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Insecurities Abound

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A/N:  So this is my first ever fanfic... I've never gotten up the courage to ever post something I've written. Please be gentle, but constructive criticism is always welcome!




Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Headmistress: Minerva McGonagall (Order of Merlin, First Class)

Dear Mr. Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to attend a special 8th term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Board of Governors has found this to be a necessary addition to our curriculum as most students missed last year’s schooling. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.

Yours sincerely,

Filius Flitwick

Deputy Headmaster



Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Uniform

  1. Three sets of adult work robes (black)
  2. Three sets of muggle clothing
  3. Two sets of formal robes
  4. Two pairs of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)

Books
Advanced Transfiguration by Kristjan Steinsson
Muggles and the Wizarding World in the New Age by Philippe Favreau
A Beginner's Guide to Animagus Forms by Minerva McGonagall
Potion Making for the Independent Witch or Wizard by Gerhard Waltraud
Charming Your Way to Higher Education by Nadira Rahat

Equipment
1 wand
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 5)
1 set crystal phials
1 set brass scales
Bound, empty journal, style optional

STUDENTS ARE REMINDED THAT EIGHTH YEARS ARE PERMITTED TO LEAVE CAMPUS ON WEEKENDS WITHOUT SUPERVISION

 


 

CHAPTER 1 - Notification of 8th Year

July 28th. Evening.

 

Why would they want a murderer? How would anyone be comfortable with him there? Harry had thought about it for days on end. Would he return to Hogwarts for another year? Could he? It was the 28th of July and he knew that he needed to respond to Professor McGonagall in the next few days. In all likelihood, she had tried to contact him via floo or owl, but he hadn’t opened the floo or opened any mail in weeks. Harry sat in the library of Grimmauld, sipping firewhiskey as he thought about how to respond to the letter.

He had holed himself up in Grimmauld ever since the Final Battle. He couldn’t bring himself to enter the Wizarding World. Once every few weeks he allowed Ron or Hermione to floo call for a few minutes, just to assure them that he was still alive.

For most of May, he spent most of his time drinking firewhiskey and crying at old pictures of his parents. He remembered very little of that month other than Kreacher cleaning him up occasionally.

During June, he drank less and started to exercise. He relished in eating three meals a day and the way it filled out his body. He jogged around a local muggle park, where there was no risk of being recognized. He also started cooking for himself. Kreacher didn’t like that.

Since the start of July, Harry had been helping Kreacher to renovate the place; really brighten it up. They started in the basement kitchen and worked their way up. That day, they had just finished turning the attic into an exercise space filled with magical and muggle workout equipment. He spent hours working on charms to get a muggle treadmill to function properly in a wizarding household.

“Kreacher!” Harry said, louder than he intended.

“Yes, Master Harry?” Kreacher said as he popped into the room.

“Could you please get me parchment, a quill, and ink? And fetch Hedwig from her spot in the attic?” Harry said as he set his glass on the side table. He ran his hands over his face, feeling them scratch on the stubble on his chin. He really needed to shave. Kreacher returned, and Harry started to write.

Professor McGonagall:
I would like to speak with you in person before giving my response about attending an additional year of schooling. If you have the time, my floo will be open for the next two days. Feel free to drop by. I presume you remember headquarters?
Harry’

He attached the letter to Hedwig’s foot and downed the remainder of his firewhiskey before heading up to bed. He knew he’d need to be well rested before this conversation took place. 

Chapter Text

July 29th. Early morning.

 

Harry was in the attic doing a series of pull ups when Kreacher came to inform him that Professor McGonagall was in his sitting room. As was usual for him, he had woken well before dawn from a nightmare and decided to work off his anxiety by physically exhausting himself. He quickly charmed himself dry and smelling fresh before quickly moving downstairs. Pulling a t-shirt on before walking into the room, he plastered a fake smile on his face. “Professor! It’s so good to see you again!” he exclaimed, reaching to shake her hand.

“Yes, Mr. Potter, it is good. Especially since most of the wizarding world seems to think that you are no longer with us,” she shook his hand and looked at him expectantly. There was an uncomfortable pause with tension in the air. He looked at his feet. “I love the redecorating. It is significantly less depressing in here.”

“Can Kreacher gets Master and guest anythings?” Kreacher asked from the doorway.

“Professor?” Harry looked at his former teacher, unsure of himself.

“Tea would be lovely, Kreacher. Thank you.”

“For me as well, Kreacher. Thanks” Harry gestured to the couch and sat in the armchair opposite her. “Professor - I have a few questions - before I can answer to, that is - your, uh, letter..” Harry began haltingly.

“Mr. Potter.” McGonagall slowly sank onto the couch and pinned him to his seat with her glare. “ I have a few questions that will require answers before we can do anything else. Am I understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Harry couldn’t meet her eyes. Kreacher popped in the room for the briefest of moments with a tea service and a small selection of biscuits before he left again. Harry busied himself with making a cup for his former professor while she began to speak.

“Why is it that no one has heard from you since the day following the Final Battle?” she took the cup and drank deeply. “Why is it that you have been hiding out here? Why is it that you never had yourself or your wand examined by Mediwizards or the Aurors on the scene?”

Looking at the ground, Harry mumbled out, “I don’t where to start.”

“Try, Mr. Potter."

He shuffled sideways in his seat, refusing to look up.

“Harry.” Surprised at her use of his given name, his eyes shot to hers. They were filled with caring, concern, and a familiar twinkle. “Please talk to me. Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger are very concerned about you. The only reason I hadn’t come sooner was their assurance that you were alive.”

“Professor, I -”

“Minerva. Call me Minerva, Harry,” she smiled at him.

Harry blushed and restarted, “Minerva, I will try to explain.. But please let me finish before saying anything.” At her nod, he continued, “I am a murderer. I know that they are waiting to put me on a pedestal for doing something so awful and I don’t know if I can handle that. No one should be thanked for committing murder.” His hands had started to shake, so he set down his teacup. “I don’t want any attention because of the fact that I have no family. All that means is that I know the deepest form of loneliness, not that I deserve praise! I eliminated another person from this world! I destroyed Gringotts! And the Wizarding World probably wants to congratulate me on it!”

“Harry.. Please!” Minerva leaned toward him. “No one wants to congratulate you on feeling alone!” She grasped his hands. “They will thank you. They will put you on a pedestal. You - you rescued the wizarding world!”

“But I used Unforgivables during the war…” Harry stared at her dumbfounded, his shoulders sagging with relief. “They must realize that I’m not… Golden ?”

“No. Absolutely not. The community at large believes you to be a perfect specimen of wizard. Every good quality and none of the bad. This may not be true, but nothing you or I say will change their minds.” She leaned back into the couch. “That being said, the goblins of Gringotts do wish to speak with you, strictly from a monetary standpoint. Relatively little damage to the bank actually occurred, but they do want you to pay for the repairs,” she said, smirking. “What else is keeping you locked in here? Your own personal prison? What is stopping you from returning to Hogwarts? Surely it isn’t just being, well… worshipped by the public? You’ve dealt with that for years.”

“Prof - Minerva - I’m not sure I could live in close quarters with people who treated me that way. There are things… things that only Ron and Hermione know about. Things that we can’t repeat to others, but would change how they view me. It’s a false image!” Harry looked at her with sadness in his eyes. He needed her to understand.

“There are some things that will help, Harry. But I can’t fix these things for you.” She sighed and finished her tea. “I will tell you that the 8th years will live in large dormitories. New quarters that have been built near the kitchens. You are the last to confirm attendance. If you say yes, it would bring our attendance to a round twenty students in the eighth year. There will be plenty of new things to hold everyone’s attention throughout the year, I can assure you.”

There was a long pause where she looked at Harry and he looked at the ground.

“What if,” he started quietly. “What if I try and can’t handle it? Can I leave?”

“You need to stay until the first term is over. Then we would talk before you could withdraw. How does that sound?”

“I could try that. I suppose.” Harry met her gaze. His eyes were blazing. “I won’t allow them to idolize me, Minerva. I won’t be taking the train, either. I’ll apparate to Hogsmeade on the 1st and walk up to the castle.”

“I understand, Mr. Potter.” She stood and made it clear she was taking her leave. “I shall return to Hogwarts now and finish the preparations for the new school year. It’s only a month away now, you know.” Harry stood, too, and began walking her to the floo. “You do not need to send an owl, this will count as your confirmation of attendance. I will see you in September. Do allow Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger to see you for your birthday, yes?”

“I’ll think about it, Professor,” he smiled and shook her hand again before she stepped into the flames. As soon as she spun out of sight, he reached for his stash of firewhiskey.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 3 - Harry’s Birthday

July 31st. Early evening.

 

“Mate, I really can’t believe this place!” Ron shouted from upstairs. “You did this all yourself? It looks bloody amazing. A totally different place.” He came barreling down the stairs and stood next to the large table in the kitchen. Hermione rolled her eyes at his enthusiasm.

“No. For the third time, Kreacher did most of it. I just chose colors and picked furniture and stuff,” Harry shrugged as he pulled a butterbeer out of the cooling cabinet and handed it to Ron. “Hermione, did you want one?”

“No, thank you, Harry,” she smiled at him. “They make my head fuzzy and I have to be up early tomorrow to start my research. Shall we get comfy, then?” she walked out of the kitchen. Ron glanced at him and shrugged before following her out of the room.

Harry had finally consented to the two of them coming to visit on the condition that they did not discuss the war at all. He simply wasn’t ready and told them so. He followed Ron and Hermione into the library and his two best friends each settled into the big, comfortable chairs Harry had picked out. The room had a large fireplace, light pine bookshelves covering the walls, muted olive paint covering the walls, and a cozy glow of light. It was a calming space to be in.

“What on earth could you be researching already?” Harry asked her while he poured himself a healthy measure of firewhiskey. “School doesn’t even start for another month, Hermione.” He settled into a chair, as well.

“Well,” she said, blushing. “Professor McGonagall has asked me to consult on a new project.” She pulled her legs up onto her chair and settled back. “I’m helping to create an ‘Introduction to the Wizarding World’ course for muggle-born and muggle-raised students starting at Hogwarts. The class is going to be mandatory; and the wizarding raised students will be required to take Muggle Studies. She and I were discussing some things and she was surprised at a few of the things I wasn’t aware of within wizarding society.” Hermione’s blush spread down her neck as she admitted that there was something she didn’t know.

“Like what?” Ron asked as he put his feet up and leaned back into the chair. “You usually know more than I do about just about everything; wizards included.”

Hermione picked at imaginary dust on her sleeve as she answered, “Homosexuality.” Firewhiskey shot out of Harry’s nose. His eyes teared and he coughed as the liquor burned the inside of his nostrils. “Harry! For Merlin’s sake! Are you alright?”

“That was probably the last thing I was expecting you to say, Hermione. Ah, damn,” he coughed as he conjured a handkerchief. “What do you mean? You didn’t know it existed?” Harry asked after he wiped his face. Vanishing the cloth with a flick of his hand, he leaned back in his chair. He didn’t notice the brief glance that his two friends shared at his casual wandless, wordless magic.

“Don’t be silly, Harry, of course I knew it existed. But, being muggle-raised, you might find you didn’t know as much about it as I did either. Were you aware that in wizarding society, it is perfectly acceptable for witches and wizards to be in same-sex relationships? Furthermore, in some families, it is even encouraged after the first born has an heir,” she clearly expected him to be surprised by this information. He didn’t let her down.

“Really? Why is that?” his eyes were wide. He leaned forward in interest, his elbows resting on his knees; glass held between them.

Ron interrupted, “Is that not how it is in the muggle world? You and Harry are acting like this is a big deal… I don’t get it. So what if somebody’s gay?”

“Well - it - well,” Harry found himself struggling to explain, amazed at Ron’s nonchalance.

“In the muggle world, Ron, it isn’t that homosexuality doesn’t exist; it absolutely does! It’s just that a lot of muggles don’t believe that it is exactly moral, or right. They have religions that imply that it is wrong, simply because it doesn’t create an heir to the family. They say that it’s -,” she paused and took a deep breath, refusing to look either of them in the eye, “hedonistic or some other rot because for muggles, the only reason to have sex with someone of the same gender is for pleasure; not procreation.” She said all of this quickly, clearly uncomfortable with the way that some people felt about the topic. She hastened to add, “My parents didn’t believe there was anything wrong with homosexuality and nor do I!”

“Why is it viewed so differently in the wizarding world? And how come it’s never come up before?” Harry asked.

“Excellent questions, Harry! My research has shown that the wizarding world just never had the religious limitations that the muggle one did. They had magical ways of creating heirs to family lines, so procreating the ‘normal’ way just wasn’t necessary. It has come up, but in subtle ways and we were a bit preoccupied, if you remember. Remember the relationship between Gellert Grindelwald and Professor Dumbledore?” At Harry’s nod, she continued, “They were engaged to be married before their duel took place. Needless to say the engagement was broken when Dumbledore had to stop him from trying to take over the world. It seems that Grindelwald sort of… lost his way, I guess.”

The conversation went on like that for some time. Hermione was eager to share her research on wizarding topics that didn’t match or relate well with their muggle equivalents. Homosexuality, house elves, and marriage were just a few topics they discussed. Ron was fascinated by the muggles’ point of view, while Harry was shell-shocked at the things that wizards considered normal. The boys kept asking her question after question. Hours later, after Harry had reached for the firewhiskey a fourth time, Ron yawned loudly.

“I’m knackered, mates. I think I’ll head out. Just got to use the loo firs’, can’t floo like this,” he grinned as he left the room. Harry sat back down in his chair, glass balanced on his knee.

“Harry… How did the Dursley’s feel about homosexuality and domestic servants? Do you know?” Hermione asked him in a small voice.

“Ha!” Harry slurred the rest of his answer, “Uncle Vernon frequently referred to gay men as poofs and shirtlifters, if that tells you anything. Petunia didn’t seem to mind the local gays. She did look down on domestic servants, that’s for sure,” he paused and took a large swallow of his drink; finishing it. “She always said that someone who was willing to clean the mess of another human was filthy. Imagine what she she thought about me when I cleaned up after them, eh? Bloody family.”

Hermione knew he didn’t expect a response. Ron came back in the room and looked to Hermione. “Ready to go?” She stood and walked over to Harry.

Running her hand through his unruly hair she said, “I know you asked us not to, but there is a cake and a few gifts on the table in the kitchen. You know Molly. Happy birthday, Harry.” Harry just stared and the floor.

“See you soon, yeah mate?” Ron said to him. He grunted as an answer and let them leave without another word; he was stuck in his own mind.

What did Hermione mean that homosexuality was okay in the wizarding world? It was disgusting, unnatural… a disease without a cure. Wasn’t it? Uncle Vernon always said that ‘those people’ would be punished for their choices. He was so preoccupied with his thoughts that he didn’t hear Ron and Hermione as they chatted before flooing home.

“Ron, he drank almost the whole bottle!” she hissed at him.

“What do you want me to do about it? He’s upset! He’s been through a lot… and he finally has a little less pressure on him. Give him some time!” By the time the floo signaled their absence, Harry was sound asleep in his chair.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 4 - Other Perspectives

August 3rd. Evening.
Draco

Draco was pacing around his room. His hands clenching against sweaty palms, his heart racing. He was overwhelmed by the thoughts running through his head. Fire. Black hair. Green curses. Giant snakes. His father, furious. Fire. His wand hand, casting. Green light. Crucio. Fire. He kept pacing. House arrest was starting to make him go mad. All he wanted to do was leave the manor. Leave the place where so many awful things happened. Leave the place where that monster kept him prisoner in his own life. How dare his father try and sell him to gain freedom from that madman? It almost made him happy that his father was in Azkaban.

All he had done all summer was pace. Pace in his room, in the library, in the kitchen. He was sure he would lose his mind any day now. At one point he even tried to have a conversation with a house elf. It hadn't gone well. He was thrilled just at the opportunity of leaving the manor for the first time since his trial. What a god awful day that had been.

It was only twenty-nine days until he was free to speak to his peers, to leave this house. But would they want him there? He had done unspeakable things. Professor McGonagall assured him that there would be punishment for anyone who treated him unfairly. He had gone to trial, been acquitted of most of his crimes, and punished for a few. He was serving his punishment out. But how could he face them? Knowing that his father had tortured some of them. Knowing that many of them lost family members due to the madman that lived in his house. How could he look them in the eye as if he hadn't once believed that his father had the right idea? How could he ever face Granger and Potter again, knowing that they were right all along?

Draco paced back and forth, back and forth. Until his breathing was erratic and he started to see spots. Fire. Green light. Black hair. Lucius. Fire. The last thing he thought before he fainted was that he'd be lucky to make it through the year alive.


August 5th. Morning.
Hermione

"Good morning, Pig! Did you bring a letter from Ron?" Hermione said to the small owl as she untied the scroll from his leg. "Why don't you have a bit of a rest and then you can take my reply back to him, hmm?" The owl hooted and then curled up on the window sill in her bedroom.

Hermione,

I know you're concerned about Harry. Try not to worry. I've got it handled sort of. I've asked Kreacher for updates every few days so we know he's at least somewhat alright. He's just… well, he'll work it out in his own time. I heard from Neville that Malfoy was sentenced to house arrest. The Wizengamot took almost everything his father had. All he has left is the Manor, house elves and his trust fund. So in short.. Still ten times more than any Weasley. Nev also said that Malfoy has to return to Hogwarts. So I supposed there will probably be another snake or two joining us to keep him company. How's your research coming? Want to go to Diagon for our things next week?

Ron

Hermione's eyes teared up when she read the note. If Ron was concerned enough to ask Kreacher for updates about Harry, maybe the situation was worse than she thought? She'd speak with McGonagall about it first thing in September… Hopefully Harry was a bit better by then. She sat down at her desk to reply to Ron's note; eager to ask him a few questions about wizarding customs from her research and to schedule a time to visit Diagon Alley for their new supplies.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 5 - Arriving at Hogwarts

September 1st. Early afternoon.

 

The air had a crispness to it that signified fall was coming. Back in London, Harry had found the August heat oppressive over the last two weeks, but coming this far north and getting some cooler, fresher air was a welcome change. Going for a jog was suddenly high on his priority list. The letter he had received from McGonagall two days prior said that he needed to arrive 2 hours before the train was due in. He had sent Kreacher ahead with his trunk that morning so that he didn’t have to deal with it himself. He hadn’t slept in days and was terrified of the reactions of his schoolmates. Harry was concerned about his reactions to them and how to handle the gratitude he was going to receive.

He walked at a steady pace up the path to the school, pausing only when he needed to re-center himself. More than once, his anxiety almost made him turn round, or reach for his firewhiskey, but he pressed on. He walked over the last hill and saw the castle. Harry stopped walking and just looked at it; looming in the distance. He was overcome with a plethora of emotions: fear, guilt, sadness, nostalgia. He was struggling to breathe. But suddenly he was not alone. He couldn’t see anyone, but he could sense them. Before he could even take his wand out, he cast a shield round himself. Wand out, he spun in a circle, trying to locate the threat.

“Hello?” he called.

“Potter?” Harry watched in stunned fascination as Draco Malfoy and a middle aged gentleman in Auror’s robes appeared about fifty feet away. Malfoy’s eyes went wide and he held his empty hands up in surrender as he saw the look on Harry’s face. He stared at him as if they had never met.

“Malfoy? What are you doing out here?” His voice was hoarse and Harry lowered his wand slightly, but did not relax his stance. Malfoy moved closer. “Are you coming back to school?”

“Don’t worry, I can’t hex you. This is my Ministry escort.” Harry pocketed his wand. “Part of my sentencing was to complete my NEWTs this year. If I didn’t reenroll or if I fail out, or basically fall out of line in any way, they’ll ship me to Azkaban. That about sum it up?” He asked the Auror angrily. When he nodded, Draco shrugged. The Auror stepped away from the boys slightly when he realized it wasn’t going to turn violent.

“Oh.” Harry shuffled his feet slightly.

“Well, aren’t you feeling verbose?” Draco drawled with his nose in the air.

“Huh?”

“Ask Granger. I’m sure she can use small words and speak slowly to explain it to you, yes?” Draco peered at him as he spoke. This was Potter, wasn’t it?

“Oh, right. Sure.” Harry felt his heart soar at being insulted by the other man. He hadn’t felt this… normal in months. But it was Malfoy who made him feel this way. Malfoy who was looking at him as though he was a puzzle waiting to be solved. Clearly uncomfortable, Harry gestured toward the castle, “Walk in together, then?”

“Alright. I suppose.” The two young men fell into an easy pace with the Auror trailing them. Bloody Auror must think that the great Harry Potter can handle anything Malfoy throws his way, Harry thought with a grimace. The silence between them wasn’t uncomfortable, but rather companionable. They finally reached the castle doors and were greeted by a house elf who asked them if they had any belongings to send to their rooms. Malfoy handed over a shrunken trunk. Harry was busy looking around the room, amazed at how little it all had changed. It seemed that when they put everything back together, they followed the initial plans for the castle. He was relieved at that. One less thing to adjust to.

“Welcome back, Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy.” Professor McGonagall had walked into the Great Hall. “I trust the journey was fine? You may go now,” she coldly dismissed the Auror with a nod of her head and he left without another word. Malfoy’s body relaxed noticeably.

“It was fine, Professor.” Harry looked at the ground as he spoke to her.

“It was perfectly acceptable. Even though I had a babysitter the entire time, I got to be outside the Manor for the first time in months.” Harry looked at Draco with wide eyes. He hadn’t read any papers or talked to his classmates, and didn’t know the details of Draco’s sentencing.

“I’m surprised to see the two of you not brawling on the floor. Pleasantly surprised. Follow me,” she walked quickly into an antechamber that Harry had never noticed before. It was sparsely furnished with a long narrow table and wooden chairs down each side. It looked like a meeting space of some kind. McGonagall told the boys to have a seat while they waited for their classmates; as they would be along in less than twenty minutes. As she left the hall, food appeared on the table. Both of them sat down at the table, but neither boy reached for anything.

 


 

 

“Harry! It’s so good to see-” Neville stopped short when he caught sight of Draco. “‘Lo, Malfoy.”

“Yeah, you too, Nev.” Harry reached to shake his hand. Draco nodded in his direction. “Did any 8th years take the train?”

“McGonagall asked us not to. Wanted everyone here early.” Neville sat down next to the other two just as the door opened again. The rest of their class came into the room and grabbed seats and sandwiches, greeting each other as they came. Harry noticed that in addition to his best friends, Neville, and Malfoy, there weren’t many students returning. Parvati Patil, Lavender Brown, Seamus Finnigan, and Dean Thomas were the other Gryffindors. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw had a mixed group that included Michael Corner, Padma Patil, Cho Chang, Ernie MacMillan, Susan Bones, Hannah Abbott, and Justin Finch-Fletchley. By far, Slytherin had the lowest number of students with only Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson in addition to Malfoy.
Harry averted his eyes and greeted as few of them as possible without seeming flat out rude. Hermione and Ron strategically sat next to him, with Malfoy on his other side, so that he wouldn’t have to talk to people about topics he’d rather avoid. Neville was on Malfoy’s other side. Finally, all the seats were filled and Professor McGonagall joined them as well.

“Please, enjoy the food and drink before I welcome you to the first ever 8th year of Hogwarts,” her eyes were sad as she greeted them. She sat at the opposite end of the table than Harry, Draco, Neville, Michael, Ron, and Hermione.

Conversation flowed easily at their end of the table. Except for Malfoy. Harry noticed that he wasn’t saying much and tried to include him in the conversation wherever he could. Ron, Hermione, and Neville discussed their summers and seemed to know better than to ask what Harry or Draco did during their summer. Hermione also mentioned her new research topic, which Neville found fascinating. He knew very little about muggles and the muggle world. They briefly discussed the book list for the upcoming year and what that might mean for their classes and assignments.

Michael had just asked Harry about his plans for after school was over that year and Harry was attempting to respond. “Well… Ever since - I mean I hadn’t really thought about… That is to say…”

“Scarhead probably won’t do anything of significance. He never has,” Draco said in his posh accent as he reached for the jug of pumpkin juice. “It’s not as if he’s talented or intelligent. He can barely keep his glasses on his face, let alone anything worth noting.”

Harry broke out laughing as the others stared on with wide eyes. He laughed so hard, he soon had tears running down his face and accidentally knocked over his goblet. “Malfoy, that’s brilliant! And so true!” Harry conjured a handkerchief to wipe the tears of mirth from his eyes, then quickly vanished it. Another wave of his hand and the mess on the table was cleared. Malfoy looked at him oddly.

“It most certainly is not true!” Hermione was red in the face.

“Malfoy… you do know what he did this past year, yeah? Dark Lord and all that?” Michael asked. His look of incredulity was enough to nearly make Malfoy squirm. Nearly. “He vanquished one of the most powerful wizards to ever live… A monster slayer! He is the hero of our world! Without him, one can only imagine what-”

“I think that’s quite enough for now, Mr. Corner?” Professor McGonagall had clued in to the conversation at the other end of the table and jumped in to rescue Harry from the dreaded hero-worship. Michael looked truly baffled. “If everyone is quite done with their meal, perhaps we should start with a tour of your dormitory?”

“Dormitor y ? As in just one?” Ron squeaked to Hermione. As they all rose from their seats and followed the Headmistress into the Great Hall, Harry leaned over to Malfoy and thanked him for the laugh. Malfoy looked at him as if this was the first time they had ever met.

 


 

 

“I’m sure by now you have all realized that we rebuilt and repaired Hogwarts to look as close to before the war as possible. One of the only changes was the addition of the 8th year dormitories. We took away a few of the old faculty chambers’ to create them. If you’ll follow me towards the kitchens, you will find the door to the 8th year dormitory. It lies behind the only known portrait of the four founders together. They will rarely speak to anyone, as they have tired of answering questions over the years. So don’t expect much out of them in the way of conversation.” She paused in front of the portrait, which was nearly life-sized. “Unity,” she said to the founders, loud enough that everyone could hear her. No one missed the significance of this password.

At Slytherin’s nod, the portrait swung open and McGonagall led the group through the doorway. There was a large common room decorated in deep purples and neutral greys. On the wall opposite the entrance, there were two large doors. To the left was a large fireplace surrounded by large squashy armchairs and small sofas. To the right was an area that looked suspiciously like the library; large tables with lamps and wooden chairs surrounding them. In the one corner was a small wizarding kitchen-like area. It had a cooling cabinet, storage cupboards and a small drink cabinet that had many different kinds of juices and drinks. In all, it looked like one of the most comfortable rooms Harry had ever seen. It was somehow a relief that it didn’t look like the Gryffindor common room. He had an inkling that a similarity of that caliber may have been too much to handle.

“Through the labeled doors are your dormitories. One for the gentlemen and one for the ladies. Each has a restroom attached that I believe you will find to your liking. Your beds are labeled with your names and you’ll find your trunk at the foot of your bed. I hope each of you find comfort in this place.” She paused. “Do you have any questions about the lodgings?”

To no one’s surprise, Hermione was the first to ask a question. “Are we still allowed to visit our house dormitories? Or is this the only one we are permitted in?”

“The faculty would prefer you to spend most of your time with other 8th years, but you may visit other common rooms as you see fit. Younger students will not be allowed to visit yours, however. Any other questions?” When no one responded, she continued, “Please go and take a look around before we continue our conversation.”

They did so immediately. Harry was the last to walk into the boys’ dormitory and was pleased to see that the color scheme extended into here as well. The beds were spaced further apart than the Gryffindor dorms and had full walls separating them on the sides. At the foot of each bed, there was a thick curtain that blocked the small room from the ‘hallway’ down the middle. At the head of each bed was a window that could be charmed with whatever view someone wanted. Harry was relieved to see the amount of privacy he would have this year. Maybe he could charm his curtain silent so as to not wake the others with his nightmares.

He walked down the row until he found his bed on the far end. To his left was the outer wall of the room, to his right was Ron’s bed, and across from him was Malfoy’s. Harry couldn’t decide if he was happy or upset about that. Zabini was on Malfoy’s other side and Neville on Ron’s. Harry couldn’t help but wonder if McGonagall had placed them so that they would be bothered by the fewest number of people. The boys started to file out of the room, peeking into the bathroom on their way by.

“Kreacher,” Harry whispered when he was the last in the dorm. Kreacher appeared silently. “Could you bring the small trunk from my library and store it under my bed here, please? And don’t let anyone see you, okay?”

“Certainly, Master Harry.” He vanished and Harry walked toward the bathroom. He quickly peeked in and saw that it was very similar, if a bit smaller, to the prefects bathroom. He left the room to rejoin his classmates in the common room. As he passed the Headmistress, he whispered his thanks for her placement of the beds. She simply nodded to him.

“Now that we’re all back together, please take a seat while I explain how this year will work for you,” she started. They did as she asked, generally sitting in groups by houses. “As we have never had an 8th year before, we have had to create an entirely new curriculum. Most of you picked up the defensive magic that would be required for NEWTs, but there will be review sessions once a month on defensive spells until the exam. Charms, Potions, and Transfiguration will have bi-weekly meetings with myself and Professor Flitwick. They will be rather short meetings where we will demonstrate a few things and give you the assignments and readings for the next two weeks. In that way, this is more like University than Hogwarts. If there are other topics that you wish to earn a NEWT in, you just need to speak with that professor, and you would complete an independent study.”

Hermione looked overjoyed at this news, while Ron and a few Hufflepuffs looked fairly nervous. Harry, and many of the students seemed neutral. McGonagall continued, “You will all have access to a small potions laboratory that you may use at any time to complete your assignments. It is just down the hall, behind the portrait of Professor Snape. The password is ‘hemlock.’ The only regularly scheduled meetings will be twice a week. Every Monday morning immediately after breakfast you will meet me here in your common room to discuss the new course on Wizard-Muggle relations. This is a new required course starting next fall. Miss Granger has already started to help compile a list of topics that will need to be covered and you all will be helping her with the research. This is not optional,” she added the last part when Parkinson scoffed at helping Hermione.

“Professor, you said there were two regularly scheduled things… What is the other meeting?” Ron asked her, looking nervous.

“Mr. Weasley, excellent question. Every Wednesday evening, immediately following dinner, you will all meet here in your common room with a Mind Healer from St. Mungo’s. This first week, you will meet with a Mind Healer and a Physical Healer. Every one of you will be given a private, confidential, physical exam. It has come to my attention that many of you were not checked over in the past few years, even after battle, and I am concerned about your health. That exam is only between you and the Healer, and the Healer will provide you with instructions or potions and spells that you may need to correct anything. It is entirely up to you if and how you share any of that information with myself or your peers.

“The meeting with the Mind Healer each week will be in an attempt to help you move past the atrocities of the past few years as well as to help you get to know one another. Yes, you are from different houses, and different magical backgrounds. However, you are the only ones who know what you went through the past two years. That is a bond you will not have with anyone else. The younger years were certainly affected, but not like you. You were all in the thick of it... I want to be perfectly clear. This is not optional. As tomorrow is the first meeting, it will be a longer meeting.”

Harry’s breathing started to accelerate and he was having trouble focusing on his professor. He couldn’t say anything about the war in front of everyone. What if he accidentally mentioned the horcruxes? What if they figured out that he had died? What if they thought that he should still be dead? Hermione squeezed his hand as she heard his breathing. “Professor,” she started, “Is there any way to ensure privacy in these meetings? So that nothing can be repeated outside of them without someone’s explicit permission?”

“Yes, Miss Granger. There will be an oath taken at the first meeting to ensure that any information shared is kept entirely confidential.” Harry felt his breathing slow when she said this, but he still wasn’t at all okay with the situation.

“Are there any other questions?” McGonagall asked. When no one spoke, she continued, “Well, there is just one more thing, then. There will, under no circumstances, be any kind of fighting whether magical or muggle. If you are caught fighting, you will be immediately expelled. Eighth year students are permitted to leave Hogwarts grounds and go into Hogsmeade as you wish, but curfew still stands, so you need to be in your dormitory between 11pm and 7am every evening. You are not required to attend any meals unless you wish. You will be required to attend a one time meeting tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock. You will be given an exciting new assignment that will be a requirement for graduation. I’ll have the house elves send supper up later.Enjoy your evening, ladies and gentlemen.” She left the room.

There was a tense silence. No one seemed to want to be the first to speak or the first to leave the room. Zabini finally stepped in and broke the silence. “Anybody up for a drink?"

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 6 -  Introductions

September 1st. Early evening.

 

There was a tense silence. No one seemed to want to be the first to speak or the first to leave the room. Zabini finally stepped in and broke the silence. “Anybody up for a drink?”

“I’d like one, Zabini,” Neville said. “I’ve got a bottle of firewhiskey in my trunk. Birthday gift. I’ll go grab it.” Neville went back into the bedroom.

The tension had been broken by this interaction and people started to speak to each other and move around. After a few minutes, Neville and Zabini walked around with glasses of firewhiskey for everyone. No one declined, though Hermione did raise her eyebrows. As Zabini handed him a glass, Harry said “Thanks, Zabini.”

“Call me Blaise,” he stuck out his hand. Harry shook it. “I’d rather everyone just call me Blaise.”

“I have an idea,” Hermione started. The Gryffindors groaned. “No, it isn’t studying or anything! I think we should all introduce ourselves. Say what we’d like to be called and maybe a hobby or interest or what we plan on doing after graduation?”

“That’s actually not a bad idea, Granger. Shall I start?” Parkinson jumped at the chance to be the center of attention. “You can all call me Pansy. I am very interested in wizarding fashion…  Looking forward to seeing where I can get with that. Next?”

“Hermione for me! You all know I’m interested in school, but I’m also quite keen to study wizarding law after graduation,” a few people nodded in interest. Everyone relaxed slightly in their seats.

“Ron. Or Weasley. I don’t care, really. Interests? Quidditch. But no idea what I’ll do when we graduate… maybe something in the ministry?”

“Parvati. Padma and I like to experiment on combinations of twin magics,” she said quickly. Her sister nodded along but said nothing.

Seamus stepped in quickly, “No’ really a nickname fer me. I’d have to go with Ron and say Quidditch fer me as an interest. After Hogwarts? No’ a bloody clue.”

“I’d prefer to be called Chang. I hate ‘Cho.’ Interested in potions as a career, hopefully.”

“Really? Me, too. Ernie for me. Please no ‘Ernest,’” he said with a shudder.

Michael, Lavender and Neville shared. All listing their hobbies and future interests as their favorite school subjects. “Susan. And this is Hannah. She gets nervous talking in groups. Both of us are interested in healing. Hoping for internships at St. Mungo’s eventually,” Susan spoke quickly, seeming uncomfortable with the attention being placed on her. Hannah was red in the face.

“I’ve already said that I’d like to be called Blaise. More personal that way. Interests...entrepreneurship,” Blaise was deliberately vague.

“Dean or Thomas. I don’t mind either way. Interests… well I don’t really know. I’ve got a few hobbies but nothing that stands out. Haven’t given much thought to after Hogwarts to be honest.”

“Justin. Wizarding law.” He seemed incredibly skittish and wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone.

“Draco,” he said confidently. “Currently my plan is to stay out of Azkaban. Talk to me again in June,” he finished his drink in one big gulp. When no one jumped to go next, he continued, “Any ideas what the ‘exciting’ assignment is?”

“Wait, Harry didn’t go,” Hermione said with a frown. Harry was hoping no one would notice. He was thankful that Draco seemed to forget about him. “Go ahead Harry.”

At Hermione’s urging, he had no choice but to take his turn. He set down his glass that had been empty for a while and simply said, “Harry. Quidditch. ‘Dunno about a job.”

The rest of the group seemed to realize how uncomfortable he was and they picked up talking about Draco’s question. He got up and refilled his glass, drank it, then refilled it again before taking his seat. He looked at Neville and Blaise, sitting on his right and said quietly to them, “I’ll buy you another bottle.” Harry sat silently observing the group; waiting for the moment it wouldn’t be rude to walk away from them all. He listened in to Hermione explaining her project to Blaise and Neville, while Ron, Lavender and Susan discussed the ‘exciting assignment.’

Harry decided he had had enough and stood to leave. He gave everyone a quick wave and walked into the boys’ dorm. He sprawled on his bed, trying to calm his breathing. When that didn’t work, he stood up to get changed so that he could go for a run. Just as he pulled off his shirt, Malfoy walked in the room and into his cubicle-like bed area. Harry could feel his eyes on him as he changed. If he wants to look, let him… What do I care? He quickly re-dressed and bent to lace up his shoes. “Do you run?” he asked Malfoy without looking up.

“For exercise? I used to. Why?” Malfoy just stared at Harry. Harry could feel his eyes on him as he tied his trainers.

“Join me?” Harry stood and started stretching his muscles. Malfoy quickly changed into his practice quidditch gear without saying a word. The two walked out of the room without so much as looking at each other. Harry could feel Malfoy’s presence next to him as they walked out of the castle. He glanced over at him and simply nodded before starting a slow jog. Malfoy kept up. The two ran for nearly an hour before they made it back to the castle, gasping for air. They stood outside the doors for a while, catching their breath.

“I’m going to stay out here for a while. You go on,” Malfoy said without looking at Harry.

“Yeah, sure,” Harry replied as he walked away. He slowly made his way through the dormitory and into the showers. He was steadfastly ignoring the feeling in the pit of his stomach that he got whenever Malfoy looked at him. After he was clean and dressed, he lay on his bed with a bottle of firewhiskey. He absently waved his hand at his curtain, spelling it closed and warded against sounds. He slowly let the buzz of firewhiskey in his brain lull him into a stupor.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 7 -  The Pen Pal Assignment

September 2nd. Before dawn.

 

It felt as though there was an elephant stomping around in Harry’s brain as he woke, crying from his latest nightmare. In his dream, his classmates all stood around, staring like they didn’t know him. They don’t know me, he thought. He rolled to one side and heard his empty firewhiskey bottle clang to the floor. He waved his arm around and mumbled, “ Tempus .” It was well before sunrise, so he laced up his trainers and got down on the floor. He started to exercise; alternating between sit ups, crunches, lunges, and push ups. The repetition and concentration required made it so that he had no time to think of anything else. He lost track of time as he worked his body into a sweat.

“Harry, mate… are you awake?” he heard Ron call from outside his curtain.

“Yeah, Ron. Come on in,” Harry waved his hand to remove the wards and continued his set up sit ups. “What’s up, mate?”

“It’s nearly half eight and I thought you were still asleep. We have to meet McGonagall at nine, remember?” Ron stood in the doorway, staring at Harry on the ground. “You missed breakfast.”

“I’ll just have a quick shower and meet you in the commons. Gotta finish this set,” he answered, without looking at Ron. He could feel that his best friend walked away and he quickly finished his exercises and made his way to the showers. He tried not to notice the fit blonde in the next shower stall. Or the way the shoulder muscles moved as he soaped up his hair. Harry quickly removed his glasses, so that even if he was tempted to look, he couldn’t see much of anything. It was the coldest, quickest shower he’d taken in a while.

 


 

 

Harry walked in the room at precisely 9:04 so that he wouldn’t have to speak to anyone on his way in. He took the only open seat and looked to McGonagall. She was standing in the center of the room, surrounded by chairs and students. Two other adults stood with her. “Now that we’re all here,” McGonagall said, pointedly looking in Harry’s direction, “we should begin. I would like to start by introducing the new potions professor, Professor Gerhard Waltraud, the new charms professor, Professor Nadira Rahat, and the new transfiguration professor, Professor Kristjan Steinsson. They are excited to be working with all of you this year.

“I will ask that you please not interrupt me before I finish. I will give you a chance to ask questions. You will be assigned an anonymous pen friend out of the pool of eighth year students. You will not know the identity of your pen friend until the Easter holidays, and even then, you must both agree to reveal your identities. Each week, you will have an assigned topic by myself or the Mind Healer assigned to meet with all of you. Your journals will not be able to be read by anyone but those who they belong to. For example, when person A writes an entry, it will of course, be recorded in their own journal, but it will also immediately show up in person B’s journal.” She paused, taking a look around at the students around her. “There are a number of spells we will need to put on the journals to make this happen and to protect your anonymity. Some of these spells include a Replicare Mutata Chirographum charm which will copy your words to the other journal, but alter your handwriting so that you can’t be identified that way. There are also a complicated series of charms which will indicate to myself whether or not you have met that week’s requirements. I will not be able to read what was written or have any idea what was discussed, but I will know if you have shirked your responsibility.

“You and your pen friend will have a plethora of options for additional  charms to activate, should you so chose. These can include some type of indication when your friend has written in their journal, or spells to prevent you from lying, if you wanted to force yourself to be truthful with your friend. If you or your friend come up with another idea, feel free to ask me. I will of course keep anything we discuss confidential, so you needn’t worry about that. I think that about covers everything. Are there any questions?” Harry couldn't understand why anyone would want to do this. What was the point of an assignment like this? 

“I have one,” Malfoy said in a monotone voice. “Why are we doing this? What’s the point?”

“Mr. Malfoy… in short? It’s a way for you to talk about things that you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable talking about. In the hopes that you can all come to terms with what happened to you, what you did and where you’ll go from here,” McGonagall had a sadness in her voice that each of them could identify with.

“Professor.. How will we be matched up?” Hermione asked.

“Everyone will put their journals in this bag,” she indicated a bag sitting on a nearby table, “and we will take them and put the appropriate spells on them. They will be randomly paired with a spell; neither you or we have any say over the pairings.”

“What types of things will we have to write about?” Harry asked, nearly whispering, looking at the ground.

“Anything and everything, Mr. Potter. You’ll start slowly, with things like favorite foods, colors, and books. Then you’ll gradually move up to things you regret or hope for in the future. For today, you’ll be filling in a basic survey about yourself that should help to introduce yourself to your pen friend without giving yourself away. There will be a spell to prevent sharing your identity, as well,” she looked around the room once more, waiting for another question. “If that’s all, then we will be taking the journals in a moment. While we’re gone, you will start to have your Physicals with the Healer from St. Mungo’s. You will be called one by one to have them done. After your consult, you are free until we resume just after lunch. If you would all go and retrieve your journals, now, we’ll start.”

The students filed out of the room, and slowly back in. There were some small conversations as they milled about. After about ten minutes, a thin, older wizard walked into the room looking at a parchment and announced, “Mr. Potter, if you would come with me, please?”

Relieved to be called first, Harry quickly followed the man out of the room and down the hall. He stepped through a doorway into what appeared to be a small, brightly lit lounge. There was a sofa against one wall, two low stools, and a small writing table on wheels. In the very center of the room, there was a small platform that had a glowing aura around it. “Mr. Potter, I am Healer Motta from St. Mungo’s. I specialize in general Medwizardry. Professor McGonagall has asked me to give each student a full exam today. Do you have any questions before we begin?”

“Just one,” Harry said as he took off his jumper. “Everything that happens here today between you and I is completely confidential, yes? No exceptions?”

“No exceptions, Mr. Potter. You could tell me anything you want and I couldn’t repeat it or share it with anyone without your consent. Is there something concerning you?” Healer Motta gestured at the platform and Harry stepped up.

“I can’t sleep. Nightmares. And my magic is all… wonky. Dunno if you can help with that, though.”

“Well, let’s take a look. I have to run a series of spells and charms on you, if that’s alright?”

“Sure.” Harry felt the tingle of magic as he heard the Healer muttering under his breath. A parchment and quill appeared on the writing table. The quill was flying over the parchment, the healer walked around him in a circle. Close to ten minutes later, the tingle of magic started to intensify. It felt more like needle pricks than the soft glow of magic. When it almost became too much, he started, “Sir-”

“Almost there, Mr. Potter, try to hang in there just a few more minutes,” the Healer responded. After what felt like another hour, the magic suddenly stopped and he said, “All set. I just need a quick blood sample and then we’re done. This may hurt just a bit. Could I have your non-wand arm, please?”

Harry reached his left arm out and watched as the healer made a small cut in the crease of his elbow, conjured a phial to catch the blood, then closed the cut. “If you could just take a seat on the couch, I’ll take a quick look at the results, ask you a few questions and then we’ll discuss where to go from there, okay?” Healer Motta walked over to the writing table as Harry sat on the couch. He cast a few spells on the phial of blood, and watched as the quill kept writing.

“Mr. Potter… What are your eating habits like?” he looked at him expectantly.

Harry suddenly felt extraordinarily self-conscious about his answers to the questions the healer would ask. “Well… lately… I mean… growing up-”

“Harry - May I call you Harry?” at Harry’s nod, the healer continued, “Please don’t be concerned. These are standard questions. No matter your answers, things stay between us and there is no judgement. Understand?”

“Well,” he cleared his throat. “Growing up, I rarely ate regular meals until I came to Hogwarts. Even then, it wasn’t during the summer. Then last year, we were on the run and lived mainly off mushrooms and wild plants.” He wrung his hands together at the memory of hunger pains. “But for the last few months I’ve been eating regularly. Lots of protein and vegetables.”

“Alright. That seems consistent with what I found. Do you drink or use potions regularly?”

“Yes. I’ve indulged in quite a bit of firewhiskey. It helps me sleep.”

“Mmhmm. Do you exercise?” he was continuously noting things on his parchment.

“Every day. Multiple times a day. It helps to distract me from the things in my head.”
“Right. Can you tell me a bit about how your magic is ‘wonky’? What does it do that is different? Does it feel different or are the spells themselves different?”

“I don’t need my wand. At all. I seem to be able to perform wandless, wordless magic with minimal effort. And it doesn’t... pull like it used to, if you know what I mean.” Harry stood up and started pacing. “I used to feel it in my gut when I performed a spell. The feeling growing with the strength of the spell. But now, it feels like little more than your average digestive muscle movements. I know that isn’t normal. I see other wizards and witches using wands for every little thing.”

“Harry. Please sit back down. It’s quite alright, we’ll get this sorted,” Healer Motta gave him a kind smile. “How long has this been happening?”

“Since the night of the final battle.”

“Other than the standard battle curses and hexes, did anything else substantial happen to you during that battle? I know you were instrumental in defeating You-Know-Who, but the spells themselves would be helpful to know.”

“So many things happened that night, sir. I was in close proximity to Fiendfyre, hit with a number of spells that I couldn't identify, and, well…I died.” Harry stared blankly at the Healer, waiting for him to commit him to the Janus Thickey Ward of St. Mungo’s. When the healer didn’t say anything, Harry continued, “When I cast Expelliarmus at him, it rebounded his killing curse, but before it did, it hit me. It killed the... Horcrux that lived in my head and I had a vision where I was told that I could have chosen to die, too.”

“Well. That answers all of my questions. Before I start with the analysis, do you have any questions for me, or anything you would like to add that you think I would need to know to make a fair assessment?”

“Do you think I’m insane?”

“No, Harry. I don’t think you’re insane.” Harry exhaled slowly in relief. “What I think is that you have an extraordinary amount of magical power for two reasons. One is you were born with it and it will mature with you, the second is that you absorbed some of his power when you defeated him. The Horcrux, which we’ll talk about in a minute, was probably blocking a large amount of your power up until it was destroyed. Shall I continue with my report?”

“Please, sir,” Harry leaned back into the back of the sofa, glad to feel as though his thoughts were validated in some way.

“Overall, you’re fairly healthy. It seems you’re a bit small for your age, but with regular meals and exercise that should improve. Don’t overdo it on the exercise. No more than an hour a day. Find another way to occupy your mind. I’ll have your Mind Healer recommend other options that are a bit healthier. As for the magic, I suggest you just get used to it. It’s likely that your power will keep growing for a few years. It is probably wise to use your wand and say the spells, just for show. Other people will tend to stare at obvious displays of your strength and may treat you differently. Lastly, the firewhiskey,” the healer peered at him over his glasses, a stern look in his eyes.

“I know I shouldn’t do it, sir. I just have no other way to sleep.”

“I am going to give you a prescription for sleeping potions. They are not habit forming, so you shouldn’t have issues there. They don’t really put you to sleep so much as allow you to relax enough to do so yourself. But you have to stop drinking the firewhiskey. With your magic levels, unthinkable things could happen if you consume too much. It could be catastrophic.” The healer stood and waved his wand at a new piece of parchment. “These are my only recommendations. Essentially, eat healthy food regularly, exercise, but not too much, and cut down on drinking. Take the Mind Healing seriously, please. I think it will help with the urge to drink the firewhiskey.”

He handed Harry the paper and Harry stood as well. “You said we would talk about the Horcruxes?”

“Yes, yes. I have no medical advice regarding that, because they are extremely rare. My advice is purely from one wizard to another. Don’t talk about them. Don’t explain them to anyone who doesn’t already know. Burn books that mention them. Hopefully they die out within our lifetimes.”

“I couldn’t agree more, Healer Motta. Thank you for your assistance today. I appreciate it,” Harry shook his hand.

“Not at all, Mr. Potter. If you need anything, please just owl. Confidentiality extends to letters as well. Could you send in Mr. Weasley next?”

Harry left the room, feeling lighter than he had in months. He even smiled a bit as he told Ron it was his turn. He took a seat in an armchair as he waited for the day to continue.

Chapter Text

~~ To keep things from getting confusing:

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.

 

CHAPTER 8 -  The Pen Pal Assignment - Part 2

September 2nd. After lunch.

 

Harry waited around while everyone else had their physicals. He had eaten lunch on his own, as Ron and Hermione had decided to take a walk around the lake with theirs. Now, all three of them were reading their textbooks on animagus magic on the couch when Professor McGonagall and the other professors came back into the room. They put down their books and those who were still standing resumed their earlier seats.

“Has everyone had a chance to eat lunch?” McGonagall looked at everyone for confirmation. “And Healer Motta finished with all of you?” At the nods she continued to speak, “We have finished with your journals and will be returning them to you in a moment. I would like to explain a few more things before setting you free to get to know your new pen friend. First and foremost, please take this assignment as seriously as possible and try to gain something from it. I really think it will help you all to heal. Secondly, your assignments will show up in the journal in a third handwriting. Don’t worry about using up the pages, your journals have been spelled to automatically keep adding pages as needed. Any final questions?”

There were a few sporadic questions about what the first assignment was and how often they were expected to write. McGonagall indicated that they would receive the first assignment in a few moments time and that they could write as often as they wanted, but usually it would only be required once a week. Professor Steinsson walked around with the bag of journals, allowing students to reach in and pull theirs out as he walked. McGonagall then laid out what the rest of their day would look like. “Today, you will be required to have a lengthy discussion with your pen friend to introduce yourselves. You should spend at least two to three hours on this. Dinner is at 6 o’clock and immediately after you will have your first session with the Mind Healer. You can stay here to write, move to your dormitories, or spread out on the grounds or in the castle. Good luck.”

She and the other professors filed out of the room. The eighth year students looked at each other for a few moments before people started to spread out. The Patil twins grabbed ink from the girls’ bedroom and then left the dormitory. Seamus and Dean moved to the library-like tables on the other side of the room. Hermione and Ron seemed content to stay where they were, as they had ink and quills already with them. Harry gave them a quick smile and went to sit on his bed to write. He hesitated, but then pulled the curtain closed as he heard someone else come in the bedroom. Harry settled onto his bed with his journal, ink and quill. He cracked open the cover to the first page and read his first assignment in over a year’s time:

For your first assignment, you must get to know one another. Ask each other about your favorite things, hobbies, childhoods, or futures. If you get stuck, or don’t know what to ask, point your wand at your journal and speak the incantation Optio, and a question will be automatically generated. I encourage you to be honest within this exercise. Also, I encourage you to choose a nickname for yourself to help conversation feel natural. When you have met the requirements of this assignment, this prompt will disappear. Good luck.

Harry stared at the journal for a few minutes. He picked up his quill and was about to start writing when words suddenly appeared on the page before him.

Hello. I have no desire to complete this assignment. How do you think we can do this as quick as possible?

Well, I fancy graduating. So I’ll be putting at least a touch of effort in here. But I don’t plan on revealing my identity at any point, so it isn’t like any of this matters.

I suppose. I’d like to graduate as well. My future is quite… bleak without doing do.

So we’re agreed to take this seriously? Even if we keep it fairly surface level, we’ve got to actually try.

Agreed. Any thoughts on nicknames? What do you say we choose them for one another instead of picking our own?

Sounds good to me, Harry wrote. First, let’s ask each other a few questions so we can pick appropriate names. I guess I’ll just start by telling you that I’m a bloke. You?

Also a bloke. Do you enjoy Quidditch?

Yes, but I don’t think either of us should say whether we play or not. That may give too much away. Do you like Quidditch?

Quite a bit. We could choose names related to that? Scratch that, that’s dumb. I have no other questions. I’m going to try the generated question. So whatever happens next, it isn’t me.

~~ What is your favorite memory?~~

Interesting question. Probably laughing and joking around with my friends. Didn’t have many opportunities to do that growing up. Harry found that his words seemed to flow from him and onto the page. He had to think very little about how to keep the conversation going. Same question to you.

Laughing is usually a good memory. So is magic… mine would be learning to cast the Lumos charm. It was the first spell I mastered.

It’s one of my favorite spells, so I can understand the feeling. I’m gonna generate a question now…

~~What is your favorite book?~~

Hm. Intriguing. I’d have to say mine is a story, not a book. The Warlock’s Hairy Heart from The Tales of Beedle the Bard. It’s old fashioned and short, but I love it and it’s message. You have to be careful how much you expect magic to change your life. It can’t fix everything, you know?

Harry just stared at the page. How is it that whoever this is seemed to know exactly what he thought about that story?? He must have been staring too long because whoever it was kept writing.

Sorry… Have I said too much? Or something offended you?

No, not at all. I just had this weird moment wondering if you could Legilimize someone through a journal. I like that story for the exact same reason. But my favorite book is quickly becoming our new animagus textbook. I’m eager to start the training for that. Any idea what your animal form will be? I’d be okay with just about anything. Just no kind of bug.

I don’t believe you can Legilimize someone through a journal, but it would be good to research that at some point. Good to know we’re similar in that way, though. I am… not unexcited about animagus training. I hadn’t really thought much about it. I suppose I would be fine with anything that wasn’t a feline form. I dislike cats.

Harry laughed quietly. He situated himself more comfortably on his bed, propped up by pillows. This was the only conversation he’d had in months where he didn’t feel like he had to talk about the final battle or Voldemort. He was eager to keep talking to whoever this was. He reached for his firewhiskey before replying.

What class did you find the hardest when you first came to Hogwarts? I think that should be a safe topic. Mine would have to be History of Magic. It was just so boring. It’s an extreme relief that we don’t have to take that course any longer.

I always disliked transfiguration. I always find it easier to conjure and banish rather than change what is already there.

~~What is the last thing you used your wand for?~~

Hmm. I was hoping for something a little more interesting when I did that. Mine is rather mundane. I cast a spell so that my ink can’t accidentally tip over. I can be rather clumsy when writing.

Neat trick! I… well… mine is rather embarrassing.

It’s not like I can tell anyone who you are or what you say.

No, but I have to keep talking to you until Easter. You’re a bloke, right? We’ve established that?

Yes. Definitely a bloke.

I used the Minuas Erectio charm. We were about to have a meeting and it was unfortunate timing on my anatomy’s part. Harry couldn’t believe he just wrote that down. He should have lied and said something like Lumos . But no, he had to go and tell this bloke that he had dampened his erection before meeting with his whole class and professors. There was a bit of a pause. He drank more firewhiskey.

Sorry. I had to stop laughing before I could write without my quill shaking. That’s brilliant! I haven’t had to use that one in a long time, but we’ve all been there, so I understand. Don’t feel embarrassed.  I thought for sure you were about to say something a lot more risque than that.

More risque?! Heavens no. I’m a fairly mundane guy. Are you in a relationship?

Currently? No. Not for some time, now. Our sixth year is the last time I was intimate with anyone verbally or physically. You?

The same. I guess we both know how difficult the last year and a half has been. Not exactly conducive to starting relationships.

Exactly. No point in starting something if you and/or your partner could be dead in a moment's’ time. Well this conversation definitely took a turn for the depressing. Sorry about that.

No need to apologize. I think I started it. Quick, say something funny.

Well. No pressure, right? Um. - What do you call a parade of rabbits hopping backwards?

What kind of joke was that? Harry had no clue where that came from or what kind of answer his pen friend was looking for. He just wrote the first thing he could think of, Um. I have no idea… backwards bunnies?

A receding hare-line.

That’s a good one! I actually laughed out loud at that. I’ll get another auto-question for us.

~~What are the things you look for in a potential life partner?~~

Huh. Deep. I suppose the same things I look for in my friends. Trust. Similar interests. But not so similar that we agree on everything.

Ah. But those are all psychological things. What about the physical aspects?

Oh, are you not going to answer for yourself?

I will, but you started to go first, so you need to finish it.

Harry sat back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. He never really tried to explain it before. I suppose someone who is physically active and healthy. I like more muscular builds. I haven’t had much experience in the way of relationships. So I may be looking for something I don’t even know about yet.

That’s fair. I am… a bloke who likes blokes. I also prefer muscles. A quidditch-player’s body is more what I’m interested in. In terms of mentally and emotionally? Someone who is intelligent, likes to have intellectual conversations. Someone who likes to take risks. I couldn’t be with someone… sedentary. Preferably someone who enjoys cooking, as I’m not very good at it. Trust. Loyalty. Love, if it isn’t too much to hope for.

Sounds like a perfect partner. Can I ask a very personal question about all that? It may reveal a tad about who I am… so I hope the journal lets me ask.

It’s fine with me. I don’t have much to hide other than my identity.

Is it acceptable to be ‘a bloke who likes blokes’ in the wizarding world? I come from a somewhat muggle background and am still unclear about a lot of the practices. I can never tell what’s considered ‘normal’ and what’s just tolerated.

It’s an excellent question, actually. I’m sure we’ll be discussing it in relation to the new muggle studies project we’ve all been assigned. Generally, it lies somewhere between normal and tolerated. In the stricter pureblood families, it is perfectly acceptable as long as the first born already has an heir. If the first born in the family line is gay, their options are to abdicate their inheritance to the next born, if there is one, or to marry and have a child while having a lover on the side. Nothing wrong with that at all in the stricter families.

There was a long pause where his pen friend had stopped writing. Harry was curious about the customs outside of pureblood families. And outside of pureblood families?

Sorry, my hand was cramping. Outside of pureblood families, where they aren’t as concerned with inheritance and heirs, it is much closer to normal. I understand in the muggle world, gays have to have some big revelation and tell their families that they prefer their own gender, but in the wizarding world, that would be considered very odd. You just date who you date and marry whomever you’d like.

Wow. In the muggle world… it is viewed as… somewhat…

It’s all right. I won’t be offended. Unless you believe it, too?

I honestly don’t know what I believe. But I think I lean more towards the wizarding perspective. There are muggles who believe that same-sex relationships are hedonistic, or purely pleasure seeking in nature.

I take it by your hesitation that you knew muggles who believed that?

Yes. Someone who I am distantly related to. And he was always quite vocal about it.

I could see where that would cause some confusion, especially if you didn’t really have an opinion yet yourself. Are you gay?

No, no. I like women. It’s just a lot to think about, you know?

Sure. We’ve been talking for nearly two hours! I didn’t think this would be so easy.

Did you just call me easy?

Haha. No! There’s no way you’d be easy if you’ve never used your wand for something risque. But tell me… what is your favorite food, favorite color? What are your hobbies? Plans after Hogwarts? For me… food: anything chocolate, color: lilac, hobby: lately - pacing, plans: none as of yet.

I am NOT easy. Hmm. Food: breakfast foods, color: sunrise (I know it isn’t really a color), hobby: watching muggle cartoons, plans: also none. While Harry waited for his new friend’s response, he waved his hand at his journal with the intent of making it alert him to new entries from his friend. He quickly closed it to see if it worked. About a minute later, the journal glowed slightly and bounced slightly on his bed. When he opened it, the movement and glowing stopped, and sure enough there was a response waiting for him.

I’ve never seen a cartoon. The opportunity simply never came up. But I would love to. I understand there are some about ancient Greek and Roman gods? Hercules is probably my favorite. He’s so… dashing. Dinner is in twenty minutes… anything else we should cover to fulfill the prompt for today? It hasn't disappeared yet.

We should give each other those nicknames, I think. You want to go first?

I think I’m going to call you Bud. It’s what my best friend used to call a morning erection. Seems fitting, no?

I can practically feel you laughing at me, still. I suppose that will be fine. I shall call you Hercules. The prompt is gone now. Until next time?

Absolutely. Shall we put spells on the journals to alert us when the other writes? I find this to be a most acceptable way to converse.

I already did it on mine, Herc. But feel free to go ahead and do it on yours as well.

Until next time, then, Bud.

Harry closed his journal and capped his ink bottle. He hadn’t felt this relaxed in months. Probably in over a year. In the deep recesses of his mind he noticed that he only drank half a bottle of firewhiskey. He put everything away, including his bottle, and mentally prepared to head out for dinner, which would start in about twenty minutes.

Chapter Text

Side note before we start - this story is MAINLY canon. But there are some small deviations that appear in this chapter in regards to how some of the characters behaved during the war. Some of it is just how I wish they would have behaved, and most is completely unfounded in canon.

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.

 

CHAPTER 9 -  Therapy Begins

September 2nd. Early evening.

Throughout dinner, Harry chatted quietly with Ron and Hermione about their journal assignment. It appeared that all three of them had excellent conversations with their pen friends that day. They all enjoyed the anonymity. Ron, admittedly, found it difficult not to give away his identity when speaking. He had discovered a neat trick where if you wrote something that too obviously gave away your identity (Ron had written something about having a lot of brothers) the journal would shake, then erase your words instead of sending them to the other journal. Harry found himself passively listening to Ron and Hermione discuss things instead of chiming in like he used to. He was uncomfortable around them. He was uncomfortable around everyone.

When everyone had finished eating their dinner, Professor McGonagall came back in. “Well, eighth years, I know that this has been a long and exhausting day for you, and I promise for the remainder of this year, you shouldn’t see me this often unless you get yourself in a spot of trouble.” There was a bit of laughter in the room. “We have decided that splitting you into groups is going to be the most effective way to go about this. Group one will consist of the following: Malfoy, Zabini, Parkinson, Potter, Weasley, Granger, Bones, Abbott, Longbottom. The rest of you will be group two. Group one will meet here with Healer Lister, group two will go to the room where you had your physicals and meet with Healer Rose. All further instructions will be given by your healers this evening. Tomorrow morning, there will be materials on these tables to help you begin your studies. Good evening.” She swept out of the room, clearly in a hurry.

Group two filed out behind her. Harry and the rest of his group spread out in the squashy armchairs and sofas, waiting for their healer. When she came in, Harry was surprised to see she was a fairly young witch. Couldn’t be all that much older than he was. She was short and thin, about Harry’s height, and she had long, straight dark hair.

“Hello, everyone. I’m Healer Lister,” she smiled when she spoke. She had big, kind eyes. “I think our best bet is to sit in a circle on the floor. At least for this first time,” she clarified as she sat cross-legged near the fire. They slowly moved to follow. Malfoy was the last to sit, but Harry noticed that he even managed to make sitting on the floor look graceful.

“I’ll start by introducing myself. We can’t very well have open communication if we don’t know each other, right? I graduated from Hogwarts five years ago, when you were all third years. I trained at St. Mungo’s for the two year period that is required. I just wrapped up a two year contract at St. Mungo’s on the wards involving mental health. Any questions?” Healer Lister looked around the circle. “Oh. And you can call me Stacey. Who would like to go next?”

“Um. Stacey… we all already know each other.. So what is it you’d like us to do, exactly ?” Blaise asked, looking like he was thoroughly confused. Many of the other students nodded, expressing that they didn’t understand the concept either.

“What is your name?” Stacey looked at Blaise, waiting.

“Blaise Zabini.”

“And you?” she looked at Hermione next.

“Hermione Granger.”

“Okay. Blaise, can you tell me what Hermione did over the summer?” Stacey looked around at everyone. The silence was awkward. “That is why I need you to introduce yourselves. First of all, I don’t know you at all. Second, most of you don’t know each other much more than your names and how you behave in class. I want to know your name, how you grew up, your role in the war, and what you did over the summer. So, again, I will ask, who would like to go first?”

“I will,” Neville said, sitting up straighter. “I’m Neville Longbottom. I have no siblings. My parents are permanent residents in St. Mungo’s. I live with my Gran, or I did before this summer. I now own a small place in London. Not far from the Leakey.” He paused and looked around. Taking a deep breath, he continued, “I fought in the Battle of Hogwarts last May and have not stopped thinking about it since. I spent most of my summer volunteering as a peer mentor through the Ministry.” Harry wanted to ask what kind of work Neville did as a volunteer, but he felt so detached from his classmates. He didn't even know where to start.

“Thank you, Neville. That must have been hard for you. Thank you for what you did,” Stacey said with a concerned look on her face.

“No. Please don’t thank me for what I did. I hurt people. I don’t feel good about that. I mean… I’m glad I was on the good side of things, but that doesn’t mean that everything I did was okay,” he said in a low voice. His eyes were on the ground.

Harry was starting to feel overwhelmed. He felt his heart start to race and the room seemed like it was shrinking. Hermione reached over and squeezed his hand rhythmically. She whispered to him, “Focus on my hand. That’s it. Just my hand.”

“Well done, Neville. Your honesty is wonderful. Who would like to go next?”

“Pansy. Slytherin. I have three older brothers. My mother was killed when I was eight. My father was a Death Eater and is currently in Azkaban. This summer, I spent a lot of time in France, on the beach. Like Neville, I don’t regret a single thing I did during the war,” she said. “I followed what my father and brothers told me without questioning. It is exactly what I should have done as a purebloo-,”

“Are you seriously saying you think you were right?” Ron stood up and stared down at her as if she were trash on the ground. “You’re bloody mad.”

“I did what I was required to do! I did what tradition tells me I should do!” Pansy stood and shouted back.

Harry felt as though he was in a fog. The room felt like it was spinning and he was falling. He felt Hermione’s hand on his. That helped.

“Okay. This is opening some good dialogue. However, we all need to stay seated and keep our voices calm.” Stacey seemed unflappable. “Would you like to go next?” she asked Ron.

“Ron. I have five brothers and one sister. I fought in the war. On the right side of things. I don’t regret anything,” he puffed out his chest slightly. “I have no problem with anything I did in the war because I know I did it to help and save people. This summer I spent a lot of time reading our new textbooks.”

“Thank you, Ron,” Stacey said. Harry had to excuse himself to the bathroom. The emotions in the room were becoming too much. He walked swiftly to the cabinet beside his bed and took a big swig of firewhiskey, then another. He felt his heart start to slow. He took one more. Harry felt calm enough to go back out.

Stacey gave him a recap when he sat back down. While he was gone, Hermione, Hannah, and Susan all took their turns. All three had said that they were only children, fought in the war, and spent the summer studying. Hermione added that she also spent the summer sorting out her parents’ affairs, as they had been found killed shortly after the end of the war. The suspects were never caught.

“You can call me Blaise. I have over fifteen half-siblings but I don’t know most of them very well. I’m my mother’s only child.” He adjusted his position on the floor. “During the war I snuck food and resources to the students hiding in the Room of Requirement. I also helped students obtain healing potions after detentions. This summer, along with Neville, I was a volunteer with the Ministry.”

Harry couldn’t look away from Blaise. He was mesmerized with the fact that Blaise had risked himself that way during the war. He had never spoken to him before the day before, but this wasn’t what he expected from this therapy session.

“Which of you would like to go next?” Stacey looked at Harry and then at Malfoy.

“I’m Harry. Just… just Harry.” He tried to speak clearly, but it was hard. They all knew everything he was about to tell them. “My parents were killed. I grew up with my cousin at my aunt and uncle’s house. No siblings. I live on my own now and spent the summer renovating my house.”

“Thank you, Harry. But, you didn’t tell us what your role was in the war,” Stacey said quietly to him.

“Seriously?” That was Hannah. “We all know his role!”

“No, Hannah. You know what you think he did during the war. Harry?”

“I… well. I was on the run for about 10 months with Ron and Hermione. We… it wasn’t easy. Then I fought in the final battle. Enough?” he asked Stacey; the wording coming out a little more rude than he meant it to.

“For now, Harry.”

“I guess I’m last. It’s Draco. No siblings. Grew up in Wiltshire with my parents. I still live there. My father is in Azkaban, as you all know. My mother is dead. This summer I was under house arrest and didn’t do much except for pacing around my room.” Malfoy was even more uncomfortable than Harry, by the looks of him. Listening to him, Harry almost felt bad.

“And what did you do during the war, Draco?”

“I sent owls to the Order of the Phoenix after every meeting with the Dark Lord,” Draco whispered so quietly that Harry almost didn’t hear him, but he continued, “I was routinely questioned about my potential as the mole, but I kept sending the messages anyway. During the final battle, I… I bound and gagged my father and as many other Death Eaters as I could, to await the authorities.”

“That’s rubbish! You did no such thing! You almost lit Harry on fire during that battle!” Ron was red in the face, clearly furious, but managed to stay seated.

“Ron. Stop it. He didn’t light that fire. He… he didn’t do it,” Harry said quietly to his friend. There was an intense silence following Harry’s comment. No matter how quietly he said it, everyone in the room heard him.

“Good. Glad we cleared that up. Now, on to our second assignment for today.” Stacey stood and stretched her arms above her head. “I want each of you to give the person three to your left a compliment. Try to dig deeper than their looks. I’ll set a timer for a minute and a half and when it goes off we’ll get started. I don’t count in this exercise, so Blaise, you will be complimenting Hermione instead of myself. Questions? No? Okay, timer starts now.”

Harry looked to his left and saw that he had to compliment Neville. That wouldn’t be hard. He admired Neville quite a bit, and it seemed that he had matured quite a bit since Harry had last seen him. When the timer went off, that is exactly what he told him. Pansy told Harry that she admired his “I don’t give a fuck attitude” just after Neville told her that she would make a great fashion designer someday. Hermione, Blaise, and Hannah all complimented one another’s grade and intelligence. Ron told Susan that he admired her ability to be kind to everyone, and Susan told Draco that she appreciated his efforts in the war, as they helped to end it all. The whole group held their breath when Draco had to compliment Ron.

“You have endless loyalty and bravery when it comes to your friends, Weasley. I would give anything to have someone care that much about me,” he said quietly.

“Erm. Thank you, Malfoy,” Ron stuttered out.

“He asked to be called Draco, Ron,” Stacey said to him.

“Thank you, Draco ,” he corrected.

Harry just stared back and forth between the two. It felt as if he was in some strange alternate universe ever since he got back to Hogwarts. Nothing was as it should be.

“Lastly! Your homework,” Stacey conjured a stack of papers that she handed out while she spoke. “Here is a list of “have you ever” questions. In your journals this week, I want you to explore as many of these as possible with your pen friends. Try to answer as honestly as you can while maintaining your anonymity. Both groups are getting the same assignments and discuss the same topics in sessions, so don't worry about that giving anything away. While doing this, I want you to evaluate how your life has changed from this date in your sixth year.” Stacey started listing things for them to think about, “What is the same, what is different, who are the people most important to you, who is missing from your life now, who has been added, etc. You can write this down or not, but don’t share it in your journals. You’ll be sharing next week in our session. Before we leave, you all need to take an oath of silence. It just says that you're agreeing not to share anything said in sessions outside of sessions; unless you shared it, or have the person’s permission.”

Stacey performed the oath for everyone then shook everyone’s hands and dismissed them for the night. Her parting words left Harry feeling a little less alone, “This was probably very emotionally draining for you. I encourage you to go right to your bed spaces, even if you don’t go to sleep right away. Spend some time on your own, or writing to your pen friend. Rest.”

Harry left the group without speaking to anyone. He walked straight to his bed area and sat down without pulling the curtain. The silence in the empty room was comforting. He noticed that there was a small crate on his side table. It was full of potion vials. A note attached to the front said that these were sleeping potions from the Healer he met with that morning. When he heard Ron next door, he took a deep breath, stood and went to the wall that separated them. Harry mumbled out, “Mate… good night.”

Ron looked at him with a slight smile on his face. He knew Harry was trying. “G’night, Harry.”

Harry sat back on his bed and waved his hand to ward his space. He was anything but tired, so he grabbed his journal and firewhiskey and started to write.

Chapter Text

A/N: Sorry it's been a while... Real life, you know? I have about three more chapters written, but not edited yet, so you can expect another in about a week? Depending. Grad school's a b**ch and a half, but I'll do my best to stay regular! Please comment and let me know what you think so far, or if you have any suggestions / requests for specific scenarios. I'll do my best to include the ones I like! Thanks in advance! -Kay

 


 

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry's writing will be bold.

Draco's writing will be in italics.

 


 

 

CHAPTER 10 - September Excerpts

September 2. Late evening.

Hey Herc: I put a spell on the journal so this shouldn't go through until I finish… but my therapy session sucked. I don't know which group you're in (obviously) but it was just a lot for me. I don't like talking about myself. Or the war. Or what I did in the war. I just… can't, you know? Not that I think anyone enjoys it, but, well… I really hate it. I feel like… I could have done… more? Better? Differently? I guess I'll just send this. Harry didn't have to wait long for a reply. It seemed that his pen friend also felt like chatting.

Hello, Bud. I completely understand. While there are some people who seem… completely comfortable with talking about it, I prefer not to.

Oh, hello! Thank goodness that means we can just skip talking about it, then. Have you looked at the list of questions yet?

No, and I'm too lazy to stand up to get it.

Are you a wizard, or not? Can't you manage an  Accio?

Shut up.

Harry chuckled as he look at the journal. He settled into his bed and got comfortable; with a sleeping potion within arm's reach in case he felt like he could sleep.

Okay. This looks like it could suck… but they aren't all terrible. Answer numbers 7, 11, and 25. Then pick three for me?

Sure. Um. 7 - slept for a whole day? Yes. A few times, actually. Is that an accomplishment? 11 - Given a hickey?! You're just jumping right in, aren't you, Herc? Um. Yes, once, by accident. She slightly didn't want it at the time, so I felt awful about it. We just got a touch carried away, I suppose. And 25 - Yes, I have made a snow angel before. Only at Hogwarts, though.

Wait, before you pick… why would someone let you give them a hickey if they didn't want one?

Well. She was into the snogging and such… just didn't want a mark as it wasn't winter and it was hard to hide.

There are charms for that sort of thing you know…

Actually, I didn't. I'll look into that, though! Okay, your three… 6, 38, 44.

Hmm. 44. I have never sung in the shower… I'm not a very good singer. 38. Yes, I have cried myself to sleep. I may be a bloke, but I do have feelings. 6. I don't think I've ever been in love. How do you know you're in love? Does something about you fundamentally change? Or is it just a gut feeling? Do you just look at someone and you know?

Deep, Herc. I'm not really sure. I know I've never been in love. From what I understand, it is an… awareness, if you will. You suddenly are hyper-aware of this other person because they are essential to your very being. And your singing is probably fine.

Hmm. Then I would have to say no. I have never had a sensation anywhere close to that. 29, 56, 59.

Harry looked at the first question and laughed to himself. Oh boy! 29 - Yes I have fallen asleep in class. Between Trelawney and Binns, haven't we all? The second question wasn't as funny to him. But he had agreed to answer, and honestly at that. 56 - Yes, I have blacked out from drinking. 59 - Yes, I have actually failed a class. I only got a 'dreadful' on my History of Magic OWL.

Blacked out from drinking? Maybe you aren't quite as vanilla as I thought, Bud.

I'd rather not talk about it.

Oh. Sorry. Which three would you like me to answer?

Actually, I'm quite tired. I'll pick three in the morning?

Sure, no problem. I'm sorry if I overstepped…

I'm just tired, really.

Harry closed his journal and cancelled the alert charm so that he could try to sleep. He quickly downed the vial of sleeping potion, changed his clothes and lay down on his bed. He knew he had to stop drinking, but his hands shook whenever he went more than a few hours without one. The thoughts spun around his head, threatening to drown him in them. Faces swam by him… some dead… some angry… some sad. After about a half an hour, Harry gave up trying to sleep and grabbed his bottle of firewhiskey again. He started drinking as he counted the ways he had changed since last year.


 

September 5. Late evening.

Harry hadn't opened his journal since that first night. He was too nervous that he had offended his new pen friend. By Saturday evening, he couldn't spend any more time with Ron and Hermione. They were trying to give him space, but it just felt a lot like they were tiptoeing around him. He hated not knowing how to talk to them. That afternoon, he had taken a quick trip down to Hogsmeade because his firewhiskey stash was getting low. He still wasn't sleeping. The potion didn't help. The firewhiskey didn't help. The nightmares just kept getting worse. There were a few people talking in the common room earlier about not sleeping well and it sounded like it was quite a few of them, so he felt as if he could talk about it in his journal without giving anything away. Opening the journal, he saw that his pen friend had written to him in his absence.

Bud: I am not sure what went wrong in our last conversation. I know it probably sounds odd, as we just started talking this week (I think, anyway… I still don't know who you are), but I feel very connected to you. I am hoping that I didn't ruin anything. I attempted to make a joke, and I see now that it was in poor taste. I am deeply sorry for any upset I caused. Please give me another chance? Hercules

There was another entry, too.

Bud: It's Friday afternoon… I haven't heard from you. I am really hoping I haven't ruined this. Our first assignments have started off quite boring and I was rather looking forward to complaining to you… I hate to say it, but I'll have to go to McGonagall and explain everything if I don't hear from you by Monday. I'm sorry to say that I may be assigned to someone else. I need to do this assignment to graduate, but I'd most like to do it with you. Please let me know. Hercules

Harry grabbed his quill and spelled the journal to let him finish before sending the message to Hercules. He felt awful about the grief he had caused him.

Hercules, Please let me apologize. You did absolutely NOTHING wrong. You asked a question in what (I assume) was a joking manner, and I overreacted. You had no way of knowing what was happening in my head, as I didn't tell you about it. When you asked about blacking out… I've been having trouble since the war ended. I'm not really ready to talk about it in depth, but to sum it up, I am having trouble sleeping and I have tried everything short of poison to try to sort it out. Firewhiskey… seems to at least numb me enough to fake my way through the evenings. As I said, you had no way of knowing this, so please accept my apology. I was being a terrible friend. I am right there with you in that I want to do this assignment with you. I already feel as though I can tell you things… and I don't think it's just the anonymity, either. I think you're a good friend. I don't know if you're around right now, but, again, I am so sorry. -Bud

P.S. I think I rambled a bit… sorry.

BUD! You're back! Thank Merlin! I was so worried that I ruined everything! You don't need to apologize, I crossed a line. I am so sorry!

What do you say we call it even and the next time one of us screws up, we have to grovel to be forgiven?

That works for me, Bud. I missed chatting. You made that first day almost bearable. It's odd, isn't it? That we'd only really talked for a few hours just one time. And yet… I feel like I need to keep talking to you.

I know the feeling. I am sorry about my absence. I was getting up the nerve to explain myself. And I've been doing our Charms and Transfiguration work. Figured I'd start potions tomorrow.

I've started Potions and Charms, waiting on Transfiguration. I have a feeling that animagus training is going to be difficult for me for some reason.

Harry laughed a little at that. The trickiest magics always seemed to come naturally to him, while things like Potions were nearly unattainable.

I'm usually alright with more complex spells and things. It's simple things, like potions, that I struggle with usually.

Probably happens to a lot of people. Means you have a different sort of magic. Lots of purebloods read into that sort of thing. But it was your turn to pick three from the list!

Give me just a sec… I forgot which ones we've already done.

Sure! I've been checking them off as we go.

Good plan. Okay! 71, 67, 16.

I'll start with the easiest there. 16. Yes, I've been in multiple fist fights. I prefer dueling, though. 67. Yes, I have cried over someone. Saying much more would give away who I am, though. And 71. Wow. Going right for the jugular, aren't you, Bud?

You don't have to answer! You can skip it, if you prefer.

No, no, I'll answer. Have I ever had a major crush on someone I shouldn't? Currently, absolutely not. No crushing here. Well. Maybe a little. But ever? Absolutely. I had crushes on people my family wouldn't approve of, that my friends didn't approve of… you name it!

Herc! You have a crush on someone right now? Can you tell me anything? Or does the journal just shake and the words disappear?

Is that what happens if you give too much away? Let's see… obviously it's a bloke. Another 8th year. Seems to be fine so far. He's… well, it would appear I can't say ANYTHING about his physical appearance. He's not anything like I expected when we came back this year.

Well, that certainly doesn't give away who you are or who your crush is… I feel as though that could apply to almost any of the people here, blokes or not. Myself included.

Me as well. But I suppose we can't say more about that, because it's the assignment for next week's sessions. So I'll pick again: 35, 69, 74.


September 9. Early evening.

Therapy had broken up for the evening about half an hour prior and Harry was struggling. So many of his classmates had these drastic changes to their life in the past two years. They had lost siblings, parents, friends. Harry had gone through quite a bit, committed a number of crimes, but hadn't actually changed much. He lost Dumbledore and Remus. Had gained his beautiful godson. But the list ended there for him. To top it all off, Hermione kept looking at him as though he was going to start screaming any second, and she wasn't wrong.

He decided to go for his second run of the day, despite the Healer's warnings about exercising too much. He hadn't been able to cut his exercise down to just an hour a day. He also hadn't stopped drinking firewhiskey. He started to get changed and saw that his journal was bouncing in the drawer. He cancelled the spell and told himself he would read the message from Hercules later. As he laced up his trainers, he heard someone come in the room. He glance up and made eye contact with Draco.

"Going for a run?" he asked.

"Yeah. Why?"

"May I come with you?" Draco asked, setting his bag on his bed, and without looking Harry in the eye.

Harry just shrugged as he started to stretch. In a matter of minutes, Draco had gotten changed and was stretching alongside him. "Ready?"

"Yeah." The walked silently to the main doors of the castle, then outside. Harry started a light jog and then moved it into a much quicker pace. Draco kept up without difficulty. After a while, Draco asked him, "Are you sleeping?'

"Right now?" Harry asked back, confused.

"No, you idiot. At night."

Harry smiled at the way Draco spoke to him. He would never tire of the blasé insults that meant there was no hero worship going on. "Oh. Sure. I mean. Sometimes. Why?"

"I can't sleep. Healer gave me potions. They don't help," Draco said, slowing his pace a bit. Harry did too.

"Oh. Me too, actually." Harry slowed down even more, until he was walking. "Do you… Do you have, um, nightmares?"

"Articulate as ever, I see. Yeah. All the time. I see fire." Draco had his back to Harry as they stood on the edge of the lake. "Want to walk back up?"

"Yeah."

They walked back up in silence and split when they got to their rooms. Harry grabbed a pair of sweatpants and went to take a quick shower. He was eager to get back to his journal and talk to his penfriend. They had promised to chat after the therapy session. As he changed after the shower, he noticed that his sweatpants were looser than they had been before, but he just tied them tighter and moved on.


September 25. Middle of the night.

Draco heard a loud crash just outside of the portrait that guarded the eighth year dormitory. He was making a cup of tea because the nightmares were just too much tonight. He took out his wand and opened the portrait. Potter was there on the ground, staring at the doorway like he had no idea how Draco suddenly appeared. "Potter?"

"Draco! How'd you get the door open? And why are you so tall?"

"Possibly because you're on the ground, you imbecile. Here, let me help you," Draco leaned down and grabbed Potter under his arms. It should be harder to lift him off the ground than it is, he noted with a frown.

"Tha's wha I love 'bout you, you know?" Harry slurred, leaning his head on Draco's shoulder. Even though Draco had let go of him, neither backed up, and Harry started to make himself comfortable.

"What? Love me?" Draco cast a muffliato charm around the two of them and slowly started walking Harry into the common room and over to a sofa. "Potter, stop groping me."

"Yes. You treat me like you always treated me. Like I'm worthless. And you hate me. So, I love that." Harry hummed to himself as he laid down on the sofa, snuggling in. "Not groping. I'm not gay. But maybe I'm not straight? Ginny… she said I'm cold and doesn't talk to me anymore. Can I… go to sleep now?"

"Sure, Harry, go to sleep." Draco covered Harry with a blanket and watched him fall asleep. Well, that's a lot to think about, I suppose.

Chapter Text

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.



CHAPTER 11 -  October Blues

October 3. Early morning.

Harry stumbled toward his bed from the common room. As he sprawled onto his bed he contemplated the burning in his body. He couldn’t tell if it was from jogging, drinking, or the combination. His blood felt as if it was on fire. It was most exhilarating. The room was spinning. His journal was bouncing. He sat on the floor next to his bed and opened the journal. It was a struggle to focus on the words in front of him, but he kept trying until he could read them.

I haven’t heard from you in a few days. It’s Friday night right now. I think everyone but me is asleep, so you probably won’t read this until tomorrow. The party’s only just broken up. I’ve been having a hard time. I feel very alone. I’m not quite sure where to go from here. I need this year if I want to… well, do anything, really. But I’m not actually sure I want to stay. You around, Bud?

Harry saw the words swimming in front of him. He had been drinking last night at a small 8th year gathering. Most of the Gryffindors were pissed by the end of the night. He kept himself together until he left the group. He ended up wandering around outside for most of the night, and then drinking in the early morning before his run.

He started to write with a shaky hand, Hello, Herc. Sorry I missed you… I’ve had a rough night. Not been well myself. I wish I could take a rest. From… everything, I suppose. I just. I’m pissed. I shouldn’t be writing this maybe. Good night. Or morning. Whatever.

Are you still there?

Maybe. I can’t. I mean… breathing is difficult.

Are you okay?

I can feel… the firewhiskey. In my… in my blood or something. Gonna go to sleep now to make the room stop spinning. Don’t tell. You’re the only one I can trust.

Harry promptly threw up next to his bed, then climbed in it and fell asleep.

Bud? Are you there?

You’re not answering. I’m very concerned.

Bud?

Hello?


 

October 3. Late afternoon.

“Where is everyone” Draco asked Blaise as they sat down in the common room with a chess game and a pot of tea. “I would have thought everyone would be working on our homework.”

“You didn’t hear? Half of 8th year is in hospital. Most are just severely dehydrated from all the drinking that went on last night, but Harry’s in a bad way.”

“From what? What happened to Potter?” Draco tried not to let his concern show too much, but it was hard. His heart was racing.

“From what I understand, something internal? Or with his magic or something. Not sure. Hermione and Weasley haven’t left his side. It’s them I’d ask.” Blaise started to set up the chess game, not really noticing that Draco wasn’t paying any attention at all. “Ready to play?”

“Yeah. Sure,” Draco nodded. “You first.” They played chess for nearly an hour before anyone came into the common room. Blaise noticed that Draco was not playing the way he normally did. He was losing terribly. As Hermione and Ron walked into the room, Draco immediately stood. “How’s Potter? What happened to him?”

Ron and Hermione exchanged a look, but neither said anything.

“Please. We’ve… we go running sometimes.”

Hermione started to explain, clearly frustrated, “He… They had to call a Healer in and well, he won’t allow the Healer to tell us what happened exactly. All we know is that the Healer gave him some advice at the start of term, and Harry didn’t follow it. Bloody idiot!”

“‘Mione!” Ron exclaimed loudly. “Let’s all just sit down. Tea, love?”

“No, thank you.” They all sat down again as Blaise banished their chess game back to the box.

“So it wasn’t dehydration like the others?” Blaise asked them.

“Well, I’m sure that was a factor. I could smell the firewhiskey on him a mile away.”

Ron continued, “He was also in his exercise clothes. Maybe it was the combination of drinking and running? Mione’s convinced he’s been drinking too much. Even accused him of having a problem! He right turned her down.” They all sat silently for a few minutes. “Has he said anything on your runs?”

Draco cleared his throat and stared at his feet. “He did mention that he was having trouble sleeping. The Healer gave him sleeping potions… he said they weren’t helping. Then he asked me if I have nightmares, which makes me think that he’s having nightmares. But that’s all he’s ever mentioned,” he exhaled and leaned back into the couch. “He seems fit as anything when we’re running. I struggle to keep up with him most days.”

Hermione stared at him. Ron just looked confused.

“I have to go,” Draco said quickly and left the common room.

 


 

October 3. Late evening.

Harry was asleep. It looked magical to Draco, definitely not a natural sleep. Draco quietly dropped into the chair next to his bed and pulled his journal out of his bag. “You don’t mind if I write to my pen friend in here, do you? It’s quiet.” Leaning back in the chair and crossing one leg over the other knee, he rested the journal on his leg to write.

Hey, Bud. Today’s been quite the roller coaster. I found out that nearly half the 8th year ended up in the infirmary! (I’m fairly sure you’re one of them, based on your last few messages.) But regardless of all that… You seemed stressed when you last wrote. I know you were drunk, but you were also being honest, I think. I’m very concerned for you. I hope that you realize (and I mean this no matter who you are in 8th year) your classmates are here to support you and care about you. Myself included. I can honestly say that I would be upset if I found out that any of my classmates felt that they wanted to “take a rest” from “everything.” That’s a very sad thing. I challenge you! Come up with 3 reasons you shouldn’t take a break from everything. I hope you write back soon. Our chats are spreading longer and longer apart.

Draco put his journal back in his bag and put both feet on the floor. He leaned forward to put his head in his hands. Taking a deep breath, he looked round Harry’s bed and bedside table. He saw his glasses lying there, along with his wand. Two things he had rarely ever seen Harry without. Harry looked… not peaceful exactly, but more relaxed than he had seen him in years. It made him look younger. Draco also noted that he was looking paler and thinner than he had ever seen him before. “Daft Potter. What on earth have you done to land yourself in here?”

Harry breathed evenly.

“Something downright stupid, I’ll bet. Whatever that Healer’s told you, you probably went and did the opposite. Sodding imbecile.”

Harry sighed in his sleep.

“I don’t hate you, for the record. You said that a week or so ago. When you stumbled in pissed. Not sure if you even remember that conversation. But I don’t. You said I treat you like you’re worthless, which I don’t think you are. But you seemed to enjoy that? I don’t even know why I’m talking to you. Even if you were awake, it’s not as though you care. Sleep well, Potter.” Draco got up to leave. He hovered in the doorway, feeling as though he’d forgotten something. Eventually, he headed back to the dormitory and had a fitful night’s sleep.


 

October 5. After dinner.

Harry sat down beside his bed, back against the wall. He was still feeling very weak after his bout in hospital. Turns out the Healer was as idiotic as Harry originally thought. The combination of so much exercise and firewhiskey in such a short amount of time had made his stomach start to disintegrate. If Ron hadn’t come in to walk with Harry to breakfast, who knows how much worse it could have gotten. He had only been lying on the ground in a pool of his own sick for about half an hour at the time. He pulled his journal out and saw that Hercules had written while he was convalescing in hospital. He reread their previous conversation, as well. The one from that morning. He was appalled at what he had written; how he had conducted himself. He also read Herc’s challenge to him. He hadn’t meant suicide when he was writing, had he? Harry didn’t know if he had or not. He didn’t want to admit that he may have. Not that he had ever really thought about how to even go about that.

Contemplating the challenge… he started thinking about his life in depth. Really examining it and trying to be as honest with himself as he could. He knew, realistically, that Ron and Hermione would be utterly distraught if he killed himself. Harry also knew that the entire wizarding world would mourn him. That felt more like an insult than a reason to stay alive. He knew he hadn’t done enough with his life yet. That could be considered a reason. He started writing down the reasons he thought of, but stopped when he got to the third.

Well, Herc. Three seasons to stay alive? Not that I’m agreeing that suicide was my thought process there. One reason would be that my best friends would be rather upset if I died, no matter the circumstances. I don’t doubt that for a mo’. Secondly, I feel as though I haven’t done enough with my life yet. Some people say that what I did in the war, fighting as a teenager - that it could be considered ‘enough.’ But I don’t know that I agree. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I know it’s more than I’ve done. I know you asked for three, but I’m afraid I’ve run out after those two. I could come up with a few more, but it would seem that they’re purely selfish. Not sure what to do with that.

I also wanted to apologize… for the position I put you in the other morning. I shouldn’t have drunk as much as I did, and I absolutely shouldn’t have put you into the role of being my secret keeper without prior discussion. I assure you I won’t do it again!

But, bugger that, how was your weekend? Hopefully those of us who got reprimanded didn’t impinge on your fun? I’m headed to bed. Early night for me, hopefully. Night!

Harry closed his journal and climbed into his bed. He still had a bit of the stronger sleeping potion form hospital that he was to take before sleeping. He was wondering if he ought to listen to what the Healer said. He was told that one more mistake like that, and he’d end up in a coma, and that was if he was lucky even to live through it. The next morning he would write a letter to the healer and ask for help. He needed an alternative to exercise, and when he’d asked the Mind Healer, she said there was nothing wrong with exercising. He quickly took his potion, wishing it was safe enough to take every day. He fell asleep swiftly.


 

October 9 - Mid morning.

Herc, you around?

Abslolutely, Bud! I was just doing my animagus training. Meditation this week… bloody useless.

That’s exactly why I’m writing! I’d never say it during class, but I can’t seem to get the hang of this meditation nonsense. How exactly is one supposed to find their ‘inner familiar’?

Well. You know when you watch Mcgonagall transform? I sit quietly, with my eyes closed, and imagine myself transforming, and try to picture what animal that would be. Haven’t had much luck yet, but I can feel my magic responding to it.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just tried to transform…

That’s incredibly dangerous! Please don’t try that.

What could happen?

You could get stuck as an animal, or stuck halfway between, or any number of things!

Calm down, I won’t try it. Coward.

You’re bloody crazy if you do. It’s a deathwish, that’s for sure.

 


 

Later that day, Harry decided to go see Professor McGonagall about his difficulty with Animagi training. He was sat across from her desk with a teacup in front of him. “Professor… When you were in school, which came easier to you: the practical or theoretical side of magic?”

“Mr. Potter-,”

“Please, call me Harry.”

“Harry. Dear Harry. What worked for me will most likely not work for you. I know why you are here, and I know what it is that you seek from me.” She set her teacup down and walked around the desk. “You’ve been having trouble meditating, correct?” At his nod, she continued. “Please stand up, Harry. I want you to close your eyes and tell me the full incantation for the first transformation. While you say it, imagine transforming yourself.”

Harry stood, closed his eyes, and said, “ Invenire me animalis converto!

The next thing he knew, he was looking up and professor McGonagall and everything around him had a yellowish hue. “Well done, Mr. Potter. Walk around for a few minutes and get the feel for it. Then, think of the incantation to change back.”

Harry tried to step forward and found that his legs moved differently than he was used to. He glanced down and saw a golden paw covered in fur. After a few tries, walking came much easier. It felt as though he was gliding. He caught glimpse of movement in a mirror in the corner of the office. He strolled over to it and it took a moment to process that he was looking at his own reflection. A magnificent lion stood in front of him. A beautiful gold-orange mane and a lean body. Too lean, by the looks of things. He turned back around and thought the the second incantation.

“Let’s have a chat, Mr. Potter. About your magic.”

“I shouldn’t have been able to do that, should I? The initial transformation or changing back?” Harry rubbed his hands over his face.

“No, Mr. Potter. I’m sure you’ve noticed that your magical power is higher than most of your classmates? This is one of those times where it is going to make a difference. You simply don’t need the theoretical side of some bits of magic. Your magic is what some call instinctual.” She leaned back in her chair and sighed. “I fear that this year of schooling may be simply… unnecessary for you in some ways. You have officially passed transfiguration for the year. And I imagine you could pass Charms and Defense today, if you took the exams, without trying. There are only practical exams for NEWT levels, no theory.”

“But… Minerva… How is this? I mean, what caused this? Is there a way to appear normal in front of other people?” Harry felt his breathing speed up. “I can’t-”

“Harry! Don’t work yourself into a tizzy, dear.” McGonagall walked round her desk and grasped his shoulders. “You have power. Don’t fight it, but maybe talk to your friends about it. It will get easier.”

Harry had no idea what he would say in his journal when Herc asked how his meditating was going. He didn’t want to lie to him, but he surely couldn’t tell the truth, either.

Chapter Text

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.


 

A/N: It’s been a while… Also, I apologize about Harry’s super cliche - animagus. I had no other ideas and this animal choice will work well for what I have in mind for later on!

 


 

CHAPTER 12 -  Getting to Know Each Other Better

October 21. After group mind healing.

 

During group therapy that evening, Stacey had given them a special anonymous assignments. She had seemed to realize that they were much more likely to share things when they thought that everyone wouldn’t know it was them who said it. She asked each of the group members write down three things they did now, that they didn’t do before the war. Harry was surprised by some of the answers. They ranged from the mundane to the horrifying. One paper read “exercise, read, sleep soundly” while another read “hex myself, stay awake for days on end, care about what he thinks.” On Harry’s own paper, he wrote “own a house, eat 3 meals a day - every day, turn into an animal regularly.” Stacey had read each slip aloud and everyone had the opportunity to chat about them. Every time at least one person chimed in with a suggestion or a “me too!” Until Harry’s. No one spoke. A few jaws dropped. Stacey simply moved on to the next paper.

Harry knew his power levels made him stand out. He purposely didn’t practice magic with the others around, if he could help it. He did a lot of things the muggle way, and blamed it on the Dursley’s. Ron and Hermione didn’t even know that he had found his animagus form. Although, he suspected that they figured it out during that meeting… Hermione had noticed his rising power levels. Even Ron was starting to catch on. Harry was slightly concerned that the power seemed to be ever-increasing. Perhaps I should speak with Minerva again about it.

He quickly moved to sit on the floor next to his bed, without leaning on anything. His Healer had come to see him after his letter said that he didn’t know how to help himself. He was given a stronger sleeping potion than the first, and it seemed to be helping. He had also learned a new meditation technique that helped with the constant urge to exercise. He began to meditate, but after several minutes found that he was unsuccessful. He pulled out his journal, his Healer’s suggested back-up when meditation failed.

Hercules: I’ve been trying a new meditation technique. Sometimes, it works brill, and others, it’s simply abysmal. Three guesses which of those tonight is. Any chance you’re in the mood to chat?

I’d love to. Therapy was… well, I don’t really know what it was tonight. I’m told both groups did the same activities. I also know (from a classmate whom I know is in the opposite session from me) that almost all of the things written on slips of paper were the same or extraordinarily similar. Which was your favorite?

I liked the one person who wrote that they wank now and never used to. That gave me a chuckle. How did you make it to 17 and not wank regularly? And since the book didn’t shake and that went through, I shall assume that either we are in the same session, or that happened in both, so that I’m not giving myself away. Yours?

I rather enjoyed the person who simply wrote “sleep, eat, breathe.” It's simplistic and yet I can relate. So many simple things seem easier now. But some were rather… startling. More people than I would have thought doing things that are dangerous or reckless.

I know what you mean. Someone wrote that they hex themselves. That broke my heart a bit. I would hope that everyone would feel as though they could talk to their classmates about things like that so it wouldn’t be necessary.

Why, Bud, are you offering a shoulder to cry on? Why didn’t you say?

You berk. You know what I meant.

I was quite shocked that someone has already managed their animagus transformation. And already has it down pat, by the sound of things!

Yes, that was quite the shock. I haven’t spoken to many people about the training, but I take it that most 8th years are still working on it?

Not just working on it, from what I’ve heard! Most people haven’t even meditated enough to know what their forms will be! I haven’t made any progress at all… perhaps I should speak to McGonagall. Have you discovered your form?

I have a pretty good idea, but I can’t say more or the book shakes.

Hmm. That’s interesting. Any idea why your meditation wasn’t working this evening?

A lot on my mind, I think. The reactions when my slip was read aloud made me uneasy and feel as though it wasn’t an acceptable thing to say.

And again, I doubt you’ll be able to say more than that. Let’s switch the topic then! You said once that you didn’t have many opportunities to laugh growing up. Why was that?

I grew up close to muggles. Muggles who knew about and hated magic with everything in them. They made things… hard for me. There was a local bully as well, and he made my life unbearably difficult. It wasn’t until I got to Hogwarts that I knew what it was like to truly have fun.

But surely magic helped? The accidental bursts had to bring you some joy.

They did and they didn’t. That bully? He feared them, so that just made it all the worse. What about you? What was your childhood like?

Well. I’m really not sure what I can say without the journal shaking. But it was… generally happy. I didn’t have many friends, but I did have one especially close one. There was… once an issue of me having a crush on him. That didn’t bode well.

Did he not have a crush on you back?

Well. He likes girls, and very much doesn't fancy other boys, so no, not at all. He tried to let me down gently, but ended up accidentally insulting me instead. But we’ve long since patched, and now all’s well between us. It’s all a big joke these days, you understand. Can I ask you something about muggles?

First, I’m glad you and your friend managed to patch things up! And sure, but I’m no expert.

In our meeting about the new muggle studies curriculum the other day, someone mentioned that being gay was against the law for muggles! That isn’t true is it?

Well. Not anymore. It was, for a long time. Punishable with jail time even. They considered it so immoral and unnecessary (because it doesn’t lead to babies) that they simply punished people for it. But it’s been legal in Britain since the early 1980s as far as I know. Though ‘legal’ doesn’t quite translate to ‘accepted,’ as we discussed before.

No, of course not. I just can’t believe that a government would try to police what happens in someone’s private, sexual life! It’s absurd to me.

I completely agree. Well, it’s been awhile that we’ve been chatting and I think I should try to get some shuteye. I’ve a new potion that’s meant to help me sleep. Ta for now?

Sure. Sleep well! Write again when you have a chance. Otherwise I’ll write when I have something of note to say!

Night, Herc. Thanks for being a friend.

Not a problem, Bud! Goodnight!

 

 


 

October 23. Late evening.

So I have a question that crosses some boundaries… we've not truly discussed it before, though. So if I am offending, please just say so and I will retract.

Really? This sounds bold..

Oh dear. I was actually hoping you would already be asleep or something. That makes it much harder to write.

Well, bolster your courage, my friend! I'm actually fairly hard to offend.

I don’t know if I can say it now. I’m blushing something fierce.

You blush? I don’t remember the last time that happened to me…

Don’t be rude. Now I don’t want to ask.

I’ve definitely said worse things to you before… I don’t believe that you are offended… just that you’re avoiding asking the question you want to ask.

I think I’ll write it and then run away from my journal… check again tomorrow.

Go for it, chicken.

Hey!

If the shoe fits…

Okay… Are you a virgin?

You thought that would offend me??? Not hardly. But before I answer… why do you want to know?

Honestly I’m just curious. I feel like I’m getting to know a lot about you, Bud, but I still have this desire to know even more.

I appreciate the honesty (and feel the same way). Yes, I am a virgin. Are you?

No. So you’ve never had a girlfriend you wanted to sleep with?

First, you’ll have to give me pointers. Hmm. Let’s see how much the book lets me write about that… I’ve had just one girlfriend. Things didn’t end that well.  Harry then tried to say that she was related to one of his friends, but the book shook and it disappeared. Hmm. The journal won’t let me write what I wanted. Let’s just say, sexual stuff wasn’t our top priority during a war.

First, I can’t give you any pointers on having sex with girls. Idiot. But I completely understand the rest. For me, it was a way to sort of escape the war, just for a little while.

That makes sense. Did that sate your curiosity?

Not by half! I only have about a million more questions. But it’s your turn.

Ah, the trading game. Okay. Do you still talk to the guy(s) you’ve had sex with?

Guys. And yes, two out of the three. The one was a fling sort of thing one summer… never meant to last. The other two were trusted (sort of) friends and we’ve stayed in touch. It was mutually beneficial, not romantic, really.

Oh, okay. Your turn again.

Okay, give me one small victory from today.

You’re so philosophical. Hmm. Huh. It won’t let me write what I wanted… so I improved my meditation skills! Not by much, but some.

That’s excellent! I still haven’t managed to transform or anything yet, but my meditation is getting better. I don’t hex myself as much.

Harry stared at the page. He didn’t know if Hercules meant to say that or not. But hexing himself? That was really serious. And dangerous. He wasn’t sure what to say to that.

Oh bloody hell. I didn’t mean to say that… Please just don’t say anything to anyone. Please.

Bud?

It took Harry nearly thirty minutes to formulate what to even say back to Hercules. He felt bad that he had let him sit there with no response, but Harry had to be sure of what he would write before he began. He picked up his quill and carefully chose his words.

Hercules, I am so grateful that you feel comfortable enough to share something like this with me. I won’t lie and say that I am not surprised or worried about you, though. I am hoping that we can come up with some kind of solution to your problem together. If there’s anything you need to talk about or confide in me, please understand that there is zero judgement about it. Please write back soon. - Bud.

 


 

October 24. Just after midnight.

Draco had dropped his journal after waiting twenty minutes for a response. He could not believe he had written that! He didn’t know what to do. He grabbed his wand and headed to the Room of Requirement. It didn’t work nearly as well as before the fire, but it did work. He sat down in the middle of an empty room and tried to meditate. When that failed he picked up his wand.

Crucio!

Diffindo!

He could feel the blood running down his side. He was gasping from the pain, but his head wasn’t clearing, so he kept going.

CRUCIO!

His body shook as it hit the ground, knocking what breath he had left out of him.

Incarcerous, he whispered. The ropes slid around his hands and feet and bound him to the ground. His head was clear. He could analyze what went wrong with his pen pal. He would have to lie. He would go back and tell Bud that he was making a joke and that it wasn’t true. As Draco lost consciousness, he thought What if he tells McGonagall?

Chapter Text

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.

 

Greetings, readers! I hope you’re enjoying it so far..  I couldn’t remember everyone’s blood status and didn’t have internet to double check, so bear with me if I made any errors! I’m actually fairly certain that I swapped a few. Just go with it.


 

 

CHAPTER 13 -

October 24. Very early morning.

Harry was pacing around his room, not really sure what to do. He hadn’t had a response form Hercules and he wasn’t sure if it was because he was embarrassed or he did something stupid. At this point, he was contemplating telling McGonagall, but also telling her that he wasn’t bothered by it and didn’t want a new pen pal. But that would be betraying his new friend.

“Ugh!” Harry shouted and threw a book at the wall.

“Har?” Ron said, tapping on the door. “You okay, mate?”

“Yeah, Ron, come on in.” Harry sat down on his bed and put his head in his hands.

“What’s up?” Ron sat down next to him.

“I can’t tell you?”

“Question or a statement?”

“You’re a wanker, you know. I shouldn’t say anything, because it’s about my pen pal. But I feel like I should say something. But I don’t know who to say it to!” Harry was getting more frustrated by the minute.

“Is it something serious, or like… feelings and stuff?”

“Serious. Very serious.”

“Is your pen pal just not responding to you?”

“Not yet, no.”

“Give them twenty-four hours from when you started to feel concerned, then if they haven’t answered, tell. That’s what I would do.” Harry stared at Ron with his mouth open. “What?”

“How are you so logical sometimes and such a berk the rest of the time?” Harry asked, smiling and shaking his head.

“Oi!” Ron smacked him. “Let’s go get breakfast, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

As Harry walked with Ron toward the common area, he silently decided to do exactly as Ron said. He would wait until about midnight and if Herc still hadn’t answered him, he would go to McGonagall with his concerns. After breakfast, he wrote exactly that in the journal, to try and give Hercules a warning that he was nervous about his safety.

 


 

 

October 24. After dinner.

Herc. You have about 2 hours to answer me or I have to tell someone. I am very concerned for you…

Please understand that there is no judgement, just concern!

Harry waited for almost an hour for Herc to answer him. He was pacing back and forth in his room when his journal signaled that he had a new message. He quickly grabbed his quill and opened it.

Bud, thank you for your concern. I spoke in error yesterday. I am not hurting myself. It was a bad attempt at a joke that I overreacted to in fear that you would take it seriously. My sincerest apologies.

Well, whether that’s true or not, I am glad you finally answered me. Where’ve you been all day?

Out and about. With a friend for most of it.

Oh, okay. What are your plans for the rest of the weekend?

Working on homework mostly.

Harry could tell that Herc wasn’t in the mood to talk. He thought it had to do with what was said the night before. He attempted to clear the air: Great idea. We’ve been given loads to do. What are you currently working on?

Potions

I’m gonna go to bed. You don’t seem like you want to talk very much. I’ll leave you to your thoughts, then.

Goodnight.

 


 


October 25. After breakfast.

The next morning the group met to discuss Hermione’s project on muggle borns, pure-bloods and everything in between. First, they split into groups based on blood status and upbringing to come up with questions each group had about the other. Harry was put with the muggle-borns, Dean, Justin and Michael, as that was how he was raised. They were working on their questions without Hermione, as she had already researched most of hers. She was simply acting as proctor for the activity. While the groups were working, Harry tried to continuously look around to see if he could tell who his pen pal was. Looking for signs of self-harm, when one didn’t even know how to do so with magic was nearly bloody impossible.

“I guess my biggest question used to be about homosexuality and how it is viewed in wizarding culture, but Hermione answered that before we came back to school,” Harry said to the group.

“That’s a great question, Harry!” Michael said. “I’d actually like to know that myself.”

“Well, we’ll write it down then, even though some of us already know,” Justin said as he added it to their list. “Anyone have any others?”

“I want to know about different opportunities they have in terms of jobs and marriage. Do their parents choose those things, or do they?” Michael asked.

“Do they even work? Most of the ones we know just sit on their piles of money.”

“Hey! The Weasleys and Longbottoms don’t!” Harry said, slightly annoyed. This wasn’t supposed to be a session bashing pure-bloods for being pure-bloods. “But I would like to know which fields they deem worthy, and which they don’t. It seems as though anything as lowly as business ownership or working for someone else would be unacceptable to some of the families.”

“Yes, that does seem true for some,” Dean said quietly. Harry noticed that he didn’t say much anymore. He used to be chatty before the war, but he had lost that part of himself. For the rest of the session, he didn’t say a single word. After about an hour, the groups mixed up and split up again to discuss their questions. Harry ended up in a group with Draco, Lavender, Neville, and Padma.

First they went through the topic of homosexuality in each culture. Harry shared what he knew about the muggle view of it, and Draco seemed absolutely baffled by it. It took quite a while to explain. Harry was pleasantly surprised by how civil and open-minded everyone was being. He didn’t expect as much from Draco, at all. However, when they got to the question about jobs that pure-bloods can have, Draco and Neville had vastly differing opinions.

“My family history shows that as long as a pure-blood was making money in the wizarding world, almost no work was looked down upon. The honor was in providing for your family. Yes, it was true that the more money, the better, but that didn’t always dictate the profession!” Neville shouted at him.

“Longbottom, you are part of one of the oldest wizarding families to ever exist. Maybe the history that you’ve studied shows that, but we have books in our Malfoy library that would prove that to be incorrect. There was a time when Longbottoms would have scoffed at any work other than in the ministry,” Draco said calmly but with conviction.

“So maybe that question needs a bit more research before we can have a definite answer?” Harry tried to mediate. “It sounds as though over time, the answer to that one has changed quite a bit.”

“Exactly, Harry! I would offer to get the books, but I am not allowed to leave the castle without an escort. We could ask McGonagall for a trip to the Manor’s library, if you wish?”

“I think it sounds excellent, I’ll speak to her with you!”

The conversation went on for some time. After about an hour, they decided to break for lunch and continue the conversation the following week. Harry ate lunch with Ron and Hermione and debated asking them for help with his pen pal situation. He finally gathered up his courage and asked Hermione about self-harming with the use of magic.

“Hermione… what do you know about using offensive magic against oneself?” he asked quietly, so as not to be overheard.

She gave him a lethal stare and smacked him on the arm as she shouted, “Harry Potter! You have already nearly killed yourself drinking! What is the matter with you?!”

“Jeez! Hermione! Stop!” Harry wriggled out of her reach and stared back at her. “I’m not suicidal, you lunatic! I’m asking because it’s something my pen friend mentioned, and I wasn’t sure if I should be concerned or not. I was hoping you could enlighten me.”

“Oh. Well.” She glanced around them to make sure she hadn’t drawn too much attention to themselves in the common room. “It can be a really big problem. People have died from it, because a lot of time they are alone, cast silencing charms, and then are incapable of healing themselves. Is your pen friend doing it? And they told you?!”

“Well, they did so indirectly. I don’t think they meant to. Just got a little too comfortable with the conversation and seemed to let something slip, you know?” Harry felt like he was betraying a trust with this conversation. Even though he started it, he couldn’t wait for it to be over.

“Mate, it sounds like you should tell McGonagall or something. This sounds dangerous,” Ron said as he stared at his plate, clearly uncomfortable with the topic of conversation.

“I would have to agree,” Hermione said with a nod. “This isn’t okay at all.”

“Right. I’ll think about it. Thanks you two. How did your sessions go today?” he desperately tried to changed the course of their chat. Thankfully, it worked.

 


 


October 26. Early morning.

Harry had fallen asleep relatively early. Meditating and running around like a lion will do that to you. He was still feeling fairly rundown, and every day he wanted to drink more and more. He had been able to resist the temptations so far, but the situation was becoming quite precarious. He was startled out of his sleep, reached for his wand and sat bolt upright. It took him a few minutes to figure out what did it.

He could hear someone… grunting.

Someone’s really getting their jollies right now! And they didn’t even bother to throw up a silencing charm! He quickly threw one up so that he didn’t need to listen and attempted to go back to sleep. He fell into a strange sort of slumber, where he wasn’t really awake but wasn’t sound asleep either. He had a lot of strange dreams. He was kissing a man in one of them, and a woman in the next. He just kept hearing everyone he knew say things like “Are you gay?” and “The Boy who Lived to be Queer.” He woke up even more confused.

Grabbing his journal, he slid onto the floor and began to write about his day and the weird dreams. He also briefly mentioned that he was concerned about Herc because they hadn’t really talked in a few days. Before he knew it, he had filled nearly 3 pages of the journal. Harry closed it, then snuck outside for a run before breakfast. Halfway through, he decided to run as a lion instead. It felt more freeing that way.

When he got back to his dorm, he could hear people starting to wake up and head out for breakfast. He thought about it, but noticed that his journal was glowing and bouncing something fierce.

I was glad to see a message from you this morning, but sad to see that it was so conflicted. The dreams seem odd to me. Have you ever thought you might be anything other than straight as a wand? Have you ever even considered it?

That’s a strange question for me, Herc. I don’t think I have ever thought about it. How did you know?

Oh, you’re there! Hello. I never even looked at a girl in a sexual or romantic way. So for me, it was fairly instinctual. But given what you told me about how the people around you viewed homosexuality as you were growing up, I’m not surprised that you never thought about it.

Huh. I guess.. I just always pictured myself with a girl. End of story.

Well, what if you try to picture something else? Can you picture yourself with a bloke? Is it hard to imagine, or does it make you uncomfortable, or does it make you queasy?

Well. I supposed that’s hard to do without a bloke in mind. Like, I couldn’t picture my best friend or anything.

Of course not. Pick someone who you don’t know that well. It makes it easier.

I will attempt to do so and get back to you on that. How have you been the past day or so?

Fine, just busy.

Harry could tell that Herc was ready for the conversation to be over, so he decided to end it before he offended his new friend again. Well, I’ll let you get back to whatever it is that’s been keeping you so busy, then. Enjoy your day!

Sounds like a plan. You too!

Harry had a lot to consider throughout the rest of his day. He tried hard to take it seriously and really consider it. But every time he tried, he just heard his Uncle Vernon shouting at him about how unnatural and unsafe it was. Dirty, even. There was no way he was gay.

Chapter Text

Assignments will be underlined.
Harry’s writing will be bold.
Draco’s writing will be in italics.
Hello, all. Long time, no writing. But it’s officially summer in my world; which means more free time for writing.

 

CHAPTER 14 -
November 4. Group Therapy.

Harry was comfortably settled into the corner of a sofa, waiting for the group therapy to start. He had found that he had grown rather bored of the sessions. They had started out somewhat interestingly, but lately, he felt that nothing of use was coming out of them. Moreover, he did not like the therapist. She treated some of the 8th years much better than others. Sometimes, she was downright dismissive when someone shared a problem. Harry truly felt that if he had a major crisis, Stacey would be there to help, but through his observations, he couldn’t say the same for Draco or Parkinson. Draco was currently sitting cross-legged on the floor near Blaise’s chair. He was intently staring and the carpet and not speaking. Harry had been running with him multiple times over the past few weeks and was pleasantly surprised at how well they were getting on. They didn’t talk much, but they didn’t argue, either. Tonight, Draco looked… ill. Harry got up and went to sit next to him on the floor.

“You alright?” he asked, not looking at him.

“What?” Draco looked at Harry as though he had asked him to solve an algebra equation.

“You don’t look well. I asked if you were alright,” Harry said slowly.

“Oh. ‘M fine.” Draco didn’t elaborate, and his posture suggested that he was grossly uncomfortable. Harry got up and went back to his seat before the session. As people slowly trickled in, he noticed that no one spoke to Draco. This wasn’t the first time he made this observation. Harry retreated into his own brain and practiced his meditation. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he panicked. His magic shot out of him before he could control it. Opening his eyes, he saw Ron nursing his arm against his chest.

“Mate, what the hell you playing at?” Ron snapped, indignantly.

“Ron! I’m so sorry! You startled me! Let me see,” Harry reached for his hand. His hand was a nasty shade of red, and slightly swollen. It looked like his magic had burned him. Glad that Ron allowed him to take a look, Harry glanced around the room. They were alone. “Where is everyone?”

“Therapy’s over, mate. You were zoned out the whole time. You alright?”

“Yeah, fine. Can I heal this? Do you mind?”

“Please do, it hurts like hell,” Ron grimaced.

Harry sent his magic toward the burn and watched as it glowed a pale blue, then Ron’s hand returned to it’s normal color and size. “Better?”

“Loads. So what was up with you tonight?” he asked and gestured toward the chessboard. Harry sat opposite him and started to set up the game.

Taking a deep breath he answered, “Just thinking a lot. I don’t like the therapist much.” Harry confided in Ron his observations about the blatant favoritism and the ways that he saw it as an issue. Ron disagreed and said that he didn’t see anything of the kind and that Harry was just being overly sensitive. The boys didn’t talk much for the rest of the game, and when they parted ways, Harry felt a little let down by his best friend.

Sitting in his room, he reached for his journal and his firewhiskey, which was running low. He had been hiding it fairly well, but he was still drinking quite a bit in order to get any sleep. The sleeping potions had stopped helping after a few weeks. Herc hadn’t written anything in a while, so Harry started to write.

Herc! Haven’t talked in a while. How’s your evening?

Hello there. My evening hasn’t been the best, Bud. I hate the therapy sessions.

I understand that. I hate the therapist for my group.

Hm. I hate mine as well. How wonderful it would be if it was a mutual hatred.. But I doubt it. Everyone in my group seems to like the therapist quite a bit. Hm. I tried to elaborate and the journal wouldn’t let me. Perhaps we ARE in the same group.

It’s possible. Probably a 50/50 chance. Who fucking knows.

That’s a bit harsher than you normally are… Are you quite alright?

You’re always so formal. Do you say ‘fuck’ ever?

Of course, when the situation warrants it. I usually have to school my reactions so as not to startle those around me. At least… lately.

Hmm. I know the feeling. I’ve had to hide a reasonable number of my own reactions (or even just my actions) lately in order to not stand out.

You don’t like to be noticed?

Not in the slightest. I hate it. I would rather blend in with the tapestries, if you know what I mean.

I’ve never felt that way myself, but I understand how you could. I’ve always felt rather… invisible. As though no one would notice if I wasn’t there for something. Always a little left out of things. A little to the side of what your “ordinary wizard” should be thinking or doing. Never quite on par.

Harry reread the response twice before responding. He was so grateful that he and Hercules were having a normal conversation again, and that Herc still felt comfortable enough to confide in him. Herc, I’m sorry that you’ve felt that way. It sounds rather miserable, to be honest. I obviously don’t know who you are, but speaking just from our chats in these journals, I would be distraught if something were to happen to you, or you weren’t around anymore. And I would abso-bloody-lutely notice if you weren’t around anymore.

That's very kind of you, Bud. It’s mutual.

It’s not at all the same thing… but I know a bit about not fitting in or being the “norm” for a group of people. Remember how I told you that someone close to me hated magic? Well, it resulted in insults and constant berating as I was growing up. I couldn’t do anything right in his eyes.

So he just constantly insulted you? That’s awful.

Insulted me, stole my breakfast, locked me in my — Harry had tried to write cupboard, but the journal shook and the word disappeared. He continued, room for days on end. Anything to make me miserable, I suppose.

Bud. I am so sorry that happened to you. That is absolutely awful. Is this person still in your life when you aren’t at Hogwarts?

Not anymore. I moved over the summer. But he’s certainly in my head, a lot.

—-

I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.

I had to use the bathroom, my apologies. You’re too self-conscious about what you write. How have you been lately?

Other than therapy tonight, bloody fantastic.. it only took half a bottle of firewhiskey to fall asleep last night.

Have you asked for sleeping potions? They have some good ones now.

They don’t do a thing for me, Herc. Firewhiskey is the only thing that helps.

That can damage your magic, though. You ought to be careful. Meditation doesn’t help either?

No. Then I just shift into a great bloody animal. Damn. Tried to tell you which animal, but the journal didn’t like that.

You’ve managed a full shift already? That’s amazing. Congratulations!

Damn. I’m saying too much. I should stop writing now, before the firewhiskey tries to get me to tell you about how I fantasized about a guy because you suggested it. Good night!

You’re still going to tell me that story, you know.

 


 

November 5. Early morning.

 

“What can I do for you, Mr. Malfoy? Is everything alright? You look a bit distressed…” Professor McGonagall was sitting opposite Draco across from her desk. He had burst into her office in a great bustle of breath and speaking, and then lost his nerve; falling silent. She poured them each a cup of tea while waiting for Draco to regain his courage.

“I’m concerned, ma’am,” he whispered, wringing his hands.

“For whom?”

“My pen pal,” he saw her eyebrows shoot up on her face. “I’m not asking who it is and I definitely don’t want you to change things! Please don’t think that. I just think that my pen pal, whoever he is, has a drinking problem. He’s talked about having to drink firewhiskey in order to fall asleep on more than one occasion. Only, I don’t know if it’s really a problem, or just sounds like it. And I don’t want him to think I betrayed him! And I —,”

“Mr. Malfoy!” she interrupted him. “Do calm down, dear. It’s going to be quite alright. I know who your pen pal is. And I have already been told about the potential drinking problem. We are working on ways to solve it right now. But I am very grateful that you brought this to my attention.” She picked up her teacup and took a long sip. Peering at him over her spectacles, she said to him, “I think it says a lot about how much you’ve grown as a man in the past few years.”

“Thank you, ma’am. However, I didn’t do this for recognition of any kind. I was just concerned.”

“That’s precisely what I mean. Go on with the rest of your day and rest assured, we’re taking good care of your pen pal.”

Draco stood up to leave and had almost reached the door when he stopped. Without turning around, he said, “Professor, I’m not sure if it’s at all relevant, but he also mentioned what sounded a lot like neglect in childhood. I just thought you should know.” He left quickly, so as to not prolong the conversation.

 


 


Excerpts from November 4 to November 11.

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So are you going to tell me about you fantasizing about a man? Or who the man was?

DEFINITELY NOT telling you who the man was.

I’m at least half joking… I don’t need the details unless you’re willing to share. But how did you feel about it? Emotionally, physically… how was that?

Hot. Like. Oh.

Huh. So what does that mean?

I don’t think it means anything. I mean. I enjoyed the line of thought and everything, but I still just ultimately picture myself with a woman. I don’t think it changes anything. But.. I don’t think I agree with what I was told when I was raised. I think it’s okay to be gay.

Well, that’s good news.

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Harry was attempting to make a Shrinking Solution and had been trying for nearly half a day. The recipe was simple enough, but every time he added the extract of nightshade, the whole potion turned black and curdled. He simply couldn’t figure out what he was doing wrong. He finally gave up on trying to make the potion and reread the recipe for the hundredth time. He was going to have to ask Hermione about it, because he couldn’t make sense of it.

The Shrinking Solution

Ingredients:
- daisy roots (chopped)
- shrivelfig (skinned)
- caterpillar (sliced)
- rat spleen
- extract of nightshade

Instructions:

1.) Prepare all ingredients ahead of time. Daisy roots should be evenly chopped. Make sure all of the peel is removed from the shrivelfig. Caterpillar slices should be small and even.
2.) Add daisy roots, shrivelfig, and caterpillar slices to 5 goblets of boiling water. Stir (direction is unimportant) for 2 minutes.
3.) Add one rat spleen and a dash of extract of nightshade. Allow the solution to stew, stirring occasionally, for half an hour.
4.) When potion is opaque, it is finished. 

Harry simply could’t figure out what he was doing wrong. He tried slicing the caterpillars bigger on one batch, smaller on the next. He changed the size of his chopped daisy roots. He used slightly more nightshade in one batch to the next. Nothing he did seemed to make a difference! He was confident he would get his NEWT in every course except for potions. Charms, Transfiguration and Defense were essentially already complete. His conversations with McGonagall indicated that he could easily pass the exams for those three courses without even trying very hard. He was still attending the class meetings and completing the assignments, but more out of boredom than anything else. He was also hyper aware of hiding his powers in front of many of his classmates.

Ron and Hermione had asked him about it. He was honest with them and gave them a few demonstrations of his magic. At first, Hermione was in awe and asking a million questions a minute. But after a stern look from Ron, she stopped and said to Harry, “You know that you’re still the same to us, right?” Which was all that Harry needed to hear in that moment.

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Well, I understand all that, but I still don’t see why we all need to be proficient in Potions. We have apothecaries for a reason, yeah?

What a barbaric way to look at it. You should be able to cure most ailments without the help of Healers or Master Potioneers. That’s why we need to be proficient, at least. To be self sufficient.

I suppose. But from the sound of it… you can make them for me! I’ll never be able to.

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Why would you say such a thing?

Because you seem stuck up sometimes. With all of your “quite alright”s.

Arse. I’m not stuck up.

I like it, though! I’m not complaining!

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Draco laced up the quidditch shoes he had borrowed from Blaise. He appreciated that Harry never asked him why he didn’t have proper running shoes. He had bumped into him in the hall and Harry asked him if he was up for a run. He never turned him down when he asked that. Once he had changed, he met him in the common room. “Ready?” Draco asked Harry.

“Sure. I feel like going fast today, can you keep up?”

“I guess we’ll find out.”

The two of them ran for hours. They eventually stopped at a small bank of the lake for a break. They both sprawled on the ground and attempted to catch their breath. Draco loved the way that he and Harry didn’t have to talk constantly. Every once in a while, they would have a short conversation, but for the most part, their runs were quiet affairs.

“Are those quidditch shoes?” Harry asked him when his breathing had evened out. Draco felt his heart flutter.

“Yeah. I forgot to pack my running ones.”

“Oh. I have like three pairs with me, if you want a set. You can just resize them?”

“That would be great. Thanks, Harry.” Both of them were now sitting shoulder to shoulder, looking out over the lake. After a few minutes, Harry spoke again.

“Would you mind doing me a favor, actually?”

“Depends on what it is.”

“Tutor me in potions?”

“You’re working on this week’s assignment? Sure. I haven’t done it yet. Tomorrow?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

 


 

November 11. Group therapy.

That evening, Stacey didn’t really participate much in the conversations. She split the group into two smaller groups and gave them conversation topics. The only rule was that every person had to answer every question. They could be as detailed as they wanted, but they had to do it. Harry’s group was a strange assortment of 8th years. He was with Blaise, Susan, Draco, and Neville. The first question was fairly easy. They each had to share their happiest memory. For Susan and Neville, they shared moments with their parents growing up. Blaise gave a vague answer about an encounter at Hogwarts. Harry and Draco, however, both listed things that had happened since the war had ended.

Susan pulled the next question out of the box in the middle of their group. She read, “The second question says, ‘What is one thing in your past that you wish you could leave behind you, but it keeps coming back to you?’ That’s a hard one.” Everyone was silent for a few moments. “I’d have to say being tortured last year. I feel that it was worth it because of how it helped others, but I just wish I could forget it.”

Blaise looked at the ground, and again gave a very vague answer, “The fact that I have no family. I am a true orphan.”

“I’d say the feeling of being hungry. I don’t know that I’ll ever get rid of that memory,” Harry said quietly to his group members.

“You mean when you were on the run last year?” Neville asked him.

“That, and when I was younger. My aunt and uncle used food to keep be well behaved. When I behaved and did my chores properly, I got to eat. If I did something they didn’t like, or not quickly enough, I didn’t get to eat. It’s a hard thing to shake.” Again, no one said anything for a few moments.

“Guilt. I did what I felt I could at the time, but looking back,” Draco swallowed, unsuccessfully trying to clear the lump in his throat. He continued. “I can’t help but feel like I could have done so much more. I just… I could’ve done more..”

“It might make me a terrible person, but my parents,” Neville said quietly. “I am sad about what happened to them, and I wish that I could change it, but they aren’t ever going to get better. I wish that I could just put it behind me.”

The session went on and was incredibly somber the whole time. Harry was struck by how honest everyone was being, and liked the open communication that was being fostered in the group. He was shocked at how much Draco and Blaise had done during the war that he had no idea about. Hopefully, moving forward, he would have a chance to talk more with Draco. On their next run, Harry decided he might attempt a deeper conversation.

Chapter Text

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.

Hello all!!! Sorry It’s been so long. My life has been turned upside down. Breakups and medical issues can do that to a girl. So, bare with me while I try to write about the happy couple when I’m feeling so blue and alone. I’ll do my best for you! Updates were supposed to be roughly 1/month but could be sooner and could be longer. If you catch a typo, feel free to let me know. They drive me crazy when I read, but they’re much harder to catch in your own writing!! Again - apologies for the delay, and thanks for the wishes for me to continue!

Also, gentle reminder that this is GENERALLY canon, but not entirely. Trust me, I know the parts where it deviates. Draco’s involvement in the war is one example. I KNOW IT’S NOT IN THE BOOKS.

 

CHAPTER 15 - Yule Time Confusion

November 12. Early morning.

 

Dear 8th Year Students,

Due to the fact that more than half of you have made significant progress on achieving your animagus forms, and at least 4 of you have already achieved them, all formal animagus training has been suspended. Any student who still wishes to receive guidance from any member of staff may, of course, seek them out for tutoring.

There will be a mandatory meeting of all 8th year students tomorrow evening at 8 pm. Please be prompt.

Proudly,

Headmistress McGonagall

 


 

 

November 12. Late evening.

Harry stormed into his room and spelled the curtain closed with a violent gesture of his hand. He had just returned to his dorm after speaking with Professor McGonagall. Actually, lecture was more appropriate than speaking. Apparently, multiple other 8th year students went to talk to her about how much Harry had been drinking. He didn’t think that anyone knew about it, so he was kind of shocked. She had been blunt with him. If he didn’t stop drinking, and soon, he would be asked to leave Hogwarts. He wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of being able to sleep or being in control of his emotions. He was already having outbursts of magic when he didn’t mean to. He sat on the ground next to his bed and reached for his journal. He wanted to talk to Hercules about it, but knew that he’d have to be discreet. The last thing he wanted was for Herc to put two and two together and figure out who he was. On second thought, he put the journal back down, knowing that anything he said on this particular topic would give away who he was. He quickly changed into his running gear and grabbed an extra pair of trainers.

Harry stepped into the hallway from his bedroom, securing the curtain behind him. He quietly said ‘Draco?’ and waited for a response.

“Harry?” Draco answered as he poked his head into the hallway. He looked a bit flushed and his hair was messed up. “What is it?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to go for a run?” Harry said quietly, holding the extra shoes out to the other man.

“Um. Yeah, alright. Give me a minute to change?”

“Great. I’ll wait here.” Harry leaned against the wall in between his and Ron’s curtains to wait for Draco to be finished. After a few minutes, Draco came out of the room and had the shoes in his hand.

“I don’t… Well, I don’t know how to resize these; and they’re far too big. I never learned this kind of spellwork,” he said sheepishly to Harry.

Harry was distracted by the blush spreading across Draco’s cheeks. He didn’t think he had ever seen the other man blush before. “Uh… Mmm. Oh! Oh, not a problem! Just put them on and I can do it for you real quick.”

Draco did so and Harry knelt next to him. Harry raised his hand toward Draco’s feet and paused. “Can you keep a secret?” he asked, looking up at Draco.

“What?”

“Can you or can you not keep something a secret between us?” Harry questioned; probably a little harsher than he intended.

“I suppose…”

Harry started to slowly rotate his hand, sans wand, in the direction of Draco’s new shoes. “I don’t actually know the spell for something like this… But my magic seems to know what I want it to do.” When he finished, he stood with his hands at his sides in tight fists, while he stared at the ground. “Please don’t tell anyone. I really shouldn’t show people.”

“I - No. I won’t tell. I assure you, I won’t,” Draco answered after a long pause. “Ready to go?”

“Yes. Please.”

Harry was relieved that their run was as ordinary as could be expected. Draco was breathing hard, but managed to keep pace with him. Harry, on the other hand, felt like he wanted to explode. No matter how hard he ran, he didn’t feel any better. He slowed to a stop. His partner stopped next to him. They both stretched out some of their muscles before sprawling onto the grass. Bracing himself, Harry asked Draco, “If it doesn’t bother you too much, could I ask you a question about last year?”

“Um. I suppose. I may not answer you, though.”

“That’s your prerogative, I suppose.” Harry rolled onto his side to look at Draco’s face as he asked the question. “What kind of information did you sent to the Order?”

It took Draco a long time to answer. Harry watched as a myriad of emotions washed over the blonde’s face. “I told them whenever a target was chosen. I told them how the Dark Lord was getting their whereabouts. I told them any of the plans that I knew of; even when I didn’t have many details. I never got any responses from them. About any of my missives. But I figured, it was all I could do without being killed, or getting my mother killed, so I needed to keep going. I had to keep trying no matter what. I didn’t know until after the Final Battle that my information was actually useful for them.”

“And you never got caught?”

“Not technically. I was… questioned.”

“I have a strong suspicion that didn’t include much questioning.”

“No. Not usually. A lot of the Cruciatus, though. And when that failed… brutal muggle-style beatings,” Draco suddenly sat up. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Can I ask you one?”

Harry answered, “I’m an open book,” as he rolled onto his back and stared at the dark sky.

“The thing you did with my shoes… your shoes - how, well, I mean… How-,”

“I dunno. It just started one day. I don’t really need my wand, or spells. I just think about what I want to happen, and channel my magic and it happens. McGonagall and I don’t really know how or why.”

Draco was staring now. Unabashedly. “Is there anything else you can do?”

“Why?”

“I just find this fascinating. There are so many reasons you shouldn’t be able to do this. I just… I need to know more.”

“Oh.” Harry waited a few moments. Then he shifted into his animagus form. As a lion, his perspective shifted. He looked up at Draco, standing three feet away. The coloring wasn’t the same as with his human eyes, but it felt right all the same. The blonde man’s hair was more golden than white. He seemed impossibly tall. And his eyes were an amazing color that Harry had no name for. Harry watched as Draco ran his eyes over him. A few long minutes passed, then he heard Draco say, “Dear Circe. You’re magnificent. I mean - well. Yeah. You’re bloody magnificent. Walk around! I want to see you.”

Harry did as requested, strutting in a circle around his friend. He felt powerful and more relaxed than he had in a long time. He was relieved that someone finally knew his secret. Almost giddy with relief.

So he pounced; knocking Draco to the ground. Harry had a front paw on Draco’s chest and three on the ground. He lowered his face so he was directly above the other man.

“What the bloody hell? Have you lost the plot?” Draco exclaimed; fear flooding his eyes. Harry was worried that he had actually frightened the other man to the point where he may not forgive him. He quickly changed back, so that he was kneeling over Draco, still with just one hand touching him. Noses close.

“No. Just excited that this isn’t a secret anymore. It’s been killing me.”

“Oh.” They stayed like that. Just staring at one another. Until Draco said, “I’m getting cold. I think we should head back.”

“Right. Of course. Let’s,” Harry agreed. As he stood, he offered a hand to Draco to help him up. They started walking toward the castle in silence. “I’m sorry I pounced on you. Would you believe me if I said it was instinct?”

“Fat bloody chance, Potter.”

“Hey! You’re supposed to call me Harry, remember?”

“Right. Fat bloody chance, Harry.”

“Oi. I said I was sorry!!” Neither man said anything for a while after that. It always reverted to tense silence with them. They would have a brief moment of friendship, then it would get awkward again.

“You’ve lost a lot of weight.”

“What?”

“You heard me, Harry : you lost a lot of weight.”

“What makes you say that, Draco ?” Harry asked quietly.

“I could see your ribs when you shifted. You shouldn’t see a lion’s ribs when he walks.”

After that, Draco dropped back and Harry had no interest in waiting for the other man, so he sped up and walked away from him. Harry was enraged that Draco had the nerve to comment on his body that way. It wasn’t that he wanted Draco to be blown away by his ability or anything, but he had expected at least a small amount of awe.

 


 

 

November 13. 8pm.

“Thank you all for coming. I will be brief, as I don’t particularly enjoy the news I am about to share with you. But don’t worry, it isn’t bad news,” Professor McGonagall said with a wry grin. She stood in their 8th year common room with all of the 8th years surrounding her. “You actually may find it to be brilliant news. Or so I’ve been told.”

“Well get on with it, then!” Seamus called out at her.

“Thank you, Mr. Finnigan. I suppose I shall. I have been asked if I would grant permission for the 8th years to host a holiday party before you all leave school… and I agreed.” Loud murmurs broke out in the room; everyone turned to their neighbor to share their excitement and disbelief. “ I would like to be clear about this, though. There will be rules, and they will be followed, or you will not be allowed to return after the break. These are serious rules. There will be alcohol allowed, as you are all of age, but for this reason, it is 8th year students only. If any seventh or sixth years are found at this party, they will be expelled as  will the person that let them into the common room. I will be stopping by a few times, just to check in and ensure that everything is okay. Are there any questions?”

“Who will be organizing the party? Like the drinks and the food and stuff?” Susan asked quietly.

“As of right now, no one. The house elves will be providing the food and drinks based on a menu provided by you. Would you be interested in arranging such a thing, Ms. Bones?”

“Sure. If Hannah and Hermione would be willing to help me?” When they both nodded, Susan repeated that they would all be arranging it.

“Well. That’s that all sorted, then. The party will be held on the evening of December 19th and the train will leave on December 20th at noon. You are welcome to take the train home, or you can arrange your own transport home for the holidays.

The meeting started to break up, with some students asking McGonagall questions about what they were and were not allowed to do at this party. Harry, Ron, and Hermione moved to sit near a chess table in the corner of the room. While harry and Ron played a game, the three of them chatted quietly about their classes, assignments, and animagus training for a bit until they were interrupted. Harry looked up and saw Minerva standing next to him. “Minerva, everything alright?”

“Not quite, Mr. Potter, may I have a word with you?” Harry followed McGonagall into the corridor, which was free of students. “Mr. Potter, have you been eating?”

“What?” he was flabbergasted. “What are you talking about?”

“Multiple students have come to talk to me about you not eating. After the alcohol discussion, I thought we had cleared this up. You need to be taking care of yourself. I will be scheduling a weekly appointment with a healer. They won’t give me any of your information. But you will keep these appointments and get yourself well, or you will no longer be a student here. Have I made myself perfectly clear?” Harry stood there silently. He dropped his gaze to the floor, too ashamed to look her in the eye. “Mr. Potter, am I clear?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

 


 

 

November 13th. 10:45pm.

 

Harry was laying on his bed, staring at the ceiling when he decided to send Herc a message. He hadn’t heard from him in a few days.

I’m not sure if you’re there, but... do you ever feel like running away would just be easier?

Easier than what, exactly?

Easier than going to school, or having to deal with rules or other people. Like if you ran away, nothing would be a problem any more?

Well. No. A lot of things would be much harder for me if I ran away. There is a lot that I depend on this community for. There are certainly days when everything is shit and I feel like there’s no reason to stay. But overall… I have nowhere to go. What’s got you feeling so blue, Bud?

A lot, I suppose. Generally just in a bad mood. Wishing there was a way to sleep without firewhiskey. Any ideas? (and please don’t judge. I don’t have a drinking problem… I just can’t sleep.)

You won’t find any judgement from me. Have you tried magical meditation? Not the kind for turning into an animagus, but something different than that.

I’ve never heard of it… How does it work, exactly?

I’ll explain it before we go to bed. For now, tell me how you’ve been?

Well, like I said. Grumpy for the most part. I’m not sure why. I’ve done my animagus, though, so that’s a relief. Sometimes it’s nice to just be an animal instead. I can rely on the instincts that come with it.

That makes sense. Have you tried sleeping as the animal? I’m not sure how safe that is, but it could help. You should run it by McGonagall.

The last thing I’ll be doing is discussing anything with Minerva. But I’ll research it before I try it. That could help. How have you been? Any love interests or important goings on in the life of Hercules?

Yeah, sure. Nothing important here. I have a few meetings next weekend. All here at the castle though. All about the war. Tricky business, war.

I stopped agreeing to meetings. Point blank said no. Lock me up if you want. Investigate whatever you want. I’m not participating. So far, it’s been working.

I doubt it would go the same way for me. But glad it worked out for you. Anything happening in your life other than lack of sleep?

Not really. Been busy trying to keep up with our assignments. Potions is still giving me the finger every time I try. Charms and Transfiguration are easy enough, but time consuming.

I meant more along the lines of a love life, Bud.

Oh. No. Absolutely not.

Oh. I’m sorry I asked.

No. It’s just that the only person I’ve ever previously been interested in no longer interests me in the slightest. But trying to find someone new is simply terrifying, as I’d probably scare them away in a matter of minutes.

I sincerely doubt that. What about...

They chatted for a while longer. When Harry realized it was after midnight, he asked for the meditation suggestions and bid his friend goodnight. Herc wrote out a few spells and techniques for Harry to try, and Harry tried the suggestions For the first time in weeks, he fell asleep without the help of firewhiskey.



 

 

December 18. Early evening.

Nearly a month went by without anything interesting really going on at Hogwarts; for which the 8th years were extremely grateful. Hermione, Susan, and Hannah had everything planned and ready to go for the party well before the elves needed the information. Harry and his pen pal had sent messages nearly every day. He was starting to truly feel as if they were friends, even though he had no idea who the other man was. No matter how long he thought about it, he couldn’t come up with any reasonable guesses as to who it could be. Harry also went running at least 3 times a week with Draco. They hardly talked, just a few sentences when they stopped to take a break. But he was finding that he greatly enjoyed this, too. The ability to spend time with someone who didn’t require constant conversation and who let him just be himself was refreshing.

He was still having great difficulty sleeping. He really tried not to drink the firewhiskey before bed every night, but found that if he didn’t, he woke up screaming. It had not gone noticed that the bags under his eyes seemed to be growing darker every single day. On top of all of that, his potions work hadn’t gotten any better. He knew that he was going to need to spend most of his break working on potions, or he would risk failing the subject. Without knowing what was going to come after Hogwarts, he didn’t want to risk failing anything; especially when all his other magic was so outstanding.

The party started at six o’clock. The common room had been changed into a small banquet hall, of sorts. The couches had been moved to the perimeter of the room, and small dining tables had been added all around the room. There was music playing but Harry couldn’t figure out how or where it was coming from. He knew Hermione must have chosen it because it was 80’s muggle music. Harry sat down at a table in the far corner from the dormitories and observed the room around him for a while. People were eating and drinking; there was laughter all around. Looking at this room, you would never have known that these people had just been through a war.

“Aren’t you going to eat anything, Harry?” Hermione asked, sitting down across from him at his small table.

“I’m not really hungry. I’m enjoying just watching everyone have fun though. You did a great job.” Harry tried to sound enthusiastic, but he knew it just fell flat.

“Harry. You need to eat. Your clothes are falling off you. Please try to eat something.”

“I’m really not hungry, Hermione, just leave it,” he got up and walked away from her. He knew it was rude, but he just wasn’t in the mood to be berated tonight. He went over to the drink table and poured himself a healthy measure of firewhiskey. After draining the cup fairly quickly, he poured himself another. He turned and saw that Hermione had abandoned his table, so he returned and sat down.

An hour and a half later found Harry sitting at the same table, fairly drunk. But then, so was everyone else in the room. The laughter had grown; as did the conversations. The room was full of happy people who seemed not to have a care in the world. As Harry let his eyes scan the room around him, he saw Ron slow dancing with Hermione not too far from himself, and Neville and Cho seemed to be deep in conversation at the table next to him. A flash of white caught his eye and he turned. He was staring directly at Draco Malfoy. A very very drunk Draco Malfoy, who was pulling on Blaise’s sleeve. Draco seemed to be asking him something. The other man seemed quite amused by the drunken blonde annoying him. He smiled and played a long for a bit.

Then Draco pointed at the ceiling, which housed a small bunch of mistletoe. He leaned in, wrapped his arms around Blaise’s neck, and kissed him. Hard and deep. Blaise did not pull away. In fact, he kissed Draco back. Harry was suddenly overcome with rage. “Despicable,” he muttered under his breath. “Absolutely disgusting.” He hadn’t realized that anyone was close enough to hear him speaking, but suddenly Neville and Cho both turned toward him.

“Harry? What’s disgusting?” Cho asked.

Neville followed his line of sight and saw Blaise and Draco, still kissing under the mistletoe. “You got a problem with homosexuals, Harry?” he looked furious.

“Um. No. I --, no.” Harry stood up and left the room. He decided to spend the rest of the evening lounging on his bed, drinking firewhiskey alone. He quickly fell asleep. The next thing he knew, he was being woken by Ron and everything was shiny around him.

“OI! Harry!” Ron was standing next to him, looking terrified. “Mate, you’ve got to wake up. I’ll call McGonagall if you don’t start to fix this.” Harry opened his eyes all the way and looked around his room. Everything was engulfed in flames. Only he, Ron, and the bed seemed to not be on fire.

“Fuck!” Harry exclaimed as he called on his magic. All the flames went out and the room was dark again. He felt Ron sit down on the bed next to him.

“Mate, you have got to get yourself sorted out. This can’t happen. What if you do that at Grimmauld? Who would wake you to fix it?”

“Kreacher. Go back to bed, Ron.” Harry mumbled before rolling over. He wanted to fall back asleep before he fully woke up and was unable. He never felt Ron get up and leave the room.

The next morning, Harry woke before any of the other boys. After a shower, he changed into the only black jeans he had that still fit him, and a tight white t-shirt. He quickly packed the rest of his things and headed for the Entrance Hall so that he could leave without talking to anyone. Once outside, he apparated home.

 


 

 

“Welcome back, Master Harry. Is there anything Kreacher can be getting for you?”

“A crate of firewhiskey, Kreacher. That’s all for now.” Harry let himself get plastered throughout the day and then headed out in the evening. He was too drunk to really know where he was going, so he just let his feet carry him there. Before he really knew where he was, he heard voices.

“Come on, please!”

“Just one dance!”

“I promise you’ll enjoy it.”

“The first one’s for free, then, love. Promise.”

Looking up, Harry saw a group of handsome young men, about his age, standing outside of a bar. It looked seedy and he was unsure what the theme was supposed to be. Was it a sports bar? Was it a strip club? He suddenly realized it was a strip club. For gay men. Before he knew what he was doing, he went inside and took out his wallet. Discreetly, he transfigured his Wizarding gold into Muggle cash and decided to give things a whirl. Who knew that this was the start of the best winter vacation Harry had ever had?

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 16 - A Cry For Help

December 20. Mid-morning.


 

Harry jolted awake at the sound of a crash coming from downstairs. The inside of his head felt like there was a hippogriff stampede in it and his entire body ached. He sat up quicker than he should have, felt the entire room spin, and proceeded to vomit all over his bed. Falling back down, he called for Kreacher. The elf appeared next to him. “Wha’ wazzat noise?”

Without answering him, Kreacher backed away and covered his nose with a handkerchief.

“Kreacher. What was it?” he said more forcefully.

“Someones tried to comes through the floo, master, but was caught in the barricade yous set up last night, sir.” Kreacher left the room before Harry could ask him anything else. Harry had no recollection of setting up any barricade. Or of the night before at all. He lay there staring at the ceiling trying to remember anything at all about the night before. It then occurred to him that he was covered in his own stomach matter and smelled disgusting. He stood up and waved his hand to vanish the bedclothes, but nothing happened. Without noticing, he stumbled into the bathroom and attempted to prepare for his day.

As he stepped under the spray of the shower, he started to remember the night before in flashes. Shampooing his hair, he remembered walking into the club and finding a seat near the stage. Blond hair was all he remembered. He couldn’t remember what the man actually looked like, but he definitely knew he was blond. As he reached for the bar of soap, he remembered reaching for the man’s waist. He had dimples on his back. Harry liked the way he danced for him. As he rinsed his body, he had a memory of kissing someone. The thought made him rather nauseous again, so he squashed it back down.

After ending his shower quickly, Harry dressed and headed downstairs. Kreacher was standing in the kitchen, contemplating the large barricade that Harry had apparently erected the night before. There was all sorts of furniture blocking the fireplace from the rest of the kitchen. Chairs, end tables, two doors, and an assortment of books were all stacked haphazardly together. “Kreacher.. Did I do this last night?”

“Master Harry -,” Kreacher backed away from him.

“Why are you frightened? Did I hurt you?” he whispered, terrified of the answer. He sat down at the table and put his head in his hands. “Kreacher, please.”

The elf quickly explained that no, Harry had not hurt him. He had come home drunker than Kreacher had ever seen him; magic swirling around him. Harry had started yelling about the floo and “attractive blondes” and the furniture started moving to block the fireplace. Moments later, Harry passed out on the kitchen floor. The elf had gotten him in his bed and as comfortable as possible, but it was clear that he had frightened him. Harry summoned all of his energy and quickly apologized. He then gave Kreacher the day off. “Really! Go and visit Hogwarts for a bit. I don’t need you back until tomorrow morning. Promise.” He left without further prompting.

What is happening to me? My magic was acting on its own and it was visible? Who can help me? Never in his life did Harry feel as if he had so many questions that he truly thought no one could answer. Constantly on the edge of screaming or crying, he was beginning to think that he was going mad. But he knew that there wasn’t anyone he could talk to about it. He honestly didn’t feel like he could even talk to Herc, because he would have to say things about being Harry bleeding Potter, and the journal wouldn’t even let him do that. Herc was the one person he thought he could trust, but he couldn’t tell him. He sure as hell couldn’t talk to Stacey about it. He didn’t trust her. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but she didn’t seem like someone he trusted with anything in his life. The few times he had asked her for coping mechanisms to help him stop drinking, she hadn’t really given him any more advice other than “relax;” which of course wasn’t helpful at all. All of a sudden, the world seemed as if it was crumbling around him. He couldn’t even summon the energy to remove the barricade. He lay his head down on the kitchen table and swiftly fell asleep.

 


 

 

December 20. Late afternoon.

 

“Harry James Potter! If you can hear me, REMOVE THIS BARRICADE NOW!” Harry quickly stood at the sound of Hermione’s voice echoing throughout his home. She sounded terrified. He was still sitting at the kitchen table, dozing in and out of consciousness.

“I can hear you. Calm down,” he called to her. He held his palms out to the pile of furniture blocking the fireplace and found that nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing. “Mi, I’m exhausted, can you move the stuff from your side? Or just come through the front door?”

“We’ll come through the front, then.” She sounded angry. He started trying to come up with something to say to her when she started yelling. He didn’t know what would come out of his mouth, and he found that he didn’t really care all that much. He stumbled into the sitting room and collapsed into his armchair to wait for her. Them. Whoever ‘they’ were. Hopefully just her and Ron. After what felt like an eternity, Hermione was kneeling next to him, reaching for his face.

“Oh, Harry. You look absolutely awful! What happened to you?” she spoke soft words, but her face spoke of horror.

“What do you mean? I’m fine?” Harry tried to sit up in the chair a bit more. “I’m a bit sore, but I’m fine.”

“Haven’t seen a mirror, have you, mate?” Ron asked quietly him from where he was leaning in the doorway. He didn’t seem to want to come into the room.

“No. Why?”

If Harry didn’t know better, he’d say that Ron seemed angry. He had no idea what for though. “You look like someone beat the shit out of you, if’m honest.” Had he been in a fight the night before?

“Harry, who did this to you? Was it a reporter? Are they still following you?” Hermione started rooting through her bag for something. Coming back with a few phials of brightly colored potions, she asked, “ How did this happen?”

“No, it wasn’t a reporter. They haven’t bothered me much since I changed the wards. They can’t get close enough. I wear a glamour when I leave normally.” Gritting his teeth as she started massaging things into his face and neck, he came up with what he thought was a convincing lie about being jumped by a muggle while out on a run. Explaining that he didn’t want to risk the secrecy of the wizarding world, he hadn’t wanted to pull his wand on the guy. He even made sure to throw a line in about being painfully embarrassed about it, hoping that Hermione wouldn’t go on and on about it. Considering that he had no idea how he came to look the way he did, he really would rather not talk it to death. He had no memory of getting in a fight or anything else.

“Yeah, I should’ve been paying closer attention, I know. I promise I’ll be more careful. I’ll use a notice me not when I run.” The look of concern on her face made him more ashamed than anything. “Really. I’m just going to stay home for a while, I’d rather not go out. I’m exhausted. I’ll see you on Boxing Day, yeah? You’ll come for dinner?” he tried to make it clear that he was asking them to leave without actually asking them to leave. The panic was bubbling up his throat again.

“Yeah, Harry. We’ll be here for dinner. Try to get some rest, okay?” Ron said not quite meeting his eye.

Moments after they left, an owl appeared at the window. He didn’t bother waving his hand to let it in, as his magic seemed to be angry with him. He slowly stood and went over to open the window himself. It was Hogwarts owl. After closing the window behind the owl, he unfurled the letter on his way back to his bedroom.


 

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Headmistress: Minerva McGonagall (Order of Merlin, First Class)

Dear Mr. Potter,

You have been summoned to a meeting with the Headmistress to discuss your return to school for the winter term. Please present yourself at her office no later than December 24th. Tea-time is the best time for such a meeting.  

Yours sincerely,

Filius Flitwick
Deputy Headmaster


 

Harry wasn’t sure what to make of the letter, but he knew it couldn’t be a good thing. Opening his bedroom door, he remembered he had been sick earlier and failed to clean it up. He shut the door and turned to one of the guest rooms instead. He’d worry about it all tomorrow. Right now, all he wanted was to sleep for days. Instead, he glanced at the mirror over the bureau. His neck had bruising on it; some dark and some light. Some of them were clearly hickeys, now that he had a good look at them. There were dark circles under his eyes, but they were always there. The stubble on his face was getting out of control. Ron wasn’t right. He hadn’t been in a fight. It looked like he had one hell of a snogging session, though. If only he could remember who it was.

 


 

 

December 21. Tea time.

The next morning, Harry attempted to clean his bedroom, but found his magic was still not responding to him. He couldn’t even feel it inside himself. Focusing all his energy, and closing his eyes, he felt… nothing. His wand also seemed to be missing. He had called for Kreacher and asked for his assistance in removing the barricade, cleaning his bedroom and locating his wand. Unfortunately, they found the want, but it didn’t seem to help very much. Harry was now able to perform small charms, but the large majority of his magic was still not performing as he was used to. It was like being a first year all over again. Trying not to panic, he had Kreacher remove the barricade and put him in charge of cleaning. Before he started though, he had him apparate Harry to Hogwarts. Knocking on the Headmistress’ door, he felt terror creeping up his throat.

The second the door opened, he burst into tears and asked her “What do I do? What is the matter with me? Is there anyone who can help? Please!” He knew on some level that he must look as though he had lost his mind. He was unkempt and dirty, his clothes didn’t fit, tears streaming down his face, hands pulling at his hair.

Minerva stood up from her desk and hurried over to him. She wrapped him in a hug and pulled him close. “Oh, Harry. Dear, please calm down. Whatever is the matter we can fix it. Please come sit.” She gently guided him to a large squashy armchair near the window and shoved a cup of tea in his hands. “It has a calming draught in it, please drink.”

She sat opposite him and waited while he tried to calm himself down. His head kept racing, his thoughts disorganized. After he finished the cup of tea, he felt everything slow to a stop. He could think again. Suddenly. he was beyond embarrassed about the manner in which he showed up at her office. More than anything, he wished he could take it back. He stared at his feet; keeping his mind as empty as possible.

Minerva’s voice shook him out of his silence. “Would you like me to send for Stacey?”

“No! Please not her!” Harry sank back into his chair, instinctively backing away when he heard Stacey’s voice.

“Alright! I won’t send for her. Is there anyone you would like to speak with?” she asked him, her eyes wide.

“The healer who examined me at the start of term?” he mumbled, relaxing slightly. “He was nice.”



 

 

Three hours later, is was nearing suppertime and Harry was feeling immensely better. He was sitting in a small alcove off the headmistress’ office; thinking over the conversations that had gone on in her office. McGonagall had sent for the Healer, who arrived much quicker than Harry had anticipated. The three of them had a very long conversation about what was going on with Harry and how he was feeling. Then the headmistress made it clear to him: if there wasn’t serious effort put in to change his behaviors, he would no longer be welcome at Hogwarts for his 8th year.

Healer Motta was incredibly concerned about what was going on with Harry. When Harry explained how he was feeling and how much he had been drinking, the Healer was shocked that Harry wasn’t already in a magical coma. A few diagnostic spells and three potion vials later, Harry’s magic was good as new and he felt calmer than he had in months. He remembered the look on Minerva’s face when he explained how he felt about Stacey.

He had said, “I’ve asked her for help. She told me to ‘try to relax.’ Which, to be frank, I didn’t find very helpful at all. I don’t like her at all. She doesn’t seem fair. At the start, I really liked her and I trusted her, but as time’s gone on, I’ve noticed that she doesn’t treat us all the same, and I don’t think that she’d be there if any given person was in crisis. Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that a Mind Healer should be at least somewhat impartial… Like their personal feelings about everyone shouldn’t impact the help that they give?” Harry was staring at his feet while he talked. “Beyond that, someone anonymously told our group that they were using magic to harm themselves, and I think I know who it was… well, sort of. But I don’t think she ever did anything to help them!It’s just absurd.”

Minerva had made a small note on a parchment then, but Harry didn’t see, as he was looking at his feet. He also told them how the others in his group, namely Ron, thought that his opinion of the therapist wasn’t completely accurate. Healer Motta asked him how the sleeping draughts were working, and he admitted that they didn’t work very well, and the only thing that dulled the negative thoughts was the firewhiskey. Harry also told them both that he was terrified of what was happening to him and wanted more than anything to go back to normal.

“Harry… if you were to describe a moment in the past six months or so where you felt the most whole , and well... what does that look like? Try not to think too hard about it,” the Healer had asked him. Harry answered almost immediately. He told them about renovating the house with Kreacher over the summer. About cooking for himself, setting his own schedule, exercising, and making decisions. “Excellent answer, Harry. One more question and then I think we’ll wrap up for today.” The healer paused and took a deep breath. “As hard as this will be for you to answer, can you explain to me how you feel when you’re back here at Hogwarts?”

“Incredibly overwhelming. Everything is the same, but it’s different. The people are the same, but they’re different. And there are so many people missing. From school. From my life,” Harry felt his heart rate increase as he answered. “And all of it is my fault.”

Healer Motta had stopped him then and said that under no circumstances was this his fault, but he knew that Harry didn’t want to hear that. He had handed him another calming draught and had asked him if he would mind if he talked with the headmistress for a bit before he escorted Harry home. Although Harry didn’t hear the conversation, he was bright enough to figure out that being back at Hogwarts had greatly worsened his mental state. He hadn’t known it at the time, but it was probably why he was so anxious about returning back in the summer. Healer Motta said that he and the headmistress would come up with a plan to help Harry be healthy and to finish his eighth year. Which is how Harry found himself sitting in an alcove, staring at a candle flame. He had no idea what was coming next for himself. He had no idea how long the calming draught would help. But in that very moment, Harry was content; he could feel his magic coursing within him, and for a moment - his thoughts were quiet. 

Chapter Text

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.

 


 

 

CHAPTER 17 - Winter Holidays

December 21. Evening.

Healer Motta had summoned Harry back into his meeting with McGonagall before escorting him home, and explained the new rules that Harry would have to follow if he wanted to get his life under control again. Harry now found himself sitting in an armchair in his library staring at the list of things he now had to do, or that had changed in his life. These were things that were meant to help his physical and mental health, and to ensure he was able to finish his eighth year successfully. McGonagall’s summons from the day before had been about that exact situation. Apparently, he had been reported for drinking and uncontrolled magic at school.

Daily tasks:

  1. Record all food
  2. Record all exercise
  3. Record all dreams that you remember
  4. Cook at least once daily
  5. Journal at least once daily, personal or with pen pal
  6. Take potions: Miss Mott’s Vitamin Potion, Aesalon Concoction (anxiety), Mungo’s Sleep Aid

Weekly tasks:

  1. Review food and exercise - is it healthy?
  2. Meditate twice weekly
  3. Meet with Mind Healer (Calvin Rees)
  4. Meet with Healer Motta  (Until Easter hols)

 

At first glance, the daily list was a bit daunting, but Harry thought that having tasks that he was accountable for would help him stop drinking. Before they had parted ways for the evening, Healer Motta had helped Harry empty the house of any firewhiskey, so that he wouldn’t be tempted over the rest of break. He also left a small crate of potions on the kitchen table with a strict timeline for when they should be taken. He had even taken the liberty of charming the box so that it would only release the potions within two hours of when they should be taken. Once he was back at school, a house elf would deliver his potions to his bedchamber every morning and evening at the proper time. His only other advice before he left was to relax and try to enjoy his break the best he could. After all, he was only eighteen.

Harry grabbed a vial each of his sleep potion and anxiety potion and headed up to his room. Kreacher had done a wonderful job of making sure the room was spotless and smelling fresh. Harry was still trying to think of a way to apologize to the poor elf. Setting the vials on his bedside, he went over to his trunk and grabbed his journal, which was glowing and bouncing. He thought he would write to Herc before going to bed, but it appeared he’d have some reading to do first. He settled into the window seat on the wall opposite his bed, prepared to write a long letter to Herc. Opening it, he saw that he had missed quite a bit. There was a new assignment listed, as well as a number of separate notes from Herc.

Hey Bud. Everyone’s about to leave school for the holidays. Just thought I’d wish you a happy one. The party last night was a bit of a bust, yeah? I drank a bit too much, and did some things I regret now. Wish I could just undo it, if I’m honest. I also heard about what some other people were doing, and I’m not impressed with their behavior. Very disappointed.

Hoping you got home safely. Not that I know that’s where you were headed. Are you taking holiday outside of the country? Or in it? Doing anything interesting? It’s not even noon on the first day of break  and I’m properly bored out of my mind. Please write back. (And please ignore how desperate I must sound.)

Dear students: Over your winter holiday, please maintain at least weekly contact with your pen friends. Your goal should be to discuss your goals for when the school year is over, and what you are hoping your future holds. If you have already discussed these things, then continue your conversation as before, but still write weekly.

Well, we haven’t really discussed that yet, have we? We’ve both said we wish to graduate, but that’s about it. Let me know when you’re free and we can actually chat about it? It’s the morning of the 21st as I’m writing this. Talk soon, I hope.

Harry picked up his quill and began to write.

Herc. Sorry I’ve been missing. I also had a bit too much to drink the night of the party. Though I don’t remember much of it. Hoping my behavior was kept in line… I wouldn’t even know if I did something wrong. I met with a Healer today. To help me stop drinking so much to cope. I know I’ve made you nervous a time or two. I’ve been having a hard time, post-war and all that. Really rough. New potion regimen. New rules to follow. Hopefully it helps. I’m free now, it’s about 10pm or so. I’ll be around for another hour or so, too. Otherwise, I’ll check back in the morning.

Harry didn’t have to wait long for a reply. Within a minute of finishing his entry, one from Herc appeared below it: BUD. Thank goodness. I thought I was going to go mad from the boredom. Shall we just jump right into the assignment, or start somewhere else? Also, sorry for my shaky handwriting, I injured my arm earlier.

Harry thought about asking about the injury, but thought better of it. He had a sneaking suspiscion of how Hercules had injured it, but the last time he mentioned it, the other man hadn’t liked t at all. Your handwriting seems fine to me! I supposed just jump right in and see where it takes us? We’ve never had difficulty having a conversation before. As I said, I have about an hour before I’m turning in. So… I have no bloody clue what I want to do after school. Do you?

Well. I thought of starting my own sort of business. I’d tell you what, but that will definitely give away who I am. So I’ll skip that for now.

Interesting. I’ll tuck that bit of knowledge in my back pocket for now.

Oh ha ha. You won’t figure it out without the actual information… Guaranteed. As for what my future holds? Love, hopefully? Happiness, if I’m lucky. Not interested in having children, but I would like to get married. To a man, in case that wasn’t clear enough from our previous conversations. Side note: why so intent on one hour?

Side note answer: healer’s orders.

Hm. Sounds like an alright future, if I’m honest with you. Although you seem relatively on your way to happiness as is. At least it comes across that way to me. I’m not sure what I want, career-wise. Definitely gonna have to think on that a bit. As for what else is in my future? I guess the same as you.

The same?

Yes, why?

You want to marry a bloke?

I.. I mean… that’s not what I meant.

I was going to say… you must have had a revelation these past few days!

Shut up. No revelations here - Harry’s journal erased his last sentence. Probably because it wasn’t entirely true. I haven’t discovered any new life goals in the past few days. I did snog a bloke though.

Woah. Let me grab a glass of wine for this story.

Not much of a story… I can’t remember it. I was too drunk. Shame though, I think he was fit from the fleeting memory I have.

Pity. I also snogged a bloke. Who is also fit. But he’s very straight and I‘m not interested in him like that at all. It was more of a joke than anything. Which sounds awful. But he knows that. He kissed me back, though! What a good friend.

We’re quite the pair, aren’t we?

I’d say so. As far as your future, though: you do want to get married? But you don’t want children?

I think so. Why? Are you proposing, Herc?

You’re just full of jokes tonight. I wasn’t sure you were interested in marriage as you were still up in the air about blokes or birds. And you seem to just be happy to be alone. You rarely mention friends or anything. But not in a lonely way.

Harry just stared at the page for a while. Herc seemed to know him so well. It was eery, really, how well a virtual stranger seemed to know him inside and out.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean ALONE alone. Just not in a romantic relationship.

No need to apologize! I’m not at all offended, just surprised at how well you seem to know me. It’s a pleasant surprise.

Well, you usually seem to know me just as well.

I know you’re a posh idiot, if that’s what you mean.

OI! There’s no need for name calling. But if that’s where we’re going with this. You’re a brute. And clearly not very bright.

That’s weak, and you know it.

I know. But I’m bored and tired. Let it slide.

If you say so, Herc. I’ll take your word for it.

We’re getting close to your hour.

I know.

Can I ask an extraordinarily personal question before you leave for the night?

You can ask. I may not answer. (even though we both know I’ll answer)

You’re not wrong about that. The question is: is the vague memory of snogging a bloke good enough for you to want to try it again?

Before I answer, why do you want to know? You seem quite invested in having me shag a bloke, you know. Seriously, are you hitting on me?

Listen. I don’t even really know you, and I’m somewhat shallow. If I don’t find a bloke attractive, I want nothing to do with him. So no, I’m not really coming onto you. I just really don’t want you to shut down this part of you because of that relative of yours. I want you to give it a fair shake before you make up your mind or do anything permanent or semi-permanent, like get married to a woman. If that’s where you end up, and you’re happy about it, then good on you. But I want you to be sure. And not because the other option is “filthy” or some rot.

That’s a fair answer. I’d say the same as far as looks go. They matter. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. I like that you care about me so much. I definitely want to try it again, hopefully not drunk, to see how I really feel about it. The ‘vague memory’ is barely even that. Just tiny pieces of things put together. So I really don’t know how I felt about it.

Alright. Keep me posted on that, yeah?

Of course! But it is officially past my bedtime. Healer’s orders and all… So we’ll talk again in a few days?

I have literally zero plans for the entire break. So please, write whenever you have time, and I’ll answer as soon as I see it. I’ll probably seem quite desperate…

You’re so dumb. Good night!

Night!

Harry flipped back a few pages in the journal and tried one of the meditation techniques that Herc had given him a while back. When he was feeling drowsy enough, he took the two vials of potions and climbed into bed. For the first night in a long time, he had a dreamless sleep.

 


 

 

December 22. 7 am.

Harry’s wand woke him at precisely 7 am, just as the healer ordered. A strict schedule was one of his biggest assignments. Asleep by 11pm and awake at 7am. No napping. He quickly went about his morning routine: using the bathroom, getting dressed, and heading downstairs. He took his potion and started to make his breakfast. It was amazing how simple it was to follow a routine. He didn’t have to think so much about it, just do each step before moving on. As he ate his omelette, he made a list of the things he wanted to do that day. His plan was to go to a muggle barber to get a haircut and a shave before going shopping for a few new outfits on his way to a lunch appointment. He also added writing letters to his schedule for after lunch. He owed apologies to quite a few people.

His lunch appointment was with his new Mind Healer. Calvin Rees. He knew nothing about this man, except that Healer Motta told him they’d get along well and where to meet him. Harry was inexplicably nervous about the meeting. He had never had his own personal therapist before, and wasn’t really sure what that entailed.

Before leaving, he put a slight glamour on himself, so that if someone was looking for him specifically, they’d recognize him, but no one else would. He really didn’t need reporters following him to this meeting. As it turned out, he didn’t have much to worry about. He didn’t run into anyone he knew on the way there. He and Calvin met at a small cafe in muggle London. He wasn’t much older than Harry, probably early 20s, and had dark skin and hair. Tall, slender, and well dressed, he looked like he should be in a clothing advert.

Harry sat across from him at a table in the corner. The cafe wasn’t busy, but wasn’t empty, either. “I’ve got to tell you, Healer… I’ve never had any kind of one-on-one therapy before.”

“Well first, Harry, call me Calvin. Or Cal, if you prefer,” he said with an easy smile. “This isn’t quite the same as the muggle version of therapy. It’s more a… friendship, if you will. Where I occasionally toss in difficult questions and offer advice. How does that sound?”

“Better than therapy!” Harry laughed. They chatted for about an hour and a half while they ate their lunch. Cal explained that he had gone to school in France, but didn’t speak a lick of French, and he was beyond glad to be back in England. His mum was a muggle who was killed in the war, and his father was a wizard who died when he was young. Harry felt very comfortable talking to this other man. He was soft spoken and had a good sense of humor. Harry found himself talking about things he normally wouldn’t; like how he was going to another muggle club that night. The older man didn’t make him discuss any of his current issues, or why Healer Motta had told Harry to see a Minda Healer. It was just a casual conversation.

“So you grew up mainly muggle, then?” Cal asked.

“Yes. Exclusively. Didn’t even know about magic until the evening of my eleventh birthday, when a half giant showed up to tell me I was headed to Hogwarts. All very alarming, really. But also like a fairy tale.”

“I can only imagine! So if you don’t mind, can you tell me your thoughts on homosexuality? You seem to be struggling with it a bit, I want to help talk you through that, if I can.” He made it sound so easy. So Harry did just that. They talked about it for a good bit. While Harry’s views hadn’t changed when they were finished their lunch, he was a bit more excited about his trip out that evening. They shook hands and parted ways, with an agreement to meet up the day after Boxing Day for another chat in the same cafe.

 


 

December 22. Dinner time.

Harry had just put his dinner in the oven and sat down at the table. He had finished his letters to Ron and Hermione already, explaining what had been going on with him a bit and begging for their forgiveness. In Ron’s, he included a line that said he didn’t remember what had happened to make Ron so angry, but that he would be willing to talk about it if Ron thought it would help. In Hermione’s, he thanked her profusely for always taking such good care of him, even when he didn’t really deserve it. Both letters also included a guarantee that he was going to stop drinking. Neither letter mentioned how he got the bruises or where he was going that evening, though. He just wasn’t ready for that conversation. As he waited for his dinner to be ready, he wrote a letter apologizing to Minerva as well. She had done so much for him, and he had basically turned around and said “up yours” in return. He also included the ways that he was trying to improve himself, and that he knew it would be a while before he was okay, but he was determined to get there.

His last letter was more difficult to write, because he couldn’t actually remember what he was apologizing for. He had a very short memory of an argument with Neville from the Christmas party. He knew that Neville was upset, and definitely with him, but had no recollection of what he had done. This letter was awkward and short. He explained that if Neville was open to it, he would love to have a conversation about what had happened, and that he was embarrassed he was so intoxicated he couldn’t remember it. He ended the letter with a promise to try to be more conscientious and a better friend moving forward.

He took his dinner out of the oven and carefully carried it upstairs to his bedroom. He sat on the floor to eat it while contemplating his outfit for that night. At the barber shop that morning, he had asked about gay clubs in the area, and got a few suggestions that seemed good. It seemed like a bad idea to return to the last one when he couldn’t remember how the evening had ended. For all he knew, he had been thrown out. He was also told that he had to be dressed ‘properly,’ but wasn’t sure what that meant. So he had bought a new pair of black slacks that actually fit him, as well as a silvery grey button down shirt that was almost snug. He stared at the outfit. With every bite of his lasagna, he was more and more nervous about that night. Eventually, he abandoned his dinner, wrote it on is chart, and started to get dressed. As he left his bedroom, he caught sight of himself in the mirror. He almost didn’t recognize himself. He looked… quite fit.

 


 

 

December 22. 10:27pm.

Harry never thought he could be this happy pressed up to another human in public. But, boy, was he wrong! He could feel the man’s stubble on his neck as the man’s mouth moved across Harry’s throat, and the hard planes of his chest. Harry pushed the blonde up against the wall of the club and kissed his mouth hard; running his hands into his hair. Suddenly, he felt hands on his hips, pulling him even closer. Harry’s cock was harder than stone, and loving every second of this encounter. The light in the club was dark; flashing. The music was thumping in his ears. He couldn’t tell if his heartbeat or the music was louder in his head. He could have died in that moment and been just fine with it.

Just as he started to feel his snogging partner stirring below the belt, his watch alarm started beeping like mad. He was glad he had transfigured an old leather band into a watch, so that he would know when he had to leave. He couldn’t very well have his wand vibrating in a muggle club. Not that wand, anyway. Pulling away from the man, Harry hit a button on his watch and said, “So sorry, but I’ve got to go. This has been fun, though.”

“What are you, Cinderfella?” the blonde looked quite put out at the abrupt end to their evening together.

“Funny. But no, got a train to catch, is all. The night is young, though… Head back into the throng, find somebody new?” Harry smoothed back his hair and backed away from the man. He gave him a slight wave before walking away.

Stepping out of the club and into the night, he felt a cold shock run through his body. Unfortunately, his bits didn’t get the memo, so he sent a discreet charm to calm him down. Walking toward the nearest apparating point, Harry thought through the events of the evening. He was an awful dancer, so he had decided to stick near the bar. A blonde had showed up and offered to buy him a drink. Harry declined, holding up his glass of water. They chatted for ten minutes or so, with Harry dodging questions about where he went to school and such. Eventually, Harry ran out of ways to avoid talking about magic, so he asked if the man wanted to go somewhere a bit quieter. With a quirk of his eyebrow, it was a clear invitation, but Harry wasn’t sure to what he was inviting this man. After that, he was running purely on instinct. Thinking back on it now, Harry was immensely grateful this had happened. He knew now that he was definitely interested in men; romantically and sexually. He couldn’t wait to tell Herc.

Being around so much alcohol had been challenging for a few minutes, but when the other man had starting chatting him up, Harry was so distracted by all the pheromones running through his body. Even now, leaving the club and heading home, he was feeling so high, just on the adrenaline. As soon as he got home, he showered, changed and climbed into bed. He was eager to follow his Healer’s orders. He didn’t want to feel so out of control again. It was after eleven already, but he decided a quick note to Herc couldn’t hurt.

Hey mate… I went to a muggle bar for homosexuals tonight. I also realized something. I like men. For friendship. For romance. For shagging. I didn’t shag anyone tonight, but had one hell of a snog. And loved every second of it. I don’t feel dirty in the slightest. Can’t say it’ll always work out that way, as the feeling is hard to shake some days. But I think my subconscious is coming around to it. I’ve got at least a few new love bites. Thought you’d like to know. I’m going to sleep, as it’s actually past my bedtime, but I’ll check back in the morning.

Closing his journal and setting it on his bedside table, Harry reached for his potions. He wasn’t foolish enough to believe that every day would be as easy as this first day was, but the fact that he had made it through the first day and still felt sane gave him hope moving forward.

Chapter Text

A/N:  Sorry I've been gone. I have a few days off for the holidays, though, so I'm hoping to get at least two chapters up in the next 2 weeks!! I'm trying!!!


 

 

 

CHAPTER 18 - Medical Mayhap

December 25. Early morning.

Draco was pacing again. As he had done for nearly a month. Alone in his room. At least… he thought it had been a month, but maybe he was wrong. He hadn’t seen anyone since he left school and was feeling quite desolate. Blaise had said he would visit on Christmas Day, but that had come and gone without a word. Bud hadn’t written in days either… except, maybe they had talked a few days before? It hurt his head to try and remember.

Crucio.

He winced as he kept walking. His arm was aching, but he couldn’t remember how he’d hurt it. Possibly the bindings he had put on himself the day before. He saw fire all around him, he could feel it burn. He could hear the screams of muggles being tortured; could picture himself begging his father to stop.

Crucio. Now the fire was inside him, too.

Relashio. He felt pain in his leg as the spell hit, and then nothing. He could see the blood dripping down his leg, but felt nothing.

Suddenly there was a shift in the wards. Someone was inside the Manor.

Draco grabbed his wand, even though he knew he wasn’t allowed to use it outside of school except for travel. He had learnt to Crucio wandless. As well as a few other handy spells; like Incarcerous . He left his room and silently crept downstairs, keeping his back to the wall. He could feel the wards accepting the person. That meant they had been in the manor before today. Thud, crash. Draco burst into the library, waving his wand wide and shouting, “Drop your wand!”

“Fuck, mate!” Blaise was standing in the middle of the room cradling his left elbow. He quickly raised both his hands as a sign of surrender. “Dray, you alright?”

Draco stared at the man on the other side of the room. “Blaise?” he whispered, but didn’t lower his wand. “What are you doing here? You were supposed to come for Christmas. That was ages ago.”

A look of sadness came over Blaise’s face as he approached Draco to answer. “Christmas is today , Draco,” he said quietly as he slowly reached for his friend’s wand. Taking it easily out of his hand, he led Draco to a couch on the side of the room. He helped him to sit down and pushed his hair out of his face. “You’re shaking. And you’ve injured yourself; how did that happen, mate?”

“I… I don’t actually remember. Today is Christmas Day? No, that can’t be. I’ve been here all alone for weeks,” Draco mumbled quietly. He felt as though everything was going in slow motion and the room started to spin. He felt sick. At Blaise’s nod, Draco said, “I think I need a Healer. Please. Could you help me with that?” and then he lost consciousness.

 

 


 

 

December 25. After supper.

On Christmas evening, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were sitting in the library at Grimmauld Place. Harry and Ron were in the middle of a game of wizard’s chess, and Hermione was copying something out of a textbook next to them at the table. It was a strong testament to how well they knew each other that neither Ron nor Harry even bothered to ask what she was working on.

“That’s checkmate, Harry,” Ron didn’t even attempt to hide his grin as his rook smashed Harry’s king. “You’re pants at chess.” Ron leaned back in his chair and took a swig of his butterbeer.

“That’s not news, mate, I’ve always been terrible at chess…” there was an awkward pause. “ Sorry I can’t offer you a real drink. It’s just… My healer…”

“Butterbeer is fine, Harry. No need to explain anything. Reminds me of our first trips into Hogsmeade together. Remember?” Ron had a lazy grin on as he glanced over at Hermione, who had stopped writing.

“You mean when you fancied Rosmerta? All she had to do was look in your direction and you couldn’t manage to string two words together,” Hermione smirked back at him.

“Hey! Most of the blokes in our year had a thing for Rosmerta! Except for Harry, anyway.”

“Yeah, well, she’s not really my type, is she?” Harry said, and continued without thinking, “Much too female for my tastes.” There was a moment where no one moved and no one said anything. Harry’s heart started to beat faster when Ron spoke.

“Yeah, but that’s how I like my love interests. It’s why we get along so well. Different interests, mate.”

Harry heaved a giant sigh of relief and smiled at his best friend. He was thrilled at how absolutely normal the evening felt. His friends had accepted his apologies and his brief explanations without asking many questions. He assured them that he’d talk to them about it all when he was ready, but that he was finally making healthier decisions for himself, and that seemed to be enough for them. He felt calmer than he had in a long time. Telling his friends he was gay turned out to be a non-issue. It wasn’t something it planned, it just happened. He had woken up early and cooked a large breakfast for himself before working out for an hour. He spent most of his day working on school work and practicing his meditation. Ron and Hermione had come over shortly after tea-time and they’d been enjoying each other’s company ever since.

“Speaking of our first few years at Hogwarts… Hermione, do you have any beginner’s potions books, say, geared toward idiots? Other than the standard issue, of course.” Harry asked, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.

“Why do you ask?”

“Well. Someone said something to me about how potions is similar to cooking, and I can manage that just fine. Actually, I’m rather good at it, so I should be able to make the potions. Theoretically. But I can’t manage some of the most basic potions. And I’ve tried .” Harry laughed slightly. “Draco even said to me that even I should be able to make some of the ones I’ve mucked up.”

“Draco? When were you talking to him?” Ron asked him.

“Oh. We’ve gone running together a bit, and I asked him to tutor me in potions because I can’t seem to get anywhere. We’ve tried a few times; hasn’t helped though. He ended up getting thoroughly frustrated.”

“There’s a lot of theory that goes into potions that we never learned in class, I’ll give you that. I’m proud of you for putting the effort in to try to figure them out.” Hermione promised to send him a book the next morning, as she had one she thought would help.

“Yeah, well, my pen pal basically told me that just because we have Healers and apothecaries doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn to make them myself. Kind of has a point, doesn’t he? Made me feel like a right prat. Everyone around me knows more about potions than I do.”

“Are you and your pen pal getting on well, then? Me and mine chat, but he doesn’t seem to keen on being mates or anything. ‘Course it doesn’t help that I have a hard time pretending not to be who I am… How can I not be a Weasley? Too many identifying factors.”

The trio spent the rest of the evening chatting and laughing about silly things. Harry felt so light of heart, and couldn’t stop smiling. When it was nearing ten o’clock, Harry politely let his friends know that they would need to leave so he could get ready to go to bed. After an awkward but emotional group hug, his friends flooed home and he headed to bed. As he walked into his bedroom, he mentally prepared for a chat with Hercules. He changed his clothes and climbed into bed with the book. As he opened it, he saw that a message was being written, and it wasn’t from Herc at all. After a moment, it appeared in full:

Hello. This is not your pen pal, but a close friend of theirs. Not sure if you know their gender, so I’ll stay neutral. There’s been a bit of a medical situation, don’t worry, they will be okay. But they will be unable to write for at least a few days, I would imagine. Your pen pal has indicated that you two talk frequently, so I didn’t want you to be too concerned. If you want to write, I’m sure they will be grateful to read it when they are able. Again, please don’t worry, all will be well! Please know that Professor McGonagall has charmed the journal for me to be able to write this. I cannot read anything that has been written, it appears as it a blank book to me, and I will not be able to read anything you reply with. So no worries about breaking confidentiality. Happy Christmas. See you at Hogwarts. Signed, A Friend  

Harry was immediately flooded with concern for Hercules. His heart started to race and his eyes filled with tears. Taking a moment to breathe deeply, he knew he had to write to him for when he was well enough to read it. He dipped his quill and began to write.

Hercules, I am extremely concerned for you. Please let me know you’re okay the minute you are able. A friend of yours sent me a message (I’m sure they can explain that bit) saying you had a ‘medical situation.’ I am hoping beyond hope that you aren’t still hurting yourself, although I think I know better than to wish so. We never really talked about it, as I didn’t want to break your confidence or make you uncomfortable. But I don’t bloody care now. I have come to see you as a very close friend and would be distraught if something were to happen to you. If you care about me in any way, you will try to stop doing this to yourself. I know every single 8th year is worthy of living and being happy. There isn’t a single bloke in our year who I think doesn’t deserve to have happiness and success in their future. Not a single one, I assure you. Please. Please don’t keep doing this. You asked me once if what I said meant that I wanted to die. I don’t anymore. I think I did before. But today, in this moment, I absolutely don’t want to die. Now I face you with the same question… Do you really want to die? That’s the path you’re headed down. The friend who sent me a message, how would they feel if you weren’t around any longer? Please write to me absolutely as soon as you are able. I’ll keep my journal on me at all times. Please try to stop. Signed, Your Friend, Bud.

Harry quickly downed both of his evening potions and fell back into his bed. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t stop the tears. He may not know who his pen pal really was, but he knew that he cared about them almost as much as he did for Ron and Hermione. He had come to rely on their chats and his new friend’s brutal honesty. How could he help him? Getting out of bed, he quickly wrote a list of things that he needed to do the next day. After climbing back in bed, he reminded himself how glad he was that he was that he was seeing his new Mind Healer in the morning. If for nothing else, to stop him from going out and buying more firewhiskey.

Chapter Text

A little early Christmas gift for those of you who celebrate. And a Sunday gift for those of you who don't. Enjoy! Trying (key word, here) to have another this length up by Friday. No promises!!





CHAPTER 19 - On the Mend

December 26. Before dawn. 

Harry awoke early; drenched in sweat and with his heart racing. He had been jolted out of his sleep by his latest night terror. He had countless nightmares throughout the night. All of them featuring a faceless stranger who he just knew was supposed to be his pen pal. There was nothing about him that told him that, of course, as he had never seen him in real life. But he could feel it. He witnessed his pen pal’s death over and over again. He watched him fall from a broom, get engulfed in flames, get hit with an Avada Kedavra , pummeled by a muggle, trip over a moving staircase at Hogwarts, and get hit by the train. He had never been so affected with emotion about someone he knew so little about. Harry was overcome with such a strong feeling to protect this stranger. Concern coursed through his veins. He needed to talk this out with his new mind healer.

It was a bit earlier than he planned on getting up, but he climbed out of bed anyway. After exercising upstairs for an hour, he took a very long shower, thinking about what he would say to his mind healer that morning. He dressed in the same outfit he had worn to the club the other night, as it was one of the only ones he had that fit him properly. Moving quickly, he vanished all of his clothing except for his Weasley sweaters and a few things that had belonged to Sirius. Then, when he was in the middle of cooking a fairly extravagant breakfast for himself and Calvin, the floo indicated that someone was trying to come through. He waved his hand at it to let them through.

“Morning, Harry, I hope it’s alright that I’m early?” Cal asked as he neatly stepped into the room.

“Of course, Cal! Not a problem at all. Breakfast isn’t quite ready, yet, though. Tea while you wait?” Harry spoke over his shoulder while he flipped the pancakes in the frying pan. Cal agreed to tea, but insisted on making it himself, so Harry pointed out the necessary equipment.

“Merlin, you’re cooking enough for an army, aren’t you?” Cal exclaimed.

“Cooking is something I find enjoyable. It won’t go to waste, I’ll send some to my friends if necessary,” Harry smiled at him. They continued to make brief small talk while Harry finished up the breakfast and set the kitchen table. As they started to eat, Cal started the difficult part of the conversation.

“So, how have you been sleeping? Has it been any better with the potions? It’s been a few nights now.”

Harry looked at his plate as he answered quietly, “I mean. I did alright for a few nights? Last night wasn’t so great, though. Plenty of nightmares. Got some rough news before I went to sleep. So, I guess I know why I didn’t sleep well. If that helps.”

“Of course it helps. It’s important to figure out why these things happen. A lot of things can damage our sleeping process. Would you mind sharing the news with me? Maybe we can work through it so that it isn’t troubling you anymore.”

“Well. We’ve got a pen pal assignment this year at school. It’s special for the eighth year students, as we aren’t really done our schooling, but don’t need quite as much help as the seventh years,” Harry explained. He detailed the entire pen pal assignment and how he and Herc had been getting on. He even made sure to mention how much he had come to rely on their talks and valued the new friendship. He briefly explained that Herc had been hurting himself basically as long as Harry had been chatting with him. “He’s even been helping me with the whole I’m-gay-but-feel-like-I’m-dirty thing. But then last night a friend of his got special permission to send a message through the journal and I found out he’s had a ‘medical situation’ and I think I know what that means. I think he hurt himself and I should have reported it.” Barely speaking, Harry whispered, “I feel so guilty.”

“Hmm. I do agree that you should have reported it, but why does all the blame lie on you? Isn’t some held by this other friend of his, or other people that he knows?”

“Well, I suppose so,” Harry answered thoughtfully. “Our group therapist knew about it too. At least… I’m fairly sure this person is in my group. If they’re in the other group, then someone else in my group is also hexing themselves on a regular basis. Not that I know that that’s what happened… At this point, I’m just assuming.”

“Harry, I think it’s important that you talk to Herc about this. Talk the issue out until neither of you feel guilty. He confided in you because he thought you’d keep his confidence. And you did that. Even though he may have hurt himself, according to his friend he’s doing alright now, and probably getting the help that he needs, so that’s not an issue anymore either.” Cal paused to refill their teacups. “I think you should also report it to McGonagall on the off chance that no one knows how Herc came to be however he is. Does that make sense?”

Running a hand over his face, Harry said, “Yes, it does. I hate that I’ll have to do it, but I understand it’s necessary. I suppose I have to tell him that I reported it as well, right?”

“I’d recommend it.”

Harry suggested that they move into the library to enjoy their tea now that breakfast had been finished. Cal looked around the kitchen and asked, “Do you want help cleaning up?”

“Nah, thanks, though. It’ll help to keep me busy later this afternoon. My elf’s been in a right mood because I won’t let him do much at the mo’. I’ve been using household chores to keep my mind engaged and to feel like I’m physically doing something without over exercising, you know?”

“I think that’s excellent, Harry. Truly.” Cal settled in an armchair across from Harry with his tea. “So before we move on to other things, I have one more suggestion about your pen pal.”

“Hmm?”

“Pay attention, Harry. THis is important.”

“Of course. I’m sorry. Verging on a panic attack, I think,” Harry mumbled as the room spun in front of him.

“Alright. Good thing to recognize,” Cal spoke in a soft voice. “Try to find a spot int he room and focus your eyes. Try taking a deep breath through your nose. Nice and slow, don’t rush. Good. Now let it out slowly through your mouth. Like blowing out a candle, but slowly.” Harry did as he was told. The room came back to normal. “Better?”

“Yes. Much. Thank you.” Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“Don’t feel embarrassed, it happens. Ready to move on?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

“I think you should arrange a gift of some sort to send him, and ask Professor Mcgonagall to send it along for you. Sort of a combined get-well-soon and Christmas gift. Is there anything you can think of that may make a suitable gift?”

“Hm. I’m not sure.” Harry thought really hard about his conversations with Herc. “I suppose I could get him a copy of the animated version of Hercules. They’ve got it in book form, I think. Shouldn’t be too hard to get a hold of, right?”

“I take it that’s where his nickname comes from?”

“Yeah,” Harry’s grin grew with every thought. “Actually, there’re a few books I could get him. Make a basket sort of thing. Yeah. I like that idea, Cal!” The two of them went on to talk about Harry’s record keeping since they had last met. Harry showed Cal his journal that contained his exercise, sleep, and eating habits. Cal was immensely pleased with Harry’s progress. Harry specifically mentions that he was close to going out for a drink the night before, and that this wasn’t his first panic attack since they’d met last.

“That’ll happen from time to time, Harry. I will say that eventually, down the road, I think you’ll be someone who’s able to casually have a drink or two with friends and not worry about it. You aren’t an alcoholic per se, you have other issues which you’ve been using alcohol to treat. When those issues, and your anxiety, are better under control, “ Cal shrugged his shoulders, “you may very well find that the occasional drink is okay.”

“I never thought about it that way.”

“Yes, there is a difference. One more thing for us to chat about before I head out and let you have your Saturday... “ Cal set his teacup down and sat up straighter in his chair. Looking Harry directly in the eye he said, “Did you know that over breakfast, you referred to yourself as gay?”

“No, I didn’t. I’m not… I mean - that is…” Harry’s heart started to race, sure that he was to be reprimanded for what he said. How could he have said such a thing?

“Harry. Stop.” He did. “It’s a good thing, Harry. From everything you’ve said to me, you are gay. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

There was a very pregnant pause. Harry’s breathing was the only sound in the room.

“It scares me,” he whispered.

“I’m sure it does. Can you just say the sentence for me?”

“What sentence?”

“If I asked you, ‘what is your sexuality,’ what would your answer be?”

“I - I would say… I’m gay,” Harry said haltingly.

“That’s excellent Harry. Scary, yes. Difficult, absolutely. But you’re starting to realize that your uncle wasn’t right. He had no idea what he was talking about. Even his reasons for disliking homosexuals don’t stand in the magical world anymore. I’ve no idea if you’re interested in ever having children, but if you were, they’ve been creating potions to get around that sort of thing for male-male couples. But, regardless of your interests down the line, you seem more okay with your sexuality already, even after only a week. Can you tell me, what’s changed?”

Reminding himself to ask Hermione about men having babies later, Harry went on to tell him about his trip to the club and his tryst with the blonde man. Making sure to include how much he enjoyed himself, he went into detail about his emotional journey through the whole thing. He even described telling Herc about it, and Ron and Hermione. “Although they don’t know about the trip to the club. I just casually mentioned that an old fancy of Ron’s wasn’t my type as she was a woman. They basically didn’t react. But I know they heard and understood me.”

“So they just accepted the news?”

“Yeah, I suppose they did. Which made me feel lighter and more relaxed than I have in weeks, if I’m honest.”

“Harry, these are all steps in the right direction!” Cal congratulated him on making so much progress in such a short time. Cal mentioned a few things that needed to happen moving forward, most notably talking more with his pen pal, and what it would be like to go back to Hogwarts. Harry was surprised to learn that the kitchen in the 8th year dorm was to be expanded so that they could cook, if they wanted to. Cal thought that cooking would give Harry something to do to keep him busy, and avoiding the dining hall wouldn’t be all bad, either. Harry found that he couldn’t disagree with him on that front. After a little while longer, they parted ways with an agreement to schedule something once Harry was back at school.

“I’ll see you shortly, then, Cal. Thanks for the chat!” Harry waved goodbye as his new friend stepped into the floo.

Tap tap tap. After he watched Cal spin away, Harry looked up to see an owl at the window. He opened the window and took the scroll from the owl, who flew hastily away.

Harry,

    I was surprised to get your letter. I think we should meet so that I can explain what happened. I am hoping you have an explanation of your own, as well. You sent the floo address on your last letter, so as long as you’re not busy, I’ll come over around 2pm. If that doesn’t work for some reason, write back immediately and we’ll reschedule.

N Longbottom

 

Harry looked up at the clock and saw that it was only eleven thirty. He quickly sat and created a new schedule for the day so that he could get everything he needed done, and still meet with Neville.

“Kreacher?” The elf appeared in front of him.

“Master Harry calls, sir?”

“Kreacher, could you arrange for me to order new clothes? I don’t want to go do it in person, but I’m not sure how to go about doing it any other way,” Harry ran a hand over the back of his neck sheepishly, knowing that asking his elf for help probably made him look like an idiot.

“Stupid Master Harry,” the elf said affectionately, ‘Wizards of the House of Black does not shop like commoners. Kreacher will takes care of it.” Kreacher snapped his fingers and Harry was standing in his skivvies on a pedestal that hadn’t been there a moment ago. There was a magical measuring tape whizzing around him, taking every measurement possible. Kreacher was standing and watching the progress, looking bored. After a few minutes, the tape measure and pedestal disappeared and Harry was clothed again.

“Now Master Harry looks here and pick,” he handed Harry a thick catalogue. “Make list and send with Kreacher to the shop. I will comes back with the stuffs tonight.” Kreacher shoved Harry toward the couch and conjured a parchment and quill. Harry did as he was told, finding it all a little odd. He flipped through the wizarding catalogue and tried not to become immersed in how different it was from the muggle ones. Each page was like a commercial for an entire outfit, not just one or two garments at a time. Kreacher explained again what Harry had to do, and soon, they had a very long list of new clothing being requested. Everything from formal robes down to new pants. Kreacher hustled off to the shop to gather the new items, and Harry started cleaning the kitchen. Once he had finished that, he put together a tray of sandwiches and made a fresh batch of tea, as Neville was due in any minute. Harry took a few deep breaths and prepared himself for a difficult conversation. Just as he carried the lunch into the sitting room, the floo chimed for the second time that day.

A short while later, Harry sat opposite Neville with a dumbstruck look on his face. Neville had just explained Harry’s actions at the holiday party before school had let out. Harry spoke quietly, ashamed of himself, “I really said that? Despicable and disgusting?”

“Yes. You did.”

Harry stood and went over to the window. He breathed deep and slow before turning back to Neville. “Nev. I can’t begin to tell you how extremely sorry I am that this happened. I have no explanation that will actually make that better, as I can’t actually take the words back. But I can explain why it happened.” He sat down across from his friend, refusing to meet his eye. He told Neville about how he’d been raised, leaving nothing out. He talked about his cupboard, Dudley, and the way that his uncle treated him. He described going days without food and being broken out of a room with bars on its windows and Mad-Eye Moody threatening his family with magic. He wrapped it all up by explaining, “And the worst of all of it Nev, because that’s all stuff that I can really live with, truly. The thing is… I am gay. I started to realize this school year. Now that the world has calmed down enough for me to realize it. It’s been a struggle to not feel about myself the way my uncle would feel if he knew. I think, and I can’t be sure, but I think that when I was that drunk, I just repeated what my uncle had said time and time again, because I was scared that it’s true.”

Neville looked at him with shock in his eyes. “Harry. First off, I am so so sorry that you had to grow up that way. That’s not fair to anyone,” Neville’s expression switched to one of sadness.

“Well, you would know more about that than anyone else I know, right?”

“I may have grown up without my parents, but my Gran loved me, that’s undeniable.” Neville sighed. “Secondly, what that man taught you is entirely unacceptable. Surely, Ron or Hermione have explained how homosexuality is viewed in our world?”

“They’ve started to, but not until recently. This school year, actually. It just never came up before.”

“Well. I don’t know much about muggles, I’ll be the first to admit that. But in our world, who you have sex with isn’t anyone’s business. No one cares. Some families put a lot of stress on having an heir, but other than that, really, no one cares at all.”

“It’s just hard, you know? Because I was taught that it’s disgusting and dirty and unsafe. I’m working with a mind healer to stop feeling that way. I don’t think I actually believe it. He says it’s a fear-response.”

“That makes sense. Probably similar to how some purebloods feel about squibs and muggleborns I would imagine, right?”

Harry just stared at him. “Wow. That’s. Neville. That is the most profound comparison I’ve ever been given. That makes loads of sense. And really helps.”

“Well then what I’m about to say might blow your mind…” Neville rested his elbows on his knees, cradling his teacup in his hands. “I really can’t believe no one told you. I’ll assume you didn’t know that Dumbledore was a gay man?”

Harry listened to Neville’s explanation of the true relationship between Albus and Gellert Grindelwald with rapt attention. By the end of it, he was feeling giddy with excitement. Everything Neville was saying truly did support the fact that being gay was alright in the wizarding world, and that no one really cared. Harry couldn’t be happier about that. They talked for a long while until Neville checked his watch rather obviously. “Neville, I’m afraid I’ve taken up too much of your Saturday. Please, go back to whatever you had originally planned for the day. I didn’t mean to monopolize you. I hope you accept my apologies. Again, I really didn’t mean what I said. You’ve made me feel even less like those things are true. I can’t thank you enough.”

“I’m sorry to chat and run, Harry, but I’m supposed to go see my parents this evening. And of course I forgive you, now that I understand. I’ll make sure to briefly explain to Cho that you didn’t mean what you said. I won’t say much more though, I assure you.”

“That means a lot, Nev. Thank you.” Harry walked him to the floo.

“Also, don’t take this as me being cheeky, because I’m not really into blokes like that, but you’re looking fitter than ever, you know. New clothes?”

Harry tried to hide his blush. “Um. Yeah. Thanks.”

“Oh, I’ve made you uncomfortable. I’m sorry… It was meant as a compliment.”

“No, no. It’s fine. I just… I’m not used to it. From anyone. Thanks though, really! I hope you enjoy your visit with your mum and dad. I know it can’t be easy.”

“Thanks, Harry. See you back at school.” They shook hands and Neville left; leaving Harry with quite a bit to think about.

 


 

 

December 26. 10:30pm.

Harry had just finished reviewing all the clothes Kreacher brought back, amazed at the sheer amount of items, as he climbed into bed. They all appeared to be the right size and in a variety of colors that Kreacher thought would look nice on him. He’d have to try some on in the morning. He had just sent Kreacher off with his gift list for Herc and asked him assemble it into a wonderful gift basket. Kreacher had assured him he would make it a gift ‘worthy of the House of Black’ and then left with the list. Harry had given strict instructions to go to McGonagall either before she went to bed, or first thing the next morning for help on how to deliver it to the anonymous pen pal.

Harry pulled his two journals over to him and followed his routine for the evening. After recording everything for his healers, he opened the Herc Journal, as he called it in his head. There was still no response from his friend. He dipped his quill and started to write anyway.

Hey Herc. Still haven’t heard from you. I’m not sure if you’ve read my last message or not. I’m really hoping everything is on the mend and nothing too serious is going on. A few days of being unable to read or write messages sounds pretty serious, though. In the meantime, I guess I’ll fill you in on my past few days? On Tuesday, the 22nd, I realized I am super gay. I’M GAY. And I can say that without having a panic attack, now. I should thank you, really. Without you I may never have realized that my relative was even wrong about homosexual relationships, let alone that I’m actually gay. (And oh boy am I gay. Very gay. The gayest, I would wager.) Here, I’ll try to sound like you: I am eternally grateful and indebted to you for this revelation you have brought upon me. Did it work? I probably just sounded really posh.

Then, Wednesday and Thursday were fairly uneventful. I spent a lot of time on school work. Got a new book on potions from a friend. That seems to be helping… a little. Friday, Christmas, was pretty good. A nice calm day. I saw a few of my friends. Casually told them I was gay. They didn’t seem to care, which was a relief. And then I got the worst news that I think I could get these days. I found out that my newest and one of my closest friends (YOU, YOU IDIOT) was injured or sick in some way. I realize that I am assuming I know things without actually knowing what happened. But I have to listen to my gut, you know?

I do think I need to tell you that when you do finally answer, I will expect some kind of explanation. I understand if you aren’t ready to tell me everything or exactly what happened, but I won’t accept ‘nothing. everything is fine’ as a response this time. And I need to know that McGonagall knows what happened as well, if it’s what I think it is, or I will have to report it. Not because I want to break your confidence, but because I truly don’t think I could bear not having you to talk to anymore. I arranged to have a gift sent to you today, but I’m not sure when you’ll actually get it. So let me know when you can, okay?

Harry paused before finishing his entry. He had a sudden urge to be extremely honest, and didn’t want to lose his nerve.

I miss you.




 

December 27. 8:30pm.

Harry glance in the mirror one last time before grabbing a cloak. He had spent hours that day practicing his wandless magic. He had managed a glamour charm that made him look almost nothing like himself that took very little effort to maintain. His hair was somewhere between auburn and a sandy blonde color, with soft waves in it. His eyes he had dulled to a darker green and changed to a more almond shape. It took extreme concentration, but he had managed to get his scar to fade and then hid it behind a complexion full of freckles. Once he was sure he wouldn’t be recognized, he dressed in some of the nicer things that Kreacher had brought him, without being formal. Neville had recommended a gay wizarding club in case Harry wanted to check things out; and oh boy did he! Glamour in place, he had nothing to worry about when heading into Wizarding London. James Pfeiffer was going out on the town. He doubted his alias needed a last name, but just in case, he thought he should be ready.

A short while later had him waiting in line to get into the club. It was a rare moment where he wished he could use his name to get in earlier than the other patrons. But that would be foolish. He waited in line with everyone else, trying not to look too eager to get inside. He was thinking about the conversation he had had with Herc about looks being important when it came to attraction. While he didn’t necessarily agree with that, he figured that looks couldn’t be too important to him, as he seemed to just be interested in a fit male body.

Looking around him he saw various shapes and sizes of wizards, and just about every coloring one could imagine. Thinking about it, it realized that he found quite a few different types of men attractive. Height didn’t seem to matter to him. Nor did the way they dressed. He did seem to prefer lighter coloring over dark, but not enough to rule anyone out based on that alone. There were a few men who had already made eye contact with him and blatantly checked him out. Tonight was shaping up to be a good night.

 


 

 

December 28. Mid-morning.

Harry was just sitting down to have tea when an owl was at the window with a letter. It was from Hermione. Harry eagerly ripped it open and sat down to read.

Hello Harry!

   Haven’t heard from you since Christmas, hope everything is still going well. Ron and I were discussing (don’t get mad) how good you looked when we last saw you. Healthier and fitter than you have in years. We’re very proud of you.

I’m writing for two reasons. First, to ask how the potions work is going. Has there been any improvement? I’m hoping that with the theory behind it all, it will start to make more sense to you.

And secondly, did you hear that Draco is off house arrest? I don’t know all the details, but the Prophet said his sentence has been modified to eliminate portions of the original sentencing from the summer. I know you two have become acquaintances sort of, so I thought you’d want to know. And I know you don’t read the Prophet any longer.

Missing you and can’t wait to see you back at school!

Hermione (and Ron who is reading over my shoulder)

Harry smiled at the letter from his two best friends. They were more than he ever could have hoped for in his life. He quickly penned a response on the back of the original letter. He simply let them know that his holiday was going well, that his potions had improved ever so slightly, and thanking them for the news about Malfoy. Before thinking too hard about it, he also wrote a quick note to Draco asking if he’d be interested in going for a run with him and also gave that to the owl. He then hurried himself back into the kitchen to finish up his potions.

An hour later, Harry went to shower; as one of the potions had exploded all over him. When he got out, he noticed that his Herc Journal was glowing and bouncing away on his nightstand. He’d had it with him when brewing, so Herc must have just sent a message. Throwing on the first clothes he could find, Harry took the journal and his quill downstairs to sit in the library.

Hello Bud. I am so very sorry for causing you to worry. I will explain. But please give me some time to get it all out. It may take a few days in order to truly explain all of what happened. I suppose that some of it, I may not be able to ever fully explain. I am embarrassed and distraught about this entire situation. But beyond anything else, I am filled with regret over how worried I made you. I can honestly say that I feel the same way about you. I count you as a friend and would be utterly heartbroken if anything were to happen to you. Let’s try to not let that happen to either of us, yes?

Before I explain what I’ve been going through, I want to congratulate you on your newest revelations! (No, you did not succeed in sounding like me. You don’t sound posh, you sound like you’re trying to sound posh.) The last time we really talked, you had just realized you were interested in men, I didn’t realize that you realized you weren’t interested in women at all! But congratulations. Welcome to the party, as they say. Any chance you’re around to chat?

Herc, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear from you. Of course I’m around! I’ve been waiting for days.

Feeling’s mutual. I enjoyed having so many things to read when I woke up! Thank you for the gifts, by the way. It was all very thoughtful. A muggle book on Hercules! Is it a children’s version of the story? I like the illustrations quite a bit. He is a fit bloke, isn’t he? A first edition of the Warlock and the Hairy Heart?? How did you even find that?! And the books on potions and animagus training… It was heartwarming how many of our conversations you seem to clearly remember. I won’t mention the naughty magazine you slipped into the basket, either. (Queer Quidditch Players, really?? Like I don’t already have a subscription.)

Oh, how I missed you. I’m so glad you liked the gift, though! I put a lot of thought into it. I’m glad it shows. I know that any time I’ve been ill or injured, I enjoyed gifts or warm wishes from friends.

The thought does show. Is it alright if I explain the short version now, and we can go more into detail another time?

I’ll take whatever you feel like giving me, Herc. I mean that.

I guess I’ll just ask you to give me a few minutes to write it out before responding. Please?

Of course. Just signal when you’re ready.

I have been having an incredibly difficult time since the war ended. It has been… I’ve…. I’m… Since I was… Without…

I know you asked me to wait… but can I assume that everything you try to say gives away who you are and the journal is shaking?

Yes. I am getting increasingly frustrated.

How about… you just keep writing. Anything that is safe to send, the journal will send it. Even if it doesn’t make much sense, just try to get it out.

All right. I’ve… and the screaming and it scares me. I can’t escape it. It traps me. It engulfs me. I can’t get out. And I… but it feels like I’m drowning at the same time. The nightmares won’t leave me alone, and even when I’m awake they haunt me. Sometimes, I think I might be losing my mind. I can’t seem to calm my brain. And without… a way to repent, I don’t know how to make things right. I don’t know how to fix it. I feel that so much of it is my fault.

You can say things now. I’m not making much sense, am I?

Yes and no. I can gather that the war has impacted your emotions. You feel trapped by what happened. Guilt is almost literally eating you alive. I know those feelings well.

It just feels like I’ll never be able to make it alright again. Like the nightmares will never stop haunting me… awake or asleep. Like the actual nightmares that we all lived through won’t ever leave us.

Can I ask you something?

Always. I may not answer you just yet, though.

That’s completely fair. Do you want to die?

There was a long pause before Herc started writing back. Nervously, Harry glanced around the room; trying not to anticipate any answer. As the words appeared on the page before him, he tried not to cry as he read the response.

I really don’t know. You asked me that in your first message after I

Well. I’m just going to say it, then. After I hit myself with Incarcerous, countless Cruciatus spells and dislocated my shoulder and nearly bled to death from a Relashio to the femoral artery. Those are just the spells I remember casting. My best friend saved my life. And I am grateful. Which tells me that I don’t think I want to die. But I’m also not sure that I want to live. Does that make any sense?

It does. First, I am so sorry that you’re hurting so much inside that these things bring you any sort of comfort. I ache for you. I wish I could fix this for you. But please know that you can absolutely always talk to me about anything. As long as the journal lets you say it, you go for it. There should never be any worry of embarrassment, or judgement, or even explanation necessary. Even if it makes almost no sense. That’s is ok. As for not really knowing how you feel about carrying on… I think more of the 8th years than either of us realize feel the same way.

I suppose that’s true. Probably why we have the mandated therapy.

About that, I was told that both of the group therapists will be replaced. McGonagall mentioned something about an investigation, but I don’t know anything about that.

Well. The new therapist likely won’t be any better.

I’ve been seeing a new mind healer who’s actually pretty decent. I can ask him to recommend someone for you?

We’ll see. I just got a new one, too. The one I had over the summer was pretty much a bust. Made me feel worse most of the time. Never helped with the nightmares or panic attacks or anything. This one seems to be a bit better. I feel alright talking to them.

Did they give you new potions or anything?

Yeah. So far they’re pretty strong, said they would be for a week or so. Until we go back to school. Then I’ll be on a more normal regime. Well. If normal includes an antidepressant potion and a mild daily sedative.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m on potions for my anxiety. I get panic attacks, too. My mind healer thinks the attacks are part of why I was having so many issues sleeping.

Do the potions help? Do you feel any different?

Nothing tangible. But sleep has been easier, that’s for sure. Except the last two nights.   Harry immediately regretted his words and wished he could take them back. It was annoying how open these journals made him feel.

What happened that made it hard to sleep?

I didn’t say that to make you feel bad. I’m sorry. The message from your friend had me worried sick.

I’m so sorry I put you through that. It won’t happen again.

Not to worry, Herc. It’s forgiven. But the potions… it’s not like Dreamless Sleep, they don’t make you sleep, they just… make it easier to drift off without your mind racing. I’m not sure how yours will work, but that’s how mine works.

Hopefully that’s what mine will be like, too. With these new potions, I haven’t even wanted to hex myself. But as I said, the potions are pretty strong. I’m not sedated, but it’s not far off. I’ve been sleeping loads.

That’s improvement at least, right? Probably making up for all the lost sleep over the past few months.

I suppose. And my new mind healer suggested trying to find something constructive to do to help me feel… as though I’m giving back? I don’t know what that means, really.

Mine has hinted at that as well. “Work off the guilt” or something. He suggested doing some muggle outreach or something.

Hm. I could look into that. As you know, I’ve grown up surrounded by magic. I know a bit about muggles and their world, but I would need help to figure something specific out. I can blend into the muggle world alright in short bursts, but I don’t know that I could work alongside muggles without standing out.

Hm. Maybe after this is all said and done, you and I could figure something out together?

It’s worth thinking about. We probably couldn’t plan too much of it until knowing who each other is, though.

That’s true. We’d have to reconsider our original agreement. Harry stopped writing. He thought about their agreement that very first day. They wouldn’t reveal their identities at the end. Now, he couldn’t imagine not finding out who Herc really was. He wanted to be true friends with him. But he had no idea if Herc would be willing to let Harry know his identity. Not when so many of his secrets had been laid bare in the journal.

So you’re gay.

Harry smiled at his journal. He finally felt like he had his friend back, and he really seemed like he wanted to have a normal conversation. SOOO gay.

Do I get to hear the whole sordid tale?

Are you feeling up to chatting more? You said you’d been sleeping a lot…

For now, i feel alright and fairly alert. I’ll let you know if that changes?

Sounds like a plan. Feel free to interrupt with questions or commentary. I’m sure I did it wrong.

I don’t doubt that you did!

Shut up. It all started the first night of the holiday. As I told you, I was so pissed that I remembered little more than “male and blond” and that I was excited about it.

Interesting bit of information, that.

I’m ignoring you for now. Anyway… on the 22nd, I went to a muggle club. A fit young bloke was chatting me up, and

Like you could pull somebody fit.

Arse. It all happened really fast, actually. But before long I had him up against the wall of the club and we snogged. A lot. There was…

Yes, Bud?

Stop. i’m actually blushing! I can’t remember the last time I got so nervous about a penis.

BUD. Did you shag this bloke?!?

NO! I don’t even know him. I do have some standards, you know.

Well. That IS news.

God I hate you. I can feel your eyes rolling.

No, you don’t.

Regardless, no we did not shag. But there was quite a bit of grinding our hips together, and the feel of his stubble along my neck. Oh, god, and the feel of him - hard - against me? I’ve never been in a more mouthwatering situation in my life.

Let me get this straight. Well. Let me get this bent… you find the thought of a hard cock mouthwatering?

Very much so, apparently.

You ARE the gayest. You are the definition of ‘gagging for it,’ aren’t you?

It would appear so, yeah.

I’m happy for you.

There’s more story to it… if you’re up for it?

Up for it?! Are you coming on to me now?

God. No! That’s not -

I didn’t mean it like that!!

Shut up. I know what you meant. And sadly, the answer is no, I’m not. Perhaps tomorrow you could tell me more? Don’t write the whole story out when I’m not here to read it. It’s more fun this way.

That sounds like an excellent idea, Herc. Let me say just one more time how incredibly glad I am that you’re not only okay and on the mend (I assume?) but also mentally on a better path. I really missed you the past few days.

I am, indeed, on the mend. Healer’s say I will be able to resume all normal activity that I feel well enough to do by tomorrow. I’ll be a bit groggy, but fine. Chat soon?

Of course. Get some rest, mate.

Enjoy your afternoon!

Harry glanced up at the clock and realized that nearly three hours had passed since he sat down with his journal. He stood and stretched his tight muscles. As hard as he tried, he could not get the grin off his face. Picking up his schedule for the day, he rearranged what he had left and quickly grabbed a bite to eat before going back to his potions.

Later that evening, his mood only got better when he got an owled response from Draco. He had agreed to go running the morning of New Year’s Eve.

Chapter Text

Happy Happy Christmas, all! My first ever naughty scene and I'm blushing like mad. I hope you all enjoy! Because it's so late (for me) I didn't even properly edit this yet, just wanted ot get it out there. Still hoping for at least one more chapter this week! Then things will likely slow down considerably. I hope you all enjoy your Tuesday!

LEMONS AHEAD. 



Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.


CHAPTER 20 - New Year New You

December 29. After lunch.

Harry had just finished cleaning the kitchen of potions residue and lunch dishes when his journal indicated a new message had been written. He had a very productive morning making all sorts of potions. The book that Hermione had bought him was finally helping. He was understanding how the bases of the potions reacted with each new ingredient added. All it took was an awareness of the make-up of each of the ingredients and the way that they would change the potion as a whole. It wasn’t just about following a recipe and getting a result. It was so much more than that.

Harry quickly washed his hands and took his journal upstairs into his sitting room. It was a nice change from the library. In the far corner, were two oversized armchairs; flooded with the early afternoon light from the bay window. After setting his ink on the table, he curled into one of the armchairs and opened the journal. There was a message, but not from Herc. For one heart-stopping moment he was worried about what it would say; but as he started to read, he say that he had nothing to worry about.

Students: The New Year is only a few days away. Please take a moment to discuss what you hope the new year holds for you. Try not to look too far into the future, just focus on this upcoming year and what you are attempting to achieve or overcome. What are you hoping for in your love life? What are you hoping for come summertime? You have until January 10th to have this conversation. As always, this prompt will disappear once you have completed the task.

Harry read and reread the prompt. He wasn’t really sure what his answers were to those questions. Smirking, he thought, he knew his answer to parts of it was ‘shagging.’ Actually, that answer could go for all of it. While he was still processing how to share his naughty answer, a note from Herc showed up on his page.

Well. Isn’t that a cheerful way to start the day?

How do you mean? Post-war… our answers should be uplifting, no?

Hmm. I guess. I was going to say ‘not die’ for what I’m hoping to achieve, and ‘my left hand’ for what my love life might have in store for me.

Ah, you’re in that kind of mood!

Shut up. Are you gonna answer the questions?

Yes! But not until you tell me what’s got you so grumpy. Did something happen?

They cut back my potions early. It’s not… I…

I’m sorry to interrupt, I really am, but is the journal cutting you off or are you having trouble explaining? No judgement, remember, just trying to help, here.

It’s not the journal.

Which is harder, being honest about what you’re feeling, or figuring out what you’re feeling?

When did you become a mind healer?

I spent a long time conflicted by my feelings. Spent most of it angry. I’ve found that a lot of things have gotten easier since I acknowledged my emotions for what they really are. It’s one of those “men can cry too” kind of things for me. Realized it too late in life.

You are remarkable.

You know, that’s one of the first times I feel like you aren’t making fun of me.

And I’m really not. I mean it.

I know.

There was a long pause where neither of them wrote anything. It was like when you’re sitting with a friend and no one says anything. Silent, but comfortable.

I think I feel… angry. I’m not really sure where that’s directed.

I feel sad.

I feel abandoned.

I feel guilty.

I feel alone.

I feel like no matter what potions they give me, or what I do moving forward, nothing will ever make the nightmares go away. I relive things - sleeping or awake, they happen over and over again.

Has anyone told you that all of those things are okay to feel? And that they very well may never go away? It’s a bleak outlook, but it may be true. No one can control those things. Reliving things… we all do that. With good and bad, yeah? My advice would be to go out and live so much; live so vigorously, that your happy memories far outweigh the bad. That way, most of your reliving can be positive.

Sage advice, Bud. I’ll take it under advisement. I am feeling… less snippy now than a few minutes ago. Promise. About those questions..?

Well. If I’m entirely honest, my first reaction was ‘shagging’ for every part.

You make me laugh, Bud. While I do wish you a year full of noteworthy shags, what if we take shaggin out of the equation?

If I have to. I’m hoping to achieve - inner peace. I’m hoping to overcome some of my guilt. I’m hoping the summer will bring calm with it. I’m hoping for something more than last year to happen in my love life.

More than the last year? My understanding is that the past week has been quite active for your love life.

You know what I meant.

True enough. You’re hoping for actual shagging.

What about your actual answers? Not the snarky ones you gave before?

I can’t answer the summertime one, there’s no way the journal will let me. But I am hoping to graduate. I am hoping for people to make amends. Others with me and me with them. As far as my love life, maybe to just restart it a bit? Hasn’t been very fulfilling as of late.

I missed you. (And I’m not going to lie about taking your ‘unfulfilling’ lovelife in a naughty way.)

Bud! You’re in a saucy mood. I believe you have more story to tell me, too!! The prompt disappeared, so I’ll assume we’re free to talk about whatever we want, again.

I have so much to tell you! Where did I leave off?

I think you were talking about a long hard cock?

I definitely never said it was long. Wasn’t that well acquainted with it, pervert.

Hey! I wasn’t groping some stranger in a club.

I was! But that’s pretty much as far as it went that night. Snogging, grinding, touching. That’s it.

Then what else did you have to tell me?

About the next time I went out. And the time after that.

You got a taste and you couldn’t wait for more?

Something like that. The next time I went out was even more enlightening.

Elaborate.

I found that looks aren’t as important to me as I once thought. Purposely experimented by looking at blokes that didn’t immediately catch my eye. Looked for things I found about them that were attractive. I was able to find attributes of most of the guys there that I enjoyed.

But not everyone?

No. Of course not. I like a more muscular or slim build. I’m also partial to people with different coloring than I have.

What did this experiment teach you, then?

I’m almost indiscriminately gay. Not quite, but close. I prefer men who can dance, but won’t make me do so with them.

Not a dancer, then?

Far from it.

So tell me something specific that happened the next time you went out. You seem like you want to talk about it but keep staying vague? Unless you don’t want to, in which case, feel free to tell me to sod off.

I do, but… It’s two things really, that are stopping me. I don’t want to sound like a braggart, especially because it’s so new to me. I also don’t want to sound like a deviant!

Oh, please. I will think nothing of the sort, I assure you. It’s just my entertainment for the afternoon. That’s all. Zero judgment, remember?

I guess.

Besides, I think a lot of things we do in the wizarding world are much more acceptable than they are in the muggle one. How will you ever learn the difference without a guide?

THAT is an excellent point. Alright then… Here goes.

The first bloke I, well, decided on, I guess. He was taller than me.

I don’t know how tall you are. What a dumb descriptor.

It will make sense in a few minutes. He had wavy black hair and called himself Bill. He was a bloody good dancer. We made heated eye contact while he was at the bar, and then he kind of… put on a show for me?

What does that even mean?

He left the bar and went out to dance. But it was - for me. He kept eye contact with me and, oh Merlin, the way he moved.

He danced. for. you?

Yes.

Fuck, that’s hot.

Herc! A little decorum, please!

Apologies, kind sir. Do continue.

Well. After a song or two, he came up and practically dragged me over to a wall and proceeded to snog me senseless. As he was taller, he kind of had me boxed into a corner and I found the loss of control a bit disconcerting. He seemed like he thought it had to work that way as he was taller? I tried switching us round, but he was having none of it. I was so disoriented by it, that it wasn’t incredibly exciting.

Shame, that.

I just encouraged him to pick another target, and I did the same.

Bummer because if he could dance like that.. Imagine what his hips could do? So, what did the next one look like?

Are you living vicariously through me or something? He was relatively short for a bloke. Longish hair. Brownish. Striking eyes. Almost silver. I’m fairly certain they weren’t naturally that way. I didn’t see his eyes at first though… he introduced himself arse-first. Right into my groin.

Subtlety is dead.

I’m not mad though, sped things up a bit. We danced, or swayed, rather, for a while. At this point, I was fairly keyed up. The atmosphere, the first guy being a bust, I needed to DO something. This time, I dragged him over to a wall.

Harry paused.

Do go on. You’ve got me on the edge of my seat.

Smiling, Harry kept writing. I couldn’t help it. Went with my instincts. Could have been partly my animagus meditation kicking in? Not sure, but all of a sudden, I had him pinned. Whispered in his ear to stop me if I did anything he didn’t like. He nodded and let me just do as I pleased.

And what exactly was that?

I… well… I…

Trouble with words or the journal won’t let you say it?

Words.

I really won’t judge you, Bud. Everyone likes different things. Just like some people like women and some like men. You gave him an out if he wasn’t interested in what you were. It’s not as though you did anything against his will, right?

Correct. Well. I used magic to pin his hands at his sides, and his body against the wall,modified body-bind. I let my hands roam… everywhere I suppose. I should mention that I cast a mild notice-me-not just as it all started. So no one could really see what was going on. Just looked like lots of snogging. But I was - feeling it. Him. All of him.

Just hands? That’s boring.

So far from boring. Kissing him, his neck. Grinding our hips together. He was, absolutely hung. I could FEEL him. I was biting his neck, and massaging everywhere I could reach. I just went with what I was feeling, and what I could feel HE was feeling.  I unzipped myself and unbound his hands. He just.. went with his instincts, I guess. Reached out and took over from there.

Did he ever try to stop you?

No.

I’m also assuming this was in a wizarding club? Or that he was at least a wizard?

Oh! Yes. Did I not say?

No, and I didn’t want to interrupt to ask until now. This sounds like what normally happens at wizarding clubs, Bud. At least, the notice-me-not against the wall bits.

That’s a relief. As was this bloke.

Did you shag him?!

I can’t wait for the day I can say ‘yes’ when you ask me that, if only to see your reaction.

I’ll throw you a bloody party.

I did NOT shag him in the club…

I’m sending a ‘but’?

Well. Oh boy, am I blushing. Instinct, remember?

I do remember.

I just… the sensations become a bit overwhelming. And the fact that we were in public didn’t hurt. I needed more. His hands were on me and felt great, but it wasn’t enough. So - I put my hands on his shoulders and put gentle pressure on … I just released the charm pinning his body.. and the next thing I knew, he was sliding down the wall,onto his knees.

He BLEW you in the club? Just like that?

Yes. Yes he did. And oh dear Merlin. I thought my entire body was going to explode. If I thought his hands were good, his mouth was… magical.

So you push this bloke against a wall. Body-bind him, kiss and bite him, and he just gets on his knees for you?

Yes.

I want to go to clubs with you.

Herc.. are you asking me to push you up against a wall and bite you?

NO! I just want to see this power of persuasion of yours in action.

It took Harry a few minutes to answer. Harry was overcome with thoughts of taking Herc to a club and doing the naughtiest things with him. He didn’t even know this guy! Not really! Shaking his head to clear the thoughts, he saw that Herc had misconstrued the pause in the conversation a bit.

You’re not disgusting. You did nothing unsafe. You are normal.

Thank you, Herc. I believe you, I was just thinking about that night again.

So have you done anything on another guy yet? Or just been on the receiving end so far?

Just receiving so far. But I’m eager to try the other way round.

So that was the end of your night? Getting blown in front of a room full of people?

Oh. Don’t say it like that. Now I’m blushing again.

At the rate you’re going, you’ll forget how to blush by the time we’re back at school.

Shut up.

You love it.

I think I do. You keep me humble and feeling stupid, that’s for sure. I think you DO want to be pushed up against a wall and bitten.

Shut up.

Hm. Secret kink, Herc?

Since when did you become an expert?

I’ve been reading a LOT lately. And practicing a bit.

A bit? You’ve been practicing a lot, I would say. I think that your dedication to becoming a true gay man is admirable.

You are the only one who could make it sound like graduating or something.

Well, it sort of is for you, isn’t it? It’s an awakening of sorts.

Muggles have a term for it. Because of the way it’s treated, and that everyone assumes everyone else is straight. So they have ‘coming out’ stories. About how they tell their family and friends.

Well, this is yours! And what a story it is! You’re more than halfway to being a slag, Bud.

I’m not bothered about it in the slightest.

Good. You’re being safe about it. Have willing partners, so there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

Do you have any big plans for New Year’s?

Pretty much spending it relaxing. I’m feeling better, but still not 100%. I have some schoolwork I need to work on, too.

Made any progress on Animagus training?

Not really. A bit, I guess? But still not close enough to know my form. I might just give it up. It’s not a graduation requirement.

You don’t think the curiosity would kill you?

Not really.

I think curiosity is what pushed me to get it done so fast.

You seem to be impatient, that’s for sure. But there are a number of students who’ve achieved it. More than half, from what I understand.

That’s true. I just kept thinking about how having an animal form would have helped me during the war. The times it would make things easier.

Hm. I hadn’t thought of that. It WOULD have come in handy a few times.

That’s my point. I just feel like now that I have the time, I don’t want to waste any of it being vulnerable.

I’ll have to think on that. So do you have any New Year’s plans?

Not really. Meeting up with a friend or two, but not for a party or anything.

You’re not going back to the club? Find another tasty sample of what it’s like to be a gay man?

Hadn’t really thought about the evening. I may go out again. My Healer said I need to keep a strict schedule, but that the few days around New Year’s can be an exception. So we’ll see.

I’m kind of hoping you DO go out. It means I’ll get another story.

So you ARE living vicariously through me.

Don’t have much a choice, lately, do I?

Try not to get so down about it. Soon, we’ll be back at school. That should help, right? You seem better at school.

We’re opposites, you and me. You seem better at home.

Yeah, well. I’ll be working to be just as fine at school.

Potions and new schedule seem to be working better?

I guess. I don’t panic as much now. And I slept well last night.

Progress is progress.

Where’d you get that gem?

My new mind healer.

Ah. How’s that going?

Alright. We meet every day for right now. I’m still conflicted about a lot, but I’m doing alright. The healer has given me loads of suggestions and coping strategies. Seems to listen when I talk, doesn’t seem to judge me for my past.

Sounds like a good start, then?

So far so good.

I’ve actually got to go, I’ve got some things to get done this afternoon before I…

Go get shagged in a club?

No. Well. Maybe. Who knows!

Go, enjoy your day. I’ll be around later if you want to talk!

Thanks, mate.

Harry packed up his journal and inkwell and banished them to his bedside table with a wave of his hand. He still had to work out, cook dinner, and shower before he went out for the evening. He had plans with Ron and Hermione, and a few other people, to go out dancing in Muggle London. On the one hand he was excited to do something a little different, but on the other, he was nervous about being around so much alcohol and potentially new people.

 

December 29. 8pm.

“Mate, I don’t think it’s necessary, or that it will even work, but if you want to, go for it,” Ron shrugged at Harry.

“You don’t think what is necessary?” Hermione came out of the kitchen with a cup of tea in her hands.

“Harry asked me if we cared if he glamoured himself into a friend of ours from out of town.”

Hermione looked at Harry quizzically. “You can glamour yourself so no one would recognize you?” Harry demonstrated his glamour from the other night, and walked over to her and introduced himself as James Pfeiffer using a perfect Irish accent. “Merlin!” she exclaimed. “Harry James Potter. You turn yourself back and explain this right now.”

Harry undid the glamour and asked, blushing, “What’s got you so bent out of shape? You know my magic isn’t the same as everyone else’s. I don’t know how I do it.”

“Harry, you don’t understand.” Hermione and Ron made uncomfortable eye contact. “There is no magic to make that happen. It isn’t possible .”

Harry felt his heart start to beat faster and he felt cold. Not wanting to fall completely apart in front of his friends, he forced himself to focus on what spot, the way Cal taught him, and breathed deeply. Hermione seemed to recognize what he was doing and waited before speaking quietly. “Great. Just another thing that makes me a freak, then. Because… apparently, it is possible. I can do it.”

“No, Harry. Not a freak at all. Amazingly powerful,” Hermione ran a hand over his shoulder. “You’re different, but in a way that makes people want to be like you, not shun you.”

“Mate, you let a bloke who likes blokes see you do something with that much raw power…” Ron whistled. “You’d have your pick of ‘em, that’s for sure.” All three of them busted out laughing at that comment.

“Wait a minute… Harry? Could you…”

“Yes, Hermione?”

“I mean… is it possible for you to do that to someone else?”

“What, you want me to try it on you?”

“Yes. Just to see if you can!”

“Sure. What do you want me to do?”

“How about something simple? You choose.” Harry called on his magic, feeling it gather near his hands, and gently pushed it toward her. Quickly conjuring a mirror for her, he showed her what he had done. “Harry! All these years I’ve been trying to smooth my curls, and all I needed was five seconds of your time and power?” Harry smiled at her. All he had done was make her frizzy, curly mane of hair a smooth, curly mane of hair. It was now glossy like models in magazines. His smile grew as he watched her run her hands through her hair. “You took all the tangles out, too?!”

“Well, it’s hardly impressive if I didn’t do at least that much… right?” he hip checked her and winked.

“Not that this isn’t all fascinating for us ordinary magic folk, but why are you using this glamour on yourself, anyway?” Ron asked him.

Harry’s smile faded and he looked at the ground as he answered. “Um. I was going to, to possibly - flirt. W-w-with a man. And, um… I’m not exactly ready for everyone to know that Harry Potter is gay.”

“You know that we don’t care one way or another, right?” Ron asked him sincerely.

“Yeah. Loud and clear, Ron. I’m grateful for you two. Immensely.”

They quickly finished getting ready and Harry redid his glamour before they left the house. “Wait… How exactly do we know you? You clearly didn’t go to Hogwarts with us.”

“I was going to say that I was a Gryffindor sixth year when you all were first years? I figured keeping the same house would stop me from slipping up or anything, but the age gap is enough that people probably wouldn’t remember me. Better yet, It’ll make sense that I know all the Weasley’s. I’m a curse breaker now for a private company. Recently suffered a mild head injury in case anything gets confusing, yeah?”

“Well. You’ve certainly thought that out.” Hermione looked very impressed with him. Once they were all on the same page, they walked out of the house and toward the bar they were meeting their friends at. They chatted quietly on their walk; Hermione sharing everything she knew about curse-breaking, just to be helpful.

The bar that Hermione had chosen was large enough that a group of them wouldn’t seem to overwhelm the place, but small enough that it didn’t have a dress code or require a cover charge. It was geared toward twenty somethings and was very casual. The music wasn’t too loud, but it was easy to dance to. When they arrived at the bar, they quickly walked over to where they saw their friends. It was Neville, Cho, Ernie, the Patils, Blaise, Dean, and a few people Harry didn’t recognize; all sitting together. The group of them drank, ate, and danced for hours.

At one point, Ernie and Harry had gone over to the bar to buy a fresh round of drinks. While they waited, Ernie started flirting with him. Leaning closer than strictly necessary, Ernie said to him, “James, I would’ve thought I’d remember a fit bloke like you running about Hogwarts.”

“I was a bit ahead of you,” Harry grinned back. “You were a bit young to be looking for fit blokes.”

“I just like fit people. Don’t really care about blokes or birds, if you catch my drift.”

Harry leaned even closer to the other man and whispered in his ear, “And you think I’m fit?”

“You’ve no idea.”

They made heated eye contact for a few beats. Harry said to him, “Let me take these drinks over and I’ll come right back, yeah?”

“Hurry.” Harry did just that. When he walked back up, Ernie was sitting on a stool, with his back leaning on the bar. Harry stood just between his knees.

“So, how do you know Ron and Hermione?”

“Same year at Hogwarts. You?”

“Friend of the Weasley’s. Went to school with most of them. I know Harry pretty well, too.”

“Now, he’s a fit bloke.”

“Pity, I thought you were into me.” Ernie boldly put his hand on Harry’s hip and pulled him slightly closer.

“I am very into you.” Taking a chance, Harry leaned in and kissed him. Hard. A few minutes later, they broke apart, panting. “Any chance you wanna get out of here? Grab a room at the Leaky?”

Harry groaned. “You have no idea. One thing though, I don’t shag on the first date, so, baby steps, yeah?” his heart raced as he waited for the answer. He couldn’t believe he was doing this.

“Mate, whatever you want, you can have,” Ernie agreed quickly.

“Let me say goodbye to Ron and Hermione then and I’ll meet you out front in five?” They parted ways and Harry walked over to where Ron and Hermione were sitting with Neville.

“You leaving with Ernie, then?” Ron asked with a drunken smirk.

“Lil’ bit. That alright?”

“Go fr’it,” he busted out laughing.

“James, could I talk to you for just a minute before you leave?” Hermione asked him with a frown. After they had stepped off to the side, she said to him, “Harry, regardless of what you expect to happen tonight, and I’m really not judging you for it, you can’t do more than kiss him without telling him who you really are. It isn’t fair to him at all.”

“I was coming over to ask you about that. I agree with you completely, but how do I tell or show him without showing the wandless magic thing?”

“Well. I’m proud of you, for what it’s worth. Let me think for a moment.” Harry shrugged on his coat while he waited for her. “Oh! Tell him the truth about who you are, and I suppose why you changed your appearance, because he’ll know you’re gay. But, claim you used polyjuice and then go to the bathroom to let the change happen. It isn’t very attractive, after all.”

“Merlin, you’re brilliant, Hermione.” Harry kissed her on the temple and left the bar. He and Ernie walked to the Leaky, stopping to snog against a few buildings on the way. When they got there, Harry asked him to grab them drinks while he sorted out the room. The receptionist gave him a strange look when he gave the name Harry Potter, but when she took his wand for ID, there wasn’t much she could do.

Once in the room, Ernie tried to push Harry up against the wall, but Harry stopped him. Following Hermione’s idea, he asked Ernie to sit down so he could tell him something important. “I want to start by apologizing for not being honest with you. And tell you that if you change your mind, I won’t hold it against you in the slightest. I’ll leave and you can have the room for the night. I don’t live far anyway. My name isn’t James.”

“So you lied about your name, who cares? I’ll call you whatever you like. Sir, even, if you’re interested,” Ernie wagged his eyebrows at him.

“I’ll bear that in mind for later, but that’s not what I mean,” Harry laughed. “I mean that you actually know me already. I’m Harry.” There was a pause where Ernie seemed to finally take him seriously.

“Harry who?”

“Potter.”

“No way. Harry isn’t gay.”

“Oh, yes I am.”

“Okay… but you don’t look like Harry. At all. And Harry isn’t Irish.”

“Is Irish a requirement? It’s a voice changer spell Fred and George have been working on. I can keep that bit, if you like? My polyjuice will wear off in about,” he made a show of checking his watch, “three minutes though. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go to the loo for the change back, it’s not very attractive. When I come back, you can let me know your decision. Again, sorry for lying, and no hard feelings if you say no thanks.”

In the bathroom, Harry watched in the mirror as he changed himself back. He used a bit of his magic to make sure his stubble was under control, but other than that, left himself as natural as he could. He splashed water on his face and washed his hands before heading back out into the room. He took a seat opposite Ernie at the small table by the window.

“Bloody hell, you weren’t joking. Harry.” Ernie looked gobsmacked.

“Sorry, mate. I didn’t mean anything by it. Just…” Harry paused, as he realized for one terrifying moment that Ernie could potentially be his pen pal. “Wait. Really quick… Does Hercules mean anything to you?”

He looked like he had no idea what was going on. “Like the Roman god? No, why? Should he?”

“No, never mind. What I was saying is, I’m just not ready for the press to be following me around again, or knowing who I’m snogging and such. So I didn’t want to risk going out as myself tonight. I would ask that whether or not anything else happens tonight, could we please keep this just between us? I really didn’t intend any harm.”

“Of course, and no harm done. I’m just altogether shocked, is all.” He laughed as he continued, “I’m having a ‘I snogged with Harry Potter’ moment. Which is embarrassing three times over because first, you are Harry Potter; second, I’ve known you forever so it really shouldn’t matter; and third, I just told you about it.”

“I see. I’ll just go then? See you back at school.” Harry stood and headed for the door. Utterly disappointed, he reached for the door handle.

“Wait. I didn’t say you had to go. I don’t… Well, I don’t think I want you to go,” Ernie said haltingly without standing up.

“You… want me to stay?” Harry turned round to face him again.

“Yeah, pretty sure I do.” He stood and walked over to Harry. He very deliberately put his hands on Harry’s shoulders and angled his face up towards him, closing his eyes. Not one to deny a willing man, Harry’s hands went to his waist and he claimed his mouth. It was an easy enough rhythm to fall into. Trusting his instincts, Harry turned Ernie around and backed the shorter man up to the door, effectively pinning him in place.

Harry kissed down the side of his neck and moved his knee in between Ernie’s thighs. Ernie’s groan brought Harry back to reality a bit. “Too much?” Harry asked him.

“No, not at all,” he answered breathlessly. “I - you -, you just pinned my hands without your wand, or saying anything. Oh Merlin.”

Harry quickly backed away from him and consciously released his hands. “I’m so sorry, Ern. I didn’t mean to. It just happened.”

Ernie’s eyes darkened as he stepped towards Harry. “You misunderstood me. I liked it. Let’s make a deal? You seem nervous. Can’t tell if you’re new at this or it’s because you know me. How about we go with instincts until someone says stop or slow down. And we’re still agreed on no actual shagging, yeah? Sound good?”

“Absolutely,” Harry quickly backed him up to the wall again. This time, he pulled Ernie’s arms above his head before locking them to the wall with a thought. He also tossed up a locking charm and a silencing ward. “Sometimes,” Harry licked his neck, “my instincts are a bit  - primal.” He lightly bit down on Ernie’s throat. “Blame my animagus form.” Harry proceeded to lick and bite and kiss Ernie all over his throat and face.

“Are you emotionally attached to this shirt?” Harry asked, looking him in the eye. He just shook his head. Harry tore it off him and continued his assault of bites and kisses down his chest. Before he lost his nerve, Harry sunk to his knees in front of him. “Remember to say something if it’s too much, or not what you like, yeah?”

“Fat bloody chance of that happening, but yeah, sure. Please, suck me, Harry. Please.” It seemed that Ernie couldn’t stop the instinct to thrust his hips toward Harry’s head.

Harry slowly undid his belt. Nuzzling his face in the other man’s groin, he breathed in the scent of him. Without meaning to, he vanished his trousers, leaving him in just his pants. Harry’s mouth watered at the sight of his hard cock making a wet spot in the front. He quickly pulled down his pants, and took his cock in hand. It was a touch smaller than Harry’s, but nothing to be ashamed of. Starting with what he himself liked, he put one hand at the base, and moved the other up and down the shaft, slowly. Feeling brave, he licked the tip of it, tasting the bitter, salty liquid for the first time. While it wasn’t a taste he enjoyed, he did enjoy the way Ernie’s body went taut and he moaned.

“Harry. Please. I’m not gonna last long as it is. Suck me, mate, please.”

“Your wish,” Harry left the sentence unfinished as he took the cock into his mouth. Careful to shield his teeth, he took it as deep as he could. He found he took take almost the whole thing in his mouth at a time, and if he sucked hard as he retreated, Ernie’s body quivered. Moving one hand lower, he massaged his bollocks as he sucked and licked. Switching it up when he felt Ernie get close, he tightened his hand around the base of his cock.

“Ah! Ha-harry! No fair… please. Please,” he was thrusting like mad, trying to get any friction that he could.

“Please, what, Ernie? You have to say it.” Harry kept one hand tight around the base and one hand always moving over the head of his cock, swirling his hand around the end. He didn’t know what made him say it, but he continued, “and I thought we agreed on ‘sir’ for tonight?”

“Merlin! AH! Sir. Please. Please suck me. Let me come, please, sir.” Harry put his mouth back on the cock bobbing in front of his face and did as he was asked. He sucked, hard, and let go of the base. Using his hands to make up for where his mouth couldn’t reach, he quickly brought Ernie to the end. His entire body bowed away from the door as he came. Harry wasn’t bold enough to want to swallow just yet, so he moved at the last second, putting his mouth on Ernie’s balls instead.

When he was done, Harry released the spell binding his arms, waved his hand to vanish the ejaculate on the floor, and guided Ernie to the bed to sit down. Ernie flopped back, breathing hard. “That. Was the single best orgasm I’ve ever had.”

Harry blushed something fierce. “Really?”

“Yeah. How many of those have you given?”

“Counting that one? One.”

Ernie sat up fast. “No way.”

“Swear it on Dumbledore’s grave, Ernie. I’ve been dying to do that for a while now. Friend of mine said I was ‘gagging for it.’”

“So your nervousness isn’t because it’s me. It’s because it’s new?”

“Very new.”

“Well then. Let me hurry to reciprocate,” he reached for Harry’s belt.

“Oh! Please don’t feel like you have to! I’m alright if you don’t want to,” Harry was quick to assure him. He didn’t want Ernie to feel as though he owed him something.

“Harry. I want to do this. I enjoy it,” he knelt before Harry, seemingly unabashed at his nakedness. “And if I’m entirely honest, your raw magical power is an extreme turn on. You haven’t reached for your wand once, but you’ve been doing magic since we got here. You must practice all the time to get these spells down.” Harry didn’t correct him, just let him carry on with what he was doing. “Merlin. On top of it all, you’re hung like a bloody hippogriff. Now who’s the one gagging for it?”

Ernie proceeded to do just that. Harry fell asleep that night without the aid of potions and didn’t have a single nightmare. Apparently, the only trick was to have multiple orgasms with an energetic partner, and everything would go smooth as could be.

Chapter Text

Happy almost new year's eve! Still hoping for one more chapter after this before I go back to the 'I have to go to work every day' grind. (My job is not that challenging.) Our boys are slowly getting toward where we need them to be by Easter! Enjoy the holiday! -Kay


Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.


CHAPTER 21 -

December 30. Morning.

As Harry came into consciousness, he felt a weight against him. Something warm was pressed into his front. Harry realized it wasn’t a some thing but a some one as he woke. He also was very aware that he was not in his own bed, and had morning wood worse than he’d had in a long time. He ran his hand down Ernie’s arm as he stretched to wake himself up.

“Mmmm,” Ernie groaned as he rolled away from Harry. “Mornin’.”

“Apparently. My whole body aches.”

“No way it’s your whole body. We didn’t get that far.”

Harry lightly shoved at Ernie’s shoulder and then stood up. “Shut up. You’ve got too much energy.”

“You’re not leaving that fast, are you?” Ernie propped himself up on his elbows.

“No, wanker, I just gotta piss.”

Harry went into the adjoining bathroom and relieved himself. Looking in the mirror, he saw his throat was covered in love bites, and his arms had many scratches on them. He washed his face and ran a warm flannel over his body before pulling his pants back on and leaving the bathroom. Ernie was standing next to the bed, pulling his pants on. “Who’s leaving quickly, now?” Harry smirked.

“I just figured I should be dressed for this conversation is all… but it seems that someone vanished my trousers. Got a plan?”

“Go clean up in the bathroom and I’ll get my house elf to bring you some new clothes.”

Harry quickly called Kreacher and had him bring a new outfit and a small breakfast for the two of them. He dressed and sat down at the table, preparing tea. Ernie came out of the bathroom, dressed, and joined Harry at the table. “So, do you want to start the conversation?”

“I guess. I’m going to be brutally honest here, I’m not interested in starting a relationship, Ernie.”

“Wonderful news because neither am I.” He smiled at Harry. “I’m perfectly happy for this to be just what we’ve already done: hands and mouths and orgasms galore. Or for it to continue, purely sexually. If you’re… looking to experiment or try new things with someone you can trust, I am more than willing to be your test subject.”

They looked at each other for a moment. Ernie began eating some of the fruit that Kreacher had brought him. “That’s…” Harry didn’t know what to say.

“Either way, Harry. I’m not gonna tell anyone if that’s what you’re worried about.”

His eyebrows scrunched in confusion, “Not that I want to announce it to the world, but what makes you say that?”

“Just that you seemed concerned that the world know that ‘Harry Potter is gay.” What with the disguise last night and everything.” Ernie reached across the table and squeezed Harry’s hand. “You grew up muggle, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Half my family are muggles. They’ve told me about some of the differences between our worlds. Some muggles don’t treat gay guys very nicely. So I get it. I imagine you grew up very confused about all of this. Please let me assure you, I’m not going to tell anyone.”

“Thank you, Ern. That means a lot to me. You’re not wrong about the muggles. But it’s not all of them. And I’m starting to realize that in our world, people don’t really care?” he didn’t mean to end that as a question, but that’s how it came out.

“Most people don’t care who’s gay. There will be people who care simply because of who you are, though,” he said thoughtfully. “It would be a situation where you’d be talked about no matter who you shag. Man, woman, veela, giant, etc. But you’re used to being in the papers, yeah?”

“Yeah, for sure.” The two of them talked for a while longer, and then said goodbye. Ernie assured Harry yet again that he wouldn’t tell a soul about what happened. Harry let him know that Ron and Hermione already knew, as they say them leave together, and that Neville knew he was gay. They agreed to leave it where it had ended the evening before and part ways as just friends.

As Harry walked home, he realized how foolish he had been the night before. He may have made it clear he wasn’t looking to shag Ernie, but he hadn’t bothered to check what the other man was looking for before getting naked with him. He hadn’t even made sure that Ernie would keep his secret before doing that. Moving forward, he would need to completely be sure he and his partners are on the same page before anything happens. He simply couldn’t afford the risk.

 




December 30. After supper.

“Fuck!” Harry cried out as he completed his fifteenth pull up on the bar. He paused at the bottom in a dead hang, knowing he had one more to complete. He could feel the burn in his upper body muscles. When he had done so, he dropped to the ground and stretched out his aching muscles.

Moving slowly, he went toward his bathroom to draw a bath. He stepped through his bedroom and to the door next to his wardrobe. Opening it, he stepped into his personal bathroom. Ever since the renovations were complete, this had been one of his favorite rooms in the house. Just to his left as he opened the door was a shelving unit holding towels and dressing gowns and soaps. On the wall to his left were giant windows that showed a view of the street down below. They had been charmed to let in light and reflect the true weather, but not to allow anyone to see into the room. In front of those windows was a large clawfoot tub with small tables on either end. There was a rarely used shower on the other end of the room, past the toilet. The walls were a pristine white and the whole room had black accents.

Turning on the hottest water he could in the tub, he plugged the drain so it would start to fill. He poured a muscle relaxant potion, one that had been approved by his Healer, into the tub along with lavender soap. Hoping the smell would help him relax enough to sleep, he poured a bit more into the tub. As he stepped into his bedroom to take off his workout clothes, he noticed his journal glowing and bouncing. On his way back into the bathroom, he took the journal and a muggle pen in with him. He waved his hand over the book, thinking the Impervius spell to make it waterproof. He quickly tested his spellwork with a few drops of water from the faucet. They gently rolled off the page. Setting the journal on one of the small tables next to the tub, Harry lifted a foot to climb in.

Harry slowly climbed into the tub, allowing his skin and muscles a chance to acclimate to the steaming hot water. It stung at first, but then he could feel the heat seep into him. He took a deep breath and leaned back into the tub. Harry then proceeded to open his journal and read the latest message from Hercules.

Hey Bud. I’ve been thinking a lot today. Do you ever feel like even though we talk fairly often, that it’s been days since we last spoke? Sometimes I feel as if… I don’t really know how to explain it. Like we could talk constantly for days and still not run out of things to say, you know? I just feel like… Like I could tell you anything, and we’d still be okay. We’d still be friends.

Harry set the journal down to think about his answer before he started writing. He quickly washed his hair and body before picking the journal back up. I couldn’t agree more. I’m so comfortable telling you things I wouldn’t say to my best friends. And I’m not even sure that it has anything to do with the anonymity of it all, either. I feel as though I’ve known you forever, even though I don’t really know you at all. That doesn’t make any sense. I mean -

I know. I can’t make it make any sense. No matter how hard I try.

Let me ask you something… What happens when you try to think of who I am?

I can’t. I try to put any clues together, and my mind just thinks of my book. That’s it.

Same here. Makes me think we’d be able to figure it out if there weren’t charms involved.

Probably. I’ve been thinking about that a bit… Revealing our identities, I mean.

We agreed we wouldn’t. But I’ve been thinking about it, too.

We have a while before we need to decide anything. Either way, we’ll discuss it before it happens.

Sounds like a plan. Any reason you were feeling so reflective?

Not really. Just spent a lot of time thinking about you today.

Herc! Way to give a guy a big ego.

I mean about the suggestions you gave me. And you came up during my therapy session. That’s all. I was explaining how helpful you’ve been to me lately. Well. Since this journal thing started, really.

I’m happy to hear that. You’ve been - instrumental to me as well. I’ve come to rely on our conversations for sanity’s sake.

My healer gave me some new questions we can use to help us get to know each other better, but one’s that shouldn’t be hard to answer while maintaining anonymity. Some are relatively boring, depending on how we answer. Some are hobby-related. Some are downright naughty.

Sounds entertaining to me. But before we get to that, how are you feeling today? Physically, mentally?

Physically: I am feeling much much better, almost back to 100%. Mentally - today was harder than it’s been the past few days, but I am still managing ok. New coping mechanisms and all that. I haven’t hexed myself since, well. You know.

I do know. Without meaning to sound condescending, I’m proud of you.

Not condescending at all. Truly. Thank you. How about you?

Oh.

That could mean a lot of things.

I’ll give you a hint: It was accompanied by a fierce blush. I am feeling mentally at peace and physically exhausted today.

  1. Well. Then we have another storytime upon us?

Do you really want all the gory details of my sex life?

Why does that sound judgemental?

No! Godric, no. I didn’t mean it as a judgement at all. I just… I don’t know that I’d enjoy hearing about someone else’s sex life so much.

Well. Part of it is because I’m excited for you along your - let’s call it a discovery! Another part is that I’m a bit of a voyeur, I suppose. Nothing pervy. I would never watch anyone who didn’t know I was watching and want me to watch or anything. But it can be exciting.

Hm. Sort of like porn I suppose.

What’s porn?

Muggle thing. You should look into it. Sounds like you’d like it. Do you know what a film is?

I know the premise, but I’ve never actually seen one. Sort of like a wizarding photo, right? But there’s scripted words and actions. They’re the same every time?

Pretty much. Porn is a film that’s along the same lines as the naughty magazine I sent you.

Ah, I see! Very much along the lines of a voyeur’s interest, I assure you.

So, I guess the answer is yes, we’ll have another story time.

Goody!

Goody?! Seems a bit out of character for you, Herc.

Shut up. I’ve been allowed a bit of wine after dinner tonight. I’m feeling incredibly relaxed. And I am very ready for storytime.

You’re ridiculous. Tell me one thing before we start… what are you doing right now? What does the room you’re in look like, how are you sitting, etc.?

Why?

Suggestion from my healer. It will make it feel more like a real conversation than writing to a virtual stranger.

We’re hardly strangers. But I will oblige. I’ll be as detailed as I can. It’s a fairly small room. About half the size of our 8th year common room. Built in shelves on one full wall, floor to ceiling. The opposite wall has tapestries, can’t say of what. And a fireplace. Other than that, the only furniture are four large armchairs. Leather. Worn. And two small tables. It’s like a reading room. Stone floor, large rug. The air is chilly, but the fire is roaring.

I am sitting in an armchair. My legs are stretched out and resting on the small table in front of me. Right ankle is crossed over the left. I have a wine goblet next to my feet. The wine is the same color as my slippers. I’m wearing muggle sweatpants and a sweater. I’m writing with a muggle pen. Is that enough detail?

That’s plenty of detail.

Well, are you going to reciprocate?

Oh boy. Really blushing now. You had to tell me what you were wearing, right?

Why are you naked?

Why do you assume I’m naked?!?

Am I wrong?

No.

WHY are you naked??

I’m in the bath! Relaxing before I even try to sleep is part of my therapy. I’m in a hot bath with a muscle relaxant potion mixed in. (Healer said it was okay.) I’m sitting -

I really don’t need the details of how you’re sitting. Naked in a bathtub is enough for me. Just describe the room and leave it at that.

Sounds like an excellent plan to me. White tiled walls with black tile borders. One whole was is windows. Charmed so no one can see in. White ceiling, white tiled floor. It’s a very bright room. Even now, when the sun has gone down, lights from outside shine in and reflect off the tiles magnificently. I have no light on inside the bathroom, save for a candle near the sink.  The whole room smells of lavender and chamomile.

From the potion, I’m assuming? Excellent muscle relaxers.

Yes, they are!

So, tell me the new story. When was this?

It was last night, late. I’ll have to skip a few parts of my story so I don’t give away who I am. Or who the other person was, as there’s a good chance you know him.

That’s fair enough. Just tell me whatever you can. I’ll let you know where you went wrong.

It started at a bar, flirting. We were out in a group. Probably about 15 or so of us. Some of the other 8th years, but also a handful of people not in our year at Hogwarts. Even if you were there, I don’t think we were noticed.

You’re getting better at giving details without really giving anything away.

Thank you! I’m trying. We were all out and one of the blokes starting… chatting me up.

Nope. Couldn’t have happened. Not to you.

I’m very fit. He said that to me, and that he was into me. So I kissed him. He kissed back. By the time we stopped, we were both panting. I said “I don’t shag on the first date.” And a few minutes later we were leaving together.

You seem to be very good at picking up blokes, you know. Implying that you’ll do anything short of shagging? Instant yes.

I’ll teach you how to do the same someday.

Psh. Like I need help. Please, go on. What happened when you left?

Lots of snogging on the way to the hotel. Up against walls. In alleys. The middle of the road. So much snogging.

You wanted him that much?

You’ve no idea. But it wasn’t really him, so much as it was a willing bloke who was also a wizard.

Damn. You’re hard up, aren’t you?

Not anymore.

I see!

From there… Well. I’ll have to change a few bits of the story. If anything doesn’t make sense, just don’t ask questions. Unless it’s sexual. That won’t give anything away.

Aye aye.

We got to the room and had a very quick conversation about the no shagging rule. And something else. Oh! And he offered to call me sir… Which was kind of odd for a moment. Then I almost left, he seemed like he changed his mind. But then he asked me to stay. Next thing I knew, I had him up against the wall and pinned his hands above his head using my wand.

So, you’re into bondage?

Ignoring you. He had a very strong reaction, which I thought was negative, so I let him down, he assured me it wasn’t. He said I seemed nervous and encouraged me to go with my instincts. We both agreed to say stop if we wanted to, but to just feel it from there. And we did.

Interesting.

I redid the body-bind on his arms, above his head against the wall. I asked permission, then proceeded to tear off his shirt. I was kissing and licking and biting every part I could reach.

Finally enjoying the freedom and privacy to do as you wished?

I certainly was. Give me just a moment before I continue. Bath got cold. Gonna get out. Harry climbed out of the bath and spelled himself dry. He pulled on pajamas and climbed into bed before continuing. ‘Enjoying it’ is putting it mildly. I was out of my mind with need. Accidentally vanished his trousers.

Accidentally. Sure.

It was accidental! Didn’t even use my wand.

Which wand?

Shut up. I knew what I wanted to try, and felt bold enough because his hands were bound… so I got on my knees -

YOU DIDN’T

I DID

You gave oral to someone as the second step of the evening? Straight from snogging to blow jobs?

I did. And I loved every single second of it. The power of it. The feel of him -

You are SO gay.

I’m aware. Quoted you to him actually, but that was later. I got on my knees, accidentally vanished his trousers and yanked down his pants. I just - ran on instinct. I didn’t think much about it. He seemed, VERY into it. Never said no, never asked me to stop. Begged me not to stop, actually. Then he seemed close, but I was feeling bold, as I mentioned. So I gripped him, hard and made him beg and call me sir…

Oh Merlin.

He said that, too. Not really sure what made me do that? It’s nothing I’ve explored or been interested in in the past…

Then what happened?

Well. He begged and called me sir. I wasn’t brave enough to swallow yet, though. Then he told me it was the best orgasm he ever had and was blown away (haha) when I said it was the first I’d ever given. I told him how you said I was ‘gagging for it.’ Then, he jumped to do the same to me, I told him he didn’t have to. But then my pants were off and he was telling me I was ‘hung like a hippogriff.’

Fuck, Bud.

Tell me about it. The rest of the evening was more blow jobs and us rutting against one another. My entire body hurt this morning. I’m not used to so much activity.

I’ll bet. How many orgasms?

Total? Not sure. I came 3 times, though. Which I didn’t think I could do. But over the course of 4 hours… Apparently, not impossible.

Sounds like a really good night. Will you see each other again?

We decided to leave it there for now. If anything else happens, it won’t be romantic, just exploration for me, if I want. He was really great about it.

Well, that’s nice, then.

And you really enjoy hearing about this?

It’s like porn, Bud.

That’s a little pervy.

If you really believed that, you wouldn’t tell me about it.

Fair.

And it isn’t like I can properly picture it, can I?

Another good point. Why don’t we jump into those questions your healer gave you?

I’ll take my favorite one from the list and add a bit to the end then… The list asks: “Is there anything you’re into sexually that you’d hesitate to tell a partner?” I would add: Would you want to have a partner call you sir sometimes? Or submit to being bound? Or would you want to call him sir, or have him bind your hands?

Way to jump right into the psychoanalysis, Herc. It’s appreciated. I think that because I’m so new at this that I’d try just about anything once or twice. If my partner wanted to try it, I would. Except hurting them. I don’t want to do that. But I’m fairly open minded, now that I don’t have panic attacks about being gay. The more people that know and don’t really care, the easier it is in my brain. I enjoyed what I did last night - the binding of his hands, ‘sir,’ but they aren’t necessary for me to have a good time, I don’t think. Harry wished he could mention that he found speaking to someone in Parseltongue erotic, but that would absolutely give him away. And he had never actually tried it.

That makes sense. A lot of people try things out at the start of their ‘sexual awakening’ as my best mate calls it.

Your best mate sounds like a tosser.

Oh, he is.

So, instead of having you answer the same question, how about this… Is the list numbered?

Yeah.

How about I pick a number and you write the question and your answer?

Sounds good. It’s 1-65, but there are 2 or 3 we can’t use because they’ll give us away. And I used #65.

Alright. Let’s go with #2.

On a scale of 1-5 how afraid of the dark are you? Not sure if 5 is the most afraid or 1 is, so I’ll answer specifically. I’m not remotely scared of the dark. I used to be. Now I find comfort in it. No sunlight, moonlight, firelight. Nothingness. There’s a comfort in that for me.

Ugh. I absolutely hate the dark.

I’ll come chase the monsters away for you, Bud.

Yeah, right. Your turn!

What is the last song you listened to?

Oh. It’s a recording of a classical artist who I recently found out was a wizard! Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Helps me relax. Not sure which song, it was a whole album.

He was an amazing wizard! He created some truly remarkable works.

I’d have to agree with you. I’m going to choose #10.

Turnabout is fair play, I suppose... #10: What were you doing at midnight last night? Wanking. Next ques-

Wanking?! Why you naughty, naughty man.

You were wanking ANOTHER man! You’re one to talk.

That is true. I take it back. Next question?

What is your favorite expletive?

Hm. I don’t generally have a terrible vocabulary. Recently found out I say ‘fuck’ a lot when in the throes of passion, as they say. But normally, I say things like ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ more than anything else. Not a fan of saying ‘shite.’ Don’t really have a reason for that. I want you to answer the same question this time.

I don’t really have a foul mouth, either.

Except when reading about my love life, apparently.

We’re similar in that regard, then. I say ‘fuck’ when things get erotic or steamy. But other than that, I rarely use cuss words.

Your turn, again.

This is me assuming you put clothes on after your bath… What color are your socks? Boring question, but I’m suddenly dying to know.

They are grey and wool. Very soft and warm. Old man socks. You think I just lounge around starkers? I’m not mad, you know.

Ah, but I DON’T know that, do I?

# 43.

Do you have any scars? Bud, I -

Don’t. Let’s switch that to this: Do you have any scars you like, or that have a funny story behind them? Keep it a bit more lighthearted.

Good plan. I do have one! I have about a 5 centimeter scar on my one ankle, parallel to the ground. Got it when I was attempting to play football like a muggle. Won’t say my age or anything too specific, just that I made a right fool of myself.

I’m sure you did! Someday, I hope to hear the full story.

We’ll see. For now though, Bud, I’m afraid I’ll have to call it a night. I’m falling asleep in my wine goblet, here.

Not a problem at all, I should get to sleep as well. Can we talk tomorrow?

Absolutely. Good night!

Good night! Get some rest!

 




December 31. Dawn.

“Draco?” Harry stood up from where he was stretching and walked over to the blonde. He had been waiting at the park for about ten minutes, worried that Draco wouldn’t show up to their meeting for a run.

“Prove who you are,” Draco said quietly but firmly, hand on his wand in his pocket.

Harry held his hands out slightly to show that he wasn’t attacking and said, “You’ve seen me in my animagus form. True Gryffindor.”

“Hm. It’ll do. How’d you manage to hide the scar?” he asked, peering at Harry’s face; which currently wore a glamour, but not the one from the club.

“It’s not totally hidden, just faded. Ready to run?” So they did. Talking very little, they ran for nearly an hour before stopping. It was cold and rainy and Harry could feel his muscles aching already. Draco seemed to be moving slower than he did at school. Harry could only assume he hadn’t been running over break at all. After a while longer, Harry said to Draco, “Ready for a break?” At his nod, they slowed and sat at the edge of a large pond to catch their breath. Harry was stretching out his legs when he heard Draco grunt and saw him reach for his calf. “Oi, mate, you’ve gotta stretch that out!”

When Draco simply stared at him, face scrunched up in pain, Harry reached for Draco’s leg on his own. Using one hand to push his knee so his leg was straight, Harry grabbed the other man’s toes and pulled them up towards his head. “Ah!” Draco exclaimed.

“Flex it. Push your toes up. It’ll help, I swear.” Harry tried to focus on the task at hand, but his hand found it fascinating to feel the muscles around Draco’s knee clench and unclench. Suddenly Draco’s calf stopped spasming, and his thigh started. Harry straddled the lower part of Draco’s leg and quickly started to massage the muscles in the thigh, knowing that was the only way to stop the pain. Draco’s sigh of pleasure only made Harry keep massaging. Losing track of when the leg stopped spasming, Harry found he didn’t want to stop massaging. Using long, hard strokes, he pushed the acid out of the muscles and subconsciously mapped their location. He stopped suddenly, when he realized what he was doing, feeling his face flush. “Sorry. That was probably a bit too personal. It’s just the only way I know to make it stop.”

“Yeah. It’s fine.” Draco wouldn’t look at him. “Thanks.”

“You should really stretch out the other leg, so it doesn’t happen again.” Draco did. “How’s your break going?”

“Fine. Nothing interesting really. I’m staying with Blaise now, in London.”

“Oh? I’m in London as well. Not too far from Diagon, actually.”

“Hm. The old Black Residence is yours now, right? Is that where you’re staying?”

“Yeah. I forgot you’re half Black. Have you ever been to the house?” Harry laid back on the grass, not caring when the cold water seeped into his clothes. “If you have, I imagine it would have been back when we were kids?”

“I think I have. Dark, gloomy kind of place? Walburga Black was a terror.”

“Yeah that’s the place. Although I never met her, her portrait was a piece of work.” There was a long pause where neither of them spoke. Draco was pulling grass out of the ground and shredding it. “The house doesn’t look like that anymore. Entirely renovated. You should come see it sometime.” Harry’s heart beat faster. To his own ears, it sounded almost like he was propositioning Draco.

“Yeah, maybe,” Draco shrugged noncommittally.

After a few more minutes, they decided to part ways for the day with half-hearted ‘Happy New Year’s Eve’s. Harry wished he could regret his actions of getting too physical with Draco, but all he could feel was curiosity. Draco’s muscles were firm yet flexible. Harry was infinitely curious just how flexible the other man was.

Chapter Text

So at first I was sick, then I was busy, then I was sick, and then I was busy again... Now I'm filled with free time and healthy as a.. well. Healthy human being. My life has changed dramatically over the past month and a half, so bear with me. I should have another update by the end of the week. And hopefully one next week, too. 

 

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.

 

CHAPTER 22 - Love and Catastrophes

December 31. 11pm.

Harry was relaxing in the sitting room again, with a glass of wine and his journal. He had met with his healer briefly after lunch to discuss drinking a glass or two of wine in the evening. They had come to an agreement that Harry had shared with Kreacher. He could have two glasses exactly; and absolutely no firewhiskey. Kreacher had been bound to keep him to what he agreed to, even though Harry didn’t think he would want more than that. He had been too content lately to want more. Ron and Hermione had tried to convince him to go out with them for the night, but more than anything, he wanted to stay in and talk with Hercules. Which is how the holiday found him sitting alone in a dark room, enjoying the firelight and good conversation. He smiled as he saw the new response from Herc.

#4: What is your favorite word? Hmm. That’s a tough one. I suppose ‘lumos’ doesn’t count?

We can count that one! We’ve already discussed that we both have strong memories with that spell, so it makes sense. It probably holds a lot of meaning for you. I know it does for me.

How much wine have you had? You sound like a sap.

Half a glass! I’m not even tipsy, my friend. Just feeling sentimental about the holiday is all.

Any specific reason?

No. I’ve never really cared much about the turning of the year before… but this year is the first time there is no threat of death over my head. There’s no war looming in the immediate future. Makes me eager to live this year. See how it goes when the decisions I make are truly up to me and not the wizarding world at large, or those in charge at Hogwarts.

That makes a lot of sense and many of the 8th year’s probably feel the same way. Sort of like a joint-resolution to live life to the fullest.

Mhmm.

Alright. It’s my turn to ask a question. If you could ask your future self one question, what would it be?

That is an excellent question! I can only ask one?

Yes. Just one.

Then it would be ‘Was all the worrying for nothing?’

Do I get an explanation for that one?

Sure, I guess. Makes me a little self-conscious though.

I’m nervous about actually shagging a bloke for the first time. I know that it’ll be a ways off at least, but I just worry about how it will go the first time.

It’s a reasonable concern. If I could go back and tell my virgin-self the answer to that question, I’d say the worrying wasn’t for nothing. But it certainly wasn’t as necessary as I thought at the time.

Really? That’s a relief in a way.

It depends, though. Here comes an extraordinarily personal question… Do you know which you prefer: topping or bottoming?

Oh boy.

You know the rules, you don’t have to answer.

I know. I just… I feel like the answer sounds bad.

Before you give it - think about it. Do you feel the way you do because of that awful muggle man, or because you really feel that way?

No, I really feel this way. That’s why I think it makes me feel bad. Please try to understand before getting mad at me?

I won’t be mad.

I feel like I couldn’t ever be so vulnerable as to let another man - fuck me. Maybe it’s a power thing, or a control thing, or, I don’t really know. But I want nothing more than to bury myself in a willing man.

There was a long pause as Harry tried to think of the words to explain how he felt. He definitely thought it had something to do with his power level, but he couldn’t very well tell Hercules that. But there was no other way to explain it.

Believe it or not, that makes sense. It doesn’t make you sound bad. It’s not like you said something like ‘I’m not really a man if I let another man fuck me.’ Then I WOULD be offended. But wanting control, or power, that is a personal thing. Some people want it. Some people want to give it up. I understand that.

Then I’ll return the question to you. Which do you prefer? Have you tried both?

Oh, NOW you want to have story time?

Not really, haha. Just curious why my answer to which I wanted mattered in terms of worrying.

I see. Well, I have tried it both ways, top and bottom. I much prefer bottoming. I enjoy the sensation of giving up control to another man. As long as I trust him. That part is important.

You didn’t enjoy topping at all?

Not really. I mean. There was an orgasm involved, so it wasn’t all bad or anything. But not my preference.

Ah.

But based on your preference, I doubt you have too much to worry about. You mentioned that the last guy said something about you being well endowed. That could be cause for concern for the other man if you don’t start off slowly. But generally, it isn’t a big issue. You’ll probably be just fine.

That actually helps relieve some of the pressure then. Thank you!

Not a problem at all.

Look at the time! Six minutes to midnight. They say that what you do as the year starts is what you’ll do for most of the year, you know.

Do they? I guess we’ll be talking to each other for most of the year then.

I’m not mad about it in the slightest.

Nor am I, my friend.

How much wine have YOU had?

Two glasses. You?

Just finishing my second glass. Feeling wonderfully relaxed.

Hm. Maybe we should be wanking.

You - you want us to wank together?

Oh blast. That’s really not what I meant. Though I won’t lie and say it doesn’t sound intriguing.

Intriguing? Wait, what DID you mean?

Bugger, I’ve made things awkward. Apologies! What I meant was because what we’re doing at the turn of the new year is what we’ll do for most of the year. That’s all. I wouldn’t be at all disappointed if I spent most of the year having orgasms.

Orgasms makes more sense. And I’d have to agree that sounds like a good year. Although, if slightly tipsy me is being honest, I would also be intrigued by wanking together at some point. Or more than wanking. So no apology necessary.

Merlin. We’re on dangerous ground here, Bud. More than wanking?

You don’t have to tell me it’s dangerous. All I need is a willing bloke I trust, yeah? That’s you.

You’re getting very close to telling me you want to shag me.

Maybe I do want to shag you. I don’t know you well enough to say.

I thought looks didn’t matter as much as you thought?

They don’t. Now I’m just picturing us shagging. I’m new at this, remember? It doesn’t take much at all to get my bits interested in wanking or shagging or more.

Fuck. Are you really telling me you’re hard right now? Thinking about shagging me?

Well, I’m not remotely soft. And yes, I’d love to shag you.

Bud!

Are you?

Am I what?

Hard. Interested. Whichever.

Hard. And definitely interested. It’s suddenly very hot in here.

Fucking hell. Hard and hot shagging, now. Happy new year, by the way. You’re hard. Oh.

Indeed. Happy happy. And suddenly wishing I wasn’t so alone.

I’m glad I’m alone… This would likely be so fast it would be embarrassing.

So fucking fast. I need - Merlin I need anything.

I need to - go.

No problem. I do too. Go. Enjoy!

You too!

Harry pushed his journal off his lap and shoved trousers and pants down to his knees. Gripping himself in one hand, his other gripped the arm of the armchair. As he pulled his hand along his cock, he imagined slamming himself deep into Herc. He could picture the faceless man writhing beneath him. After only a few more strokes, he couldn’t hold back and shouted, “Herc!” He gave himself a moment or two to catch his breath, then cleaned himself up wandlessly. Realizing that he had just wanked over a man he didn’t actually know, he felt a blush creep up his neck. Harry righted his trousers and took a deep breath before picking up his journal and quickly sending a last message to Herc.

I’m really hoping this doesn’t making things drastically uncomfortable when we next talk… That was - fucking phenomenal. Let’s just blame it on the wine? I hope your evening goes well. Talk tomorrow, I hope?

Harry didn’t wait for a response. He left his journal in the sitting room and headed up to his bedroom. He thought about what had happened for a long time before allowing himself to drift off to sleep. Some part of him thought he should be embarrassed or uncomfortable with what just happened, but he found that he really wasn’t. He was very much okay with what had occurred. The two of them had many conversations about sex, it’s only natural that as young men, that they became aroused by these conversations. Teenage boys wank. They always had and they always would. Nothing to be ashamed of. He would just refrain from telling him that he had called out ‘Herc’ as he finished.

As he drifted off to sleep, he felt calmer than he had in a very long time.

 

 

 

January 1. 11am.

Harry was cooking breakfast for himself and Hermione when she turned to him and proclaimed at high speed one of the most pretentious statements he had heard in a very long time. “Ron and my romantic association has ceased to exist and is now only platonic in nature.”

“Alright, Lady Granger, what does that mean?” Harry asked, turning away from the stove as Hermione finished talking. “Slow down and use smaller words, please.”

Hermione rolled her eyes before answering him, “Ron and I aren’t dating any longer. We just weren’t enjoying each other’s company that way so we decided to end it. We’re still friends. I just wanted to let you know that there’s no need to choose sides or anything. We’re still friends. But not romantically involved.”

“Oh.” Harry blinked a few times as he processed this information. His face broke out into a grin,  “So… things are back to normal, then? The three of us as just friends and you two won’t be snogging?”

“Shut up, Harry,” Hermione sent a stinging hex at him as he laughed. Harry turned back to the stove and finished making breakfast for the two of them after that, while discussing Hermione’s project for the year. “Well, the books that Malfoy provided have given us huge insight into the histories of some of the families and where their beliefs come from. It definitely makes an impact on how we’ll teach it to the new Muggle-born students. How do you not know this? We discussed it the last two meetings!”

“Forgive me if I was a little drunk and distracted at the last few meetings, Hermione. I promise I’ll be better this term. Truly,” he spoke sincerely as he set a plate in front of Hermione and sat across from her at the kitchen table.

“I hope so, Harry. I’ve been worried about you,” she looked at him with sad eyes. They ate without talking for a while.

Trying to lighten the mood a bit, Harry asked her, “So, Ron was that bad in bed, huh? Had you running for the hills?”

“You’re terrible, Harry. No, he’s just fine in bed. I’m mildly interested in someone else, and we just don’t have much in common.” She paused, holding her fork aloft as she seemed to realize something. “You. We only have you in common.”

“Well, it’s not my fault you both chose to be my friends!” they both laughed. “Are you finished eating? I’ll start cleaning up.”

“Yes, all done. It was delicious, Harry.” She watched him with narrowed eyes as he started doing the dishes and then wiping down the stove and countertops in the kitchen. Just as Harry started a new pot of tea, she started humming to herself.

“What?” he asked her.

“What, what?”

“You’re staring at me and you started humming. That’s never a good sign. What’s up?” Just then, the kettle whistled. “Second thought, follow me into the sitting room - no. Not in there,” he paused. After what he had done in there the night before, he couldn’t relax with Hermione in that room. “The library. Let’s take our tea in there and then you can explain.”

When they had done so, Hermione fidgeted before speaking. “Do you always clean the muggle way?”

“Usually. Why?”

“Just answer a few more questions first? Then I’ll tell you.”

“Alright,” he sighed. Reclining in his seat and crossing his arms across his chest he said, “Fire away.”

“Do you use magic for any personal hygiene things? Other than your faux-glamour.”

“No, also done the muggle way.”

“What about cooking?”

“I’ll save you time, Hermione. Anything I can do the muggle way, is done the muggle way. What’s your point?”

Sipping her tea, she didn’t make eye contact with him. After a beat, she said quietly, “I think you need to explore your power more. I know it frightens you. Don’t deny it; I can see it in your eyes. You could be capable of so much, it’s important to know exactly what you can do. But I think you need to understand it’s limits and boundaries, as well.”

“It doesn’t have any,” he mumbled. Harry stood and walked over to the bookshelves. He pretended to peruse them as he waited for her response; even though she knew that he had already read all the books on the shelf. There was a very long pause.

“What?”

“I said it doesn’t have any. I’ve tried… Merlin, any number of things. I can’t find a single thing I can’t do with just a thought and a wave of my hand. Or just a thought. I don’t believe it has any boundaries. I haven’t tried anything dark, obviously, but I can do anything I want. I just like doing things the muggle way. Keeps my brain busy.”

“Ah. So you’ve found your animagus form, then?” Harry turned around to see her smirking in her chair. “You don’t need to feel defensive or anything Harry. And I won’t fawn over your power. Or tell Ron. Feel free to hold your wand when you do things and pretend that you need it. But you’d best bet that I will ask you a million questions about this.”

Harry wanted her to just stop talking, so he showed her his animagus form and pretended to be mad when she kept petting him. They spent the next hour or so with her asking if he could do something, and him demonstrating that he could. She was fascinated by how easy it all felt for him. Finally, it had stopped being a practical demonstration and they were back in their chairs just chatting about magic.

“I wonder if you could perform dark magic without your wand,” she said thoughtfully.

“What?!” he spun away from her, terrified by her line of thought.

“I’m not suggesting we try it or anything! But I would imagine that if all of these things come so easily to you, you could perform dark magic without your wand or saying a spell if you wanted to.” She stood and started pacing. “I have to leave soon, but you should think about it. You could try it on a spider, the way that Crouch did back in fourth year. You wouldn’t need to truly hurt someone. Or, you could try Imperius. That’s hardly dark if someone is allowing you to test it on them. You could try it on me!”

“Hermione… I don’t know…”

“Harry. Please. Just to sate my curiosity. Just, make me pick up my teacup, or something small. Please?”

Harry stared at her as if they had never met before. “You’re serious. You want me to use the Imperius on you”

“Yes. For research. I need to know.”

Harry reluctantly agreed and they settled on this being the last experiment for a while. They stood facing each other in the center of the room and Harry took a deep breath. He stared straight into her eyes and thought Imperius. He followed that with another thought Sit down.

She did so instantly; right there on the floor. He could tell she wasn’t even trying to throw him off. Fight back. He was also paying close attention to his own magic and how much energy he needed to complete this task for her. He knew she would have questions when they were done.

“I don’t want to .”

Harry needed to know if she could throw off the curse, so he did something he knew she would get mad at. Pick up a book and put it in the fire. Harry watched her carefully to ensure that the book wasn’t something valuable or rare. She picked up an old edition of Hogwarts: A History. He watched as she edged toward the fire with tears in her eyes. He could sense she was trying to fight him off, but she was woefully unsuccessful. Harry removed the Imperius before she actually put the book in the flames, but wasn’t prepared when she flung it at him.

“Oi! What’s that for?” he asked, rubbing the spot on his arm where the book had hit.

“Put a book in the fire?! Are you mad?”

“You weren’t trying to fight it. I needed to know,” he said simply. They chatted for a bit about the strength of the spell and how hard Harry had to work to maintain it. Hermione tried not to gape as he informed her that he was fairly certain he could maintain the spell with almost no effort for quite some time. Eventually, she said her goodbyes and assured him that she’d see him the next day back at Hogwarts. After she left, Harry could feel a panic attack coming on. He tried to breath through it, but it didn’t seem to be working, only making things worse.

It occurred to him that he couldn’t even talk to Herc about this, because Herc didn’t know about his power. And he couldn’t know. Harry decided to go for a run instead. He quickly changed into his running clothes and headed out, trying not to think about what he had done to his best friend. The Dark magic he had used on her. Or how easily he had done it.

 

 

January 1. 10pm.

Harry’s day had been hectic and long. He hadn’t followed a schedule after Hermione left and it had him feeling out of sorts. Knowing he couldn’t talk to Hercules about the situation with Hermione and his fear of his own power, he had avoided his journal all day. Now that he was getting ready for bed, he summoned the journal to him and smiled pleasantly: The journal was glowing. Herc had written back. A small flutter of fear ran through him as he recalled where they had last left off. Harry reread his own message before reading the new one. He had written it in a postorgasmic haze and was hoping he didn’t sound like a total idiot.

I’m really hoping this doesn’t making things drastically uncomfortable when we next talk… That was - fucking phenomenal. Let’s just blame it on the wine? I hope your evening goes well. Talk tomorrow, I hope?

Hello Bud. It’s New Year’s Day. Around sunrise, I think. I just want to take a moment to say that I absolutely delight in each of our conversations. You’ve come to mean a lot to me. I believe that I can confide in you. I count you as a friend, and am sincerely hoping that at some point in the future, we can be true friends. Yes, I’m here, vulnerably admitting that I want to share identities at the end of the assignment.

I know we originally agreed not to. And I believe at the time, we had valid reasons for that decision. But, I also know that we have been dancing around the issue for a few weeks now. I think we could potentially be even more than friends? We seem to have a great deal in common. We seem to be compatible in… many areas. Magically we seem complementary as we have opposite skill sets. Conversationally, we rarely seem at a loss for things to say to one another. Sexually… well, I don’t think we’d have any issues there. Regardless of how you feel about it all, I wanted to be honest with you. If you decide that you don’t want to share your identity, we don’t have to talk any more about it, and I’ll understand. But I’m hoping we can still enjoy our chats until the assignment is over at the very least.

Harry stared at the journal for a moment. Herc was baring his soul to him in this book, and he didn’t even really know him. Harry would have a lot to think about to decide whether he would reveal his identity. He had shared a lot of his secrets, and without knowing who Herc was, he had no way of knowing if they would stay secret. He wanted to believe he best of this man, this amazing human that fate (or more likely, McGonagall) had paired him with, but he couldn’t be sure.

Sorry I wasn’t around much today, I had company. (And I was more than a little nervous that I crossed a line last night.) I want you to know that I admire your honesty and vulnerability a great deal. At the very least, it is flattering to know you have such trust in me. If I’m honest, I’ve been thinking about it too. My only hesitation, (and please understand, it’s not a ‘no,’ just hesitation) is that I have no assurance that you won’t go telling everyone the things you know about me if you decide you aren’t interested in pursuing any kind of real friendship. Part of me says “It’s Herc! You know him. He wouldn’t do that! You know you can trust him.” But then the other part says “But you don’t really know him.. How can you be so sure?”

So I am definitely thinking about it. And I would agree on all of your excellently made points about how good we’d be together - as friends or as more. Emotionally, magically, sexually - I think we’d get along spectacularly. For now, at least for a few weeks, can we just continue on as before? Talking and sharing and comforting one another? I’ll be thinking about my decision and will of course let you know when I decide for sure.

Will you be around to chat tonight?

Harry waited a full ten minutes before deciding that Herc was either upset by his answer or already asleep. He added a quick note before rolling over and going to sleep.

Please, just don’t be upset with me. I am not at all uncomfortable with what we did discussed last night, and I hope you aren’t either, as that was NOT my intention. I don’t mean to upset you with my hesitation, merely trying to be honest with you.

Harry’s dreams were filled with empty journal pages, flying by at high speeds, as well as a faceless stranger who kept saying things like. “You’re useless.. Why would I want to know you?” It was the least restful sleep he’d had in a long time.

 

 

 

January 2. 7:45pm.

Harry was standing in the shared bathroom of the eighth year boys’ dormitory looking at himself in the mirror. In the reflection, he could see the toilet stalls on one side of the room, the shower stalls on the other, and the large swimming-pool-like bathtub in the middle of the room. He liked this bathroom. The shower stalls had walls low enough that you could see over them, which made him feel protected in a room as large as this one. He focused in on the reflection of himself. There were large, dark circles under his eyes, and a lot of stubble across his jaw. After his less than restful night, he had found it difficult to get much done that day. Other than packing and some light reading, he spent most of the day staring out the window.

He summoned his magic and attempted to make himself look less tired, but instead, his magic applied the glamour he had used on his night out with Ernie. He closed his eyes and tried to focus. He needed to be at the meeting in a few minutes, and he needed to look like himself. He heard the door open behind him, and opened his eyes to see Ernie and Draco walk into the bathroom at the same time.

“Who the fuck-,” Draco started angrily, reaching for his wand.

“Mate, it’s fine,” Ernie quickly cut him off. “It’s just Harry. Polyjuice to get to school, mate?” he addressed Harry this time. “The press must be hounding you somethin’ awful.”

“Um, yeah. It’s about to wear off, though.” Ernie chuckled and walked toward the toilet stalls. Draco hesitated a moment, then went to a sink to wash his face. When his eyes were closed, Harry quickly pulled his magic to undo the glamour. He looked like himself again, but still just as tired and stubbly as before. After splashing his face with some water, he tried to get mentally ready to go out to the common room. He must have stood there longer than he realized, because Ernie was now gone and Draco was looking at him strangely.

“You look absolutely awful. Meeting’s about to start.” With that, he strode from the room like he owned the place. Belatedly, Harry caught himself admiring Draco’s arse as he left. Shaking his head, Harry went into the common room and found a spot on a couch between Ron and Ernie. He found it a little odd that Hermione was sitting next to Blaise on a couch opposite them, deep in conversation, but he tried to ignore it. What didn’t feel odd, was Ernie’s warm thigh up against his; making him think all sorts of naughty things. Between checking out Draco in the bathroom and feeling Ernie next to him now, he was starting to wonder if he wasn’t just addicted to sex. He didn’t have long to think about it, however, because Minerva walked in and greeted them all.

“Good evening, everyone. I’m glad to see you all made it back safely. I’m sure you’ve noticed the changes to your dormitory. Multiple students had asked me about having the ability to cook here in the dorm, so we’ve added a small kitchen to the drinks area. You’ll also notice in each of your rooms is a small trunk. If you put something in this trunk, it will appear in the trunk of your pen pal. A few of you tried to arrange gifts at the holidays, and quite frankly I found it tiresome.” A lot of people chuckled at her exasperated expression. “I’m glad you all find it so amusing. Well, Professor Flitwick and I attempted to solve these problems. Please feel free to come to us if you’re having any other issues.”

“The main reason for this meeting is to announce a change in your schedules a bit. I’ve met with each of you at least once since the start of term and we have changed a few things regarding the curriculum. You will sit for your NEWT exams on Friday, February 26. As you have all applied yourself to your studies this year, most of you would be capable of passing if you sat them today, but you should be given time to study. The specific potions and charms that you need to study will be posted on the bulletin board tomorrow morning. This means that the term will officially end for you on February 28. If you don’t have somewhere to stay, you may stay here longer if necessary, but it will not be required.” She paused and looked around the room.

“Professor? What does that mean for the pen pal assignment? We were supposed to write through the Easter Hols, but term will be over long before then,” Neville asked.

“Thank you for bringing me to my last point, Mr. Longbottom. You and your pen friend will need to decide before February 28 whether or not you will share your identities. If you choose to share, there are protections we can put in place so that, if you decide not to stay friends, the other person will be sworn to secrecy about anything discussed in the journals. If you choose not to share identities, well, that’s that. Are there any questions?”

No one raised their hands. She bid them all good night and they dispersed. Harry gave Hermione and Ron quick waves, clapped Ernie on the back, and went directly to his room. He drew and secured the curtains with a locking and silencing charm, before sitting down to meditate. His mind was whirling with the news that McGonagall just gave them. Between term ending early and the news about the pen pal assignment, he had a lot to think about. He tried to clear his mind. One of the suggestions from Herc had been to imagine a scene like an empty beach. Clearing the mind the way Snape had wanted him to do wasn’t really feasible. Harry imagined a cliff looking over the ocean. He imagined hearing the waves crash against the rocks, and the seagulls flying overhead. He took deep, cleansing breaths. When he felt calm and in control of his emotions, he stood up from his spot on the floor and reached for his journals. The Herc Journal was glowing, but he filled out the one for his healers first. Leaving that on the desk, next to the new, small trunk for pen pal gifts. He reclined on his bed with the journal and opened it to read.

You prat. I wasn’t upset with your answer, I had company as well. Hesitation is entirely normal, please don’t feel bad. I hope your New Year’s Day was alright. As far as New Year’s Eve… (you’ll be pleased to know I’m blushing as I write this) I’m not a prude by any means. But for some reason, I find myself tongue tied about it. As juvenile as it will sound, you give me butterflies.

Harry couldn’t help but grin at his journal. He and Herc were going to be just fine. He was also ridiculously pleased that he made the other man so nervous. He picked up his quill and started to write back. Thank goodness for that. But according to McGonagall, I’ve nothing to hesitate about. She said there was a spell of some kind that prevents us spilling each other’s secrets? So that will work fine for both of us. So I guess we’ll be sharing our true identities, then? That makes my heart race.

I’m glad you’re writing. From the sound of it in the common room, most people were leaving to talk with their pen pal about it.

So where does this all leave us? I feel… uncertain.

How do you mean?

Well. If you had asked me two days ago, I would say that you were a friend. Now - are you more than that? Can we be more than that without knowing each other? Do we WANT to be more than that before knowing each other?

You’re certainly digging deep tonight, aren’t you? They’re good questions, though. I would say that we ARE friends. Nothing more than that. Would be a bit odd to be committed to someone we don’t truly know, right? But with the potential to be more in the future. How does that sound?

That makes sense. I just don’t think we should commit to anything just yet.

Ah. You were worried you couldn’t slag around London anymore?

Shut up! (Merlin, I’m blushing again. What do you do to me?) But yeah… two months without physical contact… that seems like a long time now that I know how great it is.

I know the feeling. I keep coming onto my straight friends because it’s been so long.

Well, let’s talk about something else, or this will just turn into an entire conversation about sex - again.

Sounds good! What do you think about term ending early?

I’m actually kind of happy about it, I think. I much prefer to be at home. You didn’t do too well at home, though, did you?

Not really, no. I’m not eager for school to end. Not sure what comes next. Nervous about the exams, too.

Mm. I’m only really nervous about potions.

As you should be. You’re terrible at potions, from what you’ve told me.

Shut up! You’re feeling sassy tonight, aren’t you?

Actually very happy to be back at school.

Makes sense. I’m definitely not. Less freedom.

You’re really such a tart now, aren’t you?

That’s not really what I meant, but in a way you’re right. I like the freedom to go where I want whenever I want. Here, we have certain schedules to follow and we’re encouraged to stay in the castle on weekends. Not a rule, but still.

But you can still leave on weekends. Go wherever you want, really.

That’s true. We’re still supposed to sleep here though. I just prefer to sleep in my own bed, is all.

I’ll have to think of things to put in this new trunk that will make your being stuck here easier on you.

That’s not necessary, Herc.

Necessary, no, but I still want to. You just won’t be able to take them out of your room, or I may figure out who you are.

That’s true. I’m trying to think of something to send you as well.

For what?

For being great, duh. And probably handsome.

Are you suddenly drunk?

No! Just incredibly tired and I took my potion a few minutes ago. Makes me a tad woozy before I actually sleep.

Go to sleep, Bud. We’ll talk tomorrow.

Harry smiled as he put his journal away and climbed under the covers of his bed. He and Herc were going to be okay. Draco had a nice arse. Ernie’s body was coursing with heat. Maybe this last term of school wouldn’t be so bad after all.

 

 

January 10. 11pm.

Harry’s first week back at school had been extremely challenging for him. He had created a new schedule for while he was at school, ensuring it had all the elements that his healers recommended. Even though it was demanding at times, he had generally stuck to the schedule without failing. He took his potions, cooked for himself, and wrote to Herc every day. He spent three hours each morning working on the required potion making skills, and found that he was making some great strides there, as well.

But none of that seemed to help him actually sleep at night. He spent most of the nights tossing and turning, waking up in cold sweat. His nightmares had returned full blast and he didn’t know what to do. He tried talking to Herc about it, but his friend was at a loss for any more suggestions on how to help. Harry tried writing to Cal and had mentioned it when they last met in person, but found that his answer of ‘keep trying’ was less than constructive.

This was how he found himself lying awake late on Saturday night. Well. He supposed it was Sunday morning now. His body was exhausted from exercising before bed, but sleep had eluded him. He had tried meditating for a bit and found that he finally felt sleepy. However, when he went to sleep, images plagues him: of journals on fire, of Ron and Hermione yelling at him, of Voldemort’s evil face, of Sirius falling through the veil, of Hedwig collapsing in her cage. He woke with his heart racing and tears on his face.

“I can’t take it,” he whispered to himself. He quickly got changed and left the dorms. He disillusioned himself with a wave of his hand and headed to the secret passage into Hogsmeade. His pulse was roaring in his ears, his heart burned with rage and grief. He suddenly found himself in Honeydukes. He slipped silently through the closed store and out onto the main road. Down the road he could see the Hog’s Head sign still had the candle lit above it.

An hour later found him sitting very drunk and very alone at the bar. The barkeep that was working that night was young and wanted to close up, so he had given Harry a full bottle of firewhiskey sent him on his way. He slowly walked back up to the castle, feeling the wards admit him as he crossed through the gate. Every few minutes, he took another swig from the bottle. The last thing he remembered was pushing open the doors to the Great Hall.

Chapter Text


*** There are a LOT of excerpts in here. Please let me know if anything doesn’t make sense! Obviously only I really know what happens in between the pieces. ***

All of your comments have me grinning so hard. Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoy.

Also, just to clarify… Ron/Hermione wasn’t tagged as a romantic relationship on purpose. Sorry if anyone didn’t notice the tags for that. Didn’t mean to surprise you!

 

 

Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.

 

 

CHAPTER 23 -

January 11. 5pm.

Harry woke in the Hospital wing with the curtains around his bed drawn. It was blurry without his glasses, but he thought he could see Ron and Hermione sat on either side of him, whispering to one another. “Mmm,” he tried to speak but found it difficult.

“Oh Harry!” Hermione quickly handed him his glasses. Putting them on, he saw that both of Ron’s arms had bandages on them. “Do you remember anything?”

Harry wracked his brain for any information that would explain how he ended up here. He couldn’t remember much, but his mouth tasted familiarly of bile and firewhiskey. He tried to sit up, but found his body was stuck to the bed with some kind of charm. His torso and arms had bandages covering them. Clearing his throat, he said, “No. Have I been expelled?” He felt his eyes start to well.

“No, Harry, no,” Hermione started to cry, too.

“Ron, are you going to be alright?” Harry could barely get the words out, as he was fighting back a sob.

“Yeah, mate. I’ll be just fine. McGonagall said she’d put wards on you, if you think it would help,” Ron said without making eye contact. Harry was so nervous to hear what had happened. Without anyone telling him, he knew this was his fault. “Mate. I’m really worried about you.”

“I am too,” Harry whispered.

“Just come get me when it’s too much? We can talk, or fight, or fly… whatever you think would help you,” he paused. “We need you to be okay.”

“I promise I’m trying. I’ll try harder.”

“We don’t need you to try harder, Harry. We need you to not try to do it alone. You have us,” Hermione said as she held his hand.

Madam Pomfrey walked up just then. “Mr. Potter? Can you say something for me, please?” she asked him.

“Yeah,” he croaked out.

“I’m going to explain how you got here, a bit. Then I’ll explain the charms we’ve got on you. After that, you’ll only have to stay for a few more hours, alright?” She waited until he nodded before continuing. She explained that there was a fire in the boys’ dormitory McGonagall would be coming to discuss how it started and what the consequences would be. but Pomfrey wanted him to know that no one had any lasting damage. All of the boys had minor burns, because, as the fire seemed to be angered by any magic used on it, they had to deal with it the muggle way. Harry was under a modified body-bind curse and would be for another hour or so, until his skin had healed enough that he could move around. By the next morning, his skin would be good as new. His mind Healer would be coming with McGonagall to talk about how to move forward.

“Thank you,” Harry murmured after she finished her explanation. She quickly bustled out of his bed area.

Ron looked down at him. “Is there anything we can do to help you right now? In this moment?”

Harry felt tears slide down his face, but could not locate the emotions that went with them. He could tell that his friend wasn’t angry with him, just overcome with concern and the feeling of hopelessness. “I dunno, Ron. I’ve been honest with my mind healer, and I’m really trying. I just don’t know. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything, though.”  Harry’s healer and professor McGonagall walked in just then and asked Ron and Hermione to give them a few minutes.

They had a very difficult conversation explaining that Harry had set the dorm on fire with his uncontrolled magic. His healer asked his permission to speak freely with McGonagall, and Harry agreed. The healer explained what Harry had been going through with his sexuality and something he referred to as ‘PTSD.’ Harry didn’t know what that meant, but the symptoms definitely sounded like his own. The healer had a very strong feeling that a big part of Harry’s problem was the castle itself. At home, Harry had been doing much better.

“I think, and please keep in mind this is just speculation, but I think Harry would benefit from charms that enforce no drinking. If he isn’t drinking, he tends to do alright in controlling his magic,” there was a pause. “I also think that a strict curfew for the eighth years may help. Maybe scheduled journal time in the evenings? I know it isn’t how they started, but I think it would benefit a few of them. The journal tends to give Harry a built in way to meditate and relax.”

“I think he’s right,” Harry whispered with more tears running down his face. He couldn’t seem to stop them. “I don’t think I’ll make it to the end of February otherwise. Being here is too hard. But I don’t want to die and I don’t want to leave early. I want to finish this.”

McGonagall looked thoughtful for a minute. “That’s good to hear, Mr. Potter. I think we can arrange something for a curfew. As far as the drinking goes, it is a simple enough spell. May I, Harry?” she gestured toward her wand. At his nod, she silently cast a charm on him. “I advise you to be careful with this one, Harry. It will cause you to be violently ill if you drink any alcohol at all. Please don’t try to undo it yourself. No matter how powerful you are, it will only respond to my own magical signature. Do you understand?”

“Yes. Thank you.” Harry felt the body-bind lift from his person. He slowly sat up to speak to his guests. “Why am I not expelled?”

“Because I believe that this isn’t your fault, Harry. And I think you can overcome it,” she answered him. “So that you know, only Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley know what truly happened. We’ve told the other students that there was an issue with one of the construction charms used over the summer. No one knows you were involved. Every single one of the boys had burns, so you won’t stand out because you were in hospital.”

Before they left him alone, his healer explained that they had drastically increased his dosage of the sleeping potion and the anxiety potions, which would likely leave him feeling a little groggy. He’d go down to a slightly lower dosage, the next day. The hope was that the combination of stronger potions and the charms, he would be able to get through the next two months without much difficulty. When he was back at Grimmauld, he would return to his normal potion supply. Harry sat and thought a lot about what the next few weeks would look like for him before calling Madam Pomfrey back over and asking when he could leave.

 


 

 

Excerpts from January 11 - 22:

 

The fire was my fault.

What?

The fire. Last night… I did that. Not on purpose, but it was my fault.

Oh.

I’m so sorry. McGonagall lied when she told everyone it was a problem with a charm. It was my fault. And I am so so so sorry because I know that all the blokes got hurt. Which means that I hurt you. I wish there was some way for me to properly apologize.

Its - well. It’s not fine. But I forgive you. Are you alright?

Yes. A few minor injuries.

I meant more along the lines of whatever happened to start it. It was magical fire.

Ah. Drunken accidental magic. The firewhiskey seems to react violently to my magic when I’m that pissed.

Can we talk about anything other than fire, please?
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January 14. 2pm.

 

Harry, Ron, and Hermione were sitting in a corner of the common room enjoying their after lunch tea when Ron brought up an uncomfortable subject for Harry. “How’ve you been sleeping, Harry?”

“Um. Alright, I guess.” There was a long pause where Harry didn’t know what to say, but the other two were clearly waiting on him. “Like crap, actually.”

Ron laughed, “That sounds more like it. Nightmares, or just not sleeping?”

“Bit of both.”

“Same here,” Hermione said, sipping her tea.

Harry’s head whipped around to look at her. “Really?”

“We all have trouble sleeping, Harry. I know you weren’t really aware, but we talked about it a lot in therapy before we left for the holidays,” Ron explained.

“Oh.” There was another pause, but this time it was completely comfortable. “Let’s talk about something else.”

“Hermione’s been flirting shamelessly with Zabini for a week now.”

“Ron! I have not!” she hit him with a throw pillow.

“Have. But it makes sense. He likes to read. Likes it when you take charge, as well.”

“How d’you know that?” Harry asked, amused by the interaction.

“Every time she does it, his eyes light up. I’ve been watching. Making sure he’s good enough for her. We may not want to date, but she’s still my friend. Deserves the best.” Hermione beamed at him when he said this, clearly beyond pleased.

“You two are such saps.”

 

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Yes, actually. My friends have been very understanding about me being gay. An ex-girlfriend of mine got a bit miffed about it. Hard to explain that… But overall, it’s been going well.

I tried to tell you the wizarding world doesn’t care. Overall, it’s just not that exciting. No one cares who you sleep with unless you’re famous.

Yeah. I dunno if it’s because I’ve been more open, or just because I’ve finally come to terms with it, but all of a sudden, I’m noticing people’s sexuality. Like I notice who flirts with men and who flirts with women.

Staking out your next conquest, Bud?

Maybe.

 

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Yes! I’m serious. Muggles use plastic and silicone to create phallic shaped items for sexual pleasure. Loads of other stuff, too.

How do you even know about this if you’ve only just discovered your own sexuality?

Dirty magazines, Herc. So many dirty magazines.

And these things are - pleasurable without magic?

I don’t understand it all, but yes, that’s what it seems like.

 

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So what did you do all evening if you gave up on studying?

Started by … I like the feel of the pounding motion of my… against… I get so hot and sweaty and my heart feels as though it’ll pound out of my chest. It’s bloody brilliant.

I’m starting to think that when we meet, I may just pounce on you.

Where did that come from?!?

The journal took out pieces of whatever you wrote. I suppose it would have given you away. Look back and reread it.

OH. Merlin. Sounds like I meant shagging. I didn’t, for the record.

I’ll keep picturing it the good way.

You’re so dumb. You know that isn’t what I meant.

Well. Of course I know that. As far as I know, you haven’t actually shagged anyone yet.

Definitely just not there yet.

The lead-up can be fun, though.

Absolutely. I just miss holding hands with someone. Or the small innocent little kisses.

Those are nice.

 

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January 23 8pm.

Harry looked at the letter he had just taken from the largest owl he had ever seen. It was odd to get mail this late on a Saturday. The letter was taped to the top of a nondescript package. Unrolling it, he saw very familiar handwriting looking back at him from the paper. He hadn’t been to visit Fred and George in quite some time, so he was a little confused about why they were writing to him. He sat on his bed and read the letter slowly.

 

Harrykins!

Our brother told us that you like cock! George, that’s a rude way to phrase it. Shut up, Fred. Anyway…

We were wondering if you’d be willing try try out the products in this box and give us your feedback? We have quite a few people trying them out, so there’s really no hurry. Looking to produce them for a side-room with an age limit in the shop this summer. There are detailed instructions and comment cards for everything!

If you don’t want to, just send it all back, no harm done. Or if you only want to try some of it.

NOTHING in this box can harm you or your ‘male friend.’ Could feel weird, but will not harm.

Good luck, thank you, and happy wanking! Love, The Twins

 

Harry’s face was redder than the Gryffindor common room when he got to the end of the letter. Merlin only knew what would be in this box when he opened it. Pulling the wrapping from the box, he opened it slowly, as if something was going to jump out at him.

Removing the lid, his face got even more crimson. Inside the box were all sorts of sex toys, potions, and written charms. Each one had two pieces of parchment attached. One had a description and instructions, one had questions about the performance of the toy, charm or potion. Not quite ready to dive into wizarding sex toys, he reached for a double potion vials. Pulling it out of the box, he read the tag.

Long Distance Joining Potion: The holder of the potion needs to put an activation charm on both vials (listed below). If the holder and one other person ingest this potion at the same time, they will be able to feel each other’s hands on their naughty bits. This means underwear covered portions of the body, as well as lips and nipples! The rest of the body will remain without unusual sensation. The potion will last a few moments past one orgasm for each participant. Explore away! Charm #1: Excitant

The second piece of parchment asked about which body parts felt sensation, how strong it was, were there any side effects, etc. Harry was really impressed. This was the perfect potion for someone who wanted to shag a man he wasn’t allowed to know yet. The thought of having Herc’s hands touch him was almost overwhelming. Suddenly finding himself with uncomfortably tight trousers, he put the potion back in the box and set it on his desk. He grabbed his wand and walked down the hall towards Ernie’s room. The curtain was pulled open and Ernie was sitting at his desk.

“Hey, Ern. What’chu up to?” Harry asked, leaning against the wall.

“Hi Harry! Nothing, really. Just writing a letter. What’s up?”

Harry flushed. “I was, uh, wondering, if you, I -,”

“Harry. Spit it out,” the smaller man grinned at him, leaning back from the desk.

“You busy?” he rudely gestured toward his crotch.

“Thought you’d never ask,” Ernie quickly stood and walked toward Harry. “Here, or your room?”

“I had another idea, actually. Trust me?” At Ernie’s nod, Harry grabbed his hand and pulled him down the hallway to the bathroom. He walked inside first, relieved to find that it was empty. He led Ernie to the last shower stall in the room and pulled him into it.

“Harry… I thought you didn’t want people to know?” he looked confused. “If anyone comes in..”

“They won’t be able to see if one of us stays on our knees,” Harry leaned in close for a snog before starting to undress the other man. “Is this okay?”

“Merlin, yes,” he whispered back. They quickly undressed each other, placing the clothes on the rack near the door to the stall. The walls were solid and covered in tile; only coming up to Harry’s shoulders, not even that high on Ernie, short as he was. Harry turned on the water with a wave of his wand. It felt strange to use it, but he didn’t want Ernie to be suspicious. They both stood under the spray, snogging for a moment. Without any prompting, Ernie suddenly dropped to his knees in front of Harry and leaned forward to taste him. He leaned back again and looked up at Harry. “Just orgasms, yeah? No relationship?”

“Absolutely.” Ernie quickly went back to what he seemed to truly enjoy doing. And Merlin, did he do it well. Harry leaned a hand against the wall with the faucet and watched Ernie as he explored. He switched between his hands and his mouth, between sucking and kissing, but all the while he stayed focused on Harry. Harry saw him reach for his own dick and felt a surge of dominance. “No, Ernie. Don’t touch yourself. I want to see how close we can get you without touching you.”

Ernie moaned around him. Drawing back, he gasped for air before saying, “Yes, sir.” At that, Harry couldn’t help but plunge one of his hands into Ernie’s hair and grab hold. Urging Ernie even closer, Harry thrust his hips forward. “You’re too good at this for it to be new, Ernie. You must be such a slag when you aren’t at school.” Harry watched his partner carefully to gauge his reaction to his words. Ernie’s cock twitched and leaked as Harry spoke. He was clearly interested. “I bet you’ve been on your knees for loads of men before. Fuck!” at a particularly hard suck, Harry saw stars for a moment. “Merlin, do that again. Ah! Ern! Touch my bollocks. Yessss.”

“Please, sir, can I touch myself, please?” Ernie whispered as his hands continued working. His hips were thrusting slightly, even though there was nothing for him to gain friction on. “Please.”

“No,” Harry growled. “Suck. Now.” Harry knew he was close, and by the looks of it so was Ernie. Suddenly, he heard someone come into the bathroom. He cast a quick Silencio on Ernie and pulled his head away. Dropping his voice to the lowest whisper, he said to him, “Don’t you dare stop.” Ernie quickly continued what he was doing with just a hint of nervousness in his eyes, while Harry looked up to see who came in. Michael, Neville, and Draco had just entered, all with hands and arms covered in something orange.

“Hiya Harry!” Neville called. “Don’t mind us, just covered in stinksap from the gardens.” The three of them went to the sinks to wash their hands and arms, conversing quietly. Harry grunted in reply, trying to sound grumpy, but probably sounding a bit too turned on. “Your term going alright?”

“Yes!” Harry said more excitedly than the new term warranted. “Yeah. It’s good.” He purposely looked down at Ernie as he said it. He then looked over and nodded at the other guys as they left the room.

With the thrill of getting caught so much closer now, Harry knew it wouldn’t be long. Glancing down at Ernie again, he could see he was flushed all over and very close to coming himself. The second they left, he undid the silencing spell on Ernie.

“Fucking Merlin that was close. Harder,” he instructed the man on his knees. “Can you come without touching yourself?”

Ernie shook his head minutely, not stopping his ministrations. Harry made a show of grabbing his wand and pointing it at Ernie, even though he had no idea if there was a real spell for what he was about to do. He put his intentions into making Ernie feel like someone was rubbing him off, when no one actually was, and waved his wand. Judging by the guttural groan he let out, it worked. Ernie switched to just using his hands so that he could gasp out, “Please, sir! Please, please - I… please!”

“We come at the same time. You can’t go first.” Ernie went back to using his mouth and doubled his efforts on Harry and within a few moments they were both coming; hard. Harry dropped to his knees and kissed Ernie. He whimpered and rocked against Harry. “What’s wrong? Ern?”

“The spell. Cancel the spell. Please!”

Finite!” Harry quickly undid the magic; realizing that Ernie was still feeling like someone was rubbing him. “Sorry. I forgot. Was that… alright?”

Ernie laughed. “I dunno how you turn into an entirely different person with your clothes off, but I like it, Harry.”

The two of them rinsed off quickly and got redressed. Before they went their separate ways outside of Ernie’s room, Harry stopped to ask him a question. “You’re sure it’s okay if this is a no-feelings kind of thing? I don’t want to belatedly realize I’ve been a dick to you.”

“Trust me, I’m not looking for a relationship. Just orgasms is all I’m interested in.”

“Swell. ‘Til next time, then!” Harry winked and then scurried back to his room to write in his Herc journal. He was almost late for their daily ‘date.’

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpts from January 23 - February 14.

 

Herc! Happy Sunday evening! Hope your day was as nice as mine. I wanted to thank you for your gift this morning. It’s a gorgeous photograph of the ocean. Definite similarities to the meditation image you told me to use. I’ve hung it up over my desk. How are you?

I’ve only just sat down. Quite a busy day. I’m glad you liked the picture! I was hoping it might make it easier for you to be stuck here at school. I know we have new rules about not leaving the castle and we have to be in our bedchambers by 10. I’m assuming that has to do with you and what we’re calling the ‘Incident’?

Yeah. I’m really sorry. I needed a curfew.

Damn. I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad. I was just curious. I’m sorry!

No need to be sorry. I still just feel so bad.

Let’s talk about something else then.

Hmm. I’ll make a confession. I was late last night because I was having an orgasm. Would have mentioned it then, but you never asked why I was late.

What a wonderful way to lose track of time!

I got a letter from someone and they sent a package a well. It was all very sexual, and I just couldn’t help it.

You had previously mentioned that you told your friends you were gay… is one of them trying to catch your interest?

Merlin, NO!

What an emphatic answer.

It’s just that the person who wrote the letter is like family to me. That would be so gross.

Ah, I see. But they’re sending you a letter about sex?

I’m not explaining this well. Let me try again. I got a letter and a package containing products that are new on the market (as far as I know) for me to try out. All sexual in nature.

Now this makes more sense. What did you get?

I didn’t even look through it all. The first thing I found was a potion that allows two people not physically close to each other feel as though they are touching one another.

Oh.

That could mean a lot of things.

I wish I had some of that potion. And you had some.

OH! Well, that’s immediately what I thought, as well. We’re not doing so well on taking things slowly, are we?

Not in the slightest. Let’s talk about something else, or I’ll end up having to leave rather quickly.

Fascinates me that I wind you up that much.

Shut up.

Maybe at some point we won’t have to leave for that.

Anyway - how are your potions coming?

You’re such a swot. Alright I guess. I’m halfway through the list. How’s your transfiguration going? Any luck finding your animagus? You know that’s an immediate Outstanding, right?

 

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But why is Stacey being investigated?? I understand removing her as our group leader, but what did she do that warranted investigation by the Aurors?

Huh. The journal let you put that she was “our group leader.” Guess that means we’re in the same session, then. Interesting.

But still not answering the question.

Herc. McGonagall asked me if I knew you were hurting yourself. I couldn’t lie to her. But I told her that it had only happened once that I knew of, and that other than that you seemed fine. But then she asked if it had ever come up during therapy, and what was I supposed to say? Either you said it in therapy, and she knew about it by now - or someone else said it and they may still need help. Either way, she made it clear that Stacey hadn’t done a damn thing about it. I don’t know what her issue is, but her goal was clearly not on helping students heal.

I want to be mad at you.

How’s that going?

I can’t find it in me. You were trying to help. It’s not as if they didn’t already know about me.

I’m still sorry I broke your trust. I just needed McGonagall to know that Stacey was useless. She also treated some people differently than other people, and that’s just not fair.

I couldn’t agree more. So what will happen with therapy now?

I’m not sure. McGonagall mentioned eliminating it and encouraging everyone to get their own mind healer, even just for a few weeks. You and I already have that, so we’d be covered.

 

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Yeah, my mind healer says the same thing.

Oh?

Mhmm. Being back in this castle isn’t good for me. I’m counting the days til I get to go home for good and not come back.

I’m counting them for a different reason, but to the same day.

Who knew you were so sentimental?

I did. What else did your Healer say today?

Just that I need to focus on getting out of here. Get the work done and focus. He also gave me a much stronger sleeping potion, again, since I’ll only need it for about 5 weeks, now. The last one didn’t do much. But it’s short-term. So there’s no harm in that.

And you’re doing alright with not drinking, still?

It’s a daily struggle, since I’m faced with awful memories every day here. But at least I know there’s an end in sight, you know?

Yeah. I wish everyone had an end in sight like that.

Damn. I didn’t -

No, it’s fine. Really.

No it isn’t. I know you hate going home. You’ve never said why, but I know it’s harder for you there. You’ve been alright since we’ve been back, right?

Yes. Much better than when I’m at home. My healer said I should move.

Makes sense. If home is the issue.

What do you mean?

Just that moving may not help at all. Like for me, the castle is the problem, we know that. But for you it could be the memories. Or an emotion linked to them. Like when I realized I was gay. I still struggle with feeling guilty about it sometimes, even though I’m actively pursuing it.

That’s an interesting theory. I’ll mention it the next time I see my healer.

 

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Did you hear? Stacey lost her certification. She isn’t allowed to run therapy anymore.

Good. Stupid bint.

Woah, harsh. You okay?

Yes and no. I - well. I’ve been developing a bit of a crush on another 8th year.

Really? I wish I could ask who.

I just feel conflicted about it. Because I fancy you, which you know. But I also fancy him. It’s a touch confusing.

You’ve never liked more than one person at a time?

This is different and you know it.

It is.

It’s hard to imagine meeting you, because I don’t know what you look like. Hard to imagine kissing you or holding your hand. I don’t know if you’re taller than me or shorter. Or if you have large or small hands.

What if you just pretended I was your other crush? Combine the two of us, if you will.

Weird combination. Can’t seem to reconcile the two.

Not even just for sex? Their face and body, but pretend that it’s me? Like I just appeared out of the journal in front of you.

Interesting fantasy.

I have a confession to make.

Do you?

I - well. I have this faceless stranger who shows up in my dreams. And wank fantasies. And daydreams.

You have to say something. Now I feel like a right idiot.

Don’t. I’m - well, flattered doesn’t seem like the right word for it.

No, but I know what you mean.

 

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Are you around? I’m bored.

Is that all I am to you? A way to fill time?

I can’t tell if that was in jest or serious. You know you’re more than that. I love talking to you.

I’m not quite sure if it was in jest or serious. I probably shouldn’t write things if I’m not sure how I mean them. I don’t know how I’m to get through the next two weeks.

Now you’re making me nervous. Are you alright? You don’t seem like yourself.

I’m a little melancholy.

Why are you melancholy tonight?

I need - physical contact. And I can’t get that here.

Put your hand on your journal’s cover.

What? Why?

Just do it, please?

Fine.

 

 

How are you doing that?

First tell me what just happened.

You were holding my hand! Or at least it felt like you were. How did you do that? I didn’t know a spell for that existed.

I promise to tell you how when you know who I am. Until then, it’s my little secret. Did that help your need for physical contact?

No. I mean. It was brilliant, but not what I meant.

What did you mean, like a hug?

Idiot. Not like a hug. Like a blowjob. Or a shag.

Oh.

I need to feel something other than my own hands. I feel very alone.

OH. We could - um. Well, we -

What kind of naughty thing are you trying to suggest that’s got you so tongue-tied?

My potion. I could put half in the pen pal trunk.

Oh.

We don’t have to. It’s probably weird. Never mind. Pretend I didn’t say anything.

I think that’s an inspired idea.

You do?

I really do.

Are we doing this now?

I could.

Oh Merlin. You’re telling me you’re already hard.

I didn’t mean that. But I certainly am now.

Give me five minutes to make sure my friends don’t come looking for me?

Yes. I’ll be here. Take your time.

 

It was a tad early for hiding away in his room, so Harry quickly penned a note saying he was fine but feeling under the weather and would be in bed napping. He added a line that asked his friends to please not come bother him because he really needed the rest. He would see them in the morning. Waving his hand, he duplicated it and called for Kreacher to deliver them.

Heart racing, Harry set his journal and quill on his bedside table and then reached for the box from the twins. He said the incantation aloud over both vials, using his wand just in case his magic didn’t work the way they intended it to. Setting one vial into the small trunk on his desk and carried the other over and sat down on his bed. Back to the wall, legs crossed as though he was meditating. He opened the journal again.

 

I sent you the vial.

I see that. You’re sure it’s safe?

Absolutely. Friend who sent it would never risk hurting someone as an experiment.

So how do we do this, exactly?

What do you mean?

I mean I can’t write while I wank.

Oh. Well I imagine we won’t need to write. The potion’s description says we’ll be able to feel each others’ hands on our ‘underwear covered portions’ and lips and nipples. But that the rest of our bodies won’t feel their hands at all. So we can probably just feel our way along?

Yeah. That sounds good.

Should we have a signal?

For what?

Like if one of us wants to stop or is uncomfortable with something.

Hmm. How about three taps on the lips? That’s not something that would normally happen, right?

Sounds good to me. So we’re doing this? Now?

Please. We just drink the potion?

Yes. All in one go. Talk after?

Yes.

 

Harry uncorked his potion and swallowed it quickly. It tasted mildly of strawberries. Without any warning, he felt another tongue on his own lips, swiping the flavor of the potion. He groaned and licked back. On one hand, he could feel that he licked his own lips, but he also felt someone else’s lips beneath his tongue. It was fascinating and arousing all at the same time. He felt a hand palm at his erection and needed to take his trousers off immediately. Not that he could be sure, but it felt like Hercules was doing the same.

Harry quickly cast silencing and locking spells on his room so that no one would catch him. As he did so, he felt two strong pinches on his nipples. It was clear that Herc was taking the lead for now, and he found that he wasn’t bothered by it. They spent the next few minutes licking and pinching and touching above the waist. Then suddenly, Harry felt two hands grasp his buttocks firmly. He never thought that could be so arousing, but it was. Even more arousing was when he felt a hand move from his buttocks to grip his cock. Whimpering, he reciprocated. Again, there was the strange notion of having both his hand on his own cock, but also that same hand on another cock. They were both hard as a rock. Herc was roughly the same size as Harry, but slightly longer.

When he felt a second hand join the first and start to fondle his bollocks, he knew he couldn’t last long. He thrust his hips slightly into the hands holding him. He was absolutely overcome with the thought this was Hercules touching him. The man that he longed to know more than anyone else. He bit his lip, knowing Herc would feel his teeth. Only a few more minutes of frantically stroking each other and they were coming together. Harry only just managed to not call out Hercules as he did so.

Knowing the potion would wear off in just a moment, he licked his lips as a thank you kiss to Hercules. He waved his hand to clean himself up and then pulled his pants back on. He picked up his journal and quill.

Merlin that was fucking amazing.

Can you get more of that potion? Because we’re definitely doing that again.

I’ll write tomorrow morning for some. Your hands -

Is that a good thing?

The best thing.

Ah. Well, yours too, then.

How long until we can actually meet and know each other now? It can’t be very long.

It’s the twelfth now. So about a week and a half. What are your plans for this week?

Lots of studying. I want the grades. Then I can be and do whatever I want. You?

Studying as well. That and trying not to wank myself raw thinking of you.

Oh. Well then.

I was thinking - do you want to try to get permission to share identities on Friday evening, after exams, instead of waiting for Sunday?

I am going to say no, but please let me explain why.

Alright.

I have so many unpleasant memories of this castle. I don’t want my memory of ‘meeting’ you to be here, too. I was going to invite you to my home. We’d be alone, so no worries there. And I don’t think I need the secrecy spells. I trust you. Even if we decide not to pursue this, I don’t think you would betray my trust.

You’re right about that. Let me think about it?

Absolutely. Don’t need an answer until that day.

Perfect. I feel - so relaxed right now.

Me too. I could probably sleep without my potions, though I won’t try.

Probably a good plan. You’re not heading to bed now, are you?

No. Was hoping we could chat for a bit?

Yeah. I’d like that.

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You sent me a Valentine?

Yes. It’s meant to be funny, so please don’t think I think it’s serious.

It’s hysterical. What a dumb poem. But the chocolate was delicious.

I’m glad you enjoyed it. Took a long time to choose.

I feel like an idiot now, though. I didn’t get you anything.

Can I be a sap for a moment?

Like I could stop you.

Shut up. Put your hand on your journal and hold my hand for a minute?

Of course.

 



 

 

NEXT CHAPTER: exams and packing to leave Hogwarts. And a party, too!

Chapter Text

Any of you who are coming over from fanfiction to read this - please know that I appreciate it! Apologies for formatting issues. I’ve even contacted the moderators for assistance and the only option would take HOURS of writing code within my chapters. (which I’m not doing..) To the rest of you! Thank you for sticking around. I finally finished. There’s another note at the end with a bit of explanation. Happy reading!



Assignments will be underlined.

Harry’s writing will be bold.

Draco’s writing will be in italics.



CHAPTER 24 - The Conclusion

February 26. 2pm.

 

N.E.W.T. exams were extraordinarily stressful for a lot of reasons. For most young witches and wizards, they were the indicator of what careers would be open for them in the future. For others, it was a way to measure what they learned in their school years. Another reason it was stressful was the way the tests were structured. The instructors always started with more basic spells or potions from the first two or three years at hogwarts and wanted to see them performed perfectly. After that, they got harder and harder. Many examiners wanted to see spells and potions that even went beyond what Hogwarts taught. Some people said that the only way to earn an Outstanding on these tests was to pull out the most intricate and perfectly executed spell or potion one had in their arsenal. Harry knew all of this and wasn’t nervous at all. He seemed like one of the only students not anxious about the exams. He was prepared to perform anything they asked. He knew he’d have to hold his wand, just for show of course. But the fact that all of his spells would be silent should impress them. He also had planned on doing a few without his wand, just to ensure a good grade.  As expected, he sailed through the exams and saw the surprise on the examiners’ faces when he pulled out a few of his tricks. He was confident that he had secured nothing less than Exceeds Expectations on any of the exams, even potions, but he wouldn’t know the scores for sure until the following Monday.

The breeze was fierce as it blew across the grounds of the castle; catching Harry’s scarf and pulling it from his neck. He watched it blow in the wind for a few minutes before summoning it back and securing it inside of his coat. There was less two full days left of his final year of schooling, and he could feel the change coming like a thunderstorm. Harry still had no idea what he would do when he left school, but he knew it would be better than anything he had done in the past, and he would have ample time to decide. As he turned back toward the castle, he wondered, not for the first time, what would happen that night at the gathering. McGonagall decided they deserved another informal meeting because of how hard they had been working, but she refused to call it a party and claimed it would be more lowkey. It would be a group dinner and lots of conversation. According to her, none of the eighth year students had even complained when she implemented the curfew because of Harry. The party was to be that evening and there would be food and drink for everyone. Harry, of course, knew that he would be one of the students who wasn’t drinking, but he wasn’t bothered by it. The potions had him feeling calm enough that he didn’t want to drink lately.

As he stepped into the common room, he was startled by the change in decorations. Instead of the purples and greys that he was used to, he was surrounded by the house colors in almost every combination imaginable. The furniture had also been changed again. This time, there was one big round table with comfortable looking dining chairs around it, with comfier chairs around the edge of the room. Just as before, there was still plenty of room for moving around the room, but not much for dancing this time. It was clear the table would be the focus. Harry went to shower and change before the dinner so that he would be ready.

When he walked into the bathroom, however, he saw that he would not be alone. Draco was currently occupying the middle shower out of the three shower stalls. Harry mumbled a hello as he stepped into the stall between Draco and the far wall of the bathroom. The other man didn’t answer. Harry had been so focused on studying lately that they hadn’t gone running or spent any time together recently. For that matter, Harry realized, he hadn’t really spent time with anyone. He hadn’t met up with Ernie again and hadn’t wanted to, and he only saw Hermione or Ron while they worked on potions together or ate their meals. The rest of his time was consumed with studying and about one hour each day talking with Herc. He wanted to devote more time to talking with Herc, but he needed to ensure that his potions were up to snuff before the exam.

“Potter?” the voice startled him out of his musings.

“Harry,” he replied without thinking.

“What?”

“You’re supposed to call me Harry, remember?” Harry turned his face toward Draco’s shower stall, but could barely see a thing without his glasses. All he saw was a blurry outline of a person.

“Right. Harry.”

There was a long pause. “Were you going to ask me something or did you just want to say my name?” Harry smirked at him.

“Merlin, you’re annoying,” Harry could practically feel Draco’s accompanying eye roll. “I wanted to know why you haven’t cut your hair.”

“Seriously? That’s what you were going to ask me?”

“Yes. It caught my eye as you rinsed it, and I realized how long it’s gotten. Just a burning curiosity.”

“Oh. I guess I just haven’t really noticed it. I’ve got a handy spell to pull it back out of my face. I think it actually looks neater this way than when it’s short.” Harry shampooed his hair as he talked. He heard Draco’s shower shut off just as he rinsed his hair. “Are you excited for the party?”

“Not really. I don’t like social gatherings much anymore.”

“Makes sense. Me neither,” Harry tried not to notice Draco’s gaze on him as he soaped up his body. He may not have been able to see him without his glasses, but he could feel him staring. He suddenly found himself grateful for the shoulder-height wall in between them, as his body seemed to enjoy the attention. Even knowing that all Draco could see was his shoulder blades and higher, it felt extremely erotic. “What are you wearing tonight?”

“Are you coming onto me, Potter?”

“Trust me, you’d know if I was. Answer the question.”

Draco chuckled deep in his throat. “Grey muggle trousers with a button down shirt.”

“What color shirt?” Harry asked, turning his own water off and putting his glasses back on. Draco leaned on the wall between the two showers just as Harry wrapped himself in his towel.

“Why do you care?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Navy blue. See you later,” Draco said with a smirk before he left the room. Harry couldn’t be sure, but he was pretty sure the man winked, too. It was a very odd day. He quickly went back to his room to change before the dinner started. Glancing at the clock, he figured he still had about half an hour before he had to walk down the hall, so he grabbed parchment and a quill. Focusing all his energy on being honest and candid, he started to write:

Hercules:

Soon, I will know your real name. I want to ensure that you know my real feelings. When we first meet, either (or both) of us could have reactions out of surprise. I need you to know how I feel. I trust you with everything I am. I firmly believe I could tell you anything and you’d not judge me for it, or ever tell anyone without my permission. I admire your courage. From everything you’ve told me, I’ve gathered that there are things in your past that haunt you, as do all of us here. But you keep going and keep trying. I hope that when you go home again, things can get easier for you, maybe they won’t always be so painful.

Right now, I am hoping to have you in my life as a permanent part. It’s probably too early (considering we don’t know each others’ real names) to talk about dating or moving in together or anything like that. But it’s something I’ve considered. At the very least, I know I want to take you on a date. A real, proper date. In public. Maybe the muggle public, but still.

Please, be honest with me when we meet. If this isn’t something you’re interested in, say so. Please don’t lead me on. I’m not entirely sure my heart could take it.

Truly yours, Harry.

 

Harry knew that he was prone to strong reactions, so he wanted to get his feelings out while they were true and well thought out. He folded up the parchment, ready to give to Herc when they revealed their identities. He would do everything within his power to quietly process the information before reacting, but no one could know what would happen. For now, it was time to head to the dinner. Harry pulled his hair back and secured it with a thought and flick of his hand before heading out to the common area.

About half the group was already seated around the table when he walked in. McGonagall and Flitwick were sitting at the head of the table. Harry quickly found a seat next to Ron, who was next to Hermione, and, unsurprisingly, Blaise. People were making polite conversation about their exams and how they thought they went. Harry felt something brush his right arm and turned around. Draco was pulling out the chair next to him; one of the only open seats left. He looked immaculate, as always. Slim cut grey trousers, tight, but not indecently so, and a navy button down shirt. His short hair wasn’t slicked back but left natural. It had a slight wave to it and looked incredibly soft.

“Are you checking me out, Potter?” Draco asked him with a raised eyebrow. Harry remembered his response in the showers when he had asked him that same question.

“Yes,” Harry said, swallowing hard and letting his eyes roam over the other man a second time as he sat down.

“Merlin. You’re serious?” now both of Draco’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Very,” he answered, letting his eyes sweep over the other man yet again. “That’s a good color on you.”

A slight blush spread across Draco’s cheeks as he looked down. Before either of them could say anything else, Professor Mcgonagall stood at the front of the room and called everyone’s attention. “I’d like to start by thanking you all for being on time. We all know it’s a rarity for some of you,” a quiet laugh spread through the group. There was a short pause and then she continued, “Secondly, I’d like to congratulate all of you on finishing your Hogwarts education. Every single one of you passed every exam you took. Your exact scores will be sent to you on Monday, but you all did very well.” This time there was a collective sigh. “I commend all of you on this achievement, considering the events of the past few years. It is simply remarkable that you have managed to achieve the things you have. You have a lot to be proud of. Tonight, I encourage you to discuss your plans for the future with all of us. I know for some of you this may be difficult, as you may not know, or may not like talking about it. But as a last activity for you as a whole group, please try.”

There was a very pregnant pause as she sat down again at the table. “I’ll go first,” McGonagall said with a smirk. “I am retiring from Hogwarts at the end of this school year. I will be training Transfiguration apprentices instead of working within the school. Who would like to go next?”

Stunned silence followed her proclamation. Slowly, each person at the table shared what they would be doing after finishing school. Answers ranged broadly. A few of them were immediately starting internships with Potions Masters, Mediwizards, and politicians alike. Ron shared that he had obtained a spot on the Chudley Cannons practice team; not the most prestigious quidditch position, but not bad, either. Hermione told them all she was going to become a barrister to fight for equal rights within the wizarding world. Some, like Cho Chang, weren’t sure what was coming next yet.

Harry tensed slightly when it was Draco’s turn to share. He had no idea what the other man was planning on doing after Hogwarts. He cleared his throat and started to speak, “Well. I have a meeting with the Aurors tomorrow to see if they’ll let me off house arrest early. It was originally scheduled to be finished in June, but so was school. Now that school ended early, I don’t know what happens with that. But at the very least, I’ve completed the other terms of my probation by finishing school. So I know I won’t go to Azkaban. Blaise and I have a bit of a business opportunity lined up, depending on when I’m allowed to roam free again.”

A few people asked him questions about what he said, and he kept his answers excruciatingly short. He clearly was done sharing. Next was Harry’s turn and he found he had no idea what to say.

“I.. well. I -uh…” He stopped and took a deep breath. “I don’t really know what comes next for me. I know that I don’t want to join the ministry. I’m pretty sure that I’ve fallen in love. Don’t ask who. But I’m excited to spend some time just living. No school, no job, nothing. We’ll see what happens. Or rather, you may not. I’ll be hiding from the paparazzi as best I can.”

No one asked any questions when Harry was finished. McGonagall signaled to the house elves that dinner should be served and they all started eating and quietly talking with the people they were seated close to. Harry asked Draco about his business idea but Draco shut him down immediately. Instead, Harry alternated between chatting with Ron and flirting shamelessly with Draco throughout the meal. When it was over, they all took their time going their separate ways, knowing they would see each other for just the first half of the following day.

Harry went to his room and packed everything he didn’t need the next morning and called Kreacher to come and take it home. He went and had McGonagall lift the monitoring spells that had been placed on him, as everyone involved was confident he wouldn’t need them once he was home without the threat of returning to Hogwarts. Harry had already scheduled a few therapy sessions for the upcoming week, just to make sure that he was doing what he should be. The last thing he wanted was to start coming undone again.

He took his potions and climbed into bed much earlier than was necessary. He and Herc had both informed McGonagall that they wanted to reveal their identities in two days’ time and that they didn’t require a potion for it. She would give them the specifics about how that would work early in the morning the day of. He had never been so happy and nervous and excited at the same time before. He closed his eyes and pictured what that moment would look like.



February 28. 9:52 am.

 

Harry was pacing in the entryway of his house, feeling as though he was going to throw up. Checking the time for the fifteenth time in the last ten minutes, he saw that he still had eight minutes before Herc would appear in front of him. He had gotten a letter shortly after dawn from Minerva. It said that she had created a portkey that would transport Herc to wherever Harry’s matching portkey was at exactly 10am. Harry’s portkey was an old candy bar wrapper. Not sure how literal portkeys were, he placed it on the floor in the middle of the entryway, just in front of the guest floo.

He thought about the day before and all of the goodbyes. Some were very heartfelt and sad, because there were some people who wouldn’t see each other again for a while. Some were awkward. There were people who had forgiven each other for past deeds, but still hadn’t managed to become friends.  His own goodbyes had been fairly brief. He was friendly with most of his classmates. Everyone gave him a hug or a handshake before they parted ways. Some people promised to write to him to meet up for different events, others didn’t make those promises as they knew they wouldn’t keep them. Saying goodbye to Blaise and Draco was a bit strange for him. Harry knew that he’d be seeing Blaise a fair amount, given his new relationship with Hermione. Draco held some kind of fascination for Harry. Harry insisted that they go running together sometime soon and Draco had responded, “I’d like to. Depends on the Aurors, though.” They parted with promises to write and run as soon as they could. If things didn’t work out with Herc, maybe he could eventually pursue Draco. He seemed to reciprocate Harry’s interest.

When he and Herc had last talked, about an hour before the meeting time, they agreed that no matter who the other person was, they wouldn’t speak for a few moments. Just give each other time to process what was happening in front of them. Time to process who this other person really was. Harry was mentally preparing himself to do just that. He glanced at his watch again. It was 9:59. Any second now, Herc would appear before him. He really thought he might throw up.

Suddenly, the candy bar wrapper began to glow slightly. Harry took a step back and prepared himself to catch whoever showed up, in case they were as clumsy with transportation as he was. A whirling human appeared. As the spinning slowed, Harry could see bright blonde hair and he knew immediately who Hercules was. Draco Malfoy. Once the other man landed, they just stared at each other for a few moments. Partially sticking to their agreed deal, partially frozen in shock. Harry was the first to speak.

“Would you like a drink, Draco?” he said with a noticeable dry throat.

Draco simply nodded. Harry led him into the sitting room and called for Kreacher. “Could you bring us two firewhiskeys please, Kreacher?” The elf didn’t verbally respond, he just snapped his fingers and the drinks appeared. At Harry’s nod, he left the room again. The men sat down across from each other, drinks in hand.

“Well this is considerably awkward, isn’t it?” Harry smiled as he said it.

“Yes. It absolutely is.” Draco finished his entire drink in one go and set the glass down. “I just… I don’t even know where to start, really. Almost feel like it’s a cosmic joke of some kind. My brain may be herniating. I wanked with Harry Potter.”

“Yeah. That happened. And now I’m mentally running through all of our conversations? Having a ‘bloody hell, I told THAT to HIM’ moment every now and again.”

“I told you… everything.”

“We both did, if you remember. Well, as much as we could.” Harry set his glass down, too. “I suppose we should share the bits we couldn’t before?”

“Good idea. I have a question. It’s probably a strange place to start, given everything, but I need to know. How did you get the journal to feel like we were holding hands?”

“Oh dear. You likely didn’t realize when you asked it, but that is one of the biggest things I’d need to tell you anyway. I’ll skip the parts about the war for the moment, I can explain those another time. But ever since the end of the war, the Final Battle specifically… I have more power than I used to. Or than I should. I don’t know. I can do things without a incantation. Or a wand.” Harry paused. Waiting for Draco to simply leave.

“Oh.”

There was a very long break where neither of them spoke.

“Could you demonstrate something?” Draco asked in a low voice.

“Do you have anything specific in mind?” Harry remembered playing a similar game with Hermione, ending with him in tears after she left.

“Is there anything you’ve tried that you couldn’t do?”

“Not when I’m sober. I’ve tried everything short of Cruciatus and the Killing Curse.”

“Imperius?” Draco asked with wide eyes.

“Very successfully.” Harry froze at Draco’s expression. “Oh no! It was on Hermione, at her request. Strictly for research purposes.”

“Okay. Could you conjure something?”

Harry thoughtlessly produced a blank journal. When Draco seemed unimpressed, he conjured a small turtle. Conjuring living things was close to impossible for most magical people.

“What else can you do? This is bloody amazing.” Both men relaxed a little bit with this conversation.

“Hm. Well, remember the story about the night I gave my first blowjob?”

“Vividly. You also discovered you enjoyed being called ‘sir’ that evening. I’m not doing that, by the way,” Draco’s face indicated that he may be persuaded.

“Noted. Well. When I said I bound his hands above his head and vanished his trousers? All wandless, wordless, and without even thinking incantations. I just think what I want to happen, and it happens.”

They kept talking for a bit, with Draco asking Harry to try things every now and again. Draco’s was wildly impressed with Harry’s skill at Glamours.

“We could go out in public anywhere and no one would know it was you. Hm. Could you do that same kind of magic on another person?”

“Haven’t tried it. Would you like me to try it on you?”

“Please.”

Harry realized that this was an enormous amount of trust that Draco was placing in him. Without a thought, Harry turned Draco into his own ‘James’ persona from the night he went out with Ernie. He also quickly conjured a mirror so Draco could see.

“We could go out together and no one would ever know it was us.”

“Indeed.” Harry returned Draco to his normal appearance. “I prefer you this way, though.”

Draco blushed fiercely. The two chatted for a while longer, asking a range of different questions. Some were relatively mundane, like “What room were you in when we talked about…?” while others were fairly significant, like “Are you still suicidal?” As the day wore on, they seemed to become more and more comfortable talking to one another. Their real life personalities and their journal personalities blending so there was barely a difference. Harry asked him about the ongoing consequences with the ministry and discovered that Draco was an entirely free man again. No probation or anything; although he did still have a record with the ministry. Two o’clock rolled around and found them both seated on the floor of the sitting room, side by side, comparing the length of their legs. The men were almost the same height, but Draco’s legs were longer.  Suddenly, something clicked for Harry.

“Oh! You’ll enjoy this. You said you’re a bit of a voyeur. Do you remember when you and Blaise and Neville were covered in stinksap and came into the bathroom while I was showering? I think it was the end of January?”

“Yes. Stinksap is vile. Why? Were you wanking?” Draco chuckled as he asked.

“No. But Ernie was sucking me off the entire time you three were in the bathroom.”

“Fuck, Harry,” Draco groaned and stood up. “Okay, no more talk about that for a while. Too soon. I’m starved. Want to eat?”

“I actually cooked last night, I can just reheat it for us.”

The day was going better than either of them thought. Mentally, Harry decided to rip up the letter he wrote. Instead, he told Draco about the letter and the fact that he’d like to date the other man. Draco quickly agreed. They had a lengthy conversation about how they were both still seeing mind healers and neither was mentally whole. They discovered they were seeing the same healer. It was decided they would meet with him together to ensure that neither of them hindered the others’ healing process.

Around eight that evening, Harry wanted nothing more than to curl up with Draco and go to sleep. But he knew that was a terrible idea this early on. So he told him what he wanted and that they couldn’t do that yet. Draco surprised him by kissing him soundly on the lips. After snogging for a bit, Draco announced that he had to leave. They made plans to get breakfast the next morning before the therapy session that they would both attend. Just before Draco left Grimmauld Place, Harry grabbed his hand and asked him in a quiet voice, “Would you consider moving in? You can share with me, or there are plenty of spare bedrooms. I know the Manor isn’t somewhere happy for you.”

“We can ask Cal tomorrow, but I’m game if you are,” Draco answered with a big smile.

They both knew they had a long way to go and there was no such thing as a happy ever after, but they sincerely hoped that it was at least a ‘happy for the time being.’





***And that’s the end! Apologies that it took so freaking long. All I can say is that real life can be a bitch sometimes, and it doesn’t help when your muse runs away faster than a rabbit from a dog. Eventually, there may be a sequel to this… but for now, it’s finished in full. Thanks for reading!! ***