began - each more intricate, more deceitful, more bloody and forceful, with more people and deadlier weapons. Armies have risen and fallen, and legends have appeared and drowned in the waves of rhymes and history.
But wars were pricy. And so, a Man had thought up a game, where only the strongest, most cunning and fastest was proclaimed and then lauded a winner. The game had evolved to other fields – the sports, the arts of singing, dancing and all other kinds, but people still wanted, yearned for something exciting, a game where the winner would victoriously roar among the crowd's accolades while the loser would pay with his honor and oftentimes, life. Wizards were no different. Thus, the Triwizard Tournament was born, its history soaked in blood, honor, deceit and tragedy. So dangerous that it had been prohibited, and yet, by some miracle or folly, the Wizards decided to resurrect it.
This time, the chosen school to host the acclaimed and much-lauded Tournament was Hogwarts. However, because the Tournament was so dangerous, the officials had decided that this time, there won't be just one champion representing a school, but a pair. So they announced that the prospective pairs had to write their names on the same piece of the paper and then drop it into the Goblet. Students were forbidden to form pairs with multiple partners to facilitate the fair choice of the Champions. The other clause was that nobody under the age of 17 was allowed to compete. Even if the danger was lessened by competing in pairs that still didn't mean they would allow any students under the age line to compete, no matter how accomplished they may have been.
This evening was special. It was the evening when the Goblet of Fire would choose the pairs that would hopefully bring the glory to their respective schools.
The Great Hall was illuminated with a mellow light of the lit candles and the sky was twinkling with small white stars on a deep velvet background. There was an excited murmuring between the students, questions, answers and speculations blending into an incomprehensible noise that was silenced when Dumbledore stood up.
Headmaster Dumbledore was an old man, with twinkling blue eyes behind sliver- rimmed half-moon glasses and long white beard and hair, clothed in a vibrant robe that raised questions whether the man had any fashion sense or was he just color blind.
Blue eyes looked over the gathered students and their teachers kindly. "I know you all know why we are here and impatient to find out which pair among you will bear the glory of being the Champions of the Triwizard Tournament. So, without further ado, we shall begin." The glasses reflected the blue flames of the Goblet as centenarian wizard approached it stopping by its side as to wait for something.
The bluish white flames surged upward, spitting up a piece of a parchment that was caught in the old wizard's aged hand.
"The first pair is from Durmstrang….are Viktor Krum and Jevgeniy Makarov!" The old sorcerer's voice was followed by the cheers from the students, the loudest of ones coming from the Slytherin table, from the group of darkly clothed students with stern faces, clad in fur-edged cloaks.
"Second pair hailing from Beauxbatons is…Fleur Delacour and Violette de la Fére!" This time, the cheers were louder, coming mostly from the male population, cheering on the two most beautiful witches in the school. The Sun and the Moon - flaxen-haired Fleur with her sky blue eyes and Violet, with her mysterious dark violet eyes and raven tresses bound into a heavy braid that wrapped around her head, making her seem like a Queen of the Night. However, the two female champions only exchanged polite nods before accepting the congratulations of their peers.
"Third and last pair is from our very own Hogwarts…are Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang!" There were whistles and roars, with chanting of their champion's name from the Hufflepuff table, along with the Ravenclaw one - in contrast with the two, Gryffindors were a little bit quieter, while the Slytherins were completely silent, only offering a half-hearted clap or two, barely holding back not to sniff disdainfully at the lovey-dovey pair.
"And with that, I congratulate our Champions and – " Dumbledore was interrupted by the Goblet glowing, but this time, the color changed from blue to red, and as if they were transfixed, all the eyes followed the small scrap of the paper that fluttered upward like an ill omen.
Hesitantly, Dumbledore touched it, and upon touching, the reddish glow of the cup was slowly changing into the golden one…
"…. Harry Potter."
A scant moment after Dumbledore had spoken out those fated words, there was a flash of golden light, so bright it practically blinded the witnesses and with a deafening bang, something has fallen in front of the Goblet, which was now dark and smoking, as if it had been somehow overcharged.
There, on the ground, laid two male forms, clad in black and coated with dark red liquid –one black – haired one and another with brown hair, both unconscious and bleeding.
There were gasps and shrieks of shock. "Wat juste 'appen, Dumblydoor?" Madame Maxime demanded, glaring at the blue-eyed old man. "Didn't you say ze Cup vas safe from tamperin'?"
"Of course I did." Dumbledore said, just as serious. "Though I don't know how that could've happened …because Harry Potter definitely doesn't attend this school."
"What did you say!?" Karkaroff, a man of a thin, cruel face and dark eyes, jumped up, glaring at Hogwarts' Headmaster. "So who is that green-eyed brat at the Gryffindor table, then?" He pointed at the said 'brat' accusingly, making the mentioned boy flinch and shrink under baffled and angry eyes.
"Obviously he isn't Potter." A dour, sallow-faced man sneered sourly, his eyes thoughtful. "Now, if you don't mind, we have to take care of the two brats here." He brusquely waved at the still unconscious and blood-caked heap in front of the Goblet disdainfully.
The evening had ended with more questions than the answers – one Harry Potter was now called a liar and a traitor, who somehow managed to usurp the Hogwarts' Golden Couple's glory, and both Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were truly merciless in their remarks, with Slytherins right after them, while Gryffindors were torn between believing the boy and celebrating the unexpected chance to win the Cup.
The two teens were a mystery. Madam Poppy Pomfrey had managed to liberate them of their things – strange T-shaped red hilts, an old, harmless, but well-cared gun and a handful of brass colored cartridge cases topped with copper-shaded tips. The only dangerous things the messy-haired boy had was an army knife and a pair of grenades. Poppy shuddered at the thought what could have happened if she hadn't known just what those round balls with the steel fuse were. So simple and elegant and seemingly completely harmless… if her Uncle Red hadn't shown her just what could those little babies actually do, she could've ignorantly blown up the entire hospital wing! Though, the question remained, just what were those two boys doing to possess such dangerous things! She glared at her two currently unconscious patients disapprovingly.
The duo possessed strange wounds. The brown-haired one was harmed less in comparison with his wild-haired companion. The only notable wounds were the bullet wound in his arm – somehow, the bullet had entered on the outer side of the palm, and then traveled along the bones across the wrist and exited at the elbow, practically destroying the muscles veins and bone here. Madam Pomfrey shuddered. She had seen many wounds, but this one was monstrous. The boy would heal, but his use of the arm would be severely hampered… Just what kind of weapon could do such an amount of damage?
The wild-haired one's state was more serious. Broken ribs, an almost torn apart heart, burned out muscles and torn ligaments – how in Merlin's holy name was the boy still alive? The wounds he had received should have killed any ordinary mortal, and last she checked, the boy was a human, and what was worse, a Muggle!
She shook her head disbelievingly - this has gone against everything and anything she had been taught either in Hogwarts or St. Mungo's. However, that raised concern on just how would the two boys even fight in the Tournament – Dumbledore had confirmed that the brown-haired boy who arrived via the Goblet's prompting was in fact the true Harry James Potter, even if he did have some kind of Japanese sounding name.
She was brought out of her musings by a strangled gasp from the throat of the patient she had been pondering about just a moment ago. Hurriedly, she began to cast diagnostic charms and to her great astonishment, his state was drastically better than it was when he had been brought in. Dark orbs looked around woozily, before the boy flinched and hissed out a pained sound while clutching his right forearm. Alarmed, Poppy tugged the offending sleeve up, only to gasp in astonishment when she saw the intricate dark lines forming themselves over the pale expanse of the skin in jagged, and yet smooth black lines. The process was so fast Pomfrey almost overlooked that it had to be painful, until the dark-haired boy - she still didn't know his name, dammit –covered the thing with the other hand and groaned with pain, the sound not repeated by his still unconscious companion.
"Um - don't cover it, I will get you something for pain!" She babbled as she fluttered around the bed to fetch the cream, making the dark, pain-filled eyes glare at her half-heartedly.
"Where am I?" The boy asked, and an instant later, his eyes widened slightly at the unfamiliar surroundings before they narrowed again. The hand that was previously clutching at the just-tattooed arm flew up to his neck as if checking for something.
Pomfrey finally found the balm. "You are at the Hogwarts, School for Witchraft and Wizardry. You have been drafted to compete in Triwizard Tournament." She explained succinctly as she opened the small crystal dose. "Now give me the hand to treat it – "
- And facing the muzzle of the ancient gun Pomfrey was sure he didn't have on his person a moment before. "Not trusting you. Who are you and how did you manage to drag me out of the Grail War?"
Poppy Pomfrey wasn't a woman to be easily intimidated, but one single look from those impassive, dead eyes made her shiver with unease.
This boy - no, young man, could and would use the gun and not feel the remorse about it.
Suddenly, the nurse felt a rush of pity and terror for the youth's fellow Champions. If that was just a companion of Harry Potter, then the real deal had to be terrible, indeed.
Swallowing the dread, she began to explain.
'This is going to be one giant clusterfuck.' Kiritsugu Emiya inwardly grimaced as he assessed the situation. Not bigger, but more of a clusterfuck than the Grail War had been. Of course he knew about the Wizarding world - any self-respecting Magus did, and he had no doubt the Church bastards were just as aware of the wand-waving, cloak-wearing and broom-riding jokesters. The said jokesters just weren't important enough to gain any great measure of attention - the Church had enough to deal with its inner schisms, demons, dimension rifts and the like. Though there had been one notable exception, once back in 1945's, when they were called in to curb some idiot, called Grindelwald. Not directly, no, and Kiritsugu wasn't sure of the specifics but the whole affair had been beyond messy and the Wizarding world was almost exposed right then and there, thus need for intervention from the Church's side. Clock Tower didn't give a damn about the wand-wavers - they were simply too weak, and besides, there was the pursuit of Root of Akasha to consider. Between keeping an eye on the backward lemming people that was Wizarding Britain and researching the ways to Akasha, it was a no-brainer which one of them would the Clock Tower's Magi rather been doing.
The existence of Wizarding world was an open, painfully glaring secret metaphorically clothed in blinding orange with neon green polka dots to the ones in know-how. No subtlety at all. The Church did cease the inquisition practice, if only because they were tired of the same dance and game - honestly, did Wizards really think they wouldn't have - excuse the pun – wizened up to their little tricks? And with the Wizards being so back behind the times, they really didn't merit more than an occasional footnote or two. Clock Tower and Magi in general were complete secret from the wand-brats and for a good reason too. No wizard or witch survived the - usually hostile - contact with a Magus. And there were no traces after the 'confrontations', along with the Magi successfully blending among the crowds of normal people, so trying to find an offending Magus was just like searching for a needle in an enormous haystack – troublesome and chancing upon one was mostly written up to a pure dumb luck.
Rubbing the bridge of his nose, the assassin frowned tiredly. One moment he was fighting against that damned priest for the Grail, when the ceiling exploded, then the feeling of being squeezed through the straw and finally, the blessed darkness. He made a grimace at the memory of the transport. Now he had an intimate knowledge of just how meat going through the grinder felt. He just thanked the heavens for having enough of a foresight to have Avalon in his body, and even more so, for the wand-wavers being stupid enough not to detect the artifact. He dragged his palm down across his nose to his chin and grimaced at the feeling of smooth chin.
Seventeen. Again. Just wonderful. He mouthed out a muffled expletive.
Not only a day here and he already hated the damned stick-wavers.
Dark eyes looked at the prone body still sleeping in the bed on his left side. All because some idiot had a bright idea to enter that damned priest under his real name into the tournament.
The moment he'll find the culprit, Kiritsugu swore he would use the bastard to 'practice' some more unethical 'questioning methods' on him. And maybe invite Kirei to join in the fun. Because if nothing else, the priest, who was also an ex-Executor, had to be a treasure trove of ideas on the subject.
The messy-haired Magus Killer exhaled, sorely wishing for a cigarette to calm his frazzled nerves.
This time, failure was not an option.
He trembled. Since that fateful evening, everything had gone downhill - from his peaceful life, to his friends and finally his identity. He was still Harry Potter, just for convenience sake, but did he really have any right to call that name his own? He was now being ostracized for something that he didn't have any powers or influence over. While it was a relief to get free form the strain of such a pressure, it also damned him with the feeling of solitude.
Ron didn't want to do anything with him when he found out that Harry wasn't the 'Boy Who Lived' anymore, and Hermione… well, she was just awkward. Other people were even worse - they still called him by that name, but he saw the doubt in their eyes, it was like being observed and being judged by total strangers. That shouldn't have hurt him, but it did.
Even Ginny and Colin were avoiding him. He had saved Ginny, didn't he? He didn't have to be a Boy Who Lived for that had he?
He curled under the covers, thinking about the two strangers that appeared in the Great Hall. Both of them covered in bloodied and torn clothes, they fell right in front of the Goblet, lying there motionlessly, until the teachers surged forward to rush the duo to the hospital wing.
He flinched as the twinge of pain throbbed in the back of his skull. Hissing out a curse, he wished he would have had something for a headache - he couldn't concentrate on the schoolwork like usual, when he had evil little trolls pounding with their enormous hammers at his brain. Lately, he felt more agitated, more snappish thus further alienating his friends from him.
He was Harry Potter, dammit!
Scowling, he rubbed at the bleeding scar on his forehead.
Only, he wasn't.
He didn't know whether to be relieved or angry about it.
Closing his eyes, he settled in for a restless sleep.
Kirei Kotomine was not a happy camper. While it was a welcome respite from the Grail War he didn't appreciate the way the respite in question came to be, and even less of the fact he apparently had to cooperate with Kiritsugu of all people to win the damned tournament before they could be allowed to return back to where they came from.
If Risei Kotomine had been alive, Kirei had no doubt the old man would have had his head for this. Father Risei didn't make any secret of what he thought about the wand-wavers, and being caught unaware by them was just pathetic and unworthy of the youngest ever Executor.
He glanced at his left forearm, where the stylized black wing replaced his Command seals. The wing was more reminiscent of a spider's legs mixed with thorns, looking dangerous even in its simplicity. Kiritsugu's Command seals on his right hand had also vanished. He also managed to catch a glimpse of the self-same seals on the other man's forearm before he covered it while scowling at him
He also felt the thrumming of the bond between them – it was just there, so similar and yet so very different from the Master-Servant bond, that it momentarily left him mentally flailing before he managed to regain his composure. His body was on the mend - a little bit faster than usual, much to the nurse's astonishment, but Kirei was always a quick healer so to him, this was nothing new. What unsettled him was that feeling of hollowness in the right hand - the one he blocked Kiritsugu's shot with – it wasn't weaker, but it felt hollow, as if it wasn't there anymore in a sense. And he still had to contend with that annoying buzz in the back of his head. Not quite of a headache, but close to it.
At least he still had his weapons. Twenty Black Keys total, thirteen Command Seals on his right forearm - Kirei doubted they would be useful, what with the Goblet of Fire practically nullifying the connection to his Servant, but maybe, with a little bit of tweaking? His clothes were thankfully still here, squeaky clean and ready for him to don them on - Kirei felt an irrational relief about keeping his attire, but in his defense, It was a justifiable concern – one could never be careful enough with Kiritsugu Emiya around. Those who had gone against the man invariably ended up dead, and if it weren't for the interruption of their fight, Kirei would've joined these numbers too.
Their fight had been glorious. Dark eyes lowered to half-mast when he reminisced about it. The man was well-deserved of his title Magus Killer. Hadn't they been interrupted by that glorified glowing Cup of doom, Kirei had no doubt he would have been in a fight for his life. May still be fighting notwithstanding the fact they would now be partner in the Tournament And if he found out just whose bright idea was to get the two of them into that mockery of a Tournament…the fool would pay. But on the other side, it would be an interesting experience, and maybe, just maybe, he could find out just what was that force that drove his unwilling partner to such terrifying heights. And find his own answers -
"Mister Potter?" A woman's voice interrupted his musings, making dead brown eyes look up at the hospital matron. "Headmaster Dumbledore wishes to speak with you."
Kirei blinked. "You must be mistaken." He replied, his voice dull. "My name is Kotomine Kirei." The matron narrowed her eyes, a snappish retort on her lips but she held back. "Mister Kirei then." She said curtly and then whirled around and stomped out of the room, muttering and grumbling under her breath, however Kirei still noticed her back being tense, as if she waswary of being attacked.
'My, my. For a nurse, she has good instincts.' He pondered before his eyes caught an old man in an eye-watering blue robe with neon orange and puke green little stars twinkling through.
"Hello, dear boy." The Headmaster smiled at him, and for some reason, Kirei felt as if he were in front of Father Risei again. It lasted only a moment, before his eyes concentrated on those twinkling blue orbs behind the half-moon glasses.
"Headmaster." A simple acknowledgement. No need to give out more information than needed. The old man smiled benignly and if Kirei were of a sarcastic sort, he would go as far as seeing the background of pretty flowers behind the man's head. But he was a dull Church boy, even if he was one of the top Executors, so the old man's antics didn't have any influence on him. "You wanted to talk to me." Kirei said calmly.
"Ah, yes. But before we begin, could you tell me where have you been those fourteen years?" The man prodded for the answers gently.
"Here and there." Kirei replied noncommittally while calculating the best angle to kill the man. "Last known location was city of Fuyuki. Why did you deign to summon us into that Tournament?"
Dumbledore's smile became a little forced. "This was the Goblet of Fire see, this year Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament, and the competitors are chosen in pairs via the Goblet of Fire which acts like an impartial judge."
Blank brown eyes narrowed thoughtfully. 'A Lesser Grail? But how - '
"The Tournament was revived to strengthen the bonds between the schools and to showcase the best and brightest of the Wizarding world." The old man paused as he stroked his beard thoughtfully before he sat down on the chair beside the bed. "Somehow, you were summoned under the name of Harry Potter."
"How do you know that?" Kirei inquired. Not that it wasn't possible, he had known from the very early age that he had been adopted, but the whole story still sounded like something a juvenile Clock Tower student would pull… or one particular master of Kaleidoscope.
(Somewhere, Zelretch sneezed.)
"We checked." This was an ambiguous answer and a dangerous one, at any rate.
"Checked how? I didn't have any papers on myself. The summoning could be a fluke." Kirei countered logically. Something was fishy about that, and he intended to find out just what it was.
The wizened old man sighed. "The piece of paper had only your name on it. Not the name of your partner, however a moment after your name was called out, both of you appeared in front of the Goblet. Shocked us right out of our seats." He let out a good-natured chuckle, but Kirei was undeterred.
"Why would a piece of paper with my name written on it have the power to summon me?" He persisted. He knew about the Summoning Rituals, it was practically mandatory in his line of work, both as an Executor and a Master in the Grail War, but still, being Summoned just because of a single scrap of paper with his old name being scrawled on, was a bit far-fetched even for him. "As far as I know, nobody could get a hold of my signature."
The old wizard sighed and seemed to age in front of Kirei's eyes. "Regrettably, this I don't know how it happened. However, what happened is that the Goblet was supposed to choose six participants, two for each school. Nobody expected someone to be clever enough to hoodwink the artifact into choosing an additional pair of competitors."
Kirei could think of at least two culprits who definitely could, but decided to keep mum on the subject. He wasn't insane enough to deal with either the Church or Clock Tower's darkest and dirtiest secrets. "Could you break the contracts?" Kirei asked, only for the old man to shake his head regretfully.
"If I could, I would, my boy. However, you and your partner fit the requirements – "- if Kirei were a cynical sort of a person, he would have snorted at the irony of that statement, because neither of them was fit for those kiddy games – "- but as it stands, both of you have to participate or lose your magic." The man concluded, bright blue eyes darkening a smidge as the man pushed his half-moon spectacles higher up his nose, the glass glinting ominously in the half-light.
Kirei's face didn't change at the unwelcome bit of news. "What are the rules?" He asked, his voice flat, surprising the old wizard. "You don't dispute your involvement?" Dumbledore asked shrewdly, eyeing the youth suspiciously, only for those emotionless brown eyes stare back into his own twinkling orbs unflinchingly. "It would be a moot point." Kirei replied his voice slow and measured. "You yourself admitted my recall was fairly foolproof if not unusual – " ' - especially with involvement of the Lesser Grail, - ' Kirei thought privately, as his eyes lowered momentarily, before he looked at the old man again, " - so our only choice is to compete and perchance win the Tournament."
A moment of silence passed, before the wizard shifted. "You are unexpectedly mature about this, Harry." The wizard finally replied, his aged face stretching into a grandfatherly smile.
"I would prefer to be addressed as Kotomine Kirei." Kirei replied flatly. "Even if I was summoned under my own supposed name, I would be more comfortable if you would call me by my current name." An awkward took place between them. It was obvious that the old wizard was visibly trying to gather his scattered wits. Finally, he emitted a clumsy cough. "Ah, so. Then I will call you Kirei, if I may." He offered, white eyebrows furrowing with discomfort and immediately smoothing themselves out. "So, Kirei, the Triwizard Tournament is an event, made out of three different tasks, all of them done by three champions from three schools - Durmstrang, Beauxbatons and our very own Hogwarts. However, because of the high death toll involved with completing the tasks it was decided that this time the Champions would compete in pairs, one for each school. You and your companion are actually the fourth pair, so we will have to adjust the tasks accordingly." Kirei nodded, up until now everything had made a perfect sense. If he was honest, he had to admit he was a little bit fascinated, because even as much info that the Church had on the Wizarding world, the Triwizard Tournament was only mentioned in passing.
"So we only have to compete in the tasks and complete them to the best of our abilities?" Kirei inquired politely. He could've worded it a bit differently, but there was no need to tip his hand too early - he had seen what that kind of strategy had done for the other masters in the Grail War he had battled against. And assuming they had to deal with another Kiritsugu-caliber of character here…well, it was better safe than sorry. Dumbledore nodded slowly. "Yes. You all will be judged by a panel of judges - the three Headmasters, the Ministry's representative, and the Head of Department of Magical Games and Sports. The tasks themselves will be revealed on the day of the competition." Kirei lowered his eyes slightly while he was thinking furiously.
This was similar to Grail War, and yet, completely unlike it, Kirei concluded. Even if there were some similarities, he didn't expect it to be as cutthroat as the games of Magi or the Church were. Along with them having been practically given the proverbial carte blanche on what or how to do things…
"How are we judged and what is the final prize?" He finally asked, eyeing the now faintly dismayed face of the Hogwarts' Headmaster. "I didn't think you to be so greedy, my boy." The wizened wizard admonished him slightly as he frowned at him with disappointment. Kirei wanted to shake his head at the man's patronizing tone. "We were the ones that were unwillingly dragged into this farce of a competition. It's only sensible to have all available information for the perusal." He retorted, his voice a bit sharp with irritation at the wizard's idiocy. Dumbledore stared at him, and then sighed. "I apologize. That was uncalled for. So, the judges rate the competitors by points - ten at most and zero at least. How many the competitors receive, depends on their performance in the event. The task is won by the pair with the most points, and consequently, the tournament is won by the pair who had accumulated the greatest amount of points in the long run. As for the prize, it's the glory of being the Champion and a thousand galleons for the winning pair."
Kirei tilted his head. The prize part was a bit lacking - he was disappointed in hearing that only a monetary award was available, what with them being summoned by a Lesser Grail of all things. Fame, he could've done without. If he wanted to be famous, he would've gone through some of the more visible routes in the Church hierarchy. If they had offered a chance of his questions being answered, it would've been a different story, but with this…meager prize, his interest deflated. However, at least those galleons would be helpful in funding their trip back to Fuyuki.
"Disappointing." He murmured to himself as he looked through the window and consequently missed the aged blue eyes narrowing at him. "So when will the first task occur?"
Dumbledore didn't know what to make out of this strange young man. On one side, he sincerely hoped that this was the true Harry Potter - it would explain all the inconsistencies that happened since the young Harry entered Hogwarts. And yet, on the other side, he didn't want this dull-eyed youth to be the prophesized Savior of the Wizarding world. It was like looking at Tom when he had been young – handsome, charismatic and capable, but in contrast with the young Voldemort this Kirei fellow had eyes that were absolutely unreadable. As if he was a marionette of some grand master to use in an elaborate play. If that wasn't a worrying thought, there was also his companion, that wild-haired boy. At first glance, Dumbledore had thought that his wild black hair surely was the Potter mark, however much to his surprise; the spell had curved to the plain brown-haired teen. And there was also the question of the young man's injuries – they've been healing unnaturally fast, much to Poppy's astonishment. Those dark, flat black eyes were so similar to the brown ones that it actually chilled Dumbledore to the bones. He had seen that kind of eyes, on the faces of Grindewald's elite group of Wizards and witches. And even if there was a difference in the color - gray and ice blue along with a very pale green, they all had that cold icy sheen of death, as if their opponent didn't matter. However, what could a pair of Squibs do, anyway? They would be outclassed, outmatched and outgunned. Dismissing the uncomfortable feeling in his gut, Dumbledore smiled.
"As you came here, you will be placed in the dorm with seventh year Gryffindors, I'm sure you will be going along with them well – "
"The hell we will." A cold voice interrupted the old Headmaster, making their heads whip around to the side the said voice came from.
And what do you know - talk about a devil and devil appears - it was the wild-haired youth in person. He was clad in a drab hospital gown that hung from his lanky frame, hair wild as ever, even if a mite bit longer than usual, and his youthful face gaunt with weariness, irritation and sleepless nights as he sat on his bed, the legs folded awkwardly. Whatever healed him, Kirei pondered, it didn't do a whit about his insomniac look. Somehow, Emiya's darkly foreboding looks were lost within that innocent gray gown, making him appear as harmless as a small, grumpy, kitten. Kirei frowned at the tickling feeling in the pit of his stomach. It wasn't anything harmful, it was just…here. Like feathers tickling his insides and making him feel… weird? Good weird?
"Ah, good evening, Mr. – "Dumbledore was interrupted by black eyes flashing in his direction.
"Emiya." Kiritsugu said curtly. "And I reiterate - there is no way in Hell you are sticking us together with the wand-brats in shared dormitory. We are not competitors of any of the schools mentioned, and as such, we are under no obligations to room somewhere where we could be easily irritated at best and sabotaged at worst."
Bushy white eyebrows lifted. "But Emiya, my boy – "The wizard began, his tone placating, while those dark eyes narrowed again.
"I ain't your anything, Wizard. Sure, we will compete, but we will require our own quarters and no interference from any of the wand-brats you appear to house here." Kirei listened to Kiritsugu, half-shocked at his brash manners. He had known the Magus Killer to be implacable, calm and collected, and as such, this little outburst came as a complete surprise. He never did take Kiritsugu for a fool of Waver's ilk - all emotional and loud and demanding, but if nothing else, this could prove to be entertaining.
"I agree with my colleague." The words tasted weird on his tongue, as he was unused to call anyone outside the Church his colleague - he mostly worked solo and usually, he was well above his peers in terms of knowledge, cunning and power. And Kiritsugu's hostility against Wizards was… curious.
Maybe he would ask him later on what was that about.
Dumbledore hesitated; both of the young men saw it clear as a day. On one side, he sorely wished to exercise his authority, and on another, he knew he didn't have a leg to stand on in terms of lodging the duo. Sure, Gryffindors would have been ideal, and both Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were out for obvious reasons, and he refused to stick them with Slytherins out of principle. But to leave them to their own devices was also not advisable. Finally, he sighed. "Well, it will be done. A room for you two, with a bathroom included. Meals, however, you will attend in the Great Hall with other students and staff, and you will participate in any and all official events."
Emiya still looked at him distrustfully. "Use of library included, and we are exempt of the rules of the castle in any way, shape or form, including the interaction with students. We will not be bothered by them." He growled back. "And when the Tournament ends, we will be let go without any complaints or demands."
Dumbledore stood up. "Now, Mr. Emiya, don't you think this is a little unreasonable to demand?"
Kiritsugu also slipped down from his bed, standing on the cold floor barefoot as he glared at the old, fashion-blind wizard sternly. "If you want to call anything a little unreasonable then it's your gaffe that allowed us to be summoned from our duel here. Had you settled proper precautions, the entire farce would have never happened, but you didn't and here we are. We have to deal with temporarily living in a completely different culture, being partnered of all things and suffer through your mockery of a Tournament where we are at obvious disadvantage." Kiritsugu shouldn't have any rights to look scary in just a drab hospital gown, on top of him looking like a grumpy, just woken up little kitten, but somehow, the assassin managed to pull off the look quite splendidly. And suddenly, Kirei had an unreasonable urge to check if that wild hair was just as downy soft as he imagined it to be.
"That said, Dumbledore, it's quite reasonable that I demand an oath from you on the subjects." Kiritsugu said his voice now cool and just a step away from being completely emotionless. "Swear it."
And oh, Kirei would later on swear he heard an angel chorus singing when the elderly wizard grimaced and acquiesced to the young Magus Killer's demand.
Both pairs of eyes stared after the old wizard's slumped shoulders when he was leaving the room, until he finally closed the doors behind him.
When the doors were closed, Kiritsugu immediately lunged at Kotomine, the flash of steel visible in Kirei's eye, before he blocked the attacking hand.
"Oh. Continuing the duel?" He asked, amused. He got a snarl in the answer. "You betcha." Kiritsugu growled at him, before Kirei flipped them around, his left hand clutching at the slender wrists he managed to wrestle above his adversary's head while his right hand was pressed into the middle of pale chest as he pressed his weight down between the youth's slender legs.
Kiritsugu was surprisingly supple, his body a little more filled out than when he had been an adult, but not by much, and it surprised Kirei that such a dangerous enemy could feel so frail in his hands.
He felt the thundering beat under that pale, fragile skin, and he saw the flush crawling up the pale smooth cheeks while those dark, previously emotionless eyes were lit with unexpected fire.
"The fuck are you doing?" Kiritsugu hissed at him, incensed. Kirei tilted his head. "Restraining you. By the way, if that would've been a duel, it would've counted as my win." He informed the fuming youth beneath him, while a spark of something pleasant was just being lit in his chest cavity.
"The hell it would." Kiritsugu snarled at the son of a bitch that was currently pinning him down on the bed. "Gerrof of me!"
He tried to buck upward, but Kirei had both height and weight advantage on him, much to his dismay. Damned fucking well-fed and muscled priest…Oh, how Kiritsugu wished to just knee the jerk into his groin! Screw playing fair, he wanted to torture the asshole something fierce! And dammit, why didn't all that milk help him to grow some inches taller? It wasn't fair!
Kirei eyed the huffing and puffing assassin beneath him calmly. It didn't escape his notice that Kiritsugu was shivering like crazy, and his feet were probably ice cold too, what with him standing barefoot on the undoubtedly freezing cold stone floor. Kirei had to fight the impulse to shake his head.
"Let's sleep." He instead said, making his captive splutter with disbelief.
"W – Wha! You just can't! You are a priest!" Kiritsugu managed to get out, his black eyes wide in the half-darkness. Dull brown eyes looked into his own black ones. "You are tired. Cold. And I presume you didn't get much rest since we were somehow transported here. Thus it would be an obvious course of action to let out bodies rest. But I have to ask… just what did you have in mind to oppose me so vehemently?" He asked curiously, as he tilted his head minutely, fascinated with the flush that darkened on Kiritsugu's cheeks and the youth averted his head. "N –Never mind!" Kiritsugu squeaked out. "Just –let me go and leave me alone!"
"You are in my bed. Shouldn't it be opposite?" Kirei 's voice dropped and his fingers twitched slightly as he felt the frantic stutter of a heartbeat under his palm.
"Shut… up. Just shut up, will you?" Kiritsugu's voice became softer and jagged. Frowning, Kirei picked the knife out of his adversary's fingers, gently placing it on a nightstand, before he brought the slender wrists down and against Kiritsugu's chest. He rolled on his back, his right arm looping around Kiritsugu's waist as he picked the corner of his covers and placed it over the both of them, not minding the stiff body against his own.
'Hmm. He really has cold feet.' If Kirei was that kind of a fellow, he would've made a grimace at the contact of those ice cubes shaped as human feet against his own. Kirei himself didn't mind the cold - the Executors were trained to bear the harshest conditions imaginable, and he was sure Kiritsugu was the same, but tonight, his companion was surprisingly vulnerable, and Kirei himself didn't know what exactly had moved him to make such an useless gesture. Awkwardly, his other hand embraced the youth around the shoulders.
"Kirei?" Kiritsugu tried to struggle out of the hold, but Kirei hold onto him firmly - nothing painful, but the hold was firm and warm and Kiritsugu was completely confused on the priest's unexpectedly kind gesture.
"Let's sleep." Kirei's voice vibrated against him through the youth's chest, making him want to squirm uncomfortably. Not that Kirei didn't have a nice voice - wait, since when did he think his rival had a nice voice, anyway? – But it was still strange to be in so close contact with his enemy with no violence between them.
Slowly, the warmth crept between them, making Kiritsugu frown a little - the sensation was quite pleasant, and despite his emotionless image, Kirei was quite a good source of heat. And that was now quite welcome, as the castle was old and drafty. And Kiritsugu didn't want to remember those snow white days at Einzbern castle.
Carefully leaning his head against the man's chest he closed his eyes. It was hard to sleep now, with someone so unfamiliar so close to him. It had been either Maiya or Irisviel that usually kept him company in bed, their breaths shallow and almost soundless, careless almost, and those breaths were different, a little bit deeper, with a different rhythm and him being embraced instead of sheltering someone within his arms was a novel experience.
Kirei had an unique scent - myrrh and curry spice with a hint of green tea thrown in, making for an almost homey scent, if not for the undercurrent of steel and mana the man was using with an almost unbelievable ease. The drab hospital gown was a bit thin and he could feel the man's muscles through it intimately - it was as if he was lying on a live python or anaconda, only this one was shaped in a human form. Inwardly, he grimaced at the memories of the man's punch in his sternum - indeed, if he hadn't had Avalon on him, he would've been a goner, and Kirei's speed was nothing to sneer at either.
Dammit, he had been so close! Kiritsugu's teeth clenched in a helpless rage. So close, and then that cursed goblet had to interfere! Only a few seconds, and he would have had his fondest wish –
'Ilya. Iri… Forgive me, I failed you both.' Dark brows furrowed in anguish. 'I swear I will make it okay somehow. I swear it!'
Desperate hope and plea both rolled into one, all the while having a feeling that nothing would ever be the same.
However, the warmth emanating from Kirei's body was a terrible enemy, and despite his best intentions, Kiritsugu soon succumbed to its sweet lure and drifted off into a shallow sleep.
Kirei had to fight to stay still - those dark wild strands tickled him and he scented the man's unique fragrance – cigarettes, gun powder and the scent of ice cold wind, all mixed together into something that was uniquely Kiritsugu. He had noticed that when they had fought too, but then, the scent was overlaid by the one from crackling of the man's circuits that added the scent note of ozone after the thunderbolt had been discharged. Now, this scent was not so prominent, leaving behind only Kiritsugu's natural scent - or as natural as it could be, considering they were in hospital and their bodies had gone through a great deal of sanitizing.
Slowly, his burden's muscles had loosened and breath had evened out, however even then, Kirei was sure the man was aware of his surroundings and he would've been up at the smallest unusual whisper or threat. Kirei still felt as if he was holding a dangerous serpent - a black mamba, if he wanted to be precise and yet, a strange feeling of fulfillment coursed through him.
Was this…how happiness was supposed to feel like?
He pondered the strange sensation, but even he wasn't immune to the lure of rest and eventually, dark brown eyes slid close and he joined his archenemy in a restful slumber.
After all, everything else could wait.
/To Be Continued/