Year Four: Crashing To A Head

Alex looked on in horror as the Goblet of Fire pulled a fourth name, already knowing whose it was.  Harry just blinked in horror as it happened.  "Oh, fuck me," he said in awe. Everyone stared at them both.  "It wasn't him," he told them immediately and loudly.  "It wasn't either of us."

"Mr.  Potter, a word please?" Professor Dumbledore called in the sudden silence.  Harry numbly stood up and stumbled up there.  They walked into another room.

Alex stood up, looking at the other guy.  "It wasn't Harry's idea and it wasn't any of ours."  The other boy, Cedric Diggory, just stared back at him.  "I swear it wasn't."

"Who're you gonna support?" someone called from the Slytherin table.

"Both of them if they need it and Harry isn't disqualified for age," he called back, staring Cedric down.  "You have my help if you need it, as does he if they can't undo whoever did that."

"Harry didn't?" Ron asked.  "Are you *sure*, Alex?  Technically he's a legal adult.  He could have crossed the age line."  He was fighting a stab of jealousy, you could see it on his face.

Alex shook his head.  "It goes on physical age, not legal status of adulthood, Ron.  That means someone had to put his name in there."  He looked at his father, who was looking quite sour.  "Dad?"

"I have no idea, son," he admitted.  Those who didn't have a clue looked stunned.  "You didn't figure it out in four years?" he sneered at one of his older Slytherins.  He looked at his son again.  "We will all do what we must."

Alex nodded. "Yeah, we will."  He looked at Cedric.  "I'm sorry, man."

"It's not your doing, Alexander, but I do want you to find out who did," McGonagall ordered firmly in remaining quiet.  "I will have their name before the first trial."

"If at all possible," he agreed.  "Draco Malfoy, will you help me?"  He nodded once.  "Thank you."  He bowed to the teachers and the other two headmasters.  "I'd best check on my guardian."  He headed that way, going to tell Harry.  He saw Dumbledore had him by the arm and was shaking him so he slammed the door.  Dumbledore glared at him.  "It wasn't him.  He couldn't have.  It goes by age, not by legal status."  Dumbledore let him down.  "McGonagall has charged me with finding out who put his name in there and how.  Harry, I'm going to support your both."  Harry nodded, giving him a grateful smile.  "Now, go back out there and appear to be calm if we can't disqualify this result."

"We can't. Once a champion is chosen it's final," Dumbledore told him.

"That's fine. I'll need that rule book to see if there's a clause that applies to this situation."

"I'll find it for you later, Mr. Birmingham.  Just you investigating?"

"No, I publically asked Draco and he agreed.  Where I have faults in thinking he has strengths."  He followed Harry back out, going over to Draco's side.  "There's a book of rules."

"I'll read it after you do," he agreed.  "Thank you for trusting me."

"Of course.  You have the cunning I'll need for this."  He bowed and headed back to his table.

"Let us toast the champions," McGonagall called, raising her cup.  Everyone in the hall toasted them but she noticed Harry looked ill.  She'd talk to him later. She drank and looked at Cedric.  "Good job, Mr. Diggory," she congratulated.  He smiled and nodded.  "Do not let this bother you.  It was not his doing."

"So I can tell.  He's too young."

"He has powerful tutors behind him," she reminded him quietly.  He nodded, accepting that Harry would be fine.  The rumors were getting faster about the upcoming war and he was still worried about that, but this would still be his glory.  He knew he could beat a fourth year, even Harry Potter.


Alex walked into their suite and slammed the door, letting lose with a vile string of swears. Harry quit pacing to look at him and Ron looked horrified.  He finally calmed himself, leaning on the wall. "We've got a traitor in the school.  I don't know who."  Ron sat up farther.  "Greg's dad said they've got a source of information coming back to the other Death Eaters.  Dad agreed with him."  He came in and flopped down.  He looked at Harry.  "First challenge isn't that far off.  We'll work on it *together*, Harry.  Remember that.  No matter what Draco does to annoy you."  Harry nodded, sitting down to think, hands in his hair.  Alex closed his eyes, thinking.  He felt a gentle touch to his thigh and looked at the house elf, taking the book it held out.  "Thank you. Where is Mr. Malfoy?"

"He is in library," she said quietly, then disappeared.

Alex started in the front of the book, working his way through the heavy legal language.  "It's a damn contract," he sighed.  "I hate legal crap."  He laid down and went back to reading, deciphering the code in his head.  Draco came in a few moments later.  "It's in contract speak."  The book was taken and he looked at him.  "Sorry if I embarrassed you."

"No, you gave me a great compliment," he noted.  "It makes it much harder for me to discredit Potter though. Too much glory is bad for a boy," he taunted.  Harry glared at him.

"It's not like he wanted it," Ron reminded him.

"Guys, this is a neutral zone," Alex said coldly.  "I will not have my sleep and what little peace I get interrupted with sniping.  I will hex you all if you bring this argument in here!  Take it into the halls!"  Ron slumped down and Draco quit scowling at Harry.  He took the book back, going back to it.  "Draco, get me a legal pad and one of my pencils?  This is going to take some complex deciphering."

"Why can't we give it to one of the family's barristers?" he asked. "We both have some on retainer."

Alex sat up, staring at him.  "You're a fucking genius," he admitted.  He moved to the floo, calling the house.  "Gibbons, get Mr. Pierce here immediately.  I have a contract for him to look over."  His house elf nodded and disappeared.  A few moments later a goblin came out of the floo, looking quite calm and cool.  Alex held up the book.  "This is the rulebook for the Triwizard Tournament."  The goblin nodded.  "Somehow they were abridged to name a fourth champion.  I need to know how so I can find out who."  He handed it over. "As soon as possible.  It's in contract and I've already got a headache from the first page."

"I told you you needed your eyes checked," Harry told him.  He looked at the goblin.  "Please.  There's got to be a loophole.  Two champions were chosen for Hogwarts."

The goblin nodded.  "I'll have an answer by the end of the week," he promised.  He disappeared.

Alex sat down, rubbing his forehead. "I hate headaches."

"You're going to the eye doctor," Harry ordered.  "Draco, make sure he goes. He's been having a lot of these, even when he reads his comics."

"The ones from Halfrek?" Draco asked.  Alex shook his head.  "Fine.  We'll arrange to get your eyes checked."  He sat down next to him.  "How would you get a second champion named?"

"Maybe the goblet knew one'd die during a trial?" Alex suggested, then he had to swallow hard.  "My stomach's upset too.  I have a bad feeling about this."  He looked at Harry.  "I don't care what happens, you come to me for help, even if Granger does get her claws into you."  Harry nodded quickly. "Even if Ron and you have a fight over this, Harry.  This is important.  The trials are dangerous, that's why it was upper years only.  I heard some of the tarts from France saying that people have died in the past."

"I'll be careful and you can help me, Alex," Harry promised.  He looked at Ron.  "Are you okay now?"

"No," he snorted.  "I want to know how your name got in there and I'm not good at waiting."

"Neither am I," Alex admitted, getting up to pace. "Something is really wrong with this picture.  Draco, did your dad gloat about this a lot?"

"That it was happening, not anything else."  He pulled Alex down with him. "Quit pacing, you're making me nervous."  He scowled at him.  "I wish you had been at the World Cup with us."

"Then I'd have to have killed your dad for his stupidity," he said dryly. "You can't tell me one of those guys wasn't Lucius."

"I can't," Draco agreed.  "I can't tell you one was either."  He leaned back, then got up to get some milk and cookies.

"Toss me one, Draco," Harry requested politely.  One got tossed at his head and he caught it.  "Thanks."  He sighed.  "I'll miss quidditch this year.  It's Oliver's last year."  Oliver had flunked a term test practicing for their last game of the year.  His parents hadn't been amused; that had been the only howler anyone could remember Oliver ever getting

"You can still practice with him.  He'll want to keep in shape too," Alex reminded him.  Harry grinned weakly at him.

"If we could get brood boy there up onto a broom, maybe we could play some pick-up games," Ron offered.

"I still suck at flying," Alex assured everyone.  "I'm sure we all remember Madam Hooch banishing me from flying lessons?"  Draco snickered at that.  "Draco, I'm not that good on a broom.  It's something you do better than me.  That and kissing girls."  He gave him a sideways smirk.  "At least there is something you do better than me."

Draco pounced him to beat the snot out of him. "I do many things better than you!" he assured him as Alex fended him off.

"C'mon, Harry.  Let's go to our room to leave them to their gay spat," Ron told him, heading into his room with a bright grin.  He loved to tease Draco about Alex's teasing him.
Harry shook his head.  "Remember, don't share details," he said, hurrying into his room.


The goblin brought the book and the summary back to Alex a few days later.  "The rules were written firmly.  There's no way for two champions to be chosen."

"Then how were two chosen?"

The goblin shrugged.  "Not within the boundaries of the rules.  There's no option left for a second champion."

"If you didn't have to think literally, could you see one?" Draco asked from his seat, looking up from his transfiguration homework.

The goblin considered it then shook his head. "Not that I could tell.  I'm sorry."  He bowed then left.

Alex flopped down next to Draco.  "We're missing something."  He looked over the summary.  "One champion per school."

"Then the obvious was asking what school Harry's representing," Ron said from his chess game against himself.  He glanced at them.  "That's the first dodge, but a childish one.  Something Ginny would pull."

"Yeah, but no one ever said the Death Eaters are mature and smart," Alex told him.  Draco frowned at him, looking confused.  "Draco, coincidences don't really exist."

"Yes they do."

"No, they don't."  He stood up, heading up to the headmaster's office with the book, but leaving the summary behind in case they needed it.  He tapped politely on the gargoyle, getting entry when the headmaster's spell washed over him.  He walked up the stairs, handing it back.  "Do you have Harry's slip?"  Dumbledore dug out the four slips of paper, handing them over silently.  "It doesn't list their schools?"

"They should," he admitted.  He took them back, ending the charm to revert them to the original papers.  He looked at them.  "That's..."  He handed Harry's over.  "It's a different school."

"Ron thought it might be.  It's an elementary dodge.  I think it's connected to what happened at the World Cup.  Do we have any more information?"  Dumbledore shook his head.  "Can you get me some?"

"I can try," he offered. "Why do you think it's not coincidence?"

"I don't believe in them."  He left, going back to the suite.  "Ron's right."

"Pay up," Ron said, holding out a hand without looking.  Greg paid him a sickle.  "Thanks, mate.  My chocolate frog habit thanks you too."  He looked at Alex and grinned.  "What academy was it?"

"Weardown."  He sat down, looking at Draco.  "I say they're connected."

"They could be, but we can't prove that until we can prove who."

"Harry, I need that map!" he called.  Harry brought it out, already activated.  He looked at the dots, frowning at some of them.   He ended up with it two inches from his nose.  "This is interesting.  Pansy and Flint's tag are together, overlapping."

"Eww," Greg said, shuddering hard.

"I wonder if Millicent knows," Draco mused.  "I wonder if she knows Pansy's been sleeping with my dad too."  He shook his head and took the map.  "I agree, you need your eyes checked."  He looked it over.  "This is really complete.  Who did this?"

"The Marauders," Harry said happily.  "They were in our parents' year."

"Sirius was really amused when he found out it had been passed onto you from the twins," Ron reminded him with a grin.  "Anything else juicy going on?"

"Hermione's got O. Wood in her room," Draco noted dryly.  Ron gave him a dirty look so he smirked. "He's not there to talk quidditch with her I bet."

"Yeah, but she's a bit frigid at this time," Ron told him dryly, going back to his chess game.  "Harry, play against me?"

"Hell no," he said dryly.  "I haven't beaten you yet, Ron."  He took the map back to look it over.  "Moody's off campus?"

Alex took it back to look over.  "Who's Couch?"

Draco snatched it back.  "Crouch.  B. Crouch?  He's the head over Qudditch.  I don't know why he's waiting in McGonagall's office unless she's looking for someone for him."  He found her.  "She's near Gryffindor.  Maybe she's looking for a bit of Wood herself," he joked.

"Somehow I can't picture her having sex," Ron noted dryly.  "I also can't picture her being a girl like those in the house right now either, all giggly and girly."

"She was probably the Hermione of her day," Draco noted.

"She's got a duelist's trophy in her office," Alex told them all.  "A Ministry competition.  Not women's champ, champion, period."  Ron smirked at him.  "Yeah, so apparently she was the scary woman of her day too.  Maybe that's why she decided not to marry anyone."  Draco snickered at that. "It could be!" he defended.  "Where is she now?"

"Talking with the Weaslette in the hall."  He rang for a house elf.  "Would you please tell McGonagall there's a Mr. B. Crouch in her office right this moment?  He appears to be waiting or something."  The house elf disappeared.  A moment later McGonagall's dot started moving very quickly down the halls.  "I do believe the old dear is running."  He watched.  "Ah, she's caught him coming out.  Nope, the other dot's moving away, heading to... Drumstrang's Headmaster's room," he finished when the dot stopped moving.  "McGonagall is headed here fairly quickly."  Greg got up to answer the door and he handed over the map.  "We're trying to figure out what's going on."

"Harry's slip had another school name on it," Alex told her.

She looked at the map, then at them.  "Who was in my office?"

"It said B. Crouch.  He was with Drumstrang's headmaster a moment ago if that helps."  She looked, tapping that dot until it expanded.  "Where is he now?"


Alex stood up, taking his wand and walking out behind her. "Something is really wrong," he offered quietly as they walked.  "Do we play him or not?"

"Play him," she told him.  She tapped on the door.  "Ah, Professor Moody, I ran into Mr. Birmingham and he had a question about some special assignments he's been doing."

Alex nodded, grinning at him.  "I'm a bit ahead in case you hadn't noticed."

"Have you ever cast an unforgivable?"

"Seventeen times in my life, sixteen of those while I was under the influence of a calming potion that turned me homicidal for two days."  The man looked stunned.  "The other one to defend myself."  He stepped inside, smiling back at his housemistress.  "Thank you, Professor McGonagall. You're a charming escort."  She smiled and walked off so he closed the door.  "Anyway, I came in already having been forced to learn all my Gram's books from her time in school.  I've already went through the seventh year book in the series you chose.  I'm bored and I can only draw for so many hours a day."  The man looked amused.  "So can we set up some sort of extra lessons?  I'm best at hands-on instead of book education and lectures.  My papers and tests on anything in the book are notoriously low but anything practical I can do mostly flawlessly except for a patronius."

"Why can't you do one of those?"

"Not enough happiness in my life," he admitted.  "At least of the sort needed for it."  The teacher nodded, leaning against his desk. "I don't want to be a bother but Professor Lupin was doing very good expanding my horizons beyond these shores to foreign threats and to other charms and curses that I might have to deal with when and if I teach defense some day."  He smiled at him.  "Charms is my best area, with this and Transfiguration behind it."

"How do you do in creatures?"

"I do much better when have something I can pet.  I do tolerably well in the care and maintenance, I don't like to hurt innocent creatures if I can help it.  I do suck royally at it otherwise."  The teacher snorted, nodding a bit.  "So, do you have anything extra you can teach me?"  Someone tapped on the door.  "I'm not hogging him."  Neville walked in.  "Hi, Neville," he said with a grin.  "I'll be done in a minute.  I just wanted to arrange for something to keep me from being bored."

"Please keep him from being bored, sir," Neville begged. "He's horrible when he's bored.  When he was still living in the house we used to assign keeping him amused to those in disfavor or those with stuff he could learn from.  Either that or to inspire the twins to new heights of annoyance."

Mad Eye Moody looked amused.  "Do you think you're ready to face a real battle, Mr. Birmingham?"

"What makes you think I haven't?"  He looked amused at that.  "Sir, with all due respect, I was with Harry when the Ministry was invaded over that damn statue - which came out of my vault - last year.  I'm fairly glad I was there instead of some people, like his Godfather.  I survived and most of our crew came out uninjured.  Ron had a thing with that brain sucking creature, but otherwise mostly fine."  Neville groaned and shook his head.  "We did!"  The teacher jumped at him and he punched him in the face, then backhanded him and knocked him down, standing in the middle of his chest while he pulled his wand.  Then he smiled sweetly.  "Did I pass?"

"You did okay.  You could use some work."

"Yeah, well, I'm still only fourteen," he noted, letting the teacher up.  "I still need the extra practical lessons."

"I can see that.  I have an auror's handbook in my things."

"Do you have their charms book?" he asked hopefully.  "I don't want the classified ones or anything, but things like the tracking charm for the apparation and that stuff.  Maybe some disguise stuff too some day, but mostly the practical and hunting stuff if you'd be willing to give it to me.  And of course, I usually help Harry and Ron with theirs and Neville if he asks."

"Who was the other one you cast at?"

"Bellastrix Lestrange."  Neville gasped and he looked at him.  "Harry couldn't cast the crucio.  I could.  She was howling before Lucius saved her."  He looked at the teacher again, seeing the pride.  "I was tortured until I came here.  My grams used to imperio me for fun and make me read her textbooks until I passed out days later."  He nodded. "I can throw it off now."

"Good.  Most people can't.  Can Potter?"

"I don't know," he admitted.  "I never put it on him."  The teacher nodded, back to looking amused.  "May I borrow that book?"

"You may," he agreed.  "Give me a minute to get it.  Neville, we'll talk in a few as well."  He went into his office.

Alex looked at Neville.  "Be very careful," he mouthed once Neville looked at him.  "I don't know him or trust him.  The only aurors I know are both Tonks and their boss.  Them Remus Lupin and I both trust, as does my father.  We think this guy's a dangerous person, Hary and I."  Neville nodded at that.  He looked at the teacher as he came back.  "I meant to ask, how is Tonks?"

"You know her?"

"I've met them both in the course of purging the family home of the dark arts and bad magic.  Tonks and Remus Lupin, our last teacher, worked together very well to help me since I'm allergic to dark magic."  He could have hit himself for admitting that.

"That's strange.  Do you know why?"

"Early exposure.  I was only days old.  My Grams was Voldemort's top torturer."  The teacher nodded once.  "You knew her?"

"I feared her."

"Many did.  That's why she kept me and was allowed to teach me," he noted.  "Hence me being bored as hell in here."

"That's fine, Mr. Birmingham.  I understand fully.  As long as you appear to pay attention and help when needed, we'll be fine."

"Can I continue to draw?"

"If you wish.  You tend to stare a lot but it doesn't bother me."  He smiled at him.  "Anything else?"

"No.  Thank you, professor.  Neville, stop in for cookies sometime soon."  He headed back to the suite, tossing the book at Draco.  "Hold that for me."  He headed up to McGonagall's office, finding her in there.  "Did you talk to him?"  She nodded. "Did he believe you?"  She smiled and nodded.  "Good.  I'm borrowing his auror's textbook.  Neville and he are having tea.  I told Neville about my view or aurors while he was getting the book, how I only knew and trusted both Tonks and their boss since they were so helpful during the housecleaning."

"Tonks was an interesting young woman when she was here," she admitted with a smile.  "Not nearly as much trouble as some students."

"I'm trying really hard to be good."

"You are and you've done an admirable job so far this year," she admitted with a smile.  "What of your extra lessons with Flitwick and myself?"

"He's letting me coast and help for now.  He said he's not sure what he wants me to work on. Probably something to help Harry but he's not sure what he can do without giving the trials away ahead of time."

"Ah.  That's fine.  How about for my class?"

"Not a clue," he admitted.  He grinned sweetly at her.  "Find me something to do?"

"If I must," she sighed, shaking her head. "You've done the advanced clothes lessons?"

"Second year."

"What about disguises?"

"That might be nice," he admitted.  "That would probably go well with that other book."  Draco walked in and handed the book back to him.  "Problems with it?"

"It's in Greek."

"Really?"  He looked inside it. "Only to you, Draco."  He closed it and shrugged. "You can have some of my notes."  Draco nodded, smiling at him. "Disguise spells?"

"Are nice," he admitted.  "Very handy things I suppose."

"Then we'll work on those this year for the extra lessons," she agreed, smiling at them.  "I must say, Mr. Malfoy, you are doing quite well with the extra lessons as well as your regular ones.  I've been very pleased with your conduct so far this year.  Please don't use that as an excuse to cause me hell and worry but I've been pleased with your performance so far.  I've even owled your mother about how well you were doing."

Draco smiled.  "Thank you, Professor.  That's very nice of you. Is there any word on what my father's doing this time?"  She shook her head.  "I'll have to ask others then," he noted, walking Alex out.  "Come along, Alex.  You owe me a footrub for putting up with you."  He turned around.  "I forgot.  Mr. Potter says Alex is to get his eyes checked immediately.  He couldn't read the map."

She nodded once.  "Any particular doctor?  I can make him an appointment."  Draco shrugged.  "Then I'll check with his father and see if he has a preference and a set of spare chains to drag him there with."  She smiled and waved a hand.  "Begone, boys."  They left her alone, Alex whining the whole way back to their suite while she laughed.  She flooed Severus.  "Severus, your son is apparently going blind.  He's having trouble reading and he's been having many headaches.  Who would you like him sent to and did you want to drag him or should Mr. Potter?"

Severus Snape stared at her for a moment.  "I'll make him an appointment where I go.  Who noticed it?"

"Mr. Potter first.  He couldn't read that old Marauder's map."  He shuddered, letting out a soft moan.  "The type's the same size as your book's."

"Fine.  I'll make sure it's done quickly.  That way he doesn't fall behind.  What is Moody teaching him?"

"The auror's textbook."  He raised an eyebrow. "I'm doing disguise spells."

"Very well then," he decided.  "Thank you.  Good luck with that as well."  He hung up and flooed his eye doctor's office, leaving a message since no one was in so they could set one up and let him know.


Alex trudged back into the school, looking at the floor.  "Your eyes should adjust within the week."

"I look like a dork."

"You do not, son.  Behave," he ordered quietly.  He led him to the suite, stuffing him through the doorway into Greg's arms.  "Put him to bed.  He'll have a headache for the next few days."

"Sure."  He looked at Alex's glasses and burst out laughing.

"See, I told you I look like a dork.  I'd rather go blind." He took off the 'popular' half- moon shades and tucked them into his pocket before sitting down and rubbing his eyes.  "Can't I at least have some headache potion, dad?"

"I'll have some sent down," he promised, walking off rolling his eyes.  He ran into Draco.  "He did need glasses."

"I knew that.  Did you get him glasses like Potter's?" he teased.


Draco snickered.  "He's got to look like a dork."

"If you tell him that, he won't wear them, even though he needs them," he chastised.  "I do not wish my only son to be a blind wizard, Mr. Malfoy.  Take better care of him."

"Fine."  He headed back to their suite, stopping to snicker when he saw Alex trying to read a comic book.

"Leave it be, Draco, before I kill you," Alex warned.

"You look like a much older wizard."

"That's it!  I'm not wearing them!" he said, tossing them onto the table.

Draco picked them up and handed them back. "You must wear them, Alex.  Otherwise you're blind and a hindrance during a battle."  Alex glared at him.  "Really.  You couldn't pick out something more fashionable?"

"These were the most fashionable they had," he said bitterly laying on his side.  He found his glasses skewed at that and tossed them onto the table again, going back to reading his comic at nose-length.

Ron walked in and looked at the glasses, then at Alex.  "Mum has a pair of those for reading."  Alex flipped him off so he chuckled.  "Don't like 'em?"

"I can't read lying on my side," he muttered.

"Ask Hermione if there's a muggle alternative then," Ron told him.  "Before someone makes a comparison to a librarian."  Alex glared at him.  "Hermione!" he called.  "Can you come here for a moment!"  She came in a minute later, closing the portrait behind her.  "Are there better glasses in the muggle world or are they all like Harry's?"

"Oh, dear, there's so many better options," she told him.  She looked at Alex's glasses, then at him. "Contacts, definitely contacts.  What time is it?"

"Lunch," Draco told her.  "Why?"

"Alex, get permission to take Harry and me out.  We'll go with your new glasses and look at other styles."

"I still look like a dork."

She walked over and grabbed him by the ear, hauling him up and out the door.  Ron handed her the glasses as she walked off with him.  She noticed Professor Snape coming their way and took the headache potion.  "I'm going to have him fitted for contacts.  Him and Harry both," she said as she drug Alex past him.  "We'll be back by dinner."


"Inner eye sight devices, sir.  Very muggle but useful.  He can even read in odd positions."  She handed him the potion, watching as he took it.  She found Harry and walked him out by grabbing his arm.  She ran into McGonagall.  "I'm going to have them fitted for contacts.  I'm tired of their glasses.  We'll be back by dinner."  McGonagall looked stunned but she continued to drag the boys out.  "Besides, Harry hasn't had his eyes checked in four years!  He's squinting too!"  She drug them off, taking them to the apparation barrier.  "Make a portkey for Diagon," she ordered. "You'll need a bit of muggle money."

"I don't have my key," Harry told her.

"You can pay Alexander back," she snapped.  "Now!"

"Granger, have I mentioned you remind me of my grandmother lately?" Alex asked, giving her an odd look.

She twisted the ear she held.  "In this case it's necessary.  Glasses are a hindrance in a battle."  She pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it over.  "Now.  Let's go!"  Harry sighed and created the portkey, grabbing onto Alex before he could balk.


Alex trudged back into the school, his eyes red and his hands tied to his sides. "Granger!" he complained.  "They itch!"

"It will for tonight.  You'll live.  Don't make me bind you again, Alexander."  She glared at Harry until they came in.  She was met by the headmaster.  "There, they both have contacts that fit and enough for at least a year.  Harry's prescription had changed drastically so his are now correct.  Alexander's was correct from earlier but he can use his glasses when he needs to.  The contacts only need to come out once every two weeks. They both have eye drops and here's a care sheet for the nurse," she said, handing it over.  "I wasn't sure if she had one or not for them."  She walked after them, heading down to their room.  She handed Harry's bag of contact stuff to Ron.  "Instructions are inside."  She handed the other to Draco.  "As are his.  His glasses are now for when he doesn't want to wear his contacts.  They won't be a bother in a battle and he can now see properly."  She walked back to her room, slamming her portrait.

"She very scarily reminds me of your grandmum, Alex," Greg said from the couch with Alex's comic.  "Are you okay?"

"Untie me! These things itch!"

"Where are they?" Draco asked, putting down the bag so he could pull his wand and unbind him.  Alex started to rub his eyes.

"Don't!  Remember, they'll shift and you'll have them on the back of your eye or something," Harry reminded him. "Use the drops like they told you to."  Alex found those in his bag and laid down to put some in, blinking hard and wiping off his cheeks.  He looked at Draco, who looked really confused.  "They're like little glasses on your eyeball, just the lenses though.  You stick your finger in your eye and everything."  He sat down, blinking hard.  "Pass the drops, Alex."  The bottle was closed and tossed over.  "Thanks."  He put some in his own eyes.  "They said they'd take a day or two to get used to and we might still have headaches from the change to seeing.  They're not much work, only being changed once every two weeks.  We can even sleep in them if we want."  He blinked and wiped off the excess moisture then capped the bottle and tossed it into the bag on the table.

"They're *in* your eye?" Draco asked.  He bent over Alex's face, lifting his eyelid to look.  "They are!  There's a little lens!"

"Eww," Ron said, shivering.  "I'd rather wear ugly glasses than stick my finger in my eye."

"Me too," Greg agreed, shaking his head.  "Nastiness."

Professor Snape walked in, looking in his son's eye.  "Are those permanent?"

"I change them every two weeks.  As long as they don't fall out I'll be fine.  The glasses will be for when I lose one or when I change them out or if my eyes need a break from having things stuck on them."  He blinked a few times.  "They feel really odd, dad."

"I'd say they should."  He stood up, looking at Harry. "You as well, Mr. Potter?"

Harry nodded.  "Hermione reminds me of what Alex says about his Grams too.  Drug us out by our ears and arms. To Diagon, into the bank, out of the bank, to the eye doctor with Sirius coming to escort us from the bank since she had them call him.  Now I know why he said some day she'll be just as scary as his Grams was."

"Too late," Ron said dryly.  "Sorry, guys.  I didn't know she'd do this when I asked her that question."  Alex waved a hand.  "You need anything?"

"My ear's surprisingly lacking feeling," he noted sarcastically. His father flicked him on it and he didn't respond.  "She had me by it the whole time."

"I'll give her a detention for doing that, son.  It looks like it should heal fine."  He looked in his eyes again, then shook his head.  "That's sickening to think about you putting in."

"I've got to put the lense on my finger, then my finger into my eye," he whined. "Glasses, even ugly glasses, are almost better."

"This way you can at least read on your side," Greg offered.  "Unless they slide?"

"Only when we rub," Harry told him.  "I can't wear them when I swim but I can fly in them," he complained.  "There's a chance they could fall out so I've got backup glasses as well."  He pulled his new case out and held them up.  Ron shook his head at the simple silver frames.  "I look better in them than I did the last pair," he offered.

"Fortunately."  Ron shook his head.  "I'd still rather go blind than have to do that I think."  He handed over the bag and went into their room.  "I'm clearing the dresser for those things."

"Thank you."  Harry looked at the concerned father.  "The prescription was correct.  In contacts it's much thinner and they said it'll take about a day for him to appreciate them.  They think he'll end up wearing his glasses about thirty percent of the time anyway and he shouldn't need another exam for two years unless he gets spots or something."

"That's fine.  Who was this doctor?"  Harry pointed at the bag so he looked inside, finding the care sheet.  "Remember to wash your hands before you play with them, Alex."  He sat down to read it over, frowning a bit.  "They're not that complicated."

"No, but they're not that comfortable yet either," Alex complained.

"They're also not visible," Greg told him.  "It's like someone did a sight fixing spell."

"We have those?" Alex asked hopefully.

"No, son."



"Sorry. Tough, but sorry.  My eyes itch."

"Petrificus totalis," Draco cast.  "There, no more whining."  He gave Harry a meaningful look, getting a head shake and the other boy slumping down some. "Anything I have to know?"

"Make sure he washes his hands."  The nurse walked in and right over to Alex, lifting his eyelid to look.  "They're to stay in two weeks unless they need cleaned and other things."

"I read."  She looked at Harry, who nodded.  "Those can't be healthy for your eyes.  Do they block moisture?"

"Not really, but we have drops to help with that if we need it.  We also have cleaning solution, bathing chambers, and all that stuff.  Plus a year's supply."

"What about flying?"

"I can fly but I can't swim in them.  My eyes might dry out in the air, I'll have to test that.  I have new glasses for when I can't or don't want to wear them.  The nurse said I might have days where I thought it was too much trouble to change them."

She came over to look in his eyes.  "They're in prescriptions?"  He nodded.  "Can you see?"

"Amazingly clearly, and there's no smudges, dirt, or fingerprints.  No blind spots either."

She 'humph'ed and crossed her arms.  "Fine.  We'll allow this trial and then we'll make a decision on whether or not they're healthy for you."

"The nurse said muggles were going to these all the time from glasses," Harry assured her. "They even come in colors, with and without correction, if you want to change your eye color."

"Why would one want to do that?"

"Because some people dye their hair," Ron said from the doorway.  "Toss me the bag, Harry?"  It floated over to him.  "Thanks."  He put it on the newly cleaned spot on the dresser then he came out.  "Are they going to be okay?"

"We'll see," Madam Pomfrey said primly, then she stomped off.

Snape shook his head.  "Usually it takes mass stupidity to get her that worked up."  He stood up as well.  "I will be watching Alex's reaction to these...contacts."  He left as well, going to ask a muggle born in his house about them.  He found out she had some herself and she loved hers.  She informed him of all the benefits and all the problems his son could face, and he was right, most were associated with not washing your hands.


Mad Eye Moody looked at Alex as he came in for his private lessons after hours, raising an eyebrow.  "Aren't you supposed to be in glasses?"

"I have contacts.  They're not terrible but not the most comfortable things.  I've got a few brands to try so I'm doing two week trials with them."  He sat down, then looked at him.  "That disguise spell is really easy."

"For some.  You have to be able to visualize what you're making."

"Yeah, but I draw."

"Then it's probably easier for you than for some," he agreed.  "Try it now so I can see."  Alex changed, becoming Draco.  He walked around the boy, looking at everything. "You forgot some hair in the back."  He tapped the spot and it changed.  "Follow that line down your back.  Remember, it wraps fully around you, more than a cloak does.  Like your second skin."

"Then I'd have to be naked," he noted.  He canceled it and looked at him.  "I did it last night in the mirror in my room.  Naked is easier to imagine."

"Yes, but you can't always strip down in the middle of a hunt for you, boy."

"Point," he admitted, making a thinking face.  "How do you get past the barrier of your clothes?  Imagine yourself naked?"

"That works for some.  For some, they change the clothes as well. I think the elder Tonks does it that way."  Alex stood up and concentrated again, closing his eyes.  In front of him stood Draco Malfoy, clothes and all.  He walked around the boy.  "The badge still shows some Gryff colors," he noted.  "Decent otherwise."

"That's charmed, I'd have to counter that and my tie."

"I wouldn't wear charmed clothes while using this anyway," Mad Eye admitted, nodding.  "Good work.  Now change back," he snapped.  The boy let it go.  "Can you hold that?"

"For about ten minutes so far.  How do you stick it to you?"

"That was on the next page."

"The next page was a quick hairdye spell."  He handed over the book at the amused look.

"Hmm.  I tore that page out.  A lot of us do," he said, handing it back.  "You think and make your mind see that as the real you.  Like when you transfigure something."

Alex took off his tie and robe, then did it again, becoming fully Draco, even to the inch of extra height Draco had on him.  He concentrated on making it stick, then opened his eyes.  "Wow."

"Very good," he admitted.  "Down to his eye color."  He nodded. "Very good.  Now release it the same way.  Become yourself."  Alex was suddenly standing there.  "Good!  Two problems you'll have is height doesn't carry over."

"Most of Draco's is hair."

That got a small snort. "I noticed.  The boy's as camp as they come."

"Actually, that's me.  Draco's straight," he offered with a sly grin.  "What's the other one? Weight?"  That got a nod.  "Okay. So the height was like an illusion?"  Mad Eye nodded.  "Can I anchor that?"

"That's an advanced lesson.  You only learn that at the academy."

"Okay.  Can I get their textbook?"  The teacher let out a roar of a laugh, shaking his head.  "Hey, I've got to do *something* this year since I haven't found a boyfriend."

"You're really a nancy?"

"As gay as a float in a parade," he agreed.

"I never would have guessed.  You don't overly fuss with your clothes."

"You know, among the muggles, some of the gayest guys are some of the toughest bikers and the like," he noted dryly, smirking a bit.  "They're called tops I believe.  I'm not sure where I fit yet.  I planned on finding that out over the holidays.  Probably by going out to a bar and propositioning someone and asking them to teach me where I like it most.  Do you think it hurts the first few times like girls claim?"  The teacher just stared.  "Too much information?"

"Much," he said firmly.  "I don't want to hear that, boy."

"Eeh, no one else lets me share either.  So, do you think Granger's into witches?"

Mad Eye slowly shook his head.  "Go away.  Now."  Alex beamed and gathered his stuff, heading out.  He grabbed his head, holding onto it as he took a sip from his special flask.  "Why me, Merlin?" he moaned.

Alex walked into the suite, dropped his robe, tie, and book, then changed into Draco, making Draco choke on his tea.  "Neat, huh?" he said happily. "And I grossed out the teacher by talking about my plans to find out which way I like boys."  He looked at Hermione.  "I wanted to ask, do you like witches?  If so, do you know of a bar I can try that out at and possibly find a good shag who'll teach me that first few times?  Let me try it out as it were?"

Hermione stared at him for a moment, then flounced out, slamming the portrait behind her.

"Sorry," Alex called after her.  "Just wondering if you knew a place!"

"Change back," Draco growled. "I don't not want to hear such things out of my own mouth!"  Alex changed back, laughing now.  "That was evil, Alex!"

"But fun," Harry offered from his seat.  "Good job.  Who else can you do?"  Alex shrugged.  "Is it hard?"

"You've got to be specific about the person you're changing into.  Since I spend so much time watching Draco to draw him, I chose him first."  Draco choked again. "You're fascinating!" he defended.  "Plus you're cute and handsome, it makes the pictures come out nicer than some ugly bloke, like Dumbledore."  Draco put down his tea, then got up and grabbed a pillow, using it to try to smother Alex.

Greg pulled him off, holding him still.  "It's all right, Draco. It was a compliment.  He called you pretty."  Draco continued to struggle.  "Alex, run," he suggested.  Alex ran out of their suite.  He gave him a count of five, then released Draco, watching as he ran after him.  Then he sat down and stole Draco's sandwiches.  "Those two are so cute," he said with a grin.

Vinnie looked at him.  "You just gave me a mental picture that could give me nightmares."

"Sorry, I'm not trying to."  He finished off that food and dusted off his hands, getting up to get a few cookies.  Then he flopped back down, going back to his Charms homework.  "I wonder if Alex finished his homework in Charms.  Maybe he can ask Professor Flitwick if he knows somewhere."

"Eww," Ron noted patiently.  "Now I have a mental image of them together.  Thanks, muchly, Gregory."   He rubbed at his eyes.  "Harry, make it stop!"

Harry pulled his wand and pointed it at him.  "Somulus."  Ron was asleep and snoring within minutes.  "There, now he'll dream of Hermione."  He went back to his homework.  The others laughed. At least until Hermione came back in.  "Draco's chasing him to hurt him."

"For me?"

"No, for him," Harry said, grinning at her.

"Alex told him he was pretty, that's why he drew him so often," Greg told her.

Vincent moaned.  "Harry, could you please knock me out too?"

"Somulus."  Vincent sighed in pleasure as he sank into a nap.  "Greg suggested that if you didn't know a place, maybe Professor Flitwick would," Harry said conversationally.

She shuddered. "That's nasty!" she said, swatting them both. "Behave!"  She stomped off to find Alex and beat him herself.  She found him hiding in Charms and Draco bound to a chair.  "Alex," she growled, stomping in.  She found herself bound to a chair as well.  "Greg said maybe he'd know a place.  Harry had to knock out Ron and Vincent!  You're being very evil and I won't have it!"  She continued to struggle to get free.

Alex looked at his favorite professor, who liked to humor his odd and quirky ways.  "Do you know a place I can go to over the holidays to find out if I like to top or bottom?  Maybe a club or something so I can find a nice teacher who can show me a few times?  I asked Granger if she liked witches and if she did, could she recommend such a place because I figured she wouldn't go to a dirty, nasty, seedy bar where I might catch something unsavory."

Flitwick blinked a few times.  "I don't patronize those sort of places, Alexander," he said patiently.  "I have a special friend I visit now and then."

"Oh."  He pouted.  "Shoot!"  His pout got worse.  "All I want to do is find somewhere I can figure it out."

Flitwick patted him on the arm.  "I'll write my friend to see if he knows such a place," he soothed.  "Now go to dinner."  He nodded, heading that way.  He shook his head and unbound them both.  "Miss Granger, you are scaring the poor, damaged young man greatly with the way you're acting. Calm yourself immediately or I shall have to take points. You as well, Mr. Malfoy.  From what he told me, it was meant as a compliment."  Draco stomped off and Hermione followed him.  He waited until he was alone to giggle, clutching his lectern.  "That boy is going to send someone to the infirmary for what he says.  Poor Poppy!  Someone'll have to tell him how to be careful too!" he howled when he realized it.  He went to the Great Hall, pulling Severus aside once he got there.  "Severus, your son just asked me to help him find somewhere special to ...break himself in.  He didn't appear to have too much of a clue on how to do so *safely*.  He thought he would only catch something...unsavory, his words of course, from the club itself.  Perhaps a fatherly chat is in order?"  He nearly started to laugh again at the look on his face.

Snape turned green.  "I'm sure someone can," he said, fleeing before he had to think about his son having sex somewhere that unsavory.  He didn't want to think about his son and sex at all!  He glared at Granger when she nearly ran into him.  "Watch where you're going!"

"Sorry, sir, your son irritated me by assuming I like witches and could give him an opinion on where to find a club he could find a tutor to teach him the art of having good sex at," she said coolly.  "Someone must talk to that boy!"  She stomped on, right to McGonagall to complain really loudly about Alex and his assumptions.  She even ended on a loud diatribe on someone needing to have The Talk with him.  Then she went to pout at the table.  Ginny tried to cheer her up but it wasn't going to work this time.

McGonagall excused herself from dinner and went to drink herself to sleep in her room so she could forget both images.  She didn't want to see Hermione Granger with a witch or imagine Alex's sex life in the least!

Snape felt better as he retreated.  At least it wasn't just him or Flitwick the boy had damaged mentally this time.


Remus answered the floo, smiling at Poppy.  "Yes, dear, what can I do for you?" he asked, smiling at her.

"You can come tell the lecherous bastards Alexander, Harry, and Draco about sex!" she snapped.  "Alexander has sent three teachers to me for hangover cures.  Draco is still protesting what he wants and Harry has no idea why the others were so upset.  It's like he's never heard of the concept," she said in her most clipped tone.  "Since I don't pretend knowledge on how two blokes shag, you're it!  You're a relative or near enough in this case!"

He stifled a smile.  "How about I send Sirius up for a visit, Poppy?  Would that suit you?  He is a relative to Draco and Harry trusts him more.  Alex might even get some firsthand knowledge out of him so he can find a safe spot to explore this image."

"I don't care which one of you does it, just get here and get it done!  So far he's made Flitwick, Snape, and McGonagall drink!  He accused Miss Granger of liking witches and knowing where such a place might be!  Mr. Malfoy's so deep in denial he got upset that Alexander called him pretty.  I don't care which of you explains the process of shagging to those three, but do it soon!"  She hung up.

Remus shook his head, trying to clear that last mental image out of his head.  He didn't want to see the three of them shagging.  He really didn't. "Sirius!" he called.  He came in from the back yard.  "Poppy just called.  Apparently Alexander is traumatizing everyone while trying to learn how to shag a bloke.  He's also upset Draco again by suggested he was pretty and upset Hermione by suggested she liked girls and might know a place where he could try it out.  Poppy said he sent Flitwick, Snape, and McGonagall to drink."  Sirius laughed, leaning on the counter to hold himself up.  "She wanted you to come talk to them since you had firsthand knowledge about both sides.  She said poor Harry might not have realized what they were even talking about."

"Are we sure he's not doing it on purpose?"

"I doubt it.  I don't think anyone ever had The Talk with him.  I doubt Severus would be able to."

Sirius continued to laugh at the image of Severus explaining sex to those three boys.  "Fine, I'll go up today," he agreed, walking off to find something clean to wear.  The longer he knew Alex, the more he liked him!


Sirius popped into Potions between classes, closing the door before a student could get in.  "Poppy wanted me to come give Harry, Alex, and Draco The Talk.  Do you mind?"

Snape gave him a heated glare. "Why should it be *you*?"

"Because, unlike you, I've had sex with another man. She didn't think he knew any of the safety instructions or anything."

"Flitwick said the same thing," he admitted tiredly.  "Fine.  You have my permission as long as you answer all their questions so I don't have to.  Did you call Mrs. Malfoy?"

"I called and got Lucius, he sneered. He said if Alex touched Draco he was going to kill them both."

Snape looked at him.  "Indeed?"  Sirius nodded.  "Did it?"  He approved of his son's plan to torment Lucius by having him arrested as many times as possible.  It almost made him...giddy.

"Of course," he promised with a grin.  "Nymphadora is already there."  He smiled sweetly. "She heard him because she was visiting Narciassa.  She suggested it'd be a good idea too.  Alex is too hot to find it out, he'll end up getting hurt."

"Fine.  Please discuss that with my son so I don't have to wade through another night drunk."

"Sure.  Where might they be and can I pull them out?  I know they have you sometime today."

"I had them earlier.  Minerva has them both right now."

"Ah, even better.  Thank you!"  He hurried out, letting the students in.  The bell had rung by the time he got up to her classroom so he tapped gently and stuck his head in, smiling.  "May I please steal Harry, Draco, and Alex for your class and the next one?"

"Why?" she asked primly. "This is a double lecture."

"I needed to talk to them about something very important and private," he said, smirking a bit at her.

She blushed.  "Have them and make it thorough and graphic.  Before we're all traumatized by them *trying* it.  Go, boys.  Now!"  They gathered their things and left, Alex still shading his last drawing.  She sat behind her desk, resisting the urge to put her feet up.   Someone did answer prayers it seemed, otherwise she would have talked to them that night.

Sirius led them back to their suite, sitting all three boys down.  "Some of the teachers have decided you three need a more graphic version of the sex talk," he started.

"I already know more than enough," Draco said, standing up.

"Sit, Draco.  By the way, your father said he'd kill both of you if you touched him or he touched you."  He looked at Harry, then at Alex.  "I'm going to be going over all of it, sorry that some of this might not apply to you ever, but this way at least it's covered."  They all sighed and nodded, settling in.  At least they weren't in class for a while. "Good."  He smiled and pulled a chair over to sit across from them.  "Let's start with the supposedly typical thing, boys liking girls.   A lot of it's in common and I can tell you where it differs from there."

"Do you have first-hand knowledge?" Alex asked, looking really interested.  Harry stole the pillow from Draco before he could try to smother him again.

Sirius nodded.  "I do, of both sorts really," he admitted. "That's why Poppy called Remus and Remus delegated in the finest fashion."  All three boys smiled at that. "Hell, we should have a beer right about now.  That's how my dad did mine," he muttered.

Alex got up and got the bottle of scotch he had and three glasses, pouring them out.  "Here."  He grinned and handed him one.  Draco didn't get one but he got his own glass.  "You're not legal," he called.

"Bite me."

"Your father said he'd kill you both," Sirius reminded him before slugging back the drink.  He had needed that.  "All right, liking girls.  Not so much different than liking guys, only girls are squishy in some spots."  All three boys stared at him.  "They are.  Breasts are nice and squishy, they make nice pillows to nap on too.  Not their primary purpose, but still a nice napping spot....."


Alex bounced out with Sirius, hanging off his arm.  "Can you tell me where I can go to find out in person?" he asked happily.  "I really wanna try it out now!"

"Sure.  Let me find a nice, safe seeming spot.  You, however, will promise you will play safely and follow all the rules I gave you earlier."  Alex beamed and nodded, still bouncing.  "Good boy, Alexander."  He clapped him on the arm.  "Go back to class while Harry and Draco sleep it off."  He smiled when the headmaster met him at the door.  "Someone had to have The Talk with the boys.  Poppy called us," he said with a smile as he walked past him.  "I'm afraid I gave Harry and Draco too much graphic information and they're both napping for a bit, Albus.  They should be fine within an hour.  They're young, they recover quickly."  He grinned and headed out the door, strolling down to the barrier so he could apparate home and tell Remus how well he had done.  "Remus!  I'm back!" he called.

"In the study!"  Sirius walked in there and he took a long sniff.  "You got them drunk!"

"No, but I needed some lube," he admitted as he sat down.  "Now I know why my old man gave me my talk over beers."  He grinned at him.  "I gave them more information than they probably will ever need.  Harry and Draco knocked each other out so they wouldn't have to hear anything else about gay sex.  That was about halfway through Alex's questions.  By the way, he's got a really kinky side. Asked all sorts of kinky questions.  I got all the directions and uses out, plus all the safety precautions.  Alex was bounding around the hallway when I left, and I promised I would find him a nice looking place to go as long as he played by the rules I had set."

Remus gave him a horrified look.  "You're unleashing him on the world already!"

"Well, yes.  By the time he gets there, he'll be legal.  Then again, he is emancipated," he offered.

"I don't care!  He'll be trying it the next time he can slip away!"

"He won't," he said patiently, smiling at him.  "He's trying it on himself first so he has some ideas what he wants to try with another person.  We talked a long time about that and being ready and his actual age."  He wiped his neck off.  "He wanted to know all sorts of stuff about spankings and straps and all that stuff."  Remus walked off muttering.  "Sorry.  Too much information?  That's about when Harry and Draco knocked each other out."

"Sleep it off, Sirius!  You just harmed the poor boy's poor mental state!"

"At least there won't be any little illegitimate Alex's running around," he called.

"Sleep it off, Sirius!"

Sirius laughed but did go up to take a nap...eventually.  Those were some good memories he had shared.


A few weeks later Ron walked up to Harry in Herbology and handed him a carefully copied charm.  "Here you need this," he said with a fond smile.  Then he walked off.  He needed a nap really badly.  Harry had been too loud to sleep.

"Mr. Weasley!" the teacher yelled.  "Where do you think you're going!"

"To nap!  My roommate so thoughtfully kept me up by being too damn loud last night!" he called, kicking the door shut behind him.  He walked right up to the infirmary and hopped onto a bed.  Kicked off his shoes and covered himself up before the nurse could even protest.  He got a gentle poke.  "Harry's a loud guy," he complained.  "I didn't get any sleep thanks to him."

Poppy sighed.  "I knew it. The moment he found out he'd want to try it out."  She went to make a note to send around to the teachers.

Down in Herbology, Harry was still bright red.  His head was as low as he could make it and he had pocketed the silencing charm. He hadn't thought he had been that loud.

"What did you do to Ron?" Neville hissed.  Harry glared at him and ducked his head again. "Harry!  It's not nice to pick on Ron!"

"He didn't.  He doesn't know what a silencing charm on his bed is," Draco said from down the table, glaring at him.  "You kept the rest of us up too, Potter.  Though, it was amusing, listening to you scream that particular idea that loudly."

"Malfoy!"  Harry glared at him.  "Must you?  You forgot silencing charms before too!"

"Not that loudly I didn't," he retorted.

"Yes, you have," Greg assured him.

"Last Christmas morning," Vinnie told him.

"Hmm, and the first day back from Easter holiday," Greg reminded him.

"And on the train on the way back," Vinnie said with a small smirk.

"Oh, remember on the way back?  Either someone put an echoing charm or he got really, really loud."

"No, that was an echoing charm," Alex said with a grin.  Draco growled and lunged so he ducked behind Granger.  "Sorry, dear.  Draco's in a cranky mood.  Not enough sleep you know."  He pulled his plant further down the table, just grinning at him.  "At least I'm quiet."

"What was he doing to need an echoing charm?" Madam Sprout asked dryly, tapping a foot, arms crossed over his chest.

Alex looked at her and opened his mouth but Hermione whipped out her wand and froze him, glaring at Draco, Harry, and the others.  "The rest of us don't need those mental images either.  We get more than enough of an education living two doors down from you.  Especially from you last night, Harry!  Did you take some sort of potion!  I never knew a boy to last like that!" she huffed.

Harry walked out, bright red all over, and went to hide somewhere.

"Oh, dear, didn't anyone have that talk with you children yet?" Madam Sprout sighed.  "You should be more mature about those things by this point!  Unfreeze Mr. Birmingham and get back to work."  She went to find the poor dear and counsel him.  When she couldn't find him, she had a quiet word with Minerva.  After all, he was in her house.


McGonagall pulled Harry out of the line of students trudging in for lunch, taking him to her office.  She closed the door, silenced it, then turned to face him.  "Harry," she started gently.  "Madam Sprout said perhaps I should fill in some gaps that Sirius might have left?" she suggested gently.  He collapsed into a chair, hiding his face in his arms on her desk.  "There's no need to be embarrassed," she said, patting him on the back.  "I've had to give this talk numerous times, including to Mr.  Longbottom, who didn't seem to get much of it the first three times I went over the information."

"I got loud last night when I forgot a silencing charm," he muttered, looking up at her.  "That's all that was.  They were all picking on me, including Hermione."

"Ah.  I see.  You do *know* the silencing charm?"  He glared and nodded.  She smiled.  "I've often thought we should put it on all the beds from the fourth year up, Harry.  Automatically for every student.  Possibly for every year to stop the complaints about snoring, but at least on the fourth years and up."  She pulled down a book and opened it, handing it to him. "A permanent one, that way you don't have to worry about it."

He pouted. "Hermione accused me of taking a potion to go that long in Herbology.  The others have picked up on it now.  They all think I'm a perv like Alex!"

She patted him on the arm. "Get Alex to do the permanent charm on your bed, dear.  That way you don't have to worry about such things again."

"Alex asked about kinky stuff," he complained as he copied it down.  "Ron handed me a silencing charm and then went to sleep in the infirmary."  He handed the book back.

"I know.  It bruised your fragile ego.  At this age, bodily function are funny, the same as they are to a three-year-old who plays with himself in public.  Another boy will have one of those days and his friends will pick on him soon enough.  Or a girl will have one and everyone will pick on her unfairly because she feels as much lust as you do."

"They do? I thought girls felt mushier stuff."

"No, Harry.  Girls can feel lust and we often do feel lust.  Even Miss Granger."  He shuddered.  "Some day, you'll have to watch her date someone."

"Eww.  I don't care to think about others getting some."  He put the charm in his pocket.  "Can you walk me back in there so they don't think I was tossing off?"

"Of course."  She smiled and led him back to the Great Hall, heading up to her seat once he had his.  She looked around.  "Where is your son, Severus?" she asked quietly.

"Perhaps he's taking a nap."

"Ah.  You are aware he asked Mr. Black about straps and such?"  He glared at her.  "You weren't?"

"We had an agreement; he answered whatever Alexander wanted to know and I didn't have to hear about any of it."  She nodded once then dug in.  "What potion did he botch up?"

"It's just natural talent in his case," she said with a smirk at him.  "Some day he'll have a very happy wife."  Snape choked and so did Madam Sprout and Mad Eye Moody.  "Sorry."  She dug in, filling her mouth before she could say anything else.  "Headmaster, have you reconsidered the idea of putting permanent silencing charms on the beds of the fourth years and up?  Or on everyone's so no one has to complain about snoring?"

"I don't believe it would be politically correct to do so, Minerva.  After all, we wouldn't be able to hear if someone's being harmed by a roommate."

"Most of those are because their roommate snore," Flitwick noted.  "I'll happily help with those myself so I never have to hear another complaint like Mr. Weasley's ever again."

"It's like he went from no thoughts about it to every thought about it.  Before the talk, he didn't even understand that other people were talking about it and now it's all he does.  Two *hours* last night," Draco's complaint floated up to them.  "Four times!  In ten hours!  I don't know when he slept because the rest of us certainly didn't!  Granger's down the hall and he kept her up too!"

"Yes, he'll make some woman a very happy wife some day," Madam Sprout agreed.

"Then there's Alex 'I snore so loudly you can hear me on the next floor up' Birmingham," Draco continued to complain.  "He's *louder* and *gay*!   He screams about things I'm not sure can be done!  Plus, gay sex takes *longer*!"

"Ah, there's another good reason to put the charms on the curtains," Flitwick noted, but mentally he was cackling.  Mr. Malfoy had very good timing.

Dumbledore looked around.  "We'll call the Prefects together tonight and instruct them on how to install that charm," he ordered calmly.  He heard Draco's voice starting to climb again.  "Mr. Malfoy! You are quite loud enough!" he ordered, making Draco blush.

"Hey, Harry, how long does Draco take?" Ginny asked.

Dumbledore put his head down and prayed for patience.

"He wouldn't know, I know how to apply a silencing charm!" Draco yelled.

Mad Eye Moody stood up.  "As fascinating as this conversation is, this is more than I wanted to know about any of you!" he yelled.  "So stop it before I hex you all!"  He sat down again.

"Thank you, Alistair, but I don't believe hexing is necessary," Dumbledore told him.  "Detentions usually work just as well in this situation."  He glared at Draco.  "Sit down or have a detention with Mr. Filch tonight and for the rest of the week," he said firmly.  Draco sat down and dug back in, ducking his head down.  He smiled at his defense teacher.  "There, you see?"  The Gryffindors laughed and he looked over there, staring at the blushing boys.  "I said enough!" he called. "That is not an appropriate discussion for public places."

"Oh, I don't know, that's all my mum and her friends ever talk about," a first year Hufflepuff told him.

"Now you have a detention with Mr. Filch as well," he assured her.  "Polite people do not talk about such private topics."

"My mum's not rude!" she shouted, standing up and glaring at him.  "My mum's a hell of a lot nicer than most of the girls in this school, including most of the teachers!"  She stomped off, going to write her mother.  Someone was going to be getting a howler in the morning!

Severus looked at the Gryffindors.  "Mr. Longbottom, where might my son be?"

"He might be in the infirmary, sir, but I'm not certain.  He got a skinned spot last class.  One of the plants tried to eat him again."

"I see.  Thank you."  He went back to eating now that the topic of discussion had been changed so he wouldn't have to listen to it.

"I tell you, he accused me of liking witches!" Hermione Granger ranted. Loudly.

Snape let his fork fall back to the plate and got up, wiping off his mouth.  "I'm going to check on my son," he noted before walking away.  That way he would not have to have that unpleasant mental image.  "Maybe she'll find faith and become a nun," he told himself as he walked.  It was amusing and soothing to think of her that way.


The first trial came and went and Harry was handling the second one well.  Alex was still worried though.  He went to talk with McGonagall, finding the object of his worry in there.  "Ah, professors.  Sorry to interrupt.  Professor McGonagall, I need to take a walk, but I may not be back in time.  May I?  Down by and around the lake?"

"Of course, Alexander.  Thank you for asking this time.  What's bothering you?"

"Just odds and ends.  Things that don't add up and the like.  You could accompany me if you wished."  She smiled and shook her head.  "That's fine then, I'll be down there."  He walked off, heading down to think at the lakeside.  Something was still not right.  Moody was still here.  Yes, he taught them stuff, but he could feel bad things trying to come.  He wasn't sure what was coming or what was fully going on but he knew some things and what he knew was bothering him.  Because they had a spy for Voldemort within the school and he was feeding back information.  Even if it was false information, it was still dangerous.  He could realize some things that others didn't.  He knew he had Neville in his grasp.  He only hoped he could save the poor guy.  Something was not right and something was going to happen and he was on the front lines without enough information to make a good plan.  He felt something coming in near him and looked at the woman standing there.  "Halfrek."  He walked over there.  "Am I getting too close to the barrier again?"

"No, I thought I'd stop in and see you, Alex."  She smiled and tested the barriers.  "They're holding, baby."  She led him to some rocks, sitting down next to him.  "You're worried and you're too young to worry about wars and icky stuff."

He looked at her.  "I'm not.  I'm the strongest in this school, including some of the teachers."

"Dumbledore has power."

"He also has knowledge he's keeping and he's been trying to manipulate a prophecy about us and the Dark Lord."  She nodded, agreeing with him.  "He's been manipulating me since I got here, trying to missort me and isolate me."  She nodded.  "Why?"

"Because he thinks it's Harry."

"Is it?"

She shrugged.  "No one can say.  It depends on who gets there at the right time.  It could be all three of you together. This year might not be the right time."

He looked around, then at her.  "Can I trust you to speak honestly?  Are you serving Voldemort?"

"He ruins childhoods, Alex.  He's already ruined so many.  I'm a silent supporter for you and Harry, babe. What's wrong?  What aren't you getting?  Besides in Draco's shorts," she offered with a grin.

He snorted and shook his head.  "I'm not focused on that at the moment.  That'll be in a few hours."  He shifted closer.  "We have a spy here."  She nodded, acknowledging he was right.  "He's feeding information back.  We know that.  We know, or I know and I think the others suspect, that he's the one who entered Harry in the tournament.  He's way too young. I'm way too young."  She nodded, agreeing again.  "Is it connected?"  She nodded.  "You're sure?"

"Definitely.  Do you think they don't realize this?"

"No, they do but they aren't doing anything!"


"That's got me worried.  It's like we're sacrificing Harry on an altar to him.  I keep getting flashes of dark magic, blood magic, I saw when I was a kid."  She nodded more slowly, testing his shields again.  "We found out Grams was doing it," he admitted.

"I'm sorry.  Did you have to watch?"  He shook his head.  "You snuck down to see?"

"At one point in time I would have slayed dragons for that woman," he admitted quietly. She gave him a hug.  "And now I'm surrounded by her friends and her coworkers.  I want to scream to draw attention to this plot but I know if I do, he'll get away.  No matter what he's sending back, the slightest observation could be harmful.  Just the fact that Harry relies on others could be enough to force his capture and a plan."

"Does he?"


She considered what to tell him.  "There are other considerations.  What if the prophecy about your births is this year or next year?"

"I'm ready, Harry's ready.  Neville's in the grip of the spy," he hissed.  She nodded.  "We can but I don't want Harry to have to see that."

She smiled gently.  "That's noble, but he'll see it even if you do the deed, Alexander."  She stood up.  "You have three problems.  The spy in your midst.  The circumstances he's drawing around you like a containment circle.  The aftermath, no matter which side wins that battle.  Remember, there are people who still remember your grandmother fondly.  Not all of them were captured or killed."  He hung his head.  "What will you do if it becomes necessary to protect those other innocents by taking on one of them here?"

"Then I will," he said honestly, staring at her.  "The kids here are too soft, too used to good times.  War is dirty and nasty.  It should only involve those who're ready for it, even if that's idealistic. But I don't want to turn into her!"

"Will you if you do it for those reasons?"

"Get away from her, boy!" Moody yelled, hurrying toward him.

"I don't know, you tell me," he offered with a sad smile. "Is it time for me to act?"

She shook her head.  "Wait.  The trial is soon enough.  Then all hell will break loose.  If you harm him now, He'll be thwarted, but not enough.  There's others in your midst who spy and who know.  Even if they don't swear allegiance, they may have to *appear* to."


"Oh, shut up!" he yelled, not taking his eyes off her.  "She protects me, Moody."  He tipped his head off to the side.  "If it stops this time, will it come to that?"  She shook her head.  "Can we make it?"

"That's like your question, Alexander.  If you have to kill someone to save a bunch of others, is it bad?"  She smiled.  "Many have an opinion, including the law.  Talk to those you trust.  Outside the family. Otherwise your father may have a heart attack."  She winked and faded out.  "Be safe, Alexander.  Remember, I'm here to watch over your childhood too."

He sighed and turned to glare at the teacher.  "That's the Patron Saint of Lost Childhoods!" he screamed.  "She's protecting me!  How dare you interrupt me talking to her!"

"She's demonic!"

"No shit!" he screamed back.  "She still *protects* me!  She's the one who helped me get away from the bitch who tortured me for nearly eleven fucking years!  Now, get off your high horse and fucking go back too your rooms, you self-ass-licking, smug bastard!  You have no right to get in the middle of my talk with someone who *protects* me!"

"Alexander!" McGonagall yelled, hurrying down.  "Don't!"

"Fuck you!  He drove Halfrek off."  He glared at him. "You're about to have a rude awakening, Moody.  I'm not the nicest of people.  Do you think I can't cast those again?" he asked, moving closer.  "Do you think I won't protect the innocent in this school by casting against *anyone* who causes them harm?  Teacher or not.  Remember, the innocent are *mine* to protect here."

"Alexander!  Leave him be!" she snapped, reaching them.  She grabbed his arm but he shrugged her off.  "Alex!"

"Leave off, Professor.  We all know what's going on here.  I've been watching him retaint Neville.  Teaching him how to do the unforgivables in private. Building him up to it."

"That's a hard accusation to prove."

"Is it?  Then I wouldn't duck."

"Crucio!" Neville cast.  He put his wand up, canceling the spell after a moment of Alex writhing on the ground.  He looked at his headmistress. "I don't need protecting."

"Petrificius Totalus," Draco cast coldly, freezing him.  "Yes, you do, Longbottom.  You just entered the wrong dressing room for the wrong team."  He pointed his wand at Moody.  "I know you from somewhere."

"Don't, Draco," she ordered.  "Take Alex to the nurse."

"She can't help him.  He'll be fine in a few minutes.  It's not his first time under it."  He kept his wand pointed at the teacher. "I think you need to leave, Moody.  Or whoever you are."  She gasped.  "It's amazing.  Alex still talks in his sleep," he told her dryly.  He smirked at the teacher, then pointed his wand at Alex.  "Ennervate!"  He hopped up, holding his chest.  "You all right?"

"Yeah.  Neville's got an anger problem with his self image."  He pulled his wand again, pointing it at the teacher.  "Leave, Mr. Crouch.  Before I vacate you from this realm.  Draco's not crossing into his father's path, and I've already danced on it too many times.  I protect the innocents in this school.  Every last one of them.  Thank you for proving my point, and yours, so well.  Vigilance is very necessary."  The man known as Moody stepped back.  "I wouldn't.  You're not taking Neville anywhere.  Professor, move Neville now.  He's been slowly brainwashed.  I had been hoping someone else was going to stop it."  He looked sad for a moment. "I guess I learned Gram's lesson again.  If you need someone tortured, do it yourself."  He heard footsteps come running and someone grabbed him so he threw them onto the ground, stomping on them, then facing his opponent again.  "You want these students, including Harry, you face my ugly ass.  Duel or not. Draw and declare yourself."

"No, Alex!" Draco ordered. "It's not your fight!  Let your father do it!"

"Fuck my father.  He's stepping on *my* vows now."

"Alex, no.  Let the other teachers," McGonagall pleaded.

"Why?  Because you did such a *stunning* job on Neville?" he asked, glancing at her.  Crouch drew his wand and he shoved her out of the way of the hex, casting one back.  The man started to scream as his bones shrunk under his skin, including his skull.  He stared him down until he was on his knees, wand still pointing at him.

"No, Alex!" Tonks ordered in her best voice of authority.  "He's ours!"

"You're right, he was."  He swished his wand.  "Finite Incantantum."  He turned and glanced at her, then kicked him under the chin, breaking it.  "Because Neville was a nice boy.  You've disappointed his parents terribly."  He turned and walked off, going to walk around the pitch.  He could be found out there.

Tonks looked at the teachers as she rubbed her newly sore spots from Alex tossing her.  "Wanna give some of us a clue?"

"He's taking polyjuice.  We've known he was a spy since right after Potter's name was drawn for the fourth champion," McGonagall admitted.  "We've been feeding him false information.  We thought Neville was smart enough to realize he was in trouble and ask."  She gave him a sad look.  Then she looked at Tonks. "The boy needs help," she said, sounding like she wanted to cry.

Tonks nodded.  "I agree.  All of them.  Draco, put it down."

"Fat chance.  Take him away and I'll put mine away."

"Fine."  She clapped magical shackles on him, binding him to where he was lying for the moment.  Then she looked at McGonagall.  "Where's the headmaster?"

"Talking to Potter about the next trial," Draco admitted.  He looked around.  "I felt Halfrek and I came to check on Alex."  He lowered his wand but didn't put it up.

"She might have shown up to talk to him when he was alone," McGonagall admitted, looking at the two bodies.  She looked at Tonks.  "Take them away, give us a whole Neville back if you can."

"I can't guarantee that, Minerva.  He cast an unforgivable in front of me.  I was watching to see how far it was going.  Was the glowy woman Halfrek?"  Draco nodded.  "Okay, who's she?"

"She's the Patron Saint of Lost Childhoods," Draco said bitterly.  "She watches over Alex."  The Headmaster and Potter came running.  "Late again, Potter."

"Where's Alex," he panted.

"The pitch walking in circles probably," Draco told him.  "Why?"

"Someone set off the dark wards."

"Neville there cast a nice Crucio," Tonks told them.  Dumbledore looked like he had been hit with a shovel in the face.  "It was him.  Alex just shrunk all his bones."  She looked around.  "Draco, be a love and go calm Alex down so I can get a coherent report?"  He shook his head.  "Potter can help me."

"No, Tonks.  It's not right.  Alex is right.  Some of us have danced on that path already and it's not for innocents to do it for us.  It's for us to keep others off it."

"Draco, I'm not that innocent," Harry reminded him.  Draco stared at him.  "I'm not."

"You are," he said dryly.  "Alex was going to kill him."

Harry nodded. "As he probably deserves.  Some day, we'll all have that decision.  I've already made mine.  Let me.  Get Alex.  He's got to be in pain and he turns to you for that stuff more'n anyone."  Draco nodded, putting up his wand and walking off.  Harry looked from Neville, to McGonagall, to the other teacher, then back to Tonks.  "What's going on?" he asked calmly.

"He's Barty Crouch," McGonagall sighed.  "We've known since the night you found him on the map, Harry, and we knew he wasn't Moody since the night your name was drawn. We've been using him to feed back false information about you and Alex, but he's been grooming Neville.  Alex tried to warn him and Neville didn't listen."  She clamped down on the sob that came out.  "He cast an unforgivable."

"He's still redeemable," Tonks reminded her.  "If Alex can stay good, Neville can return to it."  She looked at her.  "What vow?"

"I asked Alex to protect Gryffindor and the others in the school who were innocent and abused."  She looked at her hands.  "I put too much pressure on him."

"No, he needed it to give him focus," Harry assured her, giving her a hug.  "He's fine. Just pissed at himself."  He looked at Tonks.  "Is Alex in trouble?"

"No.  He was protecting himself.  I watched Neville curse him.  I watched Alex be stopped and challenge him.  Crouch there fired on Alex first.  He didn't kill him.  He gave him a chance to surrender by casting that bone shrinking spell.  Sure, he could have died, but he would have passed out first."  She wiped her face off.  "Alex isn't in any trouble, no matter what Fudge and them want."  Harry stared at her and she nodded.  "He hates him, Harry.  Alex has everything he ever wanted, including the power and the money to take control from him if he wanted.  Parkinson had a point. If the boy was so inclined, he could become a Dark Lord.  He doesn't want it and Fudge is scared of him because he's not sure where to  place the kid in his mind.  He's scared because he's not using the power he has."

"That's dumb."

"Yeah, well, if Alex was less powerful or fully dark, he wouldn't be scared of him.  He'd laud him for what he's done.  Right now, you three scare the piss outta a lot of people.  Draco and Alex have the knowledge of how the dark works.  They're training you and Alex made it very clear you're dear to him and Draco's very dear to him."

"So it's like we have their playbook for quidditch and their star seeker," Harry said.

"Basically," Tonks agree.  "A lot of people think they're using you to take over afterward.  If either of them agreed to become aurors it'd help tons.  People think we'll take care of our own if they get out of hand."  She watched as the polyjuice started to make his skin bubble up and change.  "Hmm, you were right."  She bent down to tighten the cuffs and he kicked at her, knocking her onto her back.  She jumped up but he had grabbed his wand and had one hand free. "Stop!"

"Tempore retardis," Harry cast.  He ducked under the slowed burst of magic Crouch shot at him, walking up to him.   He locked the cuffs back on him, then slugged him.  "Finite incantantum."  He sneered down at him.  "You lose again."

"That's why the dark's so afraid of you boy," Snape said as he walked out to join them.  "Because you're powerful enough to cast that.  With their backup and knowledge, they think you're going to take over."

"If Alex ever went that dark, he'd take out the people who hurt kids," he reminded him.  "Tonks, you can quote me."  He walked off, going to help Alex.  He found him crying on Draco and got his back, hugging him.  "Shh.  It's all right."  He looked at Draco.  "You knew?  The reason they fear you and him getting together or him helping me?"

"I figured that's what it was," he admitted quietly.

"Huh?" Alex asked, pulling back to wipe off his face.  "Why are they scared now?"

"Because you're the dark's playbook.  Draco's their quidditch team's favorite seeker.  And I'm the enemy to them so I've got them both, Alex."

"What he just mangled is the belief that we're going to use him to take over.  Those in the know and on the wrong side are worried about your power joining with his and destroying them."

"Tonks said if one of you became an auror it would calm down," Harry offered with a small smirk for Alex.

"My father would eat his heart, literally, before he let that happen," Draco admitted.

Alex grimaced. "I'd rather join the people who go to help kids who need saved."

Harry hugged him. "You'd make a great protector and dad, Alex.  You really will."

"Neville," he sighed.

"Neville made his own choice," Draco said firmly.  "He wasn't coerced into it.  He wasn't under the Imperious or anything else.  He made his choice and he's got to live with it.  The same as you left him living and you've got to live with it."  He made Alex face him.  "The same as I have to live with wanting to kill him," he finished quietly.


"Alex, I've danced on the same pathway as you.  Nearly in tandem but to a different tune.  I'm not the innocent you think I am and Harry there swears he's not one at all."

Alex broke free.  "No!  I won't have you two dying because I let you out there!"

"Alex, love, that's not your choice," Tonks called, walking up the last few stairs to join them.  He glared at her.  "They've got to make that choice themselves.  Everyone does.  Even Neville and the innocent little kids in this school. That's how you know they don't need your protection anymore.  They make that choice."  He shook his head so she took his arm and walked him to the other side of the viewing box.  "Yeah, Al, they do.  Everyone makes that choice.  They make it by being a bully or standing up for themselves.  They make it by taking part or hiding in this war that's coming.  They make it in a lot of ways.  You've got to be smart enough to realize they've made it and don't always need your protection.  Even kids grow up and parents have to let go sometimes."  She looked him in the eyes.  "Do you get what I'm saying?"  He hung his head and nodded.  "Good boy."

He looked at her.  "If I have to kill someone to stop this war from coming, is that wrong?" he asked her.

"You don't ask the easy ones."  She stared at him.  "Like what?"

"Like, one of us has to kill Voldemort.  Is that wrong?"

"No.  That's saving a hell of a lot of lives.  It'll also make a lot of people insane with worry that you're going to be the next one.  The Ministry will try shit and you'll end up reacting there."  He nodded.  "They'll probably try to put you in jail or some such, maybe try to shut down the investigation so it makes you look evil and bad.  Maybe even try the school."

"But is it wrong?"

"No, not to me.  Stopping a monster is stopping a monster, Alex.  If he's a human monster, then sometimes you've got to.  Even if you have to kill a whole lot of them.  That's what war is.  That's how soldiers cope, with the 'them and us' approach."  He nodded, hanging his head again.  "What brought this on?"

"Something's coming.  I know something is coming," he said quietly.  "That's why I was outside and why Halfrek showed up to help me."

"Sure.  She sounds like she understands a lot.  Probably been and seen a lot being a demon."  She smiled at him.  "Did she help?"

"She suggested I ask others, but if I asked my father he'd have a heart attack."

"Possibly but he's had to go there more often than I have."  She ruffled his hair.  "Come on, let's get a statement. I'll even make a statement to the press if you want."  He nodded.  "Should I ask Draco for that?"  He nodded.  "I thought I might.  He sounds more educated and snotty, which the papers like more."  She led him back to his friends, pulling out her notepad to take notes.  "Okay, from the top.  You knew what when?"


Harry looked at the next morning's paper, then at Alex, who was still in bed.  "They quoted you as saying you're supporting me to do what you have to.  That no one has to fear you being a dark lord in the making because all you'd take out would be those who hurt their kids.  Fudge praised you greatly for not killing him.  He'll be snide next week."  He patted Alex on the hand.  "Did you get any sleep?"

"Dad gave me a good dose of dreamless sleep."

"Good.  You still look like hell."

"I'm worried about Neville. Where did I fail him?"

"Nowhere, Alex.   He made his decision."

"Alex, evil is a great salesman," Draco said from his other side.  "Their campaign runs on whatever you fear or long for.  Power, the threat to join them or die, the longing for riches or power, all of it is laid out before each person like a used broom. We each pick it over and take the deal offered or pass it by, even if we come back for it later when the deal becomes stronger and they feel they can't refuse.  Some people pass it by without looking and some people come back time and again for test rides, like you and I.  We're comparing it to what we already have.  Potter there is flying it because his is over-polished and getting worn out."  Harry swatted him with the paper.  "Thank you for putting on that silencing charm."  He cuddled up tighter against Alex, giving him a squeeze.  "Longbottom decided the deal was a good one and took it no matter that other broom sellers were offering him a faster, smoother, and cheaper ride.  You and I compared it and found our brooms better than that one, even if it's by the same company, maybe even the same model in my case.  Potter's found he likes the slick pole on his and decided to keep his broom by another company, even if he did slick down that handle a few times as well."  Harry swatted him again, grimacing.  "You did.  By using their tactics, you made someone on that side wet."

"What happens if we have to act again this year?" Alex asked quietly, plucking at the blanket.  "Tonks thinks if something happens for real then the Ministry might try to arrest us or try the school somehow."

"I'm sure they will," Draco agreed.  "You didn't make Fudge any less worried."  Alex nudged him with his elbow.  "You didn't.  The same as Potter didn't.  That nice quote I gave might ease the fear in the general people but Fudge uses the press to his advantage.  If something happens, you summon my ass so I can make a better statement and bring the press with the aurors or before the aurors."

"Yes, Draco," he said patiently.  "Do I have to?"

"Yup."  Harry laid down on his other side.  Alex gave him a long look.  "Sorry, I'm tired."

"If you slept instead of polishing your broom," Draco started.   Harry gave his head a shove, making Draco laugh.  "You and Alex both need to quit polishing your brooms."

"Consider it strengthening my wand hand," Alex told him.  Draco laughed and Harry looked horrified.  "What?  I like the male form, I'm in my natural habitat, you're temping in the field."  He snuggled in, hearing someone move out in the main room.  "Either we're about to be pounced or the house elves are straightening up."  He held up the blanket, letting Harry underneath with him and Draco.  Someone tapped on the door.  "I'm getting cuddled."

Snape walked in and paused, then shuddered and turned around.  "I don't want to know."

"You can tell my father I wasn't touching Alex, we were both touching Potter."  He put his head back down after a blown kiss across Alex's chest.

"Minister Fudge is here to see you three."

"Yay," Harry told him. "I don't talk to the man.  Is Tonks or someone here?"

"No.  They want to talk to you three without teachers present."

"You can tell him he can kiss my asshole, and use plenty of tongue," Alex told him.  His father snorted and glanced at him, shaking his head.  "Aw, come on, dad."

"No.  As much as I want to, that wouldn't serve my ends."

"Dad, if something happens, are you going back?" Alex asked quietly.

Snape turned and looked down at him.  "If at all possible I will avoid it, son," he said gently.  "If not, I will go back to what I was before and not include you."

"Fine.  What happens if I have to kill someone to make sure it doesn't happen?" Alex told him.

"Are you planning on that?"

"No, but it can easily happen.  If it does, what are we going to do?" Alex asked. "Especially if Halfrek, Tonks, and Draco are right and the Ministry tries the school and I end up fighting them next year too?"

"We'll stomp that bug when it comes to it," Snape said simply.  "Should someone try to attack you for what you have to do to protect yourself or your friends, then so be it."  Alex relaxed and nodded.  "I would like you to let some of the defending fall on, say, mine or McGonagall's shoulders however."  Alex stuck his tongue out.  "Protect those you can, son.  Since Mr. Longbottom's slide we're all on more alert.  Now, get up and please be dressed."

Alex flipped back the blanket, showing him and Draco in boxers, and Harry in sweats.  His father sighed so he got out with his father's help, walking up with him.  Draco and Harry followed once Draco had pants.  Alex had to come back to get pants at Flitwick's look.  He followed them back, going up to the headmaster's office.

"Thank you, boys."  He looked at them.  "What did you think you were doing?"

"Solving shit you didn't," Draco told him simply.  He looked at Alex then at Potter.  "You hold him, your lap is bigger and more sturdy since you're of more stocky background."

"Just make me sound like an ox, especially since I'm shorter than you," Harry said dryly, pulling Alex into his lap to hold him.  "There, kid."

"Thanks, alternate dad."

Fudge glared at them.  "Do not try such cutesy games with me," he spat.  "What did you think you were doing?  You let one boy go to the dark?"

"I warned Neville about him," Alex said coldly, glaring back at him.  "I warned him a lot.  Neville knew he could have come to Harry or I anytime to talk to us."

"Neville did come down a few days ago," Draco reminded him.  "You were in detention and we cleared out to give Harry and him privacy."

"Neville didn't say anything about that stuff.  He didn't even hint at it," Harry told him.  "He seemed kinda sad. I guess he made his decision and wanted to say goodbye maybe."  He patted Alex on the stomach.  "Neville made his decision, Minister Fudge."

"The fact that the teachers knew what was going on and let it keep going means that we were put in the position of having to stop it," Draco told him.  "Crouch attacked Alex first.  He interrupted him while he was talking to someone who was helping him with a personal issue.  He attacked Alexander and Alexander had to stop him or he'd have been hurt."


"So?" Harry asked coldly.  "Alexander could have been killed by that maniac. I'm damn happy that my given child was able to protect himself until the teachers got there.  Especially since your auror ended up standing there and watching it too to see what was going on."

"Given child?" he sneered.

"I am Alexander's guardian," he said coolly.  "That makes him my given child."

"You're still a minor."

"Wrong, I'm emancipated."  Harry smirked at him.  "The Wizengomet agreed."  He gave Alex another squeeze.  "Now, why are you here and why did you request this meeting without the teachers?"

"Because I know that you're all going to go dark," he sneered.  "In their cases darker."

"The only people I want to hurt are Draco's father and those people who hurt their children or who let children be hurt," Alex told him, ice coming out of every pore of his body.  He stood up, moving closer.  He saw the fear in the older mans' eyes.  "Why would I need to go dark, Fudge?  I have everything I could ever need at the moment except a boyfriend.  I've got more money than Draco. I'm as pretty as Draco.  I'm stronger than Potter, my father, and at least half the teachers in this school.  I get respect here from a lot of people, especially ones I consider important, like McGonagall and Flitwick. I have everything I need except a boyfriend.  I have people working on that though," he said with a smirk.  "Why do I need anything from *your* side of the battle?  If all you want is power, then the dark must be easy for you.  I don't want the same things you do.  I want peace.  I want to live my life without fighting people like you, Lucius, and Grams.  If I have to help Harry remove them to get some peace, so be it," he offered.  "I'll take a boyfriend from the war prizes. Then I'll go live in peace and help other kids who're being tortured like you let me be."

"Calm down, Alex," Draco ordered.  "Come here."  Alex looked at him, then back.  He found Fudge had pulled his wand.  "Oooh, look, he's got a wand."

"Yay."  Alex punched him, making him scream. "I don't let people threaten me."  He smiled sweetly when the teachers came in.  "He pulled his wand on me.  I hit him for it."  He walked over and looked at the two possible laps.

"Should you do that, I would have to scream, Alexander," Snape said dryly.

"Let me call up a sofa," Dumbledore noted, summoning one from downstairs.  "There, boys.  Go ahead and sit there."  They moved back there, cuddling up with Alex having one arm, Draco next to him, and Harry leaning in the other direction against the other arm.  They all looked bored. Dumbledore motioned at the teachers to sit.  Then he helped Minister Fudge up.  "There you are, Cornelius."  He sat in his desk chair and looked at the boys.  "I will note something now.  Alexander, your vow is to protect your house."

"She asked me to protect the innocents in the school, especially those who're being hurt at home."

"Which you do wonderfully," Dumbledore assured him.  "But the rest of us would have liked to hit that man last night."

"He attacked me," Alex reminded him.  "Halfrek and I were talking ethics of being forced into battle."  Dumbledore raised an eyebrow.  "I'm wondering what would happen if one of these times I'm attacked and I have to kill to get free."

"That would be most grave, but I cannot see that you should be charged for that," McGonagall noted.

"I was going to ask for his wand to see what he cast," Dumbledore noted. Alex shook his head.  "You're refusing?"

"I only hand my wand to an official I trust, like Tonks or her mother, or their boss, or my father or McGonagall.  Flitwick if he demanded it.  We both know I'm not in the right frame of mind today to be so trusting, sir."

"Alexander," Snape said quietly.  "Give it to me."

"Summon it then.  I left it in the bedroom."  Snape gave him a look.  "He was scared of me unarmed and pulled his wand when I turned my back on him, father.  If I had been armed, he'd have done it sooner and probably tried to harm Harry or Draco as well.  Professor Snape may summon it if he feels it necessary."  Fudge started to make protesting noises so he glared at him until he was silent.

"Accio Alexander's wand," Flitwick cast, catching it easily.  He looked it over before casting the 'last known charm' spell.  "Bone shrinking and the one Tonks cast to see what he cast."  He handed it to Alexander.

"What about before that?" Fudge demanded.

"Probably to float over some pie," Alex said, casting it himself back ten spells, letting him see.  "As I thought, nox, floating pie over.  Floating paper over.  Two charms from class.  The disguise spell to practice."

"Why are you doing those?" Fudge sneered.

"Because Grams used to make me learn her old texts and law books with the imperious," he replied smartly.  "I've already done all the work in charms, transfiguration, and defense.  I'm doing extra lessons on my own so I'm not *bored*."  Fudge shivered and backed away.  "You're really not on my threat list, Fudge.  My shit list, but you're down it to the level of dealing with you in the press and the courts."

"You can't hurt me in either," he sneered.

"Really?  Tonks?"  She and her mother strolled in.  "I'm sorry, when I was giving statements on Gram's old parties and dinner guests, I forgot him.  He who called my Grams 'nice, sweet, and kind' repeatedly in front of me.  I charge him with being a Death Eater.  If you could check?"

"You're willing to make formal charges?" the elder Tonks asked.

Alex nodded.  "In front of the courts if I have to. His remarks and his frequency in my house, plus how he used to cheer my Grams on to punish me for the act of breathing and sleeping, literally twice."  Draco looked up at him.  "It was his idea to choke me that day, Draco.  Thankfully you and Greg showed up in time."

"I thought it was an allergic reaction."

"Yeah, well, your mum didn't know enough yet to protest," he noted coldly.  "If she had, she would have kidnaped me that night.  By the way, if you need to have official records of it, she took me to a doctor named Koret in Sutton when she did the really bad things."

The younger one went to look him up in the directory.  He was quickly found and the file commandeered. She came back about ten minutes later to find Fudge in chains.  "Find it, mum?" she asked.  She looked at Alex, giving him a hug.  "I'm glad you survived, Alex. You're right neat and I'd miss having you around.  You sure you won't join us?"

He grinned sadly.  "I love you and your mum, Tonks, but if I join the Ministry I'm going to be the guy who goes to take kids away from bad parents.  If I don't, I'm going to file to be a foster parent."

"Sure, Alex.  You'll make one hell of a dad."  She handed it to her mother, already held open.  "His name's listed repeatedly by her own admission.  He did file with the Ministry but it was listed as 'guardian too dangerous, do not touch, just note and help where possible'."

"He did.  He called Lucius and got Auntie Narcissa," Alex told her.  "He's the one who told Auntie Narcissa and let her have that file."  She nodded, leaving it there.  "By the way, Narcissa and Greg's stepmum tried repeatedly to take me.  Grams threatened their kids if they kept trying.  The same as she told my father she'd kill both of us if he tried to see me or claim me."

"At least you found him," the elder Tonks noted, smiling at him. "You better now?"

"I could use a boyfriend and Lucius said he'd kill both of us if I touched Draco here. Lucius is tiring my patience out.  Can't I have him yet?"

"No," the elder Tonks said gently. "Let us, kiddo.  We like to hurt him a lot."

"He killed my mother," he said quietly.  She stiffened.  Snape nodded.

"Really?" the younger Tonks noted.  McGonagall and Snape both nodded.  "Draco, love, where's his Mark?  Being his son I assume you've snuck a few hugs now and then."

"He's never undressed in front of me," he told her.  "I wasn't allowed into his room.  I do know that his pants are really loose."

"It's on his right upper thigh," Snape told her. "I have my own reason to hate him."  He looked at his son.  "Let them.  You can be there and cheer them on."

"Must I?"

"Yes," Snape said.  They locked eyes and he saw his son give in.  "You have more problems at this moment than Lucius Malfoy."

"Yeah, like the Ministry trying to hurt the school for attacking Harry and I or them trying us just because we're standing against the dark."

"If they should come, we will take care of them," Dumbledore assured him.

"And if they attack me directly?" Alex asked.  "I'm not living here, Headmaster.  I like my house now that it's been cleaned of dark magic."  He inclined his head at that.  He frowned and looked at Draco, then his father.  "Did you two pay Pansy her bribe to stay away from me?  She hasn't tried to get near me yet."

"I did," Draco agreed. "She's wearing it to the ball."

"Eww," Harry sighed.

"Hey, lil' Tonks?  Take Harry to the ball?" Draco asked.

"I might not mind.  Can ya dance, Harry?"

"Alex and Sirius have been trying," he admitted. "I'm not sure I can."

Tonks kissed him on the cheek.  "Sure, Harry.  We'll be cute.  It'll give me a chance to clean up and be pretty."  She winked at him.  "What'cha wearing?"

"Black," Alex told her.  "We had to fight about that one."  She smiled and nodded.  "Should we help him pick out a corsage or anything?"

"Nah, flowers are for delicate girls."

"She likes knives and stuff," her mother offered, grinning at her daughter.

"Really?  Dad, didn't we get something like that cleaned up?  I thought you were giving them to Harry," Alex offered.

"He did," Harry agreed.  He grinned and summoned them, smiling as he smoothed over the leather case, handing them to her.  "Here, decorations."

She opened the box and squealed at the jeweled bodice daggers.  "Ooh, Harry!  I love 'em!  Can I wear 'em that night!"

"Sure.  They'll be the perfect jewels for your beauty," Harry agreed with a shy grin for her.  She blushed and locked it up, putting it under her arm.  "I'll see you then?"

"Of course."  She yanked on Fudge's arm.  "C'mon, you dark lord wannabe.  You're keeping me from picking out somethin' pretty ta wear ta the ball."

Her mother smiled at Harry.  "I'll expect you to either be a perfect gentlemen or make her squeal and come in sore and tired the next morning from all the fun she had."  She nodded at the headmaster.  "Always fun."  She trotted after them.

"Quite a show," McGonagall said once they were alone.

"He started it," Alex said.

"I meant getting Harry and Tonks together," she said with a smile. "They are quite a lot alike."  She stood up.  "Are we done, Headmaster?  The boys need to eat and I want them back in their room today since some of my dumber Gryffindors are being stupider than usual."

"They blame me for Neville," Alex said flatly.  She shook her head.  "They don't?"

"They blame me," Harry told him.  He sighed.  "It sucks, I wasn't even there.  I was up here getting told to 'buck up' and 'it'll be fine, just do what you have to'."

"They're being really damn unfair," Draco complained.  "We're not that petty."

"Yeah, but I'm supposed to be the savior," Harry said bitterly.  "I didn't save my friend."  He stood up.  "We're going back down there.  We're all tired."

"Go," McGonagall told him.

They went down together, leaving the teachers to speak.  They had to walk through the crowds since it was a change of class moment, but most of the kids gave them a wide berth.  One kid got in their face, standing in their path and refusing to move. "Seamus," Alex said quietly. "Leave Harry alone.  Neville and I were there, not him."

"Why wasn't he?" he asked coolly.

"He was being berated by the headmaster for being a Gryffindor and not paying attention," Draco told him.

"Why were *you* there then?" he demanded of Draco.

"Because I felt someone I care for come in.  I've shown up all the other times she's shown up if you knew anything about it."  He shrugged.  "I got there after the supposed teacher pounced him.  For that matter, I'm the one who froze Longbottom after he cast the unforgivable.  I'm the one who stopped him from killing Alex."  Seamus nodded, getting out of the way.  "Come down later.  The guys and I can clear out for a while so you can yell at him in private."  He tugged on Alex's sleeve.  "Come on, you're supposed to be in bed since you didn't get any last night."

"Why not?" Millicent asked quietly from behind them.

"He still has nightmares, Millicent," Draco said.

"He also had aftershocks from the cruciatus," Harry told her gently.

"Harry," Alex sighed.

"Sorry, Alex.  I know she's a friend.  I didn't think you'd mind."

"I don't care.  I ache.  I'm going to go to bed.  You guys can come talk later too," he told her, walking off through the gathered students.

"Are you and he dating, Draco?" Millie asked.

"I still like girls, we're just very close," Draco told her.  She sighed, then hit him on the arm, making him moan and grab his arm.  "Bloody hell!  Bitch!"

"Idiot!  He cares for you more than anything."  She stomped off, then came back.  "I got your letter, Draco, prove it."

"They meet each Wednesday in the third floor west, last room on the right," Harry said quietly next to her ear.  "Come see the map if you don't believe me.  It only takes ten minutes or so."  She nodded, backing off and heading to class.

"You should already be in your classes by now!" Snape yelled as he came toward them. Students scattered.  He looked at the two remaining boys.  "Why are you still here?"

"Setting the story straight," Draco told him.  "Inviting some of them down to talk to us in person."  He turned and walked off, still rubbing his arm.

Harry looked at him.  "Alex already headed down there.  Is it really over?"

"For now.  More is coming but not at this moment. For now, enjoy what you can."  He walked past him.  "Go back to bed and have my son make sure you won't embarrass yourself."

"Yes, sir."  He walked off, going back to their rooms.  He found his robes hanging up and pulled them out to try them on.  They fit so he looked at himself in the mirror in his room.  "Are we sure I look okay in this?" he called.

"Yes," Draco and Alex called back.


Alex looked around the ball, looking bored. He sipped his punch, hanging on the wall.  He hated this sort of event.  If it weren't for Draco and Harry he'd be napping at the moment.  Draco walked past, Pansy clinging to his arm.  She had tricked him into agreeing to take her.  He handed a house elf his empty glass and looked around again. He saw Ron gaping at Hermione and Vicktor becasue he was heavily jealous.  He still thought she was into witches, but she had a good cover at the moment.  He was too tired to even try.  He was still worried that something would happen and the worry was driving him insane.   He stiffened when someone touched his arm, but he relaxed when he saw it was Millicent.  "Hi."

"Dance with me, Alex?" she asked quietly.  "I hate my future spouse."  He nodded, walking her out there.  The last dance ended just a few steps after they got out there so they danced the next dance.  "Why don't you go steal Draco from Pansy?"

He snorted, shaking his head.  "He's still straight, Millie.  He likes the softer sex.  We're very tight, he's like my mate, but he'll never be mine.  I realize that, it's all a game and tease between us.  Of course, if she keeps pissing him off, I might go smack her anyway," he offered.  He looked at her and switched her off, ending up with Pansy a few minutes later.  He looked at her.  "Do you mind not being so blatant?  You're embarrassing yourself, Draco, and the Slytherins."  She sneered so he sneered back, making her shiver.  "You're acting like a whore.  I'm going to send pictures of that dress to your mother.  After all, Snape took a house picture."  He spun her off, then got Millicent back a few beats later, smirking at her.  "Make sure dad gets a piccie of her to send to her mom."

"He took a house picture when he saw her and one of the seventh years."  She pointed at the young woman who you could see the crack of her ass hanging out of her dress. She didn't have the body for it and it was hanging out of the bottom of the skirt in a jiggly mass.  "I'll make sure he sends it to her mother as well."  A Ravenclaw came up to her, so she bowed to him and went with him for the next dance.

He started to vacate the floor but Tonks smiled as she grabbed him, spinning him off.  "Why so glum?" she cooed, dancing with him.  "You do this very well."

"Practice," he offered with a grin.  He led her through that dance, then spun her off when he noticed Harry looking around.  Harry caught her, smiling at him before dancing her off.  He gracefully walked off the floor, heading for more punch.

"Alexander," McGonagall called, coming over to him.  "Dear, are you all right?"

"Just worried."  He smiled at her.  "Would you like to dance with me, Professor?"

"No dear. It's been a long time since I've danced."  She patted him on the cheek.  "Quit worrying.  It won't be during the regular year.  He has too big a feel for the dramatic."  He stared at her.  "He does.  Ask Mr. Malfoy.  That's who Lucius learned it from."  He fully relaxed and smiled for the first time in weeks.  "Does that ease your worries?"

He nodded.  "That means it'll be during one of the tests."  She nodded.  "The second one is underwater?"  She nodded.  "Does he like water?"  She shrugged and walked off, smiling.  He walked over to where his father was.  "Father, a question."  He looked over at him.  "Does your former boss like water or will it be the third trial he'll act during?"

"He's not fond of water and so far he's acted during the spring each year."

"Then it'll be the third trial, I have time to help him prepare."  Snape nodded.  "Good."  He clapped him on the arm.  "Now all I need is a boyfriend," he sighed, looking around.  Hermione walked over to him.  "Dear, you're not my type."

"I only want a dance, Alexander," she offered.  He nodded, taking her out to dance with her, formally correct.  At the end she curtseyed and then smiled.  "Thank you, Alexander."  She walked off, rejoining her date.

He went back to the punch bowl, finally getting another cup.  He noticed Draco lounging against the wall.  "Your whore off making you money?" he joked.

"Making her mother money," he said, taking another sip.  "Do I have enough house loyalty to leave her already?"

"Yeah.  You're more than handsome enough to bag anyone on here, except maybe the veela."

"I'm more than good enough for her."

"Yes, but she's looking for something different."  He nodded at the girls walking past them.  They giggled and blushed.  "I'm gonna go head."

"No, stay.  Be bored with me."  Draco looked at him.  "I don't want to be stranded here."

"Neither do I."  He nodded politely at Ron as he walked past with a girl.  "Go steal her."

"I'd rather not."

"Millie's looking for someone to beat Flint."

"With the fight they had, I'm not surprised," he noted, finishing his punch and putting the glass down.  It disappeared from his hand.  "They're being very efficient tonight."

"If they aren't, they'll be cleaning all night.  Even house elves need to sleep."  He finished his punch and put his cup down.  It disappeared too.  "I'm bored."

"Me too," Draco agreed.

"You can't leave yet," Harry said as he walked Tonks past them to get her some punch.

Draco looked at her.  "I like the daggers, cousin.  They glitter nicely from your cleavage."  He looked around again.  "I'm so very bored.  Are you throwing yours this year, Alex?"

"No.  Narcissa said she's not throwing hers either."  Draco smiled at that.  "That doesn't mean one can't spontaneously start," he warned. "Some people might assume and show up anyway."

"If so, I'll be at your house within moments," he assured him.  "I plan on spending my whole vacation in either flannel, cashmere, or velvet."  He nodded at McGonagall as she passed by to break up a groping couple.  "Do you really want to teach defense and have to do that?"

"No.  Not really at the moment."  He looked around again, then shook his head.  "I'm tired.  I'm going to bed."

"Don't," he complained, catching his arm.  "Please, Alex.  Don't abandon me here."

"Draco, there's no one here for me to hang out with. You're going to be stolen again and why do I want to be surrounded by women?"  Draco gave him a hurt look. "This is your scene, you're king here.  You like girls.  They're all pretty for you and guys like you.  Guys like me are few and far between; there's almost none here.  Those who are...."  He pointed at the only other gay students he knew - who were a couple.  "It was dumb of me to come."  He looked at his friend. "Go be the king stud you are.  Have fun and find a damn woman to keep us up with tonight."  He got free and walked off, heading out to enjoy the night.  He was a night person.  The stars were his family and the dark was his home.  He stopped outside, looking up and sighing in pleasure.  He was cold, but oh well.  He pulled his wand.  "Accio cloak," he cast, catching it a moment later.  He swung it around his shoulders, deciding on a walk.

"Where are you going? You're supposed to be inside," a gruff voice said behind him.

Alex turned to look at the real Mad Eye Moody.  "For a walk.  I'm a night person."

"Why aren't you inside, kid?"

"I'm gay.  That's for kids who like the opposite sex."  The teacher looked stunned. "By the way, I've still got that textbook your stand-in gave me.  I'll hand it back after the holiday."

"Then you're Alexander Birmingham?"  Alex nodded, stepping closer.  "You any good?"

He grinned.  "Test me after the break, professor.  I'll need more to do then anyway."

"Fine.  Don't let those out."

"Only to Potter and Malfoy."

"He's a bad guy."

"Is he?  Are you so sure of that?"

"His father is."

"He's not his father," he said calmly.

"His mother is."

"His mother's not.  She's incredibly caring and tried to save me from the torture the Ministry allowed my grandmother to do," he said coolly.  "She and Draco are my family. I would watch your step against them."  He nodded, accepting that.  "Maybe if you watched Draco as much as you keep harping on us about doing, you'd see the real Malfoy, not his father's shadow.  Some of us have."  He turned and walked off.  "I'm for a walk."

"You still shouldn't be out here, boy."

Alex laughed.  "I'm a lot better than most people think," he called.  "You'd know that if you were watching me."  He continued on, enjoying the night, ignoring the old man behind him.  He walked past a few kids out for their own walk.  "Moody's on the doorstep," he called to them.  They looked alarmed and headed inside.  He had to warn a few other couples, then he got the winter night alone.  He pulled up his hood to keep the wind out of his ears, and pulled it over far enough to try to warm his nose back up.  He headed for the lake, wandering along his usual path.  He paused to stare at the stars and heard a step in the snow nearby, glancing around.  His only blind spot was behind him so he looked in the water.  That's why he turned and shot a blast of light at the person trying to sneak up on him.  "It won't work."

"You're to die!  Traitor!" the man hissed. "Blood traitor!"

"You first."  He pushed his hood back to clear his peripheral vision.  He saw another dark shape and calmed himself.  If he had to fight, he'd fight.  If he could get away without it, he'd do so.  The other dark shape came out of the woods and turned into someone he felt like he recognized but he wasn't sure why.  He was watching so he ignored him for now.  Instead, he focused on the real threat.  That had only taken a moment, but the guy in front of him was still posturing. "Aren't you done pumping yourself up yet?  You're interrupting my enjoyment of the night air."  The man glared and shot off a hex.  He reflected it and sent another one back at him, making him scream in pain as the heat hit him.  They were in the snow and it was really cold, any heat would cause pain.  He did it again, then switched to another light blast, blinding him.  He ducked the wide hex he sent and sent a simple jelly legs, then walked over to take the other wand, putting it in his pocket.  "Who are you?" he demanded coldly.  The man continued to scream in pain.  "Oh, give it up!  It's not like I hurt you."  He leaned down and pulled off the hood he was wearing, looking at him.  "I don't know you.  Good."  He looked at the teachers rushing his way, waving the hood.  He looked for the other person but he was back in the shadows.  "Professor, there's another one, he's there," he said, pointing at the shadow.  "There."

McGonagall looked, then cast a spell to freeze him. The shadow continued to move.  "What was it, Alexander?"

"I don't know.  I feel like I should but I don't."

"Severus, I think that stupid vampire came back!" she called, pointing him out.

"Me?" he called, walking out of the woods, smoking.  "Nice work, Xander."

"Who?"  He looked at his father.  "Is he the one who tried before?"  He nodded. "Fine.  I'm heading off on my walk again then."

"Why?" the vampire asked.  He moved closer. "I know you.  You're not even curious?"

"No," he said.

"Why not!  This should be eating you!  I *know* you!"

"Yes, but if I get curious, I'm told humanity hangs in the balance," he said simply.  "I can't threaten it for curiosity."

"You can't...."

"I can," he said coldly.  "Now, disappear.  When I can know, I'll know.  Until then, I'm being a good boy," he sneered.  He nodded at the teachers.  "I'm being good.  I'm going back to my stroll."

"Go inside," the headmaster ordered.  Alex started to open his mouth.  "Mr. Birmingham!"

"No!  I'm out here legitimately. It's not like I'm snogging someone!  I'm out here to enjoy the night!  I like the night and the stars!  He pounced my ass!  I only stunned him and shot some low grade heat at him."  He walked off, heading back around the lake.  "There's no curfew tonight," he reminded them.   The vampire moved to head him off and found a wand in his throat.  "I will cut your head off.  That'll stop the threat to humanity by you trying to tell me shite I'm not supposed to know yet," he said coldly, staring in the blue eyes.  "Come back when I'm twenty-one.  I'm told it'll be fine then."  The vampire slowly stepped backward.  "Now, you're trespassing and this is a school full of wizards and witches.  Everyone here knows how to kill you if they're over thirteen.  That's about four hundred children.  Do you really want to risk humanity and what's left of your existence?"

The vampire shook his head.  "No, I'm good with living a bit longer."  He looked around, then back at him.  "Your birthday is when?"

"Come back on solstice in six years, vampire.  Meet me in London at the Leaky Cauldron if you can find it.  If I'm alive, I'll be there," he said simply.  The vampire nodded and turned, running off.  "Use the road, the woods are dangerous," he called.  He rolled his eyes, heading off again.  "Night, all."

"Alexander, head inside so we can get an account," Snape called.

"It's self-explanatory," he called back. "I paused, heard a footstep, looked in the lake, turned, ducked, fire, ducked, fired, got his legs, then walked over to dehood him."  He waved again.  "I'll see you before I get on the train in the morning."  He put his hood back up, then turned and threw the wand back at them.  "His."  He continued on, going back to enjoying his night, forgetting the vampire totally except to remind himself to tell his elves to remind him.  He took a few deep breaths and went back to his enjoyment of the night and the stars.  He continued wandering on, ignoring everyone else out there with him.  Though he did end up interrupting one couple in the middle of things.  "Teachers by the lake," he said in a sing-song voice.  They yelped and got dressed, hurrying inside.  Okay, so maybe he was wrong, she did like boys after all.  By the time he went back inside, it was well past midnight.  His friends were all asleep in the living room.  He smirked and shook his head, walking past them.  He did slam his door, knowing it would at least wake Ron and probably Greg too.  Then he did the locking charm and got undressed before sliding under his covers.  He closed his eyes and finished relaxing, just about to go to sleep when someone tapped on his door.  "I'm trying to nap."

"Let me in, bitch," Draco hissed.  Alex found his wand and undid the door, then Draco slammed it, harder this time.  Draco relocked the door at least, but stared down at him. "What did you think you were doing!"

"Going for a walk, Draco," he said as he flipped onto his other side. "I was enjoying the night air.  Remember, I like nights.  Nights are good.  Stars are nice.  Winter is pretty and snow doesn't glare under the moon."

Draco gave him a shove with his foot.  "You got into a brawl!"

"No, someone tried to jump me," he said tiredly.  "I used minor things, like shooting warm air at him.  Then I sent the vampire off again, told him I'd meet him in six year on Solstice at the Leaky."  He yawned for show, his eyes still closed.  "Get me up in time to get home."

"I should kick your ass!  You left me there!"

Alex sat up, glaring at him.  "Draco, I told you.  That's not my thing.  It's not my field of play.  Those people didn't want me there anyway.  Why in the hell should I dress up to impress girls, which I don't like, and dance with girls, which I still don't prefer?"  Draco looked hurt.  "I left you able to hunt and find a prize.  If you didn't at least score some groping, you weren't trying very hard."  He glared at him.  "You're ruining my happy mood.  You do realize this, correct?  I came in fairly happy and content and now I'm not?"  Draco started to glare again so he got up and put on something warmer, something he could sneak out in.  He put on his hiking boots and did them up, then grabbed his cloak and wand, heading back out, slamming the portrait.  He ran into Filch, who opened his mouth.  "There's still no curfew tonight."

"You're staying then?" he sneered.

Alex glared at him.  "I can and will kick your ass.  You're helping ruin the good mood I came back in with. I'm going back for another walk.  I can always sleep on the train."  He stomped off.

"Boys," he sneered.  "Prissy little boy."  The other one shoved him on his way past. "I'll see you in detention in the forest!" he called after him.

"Do it if it gets you off," Draco called, trying to catch up to Alex.  He found the front doors still locked and glared at the man in front of them.  "Where is your son!" he demanded.

"Did you misplace him again?" Snape asked dryly.

"He walked away from me."

"He didn't head back outside."

"He dressed for it...."  He hit himself on the head and headed up to the Room of Requirement.  It could be anything he wanted.  He paced back and forth but it wouldn't create a doorway for him.  He pounded on the wall and focused harder.  Alex must be doing something with an outside theme. He was dressed for it. The door finally opened and he walked inside, slamming it behind him.  He immediately shivered.  It was really cold and it looked like Alex's field at home that he liked to walk in.  He headed the way Alex usually did, finding him sitting on a log. "Not walking?" he asked snidely. Alex handed him his cloak, then disappeared.  "How did you do that!" shrieked.  He looked around. Nothing. Completely blank. A blank field.  Snow.  A few hidden logs.  He went back to where he had come in, heading out and then through a back passageway outside.  Alex wasn't that sneaky. He must have had the room create an exit out of the school before he laid that scene.  He found an open back door and snuck through it, heading outside.  Absolutely nothing.  He walked further out and listened to the door slam and lock behind him, but at least he had his wand.  He walked around, looking for footprints.  He found pawprints and a light dawned in his head. Alex was still an animagus.  He followed them, watching the newly returned human wandering off. "You'll die of cold."

"I don't need a mother."

"Obviously you do."

Alex looked back at him. "You're the one who planned to go out without a cloak, idiot."  He shapechanged down and then headed off at a trot.  This way smelled interesting.  Nearly untouched except by Hagrid and Fang.  He found a nice place to wander and started there, staying in the shadows to avoid Draco.  He saw him huff off and smiled, heading off to calm down again.  At least Draco hadn't frozen or forgotten his wand.  He continued to wander, not thinking, not planning, not anything but enjoying it.  Whenever he got cold, he changed into his wolf form and found a new path to wander on while he got warm again. It had been a long time since he'd spent all night outside like this and he had missed it.  He decided he'd go camping while he was home, no matter how much the elves complained.  By the time dawn came he was back at peace and happy.  He stayed until he heard the carriages, then went back into his room to get his bag.  He found everyone still asleep on the couch, smiling at them.  He grabbed his carpetbag and snuck back out, heading for the first carriage.  It willingly took him to the train.  There was always a first year eager to go home who would have run all the way.  He was really about the sixth one on there when he boarded. He nodded at the conductor, getting a smile.


"No, just tired of the castle.  I'm looking for some peace and quiet for a bit.  I'm going to nap."  That got a nod and a grin.  "I'll be in the last compartment on the right.  Don't tell anyone looking for me, okay?"  He hopped on and headed back, smacking one kid on the back of the head when he backed into him.  "Watch where you're going," he ordered.  The kid yelped and headed back to his compartment, all ideas about a mock duel in the aisle forgotten.  He found his compartment and glared the girl out of it, getting it to himself.  He sealed the doors, pulled all the shades, then settled in for a quick nap.  The noise of the other students arriving nearly woke him but he was tired. He snuggled deeper into his cloak and used his bag as a pillow.

Draco stood outside the door of the carriage, staring at the handle he couldn't open.  He knew Alex was inside.  He could tell Alex had done the locking spell.  Greg yanked on his arm.  "What?" he hissed.

"Maybe he's sleeping, Draco.  You said he ran off when you bothered him."

"I don't understand what went on last night."

"Draco, balls aren't for gay men without boyfriends," Ron said tiredly as he came out of his compartment and found a pillow.  His chair hadn't been comfortable.  "What was Alex supposed to do?  Play nice and dance with girls he either hates or is scared of?"  He closed his, Harry's, and Hermione's compartment door and went to lay down.  The others could share a seat.  "Night.  Alex is across the hall."

"I saw," she admitted.  She got up and looked out the door.  "Is it the seventh year spell?"

"No, it's something else.  The one he uses on his personal jewel safe."

"Most people pick codes they can remember.  Try numbers or words he might use as a combination."  She shut the door and sat back down, pulling out a book.  "Which house are you spending the holidays at, Harry?"

"Sirius'.  He thinks Alex might want to try to find a boyfriend this holiday and I don't want to have to witness that."  He grimaced.  "I'm sure I'll hear more than I ever wanted to know about gay sex when he does start dating."  Ron snored and they shared a smile.  She shook her head, but continued to smile when the explosion went off.  Draco walked past, looking unconcerned that he was tangerine orange.  At least until one of the twins shrieked in horror.  Apparently he knew who had done that to him.


Draco came out of the floo, dusting himself off, finding three worried elves staring at him.  "Where's Alex?"

"Hims say he be going out last night and hims not having come back yet," Twirly complained. "Him is being in big trouble!"

"He's probably walking out in the field and fell asleep in wolf form," he soothed.

"We checked whole estate," Marsette said urgently.  "He is not being here!"

"Have you checked with the bank?" he asked patiently.  They shook their heads. "Fine, let me call."  He went to the office, calling from in there since there was a direct line tin of floo powder.  "Apparently Alexander went out and never came back," he explained.

"He's fine.  The blood key on the dark arts vault is still intact."

"Did he call you or say anything when he made a withdrawal?"

"He said something about camping but not where," he admitted.  "He looked tired."

"He's been worried recently.  The rumors of the war restarting and things.  Thank you."  He hung up and looked around the office, finding the crystal that could always reach his ear.  He had a small chip embedded in his right ear so you could reach him in case of emergency.  "Alex," he called over it.  "Your house elves are ready to declare you stolen or dead."

"I'm camping, Draco," the answer came back.  "I told Marsette when I called. I said I'd be back in a few days.  I'm going back to bed now.  Night."

"Where are you?"

"Camping."  The crystal went dead.

Draco reignited it. "Alex, I'm worried about you and your fragile mind going wrong.  We are still friends."  He heard a sigh.  "When are you coming home?"

"A few days.  By the holidays. I mailed your present.  Night."  The crystal hung up again.

Draco glared at it, then got up and headed back to the kitchen.  "He said he told Marsette he was camping?"  Marsette slowly shook his head. "He said he called and told you that?"

"Him is not talking to me."  She elbowed Gibbons, who woke up.  "Is Master Alexander calling here?"  He shook his head.  "Him is saying he called. Said he camping?"

"Gibbons not talk to him," he defended.

"Twirly not either," she said.  "What is this camping?"

"It means he's enjoying the stars for a few days.  He said he'd be home then," he instructed.  "He'll probably need some laundry done and the like.  He'll be fine. He's got his wand."  They all wailed.  "He's not abandoning you!" he snapped.  "Get over it!  He'll be home by Christmas!"  They sniffled and nodded so he went home, glaring at the house elf who was waiting on him.  "What?"

"Mistress is waiting in study for her son," he reported, then disappeared.

He scowled and went that way. "Yes, mother?" he asked as he walked in.  He found Pansy and her mother waiting on him.  "I'm not marrying her either."

"Son, where is Alexander?"


"Where?" she asked patiently.

"He didn't say. He said he'd be home by the holidays."  He glanced at Pansy again and held in his shudder of revulsion. "All he said was camping."

"Did you two fight again?" Pansy sneered.  Draco broke her nose for her.  Then he waved his hand to make it quit hurting.

"Son, you do not hit girls."

"No, I won't hit my wife or my children.  I'm not marrying her so that makes her fair game to hit.  I'm tired of her shit.  She tricked me into taking her to the ball."  He sat down next to his mother.  "What did you need Alex for, mother?"

"We were wondering if he was throwing his party anyway," she said patiently.  He shook his head.  "Why not?"

"Because he's tired.  He didn't stay at our ball, much less be in the mood to throw one of his own."

"Pity.  That night I want you to go there and reroute anyone who shows up here. You may have one if you want."

"Mother, I'd rather just relax.  I'm tired of my fellow students.  It's been a long, strange year.  I'm tired.  Alex is very tired."

"Why?  Fuck him too hard?" Pansy sneered.

"I can hit you again," Draco reminded her.  "Also, did your mother see pictures of your dress and how you hung out of it and it was the wrong color for you?"  Her mother glared and got up, stomping off. "I'm sorry, mother.  I don't mean to pick on your friends."

"You used to like Mrs. Parkinson."

"Yes, well, her daughter used to be a human being instead of some tramp with spread legs for Millicent's boyfriend too."  Narcissa raised an eyebrow.  "Mr. Potter has this delightful map that shows where everyone in the castle is.  No matter who they are or where they are."  She looked stunned.  "We've watched Pansy and Marcus get together a number of times on the third floor, last room on the right if I remember correctly.  As has Millicent."

"Oh, dear," she sighed.  Draco showed her the pictures Snape had taken of the house before the ball and she stared at it, then at her son.  "You looked quite handsome."

"I did," he agreed.  "As did Alex and everyone else I dressed, including Potter.  He took cousin Nymphadora."

"I heard.  I saw a picture of her before she left.  Interesting jewels."

"A pair of jeweled bodice daggers Alex gave him.  Potter gave them to her because she appreciates weapons.  They looked quite suitable, but Alex left fairly early.  He was rather bored since there's no other gay boys at the moment who aren't unpaired."

Narcissa sighed, shaking her head.  "Is he still on that?"

"Yes and I doubt he's changing his mind.  He danced three dances.  Millicent, Tonks, and Granger."

She sighed again, shaking her head.  "Pansy's mother thinks he'll consent to the marriage contract now."

"Considering if she comes anywhere near him again, she's going to lose that necklace he bribed her with?" Draco said dryly.  "The one her mother used to secure the loan on their estate with?"  She looked horrified.  "It was a bribe for her to leave him alone permanently.  I take it she needs to look up the meaning of the word?  I also believe her mother knows that."  He looked over at her when she finally came back.  "What makes you think Alex wants your daughter?"

"She said so."

"He hates her.  He won't speak to her.  He hates all women but especially ones like your daughter and his grandmother."

"She said he gave her a present for the holidays."

"No, I saw his present list.  There wasn't anything in there for her."

"She got some earrings."

"Yes, well, she's been spreading her thighs for a great many people at the school. I'm supposing one of those sent them."

"Draco!" his mother snapped, horrified.

"If the truth hurts, she's doing something wrong," he said simply, leaning back to get comfortable.  "Alex would rather shag Filch than her," he assured the mother.  "He was planning on finding a nice boy to try things out with over this holiday so he's got a boyfriend lined up over the summer holiday."  He stared the mother down.  "Alex no more wants your daughter than I do, Mrs. Parkinson.  She's got a good bloodline but familiarity has bred contempt among some of us.  I know of at least three other boys, one of them a Ravenclaw pureblood, who say they've have her back hole but not her front.  Those are the ones bragging in the halls.  Considering two of them described her birthmarks on her arse cheek?"  He shrugged.  "I'm disinclined to ignore that sort of reputation."

"You will civilize your tongue or be grounded," Narcissa ordered coldly.

"Sorry, mum, I'd rather tell the truth in this case."  He stood up.  "That way she can't get her hopes up.  Any Malfoy wife has to be of the highest quality, disposition, and reputation."  He walked off, going up to his room to sulk over Alex not sharing things with him anymore.  It's like he wanted to dump him as a friend.


Alex walked into his vault manager's office, handing over his key. "Just a quick stop to be changed into muggle money."

"Are you finished camping?" he asked, filling out the forms.

"I am.  I'm going hunting."

"Oh, did you find game?" he inquired politely.

"No, I'm going to do that tonight."

"Some dark creature?"

"No, a boyfriend," he admitted.  The goblin looked at him so he grinned. "It's not like they suddenly show up at the school."

"No, I don't believe they would."  He carefully copied down an address from his rolodex.  "Might I suggest this place?  They are of the highest quality."

Alex looked at it.  "A brothel?"  The goblin nodded. "I'll keep it in mind but I want a real boyfriend. Someone to cuddle, that I don't have to pay."

"That is very rare among your class, Alexander," he cautioned.  "That is why marriage and mistress contracts were invented."  Alex grimaced.  "Keep them in mind.  They are very clean and very expensive, but also quite discreet."  He got a nod.  "How much?"

"Enough for a good night on the town.  Say a hundred gold?"  He nodded and wrote that down so he could send someone to get it for him.  It came back already changed over.  He stuffed his bankroll into his pocket, then looked down at himself.  "Do I look okay?"

"I would probably bathe and find fresh clothes," he advised.  Alex beamed and left.  The goblin shook his head.  The young humans he helped were odd. It wasn't often he got called on to give dating tips.  Suitability of marriage partners's finances, but not dating tips.


Alex came out of his room, frowning at his elves. "I'll be back tomorrow."

"Wait, you must eat!" Twirly demanded.

"I just ate!"

"You must eat again!"

"Twirly," he snapped. She whimpered and he modulated his tone.  "I love you, Twirly, but I'm a big boy.  I'm going to go find myself a date.  I'll be back tomorrow.  You can feed and spoil me then, when I'm in the bath most of the day.  I'll be back tomorrow probably by lunch."  He walked out, heading down the stairs at a trot.  "Hi, dad.  I'm going to go find a man." His father caught him by the hand, making him look at him.  "What?"

"Where were you?"

"Camping.  As I told Marsette."

"She had no idea.  They were quite worried and you didn't answer any summons."

"Sorry.  I was enjoying that vacation thing.  And now I'm going to go find my ass a man to cuddle with for at least a few hours.  Hopefully longer.  Stay over and I'll be back tomorrow."

"I am your father, do not speak to me that way."

"Dad!  I don't need a chaperone this time!  I'm going to go to a club and get laid if I have my way."  His father looked stunned. "Why is it that everyone but me gets a damn vacation!  This is my vacation and suddenly I'm wanted by the whole damn world to do everything!  Yes, I want to spend time with you but you look really tired too.  I'm still really tired.  Draco interrupted me."

"What's wrong?  You should have liked the ball."

"What good is a bunch of heterosexual people looking to mate with their own kind going to do for me?" he asked sarcastically.  His father looked stunned.  "The only other gay people at Hogwarts are a couple in the sixth year. They're Hufflepuffs.  I'm not breaking up a couple so I can get some ass.  I do deserve to be wanted by someone who wants *me*.  Just me.  Not my vaults, not my knowledge, not my wand.  Just me.  You love me because you're my father and you're worried.  That's why I'm coming back tomorrow.  That and I'll probably need a soak.  This way we both get a night away from people who expect us to be too much for our fragile mortal lives.  Tonight I'm just going to be Alex, slightly slutty and kinky, looking for a nice boy.  You're going to be Severus and sit around and read while my house elves spoil you.  Then tomorrow, we'll come back to being Alex Birmingham and Severus Snape, when everyone and their fucking mother expect us to play roles we've built up over the years. All right?  Can we go with my plan tonight without too much pouting?"

"I do not pout."

"You do pout, you're pouting now."  His father scowled instead.  "See, I told you you were pouting.  Can I go?"  He nodded.  "Thank you.  I'll see you when I get back.  Hopefully with bruised knees and needing a long soak."

"Son, those would be details I should protest."

"Fine.  I won't share with you either.  It's not like I can share with anyone else!"

"Draco doesn't want to know?"

"No.  He couldn't understand why I didn't want to stay around and watch the horny boys try to get the slutty girls.  He's much too het for that."  He walked off, heading for the floo and Diagon.  From there he could exit though the Leaky and be in muggle London.  He had plenty of cash and he could easily find a nice gay club from there.  After all, a few had moved into the neighborhood.


Draco came out of the floo late that night, looking around the quiet house.  "Twirly?  Did he come home yet?" he called.

"Alexander has been home and gone again," Marsette answered. "He be home tomorrow to soak his butt."

"What?" he asked, looking amused.

"Hims tell Father that he being coming home with bruised knees and a sore butt."

Draco rolled his eyes.  "That stupid boy," he muttered.  "Where's Severus?  I need to talk to someone intelligent who doesn't nag."

"In library reading."

He headed that way, tapping on the door first.  "My mother's still nagging me about telling Pansy's mother what a slut she is. Want some company?"

"If you wish," he agreed.  "Alex is out getting laid at a bar."

"Wonderful.  Wish I could."

"You are the right age to do that."

"Can't you hear my mother if she found out?  She'd be screaming long after she died of a stroke.  I'd hear her ghost wailing forever that I wasn't finding a wife."

"All young men need stress relief."

"So?  It doesn't matter to her."  He settled in across from him.  "Where did he go?"

"London."  He looked at him.  "He said you didn't understand why he didn't want to stay at the ball either."

"I was as bored as he was.  I knew everyone there and there's no decent conversation there that I haven't heard a million times.  I did hear Miss Lovegood got a new butterbeer cork."

"She showed me," Snape admitted, sounding unimpressed.

"That feeling is why I didn't want to stay.  But would Alex help me not be bored?  No!"  He snorted.  "He decided to go off and play wounded nancy and wander around until he nearly got jumped.  Then when I hear and wait up, he slams into the room to wake me up.  He yelled at me when I tried to talk to him and ran away again."

"You seem to keep misplacing my son," Snape noted sarcastically.  "Did you intend to claim him as your possession?  Perhaps like a security blanket?"  Draco scowled at him.  "What will you do when he's got a serious boyfriend?"

Draco snickered.  "Alex won't be holding onto one person, Professor.  Alex can't figure out what shoes to wear with what outfit.  He's paying lip service to the idea of a boyfriend.  A real one would take effort and caring.  Not just the cuddling and sex he envisions."

"There are many people who aren't looking for an emotional tie, they seem to be more prevalent among young men than women.  He could find one of those."

"Yes, but they're mostly straight men who find slutty little girls who don't mind if they don't cuddle afterward.  Alex would never settle for someone who didn't cuddle and pet him."  He sat up. "He went to muggle London?"  Snape nodded. "Is he totally stupid!"

"He thinks there's almost none like himself here."

"Well, there's not, but if he goes to Paris, there's a whole section of the wizarding part of town with gay little wizards for him."  Snape raised an eyebrow.  "My father warned me."

"I'll advise him of that."  He opened his book back up.  "You never answered.  What will you do when he seriously starts dating.  He said you didn't want any details either."

"None of us in the room want details, Professor.  The same as we don't want to hear each other wanking off, we don't want details of each others' sex lives.  The same as we don't want any from Granger, even if it would fuel a few fantasies of Vincent's if I'm reading him correctly."  Snape grimaced and shuddered, then went back to his reading.  "I'm fine with Alex dating.  Even if I don't want details I'm fine with him dating."

"Really?  He'll have to have someone to talk to.  The same as you will.  If his friends won't he'd have to find a different friend."

"For some reason I just got the image of him and Lovegood chatting about boys over butterbeers at the inn."  Snape reached over to slap him.  "Thank you!"  He shook his head.  "Do you think Alex is avoiding me because of that?"

"I think it's more giving you time to decide if you want to dump him since you can't possibly understand any relationship he'll ever be in and he feels the same," he admitted quietly.  "I also think that Potter is putting him under a great deal of stress."

"No, that's the fact that he knows there'll be an attack and Potter can't cast an unforgivable yet and Alex can't take out a dementor but he could kill a dark lord."  Snape dropped his book.  "One of them will have to.  The prophecy was quite specific.  Longbottom's out, that leaves them.  Potter doesn't want to kill.  He'll hesitate.  Alex and I both see him struggling with that concept.  He keeps hearing his name put as 'that murderer'."  Snape nodded slowly.  "Alex thinks that if they do manage to defeat whatever's going on, the Ministry will try to get him back for outing Fudge and the others by attacking the school more subtly and that he might have to kill someone else next year. Probably to protect everyone from some horrible freak taking over to Defense."  Snape sighed and nodded. "His track record isn't good and he asked Tonks if killing someone who was evil was ethical if it saved the school."  Snape nodded again.  "He thinks it'll happen again next year and he'd have to deal with it at the beginning instead of waiting."

"It's possible.  The Ministry is trying to move to block off Dumbledore."

"They can try, but if they do too much it'll hamper our education."

"Which means those who need the knowledge won't get it," Snape reminded him.  "Most of them don't think Alex is really teaching Potter, just tutoring him.  Him actually teaching him means that their worst fears were realized. There would be no hope of them raising the Dark Lord should those two truly work together."

"They're going to try that then?"  Snape nodded.  "We're sure?"  He nodded again.  "During the third trial?"

"It would be the optimal time," he admitted finally.  "Potter would be alone.  No one could go to him.  He would be free of Alex's influence and couldn't get help from him."

"Is there a way to track a portkey or apparation?"

"Yes," he admitted patiently.  "Aurors can."

"Would Moody know?"  He shrugged.  "We should ask?"

"You'd have to tell him why."

"True," Draco sighed.  Slytherins didn't do anything that openly.


Alex knocked on the younger Tonk's door, grinning at her. "It'll only take me a minute."

"How did you find out where I live?"  She blocked him entry.

He held up her earrings.  "Harry asked me to return these since he didn't want to put you in the spotlight by sending them to you at work."  She rolled her eyes and reached for them.  "But I need a major favor anyway, that's why I offered."  He handed them over and she let him in.

"What did you need?  Have to hurt someone else?"

"No.  I need access to a certain class of charms."  She made 'go on' motions.  "I need to know how to track, especially things that were taken by portkey or apparation."

"Those are auror-only spells," she said firmly.

"I'm not suggesting you just hand them over.  I want you to ask your boss.  I think we'll need his help."  She blinked at him.  "When's the perfect time to take Harry from the school, Tonks?"


"The third trial," he supplied.  "Dad thinks I'm right.  The rumors say there's going to be a body raised then.  Harry couldn't have my help while he's in that maze."

"How do you know it's a maze?"

He grinned.  "The rulebook.  It lays out what each trial is supposed to be.  Not exactly but what sort. The last one is to be a puzzle or a maze. I figured we'd do that since we've already had the *really* dangerous one with the dragons."  She groaned, holding her head. "We think he's going to try during the third contest sometime.  It'd be easy to hide a portkey in the maze somewhere.  By doing so...."

"It'd cause panic.  Harry would be alone because you couldn't help him while he's in there," she agreed.  "I get that.  Why you?"

"You know that birthday prophecy?"

"By heart."

"Do you know when my birthday is?"  She slowly shook her head.  "Three days before Harry's.  Mine's the 27th."  She bit down on the swear she started to say.  "It fits him better and I'm admitting that, but," he swallowed.  "Harry can't, Tonks.  Halfrek said it best.  We'd have a few practice runs leading up to the main event.  We can't stop him from competing.  We can't help while he's in there.  We can damn sure get to him if he's taken though.  I intend to be there to back him up. So I either need to learn those charms or I need one of you that *you* trust there to make sure I can go.  And that someone summons the good guys to the right spot and the press gets there first to head off any further action by the Ministry trying to say we're lying."

"That's a really bad plan.  How do you know I'm not a spy?"

"You spend way too much time in the headmaster's office, Tonks," he said dryly.  "You're always up there so either you're *special* to the headmaster in that *special friend* way or you're working for him.  You knew way too much about the situation to react like you had no clue.  You believed me when I said it was Crouch, even though he looked like Moody.  A real auror who had just came in, even knowing me, would have demanded proof or that we wait until he changed back.  You guys are known for demanding evidence first and then jumping.  You're always there just in time.  Besides, we know there's another spy, we're just not sure who yet.  We know it'll happen.  Even Dad said I'm the most right guess he's heard so far."

"I still have to run it by my boss."

"Good!  I want him there!  I trust your boss so far.  He was good during the cleaning.  He's been good to me through all that.  He could have doubted me or tried to arrest me long before now.  But if I'm right this will cut the upcoming war down to a few minor cleanup battles.  Plus whatever the Ministry tries to do to the school."

"So you need me, my mum, or our boss to give you access to those charms," she sighed.  He nodded, looking pleased that she got it.  "Who else?"

"Me, Draco, Harry, Ron.  Greg and Vincent are staying out of it.  Granger can want but she's not going this year.  She'll be a bit too busy protecting Vicktor."  He said the guy's name like he did.  She smiled a bit at that.  "Since you know the plan, if he won't agree, I'm trusting you to help me.  Otherwise I'm going to have to go around you guys and I don't want to do that."

"I know.  I agree, it's a sound theory.  I'll talk to mum and the boss tomorrow, Alex.  Tonight I was going out."

"Cool.  With Harry so I can tease him?"

"No," she snorted.  She looked him over and smiled. "Did you dress up for me?" she teased.

"No, I'm going to go hunt down and catch a boy of my own," he said with a wicked grin.  "Of course, I'm not allowed to share the details with anyone since all my friends are firmly straight and don't want to hear it.  Draco's also pissed that I didn't stay at the ball."

"Why didn't you?  I'd have danced with you again."

"Sweetie, balls like that are het people mating and courting rituals.  Not my sort.  That'd be pity and I hate pity dating and dancing."  She nodded, accepting that.  "So I left and got jumped."  He shrugged.  "Then Draco and I had a fight and I went for a wander before going camping when I got back.  My elves are pouting because I haven't been home to be spoiled."  He grinned.  "I'm off to find a nice gay bar.  You have a nice night.  If you find a nice boy, send him my way please."  He smiled and let himself out, heading to where he had found a nice local gay club.  A wizarding one even.  Of course, when he got there they decided not to let him in because he looked too young.   So he sighed and went to a muggle teen place. Maybe he'd find someone there about his own age.


Draco woke up and went to check in Alex's room, finding him lying in his bed, looking like he had a very bad night.  He frowned and crawled in beside him, fingertips gently moving over one bruised cheekbone.  "What happened?"  Alex shifted closer to him, rubbing against his thigh.  "Hey, put that away!" he demanded.

"Why are you in my bed?" he muttered, still half-asleep.  Not even opening his eyes.

"What happened?"

"Bigot.  I protected a few younger kids."  He yawned and moved closer.  "If you don't like my cuddling, then you shouldn't be in here, Draco.  You knew I was gay when you climbed in."

Draco sighed. "I'm fine with you being gay, Alex."

"If you were, you wouldn't complain about me waking up with a stiffie."

"I wasn't. I was complaining that you were using me to work yourself off on."  He tipped his face up.  "You need at least an ice pack."

"Yeah, well, I won."

"You used magic on a muggle?"

"No.  I used my fists and a foot on the muggles.  Plural.  As in gang. Some of the kids said I should have left them alone because they clearly wanted them but were in denial, and some worship me now because I knew what kinky sex was and noted that they didn't seem to want to use the chains for that purpose since they were swinging them at us."  Draco hissed.  "I'm fine.  They're mostly fine.  The cops said I did a good thing.  The Law Enforcement guy said I did fine since I didn't use my wand.  He was impressed and offered me a job."  He yawned and curled up on his friend's stomach.  "I'll soak my bum later."

"What did you do to it?"

"You said you didn't want details."

"Eww.  Off!"

"See, if you were fine with me being gay it wouldn't matter to you."  He flipped over onto his other side, hissing a bit more.

"Were you at least *safe*?"

"I cast a disease spotting spell on my contacts last night," he said patiently.  "I didn't even dance with the guy with the cold.  I'm sure as hell not going to face Sirius down and tell him I fucked up that first night."  He yawned again. "I'm going back to sleep.  If you're staying you're going to be a body pillow."

"Just don't rub anything from anyone else on me, especially not a muggle!" he said in disgust.

"I showered!  God, how much of a slut do you think I am!" he said, kicking him out of the bed.  "Go away.  Go find some straight person and share the horror stories."  He pulled the blanket over his head.

"Alex, I don't mind but I don't want that sort of information."

"If you actually gave a damn about me it wouldn't matter!  Go find some whore and shag her senseless or something."

"You know my mum won't let me."  He stood up, looking down at him.  "Do you need a potion?"

"I only got in an hour ago, Draco.  This is still my vacation.  I'm entitled to sleep in," he said impatiently.  "I can't do that with you making gross faces or anything else.  Go be straight somewhere else until you're my friend again."

"I am your friend."  He climbed back in, staying on top of the covers.  "You wouldn't want to let me cuddle if I just out of some girl's bed."

"Again, I'm not the skank in this pairing. I showered."  Draco swatted him so he slapped him back.  "Go away!  Go be straight somewhere else!"  He pulled the blanket back over him and curled up in a little ball with a hiss.

"I'm getting you a pain potion."  No answer.  "Alex?  Can you stay awake that long?"  He ducked the punch thrown at him and scurried off, finding Snape at the table.  "Did you know your son is bruised?"  He stood up and hurried up there.  "Alex will be up late today," he called. "Bring him soft stuff first."  He headed back up there, finding the door locked.  He took the direct approach and kicked it in.  Snape gave him an odd look before walking in and grabbing his son by the scruff of his furry neck, which made him change back because it was uncomfortable. "He said there were some bigots who came after the muggle boys he was playing with.  He said something about chains.  He said he only hit them.  Everyone said he did a good job."

"Fine.  Get me my bag, Draco."  Draco hurried off.  "Son."  Alex glared at him.  "I'm disappointed."

"For protecting a bunch of kids?"

"For getting into that fight."

"Whine, dad."  He moved his face from the hand.  "I'm fine."

"You're obviously not."  The blanket got moved so he grabbed it, pulling it down.  "Sit up."

"I'm fine, father."

"You're not.  Sit up."  He hauled his son up to look at him.  "Did you drink?"

"No and I cast a disease seeing charm on my contacts too.  I was very safe, father.  I even bathed before coming home, unlike what my friend thinks of me.  Now can I please *sleep*?" he ground out.

"Once you've taken a potion."

"Not everything needs a potion! It's just a few bruises from a fist fight!"  Snape glared at him.  "It is!"

"You'll take it or I'll force it down your throat and then take you to the emergency room."  Draco brought back a pain potion and one to help the boy sleep.  "Thank you.  Very good choices."

"I thought about the blue vial but it'd poison him and I want to keep him."

"You're still straight, that means you can't keep me.   You'd have to sleep with me if you kept me.  I'm apparently a very high maintenance lover. You'd get really bored after a few days."

"Whatever," Draco said, climbing back in with him.  He held Alex's head while his father forced the potions down his throat, then tucked him back in. "I'll stay with him.  Apparently we need to have another of our wonderful talks."  Alex slurred something that sounded like 'I hate you' but passed out afterward.  "We'll figure that out too."

"When he wakes up, put him in the bath, Draco.  Have the house elves feed him soft food. I'm hoping he was smart enough to take other precautions and not have tears."  He stormed out, going to yell at Sirius for what he told his son.  He had obviously forgotten to cover something!

Draco stroked Alex's arms and stomach, keeping him calm so he could sleep.  He glared at his mother when she came in, taking the paper she held out.  He read it and shook his head.
"There wasn't any magic.  It was a fist fight with a gang of bullies. He's got bruises from that."

"Fine."  She checked him over.  "Did you tear him?"

"Mother, I did not have sex with Alex.  Alex went to a gay club, like the paper said.  I'm still straight.  That's why we're fighting this time, because I don't want to hear details."

"Son, if you expect to be able to share things with him, there must be reciprocation.  We all expect it.  Why would he want to stay friends with someone he can't talk to?"

"All of us, mother.  None of us want details of his sex life.  We don't want details of each other's sex life.  I could care less that Greg's found a very nice girl and he's asked her out to lunch next week."  She looked amused.  "He said he was telling his parents."  He looked at Alex, then back at her. "I love him, mother, but not enough to give up breasts.  He doesn't have what I want in a lover.  We're not that close."

"You are, you're simply stubborn."  She left him alone, going to check on Severus.  He was pacing back and forth in the study so she handed him the paper. "Their usual semi-factual account."

He balled it up and tossed it into the fireplace.  "He stopped some bullies from taking on some younger children where he was from what Draco told me," he said coolly.  "I have no idea what got into him."

"He's always done this, Severus.  He used to protect Greg from Draco as well.  Did he at least get rewarded for his gallantry?"  He shuddered.  "I wouldn't do that in front of your son, Severus.  He's already hurting since he can't talk to anyone but Sirius. My son is being hurtful and stupid.  The others refuse to hear anything about his relationships either."

"I'm sure that's because they're doubting themselves or something," he noted snidely.

"No, Draco admitted Greg's found a nice girl and they're not talking about that stuff.  Alex may end up separating himself off from everyone if he doesn't have friends who listen to him.  I doubt my son is seeing that yet."  Sirius came out of the fireplace and dusted himself off. "Your tie is crooked."  He straightened it.  "Better.  He's fine."

"I saw the paper.  Is he really?"

"There were a few bullies."

"And like the stud he is, Alex got his just rewards for protecting the other little boys," he finished blandly, smirking a bit.  "I came so he could brag and I could make sure he remembered to be safe."  Snape went pale.  "I'm sure he did.  He in the bath yet?"

"No, he's asleep.  He was a bit bruised and he only got home a while ago," Snape said quietly.  "Draco is presently trying to be supportive without having to hear anything about the relationship."

"It's only a relationship if it lasts more than one night, Severus.  Then again, your son might have a date from last night."  He shrugged and headed up the stairs to check him over, using his wand to do a checking spell.  "Draco, give him some air, I caught you too."  The boy backed off and he checked him again. "He's fine.  I see he took all the precautions I told him about as well."

"He said he put some sort of disease detecting charm on his contacts."

Sirius smiled.  "I used to do that with my sunglasses when I was playing the field."  He ran the check spell again.  "He's just fine.  A few bruises, a sore rib that's not even bruised, and some apparent nice times.  Did he at least get a date for later this holiday?"  Draco looked horrified.  "Draco, I'm going to give you a word of advice," he said quietly.  "His friends, especially his *best* friend, are going to hear a lot of details they don't want.  The same as yours will.  They'll be hearing about the cuddling, the fights, the makeup sex, the regular sex, techniques, and methods of preparation and positions."  Draco curled up in a little ball.  "At this point in time, you dumping him will seem like a betrayal but if you can't stand his dating and sleeping around that much, I'd do it now instead of later.  At least he'll have time to make many new friends."

"He's my friend!"

"Then you're going to have to get over your reaction, boy."  Sirius grinned.  "A real friend hears it all and only tells him when he's being dumb.  Or dangerous.  Going to a muggle club wasn't a great idea but not too bad considering the only one I knew of was really for older wizards."  He shrugged.  "The way you react to him today will haunt him for a very long time.  You knew he was gay for a while now.  You knew that meant he'd be sleeping with other boys and men.  You knew that some day you'd have to hear about them.  If you're the same friend he had before yesterday, you wouldn't care if he came in covered in sperm and other things as long as he was safe and he had fun."  He straightened up.  "He looks okay.  Have him take a bath later, he'll have some residual soreness.  Tell him it gets easier after that first time and next time he won't be as sore back there. Also get him some juice.  He's getting a cold with the way his throat's sore and he's sniffling in his sleep."

He walked out, repairing the door and closing it behind him.  He was smiling when he rejoined the parents.  "I reamed Draco a new one for his reactions and how he'll be hurting Alex.  Gave him some basic care instructions for later.  He's perfectly fine, Severus.  The worst is the bruise on his cheek and a mildly sore spot on his chest.  He'll be fine. He followed my safety instructions to the letter by what I saw on the checking spell.  Now it's up to Draco to decide what he wants.  I did advise him that dumping him as a friend now if he couldn't handle it would be easier in the long run.  I also reminded him of what a real friend was."  He looked at Narcissa.  "Your boy's a prude, Narcissa.  I don't know why.  You've never been one."  She glared at him.  "Really.  I'd get that boy fixed soon.  He didn't even want to hear about oral sex when I gave him The Talk."  He sent himself back home, laughing once he was safely away.  Remus came in to see what was going on.  "I had to talk to Draco again.  He's mystified and horrified that Alex now has a sex life and that he might share details."

"I remember that for about four days," he sighed, shaking his head.  "Then you tried to kill me while we fought and I realized how stupid I was.  Is Alexander all right?  If so, go remind Harry of a friend's place.  He's another who's going to shy away from him."

Sirius headed up to his godson's room, going to talk with him and make sure he wasn't going to be a prude either.  He sat on the foot of Harry's bed, shaking him gently awake.  "Did I ever tell you about the orgy your dad started in our sixth year?"

"If you continue that story, I'm going to be ill," Harry assured him tiredly, flipping onto his other side.  "I take it someone got some and you're making sure I'm not going to be a prude or hurt Alex?"

"Yeah.  Draco's still not understanding very well."

"I'm wondering if he's got a spell on him.  Those two have been fighting all the time recently."  He yawned and closed his eyes again.  "Hopefully it was good for him.  Maybe he met a nice girl for me to date."

"He went to a gay club, Harry.  The only girls there like other girls or they were boys dressed up as girls," Sirius said dryly.

"Another thought I don't need."

"Tough, kiddo.  Welcome to the real world."

He twirled a finger in the air.  "Yay.  I'll stick with my hand."  Sirius laughed and hugged him then left him alone.  He shook his head, mentally preparing to get assaulted by the images of gay sex thanks to Alex needing someone to talk to.  Draco needed fixed but he wasn't going to get in the middle of that argument.


Draco looked down as Alex woke up, giving him a long stare.  "Back among the living?"

"I was living before," he pointed out as he moved, hissing a bit.  "Ow."  He sat up.  "Still scared?"

"No.  Kiss me."

"No!"  He got up, heading for his bathroom.  "You don't want me to do that, Draco.  You don't really want it, you're just proving you're open-minded."  He slammed the door.  By the time he came out, he had a lunch tray with a large glass of juice.  "Thank you," he called.  "I'll take a bath later."  He sat down and pulled his tray up, digging in.  "It wouldn't solve any of your problems to go through with that, Draco.  I'm not turning you out that way."  He ate another bite and glanced at him while he was chewing.  "Anything else you wanted to know?  If not, figure out what I'm wearing on a date tomorrow night."

"You're going out with one of them?  They're muggles!"

"Actually I found a very nice wizard among them and yes, we're going out to dinner tomorrow night."  He finished off that plate of food and gulped the juice before standing up, stretching with a wince of pain.  "I'm going to bathe.  Stay in here and panic if you want."  He walked into the bathroom, slamming the door again.  Someone tapped a few minutes later.  "I'm naked and not in the water yet," he called.  He sank down into the bubbles with another hiss.  "Enter!"  His father walked in with another glass of juice.  "Do you think I'm ill?"

"Sirius Black said you're catching a cold," he said, putting it beside him.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine and I've got a date for dinner tomorrow night," he offered with a grin.  "He's a very nice seeming wizard.  A few years older at nineteen."  He picked up his juice and took a long drink, then put it back down.  "If we decide to keep dating after that first one, I'll introduce you during the Easter holiday."  He looked up at his father.  "I feel better now."

"You should.  Do I need to warn you to be careful?"

"Ya know," he said bitterly.  "Draco thought I came home covered in spunk. You think I'm out being a whore.  That's not exactly creating a happy son or friend, or a healthy mental image at this moment in time."

"My father gave me the same lecture."

"Did you resent it?"

"Yes," he admitted.  "It seems to be a rite of passage to hear it."  He shrugged. "I was not going to ask you for that intimate of details.  I don't care if you shagged the whole bar, son.  If you did, I might wonder which side of the family you got it from, as I never could.  Your mother was never like that either."

"Grams didn't have sex after getting pregnant with mum as far as she said," Alex said with a grin.  "I'm a teenage boy, father."

"I know.  As I was saying, I would prefer you not shag an entire bar full of young men, or old men, or a combination of those two," he decided, then shook his head to get back on track.  "I do, however, want you to continue to be safe.  Do it discreetly and do it gently if possible.  I do not need intimate details but you can come ask me questions on ethics and morality.  I would also prefer that you not come home with Draco's issue being reality.  I do not wish to see you like that or with any paramour you might choose."

"But I can talk to you about all the other stuff?" Alex teased.  His father nodded.  "Sure. Do you think that new place in Diagon is a good first date?"

"It could be," he admitted. "I have heard that a number of people from the Ministry and the Daily Prophet seem to enjoy eating there for lunch."

"I'll keep that in mind," he agreed with a shy grin.  "I'll try to be discreet enough to make sure I don't have my name splashed all over the papers."

"I would appreciate that.  That sort of reputation seems to follow you out of your youth until everyone expects you to be that way."  He looked around, then back at his son.  "I'll leave you to bathe.  If you're taking him there, I believe it requires reservations."  He left, going to find Narcissa again.  He had gotten out his speech, even if he had gotten sidetracked with mental images he didn't want or need.  He found her and Draco in the study, curled up on a couch speaking quietly.  "I'll have the elves bring you lunch in here."

"Please," she agreed with a smile.  "How is he?"

"Bathing."  He left, going to talk to the house elves.  Twirly started to cry about Alexander being all grown up and soon she'd have to watch babies, so he had to remind her he liked boys.  She finally quit wailing over that and got back to work when Draco came in and ordered her to stop it.  He looked at his godson.  "He's probably still in the bathtub."

"He is. Would you, um....."  He shook his head.  "Never mind."

"Anything between you would probably be youthful exploration on your part but I will not have my son hurt and I doubt he would give in just to satisfy your curiosity."   Draco nodded at that wisdom.  "Should it be more than exploration I will expect good conduct with my son.  Otherwise I will have to make your mother grieve for a very long time."  He got a piece of fruit and went to the library to gather his book and go back to reading.  His parental duties had been discharged.  He could enjoy the sight of his son trying to figure out how to be a man and  He hoped.


Alex came home early from his date, looking around the house as he hung up his cloak.  He could hear the noise in the kitchen that meant the elves were working on the holiday dinner, but not tell-tale chatter that meant Narcissa or Draco were there.  Or even his father.  He shrugged and went up to his room, finding Draco on his bed.  He nearly sighed in frustration, but Draco had left his hair down and he was in a pair of loose pajama pants.  He was clearly waiting for him.  He coughed, getting his attention from his book.  "Lonely?"

"Yes."  He put his book aside.  "Come tell me how it went?"

"That would be giving you details, which you said you didn't want."  He leaned against the doorframe, watching his best friend's reaction.  Draco actually looked hurt.  "Those were your rules."

"I'm changing them.  Black was right, I can't be your friend if I don't listen to you babble about what a good time you had."


"Really?"  Draco's face lit up. "What did he do wrong?  Snogging in public?"

Alex rolled his eyes as he came in, taking off his tie and tossing it on his dressing table.  His robe followed it and then his shirt and pants, leaving him in his flannel boxers.  He laid down on his bed, taking the throw to curl up under since there was a breeze coming from his bathroom.  "Were they bleaching again?"

"No, the window got cracked by a bird.  They had to replace the pane.  It's in there just not anchored and caulked or whatever."  He shifted to face his friend.  "What did he do wrong?"

"He wasn't very interesting.  He liked to talk about his job, which was as a breeder of cats and dogs for familiars, but he wasn't very witty or cute.  Well, he was cute but not witty and it didn't come out in his conversation."

"So he was pretty?"  Alex nodded.  "Do I know him?"

"He's older. Nineteen.  A former Hufflepuff actually."  Draco frowned at that.  "He was nice and sweet, which was what I wanted."

"It's good he was sweet to you, but was it good in bed?"

"I didn't shag him, Draco, I had some other guy at the club that first night."  His face fell. "I went to find someone to teach me and I got one."  He shrugged and shifted but didn't move closer like he usually would.  "We both realized what was going on."

Draco moved closer, snuggling in.  "So, how was it?  Painful?"

"A bit.  That's why you stretch them and use some slick stuff," he offered carefully.

"They make stuff for that?"  Alex nodded, cuddling him.  Draco smiled into the warm chest.  "That's good at least.  You know, there's a nice area in Paris according to my father.  He warned me not to think about going there the last time we went shopping for his clothes there."

"Your father probably knew the area by heart," he teased.

"Possibly.  Mum agreed with that the last time she heard you say it."  He smiled up at him. "I'm sorry I was such a prat."

"Eh. You have those days."  He gave him a squeeze.  "Does this mean you're over your shock and horror that I shag blokes and take it up the ass?"

"You do take it?"

"I found out I rather like it both ways," he admitted happily.  "Feels incredible."

"Maybe someday I'll have you show me."

"You like girls."

"I think."

"You like girls," Alex assured him, patting him on the back.  "You always have liked girls.  You only play at being the poof of Slytherin, love.  Mostly it's the hair.  Speaking of, I need a trim.  This mop is driving me nuts."

"We can do that tomorrow," Draco offered softly.  Alex nodded, smiling down at him.  Draco snuggled back in, liking this.  "Are you sure I like girls?  I've never been this comfortable with a girl."

"You covet girls, Draco.  You, and the rest of the guys in the suite."

"Okay.  How are you going to get on at the school?"

"I don't know.  Someone teased me about blackmailing someone but it's not what I want."  Draco gave him a squeeze.  "Maybe I'll find a nice wizard around our age and he'll transfer in for a year."

"That would be nice. Girls transferred in to be with Potter."  He put a leg over Alex's.

"Being tempting?" he teased.

"You're the one who told me no."

"That's because you don't really want it, Draco."

"No, but I'd rather find that out for myself and the only real way to know is to try it.  That's why you went out and tried it."

"True.  Well, after you've shagged a girl, I might let you try your moves once or twice on me.  By then I'll be desperate."  Draco snorted, pinching him.  "I will be.  Once we get back, I won't be able to have anyone until April this year."

"Plenty of the girls at school will only allow boys up their backsides.  You could...make due."

"Eww.  Why would I want to do that?  I don't want touch girls, Draco, nor do I want to pleasure one.  I never want to pleasure one and I didn't pay attention when Sirius was telling you other boys about that part. I don't want to make due or settle.  I'd rather use my hand."

"There's that bloke they said was in Hogsmeade," he offered, sounding serious.

"He's not into young men. He's into older men.  Unless I go in disguise spell, that won't work either."

"I'm trying to help," Draco defended.

"And I love you for it, Draco.  Just no more bad ideas.  Think up *good* ideas."

"You could shag Potter."

"As we all found out, Harry likes girls.  He's screamed Tonks' name often enough for us all to know that."  Draco nodded that was true.  "Ron still likes Hermione, even though I caught her and Vicktor out fooling around in the snow.  I'm not sure if she told him that or not, but she probably will some day soon.  Don't you tell him either.  She'll know who told you since I'm the one who warned them about teachers being outside."

"They were in the snow?" he asked, looking amused, looking up at his friend.  "When?"

"The ball."  He grinned.  "Vicktor was kinda cute if you ignore the way he walks."

"What other boys have you stared at?  Besides me of course," he teased with a small grin.

"Oliver.  He was kinda hot.  The twins were cute.  They're growing again at the moment so they're not as bulky as they were.  I like boys with nice muscles, but not overly big like Greg.  Then again, Greg likes Amelia."

"Vincent isn't seeing anyone."

"No, but he only likes the little boys like the models I saw on the runway.  He wants an effeminate little boy, which I'm definitely not.  I might see if he wants to fool around now and then if I'm too desperate."

"You're sure he likes boys?"

"He's bi.  He likes them tiny, giggly, and effeminate.   He's drawn to the blushing and giggling."

"When did he tell you this?"

"When you were in detention and we all went down to the Chamber to play truth and dare with Harry."

"Oh."  He shook his head.  "I'm not sure whether I should be upset that I missed that."

"Ron suggested we get together when Harry asked him if he liked girls or boys.  He told Ron what he liked."


"He's got a thing for Lovegood too.  Likes her softness.  He thinks she'll be the kink queen of the school if Ginny Weasley isn't."

"Was I even mentioned?"

"Yup.  Ron thinks Ginny likes you.  He caught her staring at your ass one day in the halls.  She and Lovegood were giggling over how nice it was."  Draco groaned and hid his face and blush.   "Remind me to tell Vinnie he'd love where I went.  There were a bunch of blushing boys."

"Sure.  No one else mentioned me sexually?"

"Ron asked Harry if he ever shagged any guy, who would it be.  He said you because at least you'd make it quick and probably good.  He said I'd cuddle afterward and if he ever tried it he wanted it to be quick and not romantic like that."

"We've got to see them tomorrow," Draco moaned.

"Harry figures Ron already taunted you about that and that's why you were ignoring him again."

"No, I can honestly say I was busy studying."  He shook his head and gave his buddy a squeeze.  "Thank you for turning me down this morning, Alex."

"It was a reaction request, Draco, I understood that.  Though, you might talk to my dad.  He thinks we'll get together."

"You'd have to promise me a mistress," he joked.


"No!  Eww!"

Narcissa walked in, smiling at the boys.  "Oooh, how cute!" she said happily.

"I'm still straight, mum."

"Draco, dear, you're as bi as your father and Sirius ever were," she assured him.  Alex snickered into Draco's hair.  "You should show him that, Alexander."

"I don't want to ruin our friendship," he said dryly, giving Draco a squeeze.  "Besides, he likes breasts."

She laughed and patted them both on the head.  "I'm sure he'll get curious some day and it'll come to him that he doesn't mind flatter chests, Alexander."  She shivered.  "That window still isn't fixed?"

"Nearly.  It needs the caulk or whatever," Draco said, yawning a bit.  "Were you heading home, mum?"  She smiled and nodded.  "Be safe in case father comes home tonight."

"Of course I will, son.  You behave as well.  Severus is coming to stay with me tonight."  She walked out, closing the door behind her.  She heard the locking spell be applied and smiled at her son's idea.  Well, at least they were well-suited to each other and Alex did love her son.  Her son was just being stubborn she was sure.  She headed down to the library, smiling at Severus.  "They're talking on Alex's bed," she said with a happy little smile.

"He's back already?"

"I don't think his first date went as well as he had hoped," she admitted.  "They're curled up together so my son has finally gotten over his reluctance to talk about such things."  She took the tin of floo powder from him and headed back to her house.

Severus looked at the house elf waiting to turn off the floos.  "Lock the house tightly tonight.  Let the boys talk and sleep."  She nodded.  "Good, Marsette."  He left, heading after her.  He came out and found Lucius standing there.  "Sorry, she invited me back so we could work on some plans for the summer holidays and Alexander's birthday."

"Whatever," Lucius sneered.  "How is your son?"

"Well enough.  He's getting a bit of a sniffle but otherwise happy and fine.  His grades were what I expected them to be."

"Is he still having problems in Herbology?" Narcissa asked, frowning a bit.  "Maybe I'll pop around tomorrow and give him a bit of a tutorial.  I'm an excellent gardener."

"He does fine feeding and watering, though I'm told he's a bit...generous," Snape said dryly.  "It's the identification and the like.  The same as he is in Potions."

"Ah."  She nodded.  "That can be hard, especially since that is your field. How was his grade in Charms?  I know he's been taking extra lessons."

"As...stimulating as this is, I'm going out with some of the boys tonight, Narcissa. I'll be back late."

"Of course, dear.  I'll leave the main floo port open, shall I?"

He shook his head.  "I'll apparate."

She nodded, watching as he left. Then she shut off the floo.  "The boys?"

"Probably some of the old gang getting together."  He walked her back to her sitting room.  "He got an excellent in Charms and Professor Flitwick praised him on his marks and in person.  He's trying to find something to continue teaching him.  He called him a challenging student who was making him better in his own area."

"Ooh, that's wonderful!" she enthused.  "Maybe he'll take over for him when he retires?"

"Perhaps.  I know he did talk to McGonagall about teaching Defense some year with the disasters he's had to sit through.  Especially Lockhart." He rolled his eyes.  "I don't know what Albus was thinking."

"He was probably the only applicant besides you and you know he *needs* you in Potions, Sev.  You do so well in there."  She sat down, ringing a bell.  "Tea," she ordered the house elf when it appeared.  It disappeared and came back with a tea tray for them.  She fixed his and handed it over with a smile.  "What is he learning from McGonagall?"

"Disguise and things helpful to that.  Moody's working with her. He cornered all three of us to talk to us about that boy.  He thinks he's dangerous.  Alex apparently told him off when he accused you of being a dark wizard and advised him to take a long look at Draco; as he keeps preaching vigilance he's not been paying enough attention.  He thought your son was the poof."

"Many people do," she admitted lightly, flicking back a piece of hair.  "It always shocks them that it's your son."  He nodded, sipping his tea.  "Now, what should we do about Alex's birthday this year?  His holiday gift was fairly difficult for me to find."

"I took Vincent Crabbe's advice and got him a gift certificate for his favorite comic book store."  He put his tea cup aside and got comfortable.  "Do you think they'll arrest Lucius again tonight?"

"I don't know," she admitted.  "That depends on which version of the 'boys' he's going out with.  I know they've got a tracking spell on him.  Nymphadora is watching him and Alex both.  They've got her stretched so thin."

"Hmm.  I'm not sure why they're watching my son this time," he admitted darkly.

"Because they know the dark wants him, Severus.  He's made public declarations about not being on their side and they can't tolerate that from a notable pureblood family.  Especially not with the woman his grandmother was and how his mother got away from Lucius.  Did he turn him over along with Fudge?"

"He's agreed to help Nymphadora beat him now."  He picked up his tea and took another sip.  "What did you get him?"

"Some new music.  I heard some when I went shopping.  One of the muggle born students was humming some and I asked her the name of the band.  She told me where I could find their album.  Draco got him a charmed player for the music."

"Really?  That's a very thoughtful present. I'm sure we'll be seeing it in the suite soon."  She smiled and nodded. "I've yet to convince Twirly that she's sending too many sweets to the school for them," he said, looking exasperated.  "In the last month she's made six pans of brownies, eight cakes, and about twenty types of pie.  Including a mince one for Gregory, which was nice of her, but that's too many.  Not counting the cookies that it seems to rain over there."

"Have any went stale?"

 "Yes, and she wailed that they didn't appreciate her or Marsette."

"Ah.  I'll have a talk with her tomorrow.  I'll even remind her of proper nutrition for growing boys."

"Thank you.  He's spoiled those elves horribly."

"They were his only real companions and where he learned how to protect others, Sev.  They love him for that much alone," she said gently.

"I know but he's even gotten frustrated.  They wailed when he came home to clean up before going out that first night.  Twirly was whimpering because she only got to feed him once."

"I'll talk with the dears, make sure they realize that he's a growing boy."

"I did that.  I had to disabuse the notion that they'll have babies to watch," he noted dryly.

She snickered.  "Those poor elves have probably never had to serve a gay wizard, especially not like our Alex."

"Indeed," he sighed, shaking his head, taking another sip of his tea.


Severus was woken by a hand going over his mouth.  He glared at the woman doing so, releasing his wand when he figured out who it was.  "What happened?" he ground out.

"Lucius."  She let him sit up, sitting beside him.  "The boys are fine.  Draco got slapped around a bit.  Alex beat the snot out of the intruders.  Masks and all, Severus."  She pushed some hair behind her ear.  "Lucius went to separate the boys.  He was screaming that his son would never see Alex again or else he'd kill his son and make Alex watch, then gut him and let him bleed to death like that in the middle of a field."  His eyes narrowed.  "The house elves had to be taken to St. Mungoes.  They hurt them badly.  I think they were trying to protect the boys.  Alex called us from their fireplace.  He went with them all."  She stood up. "He's back in our office at the moment.  Our boss was not happy to be woken but when he saw the blood and bruises, and the two cuts, and the other stuff on him, he flew into a rage.  I didn't want to wake Narcissa.  She hits," the elder Tonks, Narcissa's sister, admitted.  "Can you wake her and bring her to the office to get Alex, then to the hospital?"

"Of course.  The boys are fine?"

"Just fine," she promised with a smile.  "Alex is still snarling and pacing.  When we got there he went back to the office to wail on Lucius until he begged to be arrested.  Then he handed him over and said we could have him.  He'd just stand there and cheer my daughter on."

"Thank you.  We'll be there soon.  Floo to the Ministry itself?"  She nodded, heading off.  He got up and put back on his clothes, heading down to Narcissa's room.  He tapped loudly then walked in. "Narcissa, Lucius went after the boys to separate them."

She sat up and removed her sleep mask.  "Am I a widow?"

"Nearly.  Alex made him beg to be arrested.  Draco's a bit banged up but fine according to Andromeda."

She swung her feet around.  "Give me five minutes.  I'll meet you at the floo."  He nodded, leaving her to get dressed.  When she met him, her hair was still unbound.  She was wearing robes that on a man would be dueling robes, and she was in practical shoes.  She didn't even have any makeup on.  That's when he knew he was going to witness a homicide.  He followed her to the Ministry and they were escorted up immediately.  Alex launched himself at them, hugging them hard and babbling.  "Dear," she said calmly.  "Stop."  He looked at her and flinched, backing away.  "Where is my former husband?"  He pointed with a shaking hand.  "Good boy.  Go back to the hospital with Severus, dear.  I'll be right there."  She kissed him on the cheek and walked into the office he had pointed at, slamming the door.

Severus walked his son off as the screaming began.  "He is paying, my son."

"She's scarier than I thought," he said quietly.  "I've never seen Auntie as a scary woman, but that was scary.  Her hair wasn't even done. It had tangles!"

"He did the unforgivable thing.  He touched you two."  He took the floo back to the hospital and a nurse rushed out to meet them.  "How are the house elves?"

"The older male one won't make it.  I'm sorry," the nurse told Alex.  He bit his lip and nodded. "The other two will be all right in a few days."  She took his hand and squeezed it.  "Mr. Malfoy is presently ripping my sisters up there a new one.  Might you calm him down a bit, Alexander?"

He grimaced and nodded. "Let me see my elves first.  Dad?"

"I'll come with you."  He walked him back into the house elf ward, going to check on them, soothing them by telling them that they were doing the right thing and they weren't in trouble.  Alex gave each one a hug then he fled up to the next floor to see Draco.  He followed more slowly, hearing the shouting his godson was doing.  It suddenly stopped and he smiled, walking in to find Alex sobbing on him.  "Two of them will be fine," he assured Draco.

"When is my father's execution?"  He stared as his mother came in, eyes wide.  "Mum?"  She nodded, coming over to give them both crushing hugs.  "Mum, your hair has knots."

"Dear, I wasn't about to take the time to do my hair when you're lying here injured."  She looked around.  "I WILL KNOW MY SON'S CONDITION AND SEE HIS DOCTOR WITHIN TWO MINUTES OR ELSE I'M GOING TO HEX EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU!" she yelled.  Draco looked even more stunned but she got to work soothing him, helping Alex onto the bed so she could fuss over them both.  "You don't worry about your father, son.  He's just made a fatal mistake," she assured him, stroking away Alex's tears.  "Dear, Gibbon was over three hundred, he was getting ready to pass on anyway.  He would have been happy to go knowing he helped protect you and my son.  He loved you, Alex.  Remember that.  I'll help with the burial."  He nodded, sniffling a bit.  She got him some tissues from the bathroom, coming out to find the doctor standing there with the folder.  "Did you examine them both?"

"I did," he admitted, looking at her.  "Mrs. Malfoy I presume?"  She nodded, looking as regal as ever.  "That's fine.  Where is Alexander's guardian?"

"I didn't even think to call him."

"You can tell my father, he's standing right there," Alex said coldly.  "I am also emancipated so I can make my own damn decisions."

"That's fine," he agreed, looking at the professor.  "Professor Snape, I didn't realize.  It's not listed."  He cleared his throat and looked at the folder again.  "Draco had a hairline fracture in his chin and a broken wrist, plus a dislocated shoulder.  I've already healed all those, Mrs. Malfoy.  I am keeping him overnight to make sure his head doesn't have any other sort of injuries.  Professor, your son has a multitude of bruises, both old and new?"

"He got into a fight at a nightclub when some idiot muggles attacked.  He took them on with his fists."

"Ah. That explains the old ones then.  I've healed all those and the new ones.  He had a broken foot and a sprained wrist as well that I've healed.  He should be fine with some rest."  He looked at the boys, then at them again.  "The three house elves are in varying conditions.  Twirly is in poor condition really.  Someone kicked in part of her skull.  We've fixed it already.  She'll be off duty for at least a month with that injury.  Marsette is mostly bruised.  It looks like they hit her instead of kicking her.  Gibbon probably won't last the night."  Alex started to sniffle again and Draco rolled to hold him.  He smiled at the parents, who only smiled.  "They shouldn't have sexual contact for at least a week.  They're both going to be rather sore and I don't want Mr. Malfoy to do anything strenuous for a few days at least.  No flying for a week."

"Is there a nurse we can hire for my elves?" Alex asked quietly.

"There is," he agreed, handing over a card.  "They've got house elf specialists."   He smiled at him.  "Most people would say to leave them here and come visit often."

"We protected each other when I was younger," Alex said, sounding emotionally dead.  He looked at his father.  "What the nicer Tonks woman didn't tell you was that I had to kill two of the people who were trying to kill us, father."  He grabbed onto the chair next to him.  "One was going to rape Draco to prove he wasn't going to go for boys.  He was taking off his clothes."  Draco gave him a squeeze.  "The other had me at wand point and got to the K in the AK."  He turned pale and Narcissa sat him down.  "I'm presently under house arrest."

"That's fine.  They can't hope to charge you under those circumstances," she said firmly.

"Fudge has supporters, mum," Draco said quietly.

"Not anymore he doesn't," she said firmly.  "You rest here, heal and hold Alex, baby.  Mummy's going to have a long discussion with someone.  Alex, you let me worry about the burial and getting someone in to help with the elves.  Is the house to be sealed?"

"Only for tonight," the younger Tonks said from the doorway.  "Alex, you were cleared.  They gave Lucius Veritassium for a deathbed confession sort of thing.  He stabbed himself."  She looked at her aunt. "Stole mum's boot dagger, the one you got her for Christmas last year."  She shrugged.  "Oh well."

Narcissa cracked a smile.  "You're coming with me to make a statement to the press tonight?"

"If you wish," she agreed.  "That's why they sent me, because I'm the cuter auror of the bunch'a us."  Draco gave her a weak smile.  "You okay, cousin?"  He nodded.  "He okay?"

"He'll be fine.  I'll make sure of it.  Mother, don't overload the house with people."

"Greg and Vincent, Sirius, Remus, Harry, and Ron?" she suggested.  He nodded and Alex burrowed down to be held.  "That's fine.  Severus, stay here.  I'll be back in about an hour."  She walked out with her niece, going to get someone out of bed.  The editor did nicely since she knew where he lived. He used to be a society reporter and she had given him many interviews about the Malfoy events.  She pounded on his door, bringing a house elf.  She pushed past the poor thing.  "Get your master up.  Tell him Narcissa Malfoy is a widow and there's one hell of a story coming.  He's to report it truthfully this time."  She squeaked and disappeared.  He came running down the stairs pulling on a robe, his notepad and quill in hand.  "So help me Merlin if you mess this up I will have you flayed," she warned.  He nodded quickly, leading her into his office so she could sit down.

Tonks followed, looking really amused.  "I thought I got the cranky tendancies from mum," she joked.

"All Black women are forces to be reckoned with," she assured her, smirking a bit evilly.

Minerva McGonagall spat her juice when she opened her paper, waving it.  "Oh, dear, those poor boys!" she said angrily.  Flitwick snatched it to read it.  "Tell me something was done so they received justice!" she demanded, trying to get it back from him.

He swatted her hands.  "It says Lucius committed suicide in the office last night by dagger to the lung.  The others...."  He looked at her.  "It says Alex defeated two of them," he said, handing it back.  "Those poor boys."  He looked over as Moody came in.  "Have you seen the paper?"

"That trash rag?  I don't read it."

"This time, Narcissa Malfoy gave a direct interview about Alexander being attacked during the night," she said, turning to catch the last page of the interview.  She and Flitwick shared their meanest smiles.  She handed it to Moony.  "You thought Alexander was too weak because he was gay?"  She stood up and went to wake Dumbledore up even if she had to shake him by his ankles hanging out the window.  She pounded on his door, and he opened it, partially dressed. "You need to see the paper.  Lucius Malfoy is dead.  Alex had to kill two people when he was attacked by a band of death eaters."  Then she gave him that same evil smile.  "The boys are fine."  He hurried down to the Great Hall to take the paper from Moody.  She went back more slowly, considering the situation.  Alex had told her when the last problem was coming.  She walked in. "Finius, what other charms has he asked you for?"

"The head of the aurors wrote me and told me to teach him how to track apparations and portkeys," he told her simply.  "He said it'll be needed from what they've heard."  Moody looked stunned and took the paper back.  "I'll also need to teach him how to apparate."

"Very well. Let me know what I can help you with.  We'll need to include that whole group."  He nodded at that.  "Good.  I didn't see a mention of Crabbe or Goyle?  Did you?"  He shook his head, looking angry.  "Perhaps they weren't there."

"I remember Goyle senior.  He was forced to go along with Lucius.  Crabbe owed him too much not to follow.  Perhaps the boys will be safer?"

"Alexander said they're staying at his house if there's any sort of war," Severus said as he walked in.  He wasn't wearing a robe, just pants and a shirt.  "Minerva, I need the book on house elf burials for Narcissa."  She hugged him.  "They're fine," he assured her, patting her awkwardly. She nodded, summoning the book from her office.  "Thank you.  Draco will be released from the hospital today.  The house elves will have a private mediwitch at the manor until they're better.  Albus, the boys are coming back a week late," he announced.  He walked off, heading back to the manor through the floo.  He ran into Potter, literally, and glared at him.  The boy was still half-asleep from what he could tell so he simply shoved him into a chair and walked back to the kitchen.  He handed over the book.  "Minerva hugged me," he told her.

"She does seem to care for Alexander," she reminded him.  "She's been very good to him as well.  She could have not accepted him for his past.  She's been a great help to him."

He nodded.  "She has.  I told Albus the boys were coming back a week late.  We'll apparate with them to Hogsmeade and walk them up."  He looked over as Crabbe and Goyle walked in.  "How did you get here?"

"Portkey," Goyle said, handing it over.  "We're here to guard Draco and Alex," he told them.  "Where are they?"

"Not back yet, Gregory," she said gently.  "Thank you for your support during this trying time."

"I'm just glad our parents weren't here," Vincent said quietly.  He saw Remus.  "They're here too?"  She nodded.  "That's fine.  Should we go fix Alex's room again?"

"Please, dear.  It's a great mess."  The boys nodded and headed up the back stairs.  She went back to the manor to get one of her house elves.  She couldn't cook and the people in the house would need to eat.  She brought her back.  "The house elves here are injured.  You are here to fill in until they are better.  One will be buried in a few days."  She nodded, looking scared.  "You are not to bother the ones here, just help them when they're brought back with the mediwitch."

"Twinsy help other house elves.  Other house elves were brave and deserve rest to heal."  She looked around.  "Twinsy clean?"

"Clean and cook breakfast, Twinsy," Severus told her.  "Leave Master Alexander's suite to the boys working on it.  Also prepare six rooms, including the twin room."  She nodded, going to do that first and take bags up there.  "Twirly is going to scream at her," he said dryly.

Narcissa smiled.  "I told her before we came back that I'd have one of my house elves in to help out until she was better, then she would be going back to Malfoy Manor.  She was so sore she agreed that one could stand in and she'd just boss her around so Alexander wouldn't be bothered or fed wrong.  We also had the vegetable talk," she said with a small smile.  "I reminded her that vegetables were what made Alexander so strong and able to defend them all.  She agreed to keep it down to a cake, a pie, and all those cookies each month."  He smiled slightly and nodded.

Sirius walked in, slamming open the door.  "What can I do to help?"

"Go help the boys," Severus told him. "We have a house elf from the Malfoy household to help around here until Marsette and Twirly are able."

"Sure. Remus is reshelving the library in frustration.  He thought he heard someone talking about Alex in the Leaky the other day but he wasn't sure so he only called over to warn him to be careful."  He shrugged and headed upstairs to help with the cleanup.  "Why doesn't he take the main suite?" he asked the boys.

"He's always had this room," Greg told him, giving him a faint smile.  "I doubt he'd want that one anyway.  Not with the reminder of her being in it."

"We could always redecorate," he offered.  Vincent shrugged.  "Vinnie, go ask him if he wanted to come back in here.  Sometimes you don't want to go back to where you were traumatized."  He nodded, jogging down to the floo.  "If not, we'll fix up the end suite so he won't recognize it.  I'm pretty good at the house building spells."  Greg looked at him.  "I am.  I helped put the Burrow together."  He shrugged.  "It's still standing.  We can totally transform that room within hours so it's nothing like it was."

"I didn't know you could do that much without physical labor."  He shivered. "There's a chill."

Sirius walked in, walking over some strewn sheets and blankets, looking around.  He found the unglazed window and fixed it, then pulled Greg down to the suite to look it over.  He could teach the boy a lot since he hadn't taught Harry this stuff.  Of course, Harry and Ron would be learning it as soon as Ron got there and Harry finished waking up.


Alex came out of the fireplace then turned to help Draco out, waving at the parents.  "Let me tuck him in."

"I can rest on a couch," Draco complained.  Alex took the direct approach, picking him up and carrying him up the stairs.  He noticed Alex hesitated before opening the door to his room.  "We can stay somewhere else," he noted from his inverted position.

Sirius jogged up the stairs.  "I didn't think you'd want to stay in there, Alexander. I took the liberty of redoing the master suite."  He got Draco down and walked him down there, letting him open the new light oak doors.  Alex frowned at him for a moment.  "It gave me, Greg, and Vincent something to do.  Harry and Ron helped too.  Even Hermione when she stopped by.  That's why she didn't stay," he said smugly.  "Your father picked out the furnishings and bought them for you while Narcissa arranged for Lucius' funeral."  He clapped Draco on the back. "I'm sorry, Draco."

"I'm not."  He pushed the door open further, looking inside.  "This is amazing.  It doesn't even look like the same room."

Alex walked in and looked around, mouth open in shock.  What had been cherry paneling and heavy, dark furniture was now done in shades of blue with touches of teal and purple.  The former heavy, leaded windows were now four times the size and very open.  They even opened when Draco tried one.  There was a new balcony and he tested it out before coming back inside and closing that door.  Alex walked into the bathroom and stared in awe.  The bathtub was bigger than the prefect's one at Hogwarts.  He came back out, throwing open the old closet.  It was now on the other wall.  All his clothes were hung up with plenty of room for more.  There was also a second closet that was empty except for some hangers.  He went to his dresser, noticing it was his old one.  "Didn't want to do the underwear?" he teased, smiling a bit.

"Greg suggested we toss them all out," Sirius offered with a smile.  "He thought you'd get over their loss and it might attract you a boyfriend."  Draco frowned at him so he smirked a bit.  "It was just a suggestion, Draco."  Severus came in and forced Draco to the king size bed, tucking him in.  Alex walked over and bounced on it, grinning like a little boy.  "Do you see anything that needs to be done?  The carpet will be here tomorrow."

"No, this is great! I love this!" he said happily, smiling at them.  He got off the bed to hug everyone in the house, then came back to give Sirius and his father another one.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome, kiddo.  You've got to have a proper love nest to bring a lover back to," he said airily, grinning at him and Draco, who was growling again. "No matter who it is."  He ruffled Alex's hair. "You need a trim."

Severus nodded.  "You do."  He put him into the bed and tucked him in as well.  "Stay there.  Draco's elf Twinsy is here to fill in.  Twirly's already talked to her twice about her duties and how to treat you.  We'll be downstairs?"

"You could stay, dad," Alex said quietly.  He nodded, pulling a chair over to sit closer to them.

Sirius smiled. "I'm going to wake Greg, Vinnie, Ron, and Harry.  They wanted to come sleep in front of the door because they wanted to guard you two."  He went to find the boys, who were having a snowball throwing accuracy contest in the backyard.  "They're home and in bed.  Snape's up there with them."  All the boys dropped their snowballs and raced inside to check on their friends.  He walked back inside, finding Molly Weasley in the drawing room, talking quietly with Narcissa.   "Ron just ran up to hug Alex and Draco," he offered.  "I can get him if you need him back."

"No, let him stay until he's a bother," she told him.  "He was swearing when Arthur handed him the paper.  He vowed to kill whoever was left if Tonks didn't," she said dryly.  "Are the boys really all right?"

"Thankfully," Narcissa agreed quietly.  "Thank you, Molly.  I know Lucius was never nice to your family."

"Yes, well, you're not Lucius, Narcissa, and we used to be friends. Anything you need, you just tell me.  I can even take Draco for a few days if you need time alone in the manor."

"He'll probably be here.  Alex hasn't let go of him yet," she admitted with a small smile.  "They're very close."

"So Ron's said.  He says they keep waking up in the same bed."  She shrugged.  "I'm happy if they are. I wish one of my boys could find someone that made them as happy as your son makes Alexander."  She patted her on the hand.  "Come over for tea after the wake, Narcissa.  Don't be alone that day.  You're welcome whenever you need an ear."  She got up and left.  "Send Ron home when he gets annoying."  She went back through the floo.

"She's always been a very nice woman," Sirius noted.

"She has.  Especially after all that Lucius put her family through."  She smiled up at him.  "We should throw a party as soon as it's suitable to celebrate me being a widow."

He grinned.  "I like the way you think, Narci.  Whenever you're ready.  Do you need me to be a messenger?"

"No, Sirius, go play with Remus in the backyard.  Maybe the boys left some snowballs."  He grinned and went to get Remus, dragging him out to play in the snow.  "He'll never fully grow up," she sighed, but she looked pleased.


McGonagall opened the doors, smiling and hugging both boys as they trudged up with Professor Snape. "You're all right," she sighed. She pushed them back to look them over.  "You're really all right?"

"Except for the hangover where they celebrated the funeral last night," Snape offered, stiffening when she gave him a hug of his own. "Thank you.  Let go."  She chuckled and let him go.  "Let me put them back in their room."

"Of course.  The Headmaster said they could take today off to unpack and rejoin everyone at dinner since it's nearly lunch."  She closed the door once they were inside.  "Everything should be as you left it, with the exception of that cake and that plate of cookies.  I'm afraid the elves ate those."

"That's fine. Marsette is sending more tomorrow," Alex said lightly, grinning at Draco.  "Let's go unpack."

"Sure."  He nodded politely at the teachers.  "Thank you for your kind words after the funeral."  He walked off, following Alex up to their suite.  He walked in and sniffed.  "Someone really cleaned."

"Twinsy," Alex offered.  "She was worried so Narcissa sent her over."  He headed to his room, leaving the door open.  A few minutes later someone came in and gave him a hug.  "Are you okay, Draco?" he asked quietly, turning to look at him.  Then he screamed, pushing Pansy away.   "Get out!"

"No!  You're mine, Alex.  All mine," she said smugly.  "Mum's going to fight to reinstate the marriage contract."

Draco walked in and grabbed her by the hair.  "Too late, my mother's already filled one out for us."  He forced her to the door and shoved her out, right into Flitwicks' arms.  "She came in and hugged Alex then claimed he was hers."

Alex came out and hugged Draco. "His mother gave me her greatest treasure," he said with a happy grin.  "I might give him a mistress now and then, but otherwise consider Draco and I off the market."  She shrieked and stomped off.  He glared after her, letting Draco go.  "I'll go along with whatever you want," he hissed just loud enough for the teacher and Draco to hear.

Flitwick smiled.  "At least you're all right, boys.  I'll tell Severus about her claims?"  They nodded.  "Very well then.  Alexander, you have a new set of charms to learn sitting on my desk.  Come down tonight with everyone."  He smiled and walked off, going to floo the Potions's office.  "Severus, I hear congratulations are in order.  Mr.  Malfoy just had to tell Miss Parkinson about the new marriage contract since she walked in and pounced your son."

He raised an eyebrow.  "Really?"  He sneered a bit.  "How very nice of her to show her concern."

"She told Alex, quite loudly because I heard it through the portrait, that her mother is having her contract reinstated, that's why he had to tell her.  They are quite cute when they cuddle."

He nodded. "I have to register the contract, but they are working out the details.  A tentative agreement is in place."  He smiled.  "Thank you for letting me know it's now common knowledge."  Flitwick smirked and signed off.  He went up to the boys' room, frowning at them.  "She did what?"

"She walked in and hugged Alex," Draco said coldly. "She said her mum's having the old contract reinstated.  I had to tell her something."

"True," he admitted.  "We'll have a tentative contract registered by tomorrow."  Alex looked out at him, coming into the main room, still folding the shirt he was carrying.  "Does that bother you?"

"No," he admitted, shrugging a bit.  "I'm good with that.  All the way if I have to be.  Draco's the squeamish one about boys."

"I'll be fine, Alex.  Just remember that you've promised me a mistress if and when we get married some year."

"Sure.  I'll pick you out someone with a nice rack and good legs."  He went back into his room.  "Don't shock Auntie Narcissa, dad."

"I won't, son."  He went back to his office to call her.  "Narcissa, sit down."  She slowly sat down, her head changed angles.  "Pansy Parkinson just tried to pounce Alex and told him her mother is reinstating the marriage contract.  Your son thoughtfully told her about the tentative agreement we'll have to register tomorrow.  Your son wanted you reminded that Alex promised him a mistress some day if they made it through the negotiations."

"I'll have one drawn up tonight," she assured him. "Thank you for the warning.  Did my son agree?"

"He's the one who told her and Alex said he wouldn't mind as long as the contract was fair to your son.  He didn't specify anything about the wedding or the honeymoon but he said he was only worried about Draco's reaction to spending that time together.  That's why
Draco wanted you reminded of the mistress clause."

"Of course," she agreed more quickly.  "I'll have it for you after dinner, Severus."  She smiled and hung up, then said a few choice swears, which made her sister, brother, and niece all giggle.  "Parkinson," she growled.  She picked up the floo powder, throwing in a handful.  "Gringotts, Personal Vault Division."  His head spun into being.  "We have to work out a tentative marriage contract between my son and Alexander Birmingham."

"I have just the thing you'd want.  I noticed they were quite close," he admitted, bringing it to her.  He nodded at the others.  "Were there any particular clauses you wanted?"

"Draco wants a mistress clause."

"We have one of those standard in some same-sex contracts," he admitted, snapping his fingers to amend it.  "Are you going to bind them?"

"No, that slut Parkinson is trying to reinstate the old contract with Alexander," she said grimly.  She read back over a section.  "What's this?" she asked, pointing at it.

"A penalty for breaking it."

"Don't worry about that.  It'll stay tentative until one month after graduation and then we'll either vacate it or make it formal."  He snapped and that clause disappeared.  She looked at some numbers.  "Alexander has more money than we do?"

"After the rebuilding, yes.  You were almost even until then," he admitted.  She nodded, continuing on.  "Did you want to specify grandchildren?  They are the last of the lines."

"No more than three but not required," she noted.  That clause was changed.  She continued on, smiling at the last one.  "A fidelity clause.  Mine was missing that."

"It wasn't," he assured her, going back through the floo and coming back with her marriage contract. "It's the last clause.  It's in very small print."  He handed her a magnifying glass. "His father put it in there, expecting you to have to enact it."

"If I had known I could kill him legally for that, I would have done it when Draco was three," she noted dryly, handing that and the glass back.  She signed the one for the boys.  "Here.  Take that to Severus Snape. He's Alex's father.  He can find Mr. Potter to sign as his guardian as well."  The goblin nodded and left.  She relaxed, looking at her relatives.  "I'm going to get that cow."

"Draco handed me this," Sirius said, pulling something out of his wallet.  "He thought I was mean enough to enforce it if something happened or that I would give it to Snape.  I never got around to it."

She unfolded it and smiled.  Then she cackled her most evil cackle and called the banker back, handing it to him.  "Pansy just jumped my future son-in-law while telling him that their marriage contract was being reinstated."

"I'll enforce it and send that piece on to be cleaned of the curse," he agreed, bowing cordially and disappearing again to explain that contract to everyone involved.


Alex sat down at the Gyrffindor table that night and looked at Ron.  "Don't freak."  He put down his fork and chewed the food in his mouth as fast as he could, swallowing it too.  "Pansy wanted the old marriage contract to be reinstated so Auntie Narcissa had to register our temporary marriage contract."  Ron choked anyway.

"It's well written," Harry said, clapping him on the back.  "I didn't know you could specify a mistress that carefully."

"How carefully?" Hermione asked cautiously.

"Blonde or brunette, no redheads because Draco doesn't like them," Harry told her.  "At least a 36-B chest.  She has to be between five-three and five-ten.  Graduated an accredited magical education institution, preferably near the top of her class.  Be of a suitable bloodline.  He has final approval and can vacate the rules if no one suitable is readily available and he gets a new one every five years."

Hermione gaped.  "That's barbaric!"

"No, that's pureblood wizarding marriage contracts," Ron said with a bright grin.  "Just a temporary one?"

"The final draft won't be registered until one month after we graduate," he said with a grin for him.  "Dad laughed when he read the amendments and his mother just kissed him on the cheek and said he had good taste in mistresses.  Then she pointed at the fidelity clause that said it was me, his mistress, his hand, or else."  The guys laughed at that and Hermione scowled.  "Granger, I saw my Grandmother's for my mum if she was going to marry dad.  She got down into what sexual aids and helpers were allowed, by name and description.  There's nothing that's not covered in those things so there's no dispute if the marriage is broken.  Ours includes the allowable number of grandchildren if we have any.  It has widow's stipend and alimony both.  Hell, Draco has to take me shopping at least once a year and buy all my clothes, jewelry, and shoes.  In the lawbooks I was forced to read was one of just marriage contract examples.  That's an individual class.  Some of the examples had what sort of lingerie she'd wear on the honeymoon and what sort she could wear after that, or the marriage could be broken and she'd be at fault."

"My mum and dad's had fidelity and support clauses but they didn't need to get that specific," Ron admitted, picking up his fork again.  "Did yours go into helpers and positions?"

"No, just that Draco expected sex at least once a month.  That's standard though."  She was still looking horrified.  "You get to fill out one when you marry too, even if you end up marrying a muggle.  It's got to be registered with Gringotts and the Ministry.  It's got to list any and all assets both parties have.  It'll cover every single topic.  Ours even states that if one of us has to cook, it's Draco because I can't cook.  The contract states I can't cook and am not allowed to cook unless I'm spoiling him.  In that language."  She swayed.  "Ours is fairly short by comparison to some.  Auntie's was thirty pages.  Greg's present stepmum's one was a hundred and eighty so his dad could outline things he would not put up with in his present wife.  Our is only seven.  Yours, since you're not pureblood and not rich, should probably be about three or four.  It's considered a necessity to be so firm and cover everything because they don't want to leave anything to chance, nothing that could lead to lack of protection for either family or any offspring.  It's considered protecting the couple."

"My mum's stated how often her mother-in-law could come visit and her own mum too," Ron said before eating a bite.

"Even the muggle borns have to do that?" Seamus asked.  Alex nodded.  "Even if we don't have a vault or anything?"  Harry nodded.  "Why?"

"Because divorce in the wizarding society is very difficult to get.  You can't without a contract and proof that something was broken in it unless you can prove abuse.  The wizarding divorce laws were written back during Victorian times to standardize the contracts.  If a contract is broken, you go and report it to the Ministry and they vacate the marriage.  No judges, no custody disputes, nothing.  Because everything is in that contract.  It's required to register a marriage."

One of the seventh year females nodded.  "You'll get a small lecture on those right before you go home for the holidays in your seventh year, Seamus.  Before you get home, a letter's already there for your parents' understanding.  It's the law to have one if you're a practicing witch or wizard."  She looked at Hermione.  "If you register in the muggle way that's fine, but if you don't register a contract, you're not legally married in the wizarding world.  Which leads to a lot of problems.  Everything from reputation problems to employers aren't required to hire you if they find out you've done it since it's illegal."

"That's still barbaric!" Granger complained.

"No, it's for your own protection," Ron told her.  "That way you have a set of boundaries around your relationship.  It gives you less to fight about and all that stuff too.  You can't come back in ten months and moan that you didn't know what you're getting into."

"Or the incompatibility excuse," Harry added.  "That's a big one in the muggle world."  Hermione frowned at him.  "It's quaint but it is really for protection.  You've heard stories about horrible divorces.  It can't happen this way.  Think about a couple of wizards having one of those bitter custody disputes you hear about in the media, Hermione.  We could destroy towns if we got into those."  She shuddered, curling up some. "It's considered protection for everyone.  By spelling everything out, including the sex stuff, your spouse will know what not to ask you for."

"Narcissa's told Lucius not to expect oral sex," Alex admitted dryly. He grinned at her.  "Really, it's for your own protection.  It's like a prenuptial, Granger.  Only a very explicit one."

"That's still barbaric!"

"Imagine what would happen if Narissa and Lucius had divorced," Ron told her.  "Without the contract, they'd have been fighting over every little thing, down to the last brass knut of the family fortune. Fighting over Draco.  Fighting over Draco's friends being allowed to visit.  What books he could read and what music he could listen to.  His dad was that vindictive and it would have gotten messy.  If there had been a vacated marriage due to the contract being broken, it would have been done within an afternoon, quietly, calmly, and no hurting anyone else, including Draco."

"There was a clause in hers that said she could have killed him for cheating on her," Alex told him.

"Mum has one of those," he agreed. "Hers listed the humane methods she's allowed to use."  Hermione whimpered.  "This way you have a base for any arguments."

"The goblin that explained it to me said that it could be renegotiated if both sides of the couple wanted," Harry told her.  Alex nodded.  "Alex has a temporary one so they can figure out any special clauses that might be needed after they've been together for a while."

"I've got to find Draco a mistress within the year," he admitted, looking around.  "There's no one here.  That means I'm going to have to interview and set her up in town."

Hermione let out a wordless shriek and stomped off.

Alex snickered. "She'll understand some day. Especially if she stays with Vicktor."  Ron nodded, eating a bite of meat, winking at him.  "I'm very generous to him.  If I have the marriage vacated, I give him the villa in Italy and a hundred gold a week for the rest of his life."

"What happens if you go broke?" Ginny asked.

"When you get the marriage vacated all that stuff is looked at and the support dictated is set into a special vault and doled out into the spouse's vault.  If you can't afford it, it's renegotiated on the spot.  That's what usually takes most of the afternoon, any renegotiations of support and additional furnishings and things that have appeared since the marriage."  She nodded wisely.  "It's also a built-in will.  Which means I don't have to make one now," he said happily.  "Speaking of, Ron.  I need to see your mother."  He raised an eyebrow.  "I have a lovely necklace that would look wonderful on her."

"You're still giving away that stuff?" Harry asked.

"It's nasty, Harry.  It's not my sort of thing even if I had a person to give it to.  It's all old fashioned and I don't know anyone who would look nice in it.  Ron's mum is one of the few who could pull off this necklace I have in mind.  McGonagall's getting a few pieces too.  Besides, what am I going to do with is?  Anything left will be remade if I end up having a daughter."  He pulled over food and dished stuff out.  "I've got half a small vault full of jewelry that was cleaned up."

"I thought the list was only a few pages long," Harry said, frowning a bit.

"No, that was the cursed stuff, not the other stuff.  There's *family* jewelry too. Narcissa and I agreed about some of those pieces."

"I'm not sure our mum won't fuss," Ron told him.

"Do I care?" he asked, shrugging.  "Really?"

He nodded, leaving it there.  Ron could be amused for months watching his mother fuss about it.


Alex smiled at Molly Weasley when she walked into the suite.  "Come sit, Molly."  She sat down and he walked into his room, coming back with a black leather case.  He handed it to her.  "Unfortunately by the dictates of the curse I have to name it 'charity'," he said, doing the finger quotes, "but I want you to have this.  It's all older stuff and Narcissa and I agreed it'd look good on you.  You can do anything you want with it but I can only give it away in that sense or as a bribe and I couldn't figure out anything to bribe you for.  Therefore I have to name it that way but it's not really."  He kissed her on the cheek and sat back down, opening his notes to go back through them.  "You can look."

She undid the latches, looking at the pieces lying on the velvet.  "They're beautiful, Alexander.  Are you sure?"

"Who would I give them to, Mrs. Weasley?  Draco would look really horrible in them."  She giggled at that.  "I don't care if you have some of them reformed or anything.  I won't make any conditions on it, but I can only give it away in those two instances."

"That's fine, dear.  I understand fully."  She closed it, stroking the top.  "Ginny will look wonderful when she finally marries."

He grinned at her.  "I got to tell Hermione about marriage contracts."  She snorted, shaking her head fondly.  "She stomped out ranting about how barbaric it was."

"How did your temporary one go?"

"Seven pages," he said fondly.  He grinned at her.  "There's a very detailed mistress clause.  I've got a year to find him one from this point."  She giggled again, stroking the case.  "Do something with those.  I've got half a vault of really old jewelry from about ten generations ago.  Speaking of old stuff," he said, pointing at the fireplace.  "Twirly?"  She came across, staring at him. "Did you ever look at those old gowns we found in the attic?"  She nodded quickly, smiling.  "Are they in good shape?"

"One is and would look good on Little Missis Weazy."

"That's what I was thinking.  Bring it for her mother, dear."  She nodded, going to get it and bring it back.  She handed over the bag and handed him some juice.  "Thanks, Twirly.  How's your head?"  She smiled and patted him before going home and the floo cut off.  "I can't wear it and it's another thing Draco would look horrible in.  That way you can find Ginny a nice young man."  She looked and squealed, then zipped it back up.  "I know, but that was the fashion of the day.  I'm sure it can be modified to cover her breasts instead of baring them."  He shrugged.  A book came flying out of the fireplace.  "Ah, she found it."  He floated it over with his wand.  "Granger!" he yelled.  She stomped over, glaring at him.  He handed it to her.  "That book on marriage contracts.  It explains it even better and has a lot of examples."  He looked at Molly, grinning at her.  "Shoo, go coo over your kids."  She smiled and kissed him on the cheek before leaving with those things.  He looked at Granger. "You shoo too."  She walked off, taking the book to look over.

McGonagall came in fifty minutes later, pointing down the hall.  "Why is she looking at marriage contracts?  Is she that serious about Mr. Krum?"

"No, she was horrified by them, called it barbaric," he said with a grin.  He flicked his wand.  "Accio McGonagall's bribe."  A small case appeared and he handed it over.  "For an extra point on my next non-practical test.  After all, I can only give them away as charity or bribes," he said with a grin. "You're under no obligation to do so however."  He went back to his reading.  "This doesn't sound that hard."

"It's not really."  She opened the case, staring at it.  "This is...."  She looked at him.  "Are you sure?"

"Can you imagine Draco wearing it?" he asked dryly.  "I'm reducing my taxes this year."  He gave her a dry, bland look he had learned off his father.  "Find something pretty for the next ball or something, Professor."  Draco and Harry walked in arguing.  He zapped them both.  "No arguing.  There's a truce in place."

"Why is Hermione reading up on marriage contracts?" Harry asked, looking nearly fearful.  "Draco said she's writing her own?"

"I gave her the book so she'd have something to rant over instead of the mistress clause in mine."

"It nearly caused me chest pains too," she assured him, giving him a pat.  "Are you *certain*, Alexander."  She showed them to Draco.

"I thought you were giving her the rubies."

"I gave those to Molly since there's so many Gryffs in her family.  Oh, go get the blue box from my dresser, professor."  He turned the page.  "That's your holiday present and it was running late."

She walked in there and came back with a carved gold and ruby Gryffindor lion cloak pin, sniffling.  "I love this, Alexander.  Thank you."  She hugged him and walked out, going to try it on her favorite cloak.  She might need a new one to go with it.

"I liked her present," Draco noted. "I'm glad you argued me out of the other one."

"Me too," Alex admitted with a small grin.  "This apparation stuff seems pretty easy.  We'll have to practice this weekend."

"Sure, Alex," Harry agreed, sitting down on the other end of the couch Draco was on.  "Have you started interviewing mistresses?"  He nodded.  "Any luck?" he teased.  Alex nodded.

"Really?" Draco asked smugly.  "Is she pretty?"

"Very.  I got a recommendation in that letter earlier from our vault manager.  Including a profile from the agency she works for."  He pointed at it on the table.  Draco grabbed it and got comfortable to read it, chuckling now and then.  "If you like her, he can set up an interview next weekend and we can find her a suitable spot to live our next time in town."  He turned the page.  Then he put down the notes.  "I need to try that before going further."

Draco grinned at him.  "I like the sound of her.  Thank you, Alex."

He blew a kiss. "Anything for you, honey.  Does this mean I get cuddles tonight?"

"If I must," Draco sighed with a grin. "At least you're warm at the moment and I don't have to worry about needing more covers.  My windows have a draft."

"That's another thing about my windows being small.  Less area to leak air," Alex said fondly.  "What's for dinner?"  He picked up his juice and sipped it, snickering when he heard the girlish squeal in the hall.  "Harry, go head Ginny off."  He got up, going to hug and dance around with her so she'd leave them alone.  "So, dear, anything special tonight or just cuddles?"

"I wouldn't mind a kiss," he offered, smirking a bit at him when Alex blew one. "A real one, Alex."  Alex got up and came over to kiss him, and somehow they ended up with him on his back, hands tangled in each other's hair, out of breath.  "Wow," Draco moaned.

"More than I wanted to know," Greg said as he came in.

"He wanted a kiss," Alex said, grinning down at his boyfriend.  He gave him a shorter one and then had to get up and try to straighten out his hair.  "Isn't it nearly dinner?"  Draco let out a small moan.  "Draco?  Food?"

"I'll need some," he agreed weakly. "No wonder my mother wanted me to wait a few more months until the summer holidays."  Greg snickered from his doorway.  "You, shut it."

"Sure, Draco."  Greg came over and lifted him up, dusting him off and straightening him up.  "You need to fix your hair."  He looked at Alex.  "You too, tart boy."  He headed out, smiling at Harry.  "Draco wanted a kiss.  You managed to miss it."

"I bet it was hot," Ginny said, sounding like she was ready to purr.

"Ginny!" Ron said from out there, sounding outraged.

Alex walked out with Draco, kissing him again for her benefit.  Then he helped Draco straighten out his hair on the way to the Great Hall.  By then Draco had even quit blushing.  It was the curse of being so pale.  Alex noticed Ginny hadn't followed them down and smirked a bit at Harry when he sat across from him.  "She not eating?"

"Nope," he said fondly.  He looked around.  "Looks like Dean's not eating either."  They shared a smirk.

"Did you have to do that?" Ron complained as he came in and sat down.  "I knew she was a perv but really!"

"I liked it," Draco called.  "Ignore him, Alex."

"Sure."  He grinned at Ron.  "At least she's being a semi-good girl sometimes."  Ron choked and spluttered, ending up leaving the hall to calm down.


Epilogue: The third trial:

Draco appeared in the cemetery with both Tonks, two reporters from good places, not the Prophet, and looked around at all the frozen bodies.  "Alex?  Potter!" he yelled, starting to move.  Both aurors stopped him and pulled their wands, heading over to check bodies. They found Harry fighting with someone and Alex hexing the person he was fighting with.  Alex turned and hit the person Harry was fighting with, making him scream and fall down.  Harry cast the Crucio, Alex cast the Avada Kedavra, and it was over.  They leaned on each other, letting the aurors lead them away.

Tonks called for some backup, noting it was a battle, there were bodies, and some were still alive. Then she went to debrief the boys.  Her mother started to bind bad guys.  The reporters took pictures, including one of Draco hugging Alex as hard as he could and whispering to him, which looked romantic, and Harry getting his own hug from the couple.  More aurors appeared and started the clean up process.  The boys were taken back to the school by the younger Tonks, and everyone there burst into applause.  She looked at the Headmaster. "He's dead."  She looked at Cedric's body, then at him.  "Harry said he was dead almost as soon as they appeared and he was bound."  He sat down suddenly.

"McGonagall!" she shouted.  She hurried over, checking on the students, then looking at the body. She broke down crying and the nurse came rushing down as well with a few stretchers floating behind her.  Tonks looked at the reporters.  "Back, you vultures!  You'll get a full statement in a minute!  Let's clear out the wounded and dead."  They took a few steps back because Hagrid came down to make sure of it.  She tipped Harry's head up.  "You did good," she promised quietly.  "It was necessary and you never have to do it again."  He nodded, bursting out crying in McGonagall's arms.  She led the students away with Poppy's help.  Tonks nodded Snape to take the headmaster and she stepped forward. "I'm not the information person at the ministry. I'm Nymphadora Tonks, auror."

Everyone started to write.  "We responded to a call from Mr. Draco Malfoy approximately twenty minutes ago.  He was responding to the incident with the portkey.  When we got there, two of the three missing students were engaged in a battle with death eaters."  That got a massive gasp and a lot of eyes staring at her.  "As we got there, Harry Potter cast the curse that killed Voldemort, who had been raised tonight while he had Mr. Potter captured.  Mr. Alexander Birmingham assisted in the battle by taking on the various death eaters while Mr. Potter and Voldemort battled.  Myself and another auror appeared with two reporters who grabbed onto us at the wrong moment.  They have pictures of the battle and you may ask them for them."  That got more scratching quills and a long look around to see who was missing from the group.  "At this time, a fuller report is being completed and you can wait back at the Ministry for it."

"Who died!" someone called.

"It'd be cruel to tell you before we notify their relatives," she said coldly.  "I wouldn't want it done to mine!  I'm not doing it to another's!"  That got taken down verbatim.  "You'll find out later from the real information manager.  Now, head off, you lot."  They ran off, going to file their preliminary reports and tell their Ministry reporters to be ready for a briefing from someone.  She shook her head.  "Vultures," she said dryly.  Alex and Harry had agreed to the story already.  Harry would get the credit for the kill so no one would be as scared of Alex as Harry and Harry was going to play professional quidditch, which was harmless and people would ease up around him soon enough.  She sent herself back to the Ministry to be debriefed by the information person, who had the reporters already.

She grabbed both their chins.  "Harry Potter killed him," she said firmly.  They looked stunned.  "Alex said so, ladies.  Harry's planning on playing quidditch and no one's gonna be scared of him.  Alex is tired of being looked at funny for being powerful.  So Harry killed 'im."  They nodded, taking that down.  The information minister glared at her.  She got to do what she had always wanted to do, knocking him out.  "I feel better now," she told her boss.  "Have them make the report.  It'll be more factual."  She wandered off, going to get a cup of coffee and some candy.  She deserved it.  It had been nail-biting watching the kids leave and then waiting on Draco to find her. She handed her mother one when she was led back for her debriefing.  "Harry killed him," she told her.

"So Draco told me," she agreed.  "Very nice of him, I've got to admit."  She sipped her coffee and broke open her candybar.  "No reporters?"

"They're going to do the briefing.  The information slut's on the ground."  She held up her hand.  "He's got a really strong jaw."  Her mother giggled and kissed her bruises like she had when she was a little girl.  "Who's telling the poor boy's parents?"

"McGonagall.  They were there watching," she said sadly.  Her daughter nodded, accepting that.  They went to be debriefed by their boss, snickering at the questions the reporters were giving to their own people.  "How many are we keepin', boss?" Andromeda asked.

"All of them.  Where are those boys?"

"Hogwarts, where they're supposed to be," Nymphadora reminded him with a small smirk.  "You heard what I told them, you can list it however in the private files."  He nodded, smirking a bit at that.  "Alex said he wants to be a foster parent by the way.  Once he graduates."

"Bet he's gonna be cuddled tonight," her mother suggested, winking at her daughter.

"If I was Draco, I'd never let Alex dress," her daughter said smugly.  "He's a cute boy.  Harry's cuter though."  She grinned at her mum.  "You mind?"

"No, dear, he's too young for me.  If he likes you, tie him up and have fun."

Their boss groaned and shook his head.  "Ladies," he whined.  "Not now!  Not with reporters in the building!"

"Fine," they sighed, shaking their heads as they sat down to get with the reporting in.


Ron looked up from his reading, smiling at the guys coming out of their rooms.  "Tonks wrote, Harry. She wanted to know if you'd take her out this summer.  Draco, she said she's surprised Alexander is allowed to wear clothes and allowed out of bed."  He handed the blushing Harry the letter.  It included what had been told to the press by the reporters Draco had brought with them 'by accident'.

Harry looked up.  "She did say that, Draco."  He went back to his reading, moving so the house elf could put down breakfast.  They were grounded to the suite, just in case someone wanted to try something.  He had spent a few hours last night with Cedric's parents. Alex had too.  They had left with their son probably around dawn to escape notice. The judges had awarded the money to Cedric's parents but they had shoved it at Harry before they left the room they had been talking in.  It was under his bed at the moment.  Alex had spent all night on Draco's chest being comforted.  Harry had spent all night being sick in the bathroom.  That's why he didn't do more than sip some tea once the house elf had left.  He handed the letter back to Ron, deciding to write her later. He did like her.  She was the reason Ron had handed him the silencing charm.  He looked around.  "Now what?" he sighed.

"I'm all for hiding," Ron told him seriously.  "Dumbledore sent down a letter saying he banished the reporters so the Diggories could leave with dignity. He said we're staying in here until our next test."

"Which is today," Alex pointed out dryly.  "In Potions."  He pulled his wand and summoned a house elf, writing out a note.  "Give that to the headmaster," he ordered with a small smile.  "Can you bring some milk and some more tea too?"  She nodded, disappearing.  Someone knocked on the door a few moments later.  "It might be open," he called.  His father walked in after a few tries.  "It figures he locked us in here."

"Yes, until your next Transfiguration test."

"That's in two bloody weeks," Ron complained. "How are we supposed to pass the term tests!"

"Miss Granger is making all of you notes," he told him.  He looked at his son, then at Potter.  "She said usually she gets rewarded?"

"Must be time for her potion then," Ron said dryly.  Snape looked at him. "If we don't make the stupid girl potion she won't and then she'll make our lives a living hell," he complained.  "It may be the only one I can do, but I do it bloody well!"

Draco nodded.  "It's necessary," he assured him.  "I knew they were giving it to her back in the second year.  We noticed when she needed it and stayed away from her during those times."

"I wondered about that," Harry said dryly, continuing to sip his tea.  The house elf brought more milk and tea.  "Thank you."  She nodded and disappeared.  "What're we doing for these two weeks, sir?"

"We really don't care as long as the school is allowed time to calm down and settle itself again," he told him.  "Dumbledore's words.  Personally I believe you should study, Mr. Potter.  Your grades seem a bit deflated this year."

"Gee, I wonder why," he said dryly.  He finished his tea and poured himself some more.  "Guys, eat."

"I'm not hungry," Alex complained.  Draco made him a plate and handed it to him. "Draco!"

"You have to eat, Alex.  Even if you don't want to.  We'll talk some more later, but you've got to eat now for me."  He nodded, nibbling on the scrambled eggs.

Ron handed over the bacon.  "Here, it's strange to see him without it."  He looked at the professor again.  "Can we at least see our families?"  He nodded.  "That's fine then."

"Warn me if Ginny comes in," Draco told him.  He nodded. "Are there any other orders?" he asked his head of house.

"Not as of yet," he told him.  "For right now, just stay in here.  We'll send food regularly.  Try to study, Mr. Malfoy.  I will expect you to know the contents on the test for today when the final test comes.  It will be included."  He looked at his son.  "If you want, we can speak later."

"I'm worried what the Ministry will pull," he said quietly.

"By taking the information out of their hands and bringing a few reporters to take pictures as it happened, they can't do much.  The current Minister has suggested he'll be sending an appropriate defense teacher."

"Can I scare them off if they're not?"  He nodded.  "Can we take bets on how long it'll take?"

Draco snickered.  "Within a day, Alex.  We all know you're brilliant at being scary when you need or want to be."  He gave him a gentle kiss. "Now eat."  He looked at Snape again.  "You'll keep us informed?"

"As soon as we know something, one of us will write you at his house.  Your mother expects you to be there most of the holiday this summer."  He left, sealing the door behind him.

"Wow, that's really cool," Vinnie said finally, looking at the couple.  "You're so cute!"

"I know," Alex agreed with a grin. "The real question is am I cuter than Draco?"

Draco pulled his wand and cast the charm that made it feel like someone was blowing raspberries on him again, taking the plate before he rolled around laughing.  "It's a different type of cute, but I'm cuter."


Alex smiled as the new teacher walked into the school, shaking her hand.  "Alexander Birmingham, ma'am.  Nice to meet you.  I was told to take you to your room."

"Why are *you* here?" she sneered.  "School isn't in session yet."  She straightened out her sweater.

"Yes, but I'm taking advanced charms lessons while I'm waiting on my father to do something so we can go birthday present shopping."  He smiled sweetly. "Or didn't you know my father was Severus Snape?"  She took a step back, looking alarmed.  "As a matter of fact, my bond mate is down there helping him with the potion in question since it's for my birthday."  He waved a hand at the hall.  "Shall we?  The headmaster is out and Professor McGonagall told me where she was sticking you."   She grimaced and let him lead her away.  They ended up very high up in one of the towers, in a very drafty room.  "Sorry, we had to open the windows to air it out.  No one's lived her in a while but when he got your note saying you wanted a room with a pleasant view we decided this should be perfect.  I had the house elves change the sheets."  He handed her the key to the door.  "There you go, ma'am.  By the way, I'm told to warn you that I've already gone through all seven years of books so I've been taking special defense, transfiguration, and charms lessons.  That way you could prepare something for me to do.  Otherwise I'm afraid I'll just end up taking over your class and helping those who need it."

"My books aren't like that," she assured him.

"Really?  I rather enjoyed the Vongurt book year-before-last.  Now that was a fine defense textbook.  Plainly easy for those who need it and with plenty of information for those, like me, who'll end up teaching it or charms some day."  He grinned again.  He noticed she shivered.  "Also, my father wanted you told not to come down and bother him this week.  He's doing a long-term potion that requires absolute silence and only the maker anywhere near it, otherwise it can explode. That way you don't stumble into something and have to fix it."  He bowed.  "I'll leave you to unpack.  Most of the house elves are at the farm picking stuff to can from the early harvest, but there might be a few around if you need anything.  Just follow the hall we came up to get back to the entry.  The headmaster will be back sometime tomorrow."

He left, closing the door behind him.  He also locked it with a spell that was outside of every charm book that had ever been in this school, except for a theoretical one that Professor Flitwick had bought him for Christmas.  He fingered her wand as he walked down the corridor, smiling when she screamed because the owls were coming in.  It was the room the owls went to whenever they weren't in the owlry.  He handed the extra wand to Flitwick as he walked past him.  "She's in the top of the West Tower.  I warned her the headmaster and most of the elves were gone at the moment.  I warned her to leave dad alone for at least a week, citing a possible explosion.  I may not have warned her that it takes a wand to open the door from the inside or that I was locking her door for her."  Someone pounded on the door at the top of the hall and he shrugged.  "Ooops."  He skipped down the stairs, smiling at his father.  "She's in the top of the west tower," he said fondly.

"Is that the best you can do?" Draco asked.

"Honey, didn't you know she's got a fear of owls?" he asked with a small, evil smirk.  Draco looked alarmed and he glanced behind him. "Headmaster," he said happily, smiling at him.  "I put the new defense teacher into her room at the top of the west tower.  I gave her the key and everything.  I did think you were still gone so I told her you'd be back tomorrow.  I also told her most of the house elves were going to be gone for most of the day with the picking and harvesting."

Dumbledore frowned a bit.  "What did she do?"

"You mean besides having a history of cruelty?"  He smirked.  "You'll find out.  By the way, she's not allowed near Harry.  She's the one who called for him to be arrested for casting that curse."  The headmaster moaned and walked off.  "Draco, I believe it's time you fulfilled the shopping clause because I've outgrown most everything yet again."

"Fine," he agreed tolerantly.  "Severus, we'll be at the house in a few hours if you'd like to join us tonight."  He walked his mate out, smiling at Tonks as she walked past them.  "She's here."

"I heard her shrieking for help from outside," she admitted.  "Where is she?"

"Top of the west tower."

"But the owls use that when they don't want to sit in the owlry...." she started, then burst out laughing.  "Ooops.  Oh, well, I'm sure she'll get over that phobia.  Where's Harry?"

"My front room taking a nap the last I knew," Alex offered with a grin.  He heard something break and snickered.  "Oh, well," he sighed, shaking his head.  He and Draco cast the disguise spell, becoming Filch and his cat.  She stormed past them and into the dungeon, and the boys took off running, Tonks right behind them. They made it outside and watched as the fireball came out the roof of the school, right from the headmaster's office since it was directly over the dungeons.  "Oooh, pretty," he cooed, changing back from the cat.  Draco changed and looked at him.  "I told her not to bother dad or his potion could explode."

Tonks fell to the ground and rolled around, laughing so hard she was crying and wet herself.  "He's gonna make you pay for that," she gasped.

"I warned her," Alex said as his father and Dumbledore came out.  They looked unharmed.  She came out singed and barely walking.  "I told her it could explode," he told the headmaster.

"And the reason she is babyshit yellow?" Draco asked him.

"Oh, the twins left her a surprise," he said with a grin. "That way she would know if anyone broke into her room."

"I want that boy arrested!" she shrieked, pointing at Alex.

"I told you not to go down there or it could explode," he told her, his whole voice saying how stupid he thought she was.  "I know better than that and I'm abysmal in potions, woman!"  He looked at his father, fussing some dust off him.  "There, pretty again," he said with a grin.  "Wanna come shopping with us?"

"No, son.  I believe I'll be supervising someone reconstructing my classroom."  He glared at the woman.  "Did he tell you not to come down?" he demanded coldly.  She whimpered, looking hurt.  "Did he?" he demanded.

"Severus, I was in the school and I heard him say so," Dumbledore soothed. "He told her it would explode if anyone not in on the making of the potion entered the area around it."  He gave him a gentle pat on the arm.  "It'll be all right.  We were going to replace most of those tables and stools anyway.  The ceiling and History classroom weren't planned.  Nor were my office and my desk, but that's all right.  We'll manage it before the students come back. I have, or possibly had, a wonderful catalog for you to pick new tables from."  He looked at the new defense teacher as she fell onto her face.  "Oh, dear.  I think she's badly hurt.  Madam Pomfrey!" he called.  She came from the greenhouses, then screamed and raced for the downed woman.  "She was warned not to go into the dungeons and she did it anyway," he told her. "Severus was working on something delicate and explosive."

"That's fine.  Can I get to the infirmary?"

"Oh, yes, it went straight up.  Took out the center of my desk even; a stool went crashing up right before the fireball."  He looked at Alex, who shrugged.  "Thankfully I know you're horrible in potions, young man."  He dusted himself off and helped her get the poor woman inside and up to the infirmary.  They ran into McGonagall and she followed them up the halls.  "Sorry about the noise, Minerva."

"I was wondering what it was.  I was reading in my office when suddenly everything shook for a moment.  I didn't think we were prone to earthquakes.  We haven't had one the whole time I've been here."

"No, Severus was working on something delicate that exploded if gotten near by someone who wasn't in on the making of it.  Alexander had warned her but I'm afraid she ignored him."

"That's a dangerous thing to do.  He often knows more about dangerous and dark magic than anyone here."  She helped lift the poor woman onto a bed looking at her.  "Should I call the Ministry, Albus?"

"Please.  They can come pay for what she ruined and can't replace personally, like my desk and the History classroom."  She snickered a bit.  "The fireball thankfully went straight up.  It sent an old stool in front of it as a harbinger.  I believe even dear Professor Trelwany couldn't have foreseen that incident."  He walked off, continuing to dust himself off while she called the Ministry to complain about what they thought 'suitable' teachers were like.


Albus smiled at the paper the next morning.  It had a nice story about the explosion and no one being really hurt.  He turned to the editorials, he had been told to read them today by Severus.  There he found a letter signed by 'the students of Hogwarts' that demanded a real teacher, like Remus Lupin, be installed by the Ministry if they were going to muck with the school this way.  It listed out many reasons, including his 'flaw' of being a werewolf, suggesting that gave him a better feel of what to teach the students who would one day be voting for the Minister of Magic's titleholder.  The letter nicely reminded everyone that the students going through the school were the ones who would someday be running the world, including taking on any unnatural things and healing the sick or taking care of those unable to work due to old age.  It almost gave him chills thinking about the imagery they gave for the future if the students weren't taught properly.  He certainly didn't want someone like Pansy Parkinson to take care of him in his old age.

He read on, steeling himself for more 'reasonable' articles. Another letter, this time anonymous, noted that it was teachers like Remus Lupin who had taught Harry Potter enough to be able to defeat the Dark Lord and save them all.  That the Ministry hadn't supported Harry nor had they helped him learn what he needed to.  It also noted that some of the agents at the Ministry had to bend orders to give him the information he needed to be able to fight him at all since only two of the last four years' teachers had managed to teach anything.  They made a strong case that Remus Lupin was the only one who had made such an impact on the students that the defense grades had been the highest in ten years across all the years.

He smiled at that, continuing on.  The next one was written by Tonks, calling for Remus Lupin to go back.  She cited the fact that Lupin was the only teacher in the last four who had prepared the next generation of aurors and law enforcement officials.  That she trusted the people trained by him but not by any of the other teachers.  She apologized to her former coworker but reminded him he was a bad teacher and always had been.  He left too much to the students themselves, whereas Remus guided the students to what they needed to know.  It was generally quite nicely written. He looked up as Narcissa Malfoy walked in, impeccably dressed as usual, smiling gently.  "My dear," he said, rising to kiss the back of her hand.  "What can I do for you today?"

"You can hire Remus Lupin back, Albus.  The Board of Directors said so."  She handed him the letter.  "They're aware you have a plan in place for his changes and the praise they've gotten after the paper this morning was quite encouraging.  Especially since half of it came from Slytherins and Ravenclaws."  She smirked a bit.  "We expect you to have him rehired and notify the paper before we can."

"Of course.  I wasn't aware you're on the board."

"Draco can't take Lucius' seat yet, he's not old enough.  I needed something to do, and those old farts needed someone to remind them that half the students are female, weaker, or both.  I find that soaping their mouths works quite well when they go off on the witches in the school.  Molly agrees with me since she was elected to hold another person's seat."  She gave him a half-smirk again.  "Therefore I would call on them soon, Albus.  We'll be announcing he's rehired tonight.  I believe that even my brother should be up by now."  He nodded.  She looked around.  "What happened?  That explosion took out your office?"

"It went straight up," he admitted, moving the cardboard over the frame of his desk.  "It took out the potion's classroom, the history classroom and my office in part."

"Well, you just leave that to me.  I'll talk to them about replacing things."  She bowed.  "I'll leave you to figure out how to tell him."  She left, going to tell the others he hadn't complained and what was going on with the destruction.

Molly smiled at her.  "The person I'm doing the work for said he would gladly pay to fix the damage since he favors the Potion's Master and History needed new seats anyway.  Shall I call him to tell him you all agree?"  They all nodded quickly.  One less thing to come out of their budget.  She sent off an owl immediately.


Severus came back with the students on the train.  His son had spoiled him horribly and kept him longer than he had intended.  He didn't make it to his classroom until long after dinner.  He stopped to light the lanterns in there, staring at the new iron lanterns that gave out bright light.  Not fully bright but they were frosted glass.  More than enough light to light the tables but leave shadows in the corners and around his desk.  He noticed the desks, all green and white marble with steel accents.  He walked around one to pull out a stool, noticing it was padded!  How dare his son!  He went to speak to him but found him and Draco necking on the couch so he had to flee before he saw more than he wanted to.  He had done that at least twice in the last week alone.   He tried to transfigure one of the stools but it popped back to its original form and the seat changed from black to blood red. He tried again.  Now it was medium blue.  He was a smart man, he got the point.  If he kept going they would end up sunny yellow or pink or some such vile color.  He sat down in his new desk chair, moaning at the feel of the leather as it molded to fit him.  Maybe he could get used to it given enough time.  He got up and decided to check on the History classroom, peering in there.  He found a group of couches and individual chairs that looked like it could have come from any common room, but they all had pop-up trays to write on.  He looked at the ghostly Professor.  "You let them do this?"

"I like it," he admitted.  "Maybe they won't sleep so often.  The old seats hurt your back terribly."

"I remember," he admitted.  "Mine's marble, metal, and leather."

"I saw.  It looked quite nice.  Comfortable but functional.  Your son?"

Snape grimaced and nodded.  "Definitely.  Fortunately I only have him this year."

"Unless he wants to keep going."

"He hates potions."

"Yes, but you are his father," Professor Binns noted smugly.  "He could want to impress you finally."

"He did. My desk chair is better than the ones in my suite."

"Ah.  You didn't know he redecorated in there as well?"  Snape looked alarmed and headed to his rooms, finding the old, fading, worn furniture had been replaced with furniture like his desk chair.  All but his desk.  He ran a hand across it as he had many times and sat in the chair in front of it.  Not as nice as his other one, but comfortable to work in.  He headed into his bedroom, finding a new bed with new curtains.  He tested it.  Firmer than his old one had been.  "No more backaches," he said appreciatively.  Alex had noticed he had complained after all.  He couldn't decide if he was upset or not, but he figured he could at least make fun of the gloating he was sure to be doing.  He set his alarm clock and got ready for bed, having the first good night's sleep in quite a while since no moaning children woke him up.


McGonagall smiled as Albus came in the next morning, picking one of the flowers coming out of his ears.  "What's going on?" she asked.

"My desk," he sighed, sitting down.  He looked at the two who had made his desk. Then he smiled.  Those twins!  He wondered what it would do tomorrow.  He looked around.  "Is Severus still asleep?"

She smirked a bit.  "He went to make sure his son was up."

"Hmm.  I hope they're not fighting."

"I doubt it. I tried his desk chair for comfort.  He's probably reminding his son not to gloat."  She smiled at Remus as he walked in. "Good morning."

"Good morning," he agreed, smiling at everyone.  Especially the flowers.  He and Sirius had worked with the twins for weeks on that desk.  It appeared to be working just fine.  "Minerva, have you seen the History classroom?"

"I hadn't, no.  Is it nice?"

"It is.  They found some nice couches and chairs that look like common room furniture, but they've got these neat little tables so you can take notes easier."  She smiled at that. "I tried one last night, very comfortable.  The worn look is part of the design itself.  Even Binns said that the students might not sleep now."

"I'll have to stop in there before class," she said happily.  "If it's that nice, I might have to put in to have mine redone by the board."  Dumbledore gave her an amused look.  "Mine's next on the list, Albus.  Mine and Defense are both about ready to cave in."

"You know who engineered it, go to them," he suggested before dishing himself up some food.  Everyone's head popped up as trumpets went off and Draco walked in with Alex on his arm. "Do we have a ruling couple?" he asked patiently.

"Yes, you do," Draco agreed with a wicked smirk.  "I'm more magnificent than Lockhart. If he can use such petty theatrics, so can I."

"Don't look at me, people, all I did was give him a nice, long backrub."  Alex sat down with a smirk for his mate.  The school wouldn't know what hit them this year.  Draco was now legal by wizarding law and the sky was the limit.

"At least he's happy," Remus said with a gentle smile.

"And no longer bored," Flitwick pointed out happily.

"Yes, but we won't be either," McGonagall noted sadly.  She recognized that look all too well from many generations of pranksters in her house.  "Oh, and look, the twins are getting ideas off him again this year."

"Don't worry, Minerva, the Marauders are helping them with their upcoming projects as well," Remus assured her.

She looked down at him.  "I'm not amused," she said dryly.  "Really, I'm not."  She pulled over some food for herself, shaking her head at the trouble she'd have to deal with soon enough.  She might as well eat for energy and strength now.  She'd need it to deal with them later.

The End.

To Year Five