Hello, long time no see. I will not even bother with an attempt to write something funny to explain my absence. Truth of the matter is, the time between my last update and now has not been good. Following last update (March, 2018) I got busy with work and school. 2019 was, pardon language, a shit year for me. I more or less started the year by losing my dog, cancer in the stomach. When I found out at the vet, I made the call that she should have peace. A few months later, I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my dad… so I lost both my dog and dad before June 2019. It took me a while to get my bearings, and I lost interest in writing and reading. Then, once again, I got busy with school and work. Then, this year, I had my finals, so I was busy with that.

At any rate, if you cannot understand why I didn't feel like writing in 2019, then I have no words for you… at least, none that are nice nor polite.

Thank you to all who have read, followed, favorited and reviewed up to this point. If I have forgotten to answer the signed reviews, I apologize, but I read every single one… even the flames. So… thank you.

Little bit of information: In case you haven't noticed by now, but is no longer sending emails notifications regarding PMs. So you might want to check you Inbox messages.

Responses to anonymous reviews (at least the most interesting ones) can be found after the end Author's Note.

"They say there are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe what is." Viggo Grimborn, Dragons: Race to the Edge

Chapter 20: In Victory and Defeat

The ride back to Order headquarters was uneventful… or at least, as uneventful as a ride on the Knight Bus can be. Yeah, their little merry group had, despite Nico's vehement protests, taken another trip with the bus from hell. And per Mad-Eye's instructions, the ride was to be thirty minutes long, and they would get twenty Sickles for no questions asked.

So their return had taken ten or so minutes longer than their trip to the Ministry, meaning that there were more minutes of crashing to the floor and into the sides for both Nico and Harry, to the great amusement of both Moody and Remus, who had re-joined them right after exiting the Ministry, looking absolutely gleeful. As it turned out, his little scene with the guy by the pub, Goyle's father Nico surmised, since Lupin referred to him as Goyle Senior, had been so loud that some nearby Muggles had called the police. This in turn had caused Goyle Senior to leave the scene, and after promising to be good to the cops, Remus had left as well… just to return, pretty much repeating the trick with the guy by the Main Entrance.

The police hadn't been called, as Remus instead let the other guy on a merry chase down narrow streets, just to give him the slip. As for Frank, the spying pigeon? Well, a bit of transfiguration, and a trashcan had become a very fast, determined and pigeon-hungry hawk, though, it lacked in the smarts department. But it had done its job: Disrupting Frank's aerial surveillance. And Remus revealed, his transfiguration had been multi-layered and with a small time-delay, meaning that after a certain amount of time, the transfigured trashcan would change form again before reverting back to its original shape. The last he saw of Frank, he was in human form, looking annoyed beyond belief, as he was being harassed by a seagull.

Speaking of annoyed, Nico could relate. He was starting to hate wizarding public transportation. He had used the second trip with the Knight Bus as an exercise to control the Divine Energy in his body, and while his control over it was as good as before the seals, he had quickly realized that while the theory of applying a steady stream of energy to the bottom of his feet to stay upright was easy, it was a lot harder in practice, as he had only managed to stay upright for ten consecutive seconds, before crashing to the floor.

If he applied too little energy, his feet would slip before the bus accelerated or swerved, and if he applied too much, he would either stick to the floor for a split second, thus risking a sprained ankle; or the energy would push him off the moment the monster of a bus sped up or made a sharp turn.

It was only halfway through the trip that Remus had let Nico and Harry in on a little secret: the bus had a battery that was pumping mana through the bus, maintaining the enchantments on the vehicle and making sure it didn't break apart. And the battery was being recharged by the momentum and the kinetic energy being released upon each acceleration, brake or turn of the bus itself, making the battery self-sustaining.

Why was this relevant? Because upon acceleration, brake or turn, bursts of energy would ripple through the bus, disrupting the otherwise sturdy energy in the floor. Basically, upon each burst, the energy in the floor, and basically any steady surface of the bus, would take on water-surface like qualities, making the theory only half-valid.

To say that Nico had been less than pleased with that piece of information would be an understatement, but he appreciated it nonetheless. It was worth more now than if Remus had just told him from the start, for it gave him the opportunity to see if he could figure it out himself. And after Lupin had told him, he had reached out with his senses and, sure enough, felt the energy ripple through the bus; something he felt he should have realized from the get-go after having the Suppression Seals removed.

Basically, the bus combined the theory of the steady and solid surface, and the theory of the constantly changing surface of water. Nico quickly figured out that in order to keep your footing in the bus, you had to pump a steady amount of energy to the bottom of your feet to keep standing, but you also had to anticipate the bursts from the bus and compensate for them.

Once again, as Nico found much to be these days, simple in theory, difficult in practise. The son of Hades could only theorize that the reason the bus staff, Lupin and Moody weren't crashing all over the place was because they either had excellent control of their energy, or in the bus staff's case, had grown so accustomed to the erratic movements of the bus, that they simply compensated for the energy on a subconscious level.

Whatever the case, Nico had spent the remaining fifteen minutes or so of the trip trying to regulate his flow of energy to his feet in an attempt to remain standing, but he had still ended up crashing to the floor more than he would have liked.

Another reason for his annoyance was Harry. The bespectacled boy hadn't said anything to him after their little talk in the phone booth… gods that sounded weird, even to him… but that wasn't the reason he was annoyed. No, the reason Harry was causing him annoyance was because of some of the things that had been said. Not because of them being said, but because of the necessity of them having to said and what they brought up of emotions.

Anger at Harry's naivety; he wanted to fight in the war, but he didn't understand his opponents, nor had he known what the opposing sides had in common. Did Nico regret slapping Harry with a few harsh truths? No, not really. They needed to be said, and if Nico had to be the messenger, then so be it.

But he also felt guilty; guilty for exploiting Harry like he had in the trial. Harry had told him that he would have lied for him, and Nico knew that all he would have had to do was ask… but he also, as he explained to Harry, knew that it wouldn't have worked. So why did he feel guilty? He had used plenty of people in the past as means to an end to get what he wanted or needed, and never lost a wink of sleep over it, so why did he feel guilty about it now?

The answer was as obvious as a bonfire in the dark: Nico, despite his past experiences and hurt, still hoped to gain actual friends, and he had come to see Harry as one. It was almost the same as when he convinced Percy to take a dip in the River Styx: It had been necessary to win the fight, but he had also used it as a means to his own agenda, but he had felt guilty about it. The son of Hades had thought that with his past experiences of tricking and deceiving people as a means to an end, that he would have grown immune to feeling guilty, but there was one major difference: He hadn't thought of any of them as friends. He had pretended to be their friend, even boyfriend once, but he had never thought of them as such, and had never felt badly about doing it.

But with Percy and Harry it was different. Percy for obvious reasons: He was his idol and friend, and at the time, harboured what some, including Nico himself, most likely would call a crush on the other boy. But it was also different between Harry and Percy. He had no crush on Harry, and he was not in any way his idol… so why did he, somewhat, feel guiltier about using Harry than Percy? Maybe because this time, he needn't have had to use Harry. He had already realized that the Order wouldn't let him go to Azkaban, so strictly speaking, he could have let things unfold. But that wasn't in Nico's nature, and he wasn't about to gambit it all on, no matter how sure he was about it, that the Order had a plan to keep him away from the prison.

The matter of fact was that he felt guilty about using Harry and taking advantage of his trust. He shook his head, chasing the thought away. It would do him no good to dwell on it, and after their talk in the phone booth, which was still a sentence he found weird, he knew that Harry would have to make a choice: Accept what had happened and move on as possible friends, or he could not accept it and cut ties with Nico. Those were the options Nico could see. Personally, he had already made his choice. Whether he liked it or not, he had done and said what he had, and he may as well move on.

Speaking of moving on, the bus from hell made two sharp turns in a row, and Nico was more than a bit surprised when he only stumbled and didn't crash to the floor… unlike Harry who once again, crashed. Or rather, crashed onto all fours, and Nico couldn't help but be surprised and impressed. Apparently, whether subconsciously or not, Harry had also tried to control his energy flow to keep his footing and had already managed to not be completely thrown. However, just as Harry got to his feet again, the bus lurched to a sudden stop at Grimmauld Place, causing Nico to stumble and Harry to crash to the floor once again.

As Nico reached down with his hand, Harry stared at him for moment, before grasping it and letting Nico pull him to his feet, muttering. "I hate this bus."

The son of Hades wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment.

00000

Harry's ears were ringing, and he briefly wondered if he was developing tinnitus. He actually he hoped he was, for that would explain why he just thought he heard Mrs. Weasley tell him that Snape was down in the kitchen, wanting to speak with him. Chess game forgotten, and utterly ignoring Crookshanks gleefully jumping to chase the chess pieces fleeing in all directions, Harry could only gape in horror. Looking at Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, he only saw them gawking back at him. Still disbelieving of what he had heard, he slowly turned his gaze back to Mrs. Weasley.

"Snape?" Harry asked, utterly uncomprehending.

"Professor Snape, dear." Molly corrected gently. "Now, hurry along, he says he doesn't have time to stay long."

Waiting until his mother had left the room, Ron uttered what was on his and the girls' minds. "What does he want with you… you haven't done anything, right?"

"What, no!" Harry exclaimed indignantly, furiously racking his brain for what he could have done that would make Snape hunt him all the way to Grimmauld Place… maybe he had gotten a T on his latest Potions assignment?

Sighing in frustration and knowing it would only be worse the longer he dawdled, Harry rose to his feet and went downstairs, barely registering passing Nico on the stairs, and as such, missed the other boy's pensive gaze. What he didn't miss a few minutes later, however, was the silence loaded with mutual loathing exuded by both Sirius and Snape sitting at the kitchen table, both men making an effort to stare in different directions, an open letter lying in front of Sirius.

Gathering his courage, Harry cleared his throat and said the first thing that came to mind to let them know he had arrived. "Uh…"

The Potions Master turned his head towards him, the greasy shoulder-length black hair framing his face in curtains. He didn't, however, turn enough to let Sirius slip out of his peripheral. "Sit down, Potter, I have-"

"You know," Sirius interrupted loudly, rocking backing on his chair, face towards the ceiling. "I would prefer that you don't issue orders here, Snape. It is my house, you see."

An ugly flush seemed to roll over Snape's pale face, but as Harry sat down next to Sirius, looking at Snape directly across of him, the flush seemed to recede, the usual scornful twitch of the lips returning to his face. "I was supposed to talk with you in private, but Black…"

"I'm his godfather." Sirius interrupted again, louder this time.

Unlike his counterpart, Snape's voice seemed to lower and turn more hissing. "I'm here on Dumbledore's orders. But do stay, Sirius, I know how you like to feel… involved."

The crash from the chair returning to all fours legs resounded heavily in the kitchen. "What is that supposed to mean?" Sirius asked, something dark starting to creep into his voice.

"Only that I understand it if you feel… frustrated, over not being able to do anything useful for the Order." Snape answered oily, a strange lilt on 'useful' and 'the Order'.

This time, it was Sirius turn to flush, and Snape smirked in triumph as he turned to Harry. "The headmaster has sent me to inform you, Potter, that he wishes for you to start studying Occlumency in the new semester."

Harry blinked, uncomprehending. "Study what?"

Snape's derisive smirk grew. "Occlumency, Potter. It is the magical defense of the mind against external intrusion. An obscure branch of the magic arts, but a rather useful one."

Harry felt his heart starting to beat furiously, and in what he deemed at a rather unhealthy pace. Magical defence against external intrusion? But why? He wasn't possessed, they all agreed on that…. Doing his best to calm his racing heart and mind, Harry tried asking the obvious, but instead of it coming out calmly, he blurted it out. "Why do I have to learn Occlu… whatever its name?"

"Because the headmaster thinks it is a good idea." Snape responded silkily. "You will be given private lessons once a week, but under no circumstances are you to tell anyone about this, least of all Dolores Umbridge. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Harry answered. The part about no telling Umbridge, at least, was something that made sense to him. "Who is going to be teaching me?"

Snape quirked an eyebrow in response. "I am."

Harry felt like he had just been on the receiving end of, and survived, one of Nico's attacks… in other words, he felt like hell, and like he was going to die on the spot. 'Extra lessons with Snape… what the hell have I done to deserve this?' he thought in despair. Quickly looking at Sirius for help, Harry saw how Sirius was about to open his mouth to speak, or shout, but another beat him to it.

"You, teach Harry, magical defence of the mind? That is gonna burn and crash faster than the Hindenburg."

At this point, Harry was really starting to wonder when he would stop reacting like he did. Still, he couldn't help it. His head swivelling around, he and the two men turned their gazes towards the door to the kitchen, settling on none other than Nico di Angelo. The boy was leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed, regarding the three of them with sharp dark eyes, and amusement, most likely born from once again having snuck up them, dancing across his face. A quick glance at Sirius told Harry that his godfather too was having a déjà vu. Snape, however, only narrowed his gaze.

"Mr di Angelo… I do not believe I asked to see you."

A light smirk crossed Nico face. "No, I suppose not. Then again, neither did I ask to see you here. It is Christmas holidays, you know... probably the last time of the year that any student wants to see their teacher."

Harry almost choked. Gryffindors were rumoured to be brave, sure, but to outright sass Snape like that… yeah, not happening. And if the expression on Snape's face was anything to go by, he had not expected the sass as well. And he definitely didn't appreciate it, as his eyes darkened and narrowed.

"Careful, di Angelo. Your cheek may be seen as charming to some and something to be easily be forgiven, but others-"

Before he could get any further, Sirius interrupted again, evidently not having heard a word of the exchange, and only now having recovered from what Snape said.

"Why can't Dumbledore teach Harry himself?" he exclaimed aggressively. "Why does it have to be you?"

The Potions teacher turned his gaze from Nico to Sirius, his voice smooth like the finest of silk. "It's a headmaster's privilege to delegate the less than enjoyable assignments. I can assure you, I did not ask for the job." He stood up, brushing off his robes like he had gotten some filth or dirt on. "I will expect you at six o'clock Monday evening, Potter, my office. If anyone asks, you are receiving remedial lessons in Potions. No one who has ever witnessed you in my class will question that you need them."

"And that is why you teaching Harry aren't going to work." Nico cut in smoothly. Noticing three set of eyes landing on him once again, he steadily met Snape and Harry's gazes. "Harry doesn't trust you, Professor, and you don't respect him."

Snape responded in the same oily way as he had answered Sirius. "And what, di Angelo, pray tell, are you suggesting?"

"That I teach Harry Occlumency."

Harry almost choked on his own surprise. For a moment, the only thing heard in the kitchen was the fire crackling in the fireplace. Then, being the first to recover from his shock and surprise, Snape spoke in what, to Harry, could almost pass as an intrigued voice. "How interesting, di Angelo. But I do wonder… why?"

Harry was wondering that himself. Recent experiences with the other boy told Harry that Nico was more resourceful and far more cunning than most their age. That, and their conversation after the trial were still fresh in his memory… and Nico's view of things. However, before he could give it more thought, Nico answered.

"I'm just repaying the favour. He helped me out… I help him."

"Touching," Snape drawled, but now Harry was sure he saw a dark twinkle in the Potion Master's gaze. "Learning Occlumency is no easy feat. What makes you think that you will be able to teach him when, according to you, I won't?"

"Because I respect him-"

This time, it was Snape who cut off Nico, his drawl smooth and sharp like a razor blade. "Do you really, di Angelo? I wonder…" his gaze shifted slightly, locking eyes with Harry for a few seconds, before turning back to Nico. "A more interesting question is… do you trust him? After all, from what I heard, you didn't tell Potter what your plan was." Before Nico could even answer, the corners of Snape's mouth turned upwards into a dangerous smile, as his gaze once more briefly locked with Harry's, before starting to flicker from Harry to Nico. "But I think the most interesting question is… does Potter trust you? After all… truth and deceit are words, and words are weapons. And just as important as it is to know how to use your weapons, just as important, if not more so, is it to know when to use them. And unlike Potter, you do not... what was the phrase? Ah yes, suck at lying."

Harry felt like he had just been punched and kicked in the gut with an ironclad gauntlet and boot. He remembered those words all too well. They were Nico's words to him, said in the sanctuary of the phone booth elevator. There shouldn't have been any way Snape could have known about that exchange, almost down to the letter. Harry hadn't shared that part with anyone; not his friends, not Sirius, and he would eat every ingredient in Snape's stores if Nico had divulged anything from that conversation to anyone. That left only one, horrifying thought: That Snape, somehow, had read either his or Nico's mind.

Heart pounding in his chest, Harry turned his gaze towards Nico. The other boy hadn't moved from his spot, and his arms were still crossed. However, the amusement he had spotted when Nico had first announced his presence was gone. Instead, sharp dark eyes were narrowed at Snape, a suspicious frown marring his features. However, before Harry could ponder the frown further, Nico apparently felt his gaze, for a moment later the frown was gone, replaced with the same mask of indifference he wore during his trial.

But Harry was starting to catch on. Nico may be wearing the same mask of cold indifference, showing that he didn't care about Snape's words in the least. But he did care, or was at least someway bothered by the Professor's words, if the brief narrowing of the eyes and frown was anything to go by. And now, from the way Harry kept catching him sneaking glances at him, Harry knew that Nico was gauging his reaction to what Snape had said and was curious about his response.

Barely had he realized this before another realization struck him. 'Nico and Snape… they are challenging each other, calling the other out. And,' he glanced at Snape, seeing what could be interpreted as just the smallest of miniscule frowns on his face as he stared at Nico. 'From the looks of it, they are at a stalemate.'

It was both obvious and mind-boggling to Harry at the same time. Snape had said he would be teaching Harry magical defence of his mind, while Nico had offered to teach him the same thing. That would mean that both also, most likely, also knew how to read minds. That the Slytherin bat knew how to didn't surprise Harry all that much… but that Nico, a boy Harry's own age, also possessed that skill, in addition to all his other skills, was simply mind-blowing to Harry, and he couldn't help but wonder how early Nico started at his school, and what kind of stuff they must be teaching there.

He was, however, rather abruptly brought out of his musings when Snape turned his gaze on him, eyes scrutinizing, and his voice soft and sharp. "Do you, Potter? Do you trust di Angelo? Do you trust him with your inner-most secrets?"

Harry was about to answer, but then thought better of it. Did he trust Nico? Ever since the other boy first appeared, he had been a mystery. Secretive about his past, his powers… actually, he had been secretive about everything. That made sense to Harry, for he would have been too. And yet, Harry and his friends had let him in on their own secrets. The Marauder's Map, Dumbledore's Army, to name the big ones, and Nico hadn't told anyone about them, or at least, as far as Harry knew. Another thing was that throughout his entire stay at the Order's headquarters, he had never even tried to send a message… or, well, Lupin admitted to leaving him alone the first day to make a call to his father through a rainbow, however that worked, and as far the Order seemed to know, Voldemort didn't have any allies in the states, and while Nico's father wasn't known to them, he was unlikely to be any sort of ally of Voldemort, or to have any interest in the Order.

Still, the whole situation with the trial bothered him. Nico hadn't told him what his plan was, and had shown a dangerous side to him. Oh sure, Harry had known from day one that Nico could be dangerous, but what he had showed during the trial spoke of another kind of dangerous. Up until the trial, he had been an insanely powerful fifteen-years-old boy. But during the trial he had shown he could also be just as cunning and manipulative as the worst of them, leading people by their noses without them even realizing it, controlling things from the shadows despite being right in the spotlight.

'Why do I trust you? That, Harry, is the right question to ask. My question and Nico's somewhat answer.'

Feeling the three others looking at him, Harry knew it was time to answer. Glancing at Sirius, he saw his godfather was curious about his answer, but wouldn't press him to answer yes or no. Eyes travelling to Snape, he saw the Potion Master was scrutinizing him, eyes not really betraying anything, though Harry imagined that the dungeon bat was expecting him to say no and feeling triumphant. Gaze flickering to Nico, the other boy was by far the hardest to read. His face was one of cold indifference, but Harry thought he saw flickers of curiosity and sad acceptance in Nico's eyes.

Coming to a decision, Harry turned his gaze towards Snape again, meeting the man's gaze head-on, his voice calm and collected when he answered. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."

Harry thought he heard Nico let out a soft gasp of surprise, but it could as well have been Sirius exhaling. As it was, he was far more focused on Snape. For a moment, he was sure he saw Snape's eyes widen, but just as he quickly as he thought he saw it, the Potion Master's face twisted into his trademark scowl that Harry had become all too familiar with.

"I see." The Potion Master's voice was just as silky as it was before. "How very Gryffindor of you. Monday evening, six o'clock, my office, Potter. Don't be late."

He turned to leave, his black travelling cloak billowing behind him. However, before he could take more than a few steps, he was stopped in his tracks by Sirius.

"Snape, wait a moment."

Snape turned around again, an impatient sneer on his face. "I am quite busy, Black. Unlike you, I don't have unlimited time to spare."

"Then I will get right to it." Sirius said and stood up, and Harry saw that he was quite a bit taller than Snape. Harry, however, also saw that the Potion teacher tightened his fist within the cloak's pocket, no doubt having his wand ready. However, if Sirius saw, he obviously didn't care as he forged on. "If I hear that you are using these lessons to harass Harry, you will answer to me."

"How touching," Snape sneered. "But I assume you have noticed how alike Potter is to his father, right?"

"That I have." Sirius said proudly.

Snape's response was like ice, cold and slippery. "Then I also take it, that you are aware that he is so arrogant that any sort of criticism will bounce right off him?"

The heir of the Black family threw his chair aside and stomped around the table towards the Potions professor, drawing his wand as he went, Snape reciprocating instantly, as they came face to face. Sirius looked furious, while Snape seemed to be calculating, his gaze flickering from Sirius' wand to his face.

Sensing a possible explosion, Harry spoke loudly. "Sirius!" Glancing at Nico, he saw that something akin to dark amusement was sparkling in Nico's face and eyes again, but the other teenager didn't seem like he was in a hurry to leave or intervene any time soon. Growling under his breath, Harry tried again. "Sirius!"

Sirius, however, didn't seem to hear, as his face got closer to Snape's. "I've warned you, Snivellus, I don't care if Dumbledore thinks you've reformed, I know better."

"Well, why don't you tell him then?" Snape hissed "Are you afraid he might not take very seriously the advice of a man who has been hiding inside his mother's house for six months?"

"Tell me, how is Lucius Malfoy these days? I suppose he is ecstatic about his lapdog working at Hogwarts, right?"

"Speaking of dogs," Snape whispered silkily. "Maybe you aren't aware that Lucius Malfoy recognized you the last time you went on a little stroll. Very clever, Black, to let yourself be seen on a harmless platform… it gives you a watertight alibi for not venturing out from you little hideout in the future, doesn't it?"

Sirius raised his wand, prompting Harry to yell and leap up on and over the table in an attempt to get between them. "NO! Sirius, don't do it!"

"Are you calling me a coward?!" Sirius bellowed, while trying to shove Harry out of the way, but Harry didn't budge.

Snape's lips curled up in a smirk. "I am, actually. Well done, Black. You got to the right conclusion, all on your own. Good dog."

"Harry – stay – out – of – it!" Sirius snarled, shoving Harry away with one hand.

Harry, however, shocked and surprised as he was, didn't give up and instantly jumped in between both men again, pleading with his godfather. "SIRIUS, NO! STOP IT!" Feeling desperation rise in him, he turned towards the other teenager in the room. "Nico, help me!"

The response he got was not what he was hoping for. Instead of moving to help him, Nico did something else entirely: He let out a dark, humourless laugh, dark eyes glinting with dark amusement. "Harry, sometimes you have to let kids fight to solve their own problems. I would honestly find it amusing, especially since they are doing the exact same thing, if it wasn't so damn pathetic."

A deep silence followed, but before any of them could come up with a scathing remark, Nico continued. "They are what, at least twenty years older than us, Harry, yet they argue like they were still fifteen. I really hope this isn't the standard for Order members, for if it is, Voldemort has already won. You don't have to like each other to work together, but fighting amongst yourselves like a pair of school boys… that is just pathetic."

Harry was shocked to his core. Snape and Sirius, however looked conflicted and murderous, but the way their eyes kept going from each other and to Nico, told Harry that they were both internally debating on whom to curse first: Each other or Nico.

However, in that moment, the kitchen door opened, and all of the Weasley family and Hermione showed up with happy faces, for among them was Mr Weasley dressed in striped pyjamas, covered by a raincoat, happily proclaiming to anyone who happened to be in the kitchen. "Cured! Completely cured!"

He, his family and Hermione, however, all lost their smiles and stopped abruptly on the doorstep as they took in the scene in the kitchen, who like them, seemed frozen: Sirius and Snape with wands aimed at each other's face, Harry in between with arms stretched out to either side in an attempt to force them apart, and Nico, standing right next to the door with crossed arms, dark amusement in his eyes as he fixated the other three with a cold stare.

"Merlin's beard," exclaimed a stunned Arthur, his smile fading quickly. "What is going on here?!"

It seemed that the appearance of the Weasleys and Hermione had brought some common sense back to Snape and Sirius, for they lowered their wands, but kept glowering at the other with utmost contempt. Pocketing his wand, Snape strode towards the door, never giving the Weasley clan or Hermione a second glance as he paused, staring at Harry.

"My office, Monday evening, six o'clock, Potter."

Harry didn't care about coming up with a sarcastic remark about it being the third Snape gave him those instructions, for the moment Snape finished speaking to him, the Potion Master turned his head away, locking eyes with Nico, causing Harry to tense up, wondering if they were about to clash. But if they did, it was just with their icy glares, for a moment later, Snape strode through the door, Nico's eyes following him out.

"What just happened here?" Mr Weasley asked again, clearly agitated.

"Nothing, Arthur." Sirius exhaled heavily, as if he had just run a marathon. "It was just a friendly discussion between two old schoolmates." The effort it took him to smile was visible to Harry. "So… you are cured and healed up? That is good, no, brilliant news."

His words may have been directed to Mr Weasley, but Harry noticed how Sirius' grey eyes were fixed on Nico with barely suppressed rage. And Harry noticed how Nico was returning Sirius' stare with cold indifference, without a shred of remorse for his words.

00000

The hour for their return to Hogwarts was upon them faster than Harry expected. And to be honest, Harry wasn't sure how he felt about it.

The last evening and morning in Grimmauld had been tense to say the least. Sirius had been trying to be cordial to everyone as they prepared to leave… well, save for Nico. They didn't speak to one another out of free will, and if they did, it was mutual forced politeness. No doubt Nico's words had hit Sirius hard, even if they had also been aimed at Snape, but it seemed Sirius had taken them extra hard, and had grown to dislike Nico almost as badly as he did Snape.

Harry didn't agree with Nico's words, not by a long shot, and he was somewhat angry with him because of it. However, whenever he tried confronting the other boy why and how he dared say that to Sirius, his supposed Gryffindor courage failed him. Or maybe it was Ravenclaw wisdom or Slytherin self-preservation coming to play. He didn't want to have a possibly huge row with the other boy, especially if any of the Weasleys or Hermione heard it, right before returning to Hogwarts. And he definitely didn't want Sirius to hear and have him do something rash, like cursing Nico into oblivion.

His courage likewise failed him whenever he tried telling Sirius not to give a second thought to the words of Nico and Snape, but one look at Sirius dark, gloomy face, and he wondered if it was smart to even mention it, even if getting the chance. Especially considering the dark looks his godfather was sending Nico who either wasn't aware or simply ignored them.

Yeah, Harry looked forward to leaving Grimmauld Place and return to Hogwarts… if it wasn't for Umbridge, and now his extra lessons with Snape. Hermione's words about Dumbledore wanting his visions, dreams, whatever they were, stopped and Ron's comment about rather suffering from nightmares than having extra lessons with Snape did little to comfort Harry, or make him look forward to it. And before he had time to talk to Sirius for real, it was time to leave.

The morning for their departure had, as one would expect with a lot of people in the same house, including six school children, been a busy one with last second packing and a hurried breakfast. When Harry, Ron and Hermione had entered the kitchen to find Tonks and Lupin in a hushed conversation that stilled upon their entry, and Harry now found himself standing with the others, wearing his jacket and scarf, not wanting to go outside to the cold and grey January morning

Harry didn't want to say goodbye to Sirius, for he had this weird, uncomfortable feeling about this goodbye. Maybe because he didn't know when they would get to speak again, and he felt it was his duty, as it was his last chance, to ask Sirius to not do anything stupid, but just as he was pondering how to phrase it, Sirius waved him over.

"Here, I would like for you to have this." Sirius said, handing Harry a packet the size of a small book.

Looking at it curiously, Harry turned it over in his hands. "What is it?"

"It is a way for you to give me a call if Snape is harassing you." Seeing how Harry's hands were about to unwrap them, he quickly stopped him with his own hands. "No, don't open it in here!" Casting a wary glance in Mrs. Weasley direction, Sirius lowered his voice. "I doubt Molly will appreciate it- but I want you to use it if you need me, alright?"

"Okay," Harry agreed, pocketing the object in his jacket's inner pocket, while vowing never to use it, no matter what it was. He wouldn't give Sirius an excuse to leave his safe house, no matter how vile Snape would be during the coming Occlumency lessons. Realizing it was now or never, Harry took a slow breath to steady himself, but just as he opened his mouth to tell his godfather to be careful and not to do anything rash, Sirius clasped a hand on his shoulder and lowered his face so they were face to face, making it impossible for anyone save Harry to hear him.

"Also… Harry, be careful around Nico. He is dangerous."

Whatever Harry had imagined himself saying to Sirius about being careful flew from his mind at Sirius' words. Harry knew Nico was dangerous. He had seen the devastation he and his cousins had wrought, had seen him lead Fudge and Umbridge into a trap without them even suspecting it, and had seen him knock out Draco with a look. Yes, Harry knew Nico was dangerous, very dangerous in fact. However, for Sirius to warn him…

Lowering his voice to barely above a whisper as well, Harry spoke hurriedly as he saw Molly starting to herd the other teenagers out of the kitchen. "Sirius, I know he is dangerous. If this is about what he said…"

His godfather shook his head, but Harry did manage to catch the glimpse of anger in his grey eyes. "No, Harry, this has nothing to do with that; I will admit I'm angry about what he said, but that is not the reason." Taking a steadying breath, the dog Animagus continued. "Harry, he is dangerous… he manipulated the entire Wizengamot to clear him of almost all of the charges against him. He has displayed immense control of Umbrakinesis, to the point he can create Shadow Lightning. Not to mention he used Necromancy, one of the darkest, if not the darkest, magical arts out there. Now I also learn that he is likely an Occlumens as well."

Harry was frowning now, as he whispered. "Sirius… what you are…"

"I'm telling you to be careful and to never forget what he is capable of. He is incredibly intelligent for one his age, he is secretive and his powers are of those of the Dark Arts and-"

Harry's frown deepened, this time in confusion. "Professor Lupin is incredibly smart too, and I bet he was secretive back in school as well… and he is a werewolf. So why are you not warning me against him?"

If Sirius could have thrown up his hands in the air in frustration, he likely would have. All Harry had to go by, was what he saw and heart in his godfather's eyes and voice. "Because you and I know Remus, Harry. We know he would never hurt us, even if it fit into his plans to do so. And we know who he is loyal to." Sirius' voice lowered, so that even Harry could barely hear him. "Even so, neither your father nor I ever forgot what Remus could, and still can, do. Especially after the stunt I pulled on Snape." He took a steadying breath, meeting Harry's gaze with newfound calm and understanding. "I'm not telling you to alienate him, Harry. Be friends if you can, but don't trust him blindly. Can you promise me that?"

Harry was at a loss for words. All of his thoughts regarding Nico were brought up yet again, and despite that he told Snape that he would trust Nico with his inner-most secrets, Harry didn't trust Nico completely. Too much had happened. What's more, Harry hadn't seen Sirius this concerned since last year when they thought Karkaroff had planted his name in the Goblet of Fire. A threat within the walls, just like Pettigrew and supposedly Karkaroff. And sure, Nico was far more secretive and cunning than most boys their age, with powerful Dark Arts at his disposal, but even so, Harry didn't, no, he couldn't, think of a reason for Nico to intentionally harm him. If Nico wanted to harm him, something told Harry that the other boy would have done so already.

However, from what Harry could see in Sirius' gaze, his godfather was not letting go before he got the answer he wanted. That, and the way the Weasleys were now looking at them, told Harry that their time was up. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he gave a small nod, whispering. "I promise."

A lot of the anxiety seemed to wash from Sirius' face, but Harry could still that the grim smile was forced. "Let's go then."

And with a pat on Harry's shoulder, they were on their way up the stairs and well on their way out the door. Giving Mr Weasley a slightly absent-minded promise about keeping an eye out for snakes for him, Harry once again tried telling Sirius to be careful, but once more he was thwarted as Sirius gave him a one-armed hug around the shoulder and a quickly mumbled "Take care, Harry."

Next thing he knew, they were out in the cold January air, the Order's Headquarter had quickly vanished between its two neighbours, and Tonks, now disguised as a tall, strict lady with iron-grey hair, were bossing them around. "C'mon, the quicker we can get on the bus, the better."

Harry thought he detected a hint of nervousness in her voice as she glanced around the street. He was, however, soon distracted as he noticed Nico frown. "The bus… don't tell me…"

Lupin stretched out his right arm.

BANG!

"Oh for fu-!"

00000

The trip back to the Hogwarts had been as uneventful and, eh, entertaining, a trip with the Knight Bus could possibly be. Though, Nico mused, the trip had its bright sides. One, Hermione may have scolded him for his outburst as they embarked, but she had changed her mind after her second crash to the floor. Speaking of changing minds, Ron had also changed his mind about the bus of torture. He had boldly proclaimed that he had always wanted to try the bus. Well, after their trip to school, he had vowed never to use it again.

But they had reached their destination and was now trudging their way towards the Gryffindor Common Room, Seamus having joined them in the Entrance Hall, slapping both Harry and Nico on their backs with a broad grin, laughingly congratulating them on pulling a fast one on Umbridge. When Ron looked nervously around, Seamus had just laughed again and told him not to worry. Apparently, Umbridge was still at the Ministry and wasn't expected back before the next day, supposedly still busy trying to do some damage control in the wake of Nico's trial. Arriving in front of the portrait guarding Gryffindor Tower, Seamus gave their little company a smirk and spoke the password. "Victory"

The Fat Lady regarded the group Gryffindors with a twinkle in her eyes. "That is correct. Welcome back."

With that, the portrait swung open… and all those who had arrived from Grimmauld Place were almost blasted off their feet from the noise coming from within the tower, Harry and Nico getting the worst of it as they stood in the front alongside Seamus.

"What the-?"

Nico didn't get to utter another word before several hands grasped him and Harry, tugging them into the Gryffindor Common Room. Inside the lion den, the roar of applause and cheering almost deafened Nico, and he had to take a few seconds to regain his bearings. From what he could tell, the entire Gryffindor Houses had gathered to receive him and the others, and from the snacks and drinks he was able to glimpse, they had quite the party planned. Banners decorated the walls and floated in mid-air, and Nico was fairly sure, from what he had been able to gather about his dorm mates during the last couple of months, that at least two were designed by Dean Thomas.

Some were very artistic and colourful. One of them showed what Nico assumed to be Umbridge and Fudge talking nonsense, only to be shushed by two boys, obviously Harry and Nico, making comments from 'Shut up, idiots.' to 'Shut it, smart people are talking' and 'Keep quiet until you grow a brain and learn to use it'. Another depicted Umbridge and Fudge about to say something, only to be engulfed in flames, courtesy of Nico holding a flamethrower, stating things like 'I smell burned bacon' to 'Medium or well-done?' on to 'Get roasted', and 'If you play with fire, you get burned' and, perhaps Nico's favourite, 'Backfire!'. Another simply said: 'Nico and Harry rules! The Ministry and Umbridge sucks!' which it shouted out, if Nico was not mistaken, in the voices of the first and second years. Another depicted Harry and Nico in red and gold armour, standing upon stick figures whom the son of Hades guessed to be Umbridge and Fudge, accompanied by the text 'Gryffindor Knights'. Lastly, a glittering red banner kept a tally in shimmering gold. 'Nico&Harry vs Umbridge: Too many to count vs 0'

Laughing despite himself, Nico turned to Seamus who had taken position beside his best friend. "This is amazing guys. When did you…?"

Dean grinned, hugging Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys upon their entry. "We all heard the trial, Nico. It was broadcast live on every wireless channel… to Umbridge's great regret, I'm sure."

Seamus grinned like a Cheshire. "It has been all over the media and magazines the last couple of days. Umbridge and the Ministry have been busy trying to hush it up, but they are hard-pressed to keep up. To make matters worse for them, people suddenly want to know more and demand that, if those with parents at the Ministry are to be believed, a recording of the trial be re-transmitted, a transcription be made and published or simply be more discussed." His smile turned almost wolfish. "You two have caused quite the uproar, mates. Umbridge's idea of order has definitely gone out the window… and anything that can upset her that much, demands a world class party. Don't you agree, Gryffindor!?"

The cheer that erupted from their house mates almost deafened them once again, but they couldn't help the smiles spreading across their faces as they were handed several Butterbeers, chips, candy and other snacks, four of the older and younger students quickly taking their luggage to their respective dormitories.

Now, Nico and Harry had both been to some rather awesome parties, and Harry knew that his house knew how to throw a party. He had seen when they won the House Cup in his first year, when they celebrated the return of the victims of the Slytherin Basilisk and won the House cup in second year, when they won the Quidditch and House Cup in third year and when Harry was, to his great chagrin, elected as an unwilling participant in the Triwizard Tournament. This party, however, was something different. It wasn't about winning points for their house, beating another house at sports or a house mate into a competition. It was about dealing a blow to a tyrant on her own home turf… and it was about one of their own, well two if you counted Harry, beating impossible odds. So yeah, Gryffindor House were definitely having a party and Harry guessed that it easily rivalled any of the aforementioned parties.

Harry was having a great time. All of his house mates were having a good time and congratulating both him, though mostly Nico, for the victory over Umbridge. And he was hard-pressed not to spit out his Butterbeer when Rick Rowling, a first year boy with green eyes and brown hair, probably got the scare of his life. The small first year had not been present at the lake during the, as Hogwarts had started to call it, Lake Battle, and so had asked Nico if he really had summoned the body of the undead Basilisk and a T-rex. Nico, with Hermione sitting across his lap, had given Rick a very serious look and, answered.

"Yes… and if I hear you slacking off on your homework to McGonagall again, Rick, I will set them on you."

Hermione had slapped Nico upside the head for his comment, but Harry had, and he was fairly sure Hermione had as well, seen the playful twinkle in Nico dark eyes. Even so, Rick Rowling had gone deadly pale and stammered that he would get nothing but perfect scores on the rest of his assignments, just as long as Nico wouldn't set undead monsters on him. Nico had just smiled, but seemingly taking pity on the kid, had invited Rick to sit next to him on the couch, booting Harry off, and treated him to some of the candy and other goods people kept bringing to their dark prince. Next thing Rick knew, he was the most popular and admired of the first years, simply for being sitting with Nico as they meant they must be friends. Needless to say, Rick must have had the time of his life, Nico's playful threat utterly forgotten. The last they saw of Rick that night, was Nico carrying the sleeping boy to the first year dormitory to sleep.

Yes, Harry was having a good time, but as he kept nipping to his seventh Butterbeer, or at least he assumed it was number seven, he kinda stopped counting after five, his thoughts kept nagging him.

He wondered how many of his house mates really believed him now about Voldemort being back, or if they were just celebrating this victory against Umbridge. Maybe they did both, at least he hoped they did, but he couldn't shake the feeling that they were only celebrating the humiliation Umbridge had suffered at the hands of Nico and, by association and unwittingly being part of the game, Harry.

And even if they did believe Voldemort being back, it frustrated Harry that they only now believed it. A part of him knew that it really shouldn't matter how they got people to believe in Voldemort's return, as long as it wasn't because of bodies piling up, but it was frustrating that many people he had known for years maybe hadn't believed him until he was fed truth serum.

That was another thought that kept nagging him. Nico had taken Fudge, Umbridge, the Wizengamot and the entire Ministry by complete surprise, turning their own weapons against them. And he had done so in the blink of an eye. But it may turn out to be a double-edged sword. Nico had hit them on their credibility, but with them declaring their Veritaserum faulty, how many would truly believe Harry, even after being given truth serum, about Voldemort having returned? The Order had tried to inform people for months, with little success… Nico had done so in hours, but if the trial had been broadcast live, how many would believe Harry's testimony after the Ministry declared the Veritaserum for faulty? How many would still believe Fudge and the Ministry's and their slander? Had Nico just eased the Order's work or made it harder?

Finally, Sirius' words were running through his mind like a freight train loaded with live explosions. 'Harry, he is dangerous... neither your father nor I ever forgot what Remus could, and still can, doI'm not telling you to alienate him, Harry. Be friends if you can, but don't trust him blindly. Can you promise me that?'

Harry had promised Sirius that. But seeing Nico as he was now, giving a sleeping, and slightly drooling, Dennis Creevey a piggyback-ride to the second year dormitory, it was hard not to trust him blindly… and easy to forget what the other boy was capable of unleashing. It was so easy to forget that the same boy, who currently was so caring towards the youngsters of Gryffindor house, could be just as ruthless and ready to kill without hesitation.

He had told Snape that he trusted Nico and he made a promise to Sirius not to trust him blindly. But he also remembered his conversation with Nico in the lift: 'Why do I trust you?'

Nico had told him that was the right question to ask, and Harry had pondered his answer for days. To be honest, he was still pondering on it, but he thought he was getting closer.

He didn't trust Nico because he had or needed to; he trusted him because he wanted to. Despite everything Nico had done and said, despite all the reasons Harry shouldn't trust him, and Harry wanted to trust him. Not just as an ally, but as a friend.

What was it Dumbledore said, when Harry had been down when figuring out that the Sorting Hat only had placed him in Gryffindor because he asked it not to be put in Slytherin?

'It is out choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. Those were Dumbledore's words. And this time… I choose to trust Nico.'

He just hoped he had made the right choice.

00000

Most, especially those in their teenage years will agree on one thing: They generally hate Mondays, especially Monday mornings. It is right after a couple of days with some relaxation, you are tired and stressed over the things you didn't get done during Saturday and Sunday, and there are five days filled with teachers preaching from morning to afternoon, homework and other things before you get the next weekend. And then you repeat the circle.

Now, Nico was, and probably all of Hogwarts would agree, not like most teenagers. But regarding Monday mornings, he definitely was. He was tired and somewhat sore, but he had a feeling that was probably because he had somehow ended up carrying all of the first and second year boys to their beds the night before. To make matters worse, one of the first year girls, apparently a twin to one of the boys, had also asked to be carried to bed and his oh so helpful dorm mates, girlfriend… actually, every single Gryffindor student, had seemingly forgotten what would happen if a boy tried going up to the girls' dormitories. The alarm had left his ears ringing for minutes afterward, somehow not muting the roar of amused laughter from the Gryffindors, and while he quickly had applied extra energy to his feet to keep his footing on the transformed staircase, he hadn't taken into account the girl on his back when he did so, and predictably lost his balance. It was only thanks to his years of training and combat experience that he managed to twist around so that he didn't flatten the poor girl. No one was hurt aside from his pride, and he could see the funny in it afterwards. The girl had been mortified, but he had assured her that he didn't blame her in the slightest… his dorm mates on the other hand, he promised, would face retribution soon enough. Especially when he learned that Ron and Harry had first-hand experience with trying to get access to the girls' dormitories.

So, yeah, like most teenage boys, this Monday morning, Nico was somewhat tired and sore, not to mention hungry, and as such, like most teenage boys, were looking forward to the one thing that made Monday mornings bearable: Breakfast. And let's be honest, breakfast at Hogwarts was more like a small feast.

He was sitting next to Harry, both enjoying scrambled eggs and bacon while sipping to their orange juices, when the mail owls arrived. Nico had to admit, he found it quite amusing that the sacred animal of Athena was being used as a messenger, and he had often wondered how they trained the birds to find specific persons all across the country, but he imagined there was some kind of complicated magic involved. And honestly, if he had to try and figure out how the wizards did everything, he would probably spend the rest of his life on it. And right now, the bacon was just too good for him be distracted over something as the mail delivery system of the wizards. Besides, it was not like anyone would be sending him any mail, so Nico refocused on munching down the next piece of bacon.

That was, at least, his plan, but just before he got to take another bite, a great horned owl landed in front of him with a heavy thud. Blinking in surprise, he leaned closer to see who letter was addressed to, stroking the bird lazily. "Now, who are you here for, hmm?"

Nico di Angelo, Great Hall, Hogwarts School

Nico blinked again, this time rather confusedly "Huh? This must be a- hey! That is my bacon!"

Taking advantage of his distraction, or maybe just getting hungry and impatient, the owl saw fit to attempt to nick Nico's bacon. Attempt being the keyword, for when he realized what was happening, combat reflexes kicked in once again, and the, now slightly miffed, son of Hades snatched the bacon back… or at least, most of it.

Now a bit more alert, staring at the owl, who looked rather affronted, and daring it to try again, Nico put on his reading glasses, just to make sure he had read correctly and that he indeed was the addressee. Apparently, he was, for the letters stayed exactly the same.

Confusion rising, alongside suspicion that someone was either pranking him or setting him up in some way, Nico frowned and reached for the letter. However, just as he touched it, another owl landed. Followed by another… and another, and another, until at least a dozen owls had landed in front of Harry and Nico, hooting, wings flapping and trampling all over the table as they fought to be the first to deliver their letter or, in some cases, small packages.

"What is going on?" Ron asked, mouth halfway full of food.

Nico shrugged, hoping his bafflement wasn't making him look completely stupid. "No clue… but for some reason, I'm getting a lot of letters." Getting a closer look at some letters between wings and feathers, he noticed something. "Some of them are for Harry though."

Now curious, Harry leaned forward, shoving a few indignant owls, and grabbed a letter addressed for him. Opening it, doing his best to ignore the stares from the rest of the Great Hall and a new group of approaching owls, he quickly read the letter. Once he did, his jaw dropped.

"Okay… This guy told me that I should get my head checked, as that can be the only possible reason for me to continue to lie about Voldemort's return… in a less friendly matter."

Eyes going from between Harry to her boyfriend, Hermione got a gleam in her eyes. A gleam, that both Ron and Harry knew from experience, meant that she was working something out or coming up with a plan, that they usually got roped in on. "I think I know what this is… Nico, what does yours say?"

Now slightly intrigued, the prince of shadows opened the letter from the horned owl. Reading over it, he read aloud as went. ""Di Angelo, I didn't know how you did it… the witnesses… polluted the Veritaserum… only explanation you are not in Azkaban to rot… you should go and fu… okay, wizard from Finchley, now you are just being rude."

"Dear Harry Potter, I don't want to believe that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned, but your testimony under Veritaserum raises some serious questions that I think we all would like to have answered. Or are you being hoodwinked by Nico di Angelo and Albus Dumbledore? Julianna Wilson, Birmingham." Harry looked up, his heart picking up pace. "Wait… does this mean?"

Hermione, who until now had stayed silent, was apparently brimming with excitement. "If I'm not mistaken, all these letters are from people who heard the trial. Do you mind if we…?"

Feeling more than a tad confused, but slowly understanding why his friend was so eager, Harry shrugged. "Go ahead." He looked at Nico. "What do you say?"

Nico gave a shrug as well. "Sure, knock yourselves out."

As it turned out, Hermione was, big surprise, correct. It was indeed letters from people who had heard or read about the trial, and were telling Harry and Nico, some in polite others not so polite, ways what they thought about it, and whether or not they believed Harry, and in Nico's case, his guilt or innocence.

However, whether people believed him to guilty or innocent didn't matter all that much to Nico at the moment. Nor was he bothered by the stares from the Hogwarts students, and he couldn't care less about Umbridge glaring at him and Harry. No, what he cared about was the sight in front of him, his eyes wide and mouth slightly open in utter disbelief. He had stopped reading the letters after having read eight, deciding to read the rest later, only to come face to face with his latest shock.

'Are you kidding me right now?' he thought in mounting disbelief. 'I can fend off a squad of angry Romans, the Hunters, and Percy, but I can't keep my breakfast safe from a bunch of owls?' It seemed absurd, but the evidence was irrefutable. Before the mail arrived, his plate had been filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, bread and a few sausages. Now, at best, only crumbs remained. He let out a sigh. 'I hate Mondays.'

00000

Nico was sitting in the in Common Room, doing his best to read up on some Transfiguration homework, but it was hard, considering that the Weasley twins were demonstrating their newest product: Headless Hats. Nico had to admit, it was an impressive feat of magic, but the girls screaming, the roars of laughter and applause were slowly giving him a headache.

It had been an interesting Monday, to say the least. After his breakfast had been stolen and ruined by the owls, the school day had awaited. He had mixed feelings about the classes, but after lunch, he got to witness Harry clumsily ask out Cho Chang from Ravenclaw for a date on the next Hogsmeade trip, which was on Valentine's Day. Harry clearly hadn't seen him, or he most likely would have asked him wipe the amused smirk off his face.

After classes, he had retreated to the Gryffindor Common Room to read some of the letters he had received earlier, but he had quickly abandoned that endeavour and taken to reading up on Transfiguration and some notes he had made while at Grimmauld.

He had been doing a little research on his immunity granted by the Headmaster, and he had found that it wasn't as simple as he first thought. He couldn't be expelled from Hogwarts, as long as his immunity applied, and it was only the Headmaster who gave it to him whom could revoke it. He could, however, still be held accountable and be expelled if his transgressions were severe enough or downright against the law.

It was, however, a big grey-zone about when transgressions were severe enough to warrant an expulsion, as it seemed to be fully up to the Headmaster. But that was influenced by if the Headmaster, and the outsider having been granted immunity, had made a deal. If a deal had been made, and the outsider kept his or her part of the bargain, not even the Headmaster could easily revoke the granted immunity.

There was, however, another big grey-zone about the immunity: The Headmaster or the one who had been given the immunity had to actively invoke it, both on and off school grounds. In other words, the only reason the Ministry could try him for his run-ins with Malfoy, was because neither he nor Dumbledore had invoked the right and reminded them from the start that they were already categorized as schoolyard fights. As it was, he was fined to pay fifty Galleons because, as Bones had put it, they were of special dangerous character. The use of Legillimency in itself was not illegal, but as he had used it to attack Malfoy's mind in the way he had, it was borderline criminal, as he could have caused serious lasting damage.

Another thing Nico had made a few notes on was the Suppression Seals. Generally used for high profile prisoners of Azkaban, like Sirius, and the only known way to overcome them was flooding them or having them removed by a Seal Master, or in Nico's case, through an object imbued with unsealing abilities. But Nico had wondered, and come up with a theory, on how Sirius had circumvented them. He may not have been able to flood them from the inside, but if he had used his blood he could, given enough time, over-flood the Suppressing Seals from the outside. But given how much blood and energy he would need for that, Nico doubted it. There was, however, another solution. Sirius could, at least from what Nico had gathered during his stay at Grimmauld, have applied a bit of blood magic to either weaken, or possibly disable them totally, by changing them. He still wasn't sure how it would have helped Sirius escape, though he had an idea or two based on his conversations with Sirius and Remus.

"Hey, Nico. Can we talk… alone?"

Looking up from his notes, Nico instantly frowned. Harry had returned from his Occlumency lesson with Snape, and he was way too pale and looked like he might be sick at any moment. Still, the way he was looking at him, told Nico that Harry wasn't going to see the nurse, or at least lie down, until they had spoken. Giving a short nod, Nico got to his feet and they walked to their dormitory, dodging George's attempts to put a Headless Hat on them. Reaching the fifth year dormitory, and making sure they were alone, they sat down on Harry's bed, facing each other.

Taking notice of how pale he looked, and the occasional shivers shaking Harry's body, Nico's frown deepened. "Are you alright, Harry? You don't look so good… are you sure you don't want to wait until tomorrow or…?"

Doing his best to stop himself from shaking, Harry shook his head, but he didn't like how shaky his voice sounded. "No… no, it has to be now."

Eyes narrowing a fraction, and slightly unsure about whether Harry was up to this, Nico gave a slow nod. "Okay… what do you want to talk about?"

Taking a deep breath and steeling his nerves, Harry was thankful that he finally got the shaking of his body and voice to stop. "Back at Grimmauld… you offered to teach me Occlumency… why? You said it was you repaying me for helping you out with the trial… but… I don't think that is the only reason."

Nico sighed. "That was part of the reason… digging a little deeper, I suppose it was because I felt guilty for using you like that. I have already given you my reasons for doing it the way I did, and I stand by them… even so… friends aren't supposed to use each other like that. So I suppose it is me trying to say sorry." He hesitated, considering his words carefully, before speaking again. "And maybe... to test if you trusted me."

Harry blinked. He had not expected that answer. Or at least, he hadn't expected one so straightforward. He had become so accustomed to Nico giving veiled answers or answering a question with a question. For him to answer so bluntly… it was strange. However, even as dizzy and feverish as he felt, he noticed how hesitant, almost unsure of himself, Nico had been when saying the last part. And that alone told him that Nico was being honest.

Nodding, mostly to himself, Harry gave a small smile. Deciding to press on, Harry asked his next question, determined to see this to the end, a slight frown replacing his smile. "Doing Snape and Sirius' argument, when you refused to help me stop them, you said that you would have found it amusing seeing them fight like schoolboys since they were doing the exact thing." At Nico's slow nod, he continued. "What did you mean by that?"

Nico tilted his head slightly, confusion showing. "You… you didn't notice?"

His frown deepening, Harry scowled. "If I knew what you meant, I wouldn't have asked, would I?"

This time, Nico frowned. He was briefly reminded of the time in the elevator phone booth, when they were discussing liars. Then, taking in Harry's pale complexion, he realized that the other boy currently was in no condition to connect the dots on his own, meaning that he would have to give him a straight answer. Knowing that his answer may not be well received, he once again chose his words carefully.

"You may not like my answer, Harry. Do you remember that Snape asked if Sirius had noticed how alike to your father you were, and how Sirius answered, rather proudly, that he had?"

Harry nodded, scowling when he remembered what Snape had said about him and his father. "Yeah, what about it?"

Nico sighed. "As I said, you may not like my answer, but I will tell you as I see it. I don't expect you to agree, but I hope you will give it a little bit of thought."

Harry's frown deepened, already not liking where this was going. But he had asked, and it seemed Nico would give him another straight answer, this time without leading him to it, so he gave small and curt nod. "Okay."

Nico closed his eyes, thinking. "They clearly have very different opinions of your dad, Harry. I don't know what their history is, but there is history and bad blood between them. If I had to guess, something went down while they were at Hogwarts, and I'm guessing that it was your father and Sirius versus Snape. Whatever happened, Sirius and Snape never got over it. You see where I'm going with this?"

Harry did have an inkling of where Nico was going with this, but the pain from his scar was making it hard for him to think, or maybe he didn't want to acknowledge that he had an idea to what Nico was hinting at, so he shook his head, frowning. "No."

Nico let out a sigh. He had seen from Harry's frown that the other boy, despite his current state, did have an idea, but didn't want to consider it. It was understandable, giving his relation to both men, but he had asked and Nico had said he would answer, so he would. Speaking carefully, gently even, he continued.

"Long explanation short, Harry: You have a likeness to your father, at least, I'm guessing, in how you look. Sirius and Snape look at you… and for better and worse, they see your father because that is what they expect to see. They see you, but at the same time, they see your father, blinding them to the simple fact that you are not him. That is what I meant when I said they are doing the exact same thing. They are seeing the same coin, but two different sides. And unfortunately, they are not seeing the right coin. It is dangerous and damaging to judge and punish the son for the bad things his father did... but it can be just as dangerous and damaging to do the opposite, putting the son on the same high pedestal as the father. You are not your dad, Harry, but it would seem that Snape and at times, Sirius, forget that."

Heart beating wildly in his chest, Harry suddenly recalled two memories. The first was when he first got to Grimmauld and Sirius and Mrs Weasley were arguing: 'He is not James, Sirius! What is wrong, Harry, is that you are not your father, however much you might look like him.'

The other was a conversation he had with Sirius at the start of term, when he had told his godfather that he didn't want to see him being chucked back to Azkaban. 'You are less like your father than I thought. The risk is what would have it fun for James.'

He didn't want to think about it, but Nico's words resonated within him, and it made him uncomfortable. Not only were Nico comparing Sirius to Snape, but he seemed to agree with Mrs Weasley about Sirius' line of thinking. The worst part, though, was the notion they may be right… and that the later memory somewhat confirmed it, as Sirius directly had said that Harry was less like his father than he expected.

Pushing those uncomfortable thoughts aside, and starting to feel positively ill, but unable to let the conversation go just yet, another memory surfaced in Harry's mind. "You… speak of experience, don't you?" At Nico's inquisitive look, he continued. "Before you fought Percy, you said something to him… something about you being met by ridicule and disgust because of who your father is. That is why you said it can be dangerous to judge a son because of his father… because it has happened to you."

Nico looked stricken for a moment, before giving a small, curt nod. "Yeah… my father is highly unpopular, even amongst his near family, and is often treated with fear. And because of that, me and my siblings are treated the same way." Taking a breath, he met Harry's gaze evenly. "Is that all, Harry?"

Recognizing the dismissal of the current conversation, and somewhat happy to change topic, Harry shook his head, mentally regretting it as it made him nauseous. "One more thing, if you have the time." Nico gave him a slightly guarded look, but didn't make a move to leave, which Harry took as a good sign. Taking a deep breath, forcing down the pain from his scar and his nausea, he continued. "During my… extra lesson with Snape… he said that those trained in Occlumency can hide the emotions and memories that would otherwise give away a lie."

Nico inclined his head in small nod. "Yeah. But that is really advanced."

Harry gave a small frown, frustration creeping into his voice. "How long did it take you to master it? Snape told me to clear my head, to empty myself of emotion… how long did it take for you to…" He trailed off when he Nico let out a sigh, a small frown forming. "What is it?"

Nico studied him for a moment, before sighing again. "Harry, what he is trying to teach you are, to be perfectly honest, impossible for you. Your emotions are too close to the surface, and you have a hard time suppressing memories, if only temporarily."

Harry didn't know whether to feel offended or glad at that, but before he could ponder it further, Nico spoke again. "Occlumency is the art of protecting your mind against external attacks to it, and it comes in many different forms. Some are born with the ability, some learn it. The most simple of forms is to put up a shield that will hide everything. For a spy, like Snape, that is not an option, for it will give away that he is hiding something. For you, however, it will be enough for now."

Closing his eyes, Nico took a few seconds to gather his thoughts. "The first step to learning Occlumency is a focus point. Something you can focus on bringing up when you feel the intrusion. It can be a landscape, animals, girls, whatever float you boat. It just needs to be something to hide your memories behind. The trick is to focus on that instead of your emotions and memories."

Harry frowned slightly. "I would have thought that the first step is to be aware of the attack."

Nico gave a slight nod, meeting Harry's gaze calmly. "Normally, I would agree with you. Problem with that is, by the time you detect the attack, you are usually too late to put up a defence and the attacker will, depending on the abilities of the attacker, already have seen enough. Putting up the defence needs to become second nature to you so that you put it up without even thinking about it or, at the very least, right before falling asleep or upon detecting the intrusion." He gave Harry a serious look. "If you want, I can teach you. But I must warn you already now: Even if you are only learning the basic form, which is very different from what Snape and I can do, it won't be easy. And, to test your defences, I will have to it the same way Snape probably did: By attacking your mind. So you need to decide, do you want me to teach you and… do you really trust me with yours, and most likely, other's secrets?"

Harry mulled it over, doing his best to force his heart to slow down. He had told Snape that he trusted Nico with his secrets, and considering that Nico had been to Order HQ and made no move tell anyone about them, he figured that part was covered as well. However, as Nico had pointed out, if someone told Harry a secret, something that Nico didn't already know, there was a big chance of him finding out through their lessons. Then again, the exact same thing would be likely with Snape, a man who Harry didn't like, and definitely didn't trust. Feeling the sweat on his brow, he licked his lips, and tried to buy some time.

"You can obviously do the attacking part as well… can… can you teach me that too?"

Dark eyes boring into green, Nico gave Harry a long and contemplative look. Then, ever so slowly, he shook his head. "No, Harry, I can't."

Harry felt his heart skip a beat. Frowning, he asked the first thing that came to mind. "Why not?"

Nico met his eyes squarely. "I can't… and even if I could, I wouldn't." He let out a sigh. "It isn't in your nature to harm people if you can avoid it, Harry. And that is something you need to be willing to do when attacking another's mind. Moreover, it requires a level of control that you simply don't have. You need to be able to calm your mind and separate your thoughts, memories and emotions from that of your intended victim, and you need to be able to do it during the entire attack, no matter what you see."

He let out another sigh. "Also… if you take that step to being willing to harm someone… not out of anger, not to defend yourself, but simply for your own benefit… you are one step closer to losing part of yourself. And unless absolutely necessary, being willing to take that step… it is not a step I will help or enable others to take." Closing his eyes to take a deep breath, he let out the same breath slowly, opening his eyes to meet Harry's gaze. "I have put my cards on the table, now it's your call… do you want to go through with this? Do you truly trust me enough to try and teach you Occlumency?"

Harry swallowed nervously. However, he had made up his mind during Nico's last little speech. Besides, Nico had already helped him more than Snape had, not that it was saying much, but it was good enough for him. Also, Nico had been honest with him about a lot of things tonight. And… like he had said to himself earlier, he trusted Nico because he chose to. And now… he chose to trust Nico with this. Giving a slow, tentative and measured nod, Harry gave his answer. "Yeah… I do. So… when do we start?"

Nico gave him a measured look, before giving a slight shake of his head. Getting off Harry's bed, he stretched his arms. "Not tonight, that is for sure. You are tired and, to be honest, you look terrible, like you are about to be sick or something. Get some rest and we will work on it the day after your next session with Snape. Before then though, try and see if you can find a focus point."

Nodding his head, and instantly regretting it as it sent a white hot pain through it, Harry gave a small smile. "Thanks Nico, I appreciate it." Then, feeling a bit mischievous, and seeing a chance to tease and get a rise out of Nico, Harry asked "So for a focus point… you said it could be a landscape, animals or girls, right?"

Nico tilted his head, confused. "Sure. Why?"

Harry smiled innocently. "So… would you mind if I used Hermione in a bikini as my focus point?"

Eyes widening and jaw dropping in surprise, Nico froze with his arms stretched above his head. Then, registering what Harry had said, he slowly lowered his arms and scowled at the teen still on the bed before letting out a semi-growl. "Or, you could picture Umbridge in her undies or naked and use that for your focus point."

For almost thirty seconds, neither boy said anything. Then, they both shuddered. Harry found his voice first. "Nico… that was absolutely disturbing and disgusting."

Nico nodded, shivering. "Yeah… I know. I didn't think that one through." He shuddered again. "I'm probably going to get nightmares about that." He turned and made to leave, but as he reached the door, he turned his head. "Try and get some rest Harry… you need it. Goodnight."

Harry, almost halfway into his pyjamas, nodded. "Thanks, Nico, I will… even if I probably will have a nightmare now, thanks to you." They both chuckled. "Well, goodnight. See you tomorrow."

What neither boy knew was that neither would have good night.

00000

Jason was not having a good day. Granted that it was Monday, but to be honest, he hadn't had a good day ever since arriving on British soil. Got trounced by Nico, found out his sister was part of the group who attacked Hazel, failed to convince the Greeks currently in their custody to cooperate to avoid a civil war, which may resume again any day now if reports were to be believed, and just recently, Nico di Angelo had avoided capture once again.

Lucius Malfoy had been, perhaps quite understandably, quite flustered when his organization's fool-proof plan failed. It had been a good plan, Jason had to admit. When Nico was found guilty, he would be removed from the castle he was currently residing in, and it would have been a simple matter of overpowering the few guards taking him away. Except, he had only been found guilty of minor charges that didn't warrant prison time, and as such, he wouldn't be removed from the castle. To make the failure of the plan complete, he and the ones escorting him had managed to give Jason, Frank and Lucius the slip.

Their continued failure to capture Nico di Angelo was wearing down his psyche, as it meant that he could not go searching for his sister without getting his leadership and priorities called into question.

All of that was weighing heavily on his mind, as was Nico's trial and what he had said: "You have no idea, do you? You don't know who you are dealing with."

He had tried to pass it off as a simple taunt from Nico, but Jason would be an idiot to dismiss it solely on the fact that it was coming from Nico. Moreover, after the trial, Jason had done some research on some of the topics that was brought up. In particular, he had done a bit of research on Lord Voldemort and the so-called Boy-Who-Lived. What he had found had been interesting, to say the least.

'Lord Voldemort, aka You-Know-Who, aka He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, dark wizard, blood supremacist, mass murderer; leader of the Death Eaters, an organization of blood supremacist terrorists and murderers. He was somehow vanquished by Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived fourteen years ago, when Harry was nothing more than a toddler. Harry Potter is currently known as the Boy-Who-Lied, who the Ministry currently sees as nothing but a boy wanting more fame and attention after winning the Triwizard Tournament, and being part of Albus Dumbledore's plan to spread fear and panic, upsetting the current peace… that about sums it up.' Jason's frown deepened, lost in thought as the debate over the next move started around him in the Malfoy drawing room. 'The Boy-Who-Lied… I have a hard time seeing why an old man and a teen would want to destabilize an entire nation simply to upset the peace. Sure, if one of them wanted to seize control, but that would take more than just spreading rumours and lies… it would take manpower. Also, they only started with calling Potter the Boy-Who-Lied this past summer… something isn't adding up. Moreover, if what the media report about Dumbledore and Potter are true, then that means they both have duped Nico… Nico is not easily fooled... if he was, he wouldn't have managed to fool both camps like he has for years.'

Pushing his ponderings to the back of his mind, he zoned in on the conversation going on around him in the drawing room at Malfoy Manor, Marcus being the speaker.

"… di Angelo hasn't just, to put it bluntly, managed to throw a wrench in your plans, Mr Malvoltio, but royally screwed them up. Your plan was to overpower the guards escorting di Angelo when he would be found guilty and then, in the confusion, infiltrate the prison, freeing some of your most vital supporters. Not only did di Angelo get away, but after his little stunt during that trial, law enforcement has doubled, if not tripled, their guard at the ferry point, and keeping shifts random to counter prediction of schedules. So, not only did you plan fail, it backfired epically. So far, this partnership has been a total failure and waste of time."

A shadow passed over Mordred's heavily scarred face, but just as quickly as it had come, just as quickly it vanished as he stippled his fingers together, cool politeness in his voice. "I will admit that di Angelo's escape and the decisions of the head of Law Enforcement are setbacks to our plans, but do not worry young Mr Johnson. All alliances and people with common ground suffer setbacks every once in a while. But no matter, no matter. We have a contingency plan, and we have the key pieces to it gathered here."

Jason frowned. The wording of that was just wrong to him. "What do you mean? What contingency plan?"

Mordred smiled, stretching the pale and scarred face. But the smile didn't quite reach his dark eyes, Jason noticed with rising trepidation. Mordred adjusted his ponytail of black hair slightly, his voice still as soft as ever as he gave a slow, pleasant smile. "Normally, we would need a Ministry employee with the necessary clearance to ferry us to Azkaban, as you can't Apparate there. However, we currently have a Water Elementalist downstairs to help us keep the waters calm, both as we sail and make landfall. Have you had any success making him cooperate yet?"

Jason shook his head. "No. He -"

He was cut off by another one of Mordred's associates, a big and muscular man with a thin black moustache. "Have you considered, Grace, that to get captives to cooperate, you simply introduce them to enough pain to make them understand their position? Make a point, if you will."

The smell of ozone quickly filled the drawing room, and the crystal chandelier started swaying in an indoor breeze as Jason exploded with rage, his electric blue eyes glowing. "WE ARE NOT TORTURING ANYONE JUST TO MAKE A POINT! THAT WAS NOT PART OF OUR AGREEMENT!"

Normally, even guys like Octavian would pale when Jason got in that kind of mood. However, while Lucius and Macnair, Jason suddenly remembered, tensed up, Mordred seemed more fascinated than anything and simply stippled his fingers again. "Calm yourself, Mr Grace. Losing your temper like that will not help either of our causes. As I said, all alliances and common causes suffer setbacks."

Jason, not even having registered that he had jumped to his feet, sat down again, meeting Mordred's dark gaze head-on, blue eyes narrowed as he kept Macnair in his line of sight at all times. "That may be so, but this partnership is proving to be a rather ineffective. We are no closer to capturing Nico now than we were before, and I'm not risking the lives of my squad on a mission based on a plan that relies on using one of the enemy's most powerful fighters." His gaze narrowed at Macnair, his hair standing up from small amounts of electricity being released. "And I absolutely refuse to work together with people who will torture people, just to make a point, much less people who are enjoying the torture of others. I admit, with shame, that I was willingly to subject them to torture, but I took no pleasure in carrying it out or ordering it. And even if it was necessary, to remove an asset from an enemy, I still have nightmares over it. Never again… never again will I torture, or order torture. Not even on an enemy or to get an advantage."

Taking a few shaky breaths, Jason once more locked gazes with Mordred, who now were looking at him with a peculiar look, his hands resting on the table. Steeling his resolve, he gave a flickering glance at Frank, Marcus and Mariana standing behind him, before turning back to Mordred who now wore a slightly pensive frown. "I'm sorry Mr Malvoltio, but I think it is time for us to go our separate ways, as I feel that we can no longer work together. We have gone through too much for too little."

Mordred tilted his head. "And that is you final decision? There is no way I can persuade you to give my contingency plan a chance, to work together a little longer?"

Jason shook his head. "I'm sorry, but no. War may call for desperate measures, but using them should always be an absolute last resort and not be suggested lightly."

Mordred sighed, regret seemingly flickering in his gaze. "I understand, Mr Grace." Something else seemed to flicker in his gaze, and maybe it was just Jason, but it was almost like Mordred had gotten a reddish hue to his eyes. "Your decision is regrettable Mr Grace. I had hoped we could work together for a little longer, but clearly that is not to be so. I can, however, not let my organization lose such a valuable asset such as yourself and your team to my enemies, as that would mean losing our edge against them."

Jason tensed up, and he felt the shift as his squad members also tensed up, preparing for a fight. "You underestimate us, Mr Malvoltio. We may be young, but we are not easily scared into-"

"Imperio."

The effect was instantaneous, and all the fight left the four Roman demigods as the Unforgivable Curse took hold, removing all worries and thoughts from their minds, leaving them with a vague and unexplainable sense of happiness.

Smiling, Mordred spoke. "That was unfortunate, but it couldn't be helped. Well done, Lucius, Mulciber and Yaxley. Lord Voldemort is most pleased with your services tonight."

Dropping their Disillusionment Charms, the two so far unseen Death Eaters stepped out of the shadowed corners behind their victims, smiling as they bowed lowly. "Thank you, Master."

Turning his gaze to his left, Voldemort, still in his disguise as Mordred, spoke slowly and dangerously. "You are slow on your draw, Macnair. A second later, and the girl would have been able to reach for her own weapon. Also, you almost caused a most unnecessary fight here in the middle of Lucius' home with your brash words. I will forgive your mistakes this time, for Lord Voldemort is merciful, but I will not be so forgiving the next time your mouth works faster than your limited thoughts. "

Macnair bowed his head, cowed as he mumbled. "Yes Master, thank you Master."

Keeping his gaze on the man for a few more seconds, Voldemort turned his gaze to his right, landing on Lucius. "Well done, Lucius. Unlike Macnair, you managed to put the Imperius Curse on young Mr Grace before he could even prepare to strike. Lord Voldemort is most pleased."

Lucius bowed. "Thank you, Master."

Voldemort nodded. "And now… time for our next move. It's unfortunate that young Jason and his friends wouldn't cooperate willingly, but it could not be helped. Young Jason has had his doubts about us for some time, and apparently, he had an exchange of words with young di Angelo. It would seem that di Angelo gave him a warning… something you failed to mention in your report, Lucius."

Suddenly feeling nervous, Lucius bowed even lower than before. "My apologies, my Lord. I beg your forgiveness."

Voldemort simply waved his hand, smiling almost gently. "No matter, Lucius, no matter. Everything worked out well in the end. Now, how are our preparations coming with the beast? Are we on schedule?"

Lucius nodded. "Yes my Lord. The creature is still resisting, but the summoning seals and scrolls are ready. It has also been equipped for battle."

Voldemort's smile widened. "Excellent, Lucius, excellent. So by my calculations… it should be ready by Valentine's Day. If memory serves, that is also the next Hogsmeade weekend, yes?" Upon seeing Lucius' nod, Voldemort continued. "Excellent. We will be sure to give Nico di Angelo and Harry Potter a memorable Valentine. But before then: Lucius, take young Mr Grace down to the cellar. I believe you will find two of the twelve people Grace and his team have been sneaking in and out of your house. Then, go and collect the remaining ten. Make sure the orders to follow you come directly from young Mr Grace. Macnair, Yaxley: Go with them to the cellar and collect the Water Elementalist. Make sure he understands what will happen if he refuses to cooperate fully or get any ill-conceived ideas. Mulciber, call our comrades in arms. We move on Azkaban, tonight."

The four Death Eaters bowed deeply and spoke in unison. "Yes, Master."

With that, they hurried out to carry out his orders, Zhang, Johnson and Delvin trailing behind them. Voldemort smiled to himself. Despite their minor setbacks, everything was going according to plan. Today, Monday was a good day.

End chapter 20.

Hope you all enjoyed this chapter, 30 pages long. I know I did, as I finally got to write a scene I have planning for a long time, namely the last one here. I have planned for the Romans to fall under the Imperius Curse ever since I introduced them in the story, and I'm satisfied with how it played out. It was longer, but 30 pages felt like a good time to stop. Plus, I have saved the ideas for later use.

Another scene I enjoyed greatly was the scene with Snape, Sirius, Harry and Nico. I admit, it played out differently to start with, but I felt this way was better. Also, originally, my plan was for Nico to join in on the lesson with Snape, but he would minimal to do there sans a few inputs here and there, and I don't like writing too much from the book, so I decided it against it and I feel it was the right choice

Been a long time since I read the Harry Potter books, and I have to admit, I had the 'Order of the Phoenix' book right next to me for research/reminding purposes. The movie is great and all, but the book is fantastic.

The Potter books were among my favourite books as a child and teen, and now, many years later, the series is still among my favourites. Doing research / re-reading the scenes referred to throughout the chapter, I was reminded of why. Even now, as an adult, I can still enjoy it, for I see things in a new light compared to my childhood/teenage years, and things that I didn't give a second thought then are now almost glaringly obvious to me, and with age comes a different appreciation of things.

For one thing, when I was a teen, I more or less wholly agreed with Harry and friends about what they should be told about what the Order was up to and that they had a right to know. Now, as an adult, I'm more like "Eh, No." You may have done a lot Harry, but you don't need to know. Also, tactically speaking, telling a bunch of teens what a, at least more or less publically speaking, secret organization is up to in details, is just idiotic. Thankfully, the Order didn't do that… instead, they only told them the basics… and it was all something they had heard before… and something that the Death Eaters would be able to guess on their own.

Another thing that struck is the hate between Sirius and Snape, and I couldn't but think: But you are the same. You both have a tendency to see Harry as James, based on his looks. One sees his mortal enemy, the other his best friend, but not the boy. Then I started thinking about more about their similarities: Both came from a lousy home, both lost everything on that fateful Halloween. And both are unable to move on from that loss.

Mordred Malvoltio is, of course, an anagram: I AM LORD VOLDEMORT. Not a clever anagram, but an anagram nonetheless. I knew I wanted him to call himself Mordred, after the one who killed King Arthur in the legends, but the rest of the letters were a pain to figure out… especially since I wanted his last name to sound like something wizard-like.

Hope my explanation to the trial, Nico's immunity and Suppressing Seals made a bit more sense, as I was called on them by a reader, I decided to try and elaborate a bit on them.

Also, I meant no disrespect to those who died or were scarred in the Hindenburg disaster or their relatives.

I was considering to wait a day before posting this chapter, but I figured, that if anyone read this, on Monday they will remember that there are those who have a worse Monday than you XD.

Lastly, a little bonus:

If you go to deviantart and search on 'Hades', artist is someone called leamatte, and you will get a very good idea of how I picture Nico in this fic. Don't know if link will work (also in my profile remove spaces etc.) / leamatte/ art/ Hades-92357627

Anyways, thank you for your, I hope, understanding of why this was so long underway. Time for the anonymous reviews:

2020:

Chapter 2

From: Guest

This book is amazing

Response: Thanks

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Lukavits (Guest)

Lukavits:Hey hi hello um sorry to bother you but, do you you have any plans to ever finish this story? It's pretty cool! (Except the nico/hermione but I can look past that for a good story.) Could you just update your status on it, like how interested you are in continuing it, so your readers can know what to expect? Thank you so much!

Response: Thank you As for updating my status on it… if I remember it (which is rarely) I update my profile. I don't post announcement chapters, unless, as seen a few years ago, it is to rally support about something important, like stopping someone from committing suicide. In that case, better one time too many than one time too few.

Chapter: 10. Chapter 10

From: Guest

:Seriously?

Nico and hermione?!

Response: Yes.

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: random person (Guest)

random person:I have officially read this entire book and most of the reviews in under twenty four hours while also writing three papers in the same period of time. Nice book! Please update. *Gives puppy dog eyes*

Response: Thank you But don't strain yourself. Schoolwork/work first, fanfic later XD

Chapter: 11. Chapter 11

From: RandomSadicoStan (Guest)

RandomSadicoStan:Nico: *gets thrown in Azkaban* "Go away. Oh, and while you're at it, annoy Fudge and Voldemort for me, will you? Thanks guys."

Dementors: "Of course my lord."

Ministry: *Incoherent screaming and general chaos*

Response: Well, the idea was definitely amusing, but probably won't happen in this fic… then again, the Ministry is in general chaos anyway XD

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

:one of the greatest fanfictions i have ever read

Response: Thanks

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

:This story was so great. Your writing style is wonderful and the way you portrayed Nico is something a very few could manage to do so good. I hope in some time you will come back to this story and write more :)

Response: Thank you for the praise

Chapter: 1. Chapter 1

From: Guest

:just wanted to say, I check back all the time for updates, and I really hope you choose to continue this masterpiece of a story.

Thank you for the praise Hopefully it was worth waiting for In case you haven't already, get an account and subscribe to all the stories you hope to be updated That way you should get a notification when they are

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: HappyHufflepuff (Guest)

HappyHufflepuff:This story is absolutely amazing. I have not read the entire Percy Jackson series, and I don't have a clue what is cannon and what you invented yourself. I would love to see Nico getting to know Remus more and possible Lupa meeting Remus. Thank you for writing this. Please update soon.

Response: Thank you Well, depending on how much of the PJO series you have read, only about up to "The Last Olympian" is cannon (and a few events described in later series books). As for Nico getting to know Remus more: Who knows? Well, I do, but that is besides the point but Lupa and Remus won't meet.

Multiple reviews, chapters 1, 3, 7, 8

From: keto (Guest)

This is such a beautiful book,THANK YOU

I'm so happy to find a good Nico di Angelo book that doesn't have people swearing every five seconds

THIS WAS THE MOST EPIC BATTLE EVER! SOOO GOOD

silver arrowhunters of artemis. And as for the bronze dagger...

ANNABETH WHAT DID YOU DO

SOUND THE VICTORY BELL. UMBRIDGE HAS FINALLY BEEN CALLED A PINK TROLL. JUSTICE HAS BEEN SERVED

*starts praying* Dear Gods, please let Neville secretly be Will Solace...

Response: Thank you for the praise Glad you like that I keep the swearing down. Hehe, let's face it, most of the Hogwarts populace want to call Umbridge a troll… few have the nerves and timing to do it to her face though XD Glad you liked the fight, more of that coming. As for what Annabeth do… keep reading, if you haven't already. Ehm… Neville is Neville, Will is Will?

2019, aka my shitty year:

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

Ok, so I posted a review about a year back gushing on and on about how amazing this story is. And I can't believe I'm saying this but, this has remained on my 'must read every month' list. There's just something so cunning and ingenious in the way you've executed this story that I often forget that I'm reading a spin off on the original series. I remember I stumbled upon this fanfic when I was secretly snooping around the Internet when I was actually supposed to be studying for my exams and I simply couldn't put my phone down even for a second. I binge read the 18 chapters that had been posted at that time in just 3 hours. On a side note, I pride myself on being quite a fast reader, if I do say so myself.
Anyways, what I was trying to say was that I've been hooked onto the plot since I first read this and I regularly check for any updates. I sincerely hope with all of my teeny, measly heart that you update this in the hopefully soon future. But even if you don't, that's ok. I think of all people I would be able to understand just how tiresome and busy life can get sometimes. You just get so immersed and carried away by the tireless waves of life that you forget there is a shore that you had once started your journey off from.
All of that depressing shit aside, I actually wanted to get your suggestion on something. You see, I'm an aspiring author and poet and I was hoping you'll be able to give me some tips to improve my writing. I'm also not a native English speaker and sometimes find it quite difficult to form sentences without it sounding all formal and strange. And then there's this thing called writers block, which has been rearing its ugly head increasingly often in the past year. So, I'll really appreciate it if you could somehow help me create a potion to take those nasty things away from the world and make the world a better place to live in. Nah, just kidding.. I mean what would life be without some obstacles, right? (;
So, I'm ending this messed up rant by giving you my holy blessings so that you'll finally get your much needed inspiration to post more chapters and feed us readers' growling stomachs. All the best!

Response: Thank you for the long review Glad to hear that I have managed to keep it on your monthly read list (hopefully, you still do, but if not, that is more than okay). Three hours to read 18 chapters… you are fast reader indeed… I definitely couldn't do that, much less on my phone… prefer a hardware book, otherwise, the computer.

As for advice on your writing: Sure… but you may consider getting an account (if you haven't already)… makes communication much faster than me responding to reviews XD But I know the trouble of keeping my English non-formal… but from what I can see, you already have quite a deal of poetry in you… you definitely paint some good pictures with your words

Chapter: 9. Chapter 9

From: Guest

what about nico being gay?

Response: Look at the summary for the story and its publish date.

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: nicofanficlover (Guest)

nicofanficlover:I love this fanfic!

it's super addicting and keeps you on your toes the whole time. small confession I should be doing math right now but this fanfic is so much more interesting so yeah.

thanks for writing this!

Response: Thank you Glad you enjoyed it But you shouldn't neglect math XD Though, I must admit to also having done some fanfic reading when I should be doing something so else XD

Chapter: 4Chapter 1. Chapter 1

From: A Spoonful of Salt ( u/9472578/

can Draco and Nico become friends?! please?! oh, that would be my dream come true!

Response: I don't give spoilers, sorry… but probably not.

Kikinessa Chapter 19

Super excited! Cant wait for the next update

Response: Glad you liked it Hope you stuck around for this chapter.

Chapter: 1. Chapter 1

From: Guest

I've read this story 7 times and it never gets old! I love the way you wrote Nico's character and I'm still gonna be checking in for an update on this story, no matter what. If you've gotten bored with this story I completely get it, and nobody can force you to continue. But I'm sure loads of others and myself would love a new chapter! You're writing is fantastic and I hope you continue to write more stories in the future!

- A Dark Phoenix Fan

Response: Glad to hear that you like it enough to read it seven times and that you think it never gets old Also happy to hear you approve of the way I have written Nico so far. Thank you for the praise

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: A dam French fry (Guest)

A dam French fry:Yeah, I give up. It's been over a year since your last update. No real point in trying to be patient. If I get a notification on my account(I have one, just not signed in now.), I'll come back. I understand that while commenters saying UPDATE! are annoying AF, I think like the last time you took a really long hiatus, you really deserve UPDATE! comments at this point. If you can't maintain a semi-regular schedule, I really don't see a point in continuing to work on this fan fiction. I'm not trying to be rude, but t if you plan to take a hiatus, please alert us. There are people wasting time checking this for updates, and you are wasting their time. I don't know if you are aware of this, but time is money, money is power, power is pizza and pizza is knowledge. You're wasting people's knowledge!

Response: Don't know if you read this, but I cannot tell if you are serious or not… the first part make it seem so, but the last part make it look like you are joking. I gave my reasons for not posting at the beginning of this chapter. As for maintaining an update schedule, let me perfectly clear: I write this for ME, for MY sake, because I think it is fun. Whether you see a point or not in updating is irrelevant. If people check for an update, and they don't have it on their follow list or don't have an account, that is on them, not me. Again, I cannot tell whether you were serious or not… but I must admit, you had me snarling like a rabid dog.

Chapter: 5. Chapter 5

From: A math potato (Guest)

A math potato:That was soo cool! I especially liked when Nico smacked the Weasley twins with dat broom. I need to remember that for the next time James Potter is showing off.

Response: LOL XD Who would be doing the smacking? Lily? XD

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: NERDOFMANYTRADES (Guest)

Your writing style adds a vibrant visual to this story. The way you can describe a situation and ways different characters view it is simply breathtaking!
I love the way you describe the battle scenes. I could almost feel the air crackle with electricity while reading the fight with Jason and the others. I find that quite a few authors rush a fight of the like or draw it out to the point where the details are scattered. Even published writers do it. You put them at just the right length that it feels real. Not so long that you can't follow, and not so short that it feels anticlimactic for the victor.
I have read many Percy Jackson/Harry Potter crossovers, but this one takes the cake!
I like your pairing of Hermione and Nico, though it did come on quite suddenly. I don't see Nico falling for someone like Hermione in the canon story, but for your Nico it seems much more natural. As long as it doesn't get too fluffy, that is.
I never really liked the crush Nico had on Percy and later the relationship he had with Will Solas. It came on without any clues pointing towards such a plot and it just never seemed to sit well.
With the whole plot with Nico being a Manipulation Genius...
I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!
It fits so well and I've always had a soft spot for such characters!
One thing I disagree with is that the wizards would be beaten to the ground against demigods. Even Dumbledore would. I'm pretty sure even he can't raise the dead or control vast amounts of water. I admit though, wizards do have more stamina than powerful demigods do. They'd last through endurance, but in raw power? Definitely not.
But this is a fan fiction, so it does falls to YOU TO WARP REALITY AND BIND OUR BELOVED CHARACTERS TO YOUR TWISTED AND ARBITRARY WHIMS!
Please treat them with care and don't injure them TOO badly!
Keep writing! You're a Fanfiction Genius!

Response: Thank you for the long and detailed review! I will try responding to as much of it as I can

Your praise about my writing style and my balance in fight scenes make me so happy It was what I was aiming for

Glad you approve of NicoxHermione And of Nico being a little manipulator XD Don't worry, I have soft spot for characters like that too XD

As for Wizards vs Demigods. I think you will find it depends very much on the author… most tend to write the scenario you describe. To me, it is a bit more complicated than that. If we say Nico and the other Big Three Children outclass Dumbledore and Voldemort in raw power… that is no good if they can't hit them. That, and most wizards have several one hit K.O. and ways to make life difficult for demigods.

As for treating them with care and not injuring them too much… ehm, not making any promises XD

Don't know if I'm genius, but thank you for the praise

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Jumbo POPS (Guest)

Jumbo POPS:It's been over a year, are you planning on coming back? I really hope you do, it's been a great ride! But this hiatus is worrying..

Response: Thank you for the worry.

Multiple reviews, chapters 12, 13, 15

From: Very Angry Virgo (Guest)

I'm going to plan a long detailed torture specifically for the Malfoys

THAT IS IT! *chucks laptop at wall*

I'm going to f*** square up with these uncultured crusty pears

Response: Well, Nico settled his score with Draco (for now)… I hope that was your own laptop and not someone else's XD Then again, some laptops are very sturdy… uncultured crusty pears… that was a new one XD

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Alea (Guest)

Alea:So u haven't published in almost a year, but I really want u to. Btw, I want something big to happen, and everyone in all of the story is together, and Hades appears, and he is scary as cold and calculating.

Response: Never give away spoilers… what you wish for may or may not happen XD

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: M (Guest)

M:Come here every day hoping for an update, keep up the good work! And what Harry said... yeah I dont really blame him. Nico acts like Dumbledore sometimes, he wants you to figure it out and you just want him to get to the damn point. I wonder if he gets it from his dad

Response: Thank you for the praise Huh… hadn't really thought about that comparison between Nico and Dumbledore… interesting perspective. Don't know if Nico gets it from his dad, but he isn't used to having to explain situations that to him should be obvious.

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

I love this story! Will you be continuing? It's been A while, and I'm dying to see the reactions of the students when nico goes back after his trials!

Response: Definitely plan on continuing. Has most of my ideas, not counting the ones that suddenly pop up, down on paper. Hope you read this chapter and found it worth waiting for, especially the reactions from the students XD

2018:

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Karolajn Idk (Guest)

Karolajn Idk:I just wonder... how tall is Nico in your story? And why I imagine him shorter then Harry?

Ps. I really enjoy this story and I hope you don't stop writing this.

Ps2. Sorry for my english but it isn't my mother language ;/

Response: Haven't really thought about how tall Nico exactly is… but I seem to remember it being mentioned that he is slightly taller than Harry… hmm, may have to look it up. And don't worry, not planning on stopping And no need to apologize for your English; it isn't my mother language either XD

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Another one (Guest)

Another one:I'm really loving this story, hope you'll update soon! But quick question, will the wizards ever see any gods? They don't have to necessarily know what they are, but will the Order or say, Harry, ever see Hades for example? I know there's that "no interference Hogwarts is a nuetral zone" thing but still...

Response: Thank you Glad you enjoy the story. As to your question: Sorry, but don't give any spoilers… but depending on if I think it fits in the end, then maybe XD

Chapter: 18. Chapter 18

From: lily (Guest)

lily:...Wow. I didn't think you'd actually write a response. So, wow... just wow. I literally just stopped, stared at it, made sure that it was actually what I wrote last time, smiled (I probably looked crazy if anyone was watching), and kept reading the response (like over and over and over again). But urgh, I feel so bad. I told you that I loved your fanfic and I couldn't even get your name right. How pathetic am I? Sorry Lightningscar. But, don't worry about the cookies. They aren't important. Anyways, still LOOOOOOVE this story. Hope you have a nice day and a nice life.

P.S. Just a question. Do you update the story just so you can write a response to our reviews? Because I'm pretty sure my review was NOT here last time. :) And... PRAISES FROM ME SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS! (Which really isn't that loud. But whatever.) :)

Response: I make it a priority to respond to reviews, even anonymous/guest reviews (though I probably forget some and skip those just asking me to update). Reason is that I consider it extremely rude of authors not to respond (unless of course it is pure troll flame) to the readers who not only have taken time to read, but also leaving a review. Especially if the author has asked readers to review.

And no worries about spelling my name It's just an account name XD And the way you wrote it Lightning Scar might be more correct, purely English speaking XD

As for updating just to respond to reviews: No. I write because I enjoy it. *puts in earplugs to preserve what little hearing I have left* XD

Thank you for the praise

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

por favor que draco no muera, que tenga oportunidad de redimirse por favor . amo tu historia

Response: My Spanish is very rusty, I pretty much only remember "Una cerveza por favor", but let's see if I can do this without google translate and my old school notes. You are asking me not to kill Draco, so that he will have a chance at redeeming himself.. and that you love my story… thank you for the praise (If my Spanish isn't complete rubbish XD)… as for Draco… We shall see

Chapter: 4. Chapter 4

From: Guest

The thing that bothers me when umbridge asks who would want to hurt kids is that even if no one wanted to hurt kids, which some do; they wont be kids forever. Soon those kids will be grown up and getting jobs, their job could be dangerous or something like that and they wont have a clue what to do because umbridge is a terrible person

Response: All true, unfortunately. I also found it quite ironic, that she asked who they thought to be out there who would want to hurt children, when there were more than enough evidence at the Quidditch Cup (Goblet of Fire) and that she herself has no qualms whatsoever about hurting children.

Chapter: 5. Chapter 5

From: Ka5she (Guest)

Ka5she:Do it after heroes of Olympus please!

Response: Sorry, what? What are you trying to say?

Chapter: 2. Chapter 2

From: Jaded Iris (Guest)

Jaded Iris:I'm sorry to be such a nitpick but Scotland is not a part of England at all. Instead, it's part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. A lot of Scottish people get offended by someone asking if they are from England or think Scotland is a part of England.

Response: Be as nitpicky as you like I may go back and correct it, if I haven't done so already

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: HP and PJO (Guest)

HP and PJO:Please don't ever quit this story. I know how hard it is to continue writing when you have no inspiration. But honestly, I just LOVE this. And your writing. There are no words to describe how good you are. I mean, if you were planning to become an author, you'd be amazing and I would TOTALLY read your books. So... I hope you never give up. You're brilliant. :)

Response: Don't worry, haven't quit. As mentioned earlier, life was not my friend the last couple of years. Thank you for taking your time to read and review and for your praise

Chapter: 18. Chapter 18

From: Martina (Guest)

Martina:I love your story. I love the plot and the way in which Nico relates to the magical world. I admire your writing, clean and effective enough to allow me easily to translate. if my bad grammar had not already made it clear to you, I'm Italian and bump into your story was a wonderful stroke of luck.

however I like the friendship between Harry and Nico, I hope the two have succeeded in creating a strong mutual trust, not only between them but also with Ron and their dorm mates, where I see a great way to make them feel all you know, more "normal adolescents".

last I wanted to congratulate you for NicoxHermione, I love them together and I sincerely hope you do not let him. I see a kind of tenderness in their two, like two people who, against all common sense, logic or other stand together and ... they work well and well. I can not wait to read the next chapter. Marti from Italy

Response: Hello Martina Don't worry about your English, it is fine Glad you like the way that Nico relates to the magical world And very happy that you like the way I write. As for Nico, Harry and Ron and their dorm mates and them building more trust and making them feel more like adolescents: Very glad to hear that. As for the trust… this chapter was a big step in them trusting each other more, at least on Harry's part.

And thank you for the congratulations on NicoxHermione Glad to hear that you approve

Thank you for taking your time to read and review

Greetings from Denmark

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: HPPJ Fan (Guest)

HPPJ Fan:This story is SO awesome! I seriously want to see the next chapters. Though, I just wanted to ask you, who is stronger, Percy or Nico? Anyway, will you give up before the story ends? Cause I want this story to continue till the end.

Response: Not giving away spoilers, but as you have read to the point you had, Nico and Percy were about equal. I have done some thoughts about it to explain it, but cannot do that without spoiling it. And no, definitely not planning on giving up before the end

And very glad to hear that you think my story is awesome Thank you for taking your time to read and review, and for the praise

Chapter: 3. Chapter 3

From: An Admirer (Guest)

An Admirer:Do you think Prince Nikolai is hot?

Response: I'm assuming you are referring to the Danish Prince Nikolai… honestly, haven't really given it any thought. Don't pay that much attention to the Royal Family. Last I heard, he were working as a model or something

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: deathdragon121 (Guest)

deathdragon121:please make a chapter 20 i love this story can you kill off Annabeth or reveal the story when Annabeth and Hazal meet? i would love that. great work! Nico is like so clever the way you presented him. please make another chapter. btw you are like sooooo evil! leaving us on a freaking cliff hanger! how could you ? soooo any way could you please like do another chapter or better yet do a another 10 chapters? you are like the best author and the best story i ever came across!

Response: Well, here is chapter 20 XD Regarding Annabeth: Sorry, not giving away spoilers. I believe that I have already more or less revealed how Annabeth and Hazel in flashbacks… or are you asking for a one-shot about it?

As for number for chapters… no idea… at one point I think I said the story would be 30 chapters long… it may be a bit longer than that. And didn't mean to make you wait for another years, but as explained earlier, the flow of life has not been my friend since last time.

But I'm glad you think so highly of it that you think it is the best story you had come across

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

Hello! I'm back, and here with more love for your story!

I love how the trial worked out, it was extremely well planned out and there were so many interesting plot twists that happened! I love how you're having Harry use his head a bit more! I'm sad that Will died, but that was to be expected and I agree that it's better than killing off a few OCs. This was marvellously written, can't wait for more!

I'm very excited for what is to come!

~Guest

Response: Well, you may consider getting an account or at least a more unique name to sign your reviews… have responded to many guests XD

At any rate, glad to hear that you loved how the trial worked out and that you liked my small plot twists. Yeah, Harry is slowly starting to use his head a bit more, but don't expect him to turn into a genius any day soon XD

As for Will dying: Well, I had no use for him in this story and too many OC characters are a pain to keep track of. Not wasting time making a long OC character list.

Happy to hear that you enjoyed the story and hope that you stuck around for chapter 20

~Lightningscar

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Zargham (Guest)

Zargham:Plzzzzzzzzzzzz let Percy still be at least as strong as Nico.

I know this fic is Nico-centric and my favourite character is Nico too, but I can't bear the thought of Percy being weaker than Nico

Response: Strength comes in many forms. It all depends on how you gauge it.

Multiple reviews, chapter 1

Chapter: 1. Chapter 1

From: Guest

*Symathies sympathies*

*sensetiv sensitive*

Spelling correction. I only noticed after I alredy posted it :p

I'm glad this remained mostly an action story and not a romance. I was afraid this would suddenly get all lovey-dovey but the last chapter was quiet eventfull (many fictions and actual books seem to suddenly shift mid story)
And while I dont see Hermoine and Nico going anywhere (since Hermoine is set in her ideals (somethimes down to a fault) very strongly and Nico is ... very flawed)
I'm also aware that this is fan fiction (and your story) and it is your right to turn a gay character straight and pair them with one of the main cast.
"He didn't seem gay enough" is not a good justification, though. Just make them heterosexual and leave it at that.
If it is your writing-preference then that is that and no one should shame you for it. Just acknowledg that its different in canon and that the change is your preference and that you stand to that.
So long as the story is good it won't make a difference to most of your readers. :)
(And I think you know that your story IS in fact very high quality)

Besides that, I want to speak a word of caution.
I had a feeling this wasnt going to be a "help a character heal fic" the moment you killed off Hazel.
And when you mentioned Wills death (which I hope was for logical reasons and not because of feelings on the Nico/Will canon) I knew that you had gotten a taste for heart-ache.
This fiction starts to take on very dark undertones and as a result I noticed how I personally distanced myself from the characters.
No matter who you kill off, short of nico dying, nothing is going to shake me anymore.
(Though it would surprise me if Hermoine, Harry , Annabeth or Percy died. But I'm pretty sure thats not gonna happen. :p)
Now, I am rather sensetive to attachment and quick to dissengage my symathies when I know loss is imminent.
So it might just be a 'me'-problem, but in case others feel the same I'd like to caution you on playing around too much with character death.
A little makes your heart break, too much and people might go numb to the loss and pain that you try to portray.

(On a more personal note. Is it just me or do the 'heros' always seem to choose their friends over everyone else, even over hundreds of inocents?
I just recently noticed that and in all honesty, right now Percy seems more of a villain to me than Jason. Though I guess thats just part of being human.
Makes me also appreciate Jasons' leadership skills more)

Response: Wow, thank you so much for the long thought out review Means a lot I will try responding as well as I can.

First of, don't worry so much about typos and stuff like that. Got what you were saying based on context

I'm NicoxHermione: My goal was always to keep this an action/suspense story. The romance was always just meant to be in the background and me trying to write it, but it never was, and never will be, the main focus.

As for the whole Nico's sexuality debate (and this is NOT meant as an attack on you): Once again, I believe I have already explained my reasons ( in short: character choice, writing and timing) for the choices I made (multiple times). I don't recall ever using *He didn't seem gay enough* in my explanations though. Please point me in the right direction if I have.

Glad to hear you think my story is of a good quality though

As for killing of Will. Well, reasoning in the chapter AN aside, I just need to kill a canon-demigod that I wouldn't have any use for later down the road… originally, I think I had picked either Clarisse, one of the Stoll brothers or some other… but seeing how I may have use for them later, they were spared (for now).

Yeah, this fiction starts getting darker… then again, so did the Potter and PJO books. I think it is only a natural progression when writing to a teenage and older audience. As for you starting to distance yourself more: Well, I think that is also natural… I will just have to see if I cannot reel you in again XD

No matter who you kill off, short of nico dying, nothing is going to shake me anymore.
(Though it would surprise me if Hermoine, Harry , Annabeth or Percy died. But I'm pretty sure thats not gonna happen. :p)

Interesting… nothing is going to shake you anymore, eh? Challenge accepted… I hope I win XD Thank you for sharing your thoughts about character death… I'm still doing to do as I have planned though XD

Very interesting observations on the heroes choosing those they consider friends over the many: I think it is a, as you say, very common hero trait. It is classic move to make the hero look good by standing by his/her principals, especially when he/she at the end turns out successful with his/her way.

Glad you appreciate Jason's leadership Most people seem to hate him But I cannot help but wonder how they would react put in his shoes.

Thank you so much for taking your time to read and review

~Lightningscar

Multiple reviews (I guess, but not sure… might be mistaken.)

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

Hello. Well, this is awkward. You see, it is my first time writing anything on the Internet. Guess there is a first time for everything. Let me just start of by letting you know how much I adore this story. I stumbled upon this story about a year ago and since then this fanfic has been on the top of my must reread list. The first time reading it was such an exhilarating experience! I mean, the immaculate planning of the plot and the ingenious ways in which you manage to take the story to another twist is simply amazing!

Response (in case I'm mistaken) Don't worry about it being awkward Most of us are just random people on the Internet who are unlikely to meet in real life.

Glad to hear you enjoy the story Especially since it has kept a top placement on your re-read list And thank you for the praise on my planning and how I take the story to another twist That is what make it so fun: I plan something in my head, and then it comes to fruition, though sometimes with changes

This is me again. My baby sister pressed the 'post review' button by mistake. Anyway, let me continue my long lecture..

I love to read fanfictions about these sort of crossovers where Nico is the main character solely because I love to see him as the most powerful guy whom no one can defeat. And this fanfic quenched my thirst for a perfect story like that. I simply savour the way you always bring Nico's intelligence and cunningness into the spotlight. Also, the fact that you managed to do this while still highlighting his flaws which just further proved that he was just as human the rest impressed me a lot. Well, I just wanted to applaud you by just saying that your writing skills are top notch and I sincerely hope you continue to update this story regularly.

P.S: Who knows, maybe I might post a review on every upcoming chapter of this story.. I MEAN, DUDE, I'VE NEVER BEEN SO EXCITED ABOUT A STORY IN MY WHOKE, ENTIRE LIFE!

P.P.S: Please forgive me for any grammar or spelling mistakes up there. I am not a native English speaker.

Response (fairly sure I'm not mistaken)

LOL, better teach your sister not to touch your stuff XD Very happy to hear that you like my presentation of Nico. And while is he not unbeatable, he is one tough nut to crack as he fight just as much with his powers as his mind.

Glad you liked me highlighting his flaws: It is, as you say, a reminder that he is only human… and it is what makes us relate to him.

Thank you for the praise on my writing skills, it means a lot to me

I hope you stuck around to read this chapter. And don't worry about grammar or spelling mistakes; I'm not a native English speaker as well XD

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: burgrkingfotlett (Guest)

burgrkingfotlett:F*** me dead this is such a good story also I predict that you will kill off Reyna so that Jason has to come back to the USA

Response: Thank you As for killing Reyna to have Jason return to the USA… interesting idea XD

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Chthonink

The fact that this is the first time I leave a review here is a crime on my part but here I am.
It has been at least 6 years since I first read this fic and it's still my favorite piece of fanfiction ever. Despite no longer having a functional account I still hunt this fic down about once a year to re-read it. Years ago while you were updating I would spend all my free time over a couple days to re-read it from the beginning before reading the update. I am beyond elated that you are updating it again.

The way you take themes from Naruto and apply them to this universe is so unique and gives your versions of these characters a truly epic feeling. The methodical way you write your fights grips me even if I remember exactly what happens. This trial scene also feels a lot like a fight scene and I am truly impressed that you've set up what seems like an impossible situation for Nico only to have him back the Ministry into a corner and be acquitted of almost all the charges. I really couldn't have guessed that this would be the outcome based on last chapter, I was sure that Cohort X would show up an derail the whole thing. As Nico shut down charge after charge, I had the theme song to Case Closed paying in my head, it was all so clever! Especially the part about how wands are as much deadly weapons as a sword can be.

I also really enjoyed the addition of Moody in this scene, his immediate understanding of the situation was delightful, as was Lupin's assistance in the last chapter. Nico's interactions with people he respects really give off the feeling that he's still kinda humble despite having such powerful abilities. His interactions with McGonagall are some of my favorite parts.

Furthermore, your characterizations of everyone in this story feel very genuine, even if their characterizations aren't spot on to their original texts. I'm really fortunate that you haven't deleted this fic whole like some other authors with abandoned projects and that you've actually started updating it again.

I think I am going to have to make a new account just to get the updates as soon as they come instead of being so late to the party again. I'm pretty amazed you got his chapter out as fast as you did after the last one. I can't wait to see where you take the story next! Thank you.

Response: Wow, what an awesome reader and reviewer Love the long review, I will try answering it as well as I can.

First of all, don't worry about it being the first time leaving a review I'm just happy you read the story at all and liked it That you like it enough to have hunted it down once in a while to re-read it despite not having an account means that you like it a lot, and I don't think I can ask for higher praise than that. I hope that you in time, in case you haven't made a functional account again, will re-read this newest chapter.

Naruto was favourite manga/anime of mine and I liked the fights, at least up to a certain point. Not just the real fights, but also the clashes of philosophy, and I found that a lot of their abilities is somehow easily applicable to Harry Potter and PJO characters.

Glad that you like my fight scenes… more of them to come in the next couple of chapters XD

As for the trial being like a fight scene: Well, I like to think of it as a chess game… which, in a way, is a fight of the mind… and to be honest, it was somewhat inspired by one of my favorite Naruto fights: Shikamaru vs Temari.

Nah, no Cohort X to derail anything… in this chapter… they are about to make their debut XD

Interesting theme song to think of. Have to admit, got curious, and looked it up… I liked it XD They don't make theme songs like that anymore.

As for how wands can be deadly weapons: Yeah, poor wizards and witches got a slap in the face about possible hypocrisy with that XD

As for Moody and his immediate understanding of the situation: Well, he seemed like an obvious choice to being the escort for Harry and Nico into the Ministry; he knows the layout, has an understanding of its workings, has very useful eye to keep out for trouble. Plus, he could teach Harry a thing or thing, a chance he was denied. Plus, I like to give the different adult characters their chances to shine. And like you, I really like his interactions with Lupin and McGonagall. Don't know if he is humble; he knows not to underestimate people, despite his powers.

Glad you feel that my characterization is genuine I know they are not their canon selves, but then again, they are older in this than their canon counterparts. And don't worry: Have absolute no intention of abandoning it, much less deleting it

Hope you check for this story again someday

~Lightningscar

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: ImhereforPJ (Guest)

ImhereforPJ:Thought I was going to have to wait years for an update! But look at this! and it is so long too!

I am in love! ... question: Are there going to be Leo and Nico Interactions? Also, is Percy going to be this weak the whole story? I know he is blindfully loyal, but he is no pushover..

PLEASE UPDATE SOON AGAIN. PLEASE

Response: Yeah, a couple of years. Hope this, if you read it, was worth the wait.

As for your question about Leo and Nico interacting… maybe. As to Percy being weak: He is not weak, not by a long shot… he had, however, just been in a battle that pushed him to his limits, probably also beyond. Then add Suppressing Seals and yeah, he isn't in fighting condition.

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

:Wow. What a chapter! That was awesome. Everything I wanted - Nico with his calm tongue and Percy with his fatal flaw. I'm so happy you updated, because this is one of the most amazing stories on this site, and I beg you never to stop. The trial was so well planned and thought our on your part, I have no idea how you get these ideas. The emotions and speech were so perfect, I can imagine the characters saying exactly that. Thank you SO much for another brilliant chapter.

Response: Thank you for the high praise Happy to hear you enjoyed the chapter Yeah, Nico has a very calm, but sharp tongue… and I felt it was about time we got to see Percy's fatal flaw in its full form.

But the highest praise is that you can imagine the characters acting and saying what I had them do I don't think I can get much higher praise than that

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Revenger (Guest)

Revenger:Crap I can't get enough of this story I saw it on my phone so I immediately rushed to the bathroom to read and was late to class but it was worth it, also I predict you're going to have Voldemort kill Hermione so that Nico will be angry enough to kill him

Response: Hehe, what did you tell your teacher to explain why you were late? XD Hope you didn't get in trouble XD School first, fanfic afterwards… though I know that fanfic is entertaining XD

Multiple reviews, chapter 19.

From: Kyle (Guest)

Kyle:Sorry ignore my first question. I didn't see the ignores Heroes of Olympus stuff.

when does this begin? It to me seems like Camp Jupiter's the enemy(which it totally is) along with No-Nose and his crew. Also why are you such a hater for Solangelo?

Response: I do not hate Solangelo as such. I have given my reasons for my choices multiple times (in short: character choice, lousy writing etc)… but probably most of all, I hate the fanatic shippers who think they can tell me what to do or not to with my fanfic.

Chapter: 19. Chapter 19

From: Guest

:Oh my goooooood I was shivering while reading through this! God I was so excited when I got the notif! That court scene was freaking brilliant and well thought! Well played author! That must have been difficult to write though, I mean I would have a hard time thinking of a premise even remotely similar to that, but you did and it was so amazing! That ending part killed me though, I've always loved Jason and his character, him being a stick-in-the-mud yet lovable, but now this. Though I can't really blame him, only the circumstances he's placed in. I wonder though, how you would play everything out. I keep figuring out which direction you're going to take this fic but so far I've only been getting stumped, though I guess there's something fun in all the unexpected-ness. Reading this chapter was so gratifying after a hectic week, thanks author! Gonna wait patiently for the next installment! Looking forward to it!

Response: Thank you for taking your time to read and review. Hope you got the notifications for this as well Glad you like the court scene… and yeah, it was a pain to write… I had it on paper, but I simply couldn't get it right and I rewrote parts of it several of times.

Yeah, the ending was not very good on Jason; neither on how people perceived him, nor on his mind, as seen here. But glad you see it that way, that Jason aren't really to blame, but the circumstances are making him do desperate things.

Hehe. Keep guessing what direction I will take things :) The fun part of trying to figure out where a story is going is all the surprises along the way. No matter if it is a book, movie, fanfic, it gets boring if you can predict how it will go, step by step.

And you are welcome