Harry was out of the hospital wing the next day, having suffered from a fractured skull and concussion. Madam Pomfrey insisted on keeping him for the weekend, but James talked her down to a night and some prodding before Harry left the next morning. "How do you do that?" Harry asked his father as he left, flanked by Ron and Adam.
James smirked. "Practice. Phoenix is rather good at it too, but she would've made you suffer in there. She's down-right evil..."
"Why?" Ron asked.
"Well, she was born that way..."
"No, he means why would she have left Harry?" Adam asked, smirking. "She likes Harry."
James laughed. "Well, in our seventh year, I pulled a similar stunt. Shoved Phoenix out of the way and took a Bludger to the head, fell a hundred feet or so before she caught me, then spent a night in the hospital wing. Of course, she and Remus hooked up a few days later, so I never got the opportunity to snog her..."
"Weren't you already with Mum?" Harry asked, his eyes narrowed at his father.
"Ah yes, I was," James said as the memory returned to him, though not convincing enough to be believable. "Oh, I could tell you how we hooked up, if you wanted!"
"Only if you want me to vomit on your shoes," Harry groaned. "Come on...I need real food after that crap she gave me last night. It was chicken flavored water or something...gross!"
"Broth?" Adam asked.
Harry shook his head. "No. Chicken-flavored water."
"That's just sick," Ron muttered. "Let's get to breakfast before Harry ruins my appetite."
"Impossible," Adam and Harry said in unison. James laughed.
"Hey!" said Ron.
Harry laughed. "Ron...you're a Weasley. All of you guys are hungry all of the time..."
"But you more than the rest," Adam said with a nod, patting Ron on the shoulder. "Thank the gods your mother can cook."
Harry looked up ahead. Pandora came around the corner into sight with no company except the two books she carried in her arms. He stopped walking and opened his mouth to call her over, but as she turned and saw him, she turned away and sprinted down the corridor. Harry closed his mouth, confused, then yelled, "Hey wait!" as he sprinted after her.
James smiled. "Breakfast?" he asked the other two boys, who smiled and nodded.
Harry was out of breath, but he finally started to gain on Pandora, who had seemed to have gotten herself lost in her hurry to escape Harry. He kept following her until she hit a dead end, then came to a halt about ten feet away.
"Look Harry, I'm sorry about last night," Pandora said quickly, looking at the floor with her books clutched against her chest.
Harry laughed. "What?" he asked, bending over with his hands on his knees. He waited until he stopped laughing, then caught his breath and stood up. "I try to ask you out, take a Bludger to the head, and now when I want to try again, you make me chase you around half the castle..." Pandora stared at him. "No wonder I was afraid to approach you," he laughed.
"What?" Pandora asked quietly.
Harry took three steps forward, then another two as Pandora backed up to the wall. He put a hand on her shoulder, then slipped it around to her back as he got closer and lowered his head to kiss her.
"Ow!" he muttered a few moments later, breaking the kiss. Something had fallen and landed hard on his foot.
"Sorry," Pandora whispered, looking down at the books that had fallen from her arms, one of which had been the object that landed on Harry's foot. "They sort of slipped..."
"Leave them," Harry said with a laugh, bending down to kiss her again.
Things were going well over the following weeks. In fact, the only sign of danger was the mark upon Harry's chest that he saw when getting dressed every morning. It was the only reminder he had of the danger they were in, and how serious everything would undoubtedly get -- and soon.
Before they knew it, October 30th had rolled around. The school was undergoing inspections and cleaning for more than a week prior, but Harry was happy that his Head Boy duties did not involve scrubbing toilets, old suits of armor, or trying to subdue Peeves, which Filch had been trying to do for almost a month. These attempts made more of a mess than they prevented, as Peeves was now motivated to cause even more hell for the castle's caretaker than usual.
"You'd think he'd give up after a fourth trip sliding down the hall into a pile of muck," Adam said, watching as Filch angrily fought to his feet, then cursed and ran after Peeves. "Of course, I'm disappointed. Peeves could have made that pile of muck a lot bigger..."
Harry and Edward laughed. "Come on," Edward said. "We're going to be late for McGonagall."
The boys had gotten away with a little more from McGonagall lately, as the first Quidditch match of the season was coming up. Gryffindor would face off against Slytherin on Halloween, the day after the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang were to arrive...which was today. McGonagall was nervous about the arrival of the guests as well, so when Harry, Edward and Adam barely made it into the classroom on time, she paid no attention to them as they snuck quietly to their seats.
"First off, I would like to remind all of you that you need to be on your best behavior while our guests are here!" she said, eyeing Adam in particular. "Muggle brawling will be punished more harshly now, as you're not only representing yourself poorly, but your school as well!"
"Yes, professor," Adam said politely, nodding. Harry smirked as McGonagall seemed to relax. Adam had a way of charming even the teachers...a gift that Harry would kill for sometimes.
"Very well. Now today's lesson will be another of our Human Transfiguration lessons," she said. Harry sat up straighter, as these were the lessons he found the most fascinating. "You and the person next to you are going to try to swap faces, in a manner of speaking." She looked around harshly, as though someone would actually try to rip their face off and put it on someone else. "You will change them to look like yourself, and they will do the same. You will use all you have learned so far this year to accomplish this. Begin."
Harry turned to Adam, who was thinking. "What?" he asked.
"I'm not sure I want a face as handsome as mine walking around on a scrawny body like yours," Adam said, smirking.
Harry laughed. "Come on, get on with it. And if you give me purple eyebrows again, I'm going to kick your--"
"Enough chatting, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said. "You too, Mr. Smethwyck. This is very serious business!"
"Yes, professor," the boys answered, then continued their lesson.
"Shut up," Dax growled an hour and a half later. Harry and the other boys were laughing as they left their lesson. Dax was still wearing part of Hermione's face.
"Why'd you sit with her anyway?" Ron asked. Hermione glared at him. "You should've picked another guy, mate!"
Dax shrugged. "It was her or Seamus, and I think having my face burst into flames would be a little worse than being stuck with a small nose, perky lips and bushy eyebrows..."
Hermione blushed. Ron glared. "What about her lips?"
Dax laughed. "Oh, as if you haven't noticed...."
"Yeah, you look kissable," Adam said, smirking at Dax. Ron lightened up a bit and laughed. Dax rolled his eyes.
"Come any closer and you'll have to have my foot surgically removed from your ass," he growled. "As soon as I can figure out what she did, I'm reversing it...but until then..." He drew his wand and waved it in front of his face. His dark hair grew an inch or so, shadowing his face.
"Nice trick, that," Harry said. "But if you can do that, can't you just change your face back?"
Dax shook his head. "You and I both know Hermione's spells are strong," he said. "If I use the wrong charm, it could make things much worse."
Harry nodded. They all went upstairs to drop off their bags and change into clean schoolrobes, then gathered again in the common room with Pandora, Desdemona and Ginny.
"Where's Phelan?" Adam asked the youngest of the three girls.
Pandora shrugged. "He's sneaking off again. I asked him if he's got another girlfriend, but he said no. He wasn't lying, either," she added, glaring at Adam. The boy was now wearing a smirk.
"Oh come on, do you think he'd tell his baby sister if he was off shagging someone?"
Pandora rolled her eyes. "My brother isn't some dog, so I know he's not doing that. And we're twins, remember? If he was lying to me, I'd know it."
"Harry, shut up your girlfriend, would ya?" Adam sighed. Harry smirked and leaned over to kiss Pandora, who rolled her eyes but kissed him back nonetheless.
"Do you always do what he says?" she asked Harry.
Harry shrugged. "Well, only this..."
Pandora blushed. Desdemona laughed and threw an arm around the girl, pulling her away from the boys in a sort of rescue. Everyone left Gryffindor Tower and headed down to the Entrance Hall, where they were due to wait for the delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Adam was attracting his usual attention from the females around him, but it wasn't until Phelan showed up that he turned his attention back to the group.
"Where've you been?" he asked the boy, who was still carrying his schoolbag. He was out of breath and red in the face, which suggested he'd run here from somewhere far off in the castle. "You haven't changed, either. McGonagall will have your head if she sees you..."
"Then help me sneak off," Phelan said, still panting. "I was studying and got caught up. I looked up and saw the time, so I had to run straight here to make it."
"Stand still," Hermione said, drawing her wand. She tidied Phelan's robes while Adam snuck off and hid Phelan's bulging bag of books. Ginny was reaching up to go at Phelan's hair, but he gently smacked her hand away.
"I like it like this," Phelan said.
"What?" Ginny asked. "Looking like you've just gotten out of bed?"
"It looks cute," Desdemona said, smiling at him over her shoulder. Phelan's cheeks flushed a bit, but he smiled and nodded to her. Ginny shrugged and gave up. "Has anyone seen Mina, by the way?" Des asked.
"No," Adam said, shaking his head. He stood up straighter and looked around for his cousin, but saw no sign of her. "She hasn't dyed her hair again, has she?"
"Nope," Des said. "It's her usual color."
Adam continued to look around, but he didn't see her. "She might've skipped," he suggested.
"I saw her on my way downstairs," Phelan whispered in Adam's ear. "She was upset about something. I stopped and asked her if she was okay, but she just shook her head and took off."
"Where'd you see her?" Adam asked, turning to look at the boy.
"Third floor, not far from James's office."
Adam nodded. "I'm sneaking off. Tell me what I miss."
Adam snuck away from everyone else and ran up the stairs. He made it to the changing staircases, then soon found his way to the third floor. He knew Mina had a hiding spot here, but he couldn't remember which room it was...
As he walked past one classroom, Adam heard sniffling inside. He knocked once and pushed open the door to find Mina standing, wiping her eyes. She looked up and saw Adam, then started crying again. Adam barely caught her as she collapsed to the floor.
"Mina, what's wrong?" he asked her in German, the language she was the most comfortable with when she got upset. He hugged her firmly, slowly rocking her as she cried. "What happened?"
Mina said nothing, but slowly pulled out of Adam's hug. She held out a crumpled letter, which Adam took from her and sat down in a chair. He had her sit on his knee, then opened the letter and read it. His heart sank.
I'm sorry, but this is the last straw. We cannot put up with your rebellious outbursts anymore. We've tried to understand you, but all you do is cause us more trouble, and therefore, more pain. It seems you enjoy hurting us.
Your mother and I have talked it over, and we have decided that we do not want this sort of influence around your future brother. You are not to come back to our home again. We will send your things to you.
Adam stared at the paper. Mina laid her head on his shoulder and continued to cry. Neither of them said anything for a few minutes, but finally, Adam hugged Mina again, resting his head against hers.
"When they told me that she was going to have another child, I asked why," Mina cried softly. "She said she wanted a child who would love her, and when I said that I did, she laughed. He said that if I loved them, I would do what they wanted."
Adam looked at her. "What did they want?"
Mina growled. "They wanted me to marry Sebastian Lestrange."
Adam's eyes went wide. "What?!"
Mina nodded slowly, wiping her hand over her eyes. "I don't know when, but they arranged it with the Lestranges. I said no, and I did everything I could to fight them...but in the end, they chose this."
Adam hugged her again. "You can live with me, then."
Mina shook her head. "I don't want to live in a Saxton house."
"Not with them, with me," he said. "I'll get a house after I get out of school. You can come stay as long as you want."
Mina hugged Adam again. He squeezed her firmly, remaining still until she was ready to let go. She thanked him several times, then crumpled up the letter and put it in her pocket before exiting the room.
Adam remained behind, thinking for a long while. It was past dinnertime when Phelan found him. He'd forgotten about the feast, the foreign students, and everything else he'd been looking forward to all day long. Phelan suggested the two do something fun, so Adam introduced the boy to firewater. Halfway through a round of strip poker, he couldn't help but start laughing. He almost wished it wouldn't end.
"What's with Adam?" Ron asked as everyone gathered in the common room later that evening. Most of Gryffindor Tower had gone to bed, but the usual group sat around the fireplace, minus Adam, Phelan, and Pandora. "He's been odd lately. He's either buddy-buddy with everyone, smiling and laughing...or he's punching the hell out of anything that moves. And then, once in a while, he just stops talking and wanders off alone, doing God knows what..."
"He's been doing it ever since he went to live with Thomas," Harry said, shrugging. "I dunno...I've kind of gotten used to it already."
"What did they fight over?" Hermione asked. "Him and his father, I mean. All I could ever get out of the family was that Adam and George got into a fight about something, Adam walked out, and he hasn't been back since."
"He came to stay with me and Daddy afterward, but he wouldn't tell me what happened," Desdemona shrugged. "He just came to me, asked if he could stay, and I let him. His grandfather called to see if he was there, and Daddy said yes. The next day, Thomas came to get him." She shrugged once more. "He still wont tell me what happened."
"Whatever it was, it must've been really bad," Edward said. "Adam was going to change his name after it happened."
"Really?" Harry asked.
Damien nodded. "He said he couldn't stand being a Smethwyck, so he was going to change it to Saxton. He said..."
"Said what?" Ron urged.
"He said that Jakob could be a Smethwyck in his place," Dax said, still staring into the fire. He sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. "None of you are going to repeat any of this. Understood?"
Harry watched Dax. "Do you know what they fought over?"
Dax nodded slowly. "I don't think any of the other Saxtons know. I was at the castle when George called, saying that Adam ran off. He said that they could go after him, and that he wasn't 'going to bother with the brat anymore'."
"That's harsh," Hermione said quietly.
Again, Dax nodded. "Adam talked to me not long after. So far as I know, I'm the only one he's told the story to." He paused, sighing. "It started when his father told him that the werewolf cure he'd been working on was in its final stages of testing, and that Adam could be normal again soon."
"How could that start a fight?" Ron interrupted. "Shouldn't Adam be happy about that?"
"Adam doesn't want a cure," Dax said simply. "And he told his father that."
Everyone stared at Dax. "Are you serious?" Mina asked him. "Adam wants to stay like that?"
"Adam, thanks to Mordraug, is no longer dangerous in his werewolf form," Dax explained. "Ed, Damiena and Wynter can be, but Adam controls them. Adam is, for lack of a better word, perfect. There is no downside to his condition. So he doesn't see why he should have his greatest strength taken away. George, on the other hand, doesn't see it as a strength..."
"So they fought," Hermione frowned.
Dax nodded again. "Adam tried to make his father see how he did, but George was upset. He said he'd spent all of his adult life working to find a cure for Adam, but Adam knew that wasn't it. After all, Jakob was born a werewolf, and had been one long before Adam was bitten."
Harry sighed. Though Adam did not hate Jakob, he was often jealous of all the attention his brother received from their father. "So what? Adam walked out?"
Dax nodded. "But not until after Jakob came home, and George tried to brush off the arguement."
"He's always smiling," Ginny said sadly. "And yet he's probably the one of us who is hurting the most."
"He's never really talked about what happened when Greyback took him," Hermione said. "You know, when we all thought he was dead. Anytime someone brings it up, he changes the subject."
"Well God knows what happened to him in there," Ron said. "There could be a very good reason he doesn't want to talk about it. It was probably horrible to live through it once, so he doesn't want to relive it by talking about it now. He'd rather just forget."
"But it's not healthy!" Hermione said. "He always used to talk to me before. He would tell me things he wouldn't tell anyone. I don't know exactly why, but he told me I was a good listener. But ever since he came back, he's acting like the same arrogant little boy that I met on the first train ride to Hogwarts."
Dax shook his head slowly. "Mordraug's tricks aren't just magic spells," he said. "He has a way with words that will make even the best of people doubt their purpose in life. When he finds a weakness, any weakness, he exploits it. He feeds all doubt, all pain...everything that makes us feel horrible, until there's nothing left but despair. Then he helps you. He warps your mind into thinking he is your friend, and that is how most of his servants came to be so loyal as they are. Soon, you know nothing except the lies he has fed you. Everything you once were is lost."
"Is that what he did to you?" Ginny asked quietly, watching Dax with concern.
Dax let out a quiet laugh. "I was too used to his tricks to fall for them. He had to addle my brain before that stuff would work...but I was there when he was doing it to Adam, Ed, Damien and Wynter." He smirked. "One thing happened, though, that he didn't plan on."
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"By keeping the five of us together, we became friends. Brothers even," Dax said. "It was through that bond that we grew stronger, and in the end, were able to fight our way out of the spells he'd put us under."
"He forgot that wolves are pack-oriented," Wynter said, leaning back into the sofa. "We protect our own before anything else."
"But, thankfully, Adam still had a human mind," Dax said. "Despite his connection to Mordraug, Adam recognized the others who went in to rescue Remus. He wouldn't fight them. Through them, we managed to escape. It was pure luck, though."
"Why is that?" Ginny asked.
"Had Mordraug been with us rather than Greyback, he would not have let us go so easily," Damien explained. "Greyback knew he couldn't fight us, but Mordraug could have brought us all to our knees without raising a finger."
"So you think he'll try to get all of you back?" Hermione asked.
Dax laughed. "He'll try to kill me, if anything...but yes. I believe he'll want Adam, Ed, Damien and Wynter back. They're some of his finest creations, so he wont let them stray for long."
"You make us sound like escaped lab rats," Edward said, pretending to be sad.
"Well, you smell like one."
Wynter, Edward and Damien all jumped, turning to stare at the portrait hole, where Adam was standing. He looked very serious, but flushed. Phelan stood behind him, swaying slightly, his school necktie tied around his head and his shirt half-open.
"You've been drinking," Dax said, rising slowly to his feet.
"Both of us!" Phelan hiccuped.
Harry raised a brow at the two, then looked at Dax. He seemed to be studying Adam, as if trying to determine his next move. Why? Harry did not know.
"How long were you standing there?" Wynter asked.
Adam shrugged. "Since Dax decided to blurt out all of the secrets I trusted him with, I think."
Dax watched Adam, but said nothing. Edward tried to make his way around the couch, but Adam held up a hand to stop him. "This is a little awkward," he said. "So I'm taking Phelan upstairs, then going to bed. See you all in the morning." He nodded, then turned around and wrapped an arm around Phelan's shoulders, holding the boy up as they walked.
Everyone watched the two go, then Harry stood up. "What are you doing?" Ron whispered to him, but Harry ignored him and went upstairs, all the way up to his dormitory, where Adam had helped Phelan get into bed without hurting himself. Harry waited in the doorway until Phelan was laying back in bed, then watched Adam cover him up before closing the door and walking into the room.
"Why don't you talk to me anymore?" Harry asked.
Adam turned. "What do you mean?"
"We've known each other for as far back as we can remember," Harry said. "You may be brothers with Ed, Damien, Dax and Wynter, but you were my brother first. Why do I have to figure everything out from one of them?" He began pacing back and forth, anger building inside him. "Do you have any idea what it felt like watching Greyback drag you off? Do you know what it took for me to accept that I was too weak to save you?! He snapped your neck right in front of me! I watched you die!"
Harry turned to look at Adam. The boy was wearing a look Harry had never seen him wear. Usually when Adam was upset, he'd look away...but now Adam was looking directly back at him with an expression that not only told Harry that he was sorry, but that he understood why he should be.
"Things changed," Adam said quietly, looking away finally. "I'm not the person I used to be."
"Yes you are!" Harry shouted. "Nothing changed! You're still you, Adam!"
Phelan was sitting up in bed, but he was silent. He gave the others no notice that he was listening, though he wasn't going to try and pretend he wasn't. Adam, meanwhile, seemed to be thinking every thought twice before saying them aloud.
"He made me hate you," Adam said quietly.
That was not what Harry expected. "What?"
"He made me realize how jealous I was of you, and in the end, I hated you," Adam repeated in detail. "You had a perfect life, or at least perfect as I see it. You had a house, two parents who loved you, and even more aunt and uncle equivalents who cared more for you than themselves. I've always been jealous of that, but those feelings multiplied in there. And since I've been back, I've been...well, ashamed, I guess. It was hard to look you in the eye."
Harry thought for a moment. "So that's it?" he asked. "You felt bad about being jealous of me?" Adam shrugged. Harry laughed. "And here I thought I'd actually done something wrong..."
Adam looked at Harry. "What would make you think that?"
Harry shrugged and frowned. "I didn't follow you that night. Well, I did follow you into the forest...but when I couldn't find you, I gave up. I shouldn't have."
Adam took a step forward and pulled Harry into a firm hug. The two stood still for a moment, then pulled away and smiled sheepishly before taking an extra step back.
"If you two ladies are done, I'd like to get to sleep," Phelan said, laying back down.
Harry laughed and looked at Adam. "What have you done to him?"
Adam pretended to be offended. "Me?! I haven't done anything!"
"Since the term started, he's been acting more and more like you," Harry said. "It's got to be your fault."
Adam laughed, then laughed harder when Phelan rolled off the bed. "Well, shall we help our baby brother get back into bed?"
Phelan lifted his head. "Oh, not that crap again..."
Harry laughed. "Sounds good. What do you think, Baby Brother?"
"I thought you two were done with that," Phelan groaned, pulling a blanket over his head. "I feel like I'm six again..."
The two boys laughed and heaved Phelan back into bed, continuously calling him "Baby Brother" as they insisted on tucking him in. Adam even gave Phelan a kiss on the forehead, but the younger boy was too tired to hit him as he threatened to do. Harry and Adam gave each other a final nod, as if deciding they were through with their talk, then Adam departed for his own dormitory. Harry got undressed and crawled into bed, staring at the ceiling while he thought over all that had been said.
In the end, he fell asleep making a mental note to kill Adam if Phelan was too hung over to play against Slytherin the following day.
A/N: HA! Another chapter, and not long after the previous one. Hell, you're lucky you got anything from me, as today I've been so brain-dead that I over-cooked WATER. Didn't think it was possible? You're very, very wrong.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. The next one should be fun...or at least it is so far in my brain. Things are going to move fast going toward the Tournament and the Yule Ball...and then the action will hit, along with several other good moments.
Write a Review The Gate of Fear: Chaper Sixteen: Kissing and Crying