Actions

Work Header

Wisps of Smoke and Colorful Souls

Chapter Text

Renato has just turned thirteen and his name is finally gaining weight in the underworld. He is thirteen and his hands are already tainted with blood. He doesn’t really care, even though he sometimes thinks he should.

(His mama would have wanted him to.)

Renato is thirteen, four feet nine, and his eyes are cold even though they are brown. His life has not been kind to him, but he’s stubborn; he’s determined. His life is his, and no matter what it throws at him, he will raise up to the challenge and win.

Renato is thirteen, and one night he awakens in a different mindscape for the first time.

The muscles in his back tense for a second before relaxing, fluid and graceful, and his hand closes over his Glock. He barely moves as he analyzes the undefined space with eyes hidden in the shadows of his hat.

What is this? Mist Flames? He can’t sense them, not even after opening up his senses and reaching.

There’s a tug on his pants and he doesn’t jump. His muscles obey his training, so before his conscious mind registers there is a threat, his Glock is already turned down, pointed directly between the eyes of the offender who has evaded all his senses.

Huge, innocent green eyes peer up at him, shining with undisguised curiosity, and Renato freezes. The owner of the eyes blinks and crosses them a bit, trying to focus on the weapon, and it is then that Renato realizes what he’s doing. He quickly secures his weapon in the holster strapped to the small of his back and takes a hasty step away from the goddamn baby.

Then it clicks.

A baby. His soulmate is a baby.

Renato doesn’t know if he should laugh, cry, or shoot something. Because of course.

The child gurgles and claps his hands in a careless show of happiness, and Renato can only manage a glower in response, not that the brat seems to care. Instead, it squeals and lifts demanding arms, completely disregarding Renato’s dark scowl.

Narrowing his eyes, Renato studies the tiny thing, but does not approach.

One year old. Happy. A mop of dark hair and soft, tanned skin. Chubby. A pair of startlingly green eyes that are becoming brighter and bigger and… is that a pout?

Alarms blare in his mind. He doesn’t want to deal with a bawling baby, thank you very much, and if bending to the little creature’s demands and lifting it awkwardly in his arms is the only way to avoid the waterworks, then he’d gladly forsake his pride and carry the thing. It’s not that there’s anyone else there to be a witness.

The baby is heavier and lighter than he thought, and it giggles the moment Renato perches it on his bony hip, all sadness forgotten. He hadn’t thought much about his sideburns until the tiny monster has access to them, but if letting it play with them makes the crying stop, then—

“Argh, no! Don’t do that!” He’s way too old to whine, so he’s not. He’s not. He’s just complaining vehemently against the baby’s decision to suck on his goddamn hair. Why is this his life? “Let go, bad baby.”

And it seems that the little being understood, or at least got the meaning of Renato’s tone, because he slowly releases the now soggy curl, eyes filling with fresh tears.

Oh, no, Renato thinks, and then he’s mentally and crudely swearing before trying to calm down and summon some kind of smile to his face. It felt… stiff and terribly awkward and almost foreign, pulling muscles that he’s almost forgotten how to use. (How long has it been since he last smiled? Truly smiled. Not a smirk, a smile. Probably when his mama was still alive, before… Before.)

“It’s fine, bambino,” he says, trying to make the words soft, like he remembers listening from his mama when he was a kid himself. (He’s thirteen now, but he hasn’t been a kid for years.) Like the smile, it doesn’t feel quite right, but it seems to help. “I’m not mad at you.”

The baby sniffles once, then peers at him beneath wet eyelashes, and Renato’s heart constricts in his chest. He smiles again, more genuine, and the baby answers with a truly breathtaking, beaming smile.

Ugh. Damn, his soulmate is the cutest little thing ever.

Chapter Text

Six months pass before the next dream, and when it comes, Renato is immediately on guard.

Something is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

He takes out his gun and squints at the darkness, senses keyed up and alert, ready for any kind of attack. The dream feels strangely different and it takes a moment for Renato to pinpoint the source. (Don’t blame him; he’s not yet used to how the dreams work, after all, it’s only his second time.)

A startled gasp makes him turn on his feet, looking around in the darkness and—that’s it. The difference.

Last time they were in a large space, airy and warm. He had felt safe there, embraced by a sense of comfort and love. Soft blues, crèmes and yellow golds had mixed indistinctly as they swirled and danced around them, undisturbed and unassuming as they interacted, slow enough to not result dizzying.

Now, however, the place is dark, damp and oppressive, as if they were cramped inside a minuscule space, even though there are no discernible walls. Renato’s alarm grows, because he knows that mindscapes are a reflection of the state of mind and living conditions of their owners and he recognizes instinctively that this one is not his. (Not at this point in time.)

Bambino?” he calls softly, lowering the gun but not putting it away just yet. Being cautious has saved his life many times already, and therefore it’s an instinct that’s worth cultivating, even if he knows he’s safe. Even more so now that he has discovered his soulmate’s existence, who would become an immediate target if it ever got out that ‘Reborn’ has such a big weak point.

(He may be rather young and may still be considered rather new to the workings of the Mafia, but Renato is cunning and sly and adaptable, not to mention pretty deft at handling guns and using his Flames. He’s rapidly making a name for himself in the underworld, and his life will continue in that venue in the foreseeable future because hitmen simply do not quit. Cannot quit. Not if they become as famous as Renato is becoming. It is too late to pull out now, and the only viable way to secure his little soulmate’s safety is by reaching the very top. Only when he is feared enough that nobody would dare try anything against him will he dare to seek his soulmate in real life. Until then, the dreams will have to be enough.)

At the sound of his voice, the darkness shudders, wavers, as if was something tangible about to break. A spot of light appears, dim and barely there, but bright enough for Renato to distinguish his soulmate’s small silhouette.

He’s sitting on the floor, curled around himself in a way that Renato is intimately familiar with, which fills his stomach with lead.

A small step forward and the boy flinches away, and Renato… Renato is going to murder someone. Because someone has dared to harm what was his, and such thing will not—can not—go unpunished.

It’s a struggle to get himself under control, to get his breathing even, but he forces himself to do so because the kid is already scared and seeing Renato slip into a murdering rage is not going to help. So he breathes deeply through the nose once, twice, three times, and once he reigns in his temper he secures the gun behind his back.

He looks around again. Scowls. The place is still gloomy and dark, and not at all conducive to coax his little one into a calmer state. The easiest solution would be for Renato to create some light himself, though he doesn’t know how to go about it, or if it is even possible. His Flames, perhaps? Do they even work inside dreams?

Shrugging mentally, he figures there’s nothing to lose if he tries and extends his right hand in front of him, palm up and fingers barely closed. Bright yellow surges in a lick of flame, easy as breathing, as if they were alive and eager to obey their master.

The crackling sound and the sudden brightness get an immediate response from the toddler. Renato watches from the corner of his eye as the boy slowly uncurls and bright green eyes focus on him with a sort of curious wariness.

Meanwhile, Renato inspects him right back, and the anger he had so carefully caged in before threatens to resurface with a vengeance now that he can see the state his soulmate is in. Dressed in clothes way too big for him, too dirty to be the result of a happy day playing outside, the little boy looks worse-for-wear. The hollowness of his cheeks results jarring when compared with Renato’s memory of a chubby, smiling baby. The expression in his eyes does not belong to a two-year-old, either.

Murder. Definitely.

Someone, someday, is going to die.

Not letting his rage show on his face is harder than ever, but he manages. Cautiously, as if he were approaching a hurt wild animal, he approaches the boy and slowly crouches down in order to get closer to his level and seem less of a threat. He still leaves enough space between them for the boy not to feel trapped.

The little one regards him for a minute, tense, before he hesitantly relaxes as it becomes clear that Renato is not going to hurt him in any way. Green eyes stop focusing on Renato’s face to look down curiously towards his hands and, particularly, the bright yellow Flames dancing on them. Renato smiles—he’s practiced, okay? He’s had six months since the first dream to do so, and now it almost, almost comes naturally—and extends his left hand towards him to inspect. He passively observes as the boy tips his body a little towards him, but doesn’t move. The boy waits a moment, little hand hovering in the air towards the Flames but not quite reaching yet, and Renato makes a small gesture of encouragement.

“Go on,” he says, gently. It’s all that’s needed for the boy to approach.

He reaches with a single small finger and quickly tries to touch the Flames, before snatching his hand back and cradling it close to his chest. He frowns and looks down at it, then wiggles all five fingers. His eyes grow in surprise and his face brightens in amazement as he looks at Renato’s face, then his Flames, then back to his face.

“Pwetty,” he says, almost reverently and with a small lisp, and with that single word Renato now knows that his soulmate’s native language is English, not Italian. He’s really glad now that he already knows the basics and can have a basic conversation in it, or communication might have become complicated between them in the near future. “Touch?”

Renato will make sure to instill the ‘no touching’ rule for fire soon, because he doesn’t want his little soulmate getting hurt because he thought all fire was the same as his Flames when he’s controlling them, but that’s going to be later, when he has gained the little one’s trust. For now, he will let him play with his Flames, safe in the knowledge that they won’t hurt him.

He smiles and nods his head, and the boy brightens. The smile he gives is smaller, shier than the one he got six months before, but sincere and heartfelt, and Renato swears that he’s going to do everything in his power to protect that smile from now on.

Chapter Text

They meet with increasing frequency after that. Renato knows that it is not a common occurrence, not really. From all the stories he’s heard, all the literature he’s read about soulmate bonds, he’s only been able to figure out that it’s not common at all to have met when one of them is still so young, nor that they see each other in dreams so frequently.

However, even if it is a little bit preoccupying, Renato is thankful.

The bond helps to make the boy grow comfortable with him rather quickly, and he starts asking lots of questions and politely requesting to play with Renato’s Flames every time they meet, his green eyes bright with curiosity and excitement.

He’s glad.

He’s glad to provide a safe place for his soulmate to be a kid, to be himself without fear of repercussion.

Not like his relatives.

Renato can say with utmost sincerity that he loathes his little soulmate’s relatives with a passion.

It doesn’t take much to coax the bambino into telling him how he’s treated at home, and Renato isn’t even partially placated by the knowledge that his Aunt and Uncle don’t beat him up. He knows from first-hand experience that while being physically abused hurts, it is the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted which causes the most durable and worst damage. Broken ribs heal, bloody noses stop leaking, purple bruises disappear. Being constantly and systematically put down and ordered around without any kind of reward? That has serious repercussions in the development of a child’s personality. Being starved? Slow torture, cruel and barbaric. Especially when there are resources available to cover all necessities and, judging from the comments the little one makes about ‘Dudley’, Renato knows that the family has enough money to raise both children properly.

So for him, it is obvious that they, for some reason, hate his little soulmate.

(In turn, Renato hates them right back—with a vengeance. And the hate of a hitman is not something that anyone should be keen on inspiring towards themselves.

Those pigs don’t know it, but that doesn’t mean that Reborn is going to go easy on them once he has the chance to do so.

No way in hell.)

The only reason he hasn’t yet stormed off to take the little one away is the fact that he doesn’t know where he is. Sure, he speaks English, and with a British accent, if Renato’s not wrong, but that doesn’t exactly make things easier for him. He also knows that the little one lives with three people: Aunt, Uncle and Dudley, which Renato assumes is the couple’s kid, and thus his soulmate’s cousin.

But that is it.

He doesn’t even know his soulmate’s name.

(His teeth clench and Renato feels his blood boil calling for murder whenever he remembers the night in which he had asked for it, and the only answer he received was an innocent “Boy.”)

It hasn’t helped at all that he still doesn’t have a steady position in the Mafia, and thus has to be really careful in his movements. He doesn’t want to make a mistake—just a single wrong move can spell his demise, and where would that leave his soulmate? With the only emotional support in his life absent, Renato dreads to imagine what could become of him. The boy may self-destruct.

So he’s doing what little he can. He listens to the chatter, answers every question he can, promises to look up the answers he cannot give. He comforts the little one when he has nightmares, rebuts his relatives’ claims about his worth, teaches him how to be sneaky enough to avoid punishments and get enough food. He teaches him English and Italian and when he eventually starts learning French, the little boy learns it right on par with him.

Three years pass in this rhythm, and slowly things start to look up for them both.

He might not have had permission, but the little boy still ate, regaining most of the baby fat he shouldn’t have lost in the first place. That doesn’t mean that he’s fat in any way; rather he’s still rather skinny and small, and will probably forever be short, but it’s better than what it could have been. Renato teaches him how to ignore his relatives' taunts and trains him to take everything they say with a grain of salt, because they thrive on lying to him, so it’s better to not take anything they say to heart.

Renato teaches him to be true to himself, and that the only people worthy to be his friends are the ones who will like him just as he is.

On the other hand, Renato himself has grown. He’s now almost eighteen, with barely a month to go before he becomes an adult in his home country, and has become a freelance hitman who’s frequently commissioned to do big jobs. His name is becoming known; there are whispers that spread with growing awe retelling some of his best marks, and there’s a buzzing sense of curiosity about this new player and just who he is. These things are both good and bad. Good, because they mean more money and fame (which put him in a better position to care for his little one), and bad, because it creates a higher risk of death. Not to say that Renato is ever careless or sloppy—he’s not about to die that easily, not when he has something so important to protect—but it is riskier, nonetheless.

Then, one particular night in September, Renato awakes in the familiar shared dreamscape only to be immediately attacked. The small body flings itself at him, babbling excitedly in an eclectic mix of English and Italian with a little hint of French, and Renato catches him only because he has fast reflexes. He laughs at the boy’s enthusiasm and twirls him around, and the boy laughs in delight.

Renato sits on the ground with his boy perched in his lap, facing him, and smiles.

“What has you so excited?” he asks teasingly, with just a hint of curiosity shining in his dark eyes. “I didn’t understand a word of what you just said. You need to breathe, sometimes, you know?”

The boy pouts petulantly for about a second, then beams.

“I started school today!” he chirps, focusing even more of Renato’s attention on him. The boy only grins, and it’s not until Renato makes a questioning sound in the back of his throat that he keeps going. “Guess, guess! Miss Turner told me my name! It’s Harry!”

Renato is elated. Finally, finally he has a proper name to call his bambino!

His boy—his Harry—laughs in delight and Renato can’t help but join in, letting the laugh rumble in his chest and flow freely, just as happy. Harry throws small arms around Renato’s neck and Renato hugs him back, until their laughs calm down. They stay that way for a long, comfortable moment before Harry (and oh, how good it feels to say it, how right) wiggles and moves until he’s free from Renato’s embrace.

Renato lifts a brow in question when Harry stands in front of him, face serious, and sticks out his little hand towards him.

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Ren,” he says. “My name is Harry, Harry Potter.”

Renato smirks and indulges the boy, adopting an air of solemnity as he clasps the offered hand firmly. It must look a bit ridiculous, seeing as he is still sitting on the floor with his legs crossed, but it puts them roughly at the same height, so it works.

“The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Potter. I am Renato Sinclair, at your service.”

Chapter Text

Renato has known since the very beginning that Harry is special. It still amazes him, however, when he one day discovers that he’s even more special than the two of them would have ever imagined.

There had always been signs of it, and at the beginning, Renato believed it to be an unconscious use of Harry’s Flames. Perhaps Mist Flames, if the descriptions Harry made were accurate.

(Like the time he turned one of his teacher’s wig blue, or the times when small things he wished for were suddenly in his hands, or the time Petunia had tried to force him into a particularly ugly old sweater of Dudley and it kept shrinking and shrinking until it was the ideal size for a doll.)

But… Mist Flames don’t act like that, not really. They definitely don’t make hair grow overnight, and they don’t let people talk to snakes. Sun Flames could do the first one, though they’d require active flames and precise control, neither of which Harry has. And the second, well. The incident at the zoo during Dudley’s birthday convinces Renato it can’t be Flames, because if there is any kind of Flame that gives their users the ability to talk to animals—or snakes, whatever—the fact would be already widely known in the underworld.

So Renato is pretty sure that Harry’s abilities did not rely on Dying Will Flames at all, and had accepted that fact long before the boy’s birthday arrived.

That’s probably the only reason why he isn’t overly surprised when Harry lets him know one night, barely a week before the thirty-first of July, that a suspicious letter had arrived for him that morning, claiming that he is a wizard and that he has been enrolled in a school for magic.

Magic, of all things.

“And what did you do?” he asks, curious about the way Harry handled the situation.

“Um,” Harry says sheepishly. “Well, I waited to open the letter until after I was locked back in my cupboard for the night, because I knew it would be stupid to read it in front of the Dursleys, so I haven’t done anything yet. I just—” He scratches his head with a finger and looks hopefully at Renato. “What do you think?”

Renato purses his lips and raises an eyebrow. Harry smiles, the picture of innocence, but Renato is not fooled.

“What were you planning to do?” he prods, crossing his arms and absently tapping a rhythm with his index finger against his bicep. “Walk me through it.”

Harry huffs, predictably. Renato likes to challenge him, to make him think for himself and make his own decisions. Harry doesn’t particularly like it, especially because Renato is also fond of letting him shoulder the consequences of his actions, good or bad.

(How else is he going to learn to be independent, otherwise? He’s Renato’s soulmate, and as such, he’ll sooner or later enter the world of the Mafia. He needs to learn to think on his feet and make snap-shot decisions that will keep him alive, as well as come up with thought-out plans that will keep him on top. Renato can’t afford to let him be clueless; he won’t lose his soulmate for something as petty as coddling.

Of course, if Harry starts biting more than he can chew, then Renato will cut in and stir him away towards other, more favorable options.)

“I’ll write back,” Harry says, after a moment of thinking it over. He hesitates a bit before elaborating: “It says there that they await my owl, whatever that means. Maybe an actual owl? The letter does mention that we can take a cat, a toad or an owl to school, so… maybe they use them to carry mail?”

Renato nods, encouragingly. Harry shifts from foot to foot and grins.

“So I write back and say I want to go, and ask for more information. Ask them to send a teacher? So that they can explain what all of this means, because half of the things in that letter are gibberish to me and where do I even go to buy my things? It’s as if they expected for me to already know all that!” he exclaims, upset. He frowns and looks down, mulling it over. “Maybe I should? Maybe… maybe Vernon and Petunia know and they should have told me… but of course, they didn’t.”

Renato is so proud. Harry may not like to have to think things out by himself, but once he tries he does so marvelously.

“Good. That’s a pretty valid deduction and a solid plan,” he praises, and Harry beams. “However,” Renato stresses, and Harry deflates a bit, “you can’t forget the possibility that this might be just a prank. The number of details makes it sound too elaborate, true, but you shouldn’t just discard it.”

Harry nods, accepting the point even when both of them are pretty sure that the letter is more than likely genuine. After all, if Renato can harness the power of his soul via Dying Will Flames, then why shouldn’t Harry be able to wield magic?

Chapter Text

“… and then I got an owl! She’s white like snow, so I guess that’s why her species is called ‘Snowy.’ I saw her as we passed Eeylops Owl Emporium and it was like, like a call, you know? Like if something was guiding me to her, so I bought her. She’s so beautiful.”

“And what did you name her?”

“Hedwig. Her name’s Hedwig. She seemed to like it. She’s very intelligent! I really want you to meet her,” Harry adds wistfully.

“And Professor McGonagall didn’t protest?”

“Not at all! She said that it was well within the regulations to own one, and then she said that I had chosen a ‘very fine specimen, Mr. Potter, I’m sure she’ll be a most delightful companion’,” he says, trying to imitate his new professor’s speech patterns and tone.

Harry’s gamble worked out. The morning after they talked, he carefully composed a response in a piece of paper he tore from an old notebook. In it, he thanked the Deputy Headmistress and politely asked for a representative to be sent to his house at their earliest convenience to explain the magical world to him. He then dubiously looked outside for the owl he’d theorized would be taking his letter, and to his great surprise, an actual owl dropped in front of him, leg already extended in an imperious gesture of clear invitation. Harry attached the letter to the bird’s leg with wary curiosity, and then watched in amazement and wonder as it flew away, disappearing into the horizon.

The next day, the Deputy Headmistress herself knocked on Number Four’s door and was almost thrown out on her behind by Harry’s Aunt Petunia.

Apparently, Professor McGonagall is one of those no-nonsense types of woman who would not accept such treatment and had both the ability and the confidence necessary to stand her ground. She barged right in in the politest way Harry has ever seen and immediately commanded the use of the sitting room with only a flick of her wand.

(An actual wand!)

She sat Harry down and explained, succinctly and to the point, that yes, magic exists and that there’s a hidden society that is filled with wizards and witches who have their own government, and that yes, he’s a wizard and as such he belongs in that world. She also explained that he was born in that world, that both his parents were magical and that they had attended Hogwarts, and that they had already paid for his tuition before they died.

She then invited him to ask questions and, being the little information hoarder that he is (and knowing that Renato was going to squeeze him dry for information once they shared another dream), Harry took full advantage of the kind offer.

He learned more than a lot.

For starters,  he is apparently a very famous figure in the Wizarding World. The reason? He survived a murder attempt when he was a baby when his parents did not. Because they were murdered. By a dark wizard with the ridiculous name of Voldemort. Who killed Harry’s parents and tried to kill Harry but couldn’t and then disappeared. Oh, and there’s the scar on his forehead. It’s apparently a curse scar, and it was enough to make him famous.

McGonagall looked sad and angry as she explained all this (after lashing out furiously at the Dursleys for not having told Harry anything), and Harry was certainly not impressed. He was right when he thought Renato wouldn’t be, either.

(“Your family was targeted by a crazy murdering wizard and your parents were killed. Right in front of you, a baby. You were left an orphan after surviving a terrible experience with head trauma and then immediately shipped to your horrible relatives. And instead of wondering about your well being all the wizards managed to do was celebrate the end of the war and put you in some kind of a pedestal? Without your knowledge? And then they dare use your name and image to commercialize a huge range of products and books without your consent or your guardian’s? Yeah, no. We’re filling a lawsuit. They won’t get another penny—knut—whatever it’s called. Lawyers. Do they have lawyers? Or does everything run through those wicked goblins you told me about?)

After two hours of continuous interrogation over biscuits and tea, McGonagall finally convinced Harry to let her take him to Diagon Alley to buy his textbooks and the rest of the materials he would need for the start of his schooling. Harry tried to protest—he still had many questions he wanted answered!—but the woman promised to keep answering as they went, so Harry relented.

Harry memorized the way to the Alley—Always know where you are and how you got there. You never know when that information will be useful—and the pattern that revealed its hidden entrance. Then he was momentarily amazed by the magic he could almost feel emanating from all the different, colorful shops.

After a visit to Gringotts and a small chat with the goblins, Harry went all out. He had money to spend, now, so he was going to use it.

He bought clothes for school and some for daily wear, and planned to convert some of his gold into pounds to buy a sensible non-magical wardrobe afterward. He also bought the standard potions kit and replacements for all his ingredients. He used quite a big sum of gold to buy a nice, sturdy trunk with two compartments with extension charms built in, to which he added two extra features for an extra galleon: a shrinking charm and a voice-commanded password. The seller was very accommodating and gave Harry a discount of two sickles when he eyed a backpack with similar enchantments and added it to his list of purchases.

It was only after he finished with all the small, necessary things that Harry went for the books. Professor McGonagall was terribly amused as she witnessed the boy create three piles of books on the counter, at least triple the amount of the books requested for the first year.

(“Well, Mr. Potter. I believe I won’t be seeing you in Gryffindor come September, after all. It’s a pity, as I was quite looking forward to having you in my House, but I’m sure you will have an excellent time in Ravenclaw.”)

The wand (eleven inches, holly, with a phoenix feather core and “curious,” according to Mr. Ollivander) and Hedwig were the very last stops before the Professor accompanied him back to the Durlseys’.

She didn’t leave him immediately, however. Instead, she insisted in helping Harry unpack his new things, forcing Petunia to show them to the guest’s room as she didn’t want to lose even more face and risk provoking the wrath of an armed and powerful witch.

Saying that McGonagall was not the least bit impressed with the obviously unused room was a severe understatement. She rounded up on Petunia and stated in a calm yet predatory tone that she was going to make some slight changes to Harry’s room, since he now has so many new things, you understand, Mrs. Dursley, and that she was quite hopeful that they would stay there from now on. Petunia hastily agreed, looking ghostly pale, and McGonagall was generous enough to inform her that she was going to be personally talking with Mr Dursley about the matter at hand, so she was now free to go and do whatever she normally did on Thursday nights.

Once they were left alone, the witch kindly asked Harry what he wanted done and Harry enthusiastically started making suggestions, giddy with the knowledge that he now had a proper room and that the Dursleys were not going to kick him out and lock him in the cupboard the moment McGonagall left the house.

In that moment, Minerva McGonagall became both a little boy’s and a hitman’s second favorite person in the whole world. (The first being each other, of course.)

Chapter Text

Harry is glad for the extra enchantments he asked for when he bought his trunk.

Hedwig’s cage alone is doing enough work of calling attention to himself, and Harry honestly didn’t like it one bit. With his trunk shrunk and inside his backpack, he has a relatively easy time waving through the masses on King’s Cross, but he doesn’t want to imagine the nightmare it would have been if he had to push around a cart.

He finally arrives at the barrier between platforms 9 and 10, stops, and takes a deep breath. It’s only an illusion, he tells himself, and breathes out. Squaring his shoulders and trying to not look too suspicious, Harry calmly walks until he’s going through the seemingly solid wall. He can’t help but close his eyes, though—it’s easier if he doesn’t see it coming. One, two, three steps. He takes two more just in case, and then half-opens one eye to check. A huge, bright scarlet train looms in front of him, and Harry exhales loudly in relief. He’s done it!

He smiles, posture relaxing, and adjusts the straps of his backpack over his thin shoulders. He looks around with curious eyes, but there doesn’t seem to be any people around quite yet.

It’s early—barely nine-thirty, and the train parts at eleven o’clock—but Harry is following Ren’s request to inspect both the platform and the train before the place becomes full to the brim. Harry certainly doesn’t mind. Sure, he doesn’t have it that bad at his relatives’, and it has even improved since Professor McGonagall’s visit in July (he now has his own bedroom!), but he had been rather eager to remove himself from the house and get as far away from its inhabitants as he could, anyway. It’ll be nine whole months before Harry has to see them again, and he couldn’t be happier.

Well, no. Actually, he could be.

It would be nice to have Ren here to see him off, but Harry understands that it is not possible.

He might be eleven now, but Harry still doesn’t know what Ren does for a living. He knows, however, that it’s really dangerous, and that it sometimes requires for Ren to leave Italy altogether and hide for a while.

(Harry suspects he’s some kind of super-secret-spy, like those in the movies or shows he sometimes catches glimpses of when Dudley is watching them on the living room. It fits! The man is always dressed in black and very nicely, and when he wears his hat—a fedora, kid. A fedora, not a hat—he looks really mysterious and cool.

Oh, and the gun. Harry shouldn’t forget the gun.)

When Ren told him that he was not going to be able to make it in time, Harry was understandably upset, but accepted it as a fact of life. Ren has sworn that they will meet one day and that after that day they will not be separated again, and Harry believes him. He can be patient.

(Which doesn’t mean he can’t be sad about it, anyway.)

Harry looks around the platform for about five minutes and, after surmising that there’s nothing particularly interesting about it (except for the row of fireplaces, which he believes are meant for what he’s read is called ‘Floo travel’), he decides to scout the train and select a compartment.

At eleven o’clock, he’s glad he chose to do so.

There are hundreds of Hogwarts students crossing the barrier, many of them with their whole families, with only fifteen minutes left before the train departs. The crowd is a bit frantic as children hug their parents goodbye and friends find each other after months of vacation. Smaller kids struggle to walk around their older classmates to get inside the train. Harry grimaces in sympathy when he sees a chubby blond boy trip and let go of his toad. He won’t have an easy time finding it again, Harry thinks.

Well-wishes and last minute warnings resonate as the train lets out the last whine making people hurry up and board. There are some tearful goodbyes as the train starts moving, and Harry looks at the crowd of families watching them go with a pang of want. A little redhead girl runs alongside the train for some minutes, but then she’s quickly left behind as it picks up speed.

When the station is completely out of sight, Harry lets himself slump back onto his seat and sighs.

Then, the door of his compartment opens and a voice says, “Hey, sorry, do you mind if we sit here?”

It’s an older boy with dark skin and messy curls, who’s holding a cardboard box with great care. He’s smiling cheerfully, eyes sparkling with mischief. Harry likes him immediately.

“I don’t,” he says sincerely, motioning to the empty seats with a hand. “Be my guests.”

“Are you sure?” another voice questions from behind the first boy. A redhead teen with a wicked grin pokes his head over the first boy’s left shoulder. “We wouldn’t want to impose, you see.”

“Yes, we wouldn’t, as you’re obviously an ickle little first year—”

“—and we have a big scary spider right there—”

“—in that box.”

“So we wouldn’t want to spook you, you see.”

Harry blinks, a little bemused, at the second redhead that has appeared behind the first boy’s right shoulder and looks exactly the same as the other redhead. He would be lying if he said he was expecting the weird and slightly confusing twin-speak, but Harry can’t say it isn’t interesting—fun, even.

The three boys are waiting expectantly for Harry’s reaction, but if they think he’s going to bolt at the mention of a simple spider, they have another thing coming.

Harry grins and moves until he’s at the very edge of the seat. “Oooh, a spider!” he says, clapping his hands together. “Is it a tarantula? My Hedwig loves them! Well, loves snacking on them, I mean. I imagine all owls are the same, so you’ll have to be careful with it in Hogwarts if you don’t want it to get eaten. I heard there’s an owlery full of them, there.” His smile is like a shark’s, full of teeth.

The three boys are stunned into silence, blinking uncomprehendingly while Harry keeps smiling brightly at them. Then the words seem to sink, and Harry’s the one surprised now to find himself at the other end of three eerily similar and dangerously devious broad smiles.

“Oooh, I like you,” redhead number two declares grandly as he fully enters the compartment, dragging his trunk behind himself. “I guess you’re not just a regular ickle little firstie, I judged you too quickly.” He looks Harry over and taps his chin with a finger. “Mmm… no. Not regular at all. Gred?”

“Yes, my dear Forge?”

“I think this firstie has it. You know? The aura.

“The aura?” redhead number one asks as he helps the boy with the box with his trunk. Redhead number two helps him then, and together they are able to lift the three trunks on the racks over their heads. Redhead number one then eyes Harry critically for a second, while his twin and their friend sit across from Harry. “Yeah, yeah, I see it. He has it.”

“The aura.”

“Mhm, the aura.”

Quirking an eyebrow, Harry looks questioningly at the only non-redhead apart from him, but he doesn’t help. The only answer Harry gets is an amused little smile and an annoyingly knowing wink. The twins share a speaking glance and nod, certain, before turning intense gazes onto Harry, who is suddenly hit with the urge to run.

“It’s been decided,” they say together, oddly serious.

“You, my friend, have been declared eligible to become the fourth heir to the legacy of the marvelous—”

“—amazing—”

“—genius—”

“—incomparable—”

“—inspiring—”

“—troublemakers of all times!”

“My friend, you’ve just proved yourself worthy to inherit, together with my twin George here and my good friend Lee there, not to forget my most distinguished self, one of Hogwarts’ most sought-after legacies!”

“One of the most coveted!”

“You’ve been chosen to become one of the heirs of the Marauders!” they finish together, crying dramatically in unison, and Harry can almost picture the chaos that will befall the castle once the term starts.

… He can’t wait.

Chapter Text

“Oh, there he is.”

“The betrayer.

“Broke my heart, he did.”

“I didn’t think he could be so cruel!”

“He must have done it on purpose, he’s devious like that.”

“I knew it. I knew we shouldn’t have trusted those sparkling green eyes!”

The morning of September second finds Harry, new and proud member of the House of Ravenclaw, blinking owlishly as he is suddenly ambushed outside the great hall where he’s going for breakfast. His assailants are none other than two melodramatic and much too energetic redhead twins.

“Wha—?”

“But really, Gred. We should’ve known better. When the little lad introduced himself as Harry Potter, the Harry Potter, we should’ve realized we were looking for bowtruckles up the wrong tree.”

“I know, Forge, I know. But who would’ve imagined the Wizarding World’s Golden Boy was not to be sorted in Gryffindor?”

“I cry fraud! The Sorting Hat must have made a mistake!”

“That’s it!” Fred (Harry is pretty sure it’s Fred) pushes up his sleeves and turns away from them. “We must demand a resort!”

“Yeah!”

“Please, ignore the idiots,” Lee Jordan says as he deftly grabs the twins by the back of their school robes, stopping them from going who knows where to demand exactly what they preached. He gives Harry an apologetic smile that’s two shades too amused to be completely honest. “They are still smarting from the fact that their chosen heir is in another house. Don’t worry, they’ll get over it soon.”

“But Lee!” Fred whines, childishly. “You don’t get it! He had to be Gryffindor! He was supposed to be Gryffindor! How are we going to prank everyone if a quarter of the quartet is in another house?”

Harry blinks. “Isn’t it better this way, though?” At two scandalized looks and a surprised one, Harry elaborates. “I mean, aren’t we covering more bases this way? As I will now have insider information of my own house, and all. And I’m sure that if we work our way around our different timetables we’ll have even more options when it comes to alibis and that sort of thing.”

Stunned silence. Harry studies his friends with curiosity. Hadn’t they thought of that? The hat certainly had, when it was put on his head.

(Harry sits on the stool while the whole school holds his breath, curious about his sorting as they haven’t been with anyone else’s before his name was called. He knows why, but he still doesn’t like it. The rim goes over his eyes, and then there’s darkness.

“What do we have here?” a tiny voice says in his ear, and Harry almost jumps. He was not expecting that. “A brave child, sneaky, loyal. Mmmm…”

“Hello?” Harry asks tentatively. “Are you the Sorting Hat?”

“Why, yes, Mr. Potter. A curious, hungry mind, huh?”

“I guess?” Harry mentally shrugs. “Learning is interesting. And Renato loves knowing things.”

“And you love making your soulmate proud and happy.”

Harry coughs. “Well, yeah.”

“I see, I see… Loyal but not indiscriminately, only to those who deserve it and the ones you consider yours; cunning but not ambitious, you are sneaky because you have to but you don’t like lying, though you do have a heart for pranks; brave but not reckless, your soulmate has done well in making you stop and think things through, most times. Curious and intelligent, you look for knowledge and understanding because you want to get how things work for the sheer pleasure of it… Mmm... Well, Mr. Potter, you would be a great fit for any house, indeed, but I guess I’d better put you in… RAVENCLAW!” the hat says, shouting the last word aloud for all the hall to hear.)

The three boys’ eyes light up, suddenly glinting with unholy glee. Their smiles are utterly terrifying.

“I knew it!” George excitedly cries, pumping his hand in victory while Fred sways from side to side in a ridiculous parody of a victory dance. “I knew we had made the best decision in our lives!”

Lee rolls his eyes, visibly praying for patience, but there is a subtle smile at the corner of his lips.

Harry laughs.

(It’s going to be a great year.)

Chapter Text

“Potter,” a boy says, and Harry turns. It’s just after breakfast, and he is slowly walking towards his very first class while taking in the sights. He’d noticed the portraits the night before, of course, but now he has both the time and the curiosity to actually look at them closely, and he even stops to talk to some of them and introduce himself.

(You never know when you’ll need allies.)

“Hello,” Harry says with a polite smile. The boy is short like him, blond and pointy. His robes are embroidered with silver and green. A Slytherin, then.

He stops and blinks, and a tiny furrow of confusion appears between his eyebrows.

“Hello,” he says, though it almost sounds like a question. He clears his throat and his face smooths over. “My name is Draco. Draco Malfoy. I didn’t have time to introduce myself yesterday, so, here I am,” he says, and sticks out his hand.

“Harry Potter. Nice to meet you.” Harry accepts the hand and they shake once, then Malfoy quickly lets go. His cheeks are slightly pink.

“Well, yes. See you around, Potter.” Malfoy turns on his heels and practically runs away, leaving Harry blinking in puzzled curiosity.

He looks at the portrait of the three sisters he was talking to before Malfoy interrupted them and asked, “What was that?”

The witches titter, amused, but don’t answer him. He shrugs and tells them goodbye before he walks away, with a little bit more purpose this time, as he’s going to be late if he doesn’t hurry up.

All the Ravenclaws are already in the classroom when he arrives, but there’s only one Hufflepuff. The teacher is not there yet, though, and there are six minutes before the class is due to start. Harry selects a seat around the middle, sits, and takes out his materials as the classroom fills up.

At nine on the dot, their professor phases through the board.

(The first class of his first year of magical education should be mesmerizing. It should make him gape and stare and ‘oooh’ in the way learning about Flames had done. Harry was prepared to witness countless amazing feats of magic similar to those Professor McGonagall had shown him when she came for him at the Dursleys, so having to suffer through a double period of monotone warbling about Goblin Wars without any kind of introduction what-so-ever to the subject is not something Harry will ever consider even remotely interesting.

And the worst part is that Harry knows for sure that the subject is, indeed, very interesting. He read the textbook before coming to Hogwarts, and had Ren thoroughly quiz him on it just like he did in all his other subjects—Ren is a tyrant when it comes to Harry’s education, always has been.)

How can a professor be so boring so as to reduce a bloody, aggressive piece of history to something that resembled a lullaby? And the man is dead! He is a ghost, but not even that fact is enough to counter the terrible boredom he inflicts on his class. Harry is miffed.

The less-than-stellar start of his Hogwarts classes is mostly redeemed by his second class, at least. His class schedule says the second period is Transfigurations with the Hufflepuffs, and Harry is eager to see McGonagall in action again, and learn from her.

She doesn’t disappoint.

The class starts with a bang when the tabby cat on the desk suddenly jumps down, swiftly transforming into their Professor, giving the students sitting in the front row a scare. Ernie McMillan screams and falls from his chair, and other students scramble and make other noises of surprise.

(“She’s an Animagus,” Su Li says to him, impressed. “That’s very difficult,” she adds, and her eyes haven’t left McGonagall at all.)

Transfiguring a matchstick into a needle isn’t half as fun as turning into an animal, but Harry is determined to get it done perfectly well. If that’s the first step to become an Animagus in the future, he will make his best effort—and he will succeed. What kind of animal could he turn into? Does he even have a choice? Will he be able to prank Ren, if he manages the change? Oh, the possibilities!

The rest of the week passes by and he almost doesn’t notice it. Thankfully, no other class is as boring as History of Magic, so he is fairly happy to prove his first impression wrong.

Professor Snape is weird, though. The man doesn’t seem to like Harry very much, for whatever reason, and calls on him during their very first lesson. It’s the first time since classes began that Harry feels really, really glad that Ren is such a spartan teacher, because he very much doubts that he would have been able to answer any of the rapidly-fired questions correctly if he hadn’t pretty much memorized the book already.

Luckily, he has, so he answers Snape’s pointed and rather difficult questions with calm aplomb, which gains him a disdainful sneer but no more singling out in class, at least. He brews his Boil-Cure potion with much care, receiving no more than a bare ‘passable’ from the stern teacher after he finishes it, but Harry decides to take it as a compliment. Which it is, actually, if he compares it with the rather sharp comments and harsh reprimands most of the students receive, particularly if their ingredient preparation is poor.

(He leaves that class in a state of confusion. What has he done to deserve Snape’s dislike? He doesn’t think he did or said anything to bring any kind of attention to himself, positive or negative—he hasn’t even had his debut as a prankster with The Troublesome Three! And he had been polite, right?

Right?

…Harry will wait and see. Perhaps the Professor simply has a prickly personality and today it chose to focus on Harry. Maybe. It is too early to judge.)

For the record, though, he doesn’t think Snape is the weirdest of his Professors. No, that place Quirrel wins it single-handedly and without any real contestant. Harry hates how his curse scar hurts whenever he’s near the man, and being inside his classroom is pure torture.

He doesn’t like it one bit, and he’s definitely sharing his concerns with Ren whenever they share dreams again. He’s the only one he trusts to talk about it with.

(He has so many things to tell him.)

Chapter Text

“Are you sure he’s fine?”

“Uh, I guess. I mean, Madam Pomfrey checked him and said that there’s nothing wrong with him, though he should sleep more.”

“Yeah, well, he looks like a zombie. Is it really just lack of sleep?”

“Well, she—wait, what’s a, uh, a what?”

“A zombie. You know…? Dead brought back to life, rotten flesh, eats brains?”

“Ah, Inferi! But… Inferi don’t eat,” Terry Boot says, eyeing his companion with furrowed brows.

Justin Finch-Fletchley groans and covers his face with his hands. Harry is listening to them with half an ear from his own table in the library, and he is vaguely aware that they’re talking about him—Terry is the one who insisted on taking him to see the mediwitch this morning, after all—but he doesn’t really care. He’d normally find the turn in their conversation mildly amusing at least (honestly, that’s such a pureblood thing to say) but he’s not in the right state of mind, now.

To be completely frank, he’s worried sick.

It’s been a month since he started school, thirty-two days to be exact, and in that time there has not been a single shared dream with Ren.

They’ve never gone that long without seeing each other.

Harry is starting to panic.

It’s not normal, not really, having so many shared dreams with his soulmate. Harry knows this. Soulmate dream-sharing is a bit of a myth, for many people, and the ones who have lived through them never report more than five in the course of their lives—at least in official reports. That’s why is considered ‘romantic’ or ‘a sign’ and why there are so many movies with the cliché around.

Harry doesn’t think any of his classmates has had a shared dream with their soulmates yet, while Harry has lost count of how many he’s had. He’s an exception, an anomaly, and he’s never before been so glad for it, more thankful. He doesn’t like to even imagine what could have become of him if Ren hadn’t been there to hug him after a bad day or talk him through his problems, and he honestly wouldn’t like to find out.

True, the dreams can be spaced out—a week or two are rare but they happen from time to time. Three days is the norm.

Not being able to contact him for a month is—

Torture. Excruciating. Painful.

Terrifying.

(What if something happened to Renato? What if he’s hurt? What if he’s dead?)

(Harry can’t bear to think about it.)

(He can’t send Hedwig to him, either. Renato made him promise not to, because it would be dangerous not only for him but for her, too. Harry didn’t ask why, but he knows Renato’s right. Even though he really wants to break his promise and just do it, now.)

It took some time before he started to truly worry, and even more before it started to reflect in his appearance or mannerisms. He had learned from the best, after all, and while he’s in no way close to resembling the way Renato carries himself, the way he’s able to control every part of his body, Harry is proficient enough to deceive the eyes of his peers.

They are children, and untrained children, at that. They are not expecting this type of control or deceit from one of their own, so they don’t see what’s right in front of them—not immediately, at least. Fred and George and Lee are the first to notice, of course. For all their goofing around, the three of them are observant and sharp. They have to be in order to get away with as many pranks as they do. Once Harry’s mood took a turn for the obviously taciturn, they made it their goal to distract him as much as they could.

(They had even made him laugh, genuinely, a couple of times. He’s grateful to have them as friends.)

(Even Malfoy had tried, in his own awkward and snobby way.)

If only he could lie his fears to rest.

(If only tonight he’d dream of Ren.)

“—and, and I’d be grateful if you, if you do,” someone says, but there’s no answer. “Um.”

Oh, they’re talking to him.

Harry blinks and focuses his gaze on the boy in front of him. It’s Neville Longbottom, a first year Gryffindor Harry met in the train when the boy was looking for Trevor, the escapee toad, together with the bushy-haired Gryffindor Hermione Granger.

Longbottom fidgets and plays with the hem of his robe as he looks at Harry from the corner of his eye, and Harry realizes he’s been asked something. Ooops.

“Er, sorry, Longbottoom,” he apologizes sheepishly, trying to muster up a smile. The boy’s face crumples and Harry internally winces. “I wasn’t paying attention. What did you ask?”

“Oh.” He exhales, disappointment vanishing and replaced by a slight flush on chubby cheeks. He shifts his weight from foot to foot. “Okay. Um.”

Harry waits for Longbottom to gather his wits. The boy’s nervous so Harry knows it’s better not to push.

“Okay. I don’t. I don’t know if you’ve heard but—Potions. I’m not. I’m not good at them and, well, I,” he stutters out. Yes, Harry has heard. Ravenclaw has Potions with Hufflepuff on Fridays right after the double Slytherin-Gryffindor class, and it’s not unusual for Snape to warn them off with a sneer not to follow Longbottom’s example and melt their cauldrons. Longbottom takes a deep breath and continues, more firmly, “I heard that you’re good with them. And I’ve seen you here studying and I was wondering if, maybe, if you’d be willing to tutor me?” His tone is hopeful but a little strangled, and Harry can see it in his face that he’s expecting a quick turn-down.

Harry barely thinks about it for half a second before he shrugs. “Sure, why not? Sit.”

This might be just what he needs to distract himself from his worries. It wouldn’t hurt to try, at least.

Longbottom beams at him before hurrying away to gather his things. He almost trips as he makes his way back to Harry’s table, but manages not to fall and in a heartbeat, he’s sitting right in front of him. He looks so eager that Harry feels a little bad for not warning him about his methods.

(He’s been taught by Renato, after all, so Harry’s bound to recreate at least some of his tortu—tutoring methods.)

(Poor Neville doesn’t know what he’s just signed up for.)

Chapter Text

Harry blinks, and blinks again. His heart jumps as he turns sharply around, and his eyes grow wide as he recognizes the colorful swirls that surround him. Warmth bubbles up in his stomach and spreads through his whole body, and his cheeks hurt from the massive smile that blossoms on his face.

Finally!

“Ren?” His voice is weak, strangled; he’s out of breath and he hadn’t even noticed. He takes a desperate gulp of air and tries again, louder: “Ren? Ren! Are you here?!”

He can’t stay still. Adrenalin runs through his veins and his limbs thrum with the need to move, to search, to do something—so he does. He runs. He doesn’t know where he’s going or why, but he does because it feels good and nothing has felt good for a long time. Renato’s here. He has to be here, somewhere.

He just needs to find him.

So he runs.

“Ren?! REN?!”

“Harry!” The voice comes from behind, sharp and warm and familiar, and Harry stops. It’s so brusque that it’s a wonder he doesn’t fall on his face, but Harry doesn’t care. He turns around and he doesn’t have time to look at him before Renato lifts him off his feet and hugs him to his chest. Harry clings to him with both arms and legs, face hidden against the man’s neck.

“Ren!” he says, aware that it sounds a bit hysterical. Clutching the back of Renato’s shirt, Harry struggles to keep his tears at bay. “Ren. Ren. Ren.”

“Shh, I’m here. I’m here, Harry. We are here.” Ren’s voice is rougher than Harry’s ever heard it. “Thank God, we’re here.”

They don’t let go of each other for a solid ten minutes, nor they say anything else, soaking in each other’s presence. Then, Renato puts Harry down and eyes him up and down. His lips turn up at the corner.

“You’ve grown, bambino.

Harry frowns and looks down at himself, evaluating. “Really?” he asks dubiously, then looks at Ren, who nods. “Huh. I don’t feel much different. Though there’s a lot more food here than at the Dursleys’ so maybe that’s it.”

Ren smiles, though the smile has the dark edge it tends to acquire when Harry’s relatives are mentioned. “How’s Hogwarts? What have you learned?” he asks, and Harry accepts the change in subject without complaint.

“Hogwarts is—it’s great, actually,” he says, perking up. Then he scrunches his nose. “I don’t like my History professor much. He’s a ghost and he makes Goblin Wars sound boring, Renato! Boring! But then there’s professor McGonagall who’s just as amazing as I thought. And there’s flying lessons! They are incredible! When I get a broom you have to fly with me, you have to. I know you’ll love it. Oh! And we had a Halloween Feast tonight and everyone panicked because apparently a mountain troll entered the castle and a Gryffindor girl would’ve been in trouble if I didn’t tell McGonagall she was missing and—I’m a Ravenclaw! I’m sure it was Quirrel who let the troll in, though. I don’t like him, he’s—”

A hand over his mouth cuts him off. Ren chuckles. “What have I told you about breathing when you talk, Harry? You’re babbling.”

Harry bats the offending appendage away and smiles, a little sheepish. “Sorry. I just—there is so much to tell you! I—” His throat closes and he blinks, his cheer dissipating. “I missed you.”

Ren runs his hand through Harry’s hair. “I know. I missed you, too. A lot.”

“Why do you—why do you think this happened? It never—It won’t happen again, will it?” Harry asks, suddenly dreading it with all the force of a thousand suns. He looks pleadingly up at Renato, and immediately misses the hand on his hair.

Renato sighs and tugs down his fedora, obscuring his eyes for a moment, then pulls it off.

“I don’t know, Harry,” he says grimly, apologetic. “I’ve got only half-baked theories right now, and none of them can be tested as there’s so little known about soulmate bonds,” he explains, and his tone is slightly bitter. Harry knows how much Ren hates not knowing things, so it really must be as he says.

Harry fights hard not to make his disappointment obvious. “Oh, that’s—I mean—everything at school was okay. I even made friends! You’ll like them, I think. But, well, I was scared something happened to you when I didn’t see you for so long.”

“It was the same for me, kiddo. You don’t have to worry, though. Nothing bad happened to me. There were just some routine missions, mostly. Though this last month I’ve started negotiating a new contract with a big employer—something a bit more stable. I hope it means that soon I’ll be able to take you away from the Dursleys for good.”

The sheer elation that rises inside Harry makes him feel like he’s about float away. His smile is massive and bright and he can’t help hugging Renato once again. “I can’t—Really?!”

Renato chuckles and pats Harry’s hair. “Really.”

“That’s so—I can’t wait!”

“Me neither, bambino. Me neither.”

They stay like that for a moment longer, and then Renato says, “Now, you mentioned friends and a professor you don’t like at all. And, if I heard correctly, a troll.” He gently pushes Harry away and looks pointedly down at him, with an eyebrow raised. “Care to elaborate?”

Harry grins like a loon and starts speaking about Fred and George Weasley, their friend Lee Jordan and his pet tarantula, and a whole lot of mischief their little group has been up to since the very day they met at the beginning of term until tonight’s quite strange Halloween Feast.

Chapter Text

The thing is, Harry knows there’s something strange going on in the school. He has known since the very first night in the castle, when the Headmaster made the announcement about the third-floor corridor.

(How could he not know? It only lacked the neon-color print claiming ‘Something Fishy is Going On Here!’)

But even though his curiosity is piqued, the cautiousness instilled by Ren keeps him away from the place, at least until he has a way to investigate it in a safer way. He thought he’d found it when, about a week after the Hat announced him a Ravenclaw, Fred and George and Lee showed him their most treasured possession: the Marauders Map.

(“What is so interesting about an old piece of parchment?” Harry asked, between amused and confused, to the twins’ mock offense and horror.

“What is so...? Oh, you poor sod,” Fred said, a hand on over his heart. “This is nothing else than the best idea anyone has ever had.”

“This is what gives us our name,” said George. “Haven’t you wondered about the ‘legacy of the Marauders’ thing?”

“Yes, of course.”

“It’s because of this ‘old piece of parchment’. It’s a map of Hogwarts, of every nook and cranny, made by the most talented pranksters in the history of the school,” said Lee. Then he nudged George. “Show him.”

And George said, “My pleasure,” and put the tip of his wand on the parchment. Then, with all the theatrics Harry’s learned his friends are full of, he said, “I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.”

Before Harry’s wide eyes, lines of ink spread and crisscrossed over the yellowed parchment, becoming what his friends had said it was: a complete map of Hogwarts.)

But even though they had the Map, they soon realized that exploring that particular corridor would be too difficult, as the professors have more rounds closer to it than any other corridor. They did learn who are the ones that periodically access it: Dumbledore, McGonagall, Quirrel, Snape and curiously, Hagrid and Sprout, of all people. Still, the information they have isn’t enough, and they are no closer to knowing what the corridor holds than they were at the beginning of the term. The Map is amazing, but sneaking past the professors in that area has been impossible, even with its help.

The Map has been really useful in helping with their pranking efforts, however. Since his friends presented it to him, Harry has lost count of how many times he’s used it. The Map is always the instrumental piece needed for the more ambitious of their plans, because he is sure most of those would have failed if not for the little charmed dots with labels that give them warning notice of any approaching Professor, Prefect, or ghost. (Peeves, Harry has discovered, can be a great ally or a terrible snitch, so it’s best if they can avoid his notice, as they never know if he’s in the mood for being helpful or not.)

Keeping eyes on the Map has also given him valuable information about the students and the general movements of the castle. He knows that in Saturday afternoons the library is almost deserted, while on Sundays is full. He knows that there are small groups of Ravenclaws and Slytherins that get together on Mondays and Wednesdays, he guesses to study for a common subject. He knows the most common cliques of friends, though he makes a point of trying not to look too closely onto the labels in the House dormitories.

(Harry’s in the middle of keeping watch when his eyes catch something strange. Who’s this Peter Pettigrew who’s walking with Ron Weasley? Puzzled, he squints at the Map as he tries to remember, but he comes up blank. The twin’s little brother Ron, Neville, and two other boys—Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas—are the only Gryffindor firsties this year. Maybe an older student? Harry doesn’t think he’s seen Ron around any other people apart from his brothers or his roommates, but he might be wrong.

He scrutinizes the map again and then completely forgets about the mysterious Peter when he sees the label ‘Severus Snape’ quickly moving towards the twins’ location.

Muttering under his breath, Harry quickly makes the arranged sound to signal a quick retreat, and together the three of them disappear beneath a tapestry that hides the entry to a secret passage right before Snape makes his entrance, with his angry scowl and suspicious eyes sweeping around looking for mischief.)

So the mystery of the third-floor corridor is shelved, at least for some time.

Then it’s Christmas morning, and Harry discovers an anonymous present waiting for him at the bottom of his pile.

He pokes at the brown paper, cautious, trying to get a clue of what it contains. Whatever it is, is something soft. Maybe another sweater? (He loves the Weasley sweater he got, he put it on the moment he opened the present, right after reading Mrs. Weasley’s letter).

Nothing seems inherently suspicious, except for the fact that there isn’t a sender addressed, so Harry gently pries it open and then frowns when a sheer, water-like material is revealed. He takes it out, examining it with his eyes and—yes, it is a cloak. Strange colors, for a cloak. He hasn’t seen one like this around. He tiptoes to the mirror behind the door and puts the fabric around himself.

His jaw drops. His body’s gone!

It’s an Invisibility Cloak!, a voice his mind crows with relish, and Harry immediately starts making plans for new and improved pranks, for sneaking around, for—the door! Now they have the last element they need in order to see what’s behind the door on the third corridor, and Harry’s definitely going to use it.

Three days later, he’s on his way to the third-floor corridor under the Invisibility Cloak that apparently belonged to his father. Renato had marveled over it just the night before, when they shared their last dream and Harry had told him of his plans.

“Be cautious,” was Renato’s only warning, and Harry took it to heart. Even if there shouldn’t be any actually mortal danger (honestly, it’s a school full of children!) things could still get somewhat ugly, especially if he gets caught.

Luckily, he has his friends watching his back, and with his trusty wand on his hand, he reaches the forbidden corridor in one of the small windows of time between patrols, and peeks inside.

It’s only his training that lets him hold back his gasp of shock.

There is an enormous dog in there! And it has three heads! What is it doing inside a school?!

He closes the door quickly but quietly, and it’s then that he notices the trap door beneath the dog’s feet.

Ah, it’s a protection, then.

(What is it protecting?)

(A voice in his mind that sounds way too much like Ren whispers: ‘and is it worth it finding out?’)

He mulls it over while he walks back to his friends, who are waiting for him inside a cleverly disguised secret passage behind a tapestry close to the infamous corridor. Fred and George pull him in by grabbing handfuls of both his Invisibility cloak and his normal robes, with an accuracy that only those who are sure that there’s someone there can manage, even if they can’t see the person in question.

(Has he mentioned that the Map is a wonderful, terrifyingly clever invention yet?)

Lee checks the tapestry is in place before muttering a privacy spell while one of the twins takes Harry’s cloak off.

“And?” George prompts, practically vibrating out of his skin, eyes bright with curiosity and excitement. “What is it? An illegal liquor storage room?”

“Um.” Harry blinks, bemused.

Lee snorts. “It’s not a liquor room, dipshit. They wouldn’t keep alcohol around minors like that.”

“Well, they did tell us we’d die a painful death if we went there,” Fred points out, straight-faced. “And we know that a lot of kids can’t hold their liquor at all. It could end in a terrifyingly painful death.”

Harry and Lee share a commiserating glance, and Lee says, “Yes, Fred. Sure. It’s not a liquor room, though. Is it, Harry?”

Harry shakes his head. “No.” He frowns, thinking it over, then shakes his head again. They wouldn’t. “Unless they really don’t want people finding it, because the only way to access it would be going down a trap door after fighting off a three-headed dog.” He shrugs.

“… Damn,” Fred says. His eyes are wide.

“They keep a damn Cerberus in there?” Lee demands, pushing George away to stand in front of Harry and study him with focused intent.

Harry nods, and Lee curses.

“That’s…not good, is it?” George asks, looking sideways at Lee, who’s walking in tight circles and muttering angrily to himself. Of the four of them, Lee’s the one who knows more about animals, and obviously the one who has more of an idea of what it means.

Fred shifts from foot to foot and looks at the Map in his hands.

“No.” Lee stops pacing and looks at the three of them with a deadly serious expression that Harry has never seen before on him. Lee always looks cheerful, even when he’s calm. There’s always the glint in his eyes that reveals to the world that he’s silently laughing at everything and everyone. Seeing him so serious is unsettling. “And I’m not sure if we should keep digging into this. I think they are actually being honest with the threat level, this time.”

Fred and George exchange nervous glances and then look back at Lee, then at Harry. It’s when they look at him that something in their faces settles, and Harry knows they’ve decided.

“Well, we still have a castle full of people to prank,” George says, dismissively.

“Yeah, we don’t need a stinky corridor, anyway,” Fred adds, shrugging, and pointedly looks down at the map once again. “The coast is clear! We should go back to our dormitories now.”

Lee’s shoulders relax a bit after the proclamation. “Good, yes. It’s late. Why don’t you go with Harry and then come back for us?”

Fred nods. “Fine by me. Harry?”

“Sure,” he says. He’s not sure he agrees with his friends, but he doesn’t think this is the moment to bring it up. He’ll think on it later, and consult it with Ren before he decides on any course of action. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

In the end, they keep an eye on the map but don’t go near the third-floor corridor again. Harry is tempted, very tempted, but in the end, he listens to Ren and his friends and lets the mystery lie. If anything comes out of it, then he’ll probably know about it together with the rest of the school. Probably.

(They never do.)

Instead, they focus on their pranks and their schooling and, in the case of the twins, Quidditch.

(They are Beaters and have way too much fun smashing Bludgers around when they play. They are great, though—Harry really loves watching them play, and he can never stop his laughter whenever McGonagall has to yell at Lee for being too subjective in his commentary. It’s a shame that first years can’t join the teams or own brooms. Harry loves flying, and he thinks he’d be a good Seeker, or maybe Chaser. Ravenclaw’s team is very good, so he doesn’t mind not being able to play, though their Seeker and two of their Chasers are seventh years, so who knows—he might yet have a chance when it’s time to come back in September. He’ll be a second year. It’s mind-blowing.)

All in all, it’s a great year for Harry, and even though his shared dreams with Renato have been reduced to about one per month, he’s adjusted.

Quirrel disappears before the end of term. Harry can’t say he misses him, because he absolutely hated his classes (they were even worse than Snape’s, and Snape’s are eighty percent terrifying students, five percent sneering, and five percent teaching. All in all, terrible), but it is curious. The man is just gone from one day to the next, without giving any notice, not even staying until the final exams. It’s left up to their Heads of Houses, and it’s obvious they aren’t too happy to have to take over those duties.

(Harry’s glad that his head of house is Flitwick and not Snape, though. The man has been in an even worse than normal mood ever since April came around. It might have to do with the April’s Fools school-wide prank their quartet played in honor of the twins’ birthday, but Harry doesn’t think so.)

In any case, Slytherin wins the House Cup, followed by Ravenclaw (Harry’s pretty proud) and then Hufflepuff and Gryffindor. Slytherin also won the Quidditch cup, which makes them smugger than ever (Harry can see Malfoy celebrating with friends over at his table, cheeks pink). The lions are mostly a dejected lot, especially the Quidditch captain—Fred and George have talked a lot about Oliver Wood’s Quidditch Obsession and Harry doesn’t know who he pities more: Oliver or his team.

The twins don’t much care about the loss of the House Cup (they’d be terrible hypocrites if they did, seen as they are among those who lost the most points), but they do care about the Quidditch cup. They pout for about ten minutes about it and then they cheer up when dessert appears. Harry will miss them terribly.

The day after the last day feast, Harry speaks a little with Neville and Hermione (who at some point had joined their Potions—and other subjects—study sessions), wishes them nice Holidays, and then climbs into one of the carriages that will take them to Hogsmeade and the train station. Harry wonders if there’s an animal pulling the carriage or if they move because of a spell. Neither would surprise him. Something to research later on.

The four of them look for their trunks in the Gryffindor section of Hogsmeade station and then board the Express, dragging their possessions with them. They find a free compartment around the middle of the train and gratefully claim it for their own. Harry lets his friends help with getting his trunk on the racks while he puts Hedwig’s cage on the floor near the window. She doesn’t stir from where she has her head under her wing, and Harry chuckles, taking off his dark robe and putting it over her cage.

He looks back to his friends, who are bickering and laughing as they settle down, and he feels elation and sadness struggling inside of him at the sight. He’ll miss them so much. Two months without seeing them sounds terrible. And yeah, he can send mail—Hedwig will be glad to stretch her wings, as she hadn’t really had much to do during the school year since there was nobody Harry wanted to send mail to except for Renato, and he would never be so cruel as to send Hedwig over the Mediterranean. That’s too much for a bird, he knows, no matter how strong and stubborn and magical, especially when he is able to see his soulmate in their shared dreams.

“Cheer up, mate!” Fred says, startling Harry out of his thoughts. He throws an arm around Harry’s shoulders and messes up his hair even more than it already is. “Don’t look so gloomy. It’s not like we’re not gonna keep in contact.”

“Yeah!” George agrees from where he’s sprawled on the floor, playing Gobstones. He swears and throws himself back as the train lets out a parting whistle and starts moving, making one of the pieces explode way too close to his face. He coughs and waves a hand to dispel the smoke. “Just use the journal.”

Harry blinks. “What journal?” he asks, tilting his head to one side.

There’s a moment of silence, and then Lee groans. “You didn’t give him the journal?”

“Eh?” Fred and George say at the same time, and look at each other in puzzlement.

“I thought you gave it to him?” George says.

I thought you gave it to him!” Fred scowls.

“It’s you who had it this morning!”

Harry snickers and interrupts. “Well, you didn’t. What journal?”

Fred slumps and Harry’s suddenly taking most of his weight. “What journal! The journal we bought and lovingly enchanted for you.”

“It cost us a pretty penny, not to mention the work on the protean charm,” George adds, nodding wisely. “We had to sync it with ours—”

“And Lee’s.”

“—so that was some tricky magic.”

“But we did it!”

“They are a lot cheaper and easier than using an owl to send post,” Lee comments, amused as ever at the twins’ dramatics. “Not to mention quicker and safer, at least if you are always writing to the same people. No offense to Hedwig, though.”

“What he said,” George says.

“They’re pretty great,” Fred agrees.

“Oh, that sounds nice.” Harry is already thinking of making a pair to share with Renato. What? The dreams are nice but they are not as recurrent as they were before he started school. He would love to have a way to talk to Ren that is a little more reliable. “So… when do I get it?”

Fred slaps his forehead and jumps out of the seat, then pulls down his trunk from the racks, making George sputter and hurriedly stand up to avoid being squashed. It thunks with a dull sound on the floor, and immediately Fred opens, rummaging around inside until he pulls out a small book in blue and bronze with a triumphant “Aha!”

“Here it is,” he says, presenting it to Harry with all the pomp of ceremony.

“Thank you,” Harry says as he accepts it, touched by the gesture.

“Now you don’t have any excuses not to write, eh?” George winks.

“Please do, or these two will definitely do something stupid,” Lee points out, but his eyes sparkle in delight.

“Shut up, Jordan!”

“Yeah, you’d probably help. Don’t lie.”

As the three bicker animatedly, Harry smiles. Yeah, he’s definitely going to be using the journal a lot.

Later, after getting off the train and meeting up with the twins’ family and being smothered in hugs, Harry says goodbye. Then, as he walks away and toward the hulking form of a visibly annoyed Vernon Dursley, he feels the warm weight of friend’s eyes on his back.

He’ll miss them, definitely. But it’s only for a while.

September can’t come soon enough.