A/N: I am so, SO sorry I haven't updated in so long. I really have no excuse. School with one hand is hard, and then finals hit, and now summer school, and… yeah. I've been writing what I could in small doses, but I wanted what I put up to be good and a decent length, so even though this is mostly filler I didn't feel right posting it till now. I hope you like it anyway.
Disclaimer: You know the drill.
Draco sighed as he leaned back in a chair in the RoR that night. He was really tired, and just a little stressed out. It'd been several weeks since Duo's Shinigami incident in the Great Hall, and running the damage control had been taxing. It was infinitely better than it could have been – definitely not the worst-case scenarios Draco had foreseen – but it was still rough. Thankfully, most of the worst stuff was over with, and it would soon be Christmas Break, which would make things easier.
Of course, that fact also just opened up a 'whole other can of worms', as Draco had heard the braided pilot so elegantly call it before. Draco still wasn't sure where he was in the plans for break with the pilots, but he was certain of one thing: he couldn't go home.
Most of the students finally filtered out after their lessons were over and soon only Draco, the pilots, and a scant few others were left. Quatre came over to him, still surprising him with how easily the other blond could detect distress. "Draco?" the Hufflepuff questioned as he took a seat in a chair next to him, "What's wrong?"
Draco sighed and gave in to the urge to rub the bridge of his nose. "Father sent me a letter last night," the Slytherin answered. "He's tired of waiting. The Dark Lord has a mission for me – I am to be marked over the break."
The room was oddly silent, and then Draco felt weight about his shoulders. Startled, the blond looked up in shock to find that it was indeed Fred and George wrapped about him. He'd thought they'd left, but apparently not. Draco stared at the twins in silence, waiting for something to happen.
"You don't have to, you know," Fred softly informed him. There was no trace of joking or their normal good cheer – the twins were being completely serious for once.
"We'll explain things to Mom," George added, "you can come stay with us."
Draco blinked, shocked by their kindness. "… Thank you," he finally stated after a few moments of attempting to find his voice, "but I wouldn't want to endanger your family like that. Father will go on the warpath when I don't come home. I couldn't go with you."
The pilots all looked at each other, and then Duo sighed. "You can come with us like I said to Sev, but it won't be easy."
"In fact," Quatre added, "we'd appreciate it if you would come. We might need you to teach us apparation, and if we can't do it we may need your help."
Draco looked at the blond next to him and met reluctantly hard blue eyes. "Have they decided?"
Quatre gave a sad smile and shook his head. "Not yet," he answered. "But the trial is to be held two weeks before the anniversary of the war's end. If they should decide something unfavorable for our time schedule, we will need your help to return in order to finish this war."
Draco heard the unspoken words, and went absolutely still from the shock. They were going to adhere to the verdict, no matter what it was. They just had to make sure their precious colonies were safe from Voldemort's threat first. That kind of courageousness… Draco couldn't put into words how he felt about it. To be so dedicated, even to the point of execution for that very thing, Draco could only hope he had a cause to feel so strongly about one day.
And so Draco didn't call undo attention to the unspoken statement, but merely nodded his head in agreement. "We can start now, if you'd like," he offered.
With a smile of thanks for more than just the instruction, Quatre nodded. They all stood up, and Draco began to teach those that were still there all he knew about the often tricky art of apparation.
Duo packed his bag slowly, Trowa doing the same by his side. They were double-checking everything, making certain all of their necessary weapons were properly hidden, and leaving the others hidden but accessible to the guards that would no doubt search for them. Two weapons, Quatre had told them, two weapons were all that they were allowed. They were going to disarm themselves far beyond what was normal and comfortable for them in a show of good faith – and surrender.
Trowa sighed, and Duo looked at his fellow pilot with a small, wry smile. "Excited?" Duo questioned.
Trowa looked at him, and gave a small smile back in return. "I am," the taller brunette replied. With a strange sigh, the Slytherin shook his head and closed his eyes. "It doesn't make sense, but I'm happy that we're returning – strangely more than the last time."
Duo gave a short, quiet laugh and nodded. "It doesn't make much sense," he agreed. "But we're going back to space, and this time in this thing called peace."
Duo looked up at Trowa and saw his brother in blood smiling at him. "We're going home," the boy stated with a sort of hopeful disbelief.
Duo smiled back, unable to contain his joy. "Yeah," he breathed softly, "we are."
Together, the two of them finished packing their duffle bags and left the dorm. They gathered with their friends in the Great Hall, and greeted them with smiles. "Excited for the break?" Neville inquired. "Should be more exciting than mine at any rate."
"We are, actually," Duo answered. "We're gonna have to sneak away from Dumblefuck, but we're pretty stocked."
"You have to tell me everything about the colonies when you get back," Hermione ordered Draco as the blond Slytherin joined them. "I want to know every detail."
Draco raised an eyebrow as he questioned, "I thought you would have done all that research already, Granger."
Hermione scoffed and rolled her eyes. "Yes I have, Malfoy," she retorted, "but there's no records of what a pureblood who has lived as exclusively in the Wizarding World as you have thinks when visiting one. Excuse my curiosity!"
"It is excused," Draco replied, earning a laugh. He looked at the group and changed the flow of conversation slightly. "I've checked in with all of the pureblood among our number and let them know safe places to go during break if their homes become too much to handle. They should be set, but I'm depending on you all to look after them while I'm gone. Thank you again for this."
Susan smiled, and Hannah nodded. "It's our pleasure," Susan insisted.
McGonagall called for the students to depart, and the group joined the line traveling down to the train station. The girls launched into some discussion of school, and Quatre engaged Neville in conversation. "Are you looking forward to going home?"
Neville shrugged, seemingly nonchalant. "I guess," the taller boy replied. "Grandmother doesn't really seem to care all that much, so it'll probably just be me and the garden again."
"Don't let them get to you," Duo advised. They'd pried the truth of Neville's family out of him, and he had confided how much it hurt that his family was so disappointed in him. "Just let it slide off."
"You are strong, whether they know it or not is of no consequence," Wufei added. "Never forget your strength – don't let them steal it from you."
Neville gave them a small smile. "Thanks guys – but honestly, I'm used to it. I'll never be what they want, but I think I'm finally alright with that." Neville exchanged understanding smiles with Draco, and then changed the topic. "Are you guys going to get to see any of your other friends?"
Duo and Quatre looked at Heero, who had been the only one to have actual contact with Une when he snuck into a nearby muggle town a week ago. Heero nodded. "Hn. A few who support us will be there. Une didn't give specifics."
"So probably Hilde, Sally, and maybe Katherine," Duo mused aloud. Looking at Quatre, he added, "Maybe your guys too, if they don't seem like too big of a threat."
Quatre shrugged as he added, "Most likely only Rashid and Abul, considering that the Maganacs will most likely try to break us out if things go badly. So yes," Quatre stated as he smiled at Neville, "we will be able to see some of our friends."
Neville laughed, "Sounds good."
The train ride was spent in a similar fashion, exchanging stories and laughing about various things while they traveled back to London. Once the train reached the station, Hermione blocked the door to the compartment and demanded, "You come back safe, you hear me? Or so help me Merlin I will curse you so bad your children will feel it!"
Duo blinked at the girl, and then laughed. "Damn, Mione," he managed, "great speech."
The girl blushed, but didn't move, and so Duo gave her a hug. "Promise," he softly vowed, "We'll be back."
Hermione hugged him back as she replied, "You better."
Parting, Hermione hugged some of the others and then they were on their way. Heero took lead, knowing the location of the rendezvous point with Lady Une. Waving off the others, the pilots and Draco inconspicuously made their way through the train station away from the waiting Order members, keeping their eyes out for danger. Heero took the long way in order to shake off potential tails, and then led them out into a back alley.
A simple looking station wagon awaited them with tinted windows, and Heero knocked on the window as he'd been instructed: two short, three long.
The window rolled down, and Une sat in the drivers seat herself. "Get in," she told them. Still feeling odd about putting their life in the hands of their former enemy (even if she had saved them that time on the moon) the group got into the car; Heero in the passenger's seat, and Duo, Draco, and Quatre filled into the back row with Trowa, and Wufei in the trunk. Une rolled the window back up and started the car, easily pulling into the flow of traffic.
"Good to see you boys," Une stated after successfully clearing the train station parking lot. "You look better than when I last saw you."
"Nice to see you too Une-baby," Duo replied, casually leaning forward to cross his arms against Heero's seat in order to see her better. "We've been eating pretty well, thanks. How's it been topside?"
Une rolled her eyes, but otherwise didn't acknowledge the nickname. "Things have been tense, but it's been nice to know you were all alright. What's the situation with this magic thing?"
Draco made a small noise of surprise at some random muggle knowing the best kept secret in the world, but Heero ignored him as he reported, "Progressing well. We've gathered a moderate force and are training them, and we are working to recruit more. Contacts have been initiated and allies made – things are slowly but surely coming together."
"We'll really start on the hard stuff once term starts back up," Duo added. "It's all most likely going to go down near the end of the school year, from what I hear."
"The Dark Lord is rather fond of the dramatic," Draco stated dryly from his seat in the back. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if it happened then."
"They expect good students to be obsessed over tests," Wufei added, "it would be a good tactic."
Duo snorted, and Une smiled slightly at the boys. "If you five did such mundane things," she commented. "I don't think you boys are ever worried about tests."
"Maybe after the war," Duo replied, "but battle always comes first."
Une sighed, seemingly slightly depressed about that. "Things… don't look terribly promising for you five," Une stated, changing the mood drastically. "We've done all we can to get you some support but your enemies are the most vocal. If things go sour I want you all out, do you understand me?" They were stopped at a red light, and Une took the opportunity to turn around and stare at them all. "I do not want you boys submitting to execution! If that is the verdict you get out."
"That's why we brought Mr. Malfoy," Quatre answered her. "He can help us to escape should the decision be unfavorable."
Une nodded her thanks to the blond newcomer, and Draco nodded back in reply. Une turned back around just in time to catch the light change, and took a left. "We are nearing my private space shuttle. We will ride that to space, and land on L3 tomorrow afternoon. Miss Peacecraft has agreed to house us there, and you will have a week before the trial starts. The whole process will take three weeks," Une informed them as she pulled into the shuttle port, driving along a private track towards her shuttle, "and then the decision will be reached. You have until then to convince people that you aren't a threat to peace."
"No sweat," Duo replied with a cheery smile. "Quat and I will charm their pants off, and the rest of ya'll will stand in the back and try not to be scary."
Despite everything, the car burst into laughter. Duo smiled to himself, thankful he hadn't lost his touch. With companions like his brothers, it was necessary to make even the worst of situations a joke.
Trowa came to stand beside Draco as the blond looked out the window of the space shuttle. "You should get some rest," Trowa told his fellow Slytherin.
"Not yet," Draco replied, not even sparing a glance at the taller boy. "I will soon, but I need to see this."
Trowa blinked in confusion, and questioned, "What do you need to see?"
Draco looked at him then, grey eyes serious as Trowa had ever seen. "I need to understand what you are all so dedicated to."
Trowa looked at Draco for a long while, and then nodded. Raising a hand, he pointed to a space just to the right of their view. "Over there is the L3 colony X-0998, where I spent many years training. L3 was never prosperous, but the colonies have been outfitted well. It rains once every Thursday, and the grass is always soft and green. In some sectors, you can even see some wildflowers that the colonists have left to grow as they will."
Draco looked where the finger was pointing; letting the normally silent boy's description of the land he fought for wash over him. "Martha was a kind woman who ran a flower shop not very far from the base I worked at. She was a kind older lady with two dead sons and an absent daughter. I would stop and talk with her a bit while buying groceries, and she always had some baked goods for me to take back to the base. She was a gentle woman, but a supporter of our cause.
"At the grocer was Allen, also sympathetic to the cause, who was not a part of the revolution because of his crippled leg…"
Draco closed his eyes and allowed the picture to form in his mind of a place with no sky, but full of people just as kind-hearted and full of life as any on Earth. It sounded like something out of a storybook almost, the kind that Draco would smuggle from the older muggle boy who would meet him in the woods and tell him tales of the muggle world just as fascinating as the legends of the Wizarding World Draco would tell as repayment seemed to the other boy. Evan, his name was. Draco had viewed him as an older brother, and could see him fitting in perfectly in this world that the pilot was describing to him. Perhaps if they had actually made it to a shuttle, things would have been different.
Trowa just talked, nostalgia seeping in despite how unattached to the colony he had thought he'd been. The blond's eyes were closed, and Trowa watched for the signs of the boy falling asleep. It had been a long day, and Trowa personally knew how easily sleep came when you were finally away from your oppressor. The Malfoy heir lasted longer than he assumed, but Trowa noticed the descent into sleep and caught the boy before he fell.
With a slight smile at the desire the boy had shown for knowing of their former homes – their reason for fighting – Trowa carried Draco to his bunk and laid him down before returning to his own. Some sleep wouldn't be amiss for himself either.
At breakfast the next morning, Une had dropped the bomb. "I want you boys on your best behavior," she stated. "Despite our best efforts to get you boys on quietly, the press will be waiting for us. I've got the Preventers keeping a secure perimeter, but this should be seen as an opportunity to state your case. Best behavior, and try to look normal."
Duo frowned, but to the surprise of everyone there, it was Draco who spoke up. "With all due respect Miss Une, I believe you are wrong." All eyes turned on the pale aristocrat, but Draco kept his head high despite the attention. Duo had never seen the boy looking so much like his pedigree suggested he should before. Draco looked straight at the only woman of the table, and continued with his statement. "You're only trying to prove that these boys aren't liable to go rogue and start a mass killing spree, not that they are just like the average citizen. Because they're not, you can't fake what you can never return to. The argument here is not that these boys are normal, but that they are not monsters."
Draco spared a glance of apology for the pilots at their slight flinch in response to that word, but otherwise kept speaking. "The true issue that should be pressed is the fact of how tragic this war was that five teenagers felt it necessary to throw away their lives and mental health for the sake of the colonies because they believed no one else could do it – and because no adult had the guts to. They are veterans – they do and will have trouble adjusting to peace, but no more than any other veteran. Paint them as wounded warriors, because people like them have seen too much to ever be considered 'one of the normal community' again."
Une blinked, and then sighed. "Fine, Mr. Malfoy," she gave in, "I see your point. Boys, just act like you usually do, but still try to be on your best behavior."
"Aren't we always?" Duo questioned, giving his best innocent face.
Lady Une wasn't fooled though, and her refusal to reply only made Duo laugh back at her.
And so, when they finally landed upon the colony, Duo took a deep breath and lead his brothers out, himself the second after Une to depart. He was always charging recklessly in, why should that change now? If someone didn't, he wasn't sure anyone would.
The Preventers had indeed set up a boundary line, thankfully. They were already feeling twitchy with so few weapons on hand. Heero looked ready to shoot something. And so Duo gave a big smile to everybody in the crowd, and then looked back to his brothers as they descended the steps. "Look at that, Hee-chan! You've got more fans!"
Heero actually groaned at that, while everyone else couldn't help but laugh. "I'm going to make you suffer, Duo," the Perfect Soldier replied. Cobalt eyes promised murder as the pilot ground out, "Slow and painful, with a cheese grater."
Duo looked to Quatre without his grin shrinking. It probably got bigger, if anything. "Told ya I could make him threaten that. Wanna see what we can get outta Fei?"
"Try and die, Maxwell," the Chinese teen stated. Duo noted his posture, and could see the boy was falling back on his clan training to keep from growling or running. The boy really didn't like attention, no matter how loud he could be. "Now's not the time for jokes."
"It's always time for jokes," Duo countered easily as they started down the path.
"Boys," Lady Une chastised, rolling her eyes at them. "Now is not the time for one of your fights."
"Who said anything about fights, Une-baby?" Duo quipped. A glance at the crowd told him that they were indeed taking him as the class clown. Everything's going according to plan for once, Duo thought with an inner smirk. "I'm just trying to lighten the sour pusses up a little, honest!"
Lady Une's glance back showed she didn't believe him for a second, and Duo huffed and crossed his arms. He wasn't really lying, so what had he done to deserve a look like that, huh?
"Come on Duo," Heero nudged him to keep moving. "Let's get out quickly."
Duo spared a glance for his best friend, and wondered why he was so tense. The reporters were screaming stuff, but it wasn't as bad as Duo had assumed it would be, to be completely honest.
"Go to hell you monsters!"
Okay, now it was getting there.
Whoever decided to finally get vocal was spreading the hate, so Duo mustered all he could to keep it together. If he lost it, the others would too. Despite how aggravated they got with him, Duo knew they depended on his cheery outlook to get them through their rough patches. So he had to keep smiling and chatting about useless things, no matter how much Shinigami boiled underneath his skin, ready to reach out in a moment's notice and strike down these people.
Foolish mortals who dare taunt My Favored, I'll take you all before your time, make it race towards you in a wind of flames from the very pit of hell!
Duo smiled brighter and laughed at an offhand comment Draco had made. It was strained, he knew, but he had to hold on. Otherwise the people they'd fought so hard for would die at his hand. Shinigami had been restless, and despite the distance from that 'veil' thing, it seemed the barrier was still crumbling. Just keep it together, Maxwell, he told himself. Keep it together.
They reached the parked limo and got in, piling into the back to squish against each other as Une sat in the passenger's seat and told the driver to get them the hell outta dodge.
Duo leaned into Heero's strength, attempting to shove back Shinigami. Quatre was similarly positioned against Trowa, clutching his heart as he let the taller boy's calm chase out the hate that had been overwhelming his senses.
"That went well," Draco stated, giving them all something to focus on, which by the too-controlled expression Wufei had he desperately needed. "Makes me see why the Dark Lord wants to wipe out the lot. Then again," the blond shrugged, "that was less extreme than wizarding reaction to a Gryffindor parselmouth."
Five sets of eyes were on the blond, and he indulged their need to focus on anything else but here by regaling them with the whole sordid affair. "When I was seven, a Gryffindor named Ernest Mansley was fooling around with his friends by the lake when they happened upon a snake. According to Mansley the snake wanted to bite his best friend, and so he asked it to back off. The snake did back away, but no one would believe the boy's story and started to claim him as a Dark Wizard. Whispers and rumors began to abound…"
Duo closed his eyes and let the story of a Gryffindor who'd been trying to do the right thing eventually had to run away to Romania because he couldn't walk down the street without being attacked or fled from. It was easier to focus on that, than on what had just happened. Shinigami calmed somewhat, and Heero began to loosen up too. The blonds' words washed over them all, keeping their minds from unsavory places as they traveled in a tale.
A/N: I'll try to get more written soon, carve out an hour of the day to devote to this thing. We're nearing the fun parts, so hopefully it'll be easier to write. Anyway, till next time!