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Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; February 1945

It had been Professor Slytherin’s idea. Every other Friday, Dark Arts Professor Marvolo Slytherin, Defense Professor Abraxas Malfoy and Potions Professor Tobias Prince held two, three-hour long, combined classes for their seventh year students. The purpose of the classes was to teach the students to integrate their learning. It gave them a solid foundation that would have, it was hoped, kept them alive longer should they ever have been confronted by Gellert Grindelwald’s hitwizards.

That concern was now moot, as the only time Grindelwald entered Great Britain as a Dark Lord, apparating himself and his Elite into Diagon Alley in a violent Declaration of War, Albus Dumbledore and Marvolo Slytherin immediately united to end the threat. They made a terrifyingly efficient team. Their respective political parties obeyed their leaders and joined their own efforts, attacking the Elite while Dumbledore and Slytherin dealt with Grindelwald.

Afterwards, they sent the smoldering remains of the Elite and the …. newly retired… former Dark Lord Grindelwald back into the midst of the remainder of Grindelwald’s forces. The message from Wizarding Great Britain was clear, and it was now understood throughout the world that the two political powerhouses in WGB had no problem standing together to repel any and all threats to their nation and their people. This fact had surprised some, as there was always a subtext of violence in the dichotomy that simmered between the rigidly Light Phoenix Party and the Dark/Neutral Vol de Mort Party. The hostilities were mostly reserved for the political arena, however, as each of the parties had large percentages of well-trained wizards and witches.

When testifying during the subsequent ICW (International Confederation of Wizardry) session, both the Lord Phoenix and the Lord Vol de Mort made an excellent point. Each of their political parties was named for the ability to overcome death, the greatest obstacle of all. Why would they not be able to overcome every other challenge that came their way?

On this cold day in February, the afternoon’s combined class had settled into the remaining thirty minutes or so of simple interaction with each other. The three professors had made it mandatory that their students use this time each week to talk with members of other houses, feeling that it was important for them to learn to interact with and understand even those people who upheld the opposite of their individual ideals. Thus, Slytherins and Gryffindors were gathered in small, tense little groups that stiffly discussed such important topics as their hopes for menu items at dinner and fashion. The three professors had settled watchfully at the counter that ran along the front of classroom and quietly conversed under a privacy shield. That Malfoy and Prince were being given orders by their old friend and political leader was of absolutely no importance at all.

Into the widespread quiet discussion came three, firm knocks on the classroom door. Briefly surprised, Professor Slytherin called out in his distinctive baritone, “Enter!” Everyone turned to look, glad for a break from their stilted conversations, as the door slowly opened and the distinctive, tousled black hair and bright green eyes of the Ravenclaw embarrassment, Hadrian Morgan, came into view.

Hadrian Morgan was a seventh year transfer student. What was known about him was that he had been raised in a muggle orphanage in the poorer part of London, placed there at age three when his mother, Rowena Morgan, died suddenly. He was the illegitimate child of one of the Potters, and despite the general distaste most people felt for Hadrian, the fact that the House of Potter had left a wizarding child to rot in muggle hell and denied the boy his right to inherit was not well received by the populace. House Potter had also prevented the boy from receiving his Hogwart’s letters, leaving him to the mercies of the muggle public school system. It was only the boy’s own efforts in researching his odd abilities and in training himself that had brought him to the attention of the Ministry of Magic and led to his transfer into Hogwarts.

Despite his general scruffiness and painful shyness, Hadrian had at least earned the respect of the professors and most of his House through the fact that he had somehow managed to train himself beyond the average level of a seventh year through the use of logic, observation, extrapolation and a truly laudable amount of self-discipline. Despite having had little to no access -- or so it was believed -- to any actually useful books or resources on magic for most of his life, the young man had slotted easily into the seventh year curriculum and was always seen in the library or writing quietly in one of numerous journals. He was a published author, having begun sending in various poems, stories and research papers to both muggle and wizarding publishing companies, and it was the small income he earned from these publications that allowed him the few galleons he could spend on himself.

Nevertheless, Hadrian Morgan was considered something of a joke by the Gryffs and -- to a lesser degree -- the Puffs, serving as a popular target for bullying and mockery. The Gryffindors were fairly well-known for such behavior, and the Puffs mostly went along for the joy of finally having someone to bully for their very own. Hadrian never defended himself, never spoke up in class, and generally flitted about the castle like a poorly-dressed ghost. The most recent example of bullying by the seventh-year Gryffs had gotten well out of hand, resulting in Hadrian’s extended stay in the Healer’s Ward and a grand total of 25 points taken from the lions. Professor Slytherin had been furious, even more so than Hadrian’s Head of House Flitwick, at the blatant favoritism of the Headmaster (who had steadfastly maintained that the culprits did not deserve a harsher punishment because, while the joke was poorly-planned, it was not their intent to do such extreme harm to the boy). The old man’s subsequent “solution” of forcing Hadrian to interact with the Gryffindors, and they with him, by running a mandatory writing contest which would be judged by Hadrian had been badly received by the Gryffs. It was only Flitwick’s direct warning to the lions that he would personally see them cleaning up Hippogriff shit, as an appropriate analogy for what they were dispensing, that kept the lions from retaliating even further against the beleaguered boy.

Of course, the cold, ruby stare of the most powerful wizard in Great Britain may also have been a deterrent. For all that he was a snake, Professor Slytherin rather detested bullies, and would not hesitate to strike against those who treated anyone -- particularly intelligent, relatively harmless, pureblood children -- as he was treated during his youth. He did not know the lad, but given their respective childhoods, Slytherin felt a distant sort of cameraderie with Hadrian Morgan.

Hadrian’s efforts regarding the writing contest had earned him some small respect from the Slytherins, including the professors. Despite the fact that it served more as an undeserved punishment to him, Hadrian chose to use the contest as an opportunity. He had carefully structured the contest to suit the Gryffs' interests, allowing them their own choice of topic, maximum words, etc. He had even arranged to have the winning entry widely published and was offering a galleon of his own, meager funds as an award for first place. Still, the rude snickering and general air of suppressed anticipation by the seventh year Gryffindors, particularly during this last class, had been obvious and irritating. They had found some way of making the boy regret his efforts.

When the poorly-dressed Hadrian appeared in the classroom doorway, a wave of malicious snickering swept through the Gryffindors. The young man was dressed in threadbare, secondhand robes, with faded trousers and odd, muggle shoes with laces showing beneath. As always, his too-long black hair was wild and his distinctive, green eyes showed almost too brightly in the pale face. But what caught the attention of the three professors was the look of pure determination on the small face as he ignored the snickers and focused directly on the professors.

“Excuse me, professors. I was hoping you wouldn’t object to me stealing the open discussion portion of your class to hand out the results of the Gryffindor writing contest?”

Delighted giggles and whispers raced around the room at Hadrian’s words. Marvolo sent a quelling glance at the students, who immediately settled. Abraxas and Tobias watched, intrigued, as their old friend and leader stared thoughtfully at the shy young man. As always, they would follow where Slytherin led. On the surface, it seemed to be a poor idea to allow the beleaguered young man the chance for the Gryffs to have another go at him; however, at least it would be done in their presence and they could use their influence to intimidate the Gryffs into behaving.

For his part, Marvolo Slytherin had the strongest impression that young Hadrian knew exactly what he was doing. The seasoned politician dismissed all of the distracting factors of the young man’s appearance and focused instead on the body language and the expression in the bright, green eyes. After a moment, he nodded firmly and beckoned Hadrian forward, turning to the students and ordering, “Return to your seats. You will maintain decorum or accept detention with me personally.” That threat had claws; no one, not even his snakes, wanted to serve time with Professor Slytherin. His detentions were always memorable.

Students shuffled and exchanged anticipatory grins as the Gryffindors returned to the center section of tables and the Slytherins to those on the right side of the classroom. The left side of the classroom was reserved as open space for larger demonstrations. As the three professors moved to stand in front of the Slytherins, Hadrian quietly walked to the front of the room. Snickers broke out as the students realized that the young man was simply too petite to be clearly seen. Unfazed, Hadrian simply placed a hand on the counter behind him and jumped, landing easily on the marble surface. His casual grace and easy solution won momentary silence from the lions and small smiles from the Slytherins, including the professors. The three men exchanged glances, reading each other’s interest with the ease of long association, and turned to see what Hadrian would do next.

Pulling out a file folder of parchments, Hadrian shuffled through the entries for a moment as he seemed to summon his courage. Marvolo was impressed by the shy young man’s quiet strength; his reticence was well-known by the teaching staff and a portrait or two, and was attributed to the harsh life he had been forced to live amongst the dregs of muggle society. Staring at the folder in his hand, Hadrian began to speak.

“As you know, the topic of the entries was left up to each student. I asked only that you write about something you truly love, and that you write your entry in the form of a story. It seems that the topic each of you Lions love the most is graphic sex.”

Loud laughter burst forth from the Gryffindors as the professors blinked. The Slytherin students laughed a little, as well, as they realized what the Gryffs had done. They had gotten together as a group, apparently, and had each written a pornographic story, knowing that the painfully modest, shy Hadrian would be forced to read and judge each entry. It was an amusing retaliation, in a way, although taken in light of the young man’s efforts to be fair and encouraging despite his poor experiences at the hands of the seventh years, it was a testament to the churlishness of the House of Lions.

Marvolo exchanged dark looks with his two friends. This was just another example of the rampant, poor behavior of the Gryffindors. They knew that Dumbledore would let them get away with this, too, choosing as always to dismiss the bullying of other students and pat the lions on the back for their ‘creative pranking’ abilities. As far as Dumbledore was concerned, regardless of severity, the actions of 'the children' were always to be twinkled at, possibly with an admonishing slap on the wrist if it went too far. Without any need for words, the three professors agreed that they would see that the Gryffindors regretted this latest poor choice.

Their decision turned into stern resolve when Hadrian discreetly slid one of the parchments across the counter toward Marvolo. Picking it up, his scanned it, then gestured Abraxas and Tobias over to read it with him. Their expressions blanked into the perfect masks of true Slytherins, as they realized they were reading a thinly-disguised confession -- written as a sexual fantasy -- by Cormac McLaggen for an unsolved sexual assault that had occurred last year against a second-year Hufflepuff. Marvolo noncommittally placed the incriminating parchment in his inner pocket and nodded slightly at Hadrian.

McLaggen’s days of freedom were now numbered. Even if he wasn’t put into Azkaban (which was doubtful), having been a minor when committing the offense, his father was Head Auror Adam McLaggen. He was also one of Marvolo’s best men.

Curious about the young Hadrian Morgan, who had literally walked into a den of lions and snakes with his eyes wide open, Marvolo rejoined his friends and watched the black-haired young man, while the sniggering, snide laughter of the Gryffindors as they reveled in their prank rolled through the classroom.

Seated casually on the counter, Hadrian seemed unaffected by the laughter. The Slytherins found themselves feeling increasing respect for the young man’s composure, knowing how difficult this experience was for him. So far, he was comporting himself with more grace than even the properly-raised purebloods of the seventh year lions. The only one of the Gryffindors who was not sharing elbow jabs and knowing looks was Neville Longbottom, who seemed uncomfortable and embarrassed at the behavior of the members of his House.
Hadrian looked up with a slow smile, and those few Gryffindors who had any sense of situational awareness felt a small shiver of worry slide over their spines. On the right side of the class, Slytherin eyebrows quirked in interest. Unnaturally green eyes roamed over the snickering students in front of him, pausing here and there as he began to speak.

“Before I say who won this contest, I think we should go over a few of the essays first.”

The rampant sniggering abruptly ceased as the attention of sixteen Gryffindors rapidly zoomed in to focus on the composed young man. What? What did he say? Initial protests were firmly stifled by stern looks from the three professors.

“Let’s begin with Lavender Brown, shall we?” Hadrian smiled gently at the rapidly paling young woman. “Ms. Brown, your sexual fantasy involves voyeurism. I applaud your courage in speaking so openly on the topic. Let’s examine your story in more detail.” He apparently did not see the young woman’s pleading expression and frantic glances around for help. “You wrote a story in which a seventeen-year-old, blue-eyed brunette female named ‘Violet’ – that is correct, isn’t it, Lavender? Your heroine’s name is ‘Violet’?” Smirks formed on Slytherin faces as the seventeen-year-old, blue-eyed Lavender reluctantly nodded, her brunette hair sliding forward to cover her face. Hadrian relentlessly continued, “So, Lavender, ‘Violet’ here likes the idea of watching two boys have sex, and she just happens to have wandered into the boys’ bathroom in the ‘Serpent’s basement dorms’ at ‘Swineblemish School of Magic.’… interesting names, by the way.” This time, Hadrian’s smile had a little more teeth. “And during her entirely accidental journey into that bathroom, she sees two young men – one ‘Luscious Manboy’ and one ‘Sends-us King’ – engaged in a hot and heavy kiss-and-grope against the sink.”

Across the room, seventh-years Lucius Malfoy and Severus Prince began to glare at the shrinking young woman. Professor Malfoy clenched his jaw tightly in an effort to contain his grin, managing to look very stern despite his dancing eyes. Professor Prince abruptly folded his arms, digging his nails deeply into his own flesh to keep himself from snickering.

“The two ‘serpents’ then begin to … how did you put it?” Hadrian made a show of carefully reviewing the parchment in his hands. Finding the phrase he was searching for, he said, “Ah! Here it is. They then begin to ‘thrust wildly against each other’s slim but masculine bodies, rubbing their rigid erections together and…,” his eyebrows raised in faux confusion as he peered closely at the parchment, before he looked up and said dubiously, “… and they began to cry.’ How… emotional of them.” By this time, Lucius and Severus were glaring pure hatred at Lavender, and the remaining Gryffindors had frozen into the silent stillness of prey that did not want to be hunted.

Green eyes carefully inspected Lavender Brown, before a bright grin formed on the young man’s face. “Well, I won’t go into much more detail about your story, Ms. Brown.” He waited for the relief to show on her face before adding, “I’ll just summarize the rest.” Her face fell back into an expression of despair. “The remainder of this story – all ten pages of it – involves Violet masturbating repeatedly as Luscious and Sends-us hump each other in a vast number of creative ways. I thought the faucet thing particularly interesting. Also logistically nightmarish; you must be very good at puzzles, Ms. Brown. As an additional note, the number of orgasms each of the three have would truly be epic, possibly even dangerous, should it happen in real life. But that’s the joy of fiction, is it not?” He paused, clearly waiting for Lavender to reply. At her reluctant nod, he said briskly, “Well, lovely story! I salute your courage! Moving on.” The relief on her face was tempered by the humiliation she was experiencing and the fact that she was too afraid to look at any of the Slytherin students or professors.

Gryffindors remained frozen, hoping to hide in plain sight, as the parchments shuffled again. It was like muggle Russian Roulette, but the weapon was aimed at them. Not good. More than one Lion began to regret participating in this latest effort to humiliate the ugly Ravenclaw. Talk about backfire!

Sirius Black began to shake his head in rapid denial as he was abruptly fixed by a bright, green gaze. Damn it! He was the originator of the porn idea, and had known from the second Lavender was targeted exactly what Hadrian was doing. The Ravenclaw was going to target each of the main instigators of this latest prank and reveal the pornography they submitted as their official entries. He felt like Reggie must have every time he realized that Sirius had another prank planned for his little brother. Very much a target, and scared as hell. Quickly reviewing what he had submitted, his sense of doom grew.

Hadrian held the pleading gaze and smiled slowly. “Sirius Black.” Just the way the young man said his name was threatening. “Your story is autobiographical!”

Slytherins snickered as Sirius yelped, “No, it’s not. It’s just a story, about someone else!” Hadrian shook his head slowly, a darkly-amused gleam in the emerald eyes. “Now, Sirius. You declare right at the beginning, in capitals and double-underlines, that this is a story about your own experiences, and that I should picture you as I read this. Well, I'm sure you didn't mean me, personally. After all, this is a public writing contest. Only a fool would think the sole reader would be the one judging, don't you agree? You even named yourself in the prefacing statement." Hadrian dropped his eyes to skim the page, before finding what he wanted and nodding in confirmation as he read aloud thoughtfully, "Here it is. 'Be aware that this is the autobiographical accounts of the sexual exploits of me, Sirius Orion Black, known far and wide as the 'sex god of Gryffindor', and that you should be sure to picture me naked as you ...' etcetera and so forth. You then go into great detail about various sexual encounters you have had, including a foursome with all of your Marauder friends. I congratulate you on your courage … and your flexibility!” Three horrified looks were aimed at Sirius from amongst the Lions, each belonging to a fellow Marauder. The Marauders in question -- James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew -- were immediately subjected to speculative looks from everyone in the room. The worst for most of the four was the smirking observation of the Slytherins, although James Potter was personally most disturbed by the reminiscent leers he was getting from Pettigrew. Creepy.

The attention of the entire class abruptly zeroed back in on Hadrian as the young man tapped his finger on his chin and added, as if in afterthought, “Of course, I personally was most amazed by the fantasy of you getting rimmed by Professor Minerva McGonogall in her animagus form. Your vivid description of how the roughness of a cat’s tongue would send you into ‘shrieking, splashing orgasm’ was beautifully written -- very vivid -- and truly an ambitious work of sexual and literary courage, considering the renowned fierce nature of your Head of House.” Hadrian paused a moment longer, watching the mortified Marauder, before adding with impeccable timing, "Perhaps you might consider that for your epitaph?"

The disgusted silence was broken by the thunk of Sirius Black’s head as it dropped to the table, and an outburst of laughter from all of the Slytherins and even some of the Gryffindors. Professor Slytherin himself had his eyes closed and a hand firmly pressed to his mouth, arms folded as casually as possible while he tried to contain himself. Next to him, Abraxas had given up the struggle for his icy mask and was laughing into his hands at the thought of the Head of Gryffindor’s reaction to this particular bit of information and what she would do to the self-proclaimed ‘Marauder.’ Tobias wore a look of deep revulsion, an expression mirrored almost identically on the face of his son, Severus.

On the counter, Hadrian crossed his legs gracefully and patiently waited for the attention to return to him. The shuffling of the parchments in his hands did the trick admirably, as the deeply amused Slytherins and the terrified Gryffindors awaited his next revelation. Tension built as the young man quietly sifted through the papers, before finding the one he wanted and pulling it gingerly from the pile using thumb and forefinger only.

“Ronald Weasley.” The unattractive, hot-tempered redhead paled, causing his plethora of freckles to stand out like pockmarks against the pallid skin. “Mr. Weasley, given your fondness for food, I must say that I am not surprised at the details of your story.” Weasley’s eyebrows knitted in confusion. He hadn’t written about food. What was the little homo talking about? Glancing up, Hadrian considered the redhead’s look of incomprehension and said with gentle malice, “Unless, Ronald, it is simply your vocabulary, or lack thereof, that leads me to this conclusion. Tell me, Mr. Weasley, what is the French word for cheese?”

Marvolo shook his head in disgust at the youngest Weasley boy’s open mouth and blank expression. This boy was proof positive that wizarding families needed to stop having children after the first five. Beyond that, apparently neither parent had enough magic to create anything even remotely attractive or intelligent. Sadly, this boy didn’t even have a redeeming personality. The Dark Arts Professor watched with burgeoning pride as Hadrian began to twist the knife.

“Don’t know? Because you use it all throughout this story. I was incredibly disgusted, frankly. Now, I realize my mistake, however. Well, actually, I realize your mistake. Allow me to explain, Mr. Weasley. You see, you are confusing two similar words with vastly different concepts. ‘Fromage’ is cheese. ‘Frottage’ is a sexual act. Rather than writing a story about yourself engaged in an act of ‘frottage’ against your unconscious brother Charles, you instead write about the two of you doing nasty things with cheese. I beg you, learn the difference. I nearly vomited several times reading this story. And, gosh, I just can’t even imagine what Charles might say.”

By this point, both Malfoys had wide, vindictive smiles on their handsome faces. The Malfoy-Weasley feud was well-known, although in truth none of the Malfoy’s had an issue with the five older boys. They were more representative of the Prewitt’s, the maternal line of the family. But Arthur Weasley and his youngest son Ronald were cut of the same cloth, although the elder was at least somewhat leavened by age. Still, both were too stupid, too hot-tempered, too given to using fists over magic, and too easily manipulated by Albus Dumbledore. This latest attempt to seem clever by the waste of magical education that was Ronald Weasley was most amusing to the cunning and highly intelligent Malfoys.

Predictably, Ronald’s face turned puce with rage and his big hands immediately clenched into fists. Marvolo began a mental countdown, starting at three, and by the time he got to one, Weasley was on his feet and shouting. “Fuck you, Morgan! Who do you think you are, acting all smart and fancy when you’re just a poor, ugly orphan? You just can’t stand it that you’re not popular and that you have no home or friends… and no family! You’re just jealous!” At this point, the enraged redhead was breathing heavily, his mouth hanging open as he sucked in air.

Preparing to intervene, both Abraxas and Tobias paused at Marvolo’s raised hand. The man never looked away from Hadrian Morgan. Obeying their leader’s implicit command, they relaxed and waited. Watching the young Mr. Morgan, the two professors quickly understood why Slytherin had them stand down.

Calmly watching Weasley explode in rage, Hadrian’s entire posture and expression reflected how unimpressed he was. When Weasley paused, having run out of the few words he actually knew well, Hadrian simply smiled slightly and said quietly, “You are absolutely right. I am definitely jealous of anyone who has a loving family and a good home. I’m not entirely certain what that has to do with your desire for 'frere et le fromage', and I definitely feel that I would not be interested in humping against my brother should I actually have one, but since my status as a reasonably intelligent but homeless orphan seems important to you at the moment, feel free to discuss it. Go ahead; I’m sure we can all wait, although I'm sure we would all prefer that, at some point, you explain the connection between my lack of a family and your wish to fuck your own."

It finally occurred to the dimwitted redhead to look around. The frozen looks on the faces of his fellow Lions, the sneers from the Slytherins and the glare that promised retribution on the handsome face of Professor Slytherin slowly clued the dolt into the fact that he had perhaps let his mouth run away with him again. The expression on James Potter's face promised pain for bringing up Hadrian's family situation. Turning to look at the smirking, vindictive gleams of the Malfoys, Weasley abruptly swallowed and sat down heavily. Oh, Merlin, his mum was going to kill him for what he’d said. Charlie was going to kill him for what he wrote, if he ever found out. Dad was going to kill him for giving the Malfoys ammunition and for pissing off Mom and Charlie. And the twins were just going to torture him – relentlessly.

“I am so fucked,” he muttered miserably to himself. Hadrian’s prompt, “Well, that was the gist of your story, wasn’t it?” brought another round of mocking laughter. Ronald slumped into his chair and waited for the hellish class to end. He needed to eat. His face wrinkled in disgust as he hoped fervently that nothing with cheese was on the dinner menu.

His infamous appetite was unaffected by the detention Slytherin gave him for his outburst, although he was not happy that he would be helping the kitchen house elves the next time they made camembert.
Meanwhile, multiple Slytherin students were making mental notes on how to make sure that the Gryffindor table had dozens upon dozens of dishes with cheese. The smirking professors let them plot.

The restless Gryffindors stilled again, sensing the malevolent green gaze passing over them. They were each making notes to kill the primary instigators of this stupid prank. Sure, it was funny when it was only going to be the paralyzingly-shy Ravenclaw that suffered. None of them had thought for a single moment that the boy who barely spoke would be able, much less willing, to tell anyone about what they had written. They had bet that he would burn their papers, in fact, and then they could have gotten him into trouble for abandoning the writing contest. What the hell was he doing, turning the tables on them like this? Each of them flinched as the weight of the boy’s stare settled, moved, settled again. It was like being in the sites of one of those R-me snipers the Muggle Studies teacher had told them about.

Parvati Patil quivered in her chair as Hadrian’s eyes stopped, and remained, on her. Oh, Merlin. Padma was going to never let her live this down. And as she was also a Ravenclaw, she could have already learned what Parvati wrote, and if Parvati told their oh-so-traditional father ….! The pretty Gryffindor cursed herself. Father would never let her out of the house again until she was safely married.

“Miss Parvati Patil.” Her pleading look was met with an implacable stare that promised nothing good for the girl. “Tell me, Parvati, do you know what it means to ‘titter’?” She blinked at him, before hesitantly answering, “Yes, of course. It means to laugh… to giggle, I suppose.” Hadrian smiled brilliantly at her. “Excellent, Parvati! Why you aren’t in Ravenclaw with your sister, I’ll just never know!” His sarcasm was far too sharp for the duller of the Patil twins to catch.

“Parvati, to ‘titter’ is actually something like what you, Lavender and Dolores do when you get together. In fact, Dolores is the best ‘titterer’ I have ever seen. You know the sound she made when she heard that the goblins were denied the use of wands? That was ‘tittering’ – sort of a fake giggle. Understand?” Parvati nodded slowly. She didn’t like it when Dolores Umbridge tittered. It was an ugly sound, almost as bad as the girl’s endless ‘hem-hem’ing.

Hadrian smiled encouragingly as he patiently talked the girl through his point. “So, Parvati, in your story, you describe yourself giving a boy a blow job.” The girl immediately turned bright red at the snorts and sniggers that erupted in the room. “And, while on your knees, you say that you look up at the boy as you do something with your tongue – you’re fairly vague on this point – and then the boy ‘tittered’.”

“….!”

“Excuse me, Parvati? I’m afraid I didn’t catch that.”

Parvati cleared her throat, staring at the table in front of her, and said more clearly, “Totters. I meant to say that he tottered. Or maybe teetered. I can't remember, 'though it's sort of the same, isn't it? Just, you know, got weak and swayed a bit, in reaction, like.” Oh, Merlin, this was so embarrassing. She would never go along with the Marauders again. Never, never, never!

Hadrian’s look of dawning comprehension would have been perfect, if he hadn’t been performing it in front of Slytherins. “OH! I understand now. Because, quite frankly, Parvati, your adamant statements at the beginning of your story that you really know how to give a good blow job left me concerned for your ego when I got to that part. After all, if a man ‘titters’ when you’re giving him a blow job, I think we can all agree that you’re doing it wrong.”

Professor Slytherin’s snort was heard clearly throughout the room. Several of his snakes were laughing so hard they made no sound at all. Based on this day’s behavior, Marvolo resolved to get the Sorting Hat to re-evaluate young Mr. Morgan. That boy was a Slytherin if ever there was one.

Hadrian let the silence build around the mortified Parvati before he sat back slightly and began to deliberately shuffle parchment again. Once more, lions froze like rabbits.

The slow, dark smile that formed on the Ravenclaw’s face struck terror in the hearts of the remaining Gryffindors. Those who had not yet been singled out exchanged frightened glances and hoped fervently that the next victim was anyone else.

“James Potter.”

“Fuck!”

“Detention, Mr. Potter. With me,” Slytherin said coolly.

The Potter Heir’s head dropped onto his folded arms as the leader of the Marauders whimpered. The three professors, along with many Slytherins (especially Severus Prince), felt the overwhelming urge to rub their hands together or make some other overt sign of gleeful anticipation. Considering that young Mr. Morgan was, in fact, the victim of the Potter family’s lack of honor, Marvolo believed it very likely that the young man had saved the best for last.

“James, you wrote about Professor Marvolo Slytherin.”

Silence landed in the classroom like a boulder. At the Gryffindor tables, wide eyes and dropped mouths seemed to be the favored expression. Remus Lupin wanted to shake James. Idiot! The cocky ‘Master Marauder’ always had to go above and beyond! Always had to take the stupidest risks! What kind of moron writes a porn story about the most dangerous man any of them knew? Especially when there was even the remotest chance of the man finding out? Lupin knew why James had done it; the boy wanted to lay claim to ‘most daring story’ and never once figured that he would get caught. By the Moon, James’ father – oh, goddess, his mother! – was going to vilify him. And if James’s parents didn’t get him, Professor Slytherin would. Life as James knew it was probably over, and judging from his friend’s face, James knew it, too.

“James, your story was thought-provoking and insightful. You wrote about how Professor Slytherin, in another universe, would actually look like a snake, would mate with snakes – you seem to prefer the idea of his familiar Nagini – and goes slowly insane from the diseases he contracts through his sexual misadventures.”

At this point, Professor Slytherin was not the only one in the room whose countenance promised painful and prolonged torture – although his was certainly the most convincing.

“Your story was interesting and unusual. Also, very gross, and possibly the basis for a lawsuit, particularly in light of the written rules of this contest involving public figures and slander, which you had to sign as a seventeen-year-old adult in order to enter.” At this, Hadrian flicked a quick glance over at the fuming Head of Slytherin, who caught the look and abruptly calmed. There had been clear intent in that rapid glance. With one of those leaps of insight that had helped make Marvolo the powerful person he was, he realized that young Hadrian was offering him a golden opportunity on a silver platter – the chance to get the Potters, who were heavy-hitters on the Phoenix Party, into his sphere of influence. At that revelation, Marvolo realized that Hadrian’s brief pause in the guise of getting more comfortable was actually a question. At the Head of Slytherin’s slight nod, Hadrian smoothly continued, watched closely by an increasingly-fascinated Marvolo and his bemused friends.

“One major issue I had with your paper was the care in which you wrote it – or, actually, the lack of care. It is rife with misspellings and badly-written sentences, particularly regarding misplaced modifiers and such. For example, James, near the beginning, you actually describe what could have been a fairly beautiful image of a tall, strong Professor Slytherin on a beach, walking into the ocean water without any care for the water as it soaks the hem of his trousers. Is that the image you wanted to convey?”

Seeing a chance for some redemption and ass-saving, James spoke up. “Yes. I wanted to show that he was powerful, and that he didn’t care about things like ruined clothes and stuff.” He nodded firmly, certain that this would help get him out of at least some of the trouble headed his way.

Hadrian merely nodded thoughtfully. “Well, James, this goes to what I was trying to explain a few days ago, about how a badly-written sentence can convey a completely different meaning. What you should have said is something like, ‘Professor Slytherin walked into the sea, disregarding the saltwater that permeated the fine linen of his trousers.’” He paused a moment, letting the tension build a bit more, then went for the kill. “What you actually said was ‘Professor Slytherin walked on the beach and wet his pants.’”

As one, the Slytherins in the room went rigid, while most of the Gryffindors looked like their eyes should pop out of their heads. Remus felt like he was having a heart attack. Sirius, oblivious as ever, was giggling. Peter looked like he wanted to cry.

Actually, so did James.

The silence built and built, heavy with the weight of the professors’ glares and the cold rage coming off of Professor Slytherin in icy waves. Finally, James raised a pleading look at Hadrian, silently begging him to do something, anything, to break the tension.

He would regret that.

Hadrian clapped his hands together, causing several students to jump, and brightly exclaimed, “So, I bet you all want to know who won the contest, right? Well, I won’t keep you in suspense….. You ALL won! Congratulations!” His joy was unfeigned.

Also suspicious.

Even the professors were confused. Up until now, young Hadrian Morgan had obtained wonderful vengeance against the seventh year Gryffindors. Why, now, would he take away from that bitter pill by rewarding them? As the boy elaborated, however, it truly was all Marvolo could do not to beam in pride. He was absolutely, positively, getting Hadrian re-sorted by dinnertime, no later.

“All right, then! First, here are your galleons. Believe me, it hurts for me to give you each a galleon; that’s a very expensive book and a few meals I’m handing over to you, you know. Still, you deserve it, and it wouldn’t be first place if you didn’t get it!”

The listening Slytherins shook their heads in pure bemusement. Hadrian was even telling them that if they didn’t take the money, they wouldn’t get first place. Talk about foreshadowing! And yet, not one of them refused the galleon, although it looked like Longbottom accepted his with resignation and resolve. The professors made mental notes to keep an eye on the heir to the Longbottom family. Even though young Neville had participated in this farce, he seemed to have more substance than his fellow Lions.

As if he heard their thoughts, Hadrian then spoke up directly to Neville, “Oh, Neville! Forgive me for neglecting you; I had set your entry aside for a special award. First, let me evaluate it for you.” The young Longbottom closed his eyes in resignation and nodded quietly. He deserved this.

He was therefore surprised at what Hadrian then said. “Neville, your story was incredible. I mean that sincerely. It was so beautifully written that I sent it to my personal publisher, and you have a meeting with him next Tuesday during your free period.”

Neville blinked at him, still thinking that he was getting his own bout of justified sarcasm from Hadrian. He must be mentally thicker than he thought, though, as he couldn’t for the life of him find the barbs in Hadrian’s words. Maybe the publisher was going to humiliate him personally?

Hadrian’s beautiful smile was genuine. “Neville, I swear to you, I’m serious.” He glanced around the room, looking mostly at the Slytherins, who would appreciate this more. “For the rest of you, Neville followed the edicts of his peers in that he wrote a sexually-oriented story. However, he wrote it about flowers and fauna. It's called 'The Transfer of Seed'. He used beautiful, descriptive analogies, such as orchids and trailing vines, and crafted a literary work of art. I have personally submitted it not just to my own publisher but also to the leading botanical publications. Neville, you are a wonderful writer, and I will never forgive you if you don’t continue writing.” His sincerity was almost painful.

Stunned, the Longbottom heir simply stared at him. Eventually, he blinked and looked cautiously at the three professors, certain that they, at least, would be glaring at him for participating. He had tried to do it in a way that wasn’t offensive to Hadrian, that would quietly acknowledge the effort the Ravenclaw had gone to, and that would address his truest interest, but he hadn’t expected this! Nevertheless, the looks of approval on the faces of Professors Slytherin, Malfoy and Prince gave credence to Hadrian’s enthusiastic testimonial.

Huh. He was going to be a published author. For botanical porn.

He huffed a laugh. Merlin, Gram was going to kill him.

After Neville’s nod of grateful acknowledgment and a promise to discuss this more in private, Hadrian’s grin darkened and the expression on his face was briefly bloodthirsty. Marvolo actually felt an erotic shiver lick up his spine. He had to get this boy into his own house. Immediately!

Unaware of the powerful wizard’s thoughts, Hadrian began the final stages of today’s itinerary. “Good. Now, as you have all submitted entries and accepted the galleons acknowledging first place, you have all automatically agreed to the remainder of the prizes as well. In fact, the second you touched your galleon, the rest of your prizes were put in place. Again, congratulations! Have a wonderful day and thank you for participating.” At that, the boy began to gather up the scattered parchments and place them back in the folder.

Immediately, the Lions began to protest. Sirius’ voice was loudest, demanding to know what else they got and when they would get it. At this, Hadrian looked up and the evil grin on his face was downright chilling. “Oh, Sirius. Lovely little lions! I promise, you will absolutely get what’s coming to you. Shall I explain?”

By now, all of the Slytherins were nodding eagerly along with the oblivious Gryffindors. Merlin, yes! They desperately wanted Hadrian to explain! This was far too good to leave the class without knowing the full extent of the boy’s revenge on the bullying Lions.

“Fine,” Hadrian practically purred. “Well, first, as per the terms I drew up for the winning contestant, you are each getting your stories published. I had intended to simply publish the winning story within one of my own papers, but really, you all deserve So. Much. More.”

Marvolo forcibly repressed the desire to cackle. It was unseemly.

“Sooooo,” Hadrian drawled, delighting in the dawning horror on the faces of every Gryffindor except Neville, who was clutching his book as he contained the desire to applaud, “each and every one of your stories is being published in The Daily Prophet, The Quibbler, and Witches Weeky. Furthermore, I have sent copies to the Ministry of Magic, where your stories will be prominently displayed by the wand-check registration desk.”

Sirius Black felt nauseous.

“Furthermore,” the Ravenclaw added teasingly, causing Professor Slytherin to shift slightly in an effort to hide his erection, “the owls went out as soon as you accepted your galleon.”

Remus Lupin stared blankly at the table. Peter Pettigrew began to cry.

And as Hadrian jumped gracefully off the counter and sauntered toward the door, he paused to add one last thing over his shoulder, “Also, because you each made such a huge effort, I decided you deserve everything I can possibly give you. So, owls with copies of your stories have also gone out to each member of your families. They should be getting them right about now, in fact! Just think, right now your story is being read by your mother….”

Ronald Weasley started to hyperventilate.

“…your father…”

James Potter swallowed heavily. Cormac McLaggen threw up.

“…your sisters…”

Parvati Patil dropped her purse, eyes staring in blank fear.

“…your brothers….”

Ronald Weasley could have given birth, he was hyperventilating so badly.

“…your grandparents…”

Neville Longbottom grinned.

“… and, of course, your professors…”

Sirius Black wondered if a dog could outrun a cat.

“…and, within hours, probably your professor’s attorneys.”

James Potter met a malevolent crimson stare and abruptly passed out.

Hadrian surveyed the devastation that was the seventh-year Gryffindors and offered a polite nod to the awestruck Slytherin students and a shy smile of thanks to the three professors. His face widened into a grin as the trio of stalwart men broke into applause, closely followed by every Slytherin in the room… and Neville Longbottom. He swept into a graceful bow and sauntered out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

Discreetly adjusting his now painful arousal, Professor Marvolo Slytherin headed directly to the intercastle floo. He had a hat to chat with, right damn now.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

SCHOOLED – DUELLED

ooooooooooooooooooo

Albus Dumbledore looked up in surprise at the green flare from the fireplace, to see Professor Marvolo Slytherin step gracefully through into the Headmaster’s Office.

“Thomas, my boy! To what do I owe the pleasure?” Predictably, Marvolo sneered in response. The younger wizard didn’t bother correcting the old man; he knew full well that Dumbledore used his former name simply to annoy him. It was just one of many methods the Headmaster employed in order to manipulate the emotions of others. Dumbledore was very Slytherin in that way.

Bushy white eyebrows rose in query as Marvolo strode across the office, barely acknowledging the venerable old man’s presence. A single, crimson-eyed glance was sent at the Headmaster before Marvolo plucked the dilapidated old Sorting Hat off of the bureau on which it rested. A quick “Nothing that concerns you, old man. I simply need to have a chat with the Hat.” He then settled the Sorting Hat on his head, and, folding his arms, leaned back against the bureau to have a quiet discussion. Crossing one long leg over the other at the ankle, he looked the picture of powerful, handsome wizard.

An aged, male voice spoke within his mind. “Well, well, Marvolo. You came here just to speak with me? What can I do for you, Founder’s Heir?”

Thomas smiled slightly and said, “I need to get a student resorted immediately. Hadrian Morgan – do you remember him? The seventh-year Ravenclaw who transferred in from muggle London?”

After a suspiciously long pause, the old hat said slowly, “Yes, of course I remember him. I remember every person I have ever sorted. Why do you want Mr. Morgan re-sorted?”

Well, that certainly confirmed his suspicions. With a mental smirk, Marvolo said meaningfully, “Because you put him in the wrong house the first time, didn’t you, Tavin? Why? What happened, that you would put a boy who is clearly a Slytherin into another house?”

The hat seemed to be gathering its thoughts as it said carefully, “And what makes you think that, Professor?”

Marvolo’s eyebrows drew together. The damn hat was stalling! He did not have time for this; he needed the boy re-sorted before Dumbledore could meddle again. There was simply no chance that Marvolo would allow young Hadrian to remain away from Slytherin House. That young man belonged in Marvolo’s own House, regardless of his lack of wealth or status. “Enough of this, Tavin. Do I need to remind you of your purpose? Or perhaps I should simply employ the power of an Heir and order you to re-sort him. Either way, Hadrian Morgan will be in Slytherin House, where he belongs, by dinnertime tonight. Understood?” Marvolo’s tone was uncompromising.

A drawn-out sigh sounded in his ear. “I warned the young man that you would catch him eventually.”

This time, it was Marvolo’s eyebrows that rose in surprise. “Explain.”

Tavin grumbled a bit, giving Marvolo the impression that he was settling in to have a good, long chat. “When Mr. Morgan put me on, I told him that he could certainly fit well into Ravenclaw, but that …. some …. of his other attributes defined him as a Slytherin. He did not want to be put into your House, Marvolo. He argued with me until I finally gave in and placed him in Ravenclaw. As I understand it, he’s doing well there.”

Marvolo ignored the tone of chastisement . “Why didn’t he want to be a Slytherin?” This made no sense; Hadrian was a pureblood, despite his unorthodox record of birth, and would excel in Marvolo’s House.

“He didn’t exactly say,” the old hat rumbled. “He merely stated that his preference was to be a Ravenclaw. I got the impression that he had a plan of some sort, and that he was concealing vital information from me.”

This time, Marvolo’s eyebrows rose and stayed there. A seventh year student had concealed information from a Master Legilimens? How was that possible? Marvolo began to feel an increasing sense of urgency. “Tavin, I want that boy re-sorted into my House, now. No excuses or delays. And keep that meddling old politician out of it, understood?” As Founder’s Heir, Marvolo Slytherin had considerably more power within Hogwarts than the Headmaster, a fact that irked the old man to no end.

The Hat seemed to be thinking. Marvolo allowed him a few moments, and was rewarded when the aged voice spoke again. “You’re going to have to surprise him, Marvolo. You know that I cannot simply declare a person sorted or re-sorted; I have to be on their head to activate the charm. Otherwise, no matter where you relocate him, his belongings will continue to be returned to his original House.”

Marvolo nodded thoughtfully. He had a fair idea how to go about ambushing young Mr. Morgan. “Fine. I’m taking you with me, Tavin. I will not accept failure in this.”

Tavin seemed to be peering closely into Marvolo’s mind as he asked with amusement, “Why are you so determined to do this, young Heir? There have been others in the past who would have done well in Slytherin but preferred other Houses. Why is Hadrian so vital to you?”

Marvolo guided the hat to the recent memory of Hadrian’s remarkable performance in his class. He watched the memory with Tavin, enjoying it just as much the second time around. The sensation of laughter echoing in his head as the Hat played and replayed certain moments was distinctly odd, though not unpleasant. Marvolo reveled in the memory as he watched his little snake destroy sixteen Lions in one go. He also had the same physiological reaction, and had to shift slightly to hide his arousal from Albus, who was undoubtedly watching him closely. As Marvolo shifted, Tavin chuckled. “Ah. I see. And what does this mean, Lord Slytherin? Apart from the obvious, that is.”

Marvolo merely smirked, not in the least embarrassed. It had been years since he had experienced such a strong reaction to anyone. He had enjoyed more than his fair share of affairs and beddings, but there was something about Hadrian that caused Marvolo’s libido to purr for the young man. The fact that Marvolo had an intense desire to simply sit and talk with Hadrian, to get to know him personally, was somewhat unsettling. He could not recall ever wanting someone as badly as he wanted Hadrian Morgan.

“It means, old man, that I am claiming that boy as mine, whether he resists or not. In fact, given what I now know, I suspect he’s going to lead me on a merry chase indeed. The first step is to get him into his true House. I think perhaps I’ll see if I can arrange guardianship over him; that way, no one can send him back to that muggle hellhole he was in,” Marvolo mused. It was criminal, how the Potter Family had abandoned the boy to the poverty and cruelty of a muggle orphanage. Marvolo made a mental note to look further into those circumstances. Standing upright, the Dark Arts professor said decisively, “You’re coming with me, Tavin. The second we find Hadrian, re-sort him. Agreed?”

Satisfied with the old hat’s rumble of agreement, Marvolo plucked the hat from his head and folded it, settling it within a pocket of his robes. Nodding briefly at Albus, he strode across the room and out the door, ignoring the annoying old man’s questions as he left. Jumping onto the staircase, he rode the bottom step down and around before stepping lightly onto the floor below. Nodding to the gargoyle, he headed through the long, stone hallways of the beautiful old castle, off to ambush a truly fascinating young man.

oooooooooooooooooooo

The din of hundreds of students in the Great Hall seemed slightly louder than normal, a fact which the vastly amused Slytherin professors and students attributed to Hadrian’s simply beautiful revenge against the shellshocked seventh year Gryffindors. The betting at the table of the snakes was hot and heavy, ranging from how soon James Potter or Sirius Black were going to fly into a rage to how long Parvati Patil would be allowed to remain in school once her father read her story and learned that the young woman had devoted herself to learning skills that had little chance of giving her gainful employment. Well, unless one took the phrase “blow job” literally.

The seventh-years’ section of the Gryffindor table was much quieter than normal. Usually, the rowdy lions were the source of at least half of the noise in the Great Hall. Tonight, however, they seemed huddled in upon themselves, sitting in sullen silence and growing dread as they awaited the fallout from Hadrian Morgan’s writing contest. Some of the Gryffs were resigned to their fate. Lavender Brown, for example, was certain that she deserved whatever was coming to her, having been one of the six Lions who instigated the prank and motivated the others to participate.
She wasn’t even sure now why she had felt so determined to humiliate Hadrian Morgan. He had never been anything but polite to her; it’s just that he seemed so sly all the time! He would stand there in his ugly, secondhand clothes and look at her with his weird green eyes and …! Sighing in sudden self-disgust, Lavender realized why she had taken such a dislike to the Ravenclaw. She hated how the boy seemed unconcerned over his nasty clothes. No matter what Hadrian was wearing, he always seemed to be completely composed and unashamed of his appearance. It wasn’t the fact that he was poor that bothered her; it was the fact he refused to care about it. She shook her head in irritation, and acknowledged to herself that her parents were right – she was shallow. Glancing around the Hall, she shrank back at the heated glares from Lucius Malfoy and Severus Prince.

Oh, Merlin, she was doomed.

The Marauders, consisting of James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, sat together in morose silence. Remus had little to worry about; his parents couldn’t care less about his activities, good or bad, at Hogwarts. All they cared about with regard to Remus was that he get good grades, so that he could get a good job despite his affliction and become self-sufficient, a goal that he held dear as well. He couldn’t wait to be on his own.

Looking up to study his friends, he sighed heavily. Typical. Peter was still sniffling, having cried all the way from the classroom up to the dorms to drop off their books and back down to the Great Hall for dinner. None of them could see why he was so upset; their own porn stories had been much more damaging than his! All Peter had written about was something involving the Giant Squid and him. Gross, yeah, but it’s not like the Squid would care.
Sirius and James, as usual, were reacting to the whole thing with growing rage. They were furious that Hadrian hadn’t simply rolled over and shown belly at their prank. They couldn’t believe that he had retaliated as he had, much less wreaked as much havoc as he did. Remus had to admit to himself that Hadrian’s revenge had been artwork; it was a thing of beauty. And, really, the boy had every right to fight back, especially considering the way the Marauders had made such a target of him this past year. Remus wasn’t even sure why James and Sirius were so hateful to the small Ravenclaw, although he figured it was mostly because the boy had the unfortunate luck to be the child of Caleb Potter, James’ uncle. Caleb was actually the elder brother to James’ dad Charlus. The Lordship had gone to Charlus when Caleb died, thus making James the Potter Heir. But now that Hadrian had been found, there was a remote possibility that he could claim part of the Potter fortune. He couldn’t really take back the Lordship, although he could take James to court when Charlus dies and fight for his right to be Lord Potter. Despite the boy’s illegitimacy, his claim was valid, and he was a pureblood. In a way, Hadrian’s blood was purer than James’, because Rowena Morgan, Hadrian’s mother, had been a distant relation to Rowena Ravenclaw. That meant that Hadrian had ties to Godric Gryffindor on his father’s side, and Rowena Ravenclaw on his mother’s. Of course, none of that was common knowledge; in fact, the Potter Lord had demanded Remus, Peter and Sirius make a Wizarding Oath that they would never reveal that information to anyone. Purely precautionary measures, of course, particularly when one considered the fact that this wasn't really a tightly-kept secret in the big picture. Remus was pretty sure that there was a lot more to it, and that the Lord Potter wanted to be sure that no casual conversation occurred to pique the interest of non-Potters.

Remus watched as Sirius raged and James fumed. This was not good. The two were planning more and more extravagant ways to get revenge on Hadrian. The boy would be lucky to get out of Hogwarts alive, based on the plans James and Sirius had for him. Remus leaned over to his friends and got their attention before saying quietly, “Look, we might as well enjoy dinner. The papers won’t be out until tomorrow, so we should enjoy the peace while we can, you know?” The twin glares he got in reply were not encouraging.

James jabbed a fork toward Remus in emphasis as he hissed, “My father is reading that damn story right now – probably for the tenth time! And when he does, do you think he’s going to let me wait until breakfast to kick my ass? NO! Old Red-Eyes is probably talking to his lawyer as we speak, and my father is going to kill me. And it’s that fucking Morgan’s fault!” Sirius nodded in emphasis with each word, dark rage on his face. Remus looked from one to the other, unsure what to say. He didn’t want to get the two mad at him; he didn’t have so many friends that he could afford to alienate his two best buddies. Sitting back, he sighed and kept his mouth shut. He just hoped Hadrian had liked the Hospital Wing last time James and Sirius pranked him, because Remus was pretty sure Hadrian was going to be spending a lot more time there.

As if his thoughts had conjured him up, the Ravenclaw in question walked through the doors of the Great Hall, headed directly to the Ravenclaw table. As always, he was dressed in secondhand robes. His trousers were shiny in places and faded in others, and his odd, muggle shoes had two different color laces. The boy’s poverty was evident, and Remus felt a moment of shame as he glanced from James to Hadrian and registered the differences. James was dressed in the finest clothes the Wizarding World offered. He treated his belongings with casual disregard, always certain that his parents would buy him more if he lost or damaged something. Hadrian’s clothes had probably been worn by at least two other people before the boy bought them. It was bad enough that Hadrian’s poverty was so evident. It was worse that the boy shouldn’t have been poverty-stricken to begin with, being a pureblood from the Potter family. But the absolute worst was that James mocked and humiliated Hadrian for his poverty every chance he got. Today was no exception.

Watching the small Ravenclaw walk past, James Potter abruptly stood up and seized the small boy’s shoulder in a harsh grip. He watched with satisfaction as Hadrian winced in pain, tightening his fingers to dig deep and, he hoped, leave bruises. As the green-eyed boy turned to look at him, the similarities between the two were clear. Both had wild black hair and similar bone structure. They could have been brothers, rather than simply cousins. But where James was tall and somewhat muscled, Hadrian was petite and lithe. James’ hazel eyes were framed in square glasses; but Hadrian’s jewel-like green eyes were unadorned and shone in his face almost unnaturally. Of the two, Hadrian was the more striking, a fact that further incited James’ ire.

James leaned down to glare intimidatingly into the smaller boy’s face, and spat, “I suppose you think you’re so fucking funny, don’t you? You think I’m gonna let you get away with that? You’re dead, you little prick. Dead!”

Hadrian sent a stinging hex at the hand that gripped his shoulder, smiling slightly at James’ hiss of pain as the boy released his grip. Stepping back, the smaller boy ignored the Professors who were coming to his aid and said simply, “Another example of your excellent command of our language. Not a particularly original threat, but well-expressed all the same.” He smiled again into the taller boy’s glare and turned to move to his table. Hearing the whispered curse behind him, he barely managed to duck to the side in time, watching as the bombarda rolled past him and hit the floor, causing a small crack in the aged stone.

“Potter! Fifty points from Gryffindor and a week’s detention with me!” Professor Tobias Prince snapped. “Is that the honor your father so likes to brag about? Cursing someone when their back is turned?” James Potter simply glared, his lips drawn into a snarl of fury. He wanted to kill the blight on their family tree. Bad enough the little fucker was born at all; the fact that he had come to James’s own school and caused all the scandal was unacceptable. He should have stayed in the hole he crawled out of! Every time James saw the smaller boy, he was reminded of the shame brought upon his line when it was discovered that Uncle Caleb had sired and abandoned a pureblood child. Ever since Hadrian surfaced, every single day seemed to revolve around the boy. Hadrian this, and Hadrian that. James’ father had been incensed that Hadrian had outperformed James in all of his grades and was already making a name for himself as a writer. What had James done in comparison? Got average grades, captained the Quidditch team, become an animagus (of course, they didn’t know about that), and founded the Marauders. James was always being told that he had to best Hadrian in everything; that he had to prove to everyone that James deserved to be the Heir and future Lord of the Potter House. But after today, that was going to be a lot harder to prove, and it was All. Hadrian’s. Fault!

“I challenge you to an honor duel!” James shouted. He blinked in shock, surprised. He hadn’t even known he was going to say that. Still, as he heard himself, he realized that this was the perfect answer. He could salvage his honor and win his father’s approbation. And no one would care about that stupid story about Slytherin, because James would have redeemed himself by being the heroic champion of a duel with the little bastard.

Had James owned any measure of self-preservation, he would have seen the satisfied gleam in the bright green eyes and recanted his challenge. But James was not known for logical thought. Hotheaded as ever, he glared at his bastard cousin, holding his wand out sideways in the manner of a formal challenge.

Hadrian studied his cousin carefully, glancing around to assess the positions and reactions of the people nearby. Professors Malfoy and Prince stood together, several feet away, observing but not interfering. A formal challenge to a duel was not to be taken lightly. Briefly, green eyes settled on an insanely grinning Sirius Black and a white-faced Remus Lupin. He swung his gaze back to James, taking in the smug look of triumph on the boy’s face. Smiling slightly, Hadrian said evenly, “Do you understand the Formal Rules of Dueling, James Potter?”

James immediately glared as he hissed angrily, “Of course I do, cousin. What, are you afraid? Too cowardly to take me on man to man?”

Hadrian was unfazed. “James, I am perfectly willing to accept your challenge; however, I need to ensure that you know what this means. It isn’t required of me, but my personal honor demands that I ensure you understand what you’re getting into should you lose. Now, again, do you understand the Formal Rules of Dueling for those sharing the same blood? Do you know the consequences?”

James was irate by this time. The superior little prick! “First, you won’t be winning; I’m the Dueling Club champion two years running, you little runt. Second, what do you think I am, an idiot? I knew more about the Rules of Dueling when I was three than you know now!”

Sirius laughed loudly, then flinched as he caught McGonogall’s rigid glare. Hastily looking away, he barked, “He’s just trying to get out of it, James. Wants to claim that he doesn’t think you know enough and that his ‘honor’ won’t let him fight you. He’s not a Ravenclaw; he’s a mouse!” Peter’s indignant squeak was ignored.

Hadrian glanced around at all the silent, watching students, then said quietly, “Very well. I accept your challenge to duel, Blood to Blood. And for your sake, James, I am offering you one last chance to back out, no harm done.” At James mocking scoff, he simply nodded and held out his wand in formal acceptance. “So mote it be.”

James smirked. “Sirius is my Second. Who’s yours? Do you even know anyone who’s willing to stand at your side?”

At this, Hadrian paused a moment. It was true, he really didn’t know who to ask; he wasn’t the friendliest person around and his deep shyness kept him from most casual conversation with most of his peers. Spying movement to the side, he looked in surprise as he was joined by Neville Longbottom, who took a position at his right shoulder and said quietly, “I’m Hadrian’s Second.”

The shocked silence lasted long enough for Professor Slytherin to move more fully into the Great Hall, having watched the confrontation from his position at the massive entry doors. Hadrian and Neville exchanged inscrutable looks before Hadrian nodded his thanks and turned back to James Potter. “Last time, James. Are you certain you understand? If you wanted to take an hour and go review the Rules, I won’t object.”

James leaned down threateningly. “I won’t be giving you time to run away, you little prick. Now get into position.” He was irked at the fact that Hadrian merely nodded, uncowed. As people backed away and left a large, cleared space, the Slytherin professors erected a simple shield around the two, ensuring that no hexes or curses struck the observors. Neville and Sirius stepped to the side.

Marvolo was furious. If Potter hurt Hadrian, he would personally torture the boy. Nervous whispers and excited giggles were heard throughout the room. Somewhere, a camera flashed, capturing the proud, luxuriously dressed James as he towered over the petite, shabbily dressed Hadrian. James wore a look of contorted rage, while Hadrian watched dispassionately.

“Confringo! Bombarda! Expelliarmus!” James sent a string of strong, harmful hexes at his small cousin, and watched in disbelief as the boy simply stepped aside and let them pass harmlessly into the safety shield. “Bombarda! Bombarda! Stupefy! Confringo!”

Once again, Hadrian simply moved out of the way, gracefully bobbing and weaving as if dancing. He had yet to utter a word, but he was clearly winning.

White hot rage began to blank James’ hearing as he watched his bastard cousin evade his curses as if they were thrown in slow motion. How the HELL was he doing that? “Fight back, you little prick! What, are you just going to dance all night? I thought this was a duel, not ballet class!” He conjured two heavy, wooden swords, the type used when training at swordplay. Keeping one in his left hand, he tossed the other at Hadrian’s feet. “If you can’t fight with magic, we’ll fight with swords. Either way, I will be kicking your ass today. Now fight, you little coward!”

Sirius laughed loudly in support of James, his worried gray eyes belying his mocking expression. Hadrian was not behaving as he should be. Everyone knew that James Potter was the best dueller in the school. Hadrian should be terrified. Instead, he was completely unfazed, almost unconcerned – and still unhurt.

Marvolo watched Hadrian with delight. Once again, the young man was showing depths no one had suspected. The fact that James Potter was Hadrian’s cousin was amazing; two people could not be less similar than James and Hadrian.

Hadrian cocked his head to the side, considering James’ taunt, then said, “Very well.” He held his left hand out to the side, extending his arm as far as it would go. Like trained hunting dogs, James and Sirius focused on that hand, completely missing the small wand movement and whispered word Hadrian cast. Staring in bewilderment, the two leading Marauders stood wondering what Hadrian was doing as he shook his extended hand and wiggled it in a most bizarre fashion. Weird; that looked like a rabbit. Now a bird. A dog? Just as James was about to demand to know what Hadrian was doing, James uttered a high-pitched shriek and recoiled in shock, dropping his wand as he raised his hands urgently to his face.

He forgot he was holding the sword, which was somehow stuck firmly to his hand.

Silence fell over the Great Hall as James Potter knocked himself out without Hadrian Morgan having voiced a single curse. Sirius stared openmouthed as his best friend hit the floor, heavy wooden sword clattering behind him and blood running from his broken nose. What the hell?

“Accio wand,” Hadrian said quietly. James’ wand slapped into Hadrian’s still-outstretched hand.

Marvolo stood still, completely stunned at the elegant manner in which his new romantic interest had defeated the best dueller of Hogwarts. Gathering his thoughts, he called out, “Hadrian Morgan is the champion!” Ravenclaw House erupted into proud applause, joined by Slytherin and Neville Longbottom. Marvolo took down the shield and walked up to Hadrian, taking a deep breath in reaction as he was fixed in the bright, green gaze. Holding out his hand, he felt Hadrian’s small hand close in his in a congratulatory shake, and held on tightly when the young man tried to let go. Catching the surprised look, he leaned down and asked, “How did you get him to do that?”

Hadrian grinned up at him, mischief hidden in the jade depths, and said somewhat impishly, “Distracted him with shadow puppets, cast a sticking charm to the sword and sent a tickling charm up his nose.”

Crimson eyes blinked down at the surprising little Ravenclaw. Brilliant.

A groan from the floor brought their attention back to James Potter. The Gryffindor was slumped against Sirius Black, blood running from his nose as he groggily pushed aside the conjured wooden sword and struggled to his feet. Blinking around in confusion, it took a moment for him to process what had happened. When it hit, he whirled around in rage and glared at his little bastard cousin, who for some reason was holding Professor Slytherin’s hand. “YOU! You little cheater! I demand a rematch!”

Remus shook his head in dismay. Hadrian had won fair and square. James was just making things worse by behaving so immaturely. Charlus was going to kill him.

Hadrian simply raised one eyebrow, and into the listening quiet of the room, said, “Under the Rules of Dueling for members of the same blood, I lay claim to all of your possession within one mile of this location.”

And as James gaped, his belongings began to flash into the room, piling up at and around the feet of his little bastard cousin. He jumped in shock as the robe he was wearing ripped itself off him and soared to Hadrian, followed by shirt, ties, trousers and boots. The Potter heir briefly flashed a full moon at the entire student body before Hadrian hastily sent the Marauder's underwear back with an expression of disgust. James was left standing in the Great Hall wearing his glasses and a backward pair of bright red boxers with golden snitches. His thoughts moved sluggishly as he struggled to understand what was happening. A familiar, silvery cloak appearing in Hadrian’s arms shocked James into full alertness as he leaped forward to retrieve the Potter Family Invisibility Cloak.

“NO! Those are MY belongings! What the hell? Give them back! Thief!”

Bemused, Marvolo simply gazed down at the petite boy whose hand he had not yet relinquished, despite the occasional tugging as Hadrian tried to retrieve it. He barely saw how James Potter was sent back to his original position by Abraxas and Tobias. He ignored James’ ranting and Sirius’ shouts when Abraxas cited chapter and verse of the Rules of Dueling, in which a duel held by people of the same blood resulted in the winner claiming all of the loser’s belongings within a certain range. He ignored the manner in which James tried to claim unfairness, and how he was reminded of the extensive steps Hadrian had taken to ensure James knew the Rules. Instead, Marvolo simply watched his little Hadrian, enjoying the slight, happy smile as he examined his new belongings – including several new sets of clothing, a new trunk, books, a nice potions set, a luxurious comforter, a heavy money bag filled with galleons, the newest CleanSweep broom, a folded piece of parchment with an odd magical signature, several sets of dragonhide boots, a bewildered house elf and an extraordinary Invisibility Cloak. And he did not miss the subtle look of deep satisfaction in the green eyes.

When Hadrian tried again to retrieve his hand, Marvolo tightened his grip. Inquiring green eyes looked up at him, fearlessly meeting Marvolo’s crimson gaze. Just as Hadrian opened his mouth to demand his hand back, Marvolo reached out and dropped the Sorting Hat atop the messy, black hair. He was rewarded with wide green eyes and a look of shock.

“SLYTHERIN!”

oooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

SCHOOLED – OVERRULED

A/N: I've decided that having this series be multiple one-shots isn't fair to you guys. I like it, because I am writing them as stand-alones; however, they do build upon each other and will make a comprehensive story. So, from this update, I am adding "Duelled" and "Overruled" to the original "Schooled" and will leave the other two posted with amendments to the author notes (which lets me keep your wonderful reviews, as well). Too many of you incredible readers had to hunt for the sequels, which didn't justify my selfish desire to post smaller, completed stories. Maybe I was just playing to my worries about letting any of my open stories sit too long without updates. To me, two weeks between updates is too long, although I'm the first one to admit my RL has been sucking me down the past two months. Pikachumomma and I will have "Demon Team" updated in a week or so, at most. I may wait another week for "Did You Know?" because that requires exacting care as I organize details and I don't want my state of mind to damage the story.

Those who don't want to read about my cat, skip to next paragraph. I want to thank everyone who took the time to send such kind comments and even prayers for Tigger and sympathy for us. Anyone who hasn't tracked my drama (cuz, why would you, really? Lol), our family cat Tigger, who has been with us since the day we moved into our first home in TX in '97, was attacked last Wednesday – on our property – by a neighbor's unrestrained German Shepherd. Among other trauma, it shook her and paralyzed her. Despite agony, she never once even growled at my husband and I as we slid her onto a board and got her to vet. She began to rally a bit, and x-rays showed she was in spinal shock but no broken bones. She improved marginally, purring for the vet's crew and winning friends. The vet kept her at the front desk, so they could pet her and she could be sociable. She fought to live for five days. Today, her body began to give up, and Craig and I held her while vet injected her. She purred the entire time and even licked my hand before she died. The vet and his people were crying along with Craig and I. For anyone who doesn't like cats or thinks they have no love or loyalty, this is the cat that attacked a pit bull to protect my baby, and who landed with claws and teeth flailing on the head of a man who tried to break into my home one night. She also purred to each of my babies as they moved in my belly, and I joked that my kids would come out meowing. (The youngest actually did!) I am heartsore at how she died, although I am certain that she will return on the Wheel when she's ready and will come bouncing back into our lives somewhere down the road. Winter Mother, I'm pulling from your Circle a bit.

Okay, enough RL drama. Time for me to practice a little writing therapy. My friends, I give you "Schooled – Overruled" and hope you enjoy it. Happy Reading, and Blessed Be.

WyrdSmith

ooooooooooooooooooo

FROM "DUELLED"

When Hadrian tried again to retrieve his hand, Marvolo tightened his grip. Inquiring green eyes looked up at him, fearlessly meeting Marvolo's crimson gaze. Just as Hadrian opened his mouth to demand his hand back, Marvolo reached out and dropped the Sorting Hat atop the messy, black hair. He was rewarded with wide green eyes and a look of shock.

"SLYTHERIN!"

ooooooooooooooooooo

SCHOOLED: OVERRULED

The gasps that hissed and echoed throughout the Great Hall at the Sorting Hat's proclamation sounded like the perfect accompaniment as Hadrian Morgan became a Snake. Frantic whispers and dropped jaws were prevalent in the huge room as everyone tried to keep up with the events that had rushed by so quickly during the past thirty minutes. Most of the avid observers had only heard the barest whispers of the events in the classroom, had not quite processed the results of the duel, and were only just now moving on to the surprise move by the Head of Slytherin House. Professors Malfoy and Prince were still confining the enraged, boxers-clad James Potter and his rabid friend Sirius Black, while trying to maintain their hardwon, emotionless masks despite the fact that their old friend Marvolo had just pulled what may well become the steal of the century on the unsuspecting Hadrian Morgan.

As for Hadrian, that young man stood motionless, surrounded by his new possessions, one hand still firmly clasped in the larger, stronger hand of Professor Slytherin as the other flew to his head to rip the Sorting Hat from his black hair. For just a moment, he glared eye to brim with the smirking hat, before he hurled it to the stone floor and began to stomp on it, rage quivering in every line of his petite form.

Headmaster Dumbledore rushed from the entryway to the antique's defense, whipping out his wand and summoning the hat into his wrinkled hands. Furious as the Hat was saved from his ire, Hadrian viciously twisted and fought against the hand that stubbornly held his own, launching himself bodily after the hat as it shot away. Only Slytherin's hard arm around his waist and being abruptly pulled tightly against the elder wizard's shockingly firm chest broke through the red haze that had swept through the young man as his carefully-orchestrated plans crumbled at the whim of the crimson-eyed man. Hadrian did not miss the irony of the fact that the very man who seemed to have instigated this disaster – to his mind, at least – was the very same man who held him secure and seemed to be forcing calm upon him through will alone.

"Mr. Morgan! Your actions are inexcuseable! One hundred points from Slytherin House and detention with me – a week's detention! NO! A month! One month's worth of detention with me for the intentional desecration of a magical artifact!" Dumbledore was practically sputtering in his distress, frantically petting and smoothing the footprint from the Old Sorting Hat, which protested vehemently.

James Potter was maliciously delighted. "Ha! Couldn't happen to a better person, cousin! Of COURSE you're a slimy Slytherin; it makes perfect sense! Wait 'til my father hears about this! No way he'll blame me for any of what happened now; you were just a snake in the grass the whole, damn time!" The vicious smile on what would otherwise have been an attractive face looked like a rabid snarl. Beside him, Sirius Black shared a similar expression and was stroking his wand with a look of dark promise in his gray eyes as he glared at the smaller boy.

If he had not been holding Hadrian pressed against him, Marvolo would never have known how much impact the words of James Potter had on his newest little serpent. As it was, Marvolo felt the words slam into the young man in his arms, each insult causing the small body to shudder as if physically struck. And, in another flash of his remarkable insight, Marvolo knew why Hadrian Morgan had fought to stay out of Slytherin House, despite his clear affinity for all that the House represented.

Before the somewhat-hysterical punishments by Dumbledore could cause his little serpent any damage, Marvolo calmly spoke into the shocked quiet of the Great Hall. "That punishment is belayed. No points will be taken from Mr. Morgan for his justified reaction against the hat, and no detention will be assigned." The Slytherins relaxed slightly, the only visual indication of their relief. Potter and Black immediately began to loudly protest, their declarations of Hadrian being a cheating, traitorous snake dying on their lips as they were caught in the cold, crimson glare of the powerful Heir of Slytherin.

"One more word out of you, Mr. Potter, now or ever again on the subject of Mr. Morgan's character, and I will see that the upcoming meeting with my attorney becomes infinitely more painful and longlasting than your limited imagination could possibly conceive." The threat was quietly issued, with just a touch of malevolent hiss, and it silenced James Potter immediately. Sirius Black shrank back slightly as the icy crimson glare moved to him. "Have you anything you wish to say, Mr. Black?" Later, as Sirius recalled those moments, he would try to convince himself that it was not cowardice that froze his throat and made him shake his head in a quick negative.

"Thomas! I will not stand for this! That boy…," Albus Dumbledore, too, stumbled to an abrupt silence as he felt the full pressure of a protective Lord Slytherin. He could not make himself voice further protests, but held the battered hat out almost beseechingly to the younger wizard in a last appeal for justice. He was to be denied.

"Mr. Morgan has been the victim of increasing hostility from the Gryffindors, led by the seventh years and your vaunted Marauders, Headmaster. He has behaved unfailingly with dignity and grace. He accommodated your writing contest, even though in effect you were only further punishing him for being victimized by you and your favorites. That he has finally taken action against them is nothing but a relief to those of us who actually care about the safety and wellbeing of our students, Headmaster. The manner in which he has retaliated, both in regards to the writing contest and the duel between Mr. Potter and Mr. Morgan, is a source of great pride to me and to my House. The Sorting Hat did this young man an injustice in allowing him to be sorted into the wrong house. Had the Hat fulfilled its purpose and sorted him properly, I would not have had to trick Mr. Morgan into being so abruptly re-sorted and the Hat would not have earned the few kicks it got. I daresay the Sorting Hat is not protesting its treatment by Mr. Morgan. What say you, Hat?" Dumbledore and the Marauders looked completely incensed once again, although many of the Gryffindors had simply nodded in agreement with Professor Slytherin's icy condemnation. Neville Longbottom, in particular, seemed relieved to finally have these particular thoughts voiced by someone whose opinion had weight.

The old hat rumbled indignantly, "Of course I don't protest! The young man had every right to react as he did; frankly, if he wanted to, he could also challenge you, Headmaster, for indulging in favoritism that led to his endangerment by your pet bullies. For Merlin's sake, Albus, you yourself have sat on me more than a few times while reminiscing with your cronies over a bottle of firewhiskey; did you issue punishment against yourself? Because, truthfully, if a petite young man's foot on my brim and crown is a "desecration", then how much worse is your wrinkled old arse?"

Abraxas Malfoy very carefully did not meet the eyes of Tobias Prince, who was equally careful to stare at the enchanted ceiling. Given the number of people standing in the room, it was possible to convince oneself that their slightly unsteady jaws were simply a trick of the light. At least, that's what they told themselves.

Dumbledore stared at the venerable old hat, a look of pure betrayal on his face. He ignored the growing swell of snickers and giggles that the irrepressible students could not contain at the blunt, verbal slapdown of the headmaster by what was, to most eyes, headgear. Given Dumbledore's appalling taste in robes, it crossed more than one mind that it was probably a good thing the Hat was the only article of clothing in the Headmaster's life that was enchanted to talk.

Dumbledore summoned a house elf and had the Hat summarily returned to his office without another word. Professors Malfoy and Prince, along with the rest of the staff, began to direct students back to their abandoned dinners as Dumbledore pointedly ignored Slytherin and Morgan and continued his journey with offended dignity to the head table.

Throughout all of this, Marvolo had kept Hadrian tightly confined, one long arm pressing the young man's back against him. He felt Hadrian occasionally shuddering as he struggled to regain control, and easily sensed the young man's growing, mortified horror at his outburst. Considering Hadrian's extremely reticent nature and marked shyness, Marvolo could well imagine the thoughts that raced through the remarkable brain hidden beneath the messy, black hair. Casting a privacy and notice-me-not shield over them both, he relaxed his grip slightly and leaned down to look into Hadrian's face. The pained distress that greeted him almost made him pull the younger man into a hug. Only Hadrian's dignity and the standard public face of every Slytherin prevented him. Instead, Marvolo released his grip on Hadrian's hand and raised both hands to clasp the slim, slightly trembling shoulders. Peering down, he forced the young man to meet his gaze, nodding in approval as reluctant emerald finally gazed at him. Taking a breath to briefly explain, he found himself circumvented by Hadrian's harshly whispered, "Why? Why did you do that to me? Did I offend you somehow? Why would you do this?" Only his certainty that he was taking the best actions on behalf of his little snake as well as himself allowed him to calmly hold the betrayed, green gaze.

"Hadrian, you and I have a lot of conversation ahead. This is not the time. This is your day of triumph, Hadrian. Your actions in my classroom were purest Slytherin, and you know it. There was no way I would fail to notice you had been mis-sorted. The Hat explained a bit, and he and I knew the only way to catch you would be to ambush you. But, Hadrian, I did not know that your reaction would be so extreme. In retrospect, I apologize. I did not realize that you were trying to earn the – approval? – of your estranged family." Hadrian's fierce scowl and dropped gaze testified to the accuracy of his assessment. Moving a strong hand beneath the pointed chin, he tipped the rebellious face back up to his own and said gently, "I'm guessing you knew the Potters are violently anti-Slytherin, and you knew they would never accept you if you were sorted into my House."

Marvolo ignored the fact that they still stood in the center of the Great Hall during the busiest meal of the day. He ignored the activity that bustled around them, and the fact that his friends Abraxas and Tobias were unobtrusively directing traffic around the forgotten cocoon that was the unnoticed privacy shield shimmering around his little serpent and himself. He ignored the seconds as they ticked slowly by. He focused entirely on Hadrian, and eventually, his patience was rewarded by the slow lessening of tension in the small shoulders and Hadrian's quiet, "I wouldn't stand a chance with them if I was a Slytherin. I was hoping that, if I did well enough, maybe someday …."

His heart ached a little for the dignified, lonely young man. Rubbing a thumb comfortingly along the smooth jaw, he said with equal gentleness, "Hadrian … that you had any hope of that at all tells me you have never met Charlus or Evelyn Potter. You and I will talk more later, I promise you, but …," and here he sighed, wishing he could reassure Hadrian but knowing it would only damage the young man further in the end, "Hadrian, the living Potters will never accept you, no matter what you achieve, because you are a threat to the Lordship. Even if you were to swear a Wizarding Oath that you would not accept it – and I forbid you to do any such thing! – your very existence calls their standing into question. Surely, I am not the first person to tell you this?"

Hadrian's wry, "You mean, apart from James calling me a 'blight on the family tree' every time he sees me?" won a comforting squeeze on the shoulder and a dark, red glare aimed at the Potter Heir, who seemed to be newly clad in Gryffindor robe with 'SB' inscribed on the collar.

The entire discussion had not taken more than five minutes, and Marvolo once again was impressed by Hadrian. He watched as the young man seemed to visibly don his masks, emerging once again as the composed, intelligent young man who had seized the attention of Slytherin House just this afternoon. Sensing Hadrian's need for distance, Marvolo offered one final reassuring squeeze of the slim shoulders and stepped back, offering a refined smile and an amused quirk of the head toward James Potter in his borrowed robes. He was rewarded by Hadrian's huffed laugh.

"Tansy is beggings your pardon, new young master Potter, sir? What does you want me to be doing?" Startled, both Hadrian and Marvolo looked down, finally consciously noticing that a house elf had been among the possessions reallocated from James Potter to Hadrian. Stifling a nearly hysterical laugh, Hadrian could not help but send a look of bewildered appeal to the crimson-eyed wizard, ignoring for the moment the fact that the man was directly responsible for his unseemly meltdown. He willfully dismissed the way his heart sped up at the smile that crossed the man's strongly handsome face, and carefully did not think about the fact that he had not minded the touch of the strong hand on his jaw or being pressed against the hard body beneath the fine robes. Flushing in sudden shyness, he dropped his gaze to his shoes and thus did not see the fond amusement in the red eyes that watched him.

Marvolo glanced at the elf. "Tansy, is it? This is your new master, Hadrian Morgan. Yes, he shares the Potter blood, but he is better than a mere Potter, understand?" Satisfied at the elf's awed nod, he continued, "Master Hadrian has been re-sorted into Slytherin House. I don't know why Mr. Potter was allowed to keep you at school, but I am giving you special permission to attend to all of Master Hadrian's needs here. Please relocate all of his new possessions along with anything that might belong to him from his former quarters in Ravenclaw. He will be living in the Slytherin dorms, in the Cobra Suite. If you have any questions, ask the head house elf. And Tansy? You will never answer to or obey anyone other than Hadrian Morgan, as your master, or myself as his Head of House; is that clear?"

The little elf nodded vigorously, ears flapping wildly. "Tansy understands, Master Snake! Tansy is most happy to understand this!" Marvolo barely had time to narrow his eyes in query before the little elf popped out of the Great Hall, taking the jumbled pile of belongings with her. Turning his gaze back to Hadrian, he was not surprised at the look of sad understanding on the young face as his serpent stared at the spot where Tansy had stood. He pretended not to hear the softly murmured, "Another victim of the Potter family largesse, I see."

Clapping a hand onto Hadrian's back, he was pleased as the young man straightened his spine and assumed his final mask of disinterested attention. This was a Slytherin, indeed. "Hadrian, as I said, we will speak more later. For now, we have taken enough time sorting this out – no pun intended, I assure you. I doubt you need advice, but I ask you to handle questions and hints for information about what has occurred during these moments with your standard discretion. Slytherins will simply assume we are finalizing terms, which in essence, we were. Everyone else doesn't matter." The steady, green gaze and quiet nod was all he needed. With a quick gesture, he took down the shield, watching with approval as Tobias and Abraxas seamlessly flowed back toward the Head Table, looking for all the world as if they had simply been having an extended chat.

Guiding Hadrian toward the Slytherin chairs closest to the Head Table, he met Lucius Malfoy's eyes and tilted his head. He was greatly pleased with that particular Slytherin's acumen, as Lucius and Severus quickly and quietly caused an unobtrusive shifting of the seating arrangements. Lucius then calmly took a seat across from the one he had just vacated, Severus seated next to him, leaving the first seat open for Hadrian and clearly denoting the fact that Professor Slytherin himself had declared Hadrian the most prestigious member of Slytherin House. Glancing down at his newest snake, Marvolo was amused to note that Hadrian was oblivious to the entire situation. Instead, the young man paused politely when the Ravenclaw prefect, a young man by the name of Taliesin Shacklebolt, rose to bow politely before holding out Hadrian's abandoned book bag and saying with a wry smile, "No one here is surprised, Hadrian. If we were Gryffs, we would have been taking bets on how much longer you could go before Slytherin House claimed you as theirs." He chuckled deeply at Hadrian's indignant expression and, with a polite nod to Professor Slytherin, reseated himself at the Ravenclaw table.

Gesturing to the empty seat at the Slytherin table, Marvolo waited for Hadrian to hang his bag on the back of his chair and seat himself, smiling slightly at the young man's slight flush at the attention he garnered from the rest of the Slytherins. He nodded to Lucius, Severus and pretty Narcissa Black, who was seated next to Hadrian, before he addressed them in a voice that easily carried to his snakes but was indiscernible by everyone else (another little trick that frustrated Dumbledore to no end). "As you know, I have taken action to have Hadrian Morgan re-sorted into his correct house, our house. I expect you all will make him welcome." He looked meaningfully at Narcissa, who was already assessing Hadrian's secondhand clothing with an eye toward immolation. As the young witch returned his look, he lightly touched his two fingers to thumb and received her slight nod of confirmation. He was greatly pleased with Narcissa's subtlety, and knew that Hadrian would find himself with a whole new wardrobe within a day at most, mysteriously charged to a 'transfer' fund or some such title that would, in truth, be Marvolo's private accounts. He continued speaking without a hint to their interaction. "Hadrian is not fully versed in the rules and methods of our House, but he is possibly the most Slytherin among you, as anyone who has witnessed or heard about the results of the Gryffindor Writing Contest can attest." Smirks were to be seen on every face at the table of the snakes. His actions this afternoon would be all that was needed to make Hadrian welcome in the House of Intrigue. Still, a little clarification wouldn't hurt, so long as Hadrian remained oblivious to the truth of it all until Marvolo chose to enlighten him. Seeing that Hadrian was staring at his plate, having briefly surrendered to the shyness that tortured his young man, Marvolo cast a cold, warning glare across his students, causing them to freeze into attention as he quietly continued, "I have placed Hadrian in the Cobra Suite. For the next few days, I would prefer that you visit him there, rather than causing him to visit you in your rooms should he have questions."

It was fortunate that they had frozen at his warning glare, because otherwise his pronouncement would surely have shocked someone into a startled comment. As it was, no one moved a muscle as they absorbed the impact of what Professor Slytherin, or in this case, Lord Slytherin had just stated. He was very proud of them, as it was merely seconds before Lucius had calmly said, "Hadrian, you lucked out. That dorm is in a good spot, no stairs." Severus followed up with a simple, "I'll drop off a scroll of the house rules for you tonight." Narcissa simply patted the embarrassed young man on the arm, understanding that today had mostly overloaded Hadrian's capacity for enduring public attention with equanimity. Casting a final, warning glance around at his snakes, Marvolo dropped a proprietary hand on Hadrian's back and leaned down slightly to murmur, "Try to actually eat something this meal, won't you? If not, I'll tell Tansy that you're always hungry but are too shy to ask her for food." He smirked at the horrified, emerald glare and the looks of amused respect from Lucius and Severus before turning to join Abraxas and Tobias at the Head Table.

Seating himself between his two old friends, he calmly ignored the leading silence as he watched to ensure Hadrian was being treated well. Satisfied as the shy young man was welcomed without being overwhelmed, he sat back and met Abraxas's heavy stare. Quirking an eyebrow in inquiry, he was rewarded with his friend's immediate, "You didn't really think Lucius and Severus wouldn't handle him with kid gloves, did you? Especially after that little bombarda you cast?" Tobias simply snorted, seeing less need for his own words and a great need for some of Marvolo's. He huffed in irritation as his leader and friend remained silent, eating his dinner absently as he covertly observed the interactions between the newest snake and his friends' children. Exchanging a resigned look with Abraxas, the two old friends simply settled into casual conversation as they joined Marvolo in watching Hadrian, trying to determine for themselves the exact reasons for Marvolo's shocking pronouncement to the House.

ooooooooooooooooooo

After dinner, Lucius, Severus and Narcissa escorted Hadrian back to his new House's common room. The three, experienced Slytherins found themselves easily liking the quiet young man, now that they had an opportunity to talk with him without the pressure of the Slytherin mask separating them. It was an established principle that no Slytherin fully let down their mask around non-Slytherins; the House had far too many secrets to guard to risk losing them to a moment of relaxation. As they walked through the dungeon corridors, they listened with amusement to the students around them chattering excitedly about the ramifications of the Writing Contest, congratulating Hadrian on both his brilliance and his execution and requesting pensieve memories for those who had not been privileged to be in the class as Hadrian shaved the Lions. Portraits of people wearing green and silver and various reptiles listened in and talked amongst themselves, spreading the tale of the afternoon's events and discussing eagerly the fallout from tomorrow's publications. Bets were placed concerning everything from how many howlers would come during breakfast to how loud Molly Weasley's voice would be. (It was decided that if the woman actually managed to shatter any glasses during her rant, the Slytherins would have a bash that Friday night in her honor. Ronald would be furious if he knew, although most of the Slytherins suspected the twins would probably attend if they were invited.)

They finally entered the Common Room through two portraits that opened up as if they were French doors. Hadrian took a moment to simply enjoy the large, double portrait of a dignified, elderly man and a handsome, young man, each of whom held the same snake. He wondered if the portrait was of the same wizard at different times of his life, or if they were related generationally, but forgot to ask when they opened fully and the beautiful room beyond was revealed. For a few moments, he could only stand and gaze in silent appreciation.

He had liked the Ravenclaw common room. The bright blue was stimulating to the intellect and he had always found himself able to think clearly in that room. Compared to the Slytherin common room, however … well. It just didn't. It didn't compare at all.

Before him was a magnificent room with what had to be a thirty-foot high ceiling. Despite being in the dungeons, there was nothing at all damp or cold about this room. The clean Slytherin greens and silvers were set off by beautifully polished panels of mahogany, which lined the floors and ran up the lower part of the wall seamlessly. The upper walls were made up of a stone he did not recognize, which was veined like marble but had the texture of sanded granite, that glowed softly in the gentle, cascading light of hundreds of wall sconces and a single, extraordinary chandelier that appeared to be made entirely of glowing, enchanted silver snakes that coiled silently around an intricate infrastructure of deep, green jade. Deep into the room, on the farthest wall, were two, wide staircases that wound around each other in a complicated knot, which he assumed led to the boys' and girls' dormitories. Immediately in front of him was the first, and apparently the main, seating area, located before a massive fireplace over which resided a full-size portrait of Salazar Slytherin, who stood to greet him as he entered the common room. There were two wide, comfortable wingbacked chairs to the left and right of the fireplace, and across from the fireplace was a massive, two-tier sofa that reminded him of the most luxurious theater seating imaginable. Handcrafted tables were scattered around the space, and a sinfully luxurious area rug in gleaming white completed the main seating area with the perfect, decadent touch. Off to his right was a long wall, on which were two doors. He assumed, based on the Ravenclaw common room, that those doors led to the Head of House's office and to a private library, although given that this was Slytherin rather than Ravenclaw, what he assumed was a library may well be a potions lab. Twenty feet or so from that door, the wall ended in a right angle, forming a new wall that extended into the common room roughly fifteen feet, in the center of which was a set of French doors. That wall then cut all the way to the back of the huge common room, ending beneath the stairs on the outer wall. He had no idea what might be behind those French doors. Every House's rooms were supposed to be vastly different from the others, based on the ideals and preferences of the individual Founders. He wasn't certain what Salazar Slytherin would have called for as a standard accommodation for his students, but clearly, luxury was part of it!

He ignored the understanding amusement of Lucius, Severus and Narcissa as they seated themselves and waited for him to take it all in. As he stood there, they had the perfect opportunity to observe him closely. Dismissing his appalling attire, and seeing him lost to the wonder of the moment and not hiding his emotions or ducking his head in shyness, his delicate beauty became evident. His wild, black hair was so black that it seemed almost blue in some light. His complexion was purest cream, with the flush of interest darkening his cheeks enticingly. Straight black eyebrows and impossibly thick, curling black lashes could have been hand-drawn around those singularly bright green eyes. At the moment, his lips were parted in delight as he gazed around, and more than one observer of both genders felt a desire to test those lips with their own and see if they were as soft and sweet as they looked. Even in the hideous clothing, it became evident that Hadrian's form was petite, delicate, lithe and quite enticing. Narcissa felt an intense desire to dress him properly and protect him ferociously. Lucius and Severus, along with most of the other males in the room, simply felt an intense desire.

Those feelings were abruptly shut down when Professor Slytherin entered the Common Room and cast a freezing, crimson glare over the burgeoning libidos of the teens he had caught gazing heatedly at his Hadrian. Lucius nearly choked as he flinched from the condemning stare. Severus actually wondered briefly if one could pass out from the sudden rush of blood back to the brain.

Satisfied that his snakes had gotten the message, Marvolo approached the oblivious Hadrian with a soft smile, finding the young man's look of enchantment to be utterly charming. Placing a warm hand on the slim back, he leaned around and looked into Hadrian's startled face, smiling in reaction at the flush that bloomed when Hadrian realized he had been simply standing there like an idiot. His embarrassment faded to nothing when Marvolo commented easily, "You are officially a Slytherin, Hadrian. Every single one of us has done the exact same thing the first time we saw these rooms." The reassuring nods offered by various of his new peers soothed his remaining worries.

"They're exquisite. I would say beautiful, but that would somehow not be enough," Hadrian offered somewhat shyly. He wrinkled his brows briefly, vexed with himself for the resurgence of his natural reticence. It had taken him weeks to work up the courage to tackle the Gryffs about the writing contest, and the duel with James had been spur-of-the-moment and he hadn't really had time to consider being the focus of everyone's attention, but now …. Damn it, he hated being this shy. He had an intense desire to hide somewhere, but he didn't even know where his bed was, just that it was in the "Cobra" dorm – wherever that was. He eyed the intertwined staircases with trepidation, wondering if it was possible to get lost in one's own Common Room.

For his part, Marvolo easily read the emotions flaring and swirling in his young man. He wasn't at all surprised; Hadrian had gone through some remarkable events today, and Marvolo knew from the past year of teaching the boy that Hadrian's shyness was very potent and very real. He found it quite endearing, actually, particularly as he now knew how much cunning and intelligence the young man possessed. To find such a Slytherin mind accompanied by such a sweet character was treasure indeed. Placing a hand gently on Hadrian's head, he felt the silky hair and allowed himself to also acknowledge that he was as attracted to Hadrian's beauty as he was to his mind and nature. All total, it added up to one word for Marvolo Slytherin – 'MINE.'

At the touch to his hair, Hadrian looked at him in question, unused to such personal touches. Although Marvolo knew Hadrian was confused by his closeness, he had no intention of backing off; in fact, it was very much a part of his plans to acclimate Hadrian to having Marvolo in his personal space as much as possible. He knew that Hadrian was oblivious to his intentions, and wouldn't have believed it if someone had been indiscreet enough to tell him. Still, Marvolo was pleased with his snakes; they knew full well that such revelations were the sole privilege of Professor Slytherin and that punishment would be fierce if they slipped.

Tugging lightly on the ebon tresses, Marvolo again rested his hand on Hadrian's back and urged him toward the French doors he had noticed earlier. "As you know, Hadrian, Slytherin rooms are vastly different from the other Houses. We are mostly purebloods and almost entirely from aristocratic families. We are accustomed to great luxury, and will not allow our children to become unaccustomed to it during their time here at Hogwarts. I daresay you will be surprised at the quality of your accommodations." At no time did Marvolo state that each student received equal luxuries, and it would be a fair number of days before he allowed Hadrian to realize that. Placing a hand on the right-hand door, Marvolo hissed a command and two, jade snakes shimmered into view, forming the door handles. He smiled briefly down at the fascinated young man with him and said gently, "Offer your thumb to one of the snakes. They will take a sampling of your blood and will then allow you entry." Hadrian raised his eyebrows, but did as instructed, making no sign that the snake's bite had stung even though Marvolo knew for a fact that it had. Frowning slightly, he took the small hand in his and healed the bloody bite, wondering somewhat darkly why his young man was so unresponsive to his own pain and the sight of his own blood. Setting that thought aside for later study, he grandly opened both French doors, pushing them fully apart and gesturing Hadrian inside.

"Welcome to the Cobra Suite, Hadrian."

Marvolo couldn't help it; he smiled openly and with genuine appreciation as he watched Hadrian's jaw-dropped, wide-eyed reaction to the rooms beyond. He certainly couldn't blame the young man; the suite was quite lovely. It included a private parlor, a luxurious bedroom, a large private bathroom, a huge walk-in closet, and a large nook off of the parlor that was lined with bookshelves and held a large, graceful desk in the center. Glancing up at the CleanSweep broom that rested on the broom rack, Marvolo knew that Tansy had done her job. Glancing at the clothes his young man wore, he wondered how quickly Narcissa would get Hadrian into a wardrobe that his young man deserved.

Finally recovering enough to gulp and breathe and blink a little, Hadrian turned dazed eyes up toward the benevolent crimson. "What… why….THIS is a Slytherin dorm?" Hadrian finally asked incredulously. He knew that he was sheltered, but really, based on this, it was embarrassing how little he knew about the Wizarding World! If every Slytherin was treated like this, no WONDER they all acted superior – they actually were.

Marvolo simply smiled and again answered by not answering. "What do you think? Perhaps a little compensation for my stealing you from Ravenclaw?" He accepted Hadrian's bewildered nod as answer enough, and tugged Hadrian closer to drop a gentle kiss atop the messy black hair. To the questioning green eyes, he simply said gently, "Welcome home, Hadrian. Get some sleep. I will pick you up here tomorrow, before breakfast, to discuss a few things, all right?"

Emerald eyes simply blinked at him, and Marvolo reached the amused conclusion that Hadrian's capacity for surprises had reached its limit for the day. Turning the young man around to face the room, Marvolo held him by the shoulders and called out, "Tansy!" The little elf appeared immediately, curtseying and beaming happily. Marvolo rubbed Hadrian' tousled, silken hair affectionately as he addressed the elf, "Master Hadrian is exhausted and overwhelmed. Make sure he has a nice, warm bath and get him to bed with a light snack. Do not let him study or fret; come to me if you are concerned. I will come here to pick him up at 7:30 in the morning; be sure he is dressed and that all of his books are ready. Any questions?" Tansy had simply bobbed her head with each command, and replied with a cheerful but respectful, "No, Master Snake."

Satisfied, Marvolo pressed another kiss to Hadrian's head and whispered gently, "Goodnight, Hadrian. Sleep well." Pushing the young man forward slightly to get him moving, he grinned in amusement at Hadrian's automatic obedience and turned to leave.

Closing the double doors behind him, he turned and met the respectful gazes of his top three snakes. As he had with Tansy, Marvolo simply raised an eyebrow and asked, "Any questions?" Pleased with the harmonious "No, sir," he beckoned to Salazar in his portrait, hissing an invitation to join him in conversation, and exited out of his private door. Above the fireplace, Salazar rose and left as well.

Alone in the common room, Lucius, Narcissa and Severus slowly allowed themselves to relax. After several moments of quiet contemplation, it was Severus who finally ventured tentatively, "How do you think Hadrian will react when he finds out the Cobra Suite is actually the Slytherin Consort's rooms?"

Silence answered him, because really, it was anybody's guess.

Chapter Text

SCHOOLED – SHOCKERY

A/N: So begin the next three chapters, starting with "Shockery." Seriously, folks, if I'm going to write an endless story, how could I do that only rhyming with "Schooled"? I've got, like six rhymes left and none of them fit the theme of this chapter. Future ones fit the original rhyme, so we'll see how it goes. I'm anal-retentive that way! This chapter is less on the wit and more on the story; but fear not, future chapters will (I hope) win a few LOLs here and there. As I've said, and you all agree, if I focus only on being witty, we lose the story, and ultimately, I'm just a storyteller at heart.

Updated A/N (day after posting Ch4): Thanks to all who found the "Miss Malfoy" typo. That's the hazard in playing with character names! Also, I slightly amended the end to clarify Neville's sneakiness. For those who are worried, at the moment, Hadrian is reeling with the upheaval in his life and his plans as a result of finally fighting back. Rest assured, he is a snake for a reason, and will not be a clueless virgin led all unsuspecting into Marvolo's bed. Well, not entirely, anyway! - smirk -

Regarding other stories, Pikachumomma sent me the base for next chapter of "Demon Team", so I need to do my "mojo" as she calls it. Give us a few days on that update. Probably next to be updated of my solo stuff will again be "Food for Thought." And don't worry, "Did You Know" is spinning in my head, waiting on a migraine to come out. With my life, that won't take long! "Bright New Day" is still there, patiently waiting.

Happy Reading, all! Blessed Be.

WyrdSmith

ooooooooooooooooooo

End of Ch3-SCHOOLED: OVERRULED

Closing the double doors behind him, he turned and met the respectful gazes of his top three snakes. As he had with Tansy, Marvolo simply raised an eyebrow and asked, "Any questions?" Pleased with the harmonious "No, sir," he beckoned to Salazar in his portrait, hissing an invitation to join him in conversation, and exited out of his private door. Above the fireplace, Salazar rose and left as well.

Alone in the common room, Lucius, Narcissa and Severus slowly allowed themselves to relax. After several moments of quiet contemplation, it was Severus who finally ventured tentatively, "How do you think Hadrian will react when he finds out the Cobra Suite is actually the Slytherin Consort's rooms?"

Silence answered him, because really, it was anybody's guess.

ooooooooooooooooooo

CHAPTER 4 - SCHOOLED: SHOCKERY

ooooooooooooooooooo

ONE STUPID SNAKE

Narcissa sent a look of warning at the sniggering third and fourth year Slytherins, who had gathered in the main seating area of the common room to discuss Hadrian Morgan's occupancy of the Cobra Suite. Behind her, Lucius tsk'd and walked toward the foolish students with cold intent. As Head Boy, Lucius Malfoy had the authority to identify students who had committed rule infractions and the power to back up his words with punishments. Although he and the other prefects kept to the overall Hogwart's codes for the other houses, Slytherins were held to a much higher and more exacting standard. Currently, the foolish students who were gossiping like Gryffindors about Hadrian Morgan were violating the number one rule in Slytherin House: respect and obey Professor Marvolo Slytherin at all costs.

Watching the Malfoy heir stalk up to the clueless snakes, she took a moment to admire the seventh-year's icy control and powerful physique. He had worked hard for his position, as had she. The most refined of the renowned Black sisters, Narcissa served a vital role on behalf of Professor Slytherin. While Lucius and Severus were being groomed to join their fathers at Slytherin's left and right hands, Narcissa was already trained in and was perfecting the art of being the noble Heir's eyes and ears in her role as Slytherin's hostess at Hogwarts. It was Narcissa who managed the more delicate aspects of gathering and planting information, who greeted guests and ensured the smooth running of social events, and who cultivated new allies for the Vol de Mort Party amongst the student population. And now, it would be Narcissa who would guide Hadrian Morgan through the quagmires of becoming Professor Slytherin's Consort in all ways. Her task was made more challenging by the fact that she was to accomplish much of this without ever informing the intelligent but naïve young man about Slytherin's intent. That happy revelation belonged to Professor Slytherin alone.

Pausing near the lovely double doors that led to the Cobra Suite, Narcissa waited patiently for Lucius to snap the whip over the gossiping Slytherins. She could not help but mirror his sneer as he won their silence simply by standing in front of them, cold disapproval written in every line of his exceptional form. Their behavior was inexcusable; Professor Slytherin had made his orders quite clear regarding maintaining absolute discretion about and around Hadrian Morgan. Their prurient sniggering and suggestive comments, in addition to being vulgar, could easily have enlightened Hadrian to the plans swirling around him had he simply chanced to open his door and overheard them.

Had that happened, Professor Slytherin's retaliation would have been – legendary.

Narcissa masked all signs of impatience as she waited for Lucius to take command. She really needed to get in to see Hadrian before the young man dressed. It was imperative that he be guided to present himself in the very best light possible, and that began with his attire. She could not risk his witnessing any of the present moments in the Common Room, however, and so she guarded his door and waited.

Lucius cast a quick glance over to his lovely friend and was satisfied that she would alert him instantly should Hadrian appear. Turning back to face the slowly-quieting third and fourth years, he allowed his cold anger to show on his elegant face as he swept icy eyes from one student to the next. The effect was akin to a slow wave of icy water sent cresting over the group. One by one, they turned and fixed their attention fully on the Head Boy, the smarter among them beginning to pale as they took in Malfoy's contempt. Finally, there was silence.

Lucius waited a few moments, allowing the silence to grow heavy, before he spoke. "From this moment until Narcissa enters the Cobra Suite with Hadrian Morgan and the doors are securely shut behind them, you will all behave as if you are simply attending a disciplinary meeting for a past infraction. If even one of you so much as winks, giggles, sniggers or raises a suggestive eyebrow at Mr. Morgan, I will have you crucio'd. Are we entirely clear?" Cold, grey eyes sent chills down the younger students' spines as they quietly nodded. After another, frozen moment, Lucius turned to Narcissa and tipped his head toward the doors of the Cobra Suite.

Narcissa immediately walked over to the doors and knocked firmly. Barely a minute later, Morgan's new house elf answered the door, bobbing a respectful curtsey to Narcissa. Nodding approvingly, Narcissa said graciously, "Please inform Mr. Morgan that Narcissa Black is here and would like to speak with him before he dresses for the day." The house elf curtseyed again and shut the door. An appalled gasp came from somewhere in the group of watching students, immediately followed by a pained yelp as Lucius sent a sharp stinging hex at the perpetrator. No words were spoken, and Narcissa presumed Lucius had been wise, as always, and cast a silencing charm.

Within moments, the door reopened and the house elf respectfully gestured Narcissa to enter, saying, "Mr. Morgan will join you shortly, Miss Black. Would you like tea or juice while you wait?" The listeners could not hear Narcissa's reply, as the door had shut behind the refined young witch.

With the closing of the door, all attention returned to the formidable Head Boy, who stood glaring at them. His glare intensified as he looked at the student who had gasped at the house elf's perceived slight. Sharply cancelling the silencing charm on the girl who had gasped, he sneered at her and drawled mockingly, "Clearly, some of you are ill-informed on proper etiquette. It is pathetic that a common house elf know more about politely ensuring the privacy and security of a noble consort than some of the members of my own House." The third-year flushed an ugly red, dropping her chin slightly in shame. Next to her, a brown-haired boy snorted mockingly at her, secure in his own superior knowledge of pureblood etiquette, and snarled, "Even you ought to know that the elf has to pretend she's protecting someone important, even if it is just a bastard his own family won't even claim."

Lucius glared at the boy, who was the younger of the LeStrange brothers, and hissed contemptuously, "That's a detention for you, with Professor Slytherin. And you can tell him what you did to earn it, LeStrange." His disgusted gaze swept the crowd again. "It is remarkably difficult to believe that you are Slytherins. Perhaps we should request the Sorting Hat re-evaluate each of you, as it did Hadrian, and send you back to Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, where you each clearly belong."

Rabastan LeStrange jumped to his feet, outraged. "Just because you're Head Boy, Malfoy, doesn't mean we'll let you get away with crap like that! I've got half a mind to tell Professor Slytherin what you just said." His brother, Rodolphos, simply winced at his foolish brother. He had known the second Rabastan opened his mouth that this was going to be a very bad morning.

Lucius sneered at the angry third year, saying coldly, "You have that much correct, at least. You have half a mind – if that. Why else would you fools be gathered just outside the Cobra Suite , gossiping about Hadrian Morgan, when Professor Slytherin had made his command for absolute discretion entirely clear yesterday? I will be happy to escort anyone who feels that I am unjustified in rebuking you; we can go directly to Professor Slytherin's quarters now and fill him in on this morning. Everyone who feels they have behaved as a true Slytherin, or, hell, even with the smallest degree of cunning, good breeding or intelligence, line up now."

Unsurprisingly, no one stood. They were beginning to realize what kind of trouble they were in, only now understanding that they had not only dismissed Professor Slytherin's wishes, but had done so before the first day had even really begun. Rodolphos LeStrange was feeling particularly peaked, watching as his hot-tempered younger brother geared up to defend himself. He shook his head in despair, knowing that their position was indefensible.

Lucius' eyes narrowed to slits when Rabastan LeStrange glared back at him, retorting, "There's no way Morgan, of all people, would have clued in to what we were saying. Even if he did, he's just going to jump right into the Professor's lap, probably face-first! Everybody knows the little bitch won't object to having Slytherin as his sugar-daddy, especially with the way the Gryffindors have been targeting him! I bet Morgan negotiated a deal with Professor Slytherin for protection, although of course Slytherin will just use him and throw him away, like any other trash! The Professor is far too important to waste his time on a little nobody like the little throw-away, bastard Pureblood. He'll get his rocks off a few times and send the little whore on his way…. Oh, what are you all looking at me like that for? You know it's true! We all saw the groping in the Great Hall before Slytherin put up the privacy screen; hell, the Professor was probably getting blown right there as Morgan's down payment on the deal!" Rabastan grew even angrier when his brother, who had started out trying to tug him down and silence him, abruptly withdrew as the words spewed out, even going so far as to stand and cross the room to sit on the floor as far away from Rabastan as he could get. Fucking pansy.

He turned from his scornful look at Rodolphos to glare defiantly at Lucius, only to blanch and gulp at the Head Boy's look of sheer malevolence. He had only seconds to reconsider before he found himself bound and silenced, his wand clenched so tightly in the Head Boy's tight fist it should have snapped. Even worse, he found himself surrounded by a powerful muffliato and could not hear what was being said around him. He tried to cast a panicked plea for help to his older brother, only to be met with the brown-eyed boy's implacable mask. He replayed his comments and could not find what had earned him this punishment; he had only spoken the truth about the pathetic Ravenclaw. He refused to call Morgan a member of his own house; no way was that filthy, poor, ratty little mouse a Slytherin. The boy was pathetic; couldn't even fight back when he was attacked. Did everybody really think that the one time the little wanker retaliated was enough to win Professor Slytherin's interest in making the boy his consort? Rabastan thought his fellow Slytherin's were extremely gullible; he had already figured out his Head of House's tactics. It was clear the powerful wizard was using Morgan to attack the Potter family, and was going to compensate for the time he had to invest in Morgan by turning the Ravenclaw into his catamite. Even Rabastan could tell that the smaller boy had a fine ass, once you managed to look past the disgusting clothing. Giving up on testing the spells that bound him, Rabastan decided to just wait until he was released before he took his case to Professor Slytherin. He grinned smugly to himself, certain that Slytherin would be surprised and pleased at how insightful the youngest LeStrange truly was. He could barely wait to see the look in those red eyes!

Lucius finished verbally-flaying the rest of the Slytherins and dismissed them. They were now forbidden from sitting anywhere in the Common Room except for the small study area that was closest to the staircases. They had each been assigned detention with either Uncle Tobias or Lucius' father, Abraxas, and were counting themselves lucky that they weren't serving it with Professor Slytherin. He watched as the chastened students filed out, and noted how Rodolphos LeStrange barely even glanced at his mouthy younger brother, who was still fully bound and was now lying on his face on the floor. Taking a deep breath to control his anger and secure his mask, the Head Boy turned to face the main entry to the Common Room as the portrait opened inward and the tall, handsome figure of Professor Slytherin stepped through. He was not looking forward to the next few moments.

Marvolo Slytherin looked in surprise at the sight that met him when he entered the Slytherin Common Room. His sharp eyes detected several departing students just as they stepped off the staircases at their own levels and entered their individual dormitories. A pale, coldly-resolved Lucius Malfoy stood silently facing him, and lying face-down on the floor was a younger male student, bound in magical ropes, with the distinctive shimmers of both silencing and privacy charms cast tightly around him. Looking more closely, he placed the distinctive, walnut-colored hair as one of the LeStranges. Looking back at Abraxas' son, Marvolo observed the boy's tense posture and rigid refusal to allow his eyes to stray in any way toward the doors of the Cobra Suite. Lining the clues up, Marvolo did not like where they pointed. Keeping his face expressionless, he glanced at the Cobra Suite, then focused on Lucius Malfoy. "Explain."

Lucius drew a deep breath. "First, Narcissa is with Hadrian, discussing wardrobe for the day." Marvolo nodded; good, that meant that Hadrian was safely occupied and away from this – whatever this – was. Narcissa's discretion was absolute. Rather than state the obvious, Marvolo simply beckoned for Lucius to continue. "Professor Slytherin…my Lord….when Narcissa and I entered the Common Room this morning, all of the third and fourth years had gathered right here and were gossiping and speculating about our new Slytherin and his rooms."

Lucius watched in trepidation as his Lord's jaw tightened and the red eyes began to glow. Steeling himself, he continued, "When I reprimanded them, all but Rabastan LeStrange immediately realized their error and accepted punishment. Rabastan, however, not only challenged me, but loudly voiced some very insulting remarks about Mr. Morgan." He flinched, but forced himself to stand tall and face the powerful wizard whose magic was now snapping around him like static as the older man's crimson glare turned deadly. At Slytherin's hissed, "Show me!," Lucius immediately lowered his mental walls and met the red eyes, bringing the memory of the recent confrontation and Rabastan's poisonous slurs to the front of his mind. The vicious comments played once again, sounding even worse the second time to the slightly-trembling Malfoy heir.

As the memory ended and Slytherin rather ungently left Lucius' mind, the younger man remained silent and still. He could feel the fury coming off of his professor in violent waves, and desperately did not want to attract any attention to himself until the older wizard was once more in command of himself. Watching as the molten glare locked on the bound and helpless figure of Rabastan LeStrange, Lucius did not have it in himself to spare even a shred of pity for the stupid boy. Regardless of whether or not there was any truth to Rabastan's assessment, and Lucius did not actually believe there was, it was no one's place to judge Lord Slytherin's actions or motivations. That he did so at all was proof enough of Rabastan's idiocy; that he did it publicly and then loudly proclaimed the most derogatory conclusions about their Lord and his chosen consort was tantamount to declaring oneself mentally deficient and unworthy to serve Lord Slytherin. Regardless of the outcome of this day, Rabastan LeStrange was now anathema and would be shunned – possibly even disinherited.

It seemed that Professor Slytherin had reached the same conclusion. Lucius only slightly relaxed as he watched his Lord's eyes cool somewhat. Only when Tobias Prince and Lucius' father Abraxas came rushing into the Common Room did Lucius realize that Slytherin had summoned them. The two wizards took in the situation at a glance. Lucius sent a reassuring look in answer to his father's concerned glance, then blinked and resisted taking a step or two back at the sheer malice in Professor Slytherin's dark voice. "Gentlemen, lower your barriers." Lucius could not help but admire his father even more when the man obeyed his Lord instantly, despite the throbbing hum of suppressed violence hanging heavy in the room. He watched as shock and dark rage showed on the familiar faces as his Lord showed his trusted servants the memory he had taken from Lucius. The look of contempt on the three handsome faces that stared down on the bound Rabastan was finally enough to cause the youngest LeStrange to begin to consider that, perhaps, he had been unwise in voicing his Lord's plans aloud. Despite everything, it never once occurred to Rabastan that he was wrong. Still, surely his injudicious revelations weren't enough to earn more than a detention or two, right?

Mud-brown eyes widened in dismay as he heard Professor Slytherin instruct the other professors to lock him, still fully bound, into one of the cells deep in the dungeon and summon Lord LeStrange to attend Lord Slytherin at 10 a.m. Rabastan couldn't believe this! Not only was he to be punished by staying bound and gagged for three whole hours in a dark, damp cell, but Slytherin was also summoning Rabastan's father! And as the two wizards levitated him out the door, bumping him harshly against the door jamb and the walls on the way to the cell, the youngest LeStrange male began to fervently wish that, just this once, he had listened to his older brother.

ooooooooooooooooooo

ONE SMART LION

Breakfast mail delivery occurred in the Great Hall every day around 8 a.m. Usually, the tables filled slowly for breakfast as students struggled to awaken and pull themselves together to face another long day of classes and teenage angst. Today, however, the long tables of the four Houses of Hogwarts were fully occupied by 7:30, as eager students of Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin awaited the day's owls with gleeful anticipation. Betting at both Slytherin and Hufflepuff was fierce, and even the Ravenclaws participated in the bets that centered around the decibel-level and length of the Weasley matriarch's much-anticipated howler. The secondmost favorite bets were tied between the nature of Professor McGonogall's 'reply' to Sirius Black, who was sweating profusely and jumping at small noises, and the wrath of Lord Charlus Potter.

At the head table, most of the professors and staff present were engaged in betting of their own, with the exception of a hard-eyed, tight-lipped Minerva McGonogall . Professors Malfoy and Prince had seated themselves a few minutes ago, and were now engaged in a hushed debate with Filius Flitwick that involved the covert passing of galleons to Irma Pince, who agreed to hold the staff bets. The only staff absent from the breakfast table so far were Headmaster Dumbledore and Professor Slytherin. Odds were good that the Headmaster was even now trying to talk down at least one of the parents of the writing contest's winners, probably Charlus Potter. No one bothered to wager on Slytherin's whereabouts, as it was a sure bet that he was in the presence of his newest little snake.

At the Gryffindor table, the atmosphere ranged from glum depression to quivering dread, as the seventh-year winners of Hadrian Morgan's writing contest/vengeance awaited the inevitable howlers and the public humiliation of the morning's newspapers. Very little was said by any of the seventh years, apart from Ronald Weasley's constant, garbled demands for more sausages or eggs or toast, although Neville Longbottom seemed to be in an inexplicably cheerful mood. His calm demeanor and constant grin won him numerous threatening looks from the Marauders and Weasley, but his irrepressible good humor also gained the friendly interest of numerous people who had seen little need to notice the quiet Longbottom heir before now.

Longbottom's actions yesterday in standing as Hadrian Morgan's Second against James Potter and Sirius Black had earned him a tantrum from the two last night, supported by ecstatic encouragement of Peter Pettigrew and the spineless caution of Remus Lupin. He was treated to another sample this morning of the rage of the Marauders, which they chose to vent in the Gryffindor Common Room. His reaction was not what they had come to expect from Neville Longbottom. As the two senior Marauders aimed the majority of their rage at him, pacing wildly, shouting insults and threats and waving their wands dangerously, Neville had simply stared back in calm amusement. Unfazed by their threats, he had stopped them mid-rant by standing, disinterestedly adjusting his cuffs as he stated quietly, "Be assured that the Longbottom attorneys are as skilled as those of the Blacks and the Potters, and are already fully apprised of the facts. Your lawyers are already perilously overloaded, due to your actions. You two are walking a particularly fine line right now, James and Sirius. For once in your lives, shut up and think before you act." He had then walked away, practically daring them to fire upon his undefended back – which they did. For once, Remus Lupin intervened and stopped the cutting hexes before they could reach Neville. When he reached the portrait exit, Longbottom had turned around and said in a carrying tone, "Predictable as ever, James and Sirius. You owe Remus, by the way; he has saved you from criminal charges, at least. However, the matter of two heirs of noble houses dishonorably attacking the heir of another noble house is a civil matter – one which your political affiliations will not reduce or smooth away, as civil lawsuits are judged by the law alone and have set punitive damages that cannot be modified. As Hadrian pointed out yesterday, you really need to review the finer points of legalities involving noble families; your recent actions indicate you are both woefully uninformed. Don't bother threatening the witnesses; I have two portraits recording the room right now via two-way mirror spell. I'll see you in court." And, as the angry color drained from their faces, Neville again turned his back on the leaders of the Marauders and left his peers to stand in nauseated silence as they considered how everything that happened the past two days just made their plight worse.

Predictably, they blamed Hadrian Morgan, even for this latest debacle. And, considering it was Hadrian who had sent Tansy to Longbottom late last night with a note providing the title Challenges of the Noble Peerage, complete with a library reference number, and the advice that he take up the art of covert photography in any room where Neville and the Marauders were likely to be together, it would seem that the Marauders were finally right about something.

The fact that Neville had then asked Tansy to retrieve the book for him from the library, and she had complied, was almost not worth mentioning, especially considering the fact that Tansy would never do anything that her new master or the Lord Snake had not given her permission to do.

The little elf's gleeful, slightly vindictive, grin as she handed Neville the book that would help him torture …. er, punish, that is …. her former master was, like so many other things, of no importance at all.

ooooooooooooooooooo

ONE SEXY SNAKE

Hadrian walked into the sitting room of his new dorm, smiling shyly at Narcissa Black as he shut the bedroom door behind him. He was still clad in his night clothes, a simple pair of ragged, gray sweat pants and a clean, carefully patched old, black t-shirt. He was deeply embarrassed as he greeted the poised young woman, feeling woefully inadequate as he silently compared his own, ratty clothing to the expensive attire and finished appearance of the beautiful young woman.

Her cool smile of welcome softened and warmed without her permission as Narcissa looked up and saw Hadrian standing awkwardly by his bedroom door. His shy smile as he greeted her struck her as charming, and she could not help but try to put the young man at ease. Certainly, her tasks regarding Hadrian would be greatly helped if she could win his confidence enough that she could guide him into the finer points of wardrobe, etiquette, social niceties, etc.; nevertheless, Hadrian's personality was such that the pureblood heiress gave way somewhat to the caring young woman who lived beneath Narcissa's mask. Very few people ever saw Narcissa's inner self. Thus far, that list consisted only of Lucius, Severus and Bella, although Professors Slytherin, Malfoy and Prince had seen glimpses here and there. It was not wise for a Slytherin to reveal too much of one self. But, in the case of Hadrian Morgan, somehow Narcissa could not help but want to mother the boy a little.

Smiling as she poured Hadrian a cup of tea, Narcissa considered how to broach the subject of Hadrian's attire for the day. It was essential that he agree to wear the clothing she had received this morning, delivered by Professor Slytherin's house elf, Fletcher. Narcissa had placed an emergency floo call to her family's seamstress sometime before midnight last night. The angry woman had calmed instantly upon being informed that her compliance and emergency assistance in the form of a hand-tailored ensemble for Hadrian Morgan would win her the appreciation of – and future contract with – Lord Marvolo Slytherin himself. The woman had instantly gotten all possible information from Narcissa, who had obtained Hadrian's measurements from Tansy, as well as a wizarding photograph of the lovely young wizard, taken by Tansy at the direction of Professor Slytherin. It was actually the second photograph – one that simply showed a three-quarter frontal view of Hadrian as he stood in black top and gray pants - that Narcissa sent to the seamstress. Tansy said he had just given her a note to take to Neville Longbottom, and she had taken the photo as her master stood lost in thought, thinking his elf had already left. It was a good photo, perfect for their needs in determining color and style choices and getting a good idea of his coloration. Completely the opposite of the first photo Narcissa was given.

The first photograph Tansy provided had made the normally-composed Narcissa blush, as Tansy had taken her request to take a photo when Hadrian wasn't looking very seriously. She had managed to get a photograph of a nude Hadrian fresh out of the bathtub. His back was to the camera, his tousled black hair curled from the water and his ivory skin was lightly flushed and misted with the humidity of the bath. The photo had an ethereal look, as the steam from the bath floated around the periphery, just barely allowing the viewer to see the delicate line of Hadrian's spine and the tempting curve of hip and buttocks before the steam rolled around the edge of the photograph. Hadrian's face was in profile, soft and unfocused, with the brilliant green of his eyes a startling splash of color in the almost sepia-toned photograph. He looked utterly beautiful and otherworldly.

Narcissa had immediately sent the photo to Professor Slytherin, with a small note simply saying that this was the only copy and she felt that only her Lord should even see it or have possession of it. Considering what she knew of the professor's possessiveness, which had become increasingly evident from the moment the wizard had dropped the Sorting Hat onto the messy black hair, Narcissa could consider herself lucky that her Lord had not obliviated her so far. She was certain that if she had been a male, her mind would have a nice, big blank spot where the photograph of Hadrian used to be. Her gender, her task with regard to Hadrian, and her devotion to Professor Slytherin as her Lord, combined with her betrothal to Lucius, had allowed Narcissa to retain her memory of this delectable photo of Hadrian.

Or, possibly, Professor Slytherin was expressing his gratitude to her. Because Narcissa was one hundred percent certain that Professor Slytherin's new favorite possession, barring Hadrian himself, was the photograph she had given him.

Focusing back on the young man in front of her, Narcissa had just decided how to broach the topic of Hadrian's clothing when he started speaking. "Miss Black, may I ask your advice? I …. I'm out of depth on something, and I just don't know what to do." Hadrian's earnest expression was quite charming.

Setting her tea down, Narcissa smiled gently at his nervousness. "Of course, Hadrian. And, please, do call me Narcissa. Now, we have a little time before Professor Slytherin will arrive to escort you to breakfast. Apart from wishing to get to know you, I am here to offer my assistance to you. How may I help you?"

Hadrian twisted his hands together, before expelling a deep breath almost violently and jumping to his feet. "It's about clothes." Her surprise must have shown in her face, as he flushed a little but doggedly continued, "I … well, my clothes are somewhat less than respectable, as I'm sure you've noticed. Heck, I'm sure everyone has noticed," he muttered under his breath. "Anyway, somehow, here I am in Slytherin House. And you all … I mean, we all, I suppose … present a certain appearance. I mean, just look at these dorms!" He cast a wild-eyed look around his rooms, and Narcissa stifled a smile. So far, at least, the deception was working.

Narcissa nodded understandingly. "Yes, that is true. In fact, it is one of the items I wished to discuss with you today."

Hadrian simply sighed despairingly as he ran his hands through his wild hair, thus taking it to the level of 'untamable.' "Miss Black … Narcissa … I don't have anything nice. Of mine, that is. Well, I do have what I took from James in the duel, but I'll be damned if I wear his cast-offs! I'd rather wear what I bought on my own, even if it does look awful." He said this with defiance, but the hurt was evident for anyone trained in detecting subtleties, which Narcissa most certainly was.

She stood and approached him, calmly removing a small bag from the purse pocket of her robes and re-sizing it before handing it to him. He accepted it with confusion, the worry in his face slowly easing as she explained somewhat merrily, "Well, you and I are of the same mind, then. I was greatly concerned that you might end up wearing either Potter's clothing…" she ignored his huff "…or settling for your own, somewhat undesirable, attire. I hope you don't mind, Hadrian dear, but I simply could not allow either. I contacted my seamstress last night and had her prepare an outfit for you for today. Later, perhaps we can go together and acquire for you a full wardrobe suitable to your station."

Narcissa caught her breath as his gaze sharpened and he got a quizzical look on his face. "My station? What, as a Slytherin, I hope?" She nodded quietly, bewildered by his sudden insight as she assumed he was looking more deeply into the details of his position in Slytherin. She released a quiet, relieved breath as he continued, "Good. I was afraid for a moment you were referring to my role as the Potter family reject, the wannabe heir or Lord." She could not help but sympathize with the proud young man, but now was not the time.

"Hadrian, forgive my urgency, but you simply must dress. Professor Slytherin will be here in fifteen minutes to escort you to breakfast, and you need to be ready!" She urged him toward his bedroom door, pretending not to hear his question about the expense of the clothing as she stressed the urgency of the time. Giving in, Hadrian entered his bedroom and closed the door behind him.

Just as she went to re-seat herself, the main doors to the suite opened. Startled, having not heard anyone knock, Narcissa looked up to see Professor Slytherin walking into the room. Immediately straightening, Narcissa dropped a quick curtsey, shuddering in a familiar response as the startling ruby gaze fixed on her.

"Good morning, Miss Black. Is everything all right this fine morning?" The professor greeted her, but his inquiring gaze swept the room, looking for Hadrian.

Narcissa smiled politely, once again the composed, refined aristocrat who served as his hostess and his assistant. "Good morning, Professor Slytherin. Yes, thank you, everything is fine. Hadrian is in his room dressing. Shall I take my leave?" She knew full well that her presence here was no longer needed, nor desired.

Slytherin smiled back, waving her away as he replied, "Certainly, go on about your day. There will be a small change in our membership by the end of the day, Miss Black. Until then, enjoy your day, and thank you for your assistance. And for your … gift." The crimson eyes gained a faraway look as the man recalled the photograph that now sat framed on his nightstand. He had gazed at it for hours before finally falling asleep, only to find himself dreaming of the young man captured in the frame.

Narcissa headed for the door, allowing the little house elf who suddenly appeared to open it for her as she left the Cobra Suite. "Tansy, tell Hadrian that I left to meet Lucius and Severus for breakfast, and that his seat will be waiting for him when he arrives in the Great Hall." Tansy offered a quiet, "Yes, Miss" in reply and closed the door behind her. Turning to see if the Lord Snake needed anything, she accepted his immediate dismissal easily and popped out to return to her tasks with pure contentment. Had nasty James Potter still been her master, she would right now be literally dressing the man and brushing his teeth for him, then doing the same for the dog-man. She would have been avoiding the groping hands of the rat-man, too, and trying to endure the shame of serving a master who did not protect her. Happily gathering the lists that Fletcher had given her, which held all of the various items she was to buy for her beloved new Master Morgan at the behest of the Lord Snake, Tansy hugged herself in happiness and began to plan her day.

Marvolo seated himself in the large, comfortable wingback chair that faced Hadrian's bedroom doors. He wanted to enjoy his first sight of his consort finally clothed in a manner befitting the young wizard. Waiting patiently, he occupied his mind by once again calling forth the misty details of the photograph Narcissa had given him. When he had removed that photo from the parchment that bound it, he had been frozen in shocked arousal for several, long minutes. He wasn't entirely certain he had even breathed during that time, although he did know that his heart had continued to work, as he had felt every thud with twice the usual force. When he had begun to recover enough to think again, his first coherent thought had been to make conscious note of the fact that he owed Miss Black a significant thank-you for sending him that photo rather than keeping or destroying it. Of course, if she had kept it and he later found out, he would have tortured her for it, possibly even killed her. She knew that, of course, but she had still had the option to destroy the photograph with impunity. She had not. Instead, she had known he would treasure that photograph, and had sent it to him immediately. He would reward her for her choices and her intuition.

As he ruminated, he finally heard the sound he had been waiting for as the bedroom door unlatched and opened. As Hadrian stepped into the doorway, Marvolo once again found himself forgetting to breathe.

Oh, Merlin, his boy was beautiful.

Hadrian's raven-black hair gleamed in the bright light of the room. His ivory skin and lightly flushed cheeks were the perfect backdrop for the piercingly verdant eyes, thick black lashes, and rosy lips that tormented Marvolo, asleep or awake. He was clad in clothing that declared him a Pureblood. His tailored shirt was a deep green that shimmered to black when he moved. He wore black, linen trousers and black, dragonhide boots. His school robe was of the finest quality and cut, and Narcissa had chosen the alternate option to a House tie for Hadrian. Rather than the Slytherin tie, Hadrian's robe bore the Slytherin crest and the buttons on his shirt were Slytherin green and silver. His clothing was classic, tailored, elegant and of the finest quality. And Hadrian wore it with the dismissive ease of a true pureblood.

Slowly gaining his feet, Marvolo's heated crimson gazed swept deliberately from the top of Hadrian's wavy, raven hair, over the exquisite features, down the lithe form to the newly-shod feet and back up again. He smiled in slow delight at the startlement in those astonishing green eyes as Hadrian realized that Narcissa was gone and that Marvolo stood in his front room. Marvolo watched intently as his serpent swallowed heavily in response to the molten, ruby stare that brushed his body with a near-physical touch. As Marvolo prowled over to take Hadrian's hands and draw him further into the room, he smiled inwardly at the light gasp, flushed cheeks and bright eyes that proved to him that Hadrian was affected by him, too.

Standing much closer than necessary to his cherished serpent, Marvolo found that it was simply not possible for him to resist touching his boy. Pulling Hadrian close, Marvolo slipped a long arm around the trim waist and rested his large hand on Hadrian's toned back, letting his other hand cup the back of the messy black head as he dropped his chin to rest it on the wild, raven hair. While Hadrian's breathing was rapid and uneven, Marvolo's had steadied into deep, enjoyable breaths as he treasured every moment, absorbing the distinctive scent beneath the sandalwood soap that was, quite simply, Hadrian. He ran his hand gently through the silken hair as he murmured quietly into Hadrian's ear, "Good morning, my serpent. You look wonderful. Did you sleep well?" He smiled into Hadrian's hair as he felt the young man shiver at the phantom touch of Marvolo's breath.

Hadrian was trying to find even a jot of the control that he had always relied on, only to surrender in confusion as it remained completely out of reach. The disorder to his thoughts that had begun when he first saw the familiar, breathtaking figure of the shockingly handsome Professor Slytherin went from 'disorder' to 'chaos' the second the man touched him. Now, standing pressed against the tall, strong man, his cheek resting against the firm chest as he tried to process the way the warmth of the hand on his back somehow converted to blazing heat within Hadrian's body, Hadrian allowed himself to recognize one, solid fact. In the presence of Professor Marvolo Slytherin, Hadrian got lost. Lost in the ruby gaze, lost in the heated touch, lost to the firm muscles, lost to the brilliant mind. Completely, irrevocably lost.

Drawing a deep breath and holding it as the indefinable scent of his professor did frightening things to Hadrian's body, Hadrian struggled to reply to the man's soft greeting. He resolutely ignored the tremor in his tone as he found his voice, "Um …. Thank you. And good morning. And yes." He flushed again, confused and shy, and tried to clarify. "Yes, I slept well. Thank you. This dorm is exquisite." He knew, distantly, that this was not how a professor and a student behaved with each other. He was fairly certain that he should put some distance between them, but at the moment the very idea seemed deeply wrong. He breathed carefully, then found his breath hitching as the hand on his back stroked up, then back down, to rest just barely on the upper curve of his behind. He should be protesting, he knew he should, but couldn't for the life of him figure out why, or even how, to do that when all he really wanted was for the man who held him to repeat the action, or at least to drop his hand a little lower. Hadrian flushed brilliantly at the turn of his thoughts, and started to pull back from his professor.

His effort was decisively stalled by Marvolo, he responded by using the hand resting almost on Hadrian's ass to press his young man firmly against him before the hand that rested in the dark hair dropped down to rest on Hadrian's neck. Long fingers curved around the nape of the slender neck as his thumb pressed beneath Hadrian's jaw and urged Hadrian's face to tip up. Flushing as the hand on his lower back dropped lower still, Hadrian obeyed the commanding thumb and looked up into the professor's face. Once again, he struggled for breath as he took in the strong, handsome face mere inches above his own, the magma of the unique eyes that focused intently on him, the sensuous lips so close …. so close…

As the pressure of those lips gently touched, retreated, then settled firmly on his own, Hadrian could only utter a soft gasp and close his eyes in blissful acceptance. He clung to the strong, slim waist that pressed against him, and allowed himself to be lost to the pure, intense sensation of being kissed by Professor Marvolo Slytherin. Long minutes passed in blissful occupation, the two of them relishing the firm press of lips, the soft exchange of breath, the gentle caress of hands.

Eventually, far too soon for them both, Marvolo ended the kisses and rested his chin on top of the silken, wavy hair, holding Hadrian tightly but gently against him as their breathing and heartbeats gradually returned to something approaching normal. Feeling Hadrian's tentative retreat, Marvolo allowed the young man a small space between them, but did not release him completely. Having gained this much, there was simply no chance that Marvolo would surrender the progress he had made. Hadrian was just this much closer to understanding and accepting, and based on these past few moments, enjoying his new role as Marvolo Slytherin's consort.

Pressing a last, smiling kiss on the reddened mouth of his dazed little serpent, Marvolo gathered Hadrian into his side and escorted the young man out of the Cobra Suite and the Common Room into the dungeon corridors. Slowly, the closer they got to the Great Hall, Marvolo allowed a slightly greater distance. By the time they reached the noisy room, Hadrian was simply walking by his side, still flushed and confused, but wearing the mask of composed indifference that only another Slytherin could see beyond.

ooooooooooooooooooo

ONE SNEAKY LION

Reluctantly entering the Great Hall, Marvolo escorted Hadrian to the front of the Slytherin table, pulling out the chair that awaited his young man. He cast a hard look of cold, dark promise down the table at the third and fourth years, who shuddered in response and resisted the urge to cringe. Somewhat appeased, Marvolo then nodded in greeting to Narcissa, seated next to Hadrian, and gave a meaningful look to Lucius and Severus. They, in turn, nodded in compliance, understanding that their primary role of protecting and guiding Hadrian remained foremost. With a gentle admonishment to the quiet Hadrian to eat a decent breakfast, Marvolo pressed a warm hand briefly on the slim shoulder before he retreated and joined Tobias and Abraxas at the Head Table.

Once again, most of his attention remained on the introspective Hadrian and his interaction with the other snakes while he spoke with his old friends. Only the loud flapping of hundreds of wings and the arrival of four times as many owls as normal pulled his attention mostly away. The horde of owls was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from most of the students, and pitiful moans by the seventh year Gryffs. Marvolo exchanged wicked smirks with his old friends, enjoying the ripple of anticipation that swept down the table of the snakes – an emotion that was shared by the claws and the puffs. They watched with admiration as, one by one, owls with envelopes in the distinctive red of howlers arrived, spaced far enough apart that each howler released its own shrieking vitriol over its targeted Gryffindor before the next owl came through. Glancing in query at Tobias and Abraxas, both shook their heads. No, they had not thought ahead to arrange the timing of the howlers. Filius also denied ownership, although he was greatly enjoying the effect. They remained puzzled until they finally caught sight of Minerva McGonogall, whose tight-lipped anger had eased into a look of vicious pride as howlers savaged her lions in a beautiful, rhythmic tempo. She seemed especially pleased when Walburga Black's harsh tones reduced Sirius to a cringing mess.

She smirked in acknowledgment when Marvolo raised his glass of juice to her in salute.

Despite the vast entertainment, thus far, none of the howlers had been the long-anticipated, heavily-wagered-upon, explosive missive of Molly Weasley. The longer the students and staff waited for the distinctive banshee-shriek, the more constipated Ronald looked. Finally, the howlers stopped arriving, and the massacre seemed to be over. Disappointment was written clearly on the faces of most of the student body and, admittedly, the staff. Bewilderment was equally as prevalent. Molly Weasley's vituperative, glass-breaking howlers were legendary at Hogwarts. Considering his offense, how was it possible that the witch had neglected to send her youngest son at least a standard-grade howler? As he scented safety, Ronald Weasley's orange-red head slowly emerged from its hunched position in the bony shoulders, and, like a giraffe reaching for a distant leaf, he began to stretch and relax in cautious relief.

A little too soon, as it turned out.

"RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!" The piercing shriek of the Weasley matriarch ripped through the Great Hall, causing many of the Gryffindors to jump in startlement and several other students to cheer as they mopped up their spilled drinks. Ronald uttered a shrill, girly shriek and retracted his head again, looking around wildly for the distinctive red howler that he had somehow missed. No one could find it, until a clawlike hand suddenly seized his tangled, carroty hair and yanked his head back for him to stare in abject horror at the figure that loomed over him.

Well. It was distinctive. It was definitely red… bright red, in fact - hair and face. And blessed Merlin, was it ever howling! It was a howler, made terrifying flesh. In the shocked terror of the realization that gripped him – and his hair – Ronald Weasley further added to his own future mortification by pissing his pants.

Too livid to entrust her rage to a mere howler, Molly Weasley had come to vilify her son in person. And, standing behind her, looking twice as huge and muscled and scarred and terrifying than he recalled, stood a glaring, furious Charlie Weasley.

As the wet patch on Ronald's pants slowly spread and as his disgusted peers edged away, most of the people in the Great Hall were focused solely on the trio of redheads. So, it could be forgiven that only Hadrian Morgan noticed the self-satisfied smirk on the face of one of the Gryffindors, who caught Hadrian's eye and lifted his glass in a mocking confession as he covertly raised what appeared to be an authorization form from the MOM Portkey Authority. Hadrian would just bet it was for an emergency portkey from Romania to Scotland.

Hadrian raised his own glass and smirked back proudly. Neville Longbottom was one seriously sneaky lion.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

oooooooooooooooooooo

POTTERGATE

Lord Charlus Potter settled contentedly into his large, leather chair. He had an expensive cigar trimmed and ready, a snifter of cognac warming gently on the table nearest the fireplace, his evening newspaper on his lap, his slippers and dressing gown on, and was nicely sated from the delicious Beef Wellington he had just enjoyed. Oh, and his wife, Lady Evelyn Potter, was here also, seated primly in her velvet-covered chair, reading a letter which he presumed was from their pride and joy, James, who was everything the Potter Heir should be – handsome, strapping, athletic, popular and the boy who led his fellow Gryffindors in every way that mattered. Charlus felt warm pride bloom in his chest as he considered his son, who was showing every, Merlin-blessed day why he was the rightful Heir to the Potter Line.

Evelyn spoke into the quiet of the den, her beautifully-modulated tone practiced and smooth. "Well, it seems that James won a writing contest, Charlus! Isn't that nice?" She continued to skim the cover letter, frowning slightly as she got to the signature and realized that the writer was none other than her wastrel brother-in-law's bastard son. Still, the letter was polite, and as it was about James, she read it.

Charlus raised his eyesbrows, smiling slightly in pride as he said arrogantly, "Well, I'm not at all surprised, of course. Our boy can do anything he sets his mind to. I wasn't aware of a writing contest, though; what are the details?"

Evelyn scanned the letter again, explaining as she read, "It seems that Albus decided to punish the Morgan boy for his lack of sportsmanship regarding a harmless prank played by James and his young friends," Evelyn murmured scornfully. She never used Hadrian's first name, refusing to validate him even that much." Morgan brags about being a writer, so Albus ordered Morgan to hold a writing contest for the seventh-year Gryffindors. This letter is written by Morgan, so I must infer the truth, of course. From what I gather, it seems Morgan tried to get James, Sirius and some of the other Gryffindors in trouble for injuries he supposedly gained as a result of a little fun the boys had at his expense. I vaguely recall Remus saying something about how Morgan milked his supposed injuries into a 12-day stay in the Healing Wing, if you can imagine that! Ridiculous, of course. Anyone so badly injured would have been sent to St. Mungo's, and we would certainly have been notified if James had caused another major harm." It did not occur to her that Albus would have controlled that situation or that Hadrian could not have afforded a hospital visit. Even if she had thought about it, she would not have cared.

Charlus merely scowled, repulsed at the very thought of the blight on their family tree, and gestured impatiently for Evelyn to get to the point. She hurriedly complied, "So, Morgan held a writing contest in which he allowed the Gryffindors to choose their favorite topic to write about, and the rules apparently included that it be in story format. I'm sure it was Albus who forced Morgan to award prizes, which seem to include a single-galleon of the boy's funds to the winner and having the winning story published. It says something here about other conditions being met, and so forth. But, the important thing is, that apparently our James won!" She smiled in malicious delight at the thought, sharing a meaningful look with her proud husband. It was not lost on either of them that their wonderful, talented son had managed to win a contest that was managed and judged by a boy who detested and envied James. Even with Albus overseeing the contest, as Charlus and Evelyn were certain he had done, James' story must have been truly remarkable for their son to have won first place in such hostile conditions.

Charlus puffed consideringly on his cigar, muttering gruffly, "So, our boy is going to be a published author, eh? Well, can't say I'm surprised; he's quite the powerful talent, you know! Wonder what he wrote about? A story, eh? Maybe Quidditch, that would be like him. Or possibly the responsibility of being Heir to a powerful, noble House. Or maybe even pranking? Hmmmm." He looked over at his wife, who was re-reading the first page of the letter proudly. "Anything else?"

Evelyn nodded excitedly. "Yes, indeed! It seems that there were a few who tied for first place along with James, including Sirius, Remus, Peter, Ronald Weasley (of all people!) and those charming young ladies who were at our Yule party, the Patil twin who made it into Gryffindor and that delightful Lavendar Brown." She thought for a moment, then chuckled wickedly. At her husband's questioning look, she said with gentle contempt, "It seems that Mr. Morgan had been forced by Dumbledore to pledge his own funds as part of his punishment. To have so many first-place winners must have hurt the meager pocketbook, having to give a galleon to each. A trivial prize, of course; nevertheless, multiplied several times, I imagine Mr. Morgan is feeling the pinch, so to speak!" In the light of the fireplace, her cruel expression showed her to be rather ugly, an observation Charlus rapidly dismissed in favor of uttering his own, malicious laugh.

"Do we know what publication will showcase the stories? And when?" Evelyn scanned the postscripts, then clapped her hands in glee. "My goodness, Charlus! All the publications that matter! It seems we have underestimated Albus' commitment to showcasing our heir; we really must thank him! The winning stories will be published not only in "The Daily Prophet" but also "The Quibbler" and "Witches Weekly"! Not only that, but they will be prominently displayed in the Ministry of Magic, right at the wand-check desk for everyone to read and enjoy!" She could not help but giggle, delighted at the chance to brag about her son and have his accomplishments so visible to the sharks and barracudas that swam in their social and political waters. Knowing that James' success managed to hurt Hadrian Morgan made the whole evening that much sweeter.

Charlus puffed happily, thinking importantly of the opportunity that this gave him to approach Prime Minister Bagnold and advance James' standing in the political arena. He mentally snapped his fingers in contempt at the harpies and snakes who had whispered and hissed about James not being the rightful Potter heir – some of those people had even dared suggest that Charlus himself was not entitled to the Lordship!. With this little contest, life presented still another example of James' superiority. Sighing in deep contentment, he swirled the cognac carefully in the crystal snifter and smiled slightly as he took a sip and chewed his cigar. At the moment, life was damn near perfect.

Lost in smug contemplation, he paid little attention when Evelyn turned to the second of several pages in her hands. He dimly heard her pleased, "Oh, here's his award-winning story! Let's see now…." He did, however, snap to attention at Evelyn's gasp, which was followed with a moaning shriek accompanied by the sound of shattering china as his wife dropped her tea cup, clutching the pages of the story in her hands with a look of horrified dismay on her handsome face as she tried to process what she was reading.

"My dear, what is it? What is wrong?" Charlus demanded angrily. He generally defaulted to anger whenever a situation was not to his satisfaction, and watching his wife's pallid face and nauseated expression definitely qualified.

Evelyn Potter finished her son James' story and sat in shocked, terrified silence. She could not believe what she had read, and tried to convince herself it was a nasty prank played by that awful Morgan boy. In her heart, though, she had a sinking feeling as she acknowledged, at least to herself, that this had the feel of something James would write. She had heard him make such nasty comments when he thought himself alone with his friends, and had simply dismissed the vulgarity of being typical of teenage boys. It was harmless, or so she had thought. Now, staring at a truly slanderous story created by her own son against the single-most powerful Lord and wizard, and knowing that it was to be published widely and posted openly in the Wizarding World, Evelyn Potter wanted to sink into her chair and hide. Not even Albus Dumbledore could fully protect them from an outraged Lord Marvolo Slytherin with honor and justice on his side.

If James were here right now, she would wring his neck. Then she would revive him, and do it again. He had endangered everything they had worked so hard for – including his own, carefully crafted image as the ideal Potter Heir.

She stared coldly at Charlus as he exploded in a typical display of anger and pounded the arm of his chair as he demanded her explanation. Rather than offer it, she instead reached over and handed him the sheaf of parchment, then headed directly to the floo to summon their attorney. She barely flinched as the crystal snifter went sailing into the fireplace ahead of her, and simply cast a shield around herself to protect her from flying objects as Charlus erupted into a full rage. She let him have his tantrum as she went about the business of managing the crisis.

As she rose somewhat stiffly to her feet, having kneeled before the floo for several minutes as she explained the situation to the appalled Potter Family attorney, she glanced sardonically around the destroyed den, allowing herself a slight, contemptuous glare at her pacing, red-faced, wildly-huffing husband. Leaving him to his emotions, she headed down to her private bedroom and her stock of headache potions, thinking with great irony, 'So much for a perfect evening.' Entering her rooms and shutting the door behind her with controlled violence, she pinched the bridge of her nose and allowed herself to finally, clearly see the damage that had been done by mistreating the bastard child and allowing James too much freedom.

Shaking her head in disgust, Evelyn swallowed her headache potion and settled into the bath to consider and to plan. There was much they did not yet know about the damnable writing contest and the events surrounding it. It was clear that, along with the supposed first place that was a wonderful opportunity for Morgan to retaliate against James and possibly several others, James had also won the enmity of a boy who they had apparently underestimated. Shuddering at the thought of Lord Marvolo Slytherin's reaction, she knew with certainty that the upcoming public humiliation would probably be the most pleasant aspect of this debacle.

Sneering slightly at the drunken stumbling of her husband, she snapped a locking spell at her doors, ignoring the rattling knob and furious knocking as her intoxicated husband sought escape in her bed. As his slurred demands turned to pleas and clumsy compliments, she sent a silencing spell toward the doors as well. The wizard was barely tolerable in her bed when he was sober and concentrating; the chances of him getting anywhere near her in his condition were nil.

Swallowing a vial of dreamless sleep, Evelyn tightened the locking spells and settled into bed, determined to get a decent night's sleep in preparation for tomorrow.

When the hounds of Hell would break loose.

ooooooooooooooooooo

THE LAST BREAKFAST

Sirius Black was furious and terrified. He and James had caught a glimpse of Lord Charlus Potter stalking through the massive front door of Hogwarts, ducking just in time to avoid the man's icy glare as he ignored the Headmaster's greeting and strode in fuming silence ahead of the elder wizard on their way up to Dumbledore's office. Lady Potter had glided at the man's side, looking imperturbable and aristocratic next to the hurrying form of the Potter Family attorney. It was the presence of the latter that really made James and Sirius crouch in fear, knowing that there were only minutes between the relative peace of the present and the bombardas that would explode all over them when the Potters and their attorney learned all the details of the writing contest, the duel, the loss of the Heirloom Invisibility Cape and a valuable house elf as well as all of James' other expensive belongings, the upcoming lawsuit from Professor Slytherin, and the charges from Neville Longbottom.

Somehow, compared to that, the fact that Hadrian Morgan had been re-sorted into Slytherin paled significantly in importance.

The two Marauders had stumbled into the Great Hall for what they were beginning to view as their last meal, when the general air of doom and anticipation reminded them of the upcoming owls, complete with newspapers, howlers and public humiliation.

Rather than taking comfort from the absence of Dumbledore, Slytherin and Morgan, James began to shake slightly as he imagined the scene that was probably occurring in the Headmaster's office. Sirius tried to be supportive, but he had his own upcoming howler to dread, not to mention trying to avoid meeting the hard stare of his Head of House, Professor McGonogall. He could not help but remember word for word his written speculations about what it would feel like to be rimmed by the woman in her feline form, and his active imagination did not help by making him shift and fidget in growing discomfort at the sense of abrasiveness in his nether regions. It got worse every time he accidentally caught the witch's gimlet eye, and by the time the flutter of hundreds of wings sounded through the Great Hall, Sirius Black was barely able to sit still.

He had been deeply shaken by the malevolence that had practically oozed out of his mother's howler, and was not sure whether he should be happy or terrified for James that no howler had arrived for him. Considering the fact that his parents had arrived in person, Sirius opted for fear, shifting uncomfortably as his uncooperative eyes peeked at McGonogall and won him another hard-eyed look, a look that morphed into outraged threat as his hand unconsciously dropped down to rub his aching ass. Frozen in mid-pat, he yelped in horror at what he had done and how McGonogall would interpret it, ripping his hand away as if he had been caught stealing Dumbledore's wand. Sirius swallowed hard, mentally replaying some of the Theory of Magic classes on magical intent and the power of wishing when in an emotional state. As the skin on his butt – not to mention his hole - again flared and itched, Sirius closed his eyes in despair and tried very hard to think of anything other than cat tongues and rectums. Clenching his cheeks – both sets – he glared at his abandoned breakfast and reflected on just how much more doomed he was with every moment.

When Professor Slytherin escorted a stunningly-dressed Hadrian Morgan into the Great Hall and seated him at the place of highest honor at the table of the snakes, both James and Sirius, along with many glaring Gryffindors, stared in affronted anger. Just because the little bastard – literally! – had acted out-of-character and done something truly reprehensible to the teasing Lions, suddenly he was the Toast of Slytherin? James was particularly irate, staring in envy at his cousin's expensive, classic clothing that practically screamed 'wealthy pureblood' to anyone who knew the language. "Where the hell did he get those clothes? They weren't in the stuff he stole from me!" James whispered harshly. Next to him, Peter was watching Hadrian with dewy eyes, admiration clear on the twitching face. Remus punched the rat-animagus in the arm absentmindedly as he, too, stared at Hadrian. No, those clothes were definitely not in James' lost wardrobe; they were classic, tailored and sharp – nothing like James' more fad-oriented clothing, however expensive. He must have spent some of the galleons he stole from James to buy the new clothes, although how he had done it so quickly was anybody's guess. All they knew for certain was that none of the Slytherins would have helped him; they were renowned for their selfish, superior attitude. None of them would be caught dead helping a poverty-stricken, orphan, bastard cast-off, no matter what pureblood lord had caused the byblow.

Across the room, crimson eyes narrowed as the surface thoughts of the Marauders began to roar and shout above the general white noise that was common to the undisciplined thoughts of hundreds of hormone-riddled teenagers. Next to him, he saw Tobias tighten his grip on his coffee mug until it began to crack, and Marvolo knew that his old friends had also caught the virulent speculations of the so-called 'Marauders.' Abraxas chuckled lowly, causing Marvolo and Tobias to look at him questioningly. They shared his amusement when he murmured, "Simply envisioning the scene with the Potters when they learn that Hadrian is now the proud owner of their vaunted Invisibility Cloak and one of their best house elves."

Marvolo relaxed back into his seat, crimson gaze returning to his little consort, as he relished the moments this day promised. Briefly, his eyes darkened to blood as he touched mentally on his 10 a.m. appointment with Lord LeStrange, but a shy smile from Hadrian immediately lightened his mood again.

oooooooooooooooooooo

CURSES! FOOLED AGAIN!

The next confrontation between the Marauders and Hadrian Morgan happened much sooner than anyone anticipated. More surprising was the fact that it occurred between Sirius Black and Hadrian, with James Potter an eager but mostly-silent witness.

Sirius was rapidly becoming overwhelmed by the force of his own rage. It didn't matter to him that Morgan would not have retaliated if they had not targeted him. The fact that the little prick had retaliated at all, much less gotten so many of them in such an incredible amount of trouble, was unbearable to the hotheaded Black. Watching his best friend wallowing in misery and dread as he awaited the inevitable meeting with the senior Potters was slowly driving Sirius mad. Well, madder. His own ordeal at his mother's howler had been unbearable, especially at the snickers coming from the Slytherin table when Walburga screamed that neither he nor James deserved to be on the family tapestry of any Noble family but that she would happily replace Sirius' name with Hadrian's given the slightest opportunity.

His brother, Regulus Black, ignored him from his seat next to the Shacklebolt prefect, secure in his position among the Ravenclaws. And that just made Sirius even angrier, knowing that his little brother agreed with Walburga and their father and all of the Black cousins. It didn't matter to Sirius that he had earned their contempt when accepting his inductment into Dumbledore's Phoenix Party by declaring he was ashamed of being a Black and felt that the Wizarding World would be better off if he was the only surviving member of his family. As far as he was concerned, he could say what he wanted and they should always forgive him and provide for him, because he was the Heir and would someday be Lord Black. He felt that, if they were smart, they should be trying to gain his favor now, instead of disapproving of his friends and his choices and acting like he had betrayed them by ... well … by betraying them, but damn it, that wasn't the point!

And now, all of the Blacks were disgusted with him as well as hating him, and McGonogall was clearly planning something supremely vindictive, and James was about to be sued by a lot of people and Sirius was an accomplice in all of that, and the Potters were probably just as mad at Sirius as they were at James, and Peter and Remus kept looking at Hadrian Morgan as if he were chocolate, and Hadrian was wearing clothes that were better than anything he or James had ever owned, and the little bastard was being treated like royalty by the snakes and their fucking slimy Lord, and DAMN IT, his ass really hurt, and somehow it was all. Hadrian's. fault!

The shrieking arrival of the Weasley harridan had been worth a few moments of distraction, before the woman pulled a wincing, pissing Ronald backward off the bench by his hair. Sirius almost wanted to spare a moment or two of pity for the boy, even though he really couldn't stand the youngest Weasley male, but he was saving all of his pity for himself and James. Although, when the hulking brute that was Ronald's dragonhandler brother Charles cast a scourgify on one of Ronald's feet and then used his grip on the kicking ankle to drag the screaming redhead out of the Great Hall, followed by the still-raging Molly, Sirius and James did share a moment of somewhat-horrified snickers. Shortly thereafter, the brief, shocked silence in the Great Hall exploded into raucous laughter and the open exchange of little bags of money as some of the bets were resolved.

And through it all, Sirius Black fumed.

So, when Hadrian walked over to the Ravenclaw table and stood chatting easily with some of his former housemates, two of whom were Padma Patil and Sirius' brother Regulas, Sirius exploded. He barely remembered leaping from his chair, although he was aware of James walking worriedly by his side as he stormed over to glare at the composed new Slytherin. Silence fell in the Great Hall as students and teachers all strained to hear what was said during this newest bit of drama. Neville Longbottom helpfully provided a sonorous, winking at Hadrian as he stood supportively near the Hufflepuff table, ready to aid his partner-in-justice (as he saw it).

After Neville's conference with his parents and grandmother this morning, as far as he was concerned, Hadrian Morgan might as well be his liege-lord. His grandmother had tried to punish him for being the published author of botanical porn, and for standing as Second to 'that bastard orphan', but his parents had felt otherwise. His mother had been quite moved by his story, if her bright eyes and flushed cheeks were any indication, and his father had clapped him on the shoulder and muttered, "I owe you one" to Neville when his mother wasn't looking. Besides that, both of his parents firmly reminded Augusta Longbottom that their family was about loyalty and honor, which Neville had steadfastly displayed. They had then congratulated him on his tactics in dealing with the expected attack by the Marauders, and assigned him Heir-Lord responsibilities. He now had roughly half of the authority and benefits that he would gain in full on accepting the Lordship when he turned 21. As he saw it, Neville owed Hadrian Morgan a lot, and Longbottoms always honored their obligations.

Sirius' words, as with everything else about Sirius, were loud and unplanned. "I've just about had enough of you, Morgan! What the fuck do you think you're even doing here?"

Hadrian looked at him with mild perplexity, before he said slowly and carefully, as if speaking with a young child, "Well, Black, at the moment I am having a private conversation with some of my acquaintances. Why? Does it look different in your world?"

At the Head Table, a tensely-ready Marvolo Slytherin grinned in pride even as he held his wand ready. Yet again, Hadrian's ability to handle himself in tense situations was surfacing. He knew he was not the only one who noticed that his little snake was at his most-Slytherin when having to think on his feet, particularly in confrontational situations with hotheaded Gryffindors. Watching Hadrian lead Black into another public humiliation, Marvolo once again found himself having to shift his outer robes slightly to hide an erection. He ignored Abraxas's knowing grin, feeling completely unashamed of his potent reaction to his young man. If he didn't have this reaction, he would never have begun the process of claiming Hadrian as his consort, and Abraxas knew it.

Sirius flushed darkly, an ugly look on his face as the avidly-listening students snickered at Hadrian's reply. At the Ravenclaw table, Regulas Black met his brother's eyes fearlessly, a flicker of contempt crossing the younger boy's face at his brother's lack of control. Seeing this, Sirius snarled, a slightly-crazed look in his grey eyes as he took a threatening step closer to an unimpressed Hadrian Morgan. "Think you're so smart, do you? Think you've got it all under control? You have no idea who you're messing with, or the kinds of people I know. We could literally rip you apart with our fucking teeth, you little prick. Keep pissing me off, Morgan. See how far it gets you." He then leaned forward, whispering just loud enough for he and Hadrian to hear, "I dare you to meet me at the Shrieking Shack sometime. I just fucking dare you."

Hadrian merely raised an eyebrow, noting the sharp tensing of Remus Lupin, James Potter and Peter Pettigrew at Sirius's threat. The rumors of the Shrieking Shack were well known, and speculation was rife of everything from the tormented spirits of Dementor victims to a pack of werewolves. Personally, considering the fact that the stories seemed to increase at the full moon most months, Hadrian and others had long ago put more weight on the werewolf theory. Eyeing Sirius and his tense friends, Hadrian rapidly considered the furious words, dismissing the boy's family from the supposedly deadly contacts. Everyone knew the Blacks were dark, and they supported Slytherin wholeheartedly. Nor were they fond of Sirius, as evidenced by the recent howler from the Black matriarch. So, Sirius was threatening him with some form of violence and vengeance by the 'people he knew', and the only ones who seemed disturbed by that were the other Marauders. The teeth remark seemed significant, too. Seeing that Hadrian seemed momentarily speechless, Sirius barked a scornful laugh, sneering at the Slytherin with contempt. Noting the rabid look on what should have been a handsome face, an idea began to form in Hadrian's exceptional mind.

With deliberate disinterest, Hadrian raised his hand and lightly suppressed a small yawn, smirking internally as Black's rage ramped up a little more. "Mr. Black, you are truly beginning to be boring. You always seem to be making threats about who you know and what you know and what you'll do and how I'll suffer and blah, blah, blah. It's repetitive at best, you realize? I truly doubt there is anything you know that I cannot figure out with an honest answer to just three or four questions. Therefore, what you supposedly know is of no value." Hook: ready.

The Black heir's face flushed dark red, before a cunning look dawned in the grey eyes. Glancing at James and Remus, ignoring Peter as always, Sirius raised his eyebrow in question. At the twin, vindictive grins of agreement, Sirius turned back to face Hadrian, suddenly moderately composed, if one ignored the irregular breathing and flared nostrils. "You think so? Fine. Let's settle this like gentleman. You can do that, can't you? Pretend to be a gentleman, I mean. You've done it for years, after all," Sirius taunted.

Hadrian pretended to hide a small degree of offense, overplaying it to allow the less-honed observational skills of the Marauders to pick it up. At the Hufflepuff table, Neville's brown eyes narrowed slightly. If he could have, Hadrian would have winked at the Longbottom heir, knowing that the young man was aware of the fact that Hadrian had started another little scheme. Looking defiantly at Sirius, Hadrian tried to obviously avoid James Potter's scornful glare, thinking all the while how hard it was to find the balance between broadcasting his supposed-hidden emotions while trying not to act like a Vaudevillian hack who thought he was a Shakespearean actor. Challenging. Glaring at Sirius, Hadrian said coldly, "Explain yourself. I refuse to duel again; been there, done that, got the Cloak."

He saw a quick flash of grin from Neville as James Potter glared and Sirius Black growled. Hadrian's conclusions firmed. With a sneer of his own, Hadrian rolled his eyes dramatically and said, "What? Do you want to play Twenty Questions to the death or something?" Bait: offered.

The look of cunning in the grey eyes deepened, and the Marauders all shifted slightly in excitement. It was hard for Hadrian and the Slytherins to avoid sneering again; despising the lack of self control by the supposed 'prankmasters.' Sirius grinned ferally as he growled, "Something like that. I propose that you prove yourself. You said you could figure out anything about me in three or four questions. Prove it." Bait: taken.

Hadrian kept his expression closed, tensed his shoulders, and said simply, "Your terms?" He was certain that the Marauders would believe he was afraid and trying to hide it. Potter's snicker confirmed it, as did Pettigrew's look of near-arousal as he watched Sirius Black 'manipulate' Hadrian. Honestly, of all the Marauders, the only one who actually disturbed Hadrian was the very creepy Pettigrew. The others were just temper and stupidity, rolled up in arrogance with a touch of popularity. Standard fare.

Sirius Black grinned wickedly and set the trap – he thought. "I give you three, yes or no, questions. I swear to answer truthfully. At the end, you state a fact that I keep secret. If you can't do it, I win." He wanted to chortle, or at least do an evil laugh, but he had to concentrate. This was the perfect opportunity to get some revenge on Morgan and win back some respect for the Marauders. He watched the green eyes carefully, trying to seem somewhat unthreatening. He saw the second Hadrian fell into his trap.

If he had heard Hadrian's mental 'Hook: set', he might have worried. Then again, probably not.

Hadrian tried to look slightly worried, all the while resisting the urge to roll his eyes. He bit his lip hesitantl y and said slowly, "It could be okay. But, what do you want if I lose?" He widened his eyes, allowing them to look innocent and naïve, and shifted his weight to one foot in order to relax his authoritative stance. He was the picture of uncertainty – unless you were a Slytherin. Or Neville Longbottom.

Marvolo Slytherin watched with growing desire as his little snake guided another lion to its doom. His erection was rock hard and throbbing now; there was no possibility of disguising it. Catching his breath in delight at Hadrian's faux vulnerability, Marvolo kept his hands firmly on the table in order to keep from unconsciously pressing a hand down to sooth his arousal. He shuddered slightly when Hadrian shifted his stance and his perfect, rounded behind was briefly outlined against the thin silk of his cloak.

Next to him, Tobias slid a sympathetic, sideways grin at his Lord, and refocused on the masterful performance of the newest snake. Like Abraxas, he was somewhat in awe of the intelligence and cut-throat cunning Hadrian Morgan displayed, and completely understood why Marvolo wanted this boy for his Consort. Hell, if he weren't in love with Abraxas, Tobias might have tried for the boy himself.

Sirius Black pretended to consider, but he already knew what he was going to demand. The Potters would forever be in his debt. He met the shy green eyes boldly, and tried to smile charmingly. He was unaware that it actually looked like a snarl. "All I want, when you fail, is for you to return James' Invisibility Cloak to him. That's not too much to ask, now is it?" he said condescendingly. He was certain, as was James, that there was no way even the smartest person in the world could get a secret out of him with just three, yes or no questions. He was equally certain that Hadrian would agree, because his pride was on the line and James was sneering at the little bastard, egging him on. It was so easy to manipulate the little prick; all it took was keeping him off-balance and emotional, and Hadrian Morgan was really easy to provoke into uncertainty or fear. He was such a little coward! Briefly sneering in contempt, Sirius forced his expression back to what he thought was cajoling and smiled winningly at Hadrian.

Hadrian smiled winningly back, letting the Marauders think that he was hoping to win their friendship, now that they weren't raging at him. After a moment's thought, he then ventured hesitantly, "All right, I agree. But if I win ….?" He allowed a slight smile of disbelief onto his face, pretending that he didn't think he would win, either, but was setting the terms for the sake of appearance. After another moment, he squared his shoulders in sudden determination and spoke more loudly, forcing a slight quiver to his tone that would further confuse the rampant arrogance and bravado of Sirius and James. "If I win, I want something of equal value. I want …. Well, I don't really know what you have …. Um, oh, I know! If I win, I want your sworn allegiance to … um…," he allowed his gaze to brush shyly, hopefully, on James Potter, and gulped heavily before he said in a shaky but loud whisper, "I want your sworn allegiance to the Lord of my true house." He kept his gaze locked on James Potter, as if willing his cousin to understand that he wanted nothing more than to belong to the House of Potter. He flinched away from the judgmental, indrawn breaths of the Slytherins en-masse and stared hopefully at James, his gaze flicking to Sirius only when the Black heir said with pretend sincerity, "So be it, Hadrian Morgan. I accept your terms, and I swear to answer your questions truthfully, to admit to the truth if you succeed in revealing one of my secrets, and to swear allegiance to the Lord of your true house. So I swear on my magic; so mote it be." He smiled brightly at James, both of them secure in the knowledge that Sirius had always fully intended to swear allegiance to Lord Potter the instant he gained his Lordship.

The silence in the Great Hall was now dark and oppressive, tense with the weight of Hadrian's open attempt to win favor with his cousin and his uncle. Hadrian took a deep breath and said, "I accept your terms, Sirius Black, and swear to return the Invisibility Cloak should I lose this bet. So I swear on my magic; so mote it be." Again, the flash of a vow flared, sealing them both to the terms.

Sirius's confident grin faltered as Hadrian's winsome smile turned malevolent and the bright green eyes darkened threateningly. He frantically replayed the terms and the vow, and could not see why the boy was looking so – frightening, right now. Glancing at James, he saw nothing but confidence in his old friend, and allowed himself to regain his normal cocky attitude. Grinning broadly again, Sirius folded his arms and cocked a hip in a relaxed pose, saying jauntily, "Now's the time, Snake. Ask away, so I can get the cloak back. I have places to be, you know."

At the Hufflepuff table, Neville kept his wand ready but hidden, knowing full well that, whatever was going on, Hadrian would win and someone – probably James – would start throwing curses. He wasn't sure what Hadrian was doing, but he did know for certain that it wasn't what Sirius and James believed.

Hadrian smiled back coldly and paced a slow circle around the cocky Sirius Black, eying him carefully. Stopping in front of him, he stared boldly in the grey eyes and said, "First question. Are you an animagus?"

Sirius's smile immediately dropped, and a surprised look of dawning horror formed on the faces of not just him, but all four Marauders. He tried to resist answering, but felt the vow forcing action. He then tried to lie, honor bedamned, but managed only to demonstrate clearly to everyone in the Great Hall that he was trying to lie as he said haltingly, "N…Nnnn…nnnn….YES!" He sucked in a shocked breath, feeling more than hearing his fellow Marauders do the same. Whispers broke out all over the Hall, as students and teachers alike realized that the Black Heir was an unregistered animagus. He was in so much more trouble than five minutes ago!

James began to swear, and Remus tried to back away and leave unobtrusively, only to find himself halted by the suddenly threatening wand of Neville Longbottom, which was aimed right at him before waving him back into formation next to his friends. Pettigrew, predictably, began to whimper.

Hadrian's smile was cold and his eyes gleamed like icy emeralds. Marvolo shuddered in uncontrollable response. He didn't know for certain what Hadrian's goal was, but he had a strong suspicion. If he was right, it was likely that Hadrian would not be going to bed alone tonight, as Marvolo was certain he would be unable to resist his deceptive snake if he did what Marvolo hoped.

Hadrian showed his teeth in a smile that offered zero comfort to the worried Sirius Black, and said inexorably, "Second question: Is your animagus form some type of canine?"

Sirius closed his eyes helplessly, not even trying to resist this time. "Yes." This time, only silence greeted his reply, but the tension in the Great Hall increased exponentially.

Hadrian swept his gaze over the Marauders, allowing his cold green stare to warm and soften slightly as he looked at James. He watched with inner amusement as the Potter Heir straightened with hope and tried to smile fondly at Hadrian. It looked like it hurt.

It was going to hurt more.

Green eyes held grey as Hadrian cast again. "Third question: Are the Marauders animagi to somehow help Remus Lupin in his werewolf form?" Hadrian watched in delight as the despair settled in amongst the four boys who had made an art out of tormenting him. He didn't really care if the answer to this question was yes or no; he already knew what he was going to reveal. Still, it would be so much better if he could destroy four for the price of one. Judging by the fear in their eyes, it seemed likely he was right.

Sirius' eyes fairly glowed with fury as he bit out angrily, "YES!" As the first parameters of the vow released him, he tried to launch himself at Hadrian, only to find himself held in place from behind. He saw Hadrian nod in thanks to someone past his shoulder, and growled angrily as James bit out with loathing, "Longbottom!"

Remus was shaking in despair as his darkest secret was revealed. He wanted to rage at Morgan, and had just begun to allow some of the wolf to bleed through into his eyes when he was stopped cold by Hadrian's implacable, "Do remember, Remus Lupin, that I did not start this, nor did I set any of the terms. Once again, that was entirely the responsibility of your supposed friends, and you did absolutely nothing to stop it, Prefect." Startled at the contempt with which Hadrian spat his title, he glared at Hadrian, and was met with a look of distant pity. And, in those moments between rage and shame, Remus Lupin finally realized that Hadrian Morgan didn't give a damn about him. He was nothing to the emerald-eyed boy. He had done nothing to help Hadrian, and now Hadrian would do nothing to help him. He had allowed the plots and actions of the Marauders to grievously harm Hadrian, and now Hadrian was allowing the plots and actions of the Marauders to grievously harm Remus.

The prey had become the predator. It looked like wolf was on the menu today.

Hadrian would have disagreed about the menu. He really didn't care about Remus Lupin. He was hunting dog today, not wolf. He raised his hands to gain quiet in the Great Hall, then said calmly, "Now, to discover if I know one of your secrets – apart from what I have just revealed, that is." His evil smile made Sirius swallow in deep fear, and caused Marvolo Slytherin to give in to the inevitable and firmly press the heel of his hand down upon his desperate cock. He suppressed a moan and tried to remain focused on the Hadrian-directed drama.

With Hadrian's next words, Marvolo wanted to pat himself on the back, he was just that damn happy that he had managed to focus. Merlin, he just loved it when Hadrian turned into an evil genius.

Allowing the silence to settle and the tension to build, Hadrian once again paced. He occasionally cast a considering look at Sirius, and once at Professor McGonogall. The slow grin on his face spelled pure doom to the worried Heir of Black. This time, he turned his back on the perspiring Marauders and walked slowly away, one step at a time. When he had gained the distance that required him to raise his voice, he turned and stared thoughtfully at Sirius, a wicked smirk glowing deep within the green eyes. "Sirius Black," he began in a carrying tone that flowed effortlessly to all the listening students, staff and portraits in the immense room, "you are a dog animagus. And, in your animagus form, I believe that you have rimmed yourself … for pleasure … several times. As per your oath, state the truth: am I correct, yes or no?"

Abraxas Malfoy began to laugh softly under his breath, completely enraptured at the newest snake's concise conclusion and at Sirius' Black's look of complete despair. Tobias Prince was lost in admiration, almost envious of his Lord for taking the brilliant, deliciously cruel young man as Consort. As for the Lord in question, he was desperately conflicted; torn equally between the impulse to once again applaud his wickedly intelligent young love and the desire to throw the delectable boy over his shoulder and force-apparate directly into his bedroom. Crimson eyes fairly glowed at they focused on his smirking, emerald-eyed Consort.

Finally, Sirius Black could not resist the demands of the Oath any longer, and his barely-voiced "Yes, you are correct" sounded through the massive room as if he had screamed it. And as a wave of humiliation threatened to drown the Black heir, Hadrian Morgan found himself receiving his second standing ovation in as many days – although, it was true that many of the Gryffindors remained seated. Their reticence was more than made up for by the cheering portraits and ghosts, however. Neville offered him an elaborate bow, snickering wildly. At the Head Table, Filius Flitwick had climbed atop the table in order to be certain that Hadrian and his Ravenclaws knew that he was delighted with the wonderful display of logic and intellect on the part of his former Ravenclaw.

Eventually, the noise began to settle again, as people realized that the situation, delightful as it was, had not yet been fully resolved. There was still the matter of paying out the bet. It seemed clear to almost everyone that Hadrian had designs on the Potter Lordship, and was securing allies toward that goal. Would Sirius Black swear allegiance to House Potter, despite being the heir to his own Noble House? The consequences of that would be far-reaching, and the Phoenix Party would gain a powerful ally. Furthermore, once Black became Lord of the House, the entirety of the House of Black would have to fall in line with his oath of fealty, too. The loss to the Vol de Mort Party could have great consequence, and yet no one really blamed young Hadrian for trying to win the gratitude, if not the affections, of his estranged family, and probably the power of his future lordship. Given the trouble James was in, Hadrian's challenge for the heirship was virtually assured.

Hadrian was completely unaffected by the tensions and whispers that swirled and eddied around them. He nodded briefly again to Neville, and Sirius found his bonds loosened – but not withdrawn. He glared at Hadrian, who simply looked back unemotionally and ordered, "Fulfill your terms." He allowed himself to again aim a seemingly –hopeful glance at James, who began to grin evilly. Hadrian did not even need to try Legilimency, which he had no skill in at all, to know that James planned to soundly and publicly reject Hadrian the instant Sirius swore to him.

Thinking carefully of the terms to be awarded in the event of a win from Hadrian, which had seemed so incredibly improbable as to be impossible, Sirius looked at James and also began to grin. They both knew full well how much Hadrian wanted to belong to his true house, and the idiot boy actually thought that he would win their favor somehow by having Sirius swear loyalty to the Potters. Stupid.

Taking a deep breath, Sirius faced James fully and began solemnly, "I, Sirius Orion Black, heir to the Noble House of Black, do hereby swear my full allegiance to …" His sudden silence confused him completely, until he realized that Hadrian Morgan had aimed his wand at him and was glaring at him as he silenced Black and took over the loose binding from Neville Longbottom. Sirius glared back in affronted question, an angry 'What the hell?' written in every line of his silenced body.

It was only when Hadrian smirked at him that he began to sweat.

Next to him, he realized that James had begun to sweat, too, as he realized that Longbottom had simply changed his aim and now held James in a tight binding. Remus watched hopelessly as his best, strongest allies fell to the strength and guile of Hadrian Morgan … and Hadrian's obvious ally, Neville Longbottom.

A great, explosive breath was released from hundreds of aching throats as the intensely observing audience heard Hadrian Morgan's next words.

"Sirius Black, you are seconds away from losing your magic. The terms of our bet, supported by your sworn oath, were that you would swear allegiance to the Lord of my true House." He smirked malevolently at Black, who still seemed indignant, which meant that he was still clueless. Time to reel him in. "My true House is Slytherin, Mr. Black. Or haven't you been paying attention?"

Several hundred people gasped in a single breath, causing the unusual effect of a slight, momentary drop in air pressure. As one, every Slytherin student straightened proudly, controlling the urge to explode again in cheers with the rigid self-control typical of their House. Rather than such an unseemly display, they rose in unison at a gesture from Lucius, and turned to face young Hadrian. As one person, they bowed to him in respect. Although he did not yet realize the entirety of their gesture, Hadrian treated their actions with the dignity it deserved, and bowed solemnly in back. At the Head Table, Professors Malfoy, Prince and Slytherin had risen with their students. While Malfoy and Prince had bowed with their House, Marvolo Slytherin had remained tall and regal, looking down upon Hadrian Morgan with deep pride and clear affection. In his life-size portrait on the wall nearest his House, Salazar Slytherin stood with his Heir, his serpent familiar draped around his shoulders like a cloak, and dipped his head first to Hadrian and then to Marvolo when those of his House bowed. It was a profound moment of dignity and solemnity, and would be long-remembered at Hogwarts as one of the finest examples of the cohesiveness and noble nature of the House of Snakes.

After the Slytherins re-seated themselves, another moment of quiet took the room before the inevitable whispers began. For the most part, Hufflepuffs were simply bewildered, having lost the plot a long time ago. Ravenclaws were, unsurprisingly, at least as proud of Hadrian as the Slytherins were. Gryffindors alternately moaned or gaped, completely blindsided by Hadrian's 'rotten trick.' Neville Longbottom could not resist sneering at them as he said coldly, "Am I really the only Gryffindor apart from Professor McGonogall who can think and see at the same time? Really?"

At the Head Table, Minerva McGonogall simply smirked, delighted with the fact that Neville had emerged as the strong leader she had long known him to be. The downfall of the Marauders and their rabid supporters was long overdue. The fact that three of her lions had managed the animagus transformation was surprising and alarming, as to do so unsupported was incredibly dangerous and resulted in much of the animal form bleeding into the personality of the animagus. She was unsurprised to learn that Sirius was a dog of some sort, his behavior had always been similar to a rambunctious, ill-bred mutt. Although she considered the nature of conflict between dogs and cats to be moderately responsible for her antipathy to Sirius Black, she was not a witch who allowed herself excuses. She did not like Sirius Black, because he had done nothing to earn her liking or her respect. His sick fantasy about her was appalling. (She dearly hoped that Sirius enjoyed her little 'gift', though. She anticipated his limping departure for the Healing Wing within mere hours.) She was deeply disappointed in James Potter. Frankly, she was disgusted with Remus Lupin and was certain that, with his nature revealed, she could now force Dumbledore to finally let her remove the boy's prefect badge. As for Pettigrew, she had always had to resist the nearly overwhelming urge to slash at him and knock him unconscious every time she was near him, and with the recent revelation, began to wonder if the twitchy little pervert had an animagus form that was somehow in conflict with her own.

Either that, or he was just a disgusting little rodent who emphatically did not belong in Gryffindor. Of course, she wouldn't have put him in any other House, either. 'I wonder what happens if the Hat determines that a student does not belong in any of our Houses?' Minerva suspected that, in the old days, such a person would be rejected as a student, but knowing what she did of Dumbledore, he had probably changed that rule. She made up her mind to talk to Professor Slytherin about it. After all, a Founder's Heir had much more power at Hogwarts than a mere Headmaster.

Spotting Hadrian prowling toward Sirius in the slow, stalking motion of a true predator, Minerva abruptly focused again on the drama before her. Sensing the sudden attention and silence of the hundreds of other occupants in the room, she knew she was not alone.

Hadrian had reached the end of his patience with the so-called 'master Marauders.' Ignoring James Potter as if he were completely irrelevant, Hadrian focused on the sweaty form of Sirius Black. He stalked up to the seventh year Gryffindor as if he, not Sirius, were the Lion. Without pause or hesitation, he reached out and seized the red and gold tie of the Black Heir and pulled him, with the use of the bindings, over to face the still standing Professor Slytherin. Without remorse, Hadrian kicked Sirius in the back of his rigidly-locked knees, causing the taller boy to fall to the floor with an 'oof' of surprise. When Sirius looked up, it was to find himself kneeling before Slytherin, who seemed to effortlessly shed his persona as professor and emerged within moments as the powerful, deadly, awe-inspiring Lord Marvolo Slytherin. Hadrian Morgan's surprisingly strong hand seized Sirius' long, dark curls and forced him to look up and meet the crimson stare. Hadrian viciously hissed, "Swear your allegiance to the Lord of my true house, or lose your magic forever. Choose, now." The atavistic shudder Hadrian's hiss invoked in Sirius made the Marauder wonder briefly if somehow, the ex-Ravenclaw was a Parseltongue. The thought was gone in an instant, though, as the crimson gaze seized his own, and a powerful mind entered his, sweeping through his memories and hidden thoughts and plans and leaving the arrogant boy with the certain knowledge that he was in the presence and the grip of a wizard who could literally crush him with a thought, and would not hesitate to do so. It was a matter of survival instinct that caused Sirius Black to open his mouth and condemn himself to life in service to the Dark Lord Slytherin.

"I, Sirius Orion Black, do hereby swear on my life, my blood and my magic, that I am now and forever an ally to Lord Marvolo Slytherin and the House of Slytherin. I pledge my loyalty, and swear that I will support Lord Slytherin with every effort. Tojours pur. So I do vow and will; so mote it be."

He felt the resulting flare of magic thunder through him, more powerful than any magic he had ever experienced before. As despair ran through him, he realized with a sense of dull inevitability that Hadrian Morgan had once again used Sirius's own nature as a weapon against him.

Sirius Black did not realize that Hadrian Morgan had just granted him a gift beyond price.

oooooooooooooooooooo

LIONHEART

It was just 9:30 in the morning, and Marvolo Slytherin was seated in his formal sitting room in the mostly-hidden Heir's Wing of Slytherin House. The Lord LeStrange would arrive at 10 to discuss the future of his youngest son, Rabastan. Marvolo could only thank the Mother for the fact that Hadrian had been safely within his privacy-protected rooms when the filthy-minded little worm had spewed his poison about Marvolo's treasured consort.

Marvolo stared yearningly at the paneled wall that held his private entrance to Hadrian's rooms. Although naturally, Hadrian did not realize it, the Cobra Suite was actually part of Marvolo's own extensive rooms here at Hogwarts. Marvolo had only opened the four main rooms of the consort's suite to young Hadrian, knowing that he was already pushing the boundaries of the young wizard's credulity. Given the intelligence and insight of his Consort, Marvolo did not believe it would be very long before his green-eyed nymph began to draw correct conclusions. Still, based on their intimate moments together in Hadrian's suite this morning, and the stunning display of loyalty to Marvolo that just ended with Hadrian's gift of the House of Black, which Hadrian had taken like the true Slytherin he was with a healthy dose of personal vengeance, Marvolo felt reasonably confident that Hadrian would accept his role as Marvolo's Consort. He would do so in a way that was somehow surprising. He would be delightful, and devious, and naive, and utterly unique. And he would be…

"MINE!" Marvolo growled possessively, looking heatedly at the framed photograph he held lovingly between his large hands. After the events of this morning – all of them – Marvolo knew without doubt that he would seek Hadrian's intimate attentions later today. Given their kisses of the morning, Hadrian was aware of and responsive to Marvolo's desire for him. Marvolo almost wished that Hadrian had a trustworthy guardian with whom to negotiate a betrothal contract, which would greatly expedite this courtship. Given Hadrian's status as an orphan, the rights of Guardian should fall upon his Head of House. But given the fact that Hadrian was not legally disinherited from the Potters, Marvolo could not claim guardianship. He took comfort from the fact that none of the Potters could claim guardianship either, thanks to the finer points of law for purebloods. Their abandonment had been a legally binding decision. Only if Hadrian were somehow welcomed into another noble house would anyone have any right to negotiate on Hadrian's behalf. Marvolo knew that numerous of his own supporters would leap at the opportunity to serve their Lord in this fashion, but if it was going to happen, Marvolo wanted for those who welcomed Hadrian to truly welcome Hadrian – not the Slytherin Consort, or the abandoned Potter heir. Just Hadrian. His boy deserved such concern.

As if in answer to his silent plea, an amused-looking Salazar appeared in his portrait and said, "The young Longbottom heir is at your door, requesting a brief meeting with you, Marvolo."

Marvolo stared, surprised, before blinking and nodding in agreement. Salazar disappeared, and within moments Marvolo was standing to greet a determined-looking Neville Longbottom. "Mr. Longbottom, have a seat. What may I do for you? I have a meeting here at 10, but we can talk now, or defer to a later time if you feel the need." He had the strongest sense that this was of great importance.

Neville once again impressed Marvolo when the young wizard looked at him with direct honesty and said forthrightly, "You must forgive me for not following all of the subtleties and niceties of the pureblood manner. I can do so, of course, but I am at heart a true Gryffindor, and prefer to simply get to the core of the matter." At Marvolo's agreeable nod, Neville looked meaningfully at the framed photo of Hadrian, which Marvolo had hastily placed on the table next to him when he greeted Neville. He waved a reassuring hand at Marvolo's instinctive tensing, and said calmly to the intimidating wizard, "I am here to tell you that I have already contacted my account goblin at Gringotts and have placed Hadrian Morgan under the protection of House Longbottom. I did so more to protect and welcome Hadrian than to aid you; however, given what I know about the Cobra Suite, I understand that you have a great, personal interest in the Friend of my House. As he is under my protection, I have the right to negotiate Betrothal Contracts and Courtships on his behalf. I am willing to do so with you, given certain reassurances by you with regard to your intentions, Lord Slytherin." Not once did Neville's confidence falter or slip into arrogance. He was, in all of the best ways, a Gryffindor.

Marvolo stared in shock at the Longbottom heir. It had never occurred to the older Lord to consider Longbottom as a Protectorate when he was reviewing possibilities for guardianship for his beloved Hadrian. This young Gryffindor had come up with the absolute, perfect solution. Marvolo could not resist smiling at Longbottom, feeling as if he was beaming but knowing that he could not possibly be that lost to dignity. Generously, young Neville did not comment on Marvolo's momentary lapse; rather, he simply rose to offer his hand. As Marvolo, the singlemost powerful wizard in the nation, also stood and shook the strong young hand, he blinked at the suddenly painfully tight grip and stared, surprised, as Neville showed a bit of the Lion that lived in his soul. Glaring, fierce and unafraid, into the intimidating, crimson gaze, Neville told Marvolo with convincing menace, "Regardless of your power and your status, Lord Slytherin, I swear to you that if you ever misuse, dishonor or abuse Hadrian, I will take you apart one follower at a time."

Rather than react with aggression, Marvolo simply paused a moment before stunning Neville with a genuinely warm smile and a friendly slap on the back. The younger wizard was further reassured when Marvolo huffed a laugh and said lightly, "You are the first person who has ever threatened me or mine who I will leave whole and unpunished. The fact that you are doing so on behalf of Hadrian only raises your status to me. I'm very glad, Mr. Longbottom, that you and Hadrian are friends, and that he can count on you to look after his interests. Thank you. Perhaps we can meet tomorrow to discuss this in greater detail?"

Neville gave a firm nod, returning the strong handshake easily, and said quietly, "Send me an owl, or a house elf. I've grown rather fond of Hadrian's Tansy; she did me a good turn last night. Anyway, I will be happy to meet with you at our mutual convenience, Lord Slytherin." As the young man departed, Marvolo could not help the bemused smile that formed on his handsome face. With that last bit, Longbottom had made it quite clear that he considered them equals regarding Hadrian.

Truly a lionhearted young man.

ooooooooooooooooooo

LESTRANGE DAYS, INDEED

Salazar announced the arrival of Lord Richmond LeStrange promptly at 10 a.m. Accompanying the powerfully-built, graying wizard into his reception room were two wizards introduced by LeStrange as his family solicitors. Moments later, Tobias Prince, Abraxas Malfoy and his son Lucius completed the gathering.

Marvolo briefly explained the situation regarding his taking of Hadrian Morgan as his Consort, along with the intricacies and subtleties involved. Accepting the sincere congratulations and good wishes of his long-time ally, Marvolo then invited the LeStrange group to join Abraxas in the prepared pensieve. Held within the ancient chalice were the pertinent memories of Lucius, Abraxas and Tobias, with memories of past incidents showcasing Rabastan's uncontrolled temper and repugnant attitude to anyone he considered beneath him (of whom there were very few exceptions).

Upon re-emerging from the pensieve, Richmond LeStrange was whitefaced and shaking slightly. He had spoken with his older son, Rodolphos, regarding some of the incident earlier today, but had truly had no concept of the pure, venomous vitriol his youngest spewed. Despite the hour, he accepted the firewhiskey Tobias offered him and allowed himself time to gather his thoughts.

Finally, he raised regretful eyes to his Lord and somberly asked, "What can I possibly do to make up for the insults to your Consort and yourself, my Lord? I can think of nothing that would satisfy either of us and still leave most of my House and Family intact." His solicitors simply nodded. They were accustomed to having to facilitate minor compensation here and there for the words and deeds of Rabastan LeStrange and the deceased Lady LeStrange, but the depth of insult given, particularly considering the personages involved, was beyond the reach of financial remuneration or public apology.

Marvolo stared introspectively at the wizard who had remained staunchly by his side over several decades. He would not risk this alliance, but he could not allow this insult to go unpunished. Furthermore, the frequency of confrontations instigated by Rabastan had increased considerably of late. As a pureblood and a Slytherin, he should certainly consider himself superior to many, but he seemed to believe that 'superior' actually meant 'entitled to be abusive of everyone else.' Worse, the fool found no error in his actions regarding disobeying Marvolo and insulting his Lord and his Lord's Consort on a level that was truly vulgar, base and repugnant. Steps must be taken.

Reaching a decision, Marvolo looked soberly at Richmond and said firmly, "It is time the young man learns humility, and his true place in the magical world. He is not your heir. He is not exceptional in any way. There is very little redeeming at the moment about your younger son, Rabastan, with the exception of the boy's closest relatives." A faint smile crossed LeStrange's face in acknowledgment of the subtle compliment, but he simply nodded in agreement to his Lord's words. It was true; it was long past time for Rabastan to be sharply brought into the hard truths of their world – or to leave it. By this point, Lord LeStrange was willing to consider either. Rabastan was far too much like Richmond's late, unlamented wife. Had there been any way to do so within the rules of etiquette, Richmond would have sent a thank-you gift to his wife's lover-turned-murderer.

"My Lord, I accept your decisions, whatever they may be. I am …. tired… my Lord. Rodolphos and I are ready to live life free of the drama and trauma that seem to be the lifeblood of my youngest son, as they were the late Lady LeStrange. What would you have done?" Richmond stared at his hands, glancing up only occasionally to the crimson eyes that had seemed to soften somewhat as he read the obvious signs of weariness in the face of his old friend. Glancing at Tobias and Abraxas, he knew they saw the same. It was time to fix this, and to help Richmond and Rodolphos at the same time. They were loyal to him, and he, in turn, was honor-bound to aid them when it was in his power. It was his pleasure to know that today was such a time.

Rising, he went to the fireplace and cast a handful of floo powder into the shoulder-high, smaller fireplace through which he engaged in floo-calls. He refused to drop to his knees like a sycophant and stick his head in the filthy firebox every time he wished to speak with someone. As the flames flared light green, he called out clearly, "Erasmus Sanguini." Behind him, he heard the stifled, indrawn breaths that indicated at least some, if not all, of his companions had guessed his intentions. Within moments, the pale, eerily-handsome face of his vampire ally, the Vampire Lord of the powerful Corealath Coven, appeared. The vampire simply gazed briefly at them, then showed a hint of fang as he breathed chillingly, "How very interesting, Lord Slytherin! I'm coming through."

Shortly thereafter, the gathered wizards and the vampire Erasmus Sanguini, had arrived at a successful agreement. In exchange for lending his Coven's voice and vote to certain upcoming and ongoing political issues, Erasmus would be personally in charge of "schooling" the youngest LeStrange in the niceties and truisms of pureblood society, and vampire society. He would gain a healthy education in personal humility and his true role in the grand scheme of things, mostly by virtue of the fact that Rabastan LeStrange would become the personal servant and food source of Erasmus Sanguini and his mates. The elder vampires took special enjoyment in the richly-alive blood of wizards. Rabastan would be outfitted with certain devices that would prevent the sexual fulfillment normally experienced by blood donors, although he would definitely experience their near-constant arousal. Understood among those gathered was the fact that, eventually, Rabastan LeStrange would learn how it truly felt to be the whore and the slut that he had labeled Hadrian. Erasmus had been provided with copies of the memories that held not only the string of insults Rabastan issued about Hadrian in the common room, but also all of the subsequent variations and embellishments he had voiced before that meeting and during his time in the dungeon cell. He would be made to experience each of those scenarios, including giving fellatio in the middle of a crowded dining hall, negotiating sex for safety, and all of the other humiliating possibilities he had voiced. This would, naturally, include any new insults he voiced, including anything said to or about anyone else he met during the next five years. If, after five years, he had been sufficiently 'reformed', Erasmus would offer him the choice of remaining with his Coven (without sexual devices, unless he preferred them) or returning to the Wizarding World. If he was not reformed, he would continue for another five years, and so on.

The fanged smile on the otherworldly face of Erasmus Sanguini was equally chilling and arousing to the elder LeStrange, a fact which did not go unnoticed by the sensual vampire. As he left to retrieve the youngest LeStrange, he resolved to visit Richmond soon and see about cultivating the fascination that pulsed beneath the refined veneer of the world-weary wizard. Something about Richmond LeStrange was very appealing to the ancient vampire. For now, though, he needed to pick up his newest cattle.

As punishment for believing himself smarter than his Lord and superior to his Lord's Consort, Rabastan LeStrange was about to become livestock.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

oooooooooooooooooooo

THE LION THAT HISSED

Neville Longbottom looked up with a smile of welcome as his friend Hadrian Morgan slipped into the room, along with Dame Grenadine, the robust painted image of a former celebrated performer who had befriended them. With the help of Dame Grenadine, known to the clueless among the Gryffindors as 'The Fat Lady', they had found this small, abandoned office within the first week of seventh year, when Hadrian transferred in to Hogwarts. Now, this was 'their office' and, more significantly, their sanctuary; guarded fiercely by Dame Grenadine and her small network of 'dear friends' who helped her gather information and make things happen when she felt it was necessary.

Dame Grenadine was a fascinating person, and up until Neville's arrival, she had probably been the most Slytherin thing near the Gryffindors in decades. It took quiet Neville, who said little and saw much, to notice that the overly-made-up, seemingly shallow and self-involved woman who guarded the entrance to his Tower was not entirely as she seemed. He had been unfailingly polite and courteous to her, and she had been charmed with his quiet good manners. During his first year, it was Dame Grenadine who mentored the youngest Longbottom. It was she who accosted Neville's parents when they visited and chided them for allowing Augusta to insist he use her husband's wand rather than acquire his own. It was she who showed Neville many of the tricks and shortcuts to maneuvering around the massive castle. It was she who tutored him in the art of calling his magic into his wand and channeling it properly (cursing in Russian the entire time at the gaps in magical education nowadays). It was she who encouraged him to adopt a more Slytherin approach to managing his life. And, when Neville came to her and told her that he had a friend who had been raised in the muggle world despite his pureblood status, it was Dame Grenadine who worked with the portraits that could access the Ministry of Magic and managed to bring Hadrian's plight to the attention of Family Services.

Neville and Hadrian had originally met when both turned fifteen. Hadrian had been researching the unusual abilities and energies that he seemed to possess, and his latest search had brought him to the London Library in hopes of finding better materials. Neville had been there as well, although he had been in the magical section of the massive library. His research into cross-breeding magical and muggle plants had caused Neville to venture into the non-magical section of The Library, where he sat at a research table occupied by a green-eyed boy with messy hair and atrocious clothing and a truly monumental number of books dedicated to magic. Neville had studied the boy unobtrusively for a while, and eventually tried to use mage-sight, which he had only recently been learning from Dame Grenadine. The magical whirlpools and waterfalls that flowed around the slight body, as opposed to what would otherwise have been a chaotic wash of power, showed that the boy had managed to achieve some degree of control. Making a decision, Neville had caught his table-partner's eyes and held up his student copy of "The History of Magic" while he quietly suggested that they move to a more appropriate location. After a tense few moments under the shrewd gaze of bright green eyes, the boy introduced himself as Hadrian Morgan, and Neville had returned the favor as he escorted his new friend into his first experience with the magical world.

The boys had exchanged histories, and then contact information. Because Hadrian lived in the muggle world, it fell to Neville to meet with him. They had met at least once a month, staying mostly at the London Library. Neville was increasingly troubled by his new friend's circumstances, and talked Hadrian into giving him a copy of the records from the orphanage. When the administrator refused to give Hadrian access to his own information, Neville had gone with him to the run-down institution and managed to gain Hadrian's file through less-than-legal means. He had immediately recognized the names of Hadrian's parents – after all, Rowena Morgan was a well-known pureblood woman whose disappearance from society had caused widespread gossip, and Lord Caleb Potter's death had been somewhat sensational. It didn't matter to Neville that Hadrian was technically a bastard; he was still a Pureblood and entitled to live within the magical world and gain a magical education. The file had contained two letters from Lord Charlus Potter and a form bearing the wizard's signature, all of which effectively severed Hadrian's ties to the noble family and prevented the boy from being adopted by anyone else, as well. Considering the flow of power Neville saw when he used his mage-sight on his friend, it was unlikely that the boy had not been invited to attend Hogwarts. Neville suspected that the Potters and their political contacts had also prevented Hadrian's attendance at the magical school. He knew that his family would not aid Hadrian, particularly as they were greatly enamored of Albus Dumbledore and the Potter Family. Refusing to allow his friend to remain in the horrible environment any longer, Neville had gone straight to Dame Grenadine the first day of his seventh year.

Within seven days, the scandal had hit the newspapers and Hadrian had been removed from the orphanage and admitted to Hogwarts. The fact that the boy had tested well into the seventh year of education had caused another stir and widespread speculation on whether the 'misplaced' son of Lord Caleb Potter should, in fact, have inherited the Lordship or should at least be named Heir in lieu of James Potter. The mediocre academic performance and extreme disinterest in politics that James regularly displayed did not measure up well against the stunning academic abilities of Hadrian Morgan. Add in the fact that Hadrian had the blood of two Hogwarts Founders running through his veins, as opposed to James' (whose mother, Evelyn, was from a predominantly middle-income, middle-management, middling-intelligence wizarding family) standing as a less-pure Pureblood, and James' enmity toward the smaller boy was assured. Charlus and Evelyn did their best to further crush their bastard nephew, convinced that the friendless, desperately shy, ignorant-to-the-Wizarding-World boy would soon throw his wand away and run weeping back into the muggle world where he belonged.

They had not counted on the intensely loyal and surprisingly shrewd Neville Longbottom, the shadowy-power of a buxom, ensouled portrait of a former deep-cover spy, or the vast intelligence and iron will of Hadrian himself.

Quite frankly, the Potters never stood a chance.

This morning, Neville had watched his truest friend walk into the Great Hall escorted by a gleaming-eyed Professor Slytherin. The older wizard's interest in Hadrian had first become evident to Neville during yesterday's now-infamous class. When Hadrian's new house elf, Tansy, arrived in Neville's bed around 9pm last night (and thank Merlin Neville habitually drew and locked his bed curtains and silenced his bed in order to avoid the cacophony that was Ronald Weasley, Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black all snoring together!), Neville had immediately grilled Tansy on Hadrian's whereabouts and wellbeing. He had been shocked speechless at the news that Hadrian now occupied the Cobra Suite, knowing full-well that the last-known inhabitant of that suite had been Duke Henry Fitzroy, Salazar Slytherin's betrothed. Neville found it fascinating that Fitzroy had much in common with Hadrian: both were bastards of royalty (Fitzroy was the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth Blount); both disappeared from the muggle world (Salazar had manufactured Fitzroy's death from consumption and kidnapped the boy to save him from certain death in the royal court); both joined Hogwarts at age 17, in their seventh year; both were immensely intelligent and vastly underestimated; both were slightly built, stunningly attractive, homosexual males; both were rejected by their true fathers and lost their mothers very young; and now, both were the Consorts of a Lord of Slytherin.

Neville had consciously spent the night hours focusing on Hadrian's advice. Dame Grenadine had arranged for the portraits to aid Neville, and the boy had no doubt that there were dozens upon dozens of portraits throughout the castle that were now tracking Hadrian and himself with portrait-charms and house-elf snap-spells ready to feed recordings to the two-way mirrors set up with the Longbottom attorneys. Dumbledore's belief that he controlled all information and access to Hogwarts was erroneous. The elder statesman controlled only those portraits which considered themselves his allies. Quite frankly, at the moment, even Neville had more allies amongst the portraits than the rest of the Gryffindors (including the Headmaster) could accurately claim. Given the fact that there were over three thousand portraits in the vast castle, the odds of every one of those beings serving Dumbledore's interest were slim. Add in the fact that over half of those portraits were of former Slytherins – not to mention the original Slytherin and his Consort and family – and one had to conclude that Dumbledore's reach was definitely shorter than he supposed.

Hadrian's coup this morning of Sirius Black had been a surprise, to Hadrian as well, but Neville had not doubted for a moment that his friend would succeed in whatever goal he had determined was appropriate to the moment. Despite common misconceptions, which were actively cultivated by both Hadrian and Neville, it was a rare moment indeed when either boy was truly caught off-guard. Dame Grenadine had painstakingly tutored them over the past year in the arts of subterfuge and camouflage, and had been particularly delighted with Hadrian's aptitude. She had, of course, mentored Neville since he was eleven, but only this year – with the arrival of Hadrian – had she included any of the training that had won her the dubious, twin honors of the gratitude of her Queen and summary execution. She had explained with the indifference of centuries worth of analysis that the execution was, in its way, also an honor, as the Monarch had determined the master spy to be simply too knowledgable of Royal secrets and plans and too capable of employing her vast network of contacts and allies to her own ends. In short, Dame Grenadine had been too dangerous to be allowed to live. Her execution had been painless, and would have won her ghost (had it not crossed over) a place in the Bloody Baron's Headless Hunt. Dame Grenadine's objective analysis of death had mostly convinced her charges that she was truly recovered from her own, although the boys did notice that the Dame never entered the portrait of Antoine Louis and Joseph Ignace Guillotine and their proud invention. She made the guilt-stricken men come to her when she needed them, further demonstrating for the boys her lessons in manipulation.

And so, Neville had not been surprised that Hadrian had emerged as this morning's champion, although his gift, and its underlying declaration of fealty, to Lord Slytherin had definitely shocked the Longbottom Heir-Lord. That was twice in as many days his oldest friend had surprised Neville. Once more and it would become a habit.

The first surprise to Neville had been Hadrian's comments regarding "The Transfer of Seed", the story Neville had submitted for the writing contest. Neville had tried very hard to obey the training of Dame Grenadine by cooperating with the Lions in their smirking prank regarding Hadrian's writing contest, but it had been really difficult to not simply lambast the Marauders and their conspirators. Hadrian had assured Neville that he could handle the situation, and urged Neville to go along with the crowd and maintain his mask. Neville had reluctantly watched as Hadrian was taunted and tormented by the honorless Marauders and Weasley. He had been disgusted with the giggling, shallow Parvati and Lavendar as they urged their peers to help torment a boy whose worst offense seemed to be visible poverty and, literally, poor fashion. He had been somewhat pleased with his own solution to the dilemma presented by the writing contest, but the notion that others might enjoy his story had never once crossed his mind. Neville's only goal had been to give his friend a little bit of relief in the form of a well-written submission. In the end, everyone who mattered understood that, in terms of having submitted the best example of writing ability and creativity, Neville was the true winner of that contest. Tansy had held Neville's story up for Dame Grenadine to read, and the flushed woman had fanned her face and teased Neville until he fled the room. Her wicked giggles had been accompanied by the chuckling baritone of the recently-arrived painting of a wizarding spy which had managed to traverse hundreds of paintings across Europe in order to get close enough to Hogwarts to gain a meeting with the portrait of Salazar Slytherin, who had immediately alerted Dumbledore and Slytherin of the imminent invasion of Grindelwald. Hearing that recognizable voice, Neville resolved to stay well away from their office until morning. The wizard spy, a man who had become very well-known in the muggle world for his eccentricities and his brilliance in solving crime, had been a Ravenclaw sometime around the turn of the century and had been fascinated with 'The Fat Lady.' In honor of his heroism, Slytherin and Dumbledore had granted Mr. Holmes' request, that his portrait be housed at his beloved school. Since then, he and Dame Grenadine could often be found together (at least by those who could see past the masks), reminiscing over their adventures and analyzing something or other as they shared a pipe between them. Considering Sherlock Holmes' erratic manner and eccentric nature, Neville and Hadrian decided that his ability to be widely-accepted as a beloved consulting detective was a testament to the ability of muggles to see only what they wanted to see. The man was as obviously a wizard as Hogwarts was a castle!

Neville had been very tentative in entering their office this morning, but the painting that would have hosted Lady Grenadine and her paramour was empty. He was relieved by that, as last time he had unintentionally learned that ensouled portraits were entirely capable of having sex. He had begged Hadrian to obliviate him, but the snickering little pest had instead demanded details. Neville had declined, but Lady Grenadine and Mr. Holmes had complied, giving Hadrian all of the exacting attention to detail that had earned them both great success in their chosen professions. Neville had been mortified, Hadrian had been flushed and bright-eyed, and the couple in the portrait had abruptly excused themselves and hurried off for some privacy.

Neville was certain that he was still mentally scarred, thus making his foray into their office significantly more furtive than he wanted to admit. Still, he was here, and now so was Hadrian. They urgently needed to talk.

Hadrian smiled at his oldest friend as he shut the office door and cast locking and privacy charms with the ease of long habit. He yelped indignantly at the stinging hex that hit his butt in reply to his mocking, "So, what's new with you, Nev?"

Neville tried to glare, but really, the irony of the question pretty much forced him to grin in response. He watched Hadrian rub his butt to take the sting away and said dryly, "Oh, well, not much. You know, botanical porn, being made Heir-Lord, finding out my best friend is now in Slytherin, playing Second to the git in a duel won via shadow puppets, finding out my buddy is now living in the Slytherin Consort's suite, setting up a lawsuit against my enemies, protecting my git best friend in yet another confrontation this morning, finding out my old pal is now devoted to Lord Slytherin, being thanked by my father for helping him get laid by my mom, being tortured by your new elf and Lady Grenadine as she got hot & bothered by my story …. umm ….. yeah, that's pretty much it. You?"

Hadrian was grinning widely at the offhanded itemization, although Neville watched his eyebrows wrinkle somewhere in the middle of his recitation. He waited with sheer amusement as Hadrian mentally replayed his words. Three… two … one …

"Wait! What? Consort suite? Did you say consort suite?"

Really, it was a beautiful moment for Neville, almost worth the horror of watching his mother suggestively wet her lips to get his father to hurry up.

Almost. Still scarred, though.

Hadrian raised his hand and pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, breathing slowly and carefully as he forced himself to stay calm. He tried to ignore Neville's thoroughly mocking, "Really? Are you actually surprised? I saw you two together this morning, you know. Are you really going to try to convince me that Professor Slytherin gave you no hint at all that he's got designs on your beautifully clad little body, my friend? Really?"

Damn it. He would not blush. He would not blush. He would not…

"You are totally blushing, you know. Bright red cheeks. Kinda cute, in an 'eww, I'd jump him if he wasn't my brother' kind of way," Neville snickered. He immediately sobered and looked nauseous as Hadrian snapped back, "Oh, you mean, in a Ronald Weasley kind of way? Gosh, Nev, I learn something new about you every day."

After a few moments of silence, in which Hadrian breathed deeply to keep calm and Neville breathed deeply to keep breakfast down, Neville whined, "Great, now I have yet another little something in my head that I want obliviated. You're such an ass." The two cracked up, allowing the familiar bickering to relax them from the rapid-pace and surprises of the past two days.

Hadrian sobered first, and Neville watched as the incredible mind behind those bright, green eyes sorted through the known facts in light of this latest information. To Neville, his friend didn't seem terribly upset, now that the surprise was handled. Personally, he felt that a match between Marvolo Slytherin and Hadrian Morgan would be wonderful for both men. Professor Slytherin, despite his power and popularity with both sexes, had always seemed vaguely lonely to Neville. Loneliness seemed a certainty, considering the fact that the wizard really had no one with whom he could truly bond. Professors Prince and Malfoy were known to be the man's oldest friends, but – although each was a powerful wizard – they acknowledged Slytherin as their Lord and leader. They would follow the man into the underworld, or lay upon broken glass for the man to walk to safety, but they were not his match in power – any form of it. His brilliance was well known, too, and the only person Neville could think of who had a chance of matching it was Hadrian. Well, the only living person, although Neville felt that Slytherin would quite enjoy some long conversations with Dame Grenadine and Master Holmes.

Dumbledore was a powerful wizard and was powerful politically as well. He wasn't quite at Slytherin's level, but who was? Once again, though, Neville was of the opinion that Hadrian would eventually be a true peer to Slytherin – sooner, with the man's guidance. Politically and socially, at least. Neville wasn't sure about Hadrian's magical power, because his friend was very discreet and was cunning enough to accomplish big things with small feats of magic (witness what he accomplished with a shadow puppet, a sticking charm, and a tickling hex!). Still, Neville suspected that Hadrian concealed considerably more than he showed, even to Neville and Dame Grenadine.

The final consideration was sexual attraction, an element that sparked almost visibly between Hadrian and Professor Slytherin. The older wizard's interest in Hadrian was patently obvious to anyone with eyes and a libido, but Neville had been unsure about Hadrian. Up until now, his friend had been mostly disinterested in sex, although he had snickered and teased about Lady Grenadine and her paramour. But Hadrian's cheeks were still flushed and his eyes were slightly heavy-lidded as he considered Neville's revelation about the nature of the Cobra Suite. Neville was certain that Hadrian returned Slytherin's interest. But, just to be sure…

"Hadrian. My parents made me Heir-Lord this morning. That means I finally have authority to bring you into my family as a Friend to the Line." Hadrian's attention was entirely focused on Neville, as the new Heir-Lord began in earnest to convince his friend to accept the offer. "As a Friend to the Line, I can protect you. The Potters can't touch you – not that I think Slytherin would allow that!" He winked at Hadrian's blush. "The newspapers and media can't slander you, no matter who tries to manipulate them. I will have the authority to order the Potters to either fully disinherit you or to turn over the vaults that are yours by right as a child and heir of their Line. If they try to disinherit you, it would be cake to take it all away from them, especially with Slytherin's support." So far, Hadrian seemed interest but unconvinced. Neville wasn't surprised; the boy's plans thus far had followed the path of trying to woo the Potters into accepting him. Although he had known that as impossible, and would have considered it a shame if Hadrian succeeded based on the vile character of the three he knew, Neville had not discouraged his friend. That time would have come, but there was no harm and a lot of good in allowing his friend the hope of having family. Now, however, Neville could formally be his family, and Slytherin was declaring his intention of becoming Hadrian's family, as well. Now, Neville could help his old friend see the truth about the Potters and show him that what he really had in front of him was so much better.

"Hadrian … I know you've realized what the Potters are. Your words and actions in the Great Hall - yesterday and today – prove that. Please don't let it hurt you. They aren't worth it. But you are not alone. I've always wanted to make you family, and now I can! True, a Friend of the Line isn't an adoption or anything, but you wouldn't want that and it would hurt you politically. But a Friend of the Line is accepted as a chosen-brother to someone in the family, in this case me, and earns you most of the privileges and protections of my House. What do you think?" He stared hopefully into thoughtful green eyes, waited with bated breath as Hadrian carefully considered. Finally, it looked like Hadrian had reached a conclusion.

"Nev… Merlin, you know I'd love that. But are you sure? And what about your family? I know your grandmother doesn't think much of me. How can you risk this?" Neville wanted to pull his friend into a hug, but knew that Hadrian would just stiffen up and pull away. Long, lonely years deprived of affectionate touch had left its mark. Neville had never seen Hadrian accept anyone's touch without being visibly tense. It was the only thing his friend was unable to mask easily. Compromising, he lightly touched Hadrian's hand, pulling back before his friend could tense up.

"Funny, I've never known you to be stupid before this. Maybe your newly burgeoning hormones are messing with your head?" Neville teased. He laughed joyfully at Hadrian's indignant flush. "To answer your question, of course I'm sure. So sure, in fact, that – and you aren't allowed to mad at me, because I know I'm doing the right thing – anyway, so sure that I already notified Gringott's. I sent in my blood signature this morning, and set up a vault for you and sent out a notice to all Longbottoms to welcome, shelter and support you as a Friend to the Line. It's kind of … already done, Hadrian." At the look of shock in the stunned green eyes, Neville hurriedly added, "I didn't want to give you a chance to try to talk me out of it. And no, you can't refuse it. It's not a blood adoption; it doesn't require your agreement. As Heir-Lord, I could declare anyone a Friend to the Line and my family would have to comply – even Grindelwald's supporters, if I wanted. Or, worse, Ron Weasley!" He was relieved at Hadrian's bemused chuckle, and decided to just wait quietly for the smaller boy to ruminate.

After several long, quiet moments, Hadrian broke the companionable silence. Looking up from his studied perusal of his new boots, his face and eyes softened as he looked with affection on his first friend, his oldest friend, his dearest friend. He blessed the day he had met this calm, quiet boy, and on Samhain had even offered up a small, blood sacrifice in thanks to the Mother for bringing them together. Looking into the steady brown gaze, Hadrian returned Neville's gentle smile with one of his own, and surprised himself by pulling the larger boy into a close hug. He felt Neville's surprise as if it were his own, but the lanky arms wrapped around him unhesitatingly and held him with the unwavering affection which he would forevermore identify with his friend and brother. With a final pat on the bony back, Hadrian pulled back and grinned shyly at Neville's gently teasing, "It would seem Professor Slytherin is doing you a world of good already, little brother."

Little brother. The words slowly sank into Hadrian's lonely soul and began to ease an ache that had lived within him for so long that he barely noticed it anymore.

Lightening the moment, Neville then slouched back in his chair, the one he and Hadrian had practiced their transfiguration spells on until they finally got the brown suede beast, as Hadrian nicknamed it, exactly as Neville wanted it, and grinned wickedly. Hadrian watched him suspiciously. "You know what else, little brother?" He waited until Hadrian slowly shook his head, enjoying the slight dread he saw in the narrowed eyes. "I will now be negotiating your Betrothal Contract and Courtship with Lord Slytherin. Based on my observations, not to mention my intel from certain nosy portraits, I'm betting that you're going to be in his bed – or he's going to be in yours – very, very soon. You know the pureblood laws as well as I do; you moved into the Consort Suite as a virgin, so you've basically accepted his proposal. All that's left are the details."

He listened to Hadrian's subsequent coughing fit with malicious enjoyment. The rare moments when he caught Hadrian flat-footed while Neville was wholly clued-in were few and far between, and thus to be savored. He sat back with his hands behind his head, and did just that.

The wide grin on his feet seemed to really piss his little brother off, but Hadrian was sputtering and coughing too much for Neville to bother trying to interpret the words. Besides, the hand-gesture Hadrian kept flashing at him was pretty much universal.

Like all good things, eventually Hadrian's panic attack came to an end. Sighing, Neville leaned forward and fixed the slightly wild-eyed teen in his steady, chocolate gaze, and watched with pride as his new little brother began to calm. Neville would never again introduce Hadrian as anything but his brother. That was the joy of magic. Hadrian had been welcomed into his line, and Neville's intent had been to welcome Hadrian as his brother. In magic, form and intent equaled fact. While a blood test would show their individual parentage, it would also show a Line adoption. And therefore, Neville spent the next moment or two calming, not just his best friend, but his little brother.

"Calmer now? Good. Now listen to me." The authority in Neville's voice was new to Hadrian, but he found himself obeying easily. "I know you just as well as you know me, Hadrian. Even if I didn't have nosy portraits scurrying over to tell on you, or a pushy little house elf – I love Tansy, by the way – telling me that you had a 'special dream' last night about 'your Lord Snake' and that's why you were awake to send Tansy with a snack at 3 a.m….," he smirked at Hadrian's bright red cheeks and mortified mutters behind the hands that had risen to hide brother's face, "even without that, I know you. I saw you last night with Slytherin, and I saw you this morning. I even saw you look back when you thought no one was watching and peek at his ass when he left to bring Sirius to Madame Pomfrey for shock!"

By now, Hadrian was hiding his face in a throw pillow from the loveseat. Neville grinned at his mortified little brother, vastly amused and not bothering to hide it. He snorted at Hadrian's whiny, "What the hell is the point of this, you obnoxious git?"

"The point, dear brother, is that you haven't even once considered how to get out of this Courtship or the negotiations for a Betrothal Contract. The point is that you aren't even indignant that you were basically tricked by your new Head of House and, presumably, all of the other snakes." He watched as realization slowly dawned in his brother's verdant eyes. "The point, Hadrian, is that you want Marvolo Slytherin just as much as he obviously wants you, and that you are flattered and excited about the fact that you are living in the Consort Suite. You like the fact that the wizard is smart enough and powerful enough and motivated enough to trap you as if this was an old-fashioned bride-hunt and you were the virgin in the woods."

Hadrian simply stared at him, looking slightly stunned and lost. 'Merlin,' he thought desperately. 'Oh, Merlin! He's right. He's completely right.' He clutched the little pillow to his chest, trying to center himself, trying to think! All he managed to achieve, no matter how hard he tried, was a memory of heated red eyes gazing into his as strong, gentle hands pressed him firmly against a strong chest and warm, mobile lips moved against his own. Pulling his mind away from the sensual memory before he completely embarrassed himself in front of Neville, he looked back at his friend and brother and said helplessly, "Nev …. what do I do?"

Neville's answer was both reassuring and terrifying. "You do what your wants and desires tell you to do. For once in your life, Hadrian, you give in and do what makes you happy." He saw the protests and arguments beginning and stopped them before they could emerge. "No, Hadrian. You are not a damn muggle. You are a pureblood wizard, and our ways are not muggle ways. You know this! You aren't going to try to fight this; that's obvious. You wouldn't win anyway, you know. The Council would just dose you with veritaserum. You'd pass on the question about entering knowingly into residence of the Consort Suite, then all of the remaining questions about how you feel about Slytherin, do you want him, are you flattered, are you excited, do you want him to love you, do you want to be his Consort, would just confirm what you and I already know. So, be the Slytherin we both know you are, and take what you want. Use the situation to your advantage, although I doubt there is anything you could possibly want that Slytherin wouldn't happily give you – after all, he didn't just drop you in a dorm and seduce you; he declared to the world that he wants you forever by putting you in the Cobra Suite. So, to answer your question, little brother, all you have to do is be happy."

He smiled back at Hadrian's slow, wondering grin. For this moment alone, he would make an effort to thank Professor Slytherin and the snakes that obviously aided the man's cause. Given the seating arrangement at the Slytherin Table, the most likely of the professor's conspirators were Narcissa Black, Lucius Malfoy and Severus Prince. Maybe he'd send them some of the new, vividly-aqua roses from his greenhouse. He'd have to think of an appropriate name for the new hybrid – something suitable to this situation.

Glancing at the permanent tempus cast over the door, he saw that it was just approaching 9:30. Standing decisively, he sent a reassuring smile at a slightly overwhelmed Hadrian and said firmly, "I am off to visit with 'Lord Snake', as Tansy calls him. I'll let him know that he will be negotiating with me. Oh, don't look like that; he'll see this was very positive, trust me on this. If he couldn't negotiate with me, he'd be stuck trying to manage a courtship without anyone to represent your interests, because the fucking Potters – stop it, they deserve it and you know it – did their best to keep it so that no one could come to your aid. However, you have me!" He posed heroically, throwing an imaginary scarf over his shoulder and pretending a breeze was blowing his hair back. He was rewarded by Hadrian's amused snort. Heading out the door, he called back over his shoulder, "That give you a little time to talk yourself into a panic about getting naked with the most powerful wizard in our world! Have a good day!" Laughing maniacally, he shut the door on a hyperventilating Hadrian and headed for the Slytherin offices.

He had to beard a snake in its den. Tame a snake in the nest? Maybe charm a snake in its basket. Or something. Deciding to leave the writing to Hadrian, he mentally threw the snake analogies away. He was a Lion, after all.

Time to crack the whip.

ooooooooooooooooooo

THE HUNT IS ON

Marvolo Slytherin was hunting. It had been a long, intense day, and it was only two in the afternoon. The day had begun with a long talk with Salazar, who watched Marvolo stare at the photo of Hadrian fresh from the bath and smiled reminiscently. They had been joined by the ensouled portrait of Henry Fitzroy-Slytherin, who had been visiting the portraits of his mother Bessie and of Anne Boleyn, who had become friends once King Henry VIII was no longer standing between them. Marvolo had watched wistfully as Salazar and Henry lit up in each other's presence, and had shifted uncomfortably as their greeting had become somewhat heated. He accepted their apologies gracefully, avoiding Henry's quizzical look. Marvolo was something of a hedonist and had never before shown any type of discomfort when the two lovers had demonstrated their passion for each other. Salazar had explained the recent events and Marvolo's decisions, and Henry had been delighted, demanding to see the photo Marvolo clutched and laughing at Marvolo's glare when Henry's comments on Hadrian's appeal had become too personal for the possessive wizard. He had left the two to wrap around each other and headed for the Slytherin Common Room, unable to wait any longer to see his Consort even though he knew he would be ridiculously early.

The supposition had changed when he was met with a tight-lipped Lucius Malfoy and a bound and silenced Rabastan LeStrange. Even now, Marvolo's eyes flashed dangerous red as he recalled the vicious comments and opinions of the youngest LeStrange.

After that had been temporarily handled, Marvolo had spent almost twenty long, blissful moments with his delectable little Consort in his arms. Hadrian's inexperienced kisses had inflamed Marvolo almost unbearably, but he had managed to maintain his control and had slowly gentled their heated exchange to a warm, steady burn and had managed to allow their gradual separation as he escorted Hadrian to breakfast.

Once again, one of the Gryffindors and self-appointed tormentors of Hadrian had caused a scene. Hadrian had manipulated Sirius Black with a mastery and finesse that had impressed everyone except the stubborn Gryffindors – and later, Albus Dumbledore and the Potters. He smirked at the memory as he turned a corner, following the tracking charm he had set in the boots and buttons he had sent to Hadrian this morning.

Hadrian's performance as he twisted Sirius Black to the path he chose and tortured the so-called Marauder had once again inflamed Marvolo to rigid arousal. He had damn near orgasmed when his little Consort smoothly and evilly twisted the proverbial knife in James Potter and Sirius Black, literally manhandling the taller, stronger Black over to Marvolo and knocking the boy to his knees, to pledge his loyalty and service to Lord Marvolo Slytherin. Marvolo knew that Hadrian's actions would cause an uproar in the inevitable emergency meeting of the Phoenix Party, doubtless summoned by Albus Dumbledore to explain all of the events of the past two days – that he knew about, anyway – and try to plan a way out-slither Marvolo's brightest and most cunning little snake. When Hadrian had given Marvolo the Black Family as a personal gift, Marvolo had once again been grateful for the concealing nature of his over-robes, as he had been sporting what was probably the most impressive and painful erection of his entire life.

He had felt Hadrian's curious gaze as he departed from breakfast and had wondered if it was wishful thinking that heated his blood and made Marvolo believe that there was more than mere curiosity in the jade stare. And once again, Marvolo had found himself trying to walk without a limp while more than half-hard.

He had then been surprised in his reception room / office by none other than Neville Longbottom, who informed him that he had welcomed Hadrian into his family as a Friend of the Line – a revelation that had made Marvolo very happy for his little snake – and then notified Marvolo that he would be negotiating Hadrian's Betrothal Contract and Courtship. He had been pleased with Marvolo's obvious happiness at the fact that Hadrian had such a good friend on his side, and then had threatened Marvolo – believably – with regard to Hadrian's happiness.

It was a mark of Marvolo's regard for Hadrian's happiness that Neville remained alive and untortured. Even more so, when considering the fact that Marvolo had only entertained the possibility briefly before shaking Neville's hand and scheduling a meeting for tomorrow.

He had wanted desperately to rush from his rooms and leap upon Hadrian, regardless of where his boy might be, with the specific purpose of achieving Hadrian's nakedness as expediently as possible. He knew full well what Neville's deferral of a formal negotiation until tomorrow meant – he had what remained of the day to convince Hadrian, with any means he chose, to willingly accept his role as Consort. Yes, Marvolo had tricked Hadrian into the Cobra Suite, but that was part of the hunt. Purebloods knew the rules, and cunning and guile were just as acceptable a method as an outright proposal. As the muggles would say, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." Whether or not Hadrian knew that accepting residence in the Cobra Suite constituted agreement to becoming Marvolo's Consort did not matter. It might have been mildly contestable if Hadrian had remained without a guardian, as was the vile intent of the detestable Potters, but Neville Longbottom had ridden to the rescue like a hero from ancient lore. Now, all of the rules were in place. Hadrian was installed in the Consort Suites. He was a virgin, or the blood-snake would never have granted Hadrian entry into the Cobra Suite. His guardian/negotiator had accepted that the hunt was valid, and had given Marvolo time to solidify his claim. He could do that be seducing Hadrian and taking his virginity, a course of action that Marvolo was outright desperate to follow.

He had endured the meeting with Lord LeStrange and the negotiations with Erasmus Sanguini with rigid self-control perfected over decades. He had released Rabastan LeStrange into Sanguini's 'care', such as it was, and accepted the renewal of Lord LeStrange's vow of service. He had even offered his own pledge of support in return, and bid the Lord and his solicitors a polite farewell. He had then almost forcibly kicked a smirking pair of clownish old friends from his quarters and locked them down, seizing his wand and activating the tracking charm on one particularly slippery little snake.

He had 24 hours to bring Hadrian into his bed using any tactics he felt would work without harming the boy – not that he would ever do such a thing to his little Consort. He was now in the second day of the Hunt, blessed by Hadrian's guardian, and was following both his tracking charm and his cock, which seemed to act like a compass or an old-fashioned dousing rod, guiding him Hadrian's direction. He was almost desperate to claim the boy.

He just had to find him first. Glaring in frustration, Marvolo limped along.

Hunting.

ooooooooooooooooooo

THE SNAKE THAT ROARED

He caught him on the far side of Black Lake.

Hadrian had felt increasingly restless since his discussion with Neville. He knew what Neville was telling him – not that his new brother had been in any way unclear. Hadrian had been given blanket permission to … er….He winced slightly at the unintentional double entendre and mentally skipped past the image that had flashed into his mind…. Ahem!... He had blanket permission to allow Marvolo to touch him.

He winced again as his shyness asserted itself even within his own mind, then said forcefully, "I can have sex with Marvolo!"

He then gaped in shock, looking wildly around for any witnesses to the words that still echoed over the lake. Merlin fuck, he had just shouted that aloud for all the world to hear! He wanted to slap himself, but resisted on the premise that any potential witnesses would just have that much more to giggle about. Bad enough he shouted a pronouncement of his intent to fornicate, if he ended the moment by bitch-slapping himself, he would be hearing the tale on his death bed.

Of course, the embarrassment would probably kill him within minutes, anyway.

He had another twenty minutes or so of hiding … um, meditating … by Black Lake. Hey, watching the ripples of water was soothing! Of course, he was a little bit away from the lake itself. By a tree. Well, in a little grove of trees. He liked trees! And boulders, which he was sitting on. Well, behind. Surrounded by some light foliage… okay, well, dense shrubs …

He hunched his shoulders and admitted to himself that, yeah, he was definitely hiding. He snorted in derision. There was no mystery about why that damn hat hadn't wanted him in Gryffindor. He didn't snort too loudly, though, because … yeah. Hiding.

Twenty minutes later, and the sudden silence of the birds that had been happily twittering away was his first indication that his situation may possibly have changed. He was certain of it just seconds later, when the bushes around him suddenly leaped away as if he had just broken out a bottle of salad dressing.

Another second or two for him to blink in shock and look around, then his time was officially up. And up. And up. His somewhat frightened gaze had started on a pair of dark, reptile-skin boots, travelled up two long legs and well-formed thighs, past an area that had his virginal mind stuttering and blushing at the obvious condition of the owner, over a tight abdomen, strong chest, broad shoulders, firm jaw and straight into a glaring, blazing pair of furious crimson eyes.

Oh, Merlin, he was so fucked.

Another second, and he uttered a short, slightly-hysterical giggle as he acknowledged the fact that the subconscious really does speak the truth! Unfortunately, his giggle was received by Marvolo Slytherin as if he had just screamed, "Eek! Someone save me! I must flee, FLEE, I tell you!"

At least, that's what Hadrian's overstressed imagination insisted when his unintentional burst of hilarity resulted in being stalked through the shrubbery like a rabbit. Briefly, Hadrian's particular brand of insanity caused him to feel relief that Marvolo was not the Head of the House of Lions, before he remembered that male lions didn't hunt, but male snakes definitely did. Stumbling backward, Hadrian abruptly remembered that he had dignity, damn it, and forced himself to stop retreating and stand tall and strong.

That may have been more impressive if he was actually tall. Or, you know, strong.

What he actually accomplished was his own bloodless capture, as he found himself swept up into strong arms and carried across the ground by a glaring, hissing Lord Slytherin. Deciding that remaining still and compliant was in his own best interest, Hadrian focused on listening to what his lover … er, captor … was saying.

"Fifty-seven minutes. Almost an entire hour, wasted, following my own cock like a Merlin-damned muggle Geiger-counter. Do you know how hard it is to walk with an erection this intense? Do you? And were you in the castle? NO! Of COURSE you're not in the bloody castle. Not in the gardens, either, were you? NO! YOU, my little Consort, are all the way on the other side of a bloody big lake, hiding in the goddamned bushes surrounded by GEMSTONE BOULDERS! The damn things have soaked up so much magic from Hogwarts that I had to hunt you step by goddamned step, and not once, NOT ONCE, did my hard-on give me peace. The second your Mr. Longbottom set me on the hunt, my body was ready for you. I could have knocked the damn boulders out of my path without hands or magic, I'm so damn hard. You have NO IDEA what you do to me, little serpent, but you're going to find out in about four more minutes…."

Marvolo continued to rant and mutter, ignoring the mortified blush … or maybe it was arousal, at the moment, they felt the same to Hadrian … on his Consort's face. Marvolo had reached the end of his endurance; all he wanted right now was to get his young man into the Cobra Suite, talk with him, and take him.

Probably not in that order.

Hadrian stared in blank confusion as Professor Slytherin walked straight into a tree. Literally, into. Hadrian had closed his eyes briefly and flinched reflexively when he expected a collision, only to blink in renewed confusion as he realized he was in a tunnel of some sort. Well, in his professor's arms, in a tunnel of some sort. Still walking, though. Stalking. Whatever.

He felt a slight tingle of wards, and the next instant was fairly certain he was being pushed through a straw by his own nose. Emerging in his living room with a sharp crack, he forced down nausea and looked around in shock.

So ... that was apparation.

He'd rather saddle a Dementor the next time he had to travel. Much more pleasant.

Looking up at his glowing-eyed professor, Hadrian wondered at his own remarkable calm and considered the possibility that he was in shock. He would have gone with that as a strong possibility, if he hadn't been experiencing some of the same difficulties the man who carried him had been ranting about for the last few minutes. He dropped his gaze hurriedly to his own knees, presently draped over his professor's other arm, and tried desperately to figure out how to think again. He closed his eyes in frustration when Marvolo's hissed command for the bedroom door to open resulted in a pronounced twitch of his own cock.

Thinking? Yeah. Not going to happen.

Finding himself suddenly airborne, he flailed wildly and could not contain his startled shriek before he bounced on the bed and bit his tongue. "Thon of a bith! That hurt, you ath-hole!"

He glared up at his professor, trying to ignore the man's suddenly twitching lips. Considering the circumstances, the sudden return of the professor's sense of humor was unwelcome in the extreme! Still glaring, Hadrian tentatively tried to suck his own wounded tongue, only to find himself suddenly frozen and trapped by the red-eyed wizard's instant, highly-focused attention. Hadrian considered what he had just done and realized that he must have looked a little like he was suckling …. something.

Yeah, not the way to earn a few moments of conversation with a horny professor. Hadrian would have moaned, but fortunately had the foresight to stop himself. Not that it mattered, as the dangerously sexy wizard was abruptly stripping off his own cloak and throwing it over a chair before dropping forcefully into the chair and leaning over to strip off his boots.

Hadrian suddenly felt very nostalgic for the moments when the wizard had seemed unable to be silent. This silent, intense striptease was sexy as hell …. um ….. intimidating as hell. He closed his eyes and huffed in exasperation. If he couldn't even lie to himself, how was he supposed to lie to the naked professor?

Wait. Naked?

Hadrian's mind abruptly shut down. He had a vague memory of being able to think and wanting to talk about – something – but right now, he was nose to nipple with the man who had just climbed into his bed and he was a little distracted.

He had the overwhelming desire to taste.

Marvolo had fully intended to slowly remove his beloved's clothing one item at a time. He was going to use every skill he had to seduce, cajole and persuade Hadrian into accepting his role as Marvolo's Consort.

The second Hadrian's curious, questing tongue peeked out and licked Marvolo's nipple, however, all finesse was evanesco'd and, before he even really knew he was doing it, Marvolo had vanished Hadrian's clothing along his own restraint.

At the intense shock of naked skin on naked skin, Marvolo could not summon up an ounce of regret for his thoughtless reaction. When Hadrian's curious mouth settled on and tentatively suckled his nipple, Marvolo decided that thought was overrated. With a moaning hiss, he willingly surrendered himself to the sheer pleasure of making love with Hadrian, using the ancient, nonverbal language of pleasure to win his Consort's own surrender.

It was an effortless victory.

Hadrian uttered a delicious little whimper when Marvolo pulled his mouth away from his pebbling nipple. Marvolo swallowed further protests by seizing that tempting, succulent little mouth with his own. Sweeping his tongue in to lay claim to the sweet recesses, Marvolo engaged Hadrian's tongue in a slick assault that the experienced man easily won. He rewarded Hadrian with long, intoxicating kisses that had the happy effect of heating the young wizard's blood and forcing small, desperate movements of slender hips against the strong body that held him securely.

Dropping his head back onto the pillow to gasp for breath, Hadrian could not contain the low, needy noise he made when Marvolo began to kiss and lick and lightly nip at his throat and shoulders. Strong, sure hands were caressing his stomach and back, exploring Hadrian's skin with avid curiosity and leaving trails of fire everywhere they touched. He jerked upward in stark sensation when Marvolo's wicked lips and tongue trailed down his chest to circle his nipples and then seize one with slick suction while skilled fingers rubbed and plucked the other into a hard, pebbled bud.

Hadrian's gasping whimpers were rewarded when Marvolo's questing hand journeyed down Hadrian's stomach, over the toned flesh, to run curious fingers teasingly through the fluids that leaked lightly onto his younger lover's stomach from Hadrian's rigid cock. Leaving the nipple in his mouth with a final kiss dropped on the tip, Marvolo slid down Hadrian's exquisite body, licking, cherishing, tormenting every centimeter of naked flesh on the way to his ultimate destination. He delighted in Hadrian's responsiveness, feeling his own cock leap and quiver in sympathy as he finally rewarded his lover's patience by turning his full attention on the perfect, turgid length of flesh that rose, weeping, from between Hadrian's straining thighs. Finally blessed with a moment that had tormented his dreams and daydreams unrelentingly for a solid 24 hours now, Marvolo took some time to simply gaze upon his lover's nude, fully-aroused form and commit it to treasured memory. He smiled gently at Hadrian's tortured pleading whimper, suppressing for this first experience the momentary whim to make the beautiful boy beg, and looked up to see Hadrian staring wildly at the ceiling above him, hands clenching and releasing in the sheets. Intensely green eyes blinked and focused down on him at Marvolo's growled command, "Look at me!" Seizing Hadrian's gaze in his own, Marvolo held Hadrian's cock in his large, warm hand and sent his tongue in a slow, sensuous lick down the vein that pulsed from the tip of Hadrian's perfect cock all the way to the heavy sac and the perineum. He was delighted at his beloved's incredulous moan, but the elder wizard was undone when Hadrian bent his legs up and dropped them to each side, knees splayed apart and genitals fully and trustingly displayed for Marvolo's reverent gaze and touch. It was at that moment that Hadrian truly offered himself to Marvolo and Marvolo accepted Hadrian's offer with a fierce, possessive claiming.

Suddenly, the slow, heated seduction became urgent and fiery. Hadrian's display had ripped through Marvolo's last vestige of self-control, and the young man found himself the moaning, whimpering focus of the vast intelligence and intensity that was Marvolo Slytherin. Hadrian's cock, which had never known the touch of any other than his own, shy hand, was engulfed in the incredible, moist heat of Marvolo's mouth. A wonderfully daring tongue traced every ridge and vein in the turgid length, before licking lower and ensuring Hadrian's testicles were suckled and teased as if they were Marvolo's new, favorite dessert. Lost to the unbelievable sensations that Marvolo guided and persuaded and wrung from him, Hadrian was completely unprepared when his thighs were spread wider and lifted slightly and Marvolo's tongue dipped to swipe impossibly over the pink, twitching rosebud of Hadrian's most private place. The young man's instinctive protest died unspoken when his lover's daring tongue swirled and slicked and suckled his entrance, and he could not contain a small, gasping scream when he was penetrated and tormented into shuddering delight by the hot, wet, agile muscle. He barely even understood when Marvolo's tongue was joined in its exploration by a slick, strong finger, which slowly sank into his virginal passage and began a careful search that brushed lightly atop a small bundle of nerves that sent Hadrian's eyes rolling backward. That brush with ecstasy disguised the entrance of a second finger, which worked with the first to stretch and scissor and torment the little walnut-sized center of sensation as Marvolo's tongue continued to tease Hadrian's hole before venturing up to again surround and suckle his little lover's smaller cock. The third finger brought a grimace of discomfort from Hadrian, which was quickly soothed away in a resurgence of sensation from tongue and mouth and exploring fingers. Only when Hadrian's hips were moving in an urgent, questing rhythm and he lay on the bed, open and helpless and desperate for Marvolo… only then did Marvolo remove his fingers from his little lover's body, dropping a gentle kiss on the clenching stomach to sooth Hadrian's whine of bewildered loss, and slick his own huge, steadily drooling erection with the fragrant oil he had used to stretch and slightly numb Hadrian's delicious little hole and unbearably tight passage.

Rising up over Hadrian like the truly powerful wizard he was, Marvolo looked like a god to his lover's dazzled sight. Emerald eyes locked with crimson, obeying the implicit command to not look away. Thus it was easy for Marvolo to see the wide-eyed effect on his little love as Marvolo's thick, rigid cock slowly sank into Hadrian's virginal body, claiming Hadrian's innocence in a triumphant magical chord of sound and light and purest sensation. Barely managing to hold himself in check as Hadrian struggled to relax and release some of the unavoidable pain, Marvolo finally could not wait any longer and began to move in long, increasingly urgent slides of his cock into and out of his lover's grasping core. Pain was swept away with every movement of the powerful body that gripped his own, and Hadrian found himself, in the midst of a building tidal wave of sensation, for some reason registering and savoring the slap of Marvolo's heavy testicles against his buttocks and thighs.

Finally, after what could have been minutes or hours, pleasure began to coil and growl within them both. Testicles tightened and drew up tight against straining bodies. Sweaty arms and hands clung and gripped, seeking and securing a place of safety in the rising maelstrom of pleasure. Strong hips and powerful thighs pounded an age-old tempo against a slimmer, quivering body. Neck muscles tightened and gasping breath was held against the inevitable, unavoidable conclusion to the ancient symphony. As Hadrian's body tightened impossibly around Marvolo's shaft, the elder wizard pulled his frightened little love against his powerful chest, securely held in strong arms as strong, pulsing jets of semen erupted between their bodies and then in hot burst deep within Hadrian's core.

Long minutes later, as gasps slowed to pants and finally steady breathing, and as thundering heartbeats and straining muscles relaxed and settled, Hadrian drew back to look somewhat dazedly at the devastatingly masculine, handsome, crimson-eyed wizard who continued to hold him while remaining sheathed within Hadrian's body. Aiming a weak, half-hearted glare up at the man who simply nuzzled him contentedly, Hadrian had to clear his throat twice before he could speak. "You tricked me!" he accused somewhat faintly.

Marvolo stared down into the glowing, beautiful face of his true Consort and purred dangerously, "Yes. Yes, I did. However shall I make it up to you, my love?" Knowing, red eyes gleamed with wicked intent, as, impossibly, arousal once again coiled and murmured within Hadrian's body.

Fortunately, words were unnecessary, as was evident by Marvolo's immediate, fierce response to his little lovers whimper of need.

Although, Hadrian tried to convince himself it was a profound roar of demand. Sending his tongue questing deep within the tempting mouth that opened eagerly beneath his own, Marvolo smiled to himself and allowed his Consort his illusions.

Anything to make Hadrian happy.

Chapter Text

SCHOOLED - SCREWED

Weasley, Day 1, After the Owls Went Out

Molly heard the telltale crack of apparation just as the family clock moved her husband Arthur from "work" to "home." Smiling pleasantly, she began to dish up the large meal she had prepared. It was so hard for her to keep the portion size down when the kids were gone! She had cooked for a group of nine for so many years that her movements in the kitchen were almost entirely automatic. It didn't help that all of her best cookware was large enough to accommodate roughly three dozen eggs or twenty sausages at one time. The single, two-pound slice of beef looked lonely and ridiculous, all alone in the middle of her huge frying pan. Sighing mournfully, she transferred it to a serving platter and looked up cheerfully as her husband walked into the room. Her pleasant expression immediately morphed into one of worried concern as she took in Arthur's pale complexion and slightly staggering walk.

"Arthur! My goodness, what happened? Are you ill? Sit down, sit down!" Molly rushed over to guide her wan-looking husband into his chair at the end of the long kitchen table, then poured him a glass of water from the pitcher she had just set down and sank into a chair next to him as she gazed at him worriedly and waited for him to speak.

He didn't seem inclined to do so; in fact, he seemed markedly disinclined to give voice to whatever was troubling him. He was clutching a heavy letter in his sweaty grip, and his eyes shifted wildly around the room in an obvious effort to avoid meeting Molly's shrewd stare. This woman was the mother of seven, mischievous children and managed her husband's penchant for hiding muggle objects he was technically not supposed to own (much less enchant) with all of the cunning and force of an Auror Training Officer. The odds of Arthur Weasley concealing information from Molly Weasley were infinitesimal. He glanced quickly at her from the corner of his eyes, then sighed heavily in resignation. He'd better just tell her; otherwise, she'd pull the information from him piece by painful piece and make him suffer for every single one.

Drawing a shaky breath, he faced his master … er, wife …. and offered a tremulous smile. "Hello there, Mollywobbles. Doing all right, then?" Her narrow-eyed glare was enough to hurry him along. "Err…. Molly, my love… did you get any owls this afternoon?"

Molly's eyes did not move from her shivering husband. "One did arrive about an hour ago, but I was making dinner. Since it was a Hogwart's owl, I thought we could read it together over our meal. I imagine it's something about Ron or Ginny. Why?"

Arthur ran his handkerchief over his sweaty forehead and decided to stare at the table as explained. It had everything to do with cowardice and he was not ashamed of that. Molly could be right scary when she had cause, and this situation definitely qualified. "Well… Dear," he tried ingratiatingly. Her gimlet stare told him it didn't work. "This afternoon, I was in my office and heard shouting from the Head Auror's office. I looked out, and three – three – of his own people were trying to hold him down while he shouted and tried to throw them off. It seems he had just gotten an owl from Hogwarts. Now, I don't know exactly what his letter said, but he was furious at his son, Cormac. You know, the large, blond boy who shares a dorm with Ron? I would have stayed around to find out more, but I was intercepted by an owl of my own."

At this point, Arthur's courage briefly failed him as he clutched and twisted his handful of parchment. Seeing Molly's work-roughened hand reach for it, he hastily drew it back and tucked it into his robe. Smiling nervously, he avoided his wife's glare and shakily continued, "Well…. it seems that the seventh year Gryffindors got the results of that writing contest Albus insisted on. You know, the one Ronald was moaning about last month, until suddenly his letters were full of good humor and hints of a grand prank against young Mr. Morgan? Well …. um …," he cleared his throat, then forced himself on. "The letter was from Mr. Morgan himself. He announced the winners of the contest and provided a copy of the … submission. From what I can gather, Mr. Morgan did not take well to the nature of the prank and … er… retaliated." Here Arthur had to be honest, even if his wife killed him. "Honestly, Molly, I must say I admire Mr. Morgan's cleverness! Although, the repercussions to the families of the winners will be… profound."

Seeing that Arthur's throat had apparently closed in an effort to secure his own safety, Molly leaned forward and set a comforting hand on his arm. He welcomed the warmth, but the nails that dug in to his skin rather negated the effect. Still, it got him talking again. "Molly… Mollywobbles … dear one?" Her nails and glare ended his efforts at sucking up. Sighing heavily in resignation, he rubbed a tired hand over his face and said roughly, "Fine. Here it is. Ron and the Marauders apparently got everyone to submit a pornographic story to Mr. Morgan. Rather than reacting as they anticipated, Mr. Morgan assigned first place to each student, after some effective shaming in the Combination Tactics classroom. He even warned them that if they did not accept the galleon that was the first of several prizes, then they would not be considered winners, and they still accepted the galleon – every blasted one of them! What are we teaching our children today? Ridiculous!"

He risked a glance at his wife when all he heard was her breathing hissing in and out between clenched teeth. After a moment or two of this, Molly rose to her feet and went to retrieve the letter that had arrived earlier. Seeing what she was doing, Arthur hurriedly told her the rest. "Every first place winner's story is being published in the morning editions of The Daily Prophet, The Quibbler and this week's Witch's Weekly. They are all also now prominently displayed in the Ministry building, right at the wand check desk." That had been particularly humiliating to try to brazen his way past, as he refused to meet the eyes of the sniggering co-workers and visitors who had gathered around the display. If Molly didn't kill Ronald, Arthur definitely would.

Of course, he would have to beat Charlie to the honor. Thank Merlin his second-oldest son was at the Romanian dragon preserve! Perhaps the boy would cool down a bit before he saw Ron in person. As it is, the howlers from Romania were going to be legendary!

Molly's eyes had widened in horrified understanding. She stood in the kitchen, holding the unopened letter in her hand as if it were a deposit from their goat. Trying to control her temper until she had all possible facts, she stared piercingly at her husband and said threateningly, "And what else, Arthur, dear?"

Tightening conscious control over his bladder, he flinched back from his beloved angel's death-glare and muttered, "Well …. It seems that Ronald chose to write about … er …. molesting Charlie in his sleep." He covertly brought his wand to his hand under cover of the table, and then whispered hoarsely, "And every family member of each winner received a copy by owl this afternoon."

Silence.

Arthur did not dare move, except to try to will himself into a smaller target. The Weasley household was always loud and rambunctious. Molly expressed her good humor vigorously, and her bad humor at a decibel level that would frighten a troll. For Molly to be so angry that she was silent … was bad. Very, very bad.

Arthur had just enough time to think to himself that this situation could not possibly get worse, when the floo in the living room fireplace flared and the furious shout of an enraged dragon handler boomed through the Burrow. "I'll KILL HIM! Mum! Dad! Where the hell is everyone? Come to the floo, NOW!"

There was no way in hell Arthur was going into the living room, but Molly was already moving. Furious, courageous Molly! As she passed through the doorway, Arthur dropped his head onto his folded arms and shook in reaction. Thinking wrathfully about his youngest son, Arthur allowed himself to consciously wonder for the very first time if the Malfoys were correct about whether too many wizarding children in a family reduced the power and intelligence of the latest to be born. Because, honestly, Ginny wasn't the brightest match in the box, and Ronald was …. Well. Arthur's innate loyalty as a father prevented him from voicing, even in the privacy of his own mind, his true opinion about Ronald Weasley, but the man's inability to find any adjective that was in any complimentary, or at least not insulting, to his youngest son was revealing enough.

After a few moments, Arthur jumped at Molly's bellow of rage, and ran to her side before he could prevent himself. She was staring in abject horror at the parchments in her hands, the envelope cast onto the floor carelessly. In the floo, Charlie's distinctive, scarred face and red hair seemed considerably more vivid than the flames that surrounded him. "Arthur! Oh, Merlin, Arthur! Did you read this? Do you know what it says?" Molly's shaking, shocked tone pulled Arthur back into functionality. Placing a careful hand on her back, he said quietly, "Yes. I did. And, yes, I have already been gifted by my co-workers with numerous rounds of cheese. At least we'll eat well!" For the glare he got from Charlie and Molly, Arthur would have been much better off keeping to the facts. Levity was not appreciated at present.

Charlie breathed heavily through his nose, fanning the flames around his head and giving him the appearance of being one of his beloved charges. "I applied for emergency leave. Actually, I shouted at my boss that I was leaving as soon as possible to murder my youngest brother, and he was laughing too hard to say no. Ronald is DEAD – eventually." The huffing, hissing growl of their second oldest further enhanced the man's draconic impression. He was remarkably frightening, even without the sheer rage in his eyes, and Arthur lost his last, tiny inclination to protect his youngest son. He would have tried to defend stupidity, but perversion? Well, all right, that was often acceptable in the magical world, but not of this magnitude. Bad enough that Ronald had sexual urges toward his unbonded brother (a consideration Arthur allowed himself given his suspicions regarding the nature of bonding between his twin sons Fred and George), but Ronald's fantasy involved assaulting and molesting his brother! His unconscious brother, no less! He could only fervently hope that the cheese thing was a sign of stupidity, rather than a food kink. As it was, he would never touch fondue again.

Searching for something to say to distract Molly and Charlie from their vicious planning, Arthur paused as he saw Charlie flinch at something. After a moment, his irate son said quickly, "Just a mo. Got another owl. If it's about Ronald, I'll kill him twice." Charlie's head left the floo, and they heard him talking gently to what had to be the owl. No matter how upset their son was, he was always calm and careful with animals of any kind. Regardless of what message the owl carried, Charlie would not hurt the messenger.

Ronald, however, was unquestionably screwed. Molly's howler alone was certain to be eardrum-shattering. Ronald could probably begin the countdown on his own life starting from the moment if and when Charlie managed to get to Scotland. Arthur gave him a week, maximum.

Charlie's darkly grinning face reappeared in the floo. They could just see the corner of a green parchment he held in his scarred hand. "It seems I have an anonymous friend. Or, more likely, Ronald has an anonymous enemy. Either way, I am now the proud holder of an emergency international portkey set to bring me to Hogsmeade tomorrow at 8 a.m. Meet you there, Mother?" His malicious grin did not falter once.

Molly's expression clearly revealed where Charlie had learned it. Arthur could not have managed such vindictiveness on his angriest day, but Molly was more than equipped for such a moment. No one commented on the fact that Charlie didn't even bother to invite Arthur; they all knew that, even if the man did not have to work, he would not be found within a hundred miles of Hogwarts tomorrow. Molly said with calm, and therefore completely terrifying, rage, "I'll be there."

Without bothering to say goodnight, Charlie's head disappeared from the floo and the connection was severed. Arthur warily looked at Molly, uncertain of her temperamental stability, and was relieved at her brisk, "Well! Now that's set, let's have dinner, shall we?" Arthur followed his wife's bustling form as she returned to the kitchen. She seemed to have regained her temper, at least for the moment. He felt the first stirrings of appetite as he allowed himself to smell the aroma in the kitchen, now that he no longer had to sniff for danger.

"What wonderful meal have you prepared, my dear?" He knew he was sucking up a bit, but Molly really was a wonderful cook and Arthur felt that any effort to keep her happy and content was an effort well-spent. He inhaled deeply with an appreciative smile on his face as he shoved the wrinkled letter aside and sat down to enjoy his meal.

Molly, however, had frozen rather abruptly as she reached to dish up their meal, a somewhat nauseated look on her worn but still pretty face. After swallowing with an effort, she said reluctantly, "It's a recipe I just got from Evelyn Potter…. Saucisses au fromage."

Forty minutes later, the two Weasleys were still sitting at the table, staring at their untouched plates. Heaving a sigh of surrender, Molly eventually waved her wand and sent the congealing mess out to the pigs' pen. Neither of the two said a word as they spent the remainder of the hour sipping tea and eating buttered bread.

Cheese and sausages were bad for ones' health, anyway.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Patil, Day One, After the Owls Went Out

Having scurried from her classroom in mortification, Parvati Patil had not even managed to get all the way down the hall before she was accosted by her twin sister Padma. At her friend Lavender's squeak, Parvati looked up and saw her Ravenclaw sister standing at the end of the corridor, arms folded and a look of cold judgment on her pretty face. Clutched in her hand was an opened letter, the thick wax of the seal cracked and peeling beneath the sharp nails that dug into it as Padma gripped it.

"Can you run? I'll cover you if you cover me later," Lavender whispered. Padma's eyes narrowed, and Parvati swallowed heavily.

"No. Might as well face her now. Rather this, than have her and my father get me at the same time." Lavender just nodded numbly. Merlin, they were all so incredibly screwed.

Padma's icy, expressionless eyes monitored every step her sister made toward her. Not even a flicker of sympathy showed in her chocolate gaze at the obvious dread Parvati was feeling. Only when her twin reached over to drop their traditional kiss on the cheek did Padma show any emotion – and it was revulsion. Drawing back in deep hurt, Parvati stared shocked at the twin who had always been affectionate and supportive, even when Parvati was sorted into Gryffindor rather than the House of Intellect.

"You cannot possibly believe I want your lips to touch me, considering what the entire world now knows you do with that mouth. Expertly and frequently, according to your own claims." The disgust in Padma's voice practically throbbed through the velvety tones. "I sincerely doubt Father will ever let you even touch him again." Parvati could not help but flinch, unable to meet the familiar brown eyes that stared into her own.

Padma's gaze swept up and down her sister's form, taking in the twisting hands and shifting feet. She felt frozen, completely unable to feel compassion or sympathy. There was only one possibility that might redeem this situation. "Parvati. Look at me." It was in no way a request.

As brown eyes met brown eyes, Padma searched out the twin-bond and touched it lightly, asking, "Was it a lie? Did you make it up to fit in with the others?" Feeling the truth reverberating through the bond, she did not even need to hear Parvati's shamed whisper of denial. Stepping back reflexively, she could only stare, appalled, at the twin she had thought she knew as well as herself.

"How could you? You are betrothed, Parvati! Your purity is not just a matter of honor and virtue, but of legal obligation! What were you thinking? And to admit such a thing so openly? Are you truly that stupid?" The words burst from Padma painfully, striking off her sister with each question. Parvati could only stare at the floor, utterly ashamed.

The two stood still, unable to move closer, unwilling to separate further. It was agonizing.

Eventually, Parvati began to talk, her normally vivacious voice flat and low. "I didn't want to be betrothed. I didn't want to be tied to a man so much older than me. I just … I wanted to live a little, Pads. I wanted to be popular, and have fun." Her expression was pleading, begging her sister to understand and support her.

It was not to be.

"So, rather than behave honorably, you chose to betray Father, and your betrothed, and me, and yourself, by giving fellatio in exchange for popularity." Her condemning stare was unrelenting as she watched her beloved twin wince.

"I …. Yes," Parvati whispered miserably. She had no defense. She knew – had always known – that her purity, not just her virginity, must be without question. She was not an aggressor, not motivated to a career or an independent life. Had that been true of her, as it was of Padma, she would not have requested that her Father seek out a betrothal for her. She would have been mostly free to live her life and make such choices as she saw fit. But Parvati had always known, in her heart, that she wanted nothing so much as a happy marriage and children of her own. To gain the best possible husband, her purity was a matter of great value. And she had agreed to it, had accepted the terms of betrothal and the wizard who offered for her. She had pledged to honor the few points required of her – purity, good grades, supervised outings, chaperones whenever in the presence of males, honoring the Sabbats, etc. Not very much, really. Her betrothed, in exchange, had offered so much more. And he was handsome and dignified and kind! He had seemed to truly enjoy Parvati's company, the few times she had been in his presence. She had liked him.

"I'm still a virgin, Pads," she offered quietly. She flinched at the withering stare Padma gave her.

"A virgin, maybe. But not pure. Of the two, your purity is more important and you know it. Can you possibly think that a refined, honorable wizard like Tarik Marani will want anything to do with you, knowing that you have willingly had multiple penises ejaculate in your mouth? That you have swallowed the cum of many different boys? Would you want anything to do with such a person? Fool! You have thrown your life away, all for the false popularity of being the Gryffindor's 'guaranteed good time'!' You disgust me, Parvati!" The words were vulgar, harsh and horribly, painfully, true.

Stifling a sob, Parvati broke and fled. Padma remained still, staring after her fleeing twin with cold, sad eyes. Although she appeared icily calm, her exceptional mind was whirring and snapping, finding and dismissing the various options and opportunities that remained for Parvati. It was a certainty that Sheik Marani would break the betrothal; it was even possible that the Patil Patriarch would offer Padma as an alternative. She would even agree to such a betrothal, if Tarik agreed that she would remain independent and able to pursue a career. Padma was considerably more ambitious than her slightly younger twin, although she was not opposed to making a good marriage. She had no illusions about romance and other such foolishness; marriage would be much more likely to have success if negotiated properly and arranged on the basis of compatibility and possibly affection. Padma was nauseated by her sister's actions, unable to grasp how anyone, much less her own twin, could have willingly engaged in such promiscuity. Despite her own career ambitions, Padma had remained pure and virginal; content with the possibilities and potentialities that life might hold upon graduation. She would not sully her own chances for lifelong happiness for the ephemeral, false joy of adolescent popularity – especially if it is based on the adequacy of blow jobs.

As repulsed as she was, Padma was still her sister's twin and would try, as much as she could, to help Parvati find a path in life that she could live with. Possibilities of a noble marriage were now gone. The remaining possibilities for matrimony included one of the boys Parvati had 'serviced', one of the more desperate lower caste wizards, or an aging widower who was more concerned for his wife's ability to care for his existing children or her talents in bed than her purity. The other possibility for Parvati was to establish a career, and possibly meet someone with a more modern approach to such things.

Shuddering in disgust, Padma turned and walked to the Great Hall, hoping to have a last, angst-free dinner before their father exploded onto the scene. She was certain that the elder Patil would not send a howler, preferring always to maintain discretion.

She was equally certain that Parvati would be summoned to their father's side, and would probably not return to Hogwarts soon, if at all. It would fall to Padma to manipulate their father into thinking it was his own idea to send Parvati back to graduate Hogwarts and then on to university or apprenticeship, as punishment for her indiscretions and disobedience. Parvati had a day at most before her summons. And Padma, as a possible alternative betrothed, would be summoned as well.

Too bad for old-fashioned wizards like her father that she would not be complying. She was no servant, to simply obey. She was an intelligent, talented witch with good career prospects and equally good marital prospects. Sheik Tarik Marani would accept that, or would not marry a Patil. Especially not Padma.

She obeyed no one.

In the flickering candlelight, her small, wicked smile could be mistaken as gentle – assuming one did not see the fangs that lurked figuratively beneath the surface. Parvati may be a Lion, but Padma was probably the fiercest member of the House of Ravens.

Obey? Screw that! She wasn't called a 'claw' for nothing.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Brown, Day One, After the Owls Went Out

"Lavender."

The blue-eyed brunette froze at the familiar, silky purr of Severus Prince. Looking around cautiously, Lavender realized that she was now almost alone in the second hallway from the Combined Tactics classroom.

Alone, with the exception of the stalking figures of Severus Prince and Lucius Malfoy.

Lavender could not repress a whimper. Merlin, she was screwed.

Hoping to just get the torture over with, she squared her shoulders and turned to face Severus, only to find herself standing far too close to the tall, whipcord-and-silk body of the Prince Heir. Taking a hurried step or two backwards, she summoned her inner Gryffindor and said bravely, "Mr. Prince, Mr. Malfoy, I sincerely apologize. I should not have participated in that debacle at all, nor should I have involved the two of you in my efforts to embarrass Hadrian Morgan. He did not deserve my behavior, either. I will issue a formal apology as soon as possible to you both, and I vow never to engage in such speculations again."

She tried very hard to ignore the slow, gliding stalk of the two boys that circled around her predatorily. She knew full well that she deserved retaliation, but hoped it would be more in the form of a public apology and perhaps even greater personal humiliation for Lavender, rather than anything – painful. She hadn't thought that either Prince or Malfoy would get violent with a female, but as she stood trembling slightly in the center of the slowly circling Slytherins, she was not so sure.

Lucius Malfoy's deep drawl shivered over her left ear, "Never again? Truly? You don't want to think of us that way anymore? Tsk tsk. Lavender, I'm wounded." She could feel the heat of his powerful body pressed close to, but not touching, her back. Taking a step forward, she was drawn up sharply at the sudden, looming presence of black silken hair and fathomless onyx eyes. She could not repress a shiver as Severus Prince gazed down at her expressionlessly, his distinctive voice murmuring low, "Your story does not read as if it is a simple attempt at a prank, Ms. Brown. You seem much more – personally invested, than that."

What was going on? Oh, Merlin, what were they doing? As far as embarrassment and confusion went, it was working! Lavender tried to smile confidently, but felt it probably looked more like a grimace, and said with false bravado, "Well, be that as it may, it was a simple prank. I must go to dinner now – my friends are waiting. They're expecting me within a minute or two, in fact."

Lucius leaned forward enough to press very lightly against Lavender's shoulder. "Oh, I think not, Ms. Brown. Ms. Patil is fleeing back to her bed as we speak, and the others are most probably – occupied – with their own worries at present. No, indeed, I think you will not likely be missed for quite … some … time." His warm breath against her ear forced a deep shudder from her slim frame.

In front of her, Severus tipped his head slowly to the side, staring piercingly into her frightened eyes as he leaned forward slightly and ran his straight, Roman nose lightly against Lavender's cheek. Inhaling appreciatively, he said silkily, "Your scent matches your form, Ms. Brown. Divine."

Trapped between the two, Lavender's mind stuttered beneath the force of the two young men who had starred in so many of her fantasies. Nevertheless, she knew full well that this was not interest; this was payback. She raised her hands and shoved against Severus' chest, briefly surprised at the firm strength beneath her palms, and stepped to the side. Sharply turning to face them, wand raised threateningly in her small hand, she glared at the two and said angrily, "I get it, okay? Very clever. Bravo! If you think I'm embarrassed at appreciating you aesthetically or sexually, you're wrong. I'd have to be dead not to notice you. That doesn't, however, make me stupid or gullible. You will keep away from me. I will still apologize publicly, but you will not try this again or I will file charges. I made a poor choice in writing that story, even though neither of you should be anything but flattered; after all, I think an awful lot of people will actually believe that you two can go for hours at a time and not, oh, I don't know, DIE! But a poor choice will not lead to you victimizing me for it. I'm better than that, and I would hope you are, too. But perhaps I'm wrong."

Their surprised expressions were more than worth Lavender's distress. 'Imagine that, little Lavender Brown managed to shock the big, bad Slytherin's into an actual facial expression!' she thought somewhat hysterically, not lowering her wand or her sharp observation of the two in front of her.

She watched as Severus and Lucius exchanged glances, masks once again firmly in place. Despite her anxiety, Lavender had to admit that Slytherins were interesting people. They were like icebergs, with 90% of their true selves hidden beneath an icy surface.

It was Lucius, surprisingly enough to Lavender, who finally relaxed just a bit and offered her a small bow of respect. "Well done, Ms. Brown. I'm not certain many students would have responded that way. I believe it is fair to say that most would be in our beds with us right now, and even those who fled would not have reacted with such a clear head."

Severus only said coldly, "Who is the real Lavender Brown, I wonder? The strong, intelligent woman before us, or the shallow little follower who tormented a thoroughly decent boy to fit in with the crowd?"

Although she lowered her wand slightly, she did not relax her guard, a fact that the two Slytherins observed with approval. In answer to Severus' question, Lavender quietly replied, "I believe they were both me, but the little follower has learned her lesson and grown up a bit. We'll see if I can maintain any momentum in that direction, but I will thank you to keep your predatory natures away from me and simply accept my apology. I will even word it in such a way that it flatters you and further embarrasses me. But I will not be your victim. Understood, gentleman?"

Deep within the implacable masks and emotionless eyes of two of the senior-most Slytherins, respect dawned. Lavender accepted their small nods and slight bows of respect with a quiet nod of her own, before she gestured them away with her wand. Their amused approval was clear as Severus and Lucius moved off down the hallway.

She didn't lower her wand until they rounded the distant corner, and even then it remained clutched tightly in her hand. She took several moments to simply breathe deeply and regain her shattered composure. She used the time to begin to word the apology that she would have published as soon as possible. It certainly helped that her mother was one of Witch's Weekly's chief editors. Knowing Viola Brown, Lavender suspected that the woman would spin this whole thing into a wonderful publicity stunt, using her own daughter's story and apology to boost sales that much more. Given the situation, that possibility did not bother Lavender at all.

No, what had her truly perplexed was the fact that she had managed to resist and deflect the determined seduction of two young men who she wanted passionately. Lavender knew herself well; she was not given to self-sacrifice and grand gestures. It wasn't the fact that the two Slytherins would have been using her that she had rejected. It was the fact that it almost seemed as if it would be a reward for her actions against Hadrian Morgan. During the seconds when she was pressed between the two sexiest Slytherins ever, she had a tiny flash of self-disgust. Even knowing that they would be using her and humiliating her, she wanted that experience with those boys. But she refused it, because she would not allow herself to be rewarded, even obscurely, for bullying Morgan. And it was clear, from what Severus and Lucius had said in reply, that they considered Hadrian someone to respect and protect. In retrospect, Lavender wasn't even sure why she felt so – contemptuous – of Hadrian Morgan. He had never been anything but civil to her, or to anyone, until today. And certainly his retaliation had been more than justified – and brilliant. She had to respect him. She could even like him. So, why didn't she?

Lost in thought, Lavender wandered toward the Great Hall for dinner, wondering if she would have to eat her own words along with whatever cheese-heavy meal the Slytherins had arranged.

Grinning wryly, she took her seat. She could not resist a cheerful, "Bonsoir, mes amis! Vive le fromage!" and joined the dark laughter that circled around her at Ronald Weasley's indignant glare. She watched in amusement as the redhead tried to find a food – any food – that did not have cheese in it. Considering the extensive varieties of cheese suddenly on the Gryffindor table, she didn't think he would meet his goal anytime soon.

He was so screwed!

ooooooooooooooooooo

Headmaster's Office, Day One, After the Owls Went Out

Albus Dumbledore was a remarkably shrewd person. He intentionally cultivated an image that was nearly bipolar at times. On the one hand, he was a powerful wizard and politician, one-half of the formidable team that had destroyed Grindelwald and his forces. On the other hand, he was the aging, eccentric, grandfatherly, lemon-drop loving headmaster. Occasionally, he had difficulty separating one persona from the other, but for the most part, very few people seemed to notice that he was never what he seemed.

Regrettably, those who saw him most clearly were also his strongest opponents and, occasionally, enemies. Very few Slytherins or Ravenclaws were taken in by his antics, for example. And certainly, since Tom Riddle had met the portrait of Salazar Slytherin and conducted the blood test that confirmed him as the Lord of Slytherin and a Founder's Heir, the pompously re-named Marvolo Slytherin had stolen a great deal of Dumbledore's thunder.

It never occurred to Dumbledore that, regarding names, all Riddle had done was drop his first name and accept the surname of his true magical Line. He missed the fact that "Lord Marvolo Slytherin" sounded considerably less pompous than the unwieldy "Headmaster Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Supreme Mugwump ICW, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Order of Merlin First Class, Inventor of the Twelve Uses of Dragon's Blood" with which Dumbledore belabored every piece of correspondence he touched. Had Slytherin wanted to, his own signature could probably have been longer than Dumbledore's, but the younger wizard used his clean and simple signature to highlight the old politician's arrogance. Frankly, it worked.

Nevertheless, although Dumbledore had worn the persona of eccentric old man long enough that it was truly a part of him, he was not to be underestimated. A cunning intellect and master manipulator lurked behind the twinkling blue eyes, and with the assistance of his portrait allies and the ghosts and elves of the castle, Dumbledore was rarely caught off-guard by anything.

Today was one of those exceptions. One moment life was normal, the next he was hearing portraits whispering and giggling about Hadrian Morgan, and the next thing he knew, young Tom had walked into his office and stolen his Hat. And Dumbledore felt certain that somehow, Hadrian Morgan was responsible for the theft.

The last he could recall regarding Hadrian Morgan was the day he met with the young Ravenclaw. Hadrian had been finally released from the Healing Wing, having suffered what Dumbledore masterfully leaked as being greatly-exaggerated injuries. The truth of the matter was that Hadrian should have been transferred immediately to St. Mungo's, and Healer Cherish Pomfrey and her apprentice niece, Poppy, had been furious at Dumbledore's refusal to do so. They had even tried to notify the authorities, an action that Dumbledore immediately stopped by reminding the women of their oath to always respect the confidentiality and safety of all of the students of Hogwarts. Had the truth of Hadrian's condition gotten out, young James Potter and Sirius Black would have been subjected to very harsh retaliation, and that would have backlashed against Hadrian in numerous ways. Although it was convoluted, Dumbledore managed to twist his words enough that the confused witches unintentionally tightened their oath to confine them to Dumbledore's wishes in this instance. Their anger had been quite remarkable. Dumbledore had no need to remind himself never to enrage a Healer who was protecting her charge ever again. Apprentice Poppy Pomfrey had issued a reverse-Healer's hex on the Headmaster that caused all of his body hair to become ingrown, a tremendously painful and irritating situation. When Dumbledore had sought relief from Cherish Pomfrey, the older Healer had cast a rapid-growth hair treatment upon him, and smirked a blatantly-false apology when the old man screeched like a banshee. He shifted anxiously in phantom pain at the memory of all of his ingrown body hair suddenly doubling and tripling in length beneath his skin.

Worse was the fact that the two, vengeful women had ensured that he could not be healed magically, resulting in the slow, painful plucking of each body hair, one at a time. His skin had been bright red and dotted with blood for weeks. He flinched away from the memory of Fletcher, the viciously-grinning house elf who had been assigned the task of plucking those hairs Dumbledore could not reach himself. He had not seen that particular elf in the Healer's Wing before, nor since, and he didn't want to. Besides, the elf seemed far too fond of the portrait of young Henry Fitzroy; it made Dumbledore uncomfortable, even though he was certain that there were none in the castle who would, or even could, oppose him. He was Headmaster, after all. The portraits, ghosts and elves all answered to him.

Ingrown-hair-plucking incident aside, the old wizard did regret having to keep young Morgan repressed and downtrodden. It was a necessary evil, however. Lord Charlus Potter had been irate at his illegitimate nephew's admittance to the school, and had railed for days at Albus. Evelyn Potter had even gone so far as to send him a howler – HIM! The Supreme Mugwump of the ICW had gotten a howler from the middle-class wife of a noble who held the Lordship only through the actions, or more accurately, the inactions, of the Headmaster himself.

After all, if not for Albus carefully looking the other way, Charlus Potter would never have managed to destroy his brother's deathbed will that named Hadrian to the Potter Lordship. Fortunately, Caleb had trusted Dumbledore to witness the will and serve as its Executor. Albus truly believed he was obeying the spirit of his role, rather than the letter, as he was simply protecting Caleb from his last-minute need for forgiveness from the son he had abandoned. Albus was the Executor of the deceased Lord's former will, as well, and simply chose to administer that one rather than the one he was quite certain Caleb would have regretted in the afterlife. In truth, that was the day that the surviving Potters learned of Hadrian's existence, when the boy was five years old and Caleb died. The child had already lived in the muggle orphanage for two years at that point, and Caleb's wish to have the boy retrieved and brought into the family was roundly rejected by Charlus and Evelyn. Their angry reaction had caused Caleb to write a new will, the one that Albus had simply overlooked. All the old Lord had truly wanted was to see that his son, Hadrian, was safe and well. Albus and Charlus had personally gone to the orphanage and inspected things. While the bastard child had been quiet and thin and poorly clothed, they saw that he had a bed, he had clothing, he had food – disgusting food, but food nonetheless – and there was very little that needed to be done. Having honored their duty to the boy, they had simply let him be, and moved on with their lives.

Hadrian's sudden reappearance had stunned the Potters. In truth, it had stunned Albus, as well. One day life was rolling along, and the next day he was being summoned to the Ministry to address the issue of a discovered lost Pureblood – a meeting he could not suppress, as for some reason, the room was riddled with reporters. Even the portraits had seemed inordinately interested in the boy's story. Given that kind of publicity, there was nothing to be done but welcome him into the world and admit him to Hogwarts. He had assured the Potters that the boy would be no competition for James, considering the fact that he had been, to all intents and purposes, a muggle until his seventeenth birthday. Hadrian's knowledge of magic and immense intellect, as well as his burgeoning career as a freelance writer on a wide variety of topics, had stunned them once again.

The only course of action left to them was to somehow suppress the boy's talents and abilities and try to keep him so downtrodden that he rejected the Wizarding World, rather than the reverse. Given young James and Sirius' vicious cooperation, even Albus was surprised that Hadrian had remained. Still, although the young man endured, he did not stand out. James was bright and popular, always laughing and sparkling brightly. Hadrian was shy and quiet and vaguely …. creepy. As if he knew so much more than one could ever truly grasp. He also had a knack for acquiring allies in unexpected places. Flitwick, for instance, had always been a staunch member of the Phoenix Party and Albus had every reason to anticipate that the halfbreed would follow his subtle hints and cues and offer no support to Hadrian. Instead, the part-goblin had emerged as a fierce defender of the boy, even going so far as to threaten the Marauders when Albus had simply given them a gentle slap on the wrist for the prank gone wrong.

Frankly, Albus did not believe the boys deserved worse than the 25 points he had taken from Gryffindor. Yes, it was true that Hadrian had suffered devastating injuries, but the prank had not been intended to cause that. James and Sirius had been a bit too eager and had disregarded Remus Lupins' concerns. They had caused the railing on the ninth floor staircase to vanish just as it began to shift, having ensured Hadrian's schedule and used their remarkable map to confirm the boy was on the stairs at the proper time. It would have been amusing, just a small scare and a drop to the next lower staircase, but they had neglected to take into account the probable actions and reactions of Hadrian himself. Although not powerful, the boy had used that ridiculous cleverness of his and cast a sticking charm on his own shoes, which kept him in place long enough that the next-lower staircase had already moved past by the time Hadrian's too-large shoes gave way and the boy fell. He had only plunged to the seventh-floor staircase, but had landed on his shoulder, which had then dislocated and caused Hadrian to fall to the next staircase, and the next and so on. In the end, he was found on the ground level, having impacted eight times on stone staircases. His injuries were extensive, and had to be healed progressively rather than concurrently because of the effects of a lifetime of malnutrition.

Now that fact really had surprised Albus. He had not known that a magical child could not heal his own inadequate nutrition. Well, the child could do so, if he knew it was necessary. But, as all of the orphans ate the same food and were equally malnourished, Hadrian had not realized that he – all of them – were not in the same condition as most other British children. Albus had felt genuinely sorrowful about that. He had not wished for the boy to suffer; it had only been his intent to keep the boy away from the Wizarding World. He should have done more for the child, but retrospect is the clearest vision, as they say. Albus did go back to the orphanage and make a large donation, spelled to be spent entirely on good, healthy foods for the children. The manager of the orphanage had tried to tell him it was enough to feed the children for roughly five years, but Legilimency had revealed that the man intended to take half of the funds for himself. Thus, Albus had ensured that only the children would benefit. He had even assigned his own account goblin to keep an eye on the orphanage and replenish funds as needed.

True, he had used Hadrian's charitable funds, which were sitting unused in the Hogwarts accounts. He had simply neglected to inform the boy that he was entitled to funds for all seven years of his magical education, even though he was attending only one. Given the rate of interest that would have been earned, and the fact that Hogwarts was an expensive school and that Purebloods were allotted charitable funds to secure the child clothing and supplies suitable to their station, Hadrian could have bought a small, muggle farm or the equivalent with the money that moved automatically into his school account. Additional funds for having the blood of two Founders almost doubled that amount.

It was exceptionally lucky that each charity student's financial situation was considered highly confidential. Albus had always been very careful to keep as many secrets as he possibly could with regard to the Headmaster's Charter, which was a separate entity to the Hogwarts' Charter. The Headmaster's Charter dictated numerous responsibilities that would be potentially harmful to have broadly-known – items such as ward manipulation, certain discretionary funds kept secret (including a bribe account set up by Salazar himself that would never show anywhere as anything other than maintenance for the squid), entitlements for Founder's Heirs, etc. He knew that Tom was aware of most of those, but was certain Tom did not know about the true extent of the orphan's fund. He had kept Tom on a short financial leash during his time as a student, too, and had not revealed anything about funds for Founder's Heirs. When Riddle had come to him and demanded that Hadrian be given his proper funds, Albus had pretended to be mortified at the oversight and immediately released enough funds for the boy to replace the clothes he had lost to blood and other damages during his fall, and to replace some of the books he had lost during his impromptu trip from one stairwell to the next. (Albus suspected Peeves for that theft, but didn't mind enough to pursue it.) Tom had been irritated by the paltry amount, and Albus knew it was only a matter of time before he figured out how to get more money to the boy without offending the pride that seemed evident in the bastard. For a Slytherin, Tom was sometimes remarkably chivalrous.

Given that Hadrian had suddenly gained the interest of a publisher who had immediately signed the boy to a long-term contract and provided a small amount of funds upfront, Albus believed Tom had used his extensive contacts to aid the Ravenclaw. Although, why the Head of Slytherin would do so was something of a mystery to Albus. According to all of his information, Tom had nothing more than a simple professor/student relationship with Morgan. Perhaps he had simply felt empathy for the boy, having spent his own childhood in similar conditions and struggled through his first two years of Hogwarts on his own before Salazar discovered him talking to the portrait of his Familiar.

Albus had initially tried to contest the Naming of an Heir, having no wish whatsoever to share his power within Hogwarts, but Riddle had simply held a long, chilling conversation with Salazar and his Familiar in Parseltongue, which proved to the Board that a blood test, at the very least, was indicated. The rest, as they say, was history, and Albus had lost over half of his authority at the school. Worse, Tom had springboarded his nobility to a successful political career that rivaled Albus in all ways. They had managed to balance each other and provide a platform in which most magical beings found a home with either the Phoenix or the Vol de Mort Parties. After Grindelwald, Wizarding Great Britain had settled contentedly into the two-party system, grateful for the tangible proof that the diametrically-opposed groups and leaders would close ranks to protect the nation.

Still, Albus had no wish for another Heir to be formally declared, which was a distinct possibility in the form of Hadrian. Albus had done extensive research deep into the ancestry of Rowena Morgan, and had been appalled to discover that she was not only a direct descendant of Ravenclaw (as opposed to the indirect blood that everyone knew she had), but also had a blood connection to Gryffindor. He had immediately arranged for that information to be suppressed. He had declared Hadrian an indirect heir of both Founders in the hopes that it would not occur to anyone to order an Heir's blood test (which could only be done through the auspices of the Headmaster or another Heir, as the actual blood of the Founders was kept under powerful stasis charms in the Hogwarts' vault for just that purpose). But after all, why would they order such a test? Albus had already declared him an Heir; why prove an obvious truth? But if an Heir's blood test was performed on Hadrian, it would reveal that he was a direct Heir of Ravenclaw, and that he had a direct tie to Gryffindor. Add the latter to his tie to Gryffindor from Caleb, and the boy would also be considered a direct Heir of Gryffindor. A double heir.

Albus would not let that happen. He would not. The very thought of it chilled him. If he took in the small amount of interest that Tom had shown in the boy, it was enough to give Albus nightmares. The remotest possibility of the two somehow discovering Hadrian's Lines and then working together for any reason sent the Headmaster into a sweat and made him reach into his bottom drawer for his medicinal Ogden's and a shot glass. He had done his very best to keep Hadrian well away from the Slytherins, which was more difficult to accomplish with Ravenclaws than with the other houses. His most effective tactic, in his own estimation, had been his determined efforts to keep the boy showing obvious signs of his own poverty. The thrice-owned clothing was enough to keep most of the snobbish snakes well away from Hadrian, and the boy's intense shyness had done the boy's continued poverty was essential to keep the boy separated from all avenues of support and the Headmaster's – and the Potter's – plans on course.

Fortunately, as Headmaster, he had the right to use his own discretion to protect his children from their own inexperience; as such, he had placed a freeze on Hadrian's school account, and had only drawn out enough to pay the boy's tuition and give him funds for second-hand books. Perhaps he should feel guilty about that, but it was almost a certainty that the boy would try to remain in the Wizarding World if he knew that funds were available for him. However, the boy had outwitted him somewhat, by earning enough money through his writing to pay for clothing, potions supplies, etc.

Dumbledore had thought Hadrian's decision to use a galleon of his own money as reward for first place in the writing contest was a remarkable testament to the boy's character, and so had allowed it. Besides, it helped to reduce what the boy had to work with.

Regarding the donation to the orphanage, though, Albus was at least able to spin that into good publicity for himself. He had ensured that his 'private' donation to the orphanage that had succored the poor, lost Pureblood was 'discovered' by a fortunate reporter who just happened to stumble on the truth. He would like to have used the greater funds in one of the Potter vaults that belonged to Hadrian, as they were sitting unused and unusable anyway, but magical law prevented that. Because the boy was a Pureblood, his blood family could not seize or reduce the vaults assigned to him – vaults that were assigned by Magic, upon his birth, equaling whatever percentage of the family fortunes that a single child represented. As there were only four living wizards with Potter blood, Hadrian being the illegitimate fourth, Hadrian's vault equaled one-fourth of the Potter fortune. (If his double heirship were to emerge, Hadrian would immediately become tremendously wealthy.) The fact of the Potter vaults alone should have convinced Charlus to welcome the boy into his family and lull him into handing over his funds, but the Lord was unreasonably stubborn and was determined to find another way to gain access. It was foolish and impossible; because even in death, assuming no will existed, Hadrian's vaults would pass to his heirs and, if the boy had no heirs, would remain secure and untouched until ten generations had passed or Hadrian's own ghost had dictated otherwise. It was simple, straightforward magical law; even children understood how it worked, and yet Charlus Potter was determined to find a way around it. Utter folly.

Nevertheless, Albus had managed to think of a temporary solution. By Charlus providing minimal funds for Hadrian at the orphanage, in this case enough to provide the library with a small, unnamed wing (in truth just a former 8 x 10 office now lined with bookshelves) – the origin of which the boy had no knowledge, in order to ensure he did not learn that there was someone out there who held him in any regard – magical law allowed for the fact that Charlus was Hadrian's guardian. Not only did that prevent Hadrian from being adopted and gaining support that way, but it also granted Charlus the right to lock down Hadrian's accounts, assisted by Caleb's Executor. So, for now, even though Charlus couldn't touch Hadrian's vaults, neither could Hadrian.

Up until now, all had been going according to plan. But today, a great deal seemed to have changed. Albus did not yet know the entire story, but from what he could gather thus far, young Hadrian had taken extreme exception to a simple prank played by the Gryffindors regarding the writing contest. If he admitted the truth, Albus would have to confess that he had forgotten completely about it; at the time, it had simply been another way to oppress Hadrian and keep him aware of the power of the Marauders and at their mercy. He didn't enjoy seeing the child tormented, but it was necessary if he were to succeed at forcing Hadrian to make the choice to flee the Wizarding World. But, against all probabilities, the painfully-shy, eager-to-please, somewhat cowardly boy (at least by Gryffindor standards, which Albus claimed, true or not) had retaliated. By the hearty laughter of the portraits of former Headmasters and Mistresses, most particularly Phineas Nigellus Black, Hadrian's actions had been brilliant, vicious and devastating. Even worse, by Albus' standards anyway, he had earned actual applause from the seventh-year Slytherins, as well as Professor Malfoy, Professor Prince and – Merlin, please, no – Professor Marvolo Slytherin.

There was also something about young Longbottom, but he was certain that was a misunderstanding, especially as Hadrian had apparently also given a first place ticket – well, galleon - for public humiliation to Longbottom. The details of what the so-called "prizes" were had Albus shaking in a blood-pressure raising mixture of worry and rage. The snickering account of what his mischievous children had written left Albus reaching for another shot of Ogden's. Just the fallout of young James' teasing portrayal of a Professor Slytherin who was too familiar with his familiar was enough to cause long-range repercussions throughout the Phoenix Party. There was little chance that the unreasonably vindictive and power-hungry Slytherin was going to miss this opportunity to cause further damage to the present Lord Potter and his Heir. Ridiculous, really! The very idea of someone taking offense at (much less taking legal action over) a child's poor joke – particularly over bestiality – was remarkably immature. Besides, why would the Head of the House of Snakes be offended at the idea that he loved snakes? True, it was perhaps more literal than good taste allowed, but these were children, for heaven's sake. Harmless fun. Albus would certainly not be mortally offended should someone have written something concerning the rumors about his brother Aberforth's reputed fondness for goats! Merlin, what was the harm? It's not as if anyone would believe his brother actually humped a goat.

Blinking for a moment, he shifted a bit to accommodate the surprising erection that he was suddenly sporting and wrinkled his hairy, white eyebrows, wondering what he had been thinking about that would have caused a sensation he had thought long ago lost to age and excessive magic. All he could remember was snakes… and goats ….

He flinched briefly as his cock twitched at the last thought, and hastily redirected his mind back to the primary topic. He most definitely did not want to go there – not again. Those memories were safely stored in his private pensieve collection, to be viewed only during late-nights when loneliness and Ogden's had made the old wizard maudlin. Youthful misadventures.

Blinking again, he shook his head in frustration at his wandering thoughts, and tried to focus. 'Come now, old man, get your mind off of goats and get to the bottom of the issue at hand!'

He then stared angrily at his lap, deeply regretting his choice of words. Clearly, he would not be able to focus until he resolved this issue. Rising with all the dignity he could summon, considering that he was sporting his first erection in a decade, he excused himself from the cackling portraits, avoiding a knowing sneer from Phineas, and went into his private quarters. Ten minutes later, newly cleaned and frantic panting slowed to normal breaths (and really, was he now so out of shape that he should worry about death-by-wanking?), he returned to his office and focused his vast intelligence again on the actions of Hadrian Morgan. Merlin, the fallout was going to be fierce.

At that moment, a furious pounding on his office door sent his startled gaze to the spy-mirror that sat decoratively atop Fawkes' perch. He was rarely surprised by the arrival of someone at his door; that was part of his apparent omniscience, after all. Peering at the small mirror, he suppressed his look of surprise and instead assumed a friendly, I've-been-expecting-you expression. "Come in, gentlemen!"

As Head Auror McLaggen and two of his aurors entered the office, accompanied by the Head of the MLE Marcellus Flint, Albus genially offered tea and biscuits and his ever-present lemon drops. All were abruptly rejected by a glaring McLaggen, who abruptly gestured to Flint and then stood, legs apart and arms crossed, glaring. With a sigh, Flint placed a supportive hand on the Head Auror's shoulder and then turned to Albus with a familiar-looking form. Accepting it, Albus looked in surprise at the Authorization to Arrest a Minor, and the attached Authorization to Imprison a Minor as Adult. Although he was shocked by the forms, he was stunned by the name written upon it.

"Your son, Head Auror? You are truly here to arrest and imprison your own son?" The falsely-gentle condemnation in Albus's voice immediately gained him the outraged glare of three aurors and the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Despite himself, he flinched beneath the condemnation that was sent back to him fourfold. "I apologize if I seem surprised, Auror McLaggen. I am simply – surprised. What on earth could Cormac have done that would earn him a public arrest by his own father?"

The intensity of the four, outraged glares doubled. It was the youngest auror, surprisingly, who leaned forward and placed both hands upon the Headmaster's desk, staring menacingly into the twinkling blue eyes. He waited until the twinkling faded into surprise at the young auror's failure to be in any way intimidated by the magically and politically powerful old wizard, and then growled, "Can you not read, Headmaster? I always thought that would be a requirement for your position. Perhaps I assume too much."

At this, it was Albus's turn to glare, and once again, the young auror was unimpressed. A moment or two passed in silence, which was finally broken by the young auror's mocking, "Can't take a hint, however blatant, either, eh? Let me help you out. You see, my mocking you for not being able to read was a big, damn hint for you to READ. Preferably, the form in your hand that you seem to think gives you the right to question the Head Auror and the Head of the DMLE on their official business."

Albus stood up, outraged, and demanded icily, "I want your name, young man. You seem to misunderstand the dynamics of authority here."

The young auror simply smiled mockingly as he drawled, "No, I understand them fine. Here, in this office, you are the headmaster of a school. I am the an auror, which means I have every right to question you, challenge you, and even arrest you if I feel that you are in any impeding my duties. Apart from YOU, I have the least authority here, but compared to you, I have a great deal of authority. The combined authority of the four of us, compared to you, is roughly equivalent to comparing your phoenix to a canary. We win. But, because you apparently also can't read the name on my badge, let me help you out. My name is Auror Alastor Moody. I am not your student, not your lackey, not a member of your Party and not in any way intimidated by you. I am here to help arrest Cormac McLaggen, the seventh year Gryffindor who committed a sexual assault on a twelve-year-old student last year. In case you need a refresher, he is the boy who was found at the scene of the crime, supposedly 'helping' the victim. He is the boy you refused to allow the teachers to question, under the apparent law of your little world that 'Gryffindors wouldn't do such a thing.' He is the boy whose name you refused to release or allow to be released to us, using the very limited scope of your authority as Headmaster to protect the identities and privacy of the minors in your care, although you apparently employ that authority with deplorable whimsy. He is also the boy who wrote a detailed, written confession of the assault, including information that was released to no one but we four. In case you are wondering, Headmaster, the reason I am included in that is because, not only was I the investigating auror, but I am also the victim's uncle and godfather! Are you entirely clear now? Or is there something else that you don't understand, that you should understand even if you can't read?"

Dumbledore just stared at Auror Moody, feeling a shiver of genuine intimidation run down his spin at the dichotomy between the man's icy control and the almost unbearable rage in the eyes that stared him down unblinkingly. Merlin, if the Auror was this frightening at roughly a quarter of a century old, he could not begin to imagine what Moody would become in another fifty years. It would be best to get on his good side, and quickly.

With that thought, Dumbledore smiled sadly and said gently, "I do apologize, of course. I was startled, and acted ungraciously and with a lamentable lack of judgment." His disarming smiled dropped at Moody's uncompromising, "Yes, you did. Now, summon McLaggen – without any warning or I will arrest you, old man – or we will go down to the Great Hall and arrest him right in the middle of dinner. Your choice."

Dumbledore huffed in irritation and turned to look at Flint. "Surely, Mr. Flint, this hostility toward me is unnecessary? And can we not discuss this situation rather than summarily arresting young Cormac? Are you entirely certain that none of the evidence has been … tampered with, perhaps by Mr. Morgan in his effort to retaliate against the harmless antics of our Lions?" He had just spotted a wonderful opportunity to control Hadrian Morgan and was employing his vast experience in manipulating people through his harmless, grandfatherly persona. He had done this literally thousands of times in his life, and had every confidence that he would be successful here. Hadrian was as good as arrested.

Which is why his jaw literally dropped in shock as, with a single gesture from Flint, Moody had cast a disarming and cuffing spell on him. Before Albus could do more than sputter, Flint shoved him back away from his desk and stood nose to very long, crooked nose with the old wizard, glaring all the while. "No chance, old man. Four Slytherins here. Now, you have a choice to make. Summon Cormac, or get marched through the Great Hall with us while we arrest him and you. Your call; make it now."

Dumbledore stared helplessly into the venomous eyes of one of the most frightening men he had ever met. He seemed to be meeting a lot of them lately. Perhaps he was getting too old for all of this. Striving for wounded dignity, he raised his chin and said quietly, "Please release my hands so that I may write the note."

At a nod from Flint, Moody expressionlessly released the cuffs, but did not return the Headmasters wands, portkeys or charms. Privately, he thought to himself that at least the old wizard showed intelligence regarding his plethora of weapons and means of escape. Visibly, however, not a shred of emotion or opinion passed any of the four faces that stared coldly at Dumbledore. He would have felt much better if at least Moody had smirked a little in triumph. This cold control and lack of desire to either impress or cow Dumbledore was unsettling. They were Slytherins; they should either want his favor or his defeat.

Sighing heavily, he seated himself and wrote in his familiar, loopy scrawl,

My dear boy,

Please come to my office immediately. I require your assistance regarding your submission to Hadrian Morgan's writing contest.

Albus Dumbledore.

PS: Meltaways are my choice of the day.

A sneering Auror Moody seized the note and sealed it in an evidence spell, confusing the Headmaster. Placing another piece of parchment in front of the old wizard, Flint said commandingly, "Write exactly what I tell you. One word out of place and I explain to your students exactly why I am arresting you along with Cormac." Albus noticed that neither Flint nor Moody used Cormac McLaggen's, but the silently enraged Head Auror's presence explained why. The second auror remained silent and stalwart, a strong, shadowy support to the Head of his department.

Albus took up his quill again and wrote the simple order that Flint dictated. Summoning a house elf, he was angered when Flint took the note from him and inspected it before giving it to the elf and ordering, "Take this to Cormac McLaggen. He is to come here immediately. Keep him under watch the whole way, and if he tries to run, jump him here to us."

Albus was on his feet as the elf flashed out, shouting, "Now see here, Flint! I will not allow you to manhandle my students! I…." He stopped in shock as the cuffs were once again spelled on his wrists, his bony old arms secured behind his back uncomfortably. Gaping, he scrambled for words, but only managed an appalled, "What…?" On the wall behind him, Phineas Nigellus Black was laughing uproariously.

Flint simply waved at Moody, who promptly told Dumbledore, "Albus Dumbledore, you are being detained until such time as we have secured the suspect by the order of Marcellus Black, Head of the DMLE, due to your attempt to assist suspect Cormac McLaggen to evade arrest and escape justice." His smile at the astonished old wizard was not comforting.

"How do you justify this? When I sue you for false detainment, what can you possibly say that anyone will believe of me?" Albus was smug, certain that this was simply a ploy to intimidate him. His certainty faded somewhat into vague unease when Moody issued a harsh laugh. To Albus's surprise, it was Head Auror McLaggen who clarified.

"I am here to ensure that everything is done correctly, Headmaster. As Head Auror, I am an Incorruptible Legilimens and Occlumens. My memories will be pensieved for trial. One of those memories now includes your detainment for attempting to render illegal assistance to the suspect. Your actions were enough to raise suspicions; the note you wrote secures your legal detainment and possible charges. Really, Dumbledore; you insult us greatly. Explaining precisely why he needs to run immediately? 'Meltaways are my choice of the day?' You might as well have just said 'melt away is my best advice to you, Cormac.' How much more obvious can you possibly be? How can you be so insulting as to underestimate us this badly?" He glared at Dumbledore, who, after considering everything, had to agree with him. But how could he vindicate his own intelligence by explaining that he had to take into account the extreme thickheadness and slow wit of Cormac? Even with what he had written, he very much doubted the boy would have taken the hint. He had intended to charm the parchment with a covert compulsion to run, but had not had the chance before he was taking dictation like a clerk and then being re-cuffed.

He was just opening his mouth to try to talk his way out of this mess when the house elf popped back into the office with a securely bound, screaming, struggling, crying Cormac. The boy took one look at the aurors and sank to his knees, snot running down his face from the pressure of his sobs at the sight of his grim, tightly-composed father. Pleading blue eyes turned upon the Headmaster, widening in disbelief at the sight of the cuffed old wizard.

Dumbledore looked pityingly upon the poor child, who after all was merely a victim of his own hormones and the unwise flirting of an enamored twelve-year-old. To a strapping young man like Cormac, whose popularity led to frequent liaisons in the shadowy alcoves and closets of Hogwarts, even the naïve attempts at flirting by a boy new to puberty would naturally lead to intercourse, or at the very least, fellatio. After the incident, Dumbledore had tried to explain the concept of apologizing to Cormac's unwitting young paramour for the older boy's lack of self-restraint, but the twelve-year-old had hysterically refused to even accept the older boy's presence, much less his apology. Dumbledore sighed heavily, saying gently to Cormac, "Oh, my dear boy. Remember, the course of true love never runs smooth."

He did not see the incredulous looks aimed at him by Flint and the aurors, as he was lost in thought, thinking of another pair of boys, long ago, when he was simply Albus, and he misunderstood the innocent flirting of a golden-haired boy named Gellert.

Behind him, Phineas offered a succinct summary. "Cormac, you deserve everything that's coming. Straighten up and act like a man. As for you, Albus – pardon my vulgarity, gentleman – you either have a screw loose, as the muggles say, or you're just, plain screwed."

Moody's snort as he released the barmy old git from the cuffs was agreement enough.

Chapter Text

SCHOOLED – INTERLEWD-I-TWO'D

Crimson eyes watched him with sleepy curiosity, although that fact was not known by Hadrian, who was lying snuggled securely between a wonderfully soft bed beneath him and a pair of deliciously strong arms around him. He could have learned it easily just by looking up, but Hadrian was lost in thought as he rested his aching body against the sculpted chest of his – lover? Boyfriend? Companion? He grimaced slightly, unhappy with the terms he could think of. He didn't know enough about this, having seen little reason to research it beyond the general information he would need to know to navigate the social waters of Pureblood society. He hated not knowing something important, and this was plaguing him. In society, Marvolo and he would be introduced as 'Lord Marvolo Slytherin and Consort Hadrian Morgan'. He was Marvolo's only consort (damn good thing; he was too young to be a murderer), but Marvolo was the sworn Lord of thousands of people. Apart from feeling decidedly slavish, Hadrian did not like the idea of Marvolo being able to call him 'my consort' but all he could say is 'my Lord'. They weren't married, or he could refer to Marvolo as his husband.

Interested red eyes watched with amusement as Hadrian suddenly blushed and buried his face against Marvolo's chest. Whatever his little love was thinking about was causing the young man some consternation.

Oblivious to his audience, Hadrian continued trying to work through the complexities of terms and titles for his situation. So, not 'husband' and not 'Lord'. Were they betrothed? Hadrian didn't think so, since Neville had to formally meet with and sign a Betrothal Agreement before they could claim such a thing. Damn it, what was left? The rules of muggle royalty didn't apply here. The other terms that occurred to him didn't work, either. They were too adolescent, too impersonal or too – indecent. He didn't want to call Marvolo his 'lover' or his 'partner' when Hadrian was a 'consort'. Not formally, anyway, although he was very happy to think of his passionate, crimson-eyed … mate? Lord? lover? partner? grrrr …. Anyway, he liked to think of Marvolo as all of that. He just didn't want to formally label him that way. The options that didn't work were the only ones that applied, and those that applied didn't work! Damn it!

At Hadrian's frustrated huff, Marvolo decided that it was time to get an explanation. He had treasured this time of quiet intimacy, gifted with his little lover's warm, naked skin pressed up against him while he enjoyed the chance to watch him during a rare, unguarded moment. But Hadrian was troubled, and Marvolo would miss no opportunity to keep his consort happy and content. Running a large, warm hand gently down the graceful length of Hadrian's spine, Marvolo pressed a loving kiss to the wild black hair and said quietly, "What troubles you, love?" He could not resist a small, smug grin as Hadrian abruptly stilled and shivered under the long caress, a grin which deepened at the half-hearted frown aimed at him. Raising his eyebrows in query, Marvolo continued to run his hand soothingly over Hadrian's bare back, enjoying the privilege as well as the sensuality of the action.

After a few moments of stubborn resistance which was gently worn away by Marvolo's tender insistence, Hadrian finally began to explain. To Marvolo's eyes, his boy's embarrassed flush and concern over finding the perfect term for Marvolo's role in his life was incentive enough (as if he needed more!) to initiate another round of lovemaking, but that could wait a few more moments while he soothed his beloved. Still, his body reacted predictably to the signs of arousal that showed in Hadrian's unfocused gaze and parted lips at the sound of Marvolo's smooth baritone. "You want a suitable term and title for me at present, appropriate to your own title of my Consort?" He chuckled deeply as Hadrian nodded in reply even as his little love's eyes glazed slightly in reaction to Marvolo's voice in his ear and breath against his skin. It delighted him beyond measure that Hadrian wanted him just as profoundly as he wanted Hadrian, especially in light of the virginal little snake's efforts to hide yesterday from the uncompromising, passionate hunting by the alpha snake. Marvolo slid long fingers into midnight-silk tresses and gently pulled Hadrian's head back slightly in order to look directly into his beloved's small face. He smiled slowly down at the adorable scowl and said with tender sincerity, "You are my beloved consort, Hadrian. And I, quite simply, am just yours. In less than half a day, I will be your betrothed. As soon as I can possibly arrange it, I will be your husband. But for now and always, my Consort, I am your lover, your partner, your beloved, your friend, your lord, your companion … I am all of this, and more, but the heart of the matter is that I … am … yours."

He gazed intently into the verdant green eyes that misted before him, moving a gentle thumb to smooth away the crystalline tear that escaped and rolled down Hadrian's porcelain cheek. He had always known that, if he were ever given the enormous gift of falling in love, it would be sudden, and probably intense, but he had not been prepared for the incredible force that gripped him now whenever he so much as thought of Hadrian. Salazar had told him that Slytherins only truly loved once in their lives, and his own tale of the mere three days it had taken him to go from his first meeting with Henry until he had kidnapped the boy and moved him into the Cobra Suite (which was first occupied by Salazar's great-grandmother Marietta) had often given Marvolo hope that there was yet time for him to find and capture his own true love. Having Hadrian in his arms, sharing his bed and body, was purest bliss.

This time, it was Hadrian who moved first. Marvolo's dark chocolate voice had been hushed during his reply, and the sincerity that pulsed within the beautiful words and blazed in his beloved's ruby gaze managed to sweep Hadrian's innate shyness and reticence aside. It was not a matter of deciding to reach for Marvolo; it was a physical impossibility that he should do anything else.

And for the next hour or so, the beautiful bedroom once again bore witness to the slow slide of skin against skin, to gasps of delight and moans of pleasure, to erotic surprises and sweet familiarity, to strong muscles clenching and straining, to the small, lithe form that writhed and shivered, to long, slow thrusts that segued into a fast-paced tempo of deep penetration, to the slick glide of loving hands on rigid lengths and the wet, urgent slap of flesh to flesh, to the crescendo of sensation the lovers nurtured and resisted with equal determination, to the singleminded drive that they travelled together, and to the unbearable ecstasy that seized them and pleased them and clenched them beneath incomparable, inconceivable, unbearable spasms of agonized ecstasy.

And, once again, two exhausted men fell into deep sleep, entwined together, clinging to and wrapped around each other like a pair of mated cobras, certain they were safe, certain they were happy, certain they were loved.

oooooooooooooooooooo

PEEKABOO'D

Dame Grenadine moved quietly away from the painting above the bedroom fireplace, running a gentle hand down the silver cobra as she departed. She had not intruded on the privacy of the new lovers; the waves of passion and power that rippled through the magic-infused walls of the ancient castle had told of the activities in the bedroom for any who knew how to listen. She had waited in the portrait of Henry Fitzroy, chatting with him and his older lover as they guarded the double entry of the Slytherin Common Room. When the auras changed to slumberous contentment, she had ventured quietly into the Cobra Suite to confirm for herself that Hadrian was happy and well. The sight of him wrapped securely in the protective arms of the Lord of Slytherin, the two deeply asleep even as Marvolo guarded his little love, had brought tears to her painted eyes and deep, generous happiness to the cautious heart of Dame Grenadine.

As she drifted through the paintings and stone walls of the beautiful building, Grenadine thought about Hadrian's most recent conversations with her, as he tried to adjust to the rapid, unplanned changes in his life. She had listened and counseled, understanding the fear and discomfort her young charge was feeling, but had felt delight at the turn of the events for the brilliant, lonely boy.

Grenadine had wished dearly that she could hug young Hadrian as he revealed bits of his soul and his past that he had guarded thus far. He could not believe the enormity of how far his life had deviated from the carefully planned course he had charted – with and without Nev's help – when he discovered the world of magic and the existence of blood relatives. He could still recall the elation he felt when he saw the letters from Charlus Potter in his orphanage file and realized that he, the shy, bastard orphan that nobody wanted, actually had a living, breathing family. For those few minutes, between reading the first paragraph that acknowledged Potter's guardianship, and reading the subsequent paragraphs that defined the boundaries of his imprisonment in a child's version of muggle hell, Hadrian Morgan had thought himself loved.

Once he began to recover from the crushing blow that hit him along with the truth, he began to plot. If there was one certainty that Hadrian knew about himself – and Grenadine concurred - it was that he was a very, very smart boy. He was so smart that, even with conscious effort over the past thirteen years to show only a small fraction of his true intellect, he was still the top student in every class he had ever taken. Neville didn't know it – in fact, only Hadrian, an obliviated school official, and two nosy portraits knew it – but Hadrian Morgan had graduated muggle high school at age fifteen. Dame Grenadine had been surprised to learn this, although she knew she shouldn't have been. Hadrian could have graduated earlier, somewhere around age twelve, but he hadn't met Neville and begun to read about spells until fifteen, and the brutality of being a small, shy boy living in a poverty-stricken, undersupervised orphanage had proven to Hadrian that advertising another reason to be noticed by the large, brutal group of boys who ran the school would be …. counterintuitive.

Officially, those boys were appointed "patrolmen" who served somewhat as a Hogwart's prefect did, but in truth they were thuggish criminals who ruled through fear and pain, and who took what they wanted from the other residents. Hadrian's primary goal throughout those years was to neither have, nor be, what those boys wanted.

Only after meeting Neville and discovering the magical half of the London Library did Hadrian begin to revise his plans. In addition to numerous defensive and offensive measures, he had studied the obliviatum and a few other necessary memory modification charms. Only then did Hadrian take the steps to formally test out of all of the necessary high school subjects and obtain his diploma. He had only done so to account for the remote possibility that he might someday need such a thing if he found himself in the muggle world, although that was emphatically not in his plans. Still, it was best to have backups, and so Hadrian Morgan had gotten his diploma at fifteen, his Associates of Arts in English at sixteen, and completed his Bachelor of Arts in English just before he entered Hogwarts. None of his achievements were known to the people at the orphanage.

They weren't known by those in the magical world, either, but that was through their own ignorance and lack of motivation than through Hadrian's efforts. He felt that few wizards would care about educational achievements in the muggle world, and even if they did, his formal education only included topics that would allow him to be underestimated as an aesthete.

In truth, he would have achieved his degrees sooner, but he took it slow because he was studying other interests in the field of languages at the same time. It was very difficult for Hadrian to keep his mind occupied, especially as he rarely slept more than three or four hours a night. To calm the noise of his busy mind, Hadrian studied. Dame Grenadine often kept him company through the long nights.

Neville thought that Hadrian had simply quit muggle school due to boredom. Grenadine smiled fondly at the thought of the quiet, confident Gryffindor. In his own words to Grenadine, he knew that Hadrian was 'scary-smart', but he did not the truest extent of that assessment. The brown-eyed Lion had told Dame Grenadine all about Hadrian, but some of the facts he gave were based on his understanding of the truth, rather than the whole truth itself. Fortunately, Dame Grenadine was extraordinarily skilled in the art of concealing one's true self, and had spotted a few signs – obvious to her – that she had pointed out to Hadrian so that he could correct his behavior. That brief scare for Hadrian had led to an all-night session in their office, with Hadrian's awe in the Dame's abilities and experiences growing exponentially, and the Dame's affection for young Hadrian growing past mentoring and into the realm of maternalistic.

In her private moments, the Dame had reflected on Hadrian's resemblance to a young Ravenclaw she had known around the turn of the century. That boy, and his Slytherin older brother Mycroft, had also been blessed and cursed with an intellect that soared above that of others as if the two were eagles in a world of mud turtles. Grenadine had shared long talks and supportive understanding with those brothers back then, and the similarities to her Hadrian and Neville often made her nostalgic. Although his portrait was that of a handsome wizard of middle-age, the return of the younger brother, Sherlock Holmes, had actually brought the Dame to tears in a confusing mix of joy and relief and rage. Sherlock had risked his own soul – all of it, the bit bound to the portrait and that which had moved on after his death - in a supreme act of heroism that had tested all of his remarkable intelligence and cunning in order to bring detailed information about Grindelwald's forces and advance warning of what would have been a bloodbath, rather than just an invasion that the united forces of Wizarding Great Britain defeated. The weapon Grindelwald brought with him would have won him everything – Great Britain, Europe, eventually the entire world – unless he was stopped before he mastered it. No one really knew why, but he was filled with such rage, such unbearable resentment, for Great Britain and especially Hogwarts, that the oily black aura had reached all the way to the ancient castle, even though Grindelwald himself was in Diagon Alley. The instant Dumbledore had appeared alongside Slytherin to duel Grindelwald, the invader's rage had exploded into visible insanity.

Thank Merlin, Morgana and all of the deities of Gaia that Grindelwald's intellect did not match his blood line. He had not determined how to claim the weapon before he invaded, wielding it more for the confidence it gave him than for its true worth. When he was defeated, the weapon had simply fallen at Grindelwald's smoking feet. It was then passed over to one who was not of the blood, and Sherlock had insured there was no possibility of the new owner tapping into an obscure loophole in the claiming process by giving it to the wizard. As compensation for his incredible effort and information, her old friend had demanded only one thing when he talked with Salazar about the reason for his arrival; he demanded the right to direct the ownership and location of the weapon in perpetuity, with the sole exception being the unlikely event that it should ever be transferred into the hands of one who could truly wield it as it was intended. Only a person with Peverell blood could truly master that weapon. And, although it could never be destroyed nor even hidden for long (such was its nature), it was safe for now where it was. Even if its present owner could interpret the requirements to claim it, he did not have the bloodline to do so, and he would never give it to anyone who could actually master it – assuming he could ever figure out who such a person was. And giving it to anyone else would automatically defeat the loophole in the Claiming.

Of course, Dame Grenadine knew, but only because Sherlock had told her. Her beautiful, brilliant Sherlock! It was his greatest achievement in a life and afterlife filled with great achievements, and it was also Mycroft's truest gift to the world. The two brothers had identified the weapon, tracing it painstakingly through the dusty pages and whispered rumors of millennia. They had known it would never be theirs, nor did they wish it to be. No, in addition to their individual successes, they had dedicated their lives and their afterlives to guarding the weapon and ensuring that it was never lost to them again, nor revealed to anyone else who might be able to claim it but was unfit to do so. To secure their self-appointed task past their own deaths, the brothers had imbued their portraits with a greater percentage of their souls and magic than most portraits gained, having learned the art and science of it from Dame Grenadine herself in 1901. (She had learned it from Henry Fitzroy himself, another remarkable spy as well as Salazar's consort.) Even then, back when they were simply Hogwarts' students, the Holmes boys had been focused on probabilities and willing to make necessary sacrifices. The old goat in the tower was all self-delusion and self-serving, faux-magnanimity; for a real example of living for the greater good, one had only to look at Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. Grenadine had been saddened to the point of deep grief when she learned of Sherlock's death. Only in the past several months, now that she knew the truth of his choice, did she feel the weight of that sorrow lift. He had chosen the time and manner of his own death, and conducted an ancient ritual that had secured for his portrait and his spirit greater talents than death normally allowed a wizard to retain. It was a ritual he had learned from a remarkable young muggle archaeology professor who moonlighted rather spectacularly as an adventuring treasure hunter. (It was from him that Sherlock learned how to use a whip, employing it equally as a tool and a weapon. Grenadine had been quite embarrassed when Sherlock had demonstrated his facility with a whip and she had become aroused. Trust the great consulting detective to notice such a thing, and then remark on it as if he were discussing any other of the thousands of details the man saw. It was only when Sherlock had sent the whip gently around her waist and used it to pull her to him that she observed his own, deeply personal interest in her. Smiling reminiscently, Grenadine sighed and fanned her cheeks. Neither of them enjoyed the more extreme aspect of such devices; nevertheless, a demonstration of Sherlock's skill with the weapon and the sharp crack as he deployed the whip in her vicinity were remarkably erotic. She was now very fond of that whip. Although, the riding crop the man insisted on carrying around had merits of its own.)

After realizing that her wicked expression had just terrified the portrait of a woodland sprite, Grenadine forced herself to return to her original train of thought, although she did make a mental note to discuss the necessity for a comparative analysis of whip versus riding crop in the very near future.

So, what was she contemplating? Sherlock … riding crop ….whip … oh, yes! The treasure hunter, Mr. Jones, and how he had discovered the ritual which Sherlock had used to overpower his own afterlife. During one of Jones' trips, the man had been fortunate enough to meet with an incredibly ancient Knight Templar, one who had accepted a life of isolation in order to serve as a Guardian. His sacrifice had been of all companionship in exchange for the ability to live almost two millennia to guard a magical chalice.

Sherlock had performed the ritual, his sacrifice being the century and a half of life he would otherwise have had remaining to him, and the family and happiness that would have come with the years, in order to serve as Guardian to another magical weapon. The fact that his sacrifice had allowed Sherlock to prevent Grindelwald's invasion of Great Britain and retrieve the weapon within less than a decade of Sherlock's death spoke volumes about the timeliness and crucial importance of his efforts. He had insisted that Mycroft be the one to remain alive and perpetuate their line and their gifts, although his portrait, as well, would be somewhat over-imbued with power upon his death. Although Mycroft would eventually die naturally, the man had already made enormous sacrifices for 'the greater good' and would be able to segue that into a more gentle form of the Guardian ritual, as well.

Sherlock often visited his brother and family, now that he was back in the same country as the living Holmes's and the weapon was secured. Grenadine had gone with Sherlock during his Yule visit to Mycroft, and all three had enjoyed a wonderful laugh when Mycroft's son had expressed concern that the weapon was in the possession of a powerful, intelligent wizard. Their explanation regarding certain truths about the wizard in question, particularly concerning reality versus a reputation carefully crafted to disguise certain inadequacies, had left the Holmes children speechless.

Sherlock said it was the quietest forty-seconds he had seen in his brother's home since his return to England. Neither brother had looked sad about that fact.

Entering their office, she smiled joyfully at the strong, familiar figure waiting for her, black clay pipe puffing away. She couldn't wait to describe for Sherlock the memory of Marvolo and Hadrian wrapped in each other's arms and both sleeping soundly.

And then, she wanted to conduct some experiments with Sherlock's whip.

oooooooooooooooooooo

Marvolo quietly opened the bedroom door, easily following the contemplative aura of his consort, to observe Hadrian sitting cross-legged on the floor by the living room fireplace with a somewhat familiar, silvery-black cape sliding through his hands. It was an odd picture, as the parts of the cape that were inverted in alternating folds over Hadrian caused the young man to look as if only various, disconnected parts of himself were present in the room. Marvolo wanted to make a sardonic comment, but the look of intense thought on Hadrian's beautiful face caused him to refrain.

After a moment, Marvolo cleared his throat softly and moved gracefully into the room, seating himself on the low coffee table to gaze at Hadrian. The younger man had immediately looked up when Marvolo made his presence known, sending a bright smile at his lover that caused his thought-darkened green eyes to brighten to emerald. Staring with deep appreciation, Marvolo thought to himself that there was no possibility that he would ever grow weary of Hadrian's beauty.

"You're having deep thoughts," he observed smilingly. Hadrian simply nodded, dropping his eyes to once again study the Invisibility Cloak that bifurcated his body into that which was visible, and that which was not.

"I woke early, and found myself wondering about the finer points of this cloak. It occurred to me that, if it renders invisible that which it covers, would it then make the floor invisible if I spread it out?" At Marvolo's suddenly interested look, he grinned over at him and said teasingly, "The answer is 'no'. And so, of course, I wondered why. I started to conduct various experiments, and found that it seems to have a rudimentary intelligence. Further, it seems to obey me somewhat, rendering invisible that which I want to disappear beneath it, but protecting the visual continuity of what is concealed versus what is revealed unless I specifically allow otherwise. Of greater interest is the fact that I remember seeing Potter with it twice, and one one occasion specifically, I remember that his efforts to disguise himself and Black beneath the Cloak were betrayed by the sight of their feet. And yet, when I don the Cloak and intend for it to conceal me – and only me – completely, it does. I tested it in the mirror, and have proven that I can even extend a hand beyond the folds of fabric and remain completely invisible, so long as I wish it so. Yet, clearly, James Potter could not. Isn't that curious?"

Marvolo simply gazed at him blankly. At Hadrian's expectant pause, he laughed quietly at himself and explained, "Beloved, normally, I believe I could keep up with such an explanation. However, our recent activities seem to have slowed my mental faculties for a bit. I think I may need to restore my levels of hydration before I'm back to my usual brilliance." His wicked grin widened as his shy little lover flushed violently at his allusion to the number of times he had …. hmmm …. lost fluids last night. His grin melted into a hearty laugh as Hadrian promptly disappeared fully beneath the Invisibility Cloak. He loved teasing Hadrian!

Reaching over, he unerringly found his little love's arm and pulled the Cloak away, dropping a slightly lascivious kiss on the pink, pouting mouth. He deepened the kiss deliberately, unwilling to pull away until his stubborn Consort surrendered his delicious pout and adopted a happier expression – although it was a certainty that Marvolo would want to kiss Hadrian for that one, too. Feeling Hadrian begin to smile into the kisses that pressed rapidly and incessantly on his mouth, Marvolo pressed another hard kiss on the young man's mouth before he rested his forehead against Hadrian's and gazed closely into his incredible green eyes. He chuckled at Hadrian's whiny, "You're making me feel cross-eyed!" and sat back, holding up the Cloak inquiringly.

Neither noticed that Hadrian understood his obscure, unspoken question and simply replied as if Marvolo had spoken aloud. "A few things, but the one that I keep mulling over is this symbol." He scooted closer to the powerful wizard and grasped the neckline of the Cloak, leaving it in Marvolo's hands as he turned it to the inside and displayed a tiny, runic triangle that was just barely visible. Peering at it, Marvolo could not help but exclaim, "For Merlin's sake, Hadrian! How on earth did you even notice that? Even knowing it's there, I can barely see it!"

Hadrian smiled absently, his thoughtful gaze focused on the rune as his fingertip lightly passed over the symbol. "I didn't really see it first. I sort of …. sensed it. It hums, a little. Can you hear it?" Curious green eyes turned to Marvolo, whose gaze had also turned thoughtful as his own finger joined his lover's in tracing over the rune.

After a moment, he said speculatively, "No. I can't feel this at all. But what you said reminds me of something similar." He released the Cloak and dropped it into Hadrian's lap, then took his lover's hand and held out his own to display a distinctive ring. Even as he did so, his thumb bent up and lightly traced over the black stone. His crimson gaze focused intently on Hadrian as he asked, "Can you sense this?"

Hadrian stretched a curious finger out, pressing gently over the stone as he concentrated. Eventually, he shook his head and said, "No. Not a thing. Odd." Marvolo sat back and watched as the incredible intelligence that he was only just now beginning to understand his lover possessed began to work on the puzzle. It wasn't long before Marvolo's fascinated observation saw his lover's eyes actually glow a moment, just before Hadrian looked up suddenly, a slow-forming grin of wonder on his gamine face.

"Marvolo …have you ever looked for a rune on your ring?"

Immediately catching on, Marvolo removed the ring and began to closely inspect it. Hadrian looked, too, although he did not touch it. Finally, just on the upper edge where the stone met the metal, he found it, exactly in the spot where his thumb habitually rubbed the ring. It was tiny, a simple circle in the same color and appearance as the triangle on Hadrian's Cloak.

Marvolo felt like he was trying to catch a thought that simply refused to be trapped. There was something niggling at him, about the triangle and the circle. Something …. What?... damn it! Hissing in frustration, he frowned at Hadrian, who was sitting frozen with mental connections snapping almost audibly into place behind the intensely verdant eyes. "Well?" Marvolo asked impatiently. "Are you going to enlighten me, or just torture me?"

It was a testament to the intensity of Hadrian's concentration that the boy didn't even glare at Marvolo. Instead, he said slowly, "I've almost got it. I need to think about it just a bit more. Maybe do a little research." He glanced apologetically up at his irritated lover and said beseechingly, "Please, Marvolo. Just give me a little time to get it in order. I promise I'll tell you as soon as I arrive at something I can express. It's sort of – there but not there. Honestly, I've almost got it!"

Marvolo could see that Hadrian, too, was irritated. Apparently, neither of them was good at dealing with knowledge that resisted being pinned down. Rather than darken the mood, he reached down and pulled Hadrian up onto his lap, easily lifting the young man with strong arms. He buried his face against Hadrian's elegant neck, enjoying the feel of the silky hair against his forehead. Nibbling kisses and gentle scrapes of teeth were met with a suddenly giggling Hadrian and a wickedly grinning Marvolo, who had just discovered a previously unknown ticklish spot on his delightful little lover.

Their impromptu wrestling session was interrupted by a very polite and broadly smiling little house elf, whose happy voice caused them both to turn toward her, arms wrapped around each other and matching grins on their handsome faces. "Good mornings, Master Hadrian and Snake Lord! I sorry … I mean, I am sorry, to interrupt, but it is almost lunchtime. Your snakes are all calm but the Headman said he has been looking for youse since dinnertime, Snake Lord, and that if youse … I mean, for you since dinnertime, Snake Lord, and that if youse … I mean, you … aren't at lunch, he is going to start a search."

She stared back at the two wizards who were giving her incredulous looks. After enduring it quietly for a moment, Tansy shifted uncomfortably and said, "Tansy is telling you the truth, masters." Her worried look caused Hadrian to blink and hold out his hand to her, which she touched hesitantly with her own. The only time her former Potter masters had touched her had not been good for her. Master Hadrian only touched her gently, as if in reassurance, and said apologetically, "Tansy, I never even considered the possibility of you lying. I know you wouldn't do that to us. We were just … stunned, I guess … at the odd behavior of the Headmaster."

Marvolo even smiled at the loyal little elf, something he did not do to any of her species other than his own Fletcher, and said gently, "Tansy, do you have any idea why the Headmaster is so concerned with my absence? This is the weekend; I have every right to keep to myself."

Tansy looked conflicted for a moment, then seemed to make a decision. She squared her little shoulders and tried to look straight into master's eyes, something she had been taught to never, ever do. Still, she was following her instincts, and they said that both of her new masters would appreciate her actions. "Tansy does know, but I'm not supposed to. I found out from … someone … who takes care of Headman." By this, they understood that Dumbledore's house elf had spoken with Tansy. "Headman was almost arrested by aurors the night you won me, Master Hadrian. And the bad Lion who hurt little Moody child was arrested. And the …. um, the someone… that I talked to helped catch the bad Lion and the Headman is really angry with someone for that. And when Mr. Hat found out, he told the Headman that his meanness to …. someone …. is bad and breaking rules and Mr. Hat said he would tell Lord Snake. My someone… said that Headman didn't know if Mr. Hat meant the first Lord Snake or the you Lord Snake, and wants to talk to you first and say not true things that make you believe him and not Mr. Hat. But he can'ts find you and is makings him very mads and … and … my someone is hurtings more now." By this time, poor little Tansy's eyes were filled with anxious tears and she was wringing her hands in distress. Her magic wasn't hurting her, so she knew that she was not going against her oaths or her loyalty bond, but house elves were not normally allowed, much less encouraged, to such extremes of honesty and expressing opinions and drawing independent conclusions. It was very stressful, and by the end of her recitation her speech had devolved into the more common cant of the house elf.

She flinched violently when Marvolo stretched a long arm toward her, and then froze in shock when, rather than slapping her as even she felt she deserved, Marvolo simply rested his hand gently on her small shoulder and said with quiet approval, "Well done, Tansy. I'm enormously pleased with you, and want you to be proud of yourself. Please try as hard as you can to behave this way all the time. If you are worried, talk to Fletcher. Master Hadrian and I know that it's very difficult, but you serve us better by thinking for yourself and trying to be stronger than by acting the way bad masters like Potter prefer. Do you understand?"

He did not take offense at her wordless nod, seeming to understand that she had pushed herself well beyond her limits and needed some time to regroup. Hadrian, always observant and gentle with those he cared for, just smiled at his little elf and – after assuring her that they would attend lunch in the Great Hall - quietly bade her to go get some time to herself. Just before she popped out, he hastily added, "And Tansy? The second Dumbledore leaves his office, I want you to retrieve his house elf and bring him – or her – to see Cherish or Poppy Pomfrey. Tell them that I asked as a personal favor for them to treat the elf without letting Dumbledore know. Can you do that?"

Her look of adoration made him very uncomfortable, and he could not help but be relieved when she popped out of the room. Marvolo's understanding chuckle made him feel a bit better, but the warm, strong arm that wrapped around his shoulders and urged him toward the door sealed the deal. At the last minute, Hadrian snatched up the Cloak, folding it and tucking it into his robe next to his wand. He simply shrugged at Marvolo's quizzically raised eyebrow, not sure himself why he did half of the things he had done over the past two days. All he could offer in his own defense was, "I blame you."

He accepted the amused smile and the kiss pressed into his temple as reasonable compensation for his confusion.

Not that he would have turned them away, regardless of imagined obligation. He was confused, not stupid.

oooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

SCHOOLED –SLAMMED

Lady Evelyn Potter was disgusted. She was sitting with pureblood grace in one of the awful, purple velvet, upholstered chairs in front of Dumbledore's desk. Next to her, Charlus was glaring at the Headmaster, who was sitting behind his cluttered desk, clad in robes of aqua and fuchsia that would have looked much better at the slumber party of a group of muggle, teenage girls. All he needed was large, pink curlers in his hair and someone painting his toenails and the image would be complete. Evelyn sneered at the thought, and focused her formidable stare on the Leader of the Phoenix Party.

Dumbledore sat comfortably in his familiar chair, forearms resting on the chair supports with his long, wrinkled fingers interlaced. He ramped up his twinkle-factor a bit in response to the Lady Potter's unimpressed stare, and sucked worriedly on what was probably his fiftieth lemon drop of the morning. He had laced them with small portions of calming draughts, originally because he hoped to use them in his interactions with guests. That was largely a failed effort, as no one ever accepted his endless offers of the tart sweets that he loved so much. He was now doing his best to get a full dose or two without being forced to visit Cherish Pomfrey or her demonic apprentice. It had taken weeks to get his hair and beard back where they belonged, although in truth he hadn't bothered to replace the rest of his body hair. Oddly, he found that he liked the smooth glide of his legs against the sheets and his robes as he walked – it felt oddly sensual - and he greatly appreciated the reduced itching in his groin due to the baby-smooth skin. No wonder women in the tropics preferred such cosmetic charms! Really, it was remarkable that women all over did not partake of the measure; after all, they performed it on their legs, underarms and faces, so why would they not simply carry it through the entire body, barring eyebrows and scalp? Looking speculatively at the Lady Potter, he wondered idly if perhaps women did behave in such a way, and he just did not know about it.

"Headmaster."

The cool, unemotional voice of Lady Potter jarred Dumbledore out of his mental wanderings. Looking into her condemning stare and the slight sneer she allowed on her lips, the venerable Headmaster wondered uncomfortably if somehow the Lady had sensed the somewhat inappropriate meandering of his thoughts. Does the renowned "woman's intuition" work when a gentleman is wondering about the state of a woman's pubic hair? Goodness, that was a discomfiting thought! Well, no matter! He was an aged wizard; he was certainly allowed his eccentricities, was he not?

"Headmaster!" This time, Lady Potter's voice left no room for faux-befuddlement. To business, then.

Dumbledore smiled gently at the three people seated in front of him. He was not surprised at all to see the Potters this morning, given what he had learned of recent events surrounding James and the very-problematic Hadrian Morgan. The presence of the Potter's attorney, Solicitor Geoffrey Harpsichordian Bates, III, was an unpleasant addition, however. "Lord and Lady Potter, as you have no wish to share tea with this old man, what may I do for you today?" He allowed his twinkle to fade a little and sneaked a touch of lonely sadness into his eyes and aura.

If anything, Lord Potter's glare intensified, and the cool Lady Potter was now just a few degrees shy of icy. "Dumbledore, you may refrain from your theatrical machinations. We know you far too well to be taken in by such blatant manipulation. You know perfectly well why we are here, and our attorney's presence cannot be a surprise. If it is, you will have dropped even further in my estimation, Lord Phoenix." The disdain in the Lady's use of his political title was withering.

Dumbledore was surprised to find himself actually flinching a bit from Evelyn Potter, a fact which immediately made him scowl in irritation. Just last evening, he had been mistreated and disrespected by the irreverent Auror Moody and his associates – not to mention, disobeyed by his own house elf, for Merlin's sake! – and now this morning he was again in a position of defense. The night's sleep in between these events might just as well not have happened! Apart from the direction of the sunlight and the actual people in the office with him, nothing else had changed. Well, discounting his robes, of course. He had chosen his navy blue and crimson robes today, choosing to appear somber and impressive. At least that much was going well today; everyone who had seen him in his beautiful robes had stopped and stared in appreciation.

ooo

Resting on his extremely-magical perch on the bureau in the corner of the Headmaster's office, Fawkes listened carefully to the thoughts of the reprehensible wizard currently bearing the title of Headmaster and smirked. Dumbledore had worked very hard to convince the wizarding world that the beautiful phoenix was his familiar, and it was only true in the vaguest sense. Fawkes was, of course, bound to Hogwarts herself, and shared a bond with every Headmaster or Headmistress in order to connect that person to the castle. It was through Fawkes that Dumbledore was able to control the wards and various other aspects of the magic of the castle. Unfortunately, he did not have any ability to effect the old wizard's other responsibilities, such as funding and regulations. If Fawkes controlled any of that, Dumbledore would never have been able to steal from young Tom Riddle or Hadrian Morgan, nor would he have gotten away with the blatant favoritism of the Marauders. For that matter, Dumbledore would have been expelled and had his magic bound the instant he raped the little Grindelwald boy. It was regrettable in the extreme that Albus Dumbledore was so skilled at manipulative magics; he had Headmaster Armando Dippett completely swayed before Gellert had even worked up the courage to report the rape. Fawkes had watched helplessly as Dumbledore used and abused his abilities, gained the Headmastership of Hogwarts, and used that position to increase his own wealth, power and prestige at the expense of numerous children and innocents. Fawkes' bond to the Founders remained true, but his ability to communicate with them was lost when they went beyond the Veil. Although their portraits remained to guard their school, the mind-to-mind bond between them and their phoenix was lost. He was completely unable to convey to anyone the truth of all the abuses that Dumbledore perpetrated every day. The Founders portraits watched, of course, and young Lord Slytherin was shrewd and canny and slowly rooting out all of the rot, but it was not fast enough.

The beautiful phoenix considered it a personal insult that Dumbledore had named his political party after the wizard's supposed familiar. He did not object to the purpose of the party, per se – after all, those with Light Magic required political representation as much as those with Dark and Neutral Magic- but for Dumbledore to call himself 'Lord Phoenix' implied that he was Fawkes' master. Again, that was true only in the loosest sense – the best kind, by Dumbledore's standards. Regrettably, because Dumbledore was Headmaster of Hogwarts and Fawkes served Hogwarts, ergo, Fawkes served Dumbledore. The man had the barest right to call himself 'Lord Phoenix', but it was enough to satisfy the unscrupulous wizard. Furthermore, every member of the Phoenix Party had sworn to serve Dumbledore as 'Lord Phoenix', in much the same way that the House of Black was now sworn to Lord Slytherin. It was appalling for the proud, beautiful phoenix to be used in such a blatant, disrespectful manner.

Fawkes had launched into a Flight of Ecstasy last night when young Hadrian Morgan and Marvolo Slytherin bonded. He was joyous to see three of the Founders' Lines united. Now, if only young Neville could find the truth, too. On the happy day when all four Founders' Lines were reawakened and united in purpose, Fawkes would have a glorious burning and would incinerate all of the dirty magic that polluted his beautiful castle. In the meantime, all he could do as he endured proximity to Dumbledore was to visit the portraits and the Heirs as he nudged and hinted and hoped. Lately, he had visited one particular portrait very frequently. Somehow, he felt that Master Holmes would be able to help him.

Still, Fawkes was not entirely helpless. He took his vengeance in doses both greater and lesser. One of his retaliations against Dumbledore was particularly amusing, as was evidenced today by Dumbledore's assumption that his supposedly 'navy blue and crimson' robes were somber and impressive. The day Dumbledore raped young Master Grindelwald and got away with it, Fawkes had cursed the wizard with a form of magical color-blindness. Being a creature of Light Magic, he had no access to darker curses, but this one was an excellent start. He had used his extraordinary healing abilities and 'tweaked' the bastard's perceptions, rather than the physical properties of his eyes, to always interpret only those items related to fashion to be stupendously gawdy and awful. To Dumbledore, everyone else dressed terribly and only he had any true dress-sense. Fawkes snickered, which emerged as a delightful trill of song, as he considered what the old man's reaction would be if he realized that he was actually wearing a particularly-revolting set of brightest aqua and blazing fuchsia robes that offended everyone who saw them. It would be such an enjoyable moment of revenge for Fawkes, but no. Fawkes was saving that moment of revelation for the perfect opportunity, sometime very public.

ooo

"Enough of this, Dumbledore! Explain how you could have let this happen? SEVENTEEN Gryffindors wrote pornography that is being widely published and broadcast throughout Wizarding Great Britain, through a writing contest that was your pathetic solution to further controlling and shaming the Morgan boy. Instead, he has managed to humiliate us, not to mention many other families of the Phoenix Party, and has caused irreparable damage to our reputations. FURTHERMORE, we will doubtless find ourselves in legal difficulties with Lord Slytherin for the disgusting allegations and slurs made by our own son. And it all happened under your very nose! Explain yourself!" Lady Evelyn Potter did not even raise her voice as she verbally eviscerated the second-most powerful wizard of their time. Her cold stare never wavered, and her composure was perfect.

Frankly, she was possibly the most frightening woman any of the three men in the office with her had ever seen. Considering that Dumbledore had met Walburga Black on numerous occasions and had faced an irate Molly Weasley, that was really saying something.

Charlus swallowed nervously. He was furious at the old wizard, as well, but for Evelyn to be this controlled suggested she was in a deadly rage. He was now very, very glad that she had not allowed him entrance to her rooms or her bed last night. She would have eaten him alive, and not in the fun way. At the moment, his best defense against his Lady-wife was to support her unquestionably in the manner she would most approve. Charlus allowed his glare to gain weight and heat as he focused on Albus. He was rewarded by the old man's nearly-imperceptible shifting, although the movement of the blinding robes was enough to make Charlus nauseous.

Dumbledore spread his hands disarmingly and began his verbal tap dance. "Evelyn, Charlus, you know how very busy I am. Not only are my days as Headmaster quite full, particularly in light of our mutual concerns about young Hadrian, but I do have other responsibilities to fulfill, as well, my friends," he said gently, with a meaningful look weighted with the burden of his great duties. Typically, they were unimpressed. That seemed to be the way things were going this past day or two. He sighed with practiced weariness and explained, "I did as I thought best in assigning the writing contest to Mr. Morgan. It was a wonderful opportunity to force him back into the presence and under the control of the Marauders, and you must admit, your son and his friends' actions were brilliant. Even if I had known about their plans, I would not have stopped them; nothing any of us know about Mr. Morgan would indicate that the young man would have retaliated in such a fashion. His shyness and reticence are quite genuine, you know; even Healer Pomfrey and the other teachers have confirmed that. Someone must have assisted Mr. Morgan, given him the idea of how to fight back. Possibly even given him some form of courage potion, because I highly doubt that the reported manner in which he discussed the stories in class would have been possible for him otherwise. I would dearly love to know who that person is."

Charlus Potter continued to glare as he ground his teeth and growled menacingly, "And so, because your methods of control over the little bastard failed, we are now forced to deal with making a public apology to a Slytherin! And not just any snake, but Lord Marvolo Slytherin himself, who could crush us financially, socially and politically, if he chose, without the additional help of a lawsuit for slander and libel. You promised us, Dumbledore, you swore that you would have Hadrian Morgan running from the wizarding world with his tail between his legs by Samhain. That day has come and gone, and you have failed spectacularly! And according to the Daily Prophet, every single seventh year Gryffindor submitted a similarly-themed story, pornographic and tasteless, for which they and their families are now suffering the ramifications of their actions. You do realize that most of those families are members of the Phoenix Party, don't you, old man? I heard Weasley didn't even go to work today, and that the Patil betrothal to Sheik Tariq Marani is severed. Without Marani, we lose the entire faction of the Traditional Families – all their influence and all their money. Gone, because you can't figure out how to control one little bastard who should have been drowned at birth!"

Dumbledore frowned in annoyance, his careful mask slipping at the injustice of the Lord's words. "Now, that is not entirely correct, Charlus, and you know it. Apart from the fact that I was simply attempting to help contain a Potter family problem as a personal favor to you," he ignored Charlus's snort of denial and doggedly continued, "but not every Gryffindor's family are supporters of the Phoenix. Some of them come from families that are primarily from other houses, even Slytherin, and have managed to find their way into the most honorable house in Hogwarts."

Here, Lady Potter spoke up, her cool voice lending a greater chill to the truth of her words, "If you think that is now a plus for the Phoenix Party, you are mistaken. Parvati Patil's family is primarily Ravenclaw. They are all respected, Traditional people with significant personal success, known for their honor, integrity and decorum. The one time a Parvati becomes a Gryffindor, she becomes better known for her fellatio techniques with numerous boys and earns herself and her family tremendous shame and a broken betrothal from the leader of the Traditional Families. Cormac McLaggen is from a family that is traditionally Slytherin. Again, the one time a McLaggen becomes a Gryffindor, he becomes known for his unhealthy interest in much-younger boys and is arrested by his own father for unknown reasons. All that is known about it is that Head Auror McLaggen arrested his own son for something the idiot wrote in his story. Apart from the fact that these children are proving to be wonderful advertisements for the other side, what the hell is the McLaggen situation about? How much more damage must we try to contain?" She fixed the Headmaster in her frigid glare and demanded a truthful reply from the fidgeting old wizard.

Dumbledore was still feeling the sting of the situation that happened here in his office last night. With an indignant huff, he launched into an animated description of the ridiculous event. "Head Auror McLaggen, Head of DMLE Marcellus Flint, and two aurors came here last night. I didn't even get to attend dinner because of this idiocy!" He looked for sympathy toward the three seated before him, and was deeply disappointed in the lack of love he seemed to be getting. He huffed again. "Well, one of those aurors was the rudest, most aggressive young man I can recall seeing in such a position. He even put me in cuffs! Twice! They forced me to summon Cormac, and confiscated my first note as evidence that I was apparently attempting to cause a felon to flee or some such rot. I was merely attempting to give the young man a word of caution; that's all. After all, he was simply the victim of his own primal urges; we all know how they can roar through us during our younger years, do we not?" he said imploringly. Surely, he was not alone in his pity for young Cormac?

Lord Potter's expression had not changed; it seemed set in stone. The attorney was growing pale, as he began to get an inkling of 'the situation' as the Headmaster whimsically called it. Lady Potter looked like a thunderstorm had moved into her magic, and she seemed to be doing her best to send lightning at the Headmaster through her eyes, which narrowed as she curled her lip and questioned, "Are you going to give us all the details, Headmaster, or are you going to try to win our commiseration for what I fear is something akin to sexual assault? It seems obvious, after all, given the nature of those thrice-damned stories and the fact that such personages would not appear to arrest the son of the Head Auror unless he had committed a criminal act. Damn it, Dumbledore, you will give us details now or I will leave and hold a press conference on the steps of Hogwarts by noon today!" That was a frightening threat, indeed, considering the fact that the Lady Potter never said anything she was unprepared to back up with action.

Dumbledore hurriedly continued, "Very well, my dear, very well. Err…. do you recall that little incident last year, when the second –year Hufflepuff tried to claim some sort of sexual assault?" He dropped his watery gaze from the sharpening stares of the three facing him. Clearing his throat nervously, he continued, "Well, it would seem that I was perhaps mistaken in … containing… that situation as I did. Cormac was not, as he claimed, assisting young Moody; he had apparently gotten a bit too amorous with the boy and … well, boys will be boys, of course, but young Moody apparently claims it was assault. I had successfully controlled everything at the time, you may remember. I refused the Aurors the right to interview McLaggen due to that young man's right to privacy and my duty with regard to protection of a minor. I did the same for little Moody, purely to allow the boy to recover in peace, of course. Besides, Moody could not accurately identify his attacker by sight, although he did insist at the time that it was Cormac's voice and hands and … well." Dumbledore cleared his throat uncomfortably, continuing to avoid the condemning stares. "I did try to have young Cormac apologize to the Moody boy for anything that child may have misunderstood, but the boy kept becoming hysterical, so we simply let it be. However, it seems that young Moody has an uncle, who is also his godfather, who was one of the two Aurors who came here yesterday. He was the intimidating … I mean, the aggressive… young man, in fact. It appears that Cormac used the incident to fuel his own story submission to Morgan's writing contest, and essentially … confessed." Dumbledore's voice trailed off weakly. Said out loud, it really did sound fairly damning, did it not? Oh, dear.

Surprisingly, it was the previously-silent attorney Bates who summarized, "So, a sexual assault of a minor occurred on your watch, on school property, by a Gryffindor who you protected and shielded by covering up and denying the severity of the crime. Once again, you chose to punish the victim by denying him justice and attempting to force him to accept a half-assed apology from his attacker. You clearly empathize with and pity the older boy who committed the crime, rather than the victim. And when the idiot boy confessed by writing a pornographic, fantasy story about the crime, practically bragging about what he got away with under your so-called supervision, you attempted to help him escape arrest from the Head Auror – who is also his father, the Head of the DMLE, and two aurors, one of whom is the victim's uncle and godfather. Your actions were such that evidence was taken against you and you were placed in magical restraints twice. Is there anything else we should know? Did the McLaggen boy obey the summons?" Bates' matter-of-fact summation was stark and disturbing.

At the question, however, Dumbledore's slightly-worried expression disappeared as he glared angrily. "NO! He could have gotten away, but Flint had me summon my house elf and the damn little wretch obeyed Flint instead of me! He brought the note to McLaggen – and let me just say, it was insulting to me personally to be dictated the wording of the note by Flint, as if I were his assistant or a child doing lines! – and my elf then bound him when the poor boy tried to flee. He brought the boy screaming and weeping into my office, just there!" He pointed dramatically at the spot where Cormac had laid sobbing with snot running down his face. "Let me tell you, once they took Cormac and left, I summoned Zeppo to my inner room and showed him exactly why he should never even think about disobeying me again! The insolence!" He was puffed up like a bullfrog, wrinkled skin stretching and retracting with his indignant panting. The three facing him were staring in disbelief, and only looked away when a dark voice was heard from the wall above the long bureau.

"I trust you people are beginning to get a very clear picture of the illustrious Leader of your vaunted Phoenix Party?" Phineas Nigellus Black drawled mockingly. "Allow me to fill in the blanks for you. Before they departed with the sniveling, sobbing little rapist, Dumbledore gave the boy warm encouragement and added the comforting words 'oh, my dear boy, remember, the course of true love never runs smooth', thus making it clear to the officials that the Headmaster's sympathy lay not with the victim, but his attacker. Furthermore, his behavior during the entire visit was documented by Adam McLaggen, who was not there as Head Auror nor as Cormac's father but as a Master of the Mind Arts to observe and record the entire arrest for pensieve evidence. They now have ample proof of the Headmaster's questionable behavior, including his insults to Auror Moody, his chiding attempts to create guilt in McLaggen for arresting his poor, misunderstood son on such an overblown charge, his attempt to slip a compulsion spell onto the note he wrote to summon Cormac, his written attempt to get Cormac to flee (which was secured as evidence by Auror Moody), and numerous other facial expressions, attempted sleights-of-hand and other examples of body language that all but screamed 'I am unstable, immoral and not to be trusted with children!' to the very experienced professionals in the room." The former Headmaster and Lord Black surveyed the stunned Potters and their attorney, and smirked. It was well past time for Dumbledore to get his comeuppance.

Clearly, Phineas was not alone in his opinion, as the next person in the room to speak was none other than the Sorting Hat, who was furious for still another reason. "Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore! How DARE you abuse an elf in your service? Let me tell you, I may be bound to maintain your confidentiality in most matters, but I serve Hogwarts first and foremost, and that includes those bound to her service! Just the fact that you mock the elf assigned to you by calling him 'Zeppo' – yes, I am familiar with the muggle meaning, you insufferable git! – is enough to earn you a sanction according to the Charter. To abuse and punish a servant, regardless of its species, for obeying its superiors is unconscionable! I will be notifying Lord Slytherin of this outrage, Dumbledore. Don't you dare touch that elf again! I will be having the portraits keep an eye on him and all of the elves until I have met with Slytherin. Reprehensible!" The tattered old hat's 'face' was scowling mightily, and Fawkes, perched nearby, was sparking and glowing in his shared anger. These two were bonded to Hogwarts in her entirety, and it was their sacred duty to protect the castle and all of her possessions. That included every, single house elf, whether bonded to the castle or simply living on-site as the servant of one of the people of Hogwarts. Such was the magic of house elves, that they drew from the seniormost power source associated with their master, and thus were bound to – and protected by - that source. Tansy, although bound to Hadrian, was also bound to Marvolo, and ultimately to Hogwarts.

Dumbledore stared, dumbfounded. What in Merlin was going on now? Every time he turned around, he seemed to be sinking deeper and deeper into a quagmire that all seemed to begin with Hadrian Morgan! Eventually, the words of the Sorting Hat began to sink in, and Dumbledore felt a burst of panic. "No! You are not allowed to speak of my conversations; you know this!" he shouted frantically. "You will keep your silence, Hat!"

The Hat simply sneered, which was a remarkable expression on a piece of headgear, and then the aged face faded back into simple fabric. Dumbledore knew what that meant: the 'spirit' of the Hat had retreated and was now coursing through the stone walls of the castle, searching for Slytherin. Wait! Which Slytherin? Salazar or Marvolo? He turned panicked eyes to the Potters, who stared back impassively. "Charlus! Evelyn! Did he say whether he was going to the portrait of Salazar or to Professor Slytherin? I must get there first! What did he say?"

Evelyn's slight smile was decidedly malicious as she replied, "He did not specify, Headmaster. It would seem you have a choice to make, not that I believe for a single second that either Slytherin will find any reason you may offer to be acceptable grounds for punishing an elf that was only obeying orders." She sneered as Dumbledore drew a breath to speak and cut him off. "Don't bother, Albus. You know as well as we that the elf had no choice, and that your punishment of it was pure petulance. Even if it had wanted to obey you, which I frankly doubt, given the circumstances, it could not have. The elves answer to the same laws you do. Or do I need to remind you of who, precisely, had the authority when the Head Auror, Head of the DMLE and two associate aurors were present in the same room as the civilian Headmaster of a private school?"

Dumbledore cringed, remembering Auror Alastor Moody's scathing explanation of the hierarchy of authority. "No, Evelyn, that will not be necessary." He ruminated for a moment, tugging on his beard and ignoring the increasingly irritated postures and expressions of his three guests. After a moment, he said musingly, "Well, once this meeting is concluded, I will simply speak with Thomas and explain the situation. Given his vicious and dark disposition, I am certain he will be sympathetic to me for giving in to my justifiable anger and indulging in a little bit of therapeutic torture. He is a Slytherin, after all; such activities are in his very blood." He met the incredulous stares of the Potters and sneered delicately, "Oh, come now, children! We are none of us naïve. Let us not forget how well we know each other. I am fully aware of the fact that neither of you are especially free of such stains, either, or have you forgotten precisely why and how Lord Caleb Potter died? Hmmm?"

The threat of blackmail hung in the air, only to be dissipated with Evelyn's dry, "Let us also remember, then, the person from whom we attained the means for dear Caleb's death, and the fact that said person also destroyed the legal will of a Lord of a Noble House and has engaged in numerous, traceable acts of theft against the true Lord of the House of Potter." Her piercing stare was fixed like a javelin on the Headmaster, who was matching her stare with his own in a battle of wills. Both ignored the offended sputtering of Charlus Potter, who preferred to forget that he was not, in fact, the true Lord Potter. All three seemed to disregard Solicitor Bates completely, who was sitting still and pale in the vivid, velvet chair.

The heavy silence was broken by a faint chime and a startled look on the face of the sweating solicitor. With a muttered apology, he opened his documents satchel to find that his secretary had forwarded, through the Gringotts-crafted mail pouch that they used for the transmittal of confidential paperwork, three, sealed files bearing the House of Potter coding. Glancing up uncertainly, he heard Charlus Potter snap impatiently, "Well, open them, damn it!" Murmuring in agreement, Bates looked to the true master of the House of Potter, and began to open the first sealed document at Evelyn's discreet nod.

The first seal he broke was the distinctive G of Gringott's Bank. Enclosed within was a simple Transfer of Ownership for one female house elf Tansy of the Helenic seedlines from James Charlus Potter to Hadrian Beltran Morgan. Her sire and dam were listed on the ownership papers, along with a general description of the elf and her capabilities. Absently studying the latter, Bates explained the gist of the document and was met with the heavy silence that comes between a flash of lightning and burst of thunder.

Startled, he looked up and saw the furious expressions of the Potters, and had just enough time to brace himself before Charlus rose to his feet in rage and boomed, "Why would we consent to this? Why would James agree to it? Explain this, Bates!"

Stuttering slightly, the solicitor hastily reviewed the attached papers. Quickly reading the letter of explanation from Gringott's, he began to pale as he braced himself further and assumed his most professional demeanor as protection against the inevitable explosion. "According to Gringott's, the elf is just one of many possessions that James lost to Hadrian as the result of a duel with Hadrian Morgan. Despite repeated reminders and offers by Hadrian for him to take time and refresh his understanding of the rules and repercussions for dueling with a blood relative, James insisted on following through on the duel. He lost, and Hadrian claimed all of James' possessions within one mile from their location. Furthermore, as James initiated the duel, which was established through an immediate investigation by the Goblins, Hadrian's award was expanded to the requisite 100 mile radius, thereby expanding Hadrian's possessions to include what was formerly James' ownership shares in several stores, businesses and rental homes in Hogsmeade. And…," he winced, wishing he were anywhere but in the vicinity of the fuming Lord and Lady Potter, "because James then accused Hadrian of cheating and demanded his belongings back, further complicating matters by calling Hadrian a thief and attempting to bodily retrieve the Potter Family Invisibility Cloak, the Goblins have enacted the fullest measure of the rules for this situation and expanded the radius to 500 miles."

Charlus was red-faced and speechless. Dumbledore was gaping, completely blindsided by the fact that he had not even known a duel had taken place, much less the ramifications. Evelyn Potter was tight-lipped and tightly-controlled. It was she who frigidly prompted, "All of it, Bates."

Drawing a deep breath for courage, the Potter Family Solicitor met the eyes of the formidable Lady Potter and said quietly, "Diagon Alley is 437 miles from Hogwarts. Hadrian Morgan now owns and has sole possession of all of the Gringott's vaults formerly owned by James, as well as all of the investor shares and full ownership of all properties formerly assigned to be inherited by James in Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, Prospect Alley, and all of London. As far as I can tell, James only retains ownership of the farms in Germany and some of the minor properties throughout Europe."

He hesitated again, terrified at what had just occurred to him. Evelyn Potter's seering stare saw right through his façade. She didn't have to say a word. Discreetly drawing his wand in readiness for a defensive shield, Solicitor Bates cleared his throat and said with admirable firmness, "Because Hadrian now owns outright almost one-quarter of the Potter Family fortune from James's foolish actions (leaving James with two percent of the fortune), and is entitled to his own one-quarter of the Potter Family fortune as son of Caleb, all restrictions and restraints on Hadrian's access to his own vaults and properties will now be automatically lifted. As of midnight last night, Hadrian Morgan owns half of the Potter wealth and votes."

Silence, heavy and horrified, settled over the three other people in the cluttered, gaudy office. On his perch, Fawkes could not resist uttering a delighted trill of triumph, earning a look of disappointment from Dumbledore that prompted a second trill. In his portrait, Phineas Nigellus Black was laughing silently, completely delighted with this turn of events. Far in the corner, watching in shrouded silence from a darkly-shadowed portrait of the Machiavellian era, Dame Grenadine smiled in triumph, memorizing every word and gesture to relate to her beloved Sherlock. They would then go together to speak with Salazar, Henry and Marvolo. It was best to discuss how to broach all of this with Hadrian first. It looked like her treasured protégé was going to have a place in the House of Potter after all.

As they tried to absorb the blow, neither of the two Potters nor Dumbledore noticed Solicitor Bates studying the remaining two, sealed files in his hands. Certain that he was, for the moment, unobserved by the shocked Evelyn Potter, Geoffrey allowed his lips to quirk into a small, satisfied smile.

It seemed that, despite the Potters' efforts to ensure his silence, he would finally be able to talk freely with Hadrian Morgan. After all, he was bound to the House of Potter, was he not?

And Hadrian Morgan now owned exactly half of that good House.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

DAMNED & THANK-YOU-MA'AM'D

William Weasley was the oldest son and scion of the pureblood Weasley family. Despite the seeming importance that role gave him, William was under no delusions: his family name was in in truth more of a hindrance to his ambitions than a help. Because of the Weasley patriarch Arthur's eccentric love of all things muggle, coupled with the elder wizard's pronounced lack of understanding of those same things, very few of the old Pureblood families would look twice at a Weasley. Adding to that drawback of character were other factors that sullied the family reputation; namely, the unrestrained breeding of the family without consideration for the dilution of magic within each additional whelp, the inability of Arthur Weasley to adequately budget his perfectly acceptable salary from the Ministry, and the ramshackle structure that served as the Weasley family home. As far as William was concerned, he would have been better off as a half-blood or even, Merlin forbid, a mudblood. At least then, his successes and achievements would have been entirely his own and would have won him unqualified respect, rather than having his pride leavened with the knowledge that the Wizarding World was always surprised that a Weasley could be as intelligent, cunning and skilled as he was.

Still, William had worked incredibly hard and was now a respected Wardsmaster for Gringott's. He had his own offices in both the Diagon Alley and Pharoah's Eye branches, and a team of four talented wizards and one annoying clerk who reported to him. He had earned every bow of respect he was given, and he most definitely did not appreciate the fact that his mentally, morally and magically-deficient youngest brother had once again dragged his family name into question.

Of the Weasleys, the eldest five were driven to succeed, guided by William. They had initially each contributed some of their income to their parents, despite having moved out of the family home, because they believed that the family struggled due to a strain on finances, a condition that worsened immensely about seven years ago. Later, William and Percy compared notes and realized that such was not the case. Each of the five older boys had given one-tenth of their annual salaries to Arthur and Molly, which created enough of an income for the four remaining at the modified chicken coop to live with complete respectability. Then Percy had pulled Arthur's file during a standard employment review at the Ministry and realized that the Weasley patriarch actually earned a very good income on his own – enough to have ensured that the wizard's children never would have needed to be ashamed and defensive of their upbringing. So, where did all the money go?

Arthur and Molly had been furious when the five brothers stopped their donations. Despite their disparagement of Fred and George's business venture, the Weasley parents had begun to enjoy the reflected limelight of the successful young men, and had made it a point to drop into the store every second Tuesday to collect 'their share' and bask in the comments of those customers who witnessed how well the Weasleys had raised loving, dutiful children. So, Molly and Arthur were naturally embarrassed when they entered the bustling shop last June and were told by the unusually sternfaced twins that the guilt payments were at an end. Molly's subsequent fit had resulted in Aurors being summoned to the scene, witness statements taken, and a humiliating article being published in The Daily Prophet. That had been the first public scandal that William had been forced to overcome, although he blessed it, in a way. Thanks to the article, his bosses at Gringott's, who were blissfully unconcerned about matters of confidentiality in light of the fact that the elder Weasley boys were excellent customers while the Weasley parents were willfully impoverished, had taken the time to enlighten their hardworking employee on the true state of affairs – literally – of Arthur Weasley. Even now, it was not entirely clear to William how they knew what they knew, but he had come to accept that goblins pretty much knew everything that impacted the flow of gold.

Apparently, the majority of the Weasley family income went to pay off three blackmailers, wizards who had discovered that Arthur Weasley was, in fact, sterile and (at least with Molly) usually impotent. The Weasley children were not, in fact, Arthur's. Not entirely, anyway. Although Molly Prewett-Weasley was definitely the mother of the seven children, Arthur was only about .07% their father. The rest of paternity belonged, according to blood tests, to – in the case of the elder five sons – Baron Antonin Dolohov. Ronald and Ginevra apparently belonged to, horrifyingly enough, Hogwart's squib caretaker Argus Filch.

It explained so much.

Once they had absorbed the information, the elder boys had begun to investigate, aided by the combined skills they now recognized as undeniably Slytherin. They had wanted full information to share before they broke the news to their mother and their younger half-siblings. They were understandably shocked to realize the identity of Arthur's blackmailers. The first was Peter Pettigrew, who had apparently witnessed a clandestine meeting between Arthur and Argus during his first week at Hogwarts, and then stalked the men until he learned the truth. He then went directly to the younger two Weasleys, delighted to have leverage against them and hopeful of turning it into something prurient and distasteful of his very own. The perverted Marauder had been quite surprised to find himself with two willing partners in a wonderful blackmailing endeavor – Ronald and Ginevra Weasley. Faced with public exposure and, worse, an enraged Molly Weasley, Arthur immediately folded to the then eleven year old boys and ten year old girl, and began funneling galleons to them, telling the family their increasing poverty was due to the financial strain of putting the youngest five through Hogwarts at the same time. He neglected to mention that Great Aunt Muriel Prewett had bequeathed full tuition and expenses to Hogwarts for all seven of Molly's kids, and it never occurred to any of them to doubt his word.

They believed it for six and a half years.

Having discovered the whole story just two months ago, William and his full brothers were still sickened by the truth. It seemed that Arthur had a preference for men (acceptable!), and a handy little illegal, charmed muggle object (unacceptable!) that collected and preserved the …. fruits …. of Arthur's extramarital activities until they could be extracted and re-employed in the bedroom on his unsuspecting, confunded wife.

Quite honestly, none of the Weasley boys – well, Dolohov, that is - had ever been able to eat turkey again, considering where that damn baster had been. And now it was unavoidable that cheese was off the menu, too, despite the plethora of 'gifts' this latest debacle elicited!

Hearing yet another knock on his office door, Wardsmaster William Weasley grimly finished gathering all of the incriminating parchments into a confidential folder, shoving aside numerous gifts of cheese-rounds from his sniggering, competitive co-workers, and waved his wand to open the door. He looked up to see Fred and George standing in the doorway, grinning viciously in anticipation of the next few hours. Just behind them, Percy sneered at another amateur comedian, who changed his mind and scurried past William's door while trying to look as if carrying a pot of cottage cheese was just a part of his daily activities at the goblin bank.

Turning his attention to his eldest brother, Percy raised an imperious eyebrow and asked emotionlessly, "Everything ready?"

In answer, William simply hefted the heavy folder and tapped his calendar, magically notifying anyone who needed him that he was off the clock. His boss Griphook, who also happened to be the account manager for Baron Dolohov, was aware of their plans and fully approved. Standing, he straightened his robes and said darkly, "Charlie will be meeting us at Head Auror McLaggen's office. He and mum stopped by to visit Ronniekins this morning." The four brothers grinned darkly at each other, causing Colin Creevey, a muggleborn wizard employed as a clerk, to shudder and quickly re-think his plans to rib the Weasleys. Raising his camera for a picture and shouting "Say cheese!" no longer seemed like such a good idea.

As the brothers passed him in grim procession, the unnoticed Creevey pressed himself against the cold, marble wall and wondered how the four men could possibly be from one of the Lightest families around. As a muggleborn, naturally he had not attended the primarily pureblood Hogwarts, but it was common knowledge that the Weasley family were solid allies of Headmaster Dumbledore. Looking at the four dour, determined redheaded wizards, it was impossible to imagine them as anything other than Dark.

At the end of the hallway, Griphook watched the brothers depart, then glanced back into the open doorway of his own office at the furious face of Baron Antonin Dolohov, who was staring in bewildered rage at his updated family tapestry. Having handled his accounts for decades, the goblin already knew that the Baron had never knowingly been intimate with Arthur Weasley, preferring the impersonal anonymity of a private, paid escort service for his baser needs. The Dark Wizard, one of Lord Slytherin's top aides and a favored client of Gringott's, had just discovered that he was somehow the victim of Line Theft – five times. Watching the dangerous wizard carefully, Griphook returned to his desk, shutting the door firmly behind him, and waited for the notorious wizard's rigid self-discipline to override the man's killing rage.

Once Dolohov was suitably composed, Griphook cleared his throat and calmly met the deadly stare. "Baron, I see several advantages here." He ignored the almost-visible rise in temper that showed in the Baron's eyes and continued with delicate viciousness, "Those five young men are exceptionally intelligent, ambitious, handsome and cunning. They are each successful in their chosen fields. Once the blood charms are severed and we positively identify Dumbledore as the wizard who set the glamours, those boys will be even more physically attractive by wizarding standards. With this revelation, you help Lord Slytherin gut both the reputation and membership of the Phoenix Party, gain five worthy sons and heirs while bringing five remarkable followers openly to the Dark. Possibly six, if Margaret Prewett-Weasley severs her ties with Arthur Weasley and follows her true inclinations. Now, your five sons, your heirs, have endured nearly twenty years each of derision and poverty while you were denied your right to your own children."

He watched the Baron's eyes darken further, murderous power thrumming just beneath the skin of the noble wizard as he began to process the depth of the crime against himself and his sons. Despite his refusal to beget heirs, he began to feel a strong sense of possessive protectiveness for the five young men. Nodding to himself, Griphook leaned forward and met his longtime client's eyes fiercely. "And, Baron, hear me: even as we speak, your Lord has bonded with his Consort Hadrian Morgan, who I will tell you confidentially has just gained possession of 51% of the Potter name and fortune. If you handle this correctly, Baron Dolohov, you will be able to convince the proper authorities that full blood tests should be required of all Hogwart's students. Believe me when I tell you that this would be a very good thing with specific regard to your Lord's new consort and his Gryffindor ally."

Dolohov studied the loyal goblin seated behind the large desk, forcefully containing his emotions as he considered Griphook's advice. It would seem that the goblins were now willing to work more strongly behind the scenes to aid Lord Slytherin and the Vol de Mort Party …. and they clearly knew something they could not necessarily state, but were trying to reveal anyway. After another moment of analysis, Dolohov gave an abrupt nod and rose to his feet. "I shall take my leave, for now, Griphook. Thank you for notifying me that there were changes in my Family Tapestry. Please prepare the appropriate paperwork regarding my sons immediately." Left unsaid was his acknowledgment for Griphook's other efforts. Turning to depart, the dignified wizard quirked an inquiring brow and prompted, "Have you any recommendations regarding my immediate destination from here?"

Griphook's grin was feral. "I have heard, Baron Dolohov, that Head Auror McLagenn will shortly be hosting my Wardmaster and his brothers for tea and conversation."

Dolohov's returned a vampiric smile and swept from the office, causing Clerk Creevey to stifle a yelp and huddle against the door to the File Room he maintained. As the muggleborn's thudding heart slowly returned to normal, he ducked his head, avoided Griphook's piercing look, and tried to concentrate on paperwork. As he filed yet another stack of forms documenting the myriad clients coming and going from their vaults, Colon could not help but reflect on the tidbits of information he had overheard today and wonder what tomorrow's newspapers might reveal.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Even though it was the weekend, the Slytherin Common Room was fairly full at this time of the day. Lunch began in just a few minutes, and as it was not a Hogsmeade-weekend, most of the students preferred to walk to the Great Hall together. The third and fourth-year Slytherins were still smarting under the shame of their reprimand by Prefect Lucius Malfoy and the punishments doled out by Professors Malfoy and Prince. None were complaining, however. Despite the unpopularity of the cruel, bigoted bully, the sudden absence of Rabastan LeStrange after his disgusting rant about Slytherin Consort Hadrian Morgan had made a strong impression, and no one else was quite stupid enough to risk unfavorable attention. Rodolphos LeStrange was gone for the weekend with his father, granted leave for a 'family emergency'.

As they waited for the stragglers to come down from the dorms so they could walk together to lunch, most of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Years were discussing their career choices. The topic had been guided by Narcissa Black, who was encouraging her sister, Fourth-Year Bellatrix Black, to pursue her dreams of being a curse breaker. Narcissa seemed to have reason to believe that Bellatrix would no longer be pressured into a marriage with either of the LeStrange brothers. Considering the shocking Vow of Fealty that the Black Heir, Sirius Black, had been forced to swear to Lord Slytherin by Hadrian Morgan, it seemed reasonable that there would be considerable change in the plans of the House of Black.

Many of the students looked up as the door to the Common Room opened and Sixth Year Pansy Parkinson strolled into the room, sharp eyes moving across the students til she saw the one she sought. "Bates! Did you know your uncle is here? He's in the Headmaster's Office with the Potters!" Students looked up at the news, focusing on the pug-nosed gossip as she dispensed the latest fodder.

Gesapius Bates just shrugged, unsurprised, as he replied with a slight sneer, "It's hardly news that Uncle Geoffrey is the Potter Family Solicitor. I can't imagine anyone is surprised that his presence would be necessary today, considering recent events." He couldn't help but smirk reminiscently as he recalled all the reasons why Dumbledore's pet Lion, James Potter, might be in need of his uncle's services. "That disgusting story Potter wrote about Lord Slytherin would be enough to keep Uncle Geoffrey busy for a month, for Merlin's sake! And I imagine the duel will also help pay for my cousin Juno's summer in Venice!"

Around the beautiful room, Slytherins smirked or sneered or nodded thoughtfully, depending on their nature. Yes, it would be immensely profitable to the Potter Family Solicitor these days. After all, regardless of whether a client is doing well or poorly, the Solicitor is always paid first and very well.

Cunning, curly-haired, dainty and dangerous, young Bellatrix considered this and asked Gesapius, "What career are you pursuing, Gesapius? Will you be a solicitor, too?" It seemed reasonable; the wizard's uncle would make a marvelous mentor for an apprentice solicitor. It had occurred to Bellatrix that Gesapius might be one to consider for betrothal, if his future looked prosperous. He was certainly better than Rabastan!

However, Gesapius sneered again at the question and shuddered. "Never. I cannot imagine having to kowtow to people like the Potters and the Fudges just because they are my clients. I'd sooner see them cursed than defend them in court. No, I intend to be a double mastery in Potions and Charms." He looked speculatively at Pansy, who had an interested look on her face. "Perhaps you can apprentice to me once I am a Master, Pansy."

Unnoticed by most of those listening to the discussion, the door to the Cobra Suite had opened quietly and their Lord and his Consort had entered the room. Narcissa rose to her feet immediately, curtseying slightly and catching the attention of Lucius and Severus, who turned and bowed.

The rest of the students registered the presence of the two wizards when Hadrian chuckled somewhat darkly and said with amusement, "May I recommend you reconsider pursuing a mastery of any kind, Gesapius?"

Whirling with indignation, Gesapius Bates nearly choked as he realized he was about to insult Consort Hadrian Morgan in the presence of Lord Slytherin. He stared along with everyone else at the two most influential wizards in Slytherin. Despite his ire at Hadrian's presumption, even Gesapius had to take a moment to appreciate the scene before him.

Hadrian Morgan was dressed in a soft, midnight-black cashmere pullover worn over an emerald silk shirt with a beautiful, silver snake embroidered on the crisp collar. His trousers were black linen, worn with simple black leather shoes. His dark hair was loosely confined in a silver band. Although his clothing was classic and tailored, it was very understated and should not have had the effect it did on the young man's appearance. Somehow, Hadrian was glowingly, vitally beautiful, all flawless, creamy skin and blazing emerald eyes. He was standing comfortably in the possessive, sheltering arm of the tall, powerful, handsome Lord Marvolo Slytherin-and on his left hand was the distinctive, ruby ring of the Slytherin Consort. Narcissa drew an excited breath, completely delighted to see that Hadrian had recognized and accepted his role as her Lord's Consort. No wonder he was glowing! He had already won the affection of the eldest daughter of the House of Black, and she was both pleased and proud at the image he presented of impeccable pureblood beauty.

And, with Hadrian on his arm, Lord Slytherin seemed even more masculine, charming and deadly than normal, crimson eyes crinkled slightly and alight with amusement as he studied his Consort. Looking at the two, elegant men, there was no one who did not understand that here was the future of the Wizarding World. It would be incredibly foolish to offend either of them.

Nevertheless, Gesapius felt the sting of Hadrian's seemingly unwarranted comment and could not help but stick out his chin a bit and glare slightly. After all, he had done nothing untoward to Hadrian, so why would the boy insult him like that? Perhaps because his uncle worked for the Potters? "I most certainly will not reconsider pursuing a mastery – two, in fact!- Consort Morgan. I will be the youngest wizard ever to attain a double mastery! Furthermore, I intend to teach, probably right here at Hogwarts!" Around the room, eyes rolled at the pompous arrogance of young wizard, and several students looked to see Severus Prince's reaction. It was nearly a certainty that if any of them were going to attain such achievements, it would be the Heir of Prince.

Oblivious to the undercurrents, Gesapius plowed ahead, willfully ignoring the warning light in the crimson eyes watching him. "Truthfully, sir, I admit I am somewhat insulted that you would discourage me from that title and goal." The officious young man did not scowl, but felt it was not too out of line to stare challengingly at the smirking young wizard, who seemed to feel entitled to voice his uninformed opinions simply because he had been shagged by Lord Slytherin. Gesapius's scowl deepened. Really, it was incredibly rude of the Consort to denigrate his fellow Slytherins within mere days of joining their House!

Hadrian simply leaned back somewhat into the unsubtle embrace of his soon-to-be-betrothed and allowed himself a slow, slightly wicked grin as he fixed his brilliant gaze on the offended young Gesapius Bates. "Really? You wish to gain a title like that? Become a master and teach in a school full of hormonal adolescents? Personally, I think it would become confusing, to be surrounded by young people during their years of sexual awakening, and be called 'Master Bates'. I mean, just imagine how many times you would hear that word in a day! Given the number of adolescents here at Hogwarts, you should be a very busy man. Popular, but very, very busy."

The resulting silence in the Common Room lasted just long enough for the students to see their Lord's crimson eyes light up with laughter and his shoulders shake slightly as he turned and tugged his impish Consort toward the beautiful double doors and out of the room. Those who watched them leave turned to look at Gesapius, who had a look of dawning horror on his face at Hadrian's observation. Snickers and giggles began as Bellatrix Black rose to follow Lord Slytherin and his delightful little snake, saying over her shoulder, "I can see you now, Gesapius, turning around and saying 'here!' whenever someone says 'masturbates'. Whatever you do, stay away from Gryffindor; given their stories, you'll be dizzy and exhausted within minutes!"

As the chortling Slytherins also departed to follow the others to lunch, Gesapius Bates sat down to reconsider his career choices. Perhaps he had best apprentice to his uncle after all.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

ooooooooooooooooooo

WHEN LAST WE MET (to bring us all up to speed after my unplanned hiatus):

* Dumbledore was meeting in his office with Lord & Lady Potter and their Solicitor, Geoffrey Bates. The initial point of the meeting was to handle the slanderous story James wrote about the powerful (and so damn sexy!) Lord Marvolo Slytherin. During the conversation, several disturbing revelations came to light, amongst which was the fact that Hadrian Morgan's father – the original Lord Potter – had tried on his deathbed to bring Hadrian into the family, but his will was destroyed by a scheming Dumbledore, Charlus and Evelyn. They then did their level best to deprive him of all his rights as both a wizard and a noble, all of his money, and his role as a Founder's Heir. Their house of cards is beginning to fall now, and the Potters and Dumbledore are horrified to realize that Hadrian is gaining power and influence even as they are losing the same. Solicitor Bates is secretly delighted to help Hadrian along due to the arrival of three items of private correspondence in the midst of the meeting. The first is from Gringott's, transferring ownership of one Potter house elf and 51% of the Potter Family fortune to Hadrian as a direct result – not of the disastrous writing contest – but their own son James's stupidity in both how he conducted and challenged a public duel with Hadrian. This gives Bates the legal right to fully inform Hadrian of everything he knows – and he knows a LOT. Furthermore, there are still two items of correspondence left unopened, and so much they don't yet know: Sirius Black's forced vow of fealty for himself and House Black to Lord Slytherin, Heir-Lord Longbottom's charges against James Potter, Hadrian's new roles as Consort to the dangerous Lord Slytherin and Friend of the House Longbottom, the upcoming scandal of Arthur Weasley conducting Line Theft against Baron Antonin Dolohov and the subsequent defection of the five elder Weasley sons from the Light, the soon-to-be mandatory bloodline tests for Hogwart's students…. It's positively dizzying!

To clarify the timeline just a bit, when we left off, the meeting in the Headmaster's Office had continued without us watching (although Dame Grenadine certainly was), and Marvolo and Hadrian were just informed by Hadrian's elf Tansy that Dumbledore planned to initiate a search for Marvolo if he didn't show up for lunch. They were bewildered by this, until Tansy explained that Dumbledore had hurt his house elf Zeppo for the elf's part in capturing Cormac McLaggen, the Sorting Hat found out and threatened to tell Lord Slytherin (either Salazar or Marvolo), and Dumbledore is trying to get to Marvolo and get his own lies in before the Hat finds him. (As Founder's Heir, Marvolo has considerable power in the castle, and in some ways power over Dumbledore, which the sly old bastard ameliorates with lies, cunning and masterful manipulation of people and events.) Hadrian orders Tansy to bring Zeppo to the care of Cherish Pomfrey as soon as he is alone, and he and Marvolo head off to lunch (briefly pausing in the Slytherin Common Room to embarrass young Gesapius Bates about his career ambitions).

* Smaller matters abound, as well. What's up with the Deathly Hallows? Will Dumbledore ever discover Fawkes' eye for fashion? What career choice will young Master Bates make now? What will happen to the younger Weasley-Filch's and their fathers? What will Molly do? What will Dolohov do? And let us not forget the individuals who have yet to see the true fallout for their foolish written words and their ongoing persecution of the now-powerful Hadrian Morgan. How is Rabastan handling his comeuppance at the hands of Erasmus Sanguini? Has Lord Richmond LeStrange experienced the hands of Erasmus Sanguini yet? :::::: shiver:::::: Did Dame Grenadine and Sherlock Holmes conduct a comparative analysis of riding crop versus whip? Will anyone in Wizarding Great Britain ever willingly eat cheese again?

sigh So much to learn. Shall we begin?

oooooooooooooooooooo

Calling It as I See It

Silence fell among the students and staff gathered for lunch in the Great Hall, moving in a wave from those nearest the door and ending at the Head Table and a smirking Professor Tobias Prince and warmly smiling Professor Abraxas Malfoy. Heads turned and eyes widened at the sight as tall, elegant Professor Slytherin entered the room with the glowingly beautiful Hadrian Morgan on his arm. With complete composure, the two men moved toward the Slytherin table, their unhurried progress allowing ample time for all of the hushed observers to note the new crest of the Slytherin Consort crest on Hadrian's dark green robes. Excited whispers and murmurs erupted throughout the Great Hall as Marvolo seated Hadrian in 'his' chair at the end of the table, placing his hand on a slim shoulder as he leaned down to speak softly to the younger man for a moment, before standing tall and sweeping a dispassionate but somehow threatening ruby gaze over the avidly attentive watchers.

Finally, satisfied with the dropped eyes and shivers of dread he elicited from those he specifically targeted – each Marauder, Ronald Weasley, and Argus Filch were particularly affected – the tall Lord and Professor squeezed Hadrian's shoulder once more and headed up to seat himself between his friends and vassals, Malfoy and Prince.

Conversation resumed with great enthusiasm as the excited squeals of excited romantics served as descant to the speculations and discussions of several hundred fascinated diners.

From his somewhat gaudy throne in the center of the Head table, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore had watched the entrance of the two Slytherins with a sense of growing horror. The possessive stance of young Tom as he escorted the bane of this entire year was enough cause for worry, but the crest on Morgan's robes declaring the little bastard to be Slytherin's Consort had nearly caused Albus to choke on his own fear. This was disastrous! All of his plans and careful machinations were in terrible danger already as a result of this morning's revelations with the Potters and Bates. Over half of the financial might of the Potter Family now irrevocably belonged to young Hadrian (and how could young James be so phenomenally stupid so many times in a 24-hour period?!), and Albus was certain – even before Bates opened the second letter to confirm it – that Slytherin would be suing Heir James Potter for both slander and libel. After all, this would provide his political opponent with ample leverage and publicity. Given the same situation, Albus would unquestionably have pressed the advantage; it would be unthinkable that Tom would not do so, as well. But now, things were so much worse than even five minutes ago – and they'd been pretty bad then! To see that not only was Tom's attention caught by Hadrian but that they were Lord and Consort (and how the hell had that happened so damn quickly?!) was potentially devastating! It was probably only a matter of time before they discovered Hadrian's true status as a Founder's Heir in his own right – twice! – and that would then lead to truths and revelations that Albus was really quite desperate to keep buried and safe.

Thoughts spinning and stomach roiling, Dumbledore pretended interest in his meal and tried to settle himself enough to conceal his agitation from … well, pretty much everyone. He was, after all, a great man, respected and venerated by the sheeple. It wouldn't do at all for them to see him vomiting the cheese soufflé he had just consumed.

And why were the house elves giving him all of these cheese products, anyway? Didn't they know that a gentleman of his advanced years might suffer a bit for consuming an excess of the stuff? Poking a fork suspiciously into the remains of his soufflé, he was startled to see it replaced with a nice, cheese omelette. "Zeppo must be trying to make it up to me for his disobedience," Albus chuckled to himself, thinking that he would be magnanimous and allow himself only one more session of punishment for his servant before he granted forgiveness. Of course, the punishment would have to be kept within the narrow interpretation of what the damn Hat felt acceptable, but Albus was certainly capable of generating adequate penitence from the traitorous elf without leaving visible proof.

Oblivious to the looks of nauseated disgust as he dug happily into the cheesy mess, the Headmaster ignored the increasing sense of constipation building in his bowels and concentrated on willfully not thinking about the anxiety-ridden days to come.

He was completely blind to the ironic parallels between what was happening in his life and what was happening in his bowels. Nevertheless, Tansy and Fletcher were quite pleased with their efforts, sharing a vicious grin with each other before popping up to the Hospital Wing to see how Zeppo was faring.

ooo

Expressionless mask firmly in place but silver-blue eyes sparkling, Abraxas Malfoy redirected his observations away from the panicking Headmaster and focused on his oldest friend.

"So, Marvolo," he began teasingly, "I gather it's safe to assume that your interest in Mr. Morgan is reciprocated?" On Marvolo's other side, Tobias smirked back at Abraxas as they studied their dignified friend and Lord. In true Slytherin style, Marvolo's posture and behavior were no different than any other day; however, they knew the man very well and were delighted to see the warmth in those distinctive eyes and the small smile playing on his face.

The truth was clear: Marvolo was happy. Not just pleased, or satisfied, or triumphant, or content. They had seen all of these things, and enjoyed them with their old friend. No, this was quite different. Marvolo was in love. Marvolo's love was returned.

Marvolo was happy.

Smile deepening on his handsome face as he glanced at Abraxas, Marvolo replied dryly, "I see your impeccable Slytherin instincts are working properly. Well done, you!"

Next to him, Tobias snorted quietly, amused at the patently-fake look of offended pride on his lover's face. No matter how hard Abraxas tried, he just could not manage to completely disguise the fact that he was a genuinely nice person. It was a good thing that Tobias and Marvolo had a strong presence in the life of the Malfoy's, or young Lucius may have emulated his father to the point of becoming a Hufflepuff. Fortunately, the young man was better at hiding his emotions than Abraxas was – a trait aided considerably by Lucius's friendship with Tobias's own son, Severus.

As if they had followed his thoughts, the attention of the elder Slytherins was drawn to their House table and the interaction of the four leaders: Lucius, Severus, Narcissa and, of course, Hadrian. Much of their discussion was conducted in low tones, frustrating would-be eavesdroppers who knew their way past privacy wards. Nevertheless, the ramrod-straight posture of young Lucius indicated some degree of indignation, while Hadrian and Narcissa were snickering and Severus smirked. The sour expression on Lucius's face as he secured his platinum hair in a silver band was a sure sign that Severus had managed another sarcastic bit of humor at young Malfoy's expense. Everyone knew that Lucius was vain about his hair, and sensitive to unkind comments from friends. In truth, the boy's enemies could insult him all day and only provide Lucius fodder for his own scathing wit, but the opinions of loved ones cut deep. Tobias glanced over to Abraxas, and sure enough, his lover's handsome face reflected clear concern for his son's wounded feelings. He sighed deeply, aggravated at Severus's continuing refusal to temper his insults in any way. His son was far too certain of the correctness of his own opinions, and seemed to believe it was his role in life to continually belittle everyone around him.

At the student table, Hadrian, too, seemed to know that Severus had scored Lucius's pride a little too deeply this time. The three at the Head table watched as the remarkable young man once again summoned his will in a near-visible demonstration of self-discipline, silencing his intense shyness and summoning steel into his spine that went well beyond the thoughtless courage of the Gryffindors.

With complete composure, Hadrian then rose to his feet, catching the eye of every Slytherin and most of the other students (and teachers) with a spoon ringing against his glass and an overly-dramatic rendition of pompous dignity that mimicked the Headmaster to perfection. Tobias and Abraxas heard Marvolo chuckle beneath his breath at his Consort's performance.

Once he was certain he had the attention of every Slytherin, he winked at Lucius and smirked evilly at Severus. More than one person could understand the look of worry that dawned in Severus's onyx eyes. Narcissa, however, could not restrain an undignified giggle.

Hadrian sent his verdant gaze down the table of Slytherins, smirking all the while, and announced pompously, "It has come to my attention that we have failed to treat a Noble personage in our House with proper respect."

Up at the Head Table, Albus Dumbledore froze, wondering if this was the moment the next room in his house of cards began to fall.

Hadrian raised his crystal goblet of cider, gesturing for all of the other Slytherins to do the same, and then said with ringing tones, "I, Slytherin Consort Hadrian Morgan, do hereby recognize Severus Tobias Prince for his unparalleled use of his sharp tongue as a lethal weapon, and nominate said personage to be heretofore known far and wide ….. as the Snark Lord of Slytherin!" He grinned down at a wide-eyed Lucius and continued pompously, "Do I have a second?"

Wild delight flaring into vicious life set Lucius's silver eyes alight as he surged to his feet, raising his own goblet high, and declared with perfect, resounding formality, "I, Heir-Lord Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, do hereby Second the Nomination to formally entitle Severus Tobias Prince as the Snark Lord of Slytherin! All in Favor?"

Severus looked like he was chewing the worst of Dumbledore's lemon drops as every student at the Slytherin table, all three Slytherin professors, and well over half of the other students and staff in the Great Hall chorused a resounding, "AYE!"

Continuing the formalities perfectly, Lucius continued, "All Opposed?" If crickets could vote, they might have counted as opponents to the proposal, for that was the only metaphorical sound in the room.

With a wide grin tinged with maliciousness, Lucius declared in a ringing baritone that would make any herald proud, "Motion carried! From this time forward, Severus Tobias Prince is the Snark Lord of Slytherin!"

Not to be outdone, Narcissa gracefully rose to her feet with goblet held high and shouted, "Three cheers for the Snark Lord! Hip hip….!"

"Hooray!"

"Hip hip…!"

"HOORAY!"

"Hip hip…!"

"HOORAY!"

The final cheer was deafening as every voice in the Great Hall shouted it with wide grins and much laughter. Not even the Marauders were able to resist contributing to the din. Even Dumbledore lent his voice, as pinched by growing constipation as it was. Along the walls, portraits were chuckling or outright laughing, depending on their House affiliation. Standing in the large portrait along the Slytherin side of the Great Hall were the Fat Lady, Salazar Slytherin, the dapper little man who seemed to always be near the Founder, and a tall, thin, eccentric man who always carried a black pipe and a riding crop. All four of the painted people were smiling and chuckling.

Of the three Slytherin professors, Hadrian had - in one, clever, daring move – secured the gratitude of one protective father, the amused attention of one frustrated father, and the certainty of another session of lovemaking as soon as lunch ended with a very hot-eyed betrothed Lord.

Severus just sat there, one hand over his face, and tried to let the embarrassment pass over him as he reminded himself why he could not murder Lord Slytherin's pain-in-the-arse Consort. Lucius, however, could not keep his smile contained as he caught Hadrian's green gaze and conveyed his thanks. Narcissa, too, could not resist squeezing Hadrian's arm warmly as she smiled over at her betrothed. Because of his role as Leader in Slytherin House, it was rare for anyone to defend Lucius, and unheard of for anyone to do so against the acerbic Severus. No one wished to redirect that contemptuous wit to themselves. Hadrian had just ensured the cautious respect of the House of Prince, the friendship of the House of Malfoy, and the outright devotion of the majority of Slytherin students.

'And, if the heated looks Lord Slytherin is sending toward his Consort are any indication, he has also secured a very interesting afternoon for himself,' Narcissa smilingly mused. Meeting Lucius's happy silver eyes, the eldest daughter of the House of Black allowed her affection to reach her own eyes and sent her intended a warm smile. At the moment, she was certain that her small lapse in maintaining the mask was allowable, and would go unnoticed by non-Slytherins as they were mostly still loudly discussing the impromptu ceremony. Turning her attention to Severus, Narcissa barely kept back an unladylike snort, but could not resist saying archly, "It appears the Snark Lord is dyspeptic. Is there a potion for that, Sev?"

Narcissa was pleased that the onyx glare immediately drilling into her was, for once, ineffectual against the buoyancy of the moment. She watched discreetly as Severus turned his glare on Hadrian, and so she was witness to another unheard-of event – Severus Prince looking intimidated. His scowl had immediately morphed into a look of shock when he met Hadrian's cold green glare, and everyone present felt the warning the Consort delivered. Severus heard it loud and clear. For the rest of the meal, Severus maintained a noncommittal expression and an attitude of polite disinterest, but his verbal daggers remained sheathed and his mind was occupied with the completely believable menace in Hadrian's killer-curse stare.

More than one person felt it wise to reevaluate the Slytherin Consort. Clearly, there was much more to the young man than he allowed most people to see.

He definitely belonged in the House of the Snakes.

ooo

Fools Foiled Again… and Again

As the meal ended and Marvolo rose to collect his beloved Serpent and hurry him back to the bedroom, the crowd of students realized that yet another meal would feature some entertainment involving a Marauder and Hadrian Morgan. Very few of the residents of Hogwarts missed meals any longer, as so much of the recent dramas and confrontations seemed to originate during these daily gatherings. It was better than dinner theatre!

This time, all four Marauders approached as a group – or pack – just as Professor Slytherin was escorting Hadrian toward the doors, but they paused at a respectful, non-confrontational distance from the two snakes. Sighing internally as he felt his Consort tense, Marvolo reluctantly halted and studied the four Gryffindors, noting the way their belligerent and rebellious body language belied the patently-false expressions of sincerity. Wrapping an arm around Hadrian's waist in a flagrant declaration of ownership that was met with three ill-disguised looks of disgust and an obvious look of envy worn by Pettigrew, Marvolo stared at the Marauders coldly and raised his eyebrows impatiently. Standing at his side, Hadrian's expression was identical to Marvolo's.

With clear reluctance, James Potter stepped forward, trying – and failing – to look earnest and ashamed, and cleared his throat. "Forgive me for interrupting you both." His smile was more like a grimace than anything. "I have done a lot of thinking and wish to express my apologies for everything I have done against you both. My behavior was inappropriate. Please forgive me." Smiling with false humility, James did his best to infuse the key phrase with magic, as he'd been taught.

Watching his cousin, Hadrian randomly wondered if Dumbledore's apparent constipation was spreading, because James certainly looked like he was suffering from it.

Once again, the Great Hall was silent as everyone strained to witness the latest chapter in the saga. At the Head Table, Albus watched in approval, pleased that James had memorized his lines so perfectly, and sent a wink over at the corner where Charlus and Evelyn Potter huddled beneath a disillusionment charm. He could almost feel Charlus's agitation at having to use such a charm instead of the vaunted Potter Family Invisibility Cloak. If James played his part properly, that cloak would be back in Albus's …. err, James's…. control within the hour.

James, however, was losing a little confidence under the combined threat of two dispassionate stares. Hadrian's too-bright green eyes were creepy enough, but when they were accompanied by the bloody stare of Professor Slytherin, it was hard to take. Still, he had been coached well and knew what he had to do. He had to do this right, or face the consequences of losing his birthright to the Bastard. Headmaster Dumbledore had promised him that the powerful old wizard could certainly outwit the two Slytherins and set things right. And everyone knew that Dumbledore was the greatest wizard since Merlin himself. Confidence rising again, he focused on the part he had to play, and plastered a pleading look on his face. He knew this was a powerful weapon for him; it always worked on his mother and the mudblood girls over at the Recovered Heritage schools. Well, most of them, anyway. That fiery redhead hadn't been impressed at all.

He tried to ignore the fact that neither of the men he faced seemed impressed, either, and continued to recite his lines, sincerity practically dripping off of every word. "Please, cousin! When all is said and done, we are family!" He smirked internally, knowing that would was a great hook into the Bastard's soul.

Hadrian did not need the warning squeeze Marvolo gave, but he appreciated it all the same. Really, it was almost insulting that anyone could believe this wasn't completely transparent! Offering a small, chilly smile, he said impassively, "Specifically, Mr. Potter, for what do you request forgiveness?"

James offered a blank stare as he tried to improvise. Dumbledore and his parents didn't cover this! What had he done that was so wrong? "Uh…. Well, the stair prank, I suppose," he offered uncertainly. Was that one of the things Hadrian expected to hear? It was just a prank; everyone loved their pranks! Right?

Standing beside him, Remus shifted worriedly but didn't offer any help. Sirius was as expressionless as the Slytherins, which was kind of weird. Maybe he was caught in some sort of loyalty loop or something. James didn't even bother to look at Peter; it would have been three wasted seconds if he had.

Hadrian raised one eyebrow mockingly. "Not sure, James? What, exactly, are you apologizing for with regard to 'the stair prank', as you call it? Humor me."

James tried to keep from scowling, but his voice showed his irritation as he rushed the words to get them out before they could choke him. "Well, I probably should have planned the prank better. Maybe made sure you only fell one flight or something. But how was I supposed to know you'd cast a sticking charm on your shoes? Really, you're probably as responsible for your injuries as I am; more, even, because you would only have fallen one level if you'd just gone with the joke!" A warning hiss from the seemingly empty corner of the Great Hall stopped his rising indignation, and he realized that maybe he'd given away a little too much information to the avid listeners. They had needed witnesses for when Hadrian retracted James's penalties, but he had to be careful to control what was revealed.

Drawing a deep breath, he let it out and tried to regroup. "Anyway, cousin, regardless of whose fault it was, you ended up with an injury or two. And for that I am sorry." He ground the last words out through clenched teeth, and the sound of his molars grinding together distracted him from the worry in Remus's amber eyes at his dismissive attitude toward Hadrian's near-critical injuries.

Was it possible for a blood-red stare to carry ice chips? Because the look Professor Slytherin was aiming at him had James shivering, and that was before the intimidating man said softly, "I give you a Troll on that response, Mr. Potter. You still haven't learned to do adequate research for your assignments, have you?"

At the Head Table, Dumbledore shifted worriedly, clearly understanding the message. Tom was unquestionably on to their tactics. 'I hope James completes his task before Tom warns his new, little bedwarmer,' he thought viciously. Perched on his bony shoulder, Fawkes suddenly decided it was a grand time to sink his beak into Albus's hair and start plucking. Albus tried to shoo the determined bird away, knowing that the damn thing would soon be drawing blood. Honestly, why anyone would think being master to a phoenix was a blessing was beyond him; they were annoying, overgrown featherheads most of the time. Wincing at another hard tug on his scalp, he tried to focus on the scene by the doors, and thus missed the new deposit of 'hawk chawk' that dripped down the back of his mustard yellow and baby-poo green robes.

Confused, James just shifted his weight and tried to pull the conversation back to the script he had been given. "Anyway…. uh…um…Oh!... After all, cousin, when all is said and done, we are family!" He stared hopefully at Hadrian, mentally urging him to recite the next line.

He was disappointed.

Hadrian raised his eyebrows and said mockingly, "You already said that, James. Skip ahead a little." Around the room, people began to catch on to the true nature of the 'apology' and glanced around for answers. Every Slytherin – and Neville Longbottom – had already figured out that Dumbledore was orchestrating this little scene, but the Headmaster would have been horrified to realize that many others began to clue in, as well. They might have taken longer if he hadn't been twisting his hands and moving his lips to recite the lines along with James. More than one witness shook their heads in disbelief and wondered if the formerly-great wizard was suffering from advancing senility. It was a far more palatable thought than the other options that came to mind.

Once again, James found himself staring blankly as he tried to think for himself without hopelessly screwing this up. He was in a quandary, because his parents and the Headmaster had all sternly warned him to not deviate and not lose his temper.

Hard to do when Hadrian refused to cooperate and was seriously pissing him off.

Producing a very fake laugh, James offered his Number Four Crooked Grin and Hand Mussing Hair Combo and said, "Well, I know for certain I shouldn't have duelled you! I apologize for that. Do you forgive me?" Damn it, it was essential to get Hadrian to say the words!

Hadrian was uncooperative. "James, there was nothing at all wrong with you dueling me. Why would you think so? It is, after all, an acceptable wizarding practice in settling disputes. Legal and everything!"

The blank look was becoming a habit by this time. "Well, I lost! So, yeah, I'm sorry about that!" He couldn't quite keep from glaring.

Hadrian's smile was still chilly. "And if you had won?" At the Head Table, Dumbledore shifted urgently, trying to catch James's attention before he mucked his up.

Too late.

"Of course not!" James snapped incredulously. "Obviously! Who would be sorry to win a duel?" The other Marauders were rolling their eyes at Hadrian's delusional attitude toward victory, although it was possible that Sirius was rolling his eyes at James's bad acting.

It was like the writing contest results all over again, as Slytherins looked on in bemusement as the Lions walked right into the trap Hadrian placed in front of them, even though they watched him do it.

Marvolo looked like he was carved in marble. "Of course not, indeed, Mr. Potter. Your only regret in any of this is that your cousin bested you. You have no understanding at all regarding your faults and failings. Perhaps you could simply speed this up and tell us specifically what you are trying to accomplish here? False apologies aside, of course. And do make it quick; I have a rather urgent, private meeting with my Consort to keep." Abraxas and Tobias smirked in unison, certain they knew exactly what manner of 'meeting' Marvolo had in mind. Interlocking body parts were unquestionably involved.

James stared almost desperately around the Great Hall, looking for answers, and finally surrendered all pretenses and turned to look at the Headmaster. The scowl he got in return was not reassuring. Remus's eyes were on the ground now, and Sirius was just standing there, face and eyes absent of emotion. He didn't even bother to look at Peter; the boy was useless unless sniggering or whining was required. It was up to him, then.

Shite.

Drawing a deep breath, he tried the grin/hair tug combo again and said the most important line of the script, infusing as much magic as he could into the words. "Will you pardon my transgressions?" He amped up the charm in his smile and gazed imploringly at the Basta…um….his cousin, hands disarmingly open.

Emerald eyes should never be so cold and unemotional. And ruby eyes were even scarier that way. In the hushed moments as the twin glares focused on him like icy lasers, James was certain that he would rather be standing this close to a Dementor than to these two Slytherins.

"No."

With that single word, Marvolo and Hadrian turned to depart. Unable to keep up the act, James's expression morphed to frustrated rage as he seized Hadrian's shoulder to pull the smaller man to face him and shouted, "What the FUCK do you mean, 'NO'?! Why the hell not?!" The hand gripping Hadrian's shoulder clenched hard as James's rage allowed him to force angry magic through his grip into the smaller boy's skin and muscles. He tightened his grip even further and shook his wand into his other hand, preparing to strike and somehow force the little prick to comply.

Observers noted that Sirius Black had immediately stepped away from his longtime best friend, in the opposite direction of the backward steps taken by Pettigrew and Lupin. The latter two had simply moved away from fear, but Black was clearly moving to separate himself from them all. This was made more obvious by the fact that he moved in the direction of the furious Neville Longbottom, and now stood shoulder to shoulder with the new Alpha Lion. He had no choice but to honor his Fealty Oath. Time would only tell if he would honor it in spirit as well as letter.

At the same time the other two Marauders backed away, which was fortunate for them. Within half a second of James Potter touching his Consort, Lord Marvolo Slytherin was firing a hissed curse. Seizing Potter's thumb and bending it back as he forcibly removed the enraged boy's hand from his Consort, Marvolo's wand continued to gush a steady stream of viscous dark purple magic at his Consort's attacker.

The screams were … memorable.

Nobody else moved. Every person in the Great Hall seemed frozen, witness to the ferocious power instantly and effortlessly unleashed by the Lord of Slytherin in defense of his beloved new Consort. Disregarding the imprint of James's hand in the burned silk over his shoulder and the pain he must have been in, Hadrian remained mostly impassive. He seemed largely unaffected by everything, including the fact that he stood not three feet from a man who was being tortured by the Lord of his heart. Granted, James was entirely deserving of his treatment, and in light of all of the past abuse he had heaped upon his cousin, he probably deserved a great deal more of it. Still, one would think that Hadrian would show some emotion over it. Satisfaction, perhaps. Disgust. Maybe even fear or bloodlust, depending on his inner nature.

But the most anyone could honestly say they saw in Hadrian's face and eyes as he disregarded his injuries and studied his screaming, contorting cousin was … mild interest.

How very terrifying.

The growing respect and wariness levels felt by the majority of the student body for the former 'Ravenclaw embarrassment' went off the charts as people began to realize that the shy, quiet, often kind young wizard was entirely deserving of his role as Consort to a Dark Lord. The pride and approval showing clearly in Lord Slytherin's crimson eyes as he cancelled the curse and summoned Professor Prince to attend Hadrian was equally terrifying. More than one person made a strong mental note to never, ever offend either – or, Merlin forbid, both – of these men.

Finally summoning strength to his shaking limbs, Headmaster Dumbledore shoved into the back of his mind his (entirely justified) awe at the demonstration of Slytherin's speed, power and ruthlessness, and rose to his feet, shaking his beautiful gold and emerald robes out for optimum effect, pleased that he had shown the foresight to change for lunch. This was an ideal opportunity to save the whole damn situation. Straightening fully and moving with majestic grace, he did his best to look like the imposing and powerful equal of Lord Slytherin. Summoning his best acting skills (much better than what James had on offer), he leveled a sorrowful gaze of practiced disappointment at Tom – wondering yet again why the boy would try to put aside such a perfectly good name in favor of a foolish one like 'Marvolo' – and spoke in carrying tones.

"Professor Slytherin, this is inexcusable. Torturing a student who was attempting to apologize to you?! I demand on behalf of the injured Heir of the House of Potter that you and Mr. Morgan make restitution to him immediately!" He ignored the indignant gasps and comments that erupted among the students, intent on wringing what he wanted from the two Slytherins. "I think it would be fitting for you both to simply grant the poor boy his simple and heartwarming request, and formally pardon him for past transgressions. I will serve as Trust Holder."

Taking out the gnarled wand he had earned in what he still saw as his defeat of Grindelwald – really, did it matter that Tom was there, too? – and raising it high, he looked soberly upon the two troublemakers and said with dignity, "Let us begin."

For perhaps half a minute, he stood there looking like a Symphony Conductor (with horrible fashion sense and a slimy deposit from Fawkes sliding down his back) awaiting the first note, before he lowered his wand with a forlorn sigh of disappointment and looked over his half-moon spectacles at Tom and Hadrian. Merlin, these boys were obstinate! No matter; he was certain that he could manipulate them into the Ritual of Pardon; after all, he was an expert at imposing a sense of guilt upon people.

For their part, Marvolo and Hadrian stared at the old man for a moment or two before returning to the matter at hand; namely, having Tobias cast a diagnostic and print a legally-admissible parchment record of it for still another lawsuit against House Potter. As he did so, Marvolo made another, more urgent, mental note to look into Hadrian's noncommittal response to pain. The diagnostic showed that James's magic-infused grip had caused deep bruising and a painful burn on Hadrian's slender shoulder. Seeing his beloved little Consort so injured made Marvolo want to crucio the whimpering Marauder. And once again, the old politician was dismissing his pet Lion's criminal actions and trying to punish Hadrian for daring to enrage the boy by not falling into his trap. In that moment, Lord Marvolo Slytherin swore in his heart that he would see Dumbledore and his corrupted supporters deposed, dispossessed and (regarding the Headmaster) dismissed.

With Tobias's task done, Marvolo carefully and gently healed his Consort's bruised and burned shoulder, winning a number of wistful sighs from soft-eyed witnesses at the way the elder wizard gently lifted the fabric away to inspect and caress Hadrian's delicate skin before framing the small face within strong hands and staring into his beloved's eyes to ensure he was well. The three Slytherins completely ignored the still convulsing James, who was now on the floor and whimpering as the thick purple magic slowly oozed down his body to dissipate on the stone floor. They ignored the Headmaster's theatrics. They ignored the witnesses. Until Marvolo was absolutely certain that Tobias had done his part and Hadrian was completely well and pain-free, everyone was ignored.

Rolling his eyes at the sight of Tom pressing a soft kiss into Hadrian's messy hair, Dumbledore cleared his throat loudly, determined to get this all back on track. However, the instant the increasingly irritated Headmaster was again the focus of attention, he missed being ignored. There was nothing but contempt in the eyes of the two Slytherins facing him. Drawing his breath indignantly, he narrowed his eyes and took a step forward to demand their compliance, to command their respect, to control the situation to his own advantage. But before he could utter a single word, Hadrian was speaking.

"If you think for a single moment, Headmaster, that every person in this Hall is not now aware of your questionable motives in all of this, you should consult Madame Pomfrey immediately." The contempt in Hadrian's voice burned the old man like acid. "For public record – Slytherins, take note for purpose of witness, please – I, Hadrian Morgan, DO NOT in any way pardon James Potter for his criminal and morally-reprehensible behavior toward me. I will pursue justice to the fullest extent available to me, in every avenue available to me. I will do the same to any and every person or House that acts against my Rights and Entitlements."

Hadrian glared into the surprised, watery blue eyes that met his own and practically spat the next words, "And in case that is in any way unclear to you, Headmaster, I will not be returning anything that I have won or earned or otherwise gained legal and moral possession of from the House of Potter. Given these latest actions on the part of this fool at my feet, I will soon gain title of even more gold and goods that presently are in the possession of the House of Potter. I have no doubt that if he is allowed to speak again, I will soon own the whole House in its entirety simply by virtue of James Potter's unrelenting stupidity and uncontrollable, violent temper!"

And then he turned to smile devilishly up into the heated ruby gaze focused on him and added the coup de grȧce, "Personally, I think the new Slytherin Family Invisibility Cloak is a wonderful heirloom to keep in our Line, don't you, my Lord?"

Huddled at their feet, James Potter heard those words and uttered a sound that was half-groan, half-sob into the uselessly patting arm of Peter Pettigrew. Some attention returned to him, but most of the avid 'viewers' of this latest drama were focusing on the romantic leading men who were completely focused on each other. Sighs echoed around the Great Hall when Lord Slytherin smiled softly and raised his hand to stroke his fingers gently over the cheek of his beloved, red eyes warm and tender, before sliding a protective arm around the young wizard's waist and directing him once more out the doors of the Great Hall.

Just before they left the room completely, Marvolo paused, glanced back and cast Reveleo at the corner where Charlus and Evelyn Potter stood frozen in dismay beneath the Disillusionment Charm. Numerous students gaped as the couple was revealed, and so were witness to the ugly looks the couple wore when Marvolo called back, "A shameful and pathetic effort to dishonorably regain possessions already lost because of dishonor, Lord and Lady Potter. Perhaps the 'Light' are not so pure as they would have us all believe."

As the Great doors closed behind the departing lovers, more than one person was left to consider those parting words very, very carefully.

Including a contemplative, troubled Sirius Black.

oooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

oooooooooooooooooooo

In the News

Lord Marvolo Slytherin and his Consort Hadrian Morgan did not attend any meals in the Great Hall for the rest of the weekend. More than one giggly, starry-eyed teenage found him or herself lost in romantic speculations about what was probably occurring in the Lord's private rooms. If pressed, it could be proven that a few members of the Staff did their own share of speculating and sighing, as well.

Monday at breakfast saw the first public appearance of the Slytherin couple since the luncheon confrontation with James Potter on Saturday. James Potter didn't make it for another three days, and when he finally showed, he looked like someone who had fallen asleep while sunbathing – on the Equator.

Thanks to the unparalleled efficiency of the Hogwart's rumor mill, it was now widely known that James Potter had been hit with a rare curse indeed by the enraged and protective Lord Slytherin. No one knew its name, which was probably for the best, but everyone now knew that James had unquestionably been tortured – legally. The intent of the curse was pain – it began with the impact of the thick, purple magic on any surface immediately ridding the skin beneath of its first layer of cells. It then turned into astringent, further agonizing the fresh, raw skin. As the viscous magic oozed downward, it left behind a layer of salt that dug in between the skin cells and was nearly impossible to remove or negate. It had to be absorbed into the body or wear away over time.

Dumbledore's initial attempt to bring charges against Lord Slytherin for use of a Dark torture curse were stalled when it was revealed (to the horror of many) that Potter was actually hit with a beauty-treatment charm currently used on wealthy, Pureblood women in the pricier salons for advanced exfoliation. Respect for the beautiful ladies of the aristocracy soared.

In response, most of the Ladies publicly supported Lord Slytherin when Dumbledore and the elder Potters tried to press the point regardless of the 'torture curse's' origins, citing young James' incredible suffering and pain so intense that it brought their strong son to tears. James Potter found himself mortified when Witch's Weekly and Witch's in Vogue magazines featured a large center spread complete with glossy wizarding photos of twelve of the beautiful, refined, delicate Ladies who take the exfoliation charm monthly to maintain their lovely complexions. The kicker was when tiny Lady Amelie Ogden, a delicate flower of a woman, was quoted in the article advising James Potter to "man up and grow a pair, or she would personally visit Hogwart's and treat him to a 'Joy of Childbirth' charm" she had created.

It should be noted that Lady Amelie earned quite a sizeable little nest-egg, selling the charm to pregnant witches and exhausted mothers everywhere who wanted their husbands to shut the hell up.

None of those husbands had anything to say about the matter. Or pregnancy. Or their wives. Or, really, anything at all, without written approval from the little lady of the house.

It was also rumored that Lady Amelie was developing a 'Joy of Menstruation' charm as the second in the Line called 'The Charms of a Delicate Witch'. An oddly nervous, somewhat jumpy Lord Ogden stood firmly behind his beautiful wife's right to create such charms, and supported the naming of all six of his daughters and his mother to the Board of Directors.

The Lord and Lady Potter, supported by Headmaster Dumbledore, also tried to bring charges for assault against Lord Slytherin, and when denied that right by an unapologetic Head of the DMLE, the couple went to the newspapers. The Potters were outraged when their article decrying the deplorable treatment of their honorable, innocent son and heir at the hands of the evil Slytherins in both Hogwarts and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was placed below a well-written, detailed article by Professor Filius Flitwick about the entire series of events and Marauder-led confrontations and attacks that led up to the retaliation by Lord Slytherin in defense of his new Consort. The Charms Professor proved his right to be Head of Ravenclaw House by citing witnesses, research into law (with special attention to Law of Nobles and Duelling Law) and a worrying amount of information regarding the circumstances surrounding Hadrian Morgan's childhood. He included the boy's placement in a muggle orphanage, shunning from the House of Potter, intervention by Dumbledore, etc. The small professor raised many very big questions concerning the whole situation, provided the documents from Hadrian's orphanage file – including the incriminating letters from the Potters and one from Dumbledore ensuring that Hadrian remain parentless and ignorant of his heritage and rights, and medical records covering the now-infamous 'staircase prank' that hospitalized Hadrian for several weeks.

Most condemning for the vaunted leader of the Phoenix Party – particularly in his other roles in which he swore to uphold the law and to protect and educate students – were the published records from young Consort Morgan and his attorney, Solicitor Geoffrey Bates III, documenting precisely what properties were transferred from the Potters to Hadrian due to the dishonorable actions of James Potter. Devastating to their reputations was the additional fact that a transcript of the scripted apology scene was published verbatim, showing precisely how the Potters and Dumbledore attempted to trick Hadrian into granting James "pardon" and thus forfeiting all of his awards back into the possession of the Potters. The 'pickle on the sundae', so to speak, was the undeniable fact that Consort Morgan, at the time of the failed apology, had not yet gained any knowledge of the additional penalties leveled on the Potters by Gringott's. Suddenly, in the eyes of the public, Slytherins were not associated with dishonorable, lying, cheating behavior as was Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and his supporters.

All in all, it was a very, very bad week for the Potter Family, Albus Dumbledore, and the Phoenix Party.

Additional articles popped up here and there. Witch's Weekly featured, courtesy of Lavendar Brown's pensieve memory, a word for word transcript from the class when Hadrian Morgan announced the winners of the writing contest. Lavendar's humorous, self-effacing side commentary on the whole situation won the young woman plaudits for her sense of humor, humility and courage. It also won her the attention of one Heir-Lord Neville Longbottom.

As a side note, that particular article and transcript became a favored short-story among Wizarding Great Britain, and was published later in a small booklet which included each and every story submitted by the embarrassed Gryffindors for what may well become, in time, one of the more well-known examples of a prank backfiring upon its makers.

The onslaught of articles and rebuttals and revelations during that week had everyone transfixed, with a few exceptions. Several important situations were developing without interference by manipulative old coots who were otherwise occupied. For example, bachelor Antonin Dolohov met and adopted his five sons, and they began their own plans to mete out proper justice. Of course, that's a story for another time.

But during that week, the two men who were the impetus for the media storm were, for the most part, sequestered from it. They conducted a couple of interviews with aurors and journalists. They bonded a house elf named Zeppo without the interference – or knowledge – of his former master. They solidified the relationship of the younger male with the other Slytherins. They participated in their scheduled classes, either as student or professor. They met each other's portrait mentors.

And they explored each other.

All in all, it was a truly spectacular week.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Making Love Like a House Afire

Hadrian poured a generous amount of the new shampoo Lady Amelie had sent him – such a sweet woman! – and began to lather his longer hair. Narcissa had advised him that he would do better in managing his hair if it were longer, and he allowed her to magically lengthen it. Now it flowed down his back in shiny, midnight waves, stopping at a point just below his rib cage. Marvolo loved it.

Stepping back into the stream of water, he closed his eyes and tipped his head back to rinse the suds away. He had no idea he wasn't alone until two warm, strong arms snaked around his waist and pulled him forward against a hard, muscled chest. A familiar, beloved face nuzzled his throat and neck, pressing sinful kisses into Hadrian's sensitive skin.

Keeping his eyes closed, Hadrian inhaled deeply, and said, "Abraxas, you can't be here! Marvolo will be home any minute!"

Strong teeth immediately nipped at his ear and Hadrian yelped in response before shivering in erotic reaction. He felt Marvolo's smile against his throat, and felt his own smile bloom when Marvolo growled, "I think the fact that you can even say another man's name in a moment like this calls for a lesson in who you belong to, little Serpent." Talented fingers smoothed their way down Hadrian's back and settled teasingly on the sensitive skin of his arse, kneading lightly.

Already shuddering, Hadrian dropped his head forward to rest against Marvolo's chest, allowing the constant stream of water to do whatever it wanted with any remaining shampoo in his hair. Languorously opening heavy eyelids, the sight that met Hadrian sent even more blood rushing south. Studying the droplet-dappled muscles of Marvolo's defined chest and abdomen, Hadrian focused on the dark nipple directly in front of him and immediately opened his mouth and suckled. He delighted in Marvolo's shocked inhalation, and began to test his beloved's limits by laving the pebbled bud. Before much time had passed, the powerful Lord of Slytherin was shuddering just as much as his wicked little Consort, who only took enough time from his ministrations to murmur, "Who I belong to, you say? I have no ownership papers at all. Free wizard here, my Lord."

Molten crimson eyes smiled down at him, dark promise clearly visible, before Marvolo's husky, dark chocolate voice rumbled with gentle threat, "Game on, little wizard."

Before Hadrian could process that properly, the hands on his buttocks tightened and lifted the smaller man with impressive ease. Willingly wrapping his legs around Marvolo's trim waist, Hadrian returned to his self-appointed task of tormenting Marvolo's nipples and suppressed an unmanly giggle of anticipation. The last time he had challenged Marvolo's 'ownership', Hadrian had been treated to two and a half hours of sensual torment, which did not end until he had finally been so desperate for release that he had screamed who he belonged to, and then screamed a bit more from the intensity of the orgasm that Marvolo had finally granted him. He was determined that this time, he would last much longer.

He had to reassess his determination when Marvolo's hands separated his cheeks even as they pressed him firmly against Marvolo – consequently pressing their erections together, too -and long fingers slid between to tease and torment the revealed rosebud. Unable to suppress a whimper, Hadrian closed his eyes tightly and tried to gather his resolve into a wall of mental armor against the oncoming sensual onslaught.

The armor shattered within mere moments of contact between Hadrian's back and the mattress. But it wasn't his fault! Nobody could withstand the things Marvolo was doing! If anyone anywhere were to assert that they could stay strong when gorgeously wicked Marvolo Slytherin dropped them naked on a bed, knelt between his knees, pulled him up by the hips and held him suspended while the single most talented tongue lapped and licked and rimmed his highly-sensitized entrance, Hadrian would stand up in public and call that person a dirty, rotten liar.

With bells on!

Closing his eyes in blissful surrender, Hadrian acknowledged that his will power didn't mean much at all against the force of nature that was Lord Marvolo Slytherin.

And his tongue.

ooo

From his kneeling position, holding his delightfully nude, defiant little lover helpless and spread open for Marvolo's private delight, there simply could not possibly be a better view anywhere than the one he was enjoying in this moment. Hadrian's glorious, raven hair was spread out in a midnight halo around his beautiful face. His porcelain skin was dewy and glowing, his lips dark red both from passion and from the way Hadrian couldn't keep from biting them to try and stifle his whimpers and moans. There was a beautiful blush of color in Hadrian's cheeks, and every few seconds the black lashes would lift in response to a swipe of Marvolo's tongue and glowing emerald would peek through. Hadrian's lithe, exquisite body was entirely under Marvolo's control as only the younger man's shoulders and upper back were resting on the mattess. The second Marvolo had gripped Hadrian's hips and raised his lover's arse to his mouth to savor and suckle like the finest meal, Hadrian surrendered. Now, he lay there, helpless and wanton, moving like a beautiful, sensual instrument that Marvolo played like a master musician, arms flung to each side like the most willing of sacrifices.

Grinning devilishly, Marvolo used his long fingers and strong arms to their best advantage as he lifted and spread his little lover a little more, holding him suspended and open to his invasive tongue and tormenting lips and teeth. Marvolo would not even allow his willful Consort to rest his legs on Marvolo's; apart from Hadrian's shoulders, he was entirely dependent on the strength and direction of his older lover. Marvolo knew full well that Hadrian had metaphorically shot up red sparks already, but had no intention of granting the little imp surcease any time soon.

Red eyes gleamed wickedly as he initiated the next step in Hadrian's sexual education. Positioning Hadrian's open thighs exactly as he wanted them, Marvolo paused, tongue extended beneath Hadrian's testicles and testing their weight. The cessation of torment caused Hadrian's incomparable eyes to open and stare at them, and that's when Marvolo channeled his magic and allowed his tongue to lengthen and extend into the long, muscled, forked tongue of his animagus form – the basilisk. He converted the poison to tactus extasim, a contact-activated aphrodisiac used by basilisks during mating that literally translates as 'touch ecstasy', and watched with amusement as Hadrian gaped up at him. Giving his beloved innocent just enough time to take a breath in trepidation, Marvolo struck, sending his tongue in lightning-fast spirals all over Hadrian's straining cock and full testicles, sliding along his perineum and powering directly through the tempting, twitching rosebud and into his beloved's core. Everywhere his tongue touched, it left behind white-hot sheets of pleasure that did not lessen in intensity at all.

Marvolo watched as Hadrian's eyes widened in shocked and felt his beloved's muscles clench and his buttocks clamp against the abrupt rush of intense sensation. Green eyes locked with red, and Marvolo once again allowed Hadrian just that second to comprehend the teasing, sexual threat in his older lover's eyes. Just as Hadrian gasped in response and opened his mouth to question or command or beg Marvolo – probably all of the above – Marvolo allowed his magic to connect to the extasim. At the same instant, he issued a basilisk's long, low mating call, which was to his ears quite beautiful but had a delightful little side effect.

It made his tongue vibrate.

Whatever Hadrian was going to say to Marvolo disappeared the second the magic sparked. Marvolo knew from his own experiments that Hadrian was experiencing the equivalent of a sexual nuclear blast. (He smirked at the analogy, certain that most wizardkind would not understand it. None who hadn't grown up in the muggle world, anyway.) He continued the mating call, tongue vibrating along and deep within his beloved's pleasure centers, and watched as Hadrian's indrawn breath of trepidation re-emerged as an uncontrolled scream. Hadrian's eyes rolled back, his head slammed into the bed, muscles clenching and rigid, as the single-most powerful and extended orgasm hit him like a tsunami.

And, just like a tsunami, the wave of pleasure that swept through Hadrian rolled backward with the tide and swept through the newly-formed bond between them, rolling into Marvolo and cutting off his mating call as he, too, erupted into an intense, prolonged orgasm, even though his rock hard cock had not even been touched. He didn't realize that he continued to hold Hadrian up and suspended through the entire, cataclysmic climax. It wasn't until they had both recovered and Hadrian told him that when (not if) he used 'the tongue of torment' again, that Hadrian would practice one or two of Lady Amelie's charms on him if he didn't let him dig his heels into something or someone solid during the blast.

The fact that Hadrian was fellating Marvolo's cock in reward and only paused long enough to issue his threat before deep-throating his lover and swallowing repeatedly was really just incidental information.

They did enjoy a good laugh, even though Hadrian's embarrassed, blushing face was buried in Marvolo's chest as he giggled, when they heard Tansy instructing their new house elf Zeppo to widen the range on his cleaning charms in their bedroom, as she had once found the 'masters' essences' a few feet away from the wrecked and undeniably … err, moist…bed.

On both sides.

Discussing it later, Hadrian snorted pumpkin juice through his nose when Marvolo commented that they could probably put out a small house fire with their newfound technique.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Black Humor

It didn't escape the notice of most of the students and teachers that Sirius Black was behaving uncharacteristically. He spent less time laughing, mocking and pranking, and a lot of time observing. Marvolo was one of those who was particularly interested to see just how the Black Heir would act on his unplanned Vow of Fealty to Slytherin. It was anybody's guess, really. He had seen the young man's grimace when Walburga and Orion's distinctive black buzzard swooped into the Great Hall, intimidating the post owls and Hufflepuffs, and dropped off a letter of congratulations from the boy's openly Dark parents. On the other hand, his quiet smile of pride when he opened the accompanying package and saw the long-withheld House of Black Heir's ring and seal was a promising sign of growing maturity.

Although Marvolo and Hadrian returned to taking meals in the Great Hall on the Monday just two days after James's failed false-apology, it took almost two weeks more (and a final cruel, truly deplorable prank by James upon Hadrian that fully opened Sirius's eyes) before Sirius seemed to work up enough courage to approach the pair after dinner. As was becoming their habit, Marvolo had joined Hadrian when their meal was complete and was escorting his beloved Consort from the Great Hall when they became aware of a small stir of conversation and looked around to see Sirius Black walking over to them with a determined, if measured, stride. His expression gave little away, but was certainly not the one he usually wore when planning trouble. And if anything, his demeanor was … respectful, if a bit abashed.

They stopped a few feet from the doors and waited for him to join them.

When he did, he nodded respectfully to Hadrian and offered a small bow to Marvolo. It wasn't quite the deeper bow of a House Heir to his sworn Lord, but it was close enough to show his intent. It also was enough to elicit raised eyebrows from Lupin, a shocked squeal from Pettigrew and an outraged growl from the newly-exfoliated James Potter. (Really, his skin was now exceptionally smooth and touchable, despite the appearance of sunburn. And that was mostly his own fault, as he refused to use the soothing beauty cream that was supposed to follow use of the charm. His mother had purchased it from one of the salons mentioned in that damn article, but James refused to use it on general principles… and because it smelled like roses.) Sirius glanced nervously at the still-seated but closely-watching Marauders and then seemed to steel his resolve.

"Lord Slytherin, Consort Morgan, I, as Heir to the House of Black, would like to extend an invitation for you both to be written into the wards of my Family's private library." Dark gray eyes watched them both cautiously. Murmuring erupted around the Great Hall as people relayed the invitation, and eyebrows were raised in surprise. It was exceedingly rare, almost unheard-of, for a non-Black to even see the famous – or perhaps, infamous – Black Family Library. Even the offer to view the Library was a major coup; to be written into the wards was a vow of permanent, irrevocable fealty between Families. The House of Black was declaring its final, formal allegiance to Lord Slytherin and the Vol de Mort Party, a declaration long withheld due to Sirius Black's involvement with leading members of the Phoenix Party.

Of a certainty, there were no Slytherin House members who missed the full impact of this offer. The House of Black was not just declaring that it was finally, fully committed to Lord Slytherin. Heir Sirius Black had personally extended a permanent offer of both personal and Family fealty, complete with access to all of the knowledge and secrets the notoriously Dark Family held, to Lord Slytherin and his Consort, the latter of whom was in direct opposition to the House of Potter. They were not just declaring their allegiance to Slytherin, but the severance of any and all friendships and loyalties to the House of Potters.

This was one of those moments when everyone could look back and remember when the Balance of Power shifted. Rather than countering each other, as they had done for two decades, Dumbledore and the Phoenix Party were taking a major loss, and Lord Slytherin and the Vol de Mort Party were now ascendant.

Fully aware of the importance of this moment, Marvolo and Hadrian treated it, and Sirius, with the respect they deserved. As if they had rehearsed it, Lord Slytherin and his Consort bowed in unison and then straightened. Marvolo then smiled with warm dignity at Sirius and said calmly, "I and my Consort accept the offer of the House of Black. We understand the depth of the invitation, and gladly reciprocate. Perhaps, during our initial visit to view this remarkable, magical treasury of knowledge and to be written into the wards that guard it, we of the House of Slytherin can further our ties and friendships with you and yours of the House of Black." At his side, Hadrian nodded in agreement, meeting Sirius's eyes without a hint of history to mar the moment.

Sirius nodded politely and replied, "As Host of the offer and Heir of the House of Black, I welcome your visit and look forward to nurturing our relationship with the House of Slytherin." Bowing again, he took the requisite single step backward and turned to leave, before hesitating and turning back with a questioning look on his face as he turned his gray eyes to Hadrian.

In response, Marvolo and Hadrian paused again and waited politely. Seeing that Sirius was having something of an internal struggle with himself, Hadrian broke the ice further and offered an amused smile. "Is there something you wish to ask me, Mr. Black?"

Finally, Sirius seemed to come to a decision. Squaring his shoulders and flushing slightly, he cringed a little as he asked the question that had been plaguing him ever since Hadrian bested him in the truth challenge that changed his life and forced him to vow – and bow – to Lord Slytherin. "Erm…yes. Yes. I …. ahem!...I must confess that I've been wondering just how you figured out that I was….um…," he tapered off in embarrassment, now flushing almost as red as James Potter, then summoned all of his Gryffindor brashness and forced out the tormenting, embarrassing question. "Hadrian, could you please tell me how you knew that I was rimming myself in my canine form?"

Snickers and giggles rippled throughout the Great Hall, and even Sirius could not help but bark a laugh at the bizarre question he had just asked. But damn it, he had to know; it was tormenting him!

All eyes turned to Hadrian, including Marvolo's, as the handsome young man considered his answer. Seconds ticked by. Finally, a charming, teasing smile crossed what Marvolo personally considered to be the loveliest face in the entire Great Hall, and Hadrian met Sirius's eyes and said clearly, "It was obvious by your manner, the way you bark your laughter, …" he paused for effect as he placed his hand in Marvolo's arm and turned to go, calling back over his shoulder in classic, Hadrian-style, "… and your constant, shit-eating grin, Mr. Black."

As they departed, Marvolo wearing a wide, white-toothed grin as he chuckled, laughter erupted in the Great Hall. It was to his credit that Sirius Black was laughing the loudest of all.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

ooooooooooooooooooo

Excerpt from SCHOOLED Ch 13 – Storms

Although Marvolo and Hadrian returned to taking meals in the Great Hall on the Monday just two days after James's failed false-apology, it took almost two weeks more (and a final cruel, truly deplorable prank by James upon Hadrian that fully opened Sirius's eyes) before Sirius seemed to work up enough courage to approach the pair after dinner.

ooooooooooooooooooo

SCHOOLED CH 14 – BAD FORMS

Co-written by MARKSMOM & WYRDSMITH

Original concept by Marksmom

Point in timeline: A few days after Marvolo cursed James in the Great Hall for assaulting Hadrian

The Final Prank

"James!" The sound of his name, almost hissed out, got the Potter Heir's attention immediately, cutting through the lead Marauder's latest, convoluted plan for getting revenge against Hadrian Morgan. He was annoyed with having to plot with only the company of Pettigrew, but he did understand the position Sirius was in. His old friend was not trapped by the Fealty Oath Hadrian had tricked out of Sirius, and now the old dog literally could not act openly against any of the Slytherins for fear of real, lasting punishment.

At least it hadn't stopped Sirius from avidly encouraging James to get revenge against his Bastard cousin, though. Yeah, the little prick was wearing an extra Slytherin crest on his robes, but both James and Sirius were sure it was just to make the point that Hadrian was really a member of the Snakes now. Hell, the other snakes wouldn't even let their newest member sit where he wanted; they forced the boy to sit in what the Gryffs called the "Seat of Shame" – right on the end of the table, across from a Prefect and closest to the Head Table, where all the professors could watch and make sure no fun was had.

Peter tugged on his sleeve urgently, desperate to get James's attention.

"What is it, Peter?" The words came out slightly irritated; James hadn't wanted to stop planning his revenge. It was all that kept him from focusing on how badly his bright red skin hurt. And he would be damned if he used that prissy, rose-scented cream his mother had gotten him. He wasn't one of those simpering fashionistas like Lady Amelia Ogden; he would take the pain like a man! Besides, he was pretty certain that the visible evidence of his suffering would get him into the knickers of one or more of the sixth-year girls, or even one of the seventh-year holdouts. He might even be able to finally talk Parvati Patil out of her sari; after all, she was all but ruined anyway. She might as well enjoy herself before her father locked her up; it's not like any girl he'd ever met could get a horny-happy just from blowing some guy. Although, with the kind of suction that girl could employ, he wouldn't completely rule it out.

Irritated as Peter again tugged on his sleeve – he was forbidden from touching James's agonized skin – James wrenched his mind away from Parvati's erstwhile talents and back to his annoying friend.

"James, look! In front of us, at the end of the hall; now's your chance!" Peter Pettigrew was jubilant. This was his chance, as well! Ever since Professor Slytherin cursed James in the Great Hall, Sirius Black had distanced himself from the Marauders. Given the absence of James's second-in-command, Remus and Peter had been vying for the coveted spot. Remus would probably have automatically gotten it if he hadn't been outed as a werewolf, but ever since then, he had been acting more like the cowardly lion in that muggle moving picture Peter's mother had taken him to for his sixth birthday. (Muggles had the strangest ideas about witches and magical creatures!) Remus wasn't even with them now; he was in the Library trying to research career opportunities for werewolves, since they all knew many of the boy's original career goals were now impossible. The disheartened wolf hadn't seemed at all interested in helping James get revenge on the Bastard who had ruined three of the four Marauders, but Peter had no such qualms. Peter had no moral limits at all, really. If it got him what he wanted, he would do anything, legal or not.

'Just ask Arthur Weasley!' Peter sniggered to himself. 'That reminds me; I need to check on why this month's payment hasn't made it into my vault yet.'

Yes, Peter had no limits at all with regard to getting what he wanted. And what he wanted most was to be close to James, important to him – special. He had even made a point of handling James's little house elf every morning, but only after she had dressed James and brushed his teeth. It was almost like getting to touch James himself, just with an intermediary. Eventually, Peter was certain he would win James completely. It fuelled his fantasies. He had very fond memories of that time the four Marauders had stolen Charlus's Ogdens and shared a foursome. For the first time ever, he had gotten to touch and taste James Potter, and he was determined to make that happen again. The fact that James was very wealthy, and that his best friend would benefit from that in numerous ways, made Peter that much more determined to do anything and everything he could to become James's very best, close, personal friend.

Yes, Peter Pettigrew was a very ambitious rat. And there, wandering down the hall with his nose buried in a book and completely oblivious to their presence, was Peter's golden ticket.

Following Peter's pointing figure, James Potter's face darkened as he took in the small figure of his 'cousin'. The little shit was just walking along the corridor, seemingly without a care in the world, as if he hadn't ruined the futures of both the House of Potter and the House of Black, not to mention poor Remus. As if his very existence wasn't an affront to Light wizards. As if he wasn't a blight on the Potter Family Tree. As if he hadn't stolen everything that belonged to James, including his reputation.

As if he had a right to be there!

Clapping an approving hand on Peter's rounded shoulder, James's thoughts raced with the possibilities. Suddenly, he recalled one of the last things Sirius had said to them this morning before he left for his first class. He could clearly recall how vehement Sirius had sounded when he'd growled, "Fucking Hadrian Morgan! I wish we could toss him down a dark hole somewhere, or lock him up and throw away the key!"

Grinning viciously, James swung into action. He had to act fast, before any inconvenient witnesses turned up. Scanning the corridor quickly, he found what he needed and took immediate action. The Bastard wouldn't know what hit him. Or who!

"Disillusionment spells, now!" The two boys faded into almost nothing; the shimmering silhouettes could still be seen, but only if you looked closely. Keeping his hand on the shorter boy's shoulder, James pushed Peter across the hall to stand next to the door of what he knew to be an unused broom closet. No one even went in there to snog; it was too cramped and musty to be of much use to anyone.

Until now.

Peter immediately understood what was going to happen; he and James had the same sort of mind when it came to pranking someone. They both liked the laughs and general approval they got from some of their "nicer" pranks, but the covert pranks – the ones nobody but they and the victims knew about – were usually for their enemies and involved maximum pain, fear and humiliation. It was those pranks that they liked to remember; the ones the victims never talked about, except in their nightmares.

Perfect for one Hadrian-fucking-Morgan.

Forcefully keeping his excited sniggering silent, Peter looked at the old door and decided to use one of his few strong spells, the silencing charm, to muffle any squeaking hinges that would warn their victim. Few Gryffindors could beat Peter for silencing charms, since he had to practice them nightly to keep the others from hearing him squeal James's name during his pre-sleep wank. Lip raised in a parody of a smile, he cast the charm on the door of the closet and kept his hand on the old handle, waiting for James' signal. Feeling the vicious grin spreading across his face, Peter tensed in readiness. The anticipation was almost too much to bear.

They watched Morgan slowly walk down the corridor, his nose still buried in his book. Both Marauders sneered, unable to imagine a book being anywhere close to that interesting. As the Slytherin drew level with James, Peter saw James's outline move slightly, signalling him to open the door. Predictably, Morgan never noticed the door to his left seemingly opening on its own, and Peter's silencing charm kept it moving silently. James seized the unsuspecting Hadrian and practically threw the small boy into the closet. Triumphantly, the still-disillusioned Peter slammed the silenced door in the boy's shocked face. Three strong locking spells and one notice-me-not later – the latter of which included a nifty little house elf misdirection charm invented by the Marauders - the new leaders of the Marauders were walking proudly back the way they had come, snickering wildly and clapping each other on the back.

They figured that it would at least be hours before he could defeat the silencing charm so that he could call for help with a sonorous – if he ever could. Frankly, no one really knew if Hadrian was weak or strong in magic; he usually used sly little tricks to outwit people and never showed his true abilities. Still, it would probably be at least a day before the charms faded enough for the Bastard to be found, and even then he wouldn't be able to say who had done it. Exultant, the two Lions disappeared around the corner.

Behind them, the silencing charm did its job – far too well.

oOoOo

The Darkness

It was dark. Pitch dark. And the air was stuffy and stale. Fighting his rising fear, Hadrian tried to focus. He had to keep calm. Gasping for breath, he flailed for a moment and felt his arms hit walls that were close. Too close!

Calm! Stay calm!

Hadrian tried to look around him, but there was no light anywhere, not even a crack in the door. He tried to quell his steadily rising panic as he slowly examined the cramped space with his hands. From what he could feel, he guessed that he had been shoved into a broom closet of some sort. His arm hurt where his assailant had gripped him, and he had other pains from impacting the wall within the small room. His fingers were scraped and bleeding, and his wrist hurt from where he jammed his hand against the wall in the small, small space.

Small? Tiny! Infinitestimal!

Pressing his forehead against what he thought was the door, Hadrian could feel the panic rise another notch, pushing his logic away to make room for fear. He was desperately hoping to find a way out of his predicament before terror completely took him over. Old memories flashed in the dark that met his seeking eyes.

Dark.

A choked sob emerged as another gasp. In the part of his mind that was still processing information, Hadrian decided that he had to give his cousin credit. The boy couldn't have chosen a worse punishment for Hadrian, barring harming Marvolo somehow. And, yes, Hadrian was certain that he was in this hell because of James. Even if the so-called 'Master Marauder' hadn't already made himself the number one suspect on a very short list of vicious pranksters, Hadrian had recognized the tight, cruel grip of his cousin. The boy had fingers like the claws of a bird of prey. Or a nundu – poison heart and all.

Hadrian did not like small spaces. He had never liked small spaces, courtesy of his childhood at the orphanage. There were a number of punishments available to be ruthlessly employed against the innocent children – or, in the eyes of the so-called 'caregivers', the children of sin.

One of the worst punishments he had ever had to endure had been being forced to kneel in a tiny cupboard, just outside of the kitchen doors. The Matron at St. Thomas More Asylum for Orphans had believed that punishment was good for the soul...the more horrific the punishment, the better it was for the child. She felt it was especially necessary for these children, who were probably born in sin and thus bore the stains on their souls. She justified her belief by pointing to the way children would do almost anything to avoid one of her special punishments. Pain was cleansing of sinful actions and thoughts. Fear was good for the soul.

Blood was love and forgiveness.

If asked, Hadrian would not have declared himself an abused child. For the most part, his blood had been kept on the inside – at least with regard to actions taken by the Matron. Her little squad of wardens were a different story altogether. Still, Hadrian had only been caned once or twice by the sisters, paddled on his arse a few more times, and slapped in the mouth once for picking up and eating food he had accidentally dropped on the floor. The other times he was beaten were punishments he had earned for truly heinous crimes, most of which seemed to have involved accidental magic and were deemed heresy by the Matron.

And he had one truly horrifying memory of an attempted exorcism for the time when he was locked out of the orphanage by the "wardens" on Halloween night. Terrified of the demons he was told would wander and eat his soul and flesh, little Hadrian had called desperately for light, and it had come to him. The face of Matron when she opened the door and saw him holding light in his hands, wonder written clear on his face, was burned into his memory.

However, because most of his infractions hadn't been that bad, the majority of his punishments hadn't been that severe...again, to the Matron. Hadrian would gladly have exchanged her favourite punishment for a good caning; at least marks from the caning eventually healed. To this day, he remained deeply wounded by Matron's favourite punishment for him, which had been to shove him into the half-high buckets cupboard and lock him in. She would tell him to kneel and pray for salvation and forgiveness, and then leave him there for hours, often forgetting that he was being punished at all. Usually she would be reminded at lights-out time by the floor mother that Hadrian Morgan was not in his bed. She would sweep down the halls, her stiff robes rustling as she made her way to the cupboard to release Hadrian from his torment. It usually took her a good two or three minutes just to get him to uncramp and crawl – or fall - out of the tiny space, unfolding his agonized limbs carefully, so that he didn't make the pain any worse. Not that the Matron had cared about his pain; sometimes, she grew tired of waiting for him to move on his own and would seize his arm in a clawlike grip and drag him out of the cupboard. The excruciating pain of blood rushing back into his extremities would serve a counterbeat to the bruises and sometimes gouges on his arm from the Matron's 'firm hand'.

Merlin, his arm hurt so much right now! Matron must have gouged him throwing him into the bucket cupboard. Weird, usually that only happened when she was pulling him out. Wait. Not Matron. No.

He wasn't at the orphanage. He wasn't anywhere near it. But… ! Once again, panic rose within the small form huddled in the tiny cupboard. He knew he was at Hogwart's, but he could still feel Matron's grip on his arm, and the door was locked, and it was dark, and there was no air!

As memories and learned responses and panic took him over, Hadrian's defences went down. His mind kept replaying the times that he had been forced into the cupboard as punishment for something he usually hadn't done, although sometimes he did save food and give it to the old cat in the alley. He mustn't waste food; that's a sin! His breathing quickened and he hoped that there was at least some means of ventilation in the cupboard...he meant closet...closet, not cupboard; this was not a cupboard, it didn't resemble the cupboard in any way. Or, well, it did in a lot of ways, but not the half-high bucket cupboard; he could stand. He was standing wasn't he? Should he be? Was that a sin? Matron said I'm here to kneel and pray for forgiveness. No! NO!

He stretched and felt up and down the door, gratified that he found a small vent at the topmost edge of his fingers' reach and relief made him lightheaded. Thank the angels – No! Thank Merlin! - he didn't have to worry about using up all of the air inside the cupboard...closet!

Heaving a panicked breath, he tried to focus. What did he know? What did he remember?

Ruby eyes, brimming with love and pleasure….Marvolo….He'll find me. He will. Hang on, little wizard! Did he just say that? That's what he would say. Did I hear him, or imagine it? Focus, Hadrian. Breathe.

Desperate, drifting in and out of clarity, Hadrian began to slowly examine the space again, trying to find something...anything...that would facilitate his escape from the cupboard. He didn't notice that his mind stopped supplying the word 'closet' for cupboard; he was spiralling further into panic and didn't see the signs – Can't see anything! Dark, so dark! - the sweaty skin, the laboured breathing and, if he could have seen them, the pupils in his eyes blown wide in terror.

Sinking to his knees, Hadrian wrapped thin arms around his stomach and began to rock, whimpering and whispering incoherently. Trapped within panic that had become unconquerable long before he knew of magic, he did not remember that he was a wizard and had the means to break through his bindings and summon help in the inner chest pocket of his robes the entire time.

oOoOo

The Search

One by one, Lucius, Severus and Narcissa felt the crimson gaze spear them. They each felt like they were five years old and being brought in front of their father for doing something unforgivably stupid.

Lucius knew that it was his fault; he should have been watching Hadrian, but had allowed himself to be distracted by the new robes that Narcissa was wearing. Unforgivable! He had lost sight of his duty in favour of a trim, feminine figure in periwinkle robes!

Severus blamed himself. He should have kept a closer eye on his Lord's Consort, but had stopped to speak with Professor McGonagall about an independent project combining potions and transfiguration. Pathetic! He had disregarded his most important responsibility for his own interests!

Narcissa was, by far, feeling the most guilt. She had been stopped by that weird Ravenclaw, Luna Lovegood, just so that she could comment on how the Nargles seemed to be hovering quite closely to the blonde. In the time it took for the strange barefoot girl to make that one comment, Hadrian had disappeared.

He hadn't been seen since.

"What do you mean, you don't know where Hadrian is?"

The professor's deep baritone growled the question, ramping the fear the three seventeen year-olds were feeling straight past deep fear and up to mortal terror. They were each grateful that they had full control over their bladders, as they had no wish to look like the youngest Weasley brother had when his mother and brother had gotten a hold of him. Given how they felt as they trembled beneath the angry, crimson stare, they could at least appreciate how Ronald had felt.

"Sir...," Lucius had to stop and clear his throat before he could begin again; he had no intention of sounding like a little first year who had not yet reached puberty. "My Lord, we've looked everywhere that we could possibly think of without alerting non-Slytherins. We each took a separate floor and searched there, meeting up at the main stairs when we were done and then moving on to the next floors." Lucius' shoulders visibly drooped at the thought of disappointing his Lord. "We...we couldn't find him."

Marvolo steepled his fingers under his chin and regarded the three students in front of him with a steady, unwavering gaze. Nodding slightly, he made up his mind; he may be the most powerful wizard in England, after all he had gained his reputation for extreme firmness quite honestly, but he also knew when something was beyond the control of one of his followers. "Alright, your punishment for losing sight of Hadrian is thus: you will each continue searching until he is found, and you will not stop until then unless I directly order you to do so."

Three heads snapped up in unison, their owners staring in confusion at the powerful man behind the desk. Their punishment was to do what they fully intended to do anyway? Exchanging bewildered glances with her betrothed and their dear friend, Narcissa's attempt to question her Lord was stopped by his decisive gesture.

"I do not punish understandable mistakes, no matter how distressing. A momentary lapse of attention does not equate to you being responsible for Hadrian's disappearance. It is not your fault that Hadrian slipped away from you. I expect you to realise that, while you had a purpose and a mission to complete in shepherding Hadrian, it is human nature to be polite," he nodded at Narcissa, "to be aware of your betrothed," he nodded at Lucius, "and to tend to your academics," he nodded at Severus. He smiled faintly at the dawning comprehension on their faces. "Yes, I looked into your memories to see what happened and I am not angry with you for the distractions. Now," Marvolo stood, once more the powerful and imposing Lord Slytherin, "go find my Consort."

As the children left, Abraxas and Tobias joined their Lord and friend at his desk. "What do you want us to do? Do we search with them or on our own?" Abraxas knew that they would be searching as well while Marvolo would, most likely, be speaking with the castle to see if he could locate his Consort that way.

"Use the Point-Me spell; I don't think that those three will remember that they can use a spell like that." Generally speaking, such a low-level spell would lose focus in a magic-infused place such as Hogwarts; however, magic tended to act upon will and emotion, and so would probably supercharge the common locator spell in response to their worry. "You should be able to find him more quickly that way than if you split up to physically search the entire castle. I will see if there is any information I can glean from Hogwarts herself."

The two men nodded and left the room, leaving behind a worried Lord Slytherin who had no idea of where his mate was. Closing his eyes, Marvolo focused all of his love and concern toward his beloved Consort and whispered, "Hang on, little wizard." Unsure if the panic he was sensing was his own or Hadrians, he added calmly, "Breathe, Hadrian." Feeling a small drop in the raging panic that was roiling just below the surface, Marvolo turned his powerful mind to the castle.

"Lady Hogwarts, I need you."

oOoOo

The Lady

Hadrian had no concept of time passing while he was in his small prison. At some point, he had removed his shoes and socks and began to rub the skin on his ankles. This was a small coping mechanism that he had used as a child when he had been shoved in the cupboard at the orphanage...human touch, even his own, was slightly soothing to him, no matter that he really wasn't all that used to it. At the base of his grayed-out thoughts, he had a sense memory of strong, sensitive hands stroking his skin, and he instinctively clung to the safety they represented. He knew that he was close to losing consciousness, due to his panicky breathing; he had begun hyperventilating not long after he had realised he had no way out of the cupboard. He had sporadically managed to control his breathing, after a bit, and had momentarily stopped the hyperventilation. Unfortunately, he couldn't keep up the pretense that he wasn't locked in this tiny space. With the reality of his situation, his breathing became laboured again and it had only gotten worse over time.

He began to whimper quietly as tears streamed down his cheeks; Matron had never waited this long before...what was keeping her?

He was too lost within his flashback to feel the soothing, maternal presence in the room with him, and did not notice when the silencing charm was snapped.

oOoOo

The Rescue

Abraxas grabbed his lover's arm to silence him. He had heard something, something out-of-place. "Listen! Tobias, do you hear that?"

Tobias tilted his head slightly, straining his ears, and listened. Second ticked by. Just as he was about to question Abraxas, he registered something new just barely audible in the unnatural stillness of the rarely used corridor. Meeting worried silver eyes, he nodded slowly as together, they heard the sound of...crying. "Hadrian! He must be near!"

Holding his wand in the palm of his hand, he cast the spell once more. "Point Me Hadrian Morgan!" The wand swayed slightly before coming to a quivering halt, pointing at a small door set into one of the walls – a door the two men had to strain to see.

"Damn it! There's a Notice-Me-Not on it! Don't look away." Together, the two men rushed to the door and tried to open it, growling as it resisted.

"Locking spell. .Alohomora!" They heard the slight sound of the unlocking charm working, but when they tried the door again, it still refused to open. "Aperta Omnia!" This charm, a little more comprehensive than Alohomora, was more successful; when they tried the door again, this time the handle turned.

Abraxas slowly opened the door, not wanting to blind Hadrian with the sudden infusion of light into his dark prison. Neither man was prepared for what they saw.

Looking tiny and bedraggled, a barefoot Hadrian was sitting cross-legged on the floor, repetitively rubbing his fingers over his left ankle while anxiously rocking. The skin he rubbed was abraded and raw and they wondered how long he had been in the small closet. His left hand was cradled to his chest and the wrist and fingers looked swollen and scraped. Tears dripped from his cheeks onto his hands as he whispered and wept. He didn't seem to notice their presence at all.

Moving very slowly, and speaking softly, Abraxas got down on his hands and knees and crawled partially into the cramped space.

"Hadrian? Hadrian, it's Professor Malfoy. Hadrian, I need you to look at me and let me know that you understand me." His words got no reaction from the almost catatonic youth. "Hadrian, I'm going to move you now; Professor Prince is just outside and he's going to help me, alright?" Once again, there was no reaction; it was as if the young man had shut down everything except for his own self-comforting. Exchanging worried glances with Tobias, Abraxas gently cradled the slight body in his arms and carefully scooted out of the closet. Casting a wandless featherweight spell on Hadrian, he allowed Tobias to help him stand. "We need to get him to Marvolo at once."

Gently sheltering the traumatized youth, the two men strode quickly down the corridor, taking a back route to get to the Slytherin Lord's office in the dungeons. The Lady Hogwarts eased their passage and kept wandering students and staff from witnessing the normally dignified men as they sacrificed composure for haste.

oOoOo

The Sickening Realization

James and Peter found Remus and Sirius after their last class; they were sitting in the common room, studying. Sirius was occupying 'his' chair, but Remus was settled in the center of the couch. The smirking duo each took a seat on either side of their studious friend, plopping down hard enough that the smaller boy bounced on the sofa and almost lost his grip on the book he was reading. They snickered at the disgruntled expression on Remus' face and grinned triumphantly at Sirius, who was watching the familiar post-prank euphoria of his fellow Marauders with mixed amusement and trepidation.

"Come on, gentlemen; it's almost time for dinner! We don't want to be late, do we, Master Wormtail?" James grinned.

"No, indeed, Master Prongs," Peter sniggered. "I do believe dinner will be particularly entertaining this evening!"

Neither boy explained what they had done to Hadrian Morgan this morning. They were eager to brag, and knew that Sirius was going to enjoy the details, Remus was another story. Ever since the mess with the writing contest, and the fall-out afterwards, Remus had avoided any and all pranks like the plague. His outing as a werewolf made the boy very wary of garnering any more unfavourable attention. The one time he had been there when they had pulled a prank on some unsuspecting Slytherin first-year, Remus had gone pale and run in the opposite direction; they could only assume that having his 'furry problem' outed to everyone had made him a little wary...alright...a lot wary!

Once they were seated in the Great Hall, they automatically looked over to the Slytherin table. To a man, they did a double-take; the entire table was empty. Even James and Peter were surprised. This reaction was a lot bigger than they had expected. Maybe something else was happening other than just the disappearance of James's bastard cousin.

Studying the empty table, Remus looked confused and looked somewhat accusingly at them, trying to figure out what they had done. Next to him, Sirius was equally sure the snakes were missing due to a prank from James and Peter, but was more willing to hear the gory details with his patented, bigass grin on his handsome face.

"Alright...out with it!" Remus growled worriedly. "What did you do?"

"What do you mean 'What did we do'? What were we supposed to have done?" James smirked slightly, allowing his pride at getting back at Morgan to show a bit.

"James! What have you done?" This time, the words growled at them had a definitely threatening edge, letting the other two know that they were treading a fine line with their friend.

"Oh, alright! We simply obeyed our illustrious Padfoot here! Honestly, Pads, you deserve most of the credit; I wouldn't have thought of it if you hadn't made your suggestion this morning! We just shoved Morgan into a broom closet and cast several locking spells on the door. He should be out by now, nursing his wounded pride at being bested by us again."

Sirius's fit of laughter faded as they watched Remus pale drastically. Dread began to blossom as they took in noticeable glowing of his amber-coloured eyes. "What's wrong, Remus?"

"Oh, Goddess! How stupid are you people? We're dead! Sirius, you're deader than dead!" He stared at his bewildered friends and fisted his hands to keep from choking them.

"Don't you two know what you've done? Listen closely to me...I'm only going to say this once." James and Sirius leaned in toward Remus so that he wouldn't have to raise his voice. "Are you morons blind or just completely stupid?" He ignored their affronted looks as he tried to convey the severity of the situation. "Did you not notice the new crest on Hadrian's robes last Saturday?"

James breathed a sigh of relief and sat back, waving his hand dismissively. "Merlin, Moony, I was afraid this was serious! Yeah, we saw it, so what? They made it clear the little prick is a Slytherin. It's not like we haven't pranked snakes before. The same snake, in fact!"

Remus had trouble resisting the urge to seize James's unruly hair and using it to bang his face into the table. "Inbred idiot! That was a Slytherin Consort Crest, you fucking moron! You just attacked and imprisoned Lord Slytherin's Consort!" He watched with grim satisfaction as horror slowly replaced their smug amusement. "And it gets worse. You did it in Hogwart's, which is a magical castle loyal to its owners and founders, which includes both Lord Slytherin and his bloody consort Hadrian Morgan! No matter what you think you did to hide the truth, the castle, elves, ghosts and portraits will eventually find out the truth and tell Lord Slytherin, if he doesn't already know! And even if that never happens, Sirius has a fucking fealty oath – on his blood, life and magic – to Lord Slytherin and his House. You swore, Siri, you fucking swore to support Lord Slytherin with every effort." He stared intensely into appalled gray eyes, trying desperately to convey how horrifyingly, frighteningly bad this all was.

The Marauders remained frozen for several moments, before James exhaled explosively and chuckled. "Damn, I was worried for a minute there! But, Siri, you have an out! The Bastard wasn't wearing the crest when you swore your Oath. You can safely claim ignorance, and get off with a slap on the wrist. No big deal. Dumbledore will help, I bet."

Remus just glared at the insufferable boy he was beginning to regard as his former friend. With the recent shocks and his self-imposed distance from the main Marauder, he was beginning to wonder if he'd been thinking at all during his entire association with the Potter Heir. "Wrong again, James. Shocking, I know, considering your recent streak of stunning success. Oh, wait, NO IT'S NOT!"

Deeply affronted, James scowled at Remus and accepted Peter's commiserating pat on the back.

Sirius, however, leaned over to Remus, a look of intense worry in his eyes, and said lowly, "Let me have it all, Rem."

Nodding gruffly, Remus explained the rest. "Hadrian was considered Consort within half an hour of being re-sorted into Slytherin." He smiled grimly at Sirius's wide-eyed look of horror. "I overheard two of the house elves talking, when I went to the kitchens for a snack; they were talking to Tansy, the elf that Morgan won in the duel." He ignored James' reddening face – or, well, given the condition of his skin, maybe he just didn't notice - and forged on. "Tansy was talking about her new master being the Consort to 'Lord Snake'. He was in the Slytherin Consort's rooms right from the start. Lord Snake is Professor Slytherin! Every law of magic will acknowledge that Slytherin made Hadrian Morgan his Consort that day, and it doesn't matter if you didn't know. Now, Sirius, do you see what that means to you?"

James shook his head in dismissal and then looked at Sirius. He was both surprised and irritated by the look of intense fear on Sirius' face. "Sirius? What's wrong? It can't be that bad! Just say you're sorry, you didn't understand, and blame me for the prank. No problem."

Sirius barely heard him. "From Day One? Slytherin made Morgan his...Oh Bloody Hell! I've got to go!" He began to rise from his seat, but was pulled back down by James' hand grasping his arm.

"Calm down! I told you what to do; what's wrong? Where are you going?"

"James, you really need to start reading some of the laws about relationships and formalities between nobles. I mean, really; pick up a book and read the damn thing!" Sirius glared at James, roughly shaking the restraining hand from his arm. "Whether I was there or not, I am party to an attack on the man I swore fealty to just a few days ago. You know what he had his attorney do just because you wrote a stupid story about him. I helped attack his Consort. What do you think Slytherin's going to do to me?" Sirius stood again and looked down at his friends. "I have to go confess and apologise. I don't know how I'm going to do that, but I have to. If I want to live to see tomorrow."

Turning to leave, he paused and looked back at his three old friends. Shaking his head, gray eyes dark and somber, he said quietly, "The days of the Marauders are pretty much over. I'll try to keep up a friendship, if I can see a way to do that. But count me out of all future trouble." He leaned in and stared balefully into James hazel eyes and said with a hint of threat, "And don't even think of turning on me, old friend. I know all your secrets and then some."

With that, Sirius Black straightened, squared his shoulders and walked out of the Great Hall, leaving two friends behind to stare at each other in confusion, and one friend to gaze after him thoughtfully. In James's case, the confusion didn't last long; it quickly morphed – and predictably - into anger and blame. As far as James was concerned, this was just another unforgivable thing that Hadrian Morgan had done. Somehow, some way, swearing loyalty to Marvolo Slytherin had gelded Sirius Black and turned him into a spineless coward who was abandoning his true friends.

Remus knew what was running through his friend's mind. He was trying to figure out a way to explain to the enraged James and the pouting Peter exactly what would happen to Sirius if he didn't own up to his part in this. Sirius had sworn by his life, blood and magic! Surely, the other two could understand his position?

Just about the time when Remus had begun to consider duplicating Padfoot's withdrawal from all things Marauder, the doors to the Great Hall were flung open and Professor Malfoy strode quickly up to the head table, aiming directly for Cherish Pomfrey. Dread rolled in Remus's gut and every instinct he had was screaming as they watched the Slytherin's urgent, whispered conversation with the Healer. Moments later, the students and staff goggled as they watched Madam Pomfrey leap out of her chair, motion to her niece and at great speed from the Hall.

Swallowing heavily, Remus agreed with his gut instincts. He was certain the two Healers were rushing to the aid of Hadrian Morgan. The only question Remus really had about that was whether or not Sirius would soon need their expertise, as well.

Odds were excellent that James and Peter would be denied their aid – and it was a certainty that they would soon require it.

oOoOo

The Tally

Lucius, Severus and Narcissa had just reported back, via a house elf, that they had not yet found Hadrian and would continue looking. Furious and worried, Marvolo ordered Tansy to take him directly to the thrice-damned Marauders. It seemed like goods odds that they – or at least, James Potter – would somehow be involved in Hadrian's disappearance. He then ordered Fletcher to remain in the office to manage the search and relay information.

Just as Tansy reached up to touch his sleeve and pop Marvolo with her to her former master, the door to Marvolo's office was slammed open and held wide by Tobias so that Abraxas and his precious burden cold enter the room. Held carefully in his arms was the bedraggled, nearly catatonic form of Marvolo's traumatized Consort.

With a single, wordless gesture from Marvolo, all of the furniture between Abraxas and the sofa vanished. Moving swiftly, the Malfoy Lord crossed the room and gently deposited Hadrian on the soft cushions, backing away so that Marvolo could approach.

Marvolo watched helplessly as Tobias produced a calming potion and tried to convince the rigid form of Hadrian to take it. Failing, he was preparing to spell it directly into Hadrian's stomach, which was never good for such a small person's body but better than not having it at all. He was halted by the velvety voice of his Lord, who said quietly, "Wait, Tobias."

Rising at Marvolo's gesture, Tobias handed his Lord the potion vial and moved away. Marvolo knelt next to his beloved and tipped the bottle of calming potion into his own mouth, then leaned over Hadrian's beloved face and pressed their lips together. Soothingly stroking Hadrian's jaw and throat, Marvolo parted Hadrian's lips with his tongue and carefully dribbled the potion into his lover's mouth. The gentle hand rubbing his throat encouraged Hadrian's involuntary swallow. Moving back just a few inches, Marvolo watched closely as the beloved face of his Consort slowly relaxed and his tense muscles began to unclench.

Once Hadrian's breathing had slowed and he seemed comfortable, Marvolo dropped to his knees beside his beloved and ran a gentle hand through the dark tresses. Nodding in thanks as Abraxas draped a soft blanket over the young form and Tobias cast a warming charm on it, they remained quiet and watchful until they were assured the potion was working without ill effects. After a few minutes of complete silence, crimson eyes looked up at the man standing silently next to him, waiting for his Lord to address him.

"Where was he?" The strong hand continued to card through Hadrian's hair; the gentleness of the action at complete odds with the harsh tone of his voice.

"Locked in a tiny broom closet on the fourth floor," Abraxas said angrily, shoving his hands into his trouser pockets. He needed something to do with them, so he didn't start wringing them like a die-away housewife. Issuing an explosive breath, he said tensely, "My Lord, his hand is injured and we don't know what else. I think I should go get Healer Pomfrey."

Marvolo nodded in agreement, expression remote and rage in his eyes, and turned his attention back to his Consort. He needed to know what Hadrian knew, but couldn't access his memories unless his eyes were open. He could feel his beloved's distressed thoughts and emotions, complicated by advanced shock.

Sighing regretfully, he looked back up at Tobias. "I need your help, old friend. Hold his eyes open just long enough for me to slip in and establish contact with his memories. Once I'm in there, release him and watch over him for me." Rather than reply, Tobias gently touched Hadrian's closed lids, sliding them open to reveal the dazed green orbs so that Marvolo could enter his beloved's mind.

oOoOo

The Maelstrom

Marvolo fell gently past the beautiful eyes and into Hadrian's mind. The utter chaos that surrounded him stunned him for a moment. Memories spun and swirled in a turbulent maelstrom. Centering himself, Marvolo reached out gently and began to calm the storm.

Once he got a good look at some of the memories flashing and flaring all around him, he realised why Hadrian's mind was in chaos. Almost every memory he saw was of a younger Hadrian in torment. Some showed him being thrown into a tiny cupboard. Others were of beatings by larger boys and attacks in dark hallways. One he recognized with a chill of shared experience as he watched several muggles in religious robes holding down the tiny, terrified form of a very young Hadrian as they performed an exorcism on the sweet little boy. Marvolo could not help but invade that one and roar his rage, causing the terror that fuelled it to crack and shatter from his protective magic. Smiling in grim satisfaction, he turned away, knowing that particular memory would never torment his beloved again.

Determined to help his Consort, Marvolo glared into the storm of memories that raged around him. Unable to force his will to calm it all, he reached out as one memory flew past him and was instantly immersed in it.

He was standing just outside of two swinging doors leading into what appeared to be a kitchen; his attention, however, was riveted on the two people moving down the hallway toward him. One was a stiff and starched elderly nun, her robes swishing as she dragged a small boy down the corridor; the child was obviously a very young Hadrian. He was being pulled along by the woman's steel grasp on his left ear; Marvolo noted that the child made no noise as the woman dragged him along in her wake; the only signs that he was panicking were the wide green eyes and his flaring nostrils.

"Mr. Morgan, you know better than to think that you're going to get away with your shenanigans here! Stealing is a SIN and a punishable offence, as you are well aware; however, since I cannot prove that you stole the book, you will be residing in here until I come for you." Keeping her grip on the child's ear, she opened the door to a cramped cupboard; she pushed him into the space, viciously twisting her fingers on his ear so that he bent almost in half, trying to escape them. "Kneel, boy! You will stay in there until I have deemed that you have thought about your transgressions long enough." Using her free hand, she pushed the small body into the tiny space. "You will receive no meals while you are being punished. Abstinence strengthens prayers, boy." The matron threw the bolt on the outside of the door and walked away.

Marvolo watched the shadows lengthen, almost as if time was moving more quickly than it should; it was full dark outside of the hall windows by the time the matron reappeared to release Hadrian from his prison, seizing the small arm impatiently and pulling him upright.

"Well? Have you thought about what you've done wrong? Have you prayed to our Lord, Jesus Christ for redemption?"

"Yes, Matron." Marvolo could see the child moving back and forth, from foot to foot; it was obvious that the child had not been let out to use the facilities during his time in the cupboard.

"Off to bed with you." The teary-eyed boy scampered down the hallway and made for the first lavatory he could find.

Marvolo left that memory and stepped back out into the mess of Hadrian's memories; he saw another memory bearing down on him and reached out again.

This time he was in the cupboard with Hadrian; the boy had been there for quite some time, judging by the tear tracks on his face and the slight rocking motion he made. The little boy had somehow rearranged himself from kneeling to sitting cross-legged, though hunched over from the very low ceiling. From Marvolo's vantage point, his ephemeral body was actually in the wall; there was no chance that even his spirit form would have fit in the tiny space with the small boy.

He noticed that the child's shoes and socks were off and resting on the floor next to him; Hadrian was repeatedly rubbing the skin of his right ankle with the fingers of his left hand. Marvolo recalled that his Consort had not been wearing shoes or socks when he had been brought down to his office; he wondered if Hadrian had been comforting himself like this in the closet at Hogwarts. The memory began to fade and Marvolo realised that Hadrian had either fallen asleep or lost consciousness during this time in the cupboard.

He was beginning to see a pattern to the memories; he had found no happy memories of Hadrian's childhood, only darker, more disturbing ones. The Slytherin Lord assumed that Hadrian kept the happier memories, should there be any, under figurative lock and key, only to be brought out under special circumstances. He looked around and reached out for another memory.

This memory was radically different from the two he had already viewed; this one was not of the cupboard, but of a darkened hallway. Marvolo watched as three large boys wearing identical caps, whom he assumed would be the equivalent of prefects, cornered Hadrian; their words chilled him straight through.

"Turned out to be a pretty one, eh Morgan? What d'you think, boys...think he's up for a bit o' fun?" The crimson eyes blazed fiery red with anger; who were these boys to think that they could touch his Consort? Just before he moved to draw his wand, he remembered that this was only a memory...there was nothing he could do to help Hadrian.

He could see Hadrian shaking and knew that he was hoping to escape from the bullies; Hadrian appeared to be all of about twelve at the time...a time when he should have been at Hogwarts. The largest of the older boys reached out to grab Hadrian's shoulder and, before Marvolo could blink, all three of the boys were lying on the floor across the hall. He watched closely as Hadrian carefully felt for a pulse on all three of them and, once he found them, he ran off down the hallway; he never once looked back at his attackers, leaving them to the pickpockets that seemingly bled out of the walls and rummaged through the unconscious boys' pockets.

Marvolo exited that memory and stepped directly into another one; this one much worse than the other three had been.

Hadrian was curled up in a ball on the floor; the child appeared to be around the age of seven or eight. Four bigger boys stood above him, each of them either kicking him or throwing punches onto his smaller body; Marvolo could hear the crack of ribs as one boy landed a particularly vicious kick to Hadrian's chest. He stood by helplessly as he watched Hadrian be abused like he had been during his childhood. Even though he knew Hadrian had been raised in an orphanage in the centre of London, he had hoped that his beloved had escaped the violence that had plagued his own upbringing.

A nun scurried into the room and dispersed the larger boys, promising retribution if they didn't leave at once; she bent over Hadrian's prone body and shook her head sadly.

"Oh, Hadrian...what did you do this time? I've told you several times not to antagonise them...why don't you listen to me?" The nun hefted the small boy into her arms, showing a physical strength that was not readily apparent by her size; she slowly left the room, precariously balancing her burden so that she could shut the door behind her. Just as she disappeared behind the closing door, he heard her murmur, "Such a shame your file says you can't be adopted. I know of two couples already who wanted you for their own."

When he stepped out of the memory, Marvolo noticed that the remaining memories weren't speeding by as they had been before, but were slowly sorting themselves out and slipping into the marked and labelled boxes that had appeared on the white floor. Seeing one memory still flying loosely around the space, much like the paper airplanes at the Ministry zipped around overhead, he touched it lightly and found himself viewing everything that had happened to Hadrian from the moment he wandered away from Lucius, Severus and Narcissa. Marvolo had to smile at the way his little love lost himself within the pages of Beedle the Bard, but the rest of the memory left him grimface and aching for tormented lover.

Stepping back out, he realised that Hadrian had finally gained control over himself and was trying to lock the rest of the memories away. He stood still to watch the process for another moment, making sure that no further trauma surfaced, before smoothly and delicately leaving Hadrian's mind completely. When he opened his eyes to the present, he saw that Abraxas was now back with him, but he had been joined by Cherish Pomfrey and her niece, Poppy; Tobias had apparently left to take care of something.

Marvolo began to run his fingers through his beloved's hair again, trying to regain his own sense of calm. He watched closely as Cherish began to run scans on Hadrian, trying to ascertain the extent of his physical harm from his time in the closet. Tsking lightly, she healed his injured wrist and fingers, the raw skin on his ankles, and a few other abrasians, but other than that he seemed mostly fine...physically. Marvolo knew, from sharing Hadrian's memory, that the fingerprint bruises on Hadrian's upper arm were from when his assailant gripped him and threw him in the closet. The rest of the injuries Hadrian had essentially caused himself, but Marvolo would still force his assailant to account for every, blessed one of them.

Cherish treated the remainder of the poor boy's shock and explained that he would need rest, nourishment and comfort for the next day or two. She knew Professor Slytherin knew all of that, but as a Healer she couldn't leave it unsaid. She also knew that neither she nor Poppy would be able to help the young man with the mental and emotional issues; Hadrian was in the best hands possible for that type of healing. Even without the common knowledge that Hadrian was Marvolo's new Consort, Cherish would have known that the dynamics between Marvolo Slytherin and Hadrian Morgan had changed dramatically within the last few days. The magical auras and power surges flaring between them practically lit up her Healing Sight. She couldn't wait to see what that old goat in the Headmaster's office had to say about that! With a final, comforting touch upon the tense shoulder of the powerful, deadly, and deeply worried Lord Slytherin, she took Poppy's hand and led her from the office.

Letting out a small sigh and rolling his shoulders slightly to release the recent tension, Abraxas watched Marvolo for a moment before he broke the silence. "My Lord?"

"Yes, Abraxas, what is it?" Marvolo did not look up from his careful review of Hadrian's face.

"Tobias had to leave to see to a visitor for you. Sirius Black came to provide full information and to apologise for his role, albeit secondhand, in the attack on Consort Morgan." Abraxas tensed his muscles, to keep from backing away when his Lord's hand abruptly stilled within the dark tresses and his eyes flared from ruby to blood with anger. The Malfoy Lord felt absolutely no pity for Sirius Black at that moment. If he had betrayed his Fealty Oath, he had essentially asked for whatever retribution Marvolo was going to enact upon him.

Marvolo was torn. On one hand, he fiercely wanted to confront and punish the person or persons responsible for Hadrian's condition. On the other hand, he was unwilling to leave Hadrian's side. Taking only a bare moment to decide, he finally raised glowing ruby eyes to Abraxas and commanded, "Bring him here."

The tone of his Lord's voice brooked no arguments. Bowing in acquiescence, Abraxas left the room to retrieve Tobias and the Black Heir.

oOoOo

The Maturing

Sirius practically ran through the corridors and hallways of the castle, feeling his anxiety increase with each delay. It always seemed that, when you were either late or in horrible trouble, the castle doubled in size, but this time it also seemed like the castle was deliberately setting up a series of delaying tactics. This was like that nightmare he sometimes got, where he urgently tried to get someplace but never managed to do it.

After what felt like hours to reach Professor Slytherin's office, Sirius came to a sweaty, shaken halt outside of the large portrait of Salazar Slytherin and tried to catch his breath and a little bit of dignity. If he was going to die, he didn't want it to happen when he couldn't breathe properly. He would prefer to die like a Black should – or, at least, a Black Family house elf. Even they submitted to the axe without hyperventilating.

Running a hand through his hair to restore a little order, he tugged his robes back into place, drew a deep, calming breath, and faced the stern-faced portrait of Salazar Slytherin. Unable to meet the Founder's painted eyes and ask for the wizard to announce him, Sirius knocked on the door and waited for the crimson-eyed professor to open the door and lead him to his doom. When Professor Prince swung the portrait door open, Sirius was disappointed; he hadn't wanted to put off his death any longer than necessary.

"Mr. Black. What can I help you with? Professor Slytherin is busy at the moment."

Sirius thought that Professor Prince seemed a little agitated – probably with the search for Hadrian Morgan - so he decided to make it quick. "I know where Hadrian Morgan is. He's locked in a broom closet; I can lead you there. Then, I need to see Lord Slytherin to apologise for my involvement in this and to ask for time to write a farewell letter to my Family before he kills me."

Professor Prince stared at him. His face was expressionless, but there seemed to be a small bit of humor in those dark, dark eyes. Sirius stared helplessly back, unable to think what else to say, apart from a hushed, somewhat pleading, "Please?"

Standing in the open doorway, Tobias was struck dumb by the thought that one of the perpetrators of Hadrian's confinement had just presented himself to a man who would probably torture him...and the boy knew it. And the boy was one of the unbearable Marauders, no less! For all his faults and, quite possibly his slight insanity (no one in that family was quite stable, save Narcissa), Sirius Black was not a stupid person and was demonstrating that right here and now. As he said, he knew full well he probably wasn't going to come out of this alive, and wanted to assist in recovering the boy he mistakenly believed was still missing and then give himself up rather than have Marvolo chase him down through the school.

Nodding gravely, Tobias met the worried gray eyes and was suddenly aware of how very young this boy usually seemed compared to the burgeoning maturity he now wore. "Wait here, Mr. Black. I can tell you that we have recovered Hadrian Morgan, but he is not well. Lord Slytherin is with his Consort and Healer Pomfrey right now." He saw the boy's eyes widen and realised that he hadn't known that, whatever had happened to Hadrian after he had been locked in that closet, it would cause the need for the school healer to be present. As Tobias watched, Sirius seemed to curl in on himself, as if trying to protect his body from a physical blow. He shook his head sadly. The Black Heir had so much potential, and the vow Hadrian had forced would bring the boy and his Family a whole new level of power and prestige. It was criminal that he was wasting it all by hanging around with James Potter. Beckoning him into the outer office and closing the portrait behind Sirius, Tobias left the room, but was back inside a minute.

"Sit. Lord Slytherin is still busy. All I can tell you without betraying confidentiality is that Consort Morgan is suffering from advanced shock. You and I are just going to sit here and wait for him to be done."

Sirius nodded and seated himself in the chair Professor Prince indicated. As the minutes ticked by, Sirius was left to wonder whether the increasing delay translated into good news for Hadrian Morgan, or bad. Staring at his folded hands, Sirius Black was honestly surprised to realize that, no matter what his own fate was to be, he was genuinely hoping that Hadrian would be all right.

Lifting his gaze to meet the unfathomable, onyx eyes that were fixed on him, Sirius said hesitantly, "Professor… there is a very good section on healing in the Black Family Library. I don't know what's wrong with Consort Morgan, of course, but if there is anything…. unusual ….I would like to ask you to relay to Lord Slytherin my offer to check our resources for answers or help."

Tobias raised an eyebrow and asked sardonically, "And you cannot relate that to Lord Slytherin yourself because ….?"

Sirius grinned wanly and replied, "Well, you know, I may be unable to do so because I'm distracted by my torture or death."

With a sober nod of acknowledgement that did nothing to raise the boy's spirits, Tobias settled back to consider this surprising new aspect to the wildest Marauder. He rather doubted that Lord Slytherin would kill the boy.

But, as the minutes ticked by, he felt that a bit of torture was increasingly likely.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

ooooooooooooooooooo

From SCHOOLED CH 14 – Bad Forms

Tobias raised an eyebrow and asked sardonically, “And you cannot relate that to Lord Slytherin yourself because ….?”

Sirius grinned wanly and replied, “Well, you know, I may be unable to do so because I’m distracted by my torture or death.”

With a sober nod of acknowledgement that did nothing to raise the boy’s spirits, Tobias settled back to consider this surprising new aspect to the wildest Marauder. He rather doubted that Lord Slytherin would kill the boy.

But, as the minutes ticked by, he felt that a bit of torture was increasingly likely.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter 15 – Reforms

ooo

Wormtail

Peeves barely withheld the vindictive cackle that tried to bubble from his transparent throat as he popped into existence, floating directly above the writhing, panting form of Peter Pettigrew. His pajama bottoms were pulled down to his knees and all four inches of Peter’s fleshy cock were hidden within his sweaty hand. The rat animagus was oblivious to his sudden audience as he began to peak. Stubby fingers worked frantically on his equally stubby equipment and a stream of filthy words spewed forth to accompany the paltry stream of slightly bluish, milky semen that trickled anaemically over the red and gold sheets.

As the pathetically weak orgasm and his pornographic commentary interspersed with choked shrieks of “Yes, Lord James! Punish me! Oh, James! Harder! Harder!” began to fade, Peter’s senses began to pick up on the fact that the silence surrounding him was not the normal, comforting hush that usually signified his nightly silencing charms tied into the locking down of the velvet bedcurtains surrounding his bed in the 7th Year Gryffindor Boys’ Dorms.

Blinking his watering eyes in a hurried effort to clear his vision, he stared around himself in horror – and several of his dorm mates stared back, frozen in various postures of shock, cringing disgust.and outright revulsion. Hovering midair near the canopy of his bed was the cackling poltergeist Peeves, who managed to sputter between maddeningly insane chortles, “Little Peter’s peter’s petered out! Whoopsy! Nasty Ratsy’s silencing charms can’t stand against the might of Peeves! Right, James? Left, James! Ooooooh, James!!!”

Hurriedly wiping the sperm from his hands, which were now shaking for an entirely different reason than just five minutes prior, Pettigrew pulled his pajama bottoms up over his flaccid cock and stammered, “What…? No, I….! James, please! It was just this once, I swear!” He watched in despair as the wizard of his dreams backed away, a sickened expression on his face, before James Potter turned and fled into the safety of the toilet.

All in all, James was starting to hate his life. Peter wasn’t enjoying his much, either. Not now, at least.

Around that time was when Peter’s attention was caught by the distinctive tartan sash, rigid posture and thinly-compressed lips of the Gryffindor Head of House, Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall. He immediately tried to transform into a rat, and felt the bizarre, restrictive refusal of his magic to comply as Peeves immediately cackled again and shouted,Harder, Ratsy! Try harder!”

“Peeves, you may go. Please tell Sir Nicholas that the sexual assault alarm was… somewhat misleading,” McGonagall growled. Lying on the rumpled bed, wet pajamas plastered to his skin and semen shining dimly on his chubby hand, the rat animagus froze beneath the affronted, feline glare of the nauseated Headmistress. He realized with absolute mortification that she was present for his entire, impromptu ‘debut’.

He met the mocking stare of the floating pest above his bed just as he heard Peeves whisper a message, uttered with perfect, malicious clarity just before the poltergeist vanished in a spray of poisonous vapour.

“Your Hell has only just begun, Peter Andrew Pettigrew. The Lords of Slytherin have identified your guilt in the attack on Slytherin Consort Hadrian Morgan, and declared No Mercy. Retribution starts now.”

ooooooooooooooooooo

Friends and Allies

Hogwart’s Castle was a very old building, crafted by magical masters and goblin stonemasons of unparalleled skill. It was riddled with secret rooms and corridors … and residents.

In a corridor near the Headmaster’s private suite, just beyond the spiral staircase to Dumbledore’s office, was a beautiful window that seemed to overlook the lovely grounds of the school. Only a select few people, living and dead, knew that the window was simply an illusion, another Rowena Ravenclaw masterpiece like the ceiling in the Great Hall. Its purpose was served in effectively disguising a luxurious set of rooms reserved for visiting dignitaries (past or present). This year, it was occupied by a very powerful spirit whose presence was known only by the Founders, the Castle herself, and perhaps one or two others.

The ghost-in-residence was that of a reasonably handsome man of advancing years. Despite his silvery transparency, it was easy to see that the man’s hair would have been a snowy white and was nicely groomed, his apparel was finely-cut, of excellent quality and at most just a decade or two out of current wizarding fashion, He had a strong face and dignified bearing, and his character made him seem considerably more solid than most other ghosts.

At the moment, he was seated elegantly on a loveseat in the private parlor, reading from numerous parchments spread across the tables and helpfully manipulated by a dedicated house elf. On the wall were four portrait frames, one of which was occupied by a larger-than-life wizard in noble robes of crimson and gold. Anyone who knew anything at all about the castle would recognize the wizard as Hogwart’s Founder and Lord of both Realms, Godric Gryffindor.

By the relaxed atmosphere in the room and the occasional hearty laugh, Lord Gryffindor and his ghostly guest were very old friends, indeed.

“…and you are certain, Godric, that the others are in agreement? I have no desire to take this further only to find that you have rushed ahead of your companions in your eagerness to see it through. You are not particularly known for prudent planning, my friend.” The ghost smiled almost gently at the robust figure in the portrait as he sipped at a glass of wine, an action that defied popular understanding of ghosts and their abilities.

Gryffindor uttered another hearty laugh, not in the least offended at his guest’s insinuation. “No, my friend, we Four are in complete accord on this. It has been far too long an issue, and he has managed to twist bylaws and manipulate vows to the point where he has excessive autonomy and too little conscience.” The powerful man considered his friend for a moment and added with a comfortable twinkle in his eye that showed how the effect should be done, “Besides, Lady Claw is particularly interested in your ability to cast curses and charms in your present state of being. It should not be possible, and frustrates her to no end. It’s most entertaining!”

The seated wizard laughed as well, and replied with the faintest trace of an accent, “Ja, I’m certain it is. Perhaps when this business is concluded, I will extend my visit and share some of my more esoteric knowledge with my gracious hosts.”

Godric’s twinkle increased in intensity as he leaned forward against the frame of his portrait and confided, “However you have managed it, it is obvious that the first stage of the Offensive is successful. Helga was flabbergasted when the old bastard started to behave as if he is no longer aware of his need to keep his secrets. And, quite frankly, I am most impressed by the way he seems to have lost his sense of the opinions and perceptions of others. He seems quite convinced that he is infallible. Care to share, old friend?”

For a few moments, as the seated ghost stared contemplatively into his wineglass and studied the transparent depths, Godric was certain that he would once again be given no answer to the question that plagued the Founders. Watching as Dumbledore began to embarrass himself and betray his own secrets had been a bewildering and exhilarating experience for the somewhat jaded Founders. However, after a few moments of pondering, the spirit began to expound.

“It is, in part, the result of a combination of charms, curses and potions, as you no doubt suspect. However, primarily it is a healthy dose of Brownie magics – or, as you know them, House Elves. You are aware, of course, of the role of the Brownies in caring for their masters, but so few ever truly bother to learn of our friends. Servants are invisible, to those who feel truly superior to others, are they not?”

The spirit glanced up at the intently listening portrait, then smiled faintly and murmured, “And yet, it is they who are, in many ways, our masters. It is their primary purpose in life to tend to the welfare of their ‘owners’ – and we forget that Brownies have their own intelligence, their own abilities, and their own perception of what is truly in our best interest. Given the proper encouragement, perhaps by one who sits in authority or judgment over the person they serve....,” he trailed off leadingly.

Studying his friend, he watched in amusement as Godric’s thoughts chased each other across the broadly handsome face, and waited for comprehension to show. When it did, he grinned in response to the Founder’s devious smirk and said as if in agreement, “Indeed, it would be difficult to find a Brownie who felt that trading one’s soul and conscience in exchange for useless galleons and ephemeral power would be good for their wizarding charges. You would be shocked, Godric, at how effectively a single, mistreated house elf with offended sensibilities can neuter a supposedly powerful wizard.”

He studied his glass again and noted with affected indifference, “ And when you also consider the fact that most of the most self-important wizards direct their Brownies to handle numerous errands involving contact with other, easily-dismissed magical creatures – such as, oh, Goblins, for example – well, frankly, I shudder at what Brownies could engineer should they be of a less helpful, nurturing character.”

Godric Gryffindor, dignified Founder of Hogwart’s School of Witchraft and Wizardry, snorted loudly and then uttered a growling laugh that was oddly reminiscent of his house’s mascot. “I am always certain that you will find a new way to approach a problem, old friend, and I am never disappointed.”

Smiling slightly, the spirit waited a bit longer for Godric to consider the ramifications. After a few moments, he added with a devious smirk of his own, “Not to mention the fact that an angered, offended Phoenix is a very effective conspirator and master of mind magic, such as suggestion and compulsions, when sufficiently motivated.”

It was into the ensuing, hearty laughter of two very amused old friends that Peeves appeared, wearing his own wide, wicked grin and shedding like water the persona of a slightly-insane poltergeist.

“Ah, my Field Agent arrives! How goes the sabotage, young Master Binns?” Godric nodded hello as his friend greeted the oddly-dressed spirit amiably.

Peeves laughed, sounding not at all insane or maniacal, and allowed his form to morph back into the slim, teenage boy he was when he died. “Well, let’s just say the Rat gave an unplanned performance, and his warning was delivered under cover of the gagging of his dorm mates.” The spirit paused a moment to steal a sip of wine from the glass on the table, grinning at the expected chiding of his companions, and added with aplomb, “Of course, the unexpected, additional presence of McGonagall certainly contributed to the …er….tension in the room.”

And as the two goggled at him before bursting into astounded congratulations and then uncontrolled laughter, Peregrine Victor Binns – otherwise known as Peeves to all but his very stern grandfather, Professor Cuthbert Binns – sat back and basked.

He had done well.

Finally, the laughter died and the mood again grew contemplative as the three mulled over recent events. Peeves showed that he was far older and more experienced than his teenage form suggested when he quirked an eyebrow at the wizard seated across from him and asked quietly, “What is my next assignment, Sir? The sooner this is done, the sooner grandfather and I can be free to cross over and see Mum and Gran. I confess, there are times when the ache for them is fierce, indeed.”

The expressions of both wizards visibly softened as they studied the young/old soul seated on the chair. The boy spirit was tired. Worse, he was weary. For far too long, his only comfort had been the few portraits who knew the truth, and his own grandfather, who steadfastly refused to cross over without his beloved grandson. The teen had taken refuge in the poltergeist persona he had created, and used his sharp wit and prankish nature to help balance the scales of justice for those children who found themselves victims of bullies such as James Potter.

He even fancied himself as a bit of a hero – at least to some of the children who inhabited the Castle. It was satisfying, to turn the tables on adolescents who were convinced that bullying was their blood-given right. Even if justice only appeared in the form of dung bombs and hurled insults, at least he was personally responsible for the fact that numerous would-be victims escaped to safety while the pesky poltergeist dealt justice one prank at a time. Still, he was meant for more than that, as his grandfather often said, and was proud to be recruited by the Founders and their guest for such an important mission.

Of course, young Peregrine was especially pleased to be part of any plan that would see the current Lord Potter lose his ill-gotten title – particularly if doing so aided the Morgan boy. Taking down the arrogant wizard’s pride and joy, James, and his gang was pure frosting on a very good cake. After all, Charlus Potter was the reason both for Peregrine’s death and inability to cross over. Peregrine had unintentionally witnessed a rather unsavoury act on the part of Charlus Potter, and was then treated to a disastrous attempt at obliviation by Charlus in an effort to preserve his secrets.

In muggle terms, Peregrine had suffered a brain aneurism and died on the spot, blood running from his nose and ears in front of the trembling wand of a horrified, terrified Charlus Potter. Rather than do the right thing, Potter had then panicked even further and paid the Transfiguration Professor, Albus Dumbledore, to bind Peregrine’s spirit to this plane and prevent the spirit from telling the truth of his death and afterlife. Only those who investigated the situation could learn the truth, and in doing so, they were caught in the binding web, as well.

Unfortunately, the Founders discovered this only after Dumbledore won his position, and until young Marvolo had risen to his own power, they could do nothing. The old bastard had done his level best to prevent and delay that Lordship, too. Now, however, circumstances were lining up and gaining momentum. Soon, those who had been harmed by Dumbledore and his sycophants would find justice. In truth, Godric’s heart was heavy as he wondered if all of the ‘incidental’ victims would ever be identified.

Victims like PV Binns.

It was only recently that the Binns wizards learned that they were just an incidental happening, something to be dealt with as Potter and Dumbledore masterminded a takeover of various inheritances. The Binns men knew an unpalatable truth. No one can prevent a spirit from telling the truth once they crossed over – so they were not allowed to cross. It would have messed up the so-called ‘Leaders of the Light’s’ plans rather badly if the Binns boy had gone beyond the Veil and returned with allies. It was not unheard-of for mothers to return from Beyond to take retribution on behalf of grossly-wronged children.

And anyone who knew Abigail Binns would be nutters to believe she would settle for anything less. Peeves would have pitied them, if he didn’t hate them so much and if their downfall weren’t the key to letting Grand Da and him go home. Speaking of going home….

Gellert Grindelwald smiled sadly at the too-solid form of the ghost in front of him, knowing full well how awful it felt to be one of Albus Dumbledore’s incidental victims. It was in large part for this very reason that he invited Peeves to join him in this task. Looking to the other presence in the room, Gellert shared a look of sheerest determination with Godric. The next phase of the plan involved something Gellert had been dreading, in that he had to meet with and share his story with the portrait of his sarcastic, brilliant nemesis, Sherlock Holmes. Gellert needed the man as his ally. Holmes led to Grenadine led to Longbottom led to Morgan led to …

But it started with Holmes. Shite!

He just knew the Ravenclaw Brain Trust was going to inundate him with reminders of the warnings the damnable Holmes brothers had given him about the path he was on and the thrice-damned Elder Wand.

It did not help at all that Holmes had been entirely correct, as usual. Prick.

Sighing in resignation, he took a fortifying sip of his wine – amused by the fact that a spirit was drinking spirits – and began to fill the other two in on the next step.

Relucantly.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Beloved Comfort

Hadrian slowly surfaced from the velvety-dark depths in which he had been floating. He fought it with every fibre of his being, not wanting to return to the unpleasant reality that would be the aftermath of his latest run-in with his dear cousin James … and toady. Wrinkling his brow, he grumbled softly and tried to burrow back into his pillow and drift again.

A warm, gentle hand smoothing the wrinkle between his brows changed his mind very quickly. His pillow rumbled beneath his cheek as a deep, beloved voice murmured, “Come back to me, Love. Don’t hide from me, Little Serpent. You have nothing to fear here.”

Finally convinced by the brush of lips on his, Hadrian sighed in resignation and reluctantly opened his eyes, immediately wincing at the light that seemed to stab through his corneas directly into his brain. A whispered spell immediately reduced the ambient light even further, and he felt the cool glass of a potion vial press against his lips. Grimacing, he allowed the potion to be tipped into his mouth and was grateful when a strong, gentle hand helpfully caressed his throat to help him swallow the bitter liquid.

Another tender kiss encouraged him to try again. This time, there was no pain, and the instant reward of worried crimson eyes meeting his own. Hadrian smiled weakly up at his Betrothed and felt his cheeks flushing in shame as memories assailed him.

He was shocked at the fury that filled that Marvolo’s eyes, but his lover’s next words and the way he bit them out was impossible to misunderstand. “Don’t you dare, Hadrian! Don’t you dare let any of what a fucking Marauder did affect you or us. I will not allow it!” Ruby eyes glared down at him, but the strong hand in his hair never stopped gently massaging his scalp.

Shocked at Marvolo’s intensity, and feeling the fierce, protective love in the arms wrapped around him and the tense body pressed tightly to his, Hadrian’s emotions rose up and momentarily swamped him. He hurriedly dropped his eyes, but his lover’s ever-observant eyes had once again seen him clearly.

Marvolo’s anger faded at the sight of the tears that made his Consort’s pained green eyes shine even brighter than normal, but it did not disappear. In truth, Hadrian didn’t want it to. He wanted his powerful Lord, lover, betrothed, beloved, whatever he was called, to be angry at those who had hurt Hadrian. He welcomed the possessiveness in Marvolo’s grip on his waist and his hair, he cherished the fact that Marvolo looked (and was!) powerful and angry enough to take serious revenge for his Consort, he fucking adored the way Marvolo was gripping his hair and positioning his head and claiming a fierce, intense, passionate kiss of purest ownership from Hadrian.

This man! Merlin, Hadrian loved him so damn much! This powerful, obsessive, brilliant, magnificent wizard had tricked, stalked, trapped and ravished him, with passionate love in his heart and domination in his soul. And now here he was, Dark Lord Extraordinaire, multitasking with incredible skill, tongue and lips and teeth claiming his mouth even as he showed Hadrian a dizzying array of emotions, all with the goal of convincing his Consort that there was no one and nothing more vital to Marvolo’s existence than Hadrian Morgan.

He presented a damn fine argument.

When Marvolo ended the kiss – holy hell, that was one kiss?! – and rolled to his back, he pulled Hadrian with him and settled the smaller wizard against him gently but firmly. Locked to Marvolo’s side by an arm of iron, Hadrian had the definite impression that he would not be going anywhere without Marvolo for a good, long while.

He was completely fine with that.

Drifting a bit from the Marvolo-induced bliss, he blinked and focused as the rumble beneath his cheek that he was coming to really cherish began again. He split his attention as Marvolo filled him in on everything he had missed or simply did not know, allowing himself to aimlessly pet Marvolo’s chest and abdomen as he listened.

There was a lot to take in. He was unsurprised at the identity of his attackers, nor at the fact that both Pettigrew and Potter were unprepared for the fallout from their “prank”. Naturally, it took Remus Lupin to point out the obvious. Hadrian was shocked at the reactions – and subsequent actions – of Sirius Black, but was pleased with the way Marvolo had managed the situation for optimum advantage to Hadrian, Marvolo and the Vol de Mort Party. They both wanted a chance to look at the famous Black Family library, and would use Sirius’s offer of a viewing of their books on healing to springboard into something more extensive.

He was again somewhat ashamed at learning how Marvolo and the others had witnessed Hadrian’s extreme (to his mind, although not Marvolo’s) over-reaction, but allowed himself to be soothed and chastised and lovingly bullied into a better attitude. After all, Marvolo could personally understand and empathize with his history at the orphanage (a fact that saddened Hadrian greatly).

He was astonished to learn that Marvolo had made arrangements for Sister Teresa, the kindly nun who had tried to get him adopted and always protected him and gave him medical care. The motherly woman suddenly found herself named the Administrator for a charity that aided and nurtured abused children. It took the form of a very large, seaside cottage in Dover, with a two-room private suite for the good Sister, cheerful dorms for the children, and a sizable budget for clothing, food, toys, books, education and healthcare.

Marvolo had to pause for quite a while in his explanation as Hadrian expressed his enthusiastic approval.

Eventually, when Marvolo finally caught his breath after gently but firmly settling Hadrian back against his side and allowing their bodies to calm, he somewhat hesitantly informed his little Consort about the fate of Matron. The abusive nun was discovered locked in the bucket cupboard at St. Thomas More’s, having apparently forced herself in there as penance. The woman was mumbling about all the sins she had committed against the children in her care, and was apparently convinced that she was going to Hell. She was under the impression that she had already met the Devil himself, but all she would tell anyone was that he had glowing, red eyes.

Marvolo was incredibly pleased with Hadrian when his Consort’s only reaction was a grim smile and a kiss of profound gratitude. Was it even possible for anyone to be more deserving of a home in Slytherin than his beloved serpent? Only a true Slytherin could appreciate the gift of vengeance.

The story of Pettigrew’s pornographic debut in front of his dorm mates and Professor McGonagall had Hadrian shuddering in disgust but ultimately giggling infectiously, causing Marvolo to start laughing as well, which made Hadrian quite flushed, which had a predictable effect on Marvolo. It was several more minutes before control was re-asserted (or would that be, re-re-asserted?) and the dissertation was resumed.

Of James Potter, Marvolo was suspiciously noncommittal – especially considering the absolutely murderous look in his eyes. Rather than clarify James Potter’s future, he quietly informed his curious Consort that events were in motion and would be explained when Hadrian was fully rested and able to meet at length with Marvolo, Solicitor Geoffrey Bates III, a Gringott’s goblin named Griphook, Baron Antonin Dolohov, Heir-Lord Neville Longbottom, the five eldest Weasley sons, Professor Tobias Prince in his role as a Potions Master, Professor Filius Flitwick, Deputy Headmistress McGonagall and the Sorting Hat. He added that there was also a possibility of inviting Vampire Lord Erasmus Sanguini to attend.

Hadrian’s bewildered silence was taken as agreement, and before the younger wizard could protest, Marvolo had completely distracted him with unfair compliments and inappropriate use of body parts.


When confronted about this later that night by a flushed and overwhelmed Hadrian, Marvolo cited his Consort’s irresistibility and proceeded to prove his point.

All in all, Lord Marvolo Slytherin and Consort Hadrian Morgan were satisfied with the immediate resolution of several touchy subjects.

Repeatedly.

ooooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

ooooooooooooooooooo

SCHOOLED - CHAPTER 17: Connections

ooooooooooooooooooo

Pater

Baron Antonin Dolohov sipped his fire-warmed cognac and leaned back in his leather chair, staring contemplatively into the fire. It was just past midnight, and for the first time ever, Dolohov Manor was occupied by both the family patriarch and his children.

Shaking his head in awe, he took another sip and tried to let the burn of the spirits dispel the lingering sense of unreality that hovered in his mind. Upstairs, in the family wing of the manor, in five newly-decorated Heir Suites, were his sons.

All five of them.

Considering that it hadn't been even a full 48-hours since he had believed he was the last of the blood, he supposed that he had a right to a time of adjustment, after all. Gazing blankly into the sparkling depths of the cognac, he cast his mind back over the past two days.

ooo

Antonin Dolohov entered the office of Head Auror McLaggen without pausing, ignoring the fluttering secretary entirely. The deep-voiced conversations he had interrupted halted abruptly as the door swung open and the occupants of the office immediately focused on him. He ignored McLaggen, too, preferring instead to allow his piercing stare to sweep over and document every visible detail about the five, red-haired young men who were seated in front of the large desk.

His sons. His sons!

Clenching his jaw against the emotion sweeping through him, he met the startling blue stare that met his own from the eldest son and nodded approvingly at the sense that his own measure was being taken by this man. The others remained silent, barely acknowledging the owner of this office as he moved tactfully past the Baron and shut the door behind him.

The eyes that locked upon his own finally lowered, briefly, before returning to study the older man. The Baron nodded approvingly. His eldest – William – showed respect, but not submission. Fitting behavior for the Dolohov Heir.

Studying the five young men now standing respectfully before him, Antonin was pleased. Given the character of Arthur Weasley, their erstwhile role model during their childhood years, he had been dreading the possibility that his sons were – at best – provincial.He had been sickened to learn from Griphook that the soon-to-be-tortured Arthur Weasley had dared to raise Dolohov's children in a modified chicken coop and clothe them in second- and third-hand rags.

Unacceptable.

Feeling his rage rise and begin to show in his eyes, he was pleased to see an answering fire blaze in the five sets of blue eyes that stared back. Without a word being spoken, he and his sons had already reached an accord. His grim nod was returned five times, although the twins also wore slightly-demented grins. The Dolohov traits showed clearly already in the young men facing him; he could easily see his father's intelligence and his mother's cunning shining through.

And, in the case of the twins, a touch of the malicious genius that others – usually victims or cowards – identified as insanity.

Seeing his attention on them, the twin nearest him widened his grin and said with dark delight, "Congratulations, Sire!"

The other twin also grinned and continued seamlessly, "It's a boy!... and a boy…and a boy…and a boy…and a boy!"

William and Antonin snorted in unison, which served to break the tension further. Charles and Percival, at a nod from Antonin, re-seated themselves, and were swiftly joined by the twins. William then reached out to offer his hand to Antonin, saying with a touch of wry amusement, "Perhaps introductions are in order? I am William, the eldest. The muscular redhead there is Charles, second eldest. Next is Percival, the statesman of the group. And the devils there are Frederick and George."

Antonin met the eyes of each young man as he was introduced, finding little of Arthur Weasley in the stern young faces. He could detect the anxiety and worry that rode below the control each of his sons imposed on himself, and found himself uncharacteristically eager to alleviate the concerns of other people. "I am Baron Antonin Dolohov. According to recent revelations, I am your father. I have every intention of making that fact legal, as well as simply biological. Should you wish to do so, it is a Dolohov Family tradition that you would address me as 'Pater'."

Tense shoulders relaxed and each son expressed relief in his own way. The twins grinned broadly, as seemed to be their way. Percival sat back in his chair and allowed his rigid posture to ease. Charles sighed gustily, running a tired, scarred hand over his face. And William… 'Ah, my heir! So like me already!' mused Antonin … William reached for the cognac and poured his father a finger of it before sipping his own.

Antonin also sat, transfiguring a rigidly uncomfortable chair into a cushioned leather armchair. After a small, silent moment, Dolohov observed, "I can see the smallest of permanent glamour charms upon each of you, but in truth I cannot detect what they conceal. You each bear Dolohov characteristics, and the rest I attribute to your mother and the Prewett Line."

Percival had the answer. "Mother's eyes are hazel. Yours are deep brown with flecks of black." He studied his father with intelligent, blue eyes and his small smile was pained.

Dolohov simply nodded in understanding. "Ah. Well, that means there is little enough to shed. Everything that is essential to your characters remains true to your heritage." Although the words may have seemed formal to any who were familiar with the normal order of things at the Burrow, it was the simple, matter-of-fact acceptance and approval by the man they now knew as their father which helped soothe the wounds each young man was hiding.

Already, the acceptance and respect of Antonin Dolohov was more precious to them than Arthur Weasley's had ever been. Of course, that was probably because Antonin -- Pater --was a man they could respect, as well.

They toasted each other as Antonin also sat back, and the six Dolohov men began to talk.

ooo

Smiling slightly as he poured another glass of cognac, Antonin summoned a house elf, which popped into the room and immediately bowed. "Are my sons settled in? Do they have everything they need?"

The wizened creature simply nodded quietly. He was well aware of the preferences of his master. Nothing displeased the wizard more than needless verbacity. Not to say that the Baron was particularly cruel to his servants, but he was not the type who coddled them, either. He treated them precisely as he did any other business associate. He provided his side of the service agreement, and fully expected them to fulfill their obligations.

Piercing dark eyes studied him for a moment, before Dolohov ordered, "Assign a personal servant to each of my sons. Request each of them to provide requirements for the personality of the servant; I suspect that the twins, at least, will have different preferences than I. Make sure that each of my sons has adequate clothing bearing the Crest – including the Heir Crest for William - for the next day and summon the tailor to attend to their complete wardrobes tomorrow afternoon. Breakfast will be at 7:30 sharp. Dismissed."

As the elf popped out of the room, Antonin studied the list of things to address. First was to contact Lord Slytherin and fill him in on the situation. Given what Griphook implied, this news would be of value to Antonin's Lord. Also on the list were plans for Arthur Weasley, Peter Pettigrew, and his son's half-brother and half-sister. (Of the latter two, neither were going to be pleased with their lot in life, particularly compared to that of their elder siblings. That suited Dolohov quite well; he had a fair amount of anger with those who had blackmailed Arthur and thus stolen gold that would have fed, clothed and financed his sons. It infuriated the Baron that his sons had been raised in poverty.) Considering those who merited a fair amount of payback, the culpability of Argus Filch was yet to be determined, as was that of Albus Dumbledore. And last but not least… hmmmm…

Picking up the fountain pen, he carefully and deliberately wrote the latest item he was considering.

Determine if the boys' mother wishes to sever her marital bond. If so, explore possibility of offering her a suite in the Manor and appropriate stipend.

After all, she was their mother, and he was their father. Granted, their path to mutual parenthood had been unusual, but the facts were irrefutable. The woman was blameless, thus far, in the theft of his Line. She was as much a victim as any of them, perhaps more so. Antonin remembered the woman from her Prewett days; she had been a vibrant, vivacious redhead and drew many considering looks from wizards of every age. Antonin himself would not have been immune to her charms, had he met her earlier in life. As it was, by the time Margaret had been of age, he had already limited himself to wizards, specifically because they did not normally bear children and he had little interest in such annoyances.

Yes, that had worked out just as he planned it. He snorted sardonically, and raised his glass in an ironic toast to whatever god had been listening in and mocking him as he planned his life.

After more reflection, he decided that the boys' mother was, in fact, more a victim than any of them. By the accounts of the Line Theft, not only had the woman been horribly misled about her own children, but she had been repeatedly betrayed by her husband, cursed with confundus charms, and sexually assaulted with a device that irrefutably proved Arthur Weasley's immorality and impotence. Picking up his fountain pen, he added 'Consider providing her with counseling. Have Lady Ogden bring her into Society.'

Setting his pen back down, he smirked slightly. Clearly, he had already made the decision for the woman. He had no doubt his sons would assist in convincing her.

Although, if she were to set foot in his Manor and be associated with himself, she was going to have to undergo a radical transformation of appearance, mannerisms and etiquette. He felt it would be a wise move to modify her name, as well. 'Molly' definitely seemed suitable for a woman named Weasley who lived in a chicken coop and was renowned for ear-splitting howlers. A Dolohov, however, required refinement. Certainly, the woman's surname 'Margaret' was adequate, if a bit unoriginal.

'Hmm…perhaps 'Margo'? No, 'Margeaux'! Much better!'

Smiling to himself, he made another note on his parchment, not even realizing that he had moved right past the idea of approaching the boys' mother and had already mentally moved her into his Manor, his life, his expectations, and even given her his name.

What a difference two days can make in the life of the last Dolohov.

ooooooooooooooooooo

SSSSSSnarkinessssss

Sitting in the Library, the leaders of Slytherin House were gathered in their usual spot around the largest, best-lit table. Most were doing their homework, while some were occupied with studying their peers and gathering information. Madame Pince had stunned them all when she had simply smiled at Hadrian when he entered her domain with a horde of Slytherins, and then she cast what she called a 'Study Ward' over their table.

When Hadrian explained that he had looked it up for her early in the School Year and given it to her for her birthday, he was met with flabbergasted silence and awed stares.

He simply ignored their looks and said snippily, "Or do you all really believe that a School Librarian is opposed to students using books in the Library and studying together?"

It was Snark Lord Severus who once again asserted his title by saying sarcastically, "Frankly, yes, that was our belief, based on her incessant harping about talking and her constant hovering and scowling about her books!"

Hadrian's return glare was impressive. "And here I was of the opinion that you were Slytherins. Now I find that you only exercise deep thinking when it benefits you directly!"

He and Severus engaged in a stare-down, which Hadrian won when his eyes began to glow slightly. The cowed Snark Lord dropped his gaze to glare at the others, who were now smirking, and sniped, "He insulted all of us, you know; not just me!"

The argument was lost when Hadrian said calmly, "No, I spoke the simple truth. That it shows you unfavorably is a function of your choices, not mine." He glanced up at the approach of Madame Pince and hissed to his tablemates, "Be polite!"

At the unquestionable command in his tone, they all snapped to attention – even Severus – and turned to smile a greeting at the Librarian, who was standing with her hand on the back of Hadrian's chair as she set a notebook down in front of him. "Hadrian, dear, thank you again for creating this Master Library Ward for me." She raised an admonishing hand as he started to protest and said calmly, "I know full well that you created it, rather than found it, young man. I am a Master Archivist and Researcher, you know; if I hadn't found it after two decades of looking, it did not exist until you decided it should. The fact that it benefits the students as well as me, allowing everyone to study and chat while ensuring the sanctity of privacy and the condition of the books is a wonderful gift. I have also just discovered the little twist you added to ensure that misfiled books return to their proper place. It is a wonderful thing you have done for me, dear, and as a token of my appreciation I have copied for you several of the more esoteric charms, wards and curses I have knowledge of with regard to your little research project."

She smiled thinly around at the Slytherin students, most of whom appeared to be frozen in place, and patted Hadrian's shoulder before turning away to snap at Hufflepuffs Delores Umbridge and Cornelius Fudge. The Slytherins watched possibly the most repulsive courting pair in the entire school – Merlin, pink and lime green do not work well on out-of-shape endomorphic adolescents! - as they were driven from their corner hideaway and chivvied out of the Library before turning back to stare at Hadrian.

After several minutes of staring intimidatingly at the boy who sat and did his homework in the most unintimidated manner possible, Lucius caved.

"Hadrian? Would you be so kind as to either confirm or deny that you created a Master-Level spell for our Librarian as a gift?! Please?"

Raising his unfocused gaze from the notes he was reading, Hadrian stared at Lucius in a slightly befuddled manner that was almost unbearably cute (even to the sulking Snark Lord) before he grinned slightly and said simply, "Confirmed. Now, do your work, people! We have a House Cup to secure."

Exchanging incredulous glances and – in Narcissa's case – a delighted smile, the Slytherins settled down to work. Gradually, the amount of concentration at the table reached a comfortable, familiar level that would have even satisfied a group of Ravenclaws.

After an hour or so, the easy silence was broken by a deeply amused snort from Hadrian. The Slytherins looked up at him and saw that he was reading Severus Prince's essay, head tilted slightly to the side so that he wasn't quite forced to read it upside-down. The looked on his face was mirthful, which immediately put Severus on edge.

It was never good to have Hadrian Morgan amused at one's expense.

"What?!" Severus snapped. "It's a simple Situational Awareness report for Professor Malfoy on the uneventful hour we spent outside this afternoon. Is your own homework not enough to occupy you, Mr. Morgan?"

Bright green eyes, sparkling with amusement, lifted to clash with onyx before Hadrian raised his hands in a gesture of false-surrender and said laughingly, "My apologies, Severus. Do continue."

He returned to his own work, and the others settled down to watch while Severus struggled with himself. It was excellent entertainment, watching as the tiny bit of completely polite interaction from Hadrian was now worming its way into the ego of the budding potion master. Lucius was making tickmarks on his scrap parchment each time his old friend completed another paranoid re-reading of the report he was writing. Narcissa was most amused just watching Hadrian, who had completely dismissed everyone again and was buried in the notes from Madame Pince. Bellatrix was giggling under her breath, watching as the overly-confident (smug!), prideful (arrogant!), independent (misanthropic!) Prince heir crumbled beneath the might of a Hadrian Morgan Hint.

Everyone jumped when Severus slammed his quill down and glared at his Lord's Consort. "Do you have something you think I need to know about my own afternoon, Mr. Morgan?" he sneered. "Because I'm fairly certain you weren't even there! Yet, there you sit, implying something is wrong with my report. I, for one, would appreciate an explanation!"

Hadrian's eyes narrowed dangerously, and even those were not Severus gulped nervously. It was far too easy to forget that the petite, courteous beauty was, in fact, the young man who had decimated the Marauders and the rest of the 7th year Gryffs, and was by all accounts just as much a Slytherin as their Lord himself. It was… unwise … to be rude or dismissive with Hadrian Morgan.

"I can't imagine what I was thinking, casting an editorial eye over your homework for you, Severus Prince," Hadrian hissed. "It's not like you represent my House or anything. It would apparently be naïve of me to assume that the members of Slytherin might be as bright as Ravenclaws and consult each other in their individual areas of expertise in order to ensure that we, also, produce only the best we can offer in terms of work product. Do continue writing." Angry green eyes glared at the flinching student, before he visibly dismissed everyone at the table and returned to his notebook.

Lucius winced, knowing full well that Severus had truly let his ego override his cunning. Hadrian was the only acknowledged writer of the group, and was recognized both academically and professionally for that ability. He had subtly extended a good-natured offer to Severus, and been rebuffed and criticized for it by the boy. Even worse, Severus had already been duly warned about letting his snarkiness get out of control during the 'Entitlement' ceremony Hadrian had conducted at lunch just a few days ago.

Since Severus was willfully avoiding both Lucius and Narcissa's eyes, it fell to Bellatrix to repair the situation. She did so by reaching over and slapping Severus Prince in the head, shocking everyone at the table – including herself. She defended herself well, though. Before Severus could do more than gasp and scowl, she was growling at him. "You're wrong! One hundred percent wrong, no room for rationalizing, no misunderstandings. One of the best writers we know gave you a perfectly good opportunity to get his help without even having to ask for it and indebt yourself, and you rebuffed him with all the offended conceit and temper of Ronald Weasley! Now you have a table full of appalled friends and associates and a deeply offended Consort to your Lord. All that's left is to prove whether you're a Slytherin or a … no, not even a Gryffindor, because Longbottom is pretty damn exceptional! … are you a Slytherin or a Marauder, Severus Prince?"

It was in this moment that the youngest of the Black sisters earned her place in Lord Slytherin's House. She would have seen the pride and approval in her sister Narcissa's lovely blue eyes, but Bellatrix Black never once dropped her challenging stare from that of Severus Prince. Before this moment, the only other student to win a staring match with the intimidating Severus was Hadrian Morgan. Now, Bellatrix Black joined that elite list, as Severus – to the shock of everyone, including himself – dropped his stare and blinked.

The ensuing silence was finally broken when Severus cleared his throat and said awkwardly, "Excuse me, Consort Morgan. Please accept my apology for my boorish behavior. The fact that I do not suffer fools lightly simply means that I won't be living comfortably with myself until I repair my gaffe."

He waited hopefully, and was rewarded when impassive emerald eyes met his across the table. Taking a deep breath, Severus requested, "If you accept my apology, will you please tell me if there is something wrong with my report before I turn it in and potentially embarrass both myself and our House? I have read it repeatedly and confess I cannot find what amused you."

Finally, Hadrian nodded, his expression remote, and said calmly, "I accept your apology, Mr. Prince, but I caution you that my patience is far from limitless. Having been present several times when I have demonstrated that fact, I confess I am worried that your pride may be stronger than your cunning, if you so readily forget that I am entirely capable of memorable bits of retaliation."

He held the onyx eyes long enough to see embarrassment and acknowledgment in their depths, then metaphorically released the hook in Severus's mouth. "As to you having 're-read' your report many times, that would be the problem."

He grinned at the blank looks that comment engendered around the table, and prompted gently, "Read it aloud. Start with the third paragraph down."

Severus wrinkled his brow in puzzlement, then shrugged and picked up the report, clearing his throat and feeling somewhat silly. Lucius did not help by folding his hands pompously in front of him and settling into a position of wise old wizard, earning a half-hearted glare from Severus. Narcissa giggled, as did Bellatrix.

Sighing in resignation, Severus began, "There was little of note occurring on the grounds. We four were at the Lake, somewhat separated for our various tasks but within hearing of each other. Lucius alone did not have full line-of-sight, as he was seated on the ground near the wilder shrubs, gathering cuttings. The only incident of importance was an instance of circumstance. Narcissa saw something slither suspiciously close as Lucius was shitting in the bushes..."

He paused a moment and then mentally replayed what he'd just said. "Um… Lucius was shitting in the…sitting…Lucius was sitting in the busses…bushes!...Damn it! Lucius was shitting in the bushes!...I mean….!"

He stared at his report, trying to ignore the snickers and giggles that were echoing around the table. Biting his lip fiercely, Severus dared to raise his eyes and look at his friend. The dignified Malfoy Heir-Lord was wearing an expression that seemed to be vacillating between hilarity and horror. Hilarity won, and when Lucius finally dissolved into his own – albeit appalled – laughter, everyone else gave up.

To his endless mortification, Severus found himself giggling. Giggling! The others found their laughter doubled and even trebled when the dour Snark Lord of Slytherin devolved into something resembling a nine-year-old wizard who had just heard a fart joke.

Eventually, as the laughter began to settle a bit, Lucius choked out, "I most emphatically request that you re-word your report, Severus. Although the idea of watching you to try to read that aloud in its present form to my father and the Defense class would almost be worth the subsequent humiliation!"

Regaining his decorum and trying desperately to pretend he had not just giggled over the overly sibillant paragraph and an unintentional scatological remark, Severus just nodded weakly and picked up his quill. He knew it was unlikely he would live this down, but at least he had dragged Lucius into it with him. He commented on that aloud as he began to strike through the paragraph.

Lucius chuckled warmly, swinging his platinum hair off his shoulder, and said with his own inimitable sarcasm, "And yet, you will always be the only Snark Lord of Slytherin, will you not, Severus?"

Severus huffed ruefully, then paused in shock when Hadrian spoke up. "Careful, Heir-Lord Lucius, or I will have you known far and wide as the Malfoy Hair-Lord."

Oh, damn. Severus was giggling again.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Chapter Text

ooooooooooooooooooo

SCHOOLED - CHAPTER 16: Inspections

OoooooooooooooooooooO

Sweet Vengeance

Peregrine snickered as he quickly switched today’s lemon drops from Dumbledore’s candy dish with the lemon drops the old man kept for himself. Tossing a cheerful salute to the amused phoenix who magically stepped on the wards designed to keep Peeves out of the Headmaster’s Office, he popped out of sight and reappeared next to his Grandfather.

Professor Cuthbert Binns turned to look sternly as his mischievous grandson, the amused gleam in his eye the only evidence to his own complicity in Peeves’ latest efforts to unseat Dumbledore Goblinbane. It vastly amused the old ghost to steadfastly teach of the dangers and folly of cheating a goblin, despite the Headmaster’s sometimes furious orders otherwise. Dumbledore would greatly prefer it if wizardkind would forevermore forget that goblins were intelligent, dangerous beings who would make powerful allies for anyone so inclined as to seek their aid. He wasn’t wrong to worry, either, considering what Goblin Griphook brought to the Conspiracy. After decades of investigation and increasing numbers of participants engaged in the effort to see daylight and justice for the numerous crimes by and fallacies about the “Leader of the Light” and his primary followers, they of the Conspiracy were finally beginning to see visible evidence that their efforts were bearing fruit.

And to think, the fact that the public was beginning to notice the manipulative old man’s failings and strange behavior began with Binn’s own, irrepressible grandson. He was so very proud of young Peregrine, and was immensely pleased that the boy-ghost had gained friends and mentors in the form of Godric Gryffindor’s thrice-empowered portrait and the ghost of Gellert Grindelwald. Those two had spotted Peregrine’s potential immediately, and bragged about the “true Marauder’s” genius to any spirit or portrait (on their side) who would listen.

After all, it was Peregrine who observed how Dumbledore would consume two to three bags of lemon drops a day, apart from the “special” lemon drops he would push onto and often guilt-feed into his guests. And it was Peregrine who discovered that Dumbledore put one drop of calming potion into each of the lemon drops he consumed, resulting in him ingesting a full two to three doses of calming potion in a single day. Of greater value was the fact that the manipulative son-of-a-bitch also dosed his “guest” candy dish, inserting a condensed half-dose of trust-me/compulsion potion into each candy. It was the main reason why so many of Dumbledore’s visitors ended up inclined to trust the old man’s judgment and decisions without question.

For young Peregrine, it was a simple matter to switch the two, which had the happy result of very slightly calming guests to the Headmaster’s office and allowing them to think more clearly.

Of greater benefit was the fact that, through his lemon-drop addiction, Dumbledore had begun to ingest heavy portions of a potion essentially telling him to trust himself. The old man’s self-confidence went off-the-scale, along with his judgment and any sense of vulnerability.  The results were immediate as well as cumulative, and were beginning to show in behavior such as the scripted “apology” by James Potter at which Dumbledore literally read the lines along with the young fool and never even thought twice about appearances.

Gently patting his grandson on his transparent shoulder, Binns gestured for the younger ghost to precede him to the school’s Grand Boardroom. It promised to be a very entertaining afternoon.

oooooooooooooooooooo

Little Imp

Marvolo tugged his beloved Consort’s arm and led him from the unintentional procession of conspirators who were heading down the corridor to take lunch in the Great Hall before reconvening in the Grand Boardroom. Despite his surprise, Hadrian went willingly as Marvolo flashed a conspiratorial grin at an amused Tobias and Abraxas, before hissing a command and ushering Hadrian through the archway that appeared in the stone wall.

Hissing another command to seal the wall again, he turned to smirk down at his tempting little Consort, who was leaning against the wall with folded arms and raised eyebrows as he looked around the bedroom that had apparently sprung up between the Dark Arts classroom and the Potions Lab. Pausing to appreciate the contrasts that worked together to make Hadrian – delicate strength…innocent seduction … proud humility – he raised his hand and ran the back of his fingers lightly across Hadrian’s silken cheek. Entranced, Marvolo watched as emerald eyes darkened to jade desire.

Unable to help himself, he lowered his head and began to place tiny, nibbling kisses along Hadrian’s jawline. Rather than worry about the meeting that was three hours away, Hadrian raised his head to give Marvolo better access, feeling his breathing speed up along with his pulse. Seeking stability as his knees weakened, he slid his arms around Marvolo’s waist and pressed himself against his tall lover. If not for the man’s body heat, Hadrian would have been challenged to say whether the wall behind him or the man before him was firmer.

Without doubt, Marvolo was harder, though.

His eyes fluttered closed when Marvolo took his lips in a possessive kiss. He willingly opened his mouth at the silken demand of Marvolo’s tongue, and felt himself spiral away into the heat and desire and need that always overtook him when Marvolo did this.

Thus, he was surprised at the grip of cool metal that encased both of his wrists and quickly warmed to pulse like a heartbeat that complemented his own. Raising heavy eyelids, he lifted his arms and stared in confusion at the platinum cuffs that seamlessly enclosed his wrists. They were lined with tiny, exquisite emeralds, and what at first seemed to be runes were, at closer glance, Parseltongue. Confused, he raised his eyes to meet a tender, crimson gaze.

Pressing a kiss to the pulse of each of Hadrian’s hands as he lowered his head, Marvolo then wrapped his long fingers around each cuff, smiled somewhat whimsically, and said in hushed tones, “I bind thy hands, to clasp in mine own. I match thy heartbeat with mine own. I cover thy tender skin, to shelter with mine own. I place upon thee my unending claim, Hadrian. Thou art mine to have, mine to hold, mine to protect, mine to love. My beloved bonded, thou art mine own.”

Stunned, tear-filled, emerald eyes locked with Marvolo’s. Questions flew and winged through his mind, breath coming in shocked gasps. Into the maelstrom of thoughts, however, came the knowledge of a core of peace, of certainty, of faith. Despite the suddenness of this moment – or, perhaps, because it was just so Marvolo to ambush him this way – Hadrian knew with all of his being that this was completely perfect. It was just … right. Given the certainty that seemed to reverberate through his entire being, Hadrian accepted the thicker, wider Dominant’s cuff that Marvolo reverently offered. It matched his own, more delicate pair, and Hadrian huffed a somewhat watery laugh at the undeniable truth that he was the Submissive here.

‘Like anyone in their right mind would ever think Marvolo other than Dominant!’ he thought, bemused.

Raising his gaze to meet the vulnerable, emotion-filled eyes of his beloved Dominant, Hadrian accepted the words placed gently within his mind. Slipping the cuff around the strong wrist Marvolo offered him and watching the seam disappear, he said with tender certainty, “I bind thy weapon hand, that thee will protect me. I bind thy heartbeat, to which mine own beats in time. I encircle thy strength, that it will not fail. I protect thy heart, which is mine own truest treasure.”

And, with a quick glance upward of impudent green eyes, he added, “I accept thy claim on me, and lay mine own on thee. As I am yours, so you are mine, Marvolo. My beloved bonded, thou art mine own.”

Laughter-lit crimson eyes blinked down on his audacious Bonded, who had played fast-and-loose with the traditional words of bonding, making his own claim on Marvolo. True Traditionalists would have been scandalized for a submissive to claim a dominant, but Marvolo was delighted. Leaning down to share their first kiss as a bonded pair, they barely noticed when the fangs at the pulse point of each cuff sank into their wrists, claiming and exchanging blood and magic. As the love between them resonated, a tether shimmered, forming a permanent link between them that would always allow Marvolo to protect Hadrian.

And Hadrian to protect Marvolo.  

Smirking into the second kiss, Marvolo’s last, clear thought before desire took hold and he lowered Hadrian to the bed Hogwart’s obligingly provided was, “My little imp!”

Even alone with his love, Marvolo was a possessive man.

oooooooooooooooooooo

Getting Board

Dumbledore narrowed his eyes at the people already seated in the Hogwart’s Grand Boardroom, but his grandfatherly persona did not otherwise waver. Twinkling gently and smiling benignly, few would have guessed at the calculations and cunning that fired rapidly behind his half-moon glasses. Ambling into the room with just enough of a visible touch of aging infirmity so as to enhance the impression of great age and wisdom, he allowed his silk, sky blue robes to swish just slightly and smiled again as he watched the chesspieces of the Board instinctively register and respond to the sound, sight, scent and presence of a man of great wisdom, power and wealth sharing his magnificence with them.

Nodding genially at those who rose respectfully to greet him, and casting a look of chiding tolerance to those who remained seated, he settled gracefully onto the red, velvet cushion of his golden chair at the head of the table and clasped his hands in front of him. He was the very picture of a venerable, elder statesman.  

As he began to scan the other occupants of the room more closely, beginning with the double level of seats that ringed the mammoth table, he realized that there wasn’t a single vacant seat to be found. Very few School Board Meetings generated enough interest to bring an actual audience to attend; generally, those few seats that were occupied were filled with whatever unfortunate reporter drew the short straw that month, his or her friend who accompanied the reporter to keep that person awake, and two or three parents who had children in trouble or, more rarely, children excelling past their grade level. Generally, that was all who attended, barring the House ghosts and Dumbledore’s own house elf, Zeppo.

Of course, today it was necessary for the elf named Fletcher to serve (Dumbledore reflexively winced, remembering the vindictive glee Fletcher showed during the ingrown-hair ordeal). The Headmaster would have greatly preferred his own elf be present, but Zeppo was currently recovering from Dumbledore’s latest punishment for his disobedience regarding the Cormac McLaggen affair.

The old wizard did feel somewhat ashamed of himself, not having realized he had injured his little slave to the point of requiring treatment and a stay in the Healer’s Ward. Cherish Pomfrey and her niece Poppy were irate with him, and he did allow that, if the list of injuries they had presented him was accurate, then he had indeed gotten carried away. It was very unlike him, despite recent evidence to the contrary. Dumbledore was many things, but he was not particularly violent, nor was he given to taking actions that would draw attention to himself in anything but a favorable light. He did appear to have made one or two missteps in the fact few weeks, however.

Frowning slightly, he automatically reached for a lemon drop, before the reminder charm he had placed on himself buzzed slightly. Sighing, he reluctantly dropped his hand away from his bag of lemony treats, determined to at least reduce the habit that had seen him spending far too much money on the sour candies. He had even gotten a cavity! Like a mudblood first year!! Cherish Pomfrey’s sneer as she healed his aching tooth had been all he really needed to see in order to begin to work on his out of control lemon drop addiction.

He didn’t enjoy it, though. Somehow, his lemon drops had become something of a nervous tic, and they always ended up helping him clear his thoughts and find the strongest solution to whatever problem he faced.

Scanning the attendants and participants of what, to his knowledge, was simply a regular, monthly School Board meeting, his calm mask faltered slightly, first at the plethora of reporters, then at the sight of the goblins seated in the audience chairs on the far side nearest Tom – what Dumbledore privately thought of as the Slytherin side of the room – and then at the presence of the five eldest Weasley boys, with a stone-faced Baron Antonin Dolohov in their midst.

Studying the odd grouping curiously, Dumbledore was not alone in wondering what had brought such a diverse bunch of individuals together. Considering the way events had been playing out of late, he could not help but feel a frisson of dread run up his spine.

That little shiver turned into a shudder as his questing gaze fell onto the Board Member seated at the other end of the table, directly opposite the Headmaster’s Chair. He glared slightly at the powerful, Pureblood image young Tom made, reclining elegantly in the tall, platinum and onyx Founder’s chair, emeralds sparkling at the corners. Dumbledore hated that chair; its elegant simplicity and understated luxury made his own ornate, golden throne seem vulgar and tawdry.

If he were honest with himself, which he did not enjoy being when it came to the power, attractiveness and appeal of people who refused his guidance, he would admit that the man seated across from him looked very much like a King. Tom’s strong, masculine features, startling ruby eyes, and powerful frame would have won him followers even if the man were wearing the clothing Hadrian Morgan had worn for most of his life. With Tom dressed in classically tailored robes of green and black silk – were those from a rare, queen acromantula?! – his Lord’s ring shining on the hand clasping that of his young Consort and his left wrist prominently displaying his Dominant band, even Dumbledore had to admire the sight.

Abruptly, Dumbledore blinked, narrowed his eyes to look closer, and blinked again. Unbidden, an audible gulp forced itself down the old wizard’s throat. After drawing a steadying breath, he reached for his weakening twinkle and sent a strained smile down the table.

“Tom, my boy? Is that a… bonding band I see? And why is young Mr. Morgan seated at this table? Mr. Morgan, if you wish to witness a School Board Meeting, your place is in the audience.” He managed to ramp up his twinkle a bit as he sent a chiding look at the irritatingly unimpressed young man who was unabashedly holding hands with his Dark Arts Professor.

Sharp, ruby eyes pinned him in place, and a single, aristocratic eyebrow rose in a sort of understated, contemptuous amusement. “Dumbledore, I can think of two likely reasons for your insistence not only on addressing me in the familiar, but also on calling me a name that is no longer mine. One reason would be that you hope to keep me in what you see as my place; that is, an awed, wet-behind-the-ears boy with no knowledge of my role in this world who sees you as both omniscient and omnipotent. (With respect, if that is your motivation, you are doomed to disappointment.) Another reason would be as proof of your growing senility; after all, I accepted my Lordship over a quarter-of-a-century ago and have been Lord Marvolo Slytherin ever since then. Considering the fact that I, as a Founder’s Heir, carry twice the authority in this school than you, as Headmaster, possess, I don’t believe it is out of line to question why a supposedly skilled statesman and political leader such as yourself would want people to believe either of those things about you.”

A snort came from Dumbledore’s right, drawing everyone’s eyes to the sneering face of Lord Charlus Potter. Seeing that the attention was now on him, Potter leaned forward slightly and sent a contemptuous glare down to Slytherin’s end of the table. “Or, perhaps, Dumbledore really does just see you as a jumped-up Lord with delusions above your station. He is, after all, almost twice your age, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the Supreme Mugwump, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and the Leader of the Light. There really is no comparison, one must admit!”

Watching those seated from the corners of his eyes, Dumbledore was not especially comforted from the carefully neutral expressions on too many of those who should have been firmly in his court. Oblivious to the lack of support, Charlus Potter smiled nastily at Lord Slytherin and then sneered at the pretty-boy seated to the man’s right before saying contemptuously, “And Dumbledore’s right, of course. Untitled children have no place at this table, no matter whose favor they are currying as this week’s bedwarmer.”

It should have gotten a reaction. It should have gotten an enraged Lord Slytherin, or a roar of noise from the observers. It should have at least made the little pretty-boy bastard whore cry. Potter was prepared for any of it and all of it – he wanted it, so that he could move on to inciting a duel, at which point he would display his injury (a rather severely burned wand-arm, rendered so by the happy cooperation of his darling wife) and he would then name Dumbledore to duel in his stead. No one could stand against the old man who took down Grindelwald! (Potter, like Dumbledore, was of the opinion that Marvolo Slytherin’s presence in that duel was as more of a witness than anything else.) Once the duel commenced between Dumbledore and Slytherin, Potter would slip over and take care of his bastard nephew once and for all. It should be perfect.

Except, once again, the damn Slytherins refused to follow the script.

Instead of rage, Potter’s outrageous insult to Lord Slytherin’s Consort was met with frigid silence. Even worse, none of the crowd seemed inclined to follow the plan, either, and instead sat staring at Lord Potter in an appalled silence of their own – except for the reporters, whose dictaquills were speeding across notepads even as they took photograph after photograph. Raising his chin defiantly, Potter glanced over at Dumbledore, whose fingers were tapping against the table as the old man studied the situation.

As the silence continued, it seemed to gain texture and weight, bearing down on the sneering and defiant but freely perspiring Lord Potter. Lord Malfoy and Lord Prince were expressionless but still looking deadly.  A quick glance over Lords Greengrass, McMillan, and Patil offered him no respite. Sir Declan Bones appeared ready to leap to defend Slytherin with his infamous battleaxe. Even young Sirius, now Heir-Lord Black, appeared to be taken aback and was watching the bastard with a look of curiosity.

Unintentionally looking directly at Lord Slytherin, Charlus was pinned to his seat by a sharp, condemning stare that reminded him of frozen blood. Trying to avoid meeting Slytherin’s eyes, Potter’s gaze slid to the man’s right at his bastard nephew. He swallowed nervously as he realized that Morgan was composed, nearly-emotionless – except for a vindictive, darkly-amused sheen in the boy’s unnatural, green stare.

Into the strained silence, Lord Potter’s next comment seemed exceptionally loud. “Well, Slytherin? Just going to sit there in cowardly silence, then? What kind of Lord allows another Lord to insult his bonded Consort and doesn’t seek redress?”

Dumbledore’s restraining hand and strangled exclamation only highlighted the satisfied contempt showing clearly now in the blood red stare.  Potter replayed his words frantically, trying to discern what might have caused the air of anticipation rising in the room.

Slytherin tightened his grip on his beloved young Consort’s hand, and raised their clasped hands slightly so that all could see them. On Hadrian Morgan’s wrist was a Submissive bonding cuff, with its match gleaming slightly beneath the sleeve of his other arm, and everyone with the ability could see the magical tether that connected it to Lord Marvolo Slytherin’s Dominant bonding cuff.

Raising Hadrian’s hand, Marvolo gently kissed the back of it, meeting his beloved’s eyes with love and devotion clearly displayed for all to witness. Dark red eyes warmed when Hadrian returned the favor, choosing instead to kiss the pulse point on Marvolo’s wrist, his message clear for all to see. After the tender moment, which brought a lump to many throats, Lord Slytherin turned his head to stare coolly at the sneering Lord Potter … and smiled.

There were a lot of teeth in that smile.

“It would seem that the appalling failure of your son to know the rules and laws governing pure blood members of the Nobility, not to mention those of the same bloodline, is an example of your own, shocking lack of knowledge, Lord Potter. I can only presume it is a lack of knowledge, as the other alternative seems to be something of a death wish on the part of the present Lord Potter and his Heir. Guilty conscience, perhaps?”  That dangerous smile flashed again, striking like an adder at the now worried head of House Potter.

Dumbledore sighed heavily, offering a weary look of false compassion at his ally – who he was beginning to think had inherited his intellect from that unfortunate half-Troll ancestor buried in the Potter Line – and offered a comforting pat on Potter’s sweaty hand. “Now, Tom – oh, do forgive me, as you so rightfully pointed out, I really should suspend my affectionate nickname for you in situations such as this!” His attempt at the merry look of a gentle elder inviting others to share in his quirks fell flat. Tough crowd.

Sighing again, he cast his wise gaze around the room and intoned portentously, “It is often difficult to conduct our lives according to the somewhat rigid etiquette of Pureblood society when we all know each other so very well, is it not? I myself have demonstrated just moments earlier how an affectionate slip of the tongue in using the name of the child I taught rather than the man seated before me can be cause to take offense. Dear Charlus here simply lost his formal role for a moment or two and lapsed into the relaxed manners of schoolyard rivals. I am certain we can all accept that there is no harm done, and move on. Agreed?”

If left to the truest Dumbledore-supporters, that would have been all there was to the matter. Fortunately, it was not. Surprisingly, it was neither Lord Slytherin nor Consort Morgan who spoke up.

It was Neville Longbotom.

“That is a charming attempt to divert us from the true heart of the matter, Headmaster. It is not, however, the point.” The young man’s gaze met the surprised Headmaster’s with laudable sternness.

“While the dance of manners is certainly an important part of our lives as purebloods and nobility, the point  is not about etiquette but about law. Both Potter Senior and Potter Junior seem to be of the belief that law does not apply to them; whereas, any true member of the Peerage accepts that law is universal and without sentiment. I have personally born witness repeatedly in the past month and a half to numerous acts and insults on the part of the Potters – in violation of standard civil and criminal laws, laws governing blood to blood as well as those governing interactions between unrelated members of Noble Houses – and it is my position that this latest insult by Lord Potter to Slytherin Consort Morgan is not to be tolerated.”

The composed young Heir-Lord soberly met the eyes of many of those listening to him, ignoring the surprise he saw as people began to realize that he was in attendance as Heir-Lord Longbottom and a member of the Board.

With a dark look at the fuming Potter, Longbottom continued, “Furthermore, the violations here are more entangled than the minor original insult to Lord Slytherin, the second inflammatory and vulgar insult to Consort Morgan and the third subsequent insult to Lord Slytherin for supposedly not leaping into a duel to defend his Consort’s honor.”

He paused to aim a scathing look at both Dumbledore and Potter and said, “The sheer transparency of the further incitement to duel aside, what must be made clear to all is that the insults are multi-faceted and strike many different laws. By Lord Potter’s comments alone, it is clear that he fully knew he was insulting a noble Consort at the time he did so. That calls for punitive action by the Peerage. Then there is the fact that Consort Morgan is, in fact, a bloodline member of Lord Charlus Potter, who by his own intervention in Consort Morgan’s upbringing has declared himself to be responsible for Consort Morgan. That calls up the issue of mistreatment of a Head of House to a member of his House, and the issue of blood to blood, duel-worthy actions.”

Again pausing briefly as if to consider, he added thoughtfully, “We are all aware of this latest insult – another in a long series, it seems -- done to Lord Slytherin, and the profound actions he can and doubtless will take against Lord Potter, particularly considering this is the latest in a series of insults of increasing severity and therefore deserves more and more severe penalties and punitive actions. I would also add that it is no secret that I have named Hadrian Morgan to be a Longbottom Friend of the Line, and under my protectorate; therefore, I, too, take issue with Lord Potter and demand my right to defend Consort Morgan.”

As Longbottom spoke, Charlus Potter’s scowl deepened and his heart sank lower and lower. Maybe… just maybe … he should have taken to heart Caleb’s last words, when he realized his own brother had killed him and gasped out, “You think you know so much, but your ignorance will ruin you, Charlus. I’ll be watching!” He wondered if it was Caleb’s hollow laughter he heard, echoing in his soul.

When Longbottom re-seated himself, Dumbledore rose to his feet with regal grace, and took a moment to straighten the sky blue robes that everyone else saw as a mildewed gray. Folding his hands in front of him, he said with all the dignity he could muster, “It seems many mistakes have been made over the past several weeks, if not longer. There is no point in each of those involved parrying and thrusting as the rest of us watch; we are at a Hogwart’s Board of Governor’s Meeting, not in a forum more suitable to heavy issues such as these. As Headmaster, it is my decision that we defer matters of offense between member s of the Peerage, and focus on our school and our children.” He looked around wisely, again feeling the warning buzz as his urge to reach for a lemon drop surfaced.

Agreement from all of the sitting Board Members was registered, and the weighty issue of Potter’s ongoing, criminal foolishness was set to be addressed two hours after the meeting ended. Dumbledore was pleased, and hoped there would be enough time for Evelyn Potter and Solicitor Bates to get all the details and wrest success for House Potter from this latest mess. Defiantly popping a lemon drop in his mouth, he felt a rush of confidence and was certain that, with his guidance, everything would be smoothed over and he would emerge, as always, victorious.

As he took his seat again, his watery gaze rested on the little bastard who seemed to be the nexus for all this trouble, and his stare hardened as he spoke up. “Nevertheless, it is true that Consort Morgan has no place at the table for Board Members. I must insist he retire to the audience.”

Looking at Slytherin with well-hidden triumph, Dumbledore felt that hard, cold knot that had just begun to relax tighten in his gut again. Was he imagining the malevolence that suddenly seemed to pulse from the Slytherins in the room.

Fully aware of the chaos he was about to cause, Marvolo Slytherin smoothly rose to his feet and said calmly, “To that issue, I invite Baron Antonin Dolohov and Gringott’s representative Griphook Strongheart to present their case for blood-testing every Hogwart’s student.”

He flashed a sharp, predatory grin down the table at a rapidly paling Dumbledore and Potter, and said with cheerful, deadly threat clear in his voice, “And for those who may wish to dispute my Consort’s rights, I submit the results of his blood line tests.”

As the parchments appeared in front of the seated members and were sent to the audience members via a very-attentive and madly grinning house elf, Dumbledore and Potter watched in horror as Hadrian Morgan’s chair also gained the distinctive platinum cast and shape of a Founder’s Heir, the top sparkling with alternating rubies and sapphires.

Perhaps worst was when a smirking Heir-Lord Neville Longbottom’s chair did the same, but with yellow diamonds.

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Chapter Text

SCHOOLED - CHAPTER 18: New Connections

Timeline: The day of the Hogwart’s School Board Meeting (which takes place late afternoon), early to mid-morning

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Baron Antonin Dolohov did not consider himself a nice man.  A good man, perhaps. A strong, Dark wizard. A loyal Knight in Lord Slytherin’s service. Marginally dedicated to the future goal of creating an heir by either blood adoption of some worthy halfblood – burning out the tainted portion with his own, of course --- or allowing the Dolohov line to die away and merge his vaults and privileges into those of his Lord. He was a stern man, serving his own body’s needs of food, liquid, sleep and sex impatiently and efficiently, resentful of the time it took from his responsibilities and his true passion.

So very few people knew the full truth about the last Dolohov. And so few would believe it, anyway.

Antonin Dolohov was only one of three wizards in recorded history to attain the status of Adept Weaponscrafter within the hidden world of the goblin kingdom. Even the concept of a living wizardborn Weaponscrafter of any caliber was unheard-of, as the other two Adepts were long since ash in the forge, having passed into legend and myth.  Although the goblins in general knew that the Baron was a goblin-trained Weaponscrafter, only King Jareth Evernew, Master Goldsmith Gringott Fortunebuilder and Master of the Forge Ragnok knew that Dolohov had undergone Trial and then Apprenticed directly under those long-dead Adepts, through the rarer-than-rare efforts of the mysterious soul-bonded immortals Bardic-Mage Vanyel Demonsbane and Bardic Adept Stefan Phoenixsong.

(Interestingly enough, the two bards had accepted as compensation a private introduction to a magical child somewhere in London, just about four years ago now.)

The Goblin Nation had so much more beneath the surface of the land than simply gold and goblins. Their true fortune, apart from their children, was history. They were the keepers of skills and knowledge and abilities lost to time and to the vainglorious reworking of historical events and beings by politicians and bigots. They alone held the ability to power the portals and gates created by Vanyel and Stefan’s people. They alone could request the bards to awaken the ensouled statues of deceased Masters and Adepts. In fact, they alone knew the secrets of creating such statues, and left most of the Wizarding World to their portraits. They granted the privilege of post-Veil ensouled statues only to those few non-goblins who truly had knowledge and training that must not be lost. To date, Antonin Dolohov only knew of two of those elite beings – his own Masters, Tom Pendragon and Helga Hufflepuff.

It still amused him when he thought of how shocked the Wizarding World would be to learn that the smith who forged Excalibur was a near-squib blacksmith who may or may not have been Arthur Pendragon’s real father. And Antonin’s own Lord Marvolo Slytherin, when granted the insights into Hogwart’s history and founders, had laughed long and loud when he learned that the supposedly-petiite, delicate, close-to-nature Helga Hufflepuff that Dumbledore liked to describe to the young badgers was in fact a six-foot-tall Viking with a battleaxe, a strong dislike of bullies and a forge-hardened right hook to back up her antipathy with extreme prejudice.

Antonin had yet to share with his Lord the fact that Helga Hufflepuff could consume more ale in one sitting than Gryffindor’s entire house. Circe, that woman could brawl!

In light of the revelations of Heir-Lord Neville Longbottom’s bloodline test, the goblins had agreed to publish through the auspices of Filius Flitwick’s respected writings a few of the truths about the Four Founders. Although the news and results of the first few bloodline tests wouldn’t be revealed until the School Board Meeting later today, the truth was already known to the majority of the people conspiring to correct the behavior and actions of the supposed ‘Lord Phoenix’ and several members of his Party.

The fact that Neville was the first of the line to be chosen by Helga’s own magic as her true Heir – bypassing his father, his Uncle Algernon and his harpy of a grandmother -- said much to that young wizard’s strength and character. It was true that Godric’s house had the reputation for bravery, due to the skewed machinations of Dumbledore and many other headmasters before him who had chosen to disregard the fact that Godric Gryffindor was best known for honor and fierceness in both battle and friendship. But it was also true that Helga Hufflepuff was known for incredible courage under fire and unparalleled refusal to surrender – ever. There was a very good reason that even a lion hesitates to attack a badger in defense of its home.

Young James Potter and his ridiculous Marauder friends were about to learn that lesson the hard way, having repeatedly attempted over the years to attack young Neville, most recently firing curses at the wizard’s back as the boy – well, young man – walked away. Young Neville was now both Heir-Lord Longbottom and Lord Hufflepuff. The quietly powerful young man shared a brotherhood bond with -- and had declared Protectorate Privilege for – the reputedly brilliant young Slytherin Consort Hadrian Morgan, now recognized as Lord Ravenclaw-Gryffindor (and who, in the minds of many, was Heir-in-Contention to the Potter Lordship).

Essentially, James Potter and his friends – and his parents! – had been actively harming in a variety of ways each of the living Lord Founders. And Dumbledore was in it up to his newly-regrown eyebrows.

In other words, although they may or may not have known it – and Antonin was betting at least Dumbledore most certain did know it – the fools had been repeatedly defying Hogwart’s motto and were not just tickling but outright attacking all four heads of the Hogwart’s dragon. Frankly, Antonin was looking forward to a crispy conclusion. What could he say? He had spent much of his life at the forge; despite his cold demeanor, he was quite fond of fire.

But, although this all crossed his mind as he waited, that wasn’t where the majority of Dolohov’s thoughts were at present. Although he was very much looking forward to the Hogwart’s School Board Meeting later in the day, which would be preceded by a “war council” of Lord & Consort Slytherin and their allies, Antonin Dolohov was for perhaps the first time in decades unable to keep his mind on business. Instead, he had three more pressing topics on his mind.

The first was the fact that in the space of just a few days, he had gone from vague future plans of acquiring an heir before his death to suddenly being called ‘Pater’ by five young men whom he respected, liked, and felt an inexplicably fierce and protective pride in claiming as his own, true sons.

The second was the certainty that not one, but two of those sons would pass the Trials of Antonin’s own mentors and would possibly become goblin-certified Weaponscrafters in their own right. He sensed that William might well progress to become the fourth wizardborn Adept of the craft, following Antonin’s lead, but he was also undeniably proud of the assessment by Ragnok that Charles may just become both a Master Weaponscrafter and a Master Dragonsinger.

But, as he leaned back in the high-end, so-called ‘husband’s chair’ in the viewing portion of the private fitting room of Amelie Ogden’s personal clothier, the third subject vying to share his thoughts took center stage. Standing on a small, slightly-elevated runway before him was the vibrant, elegant, Titian-haired, newly-renamed Margeaux Prewitt, with an almost-shy smile on her spa-treated face and anxious eyes fixed entirely on him.

For a few moments, he forgot to breathe. Circe, the woman was … luscious.

His sudden, close attention and approval must have shown on his own face, as Amelie Ogden bounced slightly and clapped her hands in happiness, and Margeaux’s smile gained confidence and just enough of a teasing, flirtatious light to make the dignified, stern, thoroughly self-contained Baron Antonin Dolohov growl.

He growled. Like a beast, like a predator eyeing a particularly tempting bit of prey. Which, come to think of it, he was.

Meeting the warm hazel eyes of the woman formerly-known as Molly Weasley, Antonin rose to his feet and approached her, slowly stalking in a circle around her as she tracked him with eyes that were both amused and apprehensive. He greatly appreciated the color of her eyes, and wondered which of his sons shared it – something they would determine as soon as the offensive glamours set into their eyes were broken. As his dark gaze swept over her form, admiring the generous curves and proud posture, he barely noticed the exquisite bronze robes she wore except to appreciate the manner in which they set off her lovely, peaches and cream complexion and caused her hair to fairly glow like burning embers in his forge.

She was not youthful. She was not slim. She was not toned. But she was lovely and appealing and exquisitely womanly. And Baron Antonin Dolohov had a sudden, deep appreciation for the manner in which his Lord had recognized and immediately seized his Consort for his own.

Antonin was feeling very, very possessive about Margeaux Prewett, the remarkable mother of his remarkable sons.

Ignoring the smirking Lady Ogden, he finally stopped his deliberate pacing and stared down into Margeaux’s uptilted face. She knew he was testing her, he could see it in the defiant set of her chin and the flare of temper in her eyes. But he knew that she would pass. She was perfectly capable of refusing to play his game. She resisted the silence that normally forced very vocal people to ramble and chatter and dig verbal holes for themselves. She refused to drop her eyes submissively as he stared impassively down. And she returned his challenge without saying a single word… and without fidgeting or shifting or otherwise behaving like a Weasley.

His small smile of approval seemed to trigger her own, bright smile that lit up the room. Or, so it seemed to Antonin, anyway.

With a slow nod, he finally spoke, his normally cool tones somehow warmer for her, although his words were somewhat shocking. “I have decided that Arthur Weasley is going to suffer twice as much as I had already intended. At first, the punishment was for what he did to my sons. But now, it will be greatly increased, because what he did to you is so far beyond unforgivable as to be unthinkable.”

His forge-hardened hand raised to gently, carefully touch her chin, which was trembling slightly as her eyes filled with tears she had fought like a warrior. His gaze never wavered from hers as a calloused finger ran delicately along her jaw, as if handling finest porcelain. “You should never have been clad in less than the finest silk and softest cashmere, Margeaux. You emerge from this experience like the finest blade I have ever crafted, tempered by force and by fire into someone utterly original and beautiful and strong.”

One long, fire-darkened finger lifted to brush away the tear or two that escaped Margeaux’s iron will, and Antonin’s eyes darkened to an impossible black, his own fires carefully banked. He leaned down, slowly, allowing her all the time in the world to stop him. When she didn’t, he closed the distance and pressed his lips delicately to hers, sipping at her taste and breath with the appreciation of a connoisseur of the finest things in life.

When he drew back, after just the barest moments of accepting her tentative response, he stayed close enough to share warmth for a few more moments, his work-hardened hands continuing to touch her skin with gentleness no one but her had ever seen from him. Although his face bore the practiced lack of expression he had honed over the decades, she could easily read the somewhat feral look in his eyes and the taunting quirk of lips as he said, “Shall we go introduce the Dolohov Family Matriarch to the world, my dear glowing ember? I confess I am rather eager for my Lord Slytherin and his Consort to meet you.”

She took a moment to appreciate that he wanted important people to meet her, not for her to meet them. He was a remarkable man.

With a dignified nod of gratitude to Lady Amelie, who pressed her lightly powdered cheek quickly to her new protégé’s as she handed her a lovely little handbag, Antonin accepted the velvet cloak she offered him and turned to place it carefully around Margeaux’s shoulders, being certain to not wrinkle the expensive fabric of her new robes. Offering his arm for Margeaux’s newly-manicured hand to wrap around, he escorted her with his customary dignity from the private clothier and out into a bustling mid-morning in Wizarding Moscow.

The elegant couple immediately drew attention, the contrast of the gentleman’s dark clothing and eyes a perfect foil to the woman who seemed to glow like the embers in a fire. More than one person fell silent and simply stared as they passed by, although the few males who took a too-close look of appreciation at the Lady were treated to the reality-check of dark, dangerous eyes glaring a clear warning at them. No one was stupid enough to challenge that look.

For her part, Margeaux Prewett clung to her new composure, grateful for Lady Amelie’s conspiratorial advice that wonderful clothing made excellent emotional armor, and allowed herself to be escorted by Antonin past expensive stores and well-dressed people with more courtesy and care than Arthur had shown even when she gave birth to his first son.

Knowing what she knew now, she was truly thankful that her boys and Antonin had been so tactful and sympathetic as they broke the news of Arthur’s enormous betrayal and criminal actions against them all. That they did so in Dolohov Manor after luring her out to lunch with her boys, and then showed her directly to a luxurious suite of rooms decorated just for her, was more kindness than she felt she deserved. Antonin Dolohov had every right in the world to treat her with contempt and disdain, but he had not. He had never once faltered in dignity nor courtesy, despite his cold and stern nature. He had recognized her as perhaps the most victimized of them all through Arthur’s actions, and he had reacted with honor to – as he had coolly described her – the mother of his sons and the woman who had managed to shape them into fine young men despite the mockery of their lives.

Somehow, his dispassionate evaluation of her had done more for her self-esteem than the finest clothes would ever do – although Amelie was certainly capable of presenting an excellent second-place! Antonin had not given the newly-christened Margeaux an option, simply treating all of the niceties and luxuries and such as what should have been hers all along.

He had even reprimanded the twins when they made mocking reference to her meltdown in their store the day they ended their ‘guilt tithe’ to her and Arthur. Molly’s shame had been evident on her face and burning in her heart, but Antonin had cut it off immediately when he said coldly to the twins, “Your mother was finally in a position where she could publicly receive some recognition for the excellent job she did in raising you. You knew when she walked into your shop with the man who could not even contribute his own sperm for his family, much less a decent income, what they were there for. You were reasonably certain your mother had no knowledge of what Arthur was doing regarding the finances, and yet gave her no warning nor option for a graceful exit. You chose to make public mockery of her and air private business as if it were another of your pranks. You acted not like Dolohovs, but like Weasleys.”

The boys had been brought up short, chagrined and suddenly seeing the whole thing from her perspective – and from that of their true father’s. Their apologies had been sincere, as had her own, and Antonin’s small nod of approval for them all had been more rewarding than all of Arthur’s compliments combined.

As they walked down the street, she mused over the fact that he had called her the Dolohov Family Matriarch. She wasn’t, really. She was, of course, the oldest female. Goodness, she was the only female. But, as of 12:01 a.m., thanks to Dolohov influence and Gringott’s legal team, she was no longer a married woman. Glancing down at the pale line on her finger where she had worn her ring, she was unaware of the shadow that crossed her face – but her companion was not.

Antonin leaned over just slightly, to murmur for her ears alone, “Wedding rings are very much a mudblood custom, you know.  Even the children from the Recovered Heritage Schools are choosing the older ways now. I, myself, much prefer bonding bracelets, thus making it quite clear to all exactly who shall be doing most of the maiming and killing when necessary.” His hand, resting on hers, lightly traced her wrist where such a bracelet might rest.

Despite her best efforts, Margeaux could quite prevent the light blush that rose to her cheeks as his meaning sank in with the warmth on her wrist. It was already patently obvious that Baron Antonin Dolohov, despite his very recent status as a childless bachelor, was very protective of his new family. It was a remarkable change for Margeaux; as Molly Weasley, it had been up to her to fight the battles on behalf of the family. Antonin had made it quite clear that such was now his role and that he would soon be conducting a great deal of such maiming upon Arthur’s person, as well as a few other key people. Her mind shied away from the subject of her youngest two children – the pain of that betrayal was so much worse than her former husband’s. Once again, however, Antonin seemed to follow her thoughts easily, and his hand smoothed over hers in a subtle, comforting gesture that felt wonderfully protective and gentle. She could not help but marvel that such a seemingly harsh man could have such gentle hands.

Feeling the muscles in Antonin’s arm tighten and his hand resting on top of her own clench slightly, she looked up to see another deathly glare aimed at a young man who was ogling her as they walked past. She could not keep back her throaty laugh as the intimidated man abruptly turned away and walked directly into a street sign, and felt suddenly remarkably happy when Antonin’s hand patted her own and she saw an amused quirk of his lips at the incident.

Just as they paused in the small courtyard set up as an outgoing apparation point, Antonin leaned down to glance at her and said with dark amusement in his deep voice, “If all of your laughter is like that, I must request you remain solemn and somber today, lest I embarrass myself publicly with my reaction to it. You have a remarkably seductive laugh, my dear ember.”

And with a barely audible crack, he apparated them away to help ruin a scheming old man’s day.

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