A/N: Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Guarder Snake and apologies for taking an extra week, I hope a 15k word update makes up for it!

Thank you all so much for the continuous support for this story, it means the world to me!

For those of you interested in my other works, I've got a wealth of oneshots available as well as two other fics in progress! Tomorrow's release will be about a 4k~ update for The Saviour's Pariah, followed by a Power of Love update on Sunday, and a Harry/Susan short will be released Monday!

A big thanks to my Beta's and Discord Staff - Alec, Alpple, CalamityXx, Champ, DorianGray, O'Neill, Seventh Son, SinisterFox and Xevier!

Feel free to join my Discord for updates and information, link on my profile. Without any more rambling from me, I hope you enjoy the story!

(Sorry if you don't like the chapter!)


October 31, 1992

Saturday Evening

"Hi, Cora!" Harry chirped, making his way over to the Slytherin girl loitering near the entrance of the Great Hall with her friends beside her.

"Hello Harry, you're later than I'd have expected." Cora's tone and words were neutral, when he'd asked her about it before, she'd said it had nothing to do with him and more to do with the public image that she wished to present.

That explanation didn't stop him from feeling put out by the lack of affection, be it verbal or physical; he'd been properly spoiled over the summer!

"Sorry!" Harry looked over his shoulder in the direction from whence he came, "Hermione and Ron really wanted me to go with them to Sir Nicholas' deathday party… is it truly as gloomy as you'd made it out to be?"

Alisa snorted, "You've not gotten around to reading any fantasy books have you?"

Harry almost instantly replied with a firm 'no' followed by repeating the words Cora had told him about such books being shite in comparison to the ones Muggle's could write — it was ironic considering the former group got to experience so many magical things, but maybe that was what dulled their creative ability. Almost was the keyword, however, as Cora made a show of yawning, catching his eyes in the process and once they were looking at one another, she winked.

"No!" Harry answered Alisa, "I spent most of the time studying with Cora or Aunt Ashtyn!"

It wasn't a complete fib considering he'd spent a large portion doing just that, but Cora had made it abundantly clear that she didn't want it known she had a collection of muggle books.

"You're missing out," Alisa shrugged in response, moving closer to Aster and resting her head on the boy's shoulders. Harry only barely made out the way Aster faked scratching his neck when the contact initiated to fist bump his friend, Reinhard.

Cora let the silence linger for a few seconds more, and seeing that nobody else had anything else to say, she clasped her hands together at chest level.

"Come," she said, addressing the group as she pushed off the wall, "It won't be too much longer before the feast starts and I'd very much like to have something in my stomach before the horde of imbeciles eat clean the table."

Harry laughed alongside Aster, Clara and Reinhard while Alisa shook her head — they all knew Cora was speaking about boys like Crabbe or Goyle, ones that should know far better but behaved nothing remotely close to as they should. That extended further than simple etiquette too.

During the short walk over to their spot — that being at the closest end of the long table, furthest from the Professors — Cora asked Harry a simple question.

"Enjoy the time with your friends?"

He did, but recently, he had was more accurate a thing to say, at least with some of the students closer to his age.

Upon the first night of his return, everyone he'd held even a semblance of a conversation with in the past had been ecstatic to see him! Harry almost felt like a film star with the hugs, handshakes and other affection he'd gotten; the verbal greetings and conversations had been just as wicked as the physical affirmations of friendship too.

That had continued for more than a week before a small portion of Gryffindor housemates had made a fuss over him spending time with Cora and her friends once they'd seen him studying in the library with her (it didn't make sense why they'd made a big deal of it considering he'd spent time studying with Hermione too!) — on the same day he'd learned about Parseltongue no less! Obviously, Cora had access to the restricted section and using that, she'd checked out a number of books that covered the topic as well as ones that could offer insight into it.

Unfortunately, because of the topic covered and the sensitivity of it, he had to lie to his friends that he was simply getting help with his adoptive family member for assignments due by the next week. He didn't go into much detail about how close he was to Cora, nor anything else that involved her; the fear of bungling it all up too heavy on his mind at the time.

After that incident, a number of his housemates had made the offer to tutor him in hopes of removing the Slytherin girl's influence. Harry denied them all gracefully, thanking them for the offer with a smile on his face despite the sour expressions they wore. One of his closest friends, Ron, had made a few disparaging remarks the day after.

Harry didn't quite recall all of what had been said, only that once Ron had seen Harry's expression, he'd stopped and apologised; at least Ron had manners enough to know when he'd crossed a line.

Still, since that happened, there were half a dozen or so Gryffindors who were lukewarm at best while near him.

"You're taking an awfully long time to say 'yes Cora' or 'no Cora'. Did something happen beyond that in which you'd already told me?" Cora's asking him that roused him from his thinking and in response, he shook his head.

"I've enjoyed my time with all of them!"

Cora looked past Harry and in the direction of his table — he followed her gaze and took notice of the three most outspoken critics of hers with not-so-happy expressions on their faces.

"Mhm," Cora said as she placed a hand on his back, directing him towards a seat on the bench that would have him directly between her and Clara, "Clara would be incredibly displeased if I didn't seat you beside her, she's already claimed you as her younger brother, something I recall you allowing despite my warnings."

Harry laughed in response, remembering how Cora had done just that, saying that 'Clara can be intense' or 'Carrow can be too enthusiastic'. He didn't spend even one-second worrying, for he knew Clara wouldn't do anything that was remotely dangerous while with him.

"Laugh it up, Potter, you'll see what I mean come Yule," Despite her words, Harry could make out the slightest of smirks when he looked up at the taller witch.

A conspiratorial whisper in his right ear — the direction he wasn't looking remotely towards due to Cora being on his left — made him jump in his seat.

"Avery's right Potter."

Aster and Reinhard chuckled for a few seconds, showing the constraint that all of Cora's group (excluding Clara) used when in public.

Harry whipped around and glared at the older girl who looked all too pleased with herself.

"Shouldn't have been paying all your attention to Cora now, should you?" was the response his glaring got him.

Cora sighed from his other side, but he wasn't foolish enough to turn to face her, and luckily he didn't have to.

"Clara, don't make me have Alisa take your seat as well as your tutoring time with Harry."

"You wouldn't," Clara gasped out from her seat, eyes darting from Cora, to Harry, to Alisa and back again.

Cora didn't respond verbally and rolled her eyes, the group going silent as Professor Dumbledore gave a small speech before having the food pop up; there was just as much as the last Halloween feast and everything looked as delicious as always.

Times like this made Harry think of how great the food at Hogwarts was, especially after he'd arrived from the Dursleys, and that love still continued after leaving the Avery family's home. While they fed him amazing tasting and nutritious meals, he couldn't pig out like Dudley would at the local buffet. Normally sitting with Cora's group, he still wouldn't, but feasts were when she'd look the other way; it wasn't like he'd get himself fat from eating horribly a week out of a whole year at Hogwarts!

"...-rents gone you'd think he'd be less energetic in his eating."

Harry didn't fully hear the remark that'd been made, but considering how all his older friend's heads turned towards the source, he didn't have to.

"Care to repeat that comment, Flint?" Cora's voice, void of any friendliness or any otherwise positive emotion called out to the boy who'd said it — the Slytherin Quidditch Captain if Harry wasn't mistaken… though there could be more than one boy with that name in Hogwarts.

"Reckon I could, but why bother with you lot?" Flint laughed, his friends joining him in doing so while Cora did nothing but smile back towards him.

"I agree, why bother?" Cora turned her attention towards Reinhard, the larger boy sitting straighter in his seat when he noticed her looking at him, "Tell me, Reinhard, does your family still have a share of that rundown shop in Knockturn Alley? You know the one I mean, poorly kept and barely makes a Galleon profit a day."

Reinhard nodded, "We do, yes."

"Would you be interested in selling it upon your rising to Lordship of the family? I'll pay double whatever the Ministry department claims the worth of it is," Harry furrowed his brows at Cora's words. Why would she pay double for something that she just ridiculed?

"I reckon we could come to an agreement, why bother during mealtime though?" Reinhard had a mean look on his face when he'd said that, and it was at that moment that Harry finally began to understand what was happening.

In hopes of confirming his train of thought, Harry looked in the direction of Flint and noticed the boys sneer laced with another emotion he couldn't quite place. At least not until Cora opened her mouth to speak again, at which point Flint hastily made for the exit, barely having touched any of his plate.

Harry found it funny the boys who'd been laughing were still doing so, not having followed out their leader.

"That's how you handle an imbecile like Flint, Harry," Cora said so loudly, drawing a few looks from those near her.

"Imbecile's too kind a word, I reckon." Clara joined in, elbowing Harry lightly as she laughed at her usage of the word.

Nobody joined her in doing so; Aster went so far as to do the opposite, claiming that she'd beaten the joke to death barely after its conception.

Clara sneering at Aster was the last comedic or otherwise noteworthy event that happened during the feast.

Well, other than Cora's checking in on him in regards to his parents. He made sure to tell the older girl who had the vaguest of worried expressions on her face that it didn't get to him. Explaining that, while yes, he missed his parents very much, he had his new family that she'd been the key point in providing.

Cora rubbed his hair affectionately before promptly looking away.

He swore he could make out her eyes being slightly watery as she did so.


"It's simply unfathomable how you could stuff yourself full of that much food, Aster," Alisa said, after watching her boyfriend put yet another 'one last cookie' in his mouth.

"Oh heave off, it's not like they have most of this stuff year-round." Reinhard came to his mate's defence, as Clara went to Alisa's.

"Try saying that when she's dating a second Goyle."

Aster was about to fire back again, but Cora raised a hand, effectively putting a stop to it at the same time she was gathering the attention of her friends.

"We've all had our fill, Aster excluded, let's take a walk with Harry before we have to send him off for curfew."

Harry protested, raising his head slightly higher in his seat despite the bits of exhaustion nipping at him, "Can't we stay longer? I don't get to sit with you for meals a lot."

"You join us nearly weekly, I dare say any more than that and your housemates that spend their time glaring at us would use it to act instead," Cora said that while indicating with a nod of her head in the direction of the Gryffindor table, a smirk on her face as she did so.

Harry didn't look towards where she'd indicated, knowing she was probably right that those few would likely be more outspoken than they already were if he did as she said.

"Fine," he responded in the usual drawn-out way a younger person would, "Could we go for a long walk though? Maybe explore a bit of the castle instead of straight to Gryffindor Tower?

Cora looked at her friends for any sign of argument, seeing none, she looked back to Harry and gave a singular nod. Upon her doing so, the others at the table stood up from their seats — Aster hesitantly and with a fleeting glance at the plate he was leaving behind — and began walking towards the door when Harry followed their lead. Nobody said anything during their departure, not a Slytherin who'd been at the table or anybody from Harry's house; they left in silence.

Once they'd made it a couple of halls away, however, Clara couldn't help but stretch loudly during their walking and ask Harry a question.

"You ready for my tutoring session, Harry? I've prepared a whole list of what we'll be covering along with a reward system should you do well; I promise you'll enjoy my way of teaching the most."

Harry could make out Cora glancing suspiciously at her friend, but seeing that she wasn't making to speak, he did.

"Reward system? What are you teaching me too? Cora usually covers whatever subject I need help in the most," that was true too, whatever he struggled with, got lost in, or for whatever reason couldn't understand, Cora was always ready to help.

"I'll be helping you with Ancient Runes and the Wards that can be made from them. Cora probably hasn't told you, but I'm the best in our year at the subject," Clara raised her nose as she said that, then a devious look settled on her face as she wrapped an arm around his shoulder, "As for the rewards you seem curious about? I can't spoil them for you, otherwise, you'll lose the drive to earn them."

"Clara, yo-" Cora started to speak, but Harry tuned her out the moment that same insidious voice reached his ears — its message the same as he'd heard earlier on in the year.

Without thinking, Harry tore off towards the nearby staircase, his friends calling out to him as he did so. He wasn't thinking about their words, if they'd chosen to follow him, or anything else; his attention was solely on the voice that seemed to echo throughout the entirety of the Castle.

Faster than he'd have thought, Harry found himself on the second floor — the voice was louder now, he was close he knew it.

He didn't reach it; a hand had firmly grabbed a hold of his shoulder, shaking him from the tunnel vision he'd been in. Looking up at the owner of said hand while trying to stay listening to the voice was a hard task, one made harder when he noticed the displeasure and tenseness that were expressed by Cora.

She didn't chastise or discipline him, especially not with her friends behind her looking curious, what she did do was whisper low enough that only he'd hear it.

"Do you hear it again?"

Harry nodded once, and in response, Cora inhaled deeply while nodding. No doubt she was thinking about a multitude of things when he'd said that; first and foremost was likely what they'd do in response.

"Cora?" Reinhard asked, the boy being closest to her and Harry both.

"Wands out, Reinhard up here with me, take Harry's other side," Cora looked back at the other three, directing Alisa towards the back of the group while the other two were only a few feet behind Harry.

All in position, Cora nudged Harry, mouthing 'lead on'.

He did just that, going for his wand as they walked towards the source in imitation of the older students, not that it'd do him any good in comparison.

It didn't take too long until they made it to the source, and once they had, Harry almost wished he'd not followed the sound at all.

Initially, thin lines of spiders were making mass exoduses from their homes in dank classrooms, high corners in the ancient sealings or nooks unseen; that was followed by the splashing sound of water leaking from an unused girls lavatory, one that was said to be haunted by 'Moaning Myrtle'.

Neither of those two points were remotely as unsettling when compared to the cat hanging from the wall and the bloodied letters written near it.

'The Chamber of Secrets has been opened, enemies of the heir… beware'

"What do you suppo-" Reinhard was cut off in his wording as Alisa whispered something from the back of the group, that being quickly relayed via Aster over to the three at the furthest point of the group.

Footsteps were coming, a great deal of them too.

Clara said the word 'Disillusion' to her friends, he hadn't a clue what it meant but he couldn't ponder it before being pulled flush against her. It wasn't until he'd glanced towards the others after the sudden pulling motion to his friend's side and seeing they were gone that it dawned on him.

'Disillusion' as in Disillusionment... he understood! They were practically invisible!

Wicked.

Harry was then hastily pulled into a small alcove a dozen or so feet from the water, their tracks being banished away by his older friends. Their timing couldn't have been more perfect, for only a few seconds had passed before the first group of students arrived, followed closely behind by many more — Professors too, once a suitable commotion had been made.

Before those Professors had shown up, Cora and her friends had moved along with him towards the back of the group, cancelling the disillusionment charm (that he'd later beg them to teach him) as they 'arrived' to the scene.

Cora's look towards him, as well as the ones her friends sent, left no question whether this would be a normal year or something far more… exciting.


November 19, 1992

Wednesday Evening

Stupid, so stupid.

Why had he thought sneaking into the restricted section would've been a good idea? He'd heard the older students speak about it from time to time, especially in regards to the ancient, often haunting books within that contained material rather dark for a school to contain. Harry learned that first hand when opening up a book that could've potentially had information on Parseltongue only to see that it was anything but; the spells were for emulating the effects of rotting flesh that a venomous bite would have!

That hadn't stopped him from journeying further into the vast section of books not suited to all. For while he very much appreciated all the time Cora and later, her friends, spent helping him — her friends after having to be told about his rather… unique and problematic ability due to their following of him — they still hadn't made enough progress to figure out the creature within the walls.

All they had to go off of was that spiders were fleeing the general direction, those with Parsletongue could hear it, and the cat had been petrified — the latter most piece of information having been found out due to Dumbledore's having said so in front of the mass of students.

Cora had promised him as time went on that they'd find out more and more about his gift, and they already had to some degree. They knew it was seldomly had, that there were charms placed on text Salazar Slytherin had written which only allowed those with said gift to read from it and that all members of the serpentine family were able to understand, as well as communicate with any person that was a 'Parselmouth'.

Harry had come clean most recently about an incident at a zoo with hi- the Dursleys.

All the while he was thinking about time with his friends and the information they'd come across, he'd been browsing book by book, from shelf to shelf, hoping that he'd luck out at least once in regards to finding something that could explain the mysterious being. And finally, after more than an hour of being hidden under his invisibility cloak while in a section most definitely off-limits to him, he found a pair of books.

One had a notification on it that read 'PMR… no translation available… 1828'. He didn't know what PMR meant, nor the translation bit, but he took that book out as well as the one beside it.

Both had what he believed to be promising text in regards to Parseltongue and the creatures you could command with it; the one with 'PMR' on it even promised a level of control over the serpentine creature's. Harry knew that one would come in handy if he ever found himself in a similar scenario to the Zoo.

Putting them both in his satchel, Harry bolted from the restricted section, avoiding all the Prefects and Professors in the process; his mixture of silence and the incredible invisibility provided being far too much for either group to find him.

All that stood a chance of giving him away was the Fat Lady guarding the Gryffindor Tower entrance, but even then, his good fortune continued. His arrival had been almost thirty seconds before that of two Prefects in his house, meaning he needn't risk being caught out due to them having to enter too.

It was a good thing they'd arrived when they had to, as Harry was seconds away from doffing the cloak and trying the password.

Very quietly and following close behind, Harry entered into the Common Room, making his way straight up to the boys' dorms with his cloak still on.


In the morning that followed his having stolen two books from the restricted section, Harry sought Cora out to tell her the two books he'd only briefly skimmed over.

One had contained more generalised information in regards to Parseltongue, information that had already been known to the two. Cora had taken the book from his possession after briefly reading through it to ensure it was just that; her doing so would remove any trouble he'd get from his having of it.

His second prize, the one he'd thought wouldn't amount to much due to the 'PMR' tag, turned out to be far more precious than he'd have thought.

Cora had opened it for examination with the same mindset as the other, and in one fluid motion, snapped her head to his saying she couldn't make out a single word. Her meaning wasn't lost on him, not even for a split-second. Her words meant the book was one meant for only the eyes of a Parselmouth; he was alone with it unless he read the information aloud to Cora — which, obviously she'd told him he'd do just that so she could help him, especially with the coming Yule break.

That was when they'd be able to deep dive into the contents of such an old text.

Following his brief meeting with Cora so early in the morning, Harry had quite literally run into Stuart and his girlfriend, Nina, whilst turning a corner on the way to class.

"Sorry!" Harry said with wide eyes, more so worried with the dropping of his satchel due to its contents rather than any offence against his two older, larger friends.

"Not a problem Harry! We probably shouldn't have been hugging this wall as we'd been doing," Stuart responded with a chuckle, kneeling down to help grab a few of the books that'd flown out of Harry's satchel upon contact.

Nina stayed standing but moved directly above Harry, her hands immediately fussing over his messy hair. The feeling was incredibly pleasant when coinciding with her cooing of how much of a 'cutie' he was. Such positive feelings were weird too, he'd initially not been too fond of her nickname for him or the touches from the older girl.

"All set, mate!" Stuart told Harry, shaking him from the way he'd been leaning into Nina's touch.

"Thank you! Sorry, Stuart!" Harry responded with a smile as he stuck out his hand for the older boy to shake.

With a laugh, Stuart did just that and when it came time for Nina to get hers, she pulled him into a snug hug instead.

Harry enjoyed the embrace for the brief time it lasted and then busied himself with running off to class when she'd released him.

Today had been a day filled with the hope of finding out the unknown, and more importantly to Harry's juvenile mind, a day filled with physical affection that he hadn't stopped craving since the overloading of it at the Avery Home.


December 17, 1992

Thursday

"What're you playing at?" A Hufflepuff boy, Justin if he remembered correctly, asked Harry sharply and with a distrusting look about his face — one which was echoed by almost every other person in the room bar his older friends from Gryffindor and Slytherin both.

Harry made to respond, to say anything after having done whatever it was that he had, but no words could come out; his mouth opened and closed with minimal noise having been produced. In response to his lack of answers, the crowd grew hostile, verbally berating him as the two Professors tried lukewarm at best to end it.

Luckily for Harry, older students tended to be far more capable than the Professors that taught them.

Cora's and Stuart's groups had moved into action when noticing the failings of the Hogwarts Staff, both climbing atop the small duelling stage to take up positions on either side. Only a slight degree of awkwardness was seen at the coming together of two very different bodies of students, their bond with Harry outweighing any petty grudges they might've had with each other.

"Stay between us, Harry," Stuart told him as he and two Gryffindor girls went behind him.

"Do as he says, Harry — Stuart can you hold the door so we can get him away from here?" Cora spoke quickly, her group having taken up either side of him with her at the head, clearing any potential problem students.

"We can do that, but where are you taking him?" Stuart responded to Cora, his tone cautious.

"To the Headmaster, we both know he'll be sent there regardless of his actions. Don't worry, we'll make sure he's escorted back," Cora answered right as they made it to the exit, her group continuing with Harry now in a semi-circle as the Gryffindors held back to stop anybody crazy enough to try and follow after him.

Harry suspected the overly energetic Creevey boy would've had he not been petrified back in November… he'd been sad upon hearing the news.

"Harry," Cora said, breaking his thinking as they moved him briskly through the halls of Hogwarts.

"Cora?" he responded innocently.

"You didn't mean to do it, did you?" Her tone was neutral and he couldn't see her face to make out its expression.

"Mean what?" He still didn't know what he'd done to earn the rebuking from Justin or the crowd. He'd called so many of them friends, and not so long ago, they would call him the same.

Aster sounded thrilled, "Mate! You finally spoke Parseltongue! Here I was thinking that you were going barmy like my Uncle and then… Merlin! You spoke Parseltongue! Bloody brilliant!"

Alisa promptly smacked the boy walking behind her, "You're an imbecile if you think that was remotely close to 'Bloody Brilliant' — there couldn't have been worse timing for the entire student body to find out."

Clara chimed in, "Cora, you don't mean to allo-"

"Enough," Cora snapped, looking over her shoulder at each and every student aside from Harry, "No, Clara, I don't intend on letting Dumbledore speak with Harry alone; nor do I plan on letting him go anywhere without one of us or those three Gryffindor's that didn't turn on him. It won't look good for him — us protecting him that is, but those three aren't nearly enough."

Harry didn't know what to say, so he stayed silent, marching along in the seemingly endless halls with his Slytherin protection until they were standing feet from the entrance to Professor Dumbledore's office.

"Good evening Harry," his attention, as well as all the Slytherin's snapped to the corridor they'd just come from; in it walking towards them calmly and with a soft expression was the Headmaster, "Good evening to you all," Dumbledore amended his words as he took in the Slytherin group, his eyes dancing from one to the other, "I thank you for escorting young Harry though I've no fear of any reprisals to his person on an assumed set of grievances."

Cora stepped forward from the group, "Headmaster, I'd like to be present for whatever discussion you'll have with Harry."

"Alas, that won't be needed, Miss Avery," Dumbledore strolled closer, popping a singular piece of candy from his robes into his mouth as he hummed some song that Harry hadn't heard before.

"Professor, I'm afraid I must insi-"

Professor Dumbledore raised a hand, a serene look on his face as he focused solely on Harry.

"There'll be no discussion, between Mister Potter and myself, for nothing has warranted such an action; and thus, your insistence is not needed, Miss Avery."

"Sir?" Harry asked, not following what the Professor meant.

Dumbledore smiled at Harry as he walked ever closer, "Speaking Parseltongue in Hogwarts wasn't an offence last I've checked, and I've done so regularly for decades," he then winked at Harry as he passed the boy by, "Unless my mind in its old age has forgotten a code, I've not a reason to keep you for any discussion unless you'd like one."

"No, thank you, sir," Harry answered hastily, moving to stand half behind Cora; the girl bringing an arm around his shoulders as he did so.

For all of a second, Harry could've sworn he'd seen a slight downtick of the Headmaster's lips. Nothing came of it, and the ancient-looking man resumed his humming after bidding them all a jolly farewell; entering his office while starting to speak to himself.

"Does anybody else think that went wholly different than expected?" Aster asked, addressing the elephant in the hall.

Alisa sighed and smacked him, the group making their way away from the area they'd thought would've kept them for hours upon hours.

Cora, in the process of returning him to Gryffindor Tower, and more importantly speaking with his three friends that'd protected him, told him that all he needed to do was get through tomorrow and then she'd take him with her for Yule. Her orders were simple, telling him to stick with any of her friends, one of his three Gryffindors or herself; laying low for one day should be easy.

What his young mind had focused on more than the escorting or laying low, was Christmas, or rather, Yule celebration.

He couldn't wait!

Aunt Ashtyn would see him again, so would Cora's father — most of all he'd be back in a place that held nothing but positive memories!

On the very next evening and during the time in which he'd been packing to leave with Cora on Saturday morning, the announcement came that a student had been found petrified along with a Hogwarts ghost.

The student?

Justin Finch-Fletchley.


December 25, 1992

Friday

Harry woke up to a sudden noise in his room, joined immediately by the soft stroking of his hair.

His prior instincts from the Dursleys nearly had him recoil until he'd realised that he was nowhere near the home where this soft motion would soon be followed by a yank of his hair out of the cupboard and into the tight hallway. Realising this as he had still didn't stop the racing of his heart even if it'd stopped the recoiling; so he looked up to calm himself and having expected Cora, he was surprised to see his Aunt instead.

She noticed his eyes and smiled softly down at him from her seat at the edge of his bed, her stroking of his hair continuing as she greeted him in a whisper pleasant to the ears.

"Good morning, Harry, and Happy Christmas."

Returning the smile from his still laying down position under the softest sheets he'd ever felt, Harry replied.

"Happy Christmas Aunt Ashtyn!" he brought his hands up and stretched, his aunt placing his glasses on his face as he did so, "Thank you!" he squeaked out midstretch.

She laughed and fussed over his hair for another few moments, Harry not at all rushing her due to the warm feelings such actions caused.

"Mother," Cora's voice called from the doorway, the girl still in pyjamas — something unusual for her — and with a bowl of something in her hands, "You were supposed to wake him and bring him down for breakfast."

Harry moved his eyes back from Cora to his Aunt, the older woman rolling her eyes at such an angle that only he could see it.

"Sorry dear, I couldn't resist creating a few memories before Harry here outgrows his happiness with such attention. It'll happen before too long and I'll not be left reminiscing a singular memory."

Cora let out a huff and walked closer, her eyes going from her Mother to Harry and continuously swapping.

"If that were truly the case you'd not have done the same thing to me at my current age," she quipped before stopping a dozen or so paces from Harry's bed, "Happy Christmas Harry,"

Aunt Ashtyn moved off from her position at the edge of his bed and moved until she stood by Cora, looking at her daughter with a smirk on her face.

"For somebody so quick to chastise me, you've not made a second attempt to have him come down for the meal you so meticulously planned," Cora turned and glared at her mother, the woman belatedly raising a hand to cover her mouth with a shocked gasp following, "Oh no… I've spoiled it! I'll accept my banishment from Harry's room without incident, daughter," his Aunt then casually strode to the doorway in as fluid a motion as ever, turning to wink at him once before leaving.

With her gone, Harry turned to Cora, the girl still glaring at the doorway where her mother had exited.

"Cora, what did you plan?" he asked with an eager edge to his voice, his legs sliding out from under the sheets as he stretched for the second time.

Sighing and looking over at him, Cora took up the seat her mother had previously been in. She sat at the edge of his bed, one hand still holding her bowl while the other occupied itself with adjusting Harry's shirt until it was righted on his body.

"I'd planned a course of meals at breakfast time consisting of your ten favourite foods — Mother had agreed that you'd not be limited today in your eating to celebrate this being your first Christmas with us, Father had even thought of putting away our usual Yule decorations altogether in case you found them offensive; don't worry, I told him everything Yule can continue to be kept out and that you'd not mind them," Cora had correctly assumed his concern; the last thing he'd want to do was be the source of a problem for a family that'd done so much for him already, "I was planning on surprising you with a Yule Altar of your own, I thought better of it, evidently — you should go out picking and making your own if you're inclined to do so."

Harry nodded with her, he would do exactly that if she went with him. Yule was something he'd never witnessed back in Muggle society, so seeing the prevalence of it in the magical community was still somewhat shocking; interesting too!

His stomach chose that second to rumble, Harry looking away shyly at his body's action.

Cora let out a short laugh and stood up, extending one hand towards him as she did so.

"Come on, let's go get you something to eat and then we'll open our gifts."

Harry grabbed her hand without a second thought, the thoughts of his favourite foods and all the gifts almost overloading his mind.

He couldn't wait for Cora's reaction when she opened his gift to her! He still couldn't thank Aunt Ashtyn enough for going with him to Diagon Alley, it took multiple jewellers, but he'd picked out something (with assistance) he was sure his favourite person in the world would like!


Cora hadn't been exaggerating when she'd claimed all of his favourites were on the table and ready for eating; from hotcakes to hash, he'd gotten to enjoy whatever he wanted with no limits! Well, almost no limits… his body had certainly disliked him after that third plate of food.

Thankfully, Aunt Ashtyn seemed more amused than anything with his overindulgence and handed him a potion for ensuring his stomach would settle so long as he wouldn't make that same mistake for the evening's dinner — hearing those words, his main focus had been on dinner with the hopes of more favourites being served.

Five minutes later and with the potion doing much in that small period to undo the queasiness, he followed Cora and her parents to the parlour room where they'd told him all gifts were waiting under or nearby their Yule tree; that was also the first time he'd seen their tree, being that he rarely spent time in the far too numerous rooms of the manor. It was similar to a Christmas tree, the differences being in decoration.

Animated portraits of long-passed loved ones were spread out from various branches of the incredibly large potted Yule tree, along with various natural-looking ornaments representing stars, the sun and the moon — a few candles were burning dangerously close to other branches too, but when he'd asked about it, they only assured him that no fire would take place.

Magic, he supposed.

"Cora, Harry, please do try and open your gifts in sync with one another, I'd hate missing your reactions upon opening certain gifts," Aunt Ashtyn said, breaking him from his looking at the Yule tree and the dozens upon dozens of perfectly wrapped gifts near it.

"Yes, Mother," Cora responded.

"Yes, Aunt Ashtyn!" Harry practically yelled, his excitement mounting as the sheer scale of gifts finally began to register in his mind.

Pleased with the replies, the older woman seated herself at a pair of chairs with the camera conveniently nearby — it was similar to Creevey's, only with the quality seeming higher if Harry were to guess by the look of it.

"Oh, I nearly forgot," Aunt Ashtyn's voice sounded a second time, distracting the two kids from their converging towards the presents, "Don't skip anything, go exactly in the order in which they were placed."

Cora and Harry nodded at her words, doing just as she'd asked as they picked up the two presents nearest the entrance; opening them, it was revealed they'd been given matching formal attire.

When asking why they were given such a thing from childlike curiosity, Harry was told it was for an upcoming Yule celebration in which the Carrow's would be visiting.

Harry smiled excitedly at hearing the news of an upcoming Clara visit and practically dove at his next gift. That same energy would continue being used by the boy as he opened present after present without pause. Some were from friends he'd made at Hogwarts, others from well-wishers, (who Cora's parents told him had been vetted) one from the Headmaster and the rest from his Aunt and Uncle; it struck him strange that with only five left, Cora's had yet to make itself visible.

He didn't dwell on that for very long, moving to think about the gifts he'd gotten from all the aforementioned people — not a single type of topic had been left out!

Quidditch supplies of practice snitches, bracers, and broom cleaning material. Sweets from various shops in Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley and smaller wizarding towns across Britain. Educational items galore, ranging from books on duelling or charms to concepts far beyond his level, like battle-transfiguration.

His favourite yet — and by an incredibly far margin — was a gift he'd received from Cora's parents; a new pair of glasses.

They fit better than his current pair, had numerous charms to prevent fogging up, dirtying or chips… and they were far more stylish! Or at least that's what both women in the room had told him when having him try them on.

"Five left for the both of you?" Uncle Celtsean asked from his seat.

"Yes, father."

Yes, Uncle Celtsean!"

Cora and Harry responded in turn, both waiting to grab their next item as the two adults shifted to closer seats.

"Wonderful," Aunt Ashtyn said with mirthful eyes and her warm, wide smile, "Take the one furthest from the tree and seat yourselves at a couch or chair."

Harry did just as she'd asked, Cora, doing the same from what he could tell, and both seated themselves at the couch directly across from the adults.

"Go on, open them, no need to wait for permission," no sooner were the words out of his Aunt's mouth did Harry enthusiastically go about opening the small box resting in his lap. When the wrapping had been moved away and all that revealed itself was a box, he carefully lifted the lid after checking Cora was around the same level of progress that he was.

He looked at the small item with furrowed brows, the question on the tip of his lips when Cora asked one of her own.

"Is this what I think it is, Mother?" for whatever reason, her tone was sharper than he'd imagine for Chri- Yule.

Such a thing didn't affect his Aunt's smile or happiness from the look of it though, the woman nodding her head with a pleased expression on her face rather than verbally answering.

"When?" Cora pried, leaning forward while carefully clutching the box.

"During your first day back was when it'd been finished, the progress had been started as soon as we'd realised the potential danger that could be coming in the years to come," Uncle Celtsean had been the one to reply this time, his tone leaving no room for further questions.

"Cora, what is it?" Harry asked, watching as the wisp of something practically breathed in the direction of an elegantly carved golden home.

She leaned over to verify he had the same item as she did, and nodding to herself once, told him exactly what it was that was contained within his hands in that small, ornate square.

"Each symbol represents a place; the home being Avery Manor, the castle for Hogwarts, that silver building the Ministry, the large square building with numerous doors Diagon Alley and that furthest right… you know what that is," Harry pointed to the wisp as he yawned, "That represents the person for which this was partnered with — me, for the one you have and you for the one I was given."

"Oh."

So that little breathing spec of light was Cora, he looked from the light to her and back again multiple times, wondering all the while if the breathing of it was in sync with her; It was!

He had no clue how they'd managed it!

His Aunt and Uncle told him during his focused watching of it just how important such an object was. Under no circumstances was he to take that to Hogwarts, nor should he bring it anywhere public for that matter — anyone with the wrong intentions would have far too much information regarding the location of the person to which it was attuned.

Such a thought worried him to the point of his almost wanting to give it back to the adults, but they moved the next three gifts to him and Cora before he got to that point; the contents of all three gifts they'd floated over were equally as precious as the fifth gift, if not more so.

Fourth and in a large package meant for him to open alongside Cora, were an assortment of portkeys to various areas that were activated with certain phrases of meaning; all of which were neatly written on a slip of paper packaged with the assortment of inactive keys.

Third went back to separate gifts, with no relation between them.

He didn't see what Cora had gotten — her blushing face and quick hiding of the item was more than enough to make him not ask about the contents — but his gift had been nowhere near as embarrassing as hers had been.

His par- Aunt and Uncle had given him a pet rabbit! Something he was far more comfortable with than his previous gift of a house-elf (the creature being told by Harry to simply work around the house and take as much time to rest as it wanted) and seemed in his eyes, a better gift. Even if it were so fat… Merlin, it was huge! Harry wasn't sure if it'd been overfed by the shop owner, or if the breed was simply big, but the bunny was h- a hat?

Right in front of his eyes, the fat white rabbit had squeaked and turned into a black top hat.

Harry jolted backwards in shock before leaning closer than he'd been doing, vaguely registering laughter from his Aunt, chuckling from Cora and a small, nearly-hidden smile from his Uncle. Again, right in front of his eyes, the hat-rabbit turned back into the living creature it'd been upon first sight. Peering at it with an incredibly large amount of confusion, the rabbit turned from looking towards the tree until its beady eyes were making direct contact with his own.

Silence and no transformation; Harry had expected another squeak from the animal but rather than doing that, it cautiously waddled its way towards him, putting its pudgy nose between the bars and as close as it'd get to touching Harry's pyjama covered knee.

In response to that action, Harry looked towards his Aunt and Uncle, "Can I take i— does it have a name?" he interrupted himself, not wanting to refer to the animal he was already fond of without using its name.

"No, my dear, we thought you'd like to name it," his Aunt answered him, the woman joining him in leaning towards the pet while her husband and daughter both stayed reclined comfortably in their seats.

Harry started shifting about in his seat in response to the woman's words; he had a magic rabbit that he got to name! Merlin, this pet would be the coolest at Hogwarts!

"Snowball," Harry said while looking at the white rabbit and sticking a finger out to rub the area above its nose, the newly named Snowball leaning into his touch while making a similar squeak as it'd done before.

"Make sure Hedwig doesn't see you being so affectionate with Snowball, Harry, she's such a beautiful, wonderful owl," Aunt Ashtyn cautioned him, her words only partially having the desired effect as the woman joined him in her petting of the lovable bunny that was all too happy to lean into the touches of the two people.

It was so soft and chunky, Harry's hand nearly felt enveloped when pressing into its flank! That feeling made him giggle, his Aunt joining in with her feeling of it too while Cora only occasionally looked towards the animal; she was stubborn in not joining in, or her willpower was far higher than his and her mothers.

"You've gotten side-tracked, my love," Uncle Celtsean's voice sounded after a minute of near-silent petting of the hefty animal.

"I have, darling," his Aunt returned to Uncle Celtsean, "We'll return to them opening their final two gifts, right… now," his aunt abruptly moved back upon her saying the final word, unlatching the lock of the kennel with a spell he wasn't at all familiar with.

As soon as she'd done that, the rabbit jumped with surprising strength and agility to land with a thud in Harry's lap, preening like some sort of lapdog would once settled. As anybody smart would do with the heavy, soft and lovable creature resting in their lap; Harry began petting Snowball without a second thought.

Cora shook her head with upturned lips and motioned towards the ground in front of him with a nod. He looked at the indicated area to see his second to last gift waiting an inch or so from his happily swinging feet.

It was in such a small package, Harry was scared he would have kicked it without her warning!

He leaned forward to grab the gift with both hands, but the bunny sitting in his lap gently nipped at his left arm as he did so; dragging the captured arm back towards itself until Harry began repeating the earlier petting motions across the entirety of its back.

Learning his lesson, Harry shifted his body in such a manner that had him slightly leaning forward to the right, allowing him to use that arm to grab the small gift waiting for pickup at his feet.

"One more to go once you finish that one, Harry!" his aunt said excitedly, scooching to the edge of her seat while grasping at her husband's hand.

Harry nodded with a toothy smile and slowly went about similarly undoing the wrapping paper to how Cora did it — he'd looked over from time to time when having to wait for her, noticing that she'd carefully unwrap the items rather than ripping them as most others did.

This time, rather than finishing before his best friend, he waited until she went first; her uncharacteristic gasp and her fast motion of bolting towards her parents to envelop them into a hug with one arm each told him that whatever it was, the gift was unequivocally the best she'd received all morning. He swore he ever heard a singular sobbing like sound come from her, but Harry played it off as his ears acting up, Cora never cried or let her emotions out like that!

Thirty seconds of Cora embracing her parents later, he found out the present she'd been given; a recently-restored manor, one that'd previously belonged to her great-grandparents before it fell into disrepair at the shrinking of House Avery.

Her parents had renovated, furnished and staffed the entirety of the large estate after their recent business ventures returned to them far more wealth than they'd have thought. They wouldn't say how much they'd earned, nor would they say how much they spent when their daughter asked, but it was clear the latter amount wouldn't negatively impact the former to any degree.

"Your turn, Harry," Cora told him as she slid into a seat right beside him, her demeanour having changed from the reserved one (though still more affectionate than when at Hogwarts) to her lovable, happy personality that only shone when they were alone together.

Harry smiled up at the girl and undid the final piece of wrapping paper around the present that'd been idly in his right hand. What immediately greeted him upon its falling away was… an old tome with its cover almost falling off with age. He looked at it curiously, not wanting to risk the front of it falling off and when realising he had nothing he could do to prevent just that from happening, he looked up at his older friend helplessly.

Cora tilted her head with a smirk and, pulling out her wand, tapped the book once while muttering something he couldn't make out. Its appearance immediately shifted from ancient-looking, near decrepit, to that of a regular journal with fresh-looking parchment within.

Harry thanked her for the help and peeled open the first page, expecting spells, tips or some other type of vastly important contents within that would help him. None of that greeted him, in fact, nothing was the entirety of what greeted him. Again, he looked up and into the eyes of an amused Cora.

"I have one, Mother has one, and Father has one," she told him, "You'll say a specific phrase to signify which of us you're writing to — after you change its look — and then you'll write it in the journal. Use the first page for general messaging, the seventh for something important and the twenty-first for an emergency."

Harry nodded along with her words until once she'd finished, he looked at her sheepishly.

"Cora, could I... could you make a note of that for me? I don't want to forget."

Cora ran a hand through his hair and nodded multiple times in response, only verbally answering 'Yes' when her mother prompted her to. Funnily enough, her mother had again prompted (the both of them this time) to get their last gift out from under the tree — Cora used her already out wand to do so for the both of them, gently setting them down on the couch beside either of them.

Upon examination to see who it was from, Cora and Harry both saw that the sender was unknown. While that alone wasn't too unsettling considering the surety that her parents were looking at them with, the package shape being uneven as it was upon closer examination along with the general lightness of it had him extremely curious about what it could be and who it could be from.

"Go on, open your final gifts," Uncle Celtsean encouraged with as large a smile as the man would ever wear.

Aunt Ashtyn sighed at neither of the two kids making haste at her husband's words and added on, "You'll both be very pleased with what's within — it'll even answer a question I'm sure both of you have."

Harry furrowed his brows, unsure of what his aunt meant.

Cora on the other hand smiled and shook her head exasperatedly, her hands moving quickly now; Harry wasn't one to be left out and imitated the quickness in which his friend showed.

At roughly the same time, they unwrapped their final gifts and flung off the wrapping paper, revealing an oddly shaped box of completely different materials with no giveaways as to what it contained. Seeing that, they each went about opening the carefully closed container and once they'd made enough room, withdrew the item.

Harry knew the moment Cora's breathing hitched that she'd been a second faster, but that went to the back of his mind when he saw what he'd been given and who it'd been from.

Cora.

Her gift had been the last one he received, which meant the final one sh-

"Thank you, Harry," Cora's voice pulled him from his awe, the girl had turned towards him in her seat to envelop the smaller boy in her arms, squeezing gently, "You're the epitome of a gentleman, and one with exquisite taste at that," she then placed the necklace he'd gotten her in his one available hand with the utmost care — it was pure silver, with her family coat of arms imitated in raw stones — and doing that, she turned her back towards him, collecting her hair in the process. "Would you do the honours?"

He smiled and nodded, not that she'd see it; setting his gift to his side as softly as he could. Next, he sat up as straight as possible to extend his height and brought both arms towards Cora with the necklace carefully held in his hands.

Just barely did his arms and posture give him enough height to bring the necklace over her head until it was around the front of her neck. It helped she was slightly hunched over… but Harry knew a year ago, he'd of been too short even with her help.

Harry smiled at both the thought of his growing and the successful clasping of his gift around Cora's neck. His happiness was reflected by his aunt, the older woman bringing both hands up from her lap to clap giddily at the sight, even his uncle had a smile — the first with teeth to Harry's recollection.

Cora turned fully towards him, pausing for only a few seconds to give her parents a look at the gift, and as soon as she had, her arms were once again wrapped around Harry. Her embrace was warm, soft and all around as enjoyable as it ever was. Nothing usually made it better, but her rubbing his back while thanking him and the kiss on his forehead when she pulled away had him smiling goofily while nodding at whatever it was his aunt was saying.

Wait, his aunt had something to him and now she was laughing with Cora!

"I'm sorry auntie! I didn't hear you!" He apologised quickly and promised himself to fully listen to the woman, leaning forward while focusing solely on her; much to the protest of the hat-bunny in his lap.

"No need to apologise my lovely, I was asking to see what you'd gotten from Cora," her eyes then looked over to her daughter, the girl staying right beside Harry with one hand still fussing over his hair while the other held the necklace up for closer examination — it was safe to say the older Slytherin girl was completely enthralled by the gift.

Harry smiled happily seeing that and nodded to his aunt, his right hand going back to his pet while the other sought out the gift from Cora; it had to be the most wicked ring he'd ever seen!

His Potter family crest was done very similarly to the Avery's on the necklace he'd gotten her. Craftsmanship, materials used, all of it looked like it could've come from the same smith that'd done Cora's. That wasn't a detail he'd have worried too much about usually, but with how much he'd spent (refusing his aunts offer to help) on Cora's, he knew the girl had done almost the same!

"Thank you, Cora!" Harry said as he slid the ring on the appropriate finger — he knew as much because of etiquette lessons from the two women — and wrapped his free arm around the older girl's stomach, looking up towards her face expecting a smile but seeing a smirk.

"I can't say you're welcome until you discover the other two features it has," she tapped her wand once, the smirk now evolving into a smile, "You'll figure it out, won't you?"

"Cor-" His Aunt was frowning, seemingly ready to raise objection on his behalf, but Harry had responded only milliseconds behind her.

"I will!" He'd promised, his voice relaying strong conviction for a child of his age, the reason behind it both his rising to the challenge presented along with the strong urge to earn praise from his tutor who'd also become his bestest friend.

Cora ruffled his hair and placed a kiss on the crown of his head before turning towards her mother.

"I believe it's yours and fathers turn to open gifts," she turned her attention back to Harry and gave a conspiratorial wink at the boy, knowing the gift they'd shared the expense of would be going last.

Harry grinned toothily in response, Cora and Aunt Ashtyn were so alike!


Harry was humming while passing through the many corridors of the Avery family manor, the last book on Parseltongue in his grasp as he did so — the reason being he was headed for Cora, the two planning to discuss the aforementioned book, the Heir behind the attacks as well as the creature doing them.

Normally he'd have protested to do it another day (it was Christma- Yule, after all!) and while he initially had, she'd told him that her parents needed private time after opening the final gift.

Merlin, their reactions had been priceless! Cora and he had really done well with the matching formal wear, jewellery that had been crafted specifically for it and the wreath she'd helped him make! He didn't know the significance of making a wreath with Holly and Mistletoe, but based on the reactions it got, it was something important to the two adults!

He could understand why giving people gifts was something so many loved to do, their expressions alone made him elated, the hug from his Aunt and Uncle? That had been the first time the man showed him any outward sign of affection, and the longest his Aunt had ever held him for! Harry couldn't have thought of a happier moment except for the initial adoption.

Harry finished that thought at the same time he'd finished his journey to Corene's room; he knocked once on the door, and not more than a second passed when it was flung open, his fist halfway to the destination.

"Did you get the book from your room?" Cora asked as soon as she'd opened her door, looking at his fist strangely at its frozen position.

He dropped it before responding with, "I did," in a chirpy response. Following those words, he raised his right arm from its lowered position to show the 'PMR' labelled book; the one that promised to teach more about the 'serpents' you could control.

Cora pulled him in without delay, closing the door behind her and ushering him over to the couch beside her bedroom window.

"You didn't open it without me? I'll know if you're lying."

Harry shook his head in the negative — he knew she would too, he was absolutely pants at it; it was a moot point anyhow, lying to Cora was something he'd never, ever do!

She smiled softly and patted his head, "Good, I don't know the contents of it and for your safety, I need to be near you whenever opening it," Cora then pointed at a journal sitting in the window nook, "That contains all the notes we've taken from the time it was only the two of us studying Parselmouth, to the final few days before Yule break when we'd studied with all the others. Clara even took it upon herself to write where every attack was carried out, with any luck, we'll discover a pattern and know where not to go."

Harry's eyes widened, surely Cora meant to help solve rather than actively avoid whatever issue was in the Castle, right?

He didn't ask that, of course, his mind was focused on something more important than even that — the book. While he wasn't lying when he said he hadn't read it without her, he had desperately wanted to; he'd almost given in to that desire too when remembering the time at the zoo!

If he could speak with regular snakes while also hearing whatever monstrous creature was behind the attacks, what else could he hear that was Serpent in nature? Dragons had been the thing coming to the forefront of his mind, and who could blame him? They were everywhere in Muggle society while he'd barely heard much at all about them in the wizarding one! In fact, other than bits and pieces of information sprinkled throughout various textbooks during his year and a half of Hogwarts, they'd barely come up at all!

It was horrible, he simply had to know about the creatures if there was a chance he could speak with them; even if he couldn't, they were still his favourite fantasy monster!

"Well?" Cora asked, a small smile on her face, joined with an expectant look at him.

"Yes, Cora!" Harry replied, tilting his head confusedly while the girl laughed lightly.

"You weren't paying attention to what I said following that news about Clara, were you?" She didn't look or sound anywhere close to angry with him for not having paid attention.

He shook his head 'no' while glancing away.

"I said to open the book and see if there's some sort of index in it," Harry instantly started doing so, practically sitting in Cora's lap while the older girl watched on with her wand clutched tightly in her hand; she continued speaking as he did so too, "Hopefully if there are, it'll allow us to narrow down the potentially more hazardous creatures that are capable of petrifying."

Harry opened the first page and saw there was nothing remotely informative about it — quite the opposite, it was just raving words that didn't make any sort of cohesive thought! Its second page was very similar but written by a different person if the quality was anything to go by. When he opened it to the third page of the book, that was when he lucked out and saw something similar to what Cora had been hoping for; a table of contents.

They didn't specify page numbers — there weren't any on the previous pages that Harry had seen — no, words were written beside the specific topic.

He relayed that to Cora since he'd finally found something he figured mattered and the girl's question in response was asking him just how many creatures were covered.

Harry had to count them since he hadn't done it previously, and from that counting, he determined there were thirty-eight varying topics; some were unique too, they had roman numerals beside them.

From 'I' to 'X' was etched in above or to the left of each creature or category of creatures. Harry relayed that too, as well as the fact that it'd been hand-written in the book by somebody who had fairly poor writing.

Cora asked him to speak one of the names with an 'X' next to it, and in response, he read aloud 'Hydra'.

She nodded to herself while humming and asked that he do so again.

Happy to finally be reading the book, he did as he had before, this time saying 'Gorgon' which earned him another nod from his friend.

Rather than having him read the third name from the list of 'Xs', she had him close the book, chewing on her bottom lip after giving him the command.

In response to her ordering him to do so, he groaned, figuring it meant they'd stopped already.

Cora fixed him with a sharp look, stood up from her seat and then held out her hand for him to grab; not replying to his groan either positively or negatively, her facial expressions showing she was deep in thought.

"What're we doing?" He asked after standing up and taking her seat, but again, she didn't verbally respond. Instead, she chose to drag him over to her desk and seat him in a spare chair she'd conjured without a second thought or an elaborate motioning from her wand.

Harry didn't ask the question again and simply watched as the older girl went about grabbing parchment, ink and a quill. Only when she had all three items did she seat herself beside him, speaking again as she did so.

"Open it back to that page and recite every creature with an 'X' alongside it."

Her voice was serious, sharp too — her tutoring tone she took with him if he ever acted up in their lessons was what he'd recognised it as… only more severe, if such a thing was possible.

Still, he did as she bid him to and opened up the book, reciting the following names of creatures; Basilisk, Basdragik, Gorgon, The Horned Serpent and The Sea Serpent.

Cora had written down all five creatures that he'd said and over the following hours, had him recite word for word, page by page, what was said about those creatures. From the most boring of information that discussed mundane facts about Gorgon waste to life-saving dips when dealing with any of the five creatures; he read aloud everything while the girl wrote it down.

In the end, and only when they'd finished, did she allow the two of them to relax, having a house-elf bring them tea while returning to the couch they'd been in prior to their moving to the desk.

So naturally, once they were comfortably seated with tea in their hands and a few notes on the table beside them, Harry chose the time given for relaxation to instead question her further in regards to the Heir of Slytherin.

Sure, they'd already discussed it multiple times, especially after an attack had happened, but that didn't mean it was pointless! Maybe they'd missed something glaringly obvious, maybe Malfoy had somehow tricked her with that Polyjuice potion Hermione had told him about a few weeks ago — Harry wouldn't blame his friend if she'd been tricked, after all, it was something that anybody would fall for!

"No, Harry, I've not had any more luck in regards to the person claiming to be the 'Heir of Slytherin'. I very much doubt they're in Slytherin with how many people in our house have been seeking said person out; myself included."

"What if they used a polyjuice potion? Or had a cloak like the one I have?" Harry had shown her the gift as soon as she'd returned, so speaking freely of it with her was of no concern. Her friends or anybody other than Ron? They were another case entirely.

"Nobody has a cloak like the one you have, I can say that with absolute certainty," Cora pouted after saying that, momentarily distracted from the notes she'd been reviewing after long sips of her warm drink, "Speaking of that, you've yet to confirm another date for testing it with me — don't push that off either Harry, you don't know how powerful that 'cloak' as you so easily refer to it as could be."

Harry laughed, "It got past a couple of wards, that's all! It's not like I could just walk into the Ministry without anybody noticing and grab the Minister's hat!"

"Maybe not something so extreme, no," Cora agreed, "You've still conceded that it's gotten past a few wards, ones that I put up knowing full well they worked previously. Regardless of what its limitations are, it's still better than the average invisibility cloak, which in of itself is a rarity."

"We can do the test again if you can tell me how you know another like mine doesn't exist!" Harry bounced in his seat, knowing one way or the other, he'd learn something.

Cora rolled her eyes, "Nothing so powerful as that could exist without either the world reporting constant mysterious disappearances of incredibly important items or rumours running amuck about it," she made a sour face, "If, on the off chance something similar to yours did exist, it's likely kept under extremely close watch with the parameters of usage so strict that it'll likely never be used in fear of word getting out."

"Is it really that strong?" Harry felt like he'd received a second gift of his familial cloak with how good she was making it sound; the possibilities could be endless with what he could do, the restricted section was only scratching the surface!

"Yes, Harry, it is. That's exactly why I wish you'd not take it to Hogwarts with you. Should you lose it, you'll never again have it in your life," Cora tapped him on the nose once to emphasize her point, the boy swatting at her hands while laughing. "Polyjuice is equally as unlikely too, whoever they'd look like would be seen returning late to the common room, or, more importantly, the person impersonating would be reported for missing classes or meals during the attacks."

"I guess… but wha-" Harry was cut off with Cora sighing and shaking her head.

"Whatever you're thinking of, Harry, I'm telling you with absolute certainty that the Heir isn't in Slytherin."

"Okay," Harry finally relented, still thinking it was Malfoy but not wanting to continue with something Cora was adamant about, "Can we get back to the notes you took? I know we didn't take a break since we talked about the Heir but I want to know what we've found!" he'd started slightly put out and finished eager, returning to the bouncing in his seat that he'd been doing moments earlier.

Cora sipped from her tea and glanced at him, "You realise we've not had a moment of silence for more than ten seconds, let alone the five minutes I'd requested, right?"

Harry nodded hesitantly.

"In addition to that, you've not had but a sip from your tea."

He downed half of the cup in response to her words, looking up to see her shaking her head with the smallest of smirks on her face.

"Fine, I've already reviewed them while we were writing them anyhow — that book has every confirmed fact in regards to any of the five creatures you'd said," Cora told him that and he wasn't sure why, not until she'd asked the follow-up question at least, "What's happening to the victims?"

"They get petrified!" He said loudly, smiling when she nodded her head once.

"What do you think we're looking for in the pages I had you read?"

He scratched his head, speaking with less confidence than he had before.

"Stuff about Petrification?"

She nodded again, tossing aside stacks upon stacks of paper until only two were left, those being 'Basilisk' and 'Gorgon'.

Cora handed him specific pieces from each of the two, pointing to a line of text that mentioned petrification as well as their abilities to speak Parseltongue. When he read them, his eyes widened and he glanced from her, to the pages and back again.

She kissed his forehead again, nodding as she did so.

"Unless this book missed something, we've narrowed down the list of culprits to two, and it was all thanks to your help," Cora ruffled his hair, "We can narrow down a general area with the map from Clara and determine an area we need to avoid, Morgana forgive me for saying this, but I hope it's the Basilisk instead of the Gorgon."

Harry nodded along with her words; he may not know why she'd said it, but he knew enough to realise agreeing with her was better than disagreeing.


Harry was split ear to ear with his widest smile, the one that only occasionally showed despite his affinity for the action.

It wasn't because he and Cora had narrowed down the monster behind the attacks, it wasn't because he finally had to admit to himself that the Heir wasn't in Slytherin — what'd caused it was the hug from Cora, the kiss on the top of his head and her telling him that he'd done a really good job working with her today.

He didn't know just how much he missed her affectionate side until it was taken from him by Hogwarts; he knew going back only halfway through the year would be rough, but would be worse was two years from now when Cora would be graduated from Hogwarts! Harry wouldn't dare think the Castle would be half as enjoyable without her or her friends inside its walls.

Worse yet, she'd probably end up moving completely to her restored home once she'd graduated… he sighed, his positive mood now dashed with the thoughts of the future.

That was when he heard Cora's mom talking through an ever so slightly ajar door while on the way back to his room. It was a Deja Vous moment, one that reminded him of his time over the summer when he'd overheard something regarding him and a contract.

Just as before, when he made his way along the wall and listened in, it was about that very same topic — the only difference was the point at which he'd arrived to hear differing information.

"Celtsean, you can't say after today you don't agree," Aunt Ashtyn sounded exasperated, "Think Husband! As distasteful as it'd be, Harry would be all the better off should we claim full custody rather than just that of a Guardian."

"I'll not claim Stewardship of James' family, Ashtyn."

"You'll be responsible then," his Aunts voice grew sharper, similar to Cora's when she was scolding him or in a particularly bad mood, "For when Harry grows up to find his family's investments plummeting, the properties the family owns in various states of ruin or disrepair and all political positions they once held impossible to reobtain."

"Don't present your suggestion as if it has no negatives, Wife," His Uncle was calm, but Harry could hear the discontent in the man's tone, "If I took over as the Potter family Steward, every Pureblood family would know without delay; a majority would be very against us from that moment on. Furthermore, they'd be pressing in on us from every side, demanding our daughter marry their Heir and Harry be married to their daughter or granddaughter. Would you want my hands forced should whole blocs refuse our services?"

"Our vaults are fuller than they've been in the history of House Avery or House Carrow — you know that as well as I, whatever argument you have about business is immaterial. As for strong-arming us by other means? I'd like to see them try; we'll always have friends from our bloc, Dumbledore's puppets would support us too so long as they see us doing what's right by our Harry."

Our Harry? Harry smiled at thinking how accepted he was by his Aunt.

His uncle sighed, "We'll not continue this conversation until after Yule has passed, Ashtyn, you know our energy should be spent for celebrations rather than arguments."

"Yes, we'll continue this conversation once Yule's passed — don't think for a moment I'll forget," he heard his uncle sigh again, only this time it ended with a groan followed by whispers that Harry couldn't make out.

When the door slammed shut a few inches from where his ear had been, he took off towards his room at full speed, hoping they hadn't caught him all the while.


May 8, 1993

Dumbledore was gone! Hagrid was sent to Azkaban! Hermione had been petrified along with Penelope!

Harry had hoped with his avoiding the area around the second floor and his telling to his friends (mostly just Hermione, Ron and a few Gryffindors who finally agreed in thinking that he wasn't the heir) to do the same, that the remainder of the year would've gone by without any more incidents.

Valentine's day getting the singing dwarfs and having no more petrifications since before Christmas had all but assured him that whoever was behind the brutal attacks had stopped. If they hadn't, enough of his friends had avoided the area, causing a chain reaction to their friends until the Heir couldn't hurt anybody else by using that creature.

Unfortunately, and painfully enough, his hopes along with the presumptions he'd made had been wrong. In addition to that, after his speaking of Parseltongue was found out by the whole school because of that stupid duelling club, he'd only been left alone by more and more of the people who'd so often tried their hardest to be near him.

That only worsened when Hermione was attacked, turning the people she'd helped keep on his side against him when he'd been found near the incident and escorted by a singular Slytherin student, that being Aster.

Since that moment, for Harry's safety and in hopes of lowering the level of scrutiny he was under, Cora's group as well as the girl herself stopped being the ones to escort him anywhere. Instead, they would follow at a far enough distance that they could intercede should something bad head his way, while leaving his escorting to anywhere too crowded to the three Gryffindor students that they were certain, liked him.

It was painful and hard for Harry to adjust to, the sudden drop in contact with people he'd grown close to with the lack of contact hurting him worse than he'd thought it would when discussing it.

But as always, he adapted to the situation, especially when Cora promised that it wouldn't be too much longer until the year was over.

He only hoped that it'd end before his last three housemates started avoiding him as all the others had.


May 29, 1993

"Cora?" Harry asked aloud in the seemingly empty room — his presence having been requested via a note that'd been passed to Stuart.

"Harry."

He turned and saw Cora now standing in an area he'd thought to have been empty, the girl's sudden presence making him jump.

"Why did you want me to come here? I thought we weren't supposed to talk unless absolutely necessary? What if we're found speaking after Ginny's been taken?" Harry was terrified of being found out past curfew by Staff or the Prefects. Ginny Weasley, Ron's little sister, had been taken this very evening and with her, the school's fight had gone out. Dumbledore was gone, Hagrid sent to Azkaban (all for something Harry knew from the bottom of his heart his friend was incapable of) and there still wasn't a single clue as to who the Heir was.

Everything having gone down as it had, Harry would've thought meeting with Cora or any in her friend group was the last thing he should be doing… wasn't that why they'd brought those magic books in the first place? Communicating from a distance still allowed him to speak with Cora, albeit in a roundabout, slow and somewhat sad way; but they could still talk!

Why risk the trouble this would bring if caught?

"I believe I've found the source of the attacks," Cora's words were short and straight to the point, causing Harry to freeze up from his rocking motion he'd been doing to stay calm — he hadn't been doing it because he was mad or angry with his friend, more that he hated being close to her this once since they still wouldn't be able to visit for another month to come.

With his eyes wide and his body standing stock still, Harry questioned her with a singular word.

"Where?"

Cora shook her head, looking as serious as he'd ever seen from her before, "I'll not be saying where, in case you attempt to rescue that ill-fated girl; don't lecture me on morality either Harry, I'd much rather only have one skeleton laying forever in the bowels of the school than however many you'd add in chasing after her."

Harry was shaking slightly, the casual mentioning of death and the detached way Cora said it getting to him.

"We could save her," his voice was broken up, choppy, matching the tremors that were passing through his body.

"We could die, trying to save her. Haven't you read the notes I gave you about Basilisks and Gorgons? Neither creature is something a trained Auror could handle, let alone a group of Hogwarts students," Cora wasn't willing to budge, her slight frown and the way she positioned herself casually between him and the only door out made him more than aware of that.

"Professor Lo-"

"He's a fraud, haven't you seen or heard the way the other Hogwarts staff act around him? I'd have hoped that was something you could pick out Harry, especially after that duelling 'lesson' he taught with Professor Snape."

"Professor Snape then! or Professor McGonagall! Both of them with all the other Professors from Hogwarts! We could show them the entrance, and… and take them to whatever creature took Ginny on the orders of that Heir!" Harry stomped his foot, his voice nearly turning to shout as he finished.

Cora sighed, "Harry, I have already sent the location to Professor Snape. If there was anything that could be done, it'd have happened by now."

"Cora… please… tell me where it is. I can tell Professor McGonagall, she'll act where Snape won't — I know it!"

"Even if that were true, what makes you think any number of Hogwarts staff could defeat the creature? What makes you think we could find the entrance or use it? All I know from that banshee in the girls' bathroom on the second floor is that the Heir uses the faucets to enter; apparently, the creature exits from that room too, it was how Myrtle died," Cora emphasised the final word in her speaking, the one she was trying to use to scare Harry away from helping the girl that needed it most.

Harry had the location now, and that was all he'd needed.

"Cora, pl- fine," he sighed and looked away from his friend in what he hoped was a convincing manner in showing his reluctant acceptance, "Was this all you wanted me to know?"

"That was all I wanted to tell you, yes, but that wasn't the sole reason why I'd called you down here," Cora moved closer to him, unblocking the door in the process, "I wanted to check in with you, I know that the youngest Weasley boy is close to you in a manner of speaking. I'm sure the kidnapping of his sister, a girl who followed you around so often this year, was something that'd hurt," Cora gripped Harry's chin lightly, turning and lifting his face until his eyes were meeting hers, "So tell me, are you holding up well, Harry? I'll know if you're fibbing to me, your bottom lip always trembles."

"I want to save her, what if nobody else does?" He returned a question of his own, Cora likely knowing without his answering that he wasn't holding up well in the slightest.

"Don't think I'm entirely untouched by the situation, if there were any way to save the Weasley girl without too great a risk to you, myself or our friends, it'd be underway right now. Simply put Harry, there's not any scenario I've played out in my mind where the Weasley girl survives without some unpredictable circumstances happening — circumstances with which Dumbledore returns this evening to find something so hidden it's never been found before."

Harry nodded, eyes downcast and looking away from Cora's own.

"I know," he replied in a small voice raw with sadness.

Cora threw an arm around his shoulder and pulled him into a hug, the much larger girl rubbing his back soothingly while humming.

"Professor Snape could still save her, any number of the staff could, assuming he's shared the location that Myrtle gave," Cora released him and fussed over his hair, an act that brought a tiny smile to his face from the normality of it.

"Can you take me back to Gryffindor Tower?" Harry asked — time was of the essence after all, who knew how long Ginny had left and if McGonagall was in her office?

"Are you feeling unwell? I'd thought we could spend some time together this evening," Cora's intentions of ensuring his location and keeping him distracted were known to him the moment the girl had spoken; she likely didn't trust him after he'd gotten hurt last year doing this very same thing, that being rescuing something or someone from forces far more powerful than he.

Harry nodded a few times, "My stomach hurts, my head does too… I think I just want to sleep until this is over…" his voice trailed off, the words he was speaking being true as ever, but he knew he couldn't sit idly by while a friend of his was in danger.

Cora nodded a few times over, smiling lightly at Harry before putting the two of them under a disillusionment charm. From then, the girl led Harry quietly back to Gryffindor Tower, making sure he entered without getting caught before heading off towards her own dorms.

Little did she know, Harry only waited long enough to ensure she was gone.

He would tell McGonagall the same location Cora had told him. He would help the Professor in rescuing Ginny.

Most importantly to him; he wouldn't let a friend die.

COMMENT REPLIES:

Clavyus: Cora's relatively tall, pale, brown eyes and some freckles and tyvm

Godric777: Tyvm!

DeadDredd: Thank you very much, the first year was almost canon, the second and third will have a decent degree of changes, fourth onwards is where we'll deviate a lot!

Nuggets1: haha, I actually use names of ancestors a lot of the time! Maybe that fight happened!

Shieldtoad: Thank you very much and I'm glad I conveyed it well!

Millsy870: Glad you like it, thank you very much!

TheGreatBubbaJ: Yup, we'll only get more and more changes!

Stevem1: Thank you, was a concern of mine haha!

Tenyo-dono: Thank you very much and that line especially was something I really wanted to hit! His friendship with them continues, though not nearly to the degree it'd been in canon, the older years take a great degree of his time! Thank you very much!

Cleddyf: Thank you, I think a lot of people would agree with you! I'm glad I can write and make people happy with it!

Guest - Hello on Apr 16: Thank you and I'm glad you liked it!

Mestre720: This one I hope doesn't fall flat haha, I'm glad you liked their usage too haha.

Guest on Apr 18: Cora and any other OC isn't a SI, this story was done via request in my disc and evolved into a multi-fic work due to the support it got! Thank you too!

qjhaynes: When such a desparity exists in age and levels of magic? Probably for the first 2-3 years, as would happen with any huge gap in skill - when he's older, it will be a different story!

Hoegh: Thank you very much, I'm glad you like it and I hope you continue to enjoy it!

Tenjo: Thanks for the review, you gave my discord a great laugh - I love people like you and your words will always continue to make me strive in continuing of writing. Truly, thank you mon ami! Much love to you and hope you are well!