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Scales, Family, and Mates Oh My!

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The ceiling had a nice colour this evening. The setting sun washed the room in a light that made the peach walls almost pleasant instead of the usual puke colour they appeared during the day. For once it was going to be an almost enjoyable birthday for Harry. The Dursley’s had decided to go and visit Aunt Marge for the weekend. Harry was glad that instead of being forced to go and endure Aunt Marge's criticisms, he had been locked in Dudley's old spare bedroom, (so that he couldn't touch their belongings) which he greatly preferred. Overall his summer had been quite improved once the Dursley's had learned that the mass murderer Sirius Black was free and also his godfather. Harry hadn't thought to bother the Dursley’s with the information that he was in fact innocent, especially with the resulting improvements to his conditions.

The day had been sunny and Harry had spent most of it rereading his textbooks, (wouldn't Hermione be proud) and his quidditch book. At present though he was busy examining the ceiling, watching the way the shadows changed upon the stucco and noticing a few worrisome cracks (okay, maybe not so worrisome but a few hours spent on imagining what could happen would cause anyone some small degree of worry). Sometimes he changed his view to the window but that came with the voice of Vernon in his head shouting threats as to what would happen should he be seen by the neighbours.

While Harry had been pondering the likelihood of the ceiling completely collapsing, night had fallen quite rapidly. Harry jolted when he realized that it was only a few minutes to midnight. He smiled at the watch he had hidden under his pillow to keep it from getting broken on purpose by Dudley or by accident during one of his beatings.

“Happy Birthday Harry.” he whispered to himself at midnight, just before the strangest sensation came over him. There was a sharp pain spreading through his back and legs, rippling outwards to his other limbs. Harry had closed his eyes and gritted his teeth against the shocks of pain when suddenly he felt as though he had been pushed under a waterfall. His eyes flew open at that and the room was dry, though the sensation hadn't stopped. The pressure from the non-existent water soon became too much and all Harry saw was darkness.

The next morning he woke in a cold sweat, not entirely sure he hadn't dreamt up whatever it was that had happened last night. But considering the odd soreness in his muscles as he tried to sit up he had to admit that something had happened. Should he tell someone about this? Because surely it wasn't normal but what would he say? “Sorry to bother you, but I blacked out last night after feeling like I was dying and woke up this morning completely fine.” Because that sounded completely loony even in his own head not to mention overly dramatic, and what could he expect for a reply? He could already hear Hermione saying that she might have seen something in some book that may help and Ron asking him if he was sure he hadn't just dreamt it. No perhaps it was better to keep this to himself for now and maybe it really was just a really odd dream.

=^-^=

The train whistle blew and the Hogwarts Express made its way through the hills of Scotland. The infamous trio had found themselves a compartment halfway down the train. Hermione had her nose back in The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4. Ron had begun to cheer up after Neville got him going on about the Quidditch World Cup (for the hundredth time).

“But like I was saying before Malfoy barged in, my dad got us all into the Top Box! We were in the same box as Bagman and Fudge, and the Bulgarian Ministers too.” Ron rambled on.

“Didn’t the teams shake hands with the Ministers?” Neville asked wistfully.

“Yeah they did! I swear I was within touching distance of Krum!” Said Ron dreamily as he pulled out his miniature Krum again to watch him waddle back and forth on his hand. He placed his mini-Krum into Neville’s hand before he went on for a bit about the other players while Harry blankly stared out the window, nodding at Ron at what seemed to be the appropriate spots.

Hermione glanced up subtly from her book. “Everything alright Harry?” she asked, noticing his preoccupation with the familiar scenery, though it couldn’t really been seen right now through the deluge that assaulted the window. Ron had been in the middle of a sentence and turned to Hermione with an appalled look on his face at the interruption, before turning to take a proper look at Harry. Harry gazed back at Hermione with an unsure look on his face, as if he wanted to say something but wasn't sure if he should. Since his birthday he’d been having recurring dreams of that intense pressure flowing around him and he would wake up with his muscles sore, as if he had run a marathon in his sleep.

A pointed look from Hermione made him sigh. “Well I meant to talk to you about it earlier but then I got the letter from Ron's mum and then we all went to the World Cup, and you have to admit we never really got a chance to talk just the three of us. Then there was the incident with the Death Eaters....” Harry trailed off.

“That's true, it's been a bit of a whirlwind summer. Is it something to do with your family? Did they do something worse than usual?” Ron asked, innocently oblivious to what was “usual” in the Dursley household.

“No, something strange happened on my birthday...”

“Did you get your inheritance?!” Ron interrupted excitedly.

“Oh I've read about those! That's really very exciting Harry!”

“My what?” said Harry, his face it's usual look of befuddlement when it came to all things magical that he should know about the Wizarding World but didn't.

Ron took pity on his friend. “Every wizard gets a magical inheritance during their teenage years, almost always on their birthday. Mostly it's just a small boost of power. Bill said his hurt but he got a huge boost, Charlie said his felt like a tingling feeling in his wand arm; but some people don't get much.” Ron chuckled, “Percy said it must be a myth because he hasn't gotten it yet, or maybe he just didn't feel his like Bill and Charlie.”

“More powerful wizards may even have two inheritances and some of the stronger ones come with gifts like the ability to do wandless magic or a significant increase of ability in a particular branch of magic.” Hermione said.

The train's whistle decided just then to let out a long screech. Hermione snapped her book shut, “We'll have to talk about this more later. Time to change into our robes.” she said as the train began to noticeably slow down. As they stepped off the train in Hogsmeade they were instantly drenched as they tried to rush to one of the carriages that awaited to take them up to Hogwarts through the gale that was building up around them.

Sopping wet they made their way into the Great Hall before Peeves could aim another water balloon at them. Harry drained his trainers as they discussed the DADA position (since they couldn't see any new teachers at the head table) and how their classes might be this year. And then the Sorting began and seemed to take ages to finally get to “Whitby, Kevin!”. Halfway through their meal Hermione had the misfortune of learning about the Hogwarts house elves which put her off her food completely. She glared at Ron and Harry for their disregard of her indignation. Ron tried to tempt her unsuccessfully with dessert but she merely gave him a fearsome glare reminiscent of Professor McGonagall.

Once everyone was full of food (except Hermione who was still frowning at her now magically cleared plate) Dumbledore stood up to address the hall. As he declared the cancellation of the Quidditch Cup the hall exploded in exclamations of protest and expletives from some of the older students

Dumbledore raised his voice slightly, “This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers' time and energy – but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts -”

The doors to the Great Hall burst open, interrupting Dumbledore's announcement. Dumbledore looked at the newcomer over his half-moon glasses, the usual twinkle missing. The newcomer gave a nearly imperceptible nod in return. Dumbledore cleared his throat, “Might I introduce our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Moody!”

Where a polite applause would generally be heard at the announcement of a new teacher there was silence. Most likely due to the reality of the Professor's appearance. He sported a rugged travel cloak and a well worn staff. His face, thrown into sharp relief by the lightning playing in the ceiling of the Great Hall, appeared gnarled and weathered, reminiscent of cracked old leather that had never once had a good buffing.

“What happened to his face?” asked Seamus

“Moody? As in Mad-eye Moody? The man, Cedric’s dad sent your father to help out?” Harry whispered to Ron.

“Must be.” Ron said in a similar hushed tone that was laced in awe.

Soon after the Professor had found his seat at the head table and started picking at his food suspiciously, his magical eye keeping up a constant scan of the crowd, Dumbledore resumed announcing the Triwizard Tournament. The hall ruptured in excited cheers followed quickly by disappointed shouts and angry outbursts when Dumbledore stated that applicants must be 17 years of age or older.

“This is a measure we feel is necessary, given that the tournament tasks will still be difficult and dangerous, whatever precautions we take. The tournament organizers feel that it will be difficult for students below sixth and seventh year to be able to cope with them anyway.” Dumbledore raised his voice to be heard over the racket. Soon after everyone was dismissed to bed, however that didn't stop them from continuing the debate on their way to the dorms. Fred and George were insistent that they would find a way to enter themselves.

“I mean it really -”

“- isn't fair that -”

“- our birthday is in April!” Exclaimed the twins as they plotted how to hoodwink the 'impartial judge' that would be deciding the champions.

The group parted ways at the foot of the stairs to their rooms. Seamus and Dean were already in bed and Ron was muttering about the tournament all the way until his words turned into snores. Harry tucked himself in and imagined what it would be like to become the champion and then quickly dismissed those ideas. He had enough attention without the fame of an international tournament like this. With any luck the tournament would draw away the usual attention he garnered. And with that thought Harry drifted off into a peaceful slumber.

Chapter Text

Before they knew it was Wednesday and they had just finished learning about summoning charms that morning. As they were crossing the courtyard they heard a familiar voice call out.

“Oh how the Potters have fallen. Did you know they used to be a well respected family? But then somebody's father had to start associating himself with mudbloods and blood traitors; obviously the apple hasn't fallen far from that tree.” Draco drawled out from under a tree where he sat with Crabbe and another boy who might have had the last name Nott? Harry wasn't too sure.

“Better than Death Eaters and murderers any day Malfoy.” Harry said calmly.

“At least Malfoy's are well respected members of society, unlike the weasels you hang around with. Have you read the paper today weasel? Disgrace of the Ministry is what I think they called your father!” Malfoy laughed.

“At least his father isn't a Death Eater...” Harry mumbled audibly as he turned away, dragging Ron with him who was beginning to turn a whole new shade of red as he tried to hold in his anger. Just as they had turned there was a sensation of singed hair by Harry's ear, a sudden bang, and Mad-eye Moody had his wand pointed at a white ferret that was squirming in the air in terror.

After Moody reassured himself that Harry was fine for the moment he seemed to make it his aim to make the ferret vomit as many times as possible, with the motions he put it through. This hardly lasted long though as Professor McGonagall rushed down the steps with a stern look upon her face.

“Moody, we never use transfiguration as a punishment!” reprimanded McGonagall, “We give detentions, or speak to the offender's Head of House!”

Moody gave a terse nod, mumbled something about seeing old friends then dragged Malfoy towards the dungeons, presumably to speak to Professor Snape. The trio looked at each other briefly before quietly backing out of the courtyard, hoping to avoid McGonagall's attention on them. They all had an almost shell shocked look as the image of Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret, was seared into their brains. They looked at each other again, once they were away from the Professor's line of sight, and burst out laughing.

As they made their way to the Great Hall for lunch, the twins and Lee Jordan caught up with them. Hermione rushed off to the library while the twins raved about Moody.

“How cool is he?” Fred said as he sat down beside Harry at the Gryffindor table.

“Absolutely bloody cracked, he is, but he knows.” replied George from Ron's other side.

“Knows what?” Ron said with his mouth already beginning to be stuffed full of chicken and potatoes.

“Defence Against the Dark Arts of course.” Said Lee from the other side of the table, spooning some carrots and peas next to his beef and kidney pie.

“And not just defence.”

“Never had a lesson like that before, never.” The twins replied.

“Why? What happened?” Ron asked with intense curiosity.

“You'll just have to wait until your first class to find out!” shouted Fred as he grabbed some toast and George ruffled Harry's hair before leaving the Hall. Harry tried to smooth his hair down, though it was a hopeless endeavour, as he watched the twins leave with a befuddled expression.

Lee finished up his meal in short order. “They see you as another brother you know. And when it comes to family, you can't stop them from caring about you.” he whispered to Harry as he left at a leisurely pace. Ron was focused back on his food as Harry sat stunned for a moment. He knew the twins cared but he hadn't thought it ran that deep. He didn't know how he felt about that at all. On one hand he always wanted to be part of a family and he counted the Weasley's in that regard, but on the other hand danger seemed to follow him like a plague. Could he risk putting them in that kind of danger?

Harry's thoughts were interrupted by Ron who started getting to his feet, not noticing how little Harry had eaten from his meal. “It's a shame we don't have Defence until the end of the day tomorrow.” Ron moaned, exasperated. “Why couldn't they just tell us! Them and their riddles!”

 

“Where would be the fun in that?” Harry shrugged with a slight grin as they headed towards the library to study with Hermione.

=^-^=

The next day in Defence Against the Dark Arts everyone had seemed to arrive early to class for once. Rumours of Moody's teaching methods had quickly spread through the school. As unusual as everyone being early was, so was how unnaturally quiet they all sat, waiting for the lesson to start with bated breath. And it was warranted as the door to the classroom slammed open with a resounding thud and Moody made his way to the front of the classroom. Not a sound was made besides the thunk of his wooden leg against the floor.

Moody scowled at his class. “Now then. Seems you've had a good grounding on magical creatures but we need to get you up to scratch on curses. You're all extremely behind on that. I've only got a year to teach you and it'll be a miracle if I can teach you all you need in that time.”

“Wait, aren't you staying?” Ron piped up.

“No.” was Moody's terse reply

“But why not?” said Dean from the back of the class.

“Listen here you whelps. I'm only here as a special favour to Dumbledore. After this it's back to my peaceful retirement.” he grumbled. “Now lets begin. Curses. Now the Ministry would have me stick to counters and leave it at that. You're not to learn the darker stuff until sixth year, but Dumbledore thinks you lot are made of sterner stuff, reckons you can cope. I agree, you need to learn what to expect should you ever have to face a dark wizard. You have to be prepared. You need to be alert and vigilant. You need to put that away when I am speaking Ms Brown!”

There was a flurry of paper as Lavender hid whatever it was she had been showing Parvati under their desk, a brilliant blush growing on her face.

Moody gave them a final stern look, “Now then, what are the worst curses out there?” he asked the class. There were shouts of “Confringo”, “Body-bind”, “Flagrante”, and “Oppugno”.

“Oppugno is a jinx not a curse you half-wit, and you’d all be dead if Death Eaters were to swarm the school tomorrow. Now let me try to make my question clearer, what curses would see you put into the deepest pits of Azkaban?” growled Moody, his already tenuous patience wearing thin.

There was a brief silence before Fay Dunbar raised her hand hesitantly. Moody nodded at her; she looked timidly at her classmates and quietly said to her desk, “That’d be the Unforgivables sir.”

“And? Come on people, they have names. Tell me what they are!”

Ron raised his hand and spoke as soon as Moody looked at him, “My dad told me about the Imperius Curse.” he whispered.

“Aye, your da would know all ‘bout that one, now wouldn’t he Weasley. Gave the Ministry a whole lot of trouble it did. Plenty of dark witches and wizards claimed to be under imperius while doing the Dark Lord’s bidding.” Moody said with a smirk. He pulled out a twitching gerbil and set it on the empty desk in front of him. The gerbil began a series of acrobatics that seemed to cheer the class up but Moody was quick to dash that.

“Think that's funny do you?” he said as he had the gerbil climb up a glass of water while it was squeaking in terror, “What if I made it drown itself? If it was venomous what if I made it bite one of you? Not so funny is it? Countless of witches and wizards were forced to commit murder or suicide and we had no way of knowing who was under the curse.”

“What about veritaserum though?” asked Lavender from the back.

“Truth serums at the time were easy to fight off, trick, or tamper with. Veritaserum as you know it today wasn't actually created until after the war was over. Besides that I'll be teaching each one of you how to fight it off yourselves so you don't find yourselves in the situation of facing murder or suicide, at least not by the curse anyhow.” he said with a side glance at Harry. “Onto our next one now! Who knows another Unforgivable?”

A few more students raised their hands this time, including (suprisingingly) Neville. Usually he only willingly answered questions in Herbology.

“Longbottom.” Moody nodded at him.

“The Cruciatus…” Neville said in a whisper so quiet that the rest of the class almost didn't hear him. Moody merely nodded again before pulling out another gerbil. This one wasn't as noisy as the first one, at least it wasn't until Moody cursed it with the Cruciatus spell. It twitched violently, arching in ways that were absolutely unnatural.

Moody seemed lost in thought when Hermione yelled out, “Stop it! Just stop it!”

Moody seemed to shake out of his reverie and glanced at Neville, who had silent tears streaming down his face, and quietly put the gerbil out of its misery with a flash of green light.

“That last one is The Killing Curse. Your only hope to survive that one is to dodge it. There's no counter-curse, no blocking it, and there's only one known person who has ever lived after being hit by it.” he continued with a pointed look at Harry.

Harry wondered if that was exactly how his parents had died too. Had they been screaming from pain just before or had they gone quietly in the flash of green. Moody had gone on with the lesson while Harry was lost in his morose thoughts and before he knew it everyone was packing up their books, chattering about the lesson as if it had been a spectacle performed for them.

Harry looked up once they’d left the classroom and noticed Neville looking somewhat lost in his own thoughts. He headed towards him, feeling drawn to a kindred spirit. Someone who had seen the lesson for that hard truth that it was unlike the majority of their classmates.

Hermione grabbed Ron’s arm towards Harry and Neville, “Hurry up.” she said.

“Not the library again! I’m starving!” he complained vehemently. Hermione gave him an incredulous look and then simply nodded towards where Neville and Harry were partially hidden in a nook down the hall, barely speaking but quietly when they did. The two of them both had looks that appeared a mixture of haunted and horrified.

“Oh.” said Ron.

“Yes. Oh. Honestly Ron you need to start expanding your emotional teaspoon.” said Hermione tersely, walking towards the other two boys. Before she and Ron could reach them Moody got there first. The two couldn’t hear what was said but soon after Neville followed Moody away. “Everything alright, Harry?”

“Yeah, Moody’s just off to show Neville some books I suppose. I’m really looking forward to dinner. Should be good I think..” Harry rambled on as they headed off to the Great Hall.

“What was that about?” said Ron as he watched Moody and Neville round the corner out of sight.

“I don't know…” said Hermione, who was feeling off kilter about the whole situation, unsure of how to react or what to say.

“Some lesson though, eh?” said Ron as he and Hermione caught up with Harry. “Fred and George were right, he really knows his stuff. When he did the killing curse on that gerbil, the way it just died, just snuffed right out-” Ron was interrupted by an elbow to the ribs from Hermione. They walked in silence the rest of the way to the Great Hall.

Halfway through dinner Hermione left for the library again while Ron and Harry began discussing their Divination homework. Ron figured that was a safe enough topic to discuss as they made their way back to their dorm.

The Common Room was peaceful when they entered, only a few students lounged around. They spotted Neville in a well cushioned chair by the fire reading.

“Hey Neville, you alright?” Harry asked with a soft smile. He felt closer to Neville than he thought he would, perhaps due to their similar histories.

“Yeah,” Neville replied with a similar smile, glad (and surprised) that he had someone he could potentially talk to about his past. Not yet, it was far too soon for that but he had a bit of hope in his heart. “Professor Moody just gave me this book to read, Magical Mediterranean Water-Plants and their Properties. Apparently Professor Sprout had told him that I was good at Herbology.” Neville sported a look of humble pride on his face, as if surprised that anyone would actually call him good at something.

“Sounds fantastic!” Harry said, glad that the professor had managed to cheer his friend up.

“How about we get to that Divination homework?” Ron said, feeling a bit awkward and left out of the conversation.

“Yeah sure, I'll see you later Neville!” said Harry as they went to gather their books and papers.

They spent the better part of an hour working on their homework when Hermione came in and slumped down in a chair beside them.

“There, all finished!” Ron said exuberantly, followed by a hesitant “Are you alright?” when he saw Hermione.

“It's not right!” Hermione said dejectedly, “it's not just house elves that don't have proper rights, it's most magical creatures! Even witches and wizards who have gotten creature inheritances lose their rights down to whatever it is they've inherited!”

“Well if they've got a creature inheritance that just means they were that creature all along but just didn't know it. If they're a creature then they have to follow the laws set for that creature.” Ron stated, as if it was a well accepted fact.

“Despite the fact that at the time of their inheritance they've probably already completed most of their education at a wizarding school?” Hermione hissed at him. “Just because they have an extra ability doesn't make them any less of a wizard Ronald.”

She gathered up her things that she had dropped and stormed up to her dorm.

“Don't get what's got her knickers in a twist. Those laws have been in place for hundreds of years. Must be something right with them if they've lasted that long.” Ron said petulantly, echoing his father’s sentiment about wizarding laws.

“Well I know muggles had enslaved people just because they had different coloured skin for hundreds of years before they figured out that it was wrong and started to change things. Hermione was raised as a muggle and probably compares this to that.” Harry said thoughtfully. He agreed with Hermione that it didn't sound right, but didn't think he should say anything with how petulant Ron was being at the moment.

Ron shook his head in disagreement as they packed up their books and headed to bed.

=^-^=

The next day Ron went off with Seamus and Dean to Lunch while Harry went to find Hermione in the library. He found her at a table near the back, pouring over books about magical laws and creature rights.

Hermione jumped a bit when Harry sat down next to her. “Sorry…” Harry apologized with his hands up in a peaceful gesture. Hermione sighed.

“That's alright. I just don't understand why Ron doesn't understand. It's absolutely barbaric!” she vented.

“Probably because of the way he's been raised with these laws in place. I mean they're a way to keep the public thinking that creatures deserve the place they get. But what can we do about it?” said Harry.

“That's what I'm trying to find out. It's so difficult because this affects so many different races and the Ministry’s criteria for classifying creatures is ridiculous! I mean look at house-elves, they have being status but have no role in creating legislation or anything within the ministry even though they’re expected to follow it and their master’s will! Even of doing so makes them happy there have to be laws in place to protect them, not just oppress them, and shouldn’t they help in making those laws? That's what places like France and Bulgaria do, People already in government have brought in their own house-elves to help make the laws that affect them.” Hermione reasoned as she flipped through books.

“But that still doesn’t explain what we can do about it right now. We’re just students, people rarely listen to us even when we do have something important to say. Remember first year? We tried telling how many people that the sorcerer’s stone was going to be stolen and no one listened.” Harry replied.

“There has to be something! Maybe we can form a coalition, or a student association or something. I refuse to believe there's nothing we can do until after we're done school!” Hermione got up and started pulling more books off the shelves. These ones with titles about political organizations and others about legislation proposals. Harry shook his head and got up to head to the Great Hall for some lunch.

“Don't forget to eat Hermione.” Harry said as he left. Hermione simply waved a hand while she worried her bottom lip as she read.

Chapter Text

A week had passed by quickly and they were back in their DADA classroom. Moody had just broken the news that he would be putting each of them under the Imperius Curse and an outcry had broken out.

“That's illegal though isn't it?”

“This can't be part of the curriculum can it?!”

“Isn't that dangerous? He could make us do whatever he wanted!!”

“Dumbledore wants you to understand what it's like before you’re under the spell cast by a dark wizard who would make you do much worse that anything I'm allowed to do here. If you have so much of a problem feel free to leave, the door is the same one you came in through.” Moody growled, turning to walk back to the front of the classroom. “Now if you're done your gripping let's get started.”

One by one their classmates hopped on one foot, sang various show tunes, imitated animals or performed amazing acrobatics. Harry was by far the most successful (having slammed into the desk instead of jumping onto it) prompting Moody to curse him a few more times to demonstrate to the rest of the class which had left most of them with various twitches that persisted after class as well. Moody assured them the effects would wear off after a while.

On their way to dinner the class began an excited chatter as they saw a notice announcing the arrival of the other schools before dinner tomorrow evening. As such classes would be finishing a half hour early and students were to drop off their books and bags in their dormitories before the Welcoming Feast.

“Fantastic! Snape won't have time to poison us!” exclaimed one of the students, referring to the testing of their antidotes that was supposed to happen tomorrow.

The next day the teachers had an impossible time keeping their classrooms in order. The students buzzing with excitement over the upcoming arrival of the other schools. Rumours spread about the schools, about how they were different, how Durmstrang taught dark magics and Beauxbatons students were snobbish. They spoke of how Beauxbatons were infamous for having very beautiful students while Durmstrang had hardy people born of the cold winters of their homelands.

Suppertime quickly came and the students milled about the front of the school.

“Well where are they?” some students asked. “How are they getting here?” asked others.

“It looks like our guests are running a little-” Dumbledore was cut off by a boom of thunder, though the skies were clear. “Ah! Here we are! Welcome, Beauxbatons!” he yelled as a gigantic carriage pulled by massive winged palominos, the size of elephants flew in above them. Their wings creating waves of air on each down beat.

Once the carriage had landed a small boy in light blue robes jumped out to unravel a set of golden steps, next came a magnificent woman of Hagrid’s size, clad in black satin with opals around her neck and adorning her fingers. Dumbledore began clapping which soon spread through the rest of the Hogwarts residents.

“Welcome to Hogwarts my dear Madame Maxime.” Dumbledore greeted. The Madame stepped aside to speak to Dumbledore regarding the care of her horses and her students were revealed from her shadow. About a dozen boys and girls in their late teens stood in fine silk robes shivering in the chilly Scottish air. But their choice of attire wasn’t what caught the students’ attentions. It was the fact that some students sported white wings or pointed ears. It also seemed strange that most of them had hair in various shades of blonde, Harry saw maybe 2 or 3 of their students with brown hair and even that was of such a light shade it could almost be mistaken for a dark honey or burnt amber.

“An’ will you please inform zis ‘Agrid zat ze ‘orses drink only single-malt whisky?” Madame Maxime asked and Dumbledore nodded his assurance that it would be taken care of, “Very well, ‘as Karkaroff arrived yet?”

Just as Dumbledore was about to reply a rumble echoed through the ground. “Look at the lake!” someone shouted. Large bubbles were bursting out of the normally smooth surface of the Black Lake. A tall black pole began to rise out of a slowly widening whirlpool soon followed by the rest of the skeletal looking ship. An anchor dropped and a plank lowered to the shore.

A line of sturdy looking silhouettes came down the plank, soon illuminated by the lights of Hogwarts. The Durmstrang students wore thick black capes with matted fur at the edges and like the students of Beauxbatons there were various appendages sprouting from them, from reptilian wings to furry tails and ears, less noticeable were the students with red eyes. Their Headmaster followed wearing sleek silver furs and deep red eyes and yellow teeth.

“Welcome Professor Karkaroff.” Dumbledore said with a slight nod as Karkaroff shook his hand with both of his own.

“Dear old Hogwarts, if you don’t mind Dumbledore I’d like to get Viktor inside, he has a bit of head cold.” Headmaster Karkaroff stated as he pulled forward a student with a prominent curved nose, thick black eyebrows, and a pair of grey scaled wings.

Harry didn’t need Ron’s punch and whispered exclamation to recognize Viktor Krum, the World Class Seeker. But what did surprise Harry was the look Krum gave him as he passed, a subtly confused and curious look that became slightly troubled as Karkaroff pulled him through to the Entrance Hall of Hogwarts.

“Did you see? He looked right at m- us, he looked right at us! I don’t believe it! Viktor Krum!” stage whispered Ron.

Hermione rolled her eyes, “For heaven’s sake Ron, he’s only a quidditch player.” Ron sputtered at her indignantly and began a lecture on legendary seekers as they made their way behind their guests into the Great Hall.

The guests milled about the doors as the Hogwarts students took their usual seats. Ron muttered “Please sit with us.” over and over. The Beauxbatons students sat with Ravenclaw and Durmstrang ended up sitting with Slytherin. Ron grumbled about it throughout the rest of the meal. The Beauxbatons student jumped up when their Madame entered the room, to the giggles of some students, and only sat back down once she was seated.

Dumbledore addressed the crowd, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and – most particularly - guests. I have the great pleasure of welcoming you to Hogwarts. Though I hope your stay here is both comfortable and enjoyable I must ask that you draw in or conceal your extra features as the majority of our students are unaccustomed to creature inheritances.” The students of the other schools looked at Dumbledore in disbelief, offended by what he was asking. They looked to their Madame and Headmaster and though they each bore expressions of extreme distaste they nodded at their students. A rustle spread through the Hall as wings, tails, and ears disappeared from sight. “Thank you so much for your consideration on such a delicate matter, now I invite you all to eat, drink, and make yourselves at home!” He finished with a clap and food appeared on the table, including dishes from their guests' home countries.

“How can we make ourselves at home when we can't be ourselves?” a Beauxbatons student grumbled just loud enough for some Gryffindors and Ravenclaws to hear her. The Hogwarts students seemed as stunned as the foreign students but for a very different reason. Many had no clue about creature inheritances and the few that did saw it as a disgrace instead of something to be proud of.

Ron seemed to fall into the latter category as he seemed torn between his admiration of Krum and his disdain of his creature inheritance insinuating it helped him cheat at quidditch. His condescension soon spread to the foreign dishes, “What's that??” he asked pointing to some kind of shellfish stew. Hermione proceeded to explain while Ron just insulted it.

The Durmstrang students had shed their cloaks revealing deep red robes underneath. The Beauxbatons students hadn't had any cloaks to begin with which was why they had shivered so much in the mild cold. One Beauxbatons student spoke to Ron asking for the bouillabaisse. Ron looked at her in awe of her beauty. She had long silvery blonde hair almost to her waist and her eyes were such a perfect blue. Even her teeth were straight and perfectly white. Ron seemed unable to form words at the moment so Harry passed her the bouillabaisse.

“She's a Veela!” Ron hissed, disgusted at himself for finding her so attractive.

“So?” said Harry.

“So? She's a creature! Most of those students are monsters and they'll have an unfair advantage in the tournament; there aren't any beasts in Hogwarts!” Ron nearly shouted. Some people gave him dirty looks.

“They're not beasts Ron!” Hermione hissed back at him. “They're still witches and wizards like us. They've just got their inheritances like Harry, except theirs gave them creature abilities instead of magical boosts.”

“Creature inheritances?” Harry asked Hermione, a bit confused.

“I read about it when I was looking up creature laws in other countries. They're far prouder about their inheritances because magic chooses who in a family's line receives a creature inheritance. It can be centuries between so some families even forget they have any creature blood in their lines.” Hermione said to Harry, ignoring Ron's scowl.

“Freaks is what they are.” Ron muttered, causing Harry to flinch. Harry was glad Hermione had turned in that moment and didn't notice his reaction, but he didn't realize that the twins had paused their conversation as they noticed. They gave each other a look and decided to stay quiet for now, they'd talk to Harry later.

 

Dessert was wrapped up with Dumbledore introducing Barty Crouch and Ludo Bagman. The twins muttered between themselves when Bagman was introduced, swapping words like 'liar', 'cheat', and 'bastard'. Dumbledore continued to explain the rules and format of the tournament before revealing the Goblet of Fire, a large, roughly made wooden goblet that held dancing blue and white flames.

 

“Anyone who wishes to participate and is within the age limits have 24 hours to submit themselves to the Goblet. Please write your name and school clearly on a slip of paper and drop it in. Tomorrow night, Halloween, the Goblet will make it's selection. I will be drawing an Age Line, set to 17 years of age, around the Goblet to save students the temptation of entering themselves if they are not truly eligible. By entering the Tournament be aware that you are entering a magically binding contract and is not to be taken lightly. If you are chosen you will be obligated to compete through to the end. Now, I believe it is time for bed. Good night and good luck to all.”

“An age line! Is that all” the twins grinned at each other. “An aging potion should do the trick for that!”

“If it works would you try?” Lee Jordan asked the trio.

Hermione quickly shook her head, “We haven't learned nearly enough to be able to handle it.”

“Wouldn't people love that. The boy-who-lived being named Triwizard participant.” Harry snorted, “No thanks, maybe this whole thing will help distract my usual 'fans'”

“Of course I would,” said Ron, already daydreaming. “Imagine the fame! The fortune!”

They started to head out of the Great Hall, coming up to the Durmstrang students who were being led back to their ship. Their headmaster doting on Krum and reprimanding some of the others. Karkaroff froze mid-sentence as he noticed Harry, looking at his scar specifically, an odd look on his face that Harry couldn't place. The Durmstrang students began whispering among themselves when Moody came up behind them.

“Yes, that's Harry Potter. I suggest you keep on your way now.” Moody growled, glaring at Karkaroff. The odd look on his face quickly changed to a mixture of fear and anger as he turned towards Moody. Nothing was said as Karkaroff turned on his heel and led his students away, giving Harry a calculating look as he passed.

=^-^=

The next evening everyone gathered back into the Great Hall to find out who the champions would be for the Tournament. Gryffindors were rooting for Angelina, Hufflepuffs for Cedric Diggory, Slytherins for Cassius Warrington. Hardly anyone ate during the feast, too excited for the revealing.

Once everyone was finished eating Dumbledore addressed the crowd, asking that the chosen champions head through a side door once called. Viktor Krum was called for Durmstrang. Fleur Delacour for Beauxbatons. Cedric Diggory For Hogwarts. The Slytherins scowled and the Gryffindors groaned at the outcome.

Dumbledore began congratulating the new champions and asked their schoolmates for their support and goodwill when the Goblet changed colour again. He caught the slip of paper that shot out and turned to the students. “Harry Potter!

Harry sat frozen. Fear filling his face. He couldn't have one normal school year could he! An angry buzz began from the students in the Hall. Harry turned to Ron and Hermione, “How – I didn't put my name in so how... Ron you know I didn't put my name in.” Harry said at the hurt look on Ron's face. Dumbledore called Harry's name again and Hermione and the twins gave him a slight push to the front where he waited.

“I'm very disappointed in you, my boy. Well... through the door.” Dumbledore whispered only loud enough for Harry to hear.

 

The other three champions stood silhouetted against the fire. Fleur turned to Harry when he walked in, “Do zey want us back in ze Hall?” she asked.

Harry didn't know what to say, still stunned from what had happened. In that moment he realized the disparity between him and the other champions, not only had they spent more time learning and practising but they were a fair bit larger size wise as well which was equally as daunting. He was saved from having to say anything when the judges and teachers burst in, Bagman instantly congratulating Harry while the others' expressions ranged from disapproving (McGonagall) to indignant (Snape) to furious (Madame Maxime). Viktor stayed where he was but his face darkened in what might have been considered a confused worry. Cedric looked bewildered while Fleur laughed, “Oh, a vairy funny joke!”

“Not a joke at all Miss Delacour!” Bagman exclaimed, “I present the Fourth Triwizard Champion.”

There was a flurry of words denouncing Harry's eligibility into the Tournament. Crouch and Bagman insisted that as a magically binding contract all champions must compete while Madame Maxime and Karkaroff insisted that they be allowed another entrant each to make up for it. Crouch shook his head saying it couldn't be done now that the Goblet had been extinguished. Moody piped up wondering if someone put Harry's name with the intention of forcing him to compete.

“But why should 'e complain? 'E now 'as a chance to gain honour for 'is school and a thousand Galleons prize money! Zis is a chance many would die for!” Fleur burst out, her face twisting unpleasantly in anger.

“Maybe someone is hoping he will die for it.” Moody said simply. Silence reigned for a moment before some of the others scoffed, mocking Moody for his paranoia.

“Only a powerful and skilled wizard could have confounded a ancient magical artifact such as the Goblet of Fire. I very much doubt a boy of 14 could have pulled that off. If Potter had merely gotten past the age line then Diggory there wouldn't have been selected at all.” Moody growled.

Though none were even remotely happy about the development they had to concede that there was no way to change the current circumstances. Bagman hesitantly began to explain the first task, “Courage in the face of the unknown is an important quality in a wizard so we will not be disclosing the first task until the morning of November 24th, the day of the task. You may not ask for help from others to complete the task, you will be armed with only your wands.”

“Due to the nature of this Tournament you four will be exempt from end-of-year exams.” Crouch finished off. “Anything to add, Albus?”

“No, I think it's best we go off to bed.” said Dumbledore. Madame Maxime and Fleur were already halfway out the door, speaking in rapid French. Karkaroff and Viktor followed after in silence. “Harry, Cedric, I'm sure your respective houses are waiting for you to begin celebrations. You'd best be off.” He said the last part sternly at Harry.

On their way Cedric asked Harry how he did it. When Harry denied putting his name into the Goblet Cedric gave him a side glance, torn between disbelief and concern that someone may have in fact tampered with the tournament. He quickly forgot his worries as they parted ways and was reminded of the party his house would probably have already started.

Harry dreaded returning to his own dorm. Would all of them have the same expressions that Ron and all the adults had given him earlier? He was too shocked when his name was called to see anyone else's face besides Ron and Hermione so he really had no clue what to expect. Would they be vicious enough to kick him out of the dorm? Make him sleep in the hall? Maybe find him a cupboard? He shuddered at the thought. The hallway at least had windows to let the moonlight in.

Before he knew it he had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. Who swung open after he sullenly gave the password. The moment it did though the noise that came from the common room almost deafened Harry as he hesitantly made his way in. Fred saw Harry and grabbed him by the arm. There was a flurry of questions and congratulations. No one seemed to believe him that he hadn't put his name in.

It felt like ages before Harry was able to slip away from everyone, almost shoving the Creevey brothers into the wall trying to get up the stairway. He found Ron sitting on his bed, a grimace (that he supposed was meant to be a smile) on his face.

“Where were you?” asked Harry, slightly annoyed that his best friend hadn’t been downstairs to save him from the madness.

“Oh hi. Congratulations I suppose.” Ron said tersely.

“What do you mean congratulations?”

“For getting over the line, for conning the cup. Good job on that. I had just hoped that as your friend you would’ve thought to take me with you.”

“How many times do I have to say it! I didn’t put my name in the blasted Goblet!” Harry nearly yelled, almost at the end of his patience.

“Yeah okay, well I’m off to bed. You should too, probably have a photo shoot to attend in the morning or something.” Ron said with vehemence.

Once again within the span of just a couple of hours Harry stood stunned. His best friend didn't believe him. The person he thought he could count on to help him through this had just turned his back on him.

Chapter Text

The next day Harry woke up feeling miserable. It took him a moment to remember why but once he did he jumped out of bed to confront Ron, make him see reason. Only problem was, Ron wasn't in his bed. He must have gone down to breakfast already. Harry hurried to get dressed and nearly ran down the stairs. The common room burst into applause when he entered causing Harry to freeze. He debated running back upstairs to his dorm and hiding but instead pushed through his fear and headed for the portrait hole.

In his haste he nearly ran over Hermione who was holding a napkin from breakfast. “Hello, brought you this. Want to go for a walk around the lake?” she asked, holding up the food laden napkin.

“Good idea.” said Harry gratefully.

They made it to the lake where the ship was still moored. Harry nibbled his toast, his worries making it hard to eat much. He explained everything that happened the night before.

“Well of course you didn't enter yourself. If anyone actually saw the look on your face when your name got called they would have known that.” Hermione said rationally.

“What about Ron?” Harry said quietly, his insecurity showing a bit.

“Oh Harry,” Hermione said softly, putting a hand on Harry's arm, “don't you see? He's just jealous. You have to admit that you do get a lot of attention and between you and his brothers Ron feels a bit left behind... I know it's not your fault, I know you didn't ask for it but it's still the way things are.”

“Fantastic. Just brilliant. You can tell Ron I'd trade with him any day.” Harry said angrily.

“Tell him yourself. It's the only way to sort this out.”

“It's not my job to make him grow up! Maybe he'll be happy once I've broken my neck or -”

“That's not funny!” Hermione shouted, stopping Harry from the rant he was about to go on. Hermione took a moment to calm herself, “You need to write to Sirius. Tell him what's happened.”

Harry grumbled as they walked to the Owlery, writing his note on the way while muttering to himself. Hedwig landed on his shoulder, excited for work to do. “I'm sorry girl,” Harry apologized to her, “I've got to use one of the others.” In a huff she cut her talons through his skin as she took off. After sending off his note with a large barn owl Harry took a quick look at his shoulder to see how bad it was. To his surprise only his robe had been torn, though the skin beneath felt bruised. He turned to Hedwig to say goodbye but she nipped at his fingers harshly, Harry barely managing to pull his hand back quickly enough.

“First Ron and now you! It's not my fault!” he hissed, tears pooling in the corners of his eyes. He wiped them fiercely away and stomped out of the Owlery.

The next few days were the worst Harry had ever had. Even worse than when he had been accused of opening the Chamber of Secrets and attacking students, because at least he had Ron by his side then. Now he didn't have Ron and even Hermione was still spending much of her time in the library. Instead he was left to deal with malice from all sides. Though he couldn't blame them, Cedric at least looked the part of a champion. Strong, handsome, and smart. Especially when compared to Harry's scrawny size he couldn't compare looks-wise, and with how poorly he had been doing in charms he wasn't feeling remotely smart either.

Potions was by far the worst, dealing with the Slytherins and Snape ribbing and taunting him. It didn't help that during these classes he would feel that crawling feeling over his skin that sometimes also came with suddenly becoming even more aware of the negative energy around him. It seemed to come to a head after Potions the one day when Malfoy and his lot stopped him in the hall with their obnoxious badges. A duel broke out that ended with Hermione and Goyle having to go to the hospital wing.

To make matters worse Colin Creevey found him soon after and loudly announced that he and the other champions had to go get photos done. Harry himself felt quite done at the moment and wanted more than anything to be able to go hide in his dorm for a few days... or maybe a few weeks…

Instead he trudged to the room where Bagman and the other champions were already waiting in a small, out of the way classroom. Viktor skulked in a corner while Fleur and Cedric talked by one of the velvet covered desks. Ludo Bagman was also there talking to a witch in magenta robes with tight blonde curls and bejewelled glasses. As Harry stepped further into the room Ludo caught sight of him.

“Ah! There he is! Our fourth champion. Nothing to worry about Harry, just the Wand Weighing Ceremony. The other judges should be here soon.”

“Wand Weighing?” Harry asked nervously.

“Just to make sure your wands are fully functional. They're your most important tools in this competition after all! By the way this lovely lady here is Rita Skeeter, she'll be writing a small article on the ceremony.” Ludo said, introducing the reporter that had come to keep tabs on the Tournament for the Daily Prophet.

Rita looked over her horn rimmed glasses at Harry, “Maybe not that small Ludo, dear.” she said with a sly smile. Her eyes twinkled in excitement over the prospect of interviewing such a famous, yet mysterious, young man. “Might I have a word with our youngest champion before we start? Just to add some colour to the article, you know.” she said with a wink at Ludo.

“As long as Harry has no objection-”

“Wonderful!” exclaimed Rita as she dragged Harry out of the room and into a nearby broom cupboard. “This will do, nice and cozy!”

She set Harry on a box and perched herself on an upturned bucket. She pulled out a vibrant green quill and set it to write on a sheet of parchment rolled out on another nearby box. “Now then, Harry, dear. What made you enter such a dangerous Tournament?” She started off with an impish smile.

“I didn't.” Harry reiterated.

“Come now Harry, no need to be shy. The readers love a rebel, you won't get into any trouble over it.”

“But I didn't -”

“How do you feel about the upcoming tasks? People have died in the past, does that make you regret entering?” Rita pried further.

“They said it's a lot safer this year, and I didn't-”

“Of course this isn't the first time you've faced such a dangerous situation, is it? Would you say the trauma of your past has made you more desperate to prove yourself? To enter in the Tournament to-”

I didn't enter myself!” Harry interrupted, Rita ignored the interruption and changed direction with her questions.

“Can you remember your parents, Harry?” she asked with an almost serious look in her eyes.

“No-”

“How do you think they'd feel about you competing in the Triwizard tournament?”

“I- I don't know! Other people knew my mum and dad better than I did-” Harry said, getting more and more frustrated with her verbal assault. The thought of what his parents would think burned his heart and reminded him about what the mirror of Erised showed him in first year. He wished so much that he could know what they would've thought. Tears began to build in the corner of his eyes frustrating him further at his apparent lack of control over his emotions.

Rita nodded as her parchment and quill packed themselves up just as the door to the cupboard opened with a slam.

“Dumbledore! Wonderful to see you again, I hope you had a chance to read my piece about the International Confederation of Wizards' Conference?” Rita exclaimed, the very image of delight despite being interrupted.

“Enchantingly nasty, I particularly enjoyed your description of me as an obsolete dingbat.” He replied with barely a twinkle in his eye.

“I was just pointing out that some of your ideas are a bit old-fashioned, Dumbledore, dear! I'm simply a devil's advocate, playing my part in society.” said Rita.

“Regardless, we must get going, the ceremony is unable to start when one of it's champions is hiding in a broom cupboard.”

Harry was relieved to be able to get away from the unpleasant woman. The other judges, Madame Maxime and Karkaroff were there waiting when Harry reached the classroom again. Dumbledore introduced Mr Ollivander who inspected each of their wands beginning with miss Delacour's. Harry learned that Fleur's wand contained one of her grandmother's hairs who was a Veela. He was curious about how proud she sounded when she revealed that fact compared to Ron's reaction to the idea of having creatures in a family line.

Cedric was next and Ollivander was proud to see one of his wands cared for so well. Harry looked at his own wand and blushed with embarrassment. He tried to clean it subtly but gold sparks shot out and Fleur gave him a patronizing look. Viktor's wand weighing was quick, just a comment about it's maker Gregorovitch.

Finally it was Harry's turn. Ollivander spent a good deal longer examining his wand but unlike the others barely made any comments on it for which Harry was quite glad. Harry remembered the day he received his wand and Ollivander revealed that his wand core shared a feather from the same phoenix as Voldemort. He knew others would judge but he couldn't help his wand core any more than he could help being related to his aunt and her family.

Once Ollivander had finished Dumbledore tried to dismiss everyone to dinner when Ludo interrupted, “Photo's Dumbledore! Perhaps a group shot against the blackboard Rita?”

“Yes, yes. Then perhaps some individual shots” she said, smiling at Harry. After another hour they were finally free to head down to dinner. Harry ended up eating alone since Hermione was probably still in the hospital wing, getting her teeth fixed. When he returned to his dorm Ron was there.

“You had an owl.” Ron said tersely and then closed the curtains on his four poster before Harry could say anything. Harry just turned to the barn owl and read Sirius' letter, bottling up the anger he was feeling towards Ron. Sirius wanted to meet with Harry on the 22nd of November and suggested he stick close to Dumbledore and Moody for protection. Harry went to bed that night excited to see his godfather again after so long.

The next two weeks the thought of seeing Sirius was the only thing that kept his spirits up. Between worrying about the upcoming first task (which Harry had no clue how he was going to survive), dealing with taunts about the article Rita Skeeter put out (which read more like a front page expose on his life rather than an article about the Tournament), and his struggles with his classes (his magic seemed to be unpredictable these days) he felt utterly wrung out.

He hoped Sirius would be able to give him some advice, Harry and Ron were still not speaking to each other and Hermione was almost at her wit's end with the two of them. Harry refused to make Ron see reason even though he missed him terribly. Being best friends with Hermione meant a lot more time in the library, but even her sanctuary was becoming a source of ire. Viktor Krum seemed to be spending a lot of time in the library as well and with him came his horde of fans.

“He's not even good-looking! They only like him because he's famous, they wouldn't look twice if he couldn't do that wonky feint thing-” she griped. That was another thing Harry missed about Ron, someone to talk to about quidditch. He could just imagine Ron's offended face if he heard Hermione talk about wonky feints.

=^-^=

The first task seemed to come quickly, as things do when you dread them. It was Saturday, 5 days before the task, and Hermione was preparing to head to Hogsmeade.

“Are you sure you don't want to come with me? We can have some butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks...” Hermione asked.

“I thought you were going with Ron?” Harry said, more a statement than a question.

“Well... I thought we might meet up...”

“No.”

“Oh Harry, this is so stupid-”

“No. Just go have fun Hermione, I'll see you when you get back.” Harry said, turning to head out the portrait hole. Once he was out of the common room though, he didn't know where he was going to go. He started to head to the library, more out of habit than anything else at this point.

Up and down the rows of books he passed, deep in thought. He came upon Viktor reading at a table, for once without his followers twittering behind shelves. They must have gone to Hogsmeade as well. Viktor looked up and noticed Harry.

“Come sit if you vant.” said Viktor.

“Umm, sure...” said Harry hesitantly, sitting down on Viktor's left side. Harry looked at the book that Viktor had open on the table, “What are you reading?”

“Looking through books on merpeople. Zey is very rare, you know?” He looked at Harry.

“I know we have a colony of merfolk in our lake but... we don't really learn about them in our classes. Or any creatures really, besides how to defend ourselves against things like pixies and boggarts...” Harry said uncertainty, looking at the image of a gorgeous mermaid with raven locks. The caption claimed her to be the painting of a siren from the Caribbean.

Viktor looked at Harry with a confused look. “Did your family not teach you?”

Harry looked at Viktor with an equally confused look. He thought everyone knew about his past at this point. And also what were they supposed to teach him? Was there more to wizardry than could be learned at Hogwarts? “My family is mostly dead, I grew up with my muggle aunt...” Harry said looking away from Viktor. He wasn't sure why he had said so much.

Viktor's eyebrows flew up in surprise. “Vot do you know of inheritances?”

“You mean the magical kind?” Harry asked, Viktor nodded. “Not much, Hermione mentioned reading about it in a book... and didn't Dumbledore say something about it at the Feast?”

Viktor nodded and released his wings. They stretched out above him so that they wouldn't hit any of the shelves. “Inheritances are a matter of pride. Dat your Dumbledore has asked us to hide is otvratitelen... how do you say.. abominable? Many old families have creature blood and Magic, she chooses who is worthy of it.” Viktor hid his wings again as he stood and handed Harry the book he had been reading. “Here, it is very interesting to read.” he said before he left.

Harry had a lot to think about after that. For a start that was the first he had heard Viktor speak so many words to anyone. Harry hadn't expected him to be so friendly. It was evening when Harry finally made his way back to the common room where he found Hermione.

“There you are, we bumped into Hagrid at the Three Broomsticks.” she said.

“How is he? Haven't had much time to visit him so far, what with all the homework we've been getting.”

“Might be able to fix that, he said to meet him at his hut just before midnight tonight. To go under your invisibility cloak.”

“What for?” asked Harry, becoming frustrated at all the confusion he'd been feeling so far this year.

“No clue.” said Hermione sympathetically. She noticed the book in Harry's hand, “What's that?”

“Oh, this.” Harry said lifting the book in his hand. He had nearly forgot that he had been carrying it around with him all day. “Viktor gave me it... we talked for a bit in the library this morning.”

Hermione watched Harry's face as he looked at the book and then smiled, “Is it any good?” she asked.

“What?” Harry asked, having been distracted by remembering his conversation with Viktor.

“That book,” Hermione let out an uncharacteristic giggle. “Is it any good?”

“Oh... I haven't read it yet.” Harry said sheepishly. He held it out to Hermione, Merfolk of the Isles and their Kin by Radeg Waterfire.

“I haven't read this one yet, it's supposed to tell how the Mer of the Isles ended up in Britain by following their bloodlines. Not much use in any of our classes. Any idea why he gave it to you?” she asked, Harry just shrugged. “No matter, It's almost time for you to get ready to head down to Hagrid's soon.”

Harry looked at the clock and then rushed upstairs to get his cloak. He slipped his cloak on and Hermione helped him out the portrait hole. He rushed out to Hagrid's hut, still breathing heavily when he knocked on the door.

Hagrid seemed particularly well dressed as he cracked the door open, “Harry? You there?” he asked. Harry slipped his hood down to show his face. “Great! Alright, got sommat great to show yeh! You need to follow me and stay hidden! Keep yer cloak on ye!”

“Hagrid, what-” Hagrid interrupted Harry's question with a stern shush. They crossed over to the Beauxbatons' carriage and Hagrid knocked on the door. After exchanging pleasantries with Madame Maxime, Hagrid led them around the perimeter of the Forbidden Forest. Just before Harry was about to turn back to the castle, which had not long disappeared from sight, they heard shouting and then a deafening roar.

They stepped around a clump of trees, not moving too far into the open space beyond. Firelight flickered across the ground and surrounding trees. Harry peeked around the two of them and nearly gasped out loud at the sight. Four dragons were chained within the enclosure with seven to eight wizards on each trying to get them under control. The dragon closest to them seemed to look right at Harry with a cat-like eye and breathed in deep.

“Watch it Hagrid!” a wizard yelled, “They can shoot flames from twenty feet, though I've seen the Horntail do forty!”

Hagrid stared at them dreamily, “Isn' it beautiful?”

The dragon tamers started shouting again and soon Stunning Spells were shot at the dragons, seeming to fizzle out against their hide. Harry thought for a moment that it hadn't worked before the dragons teetered and then toppled, the dragon tamers rushing to chain them down securely before they awoke.

The wizard who had shouted earlier turned towards Hagrid, the light revealing the face of Charlie Weasley. Hagrid and Charlie talked about the dragons for a bit, Charlie disapproving of him bringing Madame Maxime, and Hagrid eyeing the dragons with more than a hint of longing as wizards placed clutches of eggs by their stunned pseudo-mothers.

“I've got them counted Hagrid.” Charlie warned, “How's Harry by the way?”

“Fine.” Hagrid said distractedly, still staring at the eggs. Charlie spoke about how his mother was worried but when he started to mimic her Harry decided it was time for him to go.

Harry stumbled back to the castle in a daze. How was he supposed to go against a dragon. A fifty foot mass of scales and fire. With just his wand, which felt more like a twig right now rather than a proper weapon. Harry realized he was going to be late for his meeting with Sirius. He tried to put the dragons out of his mind but he was still distracted enough to almost run into Karkaroff who was stealthily making his way towards where the dragons were being kept. Harry carefully made his way around the man and then resumed running towards the castle.

Just as he stumbled into the common room the fire sprang to life with Sirius' face. Harry was glad that Hermione had been able to clear out the room to give them privacy. Harry felt the first bit of pure joy he had felt in a while at seeing his godfather, who looked much better than he had last time Harry had seen him. They quickly got into talking about the Tournament and Harry felt such relief being able to finally unload all his worries. Unfortunately Sirius was running out of time, he quickly warned Harry to watch out for Karkaroff, who was a 'former' Death Eater.

“Now about your dragons, don't try a stunner. Their hide is too thick for that, but you can-”

“Shhh I heard something-” Harry whispered, “Go someone's coming down the stairs!”

Sirius disappeared just as Ron came into the common room. “Who were you talking to?” he asked.

“What's that got to do with you? Just thought you'd come nosing about did you?” Harry said nastily, his frustrations over the past few weeks coming out all at once. He knew it wasn't Ron's fault but the feeling of loss that he could've have talked to Sirius for longer hurt more than his rational mind could handle at the moment.

“Sorry about that, didn't realize you wanted privacy to practice for your next interview.” Ron sneered “I'll just head to bed so the-boy-who-cheated can talk to himself in peace.”

Harry grabbed one of the nearby POTTER STINKS badges and chucked it at Ron, hitting him square in the forehead. “There you go, maybe you'll be lucky and get a scar. That's what you want isn't it?!” Harry yelled before storming up the stairs to the dorm. He almost expected Ron to stop him but made it to his bed and closed his curtains without another word between them. It took Harry a long while to fall asleep, too lost in his murky thoughts to hear Ron go to bed, though eventually he finally drifted off into a restless slumber.

Chapter Text

The next morning Harry was so out of sorts he tried to put his hat on his foot instead of his sock. The morning passed by in a blur and after breakfast, at which Harry ate very little, he told Hermione about the dragons and about what Sirius had said. Hermione agreed that their focus right now should be on surviving the dragons and they could figure out what to do about Karkaroff later. They spent the rest of the morning pouring over books about dragons.

“Well Krum will have the easiest time of it.” Harry grumbled.

“How do you figure?” said Hermione as she pulled another couple of books from the shelves.

“You saw his wings, he's got to have some kind of dragon inheritance right? That will make things easier for him.”

“Not necessarily, depends on what dragons you have to get past. They might see him as a rival dragon. They fight differently against each other than they do with other species, more viciously, so it might actually make it more dangerous for him.”

Harry thought he should have felt relieved that he might not be the only one at a disadvantage during the task. Instead he felt a twist of worry in his gut. He turned back to the book he had in front of him, deciding to ignore the feeling. He had enough to worry about for himself.

Harry had thought about running away from Hogwarts that morning but realized he couldn't leave the only place he could call home. The realization that facing the dragon was less frightening than going back to the Dursley's settled his nerves a bit.

They took a break for lunch but didn't stop talking about what he could do to get around the dragon. It seemed to be impossible.

Harry then noticed Cedric leaving the hall and realized that he was the only champion who wouldn't know about the dragons.

“I'll meet you in the common room later Hermione, there's something I have to do.” Harry said as he rushed off after Cedric.

Harry followed him for a bit and realized he needed to get Cedric away from his gaggle of new found admirers. He send a quiet spell Cedric’s way, “Diffindo.”

Cedric’s bag split open and he waved his friends on saying he'd catch up to them. That went better than Harry would have hoped for.

“Hey, my bag split. It was brand new too.” Cedric said as Harry approached him.

“Hey Cedric,” Harry said, unsure of how to say what he needed to. “It's dragons.” He blurted out.

“What?” Cedric looked at him like he was a bit crazy.

“The first task. It's dragons, one for each of us. I saw them last night, so did Maxime and Karkaroff so no doubt Krum and Fleur know too.” He rambled.

Cedric stood up with all his things, “Why are you telling me?” He asked suspiciously.

Now Harry was the one looking at Cedric as if he were crazy. “It's just… it’s only fair isn't it? That we all start of with the same information?”

Cedric was still giving him a suspicious look when the sound of Moody’s wooden leg on stone floor came down the corridor. “Diggory, off you go. Potter, with me.” He said tersely.

“Umm… I'm supposed to-”

“Nevermind that. Come with me now.” said Moody who was already heading down the hall to his office, expecting Harry to follow. Not seeing much of a choice he did.

“That was a decent thing you did there Potter.” Moody said when they had settled around his desk. Harry hadn't expected that at all. “Now then. What are you planning to do about yer dragon?”

“Well.... umm...” Harry stammered. In all honesty he had no clue what to do, despite all the reading and studying he and Hermione had done that morning.

“No shame in knowing. Cheating has always been a part of the Tournament.” Moody said, mistaking Harry's hesitation for guilt over 'cheating'. “Now I don't play into favouritism but I'll give you a piece of advice – Play to your strengths!

“But I haven't got any.” Harry said before he could stop himself.

“Excuse me.” Moody growled. “You've got strengths if I say you've got them. Think now, what are you best at?”

“Quidditch, I suppose. Fat lot of good that'll do-”

“That's right, you're a damn good flier from what I've heard. Now all you need is a nice simple spell to get you what you need out to that field when you need it.” Moody said, his magical eye finally stopped spinning every which way so that both eyes were staring resolutely at Harry.

It took Harry a moment before it clicked. He ran out of Moody's office. He was good at flying so he knew he needed his broom, and for that he needed-

“Hermione!” Harry yelled Harry as he ran into the common room. He found her sitting by the fireplace. “Hermione, I need you to help me.”

“What do you think I've been trying to do?” she asked with a slight frown.

“I know, I know, but I mean with something specific. I need to you to help me learn the summoning charm properly by tomorrow afternoon.” Hermione's eyebrows flew up into her hair. Harry went on to explain what had happened after he had gone after Cedric.

They used an abandoned classroom to practice until near midnight when Peeves showed up and pretended that Harry wanted things thrown at him. Them they kept going until two in the morning in the common room. Harry was surrounded by odds and ends from around the room, including Neville's toad, Trevor. It had been only in the past hour that Harry had really managed to master the spell.

“Now we know what to do when I have a hard time learning a spell... Just threaten me with a dragon.” Harry said with a dry humour.

“Just remember to concentrate really hard, Harry. Your broom will be a great deal farther then the things in this room so you'll have to concentrate more.” Hermione said, despite her pride in Harry having done so well with the charm she was still very nervous for her friend.

=^-^=

The next morning seemed to be a complete blur. One moment he had just been sitting down in History of Magic and the next he was sitting down for lunch. Even the other students didn't have an effect on him, whether they were giving him words or support or trying to taunt him, it all just felt like meaningless noise. There was only another hour or two before he would be standing in front of the ferocious beast that had plagued his nightmares the last few nights.

McGonagall had come to fetch him from his table and Hermione gave him some last minute encouragement, though she frowned at how little Harry had eaten at lunch. Even McGonagall was visibly worried.

“Now don't panic, keep a cool head. We have wizards on hand in case anything goes out of control. Just do your best and no one will think any worse of you. Are you alright then?” she uncharacteristically rambled.

“Yeah, I'm fine.” Harry said, though he felt like he said it from a million miles away. McGonagall led him to a tent that hid the dragons from view.

“The other champions are already there... Mr Bagman will explain the... procedure. Good luck Mr Potter.” She said, absently patting his shoulder.

Harry nodded and entered the tent. Fleur sat in a corner, her face pale and drawn. Krum looked more stoic than usual, and Cedric was pacing up and down along on wall of the tent.

“Ah Mr Potter is here! Alright now, gather around. In a moment you will each, one at a time reach into this bag and pull out a miniature of what you will face out there.” Bagman shook a purple velvet bag just as a deafening roar sounded not too far from the tent. “There are different… varieties, you see so the one you select will determine the order you go out in. The goal for this task is to collect the Golden Egg. Alright then, ladies first.”

He held out the bag to Fleur who pulled out a model of a Welsh Green, that curled up in her palm to take a nap. It had a small wooden sign around its neck with the number two on it.

Krum was next pulling out the Chinese Fireball with a number three around its neck. It nipped his finger, not succeeding in causing much damage due to its size, so it roared at him, trying to be ferocious. That didn't seem to relax Krum any as soon enough he would have to face the full size, more dangerous one.

Cedric pulled out the Swedish Short-Snout that carried a number one. That left Harry with the Hungarian Horntail, which instantly began curling around his fingers, sniffing him in curiosity.

Bagman explained the next stages of what was going to happen and then left the tent to begin his commentary. Cedric looked rather green as he waited for the whistle that would cue him to enter the arena with his Swedish Short-Snout. Harry tried to wish him luck but he couldn't get any words out so he merely nodded in encouragement.

A cheer from the crowd could be heard in the tent, signalling Cedric’s appearance in the enclosure. It was worse than Harry had thought it would be. Hearing the cheers and gasps from the crowd; and Bagman’s commentary left much to be desired. Unlike Lee Jordan’s quidditch commentary, which provided a fantastic play by play, all you could hear from Bagman were a few phrases such as “narrow miss there!” and “clever move!”. Just enough to tantalize the mind with worst case scenario imagery but not enough to fully distract them from the terror of fighting their own dragons.

A resounding cheering was soon heard and the sound of Bagman congratulating Cedric on completing the task. There was no mention of his scores so Harry supposed they were being showed to the crowd. Fleur stood up, ready to be called. Her face still deathly pale but with a determined expression upon it.

The process repeated itself, Harry and Krum each lost in their own heads on either side of the tent. All too soon Krum was preparing to go out. Harry was unusually aware of his body in that moment. The way his heart beat too hard in his chest. The way his breathing sounded unnaturally loud in his ears.

When the crowd cheered for Krum, signalling his success Harry stood to get ready to enter the enclosure himself. His legs felt strangely like marshmallows and Harry decided for a moment to focus on that instead of the dragon waiting for him outside.

Too soon the whistle sounded. Harry stepped out into the enclosure and he could see hundreds of faces that made up the crowd but he couldn't hear their yells, whether they were of encouragement or not. No, he was far too preoccupied with the vision before him. The monstrous Horntail, crouched low over the clutch of eggs. It's talons dug trenches in the stone beneath. It's yellow eyes and black scales glinted in the sunlight. It's tail full of long and dangerous spikes thrashing behind it.

Harry raised his wand, “Accio Firebolt!” he yelled. He was half terrified it wouldn't work, especially when the Horntail teared it’s head and let out a thunderous roar. Harry had to cover his ears from the sound and nearly lost a limb when it struck forward at him. Luckily his seeker reflexes kicked in, allowing him to dodge it’s gaping maw.

He nearly cried in relief when he heard the whizzing of his Firebolt coming towards him through the air. Harry grabbed hold of it as it came to him and quickly took off into the air.

The feeling of the wind through his hair and against his face felt absolutely amazing. For a moment he forgot about the dragon, the crowds, and even the tournament. For a moment he was just getting ready to play a round of quidditch with his housemates. Harry steeled his resolve, this was just another quidditch match, against a particularly ugly and dangerous opponent. The egg was just a stationary snitch and the dragon an unpleasant beater to evade.

Harry dived at the dragon, and then pulled up sharply where the dragon let out a pillar of flame. He then spiraled upwards around its head hoping to make it dizzy. He had to be careful though because soon it would- yup there was the flame but Harry hadn't managed to dodge quick enough that time. His sleeve was on fire so Harry used a mild freezing charm on his robes to douse it. His skin tingled from the flame that had been there and Harry hoped the burn wouldn't be too bad.

While he had paused to out out the fire he forgot to pay attention to the Horntail's tail. It swiped right next to him, one of the spikes clipping his shoulder, creating a shallow gash.

The dragon seemed reluctant to want to take off, content to swat at him as he was merely an annoying fly. Harry decided to push a little further. It was a careful balance of getting close enough to antagonize it but far enough to stay out of significant danger.

The dragon, finally out of patience, let out a roar and took off swiftly, breaking it's chain in the process. Harry's eyes widened in shock as he realized the new danger and took off upwards to draw the dragon away from the crowd below.

Harry flew towards the turrets of the school, if he swerved around them enough maybe the dragon would get a bit tangled, giving him a chance to get back to the enclosure to grab the egg.

It partly worked. It gave him enough time to double back but the dragon was soon back on his tail. He headed for the egg, extremely thankful that the dragon had seemed to have given up on using fire.

Unfortunately he miscalculated a bit and ended up flying through a section of the crowd which parted for him just in time. The faces were a blur as he flew past them but a pair of almond shaped brown eyes caught his notice for a moment. Only for a split second though as the dragon behind him clipped one of the turrets on the stands, spraying said crowd only with splinters, luckily.

Harry swooped low and scooped up the egg before zooming to the tent and, hopefully, safety. The dragon keepers quickly rushed around the Horntail as it landed, firing off stunners as the crowd cheered wildly. Harry was surprised at the sudden noise that he could now hear.

He landed at the entrance to the tent where McGonagall, Moody, and Hagrid were waiting. They gave him words of congratulations before rushing him into the tent to see Madam Pomfrey who promptly sat him in a screened bed before tending to his shoulder.

“Dragons! Last year Dementors, this year dragons! What’s next? You’re extremely lucky Mr Potter, this is fairly shallow. Just a quick clean and then I can heal it.” she groused as she dabbed a foul smelling purple liquid into the gash on his shoulder.

“What about-” Harry started to say lifting up the arm that had caught fire only to find his skin completely unblemished despite the missing sleeve of his robe.

Madam Pomfrey hadn’t noticed that he had started to say something as she poked her wand at his wound to stitch it back together and demanded sternly that he sit and rest before bustling off to check on Cedric on the other side of one of the screens set up around the beds.

Harry however had far too much adrenaline in his system to simply sit there so he got up and headed back to the tent entrance. Before he got a chance to step out though a body collided with his and he got a mouthful of bushy brown hair.

“Harry you were amazing! Absolutely fantastic! I was so worried the whole time but you did wonderfully!” Hermione gushed, finally letting go of him. Harry then noticed a ashen faced Ron standing just behind her.

“Harry-” Ron said gravely, “Whoever put your name in that Goblet- I- I reckon they’re trying to do you in!”

“Caught on have you?” Harry replied coldly. Hermione looked between the two nervously. Ron opened his mouth to apologize when Harry interrupted, “It’s okay, forget it.”

“No, I shouldn’t’ve-”

“I said forget it!” Harry said fiercely as he turned away. The adrenaline was quickly leaving him and Harry couldn’t deal with Ron’s flip flopping loyalties at the moment. Though Harry didn’t see it, Ron’s face fell in regret and disappointment before he left the tent.

“You two are so stupid!” Hermione shouted through building tears, before running out the tent herself. Harry sighed and sunk back down onto the bed he was supposed to be resting in. Cedric soon walked by with a streak of orange paste on one side of his face, probably for a burn, and noticed Harry.

“You alright?” he asked.

“Yeah, just fine...” Harry said without enthusiasm.

“Come on then, they’ll be giving out your score soon.” As they walked out to the enclosure Cedric explained how the rest of them did on their tasks. Harry got an eight from Madame Maxime, a nine each from Mr Crouch and Dumbledore, a ten from Bagman, and a four from Karkaroff. Harry couldn’t care much though as he saw most of his school cheering for him just as much as they had for Cedric earlier. It was a relief not to feel so much antagonism from them, at least for the moment.

After the score was given Charlie came over to Harry, congratulating him and letting him and Cedric know that the champions were to meet back in the tent before he went off saying he had to owl his mother with the results.

Harry and Cedric went back to the tent where Krum and Fleur were already waiting with Bagman and Crouch.

“Well done, all of you!” congratulated Bagman, “Just a few quick words and then you’ll have a nice long break before the second task which is set for February 24th. Now if you take a quick look at your eggs, you’ll notice some hinges. The eggs hold your clue for the second task. That’s all you need to know! Anything to add Barty? No? Well off you go then.” he finished when Mr Crouch declined to add anything.

As he left the tent in search of Hermione he was nearly ambushed by Rita Skeeter.

“Harry, darling. Might I have a word? About how you felt facing the dragon? How did you feel with the scoring? Do you feel more or less anxious for the second task now that the first is over?” she fired off rapidly.

“Yeah you can have a word. Goodbye.” he said angrily.

Chapter Text

That evening Harry and Hermione were in the owlery sending off a letter to Sirius explaining everything that had happened.

“That was a smart bit of protective spellwork you did Harry, I don’t think I’ve read about one that guards against dragon fire like that though.” Hermione wondered.

“That’s the thing though. I didn’t use a spell.” Harry said, nibbling on his lower lip in worry. He couldn’t understand it. He had felt the fire against his skin, he should have had some kind of burn but his arm didn’t even show a blemish (besides the already existing scars and bruises).

“But that doesn’t make sense. I’d usually suggest testing it out but…”

“Yeah I don’t think I’d fancy being lit on fire Hermione.”

“De book did not give enough information?” said an accented voice coming up the stairs. Viktor came around the corner, having apparently heard their conversation.

“I-I haven’t really- haven’t read it yet.” Harry stammered, his face flushing in embarrassment.

“Vot can you tell me about your birthday dis year? Vas it different?” Viktor asked, apparently hinting at something. Hermione seemed to catch on to his meaning but it took Harry a moment.

“Well I suppose I got a magical boost… but other than that...” Harry said, confused.

“But Harry,” Hermione said thoughtfully, “If you got a boost why would you be having an even harder time with your spells, more than you usually do? Shouldn’t a boost make it easier? It must be something else.” Viktor nodded at this and Hermione turned to him. “So you think he might have actually received a creature inheritance? How would you know?”

“I am a dragon, ve have better sense of smell than most. Harry does not smell human but his human smell still clings to him, so must be new inheritance.”

“So why didn’t you just tell me? That day in the library?” Harry asked.

“I thought you knew. Usually a shift happens first time, you vould have seen yourself. But maybe vithout someone to guide you things turned out different?” Viktor shrugged. “I thought the scales in your hair meant you were mer, so I thought the book might help.”

“I doubt it. Hermione said it followed the bloodlines of the merfolk. I know next to nothing about my family so I doubt I would've recognized any of the names in there.” Harry said sullenly, he hated when he was reminded how much he had lost regarding his family from having grown up with his aunt.

Hermione thought for a moment, “Isn't your mum muggleborn? So it must be part of your dad’s line and there should be books about the Potters. They were one of the old families after all.”

“Also look for vat you can on creature inheritances. Find out what you are, mayhap you are not mer. Maybe it is something else.”

“But with how wizarding laws are in Britain I doubt we'll find anything to help us with that. If someone has creature blood it's kept very well hidden for fear of persecution. I've read books on potion ingredients that are taken from people with creature inheritances because they're easier to capture than their wild counterparts.” Hermione fumed, frustrated once again at how backwards people viewed creatures here.

“I may have a book you can borro'. I vill find you in the library later?” Viktor asked Harry.

“They've probably got a party started in the common room. Someone will find me and drag me there if I don't show up soon. Can we meet up tomorrow?”

“Very well, tomorrow.” Viktor said with a smile that had Harry blushing.

They left the owlery, Krum heading back to his ship, and Harry and Hermione to their dorm. Sure enough when they had arrived mountains of cakes and flagons of pumpkin juice and butterbeer awaited them. Their housemates already cheering and enjoying themselves. The noise rose in volume when people began to notice Harry there.

Harry grabbed some food and took a moment at the feeling of being hungry again. The revelry went on for a bit before the twins swooped in and picked up the Golden Egg.

“Blimy this is heavy!” exclaimed Fred.

“Go on Harry-” said George.

“Open it!”

“He's supposed to figure out the clue on his own.” Hermione told them nervously.

Harry whispered to her with a smile, “I was supposed to figure out the dragons on my own too.” and she grinned at him guiltily.

Harry took back the egg and dug his nails into the groove around its middle. When it popped open there was nothing actually in the egg but a beautiful music filled the room, it sounded oddly familiar and reminded him of those brown eyes from earlier. Before he could even begin to try to understand the lyrics that had started people were covering their ears and yelling at him to close it. Hermione slammed her hands around Harry’s to shut the egg.

Harry looked around confused while Lee started guessing that Harry had to go up against a banshee or something. Neville whispered that maybe Harry would have to go against the Cruciatus curse, though Harry was glad he was the only one to hear Nevilles comment with how white the boy had turned at the thought.

It was nearly one in the morning before he finally got to go to bed. He set the egg and his miniature Horntail on his nightstand while he changed for bed. He'd have to talk to Hermione about the egg tomorrow because he definitely hadn't heard the same thing everyone else had.

=^-^=

That feeling was back. Flowing pressure against his body. His dream-self couldn't see through the darkness surrounding him. That much was the same as the other times he found himself in this dream. But this time was a little bit different.

Music, similar to what had come out of the egg, flowed around him along with that sensation of pressure. The music felt familiar but he knew he had never heard anything like it before. He could hear words now and this time he could actually listen to them.

Come seek our voices where they sound,
You have been lost but can still be found.
You have family that is still alive,
But your true self, do not deprive.
For if you do you will be forever lost,
And your lives, you will exhaust.

As the song faded a generic face with almond shaped, infinite brown eyes stared at him from the darkness. A hand reached out to him and he felt the need to grab it, but before their fingers could even brush each other Harry startled awake.

The feeling of loss Harry felt in that moment made him double over, clutching his chest.

A few hundred kilometers away…

A handsome man, handsome despite being 68 years of age, woke with a start. He grieved the emerald green eyes that haunted his dreams. In the same breath he cursed Dumbledore for all the years he lost. The almost decade and a half he had spent in Albania had been wonderful. With his memory gone he had been a blank slate. But the obliviate hadn't hit him dead on, and so as the years went by he slowly regained his memories.

For a number of years he was able to grieve for his lover who had died, but it was only recently that he had remembered his son.

The day before:

He had regained enough of his memories to realize that he needed to return to Britain. He didn't know what state his world was in but he did know that Dumbledore still had a great deal of power within it. So he went in disguise, a simple glamour to conceal his more recognizable features.

He managed to arrive in Britain not long before the start of the Triwizard Tournament and acquired himself a ticket to the first task. It would be a good chance to see who was still around and unobtrusively see who shook hands with who. And wouldn’t lady luck shine her light on him that day.

As soon as he had arrived he thought he had been made when he had literally bumped into none other than Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody. But Moody wasn’t Moody was he? Moody’s flask had spilled onto him and had the distinct smell of polyjuice potion and at first he was confused. If Moody wasn’t Moody than who was Moody? But a signet ring on his hand hinted at an ally and he smiled calmly at the impostor calling himself Moody. He gripped the shoulder of the Moody that wasn’t Moody (who he had to admit had done a very good job because the grimace that the non-Moody gave him suited Moody quite well) and asked him to meet him later on.

He then went on to find his place in the stands. There was a fair mix of guests and students in the crowd. He spotted his old friend, Lucius Malfoy, in the crowd talking to someone from the ministry.

He walked up to Lucius after he had turned away from the ministry worker. “Lucius my old friend.” He said with a sly grin.

Lucius tilted his head disdainfully, “My apologies, I don't believe we've met.”

A smirk spread across the man’s face, “But Lucius, surely you've been caring for my familiar for all these years. I did entrust her to you when things became... precarious.”

Lucius blinked, first in confusion and then in shock. The man before him was supposed to be dead, he had heard many times of how he had been ‘defeated’ all those years ago. But after a moment of thinking about it he realized that it had been Dumbledore who had relayed the events of that night, who had probably twisted what had actually happened to suit his needs.

Lucius clasped the man’s hand in both of his, lost for words for once. A signal sounded before either could say anything.

“Come now, let's see how this Tournament plays out.” Lucius led them to a fairly advantageous view point in the stands though not in his usual seat amongst the ministry members. He realized that his Lord’s disguise meant he didn't want to be noticed and bringing him among the gossiping mice of the ministry would draw far too much attention to him. Instead they found a semi-secluded spot at the back of one of the common stands.

The first Champion was a boy named Cedric Diggory who was to face a Swedish Short-Snout dragon.

“Isn't that Amos Diggory’s boy?” He asked Lucius, who nodded. “He’s grown since I last saw him.”

The two watched as Cedric transfigured a stone into a dog which distracted the dragon long enough for him to grab the golden egg but not long enough for him to get away safely. As he ran the dragon let out a spurt of flame which caught the side of the young Diggory’s face.

Next up was Fleur Delacour who put the Welsh Green she was facing into a sleepy trance. It seemed to work quite well until the dragon snored and caught her skirt on fire. She calmly put it out with water.

“Did your son end up going to Beauxbatons?” he asked Lucius.

Lucius gave him a side glance, “No more than yours ended up in Durmstrang.”

The man gave Lucius a confused look. His lover had died before they could have any children as far as he knew. Before he could ask Lucius what he meant the signal sounded for the next Champion to begin their task.

Viktor Krum, a famous seeker who he had heard about even in Albania, was facing a ferocious Chinese Fireball. A quick spell to the dragon’s eye sent it rearing on its hind legs, giving Krum a chance to grab his egg. He almost made a clean escape except the dragon stomped down fiercely, Krum's quick seeker reflexes the only thing keeping him from getting crushed; instead the dragon landed on its own eggs.

Next was the boy-who-lived. The supposed cause of his demise, if the newspapers were to be believed. He scoffed, how gullible could they be to think a baby could defeat a full grown wizard.

The boy came out and the crowd could almost see him shaking in fear as he raised his wand arm. The boy shouted something that couldn't be heard over the noise of the crowd, but whatever it was seemed to be ineffective since nothing happened. Instead the boy successfully dodged the Hungarian Horntail’s attacks. It wasn't long before a racing broom came flying towards the young champion and the man was mildly impressed. Even the famous seeker hadn't thought to use a broom.

The boy was quite impressive in his maneuvers around the dangerous dragon but the man’s heart seemed to jump into his throat when the boy’s arm caught on fire and then the Horntail’s namesake came down on his shoulder. He tried to tell himself off for the emotion, the boy was just one of Dumbledore's pawns and would probably be used against him in the future. He couldn't afford to become so sentimental at his age.

But he couldn't help the fear he felt for the boy when the dragon broke free of its chains. The boy looked at the crowd before drawing the dragon up and away. “Foolish boy!” he hissed. The boy flew towards the castle, the dragon close behind. They spun around the turrets before the boy zoomed back. He was coming straight for the stands and people parted to get out of the way. There was only a couple of feet between him and the boy when their eyes met, emerald green to deep hazel. It was only a split second but it brought wave after wave of memories back.

Tears were streaming down his face when he turned to Lucius to tell him to get them out of there when the Horntail had come up and clipped the turret beside them with its wing. Fine splinters of wood sprayed over them. He turned and left on his own. He needed time to think, needed time to sort through these new memories.

He had a son who had to grow up without either of his fathers and he had to grieve the time lost between them before he could start making his plans to make things right.

Chapter Text

Harry got up and tried to put the dream out of his mind. He shot up out of bed when he remembered he would be meeting Viktor in the library later that day. But first he had to get through his morning classes.

Herbology was a cacophony of noise as his classmates wouldn’t stop talking about the first task and about how well he had done. The Hufflepuffs were even congratulating him, though they also hinted that he hadn’t done as well as Cedric in the same breath.

Care of Magical Creatures hadn’t changed much. The Slytherins still jeered at him and the Blast-ended Skrewts were still a menace on their lives.

Finally lunch time came and Harry dragged Hermione to the library.

“Harry, if I had known that the trick to getting you excited about the library was to drag a handsome boy along I would’ve done so ages ago.” Hermione teased.

“That’s not what this is about.” Harry blushed, “We’re just going to research creature inheritances.”

Viktor was already at the library when they got there. Hermione stopped him before they went in, “Harry I forgot I need to ask Professor Vector about something before my Arithmancy class this afternoon. I’ll see you later, alright?” she said slyly. She turned and headed down the hall before Harry could reply.

Harry looked in the direction she had disappeared to. He was about to run after her because he wasn’t at all sure he could face Viktor alone. But Viktor had already called his name and waved him over. There was a flurry of frenzied whispers behind one of the shelves as he walked over.

Viktor had a couple of books open in front of him. One was the book he had promised to bring the other night.

“So where do we start?” Harry asked shyly as he sat down, once again, on Viktor’s left side.

“Vell, ve should find out vat you are. I was reading vhile I vas vaiting for you. Perhaps merfolk or dragon. Though you do not have same smell as dragonkin.”

“How do we find out?” Harry asked. Viktor took a side look at the fans hiding behind the shelf.

“Let us go for walk, yes?” Viktor asked. Harry, confused but curious, nodded.

As they made their way along the black lake Viktor began speaking. “If you are dragon you vould have a line of scales along your shoulder blades.”

By the time they had reached an outcropping rock that hung over the lake, Viktor was sure they were alone. He shrugged out of his robe and pulled his shirt off, seemingly unaffected by the chilly November air. Viktor turned to show Harry the metallic grey scales that lined his shoulder blades. Harry softly ran his fingers over the scales, marvelling at how soft they actually were. They almost felt like the skin around them but had the barest raised texture. Viktor shivered beneath Harry's touch before he turned.

“Dat is vere my vings are ven they are not proudly out in the open air.” Viktor said before indicating that Harry should remove his shirt as well.

Harry was more hesitant in removing his clothing. He did his best to avoid even showering at the same time as his dorm mates in case they saw the scars on his body and asked uncomfortable questions. When avoidance hadn't been possible he used what little magic he knew to hide them, like in the quidditch change rooms. But the point of this was to find out about his inheritance. What if his magic hid his scales too? He had to take the risk that it would because he didn't want anyone seeing his scars. Least of all Viktor. Harry pulled off his shirt and turned his back to Viktor.

“Ahh, not dragonkin then.” Harry was about to ask when Viktor’s fingers traced something where his spine met his baggy jeans. It too made him shiver with pleasure, like it had when his fingers had traced Viktor’s scales. Harry turned around then. “And if you are merfolk then I vas right ven I saw scales here too.” Viktor said as he slid a hand around the nape of Harry’s neck.

Harry nearly melted at the sensation. Not only was he unaccustomed to such a gentle touch, the feeling of fingers on scales made his body tingle in such a new and delicious way.

Harry gasped softly and Viktor took that moment to pull Harry in for a kiss. Harry’s hands flew to Viktor’s chest and he was glad that Viktor’s other arm had come around his waist when he felt his knees weaken.

He sank to the ground, head spinning from his first kiss, and was glad that it was a soft descent thanks to Viktor’s strong hold on him. Viktor smiled at him, stealing Harry's breath away once again.

“I am sorry, I should have asked your family if I could court you before giving into my emotions like that.” Viktor said guiltily.

“It's alright,” said Harry shyly, still mostly breathless.”No one you could've asked anyway since my parents are dead and my godfather is technically a fugitive. All you need to do is ask me.”

“But if you live vith your aunt then it vould be her I must ask, no?”

“I'd rather you didn't.” Harry whispered as he leaned into Viktor for another kiss, partly to distract Viktor from the topic of his muggle relatives but mostly to feel those heavenly lips and hands on him again.

They didn't get to kiss for long that time as an owl swooped low overhead to dive at a gerbil that was trying to hide among the tall grasses and a moment or two after that they heard giggling coming towards them from the castle. They hurried to put their clothes back on before Viktor’s fans came into view.

Viktor pulled over his bag that he had dropped earlier and pulled out a couple of books. “I suppose ve should have a look at deez.”

Harry skipped his double divination class to search through the books with Viktor. It was late when they finally wrapped up their research.

“But does that mean my parents weren't my parents? Or at least one of them weren't my actual parents?” Harry asked, becoming visibly upset at the thought. Viktor wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders and Harry leaned into the comfort offered.

“You must be part of one of deez other lines to have the mer blood in your veins. MacMillan, Prince, or Gaunt. Maybe they var not your blood parents but I am sure they loved you.” Viktor reassured him. “Come now, you must eat. You are far too thin.”

Viktor pulled Harry to his feet and they talked of many things on their way to dinner, mostly about quidditch. Many people stared and whispered as Viktor sat down next to Harry instead of the Slytherin table. Malfoy in particular looked disgruntled by the change in seating arrangements.

Whispers and rumours seemed to follow Harry all week but luckily none of it seemed overly malicious. By Thursday people had other things to talk about as the Yule Ball had been announced. Professor McGonagall declared that the students would be taking dance lessons so as to not embarrass their school at the Ball, no exceptions.

Then Harry had the misfortune to find out he would have to open the dance with the other champions. Harry tried his best to reason with McGonagall, that he couldn’t possibly dance at all let alone at the start with everyone watching, but she was adamant the he must learn.

Then he realized he needed to ask someone to the dance but the first person who came to mind was Viktor, and apparently champions couldn’t go together. So now he had the daunting task of asking a stranger to the Ball, where he would embarrass himself in front of everyone, including Viktor.

The stress was admittedly starting to get to Harry. He went back out to the lake, to the same spot he and Viktor had spent an afternoon reading together. There was no one near the outcropping rock this time though as Harry sat down. He was hoping that watching a Giant Squid for a bit would help settle his nerves.

“He’s not there,” a voice said softly behind him. Harry turned and saw a pale-skinned third year Ravenclaw, with dirty blonde hair and peculiar horn-rimmed glasses. “He’s probably busy fishing for plimpies. I suppose they’d make a good snack for him.” she said in a dreamy tone, as if her mind wasn’t much on the present conversation.

“Uhhh… Hullo, who are you?” Harry asked uncertainly. The girl before him seemed more than a little peculiar with her wand tucked behind her ear and a butterbeer cork necklace.

“Luna Lovegood. Though there are some who call me ‘Loony’ Lovegood. And you’re Harry Potter. The nargles have been whispering about you.” she said moving to sit by him on the large rock. “They don’t like me very much, the nargles, they like to steal my shoes and homework but they’re very interested in you.”

“What are nargles and why would they be interested in me?” Harry said apprehensively. He could kind of understand why her classmates would have given her such a nickname but he had to admit he was curious about her.

“Nargles usually hide in the mistletoe and are expert thieves. Not just of items but of information, if you know how to ask for it. They say you’re the first submissive creature to grace these halls for a number of years.”

Harry blanched, “What… No… I’m not…”

“Oh don’t worry Harry, I wouldn’t tell anyone. Even if I did, I’m just Loony Lovegood, no one would believe me.” She turned her head to look at him in that moment and it felt as if she was staring at his soul at the same time as she was looking right through to something behind him. It was an oddly disconcerting sensation and he was glad when she went back to looking out across the lake. Luna gathered up her things, “I’ll see you around Harry.”

“Wait!” Harry yelled before she could get too far. “Would you go to the Yule Ball with me?”

“I’d be delighted to, Harry! Maybe I’ll get to see a blibbering humdinger!” she smiled broadly before skipping off back to the castle. Harry smiled fondly in the direction the quirky girl had gone.

He felt a lot calmer after talking to Luna. Besides the fact that he now didn’t have to worry about a date to the Yule Ball she seemed to have a way of distracting him from the mundane.

=^-^=

Harry had just come out of his Charms class, where Professor Flitwick was still praising his use of a ‘perfect summoning charm’ during the task, to find Ginny waiting for him. Hermione had rushed off to the library already so Harry had to face Ron’s sister alone which he was admittedly nervous about. He had never known how to handle Ginny’s interest in him and so mostly tried to avoid her.

“Hiya Harry.” she began.

“Uh… Hi…”

“I was just wondering if you wanted to take me to the Yule Ball.” she said rather boldly, though the slight blush on her cheeks exposed the bit of shyness she had asking the question.

“Oh… umm... I’m sorry Ginny, but I’ve already… umm… asked someone else…” Harry said rather awkwardly. Why was it so difficult to talk to girls!

“Oh…” Ginny said dejectedly, and then she got a bit upset, “You know if you just don’t want to go with me, you don’t have to lie you know.” She said brashly, a bit reminiscent of her brother Ron, and then ran down the hall before Harry could say anything else.

Harry shook his head before he headed to lunch. He was looking forward to a peaceful meal but it was apparently not meant to be. Ron came up to him in a huff.

“So my sister isn’t good enough for you?” he spat at Harry.

“What are you on about?”

“Ginny, there was no reason to turn her down the way you did.”

“I had already asked someone else. What else was I supposed to say besides sorry?” Harry said, his irritation at Ron growing again.

“Yeah right, if you had asked someone news would’ve already spread through the school.” Ron mocked.

Harry was about to say something fairly rude to Ron when a hand came softly down on his shoulder and an airy voice sounded. “Hey Harry, I spoke to Krum about coordinating our dress robes. He said you should go with the bottle-green ones you have which will go well with either my green-tinged silver dress or his red formal uniform.”

Ron stood flabbergasted. “Ron, this is my date to the Yule Ball. Meet Luna Lovegood, Luna this is Ronald Weasley.” Harry introduced politely.

“I’ve heard of you. You’re Loony Lovegood.” he began to sneer.

“Oh yes, I have been called that quite often.” Luna quipped with a fond smile, as if it was a nickname given to her by close friends instead of the jibe it was meant to be. The lack of negative response made Ron rethink his words. “Oh here comes Viktor now! I’ll see you later then Harry.” she said before figuratively floating away.

Viktor came and sat down next to Harry, pretty much ignoring Ron, who felt somewhat offended at the disregard. On one hand this was the Famous Viktor Krum, on the other hand he was reviled creature. Before he had a chance to say anything one way or another though Viktor had whispered something in Harry’s ear and was getting ready to stand up and go somewhere with Harry.

“Unless there was anything else Ron, Viktor said he has something to show me at the library.” Without really waiting for a reply Harry and Viktor left. Harry hadn’t lied outright, it was just that Hermione had told Viktor that she had found something for Harry.

They found her at the back of the library with a book that looked like it had come from the Restricted Section. It was large and the cover had a metallic shine to it with silver embossed letters. The pages were individually gilded along their edges in an intricate pattern.

“Harry, I’m glad Viktor found you. I remembered seeing this Goblin Book of Family Trees before and realized this would hold some of our answers! It updates magically through the goblins’ master copy to include new names and relations. Look here,” She said, pointing to a page with a flamboyant heading that said ‘Potter’. At the top it listed Linfred of Stinchcombe and at the bottom was Harry’s name. It felt odd seeing his name in a book, but even more odd was seeing his father’s name above his but not his mother’s. There was a blank space where Lily Evans’ name should have been. Harry looked at Hermione, “What does it mean?” he asked confused.

Hermione went to look for some books while Krum offered a couple of theories. “Either your mother vasn’t registered as such vith the goblins of Gringotts, vich doesn’t make sense since usually parents go together when child is young so dat the child receives proper inheritances ven dey come of age. Or she vasn’t your, how do you say biologichen…biological? mother, since goblins seem only to accept blood connections. That is vhy many people who adopt an heir perform blood ritual to tie them to the family.”

“It says here that blank spaces on goblin-made lineage forms are usually the result of unknown blood relations. The only way to fill in those gaps is if the person who should be there or one of their immediate descendants, within three generations, requests an Inheritance Test from their account holder.” Hermione said as she came back with a book titled All You Need to Know About Your Gringotts Account by Erlok Braglaff. “You might just have to wait until the summer to go and get your Inheritance Test done.”

Harry became dejected at the thought, if that was the case then he’d never get a chance to find out who his real mother was. He rarely got a chance to go to Diagon Alley until just before the school year began, to get his supplies, and that wouldn’t give him enough time to stop in for this Inheritance Test, would it?. Who knows what this Test would entail, was it a quick process or would he need to allot a few hours to it? Maybe Sirius could take him, but Sirius was still a wanted fugitive and Harry wouldn’t risk taking him to Diagon Alley for something like that.

Viktor lifted Harry’s hand to his lips, giving them a gentle kiss. “Moǐ Vodna Feya, vot worries you so?”

Harry looked at Viktor in silence since his train of thought had been halted so suddenly. A blush spread out across his face and Hermione giggled, making him turn even more red. “Oh… I… umm… well... when will I ever get a chance to go to Gringotts? The Dursley’s never let me go to Diagon Alley, it’s usually the Weasley’s that took me school shopping.”

“Do you know who your account manager is? Maybe we can write to them and ask if there’s a way to do the test from here or if there are any alternatives?” Hermione wondered as she was flipping through pages of her book.

“But vot if they say he haz to vait until age of majority?” Viktor spoke up.

“I don’t know who my account manager is anyway, Professor Dumbledore has always taken care of my account.”

“Just address the letter to the Head Goblin then.” said Hermione as she slip a blank sheet of parchment over to Harry. Harry paused, never having had to write a formal letter before he had no clue how to begin. As usual Hermione saved him by sliding a book in front of him with sample letters he could copy.

To the Head Goblin of Gringotts,

My name is Harry James Potter and I would like to inquire about my accounts. I am currently attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and would like to obtain an Inheritance Test. I would appreciate any information you can provide me on how I may do so. Please send an owl to me at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Harry James Potter

They trudged up to the owlery to send off the letter, Hedwig glad that Harry had finally given her something to do. They watched her fly off, “Not much we can do now except wait for a reply.” said Hermione softly before they left for the common room.

=^-^=

Viktor had just left Harry and Hermione at the entrance and was about to head back to the Durmstrang ship when he was ambushed by two red headed demons.

“Hello there mate.”

“Just thought we’d -”

“- have a little chat.” They spoke back and forth. They reached a secluded little nook, just big enough for the three to fit into with Fred and George making sure that Viktor couldn’t escape before they had time to question him.

“Vot do you vant?” Viktor said, a bit unnerved by having the twins towering over him.

“Not much mate.”

“Just wondering -”

“- what your intentions are -”

“- towards our little brother?”

“Your brother?” Viktor asked confused. “I have not even spoken vith your smaller brother.”

“Not ikkle Ronniekins.”

“Harry. We’ve seen the way you look at him.”

“Now we just want to make sure you know -”

“- that Harry has us watching over him.” George finished off. Not that Viktor knew who was currently speaking. The twins had occasionally circled around him as they spoke, effectively making him quite dizzy.

“Ve are becoming close. I do not know vere it vill go. I can promise I will do my best to make him happy.” Viktor said, pulling together as much courage as he could while facing these two devils. He swallowed nervously when they looked at each other and grinned.

“Brilliant!”

“Harry could do with a bit of romancing.”

“Now tell us your plans for the Yule Ball!” The twins then spent the next hour or so before curfew planning with Viktor.

Chapter Text

“Harry!” Hermione nearly yelled as she rushed into the common room a couple of weeks before Christmas. “Harry!”

“I’m right here Hermione, there’s no need to yell.” Harry said, slightly annoyed. Rita Skeeter had been hanging around the school and trying to ambush him with questions. They were always about his past or about his parents and he was feeling rather morose about it at this point.

“I’ve got just the thing to cheer you up!” She said with a grin.

“Not now Hermione, let me just finish my potions homework. I’ve got to write this essay on Glumbumble Treacle by tomorrow.”

“Well you shouldn’t be leaving your homework until the last minute, how many times do I have to tell you? But never mind that. I’ll help you with your essay if you just come with me now.” Now she had his attention. Hermione actually suggesting to put off homework? It must be important.

“Alright then.” he said with a sigh as he rolled up his parchments and put away his books. Hermione then led him down to the basement where they found themselves in front of a painting of a bowl of fruit.

“I was talking to Fred and George about the house-elves and they told me about how to get down here. I wanted to ask them about their working conditions and what could be done to make things better. You won’t guess who I found.” Hermione tickled the pear in the painting, which then let out a giggle before turning into a doorknob. When she opened the painting turned door she revealed a room the size of the Great Hall above, with the same high ceilings and five tables, all in the same positions as well.

Harry’s jaw dropped at the sight in awe, but before he could even adjust himself to the one shock he was in for another.

“Harry Potter, sir! Harry Potter!!” Harry heard just before a lump flew into him, knocking the wind from his lungs. Harry Looked down at the squealing elf that was now hugging him.

“... D-Dobby?” Harry stuttered.

“It is Dobby, sir, it is!” Dobby said enthusiastically. “Dobby has been hoping to see Harry Potter, sir. Ever since Dobby and Winky came to Hogwarts, Dobby has been wanting to thank Harry Potter, sir, and Harry Potter comes to see Dobby instead! Dobby is so happy sir!” said Dobby as his eyes welled up with tears.

“Umm… no problem Dobby…” Harry replied awkwardly.

Hermione leaned towards Harry to whisper in his ear, “I originally wanted to ask what they thought about getting paid and getting holidays but-”

“Dobby is getting paying now, Harry Potter sir! Dobby is getting a Galleon a week and one day a month off!” Dobby said excitedly. “Wizards say ‘That's not the point of a house-elf’ but Dobby didn't stop looking until Dobby founds Headmaster Dumbledore sir! Now Dobby gets paying and Dobby gets to wear clothes!” he said showing them the lumpy jumper he was wearing.

“You is a bad elf Dobby. Dobby and Winky are disgraced elves. Winky is glad Winky has not sunk so low as to be getting paid but Winky is properly ashamed at being free!” at this point the elf named Winky who had be sitting near them, curled up with her thin arms around her knees, burst into tears. The elves that were cooking in the background made more noise to try to cover up the sounds of her sobbing.

“Winky is not yet used to freedom. Winky forgets that she is not bound by her previous master and can say what she likes about him now.”

“You couldn't say anything about your masters before?” asked Hermione curiously.

“Oh no miss, no no no. House-elves is bound to their masters to keep their secrets and our silence.”

“So you could say what you wanted about the Malfoys now that you're free?” Harry asked.

Dobby looked around hesitantly, “Well yes…” Dobby then beckoned the two closer, “Master Malfoy was trying to get laws passed and Dobby wanted to help. Dobby wanted all elves to gets paying sir and days off and for them to be free to wear clothes. But Master Malfoy stopped listening to Dobby sir, said that Dobby didn't understand what other house-elves wanted, so he went back to his original plan of just getting them rights against abuse. Master Malfoy was so very upset that Master Harry freed Dobby because Dobby is no longer bound to keeps the Malfoy's secrets!” Dobby giggled at this while Winky kept muttering into her knees about how Dobby was a bad house-elf.

Hermione gave Harry a grim look and nodded subtly towards the door.

“It's been great seeing you Dobby. We… umm… we've got to get some studying done but I wouldn't mind if you came for a visit once in A while.” said Harry, not sure what to make of all this new information.

“Now do you see why I was so excited?” Hermione said after they had left the kitchens. “It also means there are people in the ministry already working on creature rights!” she said, excited about the newest information they had gotten from Dobby.

“But why is it Lucius Malfoy of all people? Isn't he one of those pureblood fanatics? You would think he’d be one of the people trying to stop creature rights laws from being passed?” Harry said nervously. Something wasn't adding up.

They continued to whisper for only a short while before they came across a group of people and had to change their topic. Before they could get too far past them someone called out, “Harry!” They both turned to see Cedric Diggory coming up to them.

“Hey… umm… Your egg, have you tried opening it yet?” Cedric asked nervously, peeking over his shoulder at his friends.

“Just the once…”

Cedric’s tone dropped to a whisper, “Ok well.. I owe you one for the dragons, so just take it up to the prefects bathroom on the fifth floor, fourth door on the left of that statue of Boris the Bewildered. Password is pine-fresh, hold it under the water when you open it and it’ll make more sense. I- I gotta run now. Talk to you later!” he said before running back to his group of friends who seemed to be getting ready for their next class.

Harry and Hermione stood there stunned for a moment. They looked at each other before they turned to make their way to the library.

“Okay, so that helps narrow things down. I don’t actually have to hold it underwater to understand it but that might explain what I’ll be going up against?” Harry asked Hermione.

“Well we'll need to figure out how to allow you to hear it without causing a ruckus. Especially since all anyone else hears from it is a screeching sound, if you're listening to it like it's nothing they'll start asking questions about you.”

“Maybe we can ask Viktor and I can tell him what we've found out about it so far.” Harry said, attempting to sound innocent.

“Alright then, but the moment you two start snogging I'm leaving and you can solve it on your own!” Hermione teased, catching on by the blush that was starting to show on Harry's face.

=^-^=

They didn't get a chance to meet up with Viktor until the next day after History of Magic. Harry had nearly fallen asleep a number of times due to Professor Binns’ monotone droning. As such he couldn't say he was exactly awake when they met with Viktor at the library.

“Iz he alright?” Viktor asked Hermione.

“Oh yes, just give him a moment. He was actually trying to pay attention in class and missed out on his usual nap.” Hermione said with a laugh.

“Oh. Okay.” Viktor said with a soft grin as he pulled Harry into his lap with his head tucked under Viktor’s chin. Viktor was very pleased with how nicely Harry fit in his arms and chuckled when Harry nuzzled his neck and let out a soft snore.

“Maybe we should wait to talk until he wakes up?” wondered Hermione.

“Vhy did you vant to meet?”

“Cedric wanted to repay Harry for telling him about the dragons so he gave Harry a hint about the Golden Egg. Suggested Harry open it underwater in the baths.”

“It all makes sense underwater…” Harry mumbled in his sleep. A smattering of scales rippled across Harry’s cheekbones as he began a stuttering hum of the song from the egg that echoed in his dreams; his human vocal cords a poor mimic of the beautiful mer music.

Hermione and Viktor looked at him in mild shock. “Is… Is that normal?” Hermione asked hesitantly.

“Perhaps he has not fully accepted his creature side. It vill keep happening until his first conscious shift, until then he vill have to try to keep as much control as he can in public.” Viktor said with a worried look at the young mer resting in his arms. “It is too dangerous for him othervize.” he whispered.

Harry chose that moment to let out an adorable yawn and lifted a hand to rub his eye sleepily as he slowly came to. He blinked rapidly a couple of times, “How’d we end up in the library?” he asked, confused. Then he realized he was sitting in Viktor’s lap and gave an undignified squeak, though if anyone would ask he’d deny ever making such a sound. Viktor and Hermione burst out laughing while Harry blushed.

“We were just about to talk about the Egg.” Hermione stated as she wiped away a tear from laughing so hard.

“Oh yeah! Cedric said to open it underwater but I can understand it without having to do that. That means it has something to do with merpeople doesn’t it?” Harry said, turning to look at Viktor. Harry was slightly embarrassed to still be sitting in Viktor’s lap but found himself all too comfortable and a strange feeling of safety with Viktor’s arms holding him there.

“Then ve vill have to find a vay to let you listen to it vithout others knowing.” said Viktor thoughtfully, “An abandoned classroom and a simple silencing charm vould do the trick, no?”

“Usually we’d wait until the Christmas Holidays officially started since there’d be less people around, but with so many people staying for the Yule Ball this year that won’t be possible…” Hermione said, biting her thumb in thought.

“Ve still have two months until the task. After the Yule Ball ve vill find a way to listen to the Egg.” said Viktor assuredly.

=^-^=

Christmas morning came quickly after that. Harry awoke to find a pile of gifts at the foot of his bed. A red left sock with broomstick pattern and green right sock with Snitch pattern came from Dobby, and Harry told himself that he would need to remember to get Dobby something as well. Hermione had gotten him Quidditch Teams of Britain and Ireland and he received a magical pen knife from Sirius. Hagrid had sent a load of sweets from Honeydukes, and a green jumper with a Hungarian Horntail on the front (in commemoration of the first task of the Triwizard Tournament) and several mince pies come from Mrs Weasley, who Harry supposed hadn’t heard that he and Ron were not on speaking terms. Lastly a single tissue came from the Dursleys and Harry quickly put that aside, not wanting to think about it.

By the time Harry had reached the Dursley’s gift his roommates had woken up and had started digging through their own piles of gifts. Harry used the distraction to slip out to have a shower and get ready for the day.

Without any classes students were just enjoying themselves with the lovely weather. They had snowball fights, built unstable igloos, had tea while reading in the occasional window seats that were available. The usual afternoon tea that was usually hosted Christmas Day was cancelled due to the feast that would be provided at the Yule Ball.

Harry left with Hermione around 5 o’clock to start getting ready. Harry gave Hermione a hand with brushing in the Sleekeazy's Hair Potion bit by bit on to small sections of hair. It took a couple hours to complete and they went through quite a lot of the product but it was worth it with how it softly glowed after. Harry lamented that his own hair never wanted to listen and just went every which way it pleased. Hermione then used a spell to wind it up into a fancy bun before sending Harry off so she could put on her dress robes.

Harry went to his dorm room to pull out his own dress robes. They were a gorgeous deep bottle green that appeared almost black. He had them cut in the same style as his school robes so that he didn’t have to worry about comfort at all. He met Hermione in the common room and was stunned at how gorgeous the floaty periwinkle blue material complemented her frame. They left the common room before it could get too busy with others that were getting ready for the ball.

Viktor and Luna were waiting for them just off from the Entrance Hall where the champions were to meet Professor McGonagall before the first dance. Hermione smiled fondly when Harry’s face lit up shyly at his first sight of Viktor, who was wearing a bright red uniform accented with a short fur-lined cape over one shoulder. Viktor greeted Harry with a chaste kiss, and Harry was glad that the other champions and McGonagall hadn’t shown up yet, especially with the bright blush that was spreading over his cheeks.

Harry then remembered himself enough to say hello to Luna who was wearing a quirky silver tiered dress, with ruffles on each layer, paired with large star shaped earrings. It wasn’t long before Fleur, who wore a floor length gown of silver satin, showed up with her date, a Durmstrang student with black hair cut in a pixie style and eyes that matched her red uniform which was similar to Viktor’s but in a feminine cut that was far more flattering to her curvy figure.

“Wonderful, we're almost all here. Who are we still waiting for?” Professor McGonagall asked as she approached the six people who were waiting.

“Only ze Cedric and ‘is partner. Zey should be here soon I would ‘ope.” said Fleur, as if waiting for one more champion was such an imposition on her.

“Sorry to keep you all waiting!” rushed Cedric with Cho Chang, who was wearing a sleek, cream dress made of silk.

“Now all of you line up in your pairs. Miss Delacour, you and your partner will be first followed by Mr Diggory and his. Mr Potter, you and Miss Lovegood will be next, and lastly Mr Krum and Miss Granger. Are we all ready? Good, now we just wait for the speech and then the music will signal your entrance.” McGonagall said firmly.

Harry’s heart was beating nervously in his chest and he couldn’t hear Dumbledore’s speech between it and the thick doors of the Great Hall. Soon enough though they opened dramatically and the Champions led their partners onto the open dance floor. Harry had to admit the decorations were stunning and the Great Hall was almost unrecognizable in its splendour. When they had reached the center of the open floor Harry’s heart decided to make itself known again and his hands began to slightly tremble with nerves.

“It’s alright Harry, the nargles are in a good mood. I don’t think they’ll be stealing much today.” Luna said as she took one of Harry’s hands and placed her other on his shoulder. Harry felt a calm spread through him and he managed a grateful smile. The dancing itself went a lot smoother than Harry had anticipated, probably due to the weeks of practice that Professor McGonagall had put them through.

As more people joined the Champions on the dancefloor Luna subtly passed Harry off into Viktor’s arms. They danced for quite a few songs, Harry quite enjoying the feeling of Viktor’s arms around him, before they stopped for some refreshments.

Harry had just sat down at a table, while Viktor went to get some drinks, when Ron showed up. “Fraternizing with the enemy are you?”

“What are you on about, Ron?” Harry asked, surprised that Ron would cause a scene here.

“He’s from Durmstrang! He’s probably just trying to get closer to get information. Or near enough to jinx you. Or just using you to figure out the tasks for him!”

“Oh because no one could possibly like me for just me could they. They all just want to use me for my popularity, just like someone I used to know. Besides this Tournament is about getting to know foreign wizards and become friends with them.” Harry replied.

“No it’s not! It’s about winning!” Ron yelled, drawing the attention of people nearby. Krum arrived just then with two mugs of butterbeer. Harry stood quickly and grabbed Viktor by the elbow to steer him out the entrance doors towards the gardens that had been set up for the night.

“Are you alright, Moǐ Vodna Feya?” Viktor asked as he passed Harry’s drink to him.

“I’ll be fine, I guess it still hurts a bit that my best friend turned out this way.” Harry said with a touch of sorrow.

“Come, let us valk for a bit, maybe take your mind off these thoughts.” Viktor said, leading Harry into the maze of rose bushes. They weren’t alone for long though, a pair of familiar voices drifted over the hedge beside them and they ducked down to avoid being seen.

“... don’t see what there is to fuss about, Igor.”

“Severus! You cannot pretend that this isn’t happening!” Karkaroff hissed, as though afraid of being overheard. “It’s been getting clearer for months and I cannot deny becoming seriously concerned…”

“Then flee.” said Snape without even a touch a sympathy in his voice, “Flee, I will make your excuses. I, however, will remain at Hogwarts.” A flower bush then flew apart as Professor Snape blasted it with his wand, deducting points from the snogging Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students that were there. They then rounded the corner to where Viktor and Harry were.

“And what are you two doing?” Snape asked with a glare towards Viktor.

“Ve are just getting some fresh air.” Viktor said with a raised brow, taking a barely noticeable step in front of Harry. “It is not against the law, is it sir?”

“Keep walking then!” Snape snarled at them before pushing past with his cloak billowing out behind him, Viktor wrinkled his nose at the burnt sandalwood smell that drifted over them. Karkaroff hurried off after him.

“What do you think that was about?” Harry asked as they began to walk in the opposite direction that Snape and Karkaroff had gone in.

“Who knows? They seem familiar enough vith each other to be on a first name basis.” Viktor contemplated as they approached a statue of a reindeer decked out in silver reins. This time it was a different pair of voices they heard around the corner.

“Momen’ I saw yeh, I knew.” Hagrid’s voice come over the bushes, a strange husky tone to it. Harry and Viktor looked at each other and contemplated heading back towards the direction they came from, despite the risk of bumping into Snape and Karkaroff again.

“What did you know, ‘Agrid?” Madame Maxime replied silkily.

“I jus’ knew… you were like me. Was it yer mother or yer father?”

“I- I do not know what you mean, ‘Agrid…”

“It was my mother, she was one o’ the last ones in Britain.” Hagrid began, going into a bit of his childhood. Harry wanted to leave, certain that this wasn’t a conversation he wanted to be hearing. He began to worry about getting caught as well as they heard Madame Maxime get up to leave.

“Please, don’ go! I’ve- I’ve never met another one before!” Hagrid pleased.

Madame Maxime’s voice went icy, “Anuzzer what, precisely?”

“Another half-giant o’ course!”

“‘Ow dare you! I ‘ave never been more insulted in my life! ‘Alf-giant? Moi? I ‘ave- I ‘ave big bones!” She yelled at him before storming away. Within a moment or two after Viktor found another path they could take and pulled Harry away.

“Come, I know vere ve can have some quiet.” Viktor said pulling Harry through the maze. Viktor brought them to a gorgeous fountain, a basin that floated above a pond, water cascading over the sides, and lit up with a deep blue light. Actual fairy lights lit up the roses around them as the fairies floated about the fountain. Viktor pulled out his wand and rose petals danced with the fairies who had pulled the maze openings around them closed.

Viktor led Harry over to a bench almost fully surrounded by rose bushes that canopied over it as well, hiding it from view. He then cupped Harry’s face in his hands and drew him into a smooth and gentle kiss. Harry shuffled his body closer to him until their sides and thighs were pressed against one another. Viktor’s tongue ran across his lips and he let out a soft gasp at the sensation. Viktor took the opportunity to flick his tongue into Harry’s mouth, drawing out a quiet sound of pleasure in response.

He dropped his hand down to the buttons of Harry’s robe. “May I?” he asked, his voice carrying a husky tone. Harry couldn’t seem to formulate words at the moment so he merely nodded. Viktor dropped his lips to Harry’s sensitive neck, leaving marks upon his tender skin as he went. Harry attempted to do the same for Viktor but his hands trembled too much. Viktor took a moment to cast a spell to keep them warm as he finished unbuttoning his robe and then Harry’s before pulling it open. Viktor laid Harry back along the bench as his lips found Harry’s nipples, and Harry couldn’t hold back the moan that had built up in his throat.

Harry was surprised at how turned on he was in this moment. Nothing he had ever done in the privacy of his curtained bed in the dorm even came close to the feelings that Viktor was able to pull from him. Harry was a bit embarrassed by the noises that he was making, not that he could help it with the way Viktor was assaulting his senses, but Viktor didn’t seem to mind if the firm shaft that Harry could feel against his thigh was anything to go by. The thought that Viktor was just as turned on had Harry so close to the edge even though his member was as of yet untouched.

Harry sat up on his elbows, “V-Viktor… please…” Harry whimpered, though he wasn’t quite sure what he was asking for.

Viktor laid a hand on the front of Harry’s trousers, not moving even when Harry tried to rut up into it. “Harry…” Viktor said huskily, “May I have the pleasure of tasting you?” Viktor finished his sentence with a kiss to Harry’s abdomen. Harry wasn’t quite sure what Viktor meant since his lips hadn’t left his body for more than a few moments at a time, but he needed Viktor to do something with the hand that was just waiting there by his sensitive prick.

“Please!” Harry cried, unable to say much more. Viktor pulled down Harry’s trousers and pants just far enough to free his weeping member. Before Harry could even try to ask what Viktor was doing he had already licked a stripe from the base to the tip. Harry threw his head back at the sensation, his brain going blissfully blank. Viktor teased the head with his tongue before wrapping his lips sinfully around the hard length. “V-Viktor...I-I can’t...too much…”

Viktor had just removed his lips as Harry coated his stomach and some of Viktor’s face with his cum. Harry didn’t have time to catch his breath when a rose bush was blasted apart revealing a furious Snape. Harry hastened to do up his trousers, though he didn’t bother with his shirt yet.

“How dare you perform such lewd acts on school grounds!” Snape growled at Viktor. The scent of burnt sandalwood assaulted Viktor’s nose and he released some of his own scent of tanned leather in anger. Viktor stepped in front of Harry and spread his wings to shield him.

“This is not your concern Professor.” Viktor tried to say calmly, but the growl from his dragon side still showed through. How dare anyone interrupt him and his chosen paramour. The scent of burnt sandalwood became laced with the scent of burnt licorice as scales rippled across the Professor’s face. For a moment Viktor thought he had imagined the sight as Professor Snape’s face became dangerously calm. Harry froze for a moment, as the warm scent of wormwood passed across his senses, and tried to ignore the way his body reacted to the smell.

The Professor conjured a flannel and threw it at Viktor’s face. “I recommend you clean yourselves up and retire for the evening. Mr Potter I expect to see you in my office tomorrow to arrange your detention.” Snape said coldly, so much so that Viktor could almost see the figurative ice dripping from his lips.

Professor Snape then stepped into Viktor’s personal space and hissed low enough for only Viktor to hear, “As for you Mr Krum, you can be assured that I will be speaking to your headmaster about this. I’m sure he’ll be able to arrange suitable punishment, as a favour for an old friend.” Snape then turned on his heel and left with his cloak billowing behind him in dramatic fashion.

Viktor took a few deep breaths to get his anger under control before he turned to Harry, who was still sitting, leaned back along the bench, in shock. Viktor kneeled by him and ran the cloth along Harry’s torso to wipe away the drying cum. “I am sorry, Moǐ Vodna Feya. This vas not how I had imagined this playing out.” he said with a frown.

Harry cupped Viktor’s face and gave him a sheepish grin, “I don’t think anyone would have expected that to happen, but I still had a wonderful time with you tonight.”

Viktor sat up and gave Harry a full kiss, devouring his mouth with passion, before saying “I suppose I should be getting you back to the castle. Vouldn’t vant us getting into anymore trouble.” He pulled Harry to his feet and led him back up to the Gryffindor dormitory.

Before Harry climbed through the portrait he whispered in Viktor’s ear, “Maybe next time I can return the favour.” He gave Viktor’s ear a sensuous lick before darting through the portrait, uselessly hoping that Viktor hadn’t seen the beet red blush spread across his face.

Viktor smiled broadly at the thought before walking back to his own bed. Sleep didn’t greet him easily though, as his thoughts wandered over the events of that evening, and when he did finally fall asleep, dreams of Harry being ripped from his arms tormented him.

Chapter Text

The next day students woke up in various states of content drowsiness. Harry met with Hermione in the common room and told her all about the night before… okay, not quite all about it, but most of it.

Hermione teased Harry about his evening with Viktor as they walked down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Harry was in an even better mood when Professor McGonagall informed them that Harry wouldn’t have to have detention with Professor Snape. Dumbledore had informed teachers prior that only House Points would be allowed to be deducted during the Yule Ball.

Their good mood had to be ruined, however, when Malfoy walked past them.

“Finally that great oaf is gone. Hey Potter think we could get your half-giant friend sacked as gamekeeper as well as teacher?” Malfoy snickered.

“What are you on about?” Harry asked sourly, knowing he wouldn't like what he was going to hear next.

“Haven't read the paper yet this morning? Here you can have mine.” Malfoy said with a grin as he tossed Harry a copy of the Daily Prophet. It was already flipped to an article titled DUMBLEDORE'S GIANT MISTAKE.

Harry turned to whisper to Hermione, “How'd she find out?” referring to Rita Skeeter, the author of the horrid article. Malfoy, seeing his goal accomplished, left with his cronies.

“Well, if he was talking about it loudly in the middle of the Yule Ball… oh Harry, any number of people could have heard… and with how most people feel about people with creature blood any of them could have gone to that horrid cow.” Hermione said, upset at the sudden turn of events.

They found Ron already at the table who looked up when they got close. Noticing their tense expressions he decided to pipe up. “Worried about your half-breed pal?”

“How can you say something like that about someone who's supposed to be your friend?” Harry turned to him fuming.

“I always figured he just swallowed a bottle of Skele-Gro when he was a kid. I don't keep friends who are liars.” He sneered, face twisting in a look befitting a Malfoy more than a Weasley.

Hermione grabbed Harry's arm and pulled him away before things could escalate. “Not now, not here.” she whispered. They both hoped that the article would blow over quickly like most of Skeeters’ pieces but after a couple weeks went by without sign of Hagrid, even at meals, they began to worry.

It was a saturday when they decided to just grab some toast to go before heading down to Hagrid’s hut. There they found Rita Skeeter knocking on Hagrid’s door while Fang made a ruckus inside. No sound from Hagrid though and Harry wasn't entirely sure if that was a good or bad thing.

“Come to cause more trouble?!” Harry yelled at her. His frustration and anger at Malfoy, Ron, and her finally bubbling over after the weeks of incessant taunting. “What did you do that to Hagrid for, eh?!”

“Our readers have the right to know Harry, I was simply doing-”

“Who cares if he's a half-giant? There's nothing wrong with him!” Harry seethed, even more angry when Rita gave him a smile in response.

“Harry, darling, how about a quick interview where you tell me about the Hagrid that you know? About the unlikely friendship between the two of you?”

Hermione stepped forward abruptly. “You horrible woman. You don't care, do you? You'll do anything for a story, even Dumbledore-”

“Be quiet, you silly little girl, and don't talk about things that you don't understand.” Rita glared at Hermione, her face completely serious for once. Her next words seemed to age her with the weight of them, “I could tell you things about Albus Dumbledore that would make your hair curl- not that it needs it.” she whispered darkly.

Her face then reverted back to its pretty mask as the man himself came up behind his students.

“Miss Skeeter, I believe I had asked you not to step foot on these grounds unless explicitly invited.” Dumbledore said with a stern look over his half-moon glasses.

“Ahh yes, my apologies Albus. I have merely seemed to have lost my way.” she replied with a false giggle, not even bothering to put in an ounce of effort into being convincing. “I'll be on my way then if you could point me in the right direction?” she asked with a wink.

Dumbledore turned to his students, “You two should go ahead and speak to our downtrodden Professor, perhaps you will be able to convince him to return to his teaching duties. I'll be along shortly after I escort Miss Skeeter off the premises.”

Harry and Hermione spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon trying to cheer up Hagrid. It wasn’t until Dumbledore had returned and reiterated their sentiments that Hagrid finally began to agree with what the two had been saying.

On their way up to the castle Hermione stopped Harry as they passed the Black Lake.

“Well I can see why you didn’t want to say much about your amazing date. Trying to keep him all to yourself.” Hermione teased as they watched Viktor step up onto the railing of the Durmstrang ship in only a pair of swim trunks, preparing to dive into the lake.

Is he mad?!” Harry hissed, “It’s January! The lake has to be freezing!”

“Well it’s probably a lot colder where he comes from.”

“There’s still the giant squid to consider!” Harry ranted as they continued back up to the castle. Harry pointedly ignoring the splash Viktor made as he dived in.

The rest of January passed by quickly and as it did Harry’s nerves over the second task began to grow. Whenever Hermione would ask him about it, he would brush her off with an excuse about he was close to figuring it out. It was nearly the end of January when Harry figured he should stop his procrastinating, though he didn’t want to admit to Hermione that she was right. Again.

So he waited until everyone was asleep before pulling out his invisibility cloak and making his way to an empty classroom. Unfortunately, for once, there didn’t seem to be any available. Perhaps an excess of student sneaking out during the holidays had prompted the staff to use more than a simple locking charm to seal the classrooms. Instead Harry ended up making his way to the second floor girl’s lavatory, where they had been able to brew a potion in secret during second year.

Harry cast a silencing spell on the bathroom to keep the apparent screeching of the egg from disturbing anyone, and more importantly to keep him from getting caught. He carefully opened the Golden Egg and reveled in the gorgeous music it produced.

Come seek us where our voices sound,
We cannot sing above the ground,
And while you're searching ponder this;
We've taken what you'll sorely miss,
An hour long you'll have to look,
And to recover what we took,
But past an hour, the prospect's black,
Too late, it's gone, it won't come back.

“So the merpeople have taken something… something that we have to find in the lake?” Harry whispered to himself.

“Ooooh very good, Harry.” said Moaning Myrtle right behind him, startling him into dropping the egg. Harry hurried to pick it up and close it before it let out any more wailing. “It took Cedric a lot longer to figure that part out. Spent ages muttering to himself.” she giggled.

“If the merpeople are in the lake…” Harry blanched. “Myrtle… I’ve never gone swimming before let alone diving. How am I supposed to find the merfolk if I can’t breathe?”

Myrtle’s lip began quivering and she pulled a handkerchief to her eye. “Tactless!” she wailed.

Harry became uncomfortable very quickly. He forgot how easily offended Myrtle got about things, though he wasn’t quite sure what he had said this time. “Ummm… what is?”

“Talking about breathing in front of me! When I can’t… When I haven’t… Not for ages... !” She cried loudly before floating up and splashing down into one of the toilets, but not before she turned on all the faucets and set the toilets to overflowing.

Harry nearly lost the Egg in the torrent of water before he scooped it, and his cloak, up and escaped.

He decided to take a side passage to get up to the dorm and was deep in thought over the Egg’s riddle when his foot passed through the trick step that Neville always got stuck in. Between his loss of balance and the water still on the Egg it slipped from his fingers. Harry tried valiantly to catch it but it bounced off his fingertips, down the steps, and through the tapestry that covered the entrance to the staircase before cracking open at the bottom, releasing it’s inhuman wail.

“PEEVES!” a voice yelled from somewhere below. Harry hurried to throw his cloak over himself, praying to whatever deities existed that Filch wouldn’t come up the stairs and bump into him. He tried to wiggle his foot out of the step to no avail.

“Now what do we have here?” Filch whispered, uncomfortably close to Harry’s hiding spot. “My sweet! This is a Triwizard Clue! PEEVES! You’ve been stealing!”

Filch ripped the tapestry open, hoping to reveal the spirit. “I’ll find you Peeves… Dumbledore will have you out for this you filthy, pilfering poltergeist!”

“Filch? What’s going on?” another voice asked from the the bottom of the stairs. The only other voice that could possibly make matters worse- Snape.

“It’s Peeves Professor. He threw this Egg down the stairs!” Filch said as he headed back down the steps.

“Peeves? But Peeves couldn’t get into my office…” the Professor said slowly, trying to puzzle together what was going on.

“The Egg was in your office?”

“Of course not, I heard the noise and came to investigate.” Snape snapped at the man.

“Yes, Peeves sir, he threw-”

“Peeves would not be able to get into my office Filch, so there must be a wizard about. You will help me search for the intruder.”

“I... yes, professor... but… the headmaster will have to listen to me this time sir. Peeves has stolen from a student and I can use this to get rid of him once and-”

Snape turned on Filch with an impressive flourish of his cloak, “I do not give a damn about that wretched poltergeist! It’s my office-” Snape suddenly stopped speaking as a clunking sound came from the other end of the staircase.

“Pyjama party, is it?” Professor Moody inquired.

“Professor Snape and I heard noises, Peeves throwing things and the Professor’s office was broken-”

Shut up!” Snape hissed at Filch.

Moody took a step closer and Harry’s breath froze as he remembered that Moody’s magical eye could see through invisibility cloaks. It swiveled all over the staircase before him, taking in the scene, before focusing on the staff members below.

“Is that so, your office got broken into, did it? Now who would want to do something like that?” Moody said slyly.

Snape turned up his nose, “A student I daresay. It’s happened before, ingredients going missing from my private stores.”

“After potion ingredients were they? Not hiding anything else in your office, were you?”

“You know very well that I’m hiding nothing!” Snape hissed, “Besides Dumbledore happens to trust me and I refuse to believe that he gave you orders to search my office!”

“Of course Dumbledore trusts you. Trusting man, isn’t he? Believes in second chances. But I say some spots don’t come off Snape, d’you know what I mean?” Snape seized his left forearm then, as if it pained him. “Get back to bed, Snape.”

“You have no authority to send me anywhere. I have just as much right to prowl this school after dark as you do.”

Moody then swept by Harry, cloak billowing behind him, so that he could get into Professor Snape’s personal space. “Prowl away, I look forward to meeting you in a dark corridor sometime…”

Snape took a deep breath in preparation for a witty retort when a particular scent distracted him. His eyes darted to the Egg and then up the stairs behind Moody. “Potter!” he hissed through gritted teeth.

“What was that, Snape?” Moody asked, quirking an eyebrow.

“That’s Potter’s Egg. He must be here in his infernal Invisibility Cloak!” Snape rushed up the steps, trying to find the source of the scent.

“There’s nothing there Snape, but I’ll be happy to tell the Headmaster how quickly your mind jumped to Harry Potter.”

Snape turned on Moody, “Meaning what?” he growled.

“Meaning that Dumbledore is very interested to know who’s got it in for that boy…” Moody glared at Snape with both eyes. Snape froze at the accusation.

“I merely thought that if Potter was wandering after hours again, as it is an unfortunate habit of his, he should be stopped. For his own safety.” Snape said stiffly, his face a facade of calm.

“Ah, so it’s in Potter’s best interests, is it?” Moody said somehow looking down on Snape despite his position on the lower steps.

Snape paused before he spoke, “I think I’ll head to bed.”

“You do that, and Filch, if you’d be kind enough to hand me that Egg.”

“N-n-no! This here is proof of Peeves’ misdeeds. I need this to get him kicked out!”

“It’s the property of a Champion Filch. Hand it over.”

Filch handed it over with a grimace before turning away, muttering to Mrs Norris, “Never mind, my sweet. We’ll see Dumbledore in the morning and tell him what Peeves has been up to.”

Once the corridors were clear, Moody turned to Harry. He passed him his Egg and sent him off to bed. Keeping both eyes on him the whole way.

=^-^=

Hermione flipped through another book at the library. It was a week until the second task and she was starting to worry about Harry. He wasn't eating nearly enough these days, nor did it seem that he was getting enough sleep. He had even stopped going off to see Viktor, instead joining her here in the library all day, even through meal times. If it wasn't for Dobby sneaking food to them, she figured he would have stopped eating all together.

Hermione theorized that because of Harry’s mer inheritance he should be able to breathe naturally underwater so he should be more focused on what he may have to face in the lake. But she had to admit she was worried that since Harry hadn't really accepted that he was different now, maybe his abilities wouldn't manifest themselves, so she was diving through books just as fervently as Harry trying to find something to help him breathe underwater.

Time seemed to move faster exponentially the closer it got to the dreadful day. Only one more day stood between them and the Second Task and they were no closer to finding a solution.

“Come on Harry, lets head to bed. We need some sleep if we want to get back to it tomorrow.” Hermione said with a sigh, closing yet another book and putting it away.

“You go on ahead. I’ve just got a couple more books to get through here.” Harry said distractedly.

“We’ve been at this for hours and days Harry, you can’t keep pushing yourself like this.” Hermione tried to reason with him.

“Alright then, I’ll just show up to the task and either the magical contract will take it as me refusing to compete, and who knows what will happen then, or I just go ahead and drown. I’m not a huge fan of either prospect.” Harry snapped at her.

“I don’t want you to die either but at the rate you’re going you’ll get there without the help of this bloody tournament.” Hermione bit back, tears in her eyes from his harsh tone. She stormed off back to the dormitory. Once she got there she stumbled over the threshold in her haste to get inside.

“You alright there Hermione?” Neville asked, looking up from his seat by the fire, a book open in his lap.

“Fine. Just fine. Just…” Hermione sighed, a tear finally breaking free and rolling down her cheek. “Harry is at his wits end trying to figure out his clue… We should take a break but we’re running out of time...”

“I don’t think I can’t help with that, can’t say I know much about the lake.” Neville said softly, nervous about trying to cheer up Hermione. He hadn’t spoken much with her but she had stood up for him in the past and he wanted to return the favour somehow. “Maybe I can provide you with a distraction? I’ve been reading this book Professor Moody gave me on Mediterranean Water Plants and I can’t figure out this one.”

Hermione walked over and sat beside Neville to take a look. Neville pointed to a page with an illustration of a shrub with small, gorgeous blue flowers and equally small bundles of orange berries.

“Golden Dewberry. It says it’s a very invasive species and the flowers are mostly ornamental, but I don’t understand what it’s trying to explain about the uses of the berries? They’re very toxic, deadly to small animals, so besides poisons what could they possibly be used for?” Neville explained, brows furrowed. It wasn’t a pressing question but he figured getting Hermione’s brain working on a problem would be the easiest way to distract her.

“I don’t think I’ve heard of that plant before…” she pondered for a moment. “There are several uses for toxic ingredients, especially if it has other properties besides the toxin then you can use another ingredient to neutralize the toxin and then you’ll be able to use it for whatever else it could provide…” Hermione kept on reading, she really couldn’t help herself once she got started on a book.

“Neville...What’s this…?” Hermione said pointing to the next page which had an illustration of a plant that looked to be a cross between seaweed and rat tails.

“Oh! That’s gillyweed. They use it to make gillywater, can’t say I’m a fan of the flavour though.” Hermione’s face lit up and she hugged Neville, who froze at the sudden action. She stood up just as quickly and started to head towards the portrait.

“I’ve got to tell Harry!”

“Hermione wait!” Neville almost shouted. “It’s past curfew, you’ll get into a lot of trouble of you get caught.”

Hermione chewed on her bottom lip. She needed to tell Harry, otherwise he’d probably stay in the library all night. Then again he at least had his Invisibility Cloak to keep him out of trouble. Maybe if she could tell him first thing in the morning he’d have enough time to catch up on his sleep. She winced at the thought of actually suggesting that Harry skip classes tomorrow but there wasn’t much choice if he was to be fit for the Task. “Alright. First thing, I’ll let him know. Thank you so much Neville! You’ve been an amazing help!”

Neville blushed deeply at the rare compliment and by the time he was able to stutter out a ‘thank you’ Hermione had already gone up to bed.

=^-^=

Harry was found the next morning, fast asleep in the library. Hermione was glad that she was the first to find him since his Invisibility Cloak was starting to slip, the hood had already fallen off and one shoulder was peaking out of nothingness. She tried to gently wake him but as soon as her hand touched his shoulder he startled, awake but still drowsy.

“Harry.” Hermione said softly, shaking his shoulder. “Harry, I’ve found the answer!”

“Huh?” was Harry’s brilliant reply as he slowly started to come to. He then looked at Hermione, “Why’re you here, I thought you went to bed?”

“I did Harry. It’s morning now.” she said with a wry smile as Harry looked around and then noticed the sunlight streaming in through the tall windows.

“Oh. So it is.” Harry looked down at the books before him. “Well out of everything I’ve found my best best is learning to become an animagus…”

“Harry, it takes years to become an animagus. Then you have to register yourself and everything…”

“Hermione I was joking. I know I haven’t got a chance of turning into a frog by tomorrow.”

“Though I doubt Harry would become a frog-”

“-even if he did learn to become an animagus in time.” two new voice said, coming around the corner. The weasley twins came into view.

“What are you two doing here?” Hermione asked curiously.

“Looking for you,”

“McGonagall wants you to go-”

“-see her in her office.”

“Why?” said Hermione, now more wary than curious.

“Dunno.”

“She was looking a bit grim though.”

“Mumbling about the Tournament.”

“Harry, I’ll meet you in the common room later but I found the answer last night. You’ll need to get some gillyweed, it’ll give you gills to help you underwater. Don’t stress so much about it, take a breather and we’ll figure it out together when I get back.” Hermione then left, not wanting to keep Professor McGonagall waiting long.

Harry felt his stomach drop. Was Hermione going to be told off for helping him so much? He was supposed to be figuring this out on his own after all, but she was his best chance of solving this.

“Great where am I supposed to find that. They serve gillywater at the Three Broomsticks, but do they make it there or get it imported?” Harry mumbled to himself, forgetting that the twins were there. They looked at each other and took Hermione’s words to heart since Harry didn’t seem like he was going to. They moved to either side of him and lifted him by his armpits.

“Come now Harry.”

“Let’s take a walk-”

“-around the lake.”

“Clear your head a bit.”

Harry sighed in resignation, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to convince the twins otherwise once they got an idea in their head. Once they reached the lake the twins decided on a different distraction technique.

“So Harry,”

“We’ve noticed dear old Krum-”

“-looking rather morose these days.”

Harry shifted uncomfortably at the new topic. The twins took note.

“Trouble with you new romance?” George inquired, eyebrow raised in question.

“No...well… Viktor’s been great. He really has…”

“But?” Fred proded.

“I- I had a dream a few weeks ago… after the Yule Ball and- and I can’t stop thinking about it when we’re together…” Harry blushed a deep red, suddenly very interested in his shoes. The twins grinned at each other.

“Oh Harry dear, would you-”

“-tell us about this lovely dream of yours?” They grinned at him. Harry’s blush deepened.

“I- I don’t think- that’s- it’s private…” Harry stuttered.

“Oh fine,”

“Spoil our fun. How about-”

“-you tell us how it makes you feel-”

“-around Viktor then, instead.”

Harry took a moment to think. “Well... it’s his scent. I remember dark eyes in my dream… and when I look at Viktor’s my heart starts to race but then his smell… it smells all wrong… and then I feel my heart start to hurt instead. Like I almost feel guilty but I don’t understand what for…” Harry said, still looking at his shoes. He was rubbish at this emotion stuff, maybe not as bad as Ron, but still worse than most people. He didn’t even think he was explaining it right to the twins.

They came up to a spot where they could sit down by the lake. Fred and George sat on either side of Harry while they talked.

“Just to make sure, he hasn’t-”

“-done anything to you has he?”

“We would gladly give him-”

“-a talking to, if he did.”

“No! Which is why I feel so rubbish about it.” Harry lamented. “I’m so stuck on this smell that I feel like I’m cheating on him even if it was only a dream!” Harry said as he dropped his head to his hands.

The twins each put an arm around his shoulders. “Can't say we can help much with that.”

“Fred’s only ever fancied Angelina, and I've only ever fooled around a bit with Lee.”

“But maybe talk to Viktor about it and see what he thinks.”

“Either he'll tell you that it's ok and he'll work to make you feel better about it-”

“-or he won't be able to handle it and you'll break up.”

“In which case you can come to us. We'll help you through your first break-up-”

“-whether it happens now or years later.”

Harry hugged them back and thanked them. He had tears in his eyes not just from the thought of possibly breaking up with Viktor but out of gratefulness. He never had any real siblings but he imagined this is what it would feel like. People who teased you and played pranks but that would also stand by you when you needed them.

“Right… well… either way I should probably first get through tomorrow's task before I go mucking about with my relationship. Figure Hermione's back in the common room?” Harry asked, feeling awkward and unsure how to express his new found gratitude towards the boys before him.

They all headed up to Gryffindor Tower to find her but Hermione wasn't there.

“It’s getting late and she should’ve been back my now.” Harry worried. “How am I supposed to find gillyweed without her?”

Fred crossed his arms and held his chin with one hand, “The only place I can think to look would be Snape’s private stores.”

“What do you think Gred, shall we make some trouble to help our ikkle Harry-kins out?” George asked his twin with a wink.

Harry beamed at them, “Alright. Let's make a plan!”

=^-^=

Harry was waiting outside of Professor Snape’s storeroom, hiding under the Invisibility Cloak. He waited for half an hour before he began to wonder if he should head back. Just has he stood up an explosion sounded on the second floor above him.

Snape came rushing up from the dungeons, his robe billowing in its classic fashion. Harry froze for a moment when a woodsy licorice smell wafted by him. It wasn't until Snape was out of sight that Harry was able to snap out of it and get back to the task at hand. He was extremely surprised when a simple alohomora did the trick and gave him access to the store room.

Harry browsed the shelves quickly and was very thankful for once that Neville had interrupted him and the twins as they were planning. It turned out that he was the one who had showed Hermione the book that ended up having the information they needed. And the picture from the book helped Harry find the jar of gillyweed that much easier.

He pulled down the jar and was about to leave when he stopped for a second. He looked at the jar before quickly removing a few strands of the gillyweed and then replacing the jar back on the shelf.

He was very glad he had when the door to the storeroom flew open and Snape stood there glaring at the room, looking for anything out of place. Harry moved very slowly towards the door and as Snape moved to look behind it Harry rushed out, almost freezing again as he caught that smell.

Snape too had caught a scent and he whipped around to face out of the room. “Potter!” he hissed, but Harry had already made his way to to the stairs and was trying to hurry up them as quietly as he could. He reached the common room just after the twins.

“So? How’d it go?” asked Neville.

“Brilliant!” said Fred

“If you count me almost getting caught by Snape brilliant, sure.” Harry said wryly.

“Oops, sorry mate.” George apologized, rubbing the back of his head in an abashed manner. “Must have tripped some kind of ward when you went in. Did you manage though?”

Harry pulled out the handful of gillyweed to the cheers of the others. There was a very short celebration before the four of them meandered up to bed. When Neville and Harry got to their room Seamus and Dean were already asleep. Ron was sitting on his bed, reading a quidditch magazine, but gave them a glare before drawing his curtains closed.

Harry looked down at his shoes, trying to sort out the different emotions when Neville just shrugged and patted him on the shoulder before heading to his own four-poster to get ready for bed. Harry decided to do the same. Now wasn’t the time to worry about Ron being an annoying git. He had to try to get enough sleep before tomorrow’s task, which seemed to be easier said than done as he climbed into his bed. He watched the clouds drift quickly past the nearly full moon as he drifted into restless dreams of black waters and sandalwood.

Chapter Text

The morning of the Second Task came quickly. The chill morning air that seeped through the ship’s hull woke him before Karkaroff’s knocking did. He wasn’t given much time before his Headmaster came in.

“Time to get up Viktor. You have a big day. You must prepare and make Durmstrang proud.” Karkaroff said roughly. He stayed only long enough to ensure that Viktor was in fact getting ready to get out of bed, legs swung off to the side.

Viktor sighed. It had been a rough few weeks. Besides having Karkaroff on his tail everyday, asking about how he was doing and if he needed any help he also had his classmates putting him through his paces, physically and mentally. They were a tough school so challenges among students were as common as their lessons, which they were expected to maintain through self study while attending the Tournament. So every day he had to duel his classmates, play games of skill, such as chess, or any other myriad of competitions that they could come up with.

It didn’t help that his little sprite had become distant as of late. He was partially worried that it had been something he had done to make him upset, but he also realized his sprite would never be truly his anyway. So Viktor agonized over letting his little sprite go now or enjoying Harry’s company until he realized the truth for himself.

Viktor sighed again. He needed to push thoughts of Harry away for now, he had a Task to prepare for. He got dressed in his swim trunks and a robe to keep away the cold until it was time to enter the lake. He made a list of any spells he might need and then with a calming breath, left his room.

His classmates were lined up on the main deck of the ship, with their Headmaster at the end waiting for Viktor. They made their way as a unit down the gangplank and over to the spot on the lake where the task would take place. Karkaroff sent the other students to the stands from there while he stood by Viktor as they waited for the remainder of the group. Dumbledore was speaking to Cedric, and Ludo Bagman attempted to make conversation with Karkaroff. Viktor saw Madame Maxime and Fleur coming up from where their carriage was parked. He began to worry, the task was to start soon and there was no sign of Harry. Karkaroff and Madame Maxime, however, looked pleased at this.

“I knew ‘e iz too young for dis Tournament. ‘E cannot even show up at a reasonable ‘our.” Madame Maxime criticized. With only about five minutes to spare Harry came running down from the castle and Viktor let out a relieved sigh.

Ludo also looked relieved, smiling at Harry before he led the Champions out onto the dock that had been set up. He looked them over and made sure they were all ready before turning to the crowds and casting a sonorus. “Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament!” Bagman paused as the crowds cheered. “The Champions here are charged with the duty of recovering what has been taken from them. They will have an hour from the mark of my whistle. Three… two….” and the whistle sounded like a knife through the cold, crisp air.

Cedric cast a spell before diving in. Viktor watched Harry, who shoved some kind of slimy seaweed into his mouth. He then pulled out his wand and cast a warming charm and then a bubblehead charm on himself. Harry dived in first and then Viktor followed.

He was about to dive further when he noticed the water beginning to swirl around Harry, who was thrashing as if in pain. Viktor watched in shock as the swirling water became tinged with red as Harry’s legs fused together and scales replaced skin. More scales rippled along his spine and around his face. Viktor swam towards him, not sure how he was going to help but knowing he had to do something.

Just as he got close, the miniature whirlpool stopped and Harry began to sink. Viktor caught him easily as Harry sobbed into his chest.

“I- I’m a freak. I’m even m- more of a freak than I was before. Why- Why c- can’t I just be normal!” He cried. Viktor was shocked and had no idea how to respond. For one he couldn’t imagine his lovely Harry feeling like that about himself. For another Harry’s voice had come out differently, he still sounded like himself but a melodic echo resonated at the same time. It was beautiful despite the ugly words. He decided to just hold onto Harry tighter until his cries became softer.

Moǐ Vodna Feya, please do not call yourself that. You are amazing and should be proud of your Inheritance. Now come, let us see how beautiful you are.” Viktor comforted as he drew Harry away from himself so that he could see the new changes. He kept hold of Harry’s hands though, rubbing his thumbs in comforting circles on the backs of them.

Harry looked away, still feeling some sort of shame apparently, but Viktor could still see the smattering of turquoise scaled across his cheeks. Similarly coloured scales dotted his collarbones and shoulders. His tail was a different story. Viktor could see that it should be a glorious green colour with hints of blue throughout, but it was marred by slashes and splotches or red and pink. Harry’s glamour had failed during the transformation and the scars on his chest were also visible and matched with the patterns on his tail.

Harry’s face turned red in shame when he realized what Viktor was looking at. “See… I- I am a freak…” he whispered as he tried to pull away.

“You are not!” said Viktor fiercely, his heart hurting at the thought of how much pain this stunning boy before him had lived through. He pulled Harry back to him before he realized with a start that they had no idea how much time had passed. They only had a total of an hour to complete their task. “Come, ve vill discuss this later. Ve must complete the task first.” he said sternly, offering no room for argument.

They swam down to the floor of the Lake, just above the forest of seaweed that coated it. They searched along, Viktor trying to keep up with Harry’s powerful tail while they both tried to avoid the grindylows that were trying to grab a hold of Harry’s fins, which fluttered like blue chiffon behind him and like ribbons along his side.

Eventually they came to parallel rows of obelisks that looked like they had seen better days. The tall pillars of stone were crumbling in spots, some had even collapsed completely. The grindylows had turned away at this point as the seaweed forest had come to an end. They floated slowly and warily between the columns as they began to hear a haunting echo of the song from the Egg.

“I’m going to take a wild guess and say we’re going in the right direction.” Harry said wryly, glad to have a distraction from the fact that he had a freaking tail now. Viktor took note at the way Harry refused to even glance at himself, keeping his gaze on his surroundings. He would have to do something to help Harry become more comfortable with himself. He couldn’t help but also feel grateful that he had such a supportive family who understood and a country that didn’t force him to hide.

He also realized this was not the time to reminisce when he almost swam into Harry’s back, though it didn’t help that Harry had stopped quite suddenly. Viktor looked around him to look at the reason. In their path was what they assumed was a merperson, but they looked very different from Harry. The mer before them had greyish green skin with deep green and silver scales. An band made of pebbles adorned it’s arm, and it’s wild dark green hair flowed behind it as it glided towards them. A spear stood menacingly by it’s side, held in place by a clawed hand.

“Welcome, selen.” It spoke with the same melodic echo that Harry had. It seemed to be smiling, with its pointed teeth on display. “Welcome to Mor Linae Tal.”

It turned to Viktor, “You, Sgiathatch, are a long way from home.” it said, raising a brow.

“Ve are Champions in the Trivizard Tournament.” Viktor said by way of explanation. The mer looked to Harry who simply nodded.

The mer took a moment to think and then looked at Harry. “We are not meant to interfere… but you are nosse, family, and we Oaris look after our own, especially our nessa. I am Durdyn.” he said as he turned and indicated for them to follow him.

They followed behind Durdyn for a while before they came upon an amphitheater sunk into the ground before them. Another mer blocked their path before they could get close enough to see down into the ancient structure.

Ron nae utu- i' Tal ed' sen on val. [They were to find the City by their own power.]” she said angrily to Durdyn.

Ar' lye naa a' ista n'e er en' lye on, Gwylyss? [And we are to cast out one of our own, Gwylyss?]” he replied. She looked around him in barely concealed shock. Her eyes fell upon Harry as he shifted uncomfortably behind Viktor.

Ro naa nan' y' hin. Mankoi naa ro ereb? [He is but a child. Why is he alone?]” She said sharply. Durdyn simply shrugged and swam by her. She moved aside so that Harry and Viktor could hesitantly swim past her while she followed behind.

They went down along the steps to the stage at the bottom, upon which four figures were tied to keep them from floating away. They appeared to be spelled asleep so that they wouldn’t drown but Harry had a worried look on his face. A verse floated ominously from the choir behind the hostages, “But past an hour, the prospect's black. Too late, it's gone, it won't come back.”

“My brother…” Viktor whispered, now staring at the young boy tied at the far right.

“Go, get him out of here.” Harry said while giving Viktor a slight shove in that direction. Viktor pulled out his wand as he swam over. A quick slicing hex cut through the rope easy. He began to swim for the surface before he stopped to see if Harry was behind him.

The rope to the left was already torn, he assumed Cedric had already been there to claim his person. Harry had already sliced Hermione free with his new claw-like nails, but was now looking at his watch (which was surprisingly still working) and then around, probably to see if Fleur would be there soon. With no sign of the girl Harry turned to the blonde hostage and began to try and free her.

The mer surrounding the dias reacted, pointing their spears. One swam up and grabbed Harry’s wrist. “Sana lle on, kela i' ters’. [Take your own, leave the others.]” she said sternly. Harry yanked his wrist away and continued to free the young Delacour. The mer that had grabbed his wrist merely sighed indulgently and signalled the others to stand down. “Come visit us sometime, nessa er. You have much to learn.”

Seeing that Harry was safe Viktor continued on to the surface. He broke through, greedily gulping in the fresh air. He saw the dock not too far off and swam towards it with one arm around his brother. Cedric and Cho were already there but they both had a myriad of injuries, perhaps an unlucky encounter with the grindylows. Fleur was also there, looking worse for wear. It seemed as though she had failed in transfiguring herself into a dolphin and had a fin instead of a right arm and a tail instead of a left leg. Madame Pomfrey was already fussing over her, reversing the changes piece by piece.

Viktor pulled his brother up to the dock where Karkaroff helped them both up. His brother sputtered and began to shiver, clutching Viktor like a lifeline. They were handed blankets, heated with warming charms, and Viktor began to dry off his brother while keeping an eye on the surface of the lake for Harry.

It wasn’t long before Harry surfaced, his face thankfully scale free and his body glamour back in place, with an entourage of merpeople from the lake. Harry swam clumsily to the dock, without his powerful tail to help him, bringing with him both girls.

“Gabrielle! Gabrielle! Is she alive? Is she ‘urt?!” Fleur yelled, attempting to pull away from the Matron trying to heal her. Harry was exhausted but tried to nod, Madame Pomfrey reassured her instead.

“Your sister is perfectly fine, my dear. You on the other hand still have a fin that needs to become an arm.” Pomfrey admonished.

Madame Maxime helped pull Gabrielle from Harry’s arm to the dock and then led her to Fleur to be wrapped and warmed. Viktor and Ludo helped Harry and Hermione up and both were quickly wrapped up as well, then given some kind of potion that made them feel warm from the inside.

Dumbledore was at the water’s edge, speaking with the mer that had invited Harry to visit them. He then called the other judges to a brief conference before the scoring began. At the same time Harry was torn from Viktor’s arms by Fleur, who babbled her thanks for saving her sister.

Viktor used this moment to walk over to Professor Snape, who had been providing the pepper-up potions.

“Ve need to speak later, may I meet you in your office?” Viktor said, trying to be nonchalant and inconspicuous. Snape looked extremely confused but nodded, curiosity getting the better of him. Viktor then moved to save Harry from Fleur, who gave him a kiss on the cheek before heading back to her sister.

Before Viktor could say anything to Harry, Ludo was announcing the scores. Fleur had received zero for failing to retrieve her hostage and for the failed transfiguration. Cedric received thirty-eight points for his successful use of a bubblehead charm but he lost points for his poor reaction to the grindylows which had attacked him and Cho fiercely on their way to the surface. Viktor received forty points since he also used a successful bubblehead charm and retrieved his hostage without injury but he hadn’t made it to the surface within the hour and so lost a few points on that.

“Mr Harry Potter used gillyweed to great effect. He returned last but the Mer-chieftainess informs us that his delay was due to his determination to return all hostages to safety, not merely his own. Most of the judges-” Ludo paused to give Karkaroff a nasty look, “-feel this was an amazing display of moral fiber and deserves full marks. However Mr Potter’s score is also forty points.”

Viktor congratulated Harry with a passionate kiss while Hermione hugged the both of them.

“The third and final Task-” Bagman continued, “- will take place on June third. A month prior to the Task the Champions will be informed of what will be involved. Thank you all!” he then removed the sonorus charm that amplified his voice and beamed at the Champions. “Well done all of you! Once Madame Pomfrey here has looked you all over we’ll head back to the castle for a feast!”

The rest of the day passed quickly in celebration. The three schools mingled easily in the great hall as they all recounted the events of that morning.

Once the majority of the student headed to bed though, Viktor made his way down the dungeons. He softly knocked on the potion master’s door, not wanting to draw too much attention should someone happen to pass by. The professor answered promptly and ushered him him.

“Have a seat.” said Professor Snape loftily, gesturing to a chair in front of his desk. Viktor got right down to business.

“I know vat you are. I thought at first I vas vrong about the scents you gave off at the Yule Ball. But you are meant for him, no?”

“How dare you come in here and accuse me of such things.” Snape began, his tone fuming with anger but firmly controlled.

“Fine,” Viktor interrupted, “Let us speak hypothetically instead. Hypothetically I smelt that you and him are very similar. And perhaps today in the lake I saw something disturbing when he hypothetically shifted.” Viktor looked away at this point, towards a window charmed to show the view above ground. His voice held a note of anguish as he continued, “I couldn't even tell vat colour his fin is supposed to be… there was just so much red…”

Viktor looked back at Snape who's expression was completely blank. Viktor felt a rage boil within him. “How can you not care? You are his Alpha and he needs more help than I can give him. He needs someone and you're in the best position to be there for him!”

Sensing that he was getting nowhere with Snape he stood to leave. As he was about to walk out the door he turned back towards Snape, who continued to sit there as stoically as ever without even a hint of emotion. Full of frustration hoping to get through to the potions master he gave him some last parting words. “I just hope he can still be saved by the time you decide.” Viktor said as he watched Snape’s jaw clench. He decided now would be a good time to leave before the Professor could attempt to sharpen his tongue on him.

=^-^=

The door slammed shut before Severus could say anything, not that he could. So much was going through his mind that he had no clue what he would have said if he had been given the chance. He leaned back in his chair and released a deep, hopefully calming, breath.

The Durmstrang boy had given him much to think about. So he summoned a tea and prepared himself for some introspection, because it wouldn't do to be unaware of any influences that could affect his precarious life.

It just incensed him that this particular influence came in the form of one Harry James Potter. The Krum boy seemed to be quite smitten with Potter so he could brush it off as a ploy for attention and sympathy from the brat. But he had to admit that Krum seemed to be the noble sort, not one to fall for such things, especially with if he was trained by the likes of Karkaroff.

Nor could Severus brush aside his own senses that told him all he needed to know of Potter's Inheritance, and his lack of knowledge and control over it. Most creatures raised in wizarding Britain learned early how to mask their scent to avoid detection. Potter either didn't know or didn't care. Severus really wanted to believe the latter.

The information about Harry's scales was concerning though. Red was not a natural colouring for mer scales, it signified significant injury or illness. The boy was always in and out of the infirmary for one thing or another… but Pomfrey would never allow someone to leave her care unhealed. Red scales would disappear after an injury was healed or fade over time, and for it to completely obscure his natural colouring… Severus decided he needed something stronger than tea.

If what Krum was saying was true (and Snape prided himself in being able to detect deception in people with far more skill in it than a seventeen year old boy would have) than he had to re-evaluate his perception that Harry was the mirror image of a spoiled James. Severus just didn't think that was something he could do right now though. Holding on to his hurt for so many years made it hard to let go of it at the drop of a hat.

Severus sighed. For now he could push these thoughts aside, he decided. The brat had the Krum boy, so unless something drastic happened... perhaps he wouldn't even need to get involved. Krum was perhaps simply feeling insecure when he said that he couldn't help the boy or perhaps he simply didn't want the responsibility. Either way it didn't concern him. He would continue on as before, which included going to bed. A glance at the clock told him it was far too late, especially with dunderheads to teach in the morning…

=^-^=

Meanwhile Harry laid in his bed, curtains drawn, listening to the other boys snore. He had attended the celebrations earlier but if you had asked him what anyone had said or what they did he wouldn’t have been able to honestly say. Once the adrenaline of the task had worn off Harry was left to face the fact that he was half fish.

He was usually pretty good at ignoring the voices of his Aunt and Uncle in his head, calling him a freak, an abomination. But when things like this happened… it was hard not to think of himself as unnatural. In second year it was the parseltongue. In third it was having a supposed mass murder after him. Now this and he was more than glad that only Hermione and Viktor knew about it. Oh gods… Viktor knows… about the tail… about the scars! How could he possibly face his boyfriend now? Viktor tried to reassure him, but Harry had seen his face. The look of disgust. The way he tried to hide his repulsion.

Harry felt tears begin to run down his face and cast a silencing spell on his four-poster, just to make sure the others wouldn’t wake from any noise he made. He wanted to send a letter to Sirius but what would he do if Sirius rejected him too? Sirius was he best chance of getting away from the Dursley’s.

What made him feel even worse was the way he enjoyed it. He had actually enjoyed the way the water felt across his scales and he felt so guilty over it. He started to imagine what would have happened if he had dived back into the water after bringing Hermione and Fleur's sister back to the surface, if he had just made the decision to run away and live in the Black Lake…

The merfolk there had called him family hadn't they? Maybe he really could escape? He imagined what it would be like living under the water, the amazing feeling of the current over his scales… suddenly Harry's legs felt far too heavy. He threw back his covers to reveal his tail, curling up and flopping down periodically, on its own.

Harry began to hyperventilate. This couldn't be happening. Not here. Not now. Harry tried to calm down, panicking wouldn’t help after all. “Breathe… I just… I have to… breathe…” he said as he rested a hand on his tail while he attempted to take deep breaths. His fingers began tracing the shape of the silky scales. Moonlight flickered through the small gap in his curtains and made his scales glitter. It was mostly pink and red but in between the blotches and streaks were touches of brilliant green tinted with hints of ocean blue. The scales elegantly faded to his normal skin around his hips. The mesmerizing sight helping him to finally calm down.

This was a part of who he was now, just like the parseltongue. He just had to keep it a secret, just another secret. And he was pretty good at keeping his secrets. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine what walking felt like, which was more difficult that he thought it'd be. Harry had always thought he'd never take anything for granted, not with the way he grew up. But here he was, realizing how much he had taken something like walking for granted.

He imagined wiggling his toes and rolling his ankles. It seemed to do the trick since he had his legs back again when he opened his eyes. He let out a relieved breath. He just needed to practice controlling it. Maybe he'd take Cedric up on his offer of using the prefect’s bathroom on the fourth floor. After curfew of course, to keep anyone from finding out.

With that thought Harry rolled to his side and tried to fall asleep, only to end up in looping dreams about green skinned merfolk and familiar brown eyes.

Chapter Text

He met up with Hermione for the first time since the task on Friday as they both made their way to breakfast. It was a mostly quiet trip with Hermione shooting him furtive glances every now again. Before they reached the Great Hall she pulled him aside.

“Harry…” she started, unsure of what she should say, “Viktor told me what happened in the lake…”

“Oh, talking about me behind my back are you?” Harry snapped at her, lack of sleep making him quite cranky.

“Who was I supposed to talk to when you barely said a word during the feast and then left right after!” Harry looked away guiltily. Part of him wanted to apologize for being so rude but another part of him wanted to sulk and push away those who cared, to protect them from his freakishness. Hermione continued, “I just… I just wanted to say I'm here… if you wanted to talk about it. I'll always be here for you Harry.”

Harry gave her a grateful half smile and they continued on to the Great Hall. It wasn’t long before a dark grey owl landed in front of them. A scrap of paper was all that was attached with a note from Sirius, asking to meet him at the next Hogsmeade weekend and to bring lots of food. Harry felt a pang in his chest, thinking again about how he wanted to talk to Sirius about what was happening.

“I would've thought you'd be excited to see him again?” Hermione asked.

“I am… it's just…do I tell him?”

“About?... oh…”

“Yeah…” Harry said dejectedly.

“Well maybe we can ask him about creature inheritances first? See what he says before we decide to tell him more?” Hermione suggested.

Harry nibbled his lower lip, “Yeah, alright. Let's try that.” he said, feeling a bit better now that they had something of a plan. They finished their breakfast before heading to History of Magic. The day dragged on and it seemed as though a week had past by the time lunch had finally finished. They made their way down to the dungeons for Potions, even though the Professor wasn’t there yet.

It wasn't long before some of the Slytherins decided to accost them. The argument came to a close when Snape arrived and escorted them into the classroom, but not before Parkinson managed to throw an issue of Witch Weekly at them.

HARRY POTTER'S SECRET HEARTACHE” read the dogeared article that Hermione had opened up as they sat in their usual seats. It showed two photos, one of which Hermione was hugging Harry after the first task. The other was from when the three hugged after the second task but from an angle that hid Harry and made Hermione and Viktor look like they were alone. The article itself went on to insinuate that Hermione was using love potions to catch herself rich and famous wizards, and that she was two-timing Harry and Viktor.

“Absolutely preposterous!” hissed Hermione.

“Don't worry about it. Anyone who knows you, knows that the article is rubbish. You know… I'm always here for you Hermione.” He said with a sly grin.

“Reading magazines under the table? Ten points from Gryffindor, Miss Granger.” Snape curled his lip in disdain at them, eyes then catching the article that the magazine was open to and snatching it up. “But of course Mister Potter must keep up with his press cuttings.”

The Slytherins tittered from across the room while Harry blushed. Hermione thought it was from the public ridicule and Harry would never correct her by saying that the herbal smell of wormwood coming from the Professor was making him feel things. Thing he’d really rather not be feeling about someone he had such strong animosity towards.

Snape continued by reading short excerpts from the article, “‘...Harry Potter’s well-wishers must hope that, next time, he bestows his heart upon a wortier candidate.’ ...Indeed, how… touching.” he sneered. “Well I suppose I had better separate you two for the remainder of this class. Miss Granger you shall sit… over there by Mr Malfoy. And Mr Potter… there, at the front of the class.”

Harry threw his ingredients and bag into his cauldron and hauled it to the front desk. He glared at his desk as he set out his ingredients and Snape taunted him under his breath with vitriol.

“You might be under the delusion, Potter, that the entire wizarding world is wholly impressed with you.” Snape hissed at him as Harry focused on grinding his scarab beetles, “But let me make it perfectly clear, to me you are nothing more than a nasty little boy who thinks rules are beneath him.”

Harry switched to cutting up his ginger roots. His hands shook with emotion but he kept his eyes down, focused as much as he could on his task.

“Consider this your last warning, Potter. If I ever catch you breaking into my office again-”

“I've never been anywhere near your office.” Harry interrupted, slamming down his ginger root and knife, nicking his palm in the process.

Snape grabbed his hand and pressed a cloth to his wound. “This potion doesn't call for fresh virgin blood, you insufferable brat.” He banished Harry’s potion, “I will escort you to the infirmary, the rest of you try not to blow anything up until I return.” he sneered, looking pointedly at Seamus and Neville.

He grabbed Harry's arm and dragged him out of the classroom. “I invented modern veritaserum. Don’t think I can’t brew a batch and sneak it under your nose to get the truth. One toe out of line and-” Snape was interrupted by Karkaroff rushing up to him.

“We need to talk.” he said in a low voice, clutching his left arm.

“We can talk later, after-”

“We will talk now, Severus. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you’ve been avoiding me since the Yule Ball.” Karkaroff went to grab Snape’s arm, who had released Harry in order to stop him. Harry backed away slightly, hoping they might forget about him.

“I don’t understand what could be so urgent, Igor.” Snape sneered.

This!” Karkaroff hissed, sliding his left sleeve up to his elbow. “It’s never been clearer, not since-”

“Not here you fool!” Snape said as he rounded on Harry, who had tried to look around Snape to see what was on Karkaroff’s arm. “We will talk later. Potter. To the infirmary. Now!” he bit out, shoving Harry down the hall.

They made it to the hospital wing without further incident and Harry was extremely glad that the wing seemed to be currently empty.

“Mr Potter. Can't you stay out of trouble for at least a week?” Madame Pomfrey said fondly as she bustled over to the two. “So, what seems to be the matter this time?”

Harry sheepishly held out his hand.

“Mr Potter, what have I told you about injuries to that arm. The nerves aren't quite in place yet after you lost all those bones. Now on your bed and shirt off Mr Potter, so I can perform a scan to make sure you haven't affected anything else.” She said as she got a few things she thought she might need.

Harry glanced side long at Professor Snape, “Umm… Madame Pomfrey… perhaps-”

Now Mr Potter, no sense in dilly-dallying.” the Matron said sternly. Harry sat on the bed and refocused on his glamour before removing his cloak and shirt. Madame Pomfrey clued in to why Harry had hesitated earlier, “Now, now Mr Potter. You know that kind of magic interferes with my scans. I'm sure the kind professor here-” she said with a quick glare at Snape, “- will be able to sympathize enough to watch his words.”

Snape quirked an eyebrow but otherwise remained silent as Harry's glamour flickered out of sight. He swallowed down the lump that had formed in his throat. It was one thing to be told vaguely about Harry's scars, it was another to see it in person. Lines of pale, taunt flesh criss-crossed over his chest and around to his back. His ribs were also shockingly visible to the point where he could see one that was at an awkward angle from not having healed right. It was also obvious that the abuse was systematic, strictly contained to areas that could be easily covered by ordinary clothing.

“Alright, the rest seems to be alright though it was a close call. I'll fetch a dittany salve for you.”

Once Madame Pomfrey was out of sight, Snape sighed deeply as he sunk onto the bed next to Harry's. “I'm… sorry.” He said quietly to the floor, hands clasped in his lap.

“What for?” said Harry, surprised. The man had just been threatening him moments before and now he was apologizing?

“For… for all that. No one deserves that...” Snape said, gesturing to Harry’s chest.

“This?” Harry said, his voice conveying his confused shock, “It's the least I deserve isn't it? At least you've been sure to tell me it is on more than one occasion. I would have thought you of all people would be bloody happy that I am being properly disciplined.” he said dryly, tone carefully void of emotion. Madame Pomfrey chose that moment to reappear with a small jar. He hopped out of bed and took the jar carefully. Then with a polite thank you to the motherly Matron he left the infirmary.

“Why hasn't he received proper care? There are spells… potions…” the Professor asked Madame Pomfrey.

She shook her head sadly, “With his extensive list of injuries, he would need a detailed regimen lasting months and I would need access to supplies from St Mungo’s. I've put in request after request but the Headmaster tells me the Board of Governors won't approve it. They go so far as to ask me to breach patient confidentiality. Unless Harry gives me permission to do so, my hands are tied.” She said as she stared forlornly at the doors that Harry had passed through.

“That can't be right…” Snape mumbled to himself. The Board wouldn't ask a healer to break their vows. Snape decided he would start asking some subtle questions behind the scenes. If only to make sure the same wouldn't happen to one of his Slytherins. That was all. It was not out of any concern for Harry, he assured himself.

=^-^=

A week and half passed and it was finally the Hogsmeade weekend where Harry would get to see his godfather again for the first time in ages. He was a bit apprehensive about Sirius getting caught and about how he would react to news of Harry's creature inheritance but Sirius was also the closest thing Harry had to a parent and that meant so much to him.

Harry ran down to the kitchens to grab some breakfast and also fill a bag to take to Sirius. The elves were more than happy to help, packing it full of chicken and roasts, biscuits and scones, potatoes and salads, and flasks of juice. It was almost a feast in itself, spelled to stay at just the right temperature until it was ready to eat.

On his way to the Entrance Hall he nearly ran into Ron who noticed the bag of food. “Sirius?” he asked, curious.

“Why would you care?” snapped Harry. Ron had mostly ignored him, ever since the article about Hagrid had been published so Harry wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of exchanging pleasantries now of all moments.

“I helped save him too you know!” Ron snapped back, however he realized he wouldn’t get what he wanted right now by being confrontational. “I just mean… if you’re going to see him, I’d like to come along too. I know you and me aren’t exactly getting along but I hope that doesn’t mean you’ll cut me out from seeing him now.”

Harry thought about it for a moment. Ron did have a point and he didn’t look like he was planning on getting them into trouble. Would it be selfish of him if he told Ron no just because he didn’t want Ron around? Hermione had been trying to get them to make up… so maybe if Ron wasn’t a complete knob-head Harry could consider accepting any apologies Ron might have.

“Fine.” Was his short reply before he continued on his way

They met Hermione on the way to the wizarding town and together they walked down the street, Hermione looking positively hopeful at having the classic trio back together. They kept on walking past Dervish and Banges, the houses becoming sparser down this way and the path winding around a copse of trees. Near the end they found a scruffy black dog rolling in the dirt. It hopped up and ran over when it noticed them. Hermione took the bag of food from Harry as he bent down to hug the ragged beast. “Hello Padfoot, I’ve missed you.” he mumbled into its fur.

Padfoot gave Harry’s face a large swipe of his tongue before tearing off into the trees, stopping just before he disappeared to make sure the three were following him. It wasn’t long before they came upon a mountain face, rising steeply above them. Padfoot seemed to disappear between two mismatched panes of rock. When Harry approached he noticed a slim crack, just enough to squeeze through. On the other side of the fissure was a spacious cavern that even had a small stream passing through it. He also noticed a disheveled man standing in the place where he was expecting the dog to be.

“It’s good to see you again Sirius!” said Hermione politely.

“Blimey Sirius, I hope you haven’t been travelling the sewers.” Ron said bluntly. Luckily Sirius just let out a bellow of a laugh.

“Nah, it’s just hard to find a free shower and I’d like to keep this stream here clean for drinking.” Sirius replied good-naturedly. He began to dig into the bag of food. “Ooh! Chicken!”

Harry nibbled his lip in worry before deciding to speak, “Sirius, what are you doing here? It’s not safe and I could have kept you up to date from wherever you were hiding before.”

“I’m just fulfilling my duties as your godfather! Besides, the people here all think I’m a lovable stray and the only people who know I’m an animagus are you three and Dumbledore.” said Sirius with a grin. His statement did not reassure Harry.

Ron was shuffling through some old newspapers that had been piled up in the corner. “Barty Crouch is coming under a lot of fire. My brother works as his personal assistant and says he’s missed a lot of days lately.” he said as he noticed a great many headlines seemed to focused on the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation.

“Serves him right for sacking poor Winky.” muttered Hermione.

“Oh come off it Hermione. What was he supposed to do after she was caught with the wand that cast the Dark Mark?” Ron said, feeling like a broken record. They had had this same conversation many times after that night.

“I still don’t believe she had done it. There had to be a way to prove it, only no one bothered to.”

“If it wasn’t Winky I’d bet it was Lucius Malfoy.” Ron said spitefully.

“I doubt that. Draco said he was busy getting him and his mum back to their manor.” said Hermione offhandedly.

“Hold on.” said Ron, shocked, “Since when are you and Malfoy on speaking terms and why would you believe him?!”

“It’s just been since recently. His father is trying to get some laws passed to help house elves and I’ve been talking with Draco about it. Especially after what happened with Winky-”

“Wait just a moment, Crouch sacked his house elf?” Sirius interrupted. They then spoke for a while about what had happened right after the Quidditch World Cup, Ron still in disbelief over Hermione being friendly with the git named Malfoy. Harry on the other hand wasn’t as surprised. He had seen them talking and Hermione had mentioned the notes she was compiling on current creature rights.

“It doesn’t add up.” Sirius mused, “Crouch gets his house elf to save him a seat and then doesn’t show up. He works hard to reinstate the Triwizard tournament and then stops showing up at that too. If ol’ Barty Crouch ever missed a day of work before all this I’d eat Buckbeak.” At that Buckbeak gave out an indignant squak from the back of the cavern. It looked like he had just returned from some hunting.

“Alright, you may have a plan for not getting caught but how are you planning on keeping Buckbeak a secret if he’s coming and going from here? Aren’t people going to ask questions about a wayward hippogriff wandering the area?” asked Harry.

“Oh I made a charm that makes people see an ordinary animal when they see him outside this cave.” said Sirius proudly. Harry just shook his head. “Anyway it looks like Hermione has a better measure of Crouch than you Ron. A bit of advice? If you ever want to know the true measure of a man pay attention to how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

“Sounds like you know him pretty well.” said Ron, more as a question than a statement.

“Well, he was the one to send me to Azkaban without a trail.” said Sirius morosely. The trio let out various versions of “What?!” before just staring at Sirius with surprise.

“Well he used to be Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Was tipped to be Minister for Magic even. He was a powerful wizard, magically ambitious - power hungry too. Never a supporter of You-Know-Who,” he reassured them, “no, he was very outspoken about the dark side. Then again, many people were at that time but- no, you wouldn’t understand.”

“That’s what my da said to us at the World Cup too. Come on, try us.” said Ron, trying to taunt Sirius into telling them.

Sirius grinned. “Alright then. Imagine You-Know-Who in power now. He had started off rising through the ranks in the Ministry, an advocate of change. But I guess change wasn’t happening fast enough for him so he started doing things by force instead. A great many people had agreed with his ideals so you never knew who was working for him and who wasn’t. People feared for themselves, their families, their friends… The ministry is in disarray at this point and no one knew who to turn to.

“Then Crouch comes rising through the ranks of Aurors, quickly becoming head of their office. He made changes, ordered harsh measures against You-Know-Who’s supporters. He gave the Aurors new powers in order to fight violence with violence. I wasn’t the only one to end up in Azkaban without a trial. He had plenty of people clamouring for him to become Minister for Magic. Only it all fell apart when his son got caught with a group of Death Eaters.”

“His son?”

“Was he a Death Eater?”

“Did he try to get his son off?”

Sirius laughed, “Who knows if he was or not. The people he was caught with certainly were but maybe it was just like that house elf. Wrong place, wrong time. Didn’t matter to ol’ Barty though, anything that threatened his reputation had to go. He did give him a trial but it really only proved how little he cared for the boy.” Sirius’ expression became sober, “He couldn’t’ve been more than nineteen when they walked him past my cell. He cried for his mother the first few nights before he went quiet.. They all go quiet in the end…”

“So… he’s still in Azkaban?”

“Nah, died about a year after. His mother died not long after him. People kept asking how a nice young boy from such a good family could’ve gone so wrong, blamed most of it on Crouch. He was ruined, which is how Fudge got to be Minister for Magic. Didn’t help that there were rumors after that his son was engaged to a half-werewolf.”

Ron wrinkled his nose, “Why would anyone want to marry a beast? Or even a half-beast?”

Sirius glared at him, “All pure-blood families have creature blood somewhere in their lines Ronald. Even your brother Charlie received a dragon inheritance from the Prewett side of your family.”

“Liar!” Ron shouted, his face turning red in anger. “My brother isn’t a… a… freak!

Don’t call them that!” Harry snarled at Ron.

“Go ahead! Defend your monster boyfriend! This whole Tournament is disgusting, they shouldn’t allow beasts to compete, it's a bloody Tri-wizard Tournament not a freak show!” Ron stormed out of the cave at this point. Too enraged to argue further.

The remaining three stared at him in shock.

“So… boyfriend, huh?” Sirius said teasingly, trying to break the resulting tension. Harry startled, blushed, and then hid his face in his hands while Hermione burst out laughing.

“He- He’s-” Hermione tried to get out between bursts of laughter, “He’s dating Viktor Krum!”

“The famous seeker?” Sirius asked, surprised.

“That’s the one.” Harry said, thoroughly embarrassed.

“And he’s got a creature inheritance has he?”

Harry got nervous. This was one of the things he had been dreading talking about. “Yeah… he’s… uhh… he’s got a dragon inheritance.”

“Not a bad one to have, like I said earlier Charlie Weasley actually has the same. Though I’m guessing they’d probably be different species.”

“So… you don’t think like Ron does?” Harry asked hesitantly, some of his insecurities showing through.

“I won’t lie to you Harry, there are a lot of wizards in Britain that do think like Ron, but I’m not one of them. Your father was something like a quarter or an eighth vampire after all, and I’m still good friends with Remus. Hard to be prejudiced with friends like those.” Sirius said, fondness seeping into his tone at the memory of his best friends.

“Were there any other creatures in the Potter line?” Hermione asked.

“Not that I can think of.” Sirius thought, trying to remember, “Perhaps a Veela hundreds of years ago but I think that ended up branching into another family instead of the Potters.”

“So no merfolk? Is it possible for muggleborns to have creature blood?”

“Extremely rare, creature blood and muggle blood doesn’t seem to mix very well, usually causing severe deformities in any children. What’s this about?” Sirius asked, catching on to the specific line of questions.

Harry and Hermione looked at each other before Harry decided to reply. “Well… I seem to have received a- a creature inheritance… over the summer.”

Sirius burst out laughing, “Full of surprises, just like your father! James would be so jealous, he was always bragging about his quarter-vampire blood!”

“But where does Harry get it from? You just said that there weren’t any merfolk in the Potter line and Lily was muggleborn, wasn’t she?” Hermione asked, set on getting some answers.

Sirius stopped laughing, “Lily was definitely muggleborn so if Harry received an inheritance… I always wondered how it all happened so quick…”

“What?”

“Well James never really liked Lily while we were in school. He always thought she was too stuck up, and she hung around with Snivellus until our fifth year. After we graduated I went through Auror training and then I ended up doing some work for Dumbledore, for the war effort. When I got back after a year James and Lily were married and had you. I always figured he was going to end up with the bloke he was seeing in secret during our sixth and seventh years so it was quite a shock.” Sirius looked up at Harry but it was as if he didn’t really see him, “If you were born from James’ mystery bloke instead of Lily… But why did he end up marrying her then?...”

“So Lily… isn’t my mother?” Harry asked in a small voice as he sat down on the cold ground.

“Umm Harry? We should probably start heading back to the castle, it’s getting late.” Hermione said, looking at her watch.

“Alright you two, I don’t want you sneaking down here and getting caught. Just send me notes by owl and call me ‘Snuffles’ if you talk about me in public. Harry, we’ll figure this out, don’t worry. Your parents still loved you even if Lily wasn’t your biological mother, and the people that matter now still love you too. Don’t forget that.” Sirius said, giving Harry a hug before they left.

Harry and Hermione walked back to Hogwarts mostly in silence. Both too busy processing the information they learned and the hurt they felt over Ron’s attitude.

Chapter Text

Monday morning came around and a flock of owls decided to land in front of Hermione. She began to open them and scoffed. “You’d think they’d have better things to do then send me hate mail.”

“Is this because of that article?” Harry asked.

“Probably.” said Hermione as she opened another one, which exploded over her hands with yellow goo.

Neville, who was sitting across from them, gave it a whiff. “Undiluted bubotuber pus! You’d better get to the Hospital Wing Hermione...” he said as large boils grew on her hands.

Harry encouraged her, “I’ll let Professor Sprout know... and take notes for you.” he said as she opened her mouth to ask. She shot him a grateful smile before leaving in a hurry.

Once Harry finished breakfast, he headed out to the greenhouses for Herbology. After that he headed to Care of Magical Creatures only to be stopped by Malfoy who was surprisingly lacking his usual crowd of cronies.

“Is Granger alright?” Malfoy asked, attempting to sound aloof but a hint of worry managed to carry through.

“You’d care why?” Harry said. Despite noticing the two being on friendly terms he was still hesitant to believe Malfoy’s newfound approachability.

“Granger’s been helping me out. Well more specifically, my father. She’s actually quite brilliant; managed to figure out what wording he needed to change in order to get a difficult bill passed. I’ve been keeping her up to date in return. I suppose she’s not so bad once she gets over her know-it-all attitude…” Draco paused, giving Harry time to answer his earlier question. When no such answer came forth he asked again, “So? Is she alright?”

“Should be. She just got some nasty hate mail over that sham article that Skeeter wrote.”

“Oh? So there’s nothing actually going on between you two?”

Harry hesitated, he knew wizards didn’t have the kind of homophobic prejudices that muggles did, but he couldn’t be sure that Malfoy wouldn’t use it against him. He decided to give him a bone anyway to see what he did with it. “Well… It’d be kind of difficult for us to have a relationship considering I’m gay.”

A flicker of surprise passed over Malfoy’s face. “Ahh that’s why you and Krum have been so close.” he smirked.

Pansy Parkinson and Goyle decided to find Malfoy at that moment. “Have you split up with your girlfriend Potter? Is that why she was so upset at breakfast?”

Harry simply raised an eyebrow at Malfoy, who said nothing, before deciding to ignore Parkinson. He turned to head towards Hagrid’s Hut for class.

There they got to play with some nifflers, collecting leprechaun gold that Hagrid had buried the day before. Hermione joined them just as class ended to the taunts and jeers of the Slytherins. Hagrid managed to cheer her up a bit by telling her he had received some of the same after the article about him had come out.

=^-^=

The next couple of months passed by mostly stress free. Harry managed to go on a few mini-dates with Viktor and Ron resumed ignoring them. Harry was grateful that it didn’t seem as though he had told anyone about Sirius being around.

What was surprising though, was having Malfoy spend time with them. Of course it was never where anyone else could see, and he never failed to throw snarky comments at Harry while he was around, but he was for the most part civil. Most of the time he just spent talking to Hermione about the work his father was doing.

Viktor however wasn’t too fond of Malfoy being around and would often drag Harry away whenever he showed up. Harry never really complained because it almost always meant finding a secluded place to snog in.

When May twenty-seventh rolled around Professor McGonagall instructed Harry to head down to the quidditch pitch after classes were done for the day. Once there he saw the other Champions already waiting. Viktor gave him a small smile while Fleur hugged him fiercely. Ever since the second task Fleur had been very friendly with Harry, much to Viktor’s ire. Cedric was looking at the pitch forlornly as it was no longer recognizable as a quidditch pitch.

“What have they done to it?” he whimpered. Thigh-high hedges wound their way across. Ludo Bagman was waving them over from the middle of the growing maze, so they carefully climbed over the shrubbery towards him. Once they were all standing around him Bagman gave them the rundown on the third task.

The maze would consist of twenty foot hedges filled with all manner of obstacles, from spells that would need to be broken to creatures that Hagrid would provide, all of which they would need to pass in order to reach the Triwizard Cup. Harry shuddered at the thought, knowing what kind of creatures Hagrid prefered. Bagman, thankfully, didn’t keep them for a whole lot longer.

Afterwards Viktor took Harry for a walk along the edge of the forbidden forest. They made it around to a secluded area, the trees hiding them from the castle. Most of the students would be at dinner or in their dorms so there was very little chance of being found. They found a wide tree to sit up against.

Viktor cupped his face in his hands and gazed at him for a moment. The look made Harry slightly uncomfortable, as if he was some kind of… of treasure, or something. It was look he was very much not used to even though Viktor had been giving him these looks since they had started seeing each other.

Viktor freed Harry from his uncomfortable feelings as he pressed his lips against his own. Viktor had introduced him to a drink called boza from his homeland a few weeks ago. Harry didn’t like the drink itself, but the flavour of it on Viktors tongue was quite enjoyable. Harry pressed himself closer to Viktor, sliding his hands over his boyfriend’s strong shoulders and arms while their tongues danced along each other's.

Viktor, wanting to pull Harry even closer, slid his hands down to Harry’s firm seeker arse and lifted him over into his lap. Harry pulled away from the kiss with silent gasp and a blush at their new position. At some point he had removed his cloak but Harry had no notion of when that had happened, so focused as he was on the sensations of Viktor's fingers playing across his skin, just under the hem of his shirt. Viktor took the opportunity presented to decorate Harry’s neck with kisses, and if some of those kisses left tell tale marks behind, well, he just couldn’t help himself. Harry was gorgeous with the setting sunlight highlighting his form and glistening off the sweat that was beginning to form.

“You are beautiful, Moǐ Vodna Feya.” he whispered huskily into Harry’s ear, who shuddered in response. He pulled Harry closer causing Harry to let out a whispered moan as he felt Viktor’s hardness press up against his own. Harry let out an involuntary trill as scales rippled across his cheeks. He leaned forward to give Viktor another sweltering kiss, tongues intertwining as hands continued to explore; Harry’s hands running along Viktor’s chest and back, memorizing the firm planes by touch, while Viktor’s trailed along Harry’s thighs and rear.

Viktor slid his hands under Harry’s shirt and began to lift it up over Harry’s head while trying not to break their kissing for any length of time. “You...you too.” Harry said breathlessly, tugging at Viktor’s shirt after his own was thrown to the side.

Viktor chuckled and discarded his own shirt obligingly. He then subtly pulled out his wand and cast a cushioning charm before flipping Harry over onto his back. Harry let out a quiet yelp as his position was suddenly changed. His breath hitched as Viktor pressed their arousals together again. Viktor’s fingers deftly travelled to the waist of Harry’s trousers.

“May I?” Viktor asked, his voice making Harry squirm as he nodded in response. “Vords, Moǐ Feya. I vould like to hear you.” Viktor said playfully.

Yes! Oh please… please… yes!” Harry simpered, not wanting to make too much noise but wanting Viktor to do something, anything, more. Viktor’s hands travelled to Harry’s zipper, pulling it down ever so slowly. “Viktor!” Harry trilled. Viktor merely gave a low chuckle as he finished and released Harry’s leaking member from its confines. He gave it a few strokes before freeing his own hard length and leaning up to drown Harry in another fervent kiss. He pressed their groins together again and they both moaned at the feeling of hot skin on skin.

The sound of a twig breaking nearby had them both stop and freeze, heads snapping to look into the dark woods, searching for any sign of movement. They couldn’t see anything but another twig snapped and Harry grabbed Viktor’s arm tightly as they sat up.

Viktor passed Harry his wand and they got dressed quickly. And not a moment too soon, as a disheveled man stumbled out from the trees. After the man straightened himself Harry stepped forward in shock.

“Mr… Mr Crouch?” he asked, hesitantly. The man was in very rough shape, torn clothes, scratches on his face, and a scraggly beard was beginning to grow. However this was nothing compared to how Mr Crouch was behaving.

“... And when you’ve done that, Weatherby, be sure to send an owl to Dumbledore. Karkaroff has just confirmed that he would be bringing twelve students…” Mr Crouch said to a tree. He then stumbled sideways before falling.

“Mr Crouch!” Harry yelled as he ran over to the man.

“Vot is wrong vith him?” Viktor asked, not wanting to get too close to the madman.

“I… I don’t know. Maybe you should go and get someone-”

“Dumbledore! Get… Get… Dumbledore…” Crouch said suddenly, grabbing Harry’s arm in a frighteningly tight grip. “Must… tell…”

“Of course Mr Crouch. If you’d let go we can head up to the castle and get him-” Crouch’s eyes rolled to the back of his head for a moment. When he came to he gave Harry a strange look.

“Who… are you?” he asked raggedly, as if speaking was very difficult at the moment.

“I’m a Hogwarts student.” Harry replied.

“Dumbledore… must speak… to… Dumbledore!” he said once again, grabbing Harry with his other arm as well now. Viktor moved forward then to pry the man off of him. Once they were all standing Crouch resumed talking to the tree, “...Weatherby, please bring me a cup of tea while I wait for my wife and son. We’ll be attending a concert with Mr and Mrs Fudge this evening…”

“Go get your Headmaster, I vill watch him.” Viktor whispered, wand pointed at Crouch as he continued to talk to the oak before him. Now he was going on about his son’s academics.

“Will… will you be safe?” Harry asked nervously, not wanting to leave his boyfriend with a madman.

Viktor pulled him in for a quick kiss, “Yes, but hurry.”

Harry nodded as he tore across the grounds and up the stairs towards Dumbledore’s office. He was grateful that the stairs seemed to sense his urgency and didn’t move on him this evening. He reached the stone gargoyle that guarded the stairway when he realized he didn’t know the password.

“Sherbet lemon?” Harry asked. It was the password from two years ago so Harry wasn’t surprised when it didn’t work. He paced back and forth muttering different sweets when the passage opened. Harry was momentarily excited that he had gotten it right until Professor Snape stepped out and the passage closed behind him.

Snape wrinkled his nose at the scent of Krum and strong arousal that lingered around Harry. “What are you doing here, Potter?” he snapped.

“Dumbledore! I need to see him! Mr Crouch… he’s in the forest… he’s not quite right…” Harry rambled.

Snape took a deep breath in order to snap at Potter about talking nonsense when he noticed fresh hints of fear, slowly overlaying the arousal from before, making him pause.

“Very well…” Snape said snidely as he turned to the gargoyle. Before he could say anything else though it opened to reveal Dumbledore exiting his office.

“Is there a problem?” he asked, peering over his half-moon spectacles.

“Mr Potter here has apparently found the missing Mr Crouch. He says that he has been wandering our lovely forest.” Snape replied loftily.

“Hmm… Lead the way then, my boy.” said Dumbledore, extending his hand towards the stairs. Along the way Dumbledore asked questions about Mr Crouch’s status and Harry replied as best he could. They reached the trees where Harry had left them but there was nobody in sight.

“Viktor?” Harry called out worriedly.

Dumbledore cast a lumos which revealed an unconscious Krum, hidden partially in the forest. “Viktor!” yelled Harry as he kneeled by him. Dumbledore sent off a patronus with a message to Hagrid as Harry asked quickly if he should fetch Madame Pomfrey and Dumbledore shook his head with a small smile.

Rennervate.” Dumbledore cast.

VIktor’s eyes fluttered open and he tried to sit up. He sat dazed for a moment before speaking, “He stunned me! The madman attacked me ven I looked to see if Harry vas on his vay back.”

Hagrid appeared then, his thundering footfalls announcing his presence. Karkaroff and Moody were not far behind him, glaring at each other the whole way. They received an update from Dumbledore and Moody quickly set off into the trees to find Mr Crouch.

“What is this?” snapped Karkaroff, seeing his student on the ground.

“I vas attacked by Mr Crouch or vatever his name is-”

Mr Crouch?! The Triwizard judge?!” Karkaroff yelled, turning on Dumbledore. “Treachery! A plot to lure us here under false pretenses! This is not a fair competition, Dumbledore! First you sneak Potter in, though he is underage, now your Ministry friends attempt to take Viktor out of the competition! You with your talk of rebuilding old ties and closer international relations! Ha! This is what I think of you-” he said as he spat at the ground at Dumbledore’s feet.

Within a moment Hagrid had Karkaroff pinned to a tree, demanding that he apologize.

Dumbledore stepped forward and placed a hand on Hagrid’s shoulder. “Hagrid, no.” he said, eyes flashing with some unknown emotion. Once Hagrid stepped back Dumbledore dropped his arm and subtly wiped his hand on his robes, a scowl decorating his normally jovial face.

Dumbledore then sent Hagrid to escort Harry back to Gryffindor Tower while also informing Harry that anything he needed to do could wait until morning as he was to stay in his dorm for the remainder of the evening. His tone brokered no argument so Harry merely nodded, suddenly feeling somewhat afraid of the Headmaster.

Hagrid spent the walk defending Dumbledore and warning Harry away from Viktor. “What were you doing alone with Krum? He’s from Durmstrang, Harry! He could’ve jinxed you!” Harry mostly just ignored him, or at least tried to.

=^-^=

Moody never did find Mr Crouch and told Harry he should really be focusing on the final Task of the Tournament. Hermione completely agreed, despite Harry’s protests. “Whoever put your name in the Goblet must’ve done it for a reason and they’re slowly running out of chances to do whatever it is they planned for you. This is most likely the task where they’ll play all the cards they have!” she worried.

After sending off an owl to Sirius explaining what had happened the two spent the weekend learning and practicing various charms and jinxes. Monday morning came too soon and they had to pause their training.

Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures went by fairly quickly. It wasn't until after lunch that things slowed to a snail's pace, so much so that Harry actually fell asleep in Divination. Not that it was rare for him to become drowsy in that class with how warm Professor Trelawney kept the classroom. The burning fire and drawn curtains were ideal for catching a bit of shut-eye on Monday afternoons.

Unfortunately things never seem to be that simple for Harry. He woke with a startle after a terrifying dream about Voldemort torturing Wormtail in an old ivy-covered house...

Voldemort had been mostly hidden by a high backed chair with a enormous serpent slithering around its base looking excited. Wormtail had stopped screaming for a moment when Voldemort's cold voice came from the chair.

“Nagini… you ssseem to be out of luck. I will not be feeding Wormtail to you. No matter… there will be Harry Potter.... Now Wormtail, let me remind you that I do not tolerate failure!- Crucio!

And as the spell had hit Wormtail, Harry had awoken with a startled yell, grabbing the attention of the rest of the class. Professor Trelawney kept insisting Harry tell them what vision he had seen due to the clairvoyant vibrations in the room. Harry managed to leave by pleading a mere headache and escaping on the pretense of going to the infirmary.

Instead he made his way to Dumbledore's office where once again he was stuck, realizing he still didn't know the password. He paced as he mumbled names of various sweets and candies. Finally at ‘cockroach clusters’ the Gargoyle revealed the staircase behind.

Harry raced up the stairs but hesitated when he went to knock, hearing voices arguing behind.

“ -dont see the connection!” said the voice of Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic. “Ludo says Bertha most likely just got herself lost. Yes we should have found her by now but there's certainly no evidence of foul play! And as to this so called link to Barty’s disappearance, well I dare say he simply finally cracked from all the pressure he's been under and wandered off.”

“If so, he wandered off extremely quickly.” said Dumbledore calmly.

“Well… I'll just have to have a look at where he was found. You said it was just past the Beauxbatons carriage? Dumbledore, do you know what that woman is?” Fudge said in a disgusted tone. “Or would you be blinded by your favouritism of Hagrid?”

“Believe me, Cornelius, there is no favouritism there. Hagrid serves his purpose. But in this instance I do not believe we can blame Madame Maxime for this.” said Dumbledore's stern voice.

“Perhaps we should wrap this up.” said Moody who had been silent up until now.

“Yes, let's head down to the grounds- ”

“Not that. Potter has just arrived, looking for you I suppose.” Moody said to Dumbledore before turning back to Fudge, “Not a conversation to be had in front of students, I'd say.”

Harry heard Moody’s wooden leg thump over to the door before it swung open. Harry looked at him in confusion. With his eye he would've seen that Harry had arrived in time to hear most of the conversation, so why had he told Dumbledore and Fudge that he had ‘just arrived’?

He didn't have long to ponder the thought before Fudge was greeting him with a smile and a shake of his hand. They tried to usher him out and back to class when Harry insisted that he needed to speak to the Headmaster.

“Very well, wait here Harry. We shouldn’t be long,” said Dumbledore with a kind smile, “and treat yourself to a lemon drop.”

Harry did so as the men left Dumbledore’s office. He took some time to greet Fawkes before sitting down in the chair in front of the desk. Harry felt much calmer now, perhaps due to the knowledge that he’d be telling Dumbledore about his dream soon. Harry looked around idly, seeing most of the portraits asleep in their frames. The sorting hat on it’s stool. The Sword of Gryffindor in its case. An odd light flickered off of the case though, silvery ripples of luminance.

Harry looked around to see where the light was coming from and noticed a black cabinet behind him was cracked open. Harry hesitated and looked at Fawkes, who had fallen asleep on his perch. His curiosity got the better of him and he stood to go have a quick look. He found a shallow stone basin there. A myriad of runes and symbols decorating the edge, Harry almost wished Hermione was there to tell him what they meant. The light shone from the contents of the basin which seemed like it couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be translucent liquid silver or a shimmery smoke.

Harry pulled out his wand to poke it but he merely succeeded in making the substance swirl faster. He bent forward to take a closer look but made the mistake of leaning too far. The sensation he felt of falling into a hole head first was one he vaguely remembered from his second year.

He found himself in a circular, windowless room full of witches and wizards who sat silently, save for their collective, unsynchronized breathing. Some shifted restlessly but for the most part no one moved. Harry looked around him some more and realized he was sitting next to Dumbledore. Harry began to apologize before he realized that no one had reacted to his sudden presence. A memory, just like the one from the diary! He also realized that Dumbledore appeared somewhat younger here, so he must be in a fairly older memory.

The sudden noise of heavy doors being opened startled Harry from his revelation. Two Dementors flanked a man bound in heavy chains as they led him to a lone chair in the center of the room. Harry shivered, more from the memory of the Dementor’s effect than from the current specters. The man they chained to the chair reminded him slightly of Sirius when he had first escaped Azkaban, hair lanky and unwashed, posture hunched over in fear. Then he looked up and Harry leaned back quickly, realizing he was looking at Karkaroff.

Mr Crouch stood up from a bench to Harry’s left and confirmed Harry’s thoughts that Karkaroff had just come from Azkaban. He further revealed that Karkaroff was brought to exchange information for his freedom. After much grovelling he began to list names. Antonin Dolohov, who had already been captured, Evan Rosier, who had been killed, Travers, Mulciber, Rookwood, Snape.

Harry sat rigidly as the last name was called. Snape? Were there any other Snapes or was Severus Snape really who they were referring to? Part of Harry could believe it, someone with Snape’s demeanor would probably fit in well with the Death Eaters. But another part of Harry felt a strong disbelief, though he couldn’t figure out why.

He felt a distinct, unfounded relief when Dumbledore stood up and spoke, “I have vouched for Severus Snape. He was, indeed a Death Eater but renounced Lord Voldemort before his downfall, turning spy for us at great personal risk.” Harry’s relief fled somewhat at finding out that Snape had indeed been a Death Eater. What if he still was? Is that why Karkaroff went to him? Fellow Death Eaters plotting?

Harry’s thoughts were put on hold as his surroundings shifted. The room he was in now was similar, if not the exact same, as the one before. This time though people was a bit more lively, at least until Ludo Bagman was dragged in and they went quiet in shock. Apparently he had been passing information to one of the Death Eaters Karkaroff had named, Rookwood. Bagman claimed ignorance of the knowledge that Rookwood was collecting information for Voldemort.

Bagman ended up getting off on his charges more through his fame as a professional Beater for the English National Quidditch Team than by any sort of actual evidence. Bagman bowed and left the room in good spirits as the room shifted again.

This time the trial was against a group of four people who sat chained to chairs, flanked by six imposing Dementors. One wizard was heavyset and seemed to stare up at Mr Crouch with fierce resolution in his eyes. The thin witch beside him reminded Harry somewhat of Wormtail with the way her eyes darted around the room, looking for an escape. Another witch sat beside her, as if her chair was a throne, her midnight hair accentuating her pale face. Lastly a young boy with matted straw coloured hair sat shivering in his chair.

Mr Crouch laid charges against them for the use of the Cruciatus Curse on Alice and Frank Longbottom. At this point the boy at the end was begging and Harry was shocked to realize that this was Mr Crouch’s son as he cried for his father to believe him, that he was innocent. A wisp of a witch that sat beside Mr Crouch began bawling outright when the boy called on his mother, on her, to keep Mr Crouch from sending him to Azkaban. Harry felt absolutely cold at the lack of emotion or even familial recognition when Mr Crouch condemned his son to a lifetime sentence.

Before the Dementors escorted them out of the room the dark haired woman shouted, “The Dark Lord will rise again, Crouch! Throw us into Azkaban, we will wait! He will rise again and he will come for us! We alone were faithful! We alone tried to find him!” Her maniacal cackle and the boy’s tearful pleading were the last things they heard as the four were dragged away.

Harry startled again as a voice sounded in his ear, “I believe it’s time for you to return Harry.” A present day Dumbledore stood behind him, watching the scene before them with an expression of melancholy. Dumbledore gently grabbed his elbow and Harry felt the familiar sensation of falling before his feet landed solidly back in Dumbledore’s office.

“Professor, I- I know I shouldn’t’ve but- I mean- I didn’t- and the cabinet was sort of open- and-”

“It’s quite alright, my boy. Here, have a lemon drop.” said Dumbledore calmly, interrupting Harry’s nervous stuttering. He closed the cabinet door and gestured for Harry to sit in the chair he had occupied earlier. Once Harry had settled a bit Dumbledore explained what a pensive was and how it was used. Harry apologized again.

“Curiosity is not a sin, Harry, but perhaps we should exercise a little more caution, yes?” Dumbledore asked with a hint of humour in his tone as he looked at Harry over his half-moon spectacles. Harry merely nodded with remorse. “Now, there was something you wanted to discuss?”

Harry began explaining what had occured during his Divination class. After he finished he waited for Dumbledore to respond. When he didn’t Harry hesitantly decided to speak “Do you- Do you know why I would be having these sorts of dreams? About Voldemort, I mean?” Harry asked with worry, afraid he already knew the answer.

“Indeed. I have a theory... that you and Lord Voldemort became connected by the curse that failed. After all, that is no ordinary scar, Harry.” Dumbledore stated in a very serious tone.

“So my dream… you mean it could have actually happened?” Harry asked, his breathing becoming somewhat ragged at the thought of being connected to Voldemort. Dumbledore offered him another lemon drop.

“It is possible. I would dare say… probable. Anything else you’d like to ask, my boy?”

Harry shook his head, the calm feeling he had earlier merely ghosting across his consciousness. “No sir… Just a lot to think about.”

“Very well, off you go. Oh and I don’t need to tell you to keep what you saw to yourself, do I?” asked Dumbledore, though he already knew the answer.

“Of course not, sir.” Harry replied meekly as he left the office, closing the door carefully behind him.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks were filled with practicing spells, hexes, and jinxes, attending classes, and receiving daily notes from Sirius. While Sirius’ notes were a major highlight of Harry’s days he was admittedly getting tired of the words of caution they brought.

‘Keep your nose down.’, ‘Stay out of trouble.’, ‘Try not to break any rules.’. The hypocrite. Doesn’t he remember all the thing he got up to while he was in school? And now he’s pulling a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ routine!” Harry complained to Hermione.

“Well… He has a point, Harry. Right now you should be focusing on passing the Third Task in one piece. After that you can go stumbling into trouble as usual.” Hermione then giggled at the glare Harry sent her at that last statement.

“I do not go stumbling into trouble. Trouble just happens to stumble into me.” he said, slumping in his seat.

Hermione smiled at Harry indulgently before she remembered something, “Oh Harry, have you heard back from the goblins yet?”

“Oh yeah.” said Harry sheepishly, “I got the letter just after the Yule Ball and then forgot about it”

Hermione shook her head with a small smile. “Well what did it say? Or did you forget that too with your head full of whatever Viktor did that you won’t tell me.” she giggled

“Only that an Inheritance Test is a delicate piece of goblin magic and needs to be done at Gringotts.” Harry said with a slight frown, pointedly ignoring Hermione’s second question, especially since he hadn’t heard nor seen Viktor since ‘the Incident’. Also he had no way of getting to Gringotts on his own and the soonest he’d be able to find someone willing to take him was if the Weasley’s took him in for the last part of summer again, which seemed unlikely given that he and Ron were no longer friends.

He startled when Hermione grabbed his hand, “Don’t worry Harry. We’ll figure something out.” she said reassuringly. “For now we’ve got to get to class. You might not have to write the exam but it won’t do for you to be late!” As they began packing up their books to head to History Professor McGonagall strode up to them.

“Potter, the Champions will be congregating in the chamber off the Hall after breakfast.” she spoke in her brisk, no nonsense manner.

“The task isn’t until tonight and- and I’ve got to get to History…” Harry stammered, slightly panicking with the thought that he was wholly unprepared.

“Relax Potter. The Champion’s families’ have been invited to watch the final task. This is simply your chance to greet them prior, and as a Champion you are very well aware that you are already exempt from Professor Binns’ exam this period.” she replied before turning away to speak to another student at the other end of the table.

Harry floundered, his mouth opening and closing rapidly in shock. He turned to Hermione, “She doesn’t mean the Dursley’s does she?! How would they have even gotten here?”

“I don’t know Harry, but I need to get going or I’ll be late to class. I’ve still got to write that exam. Good luck!” she said with as much sympathy as possible before leaving the Great Hall.

Harry stood rooted in his spot for an indefinite moment. The Dursleys would never come to hogwarts, probably not even on pain of death, and Hermione’s reaction hurt a little. Well, he supposed he couldn’t really blame her. He did everything he could to make sure people wouldn’t find out about all that the Dursleys had done to him, and that (unfortunately, he realized) included his best friends. He was shaken from his thoughts when Cedric poked his head out from the chamber.

“Come on Harry, they’re waiting for you!” he said quickly before ducking back into the room. Harry took a few calming breaths before making his way slowly to the room. He had no clue what to expect but he steeled himself for any possibility.

What he was not prepared for was Mrs Weasley, Bill, and Charlie waiting for him in front of the fireplace. Mrs Weasley noticed him first and came over to give him a warm hug, which incited only a small flinch from Harry. He was usually pretty good at hiding his reactions to her sudden hugs but he was still in shock from the surprise of it all. “What?... How?... I thought…. The Dursleys?...” Harry stammered.

Mrs Weasley pursed her lips for a moment, reining in her impulse to criticize the Dursleys, at least in front of Harry, before she replied. “We thought to surprise you, dear!”

“Came to watch you for the final task, and with how Charlie here was bragging about your performance in the first one, let’s just say we’re really looking forward to it.” Bill teased with a nudge to Charlie’s ribs, who was looking embarrassed after Bill mentioned the bragging. Harry gave them all a grateful smile.

“Hello, I vould like to steal Harry for a moment if that is alright?” Viktor asked the Weasley’s as he came up to the group and clasped Harry’s hand in his, causing Harry to blush noticeably. He turned to Harry, lifting Harry’s hand to press a gentle kiss to his knuckles. “I vould like you to meet my parents, if you vould like?” Harry merely nodded his reply, unable to resist the subtly pleading eyes Viktor gave him despite still being mad at him.

Charlie chuckled and Mrs Weasley followed behind the couple as they walked over to where a gruff man and slender woman, along with Viktor’s younger brother from the second task, waited in the opposite corner from them. The men of the family seemed to share the same dark, coarse, close-cropped hair while Viktor’s mother carried her silky black strands in an elegant half braided style.

“You must be Harry.” Viktor’s father said firmly, though the warmth of his tone and his subtle smile softened the stiff words. “Viktor has talked about you much in his letters.”

“Oh… umm… I hope it was all good…” Harry said, feeling very awkward. He couldn’t imaging a meeting with his boyfriend’s parents going any other way really, especially not with his meagre social skills.

Viktor’s father let out a bellow of a laugh while his mother gave a small huff, which could have been either a polite chuckle or an expression of a difference of opinion. Given her lack of smile Harry was guessing the latter. “Yes, yes. Very good things. He says he is much happy vith you.” Viktor’s father stated before noticing the Weasley’s coming up behind Harry. “You are Harry’s family, yes?”

“Close enough.” Mrs Weasley said with a smile towards Harry, the statement making Harry feel pleasantly warm inside. He was glad the twins weren’t the only Weasley’s who thought that way. “I’m Molly, and these are my son’s Bill and Charlie.” she said, introducing the group of redheads.

Viktor’s father bowed respectfully with a kiss to Mrs Weasley’s hand and a nod to her sons. “I am Dragomir and this my wife, Vesna, and our littlest son, Zoran.” he said, introducing his family. The last of which was trying to hide behind Viktor while trying to beg Viktor to show him the Durmstrang ship at the same time.

Harry chuckled while Viktor apologized and promised Harry they’d meet up again before the task, insisting he had something important he wanted to talk about.

Seeing Harry’s slightly disappointed look that Viktor was leaving Charlie decided to intervene. “Hey Harry, how about you show me and Bill around. It’s been a while since we’ve been around the castle! I’m sure lots has changed.” Taking Harry’s half grin as a sign of success they headed out of the chamber, with Mrs Weasley reminding them to keep an eye on the time while they were out.

Bill joked around a bit as they entered the Great Hall, bringing Harry out of his thoughts and into the present. His improved mood slid down a notch as they came upon Ron, who was just starting to pack up his books to head for Charms. Harry hadn't forgotten his reaction to what Sirius had said and was worried if he'd say anything about it now.

Ron looked up, noticing Bill leading their small group. “Bill! And Charlie! What are you two doing here?” he asked as they approached. Harry breathed a subtle breath in relief as it seemed Ron wasn't going to say anything.

“Just came to watch Harry in the Third Task, Mum’s here too! She stayed back to chat with the Krums. How'd your History exam go?”

Ron shot a scowl at Harry before admitting he had to make up some of the names on his exam but that he thought he had done fairly well.

So… uh… I've got to run to charms but I'll catch you at supper...” he said to Bill, with a side glance at Charlie.

Harry looked at the ground while Bill raised an eyebrow at his younger brother. Charlie nodded towards Harry before speaking.

“Well come on then, we can't tour the castle on our own! Where to?” he said, giving Harry a playful nudge with his elbow.

Harry looked up with a shy, grateful smile and led the brothers out of the Great Hall.

“Blimey! Is that Percival Pratt? I didn't figure he'd still be guarding the passage to the boathouse!” said Bill with a laugh as they came upon the Grand Staircase.

“Hogwarts has a boat house?” asked Harry with a curious tilt of his head.

“Hogwarts has a great many things that you, and our esteemed twin terrors, probably don't know about.” said Bill, a crooked grin playing on his face. “In fact, I think we should show you one that'll be perfect for the talk we seem to have a need for. Though for now let’s just keep looking around, it wouldn’t be a tour if we didn’t see anything besides the things we aren’t supposed to!”

Harry’s expression was a mix between a feeling a shame that he was fighting with their brother, excitement to learn of a new secret place in Hogwarts, and disappointment that they wouldn’t be headed there right away. They spent what seemed like ages looking at portraits and discussing classes that have changed or disappeared. Bill was shocked that the Wizarding Culture class had been removed while the Muggle Studies hadn’t. Charlie admitted he was disappointed that Wizarding Arts were no longer an elective.

They made it to the Gryffindor Common Room and after a brief tour of Harry’s dorm they found themselves in the reading room, confusing Harry since only Hermione really liked to spend time in there. Bill walked up to a portrait of a lady with flowing black locks, dressed in a dark blue, fur-lined cloak. The scene of a mountain-scape loomed behind while a fairy flitted around her.

“Hello Professor Myriadd.” Bill and Charlie both said.

“Hello boys. It has been a while since you’ve been to see me.” she intoned aloofly, though the small lift at the corner of her lips bespoke of the warmth she held for these two. “And I see you’ve brought someone new?”

“Sorry Professor, we graduated a while back. This here is Harry, he’s a student here so perhaps you’ll see more of him then you will of us.”

“Come forward, son of House Gryffindor. I am Professor Valeria Myriadd, Head of Gryffindor House in my time. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” She said, this time with a full smile that was surprisingly warm on the sharp planes of her face.

“Nice to meet you as well.” Harry replied politely.

“Professor, is the password still ‘Pig Snout’?” asked Charlie.

“It is indeed, since no one has bothered to visit me to have it changed in ages.” The portrait swung open then to reveal a narrow tunnel, at the end of which appeared to be a rundown bathroom. Harry looked around with curiosity. A deep octagonal bath took up the center of the room with a few patches of moss growing on the sides and along the ivy patterned tiles. Some stalls stood in the far corner, subtly concealed by shadows created by the sunlight that streamed through stained glass windows, washing the room in warm red and yellow.

“Bloody hell.” said Charlie, “I’d bet a Galleon the house elves haven’t cleaned this place since we were last here.”

“Mum mentioned that you and Ron weren't getting along. Though apparently Ron's letters were pretty vague on why.” Bill said, cutting to the quick of it.

“It just seems like we have differing opinions on a topic he seems to be passionate about.” Harry said, not looking at either of the two brothers. Would they have the same view on creatures as Ron? Even if they disagreed with Ron, Harry didn't want to get between them. He firmly believed family should stick together regardless of differences.

Charlie looked at Harry skeptically. He could tell that Harry was hiding his inheritance based on the smell of a young, scared creature in the air. He also knew what kind of views Ron had probably been spouting.

“Harry, would you be up to listening to a story?” he asked, hoping that Harry's curiosity won out over his fear. A shy nod made him smile. “There was a boy whose mother told him amazing tales of dragons as he grew up. So many stories that the boy dreamed of working with dragons, of learning everything there was to know about them.

“And imagine his delighted surprise when the boy grew wings just a couple of weeks after his 17th birthday! Scarlet dragon wings tinged with black. The boy nearly flew through the house, at least he would have if he had known how to control his wings right away.

“His mother celebrated with him but the boy’s heart broke when he saw the horrified look on his father’s face. His father threatened to disown the boy but his mother defended him fiercely. Instead the father decided to ignore the boy from then on, save for a few choice words here and there.

“The boy fell into depression, unable to articulate the hurt he felt. His older brother came to visit the week after, just in time for Christmas,and saw what was happening. The older brother confronted their father. Harsh words were spoken. Before Christmas even arrived the older brother had taken the boy away to another country where he wouldn't have to fear what he was.” Charlie finished with a grateful smile at Bill.

“So… y-you are…”

“Yeah, I’ve got a Dragon inheritance. On our way to Egypt we had made a stop in Romania and I fell in love with the dragons there. Haven't been back in Britain until the World Cup, because who would want to miss that!” Charlie laughed before becoming somber. “I missed mum a lot, and after I left I wondered what Percy would think. I don't think anyone explained to him what happened.”

Harry moved slightly closer to Charlie. At some point during the story Harry and Charlie had sat on the edge of the bath while Bill remained leaning against the wall. Harry looked down into the murky water beside them. He hadn’t paid much attention to the two brothers during the World Cup, there was just too much going on. But when he did have time to speak with them, however briefly, it always seemed to be with an aura of warmth and acceptance. Could he reveal himself to them?

Harry passed his left hand through the water, feeling the flow of it help to center himself. Without realizing it right away some scales had rippled into view across the back of his hand and wrist. He looked at it in mild surprise, his eyes widening only slightly at the sight, before turning to look up at Charlie.

Charlie nodded with a calm smile, reaching down to lift Harry’s hand and run gentle fingers over the scales.

Bill kneeled down in front of Harry, “We know how dangerous it is for you here in Britain but we also know that you’re a Gryffindor, you won’t fancy the idea of… running away. But please promise us. If you ever feel like you aren’t safe here anymore, send word to either Charlie or I and we’ll give you someplace safe to stay.”

Charlie nodded, “And in the meantime you can write some 'stories' to us as well? It helps to tell someone about everything without associating yourself with it all. It helped me anyway.”

Harry didn’t reply. He couldn’t promise that he would but it was so very tempting to say yes.

“Think on it.” said Bill, “Me and Charlie have got to find the twins or mum’ll throw a fit!”

Harry nodded, feeling oddly lost at the thought of them leaving him alone here but at the same time he had a lot he needed to think through and he couldn’t do that with them here.

The door closed behind the brothers with a loud thud that reverberated against the walls of the bathroom. Harry’s hand traced the pattern that ran along the edge of the tub, contemplating all that he had heard. He was under no illusions that Charlie's story was just a story but somehow he couldn't reconcile it with the friendly image he had of Mr Weasley asking him about the function of a rubber duck. Could people really be so double sided? If so, could he even trust the other Weasley’s?

Harry's hand dipped into the water and while he still felt the tug of calm that seemed to usually come from it he couldn't help but pull his hand back and wrinkle his nose at the slimy algae that now coated his hand.

Harry had an idea but wasn't sure if it would work, an idea that he would admit was more to help him avoid where his thoughts were going than for anything else. “Dobby?” he whispered out into the silence of the room. His quiet voice still causing an echo.

A snap shattered the silence as Dobby appeared. “Harry Potter has called for his Dobby! Dobby is so happy! Thank you Harry Potter, sir!”

“Umm… no problem Dobby. Umm… I was just wondering if we could get this place cleaned up a bit? At least enough to go for a dip? I mean, if you have time.”

“Of course Dobby has time for his Harry Potter! It will only take Dobby a moment to do so!” It wasn't any longer than a moment before the water was clear and the sides of the tub and the floor were near sparkling. Even the stalls in the corner seems to glow in their shadows. “Is Mister Harry sir be needing anything else?”

“No, that's all. Thank you Dobby.” Harry said with a grateful smile, since for some reason he had expected to actually help with the cleaning. Dobby bowed to Harry a couple of times with a few more proclamations of gratitude before disapparating back from wherever Harry had dragged him from.

Harry looked into the now clear water and noticed the ivy pattern on the edge of the tub turned into other greenery beneath the water’s surface. Harry disrobed, carefully setting his clothes aside so they wouldn’t get wet, and then dipped his feet first into the ripples of orange and gold that were reflected from the windows above.

He felt a tingle in his feet, urging Harry to sink further into the refreshing liquid. Seeing no reason to resist the temptation Harry full on submerged himself. The strong tingling sensation spread up his legs, similar to last time though not as frightening now that he knew what to expect. This time though he realized that the moment he would have had to go up for air had come and gone, despite not having opened his mouth. A fluttering at his neck drew his attention and he ran his sharpened fingers along it. There he found four sensitive slits, pulsating water through them. He had freaking gills to go with his freaking tail.

Deep breaths, Harry reminded himself. He was not a freak. There were obviously others with creature inheritances that weren’t disgusted with themselves like Harry seemed to be. Okay, maybe not disgusted. He enjoyed the way his fin moved through the water, it almost felt like flying, and the way he could smell things on his tongue underwater. Down near the bottom of the pool was a grated pipe feeding water that tasted of kelp and something earthy? Harry wasn’t entirely sure how water could taste earthy but it did, probably meaning this bath was fed by lake water.

That reminded Harry that he hadn’t visited the merpeople like they had asked. Not that he had promised he would but they were right, there was so much he didn’t know and they could have the answers. The third task was tonight and then only a week before classes were over, and he still needed to figure out how he would get to Gringotts to get his inheritance test done. It was just impossible wasn’t it?

What had his life come to, Harry wondered. He lost his best friend, and not even over Harry’s freakishness which Ron would have apparently abhorred. No, because his best friend had believed he was a liar and a cheat! Hermione was a wonderful friend but it was sometimes hard to keep up with her intellectually. Harry was sure he wasn’t completely stupid but it did feel like it sometimes when he hung around Hermione too much, which was a lot the last few months. And the whole tournament was more than difficult to handle on it’s own without everything else that was happening!

Harry became distracted for a moment as bubbles of deep blue began floating in front of him before dissipating into the surrounding crystalline water. Great, Harry thought to himself, he couldn’t even cry normally anymore. Harry flicked his tail in agitation and propelled himself to the surface, his gills feeling like they were now suctioned closed as he breathed in the stale air of the bathroom.

He leaned against the edge of the tub, moping for quite a few minutes. Harry glanced down at his tail and frowned at the odd colouring, the blues and greens he could see peeking out between the lines and splotches looked rather nice. Glittering, jeweled ocean tones. The reds and pink just looked angry. Again Harry wished he had time to visit the merfolk. They could’ve probably explained why it looked that way, though it was probably just another deformity he had to live with.

Harry checked his watch that he had laid on top of his clothes. He still had a couple of hours before dinner and he didn’t really feel up to talking to anyone right now. He swam lazily through the water, back and forth over the surface and then near the bottom. Testing how slow he could go and then how fast. He loved the feeling of swimming quickly beneath the surface. If he closed his eyes he could almost imagine flying over the quidditch pitch, though the one time he actually did close his eyes he swam head first into the wall of the tub, making his eyes water with those strange blue tears.

After that small incident Harry decided it was time to face the music, so to speak. He hauled himself over the edge of the tub and realized his fin hadn’t automatically turned into legs as it had after the second task. He scrunched up his eyes and thought hard at what legs were supposed to feel like, and wondered for a moment why it was so much easier to go from legs to a fin rather than the other way around. Harry sat on the floor naked, realizing he hadn’t thought to grab a towel before going swimming. He didn’t want to put his clothes on while he was still wet and then he remembered the drying spell Madam Pomfrey used after he came out of the lake.

Unfortunately the spell worked a little too well and Harry’s skin felt uncomfortably dry. He scratched at his forearms and his side, trying to make the feeling go away as he got dressed. Harry dealt with the itching sensation and was determined to ask Hermione how to fix it.

Harry sat down at the Gryffindor table with a deep sigh, Hermione hadn’t been in the Common Room or the library. Fred and George came over to sit on either side of him, casting curious glares at their older brothers who now sat opposite them. Bill gave them a taunting wink. The twins were cut off from any questions though as Mrs Weasley sat beside Charlie.

“I must say, it makes a lovely change, not having to cook!” she said as Hermione joined them, Fred making some room for her to sit next to Harry. Harry got distracted from his intent to ask Hermione about the drying charm he used when Mrs Weasley stiffened and her warm demeanor went noticeably cold.

“Hello Mrs Weasley. Hello Bill, Charlie.” said Hermione meekly, not looking directly at Mrs Weasley.

“Mum,” said George with a hint of his mother’s scolding tone.

“You don’t believe-” continues Fred.

“-what Rita Skeeter wrote in Witch Weekly,”

“-do you?”

“Especially after all you said-”

“-to Mr Diggory earlier.”

Mrs Weasley looked ashamed of herself as she apologized to Hermione and the atmosphere around the group eased considerably after that. Even when Ron showed up and sat at the edge of the group with a sour look on his face, Harry was able to ignore him and focus on the warm feeling of family that he felt around him.

Chapter Text

The warm feeling didn’t last, however, as Dumbledore stood at the end of the meal to announce the start of the task. “If the champions would now follow Mr. Bagman. Ladies and gentlemen, we will follow shortly, after a few words from our esteemed Minister for Magic.” Harry went with words of luck from most of the Weasleys and Hermione.

“Doin’ alright Harry?” Bagman asked Harry on their way out to the Quidditch pitch. “Feeling confident?”

“I’m okay.” Harry replied honestly. He felt more prepared than he had for any of the other tasks but it didn’t make the whole ordeal any less daunting. Harry had to turn down his offers of advice before Bagman went on to explain that Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, Moody, and Hagrid would be patrolling the outsides of the maze and all they would have to do is shoot up red sparks to be rescued.

Viktor pulled Harry aside after the rundown, “Harry, I am sorry I vasn’t able to see you.”

Harry pulled away before Viktor could hug him like he had meant to. “Couldn’t? Or didn’t want to?” he asked petulantly. He knew his attitude wasn’t fair, that Viktor was too honourable to avoid confrontation just because it was unpleasant. But he still felt hurt over it, not enough to go to the twins over it, but still hurt. He supposed he was feeling even more petulant over the fact that he couldn’t express his anger when Viktor had first approached him in the chamber off the Great Hall, in front of all the others.

“Moǐ Vodna Feya, I am so very sorry. Karkaroff forbade me to see you, he doubled my training vith other students so that I could not sneak away even to explain. I wanted to give you this, at least before it vas time for me to return home.” Viktor pressed a leather string into his hand with a single, silver scale threaded onto it, “You vill always be velcome in my home Harry, vether ve are a couple or not. It is an international portkey and the keyvord is ‘kŭm doma’. It vill bring you to my home in Bulgaria.”

Harry didn’t know what to say but he was determined not to cry. He should’ve thought about it sooner, that his relationship with Viktor would have to end when Viktor went home. He couldn’t even think about how a long distance relationship would work, he just knew he wouldn’t be able to do it. If Viktor was able to then perhaps it wouldn’t have worked out between them anyways. Harry tried to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat. It took a few tries before he could speak. Despite his anger he could see that even if Viktor had known their relationship wouldn’t last it had still meant something to him. He resolved to not let Viktor see any more of his pain. “Thank you. Let- let’s do our best then... eh?”

Viktor gave Harry a fond and sympathetic smile. He knew it wouldn’t be an easy talk, he only wished he was strong enough to be ‘the one’ for the young mer before him, the one who was stronger than anyone really gave him credit for. “Yes, let’s.” he said.

The stands quickly filled then, as the people made their way down from the castle. Once everyone was settled in the signal to start went off. Harry and Viktor gave each other determined looks before setting off in opposite directions, uncertain as to what may lie before them.

Harry was walking through the maze, hoping to avoid running headlong into danger like he usually did. Each crossroad or turn he came to he would peak around the corner and went whichever way seemed least ominous. This seemed to go well until he came to one where he could go left, where he could see a very agitated blast-ended skrewt exploding all over the path, or he could turn right where the path seemed to be flooded by water. Right it was.

Harry walked up to the edge of the flood and was relieved to see that he could still see the ground through the liquid. Though a single step forward made him rethink his initial assessment. The ‘water’ that splashed up to his ankles clung there instead of dripping back to the ground. He tried to pull his feet forward but they were thoroughly stuck. To make matters worse it seemed that whatever he had stepped into was inching up his leg millimeter by millimeter.

Harry was hesitant to try to wipe it off, figuring it would probably cling to his hand as well, so he looked around to see if there was something else he could use. He glanced at the wand in his hand and remembered something he had said to Hermione back in their first year when they were caught in the Devil’s Snare. He didn’t have much time to reminisce though as the liquid had reached his upper thighs.

“Relashio!” Harry said, pointing his wand near his feet. The liquid shrivelled into itself, as an animal might when attacked. Harry leapt away from it in the direction he had planned on going. The liquid reared up into a wave and Harry bolted down the path and around the next corner before it could strike. Unfortunately this lead him right into a golden mist.

He felt a jerk behind his navel, similar to when he had travelled by portkey this past summer. Though this time instead of being teleported to another place he seemed to still be in the same spot. Except he, and everything around him, was upside down.

Harry held onto his glasses. Trying to keep them from falling off his face. His robes threatened to pull his arms over his head. His feet felt firmly planted but everything else seemed liable to be lost to the endless night sky below him. Harry closed his eyes tightly, said a small prayer to any deity that might hear him (though he had very little hope after years of trying while living with the Dursleys), and took a small step forward.

A sinking feeling in his stomach led him to think that maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to spend the rest of his days floating aimlessly among the stars. No risks or responsibilities… though it’d probably be difficult to acquire food and water…

His daydream was brought to a halt as gravity pulled him towards the ground once again. He sat there in a tangled heap for a moment, trying to catch his breath. He leaned against the overgrown hedge, taking in gulps of air. Would it be a bad thing if he just sat out the rest of the task against the hedge here? Cedric still stood a fair chance at winning the cup for Hogwarts. He didn’t really need to be the one to win.

A slender vine fell onto Harry’s shoulder. Another one joined it. Soon they were trying to wrap around Harry’s arm causing Harry to jump up and away from the wall of the maze, tearing out a few vines that fell to the ground limp after being separated from the hedge itself.

“Bloody hell, even the bloody maze is trying to kill me.” muttered Harry as he backed away from it. A voice from behind startled him, nearly causing to fall back to the ground.

“Honestly Harry, how stupid could you be. Of course the task wouldn’t be designed to allow you any kind of reprieve. You must be especially dense not to realize that.” said Hermione who was standing a ways down the path.

But it wasn’t Hermione. It was now Ron. “Honestly though, what could you expect from someone who cheated their way into the Tournament? Not only that but who wouldn’t even tell his own best mate that he’d gone and done it! But you can’t trust any of those beasts! They all need to be put in their place!” Harry flinched as Ron began to stomp towards him and closed his eyes to try to block out the words being thrown at him. A knuckle gently drew his chin back to the front. He opened his eyes only to see Viktor before him with an amused expression on his face.

“I am sorry, Moǐ Feya. It was only out of pity that I stayed vith you. You had just lost your friends. You vere probably going to die soon in the Tournament. It vas just for a bit of fun before I vent home anyvay. It vas not as if I had any emotional investment.” said Viktor, whose expression changed to the one he bore in any newspaper photograph of him: aloof and uninterested.

Harry sunk to his knees, the despised blue tears streaming silently down his face. Sure, some part of him knew this had to be some kind of trick. Another task for him to get by. But it was something else to hear the words he had been thinking for months spoken out loud. It made them somehow much more real and Harry really couldn’t handle them like that right now. Not with how far he had tried to bury the emotions that those thoughts elicited.

Harry was so far in his own head that he barely heard someone shouting “Riddickulus!”, or noticed anything around him at all really. At least not until a hand gently lifted his chin up, causing him to flinch from its similarity to the action from earlier before his eyes met dark silver. A thumb wiped away his repulsive tears and he let out a choked sob as he tried to re-bottle his emotions.

“Harry, Moǐ Feya. Please do not cry. It was only a- how do you call- a boggart?” Viktor said, floundering on how to help Harry. He saw how Harry pulled into himself, shoving aside his feelings to put on a determined face, but he didn't know what to say to stop it. Before he would have pulled Harry close to comfort him but now that would just make things worse. So he was forced to watch as Harry closed himself off and stood up without looking directly at Viktor.

“Umm... thanks… I guess.” he said, not sure what else he should say to his now ex-boyfriend.

Viktor grabbed his hand, “Harry- I-”

“-No, it’s fine. Thank you for helping me with the boggart and all but…” said Harry, pulling his hand sharply away as he cut off whatever Viktor was about to say. He turned and walked onwards, making a left turn at the crossing that the boggart had been guarding. He didn’t dare look back but he couldn’t hear anyone following behind and assumed Viktor had taken the other turn.

Harry let out a relieved sigh towards the ground, nerves shot even further when he nearly walked into a wall of water. He stumbled back with the memory of the first obstacle that had ensnared him. He looked back now to assess his options and realized he’d rather face this wall than risk bumping into Viktor again at the moment.

He looked towards the wall and tried to see if anything was on the other side but the movement of the water created swirls of white foam that made it almost impossible to see through. Harry cast a few protection spells on himself and his clothing before throwing up a shield charm and stepping resolutely through the wall.

As he passed through he could feel the magic he had cast melt away with the water. His protections reduced to nothing. It didn’t take more than a couple of steps to pass through the wall but those two steps left him feeling oddly drained.

But Harry didn’t even have time to think about the hows or whys of the wall’s effects. No, Harry was much more concerned with the enormous adder before him. Harry couldn’t accurately guess the size but it was most certainly upward of twenty feet in length, with a stout nose and red eyes that zeroed in on him, tracking his every movement.

“Nasssty two-leggersss, lurking about like mice.” it said, narrowing its eyes at Harry.

Harry cleared his throat and attempted to speak back, hoping his parseltongue ability hadn’t abandoned him in this crucial moment. “I am not a moussse” he said, attempting to sound stern. The adder reared back and opened its mouth wide, displaying impressive fangs, before snapping it shut and dropping to the ground. Before Harry could even raise his wand it had circled loosely around him.

“Ssspeaker, you can fix me then?” it asked.

“Fix you? What isss wrong with you?”

“Nasssty two-leggersss made me too large. The animalsss I eat are now too sssmall and the onesss big enough make me ill. Then two-leggersss come around and sssend light at me that hurtsss.” it said, unconsciously circling tighter around Harry in agitation, though still not touching him.

“An engorgement charm, maybe?” Harry muttered to himself. “May I try sssomething? I will also sssend light at you and I don’t know if it will hurt or not. Hopefully it will help though.” The serpent nodded its wary consent and Harry cast a shrinking charm. The purple light hit the serpent just under its chin and the tan and black snake was now a mere two feet long. It slithered up to Harry’s foot and lifted it’s head to look up at him.

“Thank you ssso very much. May I come with you ssspeaker?” it asked, its red eyes looking much less violent now that they were smaller and more amber coloured. The ratio to its head was a bit off making them look a bit larger in comparison than before but it made the little snake look almost… cute.

“Umm… sssure.” Harry said, unable to find a reasonable excuse as to why not.

“I am Inlussstrisss.”

“Right. Trisss it isss. I’m Harry.” he said as Tris slithered up his leg, making him shiver at the feeling of scales slithering over his skin. Tris ended up settling around his ankle, tucking its tail into Harry’s sock.

Harry went onwards without a clue as to where he actually was. He thought he was being sensible, alternating his left and right turns, but then he realized that he had no idea if the paths even went in straight lines. He could be going around in circles for all he knew! And just great, it had to start raining didn’t it.

Harry walked on slowly becoming more and more drenched as the drizzle turned into a full out gale. Harry looked up in despair which turned into a look of confusion. The fierce gale that was ripping at the hedges and threatening to drown him on land was coming from the smallest raincloud Harry had ever seen and it seemed to be following him like an unwanted puppy.

Pinching his nose Harry tried to remember what he had read about weather magic. Okay not weather magic, weather-modifying magic. Weather magic was tricky and dangerous business, it took a twenty-two year apprenticeship to master even one branch of true weather magic after all. So weather-modifiers… sunny spells… snowflake spells… atmospheric charms… ah right!

“Meteolojinx Recanto!” he shouted angrily at the cloud, causing it to dissipate quickly. Now he needed to remember what spell Hermione had used just last week to clean her napkin after Neville had spilled pumpkin juice over it… tergeo was it? He was relieved when the spell worked and his robes became lighter as the water sloshed onto the ground. He added in the drying spell from the second task for good measure.

He walked for a while longer, luckily without incident, giving Harry time to catch his breath. Around the next corner Harry found himself facing a hippogriff. This one seemed to have the hind legs and tail of an appaloosa and the wings and head that resembled a steller’s eagle, a sleek transition betweens shades of black and white.

The hippogriff heard his approach and turned to look at Harry, displaying a silk collar with the name Fleetwing upon it. Harry immediately went to bow while maintaining eye contact with the magnificent creature. “Pleased to make your acquaintance Sir Fleetwing.” Harry said, trying to go for a respectful tone which ended up sounding meek, especially after noticing some blood on its talons and assuming another champion had already tried to come this way unsuccessfully.

Fleetwing didn’t seem to mind though since, after much deliberation, he had walked over and gently nudged Harry’s shoulder with his deadly beak. Harry stood up and moved his hand slowly to scratch the hippogriff under his chin, the same spot that Buckbeak had seemed to favour.

“Aren’t you gorgeous. I kind of wish I could pull a Sirius right now and fly away on your back. Learn to become an animagus and live in anonymity for once.” Harry chuckled to himself and Fleetwing nudged Harry’s shoulder to get him to pet him again. “I apologize for my lack of attention but I really should get going. You wouldn’t happen to be able to show me the right way would you?”

At that Fleetwing wound around Harry and took a few steps in the direction he was guarding. He began to make a right turn at the options ahead before pausing to check to see if Harry was behind him, his forefoot pawing at the ground with mild impatience. Harry chuckled before following along, passing by the hippogriff before mirroring its previous action of looking back to see if he was following. “Well, aren’t you coming?” Harry asked.

Fleetwing took a step forward with its head down, as if pressing it against a wall, and it’s collar beginning to glow softly. The collar dimmed when the hippogriff stepped back and shook its head, the feathers there ruffling out before smoothing back down. Harry walked back to say a short goodbye to the friendly beast before moving onwards. The path before him began to darken ominously as he progressed, but he realized that perhaps it only seemed that way when he noticed a golden light spilling from a gap in the hedge up ahead.

Harry’s heart beat quickly in his chest. Could this be the end of the maze or simply another trick or obstacle. He moved towards the light quickly but cautiously and then peered around the corner in a similar fashion. There on a pedestal within a small clearing was the Cup, the light shining from it nearly blinding, washing out any details in its surroundings. It was so bright Harry nearly missed the flicker of a shadow from the other side of the cup, recognizing the form of a person before quickly raising his wand in defence.

Chapter Text

The shadow moved closer to him, also in a defensive stance, wand raised and moving slowly forward. Their wands were an arms length apart when they recognized each other and lowered their wands warily, both of them glancing at the cup before looking back at each other.

“You should take it. You vere here first, you deserve it.” Viktor said.

“Come off it, I’m pretty sure you were already here when I came around that corner. You just feel guilty for breaking up with me and that’s a stupid reason to give away the Cup. Besides you saved me earlier so you should get it.”

“That is not how it is supposed to verk. The first person here is to get the Cup and you vere here first I am sure. Besides I don’t believe I vill vin any races vith this leg.” Viktor cuckled self-deprecatingly. That’s when Harry noticed deep claw marks on Viktor’s outer thigh.

“Fleetwing?” Harry asked.

“Is that vat it vas named? Hothoof may have suited it better vith its temper.”

“Seemed pretty sweet tempered to me. Even pointed me in the right direction after.” Harry said smiling wistfully. Viktor smiled back.

“Take it Harry. You may not think so but you deserve to vin this Tournament.” Viktor said as he eased himself to the ground, still smiling fondly at Harry. Harry’s smile fell away to a contemplative expression as looked at the Cup and then back at Viktor. He nodded and walked over to the final goal of the Tournament.

He grabbed it by the handle and the bright light increased tenfold before being pulled back quickly to the center of the Cup until it, along with Harry, disappeared.

Harry gritted his teeth at the unpleasant feeling he seemed to always experience from portkeys. He landed haphazardly into a cloud of dust and nearly choked on the particles as he tried to catch his breath from the unexpected form of travel. The dust settled and his breathing evened out as he took a look around to see where he had ended up. The place was dark with only a bit of moonlight trickling in through a window. Harry cast a lumos to help him see.

Much of the furniture was covered in sheets but a single side table and a chair looked recently used, based on the lack of dust that had layered itself over everything else, with a photo frame set face down upon the table. A fireplace had some burnt out coals left in it and there were some more photo frames upon the mantle, dust covering their contents.

A look out the window revealed an overgrown garden, rolling hills and a quaint little village nestled below but no hint as to where exactly he had ended up. This was definitely not part of the task, Harry surmised. Harry walked over to the table and picked up the frame, nearly dropping it as soon as he saw the contents.

It was a photo of his father looking like he did in so many of the pictures from the album he had received from Hagrid; and there he was in his father’s arms, younger than he looked in any of the pictures he currently owned. What surprised Harry the most though, was that his father was gazing fondly at, not his mother, but another man whose right arm was wrapped around James’ shoulders.

The unknown man gazed down at the child with a smile and obvious love in his dark coloured eyes, black hair occasionally covering them with the breeze that seemed to be blowing in the picture. The baby gripped the man’s left hand as he gently ran his fingers over the baby’s cheeks, eliciting a silent laugh from the photo child, young feet kicking out in delight.

Harry walked around the chair and fell back to sit into it harshly, unsure of what to make of the photo. He nearly jumped out of his skin though when a blue light flickered by the fireplace, eventually morphing into a blue, spectral version of the unknown man in the photo.

“James! James, if you’re seeing this it means something’s gone terribly wrong. You can’t stay here though, Dumbledore knows about it! Take Harry and find Severus, he knows where you need to go now. Once this message ends you'll have five minutes to get out of here before the fail-safe kicks in to protect our secrets.” the figure said in a rush, panic and fear lining his face as he periodically looked over his shoulder. He looked back again, a fond smile on his face, “I love you both so much, stay safe and hopefully I'll see you again soon.”

Harry sat stunned for a couple of minutes before he realized what the figure had said about a fail-safe. He figured he didn't really want to stick around to find out what it was.

He scrambled around the chair, wand in one hand and the photo in the other. Where did the Cup go? He was sure he had heard it drop to the ground when he had arrived here, would it work to get him back? Harry swept his lit wand back and forth trying to catch a glimpse of- there! Hidden by one of the sheets, the handle peaking out. Harry looked once more at the frame in his hand before he pulled the photo out of it to make it easier to put in his pocket, and less likely that he’d lose it. An explosion sounded from somewhere upstairs and Harry grabbed the Cup, only slightly prepared for the uncomfortable pulling sensation of a portkey.

He landed in an odd field where the maze used to stand, only recognizable by the stands surrounding him. The maze seemed to have been vanished to somewhere as people swarmed over to where he had reappeared. Sound seemed to come in a rush after a brief moment of blessed silence. People yelling and questions overlapping one another making them wholly indecipherable. Harry felt dizzy and wondered absently what effect using portkeys for travel in quick succession had on the human body.

Hands were helping him stand up while Dumbledore was asking what had happened. Harry didn’t know what to say as he wasn’t even sure himself what had happened. It didn’t help that things were a blur since his glasses got knocked off from his second landing.

“I’ll get Harry here to the hospital wing, Dumbledore. Don’t worry, I’ve got him-” another voice said by his ear.

“No, I believe it would be better if-”

“Fudge is coming this way Albus. Don’t you think- someone should tell him-”

“Harry, stay here-” said Dumbledore as he went to intercept the minister.

“Come on Harry, to the hospital wing with you-”

“Dumbledore said to stay-”

“You need to lie down, come on now…” the voice said, half carrying and half dragging him away from the crowd. As they made their way up the steps of the castle the familiar clunk of Moody’s wooden leg reached his ears. “Tell me what happened Harry. Tell me everything.”

“The Cup was a portkey… took me to a house…” Harry felt himself being settled into a chair and his glasses being set on his face. He was glad they hadn’t been lost or stepped on.

“Here, drink this. It’ll help.” Moody said, passing Harry a vial. Harry swallowed it, coughing at the peppery taste, but he had to admit it did help clear his head a bit. “Now tell me everything Harry. I need to know.”

“There was a house and a hologram… It didn’t make a lot of sense…”

“What’s a hologram? Nevermind. Was there a message? Was the Dark Lord there?”

“The Dark Lord?” Harry asked, looking at Moody with a thoroughly confused and slightly panicked expression. “Why would the Dark Lord have been there? What’s going on? How did I end up- wherever that place was?”

“There must have been some kind of message. He told me to get you there and then I’d know what needed to be done after. Tell me Potter, what was the message!” The expression on Moody’s face could only be described as manic, his eye was bulging, his scars twisting.

Harry was truly frightened at this point as he had no clue where his wand went and it seemed as though Moody had cracked entirely. Harry figured his best bet would be to lie and stall until someone could find them. “So you were the one to change the Cup into a portkey…?” he asked hesitantly.

“Originally on Dumbledore’s orders. He was going to use you to make the world think that the Dark Lord was back. Then I got word that if I managed to get you to that location then I’d receive the information I need to find my Lord.”

“But why would Dumbledore want the world to think Voldemort was back if he wasn’t?”

“Power over the people. People who are afraid are easier to manipulate and control. It’s been over a decade and people are starting to forget their fear, starting to forget why they need a man like Dumbledore. So he decided to remind them but having the real thing is much too dangerous, ideas he can control, people are more unpredictable. Which is why I now need to know what you found there Potter and if you won’t tell me willingly-” Moody raised his wand but before he managed to cast any spells the door to his office was blasted open and conjured ropes tied Moody securely to the nearest chair.

Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape walked in, wands at the ready, faces stern. McGonagall moved over to Harry and gave him a quick once over, “Come along Potter, let’s get you to the hospital wing.”

“No.” said Dumbledore. Harry glanced at him and shuddered at the cold look he wore. Not a twinkle nor a knowing smile graced his face, simply a silent fury aimed at the false Moody.

“Surely the boy’s been through enough, Albus. He needs to rest-”

“No Minerva, what he needs is to understand. We could all benefit from some light being shed on the situation. If you would Severus, your strongest Truth Potion, and perhaps by the time you return his Polyjuice Potion will have worn off. Minerva, if you could fetch the black dog that is currently sitting in Hagrid’s garden and escort him to my office? Thank you.”

Both Severus and Minerva gave Dumbledore uncertain looks before heading off to complete the tasks they had been given. Meanwhile Dumbledore walked over to a trunk with seven locks on it. As he used his wand to unlock them a different collection of items were revealed within each compartment. In the last one however was a deep pit, and in the bottom of that pit laid an unconscious man.

“Harry, my dear boy, would you bring that cloak over so we may cover the real Alastor Moody. It appears he could use a bit of extra warmth until we are able to bring him up.” Harry did as asked, albeit warily. When he looked in he could see a man that looked like the one in the chair but missing a leg and one eye, if the sunken lid was anything to go by. He was also only wearing the bare essentials for clothes which is probably why the Headmaster had requested the cloak for him.

When Snape had returned the false Moody no longer looked like Moody, instead a young man with pale skin and straw coloured hair sat before them. Harry had a nagging feeling that the man looked vaguely familiar but couldn’t quite place him. Dumbledore showed little surprise at the man’s identity as he cast a rennervate, causing the man to jolt in his seat. Before the man could speak McGonagall returned, followed closely by Fudge and a handful of other people that spilled into the hallway as there simply wasn’t enough room.

Dumbledore eyed the crowd warily before nodding to Severus to administer the Veritaserum. While the potion took effect Dumbledore spoke briefly with Fudge before starting the interrogation. Harry looked on with trepidation, unsure if he really wanted to be here for this but at the same time knowing that he didn’t have much choice in the matter.

“Please state your full name.” Dumbledore asked, beginning with a few preliminary questions to ensure the serum was working.

“Bartemius Crouch Junior.”

And from there Dumbledore asked questions about his escape from Azkaban and about his father’s disappearance. What Harry found odd though was when Crouch Jr talked about changing the Cup into a portkey he seemed to choke on his words, giving Dumbledore a sharper glare before rewording his answer.

“The portkey was originally supposed to take Harry to a graveyard to ‘witness’ the Dark Lord’s return. You told me- ack- I made sure Potter was given the tools he needed to succeed in the Tournament.”

“Then why didn’t Harry witness this return. I would think he’d have told us immediately if that was the case?” asked Dumbledore with a side glance at Harry, who stood pale faced next to McGonagall, eyes watching the imposter carefully.

“I found other evidence of my Lord’s return, and since you-”

“I think we’ve heard enough.” Dumbledore said, casting a silencing spell upon Crouch Jr and waving his hand to beckon someone forward. As the room chilled and a gripping terror began to spread it was clear that the ‘someone’ was actually a dementor. The Kiss was swiftly administered and Barty Crouch Jr sat staring blankly at the wall just behind Harry, his maniacal grimace still etched on his face.

“Headmaster, I will be taking Harry to the hospital wing now.” McGonagall said, lips pursed with held back emotions. Dumbledore merely inclined his head before turning to speak to the crowd behind him. Harry didn’t notice much besides bits and pieces; a black bowler hat clutched tightly in Fudge’s fist, red horn-rimmed glasses, a fur-lined cape swishing down the hall.

“Professor… what- what’ll happen to the real Moody now?” Harry asked.

McGonagall hesitated at first before figuring that it may bring Potter some peace of mind to know, “They’ll probably take him to St Mungos to have him looked over. By the sounds of it he’s been in that case for the whole school year, if not longer, so he’ll have to go through a number of evaluations before he’s cleared.”

Harry merely nodded before lapsing into silence. It wasn’t long before Harry found himself in the familiar care of Madam Pomfrey. Her hands guiding him to a bed and bustling around him, pushing a calming draught into his hands. Harry drank it gratefully despite the horrid taste.

Hermione barged in not long after Professor McGonagall had left, with dry tear tracks still staining her face. “Oh, Harry! I’m so glad you're alright! We were terrified when you disappeared from the maze. Krum looked so devastated, though most people think it's because you got to the Cup first...”

“What happened after- after I disappeared?”

“Well the maze fell away, as it was apparently meant to, in order to reveal the winner. Krum was sitting on the ground but where the Cup and winner were supposed to be was just a slight rift left behind by the portkey! The judges and the Headmaster were just about to summon some aurors to analyze and follow the portkey trail but you had re-appeared before that happened. Where did you go?”

“I don’t know… it was a house somewhere…” and Harry remembered the photo he had brought back with him, pulling it out of his pocket. Madam Pomfrey chose that moment to shoo Hermione out and handed Harry a vial of Dreamless Sleep. Just before sleep overtook him the hospital wing doors opened to reveal Dumbledore. The man didn’t say anything. He simply opened the door wider to let in Padfoot, who bounded over to Harry giving the boy an enthusiastic lick before settling down at his feet.

=^-^=

The next morning Harry woke slowly to the sound of whispered yelling. “You can’t just barge in here like that! Madam Pomfrey said he needs to rest which means you need to leave. Now.” said Hermione, her hushed voice easing him into consciousness despite the angry tone.

“-But look he’s already waking up! I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I sat by him, I’m his friend too after all!”

“If you’re his friend where have you been all year? Beside spreading lies coloured by your jealousy!”

“Guys, if you could stop for a bit, I’d appreciate it.” Harry said, sitting up and looking around. He noticed the hazy shape of his glasses upon the nightstand and put them on. Hermione came into focus followed by Ron who was standing behind her.

“How ya feeling, mate? Gave us all quite the scare, you did.” said Ron, looking at Harry with an excited expression.

“Feeling better than last night, I suppose.” he replied as Hermione poured him a glass of juice before sitting in the single chair by his bed, Ron perching himself at the foot where Sirius had slept the night. Padfoot was gone now to Harry’s dismay. He had hoped to be able to speak to his godfather before he left again.

“Blimey, it must have been terrifying, seeing You-Know-Who return! What was it like?”

“What’s this about Voldemort returning?” asked a now confused Harry.

“Everyone’s talking about it after Dumbledore announced the return of the Dark Lord. And since you’re here in the hospital wing, you must’ve been involved somehow. You can tell me, we’re still friends after all, right?”

“Look… Ron… I don’t think we’ve counted each other as friends in months. And no, I didn’t see Voldemort or any Death Eaters or anything. Crouch Jr changed the Cup into a portkey but all it did was take me to an old abandoned house. Nothing happened before I grabbed the Cup and it brought me back.”

“You shouldn’t have to explain yourself, Harry.” Hermione said with a glare in Ron’s direction.

“I might as well begin squashing rumours, seeing as they’ve already started.” Harry said with a shrug.

“So what are you trying to say? That Dumbledore’s lying?” asked Ron, his eyes narrowing and his tone indignant.

“Maybe Dumbledore has some other evidence? I don’t know what happened after I got here but whatever it was doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

“This is just like the Goblet of Fire all over again! You say you didn't do anything when it’s obvious you did. You know what, I bet you helped You-Know-Who come back!” said Ron who was once again standing, his fists clenched at his sides.

Ronald Bilius Weasley. How dare you throw such accusations around. Just wait until your father hears about this! And Harry, dear, it’s good to see you're doing alright.” said Mrs Weasley as she marched towards the trio, Bill and Charlie following leisurely behind.

Ron sputtered as his face went red with shame. When he realized none of the people around him would stand up for him he stormed off through the hospital wing doors. Harry thanked Mrs Weasley shyly, feeling second hand embarrassment from Ron’s clumsy departure. They all chatted for a short while before Madam Pomfrey came around with another round of potions.

It wasn’t until the following afternoon that Harry finally got to leave the hospital wing. Hermione came to get him, followed once again by Ron.

“Hey mate, sorry about the other day.” Ron said, not actually looking at Harry but his fists were still clenched, making Harry think that his mother probably made him come to apologize.

“Whatever Ron.” Harry said dismissively as he shrugged on his robe and checked his bag that Hermione had brought him.

“Look, you can’t just brush me off like that! I said I was sorry!”

“How many times have you had to say sorry Ron?” asked Hermione, stepping in between the two glaring boys. “How many times will we give you our friendship only for you to throw it in our faces again and again?”

“No need for you to get into-”

“No! You do not get a say in what I get myself into. This has to end Ronald. You’ve made your apology, now leave!”

“Now listen here-”

SMACK

Ron stood shocked as a red handprint blossomed on his face. He looked at Harry for a moment as if expecting him to say something in his defence. Harry, however, wasn’t looking at either of them. The floor pattern had become suddenly very interesting, and oh look, a little caterpillar was climbing up the leg of his nightstand.

“I bloody swear, this isn’t the end of this.” Ron said lowly before he stormed off again, extremely similar to the last time he had visited but with less of an audience and more anger than embarrassment.

“I better head out… Catch up on any homework I’ve missed…”

“I can help-”

“Thanks Hermione, but I could use some time to myself for a bit…” Harry said, not looking at her. He hated to admit it but Hermione slapping Ron had shaken him a bit and he wanted some time to sort out why. Maybe he could take up Charlie on his offer to write.

Harry made his way up to Gryffindor Tower and from there made his way through the reading room, glad that there seemed to be very few people about. They were probably out enjoying the sunny Saturday weather, he thought to himself. Harry barely spoke to the portrait of Valeria Myriadd, who seemed to understand his pensive mood, before he was in the abandoned bathroom once again.

He needed to think and what better way than to go for a swim. Harry disrobed quickly, leaving his clothes in a messy pile by his bag, and propped the photo he took from the house on the edge of the tub before sinking in. He took a few moments just to enjoy the feeling of calm that the water gave him, soaking into his skin as it rippled into scales. It was hard to believe that he had only learned of this place a few short days ago.

Harry realized that he really needed someone to talk to about what happened at that house. His first thought was once again wishing he could talk to Ron and feeling so disappointed in the boy’s attitude. And then there was his anxious feelings about talking to Hermione. No, he’d have to sort that out before he could talk to her about what happened at the house. He couldn’t face Viktor just yet either, and the other schools would be leaving any day now anyway.

Maybe he could talk to Sirius… but the man hadn’t bothered to stick around after last night and who knew where he had gone off to. Would Sirius even know who the other man was? Harry looked at the photo again. The stranger brushed a hand along baby Harry’s cheek as his father smiled up at him.

Harry then remembered something Sirius had mentioned all those months ago. Something about his dad dating some bloke in secret while he was still in school. Could this be the same man? But the way Sirius had talked about it, he hardly knew anything about the Mystery Man.

Harry’s next thought was to go ask Dumbledore but the Mystery Man’s message was clearly warning his dad away from the Headmaster. But why? Dumbledore had always been the one to help him out. He was the closest thing Harry had to a parental figure but despite that he felt the warning was sincere. Harry felt so frustrated, now he’d need to figure out who that man was and what the message meant before he could figure out which adults he could trust again.

Harry pushed off the edge of the tub and dived down, running his fingers along the tiles as he swam laps. Maybe he could just do what the man suggested and ask Snape? As terrifying as the idea was perhaps it was his most reasonable option. And besides, Snape had somewhat apologized to him that one time in the hospital wing… Maybe it was a sign of acceptance? Or it could have been a moment of weakness. After all, his potions classes after that hadn’t changed much. Okay, maybe Snape didn’t call on him for answers he didn’t know as much as before but he couldn’t say the man could be considered approachable.

But what other choices did he have? He thought again of writing to Charlie but had no clue what to say and doubted that Charlie would really be able to help with this problem anyway. Well, Charlie might not be able to help with the Mystery Man problem but maybe he could with how he was feeling about Hermione, and then tomorrow he could go talk to Snape.

With that decided Harry spent the rest of his day swimming, studying, and writing the letter to Charlie (which admittedly took quite a few drafts before Harry was comfortable enough to send it). Though still somewhat nervous about tomorrow’s conversation with Snape he fell asleep fairly easily that night with tired muscles and a content smile.

Chapter Text

The following evening found Harry pacing back and forth in front of Snape’s office. He realized that even though he had decided to try and talk to Snape he had no clue what to say. What if he just kicked him out of his office? Maybe he should just leave now and try to figure it out on his own…

He was saved from having to decide when a voice came up behind him. “Potter. To what do I owe this….pleasure?” said Snape, tone dripping in disdain and sarcasm.

“Umm… I need to ask you something…”

“This couldn’t have waited until normal school hours? You had to impede on the only time I get to be blessedly student free?”

“What can you tell me about this man?” asked Harry, ignoring Snape’s question while passing him the photo.

“Even you can’t be so dense as to not recognize your father. You are a spitting image of him after all.”

Harry bravely rolled his eyes at Snape before replying, “Not him, the other man.”

Snape glanced at the photo briefly. “Perhaps we should speak about this in my office.” he said, sweeping past Harry and opening the door. Once they had settled on opposite sides of the desk Snape cast some privacy wards and continued, “Tell me what you know.”

“Not much. The Triwizard Cup, it took me to a house and this photo was there. Then this man’s image appeared telling my dad to take me and find you. So I figured you’d be the one to ask about all this.” Harry said uncomfortably, shifting in his seat and wishing he had left while he had the chance, his brief courage fleeing him. The feeling only got worse as Snape just sat there staring at him.

Snape let out a terribly long sigh and then looked back at the photo still in his hand. “That’s your papa. At least that's what your father taught you to call him when you were young. An absolutely undignified name for a Dark Lord in my opinion.” Snape said, muttering the last sentence under his breath.

“Wait… What?!” Harry said jumping up and knocking his chair over.

“Based on your reaction I'd say you heard me just fine. Then again perhaps you've inherited your father's panache for selective hearing.”

“You just said my other dad was the Dark Lord. Did you forget that the Dark Lord killed my mum and dad?! Well even if she wasn't my real mum she was still my mum! I mean. It's crazy, you're crazy! I'm crazy for even thinking of coming here!” Harry yelled, stalking towards the door. Snape cast a locking charm at it causing Harry to turn and glare at him.

“Perhaps you should take the time to listen before you go running off with half baked concepts. Especially since you were the one to come to me and I am for once in a forgiving enough mood to indulge your late attempts at learning about your family.” Snape growled at Harry, trying so hard to muster the patience he needed to get the boy to listen instead of just kicking him out like he wanted to.

Harry slunk back to the desk, pulling the chair off the floor before sitting down and pointedly avoiding looking at Snape. Snape released an exasperated sigh. “Where do I even start.” he said, tapping his fingers on the desk and glaring at the photo. Damn Tom for leaving him in this situation.

“Do- I mean- do you know how it started? How they got together?” Harry asked timidly. The whole idea might sound absolutely ridiculous but… what if it was true? Besides, don't they say that reality is sometimes stranger than fiction?

“I don't know how they met. It was around the time that Tom was recruiting students for after they'd graduated. I don't believe James ever took the mark, though, like the rest of us prospective recruits…” nostalgia bitterly coloured Snape’s tone.

“You mean you're- you're a-"

“Yes, I was a Death Eater.” he replied with exasperation which then turned into contemplation. “So much has changed though that I don't rightly know if I would or wouldn’t still call myself that. The lines are so blurred these days… Moving along. They courted and at some point after we had all graduated they had you.

“Lily on the other hand was my best friend until our fifth year, when she became increasingly obsessed with Potter. She had deluded herself into thinking she'd be marrying him after we had all graduated. Then she found out about Potter’s relationship with Tom and she ran to Dumbledore with a tale about ‘James being lured to the Dark’ and how they ‘needed an auror like James on their side’.

“It wasn’t until three years after that they put some kind of plan into motion. Suddenly Potter was, or appeared to be, in love with Lily and living with her and you in Godric’s Hollow. Tom became so irrationally angry, no one could understand what was happening. He would crucio anyone who tried to speak to him.

“Next thing we know Godric’s Hollow is nearly blown up, James and Lily are both dead, Tom had disappeared without a trace, and Dumbledore was off taking you to Lily’s relatives.”

Harry sat there stunned, mouth hanging open. Snape used to be, and might possibly still be a Death Eater. His dad had been in love with the Dark Lord. His mum wasn’t his mum as he had already figured out, but now she had somehow conned James in to loving her? And somehow Dumbledore was also involved in all this shady business?

“Why… why would my dad try to kill me?” Harry whispered so quietly that Snape had almost missed what he had said.

“What? No. The Dark Lord had tried to save you and your father-”

No.

No, this was too much.

Harry had to return to the Dursley’s every summer because of some kind of blood protection from Lily sacrificing herself to save him. If the blood wards were a lie then Harry had suffered all those years for nothing. Would continue to suffer because who else would take a freak like him in? He vaguely heard some kind of noise and when his eyes finally focused Snape had suddenly appeared in front of him, causing him to startle. That’s when he finally realized that Snape was calling his name and asking him to breathe. He focused on those small commands.

“...breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out. That’s it Harry.”

The lightheadedness went away slowly, though the slight shaking persisted. Snape kept on with the encouraging commands for a short while longer before asking, “What is it Harry? What part are you having a hard time with?”

No one could accuse Snape of being kind or gentle but in this moment of Harry’s vulnerability, he couldn’t bring himself to be anything else which irked him greatly. He was the bat of the dungeons for heaven’s sake! Most feared professor in Hogwarts! Students did not come to him for emotional comfort! But here he was, caressing Harry’s hands and coaxing him out of a panic attack. His train of thought derailed as Harry spoke.

“Dum- Dumbledore said- he said I had to return to the Dursley’s every summer because of the blood protection. But if Lily didn’t die to save me- that means there’s no blood connection between my aunt and me…”

“Though it is odd to place a magical child with muggle relatives perhaps Dumbledore figured a muggle family would be better than no-”

“-No! I can’t go back there! Please!” Harry cried out, reversing their hands so that Harry was now gripping Snape’s instead.

“Harry… I-” Snape faltered, unsure of what to say. “I can’t promise anything. Even if I found a way there’s not enough time before summer begins to get it through the legal system…. But I’ll look to see what can be done… For now go and find your friends, enjoy your last week here.”

Harry nodded numbly before pulling his hands away from Snape and walking out of the potion master’s office. He didn’t actually want to see anyone right now, he felt far too emotionally drained. Harry decided to go far a nap, perhaps he’d spend even his afternoon swimming.

Meanwhile the normally dour man knelt a moment longer in front of the now empty chair before sweeping himself to his private rooms to pour himself a glass of Swotts & Swotts because heaven knew he needed it right now.

Harry may have to return to those wretched Dursley’s but Severus was determined to find a way to get him out as soon as possible. Getting custody through the courts would take far too long but if what Crouch Jr said was true, that the Dark Lord has truly returned…. Snape needed to find the man and get him to take back custody.

With a goal set and a plan forming he went on to pour himself another scotch or two before retiring for the remainder of the day.

=^-^=

July 1st, 1995

Harry,

It’s great to hear from you again though I’m sorry to hear how lonely it’s been. It must feel difficult to talk to Hermione about it when you feel happy that she’s making other friends, even if it’s with someone you’re not particularly fond of. Maybe try spending time with her and Draco? Maybe he’s one of those people that are an acquired taste, like natto or surströmming!

I’m glad the room we showed you is coming in handy! I think Bill had a spell or something to change the design. If you’d like I can ask him for it. I don’t know if we mentioned but you can also ask Prof Myriadd to lock down the room while you're in there. Even though I’m sure no one else knows about the room, it doesn’t hurt to be safe.

Speaking of safe… The twins have talked to me about Ron… They say he’s been fuming the last few days and I’m worried that he’ll try something nasty so keep an eye out. That’s the main reason why I suggested sticking with Hermione and Draco, safety in numbers. Also with Draco being from a family as notorious as the Malfoy’s he’s bound to know some handy tricks to help keep you safe (which I’m betting he will if he’s trying to get close to Hermione).

Also thanks for telling me the story about the rabbit Flopsy. She sounds like she was a good friend to your protagonist and I’m sorry to hear that she got lost. Did she get lost because of the villains? Did Flopsy get hurt by them too? Maybe you can also tell me about his first friend(s) after Flopsy disappeared.

I can’t wait to hear from you again! I hope to get plenty of letters over the summer but I can understand if you can’t. Remember though, if it becomes too much for you just send me an owl and I’ll come to get you.

Your friend,

Charlie.

Chapter Text

Harry lay under Petunia’s hydrangea bush in an attempt to stay cool in the blistering summer heat. He was supposed to be trimming the roses in the back but really there was nothing left to trim as they had mostly withered away in the drought. And despite there being nothing Harry could reasonably do to revive them he knew he’d still get a beating for it.

This summer had been terrible so far. The Dursley’s had seemed to get over their fear of Sirius and had locked away his trunk in the cupboard under the stairs as soon as they had arrived at number four Privet Drive. They had installed even more locks on his bedroom door and only let him out for chores. Hedwig also had to suffer, locked in her cage. Though their new friend Tris had managed to stay hidden and would go out hunting for Hedwig every night, bringing her various mice, birds, or lizards.

Despite the company Tris provided, Harry missed his friends terribly. Charlie had been somewhat right in that Malfoy was an “acquired taste”, the boy was arrogant and spiteful but also seemed to be loyal to his allies. The night before the leaving feast Draco, Hermione, and Harry had been sitting in the library when Harry had first heard the boy laugh genuinely at something Hermione had said. Harry didn’t want to think about the feeling that it had elicited, especially as he had realized that Draco was definitely interested in Hermione.

Speaking of Charlie, with Hedwig locked up he hadn’t been able to send a single letter. And unless he wanted to be charged with underage magic he couldn’t even spell it open to send the letter asking Charlie to take him away.

So Harry spent most of his free time going over the revelations from his final week at Hogwarts.

Lord Voldemort, also known as the Dark Lord, was his Papa. James was still is Dad but Lily had somehow gotten James to fall in love with her? They had died when Tom had tried to save James and him...

That brought up the question of where Tom had been for all these years since then? Why hadn’t he come for Harry? Why had his Papa left him with people like the Dursley’s? Tears welled up in his eyes. It was one thing to believe he was an orphan and thinking that’s what led to him being in this situation, but it was quite another to think that his father had abandoned him…

Then there were his feelings for Snape… The man had been downright nice to Harry when he had gone to speak to him. Even offering to find a way to get him away from the Dursley’s. Harry felt too cynical to think that Snape would actually follow through on it but it was a considerate gesture that he hadn’t expected from the man. Also if Dumbledore was behind everything why was Snape working for him?

Harry was about to start on another train of thought when Vernon yelled at him from inside the house to get supper started. He groaned as he sat up, bumping his head on the shelf above him. The bump caused one of the flower pots to fall and crash to the ground resulting in more yelling from inside. Harry quickly scrambled around the side of the house to appear at the back door, hoping he wouldn’t be blamed for the pot.

Of course Harry wasn’t that lucky. The moment he stepped in through the back door a hand grabbed the right side of his head and slammed it into the kitchen counter to his left. His ears began ringing so he missed whatever it was that Vernon was yelling at him now. A knee came up and slammed into his stomach as he caught the man telling him to “get to work!” before he walked out towards the living room.

Harry gave a slight groan of pain before straightening up and getting around to making supper. It probably hurt worse than it normally would have since he was still fairly tender from this morning’s beating when he had burnt Dudley’s toast.

Harry quickly finished preparing the Dursley’s supper and set it all on the table before heading back up to his room. Soon after he heard his locks clicking into place and a can of cold soup pushed in through the cat flap.

Once he had finished his meagre supper he lay down on his hard, lumpy bed, though he didn't go to sleep right away. Once again a myriad of questions swirled in his head, firstly about what evidence Dumbledore had that Voldemort had returned. Surely he wasn’t solely going off what a deranged Death Eater had said just before he was ‘kissed’? He wouldn’t inform the whole school, and all of wizarding Britain, of his return unless he had more solid evidence… and Crouch Jr hadn’t even said that he was back, just that he was close to finding him.

Harry partially hoped that the “Dark Lord” was back so that he could confront the man about why he abandoned him as a baby. But the other part of him was scared to acknowledge it, thinking of just ignoring it and leaving it all for someone else to deal with.

Ignoring it had been hard to do during his last week of school as the Daily Prophet, along with a few other minor publications, printed stories every day about “You-Know-Who’s Return”, speculations on where he could be and what he could be up to, forcing Harry to think on how such a supposedly evil man could be his father. Dumbledore had said that Tom couldn’t understand love but Snape had said that he had loved James. What was the truth?

Harry was minutely glad he wasn’t receiving any post now so that he didn’t have to be reminded about it… but if he could he would’ve put up with it if it had meant also receiving letters from his friends.

He tossed and turned for a while longer before falling into a fitful sleep.

The next few days passed much the same way. It wasn’t until a week and some before his birthday that something happened. Harry sighed at the thought of his rotten “Potter Luck” before pulling Dudley up off the ground and half leading/half dragging him away from the dementor that had appeared at the opposite end of the alley that Dudley had been beating him up in.

Harry wasn’t sure if it was mere luck that they had escaped because the dementor hadn’t moved towards them right away. It seemed to merely observe for long enough that it’s presence began to effect Dudley and it was only as Harry started to move them away did the creature begin to advance on them.

It didn’t follow them onto the main street though. Even though it wasn’t particularly busy there were still enough muggles around to keep it from wanting to draw notice. Unfortunately with the dementor now gone Dudley came to one or two of his senses and ran the rest of the way home. Harry, in no rush to see what trouble he’d get into over this debacle, followed at a slower pace.

=^-^=

Severus Snape strode down the dark and dreary lane, filled with boarded up buildings and torn apart signs. None of the streets had names in this area, maybe to prevent people purposely looking for this shady corner of the world.

A few turns and he had come to the front steps of a house that looked like much of the rest of the area. Decrepit and falling apart. Snape rose a hand to knock on the door when it opened without him even laying a knuckle upon the old wood. Lights flickered into existence, leading him down a hall and to a lounge room where Tom sat in a comfortable looking armchair, sipping some tea.

“Welcome Severus! I was starting to lose hope that you’d find me!” Tom chuckled smugly.

“You could have contacted me first. Instead you lead me on one wild goose chase after another.” Severus grumbled as he settled himself on the chaise opposite from his Lord.

“Where would be the fun in that? Besides I’ve needed some time to get things set up.” Tom said before standing and spreading his arms out wide, “Meet Thomas Sayre, the newest member of the Office of Quill Control and Rune Translation! Madam Miraforum was quite pleased with my credentials.”

“And meanwhile your son suffers at the hands of muggles.” Severus intoned disapprovingly. Tom’s eyes narrowed at the statement.

“What do you mean.” he asked sharply, his earlier playful mood gone without a trace.

“Apparently Dumbledore had left the boy with Lily’s sister and her husband. I myself have only recently learned of the abuse and had figured finding you would be faster than trying to arrange alternative custody arrangements that wouldn’t be intercepted by the meddling old fool. Except I had to chase you all over the country.” Severus growled. Tom sat down rather suddenly while mumbling a curse.

“What was I supposed to do? Pull him out of Hogwarts to get to know him, while he was under a magical contract in the Triwizard Tournament? I can just imagine how well a letter would have gone over. Or should I have revealed myself under Dumbledore’s nose to see him there? … Once I had learned more about my Hadrian, about his role in today’s society… well I never would have thought Dumbledore had put his “golden boy” in a dangerous home situation… I would’ve thought he’d have him raised with a light family if anything...”

Tom paused, deep in thought for a moment, and Severus let him work out his emotions since he understood that neither of them had ever been particularly good at expressing them. “We have to find him. Immediately.” Tom finally said after a minute or two of silence.

“And how do you propose we do that? No doubt Albus has placed various masking wards on the residence.”

“Blood magic of course. Blood can always find blood.” He said as he stood and walked to the small library he had amassed. He knew exactly what he would need for this. He grabbed a book off the shelf, opening it and setting it down on a desk before digging through a drawer to find a dark metal band inscribed with runes and a pale, almost clear stone. “Ducere Sanguinem Sanguini” he cast as he nicked his finger, dropping a single bead of blood onto the gem in the ring. Within a moment a blue light created a two inch line to his left.

“I'm sure you've at least found out approximately where he is? And then this will lead us the rest of the way.” Severus nodded in response to the first statement, leading the way outside before grabbing Tom’s arm and disapparating away.

A maze of identical houses greeted them and they cast quick disillusionment charms on themselves. The ring led them in what felt like circles before they found what seemed to be the right street which was called Privet Drive. When the ring finally directed them to number four they heard a loud crash and yelling from within.

They gave each other a concerned look before approaching the house, still under disillusionment. Just as they opened the front door a body flew from the entryway on the left directly into the stairwell on the right. There was an unpleasant crunching sound on impact and barely a response from the body after.

Recognizing the now limp form as Harry, they quickly shed their illusionment charms. Snape rushed to perform a diagnostic on Harry while Tom raised his wand to the Dursley’s.

“You’re one of those freaks!” yelled Vernon, “We want none of your kind around here! You hear me! Bad enough you left that waste of space with us, I tell you! WE SHAN’T HAVE ANYMORE OF THIS NONSENSE!!

Another voice joined his, though this one far more shrill and nearly headache inducing, “What have you done to my poor Diddykins! You FREAK! You undo whatever it is you did to him this instant!” she yelled at the boy on the stairs though he couldn’t hear her. Meanwhile “Diddykins” was sitting on the floor behind her muttering about being cold and never being able to feel happy again.

Tom raised an eyebrow at the boy, understanding that what he saw there were most likely the effects of a dementor attack but he didn’t have much time to ponder that thought. He cast a silencing spell on the atrocious muggles. Vernon realizing what had been done to them went to throw a punch at Tom, but before his fist could meet flesh he found himself pinned to the wall by invisible bands. Petunia, realizing their predicament ran into the sitting room, slamming the door behind her in an attempt at shielding her and her son from whatever unnaturalness might happen next.

Tom was about to threaten Vernon when Severus interrupted him, “Tom, I need you to get us out of here. I’m focusing my magic on preventing his brain from hemorrhaging, we’ll probably have to call in Poppy or another healer that you trust. Just get us somewhere safe for now.” he said as he closed his eyes and refocused his magic on the boy. He knew how to keep blood from spilling away from where he wanted it to be but not how to repair the vessels themselves, at least not with pure magic... but taking the time to look up the spells needed would take too long. They needed a healer desperately, Snape couldn’t even diverge any magic to look at the broken bones he was sure the boy had, otherwise he’d drain himself too quickly.

He felt the sensations usually brought on by side-along apparition and focused on making sure his magic didn’t disconnect from Harry. Though the unusually strong intensity of the sensations led him to believe they were travelling quite the distance, possibly even leaving Britain entirely. A feat that would have greatly impressed him had he not been so focused on keeping Harry alive.

Snape briefly opened his eyes to ensure Harry hadn’t been jostled too much and to lay him flat on the french oak flooring that he was now kneeling on. He didn’t bother to take in his surroundings before closing his eyes and once again focusing his magic.

Tom on the other hand headed for the door to see who he could find. Luckily for him he hadn’t needed to find anyone as Narcissa Malfoy strode into the room to see who had so violently torn down their wards in order to enter their home. Upon seeing the Dark Lord she sent off a patronus to her husband before giving their Lord a deep curtsy.

“No time for that Lady Malfoy, we need a healer. Now. Someone you can trust to be… discrete if needed.” Tom informed her as he moved to kneel by Harry. He reached for his son’s hand but was stopped by Severus.

“I’m not entirely sure what is or isn’t injured.” he said quickly before resuming his previous pose. Tom grimly nodded, not even noticing as Narcissa rushed out towards the Floo Parlour. It wasn’t much longer before both adult Malfoys returned with two healers.

The healers didn’t even speak, merely shooed Tom out of the way and ran their own diagnostics. The female healer with golden hair laid a hand on Severus’ shoulder before speaking gently, “Tu as bien fait, je peux le prendre d’ici.”

“She’ll take over, Sev.” Narcissa summarized for them. Severus moved off to the side as the male healer opened a case of potions. Some he recognized, such as a variation of dreamless sleep, Skele-gro, etc. Others were a mystery which made him quite nervous. There weren’t many potions that Severus could not recognize and the majority of those had to do with specialized medicinal potions employed by St Mungos, though perhaps the French had secrets he had yet to discover. One by one the potions were magicked into Harry, whose pale complexion improved steadily to their relief. After the potions had been administered the male healer hovered his wrinkled hands above Harry to join the woman in weaving pure magic to heal the most threatening injuries.

What felt like hours later the healers finally sat back, taking only a moment to breathe before levitating Harry and turning to Narcissa, “Où pouvons-nous mettre le garçon à récupérer?” the older healer asked, his tone revealing how exhausted the entire procedure had left him. The lady of the house led them away.

Tom sank into a chair as Severus and Lucius settled in various seats opposite him.

“May I ask what Harry Potter is doing here in my summer home? Not to say that I am not honoured by your presence my Lord, but you must understand the questions you have brought with you...” Lucius asked as politely as possible.

You!” Tom turned on Lucius, noticing the Lord of the House and sitting up regally in his seat, “First of all, might I remind you that he is Heir Gaunt as well as Heir Potter and why wasn’t he with you to begin with! You’re his Godfather for heaven’s sake!”

“I’m who’s what now?” Lucius asked, all sense of nobility gone from his speech in his befuddlement. Severus mumbled about Dumbledore’s meddling while Tom slumped back in his seat.

“This will all need to be sorted out by the Goblins then, damn it.” Tom growled as he gleaned from Severus’ mumbling what must have happened, “Who is Harry’s supposed Godfather then?”

“The reckless mutt, Sirius Black. Though I very much doubt he’d be able to care for a gerbil let alone a child.” Severus sneered.

“Yes, that’s why James had agreed to let me choose his Godfather.” Tom chuckled, “He was quite concerned about offending his friends and used me as his scapegoat. He got to choose Harry’s Godmother, Alice Longbottom.”

“Though I suppose that would fall to the Dowager Longbottom now if she’ll accept…” they all nodded grimly in response. Narcissa came back into the room then, sinking elegantly next to her husband. They looked at her expectantly.

“Possible concussion, multiple broken bones including old ones that hadn’t healed properly the first time, vicious scarring, severe malnutrition… honestly there’s far too much to list. They have him in a healing coma for now and said they’d check in on him daily. And yes I made them swear an oath of secrecy.” she said as Tom opened his mouth to ask. He nodded his head gratefully. “How…”

Tom sat up again as he remembered what the muggles were yelling at the house, “It looks like they, or at least the muggles’ son, encountered a dementor. The muggles had thought Harry had caused the effects…”

“Dementors in a muggle neighborhood? What would one be doing there?”

“I don’t know, but it does remind me that I need to take care of some trash.” Tom said as he stood up and disapparated.

Lucius pinched the bridge of his nose, “This time I'll wait until he returns to put up the wards. I might even make him help.”

*~*~*

Meanwhile Tom had apparated to the Dursley’s front door. The house was silent now but the door was cracked open, Tom was glad they hadn't tried to leave. He stepped into the house and immediately realized something was wrong.

A dark aura was emanating from the sitting room to the left. He approached cautiously. A disheveled man stood in the center of the room, back towards the hallway. He wore a ragged cloak full of holes, his black hair was tangled and matted. The wall in front of him was a mosaic of blood, bone, and gore. It was almost artistic in an abstract way.

A quiet feminine sobbing could be heard, just out of sight. The voice was begging, saying ‘please’ over and over again, but it was barely recognizable as human speech. Tom heard the man muttering. “He’s your nephew! Why would you do all that to your nephew? Where is he now?! Where’d he GO?!” he began yelling, Petunia simply whimpered in response.

Tom crossed over to the other side of the doorway, catching a glimpse of Petunia slumped against the wall. Most of her left cheek was missing which was causing the mutilated speech. Her right arm and leg seemed to have been forcefully donated to create the wall art.

The man spun around, catching a glimpse of Tom’s cloak. He swore before turning and casting a cutting curse at Petunia’s throat before disapparating. Tom sighed in disappointment and walked into the room, surveying the damage.

On the wall next to the entryway lay what Tom assumed was Vernon. The body looked like his anyway, all that was left of the head was a skull. The rest of him looked like he had been skinned with a cheese grater. Tom wrinkled his nose in distaste, there were more elegant ways to murder someone and far more effective ways to get information.

There was no sign of the boy though. Tom hoped he had gotten away, he wasn’t sure what he would do to him now that his revenge on the Dursley’s had been foiled. He apparated away before he could decide to blow up the house in his simmering anger.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up slowly, eyes opening to an emerald green canopy bed, made with black wood and silver trim. He tried to sit up but quickly gave up on that idea as his muscles screamed in agony. Great, he was stuck in a strange bed surrounded by Slytherin colours. And somehow he felt more at ease than if he had woken up to peach walls.

“Oh good, you’re awake. Now drink these.” said a familiar monotone voice. The clinking of potion bottles could be heard as Snape moved towards him. Harry was shocked when the man actually helped him sit up instead of just leaving the potions for him to deal with himself.

“Where-” Harry began to ask before his voice cracked. Snape passed him a glass of water before urging him to down the potions. He then tapped the glass with his wand, filling it with juice to wash away the foul taste that was ruefully common in potions that were good for you.

“To answer your question, we are currently residing near Les Grande Dalles. Don’t strain yourself.” Snape began to say as Harry attempted to sit forward sharply, “You still have a lot of healing to do and if you don’t heed the healers’ warnings I’ll just have to dose you with more dreamless sleep. Am I clear?”

Harry nodded. “Les Grande Dalles… That sounds french, I think? … Wait, are we in France?” Harry’s eyes widened comically, “How the hell did I end up in freaking France?! I don’t even have a passport!”

Snape barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes at Harry’s dramatics. “Wizards do not require passports, Potter. You need not trouble yourself with the particulars and I think it best if I refuse to reveal more until you are further along in your recovery, lest you strain yourself. Now, would you like to read or sleep?”

“Are those my only two options?” Harry asked glumly, upset that information was being withheld from him. Again. Well he supposed it was a bit better, Snape had said he’d tell him later instead of ‘It’s better if you don’t know’ or ‘It’s for your own good’. Though whether he’d follow through… then again the man did get him away from the Dursley’s…

“Yes. I understand your options are limited, and being the Gryffindor that you are I’m sure the lack of mobility is vexing, as such a house elf will remain to make sure you stay in bed. A bottle of dreamless sleep is in the nightstand if you require it.”

“You’re not staying?” Harry asked, cursing himself for sounding so weak and needy. A flicker of emotion passed over the usually stoic professor’s face before he replied.

“Unfortunately I do have people I must speak with, potions that need to be brewed, and other things that need to be done.” Snape began to leave but paused in the doorway, “Perhaps I’ll drop by later to see how you’re doing… If I have time that is…” Then he left before Harry even fully registered what he had said.

Harry permitted himself a small smile once he realized that in that small statement Snape revealed a sliver of positive emotion that he felt towards Harry. Of course his actions spoke far louder, but there was no denying that Snape no longer loathed Harry as he had back in his first year. Or perhaps he was simply finally growing out of his hatred for Harry’s father instead of learning to like Harry as a person himself? Harry decided that’s something he’d have to find out. He contemplated drinking the potion beside him if only to get away the feeling that he was bound to die of boredom laying in bed with nothing to do.

His musings were interrupted, however, as the door opened again, revealing a tall man with curly black hair and dark brown eyes. The man stood as though he was used to projecting confidence and charisma but his expression and minute fidgeting revealed his nervousness.

“Hello Harry…” the man said.

“Er… Hello?” Harry replied just as awkwardly as the man came further into the room. He glanced at a chair that was positioned by the bed and cocked his head in question. “Oh, umm… please, have a seat.”

“I don’t suppose you would know who I am.” he asked with a sad, crooked smile as he sat down.

“Er… no, sorry.”

“Well… My given name is Tom Riddle…” the man began to say, and then paused as if unsure as to how to continue. Harry tilted his head in confusion. “Harry… I’m sorry. I’m not accustomed to apologizing so please understand that these are not, by any means, empty platitudes. As soon as I realized that you were alive I should have come to get you… but I wanted… no, I needed to make sure I had a home for you, I had so much to do and had worried about leaving you alone so much of the time to get things set up…
I swear to you that I thought you had a decent home to stay in while I did all that… if I had known… if I had just bothered to actually check… if-”

“-no. A few months, or a year, or however long you waited before getting me, are nothing. I lived there my entire life so that bit of time, in comparison…” Harry said, not looking at the man now that he realized who he was. He couldn’t even bring himself to call the man ‘papa’ in his head, this was a stranger named Tom. He felt a sudden anger and didn’t know how to articulate the combined feeling of sheer abandonment and longing.

“Harry… you were never supposed to end up there. There was a whole list of people to take you in and not one of them were muggles.” Tom said vehemently, “Dumbledore should have never been allowed to disregard their wills! Perhaps Lily had named him guardian allowing him some control, but James’ should have contradicted that forcing the matter to the courts…” At this point Tom was mumbling, “No, I’ll have to discuss this with the goblins.”

Harry quietly sighed. “I- I think I need to rest.” he muttered, reaching for the dreamless sleep. A hurt expression briefly crossed Tom’s face before he schooled it.

“Of course. Rest up and I’ll answer any questions you might have later… when you’re ready. And Harry, please know that I never make the same mistake twice. I will be here for you from now on and I will make sure it stays that way.” Tom said, clasping a hand on Harry’s shoulder to emphasise his declaration and ignoring Harry’s slight flinch towards the hand that had reached towards him.

Harry drank down his potion while Tom swept his way through the halls, people scurrying away to avoid his ire. He barged into a sitting room and fell gracefully onto a chaise. After a moment of silence he pointed his wand at a defenceless lamp, blowing it to pieces. A voice opposite him decided to speak up.

“Feel better?” asked Severus, his tone illustrating his disinterest in the answer. He didn’t even look up from his book, simply continued reading as if nothing had happened.

Tom reclined dramatically, “Severus! My son hates me!”

“Maybe if you hadn't forgotten his owl and personal belongings at the Dursley’s...” he replied, turning the page in his book.

“Dammit! I'll go now and-"

“It's already been done. Honestly, you call yourself his father?”

“When did you-"

I didn't. I sent a house elf.”

“What do I do Severus? I can't even remember the simplest things! You should have seen the look on his face! Pure loathing, I’m sure of it!” Tom sat up suddenly, “I know! What was that sweet shop called? The one James loved to go to in Hogsmeade, where he always bought those Pepper Imps?”

“Don’t bribe him with sweets from Honeydukes. He won’t let you buy his affections.”

“Honeydukes! That’s the one!” Tom said, standing up to go make an owl order, Severus just shook his head and turned another page.

*~*~*

Later that evening Harry was (still) laying in bed though now reading The Wonders of Wigtown Wanderers by Kennilworthy Whisp and occasionally glaring at the house elf that was instructed to watch him. He had admittedly tried to get out of bed earlier on the pretense of using the washroom but the house elf did the strangest bit of magic that left Harry feeling strangely violated and no longer needing the facilities.

Harry’s glaring was interrupted by a soft knocking at the door. “Come in.” he said dejectedly.

The door opened to reveal Tom, who gave him a sheepish smile as he entered. “Good evening, how are you feeling?”

“Alright I guess…” Harry said, closing his book and turning to set it on the nightstand, mostly to avoid looking at Tom. He hadn’t really had time to think over everything that had happened. Not that he had been trying very hard, it was a lot to take in after all.

“I- well, I brought you something.” Tom said, walking towards him with a bag in his hand. He gestured to the spot beside Harry on the bed. “May I?”

Harry nodded skeptically. Tom sat down beside him but was careful not to crowd the boy. Though he wanted to hug his son, show some kind of tactile affection, he understood it was far too soon for that. He pulled the bag onto his lap and reached in.

“You know, the first time I met James, he was lying by the Black Lake, watching some plimpys scuttle about. I had just finished speaking with some Slytherins and was taking a stroll when I came upon him. Hair as black as night, eyes hidden behind glasses, but it was his smile that caught my attention. He turned to me and joked about how Slytherins shouldn’t be walking alone.” Tom chuckled, “I told him I could handle myself and he said ‘That might be true, but it seems awfully lonely that way.’ Then he threw a bag of Jelly Slugs and said ‘I suppose I’ll take pity on you and offer my friendship.’” Tom shook his head with a smile as he pulled Jelly Slugs from the bag.

“I didn’t realize you went to school at the same time as my dad-”

“I didn’t, I was disguised as a student at the time, recruiting for my cause.” Tom paused at Harry’s scowl, “I suppose that’s a huge leap for you. Reconciling the idea of me being the man you’ve been told tried to kill you and take over the Wizarding World of Britain. So many twisted lies and of course how can you trust my words over anyone else’s? I wish I could have been there to have given you a simpler life, the kind you deserve…”

Harry shrugged uncomfortably, “You can’t change the past.”

“No… but if you’ll let me I’d like to share with you the memories of the people who should have been there, who didn’t deserve their fate... like James.” Tom’s smile grew wistful, “I’m sure you’ve been told you look a lot like him.”

Harry scowled further, “Yes. Many times.”

Tom laughed, “Even when you were only a toddler you were like him. He tried to get you a child’s broom for you for your first birthday even though it’s only recommended for ages 5 and up! And of course every time you saw it you would reach out your hands and cry until you were holding it.”

Harry smiled a little at that, “I still love to fly. I’m the seeker for our quidditch team.”

“You’re dad would have been so proud.” Tom’s grin wavered, “I saw you for the first time at the first Task in the Tournament. You were absolutely fantastic and your dad- your dad would have complained to me how much better you were than him, had he seen you fly.”

They both welled up with emotion and Harry took a bold step and rested a hand on Tom’s which were still holding the bag of Jelly Slugs. He realized that this wasn’t about the candies, Tom was trying to connect with memories. He had always loved hearing tidbits that people would tell about James and Lily, this wasn’t so different, he supposed.

They spent the most of the evening with Tom telling stories of his interactions with James, giving Harry different sweets as they came up and barely taking a break for supper. Harry found out that Tom had never formally met the other marauders but had heard plenty about them from James.

James had refused to take sides in the growing war and so didn't begrudge them the tasks they had done for Dumbledore that had kept them from Tom and James’ handfasting ceremony and then Harry's birth.

Harry learned a lot about Tom as well. Though the man didn't say much about himself, the way he told the stories, the emotions he showed behind them, revealed a lot to him. Harry also noticed how Tom skirted around talking about the war. Eventually though, Harry couldn’t leave the topic be.

“Tom… Why… I mean why did so many people have to die in the war? Why did you lead so many people to their deaths, for what?”

Tom grew quiet and then solemn, “It was never supposed to come to war… I had never even planned to lead the Death Eaters. I knew there needed to be change so I worked from the shadows in the Ministry. I made connections, convinced people to believe in the same causes…

“But Dumbledore had his own following and opposed every change I had tried to bring forward. He pretended as if he believed in the ideas but subtly worked to put down the laws that would make them a reality. Tensions grew between my people and his and they began fighting in the streets… I didn't know how to stop it so I began to lead it to try to protect people without giving up on my beliefs. Well… we know how well that worked out…” Tom chuckled bitterly, not looking at Harry.

“I still didn't reveal myself to most members, only my closest knew me as ‘Tom’. Most others used the name Dumbledore came up for me, ‘Voldemort’. Twisted my words, my cause… flight of death, indeed.” he sneered.

“Why didn’t you step up to lead them? Maybe if you had been a more open icon there would have been less chance of Dumbledore twisting things.”

Tom shook his head, “As soon as my goals had been reached I wanted to retreat to a quiet life with you and James… that wouldn't have been possible had I become a well known public figure.”

“You could have though… you could have come back for me… we could have had that.” Harry said quietly.

Tom swallowed the lump that had grown in his throat. “That was the plan. When I had dueled Dumbledore in Godric's Hollow, after he had- after he had killed James… the battle was destroying the house around us and you were crying… I couldn't let you get hurt… so I tried to disapparate and planned to get you once things had settled down… but Dumbledore grazed me with an obliviate as I was disapparating… I got thrown off course and had forgotten everything.” Tom dropped his head into his hands, “I forgot James… I forgot you…”

“You did end up coming back. How? I thought memory charms were difficult if not impossible to reverse?”

“Dumbledore’s spell may have been powerful enough to wipe my entire memory but it didn’t hit me directly. It barely grazed me, so over time bits and pieces would come back. First it was the small things like knowing what foods I liked, then memories of growing up, and of hogwarts when I first attended. People were one of the last things I remembered and it was difficult deciding whether I should come back at all… It had been over a decade since I had disappeared, the war would have ended and James’ will would have been read and taken care of… I thought there was nothing left for me here...

“I had thought to just check in, maybe say a brief hello to some old friends. I came back just in time to hear about the Tournament and decided to go see the first task. When I saw your eyes as you flew above us I remembered the last few things I had been missing, about that night, about you. I had thought that Dumbledore would have at least put you with a caring family and I wanted to build myself up to what I was before before thinking of uprooting you from where you were… Severus set me straight on that account.”

A knock on the door interrupted their conversation and a blonde haired boy walked in without waiting for a reply.

“Uncle Sev asked me to fetch you, Sir, and to remind Potter to take his potions before bed.” Draco said in a bored tone.

Tom nodded, “Rest up, Harry. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

“Oh... yeah, sure.” Harry said awkwardly.

“You okay there, Potter?” asked Draco after Tom had left.

“Honestly, I don’t know. Well physically I’m better than I’ve ever been but everything else…”

“Bit much?” he replied, moving to sit at the end of Harry’s bed.

“Yeah…”

Draco rubbed the back of his head unsure of what to say. Harry spoke up before he could say anything.

“Umm… I haven’t seen your father but could you tell him thanks… for, umm… letting me take up space in your home? I can even help out around the place to make up for it… I know how to cook and clean…..” Harry trailed off as Draco gave him an incredulous look.

“Harry… we have house elves for that. Why the hell would we have you do that?”

“Yeah… I suppose I wouldn’t do it as good as house elves can, I mean they have magic just for that kind of thing…”

“No no no. You’re misunderstanding. A house elf loves to cook, and clean, and whatever for their family so why would a wizard take over their duties? Besides, you don’t have to pay us back or whatever is going through that thick Gryffindor head of yours. You’re a guest- and that’s the end of it!” Draco finished, interrupting whatever protest Harry was about to make.

Harry smiled sheepishly, “Thanks, Drake.”

“Nuh uh. You do not call me Drake! That’s undignified!” he exclaimed. Harry just laughed while Draco grumbled about it. “Well we’d better get to bed here, no doubt the Dark Lord has big plans for tomorrow.”

“What big plans?” Harry asked, cocking his head to the side. Draco looked at him surprised before he chuckled.

“Tomorrow’s July thirty-first!” he said as he left the room, laughing at Harry’s bewildered expression.

Chapter Text

The next morning Harry woke up feeling groggy. He wasn’t quite sure what had woken him up. Perhaps it was the subtle itching feeling at his nape that had been lingering for the last few days and wouldn’t go away when he scratched it. He looked around briefly, absently scratching, and realized the house elf was nowhere in sight!

He cautiously swung his legs over the side of the bed, then shakily eased himself onto his feet. Over a week in bed had him feeling weak, a feeling that he had to admit he wasn’t fond of. He made it to the ensuite and silently cheered in victory at not getting caught by the blasted elf.

He quickly undressed and stepped into the shower, turning the temperature to a pleasant lukewarm. He let out a sigh of relief as the water soothed the itchy scales. He hadn’t realized how much he had missed the feeling of water on his skin. The gentle caress of the droplets.

Then he remembered what day it was and started to get nervous. Draco had said last night that Tom had big plans for today. Was it because of his birthday or was it something else. It probably was something else. Harry had been too tired the night before to celebrate his usual way but he had wished himself a happy birthday upon awakening so he wasn’t too bothered. He finished his ablutions and dried himself off before realizing that he didn’t know where his clothes were and he didn’t want to put on the pyjamas he’d been living in.

He decided to wrap the large fluffy towel around himself and head to the bedroom to see if there were clothes in the wardrobe there. He eased the bathroom door open and peaked out, then breathed a sigh of relief when he did, in fact, find clothes in the wardrobe. They weren’t his, as they were of a finer material than he would usually wear, but they seemed to be his size.

He was just picking out a pair of trousers when the bedroom door opened. Harry turned to look and was glad he had managed to put on some pants and a dress shirt. Even so his face reddened in embarrassment.

“Oh umm… I came to wake you up for breakfast…” said Draco as he seemed to struggle with himself over something. “I- I’ll just wait for you outside and… and then show you to the dining room… yeah? Alright.” and then he rushed out of the room while Harry stood there for a moment longer in shock.

Harry dressed quickly, not wanting to keep everyone waiting. He rushed out the door but was stopped when a hand grabbed his and pulled him back.

“Harry I-” Draco started to say, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath that didn’t seem to help calm him. “Since when do you smell so good? I swear you didn’t smell like this yesterday.”

“Umm I just used whatever was in the shower… was I not supposed to?” Harry said nervously as he was backed up against the wall by the door frame.

“Can’t be that…” Draco mumbled, leaning into Harry’s ear, “Guest soaps and shampoos are are unscented. This… this is all you…”

Harry tried to inch away and down the hall but Draco growled and pulled him back. What looked like feathers made the blonde’s hair seem to poof up in agitation. Harry then noticed a faint but pleasant licorice scent coming from Draco. He leaned in to smell it better, and though the movement was barely noticable Draco seemed to catch it.

A moment later Harry was pressed up against the wall, Draco’s lips on his. Harry had to admit that Draco was a very good kisser and a small part of him wanted to enjoy the sensation but that didn’t stop his panic from rising at the strange situation.

As quickly as it began it was over. The scent of burnt cream forced Draco’s eyes open and he pushed himself away from Harry hard enough to hit the opposite wall. He slumped down with his face in his hands, mumbling inaudibly, and Harry wasn’t sure if he should comfort the boy or get away. Nervous confusion swirled around him.

Tom and Severus had come around the corner at the end of the hall just as Draco had pushed himself away. Within a moment Tom had pulled Harry back into his room and asked what had happened. Meanwhile Snape spoke with Draco as he led him away.

“You should know better. I know for a fact that your father taught you more self control. That unsightly display was nothing short of dangerous!” Snape reprimanded.

“But Uncle Sev, you didn’t smell him… I tried, I did. I walked out of his room even though he was half naked and smelling so pure and sweet- OW!” Draco cried as Severus cuffed him upside the head.

“His father is probably only now teaching him about scent control. You on the other hand already know and should have walked away as soon as you realized you wouldn’t be able to control yourself. Instincts do not excuse such behaviour.”

Soon they were on the terrace where a small table had been set up for an informal breakfast. Severus laid a hand on Draco’s shoulder, virtually pushing him down into a chair. Lucius raised an eyebrow at the disciplinary action.

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll learn soon enough.” Severus replied to the unasked question. And, indeed, soon enough a agitated Tom and an embarrassed Harry came out as well.

“Lucius, I do hope you and Narcissa here are working towards another heir. I’m not sure if your current one will survive much longer with its current manners.” Tom said, dark blue scales rippling across his cheeks belying the calm tone of his voice. “My apologies Narcissa for the crude insinuation.”

Narcissa simply nodded her head in acceptance with an amused smile on her face. Lucius however wanted answers, “And what has my son done to deserve such threats, My Lord.”

“He assaulted my son! Right outside his bedroom!” At that Narcissa gave Draco a sharp look. Harry rolled his eyes and walked over to the seat beside Draco.

“Hey, is it alright if I sit here?” Harry asked softly, ignoring Tom’s ranting. Draco nodded.

“Sure, and I’m sorry about earlier. That was… I just…” Draco stammered, not looking at Harry.

“How about we just try to forget about it. I think Tom explained it to me and it’s not entirely your fault. Besides I know you’re not really into me that way.” Harry said, just as embarrassed. Especially with his dad essentially explaining the creature version of ‘the birds and the bees’ talk. He suddenly looked up as Draco spoke again.

“How do you know? I could be. I may have someone I’m pursuing but you’re not a bad catch, Harry.” Draco whispered. But apparently not quietly enough as his mother piped up.

“Someone you’re pursuing? Why is this the first I’m hearing of this, Draco dear?” she asked sweetly. Unfortunately she didn’t get to hear a reply as Tom took over.

“Someone you’re pursuing? And what, you wanted Harry to be your side affair? Harry deserves more than that! He’s not some trollop you can string about!” Tom said, nearly growling at Draco who started to slump in his seat, despite his mother’s reprimand to ‘sit up straight’.

“That’s enough. It was a simple misunderstanding! That’s all! Now I believe the healers said something about not missing meals.” Harry said, embarrassed about bringing up his health issues but seeing it as the best way to distract everyone. He sighed when it worked and Narcissa called the house elves.

“Thanks.” Draco whispered and Harry simply nodded with a smile as everyone began to eat. Plates of seconds were soon passed around while Harry ended up with thirds as well. The meal passed by somewhat peacefully, though Tom still gave Draco glares every once in a while. Draco valiantly ignored them, though a twitch in his right eye exposed his nervousness. “Umm, you don’t think your Papa would use an unforgivable on me… would he?” he asked Harry.

Harry glanced over at the man in question. “I’ll tell him that if he does I’ll leave for the rest of the summer and he’ll be forced to only write to me, and I may or may not reply.” Harry joked, though he made sure he was just loud enough that Tom would catch what he had said. Tom, in return, more or less pouted for the remainder of the meal.

Once the elves had cleared the plates away and everyone was sitting and idly chatting, Harry stood up.

“I think I’ll go rest a bit.” he said, not really waiting for a reply before heading back into the manor. He ended up making one wrong turn on the way but eventually made it back to his room. He shut his door softly before turning and climbing up on the bed. Tris slithered out from his hiding place around Harry’s ankle and wound his way up to the pillow beside him.

“Had an exccciting morning, massster?” Tris chuckled. Harry just groaned. “All hatchlingsss go through it. No need to be embarrasssed.”

“Sssusssh you. How am I sssupposed to control my ssscent all the time?! I'm a teenager, my emotionsss are all over the place, all the time!”

“I can help. I can bite you when you're giving off your ssscent.”

“Will that work? What about your venom?”

“I can choossse when to ussse my venom, and we can try.” Tris said, tilting his head in the equivalent of a shrug.

A tapping at the window caught their attention then. Harry jumped up yelling “Hedwig" before hurrying to let her in. “How have you been girl?”

She hooted softly and nuzzled his hand before sticking out her leg which had a letter tied to it. Harry took off the letter and set about getting some water and treats for her. “Tom said you flew off as soon as he let you out of the cage. I’ve been so worried.” Hedwig hooted comfortingly.

Harry then went to open the letter,

Dear Harry,

I’m guessing you’re not at the Dursley’s anymore since Hedwig came to find me. I know she’ll be able to get this to you but let me know where you are. Maybe we can meet up before school starts! It might have to wait until the end of summer though because my parents are taking me back to France again! We’ll actually be in Paris this time, though I miss Dijon, it was absolutely gorgeous! Hope to hear from you soon.

Yours,

Hermione

Harry grinned and searched the drawers for some paper and ink. He found some ink but no luck on the paper so he used the space at the bottom of her letter to write his reply.

Hey Hermione!

I’ll admit I thought I had lost Hedwig when I first got out from the Dursley’s since I hadn’t seen her for a whole week after. It turns out I’m in France too, though I’m not quite sure where but it’s called something Dalles? So maybe we can meet up sooner than you think! And I’ll drag Draco along too since I’m staying at the Malfoys’ summer home. You can hold on to Hedwig for a while after she delivers this since I’m sure it’s a long flight for her but send a letter just before you leave and we can make plans!

- Harry

Harry folded the letter and set it on the desk. “I’ll get you to take this sometime tomorrow, alright girl? That way you have time to rest and maybe go hunting for a bit.”

“Hunting sssoundsss good. I’ll be back later.” said Tris as he slithered through a crack. Harry shook his head in amusement. Tris had spent his week of bedrest exploring the manor and finding every nook and cranny he could to get around without being seen.

Harry went back to laying on his bed. He wasn’t sure if he could ever get used to the ‘Protective Tom’ that he had experienced this morning. The night before was actually fun, the way Tom told him about his dad, and his dad’s stories about the things him and his friends had gotten up to. Tom also told him tidbits from when he was a toddler as well. He felt a sense of connection from it as they talked and laughed.

This morning had just been more or less awkward. Tom had gone on to explain about pheromones and how Harry had ‘presented’ and was what they called a ‘submissive’. Harry covered his face as he remembered Tom telling him that he would be the one having the babies in the relationship! Men! Getting pregnant! Would the wizarding world ever stop surprising him? Though he had to admit he liked the idea of being the one to have kids, to be the one to ‘make’ his family. The idea gave him a strange sense of satisfaction that he had never considered before.

Tom had also shown him ways to control his own pheromones (and why does that word always seem to make him feel embarrassed even when there’s no one else around?). There were breathing techniques, visualization techniques, and if Harry was really struggling Tom had shown him how to apply charcoal on the scales just behind his ears, but that was incredibly messy and if he didn’t have black hair it would have also been very noticeable. Maybe he could grow his hair out a little to hide it? Tom had also said that pheromones also came from other places but that those weren’t important unless he was being intimate with someone which he was ‘sure his Hadrian wouldn’t be at this age’. Harry had turned completely red remembering some of the things he and Viktor had done but had decided not to enlighten Tom on the matter.

What had intrigued him the most was that others’ pheromones could smell like plants or food while humans barely had a smell. That made him think of all the smells he had picked up over the past year and how it explained so many things.

A knock on his door broke him out of his thoughts. He sat up and invited whoever it was in. Tom came in with another sheepish smile.

“How are you?” Harry just shrugged in response and Tom moved to sit at the end of the bed to give Harry some space. “Look… I have to tell you Harry, this whole parenting thing is new to me too. Raising a toddler you is so much different than figuring out what to do now that you're almost an adult. A part of me wants to apologize since I've apparently embarrassed you but at the same time I feel fully justified in my actions.

“Despite not being here to raise you I still want the best for you and there are people out there who will want to use you and it honestly terrifies me.” Tom said, letting his vulnerability show on his face. “And not just because of what you can give them because you're a ‘submissive’ but because you're my son. I never planned on becoming the ‘Dark Lord’ but I am, and if I publicly announce you as my son… it would give you some measure of protection but at the same time it would draw a target on your back…”

“I think I get what you're saying… and I can't say I really know how to be a good son either… but… I think I'd like to at least try. Besides, we don't have to make it public just yet do we?” Harry said quietly, insecurity colouring his tone.

“No, we don't. I may have to attend a few meetings but otherwise we can spend the rest of the summer just getting to know each other.” Tom said with a soft smile. His smile faltered a little before returning with a hopeful look as Tom opened his arms, inviting Harry for a hug.

Harry hesitated. A moment of fear at the thought of actually getting to choose whether he wanted a hug or not. Just as Tom began to lower his arms and his eyes, Harry flung himself forward. It wasn't a second before arms wrapped around him, cocooning him in a warm feeling.

Harry scrunched his eyes closed, heart thundering in his chest while Tom's eyes began to glisten with unshed tears.

“Well…” Tom said, loosening his grip around Harry without letting go, “What do you say we go and do some birthday shopping and grab some lunch while we're in town?”

*~*~*

They apparated to the top of a small hill overlooking the valley. Harry stepped away from Tom to stare, amazed, at the greenery and the water. And oh the water! It was gorgeous and so different from the roiling black sea he had seen years ago. No this was a dark blue with a hint of grey, sparkling in the intermittent light peeking from behind scattered clouds.

“Haven't you seen water before?” Draco asked teasingly.

“Well I saw part of a sea I think, when my un- Vernon rowed us to a house on a rock to get away from my Hogwarts letters. But it was stormy while we were there so I didn't see much of it.” he replied, ignoring Draco's taunt and missing the brief, almost pitying, glance that the boy had shot at him. Similarly Tom looked at Harry with a hint of sorrow but Snape, Lucius, and Narcissa were already down the hill, missing Harry's reply.

Their first stop was Le Relais des Dalles and Harry was surprised that the Malfoys would dine in a place like this. The brickwork showed classic French workmanship and combined with the flower boxes and hedges Harry would best describe the place as ‘quaint’.

Until they went inside, that is. They were transported into a room of elegance with cream walls lined with warm scones of light. Support beams and window frames in matching pale greens. Round tables dotted the room in leaf green skirts and cream embroidered cloths, unique flower arrangements decorating their tops.

The maître d’ greeted Narcissa warmly before leading them to a private room that was designed in a similar style to the main hall. Harry felt quite out of place and hesitated at the threshold. A gentle hand rested on his back, “Don’t worry, ostentatiousness can be taught.” said Snape as he swept by Harry. Lucius shot a responding glare to the back of his head. Snape just smirked as he pulled out a chair for Harry and then took the seat beside him while Tom sat on Harry’s other side.

The meal went by fairly smoothly, with Harry trying his best to avoid notice. Snape and Tom both helped steer the conversation around Harry while teaching him what order of utensils to use or explaining what the different menu items were. Despite the easy going meal Harry was relieved when it had finally ended.

That relief was short lived however as Narcissa announced that they would be going to the local tailor while Tom and Severus did some shopping. Harry gulped nervously at the critical eye that ran over him and the smirk that followed.

Chapter Text

Harry sat down heavily in the chair, exhausted from the forty minutes they had spent at the tailors. Draco and Narcissa were still arguing over the pine or the olive shirt with either the charcoal or the ash trousers. Harry didn’t have much time to rest before he was being dragged back into the dressing room.

He sighed as he looked at the clothes and they just looked like green and grey to him, no matter the fancy words they had thrown around. Though he had to admit the fabric did feel nice across his fingers. It was soft without being too silky, the other silk clothes they had him try on earlier felt weird sliding all over. The boxer briefs they had bought on the other hand, those felt heavenly.

He was pulling off his shirt during that train of thought when the curtain behind him started to be pulled open. He thought he dropped the hem in time as he turned to face Lucius.

“They want you to try these on as well.” the man said as he passed Harry another small pile of clothes. Harry mumbled a thank you, intimidated by his carefully controlled expression. Lucius meanwhile turned away from Harry swiftly and walked gracefully towards his wife.

“Draco, have you had a chance to look at those écharpes for him?”

“But I don’t-”

“You should go pick a couple out.” Lucius said firmly while Narcissa gave him a gentle nudge.

“Now, what was that about?” Narcissa asked as Draco walked away.

“I know how he arrived in our home and what Severus had said but… Have you seen those scars? That night… it was obviously not a one off…” he said, pursed lips the only indication of emotion.

Narcissa laid a hand softly on her husband’s arm, “We can’t change his past. Let us simply help him make new memories.”

“No, but I can put things in motion to prevent something like that from happening again. I should have never given up on these laws in the first place.” he said, fanning his cloak as he turned and walked out the door at the same time as Tom and Severus returned.

“Cissy, dearest, how have you offended him this time?” Tom said teasingly. She smacked him on the arm with a fan.

“He’s off to work on the abandoned Orphan Laws, after catching a glimpse of your son’s scars. Looks like it’s renewed some of his original passion for politics.” she replied as she watched Harry come out the dressing room in a well fitted verdigris shirt, her son soon heading over to fix his collar with a roll of his eyes. She couldn’t hear what they were saying but knowing Draco it was probably some snide remark to try and cover up the blush that was forming at his own callar. So much like his father, she thought with a small, fond smile.

Without looking she held out her arm to stop Tom who had also noticed the two boys and had been prepared to storm over. She looked over at Severus with a raised eyebrow, silently asking if she needed to stop him as well. Severus chuckled nervously as he put his hands up in mock surrender. He knew better than to cross the Lady Malfoy despite his own strong feelings at the interaction.

“Got all your shopping done then?” she asked sweetly.

“Yes.” said Severus.

“No.” replied Tom. Narcissa rose an eyebrow at his barely concealed pout. “Sev wouldn’t let me buy half the things he needs-”

“He does not need all those frivolities.” the man in question sneered.

“They weren’t frivolous! They were necessary!”

“Harry does not need a Cleansweep Eleven! He just got his Firebolt last year.” Severus bit back.

“Besides the Cleansweep series is a far inferior broom, even the Nimbus 1700 would be better than the newest Cleansweep.” said Draco as he and Harry walked up to the group of adults.

“I don’t need a bloody broom!” Harry muttered.

“Language!” said Narcissa and Tom. Draco smirked at Harry while Harry cringed from the reprimand.

Snape stepped forward, “Perhaps we should move along, we seem to be clogging up the entrance.”

Harry nodded and quickly exited the store, followed by a more leisurely paced Draco. The adults brought up the rear, chatting amicably.

They walked along the street, occasionally stopping to look at various window displays. They came upon a store called Le Chaudron en Ébullition. Severus made a beeline for the entrance causing Narcissa and Tom to roll their eyes.

Harry shrugged at Draco and followed after. The inside of the store was fairly dark and as Harry realized that it was a potions supply store, he also realized the poor lighting was probably to help keep some of the ingredients from spoiling. He smirked internally for having remembered that tidbit from his potions classes.

Harry nervously approached Snape who was busy examining something in his hands. “What’s that.” he asked timidly. Snape looked at him sidelong.

“It’s a Jobberknoll feather.” he replied simply.

“Oh…” said Harry unsure on how to further the conversation. Snape saved him from his unsurety.

“I use these in my version of Veritaserum, though for best results I ensure that the vanes are smooth and not missing any sections.” he explained, showing Harry the blue speckled feather.

“Why do we strip the bottom parts of the Eagle Owl feathers?”

“Those are the afterfeathers. Eagle Owl afterfeathers can create an acid if mixed with certain ingredients.” said Snape, who was curious about Harry’s newfound interest in potions. He went along and picked up a few more things, passing them to Harry while naming them. “Salamander blood, flobberworms, asphodel-”

“-which when combined with wormwood creates the Draught of Living Death.” Harry said, surprising Snape. The man looked at Harry critically before moving along to pick up some and handing that to Harry as well.

“Why do you smell like wormwood?” Harry asked, recognizing the dry, herb-like smell as the same one he had smelled around Snape back at Hogwarts.

“... I’m… not sure. Why? Is it a bad smell?” Snape asked, paying extra attention to the vial of honeywater in his hand.

“No, not bad at all… I think it goes really well with the creamy wood smell you also have…” Harry said quietly, also carefully examining the items in his arms instead of looking at the man before him.

“Harry! Harry, look here! They have dragon scales and horns here too! Come see!” Draco called from across the store. Harry passed the items in his arms back to Snape quickly and fled over to where Draco was trying to show him items that had been shed or harvested from dead dragons.

Unbeknownst to both Harry and Snape, Tom had been standing in a nearby corner and was watching the two critically, eyes narrowed. A moment later he straightened with a grimace and backed up into the shadows. Hopefully it was just as it seemed; a simple conversation.

*~*~*

Harry walked into his room and collapsed onto his bed. It had been another couple of hours of shopping before they returned to the manor and it was exhausting. Next time Draco or Lady Malfoy even suggested going shopping he’d know to run the other way.

He didn’t even have time for a nap! Harry lamented as he rolled onto his back. They wanted him down in the dining hall in an hour or so for his ‘party’. It had been difficult enough just to keep them from buying him gifts, now he was terrified as to what they had come up with for this event.

Hedwig hooted from the window before hopping over to the desk. “Ready for the trip back?” Harry asked her, getting up to stroke her chin. He quickly read over his letter before tying it to her leg and gave her a treat before she took off again. He was missing her already, he thought as he leaned out the window. Tris slithered across the room and up the length of Harry’s body to rest on his shoulder.

Harry enjoyed the view of the French countryside for a moment longer before turning his head towards his adder friend. “Want to join me for thisss party?” he asked.

“Might asss well.” Tris replied as he slithered down to his spot around Harry’s ankle.

Harry put on one of his new shirts, that was just a smidge too tight in his opinion, before he headed over to the dining hall and looked around, puzzled. They had told him to meet them here, hadn’t they? He wondered as he walked further in. The table was empty, the lights were turned down.

Harry was about to turn back when suddenly he heard a quiet ‘finite incantatem’ cancelling the disillusionment charm and a group of people yelled ‘Surprise!’ while confetti floated down from above. Harry stumbled and fell backwards, his heart racing. He sat frozen for a moment before Tom approached him with a nervous smile, which was probably due to the lack of excitement on Harry’s face.

“Happy Birthday Harry.” he said in a quieter tone, reaching out a hand to help Harry up.

“Uhh- Thanks…” Harry replied as he grabbed the offered hand. This time, as he stood in the dining room, he looked around to see the table laden with piles of food, the largest pile of presents he had ever seen on a table in the corner, and a small group of people standing just behind the dining table.

Draco came up to him next, asking if he was alright, followed by 2 other Slytherins Harry couldn’t quite remember the names of. The well dressed boy with dark skin and brown, slanted eyes spoke first.

“Potter, you a citation? Because damn, you have fine written all over you.” he stated with a smirk as his captivating eyes looked Harry up and down.

“Harry, I’m sure you remember Blaise Zabini and Theodore Nott from our classes.” Malfoy said courteously as the boy, Blaise, nursed the ribs Draco had elbowed (probably to save his friend from whatever torture Tom’s glare was hinting at).

Harry nodded, “Uhh… yeah, sure.” Nott simply nodded politely, looking away as if he didn’t really want to be there.

“Don’t worry, Harry, they’ve just got humdingers lingering about them. I wouldn’t put much thought to it.” said Luna, coming up behind the Slytherin boys. Harry gave her a grateful and welcoming smile. As nice as Draco had had been over the last few days, it was still nice to have someone he considered a friend here.

“Thanks Luna. So… you guys didn’t really have to do all this… I mean-”

“-Nonsense dear,” said Narcissa, who came up to lay a gentle hand on Draco’s shoulder (while the boy in question blushed at the open affection in front of his friends. Draco attempted to shrug the hand off nonchalantly but it only succeeded in her grip tightening imperceptibly.) “This is the bare minimum! I mean with such short notice this is all we could manage really.” With that she threw a subtle glare towards Tom who had begun to back away on the pretense of speaking to Lucius about something.

Harry gulped at the thought that this was considered minimal. So two things Harry needed to remember now, one: never shop with the Malfoys and two: never let them plan a party for him. He shook his head and walked over to the table to find a seat while Draco and his mother bickered and the others drifted to other parts of the room.

He didn’t realize until a hand was pouring him a glass of juice that he had sat next to Snape. “Bit too much?” the man asked with a knowing and sympathetic look. Harry nodded with a sharp exhale. He had hoped the food at least would be of a more reasonable fare but he was disappointed in that too, with many foods he couldn’t even name.

Snape took pity on the boy and filled a plate with the more English-style foods. His breath caught for a moment when Harry turned to him with a grateful smile. “Yes, well… the Malfoys are well known for their extravagance after all. Speaking of which I had better speak to Lucius about the costs he’s accruing for the upcoming Yule Ball…” he said, standing quickly but gracefully. Snape left before Harry could even thank the man.

It wasn’t long before Narcissa called everyone to the table, though this time Harry had Draco and Luna sitting on either side of him. The meal was a cacophony of conversations while Harry remained mostly quiet, exchanging a few words here and there with Luna and blushing at some of the suggestions Blaise occasionally threw his way.

Then came the part Harry was both excited for and dreading. With Ron and Hermione he had learned how to accept presents without appearing shocked at the gesture every time. But the sheer amount that sat in the corner there… Harry knew it had probably been mostly Tom that had gone overboard.

Before he knew it they were sitting in the parlour with mugs of tea and presents were levitated over to him one at a time. Quidditch equipment, a matching pair of dragon hide boots and gloves, books on the Dark Arts, a wand holster (which he was actually grateful for since he was worried his wand would snap one day in his pocket), a new school bag, even a goblin-made battle helmet!

More and more presents and Harry was wondering if it would ever end. Finally the last present came, an odd little box. As he reached towards the lid to open it he felt Tris slither up to his collar and poke out, fiercely hissing at the box. The lid popped off on its own accord and a three headed serpent rose up sleepily. It’s belly was a soft spring green while it’s back was striped lengthwise with deep orange and black. When the six eyes focused on the hissing Tris it reared back and hissed itself.

“Filthy ssscribbler! Thisss is my massster!” Tris said angrily.

“Massster?” the three heads asked in unison. Tris stopped for a moment, eyes narrowed.

“No. No no no. I am not raisssing a baby ssscribbler!” said Tris, slithering back into Harry’s shirt as the one foot, three headed snake reached out to taste Harry’s fingers.

“Scribbler?” asked Harry confusedly, the party guests also looking confused since they had missed much of the conversation.

Tom chuckled, “If I had known you already had a familiar I wouldn’t have gotten you a runespoor, but I’m sure they can learn to get along. The three heads there are considered to represent parts of a writer’s mind, hence the serpent translation of ‘scribbler’. They grow to become the ‘Planner’, the ‘Dreamer’, and the ‘Critic.’” Tom explained to Harry.

The serpent in question was nuzzling Harry’s hand as he cooed at it. He could faintly hear Tris muttering in his shirt about ‘upssstartsss’ and ‘usssing sssweetnesss to get what they want’.

The baby runespoor didn’t speak much, mostly nonsensical hisses but Harry asked them if they had names anyway. All three shook their heads. “I guess I’ll wait until your personalities develop to name you.” he said with a fond grin.

Once the runespoor settled itself around Harry’s upper arm Harry began to gather up the numerous presents around him. He wondered how he would possibly get all of it to his room when Narcissa waved him off and told him to leave it for the house elves. She practically threatened him to go eat some cake and socialize with his peers in the other room.

Harry reluctantly agreed and headed over only to find a seven tier cake in shades of green with gold floral patterns all over it. Harry stood, mouth agape for a moment.

“Obviously raised by muggles.” murmured Nott, prompting Harry to blush and snap his mouth closed.

“Hasn’t seemed to harmed his looks though.” replied Blaise, though loud enough for Harry to hear and causing his blush to deepen further.

“Harry, you really shouldn’t let the wrackspurts linger about your head like that. It really doesn’t help your blood pressure. Or maybe it does, I wonder if you experience higher blood pressure in the water?” said Luna more as a statement than as a question. She had skipped over to Harry with two plates of cake and though the icing was similar on both one appeared to be a chocolate fudge while the other seemed to be some kind of strawberries and cream. Luna passed him the latter and Harry wondered if she had a sixth sense, since that was the one he would have requested had she asked.

“I can’t say I know anything about blood pressure and the effects of it from water Luna.” Harry said, unsure if it had been a rhetorical question or not.

“Of course not Harry. I was going to try and find a dabberblimp to answer the question.” she replied good-naturedly in her usual absent minded tone.

From there the party seemed to mostly drag on until people started slowly leaving in ones and twos. Harry was yawning, almost asleep. The sofa he had curled up on at some point in the evening was so comfy and he was drifting in and out of consciousness, more so the latter as people left and the room quieted. He almost didn’t notice being picked up and carried away, only to be set down upon something even softer not long after. He realized belatedly that he was probably now in bed as he felt his clothes transfigured into pyjamas.

He mumbled a thank you as he drifted off further into sleep.

Chapter Text

The next couple of weeks were fairly boring, especially comparing to the excitement of his birthday. Draco and Narcissa had literally dragged him out a couple more times to shop for clothes. And Lucius had even shown him how far the property boundaries were incase he had need for a quiet walk. Tom had been busy on and off with meetings, and Harry hadn’t once seen Snape since the party.

This last thought make Harry frown. He wasn’t entirely sure why he felt disappointed at the fact. It was only Snape, the greasy bat of the dungeons. He should be glad that he doesn’t have to see his potions professor much over the summer holidays, but the small nagging in the back of his mind wouldn’t let the sad feeling go. It was at these time that Harry employed the use of the numerous trails that criss-crossed along the property through carefully maintained groves.

Harry sighed, as gorgeous as these trails were he couldn’t spend all day out here. He slowly made his way back to the manor, not sure what he was going to do as Draco was spending the weekend with Blaise in Italy. Maybe he could figure out where the kitchens were and do some baking. It was one of the few things the Dursley’s had taught him that he actually enjoyed doing.

Before he had reached the house a tawny owl landed on the short brick wall beside him. It reached out it’s leg and Harry apologized for not having any treats with him as he took the letter that was attached.

Harry mate, I hope this finds you and you haven’t been kidnapped by Death Eaters! Dumbledore told us that you’re missing from the Dursley’s. If this finds you safe let us know where to reach you! We’re currently staying at Sirius’ place and I’m sure Dumbledore would let you stay here too. It’s under a fidelius charm so it’s the safest place of anywhere right now.

Your worried friend,

Ron

Harry snorted at the obvious false concern but he did frown at the thought of possibly living with his godfather. It was one of the things he had most wanted when he had first learned that he had a godfather. He walked into the house with the letter in his hand.

He made his way to where he guessed he might find the kitchen, hopefully baking would help clear his mind. On his way, though, he passed a room that had the door cracked open. Through it he could hear Tom, Lucius, and Severus’ voices.

“Pius Thicknesse is starting to gain some sway, perhaps we can garner his vote.” said Lucius, followed by some rustling of papers.

“Not likely. Even if he had an inkling of sympathy for our causes he detests you too much to vote in our favour.” replied Severus.

“It’s no hardship getting him on our side. I’m sure I can entrust the task to you, Lucius?” interjected Tom.

“I’m assuming you mean a simple imperius?” Lucius replies, his tone suggested that he was smirking. There was no reply but Harry assumed that Tom had nodded before Lucius chuckled.

Harry debated walking past but… he couldn’t let Tom use such tactics, not if Harry wanted to respect him as his father. He set his shoulders and approached the room. He knocked on the open door.

“Oh, Harry! How can we help you?” asked Tom with a soft smile.

“I didn’t mean to overhear… but... really, do you want a corrupt government? Because that’s how you end up with a corrupt government. I mean… I know getting these laws passed is probably quite difficult with Wizarding Britain’s view of things but there has to be a better way…” Harry said, looking down now as he realized he didn’t really have any suggestions on what to do instead, especially since he had no clue how wizarding politics worked, but he didn’t want his dad to resort to using any of the Unforgivables.

Tom looked at his son thoughtfully. “I suppose it’s something we should consider, thank you.” he said as he came around the desk and knelt in front of Harry to give him a hug. These seemed to be coming easier the more he offered them to Harry. “Oh, what’s that?” Tom asked as he felt paper crinkle against his back.

“Oh, nothing really. Just a letter from Ron… He seems to think we’re still friends.” Harry said, frowning at the scrap of paper in his hand. Tom frowned as well.

“Harry… may I?” Tom asked, holding out his hand. Harry nodded and passed it over. Tom waved his wand and the paper briefly glowed with a maroon tone.

“A tracker.” said Severus grimly.

“It’s already been opened which means it’s probably already started tracing this location. Our wards may stop it pinpointing us for a little while but not long… maybe a day, if that.” added Lucius.

“Our best bet is to confuse it. Make it think it’s arrived elsewhere, preferably in another country.” said Tom, waving his wand again, though this time in more complex patterns. It was quite a few moments of intense focus before Tom sat back. “There. If I did that right it should show its location as somewhere around De Haan.” he said smugly.

“Belgium? Really?” said Severus with a chuckle. Harry stared at the man, mouth slightly open in shock. He’d seen the man smirk before to the point where it could have been called a smile, but this was the first time Harry had even remotely heard the man laugh. It was somehow captivating the way Severus tilted his head while he snickered, his hair falling gracefully to the side.

“-rry. Harry, are you alright?” Tom asked, a bit worried.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, just wondering who and why someone would want to trace Ron’s letter.” said Harry, though he already had a vague idea of who, and possibly why.

“Probably Dumbledore.” said Severus, a small smile on his face left over from his chuckling. “The Order has been in a right tiff since they found that scene at the Dursley’s.”

“What scene?” Harry asked, more focused on the conversation now. Snape’s smile vanished instantly, as if it had been a figment of Harry’s imagination in the first place.

“Harry… I don’t know if… well…” Tom said, struggling to find the words to explain. “The Dursley’s were found murdered… Their son escaped the carnage, albeit somewhat traumatized… I believe he’s now living with his aunt… I- I can’t say I’m sorry Harry. Not after the way I found you- after the way I almost lost you.”

Harry nodded numbly. As much as he had hated the Dursley’s, he couldn’t imagine being free of them in this manner. “Umm… wow, okay… well, could someone let me know where the kitchens are? I- I’ve got some thinking to do…” Harry said absentmindedly, looking anywhere but at the three men before him.

“Here, I’ll walk you there.” said Lucius, getting up off the settee he had been sitting on. Tom nodded to him gratefully as he stood up and headed back to his desk.

“I’ll come visit you later on Harry, I’ve still got a bit of paperwork to do and working out the other angles of your suggestion.” said Tom, as comfortingly as he could. Harry nodded and turned out the door, soon followed by Lucius.

They walked in silence for a short way before Lucius spoke up, “My condolences… Considering the circumstances I doubt you were very fond of them but I’m sure living with them for the majority of your life would garner some form of attachment. And-” Lucius paused, as if unsure if he should say more or not, “And it’s ok to be happy that they’re gone. It’s possible to regret their deaths but still be happy about it.” he finished as he led Harry around a corner and down a set of steps. “Here we are, just call a house elf if you require assistance.” he said before sweeping back up the stairs.

Harry looked around the cozy room. A series of small windows near the ceiling let in a good amount of daylight from outside, keeping it from looking dingy or gloomy. The appliances looked somewhat modern though they still had some rustic charm in their style.

Harry smiled slightly as he got to work, looking through the cupboards for ingredients. He stopped quickly though when he heard a panicked squeak behind him.

“Young master needn’t be inspecting the kitchens sir. Hooky be keeping the kitchenses in perfect shape sir!” said the older looking house elf, grey tufts of hair poking out of his ears, though his demeanor seemed spritely.

“Oh no. I’m not inspecting. I was hoping to do some baking.” said Harry.

“No need, no need young master! Hooky cans be making you a snack if you’d like!” Hooky said as he snapped his fingers and ingredients began piling onto the counters.

“No! I mean- I find baking relaxing. It’s not so much for something to eat, just something to help take my mind off some things.”

“Ohs… but what if young master ends up getting hurts. Hooky will be in bigs trouble.”

“I’ll try to be extremely careful Hooky, and I can call you if I need help with anything.” Harry said, trying to ease the house elf’s worries.

“... Alright, young master. But yous be sure to call Hooky the second you be needsing any help!” he replied sternly before popping off. Harry chuckled and turned to look at the available ingredients.

‘Perfect!’ he thought to himself as he spied all that he needed to make a lemon posset, and maybe even some treacle tart!

Harry spent quite a few hours baking in peace. He ended up making some croissants and truffles as well and was just in the middle of making some poppy strudels when he heard footsteps coming down the stairs.

“Harry?” came Tom’s voice from the stairwell.

“Over here!” called Harry as he rolled the strudel and set it in a baking pan before turning to greet his father.

Tom looked at the island counter, mouth slightly agape. “Wow… that’s a lot of desserts…”

Harry looked at the counter as well. “Oh, I guess I went a bit overboard.” Harry said with a sheepish smile.

“Feeling better at least?”

“Yeah.” Harry said absentmindedly, turning to put the strudel into the oven to bake.

“Harry, I’ve been thinking… With Dumbledore getting so nosy and all that’s happened… would you like to go to Durmstrang instead? Have a fresh start?” Tom asked, picking up a croissant and rolling it in his hands before taking a bite. Tom forgot for a moment what he had been talking about as he savoured the buttery pastry.

“Maybe it’d be cool but…”

“Hmm?” Tom encouraged, refocusing on his son.

“Well… I think I’d miss my friends too much. Hermione, Neville, Luna. Maybe even Draco…”

Tom smiled at the boy. Perhaps he has a bit of a Hufflepuff heart, he thought with an internal chuckle. “Yes, I figured that’d be a factor. That’s why I wanted to ask you if it would have been something you’d want. We can make it work as Hogwarts as well. Just have to take some precautions. We can talk more about that just before you head back to school. For now what shall we do with all this?” he asked, gesturing to the counter full of treats.

“Well the house elves could probably use some kind of preservation spell and then serve some of it with dinner?”

“That should work. Would you like to do some flying with me after you’re done here? I’m not nearly as good as your dad was, or even half as good as you, but I should be able to hold my own.” Tom said teasingly.

Harry chuckled, “Sure, just racing or will we play some quidditch games?”

“I think I could find a snitch around somewhere for us to chase. I’ll meet you in the courtyard in say an hour?”

“Deal.” Harry said with a grin. He hadn’t even realized how much he had missed flying and was excited to get back into the air.

*~*~*

Out in the courtyard, Tom and Harry flew after the snitch for a few hours only stopping for some lemonade once in a while. When they finally set down just before supper they all but collapsed into the patio chairs.

“What’s… the score… now…?” Tom managed to ask between heaving breaths.

Harry outright laughed. “I think it was 12 to 3, my win.” Harry said, a large grin on his face.

“Damn… Either I’m out of shape or you’re just really good.”

“Maybe a bit of both.” Harry replied with a shrug, unable to lose his broad smile.

“Ahh there you are.” said Narcissa as she came out onto the patio. “Honestly, how long have you been out here? It’s nearly nightfall!”

Tom chuckled, “We were just about to call it a day. I hope we haven’t missed supper though, we could use a hearty meal.”

“That is why I’ve been looking for you.” she admonished teasingly. Tom and Harry stood up and followed the Lady to the dining room where Lucius and Draco were already waiting. Surprisingly Severus followed them in not long after.

The meal passed by with fairly pleasant conversation and delicious food, though Harry did pass on the desserts when they came around. He had sampled enough of them while he was baking them. The only other person who passed on the pastries was Severus. Though that had changed as he ‘begrudgingly’ tasted a lemon posset after Tom had whispered that Harry had made them that afternoon.

Harry blushed ever so slightly as he watched Severus eat the sweet from the corner of his eye. Noticing Harry’s distracted mind Draco stopped talking about their upcoming classed and instead began speaking nonsense.

“-Of course carrots can’t grow inside clouds unless there was dirt within it to provide the necessary nutrients. But then the hippogriffs might be more encouraged to snack on them which would defeat the purpose of growing them up-”

“-Wait, what?” interrupted Harry.

“Oh finally paying attention, are we?” Draco chuckled as Harry’s blush deepened. Draco shook his head, “Mother, Harry and I will spend the evening playing chess in my rooms if that’s alright?”

“Just remember to leave the door open.” the Lady Malfoy said with a pleasant smile while Tom and Severus glared at Draco, promising pain if anything improper should happen.

Draco shrunk into himself minutely while Harry’s blush deepened even further. At this point Harry was beginning to worry that he was starting to resemble a tomato! They quickly exited and rushed to Draco’s room. There they burst out laughing.

“You’re a nice enough guy Malfoy, but I agree, let’s not have a repeat of ‘the hallway kiss’” said Harry, still laughing.

“Same could be said of you, Potter.” replied Draco as he pulled out the chess set. “But speaking of romances… I wanted to ask… well…” Draco stalled.

“Having difficulty asking Hermione out?” Harry smirked, causing Draco to blush while he turned his head away defiantly, mumbling out some kind of denial.

“I honestly don’t know what to tell you Draco. It’s not like she had ever talked to me or, heaven forbid, Ron about crushes or romantic things.” said Harry with a shrug, then he laughed, “Once she even yelled at Ron telling him that he had ‘the emotional range of a teaspoon’!”

“Did she really?” Draco asked with a grin on his face. The girl was constantly surprising him and he found he quite liked it. “Why can’t I get her to like me though? I’m certain I’ve got an emotional range bigger than a teaspoon. I’m intelligent, my family is rich and has loads of political connections, and I’m on the quidditch team.”

“And you’re a prat.” Harry mumbled, “Well my guess is that one, maybe two, of those things would even interest her at all. Alright now, I really don’t feel like talking about this anymore.”

Draco smirked as he moved his bishop. “What, would you rather talk about Severus.” Draco teased.

“-What! No! Why would you even- just no!” Harry sputtered.

“Oh so you weren’t blushing as he was licking that posset off his spoon?” Draco taunted mercilessly as Harry began blushing again. Harry angrily claimed one of Draco’s knights in retaliation.

“No! I mean… well, he really shouldn’t have been doing that so- so- salaciously!”

“You’ve been spending too much time around Hermione.” Draco laughed. “And there was nothing ‘salacious’ about it. Maybe you were the one being ‘salacious’ for paying so much attention to it.”

Harry sputtered and then pouted as Draco took his queen. Draco took mercy on him in conversation as well as the game after that as a silent apology while still laughing internally. After a second game of chess they debated whether to play another round or not before bed.

They were saved from making a decision by a black haired woman careening into the room screeching.

“Draco! My darling! My little Prince! My most favourite nephew! My-”

“Aunt- Bella-, I need- oxygen- to live-” Draco struggled to say as his neck was strangled by a pair of strong arms while his mouth was covered by bushy curls. Harry looked on in shock and a bit of fear while wondering if he should make a run for it. The woman’s piercing gaze froze him in his seat.

“And who does my snakey-Drakey have over for a play date? Harry Potter, daring hero of the wizarding world, no?” she said, her voice turning venomous as she finally released Draco and elegantly advanced on Harry. She leaned over and scraped a long painted nail under his chin before curling those talons loosely around his neck. Before she could utter what Harry had assumed would have been some kind of threat another voice came from the doorway.

“Bella, if you could unhand my son, that would be much appreciated.” said Tom, his sarcastic tone almost frosting the windows with its chill.

Bellatrix didn’t immediately comply, she looked back and forth between the cowering Harry and the Dark Lord, who was towering in all his dark glory. “Not possible.” she said as she stood up, cocking her hip to perch one hand on while the other gestured, “Look at you two! Nothing alike.”

Tom sighed and motioned Harry to come to him. Once the boy had practically run over, Tom turned him around to wrap his arms protectively over Harry’s shoulders while perching his head on top to diminish the seemingly defensive stance.

Bella tilted her head one way, then the other. “Ok… maybe the nose… and the shape of the eyes… maybe that chin… but no way anyone could guess that!”

“Perhaps but you would do better not to question who I have in my vicinity. Do you believe I would have allowed an enemy to leisurely play chess with Draco while I reside here?” Tom said as he shot a stinging hex at her shoulder, first, and then her knee, toppling her off balance. “Harry, Draco. I believe it’s time for bed. Lestrange, with me.” Tom said as he dashingly swept out of the room and Bellatrix scrambled up after, but not before addressing Harry on her way out.

“Oh Harry dear, we’ll have so much fun while I’m visiting!” she said with a grin.

“What does she mean by… fun?” Harry asked Draco once they had left. Draco merely shrugged.

“Who knows with her, but we should listen to your dad. It is getting late and I have plans for us tomorrow!” he said.

“What kind of-”

“Nuh-uh! You’ll find out tomorrow!” Draco said, laughing as he headed into his ensuite and out of questioning range. Harry merely pouted as he left to complete his own ablutions before heading to bed.

Chapter Text

The next day Harry woke up groggily. The sunlight filtering through the crack in the curtains made him groan as he pulled the blankets over his head. He was just starting to doze off again when his door opened. The bed dipped a bit as someone sat down before they began to nudge him awake.

“-o ‘way.” Harry mumbled into his pillow.

“Come on Harry, we’ve got to get going if we want to make the most of the day.” came Tom’s voice, though it was muffled as it filtered through the comforter.

“Nuh-uh” grumbled Harry. Tom laughed and shook Harry again. When the boy didn’t so much as twitch Tom called a house elf to ask for a pitcher of water.

“I’m up! I’m up! Geeze.” he said with a yawn as he sat up. He spent another moment or two rubbing the sleep out of his eyes before slowly and laboriously swinging his legs over the side of the bed.

Tom laughed again, “Hurry up or you'll miss breakfast and believe me when I say you’ll need it today.”

“Why? What for?” asked Harry a moment too late as Tom had already left the room. He grumbled again before finally getting up and slowly getting ready. An hour later he finally stumbled into the dining room where most of the others had already finished eating.

“Could you be any slower?” commented Draco. Harry simply gave a very rude gesture in reply.

“Harry!” scolded Tom as Harry sat down and grabbed a slice of toast to nibble on. Tom frowned and placed more food on his plate which Harry ignored. Draco sighed dramatically before standing up.

“Come on then. I’m sure your ‘surprise’ will cheer you up some.” he said as he pulled Harry up by the elbow. Harry in return yanked his arm away and looked ready to punch the young Malfoy. “We’ve got to apparate and since you don’t know where to, you’ve got to side-along.” said Draco testily.

Harry crossed his arms and turned his head away, but he did mumble something along the lines of ‘fine’. Draco rolled his eyes and grabbed Harry’s arm again and disapparated them.

Harry took a tumble into rocky sand as they apparated onto some kind of beach. Harry sat up with a stunned expression while Draco smirked in a self-satisfied way. Harry was mesmerized by the lapping of the waves on the pebbled shore, as if the water called to him, stronger than the lake ever had. He was only snapped out of his daze when Draco nudged him, his nose wrinkling at the scent Harry produced that had managed to overpower his charcoal paste for a moment, and two voices called out.

“Harry!” Hermione called, with Luna following behind her carrying a large basket. They both wore light summer dresses. Hermione also donned a wide brimmed hat while Luna had braided a white and violet flower crown into her hair.

Harry’s mouth gaped open. “When- how- why-...” he stammered.

Hermione punched Draco lightly on the shoulder. “You didn’t tell him?!” she admonished lightly. Draco simply shrugged, still smirking.

“Where are your swim trunks? You can’t go looking for saltwater plimpies in those.” said Luna, tilting her head in confusion.

“Harry’s dad should be bringing his later, mine’s shrunk into my pocket so I wouldn’t give away the surprise.” replied Draco. Hermione turned to Harry sharply.

“Your dad?” she asked pointedly.

“Guess I wasn’t the only one keeping secrets.” Draco said lightly, tilting back on his heels when Hermione shot him a glare as well.

Harry lifted his hands up in defense, “I’ve only had a chance to send you the one owl letting you know I was in France! I figured the whole ‘found my father’ news was better said in person!”

“Well since we can’t go swimming yet how about we go get some ice cream?” suggested Luna, interrupting whichever diatribe Hermione was about to go on.

“Oh yes! I found out that Fortescue’s great niece twice removed opened up a shop out here!” added Hermione, ignoring the obvious change in topic, as she began listing other interesting facts about the area that she had researched before visiting.

Draco listened aptly as Harry and Luna fell in step behind them. “Had a good summer so far?” Harry asked her.

“Not terrible. We couldn't find any nimbletuffs though and father is worried about the future after he found signs of a wandering heliopath…” she said, growing unusually somber. She looked up suddenly, piercing Harry with an equally unusual direct stare. “Don't chase after the flutterfinned froilies, Harry.”

Luna then skipped ahead to catch up to Draco and Hermione, leaving Harry stunned and confused before he shook his head and rushed to catch up as well. He had learned not to ask too many questions about her creatures that no one had ever heard of, unless he wanted to spend an hour listening to an explanation.

They window shopped as they passed by the stores. Harry was surprised at the difference in atmosphere compared to his previous shopping experience.

“The north end of town is more geared towards tourists.” stated Draco offhandedly when Harry remarked on it, causing Hermione to start questioning Draco on the differences.

By the time they made it to the ice cream parlour Harry was most definitely regretting not eating more at breakfast. He sighed in minute relief when he found that the ice cream parlour also sold a small selection of baked goods.

“Ah! Monsieur Malfoy! Êtes-vous venu nous faire grâce de votre patronage?” the lady behind the counter asked.

Draco replied in French as well with a lighthearted tone before translating their orders. Draco ordered himself a bowl of earl grey and lavender, Hermione was handed a bowl of strawberry and peanut butter. Luna requested a cone of orange marmalade and butterbeer while Harry ordered chocolate and raspberry cone along with a couple of croissants.

They sat at a table to devour their treats and Harry got the girls caught up on almost all that had happened that summer (besides nearly being beaten to death) before they moved on to talking about plans for the rest of the summer. Hermione watched the boys for a while with a keen eye before she spoke up.

“So what happened between you two?” she asked outright.

“Wha-!”

“-Nothing.” they said, belying their own words in their haste to deny it. They blushed deeply when they realized their mistake. Luna laughed as a cheshire grin sprouted on Hermione’s face. Draco sighed in defeat and pointedly looked away as he explained, when it was obvious that Harry’s Gryffindor courage had abandoned him, “I may have… accidentally… kissed Harry-”

“Accidentally my ass.” mumbled Harry, though luckily only Draco had heard, who had promptly kicked his shin under the table. The girls however burst out laughing.

“It’s not that funny.” pouted Draco in response before the conversation moved on to other things.

Almost an hour after they had finished their ice creams, and they were just sitting and chatting, a fox patronus came bounding in through the wall beside them. It wound itself around Draco’s feet as a familiar woman’s voice stated that they would be arriving at the beach soon.

“Let’s get going then!” said Harry, jumping up and heading out the door before the others had really registered what he had said. They all chuckled as they got up at a more leisurely pace.

The entire way back to the beach was a game of ‘catch up to Harry’, who would run down the road until he was out of sight and then he’d wait just long enough for the others to reach him before he bounced off again.

“I’m glad you and Harry are getting along better.” Hermione said to Draco, as she watched Luna catch up to Harry by skipping along ahead of them. “After such an “accident” you two could have started to hate each other more than you did before, but you haven’t.”

Draco hummed in agreement, “Hermione-”

“Yes?” she asked, stopping to look at Draco who was in turn looking towards where Harry and Luna were laughing with a frown.

“Maybe it’s not my place to tell you but I doubt he will, it’s not exactly a comfortable topic. But you’re his best friend and you’ll need to know in case something happens when we go back to school…” Draco paused a moment, considering just saying ‘forget it’ but he knew Harry would need his friend to understand. “Harry presented on his birthday, he’s what most of us creatures call a ‘submissive’. His father showed him some ways to hide that fact from others but there’s always the chance that it will fail or he’ll forget and that could be dangerous.”

“I think I remember reading something about that when Harry and I were looking into creature inheritances. It was only a vague line though so I hadn’t been entirely sure, there aren’t that many resources on the topic at Hogwarts.” she said, also frowning now before looking up in surprise, “You said ‘us creatures’...”

“Very astute, Granger.” Draco said with a smirk. “I came into my inheritance earlier this summer. Needless to say I’m glad my parents raised me with many of the French values around creature inheritances.”

“Would it be terribly rude of me to ask which…?”

“In some circles, possibly, but that’s alright. The Malfoy family has always been proud of it’s Veela blood lines. Though we’ve concealed it more as we endeavoured to rise within British society.”

At that point Harry rushed up to them with Luna right behind him. “Come on! We’ve got to get to the beach!” he said, grabbing their hands and pulling them forward.

They reached the beach far sooner than they had expected, probably due to Harry’s pace, so there wasn’t any sign of the adults yet. Hermione and Luna unpacked their basket though, spreading out an extra large blanket to lay on, as well as a beach umbrella which they anchored to a corner of the blanket.

They didn’t have to wait to long. Three adults apparated onto the beach, not too far from where the children had set up their blanket. Once they had reached them Tom threw a pair of swim trunks to Harry as Bellatrix latched onto Draco.

Once he had extracted himself from his aunt, Draco cast the spell to switch his and Harry’s trunks for the clothes they were currently wearing. Hermione did the same for herself and Luna. Tom cast a sunblock spell on all the children while Narcissa cast one to protect their feet from any sharp stones in the water. Draco, Hermione, and Luna instantly ran for the water once the adults nodded that they were done, laughing, while Harry hesitated.

“Everything alright?” Tom asked, slightly concerned after seeing how excited Harry had initially been to go swimming.

“Is it supposed to pull me like that?” Harry asked quietly, eyes never leaving the soft waves. Tom walked to stand beside him and rested a hand on his shoulder.

“It calls to our blood. Most merfolk grow up either in or by the sea and rarely ever leave so they don’t realize how much of it’s magic lives within us. You and I are both mer and wizard. We have two kinds of magic, flowing in harmony just like nature does. For now, go have fun with your friends and give your fin a bit of a stretch.” he finished saying with a slight shove to Harry’s shoulder.

Harry took a few running steps forward before stopping. He turned and ran back, giving his dad a quick hug before running back towards the water again. His first few steps caused the water to splash up, making Harry laugh and he drew the attention of the other three who had already swum out a ways.

Harry dived in, his legs shifting to give him the speed he desired to reach them. The moment he had fully shifted though, something strange happened.

It almost felt like an explosion radiating from Harry. Draco, Hermione, and Luna cried out as tall waves forced them farther out into the water. The adults on shore lost their footing as the land roiled beneath their feet. Narcissa managed to retain her upright position and as soon as the tremors ceased she ran to the edge of the water and began casting spells to bring the children back.

Tom scrambled to his feet and ran to the water as well, searching for Harry. He spotted the boy not far off shore, struggling to stay afloat while trying to find his friends among the waves, the boy’s gills unsure if he was above or below water making breathing difficult. He began to step into the crashing waves to reach him, setting off another set of tremors though not nearly as powerful as the ones that had come from Harry.

“Harry!” Tom called out. “Harry! Cissy’s got them! Get to shore!”

Harry could barely hear his father but as the waves began to die down he could see his friends being tugged steadily towards the beach. He looked back at his dad who was trying to wave him over urgently, worry lines aging his face.

As soon as Harry touched land his father grabbed him and disapparated. They landed heavily within the manor. Harry’s tail felt like it weighed a ton out of the water. He began to shift back though it seemed to be a slower process than it usually was.

Narcissa apparated near them with Draco following soon after by Bellatrix with the girls. Harry’s fin had all but disappeared by the time the others had turned to them. Tom was unusually quiet, tears building in his eyes though he managed to keep them from falling.

Narcissa went to put a hand on his shoulder but he stood up quickly and pulled Harry up with him. “Come Harry, I’ll take you to your room.” The silence around them was deafening as they left, their footsteps echoing in the empty halls.

Once they had reached Harry’s room Tom walked over and sat down on the floor, leaning against the bed. Harry hesitated before sitting down beside him.

“I’m so sorry Harry… I- I knew it had been bad. I mean look at how I found you but… I hadn’t realized how bad…”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, confused and becoming slightly worried at the serious tone his dad was using.

Tom looks down his legs as they shifted into a tail, it’s colouring a deep forest green. He traced a prominent dark red line on it’s left side. “When we get significantly injured it shows up on our tails. Reds and pinks are not natural scale colours… but yours… you can barely see the green and blues…”

“It’s fine though… it’s not like it hurts…” said Harry running a hand down his leg, scars hidden by his usual glamour.

Tom shook his head, “It might not hurt physically but it affects your magic, Harry. Remember how I mentioned earlier that you and I have two kinds of magic? With that much damage you’ve most likely only been able to use what you’ve been gifted by Lady Magic, which works based off of your magical core instead of your physical self. Elemental magic is different, it’s based more on your mental and physical condition…”

“Can it be fixed?” Harry said quietly with a frown. Tom looked up at him then.

“Possibly… I’ll have to look into it. The severity makes it more difficult than healing an ordinary scar...”

“What about your scar? Why haven’t you taken care of it if it’s possible then?” Harry asked, pointing to the wide red scar that Tom had indicated earlier.

Tom hesitated a moment before replying. “That’s from that night… I kept it to remind me of how I failed you both…” he said before shifting back and getting up, mumbling about potions and spells for healing as he left. Harry remained sitting on the floor frowning at his glamour covered legs.

A soft knock on the door followed by Hermione entering his room drew his attention away from his contemplations.

“Everything alright Harry?” she asked as she sunk down to where Tom had been sitting moments before on Harry’s right.

“Yeah… No.. I’m not sure I guess…” said Harry, looking away.

“What was that? At the beach? It wasn’t a natural occurrence.”

“I don’t know that either. I didn’t get a chance to ask.” Harry said, starting to shiver from sitting in just his wet swim trunks. Hermione transfigured them into the clothes he had been wearing earlier for him and added a warming charm.

“What’d you talk about with your dad? Must’ve been something serious to give you that look on your face.” she said shrewdly. Harry looked back up at her to see her studying his expressions. He looked away again in embarrassment at being so easy to read.

“My glamour couldn’t hide these on my fin…” Harry said as he took down his glamour, Hermione gave a slight gasp that Harry would have missed had they not been sitting so close to each other. “He said that being part mer gives me elemental magic but that these affect it somehow.”

“I haven’t read much about elemental magic. Mostly because it’s so rare for wizards to have it, but it makes sense that creature inheritances would open up that aspect since magical creatures acquire their magic from nature. I could help you look into it, especially once we get back to school and have access to the library.” she answered, pushing her emotions at Harry’s abuse aside. She knew he wouldn’t accept any words of sympathy, mistaking it for pity.

“But what if Dumbledore removed the books on those like he did with creature inheritances? Remember how we had such a hard time finding out about that?”

“We can always ask your dad to send us what we need, and I’m sure Draco would be willing to help. He’s always bragging about his family connections.”

“I’m sure he only does that to try and impress you.” Harry said with a slight chuckle. Hermione tilted her head in confusion.

“Why on earth would he want to try and impress me? He used to always try to act so superior just because I’m a muggleborn.”

“Hermione, he’s got a crush on you a mile long.” Harry said, laughing while Hermione sat there looking stunned.

“That’s absurd.” she said resolutely, “I don’t appreciate being made fun of, Harry James Potter!”

“I didn’t mean it to make fun of you! Honest!” Harry said, no longer laughing in the face of Hermione’s ire. She gave an irritated huff before heading for the door.

“We’ll start researching when get back to school.” she said before leaving. Harry chuckled again which tapered off into a sigh as he started feeling the wear of the day, and it wasn’t even noon. He hauled himself up and headed to the bathroom to take a hot bath and put on some proper clothes instead of just a transfigured shirt and trousers. He spent the rest of the day alone in his room, occasionally listening to Tris scolding the little Runespoor, before drifting off to a fitful early sleep.

=^-^=

“Your Highness, you called for me?” the guard said as he bowed to the man on the throne.

“Rise. I have need of your team.” the man said as he looked off into the distance.

“My Liege?”

“The Oaris Ar-Tira. They are to find something that belongs to the Realm. Ndor Nuin i' Falmar will have need of it soon so make haste.”

“Yes. Your Highness. It will be done.” the guard said before he bowed again and left the hall.

“Let us pray that you will find it in time.”

Chapter Text

“Harry!” called Tom as he turned the corner to see his son near the other end of the hall. The boy stopped and turned while Tom caught up to him. “I’m glad I caught you. Things are happening in the Ministry and I won’t have much time before you return to school in a few days. Please, be careful. And… well after what happened at the beach try to avoid open waters, we still don’t know what that was. And with some of the things that have been happening…”

“What things?” Harry asked, entirely confused.

For a moment it looked as though Tom wouldn’t answer. “We’re not entirely sure but Dumbledore has been spending a lot of time with the Minister it seems. Rumours of new laws are being whispered about, laws that are bypassing the usual methods of approval. It doesn’t bode well if they’re being implemented by Dumbledore. Try to avoid his attention as best you can. Severus will be available if you need him, though he mentioned he can’t be expected to show any kind of favouritism to a Gryffindor in public. But if you need me, through him would be the most efficient way.”

“I still need my school supplies. Will there be time to stop in Diagon Alley before the term starts?”

“No need, the last of your books and things arrived by owl order last night. A house elf should have dropped them off in your room this morning.” Tom paused to look at his watch, “Baldersnatch I’m running behind schedule. Madame Miraforum requested I sit in on a custom runes consultation with an important client. I’m sorry Harry, maybe when I return in the evening we can spend some time together!” he finished saying as he headed back from where he came.

“Not like I’ve ssseen much of him the lassst few daysss anyway.” he said to Tris who had peeked out from his collar.

“Being on your own isss not new for you. Why isss it different now?” Tris said, confused at how quickly his master had grown attached to the Tom human. Harry looked at his friend, surprised that what Tris said was true. He had only been around his dad for a few weeks while every summer before it had been as if he had imagined all of the wizarding world. How had things changed so much?

“I sssuppose it’sss not really. I hope he didn’t mean for me to avoid water for the whole year. I wasss hoping to visssit the merfolk of the Black Lake.”

“Merfolk?” asked the runespoor that had found them and was now slithering up Harry’s leg.

“Water peoplesss you nitwit.” Tris hissed angrily. He still hadn’t warmed up to the baby serpent since Harry’s birthday. He then turned to Harry, “They’re not coming with usss, are they? I think it would be too dangerousss. People will ssscream if they are ssseen and they are too little to know to ssstay out of sssight.”

Harry looked at the little runespoor. Two of the heads were glaring at Tris while the third seemed to be pouting. “I’ll talk to Draco. Sssee if he hasss any adviccce.”

=^-^=

Harry stared out the window as the familiar scenes swept by. Thick clouds intermittently blocking the bright sunlight, creating a dappled effect on the rolling hills around them. After Hermione had left with Malfoy to the prefect’s compartment to learn all they needed about their rules and responsibilities, Harry was left to find a compartment on his own. He was glad when he managed to find one with Neville and Luna, though now he was feeling rather like a third wheel as Neville regaled her with information about the mimbulus mimbletonia that he got for his birthday from his uncle while she held Trevor.

Thoughts roiled in his mind as he wished he had been able to see his godfather over the summer and the wish that he wouldn’t have to avoid water all year as he really wanted to speak to the merfolk of the Black Lake. He started when their compartment door slid open, revealing a slightly blushing Ginny.

“Oh sorry. Would… would I be able to bunk in with you? Everywhere else seems to be full.” she asked, pointedly averting her eyes from Harry. When neither Harry nor Neville replied, Luna welcomed Ginny in. She put away her luggage and sat across from Neville, next to Harry.

After another moment of silence Neville resumed talking to Luna and Ginny snuck a side glance at Harry who had gone back to looking out of the window. She looked down into her lap, thinking, before taking a deep breath, turning to face the boy beside her. “Harry.” she began as a way to get his attention. Harry turned and cocked an eyebrow in question while wondering if he even wanted to hear what she had to say.

“Harry… I- I wanted to say sorry for how I acted last year. It was immature and petty of me… and I know, well- you probably don’t want much to do with me after all that, but I hope you can forgive me?” she said, her face showing a bit of hope despite the nervous waver to her tone. Neville and Luna had subtly stopped talking to listen to their conversation.

“Oh.. well…” Harry stammered as he hadn’t been expecting that at all. “Yeah, I suppose I can forgive you. We all make mistakes after all, thanks for apologizing for it.” he finally managed to get out. She gave him a huge smile and the conversation seemed to become easy between the four of them after that.

At one point they somehow got back on the topic of Neville’s mimbulus mimbletonia. “It’s even got this amazing defence mechanism!” he said as he pulled out a quill and carefully poked at one of the boils that covered the awkward cactus shaped plant. The boils all exploded, covering everyone and everything in a foul smelling, dark green liquid. “Sorry… I hadn’t tried that before… didn’t realize it’d be so… don’t worry! Sticksap’s not poisonous! …” Neville stammered.

Unluckily enough that was the moment their compartment door slid open. A handsome boy with curling, light brown hair stood there looking at the mess. “I was just looking for- umm- yeah, nevermind.” he said before sliding the door closed and walking away.

“Who was that?” Harry muttered, a slight blush rising up his neck. Luna shuffled a bit to the edge of her seat with a barely noticeable frown.

“Eddie Carmichael. He’s a sixth year Ravenclaw.” she said as Ginny pulled out her wand to cast a quick scourgify, looking sideways at Harry and Luna but otherwise ignoring their whispered conversation. The rest of the train ride was thankfully event-free, though Harry’s thoughts did stray to the handsome Ravenclaw a time or two.

Hermione joined them not too long after that, without Malfoy. Though, Harry realized, Draco probably had his other friends he wanted to see and catch up with before they arrived at school. Conversation flowed easily as Hermione revealed that Ron had also been named Prefect which gave Harry a slight twinge in his heart. He could just imagine how happy Ron would have been receiving that letter with the badge and how proud Mrs Weasley would have been at the news.

They reached the platform in Hogsmeade and scrambled to get their things together before disembarking and finding a carriage. Harry paused though as Luna took a moment to pet something between the empty shafts. “Come on Luna.” he called to her.

“I always have to take a moment to greet the thestrals. There aren’t too many of us that can see them and I imagine that makes them lonely sometimes.” she said in her light and airy tone. Harry shook his head at her imagination and climbed into the carriage behind her.

The trip to the castle was quick and Harry’s heart leapt into his throat as they filed into the Great Hall and he saw Dumbledore looking down on him from the head table. He was worried what Dumbledore would say to him, and there was no doubt that Dumbledore would call him to his office some time soon, not with that look which was a mixture of stern disappointment and grandfatherly indulgence.

Harry gulped as he took a seat next to Hermione with Neville on his right and Ginny on the other side of Hermione. Fred and George soon joined their little group followed by a proud chested Ron. Hermione rolled her eyes at his peacocking. Soon enough they were settled and Professor McGonagall led in the new first years who huddled together as they passed between two of the long tables full of students towards the stool where the Sorting Hat sat.

It’s brim opened into a mouth to give it’s annual song, but this year seemed a bit more sinister as it told the tale of Salazar leaving and its warning of unity being needed in face of hidden foes and deadly plots.

“Branched off a bit this year.” Ron said with a slight frown as his stomach grumbled.

“I wonder if the Hat’s ever given warnings before?” asked Hermione.

“Yes, indeed.” said Nearly Headless Nick as he floated through the table, passing through Neville who shivered at the uncomfortable sensation. “The Sorting Hat feels honour-bound to give the school due warning in periods of great danger.”

McGonagall began calling students and Nearly Headless Nick floated on down the table to pay more attention. Hermione frowned at the information. “The usual bit about inter-house unity seems to have been more emphasised this time too.” said Harry.

“Fat chance that.” said Ron. Harry looked over at the Slytherin table and saw Draco talking to Blaise. He gave an ambiguous shrug in response as he thought that perhaps it might actually be possible this year despite people like Ron. Harry almost missed the end of the sorting when Dumbledore stood up to address the students.

“To our new comers, welcome! To our old hands, welcome back! There is a time for speech-making, but this is not it. Tuck in!” he said to a round a applause, Ron a bit more enthusiastically than the others around him as he dug into the food that magically began to appear.

The meal passed by with Harry and Hermione discussing the Hat’s message. The only blip in their conversation when Harry dropped a sentence halfway through as the Ravenclaw from earlier on the train passed by to speak to a Hufflepuff down a ways. Hermione gave his shin a gentle kick to snap him out of his staring and Harry looked at her, startled, as a blush creeped up his ears. Hermione simply smirked knowingly.

Once the food had disappeared, Dumbledore commandeered their attention once again. He went over the rules and introduced two new staff members. It was only then that Harry realized that Hagrid wasn’t there, since he had been doing his best to avoid Dumbledore’s disapproving gaze. When Professor Grubbly-Plank had arrived to the station to round up the first years for their iconic boat ride Harry had assumed that Hagrid had simply been held up. But no, it appeared that Professor Grubbly-Plank was here to stay as the Care of Magical Creatures instructor, for the foreseeable future at least.

The other teacher to be introduced was a short, stocky man who seemed to be completely uninterested in the goings on around him, even while Dumbledore was introducing him. Professor Periwinkle Green seemed to be a ministry appointed teacher as Dumbledore had been unable to find anyone else to fill the position for Defence Against the Dark Arts.

After Dumbledore concluded his announcements Hermione got up to lead the first years away. She had to tell Ron off first when he didn’t get up right away and then again when he started trying to call over the first years by yelling “Midgets! Gather over here!”.

It was then, as Hermione walked away, that Harry noticed the occasional whispers and fingers pointed in his direction. He wondered for a moment what that was about but shrugged it off. Perhaps it was from winning the Tournament last year and he should have expected some kind of reaction from it all. After all there hadn’t been much time at the end of the year for all of it to sink in before everyone had left for their summer holidays.

As he passed through the doors, heading towards the staircases, he bumped into Draco. “Oh, hey-” Harry began to say.

“Watch it Potter, or I’ll have to give you detention.” Malfoy replied snidely, shocking Harry into a temporary silence. Malfoy and his friends began to walk away when Harry snapped out of his stunned daze and grabbed Malfoy’s arm before he could get too far away.

“Oi!”

Malfoy stopped and his friends began to turn while reaching for their wands. Draco brushed them off saying he’d meet them in their common room while he taught Potter some manners. Once they were gone Draco pulled Harry over to a shadowed alcove.

Once the majority of people had passed by, with only a handful noticing the two boys in the alcove, Harry spoke again.

“What gives Malfoy?” he asked venomously.

“People are always watching Harry. You should know that by now. What do you think people will say if The Boy Who Lived is seen acting friendly with the Prince of Slytherin? What do you think Dumbledore will do? My father said that Dumbledore will probably be keeping an eye on me since people have been talking about how we’ve spent time around each other last year. He recommended we lay low and that’s what I plan to do for now.” Draco hissed before turning to walk away. Once again Harry grabbed his arm.

“No.”

“No? What part of lay low don’t you understand?”

“And weren’t you listening to the Sorting Hat? Hermione figures it’s warning us about Dumbledore’s plots and its advice is to unite the houses. What better way than for the Hero of Gryffindor and the Prince of Slytherin to become friends? Most of the rest of our houses will follow our lead and Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw haven’t many grudges so if we can put aside ours I doubt they’ll be far behind.”

Draco paused for a moment, mulling it over, “Your idea has merit but we’ll have to build it up slow. It’d be too suspicious if we became instant friends after summer break, especially with our history, and then Dumbledore would figure out that you were most likely with us over the summer.”

Harry nodded and they arranged to pass messages through Hermione as they figured out how to reveal their friendship.

“By the way, you might want to get a hold of some more charcoal. You might have to apply it a bit more frequently.” Draco said before turning and successfully strolling away this time.

Harry walked all the way to the Gryffindor common room, deep in thought, before he realized that he had no idea what the new password was. He was about to head back towards the Great Hall to see if he’d bump into Hermione with the first years when Neville came up the hall towards him.

“Oh, hi Harry!”

“Hey. You wouldn’t happen to know the password do you? I left the hall before I could find out.” Harry said as he rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

“Yeah I do, and I’ll actually remember it this time!” he said excitedly as he gave the password, mimbulus mimbletonia, to the Fat Lady. They parted ways soon after as Harry headed straight to their dorm to get away from the stares and whispers that seemed to be more concentrated in the cozy common room. When he got there Seamus and Dean were already there sitting on Dean’s bed chatting.

“Had a good summer, Harry?” Dean asked.

“Not bad, you?”

“It was alright. Better than Seamus’ at least.”

“Why? What happened.”

“Me mam almost didn’t let me come back…” Seamus replied, though he didn’t look at either of the boys, merely got up began digging through his trunk, pulling out posters to put up around his bed.

“But why?!” Harry asked, shocked.

“I suppose… because of you… and Dumbledore…” he mumbled in reply.

“Me?! Why would she keep you out of Hogwarts because of me?” he asked, baffled.

“Just the way the Daily prophet has been singing your praises, she thinks it’s suspicious. She thinks there’s something up, especially after Dumbledore announced that You-Know-Who is back last year and then barely a word about it after? Just doesn’t seem right.”

“The Daily Prophet? What’s that got to do with me?”

“Haven’t you been reading it all summer?” Dean asked, pulling out a copy from the week before and tossing it over, “Every issue they’ve had at least one article all about either you or Dumbledore saying how you’ll defeat You-Know-Who just like last time, or they’ll sneak in a mention in other articles…”

Harry glanced through quickly. “This is ridiculous!” he whispered before looking up at Seamus, “And your mum believes I’d have something to do with this, even after meeting me last summer?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, Dumbledore’s always had you in his pocket.”

Harry fumed and turned away, pulling on his pyjamas hastily before pulling the curtains of his four-poster closed so forcefully that they ripped from their fastenings. Ron and Neville walked in just as Harry pulled out his wand.

“Hold on now, what’s going on here.” said Ron, full of confidence with his Prefect’s badge sitting proudly on his chest.

“Nothing.” said Harry tersely as he fixed his hangings and then pulled them closed. The muffled voices lulled him into a fitful sleep full of nightmares.

=^-^=

The next morning at breakfast Hedwig swooped in, splashing them with little droplets from the rain outside, and carrying a small scroll attached to her leg. Harry, my boy, please join me for a spot of tea after lunch. I quite enjoy Pumpkin Fizz today.

Harry sighed. He was expecting this but it didn’t mean that he didn’t dread it any less. He was startled when Angelina tapped him on his shoulder.

“Hi Harry. Had a good holiday?” she asked cheerfully.

“Not bad, yours?”

“Pretty good. Look. I’ve been made Captain and with Oliver gone we need a new keeper. So I’m holding tryouts on friday and I want the whole team to be there to make sure we all get along with our newest member.” she said.

“Congrats!” said Harry, a grin spreading on his face. He couldn’t imagine anyone better to take over from Wood.

“Tryouts? Maybe I’ll give it a shot.” said Ron who sat down on the opposite side of the table from Harry.

“I’m sure Angelina won’t put any restrictions on who gets to try out, except for first years of course.” Harry said, internally hoping that Ron wouldn’t go. Hermione joined them, sitting next to Ron but ignoring him, just before Professor McGonagall began handing out timetables.

“History, Potions, Divination, and Defence. And that’s just today!” exclaimed Ron, “Are they trying to kill us?”

“Fifth year Ron.” said George.

“They’ve got to prep you for your O.W.L.s.” continued Fred.

“You got any of those Skiving Snackboxes you were working on over the summer?” asked Ron as he dug into his food. “I could sure use a pass out of potions a time or two.”

“Ronald!” chastised Hermione.

“Who in their right mind made Ron a prefect?” said Fred at the same time.

“What’ve you got?” Harry asked Hermione.

“Looks like you and me have the same schedule Harry. Except I’ve got Arithmancy on Wednesday instead of Astronomy.”

“Ancient Runes? You’re not taking Divination Harry?” asked Ron who seemed hurt that Harry didn’t have the same schedule as him after peeking at it over his shoulder.

“Nah. I met someone over the summer who works in the Runes division at the Ministry. Figured it’d be more useful that Divination at any rate.” said Harry, pretending to look over his timetable again instead of at Ron who was now glowering at his food as he steadily ate it.

“What would you use Runes for anyway. You don’t need it to become an Auror.” said Ron.

“I haven’t decided what I want to do after school yet. It won’t hurt in either case. Divination on the other hand isn’t a prerequisite for much of anything I don’t think.”

“We get career advice to help us decide what we need to take next year so it’s not like we have to decide right away.” said Hermione as she began to pack up her books before they headed off to History of Magic.

Whoever thought to put History of Magic first thing on a monday morning was either an idiot or a sadist, thought Harry as Professor Binns droned on about the Giant Wars and the only thing Harry had really gleaned from the lesson was that they had happened sometime before the 1900’s. He envied Hermione’s ability to stay focused with the drone of the professor’s voice putting half the class to sleep.

Hermione shook him awake just as the rest of the class was packing up their books to leave. “Honestly. What would you do if I refused to lend you my notes this year.” she asked sternly.

“Probably fail.” replied Harry sheepishly. Hermione shook her head as she chuckled at that and gave him a friendly shove.

They made their way through the courtyard during their short break before potions. Harry asking Hermione about Ancient Runes as Ron lagged behind them, trying to change the topic unsuccessfully. As they ducked under a balcony to get out of the rain for a moment, Eddie walked by.

“Oh, hello. Nice to see you without all the stinksap.” he said to Harry, pausing under the balcony to stand with them.

“Yeah...” Harry laughed nervously, “You came in just as it happened. Only took a quick scourgify to clean up.”

Eddie reached over to fix the right side of Harry’s shirt collar which had flipped up in the rain, making Harry blush. “Well I hope you stay away from exploding cacti.” he laughed.

“Is that a Tornados badge? Ron interrupted.

“Yeah what of it?” Eddie relied aloofly, turning only slightly to address Ron.

“Well you’re probably not even a real fan. Most people only started following them after they started winning the league.” Ron huffed, crossing his arms.

“I’ll have you know, my family has always supported the Tornados.” Eddie replied coldly before turning back to Harry and speaking in a far kinder tone, “I’ll see you around Harry. Maybe without your friend here.”

“Yeah, sure.” Harry said meekly as he watched the older Ravenclaw walk away. Hermione gave Ron a shove once the boy was out of hearing range.

“Oi! What was that for?”

“Gods Ron! You. Are so. Incredibly. Tactless!” she huffed and stalked off, dragging Harry with her while Ron was left behind looking confused. They got to their Potions classroom just before the bell rang.

Even with the door shutting ominously behind them and Snape threatening them with their O.W.L.s, the little smile he had from his brief conversation with Eddie wouldn’t go away. He thought he had done a good job of hiding it and focusing but that was just wishful thinking as the Professor swept down the aisle and paused at his cauldron.

“Potter. What is that supposed to be?” he asked, sneering at the dark grey smoke floating up from his cauldron. Harry looked down, any trace of his earlier happiness gone.

“The Draught of Peace. Sir.” Harry replied

“Obviously not. Detention Potter. After dinner, and do not be late.” Snape said as he banished the contents of Harry’s cauldron and moved on to inspect the others.

Harry seethed as he began to put away his ingredients and the others poured their finished potions into vials. It wasn’t fair! His was probably just as bad if not better than a good number of the others’ and at least his wasn’t shooting off sparks or setting things on fire. And a detention on top of receiving zero marks for the day?

“I would have thought he’d be a bit better after… well… you know.” Hermione said as they headed for lunch. As they approached the last flight of stairs heading to the Great Hall Harry hesitated. “You go on ahead. I’m not that hungry…” Harry said, turning and walking away before Hermione could reply. He brushed past Ron who had been not too far behind them.

“Harry…!” Hermione called out but he was already gone. Climbing up the steps to the top of the North Tower.

He wasn’t alone for long. Two redheads came up after him.

“We saw you hurrying about.” said Fred.

“Figured we’d see what you were up to.” said George.

“Not much… just didn’t want any lunch today.” mumbled Harry into his knees. The twins sat on either side of him providing a warm comfort.

“Need a skiving snackbox for your next lesson?” asked Fred, pulling out a box from his bag.

“Can’t. I’ve got to see Dumbledore before class and I’m sure he’ll be able to see through something like that.” Harry said, not looking up. Fred and George exchanged a grim look over Harry’s lowered head.

“That sounds like quite the dilemma, doesn’t it brother of mine.”

“It does indeed brother of mine.” replied the other twin with a widening grin

“Perhaps Dumbledore would like to help us-”

“-test some of our more experimental products.” they said jokingly.

“Oh, are you guys still making things for the joke shop?” asked Harry, interjecting the banter with a small smile.

“Of course!”

“But we’ve only got this year to make a decent profit.”

“Otherwise we’ll have to work only from Owl Orders for a while.”

Harry quietly sat, thinking for a moment before he spoke, “What if you had a sponsor? Something like a silent partner?”

“What exactly-”

“-is our Harry-kins suggesting?”

“My Triwizard winnings. It’s sitting in my trunk, collecting dust. Would it be enough to open a shop?” Harry asked, looking back and forth between the two who were sharing a surprised look over his head.

“That’s your money though Harry. Sure it’d help plenty but-”

“-it’s far too much for us to be taking from you.”

“I’ve got more than enough in my vaults. If you don’t take this little bit I’m throwing it down the drain.” Harry said firmly.

“I believe he’s gone mental George!”

“Finally cracked he has!”

“Alright, we’ll take it on one condition.”

“You let us send you 10% of our profits as compensation.”

“I really don’t nee-”

“Otherwise you can go ahead and throw it away like you were threatening to do.”

Harry sighed in exasperation, “Alright fine. But don’t you dare let your mother find out where you got it from!”

“Gods no! She’d skin us alive if she knew.” George said, causing the three of them to laugh.

An owl swooped into the tower at that point, with a short message tied to it’s leg: I hope you haven’t forgotten about our tea. It read, causing Harry to sigh once again. “Time for me to go.” said Harry, getting up from the stone floor.

He walked to Dumbledore’s office, not quite dragging his feet but not in any rush to face the upcoming conversation either. Still, he arrived at the stone gargoyle all too soon. “Pumpkin Fizz.” said Harry, causing the gargoyle to spring to life and allow him passage up the winding staircase.

He paused at the top of the staircase, just before the door, but Dumbledore didn’t let him linger as he called him in.

“Come in, Harry my boy, come in! Have a seat. Lemon drop?” he offered as Harry sat down. Harry declined the sweet with a mumble and Dumbledore gave him a knowing smile, “I suppose we’ll get right to it. We’ve all been quite worried about you this summer.”

Harry looked down at his knees and mumbled a vague apology as Dumbledore conjured up two cups of tea.

“Tell me Harry. Why’d you leave the Dursley’s?”

Harry didn’t answer immediately, taking the time to stir some sugar into his tea. “I- I missed my friends… and then Luna sent me an owl… invited me to visit her and- well I just didn’t end up going back after.” Harry said, still not looking up at Dumbledore beside a quick glance to gauge his reaction.

Dumbledore gave an understanding ‘hmm’. “I see. I want you to understand Harry that you would have been safest with your relatives this summer, especially with the return of Lord Voldemort. Alas, you were fortunate this time. We had a rotation of members from the Order of the Phoenix watching the Dursley’s and during an unforeseen gap in our surveillance Death Eaters have seemed to have attacked them. I’m sorry, Harry, but your Aunt and Uncle have been murdered.”

Harry looked up sharply at that. Death Eaters? But Tom said they found them dead… Had he ordered their murder in retaliation for how they treated him? If so then would he have lied about finding a way to sway favour in the Ministry without the use of the Unforgivables?

Dumbledore mistook his stunned expression for shock. “Yes. My condolences, my dear boy. It’s terrible news indeed. It does, however, mean that we’ll need to find other accommodations for you come the following summer.” he said, watching Harry carefully. Harry barely heard the Headmaster but nodded numbly in reply as he went back to staring at his knees. “Hmm for now I suppose you had better run along. Don’t want to be late for class.”

“Thank you Professor. For the tea… and the news, I suppose…” Harry said as he set his untouched tea back onto Dumbledore’s desk. Harry nearly ran out of the Headmaster’s office almost as quickly as his thoughts were running through his mind. He needed to talk to Hermione about all this, he decided and he quickly made his way to his Ancient Runes class, glad that it was one class they wouldn’t be sharing with Ron.

Chapter Text

Harry sat in Ancient Runes feeling anxious and dejected. Professor Babbling had assigned them seats, and Hermione sat three desks ahead of him. This meant that he wouldn’t get to talk to her until later on. On the other hand he was paired with Michael Corner, a fairly good looking Ravenclaw. Though not as handsome as Eddie, thought Harry blushingly. Luckily he didn’t have to interact much with his classmate as the Professor stuck to a basic introduction of the subject.

It felt like eternity before the bell rang, signalling the end of class. Harry got up and left quickly, hoping to talk to Hermione before their next class. Unfortunately she came out of the classroom talking animatedly with her seat partner, Morag, about the significance of Proto-Germanic runes in the textbook. Harry sighed quietly in exasperation as he followed behind them, seemingly invisible to the two.

He didn’t get a chance to speak to Hermione at all before they reached their Defence classroom but luckily they managed to sit together. Harry grimaced slightly when Ron and Neville sat right behind them. Professor Green stayed in his seat, instead of addressing them as he flipped through a textbook.

“Good afternoon class.” he finally began in a monotone voice, not looking up from his book, “Your education to date seems to have been quite lacking in this subject so I am sure you’ll be pleased to note that we will be following a carefully structured, theory-centered, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic. Please copy the three points on the board for our objectives in this class.”

Once the sound of scratching quills ceased the Professor continued, still not looking at the class, “Alright now, you should all have Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard. Turn to page five and read the chapter ‘Basics for Beginners’ for the remainder of class.”

Hermione frowned at the board before raising her hand. The Professor either did not see her, as he was still looking through his book, or was simply ignoring her. Harry was unsure which. Hermione cleared her throat and said quietly, “Professor?”

Professor Green looked up from his book for the first time and sat forward, the chair creaking under his stocky weight. “Yes? Ms…” he looked at the seating plan, that had magically filled in their names for him, “Granger?”

“These ‘Course Objectives’, they say nothing about using defensive spells…”

“No, they do not.” he said, as if questioning her line of thought.

“So we’re not going to use magic?” asked Ron without raising his hand.

“No. We are not.” the Professor said simply, as if it should have been obvious.

“But isn’t the point of this class to practice defensive spells?” asked another student.

“The point is to be able to pass your examinations. The Ministry has created this curriculum with the mindset that a theoretical knowledge of the subject will suffice for that purpose.” the Professor stated before returning to his book, believing the topic of discussion to be over. The class began to buzz with shocked chatter. “Settle down and return to your assigned reading.” he said, once again not looking up as he spoke.

Harry looked at the Professor incredulously. Defence Against the Dark Arts with no practical application of what they were all learning?! What was the Ministry playing at? And if Dumbledore was pulling so many strings at the Ministry, like Tom and Lucius had implied, then why was he letting the Ministry get away with this?

Harry looked at Hermione who was still frowning at their teacher. He whispered to her, “Do you think Dumbledore doesn’t have as much control over the Ministry as Tom thinks he does?”

“I don’t know… I mean I’ve been looking into new laws that have been passed recently and his name is attached to a lot of them…”

“Have you read anything about something called ‘the Order of the Phoenix’? Dumbledore said they were supposed to be guarding me this summer but the day Tom saved me he said there was an ‘unforeseen gap’ between guards. Do you think he’s losing control of whatever this group is too?” Harry asked as quietly as possible.

“I haven’t heard of anything by that na-”

“I have.” said Ron from behind them, leaning in to join in on the conversation, “My brother, Bill, is part of the Order. Who’s Tom? Is he why you never came to Sirius’ place?”

“I’ll tell you about it later.” Harry whispered back, “What do you know about this Order? Has Bill told you anything?”

Ron shrugged, “Yeah, he’s told me a little. Mum would never approve if me knowing, I’m ‘too young’ apparently so it’s not much, but enough to understand the basics of it.”

There was a silence between the three for a moment before Hermione spoke up, “And?”

“And what?”

“What did he tell you about it?” she asked in exasperation.

Ron sat back again. “Maybe I’ll tell you later.” he said, reopening his book to the assigned reading.

Harry and Hermione gave each other a look before turning back to their own books. After a few minutes Harry pulled out a piece of parchment and scrawled a note to Hermione.

‘Do you think I should tell him?’

‘Maybe not everything…’ she replied.

‘Well obviously not that Tom is, well, you know. But how much should I?’

‘Maybe just about learning you had two dads? That Tom is your half-blood dad?’

‘Yeah ok... Library after class?’

‘Sure.’

Harry then tore a piece off the bottom and wrote a short note. ‘Meet us in the library before dinner.’ it read as he passed it subtly to Ron.

The remainder of class was an exercise in staying awake, especially after having started the morning off with History.

As the trio made their way into the library after class, Harry in particular, had difficulty fighting off his yawns. They found themselves a table near the back so they wouldn’t be overheard, especially this close to dinner time.

“So, who’s this Tom?” Ron asked without preamble as they sat down and shrugged off their bags.

“Well… remember how Sirius said my dad dated some bloke before they graduated? Well Tom is that bloke and is actually my other parent, not Lily...” said Harry.

“Can you trust the bloke though? Must be a reason why your dad left, yeah?”

“Left?”

“Well yeah, your dad, James, ended up with Lily didn’t he? I mean all those photos Hagrid gave you, James and Lily look pretty happy together.” Ron said.

Hermione looked slightly surprised at the fairly reasonable logic. “Well we think he’s trustworthy enough. We don’t know the particulars of why James ended up with Lily though.” Hermione said thoughtfully.

“Maybe if we found that out we’d know for sure if we could really trust Tom or not?” said Harry. Hermione raised an eyebrow at Harry, she hadn’t realized he was doubting his father so much. It wasn’t that it was unreasonable but given how close they appeared when she had met Tom at the beach, well it was a little surprising. Harry merely gave a slight shrug in reply.

“But how? Not many people you could ask about it. Maybe Dumbledore? Rumour is that James and Lily were both part of the Order of the Phoenix.” said Ron, not noticing the brief, silent exchange between the two.

“Yeah, you mentioned the Order earlier. What is it?”

“Apparently it’s a secret group of people Dumbledore got together to fight against You-Know-Who during the first war. Bill said him and Charlie joined up just a couple of years after they moved away, Dumbledore told them he needed eyes and ears outside of Britain.” Ron said conspiratorially, seeming very pleased that his old friends were talking and listening to him again.

Harry gave a look of surprise. Maybe he could ask Charlie about it in his next letter… but how could Charlie join up with someone who disliked creatures so much? Dumbledore didn’t exactly hide his disdain during the Triwizard Tournament and Bill and Charlie left Britain because of their dad’s attitude let alone someone like Dumbledore… so why…

He was jolted out of his thoughts as Ron nudged him. “You alright mate?” he asked.

“Yeah, sorry. Must have zoned out a bit there, probably almost time for dinner. Damn, I nearly forgot about my detention with Snape after dinner.” Harry groaned, lowering his head to the table.

“That’s complete bollocks mate. Your potion wasn’t any worse than the others!” said Ron heatedly.

“Yeah well, not like I have a choice.” Harry replied glumly as they made their way to the Great Hall.

Dinner was indeed a somber affair as they ate their meal in relative silence. Ron was too busy with his food to talk much and Hermione kept sending worried looks at Harry which he pointedly ignored.

He browsed the high table pointlessly for Hagrid, who still hadn’t shown up. Then he looked for Draco at the Slytherin table who was talking to Blaise and Crabbe with his usual smirk. Then he started up a conversation with Neville. Even though she knew she couldn’t say much in present company Hermione still scowled at his avoidance tactics. She finally gave up and slammed her book closed before leaving the Great Hall in a huff.

“What’s up with her?” Ron asked in between bites of the two chicken drumsticks, one in either hand. Harry shrugged, as he grabbed his own bag to leave as well. He felt a little guilty about upsetting Hermione but what was he supposed to say about these confused feelings around Tom and Dumbledore?

Harry dragged his feet to the dungeons, feeling the weight of his thoughts. Despite his dallying he still arrived with a minute to spare, where Snape was already arranging his punishment.

“Your mistake in class today, was that you didn’t wait until your potion turned purple before adding the last dose of powdered moonstone. As such you will spend your detention creating said powdered moonstone.” said Snape before he swept out of the classroom and into his attached office.

Harry sighed, dropping his school bag beside the table and got to work. About an hour later Snape returned with a couple of vials and a opaque jar. “That’ll be enough, Potter.” he said to the boy, “Put it in those containers there and clear the desk.”

Harry hurried to do so, his curiosity getting the better of him. It it may have helped that Snape had not once called him names during his detention so far. When he returned from the storage cupboard, Snape had laid out the items he had carried in.

“Your father found a few recipes that may help with your… condition.” Snape said with pursed lips. He pointed to the three vials in order. “This one, take the full vial in the morning,” he said pointing to a small vial of green liquid, “it will replenish itself from my supply here. Add this one to your morning beverage of choice at breakfast, except anything with dairy, that will only make it taste worse. It is also self replenishing. ” he said pointing to the second vial of what looked to be a thicker light blue potion. Then he pointed to a white potion that shimmered in the low light of the dungeon, “This last one, take just before bed and be careful to only take one drop. Anymore and you’ll be trapped in nightmares for the night.”

“Oh so it won’t really do much then.” Harry muttered under his breath. Snape obviously heard the boy in the silence of the classroom as he glared at Harry, though he didn’t comment. Instead he went on, “This here is an ointment for your tail. You don’t need to use it daily but at least a few times a week is recommended.”

“But dad said not to go in water-”

“Open waters, Potter. A bathtub will suffice for your shift.”

“Yes, because it’s so easy to find a private bathroom where I’m unlikely to be discovered.”

Snape froze for a moment. “I suppose I could supply my bathroom for the purpose. Though it won’t be any more than once a week at the most! Too many detentions will draw suspicion, even for you. The rest of the week you’ll need to figure out for yourself.” he said before sweeping out of the room, leaving Harry to excuse himself.

Harry stayed a moment, stunned. That was practically nice of the man and he couldn’t quite wrap his head around it. Four years of insults and ridicule and now… he shook his head. Harry could try to figure it all out tomorrow. He left the dungeons, slinging his bag over his shoulder, and headed back to the Tower.

He barely held in a yawn and was extremely grateful that he found the other boys already asleep as he entered their room. Harry changed quickly and climbed into bed. He grabbed his evening potion and pulled out the stopper which, he was glad to find, had a dropper built into it. Then he stopped for a moment. Snape had said Tom had found the recipes for these… perhaps he should get Hermione to take a look at them in the morning before he took any.

Harry stoppered the potion back up and dropped the lot of them into the top drawer of his nightstand before laying down and pulling the covers up over himself. He tossed and turned for a while before finally drifting off into a blissfully dreamless sleep…

=^-^=

Harry heard a lot of rustling and then many footsteps. A hand shook him and a brief “Come on Harry, or you’ll miss breakfast!” before that pair of footsteps moved away as well until the room was silent once more. Harry groggily sat up and realized that all the other boys were already gone, even Ron.

Harry got dressed quickly and was almost done when a knock sounded at the door. “Come in.” Harry called out and Hermione walked in. She looked around, satisfied that they were alone.

“Harry-” she began. Harry sighed in exasperation. “Come on. You were so excited to have met your father over the summer, what changed.”

“I don’t know Hermione. It’s just… well we got along awfully quick don’t you think? I mean I don’t usually become friendly with people that quick, do I? And then there’s what Dumbledore said…”

“What’d Dumbledore say?” she asked with a frown.

“Well he said they found out it was Death Eaters that killed my aunt and uncle…” Harry said quietly. Hermione was quiet for a moment.

“Well we can’t really know for sure. They say one thing, Dumbledore says another… It’s hard to say who’s telling the truth at this point… We- we’ll just have to be careful and watch what happens.” she said reassuringly, “Now then, breakfast?”

“Before we go… You’re good at potions, right? Would you be able to tell what these are?” Harry asked, pulling out the various vials and the jar of ointment and laying them on the bed.

“Oh wow! Where’d you get these?!” Hermione said, lifting the shimmering vial first.

“Snape got some recipes from Tom and said they’d help me with- well… why? Are they expensive or something?”

“Well this one is, certainly. It’s got at least two rare ingredients and three semi-rare, not to mention it’s fairly difficult to brew. I’ve only read about it and seen the illustrations.”

“Well… what is it?”

“It’s supposed to facilitate a person’s magic into healing itself or the body as opposed to having someone else’s magic do the healing. That way the person doesn’t become resistant to magical healing, which would be especially important if there was ever an emergency.” Hermione lifted the light blue potion, “This one is also pretty expensive, though not as much, if it’s what I think it is. It’s usually made for helping magical creatures heal internal injuries. Many of them are wary of humans and so it’s mixed in with either their food or water supply.”

Hermione picked up the small green vial. “I’m not quite sure what this one is…” she said as she unstoppered it and wafted the tiny fumes towards her. “I’ll look into it during lunch.” Lastly, she opened the lid of the jar. “Oh, this is a basic scar ointment. He probably made it since it usually isn’t sold in large batches like this.”

Harry let out a small sigh of relief. “This doesn’t prove anything though. Just because these potions aren’t dangerous doesn’t mean they aren’t plotting something.”

Hermione subtly rolled her eyes and dragged Harry off to breakfast after he had put most of his potions away, slipping the blue one into his bag to have with his breakfast. The rest of the morning seemed to go by in a blur and by lunchtime Harry was starting to get a headache from how many times the teachers had drilled into them the importance of their O.W.L.s this year.

Despite Hagrid being gone Harry was really looking forward to their Care of Magical Creatures class. They walked out towards Hagrid’s hut where Professor Grubbly-plank was waiting for them by a table covered in twigs. They soon learned they the twigs weren’t actually twigs but bowtruckles. Hermione managed to gain ten points for Gryffindor answering questions.

Professor Grubbly-plank then had them pick out one bowtruckle for every group of three. Harry went to grab one for Ron, Hermione, and him. He got to the table while Draco seemed to be taking his time picking one.

“My father found out that Dumbledore has Hagrid looking for giants.” Draco whispered before selecting one and heading back to his fellow Slytherins. Harry stood a moment longer in surprise before grabbing a bowtruckle at random and rushing back to his friends.

He passed the bowtruckle off to Ron who seemed to struggle with it as it squirmed in his hands. Harry turned to Hermione and told her what Draco had said.

“Yeah, Bill said Hagrid was doing some recruiting for the Order.” Ron said as he finally got the bowtruckle to stay still.

“But giants?” Hermione said, surprised, “But they’re- they’re-”

“Yeah, they’re pretty vicious. A lot like trolls, they just like killing things.” Ron said, unperturbed.

“Why would Dumbledore need giants!” asked Harry incredulously.

“Well, with You-Know-Who back it’ll be all out war again soon, won’t it. I reckon if Dumbledore doesn’t win over the giants first he will and then we’ll be in a sorry state.” said Ron.

They didn’t say much for the remainder of the class, each focused on their own thoughts on the matter as they sketched out their bowtruckle. Was Tom also preparing for war? Harry wondered as he erased the leg he was sketching for the third time. Was that why he was in so many meetings. Had Tom really murdered the Dursley’s? Did he do it so Harry would never have to go back? It was plausible he supposed, but then why did Tom lie to him about it?

Harry only ended up with half his sketch done by the end of class. He shoved it into his bag and the Gryffindors started to make their way over to the greenhouses. It seemed that the class before them had run over a bit as the fourth year Ravenclaws came out of the greenhouse beside theirs. Luna flounced up to Harry and Hermione with a large grin.

“Oh look. It’s Loony Lovegood. What’s the imaginary creature of the week Lovegood?” said Ron with a slight sneer. Both Hermione and Harry turned sharply to glare at him, causing Ron to step back. Luna seemed to not have heard Ron’s comment, even though he hadn’t been exactly quiet about it. Or perhaps she had purposely ignored it. Either way, she turned and headed off to, presumably, her next class.

“It’s the weirdos that make the best of friends, sometimes.” said a voice just behind them. They turned to see Ernie McMillan just behind them. Hermione couldn’t stand the pompous boy and hurried into the greenhouse while Ron followed behind, ears turning red in embarrassment from the chastising.

“Er- thanks Ernie.” said Harry who began to turn around before a hand grabbed his wrist.

“If you ever need any help, Harry, with anything. You can always come to me.” Ernie said, rubbing his thumb over the inside of Harry’s wrist. Harry yanked his arm away sharply.

“Umm- yeah... sure.” said Harry, looking away. Ernie smirked and went into the greenhouse.

Harry waited a moment before following him. The touch had left him with a nauseous feeling in the pit of his stomach. Before he went to sit between Hermione and Neville, he made a stop at the sink to scrub the spot thoroughly under the pretense of washing his hands.

The rest of class passed by, thankfully, uneventfully. In fact the rest of the week passed by uneventfully besides the ever increasing amount of homework, Hermione finding out that the green potion was a general nutrition potion, and her and Harry trying to distance themselves from Ron who had steadily been increasing his bigoted rhetoric over the week.

It was Saturday evening at that point and Harry felt like he was drowning in homework. He sighed in defeat as he closed his Astronomy textbook. He was one of the last stragglers left in the common room, even Hermione had already gone to bed. Harry packed up his books and decided that he’d just have to finish his homework tomorrow and hope that he got it done in time. Maybe Hermione would let him have a peek at her Transfiguration essay…

Chapter Text

Harry woke up Sunday with a groan. He looked around wondering what had woken him up and there, at the window, was an owl tapping on the glass. He got up and looked around. Only Ron’s curtains were still closed and the others had probably already gone down to breakfast. He got up to open the window and the sleek barn owl hopped in before sticking out it’s leg.

Dear Harry.

Sorry I hadn’t been able to reply sooner. We had a small incident with a juvenile male swedish short-snout and I had a bit of a hard time writing at all for a while after. But I’m as good as new now!

I wanted to write back sooner since I had been exchanging owls with Dumbledore and… well I know I said to try to get along with him but perhaps you were right, last year, in your misgivings about the Malfoy heir. Just keep an eye out, watch out for Hermione as well.

And before you say anything, yes he is probably hiding some things. Can you imagine if Dumbledore told everyone in the Order everything? And with the war brewing up again, any one person knowing too much could put them in quite a lot of danger. Not to mention you’re still in school. It might feel like babying but perhaps he just wants you to enjoy your school years instead of feeling like there’s a weight above your head.

Learn as much as you can while you’re in school and if you’re still set on joining in on the fighting, then get the O.W.L.s you’ll need to start on the path to becoming an Auror. That route will teach you the skills you’ll need to keep yourself and others safe. You’ll have to work hard because becoming an auror isn’t an easy path to take.

Goodness Harry, you’re making me turn into my mother. I don’t mean for it all to sound like a lecture but I’m worried with all the things I’m hearing through the grapevine. We’re here in a fairly remote part of Romania so it’s hard to get any kind of news out here, but what I am hearing isn’t good.

Stay safe,

Charlie.

Harry frowned at the letter before crumpling it up and throwing it away. Charlie seemed to trust Dumbledore. Was he right? Should Harry listen to the old man?

But something didn’t feel right about that, it was a gnawing, uneasy feeling in his gut whenever he thought about going to Dumbledore with his questions. He’d listen to at least one piece of Charlie’s advice, he’d keep an eye out and hopefully some things would be revealed soon.

Harry headed down to breakfast feeling downhearted as he recalled how much homework he still needed to finish. The morning went by at a snail’s pace as he sat in the library with Hermione, who had declined to show him her work but had agreed to help him with his own.

By the time lunch time rolled around Harry had almost finished everything and was starving. The bit he had left he could easily finish later in the week, he thought to himself, and that would give him the afternoon off! Perhaps he could talk Neville into a game of exploding snaps or something.

Harry and Hermione approached the Great Hall, and their animated chatter halted as they heard a ruckus coming from within the hall. The two gave each other a look before approaching carefully.

The entire hall was abuzz with fevered whispers, and with good reason. For there, just off to the side from the Head Table, stood seven soldiers, and despite their sparkling attire they were very clearly soldiers. A fine silver cloth draped luxuriously over delicate chainmail which was attached to golden plates designed in a satiny scale pattern on the chestplate and decorative scrolling embossed on the smoother arm and leg guards.

They all stood at rigid attention, not a single twitch amongst them. Harry looked across the head table, noticing a sour look on Dumbledore’s face and confused ones among the rest of the staff. He looked back at the soldiers. As they sat down at the Gryffindor table Harry noticed that the soldiers had something shimmery on their sharp cheekbones and after a double take he realized they had scales visible there. That was probably why Dumbledore looked so displeased, if they were part creatures.

Once Dumbledore was sure that all the students were present he stood and cleared his throat. “Greetings everyone. Just a small announcement before we dig in. News of Lord Voldemort’s return has spread far and wide it seems.” he said, not pausing at the collective flinch by the majority of students (and even some of the staff) at the Dark Lord’s name, “As such the Board of Governors has enlisted the aid of the Oaris Ar-Tira, in protecting this school should it become necessary. As such you will see them throughout the grounds and halls of Hogwarts, though they have been instructed not to disturb any classes. In other news the Ministry of Magic has decided to invest more into Hogwarts. As such we will have one of their own residing with us while they evaluate your instructors. Please welcome Madam Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge!”

The Hall was shocked into silence, not a single soul clapping a customary welcome. Some of the teachers stared incredulously at the Headmaster and the toad-like woman standing next to him.

“Thank you all for such a warm welcome!” she began in a high-pitched, girlish voice, “It is absolutely wonderful to be back at Hogwarts and to see such young and eager faces attending such a prestigious school. I look forward to becoming friends with you all as we work together to create progress in the world of education! For each era here has brought upon a treasure trove of knowledge and innovation, for without it we will only find stagnation and decay. At the same time we must be wary of progress for progress’ sake. A balance between new and old, between…” The majority of students began whispering to one another, ignoring the woman’s lengthy speech at this point. Even Harry had tuned the woman out. He turned to Hermione to say something only to find her listening quite raptly to the speech, though her expression clearly indicated that she wasn’t liking what she was hearing.

Harry couldn’t really be bothered by the woman. He was far more intrigued by the soldiers still standing silently off to the side. He watched them out of the corner of his eye. Some of them were slightly frowning now, looking at Dumbledore with a hint of disdain. The light in the great hall glittered off the different coloured scales on their cheeks and Harry was mesmerised.

He was knocked out of his staring by a sudden pain in his shin where Hermione had apparently kicked him. When he looked towards her he realized that the Umbridge woman had finished her speech and food had finally arrived to the table. There was a spatter of short lived applause before the hall turned to their lunches and resumed their questioning chatter.

“Well that explained a lot.” mumbled Hermione.

“Did it really?”

Hermione nodded, “The ministry is interfering at Hogwarts.”

“Is it because of them?” Harry asked, tilting his head towards the soldiers who were still lined up along the wall but were now turning their heads to watch the students.

“Well it doesn’t seem like Dumbledore is happy that they’re here, so perhaps…?” she replied with a pensive look on her face.

Their whispered conversation was then interrupted by Ron who had decided to complain to Harry about having lost to McLaggen for the keeper position on Friday. Harry had to admit that Cormac was an arrogant prick but he had, without a doubt, saved far more goals than Ron, and Geoffrey Hooper made reserve despite his whiny attitude. Ginny had even gone easy on her brother during the tryout and he had only been able to save one quaffle, mostly due to luck.

Harry managed to get through the conversation with an occasional noncommittal sound while Hermione gave him pitying glances every once in a while while she spoke to Neville. Harry picked at the rest of his dinner until Hermione nudged him.

“Hey, do you want that help with the DADA essay now?” she asked. Harry was confused for a second since he had already finished it but then he realized she was helping him get out of there without much fuss. He nodded and gathered up his things. Neville and Ron ended up following them up.

There weren’t too many other students in the common room when they arrived and the four found their way to the empty couches by the fire. Hermione pulled out her essay from her bag and Neville ran up to grab his. It wasn’t long before Ron got bored and went to find Seamus or Dean.

Neville returned just as Hermione began putting her essay away, to his disappointment. “I can help you with your essay later, Neville,” Hermione said, “but really these lessons are ridiculous!”

“This is the first year that we haven’t done any practical work.” said Neville, “Not that I’m really complaining, since I’m terrible with the spellwork… but it does make the class less exciting.”

“You’re not that bad at the spellwork. You did well enough when we had Professor Lupin.” said Harry encouragingly.

“Well yeah… I mean… he really took his time to explain things… and I didn’t feel as awkward asking him questions after class…”

“Harry… You’re pretty good at DADA…” ventured Hermione.

“So are you. You’re always at the top of our class.”

“Not always. You came in first when Professor Lupin taught us.”

Harry floundered for a moment and looked to Neville for help. He found none. “She’s got a point. You’ve always been really good at explaining things to me, even though it takes a bit for me to catch on.” he replied to the silent question with a shrug

“But- I’m not- I can’t teach!” said Harry, “We need someone who actually knows what they’re doing.”

“And you don’t? Think of all you’ve done, Harry!”

“You mean how lucky I’ve been to survive all these years? Because that’s all it was, Hermione. Luck. And don’t act like you weren’t there too! You could teach us. You have a better understanding of the theory.”

“But other people won’t want to learn from-”

“Wait. Wait- now it’s other people too?” Harry said, getting up to pace in front of the fire, “No… no way, maybe if it was just a few of us but you’re talking about…?”

“Whoever wants to learn, really... Harry.” Hermione said, her tone becoming gravely serious, “Things are becoming dangerous. We need to be prepared for whatever’s going to happen. And if the Ministry is trying to keep us from knowing how to defend ourselves, don’t you think it’s even more important for us to learn it?”

Harry stayed still, shocked and unsure what to say. “Well… Just think on it, please?” said Hermione before heading off to bed. Harry looked to Neville who merely shrugged and followed Hermione’s example. Harry sunk into the armchair beside him.

He felt like a mass of confusion and now his best friend had just added to it. Not that she knew as much, he hadn’t talked to her about his worries at all. Mostly, he had just hoped the problem would go away if he ignored it. Maybe he should accept her offer, it could give him a distraction from everything else that was going on. But starting a secret defence club wasn’t exactly keeping a low profile or staying out of trouble.

Harry looked over at the staircase. He didn’t feel up to heading to bed or facing Neville just yet. Maybe he could work on the homework he had put off earlier and hope that Neville would be asleep by the time he went up. A temporary, and unpleasant, distraction from his worries… but a distraction none-the-less, he thought as he pulled out his notes and his books with a sigh.

Hours passed by before Harry finally put his quill down with a satisfied smile. He didn’t think Hermione would have much to criticize about this essay. He looked around and was startled to realize how late it had gone. The common room was completely empty. Then his eyes landed on the reading room.

He looked around again to make sure there really was no one around before he stuffed his finished homework into his bag and walked briskly to the portrait at the back of the reading room.

“Hello Professor.” Harry said quietly so as to not startle the dozing portrait.

“Hello? Ah! Harry! I was wondering when you would come for a visit.” she replied with a knowing smile. Harry smiled back.

“Is the password still pig snout?”

“Of course, dear boy. And if it ever does change by some miracle, I’ll be sure to let you know. Now hurry along. I know for a fact it’s past curfew but at least you’re still in our cozy tower, so this will be our little secret.” she said with a wink as her portrait swung open to reveal the spacious bathroom. Every surface was still shining, just as he remembered it from the previous year. Dobby must have kept up with the cleaning over the summer, Harry thought with another fond smile at the thought of the elf. He’d have to thank him later.

Harry got undressed quickly and practically ran to the water. The ripple of legs into fin felt like such a relief, felt so incredibly freeing, that Harry took a moment to just sink to the bottom of the bathtub in bliss. Then he took off, stretching himself and feeling like every little worry melted away.

Maybe he should say screw it and go see the merfolk of the Black Lake, despite what his father said. It couldn’t cause that much trouble could it? He was saved from that decision though as one of them popped up in front of him.

“You should not be swimming in open waters, young one.” said the merman who Harry then recognized as the one who has first greeted Viktor and him in the second task of the tournament.

“But this is a bathtub… it’s not open..”

“It is more pool than tub as it is fed from the lake, same way as I entered here.” said Durdyn, his expression turning into a frown, “Come, our Chieftainess wishes to speak with you. Now will be better than later.” the merman said before swimming off. Harry followed soon after and they passed through a grate at the far end of the tub where Durdyn had wriggled one of the bars loose.

Harry wasn’t sure at all what to say. Durdyn gave Harry a sidelong glance before pulling something black out of a bag that hung off his hips and passing it to him. It took Harry a moment before he realized it was charcoal causing him to blush. He mumbled a thank you before rubbing some behind his ears and then passing it back.

Durdyn then blushed as well. “You need to apply some just under- under your vordyl- your pelvic spines… there-” he said quickly pointing to just under the ribbon like fins that came off the sides of his hips. Harry turned a deeper red, which spread down his neck as well. He quickly did as Durdyn suggested and then returned the charcoal. “Sinnafain, our Chieftainess, she will teach you some of what you need to know.”

They arrived to the merfolk’s city soon after and some of its citizens stopped to stare at the new comer. During the second task, it seemed, it had mostly been their warriors present. Now Harry watched shyly as merfolk whispered to each other and young ones swam about, oblivious to the quiet commotion of the adults.

Harry was almost relieved when they approached a cavern set into the stone that rose out of the lake bed to form a sturdy foundation for the bank far above them. Not only would he get away from the staring, which you would think he’d be used to by now but apparently not, but he would hopefully learn a lot from this Chieftainess as well.

A stern but kind looking mer swam forward to greet them. “Kalyraes en’i’Tathar. Our nessa er has arrived.” said Durdyn.

“As the striped bass returns from the sea.” she replied in a knowing manner, reaching for Harry’s arm. Before he knew it he had a strip of dark orange tied around his upper arm. “Come now, let us swim for a bit.”

The warriors that had been lingering about dispersed, content to let their Chieftainess wander unguarded. Soon it was apparent why as she greeted others warmly and familiarly. “Now, akhelbhen, I understand you have come with questions.”

“Yes- well no… I’m curious I suppose… I don’t know what kind of questions I need to ask…”

“You are as a hornwart, quick to grow heartily despite the conditions.” she said just as a young mer nearly collided with her. She scooped the child up and passed her to Harry who looked shocked and nervous at the gesture. The young girl showed off her sharp teeth with a smile. Harry smiled back as he ran a hand through her surprisingly soft hair which felt almost like moss.

The child’s mother, Harry assumed, came swimming over in a rush. When she saw her child in a stranger’s arms her expression became vicious; her fin spines and hair expanded to make her look even more threatening. Harry stumbled back as the young girl in his arms hid her face in his neck and Sinnafain moved in front of them to settle the agitated mother.

A quick conversation in mermish and the mother looked much calmer, if not quite happy about the situation. The child seeing that her mother was no longer angry wriggled out of Harry’s arms to head back to her. For a moment Harry felt sad at that, though right after he thought that it was a bit strange to feel sad over a child he barely knew. He hadn’t even learned the child’s name for goodness sake.

The mother had already gone when Harry looked up from contemplating his swirling thoughts. Sinnafain gave him a knowing smile. “It’s instincts. You are a kolindo- a bearer, and you will feel the need to have children at some point.”

“How- how do relationships work among merfolk?” Harry asked, slightly blushing.

“All mer mate for life, though whether we chose to live that life with our mylari- our soulmate, is up to us. Have you met your mylari, nessa er?” she asked with a teasing smile.

“I don’t know... How would I tell if I have or not?”

“You must listen with your heart, let it break upon you like a wave upon the sand.” Harry looked at her with a confused expression but she didn’t elaborate. Instead they swam on.

“Sinnafain…” Harry asked after a moment of silence. “Who are those people that have come to Hogwarts? Those guards?”

The chieftainess’ expression grew somber. “They are merfolk from the sea. Some would call them sirens.” she said. Then she turned to Harry, blocking the way forward. “Nessa er. When the rain falls we do not feel the ripples this far below. And yet the Oaris seem to be very concerned with the ripples of the Wizarding World. Perhaps they have not come because of the ripples. Perhaps the ripples merely help to cloak other disturbances in the water. Either way be wary, be safe.

“I haven’t had nearly enough time with you tonight, but you must leave here soon. Too long and the sharks will begin to smell the waters for their prey. We will send you a token when it is safe to visit. For now keep that band on your arm, it will help to keep you safe.” she said as she rested a hand gently on Harry’s cheek.

Chapter Text

“Potter. A reminder of your detention tonight.” said Snape the following morning as he swept past Harry and Hermione on the way to the Great Hall for breakfast.

“Another detention?” asked Hermione with a hint of exasperation.

“It’s not what you think! Snape said we could use the detentions as an excuse for the potion I have to rub on my tail.”

“Oh. Well then, that should be alright...” she said, though her tone suggested that she wasn’t entirely convinced. “Anyway… have you thought about that DADA club?”

“Hermione…” said Harry with a sigh that far exceeded Hermione’s earlier exasperation.

“I know, I know. But if we’re going to do this we really should get started before Christmas holidays.”

“If I just show up and show you guys how to do things can I just leave the rest to you? I’m rubbish at any kind of organizational things so if you expect me to do all of that then I’ll have to give it a solid no.” Harry said with a stern look to emphasize how serious he was.

“Oh, of course! That’s not a problem at all!” Hermione said excitedly. A blush spread across her face, “I may have already started all that anyway, figuring out when and where to meet. How to keep in touch with all the members. I may have started outlining a lesson plan... that kind of thing.”

Harry smiled fondly. Of course his reluctance to confirm his involvement wouldn’t stop his friend from planning for the possibility of him accepting the offer, he chuckled to himself. He supposed if he hadn’t known her as well as he did he may have taken offence at the gesture but it wasn’t just a presumptuous action. Hermione would always attempt to plan ahead for any possible outcome, and for that he could be grateful.

They had almost made it to the hall when Harry realized he had forgotten his textbook upstairs. He apologized to Hermione before hurrying back to Gryffindor Tower with Hermione promising him she’d grab him a bite.

It didn’t take him long to find his book but he figured he’d head straight to class. Besides, Hermione said she’d grab him some food so he wouldn’t have to worry so much about missing his meal.

Since he had made it back to the dorm fairly quickly Harry decided to take his time getting to class, daydreaming a bit about possibly being able to stay with Sirius over the Christmas holiday. It was perhaps this inattention that allowed someone to grab his arm from the shadows of an alcove, startling Harry.

“Oh! Ernie… you- you scared me there.” Harry said, trying to pull his arm unsuccessfully from Ernie’s grip.

“Oh, sorry. I hadn’t meant to scare you, little dove.” the boy said with a slight smirk that belied his apology.

“Well… umm… can I help you with something? Only I promised Hermione I’d meet her before class and there’s not much time left…” Harry said, not looking Ernie in the eyes and still trying to pull his arm away.

“Oh yes. Yes, you could help me, dove.” he replied, moving into Harry’s personal space until Harry’s back hit the wall.

“Let- let go of me Ernie.” Harry tried to say sternly as an acrid scent assaulted his nose. His voice came out with a bit of a waver, though he hoped that Ernie hadn’t heard it.

“Or else what, dove?” Macmillan said with a smirk as he leaned in and took a deep breath in by Harry’s neck, making Harry shiver in revulsion.

“Or else you have to deal with us.” said a stern pair of voices. Macmillan looked up with a scowl to see Fred and George advancing on them.

“This doesn’t concern you, Weasleys.” the Hufflepuff said without loosening his grip on Harry, though he did lean away to Harry’s mild relief.

“You see, that’s where you’re wrong Macmillan,”

“Harry’s an honorary Weasley.”

“Which makes it very much our business,”

“When we see our little brother being harrassed.”

Macmillan seemed to take a moment to think before smirking, “I’m a prefect Weasley. I’m well within my rights to take away some house points for your interference, besides I’m not harassing our Harry here. Am I, Harry?”

“Actually…” Harry said once again trying to pull away from the Hufflepuff. Ernie’s smirk disappeared and he shoved Harry against the wall with a snarl. This quickly prompted the twins to attack the distracted prefect. Harry was lucky enough to avoid the flying fists and wayward feet as the three boys brawled. It didn’t take long, though, for the commotion to draw some attention.

“Absolutely disgraceful behaviour.” Professor Snape said, his voice icy cold. “I would expect more from a prefect, Mr Macmillan.” he said to the now immobilized boy whose nose was bleeding and the beginnings of a splendid bruise forming on his temple.

“It takes more than one party for a fight, Severus.” said Professor Green who came up the hallway with the Umbridge woman walking beside him. “It appears the Weasley twins here are just as much to blame, and to attack a Prefect to boot!”

“Tsk tsk.” Umbridge sounded in her pitchy tone, “It seems that Mr Potter here would be the cause of this commotion, owing to his un-assaulted person. Tsk. What would be a suitable disciplinary action for such a serious offence, Professor Green?”

“Perhaps a month’s worth of deten-”

“Tsk tsk. Such a mild course of action for causing such serious trauma to a prefect? That just won’t do.”

“They were just protecting me! Macmillan-”

“Silence Mr Potter. No need to fret, you are in just as much trouble as your friends here. Conspiring injury to a figure of authority? For shame.” she said with a smile despite her disapproving tone.

“I believe this is more a matter for their Heads of House to decide.” Severus began to say, his grinding teeth the only sign of his simmering anger.

“Nonsense Snape, This can readily be resolved here and now. Professor Green, what do these three instigators have that can be taken from them as punishment?”

“Well... all three are on the Quidditch team for Gryffindor…”

“Splendid! From here on you three are banned from Quidditch for the remainder of the year.” she said cheerily.

“You hardly have the authori-”

“Oh you’ll find that I do, Professor Snape.” she replied as she handed him a parchment. After giving it a quick look the Professor glared at the woman before storming off to Dumbledore’s office.

“Ahh. Well I’d best get these boys to the infirmary.” Professor Green said, his tone expressing his displeasure at such a task. A wave of his wand and the immobilized boys began to float. “Anything else I can help you with Delores?”

“No, no. I’ll make my way over to the Headmaster’s office to watch the show. Should be spectacular!” she said with glee.

Harry was left standing in the hallway alone, mouth gaping in absolute shock. That’s where Draco found him moments later.

“Potter… aren’t you going to be late for Ancient Runes? It’s nearly on the other side of the school… Potter?” Draco said as he approached, becoming concerned for his friend.

“Macmillan- and then the twins showed up… and- and then Umbridge- she kicked us off the quidditch team…”

“Okay, calm down Harry. Start at the beginning.” Draco said, reaching for Harry to provide comfort but stopping when Harry flinched sharply at the action.

“Macmillan… he cornered me and then the twins, they- they got into a fight a-and then Snape, Professor Green, and that Umbridge woman showed up and apparently she can just- just kick us off the Quidditch team!”

“But Macmillan isn’t on his quidditch team?”

“No, it was only the twins and me… she didn’t even ask what happened… she just… Snape- I was sure he was about to tear Macmillan a new one when the other two showed up…”

Draco moved slowly this time as he awkwardly wrapped Harry into a hug. Unfortunately it was at that moment that they were interrupted by a flash of Colin Creevey’s camera. Draco growled fiercely, “Creevey! Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

The boy gulpped loudly, “Uh- n-n-no. Free period!”

“Then scram. And if that photo finds its way anywhere except for the end of an incendio I will find you and you won’t like what happens if I do.”

Colin practically squeaked before scampering off. Draco turned back to Harry and held out his hand. “Come on. I’ll walk you to Snape’s office. I’m sure he’ll want to make sure your okay after all that.”

“But what about Ancient Runes?”

“I’m sure Uncle Sev will write you a note.” Draco said, rolling his eyes.

“Draco…?” Harry’s voice queried after waking for a few long minutes.

“Yeah?”

“What do you think is going on with these soldiers staying in the castle…?”

“I don’t know…” he said with an unconcerned shrug, “My dad says to be careful though, he’s not sure what their true intentions are but he’s sure “protecting the students” is a cover for some other motive.”

They seemed to walk for ages, the remainder in silence as both boys were deep in thought. Finally they arrived and they exchanged an awkward farewell. Harry walked in and sat in front of Snape’s desk though it wasn’t long before he started pacing around.

His eyes eventually landed on the paper sitting on the desk and a photo of Sirius’ mugshot caught his eye.

SIRIUS BLACK SPOTTED IN THE ISLE OF WIGHT! AURORS ON THE SCENE!

Harry’s mind started racing. Wasn’t that where Aunt Marge had her summer home? What would Sirius be doing there? Hadn’t Dudley gone to live with his Aunt? Wasn’t Sirius supposed to be staying at Grimmauld Place? It- it must have been one of those false sightings Harry rationalized, though his mind still raced with questions, before moving on to browse the rest of the paper. There wasn’t much else to read, though, besides the latest quidditch results and a mysterious attempted break in at the Ministry.

His browsing was interrupted as Snape stormed into his office. Coming to a halt, his furious expression changing to a confused one upon seeing Harry waiting for him there. “Don’t you have class, Potter?” he snapped, continuing on his way behind his desk.

“Umm… Draco found me after- after… and said I should probably wait for you here.” Harry answered, slightly curling into himself as he did.

Severus sighed with a scowl, “Not much to be done, I’m afraid. That woman has somehow procured the title of ‘High Inquisitor’ and now has a ridiculous amount of power within the school. I’m not sure how much the Board of Governors know about this but I’ll be writing to Lucius here soon. Avoid the woman if you can, though I admit it may be a hopeless request with your tendency of getting into trouble.”

“Avoid Umbridge, avoid the soldiers, avoid Dumbledore… Maybe I should just hole up in my room until the end of the year.”

“Yes. That sounds like a wonderful idea.” Snape said without looking at the boy, instead pulling another sheet towards himself to begin marking. Harry ineffectively glared at him before letting out a sigh of defeat.

“Since I’m missing class anyway could I skip tonight’s detention and just apply my cream now?” he asked.

Severus glanced up from his papers, “No.”

“Come on! I’m sure you have better things to do in the evenings besides overseeing my ‘detention’. I can just get it out of the way now and we both get our evening free.” Harry tried to reason.

“For one, Mr Potter, I cannot appear derelict in my punishments and since we do not have a reasonable excuse why you cannot attend detention then we must keep to our appointed time. For another, I need to have these papers marked by the time my next class arrives so if you would kindly make yourself disappear and leave me in peace…” he replied before turning back to his papers.

Harry huffed in mild annoyance, “Would I at least be able to get a note to excuse me from the class I missed?”

Snape’s jaw clenched as he tore off a spare piece of parchment, scribbled something that was almost illegible, and handed it to Harry without looking at him. Harry snatched it and left the room, his mind roiling with frustration. Though really, how could he expect more? Snape had always been this way, so what made him think the man could change so drastically now? Harry thought to himself as he meandered his way back to Gryffindor Tower.

In an effort to distract himself he figured he’d touch up his transfiguration essay that was due next class. Hermione had been pretty disappointed when she had read it over the other night and realized it was mostly garbage. There hadn’t been enough time to rewrite it at the time but maybe now he could apply her suggestions as he waited for first period to end.

McGonagall began teaching as soon as everyone was in the room, leaving the stragglers to scramble for their seats, and their parchment and quills. There wasn’t even enough time to say a brief hello to Hermione, though she was sitting right next to him and by the time class was done they were much too tired to give each other a proper greeting.

Their trek to the Great Hall for lunch was interrupted though by a tearful Colin Creevey.

“I-I’m s-s-s-so sorry, Harry! It got taken j-j-just as I was about to burn it and oh gods, Malfoy is g-g-going to kill me!” he stammered through, bursting into sobs by the end.

“Relax Colin, I’ll just find Draco and explain before he finds out. Shouldn’t be too-” Harry cut off as he saw a furious Malfoy storming towards them. Harry stepped in front of the weeping boy, “Now Draco. He tried to do as you said! It got stolen before he could though.”

Malfoy stopped in front of Harry, wand drawn, while attempting to glare daggers at the cowering figure behind him. “Plausible as the corner of the photo was burnt but if he hadn’t taken the photo in the first place I wouldn’t be the laughing stock of the school now!”

“Yes, because being mistaken for my boyfriend is the worst thing that could possibly happen.” Harry said with a roll of his eyes.

“It’s not that at all.” Draco said, sighing as he holstered his wand and Hermione ushered Colin quietly to the Great Hall. “They won’t believe me when I tell them that it’s not true! I’m supposed to be the well respected Malfoy Heir, the Prince of Slytherin! They should respect me at my word!”

Harry shrugged. “Maybe this could be to our benefit.” he said thoughtfully.

“How so?” replied Draco suspiciously.

“Same way we were planning to use our friendship to unite the school, but this way we don’t even have to do much. Even if we ignore each other completely, the rumours will still spread.”

Draco groaned, “How am I supposed to get a girlfriend if people think I’m in a relationship with you?” Harry merely shrugged in response. “Fine, Potter, but we’re breaking up before the end of the year! And you had better make it suitably dramatic!”

Harry chuckled as Draco headed off to the Great Hall without him, though he followed behind not long after. The next few weeks would be interesting.

=^-^=

Christmas was sneaking up on them. It was only a few days before they would head out and for once Harry wouldn’t be staying in the castle over the holiday. He was so excited that he was barely nervous about their second Defence Club meeting. The first one he barely had to do anything since it was mostly introductions, Hermione explaining how things would work, and just a bit of expelliarmus review. This one, however, Harry would be properly teaching them himself. That thought almost brought down his mood from his thoughts of Christmas. Almost.

He nearly skipped to the last class of the day, he was in that good of a mood. Care of Magical Creatures passed quickly and uneventfully. His good mood persisted all the way to the Room of Requirement that they had found thanks to Dobby and it worked fantastically for the lessons. He paused for a moment to get his nerves under control before he joined Hermione and Ron in the room. They had already set up the room with practice dummies and a few textbooks that sat on low tables surrounded by cushiony pillows. They quickly went over the ‘lesson’ plan and then just chatted away before the first members began to show up.

“Alright everyone. Glad you could make it. First we’ll take a few minutes just to practice the expelliarmus from our last meeting before we move on. This time we’ve set up the dummies for you to practice on instead of each other.” Harry said as he nodded to the practice dummies behind them. Everyone took up their positions and Harry went around correcting stances and wand movements, enlisting the help of those that had it down pat to assist others.

They quickly moved on to practicing stupify and reducto. Hermione, being the brilliant witch that she was, had charmed the dummies to change colour when the spell was done correctly, with a plate on the front to absorb the spell itself. Harry used the same method as their previous meeting of getting the students that were doing well with the spell to help others.

Curfew was only a half hour away when they began to wrap up the meeting. Harry was quite happy with their progress and figured they could move on to more difficult spells after Christmas. Hermione helped the others leave in small groups while Harry cleaned up a bit. He was interrupted however when the handsome Ravenclaw from the train approached him.

“Umm- Hi.” Harry muttered, mentally slapping his forehead at his awkwardness.

“Hiya Harry.” Eddie said with a gorgeous smirk. “Thanks for teaching us today. I’m sure it will help us for our exams as well as preparing us for the upcoming war.”

“Yeah, well- I mean- that is the point of it all. I doubt we’d learn otherwise with the way Professor Green teaches.” he said, a blush spreading up his neck.

Eddie stepped closer to Harry. “You know, if you need any supplemental help with your studies, just let me know. I just got a fresh order of Baruffio’s Brain Elixir, it’s what got me nine O.W.L.s last year.” Harry glanced over to Hermione nervously, “Just a thought, or we could have some private study sessions. I wouldn’t be opposed to that instead.”

Harry shivered in a pleasant way, “Y-yeah. Studying together sounds good. We can meet up after we get back from break…?”

“Sounds great, Harry.” Eddie said seductively. He then glanced up and a smile lit up his face, “Oh look, mistletoe.”

Harry glanced up as well and Eddie caught his lips in a gentle kiss which didn’t stay chaste for long. A tongue teased his lips, asking for entrance which Harry gave willingly. They mapped each other’s mouths and a arm wrapped behind his waist as his knees began to go weak, his hands clutching Eddie’s shoulders for support.

If it hadn’t been for Eddie’s arm around his waist Harry would have fallen backwards in surprise as someone cleared their throat just behind them. “I guess that’s my cue to leave. I’ll see you later, Harry.” Eddie said before leaving the room. It was then that Harry noticed that everyone else had already left and his blush spread further up.

“Harry… I- I don’t think you should get involved with him…” Hermione said nervously. “I mean- I’m glad you’re getting over Viktor but maybe find someone else?”

“Come off it Hermione. I’m sure he’s not that bad, besides I can take care of myself just fine.” Harry said dismissively as he went back to picking up his bag and supplies, a goofy grin adorning his face,

“I just don’t want you to get hurt and the things I’ve heard about-”

“You’ve never been one to follow gossip Hermione. I’m telling you it’ll be fine. Will you be coming by Grimmauld Place over the holidays?”

She shook her head, “We’re heading out of the country but I’ll owl over your presents.”

“I can send yours with the same owl for it’s return flight.” Harry said as they walked towards their dorms, “I’ll see you in the morning Hermione, sleep well.”

“You too.” she replied in a resigned tone as they headed up their respective staircases while the common room buzzed with the excited chatter of their classmates.

Chapter Text

Harry stood in the foyer of Grimmauld Place, slightly shocked that he was actually here. He was actually going to spend Christmas with Sirius!

“Harry? Is that you?”

“Sirius!” Harry called with an impossibly wide grin.

“How’d you get here? Remus and I were going to pick you up from the station.”

“No worries, the Weasley’s got me here alright.” Harry replied, giving Sirius a tight hug, “Speaking of, where is Moony?”

“Oh, umm…” Sirius stammered with a slight blush, rubbing the back of his head, “He’s just upstairs having a shower, kind of why we were late to pick you up, pup.”

Harry laughed and they walked together to the kitchen, catching up on this and that. Remus joined them not long after, looking back and forth between his watch and Harry before giving him an apologetic smile.

“Sorry cub, guess we lost track of time.”

“No worries, I got here all right didn’t I?” Harry said with a grin, not entirely oblivious to the situation, “Let me unpack and then we can catch up. Sirius, which room is mine?”

Sirius led Harry up the stairs, careful not to wake his mother’s portrait. “So you and Remus, huh?” Harry asked with a teasing smile.

“We were going to tell you! I mean we wanted to wait until you were here and settled a bit before talking to you about it. I mean if it makes you uncomfortable we can-”

“Do you make each other happy?” Harry interrupted. Sirius nodded enthusiastically, “Well then that’s all that matters, so congratulations!”

They burst out laughing after a moment of awkward silence and Sirius gave him a warm hug before opening the door to Harry’s room and leaving him to unpack. Harry set his trunk at the foot of the bed and then plopped down face first into it. He was happy for Sirius and Remus, wasn’t he? They deserved to be happy and if they found it together then why should it bother him?

Maybe it was the thought that if he lost one in the war against “Voldemort” chances are he’d lose both in one go as they fought to protect one another. That thought made Harry all the more determined to find another way to end the war, to end it before it had the chance to really begin.

Harry wasn’t sure how long he had spent deep in thought but was glad when Sirius popped his head in to tell him that supper was ready. Before he could pop back out though Harry spoke up.

“Hey Siri… what would you say if…” Harry then paused unsure if he should even bring up the events from the summer.

“What would I say if… what?” Sirius tried to goad Harry into finishing his sentence. “Harry?” he asked when he realised this was something serious that he wanted to talk about. He gently sat down beside his godson and wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

“You weren’t the only one that wanted to wait to see you in person before telling you something important.” Harry mumbled.

“Whatever it is pup, you can tell me.”

“I met my dad.” Harry said, looking up when Sirius didn’t immediately reply.

Sirius realised his silence was deafening and spoke carefully, “Harry… you understand… James- James is…”

“I’m not talking about James.” Harry said, looking into Sirius’ eyes which had widened in surprise. He seemed to find what he was looking for when he continued talking. “Hermione and I found proof that I was never related to Lily Evans but it was actually him that found me over the summer. I… I would have died if he hadn’t…” he finished in a subdued tone. Harry didn’t really want to speak about the Dursley’s just then and he hoped Sirius wouldn’t ask about that part.

“Harry… I tried to find you this summer. Is this why I couldn’t? Because you were with him?” Sirius asked with a slightly hurt look on his face. Harry nodded. “Why- why didn’t you send me an owl or something? Just to let me know you were alright… I mean- I’m happy for you, I really am… but…”

Harry hugged the man quite suddenly, startling Sirius from his melancholic thoughts. “I’m sorry, Sirius. I couldn’t send a letter from where I was and I didn’t even know what to say. I thought of writing to you a couple of times but-”

“Hey you two, did you get lost on your way to supper?” Remus asked jokingly from the doorway before catching on to the sombre mood in the room. “Well, how about we get our bellies full and then we can talk over what all this is about, hmm?”

Harry and Sirius both nodded before following Remus down to the kitchen. Remus kept the conversation light throughout the meal, “So how was your mini vacation, Pads? You never answered my earlier question.”

“It was fine. Good to get out of the house for a bit.”

“Where’d you go?” asked Harry with a bit of trepidation.

“Isle of something, wasn’t it?” Remus supplied.

“Don’t tell me you went to the Isle of Wight.” Harry said, his voice small and his face pale. Sirius shifted in his seat. “You realise you were seen! I read about it in the Prophet!” he exploded, startling the two men.

Harry stood up as his face paled further, “You didn’t… did you?”

“Did what, Harry?” Sirius asked, being careful not to look directly at him.

“You did… you went to kill Aunt Marge… Did you kill Dudley too? He was my age! Who’s next? Draco? Would you even hurt Ron? Would you eventually hurt me?!”

“This was all FOR YOU!” Sirius yelled, knocking over his chair as he stood as well.

“Sirius… please… tell me it’s just a misunderstanding…” Remus begged quietly.

“You don’t understand Remus! They were hurting him! The whole time I was in Azkaban I could have been caring for Harry, raising him. If only I hadn’t gone after that wretched rat! But as soon as I got out where was I? Stuck here while they were still hurting him! But I took care of it, so that I could take care of Harry. Just like James would have wanted me to!”

Remus shook his head in disbelief as he slowly got up and walked away from Sirius, who had been ranting at a near growl and his eyes had gone wild. “James… James would never had wanted you to become like your family, Sirius. He did everything to help you get away from all of that and- and this? This is what you do when he’s gone? Revert to your old family values?”

“I’m not…” Sirius paled for a moment before bristling with anger and drawing his wand, “I AM NOTHING LIKE THEM!”

“I can see now, how you and Bellatrix are related.” Harry shot at him quietly before turning and leaving the room. He raced to his room and locked it. It might not stop them, but if they had any decency they would understand that it meant he wanted to be alone. How could he talk to Sirius about his father now? If he found out who he really was he’d probably try to kill him too! Harry fell into his bed and buried his head into his pillow.

=^-^=

Tom read over the sheaf of papers before him with a focused crinkle in his brow. The words spelled out good news for them but something wasn’t quite right and he couldn’t put his finger on what that might be. A knock interrupted his oncoming headache.

“Enter.” he called sharply.

Lucius entered with a flourish and a smirk as he settled into the settee opposite of Tom’s desk. “Reading over the Trade Agreement then?” he asked knowingly. Tom merely nodded, returning to the papers in his hand, “You’ll want to look at page 6, paragraph 4, I believe.”

Tom found the page and then quirked an eyebrow at Lucius. “Send a reply that this is unacceptable. We’ll have to renegotiate that.”

“I have some good news for you at least.” Lucius said, still smirking.

Tom waited before rolling his eyes, “Go on.”

“We’ve secured all Potions Trades with China and Japan. Shiro Tori, the student that won the Wizarding Schools Potion Championship back when I was in 3rd year? Well it’s a good thing I kept in touch. He’s made some fairly impressive connections through Mahoutokoro, even after he graduated.” he revealed with a smug tone as he conjured a number of folders onto Tom’s desk.

“And these cover all the provisions we discussed?”

Lucius nodded, “The only places in Britain that can obtain any ingredients and Chinese or Japanese trademarked potions are select wards at St Mungo's and a handful of private potioneers. Any others that wish to obtain supplies from either country will have to come to me with an appropriate agreement. I already have my lawyers on the job of screening them so we only have to review the most lucrative offers.”

“Best news I’ve had all week. Can I leave these renegotiations with you then? This is the third time that Avery has failed these and I need someone competent to secure the magical creature trade throughout the Balkans. Karkaroff was supposed to head this project but no one can seem to find him.”

“Some say he’s run away. He knows you aren’t pleased with him from the time before you disappeared. Now that you’ve returned perhaps he fears punishment, or that this was an endeavour he was doomed to fail.”

“He’s far from my good graces that’s true but he has connections that would have been extremely beneficial to this agreement. Then perhaps we wouldn’t have to make so many changes.”

Lucius stood and vanished the folder of interest off to his private study. He paused in the doorway, “Oh, by the way, Cissa has demanded your presence at dinner.”

“Yes, yes.” Tom said dismissively and turned to a new pile of papers. Maybe he could get through a couple more folders before the woman stormed his office…

=^-^=

“Harry?” Remus called with a gentle knock to Harry’s bedroom door. Harry called him in but the knob rattled solidly when he went to open the door. After hesitating for but a moment he cast a simple alohomora. He walked in, almost to the centre of the room before realising that Harry was laying face down in his bed.

“Hey, cub. Do you want to talk?” Harry made an unintelligible noise into his pillow and Remus sat at the end of the bed, resting a hand on his covered ankle, “Cub… it’s been days and we’ve tried to give you your space… but the Weasley’s and some of the other Order members will be here tomorrow… Sirius doesn’t want you to be mad at him for Christmas….”

Harry looked up sharply, “Sirius doesn’t want-”

I - I don’t want you to be mad at us…”

“I was never mad at you Moony… You didn’t know about it any more than I did…”

“I’m sure he only thought he was doing what was best…” Remus said weakly, not fully believing his own words.

“For him maybe... Before all that, I had told him- I told him a thing and it’s like he’s completely forgot about it just because it doesn’t suit him…”

“Told him what?” Remus asked gently.

Harry hesitated a moment longer before speaking, “Over the summer… I found my dad…”

“But James-” Harry shook his head to cut him off.

“Sirius told us- Hermione, Ron, and I- about dad being in a relationship before Lily… That man is my other parent. He saved me from the Dursley’s-” Harry stopped mid-sentence, his eyebrows crinkling with worry, “Remus… You- you don’t think Sirius killed them too, do you? They told me that they had died but I didn’t ask how… Dumbledore said it was Death Eaters but…”

“You mean the Dursley’s? I… I’m not sure, Harry… I- I can’t say I know Sirius as well as I used to.” Remus said quietly, looking down at his weathered hands. Harry shuffled over and hugged Remus tightly, the man hugging him back after the brief shock wore off.

“So you don’t think it was Death Eaters that killed them?” Remus asked gently.

“No… well… my dad- he’s not exactly on the side of the Light…”

“A Death Eater?” Remus asked, his eyebrows flying up in surprise.

“So to speak… anyway- by the sound of it, it wasn’t any of them…”

“Are you sure? I mean are you sure this man is your father? He’s not just using you or trying to lure you into You-Know-Who’s grasp, is he?”

Harry was quiet for a moment, “I- I don’t know if he has ulterior motives, but he’s definitely my dad. We share some- traits- that leave little room for doubt. And he’s kind to me, Moony. We spent time over the summer where he told me about him and James, and about me when I was a baby. He told me a little about you and Siri, little things that James told him. It was more than I ever got from the Dursley’s, or anyone else for that matter. I can’t say he was the perfect dad… we didn’t get on at first… but I want- I-”

Remus hugged him again. “I think I understand, cub.” he said with a small smile, “I expect to meet him at some point though, regardless of what side he’s on!”

Harry laughed while Remus echoed him with his own chuckle. “Well then, maybe we can head down for a meal together? I’ve missed eating together, like a family.” Remus asked, smiling wryly. Harry nodded with a smile of his own and headed out of the room.

They arrived to the dining room to find Sirius there. Unsure of what to say and his mood dampening because of the awkward feeling, Harry’s smile slid off of his face.

Sirius’ own expression mirrored Harry’s as he felt a strange jealousy that his godson was laughing and smiling with Remus instead of him. He should be glad that Remus managed to bring Harry out of his moody shell and down to lunch but the darkness swirling in his stomach wouldn’t quite go away.

“Hey Padfoot, what’s for lunch then?” Remus asked, trying to break the sudden tension that had befallen them. He did not want things to devolve like the last time they were in this room together.

“No clue,” the words coming out more strained than he had meant to, “I told Kreacher to make something.”

“Oh well then it should be alright, despite his attempts to poison you.” Remus joked, “Did you manage to clear out that Boggart from the sitting room upstairs?

“No, might need Molly’s help with it after they get here tomorrow.”

“Not Arthur’s?”

“Nah, Arthur mentioned he had some stuff to do at the Ministry, stuff for Dumbledore. He’ll be by sometime in the evening though.”

“You alright Harry?” Remus asked the boy, who had been quiet since they entered the room and was merely picking at his food now that it had appeared before them.

“Huh?” Harry replied, looking up from his plate.

“You seem a little distracted.” Remus said with a teasing tone, “Girl troubles?”

“What? No!” Harry said quickly. “Even if I was in a relationship, it wouldn’t be girl troubles.” he mumbled.

“Huh. Are you embarrassed about that?”

“No! Why would I?”

“I know you were raised with muggles… and… well- I know that they’re not exactly… tolerant.” Remus said, worry colouring his tone.

“They weren’t tolerant of magic either but I found a place where it doesn’t matter. This isn’t so much different.” Harry said warmly, feeling happy that Remus cared for him. Sirius meanwhile hid his scowl behind his bowl of rice.

“Well that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about in the wizarding world. Not many homophobes here, apart from the muggleborns that bring in their prejudices.” Sirius said with a shrug, “You’ll have more issues with your other little problem than with being gay.”

“What other problem?” Remus asked.

“Well Harry-”

“I meant to tell you, just didn’t know how to bring it up…” Harry said, looking down at his half eaten plate.

“Harry got his creature inheritance the summer before last, though I can’t quite remember what it was.”

“I- I’m a merperson. Is that even the right word for it?” Harry asked, feeling odd about just bluntly talking about his inheritance.

“I would think so. I know they use the term ‘merfolk’ for themselves as a people. I’ll need to read up on it.” Lupin said distractedly, beginning to turn towards the library as if he wanted to go there right away. “Maybe I can find some information to help you stay hidden. It’s a dangerous thing to be a creature in our world…” he said worriedly, turning back to face Harry again.

“My dad taught me quite a bit on that, so don’t worry so much.”

“Oh is that the shared trait you mentioned earlier? That would make sense.. I don’t believe there are many wizard-mers in northern Europe.” he said, looking back towards the library.

“Go read to your heart’s content. I’ll clean up here.” Sirius said in a teasing tone while Remus shot him a sheepish smile. He almost went to kiss Sirius before remembering that Harry was in the room. He had meant to talk to Harry about that… they could do that later though. He cleared his throat and left the room, a slight blush dusting his cheeks.

Sirius chuckled as he started collecting the plates since it was obvious that Harry wasn’t going to eat much more either. “So, I know we’re all looking forward to tomorrow, but would you be up for some hot cocoa by the fire?” Sirius asked gently but nervously.

Harry smiled at him somewhat shyly, “Sure, I’d love to.”

His heart soared as Sirius beamed at him. Maybe they could get over this, he thought.

Chapter Text

The next morning Harry woke to loud voices in the house, followed by the portrait’s screaming not a moment later. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Soon enough there was a knock at his door before Ron and Hermione invited themselves in.

“Hiya Harry! Merry Christmas!” he said cheerfully. Harry scowled on the inside but greeted them back, his tone neutral. He hoped they would put it down to him having just woken up.

“Hey, Ron, how about we let Harry get dressed and meet him downstairs.” she said, grabbing Ron’s hand and gently tugging him out the door. Harry glanced at their intertwined fingers and mentally shrugged. He wondered for a moment when they had gotten so close but shrugged it off just as quickly. After all, he and Hermione weren’t as close as they used to be so maybe she had just gravitated towards the other part of their old trio.

The most he had heard from her was a single letter at the start of the holidays. She had said that her trip got cancelled because of an emergency at her parent’s dental practice, which meant she’d be able to visit. After that he hadn’t heard a word.

He got dressed slowly, in no rush to socialise yet. Not to say he wasn’t excited to see some of the other Weasley’s but he felt the need to steel himself to face the others. Once his ablutions were complete, he made his way towards the ruckus coming out of the living room. The twins noticed him first and dragged him over to give him their present first.

As he passed Ginny and Hermione exchanging gifts, he overheard a conversation that made his heart thump uncomfortably.

“-gorgeous! A full bouquet of roses, carnations, and lilacs. Eddie took me to Madam Puddifoot’s right after. It means he’s serious about our relationship, doesn’t it? We’ve been together for eight months but his kisses are still as passionate as when we first started dating.” Ginny gushed.

Hermione caught Harry’s eye as he passed by. She went to get up to talk to him but he shook his head and walked away, closing off his heart and feeling glad that the twins had picked a corner far away from the two girls.

“Now Harry, we know-”

“- that you don’t need to be told that these-”

“- are top secret. It’s a set of finished products-”

“- that’ll be first on the shelves when we open our store!”

“Got everything all planned out then?” Harry asked, digging through the poorly wrapped box of tricks and treats.

“Of course!”

“We’ve even got our eye on a small building in Diagon.”

“Just waiting to get our O.W.L.s!” they said together with matching grins.

A commotion drew their attention over to the other side of the room as Sirius slapped someone’s hand saying, “Get your own werewolf!” There was a moment of tension before the woman laughed and Sirius grinned.

“Who’s that?” Harry asked.

“That’s Tonks!”

“She’s a metamorphmagus!” the twins said with excitement.

“A what?”

“Oi Tonks!” yelled George.

“Show us your pig snout!” The pink haired woman giggled before screwing her face up and quickly sprouting a pig’s nose.

“Any other requests while we’re at it?” she asked, her laugh broken up by the occasional snort. This lasted only a few minutes before she resumed her conversation with Remus who now had Sirius’ arms wrapped around him from behind.

Harry watched them a while longer. The twins moved away, probably to cause some mischief, and Bill came up to Harry. “Is Tonks actually into Remus?” he asked.

“Looks like it.” Bill replied with a shrug.

“But can’t she tell that he’s with Sirius? Remus isn’t cheating on him with her, is he?” Harry said, feeling an ache in his chest at the thought of his honorary uncle betraying his godfather like that.

Bill looked thoughtful for a moment, “I doubt it. Werewolves may not have the same soulmate bonds that other species do, but they’re extremely monogamous and will rarely leave their partner except in dire situations.”

“You seem to know a lot about this, Bill.” Harry said in a questioning tone.

“Yeah, well…” Bill said with a chuckle, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment, “I kind of met a girl at work. Her grandmother was a Veela so I’ve been reading up on creature bonds and a lot of it turned out to be really interesting.”

“So? What’s her name?” Harry teased, happy for Bill.

Before Bill could reply a figure tumbled out of the fireplace. Everyone greeted Charlie with a warm smile while he apologised for being late and he made his way over to Bill and Harry, his face slightly tense.

“Bill, I need to talk to you.” he said. He paused and looked at Harry before speaking again, “I might as well tell you too.”

They left the room, Harry trailing behind the two as they chatted with false gaiety. Once they had found an out-of-the-way room, Charlie cast a series of silencing and anti-eavesdropping spells. He didn’t beat around the bush. “I just learned that Hagrid is dead. Dumbledore sent him to recruit the giants, it was a suicide mission from the start!” he said nervously, occasionally glancing at the door.

“Wait, hold up. Dumbledore sent Hagrid to recruit giants?” Bill said incredulously as Charlie nodded. He sat down heavily into a wingback chair. “Not just giants…”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

“He’s been asking me odd questions now and then. It- It’s making me question some things…”

Charlie’s face lit up as he realised something, “Wasn’t it Dumbledore that recommended that you look into employment with Gringotts in the first place?”

Bill nodded. “It makes me wonder how far back he’s been anticipating this war. I mean, I had just started Hogwarts when You-Know-Who’s first reign of terror had ended. At what point did he figure out that he was returning? What information led him to make those kinds of decisions?” he asked with a frown. Harry and Charlie both stayed silent as they didn’t know any more than Bill did.

“None of that matters. Hagrid shouldn’t have had to die for it!” Harry said, anger simmering within his subconsciousness. He didn’t want to hear any more right now, so he stalked out of the room, just barely keeping from slamming the door behind him.

He took a moment on one of the stair landings to calm himself. This didn’t help, however as he overheard two familiar voices drift up from one of the nearby rooms.

“Dumbledore just got word about a raid. He wants us two to head out and intercept it.” Mr. Weasley said, his tone urgent.

“A raid? But the Death Eaters haven’t made a move in months! Why would they do anything now?” Remus said with confusion.

“Don’t know. All I know is we’ve got to take care of it.” Harry moved into a shadowed corner of the hall as the two men exited the room and headed down the stairs.

With his head swirling he walked back up the stairs and locked himself in his bedroom. He’d have Kreacher bring him some food later but for now he just really needed some time to think alone.

=^-^=

“Here, cub.” Remus said, passing Harry an old tome from the Black library. It was the day after Christmas and they were searching the library for whatever information they could find on merfolk.

For the last few minutes Harry watched as Remus appeared more and more agitated. “Moony, what’s wrong?” he asked, finally fed up with not saying anything.

“I… I wanted to talk to you about something… and, well, I guess I’m just nervous about how you’ll react…” Remus explained as he avoided Harry’s gaze. Harry swallowed nervously. Was this about the conversation he had overheard last night?

“Go on…” Harry encouraged when Remus didn’t say anything.

“Well you see… Sirius and I… well…” he stammered, “We’re kind of seeing each other.”

Harry burst out laughing as much from the release of his tension as from his amusement at Remus’ nervousness. Remus looked at Harry in shock at the unexpected response.

“Sorry, Moony.” Harry said, wiping away a tear. “Sirius already told me and really, it’s fine.” he said, his expression flickering to one of worry before he schooled it back to an amused smile.

He wasn’t quick enough though, apparently. Remus sat down next to him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, “What’s wrong cub?”

Harry picked up a quill and doodled idly on a scrap of paper. “My dad is involved with the Death Eaters… You and Sirius… aren’t…” Harry said vaguely.

Remus hummed thoughtfully. “Harry,” he began carefully, “I believe when we first spoke of your father I mentioned that I’d like to meet him. Maybe you should send him an owl and invite him to supper.”

“Should I go ask Sirius?” Harry asked nervously.

“Don’t worry cub, I’ll talk to him. You go and send that letter.” he replied warmly.

=^-^=

Tom glanced at the letter before him. It differed from the rest that covered his desk in its stark simplicity, but it was far more important than any of the others. He hadn’t expected to see his son over the holidays and while he had planned to use the time to make great strides in his plans, he had to admit he was pleased at the offer to visit.

Lucius strode into the office at that point. “My Lord, the Australian ambassador would like to visit tomorrow night, in the interest of beginning negotiations.” he stated, reading from a stack of papers in his hand.

“You’ll have to postpone.” Tom said, absentmindedly with a wave of his hand.

“My Lord?”

“It appears I’ll be attending supper at the Black townhome tomorrow night.”

“Is that wise?”

“Perhaps not. But for the chance to see my son, I’ll risk it. As I have risked everything else.”

Lucius nodded in understanding, a small smile upon his face as Tom reread the letter in his hand. He exited the room gracefully, making a note to shift most of Tom’s appointments for the next day.

=^-^=

The next evening found Harry humming away as he put the finishing touches on the dessert. Kreacher hadn’t let him touch the main meal, but he had conceded to allowing Harry to make the dessert.

Once done he headed upstairs just as the floo chimed. He dashed to the fireplace just as Tom stepped out, slamming into him. The man steadied himself as he hugged Harry back.

“I missed you too.” Tom said with a soft chuckle.

Another voice mirrored his chuckle from the doorway, “Welcome. I’m Remus Lupin.”

“A pleasure, I’m Thomas Sayre. I would shake your hand but I’m finding it difficult to move at the moment.” Harry finally let go and mumbled an embarrassed ‘sorry’ as he stepped back.

“Remus, is he here?!” Sirius’ voice called out from elsewhere in the house.

“He just arrived! We’ll meet you in the dining room!” he called back before turning back to the newcomer, “Shall we?”

Tom nodded and followed Lupin out, using a hand on the back of Harry’s shoulder to guide him ahead of himself. They held a light conversation along the way to the dining room which was already set up with cutlery and appetisers. Harry’s place had a glass of pumpkin juice while the others had different apperatifs.

Sirius walked in a moment later, halfway through an apology before he froze. “You!” he yelled, with a glare. He took a sharp step forward as Remus surged from his chair to stop him.

“We’ll be back in a moment.” Remus said to Harry and their guest as he herded Sirius out and into a nearby room before casting a silencing spell as well as a locking spell on the door. “What the hell, Sirius. You’re already on thin ice with Harry. Attacking his father is not the way to fix that.”

“It can’t be. There’s no way, Moony! That man is the reason Reggie is dead!” Sirius yelled in anguish.

“Wait a minute. What are you talking about?” Remus asked, thoroughly confused.

“Regulus loved that damn bastard. He played with my innocent brother’s heart and it killed him when Reggie finally realised that he meant nothing to him!”

“Sirius… I remember James talking about Tom long before Regulus ever met him. If Harry got his merfolk inheritance from Tom, then I very much doubt that he would have strayed from James once they started courting…” Remus said, trying for a calm tone but his worry for Sirius’ state of mind warbled through.

“You didn’t see the way Reggie was, Remus…”

“Does it matter in the end? He’s a part of Harry’s life now, a close part if what I’ve seen so far is any indication. We need to get close to him if we’re going to make sure he doesn’t hurt Harry.”

“Does it matter?! Of course it fucking matters!! I should kick him out of this house right now! That’s if I don’t kill him first.” Sirius growled as he strode back to the door.

“And you’ll lose Harry in an instant. All Harry’s really wanted is blood family to call his own, and he’s finding that in Tom. You do anything to him in there, your godson will probably never forgive you.” Remus said in the cold and calculating way that made Sirius shut up long enough to actually take in the man’s words.

“I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.” Sirius muttered.

“As long as we play nice we can be there for Harry. If we screw this up now, he’ll never come to us if he needs help. If he doesn’t feel that he can come to us, who will he go to? No, Padfoot, we need to do this for Harry. That’s what you keep saying, isn’t it? It’s all for Harry?”

“Fine.” Sirius bit out, turning sharply to face his lover, “But one wrong move and he’ll face the business end of my wand.”

“Maybe you should give that to me then. We both know how quick to temper you are.”

“No. Now unlock this door and let’s get this farce over with.”

Remus sighed and undid his spells. They walked into the dining room to find Tom kneeling by Harry’s chair, reassuring the visibly anxious boy.

“You okay, Siri?” Harry asked, his voice small and his eyes trained on the untouched plate in front of him.

“Yeah, pup. Everything’s fine.” Sirius said, his voice strained even to his own ears. He nearly growled as Tom patted Harry’s hand before returning to his seat.

“So… Tom.” Remus said awkwardly, glaring at Sirius in reminder of their conversation, “What do you do for work?”

“I work in the office of Quill Control and Rune Translation.” Tom said proudly, “It’s quite fascinating.”

“I’m sure it is.” grumbled Sirius under his breath.

“I do hope to eventually move up in the Ministry but not until I learn more about how it’s organised. Politics can be treacherous if you don’t know your way.”

“Hopefully the people you care about don’t get caught in the crossfire.”

“What I think Sirius is trying to say is that we hope Harry doesn’t get too drawn into your ambitions, Tom. He’s expressed his disinterest in the spotlight many times and climbing too high on the social ladder may drag him there, whether that is your intention or not.”

“A very good point and one I intend to keep in mind. Any aspirations I may have are a far ways off but I do intend to make Harry’s well-being a priority in any decisions I make.”

Sirius scoffed into his soup while Harry followed the conversation back and forth with his eyes. Part of him felt a strong annoyance at being spoken about as if he wasn’t sitting right there, but a larger part of him was just glad that the conversation was remaining civil.

The conversation drifted away from politics as the next course was served, with little input from Sirius or Harry, at least until the topic turned to Harry’s schooling. When it finally came time for dessert, Harry rose to retrieve it from the kitchen since Kreacher had sourly told him that he wouldn’t send up any food he had not prepared himself. Harry felt a bit bad for unintentionally hurting Kreacher’s feelings, but he had really wanted to do something special for something as big as his dad meeting his unofficial godparents.

He hoped they’d like it since he had decided to cross the recipes for knickerbocker glories and syllabubs together. He double checked the toppings before setting them on a tray to take back up.

His careful preparation was for naught, however, as they ended up smashed on the floor when he walked into the dining room to find Sirius and Tom pointing their wands at each other. The scents of burning books and sour milk scorched his nose and his eyes watered between the assault on his senses and his anger at the scene before him.

“THAT’S IT!” he yelled, drawing their attention before he pulled out the portkey from Viktor. He muttered the key phrase as he clenched the silver scale in his fist, spinning away in the transportation magic, leaving the three men standing in shock.

“Well, gentlemen. Now that my entire reason for this visit has disappeared, I shall bid you goodnight.” Tom said coldly, hiding his surprise behind a well practised mask.

Remus turned on his lover, growling uncharacteristically, “I hope you’re happy! I hope you’re happy now.”

“Moony, I-”

“I bet you thought you were being so clever! And you!” Remus turned to snap at Tom before he could leave, his eyes flashing gold, “I just can’t imagine that you would use Harry to feed your own ambition but if you do, know that I will hunt you down.”

“Understood, and I won’t. Harry has made me change many of my goals and I’m not the same man I once was. I don’t think I could ever be than man again. The same goes for him though.” Tom said nodding towards Sirius who was still fuming, stuck in place by one of Remus’ spells. “You can still hurt someone terribly even if you don’t put them in danger or raise a hand to them.”

“You would know all about that, wouldn’t you!” snarled Sirius.

“Do not blame me for your brother’s delusions! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find out where my son went so that I can ensure he’s somewhere safe.” he said tersely as he elegantly stormed back to the floo.

“Remus-”

“No Siri. Just… no.” Remus said, dispelling the sticking charm and striding out of the room, unable to look at his mate.

Sirius paced back and forth in the dining room, his anger and frustration building. Then he stopped, kneeling down and picking up a shard of glass from Harry’s destroyed dessert. “Dumbledore.” he said in a deceivingly calm voice. “I need to talk to Dumbledore.” he continued to mumble as he too strode to the floo, “Headmaster’s Office, Hogwarts!”

Chapter Text

Harry floo’d into the Headmaster’s office the morning before the new term started, as it was one of the few international connections available. His time at Viktor’s villa had been a much needed break away from everything in Britain. Especially helpful was Viktor’s stoic nature which made him a great listener as Harry raved about everything that had happened in such a short time.

Once he had blurted everything out loud he felt a lot better. Viktor’s closeness and non-judgemental thoughts on the matters helped calm him, even after the young man informed him that he was unofficially engaged to a woman of his parent’s choosing. Luckily she was human and hadn’t minded them platonically sharing a bed, despite also knowing of their previous relationship. Viktor theorised that the thought of him having been with men excited her though he couldn’t understand why.

Not all of it was wonderful though. Hermione had sent him an owl that had managed to find him in Bulgaria. A letter full of meaningless apologies and platitudes subtly hinting that it was because of him that she was with Ron, which didn’t make any sense to him. Besides their small disagreement over Eddie just before the hols he thought they were doing alright. He could also hear her ‘I told you so’ tone when he read over the part where she told him all that Ginny had told her.

He had promptly thrown the letter into the fireplace after he had finished reading it. His melancholy over the letter must have shown on his face as Dumbledore cleared his throat with an indulgent twinkle in his eye.

“Just one small matter before you head back to your dorm, my boy. You’ll need to speak to Professor Snape to arrange extra lessons.”

“But I don’t need-”

“We have determined that you do, my boy. Severus tells me that Voldemort is making some calculated moves and you need to be ready.” Dumbledore paused for a moment, considering his next words as he offered Harry a lemon drop which the boy declined, “Harry, do you recall the conversation we had when I explained to you how you and Voldemort were connected through your scar? Well, we fear that connection will allow him access to your mind. Therefore Professor Snape will be teaching you how to shield your mind from such attacks.”

Harry nodded numbly. “Very good, then. Run along, sort out your schedule with the good Professor, and then enjoy yourself before classes resume tomorrow. We’ll speak again soon.”

As he walked out of the Headmaster’s office, Harry debated going to see Snape like Dumbledore had instructed him to. Snape was spying on his dad for the Order. Surely Snape knew he couldn’t get away with it. Should he write to his dad about it first?

In the end Harry ended up storming to the dungeons to confront the man himself.

“Mr. Potter. How kind of you to finally-”

“Does my dad know?” Harry demanded as he strode to the Professor’s desk.

“He is the one that recommended occlumency lessons, if that is what you’re referring to.” Severus replied, his gaze rising from the lesson plans he had been preparing at the boy’s tone.

“I don’t know what the hell occlumency is but what I was referring to, Professor, was whether he was aware that you’re spying on him for Dumbledore! Are you insane?!” Harry snarled as he slammed his hands onto the desk between them.

“I must be.” he muttered as he reclined in his chair, a smirk threatening to escape. He continued in a louder tone, “I assure you, Potter, that your father does indeed know. He’s the one that suggested that we lead Dumbledore to assume I’m still spying for him. And did Dumbledore explain nothing before sending you down here?”

“He mentioned something about learning to shield my mind…?” Harry stated hesitantly, now that his anger had no valid target.

“Essentially. Occlumency is an obscure branch of magic that aims to defend the mind against external penetration. We believe Dumbledore has been using legilimency, that is magic used to enter another’s mind, on you over the years and your father wants you to be able to defend yourself.”

“That makes so much sense, Dumbledore deciding to give me the skill I need to stop him.” Harry stated dubiously.

“Watch your tone. Term may not have begun as of yet, but I can still deduct points Mr Potter. Back to the point at hand, we have convinced Dumbledore that your father would use legilimency to sway you to his side. Since he is regarded as the world’s most accomplished legilimens, Dumbledore is afraid that his own constructs would be unable to withstand your father’s power. You will have your lessons every Monday and Wednesday after dinner.”

“Twice a week! That’s not-”

“Monday and Wednesday, Mr Potter. Am I clear? Good, now go.” Severus said sharply before returning to his lesson plans. Harry stood for a moment or two, mouth agape, before shooting the Professor a glare and storming out of the room.

His anger persisted all the way to the seventh floor where he nearly tripped over Tris before reaching the Fat Lady’s portrait.

“Where have you been?” Harry asked. He hadn’t been too worried about his slithery friend, but he had to admit to some concern as he hadn’t seen him since well before the holidays.

“Who elssse would teach the sssnakeling if I didn’t go? But onccce it got too annoying I came back but your draughty ssstone house was almossst empty. I headed to the deep dark bottomsss to ssstay warm and found a new friend!”

Harry looked warily at the serpent. He could only picture the skin of the gigantic snake he had found when exploring the tunnels beneath the school. He had been reading some papers written in parseltongue while he was checking up on the polyjuice potion they had made in second year when he discovered the chamber beneath the school.

He mentally chuckled to himself as he remembered they had thought Draco to be Slytherin’s Heir. “Your ‘friend’ doesssn’t happen to be a fifty foot long monssster, doesss it?” Harry asked nervously as he brought his mind back on topic.

“No. That wasss her friend that died a few yearsss back. Ssspeaking of which, maybe you can help her essscape? Now that her friend is gone ssshe wantsss to find her old massster.”

Harry considered it for a moment before deciding to go check out the situation. It was far from bedtime but he had been told to stay in the dorm… “Let me get sssomething and then we’ll go to sssee her.” he told Tris before going to grab his invisibility cloak. Now would be the best time to check it out before the rush of students returning in the morning.

Just before leaving the room he remembered to grab the Marauders’ Map. Now able to avoid any unwanted encounters he made his way down to the girl’s bathroom on the first floor. He was fortunate that Myrtle didn’t seem to be around at the moment as he strode up to the sink with the serpent styled handles.

Harry had learned through some experimentation that different phrases would create different results. Today he felt like taking the fun way down and demanded a simple ‘open’ that revealed a seemingly endless slide. The crunch of bones at the bottom wasn’t so much fun but the thrill going down the steep slope was. Tris apparently did not agree.

“Next time, I will meet you down here.” he hissed indignantly as Harry stood up and brushed of the bone dust from his robes.

He chuckled and shrugged at Tris’ words. “Alright then, which way oh cranky one?”

Tris’ eyes contracted in annoyance at the boy before slithering down from his shoulder and heading off to their left, Harry chuckling behind him. After a few minutes he took the time to marvel at the surrounding architecture. The further they walked the more intricate the pillar designs and wall carvings.

Eventually they came to a large room where the giant basilisk lay dead. Harry stumbled at the threshold of the chamber at the sight of the serpent which was a lot larger than he had imagined. The shed skin he had seen in second year much have been fairly old despite it’s good condition.

He approached the basilisk cautiously as if expecting it to come alive at any second. Despite the size of the chamber it didn’t take long for Harry to reach where it lay at the base of Salazar Slytherin, or at least the larger-than-life statue of him that was carved from the wall. He placed a hand on the freezing cold skin, accidentally dislodging a few scales. He picked one up as he watched it shimmer in the firelight, shades of green and specks of blue dappled across the single scale that was as big as his palm.

“Beautiful, isssn’t it.” a feminine voice hissed from behind him. Harry froze, mentally chastising himself for dropping his guard. He turned slowly to come face to face with another serpent, the rest of its body coiled by his feet. “Humansss hunt usss, kill usss, butcher usss for our ssscales. Are you here to do the sssame?”

Harry looked around to see if Tris would explain only to find that he was gone. “I came with a friend, to find you I think. The ssscales are gorgeousss but I would never kill for them.”

“Massster’sss hatchling is a good one then. Thisss isss not always ssso.” she stated to a confused Harry as she unfurled her coils from his feet. “Keep the ssscales young one, at leassst then they won’t jussst rot away.”

“Nagini!” Tris called out as he entered the chamber from a passageway to Harry’s right.

The elegant serpentess tilted her head in acknowledgement before turning and slithering away, “Come little onesss, there are thingsss I mussst show you before we leave.”

=^-^=

Harry woke up suddenly, holding his head in his hands as flashes of his dream lingered in his mind. Images of a room filled with floor to ceiling shelves that held hundreds upon thousands of glowing orbs. Moving shadows lurked between the shelves and a pale grey face that resembled a snake hovered in the background of his dream, cackling while he stood in front of one orb which had a plaque that read:

S.P.T to A.P.W.B.D

Dark Lord

And (?)Harry Potter

He shook his head as if trying to dislodge the images from his mind. He drew back his curtains and realised that he was quite late! Tris and Nagini looked on from his bed as he rushed to get ready. He’d probably have to skip breakfast if he wanted to get Nagini out of the castle before anyone else realised she was here.

Harry hastily shoved the books and scrolls he had brought up from Salazar’s library into the bottom of his trunk before getting dressed. After packing his books he realised he had no clue how to sneak a twelve foot snake out of the castle. He looked around for a solution and caught the shimmer of the invisibility cloak in his trunk. He looked back at the two serpents still watching him from his bed.

“Alright. Nagini, wrap yourssself around me and I will cover usss with my invisssibility cloak. I figure that will be our bessst bet to get you out.” The serpent complied without complaint. Harry let out a small gasp, and he felt himself teeter under her shifting weight. Eventually he found his centre of balance once again and let Nagini know not to move too much.

It was surprisingly easy to make their way out of the common room and down the myriad of stairs. The only difficulty came from the weight of carrying such a large creature. He had to stop many times along the way just to catch his breath, some of those right after nearly losing his balance on the stairs.

The weather outside was dismal but Harry was glad as it meant that there probably wouldn’t be anyone enjoying their breakfast outside. It also helped to cover his tracks, the wind filling in the footprints behind him.

Despite the unlikelihood of being seen, Harry still took a few steps past the tree line of the Forbidden Forest to make sure no one would notice him from any of the windows, should they possibly look out. He removed his cloak and Nagini slithered to the cold ground as he stuffed it into his bag.

“You know how to find your way?” Harry asked her.

“Worry not, little massster. Your sssire and I ssshare a bond, it will guide me.”

Before she could turn to head on her way, they both caught a sudden sound among the trees. Something was shuffling among the branches, knocking down piles of snow. Then a cackling reached their ears as they looked around, Harry with his wand drawn.

“Yum Yum. Fish for dinner!” the creature yelled as it dropped down from above. Harry rolled away but not before talons tore through his sleeve, leaving behind three shallow scratches on his forearm.

He got back to his feet to face the creature, wand arm outstretched and ready. The creature also turned to face him though it seemed to struggle with its wings in the denser foliage of the forest floor. It turned to reveal a human face though its hair was made of silver feathers and its teeth reminded him of the grindylows from last year. Black markings ran across its eyelids and down the sides of its nose. Other than its face though the creature was essentially an overly large vulture.

Before Harry could do much the creature dropped to the ground, seemingly dead. He was quick to spot the cause as Nagini withdrew her fangs from the back of its neck.

“Filthy harpiesss,” she hissed, seemingly trying to get rid of the foul taste in her mouth, “Tassstes like death… they don’t usssually go for live prey. Hurry back to the cassstle little one before more are drawn by the ssstench.”

Harry nodded and hurried away as Nagini continued deeper into the woods. He stumbled through the snow, barely remembering to repair his sleeve before stepping indoors.

He took a moment to lean against the door he had come through, exhaustion weighing him down. Between carrying Nagini all the way out and the adrenaline from the attack fading, Harry was simply ready to head straight back to bed instead of his first class of the day. Luckily, not only was his first class History of Magic where he could sneak in a nap, but it was also located on the first floor, saving him a trip up any stairs.

When he got to the classroom and found it empty, he looked at his watch in surprise. He was about fifteen minutes early. He cursed softly as he lamented the missed chance at a quick breakfast and went to grab a seat at the back corner.

The class dragged on, to Harry’s relief and dismay. Then it was off to potions. The last class looked as though it was running a tad late as a stream of 6th year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws made their way out from the classroom.

“Ahh, Harry! I was wondering when I’d be seeing you again.” said Eddie as he come out of the classroom. Harry attempted to ignore him. “What’s wrong? Maybe I could help you release some of that tension during lunch?” he said in a sultry tone as he leaned into Harry.

“Perhaps Ginny would be more interested in your attentions.” Harry said coldly though his hands clenched with emotion. Harry jumped slightly when arms wrapped around his waist from behind and a blond head rested on top of his.

“Everything alright, love?” Draco asked, cutting off whatever reply Eddie was about to make with a sharply arched eyebrow.

“It is now.” Harry said teasingly, amused by his behaviour. It wasn’t until he caught Draco’s line of sight, looking over Eddie’s shoulder to see Hermione watching intently though trying to be subtle, that he caught on to the blond’s true intentions. Draco smirked and brought one hand to Harry’s chin, using it to tilt his face towards his and bestow a kiss on his sweet lips that was anything but chaste.

While their tongues danced Draco thought back to the summer when he had told Harry that he wasn’t a bad catch. It was more than true, he thought as the smell of dark chocolate rose up, but alas he just didn’t have that kind of attraction to the same sex. Draco drew back with a smirk as both Harry and Eddie were red in the face though for different reasons.

Then the door to the classroom swung open, revealing the dark potions master. He glowered at the way Draco held Harry before snapping at the Ravenclaw. “Mr. Carmichael! Don’t you have somewhere to be? The rest of you get in, sit down, and shut up!” he said, sweeping back into the room with a flourish of his midnight robes.

The students were tense as they filed in and found their seats in the wake of Snape’s exceptionally foul mood. Harry managed to get a seat next to Draco, but he had barely started to unpack his books when Snape’s sharp voice cut through the air, “Potter! Trade seats with… Weasley. Now!”

The two boys scrambled to follow the order and Hermione gave Harry a shy smile as he sat down beside her. Harry glanced back Draco and Ron who wore similar looks of loathing and disgust.

“Harry, did you get my letter over the hols?” she whispered to him once the brewing had gotten underway.

“Yeah, I did.”

“And? Please Harry. I don’t want you to be mad at me. I just want us to be friends again, and I know Ron’s been a bit of a git but-”

“A bit? Hermione, I’ve given him plenty of chances. How much am I supposed to take before he literally stabs me in the back?” he hissed at her before turning away to focus on his cauldron.

“You know how stubborn he can be. He’ll come around, we just need to-”

BAM.

The explosion from Ron’s cauldron effectively cut her off. Students began to cover their mouths and noses with their sleeves as a gas began to waft up from the mess.

“You idiot! I warned you not to add the rose thorns before the leech juice!” Draco yelled as Snape approached then, casting a containment spell on his way.

50 points from Gryffindor, Mr Weasley, and detention for the rest of this month. Be grateful you hadn’t inadvertently killed someone or I would be seeking your expulsion!” his voice deadly cold. “Now everybody out while I take care of this disaster. OUT!” he yelled when the students didn’t move fast enough.

They all made a hasty escape, none willing to be caught as the focus of the irate Professor’s wrath. Harry stopped just outside the classroom even more tired than before, the emotional turmoil of the last hour weighing on him as much as the physical exhaustion of that morning.

Draco stopped in front of him as the hallway cleared quickly, “Come on, Potter. You missed breakfast and if you miss any more meals I will not be responsible for what I tell your father.” Harry shrugged in response, he wasn’t about to argue since a hearty meal might be just what he needed to gain some energy.

They had almost reached the Great Hall when two spells hit Draco in the back simultaneously, knocking him to the ground. Harry spun around to face Ginny while a head of light brown hair turned the corner.

“What the hell?!”

“He’s a Slytherin, Harry! A Death Eater wanna-be! I thought the rumours of you two were just some joke, you can’t be with him!” Ginny yelled at him, drawing in a crowd.

“Ginny. Let me make this perfectly clear. I. Am. Gay. You and me are never going to be together so you need to get over your petty jealousy!”

“You wouldn’t even give me a chance!” she cried out before turning away, tears streaming down her face.

Harry dragged a hand down his face as the whispers began spreading through the surrounding students. He turned back to Draco to help him cancel what looked to be a combination of Ginny’s signature bat-bogey hex and knee-reversal hex.

Once that was sorted, they made their way into the Great Hall. Harry hesitated when faced with sitting at the Gryffindor table. Perhaps he could sit with Fred and George, he thought to himself. Draco however gave him a nudge and nodded his head towards the Slytherin table. Harry looked up to the head table briefly to find Dumbledore watching him with a frown.

Harry looked away from the Headmaster’s gaze and tried to stand a bit taller as he followed Draco. From the corner of his eye he caught Snape’s amusement at Dumbledore’s concealed anger, while McGonagall looked merely confused at why one of her lions was going to sit with the Slytherins. The hall itself erupted into whispers as Harry sat between Draco and Blaise. With a sigh he silently dug into the food that Draco had piled onto his plate and hoped that the rest of the day would go better.

=^-^=

That evening Harry dragged himself down to the dungeons for his first occlumency lesson. Divination and Defence had been fairly peaceful, aside from the continued whispers of his classmates, but he still felt more and more tired as the day wore on. He considered skipping the lesson with Snape but figured that wouldn’t go over well with either him nor Dumbledore.

Arriving at Snape’s office, he knocked gently hoping that he could make the excuse that he had tried but no one had answered the door. He was out of luck though as he heard a voice call him in.

“Sit, Potter.” Snape instructed, gesturing to a chair set away from his desk. Harry dropped his bag down beside it before falling into the chair, glad to be sitting. “Now as I’ve stated before, occlumency is a branch of magic to protect against magical intrusion or influence. Legilimency is the opposite of this. It is one that is used to attack or gain access to another’s mind. I will be using legilimency to test your occlumency skills, prepare yourself.”

“Wait! You haven’t taught me any-” Harry was cut off as he was thrown through a torrent of flashing memories. Horrified at the thought of Snape seeing some of them he pushed at whatever force was making him see these things. The flashbacks stopped and he felt like he had once again dropped down into the chair he was currently sitting in, back in Snape’s office. Breathing heavily, he looked up to glare at the unrepentant potions master.

“Come now Potter, I’m sure you can do better than that. Well I suppose if you can’t master the skill you could always ask Draco to protect you. He’s proficient enough in the art, though I wonder how much of a strain that would put on your relationship.” he taunted with a certain viciousness.

“Draco… certainly has… skills, Professor.” Harry said between his gasping breaths, a strained smirk on his face. Severus’ jaw clenched as his eyes narrowed, the memory of seeing Draco so close to Harry while the scent of chocolate and strawberries permeated his senses. He had warned the boy to control himself but how to remind him of that lesson? Harry spoke again drawing Severus out of his thoughts, “Then again I wouldn’t really know since we aren’t actually together.”

Snape snarled as he cast again, the thoughts he viewed a little slower and clearer this time as he viewed the newest memories. He turned around as he caught sight of something he didn’t expect to see in Harry’s mind. He navigated back to the memory of the Hall of Prophecies and quickly realised that it was a dream. A very vivid dream, but a dream nonetheless. The vision of Voldemort in this dream made it obvious where it had come from.

He quickly exited Harry’s mind only to find the boy panting heavily in the chair, sweat soaking his hair and dripping to the floor. Harry looked up at Snape with glassy eyes before falling forward from the chair. He rushed forward. It was only once he reached the boy that he noticed the stench of rotting flesh.

He grabbed the boy’s arm to roll him over which drew a pained gasp from the unconscious Gryffindor. Severus rolled up his sleeve to reveal the festering scratches. He cursed and rose to retrieve a packet of potions from the drawer of his desk. He scrambled back to the boy, using a dropper to apply a shimmering blue potion to the wounds. The word ‘harpy’ rose in shimmering letters, similar, in form to that of a patronus before dissipating. Severus cursed once more.

He searched his shelves for an ointment. He hadn’t needed it in ages and wasn’t even sure that this is where he kept it. Lucky for him it was, as his hand found the distinct pattern of the jar. He opened it and gave a cursory whiff of the orange paste, ensuring that it hadn’t expired, before taking it to the boy and spreading it liberally on the infected flesh.

He then transfigured the chair into a short couch where he laid the boy. He paced back and forth, not entirely sure on what course of action to take at this point. Should he run straight to Tom? But then what would he tell the Headmaster? Perhaps he should make an excuse with him before leaving the castle. No, he could just play it off as Tom calling him with the mark. Yes, Tom needed to know that the old man was plotting.

Severus prepared to take his personal floo out before turning and grabbing a purple potion from the packet and poured it down Harry’s throat, ensuring that the boy would not awaken before he returned. With that done, he left with a flourish to speak with the Dark Lord.

Chapter Text

Severus strode into a dimly lit room and bowed slightly to the man sitting at the desk. “My Lord.” he intoned.

“You are hilarious.” said Tom dryly, lips pursed in an unamused smile. Severus chuckled in response before sitting down in an armchair by the fire. His smile slowly evaporated as he stared into the flames, thinking of the state he had left young Harry in, back in his office. “Severus? Knut for your thoughts?”

“Dumbledore is playing a dangerous game.” he said darkly, a muscle in his jaw twitching from how hard he had it clenched.

“What’s happened? You’ve started Harry’s occlumency lessons, yes? He should be well enough protected for the time being.” Tom rambled, eyebrows furrowed.

“It seems we were a bit late in that regard. Tonight was his first lesson but it seems that Dumbledore has struck first. He sent Harry a vision of the Hall of Prophecies, along with some twisted version of you. Harry knows your true form so I doubt he’ll fall for such a vision, however the fact that this is one of the tactics he’s attempting to employ…”

“Hmm… if he’s trying to turn Harry against me… Severus, how likely is he to succeed?”

“My Lord?”

“I admit that… perhaps- perhaps I haven’t spent enough time with my son. Does he have enough trust in me to know I would only do what I thought best for him? Does he know me enough to know that I love him? Is it too soon to hope that he loves me in return?” At this Tom dropped his face into his hands, trying to fight back his emotions. He couldn’t be a weak Dark Lord. He just couldn’t, no matter that it was only his trusted friend before him.

“Don’t worry ssso much massster. He isss much like you once were.” a voice drifted up from one of the shadowed corners.

“Nagini?” Tom said incredulously, his mouth hanging open in surprise.

“You’ll catch fliesss like that. I left your progeny jussst this morning. I mussst sssay, massster, my ssshadows had a hard time finding you, dessspite you being cloaked in them.” she hissed fondly, slithering up his leg and then winding around the back of the chair.

I thought you dead, or misssing at the very leassst. I couldn’t leave our connection open for my enemiesss to ussse againssst me.” Tom said indignantly, though his eyes still shone with awe at having his beloved familiar back.

“How isss the young one? I was unsssure of how badly that harpy hurt him, but I couldn’t linger to check myssself.”

Tom stood up with a mixture of surprise and anger. He paced back and forth before his gaze narrowed at Severus. “You just had an occlumency lesson with Harry before coming here. How could you not tell me that he was attacked by a harpy!”

“I would have told you before I left but since he’s not in any immediate danger I figured the problem that is Dumbledore would be more pressing.” he said, his tone emotionless despite the anger roiling beneath his skin. He couldn’t understand why he was experiencing such intense emotion at the insinuation that he didn’t care about Harry’s well-being. Then again he had been fairly cruel to the boy at the start of the lesson. Though how was he to know that he had such a serious injury?

Severus forcefully pushed his thoughts away. It wouldn’t do for his Lord to glean them from a quick look into his mind. His mental defences may have been strong but impulsive thoughts floated between the realms of non-existent and tangible enough to shield. He needn’t have worried though as Tom began pacing back and forth again, growling under his breath ‘Dumbledore’.

“What could that man want in the Hall of Prophecies? Or rather what does he want Harry to find there?” Tom muttered before turning once again to Severus.

“Your arm.” Tom demanded.

Not long after that Gyllen Goyle strode through the door and kneeled at Tom’s feet. Tom gave him his instructions quickly and sharply, then the man left to complete his task without question, though some confusion flitted across his face. Tom once again resumed his pacing.

Severus stood gracefully and moved to the door as well. His departure was halted as Tom spoke up again. “And what of Harry’s previous injuries? How are they healing?” he asked quietly as his pacing slowed.

Severus hesitated, “I wouldn’t know, My Lord. He hasn’t come to me to apply his ointment but it still requires replenishment so I would assume he has found somewhere to do so unnoticed.” Severus paused for a moment to await any further instructions before slipping out with a muttered ‘By your leave then’. An absent minded wave of dismissal from Tom and he was sweeping back to the floo.

Upon arriving back at Hogwarts, Severus paused. Should he return to Harry right away? Why this need to make sure that the infernal brat was alright? Why did he not tell Tom about the injury immediately? Tom should have been informed, the man was his father after all. What would have become of him had Harry told Tom and the man realised that Severus had not told him?

His hand rose to pinch the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stave off the oncoming headache. A headache potion would be a blessing right about now, thought Severus before heading back to his office where he kept a stash in his desk.

He never made it to his desk, however, as he paused just inside the doorway, watching Harry breathe deeply in his potion induced sleep. He took a few steps forward and sunk into a chair by the transfigured couch.

Severus leaned forward and picked up Harry’s dangling hand with both of his, lifting it to his forehead. “Why do you make be feel so much? You foolish Gryffindor.” he whispered.

Just as abruptly he stood and dropped Harry’s hand onto his chest and took a few steps away from the boy. He summoned a house elf and ordered it to put Harry to bed before it could say a word, not once looking behind him as the boy was whisked away.

He decidedly ignored the slight ache in his chest as he hurried back to his rooms for a glass of White Rat Whisky.

=^-^=

“What do you know about this?” said Dumbledore tensely, the usual twinkle in his eyes absent as he tossed his copy of the Daily Prophet over to Severus.

The paper had yesterday’s date on it, January 21st. FORMER DEATH EATER ARRESTED FOR ATTEMPTED BREAK-IN AT THE DEPARTMENT OF MYSTERIES! read the main headline. Severus made a mental note to check in on Gregory to see how he was faring with the news of his father’s arrest. Severus may think the man a fool for getting caught but he still took care of his snakes, no matter their parentage.

He focused again on Dumbledore as the man paced behind his desk, and he had a vague sense of deja-vu as he recalled how Tom had paced in such a similar fashion during his visit.

“How much does he know? How does he know? What has he told you Severus, my boy?”

The man pursed his lips slightly at the misattributed endearment but his voice did not betray his dislike, “Not much, I’m afraid. From what I understand he only knows that there’s something of interest there. The Death Eater in question was merely to look and listen, no more.”

“This is promising. It must mean that he doesn’t have any followers within the Department itself.” Dumbledore mumbled while nodding to himself, “But no doubt he will try again… perhaps… perhaps…”

The old man stopped to look at Severus, the twinkle in is eyes had returned once again. Severus merely raised an eyebrow in a silent inquiry.

Dumbledore sat down gracefully, clasping his hands on top of the desk between them. He gave Severus a measured look, meant to denote seriousness but the dark cloaked man caught the lingering twinkle which revealed the mischievous scheming behind the following words, “My dear boy. I’m about to reveal to you information of great importance. It is this information that I believe Tom is searching for within the Department of Mysteries, or more specifically, within the Hall of Prophecies. You see, my boy, just before Voldemort’s fall from power there was a prophecy made foretelling the event, though I believe the prophecy itself is only partially fulfilled.

“I was there at its telling which foretold of a child to be born as the seventh month died. That child would be marked by the Dark Lord as his equal and would have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. And that fateful Halloween night, Harry Potter was indeed marked by Tom. You can see it in his scar that mirrors the wand movement of the killing curse. However Tom was not fully vanquished, therefore Harry still has a part to play in this prophecy, you see?”

Mentally Severus scoffed at Dumbledore’s version of events of that night. The old fool was thankfully unaware that Severus had overheard him and Lily plotting in the months prior to the battle at Godric’s Hollow and that he also knew of Harry’s true parentage. He kept his thoughts locked up tight though as it wouldn’t do for Dumbledore to learn of his subterfuge this late in the game. “So you think Tom is aware of this prophecy? What does he hope to gain by acquiring it?”

“Perhaps he doesn’t yet know of it’s contents but knows that it is about himself.” Dumbledore paused for a moment, “Severus, perhaps you should partly inform him of the contents in question. Hint that it contains information regarding his demise and let me know what he plans to do. I will begin formulating some strategies in preparation for your return.”

Severus tilted his head in acknowledgement and then silently departed as Dumbledore stared blankly over his steepled hands, deep in his scheming thoughts.

It was a while before the old man moved again. A silvery phoenix burst from his wand. “Sirius, you will have your revenge soon enough. Once I have the details, we will set a trap for the Dark Lord and you will lead it. Prepare yourself and I will be in touch.” he told it before sending it off. The he himself went to prepare. He had a battle to arrange.

=^-^=

Draco made his way down to the Slytherin common room at a leisurely pace after dropping off his books in his dorm. The small amount of time between the end of classes and the start of supper was, for Slytherins, the time when power plays were made and hierarchies were established. For Draco, his followers and supporters had already claimed their usual spots and left the most coveted armchair open for him. With only a day or two until St Valentine’s Day most of the jockeying was among the women as they secured favourable relationships in the hopes of gaining a formal courtship in the future. Very rarely did parents sign pre-arranged betrothals when their children were babes anymore and while that made marrying for love far easier, it also meant marrying for power was far more cutthroat.

He yawned at the flirty displays of those around him. He had made it clear that he wouldn’t even consider the notion of courting anyone until after graduation. Well… unless someone exceptional caught his eye. Unfortunately the woman that had Draco considering a formal courtship was also one who would probably be offended by the gesture. He smirked at the paradox.

“So Greg. How’s your mother holding up?” Draco quietly asked the boy who sat with Vince on the couch beside him in order to avoid thinking about the conundrum that was Hermione Granger.

Goyle shrugged, “Alright I suppose. She’s awfully grateful to your dad for getting mine out of Azkaban but the mind healer says that it seems to have affected him harder than most. Her letters seem to come half soaked but she writes that either everything’s fine or just the bare facts of what’s wrong.”

“How long has he been seeing the mind healer now?” Draco asked, frowning. Greg replied that it had been about three weeks.

Draco nodded grimmly. Recent events made Draco glad that his own father had escaped Azkaban after the last war, but he worried about Harry. He doubted that Dumbledore would get a mind healer for his ‘mad mutt,’ but would Harry think to ask for one for his godfather? Perhaps by offering one they could bring the Head of the Black Family to their side. Draco decided he’d write to his father about it later.

He changed the conversation to a more light hearted topic, as he caught Greg trying to hide how upset he was about his dad, which continued on as they made their way down to supper.

“Those guards give me the creeps.” mentioned Vince as they saw a flash of polished armour in the shadows. Draco agreed though mentally he corrected the term ‘guards’ to ‘soldiers’. The way they watched people from the shadows made Draco feel like they were looking for something, and unless you were looking right at them you could barely notice them. Some form of the disillusionment charm perhaps?

His father’s inquiries into their true purpose had gone unanswered as the Oaris Ar-Tira had not been requested by the Board of Governors, as Dumbledore had suggested when introducing them, but had in fact offered their services. The majority of the Board accepted the offer without question, blinded by Dumbledore’s fear mongering and had not realised that the Oaris Ar-Tira were the elite guard of the infamous Mer City and would hardly be the ones the merfolk would send to simply guard human children.

Another topic to add when he wrote to his father, Draco mused as they entered the Great Hall. Even here the soldiers were careful to stay out of sight and out of most people’s minds. For the most part dinner was a standard affair, at least until a commotion arose from the Gryffindor table as a late owl flew in.

“My dearest Harry!” the youngest male Weasley scoffed loud enough for the entire Hall to hear. Harry tried to lean across the table to grab his letter back, his face bright red as his classmates laughed. “Soft lips and emerald eyes, can’t wait to see them sparkle under the moonlight again? You’ve really found yourself a romantic!” Ronald laughed loudly, Seamus and Dean easily joining in.

Draco smirked with amusement. It looked like Krum came through on helping them with their ‘break-up’ plan. “Come on Harry! Tell us, who’s this C.S.? Can’t even sign their full name? Worried they’ll be made a laughing stock by going out with you!” Ronald teased as both he and Harry stood, Harry getting more angry the longer Ron went on.

“What’s Weasley’s deal anyhow?” asked Greg. Draco hummed in inquiry. “Well I mean half the time he’s cozying up to Potter and the other half he does shit like this.” he answered, shaking his head.

“He’s an idiot, plain and simple.” Draco said as he watched people’s reactions. Most had gotten bored with the outburst and turned away. A few glanced at Draco in curiosity but his mask of regal indifference was in place, hopefully dissuading any notions of infidelity on Harry’s part.

One particular expression caught his eye, though. The Hufflepuff, MacMillan, was glaring at Harry, who had got his letter back at this point and proceeded to storm out of the Hall. MacMillan continued to watch the door for a moment longer before folding his napkin over his plate and leaving at a more leisurely pace, though his expression was still severe. Draco had a bad feeling about this.

He looked up at his Head of House who hadn’t seemed to notice what he had, though Draco did manage to catch his eye. A tilt of his head and a split second of expression was enough to tell Snape that Draco needed him discreetly outside of the Great Hall.

-

Meanwhile Harry was storming his way back to Gryffindor Tower. He knew it had been part of the plan to get Ron to notice and make fun of the letter but did he need to take it so far? Not that Ron knew about the plan, but was it too much to ask for the boy to stop playing so hot and cold all the time and being so impulsively hot-headed!

He was so focused on making his way to his secret bathroom that he didn’t notice the figure rushing up behind him. It grabbed his arm and pulled him roughly into a nearby abandoned classroom before shoving him against the wall.

“Flaunting yourself to everyone, dove. You should be more careful or someone might steal you away. Lucky for me that most don’t know what you are, how precious you are.” The blond head whispered in his ear. Harry struggled against the hands that had pinned his wrists up by his head. “You’re mine, Potter. Maybe I need to teach you what that means.”

The blond switched Harry’s wrists to one hand so he could pull out his wand. A few spells that Harry was too panicked to hear and then Ernie was using his free hand to open Harry’s robe before sliding it down to his elbows, using it to trap his arms.

“Let go of me Ernie.” Harry tried to say firmly, but the waver in his voice gave away the fear that was building.

“Oh Harry,” MacMillan purred as his nose feathered along Harry’s neck, his hand slowly unbuttoning his shirt, “You don’t have to play games with me. I know you need me to prove my strength as a worthy mate but no human is going to be able to give you what you need, and no other creature can give you what you want.”

Harry struggled further, his shoulder banging into the boy’s nose. He growled in response and turned Harry around, slamming his face into the wall, narrowly missing the door frame.

“Please Ernie, I- I won’t tell anyone. Just let me go and we can forget about this!” Harry cried, hating how weak he sounded but realising that it was unlikely he’d be able to physically get away. He began a series of ‘please, no’ as Ernie pressed himself fully against his back. A hand glided up along his lean seeker’s abs and thumbed over his nipples before resting around his neck.

“Now, now Harry. As much as I want to hear you scream in pleasure I may have to silence you if you keep up these empty protests.” Ernie murmured in his ear as his hand trailed back down to Harry’s belt.

Harry gulped as he realised that his robe must have shifted when Ernie turned him around because he could almost feel his wand. He tried to reach for it with his fingers without MacMillan noticing. “Ernie… why get straight down to this? Why wouldn’t you just ask me to date first? Get to know me? You don’t-”

Nice try-” Ernie hissed viciously, tearing away Harry’s robe and causing the boy to sprawl to the floor. The blond pulled the wand and threw it across the room before pulling out his own wand to silence Harry like he had promised. He then pinned Harry once again with his bulk. “You know my father taught me all about what submissives like you want, my dove, and I can give it to you if you’d just stop fighting me so much.”

Ernie’s left hand held his wrists tightly above his head while his other leisurely undid his belt. Harry silently screamed for help. “There’s so few of us wizarding mer. It’d be almost impossible for me to get a pure mer mate, their idea of blood purity is almost worse than the Dark Lord’s.” he laughed, “So you see Harry, we’re perfect for each other.”

At this point Ernie had awkwardly managed to get Harry’s trousers and pants down to his ankles. He had tears streaming down his face, and his throat had gone sore from all his useless yelling. Ernie leaned back slightly to stare at his mostly naked body with a possessive gaze. His free hand moved to stroke his limp member. “A bit bigger than I would have liked of my submissive.” the blond commented off handedly.

Harry cried harder as he felt himself harden under the stimulation. “See Harry? I knew you’d start to enjoy this.” Ernie said smugly as he moved to unbuckle his own trousers. Harry shook his head in denial but felt so dirty that his body had reacted so easily to Ernie’s ministrations.

While Harry was lost in thought and blinded by his tears, Ernie let go of him just long enough to shove him over onto his stomach. He kneeled on his ankles while using a hand to grasp his arms behind his back, using that as leverage to keep Harry’s head down while pulling his bare ass closer. Ernie kneaded the pale flesh appreciatively with his right hand, pulling one cheek and then the other aside to reveal the ‘treasure’ he seeked.

Harry tried to squirm away again as a finger brushed against his hole but Ernie had a tight hold on his arms. For a moment he imagined that it was Viktor touching him, but he couldn’t do it. Viktor would have never ignored him or forced him like this. His hope ebbed away the longer he was unable to get away from the invasive touches. Hopes of escape and rescue fled him entirely when Ernie began to rub his hot prick on his ass.

He felt even more confused as he began to smell the comforting scent of sandalwood grow stronger. It was something he had only really smelt around Snape and he dreaded associating it with his assailant. Harry cried harder at the thought, though he couldn’t understand why it distressed him so much. It took him a moment before he realized that the scent wasn’t coming from Ernie, it was coming from somewhere outside of the room...

Chapter Text

Severus fumed as he got closer to the scent of burning chocolate. Part of him wished he had sent Draco in this direction instead, but the other (traitorous) part of him growled at the thought of Draco seeing Harry in whatever vulnerable state he was in. He was grateful that humans wouldn’t be able to detect the smell and that the Ar-Tira would figure it was just some other creature wallowing in angsty teenage hormones. At least their stuck up attitudes were handy for staying under the radar.

Ah-ha! There! Severus’ eyes narrowed at the door that concealed the source of the scorched aroma. At the risk of drawing Albus’ attention, he draw his wand and blasted the door inwards. Then silence.

It seemed that the door had knocked Harry’s assailant unconscious, though the way he was sprawled with his dick hanging out was somewhat satisfying since he couldn’t do more to the twat, at least not on Hogwarts’ grounds. He grew concerned as he caught sight of Harry. Face red and tear streaked as he crawled away, trying to simultaneously pull up his trousers and wipe his face.

He was unsettled by the boy’s eerie silence before realising that he must have been spelled. He drew his wand and cancelled whatever had been cast. The room then filled with Harry’s hitched breaths and pained whimpers. Severus warred between his conflicting instincts to comfort the boy or tear his attacker to shreds. His instincts were strong enough that he couldn’t outright ignore them but he retained enough logic to realise that one of those options would have severe consequences.

He swept over to Harry and drew him to his chest with one arm while the other helped him get redressed, albeit somewhat clumsily as Harry’s hands trembled so badly that they were more of a hindrance than a help. He also cast a summoning charm to call any wayward belongings before casting a quick diagnostic. He let out a short sigh of relief that he had managed to find him in time and prevented any literal damage, though he doubted the damage to Harry's mind was more than enough. He doubted that Harry even knew who was helping him as the boy buried his face into his shoulder and clutched his shirt firmly with his free hand as if afraid that Severus would leave him there alone.

Severus pushed his anger down so that he could calm the boy with the softer scent of warm sandalwood. He realised he had fully lost control of his instincts when he began softly crooning to the still whimpering boy. He cut off the sound lest anyone walk by to hear and lifted Harry up easily, set on taking him down his office.

Logically he knew he should find one of the boy’s friends and leave him with them, but he couldn’t part with him at the moment. His inner creature was yelling at him that it was his fault Harry got attacked. He had turned his back on the boy that first day of term. No matter that logic dictated he couldn’t have helped, that there was nothing he could have done to stop it, the guilt still weighed on him.

He could have claimed the boy for himself though, the treacherous voice whispered in his ear.

‘No.’ he thought firmly. He was glad the boy had passed out halfway to his office as he audibly growled at himself. The boy was only fifteen for heaven’s sake! More than half his age and still a child by wizarding law! He firmly ignored that such an age difference was common among merfolk and that creatures matured a fair bit quicker than humans did. That didn’t matter, it would be immoral for him to attempt to court Har- Potter! Bloody hell, he was thinking of courting a Potter!

He nearly dropped Harry carelessly on the couch that he still hadn’t untransfigured, but those damn instincts stopped him at the last moment causing him to jar the boy slightly as he was set down. Severus breathed out a sigh of relief as the boy merely whimpered slightly instead of waking up.

He stalked away, his anger and frustration building to the point where he was contemplating going back and ‘dealing’ with the MacMillan boy. He was saved from making a decision when the door to his office opened. Severus cursed at himself for forgetting to ward it even as Draco came in ranting.

“I haven’t been able to find him! I can smell him but I can’t find him Uncle Sev! Where could that idiotic Gryff-” Draco froze as he noticed not only that Harry was there, asleep on a couch that he didn’t recognise but also that his godfather was growling slightly as scales rippled across his cheeks.

“Uncle Sev- you- why didn’t you tell me-”

It’s nobody’s business!” he growled lowly. As much as he hated having Draco, an unmated creature, so close to a vulnerable Harry, he was also grateful that he now couldn’t compromise his position at the school by disposing the rubbish he had left behind in the abandoned classroom. He did, however, need to decide what to do about said rubbish.

He closed his eyes and attempted to take calming breaths. It didn’t help overly much as he breathed in a combination of Harry’s residual burnt chocolate scent and the slightly sour tinge of Draco’s anxiety. He steeled himself as he made a decision that had his instincts screaming at him. “Draco stay here with Potter while I go speak with the Headmaster. I’ll have that useless piece of trash out of the school by morning. If he wakes, there’s a calming draught in my desk.”

-

Draco nodded, still slightly in shock but also recognising that Snape’s instincts were too close to the surface for him to risk making a wrong move. It was only once the door had closed surely behind the dour man that he moved to Harry’s side. He took in his classmate’s red tinged eyes and drying tear tracks running down his face. He felt protective over the small boy, especially as he wondered just what the hell MacMillan managed to do to him.

Then he remembered how strongly Uncle Sev had reacted. It must have been terrible for him to not be able to control himself after hiding what he was for so many years unless…

Draco leaned in and sniffed delicately, eyes widening as under the chocolate and lingering wormwood scents was a warm mix of strawberries and sandalwood. He had read about secondary scents in the texts his father had gotten him in preparation for his inheritance. He had thought it something of a myth, that highly compatible mates would subconsciously mingle their secondary scents.

He sat back in shock. Not only was his godfather a mer like Harry, they were compatible mate-wise. Mild disgust flickered across his face at the idea that his honorary uncle was attracted to Potter. He may consider him a friend now, but it was still Potter! Harry was his own age too!

Draco stood up abruptly, turning to take a few steps away from the sleeping boy. “The messes you get into, Potter.” he said shaking his head. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Harry at the moment, nor did he want to think about the situation they had found themselves in. He was still somewhat curious about what had happened to him but that would have to wait for another day.

Instead he walked over to the bookshelf, browsing the titles that Snape kept on hand. There was a variety of potion texts and magazines. A few familiar titles, a few more obscure ones. Draco paused on one particular book, his face expressing clear confusion. There, with a reddish tan cover, was Jigger’s Potion Opuscule.

When Draco was little he had bought the same book with his pocket money in order to try to impress his godfather by reading extra on his favourite topic. Instead he had received the worst dressing down of his young life as Snape verbally tore apart the book as a waste of ink before doing the same physically.

Draco carefully pulled the book down, as if it would try to bite him at any moment. The cover looked exactly as he remembered it but the pages inside…

This place is cold and dreary. It makes me miss Ndor Nuin i’ Falmar but I must remind myself that this place will be safer for my child.

He flipped through a few pages of the gorgeous cursive writing…

He is a beautiful baby boy. Even though we no longer live in the great city, I am still grateful that he was not born a submissive. There are other creatures here that would have tried to claim him, and I am not familiar enough with their laws to know if he would have been any safer than before…

Flip.

… My sweet Severus has been performing magic! Is this because I haven’t been able to train him in our ways? Because he was born on land? I have tried to hide these accidents from his step-father since I cannot be certain as to what he would do… He suspects that I am not all I pretend to be and had become violent as of late… but it’s safer for us here…

Draco snapped the book shut. He was about to put it back when he heard the doorknob turn and made a split second decision to shove it into his robe instead. As Severus entered, Draco strode out without a word.

The man watched the boy leave with temporary confusion. Severus briefly hoped that his godson wasn’t too angry with him for hiding his own creature status from him but he mentally shrugged as Draco would either talk to him later about it or not as he saw fit. Instead he strode over to look down at Harry. On one hand he wanted to simply rennervate the boy and deal with what happened. On the other hand natural rest would help wonders for the mental healing that Harry needed now.

He sighed and gently lifted Harry’s head and shoulders to make room so he could sit down. He adjusted the Gryffindor so that he faced away from him on his lap. He pulled Harry’s glasses off and ran a hand through his surprisingly soft hair that reminded him of downy feathers.

He continued to run his fingers through the jet-black hair as he rested his head against the back of the couch, relaxed by the smell of strawberries that surrounded the boy. Maybe he’s isolated himself from his peers for too long, he thought unpleasantly. Perhaps a trip to the Hog’s Head or one of the new clubs off of Diagon for a tryst or two would curb

these strange emotions he had around the boy. It wasn’t an activity he would normally partake in but if it meant curbing these faulty desires then…

The head in his lap shifted and Harry’s face scrunched up before he sat up suddenly. “No!” his raspy voice cried out as he looked at his unfamiliar surroundings through bleary eyes.

“Shh, you’re okay. You’re safe now.” Severus whispered as he set his glasses back on his face and wrapped warm arms around him. Harry sobbed, clutching the arms with both hands. The calm and silky voice really helped to break through his panic and soothed him in ways he didn’t quite understand. It still took a minute or two before Harry felt like he could breathe again and he used a sleeve to wipe his face so that he could see a little clearer.

Then he froze as he realized who that voice belonged to. Severus didn’t stop his soothing words and Harry didn’t quite want him to stop either. As bloody weird as it was having Snape comforting him, it felt nice.

It didn’t take long, however, for the weirdness to outweigh the comforting aspect of the hug and soft words. He stood up, turning to face the man as he did but unwilling to look him in the eye.

“Umm… Thank you- umm… Professor. For helping me…” he mumbled as he backed towards the door.

“Harry, would you like a cup of tea before you leave? It might settle your nerves a bit before you go to see Madam Pomfrey.” Severus said evenly, not having moved from the couch.

“No, that- that’s alright sir. I- I’m fine, I just-”

“You will be seeing Madam Pomfrey regardless, Potter.” he replied, catching on to Harry’s attempt to reaffirm their roles as student and teacher. “Perhaps I should-”

Thank you for all your help, sir. I’ll see you in class on Monday!” he said in a rush as he hurried out the door before Snape could say anything further, nearly slamming it in his haste.

He took a deep breath before heading to Gryffindor Tower. He was fine. He didn’t need to see Madam Pomfrey. He just needed a bit of rest, that’s all.

He nearly screamed when someone tapped his arm from behind.

“Luna!” he whisper shouted, clutching his shirt over his chest, “You nearly scared me out of my wits.”

“The humdingers are awfully fond of you today.” she said with an frown that looked so out of place on her normally smiling face. Her gaze cut through him in a way that made Harry shiver. She grabbed his hand and began leading him away from his original destination.

“Luna, where-” he started to say before she threw open a door, hidden behind a tapestry. The room behind it was small but warm and cozy with a small fireplace, soft overlapping rugs, and a single couch that they sunk into.

“Harry, this many humdingers isn’t safe. They’ll suffocate you in your sleep or blind you in broad daylight if you’re not careful. Talking will help. You didn’t have so many yesterday so it’s something recent, possibly even within the last few hours?” she said, her pale eyes unnervingly sharp from behind her spectrespecs.

“I-”

“Don’t lie to me Harry. People do that to me enough. I don’t let on that I know but I can tell when the nargles dance above their heads. So please, don’t.”

Harry looked down at his hands as they began to shake. He didn’t want to think about it. Didn’t want to think about how weak it had made him feel. “I don’t want to remember.” he whispered.

She laid a gentle hand over his. The silence stretched for a few minutes with Harry just staring at their hands. He slowly began to tell her about what happened starting from getting Viktor’s fake letter at supper.

By the end he was hunched over with his head on her shoulder and silent tears running down his face. She hadn’t said a word throughout but now he felt numb instead of scared and anxious.

“There, the humdingers are already starting to disperse.” she said in a soft but cheerful tone. An unexpected laugh burst out from Harry’s chest, the numbness losing its hold from around his heart. “No doubt they’ll be back after dragon wings grace these halls once again but that’s still a ways off.” she said, her usual dreamy expression back on her face.

“Luna... Charlie isn't following in Hagrid's footsteps, is he? I mean you wouldn't think he'd need his own egg with taking care of the dragons on the reserve...” Harry asked nervously.

She giggled, “Of course not! Come now, or we won’t make it before curfew.” Harry looked at his watch and yelped at the time, rushing them out of the room. He gave her a quick but firm hug before they parted ways.

Harry smiled to himself as he climbed into bed, comforted by Luna’s words of advice. He tugged at a lock of hair that had fallen into his face and remembered the feeling of Professor Snape’s fingers carding through it. The contrast with how Ernie had sharply tugged at it was comforting in its difference. He shivered as the flash of memory chilled him and he pointedly turned his thoughts away from it.

Harry wasn’t entirely sure why he was so caught up with how Snape had treated him though. He had seen the man’s capability for kindness before so it couldn’t entirely be surprised at his actions. Perhaps it was that personal touch, with himself being the sole focus of such gentle actions… Sure Mrs Weasley had hugged him and treated him with such affection but that was just the kind of person she was. That was just how she treated all her children, biological or not, so he had found it fairly easy to accept that kind of care.

Perhaps it meant Snape cared about him? As more than a student? Perhaps he could try to learn more about the man to find out? Harry fell asleep to warm thoughts of arms holding him safe…

Chapter Text

Harry sat down heavily at the Gryffindor table. It had been a long day and Professor Grubbly-Plank had taken 20 points off his house. He also had an occlumency lesson with Snape tonight as well as Astronomy later on. To top it all off, the school was feeling awfully bereft of the twin’s usual week long April Fool’s pranking spree as they had mysteriously left early for spring break the day before their birthday three days ago.

Harry glanced sideways at Ron who sat across and a couple of seats over from him. He wondered if he should ask about the Twins. If everyone had already asked him then he’d just get annoyed, but if he had said anything it would have already been school-wide gossip by now.

He pulled up his Gryffindor courage and called out, “Hey Ron. How’re Fred and George doing? Not like them to miss out on April Fool’s.”

Ron shrugged and shuffled down the bench, closer to Harry. “Not sure. Mum hasn’t sent anything to Gin or me saying that we need to come home so maybe they got in trouble for something? I don’t know.” he said with a shrug.

Harry hummed in response. The twins getting into enough trouble to be sent home would have been gossip worthy news. No, it must have been something else. He lifted his head from where he was glaring at his bangers and mash when he caught a mumble from his left.

“Why do you even care? Probably just want to snog them too.” Ginny muttered, obviously not realizing that he was close enough to overhear her.

“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I want to snog every guy, Gin. If you must know they’re pretty much my brothers too and I was concerned.” he said acidly.

“Oi. No need to talk to her like that.” Ron piped up as Ginny stared down at her plate, her face tinged with red.

“Well it’d be nice if both you and her would just pick a side already! Either you’re my friends and you actually start acting like it or just leave me alone! I don’t need the whiplash of wondering every morning if you’ll be cozying up to me or stabbing me in the back!” he yelled before storming out of the Hall.

He fumed as he rushed down to the dungeons, hoping Snape had finished supper early as well. Perhaps another frustrating lesson with the dour man would distract him from thinking about his ex-friends. Snape seemed to blow as hot and cold as the younger Weasleys and Harry often dreaded each lesson, more for the uncertainty of what temper he’d find the man in than the lessons themselves.

He slammed the office door behind him and let out a breath as he realized that the office was empty. He could just imagine the tongue lashing he’d have received had Snape been here to witness his emotional entrance, guaranteeing a bad mood for both of them. Harry glanced at his watch and grumbled as he realized that he had left supper far too early, his hope of Snape arriving any time soon vanished.

Dropping his bag into his usual chair he had a look around. The scent of leftover potions wafted over from the classroom that was attached. The lighting was dim and a variety of unknown potions and books decorated the shelves. He turned to face the desk, planning to attempt some meditation before the Professor arrived, when a familiar shimmer caught his eye. A soft silvery light danced around the corner of Snape’s desk.

As he rounded the desk he noticed the light coming from a partially open drawer that he opened the rest of the way. There sat a pensive, not unlike the one he stumbled into in Dumbledore’s office last year. He glanced at his watch again. He had enough time, he figured. Just a quick peek.

Harry leaned into the silvery vapour and was pulled head first into a memory. The Great Hall spread out below, getting larger as he fell into it from above. The house tables were gone, replaced by hundreds of desks facing the head table where a younger Professor Flitwick presided over the students. Harry glanced at the table he was now standing beside and saw that the students were taking their O.W.L.s.

It didn’t take long before the Professor called time and summoned their parchments. As the students got up to leave, Harry caught sight of the Marauders exiting the Hall. He glanced back quickly and a younger Severus Snape walked right through him. Harry shivered at the sensation and then hurried to catch up to James and his friends, glad that Snape was unconsciously following behind them.

The group of friends laughed and joked about the exam questions, and Harry felt a pang in his heart, watching his father alive and well. They had almost reached the edge of the lake when a sneer spread across Sirius’ face, marring his handsome features.

“Look who it is. Expelliarmus!” he cast at the unsuspecting Severus, who hadn’t realized that he had been walking not far behind his usual tormentors. Sirius laughed and as the boy bent to pick up his fallen wand, he cast another spell, knocking him off his feet. “How’d you do on your test Snivellus? I’m sure with how many Dark Arts you know it wouldn’t have been so difficult to know the counters to them.”

“Come on Sirius, we’ve got our Runes exam to study for.” Remus muttered, trying to diffuse things.

“Give me a moment to teach Snivellus here a lesson. Vermi-” Sirius began to say but the hand gripping his arm threw off his aim. James mumbled something inaudible and Sirius jerked his arm away angrily.

“Don’t try to act so righteous! Especially if it’s just to get into Lily’s pants!” he said derisively. James just rolled his eyes and walked over to Snape and Lily. Sirius growled and stalked off with Peter. Remus hesitated before following Sirius to make sure he didn’t get into trouble. As James kneeled to ask if Severus and Lily were alright the scene faded to a different memory set in the school library.

Snape looked to be only slightly older than the last memory. A little bit taller, his face a bit more defined. Harry blushed at the thought that Snape looked sort of… handsome. His hooked nose giving him an aristocratic look while his dark hair and pale skin gave him a classically gothic image.

Lily walked over then and sat gracefully beside him as he closed his book and set it in his bag, pulling out another one to replace it.

“Hey Sev, I was wondering if you could look over a potion for me? Just let me know if there are any interactions between ingredients that I should watch out for, that kind of thing.” she asked lightly, though avoiding his eyes as she passed over a piece of parchment. He looked at it with a raised eyebrow and then gave her an assessing look.

“I’m guessing you’re using the billywig sting slime to offset the antimony which is to extend the duration of the potion? And the howlet’s wing to multiply that effect tenfold? Who are you that desperate for that you’re trying to create a long term version of amortentia?” he asked carefully.

“It-It’s just a theoretical project. A bonus assignment for Professor Slughorn.” she stammered, still not meeting his eyes. Perhaps she knew of his proficiency in the mind arts, though had he already learned it by this age? Harry wasn’t sure. Lily stood up, grabbing the paper, “If you don’t want to help that’s fine. I’ll just ask... someone else!”

“Hey Lily! You coming to the club meeting?” someone called over as they approached.

“Yes! Of course! I almost forgot.” she said with a smile. Turning away from Snape as he frowned at the table.

“Just- Just watch how finely you slice the howlet’s wing.” Severus said as she walked away. She threw him a grateful smile over her shoulder as she joined her other friends.

The three girls giggled as they walked out of the library. “You still abandoning us on Sunday for your date with Potter?” one the girls teased Lily.

She blushed, “Well, he did invite me to Madam Puddifoot’s. It’d be rude of me to turn him down!”

Harry turned to see Snape’s mixed expression of disdain and concern before the vision faded and shifted into one of a lonely, nameless corridor. Snape was walking along, once again slightly older and idly flipping through a book when a pair of footsteps sounded behind him. He snapped his book shut as quietly as possible and quickly ducked into a shadowed alcove.

Lily’s voice rose up, “-me alone, Black!”

“But I can help you out, you know.” said Sirius, walking backwards in front of her, his hands tucked into his pockets and a smirk on his face.

“Help me with what. A prank? Seems to be the only thing you’re good at and I have no need for those.”

“No. I was thinking more along the lines of making your lies a reality.” he said, his smirk growing wider. They stopped just down a ways from where Severus was hiding.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” she replied firmly, though her eyes shifted nervously.

“No? So you mean my boy James has learned to be in two places at once so that he can be on dates with you and hang out with us at the same time?” Sirius let out a long whistle, “He’s smarter than I gave him credit for.”

“It’s just a little white lie. He hasn’t said anything so it’s not like he cares, so why should you?” she said petulantly.

“He doesn’t care only because it’s helping hide the fact that he’s seeing some bloke off Hogwarts’ grounds. However, I don’t think this guy is any good for James. Might pull him towards the Dark, if you know what I mean. That’s why I’m offering to help you get what you seem to want so dearly. But if I was mistaken…” Sirius shrugged and began to walk away slowly.

“Wait.” she called out softly. Sirius stopped but didn’t turn around. “If- if I took you up on your offer of help… how far are you willing to go?”

“Meet me tomorrow after dinner, at the staircase leading down to the Hufflepuff dorms. We can talk more then.” he said with a wave as he sauntered back the way they had come. Lily didn’t move for a moment, just watching Sirius walk away with pursed lips, before turning and continuing on her way. The hallway became fuzzy again, moving on to another scene, but before it could materialize he felt someone grab a hold if his collar and yank him sharply up and out of the pensieve.

“How dare you.” the much older visage of Snape snarled into his face.

“I just- I- I didn’t- I mean-”

“Just thought you’d have a little fun did you? Have a good laugh at my childhood, did you? Well-”

“No! I mean- I just-”

GET OUT!” Snape shouted as Harry noticed how his form shook and his fists clenched tightly as if restraining himself. He swallowed against the sympathy he wanted to express and fled the room. “And don’t come back!” Snape added just before the door slammed shut.

Harry tore down the hallway as fast as he could, his heart beating fast, his eyes burning as he tried to hold back unexpected tears. He almost made it to the common room when he heard a small group of girls giggling up ahead. He ducked into an alcove, reminding himself of one of the memories he had just seen, waiting for them to pass.

“Did you actually see it though?”

“No but Helen and Fay did! Said that Granger came running out of the boy’s dorm crying and then Weasley tried to follow but he was trying to pull on his trousers and fell down the stairs!” the girl said between giggles, causing the others to burst out laughing.

He was frozen for a moment, shocked by what he had overheard. He rushed to make his way to the library, the most likely place to find Hermione. As he made his way through the halls, using the occasional passage, he considered that he was kind of relieved that he had someone else to worry over right now, leaving him less time to think of what had just happened with Snape.

When he reached the library it only took him a few minutes to find her, hidden in a shadowed corner with her face buried into her elbow on top of some thick tome. He hesitated before approaching and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, calling her name softly. Hermione jerked up, using her sleeve to wipe away the tears that wouldn’t stop.

Harry held out his arms and she dove into them, knocking him to the floor, her tears quickly creating a growing damp spot on his shoulder. He held her tightly with one arm while the other rubbed soothing circles on her back, her own hands clutching the back of his shirt as if it was a life line. He mumbled comforting nonsense to help her calm down.

Once her sobbing had trailed off into quiet hiccoughs he asked her softly, “Do you want to talk about it?”

At first she shook her head but then she mumbled into his shoulder, her voice cracking, “Am I just broken?”

“No! No matter what happened, it doesn’t mean you’re broken!” he said vehemently. “Why don’t you tell me about it and we can work it out? Use that logical brain of yours?” he tried to tease, managing to get Hermione to give him a small, indulgent smile through her tears.

“Well Ron… he was upset after dinner and I was just trying to cheer him up…” she said. They had shifted to sit with their backs against the bookcase behind them, still on the floor. Hermione had wrapped her arms around her bent legs and stared at her knees instead of at Harry as she spoke. “He started kissing me… and then he started taking off my sweater… The other girls made it sound so- so… alluring? I mean they made the whole thing sound good and fun… and I wanted to understand what they meant… I read about it too. I wasn’t going in blind or anything, but it wasn’t at all like the books either!” her lip quivered, partly at the thought of her books possibly having failing her in some way.

“Oh Hermione, it’s ok, it’s alright.”

“How?! Ron probably hates me now! I mean I tried to just ignore how uncomfortable it was but when- well… you know- and I felt like I was about to throw up… I mean kissing him never felt like the other girls described it either but it never felt that terrible!” her voice wobbled, on the verge of crying again. “And the dates, and spending time with his family, and- and having someone there to talk to… that was nice! But- but I’ve gone and ruined all of that!”

“Hermione, breathe. I doubt he hates you. He might be upset for a while but there’s no one else that puts up with his moods like you do.” Harry managed to get a choked giggle from that. “Besides maybe it’s just not the right time for you? Some people get interested in sex earlier than others, right? Like before we came back for fourth year I can’t really say I noticed people like that before. Just because the other girls are enjoying it and you aren’t doesn’t mean you’re broken.” he said with an shrug. An awkward silence stretched out as she considered his words.

“At least he didn’t try any dirty talk.” he tried to joke and then groaned at her expression, “No! Oh Merlin!”

She frowned and gave a slight shiver then, “He kept saying ‘You like that, don’t you.’ and things like that and I tried not to say that no, I didn’t like it… but it really didn’t feel as good for me as it seemed like it did for him.”

“Hermione…” Harry began, pulling her into another hug, “He should have noticed. He should have stopped if he realized you weren’t as into it. Did he even ask if you actually wanted to? I swear, Hermione, if he pushed you into it I’ll-”

“No, please. I could have told him to stop… I could have-”

“Hermione, he pushed you to the point where you ran away crying. I’m sure you were showing signs that things weren’t going good before it got to that point.” Harry hugged her tighter, remembering briefly of when Ernie- no. No, he wasn’t going to think about that now, not when Hermione needed him, besides that was a month and a half ago! He should be over it by now, he chastised himself. Hermione didn’t say anything for a while and he just let the silence provide comfort for them both this time.

“Harry-” Hermione said as curfew approached. Harry startled and looked away, his face reddening slightly in embarrassment. “What's wrong?”

“Nothing's wrong. What would make you think that?” he said, looking away from her.

“You mean besides the fact that you won't look at me now and you were chewing your lip for the past minute? You've got something on your mind.” she said sternly, though her voice was still soft from crying earlier.

“It's nothing Hermione. Come on, we'll get in trouble if Madam Pince catches us here after curfew.” he said hastily, getting up and helping Hermione to pack up and put away the books she had strewn over the table.

She brought up the topic again as they walked back to Gryffindor Tower.

“It's no big deal…” Harry said, trying to think of what to tell her, besides the truth, “Snape just- toldmehewontteachmeocclumency-”

“Do you want to try that again? A bit slower this time?” she said with a raised eyebrow.

“Snape kicked me out of his office and said to not come back for my occlumency lessons…” he mumbled glumly.

“Did he give you a reason? Those lessons are important!”

“Well… I may have… peeked- into his pensive without his permission…”

“Harry!” she said, aghast. “Harry-” she repeated, softly this time.

“I know Hermione! I didn’t mean to! Well- I mean I did, but I didn’t mean to get caught. I just- I wanted to understand him a bit better but how do you ask someone like Snape something like that?! When I saw the pensive I just figured that’d be so much easier…”

“I would have never figured you’d ever want to get to know Professor Snape.” Hermione teased.

“I- well I mean- He- It’s late, I should get to bed! See you at breakfast Hermione!” Harry said as they entered the common room and he dashed upstairs. Hermione fondly shook her head at her friend as she went up to her own dorm.

Harry, meanwhile, was grateful that the other boys were already tucked away in their four-posters as he got ready and into bed. He let out a deep sigh, determined not to think of all that had happened as he waited to fall asleep.

Chapter Text

The Easter Holidays were over and the Great Hall was abuzz with students catching up with each other. Harry and Hermione hugged as she sat down beside him, before pulling out a book.

“Harry! Look what I found at the library while I was home for the hols!” she said passing him the book. He flipped through the pages before quickly slamming it shut.

“Hermione!” he hissed.

“Stop being such a prude. Anyway, it talks about different sexualities and such and you were so right!” she said, hugging him again. Harry caught Ron glaring at them from over her shoulder but was distracted as Hermione pulled away, her bushy hair blocking Ron from view.

“Great. What was I right about?” he asked, thoroughly confused.

Hermione blushed and said softly so that others couldn’t hear, “About me not being broken, and you were right that I just needed to think about it logically.” She smiled at him gratefully, which he returned with a grin. Harry began to hand the book back to her when she stopped him. “Keep it, maybe it could help you too.” she said.

Just then two bodies plopped down on either side of him, pushing Hermione a little out of the way.

“Harry!”

“Our dear honorary brother!”

“We didn’t see you-”

“- at home for the hols!”

“What gives?!” the twins chorused from either side of him. Harry looked back and forth at them in shock before bursting out laughing at their antics. He wrapped an arm around each of them as they hugged him.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be exactly welcome.” he said with a darting glance at their siblings that sat further down the table. Ever since he had shouted at them to pick a side the youngest Weasleys had barely spoken two words to him unless absolutely necessary.

“Of course you would’ve!”

“Mum said she missed you too.”

“Made too much extra food she did-”

“- hoping that you and Hermione here would have come.”

“Talking about us missing hols but you left almost a week early! Everyone missed your yearly pranks.” Harry exclaimed.

“A bit of a secret, that.” Fred winked.

“Maybe we’ll tell you.”

“If you show us the secret bathroom-”

“- that Bill and Charlie showed you.”

“How- ?”

“After our birthday Charlie sent us an owl-”

“- and said to ask you where it was.”

“Said it might come in handy.” George whispered. Harry’s eyes widened at the thought of what they might be insinuating. He was at once nervous for them and excited.

Breakfast wrapped up then and they made their way up to the dorms, Harry excited to show them “his” bathroom so they could reveal their secret. Before they made it to the staircase a throat cleared itself behind them causing them to turn as a unit to face whoever it was that had interrupted them.

“Misters Weasley, and Weasley. If you would be so kind as to join me in my office?” the Headmaster asked with a grandfatherly smile pasted on his face.

“Sorry Professor.”

“Our mother should have-”

“- already owled you the pertinent info.”

“Now if you’ll excuse us-”

“- we have homework to catch up on.”

“Actually, my dear boys, this is regarding the owl I received from your father. We have some concerns you see-”

The entrance hall slowly began to fill with students who were curious about the hold up at the bottom of the staircase. Fred and George looked at each other and seemed to come to some kind of decision. “Well Harry-”

“- guess you’ll have to show us another time.”

“You see, Headmaster-”

“- our mother instructed us not to speak with you alone.”

“Boys, I’m afraid I have to insist.” Dumbledore said seriously, his genial smile disappearing as he withdrew his wand.

“Ladies and gentlemen!”

“Here is a small example-”

“- of the wonders you can find at-”

“Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes!” they called out in unison.

“Find us in Diagon Alley at the start of next year!” Fred concluded as they pulled out their own wands. Wings burst from their backs, tearing their shirts and as they rose in the air, sparkles began to shoot out of their pockets, growing in size as they flew in every direction ending in gigantic, deafening explosions. As their wings propelled them out the open front doors a blazing dragon-shaped firework exploded behind them, preventing anyone from following.

At the same time small explosions and yells could be heard from all over the castle and Filch came rushing down the stairs sputtering and yelling about swamps and patches of fog blocking entire corridors.

Dumbledore’s face appeared thunderous as he turned and made his way up the stairs, students scuttling out of his way in the face of his anger.

There was silence amongst the students as fireworks continued to erupt from random places. Harry turned to Hermione and told her that he'd meet her in the common room later.

She tried to stop him but by the time she had turned around Harry was already halfway up the staircase. He caught up with the headmaster just as the gargoyle was given it’s password.

“Professor! Professor Dumbledore!” Harry called out, a bit out of breath.

The man turned and bestowed Harry with a kind, if slightly tense, smile. “How can I help you my dear boy?”

“I- well... I’d like to see Sirius, sir. If that’s possible. I- I need to talk to him.” Harry said, looking away as he remembered Snape’s lessons on how the Headmaster could catch his surface thoughts by looking into his eyes.

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Of course, my boy! Here, you can use my personal floo to get to Grimmauld Place.” he said as he ushered Harry up into his office. That Harry would want to speak to Sirius after such a shock as the Weasley boys’ unfortunate reveal instead of Tom or one of his people was quite reassuring to Dumbledore.

Dumbledore offered Harry a lemon drop, which the boy turned down, before ushering him through the floo. A blaze of green fire and Harry was tumbling out into the receiving room of Grimmauld Place. The house was eerily quiet and he set out to find his godfather.

When Harry peeked into the living room he noticed Remus sitting on the couch, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and one hand covering his mouth. Dark circles underlined his weary eyes. Harry did a mental check of the lunar calendar. The full moon was three, maybe four, days ago and Remus looked as if it had been last night.

“Remus?” Harry asked softly as he entered the room, “Rough full moon?”

The man, startled out of his thoughts, looked up sharply. “Harry? What? N-no, nothing you need to worry about.” he said with a tense smile.

“Remus…” Harry said while a hurt expression flitting across his face. He looked away and thought about leaving him to his thoughts and going to find Sirius.

“Harry- I…” Remus let out a big sigh. “Come, sit.” he said, gesturing to the empty spot beside him on the couch. Harry hesitated in the doorway for a moment before giving in. There was silence for a few minutes, Remus drawing in breath to start speaking only to let it out again. His jaw working as if chewing over the words that wouldn’t come out. “I might need to go away for awhile…” he finally said, though it was so quiet that Harry almost missed it.

“I just- Sirius has been keeping secrets and- and I can’t- I just can’t. I’ll probably ask Dumbledore to give me a mission that’ll take me somewhere far off while Sirius sorts out his priorities… I’m sorry Harry. I want to be here for you but I feel so useless with everything else happening right now…” he said, his head dropping down into his hands. Harry just sat there for a moment, shocked. He had never seen the man look so broken.

Before Harry could say anything to comfort the man he felt Remus tense and a split second later a voice called out, “Harry!”

Harry looked back at Remus who was staring resolutely into the fire, apparently refusing to acknowledge Sirius’ presence. “Harry, what are you doing here? How’s school? Managed to sneak away for a bit, did you?” he asked with a carefree grin.

“No, I’m here with Dumbledore’s permission… I- I just need to talk to you. I’m just a bit worried…” Harry started to say though he wasn’t sure anymore if he should add more problems to the already troubled couple.

“What? What’s wrong Harry?” Sirius asked, while Remus turned to him with a worried glance as well.

Harry looked down at his hands, which were clenched together in his lap, second guessing himself. Remus leaned over and rested one of his on top, causing Harry to look up at him. “It’s ok Harry.” he said softly, his eyes warm though no less worried, “You can tell us.”

“The twins… they revealed their creature inheritances before flying off. I think most of the school thought it part of their prank but Dumbledore… Dumbledore was furious.” he said with a shiver, looking back down at his hands. “I’m scared that he’ll go after them or something. I don’t know where they’d go that’d be safe…”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Sirius scoffed from where he leaned against the doorway with his arms crossed, not having bothered to move into the room. “At most he’d only want to find them to make sure they are safe.”

“Siri… he was so mad... and can we risk it? What if he finds out about me?” Harry asked in a near whisper.

“He helped Remus out when we were in school!”

“Do you remember last year? The Triwizard Tournament?” Harry asked, his voice still quiet, still slightly fearful, “He asked all the visiting students to hide their inheritances. Viktor said it was abominable to hide who they are and how they were all offended when he asked such a thing… And- and when I went to visit him… It was amazing Siri. People walking all over Wizarding Bulgaria with wings, and ears, and scales showing openly.” His amazed tone matched the hopeful smile on his face.

“It hasn’t always been like this, Harry-”

“But it has.” Remus interrupted, his words felt like a heavy anvil upon the conversation.

“Remy-”

“Even when we were in school. ‘Never tell anyone’ or ‘Keep to the Shrieking Shack on the full moons’ or ‘They will never understand ones like you, Remus’. Do those sound familiar or have you forgotten? After all these years and you forgot how much pain I went through, being what I am in a society that would never accept me…”

“We’ve always accepted you, Moony! We’ve always stuck by you-”

“Then why can’t you now?!” Remus yelled, his voice cracking slightly, “We used to do everything together and now you hide your secrets away even though I trusted you with the biggest one of my life. Well, I’m tired of it!”

Remus turned and walked out of the room, knocking his shoulder into a shocked Sirius as he charged past him. It took a moment before Sirius turned and called out, “Moony! Wait-” but the front door of the house slammed shut setting off Walburga Black’s painting. The silence of the house beyond the painting’s wailing was endless.

“Looks like you’ll be here by yourself until the end of the school year...” Harry said softly after the silence became awkward.

Sirius turned sharply towards Harry. “What? No! Remus!” he yelled, rushing for the door. The second slam made the Black matriarch scream louder. Harry sighed before getting up and walking back to the floo. This visit didn’t help after all. Perhaps he was wrong to even consider coming here but who else could he go to? He doubted any of the Weasleys would accept help from his father.

Before he could step into the green flames he heard the door slam again and slow, heavy steps coming up to the room. Harry hesitated just long enough for the flames to die down. Once the footsteps ended he quietly made his way back to the living room they had been talking in earlier.

There he found Sirius in almost the same position that Remus had been in, but when he lifted his face to stare into the fire a fierce glare possessed it instead of the desolation that had lined Remus’.

Sirius looked up at Harry then, as if sensing his presence. Harry took a step back, a flicker of fear crossing his face, and Sirius’ face softed.

“Oh Harry. Harry, it’ll be alright. We’ll get back at Voldemort for this, don’t worry.” he said as his gaze wandered back to the fire.

“Voldemort? What does Tom have to do with all of this?” Harry said, indignation lining his tone.

“Everything, Harry. Don’t you see?” Sirius asked him, looking confused at the question.

“No, I don’t. Tom isn’t the reason that Remus left here so upset Siri.”

“Of course it is! It’s because of him that I can’t tell Remus things! Because of you. Because Remus doesn’t want to rock the boat we’re all in, but someone has to Harry. Someone has to.” Sirius said, his voice going soft at the end. He turned his head as if he couldn’t look at Harry. “You’re nothing like James was… James would have understood…”

Harry’s eyes watered as he heard the underlying blame in Sirius’ tone. “Of course he would have agreed after what you helped Lily do to him!” he yelled before rushing back to the floo room and hurrying through a fresh burst of green flames.

It wasn’t until he stumbled out the other side that he remembered that Dumbledore would be there in his office, waiting. Harry attempted to rush past the Headmaster to hide the tears building in his eyes as he thought about how deep the old man’s claws had dug into his godfather.

“Harry! Is everything alright? What happened?” Dumbledore asked, his mouth turned down in a softly concerned way but the usual twinkle was more of a hard glint in his eyes.

“Nothing. I just- Sirius just told me what I needed to hear, that’s all... I- I should really get going sir, I’ve missed enough of my classes today.” he said quickly, careful to avoid meeting Dumbledore’s gaze. In his rush out the door he missed the satisfied look on the Headmaster’s face…

=^-^=

Ginny hummed to herself as she bounded up the stairs to the boy’s dorm. The past couple weeks, well months really, had been quite dreadful. After all the times her mother had told her stories of how the boy hero would fall in love with her, all the times her father said she could win any boy over with her beauty and smarts, only to find out her prince charming was gay! It wasn’t fair!

But life wasn’t fair, was it? No, she would just have to be her own prince charming, so to speak. She’d work hard and be everything her older brothers had been, only better. She’d become the best quidditch captain for Gryffindor, she’d get the best marks in her class so that she could become Head Girl, and to help her with that goal she’d also work towards being the best in her gobstones club. If only she could find that iridium gobstone Ron had won off of someone a couple years back…

Ah ha! There it was, in the back of the bottom drawer of his nightstand. She was grateful that the dorm was empty when she had arrived here. She knew Ron was off sulking around the grounds but she hadn’t been sure what she would have done if any of the other boys had been here, especially Harry. She hated flirting to get things but it was occasionally handy that most of the boys seemed to give her undue leeway because of her looks. She rolled the silvery white ball between her fingers as she envisioned all the games it could help her win.

She smirked as she got up from her knees and then grinned as she caught sight of the latest edition of Seeker’s Weekly. Ron had probably already read it a dozen times and wouldn’t mind if she borrowed it for a while, she thought as she tucked it into her pocket alongside the gobstone. Lifting the magazine, however, knocked some sheets of parchment off the nightstand.

Ginny picked them up and prepared to just toss them back on top of Ron’s cluttered nightstand, when she caught sight of her name in the letter that was on top of the pile. She read it over, her eyebrows furrowing the more she read. She turned around and sat down heavily on the bed.

Her dad wanted her to date Harry and was trying to get Ron to help make that happen, but why? She understood that a lot of her infatuation with Harry stemmed from her parent’s stories of him but she had thought that they told her those because she had always asked to hear more. If she had asked for more tales of Babbity Rabbity or the Three Brothers would they have told her those instead?

Weren’t fathers supposed to hate all of their daughter’s love interests? Thinking back though, her parents had welcomed Harry into their family right from the start. Was it because of his fame? His fortune? So many questions swirled in her mind. And why her? Why did they decide that she would bring Harry into the family? Wouldn’t one of her older brothers have been able to manipulate him better than she could? Especially since he was gay… but then again she had only recently learned about that little tidbit of information and she supposed her brothers weren’t really the type to do something like that. Well maybe Percy or Ron but she doubted they would have been able to accomplish it.

The other half of the letter caused her some concern as well. It spoke about a raid being intercepted… Ginny hadn’t thought that the war was so imminent and already causing such problems or that Ron would be getting updates on them. Was Harry getting this information? Would he appreciate it if she brought this up to him? Maybe she could use it to convince him to be her friend again since it was his godfather that was apparently going to lead the counter attack after all… But after the way she had treated him for the past few months… well, she wouldn’t be surprised if he wouldn’t even take a moment to listen to her.

She stood up quickly as she heard people passing in the hallway, it wouldn’t do to get caught in here, going through Ron’s things. Dropping the papers back on the nightstand, minus the letter which got tucked in next to the magazine in her pocket, she rushed out of the dorm room though careful to make sure no one saw her leaving.