Chapter 4: The DADA Job Really is Jinxed
Disclaimer: Not mine. Please don't sue.
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Dumbledore had a very unique, tottering voice, rich with years and wisdom. He said nothing about Voldemort, much to Syaoran's surprise; the recent looming threat should have been a great concern, but he didn't have a word to say about You-Know-Who. He welcomed the first-year students warmly, gave what sounded like routine warnings about the Hogwarts building (judging by the reactions of the older students), and talked about a contest that Syaoran quickly dismissed as unimportant (at least for the time being). It was for the upper-level students only, apparently, so there was no reason to pay any attention. But everyone perked up when he continued, "We regret to announce that the esteemed Remus Lupin resigned his position as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor last year." (Here there was murmuring, and snickering from the Slytherin table. Hermione, Ron, and especially Harry shot them dirty looks.) "However, I am pleased to announce that we have a replacement. Everyone please welcome Miss Kaho Mizuki."
The woman that stood up among the polite applause was unimposing – extremely cheerful, in fact. She smiled brightly as she stood up, her long brown hair tumbling around her face and her light brown eyes full of laughter. "Pleased to meet you all." She bowed, nodded a little, and sat down again.
Syaoran frowned slightly. Something was wrong here. If only he could think of what it was …
"Enough talking. Let us eat!" cried Dumbledore, and that suddenly, food appeared on the plates lining the tables in what was the most extravagant show of magic Syaoran had yet seen. And then he realized what was wrong: there wasn't any sense of magic from Miss Mizuki.
This was not to say that there was no sense of power. And now that Syaoran thought about it, she had a very strange power attached to her, not unlike the Western magic surrounding them, but still different from it a little. It was kind of like the Clow Card magic, and it scared him. But she could hide her magical aura like someone skilled in Eastern mysticism. That wasn't too startling (since her name was obviously Japanese), but in a place like this, even Syaoran tended to let go of his usual tight hold on his magical aura. But Miss Mizuki seemed to still be 'hiding'.
I'm going to have to find out more about this teacher. Syaoran checked his own magical aura, hiding it as a precaution, and made a mental note to investigate her (and warn the Card Mistress) before he was practically attacked by Ron's elbow. "Hey, eat!" the fourth-year student ordered. "The food's great; check it out—" he began to pile chicken and mashed potatoes and sweet yams onto Syaoran's plate with gusto.
* * *
What an exciting place!
Sakura was certain she was going to like it here now. Everyone in Gryffindor was friendly, and Hermione was really nice. She promised to learn some Japanese to help Sakura and showed her which foods were the best; Ron was talking with Li-kun (although Li-kun didn't look too happy about it), and Harry grinned and talked to the two taller red-headed boys that looked like Ron.
The only bad part of the whole thing was when the ghosts came in.
Everyone could see them, it seemed, but no one seemed scared, and Sakura wondered why. Her heart began to beat faster, and then even faster when one of the ghosts sailed straight towards where she was sitting with Harry and Hermione. She could barely breathe when the ghost started to talk to Harry. He wasn't going to go away! Sakura had dropped her fork and hidden her face. "Tell me when the ghosts are gone," she begged Kero-chan when he asked what was wrong.
"They're not bad ghosts," Kero-chan had said quickly. "They're supposed to be here! They're kinda like caretakers of Hogwarts. They've been here for a really long time, Sakura."
But that hadn't really made Sakura feel better. "They're still scary," she mumbled unhappily.
Kero-chan made a sad noise and hugged her arm with his little plushy arms. "It's okay, Sakura. You know that I'd kick any ghost's butt if they tried to hurt you!"
Sakura had sniffled and smiled in reply. Of course Kero-chan would protect her, but he was still tiny, and the ghosts were still scary. Luckily, the closest one went away after a little bit.
"Are you scared of ghosts, Sakura?" Hermione had asked when Sakura finally managed to ignore the ghosts at the other tables and start eating again. Sakura had just nodded. "It's okay, they are kind of scary at first," she said consolingly. "But you'll get used to them."
"Yeah, and if you just ask Nearly Headless Nick to go, he probably will, if you're polite about it," Ron offered through a mouthful of food. He swallowed and continued, "If he's a bit offended, don't worry. He'll come off it in a bit. He knows it's not your fault you're a bit afraid of him."
"He went away because I was scared?" Sakura had asked, realizing what Ron meant.
Harry gave her a smile that Sakura thought was a little sad. "Yeah, but don't you go feeling guilty. You'll get used to him eventually, honest, and he's very nice."
Sakura wasn't so sure, but she nodded anyway.
By the time the feast was over, Sakura felt as if she would explode if she ate another bite. And she was pretty sure that Kero-chan had eaten even more than she had … indeed, the Sun Guardian was drowsing on her shoulder, his little round tummy puffed out. "So good," he sighed, apparently in ecstasy. Sakura laughed nervously.
Li-kun's plate was still half-full when she glanced over, but he didn't look like he was planning on eating anything more. He patted his stomach and let out a heavy breath.
Someone somewhere shouted something, and Sakura lifted her head to find the source, but she didn't understand anything except 'follow'. But who was she supposed to follow?
Luckily, Li-kun sat up, got to his feet, and started moving away. "Come on, you," he said as he passed her. "We're going to the dormitories."
"Oh," Sakura mumbled, following. She felt like she could have slept quite happily right there at the table, but it was good to know where the rooms were.
She didn't really pay too much attention to the route up the stairs. Kero-chan nearly fell off her shoulder and she had to carry him in her hands as they climbed up some stairs past pictures that moved and watched as they passed, whispering to each other. At first this seemed rather sinister, but since no one else seemed scared, she decided they weren't dangerous after all. She yawned and looked forward to seeing what the bedrooms would be like.
At the top of a long set of stairs there was a painting of a fat lady. The student leading them (a 'perfect' or something like that) stopped in front of the painting; the lady looked up at him and asked, "Password?" (Whatever that meant.)
"Dernhelm," answered the student. The fat lady nodded and the portrait swung away from the wall to reveal a doorway. The man led them inside.
While everyone went up two more sets of spiral stairs, the boys on one side and the girls on the other, Li-kun prodded Sakura with his finger. "Hey, you," he muttered. "Remember that."
"Remember what?" Sakura asked, uncomprehending. She put Kero down on one of the big comfortable chairs in the room and sat next to him.
"The password. 'Dernhelm'." Li-kun sat down in the chair opposite her. "When you get to the room and the painting speaks to you, you've got to say 'Dernhelm' to get in, all right?"
"De-ru-n-he-ru-mu," Sakura stuttered in reply, trying to pronounce the odd English word. Li-kun smacked his forehead, and Sakura pouted. "I'm trying!" She gave him a hurt look. Everything here was so hard, and she didn't understand anyone!
Li-kun sighed and looked at her, scowling the way he always did. "Keep practicing, then," he said simply, "and don't leave this dorm without me or the Plushy, or you'll never get back in."
Sakura just nodded. Li-kun was right; she had to practice her English, and right now there was no way she'd be able to get around the school without a translator to help her. "I don't like not understanding anyone," she confided unhappily, and suddenly, she was very homesick. "I miss Otou-chan and Onii-chan!" For a moment she felt like crying. Then she closed her eyes and pictured her Onii-chan.
"Hey, crybaby, are you scared?" demanded dream-Onii-chan. "Monsters don't get scared, they stomp around and scare everyone else away!"
"I'm not a monster!" she answered in her head, but she giggled, too. Onii-chan said mean things, but he always made her feel better. She opened her eyes again.
Li-kun was giving her a funny look somewhere between being annoyed and understanding. "Of course you miss your family," he said after a moment. "It's scary. But crying about it is just stupid. It doesn't fix anything."
"I wasn't crying," Sakura said indignantly, but then she realized that she had cried, a little. Her cheek was wet.
"Yeah, well, whatever," Li-kun answered as if he was getting bored. "Here." He handed her a handkerchief with a red check pattern all the way around the edges. "Wipe off your face if you want."
Sakura took the offered handkerchief with a little smile and scrubbed her tears away. "Thank you, Li-kun," she said as she returned the handkerchief.
His cheeks turned a little more pink than usual, and he looked away, shoving the handkerchief in a pocket. "It's okay." He cleared his throat. "What did you think of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?"
Sakura blinked at the sudden change in topic, but she thought back to the feast. "Mizuki-sensei?" she asked innocently. "She seemed like a nice person. I liked her a lot right away. When I saw her, I felt kind of … kind of hanyaan," she explained.
"Hanyaan?" Li-kun gave her a funny look, but Sakura didn't really notice. It was hard to explain what hanyaan was, anyway. It made her warm and bubbly inside; when she felt hanyaan she felt like smiling and her face would turn red.
"I think she smiled right at me," she continued.
At this Li-kun's gaze went from bewildered to sharp. "Are you sure she smiled at you?" he asked sharply.
Sakura blinked, taken aback by his sudden change in attitude. "Y-yes," she stuttered. "Well, no, but it felt like she did."
Li-kun frowned and cradled his chin in his hand, looking down at the floor; after a moment or two he looked back up at her sharply. "Be careful. She's got a strange power. I think it has something to do with the Cards." Sakura blinked at him, and Li-kun continued. "Did the Plushy tell you what would happen if you didn't capture all the Cards?"
Sakura nodded a little hesitantly. "H-he said that there would be tragedy on the Earth," she said breathlessly, inexplicably a little frightened.
"That's what I was told, too," Li-kun sighed. "I think Mizuki-sensei has something to do with that tragedy. Be careful, You. Stay away from her if you can."
Sakura nodded dutifully, not knowing what else to do. Li-kun knew a lot more about magic than she did. If someone was dangerous she would be careful. But … "I don't think she's evil, Li-kun. She feels so nice," she mumbled.
Li-kun shook his head. "You don't know for sure, though." He stood up. "You should go to bed. We have school tomorrow morning." He pointed at one of the two sets of stairs. "That's the girl's dormitory. I can't go up there, 'cause I'm a boy. Guess you'd just better hope the Plushy can go up there." He pointed at the other one. "That's the boy's dormitory, so I'll be in there."
Sakura nodded, but a moment of fear gripped her. "What if a g-ghost comes?" she asked worriedly. She could hardly stand them in that huge hall; now she was in a dark tower, and she felt scared at the thought of being alone.
"They won't hurt you," Li-kun said with an exasperated tone. "None of the ghosts here are mean like that – well … mostly. But if you tried to sense them with your magic, you'd know that they don't have evil intentions." Sakura nodded slowly, and Li-kun sighed. "Stop it, okay? You'll be fine. Hurry up and go to bed." He stretched and started up the stairs to the boy's dormitory.
Sakura watched him go for a little bit, realized she was going to be left alone downstairs, and scooped up Kero-chan. "Goodnight, Li-kun," she gasped out before running up the stairs as fast as she could.
Inside the room, four girls lay already sleeping in their beds, and Sakura felt a little safer. She laid Kero-chan down on the bed-sheets, changed into her pajamas, folded up the nice robes Li-kun had helped her buy in Diagon Alley, and curled up underneath the unfamiliar blankets of the fifth and final bed.
She fell asleep to the familiar sounds of Kero-chan mumbling to himself in his sleep.
* * *
Syaoran woke up at the break of dawn.
In Hong Kong Syaoran had customarily done so, but due to jet lag and maybe simply the excitement of switching into an entirely new mode of life, this was the first time Syaoran had done so in England without the aid of an alarm clock. He yawned and sat up, blinking blearily around the room, and padded out of bed to unpack.
The robes and uniforms the students had purchased now lay neatly folded on the end of each bed, the insignia of Gryffindor sewed to the right breast pocket. Gold and burgundy scarves were also offered for the colder weather to come. Syaoran folded the scarf away, shrugged into his traditional robes, retrieved his sword, and retreated from the room as quietly as he could manage. There was enough room in the main hall to practice his swordplay.
"What's this, I say? A bit early to be up and about, young chap, wouldn't you agree?" chuckled one of the paintings on the wall.
Syaoran shot the man in the painting a glare and motioned for silence. He didn't even know if swords were allowed here, so he didn't really want to be caught. He couldn't not take his sword along, though. There were still Clow Cards to capture, and he didn't know more than the smallest basics of Western magic. His sword was a fundamental focus for his magic; he could magnify a spell ten times over if he used it in conjunction with an ofuda. He couldn't even purposefully produce sparks from his wand, and if worse came to worst, he couldn't fight physically with a wand, either. It was for this physical protection, and for focus exercises, that Syaoran continued to practice real sword forms.
"Silly boy, you should answer your elders when spoken to," sniffed the painting, apparently not finding Syaoran's motion a sufficient reply.
"No speak English," Syaoran answered, thickening his Chinese accent on purpose and feeling grumpy. The painting reminded him of his English tutor back at home. But with that, he began to practice his forms, and forgot about everything else.
Halfway through his forms he thought he sensed something. He pulled up short and frowned, trying to figure out what was amiss; however, the feeling passed. He finished the routine, put away his sword, and wandered off in search of the baths.
All considered, he decided the Gryffindor showers for the boys were nice. They seemed to operate by actual plumbing rather than some Western-based magic, unlike most everything else in Hogwarts castle. As he shampooed his hair Syaoran tried to wrap his mind around the idea of a world where absolutely everything was run by magic, and he found it difficult. Plenty of things worked perfectly well without magic, so why introduce something that had to be maintained that way? Or maybe Western magic became independent of its producer once it was produced. That was an interesting idea that Syaoran had only a little experience with. But still … why enchanted candles in the Great Hall when one could install electric lights?
Syaoran came back upstairs in a towel just as the other boys were getting up. "Geez," one groaned, eyeing Syaoran as he jerked on his pressed pants. "You're already showered and everything?"
Syaoran just looked at him for a moment, unsure of how to respond, then decided to be proud of himself. "Yes," he said curtly. "It is customary to get up early at my house."
"You're a nutter," the boy informed him, and Syaoran pondered this while the boy yawned. What was a 'nutter'? He decided to ask Harry Potter if he saw the Boy Who Lived again. "So where's the bath?"
Syaoran gave him directions through his sweater-vest as he pulled it on over his shirt, then pulled on his robes. Absently he wondered if he could hide his sword under his robes, and when the other boys were gone, he tried doing so in various ways before deciding it was hopeless. He packed a bundle of ofuda into his pants pocket, put his brand-new wand away in the appropriate pocket in his robes, took out the appropriate books, and went downstairs to the exit to the Gryffindor tower to go to the Great Hall to eat.
And then he knew what had been amiss earlier.
He could sense the first Clow Card in Hogwarts.
* * *
Cerebus, the mighty Sun Guardian of the Clow Cards, was getting hungry. Granted, he was often hungry, but that didn't change the fact that this was a matter of top priority.
"Sakuraaa," weedled Kero. "You have to get up now! It's time for your first day of school!"
Sakura mumbled in her sleep and began to open her eyes. "Huh?" She blinked at Kero.
"School!" Kero chorused. "Get up so you can get food! I'm hungry too, so you have to get me something to eat!"
"Hoeh!" Sakura exclaimed, sitting upright suddenly and sending Kero tumbling off her chest. "I slept in late, didn't I!?"
"O-ow …" Kero mumbled, rubbing his head. Sakura could be so thoughtless sometimes. "You're not late yet, but only because of me! Say thanks," he reminded her.
Sakura breathed out a sigh of relief and smiled. "Ah, thank you, Kero-chan," she beamed at him.
Kero liked to think of himself as a tough guy, but he had to admit, his heart melted for Sakura when she smiled like that. It was hard to not like her, this cute new Mistress. He was sure that Yue would, too …
The memory slipped out of his grasp like water. Who was Yue?
Oh, drat Clow and his stupid memory blocks. "Well, get going!" he floated up from the bedsheets and zoomed around Sakura's head as she hurriedly dressed in her school uniform, his injury forgotten. "Toast and eggs and pancakes with syrup! It's going to be so good!"
"Un!" Sakura nodded enthusiastically. "That sounds kind of like Otou-chan's cooking!" She slipped the string the Clow Key was on around her neck and pulled on her robes. The black, burgundy, and gold of Gryffindor actually made her green eyes really stand out, Kero thought. "How do I look, Kero-chan?"
"You look terrific, Sakura, as always," Kero beamed. He would have given her the victory sign if his stuffed-animal paws had fingers. "Let's go eat!"
Sakura bounced down the stairs as only Sakura could, full of energy. Everyone else had gone to the showers, but Sakura took her baths at night, so the main hall was empty – except for That Kid. Kero groaned.
"Li-kun! Good morning!" Sakura exclaimed, already putting exclamation marks at the end of almost every sentence.
The Kid glowered. Demonstrating once again that he had no manners, he didn't even say 'hello'; instead, he answered with a simple, "Did you notice?"
"Hoeh? Notice what?" Sakura asked, tilting her head.
The Kid snorted. "Concentrate on your magic for a moment."
Sakura blinked at him, but obeyed, closing her eyes, and Kero mentally slapped himself. Sensing auras was something he kept meaning to teach to Sakura, but he kept forgetting. (There were more important things to think about, after all, when his stomach started growling.) However, he certainly wasn't going to lose face in front of the Chinese Kid. "She doesn't need instructions from you, Kid!" he snapped, meeting the boy's gaze with a beady-eyed glare.
"Then I guess you already know what I'm talking about," the Kid answered, matching his glare.
Kero didn't, but he thought he had an inkling. Sensing auras hadn't really ever been his strong suit; Clow Reed hadn't designed him as a preemptive Guardian, after all. But That Kid only ever got this irritable when there was—
"Clow Reed's aura," Sakura exclaimed, opening her eyes. "Kero-chan, there's a Clow Card here!" Immediately she slipped the Clow Key off her neck. "Release!" she shouted, and the Key grew to a proper-sized staff in only a moment.
That Kid nodded. He broke off his glaring contest with Kero to walk over to the doorway leading out of the Gryffindor tower. "And look." He pushed against the doorway; it didn't budge. "The door won't open."
"Do you think it's the Card?" Sakura asked, coming over. Kero followed. "Maybe it's just stuck."
This was one of those times when being smaller was better. Kero zoomed down to scrutinize the edges of the doorway for something that might've stuck the door closed, and concentrated very hard on strange auras.
It was hard to sense anything because there were so many auras in this school all the time, and they were a lot more powerful than the gentle flow of aura that came from Clow Reed's magical tarot cards. But nonetheless, Kero realized that he could sense the power of a Clow Card in the door. "Nope, it's a Card!" he chirped.
"Do you know which one?" the Kid asked.
Kero opened his mouth to answer in the affirmative … and suddenly realized that no, he didn't know what Card it was. He gave a frustrated noise and snapped back, "Do you, Kid!?"
The Kid saw through his bluff, though, and gave him a triumphant look before turning his attention back to the door. "We have to figure out what it's called, or we can't capture it," he said.
Sakura nodded. "I know," she said, frowning determinedly. But Kero floated back a little ways and sighed to himself. He knew which Card it was … but at the same time, he couldn't recall. It was so very like Clow Reed; the magician had always loved puzzles and enjoyed setting up puzzles for others to solve. In a way, inputting his magic into tarot cards and requiring that they be captured by calling them by their English name was just a big game to him, a parting shot at the world. And to keep the answers from being given away too fast, he had snatched away the Sun Guardian's memories when he died.
Kero had never been too fond of being on the wrong end of Clow's jokes.
And judging from the sounds coming from the bathrooms, Sakura would have to figure this one out quick, or risk revealing her tarot magic to the entirety of Gryffindor tower.
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Author's Notes: dun dun dun! Will Sakura and Syaoran figure out what Card it is quickly enough, or will someone find out about the Clow Cards? And without Mad Eye Moody around, who is going to look out for Harry this year? Find out next time … ;)
Thank you again to everyone for reading and reviewing!