Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Harry Potter. If I did I would be a far richer man. And I'd be a woman. I also don't own Bathsheda Babbling. However with what Shiva has morphed into I probably own her. I definitely don't own The Mummy.

Reviews are of course appreciated but certainly not required.

AN: There was a completely justified critique that I have a lot of lesbian/bi women and no gay/bi men. This wasn't intentional, but since Harry doesn't swing that way they don't tend to be in focus. Colin is gay but his subplot got cut during Fourth Year. Sirius is intended to be bi but since he's dating Amelia it doesn't come up much.

Chapter 37: Birthday Shenanigans

Lily poured the mix into the bowl and started opening cabinets with a slight frown on her face. "I could've sworn we had a beater in here somewhere…"

Shiva raised an eyebrow as she tapped Lily's wand on the table. "Uh, hon, we are witches you know. We can just flick our wands and mix the batter without going full Muggle here."

"Cakes always taste better when made without magic," Lily said distractedly. "You agreed that we could do this my way this year and my way is the Muggle way. The Muggle way needs a beater…Aha! Found it!" She pulled back from the cabinet triumphantly raising her hand high with a mixer clutched in it. "I knew I saw this the other day! Now we can finish it."

Shiva just rolled her eyes good-naturedly and moved to the second bowl. "Well while you finish the batter I'll get the icing done. How long does this thing cook for again?"

"Well the box always says 30 minutes, but I find if you 'turn up' the heat a bit you can get it done in 20."

"Turn up the heat? I thought you said no magic," Shiva said laughing.

Lily shrugged. "No magic in the cake. Magic to speed up the baking a bit…well, I can be a bit impatient at times."

Shiva laughed harder. "Hypocrite." She teased lightly, shaking her head as she finished up with the icing. "I'm surprised the girls didn't want to help out honestly."

"I'm not. I asked Hermione yesterday and she was saying that they got to monopolize Harry in the evening so we should get to monopolize at least part of his day," Lily said. "What I'm amazed at is that we managed to get Dobby to let us help out."

"I bribed him," Shiva stated. "Promised the little guy he could make the next two weeks worth of meals – well lunch and dinner. Nobody steals breakfast prep from Harry if he's up."

"Why is that? I haven't gotten around to asking him yet," Lily asked as she slotted the cake into the oven and leaned back against the counter.

Shiva grimaced and hopped up on corner next to Lily. "It's partly because he enjoys it, partly because he feels it's one of the first things he was ever good at, but…largely it's because of habit."

Lily frowned. "My sister?" she guessed.

"Yeah. Sorry. Harry had to make them breakfast since he like five or something. Young enough that he needed a stool to reach the stovetop." Shiva's lips curled into a scowl and her fists clenched. "Don't ask him about it, okay? I only found out because I made him tell me about one of the scars on his arm. Apparently he spilled boiling water when the pot was too heavy to carry because of his age. Vernon hit him afterwards for 'getting the floor wet'." Shiva shuddered and continued in a quiet voice, "God I hate those people."

Lily's mouth had narrowed into a line. "Don't worry, we'll make them pay. My darling sister and her family aren't going to get off scot-free for treating my son like that. Dumbledore too for leaving Harry with them." Lily heaved a sigh and shook her head. "Enough of that. How are you doing, Shiva?"

Shiva's eyebrows rose. She chuckled and leaned over slightly to bump Lily's shoulder. "How am I doing? I'm not the one who came back from the dead here. How are you doing? Seriously, Lily, you've barely even mentioned your husband for weeks now. Are you doing alright?"

Lily grimaced, but nodded. "I'm okay. Really, Shiva, I'm okay. With James, I…I just…" she picked up her wand a cast a privacy charm around the room. "Look, don't tell Harry what I'm about to say please. I don't want him to get the wrong idea."

"I promise," Shiva said cocking her head at the other woman.

"Thanks." Lily shook her head and crossed her arms. "James and I probably shouldn't have gotten married." Shiva's eyes widened at that, but she remained silent. "I did love him. I really did. The man was just a bit too…immature and impulsive. I can be fiery and impulsive myself and I…well I always thought I'd wind up with someone a bit more methodical than me. Someone who could balance things out. James never did that. I was always the grownup in the relationship. He mellowed out a lot during his last two years when he actively pursued me and we started dating, but…he was a prankster at heart and that never fully went away." She laughed and gave a little smirk to the air. "He was a lot like Sirius is now actually."

Shiva nodded knowing. "Fun loving but can go a bit too far with the jokes sometimes?"

"Basically yeah. We were good together and I firmly believe we could have been great if we had had more time and he had grown up a bit. As it stood though…" Lily shrugged and sighed heavily. "Without the war going on I probably would've ended up dating him for a lot longer rather than jump straight into marriage and motherhood. Harry was an accident, a happy accident to be sure! But well…we had just survived a large battle and we well forgot our wands in the other room when we fell into the bedroom. I'm not sure if I'm explaining this well. I just…"

Shiva leaned over and pulled Lily into a one-armed, short hug. "I get it, Lils. You loved him, but you're not sure if he would've been 'the one'."

"Yes, that," Lily said smiling up at Shiva. "James was a good man. I really did love him – I'm just not sure if he would've been my man had things gone differently. Especially with how things were going towards the end," she finished with a scowl.

"You've mentioned a few times that things got frustrating."

"It just felt like we were fighting almost constantly. Between the stress of hiding, being confined to the house, not knowing who was betraying us, my research, everything all piled on top of a toddler…It strained things so much." Lily paused and let out an annoyed sigh. "Anyway, my point is that I'm okay. I miss James and I probably always will, but I'm not going to let his death destroy me. I will not become like Alastor."

Shiva reared back goggling. "Mad-Eye was married?"

"You didn't know? The poor man's wife was murdered at some point by one of his targets. I don't know the whole story, but I can tell you for certain that it shattered him. Mad-Eye was never the same afterwards; it was when he became the paranoid old arse that he is today." Lily shook her head. "I will not become like him. I'm adapting and I'm moving on. I have others to think about, others that I have to worry about."

Shiva lightly punched her shoulder. "Good. If you feel any paranoid urges let me know and I'll knock it out of you." She paused and rubbed her chin in thought. "Actually…maybe I'm not the best woman to promise that. I don't have a great track record of deterring paranoia. Harry's a prime example of my failing in that respect."

Both women started laughing and were still going as Harry walked into the kitchen yawning and rubbing his forehead. "Something smells good. What are you guys laughing about? And why is there a privacy screen up?"

"Well, kid," Shiva said hopping down from the counter and giving him a hug, "we were laughing about your growing paranoia and my horrible failure of curing you of that problem."

"Oh, thanks for that, mum," Harry said rolling his eyes as he squirmed away from her. "I appreciate the vote of confidence there. All my stuff turned out to have great uses."

Shiva had been reduced to a blinking, gaping mess while Harry obliviously hugged Lily. Lily raised an eyebrow at Shiva and steered Harry towards the fridge to keep him distracted until she had a chance to pull herself back together. "We were just talking about women issues, Harry. No need for your delicate male ears to hear about it."

Harry grimaced and pulled out a carton of milk. "Yeah, agreed. Thanks. Tonks is bad enough with talking about that stuff. Anyone seen her by the way? She was gone when I woke up in the middle of the night. Fleur too actually now that I think about it…"

Shiva sat down with him at the table with a wide smile. "I wouldn't worry, kid. They're big girls; they can take care of themselves wherever they went."

"Why were you up in the middle of the night?" Lily asked sitting down as well.

Harry shrugged. "Nightmares, headache, nothing major. That's why I'm up so late in the morning now though." He gave them a rueful grin. "Guess for once I get to sleep in on my birthday though huh?"

The two women chuckled at that for a few moments. Eventually Shiva saluted the rest of the little family and stood up. "Well folks, now that the cake is in the oven, I'm going to take a short shower. Harry, if I'm not back before it's done, kindly vacate the kitchen to keep the decorations a secret, yeah?"

Harry waved off her comments and opened the paper. His attention diverted, the boy missed seeing Lily's eyes lingering appreciatively on Shiva's bottom as she sashayed from the room.

Voldemort reclined on his throne idly stroking Nagini with one hand and rolling his wand in the other. The frustrating Azkaban assault still grated yet it was not at the primary point of his ponderings. Only one Inner Circle member had fallen during that and Crabbe was…no great loss. The man had been a fantastic brute and an excellent attack sponge, but he'd had no intelligence to comment on. Like father, like son in that respect as the spawn was just as dimwitted. The loss of the six additional new recruits at this early stage had been costly, but with so many of his original followers saved it had been a decent exchange.

No, what Voldemort was deep in thought about concerned the prophecy. That Barty Crouch had managed to return with the addition of the prophecy in 'hand' was beyond gratifying. Voldemort had rewarded the man greatly for that bit of forward thinking. Flint had received a slight compensation. Voldemort was wary of gifted the lad too much as the boy was unstable and foolishly impulsive. Even Crabbe and Goyle had been able to curtail their urges when appropriate though Flint did not seem to contain that capacity. He didn't need another Macnair getting a large head.

Ah well, the prophecy was what was important at the moment. " 'Power the Dark Lord knows not,' " Voldemort murmured. "Perhaps I should have studied the runic arts more deeply. Yet, it does only state, 'the power to vanquish' not 'the one who will vanquish'." Voldemort grinned. "Harry Potter is indeed strong as well as resourceful; yet to think that a mere boy of 15 could defeat me in a proper battle…ludicrous! I have half a century of experience and power at my fingertips. He has a simple 4 years. Dumbledore was such a fool to pin his hopes to the child."

Voldemort leaned back and nodded. Yes, Potter's runes would be dangerous, but they were not a trump card. Not against someone with such esoteric and ancient knowledge as Voldemort himself. Instead he turned his mind to the more confusing line of the prophecy. " 'Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.' Nagini, this is intriguing. I wonder if perhaps we are both immortal until slain by the other? It could certainly help to explain just how Potter has managed to survive so many situations that should have killed him." He paused to consider and laughed. "How ironic that would be! To have pursued my own version of immortality with all the risks it had entailed only to have already been immortal through Fate's design! Well, I shouldn't worry about such a thing. I never was one to trust my destination to chance."

Nagini hissed her amusement and Voldemort frowned as he thought of a remote option. "Still…it is not wise to simply dismiss such a potentiality. Perhaps…perhaps I should approach Potter with an offer. If he leaves me Britain to do with as I please I will leave him – and his chosen companions – alone. Both of us could be assured an immortal life until the end…He would likely refuse, but if he took it…My pet we could have centuries of time to work before we had to turn our eye to whatever corner of the world he holed up in. It could be perfect. It could…no," Voldemort said abruptly. "No. I cannot risk it. Potter would never be content to allow me to reshape the world. It is better to simply kill him now while he is still weak and trust in my Horcruxes to carry me through the ages."

Voldemort's attention shifted and his eyes narrowed as the Gaunt ring heated up in a distinctive pattern. "Bellatrix!" he called. Immediately the doors to his chamber were thrown open and Bellatrix Lestrange ran into the room throwing herself to her knees at his feet.

"You called, my Lord?"

Voldemort allowed himself a smile at the woman's eagerness. Just like the Bella he remembered. She was too thin from her time in Azkaban but she had managed to retain at least some of her original looks in addition to…a modicum of her sanity. Not much of the latter granted, but it was enough that she was still a valuable member of his retinue. Insanity did have its own perks too. "Bella, someone has invaded the Gaunt shack. Take your team and…send them a message," he said softly as he reached out to stroke her cheek. Bellatrix reacted just as he'd expected, a shiver of appreciation, adoration, and desire crossing her body.

"It will be done, my Lord. My Lord, some of the key members are…still recovering. Might I take others in their place?" she asked.

Voldemort considered that request. On the one hand he could potentially eliminate any who were investigating his immortality – or were simply too curious. On the other he'd have even more who knew details that Voldemort had long kept buried. Details known only to a handful of his most trusted. "No. Take who is available and combat ready. Learn what you can of the invaders, but do not lose any of our own. If you can kill the interlopers do so. If there are too many for your group then send your message and leave."

"It will be done, my Lord!" Bella said nodding. She stood and ran back out of the room shouting for her chosen Death Eaters. Voldemort smiled and went back to stroking Nagini. He lifted his ring and eyed it chuckling darkly.

"Will you two get a room already?" Sirius groused good-naturedly at Fleur and Tonks with his arms crossed.

Tonks pulled back from her deep, long kiss with Fleur and smirked at Sirius. "We have a room dear Cousin. We would be curled up in bed naked if we weren't here."

Sirius snorted. "Well don't let me stand in your way. Feel free to disrobe here." He stopped to consider who he was talking to and paled. "Actually never mind. Forget that teasing. You'd actually do it and I don't need to see my cousin naked."

Fleur raised an eyebrow and turned to Remus. "Does he actually zink zat we would disrobe prior to going into a dangerous situation?"

Remus shrugged. "I stopped trying to figure out how Sirius' mind worked ages ago after I caught him with Brian Friarbush in McGonagall's chambers."

Sirius shook his head. "I still maintain that boy came onto me!"

"Please, you were like a lost puppy for that month. And I wasn't questioning your choice of partners. I was questioning your choice of locations."

"McGonagall's room eh?" Tonks said appraisingly. "That's ballsy. I might have chosen Flitwick's myself. He'd be less likely to go on a hexing spree."

Fleur sighed heavily. "I am working wiz children. May we please get started? I want to get back early enough to shower before ze party for Harry."

Shacklebolt nodded. "Yes, Fleur is right. Enough jibes. Everyone ready? Good, let's move." The group started up the overgrown path towards the small Gaunt shack.

"This is where Voldemort's mother grew up? Seriously? No wonder the man turned insane," Sirius grimaced looking at the tiny, rundown hut.

"I doubt he ever saw zis place until after he was a teenager. By zat time he was likely close to ze edge already," Fleur said shrugging.

Tonks snorted. "Close? Hon, he was as insane as a psych patient by then. Getting all chummy with a basilisk and killing Myrtle should probably count as leaping over the line."

The group split up with Remus and Shacklebolt moving around the corner to the back checking for wards the entire way. Fleur took one side of the hut while Sirius moved to the front door. Tonks was about to head to the other side when she heard an odd noise that sounded somewhere between hissing and scales sliding against each other. Frowning she turned to Sirius and tried to remember where she had heard that noise before. Sirius reached out his wand towards the door and Tonks gasped as she finally placed the sound.

Lunging forward she yelled out, "Sirius, get back!" She dove and tackled him to the side of the door just as a giant spectral snake flew from the doorframe. It flailed about in midair for a few moments before dissipating as the others charged around the corner. Tonks breathed a sigh of relief as Sirius shakily got out from under her.

"Thanks, Tonks," he said. "What the hell was that and how did I miss it?"

"Some sort of parselmouth magic," Tonks said getting her breath under control. "I remember that noise from when Harry was reading from Slytherin's book we found in the Chamber of Secrets."

Shacklebolt stared at her. "You found more than just the diaries in that Chamber?"

Tonks nodded. "Yeah, Shack. There was a parseltongue book that described a lot of the different snakes Slytherin knew about. Completely harmless beyond a few minor spells but no publisher wanted to touch the thing even translated." She shivered. "Harry tried the few spells in the book, but said they made his skin crawl so he left them alone. Everyone nearby felt the same thing. It was just like whatever sprang from that door."

"Damn sneaky arse," Sirius said scowling. "Didn't even show up on the diagnostics or detection spells. We need to be more careful."

"I can take care of ze door. Stand back everyone," Fleur said moving forward. The group dutifully moved further away and Fleur cocked back her arm. A feral grin crossed her features and a fireball formed in her hand. "Let's see how your magic reacts to ze Veela shall we?" Tossing the fireball in a perfect overhand pitch, Fleur's passionfyre spread over the Gaunt shack's door in moments and soon only charred cinders remained. "Zere. Much better."

"I love you babe," Tonks said giving Fleur a light pat on her arse as she walked past her and headed inside. She let out a low whistle upon seeing the manky interior. "Bloody hell, the outside looked better than this."

Once everyone else had filed in Remus started casting a multilayered detection charm. It quickly brought up a positive response on a section of flooring just under a collapsed bed. Pushing the bed to the side Remus sighed in frustration at seeing the paneling already ripped up and the exposed hole empty. "It looks like we're too late. Either Voldemort himself or someone else has already retrieved it."

"You sure?" Sirius asked.

"Relatively certain yes. All of the dust and grime in this area is gone and these planks were removed in a hurry," Remus said. "Whoever came here wasn't particularly interested in a good job; they were rushing and used little stealth."

Shacklebolt frowned. "We should assume it was He-Who – Voldemort. The parselmouth magic on the door was reapplied after all and besides Harry Potter we don't know of any other parselmouths."

Sirius swore. "Back to square one then. Merlin's balls, I was hoping we could get at least the one."

A cackling sounded outside and all eyes turned towards the portal back into the space beyond the shack. Sirius paled and Tonks' blood ran cold. She remembered the horrible laugh. It resounded through her nightmares enough that she'd never quite forget it.

"Come on out of there and let's plaaaay!" Bellatrix Lestrange sang.

"Hey, Cousin!" Sirius shouted in reply. "Seems you're just as crazy as the last time I saw you!"

"Why Siri is that you?" Bella said. Shacklebolt quickly motioned for everyone to take up defensive positions along the walls. "Well I bet that your mangy dog is with you then too! And who else would have been recruited for this hmm? Let's see, let's see…Oh I know! Nymphadora are you there too?"

Tonks growled at her insane aunt's use of her full name. No one got to use that name beyond her partners and parents. "Well good deduction, Auntie! If you'd rather live longer though I suggest you run back to your master!" Tonks yelled. She ignored Fleur's narrowed eyes. Sure she shouldn't let Bellatrix antagonize her, but still…

"Ah my adorable little niece. You are on the wrong side sweetie," Bella crooned in her sing-song voice. Tonks felt shivers of fear running down her back. "Come with me and join the winning team. The Dark Lord would find such…amazing uses for your talents!"

"I'd rather not be a fuck toy for Voldy's groupies thanks," Tonks replied.

From near where Bellatrix seemed to be a deep laugh rang out. "Shame," the unknown man called, "from what we hear you seem to love being Potter's little bitch. We thought you might appreciate some real men for once!"

Tonks lips curled. "Can we please kill these arseholes already?"

"I'll take Bella," Sirius said with narrowed eyes. "Remus, Shack, you guys get Dolohov. I'd recognize that voice anywhere. Tonks, Fleur, backup where needed." All heads nodded and Sirius held up three fingers counting down. When he clenched his fist, the group sprung up.

Sirius leaned around the edge of the door and fired off several quick shots before ducking back behind cover. Tonks jumped up to the window next to Remus, both of them blasting it out of the way and firing out into the yard. Shacklebolt used a blasting hex on a section of wall near him and used the resulting hole to fire from cover. Fleur shifted to the side and started lobbing fireballs out the door from one hand and tossing spells from her other.

Quite a lot reflected back at them though a cry of pain resounded through the early morning air signified that at least some of their attack got through. Bellatrix and Dolohov didn't stay idle however. They sent bone-breakers, blood-boilers and exploding curses screaming into the shack. Tonks danced to the side and just barely managed to avoid a killing curse sent by Bellatrix though the witch's follow-up cutting curse dug into her back eliciting a grunt of pain.

Abruptly the spell barrage ceased. "Well, it's been fun sweets! Tata! I can't wait to play more with you another day! If you live at least!" Bellatrix cackled. Tonks' eyes widened as she saw a jet of Fiendfyre streaking towards the Gaunt shack.

"Everyone out!" Sirius yelled. Tonks ignored the pain in her back and ran for the back wall with the others. Shacklebolt sent another blasting hex at the wall even as the front of the building was consumed in leaping figures of flame. One of the chimera flame beasts jumped for them but was met in midair by a ball of Fleur's passionfyre, both fizzling out.

Sweat ran down Fleur's face as she said, "Everyone out now please. Zis zing does not like me." She holstered her wand and used both hands to let fly fireball after fireball at each lunging flame figure as the others charged outside. Fleur flew through the open wall after them and the five ran down the hill. Once they passed beyond the tingle of the anti-apparition ward, they all twisted and apparated away from the inferno.

Harry checked his watch again with a frown. "Where are they?"

"Harry, you need to calm down," Hermione said laying a hand on his leg. "You never used to be this protective and worried."

"Voldemort never used to be around gathering followers either," Harry muttered. Louder he continued, "Sorry. I just don't like not knowing, Mione. Our unusual relationship isn't exactly hidden. You, Nym and Fleur are one of the easiest ways to get to me."

Tracey chuckled slightly and gestured to her friend. "He's right, Hermione. Honestly, all anyone has to do to nab Harry is to grab one of you girls and send him a place to meet. Granted they'd probably all end up as paste on the floor afterwards but the point stands."

"Paste on the floor?" Luna asked cocking her head to the side. "I don't think that Harry would be that messy. He'd use something that would be far more efficient." Luna frowned and raised a finger to her lips in thought while Coco snorted in laughter from the cushion nearby. "Actually, I suppose they could end up as streaks across the floor. Midnight does have quite sharp claws after all. And the Spiker is a bit messy. Though if he used the Freezer to completely encase his foes then I imagine there would be minimal cleanup required. Transporting a block of ice is rather simple."

Hermione visibly resisted the urge to plant her face in her palm while Shiva and Lily looked at Luna with a mix of amazement and fear. "Luna," Hermione forced out, "can we please stop talking about how Harry would go about removing the threat to our partners."

"You know, he could always just use his Lava Bomb. It would leave burns, but little blood and has almost no cleanup required," Neville added helpfully eliciting a series of spreading laughs.

Lily leaned over to Harry and whispered, "Are all your friends as insane as you?"

"Pretty much," Harry whispered back with a smile on his lips. Mother and son laughed while Hermione glared daggers at Neville.

"You really do need to stop worrying so much, Harry," Daphne said as she stepped into the room and sat down next to Tracey. "They still have their Comm Stones so if either were in true danger they could easily call for help."

"Oh. Yeah." Harry blushed and Hermione squeezed his hand in sympathy. "I forgot about that…"

Shiva shook her head in amusement. "Well that's why you have us, kid. Anyone interested in a movie while we wait? I think we had decided on The Mummy for the next one right?"

Augusta Longbottom and Amelia both stared wide eyed at Lily completely aghast at Shiva's callous suggestion. Harry smirked. He wondered how long it would be before his mother mentioned that it had been her pick and she chose it specifically for the irony. He steadfastly refused to think about Lily's idle comment about Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser both being hot.

A crash from the study rang through the house as the chime that signified arriving visitors rang out. Harry's head jerked up but Dobby had already appeared in front of him with his hands held out. "Harry Potter is asked to stay seated. Mistress Colorful and Mistress Flower not being presentable and Dogfather and Wolfy both being tired. All four said theys would be joining the party in a moment."

Harry narrowed his eyes at Dobby but huffed out an annoyed agreement.

"I told you they were fine," Hermione said smiling at Harry and giving him a quick peck on the cheek.

"Yeah, I know." Harry rolled his eyes and leaned back into the couch. "At least it's not Halloween."

Lily narrowed her eyes and moved to sit next to Shiva leaning in. "What's wrong with Halloween? Besides the obvious I mean. It's not the first time Harry has mentioned it being bad luck," she murmured.

Shiva shrugged. "That's basically it. Something horrible always seems to happen to him on Halloween. At Hogwarts it was the troll, the first basilisk attack, the thing with the boggart and the First Task. Back with the Dursleys it was less major but always something. Halloween just sets the kid on edge and he's becoming convinced that it's cursed." Shiva let out a small chuckle. "Honestly I'm starting to agree with him. It may be superstitious, but the coincidences on October 31st are becoming rather hard to ignore."

Lily groaned and laid her head on Shiva's shoulder. "How the bloody hell am I supposed to break over a decade of bad luck in a few months? I'm a mother not a miracle worker."

Shiva lightly punched her shoulder. "Don't worry so much."

The door to the living room pushed open and Remus and Sirius walked in collapsing onto the couch. Harry's nose crinkled as an acrid smell wafted from the two. "What is that?"

Sirius sniffed his sleeves and grimaced. "Nothing much to worry about, we just got a bit singed." Amelia sat down next to him and frowned at him. Harry didn't miss the questioning look in her eyes though he knew Sirius wouldn't have kept something important from him so he didn't push. There would be time for that later.

Harry had started to get up to go and find Tonks and Fleur, but the door opened again and both walked in. Harry breathed an internal sigh of relief and sat back down. Fleur smiled at him and quickly moved onto his lap eliciting an amused look from Hermione. Harry's eyes though were glued to Tonks as she moved far more stiffly than normal. As she sat down beside him a wince flashed across her features so quickly that Harry almost thought he had imagined it.

"What's wrong?" he asked softly.

Fleur nibbled on his ear wrapped an arm around his neck. "We're fine it's nothing."

"It's not nothing," Harry responded. "Please?"

Tonks shook her head. "Later, Harry. I'll be fine, I promise."

Harry bit back on his retort that she wasn't fine now. The others were right – both Tonks and Fleur were adults and could make their own decisions. They didn't have to report to him everything they did. He sighed at himself. He really was starting to become like Moody. Well…the real Moody. Probably. He'd barely spoken five words to the man since Crouch had been unmasked. "Okay."

The party went on without any more interruptions for almost an hour. It wasn't until Tonks got up to get some popcorn that things deteriorated again. As she stood, Harry noticed that the back of her shirt was wet and darker than normal. His indrawn breath drew Hermione's attention as well. Hermione immediately sprang up and pushed Tonks out the door. Harry was only a few steps behind and made it outside quickly enough to see Hermione pull Tonks' shirt up exposing the older girl's back.

"Bloody hell, I thought I healed Fleur healed that thing," Tonks hissed in pain.

Hermione reached out and hovered her fingers over a large gash down Tonks' back barely a few centimeters from her spine. "This looks bad, Tonks," Hermione murmured. "You should have said something. I'll get Lily. She's supposed to be good at healing."

Tonks sighed and nodded. Harry stepped closer and leaned his head against her shoulder. "Voldemort?"

"Bellatrix," Tonks said quietly. "It was a lucky hit. I'm a little embarrassed about being the only one to get tagged but I was also the only one to have to dodge AKs too so I consider myself lucky."

Harry's breath hitched. "Killing curses? She was sending killing curses?"

Tonks nodded. "Only a few, Harry. The Fiendfyre at the end was worse honestly. Fleur was amazing. Did you know her passionfyre works against Fiendfyre? I sure didn't. Actually I don't think she did either…we should write a paper on it or something."

Harry scowled though Lily walking into the hall with Hermione just behind stopped him from commenting. "Let me see," his mother said in a commanding tone. Tonks shifted slightly and Lily started casting diagnostic charms. "No wonder your healing spell didn't hold. This was a dark cutting curse not the usual one. Severus invented it while we were in school. Hang on a moment, I remember the counter-curse. This will sting a bit." Tonks hissed again and clamped a hand in her mouth as Lily cast something on her back. Hermione moved to hold her other hand while Harry just helped hold her still. "Done. It's going to be a bit tender for a few days and you might have a slight scar. You're lucky this wasn't on your spine, Tonks."

"I know," she said with a groan. "Thanks, Lily." Harry's mother nodded and moved back inside after a quick glance at him.

Harry guided Tonks to a seat against the wall and pulled her into a hug. "Don't scare me like that," he whispered into her hair which had grown long enough to cover his head. He dimly felt Hermione place a hand on his shoulder and Tonks' arm shift so that the girl could slot into the embrace.

"This is not remotely the worst shape any of us have been in, Harry. Don't let Voldemort being back freak you out like this. You're just giving him what he wants," Tonks said.

"While I agree with that sentiment, Nym," Hermione commented, "please do endeavor to tell us if you've been injured. We aren't children and we deserve to know if you – or any of our friends – have been hurt. I assume you and Fleur were searching for a Horcrux when this happened?"

Tonks sighed. "I'm sorry for not saying something right off. I thought we healed it and I didn't want to spoil your birthday, Wonder Boy. Yeah, we were hunting for a Horcrux. It was already gone though so we have to start the search over again. We're pretty sure he moved it. My aunt showing up so quickly after we got there just goes adds more proof to that."

Harry pulled back and affixed her with a hard stare. "Nym, I love you. I love you just as much as I love Hermione and Fleur and Shiva and Lily. If you're going to go after a potential Horcrux in the middle of the night wake me up and tell me! Please!"

Sighing again Tonks pulled him back down into her arms. "I'm sorry. It won't happen again; I promise."

After Harry and his partners moved to the bedroom Lily and Shiva relaxed on the couch. "You were right," Shiva admitted. "The cake did taste better without magic."

"I thought the Snitch on the top was a good touch," Lily commented. "How did you get it to flutter like that without any spells?"

"I put a layer of cake on the bottom of the icing in a rune shape. I'm amazed it lasted long enough for people to see it move honestly. Who knew cake could conduct magic?!" Lily eyed her causing Shiva to hold up her hands and laugh. "Hey it skirts the line of acceptable but if you can use magic to bake the thing then I can use magic to animate the icing a bit."

Lily laughed. "We are both such hypocrites."

"And proud of it!"

The light, distant chime interrupted the two's amusement and Dobby popped into place in front of them. "Mistresses Destruction and Fire, there be Ms. Strict and Mr. Halfsies at the door. Should Dobby let them in?"

"Ms. Strict and Mr. Halfsies?" Lily asked blinking in confusion.

Shiva quirked her mouth to the side for a few moments before raising a hand in triumph. "Minerva and Filius! Right?"

Dobby gave a theatrical sigh and hung his head. "Mistress Destruction wins again. Dobby go lets the Professors in."

As Dobby popped away Lily turned to Shiva and arched an eyebrow. "You've made a game out of guessing Dobby's nicknames?"

"Yup," Shiva replied looking far too smug. "So far I'm ahead by about four though I never did figure out who Grouchy was…" Shiva huffed. "Little guy was smart with that one. Far too many people fit 'Mr. Grouchy' to make that easy."

"What do you get if you win?"

"Mostly just the right to cook a few meals without fuss if I want to. Though once I did ask him to take off a few gloves when doing work," Shiva said shrugging. "I know he loves those things, but really, six pairs and being forced to use magic to hold up the tray because he couldn't grip the thing? Too much."

Lily chuckled. "Yes, that sounds like Dobby. Hello, Minerva, Filius. It's so good to see you both again!" she enthused as her two teachers walked into the room. Minerva looked slightly pale while Filius was snickering and mumbling something under his breath about fantastic charm work. Lily quickly got up and hugged each before beckoning them to a seat on the chairs across from the two women.

"It's wonderful to see you as well, Lily," Minerva said cracking a genuine smile. It was a touch odd to see the stern woman looking so incredibly happy though Lily certainly wasn't averse to being the cause of such an occurrence. "I must ask though…was the hissing necessary?"

Shiva laughed and waved her colleague's question away. "Blame Harry. He felt if he was going to make it slither in midair he might as well go for the full monty. I didn't feel right talking him out of it – it is his house after all."

Lily just smirked. "I was still mostly dead when it was decided on."

Filius shook his head grinning like a loon at her joke. "Oh how I missed you, Lily! That boy of yours certainly stirs things up just like you and James!"

"I've noticed," Lily said smiling. "So to what do we owe this visit? Or is it just a social call?"

Minerva smiled. "A bit of both. We wanted to come and see you now that things seem to have settled down a bit. It helps that I've finally got most of my house in order. Albus…well Albus left quite a bit of a mess behind and I've had my work cut out for me with reorganizing everything at Hogwarts."

"Which is the second reason why we're here actually," Filius commented.

Shiva sighed. "I thought I had til next week to send over those lesson plans for the Newt courses."

"Oh you do, you do, don't worry," Filius said dismissing her concern. "We're here for Lily this time."

"What do I have to do with Hogwarts?" the woman in question asked blinking in confusion.

Filius' grin widened. "Hopefully quite a bit."

Minerva groaned and shook her head in exasperation. "What my Deputy Headmaster is trying to insinuate is that we have an opening."

"I am not teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts," Lily immediately answered. "From everything I've heard and researched, the position is completely cursed. I am not going to teach that and make my son nervous that I'm going to succumb to whatever horror show is affecting that post and end up almost killing him."

The other three stared at her until Shiva shook her head in amusement and laid her hand on Lily's thigh squeezing slightly. "I rather doubt you have to worry about that, Lils."

"Yes, well, actually I was talking about the Muggle Studies course…" Minerva said hesitantly. "Charity Burbage decided to take a leave of absence for a few years. She seems to have taken the news of You-Know-Who's resurrection rather badly and wished to get as far away as possible." She sighed. "As bad as this is to say, this actually saves me quite a bit effort. I took a look at a list that Miss Granger compiled of all the ways that the course was…rather dated. It was ten feet long…"

Lily smirked. "That certainly seems like the type of thing that Hermione would make a list of. I remember Muggle Studies being a bit old, but I only took it third year…Charity really got that far behind the times?"

Filius grimaced. "Well like most of us she didn't expect the Muggles to have advanced like they did. She never bothered to check her sources to see any changes made in recent years. When I asked her about the recent advancements she looked at me like I'd grown a second head!"

"That's not the only position that I'm seeking replacement for. Severus is on probation and if he doesn't ensure that the students are treated fairly I won't hesitate to sack him."

"Well you could always talk to Slughorn. He was quite good in my day. Does he still teach?" Lily asked shrugging.

"I'm a little surprised you're not sacking Sybill," Shiva said chuckling. "You haven't exactly made a secret of what you think about her or her course. One actual prophecy aside and all."

Filius smiled at her. "I talked her out of it. As much as we may not believe that Sybill is perfect there are precious few Divination teachers worth much more and fewer who are willing to come to Hogwarts at this time. She's been placed on probation and told to make improvements to the course work, but she has the year to make the changes before we take action."

"We have strayed quite extensively," Minerva said rolling her eyes. "Lily, would you be interested in teaching the Muggle Studies course?"

Shiva nodded towards Lily. "It would let you stay close to Harry during the school year without having to keep making trips to Hogsmeade on various weekends."

Lily considered her options for a minute before slowly nodding. "That's true. I was considering trying for a potion's position in the town…this would pay just as well I assume?"

"Hogwart's pay is quite competitive I assure you. That is one area that Lucius Malfoy was not willing to try and force budget cuts on," Minerva said.

"And I'd be able to conduct the class as I choose to?"

"Of course."

Lily sat back and crossed her arms with her mouth quirked in concentration. "Okay. I'll do it."

Harry's partners had been sleeping for over an hour when he gave up falling into Dreamland himself. Every time he closed his eyes he just saw the hidden door in his mind bulging and horrible images of Tonks dead with a huge gash down the middle of her back. After he managed to push those nightmares back they were replaced by mental pictures of Fleur glassy eyed, lying bonelessly on the dirt. Shortly after those it switched to Hermione completely limp and tied to a bed with Malfoy grinning nearby.

With a growl Harry dived into his mindscape and threw more and more restraints around the Horcrux until finally the images stopped seeping out and his irritation level lowered. He had hoped that the 'activities' with his partners earlier would have been able to tire him out enough to fall asleep without having to deal with the regular nightmares, but apparently he wasn't that lucky.

"Never should have made that stamina rune," Harry muttered sitting up. Rubbing a hand over his aching scar, his eyes fell on the completed prototype schematic for his Soul Cage sitting on the desk. Grimacing at another twinge of pain from his head Harry made up his mind.

The Horcrux needed to go.

Gingerly crawling over Fleur – the heaviest sleeper in the group – he got out of bed, pulled on his boxers and sat down at the desk. Harry pulled out his tools and activated one of the privacy runes stones so that he wouldn't wake the girls with his work. Half an hour later, Harry had finished carving out his Soul Cage prototype. He held it up to the light and twisted it around several times examining every facet. The core of the scheme was similar to the Egyptian Soul Render, but the modifications were extensive. He'd checked and double-checked everything. He'd run the design by Shiva. He'd even outsourced parts of it to some of the researchers at Outback Training Alternatives to make sure that the sections worked independently. It should be ready. It should be fine. It should be safe. It should take care of his Horcrux problem.

Idly Harry turned to rub his Dementor Anchor tattoo. Would it protect him if something went wrong? It wasn't remotely designed for something like the Soul Cage. The tattoo had a very specific function and with as complicated a design as the Soul Cage had become…he wasn't sure if the tattoo would do anything in a worst-case scenario. It…might help.

"I should wake the girls. I should wake my mothers," Harry murmured even as he lifted the rune stone closer and blew the last bits of stone dust from its etchings. "This is stupid. I promised them I wouldn't do things like this anymore. They're right there. Just drop the Privacy Stone Harry. Just drop it and wake them up first."

Except…if he woke anyone else up he'd have to admit how much he'd been downplaying the Horcrux issues. How little sleep he'd been able to get for the past few weeks. Lily would blame herself. Shiva and his partners would blame themselves for not stopping him from touching Lily before they'd figured out what to do with the Horcrux first. Harry'd have to admit how worried he really was about losing control. About letting his guard down at the wrong moment and the thing pushing through and trying to wrest control. About how scared he was about hurting the people he loved if he didn't get rid of this thing!

His lips curling in scowl, his scar flared in pain again and he felt the mental bonds holding the Horcrux in strain. "Just die already!" Harry yelled. He swept a hand across the desk not noticing as he knocked the Privacy Stone across the room. Clutching the Soul Cage with his other hand Harry charged the rune scheme and slammed it onto his forehead.

The next instant pain flared in every nerve of his body and all of his muscles locked taught. He felt like he was seeing double. One view was his normal vision while the other was from just slightly above his body. He felt his entire being straining against some invisible bond and he felt the life being practically choked out of him. Distantly he heard an ear piercing scream from somewhere. It was only when Hermione leapt off the bed and ran to him that he realized the sound was coming from him.

"I can't get it off! Help me!" Hermione screamed to Tonks and Fleur as they jumped to her side. All three grabbed his hand clutching the rune stone to his head and started tugging.

Harry's double vision got worse and he felt the things tying him stretch further. Part him noted the brightly glowing Dementor Anchor tattoo on his side and the way that the spectral part of him seemed to be pulling against that. Most of Harry though was too consumed with pain to really truly notice much.

The door to the room banged open and Shiva and Lily charged in. Harry watched them take in the naked forms of the girls clustered around him as well as the way he was contorted on the chair still screaming. Harry felt himself stretch further and the Anchor glowed brighter peeling back from his skin slightly. Dobby popped into the room and blinked at them all, his mouth hanging open.

Lily started to raise her wand, but Shiva jerked it down. "No! No magic! It'll just make it worse!" Shiva shouted.

Hermione managed to wedge her fingertip underneath the rune stone and lurched back with all her strength. Harry snapped back into his body as he felt skin tear from his forehead under Hermione's nails. His partner fell backward and the Soul Cage went flying across the room between his mothers. Harry fell backwards only staying off the floor thanks to Fleur catching him. His entire body ached and the area around the Dementor Anchor burned.

Turning and burying his head in-between Fleur's breasts Harry cried at the pain and shame. "I'm sorry! It was supposed to be safe! Everything said it should be safe!"

Lily started to say something until Shiva clamped onto her arm and shook her head. The older woman instead grabbed the blankets and draped them over Fleur and Harry, handing one to Tonks and Hermione.

The brunette witch padded over to Harry and gently brushed a lock of hair behind his ear. "Harry," she said softly, "why didn't you wait for us?"

"I don't know! I didn't want you to worry," he sobbed. "This thing keeps making me see things every time I close my eyes! I can barely think through the headaches sometimes and it keeps trying to get out! I'm scared I'm going to lose control and it's going to hurt you! I need it gone! I just need it gone!" Harry clung tighter to Fleur and cried harder. Tonks frowned and stood up, moving to the side with Shiva and Lily.

"Did you know it was this bad?" he heard Lily ask.

Tonks sighed. "No. We knew he'd been having nightmares and headaches, but it didn't seem this bad."

"The kid's good at hiding things when he wants to." Harry didn't need to look up to see Shiva frowning. "It's damn near impossible to read him when he's actively burying things. Hermione's the only one who can even come close and even she misses things when he's being careful. Dammit, Harry…"

"Shh," Fleur murmured. "Shh, it's okay, mon chéri, we will fix zis."

"You're not going to hurt us, Harry," Hermione said continuing to stroke his cheek with one hand and his back with the other. "You're one of the strongest willed people I've ever met. Even if by some catastrophe the soul shard took control momentarily you'd beat it back down a few moments later. I know this is hard, Harry, and I know it hurts. But you need to remember everything that you've been through and everything that you've overcome. This is just more of the same. It's bigger in scale, but the principle is the same. You are strong, Harry. You will beat it back down – just like you always do."

Hermione paused and Fleur hugged him tighter. After a few moments Hermione continued, "And, Harry…if you don't feel like you can trust yourself, then trust us. We won't let you fall."

AN: As usual, thanks to RhysThornbery for the continued beta assistance.

AN: Bit of fluff mixed with plot! Fun times! Anyway, I hope Bellatrix came across as sufficiently creepy. While I dislike 90% of Cursed Child I'm fully behind a Bella/Voldemort thing even if it was only one-sided. That was pretty much the impression I got every time I read her in canon anyway. So if you find double entendres in her words around Voldemort it's mostly intentional.

Recommendation for this chapter: "Notebooks and Letters" by chem prof. It's been quite some time since I read this one so I can't give a fully detailed summary. (It was actually one of my first HP fics that I remember reading.) What I can tell you is that the framing device is Hermione telling her daughter about the 'real' story behind Books 5-7. It was very good and one of my preferred chem prof stories as some of his more controversial tendencies weren't present in it. One thing that sets this one apart from many fics is that at least one of the main characters does actually change schools when things start getting bad! Word of warning, this is not a story for Snape fans. You will want to murder man after finishing the story.

Second rec: "The Weasley Potion Muddle" by Scott the Wanderer. Just a short oneshot and not your typical potioning fic! It's Harry/Fleur with Ginny confronting Fleur about potioning herself while Harry is potioning himself. Ginny then goes on to rant about half her family using potioning themselves! Very hilarious.

**Added Rune Stone Reference Table: Bold items are sold through Potter Runes

-Stamina Stone: increases sexual performance longevity, comes in male and female varieties, recommended usage is less than 4 hours per day (constructed 4th Year)

-Soul Cage: based on a modified version of an Ancient Egyptian Soul Render, designed to banish souls from objects, with modifications can be used on living subjects, contains a Soul rune (prototype constructed 5th Year)

-Privacy Stone: encases an area approximately two meters in diameter with layers of silencing, notice-me-nots and various other privacy spells (constructed 5th Year)