"Viktor, I want you to know that I think you're valid and that we love you, even if Marvolo would never admit that, but what the fuck," Harry very eloquently told the Bulgarian in front of him. Viktor sheepishly shrugged.
"My brain has been a bit of a mess, admittedly."
"You might need a mind healer if you're still experiencing side-effects," Tom scowled lightly. "We can do legilimency on you, but that's honestly too much of a risk with how delicate your mind can possibly be. We're not trained for it, much less licensed."
"As if he cares about being licensed. He just doesn't want to admit that he's not as good as he claims to be in it," Harry conspiratorially whispered to Viktor. "It's like getting hit with a jackhammer to the head."
"I'm a perfectly capable legilimens," Tom sniffed, offended. "Just because you're complete pants at occlumency - "
"That has nothing to do with the headaches you've given me and you know it - "
"We'll have to find one that keep their mouth shut, I take it," Viktor interrupted. "Someone like myself being put under a curse tends to be prime news, after all. I should be able to ask around."
"Right," Tom nodded stiffly. "Now about Harry's blood. Ritual?"
"Ritual," Viktor agreed.
Harry sighed and mournfully said, "It always is."
"Well, anything else you'd like to share to the class, Viktor?" Tom asked dryly. His friend had the decency to look a bit chastised. "What other ingredients does this dark wizard need? Unicorn blood? The Philosopher's Stone, perhaps?"
"Let me find that mind healer and I'll give you the dirty details," Viktor replied, just as dry. "I promise I haven't been withholding anything intentionally."
Harry patted Viktor consolingly. "It's alright, mate. At least we know now before I wake up to find you with a knife and vial looming over my bed. I don't really fancy giving my blood away just like that after all. Now, let's get out of this broom closet. And hopefully we scandalize someone again."
"This is an intervention," Draco declared, flanked by a determined Hermione and an exasperated Neville. Ron was off to the side, shrugging at Harry's baffled look.
"We haven't actually been having frisky sessions with Viktor in the broom closets," Harry insisted.
"First of all, I hope not," Hermione frowned. "Second of all, this is about what you've been keeping from us that involves Marvolo and Viktor. We've let it be for long enough, but they're our friends too and we're worried."
"I appreciate your worries," Harry cautiously said, "but we've got it handled. There's really nothing to be concerned about." At that, Hermione gave him a flat look that said that she didn't take his word for it at all.
"Something happened with Viktor though, right?" Ron asked. "Like, that was as obvious as the sun, mate."
Harry scratched his head, thinking of a way to put it delicately. "Uh, yeah. Someone's got it out for Marvolo, we think."
Then his friends shared peculiar looks with each other. Something about that rang alarm bells in his head.
"Another thing, Harry. Do you…" Hermione hesitantly started, "do you know who Marvolo's parents are?"
'Ah,' Harry thought. 'Someone spilled the beans.' He took a deep breath and sighed before nodding in confirmation. "I take it since you're asking that you all know too."
Delicately, Neville nodded back, "We know who Marvolo's father is. Sorry to say, but someone obviously wanted us to know, with all the clues they'd been slipping into our books and stuff."
"And we've decided that we don't care," Draco said firmly. And for someone who put a lot of stock in who someone's father was, that said a lot.
Hermione gave a wry smile, "We understand why it was kept secret. Honestly, I'm kind of offended that the headmaster - and we can't deny that it was him that gave us the hints when he obviously recognized Marvolo - thought that it would drive a wedge between you and us or you and him. It's obvious that Marvolo doesn't have the same beliefs as his father, who he'd likely barely even knew."
"I mean, as long as no one starts getting Unforgivables cast on them, then we're cool," Ron hastily cut in. "Marvolo really ain't a bad guy. Kind of creepy sometimes, but so are you. So really, you two are perfect to deal with each other's crazy."
"Ah," Harry said, looking at his four closest friends. Warmth bloomed in his chest, and smiling, he opened his arms. "You guys say the sweetest things. I think this calls for a group hug!"
"Oh god no," Draco and Ron cringed together.
Tom and Viktor went into their usual classroom-slash-meeting room and stopped at the sight of Harry in a (deliberately) poorly conjured Voldemort mask.
"Marvolo," Voldemort-Harry mockingly did the wheezing-hiss his old snakish self did. "I am your father."
Everyone stared as Tom calmly picked up the nearest book and threw it straight at Harry's head.
Hermione, the only other person in the room bar Harry and Tom that understood the reference, fought to keep a straight face. "I told him not to do that," she said, biting her lips to keep in a laugh.
Tom sighed tiredly, "You and I both know very well how little he listens to anyone." Harry continued to cackle on the floor, despite Tom's very accurate hit on the forehead. "I suppose the cat is out of the bag, then."
"The headmaster practically screamed it at us," Neville dryly said, clearly unimpressed by Dumbledore's efforts. "Gave us whole loaves of bread instead of breadcrumbs, so to speak."
"Ah, of course," Viktor nodded understandingly. "Karkaroff is also a vit of a vlavvermouth."
"Hah! So that's how you know!" Harry exclaimed, finally having an answer to a question that had been plaguing both he and Tom's minds. "Was he warning you? Did he straight up say it or give you clues?"
"I don't think he intended it to ve anything," Viktor blandly said. "He is acquainted vid my father, and vey sometimes partake in some fireviskey. Karkaroff is, after all, infamously loose-lipped, so it should ve no surprise that he is even more so ven inevriated."
Harry pouted. "And here Tom and I were thinking of conspiracy theories on how you found out."
"I, for one, am glad that it was just Karkaroff blabbing his mouth rather than the information being readily available out there," Tom scowled.
"Yeah, there probably would be like, a hundred people who would want to kill you because of your… father," Ron said, making a face. "Some of our classmates probably would lose their minds, honestly."
"More importantly," Neville said, "Rita Skeeter would have a field day."
"Perfect," Harry brightly said. "Sasha misses live human, I think."
"Sasha?" Viktor murmured in question while Hermione rolled her eyes and smacked Harry's shoulder.
"You are not feeding the basilisk Rita Skeeter," Hermione chastised. She pursed her lips. "Sasha deserves better than an insect for dinner."
Harry barked a laugh and Draco and Ron also joined in the snickering. Tom, on the other hand, just grimaced. For good reason.
"Harry, darling," Tom said, looking pained. "Can you please take off that ridiculous mask? Hearing you laugh with that face on is going to give me nightmares."
Harry, of course, just wrapped his hands around Tom's arm and pressed against his side, still wearing the Voldemort mask. "Oh, my love, you say just the sweetest things."
Tom merely summoned the book from earlier from the floor and into his hand, just to smack it right on Harry's forehead again.
"A curse?" Hermione gasped, looking at Viktor worriedly. After Harry finally stopped wheezing in laughter, they started to fill the other four in on what they've been hiding the past few months. "You got it all removed, though, right?"
"It's a complicated piece of magic. Impressively so. I wouldn't be surprised if Harry and I actually missed something." Tom admitted lightly. Harry shrugged.
"It's structure is pretty archaic." Harry added. "And considering Viktor is still experiencing side effects, well…"
"Impressive, though," Draco murmured. He peered at the pair contemplatively. "Old dark magic like that isn't easy to have access to, much less learn about."
Harry smiled innocently. "We were bored one summer."
"You alright, though, mate?" Ron asked Viktor, who shrugged.
"Could ve vorse," Viktor said. "At least I still have my head attached to my vody."
"What?" Hermione exclaimed. The other three fourth years looked equally alarmed.
"We told you, we weren't gonna get you decapitated." Harry insisted. Viktor just looked amused.
"It's desecration!" Cedric fervently yelled. "It could permanently disfigure the site-"
"It's a Quidditch Pitch, Diggory." Tom flatly said. "It will be fine."
"At ze very least ze grass is looking greener now, yes?" Fleur added. "Ze snow vas quite harsh on it."
The three champions had just come from a meeting with the tournament judges to see what the third task was going to be. As with last time, they had changed the Quidditch Pitch into a hedge maze, and no doubt will have a variety of traps and magical creatures as obstacles to slow them down from getting to the cup in the middle of the maze.
"There are plenty of wide open grassy spaces around us," Cedric continued. "Why did they have to use the pitch? We could be playing games in there instead! Some of us haven't played a game the entire school year!"
"Vell then vy don't you use those other open spaces for your games?" Fleur asked.
"The goal posts!"
Tom rolled his eyes. "I imagine the spectator stands would have something to do with it."
"They didn't exactly care about the spectators last task, though, did they?" Cedric huffed.
Fleur nodded. "It vas a terrible task. Even vid my own difficulties aside."
"Either way, the last task is a month away." Tom said. "They can't redo the maze now. And from what Bagman explained, it seems like the points we've gotten so far only matter in determining who goes into the maze in what order."
Cedric hummed, looking at Tom from the corner of his eye. "I think I can outrun you."
Fleur, twirling her silvery blonde hair, huffed in amusement. "You boys 'ave not seen virsthand how light my feet are. Vorry about outrunning me, I say."
"Oh, you two are adorable," Tom smirked. "I'll make sure to get a headstart when I go in the maze first. Maybe I'll even let you two see the cup before I take it myself."
The three champions stared at each other in the middle of the empty hallway, ready for the challenge the third task was going to bring.
"I look forward to ze challenge, monsieurs," Fleur smiled prettily, but her eyes shone with fire.
"I'll treat you both to ice cream with the prize money, don't worry," Cedric grinned to match Fleur.
Amused, Tom snorted. "I'll see you two below me on the podium in a month."
With a turn of their heels, Cedric and Fleur went on opposite directions to the side of the hallway. Tom stayed in place for a few moments, waiting.
"Right, the Great Hall is that way," Cedric coughed, shuffling back to where Tom stood. His cheeks were dusted with a soft blush.
"Zis castle looks ze same everyvere," Fleur muttered as she joined back with them.
Tom, unable to help himself, laughed. "Are you sure you two will be fine in a maze?"
The morning of the third task, Karkaroff stiffly informed Tom that his family was here to cheer him on.
"I'm an orphan," Tom flatly reminded his headmaster, who made a half-pained half-terrified face at the tone he took.
Nevertheless, he obliged and followed Karkaroff to the meeting place, and was mildly surprised at who was there to greet them.
"Surprise," Remus smiled gently at the stunned teenager. Sirius was right beside him, pouting more for show than anything. "I hope it wasn't presumptuous of us, Harry said it was alright."
"I'm…" Tom faltered, not knowing what to say. "Thank you. It's nice having you here."
"School pride has me cheering Diggory on," Sirius said. "But it won't be so bad if you win." Then he side-eyed the Diggory's and lowered his voice to a whisper. "And between you and me, I don't think anyone wants Amos bragging about his son any more than he already is. The man has been insufferable."
"I'm surprised you'd know," Tom deadpanned. "I didn't even think you left the house."
Sirius blinked for a moment, surprised at the cheek, but barked out a loud laugh and clapped Tom's shoulder firmly. "You're growing on me," he cheerfully said, "you're kind of like mold, I suppose. Harry's mold."
"I can't tell if that is an insult or not," Tom muttered, a bit affronted. Still, it felt… nice, this show of familial acceptance. Especially from people who were so very important to Harry. Remus looked at him and Sirius knowingly, a fond expression on his face.
"Right, let's get to the Great Hall," Sirius cheerfully said. "It's been a while since I've had a Hogwarts' meal. The apple crumble has always been to die for."
Harry was delighted to see his godfathers, and smirked smugly at Tom's raised eyebrow. The brat always liked to rock the boat that was Tom's emotional constipation towards everyone that wasn't Harry.
The Great Hall was rife with excitement over the final task. Throughout the meal, students would go up to the three champions to show support towards their favored to win. Luna and Ginny had made more badges, walking around the tables to distribute them to anyone who wanted one, some sporting badges for all three champions. The media and politics between the schools' home countries may not be getting along much (at all) but at least the young students were, having months of shared experience of dealing with their schoolmates' lives in danger and 'Gaunt and Potter's spectacle of a love life.'
"I want you to know that if you lose I'm dumping you for the winner," Harry told Tom, who gave him a dry look.
"We can work out an agreement," Cho brightly said to him, even as she had her arms around an exasperated Cedric's arm.
"For the sake of your sanity, Diggory, I won't lose to you," Tom smirked.
"So god help me," Cedric sighed.
Life #59, part 2: Company picnic
"Do you see him?" John asked two minutes after he and Dale arrived at the park. It was the company's semi-annual picnic, and Carrie had cheerfully informed him that the boss had in-fact RSVP'd his family this time, instead of opting out of the entire social event altogether. It was probably the fact that the CEO was actually going to be in attendance instead of trotting off somewhere in Paris or the Bahamas.
Dale squinted around, "Nah, but there's Emily, Harley, and Andy by the appetizers."
"A lot of people actually showed up," Emily said when they joined the group. "I've seen him once or twice, but he disappears from sight not soon afterward."
"What about his wife though?" John asked. "She's the one we're most interested in."
Harley shrugged. "Maybe Carrie would know?"
"Know what?" Carrie's chipper voice asked from behind Andy, and they turned to see Carrie holding a toddler and with two unfamiliar men.
"Oh! Is she yours?" Emily's eyes sparkled at the adorable child, who shyly smiled before burying her face into Carrie's shoulder. "I didn't know you had a baby?"
"What? No!" Carrie laughed. One of the men by her - strawberry blond, blue eyes, gorgeous dimpled smile - laughed.
"She's one of mine, actually," the stranger said and held out a hand in greeting. "I'm Robin, and that's my daughter Daisy."
"She's so adorable, I might die from cuteness," Carrie cooed at the toddler before handing her to her father. She gestured to the other man, "And this is my fiance, Mark!" Mark simply waved with a reserved hello to the others.
"I haven't seen you around before," John said to Robin. "What department are you from?"
"We're from all sorts, but we share the Big Bad as a boss," Dale joked. "If none of us have seen you around, you're probably one of the lucky ones."
Carrie's eyes turned wide, which was the first warning sign in hindsight. But Robin merely raised his eyebrows as he settled Daisy on his hip. "The Big Bad?" Robin asked.
"You know," Dale continued, waving a hand, "Mr. Cooper? The Big Bad, kind of like the wolf in Little Red Riding hood, just waiting to eat us. He's rather terrifying."
Robin fought to keep a straight face, the second warning sign. "I see," he said simply, though it looked like he was tempted to laugh.
Mike, looking a bit confused, turned to Carrie and asked, "Are they talking about Michael? I thought he was quite nice; I don't see how he's terrifying at all." The last sentence he directed at Robin, who snorted. Third warning sign.
Andy, who had kept quiet until now, warily looked at the very much amused Robin. "...Do you actually work here?"
"No, he doesn't," the voice of their boss, Cooper, sent a chill down their spine. He grinned toothily at them. "I see you've met my husband, Robin."
"Husband?" Emily wheezed.
"Oh, sorry, I forgot to give my surname. Robin Cooper," Robin (Harry) smiled. "Michael's told me a lot about you guys."
"I'm Jamie!" A young boy holding their boss' hand piped up. He grinned at them, and heartstrings were pulled, "Do you work with dad?"
"So cute!" Carrie wailed into her fiance's arms, who patted her consolingly. "I want one too!"
Michael (Tom) rolled his eyes, and looked pointedly at his subordinates. "If you're done gawking, I need to take my family to meet my boss."
"Family," Emily wheezed again, once the Cooper family was out of hearing range. "Oh my god, he looks like a model husband and father."
"Where's the beer?" John asked. "My world view has changed. I need a drink."
A/N: sees last update date... looks away...
hi im alive i was just getting my ass kicked in school nbd
the chapter isnt as long as i wanted it to be but the next chapter will sure to be exciting for everyone bc THIRD TASK. the plot will start to unravel.