A/N:-This is my first HP story. And I hope an original one. This is completely AU. I don't have a beta so all mistakes are mine, I've proof read it but i'm sure there will be some errors, I can only apologise. Please let me know what you think via a review or PM, I welcome all feedback, it's the only way to improve. Please enjoy the first chapter of Death before Dishonour.
Disclaimer:- All characters and world belong to J.K Rowling. I make nothing off this Fanfiction -it's a hobby!
Death Before Dishonour
Chapter One – Pure-blood traditions
Harry had looked forward to this day for nearly six years. Fantasised about it, played out a hundred different ways in his mind. It had always been the thought that had got him through those cold, pre-Hogwarts years before morphing into the well practised mantra that had helped him cope with the bleak summer holidays, that he was forced to suffer at Number four Privet Drive every year.
But today was different. Today was the day that he had left. And he would be damned if he ever returned.
Harry wriggled the perfect Windsor knot of his silver and emerald tie until it nestled perfectly into the centre of his collar. Harry took a moment, as he stood in the dingy, stinking public toilet of Kings Cross, to admire the reflection that stared back at him in the dirty mirror that sat before him.
He'd certainly come a long way from the lost little boy, dressed in second hand Hogwarts robes, who had spent nearly an hour wandering around the Muggle train station looking for Platform nine and three quarters. Now here he stood, dressed in a crisp white shirt, tie coloured proudly in his house colours, tailored trousers and finely stitched plain black cloak. His hair was still an unruly mess, never to be tamed, a famous Potter family trait whilst his vibrant green eyes hid behind circular rimmed glasses he'd had for as long as he could remember.
Harry tore his eyes from his reflection. Silently proud of himself. Sure, it'd cost him the last of the gold he'd earned the previous year but for the first year since he started Hogwarts, he was dressed in a brand new school uniform. It might not seem like much to some but to Harry, it was everything. He looked down at the brown paper bag clutched tightly in his left hand. The last items of clothing that the Dursleys had given him sat, folded neatly, in that bag – the ones he'd worn on his train journey to Kings Cross, before he'd gotten changed into his new uniform – everything else the Dursleys had ever given him had been left behind, folded neatly on his mattress in his cupboard under the stairs.
With no hesitation, Harry dropped the brown paper bag into the waste paper bin that sat just inside the entrance to the rest room, as he walked purposely out and toward Platform nine and three quarters.
Kings Cross never seemed to be quiet. Even at quarter to eleven on a Monday morning it was packed with commuters rushing from one meeting to another, squeezing into any little gap that opened amongst the throng of people, careful to not spill a drop of their coffee out of the plastic takeaway cups they gripped so tightly. Harry had often wondered, as he walked toward the Hogwarts Express in years past, if it was because of the Muggles constant need to be in a rush, that they never saw the confused looking families packing their Muggle-born children off to Hogwarts for the first time, or even, the oddly dressed Wizards using the Muggle-born entrance to the platform to create a sense of wonder for their own children's first trip to Hogwarts.
Harry never broke his stride as he approached the entrance to the platform. He'd had five years of walking through the wall, the effect long since having lost its magic for him; so it was with practised ease that Harry Potter found himself suddenly standing on Platform nine and three quarters, ears instantly assaulted by the noise of the tightly packed in crowd of Wizards and Witches who where saying their last goodbyes to each other.
The Hogwarts Express looked at magnificent as always. Ready and raring to go, a thick plume of jet black smoke billowing out of the front of the bright red train, that gleamed in the early September sun. Harry took a deep breath, before starting to move forward, meandering through the crowd and looking for one of the carriages near the front of the train.
As he walked through the crowd, navigating it easily due to his lack of trunk, Harry saw a few familiar faces of students in or around his year. He saw Zacharias Smith of HufflePuff, giving his father a brief one armed hug whilst a couple of feet away from him, a visibly upset Cho Chang said her goodbyes to a little girl that Harry assumed to be her little sister.
Harry saw the ever diminishing brood of Weasleys trying to extract themselves from their mother, with Longbottom, Granger and Thomas standing just off to the side, looking a little awkward as mother Weasley hugged both her youngest fiercely.
Briefly, ever so briefly, Harry made eye contact with Neville Longbottom. Harry had never had much to do with him, or any of the Gryffindors to be honest, he left the antagonizing to Draco - who hated everything about that little quartet of lions. Quite why, Harry never understood. Harry extended Neville a slight nod of the head in acknowledgement, a gesture that was returned, before Harry stepped onto the train, leaving the crowd behind him.
Just the smell of the train made Harry smile. It was hard to describe. A mixture of wood, coal and freshly baked bread that met his nostrils. It truly reminded him of home.
Harry walked the corridor of the first carriage eagerly, peeping into each compartment as he did so, most were empty but a few were occupied by lone first years – all sitting nervously, hoping desperately to make friends – and others held recently reunited friends. None of them his friends though.
It was about three quarters up the carriage that Harry came to a stop, knocking sharply on the glass of the door – the compartment inside obscured from view by the pulled down blind – a tall, well built silhouette stood, unlocking the compartment door with a casual flick of their wand, opening it a fraction. Harry smiled as a familiar grey eye greeted him.
The door opened fully to reveal the giant figure of Blaise Zabini. Harry himself was by no means short but he was dwarfed by Blaise. Blaise was a tall, firmly build young man. His dark skin caused his slanting grey eyes to stand out, his face built around high cheekbones and a chiselled jaw. His hair was closely shaved to his scalp and immaculately trimmed, face clean shaven and looked like it had never seen so much as a pimple in it's sixteen years. Blaise, like Harry, had already changed into his uniform, although his was of a slightly more elective taste.
Blaise offered his hand, which Harry accepted warmly, giving the bigger boy a slap on the back as shook it. He passed and plopped down into the plush red leather seats of the compartment after a few seconds, sliding along so he sat near the window, opposite Blaise – the compartment table sitting empty between them.
"Good summer?" Asked Blaise with a smile, like he already knew the answer. Which he did.
"Not at all." Replied Harry with a smile of his own. "You?"
"Dreadful!" Agreed Blaise cheerfully. "Good job it's the last summer either of us will have to go back then, isn't it?"
"Been waiting for this day since the end of first year!" Exclaimed Harry happily.
"You got rid of those rags you called clothes?" Enquired Blaise, raising one perfectly maintained eyebrow.
"The last of them are currently sitting in a toilet bin back in the Muggle section of Kings Cross." Harry said with a happy grin. Who would have known the sense of relief you could achieve from binning clothes? "You have my trunk?"
Blaise nodded and smiled, showing off those pearly white teeth that had every girl in fifth year and above weak at the knees, patting his right thigh confidently. "So how was your summer with your family?"
Harry ran a hand through his hair as he thought of an accurate way to describe his summer.
"Easy." Admitted Harry with a shrug. "Think we came to a bit of an understanding this summer. I stayed out of their way and they stayed out of mine. Think my Uncle was just happy this year would be the last that he would have to see my face. Can't say the feeling wasn't mutual. Just took it one day at a time. Yours?"
Blaise let out a sigh and shook his head.
"Hard work." Admitted Blaise. "My mothers latest meal ticket isn't exactly keen on her..." Blaise chewed his lip for a moment before completing his sentence. "Baggage."
" He must have known about you though, surely?" Asked Harry curiously, sinking back into his chair. Keeping your sixteen year old son secret wasn't exactly easy. Especially when you were as infamous as Mrs. Zabini.
"Of course." Shrugged Blaise nonchalantly. "But I think he was of the opinion that I was out of sight, out of mind for nine months of the year... So I wasn't worth considering. Bit different when I turn up on the doorstep for the summer."
Harry nodded before feeling a mischievous smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I'm sure that your mother had ways of taking his mind off you."
Blaise's face scrunched up in disgusted look, the same way it did any time one of them mentioned Mrs. Zabini's special talents.
"Please, I've only just had breakfast. You'll make me vomit." Moaned Blaise theatrically.
"Does she know you aren't coming back?" asked Harry.
"Dunno," answered Blaise with a shrug. "Don't really care, to be honest. And I don't think she will either. What was it she once called me?" Blaise seemed to think, mockingly, for a few seconds before bitterly finishing,"her anchor. I think she'll just be glad to be young, free and...well...soon to be single again."
Harry had known since their second year that Blaise was an unfortunate accident. An blemish during his mothers unusual career choice. And that she had never quite let him forget it. Or forgiven him for it, like he had any choice in the matter.
"Free of her now." Reminded Harry.
"Yeah..." Blaise said distantly. "No more tainted gold. No more new homes. No more new 'fathers' and no more funerals that I have to pretend to give a shit about."
"It's a new year." Stated Harry happily. "A new beginning!"
Blaise sniggered under his breath.
"Merlin, isn't Theo normally the one for corny one-liners?"
"Oh shut up." Laughed Harry. "It's a big deal!"
"Anyway, lets move away from these depressing topics!" Urged Blaise, changing topic. "How'd you do on your O.W.L.S?"
"Pretty good." Replied Harry with a nod of his head.
"Meaning..." Probed Blaise expectantly. Harry supposed this is what you get when you have no means of communication with your friends over the summer. He knew he should have just told Vernon that he'd have to put up with the constant Owls instead of accepting and easy life.
"O's in Defence, Transfiguration, Charms, History and Herbology. E's in Potions,Astronomy and Runes." Said Harry. "You?"
"Snapes gonna be well happy with you!" Exclaimed Blaise. "Single handedly making up for Crabbe and Goyle!"
Harry chuckled. The memory of Snape trying desperately to get the both Crabbe and Goyle to remember the ingredients to the Polyjuice potion was one of the highlights of fifth year for Harry.
"Well I didn't do anywhere near as well as you but managed; O's in Potions and Charms. Got E's in Transfiguration, Defence, Arithmancy and Creatures. A's in History and Herbology."
"Congrats!" Congratulated Harry.
The train conductors whistle pierced the air and all of a sudden there seemed to be a mad rush onto the train. Suddenly, the previously quiet corridors, burst into life. Students flooded the carriages, desperately scrambling to secure a compartment for themselves and their friends, were they could trade gossip from their summers. The train jolted into life and began it's journey toward Hogsmeade.
"I hope the trolley gets here soon." Moaned Harry, feeling his stomach rumble. "I didn't get chance to pinch some breakfast."
"Gonna be a while yet mate." Blaise said with sympathy. "Only just set off, she never normally starts going until the other side of Yorkshire."
If anything, that statement seemed to only cause his stomach to protest more.
"Could always go look for a Weasley?" Grinned Blaise. "Hear their mum packs them with enough to feed a Quidditch team."
"Think I'll give it a miss." Said Harry, thinking he'd rather eat his own shoes than soggy sandiwches that had been in Ron Weasley's pockets along with Merlin knew what. "Though I'm sure little Ginny Weasley will be pleased to hear her mothers cooking comes so highly recommended!"
"Heh...Little Ginny Weasley isn't so little any more!" Blaises perfect eyebrows raised suggestively. "I coped an eyeful of her back at the platform in a delightful little sundress. Might have to branch out into Gryffindor this year."
"Thought you branched out into Gryffindor last year?" Asked Harry. Honestly it was hard to keep up with just where Blaise was directing his attention. Ever since the Yule Ball, Blaise had been carving his way through the Witches from Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. "Wasn't Lavender you 'branching out'?"
A blissful look fluttered across Blaises face as he remembered his encounters with Lavender Brown the previous term. Harry wished he didn't know exactly what Blaise was thinking about; unfortunately as gifted as Blaise was with the girls of Hogwarts; he was even more gifted at telling every male in their dorm every detail of his exploits, whether it was wanted or not.
"I'm not sure Lavender really counts, mate." Blaise said, regaining the use of his tongue. "That was just stress relief."
"Not sure Weasley would be happy out your thinking about using his sister for 'stress relief'."
"Well..." Shrugged Blaise. Boyfriends didn't stop Blaise Zabini, Harry highly doubted he'd let brothers. "Gives Draco and Theo a valid reason to hex him, then doesn't it? Win – Win for everybody!"
"Like Draco and Theo need an excuse." Countered Harry, raising his eyebrows over the rim of his glasses.
"They do now, since you told them to stop!"
"It makes sense." Replied Harry, irritably. He was sick of having this conversation with the three of them. He couldn't see what the big deal about this petty war they had with Weasley, Longbottom and Thomas. "Messing round with Weasley, Thomas and, especially, Longbottom can only bring about more attention on us. It was bad enough with Draco and Umbridge last year. That's attention we don't want and certainly don't need."
"It's good fun though!" Grinned Blaise.
"If you say so." Shrugged Harry. "I wonder where Theo and Draco are?"
"I haven't seen Draco but I saw Theo back on the platform. Didn't look to happy." Said Blaise. "Draco...I only had a few letters from him this summer..."
It wasn't exactly surprisingly. The events at the end of the previous school year had had to have had an affect on the Malfoy household. Draco had not been happy at his family name being dragged through the mud; he'd been furious at the fact that his father had allowed himself to be arrested, been furious at the fact that Longbottom (who had also broken into the Ministry) had gotten away with it. Furious that the entire Wizarding world now knew that his father spent his time grovelling on his knees in front of another Wizard.
Suddenly the all powerful Malfoy family didn't seem so powerful.
It was this fury that had almost caused Harry and Draco to come to wands in the middle of the common room. Draco had been intent on going after Longbottom, or Weasley...or anybody in Gryffindor colours the day that news of his fathers arrest had broken. Harry had stopped him, tried to talk him down and when it had been apparent that their was only one way to stop Draco was prepared to duel. Luckily, the escalating commotion had brought Professor Snape into their dungeon – who, despite not being his biggest fan, sided with Harry - and practically dragged Draco out of the common room for a 'talk'.
"I'm not surprised. I can only imagine what this summer has been...like for him. Them both, really." Concluded Harry with sympathy..
"Can't choose your family." Stated Blaise wisely.
"Otherwise we'd all have pi-"
Harry was cut off in mid-sentance by a soft knock on the glass door of their compartment. Harry shuffled along the red leather seat that lined the deep mahogany walls of their compartment, before standing and twisting the latch of the compartment door, pulling it open a few inches – as Blaise had earlier – to allow him to see out but their awaiting guests not able to see in. Harry opened the door fully after a momet, stepping to the side and allowing the source of the knock entrance into the compartment before closing the door behind them and locking it swiftly.
Draco Malfoy and Theodore Nott entered the compartment with hesitation. Draco dropped down into the vacant seat next to Blaise, whilst Theo waited for Harry to move back into his position of the window seat before easing into the comfort of the seat next to him.
"We were beginning to get worried." Stated Harry, a happy smile at being joined by the rest of his friends. "We've been moving for nearly twenty minutes."
Draco sighed irritably. Honestly, Draco looked like hell. He was normally the very picture of aristocratic pure-blood society with his expensive, tailored clothing and slicked back platinum blonde hair and sharp, pointed features. Harry had often heard the girls of their house refer to Draco as having haughty good looks. However that was not the Draco that sat across from Harry. This Draco was thin, much thinner than when they'd finished last term, his normally slicked back hair was messy, tangled and unkempt. His face was, if possible, paler than normal with the addition of deep purple bags that ringed his cold grey eyes.
"Took us this long to wade our way through the river of first years. Honestly, there seem to be more and more every year." Moaned Draco, tilting his head backwards, and closing his eyes.
Harry glanced at Blaise, who was openly staring at Draco, before shifting his gaze to Theo who smiled a sad smile, a smile that made Harry a little uncomfortable. Theodore Nott was a solumn boy with a stickly thin build and a face dominated with large front teeth that gave him a slightly rabbity appearance. His hair was a mousy brown and fell past his shoulders; limp and lifeless. His cheeks adorned by facial hair that grew in patches and had long since been forgotten about.
"You guys ok?" Asked Harry, already knowing the answer. It was a question that he'd asked since the end of their forth year every time one of them had to leave the school to return to their family homes. Being the sons of prominent Death Eaters led to a certain amount of risk. Harry could only imagine what it was like in their homes, especially now the Dark Lord had revealed himself.
"No." Came Draco's honest reply. He was rubbing his eyes tiredly. "The Dark Lord is not pleased with our families." Theo nodded in agreement, though Harry noticed he didn't look anywhere near as bad as Draco did.
"He has taken every knut that the Notts had to our name." Said Theo bitterly. "Well, our family gold. Mine from last year is still in my possession."
Harry couldn't help but feel that Theo's well earned gold from the previous years had only remained in his possession because his father didn't know about it.
"Same with the Malfoy fortune. Everythings gone. Our house...our house is no longer our house." Bemoaned Draco. "My father signed everything over to him from his Ministry cell as payment for his failure."
"I didn't risk staying at my family home." Said Nott quietly. "I got home, packed the essentials and went to stay at our cottage in Norfolk. Didn't receive so much as an Owl of concern from my father, though I suppose he has more pressing concerns."
Theo might not be strongest Wizard or the smartest but nobody could ever knock his sense of self preservation. Theo was just above average in most subjects but he was truly exceptional at potions. Harry had quite often followed Theo's self scribbled notes that filled their yearly potions textbook rather than the actual instructions. Even a top class potioneer like Professor Snape was sometimes left dumbfounded by Theo's genius with ingredients.
"I wasn't that lucky." Said Draco sadly. "The Dark Lord is also demanding more of a...permanent price for my fathers failure." For a moment, Harry thought that Draco was talking about his fathers death. That the price for failing whatever the Dark Lord wanted was to be his life and he almost wished he was right. "The Dark Lord has demanded that I take the mark in place of my father. The Dark Lord wants me to become a Death Eater."
The silence that followed that statement was deafening. There had been many scenarios that had dominated Harry's thought throughout the summer concerning what the ramifications of Voldemort openly announcing his return would mean for his friends. Draco Malfoy being asked to take the mark was not one that he'd ever really considered. It didn't make sense. What could a student offer the Dark Lord?
"Well we can't allow that." Harry said simply. There wasn't really a choice. They'd been best friends, the four of them, since the very beginning of their first year. They'd defied the seventh years and sneaked out after curfew to duel Longbottom, Weasley, Thomas and Finnegan together. They'd proclaimed Malfoy the heir of Slytherin in their second and had been given freedom within their house that normally only the seventh years fought over. In their third year they'd smuggled Harry out and into Hogsmeade to get potions ingredients that normally only Snape could buy so they could supply the fifth and seventh years with a 'confidence boasting' potion for their OWLS and NEWTS. Fourth year they'd branched out into taking bets from all over the school on each tournament task, making more gold than any of them had ever had. Fifth year they'd continued down the same vein, more refined than the fourth year but never the less still as risky, only the betting was on Quidditch and with the addition of the Inquisitors squad, Harry was able to influence more than just his house. They were a team. They all brought something to the table. And without one of them, they simply weren't going to be as effective and could only be considered considerably weaker.
"Too right." Grunted Blaise..
"You don't understand" Disagreed Draco shaking his head.
"Of course we do." Argued Harry passionately and with absolute confidence. "All we need is a plan. A strategy. We have what? Four months? We can get things rolling in four months."
"First you need to do what I did." Stated Nott firmly, well and truly taking the bull by the horns. "Forget Malfoy manor, it's gone. Forget your family gold, that's gone too. If you don't wanna take the path your father has; you need to cut out your family. No owls, no meetings and no contact. You have no family now."
Harry winced at how bluntly Theo put it, but he knew it was true. If Draco didn't want to join the Death Eaters, his father would kill him willingly on Voldemorts orders.
"I guess what Potters been harping on about since second year is true, then. We are family now and all we have is each other." Draco said somewhat sadly before switching his attention to less sombre topics. "So lets talk to business."
And suddenly the conversation had turned. Harry knew that the conversation of Theo and Draco turning the back on their families beliefs wasn't quite over. That they would have to figure things out, that the two of them could be killed for what they where going to do. Things had suddenly taken a much more serious turn. This wasn't dodging Filch, sneaking potions ingredients from Snapes stock cupboard or avoiding the teachers attention. This was putting two of your best friends lives in danger and having to figure out a way to keep them alive. The only plus was that for the next nine months; both of them where safe within the walls of Hogwarts and by the Summer holidays, Harry would be damned if he didn't have something in place to ensure not just Draco and Theo's survival but Blaise's and his own.
"So who still owes us money from last year?" Asked Harry, knowing full well who still owed them, but happy for the change of subject.
"Goldstein and Smith." Answered Blaise straight away. "Oh and Demelza Robbins still owes us for betting against Chang in the final match last year."
"Smith and Goldstein owe us a fair amount of gold between them." Mused Harry thoughtfully, stroking his chin. "You think they'll have the gold waiting for us?"
Draco, Theo and Blaise all snorted at the same time.
"More chance of me riding the giant Squid." Muttered Theo doubtfully. "We haven't a hope of Smith or Goldstein paying us any time soon."
Harry chewed the inside of his cheek. This was the first time somebody hadn't paid up. There first test.
"We can't look weak." Declared Harry forcefully. "If we let them get away with not paying...How long until nobody else pays and we end up making no more gold from bets ever again."
"Agreed." Said Draco firmly. "We have to get our gold somehow. I'll speak to Crabbe and Goyle and we'll handle it."
"Ok...but no mistakes. You keep Crabbe and Goyle on a tight leesh. We can't afford a cock up." Stated Harry seriously before turning his gaze upon Blaise and asking."And Demelza?"
"She's a steady stream of Sickles." Defended Blaise. "She was guzzling Theo's Pepperup potion toward the end of last term like it was butterbeer. We could just have her to do some of the more...risky stuff for a while to pay off her debt?"
"Gold's gold." objected Theo, clearly not liking to trade his potions for anything less than coin. "Those ingredients aren't free."
"How much does she owe?" Asked Draco curiously.
"Seven sickles." Replied Blaise with an almost apologetic gesture of his hands.
"She could owe us a favour." Offered Draco looking between Blaise and Theo. "Never know when we might need an 'in' into Gryffindor. Now the Weasley twins have gone, we've lost our connection there."
It was a sensible thing to do. The Weasley twins and themselves had had somewhat of a mutual interest in making money. They'd sold the smuggled fire-whiskey that Draco had managed to procure for after the Quidditch parties in exchange for Notts help in brewing potions. But they'd fled the school half way through the previous term and left them high and dry. They had nobody in Gryffindor now who they would be willing to trust to help them. Nobody to pass on news or information. And besides it was seven sickles, hardly bank breaking.
"That's a great idea." Acknowledged Harry with a smile. "Blaise you let her know that we'll write the debt off but in exchange we would like to call on her for a favour at some point in the future."
Heads nodded in agreement around the compartment table.
"What are our stocks looking like?" Asked Draco with interest, clearly happy to be talking about anything else than his stressful summer.
"I brewed a lot over the summer." Grinned Theo, revealing his stained teeth. "My second trunk is filled with nothing but vials."
Blaise let out an impressed whistle which caused Theo to almost preen, clearly very proud of how productive he'd been.
"And Gringotts?" Continued Draco, no doubt running through his mental lists.
"Twenty-seven Galleons, sixteen sickles and forty eight knuts." Recounted Blaise immediately.
Draco frowned and Harry could almost hear what he was thinking and he supposed to Draco, that amount of gold – without taking into consideration the four way split of anything deemed 'profits' – seemed rather insignificant. Then, Harry had always been under the opinion that most things looked insignificant to the Malfoy fortune.
"That'll be more than enough to do what we need." Theo said with a toothy smile.
"Agreed." Nodded Draco. "I'll have to disappear into Hogsmeade at some point this week and speak to Phipps. Make the first payment in person."
"You still want to store everything in the room of requirement? Even though Longbottom and his friends know about the room?" Asked Harry doubtfully. He'd be the first to admit that he'd been a little naïve in thinking that they'd been the only people who knew about the 'come and go room'. When Draco had informed him that the inquisitorial squad had figured out were the 'D.A' was meeting, Harry was sure his heart had stopped. That room, as far as Harry and the rest of their little group was concerned, was filled with nothing but crates of Fire-whiskey, vials of pepperup potion and a cauldron bubbling with Notts attempt at liquid luck.
Apparently the room had more uses than as a secret store room.
"I don't like it." Said Theo at once. "Too much risk. If somebody that was in that club sees one of us going in...it won't take long for them to go snooping around."
Theo was right. Up until the last portion of the previous year they had come and go as they pleased in their own personal storeroom but now a good portion of their year knew of the room. It'd done the rounds of school gossip shortly after Umbridge had had the D.A ambushed mid-lesson and Harry had no doubt that the room of requirement would be much more popular this year. Still, Marietta Edgecombe owing Draco had really come in handy for the last Quidditch match of the year.
"We keep everything in our trunks for now." Declared Harry, after some thought. "But we need to find somewhere soon. There must be an old passageway or another abandoned room we could use. We'll just need to look carefully."
Blaise opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by a knock on the compartment door. All four of the occupants exchanged glances.
Theo leaned out of his seat, before twisting the latch of compartment door, before wrenching the door open to reveal the figure of Daphne Greengrass, standing with her hands on her hips and looking little bemused at being locked out.
"You know you're the only four that lock their compartment door, it looks really suspicious." Stated Daphne with a smirk.
Daphne was a member of their house and one of the girls in their year. She was, simply put, a very good looking girl. She had shoulder length reddish-brown hair, that was more often than not pulled back into a ponytail that drew attention to her delicate, pale face. Her eyes a bright, vibrant blue that sat beneath well maintained eyebrows. Her nose was small and her lips thin but her face was pretty none the less. She had already changed into her uniform that did not manage to entirely hide Daphnes lean and petite body.
"Just don't want first years asking where the toilets are." Answered Draco smoothly. "What can we do for you, Daph?"
"There's a Professor on board that wants to see you, Zabini and Harry." Answered Daphne casually looking at those she'd named, finishing with a soft smile at Harry. "He's in carriage four in compartment five. I'll see you there in a bit, I'm just going to round up Longbottom."
And with that Daphne turned on her heel, her skirt twirling teasingly, before she almost bounced out of the door frame.
"There's a Professor on the train?" Half asked, half questioned Blaise sounding confused. It confused Harry too. Why would a fully qualified travel on the Hogwarts express? It was a ridiculous train journey that they could save themselves by simply apparating.
"Guess so." Shrugged Harry, standing and shuffling out from his seat as Theo moved and stood by the door. "Wonder what they want?"
"We can't be in trouble. Term hasn't even begun?" Laughed Blaise. "Though, if we are that has to be some sort of record!"
"Oh come on, quicker we get there, the quicker we get back." Urged Harry as he walked out of the compartment and down the corridor quickly followed by Draco and Blaise, leaving Theo alone to occupy their compartment.
"You must be Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Zabini and of course, you must be !" Welcomed the man who was clearly the Professor. The Professor was an enormously fat, bald, old man who had a barrel like lower belly that was straining desperately against his emerald green waist coat. The sunlight that entered through the compartment windows shone upon his sweaty forehead, allowed Harry to see the prominent gooseberry coloured eyes sat behind small, rectangular gold glasses whilst the bottome portion of his face was dominated by his impressive, pure white, walrus-like moustache. "I am so glad that you all accepted my invitations. I am Professor Slughorn!"
Harry didn't know if he should be relieved or nervous as he glanced to the side and saw Draco's eyes widen with recognition.
"Please, please, take a seat!" Slughorn offered with a wave of his meaty arm. Harry followed Draco and Blaise to a huddle of leather chairs that sat quietly to the side of the compartment, that was about ten times the size of a normal compartment. It was an impressive peice of transfiguration.
Harry cast his eye around the compartment and was pleased to see that the bemused and confused look on the other students who had been gathered mirrored his own. In one corner the Patil twins stood with the youngest Weasley - who Blaise had been admiring earlier. Off to the side was Cho Chang and Marietta Edgecombe along with a few lower year Hufflepuffs who Harry didn't know by name. Off against the window of the compartment, alone, stood a seventh year Gryffindor who Harry didn't know, who looked chuffed to have been invited as he swirled an amber coloured liquid around his brandy glass – much like his Uncle Vernon used to when he was in a bad mood and thinking.
For a moment, Slughorn stood beside them, like he was about to strike up conversation with the three of them but his attention was instantly captured by two new comers.
"Neville m'boy!" Boomed Slughorn, spinning on his heel instantly, with grace that Harry was surprised a man of Slughorns size could produce. Neville's face fell into a look of acceptance, like he'd expected it, as Slughorn wrapped his tree-trunk like arm around Longbottoms shoulders, before Slughorn guided him into the compartment and began to personally introduce Longbottom to the occupants; beginning with the lone Gryffindor in the corner.
Harry spared a glance to Daphne who stood in the doorway, arms folded and looking pretty annoyed at just being overlooked. Harry doubted Daphne Greengrass had ever been overlooked in her life before.
"Am I missing something?" Asked Harry quietly, leaning into with his friends. "What the hell is going on?"
"That's Horace Slughorn!" Whispered Draco with excitment. "He was the Potions Professor when my father was in school. Taught the Dark Lord himself apprently! My father said he's the greatest Potioneer that has ever lived."
"Theo's gonna be spittin' feathers he didn't get invited!" Chuckled Blaise, shaking his head.
"So what is this?" Asked Harry, gesturing with his hands at the compartment, before looking over his shoulder and seeing Slughorn, a bored looking Longbottom and Cho talking.
"It's the Slug Club." Said Draco, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Professor Slughorn has a certain weakness for..." Draco paused, like he was mulling over the right word to use. "Students who he thinks have the potential for greatness."
"Greatness?" Repeated Harry with a frown.
"Yeah!" Enthused Draco. "Back in my fathers day it was considered quite the honour."
"Why?" asked Harry, confused.
"Dunno." Shrugged Draco. "Maybe he just likes to brag about former students."
A dismissive snort followed Draco's guess. Harry looked over his shoulder to see the beautiful figure of Daphne as she perched herself on the arm of his chair, running a hand through his hair, as she looked at them with mirth in those blue eyes.
"It's so he can mooch of them." Daphne declared with a laugh.
"What?" asked Harry, still feeling a little lost.
"He does this whole thing to make connections." Continued Daphne, crossing her legs and leaning back against the back of the chair. "He plays nicey nice, makes us feel special, so when he asks for a pair of Quidditch tickets or a front row seat to a duel or a big basket of sweets for Halloween...it seems a small price to pay for your favourite old Professor."
Harry looked up at Daphne thoughtfully. That was a very manipulate thing for a Professor to do, something that Harry would have bet his last Galleon that Dumbledore would have frowned heavily upon. But Slughorn must have been teaching at Hogwarts for decades, perhaps even out dating Dumbledore himself. It had obviously never been a problem.
"And how do you know that, Greengrass?" Questioned Blaise sceptically.
"My mother was part of this club when she was in school." Revealed Daphne off-handily. "She used to receive letters of Slughorn every month asking for some of our fanged geraniums."
"Guess its our turn!" Announced Blaise sharply, nodding toward the considerable form of Slughorn walking slowly toward, chatting away to a thoroughly bored looking Neville.
"And I am sure that you know these four!" Announced Slughorn heartly. "This is Daphne Greengrass, this lovely young lady's mother is a very gifted Herbolgist, y'know Neville! Sends me the most wonderful geraniums; Professor Sprout tells me your quite the Herbologist, Neville?"
"I am indeed!"
Suddenly Neville didn't look quite so bored. It was no secret that the Boy-Who-Lived spent more time in the greenhouses than anywhere else. It had always been a rather amusing fact to the other members of Harry's house. Most people loathed Herbology almost as much as Care of Magical Creatures but Longbottom, Longbottom loved it.
"Well perhaps you two should get together sometime? Put your heads together. Sure Professor Sprout could only benefit from such a partnership!"
Neville looked like he was half a syllable from actually doing it. Daphne, however, looked like she'd rather drink water from the lake.
"And off course there's Mr. Zabini." Introduced Slughorn, pointing a sausage like finger at Blaise. "His mother was the most delightfully mischievous women. Though Blaise, I hear that you have inherited her talent more than her mischievous streak."
Blaise didn't react and made no move to acknowledge Neville and Neville didn't try to acknowledge Blaise. The mutual dislike was evident.
"Then there is Mr. Malfoy!" Continued Slughorn, never once losing the enthusiasm from his voice. "I was good friends with your grandfather, young man. Never met a man who could hold a pint of Guinness like Ambraxas. Terrible news when he caught the Pox."
Draco bowed his head in sadness, even though Harry knew for a fact that he'd never met, or even seen a picture of his grandfather. Draco had never gone into details about why his father and grandfather had fallen out in the years prior to Draco's birth. Harry wasn't definite but he was pretty sure that Draco's father had forced the Malfoy family patriarch out of his seat and left the elderly man to die from Dragon pox alone whilst seizing control of the family empire.
"And of course then there is Mr. Potter."
Harry squirmed uncomfortably in his seat as he felt a weighty hand fall upon his shoulder.
"You look so much like your father..." Slughorns voice was sad, filled with grief and nothing like his jovial greeting. "But your eyes...your eyes belong entirely to your mother. She was a favourite of mine, you know? Such a talented Witch...such a shame what happened to them-"
"I'd rather not talk about it, Professor." Said Harry urgently cutting off the professor sharply. He didn't need the world and their mother hearing about just how his parents had suffered.
"Oh!" Said Slughorn, eyes wide and sounding surprised. "Of course, of course."
Slughorn lingered for a few moments more. Looking at Harry with pity which Harry pretended not to see. He hated pity. He didn't it. Didn't want it.
"Now Neville have I ever told you the story about when Gwenog Jones invited me to the Harpies Christmas party?"
Slughorn launched into a very long, very detailed story about the Harpies legendary Christmas party and how Gwenog Jones, a former student of his, had attempted to lead him astray with shot after shot of Bertie botts every flavoured liquor – apparently an adult version of the beans. To their credit – and Nevilles – they all laughed in the correct places and gasped when they should. And Slughorn lapped it up.
The afternoon wore on with more and more anecdotes about illustrious Wizards Slughorn had taught, all of whom had seen the honour in joining the 'Slug Club' – a name that was of course given to it by the students, and not at all by himself – at Hogwarts. Harry, however, could not wait to leave, but saw no way of doing so politely, after all he didn't want to offend a Wizard like Slughorn. Finally the train emerged from yet another long misty stretch and into the red sunset, and Slughorn looked around, blinking in the twilight.
"Good gracious, it's getting dark already! I didn't notice that they'd lit the lamps! You had all better go and change into your robes, all of you. McLaggen, you must drop by and borrow that book on Nogtails!" Announced Slughorn with feigned shock.
One by one the students began to file out of the compartment. Harry, Blaise, Draco and Daphne somehow ended up being at the back of the group. They'd just made the door when Slughorns booming voice called out behind them.
"I'll be keeping an eye on you three!" Harry looked over his shoulder quickly, he couldn't quite get past the feeling that that sounded like a threat. "I'm hearing wonderful things about the three of you and I would be delighted in being able to help my old houses best and brightest."
"We would appreciate that." Smiled Harry, desperately not trying to swallow the lump in his throat, as he bowed his head slightly before leaving the compartment, absently hearing Daphne closing the door behind them.
"Well he certainly loved you three." Stated Daphne with a hint of surprise to her voice. "Best and brightest is a stretch though..."
"Oh shut up Greengrass you're just sore he ignored you in favour of Longbottom!" Snapped Draco, clearly as annoyed as Harry at being kept for hours in there.
"Well wouldn't you be?" Retorted Greengrass angrily s she stood next to Harry, slipping her hand into his. "He's a Longbottom."
"We better go and find Theo." Said Blaise as he stretched his long arms over his head and rolled his neck. "He might be worried."
Harry couldn't help but grin. He doubted anybody enjoyed their own company as much as Theo, in fact, sometimes Harry wondered if Theo didn't prefer his own company to them.
"Well I'll leave you to that." Said Daphne, a disgusted look on her face. It was well known that she didn't like Theo before looking up at Harry. "Save me a seat for the feast?"
"I would love to but I'm going to have to miss the feast this year." Answered Harry sheepishly, well aware that he'd not actually told her he was missing it. He was disappointed to have to. The feast had always been on of his favourite times of the year; it'd always signified nine months free of his family. What better way of celebrating his freedom than with a feast that would have caused Dudley to become comatose.
"You're missing the feast?" Repeated Daphne like she'd misheard him. She was looking at him completely dumbfounded, dropping his hand. "You love the feast."
"I do." Replied Harry, nodding in agreement. "It's just, some things, they're more important than a decent meal."
"Oooooh" Squealed Daphne, stepping closer to Harry, a giddy look in those beautiful blue eyes as she bounced on the tipz of her toes in excitement. "Like what?"
Harry glanced at Draco before looking to Blaise, both of whom just snickered.
"Hey she's your girlfriend. You have to let her down." Replied Draco with a grin like the Cheshire cat.
"Let me down?"
And suddenly Daphne went from excited to suspicious, hands on her hips and weight shifted to her right leg as her hips cocked.
"I'm not planning a surprise party or anything like that...but I can't tell you any more. You'll like it though, I promise!" Apologised Harry, holding his hands up in mock surrender.
Daphne continued to regard him for a few moments, much to the obvious delight of Blaise and Draco, before stepping very much into his personal space, her forehead resting just under his nose, so that her reddish-brown hair tickles his nose as he looked down at her.
"You had best be right, Mr. Potter!" Daphne said, poking him in the chest with her index finger before grinning impishly up at him, standing on her tip toes and kissing him quickly on the lips before pulling away, her impish grin only widening before spinning on her heel and walking down the carriage corridor, a noticeable sway in her petite hips.
Harry felt Blaise wrap an arm round him before nudging him with his shoulder, Harry removed his eyes from the retreating form of his girlfriends back and turned to look at Blaise, who was grinning like a fool.
" Come on lover-boy! Lets get back to our compartment and find Theo!" Said Blaise happily.
"He won't be missing us once we tell him we've been selected by Professor Slughorn to attend his little club." Continued Draco with amusement. "He'll be sick as a Hippogriff.."
"You think Notts not going to be invited?" Asked Harry sceptically over his shoulder to Draco. "Once Slughorn gets a whiff of Theo's ability with a cauldron, he's not going to be all over him to come to the next one?"
"Fair point." Acknowledged Draco before looking down at his wrist at the expensive, gold watch that adorned his wrist. "We should get ready. We'll be arriving in Hogsmeade in half an hour."