Disclaimer: Jo's world, I just live here.
Summary: Harry and Draco sent back in time, with a twist!
The rest of the break passed by swiftly. On Christmas, Charles got Aries an Overlook Orb – a marble-sized milky white stone with a permanent Notice-Me-Not charm that could be placed on anything so that people wouldn't pay attention to it – and a small pouch of catnip, for which Aries smacked him. The brunet reciprocated with a handmade leather runic band, with Eihwaz and Algiz for protection and Wunjo for fellowship. They both got the same gift from Severus: a vile of Dagr's Light, which allowed the drinker to see everything as if it were daytime, even on the darkest of nights.
Other than that, the last week of the break was spent writing up large amounts of homework. Aries wished he had Remus there while he was doing his Ancient Runes, but managed to do a fairly passable job on his own. Charles finished his homework in record time, then pestered Aries into several games of chess, all of which the redhead won. Aries laughed at the thought of Ron and Malfoy now having two things in common – hair and chess.
Then came that late evening when the carriages pulled up and all the rest of the school piled out and into the Great Hall. The marauders shared a compartment with Lily and greeted Charles – who sat away from Aries, as per usual – warmly. Aries watched as Severus strode with his typical forbidding grace to the Slytherin table. He smiled and waved at his friend, who shot him a shaky half smile back. The Gryffindor raised one eyebrow to indicate his concern – Severus looked somewhat disturbed – but the other boy had already started serving himself, all his attention on the platters of food.
The next chance Aries got to actually talk to Sev was during their potions class that Monday. He could see that the Slytherin was trying to avoid him, but Aries made sure that he got to his friend's side before he could try and get a different partner.
"Hello, Aries," Sev greeted him stiffly.
"Hi, Sev," Aries answered brightly. "How was your break?"
Severus snorted lightly and concentrated on the dragon tongue he was slicing, attempting to ignore the question. Aries was not deterred.
"Did you get any neat presents?" he asked. "What did Charles get you? He refused to tell me."
"Perhaps he felt it was none of your business," Sev suggested acidly.
Aries shrugged. "Maybe, you never know with Charles." There was a thick moment of silence before he decided to take the plunge. "So, how did things go with your brother?"
Severus jerked and slammed his knife on the table. "I do believe I was mistaken in the thought that you were part Slytherin, as your obvious obtuseness is purely Gryffindor," he sneered coldly. :Let me say this plainly so that you do not misunderstand me, Hesuchazo: I. Do. Not. Wish. To. Speak. Of. It. Understand?"
"Oh yes, of course," Aries responded pleasantly. "Why didn't you say so? Are the walnuts supposed to be sliced or left whole? I can't remember."
The Slytherin sighed deeply, as if expelling something foul, or admitting defeat, and said weakly, "Sliced."
To any onlookers, it would seem as if Aries had let the matter drop entirely, without giving it another thought. However, the topic of his friend's holiday was still very much on the Gryffindor's mind. It was worrisome that Sev had come back so tense. It was obvious that the most tender subject was his bother; Aries could only hope things hadn't gone too badly in that respect. What if he'd been wrong about Aurelius and instead of being like Faramir, he was like Dudley? What if the 'Auror of the highest degree' enjoyed and reveled in the extra praise and attention from his father, rubbing Severus' lack in his face at every chance? Why, if Sev's brother had done that, he was going to be hearing a thing or two from Aries Hesuchazo. He'd slug him right in the face if he'd said anything to hur–
"Aries!" Severus exclaimed loudly. "Watch your work! You just about cut your finger off! You're bleeding, you bloody oblivious Gryffindor! Professor Velveson, I need to take Aries to the hospital wing."
"Yes, yes, go," the shrewish woman sneered. "I'll grade your potion as it stands, mind you."
Aries looked up, shocked. They were only halfway done! There was no way they could pass if she graded it now! But Severus just nodded and started pulling him by his uninjured hand into the hall.
"Sev," Aries protested, "our grade…"
"Is nothing someone who very nearly cut their own hand off should be worrying about," Severus snapped. "For your information, one less than perfect potion score won't ruin my life or yours, especially because this is our final year at Hogwarts and it is the NEWT scores that really matter."
Aries smiles softly as he let himself be pulled through the halls. It felt rather nice to have someone drag him to the hospital wing again. Hermione had done it before, but she wasn't as good as Sev at finding things wrong with him.
In the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey bustled around tutting and muttering to herself about the idiocy of having dangerous things like knives around. Aries didn't doubt that, if Madam Pomfrey had her way, the world would be nothing but padded walls and safety harnesses.
"What on Earth had you do distracted you'd cut yourself?" Sev demanded once they were in the hallway and alone again. "You're usually so careful."
Aries shrugged bashfully, feeling rather foolish now, but decided it wouldn't do any more harm to just tell Sev the truth.
"I was worrying about you," he admitted. "I wondered if maybe your brother had been mean and started plotting ways to hurt him if that were so."
Sev stopped and turned to him, looking at Aries as though he'd grown another head.
"You were so busy planning revenge for an imagined offense on an Auror that you failed to notice you were dangerously close to permanently mutilating yourself?" the Slytherin scoffed. "You really are a Gryffindor, Aries."
"Hey!" Aries protested, laughing. "You're the one who abandoned a potion to take me to the hospital wing."
He and Sev both chuckled, but Sev seemed rather strained at the end. He took hold of Aries' sleeve and directed him into a little-used side hallway.
"I suppose I owe you an explanation," he said, voice low. Aries started to protest, but Sev held up a hand to stop him. "When I got home, it was just how you had predicted. I spoke to my brother and he seemed so relieved that I didn't…resent him. We spent a good deal of time together and he helped me do my holiday coursework. But…"
"But?" Aries prompted when Sev seemed about to reconsider saying anything. His friend closed his eyes and sighed deeply.
"You have to promise me, swear on your life, that you won't tell another soul what I'm about to tell you," Sev demanded. "No writing it down, no speaking of it, don't even hint."
"Alright," Aries agreed solemnly. "I swear that by no action or inaction of mine will another soul, living or dead, learn what you are about to tell me."
Sev nodded, looking around to make sure no one else could hear. "Just three days before the end of break, I was helping Aurelius pack and his sleeve rode up a few inches on his left arm and…I saw…the dark mark."
A/N: Okay, don't kill me. I know it's short, but there is a reason for that. With the arrival of HBP I thought for sure this would have to be AU now, when I tried so hard to keep it within canon. Then I realized that, with just a few changes, I could actually work this with HBP. Sort of. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to take a week or two to alter what I have here to continue from HBP. Judging by the number of people who've reviewed in the last four months bugging me to update, I'd probably be lynched if I didn't get something new up along with this announcement, but this is all I could bring myself to do in the old, non-HBP compatible plot. Please forgive!
PANTZ - Emerson