A/N: Okay, it took a while, but I've managed to grind out a second chapter. And in doing so, I realized that I may have left out a warning you guys might have actually wanted.

I know it's probably a bit late, but here it is anyways:

WARNING: This fic's pairing is HP/SS! However! There is mention (semi-explicitly) of a past relationship of HP/JF-F (Dear, sweet, useless-side-character Justin, I'm afraid I only used you to make Harry more...ahem...tasty to certain others.)

Also, you delicate readers should be aware that there are brief mentions of...umm...Harry and Justin's...well, 'relationship' is such a strong word. I'm sure you get the idea, though. It's nothing bad, or graphic, but I'm supposed to warn you in case there are delicate sensibilities floating about, right? Anyway, I'm saving that kind of thing for more deserving parties, so it won't be around til later. ;)

Everyone, Thanks for the Reviews! You guys are too kind! I don't deserve your praise! ...that doesn't mean you get to stop, though. Okay?

Kitty Black Cat Aww! Your praise and confidence in my skill makes me most happy! You're a doll! So, here are my two Ultimate Top Favs of the HP FF world, bar NONE (that I can think of at the moment). You're more than welcome to PM or e-mail me if you want others, or need the addresses...

If you haven't heard of/read Midnight's "Mirror of Maybe", I command you to go at once—no, well…after you've finished my chapter, I mean—and READ IT! It's a HP/SS WIP, but it is an oh-so-lovely WIP with time-travel-y goodness! Also: "Sacrifices Arch" by Lightening on the Wave. This woman owns my soul, hands down, no contest. She basically re-wrote the entire series, book by book, and made them longer and better and Darker! HP/DM, which I didn't read much, but. Totally rocked my world! Enjoy!

DebsTheSlytherinSnapefan Awesome fic suggestion! It looks really very interesting (and long! Great googli-moogli! But, I do love me some long fics...). Thanks!

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Now...on to the show!


Previously:

"I told you not to worry, sir," Justin said mildly, turning back to his teacher. "I'm not like Harry. I don't need to wander the halls to keep my demons from catching up. I can ward the lot inside just fine taking up post outside the doors."

That said, Justin turned and headed over to his seat. Dropping into it, he kicked back until the chair tipped and the back tapped the wall. Slouching just a little, more to have easier access to his wand than to get comfortable, Justin crossed his arms and settled into his watch.

Dumbledore and Snape left moments later, apparently satisfied with Justin's intentions.

..


Beneath the Mask of a Hero

Chapter 2:

Justin relaxed as the two men swept away, breathing a sigh of relief from where he stood hidden in the shadow of a pillar just steps away from the dinning room entrance.

Cautiously, he stepped out and approached his double that was currently lounging in the chair. A tiny cloth doll was warm with active magic, tucked inside Justin's inner robe pocket. It was the focus required to hold such a high level spell steady for any length of time.

Because while Justin might not be on par with the Golden Triumvirate of their team, he sure as hell wasn't useless, either.

He'd worked hard on perfecting this spell, and as a result he'd become the only one capable of using it at this level. A spell intricate enough, detailed enough, that it fooled even Snape and Headmaster Dumbledore!

Oh, he knew Hermione, Ron, and Harry could have done it—if they'd had time to focus on the lengthy training. But they had all too busy trying to keep everyone else alive to spare that much attention. Justin had the time. He'd had little else but spare time, then. So he'd practiced, and struggled, and cursed everything from himself and his own damnable pride to Hermione and her sodding books. But he'd sure as shite didn't quit until he'd understood the complex network of spells and bindings, and finally mastered Effingo Vestri.

And through that mastery, he had quickly become invaluable to Harry.

Justin's heart gave a quick skip like it always did at that thought.

He was invaluable to Harry. While it might only be a certain skill, a specific piece of magic, there was something he, Justin Finch-Fletchy, had that Harry couldn't get from anyone else.

The thought gave him a heady rush, like always. That someone like him was so important to someone like Harry...

The man didn't sleep very often, either. But when he did, he'd stated clearly that he was most comfortable being around Justin when Ron and Hermione were gone on scouting runs.

Justin closed his eyes, remembering the feel of Harry lying against him. The surprising slightness of their leader's body, countered by the hard lines of bone and a little muscle. How easy it had been, to wrap his arms around that thin waist. Those amazing green eyes, framed and enhanced by the black rims of his glasses, focused on him with an intensity that was almost scary.

It was the same intense look Harry had, right before he…

There was a shift, and Justin jerked out of his thoughts to see Harry lounging in his double's chair, those impossibly-deep green eyes staring up at him with the same intensity he'd just been thinking about.

That look jerked things low in Justin, shooting lust and passion through him with all the force of an Unforgivable. He wanted, in that moment, nothing more than to head into the dinning room, and send out another for guard duty. To crawl into his comfy bed, knowing—feeling—Harry tucked in beside him, and just—

Justin shook those thoughts away sharply, angry at himself for getting so distracted. His hand closed around the focus-doll a bit tighter than strictly necessary, and willed an image of himself into it.

The too-tempting replica of Harry lounging in the chair vanished, and the Justin-double returned. The duplicate blinked up at Justin before grinning.

"Mind in the gutter, is it?" he snickered.

Justin scowled down at himself. "Shut it. You know the drill. I'm just checking the medical ward, and then I'm right back."

"Aye, sir," the double mocked with a grin.

Justin sighed and sealed the doll-spell in place once more. It wouldn't last forever—two hours, tops—and he'd have to constantly keep up the image of himself, at least in the back of his mind. It was one of the things that made the bloody spell so difficult.

No more getting lost in pleasant thoughts, he told himself sternly. His time with Harry like that was over, the other man had made that clear three days before they'd reached Hogwarts. They were friends, because Justin couldn't imagine parting any further than that from Harry, but they no longer fucked.

Justin had lost himself that privilege four nights ago.

Pulling his thoughts back in order again, Justin muttered a see-me-not spell and vanished from sight. It wasn't as high quality as some of the other invisibility spells, but it would be enough for a quick trip in and out of the medical ward.

Honestly, he was as eager to see his injured friends as Neville was, and Harry probably knew that, too. His little recon mission was for more than just their field mediwizard.

Harry had always been good at seeing things like that when they'd been out there, Justin thought wryly, even when no one said anything. The man knew a person better than they did themselves, sometimes.

Justin snorted, skirting Mrs. Norris with little more than an irritated look from the feline.

Of course, the one Harry knew the least about was Harry himself. The man was unreasonably dense when it came to his own feelings, so focused was he on everyone else around him. It didn't matter whether they were his own feelings, or feelings others had towards him. If it involved Harry himself, he was usually blind to it.

It had taken Justin sticking his tongue down Harry's throat to make the exasperating man understand that Justin thought he was hot. And it'd taken Justin's mouth around Harry's cock to make Harry realize that he was just as attracted Justin.

Of course, once he knew... Well, there'd always been a lot to say for the 'act first, think about it some other time' Gryffindor mentality.

Cursing his own depravity, Justin firmly closed and locked the door on those thoughts. Now was not the time!

Not when he'd just arrived at the door to the medical ward.

Taking a moment to check in on his double, just in case his wandering thoughts had slipped out to tamper with the Effingo Vestri spell.

Finding everything as it should be, Justin studied the closed door warily. There was no way Pomfrey hadn't put at least a few sensor-spells on the thing. All he needed to do now was find out which ones the matronly woman had used.

Taking a few deep breaths, he closed his eyes and calmed himself from the inside out. Put everything from his mind, except for a sense of peace and tranquility. As still as a lake's surface. As silent as a snow-blanketed forest.

Once his mind and body were still, and relaxed, Justin gathered the delicate, whispery strands of his magic, and reached with them deep inside of himself. To that place Hermione had taught him. That place deep, deep in his gut, where the very center of his magic came from.

What it looked like was different for everyone, Hermione had said. For Justin, it was like a well that was tightly covered and sealed, with the bulk of his magic straining to break free just beneath the lid.

A witch or wizard's spirit would instinctively create those containers, and the necessary seals, around their magical core, Hermione had continued in her painfully blunt manner, so the power wouldn't run wild through the body, driving the person to madness.

Coming from Hermione, and in such a straight-forward manner, there hadn't been even a moment of doubt in Justin's mind. It was, after all, Hermione, the Walking Book of Knowledge.

High-level spells or curses that were normally required more than their basic magic levels, he'd learned, cracked the seal over their magic briefly. Just enough to let out a tiny burp of power to complete the spell, the magic properly guided by their wands.

But what Hermione had taught him out there wasn't a spell.

It wasn't in any book she knew of, which was as good as saying it didn't exist.

This was something, according to the deceptively modest woman, she'd been thinking about for the last couple of years. To purposefully find the source of their power, and learn how to control it. Without the use of spells.

Justin, even with Hermione's coaching, still couldn't handle more than just a crack in his seal. Just barely shifting a corner of the lid off of the well inside him, like he did now, and letting only a tiny trickle of magic rush through him.

It filled him in a rush of fresh, pure power, from his head to his toes, the small release almost orgasmic. It felt good, so good! To just stand there and let his magic beat through his body like a second pulse.

When it got to the point that Justin could just taste the flavor of magic in the air, he forced the lid closed back over his magic. It was infinitely harder to close the lid than it had been to open it. The rush of magic felt so wonderful, so perfect, that it was the greatest of temptations to just leave it open that tiny crack. To let it sweep him away on a dizzying, lovely tide.

Hermione had told him, along with Harry and Ron, that was the most dangerous part of learning this way of tapping into their core magic. The effect was a lot like muggle drugs, or dark wizard spells.

Once you started, you didn't want to stop, even though it killed you in the end. Because a wizard's body could only hold so much magic at a time—which was the entire reason their bodies created the containers in the first place—and any more than that made them lose control.

When a wizard lost control of his magic, it went wild, and destroyed the wizard from the inside out. Nothing, not body nor soul, was left untouched.

Justin had trained long and hard with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. He knew what his limit was, and was confident in the strength of his willpower to pull back and seal off his magic again when it became too much.

This little bit he'd let out hadn't quite taken him to his limit, but it would serve his purposes just the same.

Gathering the magic streaming around loose within him, he focused it just behind his eyes. Opening his eyes, he had to blink quickly to adjust to the sudden brightness around him.

What had originally been a dim, poorly lit hallway was now bright with hundreds of lines of magic. Painfully bright, actually, Justin corrected with a wince, and leaked some of his magic out of his eyes so the hallway dimmed a little again. He'd forgotten that Hogwarts itself was magical.

Turning his attention back to the infirmary door, Justin studied the spells linked into, across, and through the door. His lip twitched to see three different alarm spells layered across the wood, set to activate silently when the door was opened. Set over that was an alarm for any 'revealing' spells that someone might cast to find the first three spells.

Someone was certainly intent on catching whoever tried to sneak in, he thought wryly. The only right way through the door was to grasp the doorknob, which was spelled to recognize only a particular group of people. Justin couldn't see exactly who they were, not without pulling more magic from his core—which was too dangerous—or using his wand, which would activate the silent spells already in place.

About to reach out and deactivate the spells, Justin froze, his eye catching a sixth spell woven around the doorframe.

It was…fresher…than the other spells, he thought, scowling at it. Most likely just put in place within the last hour. And it was carefully done, almost undetectable. Had he not just come from battles where it meant death to miss something so innocuous, Justin would have quickly found himself caught.

Snape, then, Justin realized sourly. Bloody mistrustful git. Even if he was right.

It was a binding and alarm spell, impressively combined. Hermione would be in throws of delight for hours, given half the chance to study it.

Justin smirked at the spell. Unfortunately for Professor Snape, the man had grossly underestimated them, using such a mild spell. If he were taking them seriously, he would have known to replace the passive binding portion of the spell with something more active. Like a spell for rendering a person unconscious, or the Cruciatus.

Not that the teacher would go around casting Unforgivables around doorways, or on other students, for that matter. But that was what they were used to now, thanks to those Death Eater dogs.

Deactivating the original spells on the infirmary door took only a few moments' work, and it swung open harmlessly. Justin hesitated over doing the same to the doorframe, just knowing that Snape—being Snape—would have some sort of sneaky twist to his spells that he couldn't see immediately.

Looking over the frame, Justin followed the trail to both the beginning and ending of the spell, located at the bottom on each side of the door. Kneeling down to study it more closely, Justin silently cursed the git again.

Rather than the double-linked spell he first thought it was, it turned out that Professor Snape had created a triple-linked spell, something Justin had only seen from the Golden Trio.

Not only that, but he'd hidden it well enough within the first two spells—the binding and the alarm spells—that Justin could only find any trace of it at the very beginning and the very end, like loose threads at the ends of a braid.

The third spell seemed linked to Hogwarts itself, and when activated, it would seal the medical ward and, essentially, Hogwarts would swallow the room, the infirmary disappearing into the labyrinth of halls and rooms.

And, of-bloody-course, it would activate, triggering the two spells connected to it, if it was deactivated, frozen, or moved in any way. Justin wanted to stamp his foot and scream at the injustice.

Hermione would spend a week solid in front of this doorway, studying such a complex and—irritably enough—ingenious link of spells. Who would have thought the bastard was capable of something as clever as this?

Justin pushed up his sleeves determinedly. If the greasy git wanted to play hard, Justin was more than ready to play, too. A ridiculous spell like that wasn't going to keep him from checking on his friends and completing the mission Harry had given to him.

Standing back and pointing his wand towards the bottom of the doorframe, Justin cast a disorientation spell from one side of the doorframe, down along the floor, and across to the other bottom of the doorframe. The spell caught just the ends of the triple-spell, disorienting the intentions of the spells on the doorframe.

It wouldn't last but a minute, since it was a spell and not a person, which was what the disorientation spell had been made for. But it would last long enough for Justin to peel the triple-spell off the doorframe, across the hall, and onto another doorframe. Once settled, it would be like the complex spell had never been moved, and no alarms would sound.

Satisfied, Justin headed into the medical ward, a smirk hovering over his lips as he pictured the greasy git's expression when he found his precious spell later.

Then his eyes focused on the room itself, still lit unnaturally bright by his boost of magic, although it was quickly dimming. Those spells outside had nearly used up the little extra he'd pulled out. He'd need to be quick about it, then.

The beds were filled with bandaged and sleeping bodies, and despite his rush, Justin's heart squeezed in pained sympathy. These were his classmates, who'd later become trusted teammates. Justin moved along them slowly, tucking the see-me-not spell around him again, just in case anyone came in.

Everyone looked much better, even though it'd been less than a day. A proper bed, medicine, and a trained mediwitch made all the difference, it seemed. Everyone had been near death in the most painful of ways when Harry had them sent up to the medical ward.

Now, with each person Justin saw, it seemed more and more likely that they would all live to see the next school year. Maybe not all whole, but a sight better than what had been waiting for them.

Only a few were awake, and of those, only one or two sensed Justin there. He spent a few minutes talking to those two, filling them in on what was happening. It seemed to calm them, and they smiled vaguely to hear Harry'd been bullied into sleeping.

Ten minutes later, and Justin was back outside the Great Hall, claiming his double's seat. The spell was de-activated, and the doll-focus was once again just a cold cloth in his pocket.

He dug a hand into his pocket and pulled out his sickle-comm. Turning it over in his hand, playing it along his fingers absently, Justin murmured a quiet spell and left a message on the coin for Harry and the others when they woke. Medical ward clear. Everyone's looking brilliant.

That should satisfy Harry, and Neville would be able to get a good, solid sleep after he received it, so Ginny would be grateful, too.

Sighing again as he looked out over the empty and silent halls, Justin pocketed the coin. This time, though, he pulled out five small, round green balls. They glowed very faintly, nothing anyone would see unless they had the ball right up to their eye.

The balls were containment globes Ginny had thought up.

Of course, they could be expanded or shrunk to fit whatever size suited, the balls were mostly used to hold active spells, potions, or magical traps. Like an exploding snap, the balls exploded on high-velocity impact—if they were thrown, for instance—and released whatever spell they had stored inside across the immediate area.

Everyone on the team had five balls at all times, by order of Ron and Hermione. When one was used, it was replaced as soon as they made camp or they reached a safe position. They were dead useful. Deadly, period, if you put the right spells in them.

One by one, Justin tossed them into the air, arching them up and around to his other hand. He juggled them absently, something to keep his hands busy as he anticipated the boredom ahead. He was confident he wouldn't drop them; he'd been juggling too long to miss one. Not really a hobby, it was just something moderately entertaining that kept his hands moving and attention focused. Vital for a sentry warding an exhausted team.

Smiling slightly, Justin watched the near-invisible orbs arch and disappear into the dimly lit air, only to reappear moments from his hand.

Now that they were back at Hogwarts, they wouldn't need these dangerous things anymore. And he was betting that, unless some idiot opened their mouth to the Golden Trio, none of them would think of collecting the balls again.

Which meant that Justin could deactivate his three spells and dump the two potions. And have five perfectly serviceable, extremely undetectable, containers for whatever he chose to put into them.

His grin turned wicked as he thought of all the fun he could have with them. Pranks—although nothing over the top, or it'd bring Harry down on him, wrath and vengeance personified.

Food, candy, sweets. Alcohol, good rum, or fire-whiskey. One ball, sufficiently packed, could hold up to a small lake of water. The thought of dropping one into the Slytherin dungeons at night had kept him warm and happy on many of the long, cold nights out there.

Justin chuckled to himself, his mind already racing with plans and pranks and who he'd be able to rope into joining him.

Oh, the fun he was going to have once school started up again… It was going to be absolutely brilliant!


A/N: Thank you, everyone, for reading! I hope you enjoyed this quasi-light-heartedness. It is not going to last.

As usual, you're encouraged to click that little button that says "review" before you leave and forget about me entirely. (No, I am not above using guilt-trips. I'm shallow like that.)