A/N: I tend not to update when I edit so no editing lol, but I promise it's not shoddy.

Harry sits in McGonagall's office across from her and Umbridge slightly shocked that this meeting is even occurring. Umbridge didn't bother sitting in on anyone else's career advisement session—he'd of heard about it if she had. The meeting is pointless, surely, with Voldemort back and causing trouble. Would he even survive long enough to achieve NEWTs?

McGonagall sighs loudly and looks at Umbridge before speaking. "Well, Potter, this meeting is to talk over any career ideas you might have, and to help you decide which subjects you should continue into the sixth and seventh years. Have you had any thoughts about what you would like to do after you leave Hogwarts?"

Harry shrugs. "I could be an Auror."

Umbridge makes a noise. "Hmm Hmm!"

She waits until McGonagall has turned to face her. Harry follows suit.

"Do you honestly believe, Mr. Potter, that the Aurors will have any interest in taking a lying little boy?"

McGonagall narrows her eyes and purses her lips. "Madam…"

"No!" Harry interrupts. He leans forward in his seat. "I'm not lying!"

"Enough!" Umbridge screeches.

Harry looks to McGonagall and settles back into his chair. She should fight for him! All the professors should be fighting against Umbridge's lies and power play. He shouldn't have to fight it on his own. He fidgets in his chair while McGonagall sips her tea.

"Mr. Potter," Umbridge continues, "Is this any behavior from the supposed savior of the Wizarding World? Some of your classmates from truly…low means, have made themselves worthy in the eyes of the Ministry. You would not have to try, given your family name."

Family name. Low means. Harry shakes. She means Hermione. The wretched cunt of a woman is talking about Hermione and perhaps even Ron being lesser.

"And what exactly do you mean by low means?" McGonagall asks, her face a combination of smug knowingness and righteous anger.

Umbridge shifts in her seat but does not respond.

McGonagall clears her throat. "Perhaps you would enlighten Mr. Potter with an example of the sort of student he ought to imitate."

She's going to say Hermione. He knows she's going to say Hermione. And when she does, McGonagall won't be able to stop him from hexing her. And after that he'll send the twins after her.

Umbridge considers it for a moment before straightening back up. "Professor McGonagall you are indeed correct. Mr. Potter needs a mentor—another student to show him the way. Mr. Snape."

"What?!" Harry interrupts.

Mr. Snape? A student? No. Snape can't possibly have a kid. Nobody would ever want to shag Snape, the nasty git. Might as well just have a dead dad. He can see the anger on McGonagall's face, but cannot quite distinguish what caused it. The subtle jibe at Snape? Knowing Snape is in some way lowly makes Harry almost smile.

"Such poverty," Umbridge continues, "is unfounded for a Hogwarts professor. The state of Professor Snape is appalling, hardly the shining example of success the Ministry hopes for."

Harry snorts.

"His son by comparison is already showing great proclivity for the most secret and complicated branches of magic. He was personally selected for training by Master Mohan. Master Mohan for a period of time taught a warding elective here at Hogwarts. I suppose he was looking for an apprentice then and failed to find one.

"Mister Snape," she continues, "has no disciplinary infractions, much less attendance. He is polite and respectful. He knows his place." A wicked grin appears on Umbridge's face. "I have assigned you frequent detentions, haven't I young man? I expect you will earn many more. I will propose instead that you spend your free time in Mr. Snape's company, learn from him how to be a proper member of society."

Harry sputters, unable to quickly respond. McGonagall, however, jumps straight on it, her eyes filled with rage. Umbridge's smile only widens.

"How dare you!" McGonagall snaps. "Not only have you insulted an esteemed Hogwarts professor, you are actually suggesting that one student mind another full time to suit your pleasure? How absurd."

"Why!" Umbridge places her hand on her chest. "I am doing Mr. Potter a favor. Letting Mr. Potter out of his detentions for the small price of forming a friendship with another student."

A friendship with another student. Harry shakes his head. It isn't just a friendship with another student, it's spending nearly every waking moment he's not in class or at meals with a Snape. But even as he thinks it, the scar on his hand itches and he knows he cannot have another detention torture session.

"Mr. Potter," Umbridge's voice rings through the office, "your decision, if you please?"

-:

Harry sits at a table in the library, continuously checking over his shoulder that Hermione hasn't suddenly appeared and spotted him. He couldn't bring himself to tell her or Ron about his deal with Umbridge. He stares off imagining what's coming: a shorter, younger Snape, just as vile, just as ugly, crooked yellow teeth, the slight bitter smell of potions.

The boy that walks toward him is not at all as expected. Slightly brown –Harry suspects Indian heritage –the boy has chin-length black hair and a small patch of hair under his bottom lip. For a moment Harry thinks he's handsome, but then the thought is gone. The boy stops at the other end of the table.

"Potter," he says.

"Snape?" Harry makes a face without meaning to.

"Aye. Marius, though. I don't need you thinking of my father every time you address me."

Harry nods but does not make the same offer. Who does Snape think he is? Offering the use of a first name on first meeting.

Marius pulls a few items out of his bag and places them on the table. "People tell me you're rather chatty."

Harry shrugs.

"Right, well I didn't offer my time for this little project of Professor Umbridge's willingly. Truth be told I don't much like the woman. Telling her no is certainly not in my best interest." Marius opens his notebook and picks up a quill. "I am going to take notes. If you wish to talk, please do."

Harry sits quietly for quite some time. He has no interest in talking, but he has even less interest in revising. He watches Marius write a few sentences. His strokes are uninterrupted, handwriting neat. The words make no sense to Harry.

"It's Latin," Marius whispers. "My mentor," he speaks slowly, "has an idea. Muggle witches, pagans and the sort, often draw sigils. I'm not naturally artistic, so I'll be using a…uh, it's a circle with letters in it, to draw the sigil."

Muggles, pagans. Harry shakes his head a few times. "What for?"

"I'm studying ward formation. It's a bit of a lost art. For example, we have no idea how the Hogwarts wards were laid."

"No but," Harry starts, "I thought you just cast a ward and that's it."

Marius smiles softly. "You might be able to cast wards around small areas for an amount of time, but they will not function well for long. If you truly want to ward a building or space the wards must be drawn and then evoked."

Harry frowns. Did Dumbledore somehow ward the Dursley residence? Is that why he must return? But what of Headquarters? Those were old wards, weren't they?

"But how did you even learn about it?" Harry asks, certain he's already been told part of the answer and has just forgotten.

"Master Mohan, the world's most esteemed warder, is a uh… family friend." Marius dips his quill in the pot and continues writing. "He selected me to be his prodigy when I was just a child."

Harry can't quite process whatever the hidden meaning he can hear in the phrasing is. But it's odd. As the savior of the Wizarding World, he hasn't been training since childhood. He can only imagine the pressure Marius has been under.

"I take it you don't get out much?" Harry asks quietly. No response. Harry checks the time and takes parchment from his bag. How are they supposed to do this every day until the end of term? He thinks about starting his potions work, decides against it, and starts a list of ideas for the DA.

"You know," Marius says after nearly half-an-hour, "if this doesn't work out, Umbridge will be on my back too. I figure we can split our interests. For example, I run at 5:30 every morning. I devote rather a lot of time to my studies, but I don't have to do it here. We can meet your friends and I'll find myself a nice little corner."

Harry sneers. He doesn't want Marius around his friends. He doesn't want early morning runs. He wants things back to normal. "And in exchange?"

"What?" Marius looks up, confused.

"Dinners with your father? Meeting with your Master?"

"If it'll make you happy I suppose." Marius shakes his head. "I'm not your enemy. In fact we share a common enemy. I've lost just as much of my free time as you have. If we both continue to do what we enjoy and if I say, assist you in your independent study of teaching the Defense Against the Dark Arts…." Marius shrugs. "We both win."

Harry pales. Obviously, from Marius' uniform, he's a Hufflepuff, but he's also a Snape. A Snape shouldn't know about the DA! "How…"

"Cedric was my friend. I'm a Hufflepuff. It's not in my best interest to get involved with such a thing, but that doesn't mean I don't support it."

-:

It takes days for Harry to finally go to the indoor track to run with Marius. Even as they begin running he doesn't want to. He doesn't want to get up so early; he doesn't want to watch sweat accumulate on Marius' attractive features. He doesn't want to think Marius is attractive.

He falls behind Marius a few paces just to look at him. He never had the opportunity to leer at anyone on the Quidditch team. Someone would have noticed. He admires the curve of Marius bum, his tight joggers, and inhales off breath. As he coughs, Vernon's words echo in his ears. None of those disgusting AIDS riddled queers in my household, no sir.

"Harry?"

Harry snaps his head up and realizes he's stopped running. He runs his hand through his hair and looks away. "I'm fine."

"We can take a break." Marius pulls his shirt up and wipes his face with it.

Harry looks away again. He doesn't want to see Marius' abdomen; he doesn't want to think about touching it, feeling its firmness.

"If you don't want to run, we could…" Marius shrugs. "We could box…. We could wrestle."

"That's queer," Harry responds automatically. "Wrestling's for queers."

"The lady doth protest, I thinketh." Marius smiles and lightly grabs Harry's waist.

Harry lets him for a minute. It feels good, being touched by him, being close to him. Vernon's words echo in his ears again and he pushes Marius away. "Don't be such a faggot." A look of pain flashes across Marius face and Harry immediately regrets it.

Just as quickly as the pained look appeared, it leaves, and Marius flashes a smile. "Takes one to know one. Tell you what, one more lap—we'll race. Loser's the bum boy." Marius snorts cutely before turning and setting off at a slow jog.

A twinge alerts Harry to his own arousal and he shifts his shorts. As he runs to catch Marius, he can only think one thing.

Marius is trouble.

-:

Laughter erupts around him, but Harry is distracted. He's made a habit of always facing the Hufflepuff table so he can see Marius, even though he doesn't want to see. He feels Hermione moving next to him and wishes not for the first time that he could just be in love with her like Ron is. She's a nice girl, pretty, smart. So is Ginny. He could just pretend to love one of them, have a happy, normal life. But no, he can't stop looking at Marius.

"Harry!" Ron reaches across the table and smacks Harry's arm. Harry looks over. "So what's the freak got planned for you today?"

There's more laughter and Harry again regrets telling them about Marius.

"He's not a freak."

"He's a Snape!"

"Tell me about it," Harry snaps. "But he's not a freak. Hell, you'd probably like him." He pauses. "Hermione would probably like him."

Hermione hums. "You don't talk much about him."

Harry shrugs. "He's extremely intelligent. He likes to run. And he's not Umbridge's patsy like you're thinking."

Ron shovels more food into his mouth before speaking. "Nahlikly."

Harry rolls his eyes and lets his attention drift from their conversation. He watches Marius jump upright and fall back, like something hot has fallen on him. The Hufflepuffs laugh. From where Harry's sitting, he can see that Marius isn't laughing with them, can see the red rising in his cheeks.

Marius shakes his hands as he storms off. They continue laughing. Harry looks to the Professor's table, expecting to see Snape furious. But Snape's not there. Harry looks for Marius again and watches him shuffle out of the Great Hall.

Righteous anger rises in him and he's out of his seat without thinking about it. Are they bullying Marius? Do Hufflepuffs even bully?

"Hwary?" Ron mumbles.

"Harry?" Hermione calls after him.

Though he hears them, Harry keeps walking. There's no logical reason in his mind, but he has to know that Marius is okay. He exits the Great Hall and takes the path he assumes Marius took. When he reaches his first decision on the stairs he pauses. Would Marius have gone back to Hufflepuff? Or did he perhaps go home, to the dungeons seeking out Snape. He takes the stairs to the dungeons—after all, if he had a father, that's where he'd go.

He passes the potions classroom and Snape's office, thankfully not encountering any Slytherins. He wouldn't have a good excuse for being there if he did. He continues walking until he reaches another door, the door he's certain is Snape's quarters on the Marauders' Map. He stares at it, willing his Gryffindor courage to make an appearance. If he's wrong, he'll be inviting Snape's wrath.

He knocks twice and shoves his hands in his pockets. The door opens with such force Harry jumps back. He looks up into the black eyes of Snape and squares his shoulders. Nothing to be afraid of.

"Sir."

"Potter?" Snape pauses. "You are aware that these are my quarters? A space in which it is highly inappropriate to bother me."

"Yes sir. Is Marius here?"

Snape frowns, then raises a single eyebrow, and hollers over his shoulder. "Russ!"

"What?" Marius calls back.

After a minute, Marius arrives at the door, wearing sweatpants and a tight shirt. Harry looks at him only a minute before looking away. "I saw what happened in the Great Hall," Harry crosses his arms over his chest. "I just wanted to make sure you're okay." A noise comes from down the corridor and Harry straightens in fear.

Marius looks in the direction of the noise and then to Snape. "Dad can Potter come in?"

Snape's bewildered look almost makes Harry laugh.

"These are my quarters boy!" Snape snaps.

"Dad!"

Snape glares and steps aside, leaving the two of them alone. Another noise comes and Harry hurries inside.

The quarters are not at all what Harry expects. It's fairly tidy, but extremely cluttered. There are books and parchment scattered around, take-away containers on the table. He follows Marius to his room. When they enter, Harry can't help but smile. The blue-gray walls are covered in little pieces of art and band posters. None that Harry recognizes, unfortunately.

Marius sits on his bed and pats the space next to him, inviting Harry to sit. Harry tenses and tries not to shake. They're in Marius' bedroom. They're alone and in a bedroom.

"Harry?" Marius asks quietly. "We can sit together, can't we? Or we could sit on the floor."

Harry hold his arms tighter against his chest, still trying not to shake, and decides it's best not to sit.

"They dumped hot tea on me," Marius continues. "Cure the queer. Smear the queer. That shit happens all the time." He pauses. "If you are…."

Queer. Harry shakes a little. "Don't call me queer." He says it with a bit too much force.

Marius stands and comes closer. Harry shakes his head. He shouldn't have come.

"Don't," Harry says again.

But Marius isn't listening. He wraps his arms gently around Harry, one around the shoulders, one around the waist. Harry shudders but doesn't push him away. He smells the musk and sweetness of Marius' cologne and can't help but be aroused. There's something very right about being in Marius' arms. Something that wasn't right about Cho, something that can maybe never be right about any other person.

Slowly, Harry unfolds his arms and wraps them Marius.

"This feels good," Marius whispers. Harry nods. "Thank you for coming to check on me."

Harry nods again. "Can I ask…." He stops and takes in another deep breath, savoring Marius' scent. "Snape, he called you Russ."

Marius hums against Harry's head. "Dad gave me a nice proper name that the Pure-Bloods would appreciate. Doesn't mean he calls me it. Russ was what he wanted to be called as a boy—his old man beat it out of him."

"Russ," Harry whispers, "I like it."

The moment fades and shame washes over him. They've held each other too long. It's indecent. Harry pulls away and shoves his hands in his pockets. "Look, I…."

"Library? After last period?" Marius askes hopefully.

"Yeah," Harry quickly agrees. "Yeah. Bye."

He all but runs, suddenly needing to be as far away from Marius arms and scent as possible.

-:

A beeping wakes Harry at half two Saturday morning. He rolls out of bed and into his slippers, rubbing at the sleepies in his eyes. Damn Umbridge making it impossible for them to have meetings about DA and Voldemort-related subjects. He halts, still on the steps, to take in the sight before him—Ron and Hermione sitting in front of the fire together, not too close, but close enough. He almost doesn't want to interrupt them. He takes another step, accidently makes a noise, and Hermione jerks away from Ron.

They don't have anything to be ashamed of. He rather thinks they'd make a nice couple.

He sits next to Ron and is relieved that nothing stirs within him. How could he live with himself if his queer inclination destroyed their brotherhood?

"So?" Harry asks.

"Obviously we need to arrange for another DA meeting." Hermione's voice is strained, like she's coaching a petulant child. "We need to arrange for you to have some time away from your shadow."

"Fred and George'll help with that," Ron says with a yawn. "Puking pasty, maybe."

"No," Harry says automatically. "We're not doing anything to Marius." They look at him funny. "Snape's his dad—he doesn't much care to be called that."

"Marius," Hermione says slowly, "is Umbridge's plant. We cannot trust him."

"He's not!"

"Harry!"

"He's not!" Harry stands, too irritated to sit. "He'll cover for me." He wrings his hands together. There's no way to explain to them why Marius can be trusted. No way to explain that the little moments they've shared have created a mutually destructive bond.

Ron grunts and stretches his arms along the sette. "He's the wrong sort, you know."

"Wrong sort?" Harry repeats angrily.

"Fred and George said he's a queer."

Hermione makes a face. "Homosexuals exist, Ronald. They're born that way, the same way we're born with magic."

"Doubt it," Ron grunts again. "Besides, wizards aren't homosexuals."

"Yeah, well this one is," Harry says without thinking. They stare at him and he realizes his mistake. Nobody knew for sure, about Marius, until now, did they? "I'm just saying it doesn't mean anything."

Ron raises an eyebrow. "Would to me if I was spending so much time with him."

Harry and Ron stare at each other a minute, having a silent conversation but also not. Harry understands it though. If he's homosexual, Ron is uncomfortable. If he's homosexual, perhaps they're no longer friends.

"Boys!"

Ron turns back toward Hermione.

"We need to have a meeting, Harry. Figure out what you're doing about Marius."

Harry stares into the fire, mostly angry, a bit calm. At least now he knows. At least now, he knows that if he's really a homosexual and decides to act on it, that they'll think him a freak. Just like the Dursley's think him a freak. He can't have Marius' arms around him again. He might not even be able to be alone with Marius again.

"Have you heard from Snuffles lately?" Hemione asks quietly.

"No." Harry wraps his arms around his torso. "I haven't had anything to say."

"So he doesn't know about Umbridge's punishment? Making you spend time with Snape—Marius?"

"No."

They fall into an awkward silence. Harry thinks about Cho. Kissing her wasn't so bad. He can learn to be aroused by it. His thoughts drift to Marius—the way their bodies felt against each other, the way he smelled.

"You're different," Hermione says boldly.

"Am not."

"You are." She stands and moves closer to him. "You've been different since Vol…" she steadies herself, "since Voldemort came back. And you've changed again, just now it seems."

He looks at her in his periphery and shakes his head subtly, afraid she's picked up on what's different about him. She frowns and nods in return. She knows. He swallows down vomit and faces forward.

"Schedule the DA meeting. I'll make it work."

-:

When they run side-by-side that morning, Harry knows Marius is slowing down for him. He hadn't managed to fall back asleep after meeting with Ron and Hermione, hadn't been able to rid himself of the instant guilt. Marius stops after a few laps and begins stretching.

"Your head's not in it Potter."

"Thinking about…" Harry pauses, "girls."

"Doubt that."

"I am." Harry argues as Marius walks toward him. "I'm thinking about asking…." He creases his eyebrows trying to come up with a girl to ask out. It can't be Cho again. That didn't go well.

But a name never crosses his tongue. Before he knows it, Marius is right in front of him. Too close to him. Something in his stomach flutters. He's still not even sure he likes Marius, just that he's drawn to him. As if he has a choice.

"I don't want this," Harry whispers.

"There's no point in fear." Marius bites his bottom lip for a moment before shoving Harry.

The shove is not hard enough to knock him, or even rock him, but it triggers something. Harry shoves back, a little harder. They're still for a moment and then in a flash they are shoving each other harder, hitting, pushing. It feels good, releasing energy.

Harry takes a step back and feels the ground give out beneath him. Instantly he's falling. He reaches out and grabs Marius to stabilize himself, but gravity has already worked its magic. It seems like they fall slowly, though Harry hits his head in only a moment.

"Ahh!" he screams in surprise.

Marius lands on him, his weight knocking the air from Harry's lungs. It's more comfortable than it should be. Harry doesn't immediately react to his own arousal. He's too focused on the sound of Marius' breath against his ear, overwhelmed by the scent of him.

"Russ," Harry eventually pleads. He wants to say hold me closer. He wants to enjoy the warmth. "Get off." He says instead. "We can't just lay around like a couple of queers."

Marius pulls his head back so that they are eye-to-eye and smiles softly. "As it pleases you."

He starts to move and Harry reaches for him instinctually. Marius stops moving and gazes into Harry's eyes. Harry cannot help but look back. Harry opens his mouth to speak.

"You could date Megan Jones," Marius says quickly. "She's in your year. She's lesbian, I think."

Harry nods. He wants to know the rest of the statement. He can date Megan Jones and what? They continue doing this? Being in each other's arms? Acting indecently?

Marius sits back and waits for Harry to sit as well. "I hope it's not too forward to say I might, in the future, take an interest in kissing you." He places his hand half-way in between his own legs and Harry's. "Right this moment my intentions are much more innocent."

Harry inches his hand toward Marius' and stops just short. It feels like he's agreeing to something. He looks at Marius again and reaches out just his index finger. He rubs it gently over Marius' and smiles.

-:

Harry and Marius walk down the corridor talking quietly and Harry can only hope his plan will work. It'll definitely surprise Ron and Hermione when they walk into the DA meeting together, but hopefully the Hufflepuffs will make it seem normal.

He turns his head over his shoulder, unsure what he wants to say to Marius, and stops walking. Marius is gone. He turns around and jogs back down the corridor to where there is an intersection. Why would Marius have wandered off? Especially without telling him. As he peers down the intersecting corridor his eyes grow large and he jumps away.

Snape! Snape pulled Marius aside, which can only mean trouble. Harry walks in the direction opposite the Room of Requirement with his head down.

"Potter!" Snape calls after him.

Harry's shoulders hunch up and he winces. "Yes, sir?" he calls without moving.

"Come here."

Harry tries to make his face nicer but is stuck in a scowl. It's appalling, that he's even concerned with being decent to Snape. He tries not to look at Marius. Looking at Marius might make him blush. He stops before Snape and looks at the floor for a minute before looking up.

Snape looks between them. "I don't know what you're up to," Snape's gaze narrows in on Harry.

Marius takes half a step forward before Harry can come up with something clever to say. "We're not up to anything!"

Harry fights against the blush rising in his cheeks. There aren't too many people willing to defend him against Snape. It's almost… no, he can't think that!

"We're not up to anything!" Snape mocks. "Just by being here you are putting yourself in Umbridge's line of fire. I told you to mind yourself."

Marius steps back so that he is in line with Harry. "Dad," he whispers.

"I told you to mind yourself," Snape says again, slower.

Harry looks back down the corridor—he can still make the DA meeting.

"You've already allowed him to invade my private space," Snape continues, his voice getting gruffer with every word. "If you wanted a shag you should have gone all in on the indecency."

Harry looks at Marius, the words turning in his head. "Hey!" he yells, finally connecting the dots. He doesn't want to shag Marius, though. He doesn't even want to think about Marius' abs, or lips, or bum.

"So you're not going to let us go to the Room of Requirement?" Marius asks, his shoulders squared.

Snape's hand juts out so fast Harry thinks they're being attacked. Snape grabs Marius' hair and forces him away from Harry. Harry ducks his head again and turns in the opposite direction, hoping Marius will forgive him. He only makes it a step before Snape grabs the back of his robes.

"Come along Potter." Snape pushes Harry in front of him. "Walk boy, and hope I don't give you detention."