Hello faithful readers!

So, I know I didn't make any promises about updates but even I didn't expect it to take this long. And there is one simple reason: LIFE. I moved into a new place, started second year in uni (which is way more work-loaded than the previous) and I got a job. It takes me ages to travel between places so whatever time I would have had for writing was usually taken by trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. And being so busy practically killed my muse for a while.

Fortunately Christmas revived her and I managed to start writing again. I hope you enjoy the chapter and that it is worth the wait. Again, no promises about future updates. Sorry, but the new trimester promises to be just as busy.

I would also thank my reviewers:

Redribin, Bobette13, T-Kuchiki, Guest, midnightblupuppy, rdeen1952, n.n, Wyrdsmith, ArainaR, Yaoi's Lover, AmbivalentAngyl, Vaettr, ak, Phenix, Calemirneth Evan Potter-Snape, GoGo Coupon Girl, Yuval25, sesshoumaru4me, Anaelisa, Sarah.A.A, Moonstone blaze, johfra, Nici Barru, EmLights, Mashkai30, LdyGossamer, kingstonavery, random, mangalover, MystereRaven, Choocolate, NightStalkersRevenge, MargaritaS, jetrois, al, Rubik's cube, Reader-anonymous-writer, Shadow Eclipse, Niya, deanec64, atymer, Chronos guardian, Vaughn Tyler, Daddy's little cracy bitch, x-marks-the-spot1974, rainlele, Robyn Lee Swan, Quynce, SoulMore, random yet lovable, RRW, serenityselena, Balos, musme, Harriverse, Fuyutaro son, Dark Neko 4000, Fire-Metal Horse17, Nocturnal Rose, Forever Reading aka meg, jicalazuxil, Lunalover009, Kanberry, VaroSev, da-blk-saiyangirl, Norven, DarkRavie, sunsethill, dogsby, phoebe turner, mindgameplay, LunaStorm, kentai18ancilla, sev's-sexy-mistress, BadGirlgoesworse, doodle808, DandelionKing, TearfullPixie, GreeonOnBlack, Serpent91, StValentineSt, Barranca, Um...Someone, gail19, SeverusDmitri18, Gladoo89, cara-tanaka, Fyreheart, ni-de-ai-ren, Lientjuhh and skidney

There were a couple of questions. Someone reminded that the Marauder's Map is a problem and I thank that person for the reminder :) Another also challenged Arcturus' death and I can just say that I consider it common knowledge that the Blacks' inbreeding shortened their ages. I was following canon as to the time of his death and tried to give it a natural cause.

Some have also complained about the slow pace and I can just say that it is my style. I like to go with "showing" instead of "telling" because it gives the story more depth. In an ideal world you'd read the story in its entirety and all the small details and quirks that I write in it would make sense in the end. Unfortunately I do not have time to finish this at once.

And, the link the Caelum's fake family tree is up on my profile. I think I accidentally put Helen Miles down as Diana Miles and I'll change that at some point. Some of the dates might also be wrong. I was working off old notes when I finished it.

But for now, enjoy the chapter :)

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and no money is made with this.


Chapter 22. In with the Old

It took Caelum five minutes of lying in bed before he realized what was different. Around him the magic of the ancient castle hummed with a familiar tune and the air smelled of something that was uniquely Hogwarts. There was nothing threatening here, nothing to unnerve him.

He had had his first good night sleep in… forever, really.

And it was all because, no matter the dimension, Hogwarts was his home, second only to Severus. And even some version of the snarky Potions Master existed and lived here and so Caelum had slept like a baby all through the night, only to wake up at the crack of dawn as had always been customary for him in Hogwarts. He was utterly relaxed and for a fleeting moment he could imagine turning on his side and being enveloped by familiar arms.

But that moment passed and light caught on his tattoo, casting a flicker on the wall. No, it was not the past but something that was old and familiar yet new and exciting all at the same time. He was something new that was borne from the mistakes and experiences of his past. Would the past him have welcomed a stranger into his family? And if he hadn't, Zahra would have been left living a life unimaginably horrifying.

Speaking of his daughter, Caelum could sense her pulsing magical core in the other room. There was something peaceful about knowing his daughter was alive in the room next to him and he could live in the castle that he loved most in the world. Hogwarts was home even in this strange new form that he was to come to know it and he hoped that one day Zahra would see it that way as well.

With the eager giddiness that had not vanished even overnight, Caelum threw his covers to the side and got out of bed. His arms reached towards the ceiling as the man stretched and heard the satisfying pops from his spine.

"Too early…" he heard Syl mumble but only grinned and nearly hopped to the main room. His eyes were shining with excitement so powerfully it even rivalled the shimmer of his silvery tattoo. Now, to fix the place up…

By the time one sleepy headed girl emerged from her bedroom, rubbing at her eyes, the small apartment had gone through such a total transformation that some of it even slipped past her lethargy and she did a double take.

"What's this?"

Zahra took a curious look around and Caelum smiled at her. The nearly barren quarters had been transformed into something that to him screamed home. A long brown couch sat in front of the fireplace with a glass table between them while two recliners were set in front of one of the two windows with a table in the middle.

The kitchenette to the left from the entrance now sported a counter and yet another table, this one round, stood in the free space between the kitchenette and the couch with high-backed chairs surrounding it. The sliver of wall between the toilet and Caelum's bedroom door held host to a small altar with two lit black candles, a bowl of water and a dagger on the wall. Every other free wall-space was taken over by shelves and shelves of books and various items. Warm coloured rugs were scattered all over the cold, hard stone floors.

But none of these were the dominating feature of the quarters. No, the first thing Zahra's eyes took notice of were the green vines climbing in the boundaries between walls and ceiling, floor and walls, and corners of walls. Her eyes followed the never-ending loops of green leaves that changed from one plant to another without a single regard to natural order. Caelum waited with baited breath.

"They're for the privacy wards, right?" she finally guessed, her purple eyes casting towards the altar, "and that's the central point. Blood wards?"

"Yes and no. Dumbledore's curiosity knows no boundaries, but we need something more than blood wards to keep him at bay. Earth of protection herbs, Fire of candles and Water in the bowl with Life completing the cycle when blood is sacrificed." The man shrugged but he was practically vibrating with excitement, and light danced merrily in his currently black eyes. "I would have liked to add Air but Fire feeds on it anyway and Air is a fickle friend when used in protection spells."

"Is my room included?" Her eyes too were positively glowing with interest and Caelum smiled at her indulgently. If there was one thing they shared, it was a deep rooted love for magic.

"Of course. I'm not leaving the old man any openings if I can help it. Oh, and we need to get going to the breakfast. I assume there is going to be an announcement of some kind."

The dark haired girl grimaced and joy was gone in a flash. "Oh great. Everyone's going to know my name now."

Caelum only grinned. "That's what the Sorting Ceremony in front of the school would have been all about."

He caught the slightly confused look on Zahra's face and cocked his head to the side. "What is it?"

She shrugged. "It's just that you're so happy here. I've rarely seen you smile so much and you are… kind of giddy." She seemed more amused than confused now but Caelum felt he needed to explain some of it anyway. In one long stride he was next to her and without warning picked her up and twirled her around while laughing.

"That's because Hogwarts always was my home, Zahra," he told her softly, putting her back on her own two feet. "And it's good to be back home."

By the time the two made their way down to the Great Hall, almost everyone else had arrived and taken seats. Caelum had led Zahra through the winding corridors and tricky staircases without fail and quickly informed her in quiet tones that getting lost at Hogwarts was a given – there was simply too much space and nothing stayed put. Even the classrooms changed locations from time to time – though that usually only occurred over holidays – and the only constants in the castle were the Great Hall and the House dormitories. And the towers.

Upon arrival the mage let his eyes travel over the student body that stared back with curious eyes. He blinked to disperse the spots of light that kept creeping into his vision every time he lost concentration. The amount of magic in the air was simply too much and even Zahra shivered next to him.

"This isn't like the District," she said quietly, minding the curious ears around them. If Caelum didn't know better, his daughter might appear even shy on the outside.

He knew better of course.

"Those were adults, in relative control of their magic. These are youngsters in training and their magic tends to flitter around uncontrollably with their emotions. It should be slightly better with the Slytherins," he replied just as quietly.

Intrigued purple eyes turned towards the table on the far right, their green and silver ties and crests matching Zahra's uniform, even though hers was not the heavy cut that hid the body from view. No, she had got these ropes in France and only her status as a thousands years old Genie had kept Caelum's tongue in check. If she wanted to stick out from the crowd, it was her decision – though being the new Professor's daughter might have made staying under the radar a moot point.

"I'll see you at lunch."

Their eyes met in silent understanding before they parted.

Caelum had noticed Harry sitting next to Zabini but tried to keep his eyes from straying too much in his direction. He knew a certain pair of twinkling blue eyes were trained on his every move and he could not do anything to endanger Harry or the rest of his family.

"All will be well," Syl hissed in his ear. "I will bite anyone who daresss to try to harm usss."

Caelum coughed to hide his chuckles. The only reason he had allowed Syl around his torso today was because the snake had threatened to leave on his own if left alone for another day. Besides, people were bound to notice his familiars so hiding them was not an option – Parseltongue was another matter entirely.

"Professor Black," Kettleburn greeted him from the left half of the table and gestured to the empty seat next to him at the end of the table. It put Caelum the furthest from his children but one look into the twinkling blue eyes told him this was a battle not worth the fight.

It seemed Dumbledore was not taking any chances with him.

Though he is being slightly too obvious, Caelum pondered as he finally took his seat and let his eyes sweep over the gathered crowd. Hundreds of pairs of eyes stared back at him and had he been an empath, the projected curiosity would have no doubt drowned him. But soon the eyes turned to Dumbledore as the old man stood up and started to drone on about new beginnings, buried pasts and eventually came to the point and introduced "Professor Caelum Black and his daughter Zahra".

"Professor Black has graciously accepted the teaching position for Potions," Dumbledore informed the student body rather jovially and ignoring the rush of whispers continued, "while Professor Snape will be taking over the Defence duties. I assure you no teaching time will be lost over this… shuffle and I hope everyone will be on their best behaviour as the Professors get used to their new roles." His eyes twinkled at the gobsmacked youngsters.

Caelum's eyes met Harry's for a second before he looked away. He had noticed the sheer relief barely hidden by the emerald green and could not find amusement in the students' reaction when worry gnawed at his insides. While the faculty waited for the students to settle down, Caelum caught himself turning towards the Slytherin table at least three times without meaning to. And then he realized he had the perfect cover to be looking over there. After all, Zahra was there too.

She was sitting alone – that much was clear – even though there were other students surrounding her. Many curious glances were thrown her way but it seemed the name Black invited some caution even in the Slytherin House and Caelum's mind immediately saw how she could use this to get closer to Harry. If only he knew what had upset his little counterpart so.

The question continued to bother him even as he poured himself some tea and reached for ready-cut fruit. When Kettleburn's attention was turned elsewhere, he cast the most comprehensive yet discreet detections spells on his food before deeming it safe and settling down for an uneventful morning.

His first class would be sixth year NEWT class and he had not had time to refine the lesson plans handed to him what with being busy with the warding of his quarters. Everybody's first lessons would no doubt end up being a bore this week simply because he did not have the time to really delve into the Ministry stipulations on Potions curriculum yet and even one lost lesson would be difficult to catch up to. Though it was just the beginning of term, especially NEWT students needed to know that they were expected to work hard.

Perhaps he could turn this into something of a revision session…

Soon the first bell rang and the students still lounging in the Great Hall got up in a hurry. Caelum noticed with a frown that not one of the staff had offered to help him find his way and were instead completely absorbed in their own worlds. Surely it had not been this bad when he had been schooled? Had he been any other new teacher, he would have probably wasted half of the first lesson just finding his way to the class room.

With a barely concealed sigh the mage got up and started heading for the dungeons. He made sure to take a couple of wrong turns just in case there was someone spying on him. He would not put it past Dumbledore but he was starting to suspect that this version of this version of the Headmaster was not as paranoid or up to the same level of games that Caelum had learned to expect of him. The man had the trust of a phoenix, for Merlin's sake.

He still liked to be on his guard just in case.

By the time the man reached the door he was five minutes late. He could hear the silent murmur of voices through the open door and only paused to exhale once before stepping through the doorway and wandlessly closing the door behind him.

The sudden silence was palpable.

There were six people in the classroom but the sudden silence still managed to be palpable. Caelum quickly strode to the front of the room and whirled around, letting his black eyes hold each of their curious gazes. Four Slytherins and two Ravenclaws out of thirty to forty students.

Oh, Severus. I really have my work cut out for me, don't I?

"I know Professor Snape welcomed you to this class two weeks ago but as the… staff has seen some unprecedented shuffling, let me be the second to welcome you.

"This is NEWT level Potions and I will be your teacher at least for the next ten months. My name is Caelum Black as the Headmaster introduced me during breakfast. I have Mastery level knowledge of Potions and it is my intentions to prepare you for your examinations to the best of my abilities." He levelled them with a stare when a few of them fidgeted. "With this few of you in the class, I expect excellence. I will extend an offer to those of your classmates with Exceeds Expectations in their OWLs to join you after a revision session with me during this week so the class size might grow. For now, any questions?"

The only Slytherin girl in the class raised her hand after a silent conversation with her classmates. "Why are you not teaching Defence?" she asked after Caelum nodded his permission. "I mean, it was Professor Quirrell that vanished…" she added, sneering a little at the unfortunate man's name.

"Master Snape was the only other applicant to the post and I do not believe myself fit to be teaching Defence at beginner level. I understand that this is an unnecessary complication to your studies and we will try to make the transition as smooth as possible. While Defence has experienced… varied teaching over the years, you have at least had Professor Snape's consistent methods to rely on in this subject. I do no claim to possess the expertise that he does in Potions but I am an experienced teacher and you are welcome to ask any questions or clarifications that you feel you will need to complete your NEWTs to the highest standard."

"Now, can you tell me what potions you brewed on your last lesson?"

It turned out to be the Draught of Living Death. Caelum took a look at the small stack of essays on the Professor's desk at the front of the room. All on the common mistakes done while brewing the Draught and Caelum smiled slightly when he came up with the lesson plan.

A wish of his wand had a chalk quickly writing on the board. In less than a minute the recipe for the Draught of Living Death was on view for everyone and Caelum turned uncaring eyes on his students.

"Now, spot the three mistakes in this recipe. Work alone and don't look at your book. You have five minutes."

Two of them got it right and Caelum heaved a heavy internal sigh. This did not bode well but still he went ahead with his plans.´

The next hour was an eye opening experience for him. The students were good brewers and had some background knowledge in ingredient handling. But they lacked any kind of flair and were at best only brewing straight from instructions they did not even completely understand. So when he asked them to brew the potion without the recipe – after cleaning the chalk off the board – he was met with groans.

Not one of them got it right.

"This is NEWT class," Caelum ground out. "In the examination you are expected to brew any one of the potions from the next two years without the recipe to guide you. You are meant to understand the interaction between ingredients and to be able to improve the basic formula through that understanding." He sighed. "We are brewing the Draught of Peace next class. Learn the recipe because you are not opening your books in this class for a while."

The bell released them but instead of following his students, Caelum sank heavily in the chair behind his desk, listlessly glancing through the essays. He knew his Severus had not been the best of teachers but at least the man had hammered ingredient interaction theory into their heads in first year and only allowed them to start brewing after passing the exam on basic potions theory.

This one apparently did not bother with that side of potions making. He threw children into the dangerous waters of potions making and expected them to know the currents with the experience of an age old sailor. And Caelum could not call him out on it – not if he wanted to have some sort of an amicable relationship with the man.

This wasn't enough the make him doubt his plans but he had to wonder what sort of other unwelcome changes he would come across in the future.

The overall performance did not improve with the Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw fourth years who had their double lesson with him before lunch. While some of the Ravenclaws and the odd Hufflepuff showed promise, especially with only working from the recipe, Caelum noticed that only one in the room knew how to improve on the basic formula for Blood-Replenishing Potion. And he actually had to contain two exploding cauldrons, one of which he'd only caught in time because of his wandless magic.

"Potions is precision work," he told them at the end. "When you brew, your attention cannot wander. Your hands must be focused on the task and you must be sure of your steps before you make them. Your book lists the most common mistakes in this potion – yet you still managed more than half a dozen of them. I do not expect miracles but I expect every single one of you to open your book and do the reading before class. I will know if you don't, and I will fail you if I even suspect your taking your Hogwarts education for granted."

Many of them had looked rather dubious at that and Caelum had recognized them as purebloods. He grinned rather savagely and had them cringing away. "I am the Head of House Black, children, and I do not give a damn about your parents. Everyone is equal in this class room and if you do not do the reading, I will fail you.


Lunch had been an arduous affair. Caelum had the longest journey to the Great Hall from the dungeons and the rest of the staff was already seated by the time he appeared. Kettleburn had apparently had another accident – albeit a minor one – and the man was lost in thoughts of his apparent mortality, therefore not in mood for a conversation. Caelum exchanged a couple of words with Septima Vector but it was difficult talking around a mumbling colleague.

The afternoon classes with second years had been rather disappointing as Caelum had taken them through a Hair-Growth Potion. At least with them he would have time to spare a couple of lessons to theory.

All in all, this Hogwarts had not impressed him. He still felt like home here but the cold shoulder he was receiving from everyone was getting to him and there was very little he could do about it. He was a Black here, after all, and there was very little that he could about the reputation of his family.

Even Zahra had to suffer with him.

"The only person that talked to me is Draco Malfoy who immediately declared himself to be your, and my, cousin and proceeded to scare everyone else away. The second years have already formed their groups and they don't know what to make of me and everyone else keeps looking at me like I have horns growing from my head!" the ex-Genie practically shouted when she returned to their quarters after dinner. "And I can't even talk to Harry," she added very quietly.

"Yet," Caelum corrected with a small smile that did not reach his eyes. Why was there such a rotten atmosphere in Hogwarts? Was it just him being oversensitive or was there something else underfoot? Voldemort was gone and he should be able to enjoy his home and teaching.

"I guess we are both just a little depressed," Caelum admitted, running his hands over Zahra's glossy locks. "It's been ages since we have been around this many people and maybe we forgot how to act around them, forgot we can't trust our expectations of people we have never met before. I admit my apprehension is mostly because the classes have been so poorly taught that I want to go and hit Severus Snape. But I can't do that."

"He seemed pretty cross with me," Zahra confessed as she willing turned into Caelum's embrace and sighed deeply. "I think there's a lot of hate in him – but towards what I do not know."

"I'll talk to Harry about you two bonding in the library. It's the most neutral ground."

"He looked so tired," Zahra whispered against the fabric of Caelum's robes. "I don't know if he's okay."


"Invisible. Silent. Pass-through."

As soon as the Emerald was done working its magic on Caelum, the mage stepped through the portrait guarding the entrance to his quarters and took to the dark halls of the ancient castle. His eyes easily cut through the darkness and the man passed the snoring portraits with no one the wiser. Though he had never understood the portraits' need of sleep. Did they actually dream? Or was it just the enchantment that forced them to follow the same routine as the rest of the castle?

Shaking the useless thoughts out of his mind, Caelum made his way to the dungeons, and more precisely, the Slytherin Common Room.

He had not lied when he Zahra that the dorms never shifted places but everything between the Great Hall and the dorms was fair game to the magic of the castle. Caelum could feel and see it swirling around him like smoky clouds. It was not like the magic of the Forest that appeared like glowing dust particles to his Mage Sight but more like the familiar Darkness that had tried to sneak up on him in La Tanière d'Ombre. Though this magic only had miniscule traces of darkness in it. That's what happened when Dark Magic was banned for centuries.

The magic rolled on the floor, circling his feet and partly covering the walls. It was layered thickly on the portraits and doorways and presented itself in all colours imaginable that Caelum could easily see even in the darkness of the September night. And when he finally advanced deep enough into the castle for no windows to light his way, it was magic that let him see.

With his shields in perfect condition, Caelum easily slipped through the wards that guarded the entrance and he silently stepped into the familiar Common Room. The fire was burning low and the few OWL and NEWT students still up at this hour had conjured balls of light that hung in the air. Caelum cringed when he noticed his shadow dancing at his feet – that was such a rookie mistake but fortunately easily fixable.

He let his senses guide him and soon he was standing in front of the first years' door. For the first and second year Slytherins had shared dorm rooms for girls and boys but from third year up they were divided into pairs and given tables and actual wardrobes for their personal use. Caelum had never understood why it wasn't done in other Houses as well. Ravenclaw had a similar system starting fifth year when the students would be focusing on their OWLs and needed privacy for studying but both Gryffindor and Hufflepuff always used a shared dorm room through the seven years of schooling. It had been one of the things Caelum had been planning to change back when.

But he was not here to debate House sensibilities. With baited breath, the man stepped through the door and into the room Harry would be staying in for the next two years.

It seemed everyone had turned in for the night – but then again they were the youngest students in school and it was half past eleven. There were some items thrown haphazardly around the room that gave it a slightly lived in look but Caelum found where his Harry was easily. It was the only bed with a locked a trunk and a glimmering array of wards on the closed hangings.

Could it really be this bad in Slytherin?

Without wasting another moment Caelum strode forward. He surpassed the wards just as easily as the ones on the entrance to the Common Room and announced himself, "Harry?"

A wand was pointed towards his left cheek and as soon as he was fully inside the cover of the four-poster bed, he cancelled the enchantments with a thought and cast a silencing ward with a wave of his hand. And not a moment too soon because with a slightly strangled gasp Harry untangled himself from his covers and threw himself at his guardian.

Caelum wrapped his arms securely around the small body and pressed the boy against his chest. There were no tears – those were so rare coming from Harry – but the child was practically dry heaving against the mage's robes while the man rubbed circles in his back and hissed nonsense in the soothing language of serpents.

It was a good fifteen minutes until Harry calmed down. He drew in one last shuddering breath, snuggled deeper into the embrace and closed his eyes.

"I had to use my birthday dagger."

Harry's voice was only a whisper but Caelum could easily hear the words in the absolute silence the spell afforded them. He looked for a correct response but which proved to be slightly difficult since his first instinct was to go and kill whoever had threatened Harry. He started combing through the raven locks and heard the relieved sigh.

"It was okay for till the first weekend. I think they were waiting. Watching and observing. But then Dumbledore summoned me to his office and…" Harry's voice faltered and Caelum forced his fingers to relax. He cupped the boy's chin and gently lifted the green eyes to meet his.

"All that matters is that you are alright," he said with a serious tone and conviction in his eyes. Harry nodded.

"I was studying in the library on Sunday night and got back really late. I thought it was weird that almost everybody was still up but then they all turned to look at me," Harry murmured quietly, pressing closer and the man resumed combing his hair. It seemed to keep Harry calm. "I'd only really talked to Blaise from the first years. The rest were just watching me like everyone else and I remember most of their names from the list of Death Eaters and the Dark Lord's supporters you gave me. They were polite enough in the dorms but now they were on the side, staring… waiting.

"A couple of the older students left the group and blocked my way. It – they started saying… things. About me being nothing special and not fitting in Slytherin. I mean, everybody's been whispering behind my back since I got here!" the boy huffed. "They think I can't hear but I can. They're asking if Voldemort saw me as competition after all, asking if I am some sort of super Dark Lord, born evil-incarnate. There were even some in Slytherin but mostly they just seemed to resent me."

"What happened with the students?"

Harry had his face pressed against Caelum's chest again and the mage could feel him cringe.

"They shot spells at me but I put up the basic shield that you taught me. They were surprised but they got over it quickly." He hesitated. "I don't know that many battle spells yet and they take a lot more out of me than charms so I figured any chance I had against them was using the self-defence techniques you taught me.

"So while my shield still held, I threw my satchel and my robes away and got my dagger out. It was… short –and ugly. I got cut on the arm but I managed to down two of them and hold the dagger against the throat of the obvious leader. I think it was mostly due surprise again," Harry admitted while Caelum silently sent his magic out to heal whatever injuries Harry might still have. "Then I just sort of stared him down. He knew that I could have used the dagger and it would have been self-defence since there were four sixth and seventh year students against one first year. But I let him go, picked up my stuff and quietly slipped into my dorm room. Everybody was sort of frozen.

"Since then even Blaise is giving me the cold shoulder. He sits next to me but doesn't really talk. Everyone stares at me and I think they tried to get into my trunk but couldn't. I think they might try something else soon."

When it was clear Harry was done with explaining, Caelum tilted his head back again and stared into the tired eyes. Even in the darkness in the room he could see the shadows that hung low under the impressive eyes.

"You did everything right," the man stated firmly. "You defended yourself as I have taught you and I doubt you even spilled blood even though they would have deserved it. You kept a level head in a dangerous situation and didn't panic. I am very proud of how you've managed to hold yourself together after being left alone."

"I was so glad to see you today," Harry whispered as though it was some huge confession he was making.

"Me too, kid. And Zahra as well. She's looking forward to publicly making friends with you."

"Is she in the dorms?"

"She moved in this afternoon after classes. I promised to tell you to approach her in the library. It seems the second years aren't too taken with her and befriending the teacher's daughter might help with the… Slytherin situation."

He felt Harry nod and a comfortable silence fell over them. Caelum honestly thought Harry was close to falling asleep but the boy surprised him and asked, "Don't you want to know about my meeting with Dumbledore?"

He did, very badly in fact, but it could wait. "You should be sleeping, Harry. It can wait."

"It's fine. I think you need to know, anyway."

Green met black in the darkness and soon Caelum was slipping into the familiar territory of Harry's mind. The walls and shields parted before him and in no time at all he was standing in the most beautiful meadow he had ever seen. Flowers covered the ground, growing in groups and some standing alone but each unique in some way. There were a few memories whirling in the light of the twilight but Caelum instinctively knew not to touch them. They were Harry's to sort out.

"This one," the boy called from behind him and Caelum turned to see his young ward pointing to a slightly wilted looking rose that still managed to appear frozen. It was coloured Gryffindor red with a tiny flame pattern on the petals and Caelum couldn't help but notice the stem was Slytherin green.

Harry took a hold of his hand and Caelum's fingers had barely brushed against the oddly warm petals when he was sucked into the memory.

Dumbledore's office was almost exact same as the one Caelum remembered from his childhood. There was a perch for the phoenix and Harry had not taken notice of all the book titles so those were slightly fuzzy but all the revolving, spinning, puffing gadgets that Caelum remembered so well were covering the tables and the shelves. Only the air itself seemed to be twisting, Harry's emotions from that time distorting the memory. The only reason the memory was even this clear was because of Caelum and Harry's great familiarity with each other.

The memory-Harry was halfway through the room with the white bearded master manipulator sitting in his seat and looking over the rim of his glasses with twinkling eyes. Caelum was slightly surprised when he saw Severus follow the memory-Harry into the office. The air twisted some more.

"I wasn't ready to be alone with him. I figured asking my Head of House was the best option", Harry explained from where he was standing next to the mage, troubled eyes looking at his slightly younger self. "Even if he seems to dislike me a lot."

"Harry, my boy, welcome. Please take a seat. Would you like a lemon drop?"

"No, thank you."

Caelum could easily read the wariness in every movement of the boy as he took his seat and Severus came to stand at the corner of Dumbledore's desk. The arrangement reminded him of interrogations and any ideas he might have entertained about Severus being there to support Harry were thrown out the window. It seemed memory-Harry realized that too because the image of Severus Snape distorted and pulsed momentarily before settling down again as Harry's attention shifted to Dumbledore.

"I wanted to officially welcome you back to the Wizarding World, Harry," the old coot said, projecting his grandfatherly mask at full power. "I know it's only been a few days but how have you found Hogwarts?"

Caelum saw the memory-Harry's eyes narrow momentarily and he knew no one else had missed it either. The air distorted and rippled as the emotions battled in Harry.

"It's been alright," the boy answered. "The classes are interesting."

"Have you discovered a favourite subject yet?" Dumbledore was smiling so benignly that even Caelum could not detect any dishonesty from him. He suspected only Harry's own experiences with the old coot prevented the young boy from falling into the trap of trusting this eccentric wizard practically projecting his honest concern.

"I like battle magics," Harry answered but immediately snapped his mouth shut and seemed to realize his mistake. There was only a moment's pause until he smoothly continued, "Though Professor Quirrell seems to stutter a lot."

"Battle magics, you say. I don't believe I've heard of the term before. Did your carer teach you that?"

Memory-Harry's defences went up – those that already weren't. The Dumbledore of the memory distorted and Caelum could almost feel a wave of distrust passing through him. Harry blinked and slowly answered, "He did."

"I would be very interested in meeting him." The Headmaster leaned forward in his seat. "After all, if he is to be looking after the Boy-Who-Lived, he might appreciate some extra security."

Memory-Harry's face was blank. "Security, sir?"

"Why, of course. You must be aware of your status in the Wizarding World by now. Many of Voldemort's supporters still roam free and they might attempt to kill you. The wards at you Aunt's place deflected many such attacks while you were growing up."

Caelum could see that Harry was slightly surprised by this approach but the kid quickly regrouped. The mage stole a glance at Severus who was still just standing there and watching the conversation between his student and the Headmaster with a blank face. He was still too distorted for Caelum to make out if he was actually Occluding.

"Caleb is a Warding Master and he told me the wards were actually keeping me magically exhausted because my Aunt didn't give a damn about me," memory-Harry replied in a slightly accusing tone, his eyes staring steadily at the men before him. "They couldn't feed off any emotion so they fed off my magic. And it took Caleb five minutes of talking to convince my relatives to give me up."

"My boy, I'm sure you want to believe-"

"I heard the entire conversation from my cupboard," Harry snapped. It was also the first time Caelum spied a reaction on Severus' face. The man's eyes widened and he opened his mouth as if to ask something but thought better of it and stayed silent. Harry too showed real emotion on his first time – that is, until he froze and his face blanked frighteningly mad.

"My mind is my own," the kid whispered in a voice that had no right coming from someone his age. The air distorted so badly with fury that Caelum could barely make out the room in the memory. The only ones in focus were he and present Harry standing next to him.

"It always has been and, thanks to Caleb, it always will be. You try Legilimency on me one more time and I will report you and use this fame of mine that you are so concerned about to drag your name through mud," the Boy-Who-Lived concluded.

Dumbledore opened his mouth but closed it before he could antagonize the boy anymore. He sagged slightly and something that anyone else would have believed to be true regret showed on his face. "I am sorry, my boy. Forgive old man his curiosity. I am simply concerned about your situation and hoped I could be of help." He looked very sincere. "I held you in my arms when you were but a babe and I was so very fond of your parents. We fought together and after they perished, I swore to look after you. Not knowing where you were these past few months – I was very worried, Harry."

"I am better with Caleb than I ever was with the Dursleys," memory-Harry replied, and his fury had quelled somewhat. "Besides, he expected this from you. And my parents are dead, and I grew up believing my father to be a drunk driver who got himself and his whore of a wife killed in a car accident. Caleb told me the truth no one else bothered with and he will protect me against anyone." The kid shrugged. "No one can find us if we don't want to be found. And Caleb's the most powerful wizard I've ever met. He bested you in a duel while holding me in his arms, didn't he?"

Severus' head jerked up at the words and he nearly snapped to attention. For a fraction of a second his face was the picture of incredulity but it was soon smoothed over by blankness. Still, from his stance Caelum knew that Dumbledore would be in for a questioning once they wrapped this little meeting. Which Harry seemed to be doing right now.

Memory-Harry had stood up.

"My home-life is no concern of yours. Caleb's guardianship is binding and you cannot override it. I won't accept anyone else as my guardian. If there wasn't anything else, Headmaster…"

The memory faded around them and Caelum found himself standing in the meadow once more. Without words he reached for Harry's mental self and wrapped the boy in an embrace. They stood there for a while, the comforting silence surrounding them and invisible wind caressing their skin as stray memories whirled in the air.

"I will always protect you, Harry," Caelum swore and the boy just mutely nodded, accepting the plain truth.

A/N: Happy birthday, Merula Aeolus.