Author Note: I finished NaNo on the 19th of November and rewarded myself by finishing a chapter of Shadow Treaty for you guys. Yes, this means I rewarded myself for writing 50,000 words by writing another 9096 words... huh... anyway hope you enjoy it.
Of all the places he had ever thought about returning to, Duellist Kingdom had never been on his list. He had thought it might be a possibility considering his job, but he had never expected the castle that held so many bad memories for his friends to become their only refuge.
Rage coursed through Tristan again as the reason for their 'protective custody,' passed through his mind. A considerable chunk of his hometown was gone, burned by the sentient flames that had been summoned by the latest lunatic. It was not the fault of Yugi or the others, they never actively encouraged this crap, but his home, their homes and so much more was gone because someone wanted them dead. Again.
He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. It would not help anyone if he lost his head. He had to be the calm, level-headed one, just as he always had when things got too rough and everyone around him was falling apart. Normally it was Yugi's job to keep everyone's spirit up, he was much better at it than anyone else, but Tristan knew his friend. Yugi would not be able to be the pillar everyone needed him to be right now, not with the funerals he had had to attend yesterday.
When it got too much for Yugi, when his almost limitless hope and faith that it would be all right, ran out he turned inwards and retreated from the outside world. Tristan remembered, after all, what had happened after Yami nearly killed Kaiba in Duellist Kingdom and any hope of saving his Grandfather had seemed lost, or when Marik all but killed Joey during Battle City. Yugi had nearly given up on everything during those times, and seeing the bodies of his grandfather, his parents and his 'brother,' put in the ground because someone was after him was much, much worse.
No one else could do what Yugi could, and with this latest enemy able to summon monsters equal to the Gods, they needed Yugi and Yugi needed his friends if he was going to pull himself together. Before they could help Yugi, however, Tristan needed to help the others pick themselves up. Even though he did not know who this new enemy was or why they were after his friends, he understood the usual score. This would only be the first wave. Their adversary would return and if they could not at least think straight enough to function as a team again, then things would only get worse.
The sound of something breaking down the hallway caught his attention and derailed his train of thought. Considering there were not very many people living on the island, he suspected one of his friends, specifically Joey, was having a long overdue meltdown. He followed the sounds of crashing and smashing down the hallway to where his suspicions were confirmed by the sight of Joey tearing a room apart piece by piece. Broken furniture littered the area, part of what had once been a chair having gone flying past him as he reached the doorframe.
Tristan actually considered joining him for a few moments, then he watched Joey wheel around, glare at something, saw it explode and decided that now was a good time to intercede. He had seen Yami (Atem, he reminded himself) lose it often enough to know that once the magic started flowing, someone needed to step in before they caused any damage of a more permanent nature.
"Oi!" he called as he stepped into the room, ducking under a piece of desk that went flying before Joey registered that someone was talking to him. "What's the poor vase done to you?"
"Butt out, Tristan!" Joey snarled, about ready to start a brawl. Tristan understood why. Joey's home life had been unpleasant at the best of times until Yugi's grandpa had practically adopted him. Joey had not just lost his home in the fire, he had lost the first adult who had ever really tried to help him.
"If you need to vent, take it out on someone who can fight back!" Tristan shot back, ignoring the attempt at an order. He did not answer to Joey. The only one whose orders he followed without reserve was Yugi, even his superiors did not get the same complete obedience. "Outside."
Joey did not need another prod. He stalked out of the room, muttering something about a 'decent fight.' The moment he was gone, an odd little humanoid creature with big ears, wearing a tunic with a castle logo on popped in and bowed to Tristan before getting to work repairing the room. Tristan decided that he was not going to ask and followed his friend out.
"What do you mean we can't take our daughter home?" Gillian growled at the representative the Japanese Ministry had sent to deliver the bad news. It was over a week since they had last heard anything, and with her husband backing her up, Gillian was literally towering over the tiny visitor.
"Your daughter, Granger-san," he said, trying to keep the tremble out of his tone, "is a member of the Pharaoh's court. Due to recent events, it has become necessary to take the Pharaoh and his people into protective custo..."
"You threw her in jail?!" Gillian was practically spitting fire.
"No, no, nothing like that!" spluttered the man. "But we have had her moved to a safe location off the mainland. We would be willing to provide you with room and board here in Japan, but as we understand the situation, returning to England right now isn't in the best interests of you or your daughter."
"We are British citizens. We have the right to go home. We've done nothing wrong," Adrian growled.
"Your daughter is also a member of the Domino Clan. That gives her part Japanese citizenship," the man replied. "Not only that, but she is a member of the Inner Circle within the Pharaoh's court. It may not mean much to you or your magical government but we understand what it means. There isn't a single member of the Inner Circle in that safe house right now who hasn't been to hell and back, quite literally. Your daughter is a very brave young woman who nearly died while trying to prevent Shadowmorn and we refuse to hand her over to Europe where her bravery will only be rewarded with execution."
"So you want us to just leave her here?" Hermione's mother demanded, furious that some foreigner thought he knew better than her when it came to her daughter.
"Yes," the man replied. "We can set you up anywhere you choose to go, and once this is all over we will be more than willing to help you return to England and set up all over again."
"We're not going to abandon our daughter to some-"
The ringing of the hotel video 'phone in the corner of the room cut Adrian off before he could say anything regrettable.
"Feel free," the man told them, "I can wait."
Adrian glowered at him as Gillian picked up the 'phone, and Hermione's face appeared on the video screen.
"Mum? Dad?" Hermione's features lit up the moment she spotted them on the viewer. "You're both all right?"
Gillian let out a sigh, happy and relieved to see her daughter unharmed. "Yes, we're fine," she said. "We were some of the first adults evacuated. We heard about the shop..." Gillian trailed off when Hermione's face fell and her daughter let out a soft, miserable sound. "Hermione?"
"Sorry. I'm fine, fine," Hermione shook herself slightly, "it's the others I'm worried about. Yugi..." She exhaled. "Mum, Dad..." Her voice failed her.
"Where are you?" Adrian asked his daughter, sitting on the desk to watch the view screen.
"I can't say," Hermione replied, looking sheepish.
"Hermione," Gillian's tone was one of scolding, but the man interrupted them.
"Actually, she really can't say," he explained. "You see there's a geis in place that prevents her from revealing the location verbally. She really can't tell you."
"A what?" Adrian demanded.
"A magical contract," said Hermione, "one I signed willingly in order to protect my friends."
"You're coming home with us. Today," Adrian snarled at his daughter, furious that she had been forced to make that decision and had done so without their input.
"No," Hermione shook her head, her voice breaking slightly on the word, "I won't, I can't. My friends need me, dad. I can't leave them now."
"And what about us?" Adrian demanded. "We're your parents."
"Adrian," Gillian spoke sharply, causing her husband to pull up. "Hermione... we're your parents and we love you. We would just rather have this conversation face to face, not over some video conference."
"I want you here too," said Hermione, wiping away tears with the back of her hand, "but..."
Gillian turned to the Japanese representative and asked, "Why can't we see our daughter?"
"Because, Granger-san, your daughter is a high profile target in an ongoing terrorist situation involving magic," the man informed her. "Recent events involving the destruction of the entire Mutou family bar Mutou Yugi, have shown that the terrorists will target families, homes and livelihoods if they know where they are and if they are unable to attack their targets directly. By splitting you and your daughter up, at least until the situation is over, we are working to prevent more needless deaths."
"So we can't even see her for an hour?" Gillian demanded, frustrated but remembering the devastation that the Death Eaters had caused.
"It's not safe. Not for you and not for her," the man sounded genuinely apologetic. "Perhaps once the situation has stabilised and we can guarantee a secure location for both of you it might be possible, but until this problem has been resolved..." He shook his head. "No. I'm sorry, for all of you, but no. Now I'm sorry Granger-san, but your parents and I need to discuss some things."
"I understand," Hermione nodded.
"Be safe Hermione," Gillian nodded, "I love you."
"We'll see you soon, Hermione, okay?" Adrian asked, giving his daughter a broad smile that they all knew was forced, "I love you."
"I love you too," Hermione ended the call.
"Now," said the representative, "about getting you two settled in..."
Mai let out a relieved sigh as she stepped onto the battlements and found who she was looking for. When she had passed the infirmary earlier, Serenity had been in a bit of a tizzy. The young healer-in-training had turned her back on her charges for just a few moments while she collected together the recommended potions under the watchful gaze of her mentor, only to find that her most important one had disappeared.
Mai had promised to go and find him, reassuring Joey's little sister that he was probably fine before darting out to look. She had looked in the most obvious places, certain that he would not have left the castle, not with how lethargic he had been since he had awoken, checking the Duelling Arena, the kitchens, the dining hall and the courtyard before thinking of the one place he might have gone.
It kind of made sense for him to be here considering that this was where he had had his first breakdown, at least the first breakdown that she was aware of, and no one would have expected him to come here willingly. It was quiet, he would not be disturbed and though Mai could see that his other self was there with him, he was all alone.
Frowning slightly as she carefully walked along the edge of the castle, she made her way over to him, nodding to his Other Self as she passed him and climbed up onto the stones around the edge, where he was sat.
"This seat taken?" Mai did not get a response, she did not honestly expect one, so she sat down next to him regardless. He did not even appear to register her arrival and she heard his Other Self let out a frustrated sigh. "You gave Serenity a shock and a half, vanishing like that." Still nothing.
Mai mentally grimaced. She recognised this. She had seen him like this before. After he had duelled against Kaiba on this very battlement. It had taken a lot of effort to break him out of his slump the last time and she was not sure that she would be able to do it. She did have an idea though. When she had been exploring the castle, looking for him, she had come across something he would recognise.
"Hey," she said, poking him in the shoulder, "I have something for you." With that she shoved her hand under his nose, where he would not be able to ignore it.
He did, in fact, blink, though that could have been the shock from a hand suddenly appearing in his line of sight when he had been miles away and she saw recognition flicker in his eyes for a moment before he reached up and took it from her, examining the tiny, golden star as Mai withdrew her hand.
Confusion featured on his face prominently as he turned to look at her, causing Mai to cheer within her own mind. No words had passed his lips, that was true, but this was more interaction than he had had with anyone since the funerals.
She knew he remembered the Duellist Kingdom tournament as well as she did, better in some cases. He probably remembered her last attempt to give him Star Chips and how badly that had gone. So much had changed since then and she could see his Other Self giving her the same, confused look as him. Back then she had known them under the same name, a name they now shared once again. She knew so much more now.
"It's worth one continue," Mai told Yugi, whose eyes widened for a moment, then he tried to hand the Star Chip back.
She remembered this too. Him not believing that he deserved a second chance. That he could only endanger more people or screw up even further. Him refusing to take her Star Chips because of it, even though taking them was the only way to get into the castle and save his grandpa.
"You don't have to use it now," Mai promised, watching as he slowly withdrew his attempt to give it to her and went back to staring down at it, "it can't force you to talk, or interact with the others or anything like that." Some of the stress that she had noticed seemed to melt off of his frame. "And it won't allow you to go back in time and fix anything. No restarting from the last save point, I'm afraid." There was a brief flicker of a smile from both Yugis, alive and deceased. "But when you're ready, you have a continue ready to use and I'll be there to support you. As will everyone else."
Yugi seemed to sink in on himself again at that, causing both Mai and Yami to let out a frustrated hiss. "You can't seriously believe that it was your fault in any way, shape or form?" Mai asked him.
Yugi did not respond to that. Mai wanted to face palm. Of course Yugi blamed himself for what had happened. He always did, even when it could not possibly be his fault that his friends or family had been hurt.
"The people who attacked the park and your home were like every other bad guy I've seen you fight," Mai informed him, trying to talk some sense into him, "even if you had done everything they wanted, they were still going to do what they did and you'd probably be dead to boot." Yami sighed softly and Mai turned her attention curiously to him.
"He did do what they wanted," said Yami. Mai tried to ignore how weird she felt to be able to see and hear him. She had to, for this might be her only chance to learn the full story. "Kaiba lured him in and Yugi handed himself over to Neos and his thugs to prevent them killing his friends."
"But they killed you anyway," said Mai, reading between the lines. Yami's nod and Yugi's nod were completely different. Yami's was sharp, frustrated and angry, while Yugi's was slow, tired and miserable. "And while Neos had Yugi, we were all focused on getting him back while the other one, Moldywarts or whatever the hell his name is, ran riot." Yugi seemed to sink further and further as Mai spoke. Yami nodded once again, but did not say anything. Mai growled inwardly in exasperation. "Then you couldn't win," she said, eyes on Yugi, "not that time. Anything you did was going to get someone killed, you just took what seemed like the best option."
Yugi looked like the knowledge of that hurt more than Mai understood and it took a while for her to grasp exactly why. They may have 'lost' in the past, as 'Pharaoh Atem' but this was the first time Yugi had ever been forced into a position where there was no way to 'win.' Until now, there had always been a way for Yugi to manage to save everyone. This time he had been trapped with no way out. No matter what he had done, someone would have been killed and the death toll had been in the hundreds of thousands and was still rising as the casualties from the fiendfyre that had ravaged Domino continued to mount up.
"You couldn't know," said Mai, "Whatever-His-Name-Is didn't show up until after you'd made your choice. Anything that happened after you handed yourself over isn't your fault, it was your enemy's turn by that point." Yugi said nothing. "Besides, unless you have some way to prove what's his face wouldn't have shown up if you hadn't tried to commit 'suicide by bad guy,' there's no..." Mai trailed off as something clicked into place inside her mind. "You think we should have left you for dead," she snarled.
Yugi continued to sit and sulk, although a response was not really necessary. The truth was that logically, he was right. With Yami's power, even if it was running through Harry at the time, along with their own abilities, it was quite possible that they could have stopped Voldemort in his tracks. Logic, unfortunately, had never worked around them. The Clan had always been very protective of its own and even Yugi fought much harder when it was his friends on the line, not just the world.
"You know that's never going to happen, right?" Mai asked. Yugi nodded dejectedly. "And that we let it delay us is our fault, not yours." When Yugi hesitated, Mai scowled, "So you have mind control now?" Yugi shook his head hastily. "Then it was our choice to come get you, not yours so stop moping, take your continue token and get on with it!" Mai snapped, having finally lost her patience. Yugi winced slightly. Yami looked like he wanted to say something, but did not get a word in edgeways before Mai had started again, "You give up, it's game over! You really want to let him win? There are so many people who look to you, Yugi Mutou, don't you dare let them down by being too afraid of making the wrong choice to help them."
She prodded him roughly in the chest. Still nothing, but she could see that this time it was not because he was withdrawing into himself, but because her words had actually gotten through that thick skull of his and he was mulling them over. Mai got to her feet to let Yugi think in private. She was startled to see Yami's face awash with relief, more-so to hear him whisper, "Thank you."
"I'll be in the kitchens," said Mai. Yugi's stomach growled, breaking his train of thought. He prodded his own stomach with detached amusement. "And perhaps you should come with me."
Yugi got to his feet, went to step down from the stones, paused, slipped the Star Chip into one of the empty deck holsters on his belts and jumped down next to her, smiling at her for just a moment.
"Come on," Mai chuckled, herding him inside, "let's get you fed before you waste away on us."
Draco Malfoy was many things but stupid, at least in his opinion, was not one of them.
He was well aware that the Clan had barely tolerated him before the Battle of Domino City and now, with what Voldemort and his Death Eaters had done, he, who was a known sympathiser, was probably the last person any of them wanted to see. Normally that would not have bothered him. He was not exactly one to avoid causing aggravation for others wherever or whenever possible, but even he knew better than to poke a sleeping dragon, and for the group he found himself staying with, that was an apt description. The slightest hint of the wrong subject might set them off and he could not trust that they would not turn on him once provoked.
As such, he had spent most of the last week and a half searching through the library on the island for anything useful that he could take advantage of to give himself a boost, should the worst happen. It had been Bakura who had taught him to take every advantage one could get if you were planning for a battle and Bakura had always been planning for it, which meant Draco had learnt an awful lot of spells, both offensive and defensive.
This library, however, was full of new things for him to learn and exploit. Something he planned on taking every chance to do. He may not have wanted to follow his father's path anymore and end up grovelling at Voldemort's feet, Malfoys' were supposed to have more pride than that and Bakura had certainly taught him better than his loser of a father had ever done, but he had no intention of following the rules of a bunch of half-bloods, mudbloods and blood traitors.
There was, however, a small problem with any plan he could come up with. Since his father's imprisonment and his mother's downfall into insanity, Bakura had been his guardian. After Bakura's death, Yugi's grandfather had been his designated guardian along with Luna Lovegood's, whose father had been killed during the same incident as the one that had claimed Bakura's life, and now that the elderly Mutou was deceased, they were in fact the wards of a formerly muggle woman by the name of Mai Valentine.
He would have ignored the rules she had laid down for him and Loony Lovegood, except that Valentine had the backing of the entirety of Potter's freak show and he suspected that if he dared cross her, the woman herself would have at least attempted to deal with the problem long before the others got to him. She was surprisingly scary for a muggle, and it was not just her Shadow powers that made her so.
With that being the case, he had to do everything the sneaky way. He was good at the sneaky way. A lot of his more public bluster within the halls of Hogwarts after their second year had been a diversionary tactic in order to prevent people from realising just how adept at being sneaky he had become. Not that he had ever reached Bakura's level, nor was he likely to, but it had been more than enough for their teachers and the other students. Plus he had a little advantage that no one knew about yet.
His hand went to his neck, where the rope attached to the Millennium Item that had claimed him rested. He had been allowed to keep the Millennium Ring for two reasons, firstly because he had sworn on his magic not to use it to attack the rest of the Clan, and secondly because he had turned its powers against some of the Death Eaters trying to claim the Millennium Items from the remains of what had once been the vault deep within the Kaiba Mansion. Part of him still believed that the Ring was his and his alone, but it was mostly because he was of the firm opinion that morons like them did not deserve the power of his Millennium Item.
It still amused him that he held the Item that once belonged to the King of Thieves, while Potter could wield the power of the Pharaoh's Item. It seemed the wrong way around to him. The rich, well-educated boy had inherited the powers of a thief, while the 'Boy-Who-Lived' who had grown up with no money and surrounded by muggles, gained the powers of a king.
Not that Potter was willing to hold onto the power he could claim, another difference between the pair of them. Draco adamantly refused to give up the Ring to anyone, not that Ryou wanted it from him now Bakura was no longer attached, while Potter had handed the Puzzle back to Yugi at the first opportunity.
Still, without Zorc pressing at his mind the entire time he was wearing it, he could use the Ring's powers without worrying too much about falling under its influence. After all, the Spirit of the Ring was gone, the Demon attached to him too, and that just left the artefact's own power for Draco to cause mischief with.
Skimming a book he had left by the door the day previous, he headed towards the back, where another pile of books awaited him, only to find his private hideaway had been invaded by a certain Asian boy with long, black hair and slate grey eyes. He was reading from an official looking file with the Kaiba Corp logo printed on the front, and was as startled as Draco by the sudden interruption.
"Malfoy," the boy acknowledged him, watching warily. Draco shifted uncomfortably under the younger teen's gaze, which was every bit as sharp and cold as the elder Kaiba's.
"Kaiba," Draco finally nodded back, before settling at the table which held his stack of books. Mokuba's eyes followed him until he started reading, then and only then returning to his paperwork. Curiosity overcame Draco before too long and he carefully stole a glance at the papers strewn across Mokuba's table, only to realise that he was reading the damage reports from the problems in the park.
"Butt out," Mokuba grouched at him as Draco became all too engrossed in a small stack labelled, 'Coroner's Report.' Whatever a coroner or an 'autopsy' as it purported to contain were, they were not for prying eyes to see.
"Am I not allowed to be curious?" Draco replied, not rising to the bait.
"Not about this," Mokuba snarled back, snatching the pile of papers which Draco could see had Yami's name on and burying it under another stack. "Butt. Out."
They sat in silence for awhile, giving Draco time to finish the book he was reading. By that point Mokuba was lost in his paperwork again, giving Draco just the opportunity he was waiting for. The young Malfoy stretched and stood up, taking his book with him as if he was going to put it back on the shelf. The younger Kaiba did not so much as twitch as Draco passed, so distracted by the reports about what building work needed to be done that he did not see Draco slip the papers he wanted out of the massive stack and vanish behind the nearest bookshelf to read them.
Most of it was written in jargon the pure-blood did not understand, but the terms 'Cause of Death' and 'Verdict' were pretty simple. Draco had just assumed that it had been the water that had killed Yami, and technically it had but not the way Draco had thought. When the water had hit him, the coroner reported, it was most likely that Yami had been swept off of his feet which was how he had smashed his head against the tunnel hard enough to cause cranial, which Draco was pretty sure meant head, injuries severe enough to kill him on the spot. The verdict, of course, was murder since the floodgates had been specifically opened with the deliberate intent of ending Yami's life.
"If you're quite done."
Draco jumped and wheeled around to find Mokuba looming behind him, and worryingly looming was the correct word, since the young Kaiba had shot up in the last year. Mokuba was heading towards his brother's height and though he was a good handful of feet short on that front yet, that still made him much taller than Draco.
Having gotten what he wanted from that particular ream of paper, Draco negligently handed them back, refusing to show how effective Mokuba's tactics were. The younger Kaiba had learned well from his older sibling. "I would have thought you would be hanging around the rest of your so-called family," Draco prodded, pleased that the teen in front of him looked disconcerted, "I take it you're not welcome either."
"I'm more welcome than you," Mokuba hissed at him, ill amused by the thought of the fact that he had to share yet more space with the Death Eater sympathiser.
"Sure," Draco rose to the bait without looking like he had, one of the few tricks of Bakura's that had he had taken to right away, "that's why you're hiding in here."
"I'm not hiding. I just need some peace and quiet to work on this."
Draco could tell that was not the whole truth, but before he could press, Mokuba scowled at him. "Besides, I don't have to justify myself to the likes of you," said the younger Kaiba, and he stalked off, papers in hand. Draco let out a low hiss. He was in the mood for a real row and it looked like Mokuba was not set on obliging him. He followed the younger Kaiba around the corner in order to try again, only to find that Mokuba and his paperwork were gone.
So much for that idea.
It had been hard enough for Minister Fudge to stay in power after the events of CardCon, but it had been possible purely because the event had been a muggle one and the Ministry had promised they were doing something. After the attack on Japan however, when everyone had been afraid that other countries would attack if they thought Voldemort would reign down death and devastation on them, Fudge had lasted less than three hours. Just enough time for him to pack up his office, refuse to leave and be 'escorted' from the building, still claiming that he was only doing what had been 'for the best.' "For the good of Cornelius Fudge," was left unsaid by the people who were glad to see the back of him.
Rufus Scrimgeour, his successor, was a much different man. A former Auror who had fought in the last war, he was not foolish enough to think that Voldemort would just go away if they ignored him. Voldemort's recent actions, after all, had just proven that time had made the Dark Lord worse, not better. He also was not stupid enough to ignore the fact that reparations had to be made with Japan.
Having spent the last week and a bit rearranging his cabinet, dealing with the fallout and in talks with the muggle Prime Minister, he was not looking forward to his arrival in the foreign country with his highly competent and trusted secretary, Amanda Cartwright, and Delores Umbridge, his particularly unhelpful under-secretary who, try as he might, seemed impossible to get shot of.
What he wanted to do was talk to Potter and those around him. It was widely believed that Potter was the only one who could defeat Voldemort. With him on the Ministry's side, a lot of the wizards who were too frightened to stand up for themselves might stand beside the Ministry in these trying times. To do that, however, he had to actually be allowed to speak with the Domino Clan, something he was certain that the Japanese Magical Ministry would go out of their way to avoid.
Still, he was not his predecessor. Where Fudge would have tried to bribe and bluster his way into whatever safe house they had squirreled the Clan away in, while getting other people to do the dirty work for him, Scrimgeour was fully aware that such tactics were pointless now. He had read the official files the moment he had been allowed access to the top secret documents and he was certain that the Japanese Ministry would be on the lookout for the sorts of things his predecessor had gotten the Department of Mysteries to do in order to keep the Japanese students mostly docile and willing to stay amongst a student populace who they had little to no interaction with and in a situation that had been to their disadvantage without even questioning it.
Not that he planned on treading too softly. He had been an Auror under Bartemius Crouch after all. During the first war, they had not exactly stayed within the boundaries of the rules of the 'light' side of magic. Aurors had been allowed to use Unforgivables and people could be arrested without proof and detained just because people believed them to be Death Eaters. He did not plan on allowing it to get so far again, but those tactics had been to calm the panicking public during that conflict, and they had worked to a point.
If he could get Potter and his Clan on his side, however, he was sure that those tactics would not be necessary.
"Right," Scrimgeour started when his secretary and her hanger-on entered his office. Amanda shut the door behind them, pulled a quill out of her hair and a piece of parchment from her satchel, already prepared to take notes. "You've both read the brief?"
"We're going to speak to the leader of Magical Japan," Amanda nodded, tapping her quill against her wedding ring as she spoke and ignoring the grimace on Delores's face as she did so, "in order to work out how we can work together to avoid a war situation and regain contact with the Boy-Who-Lived." Amanda's eyes flickered to Delores, "I will stay by your side in order to take notes and remind you of important points, while Delores takes secondary notes and stays silent."
Delores glowered at the higher ranked secretary. Amanda ignored her. She was well aware of Delores's lust for power and the fact she had been aiming for the secretary position before Fudge had been finally removed from power. That and she was sure, but could not prove, that Delores was a Death Eater sympathiser and wanted more than just the muggle-born secretary's removal from the office.
"Indeed," Scrimgeour nodded, "this is not just an important meeting. This may be the last opportunity we have to settle with Japan before they decide on their countermeasures. With almost one hundred and fifteen thousand people deceased and many, many more injured, Japan are readying a counter attack and the previous administration did nothing to aid our position." He raised an eyebrow as he saw Delores looked like she had something to say, "Go on."
"With all due respect, Minister," Delores simpered, causing Amanda to roll her eyes. Delores seemed to be under the impression that kissing up to Scrimgeour would wield results when Amanda was fully aware that doing so just irritated the man. "I've seen nothing in the brief to suggest that the Japanese Ministry is any sort of threat to us. Their wizarding contingent is larger, yes, but other than that they have what? A few magical creatures? Our Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures are well versed in..."
"Delores," Scrimgeour interrupted, "their magical community is very closely knit. The madoushi, what they call their wizards and witches, are only part of a balanced system which allows what they call gods and demons to co-exist alongside not just each other, but humans, both magical and muggle, and spirits. The balance will have been shifting as it is with the arrival of the new brand of magic and I seriously doubt that the invasion of their 'territory' will go unnoticed or, if we do not prevent further fallout, unpunished."
Delores frowned, firmly believing that the Minister was playing into the hype that had been rising since people had actually started paying attention to countries outside of the ICoW's sphere of influence. "But the ICoW..."
"Can't do anything," Amanda reminded her, "they've already stated that they will support Japan in demanding reparations for the damage caused by terrorists that the former cabinet were warned about and openly supported through their inaction and support of former members."
Scrimgeour nodded again. "Basically we have been hung out to dry and I for one would like to prevent any more bloodshed than necessary," he said. "Now I would suggest that you attempt to re-read the brief with a more open mind and do try not to cause an international incident. I would prefer not to leave my undersecretary in a foreign jail, but I will if it will assist talks." Delores stared at him for a moment, then shut her mouth. Scrimgeour grimaced slightly at the fact she was obviously biting her tongue but continued his planning session. "We will be leaving in an hour for the English Embassy in Tokyo, where we will be met by the ambassador. He will take us to the office of the Speaker for Magical Japan, an elected official who is the voice for the magical side of Japan within their government..."
"The wizards answer to muggles?" Delores could not help but show her disgust at that.
"It was in the brief," Amanda reminded her.
"I assumed that it had been phrased badly during the type up," Delores said, making the comment offhand but causing Amanda to bristle none the less at the accusation that she had not done her job properly.
Scrimgeour narrowly avoided shaking his head at the pair of them, wishing he could work out how Delores had made herself irreplaceable within the office structure because he would much rather get rid of her and allow Amanda to replace her with someone the muggle-born knew she could get along with. "Ladies, please," he said instead, "I would prefer if some level of professionalism was maintained during this trip."
"Sorry Rufus," Amanda sighed, "do continue." Scrimgeour glanced at Delores, who just nodded her agreement.
"It is imperative that we regain contact with the Boy-Who-Lived and his Clan," Scrimgeour informed the pair. "I am not stupid enough to fall for Rita Skeeter's rubbish. Not with the information we have gathered. We know there's a prophecy between Potter and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and we all know that despite the public's uncertainty regarding his alliance to the light, they all believe that he will be the one to defeat Voldemort."
"If I may, Rufus," Amanda spoke up, "Potter's never been allied to light or dark, not from what my daughter tells me."
The Minister thought for a moment, then smiled slightly, "I remember Lucy, she's a Hufflepuff in Potter's year, isn't she?"
"That's right," said Amanda, "she's run into the group multiple times and she told me just after Shadowmorn that if I believed Skeeter's lies, I was an idiot because Potter was friends with the Mutous and had helped them through some rough times, just while they were at that school. The Mutous are not a light family, but they aren't a dark one either."
"The last living Mutou calls himself Pharaoh of the Shadows." Delores pointed out. "That's not a 'light' trait."
"No, everyone else calls Yugi Mutou, Pharaoh," Amanda reminded her, "and he was the one who stopped Shadowmorn."
"That does not make him a light wizard." Delores shot back.
"No," Amanda felt a bit like she was banging her head against the wall, "but there is such a thing as a grey wizard. Someone who has to tangle with the dark in order to keep the light. Or did you forget that classification appeared when the Aurors used to have to use dark tactics for light means?"
"If we can get back to the subject at hand," Scrimgeour interrupted again, "I believe I have a sure fire method of regaining Potter's trust once we can speak with him."
"As long as he believes in destiny," Amanda sighed.
"Is it wise," Delores asked, "to allow Potter access to the Hall of Prophecy?"
"We have very little to offer otherwise," Scrimgeour admitted, "not that can't be offered by the Japanese Ministry. Besides, we need to know what is in that prophecy as much as he does. Dumbledore is being frustratingly silent on the matter, if he even still remembers it."
"Then offering that might be beneficial to both sides," Amanda realised.
"Why not just get the Hall's caretaker to bring the Orb containing the prophecy here and take it with us?" Delores asked.
"Because the Dark Lord will want to know what it says too," Scrimgeour informed her, "and unless he plans on storming the Ministry, the only way for him get it is if we remove it from the Department of Mysteries."
There was a knock on the door. Amanda opened it, frustrated that Delores seemed to think such simple tasks were below her, to find that Amelia Bones, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was waiting on the other side.
"Bones," Scrimgeour greeted her, "come in."
"Thank you, Minister," Bones replied, entering with a brief nod to Amanda and the most sparing of glances at Delores. "You requested that I provide bodyguards for your trip to Japan." She stepped aside and allowed two Aurors to follow her in. "I recommend Aurors Tonks and Shacklebolt," she gestured to the pair, "they're a good pair, work well as a team, and Tonks is a metamorphmagus, which means she can disguise herself and fit in anywhere."
Answering a quick hand-signal from Bones, Tonks shifted forms to the point where she was an identical copy of Delores, who squeaked and took offence immediately. "Change back at once!" Delores demanded, glowering at the fake her, who shifted and instead looked like Amanda, who instead of taking offence, was delighted by this new facet of magic.
"Perfect," said Scrimgeour, "Bones, will you see us off?"
Thinking of the security nightmare this trip was, she grimaced as she answered, "Wouldn't miss it, sir."
Harry was leaving.
He knew the dangers of doing so, that he was stronger with the others around than on his own, that he was quite likely to be killed if he tried taking on the Death Eaters and Voldemort by himself, but he could not stay.
Not when his presence had brought down Voldemort on their heads. The Dark Lord had made it blatantly clear that it was him that he wanted, though Harry did not know why when Yugi and Yami were a lot more powerful than him, and if Harry had not been in Japan, Voldemort would not have attacked Domino and Yugi's family, along with tens of thousands of others, would still be alive.
Duellist Kingdom was supposed to be safe for them, however Harry did not want to risk his Clan. The shop should have been safe with all the work Yami and Ombre had put into warding it, and even those had broken down under a long enough assault. The wards around the island, which had been put up with assistance from the Japanese Ministry and their various mages, could fold just as easily.
No, he had to leave before Voldemort worked out where they were and attacked again. His friends were not up to fighting him again, not right now. He knew they would come after him but he hoped that, if he played it right, he could give them time to recover before they did so.
This was not a decision he had rushed. After Yugi had collapsed when the potions Serenity had given him wore off, Harry had stayed at his side the entire time, right up until the new Pharaoh of the Shadows had come around a week later. When Yugi had awoken, realised where he was and remembered why and withdrawn into himself, Harry had not been able to stay. Not with the emotions that were drowning Yugi rushing over the link.
When Yugi had closed his side of the link just minutes later, it had given Harry the chance he needed to think. All through the funerals of Yugi's parents, brother and grandfather, Harry had been there, supporting Yugi physically, while Yami supported him mentally and spiritually. Harry had not needed the link then to know how devastated the Pharaoh, his closest friend, really was, but it had supported the decision that he was already close to making while waiting for Yugi to come around.
It would be better for everyone if Harry was not there, and with everyone distraught or distracted, it was the perfect time for him to slip away. It was looking like it would be easy for him to do so too, as there was no one in the almost empty castle to see where he was heading, even if he had not been wearing his invisibility cloak. The castle had been put on the Japanese floo network, though the incoming fireplaces had been heavily warded against anyone entering who was not keyed in. It would be easy for him to use one of the fireplaces for him to get to Japan and from there he could ask the Embassy to get him back to England.
Dropping the cloak at the door, he entered the room of fireplaces and tried to remember which one led where and where they had put the floo powder. All of the fireplaces were warded the same way, but it was not just the Japanese floo network they were attached to. Pegasus had had all of these fireplaces connected to a country in which he had a branch of his company. All in all, that meant that this particularly long room had something like thirty fireplaces in it, and only one of those led to Japan.
Each one had a picture frame on its mantelpiece with a picture of a flag in. Harry would have used the one that had the English flag stood atop it, but it had been decided that cutting that particular connection was an excellent idea no matter how well warded the fireplaces were.
Finding the one for Japan was the easy part. The hard part was working out what had been done with the floo powder. He was certain that the last time he had been in here it had been in a pot by the door, however the pot had been moved. Wondering whether someone had suspected that he might try and pull this, Harry hunted through the room's cupboards and mantelpieces, all of which had some piece of culture from its target country on.
He finally found the pot hidden beside the very last fireplace on the row and, taking a handful of the glittering silvery powder, Harry grimaced as he heard Mai's voice heading up the corridor and darted for the fireplace to Japan.
Not pausing to wonder who Mai was talking to he pointed his wand at the fireplace. "Incendio." Red flames erupted on the marble hearth and Harry chucked the floo powder in, causing the flames to suddenly flare up again, turning a bright green colour.
Before he could speak, something had latched onto him. Something human shaped with insane hair and wide, pleading purple eyes that was not going to let go.
"Yugi..." Harry trailed off, having not thought about what he would stay if he got caught.
"Stay." It was a broken, half-sob of a word, but all of Harry's arguments for leaving melted away at the sound of Yugi's voice as the barrier between him and his link partner dissolved and Harry realised that no matter how much Harry blamed himself, Yugi did not.
Harry did not know what to say or do. He believed that he should go, but the shock of Yugi actually saying something for the first time in days had thrown his train of thoughts off of a cliff and taken all of his excuses with it.
"Please," Yugi mumbled. Able to once again read Yugi's mind and emotions as clearly as if they were his own, Harry picked up on something he had not before the link had been closed.
Yugi was afraid. Afraid that everyone would leave him and he would be left worse off than he had been before he had completed the Millennium Puzzle. With the man who had raised him deceased, his parents, who had only walked back into his life just a week before they had been killed, gone, combined with the fact that after finally settling with Yami that he would not leave as long as he had his own body, the former Pharaoh had been sent back to the Puzzle and left possessing Yugi if he truly wanted to interact with the word around him, Yugi was terrified that his friends would leave too because it was too dangerous to be around him.
"I have to Yugi," Harry tried, "Voldemort wants me, not you or the others. If I go..." Yugi said nothing but his grip tightened on Harry, whose voice failed him.
"You're seriously thinking about walking away right now?" Mai demanded, hovering in the doorway as the green flames, which had nothing to burn, died out.
"It's not safe for me to be here," Harry said softly, "Voldemort will come back and try again. And again. And again. Until I'm dead and so is everyone who stood by me. I can't... Yugi?"
Yugi pushed him away, eliciting a yelp from Harry, who for a moment was convinced that perhaps it was Yami gazing crossly at him, but the purple eyes and the lack of blonde highlights confirmed otherwise.
"Harry James Potter," Yugi hissed, shocking both Harry and Mai, "you are not allowed to walk into his clutches. You belong with us, your friends. And we don't care how dangerous things get, we're going to fight alongside you no matter what!" He paused, seemed to realise what he was saying, shook his head slightly and sighed with bitter amusement, "And suddenly I realise why the others get so cross at me when I try this self-sacrificing thing."
"Huh?" Harry stared at Yugi, confused as all hell by the sudden mood switch, not to mention the small smirk spreading across Mai's face.
"I don't want you to go," Yugi told Harry, who had understood that part, "but if you want to go back to England to face Voldemort, I want to go too."
"As will the rest of the Clan," Mai added.
"You don't understand!" Harry protested. "He'll destroy anyone who tries to stand against him!"
"I understand perfectly well." Yugi replied. "Remember Marik?"
Harry remembered the stories about the first Battle City well. Marik's actions had been bad enough to leave Yugi with nightmares for over a year after dealing with him. Like Voldemort, Marik had been stronger than his intended target, he had slowly picked away at the support structure around Yugi, until the Pharaoh had become frightened that anyone who stood with him would be killed. Not only that, but Marik had come dangerously close to total success on a number of occasions. "Yeah, I remember."
"We're stronger as a team, we were before the ritual and we certainly are now. We can't face these sorts of enemies alone. We need our friends," said Yugi adamantly, "and we'll follow you into danger no matter what."
"Even if I say no, you're going to follow me, aren't you?" Harry asked ruefully.
"I'm not allowed to head out to battle alone," Yugi shrugged, his tone slightly teasing, "so neither are you."
"This is a bad idea," Harry warned him, "you'll all be safer if I'm not around."
"That's not true," Yugi insisted. He had felt much the same way multiple times, and it had taken a lot of work on his friends' part to knock some sense into him. "We've irritated Voldemort. Remember? He's sworn to kill me too. You're just his first priority."
"Because of that bloody prophecy," Harry hissed, annoyed.
"No matter what it says, we're going to be by your side until the end," Yugi informed Harry, his tone brooking no argument, "even if we have to come to England to find you."
"Then I guess I'd better stay," Harry sighed, "if only so we can come up with a..." His stomach grumbled, causing him to pause and Yugi to start chuckling.
"What is it with you super-powered heroes and your lack of eating?" said Mai. "Come on, you two, kitchen. Now."
"I'm not a super-powered hero," grumbled Harry as Yugi herded him out of the room.
"Can you use a Millennium Item and do you have an enemy who wants you dead?" Mai asked, leading the way.
"Yes?" Harry asked, confused yet again.
"Then you're a super-powered hero." Mai snorted. "Now keep up."