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Gelosaþ in Écnesse

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24 June 1995
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Before Voldemort could stick his snake-like face around the headstone, Harry had stood up...he gripped his wand tightly in his hand, thrust it out in front of him, and threw himself around the headstone, facing Voldemort.

Voldemort was ready. As Harry shouted "Expelliarmus!", Voldemort cried, "Avada Kedavra!"

A jet of green light issued from Voldemort's wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harry's – they met in mid-air – and suddenly, Harry's wand was vibrating as though an electric charge was surging through it; his hand had seized up around it; he couldn't have released it if he'd wanted to – and a narrow beam of light was now connecting the two wands, neither red nor green, but bright, deep gold – and Harry, following the beam with his astonished gaze, saw that Voldemort's long white fingers, too, were gripping a wand that was shaking and vibrating.

And then – nothing could have prepared Harry for this – he felt his feet lift from the ground. He and Voldemort were both being raised into the air, their wands still connected by that thread of shimmering golden light. They were gliding away from the tombstone of Voldemort's father, and then came to rest on a patch of ground that was clear and free of graves... The Death Eaters were shouting, they were asking Voldemort for instructions; they were closing in, re-forming the circle around Harry and Voldemort, the snake slithering at their heels, some of them drawing their wands–

The golden thread connecting Harry and Voldemort splintered: though the wands remained connected, a thousand more offshoots arced high over Harry and Voldemort, criss-crossing all around them, until they were enclosed in a golden, dome-shaped web, a cage of light, beyond which the Death Eaters circled like jackals, their cries strangely muffled now...

"Do nothing!" Voldemort shrieked to the Death Eaters, and Harry saw his eyes wide with astonishment at what was happening, saw him fighting to break the thread of light still connecting his wand with Harry's; Harry held onto his wand more tightly, with both hands, and the golden thread remained unbroken. "Do nothing unless I command you!" Voldemort shouted to the Death Eaters.

And then an unearthly and beautiful sound filled the air...it was coming from every thread of the light-spun web vibrating around Harry and Voldemort. It was a sound Harry recognised, though he had heard it only once before in his life...phoenix song...

It was the sound of hope to Harry...the most beautiful and welcome thing he had ever heard in his life...he felt as though the song was inside him instead of just around him...it was the sound he connected with Dumbledore, and it was almost as though a friend was speaking in his ear...

Don't break the connection.

I know, Harry told the music, I know I mustn't...but no sooner had he thought it, than the thing became much harder to do. His wand began to vibrate more powerfully than ever...and now the beam between him and Voldemort changed, too...it was as though large beads of light were sliding up and down the thread connecting the wands – Harry felt his wand give a shudder under his hand, as the light beads began to slide slowly and steadily his way...the direction of the beam's movement was now towards him, from Voldemort, and he felt his wand shudder angrily...

As the nearest bead of light moved nearer to Harry's wand tip, the wood beneath his fingers grew so hot he feared it would burst into flame. The closer that bead moved, the harder Harry's wand vibrated; he was sure his wand would not survive contact with it; it felt as though it was about to shatter under his fingers–

Before Harry could let go, could think to find a way to stop it, the first bead touched his wand, and it exploded from his fingers, the air charged with the red of his disarming charm, and Harry slammed against the singing web. His back burned and the phoenix song was no longer so friendly, so reassuring, but screaming in his ears, Get up! Get up! And Harry raised his eyelids in time to watch as the light of the web turned sickly green – green like the Killing Curse – before his entire world spiralled into pain and black.

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722 CE


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Salazar was walking along the path, watching as the sun sank towards the horizon, and just thinking that it might be a good idea to find a place to camp out for the night, when there was the sudden scream of birdsong from all around him. He immediately pulled out his sword, left hand turned to release his hidden wand at the sign of a magical enemy, and turned in place, trying to find the actual direction of the grating music.

A blast of golden light came from the line of trees just in his line of sight, and the song fell dead, leaving behind an eerie silence that brought goosebumps to Salazar's arms.

He considered the direction of the flash for a long moment before relaxing his stance and moving, ever cautious, towards the tree-line. Golden light meant magic, and as much as he didn't want to get involved in any magical battles while he was alone and on business, he also couldn't, in good conscience, keep on when there might be a magical hurt. His master had often said that it was the duty of all things magical to help those others with magic; Gods knew no one else would.

Slowly, normal animal sounds returned to the area, and Salazar felt himself relaxing, almost against his will, at the assurance that whatever danger had been was gone. He considered heading on his way – he still needed to make camp for the night – but there'd been no sign of anything leaving, and that had been a distinctly magical occurrence.

He found the cause of the light – or, at the least, the victim of it – not far inside the tree-line. A boy lay face-down in a patch of heather. Criss-crossing lines of burns were etched across his back, legs, and arms, cutting through his dirty red robes and singed black hair. His hands – what Salazar could see of them from where they rested under the edges of his robes – were blistered a violent red, blood seeping from whatever wounds there were on the palms to dye the pink heather bloody red.

Salazar thought, distantly, that this person – man? boy? – had been through hell and back. If he was dead...

But, no. The burned back rose – shaking with what must be terrible pain – and fell with breath. And Salazar knew, with the same certainty that he'd known his mother loved him, that he could never turn and walk away from someone so wounded. That he was alive was a miracle, and to see him survive the night would be the will of the Gods, but Salazar would do what he could, no matter his other duties; Godric, Rowena, and Helga would understand.

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Harry woke slowly, feeling as though he lay under a hundred blankets, but when he moved to push them off, pain raced across his back and down his arms. He let out a hiss.

There was a clatter off to one side and a hand rested against Harry's forehead. Through a fog, he heard a murmur of noise that might have been speech, but sleep was pulling him back under and he no longer cared.

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The next time Harry woke, it was more sudden. Remembering the pain from before – and, vaguely, the golden web that had burned when he'd hit it – he kept very still as he opened his eyes.

What met him was not the cracked ceiling of the hospital wing, as he'd expected, but dark green cloth wall and a hanging lantern. 'Where am I?'

A sound came to him of fabric on fabric and Harry turned his head to look towards it. A man with chin-length black hair and eyes disturbingly similar in colour to Harry's own was slipping in through what looked to be a tent entrance. He held a stone bowl in one hand and a sheathed sword knocked against his leg, attached to a leather belt worn over an extremely long shirt/short dress. 'Tunic,' Harry's mind supplied, sounding suspiciously like Hermione.

The man looked towards Harry and blinked, then his lips curled with a smile and he hurried forward, saying, "Þú bist wæccende! Þú bist hál?"

Harry stared for a moment, then croaked, "I...don't... Do you speak English?"

The man frowned. "Englisc? Íc ágitaþ ne..." He sighed and shook his head. "Ungelícu geþéodeu...? Ah!" He smiled at Harry, who was staring at him like he'd lost his mind. "Íc eftgemyndge þone galdorcwide!" He pulled out a wand and, before Harry could think he might be in some kind of danger, gave it a wave, intoning, "Efengedæle geþéode."

Harry closed his eyes against an onslaught of knowledge. Without any reason as to how he knew it, he now understood the language the man had been speaking to be Englisc – the form of English he knew as 'Old English' – and he knew he could both write and speak it himself. It was...uncanny.

"Do you understand me now, boy?" the man asked, and Harry knew he was speaking Englisc, yet he understood it as if he'd been speaking the modern English Harry had grown up with.

"Yea– Erm, yes. Sorry." He shook his head and looked up at the man, finding it easier to remember to speak in this new – old? – language than he'd thought it would be, but he did still have to think about it.

The man's face relaxed with a smile. "Good. How are you feeling? Your back should be mostly healed."

Harry very carefully shifted and was relieved to feel no pain. "It is, yeah," he breathed and the other's face crinkled with a frown. "Oh, bugger! Yes," he corrected, grimacing. "This is going to take some getting used to."

The man nodded, smiling wry. "It is. I've made the mistake more than once with the others, before we could smooth out our languages." At Harry curious frown, he explained, "The spell can only be cast once per twenty-four hours for any one person, and Godric and I were the only ones with a language in co– Are you well?"

Harry shook his head and closed his eyes. "Godric Gryffindor?" he near-squeaked.

"The same," the man agreed, waving a stool over and sitting next to the cot Harry lay in. "You know him, then?" he asked as he summoned a water skin for the boy.

"I–" Harry shook his head. "Damn it all," he muttered in English before switching to Englisc and saying, "I know of him. You wouldn't happen to be Salazar Slytherin?"

The man blinked in surprise. "Indeed I am."

"Merlin's hairy bollocks. Why does this shit always happen to me?" Harry complained, closing his eyes and resisting the urge to beat his head against the pillow under his head.

"And your name?" Salazar asked, resisting the urge to demand the boy speak in the language they now shared; he was still used to his native language, so he would naturally fall into it first, unless he was trying not to. A few weeks speaking Englisc would cure him of that, but it would still take time.

Harry sighed. "Harry Potter," he offered, figuring he was far enough back in history that using his real name shouldn't mess with the timeline too much. And, if it did, Harry didn't really care. "I'm sorry, I– Do you happen to know the date?"

"Three days past Mabon," Salazar said.

"Mabon?" Harry repeated.

"The autumn equinox?" Salazar sighed. "You've been sleeping for five days."

"Fiv– Bloody– Fuck– Why does this shit always happen to me?" Harry demanded, not even noticing as he fell back into his native tongue when he couldn't find invectives rude enough to please him. "It's not bad enough I had to run through a maze and go up against Voldemort, but then I get thrown back in time and sleep for five days? Why does– Does God hate me or something?"

"Christian. Of course," Salazar muttered to himself, having recognised the name for the god of the religious sect in the babble of unfamiliar language, before setting a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder. "Harry."

The boy sighed and closed his eyes, resigned. "Sorry. I just... Sorry. Bad week."

"I don't doubt that."

Harry opened his mouth to ask how Salazar would know, then remembered his wounds and grimaced. "Yes..."

Salazar cocked his head to one side. "What happened? All I saw was a gold light."

"Gold light?" Harry murmured frowning. Then he shook his head and said, "It's complicated."

"These things often are," Salazar agreed drily. "But I should like you to tell me; I have never seen such wounds, and rarely one so young as yourself so badly wounded. Had I been non-magical, you would be dead."

Harry felt a chill run down his spine and he swallowed; he'd nearly died, would have died if Salazar Slytherin hadn't been nearby. "I–" His voice caught and he shook his head. "What's the year?"

Salazar raised an eyebrow at that. "The year?" he wondered, frowning in thought. "You follow the Christian calendar?"

Harry blinked a few times. 'Christian calendar? Well, maybe? It is based off when Christ was born, right?' "Uhm, yes. I guess?"

"You guess?" Salazar repeated before shaking his head. "I believe, then, that this is the year seven hundred twenty-two."

Harry closed his eyes, feeling sick. Logically, he knew he had to be at least a thousand years in the past to be sitting in a tent with Salazar Slytherin. But it was one thing to know you were so far from home, and another thing entirely to know exactly how far away home was.

"Harry?" Salazar asked, touching his shoulder again.

"Sorry," Harry whispered, looking up into similar green eyes. "What do you know of time travel?"

"Very little," Salazar admitted, suspicions forming in his eyes. "If the Gods will it, it may occur. You have travelled in time?"

"Over a thousand years," Harry agreed. When Salazar simply nodded, not debating the validity of that statement, Harry asked, "You believe me?"

Salazar shrugged. "It answers some questions," he offered, when Harry frowned, confused, Salazar explained, "Your robes were of a different weave and fabric than I have seen, as was your footwear. And your language; there are times I almost understand a word, but I know all the languages of the Isles, and what you speak isn't one of them. Your eyewear, also, was unusual."

"My eyewear? Oh! Yes, where are my glasses? And how come I can see?" Harry added, remembering that he'd been able to see Salazar without any trouble when he'd first entered.

"Your glasses didn't survive your trip," Salazar offered, "and I wasn't certain of my ability to repair them. There is a spell to repair poor vision which I used. It will have to be re-cast every five years or so, but it is far simpler than requiring eyewear."

"Oh. Well, thanks. I'll have to learn that spell..." Harry's expression fell as he remembered another problem. "I don't suppose I had my wand on me?"

Salazar shook his head. "I saw no wand, though I admit, it was not my concern."

Harry sighed and nodded. "Figures. I don't suppose there's somewhere I can get a new one? Somehow?"

"If we can find him, Master Ollivander will likely make you a wand."

Harry smiled at the familiar name. "Well, that's good, then. I'm not sure how I'll pay for it..."

"Master Ollivander doesn't usually ask payment," Salazar offered. "Too many magicals have little or nothing to offer in return for a wand, so he makes them for free. If you can bring him a rare material, it pleases him, but he will not require anything."

"Oh..."

Salazar considered him for a moment, then commented, "It's probably best you don't tell me the truth of what happened to you, to protect the timeline."

"Oh, yes," Harry agreed.

Salazar nodded. "I only ask this: Is there any likelihood that whoever – or whatever – hurt you will follow you here?"

Harry thought back to that desperate fight in the graveyard and all he knew of Voldemort. For all that the man might well like coming back to the time of the Founders, he doubted Voldemort would take the chance that he'd be stuck here, alone. And, anyway, there was little to no chance that Harry would survive to cause Voldemort difficulty again, beyond seeing to it that the Dark Lord had never been born. (Tempting as that was, Harry wasn't even sure how to accomplish it, beyond killing Salazar, but the wizard in question had already saved his life, which sort put paid to that idea.)

In the end, Harry shook his head. "No. If he thinks I might have survived that at all, I doubt he'd know where to look for me. More likely, he thinks I'm dead." Harry touched the healed cut on his arm, where Wormtail had taken his blood, and fought the urge to cry as he remembered his friends and Sirius, who he'd never see again. "He's right," he added in a whisper.

Salazar touched the boy's shoulder, heart aching at the lost look in his eyes. "Sleep, Harry," he suggested. "It will help."

Harry wondered about the truth of that, but he turned his head and closed his eyes all the same, remembering Ron and Hermione and Sirius as they were, and trying not to hurt too much.

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Once certain Harry had fallen to sleep, his muffled sniffs long silenced, Salazar retired to his own cot to think.

His first thoughts, as they had been since he'd found the boy, were for his injuries: How could a boy so young have an enemy so intent on hurting him? What sort of person would be so intent on harming a child? Was this the future they had to look forward to? One where magic was used to severely harm – torture, based on the readings of the unfamiliar pain curse Salazar had noted – and perhaps kill children?

'Violence begets violence,' Salazar's master had been fond of saying, but he wondered, now, what sort of violence this boy had done to this other that would end with him so near death.

'I don't know the facts,' Salazar reminded himself, sighing. 'Just because I read no violence from the boy doesn't mean he is innocent.'

Yet, Salazar was a Legilimens of such prowess that it took him but a brief moment of touching another's mind to understand their base character. And he read only a gentle soul from this boy; battered, and willing to fight to protect himself and others, but still gentle. There was no will to kill within the boy, no interest in harming another, even when his thoughts had so obviously turned towards the one that had hurt him. There'd been anger, yes, and a need for justice, but no lust for blood.

Salazar turned his thoughts away from the damage to the boy's body and, instead, to what he'd learned of his past. 'Not much,' Salazar thought, 'but enough, perhaps.'

He was from the future, far into the future. Salazar had wondered, when he'd had the time to look over the boy's ruined clothing, but he'd not been certain, and he never would have guessed such a length of time. Could he find a way to get the boy home? He would try, both to protect the timeline, and to get the boy back to his family.

And there did seem to be a form of family the boy needed to get back to, if the flash of thoughts he'd read from the boy was accurate. A man – father? uncle? – and a boy and girl Harry's own age – close friends, or siblings? There were others, too, but those were the only faces Salazar had caught before Harry had turned away. Harry had been sad and hurt at the thought that he would never see them again, but there was also a resignation there, a sense of 'I knew it would happen'.

'What pain have you endured, Harry Potter, that you resign yourself so easily to a life apart from your family and friends?'

It pained Salazar to admit that, in refusing to pry further into the boy's past, he had resigned himself to never fully knowing the truth of who Harry Potter was. He could learn his character, and Harry might well let little things slip, but he could never know everything about the boy.

As sleep finally claimed Salazar, his last thought was, 'I wonder if Hogwarts survives a thousand years. Our names certainly seem to have...'

-0-

Harry woke to raised voices. They were muffled by the walls of the tent, but still travelled through the crack of the door enough that they drew him from his pleasant memories of Hermione and Ron. He thought he recognised Salazar's voice – 'You've met a Founder!' the tiny Hermione in him squeed – but the other male was unfamiliar.

Well, Harry wasn't much one for lying about in bed – he'd done enough of that for the past week, for all that he couldn't remember it – and he felt more than well enough to get up and see what was going on. He pushed the blankets back to get out, then flushed when he realised he was naked and there was nothing to slip into next to the cot. 'He couldn't have conjured me clothing?' Harry grumbled as he separated the least scratchy blanket from the three on his bed and wrapped it around his middle; it would have to do.

Harry poked his head out of the tent doorway and found Salazar standing in front of a tall man with a mane of red hair. The man wore red while Salazar wore green, and it made Harry think of Christmas. He stifled a grin.

"–no excuse for you to slack in your duties, Salazar!" the man in red was shouting. "I don't care how many snakes you've found–"

"What do you have against snakes?" Salazar wondered coolly, not raising his voice in the way his companion was. "And, as I said in my message, this is important–"

"Your idea of important and my idea of important differ greatly," the taller man boomed.

"Obviously."

"Perhaps if you told me what was so damned important that you had to laze about in the forest for a week–"

"It's none of your business, and I'll thank you not to pry," Salazar retorted. "If you're so worried about the time we're losing while I'm on holiday–"

"Holiday," the big man scoffed.

"–then perhaps you should be out there, picking up my slack."

"It's not my job to pick up your–" The big man blinked, finally noticing the figure standing in the doorway of the tent, a blanket wrapped around his waist. "Salazar, who's that?"

"Who's who?" Salazar asked, but he was already turning to look. The mild irritation he'd been feeling at the other man vanished as he caught sight of the boy in the doorway, only to be replaced by concern. "Harry, you shouldn't be up."

"I–" Harry paused and took a moment to remember to speak in Englisc, then started again, "I feel fine."

"Just because you 'feel fine' doesn't mean you should be out of bed. Go."

Harry scowled. "What are you, my mother?" he muttered in English.

"Now," Salazar ordered, not needing a translation to guess as to what the teen had said; he was familiar enough with that tone of voice and body language.

"Going," Harry muttered and returned to the inside of the tent.

Behind Salazar, the larger man drew in a sharp breath, and Salazar knew he'd seen the criss-crossing scars covering Harry's back and upper arms, from the burns he'd been unable to completely heal, no matter what he'd used. Honestly, he'd been lucky they'd scabbed over at all. The wounds on Harry's hands, inner elbow, and leg had all healed with little to no trouble, but the marks on his back had not.

"You should have said," the large man said, voice softened with sorrow.

"You three would have just rushed out here and demanded to hover," Salazar replied, turning back to frown at his fellow. "I'd have had to keep kicking you out and lost my concentration. It was hard enough healing him without a distraction; he'd be dead now if you three had been here, Godric."

Godric Gryffindor winced. "I suppose," he allowed. As much as he hated to admit it, Salazar had probably called it right; of the four friends, he was the best with healing magic and potions, having studied for a time under the foremost healer of their time. "Well, I know of him now," he pointed out hopefully.

Salazar shot him a knowing look, then sighed. "Oh, very well. But you won't be sending Rowena and Helga out to check in on him," he added, narrowing his eyes at Godric's pleased grin, which fell at his words. "When Harry is well enough to travel, I will bring him to the castle and you can all coddle him to your hearts' content there."

Godric sighed. "Very well. Am I at least allowed to tell the ladies why you've decided to go on holiday? Or will you curse me for mentioning that, as well?"

Salazar considered it, then shrugged. "You may tell them so long as you keep them from flying out here to torment me."

Godric rolled his eyes. "Of course, Salazar. May I meet this boy now? Harry, you called him?"

Salazar nodded and led the way into the tent. He was pleased to find that Harry had returned to his cot, though the boy was scowling a bit. His expression lightened when he saw Salazar, then added a wary gleam as Godric followed him. "Harry," Salazar said, "this is Godric Gryffindor. Godric, Harry Potter."

The wary gleam vanished as soon as he heard Godric's name and Harry grinned. "Hello!"

"Hello, young Harry," Godric replied, calling over Salazar's usual stool and sitting next to the cot. "So you are the secret that has kept Salazar so long from his duties."

"Godric!" Salazar hissed, glaring at his friend.

"Yes, sorry about that," Harry murmured, looking down at his blanket.

Godric sighed. "Don't take it so, child. Salazar was to be looking for children for our new school, anyway; finding you was not truly an abandonment of his duties, simply a detour."

Green eyes peeked out from under the mop of black hair. "New school?" he repeated, curiosity lacing his words.

"Ah. Has Salazar been so busy mothering you that he hasn't even mentioned Hogwarts?" Godric asked, chuckling.

Harry's lips turned with a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Something like that," he agreed, and a quick flash of Legilimency told Salazar that the boy was remembering he'd been asleep for five days.

'I need to teach him to close him mind,' Salazar mused. 'It's too dangerous for him to go around with an open mind, not with the future knowledge he has.'

"Well, it's to be in this massive stone fortress we've renovated; a castle, we've made it," Godric explained, face lighting up as he set to talking of his newest favourite topic. "We – Salazar, Rowena, Helga, and myself – are taking the time until Yule to collect students and, maybe, some members of staff because, you know, you can't really have a dozen children running around a castle and only a few adults to watch them and make the food and keep the place clean."

Harry laughed. "No, of course not. So when are you going to start teaching these children? As they show up?"

Godric shook his head, grin widening as he found an interested audience. "Right after Yule, but we're taking in children with nowhere else to go before then, if it's needed." He paused, expression turning grave. "Might I assume you'll be joining us for Yule?"

Harry's smile slipped for a breath before he forced it back in place. "Guess so," he agreed.

Godric touched the boy's blanket-cover knee and sighed. "I am sorry, child, for your loss," he offered. "I must also ask how you received the scars on your back."

Harry blinked in surprise even as Salazar snapped, "Godric!"

"If there's a magical in the area beating on children, we need to let families know," Godric insisted, turning to frown at Salazar.

"Sorry," Harry broke in, eyes sharp with dawning comprehension. "Scars on my back?"

Godric snapped his mouth shut, disbelieving. It was Salazar who spoke then, commenting, "He's not seen them." He waved his wand, conjuring a mirror behind the boy, and said, "There."

Harry took a deep breath, then turned his head and looked over his shoulder. He winced in remembered pain at the criss-crossing of lines etched into his skin – he wasn't likely to forget the pain he'd felt when he hit that golden web – then turned back to the two adults. "He's long gone," he said quietly to Godric. "Left the Isles, by now," he added, recalling the word Salazar had used for Britain the day before.

"I wasn't unmindful of the potential danger," Salazar added drily. "You insult me to act as though I wouldn't have looked into that already."

Godric winced. "I don't mean insult, Salazar. It's simply that you've busy caring for Harry–"

"I'm not insulted, Godric," Salazar commented.

Godric let out an amused snort. "No, you're just making a point." He got to his feet. "Very well, Salazar. I'll leave everything in your ever capable hands."

"Finally," Salazar muttered.

Godric chuckled. "I warn you now, however, that I can only promise to keep a reign on Helga for another week, so don't take too long."

Salazar sneered. "Take away her wand and lock her in a cupboard."

Godric turned to Harry, grinning. "Harry, I shall see you when you join us at the castle. Until then, focus on healing and ignore Salazar if he gets grumpy."

Harry covered his own smile. "Okay. Goodbye, sir."

"Godric," the man insisted and Harry nodded.

"Out," Salazar ordered and the larger man did so, laughing. After a moment of silence, Salazar turned to Harry and asked, "Was he at all like you expected?"

Harry shrugged and shook his head. "I tried not to have any expectations," he admitted. "He reminded me a bit of–" Harry's mouth snapped shut as his thoughts caught up and he took a deep breath against the uprising of sadness. "He reminds me of my best friend," Harry finally finished quietly.

Salazar took the seat next to Harry's cot. "In what way?" he asked, recalling the redhead he'd seen in the boy's memories the day before. There had been a certain degree of similarity to Godric in the colour of their hair.

Harry considered that for a moment, uncertain if he could speak of his friends without hurting himself too much or polluting the timeline. 'Over one thousand years,' Harry reminded himself. 'And Hermione's always telling me to talk about what's troubling me.'

"Ron..." Harry started frowning down at his eyes. "Well, Ron's got red hair, same as Gryffi–"

"Call him Godric, Harry," Salazar interrupted gently.

Harry blinked. "Oh. But...he's going to be my teacher, right? Maybe?"

Salazar snorted. "Perhaps. But if you go around calling him Gryffindor, you might well get him confused with his son or wife."

"He's got a family?" Harry asked, leaning forward. "What about the rest of you?"

Salazar sighed. Of course the boy would be just as interested in learning about himself and his fellows as Salazar was in learning about Harry. "Godric has a wife, Bernia, and a son, Kenric; Rowena has a husband, Holden, and a daughter, Helena; and Helga has a husband, Roscoe, a daughter, Ramona, and a son, Conrad. I have never been married."

Harry smiled. "I didn't know any of that," he admitted. "I mean, I know you lot – Godric and Ra-Rowena and Hu-Helga and you – but I didn't know anything about your families."

"I'm sure you'll learn all our sordid histories," Salazar said drily and Harry grinned. "Tell me about Ron."

Harry's eyes narrowed with suspicion, smile vanishing. "Why?"

Salazar's lips twitched with a smile. "Because I'm curious," he admitted.

Harry considered that for a moment, then said, "He was my first friend. We met on the..." He frowned as he tried to find a word for 'train' in Englisc, only to remember trains didn't exist yet. "Ah. We met on the way to Hogwarts, then. I suppose."

"You suppose?" Salazar repeated, amused.

"The method of transportation we use doesn't exist yet," Harry retorted. Then, realisation hitting him like a bucket of ice, and he corrected, "Used."

"He was your first friend?" Salazar interrupted, refusing to let the boy stay upset for long.

"Huh? Oh, yes. My cousin used to beat up anyone who tried to befriend me. He was a muggle," Harry added.

"A what?"

Harry frowned and thought back over what he'd said. "A mugg– Oh!" It took Harry a minute to sort out the word he needed, then he explained, "Non-magical. We call them muggles."

Salazar raised an eyebrow at that. "I see." He stood and walked over to his food stores to get them both something to eat. "Keep talking," he suggested.

So Harry did. He explained all about Ron's big family, tripping over what how to refer to Mr Weasley, Percy, and Bill's jobs and taking care not to use their last name. Just in case.

And when Harry had finished talking about the Weasleys, he mentioned Hermione: "My other friend is Hermione. She's the brightest witch in our year. Both of her parents are non-magical, so she sometimes gets called names–"

"Why?" Salazar asked, honestly confused as to why that should be a problem.

Harry opened his mouth to respond, then closed it and frowned. "I tried not to have expectations," he'd said about Godric, and while that mostly held true for the other three Founders, he did have expectations for Salazar: muggle-hater, against those not pure of blood being in Hogwarts, rather Snape-like.

But Salazar wasn't like Snape. He was a bit snarky at times, sure, but he'd treated Harry well, rather than like crud on the bottom of his boots. He hadn't reacted at all to Harry's comment as to his cousin being a muggle, beyond asking what a 'muggle' was.

"Harry?"

Harry shook his head. "Sorry. Uhm, in the future, there's a large group of purebloods – those who can trace the magic in their family back generations – who think that those with non-magical parents don't deserve to learn magic, because they're not 'true' witches and wizards. Or some such."

"Preposterous!" Salazar declared. "Who are these fools to debate the design of the Gods? Those gifted with magic were done so for a reason, and it is their birthright to learn to use it to the fullest of their abilities. That is why we're building Hogwarts, so everyone can learn magic, not just those privileged or lucky enough to have access to someone who's willing to take on an apprentice."

Harry stared at him for a moment before a slow smile twisted his mouth. "I guess that part got lost to time," he said and Salazar's scowl deepened. "I sort of wish I could get back home and mention that to all the purebloods, though."

"So do I," Salazar muttered, disgusted. No wonder there were wizards and witches willing to attack children, if they'd adopted such ridiculous thoughts about the superiority of blood.

Harry grinned outright at the man, imagining the reaction of those purebloods back home if Salazar Slytherin showed up to call them all idiots when they believed he had been on their side. "Our second year," he said, "Mal– Draco called Hermione a mudblood – it's the absolutely worst insult for someone with non-magical parents – and we were with a bunch of upper year G– erm. Upper years, and they about ripped his face off."

"Good on them," Salazar declared and Harry nodded. "Did you try anything on this child?"

"It was the first time I'd heard the word," Harry admitted. "I was raised by non-magicals, see, so I was always a bit behind Ron and the others who were raised by magicals."

"How did your teachers handle it? The varying amounts of knowledge, I mean," Salazar asked, and Harry heard the uncertainty of starting a school for the first time in the history of the magical world in his voice.

Harry considered his answer before slowly replying, "Well, I suppose they taught us all the same. They picked a bit of a middle-ground; those students that were ahead got a bit of review and could study ahead on their own, if they were of a mind to, and those that were behind got help from their professors outside class or from their fellow students. I mean, other than Defence, the professors had all been there for a while, so they'd probably found the best level to teach at."

"And your...Defence?"

"Defence Against the Dark Arts," Harry clarified after sorting through his new language to find the words that would best equal what they called the class. "There's a bit of a curse on the position, so we've only ever had a professor for one year, then they're gone. It's...not been easy," he finished wryly.

"No, that wouldn't be," Salazar agreed, wincing in sympathy. "Were they at least all good teachers?"

"Oh, about half and half," Harry replied airily, having resigned himself to the curse around the time Lockhart had obliviated himself. "First year we had a stutterer who was sort of possessed by–" Harry motioned to his back and shook his head. Salazar nodded his understanding, fighting not to grind his teeth at the thought of the wizard who'd so hurt the boy. "He wasn't too bad, if you ignored the stuttering. And his attempts to kill me. Second year was a self-important fraud, but last year and this year were both excellent."

Salazar cleared his throat. "You are surprisingly calm about having a wizard trying to kill you."

Harry frowned. "I'm used to it," he admitted. "He killed my parents when I was one. Tried to kill me, too, but it backfired." He fingered a scar on his forehead that Salazar had remembered noticing while he'd been trying to keep the boy alive, then ignored in favour of working on the most recent damage. "First year he tried to kill me...twice, that I know of. Second year he set a basilisk on me. Third year...actually, that wasn't his fault. This year I almost died a few times for his grand plan. And then, well..." Harry shrugged. "As far as he's concerned, I'm dead."

"Unless you can hunt down and kill his ancestors," Salazar commented, green eyes sharp.

Harry became very, very still for a long moment before commenting, "Merlin knows what that would do to the timeline."

Salazar shot him an odd look, but nodded. "Indeed. Tell me, Harry, what do you know of the mind arts?"

"Mind arts?" Harry repeated, glancing at Salazar. "Nothing, I don't think."

Salazar nodded again, having expected as much. "They're two-part: Occlumency, which is used to protect the mind from outside invasion, and Legilimency, which is used to invade another's mind."

Suspicion flashed in Harry's eyes and he tensed. "I see," he said. Then, after a beat, "You know this 'Legilimency'." It wasn't a question.

"I do." Salazar saw no reason to lie, especially if he was going to teach the boy.

"You've used it on me." Also not a question.

Salazar paused for a beat, knowing he had to be careful here, and allowed, "There is a form of Legilimency which allows the Legilimens to skim the surface of another's thoughts; to get a feel for their current emotions and see an occasional, strong image." He paused for his own beat, then agreed, "I have used this on you, yes."

Harry let out a sharp breath. "Paranoid bastard," he muttered, but there was no heat to it. "How common are people who use Legilimency?"

"Legilimens," Salazar corrected and Harry nodded his understanding. "Not very, admittedly, but there are a few out there, and most of them are, as you called me, paranoid."

"And I'm from the future," Harry murmured, frowning. "How does one learn Occlumency?"

Salazar smiled; oh, he was going to have quite the fight on his hands if he was going to keep Harry as one of his primaries. "It is an art of the mind, so one must first be capable of governing their own mind. This requires a clarity of thoughts. Perhaps focus all your attention on one particular image or sound, and then let everything else slip, forgotten, into the background. Learning to quickly slip into this trance is the first step of Occlumency."

Harry cocked his head to one side, then nodded and closed his eyes.

Salazar remained in his seat for a few minutes before deciding Harry would call him if he needed him. He gathered their bowls – Harry cracked one eye and looked to see what he was up to, then returned to his thoughts – and took them over to clean up. Once that was done, he sorted through the potions he kept on his person in case of emergencies and decided he could do with more healing potions – most of them had been used on Harry – and set up his cauldron to do some brewing.

Almost two hours later, Salazar bottled the last of his potion and finally looked back towards Harry, only to find the boy sleeping. He chuckled to himself, recalling his own many naps during his first attempts to learn Occlumency, and walked over to wake the boy. "Harry," he called, touching the boy's shoulder.

Harry's eyes shot open, one hand reaching to his hip. After a breath, he relaxed. "Slyth– Salazar. Hello."

"Hello," Salazar replied, smiling. "Focussing on a single thing is quite exhausting, isn't it?"

Harry flushed. "Ah. Damn. Sorry." He straightened from his slouch.

Salazar shook his head. "All students of Occlumency fall asleep a few times when they're first beginning, and you're still healing. For all that you may feel fine," he added when Harry frowned. "There was a great deal of magic in those burns on your back; I healed the skin, but it will take a few more days before your system can finish flushing the excess magic from them. There's no pain, but you'll tire easily."

"Oh." Harry rubbed the back of his neck, flinching when he touched the top of the scars. "You know, if you'd mentioned that, I never would have tried climbing out of bed."

"I will endeavour to remember that, should we find ourselves in a similar situation in future," Salazar replied drily and Harry grinned. "For now, it has been some hours since the soup; are you interested in something else, or would you prefer to return to focussing?"

Harry considered that for a moment, then offered, "The focussing, I think."

Salazar nodded. "Very well. I need to go out into the woods to collect some ingredients."

"Oh, okay," Harry agreed with a shrug, then closed his eyes.

Salazar shook his head, amused, and collected his kit before heading for the entrance. He was just lifting the door out of the way when Harry called his name and he looked back to see the boy watching him, expression troubled. "Yes?"

"Uhm. I sort of...need to use the..." His nose wrinkled. "...the privy."

Salazar ruthlessly suppressed the urge to laugh and pointed to a section of the tent that had been enclosed with a curtain and warded against smell and sound. "There. Yes, you may leave the cot for that."

Harry huffed. "I should hope so," he replied before looking down at the blanket wrapped around his waist and tangled in the other blankets on his bed. "I don't suppose I can have real clothing?" he added hopefully.

Salazar considered that, then walked over and picked out one of the blankets on the bed to transfigure into a grey tunic and trousers. "Acceptable?"

"Yes, I suppose," Harry agreed and tugged the tunic on over his head, saving the trousers for when he was done in the privy. The set of his shoulders relaxed minutely and he smiled faintly. "Thanks, Salazar."

Salazar inclined his head, then left the boy to stumble out of his nest of blankets and into the privy.

Salazar spent almost three hours hunting for ingredients to replenish his stores. When he finally returned to the tent, he found Harry sitting cross-legged on his cot, frowning faintly. He glanced up as the cloth door fell closed behind Salazar and nodded. "Fruitful search?" he wondered and Salazar could hear the exhaustion in his voice.

"Indeed," he agreed, setting his kit away. "You've been focussing this entire time?"

Harry shook his head. "I slept again, but I woke myself up," he admitted. At Salazar's raised eyebrow, he explained, "Nightmares."

"Ah." Salazar nodded and moved towards the food stores. "Perhaps something to eat and then you can get some real sleep."

Harry considered that for a moment, then asked, "Does the Dreamless Sleep Potion exist?"

Salazar frowned. "I don't know a potion by that name, but there is one I know that should keep your dreams at bay. It can't be used more than two nights in a row, but I can give you some tonight, if you honestly think you'll need it."

"Yes," Harry said without hesitation, and Salazar again wondered what things the boy had lived through.

They ate the soup Salazar had made – soup was easy and Harry hadn't eaten in days, he'd told the boy when he asked – in relative silence, then Salazar gave Harry a dose of the Dream-Free Potion. While Harry curled up to sleep, Salazar set up his potion station again, settling in to make more of the Dream-Free Potion; he only carried one dose, since he preferred to handle his nightmares on his own unless there were extenuating circumstances, but Harry would need the sleep, so it would be wise to have more on hand.

By the time Salazar had completed and bottled the potion, he was yawning every other minute, so he cleaned up his workstation and turned in.

Chapter Text

Salazar was already up and working with his cauldrons when Harry woke. Harry crept from his cot and made a quick stop in the privy before returning to his tiny prison, resisting the urge to wander the tent; being given a reason why he needed to stay in the cot helped, but Harry had never claimed to be a particularly still person. His lips quirked with a sad smile when the image of Ron's reaction to being in similar circumstances came to mind; if Harry was having trouble remaining still, no doubt Ron would be trying to sneak from the cot every three minutes, assuming he hadn't insulted Salazar into cursing him to sleep out the duration of his bed rest.

With a silent sigh, Harry closed his eyes and focussed on the sound of phoenix song, finding it helped calm his thoughts better than any other image or sound he'd focussed on over the past day. There was a slight sense of fear at the sound of the gentle trill – Harry wouldn't soon forget the way it had changed in the cage with Voldemort – but he shoved it out with his other thoughts and wrapped the sound around him.

Salazar roused him some time later, holding out a bowl of more soup. "Isn't there something else easy on the stomach I can have?" Harry complained good-naturedly as he resettled himself on his cot with the bowl.

"Probably, but I'm not a cook," Salazar admitted, "that's Helga's forte." He waited for Harry to take a few sips before adding, "Anyway, it's easy to slip potions into soup."

Harry paused, spoon held uncertainly in front of his mouth. He looked at the innocent liquid in the curved metal for a moment, debating his options. Eventually, he brought it to his mouth, figuring he'd already had enough of the soup that refusing the rest wouldn't save him from any potions. Anyway, Salazar would hardly poison him after he spent five days nursing Harry back to health. Still: "What potions am I still on?" he asked with the wisdom of one who'd spent more than enough time under the care of a medic.

Salazar's lips twitched with amusement. "A nutrition potion, a potion to help your body clear the foreign magic, and a mild pain potion."

Harry flexed his back without really intending to and said, "You told me my back was healed."

"It is," Salazar assured him, "but after the trouble that the magic trapped in the burns gave me, I'm not about to take any chances. If something happens, I'd rather you not let me know by screaming."

"I wouldn't," Harry said with such certainty that Salazar wanted to hurt the boy's attacker. "I appreciate the sentiment all the same, however."

"Hm."

Harry had a few more spoonfuls of his soup before saying, "You know a lot about healing magic, then?"

Salazar shrugged. "My second master – the second man I apprenticed under," he clarified upon seeing Harry's faint frown, "was a healer. Probably the best of our century. I don't have his genius in diagnosing symptoms, and non-magical medicine is largely beyond me, but I get by well enough."

"I'd have thought Huf–Helga the healer," Harry admitted.

Salazar smiled faintly. "I suppose she's more the type. She does have some knowledge of magical medicine, but it was all learned in passing or from me since we met; she never studied it herself. No, Helga chose to focus on food. She's a most excellent cook, and has created more than her fair-share of charms for use in a kitchen."

Harry looked down at his mostly empty bowl and commented, "I can't wait to meet her."

Salazar snorted. "Speaking of meeting the others..." He leaned forward, bowl set next to his stool. "Not to say I'm upset with you for it, but why didn't you tell Godric the truth of the wizard that hurt you?"

In all honesty, it hadn't been something Harry had thought about during the event, but he didn't have to think too hard to know why he'd lied. "Because I rather like the idea of spending my final years at Hogwarts without standing out."

Salazar raised an eyebrow at that. "Indeed?"

Harry sighed and held out his bowl for Salazar to put to the side. "At home, I survived an attack, as a baby, from...well..." He motioned to his back and Salazar offered a grim smile. "Him. Anyway, I was a bit well-known for it. And I, well, I got a bit tired of it, especially with everything that happened this year." He looked away, sick at the memories of the the 'Potter Stinks' buttons and Ron refusing to talk to him. "I don't want people to look at me and expect miracles," he whispered.

Salazar's heart broke and he shifted onto the cot to slip an arm around the boy's shoulders. Harry seemed uncertain, for a moment, about how to react to the offered comfort, but then he leaned his head on the man's shoulder and let out a quiet sigh.

Salazar held his silence for a long few minutes, simply offering unconditional support, then he commented, "I would have suggested you refrain from telling the others of your travel through time before we left for Hogwarts, myself."

Harry peered up at the Founder's profile from behind his bangs. "Why?" he wondered.

Salazar grimaced. "Please don't think I distrust them," he requested and Harry shrugged. "It's...complicated. Godric... Godric is a wonderful, supportive man, but he is also quite stuck in his ways; I very much doubt he would take to the concept of such a leap of time travel well. Rowena is forever questioning everything, and while it makes for some engaging conversations, it can try on ones nerves, especially when she is asking questions you don't have an answer to or that you really have no interest in answering." He smiled tiredly in remembrance. "She once brought me a snake and demanded I ask it questions about its basic bodily functions, with no thought for my or the snake's feelings in the matter. It was...awkward."

Harry laughed. "I'll endeavour to not catch her eye. Ever," he decided.

"A most wise choice," Salazar agreed. "Helga... You could probably tell Helga of your time travel with no change as to how she'd treat you, beyond an added bit of mothering. Though, considering how hurt you were when I found you, you'll likely suffer that anyway. I only caution against telling Helga because she'd want to tell the other two – she doesn't like leaving them in the dark – and it will take a great deal of effort to convince her to hold her tongue."

Harry considered that for a moment before asking, "Are any of them Legilimens?"

"Rowena has a passing acquaintance with the subject," Salazar replied with a wry smile, "as she does with everything, but she is, by no means, a master of the art. All of them are capable Occlumens – I saw to that first thing – but Rowena was the only one who'd ever had any interest in learning Legilimency. Rowena's husband and Godric's wife are also Occlumens – Helga's husband is non-magical – but none of them cared for the art of Legilimency. It is, I believe, too invasive for their delicate sensibilities."

"I can understand that," Harry admitted. "I would be leery of ever using Legilimency on someone, but surely it could be a useful skill to have?"

"It does make deciding who to trust simpler," Slytherin agreed drily and Harry hid a smile against the man's shoulder. "My first master, who taught me the skill, would often use it to communicate points to me without using words. It made learning particularly difficult concepts simpler, but, as a result, I often find myself without the words to explain such concepts to others."

"You couldn't use the same process? Give it to them via Legilimency?" Harry wondered.

"It's quite a bit more difficult than that," Salazar replied. "I could only pass knowledge with Legilimency to someone studied in Occlumency, which is not as common as it, perhaps, should be. Complicating matters further, if the recipient needed something clarified, they might lack the spoken language to ask for that clarification."

Harry grimaced. "Okay, yes, I can see that. But, why would your master teach you in such a way, considering the difficulties?"

"I never asked him," Salazar admitted. "I can only assume he was taught in a similar fashion. That, or he simply preferred not to put his research in the spoken word any more than he wished to put it in writing. I wouldn't be surprised by the latter; he was very much a paranoid man."

"What was he researching?" Harry asked, curious.

"Alchemy."

"Oh." Harry scratched the back of his head. "I suppose that makes sense."

Salazar gave a surprised laugh. "You have knowledge of alchemy, then? Is it common, in your time?"

Harry shook his head. "No, not in the least. I don't think it's even offered at Hogwarts, though I suppose that could be a lie, since Prof– uhm, the Headmaster studied it. I know someone finally managed to make the Philosopher's Stone."

Salazar smiled. "An accomplishment," he allowed. "Not the focus of my own research, but one I can appreciate, none-the-less."

"What is the focus of your research, then?" Harry asked.

But Salazar shook his head and slid off the cot. "Perhaps another time. Spend a couple hours on Occlumency and I'll rouse you for lunch."

Harry sighed. "Okay," he agreed and settled himself more comfortably before closing his eyes and bringing to mind the phoenix song.

This set the pace for the next couple days. Harry would spend most of the day focussing on Occlumency. During meals, he would attempt to get more from Salazar about alchemy and, upon failing, would ask about something else. Salazar seemed to quite like speaking of healing magic and Harry, with his ability to attract trouble, was interested to learn what he could.

On the third day since Godric's visit, when Salazar roused Harry for lunch, the boy felt strangely clear-headed.

"Oh?" Salazar said without Harry having to say anything. "You've done it."

"You sound surprised," Harry commented as he took his bowl.

"There's a preferred age-range for learning Occlumency, and you're technically a bit too young for it," Salazar explained, having since learnt Harry was fourteen. "I figured, if nothing else, I could at least get you started on learning it." He snorted a bit self-deprecatingly. "I shouldn't be surprised; I can't pretend to know what things you've been through, but the mind arts are based, first and foremost, on mental maturity, rather than the physical, and to survive a wizard regularly making attempts on your life requires one to grow up a bit quicker than on average."

Harry felt a well of sorrow, though it was distant. It was accompanied by a brush of memory – trying to reach the hob when he was four to cook breakfast, Vernon standing behind him with violence in his eyes – and Harry let out a sigh. "I suppose so," he agreed.

"The next step of Occlumency," Salazar said, "is to create a protection for your thoughts. A wall, for example, behind which you can do your thinking and keep your memories. On – or in front of – that wall, you'll want some sort of offensive; a spell you can use to push intruders back and away before they can attempt to break through your protections."

Harry nodded and spent lunch considering what to make his wall of and how to protect it. Once Salazar had taken his bowl away, Harry closed his eyes and tried a few options, using things like stone or iron to build a wall around himself, but none of them seemed quite right. He tried diamond – it was the hardest substance known to man – but it was a bit too see-through for his purposes.

Over dinner – more soup; Harry was almost to the point where he got up and demanded Salazar let him cook – Harry asked, "What's your wall built of?"

"My wall?" Salazar sipped at his soup for a moment, then said, "Stone. I suppose it looks rather a bit like the Hogwarts walls. I defended it with snakes and banishing charms."

Harry frowned in thought. It seemed so simple, but wasn't simple good?

"Do you have a favourite animal? Or spell?" Salazar asked.

Harry blinked, then nodded. "Spell, yeah."

"Use that for the defence."

"Oh." Harry played with his soup a bit, considering his choices. "I can guess why you'd use snakes, but why use an animal at all?" he wondered.

"Just in case someone slips past the charms," Salazar replied with a shrug. "Nothing wrong with an extra defence." He paused while Harry considered that, then asked, "Do you have a favourite animal?"

Harry blinked and considered that. 'A favourite animal? Well, I love Hedwig, and there's my stag patronus, but I don't know that I really favour either of them over other animals. And I don't mind snakes, but I don’t really like them. Uhm...' Phoenix song trilled in the back of Harry's mind and he realised he was smiling. "Oh. Phoenixes, I guess."

Salazar raised an eyebrow at that. "Indeed? You've met one?"

Harry nodded. "Prof– the Headmaster had a phoenix, Fawkes. He saved my life, once."

Salazar smiled wistfully. "I have never even seen a phoenix from a distance. It's said that those who make the acquaintance of a phoenix will have long, full lives."

"Well, I don't know about the long bit," Harry commented drily, "but my life has certainly been full of exciting happenings."

Salazar chuckled. "Indeed." He held out a hand for Harry's bowl, which the boy handed over. "Shall I leave you to your wall building?"

"Yes, I suppose," Harry agreed. He closed his eyes for a moment, then popped them back open and asked, "Salazar?"

"Yes?"

"How much longer before we can make our trip to Hogwarts?"

Salazar considered that for a moment, then set the bowls on a short table, next to the cauldron of soup, and started back over. "May I see your back?"

Harry turned and pulled the tunic over his head, giving the Founder easy access to the scars on his back.

After a moment of considering his findings, Salazar decided, "We can probably go tomorrow, after lunch. There's a hint of the magic left, and it shouldn't react too badly with the portkey at its current levels, but I'd rather give it a few more hours."

Harry nodded and pulled his tunic back on, then pleaded, "Can't we go before lunch?"

Salazar chuckled. "We'll see," he decided before returning to the bowls.

Harry sighed and closed his eyes again, visualising the wall he'd already created. It was still diamond and he did like the idea of making it out of material that was difficult to damage. 'Just in case,' he thought, remembering Salazar's reasoning for the snakes. But he still didn't like that it was see-through, even if it would be nice to observe any opponents from behind his wa...ll...

'Oh. One-way glass. They'd see an image of themselves and I can watch what they're up to,' Harry thought as he added the glass behind the diamond. He considered it for a moment, then picked spots where the disarming charm would be shot at any intruders.

By the time it was done, Harry was plenty tired, so he turned in for the night.

-0-

"No nightmares?" Salazar asked the next morning, once Harry had finished in the privy.

Harry glanced towards his cot, then shook his head and joined Salazar over by the cauldron of soup. "No," he agreed, ignoring Salazar's knowing look at his refusal to return to the cot. "How'd you guess? The Occlumency?"

"Occlumency does help hold nightmares at bay, to some extent," Salazar agreed, handing over a bowl of soup. "It is, in essence, the act of cleaning up the useless thoughts that come to you at random moments and ordering your thoughts and memories into a more organised fashion."

"There was no ordering or organising going on," Harry pointed out. "Some focussing on phoenix song and some imaginary wall creation, but no organising."

"Phoenix song?" Salazar asked, amused.

"It's soothing," Harry muttered.

"Indeed," Salazar agreed, summoning over two stools for them to sit on. Once they were settled, he explained, "The organisation took place on its own, while you focussed all your attention on that one thing. Your unconscious mind sorts memories and thoughts all the time without any input from your conscious thoughts. Most of that sorting is done while you're sleeping, as your unconscious mind has free reign then, but you're still thinking, even when you sleep. The act of focussing on a single thing gives your unconscious mind the freedom to organise without extra thoughts popping up and disrupting things."

"I'll have to keep focussing my thoughts, though, to keep it organised, won't I?" Harry asked.

Salazar nodded. "Indeed. Most Occlumens find it easiest to set an hour or so to the side directly before going to bed, during which they can focus their thoughts. Some, such as myself, choose to do so just after waking. My first master spent an hour every afternoon standing over his latest alchemy project and turning a single idea or concept over in his thoughts while his mind organised itself; sometimes, when he came out of it, he would have a solution to a problem, sometimes he wouldn't. I believe Helga focuses her thoughts in the kitchen, while making whatever her latest creation is, and Godric usually does his focussing while practising his swordcraft."

Harry nodded and thought about his options for a few swallows before asking, "How does it help with nightmares, though?"

"Nightmares can be born of a stray thought, a problem you're turning over and over in your head, an ingrained fear, or a memory. Your subconscious sorts these things according to a design particular to each person, but one category will always be closer to the surface than the others, and those thoughts and memories will be the most likely to feed your dreams. If something sorted near the top of that category is capable of forming a nightmare, you will have one. However, most people's unconscious minds tend to sort unpleasant, nightmare inducing thoughts and memories deeper into the categories, to protect your sleep – and its work – from disruption, so a person practising Occlumency is usually less likely to suffer from nightmares than someone who doesn't."

"Huh," was Harry's response.

Once they'd finished their soup, Salazar said, "I'd like to check your back again."

"Oh, sure," Harry agreed and awkwardly raised his tunic to give the older wizard access.

Salazar ran his spells, then nodded and offered, "We should be fine to head back before lunch."

"Thank Merlin," Harry breathed.

Salazar snorted and grabbed the bowls to clean. "You will need to take more care at Hogwarts," he added.

Harry looked up from where he'd been playing with Salazar's empty potion vials. "How so?"

"This 'Merlin' you are forever speaking of does not exist."

Harry stared for a long moment, then dropped his head into his hands, switching to English to curse.

Salazar shook his head at the boy, but the use of another language reminded him of another task they'd need to see to before heading to Hogwarts: "I'll have to hit you with the Translator's Charm again."

Harry looked up, watching Salazar through his bangs. "Translator's– Oh." His mind made the connections between the name and the spell Salazar had used when they first met to enable Harry to understand him. "That's right. You said that when you and the others met, you and Godric were the only ones with a common language."

Salazar nodded. "Helga's native language is Welsh, while Rowena's is Pictish. For the most part, Rowena endeavours to speak in Englisc, but Helga still prefers Welsh, unless she's speaking to someone who only speaks another language. I'll teach you Welsh before we leave, and you can ask someone tomorrow to teach you Pictish, if you're interested in learning it."

Harry nodded. "Yes, I might do that. Nothing wrong with knowing a couple languages, in case I need them in future, right?"

"That was my thought, as well," Salazar admitted. "If that's your wish, you may also wish to learn Gaelic. There are different dialects – I believe Rowena knows all of them – but you would be able to get by with only knowing one."

Harry nodded again and they both fell silent while Salazar set about getting the tent ready to pack up. Once everything was sufficiently prepared, he transfigured some shoes, a cloak, and a belt for Harry, then cast the Translator's Charm to teach him Welsh.

'Okay, that's just weird,' Harry decided as Salazar waved him out of the tent. His mind was helpfully translating things he saw into Welsh, which all made perfect sense. For some reason. 'I'm going to have such a headache...'

Once they were both out, Salazar tapped the side of the tent and it cheerfully folded itself up to about the size of a handkerchief, which Salazar stuffed in a pouch on his belt. "Now, then..." he murmured, looking around the small clearing they'd been camped in. "Excellent." He picked up a fallen branch and held it out towards Harry. "Have you taken a portkey before?" he asked.

Harry grimaced. "A few of them, yeah," he agreed, taking the other end of the branch and tightening his grip more than he probably needed to.

"Good." When Harry looked at him curiously, he explained, "I'm more than a little tired of explaining them to prospective students and their parents. Now, hold on. Portus."

Harry closed his eyes, grimacing at the sensation of being pulled across hundreds of miles in an instant. When they landed, he stumbled, but Salazar caught him before he could land on his behind. "Thanks," he murmured as the older wizard tossed the branch away.

Salazar shrugged. "It took me four years to manage to always land on my feet," he admitted and Harry smiled. "I believe you're familiar with her already, but if you turn around..."

Harry spun around and felt an indescribable sense of joy and homecoming as he caught sight of the building looming behind him. "Hogwarts," he breathed, not even caring as his voice caught. He'd resigned himself to never getting home, forgetting that there was a version of his home in this time, for all that the people were different.

Salazar touched his shoulder. "Come," he ordered and Harry fell into step with him, smiling.

A young boy was in the entrance hall when Salazar pushed open one of the doors, and he stared for a long moment before turning and running into the Great Hall, shouting, "Sal's back! Papa, Sal's back!"

"Kenric, Godric's son," Salazar offered as they let the door they'd cracked open fall shut behind them.

Harry sighed and straightened just as a group of adults, followed by Kenric and another boy, stepped from the Great Hall. Godric was in the lead and he flashed them both a smile before focussing on Harry. "So, the snake finally let you free of his coils?"

"Something like that," Harry agreed drily.

Next to Harry, Salazar hissed, :How about I coil a tail right up your arse, you fool lion.:

Harry was saved from trying not to laugh – being a secret Parselmouth could be nothing but good while hanging around with Salazar Slytherin – by Godric grabbing him gently about the shoulders and bringing him forward to the rest of the adults that had filtered from the Great Hall. "Everyone," he boomed from distressingly high above Harry's head, "this is Harry Potter."

"You'll burst the child's eardrums, shouting next to his ear like that," a plump woman with blonde hair in a messy bun at the nape of her neck chastised, stepping forward to draw Harry away from Godric.

"He'd need to be a bit taller for me to shout in his ear," Godric replied tartly.

"Inside voices, Godric," a woman with long brown hair worn in a braid down her back ordered, taking the tall Founder's arm. Godric looked properly chastised.

The woman who'd rescued Harry smiled at him and said, "I'm Helga, by the way. Helga Hufflepuff. And the vision on Godric's arm is Bernia, his wife."

"Hello, dear," Bernia greeted and Harry smiled at her.

Helga drew his attention to where the other four adults stood. "This gentle soul," she said of a man with short-cropped brown hair and a slightly rounded form, "is my husband, Roscoe."

"Hello, Harry," Roscoe greeted in a deep voice.

Harry managed a smile before a woman nearly as tall as Godric stepped forward with sharp eyes. "Rowena Ravenclaw," she informed him, a warmth in her bright eyes making up for the chill of her voice.

"This is Holden Ravenclaw," Helga continued without missing a beat, pointing to the slightly shorter man at Rowena's side. "And this–"

"Torrance Ollivander!" Salazar exclaimed, having finally finished muttering to himself and moved around Godric and Bernia to see.

The young man – he couldn't have been more than twenty-five, Harry guessed – smiled, eyes that same eerie silver as the Ollivander of the future. "Hello, Salazar. Found a phoenix, yet?"

"No," Salazar replied, sounding more than a little petulant.

"A phoenix?" Harry wondered, looking back at his sole companion for the past few days.

"Salazar has made it his life's goal to meet a phoenix," Helga explained with a fond smile at the green-clad Founder. "His wand core is a phoenix's tail feather, you see."

"Be silent, woman," Salazar ordered before turning to Ollivander again. "Torrance, Harry requires a wand. His old one..." He trailed off and blinked a few times before turning to look at Harry. "Well..."

"It's gone," Harry offered quietly, uncertain if his wand had even managed to survive his last meeting with Voldemort in one piece. Not that it mattered, now.

Ollivander turned eerie eyes on Harry and looked him over, then crooked a finger for Harry to follow him before turning and vanishing into the Great Hall.

"Go on," Helga whispered, pushing Harry forward a few steps.

Harry nodded and followed after the wandmaker, hearing Godric explain behind him, "He's intending to stay with us until the snows have passed, end of winter, so he'll be here to help any students without a wand."

"And replace any they inadvertently break," Salazar snarked in return.

Harry slipped past the half-opened doors of the Great Hall and walked over to the corner Ollivander had set up something of a shop in. "Sit," he ordered, pointing at a chair, and Harry did so. "You've had a wand before, then?"

"Uhm, yes, sir," Harry agreed, tugging on the edge of his tunic. "Holy and phoenix feather."

Ollivander gave him a sharp look, then turned to shuffle through wand boxes. "Wands with phoenix feather cores are rare," he commented, "almost as rare as phoenixes themselves." When Harry made no response to that, Ollivander looked back and smiled at his distrustful frown. "You're very like Salazar, young Harry," he said.

"Is that a bad thing, then?" Harry demanded.

"Depends on who you ask, doesn't it?" Ollivander replied before picking out a box and walking over to Harry. Before he opened the box, he said, "There are stories about those who wield phoenix feather wands." Then he held out the opened box, within which rested a pale grey wand.

Harry stared down at the wand for a moment before slipping his hand under the handle and picking it up. He gave it a flick, half expecting it to break something – as so many of the first wands he tried had done – but it only filled the air with a song of peace, one that Harry well knew. "Phoenix feather?" Harry guessed.

Ollivander smiled. "Eleven inches, ash, and with the tail feather of a most unusual phoenix."

"What was that song?" Salazar enquired, suddenly at Harry's shoulder.

"Phoenix song," Harry explained, looking up at the man. "Why?"

"I heard it, just before I found you."

Harry raised an eyebrow at that before looking down at his wand, thinking that would make sense; Salazar had seen a gold light, he'd said, like the light of the cage that had nearly killed Harry. And that cage had been filled with phoenix song.

"Perhaps it was a phoenix that brought you together," Ollivander suggested, "knowing that young Harry needed help that could only be offered by yourself."

"Maybe," Harry agreed before Salazar could find a way to refute that. "Thanks, Mr Ollivander."

"Don't go losing that one, boy," Ollivander ordered, putting the empty box away.

"Not a chance," Harry swore, holding it against his chest. He hadn't realised how much he'd come to depend on his wand until it had vanished, never to be seen again.

"Come along," Salazar cut in, touching Harry's shoulder. "I believe you were promised some of Helga's cooking."

"As long as it's not soup," Harry agreed, allowing himself to be led from Ollivander's corner. While Salazar was chuckling, Harry considered his options for where to put his new wand and found none of them particularly good, as he lacked pockets in the transfigured clothing. He was just about to ask Salazar for ideas when a leather bracer was dangled in front of him. Harry stopped and looked over his shoulder to find a grinning Godric.

"I figured you could use one of these," Godric offered, holding out the bracer. A similar one with a lion head carved on it was worn on his right arm.

"I– Thank you, I think?" Harry said, taking the gift.

"Never used one before?" Godric guessed. When Harry nodded, he sighed and said, "No wonder you lost your wand."

"There were extenuating circumstances!" Harry snapped.

Godric's expression darkened for a moment before he forced a pained smile. "I know. I apologise, Harry. Here, let me show you..." He took a moment to show Harry how to position and lace the bracer one-handed, then pointed out the magically expanded pocket that was just the right size for his new wand. Once it had vanished inside, he directed, "Now, flex your hand, like that, yes. Close it to how you normally hold your wand."

Harry closed his hand around thin air and, like magic, his wand was resting between his fingers. "Bloody– That's brilliant!" he declared, grinning up at the Founder.

"Why thank you," Godric said, preening a bit.

"It's probably the only spell he'll ever make," Salazar commented drily. "At least, the only useful one."

"Don't be a git," Harry ordered.

"What's a 'git'?" Godric asked, not the least bit fazed by Salazar's insult.

"Someone who needs their head shoved in the privy," Harry replied.

Salazar and Godric both stared at him in disbelief for a moment before Godric let out a roar of laughter. "Gods save us all," Salazar muttered, grabbing Harry's arm and pulling him towards the table everyone was sitting around. "He'll be calling every one of us that for the next month."

"Whoops," Harry replied, unapologetic. "Did you have to be so rude to him?"

"I'm rude to everyone," Salazar snapped. "Do you mind?"

Harry tugged his arm from the older wizard. "That's the first time you've been rude to me," he informed him before turning and stalking off to sit in an open seat next to Helga.

The happy woman smiled at him, then sighed when she recognised the figurative storm cloud over his head. "Salazar being difficult?" she suggested.

Harry let out an aggravated sound. "Yes. What is it with him? He was just fine before we got here, but now he's being a right arse."

Helga smiled and patted his knee. "I can't explain Salazar to you, dear. I do know, however, that he's always at his most difficult when Godric's showing off."

"What, is he jealous because Godric can enchant leather?" Harry muttered.

"You sound just like him," Helga said and Harry grimaced.

The boy that Harry had noticed following the adults out into the entrance hall with Godric's son climbed into the seat next to Harry and pulled on the sleeve of his tunic. "Hello?" Harry said, uncertain.

"This is Conrad, my youngest," Helga introduced with a smile.

The boy peered up at Harry from behind bright blond hair very like his mother's and asked, "Is it true you almost died?"

"Conrad!" Helga snapped.

"Yes," Harry allowed, watching the boy curiously and not at all bothered by his question – it was hardly the first time he'd been asked about having almost died, after all.

"What was it like?"

Helga drew in a sharp breath next to Harry, but the teen cocked his head to the side and asked, "Ever stubbed your toe on something really hard?"

Conrad nodded. "It hurts a lot," he said wisely.

Harry nodded back. "It felt a bit like I stubbed every part of my body, all at once."

"Ouch," Conrad decided.

"Ouch," Harry agreed and smiled at the boy. "But I'm better now."

Conrad smiled back. "Salazar healed my toe last time I stubbed it," he said. "He's good at healing stubbed toes."

"Salazar is good at healing a great many things," Harry replied, "but I'll bet stubbed toes are a specialty."

"They'd best be, with how many you and Kenny get," Helga cut in, smiling. "Conrad, sweetie, why don't you collect the girls and Torrance while I summon lunch."

"Okay, Mum!" Conrad agreed before bounding out of his seat and running towards where a group of three girls about Harry's age stood.

"Alright, Harry, dear?" Helga asked, touching Harry's shoulder.

"I'm fine," Harry replied with a smile. "Or I will be, as soon as I get something in me that isn't Salazar's soup."

Helga laughed and stood, raising her wand over the table. "I think we can manage that much," she said and waved her wand.

Just like had happened in Harry's time, food appeared over the length of the table. Harry counted at least three different kinds of meat, set between loaves of fresh bread, bowls of various vegetables and fruits, and pitchers of cool pumpkin juice.

The benches around the table quickly filled with people and everyone dug in. Harry wasn't the only one to praise Helga's cooking, but he was the most vehement about it, much to her embarrassment and obvious pleasure.

As soon as the food had cleared, Harry was dragged off by Conrad to meet the other kids currently staying in the castle. He was formally introduced to Kenric, who grinned at him from under hair as violently red as his father's. The eldest of the three girls was Ramona, Conrad's sister, who'd just turned fourteen. The next oldest was Duana, a dark-haired girl that had been forced to flee her home or be burnt at the stake for her magic. The youngest girl was Rowena's daughter, Helena, who was a bit on the tall side for eleven; Harry figured she must have inherited her mother's height.

Helena also, Harry realised when she turned sombrely away to pick up a book she'd been reading, looked familiar. He couldn't quite place where he recognised her from – a painting? One of the ghosts? – and he promised himself he'd meditate on it that night, when he worked on his Occlumency.

With the introductions done, Harry found himself being tugged on by Conrad and Kenric, both of whom were spending their days getting lost in the castle. Duana, who'd only just been brought to Hogwarts two days ago by Godric, was equally excited to explore. Helena waved them off when asked if she'd like to come, and Ramona explained that she intended to help Helga with dinner preparations.

Harry ended up going along with the boys and Duana, telling himself he was going along just in case something happened. He'd already spent four years in the castle and considered himself quite familiar with it, for all that he tended to get lost in the dungeons if he went in too far.

Within an hour, Harry had realised he was in the castle when it was practically brand new, before the forgotten passages had fallen in on themselves and a thousand years of students had worn down the stone corridors. The excitement was catching, and Harry was laughing along with the others when they stumbled across a ghoul on the sixth floor and it moaned at them until they ran back out into the hall.

A loud gong interrupted their fun and Kenric explained to Harry, "That's Rowena's sign that it's about dinner time. After the first time Conrad and I didn't show up for dinner and they spent two hours hunting us down, she showed us all the spell and said she'd be using it from then on to call us all to dinner."

"It's not a bad idea," Harry pointed out.

"It's just really loud," Conrad complained as the gong sounded again.

"We'll get you some ear muffles," Duana teased, dancing out of the way when Conrad made a half-hearted swipe in her direction.

In the Great Hall, Harry found himself shoved down between Duana and Conrad to eat. The three youngest of the four explorers regaled the adults with tales of their adventures in the castle, earning a few laughs and a great many fond grins.

After dinner, the adults ushered their kids off, Duana being dragged along with Godric, Kenric, and Bernia.

And Harry found himself left with Salazar.

They stared at each other uncertainly for a long moment before Salazar let out a heavy sigh and said, "I'm...sorry. I shouldn't have– I didn't mean to– I mean–"

Harry laughed and shook his head. "It's okay, Salazar. I forgive you for being a git."

Salazar let out an irritated huff and motioned for Harry to follow him down to the dungeons. Once down in the darkened halls, he asked, "Enjoy your run through the castle?"

"It was fun," Harry agreed, smiling. "Things are still mostly the same, but there are some subtle differences. Like, in the future, most of the upper floors have portraits and tapestries along them. And I'm used to opening random doors and finding rooms full of desks and chairs, but I don't think I saw a single one while we were exploring."

Salazar stopped them in front of a bare patch of wall and stared at it for a moment before commenting, "I suppose I should change the password, so you can get in. It's currently in Parseltongue," he explained to Harry's curious look before turning back to the wall and hissing, :Trista.: The wall slid back and to the side, letting them in.

Harry almost told Salazar he was a Parselmouth, just so he could ask who Trista was, but he held his tongue, in the end, and took the chance to look around the darkened common room while Salazar changed his password.

For the most part, the room was empty. The lake water pushing against the windows tinted everything a faint green-blue and left waving patterns across the floor. In the far corner, just past where Harry remembered the paths to the dorms being in the future, there was a pile of blankets and a small desk and chair with parchment and a quill set out.

"I changed it to 'serpents'," Salazar commented as he came to stand next to Harry and look around the room himself. "I haven't finished creating bedrooms for my students yet, since I don't know how many I'll have down here, so they're closed off. We can conjure you some bedding in the other corner, if you'd like, or I can add a bit more over in my corner."

Harry considered that for a moment, then shrugged. "We'd both probably be warmer if we shared the bed," he commented, then flushed as his mind caught up with his mouth. "I mean–"

"I know what you meant," Salazar said drily before slipping his wand from his own bracer – now that Harry knew what they were, it was hard not to see them on the forearms of everyone in the castle, even the kids – and waving it towards the bedding in the corner. It stretched a bit and more blankets were added. "There we go. Well, I'll probably be up for a bit, writing."

Harry nodded. "I'm a bit tired from my adventures," he admitted. "I'll probably work on my Occlumency a bit, then turn in."

"Of course. Good night, then," Salazar offered.

"Good night," Harry replied and made for the bed while Salazar turned to his desk.

Harry took a moment to get comfortable, setting his belt, shoes, and bracer off to one side. His wand was slipped under the pillow, then he sat under the blankets and closed his eyes to focus. He turned his attention to that glimpse of Helena as she'd been turning away, then left his unconscious to sort things to its pleasure. When he came out of it a little under an hour later, he knew Helena would be the Grey Lady, the Ravenclaw House ghost, and he hurt for the girl who would spend over a thousand years haunting these same halls.

Chapter Text

The next couple weeks followed very similarly to that first day at Hogwarts: The mornings were filled with quiet study, the six children sitting in the Great Hall and reading whatever book their parents or – in the case of Harry and Duana – their quasi-guardian gave them. After lunch, Harry, Duana, Kenric, and Conrad ran off to explore the castle while the other two girls followed in their mothers' footsteps. While the children had free time, Harry found out from Kenric the third day in, the four Founders would take turns wandering the Isles, looking for students to invite.

When Harry thought about it, he asked Rowena to teach him Pictish and at least one Gaelic dialect. She'd sent him a cool, knowing smile, and agreed. In the end, Harry ended up learning Pictish, as well as two versions of Gaelic. He'd also, with some difficulty, dodged all requests to teach her his native language, uncertain if various future concepts would transfer with the words that didn't have a basis in this time. (According to Salazar, she'd been after him to teach her Parseltongue for almost a year. He'd finally agreed, then purposefully screwed up the spell when casting it. If she suspected the foul play, she'd never said, though her upset over being unable to learn the snake tongue had made Salazar feel a little guilty.)

One morning, a little over two weeks since Harry returned to Hogwarts, he woke with a strange sense of expectation. He was mulling the reason over in front of one of the windows when Salazar finished his Occlumency and walked over to stand behind him. "Breakfast?"

"Hm? Oh, sure."

Out in the dungeon hallways, Salazar asked, "Something wrong?"

"Not wrong," Harry replied, shaking his head. "Just... I don't know."

Salazar snorted. "Well, if you ever figure it out, let me know."

Harry flashed a smile. "You say that like you believe me to be capable of hiding things from you."

"I'll discover all your secrets eventually, my sneaky little serpent, make no mistake."

"Of course you will," Harry agreed solemnly before grinning and dashing off to catch up with Kenric, who was telling Duana all about some great adventure his father had gone on before Kenric had been born.

Harry was distracted all through breakfast and his reading, though Salazar seemed to be the only one who noticed it – he lightly swatted the back of Harry's head at one point when he was staring at the opposite wall instead of reading. About half-way through lunch, Harry's unconscious finally unburied the reason for his morning expectation: Today would be July thirty-first, were he in his own time; he'd been expecting gifts from his friends.

"Oh," he whispered before he could stop himself, closing his eyes against a rush of homesickness.

"Harry, dear, are you well?" Helga asked after a few minutes, always quick to see when someone wasn't enjoying the food she'd made.

Harry shook his head and rose from the bench. "My stomach's a bit upset," he offered with a smile he didn't feel. "I'm going to go lay down, I think. Excuse me..." He turned and left the Great Hall. Instead of heading down to the dungeons, however, he made his way outside and towards the lake, unbothered by the late October chill. He found a spot relatively close to where the tree he'd often sat under with Ron and Hermione would one day stand and curled in on himself there, watching the ripples of the lake with tears catching at the back of his throat.

Salazar found him almost an hour later, draping a blanket around Harry's faintly shivering form and sitting next to him. After a moment of silence, he said, "Helga was worried you'd eaten something that made you sick. I told her you were feeling a bit off when you got up and it's probably just a cold."

"Thanks," Harry whispered, hugging the edges of the blanket closer around himself.

They fell, again, into silence, both just watching the lake.

Finally, Harry said, "I'm fifteen today. Or, well, if I was back home, counting the days, it would be my birthday. And I–" His voice caught and he shrugged the blanket higher, so it was almost hiding his face from view. "I miss my friends," he whispered, and the tears he'd barely kept at bay started to fall.

Salazar closed his eyes for a moment in sorrow, then reached out and carefully drew Harry into a half-hug, brushing his fingers through the wild hair as Harry pressed his face against Salazar's shoulder.

When Harry's quiet sobs had lessened to the occasional sniffle, Salazar said, "My mother died two days before my thirteenth birthday. Someone had noticed some of my accidental magic and the villagers assumed it was her. They stoned her in the village square while a nearby wizard – my first master – snuck me away. I was furious with him for not saving her."

"I'm sorry," Harry whispered, unable to imagine what it must have been like to be taken away while your own mother was murdered by the people you'd grown up with. At least Harry knew his friends were still alive. For the moment.

Salazar shook his head. "I believe she's in a better place, now. One where she doesn't have to raise a child with a power she can't understand, alone."

"You didn't have a father?" Harry wondered, peeking up at the Founder.

Salazar debated between keeping his personal history to himself, as he'd always done in the past, and sharing it with the lonely boy next to him; it wasn't really much of a choice, though. "My father, Silvanus Slytherin, is known for travelling from small town to small town and catching the eye of every unmarried maid he can find. At times, he beds one and leaves them in the early morning, to avoid the rage of their fathers or betrothed, supposedly. I have never had the displeasure of meeting him."

Harry rubbed at his nose, straightening so he wasn't leaning against Salazar. "You've got his name, though."

Salazar nodded. "When Mother discovered my magic, she guessed – correctly, I later learned – that it had come from him. She suggested I bear his name, so if I made a name for myself I might have a father to be proud of me." He scoffed. "I have no interest in providing even a moment's pride for a man who left my mother with a child and no way to support herself, but she had no family name to give me, so I've kept it."

Harry thought about how Slytherin House was known, in the future, as the breeding ground of back-stabbing, nasty people who were more interested in their own gain than how their actions affected others, and how well that stereotype fit Salazar's father, for all that it didn't seem to fit the Founder himself.

Salazar sighed. "Come. Let's get you back inside before one of us really does catch ill."

"Oh. Sure," Harry agreed and they both stood and turned back towards the castle.

"Why the lake?" Salazar asked about halfway across the grounds. "Or, really, why outside next to the lake?"

Harry smiled a bit sadly and glanced back over his shoulder at the spot he'd been sitting in. "In the future, there's a tree there that we'd always sit under. And, well, the common is nice, with the water and all, but it's not quite the same as being out here." He pulled the blanket closer around his shoulders as he felt a chill. "Despite the weather."

Salazar snorted. "Well, next time you feel the urge to sit out by the lake in the cold, bring your cloak."

"Yes, sir," Harry agreed meekly, then smiled when Salazar snorted again.

Once back in the dungeons, after Salazar had poured a couple potions down Harry's throat and taken one of his own, Harry said, "Hey, Salazar?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks."

Salazar smiled and ruffled Harry's hair. "Of course."

-0-

The rest of the time until Yule went by quickly enough, following the same pattern as those first couple weeks. Helga and Rowena both brought in their own student to stay at the castle for their own protection, but both of them were more interested in books than exploring the castle, so Harry had very little to do with them.

The last week of November – by Harry's calculations – the four explorers came across a room that could turn into anything they wanted. It took them a bit to figure out how it worked, but once they'd sorted it, they spent almost three weeks playing with it, creating the wildest places and exploring them for a few hours before making the room change shape again so they could explore some more. The other three would often create places that they knew from their home, but Harry always refused to change the room into something, wary of it creating a place or object that didn't yet exist.

Playing with the room was put to an end when they got lost in a forest that Duana had created and didn't hear the dinner gong. The adults had all been quite firm about the fact that the children were no longer allowed to play in there, in case they created something dangerous. (Salazar told Harry later, however, that Godric had made his own plans regarding the use of the room, and Rowena had wondered about the possibilities of taking texts from a library made by the room.)

No longer allowed to explore the upper floors – "They just want to play with that room without us," Duana griped – the four kids turned to the dungeons. The first afternoon they got ridiculously lost and only found their way out again when Harry thought to cast Point me. The second afternoon, after Harry had given the other three a crash course in the Point me spell, they returned to the dungeons and got lost again, only barely making it back in time for dinner.

The third day, they came across a corridor of closed doors – Harry recognised it as being the hallway Snape's classroom and office were on – and split up to poke their heads in the various rooms.

Harry was just considering defiling Snape's future office in some way when Conrad let out a terrified scream down the hall. Harry ran back out into the hall in time to see the boy falling out of a room at the far end and scrambling backward. An ashwinder followed him, hissing threats of fire and death.

Before Harry could hiss the snake down – there was no way he'd worry about keeping a secret if it meant the life of a friend – Kenric had run forward to get between Conrad and the ashwinder. "Kenny, n–!" Harry started before the ashwinder blurred and turned into a tiny blue bird. 'Jobberknoll,' part of Harry recognised even as the larger part knew, 'Boggart.'

Duana hurried forward, then, and grabbed Kenric's arm. "Come on," she snapped, tugging. "It's just a bird. Let's go." Behind her, Conrad was already stumbling along the wall, pale and shaky.

Kenric shook his head, face white with terror. "It's a jobberknoll," he whispered, as if expecting the girl to know what he meant, even though he knew she'd not known about magic until Godric collected her.

"It's a pretty bird," Duana retorted and gave a sharp tug to get the boy away from it.

The boggart turned its attention on its newest prey and quickly formed into a pole surrounded by kindling. Duana let out a whimper of fear.

Then Harry was there, green eyes sharp with anger as he stepped between the younger kids and the Dark creature. It shifted into a dementor, the chill of fear filling the air around it, and Harry raised his wand to point at the hooded form. "Riddikulus," he intoned, and the boggart vanished in a wisp of smoke, just like the one Harry'd faced in the maze. Once certain the boggart was gone, Harry turned to the younger three. "Hey. You three okay?"

Conrad immediately attached himself to Harry's free arm, shaking like a leaf, and Harry pulled him into a proper hug.

"What was that thing?" Kenric breathed, still pale. Next to him, Duana looked rather like she wanted in on the hug Harry was giving Conrad, but thought herself too proud to ask for it.

"It's called a boggart," Harry explained, slipping his wand away and motioning for Duana to join him, which she did. "They show the worst fear of the person nearest to them. Come here, Kenny."

Kenric looked uncertain for a moment, but then he gave a shudder and hurried forward to join the group hug, squeezing in between Duana and Conrad. Duana slipped one arm around Kenric's shoulders and he sidled a bit closer to her.

Harry sighed to himself and wished chocolate existed, remembering well the calming effect it had on those who'd faced a dementor. He figured they could all do with a bit of an anti-depressant, and cheering charms – he knew from Lupin – didn't work in quite the right way. "Hey," he said softly. "How about we take a break from exploring for the day and head back upstairs?"

"Good idea," Duana agreed, stepping back from the embrace and straightening. Kenric followed her, clutching at her hand, and she smiled shakily down at him.

"Come on, Conrad," Harry whispered to the boy still clutching at his shirt. "Maybe Salazar or your mum have something that'll help."

Conrad nodded and returned his grasp to Harry's arm, rather than his shirt, which gave Harry the freedom to walk.

Harry led the way out, familiar enough with this part of the dungeons that he didn't need the Point me spell, and less bothered by the boggart than the others, having faced them before. Also, boggart-dementors were never quite as terrifying as the real thing.

Godric, Rowena, Helga, and Ramona were all missing when the four kids entered the Great Hall. Bernia saw them first, of the group at the table, and she stumbled out of her seat, calling, "What happened?!"

"We came across a boggart," Harry explained as Kenric ran past him and to his mother. The other adults were rising around the table, concerned. Harry half-expected Conrad to run to Roscoe, as Kenric had done, but the youngest Hufflepuff remained at Harry's side. Behind him, Duana had closed in, having no one to run to for comfort.

Salazar made a sharp gesture with his wand, then asked, "Where is it?"

Harry shook his head. "Gone." At the Founder's raised eyebrow, he explained, "I've run into them before."

Godric ran into the Hall then, Rowena and Helga not far behind him. "What's wrong, Salazar?" the redhead asked as Conrad finally let go of Harry and ran over to his mother.

"The children came across a boggart," Salazar explained and Helga let out a horrified sound before focussing all her attention on her son. Next to her, Rowena's lips had thinned with displeasure.

Godric let out a growl. "We need to get rid of it."

"I already did," Harry explained.

"Harry's acquainted with boggarts," Salazar commented before Godric could debate the validity of that statement.

"Helga," Rowena interrupted, "perhaps something sweet for the children?"

"Oh, of course!" Helga pressed a kiss to Conrad's forehead. "Sweetheart, why don't you go sit with Daddy while I get you something to help calm you down?"

Conrad looked more than a little uncertain, so Harry stepped forward and brushed the boy's hair. "Come on. I'll walk over with you," he promised and Helga shot him a grateful smile as Conrad took Harry's hand.

Once Conrad had been left with his father and Duana had been drawn down to sit between Bernia – with Kenric on her lap – and Godric, Harry made his way over to the cleared spot next to Salazar, who was watching him with a troubled expression. "What's wrong?" he whispered.

Salazar shook his head. "Nothing."

Harry frowned at him, but was distracted as Helga rejoined them and, with a wave of her wand, sweet buns and tea appeared on the table in front of everyone. "Go on," she pressed them. "I think everyone could use something sweet."

"You're just trying to fatten us up for some dinner idea or another," Salazar snarked before picking up one of his sweet buns and taking a bite.

"You'd be far too scaly, Salazar," Godric retorted.

"Good to know I'm safe," Salazar said. "You, on the other hand, would make a fine main course."

"Stop it, both of you," Bernia ordered, smoothing a hand through Kenric's hair as the boy started in on his second sweet bun. "You're worse than the children."

Ramona glanced around Helga at her brother and commented, "Daddy always says talking about things that frighten you helps."

Conrad considered that for a moment before saying, "Remember when the snake almost burnt the house down?"

"Ah, the ashwinder," Roscoe said, nodding and hugging his son. To the rest of the table, he explained, "Conrad found the eggs just before they lit the house on fire. Helga managed to stop it before it got too far, but it destroyed Conrad and Ramona's bedrooms."

"As well as part of my flower garden," Helga complained.

"Well, there won't be any ashwinders burning down this castle," Godric promised the boy. "And if one does show up, we'll have Salazar talk it into leaving peacefully."

Salazar let out a snort. "It'll be leaving me some eggs, first. Do you know how hard it is to come by those eggs? Some of the best healing potion–"

"Yes, Salazar, we know," Godric interrupted before turning to Kenric and Duana. "What about you two, then?"

Duana shuddered. "I saw the stake they burned the last witch they found in my village at," she admitted. Everyone around the table winced.

"Well, there won't be any of those here," Bernia promised, hugging the girl around the shoulders. "What about you, Kenny?"

"I saw a jobberknoll," the boy said between bites of sweet buns; Bernia had switched his empty plate with her untouched one, so he was still going strong.

"Oh, dear," Bernia murmured, hugging her son tightly.

"Mum!"

"When Kenny was four, he came upon a jobberknoll the moment it died," Godric explained to the rest of the table. "Best I could tell, it had been on a battlefield at one point in its life, because there were sounds of swords clashing and men screaming."

Everyone around the table winced again.

"What about you, Harry?" Helga asked the eldest boy.

Harry choked on the tea he was sipping at and quickly set his cup down. "Me?" he whispered before coughing again.

Salazar tapped Harry's throat with his wand and the fluid cleared from his trachea. "Deep breath," he ordered and Harry did so.

"Thanks," he murmured, thinking fast. Did dementors exist in this time? What other terrifying thing could he say his boggart was? 'Oh. Voldemort,' Harry realised, remembering Lupin's concern the first time Harry faced a boggart. "It was the man..." Harry waved towards his back, cringing.

The adults seemed to understand who he was talking about, as Salazar always had, and winced in sympathy. "Well, he's gone now," Godric soothed. "And if he shows his face in the Isles again, we'll make sure it isn't for long."

Even knowing Voldemort would never appear in this time period, Harry felt a well of gratitude and smiled at the large man. "Thanks, Godric."

Godric smiled back, then the talk turned to hunting down any other possibly dangerous creatures in the castle in the time they had left before students started arriving. The children remained fairly quiet, other than the occasional comment about any magical creature they'd found during their explorations which hadn't been mentioned previously. (Other than the boggart, none of them had been a problem. The ghoul was the closest thing the children had come to trouble before, but ghouls weren't really harmful, so no one had been worried about it.)

After dinner, when Harry and Salazar were down in the Slytherin dorms, working on making the rooms Salazar thought they'd need – he'd spent a week teaching Harry the spells required, since the teen had wanted to help – the Founder asked, "What was your boggart? Really?"

Harry finished up his spellwork on the bed he'd been working on, then leaned back against the door frame to look at where Salazar was forming another room just across the hall. "What makes you think it wasn't him?" he wondered.

"You're far too calm about him for a boggart to consider that your greatest fear," Salazar replied. He gave the room one last flick of his wand, then turning toward the boy. "And I felt your emotions the first time you mentioned him."

"Hm. Cheat."

"Indeed I am," Salazar agreed without a hint of guilt.

Harry smiled faintly, then explained, "I don't know if they exist in this time, but my boggart has always been a dementor."

Salazar frowned in thought for a moment, then shook his head. "I don't know of them, but I'm no expert on magical creatures."

Harry nodded. "Well, they're quite dreadful, really. They exude an aura, of a sort, that sucks the warmth and joy out of you. If they really want to, they can suck out your soul, using what's known as the Dementor's Kiss. One of my professors called them fear itself." His smile turned grim when Salazar shuddered. "After them, Vol– He really isn't all that bad."

"Bit like putting an ashwinder next to a dragon, then?" Salazar suggested with false humour. "Both of them are plenty dangerous, but you're going to be far more concerned about the dragon."

"Quite," Harry agreed before turning back to his spellwork. "What about you, then?"

Salazar grimaced. "If it's all the same, I'd rather not say."

Harry shrugged. "I'll find out eventually."

"Perhaps you will," Salazar agreed. :And, perhaps if I'm very lucky, you won't.:

Harry smiled to himself and focussed on turning a conjured block of wood into a desk.

-0-

The day before the winter solstice – the first day of Yule – the children were told at breakfast that their lessons were on holiday until classes started after Yule. Instead, they were expected to spend the day helping to decorate and collecting the tree and a Yule log from the forest. Kenric and Duana immediately offered to help with the collection of the tree and Yule log, while Helena, Conrad, and the other two children Helga and Rowena had brought all agreed to help with the decorating. Ramona insisted she'd be helping Helga in the kitchen and, when everyone turned to Harry, he asked if he could do the same.

"You know how to cook?" Helga wondered; she wasn't the only one surprised.

Harry shrugged. "Some, sure. I can make more than soup, that's for sure," he added, shooting Salazar a smirk.

Salazar sneered. "Of course you can," he agreed snidely.

"Well," Helga interrupted before they could start throwing insults back and forth like Salazar and Godric always did, "I won't refuse a third pair of hands in the kitchen, not for such an important feast. We'll see how you get on, and if you have trouble keeping up, I'll send you up here to help with the decorating."

Harry smiled. "Certainly."

Harry, of course, had very little trouble in the kitchens. Helga had to take a few minutes to teach him some of the spells she used – "I've only ever cooked the non-magical way," Harry explained – and he had to learn a couple recipes, but he was never in the way. He was familiar enough with cooking large meals – never quite enough for a dozen people, but Vernon and Dudley could each surround enough for three or four people, and Marge wasn't far behind – that he didn't have a single problem keeping up with the two witches.

At lunch, Helga informed Salazar, "You can't have him back; I'm keeping him."

"I saw him first," Salazar replied with a sniff.

"What am I, a favoured toy?" Harry wondered, rolling his eyes. "Helga, honestly, I'm okay to help with feasts, but I don't much care for cooking."

Helga sighed. "Oh, I know." At Harry's raised eyebrow, she said, "You weren't really enjoying yourself. I do appreciate the help, though."

Harry smiled. "Just because I don't care to cook doesn't mean that I won't help if you need it. And spells certainly help, I have to admit."

Helga smiled back. "I'm glad. I can't imagine cooking without magic all the time."

Harry shook his head. "I hope you're going to find more cooks, though."

Helga sighed, looking more than a little upset. Ramona, next to her mother, explained, "We're having trouble finding people. Cooks aren't common in the magical community, most people preferring their flashy spells and smelly potions."

"See if I cure your next cold," Salazar snapped, but there was no bite to it and Ramona rolled her eyes at him.

Harry had a vague recollection of something Hermione had said during one of her S.P.E.W. lectures, and asked, "Couldn't you hire on some house-elves?"

Helga sighed and shook her head. "And force them to do all the work for us while we laze about all day?"

"Laze about?" Godric asked with a laugh. "Helga, my dear, do you think teaching all these children will be easy?"

"You can't serve meals and teach at the same time, love," Roscoe added, smiling at his wife. "You'll need the help from somewhere, and these elves won't have to attend classes on the side."

"I'm sure there are some house-elves in bad homes," Harry commented neutrally between bites of bread. "You could find those ones and give them a better place to live."

"We'll help you beat their owners until they see sense, if need be," Godric agreed.

"Not everything needs to be handled with brute force, Godric," Rowena interrupted and the two fell into a lively debate about whether words or magic were the better course to take in regards to getting the assistance of abused house-elves.

"I take it there are still house-elves in Hogwarts," Salazar said in a quiet voice to Harry and the boy flashed him a grin.

The next day was spent with everyone curled up on poufs and overly-fluffy chairs in front of the fireplace in the Great Hall. Helga kept them supplied with tea or juice and biscuits while the four Founders told them stories about how they met and found the abandoned castle to fix up. Ollivander was pestered until he regaled them with a story of how he'd travelled, on foot, across Asia for two months hunting down a re'em for wand ingredients.

Dinner was served in the early evening and they all enjoyed the meal, the praises to the three chefs becoming more and more boisterous as the pitchers of mead emptied.

Following dinner, they returned to the fireplace and laughed uproariously as Godric used a sprig of holly – Bernia had confiscated his sword before dinner – to re-enact some of his favourite duels. After the first one against an imaginary opponent, he dragged Kenric up off his pouf next to Duana and they pretended to duel while their audience cheered them on.

After a light supper of calming tea – thanks to Salazar – and some soup that Harry only made a token complaint about, everyone shuffled off to bed, Rowena's irritated snarls for Godric to cease singing drinking songs following them all to their separate commons.

"That was the best holiday celebration ever," Harry declared as he dropped onto the pile of blankets he and Salazar had continued to share in the main room.

Salazar laughed, more friendly and open with the excess alcohol in his system. "Godric certainly brings life to a party," he agreed, stretching out next to Harry and slipping an arm around the boy's shoulders. "That really was an excellent feast you three put together."

"Shut up," Harry ordered, flushed with mead and pleasure. He shifted closer to the older man, not yet too hot. After a moment, he allowed, "It wasn't too bad. It's the first time I've cooked a holiday meal and been allowed to eat it."

Salazar's fingers tightened on Harry's shoulder. "Why?" he asked, making a great effort to keep his fury at Harry's comment from his voice.

Harry closed his eyes. "My aunt and uncle were anti-magic. They tended to treat me like a servant." When Salazar's finger's tightened enough to hurt, Harry reached up and gently pried them loose. "Salazar, they're gone. Good as dead."

"They're just not born yet," Salazar muttered, soothing his fingers along Harry's shoulder. "I'm sorry."

Harry shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he said. "It's not like I'll ever see them again."

Salazar's heart ached for the young wizard in his arms and he pressed a kiss to the top of Harry's head. "Go to sleep, Harry," he whispered.

Harry sighed, but nodded and settled in to fall into his Occlumency and sleep.

Salazar remained awake for a while longer, staring at the patterns of green light on the ceiling and promising himself he'd start looking for ways to get Harry back to his own time after the holiday. He could put his research on hold for a while; it would still be there once Harry was gone.

And, somewhere in the deepest corners of his mind, where Salazar shoved all those thoughts he didn't dare think, he wondered if he wouldn't need the distraction to keep on after Harry was gone, because he'd become far too used to having the boy in his life already.

Chapter Text

Salazar was a little distant for the rest of the holiday, but Harry mostly ignored him, more interested in letting Duana, Kenric, Conrad, and – sometimes – Ramona drag him outside to play in the snow. Bernia had looked about to complain the first time the children made out the front doors, but Godric called her back, pointing out, "They know to avoid the forest and the lake, and Harry managed a boggart; I doubt there's anything daring enough to leave the forest, and if there is, I trust Harry will be able to handle it, or get the others back into safety."

Harry had flushed at that praise. He wasn't completely certain that he deserved it, but he did make a point to keep an eye out for any danger. He also made certain to keep a warming charm on each of them and drag them all back inside if they got particularly wet.

It was...odd, being the responsible one for once. Harry was used to having Hermione there to keep him and Ron in line, and there'd been more than one time during their earlier romps through the castle when he'd expected to hear her yelling at him for doing something stupid. Running into the boggart had taught him plenty well that he needed to be the one to act sensibly, for once, being the most capable with magic. And if that meant grabbing a soaking wet Conrad out of a large snow drift and ordering them all inside that minute, in spite of their protests, that's what he'd do.

While the children enjoyed their playing – or their reading, for the others – Helga, Godric, and Rowena set out to collect house-elves to staff the castle. By the last day of the holiday, they had ten house-elves working to make the castle liveable. They'd managed to find a second boggart in a locked room on the third floor that the children had always passed by, and an infestation of doxies in one of the rooms in the dungeons that the children had never explored, both of which one of the adults got rid of as soon as they heard about them.

The day following the end of the holiday – January fourth, according to the Christian calendar Rowena kept in the Great Hall – the new students started arriving by portkey. The eight children that had been staying in the castle up to that point settled in near the fireplace to watch as the students arrived, were greeted by the Founders and their spouses, then were turned toward Ollivander's corner, where the wandmaker set them up with a wand, assuming they didn't already have one that worked for them.

Once the first new student had received his wand, he stood dumbly for a minute, looking around the Great Hall like he'd never seen a castle before.

"How dull," Helena muttered, turning back to her book.

"You're such a meanie, Helena," Duana said as she got to her feet. "I'm gonna invite him over, okay?"

The other children nodded, so the girl skipped over and introduced herself to the boy before dragging him over to the fireplace. "Everyone, this is Ruck!"

"Hello," Ruck whispered, uncertain.

"Helga pick you up?" Harry guessed, and the boy nodded, eyes wide. Harry smiled at him. "I'm Harry. These here are Conrad and Ramona, Helga's children." He shoved a foot against Conrad's pouf and the boy shrunk in on himself. "Oh, stop that."

Ramona let out a long-suffering sigh at her brother's shyness and smiled at the newcomer. "Hello, Ruck. Won't you join us? Tell us a bit about yourself, perhaps?" she added as Harry conjured a pouf for him.

"Oh. Uhm, sure. I...guess..." Ruck agreed, sinking into the seat.

Thus started a pattern: Whenever a new student was done with Ollivander, Duana or Kenric would jump up – racing, sometimes – and collect the person. A brief introduction would occur, Harry would guess who invited them – he was always correct, much to the growing amusement of the other children – and then conjure them a pouf after pointing them towards the children associated with that Founder.

The first – and only – time Harry stumbled a bit in the routine, was when the first Slytherin – a boy by the name of Vail Grady – joined them. He guessed the boy's Founder fine, but when he went to point him towards the children of the House, he realised he was it.

"Something wrong, Harry?" Ramona asked when Harry trailed off with a faint frown.

"Hm? Oh, no." He smiled back up at Vail and conjured a pouf in a free spot next to his own. "Sorry. I'm the only other person Salazar's invited so far."

"Master Slytherin doesn't have any family?" Vail wondered as he settled in next to Harry.

Harry shook his head. "Not that he's said. And you'd best take to referring to all of them by their first names, lest you get them confused."

"Master Slytherin has no one with which to get him confused," Vail pointed out.

Harry kicked Duana's pouf when the girl started giggling. "You will be silent, or I'll curse your hair yellow, understand?"

Duana covered her head protectively. "That's just cruel, Harry."

Harry raised an eyebrow at her. "Isn't it just?" he replied before looking back at Vail. "Call him Master Slytherin, then," he said, thinking it might be fun to see Salazar's reaction to that.

Vail blinked, uncertain, but before he could wonder about Harry's easy agreement, another new student was joining them and Harry was distracted by guessing their Founder.

When the adults announced it was lunchtime and all the new students were there, Harry counted twenty-six child heads, including himself and those who'd been in the castle up until that point. Of them, he'd discovered as they talked, only one other student – a Ravenclaw girl named Velda – was also fifteen; everyone else was fourteen or under. There were a couple nine-year-olds, other than Kenric, but that was the youngest they got. They had also, apparently, been hit with a Translator's Charm, because they could all speak and understand Englisc, though a couple of them would occasionally speak in their native language and those students unfamiliar with it would complain.

They didn't quite have House tables in the way that they would in the future, but they were still broken up by House, sitting around circular tables with the adults of their House. The Slytherin table was the smallest, with six students and Salazar. Of the other Houses, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff both had seven children, while Ravenclaw had six, but those Houses also had two adults each, and Ollivander had joined the Ravenclaw table to speak with Rowena.

"I feel a bit like I joined the most pathetic of the lot," one of the girls commented.

"Just because we're few doesn't make us less impressive than the others," Salazar replied drily. "Now, as you all know, I'm Salazar Slytherin. For your stay at Hogwarts, I will be your primary master, though you will be learning from all of us, to ensure your education is the best it can be. I don't expect you to refer to me as 'Master', but I do demand the respect of a master, as will your other teachers." He stared around the table until each student had nodded. "Good. Now, it seems you've all conversed to some extent?"

"Yes, sir," a couple of them replied.

Salazar nodded and turned to Harry on his right. "Perhaps a reminder of our names. Harry?"

Harry smiled. "I'm Harry," he offered before looking to the boy next to him.

"Morgan Muir," the boy offered in a cool voice, every inch the upper class. Harry had already made a mental note to watch him, especially when he'd sneered at one of Kenric's ungainly flops into his pouf.

"Nuala," the tiny girl next to Morgan said, sitting up straight and trying to emulate Morgan's bearing to the best of her ability.

"I'm Mavis," the girl who'd complained about the size of the House said. She held herself well, Harry thought, but her clothing had seen a few patches and she'd been kind enough to stop and help Nuala when the girl had tripped on her way to the table.

"I'm Fane," the friendly boy next to Mavis said, grinning around the table. Harry had almost thought him a Gryffindor or a Hufflepuff, when he'd first seen him, until he'd spotted the gleam in his eyes that said he was sizing everyone up.

"Vail," the first of the new Slytherins to arrive offered from Salazar's left side, which he'd taken as soon as he'd figured out where the Founder would sit. Harry pegged him as an arse-kisser and decided to avoid any arguments about who might be Salazar's favourite, just in case he was particularly good with a wand.

"Excellent." Salazar tapped the top of the table with his finger and the food finally appeared, the house-elves having been waiting for that signal. Nuala let out a startled sound, then flushed when she realised no one else had been surprised.

"You all are quite strange to hide your last names," Morgan commented.

"Some of us don't have last names," Mavis snarked.

"Oh, of course. Common-borns."

"Something wrong with being common-born?" Mavis demanded.

"I wouldn't answer that, if I were you," Harry suggested drily, raising an unimpressed eyebrow at the boy next to him. "And you might well find that most of the students here are what you call 'common-born', so that puts you, my well-bred friend, in the minority. Unless you intend to watch your back the entire time you're in Hogwarts, I'd watch your tongue."

"An excellent point," Salazar agreed, not looking up from his plate, where he was fighting with a chicken leg. Next to him, Vail was trying very hard to mirror his every movement. (Harry wondered if Salazar wasn't having trouble with his chicken just to see if Vail could keep up.)

"Does anyone know any magic, yet?" Fane asked, smiling around at them.

"I know some spells!" Vail immediately said, leaving his mirroring of Salazar to give them a list of every spell he knew. Harry didn't think it was particularly impressive, but Mavis and Nuala both seemed honestly impressed, and Fane wasted no time in asking about a couple of the spells Vail had listed.

Morgan looked like he wanted to say something rude about Vail's knowledge, but his mouth snapped shut when Harry caught his eye. The rest of lunch passed with Morgan quietly stewing while Harry watched him and occasionally made a comment about a spell the other four students were discussing. Salazar watched everything with a neutral expression, which made Vail droop every time he saw it.

Once they'd mostly finished and the other Houses were rising, Salazar said, "Let's show you where you'll be living for the next few months." He tapped the table as they rose, signalling the house-elves to vanish everything, then led the way out of the Great Hall.

Harry'd thought to walk in the lead with Salazar, but Nuala tripped again and he fell back to help her up. "Hey, you okay?" he asked as he helped her to her feet.

Nuala nodded, looking worried. "We'll get left behind!"

"I know the way," Harry promised. "We'll walk at your pace."

Nuala sighed and slowed down to a pace she was more comfortable with. Once they reached the hallways, she stepped to one side, to trail her hand along the wall.

Harry watched her for a few moments, his mind connecting the dots of how she kept tripping and the way she'd squinted once or twice when someone offered her food. "You're far-sighted, aren't you?"

Nuala's nose scrunched at the term. "I'm what?" she demanded, sounding a little insulted.

"Sorry," Harry apologised, wondering if there was an actual technical term for the impairment at this time. "You have trouble seeing things that are close to you, I mean. But you can see distant objects fine?"

Nuala's posture relaxed. "Yes."

Harry smiled. "I'm the opposite," he offered. "I can see things near to me fine, but about half an arm length away everything gets really blurry."

Nuala glanced up towards where Harry walked at her side, squinting. "It's about two arm lengths away that things start to become clear, for me, so the floor's a bit of a blur. How do you manage?"

"There's a spell that can correct your vision. Salazar cast it on me when we first met," Harry explained. "I don't know it, myself, but we can probably get him to cast it on you."

Nuala smiled, relief flashing in her eyes. "That would be wonderful." She nearly tripped on a raised portion of stone, but managed to catch herself on the wall, Harry grabbing her shoulder just in case. "Thanks. So, you've been with Slytherin long?"

"Only a couple months," Harry replied, shaking his head. "He sort of saved my life and, after finding out I had no home to return to, invited me to stay at Hogwarts."

Nuala seemed uncertain how to respond to that for a moment, then said, "I'm sorry you–"

"Old history," Harry assured her, despite the constant ache of loss he felt. But he'd got to the point, now, where he was mostly okay with how things had turned out. It was nice not having people immediately know his name, or look at him expectantly. And he was making new friends; maybe Kenric and Conrad and Duala would never be Ron and Hermione, but he'd grown to care about them the same. "Here, we need to take the stairs down. Will you be okay, or...?"

"I should be okay," Nuala replied, and she did seem to manage the stairs fine.

Salazar was waiting for them just inside the door. "I'd wondered where you two had gone to," he commented drily, and it was only because Harry was so familiar with him that he saw the flash of relief in the paler green eyes.

"You know how I like to take my time," Harry retorted. "Discovered that Nuala's a bit far-sighted, by the way."

Salazar sighed. "You'd think, after three months amongst civilised people, you'd learn to use real words..."

"Are you actually calling Godric civilised?" Harry replied, feigning shock. "This is an historic moment!"

Salazar pointed a threatening finger at Harry while Nuala stared dumbly between them. "I was referring to everyone else, you troublesome child. Now, using proper Englisc, tell me again what you discovered."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Proper Englisc," he muttered before explaining, "She's got a sight impairment; she can see things in the distance fine, but closer things are blurry. I told her you could fix it. Git."

Salazar was already leaning down to Nuala's level when Harry called him a git and he flicked his eyes up to Harry, amusement dancing in them, before returning his attention to Nuala. "This might sting a bit," he warned her as his wand slipped into his hand from his bracer.

Nuala nodded. "Okay," she whispered.

Salazar took her chin in one hand, then touched his wand to just under her left eye. "Síene bate," he murmured and Nuala flinched, blinking a few times rapidly. "Let me do the other one," Salazar ordered when she tried to move her chin out of his grip.

"Sorry," Nuala whispered, stilling.

Salazar nodded and touched his wand to just under her right eye, again murmuring "Síene bate."

As soon as Salazar released her chin, Nuala pulled back and blinked a few times rapidly. Then she stared at the Founder with a cross between disbelief and awe. "I can see your face," she told him before looking up at Harry. "I can see your face too!"

"Indeed," was Salazar's dry reply.

Harry chuckled and offered the girl a smile. "I know the feeling," he offered and she smiled back.

"Nuala," Salazar interrupted, turning and motioning towards the two hallways on the far wall. "The right side leads to the female dorms. Go pick a room."

"Okay. Thanks, Slytherin!" Nuala called before heading towards the right hallway. She neatly sidestepped a slightly raised stone and let out a laugh.

"You'll have to teach me that spell," Harry commented. "Unless you want me randomly popping up on Hogwarts' doorstep every five years or so to get it renewed."

Salazar winced and determinedly didn't look towards Harry. "Of course," he agreed. "Why don't you–"

"Salazar."

The Founder glanced towards Harry, expression smoothed over. "You should go make sure the boys haven't ruined that furniture you worked so hard on."

Harry pressed his lips together, irritated, but resigned to the older wizard's secretive nature. "Yes, fine. And stop being a git, won't you?"

"Respect, Harry," Salazar reminded him.

Harry rolled his eyes and ducked down the hall to the male dorms. He'd moved his few things into the first room on the left the day before, while Salazar had kept his things where they'd been out in the common and just created a wall around the corner. They'd ended up agreeing that the students could each have their own room, at least until it got more crowded, so Harry didn't have to worry about any roommates, just a shared wall.

The room next to Harry's remained empty, but the next one down had been taken by Vail, who blinked at him uncertainly when Harry poked his head in the door. "Yes?"

"Just checking to make sure you're moving in okay," Harry offered, leaning against the doorframe. The boy certainly seemed to be getting on well, judging by the small pile of clothing he was putting away in the armoire and the well-loved book placed carefully on one of the shelves over his desk.

"I require no assistance," Vail replied, turning back to his clothing.

Harry shrugged and moved on to the next room. Fane had grabbed that one, and he grinned up at Harry when he stopped in the doorway. "Hello. Harry, right?"

"Yes," Harry agreed, smiling back. "Salazar asked me to make sure everyone's getting on fine."

"My only problem so far has been trying to figure out how my mother packed so much stuff into this bag." He held up a bag that looked like it could hold no more than a couple books in it. There were piles of clothing and sheets on the bed, as well as all manner of writing implements on the desk.

"Some very clever magic, I should think," Harry said drily.

Fane laughed. "Yes, I suppose that rather is the obvious solution, isn't it?" He sighed and set the bag down between two piles of clothing. "Oh. I don't suppose you know anything about the second drawer down on the desk? It won't open."

Harry raised an eyebrow at that and looked towards the desk. "May I look?" he requested, not quite stupid enough to enter a Slytherin's room without permission; he'd hexed his own door as soon as he'd finished moving into his new room.

"Oh, yes. Please, come on in. There's nothing incriminating out." He chuckled and picked up some tunics to put away.

"Oh, I'm sure you've nothing incriminating," Harry replied, rolling his eyes, and Fane let out a loud laugh. Harry flashed him a grin, then knelt in front of the desk and tried the troublesome drawer. When it wouldn't budge even the slightest, Harry pulled out the drawer under it and peered at the underside, where the track he'd transfigured should have been. Instead, the drawer had been left a solid block, not even unattached from the sides. "Oh, bollocks," he muttered, flexing his hand to recall his wand and shooting a couple spells at the drawer. Once certain it worked at last, he put the drawer under it back in and stood.

"That's an interesting design," Fane said, watching with greedy eyes as Harry slipped his wand away.

Harry narrowed his eyes briefly before clearing his expression and giving him a careless shrug. "Godric gave it to me. Feel free to ask him how to make them, if you want."

"I'll do that," Fane agreed. Then he seemed to remember himself and quickly put back on his grin. "Thanks, by the way. What was wrong with it?"

"The wood didn't completely transfigure, for some reason," Harry offered, making his way to the door. "It should be fine now."

"Weird..." Fane glanced towards the desk, then shook his head. "Well, thanks again."

Harry waved over his shoulder, then wandered further down the hall, looking for Morgan. He found him three rooms down, snapping his wand around to put his things away. "You'll break something that way," Harry commented, leaning against the doorframe.

Morgan turned to the doorway with a snarl. Once he recognised Harry, his expression smoothed out, though he still didn't look pleased. "Oh. Slytherin's son."

Harry raised an eyebrow at that. "I'm no such thing."

Morgan looked him up and down, then let out a delicate snort. "Brother, then. Or cou–"

"Not remotely," Harry interrupted, secretly amused. "Salazar and I aren't related. At all," he added when Morgan looked about to argue. Though, considering the amount of time involved, Harry knew it was quite possible they were distantly related.

"You look quite similar for not being related," he commented coolly.

"Pure chance, I assure you."

"He favours you like family."

"Favours me?" Harry asked, confused. "What makes you think he–? What, at lunch? You honestly think Salazar would agree with me if he didn't agree himself?"

"I would," Morgan insisted. "Family must stick together."

"And you're a fool," Harry informed him. "How would anyone expect to become their own person if they just follow along behind others? If you do that, you'll only become a shadow, overlooked and forgotten; that seems a piss-poor way to live, if you ask me."

"So, what?" Morgan snarled, face a mask of fury. "You're saying family is nonsense? That I shouldn't stand by my father?"

"If you're looking to debate the importance of family, you've found the wrong person; I haven't any," Harry informed him coolly and Morgan deflated. He softened his tone just the slightest to say, "I'm not telling you to ignore the thoughts and opinions of those you care about, you silly boy; I'm only saying you need to learn to think for yourself. Don't take what your family members say as rote. It seems to me they've only seen one side to the world, and you're sitting right in the centre of the other half." Harry turned to leave, adding, "Curb your attitude, before someone else curbs it for you."

Harry returned to the common room, only to find it empty. Knocking on Salazar's room door got him no answer, so, frowning, Harry made for his own room, planning to work on some reading until dinner. It bothered him that Salazar was being so secretive and distant of late, but there was little he could do about it; for all that they were friendly with each other, they were hardly best friends and, tomorrow, they would officially be teacher and student. Hopefully, Salazar was only being distant to remind Harry to be more professional.

-0-

After breakfast the next morning, they all met back up in the common room, Salazar resting comfortably in a conjured chair while the rest of them sat on the floor, since there wasn't any other furniture. (Harry knew there'd been a couple of chairs out there before, but one of them had appeared in his bedroom overnight, and the other had likely vanished into Salazar's room.)

Salazar waited until they were all seated, then started speaking: "Your lessons, for now, will be held in this room; after this summer, we should have finished the classrooms, and you'll be moving around a bit. While classes are held in here, your teachers will come to you, so you can, in theory, only ever leave this room for meals in the Great Hall. But I suggest exploring the castle in your free time, so you're less likely to get lost when we return after the summer.

"Your school week will follow a five-day pattern: On the first day, I will be your teacher; we'll be studying healing magic before lunch, and working with potions after. On the second day, you'll be learning from Rowena Ravenclaw; she'll be teaching you transfiguration and conjuration in the morning, and arithmancy in the afternoons. Your third day will be with Roscoe Hufflepuff, who believes – and we all agree – that you will benefit from learning to fix objects the non-magical way; his lessons will only be in the afternoons, so you will have those mornings free. Your fourth day will be with Godric Gryffindor; he'll be covering non-magical defence in the mornings and magical defence in the afternoons. Your fifth day will be with Helga Hufflepuff, who will be teaching you various useful charms and how to take care of and handle yourself around various magical and non-magical plants. You will have two days free, then, to work on any extra-curricular work or explore the castle."

"Which of those lessons will be when?" Fane wondered. "With Madam Hufflepuff, I mean."

"She has not said." Salazar glanced around at the watching faces, then nodded. "Does everyone have some form of writing implements? Parchment and a quill and ink?"

"I don't," Mavis replied, expression closed. "I don't know how to write, either."

Morgan opened his mouth to make a comment, but Harry very purposefully stretched his leg into the younger boy's thigh and raised an eyebrow at him when Morgan turned to glare. The boy pressed his mouth into a thin line, but held his tongue.

"There's a quick way to teach you," Salazar assured Mavis. "Everyone else, collect your writing things. Harry, could you find some extra for Mavis?"

"Sure," Harry agreed as they all got to their feet. Salazar had given him a pile of parchment, a couple of extra quills, and a few bottles of ink when Harry had moved into his new room, assuring the teen that he'd need them. He had nothing against sharing them around, if others needed them; he knew what it was like to have little to your name.

One they'd returned to the common, Salazar conjured everyone small lap desks, promising that Rowena would be teaching them how to do that tomorrow. He then proceeded to conjure a chart, which he spelled onto the top sheet of everyone's parchment, and went over the various parts of the body and the many ways in which someone could be wounded.

They broke for lunch, then returned and took notes, again, while Salazar explained the art of making potions, being far more thorough than Snape had ever been, and when Harry returned to his room to put his writing things away, he felt so much more certain in his ability to make potions. 'I might even like potions, under Salazar,' Harry considered. 'How...novel.'

-0-

Transfiguration and conjuration lessons with Rowena ended up being a lot of revision for Harry, but it enabled him to help Nuala while Rowena walked Vail, Mavis, Fane, and Morgan through a couple problems they were having.

On their way up to lunch, Rowena motioned for Harry to walk with her, then commented, "You may be bored in my class, Harry."

Harry shook his head. "I've learnt some transfiguration, charms, and defensive spells in the past, from friends of my parents. I'm sure I'll learn some new things – I learned new stuff from Salazar, yesterday, in potions – and I can help the others if they're confused."

Rowena nodded. "Your assistance was appreciated. I am...not used to teaching those with little to no knowledge of a subject matter," she admitted. "Salazar suggested we find a 'middle ground' to teach them from, but it is difficult finding such when some students – such as yourself and some of our children – have had a sort of semi-formal training from masters, while others – such as Miss Nuala – weren't even aware that it was true magic they possessed until we invited them to Hogwarts."

Harry shrugged. "At least you've got one of us in each group?" he offered and Rowena's eyes smiled. "I don't know much about teaching others magic," he commented, "so I can't really say more than it's a learning experience? For the teacher and the student."

"These things always are," Rowena agreed. She stopped just inside the doors of the Great Hall and Harry stopped next to her, side-stepping one of the Gryffindors who was running to get food. "May I continue to rely on you to help your fellows if they are facing a certain problem while I attend to another?"

"Certainly," Harry agreed. "I can't help any with arithmancy, though."

Rowena's eyes smiled again. "I expect very few here have more than a passing acquaintance with the subject. Thank you, Harry."

Harry nodded and they separated to their tables. As Harry slid into his usual seat at Salazar's right, the elder commented, "She'll be trying to steal you next."

"You're ridiculous," Harry informed the man. "I'm no one's to be 'stolen', and I quite like where I am now. So stop being childish."

"You shouldn't speak to Master Slytherin that way," Vail informed Harry importantly.

Harry bit his tongue, reminding himself he'd refused to get into an argument about who was Salazar's favourite student.

Salazar raised an expectant eyebrow at Harry, and the teen raised an eyebrow back, not about to apologise for making a point. Salazar let out a snort and turned his attention back to his food, signalling that the matter was dropped. Vail didn't seemed pleased by that, but Fane helpfully distracted him by asking about something Rowena had taught them.

Harry thought he could learn to like Fane, despite the way his eyes liked to gleam with greed.

-0-

Arithmancy was, as Rowena had expected, unknown to everyone in the House, so she was able to teach them all the same. She appeared quite pleased by that and seemed to enjoy teaching them the magic of numbers far more than she'd enjoyed teaching them how to transfigure and conjure objects.

The morning of their third day of classes – Wednesday, Harry thought of it as – while they were walking back from breakfast, Nuala caught up to him and Harry slowed his pace to match hers. "Could you help me with transfiguration and conjuring?" she requested. "I feel like I'm holding everyone else up, and you seem to know a lot about it..."

"Rowena honestly doesn't seem to mind, but I can tutor you, if you'd like," Harry agreed.

Nuala smiled, relieved, and nodded. "Please. Even if she doesn't mind, I'd still like to know a bit more. Maybe it'll help a bit with my other classes?" she sighed. "Everyone else already knows some magic."

Harry shrugged. "From the sounds of things, everyone else has at least one magical parent, even if they didn't have their own wand. It's one of the dangers of collecting children from all walks of life and all ages; you're bound to get people with varying skills. We'll make do." As they slipped into the common room, he directed, "Go get your writing stuff and I'll see about conjuring a table and some chairs for us to work at."

"Okay. Thanks, Harry!" she called over her shoulder as she dashed down the female hallway.

"Ooh. Magic lessons?" Fane wondered as Harry conjured a place for them to work.

"Tutoring," Harry replied, frowning and kicking a wobbly leg of his table. It held, but he shot an extra spell at it to make sure it behaved.

"Can I join you?" Fane wondered. When Harry raised an inquisitive eyebrow at him, he commented, "Nothing wrong with a bit of extra knowledge, right?"

"Hm. I won't stop you," Harry decided before turning back to make a few chairs.

Mavis ended up joining them as well, looking a little uncertain until Harry conjured her a chair and motioned for her to sit. Once they'd all taken their seats, he started talking about basic magical theory as he remembered it, since he knew that would help Nuala the most, at the moment. He was surprised and a little pleased when he noticed Fane and Mavis taking notes as well, and Mavis even had a few questions about things, which Harry was happy to answer.

Lunch, when they got there, ended up involving a great deal of discussion about magical theory, which Vail quickly joined in on when he noticed that Salazar was watching the conversation. Morgan even joined in, for a couple minutes near the end of lunch, correcting something Mavis said with a gentler tone than Harry had expected of him.

As they all rose to follow Roscoe down to the common for their non-magical crafting lesson, Salazar touched Harry's shoulder and commented, "You're tutoring them?"

Harry grimaced. "Nuala was having trouble during Rowena's morning lesson yesterday, and I agreed to give her some pointers. Mavis and Fane ended up joining us."

"You do have the most solid magical background," Salazar replied with a shrug. "Well, I won't stop you, and if it's helping the others, I condone it wholeheartedly."

"You would," Harry replied rolling his eyes. "You teachers always like it when your students make an effort to help their peers."

"Indeed we do. Now, go learn non-magical things from Roscoe."

"Give me a hammer and some nails and I'll be fine," Harry replied before hurrying to catch up with his Housemates.

Since all but Morgan had been raised in a non-magical – at least in part – 'common' home, all of them but Morgan managed to excel in Roscoe's class. He gave most of them some tools and a couple desks to put together – "For the new classrooms," he'd explained with a grin – then sat down with Morgan to teach him how to use a hammer and nail.

"I feel quite smart, all of a sudden," Fane commented quietly to the rest of them as Morgan hammered his thumb for the third time.

"It is nice to be able to do something he can't," Mavis agreed. "He's always so condescending about it, too. 'Oh, are you having trouble with that spell? But, of course, you're common.' Ugh."

Harry snorted. "Give him a couple months before you start cursing him every time he opens his mouth, though. He might, eventually, learn to keep his high-bred opinions to himself."

"That'll be the day," Mavis muttered.

"Next," Vail said nastily, shooting a glare at Harry, "we'll find something the rest of us can do that you can't."

"Hey, that's not fair," Nuala immediately snapped. "Harry helps when we need it, and he's not mean about it like Morgan, either."

"What do you have against Harry, anyway?" Mavis wondered. "Don't think I haven't seen you glaring at him all the time."

"He's rude to Master Slytherin!"

Harry raised an eyebrow. "If you think I'm rude, you should see him and Godric together."

"Slytherin is more than capable of telling Harry off if he's honestly bothered," Fane pointed out reasonably. "And Harry's known him for a while now, right?"

"Three months," Harry agreed with a shrug.

Fane smiled at Vail. "Exactly. I bet the adults you know let you get away with loads of stuff that they'd curse another person for. Like, my uncle and I call each other rude names every time we see each other, but if anyone else tried that on him, he'd have a fit."

Vail frowned. "So, you and Master Slytherin are...related?"

"Why does everyone think Salazar and I are related?" Harry wondered.

"Because you look disturbingly similar," Roscoe replied as he came to stand over the group, leaving Morgan to fight with the hammer and nail on his own. "Bernia thinks you share that mysterious father Salazar won't talk about."

"Mer–Gods no," Harry insisted. "And if you'd met my dad, you people would stop seeing similarities between Salazar and myself. I'm practically his mirror image, other than my eyes. Which I get from my mum, thanks."

Roscoe chuckled. "As you say," he agreed and Harry huffed. "How are you lot getting on?"

"Fairly well, other than the debates of Harry's relation to Slytherin," Fane offered with a bright smile.

Roscoe chuckled again. "I see. Well, perhaps a bit less talk and a bit more hammering? The sooner we get the furniture for all the classrooms done, the sooner I can teach you things that are more fun."

The students all made sounds of agreement and returned their attention to the chairs, saving all further talk for another time.

-0-

Godric was a right bundle of energy when he and Bernia followed the Slytherins into their common after breakfast. "Right! Who has knowledge of non-magical weapons?"

Fane and Nuala both stepped forward. "My father taught me the sword," Fane offered.

"Mine taught me the bow," Nuala said.

"Excellent! Do either of you have your weapons here?"

"I have my bow," Nuala admitted.

Godric looked to Fane, who shook his head, then sighed. "Okay. You, Miss–?"

"Nuala, sir."

"Nuala, go grab your bow."

"Fane," Fane said before Godric could ask.

The Founder grinned. "Fane. Bernia here will get you set up with a sword." Fane stepped past him to where Bernia was setting out the last of a store of weapons, and Godric looked back over the other four. "Anyone with a passing familiarity with a non-magical weapon?"

"Ah, knives," Mavis offered. "No formal training or anything, but my brother learnt a bit and passed it on to me. And I'm Mavis," she added.

Godric chuckled. "Very good. Mavis, do you like working with knives? Or would you prefer something else?"

"Knives are fine," Mavis decided.

"Very good. Bernia will get you a set." He motioned her off to the side as Nuala re-entered the common with an unstrung recurve bow. "Excellent! Nuala, if you'll stay over there with Bernia and your fellows... Good." He turned back to the last three. "So, no knowledge of non-magical weapons whatsoever?"

Harry considered mentioning the time he'd wielded Godric's own sword, but he didn't really know how to explain that time without making up way more back story than he could keep up, so he just shook his head with the other two.

"Ah, more the pity. Well, you'll be learning now. Anyone have any preferences?"

"A sword," Vail insisted immediately.

Godric grinned. "A most excellent choice, young–?"

"Oh, Vail, sir."

"Vail, then. Bernia will be happy to give you a sword. And you two?" he asked as Vail hurried off.

"Morgan Muir, sir. And I should like to learn the sword, as well," Morgan decided stiffly.

"Very good." He waved Morgan past him. "Harry?"

Harry considered his options for a moment, remembering how heavy Godric's sword had been once the adrenalin had passed and trying to imagine carrying one around all the time. Finally, he shook his head. "Knives, I think," he decided, thinking it would be better to have a weapon he could conceal and carry with him easily.

Godric's smile gentled. "I'm somehow unsurprised. Come, then, let's get you a set."

"Unsurprised?" Harry wondered.

"Swords tend to attract flashy people," Godric explained. "When given a choice, those, such as yourself, who prefer the quieter approach will stick to knives. Or bows, sometimes, but that's less likely in those who use magic, since you can usually cast more magic from a distance without being discovered."

"I see," Harry replied before Godric motioned him towards Bernia.

Once all six students had weapons, Godric smiled at them and explained, "Lessons in non-magical weaponry will end up going something like the following, at least for the moment: Our first two and a half hours will be spent working with these preferred weapons. Our last hour and a half will be spent teaching you how to handle other weapons, so you will be able to pick up any weapon you come across and defend yourself, even if it's not one you prefer.

"Now, if Nuala, Mavis, and Harry would follow Bernia outside, she'll give you a crash course in distance weaponry; Mavis, Harry, I'll teach you how to handle knives in close combat later, but you'll be going with Bernia for the moment." The three students nodded their understanding, then followed Bernia out when she motioned for them to follow her. Behind them, Godric said, "All right, boys. Stand straight. Straighter than that, Morgan–"

Bernia chuckled as the closing of the door cut off further noise from their common. "What Godric forgot to mention, is that this first couple sessions will be spent teaching you the spear. They'll be joining us outside for that, since the low ceilings don't allow for much movement." She smiled at them and they all smiled back.

Outside, Bernia set Nuala up with her bow, made sure she could use it, then set her a target to shoot at. Once certain Nuala would be okay on her own for a while, Bernia came over and worked with Harry and Mavis, showing them how best to move while throwing and how to judge distance.

All told, Harry wasn't too bad with it. Years of quidditch had given him an eye for judging distance and excellent hand-eye coordination. He had some trouble remembering to keep his wrist stiff, but was otherwise fairly well off.

When Godric and the other boys joined them, they were all sweaty, and Morgan and Vail looked a bit like they regretted picking the sword, especially when they saw the relaxed stances of their Housemates.

Bernia moved out of the way, giving the floor to her husband. Godric started them off by explaining the differences between different spear lengths, as well as what to call the relatives of the spear, such as the ranseur and javelin. He then showed them the weak points of the long weapons, so they could spot right away whether or not any they found would be useful.

At last, he passed out weighted staffs that mimicked the heft of a long spear, without the danger of them cutting themselves. Using these, he taught them some basic stances and how best to attack an opponent with them.

When Salazar saw the group at lunch, he snorted and commented, "Good to know Godric will keep you fit. Although, we might have to teach you some freshening charms."

"Shut up, Salazar," Harry muttered as he settled in on the man's right.

"Remember what I said about treating your teachers with respect?" Salazar replied, eyes gleaming with amusement.

Harry raised an eyebrow. "Oh, of course. I will endeavour to be on my best behaviour around you, then let it slip to Godric any time you're being a git."

Salazar grimaced. "Hm. On second thought..."

"I knew you'd say that."

Salazar snorted, then glanced around the table. His eyes caught on the unstrung bow Nuala had on her back and he commented, "That's not one of Bernia's. Yours?"

"Oh, yes, sir," Nuala agreed, touching the top of her bow. "My mother and elder sister make them."

"Mention that to Bernia and she'll likely buy out whatever stock they have."

Nuala smiled. "Maybe I will."

After lunch, they met back up with Godric in the Slytherin common. He had five of his leather bracers with him and he passed them out, saying, "I meant to hand these out this morning, but I forgot. These will serve as a place to store your wand, one which won't chance its discovery by a non-magical. They also double as proper archery bracers, so you'll never have to worry about picking up a bow you've found and getting welts on your wrist." He smiled at Nuala, who was switching her own bracer for the new one.

He gave them a quick lesson in how to use the bracers, then had them retrieve their writing supplies to take notes while he gave them a safety lesson in using defensive magic in a mostly non-magical world and gave them a background in defensive magics.

"Most spells of the defensive – and, often, offensive – varieties have their basis in the Latin language, as the magical Romans were far more inclined towards violence than those magic-users native to the Isles," Godric explained. "That's not to say there aren't defensive and offensive spells in your native languages, they're simply less common.

"The single most important spell in any witch or wizard's arsenal is the Shield Spell, protégé. Do any of you know it?"

Harry and Morgan both raised their hands.

"Excellent! Morgan, why don't we have you perform it?"

Morgan seemed suddenly uncertain, but he still pulled out his wand and ordered, "Protego!" causing a weak magical bubble to form around him.

"The trick," Godric offered gently, "is to trust your magic to act as it should. Don't order it – magic tends to react poorly to orders – just use the words as guidance and trust your magic will know what to do. Harry?"

Harry nodded and released his wand into his hand. Plenty familiar with the spell after practising it for days on end in preparation for the Third Task, Harry had no trouble casting a solid shield.

"Excellent!" Godric called. "Perhaps a bit less force behind your jab, however. Your shield should be translucent, rather than pearly. Now, everyone up. Clear those desks to the side. We're going to try casting the spell. You don't need to be perfect, but I would like everyone to be able to manage a shield that won't break under a spell the first time before we move on."

By the end of the lesson, everyone could manage a fair attempt at a shield and they'd also all learned the stupefy spell, to use against their shields and test their strength.

-0-

Friday morning – or the day Harry personally thought of as Friday, though he was pretty sure it was actually a Saturday – Helga followed the Slytherins back down to their common for her lessons. "Go ahead and collect your writing supplies," she said as they entered the common, and everyone dispersed to do so.

Once they'd returned and had conjured lap desks, Helga explained, "Until the weather warms up a bit, I'll be teaching you charms in the morning and we'll discuss plants in the afternoon. Once it's warmer outside, we'll switch that, so we won't have to be outside in the afternoon."

"Are we going to be doing a lot of outdoors work with the plants?" Harry wondered. They didn't yet have greenhouses, he knew, though it was on the list of things to be built that summer.

"We have a small garden along the west wall," Helga replied, smiling. "It's got an overhang, so it's mostly protected from the elements and magically warmed so some plants can grow, but, in answer to your question, dear, no, we won't be outside much until things have warmed up. On some free days, we might make a school-wide excursion into the forest to look at some of the more dangerous plants, but those have to be left for when you've all a bit more background in magical plants. For now, charms!"

As with transfiguration, a lot of what Helga went over was revision for Harry. He ended up helping Nuala and Mavis with a couple things while the other boys distracted Helga with questions.

On the way to lunch, Helga thanked Harry for his help, admitting that Rowena had already mentioned that he knew some charms. "I figured you must, since you took to those kitchen charms so well," she added. "I do hope I don't get too boring, though."

"You're never boring, Helga," Harry promised, and he meant it; Helga had a certain way of speaking that kept the attention of her audience. Even though Harry had already known everything she'd taught them, he'd still had trouble not paying attention to her.

"You're an absolute dear," Helga informed him before waving him towards his table.

"Shut up," Harry ordered as he slid in next to Salazar.

"I didn't say anything."

"You were thinking it," Harry replied, not fooled.

The corner of Salazar's mouth turned up in a smile for a brief moment, then he turned his attention to his food, leaving his students to discuss their morning lessons.

The afternoon lessons turned out to be more revision for Harry, who was plenty familiar with taking care of a garden in all weather and had spent four years learning about magical plants. It wasn't hard to avoid letting on, however, as Helga kept things theoretical for the day.

Chapter Text

Saturday – Sunday? Harry really needed to sort out these day names – morning, as he was getting ready to leave his table, Kenric appeared at his elbow. "Some of us are going to play out in the snow. Will you come?" he pleaded.

"Of course I will," Harry agreed without stopping to think about it. Then he looked back at the other Slytherins and asked, "Playing in the snow? Anyone?"

"Oh, definitely!" Fane crowed, jumping off the bench and grabbing Vail's elbow. "Come on, you too. Got to have some fun."

"I don't want to go out in the cold," Vail complained.

"I'll come," Mavis agreed, and Nuala nodded next to her.

"Vail, I'll teach you a warming charm," Harry told the boy, then turned to his last Housemate. "Morgan?"

"Playing in the snow is for children."

"What are you, an ancient?" Mavis snapped. "Get up; you're coming with."

"I most certainly will not."

"What was that?" Mavis asked sweetly, cupping a hand behind her ear. "Mavis, please break my nose on your fist? I'd be happy–"

"Down, girl," Fane laughed, grabbing her arm to stop her from moving around Nuala and punching the other boy. "If Morgan would rather stay inside and miss all the fun, that's his prerogative."

"Exactly," Harry agreed, moving around the table and taking Mavis' free arm. "Come along, we've got lions and badgers to squash."

"Lions and badgers?" Nuala asked, falling in step with Harry and Mavis as they moved to join the group of Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs near the doors of the Great Hall. Behind them, Fane was dragging a protesting Vail along, whistling to cover his attempts to get free.

Harry sighed. "Sorry. Uhm, Salazar's always calling Godric a lion, like he's always calling Salazar a snake. And Roscoe made a joke, once, about Helga being very like a badger, so..."

"What's Rav– ah, Rowena's animal, then?" Nuala wondered.

"It's in her name, right?" Mavis replied. "Raven."

"I've always thought of her as more of an eagle, myself," Harry commented neutrally.

"If you say so..."

"Harry!" Conrad shouted as he ran forward to meet them.

Harry quickly let go of Mavis and caught the younger boy before they collided. "Hello, Conrad."

"I haven't seen you in forever!"

"You see him every day," Duana pointed out, rolling her eyes.

"I haven't spoken to you in forever," Conrad insisted.

"It's been five days, idiot," Ramona informed her brother. "You've gone longer than that without sweets."

"Lies."

"Behave," Harry ordered and the siblings stuck their tongues out at him. "Cute. Okay, who here knows a warming charm?" When about half of them raised their hands, he nodded and said, "Cast one on yourself and the nearest person to you who doesn't know it."

Everyone turned to do as ordered, Harry tapping first Conrad, then Nuala on the head to cast the spell on them before casting it on himself. Everyone grabbed their cloaks from the closet off to the side in the entrance hall, then made their way outside to play in the snow that had fallen last night.

It didn't take long for the 'fun in the snow' to turn into a snowball fight, and Harry found himself, inexplicably, pulled behind a snow wall by Fane. Ramona, Vail, a Gryffindor girl named Genevieve, a Gryffindor boy named Diamond, and a Hufflepuff girl named Fiona were making ammunition and, grinning, Harry joined them. 'Three cheers for inter-House relationships,' he thought right before Kenric jumped behind their snow wall and, laughing madly, pelted them with his handful of snowballs before running away, screaming.

"This means war," Vail declared, wiping snow off his face.

"There may be bloodshed," Diamond declared quietly.

"If I find any rocks in these snowballs, I will personally flay every single one of you alive," Harry commented in an even voice as he packed a new snowball.

Diamond and Fane both paused in their actions for a moment before quickly picking out the snowballs they'd made and smashing them flat, tossing the stones to the side.

Harry closed his eyes and silently prayed for patience, then pulled out his wand and touched it to his throat. "Sonorus. ANYONE FOUND THROWING A SNOWBALL WITH ROCKS IN IT GETS TO EXPLAIN IT TO SALAZAR AND BERNIA," he said before ending the spell and returning to his snowball making.

His teammates stared at him for a moment before Ramona wondered, "Have you always been this evil, or is it recent?"

Harry flashed her an innocent smile. "I'm sure I've no idea what you're talking about, my dear."

Kenric jumped back around the wall, holding up empty hands. "I come in peace!" he declared right before each of them hit him with a snowball. "Peace I said."

"You pelted us, last time," Genevieve pointed out, grinning. "Fair's fair."

Kenric stuck his tongue out at her, then turned to Harry with wide eyes. "You have got to teach me that spell."

Harry raised an amused eyebrow at him. "And why's that?"

"So I can yell back at Dad when he yells at me."

Harry considered that for a moment, then said, "Only if you keep my name out of it."

"Deal." They shook hands, then Kenric fled the wall and shouted, "No more peace!"

Snowballs rained down on their heads from over top the wall. The sounds of giggling children fleeing followed the downpour.

"Can we re-think the no stones rule?" Vail muttered, shaking out his cloak.

"No," Harry replied, peeking around the edge of their wall and watching to see which wall the group ran behind. Once they were safely away, he turned back to his team. "Everyone hold still for a moment," he ordered and they all held quite still as Harry pulled out his wand and pointed it at the new snow. "Immitto in alicujus faciem."

The snow around them, except for their snowballs and wall, vanished. There was an immediate outcry from across the way and Harry smiled smugly as he slipped his wand away.

"What did you do?" Ramona breathed.

"Dumped the snow on their heads."

"You're my new hero," Vail informed him.

"And you are so teaching me that spell," Fane added.

Harry burst out laughing.

-0-

"I'm cold and wet and it's all your fault," Kenric informed Harry grumpily as they made their way inside for lunch.

"You deserved it," Harry replied.

"We did," Mavis admitted, shaking out her cloak.

"What did you children do?" Helga demanded as she caught sight of them. "Fall in the Black Lake?"

"Snowball fight," Harry replied as the woman started casting drying charms at everyone she saw.

"And I can see who the victors were," Helga replied as Harry's other teammates passed, laughing and dry.

Harry shrugged, unrepentant, and ushered Kenric and Mavis into the Great Hall.

"You missed the best snowball fight," Fane was telling Morgan as Harry and Mavis joined the table.

"He'd probably have been on our side," Mavis pointed out. "Not so much fun, then."

"Drowned rat would be a good look on him," Vail commented, shrugging when his Housemates looked at him oddly. "What?"

"I don't think I've ever heard you say something nasty about someone who wasn't Harry," Mavis explained as Nuala slipped into the seat next to her.

"Harry impressed him when he banished a pile of snow at you," Fane replied, amused.

"Why were you banishing snow at other children?" Salazar enquired as he joined them, passing a potion to everyone who'd been outside. "Drink those so I don't have to worry about any colds."

"They snuck up on us while Kenny was claiming peace and threw snowballs over our wall," Harry explained after knocking back his potion. "I was just returning their snow."

"It was brilliant," Fane insisted, and Vail nodded next to him.

Salazar sighed. "I'm sure it was. Drink your potion." He turned to stare at Vail and Fane, who hurriedly uncapped and tossed back their potions. The girls had followed Harry's example and already finished theirs, passing the vials back towards the Founder.

Salazar tapped the table and the food appeared, hot tea and soup in front of those who'd been outside. Harry let out a moan. "Why soup?" he complained.

Salazar gave him a look. "You'll drink it, and you'll like it, or I'll add soup to the weekly menu."

Harry moaned again, but started in on his soup without further complaint.

"Harry," Fane called as lunch was winding down.

"Yes?"

"Perhaps a study session?"

Harry sighed, but shrugged. "Sure." He glanced towards the girls. "Nuala, Mavis?"

"Have to learn this stuff sometime," Nuala agreed.

"And I wouldn't mind some time indoors," Mavis added.

"Morgan, Vail?" Harry asked as the girls and Fane rose.

"It's okay?" Vail asked, looking disturbingly hopeful.

"It's not like we require a membership card," Harry replied drily.

"Civilised Englisc, Harry," Salazar reminded him.

Harry closed his eyes and rubbed at his eyelids, switching to English to mutter, "Screw all of you and your ridiculously lacking language. Bloody hell." When he looked back up, the children were looking at him oddly while Salazar hid a smile behind one hand, almost used to Harry switching to his native language and muttering to himself. "Yes," he said to Vail, "you can come. Morgan can come. Everyone can come."

"Everyone who sleeps in our room can come," Salazar corrected. "I won't have you inviting the other students into my dungeons."

"Your paranoia is inspiring," Harry informed him as he joined the others, Morgan trailing along behind him uncertainly.

Morgan did end up joining them, and they spent the afternoon debating magical theory and trading spell knowledge. Harry learned a couple new, non-Latin spells, much to his pleasure, and they were all in good spirits when they made the trip up to dinner.

Salazar wasn't sitting at the table when the Slytherins arrived and, when he hadn't shown up after five minutes and the other tables were getting their food, Harry turned to one side and quietly called, "Slinky."

One of the Hogwarts house-elves popped into existence at Harry's side, wringing her hands in her tea towel. "Young Master Harry sir is needing Slinky?" she whispered.

Harry smiled at her. "Could you have someone send for Salazar?"

"Master Salazar isn't in the castle," Slinky replied.

Harry raised an eyebrow at that. "Interesting..." He shook his head. "Could you have dinner sent up to our table, then?"

"Slinky will!"

"Thank you, Slinky," Harry said before she could pop away and she let out a startled squeak before vanishing.

"You're disturbingly polite to them," Morgan commented airily as Harry returned to the table and the food appeared.

"They cook my food and clean my clothing," Harry retorted. "I find it obvious that you should be polite to them, lest they decide to be a bit passive aggressive."

"What are they?" Nuala wondered.

"They're called house-elves," Fane explained. "They serve magical households as servants." He glanced towards Harry. "I didn't know Hogwarts had any."

"Helga, Godric, and Rowena hunted them down from abusive homes," Harry replied with a shrug. "They're all rather quiet and they tend to flinch if you make any sudden moves, but they're a good lot."

"At least they have a good home, now," Nuala decided. "But why would someone abuse them? They seem so well behaved."

Harry shook his head. "One of life's great mysteries. Eat your food."

They all fell silent to do so, leaving Harry to wonder about Salazar's absence. It wasn't like the Founder couldn't take care of himself, but Harry was bothered that he hadn't let any of the Slytherins know he would be gone. 'I'm sure he didn't think he'd still be gone for dinner,' Harry thought to himself. 'None of the other Founders look worried, so I'm sure there's nothing to be concerned about.'

The rest of dinner and the evening passed uneventfully. Salazar still hadn't shown up when Harry retired for bed, long after the others had turned in. 'Stop worrying, Harry,' he ordered himself as he left his tunic and breeches out for the house-elves to clean. He slipped into the sleep trousers he'd transfigured from an extra blanket, then climbed into bed to work on his Occlumency.

Harry was just laying down to get some real sleep when his door creaked open. His hand went for his wand, which he left under his pillow while he was sleeping, and he narrowed his eyes towards the door.

"Harry?" Mavis whispered.

Harry relaxed and sat up. "Come in," he offered, motioning with his wand to first ease the active hex on his door, then light the candle at his desk.

"Sorry," she said as she crept in. "I didn't mean to wake you..."

Harry shook his head. "You didn't," he promised and patted the bed next to him. "Sit. What's wrong?"

Mavis settled onto the bed, looking uncertain. "It, well... A bad dream, I suppose. I was going to see if Slytherin was in, but he didn't answer when I knocked..."

Harry's jaw tightened for a moment before he forced a smile. "Well, I'm not quite Salazar, but I'm here if you need someone to talk with. Or someone to sit there and be quiet. Which I'm going to do right now."

Mavis let out a tired laugh and rubbed at her eyes. She was silent for a long moment, during which Harry just watched her with a quiet smile. Finally, she said, "Things were...a bit tense, when I left. With the non-magicals. My little sister's just come into her gift, and she has a bit of trouble controlling it, you know?" Harry nodded, because he had his own stories about accidental magic. "Well, we had a bad harvest, and Ita likes her food, so she'd sometimes wander into the woods and come back with all sorts of goodies for the stew. We thought she was just getting lucky, but none of the other villagers were finding anything, and then she started coming back with food she couldn't have found in there. We figured she'd been magicing stuff, and when Da told her to stop, she ended up accidentally turning the flowers on the table into sweets."

"You're just waiting for the other villagers to catch on," Harry murmured.

Mavis sighed and nodded. "Yes. I mean, Mum shares the stew around, so everyone still gets fed, but you know they're wondering how we've always enough for stew when they're lucky if they can find a mushroom."

"You can always request safety at the castle," Harry pointed out quietly. "I doubt they'd turn your family away, not if things are that tense."

Mavis smiled sadly. "I know. Slytherin offered when he gave me a place here, but Mum's got family in the area – she's non-magical – and she can't see leaving them behind without a way to reach her, or an explanation about why's she's gone. She'd rather take her chances. But she was real glad I got a chance to get out of there. Wanted my sister to come, too, but she's too young for lessons; her magic's not yet settled enough. Slytherin said they could take her on as a sort of ward, give her a place to stay away from the village, but there's nothing much they can do but let her magic run its course, and that could take a couple years. Mum wasn't too keen on not seeing Ita for a couple years, and Da says he'll see if he can't teach her a bit of control on his own, so she ended up staying. Slytherin didn't seem to like it much, but..." She shrugged.

Harry remembered that Salazar's mother had died at the hands of magic-fearing villagers and said, "No, he wouldn't." When Mavis looked at him curiously, Harry shook his head and asked, "You're dreaming about the deaths of your family, then?"

"Yes." Mavis drew her knees against her chest and wrapped herself around them. "I wish there was a spell that could keep them safe."

Harry thought there might well be, in the future, but he didn't know it. And he cursed himself for ignoring Hermione's warning that a greater knowledge of spells would help him later in life. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Mavis shook her head and looked over at him with a smile. "Sometimes," she said, "it helps to have someone to speak to, even if there's nothing to be done."

Harry smiled back, though it was sad. "I suppose so." Mavis let out a yawn and hurriedly covered it, flushing. Harry chuckled. "Come on, I'll walk you back to your room."

"Okay," Mavis agreed and slipped off the bed, Harry following after her. "I am sorry for dropping by."

Harry waved it off. "I go to sleep late, so it's fine. Really," he added when she looked a bit dubious.

"You're always up before the rest of us, though," Mavis insisted.

"I suppose so," was Harry's easy response. He'd always been a bit of an insomniac, the growling of an empty stomach keeping him up and the need to be up and making breakfast at the crack of dawn during his formative years having trained him to survive on little sleep. Sometimes, on weekends at Hogwarts, he would treat himself to a lie-in, but his body was so used to the hours drilled into him during his youth that he didn't bother fighting it unless he'd had a particularly stressful day, or was stuck in the hospital wing.

Harry saw Mavis to her room and, assured she'd be fine on her own, returned to the common room. After spelling Salazar's room door open – ducking or blocking the three curses that activated – and seeing the Founder wasn't there, Harry conjured a couch to doze on and wait for him to return; it was one thing to miss dinner without a word to your students, it was another thing to not be accessible in the night.

Harry fell asleep without realising it and was woken by a hand on his shoulder. He jerked awake, wand coming up to point at the other person, and found himself looking up at Fane, who was watching him warily. "Good morning?" the younger boy offered.

Harry sighed and relaxed back on the couch. "Sorry. Is it morning?" He glanced towards the common room windows, taking note of the increased light in the water outside.

"Yes. Have you been out here all night?" Fane asked.

"A portion of it," Harry admitted. "I've been waiting for Salazar to get back."

"Where is he, anyway?" Fane wondered.

"I'd very much like him to answer that question, myself," Harry commented as he rose and vanished the couch. "I sup–" Fane let out a startled gasp and Harry glanced over at him. "Yes?"

"Your back..."

Harry's expression blanked. "I should get dressed," he said coolly before leaving for his room.

When Harry got back into the common – mentally cursing both Salazar for never showing up, and himself for never sleeping with a shirt – the other Slytherins had joined Fane. Fane was watching Harry with an uncertain set to his shoulders, but the others seemed cheerful enough. "Good morning, Harry!" Nuala called when she saw him.

"Running a bit late this morning?" Vail wondered as they started towards the exit of the common room. "Usually you're the first one in the common."

"I have been known to allow myself a few extra minutes sleep," Harry admitted with a smile. "I see you're not attempting to murder me with your eyes, this morning. Should I expect this trend to continue, or will you be back to hating me in time for classes?"

Vail considered that for a moment, then decided, "I'll let you know tomorrow morning."

"Of course you will," Harry replied, rolling his eyes. He turned to Mavis. "Sleep well?"

"Better, yes. Thank you," Mavis replied with a smile.

"Do you think we'll have another snowball fight today?" Nuala wondered.

"You'll have to ask Kenny and Conrad, but I'm sure they'd be happy to organise a second one."

"This time," Mavis announced, "I intend to be on Harry's team."

"I think everyone intends to be on Harry's team," Nuala pointed out.

Harry chuckled. "Perhaps I should sit this one out, then. For the sake of fairness."

The girls and Vail immediately shouted that idea down.

Salazar was sitting at their table when they reached the Great Hall, sleepless bruises under his eyes. "Good morning," he offered as the group came into range.

Harry frowned at the Founder while the other Slytherins returned the greeting. When everyone sat, Harry purposefully settled into the space between Mavis and Nuala, saying, "Perhaps I'll have my own team, then. That should be fair."

There was a brief silence as the other Slytherins took in this change in the seating arrangement, all of them looking to where Salazar was tapping the table to have the food sent up, his expression closed.

Fane swallowed and, with false cheer, asked, "You're going to take everyone on by yourself?"

"Hm, good point," Harry replied. "Perhaps I'll have one person on my team."

"Me, right?" Vail said, smiling winningly.

"No, me!" Nuala insisted. On Harry's other side, Mavis just looked hopeful.

"I was thinking Morgan, since he didn't get to play last time," Harry commented, looking towards the boy in question, who looked surprised.

"Oh, he doesn't want to play, though," Vail said, huffing.

Harry just raised an eyebrow at Morgan, waiting for him to decide. "I...suppose I can play your stupid game," he allowed.

Harry smiled around at the other Slytherins. "We'll crush all of you."

"I am going to make you miserable and soaked by lunch," Mavis promised.

"Are you, now?"

Mavis paused for a beat, then insisted, "Miserable."

The other students, it turned out, were more than game for another round in the snow. They were also quite excited by the idea that Harry would be taking all of them on with the assistance of only one other student. After passing around warming charms and grabbing their cloaks, everyone dashed outside, declaring teams and making for what was left of the walls from the day before.

"How are you planning to win against all of them?" Morgan wondered as they used the hour's cease-fire to pad snow into the wall they'd chosen.

Harry's lips twitched with a suppressed smile as he flexed his hand to release his wand. "A friend of mine taught me this extremely useful spell," he said before tapping the wall with his wand. "Impervius."

"What's it do?" Morgan asked, poking at the wall to see if there was any reaction.

"Protects against water," Harry explained, tapping Morgan's head, then his own, to cast the spell on them. "And since snow is just water..."

Morgan looked grudgingly impressed. "So at least we won't be miserable and wet," he decided. "I can appreciate that. But there's still no way we can take on all of them." He waved his hand in the general direction of the other three walls.

"You'd be surprised what I can do with a couple spells and an hour," Harry replied drily. "Accio wood."

A pile of fallen branches flew from the forest and Harry directed them towards his feet. "You'd best not be cheating, Harry!" Mavis shouted from behind one of the other walls.

"I never cheat!" Harry called back, mock insulted. Then he proceeded to transfigure the pile of branches into two ballista-style catapults. "I assume you know how to use one of these?"

Morgan stared at him for a moment before a slightly evil smile curled his mouth. "I could get to like you, Harry," he said, moving to make holes for the heads of the ballistae in their wall.

"Thanks. I think." Harry rolled his eyes and considered the pile of snow they had to work with. "Hm... Right!" He pointed his wand at the pile and intoned, "Siâp ffurflen saethau." The pile of snow quickly formed into perfectly shaped snow darts that would fit into the ballistae.

"Don't tell me, you learned that one from Gryffindor?" Morgan suggested, staring at the pile as if afraid it would attack him.

"Helga, actually." At Morgan's disbelieving look, Harry snorted and explained, "It's supposed to be used on dough, to shape biscuits and the such. Figured it would work just as well on snow, though you'll have to be careful not to crush them."

"Did you actually need a second person?" Morgan demanded.

Harry shrugged. "Probably not," he admitted. "But it'll be nice to have two ballistae, instead of just one. And you looked a bit like you wanted to join us, but you weren't about to ask."

"Do you have to try to be this perplexing, or does it come naturally?" Morgan complained. When Harry just smiled and started moving one of the ballistae into the opening, the younger wizard muttered, "I'm probably better off not knowing."

"Probably," Harry agreed, entirely too amused.

Once the hour for preparation was up, the three opposing teams started with a frontal assault, only to get snow darts in the face until they turned tail and ran. Attempts to come around from the back were met by Harry using a series of summoning and banishing charms on snow from other parts of the grounds to bury them.

In the end, everyone except Harry and Morgan were soaked, and the two Slytherins celebrated by leading the way into the school, whistling. Helga and Bernia met them in the entrance hall and set about drying everyone who was wet, shaking their heads at the two winners.

"I'm never facing you again," Mavis muttered as she caught up inside the Great Hall. "You're brutal."

"I prefer inspired," Harry replied with a chuckle.

"I prefer wet," Vail declared before darting past the other three and turning to chuck a snowball at Harry.

Harry raised an unimpressed eyebrow as the snowball hit an invisible barrier about half an inch in front of his nose and slid to the floor. "Water repelling charm," he said to the disbelieving stares.

"Never cheat my foot," Mavis grumbled as they continued to their table.

"I looked it up in the official rulebook of snowball wars, and there's nothing in there about using water repelling charms," Harry informed her seriously.

"You're such a liar," Mavis insisted, but she was smiling. "And I will see you wet, next time."

"Next time," Harry decided, "I'll play referee. That way no one can call foul play for my being on someone else's side."

"And you'll still get to hit people with snowballs for cheating?" Fane wondered drily as they slid into their seats around the table, Harry once again sitting between the girls.

"Hm. Good idea," Harry decided.

"Like you honestly needed the suggestion," Morgan muttered and Harry shot him a grin.

Salazar joined them at the table, pushing a handful of potions into the centre so they could all grab one. "You'll be learning how to make these this week," he commented as they knocked the potions back. Once the empty vials had been passed back to him, Salazar tapped the top of the table and the food appeared.

Once most of the food was gone, Fane asked, "Tutoring?"

"Do we have to?" Vail complained.

"No," Fane admitted as they all got up, "but you can't say it isn't useful. One of these days, we might all be on Harry's level."

"I am not that skilled," Harry informed him, grimacing. "I have a larger repertoire of spells, that's all."

Morgan let out a snort. "The number of spells a witch or wizard knows shows his worth."

"And you don't just know the spells," Nuala insisted. "You know how they work. Why they work."

"So I had good teachers. Nothing impressive about that," Harry insisted.

"I want to meet your teachers," Morgan decided. "They're much better than mine were."

Harry's smile turned sad. "My teachers are all dead, I'm afraid."

"Oh." Morgan grimaced. "Sorry."

Harry shook his head. "Old history," he promised.

Nuala shot Harry a sad look but didn't say anything. Fane, walking just behind Harry, frowned and shook his head.

As soon as the students entered the common room, they dispersed to collect their writing things. Upon returning, they set about conjuring a table and chairs, Mavis commenting, "Think we can talk Roscoe into letting us hammer together a real table and chairs?"

"Worth a try," Vail agreed as the entrance of the common opened again to admit Salazar.

The Founder considered his students for a moment before saying, "Harry? A word?"

Harry looked over at the other and vaguely considered refusing, but he'd had enough tense potion lessons to last him a life time, and he wasn't about to add one more just because he was irritated at his Head of House. "Sure," he agreed, setting his writing things down before following Salazar into the man's room.

One the door was closed and silencing wards had been activated, Salazar dropped onto his bed and tiredly asked, "What's wrong?"

"What's wrong?" Harry repeated quietly. "Salazar, you left the castle without telling any of us! You weren't at dinner, and you never came in last night! Mavis came to me after a nightmare because you were gone!" He was shouting by the end and was distantly aware that it was a good thing Salazar had warded his room.

Salazar stared at Harry tiredly for a moment. "Is that all?" he finally asked.

Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying not to shout when he said, "Maybe I'm missing something, but I was under the impression that part of creating a school and picking your own students meant that you had a responsibility to those same students." He opened his eyes to glare at the Founder. "You can't just run off without a word!"

"So you're going to lecture me about responsibility?" Salazar asked, tone nasty. "You, a fool chi–"

"Don't. You. Dare," Harry hissed. "You know nothing about me, you bastard. You don't know what it's like– You–! Argh!" Harry threw his hands up in the air, then pointed a shaking finger at the man. "Sometimes, Salazar, I think those stories about you are wrong, then you act like a complete bastard and I realise they're really not all that far off." He turned and stalked towards the door.

"Stories about– Harry!" Salazar jumped up and hurried over to slam the door closed again before Harry could get it opened enough to get out. "Stop," he ordered, keeping his hands on the door.

Harry let out an angry breath. "Please let me out before I do something we'll both regret," he requested, voice tight.

Salazar closed his eyes and let out a tired chuckle as he rested his head against the door. "You wouldn't be the first today."

Harry took a moment to process that, then asked, "Godric?"

Salazar sighed and turned so he could rest more of his weight against the door. "I'm sorry," he said, and was only a little surprised at how easily the words passed his lips. "You're right, I should have told you I was leaving the castle. But I–" He let out a heavy sigh and rubbed at his eyes. "I'm trying to find a way to get you home," he admitted.

Harry let out a sharp hiss and stepped away from the door, over to the cushioned chair sat at the end of Salazar's bed. He fell into it and stared up at the Founder, in equal parts hurt and elated. "Why?" he whispered, and the word tasted like loneliness on his tongue.

"You can't stay here," Salazar said quietly. "Every second you're here, you're endangering your future. There's every chance you'll change something–"

"And what if I'm supposed to be here?" Harry demanded. "What if I'm here for a reason? Like, maybe there's something only I can do?"

"Then I'll never find a way to send you back," Salazar replied with a tired shrug. "Or you'll do what you're here to do and you'll return. Likely to the moment you left."

Harry shuddered and hunched his back. "Salazar, if I go back, I'll die," he said with certainty. "You said so yourself, that I'd be dead right now if you hadn't been there."

Salazar shook his head. "You would have died from those wounds, but they've healed now. You'll be facing him fresh." He covered a yawn with his hand.

Harry shoved himself out of the chair. "You need to sleep. I refuse to debate this with you when you're five seconds from falling over."

Salazar sighed, but let Harry lead him to his bed. "You can't stay here, Harry," he pointed out.

Harry's jaw tightened. "Go to sleep, Salazar. Am I waking you for dinner?"

Salazar shook his head. "If Godric demands to know where I am, tell him I'm sleeping off the poor attempt at a sleeping draught Helga had the house-elves sneak into my food."

"Git," Harry muttered. He slipped from the room and stopped for a moment outside the door to centre himself, then made his way over to the other Slytherins, forcing a smile. "What did I miss?" he asked.

"Did you curse him?" Mavis wondered.

Harry snorted. "Tempting, but no. Helga apparently slipped him a sleeping draught; he won't be awake until tomorrow morning."

"And here we were, thinking she was the nice one," Fane commented drily.

Harry snickered. "Gods, no. She's as bad as Salazar if you catch her right." He shook his head. "Never mind that; spells?"

The other five Slytherins traded uncertain looks. "Oh!" Morgan realised. "Hufflepuff, actually. Well, sort of. That spell you used to make the snow arrows? You said she taught it to you."

"Well, yes, she did. I mean, it's originally a cooking charm, but you can use it on other things..." Harry glanced around at the expectant faces. "Sure, I'll teach it to everyone. Uhm, do you know any Welsh?"

There was a moment's silence, then everyone shook their heads.

Harry sighed; it was going to be a long afternoon.

Chapter Text

Harry and Salazar didn't speak about his attempts to find a way to send Harry back to the future again. They skirted the issue occasionally, either with Harry asking, "Found anything yet?" so very casually, or Salazar coming back from one of his day-long absences and saying, "No luck." The other Slytherins were surprisingly not curious about these exchanges, and Harry couldn't help but wonder at what they knew – or what they thought they knew – but their silence on the matter suited Harry, so he didn't bother them so long as they'd determined not to bother him.

Salazar had taken their argument to heart, at least to some extent. When he was going to be gone for an extended period of time – usually on the weekends, but he had been known to vanish after the Slytherins had classes with Rowena, since he had the next day free, while they had Roscoe – he would either leave Harry a note or inform him in person. He would also leave it to Harry to explain his absence to the other Founders – probably wise, considering Godric's continued fury at Salazar's vanishing acts.

Harry was a little surprised that the other Founders weren't throwing more of a fit over Salazar's disappearances. He mentioned that, in passing, to Helga one afternoon in early March, while they were working in the garden, and she explained, "Honestly, if you weren't one of his students, we probably would have. But you're capable of handling things without him around, so..."

Harry sighed and rubbed at his forehead, switching to English to mutter, "The idea was to enjoy time without them expecting miracles. Bloody Salazar."

Helga shrugged, making a guess at Harry's mutters based on his tone and Salazar's name. "It's not a bad thing to be trusted to handle your fellow students, Harry."

"I know." Harry smiled at her. "And I did it to myself, by keeping such a close eye on Duana, Conrad, and Kenny while we were wreaking havoc in the castle." Helga laughed quietly. "Still, I sort of wish it hadn't been needed."

"As do we all." Helga tugged particularly hard at a weed and let out an irritated huff. "I don't know what's so important that Salazar has to abandon his duty to hunt it down. Surely it could have waited until we send the children home for the harvests."

Harry shrugged. "Apparently not," he said without inflection.

Helga shot him a sideways glance. "Do you know what he's doing?"

Harry smiled tiredly. "Why would he tell a student what he won't tell his friends?" he wondered before moving off to work on a different section.

After the incident with Fane that first weekend, Harry had taken care to wear some sort of shirt to bed. It wasn't that he was ashamed by the overlapping marks on his back – they were more a mark of his survival, and a reminder to become better or he would die – he just didn't want to face any questions about them. Fane, thankfully, had avoided further questions about them, though Harry occasionally caught the other boy watching him with a sort of sad thoughtfulness. Times like that, Harry almost considered talking Salazar into teaching him Legilimency, despite his own moral objections to the art.

Morgan had continued to learn how to live with students of a lesser class. By the end of March, the other Slytherins generally liked him, and most students from the other Houses could at least put up with him, if they didn't actually get on with him.

Harry had continued to be pleasantly surprised by the companionship between the four Houses. While a large number of Ravenclaws tended to remain behind their books, a few of the younger ones started joining the other students during their fun on the weekends. Harry enjoyed weekends while there was snow playing referee and punishing wrong-doers by throwing snowballs at them until they ducked out of sight. There had been a few attempted revolts, but Harry was nothing if not resourceful, and he took care to not teach his fellow Slytherins every spell he knew – even going so far as to borrow books about spells from the room that could change shape and reading them at night – which meant they didn't always know how to block him.

Once the snow melted, the children started playing other outdoor games, like variations on tag and capture the flag. Harry didn't even have to suggest he not play; Mavis and Vail were quite firm in their belief that Harry was a cheat and he should stick with being referee (Harry had only laughed a little). On weekends when it was raining – Helga and Bernia threatened to ground anyone they caught going outside into the rain for the next three weeks – the children would put together a study group, shoving the House tables together and discussing what their teachers had them working on. Even the Ravenclaws joined these, acting more than a little snooty the first time, until they learned that Harry could rival Helena and Velda Kenward when it came to spell knowledge, and the other Slytherins weren't far behind, what with their regular study sessions on the weekends and mornings before Roscoe's lessons.

Lessons had continued about the same for Harry: Transfiguration and conjuration, charms, herbology, and magical defence were largely review, and arithmancy occasionally left his head spinning, but his other classes were fun. Harry continued to be surprised at how much he enjoyed potions with Salazar teaching them; he didn't hover around people or snap corrections, as Snape had, but gently corrected mistakes and explained how they were wrong. He was similarly helpful while teaching them healing magic, pausing to answer any questions to the fullest extent possible and never yelling at anyone, though he'd been known to get snarky if he'd answered the question already or thought it was obvious.

Lessons with Roscoe – Harry mentally referred to them as hand-crafting – had involved putting together furniture for another three weeks, including the table and chairs the Slytherins wanted for their common room and a couch, which was padded with transfigured blankets that Roscoe had then made them attach by hand. Once he felt they had enough furniture for the classrooms, Roscoe gave them a crash course in other forms of non-magical arts, including creating sculptures with clay, wood, or stone; throwing dishware; and painting. (Harry managed to throw a few good plates and a vase that he kept in his room with wild flowers. He failed miserably with painting, but he found he had a talent for sculpting – whittling, really – with wood and could occasionally be found out by the lake or curled up on the chair in his room with a block of wood and one of his knives.)

Non-magical defence classes with Godric and Bernia often ended with the group of Slytherins moaning about various sore muscles or complaining about the brutality of their teachers, but they were noticeably better and more comfortable with their chosen weapons by the time classes let out middle of June. Harry and Mavis were able to hit targets with their knives nine times out of ten, and while neither of them thought they could manage against Fane or Godric at close quarters, they could take down Vail and Morgan about as often as the two sword students could defeat them. All the students were also fairly certain that if they came across a spear, bow, sword, knives, or a smaller axe, they could hold their own. During their last class, Godric promised to let them at larger axes, crossbows, and flails when they returned. (When asked by an oddly grinning Fane if they'd learn whips, Godric had paused for a moment before saying, with great care, "We'll see.")

Before they'd really realised it, Litha – the summer solstice – was the next week and it was time for everyone to go back home to spend time with their families and help with the harvests over the next few months. Those students who were leaving left to pack the last of their things after breakfast, while those who would be staying – those who'd been in the castle for Yule – lazed around at a couple of the House tables. Harry had reminded Salazar about the uncertainty of Mavis' safety at home a couple weeks before and the Founder had nodded and said, "We've already seen to it."

When the students re-entered the Great Hall with their bags of things, the four Founders met them with sad smiles. "You'll be back before you know it," Helga said to the sad smiles they received in return.

"Each of you will be receiving two portkeys," Rowena announced coolly as Godric and Salazar started handing said portkeys out. "The one Godric gives you will return you to your home, then become inactive. The one Salazar is handing out will return you to Hogwarts at the appointed time. However, if you at any point during the holiday feel yourself to be in danger and need safety, breaking the portkey in half will immediately bring you and anyone touching it here. Do be careful with this feature."

"Remember to react first with the non-magical weapons you've learned," Godric reminded them seriously. "Only use your magic as a last resort or if you're certain it won't be traced back to you."

"Don't be stupid," Salazar added drily and the students let out nervous laughs.

Stretched out between Conrad and Ramona at the Hufflepuff table, Harry couldn't help but compare this grim warning to the orders to not use magic at all over the summer holidays in the future. 'Right now, it's about protecting yourself, but in my time, it's almost more about protecting the non-magicals. Now, in this day and age, the magical community lives hand-in-hand with extermination, and they know it. Is it ignorance or a sense of superiority that has the wizards and witches of the future believing themselves untouchable? Maybe both...'

"You okay, Harry?" Ramona whispered as the students' portkeys activated.

"Hm?" Harry glanced over at her and smiled. "Yes, I'm fine. Just thinking."

"Deep thoughts, no doubt," Ramona teased. "Why don't you return to this mortal plane for a while and play a game of cards with the rest of us?"

"Certainly," Harry agreed and they rose to join Kenric, Duana, and Conrad by the cold fireplace, where they were setting up to play. At Ramona's hopeful plea, the other Hufflepuff staying the summer, Fiona, joined them with a grateful smile. Helena, as always, turned her nose up at the offer to come play, but the other Ravenclaw, June, agreed to join them, leaving her own book at the Ravenclaw table.

The summer passed with reading and training with their non-magical weapons between breakfast and lunch, and various attempts to get the school up to par after lunch. Classrooms were set up – the finished furniture had simply been left in a corner of the rooms the teachers had claimed, not put out in any order – the greenhouses were put together and planted, and the common rooms and dorms saw additional furniture.

The Founders, again, took turns being out of the castle to look for students. From comments at the dinner table, they weren't having a lot of luck, but they did each find at least one new student.

Salazar stopped Harry one evening after dinner, while they were in the common, and said, "I should warn you, I only offered a place to this student because of you."

Harry raised an amused eyebrow. "Oh? You're blaming me for you inviting a student?"

Salazar snorted. "I would have suggested Godric take him on, considering how foolish the boy was when I saw him, but then I heard his name."

"Salazar," Harry said, "stop being difficult."

Salazar's eyes fairly danced when he announced, "His name is Merlin."

Harry blinked a few times, then he breathed, "What? Merlin? Merlin Merlin? The Merlin?"

"How should I know?" Salazar retorted. "All I know is that he can use magic, is named Merlin, and has an amazing talent for getting himself into trouble he can't seem to find a way out of. The last is according to his mother, mind."

Harry pointed a finger at Salazar. "That's it. You can't find a way to send me home until after I've both met him and stolen a piece of parchment he's written his name on."

"What?"

"I get to sleep in the same dorm as Merlin," Harry breathed, starting towards the dorms. "I'm going to rub this in the face of every single pureblood I come across. Holy crap."

"And what if he's not your big, important Merlin?" Salazar called after him, torn between amusement and horror.

Harry paused to consider that for a moment, then shot an innocent smile over his shoulder. "They won't know that." Then he was back on his way to his room, whistling to himself.

The next morning, Harry was still in a fantastic mood, much to Salazar's amusement and everyone else's confusion.

"So, what happened after dinner that has you so disgustingly happy?" Duana muttered, half asleep in her porridge.

"Nothing," Harry said, grinning madly and trying not to whistle any more.

"Papa, can we beat the cheerfulness out of him?" Kenric asked Godric, expression somewhere between hopeful and sleepy.

Godric seemed to consider that for a moment before Bernia smacked his arm. "Mum says no."

"Oh, come on, Mum," Kenric pleaded.

Bernia shot her son an unimpressed look. "Finish your breakfast."

Harry made a concerted effort to appear less cheerful, but there was still a bounce in his step when they all rose to head outside. They had just reached the doors of the Great Hall, Godric in the lead, when there was a thud behind them. They all turned to see a person with red hair lying, unmoving, in the middle of the Great Hall. A puddle of red was spilling out into the cracks of the stone floor around the body, while green eyes stared up at the ceiling.

There were only two students not currently in Hogwarts with hair that colour, Mavis and Velda Kenward. And Velda's eyes were brown.

"Gods be merciful," Helga breathed.

"Get the children out!" Salazar ordered moving towards the body.

Harry numbly let himself be pushed out of the room by Helga, stomach churning with his breakfast. As soon as the fresh air of the outdoors hit him, Harry shook off the gentle hand and murmured, "Excuse me," before pushing past the other students and teachers and making for the lake.

"Har–" Helga started to call after him, but Rowena shook her head.

"Let him go," the tall woman ordered as she knelt next to her horrified daughter. "As we have all noted before, he is very like Salazar; he'll prefer to be alone."

Harry stopped some feet away from his usual spot by the lake, next to one of the few trees, and threw up before continuing to his spot. There, he curled around his knees and closed his eyes. But, behind closed eyelids, the body changed form, becoming Ron and Ginny and Fred and George, until Harry slammed his eyes back open to stare into the lake.

He felt, more than heard, Salazar approach, and said, "She's dead."

Salazar sat down next to the boy, eyes dark with grief. "Yes," he agreed.

Harry was silent for a long moment, blinking his eyes quickly to avoid seeing his quasi-family dead again. Finally, he said, "I was in a contest. A tournament between schools. Vol– He..." Harry took a deep breath, thoughts all a mess, but needing to say this, to tell someone what had happened, because, sometimes, it didn't seem real. But it was real, it had happened. And Harry needed to not be the only one who knew what had happened, because yet another person was dead and at least she would be mourned. "I wasn't supposed to be in the tournament, but he fixed it somehow. Got me in it. There was this maze... Me and the other Hogwarts contestant – Cedric – reached the cup at the centre at the same time. We took it together – figured it was a Hogwarts victory either way – except the cup was a portkey. It took us to a graveyard and Wormtail and Vol– he were there. And he said, 'Kill the spare'. And Wormtail did."

Salazar wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders and drew the huddled form against himself, offering comfort in silence.

Harry relaxed against the older wizard, breathing in the empty smell of a cleaning charm. "I should have just grabbed the cup when he told me to," he whispered. "I shouldn't have argued. Should have said–"

"Harry," Salazar murmured. "You couldn't have known."

Harry shook his head. "I knew the tournament was a trap – we all did. We just didn't know how. We thought... People have died in that tournament before, and there was an age restriction on it, to try and keep that from happening. We all thought I'd been entered so I'd die during one of the tasks. We didn't think... Didn't even guess..." He let out a tired laugh. "Hind sight."

Salazar frowned in confusion at the last, but left it to ask, "Why would they hold the tournament if students have died in the past?"

"It's meant to prove which of the three magical schools in Europe is the best," Harry explained.

"Europe?" Salazar repeated uncertainly.

Harry nodded. "I don't know why they brought it back. Prof– The headmaster wasn't too pleased, from the sounds of things, but he couldn't stop them. I mean, he got them to put the age restriction on there, and it did seem to work – I saw a couple of other students fail to enter their name because of the restriction – but, well..." He let out a sigh and closed his eyes, the dead body fading from the comfort Salazar offered. "What's to be done about Mavis?"

Salazar squeezed Harry's shoulder. "Godric and Rowena have gone to see if they can discover exactly what happened. We'll have a pyre for her and her family – if their bodies can be recovered – and, when the others get back, we'll have a day of remembrance before classes start." He was silent for a moment before saying, "I'll stay in the castle for the next few days."

Harry knew Salazar had been continuing his search for a way to send Harry home, requiring him to be out of the castle more often than he was in. A part of Harry grasped at the chance to have Salazar around for a few days, to know that the older wizard wasn't spending his days hunting down ways to get rid of Harry; but a much larger part of Harry knew it needed to be done, because Voldemort was back and someone had to warn Dumbledore. Someone had to tell everyone that Cedric was dead.

Harry needed to go home.

"No," he said, sitting up and pulling away. "I'll be okay."

Salazar watched for a moment as Harry visibly pulled himself together, wiping at tears he hadn't noticed fall. And for what felt like the hundredth time since they'd met, Salazar's heart broke for this boy, who had lived through hell and watched as a fellow was murdered in front of him, yet bore it all with a smile.

"You expect too much of that boy!" Godric had shouted the first time Salazar had vanished over night. He'd insisted that he'd known Harry would be able to handle things without him, and even though Godric had commented, on more than one occasion, that he would trust Harry to take care of all their children without a second thought, Salazar's comment that morning had only enraged him further.

'Maybe Godric's right,' Salazar thought as they both rose to go back into the castle. 'Maybe I do expect too much of Harry, but it's hard not to. Because he refuses to let himself be brought down by anything; not almost dying, nor being sent back in time. He'll allow himself a moment's grief – perhaps two moments – and then he moves on.'

They re-entered the castle and Harry went over to the other students, taking an upset Duana from Bernia without a word and sitting down to comfort her while Bernia handled Kenric. Ramona moved over to sit next to Harry, far more together than the other children, but still more visibly upset than Harry. Harry murmured something to her and her lips quirked with a sad smile as she rested her head against his shoulder.

Salazar turned away and left the Great Hall to prepare Mavis' body for the pyre, desperately trying to remind himself not to get attached.

-0-

The funerary pyre was larger than any of them had thought it would be. The harvest had, again, been bad that year, and the villagers had lashed out at Mavis' family, calling them all witches and cursed. Mavis and her father had stayed behind to give her sister and mother a chance to get to safety and were killed in the process. When Mavis had fallen, her portkey had snapped, and her disappearance had only been further proof that the family were devil worshippers. They'd hunted down Mavis' mother and sister at her mother's parents' house and killed everyone there, including Mavis' older brother, his wife, and their one year old son.

As the two who had known the family best, Harry and Salazar bore the torches and lit the pile of wood aflame. When they stepped back to stand with the others, Harry found Ramona at his side, quietly crying. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and drew her close, watching the flames destroy what was left of his friend.

That night, Harry woke from a nightmare of broken bodies and flames. He stepped out into the common and knocked on Salazar's door, but there was no answer. When he pushed it open – thankfully unhexed during the holiday – the room was empty, and Harry's heart sank even as he whispered, "What did I expect?"

He hunted down a block of wood and curled up on the couch to whittle.

He wasn't sure when he'd fallen asleep, but he woke to a hand on his shoulder. Blinking sleep from his eyes, he found Ramona smiling at him from the other end of his wand, and he let out a groan as he dropped his hand. "Sorry," he muttered.

Ramona let out a quiet laugh. "At least you didn't actually curse me. Do you always point your wand at whoever wakes you?"

"I'm usually up before anyone else," Harry said, slipping his wand away and looking around for his carving and knife, more than a little worried he was laying on them. "But I did almost curse Fane, onc– Oh, thanks," he said as Ramona held out the figure and his knife.

"It's a beautiful piece," Ramona commented as Harry slid his knife away.

Harry glanced at the wooden bird in his hand. The head needed another run-over and the tail feathers needed a bit more definition, but it was one of his better pieces. "Thanks," he murmured, rising to his feet and stretching a bit.

"What's it for?" Ramona wondered.

Harry turned the bird over in his hands, looking out the windows bright with sunlight through the lake water. "Mavis. She told me, once, that her name means 'songbird'."

"Oh," Ramona whispered, covering her mouth with a hand and blinking away surprised tears.

Harry smiled at her. "So, what are you doing down here?"

Ramona sniffed and dashed a finger under her eyes. "You missed breakfast, so I thought I'd come see if you were okay." When Harry glanced towards the door of the common, she explained, "Mum gave me the password."

"Of course she did." Harry shook his head. "Well, let me get some real clothing on, then we can drop by the kitchens and you can see to it I'm fed."

Ramona laughed. "Sounds like a plan."

Harry quickly slipped into a tunic and breeches, then joined Ramona in walking to the kitchens. "So, Godric threatening to beat me over the head for missing practice?" he wondered jokingly.

Ramona's smile trembled and she shook her head. "Everyone's still too upset after yesterday, so he said we could have another day off." She fell silent as they reached the kitchens and Harry talked the house-elves into giving him a small breakfast. Once they were back out of the little creatures' domain, she asked in a too-casual voice, "Salazar gone again?"

Harry shrugged. "Isn't he always?" he replied without inflection, expression blank.

"How dare he?" Ramona snapped, steps heavier than needed in her anger. "At a time like this? What's more important than–"

"Ramona," Harry interrupted, bemused, "it's okay."

"No, it's not!"

Harry shook his head. "I told him to go," he admitted.

Ramona stopped and Harry did the same, turning to look back at her curiously. "You told him to go?" When Harry shrugged and nodded, biting into one of the honey-filled biscuits the house-elves had given him, she whispered, "Why?"

"Why not?" Harry replied. When she opened her mouth to snap a response, he added, "I don't need him hovering around me, Ramona. I'm fine." Then he turned and continued walking, wondering if it would be better to sit by the lake and whittle until lunch, or read in the room that changed to become whatever you wanted.

Ramona caught up to Harry before he could reach a decision, and asked, "You're not even the least bit upset about her death?"

"Of course I am," Harry said, and when he glanced at her, there was true sadness in his eyes, "but there's nothing I can do about it now but remember her as I knew her, and I hardly need Salazar for that."

Ramona shook her head. "I can't do that," she admitted.

"I don't expect you to," Harry said. "No one does. We all deal with grief in different ways, and that's okay. It's part of being human."

Ramona looked at him oddly. "Are you really only a year older than me?" she asked.

Harry smiled. "So I'm told." He glanced between the main doors of the castle and the staircases for a moment before making up his mind and starting towards the doors. "I'm going to whittle by the lake. Coming?"

"Of course," Ramona agreed. "Are you going to finish your bird?"

Harry shook his head. "Maybe tonight." He smiled at her. "What's your favourite animal?"

"A badger," she said without pause, then blushed when Harry chuckled. "What?"

Harry shook his head again. "Nothing," he promised. "Let's see if my whittling skills are up to making you a badger."

Thinking back to the bird Harry had been holding when she'd snuck into his common, Ramona thought his skills should be more than up to the task.

-0-

Without a word, Ramona and Harry started seeking each other out before anyone else in the castle. Conrad and Kenric made faces and complained about kissing germs while Duana hit them both over the head. Helga and Roscoe watched on approvingly, as did the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws. Salazar, in opposition, became even more scarce, only showing up for a meal every other day before vanishing again.

Harry didn't really consider himself and Ramona to be anything more than friends, honestly, until Ramona jokingly commented one afternoon, "Mum's suggesting you ask Dad for permission to court me before he comes out and hits you."

Harry paused, knife caught in a bit of wood, and blinked a few times before carefully setting his work to one side and looking over at her. "One more time?" he requested quietly.

Ramona giggled. "You're supposed to ask my parents if you're going to court me."

Harry blinked a few more times, then blurted out, "They think we're courting?" voice squeaking on the last word.

Ramona frowned, confused. "Well, yes. We spend almost all our time together. We sit together at meals and while we do our morning reading. You make me gifts." She looked down at the piece he was working on, yet another in a series of badgers he'd been making for her over the past two weeks since Mavis' death.

"Oblivious, thy name is Harry," Harry muttered to himself in English before switching to Englisc to admit, "I didn't even realise, sorry. It's– well, this is the same way my female friend and I were, before–" He shook his head. "We weren't– There was nothing between us, so I just– Oh, bother." He sighed and rubbed at his forehead while Ramona watched on with growing amusement; she never thought she'd see Harry so thrown by something as simple as a courtship.

Harry glanced back down at the half-carved wooden badger, weighing his choices. On one hand, it might be nice to have a relationship before he had to return back home and probably die. On the other hand, he would have to leave Ramona behind when Salazar found him a way home; could he honestly put her through that? He shook his head and sighed, then looked up and met her eyes, gaze serious. "Ramona, don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think a courtship is a good idea."

Ramona jerked as though hit. "Why? Is it– It's because of me, isn't–"

"No!" Harry snapped, shaking his head. When she flinched, he gentled his tone to explain, "It's complicated and I can't really tell you most of it. I'm sorry. Really. But there's–" He shook his head again, grabbing his current badger and standing. "I would, please believe me that, but there are reasons that getting into any sort of relationship right now is just a bad idea. I'm sorry." Then he hurried off into the castle, creeping past the other residents and down to the dungeon with great care.

When he finished the badger, he had one of the house-elves leave it in Ramona's room with a note of apology. He also avoided the Great Hall, none too interested in seeing Roscoe and Helga's reactions to his refusal of their daughter. (Not that there was anywhere in the castle he could hide from them if they really wanted to have it out with him.)

Salazar found him reading in his room the next afternoon and dryly asked, "All right, what happened?"

Harry glanced up at him. "What do you mean?"

Salazar snorted and stepped over to the comfortable chair against the wall to sit in. "Roscoe's going on about how you broke his baby girl's heart and Helga's trying to calm him down. Ramona's apparently locked herself in her room. The rest of them think you've been murdered by Roscoe or have – wisely, it seems – fled the castle in fear for your life."

Harry sighed and rand a hand down his face. "Dammit." He looked back up at Salazar, feeling more than a little helpless, and explained, "Everyone apparently got the impression that I was trying to court Ramona, but I was really just being friendly. I swear."

"Males and females of your age don't usually do 'friendly'," Salazar commented drily.

"I've noticed," Harry replied in the same dry tone before sighing again and shaking his head. "I like Ramona fine, and I've really nothing against courting her – assuming I get the chance to look up how to court a girl, first – but if I'm going back to my own time, I don't want to just leave her behind without a word. That's... Well, that's cruel. And, well, I can't really say that to her, but I tried to explain it was me, not her..."

Salazar considered this for a moment behind blank eyes before saying, "I'm no expert on girls–"

"You don't say," Harry muttered.

Salazar narrowed his eyes until Harry snapped his mouth shut and held a hand over it, signalling his silence. "I'm not an expert on girls," Salazar said again, "but I do believe you'll have to give her an actual reason for not wishing to court her. She is...quite enamoured of you."

"Mer– Gods bugger it all sideways," Harry muttered in English.

"Against my better judgement," Salazar commented, as if Harry had not spoken, "I would suggest telling her the real reason you don't wish to engage in a courtship. Perhaps not the travelling through time portion, but explaining that you are looking for a way back to your home and family – a trip she cannot join you on – may comfort her."

Harry sighed and nodded. "I suppose." He grimaced. "Now all I have to do is get past Roscoe without being murdered."

Salazar snorted and rose from the chair. "Come. I'll walk you to Helga's common and get you in; Roscoe should still be in the greenhouses."

"Okay," Harry agreed and slipped off his bed. He followed Salazar to a different area of the dungeons, near the kitchens, where he knew the Hufflepuff dorms were.

Salazar tapped out the proper rhythm and motioned Harry past him into the opening that appeared. "The girls' rooms are on the right. Ramona's room is, I believe, the third in."

"Thanks, Salazar," Harry said before ducking into the common. He took a moment to glance around, taking in the glimpses of yellow that would, one day, mark the House forever, then moved towards the right hallway. The third door was the only one that was closed, which was a pretty good sign it was hers, Harry figured as he knocked.

"Go away, Mum!" Ramona shouted.

"Ramona, can we talk?" Harry replied gently.

There was a moment's silence, then the door slammed open to show Ramona, wearing nothing more than her linen shift. Harry pointedly looked away and was, therefore, completely unprepared for the smack she delivered to his cheek before slamming the door in his face.

Harry sighed and rubbed his cheek, thinking it would be nice to have Hermione there to give him pointers. But Hermione was over twelve hundred years in the future and Harry was on his own, so he took a deep breath and tried winging it. "I don't belong here, Ramona. Here, at Hogwarts. Salazar's looking for a way to get me back home, but I can't take anyone with me and we don't know when he'll find it; it could be tomorrow, it could be years from now."

The door creaked open and Ramona peeked out at him from around the edge. "So, what, you're from an alternate world or something?" she said, voice sharp with anger.

"Or something," Harry agreed. When Ramona made as if to smack him again, he quickly added, "It's compl–"

"If you say it's 'complicated' one more time, I will get my knives and carve you a new mouth," Ramona snapped. "You're a lying pile of dirt, and I hope Daddy–"

"I'm from the future!" Harry shouted, then winced and looked down the hall towards the common room, hoping no one else was in the House.

"Prove it," Ramona demanded.

"Pro– How?"

"Tell me something that's going to happen tomorrow."

"I'm from over one thousand years in the future," Harry hissed. "And I had a shoddy history professor, to boot. In my time, everyone thinks Salazar was some great non-magical killer and a right evil bastard. Hell, I didn't even know the Founders – your mum and Rowena and Godric and Salazar – had any sort of family. They were just this group of wizards and witches who built the first magical school."

Ramona stared at him for a moment, then breathed, awed, "You're from the future."

Harry sighed and rubbed at his forehead, shifting to lean against the wall outside Ramona's room. "Yes. And Salazar's going to have my head for telling you that."

Ramona covered a nervous giggle. "You can forget to mention that bit to him?" she suggested from behind a hand.

Harry moaned and covered his eyes. "Assuming he didn't hear me. He escorted me here to protect me from Roscoe," he explained to her curious look.

Ramona winced. "Well, sound doesn't carry too well in here, because of that." She pointed at the dirt covering on the ceiling and walls and Harry nodded. "Salazar knows you're from the futu– Wait, of course he does. He's the one who found you. And he's always leaving– looking for a way to get you home, you said?" Harry shrugged and nodded, leaving her to work through everything. "Is that really okay, though? Him trying to get rid of you?"

Harry grimaced. "It's com– Ah." He froze when Ramona narrowed her eyes. "Sorry. He doesn't even know the whole of it, but there are reasons I need to get back. There're people there I care about who probably think I'm dead, and will likely end up dead if I don't warn them about..." He trailed off and reached one hand over his shoulder to tap his back.

Ramona's eyes widened with understanding. "The one who did that to you is in the future?" she breathed. When Harry nodded, she insisted, "Harry, you can't go back! Salazar said–"

"I should have died. I know," Harry replied quietly. "And, maybe, if I go back, I still will. But I need to get back, even if it means I'm going to my death."

Ramona bit her lip, then shoved the door out of the way and dashed forward to hug him. "Oh, Harry..." she whispered, a sob in her voice.

Harry wrapped his arms around her and rested his head against hers. "I'm sorry," he whispered into her ear.

Ramona shook her head and pulled back slightly so she could look at him. "So you don't want to court me because you're going to have to leave?"

Harry nodded. "Essentially. I mean, don't get me wrong, I would love to date – court – you." He smiled at her as she flushed. "But I can't, in good conscience, start a relationship with you when I know I'm going to have to leave you behind; it's not fair to you."

"It wouldn't be fair to you either," Ramona insisted and Harry shrugged. She took a breath, then cautiously said, "Could we...try anyway? I know you're not going to stay," she hurried to add when Harry frowned, "and I know I can't go with you, but I'd like to be together for a little bit, you know. Unless..." She bit her lower lip again. "Is there another girl? In the future?"

Harry thought about Cho and how it seemed like forever ago that he'd been crushing on her. She'd been dating Cedric, though, and even though he was dead... "No," he admitted quietly. "There was never anyone back home." He smiled a little sadly. "We had a school dance – a Yule ball – and I had the worst time finding a date. Finally ended up going with one of the girls in my House and danced all of once before she left me for another guy."

Ramona smiled. "A Yule ball sounds like a lovely idea."

"No," Harry insisted. "I refuse to go to any more balls. Once was enough."

Ramona laughed and dropped a kiss on Harry's cheek, flushed prettily. "Nothing serious," she said quietly. "I really do like you, Harry, and even if it's not meant to last, I'd like to at least try. For a little bit."

Harry watched her, uncertain, for a moment, debating his options. Finally, he nodded. "Okay," he agreed. "But if Roscoe kills me–"

Ramona laughed again, eyes sparkling with happiness. "I'll protect you from Daddy," she promised.

"Harry!" Salazar called from out in the common room. "Roscoe's on his way here!"

Harry gave a dramatic whimper and smiled at Ramona. "Lady knight, I do believe you're underdressed to protect me."

"Oh!" Ramona squeaked and dashed back into her room. "Give me a minute!"

Harry sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, wondering what he'd got himself into. "This is going to end in nothing but tears," he whispered in English, not completely certain whether he was speaking about the relationship or the confrontation with Roscoe.

"Harry," Salazar said, stepping into the hallway. "Did you hear me?"

"Ramona's promised to protect me," Harry replied drily.

"Yes, I have," Ramona agreed, stepping out of her room and working to finish putting her kerchief on. "And once I've calmed him down, you can ask him to court me, all proper-like."

"Bugger," Harry muttered before pushing Ramona's hands away and tying the kerchief himself. "Anything specific I need to say?" he asked, looking between Ramona's smile and Salazar's blank expression.

"How should I know?" Salazar snapped before turning and leaving the hallway.

Harry blinked after the Founder, hurt and a little confused. "Okay," he said carefully. "He's in a mood, again."

Ramona frowned thoughtfully after the man. "Interesting..." she murmured.

"Ramona?" Harry said and she blinked at him. "Asking for permission to court you? I don't know anything about it."

"You don't have courtships?" Ramona wondered.

"Nothing so official," Harry replied, shaking his head. "There's certainly no rules about asking the girl's father's permission, though it's usually considered wise to do so, since fathers can be a little terrifying." He shuddered.

Ramona smiled. "Daddy certainly has his moments," she agreed before shaking her head. "Uhm, be polite? You know each other already, so that helps a bit. And Daddy approves of you – well, maybe not right this moment..."

"I'm going to die," Harry insisted.

"No, you're not," Ramona said, pulling him after her towards the common. "Stop being melodramatic. Just be yourself and you'll be fine. Like I said, Daddy likes you, so he's hardly going to refuse."

"Death. Decapitation if I'm lucky, slow torture if I'm not."

Ramona giggled and ducked to crawl out of the hallway, Harry following after her at a respectable distance.

Roscoe was in the common room, frowning at Salazar. "–here, isn't he? He'd better not be–"

"Daddy," Ramona interrupted, frowning at her father. "Leave Salazar alone."

Harry crawled out behind Ramona and winced when Roscoe turned a glare on him; non-magical or not, Roscoe was a damn terrifying individual.

"Daddy," Ramona said, shifting to get between Harry and Roscoe. "Harry and I talked and we've made up. Now stop glaring at him."

"Ramona, he upset you–"

"And he's apologised. And explained himself," Ramona insisted. "I've forgiven him, and I'd appreciate it if you'd do the same."

"Well, maybe he can explain himself to me," Roscoe said coolly.

Ramona opened her mouth to try refusing that, but Harry stepped out from behind her, voice calm as he explained, "There was a slight miscommunication. I enjoy Ramona's company, but I hadn't honestly thought about a formal courting and I'm afraid I reacted poorly to the suggestion." He looked down, the picture of shame. "I didn't mean to hurt Ramona, and I certainly never meant to insinuate that she wasn't worth my time. For that, I apologise, both to her and yourself, Roscoe."

Roscoe blinked, his anger draining away. "Oh," he managed. "I, well. I should have guessed something like that when you didn't ask my permission right away," he admitted.

Harry smiled at him, the relief and nervousness in his eyes not completely faked. "I am sorry," he said again. "And I was hoping, despite this misunderstanding, that you'll give me permission to formally court Ramona?"

"Of course," Roscoe replied, plenty agreeable now that he understood what had happened. He clapped Salazar on the shoulder, grinning proudly. "Hear that, Salazar? A proper courtship for my daughter!"

"I heard," Salazar said coolly. "And, now, if you don't mind, I need to borrow Harry for a bit."

"Oh. Well..." Roscoe looked towards the two children, uncertain.

"I'll meet you in the Great Hall?" Harry said to Ramona.

Ramona smiled and nodded. "Of course. I'll go ahead and assure Mum and the others that everything's been solved."

"And that I'm not laying, dead, in some dark corner?" Harry suggested drily.

"You're too morbid," Ramona informed him, a glimmer of sadness in her eyes.

Harry smiled and leaned over to kiss her cheek. "I'll attempt to curb the habit," he promised before slipping around a grinning Roscoe and following after Salazar.

Once far enough away from the main thoroughfare that they weren't likely to be overheard, Salazar turned and demanded, "Do you actually know what you're doing, or are you letting that girl order you around?"

Harry narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. "It was as much my choice as it was hers," he said coolly, "and I'll thank you not to speak of her like that. She's aware that this isn't for keeps, that I have somewhere I need to return to and she can't come with. She's okay with that, we both are."

Salazar's expression tightened with anger for a brief moment before he cleared it completely. "Very well. Since you're back in everyone's good graces, I'll be going out to find a way to get you back. If you'll excuse me." He pushed past Harry and stalked away down the hall.

Harry sighed and rested back against a wall, emotions a mix of hurt and anger and elation in his stomach. He wanted to yell at Salazar for being difficult, but he also wanted to curl up by the lake and be comforted by him, like they'd done mere weeks ago. It was entirely too confusing, so Harry shoved the whole mess away for his subconscious to sort later and made his way towards the Great Hall to spend time with Ramona. His girlfriend.

'Merlin, what have I got myself into this time?' he whimpered. But he was grinning, a spring in his step like when he found out Merlin would be in Slytherin.

Chapter Text

Harry thought courting was a lot like being really good friends, except with a lot more holding hands and the occasional kiss on the cheek. (Okay, there'd been one kiss on the lips, but their noses had banged together and they ended up breaking apart to laugh.) Harry still whittled her the occasional badger while they relaxed by the lake – as well as a few birds, at her request – and they continued to sit together at meals and while they were doing their morning reading. They also had a friendly rivalry, being the only two students over the summer who used knives; Ramona was more comfortable with her knives, having wielded them longer, but Harry was faster and had better aim at greater distances.

About a week after Harry and Ramona were officially a couple, while they were heading in to the Great Hall a little early for dinner, they found Godric and Helga in the most intense argument Harry had seen between any of the Founders:

"You'd put the children at risk for some...some monster?" Godric snarled.

"Godric, maybe–" Bernia tried but he waved a silencing hand at her.

Helga's eyes narrowed and Harry recognised the look in her eyes from the same one Ramona had sported just before she'd smacked him. "No child," she said in a quiet voice, "deserves to be called a 'monster', Godric."

"It's not a proper child," Godric snarled.

"Who are they talking about?" Harry whispered to Ramona. The girl just shook her head, watching the unfolding row with the same mix of horror and interest that someone of Harry's time would stare at a nasty accident on the motorway.

"She is very much a normal child, no matter her curse," Helga insisted. "You can't go around refusing her humanity just because–"

"Because it turns into a blood thirsty monster once a month?" Godric finished, disgusted.

"Oh," Harry breathed, connecting the dots. He gave Ramona's hand in his a squeeze, then let go to move forward; if the Founders trusted him to keep an eye on and protect the younger children, they trusted him enough to let him have his say, as far as he was concerned. "Are you fighting over a werewolf?" he asked.

"Harry," Ramona tried, reaching out to stop him.

"They're vile creature–" Godric started.

"My uncle is – was – a werewolf," Harry snapped, thinking of Lupin. Maybe 'uncle' wasn't quite the word he'd use for his parents' friend and his ex-professor, but it was the word that would get through Godric's disgust quickest.

There was a moment's silence as everyone stared at Harry's frown. Godric finally broke it to say, "I'm sure there are some werewolves who can be trusted–"

"Like this child you're vilifying?" Harry wondered coolly and Godric's jaw clenched. The teen sighed and glanced over his shoulder at where Rowena's Christian-based calendar was tacked to the wall next to the doors. "We've got, what, thirty days until the students are due?" he asked.

"Thirty-one," Rowena corrected.

"Thirty-one days, then," Harry allowed. "Assuming her pack is okay with it, let her come a bit early. Let her stay until the other students get here and see how she is with the rest of us."

"And the full moon?" Godric demanded.

Harry paused for a moment, then said, with care, "My uncle was always locked in a cage for the full moon, strengthened with magic to keep him in. My godfather and Dad were both animagi, and they said he was always calmer if they spent the night next to his cage." Okay, not the complete truth, but close enough for this time period. "We can ward one of the dungeon rooms and put her in there; she'll have room to run around and there won't be a chance of her hurting anyone." 'Except herself,' Harry thought and fought back a wince.

"This sounds like a fair solution," Rowena commented, nodding to Harry before looking between Helga and Godric. "Do both of you agree?"

"Yes," Helga breathed, clearly relieved.

"Very well," Godric acquiesced grudgingly, knowing when he'd lost.

"Good. Helga, why don't you go back to this pack after dinner and invite this girl for the rest of the holiday?" Rowena suggested.

"I'll go now, if it's all the same," Helga replied, smiling. "Her pack doesn't have much in the way of food, and I can't refuse her a good meal because I was hungry."

"Of course."

Helga stopped next to Harry as she made to leave the Great Hall and drew him into a quick hug. "Thank you," she breathed in his ear before rushing past him.

Ramona came up at Harry's side as her mother slipped through the doors of the Great Hall and past the other children that had congregated there, watching the drama unfold with wide eyes. "You're amazing," Ramona told Harry quietly and he ducked his head, embarrassed.

"I just couldn't see someone refused because of a curse they didn't ask for," Harry whispered back, thinking of Lupin, who hated for being a werewolf; Hermione, who was looked down on for having non-magical parents; the Weasleys, who were poor in a world where money mattered; and himself, a Parselmouth and Voldemort's number one target.

Ramona squeezed his hand in silent support and they all trickled over to the single table they ate at during the holiday.

They were just serving themselves when Helga returned, a girl with shaggy brown hair and oddly gold eyes following her. "Everyone, this is Wilda Wolcott," the woman announced.

There was a moment's stillness, no one quite sure how to act around the girl. Finally, Harry slipped off the bench and walked over, smiling. "I'm Harry," he said. "It's good to meet you."

Wilda blinked at him for an uncertain moment before taking his offered hand to shake, being careful of her long nails. "Hello," she whispered, voice scratchy.

"Come on over," Harry suggested, motioning with his head back towards the table, but not forcing her; he knew well the fears of rejection, having long stood in Dudley's hateful shadow.

"Okay," Wilda agreed and Harry led her over to the table.

"Hello," Ramona offered with a smile as they reached her. "I'm Ramona Hufflepuff. Here, sit." She patted what had been Harry's seat, smile widening when the other girl slid into the spot. Harry settled in on Wilda's other side without complaint.

"I'm Conrad Hufflepuff!" Conrad said from his sister's other side as Helga took the open space between her son and husband.

"And I'm Kenny Gryffindor!" Kenric announced from between his parents, not to be outdone.

Introductions went around the table, everyone relaxing in the presence of their new addition. Godric remained stiff, and when he gave his name, his tone was unfriendly, but otherwise everyone was as welcoming as they always were.

When dinner was over and everyone was rising to head for their commons for the night, Godric called, "Harry, a word?"

Harry glanced towards Ramona, who frowned, then shrugged and nodded. "One moment, Godric," he called back before slipping around Wilda and kissing Ramona's cheek. "I'll see you in the morning," he promised.

"In one piece, if you please," Ramona requested, looking uncertainly towards where Godric was waving his wife, son, and Duana on.

"I think Godric's not so foolish as to want to cross wands with Salazar and you," Harry teased, smiling. Then he looked over at Wilda. "Good night, Wilda."

"Oh! Uhm, g-good night," the girl whispered.

"I leave her in your capable hands," Harry said to Ramona, who laughed, then left them both to go over to Godric, blanking his expression as he did so. "Yes?" he asked quietly, trying not to sound hostile or defensive.

Godric pressed his mouth into a thin line. "It–She," he corrected when Harry's expression darkened, "is your new charge. Keep your eyes on her."

"What are you afraid of? That she'll suddenly turn around and start biting everyone in daylight?" Harry wondered drily. When Godric opened his mouth to snap a reply, Harry said, "I'll watch her, but not because I think she'll do anything to one of us." Then he turned. "Good night, Godric."

The next morning, Harry made a dash up to the seventh floor to summon a book on animagi from the changing room, thinking it might be nice to learn, and he wasn't too keen on forcing Wilda to spend the entire night alone every full moon. When he got into the Great Hall, Wilda was in his seat again, next to Ramona. Harry smiled at them and settled into the open spot next to the werewolf, dropping his book into the spot that Salazar would take, if the man ever showed his face again. "Good morning, ladies," he said to them both as he set about getting himself something to eat.

"Good morning, Harry," Ramona replied, smiling with a hint of relief.

"Good morning," Wilda said, looking uncertainly towards Harry.

"So, Ramona, I was thinking we could spend the day with your brother and his lot," Harry commented casually.

"Oiy! What do you mean, 'his lot'?" Duana demanded from across the table. "I'm the oldest! That makes it my lot."

"Apologies," Harry said, inclining his head. "Duana's lot, then." He glanced over at Ramona.

"That sounds fine," the eldest Hufflepuff child agreed with a smile. "Wilda, would you like to join us? Harry's not allowed to play whatever game the others get up to, but you and I certainly can."

"You're not allowed to play?" Wilda asked Harry, brow furrowed.

"He's a big cheater," Kenric declared.

"If you did more studying and less playing, you could be just as good as Harry," Bernia informed her son.

Kenric made a face, then declared, "You're only young once!"

"Exactly!" Conrad and Duana agreed loudly.

"Why study when they can simply corner me and demand I teach them the best spells in my collection?" Harry added, amused.

"Knowing you, you're only teaching them the second-best spells," Bernia commented.

"Harry would never do that!" Kenric insisted. Then he paused and looked hopefully towards Harry. "Right?"

"Correct," Harry agreed. When Kenric grinned, Harry added, "I only teach you the third-best."

"No fair!"

Wilda let out a quiet giggle, then covered her mouth, startled. Harry winked at her, smiling, and she offered a small smile in return.

-0-

Godric was difficult when they all trooped outside for their non-magical training, as Harry had expected. Thankfully, Bernia had quickly taken things in hand, ushering Wilda away from her husband and asking what sort of weapons knowledge the girl had. As luck would have it, she had training with knives, so Bernia got her a set, then set her up with Harry and Ramona, staying nearby to make sure there weren't any problems.

For their morning reading, Harry started in on the animagi book. Normally, he would be given a book to read by Salazar, but since the man had been so scarce, Harry had taken to reading whatever caught his fancy. Usually, that meant he had a book with defensive and offensive spells, but since he wanted to learn about animagi...

After lunch, the children all wandered outside and started up a game of tag. Harry hoisted himself up into a tree next to the lake that had a fairly good view, then settled in to read some more. Helena, kicked out by her mother, curled up just under Harry to read her own book.

The days continued this way for the next week, with Harry keeping one eye on the other children while he read up on animagi, going through about one book every two days.

One such day, when Helena had been talked into playing a game with the others, Harry's reading was interrupted by a dry voice commenting, "Well, Godric's in a foul mood."

Harry looked over his book and winced at the slashes in Salazar's tunic that the Founder was closing with his wand. "That might be my fault," he admitted. When Salazar raised an eyebrow at him, Harry added, "Though, to be fair, he's been pretty angry with you for leaving all the time."

"Like it's any of his business what I do with my free time," Salazar said with a sniff as he closed the last slash. "Why is Godric angry with you?"

"Mmm... Helga found a werewolf she wanted to invite to the school."

"This isn't going to end well," Salazar muttered.

Harry rolled his eyes. "We came upon them in the middle of a row about it. I sort of got involved–"

"Why?" Salazar demanded. "Shouldn't you know better than to anger Godric by now?"

"One of my parents' friends is a werewolf," Harry snapped. "He got to go to Hogwarts, why shouldn't Wilda?"

"Ah." Salazar rested against the trunk of the tree just to one side of Harry, his head on level with the teen's hip. "So you put your lot in behind Helga."

"Yes," Harry agreed, relaxing back against the trunk himself. "I made a suggestion that we give her a bit of a trial run; let her spend the next month of the holiday here and see that she's no threat to anyone."

"And the full moon?"

"Lu– Remus," Harry corrected, grimacing at the odd taste of his ex-professor's first name in his mouth, "sort of locks himself up for the full moon. I mean, there's a potion to help calm the wolf, but it's not widely available. Sirius told me he and my dad became animagi to keep L–Remus company. 'Cause the wolf was calmed by other animals being there, and he couldn't infect them while they weren't human."

"Hm." Salazar glanced over at the book resting in Harry's lap, one finger marking his place. "And you intend to follow in their steps?"

Harry shrugged. "It's not a bad skill to have, really. Sirius and Wormtail both evaded the law, back home, by being animagi, and you can listen in on all sorts of conversations as an animal."

"Only if it's an unobtrusive animal," Salazar corrected. "Being a bear, for example, wouldn't allow you much unobserved snooping."

"Let's hope I'm not a bear, then," Harry replied, flipping his book back open. "Go back to your search."

Salazar watched Harry silently for a long moment, until the teen let out a sigh and looked over at him again. "I might remain until term," the Founder commented neutrally.

Harry frowned at that. "Why the sudden change?"

Salazar's gaze flickered towards the castle. "Best not to add to Godric's wrath."

"You're worried he might do something to me?" Harry asked, his expression lightening. "Really, Salazar, I'll be fi–"

"You are remarkably capable of staying alive," Salazar interrupted drily, "but that's no reason to tempt fate. I should spend a week or so finishing the preparations in my classroom, anyway."

"Oh. Right." Harry shrugged. "Well, as you please, then. I can hardly dictate your actions." He returned to his book.

:You're far more capable of dictating my actions than you think,: Salazar hissed before pushing back against the tree trunk and making for the castle.

Harry watched the Founder leave with a faint frown, wondering what he'd meant by that. 'How can I dictate his actions?'

"Harry?" Ramona said, coming to a stop under Harry's branch.

Harry cleared his expression and smiled at her. "Hello. Something wrong?"

"No, not really," Ramona replied, looking after Salazar. "What did he want?"

"To ask why Godric's in a darker mood than usual," Harry explained, rolling his eyes. "Like Godric wouldn't have cursed him eventually for always vanishing, especially after being gone for almost two weeks this time."

Ramona smiled up at him. "Maybe now he's got it out of his system, things will calm down around here?"

"One can only hope," Harry agreed, shrugging. "At any rate, he said he's going to stick around until the students get back."

"To protect you from Godric?" Ramona guessed, tone odd.

Harry snorted. "Like I really need him hovering around. He said something about preparing his classroom." He sighed, a hint of sadness in his voice as he said, "He'll be gone again soon enough, I'm sure."

Ramona touched his leg and smiled up at him. "He might stick around for a while, you never know."

"Maybe," Harry replied, unconvinced.

Ramona shook her head, then returned to their game, leaving Harry to his reading.

-0-

Salazar and Helga had spent the day of the full moon warding one of the dungeon rooms – Harry had only insisted a little bit that they use what he knew would one day be Snape's office – and Wilda was led inside after an early, light dinner, looking rather like a condemned woman.

Before they shut her in, Helga asked, "Do you want one of us to sit outside the door? We could keep you company–"

"No," Wilda replied, quiet but firm. "You'll only enrage her. I will be fine on my own." When Helga looked upset by that, Wilda smiled and said, "But, thank you. It is...appreciated."

Once the door had closed her off, Salazar and Harry firmly ushered Helga and Ramona out of the hallway. They had just reached the end and were turning towards the staircase upstairs when there was the sound of something slamming against the door down the hall. The two Hufflepuffs froze, looking back over their shoulders.

"There's nothing you can do for her," Salazar pointed out coolly. "Staying will only cause her further difficulty."

Helga nodded and continued on, though she kept looking over her shoulder. "Maybe I could stay in your common–"

"No," Salazar said, firm. "You'll spend the night with your family, in your common, and I will bring Wilda by after the sun has risen." He glanced back at Harry and Ramona, ensuring the two were following without any fuss and refusing to look too long at Harry's arm around her shoulders.

Once everyone had settled in for their dinner, Godric cleared his throat and asked, "She's secure?"

"She's– Godr–" Helga started, tears in her eyes. Next to her, Roscoe reached an arm around her shoulders, quietly hushing her.

Salazar raised an unimpressed eyebrow at Godric, who was glowering around at the frowns directed at him. "It appears, Godric, that you are in the minority; everyone else likes Wilda. Perhaps it's time to move past your narrow-minded hatred of werewolves?"

Godric clenched his jaw and turned his focus to his food, the only person who hadn't cared to try liking their resident werewolf.

The students had come to like Wilda during the previous three weeks of playing, and the adults, while they hadn't interacted with her much, had found her to be quiet and surprisingly clever, given her lack of formal education previously. Wilda had explained that one of her pack mates had come from a fairly well-to-do family before the curse, and had taught everyone else how to read and write.

It seemed that dinner couldn't go quickly enough, everyone teetering between starting a fight with the red-haired Founder and worrying about Wilda. Finally, the house-elves snapped the table clean and everyone rose, Bernia motioning Godric out ahead of her while she gathered Kenric and Duana.

"I suppose Salazar won't let me stay with you tonight," Ramona said to Harry as they walked towards the doors of the Great Hall together.

"I'm lucky he's letting me stay down there," Harry replied drily.

Ramona let out a strained laugh. "Well, you know where I am if he kicks you out."

"So I do," Harry agreed. He raised her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss to the back of it, saying, "Good night, fair maid."

Ramona's expression lightened and she kissed his cheek. "Good night, Harry," she replied before they separated to head for their commons.

Once they were past the stairwell, Salazar commented, "I trust I won't have to drug you to make sure you behave?"

Harry shook his head. "I know how to sit on my hands and ignore the urge to check on Wilda," he replied with a quick smile. "Though I make no promises about the likelihood of me sleeping."

"We can keep each other awake, then," Salazar decided.

Once in the common, Harry slipped down the hall to his room long enough to grab a block of wood and his animagi book, then returned to curl up on one of the couches. Salazar joined him shortly after, shoving at Harry's feet. "Move."

"There's another couch, you know," Harry pointed out, but he moved his feet all the same.

"This one's more comfortable."

"You're so full of it." Harry snorted and rolled his eyes, then cracked his book open.

"Haven't you read every book on animagi, yet?" Salazar wondered.

Harry raised an eyebrow at him. "Not according to that room on the seventh floor."

Salazar snorted. "With our luck, it's stealing books from the future because it's got access to your mind."

"Possible," Harry allowed. "I've been careful about using it around other people for that reason. Figure the last thing any of us need is me dreaming up a room with a bloody motor car or whatever in it."

Salazar sighed. "I'm sure that's some future concept I cannot begin to grasp."

Harry laughed. "Motor cars? Yes. Sorry, Salazar, but I think that one's beyond even Rowena at this point."

"Good to know," Salazar decided and they fell quiet to read the books they'd both brought.

After a couple hours, Harry set his book aside and pulled out his wooden block. He stared at it for a long moment, uncertain what to make. He could make another bird for Ramona's growing collection, or a wolf for Wilda.

Salazar shifted next to him and Harry glanced over. The Founder was still reading, but he glanced towards Harry and raised an eyebrow when he found the teen watching him. "Yes?"

"Snake or phoenix?" Harry asked before he could fully consider it.

Salazar blinked. "Excuse me?"

Harry held up the block. "Snake or phoenix?" he asked again, deciding he might like to make something for the man.

Salazar blinked again. "Oh. I don't... Surprise me?" he suggested.

Harry chewed the inside of his mouth for a moment, thinking, then nodded and got to work on making a phoenix. It was hardly a real one, which is what Salazar really wanted, he was sure, but it was the thought that counted, right?

Salazar returned his attention to his book, looking up occasionally to peek at Harry's work. Having never been capable with any art other than potions, he was a little awed to watch the plain block take on the shape of a bird in flight. Eventually, he gave up reading as a bad job and shifted on the couch so he could better watch Harry work. The teen flashed him a faint smile, used to having Ramona watch him work, and continued without pausing.

When Harry finished, he held the figure up and looked it over. "Not too terrible," he decided and held it out to Salazar.

"Not too terrible?" Salazar demanded, taking the figure like he feared he might break it. "Harry, this is amazing."

Harry laughed and rubbed at the back of his head, cheeks stained a faint pink. "If you say so. Could have done better if the block was bigger. Needed more room for the tail and wings." He frowned. "It's not really to scale."

Salazar wrapped his hands around the figure, hiding it from the teen. "Like I can tell the difference," he pointed out, tone only a little bitter.

Harry's expression softened and he held out his left hand for the figure, his right flexing to call his wand. "Let me see it for a minute. I promise not to destroy it or anything," he added when Salazar narrowed his eyes, suspicious.

"I expect it back," Salazar said as he handed it over.

Harry rolled his eyes and touched his wand to the main body of the phoenix. "Coloro coccine," he murmured and the wood took on a deep crimson colour. He then touched his wand, in turns, to the tail, claws, and beak, murmuring, "Coloro aureus," turning them a glittering gold. Finally, he touched his wand to the tiny eyes, murmuring, "Coloro niger," and they shone black in the torch light. "Here," he said, handing the figure back to Salazar.

Salazar stared at the little phoenix, awed. "Thank you," he whispered past a mysterious block in his throat.

Harry smiled, touched by Salazar's honest reaction. "Of course." After watching Salazar turn the figure over in his hands a few time, Harry picked his book back up off the floor and flipped it open to where he'd left it. After a bit, Salazar left to put the phoenix in his room, then returned to the couch and his own book.

A few hours before sunrise, Harry's eyes started drooping and he realised he couldn't focus on the words of the page. He debated between calling a house-elf for some tea and taking a power nap, then decided the nap sounded the less miserable of the two options and set his book on the floor. He shifted a few times, trying to find a comfortable position, and ended up resting his head on Salazar's shoulder.

"Harry?"

"Mm."

"You're sleeping?"

"Nap," Harry agreed, voice already heavy with sleep. "S'ok?"

"Yes, it's fine," Salazar agreed quietly.

Salazar managed another ten minutes or so of attempting to read as Harry dropped into dreamland. Once the teen was breathing deeply, though, Salazar set his book to the side and shifted both himself and Harry until the younger wizard was resting against Salazar's chest, his longer legs stretched out on either side of Harry's. "This is a bad idea," he whispered to himself as he ran his fingers through Harry's hair. "I shouldn't do this to myself, I'm only going to get hurt again." But it was hard not to hold onto the teen when he had the chance, just as it had been so very impossible not to get drawn in by him.

It wasn't the first time Salazar had been drawn in by a charismatic wizard so full of life; eleven years ago, having just lost his second master to raging non-magicals and wandering, lost, Salazar had come across the slightly older Godric Gryffindor, who'd had such ideas, such plans, for the betterment of magicals everywhere. Salazar had fallen head-over-heels for him and Godric, happy to offer safety to a lonely boy, brought him home to meet his betrothed, Bernia.

Bernia hadn't been put off by Salazar's cold reaction to her, but had rather welcomed him with the same open arms as Godric, feeding him and making sure he was happy. Over the months spent in her company, Salazar came to, grudgingly, like her, in spite of his jealousy of her place at Godric's side.

Two days before Bernia and Godric's formal bonding ceremony, a couple women came into their village, clutching at each other and running from horrors they dare not speak of. Bernia and Godric welcomed them with open arms, quietly enlarging their home to fit the extra guests. Salazar thought little of them until, the day after the bonding, Godric caught the two women kissing and kicked them out, snarling about their being impure and against nature. A "symbol of the devil's treachery," he'd called them.

Salazar, already disheartened by the knowledge that Godric's heart could never be his, was further horrified to see this side of a man he thought of as his friend. Worse still was when, a few hours after kicking the women out, Godric announced a stoning and happily invited Salazar along. Salazar had refused, then packed his few things and left to the chorus of the women's screams.

He spent the next five years travelling alone, pausing and offering work where he could, but never stopping to stay anywhere long. Eventually he'd come across Helga, who spoke of starting a magical school, where everyone could have the chance to learn away from danger and without needing to make deals with local masters. Salazar had thought the idea a wonderful one and joined her and Rowena, who'd used her dowry to buy a broken-down fortress in the north. Godric, having heard about the school through a mutual friend of Helga's, agreed to come and offer his services as a master of defensive magics.

Salazar had been wary around Godric – would always be wary – and confused by the spark of attraction he still felt for a man that would see him dead if given half the chance. Salazar resigned himself to forever suffering his love in silence and swore to avoid falling for another man again; it was too dangerous and would only end with his heart broken. Again.

"I was right," Salazar whispered, closing his eyes in regret. Despite knowing that Harry couldn't stay, and the fact that the boy was his student and over a decade his junior, he'd found himself falling for the quietly charismatic boy in much the same way as he'd once fallen for Godric's loud-mouthed ideals. And Harry, like Godric, had fallen in love with a woman, not him. Never him.

Salazar's saving grace, if it could be said there was one, was that he wouldn't run into Harry again, once he was gone. He would find a way to get Harry home and they would never see each other after that, because Salazar would be long dead by the time Harry resurfaced. And maybe Salazar would be miserable for a while, once Harry was gone, as he'd been miserable when he fled Godric's home all those years ago, but he would manage. He could bury himself in his alchemy studies and watch over his students, like he should be doing now. It would work out.

Somehow.

-0-

Godric still didn't like having a werewolf at Hogwarts, but after a month's trial run with no one hurt – unless you counted the wounds Wilda had inflicted on herself during her captivity, most of which had healed away without a hint of a scarring thanks to Salazar's talents – he couldn't refuse her, not unless he wanted an uproar from his fellow Founders, their spouses, and the children who resided in the castle. With Godric's grudging agreement, Wilda was given a permanent place in the Hufflepuff dorms, sharing a wall with Ramona, who had made it her and Harry's duty to ensure Wilda was able to find her way around the castle without question and knew how to use the magical room on the seventh floor.

The returning students arrived on the last day of September, joining the group in front of the fireplace with tales of their holiday and all the fun things they did. It wasn't until they were separating to go to their tables that Nuala realised, "Where's Mavis?"

"Mavis and her family were killed by their villagers after the first harvest," Salazar informed them grimly. "We'll remember her in the common room, after lunch. For now, eat."

Lunch was quiet, none of the Houses untouched by the grim reality that one of their own was dead. They left the Hall in silence and retired to their commons. There, everyone put their things in their rooms, then joined their Heads of House in the common room and spent a few hours remembering the girl who had died.

In the Slytherin common, Harry had curled up on one of the couches between a quietly crying Nuala and a stiff Morgan, pain sharp in his eyes. Fane and Vail sat together on the other couch while Salazar brought a chair over from the table to sit on. Their time together lasted longer than the other Houses, as they'd known her best. Harry admitted to making a figurine for Mavis, and Morgan had looked over and requested to see it.

Once Harry had summoned it and handed it over, Morgan stared at it for a moment, then asked, "Can I keep this for a couple days? I'd like to paint something for her, but I need something to base it on."

Harry, remembering a painting he'd once seen in his time of a flying bird with red-brown feathers and the most striking green eyes, immediately nodded. "Of course."

"Maybe we should all make something for her," Fane commented quietly.

"It's not a bad idea," Salazar agreed, nodding his thanks towards his student. "You don't even have to show it around, if you would rather not, but make something."

The Slytherins all nodded, then dispersed to finish putting their things away or get started on their tribute to their dead Housemate.

"You were supposed to warn them about Wilda," Harry pointed out quietly once the others were out of sight.

Salazar shrugged. "Let them have their time to mourn. I'll tell them about Wilda before we leave for dinner. With any luck, none of them will be difficult."

Harry considered his Housemates; when he'd first met him, he would have sworn Morgan would have a fit about a werewolf, but the boy had mellowed after a term with those of a lower class and he didn't, honestly, think he'd make a big deal of it. He might grumble a bit, but he would keep his grievances private, and Harry could handle those behind closed doors, if need be.

As for the others... "They shouldn't be," he decided. "I can't say anything for Merlin and that other boy. What was his name?"

"Alexander Ronson."

"Him," Harry agreed, nodding. "Can't say anything about them, but these four should be fine."

"I'll just continue to leave everything to do with my students in your capable hands, then," Salazar said drily.

Harry grinned at him. "You do that. Are you planning to vanish as soon as classes let out for the 'weekend'?" he asked, barely resisting the urge to move his fingers in a manner to show the quotes he put around the word.

Salazar sighed. "I believe I'll stay this break, but I'll be leaving next one." He paused in thought for a moment, then asked, "Will I need to be around if one of our breaks falls during the full moon, or can you handle looking after Wilda yourself?" He'd been grateful to have Harry along when they'd freed the werewolf from her prison after the full moon, and he trusted Harry's skills with the healing magic he knew, which should be enough to deal with the self-inflicted wounds Wilda came out with, but he wouldn't leave Harry to handle it alone if he wasn't comfortable with it.

Harry thought about that for a moment, frowning. "I..." He sighed. "How many full moons until then?"

"Not this one, but the one after that lands on the last day of classes," Salazar said with certainty. "The one following that falls in the middle of the break, but I believe we're letting everyone go home for Yule that day. If Wilda intends to return to her pack, it won't be a concern."

Harry nodded. "Uhm, let's see how I feel after this next full moon, okay?"

"Certainly," Salazar agreed.

They fell into a comfortable silence, then, Harry summoning one of his animagi books while Salazar closed his eyes to, for all Harry could tell, take a nap. When the others came out of the rooms, Salazar told them about Wilda and there was some uncertainty, but Harry was able to soothe everyone with the promise that the girl was really very nice. And they had all sort of met her, while they'd been waiting for everyone to arrive.

-0-

"So, what should we expect from these new students?" Fane wondered as the other Slytherins followed Harry up to the Great Hall to watch the incoming. They hadn't been required to go – and Salazar had remained to discuss things with the other Founders after breakfast, kicking the students out – but Harry had promised he'd be there to collect the two new Slytherins when they arrived and show them to the common.

"How should I know?" Harry replied, rolling his eyes.

"Harry, you know everything," Vail informed him with a grin. "Proven fact."

"Your 'fact' is full of more holes than Swiss cheese," Harry retorted.

"What cheese?" Vail asked, frowning.

Harry sighed and switched to English to mutter, "One of these days, I'll remember not to use modern terminology."

Ramona met them in the entrance hall, slipping her arm through Harry's as they turned to enter the Great Hall. "Hello, Harry."

Harry smiled at her. "Hello, princess."

"Kill me now," Morgan muttered, then let out a yelp as Nuala hit him.

"I think they're cute," Nuala declared.

Fane rolled his eyes and demanded, "Harry. New students?"

"You can wait ten minutes," Harry informed him. To Ramona, he asked, "Helga's getting two more, plus Wilda, right?"

"Yes. And Rowena and Godric both have one. How many did Salazar get again?"

"Two. Both male," Harry answered, smirking.

"I knew it! You do know stuff about the new students!" Fane crowed.

Harry rolled his eyes and they made their way over to the poufs in front of the cheerfully burning fireplace, Fane begging for more hints behind him. A couple other students were already there, including the other children of the Founders and Duana, and they made room for the Slytherins and Ramona with smiles.

The first of the new students arrived shortly after they'd taken seats. The student was greeted by the Founders, then waved over to where Ollivander, who had shown up that morning, was sitting with his wands. Kenric jumped up and greeted the new child as soon as he'd finished getting his wand, and they were walking back towards the students on the poufs when the second student arrived.

They were just starting to fall into a rhythm when everything was disrupted by the arrival of a boy with a nest of auburn hair. From the nest on his head, a bird with only a couple pale feathers left launched itself into the air, sending the startled boy to his knees.

While the others around the Great Hall exclaimed in surprise at the dying bird, Harry jumped to his feet, recognising a phoenix on its Burning Day – he would never forget how he and Fawkes had first met. He got beneath the bird just as it gave one last mournful croak and burst into flames.

"Harry!" a number of people shouted as the pale blue flames licked at Harry's hair and face, but he just smiled at the feeling of warmth and caught as much of the falling ashes in his outstretched hands as he could.

As the fire disappeared, Harry became aware of Salazar and Ramona both standing in front of him, wearing similar looks of horror, and he offered them a quick smile before looking down at the pile of ash in his hands.

"Harry, what–?" Salazar started.

"Hush," Harry ordered and the Founder fell silent, blinking in disbelief. Harry's smile widened as a tiny head poked its way out of the ashes. "Hello, there," he whispered to the newborn as he carefully let the excess ash drop to the ground and rubbed the chick clean with his thumbs.

The chick let out a quiet trill and rubbed its head against Harry's fingers in thanks.

Harry looked up at Salazar, then, grinning widely. "Salazar," he said, "I'd like you to meet a phoenix."

Chapter Text

While the others around the Great Hall exclaimed in surprise at the dying bird, Harry jumped to his feet, recognising a phoenix on its Burning Day – he would never forget how he and Fawkes had first met. He got beneath the bird just as it gave one last mournful croak and burst into flames.

"Harry!" a number of people shouted as the pale blue flames licked at Harry's hair and face, but he just smiled at the feeling of warmth and caught as much of the falling ashes in his outstretched hands as he could.

As the fire disappeared, Harry became aware of Salazar and Ramona both standing in front of him, wearing similar looks of horror and he offered them a quick smile before looking down at the pile of ash in his hands.

"Harry, what–?" Salazar started.

"Hush," Harry ordered and the Founder fell silent, blinking in disbelief. Harry's smile widened as a tiny head poked its way out of the ashes. "Hello, there," he whispered to the newborn as he carefully let the excess ash drop to the ground and rubbed the chick clean with his thumbs.

The chick let out a quiet trill and rubbed its head against Harry's fingers in thanks.

Harry looked up at Salazar, then, grinning widely. "Salazar," he said, "I'd like you to meet a phoenix."

Salazar's eyes widened and he shuffled a few steps forward, peeking into Harry's cupped hands. "Hello there," he whispered, holding out a finger towards the chick.

The phoenix trilled and rubbed against Salazar's finger, making the Founder beam.

"Salazar," Rowena called, laughter dancing in her eyes, "come greet your new student."

"That's Merlin, isn't it?" Harry guessed as Salazar turned to go back.

Salazar flashed him a smirk. "I wonder what gave you that idea."

Harry snorted and turned to go back to the other students, Ramona slipping her arm through his and smiling at the chick, who was fluffing its quickly growing fuzz. "It's so cute," she whispered.

"So it is," Harry agreed. "Which reminds me." He paused and cocked his head at the chick, which looked up at him, its own head cocked adorably to the side. Ramona giggled. "One trill for male, two for female."

The phoenix let out two trills, then returned to fluffing her feathers.

"Always good to know," Harry commented as they finished the trip to the others.

The students crowded around, enthralled.

"No crowding," Harry ordered and they all took a few steps back. There followed a fair bit of cooing and some requests to hold her, which Harry always refused.

When Merlin made his way over, clutching his new wand and looking so many kinds of uncertain, Harry offered him a smile and said, "Welcome, Merlin. I'm Harry." To the other students, he offered, "He's one of Salazar's."

"I knew you knew more about the incoming students," Fane muttered, disgruntled.

"Hello," Merlin replied, shuffling uncertainly under Morgan's unimpressed stare. "Is the phoenix yours, then?" he asked Harry.

Harry blinked and looked down at the chick, who let out a pleased trill and rubbed against Harry's fingers again. "Well, I thought she was yours, to be honest..." he admitted.

Merlin let out a self-deprecating laugh. "Why would a phoenix choose me? No, it – she? – sort of landed on me right before the portkey activated."

Harry considered the boy for a long moment, frowning. "I think you give yourself too little credit," he commented quietly. "Everyone is important, and maybe you can't see that now, but I hope you will one day."

Everyone was silent for a long moment, looking between Harry's calm stare and Merlin's growing blush.

Ramona cleared her throat and touched Harry's shoulder. "What will you name her?" she asked, turning their attention back on the phoenix.

"I suppose that depends on whether she wishes to stay," Harry replied. "Phoenixes aren't, by nature, domestic creatures, and I won't tie her down..." He trailed off, surprised, as the phoenix flapped her fresh wings uselessly a few times before hopping along Harry's left palm and up his arm, catching her talons in his tunic to climb vertically. She finally reached his shoulder, trilling tiredly, and curled up against his neck.

"I think she intends to stay," Morgan pointed out, tone dry but eyes dancing with amusement.

"I'm getting that impression," Harry replied in the same tone.

"Is this a private party, or can anyone join?" a girl with bright red hair demanded.

"Sorry!" Kenric called, ducking under a few arms and grinning at her.

"You must be Godric's newest addition," Harry guessed, amused.

"How'd you guess?" the girl demanded. When Harry's smile just widened, she huffed and said, "I'm Martina."

"I'm Kenny Gryffindor!" Kenric replied. "Welcome!"

Martina's arrival reminded everyone that they had incoming students to watch for and they spread back out on the poufs, chatting with the newcomers.

Merlin, Ramona, and Fane remained standing with Harry. "What will you name her?" Ramona asked again. "Since it seems she intends to stay."

Harry considered that for a moment, brushing a finger against the dozing form on his shoulder. "Not sure," he admitted. "Naming creatures isn't really my speciality."

"Everyone could make a suggestion and you can pick your favourite of the lot," Fane suggested.

"That's not a bad idea," Ramona agreed. "Harry?"

"Sure," Harry agreed. "Everyone can write their idea on a list and I'll pick it that way. Or, well–" he smiled fondly, "–she can pick it."

"We can make an announcement at lunch and tell everyone to bring their ideas to dinner," Ramona decided.

"Have Salazar, Rowena, Godric, and Helga collect them, though," Fane warned. "Maybe even have them write the suggestions on a centralised piece of paper for each House. That way no one can be jealous, thinking you picked a name one person suggested because you like them better."

"Easier to keep track of, too," Harry agreed. "Sure, I'll run it by them before we sit down to eat."

The Founders thought it was a wonderful idea. Helga wanted to know, "Can we make suggestions?"

Harry shrugged. "I don't mind. To be honest, I was sort of expecting you would." He smiled at Salazar, who had talked the sleepy phoenix into sitting on his shoulder instead of Harry's and was quietly hissing compliments at her in Parseltongue. "Salazar. Food?"

"Oh, of course," the man agreed, following Harry towards the Slytherin table and asking the phoenix on his shoulder, "I wonder what you should like to eat, my little one."

"Herbs," Harry answered for the phoenix, who trilled in agreement. Once they'd settled down at the table, Harry turned and called, "Slinky."

The house-elf popped into being in front of Harry, smiling in a way that she never would have a year ago. "What can Slinky bes doing for Young Master Harry?"

Harry smiled back at her, forever pleased to see all the house-elves growing more comfortable while safe inside the castle walls. "Could you get some fresh herbs for the phoenix? Not a lot, she's still little."

Slinky peered up at where Salazar had placed the chick on the table and she was poking curiously at things. "Slinky will," the house-elf agreed before popping away.

Harry turned back around in time for a small bowl with what looked to be freshly picked herbs to appear between his and Salazar's plates. "Here you are," he told the phoenix, who gave a happy trill and hurried over to start pecking at it. Nuala, on the other side of the table, let out an adoring sound while the males covered smiles.

The phoenix, once full, walked awkwardly over to Harry and tugged on his sleeve. "Yes?" he asked and she made a hopeful trill and looked towards his shoulder. "Ah. Certainly," he agreed and held out his hand for a boost up. Once she was happily in place, he returned to his food, ignoring his Housemates grins.

When lunch was done, they all trooped downstairs to show the two new boys to the dorms. Merlin and Alexander were left to pick their rooms from the unclaimed three while the other students took up seats in the common room. Salazar passed out some parchment and a quill for them to write name suggestions on while Harry summoned a block of wood and started working on a likeness of the chick on his shoulder, who seemed quite intrigued by his actions, if her curious trills were anything to go by.

"We'll have to make her a perch," Vail commented as Morgan stole the parchment from him. "Think Roscoe will let us make one?"

"If Roscoe has us making a perch in class, it'll turn into multiple perches and she'll have to decide where to rest," Fane pointed out.

"That might not be all bad, though," Salazar said, sharp gaze flicking between the parchment as it traded hands and where Harry was working. "She can't sit on your shoulder all the time, Harry, and she might well enjoy having a place to rest in the Great Hall or the common."

"So, three," Fane said. "One for Harry's room, one for the common room, and one for the Great Hall."

"Four," Harry corrected, a knowing smile curling his lips.

"Four?" Fane and Morgan chorused, wearing similar frowns.

Harry nodded. "One for Salazar's room. For the odd occasion when he talks her into spending a night with him. It'll happen," he added to the dubious looks his comment received.

"Why not make one for Ramona's room, too?" Salazar suggested, tone tellingly empty of inflection.

Harry raised an eyebrow at the Founder. "Ramona couldn't talk her into sitting on her shoulder."

Salazar didn't bother hiding his smug look.

Merlin interrupted them by dashing into the common, tripping over a mostly smooth patch of stone floor, and landing on his face. Everyone turned to look as he jumped to his feet, declaring, "I'm okay!" He flushed when he realised they were all looking at him.

Harry let out an amused huff and poked Vail, who was taking up most of the couch he and Harry shared. "Move your feet," he ordered. "Merlin, sit before you hurt yourself."

"Oh, sure," Merlin agreed, stepping carefully over to the opened spot between Harry and Vail. He sort of tripped backwards into the spot, wincing as his behind smacked warningly against the hard surface under the stuffing.

"They're not that well padded," Harry commented drily.

"So I can feel." Merlin looked towards the circulating parchment. "Can I have that?" he asked hopefully.

Nuala, who'd just finished writing her own suggestion, handed it across the table, saying, "I feel rather lonely all of a sudden; I'm the only girl down here."

"I'll endeavour to hunt down only females next summer," Salazar replied drily.

"If Harry and Ramona get bonded, she might come live down here," Vail pointed out cheerfully.

"No," Harry insisted, shaking his head. "First off, there will be no talk of bonding – assuming it happens at all – until after we've finished our schooling here. Second, if either of us was going to move dorm, it would probably be me, and I won't." He smiled towards Salazar, catching the flash of relief in the man's eyes before he could hide it.

Alexander joined them, then, bringing a chair over from the table to sit on.

"We need more couches," Nuala commented.

"Talk to Roscoe," Salazar said, straightening from his slight slouch. "Right, you'll be wondering about classes this year?" The students all nodded, even Harry, who didn't know if anything had been changed. "For the most part, things will remain the same for those of you returning. Alexander, Merlin, your classes will be on a slightly different schedule from these others and will take place with those other students that joined us this year. Your schedule will be as follows: Day one will be a free morning, with Roscoe after lunch, Godric will be your teacher the second day, Helga the third, myself the fourth, and Rowena the last. There are two free days for you to do as you please.

"My classrooms are both down here in the dungeons, along the hallway that keeps straight at the bottom of the stairs; Rowena's classroom is on the fifth floor, east end; Roscoe, I believe, will be holding class in the Great Hall; Godric's classroom is on the first floor, down the hallway past the stairwells, and he will continue to hold part of his classes outside; Helga's classroom is on the second floor, west end, or in the greenhouses.

"Due to Wilda Wolcott being a werewolf, the dungeon hall where the classrooms are is off limits during the evening of the full moon to everyone." He stared around until everyone had nodded. "If you have trouble sorting when the full moon is, Harry, one of your other teachers, or myself will be more than willing to tell you."

"Master Salazar?" Fane called with a certain amount of uncertainty. When the Founder nodded for him to continue, he asked, "Will you continue leaving on our days off?"

"I intend to," Salazar agreed neutrally.

"Not this first weekend," Harry added, shrugging when the other Slytherins turned to look at him somewhat disbelievingly. "What? I already asked."

"Well, maybe the rest of us would like to know, too," Morgan muttered, scowling.

"I'd have let you know. Eventually."

Salazar called up the time with a spell, then rose to his feet. "Dinner time, children."

Groaning a bit, they all got up and started for the door, Harry catching Merlin as the boy tripped on nothing. "Have you had your vision checked?" Harry wondered.

Merlin grinned helplessly. "Yes. Sala– I mean, Master Salazar did it when he offered me the spot."

"You don't have to call him 'master'," Harry said drily. "I never have. Some of the others are just a bit too caught up in his secretiveness and have yet to move past the formality."

"He's not very friendly," Merlin pointed out, glancing towards Salazar to make sure he couldn't hear them.

Harry's lips quirked with a tired smile. "He has his moments." He sighed and shook his head. "He's not around much, so I suppose that makes it hard to get to know him."

"We treat you like our adult mentor instead," Vail added, dropping back a bit to walk next to Harry and grin at him.

"Bit of a curse, though," Harry replied. "Here I am, only a bit older than the lot of you, and you follow me around like ducklings would their mum."

"Does that make Ramona our dad, then?" Fane asked, throwing a smile over his shoulder.

"She's the cook in this relationship, not me!" Harry insisted, grinning.

"You did help with the Yule feast last year," Salazar commented.

"Oiy, you great git! Shut your mouth!" Harry called over the laughter of his Housemates.

"No," Morgan said after they'd quieted down a bit and were climbing the stairs out of the dungeons. "If Harry's like our mum, always hovering about and making sure we've had our fill at dinner, that would make Master Salazar our dad. 'Cause, you know, he's always off doing his mysterious things, but he keeps an eye on us when he's here."

"Ooh, good point," Fane agreed.

"Does that mean we're calling you 'Mum' and 'Dad' now?" Nuala wondered sweetly.

"Don't you dare," Harry snapped. "I'll curse the first person who tries calling me that." Those Slytherins that had been there the year before winced, well acquainted with Harry's impressive spell collection.

At the head of the group, Salazar swallowed past a block in his throat at the thought of his students speaking of him and Harry – even in jest – as their dad and mum. Such thoughts only led to unhappy places, he knew, and he shoved them away.

As they took their places at the table, Morgan rolling his eyes and giving up his usual spot next to Harry for the hopeful Merlin, Harry put the phoenix chick on Salazar's shoulder. "A phoenix for your thoughts?" he whispered.

Salazar shook his head and couldn't help a smile when he ran a finger over the chick's growing feathers and she trilled happily. "It's nothing," he promised, tapping the table to call the food.

"If you say so," Harry replied dubiously as the food appeared, a small saucer of herbs between his and Salazar's plates again. "I think the house-elves like you," he told the phoenix and she trilled and pulled on a lock of Salazar's hair until, chuckling, he set her on the table.

After dinner, the Founders handed over the lists they'd made of possible names for the phoenix, Salazar taking a moment to spell his list so the names were all in his own handwriting and moved around the page so no one could claim Harry knew who wrote which. They then retired to the common room and the other Slytherins watched on as Harry read aloud the options to the phoenix. She eventually settled on Tanwen, which had come from the Hufflepuff list.

"It means 'white fire'," Salazar explained for the benefit of the other Slytherins, none of whom had much familiarity with Welsh, which the name came from, other than the few words Harry had taught them last term to use with the cooking spell he'd used on the snow arrows.

After a bit more chatter about the coming term, the Slytherins started trickling towards their dorms until it was just Harry, Salazar, and the sleepy Tanwen left.

"Is he what you expected?" Salazar asked, and Harry knew he was talking about Merlin.

Harry shrugged. "No, not really," he allowed. "But, then, I suppose he's got some years to grow. And, as you and the others have shown me, a lot gets lost to time."

"Hopefully some things remain true."

Harry considered that for a moment, then sighed and got to his feet. "Too little, I think," he said. "Good night, Salazar."

"Good night, Harry, Tanwen."

The phoenix trilled sleepily and both wizards smiled before Harry continued to his room. There, he paused to look around, then said, "I can conjure you a temporary perch for the night, if you'd like?"

Tanwen trilled in the negative and, once Harry was close enough to his bed, hopped down and used her undeveloped wings to drop lightly onto his pillow. There, she turned around a few times before deciding she was satisfied and curling up to sleep.

"As you wish, my lady," Harry murmured, not bothering to hide his fond smile. After changing into his night clothing, he slipped into bed and waved out the candles. "Good night, sweet one," he whispered before slipping into his Occlumency practice.

-0-

For Harry and those who'd remained in the castle over the summer, the return to daily classes wasn't as difficult as it was for their fellows, who had enjoyed a summer free of forced study and training in the mornings. It was clear which students had continued training with their weapons over the summer, and Godric found a disturbing amount of pleasure in pushing those who'd slacked.

Harry didn't find much time during the week to spend with Ramona, considering their opposing schedules, but they spent the first day of the weekend curled together under Harry's preferred tree while the other students played on the grounds, tossing around a ball one of the Gryffindors had made over the summer and brought with them.

After lunch, Harry declared he'd be studying in the library – or what would one day be the library, once books became more common – and anyone who wanted to join him could. Within twenty minutes of him and Ramona staking out a table, all the Slytherins and Hufflepuffs, four of the Gryffindors, and six Ravenclaws had settled in around them, many conjuring tables so they could sit. They spent a good few hours trading spell knowledge, everyone writing a few down, and the new students noting the lot. (Harry was rather pleased that, for once, he wasn't the one everyone was pressing for new spell knowledge, as the Ravenclaws had quite a number, and his Slytherin yearmates had spent three months learning spells from Harry, which the other Houses hadn't had access to.)

Sunday followed much the same as Saturday – Harry had determined to just name the days as they appeared for classes, rather than worrying about matching Rowena's calendar, which said the day was, in fact, a Saturday – with the addition of a few more Gryffindors and Ravenclaws.

"We'll soon run out of things to teach you," Salazar commented drily at dinner that night.

"Not you," Harry promised. "We don't usually discuss potions."

"I'm torn between being insulted that you don't care for my subject, and glad you've skipped it," Salazar replied.

Harry grinned. "We could practise on the weekends if you'd take down those wards on the potion classroom..."

"Not a chance," Salazar insisted. "You'll blow out a wall."

"I bet Harry could get through those wards, though," Merlin said with a touch of hero worship in his eyes.

Harry shrugged, knowing he could, but not about to divulge that, lest someone think to beg him into doing so. "Perhaps," he agreed mildly.

"Unlike the rest of you, I trust Harry to behave himself in there," Salazar replied.

"I'm not that good at potions," Harry insisted.

"You're not that bad, either."

Harry snorted and rolled his eyes. Maybe he enjoyed potions more under Salazar's direction, but he would never be good at it. And he would never seek out extra time over a cauldron, which made Salazar's classroom all the more secure.

Later, in the common, once the other Slytherins had retired to their rooms and Salazar and Harry were the only ones left, Salazar holding a sleeping Tanwen, the Founder commented, "It amuses me that Merlin is so enamoured of you."

Harry snorted. "You'd think it would be the other way around," he agreed. "Wilda told me he asked Godric what weapon I favoured before picking knives."

Salazar shook his head. "Of his options, it's probably the best for him; he's far more likely to stab himself with a sword, and I doubt he'd have much luck with archery."

Harry's lips curled with a sardonic smile. "He'll grow into it," he insisted.

Salazar snorted. "Of course he will," he agreed sarcastically. "Have you talked him into writing his name on some parchment for you, yet?"

Harry grinned. "First day," he agreed. "I put some spells on it to protect it, too."

"One day, I might understand that," Salazar muttered.

Harry waved a negligent hand at him. "No, you'll probably be left wondering for the rest of your life. Maybe, if you're very good, I'll tell you before I leave."

"I don't think I'm capable of being 'very good'," Salazar retorted.

"Hm. Good point." Harry grinned. "Guess you'll never know."

Salazar let out a snort of amusement and got to his feet, lightly jostling the phoenix resting against his chest. "Tanwen, I'm going to bed."

Tanwen let out a sleepy trill and cuddled closer against the Founder's chest.

Harry laughed at the adoring look on Salazar's face. "Take her, then. And don't be surprised if you find her on your pillow in the morning – she seems to prefer it to her perch."

"Noted. Good night, Harry."

"Good night, Salazar, Tanwen," Harry replied, not quite ready for bed. He stayed out in the common for almost another hour, watching the sleepy fish through the windows and not thinking about much of anything, before finally retiring to his own room.

-0-

Weeks continued to follow much the same pattern, broken only slightly by the full moon, which saw Harry, Salazar, and Wilda all exhausted the next day. Tanwen had proven her worth, donating phoenix tears to heal the worst of Wilda's wounds without being asked. Once they'd seen her to her common, Harry told Salazar, "Tanwen and I should be able to handle Wilda fine on the full moons."

Salazar had brushed a hand down the blue and white feathers of the phoenix – somehow proper, despite how unusual the colouring was – and said, "I guess you will be."

Salazar's absences on the weekends had left the new students confused, at first, but they quickly became used to seeing Harry as the authority figure for Slytherin House when the Founder wasn't there. It only seemed to make Merlin's adoration that much worse, and Harry had likened the boy to Colin Creevey on more than one occasion in his head, but he had just enough awe for the boy who would one day become a legend that he wasn't nearly as trying as Colin had been.

Harry caught what time he could with Ramona on the weekends, but it continued to feel more like a friendship, as opposed to what Harry thought a relationship should feel like. The correlation bothered him until, the second day of Yule, when the two managed to snag a whole three hours of silence inside the future astronomy tower, Harry brought it up.

"Ramona," Harry started, uncertain, "do you really feel like...a couple?" He winced.

Ramona glanced over at him, something like resignation in her eyes. "No," she admitted. "More like, how did you put it before? Like very good friends."

Harry nodded, heart sinking. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

But Ramona shook her head. "For what? Harry, it's just as much my fault, I think. Yes, I still think you're quite handsome–"

"Am not," Harry muttered, years spent under the hateful words of the Dursleys forever leaving him unable to see worth in himself, no matter how many times Ramona had insisted otherwise.

Ramona ignored him, having long learned this was one battle she wouldn't win. "–and I'm still quite fond of you, but not in such a way that I need to spend the rest of my life with you. That's not to say I couldn't spend the rest of my life with you..."

Harry smiled, knowing what she meant. "I care for you too, Ramona," he murmured and she returned the smile. "It's probably for the best," Harry added with a hint of a sigh. "Eventually, I'll leave, and I don't want either of us parting with a broken heart."

"Noble of you," Ramona said drily and they shared a grin; Harry had told her some of his past, such as him being a member of Godric's House. (She'd only laughed a little after he admitted that Godric and Salazar's Houses hated each other in the future, seeing the irony of Harry being Salazar's favourite student in a way that only Harry had so far.)

Ramona sighed and shook her head. "It never would have worked, anyway," she pointed out. "Even if you were staying here forever."

Harry frowned. "What do you mean? I thought–"

"Harry," Ramona interrupted, "you like Salazar."

"Of course I like him," Harry agreed. "He's my Head of House and a nice guy, when he's not being a git. But I don't understand what that's–"

"You like him," Ramona stressed. When Harry continued frowning, uncomprehending, she sighed again and said, "You're happiest when he's in the castle, you spend more time with him than you do me, you share things with him that you don't with me–"

"I share things with you that I don't Salazar," Harry insisted.

Ramona rolled her eyes up towards the ceiling, then asked, "If given the choice between returning to your time and staying here, specifically with Salazar, which would you choose?"

Harry opened his mouth to say, 'Home, of course,' only to realise that wasn't quite true. He'd become accustomed to his evenings with Salazar, to sharing Tanwen during meals and on nights when she fell asleep on him, to listening to him hiss to himself in Parseltongue when something irritated him. More than anything, he didn't want to lose that. Going home, seeing Ron and Hermione and Sirius, fighting Voldemort... All of that seemed insignificant when held next to the thought of losing Salazar forever. "Merlin," he breathed, not even thinking to censor his modern swear. "Oh, fuck." He buried his face in his hands, cursing his lot in life.

Ramona watched him with a sad smile. "I've been waiting for you to figure it out yourself and end things with me," she admitted. "I assume you haven't noticed his feelings for you, either?"

"What?" Harry jerked his head up, disbelief and the fading upset bright in his eyes. "Salazar doesn't–"

"Sometimes," Ramona commented tiredly, amusement in her dark eyes, "I get so caught up in how far ahead of the rest of us you are in magical knowledge, that I forget you didn't realise we'd been courting for weeks."

"Shut up," Harry ordered, but it was tinged with confusion. "Salazar doesn't, but..." He looked at her, green eyes bright with a mix of fear and hope. "Really?" he whispered.

Ramona sighed and took one of Harry's hands in hers. "Remember when we first started courting? You said he was furious."

"Well, yeah. But it was because I'd be leaving and he didn't want either of us getting hurt. Right?"

Ramona shook her head. "It took me a while to notice, because he was always gone, but he was jealous. He'd always look away when he saw us holding hands or showing affection. He was happiest when you chose him over me for one reason or another, like when you wouldn't let me spend the night that first full moon, or those times you helped him set up his classrooms, instead of coming outside with me. And he stayed at the school when Godric was being difficult over Wilda, even though you told him not to."

"He was just being a good Head of House," Harry murmured, but he didn't sound as certain as he had been when Salazar had first insisted he'd stay. Now that Ramona had mentioned those few things, he remembered other times Salazar had been pleased at Harry's attention, such as when he'd made him the phoenix figurine, or when he'd commented that Tanwen seemed to prefer Salazar to Ramona. And then there'd been that first full moon, when Harry had woken on the couch in Salazar's arms, even though he'd known he hadn't fallen asleep in anything like that position.

"You should talk to him," Ramona suggested.

"To what end?" Harry asked bitterly. "So maybe we have a relationship – a courtship, or whatever – I'll still have to leave and then we'll both be hurt even worse than we would be now. I mean, he's the one looking for a way to send me home." And how hard that had to be for him, Harry realised, looking for a way to send Harry beyond his reach. "Better we not get any closer."

"Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all," Ramona commented and Harry wondered for a moment where she'd pulled that bastardised quote from before realising she was probably quoting him; it wouldn't be the first time.

"Regardless," he insisted, "returned feelings or no, Salazar wouldn't just agree to a relationship. I mean, I'm his student–"

"Stand-in, more like," Ramona muttered.

"–and we're both male, which I somehow doubt will go over well with anyone else in the castle."

Ramona winced. "Godric," she said quietly, "hates homosexuals. Mum and Dad, I know, don't care one way or the other, and I doubt Rowena or Holden care. But Godric..."

"Best not to put any further pressure on Godric," Harry said wisely. "And that's not even considering the feelings of the students, especially my Slytherins."

Ramona giggled quietly, as she always did when Harry claimed his Housemates like they were as much his students as they were Salazar's. Honestly, she didn't think the Slytherins would be too bothered by Harry and Salazar loving each other, far too fond of their Founder and Harry to be anything but happy for the two.

Harry flashed her a quick smile before it turned worried. "Is your dad going to kill me for ending our courtship?"

Ramona covered a smile. "I'll end it, officially," she suggested.

"Of course you will," Harry agreed, amused. "And what's your explanation?"

"It felt more like we're friends, rather than together," Ramona replied primly. "Anyway, I've had my eye on Manfred a bit..." she admitted, naming one of the newer Hufflepuffs.

Harry laughed and drew her into a half hug. "Yeah? He's not so bad a person, I suppose. If you like red hair."

Ramona hit him. "Stop that!" she ordered and they leaned against each other to laugh. "You're the absolute worst," she informed him once they'd calmed themselves, but there was a well of fondness in her voice.

Harry smiled at her. "We're still best friends, though. Right?"

"Always," Ramona promised and kissed his cheek.

They hunted down Roscoe and Helga after another hour of quiet friendship and let them know about the end of their courtship. Helga was obviously saddened, having quite looked forward to having Harry as a son-in-law, but they both understood that it was Harry and Ramona's choice, and one they'd made together, with no hard feelings.

"I'm still allowed to feed him new recipes," Ramona commented, making Harry grin, as he quite liked her attempts in the kitchens, "and he's still allowed to make me new figurines in his spare time, but we're just friends; we work better that way."

"Well, you're both in agreement about this," Roscoe allowed.

"You've lost a son-in-law," Harry said with a quiet smile, "but I still consider you two family, same as everyone else. If that's okay?"

Helga drew him into a hug, laughing with tears in her eyes. "Of course, Harry; I'll always be happy to consider you a son."

And so Harry and Ramona's relationship ended on a good note. Incidentally, it was one that Salazar was not there to hear about, but everyone else was supportive of their decision and no one made a big deal of it. When classes started back up in January, the returning students had made a couple quiet inquiries about the change and both Harry and Ramona had assured everyone that it was fine, there were no hard feelings, and life went on.

Chapter Text

On the first weekend of June, when Salazar left to go on his hunt again, Tanwen flew after him, letting out an irritated trill – much to the amusement of those who'd been out on the grounds. He stopped to let her catch up, then let out a surprised sound as she landed on his arm and immediately engulfed them both in flame, vanishing.

"Wonder what that was about," Merlin said, leaning against the trunk of Harry's tree, the elder Slytherin resting comfortably in the branches.

"Tanwen is more than clever enough to know what Salazar's been looking for; she's probably taken him to the answer," Harry offered neutrally, shading his eyes from the sun's glare and trying to see what was going on at the far end of the open space. "Excuse me," he added and jumped down to start on his way over to the scuffle that had broken out, not noticing Merlin's stricken look at his words.

Harry dealt with the three fighting students – two Gryffindors and a Hufflepuff – then returned to his tree. Merlin had vanished to whisper with the other Slytherins and Harry left them to it, continuing to watch the other students for more fights.

They were just finishing lunch when Salazar stepped into the Great Hall, Tanwen on his shoulder. He crooked a finger at Harry, signalling for him to come to him. Harry rose from his seat, an easy smile on his face, even as his stomach twisted itself into knots. "Save me a seat in the library?" he asked his Housemates.

"Sure," Fane agreed, voice strained. The other Slytherins focussed on their plates, none of them able to meet Harry's eyes.

He sighed and moved towards Salazar, shooting a glance over his shoulder at Ramona, who offered him a sad smile in response. When he reached Salazar, he murmured, "You found something?"

"Tanwen knew where to look," Salazar agreed quietly, expression wiped clean. "Come, I'll tell you in my room."

Harry nodded and they made their way down to the dungeons in silence, Tanwen looking between the two men as if uncertain why they seemed so grim.

Once in Salazar's room, Harry took the chair and Tanwen her perch while Salazar warded the door against eavesdroppers, then sat on the edge of his bed. He took a fortifying breath before explaining, "Tanwen took me to a soothsayer in the northern region. She gave me something of a prophecy to return you to your time: 'On the dark moon of Litha, travel to the circle of ancient stones and become one in love.' She also said this is one journey that cannot be made alone."

Harry nodded, eyes distant as he assimilated that. "When's the next time a new moon coincides with Litha?" he asked, deciding he'd like to know what sort of time he had to work with.

"Six years," Salazar said with certainty, having figured it out on his own before returning to Hogwarts. "You'll have to let Ramona know when you'll be leaving–"

"Why?" Harry asked, honestly confused. Yes, he would let her know when he'd be vanishing forever, as any friend would do, but why Salazar would specifically name her...

"She'll have to go with you," Salazar stated, voice blank of all emotion. "I would assume that's what it meant by 'become one with–' "

"Salazar," Harry interrupted, somewhat disbelieving, "Ramona and I broke up over Yule. She's in a courtship with Manfred."

Salazar blinked. "Wait, what?"

Harry sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "And she called me oblivious," he muttered in English before switching back to Englisc to say, "We're not courting. And if you'd bothered to spend any time here at all, you'd know that."

Salazar's jaw tightened. "It seems we have a problem, then," he stated.

Harry watched the older wizard for a moment before murmuring, "I don't think we do."

"No? You've entered a different courtship while I've been absent?" Salazar demanded, voice sharp as a blade.

"I haven't," Harry disagreed, still watching the Founder.

"At least I know you're not sleeping around with every pretty little–"

"Are you being difficult about this because you're a git, or because you're jealous?" Harry interrupted, amused. Now that he was looking for it, he could see Salazar's actions for what they were, and he mentally smacked himself for not noticing last summer and saving them all some grief.

Salazar stiffened. "I'm simply concerned that you're sharing your past around–"

"Bollocks," Harry said, snorting. "You were the one who suggested I tell Ramona about my needing to leave eventually, and you meant for it to keep us apart, but it didn't. And then you snapped at me about it." Harry raised an eyebrow at Salazar's scowl. "You were jealous."

Salazar snorted. "Jealous? Why would I be jealous that you're dating Ramona? You think I wanted her?"

"No," Harry said quietly, watching Salazar's expression intently. "I think you want me."

Salazar froze, face draining of colour. "What makes you–?" he started, voice shaking.

Harry pushed himself out of the chair, took the two steps needed to reach Salazar – hating the way he flinched at the sudden proximity – and ducked down to press his lips against Salazar's, tilting his head to keep his nose out of the way.

Salazar was stunned into inaction for a moment before everything he'd been burying for the past year rushed to the surface and he reached up to tangle a hand in Harry's hair, pressing their mouths together hard enough to bruise.

The kiss didn't last long, though, as Salazar's thoughts quickly caught up with him and he pulled Harry's head back with the hand in his hair. "No," he gasped. "No, no, no–"

"Shut up," Harry ordered, brushing a hand through Salazar's longer hair.

Salazar shook his head. "You're my student," he whispered.

"As far as everyone else in this castle is concerned, I'm more a fellow teacher than I am a student," Harry insisted. "Just because I attend classes with the other students–"

"That makes you a student," Salazar insisted, and it took so much effort to keep from kissing Harry again.

Harry tugged on the man's hair. "A student with all the responsibilities of a teacher. You trust me to keep an eye on the rest of the House on the weekends and see to Wilda after the full moon; you can't go around insisting I'm a student just to refuse a relationship, Salazar."

"Can," Salazar grunted as he lost the will to hold Harry away and drew the teen's head back towards him to continue the kiss.

It took a few more kisses for Salazar to pull Harry's head back again – earning him a frustrated groan – and say, "We're both men."

"Don't care," Harry insisted, reaching up with his free hand to try untangling Salazar's fingers from his hair.

"Godric will," Salazar said, voice filled with a dark sort of certainty that sent shudders down Harry's spine.

Harry sighed and moved to sit next to Salazar on the bed, the elder's hand falling from his hair when Harry stopped trying to kiss him. "Ramona mentioned he's a bit of a homophobe."

"A what?" Salazar asked, frowning at the unfamiliar word.

"He hates homosexuals," Harry explained.

Salazar nodded, then asked, "You spoke about this with Ramona?"

Harry's lips twisted with a self-deprecating smile. "She had to point both our feelings out to me."

Salazar snorted. "At least I'm not the only fool out of the two of us."

"True." Harry leaned to one side enough to rest his head on Salazar's shoulder. "In my time, Slytherins are known for being able to get away with murder, if they so pleased; who says Godric ever has to know?"

"What if he does find out?" Salazar whispered, fear in his words. "I once saw him stone two women for kissing."

"I have no intention in standing still for a stoning," Harry said drily. "And I'd like to see him stop Tanwen from flaming us away if he manages to subdue us long enough. Never mind how the others would react to him even suggesting it."

"What says they won't join in?" Salazar muttered even as he slipped an arm around Harry's back to hold him protectively.

"Ramona says," Harry insisted. "Her family couldn't care less, and I doubt Rowena or Holden give a lick about what any of us do in our free time. Judging by Bernia's reaction to Godric's hatred against Wilda, I'd guess she's not as uptight either."

"She didn't hold him back then."

Harry shrugged, one shoulder knocking against Salazar's arm. "I can't speak for that. I can say that she loves us both, and I don't think she'd sit back and do nothing while Godric crucified us."

"This could all go so wrong," Salazar said.

"Or it could go so right," Harry disagreed before straightening and looking Salazar in the eye. "I can't see the future – hell, sometimes I can't even see the present – but I know I would rather take a chance with you now and maybe face Godric's wrath down the line, than keep on pretending we don't care for each other so much it hurts. Right now, you're the only person I'd want to travel home with, and that's all that matters to me."

Salazar let out a quiet laugh and reached out with the hand not holding Harry against him to brush against the teen's cheek. "Harry Potter," he murmured, "you drive me absolutely insane."

"More kissing?" Harry said hopefully.

"Gods, yes," Salazar agreed before their mouths met again.

They kissed for long moments, closed-mouth pressing of lips turning into the open-mouthed fumbling of two men who'd never really kissed anyone before, but they sorted it out after some trial and error and were quite content to not bother with breathing for quite some time.

When they finally took a moment to breathe, they'd scooted back onto the bed to rest together against the headboard, clothing a mess, but not removed.

"I should get back to the others," Harry whispered into Salazar's throat. "They're going to be panicking at my extended absence."

"Why? Have you done something I might be homicidal about?" Salazar wondered, glaring at Harry's hair; there was one lock that kept tickling the tip of his nose every time he exhaled and he was too content to move his arm up and push it away.

Harry snorted. "Not this week," he allowed and Salazar huffed a laugh into his hair. "No. Ramona sort of knows what's going on, in as much as you calling me out means you've found something, and the other Slytherins seem to know whatever you've been up to has to do with me leaving, but that's the most I've been able to gather from listening to their supposedly secret meetings."

Salazar rolled his eyes. "I suppose you can happily assure everyone that you won't be leaving for quite a few years yet." He blinked a few times, then, uncertain, said, "Harry, going with you means leaving Hogwarts."

Harry bit his lip and sighed. "History says that you and Godric eventually got into a huge row about something and you left the school in a huff. And, well..." Harry shrugged the shoulder not trapped against the bed. "What's to say you have to leave Hogwarts for good? It's not like it's destroyed in my time."

Salazar smiled, but it was sad. "It wouldn't be the same."

"It never is," Harry agreed will all the wisdom of one who'd already been thrust from one life to another. "But, well, not everyone will have changed; Helena is one of the school ghosts."

"What did she do, stay for the library?" Salazar wondered drily.

"I don't know her story," Harry admitted. "There's none of the friendships between Houses like there is now. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff aren't too bad, but Gryffindor and Slytherin sort of took your occasional spats with Godric and blew them completely out of proportion. It's a cold day in hell that you see a lion and a snake getting on; Merlin knows I never got on with any Slytherins."

"Wait." Salazar pulled back and frowned down at Harry's sardonic smile. "You were in Godric's House?"

Harry shrugged. "I'd heard nothing but bad about Slytherin, so when I was given the choice between your House and his, I chose his."

:I'm cursed to love lions,: Salazar hissed helplessly.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Clearly I should have picked your House from the start, considering I've much preferred it here." He smiled at Salazar, earning him a smug smile back. "Anyway," he admitted, "if I'd known then what a bigoted arse Godric really was, I probably would have gone right into the House of Snakes, bad rap or no."

"...'Rap'?"

Harry laughed and hid his face against Salazar's throat. "Uhm," he managed after taking a moment to catch his breath while Salazar waited more and more impatiently, "it's like a reputation."

"Indeed. And what sort of 'rap' does my House have in your time?" Salazar wondered.

Harry considered that for a moment, always careful about what hints he'd give to try and keep the future as it was when he'd left it. "Nothing good," he settled on.

"Harry–"

Harry shook his head. "If you come with me," he said, voice catching at the word 'if', because imagining his life without Salazar...well, he just couldn't, "you'll find out then."

Salazar sighed, resigned to not getting anything further out of the teen. "If you'll still have me when it's time, of course I'll come," he promised, not caring if he sounded corny, and hoping against hope that Harry wouldn't change his mind over the next six years.

Harry brushed a quick kiss to Salazar's lips, then pulled away. "Must keep people from panicking," he said.

Salazar groaned. "I should go tell the others that I won't be constantly leaving any more," he admitted, climbing out of the bed and conjuring a mirror to fix his clothing and hair. He was momentarily startled when Harry appeared behind him, fingers combing through Salazar's hair, but he turned around after a moment and ran a hand through Harry's hair, which looked wild enough on a daily basis that a tumble in the sheets changed nothing about it.

Harry smiled and asked, "I don't suppose you know a spell for well-kissed lips?"

Salazar snorted. "I might," he agreed and touched his wand to Harry's lips. "Cumul áebbest." Then he turned his wand on his own lips. "There," he said.

"Must learn that spell," Harry decided, making sure his tunic hung straight under his belt.

"I'll teach you later," Salazar promised, vanishing the mirror and pushing Harry towards the door of the room.

"Trying to get rid of me?" Harry teased.

"I haven't eaten since breakfast," Salazar admitted. "I'd like to stop by the kitchens before meeting with the others."

"You couldn't have stopped long enough to grab something before dragging me away from lunch?" Harry asked rhetorically.

They had just stepped into the common room when the entrance opened and the other Slytherins, followed by Ramona, streamed in. Relief coloured all their faces as they saw Harry standing there, one eyebrow raised and an amused smile curling his lips.

"Why is Ramona in my House?" Salazar demanded.

"Like she and I haven't snuck into each the other's Houses before," Harry replied, rolling his eyes. "Go. Shoo."

:With a role model like Harry, why do we even bother to tell the students to respect us?: Salazar hissed as he stalked past the students and out of the common.

Harry snorted into his hand at Salazar as he moved over towards the couches. He waited until everyone had taken seats, looking not a little sad, then said, "I'm not leaving for a few years, yet, so you can stop it with the pathetic looks. And, yes, I knew that you lot had figured it out," he added, looking at the surprised Slytherins. "I'm not sure how you figured it out, or what you know..." He raised an enquiring eyebrow at them, focussing on Fane, since he tended to be something of the second-in-command of the Slytherins, after Harry.

The Slytherins traded looks and Fane carefully explained, "The first time Salazar got back, when you argued in his room, someone started opening the door, then closed it again. The silencing wards weakened to the point that we could mostly figure out what you were talking about."

Harry's expression blanked as he thought back to that conversation, trying to remember exactly what they'd said and how much that had given away. "I see," he said quietly.

"Nuala thinks you're from an alternate world and are secretly an elf," Morgan commented drily.

"I– What?" Harry replied, dumbfounded.

"I think you're secretly a well-known sorcerer from Rome," Vail piped up. "But you've been cursed into the body of a child and Master Salazar's been looking for ways to make you an adult again."

On one side of Harry, Ramona was muffling laughter into her hand, and he was tempted to join her, but they all looked so earnest.

"Alex and I think you've travelled forward in time," Morgan insisted, frowning at Ramona.

"Merlin and I think you've travelled back in time," Fane said and, on Harry's other side, Merlin nodded vigorously, smiling hopefully at Harry. "Every time we mention any of this to Ramona, though, she starts giggling."

Harry raised an eyebrow at the Hufflepuff. " 'Every time'?"

Ramona nodded and took a moment to calm her mirth before saying, "They told me shortly after the summer holiday."

"And you didn't tell me?" Harry complained. "Months of laughter, wasted."

"I thought you knew," Ramona replied, "and just hadn't corrected them because Salazar would have your head."

"Salazar will have my head, but I'm not going to spend the next six years dodging questions," Harry replied before looking around at the Slytherins, eyes dark with a promise. "If this ever passes beyond those of us in this room at this moment, I will personally cut out the tongue of the one who talks, then hand them over to Salazar. Clear?"

Everyone nodded, even Ramona.

Harry's expression brightened. "Excellent! Fane and Merlin have it, then; I'm from the future." He paused for a moment while they all digested that, then turned to stare at Nuala and ask, "An elf?"

"You get on so well with the house-elves..." she explained, sinking down in her seat.

"House-elves are naturally friendly," Harry offered gently. "I honestly don't know if they'd treat an elf any different than a human." He glanced towards Vail, then. "Do I want to know?"

"You know primarily Latin-based spells?" Vail said with a shrug. "And you're a lot better than the rest of us, so it makes sense you'd be way older."

"No, I've just been a student of Hogwarts since I was eleven," Harry replied drily. "And we use primarily Latin-based spells. In fact–" he frowned, "–I don't think I learned an Englisc or Welsh spell until I got here."

"So, wait, are you teaching us spells that don't exist yet?" Alexander asked, frowning in thought.

Harry shrugged. "Who knows. There's not enough proper written documentation of spells at this time for me to say which spells I know actually exist and which I'm bringing through from the future. Depending on the philosophical approach you take to time travel, it's possible these spells only exist because I taught them to you lot. In essence, no one truly created them; they exist only because I taught them to others, having learned them when they were passed down through the centuries."

There was a moment of silence, then Alexander commented, "I think I understood that."

Harry laughed. "Time travel is nothing but a headache, no matter how far through it you travel," he offered. "Easiest not to think about it."

"I'm getting that impression," Morgan muttered, massaging his forehead.

"Don't you ever consider the implications of teaching us things that don't exist otherwise?" Merlin asked quietly, watching Harry with a hint of the insight that would one day make him the most famed of wizards.

"All the time," Harry replied, shaking his head.

"Sometimes," Ramona added and everyone looked at her, "when we're talking about things, Harry will start to say something, then suddenly stop. When that happens, he won't say anything else for a while." She smiled at him. "I never know if you're avoiding talking about things you think will ruin the timeline, or whoever it was that sent you here."

Harry shrugged. "Both," he allowed.

"How did you get sent here?" Vail wondered, greed in his eyes.

Harry's expression closed and he got to his feet. "Did you leave the other students wondering where you'd gone off to without a word?" he asked, light tone a sharp contrast to the blankness of his eyes.

"But–"

"Shut up, Vail," Morgan hissed.

"We told them we wanted to make sure nothing had happened," Fane offered with a grin that was just a little strained, and Harry was certain he was remembering the scars on Harry's back. "Just because you're the most likely person for Salazar to talk to if something's wrong doesn't mean we don't worry, after all."

"I snuck out without a word," Ramona commented, standing and stretching. "Should probably head back before Manfred starts to wonder, though. He gets a little jealous when he thinks I'm sneaking off with you," she added, slipping an arm through Harry's.

"What does he expect will happen? I'm going to suddenly realise you're the girl of my dreams and talk you into both dumping him and having a bonding ceremony all at once?" Harry muttered as he led the way to the door, the other Slytherins rising to follow him and Ramona.

"Well, you are handsome enough–" Ramona started, eyes dancing.

"Desist," Harry ordered. "And tell Manfred you're far too obnoxious for me to consider living with full time."

Ramona laughed. "Harry, one of these days, I will get you to accept a compliment."

"Ramona, please," Harry said, sighing.

Ramona squeezed his arm in silent acquiesce. "So, holiday in a few weeks," she said over her shoulder at the following Slytherins. "You lot excited to be going home?"

"No," Alexander spoke up when no one else seemed inclined to answer. "My tutor's going to be brutal after I've been gone for so long; he was quite upset when Father decided Hogwarts would be the better education."

"What's your tutor again?" Harry wondered, having heard about the tutor in the past. "A transfiguration master, right? Like Rowena?"

"He is," Alexander agreed.

"Let me think about something and get back to you," Harry murmured, frowning in thought.

"At least now we sort of know why he does that," Vail commented and Harry flashed a smile over his shoulder at him.

-0-

"Have you considered hiring on more teachers yet?" Harry asked Salazar that night, after the other Slytherins had made for bed.

Salazar looked up at him from where he was writing something at the table. "It hasn't come up, no. Why?"

Harry shrugged and pulled his feet up onto the couch, resting his chin on his knees. "You'll have to consider it eventually. Beyond the question of what they'll do when you and I leave, you'll soon have too many students to continue teaching them like you are. I mean, sure, you can pair a couple Houses together for my year, but then you'll have twice the students, and it'll help to have a second teacher there to take some of the weight."

Salazar considered that for a moment, then nodded. "Given. We haven't really spoken about how next year will look, though it does depend, a bit, on how many new students we get."

"Slim pickings this year," Harry agreed with a crooked smile.

Salazar snorted. "Indeed. What brought this on? Beyond discussing your history with the rest of our snakes?"

Harry couldn't help but grin at the dual possession of the other Slytherins. "Alex was complaining about his tutor again. He's a master of transfiguration, like Rowena, and he threw a bit of a fit because Alex was going to be learning from someone else. Thought it might be an idea to look into bringing him on board and lessening Rowena's load a bit."

"Which evolved into seeing if we couldn't find additional teachers for other subjects." Salazar nodded, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "I can certainly mention it to the others and we can put out feelers this holiday while we're looking for students." He grimaced. "I should look into replacements."

Harry shrugged and nodded. "I mean, you can always pull out one of the students in my year and set them up to succeed you in one of your classes."

"Hm. I don't quite trust anyone enough to let them teach potions, but Duana is a natural healer, when she's not cringing away from blood."

Harry chuckled. "I can try working with her about that this summer," he offered.

Salazar nodded, then pinned Harry with a sharp look. "The others may well ask you if they can groom you for their positions."

Harry sighed. "I know. I suppose I can tell them I intend to spend some time after Hogwarts hunting down my attacker."

"And after?" Salazar pressed, both of them aware that the other Founders would press Harry to return, given how much they liked having him around.

"I'll see how I feel after some time away," Harry said simply. "Perhaps I'll have found a wife and decided to settle down somewhere, making my own family. Nothing's certain."

"It'll have to do," Salazar decided, spelling his parchment dry and starting to roll it up. "Did you figure out how our snakes caught you out?"

"When I tried leaving during that first argument we had about you leaving without a word, the silencing wards weakened and they listened in." Harry's lip quirked with amusement. "Nuala decided I was an elf from an alternate world, and Vail thought I was some sort of master sorcerer from Rome."

"Gods forbid they think up something plausible," Salazar muttered.

Harry's smile widened. "The others thought it was time travel, but they were a bit divided on the direction. Apparently, they'd warned Ramona about everything when they got back from summer holidays and she's been having a good laugh at their expense."

Salazar snorted and rose from his seat. "I'm heading for bed," he commented.

Harry shoved himself out of the couch and followed Salazar to the Founder's room. Once the door was closed and the wards raised, Salazar pulled Harry to him for a kiss. Their noses bumped once, both tilting their heads in the same direction; they sorted themselves and pressed their lips together, briefly, before their mouths opened and their tongues brushed against each other, gently and then with more and more force.

"Am I spending the night?" Harry asked when they finally pulled apart.

Salazar considered that for a moment, then replied, "Do you want to?"

"Yes."

"Then you're staying the night," Salazar decided, running his hand through Harry's hair.

Harry smiled and nodded towards the bed. "That way, then?"

Salazar nodded and they shuffled towards the bed, both a little uncertain about what would happen next. "I don't know that I have anything for you to sleep in," Salazar said. "I mean, I could lend you a tunic, but I know you–"

"Prefer sleeping in trousers?" Harry suggested with a quiet laugh, remembering the nights they'd slept in the common together, before the dorms had been finished, and discussions about what they slept in. "It's okay. Tanwen?"

The phoenix appeared before the two wizards in a flash of pale blue flame, trilling her pleasure at seeing the two together at long last.

"Could you get my pyjamas from the bottom of my bed?" Harry requested as Salazar slipped away to get the over-long tunic he always slept in. (Harry privately thought of it as a nightgown, though he'd never mentioned that to Salazar.)

Tanwen let out a quiet trill of irritation at doing what was more the duty of a house-elf, but still flamed away to do as asked. She returned just long enough to drop Harry's pyjama bottoms on his head, then vanished back to her perch in Harry's empty room.

"Tanwen!" Harry hissed, staring down out the trousers. "I meant my shirt, too, you bloody chicken!"

Salazar snorted in amusement and smiled at Harry. "You may have to get the top yourself," he commented.

"I know," Harry agreed, resigned. The only reason he'd been wearing a shirt was to hide his back and avoid the questions of his fellow students, and Salazar had already seen them, at their worst, even. "It's fine," he decided and slipped into Salazar's privy to relieve himself and change.

Once Harry was finished, he left his clothing on the floor next to the bed on what appeared to be his side, then slipped in under the covers next to Salazar. The Founder drew him closer, fingers brushing against the burn scars covering Harry's back and the teen flinched at the unusual touch. "All right?" Salazar whispered.

Harry nodded and rested a hand against Salazar's waist. "People don't usually touch my back," he admitted. It was a touch he'd shied away from, not wanting to face the questions if someone felt them through his tunic, though he was otherwise perfectly content to initiate and receive touch. Those who had been in the castle when he'd first arrived had understood, though only Salazar and Godric had ever seen the scars, and Fane had been much more cognisant about Harry's refusal to let his back be touched after he'd seen the scars, for all that he'd never mentioned them again.

Salazar ran his hand up Harry's back, brushing over the bumps and valleys with the gentle touch of a healer and Harry relaxed against him, touching his forehead to Salazar's. "I wish I could have healed them completely," Salazar breathed.

Harry shook his head. "I'm used to scars," he said, the mark of failed death burned into his forehead warm against Salazar's skin.

"Still," Salazar murmured, resting his hand against the top of Harry's trousers, underneath which the scarring continued.

Harry shook his head again. "You saved my life," he insisted quietly. "Scars are nothing next to that simple fact."

"I know," Salazar replied before tilting his head down and brushing his lips against Harry's. "And I'm grateful."

Harry pressed closer to the Founder, twisting his head until he could get a proper kiss, Salazar met him without hesitation and they lost themselves in each other again, Salazar's hand hot on Harry's bare back.

"Fuck," Harry breathed against Salazar lips between kisses.

"What?" Salazar breathed back, not as curious about Harry slipping into his native English as he usually was.

"I'm hard," Harry whispered, cheeks colouring and trying not to give into his hips' need to press against the older wizard.

It took Salazar a moment to understand what Harry meant, then, flushing himself, he used the hand on Harry's lower back to guide their crotches together and they both let out hisses of relief at the contact. "Makes two of us," he admitted.

Harry couldn't stop his hips from jerking against Salazar and they both groaned as fire shot through them. "Yes," Harry whispered before pressing his mouth to Salazar's again.

Almost without thought, their legs tangled together, Salazar's tunic catching until he reached down and hiked it up so they could slide together, legs serving as friction for their lower minds while their mouths slurped against each other, wet and hot. Salazar's hand pressed tight against Harry's lower back, a couple fingers slipping under his trousers to brush against more scars and the top of Harry's arse cleft. Harry moaned into their kiss at the warmth pressing at his lower back and slipped a hand under the bottom of Salazar's tunic, grabbing at his hip and earning him a moan from the elder as they pressed faster, harder, hotter–

Harry came first, jerking his head back and groaning as his hips stilled and fireworks broke across the shifting beams of light the lake water left on the ceiling and walls. Salazar managed a couple more jerks of his hips before he pressed his face against Harry's collarbone, biting the skin to silence his voice as the world spiralled into white bliss.

Contentment stole over both men as the sharp pleasure faded away. Salazar retained just enough sense to cast a cleaning charm on them, then cuddled against the younger wizard and dropped off to sleep.

Harry soothed his thumb over the spot on Salazar's hip he'd gripped and slipped into his Occlumency practice, too used to the nightly repetition to get to sleep without it, no matter how tired he was. For once, instead of phoenix song, he focussed his thoughts on the feel of Salazar pressed against him, one hand warm against the scars left by a golden net, and he fell into an easy sleep once his mind was organised.

-0-

The lake water outside Salazar's room window had yet to light with dawn when the Founder woke. He was strangely content, he thought, before the night before caught up with him and a flush travelled across his cheeks and nose and down his neck to bloom over his chest. He cracked one eye open, half afraid the other side of the bed would be empty, but Harry still lay there, face peaceful in sleep in a way that it never was while he was awake, the pressures of hiding myriad secrets keeping him from ever quite letting go. Salazar hated that Harry had to keep himself so tightly contained, but he was also unspeakably glad that he did, because that meant Salazar was the only one who could see him at peace.

Almost as if the thought had woken him, Harry's eyes flickered open, blinking a few times as if waiting for the world to resolve itself. Then the darker green eyes met Salazar's paler shade and Harry smiled even as red dusted his cheeks and nose. "Good morning," he whispered, voice thick with sleep.

Salazar reached up with a heavy hand and brushed a lock of hair out of Harry's eyes. "Good morning," he whispered back.

Harry gifted him with the brightest, most open smile Salazar had seen from him, and his heart thrummed loudly in his ears, almost drowning out the sudden knowledge that he couldn't see himself living without Harry.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked as something changed in Salazar's expression, beyond what the teen could follow.

Salazar swallowed, throat tight, and he whispered, "I think...I love you..."

Harry, who'd always been more than a little awkward around affection, for once had no trouble pressing forward and brushing his lips over Salazar's, certain that actions would speak louder than words.

Salazar initiated a deeper kiss, soothed by the wordless promise of returned affection.

"If we keep on," Harry gasped against Salazar's lips as he pulled back a touch, "we're going to have a repeat of last night."

"Good," Salazar hissed, language edging on Parseltongue, and Harry shivered at the strange quality of the word, shifting through so many languages in his mind. Then Salazar's hand was pressing hot against the scars of his back and Harry decided it wasn't such a bad idea to go again.

Chapter Text

Harry and Salazar had always been the last two to bed and the first two to to rise – a mix of their own personalities and the practice of Occlumency – so they had no trouble evading detection by the others who lived in the dorm. Things became even simpler once everyone had gone home for the summer holidays, giving the two wizards the chance to curl up on one of the couches together after dinner. Harry had pretty much moved into Salazar's room by the second day of the holiday, leaving only enough in his usual room to give the appearance of his continued residence there.

The only person Harry hadn't even bothered trying to hide his new relationship from was Ramona, figuring she'd catch him out within a few days of the end of term, anyway. Salazar had agreed, grudgingly, when Harry had brought it up, then left the whole thing in his hands, so he'd hunted her down on the first day of the holidays and spilled the news. She'd been ecstatic, but also a little sad to learn that, if their relationship lasted – and both she and Harry prayed it would – Salazar would be leaving with Harry in six years.

It had been a little odd for everyone to have Salazar around more often than not, but they got used to it, and it became common to hear Salazar and Godric snark at each other over a meal until Bernia or Harry elbowed one of them to shut them up.

Salazar had mentioned the additional teachers idea to the other Founders and their spouses. They'd all agreed it was an excellent idea and Harry had suggested to Alexander before he left that he might invite his tutor to join them next autumn. As such, in addition to hunting down prospective students, they also looked for mature wizards and witches willing to assist in teaching at Hogwarts.

The first story of success came from Godric some weeks into the holiday. He'd strutted into the Great Hall like he owned the place and, as soon as he'd taken his seat, announced, "I have found both a student and a new teacher for magical defence." He smirked down the table at Salazar. "And you can't have him."

"Why would I want anything to do with one of the students you chose?" Salazar replied coolly.

"Why, he shares your family name," Godric replied.

Salazar froze for half a moment before carefully setting the chicken he'd been about to eat back on his plate and requesting, "His given name?"

"Angus," Godric reported. "He told me his father is named Edrick. Why, Salazar? Afraid we'll learn some terrible secret about your past from someone in your family?"

Salazar relaxed. "I doubt it," he said drily, "as I have never met most of my extensive family. As for this Angus, you may certainly have him; if he's so much to your liking, I'll probably hate him." He flashed Godric a cool smile.

Godric huffed down the table and they all returned to their meals, Godric boasting about his new teacher to the others while Salazar sat in silence and Harry watched him out of the corner of his eye.

When they got to the common, Harry drew Salazar down onto the couch in front of himself and rubbed at tense shoulders. "Will you talk to me?" he murmured.

Salazar was silent long enough that Harry thought he was going to be ignored. Eventually, though, he said, "I told you about my father. That he had Mum and then left her to take care of herself without even a goodbye?"

Harry nodded. Then, realising Salazar couldn't see him, agreed, "Yes. You said he had a bit of a history of doing that, too."

Salazar sighed. "I'm not surprised I have siblings, or that they have children, but I hadn't expected to run into them at Hogwarts, though I should have."

"It's possible you've met a sibling before," Harry said philosophically, "but if you didn't exchange life stories or, at the least, the name of your father, you'd never know." He fell silent for a minute to work out a particularly angry knot curled to the side of Salazar's spine. "At least you have some warning, this time."

"True. And I know that Godric favours him, which tells me something of what he's like," Salazar agreed, relaxing against Harry and twisting to place a slightly awkward kiss on his lips. "What would I do without you?"

"You'd have knots in your back," Harry snarked. "Sit back up, I wasn't done."

Snorting in amusement, Salazar did as ordered.

-0-

A couple nights after Godric's excitement over finding a student and a teacher, Salazar and Harry were interrupted during a debate about something Harry had read during the reading time before lunch by the common room entrance slamming open and Ramona rushing in.

"Good evening," Harry said drily as the girl caught her breath. "Where's the fire?"

"Not fire," Ramona insisted, still a bit out of breath. "Sigrid, from Rowena's House, and his family just portkeyed into the Great Hall. Alive," she added when she saw the memories of last summer in their eyes. "Some wounds, though, so they sent me to get you two."

"Tanwen," Salazar called, standing from the couch, and the phoenix appeared in a burst of pale blue flame, resting on his extended arm.

"Come on," Harry called to Ramona as he stood, placing his hand on Salazar's shoulder and bracing himself for travel by fire – he hadn't done it many times, and he always managed to land on his behind unless well prepared.

Ramona hurried over and took hold of Salazar's other arm. Tanwen let out a trill, then the world disappeared in a flash of heatless blue fire before reforming into the Great Hall.

"Thank you," Salazar murmured to the phoenix as he started over to the wounded family, leaving Harry to help Ramona to her feet.

"The number of times I've seen Salazar flame into existence without even a wobble, you'd think phoenix travel was easy," Ramona muttered, dusting down her gowns.

"It takes practice," Harry replied, amused. "Come on, I need to see if I can help any."

While Harry and Salazar looked after the family and Rowena asked her student what, exactly, had happened, the others set about having rooms prepared for Sigrid's parents, aunt, and two brothers.

Sigrid's family wasn't the only one to seek safety in the castle that summer, but his was the largest, as well as the only non-magical. Another Ravenclaw, Monica, fled to the school with her father and sister, while two Gryffindors, Iven Jackson and Martina, both fled with their parents.

"It's a bit strange, though, that Slytherin and Hufflepuff have mostly remained unbothered," Duana commented one afternoon while the Founder's children, Harry, and Duana were clustered by Harry's usual tree, watching the other students staying the summer play with the two non-magical and one magical children.

"There was Mavis, last year, and we've had Fiona staying with us nearly as long as you and Harry," Ramona refused.

"Fiona doesn't count," Kenric disagreed. "It was her parents that threw her out, not her villagers. But, Mavis..." He looked sadly up towards where Harry was seated on his branch.

"Slytherins and Hufflepuffs tend to be the less noticeable of the Houses," Harry commented, eyes sad at the reminder of his dead friend. "You Gryffindors like getting into fights, and Ravenclaws will argue a point to death." He glanced over at Helena, who shrugged in agreement, not bothering to look up from her book. "That makes you noticeable to non-magicals, especially if you don't think something through before testing a spell or reacting to something in anger."

"So, what about Mavis, then?" Duana asked uncertainly. "Shouldn't she have known how to keep her head down?"

"She did," Harry replied, shaking his head. "They'd been having a string of bad harvests, and her sister wasn't so careful with her magic."

"We're going to run out of room if families keep coming to join us," Helena pointed out, snapping her book shut.

"No way!" Kenric said. "The castle's way too big."

"If the family of every student comes seeking the safety of Hogwarts, we will," Helena stated.

"We will," Harry agreed before Kenric could argue otherwise. "And this is supposed to be a school, not a refuge. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's great that we're willing to take in everyone's families, magical or no, but Hogwarts wasn't meant for that." He looked towards the gates of the school, which were nowhere as impressive as they would one day be.

"What are you plotting?" Ramona asked.

"Not sure yet," Harry replied, thinking Hogsmeade would be a good place to set up refugee families, but uncertain if he should act to see it a reality.

"If safety is the problem," Conrad piped up, "why not find them a safe place outside the castle? Maybe a village that's just inside the castle wards? Ollivander could set up shop there, so he's closer to the school, and people can come and move in, protected and in a community that welcomes magic."

"That's not a bad idea," Duana agreed, grinning.

"We could go suggest it to our parents," Kenric suggested, bouncing in place a bit.

"I don't know..." Conrad started, frowning.

"It's a surprisingly intelligent suggestion," Helena cut in. "Mother will approve, I'm sure, and the others would be fools to disagree."

"Come on," Kenric ordered, tugging on Conrad's arm and pointing towards the castle. "Let's go."

Harry watched the group go with a smile, leaving him and Ramona behind. "So, what was your idea?" Ramona wondered.

"Conrad said it," Harry admitted. "A village just on the edge of the wards, welcoming to magic and safe from non-magical prosecution."

"It'll work?" Ramona pleaded.

"Of course it does," Harry agreed, smiling down at her. "In my time, there's a sweets shop and a joke shop and a couple pubs. Third years and up get to visit once a month as a sort of break from classes. It's small, but it's nice."

Ramona sighed. "I wish I could see your time," she admitted. "You always speak so fondly of it."

Harry's smile darkened with memories of dementors and facing down Voldemort year and again. "I only tell you the good bits," he said, shifting on his branch so he could look up through the leaves at the sky. "No time is as peaceful as we'd like."

Ramona looked up at him, heart breaking at the grim smile he wore. "Tell me more about this village?" she requested, trying for a casual tone and mostly managing. "You said they've a sweets shop?"

Harry's expression lightened. "They make the best fudge," he insisted.

"Fudge?"

Harry looked down at her, wincing. "Oh, right. Doesn't exist yet. Uhm..."

"Could you make me some?" Ramona asked, curious. "I promise I wouldn't try re-creating it."

Harry looked torn for a moment before nodding and jumping down. "Sure. Let's see if the Room can't provide me with a little help."

Ramona let out a squeal of delight and they turned for the castle together, Harry listing more sweets at her request.

In the end, the Room had been able to provide him with an alternate kitchen, as well as the ingredients he'd need to make some fudge. Ramona taught him a spell to speed up the setting of the chocolate once it was all mixed, then he cut them both a piece.

"This," Ramona informed him, eyeing the rest of the fudge, "is exquisite."

Harry laughed and cut her another piece. "I know. I sort of hate that chocolate doesn't exist yet – well, okay, chocolate doesn't exist in this part of the world. I've been craving it for ages."

"You're teaching me this recipe so I can make it for myself after you've left," Ramona ordered.

Harry snorted, but nodded. "You have to promise not to let anyone but my snakes have any, though. And, even then, only if they swear not to share it around."

"I know." Ramona rolled her eyes. "You know none of us would betray you, not even for something this delicious."

"I'm glad you think so," Harry said, cutting them both a few more pieces before carefully wrapping the rest and slipping it into a bottomless pouch he kept blocks of wood, some potions, and his writing things in.

"Are you going to hoard that?" Ramona asked, amused.

"I thought I might let Salazar try some..."

Ramona laughed.

-0-

By the end of the summer, construction on the new village had begun, and each of the Founders had managed to find one new teacher to help with one of their subjects: Rowena had signed on Alexander's tutor, Russell, to help with transfiguration and conjuring; Salazar had found a surprisingly friendly man named Sprague Sherrard to assist with potions; Helga had hunted down a capable herbologist, Nairne, to help her with the plants; and Godric had the tutor of Salazar's nephew, Bundy.

All of the new teachers arrived on Mabon, eight days before the students would start arriving. Since he apparently lived with Bundy, Salazar's nephew came with him, and Harry decided he disliked him pretty much on sight, when he flipped back his hair like some future model. When he opened his mouth, Harry only disliked him more.

"I am Angus Slytherin, son of Edrick Slytherin, son of–"

"We know who your grandfather is, boy," Salazar snapped, giving the boy a glance over before turning away to speak with Sprague.

"Who is that rude man?" Angus demanded of Harry and Helena, the only two students who'd wanted to be around to see the new teachers.

"Your uncle," Harry replied drily.

"He's Salazar Slytherin, one of your teachers," Helena snapped, frowning at Harry. "He deserves your respect far more than you do his."

Angus sniffed. "This is the first I've heard of him. He must be illegitimate."

"Was there another sort of child Silvanus had?" Harry wondered. "I mean, goodness, the man slept with so many women, I doubt he knows how many children he's got. Sad, that."

"My father is legitimate," Angus informed Harry, staring down his nose at the slightly shorter boy. "And you are?"

Harry lips curled with a cold smile. "No one you'd be interested in speaking to, I'm sure," he said before turning his back on the other boy. "Helena, have fun with Git the Younger."

Helena let out a startled snicker. "Go away before you actually insult someone," she ordered in one of the variations of Gaelic they both knew. According to what Godric had told them of the boy and the area he'd been living in, the chance of Angus knowing any language beyond Englisc was slimmer than slim.

"I always know where to draw the line," Harry informed her, glancing back at Angus and taking great pleasure in his angry and confused expression. Then he made for Salazar and Sprague. "Hello," he offered.

"Are you baiting Angus?" Salazar wondered, recognising the gleam in Harry's eyes from when he'd been 'common-training' Morgan.

"I would never be so rude as to bait your family," Harry swore, putting on an insulted look. "Is your image of me truly so low?"

"I don't count him as family," Salazar pointed out.

"Oh." Harry grinned. "In that case, of course I'm baiting him. I think he's worse than Morgan was with that ridiculous entitlement nonsense; like how high you are on the social ladder really matters when it comes to casting spells." He rolled his eyes, then turned to the smiling Sprague. "Hello. I'm Harry."

Sprague offered him a hand and they shook. "Greetings. Salazar has made mention of you."

"All good, I hope," Harry replied, gaze flickering towards Salazar.

"It certainly sounded like little more than praise," Sprague allowed.

"Salazar? Praising me? Has the world come to an end?"

"Go outside and cheat at whatever game your flock is playing," Salazar ordered, pointing towards the doors of the Great Hall. "And take Angus with you so I don't have to look at him."

"You don't mind if I break him?" Harry asked, widening his eyes comically.

"No."

Harry grinned, then returned to where Angus seemed to be starting to get on Helena's nerves. "We've been ordered to leave the adults to their socialising," he announced. "All of us," he added as Angus puffed his chest to refuse.

"I don't listen to you," the new Gryffindor snapped as Helena made her retreat, leaving Angus to Harry.

Harry raised an eyebrow, then looked towards Godric, Bernia, and Bundy. "Godric!" he called.

The Founder turned to look at the two students. "What?"

"Do you want me to introduce Angus to the others?"

"Yes. Go, do," Godric ordered before turning back to his conversation.

Harry smiled innocently at the scowling Angus. "Now you do," he informed him before grabbing his arm and half dragging him out of the Great Hall.

"Unhand me this instant, beggar," Angus demanded once they were past the doors.

Harry smiled and continued dragging Angus along, humming to himself to cover up the other boy's orders. Once outside, he introduced Angus around, all obnoxious smiles and pointless small-talk that left Angus growling in disgust and his fellow students in stitches.

"You've met everyone, so you're free to mingle on your own," Harry said at last as he let go of Angus' arm.

Angus scowled at him. "And if I don't wish to...'mingle'?"

Harry's smile widened. "Then you can go inside long enough for the teachers to order you back outside because they're too busy to keep an eye on you; your choice." Then he turned and walked back over to where Ramona, Conrad, Duana, and Kenric were laughing together. "Kenny, Duana, you have Salazar's permission to do whatever you think necessary to make him lose the holier-than-thou attitude."

"Sounds like fun," Duana decided while Kenric's eyes took on a decidedly evil gleam.

The five of them threw around more and more evil plots for the new Gryffindor for a few minutes before they were interrupted by the hissing of Parseltongue and everyone looked over at where Angus had found a snake and was complimenting it. Desensitised by Salazar's regular conversations with himself, they all turned away, though Harry kept one ear open, well used to both processing Parseltongue and paying attention to others without seeming to be multitasking.

Within a few minutes, Harry was glad he had kept an ear on the conversation, as the compliments suddenly changed to Angus ordering, :There are unworthy ones here, ones who pollute this castle and her grounds. Inject them with your poison, my sweet, so they might be gone all the sooner.:

:Which ones, young Speaker?: the snake hissed.

Harry was already turning towards Sigrid's two non-magical brothers, having lived too many years with hatred aimed at those without magic, when Angus hissed, :The two in this direction,: and pointed the snake towards the two brothers.

:Don't you dare,: Harry spat, fury in his hissed words, and everyone turned to stare at him in shock while both the snake and Angus froze, Angus paling. "Benedict, Derwin, come over here," Harry ordered of the two non-magicals in Englisc, eyes narrowed at the Parselmouth sitting in the grass. Once the children were safe among the many scents of the other students, Harry stepped towards Angus, green eyes burning with fury. :You dare to threaten my nestlings?: he demanded of the other boy.

:They are an aberration!: Angus spat. :Polluting Hogwarts with their magic-less breath, staining her land with their poisoned sweat and blood. And you would claim them as nestmates?:

:I claim them as my nestlings because it's my responsibility to see to their safety, you fool boy,: Harry snapped. :Get up, we're going inside.:

:I thought the teachers would just kick us back out,: Angus hissed, smug.

:I said they'd kick you out because they're too busy to keep an eye on you,: Harry replied before gentling his tone and crouching down next to the snake, who had been watching and listening to the two Parselmouths intently. :Please return to the forest where you'll be safe from careless feet.:

The snake bobbed its head. :I won't harm your nestlings, Speaker,: it promised before slithering towards the forest.

Harry smiled after it for a moment before looking over at the students. "Angus and I are going inside for a bit to speak with Godric and Salazar," he told them in an easy tone. "Let the snake make its way back to the forest in peace, okay?"

"We'll be fine," Ramona promised, one arm wrapped comfortingly around Derwin's – the youngest of the brothers – shoulders.

"I know you will be," Harry replied before motioning Angus to precede him towards the castle.

Away from the students, Angus glanced back at Harry and said, "You must be another illegitimate son or grandson, then."

"I'm not related to your family," Harry said shortly.

"You're a Parselmouth," Angus pointed out, as if that should be all the proof he needed.

"So I am," Harry agreed, not bothering to say anything further to that.

When they slipped into the entrance hall, they found the teachers dispersing to lead their new additions to their commons, where rooms had been set up for them. "Salazar, Godric," Harry called, catching the attention of all the adults with his grim tone. "We need to talk."

"Of course," Salazar agreed. "Roscoe, could you show Sprague to my common?"

"Certainly, Salazar," Roscoe agreed, leaving Helga with Nairne and motioning Sprague along.

Godric had left Russell with Bernia and joined the two students with a worried frown. Once Salazar had joined them, he motioned for them to follow him past the stairwells to the grouping of empty rooms. Once the door had closed behind them, the tall man turned and asked, "What's happened?"

"Angus set a snake on Sigrid's brothers for being non-magical," Harry reported coolly.

Godric smiled uncertainly. "How can you be certain?" he wondered. "I know you might have picked up some of the serpent tongue from Salazar–"

"I've always been a Parselmouth," Harry said, one eyebrow raised.

"What?" Salazar hissed, eyes disbelieving. "How can you–?"

:You say some of the most interesting things when you think no one can understand you,: Harry hissed, lips curled with smug amusement at the shocked expression on the Founder's face. :You can't have expected I'd tell you, Salazar, just like I'd not expect you to tell me if you learned my language without my knowledge.:

:You're infuriating,: Salazar informed him. :And we'll be talking about this, later.:

:Of course,: Harry agreed easily.

Salazar looked at Godric. "That's not picked up," he informed the other man. "If Harry says he heard Angus tell the snake to go after those boys, I believe him."

Godric sighed and frowned disapprovingly at his new student. "Angus," he said, "at Hogwarts, we believe in treating everyone equally, no matter their social status or their ability to use magic; you cannot go around threatening other people in the castle just because they don't have magic."

"Those without magic shouldn't be in a magical school to begin with," Angus insisted.

"Helga's husband, Roscoe, is non-magical," Salazar cut in. "He's one of your teachers and a respected member of the staff of this school. More-over, he helped ready this building for use as a school; he has just as much right to be here as any of the rest of us, magic or no."

"I see," Angus replied in a tone that set Harry's teeth on edge.

Godric's eyes narrowed. "To continue residing in this school, I will require a magical oath from you," he said.

"A magical oath?" Angus demanded.

Godric inclined his head. "That you will never again try harming a non-magical."

Angus looked towards Salazar, as if hoping for an ally, but Salazar simply raised an eyebrow at him as if to say, 'Well?' Angus turned back to Godric, anger in his eyes, and pulled out his wand to swear, "I, Angus Slytherin, hereby swear upon my magic that I will never again purposefully harm a non-magical unless in self-defence."

There were some raised eyebrows at the clause, but none of them could deny him the right to defend himself, so they murmured, "So mote it be," and the magic snapped into place.

"You two may return to your peers," Godric told them, glancing towards Harry and asking with his eyes that the teen keep an eye on his new student.

"Of course," Harry agreed, motioning for Angus to precede him out of the room.

Outside, Angus was left to scowl to himself while Harry joined the other Founders' children and Duana, all of whom were watching the new student with frowns. "He'll behave himself," he told them. "He's given his oath."

"A magical oath?" Helena demanded, blue eyes hard.

Harry nodded. "Like any of us would have let him get away with anything less."

"What was he trying to do, anyway?" Duana asked, worried. "I mean, it looked like he was setting the snake on Benedict and Derwin–"

"He was," Harry allowed quietly. "He's of the belief that those without magic are a plague upon our world and, above all else, shouldn't be allowed on Hogwarts grounds."

"What about Daddy?" Ramona breathed while the other four shot the boy in question disgusted looks.

Harry offered her a grim smile and said, "It doesn't matter, he can't harm them again. Not unless he wants to lose his magic, and that would make him the same as a non-magical."

"We'll watch him, all the same," Duana said, Kenric nodding with a frown next to her.

Harry's smile lightened. "I know you will," he said and they both grinned. He glanced at Ramona. "Best to watch him around Wilda, though; I've found that these prejudices often come in sets, and Godric won't call him out about hating a werewolf."

"We'll make sure she knows and keeps someone with her," Ramona agreed quietly. It was the same thing they'd done the first half of last year, uncertain how people would react to the werewolf, especially given Godric's hatred towards her. "I hope it won't be necessary, though."

"Me too," Harry murmured, glancing over at the new boy.

They were all quiet for a moment, then Helena said, "Mother told me it was impossible to teach Parseltongue via the Translator's Charm."

Harry smiled. "I'm a born Parselmouth. I never mentioned it because it never came up. Also, I learn a lot more from Salazar through listening to him mutter in Parseltongue than I do listening to him speak a human tongue."

"Okay, that's not a bad point," Conrad commented. "I've always wondered what sort of stuff he keeps to himself. Anything interesting?"

"I suppose that depends on your point of view," Harry replied with a knowing smile. "I'm sure he's said all sorts of things that would be of interest to you."

"You're not going to tell us, are you?" Duana asked, resigned.

"No, sorry." Harry shrugged. "What's said in the House of snakes, stays in the House of snakes."

They all moaned and groaned a bit before talk turned, instead, to their hopes for the new year.

-0-

As soon as Sprague had retired for the night, Salazar crooked a finger for Harry to follow him and they retired to the man's room. As soon as the silencing wards were up, Salazar shoved Harry against the door, eyes narrowed. "You're a Parselmouth."

"So I am," Harry agreed, tugging one of his hands against Salazar's hold until it tightened, showing he was well and truly captured. "You're not truly angry with me," he pointed out.

Salazar's grip on Harry's wrists relaxed. "I'm not," he agreed. "If I'd found out before we got together, I would have been." He'd said all sorts of incriminating things about his feelings for Harry in Parseltongue, though Harry hadn't caught on until after Ramona had informed him about what was really going on with his and Salazar's feelings.

Harry smiled and slipped one of his hands up to brush a lock of hair behind Salazar's ear. "I know," he murmured.

Salazar's eyes glinted suddenly and he reached up to grab Harry's chin. "Fair's fair, my little serpent; teach me your language."

Harry took barely a breath to debate that – he'd long acknowledged that he would have to eventually, given that Salazar was coming back with him – before pulling out his wand, concentrating on his native English, and whispering, "Efengedæle geþéode."

Salazar let out a quiet gasp and rested his forehead against Harry's, eyes tightly closed, as connections were made in his mind and so many new words – words he didn't have anything to relate to – appeared in a flood. He knew, without question, that he would need to sink into his mind and let his unconscious deal with this information and he gasped out, "I need to sit," not even sure what language he was speaking.

Harry, frowning in concern, helped Salazar to the bed and settled in next to him as the Founder's breathing slowed into the state of meditation used for Occlumency. Knowing well enough not to disturb him, Harry remained seated next to Salazar, nervously flipping one of his knives between his hands and healing the occasional cut when he fumbled it without much thought.

As soon as Salazar's eyes opened, Harry said, "I'm sorry. I thought it might do that, because there's so much more to name in the future, and I should have warned you–"

"Harry," Salazar interrupted, his mind settled with the new language. "Given the number of times you've had to explain a concept that you need only one or two words for, I'm hardly surprised at the amount of information." He paused to watch Harry's expression relax. "Now, you're going to have to explain some of these things to me."

Harry shifted his eyes away, uncertain. "Salazar, they're future concepts. It's bad enough you have names for them, do you really think it's a good idea that I give you images and explanations for those words?"

Salazar sighed in regret. "No, I suppose not. But, as soon as we get to your time, you're explaining everything."

Harry smiled at him. "We'll make a date of it," he agreed.

Salazar smiled back, no longer needing to ask Harry to explain his odd words, though it did take a moment for his mind to make the connections. "I look forward to it."

-0-

Angus spent most of the next week sitting alone or with his ex-tutor. He was especially careful to avoid anyone he knew was non-magical, which earned him more than a couple frowns from Godric, but which his self-appointed minders amongst the children appreciated.

When the returning students arrived, those who'd spent the summer in the castle made sure to warn them about Angus' prejudice, as well as the revelation that Harry was a Parselmouth, which then forced Harry to, laughingly, turn down all questions about what Salazar muttered to himself when he thought no one could understand him.

The new teachers sat at the table of the House they were residing with and were quickly introduced around. For the most part, the Slytherins didn't seem to have anything against Sprague, but they were cautious around him, not quite as quick to joke and careful about what subjects came up.

On the way back to the common, Harry fell back from his usual spot with Salazar at the lead of their group to walk next to Fane at the end. Merlin, who had a bad habit of walking at Harry's heels, ended up walking just ahead of the eldest two students while the other three boys and Nuala filled in the gaps as if it was nothing unusual.

"What's going on?" Harry murmured to Fane.

Fane smiled innocently at Harry. "Going on? Why, nothing."

"That hasn't worked on me once in the year and a half that we've known each other, Fane, why bother with it now?" Harry asked, amused. "Come, now. Tell Mummy Harry what's the matter."

"You're a little messed in the head, Harry," Morgan commented from ahead of Merlin while the others snickered. "And I thought we weren't allowed to call you that."

"You're not, but I can call myself whatever I want," Harry said with a quick smile before narrowing his eyes at Fane. "Talk to me."

Fane sighed, but it was Merlin who said, "Our common has always been safe, a place to share secrets." He glanced back at Harry pointedly and Harry smiled in understanding. "But now we've got someone new getting in the way."

"Sprague is a fine person, though his sense of humour could use some help," Harry commented and they all smiled. "As for the secrets, you would have had this same problem starting tomorrow when the new students arrived. That Sprague is a teacher and not a student makes little difference, in that regard. You'll adapt, as you always have, and life will continue on."

"We don't have to like it, though," Morgan muttered as they reached the entrance to their common, Salazar giving the password to open it.

Harry tugged on a lock of Morgan's dark hair, smiling. "You don't," he agreed, "but nor do you want to irritate Salazar or myself by being difficult for the new teacher and students; we've enough trouble with Angus as it is."

"Are we allowed to torment him?" Alexander asked once they were all on the common.

"Nothing permanent," Harry declared. "And if you can't fix it yourself and bring him to me, I'll curse you."

"I second that," Salazar offered, staring at his students with only the faintest spark of amusement in his eyes. "Go put your things away." As the students, smiling, started towards their dorms, Salazar turned to Harry and said, :I assume whatever problems they had with Sprague have been handled?:

Harry shrugged and moved towards the Founder, noting the way his fellow Slytherins slowed their steps to observe him and Salazar conversing in the serpent tongue. :In as much as it can be,: he replied. :They weren't comfortable with a newcomer, having become used to the freedom to talk about my past in the common. It will take time, but they'll move past it.:

Salazar sighed and dropped into one of the couches. :I hope they move past it sooner, rather than later; I have no interest in finding a new teacher for potions.:

Harry snorted, curling up on the far end of the couch Salazar had claimed, needing the space to keep himself from leaning against the Founder. :Once Sprague sees them act just as uncertainly around the new girls, he'll figure out it's not just him they've a problem with and wait it out. I hope.:

"This is fascinating," Alexander commented as he claimed one of the couches for himself and Fane, who usually sat with him.

Harry and Salazar traded raised eyebrows, then Harry said, "Hush, Mummy and Daddy are talking."

The students grinned while Salazar reached over and smacked Harry's leg. In the chair he'd dragged over from the table, Sprague choked a bit and asked, "Mummy and Daddy?"

"Harry," Salazar hissed, a hint of panic in his voice that the students noticed, but went right over Sprague's head.

:Trust me,: Harry said, smiling calmingly at Salazar before turning to Sprague and explaining, "Beginning of last year, I got likened to this lot's mum, since Salazar was never around, so they came to me with their problems. After debating a bit about whether or not that made Ramona, who I was courting at the time, their dad, Morgan decided that, if I was their mum, Salazar had to be their dad."

"Harry threatened to curse any of us if we used it, though," Nuala piped up. "Can't we call you mummy?"

"No," Harry said, scowling.

"If you're going to refer to yourself as our mum, we have the right to call you that," Fane pointed out with an easy smile.

"I will turn you pink," Harry threatened.

"Pink isn't so bad," Merlin decided with a grin. "Mummy."

"Coloro puniceus et malum," Harry snapped, pointing his wand at Merlin. Everyone sort of stared at Merlin – who's skin had turned a mottled neon pink and neon orange – then burst out laughing, Merlin joining in after a moment of blinking at his hands.

"I want red and purple!" Nuala declared. "Mummy, red and purple!"

"I'll take blue and green, Mummy," Fane added, grinning a bit madly.

Rolling his eyes, Harry shot the Colouring Charm at them, more amused than irritated. It helped that he was in a relationship with Salazar, now, rather than courting Ramona or pining after the Founder.

Nuala turned hopefully towards Salazar, her pale hair and eyes a sharp relief against the mixed purple and dark red Harry had turned her skin. "Can we–?"

"I will curse your tongue out and use it in a potion," Salazar interrupted.

"You need more fun in your life," Harry informed the Founder. When Salazar's frown didn't lighten, Harry sighed and switched to Parseltongue to say, :It's only a bit of fun, Salazar. No one's taking it seriously.:

:Godric might,: Salazar muttered.

:You spend far too much time fighting with Godric over stupid stuff to start worrying about what he'd think if he heard our students referring to us as their parents. If he's going to be disturbed by anything, it's going to be me allowing them to call me Mum, not the fact that they're treating the two of us as their parents.:

:Good. So you can worry about his prejudice,: Salazar spat. :You think I want–:

:I'm not afraid of Godric!: Harry snapped. :I've faced far more terrifying wizards than Godric Gryffindor, and I've faced them alone. Unless you're planning to abandon me to deal with his ridiculous homophobia alone–:

:Of course not! What do you take me for?:

Harry smiled. :It's only fun,: he promised. :They're stressed at having a new face in their safe space and they want something to laugh about.:

Salazar snorted. "I won't answer to any form of 'Dad'," he declared, looking over the staring students. "However, 'Father'..."

The Slytherins smiled, relaxing in their seats. "It fits you better," Morgan agreed.

"Can I make a complaint about you two being able to have entire, secret conversations while the rest of us are in the room?" Vail requested. "Because, uhm, not fair."

"Your complaint has been noted and ignored," Salazar replied drily and the students let out exaggerated groans.

"So!" Fane leant forward, blue eyes highlighted by the rings of darker blue around them. "New students?"

"Is this going to become a yearly thing?" Harry wondered. "You pestering me for information about the new students?"

"This time, Mummy, I'm asking you and Father," Fane said, grinning.

"I'm going to regret this rather quickly, aren't I?" Salazar muttered, rubbing at his eyes.

Harry rolled his eyes at the Founder. "Fane, if I wouldn't tell you last year, what makes you think I'd tell you this year?"

"An eternal spring of hope?" Merlin suggested.

" 'Hope springs eternal'," Harry corrected, having muttered the phrase around his Housemates in the past. It wasn't the first time one of them had bastardised it, but, then, Harry was starting to get used to people bastardising phrases he'd grown up with.

"Are there any girls?" Nuala requested, hopeful. She'd ended up sleeping in Harry's room on a conjured bed more than once last year when the girl's hall got too quiet for her. Harry had almost suggested she move into the last room on the boy's hall to feel less lonely, but hadn't been sure how Salazar or the other boys would react to it.

"Yes," Harry agreed.

The students leaned forward, a bit expectant, then let out groans when Harry didn't say anything further.

They spent the next couple hours pestering Harry and Salazar about the new students and getting comfortable around Sprague. Eventually, though, the students started yawning.

"Bed," Harry ordered. "Go on."

They sighed and, with minor grumbling, made for their rooms, Merlin, Vail, Nuala, and Fane all calling, "Good night, Mum. Good night, Father." Salazar snorted in response, but Harry grinned and called back good nights at them.

Sprague lasted another hour, discussing potions lessons with Salazar while Harry whittled and occasionally made a comment.

Once Sprague had turned in, Harry and Salazar made their way to bed, curling up together in Salazar's room.

"I don't want Godric to hurt you," Salazar whispered in the uncertain light of the lake water.

"I know," Harry replied. "But I'm really not afraid of him."

Salazar ran a hand up Harry's bare back, smiling at his shudder. "I know," he said. "That doesn't mean I don't worry."

Harry pressed a kiss to Salazar's lips. "I never said you couldn't," he murmured. "Now, let me work on my Occlumency."

Salazar let out a quiet laugh and settled in to sleep while Harry lost himself in his mind.

Chapter Text

The Slytherins managed to get used to having two new snakes and a teacher around quick enough, and Nuala was unspeakably glad to no longer be the youngest of the Slytherins, as well as no longer the only girl. Sprague managed to fit in well enough, though he was quickly forbidden from ever making a joke.

The 'Mum Harry' and 'Father Salazar' joke did, eventually, reach Godric's ears, but he thought it fantastic, rather than dangerously close to homosexuality. Salazar became a great deal more relaxed about the whole thing after Godric laughed at the joke, and if the other Slytherins noticed the sudden ease with which Salazar treated the joke, they kept it to themselves.

Angus kept a low profile during first term, cowed by the ever-watching eyes of his peers and Godric's disapproval. Word of pranks on the boy filtered back to Harry via his snakes, Duana, or the Founders' children. For the most part, they were harmless, but when word of the occasional harmful prank made it back to Harry, he would hunt down the perpetrator and have a nice long talk with them. The students, well used to him taking Salazar's place as Head of Slytherin House on weekends and being a fountain of magical knowledge, didn't refuse his sharp warnings and there was never a repeat from them.

After Yule, however, Angus returned with a new-found sense of superiority with which to face down his fellow students. He remained largely polite in his speech, but he often had a sense of looking down his nose at people. The only ones he showed any respect to were his teachers – save Roscoe, whom he dealt with by ignoring unless the non-magical spoke to him specifically – and Harry, who he had decided was a relative, though an illegitimate one, and therefore deserved some form of respect. (Harry had thought he'd earned the lack of snob because most of the school saw him on par with the teachers, but Kenric, who'd asked, had learnt differently.)

Shortly after the end of the Yule holiday, Harry finally mastered his animagus form: a raven. Salazar had been in the room when he managed it and had smiled at Harry as he stroked a finger down the feathers of the raven's chest. During the next full moon, Harry stayed with Wilda as a raven and, over the course of the next few months, they figured out a sort of game to play, which left Wilda with few or no self-inflicted scratches.

During the school year and following into the summer, various magical families – or non-magical families with magical children – moved into Hogwarts Village. Some had Hogwarts-age (between nine and sixteen) students that hadn't been known of previously, while others had students already in Hogwarts or who were too young to yet have enough control of their magic to teach them. The students staying at Hogwarts over the summer spent a lot of time in the village that summer, helping to get homes built and bring in the crops during the harvest.

Ollivander did, in fact set up shop in the village, which brought magical people from all over the Isles to Hogwarts Village. With all the fresh attention, the number of students doubled for the next year, and the teachers were wordlessly glad they'd looked into hiring on new teachers the year before and worked out a rough curriculum with them, as they suddenly had too many students to simply 'make do' with five main teachers and their assistants.

With the sudden influx of students, the teachers started looking at their first class for those students they could train as assistants or replacements for their subject. Harry and Velda, as the two oldest of their year, were asked by most of their teachers if they'd consider a proper apprenticeship under one of them. Velda quickly agreed to study arithmancy under Rowena, but Harry refused everyone, insisting he wanted to go out and see the world – maybe find a wife and have a family – before considering settling down anywhere.

After Harry's refusal, the teachers turned to other students to look for apprentices: Godric scouted one of his older Gryffindors, Diamond, to apprentice in the art of non-magical combat; Helga caught Vail to apprentice in charms, which had the boy absolutely dancing until Morgan wondered if that meant he'd have to relocate to the Hufflepuff dorms – he didn't – and Salazar called on Duana to apprentice in healing, as he'd said he would, and set her to taking care of Wilda on the mornings after the full moon.

Beyond suddenly needing more teachers, the influx of students also required a shifting in the dorms.

"Do it by year," Harry had insisted the first time Salazar brought it up, pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace. Morgan and Vail, both of whom had moved to Hogwarts Village with their parents, sat at the table, playing a card game Harry had taught them. Sprague was off in the forest, collecting rare ingredients for a couple potions he wanted to make, so the four males were unusually relaxed.

"By year?" Salazar repeated.

Harry nodded. "Yes. Say, put Fane, Morgan, Vail, and myself in one room, Merlin and Alex in the next, then the new boys. Nuala can keep her room on the girls' side, Ophelia and Vanora can share a room, and the new girls all get a room together."

"Is that how it's done in the future?" Vail asked.

Harry nodded, watching Salazar frown as he thought it over. Finally, the Founder hissed, :How would you explain never sleeping in your own bed?:

Harry stilled, thinking that one over. How, indeed. :Hope none of them wake up in the middle of the night and wonder where I am?: he suggested with a shrug. :I've never had trouble waking before them in the past.:

"I really hate it when you two do that," Morgan commented drily, as he did every time the two Parselmouths started hissing at each other.

"Sorry," Harry said, not even bothering to sound sincere.

Morgan snorted, then pointed out, "Harry's nearly as much a part of the staff as you are, Salazar; shouldn't he get his own room?"

"Indeed," Salazar murmured, looking thoughtfully towards Harry.

"Good idea," Vail agreed. "No way I want to be woken up every few nights when one of the new children has a nightmare and comes running to Mummy."

'Hadn't thought of that,' Harry thought with a grimace. Glancing towards Salazar, he knew that the elder wizard, too, had forgotten how the students looked to Harry for comfort; Mavis and Merlin had found solace from nightmares with Harry in the past, and Nuala had searched him out when she was lonely. They'd, honestly, been lucky that the two new girls hadn't come looking for him at all during the course of the previous year.

After a great deal of discussion that night – after Morgan and Vail had returned home and Harry and Salazar were in Salazar's room for the night – they created a connecting door between Harry and Salazar's rooms, since they shared a wall. An alarm spell on the door would wake them if someone came seeking Harry in the night and Harry could sneak back into his own room to take care of that student.

In practice, the set-up worked relatively well, especially since most of the students came to get Harry before he and Salazar had gone to sleep. They did have one awkward call, a few weeks into term, when one of the students came to find Harry while he and Salazar were jerking each other off – they'd moved past wild rutting, but weren't quite ready to consider penetrative sex – and Harry had to deal with the child with a hard-on and may have been a little less soothing than usual, but the child didn't seem to mind.

During that following summer, a forest fire near Merlin's home saw his mother and most of his village dead. Tanwen had come screeching to Harry and Salazar during lunch and, as soon as they'd both stood, worried, had taken them through her own fire to the site. Salazar saw to Merlin and the other surviving villagers with Tanwen's help, while Harry used a particularly advanced – and dangerous to the caster, judging from the warnings all over the page of the book he'd found it in – spell to call a storm brewing along the coast, some forty miles away, to come and put out the fire.

By the time the storm had arrived, fighting Harry the whole way, the young man was sweating and Tanwen had come over to sing a song of strength on his shoulder. Only once the storm was overhead and he was already soaked from the rain did Harry let the spell go and collapse back into Salazar's waiting arms, completely exhausted.

"Not your brightest idea," Salazar commented drily as he settled Harry against him comfortably.

Harry let out a weak laugh. "Couldn't have summoned enough water, otherwise," he whispered, Salazar craning his head to make his words out over the sound of the storm.

"Be that as it may." Salazar sighed and looked up at where Tanwen had found safety under an unburned awning. "Tanwen, can you get him to bed? I can manage here fine, so there's no need for you to get wet."

Tanwen let out a trill of agreement and braved the storm to rest again on Harry's shoulder. With a bit of phoenix magic, Harry was able to support his own weight long enough for her to flame them into Salazar's room, where he collapsed into the bed, magically dry from the phoenix travel.

When Salazar and Merlin got in some hours later, having settled the villagers and gathered whatever of Merlin's things had survived, Merlin dropped his things in the room he shared with Alexander, then peeked into Harry's room, hoping to take comfort in the sleeping wizard, even if they couldn't talk. But Harry wasn't there, so he went, instead, to Salazar's room. He pushed open the door, calling, "Salazar?"

Salazar was sitting on the bed, brushing a hand through Harry's hair. His head shot up and a flash of surprise touched his eyes, followed by a hint of fear before he blanked his expression. "Did you need something, Merlin?" he asked in the empty tone that had always accompanied his blank expression.

"I was looking for Harry," Merlin admitted quietly, cowed by the sense of unwelcome his Head of House exuded. "I know he's sleeping, but sometimes just sitting near him helps."

Salazar realised, in that moment, that hiding his and Harry's relationship from the young man's biggest fan, especially when Merlin had just lost his mother and would be remaining the summer with them, was going to be nearly impossible. Between his own observations of the boy and Harry's certainty that this was the man that would one day become a legend – clumsy he may be, but he'd yet to have trouble with a spell – Salazar trusted that Merlin wouldn't react to their relationship like Godric would, so he took a deep breath and admitted, "He always sleeps in here. With me."

It took a moment for Merlin to connect the dots. "Oh," he breathed finally. Then, slowly, a smile lightened his face, though there remained a sadness in his eyes. "That first summer, I bet," he said. "When we got back you and Harry were okay with us calling you Mum and Father. And Harry was sort of crazy happy, but whenever one of us asked him about it, he'd say it was because of an excellent sandwich at lunch or because he got a spell perfect in class, like he didn't do that with every spell ever. Oh, and this one time, he told us he was happy because he'd passed a particularly troubling pile of faeces; that was about the time we stopped asking."

Salazar looked down at the sleeping Harry with a fond smile. "Only you," he murmured before glancing back up at the boy standing in the doorway. "About then," he agreed before standing. "You may as well come in. I've some work to do, but you're welcome to sit with him if you're quiet."

Merlin's expression relaxed into a grateful smile and he slipped into the room, the door closing behind him. He climbed into the bed next to Harry and curled up next to him, his whole body relaxing, as if Harry's presence was the solution to his troubles.

Salazar had just sat down at his desk to work on one of his alchemy scrolls when he thought of something and called, "Merlin?"

"Yes?" The boy raised his head to look at his teacher.

"You understand this knowledge isn't to be passed on to anyone, not even your Housemates."

Merlin nodded. "I know," he agreed. "Harry'd have told us, else." He laid his head back down on the bed, then said, "Ramona knows, though, doesn't she?"

"Ramona knows everything." Salazar said by way of agreement and Merlin let out a quiet laugh.

They fell quiet after that, and when Salazar finally decided it was time for dinner and had put his things away, he turned to find Merlin sleeping next to Harry, who had curled a protective arm around the boy in his sleep. Salazar smiled at them, then turned and left for the Great Hall, figuring he could have something sent down later, once they'd both woken.

Salazar spent a bit longer in the Great Hall than he otherwise might have, answering questions that he had refused to bother with before, about the fire and Harry and Merlin's health. By the time he made it back to his room, wishing Sprague a quick good night, Harry was awake and smiling at him. He'd shifted the sleeping Merlin a bit so the boy was leaning against him where he sat against the head of the bed, instead of curled at his side. "How are you feeling?" Salazar whispered, coming over and brushing a hand against Harry's forehead and cheeks to do a quick check of his temperature.

"I'm fine," Harry replied, taking care to keep his voice quiet. "I assume, by Merlin's presence in here, instead of my room, that you told him about us."

"Yes," Salazar agreed. "I'm trusting your instincts on this."

"Good."

"Go back to sleep," Salazar ordered, turning to return to his scrolls.

Harry shook his head and brushed a hand through Merlin's hair. "I'm going to focus on my Occlumency, then we'll both sleep."

Salazar shot him a dubious look. "In the same bed with Merlin?"

"The bed's big enough for three," Harry retorted quietly. "And I'm no more inclined to kick him out than I am to sleep without you because you're being difficult. So, yes, in the bed with Merlin."

Salazar smiled, pleased at Harry's refusal to sleep without him. "Very well," he agreed and Harry rolled his eyes before closing them to meditate.

Merlin was a little clingy the first couple days after he became a ward of Hogwarts, and the first night wasn't the only one that he spent curled up next to Harry while Salazar slept at Harry's back, but he was more than willing to give the two older wizards some space, following Ramona or Duana around for a few hours, and Salazar discovered that he didn't mind the nightly invasions as much as he might have.

"They're our children," Harry had replied when Salazar had mentioned that to him after Merlin had finally started sleeping in his own room. "Or, well, as much as we'll ever have children. Sometimes they live to drive us nuts, but that doesn't mean you care for them any less, and when they need you–"

"It's hard to push them away," Salazar finished, having heard something similar from Harry after the one truly awkward time that Harry'd had to take care of an upset student in the night. "That doesn't mean I don't want to kill them, still, when they come knocking at your door when we're in the middle of sex."

Harry laughed. "Makes two of us," he agreed and kissed the older man. "Speaking of sex..."

-0-

When they returned for the new term, the other Slytherins – as well as the students of the other Houses who knew him – were sympathetic to Merlin's loss and would occasionally ask if he needed anything. Merlin would always shake his head with a sad little smile and promise, "I'm okay."

One afternoon, a couple of weeks into the new term, Merlin and Alexander entered the common room together from outside, both frowning faintly. Harry was curled up on one of the couches, Salazar was seated at a table with Fane and Morgan, kicking both their arses at a card game, and various other Slytherins were spread out on the floor, the other couches, or tables.

"Harry?" Alexander said as Merlin settled into the open spot next to Harry on the couch.

"Hm?" Harry replied, not looking up from his book.

"What's a 'mudblood'?"

Harry's head snapped up and he stared at Alexander for a long moment, blood turning to ice, before he turned to Merlin. "Did someone call you that?" he asked, taking care to keep his voice soothing; Alexander was a pureblood from a noble family, much as Morgan was, so if he'd heard that slur, it likely wouldn't be against him. He'd come in with Merlin, however, whose mother had been non-magical.

Merlin shrugged. "Yes. What's it mean?"

"Who?" Harry demanded, an edge to his voice that caught the attention of everyone else in the common; Harry tended to be more likely to laugh or, if you'd done wrong, be a bit stern, and it was always news to catch even a hint of anger in his voice. (Though, listening to those students that had been there with him at the start, he had quite the temper when properly riled, assuming you could figure out which buttons to press, something which had become harder once Salazar had stopped leaving every weekend.)

"Angus," Alexander reported when Merlin didn't respond right away.

"I'll kill him," Harry hissed, standing from the couch with far more force than necessary.

"Harry," Salazar interrupted while the rest of the room stared in disbelief at the furious wizard. "There will be no killing of students on the grounds."

"So I'll do it in the air," Harry retorted, making for the door.

"Harry."

Harry turned to stare at Salazar, eyes flashing. "He called Merlin a mudblood," he spat, the slur like acid on his tongue.

Salazar stiffened, his mind making the connections with the future curse without prompting. "You can't kill him, Harry," he insisted, a sharp note to his voice that had nothing to do with Harry's sudden violent urge and everything to do with wanting to throttle his nephew.

"Can I maim him?" Harry wondered in a faux sweet voice.

"As long as he can still cast spells," Salazar agreed.

Harry smiled coldly, then turned and slipped from the common without another word.

Everyone stared after him for a long moment before turning to look at the Head of House. "Salazar," Merlin said, "what does it mean?"

Salazar considered not telling his students for a moment before deciding he'd rather they hear it from him than from Angus. "It's a jab at your mother being non-magical," he explained, calm voice belied by the steel in his gaze. "Angus is saying your blood is dirty, because your mother didn't have magic."

There were mutters of dislike around the common at the explanation; over two-thirds of the Slytherins had at least one non-magical parent, and the idea of saying they'd passed on 'dirty blood' was mad, so far as they were concerned.

When Harry returned twenty minutes later, he calmly returned to his couch and offered to share his book with Merlin, who readily agreed.

At dinner, the entirety of Slytherin House settled in early at their table and stared at the doors, waiting for Angus to show up so they could see what Harry had done to him, as he'd been tight-lipped about the whole thing. When Angus walked in, he looked pretty much the same as always, but he was clenching his jaw oddly and scowling at the Slytherin table. He blanched when he caught Harry's blank stare over a cold smile and hurried towards his table without looking back towards them.

"Okay, we've seen him," Fane said, tone just a little irritated. "Nothing's changed. Except I think he's actually a little bit terrified of you."

"He'd best be," Harry murmured, buttering a roll. "And I punched out most of his teeth."

There was a moment's stillness, then the entire Slytherin table turned to look at where Angus was glaring into the soup that had appeared in front of him.

"That can be fixed," Morgan pointed out.

"The only people in this castle capable enough with medical magic to fix it are Salazar, Duana, and myself; Salazar and I won't fix it, and I explained what had happened to Duana, so she won't help him either." Harry shrugged. "He can still talk and cast spells, though they might come out a little special unless he's mastered them nonverbally, since the shape of his mouth is different, so the words will sound different."

"You're a little scary when you're angry," one of the newest Slytherins, a girl named Domina, said.

"Assuming Angus learned his lesson – which he usually does after a round with you or Salazar – the likelihood of us seeing Harry that angry again is slim," Alexander pointed out.

As dinner came to a close, Godric made his way over to the Slytherin table, expression disapproving.

"I'll be fine," Harry murmured to Salazar when the man tensed at Godric's approach.

"I know," Salazar whispered back. "But that doesn't mean I have to like it."

Harry flashed him a quick smile as Godric stopped next to the table and requested, "Harry, a word?"

"Certainly," the young man agreed, getting up from his seat and following the elder wizard out of the Hall and down the corridor behind the stairs to an empty room.

As soon as the door was closed, Godric spat, "Why did you attack one of my students?"

"He attacked one of mine, first," Harry retorted coolly.

"He swears you started the hostilities," Godric insisted, though there was a note of uncertainty in his tone; he'd never known Harry to lie. Hide things, certainly, but never lie.

"I threw the first punch," Harry allowed, "but he first called Merlin a slur that implies his blood is dirty because his mother was non-magical."

"And this slur?" Godric asked, anger at Harry lessening the more he heard; Angus had been careful to avoid the topic of why Harry had attacked him, and Godric had been too angered by the sight of his student's toothless mouth to insist he get an answer. (That Duana had mysteriously vanished to spend time with a boy who was courting her from the village had only added to his anger.)

"Mudblood," Harry said, grimacing at the taste of it in his mouth. " 'Mud' being a word from another language for wet dirt."

"You're familiar with the word?" Godric asked even as his anger turned to Angus for both his continued prejudice and for lying about the reason Harry had hit him.

Harry stilled for a moment, then reached over his shoulder to touch the top of his back. "I've heard it before," he agreed quietly.

Godric's expression darkened at the allusion to Harry's mysterious attacker. "I see," he said.

Harry dropped his arm and asked, "May I go, Godric?"

"Yes. I...apologise for not collecting all the facts before..."

"Accosting me?" Harry suggested wryly. "Don't worry, one of my tutors used to do the same thing; I'm inured to it."

Godric grimaced, then waved Harry on.

-0-

Angus returned to his first term attempts to keep a low profile, which continued even after Yule, though he'd returned with a full mouth of teeth. Harry did catch the other young man watching him unusually closely from time-to-time, but he wasn't bothered by it; Angus didn't scare him any more than Godric did, after all, though he wasn't about to completely ignore Angus, either.

Things finally came to a head at the end of the next school year, in the year 728. Harry and Salazar had finally tried penetrative sex, and though it had hurt a bit – Harry had been bottom, but he informed Salazar he could have a go next time – Salazar had healed everything and Harry was still high as a kite the next afternoon when he met up with Ramona and Merlin for a little gossip session in an out-of-the-way corner of the castle. It was something Harry and Ramona had been doing since they broke up, and Merlin had sort of naturally followed along once he'd found out about Harry and Salazar being a couple.

"Did Salazar give you one of his test potions?" Ramona asked with a laugh when she saw him floating along next to Merlin.

"He's been like this all morning," Merlin reported, amused. "And Salazar's not much better."

"You did it?" Ramona realised, grinning. "You actually had real sex with him? The whole thing?"

Harry grinned back, hopping up on a window ledge she was standing next to. "Yes," he agreed.

"Was it any good? Details, Harry!"

"Virgin ears," Merlin insisted, but he was grinning too, happy for his best friend and mentor.

"I am not recounting the sordid details of my sex life for you, Ramona, and you know that," Harry insisted. "And of course it was good. Sex with Salazar is always good."

"Now you're just teasing me." Ramona let out a dramatic sigh. "Oh, I'll never have the sort of relationship you two have."

"Uh-oh. Is Manfred being stupid again?" Harry asked, letting his own pleasure fall to the side in favour of worrying over Ramona's difficult courtship with her fellow Hufflepuff. Manfred adored her, they all knew, but he also had a bad habit of opening his mouth and saying something insulting to Ramona without thinking to censor himself. The more he'd fallen in with a group of Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs who believed the woman belonged at home, taking care of menial tasks, the more often he'd spoken out of turn. Ramona had kept it from her father, worried about what Roscoe would do to Manfred, but Harry and Merlin were safe to unload on, though she'd warned Harry off stalking up to Manfred and smacking some sense into him more than once.

Ramona sighed and shook her head. "Just more of the same," she admitted. "Conrad overheard him a couple of days ago, though, and cursed his balls blue, whatever that means."

Harry and Merlin both winced; Harry had taught the phrase to his closest male friends, tired of them using ridiculous and confusing idioms to describe a problem Vail was having for a few days. Salazar had eventually found a spell to fix things and they'd mostly forgotten until, a few months previous, Kenric had discovered a spell that would give the victim blue balls for forty-eight hours and shared it around.

Ramona considered them suspiciously for a moment, then continued, "Anyway, he and I have been having a bit of a row, because he thinks I should tell Daddy and Mum, but I don't want to get them involved. I mean, I'm twenty years old! I can take care of myself."

"And if you can't, we'll do it for you," Harry agreed cheerfully.

"You're not punching him in the face," Ramona ordered. "I like his teeth the way they are and I'd rather not try kissing lips behind which are no teeth."

"Never mind Roscoe's reaction when he discovered why Harry broke his teeth," Merlin added gleefully.

"I could break his fingers, instead," Harry suggested idly, picking at his nails. "I know a good spell for it."

"Gods save me from homicidal best friends," Ramona muttered to the ceiling before pointing a finger at Harry and insisting, "No."

Harry flashed her an innocent smile. "His toes?"

"You're no longer allowed within spell-range of Manfred," Ramona declared.

"That'll make meals in the Great Hall difficult," Merlin pointed out.

"Be quiet, Merlin," Ramona ordered and the youngest grinned at her.

They spent another few hours trading stories about other students in the castle before heading down for lunch. Harry sat at the Slytherin table with Merlin and his other close Slytherin friends, who were telling this ridiculous joke about a centaur, a mermaid, and a dragon that Harry didn't begin to understand, but still made him laugh.

Distracted by the convoluted joke, Harry almost didn't notice Salazar walking into the Hall, but Godric brought his attendance to everyone's attention when he stood and boomed, "What's this I hear about you seducing a male student, Salazar Slytherin?"

Salazar stilled as the Hall fell silent. He just barely managed to keep from looking at Harry and, struggling to keep his voice even, replied, "I'm sure I've no idea what you're talking about."

Godric looked down at the student at his side, Angus, and nodded. The young man waved his wand, smirking, and Harry's voice could be heard saying, "And of course it was good. Sex with Salazar is always good."

'So, the little bastard followed us,' Harry thought numbly as everyone turned to look at him in disbelief. Figuring they were screwed anyway, Harry shot a quick apologetic look at Salazar, then stood from his bench and coolly announced, "Your information seems to be lacking, Godric, as always; Salazar never seduced me, I seduced him."

There was a long silence as Godric digested this, then he turned towards Salazar, who remained in the centre of the Great Hall, and spat, "You've corrupted him."

"I've done no such thing," Salazar replied.

But Godric wasn't done: "How many other male students have you corrupted? How many others will we find begging at your chamber door?"

"That's enough, Godric!" Helga snapped, standing from her own table as Harry made his way over to his lover, disinclined to let him face the stares of the Hall alone; Harry knew Salazar had nightmares about scenes very like this, and he hated Godric for making it a reality.

"This should have been handled away from the eyes of the children," Rowena agreed serenely.

"I won't have such freaks in my school!" Godric spat.

"They we'll leave," Harry declared. "We'll be gone by dinner and you need never even think about us again."

"That's not necessary," Helga hurried to say, even as an angry outcry started from the Slytherin table and Harry's friends in the other Houses. The only ones silent were those who knew that Harry was from the future and would be leaving them soon anyway, though even they looked plenty upset.

"I won't stay here to be called a freak," Harry said, cold green eyes boring into Godric's for a long moment before he turned to the smug young man at the Founder's side. "Though I must applaud you, Angus, on teaching him one of your favoured words for non-magicals and their offspring." Godric's righteous countenance slipped slightly and he glanced towards Angus, disturbed.

"Let's go," Salazar whispered, placing one shaking hand on Harry's shoulder.

Harry took the hand in his and squeezed it in an attempt to offer some comfort as they started towards the doors of the Great Hall.

They had just reached the doors when a pained shout had them looking back over their shoulders to find Duana, face a storm cloud, standing with her wand pointed at Godric. "Good luck getting that fixed," she spat, "considering you just banished the only healer who knows the cure." Then she jumped over the back of her bench and started towards Harry and Salazar, Kenric close on her heels.

From the other tables, students that Harry knew well rose. While only those who knew both Harry and Salazar well were moving towards the doors, the others who had risen remained standing, showing their support all the same. The entire Slytherin House rose as one and turned to join their Founder and the other man they considered a guardian.

Before the students could get more than halfway across the Hall, Salazar moved past his shock and called, "No. Sit, all of you."

"But, Salazar–" Vail started.

"Hogwarts was created to give children – to give you – a place where you're safe to learn and experiment with magic," Salazar informed them, his tone gentling at their lost looks. "Don't sacrifice your futures on our account."

"Eat your lunches," Harry said with an easy smile. "You can still say goodbye afterwards; we're not leaving quite yet."

"Go," Salazar added, pointing back towards the tables.

Most of the students turned back obediently, but the group of Slytherins who knew about Harry having time travelled, Ramona, Conrad, Wilda, Duana, and Kenric continued forward, expressions set against Harry and Salazar's disapproval.

"We're coming to help you pack," Ramona insisted when they reached the two wizards.

"Of course you are," Salazar replied drily, but he didn't try ordering them back to their tables again and they left the Great Hall as a group.

For once, Salazar didn't complain about having non-Slytherins in the common. The other Slytherins and Ramona shot worried looks at the Founder, but Harry silently squeezed his hand, understanding the pain of being forced from his home just for loving someone.

"You're really leaving?" Kenric whispered, sounding less like the growing teen he usually acted and more like the little boy Harry had first met him as.

"Yes," Harry agreed simply, letting Salazar move ahead towards their room while he fell back to speak with the students.

"Maybe Godric will change his mind," Duana suggested hopefully.

Harry shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I was going to have to leave in a couple years, anyway, and Salazar intends to come with."

"But you'll be back, right?" Conrad asked.

Harry shook his head again. "We can't," he whispered. "I'm–" His voice caught for a moment, then he forced himself to keep on, explaining, "I'm from the future, originally. I have to get back; there's too much at stake there and too much chance for me to screw something up the longer I remain in this time. The only way to travel that far into the future is if Salazar comes with me."

"So you're both leaving," Morgan murmured. "You couldn't have told us that sooner?"

Harry shrugged. "We could have," he allowed, "but we decided not to."

"How far into the future?" Wilda asked. "Maybe if we're lucky, one of us will survive, or our children–"

"Over one thousand years," Harry said with grim certainty. "And, if it's all the same, I'd rather not have your descendants looking out for me. I was well enough known as a child that they'd have no trouble finding me, but it would only be trouble for everyone involved." He shook his head. "I should be helping Salazar pack our things." He turned and moved to his and Salazar's room, ducking under an angry pile of books and hurrying over to grab Salazar's wand. "Stop," he ordered.

Everything that had been moving dropped to the ground and Salazar looked impossibly lost for a moment, as if he didn't know who or where he was, then he leaned his forehead against Harry's, letting out a shaky breath. "Sorry," he whispered.

Harry brushed a hand through Salazar's hair, brushing the tip of his ear. "I know," he whispered back. "It's okay. Sit down and I'll finish the packing, okay?"

Salazar gave a jerky nod and dropped into his chair while Harry turned his attention to directing their things to pack.

"When was the last time you slept in your room?" Fane wondered somewhat rhetorically from where the group of students had stopped just inside the doorway.

Harry flashed him a smile. "Oh, Gods, I don't remember. Three, four years?"

"I feel like I should be impressed that you kept your relationship a secret from us for so long, but I'm really not," Alexander said.

"Did anyone actually know?" Nuala asked, curious.

"Ramona figured it out before we ended our courtship," Harry offered, brow furrowed as he directed some of the few things he'd left in his old room into a small bag for travel. "And Merlin found out two summers ago, after his mum died and he came to stay here. Other than them, no."

"You didn't trust us?" Vail asked, hurt in his voice.

"It's not that we didn't trust you," Salazar murmured from his chair. "More that we – I – didn't know how you'd react."

"Salazar's faced bad reactions, before," Harry offered to the slightly wounded looks the Founder's words had caused, "and those reactions were from people he'd well-trusted. So it's not you lot, specifically, but simply bad experiences in the past."

"What will you do?" Merlin asked quietly.

Harry and Salazar traded uncertain looks, not having really thought about it; neither of them had wanted to think about what would happen if they had to leave Hogwarts early, though the threat had always been there. Finally, Harry said, "We could travel on the continent, I suppose. I said I would do that after finishing here, anyway, and it might be nice to learn a couple other languages. See some history."

Salazar nodded. "I've always been interested in seeing Rome," he admitted.

Harry smiled and looked back at the group in the doorway. "We'll travel, then. Maybe send you some students from other communities." He snorted with some amusement. "Maybe suggest magical schools to a couple of the right people and give Hogwarts some competition."

"That would be a fine way to get Godric back for being a– what's the word you always use, Harry?" Ramona asked.

"Homophobic git," Harry and Salazar chorused as Harry waved the filled bag closed.

The students let out strained laughs.

Harry sighed. "Can I ask that you lot keep an eye on the other students? Especially our snakes."

"Don't let Godric take his anger on us out on them," Salazar agreed, getting out of his chair and stooping to grab the bag. "Or on yourselves," he added, frowning at the thought. But, if he trusted any of their students to handle themselves against Godric Gryffindor's prejudice, it was these eleven.

"We won't," Fane swore for all of them.

"I'll curse worse than his privates if he does," Duana snarled.

Salazar's lips twitched. "I did teach you the cure for that," he reminded her.

"Oh, I know. But he doesn't know that," Duana replied.

"Come on." Harry waved for the group to move out and they all made for the entrance hall, a grim silence hanging over their heads.

In the entrance hall they were met by practically every student in the school. All of the teachers were there as well, save Godric. At the lead of the group stood Harry's favourite house-elf, Slinky, with a tiny bag in one hand and Tanwen perched on her upheld arm.

"Slinky, what's this?" Harry asked, kneeling in front of the creature he considered a friend.

"Slinky comes with Masters Harry and Salazar," Slinky declared.

Harry shook his head. "Slinky, really, it's not–"

"Is," the little created insisted. "Masters Harry and Salazar bes needing lookings after, and Slinky not so needed here." Tanwen let out an agreeing trill.

"Oh, I should have known you were behind this," Harry muttered to the phoenix and she twitched her wings in a way that let Harry know she was proud of herself. "Well, I can't stop you," Harry told the house-elf, "not if you're so determined, but aren't you tied to Hogwarts?"

"I freed her when she asked," Helga explained, kneeling next to Harry. "She's always looked to your needs first, you know; she's far more your house-elf than she is Hogwarts'."

Harry sighed. "I know," he agreed. Perhaps if he hadn't paid her so much attention when she'd first arrived, checking in on her and soothing her when she did something just the littlest bit wrong and thought she was going to be punished, she wouldn't have attached herself to him. But he had, and Hogwarts had continued to add house-elves to their number over the intervening years, meaning she was hardly needed to keep things running. "But what about your mate, Pickles? And your daughter, Doddy?"

"Doddy too young for travels. Pickles cares for Doddy. Pickles understands, gives Slinky blessing," Slinky said, ears drooping slightly. "Slinky bes missing, but Slinky picks Masters Harry and Salazar. Even if means Doddy and Pickles passed before Slinky can return to Hogwarts. Slinky decided."

Harry brushed his hand across Slinky's head, soothing it over an old scar running along the back of one ear. "Okay," he agreed. "Are you okay with staying a free elf, though? It's not that I don't want you–"

"Master Harry doesn't believe in enslavement," Slinky said. "Slinky knows."

Harry smiled, knowing it was something they'd spoken about in the past and touched that the house-elf had remembered. "Okay," he said again, then stood, helping Helga to her own feet. "Thank you," he whispered as she drew him into a hug.

"I wasn't about to deny her, and I can't bear the thought of you getting sick and having to eat nothing but Salazar's soup while he heals you."

Harry laughed. "I think I can teach him to make a few simple things," he insisted. "But thank you, all the same. For her, if not for my stomach."

Helga touched a hand to Harry's cheek. "You'll always be one of my children, Harry," she whispered, "and I'll always be proud of you. No matter where you are, or how long it's been since we've seen each other."

Harry nodded, words stuck in the back of his throat. "I'll write," he managed after a moment.

"You'd better," Helga agreed and kissed him on the cheek before stepping back to let Harry speak with others.

Harry quickly lost track of how many hugs and goodbyes followed. He promised Rowena he'd let her know about any new spells or theories he came across, and to Sprague he promised any interesting ingredients they found.

By the time he'd gone through all his snakes – including his yearmates and Alexander – and was standing in front of Merlin and Ramona, his two closest friends, he was wiping at damp eyes. "I haven't cried in years," he complained to them, smiling at where Salazar stood with Tanwen on his shoulder and Slinky at his feet just beyond them. "Don't make me break my perfect record now."

"You're such a stupid boy," Ramona complained pulling both him and Merlin into a three-person hug. "We'll see you on Litha," she whispered into his ear.

Harry nodded, having told these two the exact date they were leaving when they pestered him about it last summer. "I know," he murmured back before kissing them both on the cheek, ignoring Merlin's exaggerated motion to wipe the kiss off. "Take care of yourselves, okay?"

"We will," Merlin promised. "Or, well, I'll try."

"Balance, Merlin," Harry reminded him. "Balance."

"Shut up."

"I'll see you in two years," Harry promised before stepping around them and stopping next to Salazar. "Where to first?" he asked with a tremulous smile.

"I thought we'd let the Lady Tanwen decide," Salazar replied, voice quiet and eyes shining with unshed tears.

"Sounds good," Harry agreed and made sure Slinky had a hold of his leg before placing his hand on Tanwen's talon. "Whenever you're ready, Tanwen."

Tanwen let out a trill and the world vanished behind a pillar of pale blue flames.

-0-

Harry and Salazar travelled wherever they wanted for the next two years, making stops in Rome, Athens, Sparta, and parts of central Europe, Egypt, and China. Tanwen grumbled about it a bit, but was generally okay with transporting letters and items between the two men and Hogwarts. Occasionally, they would come across small magical communities and they would mention Hogwarts to them, telling them of the wonders and beauty of the castle, as well as the joys of learning magic with so many others your own age and from teachers who knew and loved their subjects. Harry also, when they came across it, mentioned apparation to their friends back at the castle and suggested looking into wards against it, in case it became popular.

News from the castle indicated that they'd been receiving a number of new students from all over the continent, as well as a couple new teachers to help with the influx. They were grateful – even Godric had to admit that he was glad for the additional students and teachers, even if he still thought the world was better without 'freaks' in it – but they all wished Harry and Salazar were still there, rather than travelling the world.

As the time approached for their journey to the future, thoughts turned to how they would manage after. Slinky had been told about their travel by Tanwen – apparently, house-elves could understand phoenix trills – and was determined that she would go with them, distant future or not. Neither wizard insulted her by asking if she was certain, but Harry did suggest she find some time to return to Hogwarts and visit with her family one last time, which Slinky agreed to do once they returned to the Isles.

A week before they were to leave for the future, Harry and Salazar returned to England, making camp near Stonehenge. Slinky left them once they were settled, promising to return with Merlin and Ramona the day before Litha.

"Sal?" Harry said the afternoon before Slinky, Merlin, and Ramona were due.

Salazar glanced up from one of his scrolls. "Yes?"

Harry set aside the raven and wolf figure he was working on and sighed. "I've been thinking about the requirements for the trip," he explained and Salazar set his quill aside, understanding this might take a bit and would require his participation. "We've got the whole 'dark moon of Litha' bit, as well as the 'circle of ancient stones'."

"And the not journeying alone," Salazar pointed out.

Harry nodded. "But we never really discussed the 'become one with love' bit."

Salazar cleared his throat, mildly uncomfortable. "I always thought it meant sex," he admitted.

Harry smiled. "I know. And that's certainly an option, but I'm not doing in in front of Merlin and Ramona–" Salazar made a disgusted face at the thought, "–and depending on where we end up in the future, appearing with our trousers around our knees could be a bad plan."

Salazar sighed, as they both knew there was a very real chance that they could appear exactly when and where Harry had left: in the graveyard, facing Voldemort and his followers. "True. Tell me you've a different idea?"

Harry chuckled. "Maybe," he agreed. "I was thinking, we've done sex before, in every way we could think of–"

"Including a few we would have been better off not trying," Salazar muttered good-naturedly.

"Including a few we shouldn't have," Harry agreed, rolling his eyes. "So I was trying to think of a way we haven't 'become one' or whatever rot, and I came up with being bonded."

Salazar's expression blanked. "You want to do a handfasting?" he asked carefully.

"Yes," Harry replied, determined.

A slow smile traced across Salazar's lips as he got up and walked over to where Harry was lounging next to the bed. "I love you," he murmured as he knelt next to the younger man.

"I love you, too," Harry replied, threading a hand through Salazar's hair. "Will you? Bond with me?"

"Yes," Salazar breathed before pressing forward for a kiss.

They didn't get much else done the rest of the day.

-0-

Ramona, Merlin, and Slinky arrived early the next morning, bringing with them a bag of things from those at Hogwarts that knew the two wizards were leaving for good, as well as some Hogwarts fare for breakfast. "The house-elves wouldn't let us leave without it," Ramona explained as they sat down at the table Harry and Salazar had brought out of their tent to eat at.

"We sort of expected that to happen," Harry admitted. "I didn't bother making breakfast."

The younger two humans laughed and they all settled in to eat, sharing the latest gossip from the castle.

Once the food was gone, Harry said, "So, Sal and I are thinking to do a handfasting, to activate whatever magic is needed for the travel. Merlin, I was hoping you'd officiate?"

Merlin jerked in surprise. "Me? Why–? Well, but, uhm..." He grimaced while Harry and Ramona chuckled and Salazar hid a smile behind his empty teacup. "It won't be binding, you know," he finally managed. "I'm just a student."

Harry patted his knee. "It won't be binding now," he agreed. "Will you do it?"

Merlin sighed, long resigned to Harry forever dropping little hints about his future but never explaining anything. "Okay," he agreed.

"So, what have you two got planned until moon rise?" Ramona asked, leaning forward.

"Nothing spectacular," Harry allowed cautiously. "Why?"

Ramona patted the small bag between her and Merlin on the table. "Because we have gifts."

Harry and Salazar weren't sure whether to be excited, or afraid.

In the end, they ended up both happy and sad. The gifts were all from the heart, worked on with intent from the Slytherins, Founders' children, Duana, and Wilda. Even Helena, who'd been told the truth by Alexander, who was trying to court her and not having much success, had made something.

After the gifts had been put away, the four humans sat outside the tent with Slinky and Tanwen and spoke about whatever came to mind, Slinky cheerfully translating for the phoenix.

When the sun began to sink in the west, Slinky made them all an unusually light dinner – Tanwen's suggestion, apparently – and they packed up the tent before making their way over to the circle of ancient stones. There, they waited until the moon had risen over the eastern horizon, black against the backdrop of stars. In the night's stillness, the group shared a final hug, then Ramona stepped back and let Merlin tie Salazar and Harry's hands together, whispering, "May you love each other and remain together throughout all of time."

"We will," Harry said and Salazar's hand tightened against his.

As Merlin stepped back, Tanwen soared down and landed on Harry and Salazar's bound hands and Slinky attached herself to Harry's legs. The phoenix let out a scream at the moon and Harry gasped as the old scars on his back burned.

"Harry?" Salazar whispered.

Before Harry could respond, a circle of flames appeared around the two wizards, flickering pale blue and bright gold. They danced higher and higher at Tanwen's trilled direction, until Harry and Salazar could see little more than the flames and each other.

Then, with a final screech from the phoenix, the wall of fire drew inwards, sweeping over the four trapped within until it was nothing more than a single flame pillar, taller than the stones. It shrank slowly, eventually vanishing and leaving nothing to mark that it – or those that had stood within it – had ever been.

Chapter Text

-0-
3 July 1995
-0-

Harry's first thought on waking was something along the lines of 'OW!' His entire back was letting him know it loved him – or hated him – Harry wasn't sure he really cared which.

"Masters," a worried voice piped up.

Salazar let out a groan and shifted, his hand in Harry's squeezing. "Harry," he said, a note of alarm in his voice.

Harry opened his eyes and used his unbound hand to push himself into a sitting position, hissing in pain as his back insisted the action wasn't to its liking. Then he got a look at the group of gawking non-magicals all around them, the stones of Stonehenge reaching to the sky behind and between the gawkers. "Oh, bugger it all."

"Slinky, could you undo our hands?" Salazar requested the house-elf, certain that neither Harry nor himself were in quite the state to work on the knot Merlin had tied. "Also, where's Tanwen?"

A baby trill came from between the two wizards as the ribbon tying their hands together came undone. Tanwen had burned in bringing them forward through time and been reborn.

"Slinky, please get Tanwen," Harry requested as he got to his feet, wincing. His wand fell comfortably into his hand and he considered the gaping non-magicals, a few of whom were finally gathering their wits, and said, "We were never here," before casting a mass obliviate.

"Harry, your tunic's stained with blood," Salazar murmured, taking the younger man's elbow. "Take us somewhere unoccupied, please, Slinky."

"Yes, Master Salazar," the house-elf agreed before situating herself between the two humans, Tanwen tied protectively into her dress, and popping them away.

As soon as they'd landed in an empty forest clearing, Salazar ordered, "Turn around," and Harry did so without an argument, well used to the stern healer his lover – 'Husband,' Harry reminded himself with a grin – turned into when someone was wounded.

Salazar tapped the tunic, vanishing it, and winced at the mess of Harry's back. "The scars opened," he offered.

"I figured as much," Harry admitted. "Hurts enough."

"Good thing we didn't reappear near your Lord Voldemort, then," Salazar decided, digging into the pouch on his belt for a healing potion laced with phoenix tears. "Drink," he ordered, handing it forward. Harry did so and the elder wizard smiled in relief as the mass of wounds closed and returned to being scars.

Harry shivered when Salazar ran a hand over the scars and turned to glower at him. "Stop that. Where's my tunic?"

"Vanished," Salazar replied without a trace of sorrow for having done away with Harry's clothing. "Your trousers should probably do the same."

Harry twisted his upper body so he could see the stains of blood on the back of his trousers and sighed. "Yeah, okay. Change of clothing, then?" He raised an eyebrow at the other wizard.

Salazar smirked and stepped forward until they were chest to chest, hands slipping around the top of Harry's trousers. "I'd rather bugger my new husband," he murmured before swallowing Harry's moan with a kiss.

Slinky sighed as her two humans set about stripping each other and looked down at the baby phoenix. "Wes may be here a while."

Tanwen trilled in amusement and peeked over the edge of Slinky's cupped dress to watch the humans, quietly cheering them on while Slinky let out an embarrassed giggle and covered her eyes.

When Harry and Salazar were both dressed again, Salazar asked, "Where to first? The alleys?"

Harry nodded. "I'd like to know what day it is and what's going on. Slinky, are you coming with us, or following on your own?"

"Slinky will follows on her own, Master Harry," the house-elf promised.

"Good." Harry and Salazar pulled the hoods of their cloaks over their heads, hiding their identity from a casual glance, then Harry tangled his hand in Salazar's and apparated them to the Leaky Cauldron.

"Afternoon," the proprietor, Tom, called.

Harry smiled under his hood and led the way over to the bar. "Afternoon," he replied. "I don't suppose anyone's left a Prophet around that I might glance over? Been out of the country and want to catch up on what's been going on."

"I think I've got one. Hold on..." Tom wandered over to the far side of the bar to look.

"We should look into food before Slinky has both our heads," Salazar murmured, slipping between Englisc and English as he tried to adapt to using the newer language full time. Harry didn't mind, capable of understanding both, but he was sure it would drive others completely mad.

"I'll need to drop by Gringotts, first," Harry replied, shaking his head. "I can add you to my account while we're there."

"Hm. Never had gold before."

Harry chuckled as Tom returned to them, a paper in his hand. "Here you go, gents. Don't suppose I can interest you in a sandwich or a cuppa while you read?"

"Ah, I'm afraid I have to drop by Gringotts, first," Harry said apologetically. "Do you mind if I take this with us?"

"It's all yours, son," Tom agreed.

"Many thanks. Come on, Sal."

They left the pub by the back door and Harry showed Salazar which block to tap. Out in the alley, Harry had to take Salazar's hand and lead him along like a small child while the Founder marvelled over the magical shopping centre, something which hadn't existed in the past. They'd visited a couple magical shops set side-by-side with non-magical shops in Rome and Egypt, but there hadn't been an entire street of just magical wares.

When they reached Gringotts, Harry pulled Salazar forward and murmured, "Are you done? Or shall we gawk some more?"

Salazar huffed. "Like you didn't gawk the first time through."

Harry chuckled. "Given. Come, let's sort out my – our, now, I suppose – money."

There was a queue to speak to a goblin, so Harry took the chance to unfold the paper and look it over while Salazar looked over his shoulder. "Third of July," Harry murmured. "It was the night of the twenty-fourth when I left; it's been about eight days and some change."

"Is that good, or bad?"

"Not sure yet." Harry glanced over the headlines, looking for mention of Voldemort, but found nothing. "Okay... That's weird."

"What?"

"No mention of Vold– Ah. You-Know-Who," Harry said, glancing at the wizard ahead of them, who had tensed when Harry'd started to say the Dark Lord's chosen name. Switching to Englisc, he added, "Sorry. People get twitchy when you say his name."

"I remember you mentioning that. What about mentions of yourself? Or Hogwarts?"

Harry nodded and looked over the headlines again. He found his name – with Cedric's – on the bottom right corner.


Potter and Diggory Vanished?
Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory, former TriWizard contestants, are still missing after vanishing into the maze on the 24th. Speculations about their whereabouts continue to pour in, as well as some sightings on the continent. Here at the Daily Prophet, there are also guesses. The current favourite is Rita Skeeter's assurances that Potter and Diggory have eloped together and are living quite happily in Australia, where fans will be unable to track Potter down.

"Gods save me from Rita Skeeter." Harry moaned. "The woman's a menace."

Salazar snorted, having given the article a read as well. "At least she got your preference right?" he suggested and Harry hit him with a paper. "Who is he? The name sounds familiar."

"He's the one who died," Harry said shortly, folding the paper up and sticking it in his belt before turning his attention to the bank as the wizard in front of them walked to an open teller. When one opened for them, Harry led the way over and said, "I require a replacement key, as I'm uncertain where mine is, and to see if there's anything special I need in order to add my husband to my vault."

The goblin huffed. "We can do a recall of the key."

"That's acceptable."

"Name?"

Harry paused for a moment, then reached up and pushed his fringe out of the way, hood pushed back enough to show off the distinctive lightning bolt scar over his bright green eyes.

The goblin cleared his throat, eyes wide, and nervously commented, "I was under the impression you were..."

"Younger?" Harry suggested drily. "I had an accident with time travel. My key?"

The goblin nodded and muttered in Gobbledegook over a bronze box. After a moment, something jangled inside and he pulled out Harry's gold key. "Here you are," the goblin said at last, holding the key out for the young man. Once Harry had stored it safely away, the goblin explained, "Someone need only your key to get into your vault, so your husband need not be on any list to access it. There is a spell on all Gringotts keys which won't allow it to be held by someone the owner of the vault doesn't want to have it."

Harry nodded. "I see. Could I give it to my house-elf and have her withdraw money for me?"

"Most wizards don't, but we don't care the species of the being withdrawing money." The goblin sneered.

"Excellent. Now, a trip down to my vault, perhaps?" Harry requested.

The goblin sighed and called out for another goblin to come over. He leaned over and whispered to the new goblin, who turned to look at the two cloaked wizards disbelievingly. "Now," the teller ordered.

"This way," the new goblin requested before leading the way towards one of the doors branching off the hall.

"You're either going to love this, or hate it," Harry told Salazar.

"Promising."

As luck would have it, Salazar rather enjoyed the mad cart ride and, once they reached the vault, Harry let him pick out the money, smiling in amusement at his husband. "Sal, you're like a small child," he commented as they got back in the cart.

"Hush, you," Salazar ordered. Then, smoothing his tone, "Lunch?"

"Certainly," Harry agreed. "And then Hogwarts, I think. I need to speak with Professor Dumbledore and make sure he knows Voldemort's back."

The goblin at the head of the cart stiffened at that, but said nothing. Harry and Salazar watched him for a moment then shrugged at each other.

"May I look at the paper while we're eating?" Salazar asked once they were back on solid ground again.

"Certainly."

Lunch was good, and Salazar got a couple snickers out of the paper, having found another article about places where Harry and/or Cedric were. After lunch, Harry apparated them to outside the Hogwarts gates, which opened at Salazar's touch, as if he was a key for them.

"Something one of the others worked in, or the school recognising you as her creator?" Harry wondered as they started down the path.

"Who knows," Salazar replied, shaking his head. "I'm glad Godric didn't leave behind any nasty surprises, at least."

"They wouldn't have let him," Harry said with certainty.

"I suppose."

They were just through the front doors when they ran into someone.

"Can I help you?" Professor Flitwick asked, partway up the staircase.

"We're here to see the Headmaster," Harry replied with an easy smile for his former professor. "Is he in his office?"

"He should be," Flitwick agreed. "Do you know the way?"

"I do, thank you," Harry replied and started for the staircase, Salazar close behind. "Unless it's moved from the seventh floor recently?"

Flitwick chuckled. "No, it's still there," he allowed, starting back up the stairs as the taller wizards caught up with him. "You're applying for the Defence Against the Dark Arts position?"

Harry considered that quickly before carefully saying, "It could be an interesting occupation."

"As long as you don't fall to the curse," Flitwick agreed.

"Curse?" Salazar asked, tone just a little sharp.

"I'll explain later," Harry promised, reaching out to touch his husband's shoulder. "Calm down, Sal."

Salazar let out a wordless hiss of anger, but dropped the matter for later.

Flitwick walked with them up to the seventh floor, chattering about various things that had happened over the past month. Harry hadn't been too interested in most of it, but it was hard to request information just from the last eight days. Flitwick explained that both Harry and Cedric were missing, "Presumed dead, according to Albus. He also thinks You-Know-Who is back, and I'm inclined to believe him."

"How does he figure?" Harry wondered, intrigued, and more than a little glad that his news wouldn't be a surprise.

"Well, Harry's missing," Flitwick said as if it should have been obvious. "And he's got his sources, of course. Ministry thinks he's barmy."

"He is a bit barmy," Harry said drily, a hint of fondness showing through.

Flitwick laughed. "That he is. But I guess there's something different between being extravagant, and being certain a Dark Wizard that everyone's afraid of is back."

"The Ministry is made up of little better than fools, interspersed with truly bright witches and wizards stuck too near to the bottom to do much more than shuffle paper around."

"Well said," Flitwick agreed as they reached the seventh floor. "Well, this is where I leave you."

"Many thanks," Harry said, smiling under his hood. Flitwick had gone no more than a couple steps when Harry called, "Professor Flitwick?"

"Yes?"

Harry grimaced. "I don't know the password to the Headmaster's office, I'm afraid," he admitted.

"It's 'Harry Potter'," Flitwick offered.

Harry blinked a few times, surprised, then smiled sadly. "Thank you," he said before turning and starting for the office, Salazar falling into step with him.

"Curse?" the Founder demanded in Arabic, mindful of the curious portraits.

Harry nodded. "Voldemort created it, disabling anyone from holding the Defence position for more than a year. I think I mentioned that?"

Salazar shook his head. "Perhaps. I'll have to see if there's some way of removing it."

"If anyone can remove it, it's you," Harry agreed, laughing when the Founder snorted disbelievingly. "Harry Potter," Harry said to the gargoyle and it slid open.

"I don't remember this door," Salazar said as they started up the revolving stairs. "Or these stairs."

"This is the South Tower," Harry offered. "It existed, it just wasn't this shiny."

"I suppose you'd know," Salazar allowed. "You were more comfortable in the upper floors."

Harry smiled and knocked on the closed door at the top of the stairs.

"Come in!" Dumbledore called from within.

Harry pushed the door open as they both stepped inside, glancing around the office. Harry only gave everything a glance, ensuring nothing had changed from his faded memories of the room, then focussed on the man behind the desk, who was watching them with a frown. Smiling, Harry pushed his hood back and said, "It's been a while, sir."

"Harry?" Dumbledore breathed, stunned.

Around them, the portraits upon the walls all jerked from their pretend sleep and stared down at the young man, who inclined his head. "Yes, sir."

"My boy," Dumbledore whispered, tears in his eyes. "We thought–"

"Me dead, yes," Harry said, motioning for his wand to release from his bracer and absently conjuring two seats for himself and his husband before the desk. "I ran into Professor Flitwick on my way in and he mentioned it. I nearly was, after everything, but Sal saved my life when he found me."

"Where have you been?" Dumbledore pleaded. "We heard nothing of you."

"You wouldn't have," Harry commented. "I was in the past; far in the past. I've since finished my schooling, though there may be some spells I don't know, due to the time difference." He glanced towards the Hat, sitting innocently on a shelf. "You'll be pleased to know, Hat, that I quite liked Slytherin House, in the end."

"I told you," the Hat said, smug.

"What is that thing?" Salazar demanded, flicking back his hood with a negligent hand.

"That's the Sorting Hat," Harry replied, amused. "It was Godric's."

"I thought I recognised it." He sneered. "I can't believe someone didn't burn the damn thing."

"Sal," Harry said, frowning.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Forgive me, but you are?"

"Oh! Sorry." Harry gave a quiet laugh. "This is my husband, Salazar S–"

"Potter, please," Salazar requested.

Harry smiled gently, knowing how much his husband hated his father's name. "Of course. Salazar Potter."

"The only Salazar I know of is Salazar Slytherin," one of the portraits snapped.

Salazar glanced up, expression blank. "I have answered to that name," he allowed. "And you are?"

The portrait stared at him for a long moment, awed, before murmuring, "Phineas Nigellus, Lord Slytherin."

"I am not and have never been a 'Lord'," Salazar commented, voice chilled. "And I should much prefer you use my husband's family name, if you must refer to me at all." He paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. "You're not a Lord, are you, Harry?"

Harry laughed and shook his head. "No, so you're safe there." He turned back to Dumbledore, who was watching Salazar with a curiously blank expression, as if uncertain how to react to the man. "Professor, perhaps I may set some records straight?"

"Feel free, my boy," Dumbledore agreed, offering Harry a smile.

Harry nodded. "Salazar is a halfblood, muggle-raised, and no more against them than anyone else at the time, considering they had a fondness for stoning people. The Slytherin the stories his muggle-hatred are based on is, I believe, his nephew, Angus Slytherin. Who was in Godric's House."

"Thank the Gods," Salazar muttered.

"You'd only have killed him if he'd been in our House, and you know it," Harry told his husband and the man smirked.

"He'd have deserved it."

"Given."

"And the Chamber?" Dumbledore asked, his smile a bit more genuine as he looked between the two wizards.

"That didn't exist when we left," Harry offered. "It's possible Angus or one of his offspring created it."

"Excuse me," Salazar interrupted. "Chamber?" When Harry looked uncertain, Salazar demanded, "Harry, what did they do to my school?"

Harry grimaced. "Created an underground chamber with Parseltongue passwords, which held a basilisk," he replied honestly, much preferring his husband learn about the place from him than from some unknowing student. "Voldemort set it free while the school was populated at least twice."

Salazar stared at his husband for a moment before letting out a string of hisses in Parseltongue that only Harry understood to be threats of violence on his nephew and his spawn.

When it seemed Salazar wouldn't be stopping anytime soon and he was starting to get into the realm of unreal – pulling out Angus' intestines with a spoon, among others – Harry said, :Salazar. First off, there will be no more time travel so you can deliver your vengeance. Second, the chance of that working anything like you want it to is slim. Third, you're going to give me a headache. Shut up.:

Salazar let out one last wordless hiss, then subsided.

Harry shook his head, amused, and looked over at where Dumbledore was watching them with a smile. "Sir, Professor Flitwick mentioned that you know that Voldemort is back?"

Dumbledore nodded. "I believe you're aware that Severus Snape was a Death Eater?"

"I do. A spy for you, supposedly," Harry replied, expression blank at the mention of his least favourite professor; no matter how much trouble Godric had given them, Harry still disliked Snape far more.

Dumbledore inclined his head. "So he is. He returned to Voldemort's side on my orders to continue acting as my eyes and ears in Voldemort's troops. Voldemort also believes you to be dead."

Harry's lips curled with a sardonic smile. "Yes, I thought he might." Then he set about explaining everything that had happened from the moment he and Cedric had both taken the Cup in the maze, up until he'd blacked out from the pain of the cage.

"Unusual," Dumbledore murmured once Harry has finished. "Perhaps you will allow me a supposition as to why the cage formed?"

"By all means."

"Your wand and Voldemort's wand share a phoenix feather from the same phoenix, as you are aware." Harry nodded. "Fawkes being that phoenix, in fact," Dumbledore added and Harry's eyes flickered over to the empty perch off to one side. "When your spells collided, the wands couldn't fight against each other in the traditional sense, being brothers, and so had to find a less than traditional manner to do so. It was, I believe, simply your bad luck that the manner used – a form of priori incantatum – backfired on you, rather than Voldemort. As your last spell was the disarming spell..."

"Of course," Harry murmured. "I, in essence, disarmed myself, which broke the connection. I will guess that Voldemort's killing curse then affected the cage and, due to my past favourable interactions with Fawkes, the cage acted to save me before the killing curse could reach me, which sent me into the past."

"That is a reasonable assumption," Dumbledore agreed, approving. "I will assume, then, that you no longer retain your original wand?"

Harry shook his head and, with a quick motion, called his wand to his hand. "Ash, with the feather of a different phoenix. Tanwen, if Ollivander's original comment and reaction to meeting her are anything to go by."

"Tanwen?" Dumbledore enquired, curious.

"Slinky," Salazar called and the house-elf popped into view at his side, holding the baby phoenix in her arms.

"Slinky is being requested by Master Salazar?" the house-elf chirped. Tanwen let out a demanding trill. "No," she told the phoenix.

Salazar snorted and held his hand down for the chick, who Slinky handed over without any fuss. "What has you so bothered, my sweet?" he murmured to her as he held her up to his shoulder.

Tanwen trilled happily and picked carefully at the folds of Salazar's hood until she had something of a nest, which she fluffed down in.

"Mistress Tanwen was wanting Masters," Slinky offered. "Master Harry, Slinky is sensing another free elf with ties to Master Harry."

"Oh?" Harry frowned for a moment. "Oh! That's probably Dobby."

"Slinky may speaks with him?" Slinky asked innocently.

Harry narrowed his eyes at her. "What are you planning, you sneaky creature?"

"Slinky isn't knowing what Master Harry means. Slinky isn't Sneaky, Slinky is Slinky."

"Cute," Salazar said drily. "Go. Make trouble."

"Slinky will!" Slinky chirped before popping away.

"I'll get you for that later," Harry promised his husband, who smirked at him and stroked Tanwen, earning a happy trill. Harry snorted and looked back at Dumbledore, who was watching the phoenix chick curiously. "That's Tanwen," Harry said. "She found me some years ago and adopted both Salazar and myself. Incidentally, I met her in much the same way I met Fawkes."

Dumbledore chuckled, remembering Harry's horrified reaction to coming upon Fawkes on his Burning Day. "At least you knew what to expect this time."

Harry grinned. "I did, but everyone else was quite a wreck when she burst into flames over my head and I didn't back away."

"I thought you were going to catch your head on fire," Salazar snapped. "It would have been just my luck if you were killed by a dying bird you were trying to save."

Harry reached over and squeezed Salazar's hand. "Instead, you got to meet a phoenix. So it worked out."

Salazar sniffed, but reached up and stroked the happy Tanwen some more. "What's being done about Voldemort?" the Founder wondered. "We read over a paper, but there was no mention of him."

"He's laying low," Dumbledore allowed. "Likely amassing his followers and finding a way to get those in Azkaban out. Similarly, we are gathering together the Order of the Phoenix, a group I began during Voldemort's first rise. Your godfather, as well as the elder Weasleys, are all members," he added to Harry.

Harry's lips curled with a quiet smile. "It'll be good to see them again," he admitted.

Dumbledore smiled back. "I believe your return will be a joy to them, as well. Molly has been quite beside herself, and Sirius has locked himself in with Buckbeak."

Harry winced. "That can't be good."

"No, it's not," Dumbledore agreed. "Harry, I must ask, how many years have passed for you?"

"Not quite eight," Harry said with certainty. "I'm twenty-two." He paused, then sighed. "There goes my birthday. Again."

Salazar chuckled. "It's only a few days off. You can continue marking October twenty-seventh if that is your preference."

Dumbledore smiled, then shook his head. "What do you two intend to do now? We might be able to disguise your age, Harry, so you can officially return as a student–"

"If it's all the same, I'd rather not," Harry replied. "I haven't viewed myself as a student in a very long time, and I'd rather not test my patience with it again. I have heard that there might be a position open amongst the staff, however?"

Dumbledore nodded. "The Defence position, yes. And I am having trouble filling the position, especially after Alastor turned up dead a few days ago."

"Mad-Eye's dead?" Harry said, straightening in his seat. "I hadn't heard that."

Dumbledore nodded, expression grave. "It looks as though he was only kept alive to be used for Polyjuice, which means it was one of Voldemort's people in the post, rather than Alastor himself."

"That's troubling," Harry murmured. "Although it does explain how he was able to effect the tournament." He shook his head. "If you have no disagreement, I should like to take the position. Sal can teach with me, or perhaps help in the infirmary? He's a trained healer," he explained to Dumbledore's curious look.

"I would have guessed potions," Dumbledore admitted. "The potions classroom has always been rather near the Slytherin common room."

"I am capable of teaching potions," Salazar said, "and I did so, before we found someone more capable, but I am an alchemist first, a healer second, and a crafter of potions third."

Dumbledore inclined his head. "I'm the only other alchemist on staff, and it's more a hobby than something I actually aspire to," he offered. "I can certainly introduce you to Poppy Pomfrey, our mediwitch; she might well enjoy having another trained medic in the castle."

"Two trained medics," Salazar corrected, nodding to Harry, who smiled faintly.

"Is that so?"

Harry shrugged. "Healing and arithmancy were both core classes, and there was no history or most of the third-year and up classes we have now. We did get an astronomy teacher my..." He frowned and looked towards Salazar. "Fourth year? Mid-way through."

"Sounds about right," Salazar agreed, uncaring. "There's no healing class now?"

"There hasn't been enough interest," Dumbledore explained. "St Mungo's is the far easier alternative, especially since most magical accidents are beyond the skills taught in a healing class." Dumbledore frowned. "Harry, if you're intending to teach Defence, it may be simpler for you to take on an assumed identity than it will be for you to claim you've aged eight years in eight days."

Harry snorted. "You may well be right. People seem much happier assuming I've eloped with Cedric or some such, anyway." His eyes flashed with sorrow, but he retained his smile. "I'll have to write an owl to Cedric's parents to let them know what happened."

"I will handle that," Dumbledore promised. "I've already told them he's almost certainly dead, and it may well be better received if the truth came from me, rather than the survivor."

Harry nodded. "Of course." Salazar took Harry's hand and gave it a squeeze. Harry smiled over at him, then asked Dumbledore. "Do you have an alternate identity in mind, Professor?"

"I believe so," Dumbledore agreed. "If my brother will acquiesce, we could set you up as his son, having been out of the country; your rather exotic accent will lend to the fiction."

"I have an exotic accent?" Harry wondered with some amusement. "I see nothing wrong with that fiction, if it's acceptable to him. What of Sal? He can still use my last name – Dumbledore, in this respect, I should think – but he'll need something of a back story."

"You said Voldemort is descended from one of my siblings," Salazar said. "I can claim to be from that family; it will explain my occasional slip into Parseltongue, if nothing else."

"Sal," Harry said with a very put-upon tone, "I've told you: modern magicals don't react well to Parseltongue."

"They'll learn," Salazar replied. Harry rolled his eyes.

"Tom's – Voldemort's – mother is from a family known as the Gaunts," Dumbledore offered. "They were rather reclusive, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that you are of that line and a relative unknown."

"Excellent."

Harry snorted. "Where did we meet?" he asked his husband, intent on getting their story straight while he was thinking about it.

Salazar's eyes went to half-mast as he considered that, then glanced over. "Rome? Or Egypt. I recall you preferred Rome better."

"And you Egypt," Harry replied drily. "Egypt has likely changed the least, over the centuries. We'll have to pick up the modern languages, either way, but..." He let out a regretful sigh. "I guess this means I can't tell people that Merlin officiated our handfasting?"

Dumbledore let out a choked sound of surprise and coughed to clear his windpipe while Salazar laughed and Harry grinned. Above them, the portraits were again atwitter at the announcement.

"You met Merlin?" Dumbledore asked once he could speak again without coughing.

Harry nodded, still grinning. "Yes. He's my best friend." Harry froze for a moment, realising that Merlin was long dead, and his face blanked. "Was my best friend," he corrected quietly.

"Stop that," Salazar ordered. "Didn't you three swear you'd always be friends, no matter the time that separated you?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed quietly. "I know."

Salazar sighed and got up from his chair to crouch in front of Harry. "Look at me," he ordered and Harry met his eyes. "Stop," he said aloud, but, touching his mind to Harry's, he added, 'They're dead in body, but their souls live on in you. Don't regret their lives, or I'll curse you on their behalf.'

Harry smiled and leaned forward so their foreheads touched, one hand cupping Salazar's cheek. "I love you," he whispered in Englisc.

Salazar smiled back and brushed Harry's lips with his. "I know," he murmured before returning to his seat, Tanwen trilling good-natured complaints about being jostled. "Silence, you infernal bird."

"If you keep calling her that, she'll peck you again," Harry pointed out, amused, and his husband sneered.

"I'm not quite Merlin," Dumbledore offered with a smile, "but I'm official enough that you can say I officiated."

"That works," Harry agreed. "Thank you, sir. Ah, Uncle, I suppose."

Dumbledore beamed and stood from his seat. "I should floo Aberforth and ensure he is agreeable to this. Excuse me." He stepped over to the fireplace and tossed in some floo power before sticking his head into the green flames. Harry spent the time he was speaking explaining floo to his husband, something he'd never bothered with in the past, since they hadn't run across it. When Dumbledore was done, he got back to his feet and announced, "He's agreeable, but he would like to meet his supposed son first. And, then, perhaps a trip to the Order's headquarters, so people are assured that you live?"

"I see no problem with that," Harry agreed. "Although, may we look into picking a room for ourselves in the castle, first? It might be nice to give Slinky something to do while we're busy."

"Of course. Did you have something in mind?"

Harry looked at Salazar, who frowned in thought for a moment before saying, "There's an out-of-the-way hall in the dungeons with some rooms along it that I know we never did anything with."

"The south side?" Harry asked and Salazar nodded. "So far as I know, they're still empty. Prof– Uncle?"

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "If they're the rooms I'm thinking of, they're empty, yes." To Harry he added, "You adventured back there during your first year."

"I did?" Harry frowned in thought for a moment. Then, "Oh! The Stone?"

"Exactly."

"Sounds about right," Harry agreed after taking a moment to contemplate his mental map of the castle. "Shall we head down there and pick one out, then leave it to Slinky?" Salazar nodded, so the two wizards rose.

"One moment," Dumbledore requested before turning to the portrait of the man who had been awed to meet Salazar. "Phineas, would you drop by and let Molly know I'll be bringing two guests for dinner?"

"Very well," the man agreed and left his portrait.

"We may have to do something about your scar, my boy," Dumbledore said to Harry as the three men started out of the office.

Harry shrugged. "I can spell my hair to stay over it," he suggested. "Or I can take to wearing some sort of cloth over it. Perhaps both."

"I'll leave it to you, then," Dumbledore agreed and Harry released his wand to cast a quick spell on his fringe, figuring it would do for the moment. Once his wand was away, Dumbledore commented, "You learned Occlumency?"

Harry shrugged and nodded – he'd thought he'd felt a brush against his shields at one point. "Sal taught me nearly as soon as we met. I also boast some very poor Legilimency skills."

"You don't try hard enough," Salazar muttered.

"I'll leave the stealing into other people's minds to you, Sal," Harry replied, amused.

Dumbledore chuckled at the two. "It is a handy skill."

"Oh, I know," Harry agreed. "Which is why I know the little I do, but I much prefer reading people's expressions to their minds; you learn nearly the same amount about their intentions, without seeing things they'd rather not spread around."

"Very true," Dumbledore agreed and they continued their trip in silence.

Harry and Salazar took only a moment to pick out a room in the dungeons, preferring the empty room with windows against the lake, and Slinky was called down to take the bag Salazar had with their things in it. Dobby came with her and he was quite a tearful mess as he greeted Harry, which the young man handled with the same patience that he'd taken care of his Slytherins with when they'd come to him with nightmares or because they were homesick. Salazar watched on with fondness hidden behind a mask of vague irritation, while Dumbledore smiled, pleased to see that Harry had grown up without losing the kindness that he'd always had.

As they were exiting the castle, headed for Hogsmeade to meet up with Aberforth Dumbledore, Harry caught sight of a ghost that sparked a memory in him. "Alex?" he called and Salazar jerked his head around, surprised.

The Bloody Baron turned and, for the first time in Dumbledore's knowledge, smiled. "Harry, Salazar, Tanwen."

"Alexander," Salazar replied, a sad smile curling his lips and Tanwen trilling a greeting from his shoulder. "Always good to see a familiar face."

Alexander chuckled. "I know the feeling." He glanced at Harry. "It was hard not to talk to you when you first came to Hogwarts."

Harry grinned. "You'd probably have given me terrible nightmares," he teased before his expression saddened. "I know Helena's the Grey Lady; did anyone else remain?"

Alexander shook his head. "Not at Hogwarts," he explained. "Well, Ramona and Merlin had a portrait made when the magic became available; I believe it's stashed in the Room."

"I'll have to look for it," Harry decided before shaking his head. "We're off to get acquainted with this time period, but we should catch up, later."

"I look forward to it," Alexander replied and his semi-transparent silver eyes gleamed with amusement as he added, "Mum, Father."

"Don't make me ground you," Salazar threatened while Harry laughed.

Alexander snorted. "I'll let Helena know you're here," he offered.

"Thank you," Harry replied and the ghost gave a slight bow before floating up through the ceiling.

Dumbledore raised an amused eyebrow at the younger two men as they continued along the hallway. "Mum and Father?" he asked.

Harry let out a snort. "Long story. Our Slytherins decided, somewhere along the way, that Sal and I were sort of parents to them, and since I was easier to approach, I was Mum. Sal refused to be called Dad, but he agreed to Father after some debate. Alex is – was?" Harry shook his head. "Is one of our Slytherins. Helena is Rowena's daughter."

"It sounds like you made a home for yourself while you were there," Dumbledore commented. "Yet you still left?"

"Not all was so wonderful," Salazar replied coolly.

Harry sighed. "There were some rough patches," he agreed. "Sal and I had a falling out with Godric two years ago and left Hogwarts. And I needed to get back here, both to keep from accidentally destroying the future and because of Voldemort; I wasn't about to leave him to wage his war, not when you might not have had any warning that he'd returned."

Dumbledore offered a sad smile to his ex-student. "I appreciate that," he allowed, "if only to soothe my nerves and the nerves of your godfather and friends. But I'm curious: If Salazar isn't anti-muggle, what did you fight with Gryffindor about?"

"Godric is homophobic," Harry replied drily. "He found out Sal and I were together and threw a fit. When the others wouldn't let him stone us, he insisted we leave. We did."

"I'm sorry, my boys," Dumbledore murmured, honest sorrow in his eyes.

Harry shook his head. "What's done is done. And it hardly matters, not now."

"Godric is long dead," Salazar agreed, a note of triumph in his voice. "I'd like to see him stop me from 'corrupting' students now."

Harry snorted. "Behave, Sal."

"I always behave," Salazar insisted.

"Bollocks. You spend too much time plotting to behave for more than a minute at a time."

"Hm. You may be right..."

Harry rolled his eyes, amused. Half a step ahead of the husbands, Dumbledore smiled to himself over their teasing. 'Yes,' he thought, 'having Harry and Salazar on the staff will be good for everyone.'

Chapter Text

Aberforth hadn't been too bad, and while it was clear he detested his brother – Harry and Salazar silently agreed to avoid that topic at all costs – he had no obvious dislike for Harry or Salazar. He'd been understandably leery around Salazar at the start, owing to the Founder's best-known persona, but he did relax once Harry had made a few well-placed comments about his husband's past.

When Aberforth finally ordered them out, saying he needed to prepare for the dinner crowd and having his brother around was bad for business, Albus invited them through the floo to number twelve, Grimmauld Place, where the Order of the Phoenix was stationed.

When they stepped through, the students had just arrived and the kitchen was bustling with dinner preparations and the shouts of those trying to sort out residences. No one really gave the new arrivals more than a glance, but Molly Weasley proved she always knew what was going on in her kitchen by calling over her shoulder, "Welcome, Albus. Dinner should be ready in a few minutes."

Albus smiled. "Excellent." He turned to the younger two men who had followed him. "There's a rack over there for our cloaks," he suggested, pointing towards a corner that was a bit removed from the bustle and they made their way over there. "I'm curious, Harry," Albus said as they pulled off their cloaks and hung them up, Salazar rolling his eyes as Tanwen shuffled a bit, trying to find a comfortable spot without the cloak to provide bedding.

Harry raised an eyebrow. "About?"

"You don't have a sword?"

Harry glanced over at the sword hanging from Salazar's belt, then shook his hand. "I can use one, but I prefer knives," he explained, slipping one from a strap hidden under the sleeve of his tunic to show off before slipping it away. "Non-magical weaponry was a class Godric taught," he added. "We each had a weapon to specialise in, and then he and his wife, Bernia, ensured we could handle ourselves with other weapons, should we find one at hand. Useful in that time, not so much now."

"More useful than you can guess," Albus assured him. "Not many witches and wizards know what to do when faced with a muggle weapon; they see them as beneath them or useless, and will focus all their attention on your wand, leaving you to act as you please with a weapon."

Harry's lips twitched with a grim smile. "Magical people are fools," he said and Salazar made a quiet sound of agreement.

Albus smiled sadly and caught a passing woman's arm. "Tonks, could you collect Remus and see about getting Sirius down here? I have an announcement he needs to hear, and I'd rather only make it once."

"We'll try," the woman agreed and hurried off to hunt down Remus Lupin.

"Nymphadora Tonks," Albus offered to Harry and Salazar. "Harry, she finished Hogwarts the year before you started."

"Hufflepuff?" Harry guessed, watching her and Lupin leave the kitchen.

"Exactly," Albus agreed, smiling. "She's just completed her auror training and is Sirius' cousin."

"Hm."

"Dinner!" Mrs Weasley called and the various bodies around the kitchen quickly made their ways to the table. Albus, Harry, and Salazar were just sitting when Sirius was led in by Lupin and Tonks, looking nearly as bad as the first time Harry had seen him, and his heart broke.

Salazar silently moved Tanwen from his shoulder to Harry's, brushing a hand against the younger man's cheek in the process. Harry smiled at him, grateful, and gave Tanwen a moment to settle before running a finger over her breast feathers.

Once everyone had seated, Albus cleared his throat and said, "I have an announcement to make before we start."

"With the children here?" Mrs Weasley asked, looking towards her youngest four and Hermione.

"This concerns them," Albus promised and glanced over the table before saying, "I've found Harry."

The room exploded in loud questions, everyone wanting to know if he was alive, was he hurt, where was he, and so forth. Harry let out a quiet sigh while Salazar frowned, disapproving.

Albus waited a few moments before clearing his throat again, turning his own disapproving frown around the table until everyone shut up, then said, "He's alive, and well."

"Albus, tell me you didn't send him back to the Dursleys," Mrs Weasley pleaded. "Not after he's been missing for so long. He needs his family and friends right now, his proper family."

"Thank you, Mrs Weasley," Harry murmured, smiling. "And I wouldn't go back to the Dursleys for anything."

There was a moment's stunned silence, then Sirius rasped, "Harry?"

Harry's smile turned sad. "Hey, Sirius."

Sirius took a moment to search his face, then let out a relieved sob and hurried from his seat and around the table to where Harry had stood to meet him, quickly handing a disgruntled phoenix chick back to Salazar. "You're alive," Sirius breathed against Harry's shoulder once he'd drawn him into a hug. "Oh, thank Merlin."

Harry hugged Sirius back as hard as he could, burying his face in his godfather's shoulder to hide the tears that had sprung to his eyes; the loss of his godfather had dulled over the years, but it seemed to return at that moment, as strong as when he'd first realised how far apart they were.

"Where have you been?" Hermione asked as Harry and Sirius finally pulled apart, Harry brushing a hand across his eyes.

"In the past," Harry admitted quietly. "The TriWizard Cup was a portkey and Voldemort–" nearly everyone flinched "–was there. He revived himself and we... Well, he nearly killed me, but my wand reacted and sent me into the past. I've been there for eight years."

"You're nearly my age," Sirius commented with a weak chuckle.

"I'm not quite that old," Harry replied drily, offering Sirius a smile. "Sal, on the other hand..."

" 'Sal'?" Sirius repeated, carrying the conversation while the others around the table struggled to assimilate the information.

"My husband," Harry agreed, as if it wasn't unusual for him to disappear for an extended period of time, then come back married.

There was a stunned silence, then Mrs Weasley said, "Husband?" in a choked voice.

Harry turned to smile at her, stepping up behind Salazar and placing a hand on the shoulder Tanwen wasn't sitting on. Salazar covered Harry's hand with his. "Yes," Harry agreed, "my husband: Salazar Potter."

"Like Salazar Slytherin?" Ron spat, expression twisting with dislike.

Harry considered his friend for a long moment, expression calm. When he spoke, however, there was a note of steel in his voice. "Yes, Ron, like Salazar Slytherin. Is there a problem?"

"Yeah! He's like... Well, he's..." He trailed off and slunk down in his seat at the blank stare Harry had fixed on him, far more bothered by it than the equally blank stare from the man he was standing behind. "He's a Slytherin," he muttered to his chest.

"So am I," Harry commented, expression still coolly blank, but his grip on Salazar's shoulder was tight, telling his husband exactly how much this confrontation bothered him.

"You're a Gryffindor!" Ron insisted.

"I was a Gryffindor," Harry corrected, "eight years ago. But I spent six years in Slytherin House, and it's my home. No matter your misconceptions about them."

" 'Misconceptions'?" Ron demanded, shrugging off Hermione's hand when she tried to shush him and ignoring his mother's shout of, "Ronald!"

"If you have a problem with my House, child, you may take it up with me," Salazar interrupted. "You will leave my husband well out of it."

"Sal–" Harry tried.

"No," Salazar cut in, glancing up at the younger man. He softened his tone and repeated, "No, Harry. You've spent too long missing these fools for me to sit back and watch them crucify you for sins that aren't yours to answer for."

"No more are they yours," Harry insisted, shaking his head. "Angus and his descendants are no more your doing than they are mine. If we must place the blame on anyone, place it upon Godric's shoulders for choosing Angus and his hatred over us."

Hermione cleared her throat. "Harry?" she asked, hitting Ron when he muttered something under his breath. When Harry raised an eyebrow at her, warily amused, she asked, "Who is this 'Angus'?"

"My nephew," Salazar offered, as though it didn't matter. "He was quite fond of the non-magical hatred your time accredits to me."

"You're saying you're no muggle-hater?" Tonks asked, leaning forward. "But this nephew was?"

"Essentially," Salazar agreed.

"And Angus, for the record, was in Godric's House," Harry added.

"That's a lie!" Ron snapped.

"Why would I lie about that?" Harry asked, unimpressed. "To vilify Godric's House? Ron, just because I spent six years in Slytherin House doesn't mean I suddenly hate Gryffindor House. No, I don't care for Godric – he was a complete arse and I'm quite glad I'll never see him again, after how we parted – but his son, Kenny; his wife, Bernia; and their ward, Duana, are all good friends, and I regret that we'll never speak again."

They were all silent for a moment, then Lupin asked, "Six years?"

"What?"

"You said you've been in the past for eight years, but you only spent six at Hogwarts," Remus clarified.

"Well," Hermione spoke up, "according to Hogwarts: A History, Salazar Slytherin left Hogwarts after getting into an argument with Godric Gryffindor about allowing muggleborns into the school. But..." She trailed off, brow furrowing as she recognised the discrepancy in her favoured book: Salazar claimed he wasn't anti-muggle.

Harry shrugged. "Perhaps another member of the Slytherin line was thrown out for discrimination of non-magicals and their descendants – it's certainly true that Godric believed in protecting them – but Sal and I were not."

"It's possible us being thrown out got mixed up in Angus' hatred of non-magicals and their children," Salazar added coolly. "Over one thousand years have passed; facts are bound to have been confused."

"Given," Harry agreed.

"Why don't we eat?" Albus suggested, making a spot between himself and Harry's original seat for the hovering Sirius. Sirius smiled gratefully in response as he took the spot, pulling Harry down next to him.

Mrs Weasley nodded and waved the food over. Everyone quietly served themselves, occasionally throwing glances towards Harry, as if to assure themselves he was still there, or to marvel at the changes eight years had wrought.

"So, Harry–" one of the Weasley twins called once everyone had settled in to eat.

"–any amazing pranks–"

"– or school secrets–"

"Oh, good call, Fred."

"I rather thought so."

"–you care to share with us?"

Harry raised an amused eyebrow at the twins. "I never much participated, but the others did some crazy things to Angus when he was being a git. Mmmm... And you probably know more of the secrets of the castle than I, considering how many passages were created after the Founders' era." Harry stopped to consider that for a moment while Fred and George's grins widened, debating between telling them about the Room. Finally he shrugged, deciding the Room would be found if it wanted to be.

"What sorts of pranks?" one of the twins asked, looking only a little frightening with the huge grins on both his and his brother's faces.

"Oh, a little of this, a little of that," Harry replied airily, shrugging again.

Mrs Weasley cleared her throat down the table when the twins looked ready to press for more and they subsided, flicking a look at Harry that promised he would be further questioned later.

Tanwen suddenly let out a sharp trill directly into Salazar's ear and he winced. "Ow," he said, turning his head to glare at her.

"It's because you told her not to bite you again," Harry commented as he set down his fork and waved his wand for some of the fresh herbs he could see drying over the sink. Once he had them, he set them in the saucer for his teacup and set it between his and Salazar's plates. "Here you are, sweetheart. We're sorry."

"We are?" Salazar muttered, disgruntled. But he still settled the chick on the table with great care and brushed a finger over her soft baby feathers.

"A pet?" Sirius wondered, peering curiously at the chick.

Harry shrugged. "She doesn't care for the term, but it's a reasonable correlation; this is Tanwen, our phoenix."

"Of course you have a phoenix," Ron muttered.

"Shut up, Ron," Ginny hissed while Hermione smacked his arm again.

Harry considered his one-time best friend with an empty gaze until he ducked his head, unable to meet Harry's eyes. "Jealousy is unbecoming, Ronald," he commented lightly before returning to his food.

Ron flushed an angry red, but wisely held his tongue.

Hermione cleared her throat and said, "So, you met the Founders?"

Harry shrugged and nodded. "Yeah." As an afterthought, he added, "And Merlin."

There was a stunned silence, then Lupin managed, "You met Merlin. The Merlin?"

Salazar snorted. "Yes, the Merlin." He glanced at Harry. "Why do you people do that?"

"Hush," Harry ordered good-naturedly before glancing back towards Lupin. "Yes, the real Merlin. He was a bit of a klutz as a kid, but he wasn't a bad bloke, really. I made him write his name on some parchment for me."

Hermione moaned. "I'm so jealous!"

Harry grinned at her. "If you're very good, I might let you hold it," he offered.

"Of course you'll let me hold it!" Hermione insisted. "If you want me to help with your home–" She froze, then frowned. "Harry, are you coming back to school?"

"Not as a student," Harry replied, shaking his head.

"Harry has taken the Defence post for next year," Albus told the others around the table. "He'll be posing as my nephew."

Harry turned to Salazar, a rolling uncertainty in his stomach. "Sal," he whispered, horror in his voice, "I'll have to give and grade homework."

Sirius broke out in barking laughter while others around the table smiled at the young man. Salazar took a moment to sort out what, exactly, that meant, then said, "Now why didn't we think of something like that?"

"Sal," Harry whined, prodding his husband's upper arm.

"You'll figure it out," Salazar informed him with certainty.

Harry huffed. "You're helping me," he ordered.

Salazar sighed and rolled his eyes upwards. "Of course I am," he agreed.

"What about the curse?" Ginny asked. "Even Mad-Eye succumbed to it, and he was only staying a year."

"I intend to look into this 'curse'," Salazar commented. "I will find a way to be rid of it before classes start, even if it means tearing the wards down and putting them back together myself. No one puts a curse on my school while I'm alive to do something about it, especially not some half-formed freak who claims to be descended from me." He sneered.

Ginny wasn't the only one to stare at Salazar in a new light. Hermione swallowed, then breathed, "You can do that?"

"Oh, yeah, he can do whatever he wants with the wards," Harry offered drily. "He, Rowena, Holden, and Helga were the ones who put them together."

"And yourself and Ramona," Salazar reminded his husband; Harry and Ramona had helped to add to the wards when they stretched them to cover Hogsmeade, being the magically strongest amongst those who stayed the summer at the school.

Harry waved that away. "Two spells, Sal; it's not that impressive."

"You helped with the Hogwarts wards?" Hermione breathed and Harry knew he'd never hear the end of her questions.

"I helped extend the wards," Harry corrected. "More magical strength than actual spell knowledge, Hermione."

"But I bet you know all sorts of spells that don't exist any more," Hermione pointed out, eyes bright with excitement.

Harry paused for a moment, then said, "I know some excellent cooking charms; Helga taught them to me my first Yule."

Hermione was clearly torn between learning new spells, and learning spells to be used in a kitchen. Mrs Weasley, though, cleared her throat and said, "Perhaps we could trade?"

"Certainly." Harry grimaced. "I need to catch up on modern spells, anyway."

"We'll see if we can't help you with that," Lupin offered.

Harry smiled. "I'd appreciate that." Then his smile twisted somewhat wryly. "How many spells am I teaching you in return?"

Lupin laughed. "We'll see," he decided and Harry let out a loud groan, but his smile remained.

Albus chuckled with the others around the table, then nodded down the table towards Mrs Weasley. "Well, Molly, an excellent dinner, but I'm afraid I must run."

"Oh, of course, Albus," Mrs Weasley agreed, getting up to see Albus to the floo as the man collected his cloak.

"Is it okay if Sal and I remain a bit, si– Uncle?" Harry asked, grimacing at his slip; seeing his friends again had taken him back to thinking of the Headmaster as a professor, rather than his supposed uncle.

"I trust you to find your way back to the school," Albus agreed. "Although, if you feel the need to spend a night or two here, I won't stop you." He nodded to Sirius' hopeful expression.

"Not tonight, I'm afraid," Harry replied with true regret. "We can't leave Slinky like that, and we need to speak with a couple ghosts."

Albus inclined his head, then offered a general, "Good night," to the room, which most everyone responded to, then tossed some floo powder into the fireplace and said, "Head Office, Hogwarts."

Mrs Weasley glanced around the table and, seeing that most everyone was done, waved her wand to gather the cleaned dishes and said, "Kids, why don't you see about unpacking some?" There were groans from the four students, but they rose all the same and started towards the stairs.

Sirius turned towards Harry and Salazar. "Would you like a tour?" he asked a bit hopefully as others rose to offer to help Mrs Weasley or make their way upstairs.

"I would love one," Harry agreed, getting up. "Sal?"

"Might as well," the Founder allowed as he also got to his feet, settling Tanwen on his shoulder with care.

Sirius gave them the grand tour, having more than a few nasty words for the house, which turned out to have belonged to his family. They were just finishing up – Harry was petting Buckbeak while Salazar stayed well away – when there was a crash downstairs and someone started shrieking insults at the top of their lungs.

"My mother's painting," Sirius offered to Harry and Salazar's stares. "We try to keep a cover over her, so she keeps silent, but loud noises tend to startle her awake and she remembers how much she hates that we're using her home to house blood traitors and muggleborns." He sighed. "Pity there's a permanent sticking charm keeping her on the wall."

"I assume you've tried to get her down?" Harry asked as Salazar stalked from the room, expression intent. "Sal?"

Salazar waved his hand negligently around the doorway before they heard him on the stairs.

"Albus tried a few spells, but nothing worked," Sirius offered as both he and Harry moved to follow the Founder. "Does he know a spell?"

"Can't be sure," Harry replied, hurrying down the stairs after his husband.

Harry and Sirius caught up in the front hall, where Salazar was gently stopping Remus from forcing the curtains shut and saying, "Do you know who I am, madam?"

Walburga Black fell silent for long enough to consider the dark-haired man across from her before spitting, "Another nasty blood traitor!"

"I am Salazar Slytherin, madam, and you will speak to me with the respect that is my due," Salazar replied coolly and the portrait fell silent, staring at Salazar with wide eyes. Salazar raised an eyebrow at her, then said, "In my day, true ladies didn't go around caterwauling about miscreants in their homes; they were silent and mild-mannered, showing their displeasure by slipping nasty surprises into guests' tea, or simply unnerving them with their stare."

"Of–of course, my Lord Slytherin," Walburga breathed. "I will endeavour to act more befitting of my station."

"An excellent plan," Salazar agreed before glancing over at his husband and hissing, :Can I please make them stop calling me 'Lord Slytherin'?:

Harry smiled and shook his head while Remus and Sirius twitched at the snake's tongue and Walburga stared at Salazar, more awed than before. :It's your own fault for introducing yourself so pompously, this time,: Harry replied, amused.

Salazar sighed. :Any ideas for getting rid of her?:

:We could ask the Room,: Harry suggested. :Or try cutting the picture out of the frame?:

Salazar's eyes lit and he drew his sword in a swift motion, then used it to slice the parchment away from the frame, his motions with the blade smooth and practised.

"What is this?!" Walburga screamed. "FIFTHLY LIARS! TRAITORS, ALL OF YOU!" Her eyes burned with hatred as she looked up at Salazar from where she lay on the ground, her legs folded under her because of how the painting had fallen. "You're freaks," she spat.

A throwing knife bloomed in Walburga's forehead and she let out one last piercing scream before the painting bled black ink from the knife's tip.

"I despise that word," Harry spat as he stalked forward to retrieve his knife.

Salazar waited until Harry was standing and slipping his knife away before brushing a hand across his back. Harry glanced back at him and smiled at the flash of gratitude in his husband's eyes. "No one calls my husband that," he whispered, running a hand through Salazar's hair.

"I know," Salazar murmured. And he did, because Harry had told him about his life with his relatives, to whom he was 'Freak' and 'Boy', never having a name of his own under their roof. Harry could deal with 'boy', having heard it aimed at himself and others in a more kindly manner, but 'freak' would always be akin to 'mudblood' for him; that Angus and then Godric had used that word for those they disliked had only been poor luck, but it had nearly tripled Harry's hatred for the word, leaving him prone to violence when met with it, no matter the language.

"Well," Sirius said, voice a little strained, "I guess we didn't need a spell to shut her up."

Harry smiled back at his godfather, stepping back to give Salazar room to sheathe his sword. "I guess not," he agreed easily, as if he hadn't just been spitting-mad. "It seems a lack of magic was the way to go."

Sirius eyed the ruined parchment, its paint leaking out of the hole Harry's knife had made. "Good riddance," he decided, relaxing at the lack of violence in his godson's bearing.

"Smells like silver," Lupin commented quietly.

Harry grimaced. "Oh, yeah, sorry. I've got two silver knives, but the others – and Sal's sword – are all steel. I can leave the silver ones at Hogwarts next time I come, if they bother you?" he suggested.

Lupin shook his head. "Voldemort will likely have werewolves among his people; I can ignore them so long as I know they'll be keeping you safe."

"And that I'd never use them against you," Harry agreed with an easy smile.

"If you came across me on a full moon, I'd rather you would," Lupin said, eyes downcast.

But Harry shook his head. "I'm an animagus; if it comes to a show down between your wolf and myself, I'll simply change form and fly out of reach. A raven," he added as a grinning Sirius opened his mouth to ask.

"We simply must come up with a Marauder name for you," Sirius declared, wrapping an arm around Harry's shoulders.

Harry sighed. "As long as it's not too flashy."

Sirius' whole face lit up with glee and Harry felt a momentary sinking feeling before deciding he really didn't care; as long as Sirius was happy. And the name he came up with wasn't too ridiculous.

"Harry," Salazar interrupted, eyes smiling. When Harry, Sirius, and Lupin had all turned to look at him, he commented, "We should head back to Hogwarts for the night."

Harry sighed and nodded. "Of course. Where's a good place to apparate from?" he asked his godfather.

"The front stoop," Sirius replied, looking saddened as he drew away.

Harry grabbed his hand and squeezed. "I'll be back tomorrow," he promised. "We can catch up and, if there's a room free for Sal and me, we'll even stay the night. Okay?"

Sirius smiled and squeezed Harry's hand back. "Okay," he agreed.

Harry and Salazar made their way to the front stoop and apparated to the gates of Hogwarts, which opened for them without complaint at Salazar's touch and closed behind them once they'd passed through.

"We should probably spend part of tomorrow registering ourselves with the Ministry," Harry commented as they made their way down the path to the school.

"Registering ourselves?" Salazar repeated, scowling.

Harry shrugged. "Well, getting official apparation licences, mostly. And registering my animagus form, though I do see plenty of reason why it would be best not to; at least for so long as Voldemort is alive."

Salazar snorted. "You spend more time complaining about this Ministry than you do agreeing with them," he pointed out.

Harry grimaced. "Yeah, I know. Just the licences, then?"

"That would be my choice, yes."

Harry shrugged and made a mental note to drop by the Ministry before going back to Grimmauld Place tomorrow. "Did you want to go back to Headquarters with me tomorrow?" he asked, disinclined to take Salazar's company for granted.

Salazar shrugged. "I may as well. Your godfather mentioned something about a library, and I should also be interested in looking up modern spells."

"We'll leave you to the books while we catch up, then," Harry decided.

"And I'll teach you any new spells I learn later," Salazar added and they shared a knowing smile.

They met no one on their trip through the castle and down to their dungeon room. Helena and Alexander were awaiting them in their room, catching up with Slinky while Dobby asked occasional questions about Harry and Salazar, and Harry resigned himself to having two house-elves.

"Harry, Salazar," Helena said as the door closed behind them, "it's good to see you again."

"Likewise," Harry replied for the both of them while Salazar took his cloak to hang up with his own. "I'm sure it's even more gladdening for you, Helena, considering both the time and the fact that you've been unable to speak with me previously."

"It was difficult," Helena admitted, shrugging. "But we – Alexander and myself – have long been the least social of the Hogwarts ghosts. We were here over a century longer than the next oldest ghosts, and are more than used to keeping to ourselves."

"As you were in life, then," Salazar commented drily as he dropped into a comfortable green chair that resembled the ones he and Harry had once had in their own rooms. "What drove you to deciding to become ghosts, if I may ask?"

"It's not a pleasant story," Alexander said.

"They rarely are," Harry replied, dropping into a chair like Salazar's.

"Do Masters want anything?" Slinky asked, looking up at them hopefully. Next to her, Dobby echoed her expression, and Salazar let out a quiet groan.

"Perhaps some tea," Harry suggested, ignoring his husband. "Assuming you two can sort that out without fighting or breaking anything?" He raised an eyebrow at them.

The two house-elves shifted guiltily and traded looks. "Slinky gets tea?" the female suggested.

"Dobby will get the cups," the male agreed and they both popped away.

"You attract them," Salazar muttered and Harry let out a nervous laugh.

"At least they can keep each other busy while you're both out?" Alexander suggested.

Salazar grimaced. "Thank you, Alexander, for that mental image."

Alexander grimaced himself. "That's not what I meant."

Harry rolled his eyes, then smiled as the two house-elves popped back in with the tea, Dobby serving Harry while Slinky served Salazar. "Thank you, Dobby, Slinky," he offered as he settled back with his tea.

The two house-elves grinned, then settled down, out of the way, to listen to the ghosts.

"About ten years after you'd returned to this time, according to Ramona and Merlin," Helena started, "Dad came down with some sort of illness that Duana and her various healer friends couldn't cure. And, yes, she asked the Room, but it gave her nothing useful."

"She didn't think even the two of you would have made the difference," Alexander added, seeing the regret in Salazar and Harry's eyes and guessing – correctly – at the reason.

Helena nodded her agreement. "Godric wouldn't have let you back in the castle, anyway; Mother asked."

Salazar sighed while Harry muttered some rather uncomplimentary terms for the Founder under his breath. "No," the older man commented quietly, "I didn't think he would have. It was bad enough that he was required to let Wilda stay and that we remained as long as we had; I doubt anyone could talk him into letting another werewolf into the school after we'd left, either."

"None of us bothered," Alexander admitted. "Wilda's pack did pick up another magical werewolf, but she returned and taught the pup herself, with others of us dropping in when we were in the same general area and offering our help."

"There was one other homosexual student, that we knew of during Godric's life, but the student body and teachers went to great lengths to keep Godric from ever finding out," Helena added. "We managed it and she went on to become a Charms Mistress and, after Godric's death, returned with her bonded to teach until she passed away. The students who she taught adored her."

Salazar shook his head at his fellow Founder's bull-headed refusal to look past someone's sexual preference or a curse they suffered to see their worth as a human being. He waved that away after a moment and said, "Holden died, then?"

Helena inclined her head. "Yes. Mother spent much of her time during his final year at his side, leaving myself and others to teach her classes and watch the House. I was rather displeased by this, both because I was required to return to the school from my own travels south to carry her burden, and because I didn't get the time with Dad that I might have liked. After he died, she became progressively weaker herself, requiring that I remained in the castle to handle her duties. Finally, I stole her precious diadem and left, hoping the need for her treasured creation would get her out of bed when nothing else had."

"It didn't," Alexander said, taking over the tale while Helena bowed her head, too ashamed at her own actions to continue telling the story to the two wizards she'd considered family. "Duana couldn't say whether Holden's death had simply broken Rowena's heart beyond her capability to keep on living, or if she, too, had been ill with an unknown illness, but she was unable to get out of bed to chase after Helena. She sent me, instead, saying she cared not for the diadem, but she wanted her daughter there so she could have what was left of her family there when she died.

"I found Helena in what is now Romania. She didn't want to return to Hogwarts just to continue filling Rowena's shoes and refused to believe that Rowena was honestly dying. We argued, I pushed her too hard and she cracked her head. She was dead before I realised she wasn't playing me."

"Oh, Alex..." Harry whispered, hurting for his friend.

Alexander offered Harry a broken smile and Helena whispered, "He killed himself in remorse. Somewhere between our anger and regret, we both held on to life just enough to become ghosts. We made it back to Hogwarts in time to say goodbye to Mother before she died."

"Rowena said she, too, could hold on enough to become a ghost, but Helena told her to go on, to see Holden again," Alexander added quietly.

"We stayed in Hogwarts, for the most part," Helena said, straightening and wiping any hint of sorrow from her expression. "But we did travel a bit, during the summers, when there were no students in the castle who might need extra eyes. When the other ghosts and Peeves started showing up, we stopped travelling to help them become used to their circumstances and the castle."

"I regret the circumstances," Alexander said, "but I don't regret surviving to see you both again." He smirked. "Especially not the chance to see you as a first year, Mum."

"Cute," Harry replied drily. "Start telling stories to Sal, however, and I'll make sure the entire school knows about that one time–"

Alexander made a desperate motion for Harry to shut up. He'd grown up in Harry's shadow, and knew well how vindictive the young man could be when sufficiently pressed to it. "My lips are sealed," he swore.

Salazar raised an intrigued eyebrow, but he figured he'd have an easier time getting any embarrassing stories out of his husband than he would out of the ghosts. Or perhaps one of his little friends, if he could get them to trust him.

"Whatever you're plotting, stop," Harry ordered, watching Salazar with distrust.

Salazar flashed him an innocent smile. "I'm not plotting anything, my sweet."

Harry stared at him for a long moment before glancing towards the two ghosts. "Alex, Helena, lovely talk, hope to do it again. If you'd excuse us for the moment, however..."

Trading amused looks, the two ghosts vanished through the ceiling. Slinky and Dobby, taking the same cue, popped away, leaving Harry to enact his revenge on his laughing husband.

-0-

Slinky woke the two wizards the next morning, saying, "Dobby's sayings a breakfast is to be served in the Great Hall. Professor Albus says to join him so he can shows you around."

"He would," Harry muttered into his pillow.

Salazar sighed and sat up, taking a moment for the spinning room to settle. "Gods above," he muttered, rubbing at his forehead. "I feel like someone slipped me a sleep potion." He glanced towards Slinky, distrustful.

The house-elf immediately shook her head. "Not Slinky or Dobby, Master Salazar," she swore. "Slinky knows better." Salazar had caught her out once for slipping him a sleeping potion when he'd spent two days not sleeping to work on something; he had a minor allergy to one of the components in the potion, and if he didn't take another potion an hour before hand to counteract the allergy, he ended up waking up with a massive headache and vertigo.

"It's probably the time travel," Harry said, pushing himself up and resting his head on Salazar's shoulder while the world spun. "I slept it off last time, but we've been constantly moving since we arrived yesterday."

"It was a long day," Salazar agreed, remembering that they'd left in the night and arrived in the early afternoon, skipping any chance for sleep. They were lucky they'd managed so well as they had, honestly.

"Slinky can bring food down for Masters," the house-elf offered, expression twisted with concern.

Harry shook his head and immediately regretted it. "No," he managed, closing his eyes against the wave of vertigo. "We'll go up. But could you tell Uncle that we'll be a few minutes late?"

"Slinky will," the house-elf agreed and popped away.

Salazar motioned with his wand and two potions floated over to him from his shelf against one wall, which Slinky had set up yesterday. "Hangover potion?" he offered, holding one out to Harry. The potion had helped, in the past, with the pains of a morning after being slipped a sleep potion.

Harry tossed the potion back, blinked a few times as the world settled, then grinned at his husband. "Have I told you recently that I love you?"

"Not this morning," Salazar commented before brushing his lips against Harry's.

Harry banished the empty vials towards the sink against one wall and turned so he was facing Salazar properly. "I love you, Salazar Potter," he murmured before drawing Salazar into a deep kiss, tongue pressing into the older wizard's mouth without a hint of resistance.

When they pulled apart a breath, Salazar whispered, "We could still have breakfast in," lips brushing against Harry's as he spoke.

"Tempting," Harry whispered back, staring into his husband's eyes and truly considering it for a moment before pressing one last kiss against Salazar's mouth and pulling away. "But, no. Perhaps another day."

Salazar sighed and got out of the bed. "Too much to do today," he commented.

"True," Harry agreed, grimacing. "I should ask Albus about the licence, and I wouldn't mind looking for that portrait Ramona and Merlin left."

"And there's visiting with your godfather and friends to be done," Salazar finished. "I know. I might see about that curse while you're speaking to the portrait."

Harry smiled. "You'll let me know if you need an extra wand?"

"Of course I will," Salazar agreed.

When they reached the Great Hall, they found that Albus had left a couple empty seats for Harry and Salazar at his side around the small, circular table that was the only one in the Hall. Around the table sat six other members of the staff and they all watched the two late comers curiously as they settled in at Albus' right.

"Good morning, Uncle," Harry offered as he took his seat, hiding a smile at the surprise that flickered in everyone's eyes.

"Good morning, Harry, Sal," Albus replied and the Founder inclined his head in response. Looking at the others around the table, Albus said, "Everyone, this is my nephew, Harry, and his husband, Salazar. Harry has agreed to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts this year."

Uncertain eyes considered both wizards, though whether it was due to their being openly gay, or Salazar's well-known name, Harry didn't know. Harry smiled at everyone anyway, offering, "Well met."

Flitwick let out a pleased huff. "Indeed! You didn't mention you were related to Albus yesterday."

"I suppose I didn't," Harry agreed and inclined his head. "I didn't mean to mislead you, I simply wasn't certain about claiming a relation, given the current political climate."

"I understand," Flitwick replied. "I'm Filius Flitwick, by the way, since we were never properly introduced."

When Harry's eyes turned to the mediwitch at Flitwick's side, she said, "Poppy Pomfrey. I'm the castle mediwitch."

"That reminds me, Poppy," Albus said, "Sal is a trained mediwizard, though considering he did his learning outside of the country, I'm not sure how the Ministry will look at that..."

"Knowing your Ministry, unfavourably," Salazar commented smoothly as he met the mediwitch's considering gaze. "If you require any assistance, I am willing to give it, Madam. I'm afraid magical defence is not my forte, for all that Harry is quite passionate about it."

"I may take you up on that," Pomfrey allowed. "I don't usually require any help unless a number of students are hurt all at once." She narrowed her eyes at Harry. "You won't be sending me groups of students, will you?"

"I will endeavour to allow my students to cast only those spells which they or I can easily dispel the effects of," Harry promised.

Pomfrey nodded, pleased enough with that promise. Next to her was Sprout, who cheerfully offered, "I'm Pomona Sprout, Head of Hufflepuff and the Herbology professor. It's quite nice to meet you both."

"Likewise," Harry replied and, when she had nothing more to say, looked towards Hagrid.

"Rubeus Hagrid," the half-giant offered with a wide grin. "I'm the Care o' Magical Creatures professor and Keeper o' the Keys."

Next to Hagrid sat Filch who looked rather like he had no interest in introducing himself, so Albus offered, "Argus Filch, our caretaker. His cat, Mrs Norris, is sitting next to him." Hearing her name, the cat poked her head over the top of the table and glared at Harry and Salazar.

"And I am Sybill Trelawney," the last person at the table said airily.

"You don't want to know what got her out of her tower," Albus murmured to Harry and the young wizard grinned, knowing well the supposed seer's feelings about leaving the perfumed rooms she used in the north tower.

The meal went rather well, despite any misgivings the staff had for their new members. Harry answered the few questions about his origins, explaining that he'd been home schooled due to some tension between Aberforth and Albus, and had been travelling outside the country for the past few years, enjoying a chance to see how other peoples lived. Salazar, for his part, left Harry to any explanations about his past and got lost in a conversation with Pomfrey about some healing spells that had recently been created by someone in St Mungo's; the Founder might not have been familiar with the spells, but he was a capable enough healer and actor that he had no trouble keeping up with the mediwitch.

As breakfast broke up, Salazar touched Harry's shoulder briefly, then waved for Albus' attention. "Albus, if I might have a word?"

"Certainly, Sal," the Headmaster agreed and they moved off to one side, whispering about the curse.

Harry fell in with Trelawney and Flitwick on their way up to the seventh floor. When Flitwick looked curiously at the young man, Harry offered, "I need to collect something from my uncle's office. Don't mind me."

Flitwick chuckled and they travelled the rest of the way in silence. At the top of the seventh floor, Harry turned one direction while the other two professors turned the opposite way. The Room was past the Headmaster's office, and the other two were out of sight before he reached the gargoyle, so Harry just kept on without a concern and stopped when he reached the blank space of wall the door of the Room would appear on.

Harry took a moment to smile at the humorous tapestry hung across from the door, then started pacing, thinking, 'I need the Room where Merlin and Ramona's portrait is,' over and over. At his third pass, the door grew out of the wall and Harry pulled it open.

Inside was a small room warmed by a fireplace and with a large green couch sat in front of a portrait of a much older Merlin and Ramona, both of whom were sleeping. Stepping quietly, Harry considered his friends: He saw a lot of Roscoe in Ramona, from the faint curl of her long hair, to the shape of her ears; in Merlin, he saw the old wizard on the chocolate frog cards, though his hair and beard were still mostly the dark auburn he'd had as a boy.

Dropping onto the couch, Harry cleared his throat. The two sleeping people jerked awake and blinked around the room. Merlin saw Harry first and his blue eyes widened, then he broke out with a huge grin that reminded Harry so much of what he'd left behind, that his breath caught. "Harry!"

"Goodness!" Ramona said, smiling down at the young man on the couch. "Harry, it's wonderful to see you again."

"Likewise," Harry whispered and cleared his throat against the catch in his voice. "Alex told me you were both in here."

"So we are," Ramona agreed. "I take it that means you've spoken to him and Helena?"

Harry nodded. "Last night. I would have come up then, but we were getting tired."

Ramona waved that away. "We're more than capable of waiting for you."

"Is Salazar not with you?" Merlin asked, looking towards the door, as if Salazar would come running at his name.

Harry shook his head. "He's looking into the curse on the Defence position; he was quite displeased to find out about it, going on about refusing to let someone – especially his supposed descendant – put a curse on his school."

Merlin rolled his eyes. "Of course he did. What was the real reason he was upset?"

"What, you think he wouldn't be upset because someone's cursed the school?" Harry asked, amused.

"He'd be upset, but I think he'd be more interested in going after this Lord Voldemort that wants you dead than in worrying over a curse," Merlin pointed out. "He swore vengeance on that man before he even knew his name."

Harry snorted. "True enough. Well, I agreed to take the Defence position, so the curse is a danger to me."

"That would do it," Ramona commented.

"Voldemort also thinks I'm dead, right now, so he's not much of a threat to me," Harry added. "I'm acting as the Headmaster's nephew, to hide my identity; I'm still in danger, but I'm not target number one."

"I suppose it would be a bit difficult to explain away however many years older you are," Ramona agreed.

"And it will be a lovely surprise to Voldemort," Harry commented, settling more comfortably on the couch. "So, what all did I miss? Beyond Merlin becoming ridiculously famous."

"Oh, you'll enjoy this one," Ramona said with a grin. "Merlin met this Arthur bloke by tripping over him and cracking his head. Arthur nursed him until he was well enough to heal himself."

"He was surprisingly okay with magic," Merlin added wryly as Harry snickered at his friend's misfortune. "Good news for me, because I wasn't quite there enough to know better until after I'd cast the spell. He just asked if I could fix his leaky roof."

"Your life never got dull, did it?" Harry asked, far too amused.

"Apparently not," Merlin replied drily. "I take it you knew right away that I was going to become famous?"

Harry nodded. "Oh, yeah. When I first got to the past, I was still cursing using your name, until Sal told me off. He says the only reason he didn't suggest you to Godric or Helga was because he'd heard your name and remembered it from me."

"I'm torn between being bothered or pleased by this," Merlin decided.

"Be pleased," Ramona suggested. "You managed quite well in Slytherin House, and it prepared you for those times of darkness as Camelot came to a close."

"True," Merlin agreed, something grim in his eyes.

Harry offered a sad smile, familiar enough with the legends to know things hadn't always gone well. He glanced at Ramona. "What happened with Manfred, then? Did you finally dump his arse?"

Ramona laughed and nodded. "I didn't get much of a choice," she commented. "He hit me one afternoon for speaking out of turn, or some such – stop that," she added, seeing the furious gleam in Harry's eyes at the mention of violence. "Merlin caught me trying to cover it up and let it slip to the rest of your upper year snakes what was going on."

"We threatened him a bit," Merlin said airily. "Something about six angry Slytherins and Conrad scared him off and he vanished from the castle in the night. When Roscoe found out about Manfred's abuse the next morning, he was already long gone."

"More the pity," Harry decided. "He would have deserved Roscoe's anger."

"Be that as it may," Ramona interrupted, rolling her eyes at the both of them, "I was quite on my own for a few years, helping with the school while others of our year left to find their fortunes elsewhere. Fane stayed on as the Head of Slytherin and we got on well enough. Not long after Rowena and Holden died, Da started to take ill, being non-magical as he was. Fane asked to court me and, with Da's blessing, we had our handfasting a few days before he died."

Harry smiled sadly. "I'm glad he got to see it."

Ramona nodded. "He seemed really happy, at least. Umm... Oh! Fane and I had a daughter, Lily, and a son, Harry."

Harry's eyes widened with surprise at the tribute to himself and his mother, then he smiled again. "Thanks, Ramona."

Ramona inclined her head. "I insisted on Lily," she admitted. "Fane was the one who insisted on Harry."

"He would have," Harry agreed drily. "Merlin? No pretty girls to bond with?"

Merlin snorted. "To have a fling in the hay with, yes; to have a formal handfasting with, no. And, yes, I took care not to get anyone pregnant, Mum."

Harry grinned; he'd always cautioned his students against the careless sleeping around that Salazar's father had taken part in, though he'd always taken care not to mention Silvanus Slytherin. Salazar had helpfully taught an anti-conception charm to all his students during their first year, so none of them could claim they didn't know how to be careful.

Slinky popped in next to Harry. She took a moment to smile at the portrait, then said, "Master Salazar say he's okays to be goings now, Master Harry."

Harry sighed and stood. "Excellent. Merlin, Ramona, our room has something of a sitting room apart from the bedroom. Is it okay if Slinky sets you up in there?"

"I think we'd quite like that," Ramona agreed.

"As long as we don't have to see you two going at it," Merlin added teasingly.

Harry snorted. "I'll be sure we get naked out there one day, just for you," he promised and Merlin moaned theatrically while Ramona laughed. "Slinky?"

"Slinky will takes care of it, Master Harry," she promised before both she and the portrait vanished.

Chuckling to himself, and feeling all the lighter for the chance to speak to his friends – portrait magic or not – Harry made his way down to where Salazar awaited him on the front steps, summoning his cloak on his way.

Chapter Text

Getting the licences didn't take long, and if people looked at the two men a bit oddly once they heard their last name, neither Harry nor Salazar gave it a second thought, enough used to receiving odd looks for their dress or accent while they'd been travelling. Once at Grimmauld Place, they were bullied into lunch by Mrs Weasley. Ron still seemed a little uncertain about Harry, but the others were easy-going enough.

After lunch, Harry settled in around the kitchen table with Sirius, Remus, and the students, while Mrs Weasley completed some kitchen chores and Salazar vanished to snoop through the library. Harry had all sorts of stories about the Founders and the first students to keep his audience entertained. By the time those with jobs started arriving, Ron was quite friendly again, laughing at something one of the Gryffindors had done during a weekend.

When Salazar came down for dinner, called by Mrs Weasley, Ron's smile froze, suddenly reminded that Harry was married to Salazar Slytherin. Harry sighed and smiled up at his husband as he settled into the open spot next to him. "Find anything interesting?"

"Interesting, yes," Salazar agreed, "useful, I can't say."

"I'm sure it'll be useful eventually," Harry replied neutrally.

"Most spells often are," Salazar agreed before switching to Pictish and saying, "Your ginger friend really doesn't care for me."

Harry shrugged. "He'll get over it."

"Whether he does it by choice or because you've forced him–"

"I'm not going to force him to like you, Sal," Harry interrupted, frowning.

"Force him by way of being difficult unless he accepts me," Salazar corrected smoothly. "Don't frown at me, Harry; I know how difficult you can be when people react poorly to me."

Harry sighed and muttered, "Whatever," in English, signalling his defeat. Given, Salazar, too, could be a force to be reckoned with when someone snubbed Harry, but Harry was always the more vocal about his displeasure.

"How many languages can you speak?" Hermione asked as the food went around and everyone served themselves.

Harry considered that for a moment, then shrugged. "Fifteen, give or take a few. Most of them are older forms of a modern language, though."

"Could you teach me one?" Hermione asked hopefully, before her expression drooped. "Just for the summer, I guess. It would be hard to continue during term..."

Harry raised an amused eyebrow at her. "There's a spell that transfers one's knowledge of a language to another person. I can teach you any language I know in about a minute, though it might take you a few days to fully assimilate it."

Hermione's eyes brightened. "Yes, please," she breathed.

"Just as long as you don't teach her every language," Salazar muttered in Englisc.

Harry rolled his eyes at his husband. "I'll teach you the ones you might get some use out of," he offered. "I can only teach you one every twenty-four hours, and I'd rather give you a few days to sort everything out with the one language before teaching you another, okay?"

Hermione nodded excitedly. "Okay! Thanks, Harry."

"Of course."

Dinner was cheerful enough, in spite of Ron's occasional distrustful looks towards Salazar, which the Founder ignored in favour of speaking with Lupin, who sat next to him. Harry took the chance to speak with Bill, who was in England for a while and had agreed to drop by Grimmauld for dinner, though he wasn't staying with them, much to his mother's sorrow.

As dinner came to a close, Mrs Weasley asked, "Harry, Salazar, are you planning to spend the night?"

Salazar shrugged. "Harry would like to, yes."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, we're both planning to stay the night. We can clean out one of the rooms ourselves, if we need to," he added with an easy smile.

"I'll show you a couple of empty rooms," Sirius offered, standing.

"Sounds good," Harry agreed, getting up himself. "Sal?"

"I'm coming," the Founder muttered and joined the other two men.

They found an empty room up on the second floor and, after a slew of cleaning charms and a couple vanishing spells, the room was more than acceptable as a temporary residence for Harry and Salazar. They then retired again to the kitchen to laugh with the others in the house until Mrs Weasley finally ordered all the students to bed. She seemed nearly ready to order Harry to bed as well, but Mr Weasley touched her arm and shook his head.

"It's been a long couple days," Harry commented, managing a yawn that wasn't as false as he'd intended it to be.

Salazar inclined his head and rose to his feet next to his husband. "It has," he agreed neutrally. "Perhaps we, too, shall turn in."

"Good night, Harry, Sal," Sirius offered, and the three eldest Weasleys and Lupin added their voices as the two left the room.

In the room they'd chosen, Harry and Salazar changed into the sleep bottoms they'd had Slinky send along, then slipped into the bed to sleep.

While Salazar slipped into sleep's embrace easily, Harry found it to be much more difficult; his back would twinge randomly, bringing him awake just as he was dosing off. Finally, after nearly two hours of this, Harry rose and slipped from the room and down the hall to the library; if nothing else, perhaps he could read himself to sleep.

There was a spell on the door to keep the students out, but Harry waved it away without a second thought. He waved his wand to light the candles left around the room and glanced over the shelves for something to read. Most of the books were of the darker magics – something neither Harry nor Salazar had much interest in, beyond knowing how to protect against it or healing its effects – but he did find a section of books on magical defence. He glanced through a couple of them, trying to find one that actually caught his attention, figuring he might as well learn something if he was going to be up.

He'd just found two interesting books on magical shields when he heard the door behind him creak open. He glanced over his shoulder to find a sleepy Ron standing there. He knew his friend had the room next to his and Salazar's, but he hadn't expected him to be up or to follow him into the library, door cracked open and spell inactive or not. "Ron," he offered neutrally.

Ron blinked sleepily at the man he still considered to be his best friend, no matter how uncertain he was of the man Harry had become. "Heard s'meone in the hall," he mumbled. "Thought it mighta been Fred or George."

"I'm sorry to have woken you," Harry said, slipping one of the books back on the shelf. "Just looking for something to read to help me sleep."

Ron was about to comment on that – it seemed strange for it to be Harry looking for something to read, rather than Hermione – when his sleepy mind finally registered the violent lines on his best friend's bare back. "Harry," he whispered, and Harry looked back at him, confused by the sick horror in his voice, "what happened to you?"

"What do you mean?" Harry asked warily as he turned to face the boy. He wasn't sure either of them were awake enough to discuss the trials that had changed Harry from the boy he'd been into the man he'd become.

"Your back," Ron replied, shaking his head to rid himself of the image of Harry's scarred back, which had burned itself into his corneas.

"Ah." Harry sighed and stepped over to one of the chairs in the room, reminded that he hadn't bothered to put on a shirt when he'd left his room; two years with only Salazar and Slinky around had broken him of the habit. "Have a seat, Ron," he suggested, motioning one of the other chairs over to face him. As Ron dropped into the seat, pale with the unknown horror that had befallen his friend, Harry murmured, "Slinky."

The house-elf appeared at his side, blinking sleepily. "Master Harry calls?" she murmured.

"I'm sorry to have woken you, Slinky," Harry offered, but Slinky waved the apology away and made an effort to appear more awake. Harry smiled – it wasn't the first time he'd woken her for something – and requested, "Some tea and biscuits? Hold the caffeine."

Slinky inclined her head in understanding. "Slinky can brings Master Harry a sleeping potion," she offered.

Harry considered that for a moment, then nodded. "In the vial, please," he replied, knowing she might well slip it into his tea if he didn't specify. As she popped away, Harry glanced back at Ron, who had watched them curiously, though he'd remained pale. "A free house-elf who promised herself to Sal and me back when we left Hogwarts. She followed us to this time to continue looking after us."

"You never bound her to you?" Ron asked.

Harry shrugged. "Hermione would never have forgiven me," he replied and they shared a knowing smile.

Slinky reappeared with the requested items and set the tea tray on a table that had appeared between the two humans. Ron made up his own tea the way he liked it while Harry thanked Slinky and glanced over the potions vial with a practised eye. Satisfied, he set it to one side and sipped at his pre-made tea.

"Harry," Ron said after a quiet moment, watching his friend, "what happened?"

"Voldemort happened," Harry replied evenly, ignoring Ron's flinch. "I wasn't entirely honest yesterday about what led up to my ending up in the Founders' era; it's true that Voldemort and I duelled, but our wands connected due to having a core of the same phoenix. The reaction backfired on me and my wand was flung one way while I was flung another, into a golden net that had grown up around us. It burned my back before it could send me to the past." He eyed Ron's pale visage for a long moment in silence before adding, "If Sal hadn't found me or had been any less a healer than he is, I would have died from those burns."

Ron stared down into his tea for a long, silent moment, then said, "He saved your life."

"He did," Harry agreed, keeping his voice neutral.

"So you owe him a life debt?" Ron asked, looking up at Harry with a frown.

Harry was still for a moment, debating how to handle that, then agreed, "After a fashion. But we've never really considered it as my owing him, and we spent two years watching each other's backs while we travelled, so I couldn't say which of us truly owes the other, at this point." He considered Ron's frown for a long moment as the younger wizard struggled with something, then said, "Just say it, Ron."

"I just... He's Salazar Slytherin, Harry," Ron managed.

"Better Sal than Draco Malfoy," Harry replied drily and Ron let out a choked sound. Harry smiled at him and shook his head. "Ron, I don't look at Sal and see the evils of his students through time, any more than I look at you and hear the words of hatred that Godric spat at Sal and me before we left. When I arrived in the past, half dead and unable to understand a word he said, Sal took me in and took care of me, in spite of the duties he had to drop to do so. He was there to comfort me when a friend died, and he spent two years trying to find me a way home. And that's the man I see when I look at him."

Ron took a shaky breath, trying to fit these words around the image of the man his best friend had married. It was hard to fight back years of hatred, but for all that he was wary around the Founder, it had been hard to ignore the way he'd endeavoured to protect Harry during their first meeting, or how peaceful he'd been over the past two days; quiet as he was, he'd never shown any sign of dislike for anyone in the house, though Ron had given him more than enough reason to hate him for his rudeness.

'Maybe he's not the man of the stories,' Ron admitted to himself. 'But, does that mean Gryffindor...' He swallowed with some difficulty, then asked, "Harry, what did Gryffindor say to you?"

Harry had taken care to avoid that topic, not wanting to bring it up when everyone seemed okay with him having married a man, but he couldn't refuse to answer the question, not when asked flat out. "Godric," he said in an empty voice, "wanted to stone us for being gay, and we left to keep from tearing Hogwarts apart." He turned his attention to picking through the biscuits as he added, "I'd rather not repeat what, exactly, he said. If it's all the same?"

"Yeah," Ron whispered, heart aching for his best friend. As a general rule, pureblood families were accepting of homosexuals, so long as those people had at least one child with another magical person, to keep their numbers up and the bloodlines pure; any disgust of homosexuality in the magical world came from those who'd been muggle-raised. But Ron knew it hadn't always been that way; his father's grandfather had been gay and he'd faced plenty of prejudice for it when he'd been younger; he'd renounced his male lover, married a woman, and had children to keep from being killed by his peers.

Ron had always had trouble understanding the hatred aimed at homosexuals, having been raised in a family that was accepting of all lifestyles, but he knew it existed, and knew some of what it was like to be on the receiving end of prejudice, since his family had been labelled as blood traitors. He hated that Harry had faced that, and from someone Ron admired, no less! And, to Ron's surprise, he found himself sympathising with Salazar, who had almost certainly suffered at Harry's side.

"I'm sorry," Ron found himself saying. He looked up and met startled green eyes.

"For what?" Harry asked.

"For being a git."

Harry smiled tiredly. "Ron, you're often a git."

Ron grimaced, remembering how stupid he'd been this past year over Harry being in the Tournament. "I know," he allowed. "But I made myself a promise, after that dragon, that I would trust your word from now on, no matter any evidence to the contrary, because that's what best friends do. And, well, I didn't. I decided Slyth– Salazar was evil incarnate, just like Malfoy or You-Know-Who, even though you clearly thought otherwise. And then, well..."

"You were worried about me," Harry commented quietly. "I know that, and I know how you get when you're trying to hide that. Ron, I wasn't surprised by your reaction to my return, any more than I've been surprised at your reaction to Sal. To be honest, I'd have been worried if you'd just accepted everything without question." He snorted. "I've been surprised at how well everyone else has taken things, in fact."

Ron smiled at that. "I think they're all just too relieved that you're not dead."

Harry shrugged and nodded. "True. And I gave them all a night to work through any misgivings about Sal or my sexual preference."

"It's..." Ron sighed and shook his head. "The gay thing isn't so big a deal, though."

Harry blinked. "No?"

"No. You might find a couple people who want to know when you two are going to employ a surrogate and have kids, and some muggle-raised witches and wizards might be a little strange about it, but it shouldn't be a problem, otherwise."

"Huh. What do you know." Harry smiled. "I'll have to tell Sal that so he'll stop waiting for the stoning to start." He sighed and shook his head.

"Cursing," Ron corrected. At Harry's raised eyebrow, he explained, "Stoning people is too muggle."

Harry laughed. "The purebloods would think that, wouldn't they?"

They shared a grin and, for a moment, it was just like old times. But then Ron noticed again the lack of glasses and the age of sorrow and darkness in Harry's eyes, and the moment was gone.

Harry caught the change in the air. "Perhaps it's time we both returned to bed," he suggested gently, un-stoppering his potion.

"Oh, yeah," Ron agreed and set his empty cup back on the tea tray. He stood as Harry drank the potion and offered. "Well, good night?"

Harry smiled at him. "Good night, Ron. I'll see you at breakfast."

"Yeah. Okay."

Harry waited until Ron was gone and the sleeping potion was starting to kick in before he returned to his room, leaving the tea tray and its contents for Slinky or Sirius' house-elf – whom Harry had yet to meet – to clean up. His back still gave him trouble, but the sleeping potion kept it from keeping him up any longer, and he was dead to the world shortly after he'd curled up next to his husband.

-0-

"Sal?" Harry murmured drowsily as he registered the movement of the man getting up.

Salazar paused and glanced back at Harry. "Good morning," he offered. "Go back to sleep."

Harry sighed and dropped his head back on his pillow. "M' back's bothering me," he managed before the fading effects of the sleep potion drew him back to sleep.

Salazar frowned at that. "Your back?" he asked, but there was no response. Resigning himself to waiting, he got ready for the day, managing to grab their floor's only toilet before the youngest male Weasley. 'Then again, with what Harry said about the boy, I'm not surprised,' Salazar thought as he returned to his and Harry's room.

Before Salazar could retreat into his room, Mrs Weasley came down the stairs. She paused for a moment upon seeing him, then smiled. "Good morning, Sal," she offered, having joined most of the rest of the house in using Harry's nickname for the Founder. "You're up early."

"I often rise early," Salazar allowed. "If you'll forgive me?" He motioned towards the door of his and Harry's room.

"Of course. Breakfast should be ready within ten minutes," Mrs Weasley replied before continuing downstairs.

Once back in his room, Salazar slipped back onto the bed and brushed a hand through Harry's hair. The younger wizard let out a disgruntled sound and shifted, but didn't wake again. The shifting had put him in a better position for Salazar to look over the scars and Salazar smiled faintly at how his husband foresaw his requests even when asleep. 'And drugged,' Salazar realised, recognising the faint smell of a sleeping potion on Harry's breath.

Salazar waved a couple of spells over Harry's back, but everything seemed to be okay. A quick examination with his eyes and fingers told him nothing new, though it did draw Harry out of his potion-induced slumber and back to the world of the awake.

"Sal?" he mumbled as he rolled over to look up at his husband.

Salazar smiled at Harry and brushed a lock of hair away from his eyes. "Good morning. Again," he replied.

Harry's brow furrowed for a moment, then cleared. "Yeah. Morning." He went to sit up, then winced and fell back as his back stretched unpleasantly. "Ow."

Salazar quickly waved another diagnostic spell over Harry, but it returned only normal readings again. "Harry," he said, "I'm not finding anything wrong with your back."

Harry frowned and forced himself to sit up, ignoring the strange sensation. "Nothing? It was twinging all last night, keeping me up. And now it... Well, I don't know. It's...stretching, I suppose."

" 'Stretching'?" Salazar repeated even as he sorted through his spell knowledge for any explanations for this or a way to heal it.

Harry shrugged and winced as the motion caused his back to pull. "Yeah. Like it's newly healed skin. Feels just a little too tight."

Salazar raised an eyebrow at that. "Hm. Let me try something?"

"By all means." Harry shifted so his back was facing Salazar.

The Founder touched his wand to Harry's back and murmured, "Onliðaþ."

Harry let out a relieved sound as his back relaxed against his will and the almost-painful feeling vanished. He fell back against Salazar, smiling when the older wizard caught him against his chest. "Thank you."

Salazar brushed a kiss against Harry's jaw. "You're welcome," he murmured before meeting Harry's mouth for a kiss. He tapped his wand against the side of Harry's face after a moment, casting a silent breath freshening charm, and Harry pulled away to laugh.

"Trying to tell me something?" he teased.

"Your breath stinks," Salazar replied drily.

Harry laughed again and shoved himself to his feet. "You started the kiss," he pointed out.

"Hm. So I did," Salazar agreed absently, watching the familiar scars on Harry's back as the younger man moved. "I wish I knew what's wrong with your back this time," he said.

Harry shook his head. "Belated reaction to time travel?"

"I hope it's nothing more than that," Salazar agreed. "Let me know if it gives you any more trouble."

"I will," Harry promised.

"Even if I'm sleeping," Salazar insisted, knowing why Harry hadn't bothered him last night. When Harry didn't immediately agree, Salazar narrowed his eyes. "Harry."

"Yes, okay," Harry agreed. "Even if you're sleeping, I'll wake you and let you know." He sighed.

Salazar sniffed, not sure he believed Harry. "Molly says breakfast should be ready soon enough. I'm going to head on down."

"Okay. I'll join you shortly," Harry replied, slipping his knives into their places; he hardly needed them in Headquarters, but the act of putting them on each morning was ingrained in his routine after six years of Godric ordering them to always be armed and two years in areas of questionable safety.

Mr Weasley was downstairs by the time Harry made it down, explaining a function of the Ministry to a curious Salazar. Harry collected his own plate from Mrs Weasley and joined them. Lupin and Hermione joined them not long after, with Ginny and the twins stumbling in just in time to wish their father a good day. By the time Sirius made it down, Salazar had already retired to the library, and the twins volunteered themselves to wake Ron when their mother started wondering after him. Harry felt a little bit of pity for his friend.

When Ron was mostly finished with his breakfast, Mrs Weasley said, "This building needs a good cleaning, and it seems we have a crew right here." She looked over her four and Hermione. She glanced at Harry, and her expression softened. "You don't have to help, of course, Harry dear..."

Harry shook his head. "Count me in. I'd like to see this place liveable, too, and I don't intend to sit around and leave you lot to do the work when I'm more than capable."

"More capable than some of us," Ginny commented wryly, tapping her wand against the top of the table to remind them that she, Ron, and Hermione couldn't use magic.

"I bet you know more cleaning spells than I do," Harry replied, amused. "Anyway, nothing wrong with physical exercise to put you in a proper state of mind for one of Mrs Weasley's fantastic lunches."

Mrs Weasley smiled brightly at Harry. "Why thank you, dear. Now, let's start on the drawing room."

"Charmer," one of the twins muttered to Harry as they all trooped up the stairs to the first floor.

"You bet," Harry replied, grinning.

Lupin joined them in their attack on the drawing room, which definitely needed the attention, but Sirius spent most of the time poking his head in, looking hopefully towards Lupin or Harry, then vanishing before Mrs Weasley could catch sight of him.

They were just finishing up for lunch when Slinky popped into the room. "Master Harry?" she called, unable to see Harry because he'd crawled behind one of the couches.

Harry popped his head over the couch and smiled at his house-elf. "Hey, Slinky."

"Harry Potter, do you have a house-elf?" Hermione demanded.

"She's a free elf," Harry said, cutting the rant off before she could get going properly. "Slinky, what's wrong?"

Slinky shook her head. "Nothings being wrong, Master Harry. Professor Albus is being requestings that Masters join him in his office for lunch."

"Hn. Sal's in the library, if you could pass the message on to him?"

"Slinky will," the house-elf agreed before popping away.

Harry pushed himself to his feet with a grunt and brushed his hands together to get rid of the dust. "Well, guess that means there's two less people for lunch, Mrs Weasley."

"Of course," Mrs Weasley agreed, smiling. "Best not to keep Albus waiting."

"Indeed," Salazar said, stopping in the doorway. "I believe we can use the...floo, is it?"

"Should be able to," Harry agreed. "If Uncle doesn't need us to stay past lunch, I'll be back to help you more then," he promised those he'd been working with.

"We appreciate the help," Mrs Weasley replied. "Have a lovely lunch."

The two wizards left, Salazar casting a quick cleaning charm on Harry as they made their way downstairs. They met Sirius in the kitchen, stacking cups in a pyramid. "Are you lot done, then?" he asked hopefully.

"I think they're about to call a halt," Harry replied. "Uncle Albus has requested that Sal and I join him for lunch, so we'll be gone for a bit, though."

Sirius sighed. "Yeah, okay." He slumped back into his seat.

"You could help with the cleaning, you know," Harry pointed out.

Sirius snorted. "No thanks."

"Your choice," Harry said before leading the way to the floo.

A quick trip later and Harry and Salazar were standing in Albus' office, trading greetings with the Headmaster. "Please, sit while I have lunch sent up," he requested, waving at the small table that had appeared in the centre of the room with three seats.

They enjoyed some quiet meal chatter, Harry mentioning Mrs Weasley's cleaning rampage and Albus sharing some gossip about a couple of the professors who remained in the castle over the summer.

As the last of the food was vanished, leaving them with tea, Albus asked, "Sal, did you find anything out about the curse?" Harry glanced curiously at his husband, having left it up to Salazar to tell him what he'd found; he trusted that if it was important, Salazar would have told him.

Salazar nodded. "I can remove the curse, but it will require tearing the wards down and putting them back up again from the bottom; I'm not sure I really want to do that while we're in the middle of a war, however."

"There's another solution?" Harry asked, aware that his husband wouldn't have let the matter drop unless they had an alternative to pulling the wards down.

Salazar nodded. "The curse is specifically aimed at the 'Defence Against the Dark Arts' position. Change the name – perhaps to 'Magical Defence' – and that should negate the curse long enough for us to finish this war so I can tear down the wards."

"So simple?" Albus wondered, intrigued.

Salazar shrugged. "These things often are. If you wish to give a reason for the change without citing the curse, tell people you've found records that say the position was called Magical Defence in the Founders' era."

"It's certainly more neutral," Albus agreed. "Well, Harry, if you have no complaints?"

"I don't."

"Then I'll officially change the position name." They all nodded, Harry and Albus smiling widely at having solved the problem while Salazar just looked smug.

"Was that all?" Salazar asked.

Albus' smile vanished. "I'm afraid not," he replied, tone sombre. "Our first Order meeting is tonight and there are some things you should be aware of before we get into it." Harry and Salazar both narrowed their eyes, but made no other response, so Albus sighed and shook his head. "First, there is the question of whether or not to let everyone know who you two truly are. I trust most of the Order to hold our secrets, but as Harry can attest, Rubeus has trouble holding his tongue, and another member, Mundungus, has a habit of selling whatever he thinks he can put a price on to the highest bidder."

"And you trust him?" Salazar asked, disgusted.

"He is useful in keeping us apprised of dealings in the magical underworld," Albus explained. "I do usually keep him away from delicate information, but he's also given his Oath that he won't share any of the Order's plans or names with people outside the Order."

"But that doesn't mean he can't let it slip that I'm not dead," Harry murmured, frowning in thought. "I admit, it may be better not letting anyone else know who we are; the fewer people that know, the better. And while I adore Hagrid, he does have a bit of a loose tongue. Which I've no doubt you've used for your own purposes in the past." He shot a glance at Albus, who allowed a faint smile in response. "I assume you have confidants in the Order? A second-in-command, of a sort?"

"Alastor was the closest to my second," Albus admitted. "As he is dead, I believe the next person I would most trust would be Minerva McGonagall."

"That makes sense," Harry agreed.

"Then may I suggest we tell Minerva and leave it a secret for the others?" Salazar said. "If someone catches on to Harry's true identity, feel free to tell them who he is, but otherwise, we shall continue with the fiction that he is your nephew. Harry and I can pass the message of silence on to the others when we return."

"That's acceptable," Albus agreed. "I can ask Minerva to return with me to Hogwarts and tell her over dinner. You two may join us, but I'll leave that as your choice."

Harry and Salazar nodded. "And the other thing? Or things," Harry asked.

Albus sighed and motioned his pensieve out of its cabinet. "I should have, perhaps, shared this with you years ago," he told Harry, who tensed again, "but I thought you were yet too young for this responsibility. It seems you are more than old enough, now." He pressed his wand to his temple and drew out a silvery strand, which he dropped in the bowl. After a moment of watching it dance in the liquid, he touched his wand to it and the form of Sybill Trelawney rose up to speak in the harsh tones Harry remembered from his third year:

"THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD APPROACHES... BORN TO THOSE WHO HAVE THRICE DEFIED HIM, BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES... AND THE DARK LORD WILL MARK HIM AS HIS EQUAL, BUT HE WILL HAVE POWER THE DARK LORD KNOWS NOT... AND EITHER MUST DIE AT THE HAND OF THE OTHER FOR NEITHER CAN LIVE WHILE THE OTHER SURVIVES... THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD WILL BE BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES..."

Harry and Salazar were both still for a long moment, faces a blank mask, as the figure over the pensieve sank back into the swirling liquid. Finally, Harry spoke, voice as empty as his expression, "I will assume that refers to myself and Voldemort."

"It does," Albus agreed, watching the two wizards with some worry. "Harry, I'm sorry–"

Harry shook his head and smiled wryly. "I wouldn't have told myself, either," he admitted, then let out a loud breath. "No, this just gives me a reason for the certainty that I had to return to deal with Voldemort. It doesn't matter, in the long run: I'd fully intended to see him dead before you showed me that, and I know Sal agrees with me."

"Indeed," Salazar agreed grimly.

Albus sighed, relief in his eyes. "I believed you would say something of the like, and I'm grateful that you're not angry with me."

Harry shrugged. "I am, a little, but I understand your reasoning."

Albus smiled sadly. "There is a copy of this prophecy in the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic. I'm uncertain if Voldemort will be looking to get his hands on it, as he believes you dead, but I'm not taking any chances; Neville Longbottom also fits part of the prophecy – as much of it as Voldemort knows, at least – and he might look for it to see if Neville will turn into a problem for him."

Harry grimaced. "I'll see if I can't give Neville some extra tutoring this year, then; if Voldemort might consider him a target, he needs to be able to cast some spells."

Albus inclined his head. "I'll leave that for you and Mr Longbottom to work out. I've already sent an owl to his grandmother, letting her know that he might well become a target, but I've yet to hear back from her. It's possible she's taken him into hiding."

"Is she a member of the Order?" Salazar asked.

"She is not, though her son and daughter-in-law were. I did suggest she consider joining, but I don't believe she will." Albus sighed. "Augusta has always been rather headstrong."

"Perhaps she is simply uncertain how best to handle things," Harry commented. "Even if she won't join, you could send another owl and suggest Neville join us at Headquarters. There are a number of his classmates there, after all, and it's well protected. And I can always teach them the theory behind some spells, so they might have a better chance come the new term."

"I'll send her an owl with that suggestion," Albus agreed with a smile, which vanished as he spoke again, "There is one last thing I must tell you before you go, something that pertains to the defeat of Voldemort." The two younger wizards nodded for him to continue and he asked, "Do either of you know anything of horcruxes?"

Harry and Salazar traded frowns, then both shook their heads. "It's not even vaguely familiar," Harry said.

Albus nodded. "It is a container for a part of a person's soul."

"A part of their soul?" Harry demanded, disgusted. "Why would anyone want to split their soul?"

"Immortality," Salazar suggested.

"That is correct," Albus agreed. "While a part of one's soul remains attached to a physical object, that person cannot die, even if their body is gone; though I doubt life as a partial soul is much of a life."

Harry had a sudden memory of his brief stay in the graveyard, of Voldemort's words when he explained how he had survived the rebounded Killing Curse: "...I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost...but still, I was alive..."

"Voldemort has a horcrux," he murmured, glancing at Albus.

"I believe he has more than one," Albus replied and they all grimaced in disgust. "You have already destroyed one, in fact, Harry."

"I have?" Harry murmured, thinking back to his days as a student in this time. 'A container with a soul... Oh.' "The diary."

Albus inclined his head. "Exactly. I believe there are others because he survived past that one."

Harry nodded. "It makes sense. Do you have any ideas what the other – or others – are?"

Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. "I know that, as a boy, Tom had a magpie-like tendency to collect trophies to mark his conquests over his opponents, and that he also had an attachment to Hogwarts; he is quite proud of his ancestry."

"So, items that passed down from the Slytherin line?" Harry suggested, glancing at Salazar. "Nothing from either of us, but there could be something of Angus'."

"He was quite fond of that sword his father gave him," Salazar pointed out. "And there was that ugly locket of his."

Harry smiled at the memory of the locket, which Angus had been so proud of, claiming it had been his grandfather's and was given to him special as the only true grandson of Silvanus Slytherin. Salazar had taken great pleasure in commenting on how ugly and unwieldy it was every time he caught Angus polishing it.

"A gold locket with a green 'S' made of gems?" Albus asked and the two younger wizards shot him a sharp look.

"That's it," Salazar agreed. "It survived, then?"

"It did. There was also a ring, but I believe that was from the Peverell line, rather than the Slytherin line."

Harry and Salazar shrugged, not having any memories of a ring or knowing anything of the Peverell line.

"I know nothing of a sword, but I know that when Tom found the locket, he also came across a gold cup with a badger engraved on the side that was said to belong to Helga Hufflepuff."

Salazar looked towards Harry, not knowing of any cups that belonged to Helga. Harry frowned it thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Helga never used any cups beyond the ones we all used, so far as I know. I'll ask Ramona if she knows anything about it, though."

"She would certainly know more than we would," Salazar agreed. "If Voldemort used something of Helga's, it stands to reason that he might have used something of Godric or Rowena's."

"All that survived of Gryffindor – his sword and the Hat – have remained in this office," Albus offered. "As for Ravenclaw, I know of nothing that survived her."

"I do," Harry said, sitting up. "The diadem. Helena said she took it to Romania, and if she didn't have the chance to bring it back..."

"It might well have survived," Salazar agreed.

"Romania?" Albus asked, brow furrowed. "Tom did spend some time there before he began tormenting our world as Lord Voldemort."

"Slinky!" Harry called and the house-elf appeared at his side. "Could you ask Helena to come up here, please?"

"Slinky will," the house-elf agreed before popping away again.

"You think Helena might have told him where it was?" Salazar asked his husband, frowning.

"I think a thousand years is a long time to get lonely and regret leaving her mother's diadem to rot," Harry replied, voice tight. "I also think Tom Riddle was quite charming, when he wanted to be."

"So he was," Albus agreed.

Helena floated up through the floor and offered a faint smile. "Harry, Salazar, Headmaster. Slinky said you wished to speak with me?"

Harry nodded. "Helena, did you ever tell anyone else where you left the diadem?"

Helena considered that for a moment, then nodded. "A few people, shortly after we returned to the castle, but no one ever found it." She frowned briefly, then said, "And a boy, some decades ago, who heard about it from Alexander, I believe, and wanted to return it to its rightful home. If he found it, he never returned with it."

"This boy, his name was Tom?" Albus asked.

"That's right," Helena agreed. "Tom Puzzle? No..."

"Tom Riddle," Harry murmured and Helena nodded. He sighed and offered her a smile. "Thank you, Helena."

"Helena," Salazar said as she started to sink back through the floor and she stopped. "Could you take a trip to where you left the diadem and see if it's still there? Take Slinky, so you can bring it back."

"Certainly, Salazar," Helena agreed and left.

"It's very likely Tom did find it, then, and turned it into a horcrux," Albus decided, regretful.

"Perhaps he left it where it was and it will be simple to deal with," Salazar decided. "Finding the others, assuming they are, in fact, horcruxes, will be far more interesting."

Albus nodded. "I have some places I think they might be, but I can't be sure about any of them, and I'm far too obvious to be seen snooping around."

"We can handle it over the next few weeks," Harry offered. He glanced at Salazar. "After lunch, perhaps?"

Salazar nodded. "That's fine."

"I'll put together a list of places and give it to you at the meeting," Albus promised. "You can work on it as you please."

"Is that everything?" Harry asked, ready to rise from his chair and go to speak with Ramona and Merlin.

"I believe so," Albus agreed.

"We'll see you tonight, then," Salazar offered and the two left to return to their rooms.

Merlin and Ramona were joking with Alexander when Harry and Salazar entered the room. They all turned to smile at the two living humans, but the smiles faded when they recognised the grim tone to their bearing. "What is it?" Ramona asked.

"A gold cup, said to belong to the Hufflepuff line," Harry said without preamble. "Passed down through the years?"

Ramona blinked, then frowned and considered the question for a moment. "For my wedding, Conrad gifted me a gold cup with a badger engraved on one side, which I passed on to Lily for her wedding," she offered. "I believe he made it himself."

Harry sighed and nodded. "That's probably it, then." To their curious looks, he explained, "We believe Voldemort split his soul and placed pieces in various objects. Uncle Albus thinks the cup might be one, as well as Angus' locket and Rowena's diadem."

"I'm liking this man less and less by the second," Ramona muttered.

"Good riddance to that locket, though," Alexander offered and the five of them shared a nasty grin.

"Angus would have liked that Voldemort used his locket to allow him to kill more non-magicals," Salazar pointed out.

"Yes, he rather would have," Alexander admitted.

"Is there any way for you to claim the items?" Merlin asked and they all turned to him with frowns.

"Claim them?" Harry asked.

Merlin nodded. "I believe Ramona put in her will that she wanted the cup to eventually go to you, assuming it lasted through the centuries, as I put in my will that I wanted this portrait to go to you, just in case it found its way out of Hogwarts before you got back."

"I did," Ramona agreed. "Something along the lines of, 'anything that once was mine should go to Harry Slytherin if it should survive to his birth'."

"That's an interesting question," Harry allowed, "and one I might well take up with the goblins next time I go by. Although, I wouldn't want to deprive your descendants."

"Those items would mean far more to you than they would to them," Alexander insisted. "As far as the magicals of this era are concerned, they're priceless relics to be placed on display."

"And they wouldn't be for me?" Harry asked drily.

"I don't know, would they?" Alexander retorted.

Harry smiled, shaking his head. "No," he admitted. Those things that once belonged to his friends were memories of their friendship and love, to be kept close and used as they were made to be, not placed on display for passing witches and wizards to stare at. Especially since those wizards and witches knew nothing of their owners.

"You may have a claim on the cup, and perhaps Helena can make a claim on the diadem, but none of us can claim the locket," Salazar pointed out.

"Maybe, maybe not," Harry murmured, shaking his head. "It's from your family line, and if the goblins buy into the belief that it once belonged to you, you may well be able to claim it. The only object I think might be problematic is this ring that Uncle mentioned, since it's from some other family line."

Salazar shrugged. "Finding only one object is easier than finding four," he pointed out and Harry inclined his head in agreement. He shook his head. "There's nothing more we can do about this today, at any rate, and we need to make sure those at Headquarters know not to mention our true identities."

Harry nodded. "We should go, then."

"Are you coming back here tonight?" Ramona asked.

Harry and Salazar traded looks and Harry shrugged. "Perhaps," Salazar agreed. "I take it you feel the need to gossip like a couple of old women with my husband?"

"How could we ever have forgotten what an arse you can be?" Ramona retorted.

Harry rolled his eyes. "We'll probably stay in London tonight, since it's closer to Gringotts, but we'll come back to spend time with you tomorrow night," he promised.

"Sounds good," Merlin said before Salazar or Ramona could say different. He and Harry rolled their eyes when Ramona and Salazar sniffed, Alexander laughing at the lot of them.

"Come along, Sal," Harry ordered, taking Salazar's arm and pulling him towards the door. "Good night, everyone! See you tomorrow!"

"Good night!" the other three called back before returning to whatever discussion Harry and Salazar had interrupted.

Chapter Text

Harry and Salazar were upstairs, reading in the library, when Sirius found them. "People are arriving," he offered.

"Thank you, Sirius," Harry said with a smile as both he and Salazar set their books to the side and rose to join him.

At the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor, they found their way blocked by the youngest four Weasleys and Hermione, all of whom wanted in on the meeting. Mr Weasley and Lupin were trying to get them to go back upstairs, both casting worried looks over their shoulders at where Mrs Weasley was directing guests into the kitchen, as if afraid she'd come down on their heads for the children's refusal to disperse.

"It seems to me," Salazar said in a sharp voice, "that if you're endeavouring to prove yourselves mature enough to be invited to the meeting, whining pathetically when you're told no is only reinforcing the fact that you're yet too young. You must conduct yourselves in a manner befitting an invite before such will be granted unto you."

"Harry gets to go," Ginny complained, looking up at the young man in question.

Harry raised an unimpressed eyebrow. "Harry is twenty-two years old and more than capable of waiting patiently when he's told no," he said coolly. "You can either go back upstairs under your own power, or we'll stupefy the lot of you and levitate you up."

"You can't do that!" Ginny snapped.

"If he doesn't, I will," Salazar replied, eyes narrowed. "And Harry will be far kinder about it than I will, so you'd best hope he gets to you first."

"Come on, everyone," Ron said, voice subdued, and started up the stairs past Harry, Salazar, and Sirius. Hermione followed without a word, dragging a glaring Ginny behind her.

"Levitation might actually be fun," one of the twins said.

"I quite agree, Gred," the other one agreed and they both looked hopefully towards Harry.

Salazar's lips curled with a mean little smile. "There's this variation on your petrification curse I know, which causes the victim's bladder to swell while they're under it. They spend the duration of the curse suffering through a full bladder, and the moment it's ended–"

Both twins disappeared with a 'crack', leaving the stairwell clear for the three adults that had been trapped above them.

"That may have been more effective than threatening the Blue Balls Curse," Harry commented idly as he made his way down the cleared stairs. Salazar smirked while the other three males all blanched at the thought.

"Harry, dear, are you sure you don't want to stay upstairs?" Mrs Weasley said as he made to walk past her and down to the kitchen.

Harry smiled at her. "After Uncle asked me to come all the way from Egypt?"

Mrs Weasley looked away, understanding the gentle reminder that he wasn't Harry Potter any more and she couldn't treat him as such in front of the rest of the Order. "Of course," she whispered.

Harry, Salazar, Sirius, and Lupin continued down to the kitchen, leaving Mr Weasley with his wife. In the kitchen, Lupin stepped forward to introduce Harry and Salazar around. Some of the older members seemed surprised to find that Albus had a nephew.

"Father wanted to keep me out of the public eye, considering how well known Uncle Albus is," Harry explained when asked. "Father did try telling me to stay in Egypt, but I'm more than capable of handling any enemies of Uncle Albus' that think I would be an easy target, given my youth, and both Father and Uncle Albus agree, however much they might prefer I stay out of the spotlight."

Members seemed content to leave it at that, though a couple asked where all he'd travelled, unable to place his accent. Harry was more than willing to tell them of his travels, though they were a bit doctored, to match the changed time period.

One of the last to arrive, Severus Snape sneered in Sirius and Lupin's direction, then did a double-take at the sight of Harry, who resembled James Potter from the side just enough to send up warning bells in his mind. He stalked over and grabbed Harry's shoulder, spinning him so he could get a better look at the younger man's face.

"Can I help you?" Harry enquired coolly as he brushed Snape's hand away with one hand, the other moving to cover the hilt of Salazar's sword, which the Founder had one hand on to draw.

Snape narrowed his eyes at the familiar face, but this man's eyes were a bright green and were shaped wrong to be James Potter, never mind the faint hint of red in his black hair and the lack of distinctive glasses. "Who are you?" he demanded.

"Now see here, Sniv–" Sirius started.

"Gentlemen, please," Albus interrupted, arriving through the floo just in time to halt the brewing storm. "We're all friends here."

"Are we?" Sirius spat, glaring at Snape. Snape was too busy glaring at Harry, waiting for a response to his demand, to care.

Albus sighed. "Yes, Sirius, we are."

"I'm Harry Dumbledore," Harry told Snape, expression cool. "And who are you, to be grabbing shoulders and demanding names from those Uncle Albus invites into this house?"

"Uncle?" Snape repeated, looking towards Albus with surprise.

Albus smiled and rested a gentle hand on Harry's shoulder. "This is my nephew, Harry, and his husband, Salazar." He nodded to where Salazar stood just behind Harry, waiting for Snape to give him a reason to hurt him. Snape's eyes widened at the name and he looked at the Founder. "Harry, Sal, this is Severus Snape."

"Oh, is he now?" Salazar said, tone icy.

Harry raised an eyebrow at his husband. "Sal."

Salazar glanced towards Harry, took in the disapproval in his eyes, and finally released his sword hilt. "Very well," he allowed.

"Shall we all take seats?" Albus suggested, waving towards the table. As everyone started that way, he squeezed Harry's shoulder and pulled out a rolled parchment. "The list you requested," he said, holding it out to his supposed nephew and Salazar.

Harry took the parchment and handed it back to Salazar, who slipped it into the small pouch he kept at his belt. "Thank you, Uncle."

The three took seats around the table and the meeting started. It largely consisted of Albus setting up a rotation of people to guard the prophecy, as well as asking around for any new information everyone had picked up in the days since the reformation of the Order. Snape reported on Voldemort's lack of movements, while Tonks and Mr Weasley reported on the Ministry's continued lack of reaction to Albus' statement that Voldemort was back, as well as how the search for Sirius was going (apparently, it was something of a joke, with conflicting sightings leaving the aurors on the case scratching their heads). Others around the table had updates on how average magical folks were reacting to the news – most bought into the Ministry's insistence that Albus had lost it – or the movements of the magical underworld.

All told, there wasn't much happening, beyond the slandering of Albus. And, through it all, everyone stepped carefully around the elephant in the room: Could they manage to win this war if Harry Potter was dead?

Finally, Albus dismissed them. As people stood, he waved to McGonagall, calling, "Minerva, could you be troubled to join me for dinner tonight?"

"It's no trouble, Albus," the woman insisted and started her way around the table towards the floo.

Albus turned to Harry and Salazar as he stood. "Are you two coming back to the school tonight?"

Harry shook his head. "We've got some business at Gringotts in the morning, and since we're already in London..."

Albus inclined his head. "Of course."

"We're planning to spend tomorrow night at the castle," Salazar offered, "so we'll see you then."

"Excellent. And I know how to reach you if something comes up. Have a good evening, then, boys." He turned to followed McGonagall to the floo.

"He's the only person I think can get away with calling you 'boy'," Harry commented to his husband.

Salazar snorted. "Ignoring the time difference, he's more than old enough that I see no reason to tell him off about it."

The five children came hurrying in then, stumbling around various members who were slow to leave and had clumped near the stairs, talking. "So, what all happened?" Ron asked, dropping to the bench next to Harry.

"A lot of talk about how everyone thinks Uncle is completely barmy," Harry said with a shrug. "Absolutely boring. Might take a nap during the next meeting."

"You can take a nap while we sneak in as you," one of the twins suggested with a wide smile.

"Exactly!" the other twin agreed. "Everyone wins!"

"I refuse to be an accessory to one of your pranks, especially when there's a good chance your mum will catch on," Harry informed them. "Try with someone more gullible and less terrified of Mrs Weasley."

The twins turned hopefully towards Salazar, who raised an eyebrow and said, "If you plan to emulate me, you must be willing–" :–to break out in Parseltongue at awkward moments, just to watch people jump.: He smirked as everyone in the room jumped. Even those who knew they had Salazar Slytherin in the house looked around with fear, as if expecting Voldemort to pop out of the woodwork.

"Sal," Harry hissed, giving his husband an irritated look and waving reassuringly at those who knew who his husband was, leaving it to them to calm the guests. "I told you not to do that."

"No, you told me these fools think it's something only dark magicals do," Salazar pointed out. "And that it disturbs people."

Harry sighed. "Disturbing your allies is not a good way to endear them to you."

"I don't want to endear them to me."

Harry rolled his eyes and decided it wasn't worth arguing over.

"Anyway, if they hear it from me often enough, they might be less likely to freeze up if Voldemort starts hissing in their hearing range," Salazar added.

"That's not a bad point," Hermione admitted. "I'll bet that even the Death Eaters are bothered when he starts hissing, and they'd be used to it."

"Used to it, or conditioned to expect pain after hearing it?" Harry asked, eyes dark with the memories of his last meeting with Voldemort, where his words would take on a slight hint of a hiss when he was angry.

Salazar set his hand on Harry's leg under the table and offered his husband a faint smile. Harry smiled back and took the hand on his leg in his. "I know," he whispered and Salazar nodded.

All further conversation was put away when Mrs Weasley called, "If you're staying for dinner, take seats so I can set places. Everything is nearly ready." A couple of people made their way upstairs to leave, but most of them settled in around the table. Sirius looked for a moment like he was tempted to boot Ron out of his usual seat at Harry's side, then shrugged and let it go; Ron had the same right to sit next to Harry at meals as he did.

With the extra Order members in attendance, talk was careful, everyone avoiding the chance that they might let Harry or Salazar's true identities slip. (That Mundungus was one of those who'd stayed only doubled the need for care.) Finally, Hermione solved the problem by asking, "Do you know what books you'll be assigning, yet?"

"Oiy, Hermione, can't you spend ten minutes without talking about school work?" Ron complained.

Harry snorted. "Books? No, not yet. I suppose we'll have to drop by Flourish and Blotts while we're in Diagon tomorrow," he added, looking towards Salazar.

"Maybe we can collect more than just possible school books," Salazar agreed.

Harry chuckled. "Healing or potions?" he asked his husband and Salazar's responding smirk said 'both'. "I don't see why not," he agreed easily enough, thinking it might be nice to start up a personal library in their rooms of the subjects they were interested in.

"You're teaching Defence at Hogwarts this coming year, then?" Hestia Jones asked, curious.

"I am, yes," Harry agreed. "I've done a fair bit of study in various forms of defence, and when I decided to come back to help with the war, Uncle suggested I might save him some trouble and take the open position. Sal's going to help me, assuming he's not stolen away by Madam Pomfrey."

"Yer a mediwizard, then?" Mundungus asked Salazar.

The Founder shrugged. "I'm not licensed, so it would be more correct to call me a 'healer'. But, yes, I've training in magical medicine."

"Wouldn't've pegged you the soft type," Mundungus said. "More like Snape, I'd think, with his potions and his dark arts."

"More like my namesake, you mean," Salazar said coolly, eyes narrowed.

"Him too," Mundungus agreed, eyeing Salazar's dark look with some trepidation.

Harry touched Salazar's arm and shook his head when the older wizard looked at him. "It's not worth it," he murmured in Arabic. "And you can't disprove over a thousand years of legend in one night, especially not if you intend to keep our cover."

Salazar nodded and turned his gaze to his food. "I know," he responded in the same language. "I just don't care for the way my name has been dragged through the mud over the centuries."

"I don't like it, either," Harry allowed, "but there's nothing we can do about it."

Salazar shrugged. "I know," he said again.

Harry shook his head and looked over at the five students at the table, switching to English to ask, "Which Defence books that you've used so far during your career at Hogwarts were the best? In your opinions?"

Hermione and Ginny traded speculative looks while Ron rolled his eyes and the twins grinned madly. So sparked a debate that got them through the rest of dinner and beyond, and which some of the adults around the table joined in on. All of the students agreed that the books Moody and Lupin assigned had been the best, and the twins both seemed sure that a book the professor before Quirrell assigned was the best. Mrs Weasley insisted that Lockhart's books were excellent – the students and Harry all ignored her – and Tonks had a short list of books they used in auror training that she thought Harry might look into for his sixth and seventh years. Sirius seemed certain that a particular book on hexes and jinxes was the best out there, but Lupin caught Harry's eye and shook his head to disprove the claim.

By the time everyone got up to either return to their homes or get ready for bed, Harry had a good list of titles – he'd transfigured writing implements out of his unused silverware and a napkin – which he could start with at the bookshop the next day.

"Happy, are you?" Salazar asked drily as Harry closed their bedroom door behind them.

Harry grinned. "Definitely. I'd forgotten I'd have to find books for this year, and it's nice to have somewhere to start; I don't remember which books were good any more, and being as far behind on modern spells as I am leaves me at even more of a disadvantage."

Salazar's expression smoothed out and he cupped Harry's cheek. "I know," he murmured and they took a moment to smile at each other before getting ready for bed.

Salazar was just drifting off when he felt Harry shifting restlessly next to him. Years of learning how still Harry was while sleeping and their discussion that morning told him something was wrong, so he shifted so he could get a look at Harry's face, which was mostly turned away from him and scrunched into a grimace. "Your back?" he asked.

Harry nodded. "It's twinging."

Salazar touched Harry's back with gentle hands and frowned at both the way Harry flinched away and how it felt hot to the touch. "That's not from the time travel," he said with near certainty. "Does it hurt?"

Harry shook his head. "No. It's just keeping me up."

"It's hot to the touch," Salazar said.

Harry frowned and reached back to touch it himself, wincing as the skin jumped unnaturally at his touch. "Huh," he said, surprised. "It is, isn't it?"

"You didn't notice it?" Salazar asked with a frown of his own, and Harry shook his head. "That's interesting."

"I'll not be one of your experiments, Salazar," Harry warned, recognising his husband's tone.

Salazar smiled. "Of course not. I can cast the charm to relax it again, and maybe a cooling charm? I don't know what else to try." And didn't that rankle?

Harry sighed. "Yeah, okay."

Salazar cast his spells and Harry relaxed against the bed, not having noticed how tense he'd been. "Better?" the older wizard asked, touching Harry's back lightly to make sure it was behaving. It was no longer hot, at least, and Harry didn't flinch away.

"Yeah," Harry said, relieved at how still his back was. "I wish I knew what was going on."

"Makes two of us," Salazar admitted, drawing closer and draping an arm over Harry's waist. "I'll see if I can't find anything tomorrow while we're at the bookshop."

Harry nodded. "Maybe try down Knockturn, too. Though," he added, tone sardonic, "the likelihood of finding another situation even vaguely like this one is laughable."

"Indeed," Salazar agreed, and nothing more was said about the subject that night.

-0-

Without a sleep potion making him get eight hours of sleep, Harry woke before Salazar and got ready in silence. He was ready to make his way downstairs when Salazar began to stir and he sidetracked long enough to kiss his husband, grinning when Salazar cast a breath-freshening charm on himself before their mouths met.

"How's your back?" Salazar asked as Harry started towards the door.

Harry paused to consider that, then shrugged. "Well enough. A bit stiff, I think, but nothing to worry over." He shook his head. "I'm going to head downstairs and make something quick if Mrs Weasley isn't already up; I'd like to leave for Gringotts before the morning rush."

"I'll be right down, then," Salazar replied and Harry slipped from the room.

Mrs Weasley wasn't yet in the kitchen, but the Black family house-elf was. Harry hadn't actually met him yet, as Sirius generally kicked at him if he saw him, and he paused in the doorway to watch as the house-elf puttered around, running a dirt-streaked rag over the long table and muttering disparaging words about the house guests under his breath.

It took Harry a moment to place the house-elf's name – he'd only heard it once, briefly, during their first visit to the house – then called, "Good morning, Kreacher."

The house-elf froze for a moment, then looked over his shoulder at the human, eyes narrowed. "Good morning, Master's guest," he replied loudly before lowering his voice to mutter, "Mudblood he is, no doubt, ruining Mistress' portrait and dirtying her house with his filth–"

"Your mistress verbally attacked my husband; I was well within my rights to respond to her words in whatever manner I so pleased," Harry pointed out drily as he started across the kitchen to the stove. "And, to set your insults straight, I am, in fact, a half-blood, not muggleborn. My husband is the same."

Kreacher considered that while Harry set out everything he'd need for a fry-up. Finally, the house-elf muttered, "Master's guest says he's half-blood as if that's somehow better than being a mudblood–"

"Isn't it, though?" Harry wondered. "I come from a line of respected purebloods on my father's side – as does Sal – so what should the blood status of our mothers mean in the grand scheme of things?"

"Master's guest wouldn't understand," Kreacher demurred.

"You're right, we don't," Salazar said, having caught just enough of the conversation to understand what was going on. "In my time, house-elf–"

"Kreacher," Harry supplied.

Salazar nodded. "Kreacher, then. In my time, there was none of this pureblood or not pureblood nonsense. There was no real communication between magical people, and so we married whoever was at hand. Most magical people didn't even learn proper spells, before Hogwarts was created, unless they were lucky enough to have contact with a Master, and that was as likely for those born to non-magicals as it was for those born to magical parents. More likely, perhaps, as proper Masters would often move to villages where a young witch or wizard was causing magical havoc and attempt to teach them how to control it, so they might stand a chance of living long enough to find someone to marry."

Kreacher peered uncertainly at Salazar. "Kreacher heard you're the great Salazar Slytherin, killer of one thousand muggles."

Salazar's eyebrows went up. "Indeed? And here I was, thinking I'd only killed a handful." He snorted. "I am your well-known Salazar Slytherin, founder of Slytherin House, yes, but I've none of the hatred of non-magicals that is accredited to me. I'm no lover of them, either," he added, recognising the disgusted turn of Kreacher's mouth. "Don't mistake me; I've plenty of reason to hate them, but there are those of magical blood who have harmed me as equally as those of non-magical blood."

"We're all human," Harry commented as he served the last of their breakfast onto two plates and waved the dirty dishes into the sink to wash themselves. "Or not human, as the case may be," he added, nodding to the house-elf, who scowled at him. "The fact is, we're all prone to hatred against our neighbour, if given sufficient reason, and that reason varies from person to person. Just as a person's worth varies from person to person, not to be based on their blood status or who they believe deserves what rights. The non-magical staff member who was one of the first Hogwarts' staff members was shown the same respect and awe as the sole pureblood staff member, because he was more than capable with his craft, for all that there was no magic in it."

"Roscoe was a force to be reckoned with," Salazar agreed fondly. "Thank you," he added as Harry set a plate in front of him at the table.

"Roscoe was terrifying when sufficiently angered," Harry replied drily. "I was afraid he was going to smash my head in with that huge mallet of his."

Kreacher made a disbelieving noise and jumped down to return to his hovel off to one side. "Weak blood traitors," he muttered just loud enough for them to hear.

Harry rolled his eyes, more amused than insulted, and Salazar shook his head, deciding his breakfast was of far more importance than an old house-elf with antiquated beliefs.

They were just finishing up when Mrs Weasley came into the kitchen. She blinked in surprise to see them with near empty plates and said, "You could have woken me and I would have come down to make you something."

Harry smiled, shaking his head. "It's fine, Mrs Weasley. I like making food, sometimes, and we wanted to be on our way fairly early." He rose with his plate and accepted Salazar's when he held it up. "We'll try and make it back for lunch, I think, but we'll probably take dinner with Uncle."

"You're planning to stay at Hogwarts tonight?" Mrs Weasley asked, taking the dishes from Harry and bustling over to set them washing.

"Indeed," Salazar replied. "We'll likely be by for lunch tomorrow, though I can't say any further on what our schedule might consist of."

"Of course. Well, I'll look for you at lunch, but I won't hold it on account of you," Mrs Weasley promised.

"Thanks," Harry replied and both wizards made their way upstairs and out to the stoop to apparate to the Leaky Cauldron.

They were greeted by a sleepy Tom at the Leaky, then made their way out into Diagon, which was mostly empty, as only a couple shops were open. The Gringotts lobby had only one other wizard in it, standing at the desk to switch magical money to or from pounds, so Harry and Salazar walked, unhindered, to a bored goblin.

"I've been informed that there may be a magical will that pertains to myself," Harry said to the goblin. "And my husband would like to make a claim of ownership on an object belonging to his family which has been lost."

The goblin glared down at them. "Names?"

Harry glanced to see that the wizard that had been changing money was gone, leaving the lobby empty, and said, "I'm Harry Potter and this is Salazar Potter, né Slytherin."

The goblin was still for a moment before saying, "One moment," jumping down from his chair, and running over to a door on the wall behind the desks. Harry and Salazar traded amused looks.

It took the goblin a few minutes to come back, and by the time he had, another couple people had trickled in to speak with goblins. Instead of returning to his seat, the goblin came around the desk and motioned for Harry and Salazar to follow him before turning and leading them through the door he'd just been through. Instead of the rocky, cavern-like halls that led down to the vaults, they found themselves in a marble hallway lined with doors, some open, others closed. Beyond the open doors, goblins sat counting coins or looking through scrolls.

At the end of the hall was a single gold door, edged with silver. The goblin knocked once on the door, then pushed it open to reveal the most lavish office either wizard had ever seen, the walls decorated with gold and silver designs, precious stones shaped into flowers blooming at the ends of silver vines or magical beasts running over golden ground. In the centre of the office sat a huge desk made of the same marble as the rest of the bank and edged in gold. Behind the desk sat an elderly goblin with sharp eyes, and it was he who ordered, "Humans, take seats. Sharprook, you're dismissed."

The goblin who had led Harry and Salazar bowed and left, the door falling closed behind him. The two wizards sat in a couple of heavy marble chairs in front of the huge desk and looked across at the goblin with calm masks.

"I am Ragnuk the twenty-third," the goblin informed them, a challenge in his tone, "current manager of the British Branch of Gringotts International Bank. You claim to be Harry Potter, the so-called 'Boy Who Lived'?"

Harry raised an eyebrow at that, but calmly agreed, "I do."

"And you," Ragnuk continued, turning to Salazar, "claim to be Salazar Slytherin, Founder of Hogwarts?"

"Indeed," the Founder agreed.

"And you have proof of these claims?" Ragnuk demanded.

"I have my scar," Harry offered drily and, at Ragnuk's sharp nod, untied the band he was using to cover his forehead and pushed it and his hair back from the scar. "Sufficient?"

Ragnuk gave the scar a long look, then nodded. "Sufficient," he allowed before turning to Salazar. "And you?"

Salazar gave the goblin an unamused look. "What evidence would I offer? A drop of my blood? An examination of my wand? Any records of me have been so twisted and convoluted by time that I doubt any 'proof' I offer you would hold any sway."

"We keep a record of the blood of all our clients," Ragnuk commented.

"I have never been a client of your people," Salazar replied stiffly. "I never had anything I should like to safe guard, preferring function to beauty."

Ragnuk relaxed. "That's true enough," he said, and his tone was much more welcoming, making the two humans blink in surprise. "Most people these days believe you had an account with us, though you were the only Founder that didn't," he explained.

"There wasn't really a Gringotts branch opened yet when we left," Harry said. "But I remember Merlin said there was talk of installing one in Hogwarts Village?"

"The mayor refused to give us the rights to mine secure vaults under the city, and I believe someone in the castle didn't want non-humans that close to the school?" Ragnuk replied.

"That would have most likely been Angus," Harry agreed with a helpless shrug. "Godric had issues with some non-humans, but I know he befriended a couple goblins before Hogwarts. I take it you eventually set up shop in London, then?"

Ragnuk inclined his head. "Yes. Diagon Alley grew up around this building, and the humans eventually added their own spells to the ones goblins had first put in place to keep our business from muggle eyes, making the alleys more secure than we were capable of doing for such a large, above-ground area." He shook his thoughts away. "Leaving that; you two have business with us?"

Salazar glanced towards Harry, who shrugged and explained, "I was told that Ramona Hufflepuff gave a mention of me in her will, as did Merlin? Although I don't know what name they would have given for me, as I never used Potter," he said. "And Sal wants to know if he can make a claim on an object that belonged to his family."

Ragnuk frowned and jumped from his chair to riffle through a case of drawers behind him. After a moment, he pulled out a scroll and hopped back up in his chair before carefully unrolling it on his desk, the edges flaking with age. He glanced down it quickly, then read, " 'Should my belongings survive the test of time, I bequeath them upon my brother in all but blood, Harry Slytherin, who wears a flash of light above his eyes. At the time of his acceptance, should I have no other direct descendants, I also wish him and his husband to have whatever might remain in my family vault'."

Ragnuk glanced up at the two wizards and said, "The last of the direct Hufflepuff line died nearly fifty years ago and all her belongings were placed in her family vault. The Ministry attempted to claim the contents of the vault, as they have with many vaults when there's no clear heir, but Madam Hufflepuff's will protected it, though there was a long debate about the validity of the will, considering the length of time that passed since her death."

"I'm rather sick of this Ministry of yours," Salazar commented drily.

"Makes two of us," Harry muttered, shaking his head. "I don't suppose you have a ledger of the objects in the vault, Ragnuk? I'm looking for a gold cup with a badger engraved on the side. Ramona said Conrad gave it to her for her and Fane's wedding, and she gave it to her daughter, Lily, when she married."

Ragnuk frowned and shook his head. "That cup is not in that vault, though it is here at Gringotts. I believe it is currently in the Lestrange vault."

Harry frowned himself. "Lestrange?" he repeated. "I know that name."

"The two brothers, Rodolphus and Rabastan, and Rodolphus' wife, Bellatrix, are all in Azkaban, having been members of You-Know-Who's Death Eaters. I believe they tortured the Longbottom family."

Harry's eyes widened. "Oh. And they were also on that family tree in Sirius' home," he remembered. "Bellatrix was his cousin, I think?" He shook his head. "Voldemort must have got the cup, then," he decided. "Is there any way I can claim it?"

"And why did the Ministry not claim the vaults of those in Azkaban?" Salazar asked.

"Vaults cannot be claimed by a second party – be that through the process of inheritance through a will, or the Ministry's self-declared right to funnel vaults into their own pockets – until the current owner of the vault is dead," Ragnuk explained, lips curling with a sneer at the Ministry's self importance. "As for the cup, I believe I can make a case to give it unto your care. You have a legit claim to it, as her phrasing does not require that it be in her vault for it to go to you. I will have to discuss it with the High Council, however, so it may take a few days."

Harry nodded. "That's acceptable. If they agree to give it to me, either send me an owl telling me to pick it up from whichever vault, or send the cup itself to me."

"I believe that can be managed," Ragnuk agreed before turning to Salazar. "And the object you wish to claim?"

"A gold locket with an 'S' made of emeralds on the front, about this big," Salazar explained, motioning with his hands. "It was never mine, but I was told it was handed down to my nephew from my father."

Ragnuk frowned in thought for a moment, then hopped from his chair to sort through another case of drawers. After going through three drawers, he finally found the scroll he was looking for and returned to his seat. The scroll was much newer, judging by how easily it unrolled, and Ragnuk glanced over it quickly before nodding and letting the scroll fall shut. "The Slytherin family line didn't have an account with us until the twelfth century, and they emptied it within two centuries. There was a locket matching that description kept in there for a time, but it was removed when the account was closed and has not been seen in the bank since. I can put out feelers for it, but you'll have better luck looking in the shops down Knockturn Alley for it."

"We'll do that, then," Harry decided.

Ragnuk inclined his head and glanced back at the drawers he'd pulled Ramona's will from, but before he could speak, there was a pop and Slinky appeared between Salazar and Harry, her dress covered in mud and her ears hanging.

Harry dropped to his knees and faced the house-elf, pulling out a handkerchief to wipe some mud off her nose. "Slinky, what's happened?" he asked, concerned.

Slinky shook her head. "Slinky's been helpings Missy Helena, like Masters asked. Slinky and Missy Helena couldn't finds the diadem." The house-elf looked up with tears in her eyes. "Slinky's being sorrys, Master Harry."

"It's not your fault, Slinky," Harry soothed. "I didn't really expect it to be there. And you can tell Helena that, since I'm certain she's not looking much better than you. Here, stop that." He wiped a thumb under her eye as a tear fell.

Salazar left Slinky to Harry and said to Ragnuk, "I don't suppose a silver diadem with a single blue stone has passed through this building in recent years? It would be inscribed with the phrase, 'Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure,' in Pictish on the inside rim?"

Ragnuk shook his head. "Nothing of the sort. We've seen a couple replicas of that diadem – Rowena Ravenclaw's, I believe?" Salazar nodded. "Replicas, yes. The actual thing, no."

"It was worth a try," Harry decided, returning to his chair, Slinky gone. "Is that everything?"

Ragnuk shook his head. "Not quite. There are a number of other wills from the same point in time which make mention of a 'Harry Slytherin' or 'Salazar and Harry', which very likely refer to the two of you. Some of the vaults in question belong to a family, currently, and others have been closed due to a lack of funds or the Ministry's meddling, but about half a dozen have been collecting dust, as the saying goes."

Harry blinked in surprise, then glanced at Salazar. "Huh."

Salazar shrugged. "Ramona and Merlin said they both left you in their wills; it makes sense that others would have."

Harry sighed. "Yeah, I know." He ran a hand through his hair, then winced and reached both hands up to fix the cloth over his scar, which he'd dislodged.

Salazar nodded to the goblin. "At your leisure, Ragnuk."

Ragnuk gave them a slightly terrifying, toothy smile, then jumped down to collect a pile of crackling scrolls. He read out the parts that pertained to the couple, as well as whom it was from, for all seven scrolls. Most of them were from one of the group of Slytherins that knew Harry was from the future – Merlin was among the number, having left Harry the portrait, as well as a library of books from Camelot, which Harry decided he would look through later – but a couple were from students that hadn't known about Harry's past; Harry and Salazar figured it had, eventually, become common knowledge that they had travelled in time.

Once Ragnuk had read through the pile of scrolls and had keys made for each of Harry and Salazar's new vaults – they were only a little terrified upon learning that most of the vaults had been gaining interest for centuries, leaving them quite wealthy, and they'd sent a portion of it to the Hogwarts vaults for needy students or to help with the old building's upkeep – he pulled out one last scroll and opened it. "This one is slightly more complicated," he offered at the wizards' curious looks.

"Complicated is always fun," Harry said drily, settling back to listen for a bit longer.

Ragnuk allowed a flash of teeth in response, then explained, "There is a dispute over the ownership of the Gryffindor vault. Godric Gryffindor specifically said, in his will, that he didn't want anyone of the Slytherin line to have a claim to the vault, but Kenric and Duana Gryffindor both left their shares to the two of you, should anything survive to your return, and Bernia Gryffindor, who survived Godric, asked that Gringotts strike Godric's will from the record. While I am more than willing to ignore Godric's will, given the three contrary directions, there is a direct descendent of, I believe, Kenric's line."

"We've no interest in taking money from someone to whom it rightfully belongs," Salazar stated.

Ragnuk inclined his head. "Allow me to finish?" he requested.

"Apologies."

Ragnuk let the scroll fall shut. "Normally, when a line dies out, their vaults remain separate, but the last of Duana's line willed that his money be left to Kenric's direct line. Further muddling things, at some time in the history of Kenric's line, there was a question of who would inherit the family's vault, as the eldest was a female and the head of the family believed only males should inherit. He put it in his will that a female will never inherit the family vault, and since there's always been a male heir since, that's never been overruled.

"The current direct heir is female, and her parents and brothers died without changing the inheritance rules. She has sons, who should inherit the vault, but as she has no claim on it, she can't legally pass it on to them, for all that it is there. She tried fighting the rule, shortly after the deaths of her brothers, but that was during the last war with You-Know-Who, and things were not well for anyone; my predecessor refused her claim and the subject was left tabled.

"According to the wills of both Kenric and Duana, the vault goes, next, to the two of you. You may claim it, or overrule the will that it cannot pass to a female heir, thereby passing it to the current heir."

"We'll overrule the rule about what gender can inherit it," Harry said without pause, and Salazar nodded; they had more than enough money already, and neither wizard was much inclined to deny someone what they were owed because of antiquated ideals.

Ragnuk nodded and made a note on a piece of parchment he'd pulled from a stack of blank ones. "Excellent. Do you want to divide the vault, claiming Duana's line's half, or will you leave everything to the heir?"

"We'll leave everything to her," Salazar said, shaking his head. "She's due it, and we've no use for gold or pretty things. If there's something in there that's said to be an artefact of Godric's, however, it might be best if it was given to Hogwarts, where it can be cared for and viewed by his House, as he would have liked." The last was said in a dry tone.

"I don't believe there's anything in the vault, but I'll look into it and pass your recommendation on to the heir," Ragnuk said, noting the comment down. He nodded and glanced up at them. "Any other questions, gentlemen?"

The humans traded looks and both shrugged. "I don't think so," Harry said. "Though, I'm a bit curious as to who Kenric's heir is?"

Ragnuk smiled that toothy smile. "Molly Weasley, née Prewett."

Harry blinked. "Oh," he said, expression oddly blank.

Salazar let out a loud laugh and shook his head. "I hope we're there to see her face when she reads that owl," he said wistfully.

Ragnuk pulled over a fresh parchment and re-inked his quill. "You're welcome to give it to her yourself; we've been having trouble getting owls to the Weasley family since they moved to whatever hidden building they're in right now, and William has been serving as a delivery boy."

"Do owls usually have trouble with the Fidelius Charm?" Harry wondered, having regained his equilibrium.

"Unless they've been brought into the warded area by the Secret Keeper or one who knows the secret, yes, they can have trouble seeing through the wards. Particularly talented owls can get past the spell with only minimal difficulty, but most will return to the sender if they can't get in on the first pass," Ragnuk explained, long used to explaining human magic to other goblins; that this was a human and not a goblin didn't faze him in the slightest. He actually quite liked the two humans, who hadn't argued over returning a couple goblin-made items to the bank like other humans would have, and who had also worried over a house-elf, which not many humans did. They'd also used his name when speaking to him, rather than the more common usage of his species to refer to him.

That wasn't to say that Ragnuk would be willing to let them get away with anything, or that he'd put them above another goblin, but, rather, he wouldn't mind having dealings with them again.

Harry nodded his understanding to Ragnuk's explanation, then said, "In that case, if there's further correspondence for Sal or myself, it too can be sent with Bill, or you can address it straight to us at Hogwarts, where we have rooms; if we're not there to take it, Albus is posing as my uncle for the time being and can accept any owls for us, if that's agreeable?"

"I'll make a note to do that," Ragnuk agreed as he finished his letter to Mrs Weasley. "Do you wish us to address all letters to Harry and Salazar Dumbledore, then, or is there another name?"

"Harry and Salazar Dumbledore," Harry agreed.

"Very well." Ragnuk held out the letter and Salazar took it. "Gentlemen, a pleasure doing business with you. And it's not often I say that to humans."

"I'll believe that," Harry replied as he and Salazar stood. "Have a good day, Ragnuk. And thank you."

"Certainly. Will I need to have someone show you the way back to the lobby?"

"I don't believe so," Salazar replied and they left Ragnuk to his work when he waved them out. Once they were back in the now-busy lobby and on their way out into the alley, Salazar commented, "That was both slightly disappointing, and extremely profitable."

Harry smiled. "It was. We'll have to check through the list Uncle gave us, then, and hope Ragnuk can get the High Council to give me the cup."

Salazar nodded. "Indeed. And we'll have to set aside time to go through the vaults."

"Perhaps we'll alternate a bit: one day we hunt for the objects, the next we work with the vaults, then we hunt a bit more..."

"That could work," Salazar agreed as they entered Flourish and Blotts. "I'll be with the healing or potions books," he said before fading into the shelves.

Harry rolled his eyes, then walked up to the counter, where a wizard was reading a book as he waited for customers. He cleared his throat and smiled pleasantly enough when the shopkeep jumped and hurried to hide the book. "I'm looking for the defence section, especially books for teaching from," he said. "I've a list, but if you have any suggestions, I'd be grateful."

"Don't use Lockhart," the man said immediately and Harry laughed. "You takin' the Defence position at Hogwarts, then?" he added as he led the way towards the shelves Harry would need.

"Yes. My uncle asked if I wouldn't do it as a favour for him, since I'm back in the country," Harry agreed. "It worked out all around, since he knows he's got another professor he can trust on staff – where he can keep an eye on me –" Harry rolled his eyes, earning a grin from the shopkeep, "–and I get a job and a place to stay for a year; gives me plenty of time to find somewhere else to stay and another job for next year."

"Assuming you survive the curse," the shopkeep cautioned.

"Assuming I survive the curse," Harry agreed good-naturedly.

The shopkeep nodded and pointed to the shelves they'd stopped in front of. "This is pretty much it, then. Like I said, ignore the Lockhart books – I've been trying to get Mr Blotts to move them to fiction, but he's refused, saying they sell better in defence – and you might want to steer clear of Slinkhard, too, since he has a tendency to oversimplify things, and the students won't thank you for that."

"No, I shouldn't think so," Harry agreed, pulling his list out. "What about Trimble? I've been told to look at his books."

"Trimble's not bad," the shopkeep said, frowning, "but I'd keep him for just the first two or three years; they start to grow out of him a bit after that, and Moody assigned it last year." He pointed to a book Harry vaguely remembered from his first visit to the Alley years ago. "Vindictus Viridian isn't bad, when it comes to the less Ministry-accepted spells, but his sister–" he pointed to the series of books next to Vindictus' "–Victoriana Viridian is a decorated auror and an excellent author; I was surprised that Moody didn't assign her, though I suppose he just didn't like her as a person."

"Or he didn't trust his students to keep up," Harry suggested, glancing at his list. The eighth and ninth books in Victoriana's series were in the list of titles that Tonks had given him and he pulled down the first book to flip through it. "Thanks," he mumbled as an after-thought.

The shopkeep grinned and nodded. "Let me know if you need any further help," he said before leaving to return to his desk.

It didn't take Harry long to figure out why Mad-Eye had probably avoided Victoriana's books: The dead ex-auror had preferred a very hands-on approach – assuming the fake Mad-Eye had behaved as the real one would have in classes – and Victoriana's books had more theory and not many actual spell lists. Starting in the third book in the series, there was a spell list in the back, where an index might have gone, and she listed pages with notes that would help with the casting of the spell. The series was also all quite Ministry-friendly, as one might expect of an auror, and the fifth and seventh books focussed heavily on subjects that regularly showed up on the OWLs and NEWTs, respectively.

"Find anything?" Salazar asked as he joined Harry, a pile of books filling a hand basket held on his arm. A quick glance suggested it was mostly books on healing magic, but Harry had hardly expected it to be anything else, considering that alchemy wasn't popular.

"Sort of," Harry murmured, flipping through the eighth book in the series. It was definitely auror-level material, and a lot more hands-on as a result. "I think this auror wrote a series of books for the Defence position, but they're a bit too Ministry-standard for my tastes, and previous professors likely felt the same, which is why they're not much used. Tonks said some of the latter ones were used in auror training, and they're certainly better, but..."

Salazar sat his basket down and picked up the first book in the series. He flipped through it briefly, then said, "The theory is a little heavy, but you could use it to supplement a class?"

Harry considered that, then looked back at the shelf. "Maybe..." he agreed, setting the eighth book down and picking up Curses and Counter-Curses, by her brother. Flipping through it, he sort of tilted his head to one side, then pulled down the third book in Victoriana's series to compare the spell lists. Vindictus had a lot of spells that weren't quite Ministry-approved, but he lacked the theoretical approach that was important in a classroom.

"I know that look," Salazar said, watching as Harry traded the third book for the fourth, then the fourth for the fifth, checking the spell lists in each against Curses and Counter-Curses and finding them similar, but with additional spells in Vindictus' book. "You're planning to supplement the series with a fun book."

"Could work," Harry said. "Bit torn about the first two books, though; the first one looks like it might help first years quite a bit, especially those with a non-magical background, but the second book is sort of a slightly more complicated variation on the first one."

"So move all of them up a bit." Salazar shook his head. "Use the third book for second years, the fourth book for third years, and so forth."

Harry considered that for a moment, then shook his head. "The fifth and seventh books are best where they are. Ginny said Mad-Eye used a different book for the third years than he did for the fourth years, so it would make sense that not everyone's yet had to read The Dark Forces. I could substitute that one for the second years, then use the Viridian books for everyone else."

Salazar considered that for a moment, then nodded. "It could work. But spend a couple days looking everything over before you tell Albus for certain."

"I know," Harry said as he pulled down one copy each of the Viridian books, including the second one – just in case it was better than the first one, in the long run – and up to the ninth book in Victoriana's series, figuring he could read them himself. He didn't bother grabbing The Dark Forces, as Albus had had his trunk delivered to their Hogwarts room, and his copy of the book was in there. He also grabbed the book Fred and George had suggested, as well as the other two books Tonks had recommended and a book one of the Order members had sworn by.

At the counter, the shopkeep smiled at Harry, and his smile widened when he saw the pile Harry and Salazar unloaded. "Decided to go with Viridian?" he asked.

"Decided to spend a couple days with them," Harry replied, shaking his head. "I might be back in a couple days to raid the shelves again."

"Better than some professors we've had through," the shopkeep commented as he rang things up. "Too many of them just grab the first book that catches their eye and use that, even when whoever's at the desk suggests they might try something different."

"Those professors don't have to sit with their uncle at meals," Harry replied drily and the shopkeep laughed.

Quite a few galleons lighter, Harry and Salazar slipped down Knockturn Alley and glanced through a couple shops, but they saw neither locket, nor diadem, and it was getting close enough to lunch time that they didn't loiter, instead returning to Grimmauld Place.

Lunch was just being set out as Harry and Salazar entered the kitchen, and Mrs Weasley smiled and gathered settings for them as they traded greetings with the others around the table.

"So, did you pick out our books for next year?" Hermione pleaded, looking hopefully at the Flourish and Blotts bag that had been left next to the cloak rack.

"I found some options," Harry said with a smile. "Perhaps you can look at them with me tomorrow and give me your thoughts; I won't turn down a third opinion – or however many I might get offered, now that I've opened myself to that – but Sal and I have business after lunch, so that will have to wait," he finished, seeing Hermione's excitement. She deflated slightly at learning she'd have to wait, but still looked pleased.

Salazar glanced at Mrs Weasley as she finally took her seat and said, "Ragnuk gave us a letter for you, Molly."

"Oh? Usually he sends things with Bill..."

"We were there and mentioned we'd planned to join you for lunch," Harry explained as he slipped the scroll from his belt pouch and handed it down.

Mrs Weasley slit the seal with her butter knife, since it was at hand, then unrolled it. She was just taking a bite of beans when she let out a shocked sound and let her fork fall back to her plate.

"Mum?" Ginny said, concerned. Everyone else looked down the table at her, concerned and curious. Harry and Salazar managed masks of curiosity, as if they didn't know what news the letter contained.

"I–" Mrs Weasley took a gulp of air. "Oh, Merlin. This is– I don't–"

Lupin, who was sitting at Mrs Weasley's side, gently took the letter from her numb fingers and read it over. His eyes widened and he read it again. Then he looked at Harry and Salazar. "You had a hand in this," he accused.

"A small one," Harry admitted, shrugging. "We didn't know who, exactly, was the current Gryffindor heir until after we'd signed the money over. But," he added, raising his voice to be heard over the startled exclamations of the students and Sirius, looking at Mrs Weasley, "you should have had that vault for years now; we wouldn't deny you your birthright."

"Thank you," Mrs Weasley whispered, tears in her eyes. "I don't know–"

"No thanks necessary," Harry replied gently. "It should have been yours to begin with."

"Mum," Ron said when there was a momentary silence, "you're descended from Gryffindor?"

Mrs Weasley nodded and wiped at her eyes. "Yes. There are a couple cousins who have some distant claim to the bloodline, but it's usually been kept fairly insular, and the ruling one of my many times great grandfather made kept any females from claiming the inheritance, so it's been kept in the Prewett line. I didn't think I would ever have the chance to see the vault again, let alone get the chance to use that money."

"How much money?" one of the twins asked; both of them wore strangely constipated expressions.

"About five hundred thousand galleons," Lupin said, reading it off the parchment.

There followed a long, stunned silence. Then Ron asked, "Can I get a new broom?" and everyone laughed.

"I'll see what we can do," Mrs Weasley agreed. "And perhaps some new robes. For all four of you." The Weasley children traded smiles, pleased at the prospect, and they continued lunch in a cheerful mood.

And if Mrs Weasley wouldn't let Harry and Salazar leave for Hogwarts without hugging both of them, tears soaking their tunics, well, Harry hadn't expected anything less from her.

Chapter Text

According to Albus, McGonagall had taken the news of who Harry and Salazar were quite well, and was interested in speaking with them over dinner one night. Harry and Salazar saw nothing wrong with that, so they made plans to eat at her home in Hogsmeade that night.

Dinner with McGonagall went well; they discovered that she had a dry sense of humour that matched Salazar's, and the two of them got on famously while Harry and Albus laughed at how they each tried to outdo the other.

Harry had noticed that there was a lack of stress in his old Head of House's eyes that had been all too obvious during the Order meeting the day before, and he hated to think how much her fear would have eased to know that Harry wasn't really dead and was, in fact, far more capable of facing Voldemort than he'd been a couple weeks before. He wished they could chance telling the rest of the Order, but they needed Voldemort unsuspecting for as long as possible – no matter how much it might weigh down their own troops – and the best kept secret was one that remained with as few people as possible; that so many members of the Order already knew was bad enough, but what's done is done, and Harry would sooner rip out his own heart than take back telling his friends and godfather that he still lived.

Once dinner had finished, McGonagall asked, "What will you do about You-Know-Who?"

Harry glanced at Albus, shrugging when he smiled without comment. "We're looking for some things he's left behind that we need to kill him for good," he said.

"How's that search coming?" Albus asked.

"We might have one, depending on whether or not the Goblin High Council accepts my claim, but we'll have to look around for the others," Harry replied.

"Albus," McGonagall said drily, "you're teaching Harry your bad habits." At Harry's confused look, she explained, "The cryptic response to straight questions."

Harry shrugged. "A skill I learned to keep people from learning I was from the future, I'm afraid, so the fault lies more with the circumstances than Uncle."

"Not my fault," Albus said, nodding.

McGonagall gave him a suspicious look that said she didn't believe him for a moment and Harry grinned while Salazar's lips twitched with amusement.

"Ah!" Harry turned to Albus, reminded of something. "Uncle, I'll need an image of that one, though, the one you said didn't belong to anyone."

Albus frowned for a moment while McGonagall sighed, then he nodded. "Ah, yes. I can show you a memory with it, if that will do?"

"That should, yes," Harry agreed. "Sal and I will probably head out tomorrow afternoon, after lunch, and spend the evening looking over my options for Defence books with Hermione and whoever else wants to help."

"Some habits are difficult to break," McGonagall commented drily, looking pointedly at Harry.

Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm more than capable of sorting through those books on my own, but Hermione wants to help and I see no reason to refuse her when I know she'll be a great deal of help."

McGonagall inclined her head, giving him that.

They spoke a bit more about the Order – Albus was thinking of sending out feelers to the non-humans for their support, and it seemed sensible to mention his plans to the other three (his inner circle, as he was beginning to think of them, despite himself) while he had them – before McGonagall waved them out.

At the castle, Harry and Salazar side-tracked up to Albus' office long enough for him to show them a memory of a young Tom Riddle with the ring he thought was a horcrux, then they returned to their own room. Harry spent the rest of the night chatting – gossiping, Salazar insisted – with Merlin and Ramona, while Salazar flipped through one of his new healing books and occasionally gave his opinion on something the other three were saying.

When Harry and Salazar finally turned in for the night, Harry fell right to sleep. He didn't think anything of it until he'd woken the next morning.

"Sal?" he called to his husband, who was already awake, though not in sight.

The bathroom door cracked open. "Harry?"

"My back never bothered me last night."

There was a moment's silence, then the toilet flushed and Salazar stepped into the bedroom, brow furrowed. "Interesting."

Harry nodded as he pushed up from the bed, revelling at the easy motion of his back after two days of stiffness. "Either whatever was wrong has solved itself–"

"Unlikely," Salazar interrupted.

Harry grimaced, silently agreeing with the elder – his life was never so easy – and continued, "Or there's something at Grimmauld Place that's upsetting the scars."

Salazar nodded. "Considering the link between your scars and phoenixes, and the amount of dark objects in that house, it's not entirely out of the question."

"But let's avoid jumping to conclusions?" Harry suggested.

Salazar's lips twitched with amusement. "Quite." He shrugged. "I know you wanted to spend time with Hermione and your new books, so we can spend the night at Grimmauld Place. If your back again bothers you, we will assume it has something to do with that building and avoid remaining overnight until we have solved the mystery of what is reacting so."

"Yeah, sounds good," Harry agreed. "Did you want to head over until lunch and help with the cleaning, maybe? Or plunder the library, knowing you."

Salazar snorted. "Certainly."

So decided, they got ready for the day and passed by Merlin and Ramona's portrait with a brief greeting. Breakfast was shared with those professors that were early risers – surprisingly, Albus wasn't among them, though Harry had always thought otherwise – then they made for Grimmauld Place.

Breakfast was mostly done by the time they arrived, and Mrs Weasley was more than happy to have Harry's help with the cleaning. Salazar ended up remaining in the kitchen, keeping Sirius company, while the students, Harry, and Mrs Weasley headed up to the dining room for their cleaning attempt that day.

"Mum likes to switch between rooms, so we don't get bored," Ron whispered to Harry when the elder asked why they hadn't returned to the drawing room – there was no way that room was fully cleaned.

Harry nodded and walked over to help Mrs Weasley with one of the cases of objects, since he could use magic and knew how to handle some dark magic.

Mrs Weasley left first, heading down to start on lunch. Lupin had come to assist them, and Sirius had been dragged in by Salazar, who suggested he might feel better if he wrecked some of his family's precious dark artefacts. Harry had left them to it, walking along the wall of cases and glancing over the objects there, tossing an occasional spell out to see if he could determine what curses were on each object. He'd won a promise from Sirius that he could keep some of the objects for his upper years to work with, so they could learn how to handle cursed objects, but he didn't want objects that would kill them.

Mrs Weasley had just called for lunch when Harry saw the familiar glint of green on silver. "Salazar!" he shouted, flicking an unlocking spell at the case door.

His husband was at his side in an instant, eyes following Harry's to the necklace sitting innocently on the bottom shelf. "In the names of the gods," he breathed, then spun to grab a ratty cloth napkin from the table, silverware clinking loudly against the sturdy wood as it tumbled out.

"What have you found?" Sirius asked. Everyone had followed Salazar over, curious to see what had caught Harry's attention.

Salazar handed the napkin down to Harry, who used it to carefully pick up the locket. "A necklace that belonged to my father," Salazar offered with a cold edge to his smile. "I hope you don't mind, Sirius, if I take this with me to dispose of in the most violent way possible?"

Sirius glanced at the tarnished locket with the gaudy 'S' drawn out in emeralds on it. "By all means," he agreed with a careless shrug, then turned away.

Harry glanced up at Salazar with narrowed eyes as the others followed Sirius from the room. "This is not a place I would have expected to find this. Unless Voldemort trusted someone in Sirius' family."

"He is related both to the Lestrange woman and the Malfoys, who had the diary, you said," Salazar pointed out, helping Harry to his feet. "And did Sirius not say his brother was killed in the service of Voldemort?"

Harry nodded as he collected a second ratty napkin to wrap around the locket before dropping it into his belt pouch. "Killed by Voldemort for running, Sirius said, but, yeah. Lots of bad eggs." He ran a hand down his face. "Still. In the dining room?"

Salazar glanced back towards the case. "Fair enough." He shook his head and motioned for them to leave. "It matters little; it is a story we will likely never know the truth of. We have found it, and now need only to bring it to Albus to discover how best to destroy it."

Harry glanced at him, a teasing smile curling his lips. "And if the locket, itself, remains unharmed?"

Salazar smirked at him. "I've learnt a fair few hexes, of late, that I might be interested in practising."

Harry chuckled and they left it at that.

-0-

The locket, as it turned out, did survive the destruction of the horcrux in one piece, though it had been dented in the centre of the 'S' by Godric's old sword. (Which Salazar had refused to touch, leaving it to Harry to attack the locket. Not that Harry didn't understand.)

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Salazar blasting the locket into such tiny pieces, they could no longer find even a glimmer of it in the grass of the Hogwarts lawn. Then they returned to Grimmauld Place, in silent agreement that finding the locket that morning had counted by way of their search for the day.

Dinner was spent at Grimmauld Place, and then there was a small gathering held around the kitchen table over the books Harry had bought. Hermione, Lupin, Bill, Mr Weasley, and Tonks had all wanted to help, and Harry was more than happy to have them. Fred and George joined them just to cause trouble, which Harry left to Salazar to handle, while Sirius, Ron, and Ginny played a board game that the convict had found in his room at the far end of the table.

Harry slept easily that night, and he and Salazar spent breakfast debating why – in Welsh, much to everyone else's consternation – before eventually agreeing that it was probably due to the horcrux.

"So I'm a horcrux detector?" Harry said drily as everyone was finishing up.

"When you're trying to sleep," Salazar agreed with a hint of amusement that was entirely unfair.

Harry stared at him for a long moment before switching to English to ask, "Sirius? Is there a couch around here that Sal can spend tonight on?"

Sirius burst out laughing while the students let out quiet sounds of amusement.

Salazar shook his head at his husband, who grinned at him, then turned to Mrs Weasley to say, "Molly, do you mind if I borrow Harry to see if we can't remove those house-elf heads on the stairwell? And perhaps any other portraits or tapestries you no longer wish to see on the walls of this house, Sirius, but have found difficulty in removing."

"I have a list," Sirius promised, jumping to his feet.

"Please do," Mrs Weasley agreed, while the students groaned at the sign that they would now be returning to cleaning.

The tapestries and pictures weren't hard to remove with the blades Harry and Salazar kept. The house-elf heads ended up being a bit more difficult, but a great deal of stubbornness and cursing eventually had all of them down in time for lunch.

The afternoon found Harry and Salazar tackling one of their vaults, looking through them for objects of interest and finding very few. But, then, there were yet more vaults to look through.

That night followed much like the night before, with talk after dinner mostly involving the Defence books, though Harry was pretty settled in using the Viridian books.

The first stop on their official horcrux hunt, the following afternoon, found them at a shack of a house not far from the graveyard where Harry had last met Voldemort. They found the ring there, and quickly returned to Hogwarts to destroy it under Albus' odd stare.

"May I keep the stone?" the Headmaster asked once the horcrux had been destroyed. The stone had separated from the ring base and split during the destruction, leaving two halves behind.

Harry shrugged and handed it over. "Certainly. We have no use for it."

"My thanks, boys," Albus said as he slipped the two pieces into a pocket of his robes. Then he smiled at them, bright and wide. "You seem to be doing much better than I'd have expected with this quest I have set."

"If we keep it up, we'll have found them all before school is back in session," Harry agreed.

"Let us not get our hopes up," Salazar cautioned, turning the empty ring base over between his fingers.

Harry sighed while Albus' expression fell. "I know," the youngest of the three said quietly, reaching out and entwining one hand with his husband's. "It's never so easy."

Salazar offered him a sad smile.

"Still," Albus insisted. "Two destroyed in less than a week, and we know where a third is. You have surpassed my greatest expectations."

Both Harry and Salazar smiled at that, for it was quite true. And they could allow themselves a moment of celebration for their victories.

-0-

Ragnuk contacted them the next week with the good news that the cup was theirs. They picked it up the next day and destroyed it with all haste. Only the diadem and Nagini were left. Unless Voldemort had yet another horcrux that none of them could guess at the form of.

That night, when Salazar had long been asleep, Harry came out of his meditation to find Dobby waiting for him, eyes wide and bright. "Professors Albus bes asking for you, Harry Potter," the house-elf breathed.

"Just Harry, Dobby," Harry reminded the elf as he glanced at his sleeping husband.

"Not Salazar, Professors Albus says," Dobby offered.

Harry narrowed his eyes. "Indeed?" he murmured as he slipped from their bed. He grabbed a robe, the cloth to cover his scar, and his slippers, then followed Dobby from the bedroom to the sitting room. Ramona was asleep in the portrait, but Merlin was awake, and he gave Harry a curious look. "Tell Sal I'm with Uncle, if he comes looking for me?"

"Certainly," Merlin agreed, inclining his head.

Dobby left him to make his own way, so Harry made the trek in relative silence, save the whispers of the portraits along the hallways and staircases. He spent it wondering what Albus wanted to tell him, and why he didn't want to say it in front of Salazar. Nothing came to mind, but, then, he could hardly believe himself to understand every nuance of Albus' mind.

The gargoyle let him in without needing a password, and Harry frowned further at that.

He found Albus sitting in an armchair, a table at his elbow with a tea tray and a short pile of official-looking papers on it. He smiled when Harry entered, and motioned him towards a chair that popped into existence across from him.

"You asked to see me, Albus?" Harry asked as he settled into the chair, dropping the familiar title of uncle in a small show of his displeasure at leaving Salazar out of the loop.

Albus clearly understood, grimacing slightly and turning to his tea. "I apologise for both the late hour, and the secrecy," he offered quietly, "but I felt this was a burden you needed to decide yourself how to share, should you wish to share it at all."

Harry felt like ice had been slid down the back of his shirt. "Tell me it's not another prophecy."

Albus shook his head. "No. No, I fear that would be simpler." He sighed and reached his thumb and forefinger under his glasses to rub at his eyes. "The night your parents died, I have reason to believe Tom had intended to create his sixth horcrux, the one we now believe to reside in Nagini. It is a near certainty of mine that he had intended your death to be the sacrifice for splitting his soul again."

Harry felt as though the chill from his spine was spreading out, over his body. 'No.'

"I believe he succeeded, to an extent."

Harry closed his eyes. "I'm a horcrux," he said, voice small.

Albus let out a heavy breath. "You recall your visions this past year, before you travelled back in time?"

"Yes."

Albus' teacup rattled against its base and Harry glanced up at the older wizard, green eyes blank. Albus looked more than upset enough for both of them; Harry knew how it felt to gain a family, knowing you would lose them too soon. "I have no proof," Albus offered, a cold comfort, "only my suspicions."

Harry glanced down at his hands. "I had trouble sleeping," he admitted, "in Grimmauld Place. But once we'd destroyed the locket, I slept fine. Sal joked that I was a horcrux detector." He let loose a bitter laugh.

"Oh, my boy," Albus whispered, rising from his chair and holding his arms out as though for a hug.

Harry got up and hid against the man he now called uncle, taking comfort in those ancient arms.

"I'm sorry," Albus whispered into his hair, tears soaking through to his scalp. "If I could only protect you, if I only knew a way..."

Harry forcibly wrapped the calm from his earlier meditation around him, though it felt almost beyond his grasp, then pulled back with a sad smile. "It wasn't your doing, Uncle," he pointed out. "You are only the messenger, and I'm grateful you told me."

Albus nodded, letting Harry go. As the young man started towards the entrance, Albus called, "Will you tell Salazar?"

Harry paused for a moment, still a bit at war with himself over the option, though he, in truth, had known all along what he would do, no matter the news: "I have never before kept something from my husband, and I don't intend to start now." He turned and smiled at Albus, a little bitter around the edges. "That would be a terrible way to end a relationship, don't you agree?"

Albus looked away. "I wouldn't know."

Harry left in silence and spent almost two hours wandering the halls of the ancient castle, very like the ghosts he considered family. He saw no one but portraits, and they, sensing his mood, held silent as he passed.

Salazar found him up on the astronomy tower, staring out over the Forbidden Forest. "You weren't in bed," the Founder murmured, slipping his arms around Harry's waist from behind. "Merlin said you'd gone to Albus, but some other portraits directed me here."

Harry nodded, pressing his hands over Salazar's. "I'm one of the horcruxes."

Salazar tensed against his back. One of his hands slipped free from Harry's hold and came up to cover the covered scar on his forehead, a wordless question.

"Yes."

Salazar's hand dropped to wrap around Harry's shoulders. "We'll find a way to remove it. If I have to give in to those tales about myself and dip into the Dark Arts–"

"Don't you dare," Harry snarled, spinning in Salazar's arms to face his husband. "I would rather die a thousand deaths than watch you destroy yourself."

Salazar stared down at Harry, expression tight. "Do not think I intend to sit back and lose you, Harry Potter. If the only means to save you lie in the Dark Arts, I will use them."

"And then what?" Harry demanded. "Instead of you losing me to death, I lose you to that wretched magic? No." He grabbed a fistful of Salazar's hair and pulled his head down until their foreheads knocked gently together. "If it comes down to a choice between my life and your soul, I will die. And you, Salazar Potter, will live."

"You think–"

"You will let me finish!" Harry snarled, and Salazar's mouth snapped shut. Harry glared at him for a moment, then took a deep breath and, loosening his grip on Salazar's hair, said, "You will live, and you will fix the curse on your school and ensure the safety of future students, and you will put our affairs in order, and if you still have no reason to stay – if you cannot bring yourself to live without me – I give you permission to jump off this fucking tower and join me."

Salazar closed his eyes and pressed his forehead hard against Harry's, arms tight around his husband. "Promise me one thing?" he whispered.

"Find a good spot?"

Salazar let out a chuckle, bitter and a little watery. "Away from Godric."

"You have my word."

They remained like that for almost ten minutes before they carefully disentangled themselves enough to walk back down to their rooms.

"Harry," Salazar said on the staircase between the fifth and fourth floors.

"Hm?"

"Don't stop fighting."

Harry glanced over at his husband's blank expression, only the way he'd refused to let go of Harry's hand as they walked telling how upset he was. "Gryffindors don't know how to give up."

'And Slytherins,' Harry didn't need to say, 'only pretend to give up, so they can come at their opponent from another side when they're no longer looking.'

-0-

Two days after Albus told Harry he was a horcrux, Neville came to stay at Headquarters.

Or, really, it would be more correct to say that Augusta Longbottom came through the floo, with Neville following behind, and gave an unimpressed sniff upon finding the group of dirty students, Sirius, Lupin, Harry, Salazar, and Mrs Weasley just sitting down for lunch after a morning spent cleaning.

"Augusta!" Mrs Weasley called, jumping to her feet. "Please, why don't you and Neville join us? We've just sat down for lunch."

"Hey, mate," Ron offered Neville as the boy shuffled around his gran and closer to his Housemates.

"Hi, everyone," Neville replied, eyes darting around the table like he was haunted. His eyes went particularly wide upon seeing Sirius, but his lack of freaking out suggested that Augusta had shared the news that Sirius was innocent with her grandson before dragging him over.

"Sit down," Ginny insisted, tugging on Neville's arm until he dropped into the spot next to her. "Mum's cold cuts are to die for."

"Thank you, Ginny, dear," Mrs Weasley said, breezing past to place a plate of sandwiches and warm chips in front of Neville before somehow ushering Augusta into an open spot next to her seat. "Albus did hint that you might be dropping by, of course, but he couldn't be certain. We'd nearly given up all hope of seeing you or Neville before the train, and that–"

"Molly," Augusta interrupted with all the patience of someone well-used to Mrs Weasley's easy chatter. She looked down the table, eyes sliding past Sirius and Lupin before landing on Harry and Salazar, both of whom met her stare with a similar raising of their left eyebrow. "Which of you two is Albus' nephew, then?"

"I'm Harry," Harry replied with a dip of his head. "This is Sal, my husband."

"And you believe yourself skilled in fighting the Dark Arts?" Augusta demanded.

"Perhaps after lunch–" Mrs Weasley tried.

"It's fine," Harry assured her with a warm smile before again meeting Augusta's stare. "I think I'm skilled enough to teach Magical Defence at Hogwarts, yes. Uncle seems to agree that I'm skilled enough to join his fight against Voldemort."

Neville let out a squeak, and Harry smiled faintly to see Augusta flinch at the forbidden name.

"You'll find, Madam Longbottom, that I prescribe to a great number of my uncle's beliefs regarding the Dark Lord, including that his name is nothing to be feared."

Augusta let out a huff and turned her attention to her food without another word.

"I wonder how high she'd jump if I hissed at her," Salazar said in Coptic.

Harry's lips twitched and he knocked shoulders with his husband. "Stop that. Don't go around antagonising our allies."

"Is it my fault that they make it so easy?"

Hermione shifted across the table and Salazar flinched before fixing her with a glare. "It's impolite to have whispered conversations when we have a guest."

"I have not yet begun to be impolite," Salazar informed her coolly.

Harry rolled his eyes and leaned forward enough to smile at Neville. "Harry Dumbledore, Mr Longbottom. I'm to be your Magical Defence professor this coming year."

Neville blinked at him a few times quite rapidly. "Are you really Professor Dumbledore's nephew?"

Harry chuckled. "I am indeed."

Neville swallowed and glanced down at his plate, where he was poking through his chips a bit absently. "Professor Dumbledore said I might be in danger from You-Know-Who, and that you would be willing to give me lessons this year."

"He may have mentioned something akin to that to me."

"He said... He said I would be safer spending the summer here." Neville looked back up at Harry, then.

Harry could practically feel Augusta's eyes burning into the back of his head, clearly awaiting his answer. He watched the boy – once his dormmate and friend – for a long moment, before carefully replying, "With the Fidelius Charm, it is true that this building is quite safe from Voldemort and his people. Are there ways around the charm? Certainly. Is Voldemort likely to utilise them at this time? I very much doubt it. In truth, given Voldemort's actions of late–"

"Harry!" Mrs Weasley interrupted.

Harry turned to her, green eyes sharp. "It's no great secret that he's keeping a low profile. Anyone who believes he's back and chances reading that rag of a newspaper knows he's in hiding." He turned back to Neville, who was watching him with wide eyes. "I don't think you're in any danger staying with your grandmother, not really. But I have offered to teach those students here a bit of theory over the summer, to, with luck, ease your learning when term begins. I've been told that you, in particular, require the assistance."

"Run away while you still can," Ron said in a stage whisper.

"You can continue spending all your days cleaning, if that's to your preference, Ron," Harry offered with a bright smile.

Ron put on a brilliant 'deer in the headlights' look.

Neville let out a startled laugh.

Hermione shook her head. "Harry hasn't actually started teaching us anything, yet. He said he was waiting for someone, but he wouldn't actually tell us who."

"He didn't wish to raise your hopes," Salazar offered drily.

"Bollocks!" Ron declared.

"Ronald!" Mrs Weasley shouted down the table.

"Your mother's in hearing range, recall," Harry offered.

Ron grimaced and mouthed, 'Bollocks.'

Neville started laughing as Mrs Weasley shouted at Ron again.

That was how Neville moved into Headquarters.

-0-

Harry started using the morning slot to teach the students theory, dragging Lupin and Salazar in to help him, while Sirius and the twins made a nuisance of themselves in any way they could. He started them from scratch, for the most part, remembering well how much learning the basic theory had helped his fellows to improve in the time of the Founders. Hermione and Ginny soaked it up like a couple of sponges; Ron whined fairly regularly, but was willing to admit that he was grasping some concepts that even Hermione'd had difficulty explaining to him in the past; and Neville improved in leaps and bounds. Apparently, the only thing Neville had ever needed was for someone to sit down with him and let him ask questions.

Of course, whether all of this theory actually helped them in casting any of the spells, was a different matter entirely.

"It's not fair," Ginny muttered, glowering over at where Fred and George were practising spells with Sirius and Lupin, who'd gone over to stop them from doing something utterly stupid – Harry couldn't recall what, only that it had been dumb – and then been dragged into a question about a couple of spells.

"What's not fair?" Harry asked, not bothering to look up from the homework Neville had asked him to look over, since Hermione was helping Ron.

"They get to use magic. They're taunting us, you know."

"Taunting you, perhaps," Harry returned.

Ginny huffed and shoved at his leg with one of her feet. "I bet you felt exactly the same way over the summers at Hogwarts." She looked towards Salazar, who was reading a book on removing dark curses just out of reach of her feet. "Sal, come on. Tell me Harry was a brat about not being able to use magic over the summer."

"I thought you didn't go to Hogwarts," Neville said, confused.

Harry turned a frown on Ginny, who immediately hunched down on herself. "Sorry," she whispered. "I forgot."

Neville blinked in confusion. "Forgot what?"

Harry turned to watch Neville for a long moment, until the boy was sweating slightly. Then, with a sigh, Harry reached up and pulled off the cloth covering his scar. "It's a bit of a secret that I'm not dead."

Neville's eyes went wide and he seemed to stop breathing for a long moment before he jumped from his seat and at Harry, grabbing him around the neck with a shout of, "You're okay!"

Harry chuckled and hugged the boy back. "Oh ye of little faith," he said fondly, smiling as Neville jumped back with a blush. "Did you honestly believe I would let Voldemort kill me?"

Neville swallowed, all happiness wiped from his face. "I didn't know what to think," he admitted, looking down at his trainers. "But, at the Leaving Feast, everyone was so sombre, and you weren't there. And, soon as I got home, Gran put up all these protections, saying he was going to come for us. That, without you, he was going to kill us both."

"That woman–" Salazar started on a snarl.

Harry sighed and reached out to take his husband's hand, casting him a glance that silenced his complaints. Then he looked back at Neville. "I can't pretend to guess at Voldemort's thoughts. It's true that he might have come for you – that he may still come for you – but he may not. And now, here, we're going to teach you how to protect yourself. Just for long enough for me to get there. Okay?"

Neville nodded. "Yeah. Okay."

Harry smiled and patted Neville's arm. "I'll teach you a couple really old spells once we get to Hogwarts, right? Things that should leave Voldemort scratching his head, and that should serve you nearly as well as a good shield."

"You know spells You-Know-Who doesn't know?"

Harry laughed and motioned for Neville to return to his seat. "Let's just say I have teachers who were quite knowledgeable about spells that no longer exist."

"But you were still at Hogwarts?" Neville wanted to know as he picked his quill back up.

"Quite," Harry agreed before turning to Ginny. "And as for your complaints, Ginny, no, I had no reason to complain about not being able to use magic, because we didn't have those laws back then."

"Not fair," Ginny muttered.

Harry smiled, tired and a little bitter, remembering well his own thoughts on the matter when he'd first gone back. "No," he allowed quietly, "I don't suppose it is." Then he turned back to helping Neville.

-0-

The weekend before school was to start, the Ministry of Magic passed a bill to have a 'High Inquisitor' walking the halls of Hogwarts, to 'ensure the standards of learning are upheld'. None of the professors were pleased, and Albus' smiles tightened just enough that, to those who knew him, the strain of having someone watch his school was obvious. For the students and their coming guest, however, he would seem the same barmy old man as ever.

Salazar, likewise, railed against allowing some 'Ministry pig' into his school. Harry had given up trying to calm his husband after the second day, only bothering to tell Salazar to rant in a language the High Inquisitor and other members of the staff wouldn't understand, which he seemed more than happy to agree to. (Harry had a sinking feeling they would all be enjoying snarling in Parseltongue during meals.)

The Ministry's plant wasn't due until the train had already left King's Cross for Hogwarts, and Harry had agreed to ride the train as a precaution against Voldemort making a move. He'd dragged Salazar with him so he knew his husband couldn't greet the Inquisitor at the gate and bar her passage, and Flitwick was also on the train, nearly as incensed as Salazar, though he was quieter about it. (To be fair, Salazar was fairly well behaved around their fellow members of staff, so far, beyond a couple of unrelated stare-offs with Snape a couple of days before, when the dour man had arrived; most of Salazar's complaining was saved for their bedroom or Grimmauld Place.)

The trip to Hogwarts was without incident, and Flitwick, Salazar, and Harry took the first of the carriages up to the school, gone before any of the students had stepped off the train to see them.

Dolores Umbridge was the name of the High Inquisitor, and she had already claimed the seat that Harry usually took at Albus' side as her own. Salazar let out a displeased, wordless hiss at Harry's side, but the younger wizard shook his head. "We're not going to start a fight tonight, Sal," he reminded his husband.

"She's stolen our seats," the Founder muttered back.

"I know. Grin and bear it."

Salazar shot him an unimpressed look, but he did put his scowl away as they joined the Head Table. The other professors had, likely recognising the problem as soon as Umbridge sat, silently made sure there was room for Harry and Salazar both next to Umbridge, so there was no jockeying for seats as the students began to file in.

"And you must be the Headmaster's nephew," Umbridge simpered at Harry, holding out a hand like she intended for him to kiss the back.

"I am," Harry agreed in a neutral tone as he shook her hand.

"I was intrigued by your choice for term books," Umbridge commented in a cheerful voice, smile wide and mostly false. "I would have chosen Wilbert Slinkhard, myself."

"Of course you would have, you nasty little toad," Salazar muttered in Arabic, which they'd both taken a day to brush up on, as it were, so they could keep the fiction of having spent time in modern Egypt.

Harry pointedly ignored his husband, instead replying, "I did look over Slinkhard's books, but he's a bit too dry for my tastes, I admit. Much of my own magical training avoided book-learning, though I do understand the necessity of assigning reading to supplement my lessons. Viridian seemed to be the best mix between Ministry-approved and interesting enough to keep the attention of my students."

Umbridge's smile eased a bit, becoming less obnoxiously false. "You are wiser than your uncle, in that manner; he often seems to have no care for the Ministry's interests." She glanced over her shoulder, towards where Albus was making a point of talking with Flitwick around McGonagall's empty seat, as though he wasn't listening to every word Umbridge said.

Harry shrugged. "I don't have the liberty of collecting enemies, Madam Umbridge, unlike my uncle."

Harry was saved from her response to that by McGonagall leading the first years in.

Harry had explained the Sorting process to his husband, as well as the fact that Salazar needed to smile and not talk during it. He hadn't had to tell the Founder to clap for every student, no matter their House, though, for he knew Salazar would do it anyway.

When the last child was sorted, Albus stood for the announcements. Harry could feel the eyes of the entire Hall glancing between Salazar, Umbridge, and himself, trying to figure out which of them was the new Defence professor. Some – those with ties to the Ministry, Harry knew – would be aware that Umbridge was no professor, but they would remain confused about who Harry and Salazar were, given that they'd both managed to keep a fairly low profile since their appearance in this time, for all that Harry was acting as Albus' nephew.

At last, Albus announced, "As you all are aware, we have, again, been forced to seek out a new professor for the position which was previously called Defence Against the Dark Arts." There was some murmuring at that, and Harry saw that even Umbridge was confused. "At the request of our new professor, I've agreed to change the name of the class to 'Magical Defence', though I am assured it will not change how the class is taught."

"Like any of us know how it's actually supposed to be taught!" Fred – or George, though Harry was fairly certain it was Fred – shouted.

Albus smiled at him. "An excellent observation, Mr Weasley." He glanced over at Harry, who was shaking his head with a smile. "Your professor for this year is my nephew, Harry Dumbledore." Harry rose to his feet and nodded to the room. "To avoid any confusion, both he and his husband, Salazar, suggest that you refer to them as Professors Harry and Salazar."

There was a stunned silence to follow that, people equally torn over the word 'husband' and Salazar's name. Harry sat back down so he could squeeze Salazar's hand under the table, away from prying eyes. Salazar cast him a tiredly amused look in return; Ron's promise about their being married not being an issue had eased some of the strain, but neither of them were fool enough to think they wouldn't face plenty of students who had something to say about their private life.

Albus broke the silence to introduce Umbridge, who was casting an odd, sort of worrying look at Harry and Salazar, but she turned away from them to make her own little speech, which Albus and the other professors politely listened to; just because they weren't pleased with the Ministry sticking their fingers into the school, didn't mean they had to get the students involved.

Once she'd returned to her seat, Albus motioned for the food to appear and they all dug in.

Umbridge was silent for the rest of the meal, occasionally casting strange looks towards where Harry was stealing food off his husband's plate whenever Salazar turned to speak with Pomfrey on his other side, or slipping something onto it that he knew the Founder would never pick for himself. (Whenever Salazar caught him, he'd roll his eyes and either steal something from Harry's plate in retaliation, or move the thing Harry had just put on his plate onto the younger's plate.)

All of the professors rose to leave with the students, once Albus dismissed everyone. Set against the way they would loiter, talking to each other long after the table had been cleared, over the summer, it was disheartening. It was hard to tell if the exodus was because of classes starting in the morning, or Umbridge, but Harry privately thought (and Salazar agreed) that it was the latter, more than the former.

Either way, it was true that there were lessons tomorrow, and Harry was just worried enough that a night spent pouring over his lesson plans had already been his plan. That Salazar got fed up after an hour and dragged him into the bedroom to attempt relaxing him in a rather physical (and pleasurable, if Harry said so) manner wasn't that much of a surprise, really.

Chapter Text

Starting lessons with the mixed Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff first years was as much a kindness as it was a curse, in the end. As a group, they were peaceful, and far more inclined to mingle between Houses, as train-bred friendships were still fresh in their minds. But they were also young, and Harry hadn't had much dealings with young children since he and Salazar had left Hogwarts.

Still, they were curious, and weren't fighting amongst each other. He was their first professor, and he could only assume, by the smiles and excited chatter they left with, that he'd made a good impression.

With the students cleared out, Harry locked up and wandered down to the Hospital Wing, where Pomfrey had enlisted Salazar for start-of-term medical issues. Mostly, Harry knew, they were open for any first years with medical concerns, especially those from non-magical backgrounds suffering from asthma or some such ailment that flummoxed non-magical doctors, but mediwizards and -witches had long since found a cure for.

They were also open, however, for those students returning with a problem. Most commonly, it was a summer cold that hadn't wanted to let go before their return to the school – it hadn't been an uncommon problem in the past, either, and all the Houses had had a store of potions for it – but sometimes, too, a student would return with bruises or cuts that they blamed on something stupid they'd done on the train or that very morning on the way to breakfast.

There was one such student in there when Harry arrived; a thin-lipped Slytherin whose head had shot around when the door had thudded closed behind Harry. He was with Pomfrey, so Harry pointedly strode straight for where Salazar was staring at two potion vials like they were the most interesting things in the universe. "Hello, Sal," Harry murmured as he stopped next to his husband.

Salazar glanced over at him and the furrow between his brows smoothed out. "Good afternoon, Harry," he replied as he leaned forward and pressed a light kiss to Harry's cheek. (They'd agreed, before the train had arrived, to keep most intimacy away from the eyes of their students as much as possible. It was more comfortable for them that way, anyway, having spent years hiding their relationship the last time they'd lived within these walls.) "How was your first class?"

"Peaceful," Harry admitted with a shrug. "But first years usually are."

Salazar inclined his head, giving him that.

"How has the Infirmary been treating you?" He nodded at the vials Salazar was still holding.

Salazar was still for a moment, then he held out the vials. In Pictish, he explained, "The recipe has changed. I hadn't expected it."

Harry eyed the two vials. Written on the one in his right hand, in a spidery print he remembered from returned Potions essays, were the words Blood-Replenishing. The one on the left didn't have anything written on it, but he recognised it as a potion that did the same thing, which Salazar always kept on his person, just in case. "Someone probably found a better ingredient for some part or another," he pointed out in the same language, as he offered the potions back to his husband. "They only knew of three continents when we left, do recall."

Salazar snorted and turned to put the potion with Snape's handwriting on it away. "I'm aware. It just caught me by surprise." He glanced towards the door of the ward, where the Slytherin was just leaving. "So many things do."

Harry looked away. He wanted to say it would work out, that there would come a time when Salazar would be used to all these changes, but if he was determined to follow Harry to the grave–

Salazar's arms wrapped around Harry and he glanced up into knowing green eyes. "Stop."

Pomfrey came over then, a half-used bottle in one hand and a too-wide smile turning her mouth. "Harry. Come to rescue Salazar?"

Harry managed a smile of his own in response. "Oh, you can keep him until three; I'd prefer to have him on hand for fifth years, though I doubt there will be any real trouble."

"Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs?" Pomfrey guessed, smile easing a bit once she'd put the bottle on the cart Salazar had been standing next to.

"Mm. Like I said, not expecting trouble, but–"

"A second pair of eyes is always preferable," Pomfrey agreed. "Well, I usually get a pack of students during lunch, which I'd like to have Salazar on hand for, but after that, the day tends to die down."

"Lunch, is it?" Harry commented, feeling a bit mischievous. "Well, I suppose that's my cue to escape before one of you two tries talking me into staying to help."

Salazar snorted and tightened his grip around Harry, as though to keep him from pulling away. "You wouldn't leave me to fend for myself."

Harry leaned up and kissed his jaw. "Absolutely would." He pulled back gently and Salazar obediently let him go. "Get some lunch yourself once the storm is over."

Salazar sighed. "Yes, Harry."

"And if I don't see you at three, I'm sending Dobby for you."

Salazar grimaced while Pomfrey laughed. "Noted. Now do leave, before I decide you– What is that turn of phrase? 'Need your head examined'?"

Harry paused long enough to catch and squeeze Salazar's hand, then made for the door. He got there in time to hold it open for three Gryffindor girls – third years, he thought; they looked passingly familiar – who paused to stare at him for a moment, then proceeded to giggle as they scurried past him. He rolled his eyes and left the resident healers to their duties while he turned towards the Great Hall; there wasn't a rule against him settling in early with a cuppa and a Defence book Dobby or Slinky could grab from his room for him.

-0-

The first year Slytherin and Gryffindors were immediately following lunch, and Harry was relieved to report that they seemed more interested in his opening speech and discussion about Defence than fanning House rivalries. He didn't doubt that would change by October, but it was a welcome atmosphere at the moment.

Salazar entered once the first years had finished filing out, a tin held tightly against his chest and an expression on his face that Harry knew all too well.

"You're going to rot your teeth out," he complained as his husband stopped on the other side of the desk.

Salazar snorted and smoothly pulled off the lid before holding the tin out, revealing it to be lined with various flavours of fudge, softened by body heat. "Pot, kettle, Harry," he commented as Harry grabbed one with a white streak going diagonal across the top and popped it into his mouth.

Harry took a moment to chew, then smiled widely, knowing his teeth would be darkened by the chocolate.

Salazar's mouth twitched and he pulled the tin away. "What, in the name of the Gods, ever possessed Albus to think you could teach children?"

"Don't you read the Prophet?" Harry returned once he'd swallowed most of the sweet. "He's completely off his rocker." He leaned to the side so he could see around his husband and smiled at the uncertain Hufflepuffs standing huddled just inside the door. "Come in, please. Sit wherever you'd like."

Salazar took his cue and rounded the desk. "I'll be back in a moment," he murmured, tapping the side of the fudge tin with one finger and nodding towards the door of Harry's office.

By the time Salazar returned, the classroom was full. Harry waved the door closed as he stepped around his desk, then hopped up to sit on it with a smile. "Right. I'm Professor Harry Dumbledore, and that's Professor Salazar Dumbledore. As Headmaster Dumbledore said at the Welcoming Feast, you're more than welcome to refer to us by either our first names, our our last, but it might get a little confusing if you use the latter.

"Now, I've been told all sorts of stories about how curious Ravenclaws are, and I know you lot have gone through a number of professors over the years, so you've got ten minutes to ask whatever you want. I can't promise we'll answer everything, but I won't take points for you asking the question." Hands went up all over the room, and Harry pointed to Padma Patil, one of the few faces he recognised. "Name please, then go ahead and ask." To his right, he heard Salazar fussing with the scroll of student names and knew his husband would mark people off as there.

"Padma Patil," she announced, voice clear. "Are you two really married?"

Harry smiled; the question hardly surprised him. "We are." He held up his left hand, showing off a ring he'd found in the Hufflepuff vaults. Salazar wore its mate, and he obediently held up his own hand when everyone turned to look at him. Harry looked back at the students and pointed towards a Hufflepuff boy with curly hair, Justin something. "Go on."

"Justin Finch-Fletchley," he offered, and waited a moment for Salazar to mark his name off, then asked, "Where are you from?"

"Originally? Scotland." Harry chuckled when he got some pointed looks from a couple of Ravenclaws in the front row, and Justin frowned. "I left the UK as soon as I was seventeen, and I've been travelling pretty constantly since. The accent you're most likely hearing, however, is from Egypt and spending over a year speaking more Arabic than anything else." He nodded to a Ravenclaw girl with long, dark hair who was sitting far to his right in the front row.

"Lisa Turpin," she informed them, tone brisk and reminding him of Rowena. "I heard that Professor Salazar was in the Hospital Wing most of the morning, and he wasn't at lunch..." She trailed off, looking uncertain for a moment, as though she couldn't figure out a good way of turning that into a question with Salazar watching her with one raised eyebrow.

Harry resisted the urge to hit his husband, instead explaining, "Professor Salazar is trained as a healer, so he was helping Madam Pomfrey with the start-of-term medical rush. In future, should there be an incident in another class, he may leave to help her again. If something happens in here – which we'll endeavour to avoid – at least no one will have to be rushed to the Hospital Wing." He smiled at the quiet murmurs of understanding, then pointed to a Ravenclaw boy sitting in the back of the room.

"Terry Boot," he announced. "What Houses were you in?"

Harry resisted the urge to laugh; he'd known that question was coming. "Neither of us attended Hogwarts. My father wanted me home-schooled, and Professor Salazar attended a small academy just outside Damanhur, Egypt." He nodded towards a Hufflepuff girl with a no-nonsense air.

"Susan Bones. Why didn't your father send you to Hogwarts?"

Harry grimaced, knowing better than to go about airing the Dumbledore family's dirty laundry, especially since he didn't know all of it. "I'm going to decline to answer that question, if you'll forgive me. Did you have another?" When Susan shook her head, he waved for blond Ravenclaw boy to speak.

"Anthony Goldstein. I was curious, Professor, why the name of the class was changed. From what I read in Hogwarts: A History, the class has always been called Defence Against the Dark Arts."

Salazar scoffed over the scroll of names as he marked Anthony, and Harry had to resist the urge to roll his eyes. "While it is true that Hogwarts: A History is a helpful and often informative text, I would caution you to not consider it the end-all be-all of Hogwarts facts, as many facts about the school's early years have been forgotten or twisted beyond recognition."

"What does that even mean?" a Ravenclaw boy with shoulder-length black hair demanded.

"It means humans are fallible and a human wrote that book, Mr...?" Salazar shot back, eyes narrowed at the student.

"Michael," a Ravenclaw girl hissed, grabbing his shoulder. To Salazar, she offered, "He's Michael Corner, I'm Mandy Brocklehurst. And while I agree that there's plenty missing from Hogwarts: A History, there's not really another source to turn to, especially about the earliest years of Hogwarts."

Harry tilted his head to one side. "None of you have ever thought to ask the Grey Lady? She was Rowena Ravenclaw's only daughter, you know."

There was absolute silence following that, everyone staring at him.

Harry cleared his throat, the sound distinctly nervous. "Right. Not something I'd guess she would share about. Anyway, Hogwarts: A History is not, in fact, correct about this class having always been named Defence Against the Dark Arts. That name came into use during, I believe, the Dark Wizard Wars of the tenth century. Previous to that, it was called Magical Defence, as it is again, and was a companion to the Non-magical Defence class, which taught the art of sword craft."

Eyes turned towards Salazar, who wore his sword openly. He raised an eyebrow at them all. "I suspect Madam Pomfrey would have words, should we think to teach anyone to wield a sword."

Harry coughed against the urge to laugh, while a number of students grinned. "As for the return to the old name, well... It's not hard to hear about the curse on the position–" a couple of students laughed "–and this is the only classroom in the castle large enough to comfortably fit the larger classes, should there be any need to practise spells in pairs, thus putting paid to any thoughts to change the location, so I thought to try changing the name." He nodded to a Hufflepuff girl with her blonde hair in pigtails. "Two more questions, then we really should get into the lesson."

"Hannah Abbott," she offered quietly. "Professor Salazar, I was wondering if you were named after anyone in particular?"

Salazar snorted. "Slytherin, you mean," he replied drily and Hannah nodded. "I am. It was my father's belief that the best way to restore the family honour was to name me after our best-known ancestor."

"You're a Slytherin?" Michael Corner demanded.

"The Slytherin name was lost at one point when a female heir carried the family," Salazar returned drily. "Technically, I am a Gaunt, though I have quite gladly dropped the name in favour of Dumbledore. However, yes, I am related to Salazar Slytherin." :In as much as anyone alive today could actually claim to be related to me,: he added in Parseltongue, making the entire class flinch back.

Harry shook his head, unbothered by what he considered an obvious attempt to rile the class, and called, "One more question." A Hufflepuff boy with a slightly pudgy face raised his hand and Harry nodded for him to speak.

"Ernie Macmillan," he offered before clearing his throat. "I was wondering, Professor, if you buy into what the Headmaster's been saying? About You-Know-Who being back, and all."

"I do," Harry replied evenly, before smiling at the scowls that earned him. "By all means, continue to disbelieve his claims if that is your wish. I have nothing to show you which might prove otherwise, but I do ask you keep this in mind: There are two students who vanished from a maze in June, and they have not been heard from since. I am sure many of you knew Mr Diggory; can you honestly tell me he was the sort to simply up and vanish before completing his education? Was Mr Potter the sort?

"Now," he continued, nodding to Salazar, "if you could call out any names that didn't get crossed off, Professor?"

There were nine students left, and Salazar went through them with easy efficiency. As the whole class had apparently decided to tread carefully around him – Parseltongue had a tendency to cause that reaction, Harry had discovered – they were shortly through the list.

He hopped off his desk. "I've little doubt that you'll be hearing about the importance of the OWLs many, many times over in the coming weeks, but that makes it no less true. Especially in this class, given your spotty education over the past four years. I will attempt to salvage what I can, but that means we will be moving fast. If you're having trouble keeping up, you're welcome to come by my office Tuesdays after lunch, when my door will be open for everyone. If you're having trouble coming by because of your class schedule, or I'm so busy helping other students that I'm unable to assist with your current problem, I'm perfectly willing to schedule a different time.

"My goal this year is for every one of my fifth and seventh year students to pass their Defence OWLs or NEWTs. If you're having trouble, come to me. Some of this material may go over your head, or you'll find yourself lacking in the basics because it was never covered. That's okay. There's no shame in that. I promise you, every one of your classmates is in that same boat."

"Unless their aunt is head of the DMLE," one of the Hufflepuff boys, Zacharias Smith, commented just loud enough to carry through the room. Susan sank in her seat, cheeks burning.

"Ten points from Hufflepuff," Harry said without missing a beat. "While it's true that private tutoring is a possibility for some students, that doesn't mean you can't be left floundering in a subject. We all have classes we do better or worse in, and there's nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. That's what your professors are here for. Yes, even Professor Snape, as unapproachable as he may so often seem."

:Unapproachable is not quite–: Salazar hissed under his breath.

Harry flicked an absent Silencing Charm towards his husband as he asked the cringing students, "Are there any questions in regards to this class?"

Multiple heads shook around the room while Salazar silently ended the spell on himself.

"Very well. If you'll all take out your writing materials, then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to start you off with an exceedingly boring dive into magical theory."

Most of the class groaned, but all obediently pulled out parchment, quills, and ink, so Harry nodded to Salazar, who set about spelling notes onto the board at the head of the room while Harry verbalised them.

By the end of the class, most of his students looked thoughtful, rather than like they were about to fall asleep, so Harry counted it as a win, even as he turned to his husband and, in Arabic, said, "Let's try and avoid muttering in Parseltongue in future, please."

Salazar scoffed. "It's good for them. Shuts them up."

Harry rolled his eyes and motioned that they should head for the Great Hall and dinner. "Be that as it may, perhaps stick to more human languages during class? If you want to hiss at them to make them leave faster, I am completely on board with that."

Salazar flashed him a smirk. "Keep talking like that and people will begin to think you don't like the wretches."

"Oh, yes. That is absolutely the impression everyone's going to walk away with. That's why it always worked on our House."

Salazar let out a bark of a laugh. "Perhaps. But people weren't actually afraid of Parseltongue back then."

"No, you just pissed them off."

"It's a talent."

Harry laughed and shook his head, settling into the open seat next to Albus. "Hello, Uncle."

"Harry," Albus returned with a pleasant smile. "How was the first day of classes?"

Harry snorted. "Sal decided to try giving my fifth years a group heart attack by–"

:Speaking in the only language they can't magically learn just to secretly listen in?: Salazar asked.

"That," Harry offered into the terrified silence that had come over the Great Hall at the sound of the serpent tongue. He glanced at his husband. "I'm beginning to suspect that the urge to terrify people with Parseltongue is genetic."

Salazar pointed a fork at him. "Take it back. Right now."

"I will not."

"You may not be entirely off," Albus remarked with an amused smile as conversation started up again. "Though I suspect it's more that the ability to talk without anyone knowing what they're saying which is genetic. The ability to torment listeners is simply an added bonus."

:I am going to spend the rest of the meal talking like this, just to piss Snape off,: Salazar decided.

"If you're asking me to pass you something, I can't understand you," Harry reminded his husband, even as he peeked down the table to where Snape was most definitely not dealing well with hearing Parseltongue at the Head Table.

Over the course of the meal, during which Salazar made comments about various students and Harry had to bite his tongue a few times to keep from responding, everyone mostly acclimated to hearing Parseltongue from the Head Table.

"It's not a bad social experiment, when you think about it," Albus murmured at one point.

"It's not one that some of us are particularly interested to be part of," McGonagall muttered, expression pinched.

Harry gave an apologetic shrug. "Sorry. I'd stop him if I knew a way to do so."

McGonagall shot him a disbelieving look.

Harry coughed and looked away. In truth, he knew a couple ways to shut his husband up, but none of them were really for so public a forum, so they'd simply have to deal.

Anyway, Salazar had a good point about inuring people to Parseltongue keeping them from freezing on the battlefield; far be it for him to put a stop to something that could well save lives in future.

-0-

First classes with the older years tended to be similar to the fifth year Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw class, while the second years followed the first years in being too uncertain to chance asking any questions when Harry opened the floor – especially with Salazar standing over the class ledger – so Harry simply started class for them.

On the second Monday of classes, Umbridge returned to Hogwarts, having left them for the Ministry. (Albus had, very politely, informed the woman that, given how close to term the announcement had been, there were no rooms open for her use, but he would see about procuring some after the students had settled a bit and the house-elves had the time.) By dinner, word had spread about her visits to the seventh year Muggle Studies class and the fourth year Herbology class. The professors, themselves, were quietly discontent with the interruption, but kept their complaints away from the students.

On Tuesday, Umbridge visited the sixth year Charms class and the fourth year Ancient Runes class. Wednesday saw her in the sixth year Divination class and the fifth year Transfiguration class.

"McGonagall," Ron told Harry that afternoon when he, Hermione, and Neville dropped by Harry's office during their free break before dinner, "was brilliant. She would not let Umbridge interrupt the lesson, even a little."

"All she got to ask was how long Professor McGonagall had been working at Hogwarts," Neville added quietly, fingers petting over the sleek lines of the sand pyramid – enchanted to hold its shape no matter what – that Harry had picked up in Egypt.

"Umbridge is just horrible," Hermione insisted, combing her fingers through a particularly frizzy handful of hair. "You haven't had a class inspected by her yet, have you, Harry?"

Harry shook his head. "Not yet, no. I'm hopeful she comes while I've got first or second years, so Sal isn't there, honestly; that's one collision I'd rather avoid, if at all possible."

"How is he handling it?" Hermione asked, brushing her handful of well-worried hair over her shoulder. "I mean, it can't be fun to see someone lording around your own school, right?"

Harry snorted and leaned forward to pick his quill out of the inkwell so he could make a notation on the paper he'd been in the middle of reading over when his friends came in. "Let's just say, if Umbridge could understand half the things Salazar mutters at meals, she would be looking decidedly more angry than her usual fake-pleasant."

The students laughed.

Harry shook his head. "Right, you lot. I've got papers to grade, so either sit down and work on your homework, or piss off."

Ron fled, as Harry had expected, but Hermione and Neville both pulled guest chairs forward and took over the far corners of Harry's desk with homework.

-0-

In fact, Harry's 'inspection' wasn't until the next Tuesday. Umbridge hadn't been at breakfast, but she had been waiting in the classroom when Harry and Salazar got there, her eyes as unforgiving as her smile was friendly.

"This is not going to end well," Harry murmured in Pictish; he'd discovered already that a couple of students knew Arabic, but Pictish had been lost to time, so it was safe to speak in when he didn't want to chance being understood by anyone in the school.

Salazar's eyes practically glowed as he smiled too-wide at Umbridge and hissed, :I wonder if you can swim, toad.:

Umbridge twitched, having become as inured to the serpent's tongue as the rest of the school, then narrowed her bulging eyes. "What was that, Professor Dumbledore?" she asked, voice sickly sweet. "I'm afraid you'll have to speak English if you expect me to understand you. This is, after all, not a multi-lingual school."

"Stop," Harry ordered before his husband could make things worse. "If you could go write today's spells on the board for me, I would appreciate it."

Salazar snorted, but obediently left to do so.

Harry eyed the woman with a bland expression. "I ask, Madam Umbridge, that you avoid antagonising my husband, lest he think it optimal to teach today's lesson by casting spells on yourself."

"Is that a threat, Professor Dumbledore?" Umbridge demanded, her ridiculously girly voice rather ruining the effect he expected she had been aiming for.

"It is a warning, Madam," Harry returned drily. "Once class starts, anyone in this classroom is fair game for a curse. Which is why I suggested, when I acknowledged your note about when you would be sitting in, that you would be better served observing a class of first or second years."

Umbridge sniffed. "I much prefer seeing professors with the elder students, so as to fully view their abilities in managing troublesome children."

Harry sighed. "On your own head be it," he said before heading towards where Salazar was watching them. "If you must curse her," he said in Pictish, "please keep it non-lethal."

"I'll consider it," Salazar decided before switching to English to call, "Come in, then. Last one to their seat is our guinea pig for today."

Harry rolled his eyes at his husband, even as he hopped up to sit on the front of his desk, as he usually did. Once all of the fifth year Gryffindors and Slytherins were seated, glances being thrown towards Umbridge, Harry cleared his throat and offered, "As you all can see, we are currently playing host to Madam Umbridge. I believe everyone here has had experience with a class with her already?"

Most of the students nodded, though the Slytherins looked uncertain, since their class with her had been History of Magic.

"Right. So, best thing is to ignore her unless she approaches you with a question." He clapped his hands together, flashing a smile at the startled looks that earned him. "Professor Salazar is going to collect your homework," he announced as Salazar started forward to do so. "Can I have someone tell me about the first curse on the board? Miss Granger, perhaps we'll give someone else a chance today, hm?" he added when Hermione's hand immediately went up.

The Gryffindors let out fond laughs while Hermione grimaced and settled in her seat.

The class went well enough. Umbridge, clearly taking Harry's warning to heart, stayed in her seat at the back of the classroom for the entire lesson, occasionally making notes on her notepad. The students had trouble ignoring her while they were discussing the day's spells, but once the tables and chairs had been pushed out of the way and they were paired up to cast spells on each other, they quickly learnt to ignore her or get cursed.

Those Slytherins who had Ancient Runes ran for it as soon as class was over, but the rest of them, as well as all the Gryffindors, loitered in the room as Umbridge stood and walked up to where Harry and Salazar were waving the desks and chairs back into place.

"Professors Dumbledore," she said in her girly voice.

"Madam Umbridge," Harry replied politely while Salazar hissed some uncomplimentary things under his breath. "Thank you for not disrupting the class. I expect you had questions to ask?"

She let out a "Hem hem," clearly attempting to sound official, and asked, "Are you sure it's wise to be allowing the students to curse each other? It's hardly something they really need to know, and someone could get hurt."

"My husband is a trained healer," Harry commented evenly, forcing his expression to remain calm at the determined insistence that Voldemort wasn't a threat, "and the curses we're teaching are of a level that, should the worst occur, he is more than capable of keeping any damage from being permanent. The danger, we felt, far outweighed the necessity of knowing how the spells felt to cast, so the students wouldn't be caught off guard during the practical portion of their OWLs or – in regards to the seventh years – their NEWTs."

"But on other students," Umbridge insisted with a sickly-sweet smile.

Harry smiled right back. "I believe that learning how a curse feels when it's cast on you is a benefit for everyone, not just those intending to face combat, Madam Umbridge. Moreover, knowing how to cast a shield at a moment's notice could save your life, should you happen across a children's duel in the hallways, or a couple of heads of family having it out in the middle of Diagon Alley. This class is Magical Defence, Madam, not Magical Theory."

Umbridge's smile wavered, but she gamely pressed on, asking, "And where did you two go to school? You're not on the Hogwarts register."

"I was home-schooled by my father," Harry replied with an easy shrug. "Sal attended a private academy in Egypt."

Umbridge shook her head at that and made a notation in her notebook. "I see. That's unfortunate. You're both British, I assume?"

"I'm English, Harry is technically Scottish," Salazar offered, voice a perfect purr of propriety, "though I believe both your mother and father are originally English?"

Harry nodded, agreeing with the fiction that his life had become.

Umbridge noted that, then glanced back up, her lips pressing into a thin line. "Is it really so wise to go around so openly displaying your...illness?"

Harry blinked, confused. "Illness?" he asked, glancing back towards his husband.

But Salazar had clearly understood, for his green eyes were dark with a level of fury that he usually reserved for Voldemort and Angus. "If you have a problem with my and Harry's sexuality, Madam, I would request you actually say as such, rather than bandying about your ridiculous euphemisms."

Harry closed his eyes, letting slip a near-silent "Oh." Of course the woman would fixate on that. And here Harry was, thinking he'd get to live out the last year of his life without feeling like he needed to hide who he loved.

Umbridge sniffed. "As you please, then: I find it disgusting that you feel the need to air your unnaturalness for these students to see. Why, if we're not careful, these poor, impressionable minds might begin to think it's okay for–"

"Maybe that's because it is!" Ron shouted, ducking Hermione's hand as she grabbed for him to hold him back. "There's nothing wrong with Harry and Sal's relationship!"

Umbridge's smile tightened and she waved one pudgy hand at the separated clusters of Gryffindors and Slytherins grouped just inside the door of the classroom. "See," she said sweetly, "it's already happening."

"Why you–!"

"Ronald!" Hermione hissed as Dean helped her pull Ron back. All of the Gryffindors wore tight expressions, not a single one buying into Umbridge's homophobia, though Harry knew they were plenty divided when it came to the question of whether the Ministry or Albus were right about Voldemort's return.

"Excuse me, Madam Umbridge," Pansy Parkinson said, her voice as falsely sweet as Umbridge's.

Umbridge smiled at her, clearly seeing an ally, given how behind herself and the Ministry Slytherin House had thus far been. "Yes, Miss Parkinson?"

Pansy smiled at her even as her voice sharpened to something intended to cut. "I'll be telling my fathers that you consider them unnatural." Then she turned and sashayed out of the room, chin held high.

Millicent Bulstrode let out a tutting sound. "Ooh, I'd hate to be you when my uncles find out about that," she said before patting Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle's shoulders. "Come on, boys. I've got to get a letter to Mum so she'll be there to keep Uncle Eli from doing something to end him up in Azkaban."

Silence fell over the classroom, the Gryffindors staring after the Slytherins like they weren't sure who they were. Harry wasn't much better, his memories of these students at odds with the unquestioning show of support, and a part of him wondered how much was due to Salazar's open admittance that he was related to their founder.

"It seems to me, Madam Umbridge," Salazar offered, voice silky in a way that meant he was hiding his glee, "that you have some damage control to see to."

Umbridge shot Harry and and Salazar a nasty look – Harry was sure she'd meant it to be threatening, but her general appearance rather ruined the effect – and hurried from the room.

"Well," Harry said into the silence that again fell over them, "that was an experience for the diary."

Salazar snorted. "If you must."

Harry turned and caught his husband's hands. "Hey," he whispered, slipping into Englisc for the reminder of old familiarity, "I love you."

The tenseness eased out of Salazar's shoulders and he twisted his hands until he could thread their fingers together. "What happened to keeping things away from the students?" he asked drily, but there was a glint of amusement in his eyes.

Harry rolled his eyes. "My friends have seen it already, and the girls are probably sticking around just to see if they can spot us kissing."

"You just want to piss on the toad."

"Figuratively," Harry insisted, making a face. "Gods, Sal, that is disgusting. I take it back." He tugged his hands from his husband's grasp. "There will be absolutely no kis–"

Salazar chuckled, caught Harry by his nape, and kissed him to shut him up. Harry, for his part, smiled against his husband's mouth and brushed a hand through his hair.

"Better?" he whispered when they eased apart.

Salazar sighed against his lips. "Better," he agreed.

And then someone – Harry was pretty sure it was Lavender – let out a delighted squeal and said, "You two are so cute!"

"Lavender!" Parvati hissed before shoving the other Gryffindor out of the classroom under the raised eyebrows of Harry and Salazar.

Seamus and Dean followed the girls, Seamus giving them a thumbs up before he vanished past the doorway.

"Well, mate," Ron said as the last three students started towards Harry and Salazar, "I never thought I'd say it, but I'm actually sort of cheering Parkinson on."

Harry snorted. "At least it's Miss Parkinson and not Mr Malfoy, though, eh?"

Ron grimaced. "Yes, excellent point."

"Sal, are you okay?" Hermione asked.

Salazar waved a negligent hand at her. "I have survived far worse than the Ministry's pet toad."

Hermione huffed while Ron and Neville both hid snickers in their hands. "That's not what I asked."

"He'll be fine, Hermione," Harry promised as he turned to collect the pile of homework Salazar had dropped onto his desk near the start of class. "Right, I've got papers to grade. Are you three following us to our office, or–?"

Ron, expectedly, ran for it. Neville offered them an apologetic look before hurrying after the other boy. Hermione rolled her eyes at the pair of them and said, "Is it okay if I work on homework in your office?"

"Of course. But you understand that I can't, in good conscience, help you with the work for my class," Harry replied as he motioned for her to precede him out.

"I know. If I get stuck, I'll ask Sal," Hermione agreed, proving she'd been spending far too much time around Harry and Salazar.

Behind them, Salazar laughed.

-0-

When the inspection results were passed out a week and a half later, during the weekly staff meeting, Harry found a reasonable report. There was a mark on there about the practical portion of his classes being unnecessary, but it was also noted that he took the proper precautions.

"Any idea if Binns is going to get the boot?" Harry asked Albus after most of the staff had left, Trelawney letting out what served as dignified sniffles, for her, the entire way.

Albus shrugged and shook his head. "I haven't the faintest, honestly. I didn't know what Dolores' remarks would be until just now." He sighed and rubbed tiredly at his face. "I'm glad she didn't attack you on account of your relation to me, my boy."

Harry shook his head and touched Albus' shoulder. "I know how to play the long game, Uncle. The only thing she could find to use against me, a certain Slytherin wouldn't allow." He allowed a fond smile for the reminder of the article that had appeared in the Prophet two days after Harry's inspection. It had been a letter, submitted by Messrs Parkinson-Saunders, which had, in turns, applauded Harry and Salazar for being open about their relationship in spite of their difficult position, given their last name, and verbally castigated anyone who considered any form of love to be 'unnatural'.

Albus smiled up at him, a little strained around the edges. "It's always nice to see a little House cooperation."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Optimist," he muttered as he turned to leave. "I'd start looking for a new History professor either way, though; it's about time Binns passed on."

"Is that an order from your husband?" Albus asked somewhat jokingly.

Harry paused to consider that for a moment, then shrugged. "No, just a request from me." He met Albus' tired gaze. "It's hard to learn from your own history when you can't even stay awake through it."

Albus inclined his head. "A fair point. I'll put out feelers."

Harry nodded and left to hunt down his husband, who had been called to the Infirmary partway through the meeting.

Chapter Text

On the second of November, between Hagrid's return, the nightmare of curses being thrown at the Slytherin/Gryffindor quidditch match, and dealing with Mrs Weasley's reaction to finding out that all three of her youngest sons were in the Hospital Wing for the night, Harry didn't get much in the way of sleep. So it really shouldn't have surprised him when his attempt to keep himself awake to grade papers with a strong pot of tea in his office failed miserably.

"Harry," Salazar called from a distance.

Harry shook his head, wincing at the pull of his back. "Not gittin' up yet, Sal," he muttered.

Salazar sighed. "You're impossible. Come on, let's get you back to our room."

Familiar hands tried to push Harry up, but his back stretched in a painful way and he shoved the hands away with a hoarse shout. He tumbled out of his chair as consequence, banging his tailbone, and woke up enough to realise what was going on. "Horcrux," he breathed.

Salazar was standing over him, expression caught between concern and horror. "Here?" he demanded, his voice catching.

Harry nodded and carefully reached over his shoulder to touch his back, wincing as the old scars pulled. "Must be."

"Is it the snake?" Salazar asked as he came to kneel next to Harry, hands gentle as he pushed Harry's robe off his shoulders.

Harry frowned and leant forwards so his husband could pull up the back of his shirt and cast the muscle relaxing spell on his back. "I haven't the faint– Oh." He closed his eyes, recalling the Marauder's Map, which Albus had returned to him after he'd found it in Moody's things and realised what it was. "Slinky!"

The house-elf appeared next to him, face twisted with concern. "Master Harry has fallen?"

Harry shook his head. "Can you get the Marauder's Map off the table in the sitting room, please?"

"Slinky will!" Slinky agreed before vanishing.

"Good idea," Salazar decided as he got to his feet and held down a hand. "Here, stand up."

Harry let his husband pull him to his feet, wincing as his tailbone reminded him it was bruised. When Salazar immediately waved a spell at him to fix the problem, Harry rolled his eyes. Healers.

As soon as Slinky returned with the map, Harry activated it and spread it out over his desk. "Find Nagini," he ordered, tapping his wand against the parchment.

Nothing happened.

"The diadem, then," Salazar murmured, eyes tracing over the castle laid bare before them. "It'll have to be in one of the upper floors, if it's not bothering you at night."

"Slinky," Harry said to their house-elf, who had yet to leave, "ask the other house-elves if any of them have seen Rowena's diadem. It'll most likely be in a room that doesn't see much use, so one of the storage rooms, and on or above the second floor."

"Slinky will ask," she promised before popping away.

Salazar traced over the upper floors, his finger stopping over the blank portion of hallway that Harry knew the Room was in. "If I was going to hide a piece of my soul," Salazar murmured, "in a school full of curious students, this is where I would place it."

"Shit," Harry whispered, "you're right. If he'd found the Room, he would absolutely hide something in there, especially since basilisk venom is one of the few things that can destroy it, so he'd never chance leaving it in the Chamber. Mischief managed." He folded up the map as it blanked and shoved it into a pocket. "Gods, I feel like an idiot."

Salazar snorted and leant down to grab Harry's robe, then joined Harry in walking from the classroom. "Then we are both the fool, for I didn't think to check Hogwarts either, even after Albus mentioned his attachment to the building."

They traded resigned looks and continued up to the seventh floor.

Slinky and Dobby appeared when they reached the empty portion of hallway. "None of the house-elves knows of the tiara Masters be searching for," Slinky offered, ears drooping.

"We think we figured out where it is," Harry replied as Salazar started pacing. "Dobby, could you go tell Uncle we may have found the last one? He'll know what you mean by that," he promised when Dobby frowned. The house-elf nodded and popped away. "Slinky, we may need your expert finding skills in a minute, depending–"

"Finding skills necessary," Salazar agreed, tone resigned. "Gods forbid Hogwarts students actually take their things home with them."

Harry walked over to look into the room Salazar called up, and gaped in disbelief at the piles of things that filled the Room. "Gods. We're going to be searching until Yule."

Salazar snorted. "Optimistic, aren't you?" he complained before stepping into the Room to begin searching.

In the end, it only took them a Point me and about five minutes before they had their hands on the last horcrux that wasn't a living being. Godric's sword finished the deed, and Albus settled it on the shelf next to the Sorting Hat with a proud smile.

"Well done, my boys," he offered.

"Only Nagini left, then," Harry murmured, rubbing idly at his covered scar.

Salazar's expression tightened while Albus looked away.

None of them dared mention the unspoken truth hanging heavily between them.

-0-

On the first day of the winter holiday, Salazar received a letter stamped with the Slytherin House crest.

"He didn't," Harry breathed as his husband opened the letter, having already cast a couple of detection spells over it.

Salazar raised one eyebrow. "Oh, he did." He held the letter out for Harry to take. "He's requesting a little family gathering on Yule."

The letter was very to the point, and lacking any of the word games that Harry might have expected. 'Then again,' he thought as he tapped his mouth with the parchment, 'I expect he has no interest in misleading his mysterious cousin, especially given that Sal is married to a Dumbledore.'

Salazar let out a tired sigh. "I expect you'll be going in my place," he said, and while his voice was steady, there was a well of pain behind his light eyes.

Harry swallowed and nodded. "I expect so," he agreed quietly. "I should be able to lead him on long enough to kill Nagini, then reveal who I am. After that, anyone can kill him."

Salazar looked away. "I'll finish the year and update the wards," he offered.

'Then I'll join you,' hung in the air between them, unsaid, yet understood.

-0-

The portkey Voldemort had sent in response to Salazar's acceptance deposited him in a fine ballroom. Men and women in black cloaks, wearing white masks, stood behind him, blocking his access to the door, and Harry smiled grimly under the hood of his robe, even as he turned to face the man he'd come for, eyes seeking Nagini.

:So, you are the one who claims the blood of Slytherin,: Voldemort hissed across from him.

:Actually,: Harry replied as he caught sight of the snake he'd come to kill, :I'm his husband.: Then he pushed his hood back, revealing his uncovered scar. "Hello, Tom."

Voldemort's red eyes widened with disbelief, and his shock gave Harry the chance he needed to throw a dagger dipped in basilisk venom at Nagini – Salazar and Albus had agreed that they were better safe than sorry when it came to finishing off the snake.

And then Voldemort let out a roar of fury and turned his wand on Harry, who stood still for the inevitable. "Avada Kedavra!"

-0-

He opened his eyes to a world of white mist, completely naked save for his wedding ring. He stared down at it for a long moment, so unspeakably grateful that, if he was to pass on with only one thing, it was this physical connection to his husband. Like a string tied between them, leading Salazar home once he'd finally passed on.

There was a sound in the near distance, a sort of quiet thumping, like the struggle of a trapped animal.

Harry looked up, towards the sound, only to find that the mist had sort of...begun to take shape. Grass had formed beneath him, and great stone formations rose high above him; Stonehenge.

"Hello, Mummy."

Harry glanced over his shoulder and found Ramona and Merlin standing behind him, looking exactly as he remembered them from when they met him and Salazar at Stonehenge. "Well," he said a bit inanely, "this is awkward."

Ramona let out a loud peal of laughter, beautiful and reminding him so achingly of everything he'd left behind, he had to look away.

A robe was draped over his shoulders, and he glanced back up to find Merlin smiling sadly down at him. "Thanks," he whispered as he drew the robe more tightly around himself and let his friend help him to his feet. Inexplicably, the robe stretched so it fit his slightly larger build, and he raised his eyebrows at that even as he quickly slipped his arms through the sleeves and fastened it shut.

"Aw, Merlin, you're ruining all my fun," Ramona complained as she joined them. She pressed a light kiss to Harry's cheek and Harry turned to hug her, holding tight because he'd missed her. Missed her like he'd once so missed Hermione and Ron.

"Where's my hug, then?" Merlin complained, and Harry wasted no time in turning and pulling him into a hug, closing his eyes against the rise of tears.

It was only after he'd let go of Merlin and taken the chance to wipe his tears away that he saw the creature that had been thumping. It had the shape of a baby, but it was a far more wretched creature, left to flail in the shadow of one of the great pillars. "Is that–?" he started.

"Voldemort's horcrux?" Ramona suggested with a knowing smile. "The one that was in you?"

"We assume as much, yeah," Merlin offered, his nose crinkled with disgust as he eyed the creature.

Harry hummed and considered it for another moment before turning his attention to the familiar stones around them. "You know, of all the ways I've envisioned the afterlife over the years, this never even crossed my mind."

Ramona cleared her throat uncomfortably, but it was Merlin who offered, "Thing is, you're not, actually...dead."

Harry blinked at him. "Right," he managed, tone deadpan. "Because I'm actually capable of surviving the Killing Curse twice."

Ramona let out a helpless little giggle and covered her mouth. "Well, it's a bit more complicated than that," she offered from behind her hand, the words somehow both muffled and perfectly clear.

Harry closed his eyes and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Right, of course it is. And I don't suppose either of you have any suppositions?"

Camp chairs had appeared in front of them when Harry opened his eyes to watch Ramona and Merlin silently communicating. He rolled his eyes at the two of them and settled himself in one of the chairs, content to wait them out.

"It's complicated," Ramona finally announced, "and based rather a lot on some information you don't have access to."

Harry raised an eyebrow at that. "I'm not going anywhere any time soon, Ramona."

She sighed and dropped into the chair on his left, while Merlin took the chair on his right. "Voldemort made a promise to one of his Death Eaters, before he came after your family, that he wouldn't kill your mum. So when he faced her, he offered her the chance to get out of the way."

Harry nodded, still remembering, after all these years, hearing Voldemort giving his mother the chance to 'stand aside' before he'd killed her.

"Her sacrifice formed a protective magic over you, a sort of shield that rebounded the Killing Curse," Ramona continued. "Rebounded it twice now, even, though the second time it had the help of phoenix magic."

Harry's eyes widened, because he would never forget the way that golden net had turned green and crept towards him. Old protection magic born of his mother's sacrifice mixed with phoenix magic, taking him through time to Salazar Slytherin and, in a way, saving them both. "Gods," he whispered. His mother had been a marvel.

"When he went through that ritual," Merlin offered, sitting forward, face seeming almost to age before Harry's eyes, so he was the man in the portrait in Harry and Salazar's rooms, "he used your blood. He took some of your mum's protection into himself, stretched it between the two of you and showed the ritual on Litha where to send you back to. Your life is as tied to him, as his life was tied to your scar. While he's still alive, you cannot die."

"But now that you've visited the edges of the afterlife, now that you've separated from his horcrux," Ramona added quietly, eyes glancing over Harry's shoulder, to where the naked babe thrashed silently, "he can die. He can be killed, Harry."

Merlin took Harry's hand, tapping one finger against the ring he still wore. "Go home, Harry. Finish this and go home. I didn't bind you so you could make Salazar a widower after less than a year."

"We'll still be here when it's finally your time," Ramona added, and her smile was beautiful and heart wrenching. A lifetime away.

Harry reached out and took Ramona's hand with his free one, then squeezed both her and Merlin's hands. "Thank you," he whispered and they both smiled at him as they faded away into mist.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and thought, 'Salazar.'

-0-

He became aware, first, of the ache of his whole body. The throb of his chest, where the Killing Curse had struck, the unnatural stretch of his back – familiar after all the times it had reacted to the horcruxes – the tingle of his forehead, where his scar sat. The now one-way connection between himself and Voldemort.

"My Lord," someone was calling, their voice shaking. "My Lord."

Harry breathed silently out against the slick floor under his cheek. His wand was in his sheath, a twist of his wrist away from being in his hand, but his whole arm felt numb, held awkwardly under his body; even if he managed to draw his wand, he couldn't promise how well he would be able to cast.

"My Lord."

"That's enough," Voldemort hissed, and Harry heard the movement of robes just in front of him; Voldemort standing, he was certain.

His other hand was a second's twitch from holding another of his knives. Silver. His aim wasn't as good with his off-hand, but it should be enough, given the close range.

"My Lord, are you–"

"Enough!" Voldemort snarled, and Harry took a chance, peeked one eye open.

Voldemort was staring at him, his expression still twisted with his angry order. His eyes started to widen, terror flaring to life within them, and Harry knew he was out of time.

Years of practising throwing the same knives at black targets ringed in red, of forcing muscle memory, took over, and his knife was blooming from Voldemort's left eye before Harry even realised he was moving. A second to pull a knife from the sheath at the small of his back and two steps forward, rising as he moved, and he was close enough he could taste Voldemort's rancid breath.

He didn't waste any words, though he could think of plenty of things to say, simply slid his knife across the dying man's throat, and ducked the resulting spray of blood, having no interest in wearing any part of his life-long enemy, now he was rid of the stain of his soul.

He turned his wand on the gathered Death Eaters, his bloodied knife held against the throat of the one who'd been checking on Voldemort, and smiled. "I think," he said quietly as Voldemort's body crumbled to the ground next to him, "that this little theatre act is done. Don't you?"

"Harry Potter," someone breathed from the crowd.

Harry tilted his head forward in something akin to a nod. "In the flesh, as it were. Though, I must admit, I've found myself rather fond of Harry Dumbledore. Perhaps Uncle Albus will let me keep it." He glanced towards the Death Eater he was holding at knifepoint. "If you would join your fellows? I didn't, actually, come here intending to kill more that Voldemort today, but I'm willing to make an exception if someone wants to try me."

The Death Eater moved away, dropping his wand at Harry's feet as he went. Other Death Eaters tossed their wands forward and took off their masks, showing their surrender.

"There's no guarantee he's dead!" one Death Eater shouted. "He played us for a fool last time!"

Harry snorted. "Oh, he's dead, I promise you. I found out how he made himself immortal and negated it." He shoved the cooling body next to him with one foot, causing the knife still embedded in Voldemort's eye socket to clack unpleasantly against the ballroom floor. The nearest Death Eaters flinched back and Harry bit back a laugh. "Someone want to tell me whose house this is?"

A blond man stepped forward. "Malfoy Manor," he offered quietly, and Harry recognised Lucius Malfoy.

Harry tilted his head to one side. "That, actually, doesn't surprise me. Huh." He shrugged. "Right, then. You're going to floo the Ministry and have them send aurors, then floo Albus' office and tell him to come through. Once they're here, if you don't try running, I'll do everything in my power to keep your wife and son out of this." Because as much as he wanted to let Albus and Salazar know he wasn't dead, that it was done, he didn't need the Ministry questioning the validity of the truth this room showed, which they well-might, should Albus beat them there.

Lucius' eyes widened, then he gave a deep bow. "Thank you," he whispered, voice shaking, before he turned and hurried from the room.

Harry nodded to himself and motioned the remaining Death Eaters against the only wall without windows or the door into the rest of the manor, where he had a better chance of noticing if one of them tried to run for it.

They didn't have to wait long before the aurors arrived, disbelieving or horrified curses giving away their presence as they stepped into the ballroom and took in the sight. Harry glanced towards them, amused, and called, "If you ladies and gentlemen wouldn't mind, I'm getting tired of holding this lot at wand point."

Before anyone could react to that, a burst of blue fire appeared directly next to Harry and he found himself being pulled into Salazar's arms while Tanwen let out a victorious screech. Harry let his bloody knife hit the floor and wrapped his arms around his husband, breathing him in and feeling tears spring to his eyes. Relief and gratitude and the undeniable sense of home.

He'd survived. They'd both survived.

"Dammit, Harry," Salazar breathed against Harry's mouth before his lips sealed over Harry's, the kiss tasting of desperation and love.

"I'm okay," he whispered as they parted, cupping Salazar's face between his hands. "We're okay, Sal. He's gone. It's over."

"Merlin's sagging ball sack!" someone shouted from the doorway.

Salazar and Harry's eyes met and they both burst out laughing, clearly thinking of the Merlin they had known and how absolutely horrified he'd have been to know that wizards of the common era swore by mentioning his privates.

"It seems, Cornelius, that I must rephrase my claim of Voldemort's return," Albus said, sounding quite serene. "He was back, but he is now deceased. Well done, Harry."

Harry and Salazar carefully stepped apart, lacing their hands together as they did, and turned towards where Albus and Minister Cornelius Fudge stood near the door of the ballroom. Aurors were leading the Death Eaters out, likely to process them at the Ministry, and Harry recalled his promise to Lucius. "Did you get Lucius Malfoy already?" he asked of the nearest auror.

The man looked up, and Harry recognised one of the few Order members who had joined after his return, Kingsley Shacklebolt. "We got him, aye," he agreed.

Harry nodded. "His wife and son weren't involved in this. It's possible, even, that they had no idea Voldemort was in their home."

Kingsley's eyes narrowed, but he nodded. "I'll pass that on," he promised before continuing out with his prisoner.

"I very much doubt they had no idea of his presence," Salazar murmured in Pictish.

Harry shrugged. "No, but I made a promise to try my best to keep them out of it."

Salazar nodded and nothing further was said on the matter.

"Mr Potter?" Fudge breathed as Harry and Salazar stopped before him and Albus.

Harry put on his friendliest smile and nodded. "Indeed. Last summer, at the end of the Tournament, Voldemort–" Fudge let out an undignified shriek and looked towards the body of said Dark Lord "–and I faced one another in a duel. One which, regretfully, I lost. Some rather inexplicable magic whisked me into the past, where Sal saved my life and I finished my schooling. Upon my return, Uncle Albus–" Fudge's gaze turned to Albus, realisation making his eyes widen "–and I agreed that I would be best served posing as his nephew and taking over the empty Defence position."

Fudge sort of stared between them for a moment before he very obviously gathered himself and cleared his throat. "And this?" he asked, motioning towards Voldemort's body.

"On account of his claim of relation, Voldemort–" a gasp this time; really, the man was pathetic "–invited Sal to a, how did he put it?"

"Family gathering," Salazar supplied drily.

Harry nodded. "Thank you. I came in Sal's place and surprised Voldemort–" okay, the noises were just getting ridiculous "–with a knife to the eye, then slit his throat. He's quite dead."

"And good riddance," Salazar muttered.

Fudge turned wide eyes to Salazar and burst out with, "Are you? Related to him?"

Albus coughed. "Cornelius, I don't think that's particularly important at this venture. We should pass the news on to the Prophet so those families who believed me can enjoy their Yule to the fullest."

"Oh, yes. Yes, that's quite true, yes. We'll have to bring in people to see to the body," Fudge started rambling, turning towards the door.

'Go,' Albus mouthed before offering Harry and Salazar a beaming smile.

"Our rooms, Tanwen," Salazar murmured as he pulled Harry close again, and they were immediately cloaked in blue fire and whisked away to Hogwarts, where they could celebrate the miracle of life in private.

-0-

While it was true that his cover was completely blown, the only people who Harry had really seen before the new term were his fellow professors and Hogwarts staff members, and the few Order members who had already known who he was. So when he stepped into the Great Hall for dinner the night everyone returned, running late because Peeves was an arse, he was completely unprepared for the hush that fell over the room. He hurried along the back of the staff table and slipped into his seat between Albus and Salazar.

And then, with all the force of a tidal wave, the students let out a roar of approval, almost all of them jumping to their feet and applauding him.

Harry moaned and sank down in his seat. "Gods, give me Voldemort any day," he muttered and Salazar chuckled next to him.

"You might as well say something, my boy," Albus told him, eyes twinkling madly.

Harry sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, then obediently stood and waited out the dying applause. He stared out over the sea of expectant grins for a long moment, wondering what the hell he was even supposed to say to them.

"Last year," he started slowly, speaking even as his mind continued to shape the words that came to him, "when Cedric and I touched the Cup in the middle of that wretched maze, neither of us knew it was a portkey. Neither of us knew it would lead to his death, or my getting lost in time." He closed his eyes for a moment, remembering that nightmare in the graveyard, as fresh as if it had happened yesterday, though the ache of losing a friend had faded under a hundred other people he'd had to leave behind.

"I spent eight years trying to get home," he continued, opening his eyes again, "because I couldn't stand the thought of no one knowing Voldemort was back. But, by the time I managed it, I found out you all already knew, but you refused to accept it." Eyes turned away from him, ashamed. "And that, well, honestly? I was a bit disappointed in everyone, but I couldn't just leave you to your demise. So Professor Salazar and I got together with Headmaster Dumbledore and we planned a way to deal with Voldemort before he could start a second war.

"Clearly," he continued, tone going dry, "it worked." A few people laughed, nervous and uncertain, as if they weren't sure if they were supposed to. "He's really gone this time, I promise. And I'm still your professor, though I expect I'm going to have to get used to answering to Professor Potter, now." The laughter was more honest that time, more like they got the joke.

Harry smiled at them and shook his head. "I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Sometimes, you're faced with the choice between hiding behind fear and facing the truth. And while you'll always be someone worth saving, only you can decide if you have the strength to step forward and save yourself." He took a moment to look over the silent room. "This school was founded to give you a place where you can learn everything possible to one day be the person who chooses to save them self, and I know every single one of you have that capacity within you, but it's up to you to prove yourself worthy of the trust those founders have in you."

He sat down and took a deep breath.

"With that, let's eat," Albus called and the tables filled with food.

Salazar's fingers slipped between Harry's and he looked up to find his husband smiling at him. "That," he whispered, "was perfect."

Harry grinned back and squeezed Salazar's hand. "Yeah, well, it only sounds good because they have no idea what ridiculous children you lot were," he whispered back.

Salazar put on an imperious expression and coolly stated. "I'm sure I've no idea what you mean."

Harry just laughed and turned to eat.

-0-

The first week of term was a little weird for everyone, the students struggling to fit their memories of fourteen-year-old Harry Potter, into the relatively easy-going man who had little tolerance for House rivalries that they knew as Harry Dumbledore. And that didn't even touch on the uncertainty of who Salazar was, as he'd continued the fiction that he was simply a relative of the great Salazar Slytherin, having no interest in revealing who he really was to anyone outside of Harry's closest friends and family.

Eventually, however, everything settled back down. Harry went back to being 'Professor Harry', rather than 'Professor Harry Potter', and those professors who'd had trouble wrapping their heads around the concept that they currently counted among their co-workers someone they'd considered a student a year ago, sorted themselves out. Best yet, in Harry's eyes, the Ministry stopped trying to get him to come in and give some sort of highly publicised speech about his defeat of Voldemort.

The Ministry also, come March, struck the Educational Decree giving them power over Hogwarts' teaching staff from record, bowing under the combined pressure of Harry and Albus' disapproval. Albus, likewise, bowed to Harry's disapproval by hiring a currently-living historian to replace Professor Binns, which resulted in a spike of interest in History of Magic.

Once term was over and all but a few students were off to London on the train, Harry and Salazar pulled the castle wards down. With the help of Albus, McGonagall, Flitwick, and – to her unending delight, which was the entire reason Salazar had asked for her – Hermione, they put new ones into place, stronger than before, without a thousand years of headmasters and headmistresses adding to them whenever some new ward they thought would be useful was created.

"Well, my boys," Albus said in his office as they stared out the window at the glimmer of new wards, two phoenixes singing harmony behind them, "we didn't do badly, for only one year."

Harry burst out laughing while Salazar just rolled his eyes.

As years went, it wasn't a horrible way to end it.