"A sherbet lemon?"

"I'll say no" Orochimaru replied dryly, throwing his leg over his foot. "Why does it smell like garlic in here?"

"Don't mind. It's just that Professor Quirrell visited me recently."

"And left a few bulbs under the table?" he chuckled.

"I suppose that could happen" Dumbledore smiled strainedly, pouring tea into a silver service. "Perhaps I can offer you some tea then? This wonderful brew was brought by a good friend of mine straight from Japan."

"I'm not a vampire," Orochimaru said briefly, taking the silver cup in his hand so as not to appear unsubstantiated, and taking a small sip for good measure.

"Oh, I didn't doubt it," replied the headmaster cheerfully, taking a little sip from his cup already. "Vampires can't be in the sun for long unless they want to get hard-to-heal burns. And you and Minerva have already seen each other in broad daylight. And there have been no complaints of unexplained bites in the hospital wing yet, even though it's been over a month since the start of the school year."

Dumbledore decided to leave out that it was rather cloudy at the time to really make sure of the opposite. And about the fact that already prepared blood could be safely stored in stasis, he decided to keep silent.

"There's something I've been meaning to ask," setting aside his cup, Albus asked. "You wouldn't happen to have a Time-Turner lying around somewhere, would you?"

"I'm not familiar with the item in question. Judging by the name, this artifact is supposed to control time to some degree, if I'm not mistaken."

"Good guess," nodded Dumbledore to his thoughts, deciding to change the subject. "Tell me, how far along are you in your independent study of the school curriculum?"

"Third year" answered Orochimaru honestly, finding little reason to hide it.

"Even so?" he pretended to be surprised. "I take it the current classes aren't satisfying your developmental needs, are they?"

"That's right." nodded Orochimaru, inwardly pleased at the direction this conversation was taking. "You like to suggest that I move up to third year?"

"Unfortunately," Dumbledore sighed, "the school regulations do not provide for externships from one course to another. But, I suggest this," he motioned. "You can try to take the exams for all first year subjects in advance, and then attendance will be optional for this year."

"Wonderful," Orochimaru smiled, bringing his fingers together. "And when will the exams be scheduled?"

"I'll try to make arrangements with the Ministry's examiners tomorrow. So they'll be held, say, next weekend." he replied. "But I'll have a small favor to ask of you..."

"I'm listening," he replied calmly, inwardly hissing. "Still, there's a reason he reminded me of Hiruzen."

"Please try to socialize more with the students," Dumbledore said suddenly. "I realize that from your high flying position it is very difficult to socialize with your peers, and you are generally used to being alone. Believe me, I was almost like you when I was your age. But realize that the world is a very hard place for loners. It's impossible to succeed at anything meaningful alone."

"That's it?" he genuinely wondered, releasing the one-handed seal in his sleeve. "I thought he was about to start demanding information from me about techniques and stuff. It must be some long-playing intrigue."

"I hope you heard me" Dumbledore said solemnly, but he came to his senses after a short pause. "Oh, yes, one more thing..."

The Headmaster rummaged through his desk and pulled out a small cloth bag, which fell with a thud onto the white tablecloth.

"What is this?" asked Orochi doubtfully.

"It's your reward from the Ministry of Magic, which I was kindly asked to give you," grinned Dumbledore, hand pushing the bag closer. "It may not be the emancipation that is due for a creature of the fifth rank of danger, but the reward for killing a rampaging mountain troll is due to wizards of any age."

"Thanks," he nodded, tucking the rather weighty for its size pouch into his sleeve. "I assume that's it?"

"I suppose so," nodded Albus. "I dare not detain you any longer."

But as Orochimaru was about to leave the headmaster's office, the latter suddenly added:

"And you'd better keep a closer eye on your pets in the future" he suddenly threw in. "There is no solid evidence against you this time. But in the future, I'm not going to cover up your antics in front of the Board of Governors to my detriment."

And after a brief pause, he finished:

"You've already shown that you can stand up for yourself."

Orochimaru chose not to respond in any way, and strode swiftly out of the room, only flashing his robe in the process.

"I'm afraid I'm beginning to pick up some of our potions master's habits."

"...will do anything you ask! You just..."

Orochimaru usually ignored the murmurs of students, as they generally contained little substance. Like now, hearing a rather ambiguous remark with the corner of his ear, Orochimaru thought of adolescents in puberty just as any adult might. He would have dismissed them if he hadn't heard the continuation a second later.

"A room that fulfills any desire, you say? Is it..."

Orochimaru was so interested in the last part that he decided to wait to go to the library, sitting down on the living room couch.

"Yeah, that's the one. My father told me about it before I started my freshman year. It was found by my great-grandfather when he was looking for a place to get some privacy for one, ahem, occasion."

"And you just want to tell me where it is?"

"Of course not" he chuckled. "It's our family secret. But with you, I'm willing to share it for..."

"How much!?" He perked up. "Those are my savings for a whole year!"

"Understand," he said, "this is my last year, and you still have three years to study here. Don't you want to share a bathroom with others for another three years, and practice spells in dusty abandoned classrooms? And what about that girl from the third year of Ravenclaw? What's her…"

"How do you…"

"The whole of Hogwarts knows about it already. Learn to stare less," he snorted. "So... Do you really want your first time with her to be in a dirty broom closet? Think how you're going to look her in the eye afterward?"

"And didn't your father forbid you to talk about it?"

"Of course he did," he chuckled. "But we won't tell anyone about it..."

After half a minute of silence, the older student whispered only one thing to him before leaving:

"When you think of an answer, come to bedroom number nineteen."

"Looks like I'll have to deviate a bit from my schedule today."

Orochimaru considered sleep to be an annoying chore that took up too much of his time, but he rarely neglected it. He knows better than anyone the consequences of sleep deprivation, and so he faithfully gets the six hours of sleep his body needs every day.

But today he would have to sacrifice his sleep with the idea that he could sleep off the day's activities as he always did, skipping the unnecessary subjects.


Throwing locking charms on the bedroom door, Orochimaru quietly began to walk over to the only bed in the room, aiming his wand at the sleeping seventh year student.

"I could really use an Imperius spell right now. But unfortunately, since I still haven't been able to find any more information on the Unforgivables beyond mentioning them, I'll have to limit myself to good old-fashioned intimidation. I doubt torture will be necessary."


"But it had better not come to that. Of course, I know how to deliver pain in a way that leaves no external or internal damage. But it's quite possible that something could go wrong, in which case Obliviate would be of no help."


The first spell sealed shut the mouth of the loudly snoring boy, and the "Enervate" spell woke him up, causing him to tumble off the bed.

What Orochimaru didn't expect was the wand suddenly pointed at him, which, as it turned out, had been in the boy's hand all this time.

The boy was finishing casting some spell, but Orochimaru, no matter how curious he might have been, didn't wait for it to complete since it had the potential to make a lot of noise. In less than a fraction of a second, the Sannin smoothly snatched the other's wand and grabbed the neck of the fallen opponent, lifting him to eye level.

"I advise against doing anything foolish if you don't want to lose your limbs," said Orochimaru, intercepting a fist flying towards him and squeezing it until a light crunch, making the startled student grunt in pain.

With his current height it looked rather comical.

"Now I'll let you go, and without making any sudden movements, you'll sit down at your desk, where a parchment and an inked quill are waiting for you. On it you will write what I want to know from you. The door is locked, so you can't escape without your wand, even if you had the chance. If you refuse to answer, lie, or conceal anything, you get Crucio. And don't think I'm bluffing." Orochimaru grinned, sticking out his long tongue defiantly, causing the already frightened student to shake even more.

"By the way, I should learn it too. The strongest pain that can't be compared to any torture ever invented... Sounds quite pretentious and very promising."

The next day, when the corridors of Hogwarts were empty because of classes, Orochimaru, who was supposed to be in one of them, was standing near an elaborately embroidered moving tapestry depicting a wizard who was diligently trying to teach a group of trolls dressed in ballet tutus to dance.

"I can only marvel at this man's patience. I've never had the patience to teach these untalented, who are taught by the same failures in the Academy," he chuckled. ""I could tolerate Anko to some extent only because of her cleverness and a slight natural sadistic streak. How Hiruzen could put up with someone like Jiraiya, turning him into a shinobi almost equal to me in strength, is beyond my comprehension.""

After walking by the tapestry three times with the thought of his laboratory in mind, Orochimaru curiously began to look at the wooden door that appeared.

Opening it, he stared bewildered at the potions lab, which was almost a replica of the school lab.

"Perhaps I didn't visualize my wish enough."

He repeated the same procedure, but with the image of his former laboratory carefully in his mind. Orochimaru with a concentration that would have been enough for the best genjutsu, had finally gotten what he wanted.

"Or maybe not," he mumbled, tapping his finger on the keyboard, the buttons of which didn't even begin to click. Staring at the system unit, Orochimaru tried to open it. As expected, it was completely empty inside.

"It was foolish to hope for a miracle."

After checking everything else, Orochimaru realized that all the equipment that was more complicated than a light bulb was completely inoperable. He couldn't even turn on the light bulb, since there was no external power supply.

For curiosity's sake, Orochimaru unscrewed the light bulb and began to inject raiton chakra into it in small doses, gradually increasing the pressure. He watched with interest as it began to heat up gradually, shining brighter and brighter until it finally burned out from the excess voltage.

Deciding to conduct another test, Orochimaru attempted to leave the room with the light bulb, but it immediately disappeared from his hands at the exit.

"The room will most likely maintain the integrity of the transfigured items, no matter what I do to them, as long as they stay inside it," Orochimaru muttered excitedly, casting a greedy glance at the door of the Room of Requirement.

Walking back into the room and digging into his robe pocket, Orochimaru pulled out a notebook along with a ballpoint pen to then draw a triangle in it. Tearing out the drawing sheet, he placed it on the floor and left the room.

After walking by the door three times, holding the image of his bedroom in his mind, Orochimaru opened it again, and not finding the sheet, he repeated the procedure again, but simply saying "I need my lab" to himself.

Entering an exact replica of his previous lab, with the sheet he had left on the floor, Orochimaru successfully carried it out of the room.

"There are many more tests to be run, including those involving test subjects. If all goes well, this place will be the best laboratory I could ever dream of..."