Hey! Long time, no update? I know! Sorry! So this is kind of a filler chapter to set up the next one, but still. Aries and Rue meet with Henri, and the third task is announced! What will happen next? Who knows? Oh wait, I do… *winks* Review and enjoy! Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. I'm just a vicious fangirl. Responses to reviews below.
Katerina Storm: Thanks! Do you know any other stories specifically with Harry being taken away by his godmother? I'd like to read them.
iDrinkCoffee: Thanks! I do kind of write in a roller coaster, I guess, but it just depends on my mood. A story needs balances. It can't be all angst or all fluff.
FotoDi: No, not good. Don't worry though. There's more to this than there seems…
Starless: Am not! Give it a chance. I could surprise you…
Slytherin66: Thanks! I have a fascination with tattoos, and I think that they say a lot about the person who has them. I did enjoy knocking Dumbledore and McGonagall down a peg. Hagrid doesn't stand much of chance. Madame Maxine is bad ass.
little-bast: I'm thinking it just stays in Rue and Aries's heads as blackmail. It seems like Rue already has some on Dumbledore, but more never hurts…
Frosty Wolf: Sorry about the length! I usually am more considered about getting you guys something, anything, than worrying about the length. I'll try for another Lily/Aries interaction soon. Maybe I'll mix it in with my Aries/Sirius interaction.
RonaldWeasely: Maybe… I'm not revealing anything! *winks* Aries's crush? Definitely Gabrielle!
Hippothestrowl: Thanks! I'm trying to gain experience. What's the other 1%?
Joe Lawyer: I don't know. I just don't like the idea of Rue and Aries together. I feel like some friendships are more powerful as friendships (ex. Harry and Hermione no matter what J.K. Rowling is saying now). To me, it would be really cliché to through Rue in the midst of the Gabrielle/Aries dynamic. Definitely going to avoid that! Sorry about the infrequent updates, but I'm doing the best I can. If it causes you to walk away from this story, well that's too bad. The plot will pick up in this chapter (hopefully), and the next few after this will be important. Stay tuned!
Mila Pink: Thanks! I hope so too!
Aries did not sleep well that night. He woke up in a cold sweat, having been tortured by an old nightmare. Henri always told them that their old demons would fade as they got older and disappear into a distant place in their head, but some nights were easier than others. Aries thought he never would forget the feeling of being locked in the cupboard, thirsty and bleeding, delirious from blood loss. He vowed to himself that his sister and any children he might have one day would never feel pain like that.
Shaking off the bad memories, Aries took a long shower and got dressed. When he came back into the room, Rue was sitting on his bed. Jacques was still asleep. Aries wasn't worried about waking him. The guy could sleep through World War III. Rue was not in her custom outfit. She was wearing a long-sleeved gray t-shirt with a pair of black pants that were obviously not hers. Her hair was in a braid down her back. Aries raised an eyebrow. This was very bare for Rue. He was surprised she had left her room.
"Gabrielle leant me clothes," Rue explained, fidgeting slightly. "And my hair was too messy to wear down." She felt like she was naked. Usually she was hidden under long dresses and cloaks. It was strange to be this open.
Aries nodded. "Did you contact Henri?"
"He's on his way," Rue answered, fiddling with her braid. She studied Aries. "You didn't sleep last night," she stated.
"Nightmare." He didn't need to say much more.
"Cupboard again?" she asked gently. It was a fear that had never left Aries, not after all these years. He was no longer afraid of those Muggles, but memories of that confining space still scared him.
"Yeah," he said quietly. Rue could tell Aries wasn't in the mood to talk so she just squeezed his hand gently. Aries smiled weakly at her.
"I've decided something," Rue stated, changing the subject lightly.
"I like Gabrielle."
Aries froze. "What?"
"I said, I like Gabrielle."
He shook his head. "Rue, you don't like people. Ever."
She gave him a look. "I like you and Henri," she said.
"Barely," he muttered.
Rue sighed. "I like Gabrielle," she insisted. "I think she'll be good for you. Keep you out of trouble." She leaned her head against his shoulder. "Zana wouldn't want you to be so lonely, you know."
Aries sighed. "I know," he replied. The truth of the matter was he was falling in love with Gabrielle. It scared him like love always had, but he knew the alternative was what Rue had chosen: a closed off life. His mom wouldn't have wanted that. "Come on," he urged, pulling her up to her feet. "Let's go so Henri."
The old man was waiting for them outside that carriage. His eyes studied his surroundings periodically, completely aware of everything going on around him. It had been years since he'd actually been in law enforcement and even more since he had been a field Auror, but Henri had never gotten read of the mindset: Be ready for anything.
"Talk." Henri was in business-mode at the moment. It was the way he had been when Aries and Rue started training. Friendliness came later.
"We were set up yesterday," Rue explained. "Somebody leaked our mission information. We were surrounded. It was lucky we all made it out okay."
"Professionals?" Henri speculated.
"Definitely," Aries agreed. "They knew what curses to fire and had specialty cursed blades. I've only seen those on…"
"Wands for hire," Rue finished. "But why? What's to gain by setting us up?"
"Maybe it's a test," Aries guessed. "One of the boss's little games."
"No," Henri disagreed. "He's a mean son of a bitch, but he's not stupid. You two are assets. He doesn't want to lose assets." A light seemed to go off in Henri's eyes. "Well, I'll be damned?"
"What?" Rue and Aries said simultaneously, exchanging worried looks.
"He's prepping you to be full time agents," Henri said grimly, lines set in his face.
Horror was written all over Aries's face. "No!" he shouted. "No, that's why I'm here. That was the deal. Win the tournament, and I'm done!"
"And if he messes with the tournament?" Henri suggested. Aries became quiet. The older man sighed. "Keep your eyes open, and don't trust anyone. I don't like where the agency is heading."
"Why?" Rue couldn't help but ask.
"The boss admires Riddle," Henri admitted. "I don't imagine he would be reluctant to side with him given the opportunity." He let the two soak in the implications of that. Rue clenched her fists tightly. She would be damned if she ended up with a Dark Mark like her bastard of a father. Aries just knew he had to protect his sister, and nobody you loved was safe when you were in Voldemort's service.
Aries and Rue shared a look. No matter what, both of them would leave the service of the agency at the end of the school year. Even if they had to spill a little blood to get there.
Spring came quickly, and soon it was time for the third task to be announced. All the champions were gathered into Dumbledore's office. Aries idly observed that he had been here much more often that his mother had ever been. He sat down in one of the chairs, politely refusing a sherbet lemon mostly because he suspected they were laced in potions but also because they were just vile candies. Ana flashed him a quick smile, and Drew Potter nodded at him. Malfoy sat like the perfect model pureblood, not deigning to look at any of them.
"How's your grandmother?" Ana asked softly, knowing of the death in his family.
Aries shrugged. "She's coping," he replied. "Papou had been sick for a while, but still… When you've spent eighty some years of your life with someone, it would be a shock to lose him."
"Eighty years?" Drew repeated, shock written all over his face.
Aries nodded. "They had their anniversary in June. They met when they were sixteen and eloped four days later."
Ana raised an eyebrow. "That seems to be a pattern in your family." She remembered hearing the story of how Zana's parents met, and the marriage had taken place soon thereafter.
"So it seems," Aries agreed.
"And if Lena attempts to marry a guy she's only just met?"
"I'd kill and hide the body where you'd never find it," he replied.
Luckily, Dumbledore, Mr. Crouch, and Ludo Bagman entered with Madame Maxine and Karkaroff. Bagman was practically jumping up and down. Aries resisted the urge to snort.
"For the third task, you will be faced with a series of magical creatures and obstacles," Crouch recited blandly. "The task is May 24. You will receive more information about the location as the task draws nearer." With that, the head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation left the office.
Dumbledore smiled genially. "Well," he said. "I think Barty has said it all. Be prepared and good luck!"
The champions left the office, Aries feeling oddly disturbed. Something hadn't been right with Crouch, and Dumbledore had known. It was the reason they'd been rushed out of the office. He sighed, running his hand through his hair. He needed a break. His fingers had that familiar tingle they did whenever he had the itch to play the piano. He would never admit it, not to Jac or Gabrielle or even Rue, but sometimes he missed playing so much it actually hurt. He missed the finger of the sleek keys under his fingers, the rush he got whenever a composition fit together.
Remembering the Weasleys mentioning a room in Hogwarts that changed into what you needed, Aries went on a hunt. After an hour or so of navigating through the castle, he found what he was looking for. He opened the door and stepped inside. The room was well-lit with a beautiful grand piano in the middle. Aries slide a hand across the top. It was truly gorgeous, just like his mother's had looked before he had smashed it. He noticed that the sheet music provided was blank and grinned.
"There's no pen," he noted to himself. Immediately, a pen appeared on the top of the piano. Aries grabbed it and sat down at the piano.
He opened the case hiding the keys and traced them with his fingers. He played a simple melody, one of the first one he had ever learned. He exhaled, using his body as he played the music. Anxiety and stress melted off him as he played simple notes. He kept playing and playing, his melodies getting more complicated. He could've kept playing forever. Hours passed, and he was still at the piano, immersed in the music.
He never noticed the door open…