Well, hi. *waves sheepishly* How you doing? Good? Great. Me, not so much. Been a little busy. Too busy, in fact, for me to write. My sincerest apologies, and if you care, my explanations/excuses are in the AN at the end. Short chapter today, but it's all I can manage.
Disclaimer: I really don't own anything. I mention a few Duel Monsters cards by name and description in this chapter, they are real cards that I have no claim on, I simply mention them.
Draco couldn't help but kick Mrs. Norris. That mangy cat had been following him for far too long and he had had enough of her slinking around his feet. She hissed vehemently at him and streaked away, having enough dignity not to come running back like a dog would. Draco was by far a cat person, they had pride and acted just like any other Slytherin would.
Not that he felt guilty. In fact, Draco smirked.
It was about time. Now that Professor Umbridge had come around and made this school somewhat bearable to live in for most of the Slytherin house, Filch had practically fallen at her feet and that wretched cat had been following him around since Halloween. Draco was sick of her, although he had put up with it all this time. Today was a different story. He was not in a good mood at all.
Almost subconsciously, he placed a hand on his cheek. He knew that Pomfrey had healed his broken nose and all of the bruises and his black eye, but Draco needed reassurance that his skin was smooth once again. The skin was still very tender, but other than that it felt normal.
This had been his match! Draco had never been so gleeful as when he spied on the Gryffindor Quidditch team's first practice this year, Weasley had been so dreadful that he was positive that they had this game in the bag. He had even enlisted Crabbe and Goyle to write a song to unnerve him during the match. The lyrics sounded like they were written by a two year old, which was more than he expected of those two idiots, but it had more than gotten the job done. Weasley had not saved a single shot.
On top of that, Draco knew that Milton's game was ruined when she had gotten that glorified potions set from Shadi. He scowled. Her chasing was terrible, but the damned mudblood had injured and knocked more of his teammates out of the game than the Weasley twins combined. Even after Flint had kicked her in the head. Concussed or not, she had played aggressively and took out Flint mere minutes after the game resumed.
Draco's teammates were disgraceful, sometimes. It was pathetic.
And then bloody Potter caught the snitch from right under Draco's nose.
Perhaps Draco had deserved the muggle style beating that he had received. Draco knew what he was saying was sure to strike a nerve, but he had been expecting Potter and Weasley to hex him. A sacrifice he was willing to make, because he was sure that with all the professors watching they would only get themselves a big heaping of detentions and point deductions. What he wasn't expecting was for Potter and Weasley to charge him like a pair of mad hippogriffs, two on one, it wasn't fair. Draco could have defended himself had he known what was coming, perhaps if he wasn't taken so off guard he could have gotten a shot or two in as well. But obviously he wasn't well versed in the barbaric way that muggles express their rage towards each other, so obviously Draco was at a disadvantage.
Of course, Draco had long since owled his father. He had demanded for Potter and the Weasley twins' instant dismissal from the Quidditch team, perhaps even expulsion, but he knew better than to hope for that with Dumbledore around. Draco smirked again. His father's connections with the ministry, as well as the agreement he had with Umbridge were surely more than enough to grant his request. He wouldn't have to worry about Potter being seeker anymore.
A pair of voices behind Draco snapped him back to reality, and he realized how slow he had been walking. He instantly recognized the voices, of course. A grin overtook his features, and Draco quickly cast a disillusionment charm on himself and hid behind a suit of armor.
It was Milton and Bakura, and he was hoping to hear them say something about her progress with the Shadows. That would excellent for him to pass along to his father. Might even be enough to convince him to send Draco to stay with a friend from Durmstrang over the Christmas Holidays.
Wand at the ready in case he was discovered, Draco watched as they rounded the corner and came into sight.
" - didn't even look at your ribs!"
"Ryou!" Ellie sighed exasperatedly as they rounded a corner. She grabbed hold of his arm and made him turn to face her as they both ground to a halt right in front of a suit of armor. She didn't really feel like listening to him whine about her injuries. "It's fine. I'm fine."
"He gave you a concussion!"
"Barely! And I'm all better now. Do I look concussed to you?"
Ryou frowned. "Not anymore, I guess."
"Exactly," Ellie said, forcing a smile onto her face so Ryou wouldn't realize how annoyed she was. "Madame Pomfrey fixed me up. My ribs are fine, if not a little bruised, but she has other students to tend to. Ones that are worse off than I am."
"I don't like Quidditch very much," Ryou grumbled, averting his eyes.
"I know. But thanks for waiting with me, Ryou," Ellie said. All of her anger from the events of the match and what had happened immediately after had faded, and now she was just tired. Even though he was driving her nuts right now, she was grateful that Ryou had stuck around with her in the hospital wing, it had been a long wait. Malik hadn't taken very well to being in there again especially with over half a dozen injured students. He had gotten pretty upset and was on the verge of another meltdown, so Yugi had taken him to the common room. Ellie couldn't help but realize that she was terribly disappointed when Malik left her, but she understood. Harry was still with McGonagall and Umbridge dealing with the consequences of attacking Malfoy, and Hermione was off looking for Ron. He had disappeared immediately after the match, not bothering to visit the hospital wing to get Madame Pomfrey to mend up his broken wrist.
It hadn't been a very good day, to say the least.
"Oh! It was no problem, Ellie," Ryou said, returning her gaze and smiling for what seemed like the first time that day. "I'm sorry about Bakura."
Ellie frowned. Yugi had told her that halfway through the match Bakura had taken over because he was angry that Ellie wouldn't stop fighting with the Slytherins. Apparently he had spent the entire match glaring at her. Then, when he had met up with her in the hospital wing, she was subjected to a furious lecture from him about how she shouldn't have taken their bait and that behavior like that was just inviting the Shadows in to corrupt her completely. "It's alright, Ryou," She finally replied. "He was right."
She hated admitting fault, but the day had been so exhausting that she didn't even care anymore.
"Oh, and Malik asked to push your training session from tomorrow to Monday night." Ryou said, somewhat sheepishly.
"What? Why?" Ellie demanded. She was really looking forward to finally being taught how to use the scales. All the boys have been teaching her thus far was how to duel, and the only thing she had learned was how much she hated it.
"He said that the Shadows have been congregating to you again today, because of how angry you were at the match," Ryou replied, looking worried again. "It's probably best if we don't aggravate them further until you have a chance to recuperate."
Defeated, Ellie gave in without a fight again. "Alright, fine." She agreed.
"He also says that he thinks the time would be better spent practicing your dueling, anyway."
Ellie caught the double meaning. She nodded, not feeling much like talking. Ellie didn't particularly want to spend the day practicing, but she was the first to admit that she was dreadful at the game. The boys all believed that she just needed practice and confidence, but Ellie knew better.
"Which reminds me!" Ryou said excitedly, still not even noticing her bad mood. He was too busy flushing pink and pulling out the case that he kept his Duel Monsters cards in. "I've got a card for you."
"You don't have to do that, Ryou, I've got tons -"
"No, no, I insist!" Ryou argued. Ellie was caught off guard, Ryou usually backed down right away, especially when it came to her. She wondered what card he was digging for.
"Here it is," Ryou said finally, pulling out a blue faced card and handing it to Ellie. He was crimson now, and avoiding her gaze. Why was he so embarrassed, she wondered? Ellie looked down at the card in her hand.
"Calming Magic?" She said, examining the card. It was a spell card, taking the image of a purple haired little girl inside a bubble, and she was holding a staff. When played, the card made it so neither player could summon a monster for a single turn.
"Yes," Ryou said quietly. He placed the cover back on his duel deck and slipped it into his pocket once more. "It's just that- well, I thought- I mean -" He took a deep breath and met her eyes. "It reminds me of you, is all."
Ellie hated to force more answers out of the embarrassed boy, but the gesture was undeniably sweet and she was curious. She felt her own face heating up, but it wasn't in a bad way. "How so?"
"You're calming," Ryou said, sounding sure of himself now. "You always make me feel better. You chased a lot of my demons away."
"Really?" Ellie asked, feeling a smile finally find it's way to her lips. She took the smallest of steps closer.
"Yes, even Bakura-" at the mention of the yami that was probably observing this exchange through Ryou's eyes right now, Ellie came to her senses and stepped back again, "-has been much less angry since we've met you."
"Wow," she said, unable to come up with something decent to say. Ellie wondered what other kinds of presents he would be willing to give her, but then instantly felt guilty for thinking that. "Thank you, Ryou. This really means a lot. I'll put it in my deck right away."
Ryou smiled at her again. "We should get back now. If you want, we can duel tonight."
"Yeah, I'd like that," Ellie said as they started heading back to the common room. It was a lie, but a white one. She wondered if Malik would be willing to help her out.
Neither of them noticed a nearly invisible figure duck out from behind the suit of armor and hurry towards the dungeons.
"What should I do?" Ellie asked Malik yet again, her own mind void of options. She had practically given up on this duel, instead she was letting Malik view her cards and pretty much play the game for her. Of course he didn't mind, he loved the game and was thrilled at the chance to play it with an unfamiliar deck. And Ellie kind of hoped that he liked helping her out too.
"That's cheating," Hermione called over for the umpteenth time, not even looking up from her book now. She had long since returned from her attempt at finding Ron. Harry had had to locate him on the map and went after him himself. He was likely talking to him at this very moment, but it was late and the group was getting very tired waiting up. Other than them, the common room was empty.
Yami, who had taken over for Yugi and was her opponent, eyed her disapprovingly. "Hermione is right," he said, his deep voice taking on the commanding tone that only true royals possess, "this will not help you learn."
Ellie and Malik exchanged a look, and they both shrugged at the same time. "It's not even a real game, guys," Malik said. He leant over and whispered in her ear. "Place Kuriboh facedown in attack mode. He'll never see it coming."
Grinning at both the deviousness of such a risky move that Yami would never expect and Malik's proximity, Ellie grabbed the card and did exactly that. "Don't worry," she giggled. "I'm learning plenty. It's your turn, Yami."
Ryou had long since gone to bed, so Ellie didn't even feel bad about openly flirting with Malik. She knew that she was safe from Yugi and Yami noticing, they were both thicker than Polyjuice Potion when it came to such matters. Hermione, on the other hand, was a different story. But she was so immersed in her book that she only surfaced when she felt the need to call Ellie out for cheating.
Their duel resumed without much further ado, and some time later, Yami finally and unsurprisingly wiped their life points to zero. Scowling, Malik stood up and stretched. "I'm going to bed," he announced bitterly. "Tell Harry and Ron that my moral support expires at midnight and it's their own fault for missing their window. If they need me -" He yawned. "- I'll be conscious around noon tomorrow."
"Goodnight, Malik," Ellie said, flashing him a smile. "Thanks for helping me."
He simply waved his hand in acknowledgement of her thanks and stalked up the boys' staircase without another word. Slightly put out that he hadn't said goodnight to her, Ellie turned back around and started to gather up her cards. She felt the slightest pang of guilt when she swept Calming Magic into the pile, but tried her best to push it out of her mind.
"Ellie," Yami said, interrupting her thoughts. He was standing over her with his arms crossed. He was practically as short as Ellie, but since she was sitting right now and he was standing so self-assuredly, it made Ellie feel about two inches tall.
"Yami?" She squeaked.
"I am going to bed, too." He said, smiling down at her. "Give my best to Harry and Ron."
"Oh," Ellie said, relieved. Perhaps it was her guilty conscience, but she had been sure that Yami was going to lecture her about flirting with Malik all night and not taking her dueling training seriously. "Goodnight, Yami, goodnight, Yug." She forced herself to smile back.
"Goodnight, Hermione," He raised his voice to capture the engrossed girl's attention, and she started.
"Oh? It's that late? Night, Yami!" She waved, and Yami followed Malik up the boys' staircase.
"Where are those two?" Ellie wondered aloud.
Hermione marked her page and scooted closer to Ellie. "Oh, I hope they haven't been caught!" She looked horrified. "Harry's in enough trouble as is!"
Ellie nodded. Both Harry and the Weasley twins had been sent packing from the Gryffindor Quidditch team and had a heaping of detentions served up for them, but Ellie was just grateful that that was their only punishment. Even without Umbridge around, the three of them attacking (or in Fred's case, trying to attack) Malfoy was certainly grounds for expulsion. They were just lucky that they had McGonagall and Dumbledore to help argue their case.
"By the way, how is Angelina?" Hermione asked.
Ellie groaned, picking up her cards to shuffle. She needed something to do with her hands. "She was a nightmare. Even before she found out that she just lost three of her best players."
"So what is she going to do?"
"Hold a second set of try outs this week, I reckon," Ellie shrugged. "We need to train up the new recruits, and fast."
A weird look crossed Hermione's face. "You know …"
Ellie didn't like that look. "What?" She asked suspiciously.
"Maybe you should quit."
Ellie dropped all of the cards that she was shuffling. "WHAT?"
"Shhhhhhhhhh!" Hermione shushed her frantically. "You don't want to wake up the whole house!"
"I don't care!" Ellie yelled, jumping up and not caring that she was now walking on top of her deck. She stalked towards Hermione, thoroughly enraged. "Why, in Merlin's name, do you think I should quit?" She demanded. Ellie could feel her anger mounting and was powerless to stop it. "Do you honestly think that I'm that bad?!"
"Of course not!" Hermione hollered right back, not backing down.
Ellie got right in Hermione's face. "I'm not quitting."
"Alright, now will you put it to rest?" Hermione asked, glaring right back. "Calm down and listen to me."
"Hmpf," Ellie grunted, backing off and sitting cross legged on the rug, gathering up her cards. When she was finished, she rubbed her aching temples.
"I meant," Hermione started impatiently, "That you've got enough on your plate as is. Don't interrupt me!" Ellie shut her mouth. "And obviously today's match got you really worked up. Angelina's already lost half her team, what's replacing one more chaser going to hurt?"
"Hermione," Ellie whined, "Leave me alone. Don't worry about it! I want to play Quidditch. It's the only normal thing I have left. Without Quidditch, I have nothing!"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "There's no need to be so dramatic, your life hasn't changed that much you know. I was just making a suggestion, you don't have to take it."
Ellie crossed her arms and grunted again.
"And there is no need for you to throw such a fit, either!" Hermione went on, thoroughly annoying Ellie. Who did she think she was, her mother? Ellie didn't answer. Her anger was gone and she just wanted to deal with the headache she was experiencing in peace. "Where are the Scales, Ellie?"
"Upstairs, with Ryou," Ellie replied bitterly. She was sick of everyone treating her like a child. First Ryou keeping the Scales from her like a grown-up keeping a knife from a little girl, and next Hermione lecturing her on her attitude. When would it end?
Hermione nodded, looking thoughtful. But before this conversation could go any further, the portrait hole opened and in walked a pair of soaked teenage boys in scarlet Quidditch robes.
"About time!" Ellie exclaimed. "Do you have any idea what time it is?" She forgot all about her argument with Hermione.
Both boys looked utterly miserable. It seemed as though Harry's pep talk to Ron had turned into a pity party for the both of them. And why hadn't they come in earlier? It was absolutely pouring outside …
"It happened again," Ron said frantically, and Ellie suddenly realized that he was supporting Harry's weight.
"What happened?" Hermione asked as both she and Ellie jumped up and rushed over. Ellie grabbed Harry's other arm while Hermione pulled out her wand and cast a hot air charm to dry the boys off. Harry was pale as a ghost.
"Saw Voldemort again," Harry muttered, allowing Ron and Ellie to guide him over to the chaise nearest the fire. They sat him down, and he pulled off his glasses and rubbed at his scar.
"Why didn't you go straight to Dumbledore?" Hermione asked, kneeling in front of him and moving his hand away from his forehead so she could check his temperature.
Ron scowled. "He's still under the impression that Dumbledore's ignoring him. He wouldn't let me take him up."
"He is ignoring me!" Harry insisted.
Ellie sat down next to him and took his arm in her hands. "Have you been out in the rain this whole time?" She asked worriedly. "It's absolutely freezing out there!"
"Didn't have much of a choice, this one here was out cold. I couldn't revive him." Ron said. "It was all I could do to try to keep the rain off of him with an Impervious Charm. I - I," He scowled. "I don't know how to summon a stretcher and I was afraid to levitate him up the stairs in case I dropped him."
"Never mind all of that," Ellie insisted. "What did you see? What's going on?" She gulped. Was there a new plan that involved coming after her?
"Shadi's dead." Harry said.
Both Ellie and Hermione gasped. Hermione from shock, and Ellie from relief. Voldemort was still surely to be after her, but at least she had one less maniac to worry about.
"Why?" Hermione asked. "Don't they need him?"
"Not anymore," Harry shrugged. "They're all mastered their items for the most part. He outlived his usefulness."
"B-but how?" Ellie whispered. "Shadi isn't … he's not like us." In fact, Ellie had no idea what Shadi was. He definitely wasn't human, and he wasn't a spirit like Yami and Bakura. He just existed. Well, not anymore, she supposed.
Harry looked angry. "Voldemort used his own item against him. He used the Ankh to destroy his soul so that there was nothing left of him."
"Did you see it happen, Harry?" Hermione whispered.
Harry nodded, with a grave expression. "You don't want to know."
The room was silent for a few moments as the girls digested this information.
"We should wake up the others," Hermione said, making a move towards the boys' staircase, but both Harry and Ron grabbed her arm to stop her.
"No! Don't!" Ron hissed. "There's more!"
"What?" Ellie asked, feeling nervous. Why couldn't they tell the boys about Shadi right now? Surely this was very crucial information. Yugi and Malik probably hadn't even fallen asleep yet.
"They know about you, Ellie," Harry said. "They were talking about how you haven't started learning how to use the Scales yet. They knew that Malik wanted to move your training from tomorrow to Monday."
Confused, Ellie furrowed her eyebrow. "But, I haven't told anyone that! Not even you guys," she gestured to Harry and Ron. She had barely seen them that afternoon. The only people that knew were her, Hermione, and the transfers themselves. "How did they know that?" A horrible thought occurred to her, but she refused to entertain it. It didn't matter in the end, though, because Harry said it out loud.
"Maybe Malik's mind isn't as secure as we think."
"No, there's got to be another explanation," Hermione said. "Malik can't spy on Marik. That must mean that he can't spy on Malik either."
Harry shrugged. "Maybe it's not voluntary, maybe it's just like what I see with Voldemort. Bits and pieces at random."
"But it's not random, though, is it?" Ron mused. "You only see You-Know-Who when he's feeling really cheerful, or angry, or whatever."
"Exactly!" Ellie joined in. "Malik hasn't really had any - oh." Her face fell.
"What happened?" Harry asked.
"In the hospital wing. He didn't do anything, he just got really upset seeing all those injured people. Perhaps …"
"Either way, he can't be trusted," Harry said.
"It's not his fault!" Ellie defended him. "And we don't even know for sure that that's what's happening!"
"No, but in the meantime we should keep these conversations to ourselves." Harry replied.
"We need to tell Dumbledore," Hermione said. "We should go right now."
"No!" Both Ellie and Harry interjected at the same time. They looked at each other, and Harry motioned for Ellie to go on. "Not until we know for sure. The last thing he needs is to be exiled on some suspicion that we can't even prove."
Harry nodded, as though that had been what he was going to say. "Don't tell Yugi or Ryou, either."
"Alright," Hermione nodded reluctantly. "They would tell Malik in an instant, but we can figure out a way to prove this on our own so it doesn't have to come to that."
"And until then," Harry said, looking round at their worried faces. "Be careful." He looked directly at Ellie this time, because they all knew she had the hardest time keeping secrets. "Don't let anything slip. We don't want them suspicious."
Okay, as I'm sure you all can see I'm really trying to cut out the scenes that aren't absolutely crucial. When I enrolled in my school I had no sweet clue what I was getting into, and I have next to no time for writing. This chapter was the best I could do this weekend. I don't think that the quality of my writing is quite up to par but I couldn't bear to make you wait another month, because this weekend is the only free(ish) one I'll have for awhile and the window that I've allocated for writing is nearly up. Anyways, my immense apologies to all of you lovely, supportive, perfect readers. I promise I won't abandon you, but it might take awhile for me to post.
On another note, even though I'm not so happy with the quality of this chapter, I still love it! I've been meaning to dabble in different characters' POVs, because I've really only been doing Ellie, Ryou, Bakura, Malik, and Marik. So yay or nay on the Draco POV?
Also, I'm sure you all deduced this yourselves but I want to make sure there is no confusion on the matter. Marik cannot see into Malik's mind without his knowing. Draco was eavesdropping on Ellie and Ryou's conversation, remember? He ran to Daddy the minute they were finished, and that's how Voldemort knows. Our lovely characters have no idea of that, though, but we all know it's more fun to watch characters flounder about when we know what's up, right? I just needed to add a little spice into the mix in order for later events to fall into place properly.
So, my friends, please stick with me so you can all find out what this author has planned for you …
P.S. - If you were wondering, Ellie's card is Calming Magic. It's the cutest little thing if you care to look it up online.
Please review and I'll see you next time!