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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?”




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.




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. 




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




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.




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.


Chapter Text

Kaeya may have been crowned by an anonymous source a mighty Death Eater, ultimate bringer of chaos and the most evil wizard in all of wizardkind, but even that didn’t excuse him from attending classes. The first Charms lesson of the summer term, and the professor was already back to torturing them with new spells to learn.


On the bullshittery scale from Divination (as long as he said something cryptic about imminent doom and unhappiness the professor always accepted it) to Potions (oh, you forgot to stir the cauldron counterclockwise while chanting under the breath for three-quarters of half a second before adding in the butterfly scales dipped a second earlier in fresh rat’s liver blood? then perish), Charms was somewhat in the middle for Kaeya. Kaeya was never good at magical practice, but he could skip it for the most part in Charms, if only because half of the professor’s job was practically done by him. Granted, there were times where he felt a little envious watching his classmates move around objects with such ease. But sitting back and watching their spells backfire on them had their merits. 


Case in point: Godwin had just muffed the last syllable of his Repelling Charm, and the Knut he was trying to enchant had ended up whacking him in the eye and sticking to his forehead instead. 


Kaeya stifled his laughter as he sprayed his fellow Hufflepuff with a Dispel Potion. (Kaeya’s Dispel Potion: One of the rare potions that held surprisingly well in plastic containers. As for the ones that didn’t, well... it was best not to talk about it.)


“Try elongating the ‘reee’ at the end a bit more.” He suggested. 


Godwin nodded and waved his wand again. 


A sugar candy flew past him and he caught it on instinct. He held it out for his Charms partner - a sweet, quiet Ravenclaw girl - retrieve, and the candy went whizzing out of his hands back to her.


Kaeya wandered around the class, giving a few pointers to a group of Hufflepuff stragglers and trading incantation tips with some of the more genial Ravenclaw guys. He steered clear the big group of Ravenclaw girls, for good reason. 


Once he was sure no one else needed him, which was very quickly, since Kaeya was nothing but efficient, he slumped on his desk and let out a big sigh. 


Okay, he was bored. 


He tapped the desk with his fingernail. Maybe he should start on that letter he said he was going to write. Or think up another joke item to make with Hu Tao. Or take out his potions and…


Behind him, Hertha slammed her palm on her desk. 


Kaeya brightened up immediately. 


The Ravenclaw huffed. “Like I said, Vile, it doesn’t make sense to only be able to cast the spell if you have the pronunciation right. Why are incantations a mix of English and Latin etymology? Even the simplest of spells like Wingardium Leviosa prove a challenge for Japanese wizards, and it’s even worse for wizards with a speech disorder - for them, it’s either learn nonverbal spells or be ostracised for being unable to perform this incantation bullshit.”


Her friend shrugged. “I mean, that’s the way spells have always been. Even the best magical researchers don’t claim to know everything about magic. And the school teaches us nonverbal spells in our sixth year, so it’s not like there aren’t ways to circumvent the verbal hurdle.”


“But if you think about it, isn’t that a backwards way of doing things?” Hertha insisted. “Nonverbal spells derive their power from imagination and concentration, both of which are better cultivated at a young age. Children that grow up using verbal spells ultimately become too lazy and reliant, which makes the practice of nonverbal spells harder for them in the future. Unless…”


“Unless the Ministry of Magic did that on purpose.” Kaeya interrupted. 


Hertha and Vile turned to look at him. 


“On purpose?” Vile asked, intrigued.


He waved his spray bottle in a wide gesture. “Keep the countrywide learning syllabus basic, and you create a generation of wizards who are weak and easy to control. It’s easier to counter someone if you know what spell they’re going to use. Easier time throwing them into Azkaban, too.” 


Kaeya grinned. By the looks on their faces, he had his debate pals hooked. 


He leaned forward on his chair. “If you think about it, only students from rich and noble backgrounds have the privilege of getting early tutoring in nonverbal magic. That gives them an early head start on their less well-off peers, which translates to better grades and better job opportunities when they graduate. And like you know, most of them will end up drafted to the Ministry of Magic, where they’ll continue to enable our poor education system - thus perpetuating the miserable cycle of the rich controlling the poor.”


“But Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic are supposed to be separate entities. Self-governance and all that.” Hertha argued. “Education shouldn’t be political.”


Kaeya shrugged. “‘Shouldn’t’ is just an ideal. Like I said, countrywide learning syllabus. The Department of Magical Education decides what’s tested in the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. examinations, and by extension, what’s taught in Hogwarts. In fact, I’ve read up on all the latest research papers published by the most distinguished magical researchers today, and found the Ministry’s magical tests and texts to be extremely outdated. In fact, they haven’t changed the syllabus in five hundred years. Either magical research has stagnated, or the Ministry is deliberately withholding magic from us.” 


“Treacherous words,” Vile said. “One might even accuse you of standing against the Ministry.” She shot Kaeya an intense look.


Kaeya matched it with his own. “And what if I am?” He challenged. “We’re the next generation. Old methods and traditional ways of thinking shouldn’t apply to us. We should forge our own way forward unblinded by the past.” 


Vile stared him down for a few more seconds, before relaxing and grinning. “I like how you think. Then tell me: How would you change what the Ministry and Hogwarts is doing?”


Kaeya grinned back. “I’m glad you asked. For starters-”


“T-That’s treason!” 


A Ravenclaw girl barged in. Ignoring her friend trying to pull her back, she pointed her finger at Kaeya. “The Ministry of Magic is the highest magic authority in the world. Show some respect!” 


Kaeya rolled his eye and turned away. 


The girl was what Kaeya would call moderately pretty, with primly curled hair, freckles and a permanent scowl on her face. She came from a very well-off family and was the boss of a big group of Ravenclaw girls, which said volumes about her ability despite her horrible personality. Does Kaeya knowing all of this mean he’s familiar with her? No. He only knew her simply because she existed to make his life hell. 


Even Vile and Hertha looked annoyed at being interrupted by her. “Yeah, leave us alone. We were having such a good debate, too.” Hertha said.


(In his head, Kaeya liked to think she was called Sourplum. Or Sourprune? It depended on his mood and time of the day.) Sourprune’s face turned crimson. “Excuse me?” She spluttered.


“We weren’t talking to you.” Kaeya said flatly. “And even if I was, I’d still say the same thing. Everyone knows the Ministry of Magic has so many holes in their laws you could use an entire army of trolls to plug it and still have room for a fleet of dragons.” He smirked and spread his arms. “Why, just at the beginning of the year, they let a serial killer go scot-free just because she claimed she was under the Imperius curse! Were there any investigations done? Any of her memories checked and double-checked for Memory Charm-tampering? Nah, because they were sooo sure that she was innocent. And you guys let these clowns rule your country?”


Sourprune sniffed contemptuously. “You wouldn’t understand. Of course you would sympathise with the criminals, as heretical Khaenri’ahn filth yourself.” 


“Why, you-“ Vile started to get out of her seat, but stopped at Kaeya’s command when he raised his hand. Hertha also had her wand drawn, glaring at Sourprune and waiting for Kaeya’s signal to pounce on her. (Meanwhile, his Charms partner was looking like she’d rather not exist at the moment.)


Honestly, her insults were becoming so predictable it was almost boring. But it was comforting, knowing that he had people on his side. Some of the students had gathered over in interest, but most of them had backed away in annoyance, used to the sight of him and Sourprune in a dispute.


Kaeya put down his spray bottle and put a hand on his short sword’s handle. His eye flicked to the other end of the classroom, where the Charms professor was trying to unstick a Hufflepuff from the wall. The crowd was blocking them from the professor’s sight too, so it would be a while before the professor came to stop them.


He grinned. Perfect.


“What,” he taunted, “Did that strike a nerve? Trying to defend your dear old daddy stuck in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?” He tapped his chin. “Or maybe…” His grin widened. “Could it be that he was the one that let the murderer go scot free? I bet he set her loose immediately after the trial - right back into the throngs of society like a wolf let loose in a herd of sheep. She’d hide herself, waiting, watching for the perfect timing so she can strike once more, and because of your daddy, many more people will soon-“


“You...!” Sourprune brandished her wand. At the same time, Kaeya drew his sword and lunged.




The sudden cry startled them. Kaeya jerked back instinctively. The tip of his blade slightly brushed the throat of the girl who stood in between the two of them, light as a feather’s touch. 


It was Sourprune’s friend, the one who was tugging on her sleeve in vain before. The girl held out her arms, blocking the two combatants from getting each other.


“Out of the way, Bright!” Sourprune snarled. “He insulted my father. He has to pay!”


Bright didn’t budge. “Then submit an official request for a duel.” She retorted. “Don’t get other people caught in the crossfire.” Her voice lowered threateningly. “Or would you like me to dock points from your house?”


Sourprune glared at Bright for a few moments longer, before clicking her tongue and stowing away her wand. 


“This isn’t over.” She said ominously to Kaeya, before turning around and striding away, robes whipping angrily in her wake.


“Actually, it’s Kaeya Alberich now.” Kaeya called after her. “Alberich! Make sure you get it right next time, Sourprune!” 


“It’s Sourplume!!!” He heard her screech. 


Kaeya grinned. He’d take that as a win.


Bright turned back to Kaeya and put her hands together in apology. “Sorry about that. Beatriss is just having a bad day.” 


Beatriss…? Oh, she meant Sourprune. Kaeya almost laughed in incredulity. “She must have been having a bad day every day, then. She’s been harassing me ever since the start of the year.”


Bright seemed unhappy at that. It was a nice sentiment. “I’ll have a talk with her about it. I’m Mellifluous Bright, by the way.” She stretched out her hand. “Just call me Melly.”


Kaeya shook it, pleasantly surprised to have at yet another person who wasn’t averse to touching him. “Kaeya Alberich. Pleased to meet you.”


Bright turned around and clapped her hands. “Okay guys, show’s over! Get back to your seats!” The crowd dispersed in an instant. 


Kaeya watched her closely. Bright had a pretty face, framed with a stylistic blond bob that made her look like a fashion doll. He had noticed her when she had entered the class today, for obvious reasons. As a new face, not to mention a Gryffindor, she looked out of place in the midst of the yellow and blues of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw class. Being friends with Gryffindors for most of his time in school meant he knew her too - she was very popular in her house and even across all years. 


But what intrigued Kaeya the most, was the Prefect badge pinned to her lapel. 


Prefect assignments only happened in their fifth year. For them, that was next year - or at least it should have been for her. Kaeya had never heard of a precedent where a fourth year was chosen as a Prefect, let alone assigned in the middle of a year. What was Professor Varka thinking?


He leaned forward in interest. “It’s unusual for a Gryffindor to be here. Did you transfer over from the other Charms class?”


She nodded. “My Study of Ancient Runes changed its schedule, so I had to switch around my timings.” She giggled. “But it looks like no matter which class I take, Professor Goth is still a huge sadist.”


“Always torturing us with more homework.” He sighed dramatically. Now that the fuss was over he didn’t need his sword, so he slid it back into its sheath. 


Melly watched him curiously. “Is that… real?” 


Kaeya snickered. “Of course not. Just some wood painted silver, and magicked to deflect a general assortment of jinxes. Much more useful than my wand, I’d say.” 


The sword was a birthday present from Diluc. Hopefully this will save you a good number of bruises and broken bones, Diluc had said, and shoved it into his hands, after years of berating Kaeya for getting into fights he couldn’t win. He wondered if Diluc knew that he was never the one that started the fight.


“Ah, I’ve heard about that.” Melly said. “You’re quite famous across all the houses. Second in our whole year, despite being a Hufflepuff.” And also the reason why Kaeya didn’t get along with most Ravenclaws. Most of them hated him for being competition despite not being a Ravenclaw.


“That doesn’t say much when the first is a Gryffindor.” Kaeya said charmingly. “If I ever do meet her, I’ll be sure to give her my compliments.”


“Thank you.” Melly said, a note of tinkling laughter in her voice. “I do my best.”


She had warmed up to him. Good. Now was the time to ask her.


“Humour me,” Kaeya said, pointing to her Prefect badge. “What’s the story behind the badge?”


Melly touched her badge and smiled bashfully. “Oh, that? I’m not very sure of the circumstances, but apparently a Prefect position opened up suddenly, so the professors decided to give it to the next year’s Prefect candidate.”


“Wow, congrats!” Hertha clapped her hands. “I’m happy for you, Melly.” 


“That’s great news.” Vile said, smiling. “I can think of no one else better for the job.”


“Aw, you flatter me too much,” Melly said, patting her blushing cheeks. “The only reason why it was passed to me is because the professors were still undecided on the Prefect candidate for the fourth-year boys.” She scratched her cheek, slightly embarrassed at the attention. “Honestly, I thought they would have passed it to Jean, but the professors were worried some parents would complain of favouritism, what with her only being a third year. So I guess Gryffindors are stuck with me for a year early now.”


Kaeya laughed at that. Melly was like a female version of Diluc - nice, kind, and bright. She was even friends with people in other houses like Vile and Hertha. The complete opposite of Kaeya, really. 


Still, he couldn’t help but wonder what ‘special circumstances’ had led to a Prefect position opening up.


Kaeya opened his mouth to ask her...


...Just as the bell rang, signalling the end of class. 


Kaeya thought about it for a moment, before deciding to let it go. He could always ask Amber or Jean later. 


He smiled at Melly. “I guess this is goodbye then, for now. See you next week.”


Melly dipped her head politely. “Indeed. See you around, Alberich. Vile. Hertha.” 


She grabbed her bag and ran to catch up with Sourprune, talking to her in a hushed and distinctively stern tone as they left class together with a few of her followe- cough, uh, friends. 


For a moment, Kaeya felt pity for the Gryffindors. They had Diluc, Bright, and Jean in the future as their Prefects. Were they even living? 


Kaeya dropped his hand. He turned to Hertha and Vile and sighed. “Sorry about the commotion earlier.”


“Nah, it’s fine.” Vile glared at Sourprune as she left the classroom. “What a bitch. Does she have to do that every class?”


“Yeah.” Hertha said darkly. “I guess I know whose face I’m hexing later.” 


“Please don’t. It’ll only make everyone think I bewitched you into doing it.” Kaeya said placatingly. He looked at his Charms partner. “Sorry, Sucrose.”


Sucrose jumped, not expecting to be spoken to. “I-It’s fine!” She squeaked, and grabbed her things and scampered out of class. 


Kaeya watched her go with an amused look. Sucrose was a strange one. She was scared of him, but not in a bad way. It seemed she was just wary of people in general. 


Kaeya grabbed his textbooks and bag. “I’ll be going off, then. See ya next week.”


““Bye.”” Hertha and Vile chorused. They went back to their earlier heated discussion about spell linguistics. 

Kaeya walked out of the classroom, whistling merrily. 


He wished he had people like Hertha and Vile in his house. The Hufflepuffs were nice, and he liked them as much as they liked him. But outside of his tutoring sessions most of them steered clear of him because their parents told them to. (Again, his ancestors kinda sucked ass.)


Contrary to expectation, bickering with Sourprune had proved to be a nice distraction. It felt good to finally unleash his pent-up rage on someone ever since… Diluc.


(“You’re sick,” Diluc had hissed. “A twisted bastard that’s empty inside.”)


He knew Diluc didn’t actually mean it at that time. Diluc was just… angry. Surely. He clutched his bag tighter and quickened his steps. 


He was heading towards an isolated area of the school. There was nothing of interest there; just a corridor lining a few abandoned classrooms (a popular spot for couples, for obvious reasons) which opened up into a wide room which Kaeya thinks used to be a duelling arena, which exit led to a small staircase down to a wide corridor with a winding spiral staircase at the end.


The important thing to note was that there was a hidden passageway at the end of the corridor. It served as a useful shortcut when he wanted to go anywhere, including his Transfiguration class at the other end of the school. Yeah, fuck Transfiguration, man. 


Kaeya turned around a corner and subsequently almost impaled himself on a giant sword. 


He yelped and spun away, almost tripping on his feet. What the… He stared at the two suits of armour placed on each side of the entrance to the old duelling arena.


The armoured knights were big, taller than a fully-grown adult. Their armour was well-polished, and their swords looked just deadly as the Sword of Gryffindor itself. (From personal experience. He would know. He’s personally held it before.)


He recognised them from the third-floor Armoury, too. Someone must have carried them all the way up to the sixth floor and dumped them in the duelling arena… for what? Target practice? Or a prank? 


Was it Venti? Hu Tao? Someone who hated cleaning those dastardly things in the Armoury for two weeks as punishment (also from personal experience)? 


Kaeya snickered and made a note to somehow lure Amber here. Amber and Eula. Those two had the best reactions to his pranks…




Kaeya yelped in surprise as a force yanked at his ankle and sent him skyborne. His bookbag hit the floor and burst open, spilling its contents onto the floor. Potion bottles and inkwell pots broke with tinkling sounds, and their contents leaked all over the floor and seeped into the pages of his books. 


“AAAAA!! MY POTIONS!!!” Kaeya screeched. 


He struggled in midair to reach his broken inventions, before realising the futility of it, and hung his head in defeat. 


He glared at the culprit and snarled, “What the hell do you want, Sourprune?”


The culprit was, obviously, Sourprune. She was flanked by two of her most loyal followers. Melly was nowhere to be seen - she must have left shortly after talking to them. Kaeya silently kicked himself for not noticing he was being followed.


“Not so confident now that you can’t hide behind the Ragnvindr name, can you?” She sneered.


“And you’re so confident now that you can bully someone who doesn’t have the Ragnvindr name.” Kaeya retorted. “Go out and touch some grass, Sourprune. Or cry to your daddy about how mean the Khaenri’ahn kid was to you today. I’m sure he’ll be willing to drag me to trial. Not that he can actually sentence me to Azkaban, because he’s just that incompetent.”


“It’s Sourplume.” She snapped. “And you’re going to regret insulting my father.”


Kaeya opened his mouth to reply, but an invisible blow hit him in the stomach. He wheezed in pain, coughing he struggled to breathe. Sourprune flicked her wand again, and this time the force gripped him by the throat, tight enough that he had trouble breathing, but not tight enough to strangle.


“Wow,” he gasped. “Hitting someone who can’t hit back. Your parents must have been exemplary teachers to you. At least have the guts to hit me with your own two hands, coward.”


Sourprune’s eyes flared with rage, and she pointed her wand at him. “Scourgify Maxima.”  


At the first taste of liquid alkaline, Kaeya - he hated to say this, but Kaeya squeaked. His eye widened in horror, and his hands flew to his throat, gagging as soap poured into his mouth. 


She’d- Sourprune had fucking- 


He inhaled on reflex, which was a bad idea because the soap hit the back of his throat and went down his windpipe, and he choked on the toxic liquid, swallowing some of it and shit, now everything burned.


Fire. Kaeya was burning. His arms were burning. Tears were falling down from the sky and drenching his clothes and his life was being squeezed out of him-


No. This isn’t the past. This isn’t him. 


He couldn’t- fuck- he couldn’t breathe-


Stay calm.






Kaeya jabbed his windpipe with the back of his palm. He felt a wave of nausea overcome him, and he turned to the side and vomited onto the floor of the corridor. He hung there, shivering and gasping, as tears streamed down his face in an ugly mess. 


God, that was disgusting.


“Much better for a rat like you. Isn’t that right?” Sourprune smirked. Her two goons grinned and nodded along. 


Kaeya gritted his teeth and imagined roasting Sourprune over a spitfire, ever so slowly.


“What’s wrong?” She taunted. “I left your arms and tongue free so you could unjinx yourself with your wand. Oh wait, but you can’t, can you?”


Kaeya’s heart twisted.


She walked closer and spat on his face. The spittle dripped down his cheek as she spoke her next words.


“After all, you’re just a dirty, good-for-nothing, useless, Squib.”

Kaeya flinched.


“You’re everything wrong about the magical community.” Sourprune continued. “An outlander, a heretic, and a Squib. Filth like you don’t belong here in Hogwarts.” 


Kaeya coughed weakly. If he were to speak now, he’d probably only manage a whisper at best.


“Fiddling with Muggle equipment and insinuating to everyone that they were better than us. Muggles! Better than us!” Her goons snickered in agreement. She sniffed. “I don’t even know what Diluc saw in you.”


Oh. She was just another one of Diluc’s obsessive gatekeeping fangirls. Now it all made sense. 


“Tagging after him like his faithful dog, when it’s obvious he’s too good for you. You’re tainting him with your weird ways, and perverting his actions with your fraternization… Your very presence corrupts his soul.”


……What the hell, lady? Kaeya shot her an ‘are you fucking serious’ look. 


Oblivious, Sourprune sighed and drummed her fingers on her arms. “What a pity. The bell’s about to go. Honestly, I’d like to play with you a bit longer, but I have class to attend.” 


She dug her hands into his scalp and yanked his hair forward, bringing his eyes to meet hers. “So, see you around, Squib. I wonder how long it will take for the news of your humiliation to make it around Hogwarts?”


Kaeya gave her his politest smile, and brought his head back and smashed it into her nose.


Sourprune shrieked and stumbled back. She tripped on her feet, and fell onto the floor on her bottom, squealing in pain. 


Kaeya grinned. She’d ripped out some of his hair in the process, but it was worth it, looking at her in that disheveled state - OH SHIT OH FUCK was that a flash of strawberry pink he saw HE NEEDED TO BLEACH HIS EYES RIGHT THIS INSTANT-


“Why, you…!” One of her goons shouted, and waved her wand and cried out a spell. He felt a forceful blow to his skull, and for a moment he saw stars, which was better than seeing strawberry pink panties, he supp- FUCKKKKKK. CURSE YOU, SOURPRUNE.


“Ignore him!” Sourprune snarled. She cupped her bleeding nose. “Let’s go before anyone finds us.”


For the second time that day, Kaeya watched as Sourprune stormed away, up the stairs to the duelling arena room, shooting him one final glare before disappearing behing the doors.


The sound of the door slamming shut echoed throughout the corridor.




Kaeya’s fucked.


Sourprune’s insult was not unfounded. His lack of magical prowess was common knowledge to everyone in Hogwarts. Everyone knew the only thing he could produce from his wand were sparks, and more sparks, and - could you believe it? - more sparks. His wand truly was nothing more than a glorified wooden stick, and in accordance had been left in his luggage in his dormitory to rot. 


And his sword, while a hundred times more useful than Wooden Stick Number One, was only able to cut through physical manifestations of spells, not applied ones. The only thing he had on hand to dispel curses were currently on the floor, forming toxic clouds with his more volatile potions or getting soaked up by his textbooks… Dammit, Sourprune, those potions were expensive to make!


Kaeya sighed. Hanging upside down was not good for his blood circulation. Even moving around made him dizzy with the effort, not to mention the huge blow his psyche and body took from having to ingest soap. Why oh why couldn’t Scourgify at least produce soap of the strawberries-and-cream soap variant? …On the second thought, that would be even worse.


Well, even if he could move… there really was nothing he could do. There was nothing he could do but wait for someone to come along and end his misery. Thankfully, Kaeya didn’t have a lot of pride left in him after his father died, otherwise he’d probably jump off the Astronomy Tower once word got around. 


Yes, truly, the only thing worse than his situation right now would be...




Kaeya froze. 


He turned around, in slow motion. 


Looked at the person standing below him, looking up at him irritatedly. 






Chapter Text

He thought he heard wrong.


“Excuse me?” Diluc said faintly.


“I know it must be hard for you,” Inspector Eroch said patiently. “But think of the greater good.”


“The greater good.” He repeated.


“You’re Diluc Ragnvindr. Pride of the Ragnvindr Clan and rising star of the wizarding world! Everyone knows you’re on the fast track to becoming an Auror in the Ministry of Magic - this will only help to further boost your standings in the eyes of the public. Tomorrow’s headlines will read, ‘Ministry of Magic and Future Star Recruit Slays Rogue Dragon, Saves Hundreds’!” 


“And what about my father?” Diluc demanded. His grip tightened on father’s wand. “The Ministry didn’t save that village of innocents. Neither did I. He did. My father saved lives that you were responsible for, and this is how you repay him?” 


But Eroch remained unfazed. “Oh, but he will be honoured - as a proud wizard who gave his life to hold off the dragon long enough for reinforcements to arrive.” 


“But you weren’t reinforcements.” Diluc sneered. “You were too late.”


“Well, if the public knew that the one who slew the mighty Ursa wasn’t the Ministry but a mere wandmaker, it would cripple the Ministry’s standings in the eyes of the public, wouldn’t it?” 


“A mere wandmaker?” Diluc growled. “My father looked up to you all. He believed in you. Supported you. He trusted that the Ministry would do right by the people they protected, but now you’re trampling over his faith like it was nothing!” 


Eroch tutted. “The dead has no use for feelings, Diluc. Neither does it have need for fame and glory.” 


Diluc recoiled. “You can’t be saying that for real.” 


Eroch’s tone was calm and measured - as if he was talking to a small child throwing a tantrum. “It was unfortunate that your father did not show the potential to be an Auror until he died. This is the best he can do for the Ministry. In fact, if it makes you feel better, this is something only he can do for the Ministry. The Minister for Magic has already agreed to it. We have the papers ready. All that’s left is my signature as Head Inspector on it.” 


Diluc felt himself grow cold. “You’re traitors. All of you. You’ll never get what you want! I won’t let you!” 


“It’s for the best, Diluc.” Varka said gently. He put a hand on Diluc’s shoulder. “If your father was alive, I’m sure he would have been proud to give the honours to you. If it’s for his son’s future career prospects and prestige.”


Diluc shook Varka’s hand off roughly. “‘Career prospects’? ‘Prestige’?” He laughed hysterically. “Is this how all adults think?”


“You’ll understand when you’re older, Diluc.” Varka - no, Headmaster Varka said. 


“With all respect, sir, I don’t think I ever will.” Diluc said coldly. 


Eroch sighed and shook his head. “That way of thinking is why you’re still a child.” 


“A child that knows better than you the difference between right and wrong.” Diluc snarled. “You come to me in the middle of my father’s funeral, present me with this - this ridiculous proposal of yours, intending to disrespect my father while the soil over his grave is still fresh, and you expect me to bow my head and go along with it? Shame on you, Eroch Jormungandr. Shame on you.” 


Eroch grinned. “Oh, but it’s not a proposal, Master Ragnvindr. It’s already been approved.” 


“Then leave.” Diluc said. He pointed at the exit. “And know that from now on, the Ragnvindr clan refuses to be a part of anything the Ministry does.” 


Eroch didn’t look shocked. Instead, he looked even happier. “Keep saying that to yourself, young Diluc. You won’t be able to keep that stance for long. Everything points to the Ministry. One way or another, eventually, you’ll find yourself at our doorstep. And when that time comes, I hope you’ll make the right choice. Farewell… for now.” 


He put a hand to his hat and bowed. Then he took a step back, and with the sound of a crack, Apparated away. 


Diluc’s mouth twisted in disgust. Eroch had vanished without so much as a nod towards his father’s grave. 


He turned away and flung a fireball into the distance, screaming. The ball of fire landed on a piece of grass and sat there, slowly burning itself out. 


He felt Varka’s eyes on him. Silent. Reproaching. He patted Diluc’s shoulder, laid a flower on his father’s grave, and left. 


Diluc stood there alone, in front of his father’s grave. His frame was trembling, feet unsteady as he walked forward, and fell to his feet at his father’s gravestone. 


The burial was long over. The crowd had slowly petered out while he was talking to Varka and Eroch, and his aunts and uncles and cousins were probably back in the mansion, gorging themselves on the guest banquet and pilfering the silverware. Maybe Zernias and Elzer were trying to chase them out, while Adelinde bade them goodbye with a knife behind her back. He didn’t know. And he didn’t care. 


The Ministry had betrayed them. The Ragnvindr branch families would soon follow, once they smelled weakness in him. And he still had his younger brother to take care of. 


“I don’t know what to do, Father.” He whispered. 


The remnants of the Death Curse still lingered on his lips, foul and astringent. If he cut out his tongue, would it absolve him from the sin it had committed? 


“I swear I’ll avenge you,” he begged, “So please - tell me what to do.”


The gravestone said nothing. 


A hot tear slid down his cheek. Then another, and another. And then the skies must have heard him and decided to share in his misery, because it started to rain. 


Diluc Ragnvindr sat there on his knees, watching as the rain battered the flower offerings over the place where his father was buried. The rain carried a scent of frost, crisp and fresh, but with it, also came the memories. 


Blood splattered onto his face. Torn limbs dangled from the dragon’s jaw. A crunch, a demonic scream of pain, and then it was gone. 


Diluc clutched his father’s hand, watching his fingertips flake and crumble into dust. So this was the price for using such a powerful and ancient relic. Was it contagious? Would the darkness consume him too, if he continued to hold his father’s hand?


But what terrified him the most was his father’s voice, weak and trembling, like a bird with broken wings.


Diluc, where are you, Diluc, son, please, I- I need you to-




He jolted out of his trance. Someone was approaching. 


He wiped his tears hurriedly, even though no one would be able to see it in the rain. The head of the Ragnvindr family wasn’t allowed to show any weakness. Practised a few smiles, with his father’s headstone as witness. Fuck, he felt so hollow inside.


“Diluc,” Kaeya said. 


Diluc turned around. 


Kaeya’s clothes were rumpled and torn. His eyepatch was plastered crookedly to his forehead, and his hair was thoroughly drenched by the rain. He had run all the way here without his umbrella.


He stood there in the rain, letting the rain soak into his clothes as he stared at Diluc with a wretched look on his face. The sound of his ragged breathing filled the space between them, barely heard over the rain. 


Then his gaze slid over Diluc to their father’s grave behind him, and Diluc’s breath hitched. 


And he had wondered why Kaeya was taking such a long time to return. The loss of a father had scarred his brother deeply. The loss of a second, by Diluc’s hand no less… 


He shook those thoughts aside. Kaeya was the only family he had left. If he even thought about Kaeya hating him… he was sure to break.


He took a deep breath, and he stood up. 


“What, did you get into a fight with our cousins again?” He said with a smile. “You know you’re above that.”


At that time, Diluc had mistaken the expression on Kaeya’s face for grief. And then, he had felt relief. Relief that their grief was something they, as brothers, shared between them. 


If Kaeya was here, he had thought, they could figure something out. They could make something out of their family that the world had broken into pieces. If Kaeya was willing to be his reason for living, then Diluc would gladly burn down the world for him. 


After all, there was nothing the two of them couldn’t accomplish together.


And so, Diluc said to him, “Kaeya, I have something I want to ask you.”


But then Kaeya’s gaze focused in on Diluc, a cold flame burning in his eye, and Diluc knew that something was wrong. 


“What a coincidence.” Kaeya said sadly. “So do I.”



This was the most humiliating day of his life.


It was true that the Ragnvindr name had helped to shield Kaeya from the worst of the discrimination he had faced in Hogwarts. Even the pureblood elitist kids whose families belonged to the upper echelons of the wizarding society didn’t dare to do anything more than throw insults and jabs behind Diluc’s back. Now that pretty much everyone knew he was disowned by the family, Kaeya had prepared for this inevitability. 


What he didn’t prepare for, was Diluc seeing him like this. Hanging in the air with his shirt all hiked up, vomit on the floor and his stuff strewn on the ground in ruins all around him. 


Flustered, Kaeya tugged down his shirt. Normally he would be shameless about exposing skin, but there was something about letting Diluc see him this vulnerable, especially after the fight they had a week ago, that made him uncomfortable. The portraits tittering on the corridor walls didn’t exactly help either. 


He gave an awkward wave. “Hey.”


Diluc crossed his arms. “Kaeya. What are you doing?” 


“Oh, just wondering what it felt like to be a piñata. What the hell does it look like I’m doing?” He snapped. 


“Who knows. You’re probably up to one of your tricks again.” Diluc looked on coldly. 


Kaeya’s heart dropped into his stomach. That’s right. Diluc… didn’t love him any more. 


He laughed dryly. “You’re right. The school has a lake of monsters, a giant hedge maze, and a castle with moving staircases and never-ending corridors. Certainly, I’ve tested out many of the castle’s gimmicks and used them to prank others later. Of course you would think this is just another one of those occasions.” 


Diluc scoffed. “That’s right. Don’t you think it’s time to stop these childish actions of yours?” 


Kaeya shot him a look of disbelief. “‘Childish’? Diluc, I’m only fifteen. You’re sixteen.” 


“Exactly.” Diluc said. “Now are you going to get down from there?”


He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure, just give me a minute. Or two. Or three. Might as well give me forever, because it’s so comfy up here I might even fall asleep. I can get down on my own just fine.” 


Diluc just stood there and raised an eyebrow. 


Kaeya sighed. “Okay, I lied. Someone jinxed me up here and now I can’t get down. Happy now?”


“Wow. I wonder why anyone would do such a thing.” 


“And people think you don’t know the meaning of sarcasm. You’ve made your point. Now leave me alone so I can wallow in my deserved misery.” Kaeya turned away and flapped his hands. “Now shoo.” 


“Or, you could ask me nicely to help you down.” Diluc pointed out dryly.


Kaeya whipped his head to look at him. Was Diluc doing this on purpose? “Why would you?” He said incredulously. “We’re not related. We’re not friends. We’re not from the same year and we’re not even in the same House. In case you haven’t noticed, we have no connection to each other.” 


Diluc widened his eyes. Conversely, Kaeya frowned. Why was he angry at that? He had no right to be surprised. 


He quickly recovered, though, and said stiffly, “Well... that’s... true. But that doesn’t mean I’d stand by and do nothing. Now close your eyes and shut your mouth.” He took out his wand.


Kaeya paled. “Wait, hold-“






Before Kaeya had time to react, Diluc waved his wand. 


With the spell gone, Kaeya plummeted to the ground, limbs flailing. Oh come on, Diluc! Cursing Diluc in his mind, he shielded his head and braced for impact. 


But instead of hitting the ground, he landed on something soft and… warm?


And when he opened his eye, this time he saw Diluc staring down at him.


Diluc was carrying him. 


Oh gods, Diluc was carrying him.


Suddenly, he felt hyperaware of everything. The sweat clinging to the back of his shirt, where Diluc’s arm was pressing into it. Diluc’s piercing gaze. His cherry red lips, pinched together in concentration as he held Kaeya aloft in bridal style.


“Are you okay?” Diluc murmured. 


Kaeya felt his breath graze his cheek and flushed, feeling slightly giddy under the attention. 

Since we’re at this point, we might as well get this out of the way: Kaeya has the biggest, fattest, crush ever in the existence of mankind on his ex-brother. 


It started with the scandalous thoughts of what it would feel like to have his brother’s lips on his skin. Then it led to frequent fantasies of what his brother would look like unclothed, which carried on to certain lewd dreams at night which made him unable to ever share a bed with his brother ever again. 


He’d hid it all from Diluc, of course. Nothing would ever bloom from being attracted to someone who would never think of him as more than a younger sibling - or even less, now that Diluc had cast him out of his life. Kaeya’s love was doomed from the very start. 


And Diluc must never know. 


“I have spit and vomit on my robes.” Kaeya blurted out. “Also, that’s pretty gay.” 


Diluc let him drop.


Kaeya smashed butt-first onto the floor. “Ow,” he said, rubbing his butt. 


Diluc scowled. “It’s your fault for saying such weird things.”


“But that’s part of my charm!” Kaeya exclaimed reflexively. 


Then, in a quieter voice: “Um… Sorry. That you had to save me like that.” 


Diluc probably hated touching him. He probably hated seeing Kaeya breathe.  


Diluc scoffed. “You, need saving? I know if you really wanted to, you could find whoever jinxed you and take care of them. Permanently.”


“Yeah, and historically, when has killing someone ever solved my problems?” Kaeya snapped. “The basilisk doesn’t count, by the way. That thing deserved to die after it tried to target my cute juniors.” 


So, your father deserved to die too? 


Kaeya froze. 


Poor Crepus must be rolling in his grave, looking at his two sons right now. Both of them-


“Sorry.” He said hurriedly. “I… didn’t mean to say that. Forget what I said.” 


Diluc himself looked as if he had tasted something bitter. He turned away with a ‘hmph’. “So. Who did this to you?”


Kaeya blinked. Was Diluc…? No, that was preposterous. 


“Who knows?” He said glibly. “Could it possibly be, that it was done by a bunch of people who, perhaps, just perhaps, hate me?”


Now Diluc looked like he wanted to punch him. “Stop deflecting. I asked for a name, Kaeya.”


“Hey, cut me some slack. I barely escaped with my life as it is!” He said in a piteous voice. “By the way, do you happen to have any water on you? My throat is pa-AARGH!” 


He got up with a yelp and scrambled to his belongings. His hands hovered over the mess for a few moments, before he let out a groan. 


His textbooks were all soggy and warped beyond comprehension. Most of his potions were kept in glass bottles, and had broken when he had dropped his bag. Even his plastic bottles didn’t make it out untouched - they didn’t break, but they did melt, in the puddle of whatever concoction was produced from his potions mixing together. His ballpoint pens were… Yeah, he didn’t dare touch whatever the hell was that amalgamation of melted plastic and magical concoction. A small blessing was that they only looked half-melted, which meant hopefully his potions inside were intact. 


In fact, the only thing that had survived the catastrophe and come out unscathed was... the pouch of Exploding Powder Klee had given him during breakfast? 


Kaeya picked it up and frowned. It felt dry and clean to the touch. What the heck did Klee spell her stuff with? He shuddered and put the pouch in his pocket, intending to lock it away in his Extremely-Shielded Safety Deposit Trunk. 


Klee’s Exploding Powder aside, he was screwed. He’ll have to borrow a copy of all his textbooks from a senior because he didn’t have enough money to buy new ones. Most of his potions were done as part of his hobby, so they didn’t need to be replaced immediately, but one bottle alone took a month and a full moon to brew. Not to mention the expensive ingredients some of them used… Kaeya growled in frustration. 


“Curse you, Sourprune… May you sleep with a thousand frogs in your bed tonight…” He muttered and picked up a broken shard. 


He felt Diluc grab his wrist. “What are you doing?” Diluc demanded.


The heat of Diluc’s palm on the sliver of skin between his sleeve and his gloves made him feel slightly dizzy. Kaeya snatched away his wrist like he’d been burnt. “Uh, cleaning up? I’m not just going to leave my stuff here - that’s littering. And I have gloves on, so the glass can’t cut me.”


“You could just ask- Ugh, never mind.” Diluc broke off with an annoyed expression. “Move.”


He bent down and tapped his wand to the puddle. 


“Evanesco.” The liquid mess vanished. 


“Reparo.” Glass shards skittered together and reassembled like tiny puzzle pieces. Pages dried itself and reknitted together into complete books once again. Quills dried and fluffed themselves up again.


His plastic stuff, however, stayed half-melted. Synthetic material was resistant to magic, after all. In fact, anything too technological would start sparking and melting the moment he stepped into Hogwarts. He still has an iPhone-shaped burn on his ass from the time he stuck one in the back pocket of his jeans and forgot all about it until he stepped into Hogwarts. Diluc had never let him hear the end of it for a month. 


“Scourgify.” Kaeya flinched, but it was just Diluc tapping his robes with his wand. Spittle and soapy vomit on his sleeves disappeared without a trace. 


Diluc did the same to his own robes, and with that, the last traces of Sourprune’s work was gone. 


Kaeya clapped his hands exuberantly. “Ah, yes. Magic solves everything. How wonderful! As expected of Diluc Ragnvindr! How can I ever repay you? May I kiss your shoes? Carry your bag? Tie your shoelaces for you? Mister Prefect?”


“Just keep quiet.” Diluc grumbled. He stowed away his wand. “And I’m not a Prefect anymore. I turned in my badge yesterday.”




Kaeya shot to his feet. “You what?”  


“I said, I turned my badge in.” Diluc repeated. 


Kaeya discreetly pinched himself. Nothing changed, except that his cheek was now throbbing very painfully and Diluc was looking at him like he was an idiot.


“But-“ He waved his hands. “The large Prefect baths! The private study area! The fun of docking points from people you don’t like! Being a Prefect isn’t even that hard- why the heck did you go and do that for? And the professors allowed you to resign?” 


Diluc’s frown turned into an unhappy one. “It doesn’t matter. I told Headmaster Varka if he refused to take it back, I would throw it into the Great Lake.” 


“You would what- Then what about-“ Then it hit him. “Oh my god. That’s why Melly was suddenly appointed as a Prefect. And Amber said you weren’t the Captain anymore. You- Did you fucking quit the Quidditch team??!” 


“Yeah,” Diluc said simply.


What the fuck, Diluc? “Are you having trouble managing the family finances? I thought Zernias said he would manage the household and the family business as a proxy until you graduated.” 


“That wasn’t why I quit.” 


“Then why? A Prefect and Quidditch Captain that suddenly quit during their fifth year? That won’t look good on your record. You’re basically destroying your career prospects at the Ministry of Magic!” 


Diluc turned away. “I’m not going to become an Auror. I’ve given up on that. Besides, I’m not interested in working in a place that’s only interested in looking good for the public.” 


He said that so simply, as if that hadn’t been his dream - and their father’s dream - since he was a kid. 


Kaeya said desperately, “It’s not like you didn’t know the Ministry itself was corrupt. Join the Ministry, and change it from the inside. Wasn’t that what you said?” 


Diluc’s eyes narrowed. “I was wrong. The Ministry is full of old and cowardly fools. They’ve grown fat and complacent in their many years of ruling in peace, and now, they would do anything to keep their seats on their thrones. They’re beyond saving - nothing can be done to fix them now.” 


Nothing short of a total overhaul, Diluc’s expression said. There was clear murder in his eyes, blood red and swirling with unrestrained malice. 


Kaeya stared at Diluc. 


He said, after a moment, “What the hell happened to you?” 


“Me? You know damn well what happened to me,” Diluc snapped. “In fact, I’m the one who should be surprised. You haven’t changed a single bit.”


Kaeya went silent. 


He thought of hands on his neck, a grip tight enough to bruise, the breaking of porcelain, and a poisonous voice in his ear. 


(“Kaeya.” He hissed. “You are our-“) 


He gave Diluc a grin as sharp as cut glass. “Yup. That’s me. Heart so stone-cold, not even Death can faze me. But,” he pressed, “You’re different. You’re… you’re like the sun. You’re everything I’m not. A scowl on your face doesn’t suit you.”


Diluc looked at him and sighed. And the look that he gave Kaeya sent a chill down his spine. 


“Kaeya. Why do you think I worked so hard to be ‘me’? To be the Diluc Ragnvindr that everyone loves?”


Kaeya frowned. “What kind of question is that? You’re Diluc Ragnvindr. Of course it comes naturally for you.” Unlike me, he wanted to say.


Diluc gave a sad smile. “That’s what I made you think. That’s what I made everyone think. To fool the only person I ever wanted to fool. My father.” 


He looked off into the distance. “Every day, I put on a smile to greet everyone. Even if they’re the most disgusting scum of the earth, I have to act like a saint. I solve everyone’s problems for them, even the professors, because they know Diluc Ragnvindr doesn’t refuse people. They probably think that Diluc Ragnvindr laughs, cries, and gets angry for their sake.” 


“That’s… not true.” Kaeya said weakly. 


“Don’t lie to me. In truth, you thought so too, didn’t you? That ‘Diluc Ragnvindr is a perfect person.’” He gave a derisive laugh. “You’ve seen for yourself the flaws inside me, Kaeya. I thought you of all people would understand. That ‘a perfect person’ does not exist anywhere in this world.


“But I tried so hard to be one. No matter how painful it was, I endured, and endured, and endured until my throat was hoarse from practising spells and my tongue was bleeding from having to hold it in while smiling all day… All I did, I did to please that man. And now that he’s gone… What’s left for me? What do I have left?” 


He turned to Kaeya. “That’s what I wanted to ask you, on that rainy night. And you gave me your answer.” 


Kaeya… couldn’t say anything to that. How could he? 


Diluc closed his eyes. “I never thought that you could have been so cold-hearted. It scared me. And I thought to myself, if even the world can turn you into a monster, then it truly isn’t worth living in it.” 


So, Kaeya thought with a sinking feeling. It was his fault Diluc had become like this. As always, he’d managed to mess things up. 


He touched his upper arm gingerly, where the burn scars lay under his clothes. “I’m sorry.”


Diluc scoffed. “What are you sorry for?”




“If you don’t know, then don’t say it in the first place.”




“I just said…!” Diluc broke off and wrung a hand through his fringe. “Argh, never mind. When you’re done throwing your tantrum, come get your stuff from my dorm. How did you get into Hogwarts without any identification?” 


“What? I brought my wand with me, that should be enough.” Kaeya scowled. “Besides, it’s not like I was allowed to take my stuff with me when I left. It was a good thing I had my wand and wallet with me, otherwise I would have been screwed.” 


“When you ‘left’?” Diluc frowned. “That’s a funny way of saying you ran away.” 


“Ran away? Ran away?? ” Kaeya said incredulously. “You chased me out of the house!”


“And I was expecting you to come back, not throw a tantrum and run away to Hogwarts!” Diluc shot back. 




He saw Diluc’s eyes widen in shock. Kaeya was almost too angry to notice it, but when he did, he saw a look of genuine surprise on Diluc’s face.  


Wait. Genuine surprise?


“Diluc,” Kaeya said slowly, “You do know that I’m not a Ragnvindr, right?” 


“What are you talking about?” Diluc said, annoyed.


“I’m an Alberich.” 


His scowl deepened. “Ha ha. Very funny. Is that what you’re calling yourself these days?” 


“It’s my family name. I chose to reclaim it after I was struck out of the family register.” 


“What?” Diluc paused. His face slowly turned pale. “I never did that. Who told you that?” 


Ah, Kaeya thought. So that’s how it was.


“Zernias did.” Kaeya said. “The Ragnvindr family’s head butler.”


Zernias was Crepus’s cousin. He had helped out their father in the past, and their father had thanked him by granting him the position of the head butler in their household. He did his job faultlessly as the head butler. That wasn’t a problem. The problem was that he was part of the branch family of the Ragnvindrs, which meant he held a large amount of hostility towards Kaeya who was easily adopted into the main family. Call it an inferiority complex, or a vicious jealousy towards someone who was simply gifted a status he could never achieve from birth. Zernias was polite under the gaze of Crepus and Diluc, but behind their backs he’d hit Kaeya or punish him by making him hold buckets of water for hours or clean the family armory under the guise of ‘discipline’. 


So it wasn’t surprising to discover that Zernias had been the one manipulating the strings behind the scenes. Or rather, should he be thankful that it wasn’t Diluc? 


“So it was him.” Kaeya said. “I checked it myself when I returned to Hogwarts - I’m officially gone from the family register. Did you really not do that?”


“Of course not!” Diluc shouted. He clutched the front of his robes, his breath quickening. “No... Zernias...? He was the one who told me you ran away. And since Father died, the amount of paperwork piled up, so I gave him my seal and told him he could do as he saw fit…” His face turned dark. “So he lied. He lied to me!” 


“It looks like Zernias has been doing things behind your back.” Kaeya said blithely. “I know you and dear old dad liked him, and I held my tongue in respect of that, but now that I’m out of the Ragnvindr family I can tell you now, that for the record? I hate him. That guy is a dick.” 


“So he’s a traitor too.” Diluc growled. He turned around and strode towards the exit. “I’ll kill him.” 


“H-hey, wait up!” Kaeya hurriedly swept his stuff into his bag and slung it over his shoulder. He ran up the stairs after Diluc. “So… What are you going to do about him?” 


“What else?” Diluc demanded. “I’m going to drag him to Hogwarts and make him explain himself. And if he proves guilty, I’ll strip him of his titles and banish him. He will never step on Ragnvindr soil again.”


Kaeya felt a sick sort of satisfaction from that. What can he say? He’s always been twisted. “And his family?” 


“What about his family?” Diluc said angrily. “I’ll chase them out of the mansion. They can die in a ditch for all I care. I don’t want to give the bastard the chance of getting close to the household and causing further damage. Who knows how many people in the household he’s got on his side. Ugh… I need to do a thorough re-examination of all our servants. All of them could be traitors for all I know.” 


Traitor. There was that word again.


“And what will you do with if they are?” Kaeya asked warily.


Diluc showed a dark look on his face. “Then I’ll deal with them. Personally.”


Kaeya frowned. There it was, that look in his eyes again. Something about Diluc, even with his mood change, felt wrong. It felt as if he was being gripped by some kind of obsession. Something beyond just being jaded. Something… darker.


Just like his father. 


Was it the Elder Wand’s doing? He had seen Diluc use it this morning, unleashing dark arts to destroy a Howler, an enchanted object that’s supposed to be indestructible. It looked like Diluc was somewhat capable of using it, unlike Crepus, who had died from the backlash of using such a powerful relic of the dark arts without proper handling. But that didn’t deny the possibility that he was being controlled by the wand. 


After all, this was the same wand that was once used by the Dark Lord. 


Was it warping his emotions and leading him down the path of no return? Or was it Diluc who had lost himself in his anger and righteous  ideals of justice?


“Diluc.” Kaeya said urgently. “Diluc! I need you to show me the wand that your dear old dad left you.”


“What for?” Diluc snapped. “I have use for it. It’s not like you use yours anyway. And you’ve never let me touch yours, so why should I let you touch mine?” 


“Because it’s important! Can’t you trust-” he paused. Diluc had already shown that he didn’t trust Kaeya, so that was wrong. “Look, I’m your-“ he paused again. They weren’t anything anymore, he supposed, so that was wrong too. “Listen, I won’t do anything to it, so just let me- oof!” 


He crashed into Diluc, who had stopped suddenly. 


Kaeya rubbed his nose. “Hey, why did you stop in the middle of nowhere?” He looked past Diluc and froze.


Lying on the floor of the duelling arena, were the bodies of Sourprune and her two cronies. 


Chapter Text

Blood. So much blood. 


He’s had much experience with blood in the past few weeks. Blood on his hands, blood soaking his friend, and now blood all over the room and covering the bodies of Sourprune and her two lackeys. 


You see, Kaeya? A voice in his head whispered triumphantly. Death will follow you everywhere you go. You cannot escape.  


He dropped to his knees, hands trembling in shock. No, no, no. How could they be dead? He was just talking to them a few minutes ago. 


A body reached out and grabbed his hand, and he fought to stifle a scream. 


Sourprune’s face was pale and covered in blood splatter - but she looked very much alive. She stared at him in terror, but her expression instantly turned into relief when she realised who he was, then morphed into fear and alarm. 


“Behind you!” She screamed.


There was a swish of metal slicing the air, and then a flash of black - a body tackled into him, flinging him to the side. 


There was a sound of metal striking stone, and Sourprune screamed. 


From where he was, Kaeya lifted his head in confusion - and froze. Diluc was lying on the ground, a sword in his back. 


…No, that’s not right. He had heard the sword hit stone, not flesh. Diluc stirred, and Kaeya breathed in relief - from his position he had mistaken it as such, but the sword had merely pierced Diluc’s clothes, missing him by an inch. 


His eyes trailed upwards to the perpetrator, and when he saw who it was, he gasped. 


He should have known by the laws of Chekhov’s Gun: Whatever will shoot will shoot. If an armoured knight exists in a magical school it will move. Also, Kaeya is never going near the Armoury ever again. 


The armoured knight he had bumped into earlier now stood silently over Diluc’s body, blood splatter over its metal body. Its partner walked out from behind the one of open doors, a bloody sword in its hand. A curious light shone through the slits in their helmets, like a horizontal lazer eye. The sounds they made indicated that their bodies were hollow, meaning there was no one inside, yet as enchanted objects they exhibited the capability to think and strategise - they had hidden behind the doors, so that they would be out of Diluc and Kaeya’s line of sight when they entered the room - for an ambush. They reminded him, Kaeya realised with a jolt, of the Field Tillers he’d seen in Khaenri’ah when he was little. 


He inhaled sharply, and the knights swivelled their heads to look at him.






There was a loud bang, and the knight standing over Diluc was blown back. It crashed into the second knight and sent them toppling over in a tangle of metal limbs. The lights in their visors flickered, and the knights started to stutter in their movements. 


“Don’t just sit there!” Diluc snapped. He was the one that had cast the spell. He climbed up and ran to Kaeya, pulling him to his feet. “Are you okay?”


“Y-Yeah.” Kaeya said, still a little dazed. Then he snapped out of it. You’ve been in worse life-or-death situations than this, he scolded himself. Get yourself together!


Sourprune stood up, unharmed but shaken, and ran to one of her lackeys. “Phyllis!”


Her hands hovered over the stump of the girl’s wrist. Now he knew why there was so much blood - the knights had severed one of the lackey’s hands. 


“T-There’s so much blood… Aaahhhh!!” She started to scream hysterically, tears starting to roll down her cheeks as sobs wracked her body. 


Diluc walked over and slapped her. 


She gasped and reeled in shock. She looked up at him and gasped again. “D-Diluc?” 


Diluc glared at her. “Crying won’t help her. We need to run. Now.” 


He waved his wand, and the bodies of Sourprune’s lackeys started to float. “Kaeya!” 


Kaeya stumbled to the door to the main building and grabbed its handles. To his dismay, they didn’t budge. 


“It’s locked!” He shouted. 


“Then we go the other way.” Diluc ran towards the other door, the bodies trailing after him. Sourprune squeaked and followed quickly, cautiously taking a wide berth around the fallen knights, who were slowly regaining movement. 


Kaeya made to follow them. Before he left, he glanced back at the room - and saw the girl’s severed hand lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Madam Victoria and Barbara could probably reattach a hand, right?


He ran back and grabbed it. 


“Gross,” he whimpered, trying not to think about how the blood-slick meat felt in his hand. He tucked it into his bag, and he ran out of the room. 



The moment Kaeya stepped out of the room, Diluc slammed the doors shut. Black chains appeared from thin air and snaked around the door handles, wrapping them together tightly.


Kaeya glanced at Diluc. He was holding the Elder Wand in one hand and his wand in the other, and thought to himself that dual wielding should be considered cheating in the wizard universe. 


“It won’t last for long.” Diluc warned. 


True enough, seconds after he said that, loud banging started to sound from the other side of the door. Then a sword pierced through the wooden door like a scene from The Shining, and the three of them ran for it. 


Together they hurried down the staircase, reaching the bottom stair just as the knights burst through the door, causing the ground to ripple in shock.


“What,” Kaeya panted, “-the bloody hell is that. Why is the school property trying to murder us?”


“Didn’t you learn from the basilisk?” Diluc panted back. 


“The snake? That snake can’t even be called a school pet! If anything, it was more of a school pest!” Kaeya gestured furiously. “I know we’ve had trippy staircases and malfunctioning toilets, but this is really going too far!” 


“Agreed,” Diluc growled. “Unfortunately, the old geezers in the school committee refuse to take action. Hopefully if we shove this incident in their faces, it will serve as a wake-up call for them.” 


“Wait wait wait.” Kaeya shot him a puzzled look. “You know why this is happening? Why the school is attacking its students?” 


“Not the specifics, but yes.” Diluc said. 


He waited, but Diluc didn’t elaborate. 


“…And?” He said impatiently.


“And, it’s ‘none of your business’.” Diluc grumbled. “I don’t have to tell you everything I do.” 


He stared at Diluc. 


No, he realised, ice creeping over his heart. Of course Diluc wouldn’t tell him anything. This was natural. 


And yet, why did it hurt so much? 


“Kaeya?” Diluc said, frowning.


He turned away and cleared his throat. “For now, let’s just run away. We can’t really fight with the extra baggage weighing us down.” 


“Maybe if I wasn’t carrying two bodies, I could do something about it.” Diluc grumbled. 


“My noodley arms wouldn’t be able to stand it, so I politely refuse!” He said cheerfully. He turned to Sourprune, who was still frantically chanting spells on her injured lackeys as she ran. “How are they? Are they even alive?” 


“T-They’re alive, for now.” Sourprune stammered. “But Phyllis… I bandaged her hand, but-” She was interrupted by the sound of clanking metal echoing down the corridor. 


Kaeya looked back and saw the knights running down the corridor after them. 


He turned to Diluc. “They’re catching up!”


“What do you want me to do about it?” Diluc snapped back. 


“Can’t you dual wield with that wand of yours? Make them explode or something? …Wait.”


He remembered the pouch of Exploding Powder Klee gave him and took it out of his pocket. He opened the drawstrings carefully, pinching a little bit of the black powder in between his fingers, and hesitated. 


“Eh, how bad can it be?” He said, and threw it behind him. 


BOOOM! The resulting explosion blasted them off their feet and sent them flying forward. 


Kaeya hit the ground painfully, starbursts sparking in his vision. “Whoops,” he coughed, before Diluc dragged him up and pulled him into a run again. 


When he looked back, he saw that the knights had emerged from the smoke unscathed. In fact, now they were running even faster than before. 


“Seriously?” Kaeya complained. 


Diluc punched him in the shoulder. “Do not try that again.” He growled.  


“Ow! Okay, okay, I get it!” Kaeya said, rubbing his shoulder. “I was just trying to help.”


“Well, don’t,” Diluc hissed, and Kaeya flinched. Fuck, that stung. 


Diluc turned to Sourprune. “You!” He barked, and Sourprune jumped in fright. He pointed to the knights chasing them. “Do something!” 


She was shivering in fear. “L-Like what?” 


Diluc glared at her, and she shrivelled further into herself. “One of your levitation spells, or something - that’s what you’re good at, aren’t you?” 


Ah. Diluc totally knew. 


“You could summon your Patronus and notify the Headmaster.” Kaeya offered, quickly changing the subject.


“W-What? That’s high level magic, of course I can’t do it!” Sourprune yelled.


Kaeya stared at her, puzzled. “But Diluc can.” 


“That’s because he’s a genius!” Sourprune shot back. 


“Then what can you do?” Diluc said, glaring. He looked seconds away from throttling her with his bare hands.


Sourprune eeped and waved her wand frantically, but all that came out was a wisp of smoke. 


“Um- I-“ She stammered. And then she tripped. 


As someone who’s been on the receiving end of Diluc’s rage before, Kaeya can’t really fault her for tripping over her two feet under that murderous glare of his. But to do that while a bunch of angry, sword-wielding knights were chasing after them? Bad idea.


The knights lunged. 




And despite the voice in his head screaming about how idiotic it was, Kaeya threw his body between her and the knights. 


This is it, he thought. 


Kaeya was going to die here, in some nameless corridor, trying to save the life of an insignificant person - someone that didn’t even hold an important role in the Big Picture of Things; the Celestial Path Laid Out by Fate; and the Karmic Destiny Written in the Stars. 


So much for being the last hope, Kaeya thought bitterly. 


But then a shadow fell over him, and there Diluc was, standing in front of Kaeya, his wand held high in defiance.


No- not his wand, Kaeya realised. 


The Elder Wand. 


“INCENDIUM DIABOLICA!” Diluc roared, and a tornado of fire burst forth from his wand, engulfing the knights in black flames. 


The barrage of flames forced the knights back, staggering to one knee as the flames wrapped around the knights in a fiery cocoon, casting terrible shadows on the walls. 


“Abyssal magic.” Sourprune gasped. “B-But that’s dark arts! It’ll corrupt your soul!” 


“That ‘dark arts’ happens to be saving your life right now.” Diluc gritted out. 


But Sourprune was right - abyssal magic was worth fearing. The black flames did not burn bright, yet even from where he was, Kaeya could still feel the heat on his face, and see it working as the knights started to glow red hot, their movements becoming sluggish with the heat as their armour started to melt. 


But fire would not kill them. 


Kaeya lunged forward and yanked Diluc back by the back of his robes, just as one of the knights swung for him. 


The sword sliced through open air, barely missing the top of his head. It would have torn his head and body apart had Kaeya not pulled him back. 


“Not that spell, you dimwit!” Kaeya roared. “They’re metal! METAL!!!! Use binding spells to chain them down!!” 


“S-sorry…” Diluc muttered. 


He gripped his wand with both hands and muttered under his breath. The fire from his wand spluttered and went out like a hose cut from its water source. But true to its name, the cursed flames on the knights continued to burn. A normal human or object would have burned up by now, but the knights were only melting - and slowly. Kaeya didn’t know if they were metal enchanted or made of enchanted metal, but whatever magic was making it move, it was making them resistant to abyssal magic. 


“Incarcerous!” Diluc shouted, and this time black chains burst forth from the Elder Wand, wrapping around the knights’ legs and binding them together. They toppled to the ground in a fiery crash, swords skittering across the floor. 


Kaeya got up, wincing at the scrapes on his hands and knees. Diluc had bought them a reprieve for now, but it wouldn’t last soon. 


“Tiona! Phyllis!” Freed, Sourprune got up and ran to her lackeys. Diluc had dropped them unceremoniously in order to cover for Kaeya and Sourprune, and the impact seemed to have woken them up - for the better or worse. 


She hovered over them worriedly, clasping their hands in some sort of reassuring gesture. “Are you okay?” 


As Kaeya and Diluc ran past her, Kaeya shot out his arm and grabbed her, pulling her and her lackeys along as they were forced to keep pace with him. 


“Ow! I-I am the daughter of the Sourplume family! How dare you treat me like this!!” Sourprune spluttered. 


“Maybe if we throw you as bait, you’ll be of more use to us.” Diluc threatened. 


She blinked. “I… beg your pardon?”


Diluc snorted. “Then Beg.” 


“Hey! Save that for later!” Kaeya yelled. “They’re getting back up!” Sure enough, the knights had gotten back on their feet, and were now lumbering towards them. 


“Impossible!” Diluc said. “No one can just break free of the abyssal chains!” 


“Except you forget that those things aren’t normal.” Kaeya pointed out. But he had a point. It was unthinkable for any kind of magic to resist - and overpower - abyssal magic. Unless... Unless the opposing magic was also abyssal magic, and of a stronger type. 


Kaeya whipped his head around. The black flames - Abyssal Fiendfyre - was said to burn eternally until it was extinguished by its countercurse. But the fire eating at the knights was growing weaker and weaker, and had dwindled to a faint flicker. 


“Abyssal magic that devours abyssal magic.” Kaeya said in disbelief. “Okay, that’s really ancient magic.” 


Diluc cursed and switched to his wand. “Incarcerous!” 


This time, normal ropes burst forth from thin air and wound tightly around the knights. The knights strained at their bonds for a few seconds, before tearing them apart. Absorbing the abyssal magic had strengthened them, like some kind of magical diabolical fertilizer. 


“Are we at the exit yet?” Diluc shouted. He flung another binding spell at the knights. 


“That’s the problem, chief,” Kaeya puffed. “I feel like no matter how much we run, the exit doesn’t get any closer. It’s like we’re running on a backwards travelator.” 


“A what?” Sourprune asked. 


“Nothing,” Kaeya said, too exhausted to explain. He spared a glance at his feet, but the floor looked like... well, normal floor. Then he cursed. Magic didn’t need travelators to do weird shit. 


“That’s weird.” Sourprune muttered at the same time. “I swear we’ve run past that painting four times now. But that’s impossible, because in all my time in Hogwarts, I’ve never seen or heard of two paintings that look exactly the same. No, wait.” Her face paled. “Oh my god. I should have noticed it earlier. We’re in the Neverending Corridor.” 


“The Neverending Corridor?” Diluc echoed in disbelief. “Didn’t the professors seal that place in the underground dungeons?” 


“Well, evidently not.” Kaeya said sarcastically. 


He skidded to a halt. “But now that we know the problem, it’s easy to solve!” 


The Neverending Corridor was one of the Seven Mysteries of Hogwarts that lurked around the school. Once you enter the cursed corridor, no matter how long you walk, you can never reach the door at the end, and eventually you die of exhaustion, starvation or thirst, whichever one hit first. (By the way, Klee is unanimously considered the Seventh Mystery of the school, just because.) In the past, after the corridor was rumoured to be involved in the disappearance of a student, the professors decided to band together and seal it into the dungeons in the basement of Hogwarts. And, if by chance any unlucky Slytherin happened to chance upon the corridor, they left a failsafe so they could use it to escape. 


They scattered to the sides of the corridor and started pulling and pushing at the decorations on the walls. 


“Come on, come on, come on,” Kaeya muttered, running his hands over a snickering portrait. 


He’d never noticed until now, but all the portraits held twisted expressions on their faces, their mocking laughter echoing in the corridor. The blood-red candle decorations weren’t that much better, its flames flickering ominously in the gloom of the corridor, casting creepy silhouettes onto the walls. What Kaeya wouldn’t give for a normal high school that didn’t actively want to kill its students. In that aspect, from what he heard from his friend, Durmstrang made Hogwarts look like a children’s playground in comparison.


While they searched for the failsafe, Diluc held back the knights - alone. It sounded laughable if it was anyone else, but if any student could face off against two artefacts imbued with abyssal magic, it was Diluc. Tactics, raw talent, skill - Diluc had all of that and more. Though the knights were spell-resistant, he still managed to find ways to buy them time, flinging spell after spell at the knights. 


“Got it!” Sourprune yelled. 


She yanked on a candelabra, turning it so it hung perpendicular to the ground. Wax dripped from its three candles, giving off the impression of blood dripping onto the floor. The moment the wax touched the stone tiles, it sank into the ground and disappeared without a trace. 


Moments later, the ground rippled again, and there was a clicking sound from at the door at the end of the hallway.


“Let’s go, Diluc!” Kaeya yelled. 


Diluc turned around and took a step towards Kaeya - and promptly tripped.


Kaeya watched in horror as Diluc hit the ground hard, the impact stunning him for a few moments. His wand flew out of his hand, skittering across the stone floor towards the knights, and one of them stopped on it with its metal boot, and pressed down, hard. With a crack, Diluc’s wand broke in half. 


“Diluc!” Kaeya screamed.


They were too far away to reach him, and the knights were too close. Diluc had put his hand to his pocket, trying to take out his Elder Wand, but any spell that he tried to use would be absorbed by the knights. Diluc was defenceless, and the knights knew it. 


Their swords trailed in an arc, the deadly metal glinting in the gloom like an executioner’s axe as they stabbed down-- 


“Protego!” Sourprune yelled. 


A shimmering shield burst forth from Diluc, and it pushed away the swords for a brief instant - but that was enough for Kaeya. 


Sourprune’s lackeys were standing still, looking at Diluc in horror, mouths agape. Their defences were opened, and most importantly, they had lowered the wands in their hands. Kaeya leapt forward and snatched the nearest girl’s wand, and she gave a squeak of surprise - but he ignored it and ran towards Diluc. 


He yelled Diluc’s name, and when Diluc blinked and looked up, he threw it. 


Diluc was said to be blessed by the forefathers of magic for a number of reasons, and one of them was that he could wield other people’s wands as if he were the owner itself. Maybe it was a skill nurtured as the son of an accomplished wandmaker, or a genius talent born once in a million years. Maybe it was both. Whatever it was, it was also the reason why Diluc could use the Elder Wand without any serious backlash, unlike Crepus. Diluc could also read and understand a person just from touching their wand, and Kaeya had vowed never to let Diluc touch his. It scared him, even though Diluc himself thought it only useful for party tricks. 


But now it would save Diluc’s life. 


The wand spun in the air, curving in its trajectory like a boomerang as it flew towards Diluc - and Diluc plucked it out of the air as easily as breathing, and pointed it at the knights and yelled, 




The space between Diluc and the knights exploded. Flung back by the force of the explosion, Diluc sailed through the air like a rag doll - and was caught by Kaeya.


“Nice throw.” Diluc coughed, holding up the borrowed wand. 


“Nice catch yourself.” Kaeya replied. “And who taught you that crazy stunt?”


“I thought that one up after your stunt earlier, with the Exploding Powder.”


“What can I say? I’m a bad role model. Here, can you stand?” 


Diluc was bleeding from his palms, and had suffered a few burns from his reckless stunt with the explosion. He gritted his teeth and stood up. “I’m fine. Let’s go.” 


With a single nod, as if they both were on the same page for once, they ran for the exit without looking back. 


Together, they dived through the door Sourprune held open. Once they were out, Kaeya threw the rest of the Exploding Powder through the doorway and Sourprune slammed it close. 


Behind them, they heard frantic thumping sounds on the door, followed shortly by a long and loud explosion. 


And then-- Silence. 


The Neverending Corridor had moved away. 



The five of them looked at each other, bruised and bleeding, hair tousled and clothes singed, and very much surprised that they were alive. 


“Well, that was certainly a ride.” Kaeya wheezed.


“Ride my ass!” Sourprune snapped. 


“Hey, we just saved your lives, you could stand to be nice for once.” 


“Are you going to shut up, or do you want me to leave you here?” Diluc threatened. 


“Phyllis needs help. And fast.” Sourprune’s lackey - Tiona - piped up. She was supporting Phyllis, who looked like she could barely stand. Her face was pale and sweaty, and blood had soaked into the makeshift handkerchief Sourprune had tied around her severed wrist. Tiona bit her lip. “Are we still in Hogwarts?” 


“This… isn’t the sixth floor.” Sourprune said. She took a step back and splashed into a puddle, flinching at the cold water. “Eep!” 


Eerie green light shone from overhanging skull lanterns, lighting up a dark corridor. The ground was tiled with dark, uneven stone. The walls were dingy and covered in grime, devoid of any paintings or tapestries and spaced at intervals with rusted iron doors. Far away, they could hear the sound of water dripping, echoing throughout the corridor. 


“Oh,” Kaeya said, relieved. “We’re in the dungeons. Thank god. I know the way from here, just follow me.”


The four people trailed behind him cautiously as he started down the corridor, humming to himself. Shortly after, Diluc caught up with him. 


“Are you sure this is the right way?” He asked warily.


“Yeah. One hundred percent. I’ve been down here a couple of times to hang out with my friends in the Slytherin common room. I know the dungeons like the back of my hand.” 


“And what’s stopping you from leading us the wrong way?”


He stopped and stared at Diluc. “Why would I do that?”


“You know very well why.” Diluc nodded towards Sourprune and her lackeys, who were lagging behind because they were supporting the injured girl.


Ice flooded through his veins as he realised what Diluc was trying to say: Diluc thought he wanted to take revenge on Sourprune and her lackeys. 


“Look.” Kaeya said coldly. “I may not be the most moral person in the world, but I’m not going to abandon someone who needs help, especially if it’s someone I can help. Too much blood is already on my hands. I don’t want to make any more mistakes that I’ll regret.” 


Diluc returned the cold stare, but there was a hint of confusion under that searching gaze of his. “How do I know I can trust you?” 


“You can’t. You’ll just have to take my word for it.” His voice chilled. “Not that you trusted me the last time I showed you my hand.”


He raised his voice, cutting off the conversation. “We’re almost there, everyone. All we need to do is turn around the corner, and-” 


Suddenly, a door to his right flew open. Kaeya jumped back, but no one leapt out of the cell - instead, Kaeya yelped as his feet started to slide towards the dungeon cell, the insides pitch black like a gaping maw. 


Something… some kind of force from inside was sucking him in.


He could hear everyone around him shouting in alarm. His arms flailed for something to hang onto - and he grabbed onto the sides of the doorway, barely hanging onto the edges with his fingers. But it was strange - it felt like the very air was pulling him in, grabbing, yanking, tearing - and it was impossible to defy the air itself. He yelped as his hands, slick with sweat, lost their grip, and he started to fall. 


“Kaeya!” A hand grabbed his arm. He looked up - and widened his eyes when he saw it was Diluc trying to pull him back, the same boy who had just made a big show of not trusting him. 


But no matter how hard Diluc pulled, it was no use. Slowly, but surely, they were losing ground. In a few seconds, Kaeya knew, they were both going to be sucked in. So Kaeya fumbled for the straps of his bag and threw it at Sourprune. 


He yelled, “The exit is down the corridor on the right! The severed hand is in the bag, give it to Madam Victoria, and tell her-” 


The wind yanked, and Diluc fell forward with a yelp. The last thing Kaeya saw was Sourprune’s panicked face before Diluc crashed into him, sending them flying into the cell, door slamming behind him, and they fell down, down, down, into the gaping abyss. 



Bang. Thump. The sound of sliding metal. Then the sound of a lock clicking.










“Where are you?”


“-Ow, you hit my face!” 


“Sorry. Hold on, I- Lumos.”


A light pinged on, and suddenly Kaeya found himself staring into Diluc’s face. He gave a high-pitched scream and jumped backwards. 


“Don’t scare me like that!”


“We have more important things to deal with right now.” Diluc grumbled.


“Right.” He turned around, but the door they had fallen through had shut tightly, and was locked with a padlock. 


Kaeya banged on the iron door and shouted, “Sourprune? Tionga? Phisto?” When there was no response, he kicked the door in frustration. 


“Move over.” Diluc said. He held out his borrowed wand. 


He pointed his wand at the lock. “Alohomora.” 


Unsurprisingly, nothing happened. Kaeya tried the door ring again, but it didn't budge. He shrugged.


Diluc scowled. “Alohomora. Portaberto. Open Sesame!”  


“That door is iron, you know.” Kaeya knocked the door and winced at how solid the iron was. “Spelled as it is, I doubt you can blast it open. Try the hinges?” 


The hinges, as it turned out, were spelled too. Even the Elder Wand was unable to make a dent out of the door. 




Defeated, Kaeya took inventory of their surroundings. 


They were - wait for it - in yet another corridor. It was so narrow that there was just enough space for the two of them to stand side by side. There was no source of light, which meant they had to rely solely on Diluc’s wand to see where they were going. The creepy part was that the walls were purple. In fact, all of the walls were purple. The ceiling was purple. Heck, even the floor was purple, and all of them were decorated with black, hypnotic swirls that seemed to swim before his eyes. 


Kaeya touched the wall gingerly, feeling soft velvet beneath his fingers, and jerked back. 


“Okay, that’s creepy.” He declared. “If this were any other place but Hogwarts, I’d love it, but by Hogwarts standards? My bet is that someone must have died down here.”


“This is the girls’ bathroom on the second floor all over again.” Diluc grumbled. He scuffed his foot across the soft carpet floor. “I’ll add on to your bet and say they died at least fifty years ago.” He sighed. “I’m getting tired of this question already, but… Where are we?”


“How would I know?” 


“I thought you said you knew the dungeons like the back of your hand.”


“Yeah, well, the dungeons I know never had a secret trap room that sucked you in if you so much as breathed in its direction. I didn’t even touch the damn door!” 


Diluc side-eyed him. “If you say so. What do you suppose we do now, then?” 


“Well, there’s only one direction we can go.” Kaeya offered.


They both turned around, staring into the darkness of the corridor ahead. 


Diluc sighed. “Forward it is.”


After walking for what felt like an eternity, they finally reached the end of the corridor - and a door at the end of it. 


The door wasn’t glowing or anything, and it wasn’t radiating any bad vibes, and it looked and felt like a plain old door - but when you’ve opened a door to what you initially thought was three dead bodies, then subsequently opened a door that led to one of the school’s death traps, and then gotten sucked into yet another door within the span of an hour - you tend to get wary about getting your hands on one of those door handles again. 


So Kaeya did the most sensible thing and stepped aside. 


“After you.” He said to Diluc.


And Diluc, who obviously scared but was trying to hold a deadpan face because, and most importantly, he didn’t want to chicken out like Kaeya, he grabbed the handle and surprisingly - and thankfully - it opened.


There were no loud noises. No curious wind sucking them inside. Kaeya looked past Diluc and saw a small, plain room, lit with a single light from above. No murderous suits of armour or dead bodies on the floor covered in blood. Nothing that blared with a red siren and screamed ‘Trap!’.


Good enough for him. 


He squeezed past Diluc and walked inside, pleased to find another door in the room, which would hopefully lead to somewhere familiar in the castle.

“Come on Diluc, let’s go…” He trailed off, realising Diluc wasn’t following him, but was standing at the entrance, frozen in shock. 


Puzzled, he followed Diluc’s gaze to the center of the room, where the only object in the room stood. 


A mirror.