Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

This chapter is dedicated to dianadenisa for the inspiring the idea of Tom's gift.

Chapter 40

It had come as an unexpected surprise when he woke one day to find a small pile of gifts at the foot of his bed. Aidan had not forgotten his birthday per se, it had been at the back of his mind but he had not expected his birthday to come so soon. It was almost as if only a few days had passed since he and Tom had been wondering what they would do for the entire holiday now that they were able to stay at Hogwarts.

Soon Hogwarts would be full again. The house elves would be happily cooking and cleaning for a larger amount of students. They lived for that kind of thing it seemed, they got some kind of strange joy when they were able to do something for a resident of Hogwarts. Aidan supposed it made them feel less useless or something, well that was the only conclusion he could come to on the issue. House elves were strange creatures.

It seemed Tom did not want Aidan to think of such things though as he had been distracting Aidan with everything he possibly could since the moment Aidan had finished breakfast. Tom had taken Aidan to explore the dungeons, then taken him to see some fascinating thing or the other that Tom had found in the Room of Requirement then finally asked Aidan for help to find a rather specific text within the Hogwarts library. Aidan was beginning to get rather suspicious by the time lunch had rolled around. He hadn't seen anyone other than Tom since breakfast which was a little strange considering he usually met Dumbledore wandering the corridors at some point before lunch, at the very least.

Aidan was not able to give that idea much more thought before Tom had launched into yet another speech on … Aidan was not even sure what this one was about really. It was difficult enough to know the differences between Tom's 'I'm thinking' pause and his 'Do you agree?' pause because they were both the same length and Tom usually wore the same expression for both. You could only really figure out the difference by his tone of voice, and even that it wasn't by much.

So when Tom decidedly announced that they were going to Hog's Head after lunch, Aidan was decidedly suspicious. Dippet and Dumbledore had only looked amused but Aidan knew something was going on and both the headmaster and deputy headmaster were in on the secret. Tom, on the other hand, was most definitely in the middle of the entire secret, that probably had something to do with his birthday now that he thought about it.

Aidan was not as surprised as he honestly should have been when everyone suddenly turned visible in the Hog's Head pub. It had been somewhat expected from all the secrecy and Tom's determination to confuse him the entire day. What had shocked him had been the sheer number of people that had come. Aidan was pretty sure at that point that the pub was under and expansion charm because from what he remembered, the pub would never have been able to fit so many people within it before. Aidan had noticed many of the stores being closed but he had never suspected the owners to be at the pub. Apparently he had looked sufficiently surprised for Tom to sigh in relief, and Aidan truly did not want to burst Tom's bubble. Although it seemed like Dumbledore had come to that conclusion as well for when Aidan's and Dumbledore's eyes met, Dumbledore gave him a knowing look with a small smile.

Everyone seemed to surge forward in the next moment, all intent on wishing Aidan a happy birthday. It was a bit overwhelming to have so many people come at him at once. Aidan almost gave in to the very real instincts telling him to flee despite him knowing every single person in that room personally, especially the Court who were right at the front of the group of people. It was a frantic mass of greetings, handshakes and nods that followed that moment. Aidan found himself feeling grateful towards those few people who had decided to hang back and not join the overwhelming crowd Tom had to carefully extract Aidan from after a few minutes of him looking slightly lost within the crowd.

Aidan sighed and sent Tom a grateful look once they had managed to move into a quieter place, one that was near Aberforth on the other end of the room.

"Happy birthday, Aidan," Aberforth said gruffly. "I would ask if you were enjoying it, but after seeing you in that crowd I don't think I should."

"Yeah, some things are better left unsaid," Aidan said grimacing slightly as he turned to glance at the congregation of people again. "How are there so many people here anyway?"

This time it was Tom that answered a bit sheepishly, "Well, we told a couple of people and they told other people, and the message was sent around. We couldn't quite say no to them when they arrived either so all of them are simply here."

The crowd had formed a large congregation of talking people by now and were easily taking up most of the space in the pub, leaving everyone else being forced to move around the edges of the room if they wished to go around the group. Aidan doubted most of them had known each other previously but they seemed to be getting along just fine with enough conversational topics to keep them talking for a while. Aidan took the time to greet the other people who were hanging back.

The pub had only barely been decorated. There were no large and ornate decorations, rather there was a flower or two here and there and a couple of balloons tied off to one corner of the room. It may not have been much, but Aidan appreciated it much more than he would have had the pub been expensively decorated.

In a moment where everyone was occupied with some thing or the other, Aidan took the opportunity to visit Arianna in the lounge upstairs. Arianna was as happy to see him as she always was despite her having a portrait on his bedside.

"Aidan! Happy birthday!" Arianna exclaimed upon seeing Aidan climb up the stairs. Adrianna had already wished him of course, the very minute he woke that morning. Aidan had his suspicions that Arianna had been the one to wake him in the first place. Aidan didn't mention any of that as he smiled and thanked Arianna yet again. Aidan guessed that Arianna was simply excited, he doubted that Aberforth celebrated his birthday too often so the idea of a birthday party probably made Arianna excited even if she could not attend the party herself. Aidan was sure she had been part of the planning process at the very least. She was far too excited to not have been.

Arianna bombarded Aidan with questions. Did he like the party? Was he having fun? Had he seen the decorations? Arianna prattled on about anything that had any vague relation with the party that was going on downstairs. Aidan was sure that Arianna was far more excited than he was.

Arianna was talking about how they had decided to go with the simpler decorations rather than the more extravagant ones they still had in storage when Tom climbed up the stairs, apparently finally noticing Aidan's absence. Arianna stopped talking upon seeing him and had that strange smile on her face again.

"There you are. Everyone was wondering where you had gone to," Tom said after greeting Arianna. The two of them seemed to have developed a rather good understanding of each other since they had met.

"Everyone was busy, so I came to speak to Arianna," Aidan said. "She's been telling me about all the planning and preparations in extreme detail."

Arianna smiled sheepishly. "I've never been involved in planning a party before, especially not a surprise birthday party. I was a little excited."

Aidan smiled. "I don't mind. I'm glad you got to be a part of the party."

"I could have brought your portrait from Hogwarts if you wanted," Tom offered.

"Thank you, but no. I would prefer not to see people interacting with each other knowing I can only watch and never join them. I'd prefer to hear stories of everything that happened," Arianna said a little sadly.

"We will tell you all the stories you want then, although there hasn't been anything particularly interesting happen yet," Tom said after a little while, "but in order to do that we have to return to the party."

Arianna smiled at that. "Sure, remember all the details!" she called down the stairs after them.

"That was really kind of you to say that to her," Aidan said once they were out of the vicinity of Arianna's portrait.

"She's an important person to you, besides I've come to like Arianna over the last few months," Tom said. Aidan had a feeling he knew exactly why Tom had come to like Arianna but he didn't think it would be a good time to mention that right now so Aidan only smiled.

Tom and Aidan had some things to share with Arianna after the pranks began going off. The first victim of the pranks had unfortunately been Aberforth himself. Aberforth took the prank in his stride despite his then pinstriped hair and continued on his business as if nothing were wrong. His hair marked the first of many pranks set off to go at different points of the afternoon. Aidan had managed to avoid all of the pranks thanks to living in the Burrow with the Weasley Twins for a couple of weeks each holiday. Tom had not been as lucky when his clothing had changed to the garish Gryffindor colours.

Everyone left in a rather cheerful mood. All the pranks had been physically removed but the rather humorous results remained in each person's memories. Dumbledore had been called back to Hogwarts some time earlier so Aidan and Tom walked back to Hogwarts once the celebrations were over.

It was still rather bright outside so the two decided to stroll along the path back to Hogwarts despite doing exactly that many times prior to that during the past few days. The sun was barely disappearing, seemingly wanting to linger for a bit longer before moving to the next destination.

"Did you enjoy your birthday?" Tom asked.

"Yes. It was more fun than I had expected it to be," Aidan answered, "unexpected people included."

"I'm glad," Tom said. They were nearing the castle by then and the sky was darkening rapidly. "Now it's time for me to give you my birthday gift."

Aidan turned around to face Tom, slightly confused but curious nonetheless and found that Tom was extremely close to him, far closer than Aidan had expected Tom to be. Aidan wanted to take a step back but the arm that had snaked around his waist without Aidan noticing stopped him.

"This," Tom said, and kissed Aidan softly.

Aidan stiffened slightly in surprise before hesitantly responding. He was ready to pull back at any moment if necessary, but he found that precaution seemingly unnecessary once Tom's arm pulled him closer. Aidan's own arms seemed to have a mind of their own as they reached to encircle Tom's body in their embrace.

They pulled apart only reluctantly, gasping slightly as they attempted to catch their breath once more. Their breaths mingled in the small space between them.

"So?" Tom asked teasingly, as he managed to recover before Aidan did.

Aidan dropped his head onto Tom's chest in an attempt to hide as his cheeks heated up slightly, "It was the best gift I've received. Thank you."

Tom laughed lightly, enjoying the moment. "I'm glad then, if it had been second best to anything I would have to try a lot harder next time."

Aidan's face only got warmer.