Chapter 51: The Slug Club Christmas Party

Unfortunately the talk with Sirius in the mirror later the same day had not been particularly helpful. While Sirius agreed that it was both seemingly well-intentioned as well a bit fishy, the only thing he really told Harry was to keep away from the man for the time being and see if he intended to stand by his word. Which... really wasn't much, but at least someone had listened to his worries. Well, someone besides Shiva. Which was... something.

At least he was otherwise being kept busy, with trying to deal with becoming ambidextrous and talking to his friends and some who... were a bit too interested in his arm for him to be comfortable with them, really, but getting rid of them was hard, so time was flying by after all and soon the Christmas holidays were around the corner. As was Yule, of course.

It was... both a good thing that time was going fast - seeing how it meant he was managing to stay nicely distracted - and quite horrible, for despite having met with more Curse-Breakers in the Hospital Wing on three different occasions, none had made any real progress as far as Harry understood it and his time was slowly but surely running out.

And still, Harry did his best to put the whole situation out of his mind as often as possible, as no amount of worrying from his side could really help anyone. Instead he did his best to focus on just the next things happening. Taking one step after another.

Which, in the end, led to an overly enthusiastic Professor Slughorn inviting him to the Slug Club's Christmas party at the last Friday of the term, one day before Yule and just a few days shy of Christmas itself.

Not that Harry wanted to go, really, but at the time he hadn't been able to think of a good excuse, and now... he was in dire need of a date. Great...

He must have been more distracted by all this than he had even noticed, for after just a few minutes of his weekly casting practise with Tom - Harry was making progress, though it was still difficult to remember not to simply mirror the wand movements with his left hand - the man stopped for a moment and looked at him.

"What's on your mind today?" he asked slowly, his tone holding a hint of curiosity but mostly held neutral.

Harry sighed softly, lowering his wand. He was tempted to just lie about the whole thing, but considering the damn party was just the day after the next and he still had no idea of how to handle it, he was in dire need of some help. And... Tom had helped him before with some tips in regards to the old Potions master.

"I've been invited to Slughorn's Christmas party," he muttered as such, looking at the ground between them with a slight grimace.

"Ah... and it's happening soon, but you are missing a date?" Tom said, understanding slowly turning into soft amusement as Harry's head shot up.

"How did you-?" he began, but stopped when the other chuckled softly. What was so amusing?!

"I guessed. You never spoke about anyone you are romantically interested in while in my presence, and although I am, perhaps, the wrong person to talk about this to anyway, I assumed it would have been somewhat obvious anyway if you currently were in a relationship."

"I... That's-!"

Harry really wanted to give some sort of smooth reply, but he just found himself blushing at Tom's words, unable to find any sort of response that wouldn't make it worse and why was the other even laughing at him and why did it sound nice? Ugh!

In the end, Harry just gave up trying to save face and nodded glumly.

"Yes, you're right... I can't help it, I'm rubbish when it comes to talk to girls!" And really, his few tries with Cho in fourth year had been abysmal!

Tom hummed softly, clearly thinking about it, and when he spoke again he sounded a lot more serious again, thankfully.

"I assume you already considered your female friends? As in, to simply go with them, but as friends?"

"Well... Hermione is going with Ron as of right now and I didn't want to ask Ginny or Luna, considering the former is currently with Dean Thomas and... I think Luna and Neville might want to go out, though there's nothing official yet," Harry explained quietly, feeling a bit uncomfortable. Why did he go and discuss relationships with people like Tom?

"What about the male friends?" said man suddenly asked, causing Harry to look up.

"Eh?" was his... very eloquent answer, causing Tom to raise an eyebrow and, in turn, Harry to blush again in embarrassment.

"Do we need to add etiquette lessons as well for the party? I'd assume Slughorn has invited quite some relevant people to allow his favourite students to mingle a bit..."

Harry huffed at that, but conceded the point anyway.

"Sorry. But no, I haven't thought about anyone else. As I've said, Ron and Hermione are going together and... well, I could ask Neville, but he's gotten his own invitation and... I guess he would ask Luna?"

Harry sighed. He really needed some more friends, especially ones that were not in Gryffindor, considering the only other person he would call a friend that wasn't in his house was Luna. And maybe some more that weren't involved with other friends of his in one way or another. That started to get a bit awkward...

Tom hummed softly.

"Well, you could always just go alone. It's not as if Slughorn's Christmas party ever required a date."

Harry frowned in confusion. The old professor really had sounded quite enthusiastic about people bringing dates...

"Are you sure?"

Tom raised an eyebrow at him.

"You do remember that I was also part of his club once, don't you?" he asked softly, causing Harry to nod, still not sure what the other wanted to say. Surely he couldn't be talking about-? "I went to every gathering he ever held and never brought a date."

Harry couldn't help but stare.

"Never...?" Tom nodded once, face serious, but otherwise strangely unaffected, which just confused Harry further. "But... I thought... weren't you extremely charming back then?"

That made the other actually laugh out loud for a moment, before Tom suddenly was directly in front of him, causing Harry to have to look up to keep being able to see the other's face. Why did he have to be so short?!

"Back then?" Tom's voice was soft once again, his eyes burning in a way that made Harry's own eyes widen in surprise, captivating his gaze easily. "Now, I know I lost my charm for quite some time, but I would rather like to think that I got it back rather easily, wouldn't you agree?"

Harry couldn't answer. He felt like a deer caught in front of a lion, frozen in place as Tom's mouth slowly pulled up into a smirk, making him look just so much more attractive, really, robbing Harry of any answer he might have thought of usually...

Suddenly there was a finger placed on his throat, slowly tracing upwards to his chin, making his skin tingle and causing him to swallow hard as heat began to rise in his cheeks.

"Harry..." Tom almost breathed, and Harry felt like this was the best way anyone had ever pronounced his name. "I could have taken anyone had I wanted to. They just weren't... interesting." And somehow, despite everything, Harry felt as if there was something missing. As if there was a 'not like you' hanging in the air, but- Bloody hell, he was overthinking this, he needed to stop!

Luckily for him, this was the point at which Tom suddenly stepped back again and it was like emerging from a pool of water or something, for the moment the other brought some distance between them he seemed casual again, as if the last few seconds had never happened in the fist place.

"As I mentioned, it is perfectly fine to go alone. Perhaps you could ask either of your friends to join you if you are not sure they have a date yet first, but you don't need to feel bad if they do. Slughorn certainly won't mind. Think about it. See you during the holidays, I will send you an owl."

And with that he just turned around and left, leaving Harry with a jumbling mess of thoughts and feelings, not even giving him enough time to reciprocate the goodbye before the other was gone, just staring after him...

ooo

The next two days as such were filled mostly with Harry trying to order his thoughts again somehow while trying to continue to function normally and asking Neville about his plans for the party. Sadly Harry's worries there had not been unfounded, and although it was quite satisfying to see Neville blush as he talked about finally having asked out Luna, that left Harry without anyone.

And while he had, for a moment, thought of just asking anyone else... he really did not need a repetition of fourth years' Yule Ball disaster. Better to spare any potential person the awkwardness. If Tom had managed, surely Harry could do so as well!

As such on the day of the party, just before eight in the evening, he met up with Ron and Hermione in the common room - telling them had been awkward, but considering he had pretty good arguments, for once, they had left it be after a bit - before walking towards the Entrance Hall to meet up with Neville and Luna and finally make their way towards Slughorn's office.

It was... admittedly slightly awkward anyway to be alone between two couples, but at least there weren't a bunch of other students around to stare, so Harry just did his best to ignore the weirdness and focus on what was to come. And true enough, they barely managed to enter the room that had been designated for the party when he was already being accosted by the professor.

"Harry, my boy, there you are!" Just then Slughorn noticed the others as well it seemed, for he did have a quick look around between them. "And Neville and Hermione too! Come in, come in!"

He grabbed Harry's arm - the healthy one, thankfully! - almost immediately, leaving Harry just enough time to shoot Ron a sympathetic look, for it was a quite rude introduction from their professor, leaving him and Luna out - although she did not seem to care as much - before he was being dragged off through the room, until they stood in front of quite an odd pair of men. A stout man who was even shorter than Harry's still not particularly tall form and his polar opposite: a tall, emaciated man, pale and with shadows under his eyes.

"I'd like you to meet an old student of mine: Eldred Worple, author of Blood Brothers: My Life Amongst the Vampires!" Slughorn said, motioning towards the smaller man, before his hand moved to the other one for a moment, almost like an afterthought. "And Sanguini of course, his vampire friend."

Harry blinked for a moment at that information. It did make sense, the man looked, in a way, quite similar to Professor Drakul, it was just... a weird way to introduce someone, in his opinion.

Still, Mr. Worple didn't seem particularly bothered by it at least and enthusiastically held out his hand.

"Harry Potter, I am delighted to finally make your acquaintance!"

Harry couldn't help but stare at the hand quite awkwardly for a moment, before recalling what Tom had told him a while ago, when they had first spoken about some issues that might arise with his arm in regards to interacting with other people.

After all, it was Harry's right hand that was currently somewhat... unsightly. And even though he did wear gloves, shaking hands with someone without actually have any feeling in his hand might just make a bad first impression.

So instead Harry bowed slightly, hoping he remembered enough of Tom's small course to do it right for such a greeting. It might have been considered somewhat antiquated, but still accepted enough if one did not want to do a handshake for whatever reason.

"The pleasure is all mine," he replied politely, though feeling anything but. Something about the man's enthusiasm reminded him of Daedalus Diggle, which in turn reminded him of his rather unwilling trip back to the Dursleys in the beginning of the summer. Not exactly a positive memory to associate with the poor man in front of him, but that's what it was.

Thankfully the man did not seem to mind Harry's way of greeting him as he just chuckled happily, withdrawing his hand before bowing back, if in a slightly too enthusiastic way.

"And so well-mannered too! Of course, Horace already spoke highly of you when we last met, but I am always happy to see these things confirmed."

Speaking of Professor Slughorn... it seemed like said man had already vanished again, happy to allow Harry to make his new acquaintances on his own... great.

Sadly, the man's absence did nothing to dissuade Mr. Worple to continue speaking about him.

"Why, just recently I was saying to him, Where is the biography of Harry Potter for which we all have been waiting?" He looked at Harry, growing a bit more serious. "Of course, I'd be delighted to write it myself, if you would be interested...? I certainly have some experience with it, as Sanguini would surely be happy to tell you."

Harry stared at the man, for a moment at a loss as for what to say. Why would anyone actually wait for a biography for him? Or even offer to write one? It wasn't like he had been doing much that might be of interest to the wizarding public, especially after having denied ever claiming that Voldemort was back. Well, his life was somewhat regularly in danger, but people generally didn't believe him most of the time anyway, so... what a great achievement.

Something inside of him tensed at the idea of writing such a book being proposed just now, considering he might not have a lot of time left to live... And a biography would probably be worth a lot more if the person it was written about was dead...

But before he could open his mouth and potentially say something he might regret later, a different voice spoke up from behind him, softly but still easily audible over the background chattering.

"Now now Eldred, perhaps you ought to curb your enthusiasm a little, considering Mr. Potter's current predicament?"

Harry turned around the moment he recognised the voice, staring at its owner.

Professor Drakul stood behind them, having appeared from who knew where, looking somewhat reproachfully at Mr. Worple.

And he had not only called the man by his given name, but referred to Harry as 'Mr. Potter'. Something Harry was rather sure had not happened before, considering that having only Neville being referred to by his name in their class had already been the cause for quite some confusion in the beginning. How odd for this to change now...

Mr. Worple at least didn't seem to be too shocked, instead he was quick to change his direction.

"Oh dear, you are right of course, Vlad! I apologise Mr. Potter, that was thoughtless of me."

Harry turned back to the man who did seem apologetic, but was just a little overwhelmed by how the situation had suddenly changed. Why was Mr. Worple on first-name basis with Professor Drakul? How had the latter appeared here in the first place? Or had he been invited? Not exactly improbable, considering he was an extremely well-known vampire and Professor Slughorn loved inviting people who could be possible future connections.

Before he could really think of what to answer instead now, Professor Drakul was already moving again though. One moment he stood behind Harry, the next one he stood next to Sanguini - who had seemingly cared more for a small gaggle of girls nearby than for the conversation - a hand on his shoulder.

"Control yourself, Cassian," he said quietly, before suddenly switching into another language that Harry had never heard of before, speaking a few more words.

Sanguini stiffened for a moment, before inclining his head, speaking soft words in the same language as the other vampire had, before taking a pasty from one of the tablets that were carried around by various house elves, containing snacks and beverages.

Mr. Worple seemed to understand a bit more, as he then also joined the conversation, looking somewhat uncomfortable.

Harry waited for a moment longer, but it didn't seem like the men would still be interested in further conversation, so he decided that now was as good a time as any to make his way to a different part of the room. Perhaps he could find the others again?

ooo

In the end, it actually took longer than expected to search the room for specific people as it was pretty much packed with all kinds of guests. It seemed like Professor Slughorn really had outdone himself, Harry wasn't even sure how everyone fit into the office, but to be fair, he also had no idea how big it usually was. And perhaps some space extension charms had been used or something.

In any case, it was hard to find four specific people between everyone and after being accosted by no less than three different wizards Harry had never even seen before the amount of strangers just started to grate on him, especially when even a few people who did not try to talk to him seemed to stare at him weirdly the moment they recognised him.

Until Harry was stressed enough to actually feel relief seeing even one familiar face and decided on a whim to just go and say hi to Malfoy of all people.

He walked over and for a moment he was worried that it might be awkward to initiate a conversation if Malfoy wouldn't notice him, but it seemed like Pansy Parkinson, who stood next to him, noticed Harry first and elbowed Malfoy to notify him.

Malfoy looked up with a frown, but when he saw Harry approaching his expression changed from surprise into something that seemed a bit more calculating, but also decidedly more neutral than the usual sneer Harry had pretty much grown used to in the last years. Better than nothing, he guessed.

Clearing his throat awkwardly Harry tried the bow as a greeting once again once he was close enough to be in earshot - just to avoid any weird handshakes or waves or whatever...

"Good evening Malfoy, Parkinson," he said, trying his best to speak formal and everything - anything not to make him come off as rude today at least, just to have some semblance of familiarity.

A part of him wished he would never have come, or disregarded his previous worries and brought a date regardless, but yeah. Too late for that now.

At least Malfoy did not seem to mind, for after a moment of looking at Harry in surprise he actually reciprocated the bow. Something Parkinson copied a moment later as well.

"Good evening," they both greeted politely, if perhaps a bit reserved. Not that Harry was judging them for it, hell, he didn't even know what he was doing here himself and already wondered if it had been a mistake.

"Um... I hope I didn't interrupt you or anything?" he finally managed hesitantly, trying to figure out if he had based on their reactions.

The two of them shared a look for a second before Malfoy shook his head.

"No, you didn't. Is everything alright?"

Harry blinked at him in surprise. How had he known that something was off, was it that obvious?

It seemed like it had been a misunderstanding though, for Malfoy quickly clarified, "I mean, is there anything we can do for you?"

"Why would you-?" Harry began confused, before suddenly noticing something. That tone... why did it sound so... deferential? Surely not because- He grimaced a little. "Look... sorry if this sounds weird, but, the way you're acting... this isn't about... what we discussed back on the train, is it?"

There... that should make it clear that he was talking about his connection to Tom... right? Malfoy had figured it out already anyway, but he wasn't sure about Parkinson, so he didn't want to be too obvious either...

Sadly, the way Malfoy twitched he had been right. Harry sighed.

"Look... I don't know what you think is happening, but it's probably not. Well, besides the obvious." He looked at his right arm with a frown, despite it still being covered with a glove.

"So you're still trying to tell us you're not actually in contact with... well... him?" Parkinson asked disbelievingly - causing Malfoy to glare at her.

"Pansy!"

"What? I mean, I'm all for being careful, but this is getting us nowhere!" She looked at Harry then, who just stared at her, not sure what to say. "I understand that you're not going to tell us anything more, which is fine. But I'd like to know our standing right now. Do we need to pretend to be something specific around you or anything?"

"Wha- No!" Harry insisted, now frowning at her. Where the hell were they even getting this from? "Just treat me like normal!"

At that, Parkinson raised an eyebrow. "So, making fun of you in the corridors and calling you names? I think that Portkey has long since left."

Harry just blinked once at the odd idiom before focussing back on the content.

"No! I just meant... can't we talk... you know, normally? Without either one of us trying to degrade or ridicule the other... or plot his demise or whatever it is you might believe I'm doing in my free time these days?"

The two Slytherins looked at him for a moment, clearly thinking, but it was Malfoy who spoke up first.

"Very well, I will try," he agreed, sounding serious enough, causing Harry to nod slowly.

"Thanks, Malfoy."

Malfoy inclined his head, but spoke up another time.

"Please call me Draco then, if you would, Potter."

Harry hesitated for just a moment before nodding again.

"Alright, then just call me Harry." Taking a quick look at Parkinson he nodded at her as well. "That goes for you too. Let's just... try to make this work for now, alright?"

"Fair. Then I guess you can call me Pansy as well."

Who knew? It seemed like Christmas miracles - or was it Yule miracles now? - could still happen.

ooo

True to his initial surprised assumption, talking to Draco and Pansy worked out pretty well, even when Theodore Nott joined them a while later - and without a date as well! Considering Harry had never really talked to most Slytherins besides Draco anyway, the conversation wasn't even particularly awkward. With Theodore not having brought a date himself they had somewhat bonded over this, now being on first-name basis as well, and Pansy of all people had Harry laughing quite hard after a while as she gave off a particularly sarcastic comment about the state of Professor Trelawney - who was also present, for whatever reason, but clearly already quite drunk.

All in all, the whole situation was, in a way, another eye opener for Harry. For sure, he had already known that yes, not all Slytherins were evil or just twenty-four-seven backstabbing and cruel, but... it was still nice to see the three students in front of him talking freely and joking around like... well, like the Gryffindors did as well, in the end.

Not that he would tell any of them this, thank you very much.

It was during a lull in conversation though, when things turned a bit more serious again. To be more precise, Draco suddenly looked at Pansy with a frown on his face, as she looked off into the distance.

"Hey, Pansy... is everything alright?"

Her gaze flickered to him for a moment, before going back over Draco's shoulder into the distance, prompting Harry to follow it, as he stood next to her. Sadly he really couldn't see much between all the colourful hangings in various Christmas colours and the crowd of people filling the room otherwise.

"I don't know... Is that McLaggen over there, with a girl? She doesn't look particularly happy," she muttered - and once Harry knew what he was looking out for, having seen Cormac McLaggen a few times before during other Slug Club meetings, his eyes soon found the mentioned pair.

True to Pansy's words, it seemed like the older Gryffindor was present as well and... currently under a mistletoe?

Draco, who had slowly moved a bit to be able to turn around, hummed a moment later.

"Yeah, that's him. What about the girl though?"

"Isn't that Bobbin? That Hufflepuff from the Slug Club?" Theodore asked, causing Harry to hum in agreement. That sounded about right, the fourth year Hufflepuff at least fit the picture according to his memory.

"Am I really the only one who feels like she's looking as if she'd like to be just about anywhere else right now? That guy is quite... demanding there."

Frowning, Harry looked a bit closer at the couple, hoping Pansy was mistaken. McLaggen did have his arm around Melinda's waist rather tightly... it was just hard to see her expression from the distance to really be able to guess what was going on.

He didn't know if it was good or bad that Draco seemed to agree with him though, for he did shrug uncomfortably as well.

"I don't know. Maybe they're just snogging enthusiastically?" he suggested, causing Pansy to huff.

"If that's the case, why aren't her arms around his waist as well?"

"She does have a point", Harry muttered, looking darkly at what was going on. If this was true, he had to do something! He couldn't very well stand by and just assume everything was alright - and that he couldn't stand McLaggen from the few times he had seen him interact with others in previous Slug Club meetings had nothing to do with it, of course.

Before Harry could do much more than take a few steps into McLaggen's direction he could suddenly hear another voice though.

"Yo, MacLaggen! Lay off, will you?"

It was Ron, and he just appeared from behind a group of elderly witches that had probably become famous for inventing something extremely brilliant that Harry had just never heard of before.

Well, it was quite fortunate to see his friend though, so Harry actually sped up, just in time to see McLaggen turn around with a disgruntled expression.

"Weasley! What do you want?"

His arm had not yet left Melinda's waist and now that Harry was closer he could clearly see a certain discomfort in her face as she tried to more or less subtly wriggle her way out of his grasp.

Something that really didn't sit well with Harry.

Luckily, Ron seemed to see it the same way.

"Well I just said so! Knock it off mate, the idea of a kiss under the mistletoe is cute, sure, but no need to snog her senseless on a teacher's Christmas party. Especially considering you clearly weren't any good."

It was... a weird way of phrasing it - at least in Harry's opinion - but it seemingly distracted McLaggen enough for his unhappy partner to bring some distance between them. Good for her, the way she glowered at him.

Not that he noticed, for he looked much more like he wanted to give some sort of scathing response to Ron, but before he could actually do more than open his mouth another voice interrupted him somewhat loudly.

"I hope there will be an apology coming out of your mouth now young man!"

Considering the voice was distinctly female, if not at all recognisable to Harry he needed a moment to get a grasp on who had spoken - until he noticed one of the three witches Ron had passed before making her way over to McLaggen, looking quite disgruntled herself.

It seemed that their little argument had drawn a bit more attention than intended, for both other witches were not far behind the first, even if one of them went straight to Melinda, who had taken a few more steps back, and the third went over to Ron.

Sadly they did lower their voices after the initial comments, for it got harder to continue to eavesdrop and with pretty much all three students looking somewhat awkward now as they talked with - or in McLaggen's case, clearly given a slating by - their respective elderly witch, Harry... honestly wasn't inclined to step closer to be drawn in potentially.

If anything he decided that the best course of action for now was to slowly withdraw, not wanting to garner attention from anyone involved there right now. He was just glad that the situation had been solved, and as he turned around and walked back towards the three Slytherins at least it was clear that at least Pansy agreed. Draco just looked... uncomfortable, for some reason.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked once he reached them as Draco kept staring at where the... situation had taken place.

Draco didn't immediately answer, but Pansy snickered a moment later, explaining his predicament.

"Don't mind him, I think he's just... reliving past experiences right now."

Harry stared at her, his previous confusion just increasing. She grinned back.

"You see, the woman who's currently dressing McLaggen down is Griselda Marchbanks. Remember her from the O.W.L. exams?"

Harry blinked for a moment before it dawned on him. She had been there to oversee their Potions and Astronomy exams. And he probably hadn't exactly impressed her in Divination, but that had been expected, so whatever.

"What is she doing here then?"

"Well, I guess Slughorn invited her. She's quite a big name in the Wizengamot, one of the oldest members by now," Pansy answered with a shrug. "I'm surprised she accepted though. It's not like she can make a lot of use of a bunch of overexcited students who believe themselves to be better than the others just based on being in the Slug Club."

Harry nodded slowly, wisely deciding to avoid pointing out that she and Draco weren't exactly innocent in such a regard either. Feeling better than others based on who their parents were... but he really didn't need to start another fight right now. Especially considering Madame Marchbanks and the others were potentially in hearing range should any louder argument arise. Thanks but no thanks.

Luckily that was the point at which another voice cut through the general noise of the party, effectively ending the current topic.

"Good evening, miei amici," the deep voice spoke form behind Harry, and he needed a moment to place it. Zabini. Which at least explained why Harry had no idea what the other had finished his sentence with, considering it was probable that Zabini's family had not always lived in Great Britain.

Amusingly enough, the other boy seemed to startle a little when Harry turned around to see the newcomer better, but quickly regained his composure with an easy smile.

"And good evening to you too, Potter," he said amiably and Harry nodded slowly. It... had been a bit weird, that look just now, but what did he know?

"Good evening," he repeated as such, just before realising Blaise had not come alone. And his date seemed to be a boy. Somehow Harry had always just expected to see Zabini go either with a girl of with Theodore - as friends, perhaps, just based on how the two Slytherins had seemed to work together in Potions well enough and were both members of the Slug Club anyway - but no, the boy was someone Harry did not recognise, although he seemed to be just about their age. Another friend, then? Maybe from a different house?

He had short, dark blond hair and wore the beginnings of a beard, holding himself in a manner of aloof confidence that... somehow seemed to fit with what Harry knew of Zabini's usual behaviour, really.

Luckily, Harry wasn't left in the dark about the boy's identity for too long, for Zabini was not done talking to him it seemed.

"You don't look like you know him, so: May I introduce? Ethan Bexley, seventh year Ravenclaw... and my boyfriend."

Harry wasn't sure if he had imagined the slight hesitation at the end of the sentence, because he was staring at Zabini a bit... dumbly. He had to admit it himself. He was just... Zabini actually being in a relationship with a boy? Not that Harry minded - he still remembered Ron's flabbergasted look when he had thought Harry was gay - and he also was still of the opinion that both genders were fine, probably, and stuff, but... it just seemed to strange, to be jumped at him out of nowhere. He... really had never seen two boys making out the same way he sometimes saw a few couples make out in Gryffindor tower.

"Pleasure," Bexley suddenly said, sounding like it was anything but and Harry winced, haivng realised how rude his staring must have come off as.

"Sorry. I just... I mean, I never really met a gay couple before-" He stopped with a groan. "Oh god, that sounds even worse!" Shaking his head to clear it somewhat, he tried again, hoping to somehow convey being serious to Bexley, who did not look very convinced just then. "Alright. I guess you might already know, but I'm Harry Potter, and I think it's pretty obvious that I'm an idiot as far as any sorts of romantic feelings are concerned, so... can we pretend I didn't gape at you as if you were an exotic animal or something? Please?"

Bexley stared at him for a moment longer, face almost expressionless as Harry continued to feel like an idiot for standing there and waiting for an answer or... any sort of reaction?

Well, a moment later the other broke into laughter, which... was something, at least, though Harry couldn't say he particularly liked the feeling, considering he wasn't really sure how malicious the Ravenclaw's intention was here.

Luckily Bexley managed to get himself together after being elbowed by Zabini - though said boy was smirking as well - and managed an answer after all.

"Take it easy. I mean, I don't appreciate being stared at, but you've made it quite clear that you realise that as well, so all good." He then turned to Zabini with a raised eyebrow. "I didn't know you were friends with Harry Potter though. Ever thought of mentioning that?"

Zabini in turn raised his hands defensively.

"Well, we're not. Gryffindor - Slytherin bias, remember?" he said, causing Harry to roll his eyes. While Zabini wasn't wrong, Harry was just... getting tired of it. Especially considering that Theo, Draco and Pansy somehow managed to be decent people when talking to them normally already, so... they should really stop with this ridiculous prejudice stuff.

Not to mention that he had somehow managed to deal with Tom of all people, who really was the definition of a Slytherin.

Also, it was kind of Christmas season. He still wasn't sure if Yule had similar traditions in regards to compassion and stuff, but... being nice wouldn't hurt anyone here.

"How about we change that today, Zabini?" he asked as such, looking at said boy with slightly raised eyebrows, trying for a smile. "You can call me Harry, if you want."

Zabini looked at him for a second, face unreadable - to Harry, at least - before nodding slowly.

"Very well then. Call me Blaise."

"Ethan," Bexley supplied from the side, clearly not wanting to be the odd one out there.

Well, that was one problem solved then, at least.


Well... hello once again!

I finally managed to get a new chapter out after feeling lost for a majority of time as to how I wanted to continue - I do still have a bunch of plans, but most of them are only going to happen a bit more into the future so actually getting there turned out to be a bit more complex than I had initially assumed.

In any case, I did manage some 'writing discipline' over the last months (life's getting harder) and hey! We've got out first actually somewhat close moment between Tom and Harry! Barely took fifty chapters, did it? I certainly wasn't lying when I wrote 'slow moving' in the description, haha... Still, we're getting somewhere!

I actually had some fun writing the Slug Club Christmas party as well, so I do hope the fun will persist as the Christmas holidays will commence...!

Thank you to everyone who reads, follows, favs or even writes a comment, you rock! And stay healthy in these hard times, we will persevere!