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The Sun

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A/N: I know that original characters can be annoying and seen as self-inserts, especially female ones but I’ve tried my best to make her likeable and I really just wanted to do a non-BWL story so bear with me.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognize.

Alternate Universe: Harry is in the same year as Cedric Diggory and I aged up all the other Hufflepuffs in canon Harry’s generation to the same year because I think that it would be easier for everyone to remember them. Daisy Potter is canon Harry’s counterpart in this story, such that when the Triwizard tournanment happens, Daisy would be a 4th year but Harry would be in his 7th. Everyone else remains at their normal age, such that Daisy’s two best friends are Ron and Hermione. Also Daisy because her family’s obviously really into flowers let’s be real.

 

Prologue

The moment the doors flung open, every Death Eater jumped from their chairs around the long table. They had their wand drawn and ready to fire. Only their leader, the Dark Lord Voldemort remained seated, relaxed on his throne. The figure at the door did not attack; he simply stalked forward, jumped onto the table and slid forward towards an amused Tom Marvolo Riddle.

Tom Riddle’s posture remained slack and relaxed but his eyes hardened, taking in the multiple injuries on the black-haired boy on the table. With a single brow raised, Tom voiced out what everyone else was thinking, “To what do I owe this pleasure, Hadrian?” Tom gestured vaguely at the slump figure, “And try not to bleed everywhere. The table is marble.”

Harry’s eye twitched and lips thinned. Harry needed a favour and Tom knew. Still clutching onto his left rib that (Harry was 78 per cent sure) was broken, he bit out, “I need help, you bastard.”

Tom’s lips curled up in a triumphant smile.

 


 

 

Chapter 1

November 1977 (Harry is 4 months old.)

Petunia Dursley sipped from her glass of water, enjoying the silence of the household. Vernon was out for a company dinner, leaving Petunia with much needed time alone.

The soft patter of the rain against her windows was the only sounds accompanying her own breathing and she relished in the lack of noise. She loved Vernon but the man never understood that silence was golden.

A knock brought her out of her thoughts. Odd. Vernon would have let himself in. Perhaps, it was the neighbours. Smoothing her skirt and tucking a lock of hair behind her ears, she passed the mirror along the hallway and after making sure she was presentable, opened the door.

And there she stood. Water dripping from stringy red hair, cheeks sunken and violently purple bags under her eyes, Lily Potter stood at the entrance. And Lily’s usual bright verdant eyes were dull and resigned. She held a baby, swathed in cotton.

Lily’s lips trembled (from the cold?) when she called, “Tuney.”

Petunia Dursley could only open the door wider for her sister.

Lily held onto the baby closer as she entered. She removed her wet cloak and hung it on the coat stand. Petunia grimaced at the puddle accumulating from the dripping cloak but didn’t say a word.

“Tea?”

Lily nodded mutely. Petunia didn’t drink tea after 5pm and it was already 10pm, but she felt like wherever this conversation was headed, soothing chamomile tea was a requirement.

After two cups of tea, Lily finally broke the silence and gestured to the quiet baby, “You know Harry.”

“Yes. Your son with that nastily common name.”

Lily’s eyes were dead when she said, “He’s your son now.”

Seeing Petunia’s frozen face and blinking eyes, she continued, “It’s not safe for Harry where we are.” Lily blinked and moisture dripped from her eyes, “Please raise him as your own.”

Petunia opened her mouth to protest; she had plans for her own child and she wasn’t going to pretend that some freak was her baby. Before any words could be verbalised, Lily’s tears fell freely, “He doesn’t have magic! We are in the midst of a war. I can’t raise him in the magical world, Tuney. I can’t. He’ll be the first to die. I just – can’t.”

Lily closed her eyes, clutching Harry closer to her chest and rocking back and forth as tears spill out. “My poor poor Harry. A squib! Oh merlin, I’m so sorry, Harry. It’s all my fault.”

As if sensing his wife’s distress, a loud crack of apparition had James Potter standing in the middle of the living room between the two women. Without even greeting Petunia, Potter snatched Harry out from Lily’s embrace. Holding Harry’s head, that was so much like his own, Potter told Lily, “We can’t, Lils, We can’t give Harry away. We can prot– ”

“We can’t!” Lily shouted. Her fingers tug at the strong hold that Potter had on Harry, “James, we’ve talked about this. We have to let Harry go. Dumbledore said-”

This time, it was James that shouted. With tears brimming, he shouted at his wife, “Well, I can’t! I can’t do it!”

“That’s why I told you not to come, James! Let me handle this,” her fingers not making much work on her husband’s muscular arms.

In the middle of the weeping argument, they had forgotten where they were and whom they were with. Petunia stood up and cleared her throat, both crying adults turned to her.

She can’t believe she was going to do this. Petunia took a deep breath, “You said he was normal?”

Lily nodded sadly and even though Potter held Harry even tighter to his chest, Petunia could see the resignation in his eyes.

She held her arms out, “I will love him like my own, I promise.”

With shaking hands, Potter passed Harry over to Petunia. Bright green eyes, just like his mother’s, shone with shed tears. Harry had woken up sometime between his parents’ shouting match and cried silently. Using her thumb, Petunia tenderly wiped the tears off his chubby cheeks.

Harry Potter was such a horrid, plebeian name, if you ask her. Hadrian Dursley sounded much better.


February 1983 (Harry is 5 years old.)

“Again!” Dudley Dursley cried out with jubilance. Hadrian laughed and pushed the toy train towards his two-year-old brother. At five, Hadrian was the best doting brother one could ask for and Petunia couldn’t be prouder of her two boys.

She smiled into her teacup as she took another sip of earl grey, discreetly spying on her children’s playtime.

Barely three years after Hadrian was given to her, Petunia gave birth to Dudley. Childbirth was the most excruciating experience she ever had but that instant connection she made with Dudley was priceless. Every action Dudley made was precious and Petunia could understand why Lily looked like she was a living corpse when she handed Hadrian over.

Hadrian, such a beautiful name, was everything a mother could want: sweet, caring, charming and just a tad bit mischievous to make himself all the more endearing. With unruly black hair and almond-shaped green eyes, Hadrian was a painful mix of James and Lily Potter. Despite that, Petunia truly loved the little boy.

“Ow!”

“Oh no, Dudley! You okay?”

Snapping out of her reverie, Petunia cursed (internally) for her distraction and turned to her children. Dudley was holding back tears; his right cheek red and slightly scratched. Petunia breathed a sigh of relief: he wasn’t dying. Parental paranoia was real.

She turned to Hadrian, who looked extremely guilty. She lay a hand gently on Hadrian’s shoulder, “What happened, darling?”

Wringing his hands together, the little boy was flustered as he tried explaining with jumbled words and rushed apologies.

“Slow down, Hadrian. Whatever that happened must have been an accident.”

Taking a deep breath, Hadrian explained, “Well, I was trying to impress Dudley, so I wanted to show him a flying train and I lost control.”

Lost control? Petunia’s brows furrowed, “You lost control of your hands while you were ‘flying’ the train?”

Hadrian shook his head vehemently, his black locks bouncing. “No! I lost control of the air!”

Air? What in the world was Hadrian saying? Petunia frowned, “Now, Hadrian, it’s not good to lie.”

“I’m not! Watch!”

Petunia turned to the toy train and it suddenly started floating, albeit a little shakily.

Floating?

Petunia’s heart sank. Hadrian’s hurried explanation went unheard and the only thing that Petunia could think of was that she loved a freak. And all of a sudden, she couldn’t see Hadrian Dursley, her beloved son. She could only see Harry Potter.


Petunia knew that if Vernon found out that Dudley’s new injury was a result of Hadrian’s freakishness, their eldest son would be buried alive. Petunia did what she needed to do; she lied, playing the accident off as a careless mistake.

However, Hadrian – no, Harry – could not be allowed to stay in their family any longer. His freaky powers would be their downfall one day. Her Hadrian was magical. Petunia bristled with anger. Lily, that dirty little liar.

“Mummy,” Petunia’s heart ached, hearing Hadrian call her that. “What are we doing here?”

Here was the result of Petunia’s deliberation after a few days: Carr’s Orphanage.

Petunia bent to Hadrian’s level, one knee on the ground. Looking straight into the bright green eyes of her son, her heart clenched and it took her a while to say it. “Hadrian, your real name is Harry Potter.”

The name tasted foreign on her tongue; such a common name for such a magnificent boy.

“Your real parents will come for you,” she told him.

Harry’s brows furrowed and confused, he asked, “Real parents? What are you talking about, mum?”

“I’m not your real mother, Harry.” Petunia looked away, she couldn’t bear to watch Harry’s face crumble.

“But, I love you very much,” she pulled Hadrian in for a hug. He was her son and while it pained her, she couldn’t accept him. He didn’t belong with her. He belonged with his people. With Lily and James Potter.

Petunia held him at arm’s length. She wished she could let him stay at 4 Privet Drive while waiting for the Potters but Harry had almost revealed his magic to Vernon the other day and her husband had zero tolerance for anything out of the norm.

“You are so loved, my son.”

Thick fat tears rolled down Hadrian’s cheeks, “Then why are you leaving me?”

Petunia could only hug Hadrian again tightly and cursed Lily for thinking, even a second, that Hadrian could have been normal.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

February 1983 (Harry is 5 years old.)

Fayette had been at Carr’s Orphanage for a year after a horrific car accident that killed both her parents and little brother. It was an accident with high media coverage because the autopsies showed that her family had been dead before the car crashed and flipped over, which begets the question of who was driving. However, within weeks, it was said that the autopsies had errors and the whole accident just faded into the background. At least that was what the seven-year-old was told because she had no memories of the accident.

Fayette was a favourite amongst the matrons of the orphanage for her angelic looks and equally angelic behaviour. Honestly, she could act out, but why pit yourself against the hands that feed? Live comfortably.

“There’s a new kid today,” Mark told her. The boy was a bully, but only when she wasn’t looking because he was nursing a crush on her.

She smiled and thanked the blushing boy. The new kid better not be cuter than her. It’d lessen her chances of being adopted.

Matron Martha called everyone to attention and Fayette put her book down. A little boy who couldn’t be older than five, stood next to Matron Martha with his eyes red and nose dripping. Abandoned, Fayette decided. She had seen enough new kids with the same face.

“Introduce yourself,” Matron Martha nudged the new kid.

Still sniffling, he wiped his nose and said, “Hi, I was Hadrian but I’m Harry now. I’m waiting for my real parents to come get me but I miss my mummy.” And the water works turned on.

His words would get him into trouble. Lord knows how many orphans here have daddy or mummy issues and his words about his ‘real parents’ coming to get him had been annoying. Mark would be the first in line to bully him.

With her influence and a few bats of her long lashes, Fayette could save him from the bullies. But, why should she? She just wanted to live comfortably.


 

7 months later, September 1983 (Harry is 6 years old.)

Unbeknownst to everyone, the letter that Petunia Dursley had sent to Lily Potter never reached the witch because the Potters were under the protection of the Fidelius Charm. And as per Fayette’s predictions, the little oddball Harry-not-Hadrian was the target of many at the orphanage. His sheltered views of the world, along with his ramblings of the ‘glittery smoke’ in the air being magic, grated on nerves, especially the bigger boys’.

As days flew by and months passed, Harry’s conviction of his ‘real parents’ coming to get him diminished but his nonsense about magic only grew. As time passed, Fayette observed the boy getting increasingly antsy and mad, muttering things only he knew about.

She didn’t know what happened but there were rumours (that were not completely baseless) that on Harry’s sixth birthday, he received a particularly terrible ‘gift’ from Mark and his friends. The boy was a recluse afterwards and he didn’t speak for days. Matron Martha had grounded the boys in their bedrooms for two weeks.

The incident wasn’t spoken of often but Fayette had heard enough titbits of it to paint a realistic picture of what happened that day and she almost threw up when she imagined it. It was likely that the bullies had pinned Harry down and carved ‘FREAK’ onto his forearm, giving him a scar on his body and mind. Fayette could only hope that her imagination was too fertile and that she wasn’t living with such monsters in the same building.

After that accident, Fayette had paid more attention to the boy that got smaller as his time in the orphanage grew longer. She noticed that he seemed to gravitate to her and whenever he was in her vicinity, he was imperceptibly calmer. For that reason alone, Fayette had chosen to remain seated when she saw Harry plop down a few seats away from her.

She wanted to live comfortably but the guilt at not having done something to stop the bullies gnawed at her. It wasn’t her duty to stop bullying. That was nigh impossible. But, it was her duty to stop what she felt was wrong. And Mark had gone too far.

With her decision made, she closed her book and approached Harry that grew less restless as she neared him.

She smiled, “Hi, I’m Fayette. You can call me Faye.”


3 months later, December 1983 (Harry is 6 years old.)

Fayette slowly came to. Her eyelids felt heavy, but her face felt fresh, like it was wiped clean by someone. God, she just had the worst nightmare.

She forced her lids open and saw white. The sick bay. Why was she here? She blinked repeatedly to get the somnolence out of her aching joints. Her throat was parched, but her bedside table had no jug of water. Only empty glasses.

Then Harry entered with a jug. He ran towards her, dumping the jug of water on the table and pulling Fayette into a hug. Apologies flowed along with his tears and Fayette could barely understand anything else he was saying.

Her memories came back to her piecemeal. Harry and her being cornered by a jealous Mark; Harry being pinned down and Fayette being held back by another boy; A jagged stone; Harry’s wild eyes.

She clenched her jaw at the sudden migraine. “Stop. I need water,” she croaked. Harry immediately detached himself from her and poured her a glass.

Cold relief slid down her desert of a throat as more memories returned. Harry’s scar on his forearm that spelt out ‘FRE’ glistening with sweat; Mark swearing that he would finish the word; Fayette screaming at him to stop; Harry looking like a captured wild animal; Mark flying backwards to hit the wall; darkness.

“What – what happened, Harry?”

He looked away and whispered, “Magic.”

“Oh,” she breathed out. It’s real.

His emerald orbs, shining with moisture, connected with her grey ones. “You believe me?”

She raised a brow, tucking a blonde lock behind her ears, “Maybe I will if you tell me more.”

He pursed his lips, “It’s hard to say.” Brows furrowed, he continued, “There’s always glittery lines in the air where I was from. They do what I want them to do, like I can move things without touching them. But, there’re no lines here and I feel uncomfortable” – try ‘crazy’, she thought – “without it. And you have this ball of lines in your body. When Mark tried to – tried to finish my scar, I panicked and I pulled lines out of you. But, I didn’t know you would become sick!”

Magic. Whatever it is that Harry could control, Fayette had it and somehow that calmed his need for ‘lines’ down. Fayette could feel her heart beating in her chest but she faintly remembered that in the moment before she blacked out, she had sincerely thought she was going to die.

“Don’t ever do that again, Harry,” she chided gently. It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t know better.

The black-haired boy cried out his apologies again while hugging her. She patted his back. Honestly, this little crybaby needed someone to teach him how to live comfortably.


 

A month later, January 1984 (Harry is 6 years old.)

If Fayette could, she would want to bring the pitiful child along with her. Harry had became her young brother of sorts in the short time they had spent together. But, today, Fayette was being adopted and no way she would allow sentimentality get in her way of a more comfortable future. She was already eight years old and with every successive year, her chances of being adopted lowered. Thankfully, a French family, Bonheur, had been passing by and she caught the eye of the childless matriarch.

Fayette owed Harry nothing. She had taught him the best she could on how to live comfortably. She had taught him to suck his tears back and never let others see that they got to him. All those lessons didn’t go down the gutter thankfully, seeing Harry’s eyes wet with tears but none rolling down his cheeks.

“I’ll miss you so much,” he mumbled.

Fayette smiled fondly at him. As a testament of her love, she even tried persuading her future parents to adopt Harry too. Their expensive coats and jewellery certainly meant that they could afford it. However, her foster father had put his foot down (oddly, because the couple had taken to spoiling her already) and rejected the idea.

She smoothed Harry’s bird nest of a hair down, “Be strong, Harry. I’ll never forget you."


 

2 months later, March 1984 (Harry is 6 years old.)

Kai Adler knew that he would die some day. Being a mercenary, not to mention a highly recognised name in the shady assassination scene, meant flirting with death on every mission. On several occasions, he even kissed death on the lips. Yeah, it was scandalous. But this time, Kai felt like death was trying to make out with him.

He took shallow breaths, being careful not to nudge his broken ribs. Kai wouldn’t die here in a random alley he apparated to. Death won’t be fucking with him today.

Focusing his magic to his wand, Kai started healing the internal damage. He wasn’t sure what else was broken, seeing as everything hurt so much. Then he felt it; something that wasn’t pain.

It was a tug, a tug on his magic to be precise. Which punk was trying to pull at his magic? Honestly, that was just so rude. He ignored the tug and turned his attention to fixing his right leg next. He was pretty sure he fractured something.

Then the tug came again. Stronger. Kai ignored it again. Even if he was to search for the source, he couldn't fight due to his heavy injuries. Best if he healed himself first before investigating.

Once more, the tug came back. This time, it was like a pull and Kai nearly passed out. He decided that his wounds, while still bleeding and painful, he wasn't going to die, so he stood up and decided to teach whichever punk fooling around, not to mess with the grisly Bear. They do not want to see just how grisly his kills can be.

***

In all honesty, Kai expected a pureblood child to be the punk playing around under the protection of his parents. He didn't expect to drag his bleeding ass to an orphanage, while obliviating the various eyewitnesses, to find a sleeping muggle orphan. Merlin, the boy had barely any magic. Could he have gotten it wrong?

The pull came again and he nearly fell forward. He observed the young boy. Messy black curls, porcelain white skin with high cheekbones: he was a picture perfect for the Potter scion. Upon further observation, Kai noticed the slight sheen of sweat covering the boy’s face, the twitching of muscles and furrowed brows. Was he in a nightmare?

Kai could have just left and ignored the desperate pulls on his magic. With enough distance, it would stop. He could have but against his better judgement, he woke the boy up. Bright emerald eyes snapped opened and the boy sat up suddenly, only to turn to the side of his bed and vomit on the floor. Right next to where Kai was crouching. Nasty.

He wiped the puke off his mouth and Kai discreetly vanished the vomit. The smell was making him nauseous as well.

The pulls on his magic stopped and just as Kai suspected, the boy was no muggle orphan. It was disconcerting to receive the sole attention of the young boy, to see glazed-over green eyes looking at him.

“Who are you?” the young boy asked.

“I believe I should be the one asking that.”

The young boy stared at Kai, picking apart Kai to see if he was worthy. Still watching Kai, Harry summoned the glass of water at his bedside wandlessly and wordlessly, and then took a sip.

Kai supposed he passed whatever test Harry had set when his expression remained blank. The boy had incredible control over his magic but he didn't need to know how much it rankled Kai.

“Harry,” he finally revealed.

“Harry what? You don't have a last name, Harry?” Kai snapped, impatience seeping into his tone. He was bleeding all over the floor and needed medical attention.

“I don't know if it’s Dursley or Potter.” Harry bit back. No one would say this one didn't have guts.

While Dursley was decidedly muggle, Potter was an old pureblood family. An illegitimate child, perhaps. But the Potter head had been nothing but loving and loyal to his muggleborn wife. Anyone who read Witch Weekly would know and Kai was an unashamed supporter of celebrity gossip. If it didn't help his jobs, it was at least entertaining.

On impulse and probably blood loss, Kai said the one thing that changed his life.

“Want to be an Adler then?”

It would have been dramatic with the widening of Harry’s eyes and hope shining in his orbs. But Kai never introduced himself so all he got was a furrow between Harry’s brows.

“Look here, kid. I'm bleeding all over the ground and it doesn't set up a good adoption scene. But, if you want, you can leave with me now and I will take care of you and help you harness whatever magic you have. So are we going or not because I can't emphasise enough how much blood I'm los – ”

“Okay.”

Kai grinned. Harry barely knew him. No one could say this kid didn't have guts.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

February 1985 (Harry is 7 years old.)

Hugo Braune knew he was important. Not in the parent-child way, because every child was important to their parent. But, in the important important way.

His parents were very important people. He could tell from the many other aurors who protected his parents. And they said so themselves, “Hugo, you're the most important boy.” He even had proof: a silver chain with a pendant of his favourite tale’s symbol, the Deathly Hallows.

Anyone who wore it was important.

So it was to Hugo’s annoyance that the boy in front of him seemed to be unable to understand that.

“Ich bin Hugo Braune,” he emphasised for the sake of the dense boy.

“Yeah,” the boy nodded and replied in English, “My German isn't good enough for me to answer you in it. But, my dad mentioned you.”

“I'm Pan,” he beamed. “So, do you know where the loo is?”

“I'm Hugo Braune,” repeated Hugo. Obviously, Pan – such an odd name truly – didn't understand a drop of German if he didn't understand what Hugo’s name meant.

Pan’s brows scrunched together and he said, “I know. You just told me.”

Hugo breathed out in exasperation, “You, with the odd name, do you know who I am?”

Pan narrowed his eyes, not taking kindly to the tone and words Hugo was using. His expression showing exactly how much he thought of the pompous ass Hugo was being. He replied curtly, “You're Hugo Braune, son of the German Minister of Magic and the Minister of Law Enforcement. Just because your parents are important, doesn't mean you are too.” Rolling his eyes, Pan muttered, “I’ll just have to find the loo myself.”

Hugo opened his mouth to protest but the doors of the waiting room burst open. A tall stern man came in with his long greying hair, tied at the nape of his neck, swishing from side to side. Hugo’s mother was on his heels. Her long blonde hair was up in a tight bun but wisps of hair had fallen and her mouth was set in a frown that Hugo was so unfamiliar with.

“C’mon, cub, let's go,” the man called out to Pan in German.

His words were quickly followed by his mother’s, “Don’t you turn your back on me, Kai!”

“I believe it should be Bear to you, Minister Krausser,” Kai replied coolly.

With her native tongue slurring together in her fury, his mother shouted, “What do you want me to do then?”

“Dear Minister of Magic, I would suggest you win this election fair and square? Threatening your opponents with their families? Leaves a bad taste in my mouth, you know.” Hugo could hear the man’s words get increasingly faster as he tried to rein in his own temper.

His mother stepped closer to Kai and grabbed the front of his shirt, making a fist and bringing Kai’s face closer to her own. A mockery of a kiss: she snarled, her spit flying onto Kai’s face, “They aren't above bad tastes in their mouths. How do you expect me to protect my family?”

Hugo always knew his mother was strong and aggressive. He wanted to be just like her when he grew up. But the woman before him now seemed lesser than the dignified woman he admired and more like a common thug.

Her grip loosened but her jaw remained clenched. Kai slipped out of her grasp and her breaths were harsh as she tried calming herself down.

“40 years ago. You promised.”

Five words were all it took to freeze the previously calm man.

“Aleida dear,” he put his hands on her trembling shoulders. “If it was for another country, I would have done it in a heartbeat, but this is Germany. This is our people, ‘Leida. I can't – ” he shook his head, “I can't support corruption.”

She buried her face into her hands. Her head laying on Kai’s chest for comfort.

He patted her back and told her gently, “I never said I wouldn't support you.”

Her head shot up, eyes shining with unshed tears. Kai looked uncomfortable with the sight. “I will protect you and your family for the entire year. Before the election and even after.”

“You'll do that? But, I can't afford you for a whole year!”

He jabbed his thumb in the direction of the messy-haired boy. Hugo turned to stare at the rude boy that had been asking for directions to the restroom. Kai explained, “New son. New rules. No more grisly bear missions. Got to impart everything I have to my heir.”

The German Minister of Magic moved swiftly to Pan. She kneeled on the ground to match his height. “What’s your name, little one?”

“Harry Adler.” It was Kai that answered.

“Dad! I thought we’re supposed to use our call names.”

Kai ruffled Harry’s hair, “She’s a friend.”

Harry’s eyes widened as if the idea that Kai had ‘friends’ was so foreign to him. Hugo snorted internally. Maybe Kai was a loser. Hugo’s parents had tons of friends.

Harry turned to Hugo’s mother and in an instant, his black hair melted into dirty blonde and his green eyes turned a mossy brown. His pale skin turned even paler, taking on a deathly pallor. He beamed, “When I’m hiding as Harry Adler, I look like this.”

Adeila raised her brows while Kai smacked his forehead and sighed, “Harry, son, when we share secrets, you don’t need to share all of them.”

She laughed at Harry and Hugo swelled with pride. Even his mother agrees that this Harry was a stupid child. But, she reached her hand out to ruffle the sad excuse of a hair on top of Harry’s head, then Hugo realised it had been fond laughter.

Honestly, who does this boy think he is? How dare he come in and start belittling Hugo’s importance then taking his mother’s attention. Seriously, how rude.

Almost as if Adeila only just realised that her own son was in the room, she tapped Kai’s shoulder and gestured to Hugo. “That’s my son.”

Kai smiled warmly at Hugo, his crow’s feet wrinkling the long scar that went from his eye to his jaw. “Hello, Hugo. This is Harry, or Pan, and he is my protégé.”

Hugo went forward to shake Harry’s hand. He grimaced, “Pleasure.”

And when Harry beamed back, “Pleasure too,” and squeezed Hugo’s hand just a little tighter, Hugo knew that this was going to be a long long year.


 

5 months later, July 1985 (Harry is 8 years old.)

Hugo Braune abhorred Harry Adler. The eight-year-old had came into Hugo’s life claiming to be a mercenary. As if he could protect Hugo, even if he did have a call name.

“Why do you call yourself Pan?”

“Pan’s the Greek God of the wild”

The boy’s eyes were all shining as if that was the coolest thing he could think of. Lame, this Pan boy was basically worshipping a shepherd.

To make things worse, how dare the idiot beat Hugo is all his classes. When his mother suggested that Adler join his classes with his private tutor, he threw a fit and was promptly silenced by a stare down from his mother. It was bad enough that Adler invades his lessons, but Adler had to prove that he was better. Not just in theory, but practical as well.

Adler was just bad manners personified. Worst of all, he had refused to acknowledge Hugo. He acted like Hugo was air: invisible. Might be because Hugo had laughed at his name, but it was most likely because Adler doesn’t even have a modicum of civility.

Adler, with his frustratingly cute smile he gave to Bear and his mussed-up hair, was getting on his nerves.

And Adler was turning eight today. Hugo approached the pouting boy. His mother had an important meeting to go to and Bear had tagged along to protect her. The past few days have been tense and Hugo suspected that there had been an attack of sorts even if his parents had kept him in the dark.

“It’s your birthday today?” Hugo asked in German; his English was not up to standards yet, no need for Pan to know and lord that over him.

“Yes,” Adler sighed, “But dad isn’t here.” His reply in fluent German only served to remind Hugo how much slower he was at learning English.

There was silence and Adler continued staring out of the window he was positioned in front of. Reluctantly, Hugo bit out, “Happy birthday, Harry.”

The following action was astounding but Hugo’s reaction was astonishing, even to himself.

Harry turned to Hugo, surprised but then beamed and thanked Hugo for the birthday wish. Hugo felt his insides clench and his breath catch. Hugo opened his mouth to reply but instead blinked repeatedly and stuttered over his words. His face reddened at his incompetence and his words slid back down his throat. Harry cocked his head to one side, questioning Hugo’s odd reaction.

The only thing Hugo could do was run back to his room.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

September 1st 1992 (Harry is 15 years old and 5th Year at Hogwarts.)

A month ago, Bear had disappeared without a note. When the system for magical children was updated on Harry’s birthday, it came to the notice of the German Ministry that a young wizard was left unchecked in a small three-room apartment. With his guardian marked as missing, the next-of-kin had been contacted. And it was none other than Sirius Black.

Harry knew who Sirius Black was. The first Black to be sorted into Gryffindor, best friend of James Potter and prankster extraordinaire. He had seen how Black interacted in some of the Ministry balls he had been to, as he was not only an auror, but the Head of the House of Black too.

What Harry didn’t know was that the Adlers were distantly distantly related to the Blacks.

Having Sirius Black as his new guardian was both a blessing and a curse. While it meant that Harry could easily sneak off due to his careless nature, it also meant that Harry would be forced to mingle with the Potters as Harry Adler.

When 11-year-old Harry had decided school was redundant because he had decided to follow Bear’s footsteps on the path towards being a mercenary. As a safety measure, Bear had made him separate his mercenary identity from his everyday citizen identity as Harry Adler, just like how he did for himself years ago.

So, even if the Krausser-Braune household had been more than willing to take Harry in, being such close friends of the Adlers, they only knew Harry and Kai as Pan and Bear respectively. It would blow their cover if the Minister of Magic suddenly adopted a random boy in the system. Bear’s fail-safe had came back to bite Harry in the arse.

Since Harry spent most of his time as Pan, he had thought that it was a great idea to have Harry Adler wear a disguise instead of Pan. Harry felt the ambient magic getting sucked into the small rune tattooed behind his ear, powering the current blond appearances of Harry Adler. The disguise felt itchy and Harry hated it. Harry had two arse cheeks and both were bitten.

However, Bear was missing and the itchy disguise was the last of Harry’s worries. He had been thrust into the hands of strangers. He had tried to lie and manoeuvre his way out of adoption a month ago and he would have succeeded if the Potters hadn’t arrived to force Black’s hand. They had been strangely insistent and Harry chalked it up to their sense of justice or perhaps they were worried about Harry turning ‘dark’.

Harry suddenly felt himself wrapped in an almost uncomfortably warm embrace from his new guardian. King’s Cross was as crowded as expected. Tearful goodbyes from families and warm greetings to fellow schoolmates were all around them.

“I would tell you to stay out of trouble, but you’re barely in any. It’s almost worrying that my Marauder successor is such a goody-two-shoes!” Sirius laughed, ruffling Harry’s already messy hair. “You’ll love Hogwarts. Also, remember to take care of her,” Sirius jabbed his thumb in the direction of the youngest Potter, Daisy.

Hogwarts: exactly the place Harry wanted to go to. Harry sneered internally but gave Black a small smile, “I will.”

His mask as Harry Adler was airtight, seeing as the only ‘disguise’ he had chosen to employ was to dumb down his abilities such that he was utterly average. To Sirius and the Potters, he was the sad adopted son recovering for the loss of his father. Nice and funny but a tad bit too clumsy and blunt to play with subtext expertly. He was a decent flier, pretty good with Potions (as long as Lily was there) but other than that, absolutely average. Harry Adler was someone that would have a few friends and a happy life but never amount to anything more. He was the kind of person to fade from history after two generations.

Daisy Potter walked towards Harry, dragging her chest. She was restless with excitement. Her black hair, coloured like her father’s but had the curls of her mother, was bouncing and her face, a carbon copy of Lily Potter, bore the widest smile Harry had ever seen. Harry smiled and messed up the little girl’s hair, playing the role of the older brother with ease, “Excited, aren’t you?”

She beamed, “Who wouldn’t be?”

Harry could only force a smile to keep his grimace at bay. Excited? Ridiculous. He needed the all the extra time he had to look for Bear. He was also not interested in going to a school that would not be able to teach him about his own brand of magic. Learn magic? He mentally scoffed. He only agreed to go Hogwarts because it would seem out of character to refuse. Additionally, any time away from Black and the Potters was good in Harry’s opinion.

Harry whipped out his wand and waved to levitate Daisy’s chest wordlessly. Her open admiration made Harry uncomfortable; he wished he had learned the names of spells. He only memorised the harder spells so as to not draw attention to himself.

Unlike normal wizards, Harry had been born with an unusually small magical core, almost a squib. In fact in the distant dark past, he had been mistaken as a squib. Potions and flying were fine, but he could not perform any magic, at least not those that came from the internal magic core. Only at age 5 did he realise that the hazy strands of light in the air he saw were not made of light, but magic instead. And at age 5, he also realised the rush that came with manipulating these strands to do what he wished.

He thanked Bear’s foresight in getting Harry a dud wand (the only idea that didn’t bite him in the arse). If not, it would have been so much harder to explain his wordless and wandless magic, and so much harder to escape Dumbledore’s notice as well. That old man was as sharp as they come by and Harry had no desire to test the man’s mental acuity by dangling his questionable identity in front of him. Fly low under the radar, he reminded himself.

“Let’s go then.” Harry levitated his own chest to follow them, pointing towards the scarlet red train, “Shall we?”

***

“Hmm… you’re a curious little kid, aren’t you?” The Sorting Hat pondered upon Harry’s head.

Harry had had the fortune of travelling to Hogwarts on a rocky little boat in a thunderstorm. He had thought he would travel with the older students, but no, he had to travel with the First Years as it was technically his first year as well.

He was less than pleased and more than drenched, when he reached the door of the Main Hall. His mood only worsened when the Deputy Headmaster, Professor McGonagall, had blasted him with a drying and heating charm before asking him to wait for all the other little First Years to finish their sorting then dumping a smelly old hat on his head. Imagine the unhappy scowl on his face when the ‘smelly old hat’ turned out to be the tool for the infamous Sorting Ceremony and started invading Harry’s privacy by rifling through his memories and thoughts.

“You have intelligence and quick wit and that is a definite Ravenclaw trait, yet the thirst to seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn’t strong enough.”

Harry impatiently sighed. The Sorting for the others was quick; his should not be any different. The Hat seemed amused by him and sought to placate the young boy, “You would do well in Slytherin, so it better be…”

“NO. NOT SLYTHERIN. Not Slytherin. Anything but Slytherin.” Harry shouted in his head. Slytherin would cause Sirius to distance himself and to start doubting Harry’s intentions. Being in Slytherin would only hinder him.

“Not Slytherin? But you will accomplish great things there; just like a certain boy I once sorted. Great things, Mr Potter.”

“Nah, greatness is overrated,” Harry replied candidly,

“Then, Mr Potter, your fierce loyalty only leaves you with one house. You better be… HUFFLEPUFF!”

Professor McGonagall took the hat off to sort the next child as soon as Harry’s house was called. He saw a boy wave from the table filled with people wearing Hufflepuff robes and he shuffled there, throwing out his uncertainty for all to see.

Harry slotted himself between two friendly housemates. A handsome young man with chiselled features and bright grey eyes introduced himself with a hand out, “Cedric Diggory. I’m a prefect, so if there’s anything you need, I’m here.” He smiled causing a lock of his dark coppery hair to fall forward into his eyes.

Ah, this was the kind of teenage heartthrob that most people would fall over their own feet for. Harry could imagine it already: boys trying to measure up to him and girls jostling for seats at Quidditch games to see him (which heartthrob didn’t play sports, right?).

Harry knew first-hand how easy life was when you were attractive. It’s called pretty privilege, look it up. And he also knew how average people responded to beauty. He forced his mouth to relax and gape slightly, eyes darting everywhere but Diggory’s eyes and lips. Harry shook Diggory’s hands, sending a strand of magic to test for Diggory’s capabilities, stumbling over his words, “Har-harry Adler.”

The perfect prefect’s magic was above average and Harry could see from how pure his magic was that Diggory was Light and a good person. Pity. Diggory was probably great in bed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

May 29th 1993 (Harry is 15 years old and 5th Year at Hogwarts.)

Harry was sitting on the floating chair he conjured while he lazily guided the fine threads of magic in the air to clean the frames of the paintings on the wall. He could almost feel the displeasure of Hogwarts’s magic in being used for something so minor like, Merlin forbid, detention.

Harry chuckled to himself. These were good exercises for him, albeit minor. He couldn’t afford to lose his precise control over magic. Even the simplest manipulations, like bundling the threads into ropes of magic, required the cooperation of the sentient being, Magic, itself. If Magic didn’t cooperate, he had to use force and he needed to make sure that his control was razor sharp to mould Magic to his liking.

The hufflepuff heard footsteps in the distance and lost his concentration. His momentary distraction allowed the ambient magic to go wild without his control. As revenge, the strands of magic had tipped his chair over before leaving to float in the air with the other strands of magic. Harry’s left eye twitched, Magic, that fickle bitch. While he had made sure to cushion his fall as soon as he realised he was tipping, his arse still hurt a lot. Harry grabbed the cloth that fell to the ground and begun wiping the frames of the paintings. Best not to be caught ‘cheating’ during his detention.

Honestly, Harry had expected to see Filch’s ugly mug. But the boy that rounded the corner was tall and gorgeous. With brown hair that curled around dark eyes, the boy (in all his chiselled glory) glared at Harry.

“Get out of the way, filthy squi –”

Harry fired a bolt of blue towards the boy, stopping him from continuing his sentence. Tilting his head, Harry smiled and spun his wand in his hands, “Whoops”.

The boy, who Harry decided to name as Handsome European Boy–Heb– sidestepped the spell while drawing out his own wand and shooting an orange fire-like spell in retaliation. Heb was an experienced dueller; it was unmistakable in how Heb had done all of the above in one fluid motion.

Harry waved the spell away with his wand, deconstructing the strands of magic bundled together just before it reached him. Confringo, that had been the blasting curse. Additionally, the magic was tightly compressed together, reeking of darkness, power and malice. Harry sobered up; Heb wasn’t playing around.

Heb’s wand was as white as the knuckles of the hand gripping it. Harry smirked; a young boy waving a spell away wordlessly like it was a fly would disconcert anyone. Heb looked like he was physically in pain when he forced himself to lower his wand. Pasting on a charming smile that looked far too strained to be convincing, “I’m sorry,” Heb said looking anything but sorry. “It was my mistake to throw curses when I’ve just met you.”

Harry shrugged off his insincere apology but slid his wand back into its holster in a show of trust. Heb’s smile widened but his eyes were as hard as stone. Did Heb really think he bought the act? His acting was so terrible that even Harry Adler would be able to catch it, much less his mercenary counterpart. Harry gave a sleazy smile, Pan’s playboy tendencies coming in to support him right about now. “Who are you? I’ve never seen you around and trust me when I say I’d notice one so good-looking.”

Heb tried to relax his arm further, easing himself into a taut but casual stance. Dark eyes glanced from beneath his lashes; Harry laughed internally, it appears that Heb didn’t appreciate getting hit on. Heb replied nonchalantly, “Caius Eckstein, Durmstrang student. Just passing by with a message for Headmaster Dippet.”

“Harry Adler,” Harry positively purred. Best if Heb, whose name was most certainly not Caius Eckstein, thought he was interested. People tend to be overconfident when they thought they had your affections. Beaming, he continued, “Sorry about the initial reducto. It’s difficult to control my magic.” He laughed, “Can you imagine: accidental magic at 15? How embarrassing.”

Heb narrowed his eyes slightly. Another tight smile, “Funny how you don’t seem too embarrassed over that.”

Harry leaned back, forcing himself to maintain a casual posture. “Perhaps I’m too busy being embarrassed receiving the direct attention of a beautiful man.”

From his impassive face, it was apparent Heb did not buy it one bit. He gritted his teeth, “I must be on my way now.” He took large strides forwards, easily passing Harry and Harry let him. He held back desire to grab the boy, not to kiss him senseless even though he certainly was attractive enough, but to restrict the danger the boy may pose in the future.

The moment Harry could no longer sense the presence of Heb, he allowed his smile to fall. With a grim expression, Harry clenched his jaws. Armando Dippet had been retired far too long for that slip-up to be sensible. Moreover, it was near the end of the school year, what would a Durmstrang student being doing at Hogwarts and not studying for his exams. If Durmstrang or another country wanted to plant a spy in Hogwarts, the work was way too sloppy to be realistic.

Heb had been frazzled and in an undeniable hurry from how he shot a blasting curse at Harry without even entertaining the possibility of peaceful talks. Moreover, to fire a non-verbal powerful spell while under duress showed great power from the mystery boy. Furthermore, you don’t go around throwing around spells like these and not get noticed in Hogwarts. It was almost like he just appeared in Hogwarts from Morgana-knows-where.

Harry narrowed his eyes, his rapid thought process zeroing in on the smaller but ultimately more significant observation. Heb would have called Harry a ‘squib’ if Harry hadn’t shot his own spell back to prove how wrong he was. Blond brows knitted themselves together, how was Heb so confident in his physical appraisal of Harry to throw him into the squib category even before exchanging words. Harry glanced at his Hufflepuff uniform. Simply being a Hogwarts student ought to rule out any idea that he was a squib. Yet!

His fingers curled around the dud wand. Unless… Heb was extremely sensitive to magic and had noticed Harry’s lack of magic core instantly. Magic sensitivity wasn’t a gift that came with birth; it took power, practise and control to have such intuitive mastery over the skill. Who knew what else Heb could do?

Harry smirked, interesting. Heb just successfully upgraded himself from a ‘future threat’ to a ‘better ally than foe’.


 

The next day, May 29th 1993 (Harry is 15 years old and 5th Year at Hogwarts.)

Harry stared at the blank parchment in front of him. It was almost the end of his 5th Year and it had been easier than expected, OWLs included. The hardest part had been writing back to his foster father.

Sirius –Harry sighed– tried really hard to be the best father he could to Harry. Sirius’s letters got longer and longer as the year continued and Harry had to rack his brains to come up with an equally long answer that would maintain his good son reputation.

He just received a record long letter (27 inches!) from Sirius detailing his latest jaunt into the Muggle world. Honestly, Harry knew more about the Muggle world than Sirius did; he spent almost a year there with Bear.

At least he didn’t spend hours in front of the elevator wondering why “the box ate everyone”. However, the head of Black had taken to writing as much as he could about the Muggle world when Harry expressed his distaste of the Muggle world. Truthfully, it would be more of detest but with his good son reputation at risk, Harry had to tone down his disapproval.

Harry let out a groan. Should he write about his classes? He decided against it, his classes were almost laughable. Mostly because Harry was different from others, scarily different when he was younger but he had came to accept it. He remembered being 5 years old and wanting to make a toy aeroplane fly. Just as that thought materialised, the strange glowing strands, that he always saw in the air, swirled and floated to the toy before lifting it up and ‘flying’ the toy around the nursery. He had been delighted but that incident was simply a catalyst for worse things to come.

Harry shook his head. It was better not to dwell on the sad parts of his life; he much preferred pretending that he was born when Bear adopted him. Nonetheless, that particular incident made Harry realised that those ‘strange glowing strands’ he saw was Magic. Sometimes, he could just think of what he wanted to strands to do, and they would perform it. Other times (or well, most of the time), he had to guide it.

It was frustratingly difficult in the beginning because he had zero concepts on how magic worked. When he saw Bear perform the first spell he had ever seen: tempus, it all became clear to him. Harry just needed to guide the strands to imitate the magic of Bear’s spell. It was tough in the beginning, but it got easier and easier as time went by.

So, at 15 going on 16 years old, Harry Adler was really good at learning spells. He knew most of the spells that were taught in his 5th Year classes since Bear had a wide repertoire of spells that Harry had seen while following Bear on his mercenary jobs. Theory, on the other hand, required a little bit more of his hard work but it was nothing Harry’s voracious appetite for knowledge couldn’t solve.

Harry eyed the long wooden wand glowing with green ambient magic tendrils that curled intimately around it. It was the dud wand made by Bear to allow Harry to hide his odd abilities. Harry had used it so often when manipulating the green strands that the residue ambient magic seemed to have collected on the wand. Perhaps he could lie about his wand acting up? Would that take up 27 inches of parchment? Harry slumped down in his chair.

To Sirius Black, Harry Adler was a perfect son that had average grades, needed to fix his blunt tongue at times and had a tightknit gang of friends. The only trouble Harry caused Sirius was the frequent detentions due to Harry’s habit of skipping classes he didn’t find useful. Harry Adler’s life was really boring. What was Sirius expecting Harry to reply with? His bowel movements?

Harry dipped his quill into the inkpot and begun penning his reply. He hoped his messy scrawl that was larger than usual would go unnoticed; 27 inches was hard to beat. Just as Harry finished the social niceties of asking after Sirius and the Potters, the door to his dormitory burst open.

Harry looked up from his work to see that it was only Zacharias Smith before going back to his work. Hufflepuff only had one official rule: everyone is welcomed. The second unofficial rule that Harry followed religiously was ‘Zacharias Smith is a disgrace to the house and should be the one exception to the first rule’.

“Zac, what’s up?” Ernie had put aside his homework to focus on the flushed panting boy. Harry rolled his eyes at Smith’s theatrics. It might be true that Harry had came up with the second rule himself and that only select few agreed with him.

“Potter. She’s awake.” Smith revealed between breaths.

That got Harry’s attention. In his 27 inches long letter, Sirius had written ‘How’s lil’ Daisy doing?’ Harry threw his quill down. Ah, Daisy. Or Dumb Daisy as people had taken to calling the golden girl behind her back. Harry sighed, she wasn’t stupid, just incredibly naïve with a penchant for seeing the best in people to a foolish extent.

Yes, Daisy’s near-death encounter in the Chamber of Secrets ought to be something to write home about. He had wished for Hogwart’s closure but Magic hadn’t heard nor heeded.

A long walk to the Hospital Wing later, Harry found himself in pleasant company of one Daisy Potter. Flowers and chocolates adorned the corner of the Wing that she was located at. Harry discreetly stole a box of chocolates and ripped the note off. It was not like Daisy was going to answer every fan’s note.

“Hello, Daisy,” Harry smiled and presented the chocolates as his own. “You look like shit,” he joked, looking at the younger girl on the bed that had fading bruises, cuts and a small nick on his nose. He had heard the unofficial story being passed around behind the professors’ backs: that Daisy had faced off the Basilisk and lived to tell the tale. Ginny Weasley, on the other hand, had not been as lucky. Ronald Weasley was in pieces over the loss of his sole sister.

“Give better compliments, Harry,” Daisy feebly complained.

Harry sat on the bed and smiled fondly at the girl. He had honestly been a little worried when he heard of Daisy being admitted to the Hospital Wing. While Harry found himself annoyed at her quite frequently, the little girl had somehow managed to endear herself to Harry. Her magic was so innately Light that it glowed too brightly at times and it irritated the fuck out of Harry but Daisy was good. And Harry couldn’t bring himself to hate someone with such pure intentions. Harry brushed her hair away from her face, “Well done for coming back alive.” He held her hand and added, “Weasley; she isn’t your fault.”

Daisy blinked and her welled up tears fell continuously.

Over the year, she had decided to make Harry her unofficial older brother. She often looked up to Harry and went to him for advice. Harry did not know whether to feel amused or bitter that his biological younger sister thought of him in such a way.

“Thank you,” she smiled. The light streaming in through the curtains highlighted the dusting of freckles on Daisy’s cheekbones and the crinkles in her eyes. In that moment, the youngest Potter looked so painfully like her parents that Harry felt his heart clench just the tiniest bit.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

3 months later, Sep 1st 1993 (Harry is 16 years old and 6th Year at Hogwarts.)

Harry sulked by himself in the compartment of the Hogwarts Express. It had been more than a year since Bear’s disappearance and Harry was no closer to solving the mystery. Bear was a slippery snake, no, eel. He glides around your hands, making you think that you’re close to catching him but the next thing you know, he shoots forward out of your line of sight and he’s gone, lost, blended in with the murky waters. The only evidence of his previous appearance are the ripples but Harry would never know if it was really Bear or was it caused by his own two hands?

First, bear. Now, eel. Was the man attempting to be everything in the animal kingdom before he will allow himself to be caught?

He sighed loudly. Having spent his holiday after his 5th year, traipsing Europe alone (Sirius was an unsurprisingly lenient parent) and visiting the friends he made during his travels with Bear, he had picked up clues that led him back to square one. While his friends were more than welcoming, especially that German nuisance Hugo, they were of no help to him.

Hugo had said, “Fret not, Harry. I got someone to start investigating. I’ll tell you if we find anything.” Bucket load of good that does, Harry sneered, he needs to be the one out in the field because no one knew his own father better than he did. When he catches that sly eel, he’s going to knot it up and make stew.

The door of his compartment slid open violently, shaking Harry out of his thoughts. It was Ron Weasley, Daisy’s best friend and rival in intelligence. The rumour mill had it that they were only friends because they were equally stupid but Harry had seen Ron play wizarding chess and the redhead would definitely grow up to become a formidable opponent.

Panting, Ron said, “Daisy… Malfoy… in a fight.”

Harry cried internally, he didn’t sign up for this! Pushing Ron aside, he made his way to a crowd blocking the corridor. Where were the prefects when you needed them?

“Take it back, Malfoy,” Daisy shouted.

“I won’t. What are you going to do about that?” Malfoy taunted.

Children, how juvenile. Harry pushed his way to the centre and grabbed the blonde’s wrist, twisting it behind his back and making him drop his wand. He cried out in pain but still managed to mock, “Need someone to fight your battles for you, Potter?”

Harry ignored him, “What did he say, Daisy?”

She pointed her finger at him accusingly, “He called me dumb!”

“Well, that’s the truth, Daze. We both know what happened when the results were delivered,” Harry teased.

Her face redden and she bumbled out, “But… I… He….”

“You have give me something to work with here, Daze, or I can’t break his arm for lying.”

“That’s incitement!” the Malfoy scion roared, but Harry could hear the fear tingeing his words, “You can’t do that? Do you know who my father is?”

Daisy caught on and quickly shouted, “Malfoy said that Uncle Padfoot is a disgrace to the Black family!”

Malfoy paled. “What? I didn’t say that.”

Harry positioned himself so that no one could see him holding Malfoy’s arm and bent to whisper in his ears, “You can’t say shit like this and get away with it.” And in a sharp motion with abrupt force, he broke the slytherin’s arm. The resounding scream from Malfoy was loud enough to make everyone wince. Instantly, Harry’s palms glowed a soft white as he smoothed his palm over the arm, guiding the magic to mend the broken bone.

Then, he pushed the young boy away. Harry laughed, “That was just a little pinch, Malfoy. I wouldn’t really break your arm just for that.” But with eyes narrowed, Harry warned, “But you should know better now. Watch your words, Malfoy.”


 

3 months later, Dec 24th 1993, Yule (Harry is 16 years old and 6th Year.)

Harry felt the tell-tale feeling of a hook behind his navel pulling him to the Malfoy Manor. He stepped onto the ground with easy grace and felt the icy air nip at his face. Bless Magic, Harry thought as he draped a cloak of warmed magic strands around himself.

The portkey to the Malfoy Manor that came with the invite to the annual 3-nights-long Malfoy Yule ball only took him to the boundaries of the Malfoy wards, which covered the actual manor and some more land around it. He started his long trek towards the manor, taking note of the old wards that had stood the test of time. Damn Malfoys and their paranoid nature, if they were nicer, there would be less people out for their heads.

He felt a presence and tensed for an instance before tasting the familiar magic. It was Hugo Braune. Hugo tend to avoid the politics in the UK, preferring the playground he grew up in. Hugo glided downwards from the sky, having just reached via portkey. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he threw Harry a glance, finding his nondescript looks and disappointing magic boring. To make things worse, Harry had intentionally moulded his face into one of unhidden awe (Hugo was easily recognised as the Braune heir that held considerable power in Europe) and lust (understandable once you’ve taken even a glimpse at Hugo).

Hugo turned away in distaste before his head snapped back, recognising the face of Harry Adler.

“Pan?” He breathed out in surprise.

“Oui, c’est moi,” Harry confirmed in a heavy French accent, deactivating the rune powering his disguise. Dirty blonde hair melted into inky black, ashy skin darken to a light bronze, a wispy moustache faded into nothing, cheekbones shifted higher and cheeks sunk inwards. Harry felt his muscles grow slightly to fill up his baggy robes but he hadn’t changed his height, his real self already shorter than others to begin with. He took his square framed glasses off and tucked them inside his robes.

Hugo’s eyes slid over Harry’s form appreciatively but showed a flash of frustration. “How did you find out I liked French accents? I thought I hid it well.”

“Au contraire, tu es très évident,” Harry teased, taking childish joy in ruffling the German’s feathers. Harry grinned, “I noticed your magic spiked whenever I accidentally speak French in bed.”

Hugo chuckled, “Can’t believe you would use what I show you in my most vulnerable state against me.” He stepped closer to Harry, wrapped an arm around his waist. “Can’t say I won’t do the same,” Hugo whispered, licking the shell of Harry’s ear and taking delight in the elicited shiver.

With his disguise gone, so was personal space. Harry pushed the warm torso away from him. He laughed, “All these coming from a man who, not so long ago, stared at me like I was the dirt under his feet.”

“Well,” Hugo laughed, pulling Harry back against his side, he snaked his arm around the smaller boy’s waist. “It’s your wimpy moustache. It’s such a turn off.” Harry laughed, knowing exactly the reaction he wanted to elicit with his moustache. Sirius had tried gently suggesting that Harry shaved it off because it wasn’t a Good Look. In response, Harry threw a fit filled with teenage angst and puberty woes. Sirius wisely steered clear of mentioning his moustache afterwards.

Hugo changed the subject, “Won’t you tell me how you managed to escape England?”

Harry sighed and allowed the touchy man to remain in contact. He had been like this since they were kids. “Fed Sirius some bullshit about finding myself while travelling. It’s some muggle trend and he ate it up. Practically shoved me out of the house actually.” Harry grinned, “Never thought that all the useless muggle propaganda Sirius tried to feed me, would help my arse.” He gestured at the majestic Malfoy Manor ahead of them, “Now, we have a ball to go to.”

***

Luckily, Hugo had been whisked away by another politician so Harry didn’t have to deal with his clingy lover hanging onto him. He snuck a glance at Hugo and he looked every part the stone-cold pureblood he liked portraying himself as. But to Harry’s expert eyes, it looked like he was in pain having to listen to the boring man.

Frankly, he was such a child. But, child he may be, Hugo was still slated to become the future German Minister of Magic after his mother, which Harry supposed he should care about since he was of German nationality after the adoption by Bear.

Harry was thrown out of his thoughts when a waiter walked by with a tray of champagne flutes. Social events meant free booze and expensive food; Harry just couldn’t bring himself to give a hoot about politics.

Spotting his host of the night, Harry glided between people, avoiding those that seeked him. “Lord Malfoy,” Harry tipped his flute, “Thank you for the invite.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Pan.” Malfoy glanced around and said at a softer volume, “I heard that you’re still on hiatus?”

“Semi.” It was common knowledge that Pan was looking for his wayward mentor, Bear.

Malfoy nodded in understanding. “I also heard that you take payment in favours.”

“You’re Slytherin, Lord Malfoy. You know how priceless favours can be.”

“What if I do you a favour as advance payment?”

What a slimy snake, just like his house mascot. Harry quirked a side of his lips up, “Payment for a job yet to be requested? With a favour I didn’t ask for? Wow, what confidence you have.”

Malfoy’s smile turned cocky, as if he had won the battle. “It’s about Bear.”

Outwardly, Harry’s face remained impassive. Lesson no. 33: never allow your clients to know your desire, you’ll lose the negotiation. Harry raised a brow, “I’m sure I’ll know about it eventually. I may only be 16 but don’t underestimate my connections, Lord Malfoy.”

“Yes, I am well aware of my information’s expiration date. Which is why I’m offering it to you before it loses its value.”

“Thank you for your kind offer, Lord Malfoy.” Harry turned to leave but a hand grabbed the curve of his elbow, stopping his escape.

Sighing, the patriarch said, “Let’s just see this as a bribe for you to look upon the Malfoy house favourably instead. Agreed?”

Vague and nebulous: Harry’s favourite kinds of promises. Grinning, he teased mischievously, “Lord Malfoy, you should have started off with that.”

The old slytherin forced a smile. “Word is that Grindelwald is out. And he has been since a year ago.”

“And no one noticed for the whole year?” Harry scoffed.

“I supposed there had to be someone who silenced any informants.” Malfoy pretended to be pensive. Casting a sly look at Harry, he innocently said, “Isn’t that coincidentally the same amount of time that Bear has gone missing for?”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Dec 24th 1993, Yule’s eve night (Harry is 16 years old and 6th Year.)

Curse that Malfoy. How dared he insinuate that Bear would abandon Harry for Grindelwald. Sure, Bear had been a loyal and die-hard supporter of the Dark Lord back in the days but he was a changed man now. He might have been in the rescue team but he would never have stayed with Grindelwald. Not without Harry at least.

How did Malfoy even know about Bear’s past as Grindelwald’s supporter? Additionally, the issue of whether Grindelwald was truly back was a whole other headache that Harry didn’t want to think about. There was one person who would know the answers and she wasn’t at the party.

Mood soured, Harry wanted nothing more than to leave the party. Spotting Hugo, he stalked towards his prey only to be cut off by another predator. It was Heb, the Unscratchable Itch. Shooting Harry a disarming smile, he introduced, “I’m Tom Riddle. Would you care to dance?”

Riddle (finally, his real name) wanted to tango tonight, but Harry wasn’t in the mood. He was aching to find answers immediately. Brow raised, he said “No, I don’t dance with strangers.”

“I believe we have met.” Riddle’s smile became brighter if it was even possible.

“I believe we haven’t.” Harry deadpanned.

This Tom Riddle, whoever he is, was no ordinary man. He looked to be about Harry’s age, yet exuded the arrogance of a pureblood patriarch. It was bad enough for actual patriarchs, but Riddle was a nobody.

“Harry Adler.”

Harry froze for a minute moment before he gathered his wits and pretended that the name hadn’t surprised him. He was here as Pan, it wouldn’t be good if Harry Adler was brought into the fray and linked to Pan. He forced confusion to paint his face, “I’m sorry?”

“I was under the impression that he fancied me. Am I gravely mistaken?” Riddle smirked, certainty shone in those cold orbs. Somehow Riddle had figured out Harry was both Adler and Pan. Harry could see it in his eyes –nothing can or will convince Riddle otherwise.

Harry’s own words reminded him, ‘better ally than foe’. However, he was in a horrid mood and had gotten a big hint that had somehow evaded him for so long. He wasn’t in the mood to make friends. He was on a hunt for a rat. Harry flashed a charming smile, designed to ensnare, corner and kill its target. “I wouldn’t know. I apologise, I’m here with someone.” Harry sidestepped him.

Riddle blocked Harry again, the smile seemingly ineffective but Harry had caught the slightly delayed reaction. “One dance is all I’m asking for.”

“Pureblood etiquette: take the refusal to dance the first time. Any pushing embarrasses both parties.”

Riddle, with his smile that was like an overpowered lumos, said, “That only applies to ladies. Have I, once again, made a mistake?” Harry noticed the subtle twitch of his left cheek. It appears that someone hates admitting mistakes, whether he made them or not.

“No. But, you’re approaching me as a man. Are you not?” Harry smirked victorious.

Riddle’s eyes hardened but his smile never faltered, “I suppose I should let the lady go then.”

Harry walked past Riddle and purposely bumped into Riddle, sending some of the finer threads of magic into Riddle to find out more about his magic core. From the way Riddle stiffen, it affirmed Harry’s suspicion about Riddle’s magic sensitivity ability. However, the fact that Riddle was sensitive enough to feel the slight probe into his core was problematic. Harry cursed internally, even most adult wizards and witches should not have the level of sensitivity to feel the probe.

“That’s not nice you know,” Riddle warned with dark promise.

Harry turned backwards, “I apologise for bumping into you.”

“I’m not talking about that.”

The two locked eyes and Harry just knew: Tom Riddle might have once more successfully upgraded himself from ‘better ally than foe’ to ‘better ally or terminate at once’.


Dec 25th 1993, Yule, 1am in the morning (Harry is 16 years old and 6th Year.)

Harry’s lips curled up in satisfaction. Finally, he had found that damned woman. He had been apparating all over Europe, looking for her at her favourite haunts. He glanced at generic café. It was closed, its interior dark at 1am in the morning on muggles’ Christmas.

Yet, it was exploding in magic. Neon strands of magic curled and floated in the air around the café, forming a tight shield to hide its true appearance and compulsions that warded muggles off interspersed the thick weave.

This place was one of the shadiest brothels in the whole of Magical Europe. Harry had visited often enough. For business of course, he didn’t believe in paying for sexual pleasure. Gathering the magic in the air, he guided them to form a thick mask over his face. It wasn’t a glamour, but rather a simple illusion such that people could still see his visage but should they attempt to recall his face afterwards, their minds would come up blank.

It was a members-only kind of place, with a stereotypical heavily warded door and bouncer. He quickly gave the password and entered the place; it was teeming with magic and sin. Multiple wizards, witches and magical creatures, all together to have fun as the night turned to Yule, when Magic was most alive. Harry breathed it all in. The magic in the air wanted to dance and Harry wanted to be their conductor.

A body bumped into him and Harry felt himself snap out of it. He had been dangerously close to losing himself. He glanced down at the woman who had her arms warpped around Harry’s left arm, her warm body flushed against Harry’s. “Want a private tour of the bedrooms?” Her voice oozing seduction.

She was extraordinarily beautiful, with flaming red hair, sharp nose, pouty lips and doe-like grey eyes. Her eyes were dilated, a sign of arousal. Harry wouldn’t be surprised if the owner of this fine establishment made all his sex workers drink a beautification potion and Liquid Lust, a potion that made its drinker more susceptible to arousal. With all the magic and sex in the air, it would be a miracle to find someone who had injested such potions to not be aroused.

Harry was about to shake the woman off when he saw a man in a suit staring at him. He was sober in the midst of all this debauchery; must be security. The more questionable the place, the easier it is to get kicked out. Harry grabbed the woman, spunned her around and pinned her to the wall, while making sure he could see the man in his peripheral view. She giggled, her hands finding their way inside Harry’s robes.

He bent his head to the crook of her neck, whispering into her ears, “Can I take you up on that tour?”

She squealed, hands escaping from Harry’s chest. She pulled his along and Harry spied the man losing interest.

Harry felt for the magic within the redhead. The woman he was looking for was a master of disguise, the only way he could be certain if it was her, would be her magic core. The giggly redhead wasn’t her. She pulled him down the corridor of doors.

Suddenly, it came into his radar. He found her. Harry stopped abruptly, the redhead almost fell due to the unexpected halt. Harry bent his head to kiss the side of her cheek, sending a compulsion to her head. “Leave,” he whispered. Dazed, she skipped forward alone.

Despite the privacy and silencing wards, Harry could feel the pounding magic core behind the door. He threw it open, uncaring for the occupants within. A couple were on the bed, in various states of undress. The woman, a leggy brunette, only had her stockings on. The man, a handsome blond in a pair of boxers, was crouched above her with his right hand tantalisingly high on her left thigh. Before she could scream, Harry shot a stunner, closed the door behind and put up privacy wards in one wand slash.

The man’s face contorted in anger as he dropped to the ground to search for his wand. With another wave, the man’s wand came flying into Harry’s palm. “Who are you?” the man growled in displeasure. Puffing his chest out to intimidate, he threatened in a low voice, “I will have you know that I know the owner here and I can –”

“Drop the act, Velia.”

The man paused and threw a dirty look at Harry. Instantly, his body language changed from being masculine to feminine. He settled onto an armchair with grace, crossing his legs. “What do you want, Harry?” She demanded.

“Polyjuice? How kinky.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m on a mission,” she gestured to the knocked-out woman on the bed.

Harry threw her a side glance. The witch was the daughter of one of the more corrupt politicians in Venezuela; famed for being extremely good with wands, both the literal and metaphorical ones. “Didn’t know you did business so far out of Europe.”

The man scoffed and Harry could imagine the real Velia Vespa scoffing and tossing her hair over her shoulder. That woman was too arrogant for her own good at times. Was humility a disease? “Unlike you, my world isn’t confined to Europe.”

Harry felt irriation rise at the belittlement in her words and the magic in the air reacted by sharpening itself into spears. Velia Vespa was the best spy in the industry. She had countless of personas that she could whip out and use whenever she wanted, connections to all sorts of people and had her fingers dipped in many prominent political happenings. Most people used their wands as a weapon, Velia’s weapon of choice was information. She could tell you anything for a pretty penny and was unerringly loyal to Hugo’s mother, Minister Krausser who had taken Velia under her wing since she was 12.

Messing with Velia would be like throwing a rock at a beehive. You would live but you would also feel the full wrath of the nest.

“What do you want, Harry?” she repeated. “I only have 45 minutes before my next dose.”

There was no use in sparring with words with Velia. Her tongue was too sharp. He nodded, “I only need five.” Jumping straight into it, “Grindelwald has been back for a year. Why did I not know about it?”

“Those are just rumour,” she yawned. “No one dares confirm or say anything. Who would want to be the one to proclaim the Dark Lord’s return?”

Harry gritted his teeth. Revealing his main beef with her, “Yes, but why have you not seen fit to tell me about it?”

“Oh, was I supposed to tell you about the Dark Lord too?” Her mouth formed an ‘o’ in surprise. Her brows scrunched together, “I thought you only wanted information on Bear.”

Harry pursed his lips, speechless. She raised a brow, “Unless… before Bear was Bear, he was the right hand man of the Dark Lord. If that was the case, I would understand how rumours of the Dark Lord’s return would be crucial to you.” She feighed a sigh. “Sadly, I wasn’t told when you made your earnest request for help.”

Velia saw Harry’s eyes glazed over before they focused and in those bright verdant orbs: fury was raising hell.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

Dec 25th 1993, Yule, 1am in the morning (Harry is 16 years old and 6th Year.)

Harry blinked. Several times.

Points of time in the past spent searching for Bear flashed in the forefront of his mind. Like that time where he was trapped with no food and water in the muggle side of the Amazon Rainforest collecting ambient magic slowly to escape. Another time where he had to murder a woman in cold blood to make her husband reveal his secrets or his daughter would be next. And another time where he had to pick the scabs from his knees after being forced to kneel in front an angry tribe. All those times when he had felt so helpless reaching the end of a trail of clues.

All those times that could have been avoided. Suddenly, Harry felt a tornado of emotions picking up within his chest. Powered by anger, it wrecked havoc within him. His ribcage ached and the tornado pounded against his chest, begging for release.

He stalked forward, his anger causing the magic in the air to whip around and form a leash around Velia’s thick neck. Harry jerked the male forward, snarling in her face, “So you found out about it! And still kept it from me.

She pushed him away. Were it her slim original body, Harry wouldn’t have budged but the strength that came with the muscular male body caused Harry to stumble a few steps back, releasing Velia from his magic.

She rubbed her neck, “You know what I hate most?”

“Rats?” Harry replied through clenched teeth.

“No, half-truths. They hinder and mislead me. I especially hate it when it comes from people I trust.” She glowered at him.

The tornado quelled slightly, tamed by her side of the story.“It was sensitive information and I didn’t think it would be needed.”

“Just like how I didn’t think you would need information about the Dark Lord.”

And it was back again in full force, smashing around in Harry’s chest, leaving devastation behind. Filled with rage, he felt like he couldn’t breathe with the red-hot anger searing his lungs. He thundered, “WHAT? You knew how I was running in circles looking for Bear and you didn’t think I needed that information?”

She crossed her arms and her eyes flashed defiantly, “I wanted to teach you a lesson.”

With no mercy, the furious magic formed an iron chain around Velia’s neck, pulling her body forward to the ground and leaving her on fours in front of Harry. Then, he flooded Velia’s magic core with ambient magic, pushing her own out. Her face paled, “What are you doing?”

“You know what I hate most?” He threw her words back in her face. By now, Velia was gasping for air on the ground, holding her neck. Harry squatted to her level, holding her chin with his fingers. His anger had chilled, frozen itself into cold hard fury. Eyes narrowed, he whispered cruelly, “Rats.”

Eyes watering, Velia rasped out, “You can’t do this to me.” Harry felt her skin temperature drop, body unused to the foreign magic.

“Eventually, the ambient magic would push out all of your internal magic. And then, the ambient magic would also leave to return to the environment. What would that leave you with?” Velia’s eyes widened in horror, thick fat tears falling out and rolling down. Harry’s eyes glinted in dark amusement, “Fatal,” he wiped her tear, “magic exhaustion.” He tutted, “I suspect you won’t last 10 seconds.”

She grabbed onto Harry’s feet. Crying out, “Pan, please! I went too far. I’m sorry.” Harry felt her magic pleading, coiling itself around Harry begging. He breathed it all in.

He stood up and shook her off, kicking her face off his boot. He sneered, “Did you mistake me for your student because I was younger?”

Tears and mucus mixed together as she started convulsing on the floor, her body going into shock. Her magic went wild. Its tendrils, originally beseeching, dug itself viciously into Harry’s frame but he let them, revelling in his power. Still, she managed to cough out, “I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry!”

He bent down once more to her face. He murmured softly, “I trusted you, Velia. Yet…” His eyes widened in anger and he hissed, “you spit on me.” He could feel his control slipping; the magic manipulation giving him too much of a high.

Harry pulled the ambient magic out, she was low on magic but she wouldn’t die from it. Harry wandlessly and wordlessly casted tempus, the glowing numbers told him the time. Giving her a saccharine smile, “Whoops, we spent more time than I intended.”

He tried to hide the tremor in his hands, “You only have half an hour before your disguise expires. Coincidentally the same amount of time your core needs to replenish.”

Sadism shone in his eyes when he smiled and felt for the magic of polyjuice potions to levitate them out from her bag. He summoned them and curled his quivering fingers around them. Taking the time to tuck the vials into his robes, “And you’re all out of polyjuice potions. I wonder if the Venezuelan witch will wake up first or you’ll get your magic back first.”

He stood up and smoothed his robes free of wrinkles and lint. Shady establishments never had anti-apparition wards because you never knew when the authorities would raid the place. Harry gathered the necessary magic to make a cross-country apparition before she could gain enough awareness to note his twitching digits.

Just before he spun away, he smirked, parting the downed witch with, “And that’s how you teach a lesson.”


Dec 25th 1993, Yule, 4am in the morning (Harry is 16 years old and 6th Year.)

When Harry woke up, he felt his entire body light with vitality. He was well-rested, warm and content to bask in the after-glow of a good shag. Nonetheless, he got out of bed and summoned a robe to clothe himself in the wintry air.

The room was draped in darkness: burgundy curtains, maroon chairs, walnut wood, etc. It was such that the moon could shine so bright, filtering in through the floor-to-ceiling length windows in front of the bed. Harry stood pensively in front of the windows, staring at the lake in the middle of the Braune holiday home in England. Excessive but he would expect nothing less from the wealthy family.

After his confrontation with Velia, Harry had apparated to the Braune family home instead of the Malfoy’s to avoid interacting with anyone because he was still high from the magic earlier. That had been dangerous. He had been closer to killing the witch than he had shown. Maybe it was the wards that told Hugo that Harry had returned, but the next thing he knew was that the Braune scion had apparated back home too.

Before Hugo could say a thing, Harry grabbed the tall German to sweep him into a kiss. He felt Hugo’s magic go wild and leave his body to caress Harry. The combined high from earlier and Hugo’s powerful magic was enough to make Harry go crazy. Without detaching himself, Harry had pulled the larger man into the closest bedroom to continue.

Arms wound themselves around Harry’s robed torso and shook him from his thoughts. Blond hair brushed his cheeks as a head laid itself on Harry’s shoulders. “Come back to bed,” Hugo grumbled in a sleepy voice into Harry’s ear.

“I’m thinking,” Harry muttered distractedly. From the reflection on the window, he could see Hugo’s frown at the vague answer.

“About?”

Harry tore his eyes away from the still lake, a juxtaposition to the tumult in his mind and turned his body to his lover. “Do you happen to know a certain Tom Riddle?”

“Not the name at least.”

Harry described, “Tall, charming, annoyingly attractive,” –Hugo frowned –“Has the ego of a pureblood lord but the magic core of an average 16-year-old wizard. Ring any bells?”

Hugo smirked, “Description fits me except the part about the magic core. Maybe you’re thinking too much about me.”

Harry swatted Hugo’s bare chest. Catching Harry’s wrist, Hugo pulled the smaller man closer and planted a row of kisses along his jaw, punctuating each kiss with, “Don’t think of other men.”

Harry laughed, pushing his jealous lover away. “This is serious. I have a bad feeling about him,” he gave Hugo a pointed look and continued, “Coupled with the information that Malfoy gave me.”

The sombre mood took over the previously playful one when Hugo became taut with tension. Harry cocked his head to the side and gave a sugary smile, “Is there something you’re not telling me, sweetheart?”

Hugo swallowed and averted his eyes. The black-haired Hufflepuff was not one for pet names. Hugo’s controlled breaths kept getting louder as he tried to calm his increasing heart rate. He could never hide a thing from Harry.

Fingers trace the numerous hickeys on Hugo’s chest, Harry sighed, “After all that bull about protecting me as my best friend, about me being your sun…”

Harry pushed his right hip against Hugo’s exposed crotch, “… your moon…”

“Your stars,” Harry pushed his face so close to Hugo’s that his breaths would tickle Hugo’s stubbly chin. “But you can’t even be honest.”

Harry stared upwards at Hugo, who finally casted his eyes at Harry, and in them Harry could see fear swimming in desire. If only he had mastered legilimency, Harry wouldn’t have to resort to feeble concepts like honesty and trust. But, his mastery over the skill was dubious and he didn’t want to risk destroying Hugo’s brilliant mind. He did trust that Hugo would eventually tell him. He just didn’t trust that it’d be soon enough.

“Tell me, Hugo. Is Grindelwald back?”

Hugo pushed Harry away, putting distance between the two. His eyes avoided Harry’s as he pulled the chain sitting around Harry’s neck out from the robe. He stared at the symbol of the Deathly Hallows that glinted in the moonlight. Hugo had given Harry the necklace as a token of his undying loyalty to him but the necklace only served to mock him tonight.

“This necklace. It’s more than what you think. Haven’t you realised it’s losing its shine?” Hugo clasped the symbol in his fist.

“When the silver turns grey,” He looked at Harry, obviously in pain with fact, “Grindelwald will come.”

Harry involuntarily took a deep breath in. He gritted his teeth. Grindelwald had been magnificent in his prime. He had been the most successful Dark Lord, beating Voldemort only because the latter was a mindless lunatic.

“How long?”

Hugo released the necklace. “Two years. He has to regain strength and bring his closest supporters back.”

Harry closed his eyes in frustration, “I mean, how long has he been back?”

“I only noticed it a few weeks ago,” Hugo flushed at his incompetence.

His eyes snapped open, “Weeks? You mean to tell me Velia, your sister in all but blood, didn’t mention anything to you?”

Hugo looked utterly bewildered. “Velia?” Some sort of understanding bled into his eyes and they hardened, “Was she who you hurriedly left the ball to find?” His hands found their way to Harry’s shoulders, grasping them tightly, “What did you do to her?”

“What if I said I killed her?” Harry searched Hugo’s face, which had turned to stone, for signs of uncertainty, doubt and betrayal.

For a moment, Hugo’s face divulge nothing. Then his stiff body relaxed and his hands slid down Harry’s arms, “You wouldn’t do that to me.”

Harry was stunned. He thought he knew Hugo well, but apparently it was a two-way road; Hugo knew him just as well.

Hugo continued, “Anyway, the necklace only reacts to changes in Grindelwald’s magic, so it’s possible that he only started gaining back strength recently.”

“No, Hugo,” green eyes bore into icy blue ones. “It means that Grindelwald finally decided to announce his return.”

Harry grabbed the pendant and in a clean jerk, tore the necklace off himself. “We have to be quick. Dark Lords don’t daddle.”

***

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

8 months later, Aug 25th 1994, (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Qudditch World Cup: the only event that gives Department Heads of Magical Games and Sports their worth, in Harry’s most humble opinion. It was the only global event that Harry was entirely invested in. In fact, if he hadn’t been so fanatically obsessed with following Bear’s footsteps, the Hufflepuff wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up as a professional Quidditch player.

An arm swung around his shoulder as he felt a taller man put his weight on him. He shrugged the arm off and greeted, “Viktor!”

Viktor Krum, seeker and gem of the Bulgarian National Team competing in the finals, was an old friend of Harry’s. Next to him, Hugo bristled at Viktor’s casual contact but nodded in acknowledgement of his schoolmate.

“Fine weather today, isn’t it? Honestly, can’t wait for this entire thing to start.” Harry could feel his the magic in the air buzzing with excitement, a reflection of the spectators. “We’ve got a great seat, Viktor. To think, you’d be playing as well.” He waggled his brows, “All the better to see you up close and personal.”

Viktor smiled fondly. “Ever the flirt, Harry. I will fly well with you watching over me.”

Harry patted the man’s shoulder. “You’ll be fine, Viktor. You’ll definitely win the game.”

17 goals by the Irish Quidditch team later, the Bulgarians didn’t win.

Harry angrily crushed the empty paper cup of Butterbeer and threw it on the ground harshly. The German Minister of Magic pursed her lips, upset by Harry’s public fit.

Harry sighed defeated. So close. Viktor hadn’t disappointed; he had gotten the snitch, but those damned Irish chasers were so good that the snitch hadn’t managed to surpass the points gap. What a pity, Harry thought as he looked at the leprechaun fireworks celebrating the Irish victory.

“I’m quitting Quidditich,” Harry muttered under his breath.

“No you aren’t.”

“Shut up, Hugo.”

The blonde smirked and turned to him, “You quit Quidditch? You, whose secret fantasy is to have sex in the middle of the Quidditch field suspended in air on a broomstick, quit Quidditch? Please.

“It was said in jest, Braune. Must you take things so literal.” Harry frowned, “And stop declaring my secrets publicly.” Harry shook his head, “Trust someone once and this is what they do with it.”

“Break it up, boys.” A voice interjected.

Immediately, Hugo lowered his head at the authority in the voice. Harry, on the other hand, slid next to the stern German Minister and poked her on the arm, “You’re secretly pleased, aren’t you?”

Minister Krausser glanced at him, raising a brow to challenge Harry to continue. “You support the Irish, don’t you? I saw you eyeing their seeker.”

He poked her once more, only for her to grab his finger and twist it. Harry yelped in pain.

“Don’t presume to touch me casually, Adler.” She dropped his finger. Frigid bitch, Harry pouted internally.

She scoffed, “That spindly young thing? Please,” she smirked, “I was looking at their coach.”

Hugo could only sigh at his mother’s antics and pushed open the door of the box they were given to seat in. She was known for her aggressive and cold behaviour in the political arena. But, in front of Harry, who had somehow melted her heart when he was a mere 7 years of age, she was an everyday mother. 10 years down the road, Harry had only managed to twist her further around his little pinky, budgering her like a little tyke that never grew up. Or maybe it was just the fate of the Braune-Krausser family to fall for his little tricks.

Harry covered his mouth with his hand, eyes wide in shock, turned back to look at Hugo. “Scandalous! Hugo, did you hear what she just said? I’m telling Braune Senior.”

The Braune heir smirked, not stopping in his descent down the stairs. “It’s treason to spread falsity about the Minister of Magic, Harry.”

“The Junior Undersecretary would obviously be on my side,” she chuckled.

“Junior Undersecretary?”

“And an apprentice under his Dark Arts Professor too, am I right, Hugo?” At his nod, she continued, “If the prince wishes to dethrone the queen, he must start somewhere.”

Hugo sighed, “She thinks herself the queen. How pompous, don’t you agree, Harry?”

“Well, it’s treason to spread falsity about the Minister of Magic, Hugo.” Harry shrugged and threw Hugo’s words back at him.

Minister Krausser laughed and it was in this jovial mood that the Malfoys caught them in. Harry subtly shifted himself behind the two to blend in with their convoy. He had no desire to incur the interest of the Malfoys currently or show how close he was to the pair of powerful German politicians.

Lucius Malfoy, who blocked their path rather daringly, greeted, “Minister Krausser, did you enjoy the game?”

The switch from the comfortable familial mood to an icy cold one would disorientate most but the three were experienced actors. Minister Krausser smiled, red lips stretching over her covered teeth. There was no need to bare her fangs at the Malfoys. “I most certainly did. And they are?” She gestured to the two other Malfoys standing behind their patriarch.

“This is my wife, Narcissa, and my only son, Draco.” While Narcissa Malfoy stood tall and proud, Draco was rigid and unprepared to be greeting an imposing woman like the German Minister of Magic herself.

“Pleasure. This is my son, Hugo Braune.” She gestured to Hugo, thankfully leaving out Harry. “He is our Junior Undersecretary.”

Hugo’s mask was in full force. Frosty and haughty, he nodded to Lord Malfoy and stared directly into his eyes, intentionally addressing him only. Harry could see anger flicker in the shrewd blue eyes of Narcissa Malfoy before it was pushed aside and hidden.

This is why everyone thinks the Braune-Krausser dynasty is dy-nasty. They were even rumours that the family of three were actually marble statues charmed to act like humans. (It was a ridiculous rumour but Harry can’t say he didn’t help fan the flames of ludicrosy.)

“Pleasure to meet you. Perhaps, we might see each other more often while working.” Malfoy smiled, completely fake. “We shall take our leave first.” With that, he walked off, the other two Malfoys on his tail.

“Bold,” Krausser commented. “Malfoy knows I can’t stand him,” she hissed with narrowed eyes. Glancing at Harry, she postulated, “Could it be?”

Harry pursed his lips. The unspoken words hung heavily amongst the three of them: Voldemort’s return.

***

With a wave of his hand, the white canvas lying flat on the ground, rose up fluidly with ropes of ambient magic shaping it into a tent. Minister Krausser had left earlier with her convoy, saying that she had important things to do. She probably just didn’t like camping. Harry, on the other hand, adored it and was a seasoned pro in camping.

Camping reminded him of the years when he and Bear had traversed the magical world, picking up random mercenary jobs along the way. That carefree nomadic life filled with joy and learning had been everything Harry ever wanted. Besides, the inside of the tent had an undetectable expansion charm, making the tent feel just like home.

There was a fireplace in the middle of the tent and Harry was seated in one of the armchairs that surrounded the fire. “Here,” Hugo passed Harry a cup of hot chocolate.

Harry muttered his thanks and settled further into his soft maroon armchair. He wiggled his toes that were being warmed by the fire. A wave of nostalgia struck him. Bear and Pan, each holding their own cup of hot chocolate, warming their toes by the fire after an extremely cold mission in one of the freezing forests in Russia.

“What do you want to be in the future, kid?”

“Someone like you.”After a moment’s hesistation, he added, “Dad.”

Stunned, Bear had stared at him in silence before his expression morphed into one of fondness. Ruffling Harry’s hair, he said, “That’s a good goal, son.”

Harry felt his eyes water embarrassingly. It was just that he missed the gruff old man so much. He stood abruptly, breaking Hugo out of his reverie. Dumping the cup on the side table, Harry started walking out before Hugo could offer his company. “I’m going for a walk.”

Emerging from his tent, the cool air bit his face. The weather was beginning to get colder and Harry was the sort to always seek warmth. He stared at the cloudless night sky, multiple stars twinkling at him. The Astronomy lessons Bear gave were brought to the forefront of his mind. Harry smiled wistfully. He had always fallen asleep midway through lessons. The combination of the cool night breeze and Bear’s calming voice had always lulled him to sleep. While Bear would always smack Harry awake in other lessons, it was those very special Astronomy lessons where Harry would drift off and wake up in his bed the next morning.

Harry wiped the tears that had welled up. He didn’t think that camping would fill him up with such nostalgia. He missed the man so much. Originally, Harry thought that it was another one of his secret jaunts to merlin-knows-where but after a year passed with no news of Bear, he knew his father was missing.

So far, his efforts to find Bear had been lacklustre. Not only because Bear had intentionally left a trail of clues that was meant to mislead him for reasons unknown to Harry, it was also due to Harry’s belief that no one could have bested his father and stopped him from coming home. However, it was clearer than the night sky, that someone or some force was stopping him from returning.

Harry’s face harden. It was time to discard Harry Adler. It was time for Pan, son of Bear, to locate his errant father.

A huge explosion shook him out of his thoughts. Screams followed soon after. People scrambled out of their tents, face frozen in horror before ducking back into their tents to warn family. Fiendfyre spells were casted indiscrimately by a group of men in masks and black robes. They were chanting indistinctly in the the clamour of panic.

Someone’s shout of “Get out! It’s the Death Eaters!” jolted Harry into action. He bent to enter the tent. Harry grabbed his rucksack and wand, shouting to Hugo, “Death Eaters! They’re here!” Before Hugo could ask him to wait, Harry had fled the tent.

He reemerge from the tent. The field was light with fire, smoke rising into the atmosphere. Harry loved chaos, revelled in it during the battles he was paid to fight. But this. This wasn’t chaos, it was terror. He grimaced; not my kind of thing.

A body got shoved into his side and he hadn’t managed to sense it due to the massive amount of people scurrying about. He would have fallen forward if a pair of arms hadn’t caught him. “Thanks, mate.” He patted the man’s shoulder, turning his head to look at his savior.

James fucking Potter. Of all people, Harry groaned internally.

The man just stared at Harry, mouth gaping and eyes wide with shock. He stuttered, “Ha-Harr-Harry?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Aug 25th 1994, (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“Ha-Harr-Harry?”

"Um... Uh," Harry stuttered. "Uncle James!" He settled on greeting him while his mind churned out a plausible excuse as for why he was at the Quidditch World Cup when he was supposedly "meeting (his) muggle friends in Asia". 

"Uncle...?" James blinked. Confusion trickled across his face. "Harry... Aren't you? Aren't you my..." He blinked several more times and tears fell. James choked out, "son?"

Harry could slap himself for his own stupidity. He had completely forgotten he wasn't Harry Adler right now, but Pan, looking every bit like the long-lost Potter child. Not knowing what to do with James's tears, he stood awkwardly and scratched the back of his head. The Potter Head’s eyes snapped to the unruly black hair that bounced with each scratch.

His hands grabbed Harry's shoulders, fingers digging into Harry's blades, as if trying to ascertain that Harry was alive, real and exists. "Your hair. It's just like mine," James sniffled, "I could have… seen it grown."

Harry felt his entire body freeze, cold spreading from the tips of his biological father's fingertips to raise goosebumps in its path. The cold, unrelenting and harsh, ran and took root in Harry's heart.

A memory surfaced: he was taken in by Sirius and visiting the Potter family home for the first time. The house was cosy, warm and quaint. Photos of the happy trio sprinkled throughout the house and the clutter only made it look lived in. Daisy’s broom was left in a corner; the place smelled like warm vanilla bread pudding and dust lined the display shelves. Sirius had plopped onto a large worn armchair, looking right at home. Harry had cried.

Around them, the fire grew and burned. The light caused shadows to dance across James’s face and for a moment, Harry thought he was looking into a mirror. His breath caught and the world faded into black. The chaos, screams and fire became secondary in the pocket universe Harry was in. He wasn’t Pan, wasn’t Harry Adler, wasn’t anyone. The way James was looking at him, seeing him: Harry was just James Potter’s son.

17 years, was it? Unconsciously, Harry murmured it out.

And in the cacophony of terror, James had caught it. His grasp relaxed while pulling Harry forward into a hug. His arms wound themselves around Harry's back, willing his son to feel his apology.

Yet, Harry was as stiff as a newly made wand. His arms suddenly felt like they weighed twice as usual, stuck limply to his sides. Still, they rose mechanically and found themselves reaching to cross over James’s back.

What? What was happening? Harry felt his ears clear and sound return. Suddenly, he was sucked out from his tiny dimension he had built in his mind.

The apology was 17 years late. His arms, hovering over James, fell back down. And he was aware of reality again; aware of the sight of terror, the smell of char, the feel of spells brushing past.

His spine tingled as he felt a stray stunner shot towards them. Merlin, why was he being so damn sentimental?

Expertly, Harry turned so his father took the stunner squarely in the back and went slack in Harry's arms. Did he just use his father as a human shield? Yes, he did.

Silently, Pan pulled the memory of their encounter out from James's mind. Then simultaneously, he pulled the stunner's magic out while pushing a strong compulsion to run out of the burning field. He pushed James forward and saw him stumble, look around in confusion before running out. Pan watched his retreating back as the fire roared in the background. 

Gritting his teeth, Pan cursed internally for his slip up. He should have been more careful. He tried to calm himself down. Harry Potter died years ago in an orphanage. It has to be true if it was in the Prophet, doesn’t it?

***

Hours later, after the fire burned everything there was to be burned, Harry cautiously made his way back to the ash-filled site. The air was thick with smoke and the ground crackled with every step he took. Harry had dropped Hugo’s necklace in his hurry earlier and spent hours sitting listlessly on a rock in nearby park waiting for the fire to end. The mercenary groaned, wishing that he hadn’t pulled it off his neck in that moment of theatrics.

He heard footsteps and turned to hide himself behind a flimsy piece of canvas hanging off a burnt tent. Pulling magic around him like a cloak, Harry disillusioned himself. A tall lean man with a mop of light brown hair came to a stop. He held his arms out wide and took a deep breath, inhaling the smoke like it was fresh air in the mountains. What a psychopath.

Harry was about to apparate a distance away when he saw the man bent down to retrieve something from the ground. The metal glinted in the dark and Harry recognised it immediately. He sighed, now he had to interact with that nut-job. Apparating right behind the man, still disillusioned, he pushed his wand against the psycho’s spine.

“Hand over the pendant and you can walk away from this unharmed,” Harry threatened softly.

The man threw the Deathly Hallows symbol from hand to hand. “Ain’t this the symbol of those maniacs? Grindelwald’s Army?”

“You’re one to talk,” Harry muttered.

The man laughed, seemingly undeterred by the wand pressed against his back. “Those insects aren’t even worth Voldemort’s attention.”

Narrowing his eyes, Harry dug his wand into the man’s back and calmly warned. “Hand it over now.

“Or what?” He could hear the smirk in his voice.

“Or I’ll disembowel you right here right now.”

“Morsmor –”

Harry pushed the man forward, disrupting his spell-casting and discreetly summoning his pendant. “Are you crazy? Firing a spell now will earn you stunners from all directions and a trip to Azkaban.”

The man stood up and turned to face Harry, somehow managing to pinpoint where Harry’s head was roughly at. He chuckled darkly, “I know.”

Before Harry could question the man’s sanity further, the deranged man held his wand in the air and shouted, “Mors –”

Harry felt his feet touch the burnt ground a distance away. He had apparated away before the place could be swarmed by aurors. That fucking psycho. Harry smoothed his robes, and activated his disguise rune, preparing himself for an apparition back to the Black manor.

He heard the sounds of stunners sizzling through air and he twisted to look at where he left that demented dog. The sight chilled him to the bone: a gargantuan skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth hung in the sky as a cloud of greenish smoke. The serpent that twisted its body, coiling and knotting itself to look like the infamous Dark Mark only cemented Harry’s suspicions.

It was a confirmation of the imminent return of Voldemort.

Two dark lords are returning. Harry groaned, what a mess.

***

2 months later, Oct 30th 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Admist all the mess and upcoming maelstrom of war, somehow Dumbledore thought it would be the perfect time for an inter-school tournament. The hogwash fed to the public was that the Triwizard Tournament was meant to promote amity and build ties between the three schools. In reality, the Triwizard Tournament was a tool of measurement, used to decide which school reigned supreme with better students.

If the Hogwarts champion won, it would show off Hogwart’s prowress and warn off the other nations that Dumbledore was still churning out high quality wizards and witches. In a time of turmoil, it was a highly political move seen as a gesture of good will. Fucking brilliant. Harry mentalled applauded. Dumbledore remained crafty even with old age.

The tournament was announced a few days ago and the other students were already arriving today. Harry had casually entertained the thought of joining the tournament and Sirius had given his enthusiastic blessings but the entire affair just seemed like it was far too much trouble.

Dumbledore interrupted his train of thought, “Now, let the festivities begin."

On cue, the grand French doors of the Great Hall burst open and a group of burly stocky men marched in with heavy red fur-lined coats. They stomped with their staffs in perfectly synchronised acrobatics and a grand performance of pyrotechnics but Harry couldn't be bothered with the blatant display of masculine dominance.

Boring, he thought as he reached for a treacle tart. No one was eating, so thoroughly enraptured by the entrance of their foreign pals; that just meant that no one would be fighting with Harry for the tarts. A blond head past the doors and only because that specific golden honey blonde shade was so familiar that he looked up: to see Hugo.

On the outside, he remained seemingly absorbed with his treacle tart but he discreetly stared until Hugo's gaze, which had been scanning the crowd, caught his. Braune’s stoic face broke to reveal a small smirk that said he knew something Harry didn't. Harry had been completely in the dark about Hugo’s arrival in Britain, which made the Hufflepuff slightly miffed as he didn’t appreciate being left out.

Next thing he knew, Beauxbatons’ name was announced and a group of stunning girls flocked in with powder blue robes and butterflies. Beside him, Cedric leaned in with barely contained mirth and whispered, "Merlin, look at those caps."

Harry zoomed in on those atrocious fashion choices. They were nipple hats, boob caps, breast berets, whatever you wanted to call them. (The irony of him focusing on the breast berets instead of the breasts on chests because he was so gay was not lost on him.)

By the time Harry was done analysing the poor decisions made centuries ago, the girls from Beauxbatons had finished their little dance and were seated with Ravenclaws. Durmstrang had picked Slytherin. Should Harry even act surprised?

Cedric passed Harry a bread roll as the rest started digging into the feast. "Taking part?"

Harry deadpanned, "People die in these tournaments, Ced."

Cedric laughed, "But eternal glory! A chance to show people that Hufflepuffs aren't meant to be underestimated."

"Who's the last Triwizard champion?"

The handsome Brit furrowed his brows in confusion, "I don't know. Why?"

Harry scoffed, "So much for eternal glory." He got out from his seat; Hugo should be able to slip away too. "Best if you talked to Cho about this. She might have problems with having a dead boyfriend." Before Cedric could retort, Harry had bounced out of his seat with ease, making his way out of the Great Hall.

Before he could make a few steps out, he felt Hugo's magic and a hand grabbed him to drag him into a dark alcove. Hugo pressed a kiss to his temple, "Bring me somewhere private?"

Not one to deny salacious requests, Harry dragged the boy-actually man already, to an empty classroom. He took a moment to put up wards before turning to pounce on Hugo. His advances were stopped when Hugo leaned backwards. Puzzled as well as a tad bit embarrassed, Harry paused. Had he misunderstood something?

"Could you take the disguise off first?" At Harry's silence, Hugo wound his arms around Harry’s hips and apologised, "I'm a superficial dog, I know. I'm sorry, let's continue."

Harry pulled apart the strong arms, "I'm not in the mood anymore, you sod." Putting some distance between them, the wizard hopped onto a desk. Hugo sighed, "I messed up, didn't I?"

Harry just tilted his head and smiled sweetly. "So, what brings you to Dumbledore's territory?"

"Opportunities."

When it felt like Hugo wasn’t going to voluntarily offer more information, The mercenary felt irritation rise. "To?"

"See you."

"Okay, bye." Harry jumped off the table, ready to leave the uninterested conversationalist and stop his own entitled arse from wringing Hugo’s neck just because he refused to share secrets.

However, the tall German made use of his long legs and shot forward, grabbing Harry's arm to pull him back,"Alright alright, I'll be serious." His face lost all amusement and became stony. "Remember that wacko that fired the dark mark during the World Cup? Official reports say it was by a house elf. With Daisy Potter's wand, no less. Aren't there just too many oddities in one scenario?”

Harry blinked and Hugo continued, “Mother thought so too."

"So she sent you here."

"Under the guise of 'junior secretary learning the ropes of diplomacy'. Quite clever if you ask me."

"Yeah, Kakaroff probably just agreed to get her off his back. Everybody knows how much of a nightmare she is to deal with." Harry paused, processing the information. "Doesn't really explain what she wishes to get out of this though."

Hugo shrugged, "Don't look at me. I'm just a simple love struck man grabbing the chance to spend more time with his lover."

Harry laughed, "You're so useless." But he just couldn't shake off that feeling of unease and tension that something big was brewing. Minister Krausser was one of the most shrewd women he ever had the pleasure (or pain) of knowing and there was no fucking way she would just send her own son to another country for "too many oddities".

Bitch knew something and wasn't sharing. Harry narrowed his eyes, he knew the Minister's loyalties laid with her homeland so he doubt he would be put in harm's way. Then again, Harry had once been so sure she was the Devil, he tried to exorcise her.

***

Next day, Oct 31st 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

"From Beauxbatons, Fleur Delacour." Reserved claps from the Ravenclaw table bellied their underlying excitement.

Delacour was a prominent Light pureblood family in France and had tons of support. Rumour had it that under the sophisticated elegant young lady facade, in a duel, Fleur could take down an adult wizard in two swishes of her wand. Harry had rolled his eyes when he heard it. He could do it in one, not that he was bragging or anything.

"From Hogwarts, Cedric Diggory." The entire Great Hall erupted in applause. Everyone loves an underdog story. Some of the Hufflepuffs even stood up or climbed up onto the table to cheer. Harry smiled into his goblet of pumpkin juice as his friend stayed frozen next to him in disbelief. He put his goblet down and patted Cedric's back.

Smiling, he joked, "C'mon mate, don't tell me you didn't put your name into the goblet."

Cedric finally got his shit together and relaxed. His lips stretched thin as he laughed, eyes curving into crescents. He rose up and waved to other friends. Confidently, Cedric strode to the Champions' room. The unending applause, the attention focused on him. This was his moment and Harry couldn't be more proud of the man he came to call his friend over the past two years.

When the applause died down and the goblet spit out another paper, Dumbledore stared at it for an imperceptible second longer than the other papers before announcing in a calm solid voice, “From Durmstrang, Thomas Gaunt.”

Harry felt his spine straighten as all his senses went on high alert. Thomas Gaunt? He felt a familiar magic peak slightly before a tall man stood up from the Slytherin table, acknowledging the polite claps with a wave. Thomas Riddle? Tom Riddle? Blending in with the other nosy Hogwarts students, Harry craned his neck to catch a glimpse of the Durmstrang champion.

Brown hair? Checked.

Dark eyes that could suck your soul out? Checked.

Cheekbones so sharp they could cut a man? Motherfucking checked.

It was easy to infer that Tom Riddle had nefarious purposes that Harry was yet to be privy too. But, Harry knew that Riddle’s target was definitely not him and in fact, he could foster some sort of mutual respect that would help his career greatly. The fake Durmstrang student sure seemed like the kind to use killers-for-hire often.

Green eyes that followed the dark-haired man into the room missed the paper that suddenly shot up from the goblet. Dumbledore, on the other hand, didn’t and he caught it deftly between two fingers. Murmurs filled the hall. The Triwizard Tournament was called tri-wizard, not tetra-wizard for a reason.

This time, the genial old headmaster’s pause was more than imperceptible. The silence as almost deafening as students of different nationalities waited with bated breath. The fourth impossible champion, who could it be?

Harry almost groaned in dread as realisation dawned on him. There was only one person who would cause so much trouble.

Dumbledore’s words were a whisper but everyone heard it crystal clear. “Daisy Potter.”

Called it.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

Oct 31st 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“Daisy Potter.”

If possible, the breath that everyone was holding, got sucked in even further into their lungs. Like everyone else, Harry’s gaze immediately shot over to the Gryffindor table where one particular tuft of black curls was making a futile endeavour to sink into her chair. Her face had taken on a sickly pallor and her eyes darted around helplessly.

“Daisy Potter,” the headmaster repeated in a louder voice when she made no attempt to stand.

Eyes were fixed on the wee Gryffindor who had dared enter a competition meant for those beyond her years. She stumbled out of her seat and the silence broke. Murmurs and muffled conversations permeated the Great Hall with a buzz akin to a hornet nest ready for attack.

Someone (possibly from the Slytherin table; Harry didn’t want to make quick judgments) shouted, “She’s a cheat!” and there was a hum of approval from the usually genial Hufflepuffs. Guess they didn’t take so well to someone else stealing their thunder.

Green orbs, ones familiar in the mirror, landed on Harry’s as the scared Gryffindor walked by. Daisy paused momentarily and sent him a begging look. Harry had really wanted to lay low for his final year; he was so close to graduation. The fake blond stayed glued to his seat.

Daisy bit her lip and turned away harshly, continuing her solitary walk of shame. Her shoulders, broader than a normal girl’s due to Quidditch, were sagging inwards and her head fell forward such that her hair gave her cover from the scrutiny of everyone else. Scared Gryffindor was supposed to be an oxymoron and definitely not the fiery little Daisy he knew and loved.

That’s it. Future Harry could deal with the consequences of his recklessness. He swung his legs out and scurried to Daisy. He wrapped an arm around her increasingly smaller shoulders and pulled the girl into his scrawny frame, patting her back in rhythmic beats while wishing he had more to offer than a bony chest. He navigated them towards the Champions’ room, steadily avoiding the lazy uninterested stare of Hugo that held undercurrents of intense bafflement.

“Did you do it?” He questioned softly. Harry already knew Daisy didn’t. She survived on sheer dumb luck, good karma and hard work. There wasn’t one slip of magical talent in her.

“No,” came the soft whisper, quivering with uncertainty and insecurity. Harry opened the door to the Champions’ room to see three of the most powerful, brightest and talented wizards of their year and pushed the little duckling Daisy in. He shut the door with a click.

Behind them, Harry heard the Great Hall quietened into a fragile silence and, almost like they were being played by a masterful conductor, burst into chaos.

Not even a minute later, the door flung open with Dumbledore at the helm, closely followed by Karkaroff, Maxime and Mad-eye Moody, with Hugo and Barty Crouch Senior trailing behind. Dumbledore went straight to Daisy. Enunciating each word, he asked calmly, “Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire, Daisy?”

“No,” she shook her head vehemently.

“She’s obviously lying,” Maxime interrupted, pushing forward. Dumbledore turned around to face the horde of unsatisfied (what an understatement) wizards and witches and Harry unconsciously positioned Daisy slightly behind himself.

“Yes, of course, like a 4th year student could cast a confundus charm strong enough to hoodwink the cup.” Moody drawled sarcastically. Harry decided he quite liked this new professor.

“Don’t taunt me!”

“This isn’t fair.”

“An older student must have done it.”

“Re-light the cup again!”

Conflicting sentences were thrown around the room. Harry rolled his eyes internally. You’d think a bunch of grown-ups would have more composure than that. Crouch, the perfect exhibit of adulthood, remained silent. Hugo had slinked off to the side to observe critically like he always did.

“Silence,” Dumbledore spoke up and everyone fell silent. Harry wanted to laugh. The ridiculous influence and authority Dumbledore held over Europe after Grindelwald’s defeat so many years ago still held strong.

“We’ll leave this to you, Barty, and our foreign Undersecretary Braune.”

Hugo came out of the shadows to nod at Crouch, “As far as Germany is concerned, I am here to learn and observe, not interfere.”

Crouch made a sound of acknowledgment and with a grim look, announced, “Those who enter the tournament also enter a binding contract, the girl has no choice.”

They can’t be serious. Harry held his breath as the ministry official continued, “From this moment on, Daisy Potter is the fourth champion.”

What? What the actual flying fuck? The bewildered Hufflepuff stood rooted but his eyes flew to Dumbledore. Surely, he had to disagree. Disappointingly, the senile old man just nodded in resigned agreement.

Didn’t people die in these tournaments? Harry’s gaze flew back to Daisy, who seemed defeated in acceptance of her fate. A quick glance at Hugo showed that he wasn’t interested in the health of the Golden Girl. Yeah, sure, I’m all for rule-breaking here and now but she's a 14-year-old?

His eyes scanned the room of adults that seemed to have settled into the new situation that Crouch had created; they don’t make fusses when they are supposed to. He ended up on Gaunt, who turns out had been staring at Harry the entire time. Embarrassing or flattering, Harry could mull over that later. What was more curious was the glint of excitement in Gaunt’s eyes. Excited for the tournament or for Daisy to take part?

Is there anyone who’s even going to try to oppose this ridiculous circumstance that Crouch has stuck us in?

No?

Harry raised a brow right at Gaunt. He was willing to see how this played out then, Daisy’s wellbeing would have to take a back seat.

***

2 week later, Nov 13th 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

The aftermath of being chosen as the fourth Triwizard champion was quite problematic. After Crouch (silly questionable adult in Harry’s humblest opinion) had practically forced Daisy to participate, the school had turned against the Golden Girl.

Every Hufflepuff seemed to have treated the additional champion as a personal insult. Everyone except for himself, Cedric and smattering of puffs that didn’t bother much with house pride. To rub salt into the wound, Malfoy had taken it upon himself to make these hate badges. It was almost like he was obsessed with Daisy.

The magic badges flashed between ‘Support Cedric Diggory- The Real Hogwarts Champion’ in glowing red letters and ‘Potter Stinks’ in neon green. Harry had been impressed by the charm work and as for the content, well, it was character building, honestly.

None of those really bothered Daisy. What truly affected her was how her best mate, her partner for the Dumb Duo of Hogwarts, had genuinely believed Daisy was an attention whore that cheated her way into the tournament. Harry thought it spoke volumes of Weasley’s inferiority complex more than anything but wisely kept his mouth shut when he saw the unshed tears in his sister’s eyes.

The Hufflepuff was yanked out of his internal musings when he saw Thomas Gaunt/Riddle walking towards him. The man had a couple of his fangirls trailing behind him like little puppies. Just as he passed Harry, the enigma’s mouth quirked up just the slightest in a small smirk and let his knuckles graze Harry’s to send a jolt of electrifying magic.

That level of control showed how in tune Riddle was with his magic and only increased Harry’s damned attraction to the man.

For the past two weeks, the mercenary-cum-student had been nothing but courteous to the wizard he wanted to be allied with. For the past two weeks, Riddle had been nothing but frustratingly delicious with his displays of magical prowess and those flirtatious signals. To be frank, he was driving Harry up the wall and all he wanted was to be pinned to the said wall and let Riddle have his wicked way with him.

Harry walked into his NEWTs charms class and Cedric was already sitting in their usual spot. He slid into his seat and pulled out his parchment. Filtwick was teaching them how to convert vinegar to wine and boy was that going to be helpful for his finances. Harry learned it when he saw Bear convert cheap vinegar into (cheap) wine after every successful mission and during the lazy weekends or holidays. (Bear was a believer of day-drinking while perusing Witch Weekly.) Theory wasn’t his dad’s strongest suit so Harry was legitimately interested in understanding the charm.

“Hey,” Cedric greeted. Harry nodded and turned back to his parchment. They had five minutes before Filtwick’s arrival.

When it was apparent Harry was not about to continue the conversation, Cedric said, “About the badges, look, I’m sorry about them. I told them to stop and that she was like a sister to you. I know they came from the Slytherins but we shouldn’t be promoting it and…”

He rambled on while Harry observed his facial expressions. Cedric looked completely apologetic with the downturn of his lips and the furrow between his brows but Harry detected the hint of bitterness and self-righteous anger in those grey orbs.

“Are you really sorry though?” Harry couldn’t help the touch of accusation that coloured his tone.

Cedric stopped mid-sentence and blinked, “What?”

Green eyes stared blankly at the man. For the past years that Harry had been at Hogwarts, Cedric had treated him well, shaded him with his popularity and gave enthusiastic approval every time Harry did something mildly well, even cutting his treacle tart into a perfect half to share got an approving smile.

“I… Well, I- ” Cedric fumbled with his words and ran fingers through dark copper locks.

The ‘save it’ was almost out from Harry’s mouth when Cedric set his jaw with a stubborn jut and replied firmly, “I said I am sorry about them.”

Present Harry wanted to punch Past Harry for the question. Cedric was a Good Person; expressions showed ugly primal feelings but what he verbalised was what the man he wanted to be.

Harry shrugged it off like he didn’t just almost start a row with his supposed one and only friend in school. Cedric narrowed his eyes thinking that Harry hadn’t believed him. The teenage heartthrob leaned in, his muscular body smelling like a mix of warm vanilla and wet grass, and getting too close to a sexually frustrated Harry.

He whispered into his ear, “I’m so sorry that Potter didn’t hear about the dragons from me.” Then he leaned back, gave his Cedric-Diggory-patented Sunshine Smile.

Harry sighed a little, well, for one, his sister was going to die (because dragons, like which moron thought that teenage versus dragons was a good idea and which panel of self-serving dolts was like ‘brooooo, that’s lit’. Literally everything would be lit by the end of the match.)

And two, Harry proposed, “Marry me, you admirable idiot.”

“Of course,” Cedric promised solemnly before the twitch in Harry’s lips had the pair of Hufflepuff descending into unattractive guffaws.

***

1 week later, Nov 20th 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

After Cedric had accepted Harry's serious proposal, they were pronounced Best Mates for Life and it was assumed each would be the Best Man of each other’s weddings. Despite his matrimony and commitment to monogamy, Riddle had been trying to make Harry cheat on his new bestie.

In the past week, the Durmstrang boy had been insufferable.

Somehow, Riddle had made it his personal mission to touch Harry as much as possible without actually touching him. A casual brush of knees in class, an accidental graze of their hands, an inadvertent glide against his body in a crowded corridor. All these touches came as a bundle deal with the most appealing tendrils of magic that taunted Harry even after the wizard passed.

Was it considered sexual harassment?

That smug bastard never did anything unintentionally. Spotting the Devil himself walking towards him, Harry wanted to run away but merlin damn it, a "Hey Harry!" had him trapped and unable to turn away without being rude or showing weakness.

Harry forced foot after foot to march forward, prepared for another fucking tease. Then, Riddle had this look in his eye that betrayed his amusement and deviousness. And he tripped.

The tall wizard, who had been nothing but the epitome of grace and poise since Harry knew him, tripped over the smooth flat stone of Hogwarts. Worse of all, he was falling straight for Harry.

Instinctively, the mercenary held his arms wide to brace for the impact, catching the falling wizard firmly. Riddle flung one arm over Harry's shoulder and his other hand grabbed a skinny bicep.

He had fallen slightly off center to Harry's right and he could feel the outline of Riddle's soft flaccid cock against his hip. It was warm and quite the package but why in Morgana's saggy tits could Harry feel the damn outline? It was as if the man didn't wear pants and the mental image of the chiseled piece of work bending over to remove his immaculately pressed trousers that slid over smooth bare arse nearly cause Harry to go half hard.

He was possibly 12.7% hard though.

Then, he felt the two of them toppling over. It appeared that Harry's disguised scrawny body could not hold the weight and force at which Riddle had thrown himself with and the two of them were falling backward.

Nope nope nope nope nope, Merlin, no. He was not allowing Riddle of all people to pin him to the floor. If he was aroused now and if Riddle's bulge were to align and grind against Harry's, well, it certainly would be sexual harassment and Harry was no longer sure from whose side.

So, Harry felt for the ancient magic of Hogwarts to stabilise his precarious position and thanked every Higher Power when they stopped moving mid-air. "You alright?" Harry asked but was frankly, 10 out of 10 unconcerned as fuck, he just wanted to get out of the situation.

The man, whose nose was a hair length away from Harry’s chin, glanced up from his thick lashes that framed his eyes so beautifully, it took his breath away.

"Should have watched where I was going," he replied but made no action that showed his intention to move away.

Harry swallowed, "Umm..."

"Wait," Riddle murmured, eyes fixated on Harry's right profile. The hand that was gripping his bicep lifted and made its way to Harry's face. The Hufflepuff wondered if Riddle heard his breath hitch when Riddle's slender appendages approached his face, becoming tantalisingly close.

Then they passed and he felt fingers touched the shell of his right ear instead. The ear tingled like a fresh piercing and absently he wondered if Riddle had seen the small inner conch piercing he had done as an adolescent impulse in a dodgy muggle salon.

"Thought I saw something," Riddle whispered, heated breaths tickling the Hufflepuff’s neck, before gently pushing himself upright. Harry wanted to hex himself for missing the solid warmth against his body.

"No problem," he rasped out. It was definitely a problem.

"See you later," Riddle said as he sauntered out of the corridor, calm and collected while Harry was aroused, flushed and extremely unsatisfied from their exchange.

With youthful vigour, he made an impetuous decision to storm to Hugo's quarters. He did a quick scan to check for guests before giving the door a few quick raps. The wooden heavy door creaked opened and Harry pushed his way through. He flung the door shut with his magic while letting the itchy disguise melt off his body.

Warms hands reached for Hugo's face to devour him in a hungry kiss and the German Undersecretary returned with just as much passion. Soon, clothes were off and Harry was riding the wizard into the floor, inches away from the door, in a frenzied need for release.

Harry could barely remember the sequence of events that happened but when he looked down at the man fucking him, he didn’t see Hugo. Instead of blonde locks, there was brown curls and a bone structure unique to Tom Riddle and it made Harry come fast and hard.

Only when Harry had collapsed onto Hugo’s chest, spent and limp with a cock still inside of him, had he realised the gravity of the situation. His gentle lover picked him up, cleaned both of them with a quick charm and brought him to bed. He nestled Harry comfortably in his arms and started running his hand through unruly black hair.

“Care to share the frustration?” Hugo murmured and Harry relaxed into the soft bed, low vibrations of Hugo's voice and the subtle massage on his scalp.

His frustration was simple: he wanted Tom Riddle but he didn’t have him. And his brain decided to take the most fuckwit way out by imagining Riddle below him instead of the glorious man he had been with for almost 2 years.

Harry felt sick with himself. He prided himself on staying in the moment and never had he saw someone else while having sex. Had he cheated on Hugo? Not physically, of course, but emotionally by picturing another man. Was it okay? Were they even in a relationship?

Harry remembered the offer that Hugo had made when one day, Harry woke up naked and next to the then 16-year-old. “It’s just sex. It doesn’t have to be more.” Harry felt insulted that his childhood friend thought he couldn’t see past the transparent manipulation to realise that Hugo had caught feelings out of all the STDs out there.

Harry ran away to protect Hugo but fuck, the man was so talented in the bedroom that no one else compared. Additionally, the impressive wizard had so much more magical power than the average joe and Harry had been intoxicated by the exceptional brand of magic. Like a shameless hoe, he crawled back into Hugo’s willing arms.

He took advantage of Hugo’s love and never tried to define their relationship. Harry had dropped all his other lovers because Hugo sated him like no other. And Harry guessed, at some point, the thought had come to him, “if there had to be someone, it would be Hugo.”

Harry had the self-awareness to know that he was a selfish narcissist and somehow Hugo saw that and thought he wanted to love that ugly little thing. Normally, getting together was the hard part and breaking up would leave Harry sighing in relief but at the moment, Harry felt his stomach curl and the familiar sensation of wanting to retch.

That was the only solution right now, wasn’t it? Harry had imagined someone else while Hugo was buried within him, deeply in love. It wasn’t right and the Hufflepuff refused to do that to Hugo. Hugo had presented his heart on a silver platter to the undeserving Harry, who had greedily kept it and in return, simply gave the flimsy excuse that perhaps someday he would take his heart out too.

It was different when you broke strangers’ hearts and exploited their weaknesses; Harry didn’t know them and had a faulty moral compass that permitted it. Hugo was another story, another genre completely. Hugo was right after his dad in terms of importance.

The bonds of the flimsy excuse broke and that energy catalysed the formation of a new resolution.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

Nov 20th 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“What are we, Hugo?”

The wizard’s fingers stopped carding themselves through black silken strands. Soulmates, Hugo’s mind supplied. He was helplessly in love with the man lying naked on his chest. And when did that even happen?

Was it after a night of mind-blowing sex? Was it when Harry came to him in tears at four in the morning because he had a nightmare of his first kill? Was it when Harry gave him his small private smile usually reserved for Bear and Hugo felt like he couldn’t breathe?

Or was it when they were lounging on a couch, in nothing but fuzzy sweaters and pants, and Harry had reached over with his feet, which made Hugo think he was going to get a footjob instead the merciless placement of frigid toes against his warm thighs? Or maybe it was after when Hugo lunged for the little shithead and was greeted with peals of laughter; and his heart had swelled beyond belief at the domestic bliss, amazed at the fierce desire to stay in that moment forever?

“Lovers?” he tried.

“Yes,” Harry sighed, “But what kind? Are we emotionally lovers too? Is this exclusive?” Harry sat up and Hugo immediately missed the weight. Harry scrubbed his face with one hand, “I should have set boundaries. Defined whatever this was.”

Was. Hugo had to grab onto the pieces of himself that were systematically falling apart. The thing was, Hugo knew.

Hugo had known from the moment he drunkenly apparated (dangerous feat, to be honest) Harry back to his room and fucked like there was no tomorrow. When tomorrow did come, Harry had slipped away, aghast at his own actions. That had led to the string of one-night-stands on Harry’s side before he slunk back into Hugo’s bed.

“I thought you said it should never happen again,” Hugo was still wounded from the rejection and furious at the various men Harry had taken to bed.

Harry snapped, “I couldn’t forget the shape of your prick shoved up my arse. Are you happy now?”

Hugo had pulled the man by the belt loops towards him and hungrily kissed him before he could ‘define’ the relationship.

There had never been a need to explicitly state the nature of their relationship. Harry was a free spirit and a huge commitment-phobe. His mercenary name ‘Pan’ had been an allusion to the Greek god of the wild (and an acclaimed casanova). Everything about Harry had been wild: the hair, the personality, even the sex.

Hugo knew he could never chain the man down and he didn’t try to. Whenever Harry ogled at other men or flirted shamelessly during parties, Hugo had looked the other way. As long as Harry returned home to the Braune manor and only climbed into Hugo’s bed, he was contented.

That was a lie, wasn’t it?

Harry always came back to Hugo because Hugo was his childhood best friend. Harry only copulated with Hugo because Hugo was the best he had and Harry only wanted the best. And whenever Hugo ‘looked the other way’, he had been filled with overwhelming red-hot jealousy.

The room felt infinitely colder than before. “Why are you bringing this up now?” Hugo asked in a small voice, unsuccessfully hiding his hurt because he knew Harry and Harry was trying to break up.

He stared blankly. Hugo had always gotten special treatment. He was the one that Harry would cuddle, share intimate secrets and went out with. No other fling, one-night stand or occasional bed-warmer had that privilege.

For all intents and purposes, it felt like they were in an exclusive relationship and Hugo had foolishly allowed himself to hope.

“Don’t look at me like this,” Harry whispered.

“Like what?” Hugo replied brokenly.

“Like,” Harry spluttered, “Like I’m the center of your universe.”

“Then why did you let me do it for so long?”

Hugo watched as Harry’s face crumpled into deep sorrow and hurt. That last sentence had struck deep and hit too close to home. The dim light from the torches on the wall cast shadows on Harry’s face, making him look weary and morose.

You would think it was Hugo breaking up with Harry, not the other way round.

Long slender fingers reached out for Hugo, cupping Hugo’s face and his damned body betrayed him by leaning into it. Was it coming?

“I’m sorry.”

Ah.

There it was.

The breakup.

Preparing for it hadn’t made it any less painful. Hugo didn’t know what made triggered the sudden desire for definition or why Harry wanted to do it now, but it was probably because of… “Is there someone else?”

Harry’s mouth gaped slightly as he blinked and grasped for words. Hugo never saw the other wizard so speechless when he was usually flinging flirty remarks and witty retorts. Shadows intensified as Harry hung his head.

Harry was the sun and everyone orbited around him, Hugo wasn’t used to seeing his sun dark. “I don’t know,” the black-haired wizard finally conceded, hand reaching up to stroke blond strands from Hugo’s forehead.

Hugo wanted to melt into the sheets but he whispered a confession instead. “I can treat you better. Let me.”

Fingers froze but Hugo felt the two digits on his temple quiver. He gazed into Harry’s eyes and they were so green; it reminded him of the lush forest in the acres of land behind the Braune family manor. It reminded him of home.

Harry was a face of rueful pain as he begged, “How can I undo this, Hugo?”

Hugo had a sudden flash of memory of his garden back in Germany, with beautiful blooming roses and sprawling bushes. He had taken to gardening when he was younger and had the time and youth to waste. It was something the pureblood scion never knew he could be good at: nurturing and growing.

Harry had tried to grow a rose bush too but he never had the patience and commitment the flowers needed. The young mercenary, stuck to the hip of his father, was either gallivanting across Europe or lounging lazily by the fireplace. All it took was a single arctic wind and the rose bush, barely even alive to begin with, had shriveled and wilted.

Harry had been upset when he saw the withered corpse of his bush but did nothing. It had been Hugo who uprooted the bush for compost and (bless his delicate young heart) shed a tear for the dead bush. His gardener-mentor had parted him with a pearl of wisdom: you can’t undo love, just like how you can’t ungrow flowers. Back then, (bless his immature wit) he had quipped that you could do that with magic.

On the other hand, Harry had never been the kind to languish in melancholy. He made decisions, moved on and didn’t spare a second thought for a plant. Hugo wished the same could be said of him.

He shut his eyes and wished he could do the same for his heart. “Don’t regret this, Harry,” Hugo swallowed. Harry’s decisions were resolute, ruthless and entirely self-serving. He might try to soften the blow on others involved in the process but the outcome had been set in stone since the first question.

Harry didn’t need Hugo to fulfill his needs anymore because there was someone else who could do it better. There was nothing Hugo could do but accept and hope that at least, their love wasn’t regretful. “We are friends before…” Hugo choked, “lovers.”

There was a pause before he felt a warm body bend over him and soft lips pressed themselves against Hugo’s forehead.

His heart fluttered.

It was so tender he wanted to cry and hurt Harry for dumping him in the gentlest of ways. Hugo wanted to make a scene and shout at the bastard to not absolve himself from the guilt of leading Hugo on. Or he wanted Harry to dump him in the worst possible manner like leave him a note that said ‘blowjob sucked, 1 star: too much teeth’ or something else equally terrible because Harry was sure as hell capable of doing horrid shit to other lovers he didn’t care for.

Hugo wanted anything but this godawful crushing pressure on his heart and the stinging burn of the forehead kiss. Eyes still closed, “Were you–” ever in love with me?

The rest of the question died in his throat. Hugo wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the truth or if Harry would give it to him. Instead, he drew a long breath that scorched down his windpipe, “Go.”

A load was lifted off the bed and there was a soft thump of the door closing.

Hugo dropped the pieces of himself he was holding together and let it crumble along with his world.

***

First task, 4 days later, Nov 24th 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“Harry, I just want you to know that I leave the Marauders’ Map with you, tell my parents I loved them and I need you to torch the small shoebox under my bed into ashes. Don’t look inside. Thank you very much.”

Harry raised a brow and stretched on the chaise lounge, “Are you done?”

Daisy rubbed her face sullenly, “No. I’m not ready to die.”

“Then don’t.”

Outside the tent, cheers erupted. Riddle must be done so it was Daisy’s turn.

She stood up, clutching onto her wand with her dear life. “Terrific advice, Harry. I will mull over it during the next few minutes as I approach a giant dragon hell-bent on my death.”

Harry stood as well, swinging his arm around her head to lock it and give a hard noogie. “Don’t give me attitude, Daze. You’ll be fine.” He released her, “Well, you better not die because rest assured, I will open that shoebox.”

Leering, he teased, “Is that where you store your lesbian porn? Not ready to be out of the closet? I, myself, do enjoy a fair bit of witch on witch action.”

Daisy flushed pink, “No, I know my preferences. Why do we have to talk about this?”

“So straight porn then.”

“It’s not! You’re the worst! Bugger off before I tell Sirius,” she grinned and walked out of the tent, shoulders relaxed. Harry smiled and shouted at her diminishing back, “You’re a growing child! It’s okay to be curious!”

Just as Daisy disappeared behind the curtained entrance, Tom Riddle appeared.

Still avoiding the damned man, Harry nodded curtly in acknowledgment before turning to leave.

“Hi, Harry.” No such luck, then.

“Hello Riddle,” Harry emphasised, he wasn’t on first-name basis with Riddle, the impertinent man assumed. “Nice weather today for the first task, eh? My apologies for not being able to watch your performance.”

There. An opportunity for Riddle to finally just ask for what he wanted. Harry had enough of skirting around and the fucking teasing (he subtly made sure that Riddle hadn’t come any closer than before) and just wanted to know what did Riddle want with him.

“Perhaps you can make it up to me?” Riddle beamed, lips stretching over straight white teeth. At least the man was astute enough to catch onto the bait given.

If Riddle hadn’t known about his alter ego, Harry might have fawned over the handsome man and acted like a simpering idiot in front of him. Alas, Riddle had blown his cover, there was no need to demean himself. Harry nodded politely, “How so?”

“Seeing the heavy glamours over the German’s eyes,” Harry’s eyes narrowed at the mocking light in Riddle’s that taunted ‘I know about your affair’, “I was thinking that you might be available as a partner for the Yule Ball. Would you do me the honour?”

Harry doubted that Riddle knew much about Hugo and Harry. Their relationship was so secretive, it could barely be proven to exist if not for the select trusted few that knew. Pan, however, had a flirty playboy reputation he could exploit right now. “Are you talking about my German lover in Hungary or the one staying in Germany?” Harry gave a lascivious smirk, “I would be available, regardless.”

Riddle gave a pleasant generic smile, humouring Harry’s lies. “Thank you and may I request that you be clean-shaven?” Harry was ready to start his tirade to protect his wimpy moustache. “It’s just a matter of respecting the occasion. Unless you could tidy it up?” Riddle smirked, “Except there isn’t much hair to make it tidy, eh?”

Harry relaxed his clenched teeth, he’ll let Riddle win this round. Harry Adler would just have to get over his teenage insecurities. “Of course, if you insist. I’ll see you around.” With that, Harry left the tent through the back entrance, hoping to catch the final bits of Daisy’s round.

As he made his way to the stands, Harry thought that if he had been anyone else, he might really have fallen for Riddle’s tricks. The wizard didn’t truly like Harry in the romantic sense. If he did, Harry would not have seen that predatory intent in his fake smiles.

He was, however, trying to seduce Harry into something, perhaps a cause he supported. Harry wanted to be allies, so no use trying to be difficult and alienate the man and make him an enemy. After all, if Harry couldn’t ally with Riddle, he might have to terminate the man. It would be a waste of a pretty face and magical talent. Besides, Harry was reluctant to admit that eliminating Riddle was not a sure feat. He was only given glimpses of the man’s tight magical control (and arse) but it was not something to scoff at.

Harry sat down at the first empty seat he spotted in the Hufflepuff stands. He didn’t have any other friends besides Cedric. Other normal people actually understood Harry’s recalcitrant behaviour as an unwillingness to befriend, Cedric just bulldozed past it.

He let out a low whistle as a gust of wind swept past the stands when the Hungarian Horntail took off from the ground. Daisy ducked under it on her broom and plucked the golden egg right from the nest. She soared up from behind, egg tucked securely in her arms as she careened around the dragon and towards the ground to end the task.

Harry smiled. How exciting. He wished he had the chance to pit himself against a dragon too.

Having stolen a nesting mother’s egg, the Hungarian Horntail (a species known for its aggression) struggled against the chains binding it, snapping its enormous jaw at Daisy who stood just out of its reach. Harry spied the chains straining against the force of the giant creature. Subtly, he encouraged the bundles of magic to hold onto each other tightly.

Suddenly, a line of black formed around one of the chain links. The golden magic threads sliced cleanly below the black and the chain links weakened severely. The Horntail blinked, its eyes getting clearer, the confundus charm held over the dragon must be weakening too.

Harry scrambled to focus and mend the chopped link. However, the dragon saw the chance and it took it. Rearing its head upwards with a strong beat of its wings, the giant lizard leaped off and broke the chain holding it prisoner.

Harry knew sabotage when he saw it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

Nov 24th 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

The crowd went wild as panic spread. Dumbledore, with a wave of his wand, raised a ward to protect the audience in a shimmering gold dome. It was an impressive feat of magic, Harry had to admit as he watched the threads knit themselves together and shimmer with a steel-like hardness.

The Horntail flew higher, as if to escape, and the crowd calmed down slightly but fear still hung heavily. Then, Harry noticed the tiny figure on the ground with the golden egg, stunned and unmoving. Just when it seemed as though everything would be fine, the dragon dove downwards.

Do something, Harry shouted internally at Dumbledore. Daisy stood rooted, eyes wide and fingers clasped around her wand and hugging the egg to her chest. The dragon wouldn’t kill her, right? Harry tried to digest the uneasy feelings in the pit of his belly.

The dragon was enraged, yes, but dragons were largely misunderstood creatures. She could escape with just growing back 80% of her bones if she casted at least a protego. But if Daisy just stood there unprotected, then it was likely she would be flattened to death.

Would Dumbledore let that happen? Harry glanced at the headmaster, who held the ward strong. His faith in Daisy to recover from her current paralysis to react in time was simply astounding.

Harry blinked. My sister’s going to die.

Without further thought, Harry sprung up and launched himself off the stands, using magic to propel himself forward and crashing out of the ward. He landed in front of Daisy as the dragon came at them, a few feet away.

Usually, Magic had to be coaxed and seduced into doing what Harry wanted. That fickle sentience was powerful and could induce a magic-high in Harry or it could backfire if Harry ever tried to force it to do anything. It was part of what made Harry’s abilities so devastating, yet unreliable.

Whipping out his fake wand (pretenses still have to be kept), Harry didn’t have time for gentle cajoling. He called for Magic and commanded it into the shape of a Conjunctivitis Curse. Finding the tip too blunt, a twitch of his fingers was all it took to direct the magic into a sharp point.

He flicked the high-powered spell at the incoming dragon, shouting “Cojuctivivitis” which was not only the wrong incantation but probably also a butchered pronunciation of the curse name. With barely a pause, he swung the wand back into his holster, pulled Daisy into his arms and leapt out of the way while pulling a shield of magic tightly over their embrace. All done in the span of 30 seconds.

The resounding crash of the dragon sprayed up bits of dirt from the ground and left vibrations that reverberated across the field with a huge suspension of sand and dust. Harry could feel the searing heat on his back from the dragon’s snout that was uncomfortably close to their position. The creature magic dimmed. Good, it was knocked out but not dead.

Then, he looked down to check on the girl cocooned in his arms. He was terrific boyfriend material, in his honest opinion. Daisy was still stunned and her egg had a dent but she was fine bar a few scrapes.

“Am I alive?” She whispered in disbelief.

“Actually, you’re dead and so am I,” said Harry dryly. “So tell me, was it really straight porn?”

She let out a shuddering breath of relief and chuckled with a tinge of hysteria, “You really are the worst.”

Harry stroked a strand of black hair that covered her lightning scar away, “One might think that you aren’t grateful.”

“I’m grateful, of course, I haven’t picked out my coffin yet,” she sighed, eyes fluttering close as relief flooded her face. Harry flicked her forehead, “Don’t you dare pass out. I’m not carrying you.”

Harry felt Daisy’s unique brand of magic quietened as she lost consciousness. He loosened himself from her and pushed himself up, leaving Daisy on the ground. The dust was settling and the ward was down as dragon-handlers and the medic team swarmed forward.

He stood up straight and caught Hugo staring with a strange intensity like he couldn’t believe Harry was himself, coupled with a deep yearning and lust. Harry felt his skin prickle under the prurient gaze as magic danced in the air. They used to have sex whenever Harry even mildly exerted himself because Harry loved the feeling of magic on his skin while someone pounded into him.

Bad habits die hard.

Taking a closer look at Hugo, Harry could almost taste the thick glamours across his eyes that probably hid dark eye-bags and red-rimmed eyes. The Hufflepuff felt bad for not feeling bad. He owed it to his best mate to at least wallow in self-induced misery for a while but it lasted as long as the distance of Hugo’s bed to the door.

Harry had felt horrendous that his friend was having such a tough time but he didn’t feel terrible for breaking up whatever they were in. He sighed internally, he needed parental guidance on how not to be an arsehole. Unfortunately, Bear was not only missing but a monumental prick normally.

Hugo was still staring, lost in his own thoughts. Harry raised a brow and the moment was broken. The German ambassador turned away, face flushed in embarrassment for being caught.

In hindsight, he should have looked at Dumbledore, who was levelling a calculated gaze at Harry Adler, an average Hufflepuff student who had leapt from the stands, shot a difficult curse with the wrong incantation that was forceful enough to bring a dragon down, then stood up and brushed the dust off his robes like it was nothing.

If Harry had taken a look at Dumbledore, he would have realised that he just blew his own cover. In fact, if Harry had taken a look at anyone else, he would have realised he was no longer ‘flying under the radar’. This little heroic act of his had put him directly on the fucking radar.

***

Yule Ball, 10 days later, Nov 25th 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

The aftermath of the first task had been crazy to say the least. For once, talks of Daisy had died down in favour for Harry.

While being ‘questioned lightly’ by Dumbledore and the auror in charge of security, who was thankfully neither Sirius nor James Potter, Harry had given nothing of importance to them. They weren’t asking the right questions to get anything useful and Harry casually found himself in awe of Bear’s interrogation skills as compared to the greenhorns. Harry was sure he saw Dumbledore’s eye twitch more than once, perhaps a temptation for legilimency.

He had gotten a howler from Sirius exclaiming his pride and an article in the Daily Prophet extolling his heroics as well. Guess privacy was a foreign concept.

As for the people within Hogwarts, Hugo had slipped away hours ago, citing homesickness and a desire to celebrate Yule with his family. Harry only noticed his absence when his seat was found empty. Homesickness was a lie though; Hugo was never really close to his parents behind doors.

The other headmasters were suddenly looking at him critically. Dumbledore had acted like nothing happened and that Harry was always a powerful wizard but once in awhile, he would catch the sly glances Dumbledore cast. Daisy had followed suit.

The student body, on the other hand, suddenly found themselves interested in ‘Cedric’s friend, the quiet one’. He had heard rumours ranging from how the dragon was actually Harry’s pet to Harry being the secret love child of Sirius and another powerful witch. He found himself being chatted up by wizards and witches alike from the other European schools too. Certain Durmstrang students were more persistent because of Riddle’s interest in him.

All in all, Harry found his life turned upside down, courtesy of a rash decision to save the girl he grew attached to. He sighed and massaged his temples. He hadn’t planned on getting attached to anyone while disguised as Harry Adler.

“C’mon, Harry. You don’t look that bad,” Cho’s voice broke him from his reverie. Cedric, the blessing that he is, had given Harry space and accepted his actions without question. Cho Chang, his girlfriend, and the second blessing, had trusted Cedric’s decision and gave Harry no different treatment.

Harry turned to look at his arse in the mirror. It was flat and cloth sagged over it. It wasn’t unattractive but it wasn’t the hottest thing to look at either. “Have you seen Riddle? My self-esteem is going to get crushed tonight.”

Cho laughed and relaxed against the pillows of the chaise lounge. Her attire was a silky beige dress robes inspired by the Chinese cheongsam and charmed to be wrinkle-free. Her face was glowing with light makeup and her black hair was up in a loose simple bun.

Just then, Cedric strode into the Hufflepuff common room. Her face lighted up and she beamed at him, looking even more radiant than it was possible. Ugh, couples.

Cedric, clothed in formal black dress robes cut to his frame, smiled back at his girlfriend. His hair was tousled but tame and Harry had to admit that the heartthrob made his heartthrob more than usual tonight.

“Guess we can just crush my self-esteem now instead of tonight. Why delay the pain, right?”

Cedric was about to shoot something snarky back before he caught sight of Harry’s reflection in the mirror and blurted, “You shaved?”

Cho giggled into her hand, standing up to walk over to Cedric’s side. Harry adjusted his bowtie and grumbled, “Yes, let’s not make a big deal out of it.”

Cho tiptoed and whispered loudly for Harry’s benefit, “It’s for Tom Riddle.”

Harry felt the red creep up his neck and onto his face. He gasped, “There are better ways to explain it.” He mumbled, “Apparently, it’s rude because it’s untidy.”

Cedric walked to stand beside him in the mirror and patted his back. “I think it looks better like this, Harry.”

Harry rolled his eyes, “As if that helps.” He made eye contact with Cedric’s reflection, “You’re so fit and I’m just a skinny twig with nothing outstanding.”

On the outside, Harry was whining but actually, he was just nervous about meeting Riddle. Harry was 79% sure that Riddle would bring up his motives, question was, would they be what he predicted?

Harry groaned, pretending to be upset with his looks.

Cedric wrapped an arm around Harry’s back. “Don’t say that, mate,” he gave Harry a squeeze. “Wasn’t it Riddle who asked you out? We all know how dashing he is. Appearances don’t matter. It’s what on the inside that counts.”

Merlin, that man was ridiculously kind. Harry suddenly felt sick for all the lies he had told Cedric in the past years. “Yeah,” he agreed weakly. Cho gave him a reassuring pat on his shoulder and said, “Now, let’s go before Riddle storms in for his date.”

***

Harry only knew one kind of dance: the slutty as hell grinding that could pass off as public frottage. He was terrible at any other forms and he knew it. If he couldn’t be the best, he could jolly well be the worst and Riddle was suffering for Harry’s inclination for extremities.

Riddle winced for the ninth time since they opened the dance for the Yule Ball. Harry bit back a smirk at the barely concealed annoyance in Riddle’s eyes. Pulling a mockery of repentance on his face, Harry simpered, “Oh, Tommy –” The reflex twitch from Riddle’s left eye gave Harry so much satisfaction. “I’m so sorry about my dancing. It’s not very good.”

Riddle shot him a strained smile, “I wouldn’t call it ‘not very good’, love.” The reflex twitch was from Harry this time round. He hated pet names and he hated being called ‘love’ the most because each time it was used, it felt like a disgusting lie crawling all over him.

“I feel like I am disappointing you, Tommy. You’re such a good lead but I’m just terrible at following it seems.” The calculating flash in Riddle’s eyes proved that he caught the light connotations of his sentence. Harry wanted the man to know that he was ready to negotiate and get this farce of a friendship out of the way.

“Nonsense, love. You’re doing fine. I could give you private lessons if you wish,” he gave Harry a small smirk that held salacious promises and Harry melted a little even though he knew it was a guise.

The music decrescendoed to a soft note and they stopped dancing. They bowed to each other and the Durmstrang student offered his arm to Harry. As the music started picking up again and other couples took to the dance floor, Harry looped his arm around Riddle’s and silently eloped with the man before the next dance could start.

Riddle led Harry to an empty classroom with expert grace, like he knew the castle not from pouring over maps and blueprints but from experience. The moment the crossed the threshold, Riddle dropped his arm and turned away from Harry to cast strong privacy wards. When he turned back, Harry already had the first three buttons of his inner button-up undone.

Riddle raised a brow. Harry leered, “Well, you brought me to an empty classroom and set up wards. Sorry if I got a little excited and started first.”

Riddle’s face was blank. “Drop the act, Pan. I have no desire to watch your performance.”

Harry gently felt for the wards and when he deemed them strong enough, allowed his disguise to melt off his features and fill up the baggy robes. Riddle’s face was still devoid of expression. Harry tossed him a disarming grin, “I never had to act out my attraction. I am thinking of acting on it though.”

There was a slight tightness in Riddle’s jaw that wasn’t there before. “I’m not here to discuss your love life.” A small condescending smirk made its way onto the stony face, “Pathetic as it might be, from the looks of the Braune scion.”

Harry shrugged, “And who do you think is the reason?”

“I’m here to propose an alliance,” Riddle started, completely ignoring Harry.

Harry sobered up and nodded. “The Lord I’m working with has judged you competent enough to be part of our plan. You only have two tasks: help with our little side project and stop interfering in the tournament.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “What project?”

Shooting Harry a bland smile, he explained, “I am imbuing a stone with magic and I would appreciate your help as you're apparently as sensitive to magic as I am.”

Unconvinced, the Gryffindor asked again, “What are your intentions for the tournament?”

“Potter’s victory.”

“That so? Do wish her harm?”

“No,” Riddle replied cryptically. “But I can’t promise that she will be unwounded.”

Harry crossed his arms and leaned against the classroom door. His back tingled when in contact with Riddle’s magic. Most likely, the accumulation of magic was to be used to tamper with the tournament. For the Triwizard tournament, one so old and strong with ancient magic, it would take lots of power to sway its events. Old Magick had a way of making sure things go according to its wishes.

Obviously, whatever Riddle was planning was no easy feat, or he would never have enlisted Pan. “What makes you think I will work against Potter, who is a close family friend of my guardian?”

“Because you don’t care much for them. Your true loyalties lie with the Braunes, or maybe no longer judging from that catastrophic break up that the undersecretary had to flee the country to recover from.” Riddle smirked at Harry’s indignant glare and amended, “But anyway, you are a mercenary. Your loyalties lie with money.”

“Impeccable logic but I'm not cheap,” Harry taunted. He was lying.

He had drained his coffers with all the spending on finding Bear and he no longer had an income as he wasn't actively picking up jobs. Additionally, Harry had just cut off Hugo, who treated him to lavish meals and expensive vacations. All in all, Harry needed the money to fund his excessive lifestyle. However, Riddle didn't need to know that. He grinned and gestured to his unbuttoned shirt, “Unless you want me as your rentboy then I don't mind indulging.”

“How much?”

Harry smirked, “For you, free.”

Riddle’s eye twitched, “I was referring to your mercenary services.”

“Oh,” Harry didn't have to fake the disappointment. He shrugged, “For seven months of low involvement, 70,000 galleons.” Harry would do it for 40,000 but he wanted to see how rich was Riddle’s backing.

“50,000,” Riddle argued.

“Alright and I get to ask five questions each time we meet for the stone.”

Three and I get to deflect one if I don't wish to answer,” Riddle gritted out, upset that he needed to do something as lowly as negotiating.

Harry smirked, “Deal.”

If it felt like a deal with the devil was made, there was no saying who's the devil in this case.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

Yule, Nov 25th 1994 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Hugo took his first painless breath since Harry left him. He was home. He felt it deep in his bones, from the way the wards sang to how the books slotted themselves firmly into the shelf, excited to please their master with a neat appearance.

He had apparated directly into his bedroom, which was exactly the same as he had left it: bed made, cloak haphazardly flung over a chair, a jug of water by his bed. He sat on the bed and poured himself a cup of water.

The pair of spectacles, that Harry had forgotten to bring along, laid innocently next to the jug. Hugo took his wand out, the vanishing spell’s incantation on the tip of his tongue. He blinked and a wretched longing clinged to his heart that one day Harry would return for it. (He wouldn't. He already bought a replacement.)

Hugo picked up the offending object and gingerly stowed it in his bedside drawer. As his fingers curled around the knob to push the drawer close, he felt the familiar self-hatred welling up. Weak, he scolded himself. So weak. With fragile resolve, he pulled the drawer open and grabbed the metal frames with a tight fist, ready to destroy it. He drew his arm up, ready to hurl it down with the strength of a Quidditch Beater.

“Don’t think I’ve ever seen a more graceful Beater, Hugo.”

Hugo’s arm fell, the glasses clutched safely in his hand. For minutes, he stared at the glasses in silence before storing it in the bedside drawer as per his initial plan.

“Mimsy,” he called for the head house elf. She appeared with a crack and bowed. The Braune elves were treated well so she was in a velvet red tunic that signified her position. “Mimsy welcomes Young Master Hugo back to Braune Manor. Master left hours ago but Mistress is in the garden and be waiting for you.”

Hugo nodded. His mother knew him well; the first place Hugo liked to visit when he came home was the garden.

He walked to the garden, passing family portraits and ostentatious decorations. When he flung open the French double doors that led outside, his mother was already seated at the al fresco table they kept outdoors for fair days. There was a glass pot of tea on the white table and the umbrella provided a good amount of shade against the setting sun.

Hugo smiled to himself involuntarily; pink cast skies and the soft chirps of birds had calmed the emotional vortex within. His garden was his pride and joy. Every flower was in full bloom despite the snowflakes that gently covered them. Magical plants that he used for potion brewing were also thriving in the smack of winter. The weather would not be bothering his garden; Hugo was above muggle gardening conventions.

He took a seat and poured himself a cup of the English breakfast tea. His mother finally took her eyes off of the rose bushes to glance at him and then back at the roses.

“So, it's over with Kai’s son,” she declared casually.

Hugo took a sip, “Yes.” The tea was over-steeped and as bitter as his ‘yes’.

“That boy was always too much like Kai for his own good.” She gave a pointed stare at the Deathly Hallows pendant on Hugo’s chest, glinting in the light but looking a whole lot more tarnished than before.

Self-conscious, Hugo grabbed the pendant with his hand, hiding it from his mother’s sight. “It's not just this. He returned me everything else I gave him.”

She popped two cubes of sugar into her tea and stirred. “He knows what the pendant does and represent?”

Another bitter yes.

“Then you must know what he means by giving it back.” She drank her tea in big gulp. Hugo cringed internally, he never understood his mother's taste for bad tea. “He's much more like Kai than expected,” she sighed. “Terribly worrying.”

Hugo clenched his fist. “Why do you say that?” He banged his fist on the table and the cups rattled, “What are you hiding from me?”

She shot him a condescending glare, one that silenced multiple politicians and cemented her position as the harshest but most effective leader Germany has seen in a century.

“What's this?” She raised a brow, “A tantrum?”

Hugo felt himself flush under his mother’s eye but refused to back down.

“Why would I tell you things if I knew that you were just going to tell him?”

“He's with us!”

Her gaze landed on the pendant once more. “Apparently not.” She turned back to the roses, bright crimson red dotted with specks of white snow. Hugo had planted them for her, a long time ago.

She stood up with fluid grace and she turned back into the manor. “Finish your moping and get to work lest people accuse me of nepotism.”

Hugo's head was down, heart still wounded and he hated the pleading tone in his words. “I don’t… know what to do,” his voice broke, “without him.”

Her head turned, a wisp fell from her bun. “Your world is bigger than Harry Adler.” Then, she blinked once and with clenched teeth, chided, “Get it together and don't disgrace me. You’re truly your father’s son.” She tucked the wisp behind her ear and glided back into the manor, leaving Hugo to his thoughts.

He remembered his naïve 11-year-old self, a month before going to Durmstrang, that just wanted something tangible to remind his mother of him. Back then, he had spent a whole week planting a row of red rose bushes, breaking his back under the unrelenting sun for her. Back then, his mother’s love didn’t need to be earned.

The woman his mother was now, didn’t love him. She would put up an act in public and be the stern but doting mother. Behind the scenes, she was a vicious bitch only concerned with the benefits Hugo could bring her.

It was a stark contrast against Harry and only reminded Hugo why he fell so deeply in love. While others see the Braune scion, sole heir to the Braune line or even the Junior Undersecretary, Harry saw Hugo and Hugo alone. Harry didn't see people as tools unlike his dear parents.

When he looked into Harry’s eyes, he could see himself as he was: a man.

He laid back against the chair, the metal cold against his back, seeping through layers of fabric. Snow fell gently, flakes laying delicately on petals and leaves. A few covered his dragonhide boots that extended beyond the protection of the umbrella. The sky was cast in a soft indigo as the sun set and the darkness came.

It was a beautiful sight, one that Harry would have enjoyed. Hugo sat in the garden until the sky was completely black and his body was starting to get numb from the cold.

He sat and refused to leave till he figured out why he couldn't seem to make people love him.

***

Jan 5th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“Soooooo…” Harry started in a sing-song voice, swinging his legs back and forth while perched on the table. “Are you actually attracted to me or you’re just playing?”

Riddle’s fingers twitched around his wand, “I was seducing you to my side.” The steady stream of magic connected his wand to the large jade stone perched on a mound of red velvet.

Harry snorted, “Yeah, shit load of help your seduction did. The only thing I was seduced by was your money, Tommy boy.”

“Never pegged you for a gold digger, Adler. And do not presume to give me nicknames.” Riddle snapped, eyes focused on the stone. Harry smirked, “But, I thought I meant something more to you, Tom-tom.”

Riddle’s head swivelled around to sneer, “No, sweetheart. You misunderstood.”

“Oh no,” Harry gasped in mock surprise, placing his hand on his chest for added dramatics, “I thought we were dating. Might have told the entire common room, if that’s alright with you.”

Riddle, who had turned back to the stone, shot him a distasteful glance from his peripheral vision. Harry smiled in defense. “What’s the type of men you go for then?”

“None of your concern and I don't have to answer that,” he replied in a clipped tone.

Harry tossed his short blonde strands, “I sure hope they're beautiful dark-haired men with an incredibly disarming smile and rakish charm.”

Riddle smirked, “You’re talking about Flint? That Slytherin seventh-year?” He raised a brow, “I wouldn't call him beautiful but I will give him stupidly cute. Boy must have taken one too many buldgers to the head.”

Harry huffed, got off the table and stuck his face uncomfortably close to Riddle’s. He allowed a fraction of his disguise to bleed away from his face: startling green eyes and jet black hair taking over. “I'm talking about me, Tom.”

He smiled and stole a peck on Riddle’s cheek. He leaned back, smug. “And you might want to stop with the charging. Any more and it's going to explode in your face.” Then proceeded to walk towards the door.

Harry, 1. Riddle, 0.

What Harry didn't expect was an arm to hook around his elbow and pull him back.

Shooting Harry a rougish smile, Riddle propositioned, “Will you go to Hogsmeade with me?”

Shocked by the fast retaliation, Harry hid it with a shrug, “Sure. Not that there's anything much in that small village.”

“Not the enthusiastic agreement I was looking for, but it'll do.” Then, he bent his head and connected with Harry's lips. The self-proclaimed casanova froze up, completely unprepared. Riddle’s smooth lips sucked at his bottom lip, trying to elicit a response.

When they parted, it was Riddle who leaned back smug. “See you at Hogsmeade, Adler.”

With the lightning fast reflexes he spent years refining in his job, Harry surged forward and pinned the taller man down onto a desk, using Riddle’s leaned back frame to work against the man’s body. Their bodies were pressed together, plane against plane. Someone was wearing underwear today.

Harry breathed out, face inches away from Riddle. “You know I’m crazy, right?”

The Hufflepuff felt his heart beat increase in speed and magic dance on his feverish skin. He pressed his forehead against Riddle’s and felt the pulse of magic beating within Tom. There was a paced certainty in the way it thrummed with life.

“If you want to see how far I can go,” Harry panted, “you’ll need to be prepared because the safe word is ‘harder’.” At that word, he grinded his body against Riddle’s.

Harry grinned down at the Durmstrang champion, noting how there were flecks of lighter browns in Riddle’s dark eyes. Unexpectedly, he pulled Harry’s chin down into a bruising kiss, teeth knocking against teeth. Lips mashed against lips, fervently fighting for dominance with tongues as weapons. When both almost passed out from lack of air, they separated with a strand of saliva connecting their wet lips.

“You’re a terrible kisser,” Harry murmured, still dazed. The tips of Riddle’s ears were tinged the prettiest shade of pink and all he wanted to do was to lick it.

***

“Don’t mistake your incompetence as mine,” Tom whispered, forehead still in contact with Adler.

Short-breathed, Tom challenged, “And you know I don’t lose, right?” If Tom’s breath had quickened from the kiss, well, there was no telling if it was purely from the kiss or the way Adler’s eyes shone with wild abandon that made him seem so alive and present.

And when Adler’s eyes had fluttered close once more, Tom took it upon himself to make sure that the lunatic knew just how good Tom’s kissing was.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

About 2 weeks later, Jan 21st 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

For the past two weeks, it was fun. After ascertaining Riddle was as an ally instead of foe, Harry felt freer to befriend the handsome lad. Rather than infuriating touches, Riddle sent Harry secretive smiles whenever they passed. It was nice, Harry supposed, he did spend more time looking at Riddle’s lips than the secretive-ness of the smile though.

Additionally, once or twice, Riddle had sat next to him in the Great Hall for a meal. The Durmstrang champion was predictably a great conversationalist: knowledgeable, opinionated and witty. Naturally, Harry found himself anticipating their little Hogsmeade ‘date’.

When the day came, it was with a freezing morning. Snow fell gently like pecks from Mother Nature herself and Harry burrowed his face into his cloak, relishing in the warmth of magic. He found himself uncontrollably humming a soft jolly tune while walking down the stairs. It was a Hogsmeade weekend; he was allowed some cheer. The younger students hurried beside him, eager to be the first in Zonko’s.

When Harry reached the bottom rung of steps, there Riddle stood, tall and polished. The Hufflepuff took a deep breath unconsciously. He was truly a sight to behold; dark hair perfectly coiffed and the sun highlighted his face at the right angles to emphasise sharp cheekbones. He had his hands stuck into a long coat, white flakes stark against its navy colour. His head bent and his pink-tinged nose was hidden by an emerald scarf. He was waiting for someone and Harry felt smugness (and something affectionate) grow at that sight. It was him; Tom Riddle was waiting for Harry.

Walking with a spring in his step, Harry snaked his arm into the crook of Riddle’s elbow, snuggling close like an overly attached fan.

“Waiting for someone?” He teased.

“Yes,” he turned to look at Harry, a small smile hanging on his lips. “You.”

Dramatically, the mercenary played along by touching his chest gently and sighing, “Be still, my heart.” On the inside, Harry sternly scolded his heart to stop it.

Harry's grip loosened, ready to let go when his date placed long fingers over Harry's hand to stop his departure. Riddle beamed, flashing all his pearly whites, “Let me escort you. It's only proper, my lady.” Guess he didn’t get over the one time that Harry rebuffed his request for a dance. Harry snorted internally, petty.

Deciding to roll with it, Harry fluttered his eyelids and cooed, “If you insist, dear.”

The following walk was conducted in a comfortable silence as they enjoyed the weather. It was cold but at least they were rewarded with snow. Several Durmstrang students gave nods of acknowledgement to Riddle and some of Riddle’s fans looked like they were about to cry or commit murder when they saw Harry hanging off his arm.

Cedric and Cho walked past the duo with the latter shooting a teasing wink at Harry. He scowled at the little bint fondly; he wasn't some young boy going on his first date. They were almost at Hogsmeade when a familiar head of blonde emerged over the horizon and as he got closer, it didn't take long for Harry to figure out it was Hugo.

Grip loosened, his arm fell away from Riddle easily, which the Durmstrang student immediately noticed. Hugo hasn't seen them yet as his head was bent down in a depressing posture. Just as Harry was about to impulsively grab magic and just apparate the fuck out of the situation, Hugo raised his head and their eyes connected. Intelligent blue eyes traveled from Harry to Riddle and back to Harry. By now, Hugo was close enough to talk so he ventured an amicable “hey”.

Hugo just stared at Harry with an unreadable look and didn't say a word. Feeling his insides squirm, the Hufflepuff bravely stood his ground and refused to fidget under the scrutiny. Then, Hugo's face morphed into one of pained exasperation, “It hurts to look at you but I can't look away.”

That hurts, Harry felt an odd coldness pierce his heart. It was weird; he wasn't physically cold at all, the multiple warming charms ensured it. An indescribable feeling clenched his insides and made it tough to breathe but he couldn't identify the cause. Was he dreaming and someone was squeezing his throat in reality? Was he actually lying in a ditch in a Muggle-populated area devoid of magic? Were the psychedelics still working and the entire thing was a hallucination?

He was roughly pulled back into reality by a bruising grip on his wrist. Tugged forward harshly, Harry felt his body move automatically with the force of nature, following the man pulling him. The further he got from Hugo, the more his mind cleared up and it was only when Harry heard the soft click of a door that he fully came back to reality. He was seated on the wooden floor, leaning against the wall of a room empty of furniture.

“Where am I?” His tongue finally remembering how to fold consonants and pronounce vowels.

“A quaint little shack a little off the main roads of Hogsmeade. Nobody comes here.” To Harry's surprise, the boy was seated in front of him. He would have thought sitting on floors beneath the snobbish student.

“Oh.” They sat without speaking and Harry knew that despite the silence from Riddle, he was waiting for an explanation. The dead air crawled on Harry’s skin and the horrid sensation that took root didn’t relent. He gave in with an exhale.

***

“It was guilt.” Adler scrubbed his face with his palm, “Merlin, I haven't felt that in so long that I couldn't even recognise it.”

“Guilt?”

“I did him dirty, Tom.” Absently, Tom noted it was the first time Adler has properly addressed him.

Adler confessed, “And I didn't even have the decency to grieve. I just moved on instantly.”

It rankled deeply that Tom had no exact idea of Adler’s horrid misdeed. As far as he knew, it appeared that Adler simply broke off whatever casual arrangement they had. He tried not to let his ignorance show with a gentle question, “And you're guilty for moving on or for what you did to him?”

Adler scoffed. Challenge in his eyes, “Are we really going to chat about feelings?”

“You mentioned you felt guilt. I was simply trying to alleviate that by talking it through.”

Adler’s eyes shone like a fire had been lit. He snorted, throwing his head back in derision. “And what, Riddle?” Back to last names, Tom noted. “Are you going to empathise with me?”

Adler tilted forward and sneered, scrunching his already average face into an ugly one. “It’s all fun and games so far but I see you, Riddle.” His face moved closer to Tom's and he had to resist leaning back in submission. Adler was so out of character, lifting the curtains of the puppet show they had been playing since the beginning. He pressed, “Can you even feel guilt, Riddle? When was the last time you felt it, huh?”

He was getting so delightfully aggressive, it stirred something within Tom.

The lie fell from his lips easily, designed to anger. “I felt really guilty when I knocked into someone last night and didn't apologise.”

Tom bit his lips to stop the emergence of a triumphant grin when the ire in Adler's eyes burned brighter. He was like a wild animal now, baring his teeth and spitting viciously, “The last time I felt guilty, I murdered in cold blood.”

It was supposed to shock, repulse and maybe even strike some fear, Tom realised belatedly. But looking at the crazed brutality in Adler's eyes that had bled into green, how could he? There was no way Tom would be put off. It was too breathtaking. Adler continued on his little tirade, “I felt his heart stop slowly, struggling to beat. His breaths so shallow as he choked and there was so much blood.”

Riddle could feel Adler’s heavy breaths against his skin. Maybe it was the dazed admiration clouding his judgement but Tom found himself revealing candidly, “I prefer the Killing Curse. It’s cleaner.”

Adler blinked twice immediately then once more slowly. The wildness in his eyes subsided with each blink and the blazing green darkened back to a murky brown. The tense ridges of his body soften and Adler left Tom's personal space to flop against the wall.

He closed his eyes and the sound of their breathing was the only noise for a while. Tom sat patiently, a little upset that Adler had tamed the beast within. The feral creature Adler hid was a thing of beauty.

Brown eyes fluttered open and Adler shot Tom a tentative smile, “Sorry, that was unnecessary.”

Tom raised a brow and Adler smirked, “Not that you seemed to mind that much.” He feigned indifference. There was no need for Adler to know how much Tom enjoyed the little curtain lift.

“Well, I expect my apology letter to be at least 10 inches long in your neatest handwriting,” Tom said drily. “Or you can make it up to me by turning this dreadful date around.”

Adler grinned, incisors sharp and white, “How do you feel about casual, possibly illegal, international apparation?”

***

That loss of control was not part of his weekend plans.

Needless to say, Harry hadn’t thought that Hugo would publicly address him with such an intimate statement on his feelings. The Braune heir was brought up to be stone cold when conducting himself in front of others. To see the strong wizard confess something so broken in the middle of the streets surrounded by others, struck Harry deep and hard.

They were friends before lovers but Harry had conveniently forgotten about Hugo's pain to chase after his new interest in Riddle. He wasn't there for his best friend who stuck with him through thick and thin. For the first time in a long time, Harry felt like a shit person. The stabbing guilt was unexpected but not unwarranted.

Furthermore, he had turned around to vent that guilt. Harry never claimed to be someone calm and collected. More often than not, Kai had chided him for being driven by his emotions. However, the ease at which his emotions released themselves around Riddle was problematic.

Surprisingly, the Durmstrang champion seemed more intrigued and excited about Harry's sadistic nature taking over than grossed out. Then again, it was Riddle, so was it really surprising?

“Knut for your thoughts?” Harry was brought back by Riddle's low voice beside him. Harry had apparated them to one of the magical portions of the Swiss Alps, where Riddle transfigured some soft cloth for the both of them to sit on.

Harry had came with Kai when he was 14. Being on the mountains always felt humbling: years could pass and Harry would change drastically, but the mountains remain unchanging and steadfast. It was good to know, sometimes, that he wasn’t the biggest thing on Earth. The view was a big plus, just like their flag.

Keeping his eyes on the grand sight of towering mountains, tiny houses, and endless fields, Harry replied, “Offer a galleon and I'll consider.”

Riddle gave a soft scoff, “I'll live without.”

Harry used his shoulder to nudge Riddle's, closing the minute gap between them. Now that he was calm, he recalled Riddle telling Hugo something before pulling Harry away. “You said something to Hugo, didn't you?”

Riddle stared straight ahead at the sun descending behind the Swiss Alps, casting an orange glow that looked like it was setting the world on fire. He told Harry frankly, “I told him not to fly too close to the sun.”

Harry chuckled, “I doubt Hugo understood the reference to Icarus.”

Riddle shrugged. It was such a relaxed gesture it took Harry aback. “He looks at you like you're the sun. He gets it.”

“Don’t look at me like this… like I’m the center of your universe.”

“Then why did you let me do it for so long?”

Harry pulled a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket and fished a stick out. Harry never shied away from vice after all, muggle or wizarding. If Riddle was surprised, he gave no indication of it. Using magic, Harry lighted the cigarette and drew a long breath from it. He inhaled and exhaled through his nose, smoke wafting up into the air.

As bad as smoking was, Harry couldn’t bring himself to give two fucks about his health. Death would come for him whenever Death wanted to and Harry would fight the asshole with everything he had. Besides, smoking was the only time that made him feel so peaceful and detached from the constant need to feel magic.

After two more drags, Harry finally said, “So, I'm the sun, huh?”

Just when Harry thought Riddle didn’t hear his question, the man replied, “The sun doesn't care for human affairs. It just exists in all its beauty.” Riddle turned to face Harry, a small but genuine smile on his face that Harry was starting to like a lot. “Very much like you, I reckon.”

Harry moved closer, inclining his head to the taller man. “So, you think I’m beautiful?”

Riddle smirked, bending his head down. “Well, I’m not blind, am I?”

Harry stared into Riddle’s dark eyes that were almost light brown under the setting sun. The usually bottomless mysteries seemed so much closer at that moment. Not wanting to break the developing connection, Harry allowed his eye glamours to drop and whispered, “If Hugo is Icarus, who are you to me?”

Riddle’s eyes had widened imperceptibly when Harry’s turned a brilliant viridian. His brown eyes were so bright, Harry could see himself in it when Tom replied, “Moon goddess Selene.”

Harry smirked, “I read somewhere that she had a little tryst with Pan.”

Tom inched forward, nose brushing against Harry's. His eyes were lit with mirth. “Did she now?”

Harry rolled his eyes and with a tilt of his head, planted his lips on Tom's, the cigarette between his fingers forgotten.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

The next day, Jan 22nd 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Harry stood in front of the oak door, sensing for guests within. One magical aura resided and he recognised it to be Hugo’s. Previously, he would have slammed the door open with magic and walked into the room like he owned it. Now, he stood paralysed.

Stiffly, he raised a hand to knock his knuckles against the hard wood. The door creaked open by itself, revealing the darkened interior. Harry entered and shut the door behind him with a soft click.

The space was dim, lit only by the moon outside. Shadows surrounded the lone figure, hunched at a spacious mahogany desk. Beside him, a bottle of firewhisky and an empty glass. It smelt rank with sweat and of the musty stale air. Harry stepped towards the man, accidentally kicking an empty bottle on the floor in his advance.

Harry huffed and with a flick of his hand, lighted all the candles in the room. With the shadows chased away, he could see the proud broad shoulders of Hugo Braune caved upon himself and blonde hair a greasy stringy mess.

Approaching his ex-lover cautiously, Harry conjured a chair and sat next to the man who was staring forlornly at the moon outside his window. Harry dully noted that it was a full moon. The two sat in silence until Hugo moved to pour himself another drink. The Hufflepuff stopped the man.

“What do you want from me?” Hugo rasped out, stubbornly refusing to look at Harry.

Harry bit his lip, unused to seeing his best friend so weak. He pleaded, “What can I do for you, Hugo?”

Hugo growled in German, reverting to his native tongue, “Let me have damned drink, Hadrian.”

Hadrian. That’s the name he put on official documents in Germany, but he never thought of himself as Hadrian, having a predilection for ‘Harry’ instead. He only used Hadrian when he wanted to put a social distance, which was far more often when pretending to care about what politicians told him at parties.

Harry released his grip from the glass and Hugo poured more firewhisky out, shaking hands spilling the brown liquid. Harry cupped the air, a glass materialising in his hand. “You mind?” He tilted his glass towards Hugo’s hand. Wordlessly, Hugo poured him some.

At a complete loss of what to do, Harry could only commiserate. He downed the glass, letting the whisky burn down his throat. He liked muggle whisky much more, preferring the soft warmth it gave rather than firewhisky which burned like, well, fire.

Harry leaned back in his chair and looked at Hugo properly. The moonlight shone softly on the edges of his face but casted shadows that made his face look sharper than usual. His five o’clock shadow caught the light, a glimmering gold in the dark. Harry liked his men clean shaven and belatedly realised that Hugo knew of this, which was probably why he never saw Hugo’s stubble.

“Leave,” Hugo said after a while, still sticking to his mother tongue. He turned his head towards Harry, finally taking a look at his ex-flame.

Harry clenched his fists and released slowly. He placed his hand on Hugo’s and in German, he positively begged, “I’m sorry, Hugo. What can I do? Please, let me help.” The language felt heavy and foreign on his tongue after years of disuse.

Hugo blinked. His free hand reached out to cup Harry’s face, the pad of his thumb caressing the fleshy cheekbones of his disguise. “Thankfully, you look like this. Makes things easier,” Hugo said without humour.

The German Junior Undersecretary’s hand dropped limply from his face. “You’re trying to assuage your guilt, aren’t you?” He scoffed lightly, “I’m tired of being used by you, Hadrian.”

Harry’s face crumpled with sorrow. He hadn’t meant for it to feel that way. He couldn’t possibly make himself feel sorry for their breakup when he wasn’t. He could only pretend to be. The only thing he was sorry about was making his best friend suffer. Hugo was terrifyingly accurate with his observations.

The Braune heir let out a deep heave of resignation, “I’ve always accepted that selfishness. I’m not angry with you, Harry. You don’t have to pretend.” Harry’s heart lightened and Hugo gave a small smile, “Look at that hope shining in your eyes. It’s pathetic. Mother would have an aneurysm.”

“I can let myself be pathetic in front of you, Hugo.” Harry confessed, then added cheekily, “Have you look at yourself in the mirror though? Not sure if you should be going around calling others pathetic.”

His best friend let out a weak breathy laugh and Harry felt an inordinate amount of dissatisfaction at that. He wanted the boisterous laughter that Hugo used to release around him; laughter so light and airy, so much like magic. How could he bring that back?

“I don’t regret our time together, Hugo.” If I hadn’t met Tom, it would have been you, Harry contemplated revealing but chose not to. To know that he was so close and yet, so far, would only wreck the man further.

“Thank you,” Hugo whispered, eyes still drinking in the falsity of Harry’s facial features. “I just…” Hugo started brokenly but soldiered on, “I just… need more time alone. I will get over it, Harry.” He smiled in pain, looking like he didn’t believe a word he just said. Forcing his eyes shut, he continued, “When I do, you’ll be the first to know.”

Harry felt immense displeasure that his best friend was in pain and that he was the cause of it, but he relented and stood up. Patting Hugo’s back, he soothed the aching strands of magic within Hugo. “You do that, Hue.” He reverted to the old nickname for his best friend. “You do just that.”

***

A week later, Jan 30th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“Harry,” Cedric greeted when he entered the common room. A few Hufflepuffs turned to look but most just ignored his entrance. The whole Dragon Debacle, as Harry had taken to calling it now, was quieting and the Hogwarts residents had moved on to the next big gossip, courtesy of one loud howler over breakfast: Slytherin Chaser Adrian Pucey impregnated a girl out of wedlock. Juicy as fuck, Harry will admit.

Harry settled into a cosy armchair opposite Cedric. The Hogwarts champion looked around suspiciously before discreetly waving his wand to cast a privacy spell.

“I'm not supposed to do this,” Cedric started, “But if you believe Potter to be innocent, then so do I.” Harry felt warmth from his words. He truly hadn't expected to make such a good friend when he first sat at the Hufflepuff table.

“Remember the godawful shrieking that the egg emits? I deciphered it. It's mermish and you need to put it underwater to hear it. I trust that Potter will hear about this.”

Harry raised his brows. Mermish? That meant it was most likely taking place at the Black Lake. He once took a dip at midnight and the inhabitants weren't the friendly sort. It could be because he was skinny dipping and might have also took an accidental piss but of course, the hostility could be innate.

Harry smiled warmly at the helpful prefect. How had he figure it out anyway? He couldn’t imagine Cedric just casually knowing how mermish sounded like. A professor probably tipped him off; rampant cheating was a well-known fact of the tournament.

“Thanks, am sure Daisy would appreciate all the help she can get.” Harry got up to leave when Cedric said, “Wait.”

Harry settled back into his armchair, burying into the warmth. Cedric shot him a significant look. “Are you ever going to explain yourself or am I suppose to just forget about it?”

Harry blinked; the Dragon Debacle. It appears that not everyone has forgotten about it. He swallowed. Cedric had strictly interacted with Harry Adler and didn't have a single clue of Pan's existence. Honestly, Harry had just been hoping that Cedric would leave it alone forever but no, the man was just being patient

Harry debated with himself. Cedric was loyal and wouldn't reveal his secrets but on the other hand, Cedric was so blindingly good. Being with the Hufflepuff prefect was like being in a dream, where he was Harry Adler: an average student with good friends and worries about common things like girls and homework. In reality, he was Hadrian Adler, also known as Pan, the chaotic mercenary that had blood-stained hands, worked with dubious characters and worried about Dark Lords and a missing killer of a father.

At Harry’s silence, Cedric leaned forward to put a hand on Harry’s knee. He looked at Harry seriously and promised, “You can trust me, Harry.”

With Cedric, Harry found solace in the normalcy the man provided. Solace that would be gone the moment Cedric knew the truth; his moral fibers would never allow Pan to get away with murder. He wanted to stay as Harry Adler, the sham. All so that he was permitted to stand next to Cedric Diggory.

The lies spilled easily. “I’ve been hiding my true powers, Ced. As you know, I was raised by a dark wizard before Sirius rescued me in Germany. The man who raised me wasn’t a very nice man.” At this, Harry bit his lips, acting torn. “He trained me to do all sorts of dark magic and I loathed it.” Harry could almost hear Kai’s snort at the bullshit he was pulling.

“I just… I didn’t want Sirius and the Potters to think I was dark, Ced. I just found my new family. They’re such good and such nice people. I don’t want to lose them.” His eyes watered easily, his mind conjuring up images of puppies being kicked.

“When I saw the dragon, just charging straight down at Daisy, I knew I had to act because Headmaster Dumbledore sure as hell wasn’t going to.” He rearranged his face into one of righteous anger. “If I was forced to learn all those bad spells, I might as well use it for something good. So, I had jumped right in front of Daisy and fired the darkest and most powerful spell in my repertoire.”

Looking regrettable, the actor continued, “I knew I couldn’t say the spell name so I wanted to pretend to use the Conjuctivits Curse but I couldn’t remember its incantation and in my panic, I think I even mispronounced it.”

The mercenary let his shoulders slump downwards, “I was just so afraid she would die, Ced.” He let his head hang downwards, bringing his fingers up to cover his face. Muffled by his hands, Harry concluded, “I was so afraid of losing them.”

He didn’t let Cedric ponder upon the credibility of his story. With surprising strength, Harry flung himself at his fellow Hufflepuff, wrapping his arms around the him in a vice-like hug. Harry let his body tremble and shake, as if he were choking back sobs.

This was the make-it or break-it moment for the actor. Cedric could either rear up in fury and call him out on his bullshit or buy the story. Harry clung on tighter to the tensed man, desperately desperately wishing that Cedric would just take it.

The hard planes of the man softened and Harry knew he had won. The Hogwarts champion detached himself and patted Harry’s shoulder, leaving his hand there. “I know it’s not my place to say but can I share this with Cho?”

Harry gave a beatific smile, “Of course, but just vaguely.” It wouldn’t do for the smart Ravenclaw to poke holes in his story.

Cedric squeezed Harry’s shoulder, shooting him an assuring smile, “You’re a good man, Harry. Never doubt that. Your past stays in the past.”

His stomach did a flip but compared to the stabbing guilt of breaking Hugo’s heart, this was nothing. The mercenary ignored it.

Cedric excused himself and left. Checking the time, Harry decided to look for Daisy. It was only 7p.m. She should be having dinner.

30 minutes, a wasted trip to the Great Hall and questioning of three different Gryffindors later, Harry found himself at the Astronomy Tower. Daisy was perched on the ledge facing outwards, her feet dangling thousands of feet above ground.

The Gryffindor robe was strewn on the floor. Uniform crumpled and sleeves rolled up, she was a mess to look at. Her black hair, usually down in soft curls that barely defied the trademarked Potter messy hair, was up in a bun. In her hand, she held her wand loosely.

“There's a tiny line between bravery and stupidity. Those are my wise last words to you before you fall to your death,” Harry teased.

Daisy glanced back, looking over her shoulder. “Astounding faith in my balance, I see. Mind I remind you I'm the youngest seeker Gryffindor has seen? My expertise with riding a broom is unparalleled.”

Harry raised a brow in mock incredulity, “Broom, huh? I thought we concluded previously that you swung the other way?”

She coloured, “You're such a prat.”

Harry ruffled her hair, uncaring that he was causing more locks to fall out from her bun. He placed his forearms on the ledge and leaned forward to see what had captured the Chosen One’s attention. It was a beautiful panoramic view of the castle and beyond.

Harry propped his face with a hand, “Ah, but this prat has brought you invaluable information regarding your second task. Or you could risk death on the day itself?”

Daisy brightened. She beamed, “You have? I was wracking my brains thinking about what to do!”

Thinking?” Harry gasped and shook his head in sympathy, “Must have hurt for you.” His eyes narrowed, spotting the beads of sweat from her forehead and the rumpled state of her clothing. He started slyly, “You don’t look like you’ve been thinking though.”

He threw her a salacious grin, “Who’re you shacking it up with?”

She rolled her eyes dramatically, “I was training for the task. You think I’d let myself be caught by you?”

“You wound me, Daisy. You do.”

“You theatrical fool,” she taunted fondly but immediately became somber when she spoke the next words in a soft voice. “I’m scared of death too, you know.” The way she said it sounded like she blamed herself for not being fearless and was ashamed of admitting it.

The Hufflepuff replied in an even tone, “You’re the only fool here if you think I would let you die.”

Even though he wasn’t raised as Harry Potter, she was still his sister. He would carry her through this tournament if he had to.

Breaking the moment, he callously tossed out, “Anyway, I suggest that you take a long bath in the prefects’ bathroom, you stinky little thing. Preferably with your egg, I heard it makes for a great bath toy because it's waterproof.”

Daisy spluttered, “It's not a toy, Harry.”

He shrugged, “It's whatever you want it to be.” He mused, “A lot of things in life are, actually.”

***

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

A week later, Feb 7th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

The last meeting with Adler had gone extremely unexpectedly.

Tom had a whole game plan for charming Adler; he was trying the shamelessly forthright method. The game they were playing was vague but, oh so fun and Tom planned to win. Meeting the German junior undersecretary was the curve ball he didn't expect and Adler’s resulting reaction made him so deliciously vulnerable to Tom.

The real Harry was revealed and Tom felt an unsurprising thirst to possess that rawness. Then, Adler had gone on to whisk him to one of the few magical mountains left in the Swiss Alps and casually whipped out a muggle cigarette, uncaring of the fellow wizards that peered curiously.

And Merlin, Tom knew that cigarettes made your insides rot and there was absolutely nothing attractive about death but in that moment, with knowledge of Adler’s true self, his pensive face, thin fingers deftly holding the cigarette and his puckered lips drawing a deep drag, Tom had thought smoking sexy. He had to press his lips together to hold back the urge to ask everything from why Adler smoked to how the man made it so naturally beautiful.

Tom untied the velvet cloth that protected the jade stone. The room was heavily warded against students but Adler, with his magic sensitivity, could probably find the place. If he couldn’t– nope, that was impossible.

Speaking of the devil, the mercenary swung into the room with a relaxed gait. Funnily enough, Tom had found his disguise abhorrently average and mousy initially. After learning more about Adler and the removal of the moustache, the Hufflepuff had started to look intellectual with his square frames and occasionally, even handsome in Tom’s eyes. Tom resisted the urge to rub his eyes.

“Hi Tom,” he greeted casually, like he didn’t upgrade their relationship to first name basis out of nowhere. “Hello… Harry.” Tom threw out, trying to achieve the same offhanded feeling the other had.

Harry smiled: it wasn’t irksome like it used to be. He pulled a chair to sit next to Tom. “Have you had any clue about the next task?”

The egg was screeching mermish above water. Tom had figured it out the first time he unlocked the egg but he was curious about Harry’s intentions. “Somewhat,” Tom lied.

The other boy smirked and tilted his body towards Tom, “Nah. You figured it out already, didn’t you? So, hidden any things?”

Tom felt mildy irritated that his lie fell apart so easily yet, slightly pleased that Harry didn’t underestimate his intelligence to think him clueless. Tom replied, “Hmm… I don’t know what they could take. Nothing is dear to me.”

Harry very pointedly stared at the jade stone in front of them.

Tom patted the cold stone. Crouch Jr wouldn’t let anything happen to it or the Dark Lord would have his head, but he couldn’t share that with Harry. He shot Harry a winning smile, “Don’t worry.”

Harry tilted his head in an annoyingly cute way. “What if they will take people dear to you? What if…” He grinned wolfishly, leaning in to Tom. Salazar, the boy didn’t understand the concept of personal space. “What if they take me? Will you save me, Tom?”

“Of course.” It would be easy and it was part of the tournament anyway. Tom turned his attention back to the egg.

“Can I trust you?” Tom felt a strange jolt in his chest.

He looked back to the Hufflepuff who was being surprisingly serious with a small amused smile. What was he trying to play now?

Tom blinked and pointed out the obvious, “You hardly know me.”

“Yeah,” he nodded sagely, “That’s why I’m asking.”

The Durmstrang champion raised a brow. Was Harry Adler actually an imbecile that somehow pretended to be intelligent for the past months? Tom deadpanned, “I could lie.”

Harry beamed naively, eyes curving into crescents, leaning even closer. Tom clenched his jaw as he felt the other’s warm puffs of breath on his chin, “Can I trust you not to?”

Tom leaned back from the suffocating atmosphere of trust (of all things, seriously). Tom felt an unfamiliar tightness in his chest, “You’re playing a dangerous game, Harry.”

The boy shrugged, finally leaning backwards to give Tom some space, “Always been a little bit of a risk-taker myself. It’s thrilling.” Harry pulled up one knee against his chest, resting his cheek on it to look at Tom sideways. Green eyes (the ease at which Harry dropped his eye glamous and re-casted them was impressive) stared into Tom’s.

Usually, Tom was reminded of the luminescent emerald green of the Killing Curse but in that exact moment, Harry’s eyes were the bright verdant green of a Quidditch field. Instead of the unbridled forest fire that Tom had barely gotten a glimpse of when Harry lost control, Harry’s eyes were like the calm of the Quidditch field after a match.

Tom scoffed in disbelief. Whether Harry knew it or not, the Hufflepuff was throwing his entire being into the game they were playing. It didn’t seem like the other man was going to be holding back at all. He was going to do his damn best to make Tom fall for him but while doing so, if… when Harry falls in love with Tom first, Tom would win.

The oblivious mercenary smiled blissfully while staring at Tom. However, if Harry went down, he wouldn’t go alone. No, he would sink his claws into Tom and drag him along for the trip.

Tom’s left brow twitched up. He truly was insane, wasn’t he?

He gave a fond huff of disbelief and affectionate exasperation. Somehow, Tom didn’t find himself minding it all that much.

***

A week later, Feb 14th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Valentine’s Day came with an announcement that classes were cancelled on the Tuesday and students would be permitted to visit Hogsmeade. Harry had asked Tom out on a date, having made a reservation at the wildly popular Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop. Tom had straight out rejected the invitation, refusing to be seen in that ‘establishment with a sorry excuse of an interior design’.

Harry had then challenged Tom to a game of wizarding chess to determine the date’s location. Being the lil’ upstart that he was, Tom would never pass on a chance to prove his superiority. Just as the Durmstrang champion was about to win, Harry had used his manly charms and pulled his opponent in for a good snog, moving a bishop illegally during the distraction. Tom had called him out on it, but after a few big-eyed stares of betrayal and incredulous exclaims about trust, Tom dropped it in resignation and Harry won the match eventually.

Harry sat in a corner of of the tearoom. Madam Puddifoot had outdone herself this year. The place was cramped, covered in bows, frills and lace. The small table had a single red rose along with lacy napkins and china sugar bowls. You couldn’t hear anyone’s conversation despite the proximity between each tables barely allowing Puddifoot to move around to serve her customers. Bless privacy wards, of course.

In line with Valentine’s Day, the place had golden cherubs hovering over each of the tables. Harry had disabled the magic that made them occasionally throw pink confetti over the customers. If confetti landed in Tom’s tea, the man would flip. Harry had wanted Tom at Puddifoot’s, precisely because he knew the serious man would be annoyed the entire time and thoroughly entertaining to Harry. But, Harry also prided himself on knowing when not to push it too far.

A tuneful tinkle from the door had Harry staring at the new entrant, thinking it was Tom. Harry knew the Durmstrang boy was being late intentionally; ugh, dating was so tough.

Instead of Tom, it was an Asian girl, barely taller than Harry in her heels. Dressed in the powder blue robes of the Beauxbaton girls, she glided towards Harry with purpose. Her features were beautiful: big dark round eyes, a sharp nose and a small pouty lip. The coal-coloured hair contrasted against her porcelain skin made the girl look almost doll-like. Her hair was pin straight and parted in the middle, kept neatly away from her face in a low ponytail that flowed down to reach the small of her back.

“Oh, Presley, how tasteful,” was the first thing she said as she sat opposite Harry without asking. Harry noted the soft croons of ‘Love Me Tender’ in the background. Anyone who ventured into the muggle world often enough would know the King of Rock and Roll. Her magic tasted different from Velia’s so this wasn’t a disguise. It was just a stranger being plain presumptuous then.

Harry gave her a polite smile, “Sorry, I’m with someone.”

She placed her elbows on the table and interlaced her fingers together to rest her chin on it. She continued staring at Harry with a bright smile. Harry blinked, “Is it racist if I ask whether you understood what I said?”

She laughed and replied in an American accent, “I heard you fine the first time, Harry Potter.”

With a snap of his fingers, the privacy ward was up. He sat up straight and launched into the game. He smiled charmingly back at the girl whose black eyes lit up, “Oooh, a privacy ward. Are we flirting now?”

He raised both brows, “I mean, I wouldn’t be adversed to it.” Smirking, he continued, “A gorgeous girl like you knowing my name? Sets my heart aflutter. Unfortunately, my date is terribly monogamous; bit of an old-fashioned man but part of his charms, I guess.”

She giggled and waved his compliments away, “It’s okay. I have a boyfriend.”

She wasn’t from Beauxbatons, Harry decided. It took a while but after going through the catalogue of Beauxbaton students’ faces in his mind, she was not one of them. He continued smiling, “Oh, you tease. Why give me false hopes?” He sighed dramatically, “Ah, heartbreak. Will I ever get over it?”

She shrugged with a small smile, her entire demeanour warm and coy like a coquette but she couldn’t hide the ice in her eyes. She pursed her lips and looked shyly to Harry, “I’m here to warn you. Someone’s going to die in the final task.”

Harry snorted and forced his body to relax, giving the impression that he had let his guard down after her stupid comment. He replied, “Yeah, one of the risks, I’ve heard. I have to say I’m disappointed. I thought you were more than a pretty face.”

Her smile turned sharper, “I am.” Then, her dark pupils started becoming smaller and smaller until they disappeared into white. Her eyes were bulging from their sockets, the veins around them popping out.

Seer eyes: Harry had seen it once when Bear brought him to visit the Seer that occupied Europe. There was one per continent (for Magic knows what reason) and it was highly likely that she was either the American or Asian seer.

Harry barely held back his gasp, his mind racing. There were only four participants: Tom, Cedric, Daisy and Delacour. In his shock, he dropped the game and demanded, “Who is it?”

Her eyes returned to normal and she blinked a couple of times. Still having that damned smile like everything was a bloody game, she said, “In my visions, you weren’t there. But I know who you are, Pan. Maybe if you are there, my vision would change. The future is –” she rolled her eyes theatrically, “horribly fickle, you know.” She gave a knowing smile, “Just like magic.”

She was being frustrating on purpose but there was a reason why she even revealed the vision to him in the first place. Harry had learned, along with Bear, that seers practiced non-interference because there was always a price to pay for trying to oppose the Fates. She was either staking a lot to be here or didn’t have much to lose in the first place.

Harry pressed, “Seers don’t interfere. Who are you trying to save?”

The girl glanced at her watch, uninterested in Harry’s interrogation. She stood up, “Well, that’s for me to know and for you to find out, ain’t it? Besides, we’ll meet each other in the future. I just thought moving it forward might set a favourable tone for the next time, now that we know each other a little bit more.”

Harry stood up with a screech of his chair and accused, “You’re a woman full of ulterior motives.”

She pouted, “I liked you better when you were flirting with me.”

The mercenary gave a tense smile, “Everyone does.” He moved to grab her wrist in a crushing grip and his smile turned threatening, “You’re going to tell me everything, Miss…”

“Seon Mi,” she finally introduced herself. “Thought you might say that.” She wiggled the fingers of the trapped hand, “Which is why I’m just an illusion.”

Seon Mi winked, “I can’t leave Asia, boo. See you when I see you.” She beamed and her entire being flickered and disappeared entirely.

Harry sits down in resignation. Seon Mi. She was the Asian seer and somehow thought this information worth travelling a whole continent for. Someone was going to die if Harry doesn’t stop it. The Hufflepuff felt his heart beat faster and faster like it was throwing itself against his ribcage in a rouge attempt to escape.

Delacour? She wasn’t significant in Harry’s life; the seer probably knew that. Could it be Cedric? Harry felt his stomach turn, no way, Cedric was powerful in his own right. It has to be Daisy then? He wanted to throw up at the thought. Not his sister, no. She was the youngest though. The youngest, the Chosen One, the one forced to enter by a mysterious third party and the one Voldemort wanted dead more than anyone else.

Who else could it be, right? It was definitely Daisy. Merlin, it was so obvious he shouldn’t need a seer to tell him that.

Just then, the blasted bell on the door tinkles again and this time, Tom enters; hair neatly combed and looking like a goddamn snack.

What if it’s Tom? He was working for a “Lord”, possibly Grindelwald and in general, Dark Lords don’t accept failures. What if Tom couldn’t accomplish his task and was killed? Harry imagined the handsome lad, that was walking towards him, cold and lying on the ground motionless. He imagined the enigmatic dark eyes, so full of depth turned glassy and flat in death. He imagined Tom Riddle dead and Harry felt his entire body grow cold like all his blood had been drained out.

What was this emotion? His lips parted, it was even getting a little hard to breathe. Tom had finally reached their table, with concern in his eyes, he held Harry’s hand, “Are you alright? Why are you shaking?”

Fear.

Harry blinked and distracted himself with the music to calm his wild imagination. He noted that ‘Love Me Tender’ had ended and apparently Puddifoot was on an Elvis playlist because it was yet another song from the popular muggle singer.

Harry stared at Tom as he took a seat, still holding Harry’s hand. In the background, Presley croons, “Would it be a sin, if I–, ” Harry felt his hands stable and drinks in the sight of a living Tom Riddle, “–can’t help falling in love with you?”

Damn it, Elvis.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

Two days later, Feb 16th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“Now, son, listen hard. Killing is the easy part. Getting over it is the hard part… This is an easy kill, alright? He’s a horrid…”

“I’m ready… can do this.”

“You sure… You’re so young… don’t have to do this now.”

“You… first kill way earlier.”

“See what good that did. You’re not… change your mind? Parenting is hard. When this fucks you up in the future, don’t blame me.”

Vomit. Lots of it, mixed with the brown of the earth. There was lunch, breakfast and even last night’s dinner.

Someone was patting his back. “Let it all out, son. The first time is always tough. You wouldn’t be human if it was easy. It’s just a job, alright? You’re just doing your job…”

Harry felt the edge of unconsciousness ebb away as he recalled snippets of his ‘dream’, which was really just a high-induced hallucination. He breathed in the dusty air and became acutely aware that he was:

  1. Lying on a cold hard wooden floor in just his boxers
  2. There was vomit next to him, probably his own, judging by the taste in his mouth.
  3. Out of his disguise in the muggle world, magic-less and weaponless
  4. Not entirely sober

He could sit up but his body was aching from sleeping on the floor. So, he stayed down and thought about the ‘dream’ he had. It was his first kill and Bear had been concerned with his young age but back then, Harry wanted to do anything that could make him more similar to his father. He briefly contemplated scarring his face but was much too vain to go forward with it.

Pan had done exactly as Bear taught: made the knife sharper with magic then tackled the man hard and fast. The criminal had no chance. Before he knew it, he was lying on the floor drowning in his own blood as Harry sat on his torso, feeling life seep away.

What was unexpected was the man’s magic flowing out from his orifices to join the magic in the air. (Harry took a deep breath. He always started to feel uncomfortable in the muggle world after prolonged periods.) At first, the man’s magic was confused as its entirety had never left the receptacle it was born in. Then, it started to mingle. It danced and twisted around the ambient magic in unpredictable patterns. The whole affair was so messy and chaotic but Harry had never seen or felt something so ethereal.

Harry recalled his body trembling, getting high off Magic’s party. It was so surreal and he had thought ‘This is beautiful, so beautiful. I need more’. His fingers, still wet and warm with blood, curled around his dagger. (Subconscioulsy, Harry’s fingers flexed themselves in thin air, grabbing nothing.)

He looked at his next prey in the corner and charged towards his father. He had been knocked out momentarily and Bear thought Harry was just upset over his first kill and turned to vent that anger on Bear.

Harry knew better. He had been overwhelmed by Magic’s bloodlust. Ah, Magic, the fickle mistress. It seemed like she enjoyed having her gifts return to her.

The mercenary sighed and stretched on the floor before picking himself up. That incident was terrifying and thereafter, Pan had avoided assassinations, preferring missions where wannabe dictators or warlords sent him to fight their battles. On those missions, he could properly revel in the feel of magic and the chaos of the battle.

Harry put on his clothes (a T-shirt and jeans) which were scattered around the empty room. He couldn’t find his sneakers, which were disappointing because they cost a pretty penny, so he had to go barefoot.

Being barefoot did help with his stealth though as he sneaked out of the room. He recognised the hallway of the abandoned house. As mentioned previously, Harry was never one to steer away from vice and muggle drugs were such a fantastic distraction from his constant need to get high off magic. This was the house that he visited occasionally for a good ol’ session with his best friend, smack.

The other times, he liked visiting his personal drug dealer, Ben Wheeler. The man owns a penthouse and was an incredible shag. Harry suspected that Ben had to do more than deal drugs to afford that kind of lifestyle but honestly, he couldn’t bring himself to care. Harry wasn’t benevolent enough to deal with the muggle criminal network.

He was almost at the door when he heard a familiar voice from behind, “Gonna shoot and scoot, mate?”

Harry pressed his lips together in contemplative silence. He could barely remember what happened in his ‘dream’, much less last night. He turned around to give a tentatively apologetic smile to the man leaning on the wall of the corridor. Harry ventured, “Um… Did I shoot anything other than what I was supposed to?”

Ben laughed, shaking his shoulder-length dirty blonde hair, “You’re lucky you’re hot.” He walked towards Harry, “Usually, you’d be riding me all night long in my apartment. Why didn’t you find me, sweetheart?” He held Harry’s face with a soft smile. Harry’s eyes widened as the tail end of his ‘dream’ caught up with his consciousness.

Bear’s words trailed off as he rubbed Harry’s back and Harry pushed himself off the ground. Who had he killed?

He was back in the house and there a body, still and bloody. Harry knelt down and laid his hand on the handsome face of Cedric Diggory. “Ced… Wake up,” Harry whimpered. He patted Cedric’s face, trying to wake the man up and with a start, he realised his hands were red and wet. That wasn’t his blood, it was his best friend’s.

When he snapped back to reality, Ben was looking at him oddly, “You okay, hon’?”

Harry blinked several times, feeling a wetness behind his lids. Was Cedric going to die? He had been alert at Puddifoot’s; Seon Mi didn’t get a chance to pull out a wand but Seer Magic worked in strange ways. Was this something she sent? Was there more information? Throwing away all thoughts of a hot shower at home, Harry clutched Ben’s hand, “Give me more, Ben. I need more now.”

Ben backed away slightly, “Nuh-uh, dear. You told me you didn’t want to get addicted. I’m just trying my best here.”

No, he didn’t understand. There was no better high than getting off the magic of a kill. This was just a substitute, like sex or magical exertion, and could never be better, so Harry could never get addicted. Harry fisted the fronts of Ben’s shirt and pulled him down, snarling, “I said give me more.”

Ben’s eyes widened in surprise but his smile turned smug, “How much do you want it though?” He put on a pout, “You really hurt me, ya’ know; choosing this dump instead of my bed. Thought you might have gotten a proper lover now that you’re all monogamous.”

Harry took a deep breath, “Don’t patronise me when I’m high, Ben.” Feeling his patience thin, Harry bit out, “What. Do. You. Want?”

Ben’s face got closer till their noses were touching and he whispered heatedly, “I want you, darling. Not all the time, please. Eventually, I break everything I hold.” He smiled wistfully, “What we had previously was great, wasn’t it? I didn’t know who the other men were so I couldn’t destroy them and because I behaved…” Ben breathed in, looking almost tender, “I had you and you were always willing, healthy and whole.”

Harry scoffed, he has met his fair share of fucked-up people who, in his opinion, tended to be self-indulgent little shits.

Exhibit A: Bear, his selfish father.

Exhibit B: Tom Riddle, an extraordinarily good-looking psychopath.

Exhibit C: Himself, a true wanker if there ever was one.

Exhibit D: Ben Wheeler, his drug dealer and occasional lover who was under the impression he could demand things from Harry.

He turned Ben around and shoved the man against the front door. Harry rolled his eyes, “I didn’t ask for your fucking sob story.”

Ben let out a hearty laugh, “There it is: the lack of pity.” His brown eyes were blazing as he stared straight into Harry’s green ones and declared, “I love it.”

With the back of his hand, Harry caressed Ben’s face and saw the delight shining in the man’s eyes, “If you wanted me, babe, you should have held on tighter.” His fingers went down to Ben’s neck where they dug into his skin in a strangle. Ben’s eyes widened and he buckled against the door. Using his other hand, Harry gripped Ben’s neck in a tight strangle, “Ask for something else, Ben.”

Face turning red, Ben choked out, “So… kin-ky… hon’…”

Harry tightened his grip and felt the man’s struggles weaken before he released. Ben slid down the door and sat on the floor, Harry let out a sigh of disbelief, “You’re wild, Ben.”

The downed man took big gulps of air and Harry could see the red fingerprints on his tanned neck. The lunatic grinned upwards at Harry, “Would you really have killed me?”

Harry shook his head. Killing muggles were never as satisfying as wizards and killing unnecessarily was distasteful. Harry helped his friend up. Ben stared longingly at him, finally asking, “He’s that important to you?”

Harry thought about Tom and his possessive kisses. Hugo had been tolerant of everything Harry did because of the simple fact that Hugo was in love with Harry when Harry wasn’t.

The one who loves more loses, Bear had said once. Harry thought him really wise until he added, Witch Weekly is really stepping up their game on the love advice column.

Harry wasn’t in love, heavens, no. But, he was strapped into the roller coaster of love and steadily heading upwards for the steepest fall Harry could imagine. It was a rough life: seeing the fall but not being able to avoid it.

Harry sighed and reached into Ben’s pocket to fish out cigarettes and a lighter. He lit one for Ben and one for himself. “Important enough not to risk it, I suppose,” he said as he drew a deep breath.

Ben scoffed with incredulity, puffs of smoke escaping from his lips. “Right… So what’s it gonna be for you, hon’? Another speedball?”

Harry doubted that it was a prophetic dream. Revealing her vision was already a step out of line for the seer, she couldn’t possibly be sending him dreams. It was more likely his own guilty conscience than anything.

Harry blew his smoke out and shook his hand with the lit cigarette, “Nah, think I’ll live to see the next day.”

Two weeks later, Mar 1st 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

After his little jaunt into the muggle world, Harry had avoided Tom for the past two weeks and Tom had let him since there was no way he would have been that successful if the other party had put his mind into tracking Harry down.

It was past midnight and curfew but Harry was never one to care much for the rules as long as he wasn’t caught. He was lying flat on the shores of the Black Lake, appreciating the stars in the clear sky.

Barely a week ago, the Second Task had been held at the Black Lake. His avoidance had been temporarily paused for the task, when as predicted, Harry was chosen to be the ‘thing’ that Tom had to save. He remembered the first thing he saw when he was enervated was Tom’s face above his – an arm’s length apart judging by the hand supporting Tom’s body next to his face.

Harry’s heart was doing the darnest little flips as the Durmstrang champion grinned at him. Dark hair was dripping and curls were plastered to his slightly flushed face from the physical exertion. Harry had seen many beauties in his short life, courtesy of his travels, but never had he seen anything more dazzling than Tom in that moment. It was scary because truth to be told, he doubted a soaking wet Tom looked all that dashing in reality.

It was a testament to how deep in thought Harry was to have been caught unaware by the approaching figure. Said figure sat and laid down next to him and instantly, Harry knew it to be Tom. The two boys stared at the skies in silence for a few minutes before Harry tried to make his escape but was stopped by a warm hand on his wrist. He lowered his butt back onto the ground and sat in silence, waiting for the other boy to break it.

Then, Tom sat up to rest his head on Harry’s shoulder. He confessed, “Don’t avoid me, Harry. I missed you.”

Harry’s breath hitched, feeling the comforting weight of the other’s head, “Are we playing right now?” Harry tensed, “Because I would like a pause, if you don’t mind. I’m kind of sorting out some stuff.”

“Don’t.”

Harry felt his heart start a slow gallop like a racehorse doing its warm-ups. Harry, ever articulate, let out a “Huh?”

“I said, don’t sort them out.”

Um… what?

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Same day, Mar 1st 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Harry blinked, shoulder darting backwards to dislodge Tom from his current position. He turned to look at Tom dead in the eye, barely spotting them in the darkness, silently repeating ‘don’t sort them out?’

Taking a deep breath to calm down, Harry murmured in the quiet of the night, “Do you know what you’re saying right now?”

Tom stared back with equal ferocity, “Yes. I’m asking you not to pause the game.”

Not for the first time, Harry desperately wished that he could read Tom’s mind. What was the other man trying to achieve? Harry trusted him, as long as the man didn’t break it.

The night had a strange influence on its occupants; its inky blackness that hid reality made people relax and open up. Harry sighed in defeat, “What if I don’t want to play anymore?” He searched for something (he didn’t know what) on Tom’s face, “What if I get serious?”

Harry felt a light breeze. There was something about the magic of said obscurity that the night provides. Silences are longer and deliberative and people come closer to saying things they would never verbalise otherwise. Harry had practically shouted his intentions: an unwise tactic to employ in the presence of a master manipulator.

After a beat, Tom rolled his eyes, “Play seriously then.”

The mercenary laughed: heavy and full. He leaned back, palms flat against the soft earth. He warned, “If I become serious, you know I won’t let you play half-heartedly, right?”

The sounds of the world fell silent: the push and pull of the waves, the crickets in the trees and the sway of the leaves. The night held its breath in anticipation of Tom’s answer. Yet, his lip remain stubbornly still and the only sound Harry could hear was the lub dub lub dub of his own heart.

Eventually, Tom gave an impatient look and Harry raised a brow, “You’re fine with that?” Harry had essentially confessed that if he were to let himself fall for Tom, he would jolly well make sure that the Durmstrang champion was smitten too.

Tom gave a small smile: one that hung on his lips by a thread, “I never do things by halves.”

Harry nodded and pursed his lips, digesting the information. His words could mean many things; Tom could be referring to his determination to finish his entire breakfast for all the specificity the sentence presented. The frustrated Hufflepuff looked up to the constellations and muttered, “Merlin, I need a joint. I never thought ambiguity could be aggressive but you’re proving me very wrong.”

“I like ambiguity.”

“I don’t.”

Harry turned back to find Tom staring at him. Tom shrugged, somehow making the movement elegant. He teased, “Well, who am I to govern your feelings?” In his eyes, there was amusement, fondness, heat.

A sigh of exasperation escaped Harry’s lips, “If you like me, say it. If you don’t, say it.

“I don’t dislike you.” The smile that Tom wore had widened, the edges of his lips climbing towards his cheek. The smugness was oddly endearing and Harry found his lips uncontrollably twitching into a smile too.

Harry planted his palm near Tom and tilted his body forward into the other man’s personal bubble. He smelt like fresh laundry and minty shampoo. Belatedly, Harry noticed the dampness Tom’s hair; he had just taken a shower.

“I’m going to kiss you,” Harry declared, which Tom answered with a slight raise of an eyebrow. Harry continued, “If you let me, I’ll assume you like me.”

Tom smirked, “That’s a far fetch, no?”

Harry placed a hand on Tom’s face and leaned forward, faces extremely close, “Not unless you let random strangers kiss you.”

“Only the handsome ones,” Tom joked but body tensing slightly.

Stunned, Harry paused minutely, barely long enough for Tom to notice. He knew Tom was joking but Harry was extremely cognisant of the fact that he was in his disguise, looking like the most average boy ever. So average that the good-looking (and vain) Hugo wouldn’t even throw a third glance at. He had never had someone interested in him when he looked like that, albeit part of it being his lack of trying.

The self-proclaimed experienced Casanova felt his palms sweat like it was the first kiss with a boy whilst being in the closet. How embarrassing. But, this was the first time that they weren’t kissing because it was a game or because it was fun or because they were trying to prove a point. This was a true genuine desire to kiss because Tom was Tom and no other reason tainted his actions.

Their lips were barely an inch apart when Harry paused again. This time his hesistation was longer. He swallowed and Tom watch his apple bobbed up and down. The Hufflepuff warned, “You’re not pushing me away.”

“Astute observation,” Tom glanced at Harry’s lips.

And that was all Harry needed before his lips were on Tom’s.

It started off slow and gentle, just closed-mouth kisses. Then the tongues came out to play, pushing against each other in pleasurable friction and Harry felt the kiss dive from a simple kiss to a full on makeout session as Tom Riddle (in his ever-present need to dominate) climbed atop Harry.

Harry felt his heart pounding against his rib cage in a bid to escape its suffocating confinement. His world had drowned out everything else but the taste of Tom and wandering appendages. One hand held onto Harry’s shoulder before gliding downwards past his bony chest, greeting his nipple only momentarily, to reach the final destination: Harry’s inner thigh and dangerously close to a growing bulge.

Meanwhile, Harry’s own hands were busy. His right hand had reached into Tom’s groomed hair, carding his fingers through it to tousle it into a shaggy mess. He felt the moisture between his fingers and groaned into Tom’s mouth at the thought of the man wet and naked under a hot spray.

Another hand slid from the small of Tom’s back to reach for Tom’s Perky Ass. From Harry’s studious studies, it seemed like going commando was more of a one-time thing than a regular occurrence.

Their mouths remained engaged and got increasingly sloppy as tongues invaded each others’ territories. When they broke apart from the kiss with hands still inappropriately on each other, Harry licked his own lips and felt strangely satisfied.

He looked at Tom, whose face was flushed, hair in a complete disarray, wet lips red and plump from the intense contact.

Laughter, light and airy, echoed, and using his right hand to point at Tom’s dishevelled state, Harry proclaimed, “Oh, you definitely like me.”

***

Next day, Mar 2nd 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“Someone’s in a good mood,” was the first thing Cedric said as he halted in his tracks towards the dormitories.

“Who? Me?” Harry, who was lounging spinelessly on a ridiculously comfortable armchair, swatted his hands at Cedric, “Pfft, no way!”

Cedric smirked and crossed his arms, “Actually, yes. Looks like you got a good snog.”

Harry laughed, heart still light from last night. He mumbled dreamily, “And a pretty good butt grope too.”

“Okay okay…” Cedric raised both hands in surrender, “Remember how we agreed not to share the spicy details.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Excuse you, some people would actually pay to listen my spicy details. You’re not a fan, I suppose. Anyway,” he sat up straighter, “Guess you’re finally ready to tell me what you’ve been angsting over.”

Dragging a chair over to sit, Cedric protested, “I haven’t been angsting.”

“Course’ not. Totally normative that you snap at a first year for chewing with her mouth open.” Harry shrugged, continuing in mock disgust, “How could I blame you though? It was totally gross. Can you believe her mother lets her out of the house?”

Cedric blinked and let out a small laugh, tinged with the slightest bit of hysteria. He scratched the back of his ear, “I didn’t even realise that.”

“Like I said,” Harry looked knowingly at the Hufflepuff prefect, “What have you been angsting over? C’mon, you’re way past your puberty, mate.” Harry looked at Cedric appreciatively, “Not that it was hard on you or anything.”

“Umm… I… uh…” Cedric took a deep breath.

Morgana, spit it out!”

He blurted, “I want to propose to Cho after the tournament.”

Harry’s brows furrowed in confusion: that’s what he had been beating himself over? “So… you are afraid of asking for her hand from Mr Chang? I heard he’s a strict man at work but dotes on his daughter. I’m sure he’ll –”

Cedric interrupted, “So you think I should marry her?”

The mercenary blinked in confusion, wishing that Bear had thought to educate him on the complexities of Love and not just quote Witch Weekly gossip like the gospel. “Uh, why not?”

The prefect launched into his inner turmoil, “I don’t know! What if things change? What if I don’t love her in the future? What if she doesn’t love me in the future?” His fingers gripped his hair and pulled (Harry worried for the other boy, judging from Amos Diggory’s receding hairline), while his palms supported his forehead. He mumbled softly but Harry caught every word, “I don’t want her to ever look at me in regret.”

Harry snorted and Cedric lifted his head from his hands to stare accusingly at his friend for making light of the situation. “Seriously, mate, have you seen the way she looks at you? And the way you look at her? It’s nauseating.”

Cedric looked baffled and Harry continued, “Are you kidding me? You’re telling me you have not notice how Cho looks at you?” Harry pushed Cedric’s shoulder in affection, “Mate, she looks at you in complete contentment, like she knows you inside out and is perfectly fine with you, just the way you are. And you look at her like she was personally responsible for hanging stars in the skies, for Merlin’s sake. Long story short, if I ever wanted to know what love looked like,” Harry gave a small smile, “I would look at the two of you.”

“I… Wow… Thank you, Harry. That was really touching.” Then with a small sheepish smile, “I guess I just was just worried she’d say no.”

“What?” Harry deadpanned, “Did you make me give that mushy speech for your minor insecurities? Please, if she says no, I’ll name my firstborn after you.”

Cedric laughed at his friend's expense, “I don’t need that. I just need you to be my best man.”

Harry, who usually dished witty replies at the speed of his opponents’ words, was left dumbfounded. Best man? Sure, they had joked and assumed the position of Best Man but those were just silly declarations and Harry felt daunted in the face of reality.

After graduation, he was to take his rightful place as Bear’s protégé, Pan, and continue his lackadaisical lifestyle. Harry Adler was meant to become insignificant and a disguise to be used in times of desired normalcy. His plan was to leave the country as Harry Adler to pursue a random branch of magic and fade into obscurity as letters to his family and friends become infrequent through the years.

He had imagined him and Cedric slowly drifting apart while taking comfort in the fact that Cedric would attain what he deserved: a normal life with the happy family he built with Cho. He pursed his lips. He hadn’t want to break the news till after graduation where the noise and commotion of being catapaulted into a new phase of life would prevent Cedric from making too big of a fuss.

As if Cedric could pick up on the dilemma in his head, the man gave him an odd look, “Why do I keep feeling like you’re going to leave after Hogwarts?”

“Well, yeah,” Harry laughed nervously. “They only keep students till the 7th year, haven’t you heard?”

“Leave, as in, go somewhere really far and never return.” Cedric grabbed onto Harry’s hand and his stare was so intense, Harry swallowed. With narrowed eyes, the prefect questioned, “You won’t do that to us, will you? To me?”

And there, shrouded in the intensity, was fear. Harry felt his stomach dropped. Attachment. He had grown attached. When he sat next to Cedric on the first day of school, he had been so sure of himself. He had expected Cedric to be friendly but distant and the easy camaraderie had been surprising.

Graduating from school and being ejected into the real world was scary. It made sense that Cedric would want his best friend there for him and Harry could continue to play that part for him. There was no expiry date for his disguise anyway.

Harry smiled and smoothed over the suspicion, “Of course not.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

Two day later, Mar 4th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Harry could count on his hand the number of times he had seen Velia Vespa without a disguise. Her real appearances were so rarely used, it was a disguise in itself. The last time they met, it had been rather unpleasant, to say the least. So it was to Harry’s surprise that he received a letter from Velia a few days ago.

A non-descript barn owl had flew in during breakfast and dropped a letter in front of him. It was clean, white and of expensive stationery. He had recognised her cursive handwriting of ‘Harry Adler’ and proceeded to hide it before Cedric could ask about it.

In the privacy of his four-poster bed, he read her words:

Dearest lover of mine,

Be appeased, my heart. Let us not forget the throes of passion we once shared. I confess that it is my fault that we have been apart for far too long. (Not that I wanted it, of course.) Darling, you’re the wind at my back and the wand by my side, I am incomplete without you.

Please, I beg for your forgiveness and your open mind. I will be waiting for you at the hour which we first kissed under the yew tree. Gladly, my love, will I grovel for you.

With all my love,

Velia V.

Her letters were fairly easy to uncode: the first letter of every sentence in the main body (location: Blind Pig), the number of words in the way she signed off (date: four days from receiving the letter) and the number of letters of her signing off (time: 6 p.m.). The hard part was picking out who she was in the crowd but Harry never had a problem with that.

Hence, here he was at the seediest pub in New York City: Blind Pig at 6 p.m. in the evening on his Hogsmeade weekend. He had spent the afternoon with Tom before sneaking off once they returned to the castle.

He approached a beautiful tanned woman with her hair up in a loose bun, wisps framing her face. She had light blue eyes, circled by black eyeliner with a wing at the ends, and her full lips were shiny with gloss. Her straight nose paid homage to her Greek ancestry from her mother’s side but other than that, she was full Italian. As Harry reached the table, she stood up to greet him with a cheek kiss. She had on a black two-piece outfit: a spaghetti-strapped crop top that hugged her breast and a high-waisted black bodycon skirt.

“You’re you today,” Harry commented and so was he too: black hair and green eyes.

“Well, yes. I do get many patrons here so it’d be good for them to know who to look for,” she replied in a British accent. She liked taking on the accents of those she spoke to. She was a metamorphagus by skill.

“I didn’t think you would want to see me after our last fiasco.”

“You mean our little disagreement?” She waved it away, “Friends fight all the time.”

She grabbed onto Harry’s feet. Crying out, “Pan, please! I went too far. I’m sorry.” Harry felt her magic pleading, coiling itself around Harry begging. He breathed it all in.

“Little disagreement?” The mercenary chuckled, “Well, guess you could call it that.”

“Anyway, since you reacted so badly to me withholding information the last time, thought I should give you a little update,” she grinned, all teeth and looking like a shark circling its prey. “The last person to see Kai was his bestie, you know, that painter.”

Harry raised a brow, “Karuzos? Lucie Karuzos?”

“Yes, the famous portrait painter,” Velia nodded.

“I thought she hated him.”

Velia shrugged, “Well, their relationship was complex and –” she smiled slyly, “Kai held everyone at a distance, didn’t he?”

The only people you should hold close are your enemies, son.

She fingered the rim of her mojito and licked the sugar, “Her husband offended some really dangerous people and Kai had their backs for a long time. They went into hiding the same time Kai disappeared. Coincidence or not, you decide.”

Harry blinked. Even if it wasn’t a coincidence, there were multiple possibilities.

They could have betrayed Kai and then went into hiding in fear for their lives. Kai could also have had done something to them that led to his disappearance. Correlation didn’t mean causation. This clue was a lead but had no vital information. It didn’t warrant a meet-up and this was no social call.

Velia Vespa was a snake, through and through. Manipulative, always shedding skins and slithering her way into secrets. Now, she was even trying to plant ideas.

Well, he would hear her out. Harry crossed his arms, “You sound like you have a theory.”

“I was thinking that maybe Kai told her about his upcoming disappearance and warned her to hide. In that case, you might want to find her since she is the last to see him.” She sounded sure and her smile was confident.

Arrogance had and will always be Velia’s downfall. Harry would have ate up the story and digested it in time for his nightly excretions in the past, but now that Velia had spat on his trust, he had to doubt everything she says and said.

Harry probed, “And Minister Krausser knows about this?”

She looked surprised, “Should I tell her? Aunt Adeila didn’t ask about Kai.”

“No, I thought you reported everything back to her.” Velia was Krausser’s dog, she didn’t make a move without the Minister’s approval. If Krausser said ‘jump’, Velia asked ‘how high’. This information had been screened, edited and then delivered to Harry.

The mercenary just wasn’t sure if Krausser was still on his side after he basically broke her son’s heart and tossed Grindelwald’s symbol back at their family. The Krausser-Braune family had been fanantical supporters during Grindelwald’s reign.

Velia’s eyes narrowed, “She’s not my master, Harry. Contrary to belief, I am capable of independent thought.”

Harry stared at her blankly. That was a lie. Adeila Krausser had busted a sex-trafficking ring at 62, peaking in her law-enforcement career before switching to focus on politics. It was then she had plucked 12-year-old Velia Vespa out from a life of no hope and groomed her into the woman she was today at 24.

They were alike in this. Harry had been brought out from the orphanage where he was slowly extinguishing like a flickering flame and into the open air by Kai. With the oxygen, he had burned brighter than ever.

He would rather die than betray Kai. You don’t bite the hand that feeds, much less the one that literally saved you from an abyss. His time at the orphanage had been hell. Velia’s time in the ring was infinitely worse. She would never turn on Krausser. The iron lady was her saviour.

Harry let out a non-commital sound of agreement. Velia continued, “Anyway, you seemed to be interested in Grindelwald so I’ll tell you this so you don’t get all pissy again.”

She leaned forward and whispered, information so confidential that she didn’t even trust the privacy ward, “Do you know what that necklace Hugo gave you represents?”

Harry leaned forward as well, their faces inches apart, and whispered back, “Grindelwald’s mark.”

“And you returned it to him.”

“Hugo gave it to me to pledge his love.” Harry shrugged, “Now that we aren’t together, didn’t seem right to hold on to it.”

She pressed on, “So you’re saying that you reject Hugo’s love but not Grindelwald?”

Harry’s brows furrowed, “Does it really matter?”

“Well,” She looked up like she was thinking, “Kind of, actually. Yeah.”

“I’d rather stay out of it, Velia.”

“That answer isn’t good enough.”

Harry took a deep breath. He was so done with dealing with the whole Grindelwald secret. It was so obvious. Firstly, Grindelwald was back. Secondly, the Krausser-Braune family were recruiting. Thirdly, they wanted him in. Last but not least, he didn’t want in, not if it meant giving up his freedom.

The mercenary glared, “For Krausser?”

She gave a small shrug, “You’re either with or against us.”

Right cheek twitching in annoyance, Harry snarled, “Tell Krausser if she wants to know, she will have to find me herself, not send her little bitch.”

Velia’s mood darkened instantaneously, “Watch your words, Pan. I’m armed and ready this time. You will find that it isn’t that easy to best me.”

The two stared each other down, breathing heavily but neither refusing to back down and look away. Until Harry rolled his eyes and said, “Just tell me what you wanted to say about Grindelwald.”

She stood up, sliding an expensive-looking clutch under her arm. She huffed pettily, “Not really in the mood for sharing anymore. Maybe next time.” She walked over to Harry’s side and planted a kiss on his cheek, “Stay in touch.” Then, she sashayed out of the pub, leaving Harry seated alone.

He sat there by himself for a little more, downing the firewhisky. She was being intentionally frustrating but she had gotten what she came for, or she’d never leave. Harry sighed, wondering which body movement or word had given him away and what she was trying to find out even.

Then, he spied a lanky boy sitting by himself in a corner and smiled to himself. He might not have gotten lucky with Velia but this was going to save Harry some trouble.

He walked towards the boy with dirty blonde hair. Harry wasn’t quite sure if it was a brownish shade of blonde or if it was really dirty. You can never know with these shady characters. He slid into the chair opposite the boy, who was looking down at a small object.

Before Harry could say a word, the boy snapped, “Just because I look like a twink doesn’t mean I am one. Now, get outta here man.”

Harry laughed, “Oh c’mon, Gecko. Who doesn’t want a piece of me?”

Gecko was another information broker, only second to Velia because he lacked her prestigious connections. He glanced up, blue eyes dull and uninterested, “Oh, it’s you. What do you want, pretty boy?”

“I need you to find out something for me,” the mercenary beamed.

Gecko scoffed, “What? You don’t trust Vespa anymore?” He smirked and leaned back to cross his arms, momentarily tucking the small object under his armpit. “Should have known better than to fight with Braune Junior.”

Harry let out a sigh of indignant resignation, “Seriously, does everyone know about that?”

“Anyone who knows anyone knows,” he shrugged and kept his arms crossed, object hidden.

His secretiveness over the object only made Harry more curious but that was none of his business so he went back to his focus, “Are you going to listen to your client or not?”

“Only if you can afford me, Pan.” Gecko raised a brow and smirked, “I don’t accept payment in sex like Braune does.”

Harry was speechless for a while then let out a short laugh, “Wow, that is so offensive but that’s what I like about you.”

“Please don’t.” He rolled his eyes, “I like pussy and I heard homosexuality is contagious.”

Harry laughed more and waggled his brows, “If it’s with me, it’s more of an addiction than an infection.”

Gecko leaned forward and put his elbow on the table to support his head with his hand. The object was gone. He deadpanned, “How a head so big fit through the doorway will always be a mystery to me.”

“I apparated.”

“Ah. Explains a lot.”

“Oh man,” Harry smiled at the other boy. He had worked with Gecko a couple of times before and his snark and dry wit never failed to entertain Harry. “I missed you, Gecko.”

“Please, Pan, you amateur. This is a circle for mercenaries, not a classroom to make friends. Now, what do you need?”

Harry smiled slyly. Gecko continued, “I ain’t about to snitch on Grindelwald, so don’t bother asking. The Krausser-Braune family is fucking nuts and I like being alive.”

“That’s not important and neither is it what I wanted. I need you to…” Harry leaned in and whispered into Gecko’s ear.

The boy’s eyes widened and his blue eyes lit in excitement. “Oh boy, this is juicy. And right under that old coot Dumbledore’s nose? Fucking brilliant, really. One thing though…”

“What do you want?” Harry joked, “Payment in sex?”

Gecko rolled his eyes but wordlessly pulled the small object he hid out of nowhere and placed it on the table. Before Gecko dealt with information, he was one of the quickest hand in Knockturn, stealing from fully-trained wizards without them noticing.

It was a black cube, commonly used to contain objects while protecting privacy. Mercenaries used it often while transporting goods for clients that didn’t want anyone to know the contents of.

The lanky boy explained, “I need this in Hogwarts and word has it that you’re hiding there.”

Harry stared at the black cube. The only magic you could feel from it were the spells containing the magic within so none leaked to reveal the contents. “What’s inside?” Harry ventured.

Gecko pushed the cube towards Pan, “Nothing big. Just some potion ingredient.”

“Yeah, anything could be considered a potion ingredient. A dragon egg could be an ingredient.” Harry grabbed the cube and shook it, “What am I? Born yesterday? C’mon, Gecko.”

The other boy put both his hands out, “It’s nothing dangerous, Pan. I could get someone else to do it for a price but since you’re in already, I just thought I could save some money.”

“For your information, I will kill you if this blows my cover,” said Harry as he slid the cube into his robes.

Gecko snorted.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

About a week later, Mar 12th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Harry was a healthy teenager and so was Tom. There was no reason for them to abstain from indulging in their teenage hormones. At least that was the reason that Tom Riddle had whispered into his ears while sliding a hand up Harry’s thigh. Very naughty.

He had then proceeded to push Harry down on the table in the classroom, the jade stone just casually pulsating with magic in the background. “Why are you distracted?” was whispered in bits as Tom made a trail of pecks that followed his jaw. In Tom-speak, it meant “why aren’t you paying me attention?”

In all honesty, Harry was just trying to focus on the stone. He guess that by not jumping on Tom, it translated into not giving the other man attention. It seemed like Tom just saw Harry as a lust fiend.

Tom’s fingers were popping buttons open and it just felt like an inappropriate time to explain his attention span. Besides, Harry quite liked being wooed by the taller man. “I was just thinking,” Harry had managed to mumble, which was a considerable feat since Tom had been pressing his entire body against Harry’s, plane by plane. Let it be known that the man was not wearing underwear again.

Because his thought processes had fused together and his mind was a jumble of oh god and fuck and more, the next thing Harry knew was that he had let down his disguise and was in bed with Tom Riddle in his private room on the Durmstrang ship.

It happened so quickly (teenage boys, you know) and so many times (teenage boys, you know). Harry was completely spent and sweaty by the end of it and just snuggled himself into the crook of the other’s arm and slept.

However, it was not in the same position that he woke up in. Harry was curled up in a fetal position due to the cold because Tom Riddle was hogging the damned sheets. Blinking, he rubbed his eyes and grumbled under his breath, “Prick.”

He stretched languidly and looked over to the devil beside him. For once, Tom Riddle was not picture perfect. Thank Merlin for small mercies. It was soothing to his (anyone’s, really) self-esteem that Tom didn’t wake up like looking like a Greek God.

He had a terrible bedhead and it was tousled more than usual because of the activities the night before. His face was relaxed, eyes closed and lips slightly parted. Puffs of breath that escaped his nose blew a strand of his hair up and down. Harry smiled: in this exact quiet moment, Tom didn’t look intimidating at all. He didn’t look like a wizard filled with secrets and half-lies. He didn’t look like the silver-tongued serpent that had tons of people wrapped around his fingers. He didn’t look like the kind of independent individual that you could never reach.

In this moment, he looked human.

He looked like Harry’s.

With a start, the Hufflepuff realised that he had been looking at the sleeping man for the past few minutes in complete satisfaction. The sunshine filtered in through the windows, highlighting the dancing dust mites in the air. It was cold but he was starting to get warmer as his body reacted to his awaken state. His heart felt so light.

It was nice, Harry supposed. But also extremely dangerous. Harry knew he could fall in love with Tom (courtesy of Elvis Presley) and he had decided to allow it because danger was his calling and risk was his middle name.

This act of domestic bliss would have Harry tripping down the rabbit hole of love and he couldn’t have that happening before Tom even considered love.

He snuggled closer, nose brushing against the underside of the other man’s jaw. Both their skin felt smooth and fresh, unlike the stickiness he had been expecting. The idea that Tom could have cared enough to help clean him up after sex made the ends of his lips curl up.

Upon peering closer, Harry could see the barely-there freckles sprinkled across Tom's nose bridge. His fingers found themselves dancing lightly on the freckles, connecting them like constellations.

Tom stirred, letting out a soft low-pitched rumble. His eyes fluttered open and he squinted at Harry's fingers. Harry smiled at his somnolent lover and whispered, “Do you know when I connect your freckles I can spell 'arse’? It's predestined, truly.”

The offended boy scrunched his nose and batted away Harry's hand. He complained, “My skin is not marred by any blemish.” He leered at the blossoming bruise on Harry's collarbone, “Can't say the same for you though.”

“Shut up!” Harry exclaimed while leaping out of bed. The room was pleasantly warm as his body temperature had risen to match its environment. He took long strides towards the full-length mirror and was surprised by the couple of hickeys he found.

He had never let his ex-lovers mark him so this was the first time seeing his complexion uneven. Hugo had asked multiple times but he never agreed. Hickeys resembled bruises and most bruises resembled the ones he got in the orphanage.

He touched the hickey on his collarbone. It didn't hurt but he could see the purplish mark fading away already. His eyes analysed the thin capillaries, the reddened skin and the skin stretched taut across his bone.

He must have been staring at it for an extraordinarily long time because Tom's voice broke his reverie. He said, “You know not all bruises have to come from hate.”

Harry spun around to face the man who had sat up and was leaning against the headboard of the bed. He had a knowing look in his dark eyes and his lips were set in a serious straight line. Harry blinked and gave him an incredulous stare.

“How do I know?” Tom shrugged with indifference, “Your obsessive staring and almost panicked run to the mirror. It's easy enough to see if you know what you're looking for.” The sides of his lips softened into a concerned frown, “Was it your previous foster father?”

Harry paused. His hesitance stretched and just as Tom said “Forget it”, Harry blurted, “It was the orphanage.”

Tom nodded solemnly, understanding the vulnerability Harry was showing him. Off-handedly, he replied, “Same.” And looked away nonchalantly as if he didn't just willingly offer sensitive information on his person.

A fond smile slowly found its way on Harry's face. He stalked forward to the bed, “Why Tom, I didn't think you cared.” With a predatory smirk, he continued, “Let me show you how much I care.”

Harry crawled onto the bed and Tom smirked, “You have to work for it, sweetie.”

“That's not how it went down last night.”

Tom rolled his eyes, “Yeah, that was to get you addicted and you fell hook-line-sinker.”

With an offended war cry, Harry pounced on the man. Their bodies collided with the sheets being the only thing separating their nudities. Harry grinded down and Tom let out a soft moan.

Below him was an extremely attractive and intelligent young wizard who didn't come from the best circumstances but still rose to his potential. He could be referring to himself in the same sentence. They were so similar; Harry had never connected with anyone deeper than this.

Tom whispered, “What are you thinking of?”

Harry smiled and lowered his forehead till he touched Tom's.

He revealed candidly, “You.”

The slightest tinge of red coloured Tom's face, his freckles darkening with the blood rushing. Harry laughed heartily and relaxed on top of the man, weighing the other down. He buried his head into the crook of Tom's neck to hide the look that his face was no doubt showing.

The look that he had seen Cho and Cedric wear so often. That satisfied smile like he could want nothing else in this world.

***

Almost two weeks later, Mar 24th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

A few days ago, he had been flying with Cedric and chatting about feelings while suspended twenty feet above ground so no one would know that the two of them gossipped like suburban mums. Harry had unloaded his fears of love onto the poor sod and Cedric being the man that he was, took in the ‘hypothetical situation’ which was ‘for a friend’ seriously and didn’t expose Harry for his feelings.

He was in the middle of explaining his initial reservations about Cho because of his ambition and his aversion to being tied down by marriage when a barn owl flew towards Harry and dropped a letter on his head. Harry noticed Velia’s handwriting and tucked it into his robes, lying that it was from Sirius and urging Cedric to continue on his love story.

In the safety of his bed, he had torn open the letter, which was blank bar a circle at the bottom of the page. Harry licked the circle, the magic ascertaining it was him from the saliva. Gross, but it was either that or blood and Harry didn't fancy giving magical objects his blood. Words started forming:

Harry,

Your obsession with your new boy toy has got to go. Have you even realised Hugo is missing? You dipshit, you’re a horrid friend.

Hugo is in muggle Dresden and definitely not for the sights. He might be engaging in unsavoury activities that you yourself are so fond of. These vices you influence Hugo to indulge in are one of the few secrets I keep from Aunt Adeila at Hugo’s request. But he is going fucking ham with it.

He’s in a place where I can’t reach him anymore, Harry, and that scares me. Talk to him or do whatever you need.

Bring my brother home.

Please .

-V

Fast forward to the present where he was hastily dressing himself in a t-shirt and muggle jeans with a displeasured lover hanging in the background. Tom grumbled, “Does he know you're not at his beck and call? Ask him to contact you during office hours.”

Harry chuckled, stuffed a dagger into each dragonhide boot and grabbed the ring he used as a return portkey. He had received Hugo's patronus a minute ago; the silvery apparition of a Labrador had left Harry with a distinctive idea of the location where Hugo was at and a panicked call for help. Harry had then leaped out of bed, startling awake Tom in the process.

Harry walked back to the bed to plant a forehead kiss on Tom. “Duty calls, sweetheart.”

Before Tom could protest his parting words, Harry had apparated away to muggle Dresden.

“What the actual fuck is this, Hugo?” were the first words out of his mouth when he saw Hugo slump against the wall. It was one of those abandoned houses where druggies came to ruin their lives or get high, depending on who you asked.

Besides Hugo laid an unmoving body. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He muttered while stepping towards the comatose body.

He spotted the holy trinity of substance abuse: syringe, metal spoon and the tell tale white powder. Harry felt his heart drop and continued cursing, “Fuck… He better not be dead.”

The German’s eyes snapped open, red rimmed and pupils dilated. Harry squatted to Hugo's level and slapped the man, “Do you want to die? Do you want to fucking die, Braune?” He clenched his teeth, anger rising, “Merlin, you're still high!?”

After the rough slap to reality, Hugo blinked as he sobered up and the drugs’ effect started to lessen. Hugo coughed and vomited. Specks of the explosion hit Harry in the face. Harry took a deep breath to calm himself before using the back of his hand to wipe away the errant vomit.

He patted Hugo’s back as he continued to vomit on his own lap. “There we go, there we go,” Harry mumbled soothingly as Hugo choked on his own spit. “You crazy thing,” Harry chided and continued patting the man's back, “You never know when to stop.”

Harry pulled the handkerchief from Hugo's suit pocket. The man never figured out muggle fashion so he wore a three-piece suit everywhere. It wasn't the most functional disguise, especially in summer, but at least he looked stylish and put together all the time, even while high and puking into his own lap.

Using the handkerchief, he dabbed at Hugo's lips. He fished for Hugo's wand and found it in the pant pockets. “You'll ruin the shape of your suit like this,” Harry mumbled under his breath. He was about to pass the wand over to Hugo so he could conjure himself some water but looking at the slumped tired frame of his friend, he kept the wand instead.

“Harry,” Hugo whispered hoarsely. “Are you really here?”

“Yeah, you dumb fuck. Didn't you say you just needed some time? I didn't think you meant killing yourself with smack, you dolt!” His voice trembled and he punched Hugo's chest softly. The familiar weight of guilt settled on his chest, “Fuck you, you fuck.” Harry lowered his forehead till it was resting on Hugo's shoulder. “You're such a dumb fuck,” he murmured.

Hugo’s arm came up to envelope the other in a hug. “I'm sorry, Harry. Help me, please.”

Harry's head rose to see Hugo staring at the body next to them. Harry scrambled towards the body and flipped it over. It was an East Asian man, black hair and his skin had a deathly pallor. Harry felt for his pulse but couldn't detect a thing. The body was stone cold. The man was dead.

Harry glanced at Hugo, who spluttered, “I didn't mean to. I was crazy high and things just happened so quickly and I apparated blindly to this place and my pinky finger has been splinched off somewhere I don't know and -”

Harry put a finger to his mouth and said, “I'm going to have to stop you there, Hugo.”

Hugo nodded vigorously.

Harry grabbed his face and stared intensely into panicked blue eyes. “First, you're going to apparate home, clean yourself up and fix your finger. Then, you’re going to sleep and when you wake up tomorrow, today never existed. You never met this man and you were never in Dresden. Do you understand?”

Hugo stuttered, “Wh-what? What are you going to do?”

Harry sighed, “Look, Hugo. Putting a hit on someone and actually murdering them yourself is different. You don’t need that kind of shit stain on your past or you’ll never make Minister.” He shrugged, “I’m just saying, Pan is a wanted fugitive and he was the only one here tonight. You have no idea what happened between him and this man.”

The junior undersecretary blinked, comprehension dawning. “You’ll… you’ll take my blame?”

“No, Hugo.” Harry shook his head, “You were never here, remember? Pan is the only one to be blamed. Now, go home.”

Hugo sat still. His chest rose up and down with quick breaths. He nodded slowly, eyes shining with unshed tears. “I…uh,” his eyes darted to the motionless body, “I was never here.”

Harry took Hugo’s wand out and placed it in his hands. Tightening his grip around the wood, Hugo quelled the shaking of his hands. He nodded again and looked at the body. Before he apparated, he looked at Harry and asked uncertainly, “Is Pan still going to be my friend?”

Harry gripped the man’s shoulders, “Hugo, we’re brothers, you and I.”

Hugo’s eyes darted once more to the dead body and then back at Harry. Hugo nodded slightly. “Family,” he whispered so softly, almost like it was just meant for himself before he disapparated with a loud crack.

Harry pursed his lips and stared at the body. He usually prepared himself if he was going into the muggle world but he had not been expecting to find Hugo with a dead body. Undoubtedly, Hugo’s fingerprints were on the body, but he had apparated so there would be no records of them entering this house.

Wandering around the house, he thanked every Higher Power up there for the bottle of detergent and a cloth. Even druggies hated dust. It wasn’t bleach but it would have to do. First, he cleaned the vomit. Then, Harry removed the man’s clothes and wiped down every inch of his skin.

He contemplated desecrating the body to prevent identification. He stared at the naked man, eyes wide open with fear. Poor dude didn’t even know what hit him. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Harry sighed and stabbed his dagger into the man’s heart; Hugo had used the killing curse and that might bring the case into the wizarding world. He wiped down the hilt and grabbed the clothes.

With a last look at the victim, Harry told the dead man, “I’m sorry, really. I hope they find your family.”

He activated the portkey and was whisked back to Hogwarts.

***

The next day, it was to Harry’s surprise that he received a sloppily penned letter from Hugo, with splotches, scratched out sentences and heavier indentations for words he hesitated on.

It read:

I’m on your side.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

Almost three weeks later, Apr 12th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

“Why are you distracted?” It was a soft murmur but it broke Harry from his reverie. The Hufflepuff looked up from his hand, which was lying flaccidly on the jade stone to feel for its magic.

He blinked at the sight of Tom Riddle’s pursed lips and face of concentration. Had he imagined the words or did Tom actually verbalise them?

Just as he thought that it was a figment of his own imagination, dark eyes looked up from the stone to him with one arched brow. Harry cleared his throat, “Uh… I was thinking about Hugo.”

There was a slight twitch of Tom’s lips and the man returned his focus to the stone. Off-handedly, he threw out, “Thinking of another man, huh?”

Usually, Harry would have smirked and teased; but not today, he was not in the mood for flirting. Harry let out a defeated sigh and revealed, “I feel bad for him.”

Tom gave a non-committal hum and Harry decided it was non-aggressive enough to take it as acknowledgement and encouragement to go on. “I didn’t think he would fall so low. I thought it was going to be a 2-week mope at most.”

Tom let out a soft scoff: the only indication he was still listening. Harry continued, “He dated this girl once. She was gorgeous, German, and the daughter of an influential politician to boot. It was going well; so well that I asked if they were going to marry. He said maybe.”

Harry let out this frustrated sigh, “Then, we got drunk and I threw myself at him. He broke up with her the day after. Didn’t even shed a tear or blame me for it.”

The Durmstrang boy looked up at Harry’s perplexed face. He raised a brow and looked at Harry like he was a socially-unaware idiot, “I honestly can’t let you go on. Have you considered that, perhaps, it’s because he was madly in love with you?”

Harry pressed his lips together. He swallowed, “I can’t help but feel like I fucked him up. I opened the can of proverbial worms. If we didn’t sleep together, if we didn’t have that one night, he could…” Harry hesitated, “He could have married her.” Shoulders drooped and his head fell, “And, I didn’t know his feelings for me ran so deep.”

They worked in silence for a while.

Then, Tom questioned softly, “Is it better to have had or to never have had at all?”

Harry looked up at the other. It was a loaded question and Harry wasn’t sure if Tom was talking about Hugo anymore. He replied nonchalantly, “It’s better to have had and lost than to spend the rest of my life wondering how it would have felt.”

“Even if you spend the rest of your life moping over the loss?” Tom gave Harry an indescribable look. He was afraid of opening up, Harry knew.

Harry gave an imperceptible nod.

Tom stared at him, gaze intense and searing. Then, he blinked and the moment was over. Tom turned it back to the original topic, “Do you regret it?”

“Hurting him? Yes. The time together?” Harry paused. He sensed the other man’s curiosity peaking as Harry held his answer in. The mercenary recalled the most common memory he had with Hugo: a hot cup of tea, a good book and complete zen. Hugo was his peace, a refuge from the chaos of life. Harry replied frankly, “No.”

“So wouldn’t you want to return to him?”

Hugo was peace but Harry thrived in chaos. He shrugged, “No.”

With hands still sending magic into the stone, Tom looked at Harry again and asked almost lazily, “Didn’t you enjoy the time you spent as lovers?”

Harry nodded, “I did. But that was in the past.”

“It could still be your future.”

Confused, Harry retorted, “But. Why would I want it to be?”

The man tilted his head, looking like he was challenging Harry, “Why wouldn’t you?”

Harry furrowed his brows, unsure of what Tom wanted to know. He stated obviously, “Because I want you.”

Tom paused, digesting the words. He looked shocked and quickly schooled his features into a face of placidity. Harry could see his magic curl around his body, pleased. In a logical manner, Tom tried to explain, “The game eventually ends, Adler. Best if you plan for your future.”

This time it was Harry that paused and digested the words.

He felt himself dissociate as the words repeated and rearranged themselves over and over again. The game eventually ends. Eventually the game ends. The game ends eventually. Eventually ends the game.

As he came back to reality, there was a familiar rise in heat as Rage stood from its pit of fire in his belly. “Wow,” Harry exclaimed. “You dare come in with that sort of bullshit?” An ugly sneer twisted his features into a repulsive face of outrage.

The monster within roared and demanded to be heard. Harry scoffed in derision, tipping his head back to look down on Tom, “That’s really fucking gold. And I’m the socially inept one, Riddle?”

Hurt was what Rage left in its path of destruction. His chest constricted and his robes suddenly felt two sizes too small. “The game eventually –” his voice broke, “ends?”

He took a deep breath and felt the telltale prick of tears. His hands fell from the stone to wipe his eyes, catching the tear before it falls. Harry nodded sarcastically and said evenly, “I’m fucking in love with you and you tell me the game ends.”

Tom’s eyes were as wide as saucers, dumbfounded by Harry’s tirade. His hands glowed brighter and Harry snapped into action. He pushed the man’s hands away from the jade before Tom could overpower the stone and cause it to explode, ruining months of work.

The normally composed man blinked repeatedly, mouth opening and closing like he couldn’t decide if he should say what he wanted. Deciding, he shut his mouth, wrapped the stone, grabbed it and almost ran out of the door.

Harry stared at the empty space, hating the way he had confessed. He hated that he let his expectations show and he loathed that he broke the brittle ambiguity. As much as he resented the vague statements Tom made, he prefered that to losing him.

Rage had left with Tom and as expected, Hurt was the only one that lingered like an overbearing guest. It doesn’t kick a fuss like Rage nor does it stomp around, because it doesn’t have to. It only needs to stay awake for Harry to know it’s there.

It’s devastating in its existence.

Hence, it settled inside Harry’s heart, simply sitting, simply existing.

***

A month later, May 13th 1995 (Harry is 17 years old and 7th Year.)

Hurt had stayed for an entire month. That rent-evading bitch.

After the Big Fiasco, Tom had steadily avoided Harry.

Tom would meet eyes with Harry in a corridor and be instantly filled with the need to converse with any irrelevant schoolmate closest to him. He would walk by without a second glance at Harry. Each time that happened, Hurt liked to use the opportunity to remind Harry it was there but not paying its dues.

Heartbreak had been surprising. For the first few days, Hurt was so large that it occupied the whole of Harry’s heart. As time went along, Hurt decreased in size but it was still there. Its ubiquity never wavered and Harry felt a constant dull ache.

The worst part was that Harry thought the occasional spikes of pain were worth it just to see Tom.

Actually no, the worst part was that Harry never got Tom’s answer and it was driving him insane. Even though Hurt was omnipresent and was almost exclusively the emotion Harry felt these days, Harry knew Hope was there too, a small bud, barely consequential.

He enjoyed neither Hope nor Hurt’s companionship but he just couldn’t seem to evict the unwanted tenants. He had lost interest in everything else and simply wanted to wallow in his own self-pity. Of course, Cedric hadn’t let him but it didn’t stop Harry from desiring to.

Cedric had said, “Do something, Harry. It’s the Hogsmeade weekend.

Hence, he was currently walking towards the edge of the anti-apparition wards with Hugo. The German had slipped Harry a note after dinner yesterday with the details of Karuzos’s whereabouts and an offer of his company. Harry was just glad to have a new lead to go on.

They were going to visit Lucie Karuzos, Kai’s best friend and the rumoured last person to see him. Velia might have had her ulterior motives for sharing the information but it was still a lead and Harry was not about to throw away any chance of finding his father.

The pair had walked to the edge of Hogsmeades where Harry dropped his disguise. They put on muggle clothing before apparating to a deserted alley in muggle Cardiff. It was only a 2 minute walk to the supposed Karuzos home.

A year ago, Harry had exhausted all the hints he found at home and was relying on the gossip grapevine for news. It felt so surreal to have new clues. Harry took a deep breath before knocking.

The door swung open to reveal a woman in her late twenties. She had a messy lopsided bun up and was in an over-sized t-shirt that reached mid thigh. The t-shirt was rumpled and had a stain near the hem. She narrowed her eyes at the two strangers and asked in an American accent, “You are?”

“I’m Pan and this is my acquaintance, Hugo.”

She squinted, “Pan? Kai’s kid?” Her voice was coarse and low.

Harry immediately brightened. He nodded vigourously, “Yes! Can we talk?”

The woman leaned against the door frame. “Yeah, I’ll talk to you,” she pointed at Harry before moving her finger to Hugo, “Your boy toy has to get the fuck out though.”

Harry felt Hugo bristle with annoyance. Before Harry could exercise damage control, the Junior Underecretary with an over-inflated sense of self importance, cocked his head and taunted in German, “With that mouth, it’s no wonder you have to go into hiding.”

Karuzos raised a brow, “Um, coward? If you want to insult me, do it in English or something I can understand.”

Hugo gave a sickly sweet smile, obviously fake. He replied in English, “I was just commenting on your inability to grasp the concept of basic courtesy and drew the conjecture that your incompetence was the main reason for having to hide from the world. If you didn’t understand that, then here’s something simpler–” He flipped her the bird.

Harry hissed, “Hugo!” and batted the man’s hand down.

She gasped in offence and crossed her arms. “Okay, it’s way too early to be dealing with kids.” She stood and stepped back into her house. “Bye,” and the door was slammed in their faces.

Harry turned to Hugo and deadpanned, “Seriously?

Hugo shrugged with indifference, “I’m not your boy toy.”

Harry wondered if that was a touchy term when he continued, “I’m, at the very least, a high class escort.”

Harry snorted and rolled his eyes, “Enough. Go to the closest café and I’ll find you after.” When Hugo made no move to leave, Harry nudged him along.

“We don’t know how dangerous she is,” Hugo argued.

“Hmm yeah, not really a concern of mine.” Harry pushed Hugo, causing the man to stumble back a few steps.

“Unbelievable,” Hugo muttered but followed Harry’s wishes anyway and ambled away.

Taking a deep breath, Harry knocked again. It took a while but the door eventually swung open to reveal Karuzos, with round glasses this time.

She peered around, “Buddy’s gone? Alright, come on in.” Pointing at the leather sofa, she said, “Make yourself at home. I’ll get you coffee.”

“Actually, I’ll have tea,” Harry shot her a winning smile.

She blinked, unaffected. “Picky. But, okay.” She went into the kitchen and after a series of clinking noises and the splashing of water, emerged with two steaming cups. Her cup had the words ‘starving artist’ in a falsely positive bright pink. His cup had a cartoon duck and a floating tea bag.

She sat on the armchair opposite him, the coffee table separating them. She took a sip of her coffee before asking, “Why are you here, Pan?”

“I’m looking for Kai. I heard you were the last to see him.”

“Well,” she paused, thinking. “He did pay me a visit years ago, but didn’t mention where he was going.”

“But he told you he was going somewhere?”

“Yeah, he told me to go into hiding. You see, my husband…” she rolled her eyes, “Bless his good looks because he really has nothing else going for him. He shoots his mouth off but doesn’t have the power to back it up. He really offended some people and when Kai left, he made sure we knew because he could no longer protect us.”

“Why would he protect you? Are you his best friend?”

She snorted and took another sip of her coffee. “Who’s selling you that crap?”

Harry shrugged. She whipped out a pack of cigarettes and lit it with magic. She took a deep drag and then leaned forward towards Harry. “Nothing said here leaves the room. Capisce?”

“You don’t want me to make an Unbreakable vow?”

She raised a brow and stared unnervingly into his eyes and said, “Can you?” As if she knew his secret.

He gave an anxious laugh and laid his hand on his thigh to feel the shape of his dagger strapped to it. She took another drag of her cigarette, “I’m just saying, if Kai trusted me enough to tell me your secret, then maybe you ought to put some faith in me.”

Harry was beginning to feel uneasy in the presence of the mysterious stranger. Kai mentioned her in passing once in a while. Harry never knew that they were so close.

“Settle down, kid,” she chided. “Jesus, your anxiety is triggering mine.”

She tapped the butt of his cigarette against the ash tray and took another sip of coffee. She crossed one arm across her chest to rest her cigarette-wielding arm on it. She brought her legs up on the armchair and sat sideways, looking at a painting on the wall instead of Harry.

She took a long drag and blew out the smoke, still not looking at Harry, she drawled, “You weren’t the first stray he picked up.”