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The Art of Firewalking

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Diluc was not the good person everyone made him out to be.

 

He wasn’t as brave or as smart as everyone thought he was. He shouted at people when he was angry. He often broke school rules and got into illegal magic duels. And he certainly wasn’t nice all the time. 

 

Everyone thought he had everything: wealth, brains, athletics, and the love of the entire world. When the truth was, he couldn’t even hold onto the two most precious people in his life.

 

But even as his world fell to pieces around him, life still went on. 

 

And so he did.

 

Today, the room was small and cramped, lit only by a single glowing orb floating near the ceiling in the centre of the room. There was no furniture in the room - no, the room was bare, save for a single mirror placed in the centre of the room, under the single light. The lead he was chasing had led him here, to this very room, this very mirror. But it was there that the investigation came to a standstill. 

 

Diluc walked slowly to the centre of the room, and stopped in front of the mirror. What he saw, when he looked into the mirror, was the same sight he’d seen yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.

 

He glared at the ceiling. 

 

“What do you want from me?” He demanded. “Why are you showing me this?”

 

Silence.

 

Diluc growled in frustration, and swung his fist towards the mirror. At the very last second, he pulled back, and his knuckles barely grazed its surface.

 

Even if it was a reflection, he couldn’t bring himself to break it. Break… him.  

 

No matter how humiliated it made him feel, or how much hatred he felt.

 

The Mirror of Erised was said to reflect one’s inner desire, and show the viewer the most important things they held dear to their heart. But, it must have been wrong. Because, the other figure reflected in the mirror, standing next to Diluc and smiling, wasn’t the father that he idolised the most in the world.

 

It was Kaeya.







The morning after the Easter holidays, the Great Hall was back to its normal, lively self. The day before and one before that had been a miserable affair, what with Kaeya being unwilling to spend his meals at a long and empty table, chatting with ghosts while the professors stared at him from their table at the front. He’d ended up smuggling food into the library’s restricted section and reading whatever book had piqued his interest. Thankfully, the usual librarian had gone back home for the holidays. The professor on duty was less strict, and more importantly, had a soft heart. A few words, and she was holding Kaeya’s hands with teary eyes, swearing she’d do whatever it took to help him.

 

Haruki Murakami once said that human beings have to survive on their own. While Kaeya subscribed to that kind of edgy shit, he admitted that it was nice to be able to eat with people again, even if he did it just to reaffirm that he had a place in this world outside of Diluc. Currently, he was sitting with Jean at the Gryffindor table, listening to her tell him all about her skiing trip with her sister while he ignored the annoyed looks from all the other Gryffindors and drew fancy syrup patterns on pancakes. 

 

He was on his third pancake when Amber dropped her tray onto the table space next to Kaeya. Startled, he accidentally spilled syrup all over the table, earning him a wince from Jean. Then Amber slid into the seat next to him, which was weird, because Amber never talked to him more than she had to, even if most of that was his fault. (He couldn’t help that her reactions to his schemes were just too amusing, especially when he pulled it off without magic.)

 

“What’s up, Amber? Need a favour?” Kaeya asked. He wiped up the spilt syrup with the sleeves of his robe. Opposite him, Jean shot him a look, but kept quiet. “Haven’t done your holiday homework and need it done before the end of breakfast? Or…” 

 

Amber pouted. “Of course not! Er- I think. Wait, did I have homework to do…?”

 

Jean sighed in exasperation. She tended to do that a lot.

 

Kaeya laughed. “Then, did Klee explode your room again? My, her first day back and the kid’s already back to causing trouble...“

 

“No, no, my room is fine!” Amber hurriedly corrected. “Albedo has some free time now that he’s done with his latest project, so he’s back in school and supervising her now. No, it’s something else…” Amber, unlike her usual energetic self, had a frown on her face. No, wait. She always frowned when she saw Kaeya… so technically, this was… normal?

 

She darted her gaze to Kaeya and frowned even deeper. Touché. “Well...” She said. “If Kaeya hasn’t heard about it, then...”

 

“Hey now,” He laughed. “Now I’m even more curious.”

 

“Well...” She said nervously. “Obviously it’s wrong, and I told them as much, but...” 

 

She leant in closer and said, almost in a conspiratorial whisper, “Apparently, there are rumours floating around that your father is a Death Eater.”

 

Kaeya dropped his syrup bottle. “My father what?”

 

“His father what?” Jean exclaimed.

 

“His father what?” Lawrence and Swan, two seats beside Jean exclaimed.

 

Amber waved her hands frantically. “Shhhhh! Don’t be so loud! And I said it was just a rumour!”

 

They took a minute to digest that information. Then...

 

“…Pft. Pfffffft. PWAHAHAHHAHAHAHA!!!” Lawrence and Swan burst out laughing. They held their sides and slapped the table, in absolute hysterics. 

 

“K-Kaeya,” Lawrence gasped, “A Death Eater? I’d say Venti would sooner claim an oath of sobriety than the chances of that happening.” 

 

“Venti’s a ghost. He can’t get drunk.” Amber pointed out. 

 

“That’s what you think!” 

 

“I don’t think I need to be suspicious of a Death Eater who keeps a dozen eyepatches in his drawer and needs someone to tie his tie for him every morning.” Swan snickered. 

 

“A Death Eater who has never missed a class before.” Lawrence said, wiping his tears of laughter. “Who has singlehandedly pushed up the grades of at least a third of the school with his manic tutoring sessions and easy-to-understand handwritten notes. Who spends an absurd amount of time cooking up pranks yet somehow still manages to be number two in his whole year. Yes, clearly, those are the marks of an evil wizard.” 

 

“Okay okay, I get your point.” Amber said sulkily. “I know the rumours of our senior were unfounded. I was just worried he’d take it personally. I mean, it’s the Death Eaters we’re talking about, you know?”

 

“Death Eaters? Is death something you can eat?” A voice piped up on his right. Kaeya looked down and saw Klee staring up at him with starry eyes. 

 

“Klee!” Kaeya said in delight. He bent down and gave her a hi-five. 

 

“Hi Big Bro Kaeya!” She chirped. She put down her bag and climbed into the seat on his right.

 

“Good morning, Klee! Here, I made these pancakes for you.” He pushed his plate of pancakes towards her. 

 

Klee squealed in delight when she saw the pancakes. “You drew Dodoco this time! And me!!” She gave him a hug, and grabbed a fork and started to dig in. 

 

“How was your holidays?” Kaeya asked.

 

“Big Bro Albedo and I went to a wizarding corn-ven-shun! He showed off his new spell, and then the judges gave him a shiny throw-phee, and then we walked around eating Exploding Candy Floss and Firework Ice Pops!” Klee said, waving her fork enthusiastically. 

 

“Klee, don’t talk when your mouth is full.” Jean said sternly. 

 

“Okay!” Klee swallowed, and turned to Kaeya. “So, what’s a Death Eater?”

 

Kaeya stiffened. Klee was still young, and didn’t need to be burdened with the knowledge of the darker ages. Ah, but if he dumbed it down for her, that should be ok. 

 

He said, “You know in all those stories about good wizards beating up bad wizards? Well, around five hundred years ago, there used to be this really, really powerful and bad wizard called the Dark Lord. He led a bunch of bad wizards called the Death Eaters and did lots of bad stuff, like eat children and burn down their houses.”

 

Klee’s eyes were blown wide. “Did someone stop him?”

 

“Yeah,” Kaeya said. “A lot of brave wizards sacrificed their lives to defeat the Dark Lord. But…”

 

“But…?” Klee said excitedly.

 

“But when the Dark Lord died, some of the Death Eaters were either captured and thrown into Azkaban, but most of them went into hiding. They passed down their secret dark arts to their children, who passed their dark arts to their children, and rumour has it that they are disguised as normal wizards and hiding among us, waiting for the day when their master rises from the grave to bring fear and chaos to the world once more.” 

 

Kaeya smirked. “So you never know, maybe the person sitting next to you is secretly a Death Eater. Like.... this!” He leapt at Klee and roared like a werewolf. 

 

Klee shrieked and whipped out her wand. Everyone in the surrounding radius dove for cover, except Jean, who whipped out her wand and yelled, “Expelliarmus!”  

 

Klee’s wand shot out of her hand and flew towards Jean, who caught it with her other hand. She gave Klee a stern look. Klee - there is no other word for it - Klee wilted.  

 

“Klee,” Jean said sternly, “What did I say?”

 

Klee put her hands behind her back guiltily. “That I’m not supposed to point my wand at other people…”

 

Perfect handling of the situation, Kaeya marvelled. If and when she was appointed a Prefect in two years… Kaeya shuddered. Better pull the ‘I’m your senior’ card on her while he still could. 

 

As if noticing his thoughts, Jean turned her glare on him. “You’re not off the hook… sir. You should know better than to scare Klee like that.” 

 

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

Klee was a cute kid. (A cute kid with a penchant for destruction would be a more apt description, but Kaeya believed cuteness overpowered everything.) Klee knew a surprising amount of explosion and fire spells for her age, and showed no restraint in exercising them. This also meant she was responsible for at least half of the chaos that happened in Hogwarts, not limited to: bombing the Black Lake at least once a week, burning down a section of the Forbidden Forest on at least one occasion, and terrorizing the mighty Hippogriffs once in a while. 

 

There was a poll going around, asking students which one they felt was more likely to kill them - Klee, or Hogwarts. Last he checked, Klee was losing by a small margin, if only because she hadn’t actually killed anyone… yet.

 

“So… Big Bro Kaeya was lying?” Klee asked. She lowered the pouch of Exploding Powder she had taken out of her bag as a substitute weapon for her wand. 

 

Kaeya howled with laughter. “Hahahahahaha! Just kidding, Klee! Death Eaters aren’t real, I promise. They died out a long time ago.”

 

The truth, of course, was a bit more complicated than that. The topic of the Death Eaters was more of a sore one for the Ministry of Magic, being that the Dark Lord wasn’t defeated by them but by an unaffiliated group of ragtag wizards, notably led by the then Headmaster of Hogwarts, Arundolyn and his deputy headmaster Rostam. Then there was the fact that the Dark Lord himself was from Khaenri’ah and made his homeland his headquarters after effectively charming the bulk of his people into following him... or the fact that when the Ministry of Magic razed Khaenri’ah to the ground, they took advantage of the Dementors and other monsters swarming out of Khaenri’ah’s gaping Abyss and built the world’s most secure wizarding jail over its remains… and that the stigma against Khaenri’ah was so great that it had persisted five hundred years just to be a pain in the ass for Kaeya.

 

Logically, Kaeya knew that these rumours would have no effect on his social standing in school - it had been five hundred years, and tales of the Khaenri’ahn Dark Lord and the Death Eaters were now no more than nighttime stories wizards told their children to get them to be good little boys and girls. A more paranoid wizard would claim that all the crimes in the wizarding world were attributed to the remnants of the Death Eaters, but the truth was murderers nowadays preferred to be credited under their own name. 

 

Kaeya had heard all kinds of rumours about his background before the Ragnvindrs, ranging from his grandfather being a pirate wizard (spread by himself), to hailing from the werewolf clan in the Forbidden Forest (false, Kaeya’s never turned into a wolf by the full moon, to his knowledge anyway), to being born from a Muggle axe murderer couple that had escaped from Azkaban (......ok, he burst out laughing when he heard that one). But it was the specificity of this accusation that caught his attention. His ‘father’? Why not say his ‘parents’?

 

It had to be someone who knew Kaeya’s history before he was adopted into the Ragnvindrs. Someone… like Diluc.

 

No, Kaeya crossed out that thought immediately. It wasn’t Diluc. Diluc may be hot-headed, but he wasn’t petty or underhanded. Anyway, it wasn’t like Kaeya’s background was a well-kept secret - anyone could have asked Diluc, or dug up his family records to know that Kaeya was abandoned by his father seven years ago and subsequently taken in by Crepus. Maybe they based their accusation off that in some twisted joke against their late father, knowing that he and Diluc suffered from serious cases of daddy issues.

 

Eh, maybe. He’ll look into it later. 

 

Right now, he had to deal with Klee, who was still looking at him suspiciously. “Promise?”

 

So Kaeya nodded and with a serious look on his face, lied: “Yup. Cross my heart and hope to die.” 

 

“Don’t die, Big Bro Kaeya!” Klee tugged on his arm and said. “If the Bad Eaters ever come back, I promise I’ll protect you! I’ll go bom-bom-baaam!! with my wand and blow them aaaaall up!”

 

“That’s reassuring.” Kaeya patted her head. Klee was a good kid. And a terrifying Gryffindor in the future.

 

Amber, who was watching their lively conversation, sighed. “I don’t really get it, but our senior doesn’t look very worried about the rumours. Well, it’s Kaeya after all, so of course he isn’t. I don’t know why I was worried in the first place.” She pouted. “I mean, I thought, since the Captain - Ah, but… he’s not the Captain anymore, but you know what I mean - since he isn’t around to have Kaeya’s back, I thought, we’ve got to cover his back instead! Or something. So yeah, I’m with you too, Klee! I’ll protect our senior if anything ever happens to him!”

 

“Yeah, yeah, me too!” “Count me in, sistah!” Lawrence and Swan exclaimed. 

 

Kaeya frowned and raised his hand. “Um, thanks for the help, but I’m not exactly?? Defenceless? …Hey now. What’s with those looks, everyone.”

 

“......Anyway,” Jean said kindly, “I’ll do my best to dispel those rumours. Even if it were true, Kaeya told me before that his birth father has been seen for years… long enough that he has nothing to do with Kaeya now. Kaeya has a new family now.” Jean paused, and winced apologetically. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it in that way… I meant that you have us.”

 

Okay, ouch, that reminder stung a bit, but Kaeya wasn’t going to be a baby about Diluc. So he gave Jean a smile. “Aww, I’m touched. And seriously, don’t worry about-” the name tasted like ash, “-Diluc and I. He’ll come around.”

 

That was a lie. Kaeya didn’t know if Diluc would forgive him this time, if ever.

 

Jean continued. “I must admit, I panicked a little when I didn’t see you or Diluc at the train platform yesterday… I thought you two had quit to run the Ragnvindr household.”

 

“Wait, what?” Kaeya interrupted. “Diluc didn’t take the train back to Hogwarts yesterday?”

 

Jean gave him a puzzled look. “No... I thought it was because you two didn’t want to stay at your house over the rest of the holidays and came back to school early. After what happened, I can see why. Didn’t you two return to school together? Look, he’s over there.”

 

They looked over to where Jean pointed. At the very other end of Gryffindor’s long table, Diluc sat there, eating with other students from his year. Not in his usual seat over here, with Kaeya and Jean.

 

What the- Kaeya scowled. Kaeya’s been in Hogwarts all week. The fact that he’s never seen Diluc around can only mean one thing - Diluc had been avoiding him.

 

“In fact, I was surprised you two weren’t sitting together for breakfast. I had guessed... that something had happened over the holidays.” Jean frowned. “I don’t know what happened between the two of you, but… you know how Diluc is. He… loves very fiercely. The loss of his father must have hurt him deeply. He needs someone by his side, especially now. He needs you.”

 

The loss of his father. Jean’s words echoed in his mind. Kaeya could tell her that Crepus was his father too. Kaeya could say that Diluc had hurt Kaeya when he had needed Diluc the most. And that in fact, Kaeya was the last person Diluc needed right now. 

 

Instead, he said, “He just wants some time alone. I read it in a psychology book. It’s a puberty thing, to seek independence by distancing yourself from your family. Especially since he’s lost his old man, y’know?”

 

“Sai-call-luh-gee?” Jean repeated, confused. “Is that the name of a famous wizard?”

 

Kaeya stifled a sigh. Sometimes it kinda sucked that wizards were allergic to non-wizards. In fact, he had taken it on himself to slowly introduce Diluc to technology, in the hopes that Diluc could start a trend in Hogwarts. It had started with small things like ballpoint pens and staplers, and then recently, he’d gotten Diluc an MP3 recorder and a set of earphones for his birthday… though it’s probably been thrown into the trash by now.

 

“It’s a field of study non-wizards invented. They write papers about the mind and stuff.” Kaeya explained. “It teaches you to tell when someone is lying, or why they’re acting in certain ways. In some cases, psychology can become even more powerful than Legilimency.” 

 

“A non-magic theory, being stronger than magic? That’s hard to imagine.” Swan said. “You’re always so strange, Kaeya, with these Muggle ideas of yours. I’m not saying that it’s wrong, but it attracts the wrong kind of attention. Adding on to the fact that you’re from Khaenri’ah…”

 

“Hey. He’s lived in Mondstadt for four years, coming five now.” Lawrence elbowed him. 

 

“I know that!” Swan argued. “I was just pointing it out. Look, if anyone were to insult Kaeya just because of where he was born, I’d be the first one to correct them. He’s got guts and bravery. Heck, he faced down a basilisk of all things, and even killed it to boot!”

 

“Actually,” Kaeya piped up. “That was all Diluc. I couldn’t do much because I broke my leg when I accidentally fell into the Chamber of Secrets. If it weren’t for Diluc chopping off its head with the Sword of Gryffindor, I’m pretty sure I would have died back then.” 

 

“Hmm…” Amber said suspiciously. “That doesn’t sound right. You wouldn’t die so easily. It would sound more believable if you said you tricked it into biting its own tail and choking to death.” 

 

Lawrence, Swan and even Jean nodded.

 

Kaeya laughed. “You overestimate my abilities.”

 

His friends all gave him the same look of doubt again, which made him laugh even harder. Hey now, weren’t they contradicting what they were thinking earlier? 

 

Just as Kaeya opened his mouth to say something, but the Great Bell tolled once, signalling ten minutes to the end of breakfast.

 

“Oh! I have to speak to Diluc.” Kaeya pushed away his plate and gathered his stuff. He ruffled Klee’s hair, since she was still eating her pancakes. “See ya, Klee.”

 

Klee leaned into his touch, smiling brightly. “Bye, Big Bro Kaeya! Oh, take this for good luck!” She shoved a pouch marked with a clover insignia into his hands. “Don’t worry, I have lots of Exploding Powder, I can spare some!” 

 

“Uh, thanks.” Kaeya said. He took the pouch from her and carefully, as if the pouch carried explosives - which it did - placed it into his bag.

 

Jean nodded warmly. “Good luck.” She then turned to Klee, who squeaked in fright. “Klee. What did I say about bringing Exploding Powder to the breakfast hall…”

 

Saying a silent prayer to Klee, Kaeya grabbed his bag and escaped. He hurried down the table, his eye fixed on Diluc. He had his speech all rehearsed and ready to be delivered. He’d approach Diluc, ask to speak with him alone, and if Diluc refused he’ll just apologise to him right there and then-

 

He grabbed his bag and hurried down the table, his eye fixed on Diluc. He had his speech rehearsed out. He’d approach Diluc, ask to speak with him alone, and if Diluc refused he’ll just apologise to him right there and then-

 

An explosion rang out in the Great Hall, followed by startled shrieks and yells from students. Kaeya halted in his steps, staring dumbfoundedly at the huge plume of scarlet smoke in the distance. The explosion didn’t happen behind him, where Klee was, but ahead of him.

 

Then, it started.

 

“I REFUSE TO HIDE THESE BURNING FEELINGS IN MY HEART ANY LONGER!! OHHH… MY ETERNAL SUN, MY SWEETHEART, MY LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS… THIS IS MY LOVE POURED OUT IN A LETTER FOR YOUUUUUU~~”

 

Ah… Kaeya winced. All across the Great Hall, he could see hundreds of students groaning and taking out their wands. Kaeya himself took out a pair of earplugs and plugged them in. 

 

“-IN A BOAT BY THE SEA, I SIT THERE AND SIGH, THREADING FLOWERS THROUGH HAIR, WATCHING BIRDS TAKE TO FLIGHT-“

 

Kaeya groaned as he ran towards the screaming Howler. Oh gods, this one was a love poem.

 

“-RUBY RED EYES, AND PORCELAIN SKIN, BUT WHAT I LOVE MOST, IS YOUR BRIGHT SUNNY GRIN-”

 

He imagined Jean putting a palm to her face. Amber would groan at the sappiness of it, and Lawrence and Swan would snicker and recite its contents in the common room later.

 

“-TUCKED HAIR BEHIND YOUR EAR, EXTREMELY SEXY BY THE DOZEN, DILUC I LOVE YOU, SO PLEASE BE MY HUSBAND-“

 

Kaeya rolled his eyes. It was already the first day after the holidays, and Diluc was back to receiving Howlers. 

 

It used to be worse - Kaeya didn’t know if Diluc’s admirers were actually seriously bonkers in the head or just plain memeing, but there was a period of time when Diluc would be lucky to only receive one Howler every day. Everyone had endured it for a while, until one day Kaeya had snapped and, in the middle of the most recent Howler’s serenade, grabbed the flaming envelope with his bare hands and pitched it out of the nearest window. The practice continued until the professors got enough complaints (and personally quite fed up with the things disturbing their meals), and banned Howlers on any day but Monday - explosions in the Owlery be damned. Secretly, though, Kaeya was saddened by the loss of an outlet for venting his frustrations.

 

So if he disposed of this Howler, he could achieve two things at once: One, practise healthy destruction therapy, and Two, get into Diluc’s good graces and make Diluc more likely to forgive him. Hopefully. Cross his heart and hope the Dark Lord dies.

 

…Is what Kaeya thought, and then Diluc pulled out his wand with an annoyed look and muttered something under his breath, and the Howler burst into dark flames and subsequently disintegrated into ashes.

 

Uh, esteemed brother? Kaeya doesn’t know much about magic, but he’s pretty sure those black flames are a sign of a dark art? Normally Howlers can’t be destroyed by magic, you know?

 

Contrary to Kaeya’s thoughts, murmurs of awe rippled through the Great Hall at Diluc’s feat. 

 

Oh. Yeah, Diluc was kind of the poster boy for Hogwarts, so he could get away with pretty much anything. 

 

Countless people swarmed over to Diluc, mostly Gryffindors saying stuff like, “Yo, that was SICK, bro!” or Slytherins trying to recruit him, “Dude, your talent is SO wasted in Gryffindor”, or Ravenclaws just plain demanding, “Teach me that spell. Now!”. Point was, everyone was crowding around him so much that Kaeya didn’t have space to approach Diluc. And believe him, he tried. He’d squeezed his way in, taking advantage of his shorter stature (he was still growing, okay) to slip between gaps here and there, but then he was elbowed in the eye and jostled by another burly senior, and then five seconds later he was forcibly ejected from the mob, landing his ass flat on the floor.

 

“Okay then.” Kaeya muttered. “Time to get serious.”

 

He jabbed the side of the nearest person in front of him, and she squealed and collapsed. He pushed past her and did the same to the next person blocking his way, and the next, and the next. “Excuse me. Passing through. Ouch, that fall looked painful. You should go see Professor Pegg for that. Ugh. Your hand tastes like grease - when was the last time you bathed? Oh - hey, Diluc! Diluc, over here!” Kaeya pushed the last two students aside and reached out for Diluc’s back, oh dammit, why wasn’t Diluc facing this way? - when suddenly, he was yanked back by the collar and pulled back into the crowd with a yelp. 

 

Annoyed, Kaeya spun and met face-to-face with a fifth-year Gryffindor. One of Diluc’s friends, most likely. “What’s your problem?” Kaeya said hotly.

 

“Diluc has better things to do than to be associated with someone like you.” The Gryffindor growled. “Stay back, Hufflepuff.”

 

The Gryffindor put a hand to his torso and pushed him, and Kaeya stumbled back, bumping into students, who bumped back into him, until he was spat out of the crowd and landed his ass flat on the floor, again.

 

Kaeya rubbed his butt and scowled. He didn’t need the Gryffindor to tell him that. Diluc could have chosen anyone to be his friend in school, but of all people, he chose Kaeya. His short and bratty younger brother, pain in the neck to everyone to met, and cuckoo child of the Ragnvindr family.

 

The Great Bell tolled again. Breakfast had officially come to an end.

 

Kaeya sighed. He picked up his bag and walked away. 

 

It would be nice if he could make up with Diluc soon, he thought.