Note: hey all (looks about nervously) I realize that it's been a while. (doges flung vegetables). A-and I just want you to know that I have no plans to abandon this story (or my other one which you may or may not be reading). My stories will continue, but like I've said in previous notes, my real life has been pretty tough on me recently. It was my last semester of college, and I managed to pull off some pretty awesome grades, but because of that, I had to put down my fanfics and fun things for a while. You wouldn't believe the withdrawal symptoms... I suffered. It was painful. But I endured, and schools over, so while I'm desperately searching for a job in this wretched economy, I'll be typing away on my laptop, making up more stories and continuing my fanfics.

Thank you to those of you who have been patient with me and my deplorable updating. I appreciate all the helpful reviews and encouragement ilu all, truly.

And special thank you to msremus for being my beta for this chapter.

Disclaimer: HP belongs to JKR. I own nothing.

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Last time: Salazar's wife finally leaves Hogwarts leaving Cicero behind to pursue his magical education. Meanwhile Harry, Darcy and Greer begin researching Helga's family, delving into reasons why others might want to try and target her. Harry and Helga begin preparations for pranking Salazar, while Salazar busies himself with trying to figure out how to brew veritaserum. And Poor Harry is trying with difficulty to hide his feelings for Salazar who at times seems oblivious, and other times, only all too aware.

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Chapter 22:

In my room, I shivered under the seven blankets I had stolen from various unused rooms around the castle. The candle on my bedside table flickered dimly, casting shadows over the stone walls.

On my lap were the scrolls Darcy had given me. Starting with the thickest one, I found nothing but gossip and dirt on several pureblood families, most recorded in sordid detail every infraction, insult, quarrel, slight, misdeed, and so on that had been observed or heard of by at least one of the Varro household.

The scroll was ridiculously long, as if purebloods had nothing better to do than to write nasty things about each other. I scanned the scroll for any mention of the Hufflepuff family, but I found absolutely nothing to catch my attention. There was plenty on the Erde family, as Darcy had commented earlier, but there was almost nothing at all about the Hufflepuffs until a little over halfway through the scroll. And it was only a few lines.

Hywel Hufflepuff left banquet early

Fiona Hufflepuff (nee Fallon) caught in an affair with Garan Brac

Second son, Hubert Hufflepuff, eloped. Married Peregrine Wylt formally after seven months.

And that was it.

Three lines.

I chewed thoughtfully on my lower lip, wondering if maybe the affair or the runaway son would give me a clue. If the Brac or Wylt families were somehow significant, maybe there could be something to those events.

I grabbed the other scroll and found it to be completely blank. I huffed and tried tapping it a few times, then I tried asking for names, but the scroll remained stubbornly bereft of words. I glared darkly at the blank scroll before rolling it up and setting it under the bedside table. Then I did the same with the other seemingly endless scroll.

I would need Darcy's help to figure out the smaller scroll.

Frustrated, I blew out my candle and turned over, resigned to suffer through nightmares or dreams featuring Salazar's talented fingers. Either way, it was bound to be an exciting night.

XXXXX

I woke up in the dark to the feeling of air brushing over the skin across my fingers and face. As my eyes adjusted I could just make out three figures quietly entering my room.

I held my breath, automatically reaching under my pillow where my wand… didn't exist. My hand groped at nothing in disappointment and I swallowed my anxiety.

One of the figures bumped into another and cursed.

"Shut the door." Whispered the first one.

And the door was quickly and quietly closed.

"I can't see a damn thing," whispered the second one, "Lumos." White light flooded the small room and I had to blink a few times as my eyes watered from the sudden glow.

"Argh! Give a guy some warning, will ya?" the third one hissed. Relief flooded through me as I realized they were just students.

"Can one of you three tell me what you think you're doing in my room this late at night?" I sat up but stayed huddled in my mountain of blankets.

"Guys, did that pile of blankets just speak?" The second one raised his illuminated wand to get a better look.

"Blankets don't speak. Obviously this is where that Harry bloke sleeps." The first one sighed bitterly.

"Crap. Now what?" Came from the third one.

"We can't let him warn Slytherin." The second one pointed out.

"You know, I'm right here." I said a bit irritated.

"Guess there's no choice." The first one brought out his wand. "Incarcerous!"

"Whoa, whoa!" I rolled forward to fall over the side of the bed along with my mountain of blankets barely dodging the spell. I quickly untangled myself from the blankets and got to my feet. "Hey, I asked what the hell you're doing in my room. Get the hell out and let me sleep in peace. And for Merlin's sake point that wand away from me!"

"Sorry Harry. But this is sort of a rite of passage, and you're kind of in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"We're sorry about this. Really, but this is for honor and glory." The second one shrugged helplessly.

"And an Outstanding on our exam," added the third.

"I'm going to give you three seconds to put those wands down and walk out of here," I began, feeling a thrill of adrenaline rush through me. It wasn't like they wanted to hurt me, but my body felt tense and ready to spring as if they were.

"Please just bear with us, will you?" The third one asked, a little exasperated. After a quick assessment, I determined that the first two were probably sixth years and the last one was a bit younger looking, so a fifth or fourth year. They were Gryffindor's students, no doubt.

This whole thing was stupid. I recalled Salazar mentioning an extra credit assignment a while ago where the objective was to get passed his wards. And he had also mentioned that they might try to come through my room. The fact that he was right pissed me off, and I swear to Merlin if he dared utter an 'I told you so' I'd make him eat bat spleens. But I think I was even angrier at Gryffindor for encouraging such an impossible task.

Any hint of tiredness disappeared as I shifted and prepared to defend myself. The movements of the three younger students seemed to slow, and even my own movements seemed to lag behind, but before even half of a binding spell could be completed, I was already halfway across the room and knocking the wand out of the second Gryffindor's hand, and it clattered to the floor as I twisted his arm around his back positioning him like a human shield.

I shoved him into the first one and quickly kicked the wand out of the third one's hand just as he completed a petrificus totalus. I barely dodged it as it flew past and hit the second one in the back causing his body to go ridged and fall forward.

Taking advantage of the first one's sudden move to catch his comrade I reached over with my left hand and easily plucked the last wand away. My hand burned at the contact of the wood and the wand zipped across the room to smack against the wall and fall with a clatter.

"You could have just left and I could have gone back to sleep, but no, you had to fucking keep bothering me. If you can't even beat me three on one in a duel and your opponent doesn't even have a wand, you have some serious improvements to make before you even consider trying to tackle Salazar's wards. Now get the hell out!"

"You kicked my hand," the youngest one whined.

I rolled my eyes and grabbed three of the seven blankets and tossed them roughly back onto the bed. I then grabbed the scrolls under the table and shoved them in the remaining four blankets, grabbed my shoes and made my way to the door.

Walking past the cleaning closet and the door to no where, I stopped in front of Salazar's door and knocked loudly.

A few moments passed before Salazar came to the door wearing a pair of comfortable looking pants and a light robe thrown over his shoulders like an after thought. It hung loose and open to reveal a glimpse of smooth, pale skin stretched over well toned muscle, and his dark hair pooled over his shoulders in beautiful disarray. He seemed to be somewhat out of sorts, and blinked a bit and stared.

"What?" He finally asked, noting the blankets bunched in my arms.

"I'm sleeping with you tonight." I declared angrily.

Salazar then did something very un-Slytherin and staggered a bit, seeming to trip over nothing.

"You, what?" Salazar asked a bit startled. Then it occurred to me how I had phrased my words.

"Ah, I mean, I wanted to stay… I wanted to…" I stammered, face burning with embarrassment, "I mean… I mean can I please sleep… somewhere…in your quarters? Or where ever…" I trailed off.

Without any questions, I found myself steered inside, door shut behind me, and Salazar walking across the small, mostly empty room towards another door.

"Um," I began, but I fell quiet as he beckoned me to follow without a word. On the other side of the door was darkness.

Salazar's quarters had shifted again, and soon I was walking through what seemed like a dense forest. Plants brushed against my arms like feathers. Others felt like waxy fingers pulling at my skin. I privately hoped that none of them would be poisonous or cause unwanted side affects. Salazar's shadow walking in front of me was my only guide, and I wondered why he didn't cast a lumos. Then again, he probably knew his was around his rooms without having to really look where he was going. The kind gesture of lighting the way for a guest was seemingly lost on him.

'That's the kind of person he is,' I thought to myself, 'He doesn't have a clue about what other people might want or need. It's as if it never occurs to him.' I rolled my eyes.

"Salazar?" I ventured quietly as we continued in the dark.

"Hm?" he grunted, obviously still half asleep.

"What are all these plants doing in your quarters?"

"Ingredients." He muttered, grasping a handle to another door. It clicked open and a soft light glowed beyond the threshold. I recognized this room. It was the bed chamber connected to the washroom I had seen the first time I entered Salazar's chambers.

The snakes hissed their greetings to Salazar and welcomed me back. I found myself blushing at their welcoming comments, and glanced ahead to Salazar who continued on to another door.

"Wait, isn't this… isn't this your room?"

"Hm? Oh, no, this is Cicero's room." Salazar yawned.

"Oh." I said, and continued following him. The next room was plain and drab, like my room. It had a bed and a bed side table and there was a small wooden chair on the other side of the bed.

"This is my room." He said simply. I stared.

"Are you serious?" I asked him with a frown. "Because I'm not sure if I believe you."

"I don't really have a guest bedroom, but you can certainly stay in either of my sons' rooms. I'm not sure if Victoria would appreciate you using her rooms… Or you can stay in here."

I felt my face heat up at his words. He didn't honestly just offer to let me sleep in his rooms, did he? Selfishly, I wanted to say yes, but I didn't dare.

"Where will you sleep?" I asked carefully.

"Here." He said decisively.

"Um, I-," I began, but stopped my self from blurting out my real desire. I didn't need him thinking I liked him, even though I kind of did. I didn't want him to hate me. "Can you conjure a second bed?" I managed to say.

He looked at me like I was asking something stupid, but nodded.

"Then, I'll stay in here." I shifted a little nervously, "I mean… sometimes I get-, I like it when other people are in the same room. In Gryffindor tower there were five of us and I like having someone else…" I trailed off. My excuses were lame. He probably wouldn't buy it. But it wasn't a complete lie. I did like my time in the dormitories with the others. I just also liked my privacy.

It was stupid and selfish. I just hope it worked.

"Don't mention Godric to me in my own rooms." Slytherin growled, "And an engorgio charm is a lot easier than conjuring. We can share," then he paused as if he just realized something, "unless you're uncomfortable?"

I barely managed to keep my composure, and could only nod my assent. I was probably the luckiest idiot on the planet.

With a wave of his wand, the bed grew to twice its size and pushed both the night stand and the chair outwards. Then Salazar slumped into the bed and dragged himself under the covers. I took a small step forward, a little uncertain, but one look from Salazar sent me scurrying over to the other side where I dropped my blankets in a heap and crawled under them and into the bed.

I buried myself deep into my covers, hiding my embarrassment.

"Good night." Salazar set his wand on the bed side table and then whispered, "Nox," and the room went dark. I could hear the whisper of sheets sliding over skin, a sigh, and then stillness.

"Sorry for waking you in the middle of the night, you were right… about the students I mean…" I sighed, wondering if he was maybe a little put out about having to keep catering to me. I shifted under my pile of blankets and curled up comfortably. "Good night." I added, before closing my eyes.

And then I drifted off to sleep.

XXXXX

Morning came, and for once I had slept without nightmares. I stirred as the fake light shown through a fake window on a wall I knew to be under ground. But it still felt nice to have some daylight even if it wasn't real. Yawning, I blinked open my eyes, and found myself staring at a beautiful expanse of creamy white skin surrounded by plain white cotton sheets.

Now wasn't that a pleasant morning view.

As I uncurled from my warm nest of blankets I discovered that Salazar was exactly the opposite. Most of his covers were flung aside. Where I curled in a ball and took up as little room as possible, Salazar was sprawled out over the bed, breathing softly, hair in disarray. He looked absolutely adorable. His sleeping expression was by far the cutest thing I had ever seen, and the way his hair fell over his pillow, framing his face in dark tresses, seemed to make him look younger.

Those dark eyelashes, feathered softly over his cheek bones, lips slightly parted. He was beautiful.

I had spent much of my time with Salazar over the last few weeks, sometimes infuriated with him, because at times it seemed as if he couldn't be bothered with my feelings. But I don't think that was on purpose. In fact, he seemed to be trying very hard, as if he had never really thought about inconveniences to others, or that a person could desire more than the bare minimum from him. He didn't always respect me, I don't think. But he was learning. He was trying, and for some reason, that made me smile.

Salazar wasn't an easy person to like. He could be cold, and he had no sense of privacy except for his own. He was paranoid, and sometimes even a little arrogant. Okay, maybe he was more than a little.

Merlin knows why I liked him. Admired him. Desired him.

Because he looked after me. He listened to me, and I know he wanted to help me get my magic back, but he wasn't pushing me to relive those memories again. He was keeping his promises to me, even though I could see it was sometimes a struggle for him.

I liked him because he didn't treat me like I was going to break down and cry at any minute. I liked him because sometimes he seemed almost vulnerable, like now when he was sleeping, or when I challenged his prejudices. And it was rare, to see him so unguarded or confused, and yet I had a knack for bringing out those expressions.

He didn't look at me like I was some spectacle with a stupid scar on my forehead. He didn't treat me like I was an idiot. Salazar hadn't used me like a pawn. He didn't constantly lecture me about danger, as if I didn't know anything about the world.

Salazar had a million faults to be sure, but he had enough positive attributes to make up for it. And damn if he couldn't be charming and endearing just enough to keep me hanging on to his every word, to have me dreading yet desiring his touch, to have me longing to see him when ever he was out of my sight. And it still wasn't enough. Maybe I was deluding myself, but perhaps this was more than a crush. Maybe this was more than liking.

'Maybe I was…' I bit my lip, watching each shallow breath Salazar took, his sleeping face blissfully unaware of my turbulent thoughts. He was so amazing and beautiful and interesting. I'd never get bored of watching him, of being with him. It was so difficult to hold back from running my fingers over his skin and through his hair.

This depth of emotion was so much more than liking. I knew why I liked him, and I knew why sometimes he infuriated me. But this feeling didn't have any real reason behind it. It didn't really make sense. It just was, and I couldn't help it. And that made it worse, because how could he ever feel the same? I was trapped in this bittersweet misery.

'I'm in love with Salazar.'

And then, like a rush of the sea, I felt a swelling of magic, and I heard a soft click.

The bracelet snapped and fell from my wrist onto the bed.