AN: I'm so sorry this is so late in coming out! As in, like, this-should-have-been-out-last December-late. My only excuse, other than the myriad of technical issues and a few unavoidable life-moments that occurred is that University level science classes steal your soul. Especially when your major is in the science field so basically all your classes are science *cough*like mine*cough*


Oh well, at least this is here now! It's been quite a while since my last update… I hope you all like it! If not, please tell me what I could improve upon!


Also, side note: This story (obviously) has not been and will never be abandoned! Abandoned stories are my biggest pet peeve, and I would never do that to you guys, even if I end up taking a ridiculously long amount of time to update (another pet peeve of mine… I feel so bad…TT^TT)

If anything ever happens that prevents me from continuing the story, I'll post a final chapter that's a very detailed summary of all that I have left to write (since I already know the road I want this fic to go down and where it should stop).

Hopefully, though, that shouldn't happen. And, yeah. On with the fic!

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." -Walter Scott

Harry did not sleep well that night.

True to his word, Healer Mitchell had sent Madam O'Brien down to the Great Hall later that evening after the infirmary had calmed of activity with the sole purpose of bringing Harry to the ward so he could spend the night under observation.

That wasn't what had Harry twisting and turning when he should have been asleep, though; his heart choosing the worst moments to pick up speed, hammering against his ribcage, before mellowing out again.

Any minute, now, any minute the Aurors would come bursting through the doors and arrest him for using Obliviate on a fellow student, Harry was sure of it. He wasn't qualified, he could have seriously damaged her mind, and he would certainly go to Azkaban if anyone ever found out.

Why hadn't he used his other wand, for Merlin's sake? He had two of the blasted things! His old phoenix feather wand, which still worked—even if not perfectly well—and the newer wand he'd procured at Ollivander's five years ago. That second wand was the one he'd been using, after finding out that Ollivander's warning about his bond with his first wand being weaker was true. It saddened him to think that his phoenix-wand, the wand that had gotten him out of a fair number of sticky situations, would never work quite the same ever again…

But it would have been the best tool to use in the Moore interrogation, no doubt about that. Then, if the Auror's did try to arrest him, they'd have no proof! Although, there weren't any witnesses (as far as Harry knew) so he wasn't entirely sure how the Aurors would find out what he did to Moore without him directly informing them.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

And then there was Tom. Had he already found Moore? Had he somehow slunk away to the Hufflepuff common room and confronted her? Tom was the one who'd informed him that Moore was Harry's attacker! It wouldn't be an entirely illogical conclusion for Tom to decide that Harry had something to do with Moore's missing memory, if the older boy happened to manage to track her down and attempt to strangle out of her the reason behind the attack.

Of course Harry could deny everything, but what then? His denial and Moore's missing memory would likely point Tom in the direction of an accomplice. Maybe Moore had just been the pawn in the game to hurt Harry? And if he decided upon that fact instead—no matter how true it was—Harry knew there would be nothing he could do to stop Tom from using his Legilimency skills to comb through every person's mind in the school, including Dumbledore's.

Okay, that was an exaggeration. Probably. Tom's level of skill when it came to mind-reading was not yet so precise that he could slink through any practicing Occlumens' mind without them becoming aware of his presence. So when it came to someone like Dumbledore, Tom would probably stay away.


Harry knew Tom had very little trust in their Transfiguration professor and wouldn't put it past the other boy to convince himself that Dumbledore was probably involved somehow in Harry's incident, if he ever thought it up.

And then there was Aquila. Harry had no idea what prowess she possessed when it came to protecting her own mind, and that meant he had to find and confront her within the first few days after the students returned to school. He needed to find out what she knew, and why she felt it necessary to snoop around his room in the first place.

Not for the first time that night, he wished he had been able to spend it in his own bed. If he had, it would have meant that he could have put up protective spells around his belongings to keep unwanted busybodies from obtaining anything too personal that was still hidden there, deep within his trunk.

Harry sighed, turning over once again. This was turning out to be quite the year, and he was becoming more displeased with each passing day.

The next morning, Healer Mitchell came to Harry's bed and found the bespectacled boy already awake and sitting up.

"Well, Mr. Evans, it's good to see you whole and still in my infirmary, exactly the same as when you entered last night." He waved his wand in a complex motion. When the diagnostic was complete and showed Harry was as healthy as could be, the man let him leave, which he did in a rush. It would be the last meal he had with his friends before they left for break.

And he wanted to make sure Tom hadn't gone on a homicidal warpath; destination: the Hufflepuff common room.

He shouldn't have worried so much.

Harry arrived at the Great hall just as the post owls were swooping in, and he quickly made his way over to his friends, carefully combing through the table of Hufflepuff students and spotting Moore, eating alone. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and slid easily into his seat.

Breakfast that morning was a subdued affair. Fear blanketed the castle, enforced by the squadron of Aurors sent by the Ministry to protect the students taking the train home for the holidays. Their striking red robes stood out easily in the sea of black uniforms; a calming presence for some, and setting others more on edge. Harry wouldn't be truly satisfied until the law-enforcers were out of Hogwarts entirely.

Unlike the rest of the people in the Hall, Grindelwald was the furthest thing from Harry's mind at that moment. He would be staying in the castle safely behind wards nearly a millennia in age, and therefore felt no need to worry about being attacked by any stray followers who hadn't yet crept back to mainland Europe. Even still, the possibility that Grindelwald would attempt to lay siege to the magical school was incredibly slim. Dumbledore was at Hogwarts, after all, and the Dark Lord of the time obviously had problems with meeting the future headmaster head-on in confrontations.

Or so Harry assumed. The attack on Hogsmeade yesterday could quite easily disprove that theory. Maybe Grindelwald was getting bold with Dumbledore's inaction in response to the magical attacks throughout Europe and that's why his men were sent to lay siege upon the village yesterday?

No matter, though. Rather than take interest in the moody teenagers and the tense adults, now that he had calmed his own worries Harry turned his attention to the morning Prophet where the activities from Hogsmeade were spread out for the country to read.

Saturday Slaughter: Hogsmeade in Flames!
By Dillbert Quills

My beloved readers, a tragedy has struck our great island in our most historic community. Yesterday, at approximately half-past noon, Hogsmeade was dealt a terrible blow.

What many of us dreaded has now come to pass.

The Dark Lord Grindelwald—previously unconcerned with our country, and choosing to keep his destructive sight set only on the continent—has now turned his gaze towards us. Yes, if you did not already know, it is as you fear. The delightful, tranquil, wizarding village of Hogsmeade was attacked yesterday at noon. This unprovoked act of brutality came from nowhere, catching not only the peaceful villagers by surprise, but the schoolchildren who had been allowed to visit the town as well. It shouldn't be forgotten that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is located a mere stones-toss from the location of Grindlewald's attack.

I, myself, happened to be in town at the time of the occurrence—purchasing a pound of Honeydukes finest—and I can say firsthand that it was a tragedy of epic proportions.

The brashness of the attack should be disturbing to us all.

We can only thank Merlin that the barbaric fiends who force violence upon the world were more interested blowing up streets and burning buildings rather than killing off the vulnerable students—this country's future—shopping there in droves. And while many did meet an unfortunate early end that day, it was not the horrific slaughter it could have been.

And now the question becomes, why? Why did Grindelwald send his forces to England? Why would he attack Hogsmeade, when it is not unknown how close is to our most famous and only magical school?

Was that the purpose of it all? To kill off as many sinless students as possible?

The answers to these questions and more are what this reporter and the rest of the diligent staff here at the Daily Prophet will strive to bring you.

List of Deceased (pg. 4)
Ministry's Response: Call To War? (pg. 6)
An Overview of Grindelwald in Europe (pg. 8)
What You Can Do: A Comprehensive List of Practical Defensive Spells (pg. 12)
Interview with Armando Dippet: Protective Plans for Hogwarts (pg. 16)
Survivor Stories (pg. 19)

"I wonder what sort of list they came up with," Dmitry pondered, turning Harry's gaze from the paper in his hands to his Russian friend, who had been reading over his shoulder.

"Probably something full of unnecessary spells that won't really save you in the midst of battle," Abraxas answered, turning the pages of his own paper and not looking up. "Aha. See? The most powerful spell they've listed is Stupefy. And Protego. Everything else is low level jinxes and hexes. And—is it? Yes, it is. At the bottom there's a note specifically saying not to engage Grindlewald's forces and instead to contact the Aurors if the dark wizards should appear."

Orion snorted into his eggs. "And exactly how would one go about notifying the Aurors of an attack if they're in the middle of being attacked?"

"They should have listed more defensive spells," Dmitry added. "Ever since your Ministry rose, it has always had a problem with thinking their people will rise up against them, and so they don't want their citizens able to fight. They are weak. If they were truly great, it wouldn't matter how strong their people were because they themselves would be stronger."

"What wise words," Abraxas commented dryly. His father worked for the Ministry so Harry could understand the obvious undertone of irritation in his voice.

"I don't think the Ministry has always been ineffective," Orion mentioned, trying to eliminate the tension before it began. "How could they have been weak when it first began—"

"That was a long time ago," Dmitry dismissed with a wave of his fork. "And I don't mean every person in the Ministry is a pathetic wizard," he said, specifically to Abraxas. "My uncle works at this Ministry—as a diplomat, but still… There are many there who are strong and well read and can do great things with magic, but there are many more who are weak and empty-headed and struggle with simple spells, yet they have high positions of power. They are the ones who corrupted your government and turned the great flame into a pathetic flicker amongst smoldering ashes."

"Then maybe someone should change that."

Harry blinked and turned to look at Tom, who had been silent the entire time. The older Slytherin was reading the paper still, eyes whipping back and forth across the black and white print, taking in and cataloguing all the news of the day.

"So you're thinking of running for Minister, then, Tom?" Orion noted easily in a teasing manner, though his sharp eyes told a different story. "I'd vote for you."

"Maybe," Tom vaguely replied. "But I think it might be too much paperwork." That set off a round of chuckles and the conversation quickly changed to Dmitry whining about seeing his female cousins. Apparently they quite enjoyed the strenuous task of picking on him whenever they all got together.

When they all finished eating, the quintet went to the entrance hall, where Harry and Tom would see off their departing friends.

"Ah, I will miss you during these two weeks we are apart," Dmitry lamented to Harry, giving off the distinct impression that he'd quite enjoy smothering the smaller boy with a hug. Thankfully, they were in public. "I shall ask my babushka if I can have you and Tom over this summer. I don't think she will say no, so don't make other plans."

Harry grinned. "I already told you that it's my greatest dream to spend my summer lost in the Russian wilderness."

Dmitry wrinkled his nose in disgust at the thought of spending any time in the actual forests of Russia, "We'd never find you again."

Harry laughed. "I'll see you in the new year, Dmitry."

0 /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ 0

With the departure of nearly all the students, a peaceful serenity settled over Hogwarts. The faculty that remained had secluded themselves away in their offices, or left the castle for day-trips—to where, Harry knew not nor did he care—and the handful of students that stayed behind had more chance of running into a ghost than they did a fellow living human. Harry and Tom were the exception, since they bunked together.

As the only two Slytherins that opted to stay at Hogwarts over the break, Harry had no qualms accepting Tom's invitation to room together in Tom's dorm rather than in separate ones. Also, since they had begun this new relationship, Harry didn't say no when Tom coerced him into sleeping in the same bed. Although he did feel like a cradle-robbing pervert sometimes since he was mentally twice Tom's age. But he was fifty years younger than Voldemort… The situation confused him to such a degree at times that he simply decided to forget all about it and focus solely on their physical ages of the here-and-now.

Of course, that didn't mean the duo spent every second of every day in each other's company. They would likely have killed each other if that were the case. Most of the break, Harry was found in the library, pouring over his old notes and making new ones.

After two whole days of perusing books on his own, Harry came to the conclusion that he was very, very lucky that the prototype transportation spell he had discovered and written down (which Aquila found) that theoretically should have sent him back to the future had been translated incorrectly into Latin from an old Egyptian scripture by an eighty-six year old warlock over three centuries ago. In fact, when he went to look at the spell in it's original Egyptian format, he found that it was a charm for pulling out infected teeth. And since the book was so obscure and wizards were terrible when it came to fact-checking—Harry thought fondly back on Lockhart—no one had found the mistake until now. And Harry wasn't planning on publishing his findings either because, well, why would a fifteen year old boy from Slytherin be studying advanced theories of time and space if he weren't trying to go into the past and conquer less-developed magical and muggle civilizations?

Plus, Harry really didn't like attention pushed upon him, and being able to translate ancient Egyptian at his age? That would bring unwanted everything.

To be honest, though, his translation abilities had nothing to do whatsoever with fluency in the language. No, he simply took the time to reference the spell in Latin—which he was mostly fluent in by now—and compare the words to the multiple Latin-to-Egyptian dictionaries he previously hadn't even been aware Hogwarts owned, which were collecting dust on the back shelves.

He doubted the rest of the wizarding community would see his accomplishment as something so minuscule though.

Harry was very relieved when he found out the spell didn't do what the blurb below it in the text where he'd discovered the charm claimed. In fact, with all the mistranslations and embellishments, all the spell was meant to do was exactly what it did. Be an extremely flashy annoyance. Any disappointment with not having an actual spell to return him to his proper time didn't bother Harry quite so much as it probably should.

Due to sloppy execution, his obsession with finding a way to return home had come back and bit him in the arse. What if the spell had been translated correctly? What if the incorrect translation had done something else? Something harmful? He could be dead right now because he had been naïve in thinking that his research was safe and lazy when it came to secondary investigation of his findings. Either way, it was time for a break. Time to just sit back and enjoy life, like when he was a child in the nineteen-thirties with no one but Tom at his side and London as their playground. There was no need to find a solution that very second; he wasn't even sure if there was a problem, when he thought hard about it. He'd been given a second chance at life, a second childhood to live—one where no one was actively trying to kill him.

Except possibly Aquila, but he'd deal with her come January.

Honestly, that was what he should have been trying to figure out a solution for more than his time-travel issues. Procuring Veritaserum would certainly be the easiest on the to-do list when it came to dealing with her, and that was saying something. He would have liked to try and pick Tom's brain for ideas, but that would open a whole other can of worms that, no, Harry really didn't feel like cleaning up.

And so, he got to work, again, choosing new tomes to scrutinize. Again, his research could only be done in solitude. If a professor (or Tom) caught wind of the things he was looking up, extreme suspicion would surely follow.

Hermione would be proud if she could see him now, wasting a good winter break with his nose stuck inside a book. Unfortunately, except for rare occasions, Tom generally disliked playing in the snow. And flying. And the cold. Harry was pretty sure the older boy hated any activity that took place outdoors during the winter months other than Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.

Days later on Christmas eve, Harry was no closer to finding a solution of what to do with Aquila if she knew the true purpose behind his research.

It was just after dinner and Harry was in the owlery sending off his gifts to Abraxas and Orion. Dmitry's had been sent the day after everyone left since that owl would have a rather long journey to make.

He shivered slightly as a breeze fluttered through the drafty room and pulled his cloak tighter around himself as he watched his chosen owls disappear into the night.

"Oh, Mr. Evans!" came a jolly voice from behind him. Harry's lips twitched into a smile as he turned.

"Professor Slughorn. How are you this evening?"

"Just fine, my boy, just fine. Thank you for asking?" The professor held up his arm and a large brown owl flew down from the rafters. "I suppose you're here for the same reason as myself then?"

Harry tilted his head to the side. "If that reason is sending off Christmas gifts at the last second because you know your friends will open them early, then yes, Professor, we're here for the exact same reason."

Professor Slughorn laughed as he tied a thick envelope to the owl's leg. "I suppose not then," he said, bringing the bird to one of the pane-less windows. "I forgot I hadn't sent this off until I saw it lying on my desk."

"May I ask who it's for?" Harry knew his Head of House liked to brag, and that he wouldn't have mentioned the letter at all if it weren't to someone important.

"You may, my boy, you may. It's actually to an old schoolmate of mine, just two years below me. He was in a different House, of course, at the time but that didn't stop us from being friends. Yes, that letter was to the author of one of your textbooks, Newton Scamander."

Harry raised his eyebrows. He hadn't thought his professor was quite that old, to have been at Hogwarts at the same time as the famous magizoologist.

Slughorn let loose another booming laugh at Harry's expression. "Yes, I can see your skepticism, but it's true. I may not look it, but I'm much older than most people believe," he finished with a wink. "But come now, we shouldn't spend any more time than necessary stuck in this freezing room."

"I was about to head back down to the common room…" Harry trailed off, leaving the rest to Slughorn.

"Well, how about I accompany you then? I was just heading back down to my classroom. I need to check on how much I have left in the stockroom before the students get back so I can order more materials." He sighed quite dramatically as the two of them began their long decent into the dungeons. "If only the Headmaster would increase my budget, then you lot could be brewing much more interesting concoctions."

"You can't go out and buy ingredients on your own? Or have them put on the list of materials for students to buy?"

"Oh no, my boy. They're much too expensive for either of those options. I had been thinking of starting a special weekend club—invitation only, of course—where those who have been exceeding in my class could come and we could work on some of the more exotic potions together."

Harry thought that sounded like a fantastic idea. Heck, if there had been clubs like that when he'd been in Hogwarts the first go-around he might even have attended.

Unless it was Snape that was teaching. Or Lockhart. It was such a shame that the dueling club had such horrendous instructors. Maybe that was why it was shut down after just one lesson.

"Why don't you do that? It sounds incredibly interesting," Harry praised.

"Thank you, thank you. Well, again, it's all about whether the headmaster gives permission. And if I started this potions club, I may have to give up my Slug-Club since one professor really shouldn't be hosting two different yet equally exclusive clubs in one school."

"I suppose," Harry acknowledged. But then, why did the Headmaster let Slughorn have any club that demanded exclusivity? "But what if you change some Slug-Club meetings to be practical potions lessons, then invite the same people you would to the regular potions club to those, if the headmaster turns you down?"

Slughorn made a sound of consideration as he rubbed his chin. "That would be a good idea… But not everyone who is in the current club would be invited to the potions lessons. Like Miss Witte, for example."


"Yes, yes. Miss Witte is extraordinary at transfiguration and charms. She'll do incredible things one day, mark my words, but she is average-at-best when it comes to potions. I already get enough hassle from the faculty and from students when I don't invite everyone to my little gatherings, I don't want even more issues to crop up when some are invited to gathering 'X' and others are invited to party 'Y'."

"I see," and he really did. It would already be annoying enough for Harry to deal with complainers that felt entitled to be guests at an event they weren't asked to attend, but add however many more that are invited to all but one specific thing that they already know they're bad at… "Wouldn't you run into the same problem if you opened two exclusive clubs?"

"Perhaps, perhaps. But probably not, since one set of students would feel special since they're a part of my Slug-Club, and the other would feel proud because they are my Potion Practitioners."

Harry chuckled. "You've already thought up a name for them?"

"I tend to do that when I'm passionate about something, and I really think it would be beneficial for many students to have the extra potions lessons. We need more potions masters in the world," Slughorn asserted. "There are many potions out there now, yes, but they can all be improved upon and there are still more that have yet to be discovered. I know there are many talented pupils that walk these halls who have the potential to become blazing stars, but they just don't know it yet because they haven't seen all that can be done, all that could be done. They've yet to unlock their own minds, and that's what this new club I've devised could bring about."

Harry gave a slow round of applause once it was clear that Slughorn had finished his spiel. "That was rather fantastic, Professor. It moved me. Why don't you give the same one to Headmaster Dippet?"

Slughorn ran a hand through his thick hair and said with an exasperated sigh, "Because he'll just point out that I should be able to evoke the same feeling in my students while they're in class, without taking into account that in my classes with fifth years and below, there are a great multitude of absolute—" Slughorn stopped speaking and chuckled sheepishly.

"Idiots, professor?"

"Well, now, I wouldn't say—"

"You don't have to. I did. And I understand. It really is difficult for some people to enjoy the subject fully when everyone's on edge because they're in the class with so-and-so who never reads the instructions fully and always makes a mess. One that generally ends with their potion eating through their cauldron or exploding violently with half the class having to be sent to the hospital wing."

Neville always had that problem, but Harry had chalked it up to Snape being an utter bastard more than anything, which also hadn't helped the learning environment at all. But Slughorn was enthusiastic about his subject and really enjoyed teaching. He wasn't a brooding bat that picked on his students for no apparent reason other than sadistic pleasure, and so most of the students that were in that class and messed up, Harry deemed as idiots.

Hey, if he could pass his potions O.W.L. the first go around with an Exceeds Expectations after having gone through five whole years with nothing but criticism and needless provocations from Snape, these students should be able to do just as well, if not better, with Slughorn's encouragement.

Alas, that was not the case.

"It is preferred that, as teachers, we call them, er, trouble students," Slughorn tried putting diplomatically.

"Aren't trouble students generally the ones who disrupt class intentionally?" Harry pointed out.

"Some might see it that way," Slughorn agreed, "But at Hogwarts, it's just students who have a higher-than-normal tendency to cause things to go off-track. Whether that was their original intent or not."

"I see." They had reached the dungeons by now and were coming up on the common room when Harry got a brilliant idea.

"Professor," he hedged, "Would you like some assistance with organizing your store room?"

Slughorn turned to Harry, eyes wide and eyebrows raised. "Are you sure, my boy? It's Christmas eve, after all."

"I'm aware, but it's not like I have much to do anyway. I was going to try and talk Tom into playing exploding snap with me, but it almost never works out and we play chess instead. And I'm horrible at chess. He always wins." Harry scowled lightly with no actual feelings of displeasure behind it.

"Alright, then, if you really want to," Slughorn accepted. "I shall allow you to help me, if only to save you the embarrassment of losing to Mr. Riddle at chess."

"For what has to be the millionth time," Harry put, not at all reluctant to exaggerate or admit how terrible he was at the game when it came to playing against people that actually employed the use of strategy.

They continued on, past the hidden entrance to the common room, through the stone corridors to Slughorn's classroom.

"It should be an easy enough job, I think, if time consuming," Slughorn admitted, shuffling to the front of the room and opening one of his desk drawers. "Aha! Here it is!"

He pulled out a roll of parchment and unfurled it for Harry to see. "I've already made a chart of everything in there—listed alphabetically, of course—and all you have to do is fill in the blank spaces. Some things need to be weighed, and some need to be counted. You'll be able to differentiate between the two because I've placed a red dot next to everything that's to be weighed out." He rolled the parchment back up and handed it to Harry. "Please be careful with your units and your decimal places."

"Will do, Professor," Harry said with a mock salute.

"I'll be out here grading papers if you need anything," Slughorn dismissed. Harry moved to begin his mission and heard the man mutter under his breath, "Why Dippet seems to think it's necessary for students to take exams and continue to do homework up through their departure date is beyond me…"

Probably because he's not the one grading the assignments, Harry thought with a roll of his eyes. He entered the store room and got to work, meticulously sorting through and cataloguing everything that was on the list. It was easy, like Slughorn had promised, but time consuming, just as he'd warned. Harry didn't mind though. It was interesting and gave him something to do that was different and, dare he say it, somewhat fun.

He blamed his time at the Dursley's for teaching him how to make even the worst of chores into a game.

As Harry entered the home stretch of documentation, his mind wandered back to the conversation he and Slughorn had been having on their way down. In his previous life, his heart was set on becoming an Auror. It was the be-all, end-all of what he wanted to do, and the idea had only entered his mind after Barty Crouch Jr. planted it there. It had grown like a weed and stubbornly refused to be pruned by Umbridge, but that wasn't what he wanted to do anymore. Speaking with Slughorn, seeing the fire in his eyes as he spoke of students becoming the best that they could be under his careful tutelage… It reminded Harry of exactly what he enjoyed about Dumbledore's Army.

Who knew, maybe he'd go into the teaching field?

Or maybe he'd become a magizoologist or an explorer and discover a Crumple-Horned Snorcack just for Luna. If Scamander ever showed up to one of Slughorn's parties, he'd be sure to ask about it. The job, of course, not the potentially-mythological creature that would quite probably garner him a look that questioned his mental health.

When the last of the Wormwood Essence had been counted out and scribbled down, Harry rolled up the scroll and headed back into the main classroom.

Harry handed Slughorn the parchment when he was close enough. "All finished, Professor."

Slughorn hummed as he opened it and looked over Harry's work. "Very good, Mr. Evans. Very good, indeed." He looked up at the clock and let out an exclamation of surprise. "My goodness, is it that time already!" You should have been back in your common room twelve minutes ago!"

"It's fine, Professor, the faculty is much less strict about their patrols during the holidays. And the common room isn't that far away," Harry added as an almost-afterthought.

"I suppose, but you better get going!"

Harry nodded and scurried out of the classroom. When he was a safe distance away, he let his hand slide into his pocket and traced the smooth glass of a recently procured vial of Veritaserum.

0 /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ 0

Christmas passed the same as it did every year. White snow blanketed the ground, the castle was decked-out tower to dungeon, the feast was delicious, and then December twenty-six came and school was that much closer to starting up.

Harry and Tom both opened their presents early in the day and at a leisurely pace. There was no need to rush when you received less than ten each. Although, this year was slightly different in the fact that Tom had received more gifts from other members of their House and a few from other Houses too.

"That's what you get for strutting around and being a general suck-up," Harry admonished genially as he helped Tom go through his larger pile of gifts. Tom didn't reply, only rolled his eyes, and that was the end of it.

The rest of the break passed too swiftly in Harry's opinion, and soon it was the last day of the year.

Also known as Tom's birthday, to those that cared; and Harry did. It was why he was in his dorm room digging through his trunk to find the Parseltongue book he'd bought months ago when he'd been forced on that horrific date with Aquila—

He paused in his search and grimaced. He hadn't been very kind to her that day, but she hadn't made much of a fuss about it either once they were both back in the castle. He'd assumed she'd gotten over it…

If the reason behind why she's been snooping and being a regular pain in my backside recently is because I was a bit rude in response to her actions, I might have to kill something… Possibly myself.

He shrugged it off and continued his search, finding the object of his desires at the bottom of his trunk. Of course.

"Good morning, Harry."

He looked at the sleepy Nagini who had blinked awake at some point during his hunt. "Good morning, Nagini. Would you like me to renew the heating charm on the sheets?"

Nagini hissed out a negative, then tilted her head to the side. "But why are you here? I would have thought you would still be in bed with Tom?"

Harry felt a blush rising on his cheeks. It was good that there were no students in Slytherin, but Nagini was a whole other issue; and one he'd forgotten about, until she made her presence known. And always at the most awkward of times.

"He's sleeping. It's his birthday and I came to get his gift." Harry held up the package for her to see.

"I didn't know." Nagini slithered closer, the sheets doing nothing to stop her curious advanced. "Why didn't you tell me?" she accused.

"I'm telling you now…"

"I could have gotten him something!"

Harry raised an eyebrow as Nagini got as close to pouting as a snake could. "Like what, a regurgitated rat?" Nagini reared back and hissed at him, so Harry quickly tried to placate her. "Sorry, sorry! I didn't mean it like that. What would you have gotten him, Nagini?"

Nagini paused for a long moment, mulling it over in her head. "Information," she decided, after a long while's thought. "I could have gotten him information, if he wanted. I am still small, and not many notice a small snake sneaking in the shadows"

"You still can," Harry pointed out. "Just come to him later and say it's an IOU."


"Yes. It means that you recognize his birthday and your gift is that of subterfuge, to be utilized at a later date of his choosing."

"Hmm," Nagini flicked her tongue. "That sounds like an adequate proposal. I shall go to him later today and impart my gift upon him."

"Would you like me to write out a card?" Harry asked with a grin.

"No. That will be unnecessary. You can warm these sheets again though," she ordered with an imperious flick of her tail.

"I thought you didn't want me to?"

Nagini opened her mouth and gave a hissing laugh. "I changed my mind. Now, hurry up so you can return to Tom's bed with your gift."

Harry did as instructed and scurried back to Tom's room. When he arrived, he carefully opened to door so as not to let it creak and stuck his head inside. Everything was just the way it had been when he left, including Tom still sleeping under the sheets. Harry slipped into the room and tiptoed across the frigid stone floor.

The school really should invest in heated flooring for the dungeons, Harry thought with annoyance for what seemed like the umpteenth time as he hopped back into bed. He was reaching to pull up the sheets when Tom's voice sounded from his left, heavy with sleep. "Where were you?"

Harry peeked down and noted Tom wasn't quite as dead to the world as he thought when dark-brown eyes blinked blearily up at him. He held up his gift as a shield. "Happy birthday?"

Why did that sound more like a question?

Tom snorted and stretched, back arching like a cat. He moved to sit up next to Harry and snatched the box right out of the younger boy's hands.


"It's my birthday," was Tom's childish response before he turned his attention to the gift in his hands. Harry squirmed next to him in anticipation and excitement. When the wrapping was off and Tom opened the lid, the book's cover came into view and Harry felt the need to explain.

"I found it in a bookstore in Hogsmeade," he began as Tom very carefully lifted the gift out of its packaging. "I was really surprised when I found it. Since it's written in Parseltongue."

"Yes, that is surprising," Tom agreed, turning the book in his hands and flipping through the pages, hungrily drinking in the skimmed text. "Especially so when you consider the fact that Parseltongue shouldn't even be a written language. I mean, think about it, how would the snakes hold a quill?"

Harry imagined Nagini trying to write out her IOU card to Tom and snorted. "Not very easily."

"No, not at all," Tom agreed with a smile. He opened the book right to the middle and concentrated hard on the page. After a moment of silence his eyes widened in astonishment. "This... Is utterly fascinating, Harry." He turned the page, excitement blooming on his face. "It's truly an incredible piece of magic."

"Care to explain it to me then? I mean, I really thought the book was in Parseltongue…"

"It is, in a way. Here." Tom handed the open book to Harry. "Concentrate. What do you see."

Harry stared at the squiggle-filled page. "Swirly lines."

"Look closer," Tom ordered, exasperation clear in his tone.

So Harry did. He narrowed his eyes behind his glasses and leaned forward, concentrating solely on one vertical triple-loop—

"It moved!" Harry leaned back in shock, his wide eyes meeting Tom's mirth-filled ones. "How did it—it moved!"

"Yes, and that's not the best part of this book. It's like an audio diary. Its filled with recorded messages spoken in Parseltongue and activated by the runes that fill the pages. It looks like a whole other language because it is, technically. It's an entirely made-up runic-language that shouldn't work but does. The author of this book came up with something I've never even heard of before, and the language has remained a secret because no one who has been able to understand Parseltongue came across it before you, I assume. If they had, I don't know why they never showed it to the world, or why the sought to be rid of it."

"Maybe someone did find it and then lost it, which is why I found the book in such a cheap store?" Harry hypothesized. Whoever had created the book was obviously someone who was extremely intelligent, and people like that tended to keep their works hidden away in Gringotts vaults. "Maybe it was a family member? Or a friend of the family? Or a thief that didn't know quite what they were dealing with?"

"All equally plausible."

"And why did I think that I was reading the book, not that the book was dictating to me?"

"You must have been distracted at the time," Tom flippantly waved off. "It's not like all Parselmouths can hear the book when only one is reading. You didn't know what it said to me and I didn't know what it said to you. It's quite possible that the audio transfers directly into your mind as you're reading, like how a master Legilimens can push their own memories into someone else's head. You hear the words and think its your own mind rather than magic whispering in your ear."

Tom closed the book with a snap and leaned over to place a quick peck on Harry's lips. "This is probably the best gift you've gotten me thus far, and I can honestly say that I am going to enjoy every second I spend dissecting the magic that keeps it together."

"I hope you like what it actually has to say too," Harry pointed out, exceedingly pleased with himself.

"Who knows. It may be useful, or it may be a diary. I'll find out as I go." Tom placed the book carefully on the side table and turned to the smattering of gifts that rested atop his trunk at the foot of his bed.

"I've got it." Harry crawled over and picked them up. "It looks like you got mostly books, as usual."

"That's fine. Hogwarts is lacking in many of the areas of interest I hold." Tom opened the first one, from Dmitry. "A Beginner's Guide to the Russian Language."

"He's really hoping we come stay with him over the summer holidays," Harry commented, taking the book from Tom and flipping it open to peruse.

"If his family is alright with it, I have no problem staying with them instead of that orphanage," Tom sneered as if the word itself were a horrible curse.

"Well, you don't technically have to go back there, even if we aren't able to visit Dmitry," Harry pointed out, still preoccupied with the introductory paragraph. "You're seventeen now and a legal adult according to wizarding law." He felt cool fingers under his chin tilting his head up to meet Tom's serious gaze. The depth of the sincerity there had his breath catching in his throat.

"I'd return for you."

Harry felt a hot blush erupt across his face and he quickly turned away and brought the Russian language book up to hide behind. How Tom could just come out and say such things was beyond his comprehension at times. He heard Tom chuckle and felt the other boy reach around him to pluck up another present.

"Hmm. Abraxas sent me a guide to all the wizarding attractions Russia has to offer." Harry looked up, still pink-tinged in places. "I think even if Dmitry's family declines our presence, Abraxas might have us journey to the country with him instead."

"Orion said his family has a home there, I think," Harry recalled. "I'm sure he did. And he and Abraxas would visit you, Dmitry, and me."

"Possibly. I'm curious to see if Orion is going to keep up the theme."

The Black heir's gift was opened next and didn't disappoint in the category of most-unexpected-gift-of-the-year.

"I wonder why he think's you'd want a book on shading techniques?" Harry pondered aloud.

Tom gave a long-suffering sigh and rubbed a hand down his face. "Professor Kettleburn had us doing diagrams of flobberworms earlier in the year—"

"Seriously?! You're in your sixth year!"

"I know, don't interrupt. Apparently it was something he was supposed to have us do in our third year, but he didn't and was just covering his bases. Anyway, during the shading portion he walked up behind me and commented that my segments blended into the mucous layer around the skin and weren't very distinguishable. I wasn't done with my diagram, but I thanked him for his constructive advice so he would move on. Unfortunately Orion heard and has yet to let me live it down, if this book is anything to go by." Tom grimaced. "Apparently my inability to draw the simplest of magical creatures properly within five minutes is an amusing shortcoming to him."

"Ah, well, you said you weren't done," Harry pointed out, desperately trying to keep from bursting out into giggles. To think the mighty Voldemort would be brought to a standstill be a mere flobberworm... The image had Harry biting his lip to keep his mirth in check.

Tom snorted and looked curiously at the last gift. Normally only Harry, Orion, Abraxas and Dmitry got him both Christmas and birthday gifts. Anyone else just lumped the two together and delivered them on Christmas day. "Who's that from?"

Harry reached for the small package and immediately felt all the happiness begin to drain out of him like water through a sieve. "Amaryllis."

He tossed the weighty parcel to Tom, who caught it in surprise. "Zarousiere? She's never gotten me anything before."

"She's never shown such blatant interest in you before," Harry grumbled. Tom smirked.

"Now, now, Harry. Jealousy is never becoming on anybody."

"Oh shut it and open your gift."

Tom chuckled and ripped off the packaging to reveal—

"A snake paperweight? Really?" Harry leaned in closer for examination. The detailing etched in the metal was astounding, to be sure. Each individual scale had been carved with loving care, and the fangs attached to the upper jaw looked so sharp that just a small graze would surely tear his skin.

"The saphire eyes make it seem kind of gaudy, don't you think?" Harry commented, not liking the gift at all.

"I kind of like the eyes," Tom disagreed. "At least they aren't emeralds. How cliche would that be?"

Harry scowled at the gift, as if it had done him some great offense simply by existing.

"Does she think that just because you're a Slytherin, all you like are things to do with snakes?" he asked, rudely snatching the ornate silver snake from Tom's examining fingers. "And why in the world does she think you'd need a paperweight?"

"You got me a book in Parseltongue," Tom reminded, hitting on the snake-issue.

"That's not the same, and you know it. You speak the language, I speak the language, the book is in the language—it just so happens to be the language of snakes. Coincidence? Yes. And yet, I'd never buy you something so gaudy as a gem-encrusted paperweight. How much did this cost, anyway? Probably more than it should have been."

Tom rolled his eyes and opened the letter that came with the gift. He read it, then smirked. "Well, maybe you would if said paperweight also carried a charm that protected the papers underneath by biting the hands that tried to steal them."

"Tch," Harry let the thing drop back onto the sheets. "Like that'll be any use right now. If she really wanted to, she should have gotten it as a graduation present. I mean, why would you leave any sort of important paperwork lying around your dorm anyway? What use do you have for it now?"

Tom's hand came up and his fingers carded though Harry's hair, massaging the younger boy's scalp. "Now, now, Harry. Don't be angry with yourself for not thinking of such a unique and useful gift."

Harry glared at the smirking boy. "I hate you." He knocked the hand away and moved to get off the bed, but Tom's hand wrapped around his upper arm and yanked him backwards. Thrown off balance, Harry could do nothing to stop the momentum that had him lying on his back with an, "Oomf!"

"You hate me, huh?" Tom leaned in and kissed just under Harry's ear. "Just because I say I like someone else's gift more than yours?" His mouth moved along Harry's jaw, leaving feather-light kisses in its wake. Tom leaned back and looked down at Harry, whose breathing had become more shallow as Tom's mouth showed him attention. "You know I was just teasing, right?"

Harry didn't miss the amused glint in Tom's eye as his hand shot out and grabbed the older boy's collar with seeker-like speed and pulled him down, meeting his mouth halfway. It was scorching, the passion that flowed through them. It was power, the way their mouths moved against the other. It was desire that their hands spoke of, caressing and griping and scratching and clawing. It was affection that had them slowing their pace. It was devotion, matched in equal amounts in both their eyes. And it was endearment that showed in both their smiles when they came up for air.

"We should get breakfast," Harry said after a long moment, breath still not fully regained.

"We should," Tom agreed, bending down once again to mould his lips against Harry's in a slower, sensuous kiss. His mouth moved to the angle of Harry's jaw and from there to the crook of his neck where he began alternating between nipping at the exposed skin and sucking on it.

Harry felt the blood rush to his groin at Tom's continued ministrations and squirmed as the older boy's hands began to travel down his body.

"Tom," he gasped when one reached his growing hardness, stroking him through the thin material of his pajama bottoms.

"Harry," Tom murmured against his neck, dipping his hand below Harry's waistband to fully grasp the younger boy's erection.

Harry breathed in sharply and bucked his hips upwards into Tom's hand. He was far too gone to string words together and make a sentence. How long had it been since anyone touched him like this? The only sounds that passed through his lips were the soft grunts and moans of ecstasy as Tom's hand pleasured his cock. It didn't take long for him to be worked into an orgasm, and Harry cried out as hot, sticky fluid left his body and covered the inside of his trousers and Tom's hand.

He lay there panting, with eyes that refused to focus as Tom chuckled lowly and removed his appendage from within Harry's clothing. The older boy leaned in and pressed his lips firmly against Harry's before pulling back.

"We should get cleaned up," he suggested, voice a few octaves lower than what Harry was used to hearing.


Tom bent down and kissed Harry again, on the forehead. "You should probably shower in your dorm." With that, he pushed himself off the bed and strode towards the bathroom, but not without Harry catching a glimpse of the very prominent tent Tom was sporting.

It took him a moment—a long moment—but when Harry had managed to compose himself, he bolted towards his dorm room.

I can't believe that happened, I can't believe that happened, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

"I see you and Tom have finally consummated your relationship."

Harry froze and very slowly turned his head to stare, horrified, at Nagini, who was looking rather smug and proud of herself for coming to that conclusion.


"I can smell your sex in the air." She flicked out her tongue like it was the most obvious thing.

It was all too much for Harry though. If one had tried, they probably could have fried an egg on his face. He slammed the door of the bathroom behind him, with Nagini's suggestions for offspring names still echoing off the walls.

Damn his teenage hormones!

0 /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ 0

Harry did his best to avoid Tom for the rest of the day without actually avoiding Tom. It was the other boy's birthday, and he didn't want to make him feel bad, but what they'd done that morning…

Harry tried not to think about it because it just brought an awkward grin to his face and caused his ears to turn pink—though that was getting better!

Merlin, he hadn't turned red so often since his crush on Cho Chang.

The day went by and Tom's birthday wasn't acknowledged by anyone at dinner. It bothered Harry that there were so few people in the school, yet none of them felt it necessary to wish his friend—boyfriend?—a happy birthday.

Maybe they didn't know?

That was probably why. The remaining students certainly wouldn't be aware of the significance the day held in regards to Tom, and the only professor who might have been privy to the information was Slughorn, who was away at some New Years party.

Or Dumbledore. But the man had a strong dislike for Tom and was suspicious about the earlier petrifications that year. He probably wouldn't wish Tom a happy-anything.

Ah, well, Harry glanced at Tom. At least he had one more surprise up his sleeve.

Every year Harry forced Tom to stay up until midnight, and this one would be no exception. Tom had settled himself in a chair in front of the fire and was enraptured by the book Harry had given him.

A glance at the clock told Harry it was time to put his final plan into action.


The other boy cocked his head to show he was listening but didn't utter any sound.

"Put the book away, I've got one final gift for you."

That caught his attention. Tom closed the book and turned to Harry with a smirk. "Is it anything like the one I gave you earlier?"

Harry took great pride in his newfound ability to control the blood that did not rush to his face for once that day.


"Then why should I be interested?"

Harry let out a resigned sigh. "I suppose if you don't want your final gift I'll just keep it to myself." He stood and began walking towards the common room exit. "I'll see you later then, yeah?"

He got to the door and smiled when he heard Tom get up from his chair and begin to follow Harry.

"It's past eleven, you know?"


"If we're caught, we'll get detention."

"Afraid one measly detention will forever tarnish your reputation and keep you from achieving Head-Boy-ship?" Harry teased, not caring in the least.

"The things I do for you," Tom mumbled as Harry took the lead.

"It should be, 'The things i do for myself,' since this is all part of my second birthday gift to you," Harry pointed out, guiding them through deserted halls and secret passages until they reached their journey's end.

Tom spared a look at their surroundings with a single, unimpressed raised brow. "And what, pray tell, are we doing here?"

"One moment, Tom, and I'll show you—Aha!" Harry produced a package of thin sticks from a pocket of his robes and then a single one from that. "Are you ready for this? Incendio!"

Harry met the tip of his wand with the tip of the stick and chanted the fire-producing spell and then held it out as an offering.

Tom looked on in shock at the boy across from him. When Harry had forced him to sneak out nearly thirty minutes ago—that's how long their wild trek had taken; to "throw off suspicion," as Harry put it—and way past curfew, the top of the astronomy tower had been the last destination to cross his mind.

And now, here they were.

"Are you sure this isn't actually your gift to yourself?"

"Tom, will you just play with the ruddy sparklers already?"

Tom sneered and crossed his arms. "No."

"You're being a prat."

"You're being a prat."

"Only a prat would say that." Tom's eye twitched and Harry grinned. "Come on, Tom, please? It's your birthday, the year's coming to a close, and you know VonSnipes would skin us alive if I set off the fireworks."

Tom's posture went rigid and the look on his face became infinitely more suspicious. "What fireworks?"

"The ones I'm prepared to set off if you don't wave the bloody sparklers around with me."

They stared at each other, neither giving an inch. It was when Tom's shoulders slumped that Harry allowed his grin to grow. He'd won.

"Alright, just give me one of the damn things already," Tom grumbled, lumbering over and snatching an unlit sparkler from the bag in Harry's hand, where he was also juggling his wand. "You'll tell no one of this," he warned in a dangerous tone that booked no argument.

"I make no promises. " Harry had always been immune to it.

After lighting multiple sparklers together and watching each one fizzle out, Harry could tell by watching Tom that the older boy was enjoying himself. His eyes had softened in the glow of the burning magnesium and the touch of a smile played upon his lips.


Temmoku eyes, the color of melted chocolate and filled with just as much warmth turned his way.

"Happy Birthday."

AN: Well… That escalated quickly. Let me tell you, once I finally got the time to sit down and actually put this chapter into words (nine pm — 4 am, not including editing time) it just took off. Like my fingers had a mind of their own, and this is what they spat out.

I planned out maybe, like, 25% of what actually got written? And it was supposed to be about 3,000 words shorter. The rest… just showed up for the ride?

All I can say is I guess (if it wasn't before) now this is rated M for a reason, but I'm seriously going to try and not turn it into one of those stories where there's, like, tons of smut every chapter… I don't think my brain could handle it.

Sorry for those of you that really like smut and are here only for the M rating! And sorry to those who don't really enjoy smut too much… I hope I haven't scarred you for years to come… TT^TT