A/N: Hello, people!

I don't own Harry Potter.

I have no beta.



It had occurred to Tom on the rare occasion that he set aside time to even think about it, that he was a bit obsessed with Harry Potter. Of course it hadn't been since Harry's first couple of months at Hogwarts that the recognition of such a fact had come to mind in such a way that it lingered for too long. But he definitely thought about it now!

And it hadn't been anything Harry or Tom had done actually. That was the thing.

His admiration of Harry never came to mind as something possibly concerning these days. Not after getting to know the man so well and seeing how he was in private versus in public. Which was basically the same but just a lot more open when he didn't have to set an example for children to follow. There was freedom in being alone versus being around people, Tom knew that very well.

The thought came up once again because of Slughorn of all people. Tom was ashamed to say that he'd forgotten the man's existence for a moment there. Too caught up in his happiness over living at Hogwarts full time while Dumbledore seethed about it nonstop, and having a guaranteed decent future at his disposal so long as he worked hard, and seeing Harry every single day whenever he wanted to. Too busy with his research and training to care about anything outside the walls since nothing would affect him.

But Slughorn had come knocking of course, having returned to the castle because the new term would begin so very soon and he no doubt had to prepare his classrooms, potions stores, and office ahead of time for all of his little plans. And Slughorn always had plans.

Slughorn waltzed into Tom's personal rooms like he owned the place, a feel-good smile on his face. He was in one of those moods. The ones that Tom hated kissing up to the most. Excessively chipper people had always made him uncomfortable, but the ones that had something useful he needed, let him know that he had to put up with them anyway.

"Tom, my boy!" Tom had to repress a shudder of revulsion at being called such. Two people greeted him in such a way and only one of them did he tolerate or was he willing to tolerate. Dumbledore was obviously the one he didn't tolerate and would prefer to have never call him that ever again.

What many wouldn't notice on the surface, was that Slughorn and Dumbledore were very similar. They did a lot of the same things and held a lot of the same beliefs oddly enough. But both discomforted Tom in different ways, which was the important thing to take note of.

Dumbledore's false platitudes hid malice and belligerence. Slughorn's hid greed and obsession. At a distance both seemed terrible, but up close, one of them could be overlooked to an extent.

So when both greeted him the same way, Tom felt ill but for different reasons even if Slughorn wasn't in any way a threat to him.

Dumbledore: "My dear boy!"

It meant: I don't trust you or anything/anyone you're involved in/with. I believe you are evil incarnate and am only being polite to you to keep up my benign facade. I love making you uncomfortable with my ungifted familiarity with your name. I hope to see you torn down some day so that you may never darken the world with your existence and the potential you have.

Slughorn: "My dear boy!"

It meant: I see your worth and want to manipulate and multiply it so that I can latch myself onto your growing fame and take credit for discovering you in order to boost my own reputation. In return, I will do everything I can to fan the flames of your future in both of our favours. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, and I will love every minute of it.

Dumbledore made him out to be an enemy, in which Tom gladly took up that position as it meant not being aligned with Dumbledore. Slughorn made him out to be a prized show pony that would bring in a lot of money eventually if groomed well enough for long enough. Which in basic terms, meant being catered to at every possible turn and obsessed over more than anyone else would be comfortable with.

And so Slughorn had invited himself in and because he still would like to retain a pleasant and beneficial relationship with the man, Tom tolerated it. At least he wasn't Dumbledore. He could suck it up and deal with anyone he disliked so long as they weren't Dumbledore. Tom had never been given a reason to like Dumbledore.

"I'm having a little party for the Slug Club after the term begins. A special, invite-only sort of gathering as I'm sure you'll recall being invited to in your school days."

Ah yes. The ones where he liked to call in his numerous amounts of favours and help his students make connections they'd need in the future so he could wrangle promises out of them in gratitude for his assistance. Tom had met many Ministry personnel already.

An envelope was held under his nose, his name written elegantly across the face. Of course a formal invitation had to be made even for someone being invited in person. It wouldn't do to ignore such a tradition. "I do hope to see you there, my boy." And Tom would be there because despite his dislike of Slughorn, making use of him was the smart thing to do. "And do try to bring Mr. Potter as your plus one. I know how much you… admire him."

There was a familiar twinkle in his eyes that Dumbledore often got when he thought he was being clever.

And that was how Tom's attention had once again been drawn to his obsession with Harry Potter. Because apparently other people who didn't share the surname Potter, had taken an obvious notice of it and he didn't know what to do about that.

The way the word 'admire' had come out of Slughorn's mouth… There were implications not only in his words but also in the way he chose to enunciate them! As in the suggestions that Tom hadn't ever truly considered before because he'd never been much like the other boys in his dorm. There were more important things for him to focus on as a poor orphan with no foreseeable future. Sex hadn't been interesting to him like it was for their privileged arses.

It was always sex and positions, or which girl in their year had the best breasts(because the others all strictly preferred women), or fashion(that was usually just Abraxas though), or even the war. Sometimes weird topics like how well-developed a Giant's reproductive system was, and how Merfolk and humans copulated successfully, and what it had to feel like to have sexual relations with one had come up for discussion because Abraxas couldn't stop being loudly curious about everything under the bloody sun.

Usually Tom stayed away from those topics, save for the last time the war was mentioned and the bet they'd all started that he planned on winning. He hadn't even been much interested in it.

But Slughorn's tone in his suggestion… made him think.

Harry made him happy. For so many reasons. And for Tom, who had struggled when he'd begun his training in the Patronus Charm, being happy wasn't a normal thing. He couldn't even do the charm the normal way for ages because he didn't have a happy memory. And even Harry's method of using a happy thought(even if it was something that had never happened) had taken forever. It wasn't until he was actually happy that he'd been able to do the spell. And by that time, it was thinking of Harry Potter that helped him power it.

Going from being unhappy/borderline apathetic to being happy nearly all the time was strange and not a usual thing for Tom.

And it all started because he couldn't get his mind off of the other man's existence and how it hadn't been interested in Tom's. It had driven him to near madness just to get the man's positive attentions!

And speaking of Potter's existence and what it meant to Tom… how was he going to ask the man to accompany him to Slughorn's party? It wasn't the kind of event Tom would consider worthy of a date. Or even just a casual outing. And Potter hadn't had to deal with Slughorn the way the students had to. Spending time with a group of people all there to collectively kiss up to one man wasn't romantic.

Tom had never brought a date to the parties he'd attended before. He'd never wanted to and no one had questioned him or those in his… group as they went as a group usually.

Being a teenager was terrible. Despite being a legal adult for quite some time already, he still felt like a school student and felt awkward because of it.

And now he had to somehow get Harry to agree to go to a boring party with him. If he didn't, he'd have to deal with Slughorn's disappointment all evening and then the man's attempts at match-making.

"Are you okay, Tom?"

The question was posed by none other than Harry, and Tom found himself shooting upright in his chair. He hadn't even realised he'd begun to slouch in on himself. Most unbecoming of him! Even if the subject on his mind was one that he didn't want to face, that didn't mean he had to let the world know of his discomfort and unhappiness. 'Always pretend you're wearing an invisible crown,' he'd heard someone say once.

"I'm fine, Harry."

It should go without saying that Harry obviously didn't believe him, and squinted at him as if that would help him find something to explain his concern.

"Are you certain? If it's about the term starting and the amount of kids, it's less stressful than you think."

He smiled. "No, I'm not worried about classes." Then Tom sighed and figured he'd act like a Gryffindor for once in his life because he couldn't see how to do it otherwise but also wanted to throw Slughorn into the lake in the process. "Horace wants you to be my plus one at his first Slug Club meeting when term begins."

The wince that flitted across Harry's face didn't spell out good things for Tom.

"The Slug Club is one of the most embarrassing things ever."

It was true. No reason to deny it when it was so very true.

"But if I don't go you'll end up being harassed all by yourself, won't you?"

"Yes." Slughorn would hang off him no doubt with all sorts of advice he did not want to face. Harry would have been a great buffer.

Harry sighed. "Fine. Though as you're doing the escorting I hope you make this as good a date as you can manage," the professor said with a smirk.

"D-date?" He was breathless all of a sudden!

"Of course it's a date. That's what it's called when you bring someone to a party who didn't get a personal invitation themselves. So if I come to help ward the idiots away from you, you pay me back with a good dance and perhaps an opportunity for me to purloin some of Slughorn's prized Firewhiskey while his attention is otherwise occupied. I'll even split it with you later on. What say you?"

Tom stared down at where Harry had placed his hand over Tom's own. For once in his life, Tom was actually darker in tone than another person. He'd never noticed it before but Harry was very… white. Alarmingly so. Was he okay?

"I mean- if you'd be okay with it being me that is escorting you I'd appreciate your presence."

His mind kept repeating the word 'date' over and over. He had a date!

"There are few people I'd want to escort me anywhere, Tom. You're among the lot," Harry said with a charming smile.

Slughorn - and Tom to an extent - had gotten what he wanted. Tom needed a new set of dress robes because there would be no way he'd take Harry anywhere in public with such important figures looking the way he did. Perhaps her needed a haircut as well?

While Tom often looked perfect, he now had to look even more perfect!

School started like it did every year. Classes began with little fanfare and Tom thrived! After spending the latter half of his last school term tutoring several students for money, he'd acquired some skills when dealing with children of varying ages, and handling his portion of the DADA classes wasn't difficult as a result.

The first Slug Club party was set for Hallowe'en which was enough time for students to get used to being back at the school and for the newest of the lot to get used to Slughorn as a person so it wouldn't be strange to invite them along if some had famous family members.

Horace could be so predictable sometimes. Not that many outside of Slytherin seemed to even understand his motives.

Very little time seemed to pass in the two months it took to reach the very night Tom both dreaded and looked forward to. The saying about time flying when having fun seemed to be true to some extent. His days of stress had always felt longer and now he understood why.

On the night of the party. Tom met Harry at the door to the man's rooms. Both hadn't put too much effort into their appearances. Though honestly, Harry didn't need to and Tom was already looking perfect as always so there was little he had to do to prepare.

"Thank you for agreeing to come with me. Slughorn can be so... insistent."

Harry snorted. "I know it well. Make it worth it. Get what you can out of him while I get the Firewhiskey."

It would sound rather callous to those not of the Slytherin disposition, but to Tom it was beautiful. Made even better because it was Harry who was encouraging him to skin Slughorn of his fleece.

And who should Tom notice upon entering the hall, but Dumbledore. "Of course he's here. Even with how poorly their relationship is now, Dumbledore is still pretty useful to have as an acquaintance. He's a genius after all." While Tom hated admitting it, denying it would be foolish even if he hated the man more than death itself.

Harry patted his arm. "Focus on me. I'm a fair better sight I should think."

He was. His robes fit him perfectly and he looked like he was meant to be on a throne somewhere instead of some simpleton's party.

The Firewhiskey was indeed superior. Tom didn't know where exactly it was from but he knew it wasn't Ogden's. The Ogden family made their Firewhiskey a very special way that left a tang of sorts on the tongue. This one was more smooth and heavy on the tongue even as it burned while going down. It was nice. Not something he'd have regularly, but nice enough.

Harry seemed to love it, slugging it back and blowing out a small stream of fire as a result. He looked utterly unaffected while doing it.

"Tom, my boy! I see you managed to wrangle in our dear Harry!" Slughorn said the moment he saw them. He wasn't quiet about it either, drawing everyone's attention. "You both make quite the fetching couple if I do say so myself."

Any mortification Tom knew would come upon hearing that declaration, vanished when Harry smiled and batted his lashes playfully at the older man. "That's kind of you to say, Horace. Tom's been quite the gem all summer long. And his courting ritual is to be commended as it isn't stuffy and boring like the traditions of old. He even made me this as a declaration of his intentions," said Harry, holding out his wrist to display the snake bracelet Tom had used Magical Smithing to painstakingly create. "Made it himself with pure materials. In on a month and a half too. Charmont and Ella are quite taken with him and his skills."

So many things happened in such a short span of time that Tom didn't know where to start!

Harry said Tom was courting him. Said he'd been doing it for a while. Made it a point to draw the attention of all who were listening in, to the fact that Tom was skilled in Magical Smithing. A subtle form of bragging while getting Tom some praise and notoriety. No doubt it would be useful for later on.

Slughorn's eyes went unnaturally wide as he processed this new information. Sure enough, that familiar gleam of greed appeared not long after. He'd no doubt already calculated just how this could benefit him in some way. "As in Magical Smithing? Tom, you managed to learn how to do that on your own?"

Tom managed a nod that he made seem sheepish at the last second. Just to give him the sweet attitude of a humble young man he wanted others to think he possessed.

"Impressive, my boy! Not even Albus could do something so spectacular by the age of eighteen! I always knew you would be something special! I can't wait to see what else you surprise us with in the future!"

Amazed murmurs broke out among the crowd of watchers, who tried their best to peer over each other to get a better view of Harry's gift, which glinted attractively in the lantern light.

"Mightn't we expect to see you two together more often when out and about?" asked Slughorn, drawing attention back to the former topic of conversation. He would not be dissuaded it seemed.

"Of course," Harry agreed easily. "Tom loves taking me out for lunches and having long and stimulating conversations about magic. In fact, I think now I would like to dance with him if you don't mind. We're never gotten the chance, you see."

Slughorn waved them on upon hearing that, telling them to 'take their time' with a suggestive brow waggle. And that was how Tom ended up swaying on the dance floor with Harry in his arms, smiling up at him knowingly.

"You knew?" he asked, feeling self-conscious and exposed in a way he never had before.

"Most everyone knows, Tom. I just wanted to give you time to come to grips with it yourself before doing anything about it. One epiphany at a time otherwise you'll be too mentally and emotionally overloaded to function. And having people telling you what you're feeling can be very confusing for young adults."


"And you're okay with it?" Never before had Tom been this nervous about someone liking him. His need for Harry's attention had grown into a need for Harry's approval, and now it was a need for... something. He didn't know what that something was, but he knew he needed it. With the burning passion of a thousand suns.

"I wouldn't have told them all of my intentions if I wasn't."

Okay. That was good. It was a good thing. It meant that things were moving in Tom's favour after all.

So what was he supposed to do now? He was out of his depth and unsure of the next course of action. Tom had flirted before, but it was with people he knew his charm would work on. Harry was nothing like any of them and wouldn't fall for insincere words. And though they wouldn't be insincere when aimed at Harry they just wouldn't work. Harry deserved more. Better.

Harry placed a soft hand on Tom's cheek and smiled. "Do you intend to keep courting me, Tom?"

"Yes." It wasn't difficult to answer. Tom was very possessive and now that he knew that Harry welcomed his attentions this way, there was no way he was backing out any time soon.

"Then I can think of something you've yet to do that I think would seal the deal a bit more, hm?"

When Tom didn't answer because he couldn't piece together just what it was Harry was referencing, Harry very tellingly looked at Tom's mouth and then back to Tom's dark blue eyes.

Oh. A kiss. Harry wanted Tom to kiss him.

Tom had never actually kissed anyone before.

Harry smirked then, lids lowering in a look he'd never seen on the man's face before. One that made him hot all over in response. "I can teach you if you'd like. I'm sure Horace won't mind if we leave a bit early."

That was how Tom ended up standing in Harry's rooms, but unlike any of the other times, it wasn't for tea and biscuits and warm conversation. Tom was pulled toward Harry's sofa but instead of being allowed to sit, Harry reclined lengthwise and pulled Tom on top of him, Tom's thigh slipping between Harry's spread legs. "I think this is very comfortable, don't you?" the older man asked, his minty breath as intoxicating as his body's warmth.

He nodded, unable to voice his thoughts without surely sounding like a buffoon.

"Will you kiss me, Tom?"

And so Tom did, being more daring than he probably had a right to be, and allowing Harry to coax him through the motions until he fully got the hang of it.

Tradition stated that this was terribly improper of them... but tradition was boring and Tom much preferred the taste of Harry over some rules an old white man made up four centuries ago.

A/N: Another is done!

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