The next morning, the school had relaxed. Students, once more with their proper hair colour, laughed and chatted about the prank the previous day, easing into their customary seats as if they had not overturned those same benches yesterday to have a food-fight of the ages.
Draco, true to his word, had sworn off eating during the prank and was refusing to eat. Carla, Callum, the Carrow twins, and Blaise were all quietly trying to get him to eat, even just a little. They wanted him to succumb so he wouldn't be left out of the prank; despite his trauma, they didn't want anyone being suspicious of him.
"Come on, just one?" Carla begged, offering him the most tantalizing piece of chicken breast she could find.
"No," Draco said firmly, eying up the food longingly. "I'm not going to eat anything."
Callum rolled his eyes. "Not even if it's a sugar quill mountain?" Draco seemed to be hedging on caving in, but the severe lack of an actual sugar quill mountain helped him keep his resolve.
The Carrow Twins, ever observant, recalled his obsession with Harry Potter. "Didn't Potter like Treacle Tarts?" Hestia asked. Draco gave them a pointed look, rolled his eyes, and stared at his food.
"Isn't that him now?" Flora replied gamely. Of course, they intended to give him a serious case of made-you-look, but the situation quickly turned itself on its head.
As planned, Draco turned, and there he was - Harry Potter.
"What?" Draco spluttered, accurately voicing the thoughts of everyone in the Great Hall. "I thought he was in special training!" As he gaped, Harry turned over to look at him, waved, and walked to the Gryffindor table, sliding easily into the fold and ignoring Ron's gaping-fish look.
Hermione piped up first. "Harry, where have you been? We've been worried sick!"
Turning to her and raising an eyebrow, Harry replied, "I've been here the whole time, Hermione. What are you talking about?"
The confusion was punctuated by the clouds from the ceiling drifting out of the picture and collecting in the roof. People looked up in confusion, and Harry grinned.
"One treacle tart, please," he said, and immediately a treacle tart fell from the sky and into his hand. "Wait, I meant one thousand treacle tarts."
Harry was buried in treacle tarts.
An elongated silence, followed by over three hundred students requesting treacle tarts, cauldron cakes, and sugar quills.
"Oh," Harry yelled, "And one sugar quill mountain!" This, strangely enough, fell on Draco, who sputtered like a buffoon until sugar got to him. Then, finally losing all inhibitions, he grappled for his bookbag to fill it with quills.
"Please calm down," Dumbledore boomed, to no avail. Candy, it seemed, could distract any student. Harry gave him an odd look and shook off a few more treacle tarts.
"Oh - Fifty thousand Bertie Botts every flavour beans for Dumbledore!" Harry yelled. "Earwax flavour!"
Dumbledore did not even have time to blink before he was buried in odd yellow jellybeans, leading students to burst into laughter on their cauldron cakes and sugar quills.
A few minutes later, Harry got up and whistled at the ceiling. Hermione and Ron, who had ignored the food in favour of pestering Harry constantly, stopped talking and stared.
Mere seconds afterwards, a cloud floated down out of the roof and came to hover next to Harry, popping audibly as it automatically transfigured itself into a motorbike - a familiar, blue motorbike. "Oh, Ron?"
"Yeah?" Ron quirked his brow.
"Can I borrow your rat?" Ron gave him a look. "Please?"
Ron shrugged. "Alright. Don't kill him." He pulled Scabbers from his pocket and handed the shivering rat over easily. "He's been ill lately, so be careful."
"Of course." Harry slipped him into his cloak-pocket and mounted the bike. "Well, see you later." He shifted one of the gears, causing the motorbike to rise half a meter. "Oh - and tell Dumbledore that Pettigrew was the Secret Keeper." With that, he revved the engine and was off.
The moment Harry was gone, a flock of owls entered the great hall carrying red tubes. These were dropped as they flew past, and the first batch promptly exploded in mid-air, creating large puffs of colour and light.
The students looked up to watch the show, ignoring the fact that at that moment their DADA teacher was clamoring over a mountain of earwax jelly beans to follow. Remus Lupin finally gave up and conjured a skateboard, which he used to ride his way out of the great hall.
As the colours dissipated, the students began to return to their meals - but Draco felt a chill up his back and returned to watching the sky.
No less than eight Hogwarts owls flew through the windows of the great hall, struggling with what appeared to be a giant water balloon. A few students gulped, and others cast drying charms before anything had happened. The birds flew to the Slytherin table and hovered, as if waiting.
Another set of owls, and another balloon. Two more arrived after that, and they each hovered over a table.
Then, with a loud clap, the four balloons were released.
Each balloon exploded over the students, releasing a thick, white gas from them, and making a rather embarrassing fart-like sound which echoed off the walls. Students tried to wave away the white substance blocking their vision, but nothing happened.
When the air was finally clear, a few students yelled in surprise. Draco looked down at his own clothes - and screamed.
Somehow, everyone's outfits had been changed, as well as their ties. There seemed to be mostly golden animals embroidered on red ties - a strange, many-legged cat, a large golden bird, a serpent coiling around itself, and a vaguely humanoid creature. Some, however, had completely different ones; some were robed in large Durmstrang furs, yet others in weird little monklike outfits, and Luna Lovegood was wearing a sailor fuku.
Draco, himself, was wearing a Durmstrang fur, which he glared at. It was at least three sizes too big.
Dumbledore finally emerged from his earwax bean mountain, looking rather put out. "Why are you all wearing the Ilvermorny uniform?" He inquired, tugging on a few earwax beans embedded behind his half-moon lenses.
Classes that day were cancelled, and an impromptu Hogsmeade visit was organized to give the teachers a bit of a break. Draco signalled the others and walked calmly out of the hall, racing to a bathroom to replace the bulky furs with something more… maneuverable.
Leaving in his spare pair of Hogwarts robes, he adjusted his tie - still, annoyingly, charmed with an embroidered cat and Gryffindor colours - and joined the group outside the Gryffindor common room.
"These ties will be useful," Carla commented. "Nobody will suspect me as a Slytherin. Draco's the only one who will have trouble."
Draco sighed. "The downsides of fame. Which reminds me - who rigged up the Potter likeness? He was rather convincing, even if I didn't approve it."
"Oh, that was Ari," Carla replied easily. "He's a master of glamour charms." The others accepted this, and together the group of Slytherins marched up to the door and called, "Pugnator Fortem!"
The Fat Lady swung aside to let them in, and the five Slytherins entered quickly. They spread into three groups - Draco on his own, Carla and Callum pairing off, and the twins acting as if they were one.
"Carla, Callum, keep watch," Draco ordered, keeping his eyes on the doors. "Hestia, Flora, scout for when we have to return these. I'll head upstairs." The four others nodded in reply, and Draco cast a silencing charm on his feet, sneaking slowly up the steps to the boy's dorms.
He paused at the door to the third-year's dorms, pressing against the wall and peeking around the corner.
"You Slytherins, for all your talk, suck at sneaking."
Draco jumped a mile into the air and whipped out his wand in seconds, pointing it at - Ronald Weasley.
"How kind of you to notice, Weasley," Draco drawled. "I have some duties to complete here. Please do leave before I have to hex you."
Ron, strangely, raised an eyebrow, and asked, "What duties?"
"Ari… requested I retrieve something. If you'll excuse me…" Draco turned, but Ron grabbed his shoulder and swung him around, glaring at him as if searching for something.
"What does Ari need that would be in the Gryffindor dorms?" Ron mused. "He only ever comes here to talk to Hermione." Letting go of Draco's shoulder, he continued, "and why would he want you to get it? Couldn't he just ask for it? People like him enough to give him anything he wants."
Draco huffed. "None of your business."
"Is too my business," Ron snapped. "Tell me what you're trying to get." He pointed his wand at Draco's throat. "Or I'll tell the entirety of Gryffindor you're sneaking around. We've got ways of marking people."
Draco was slightly surprised; he didn't think Weasleys were capable of blackmail. "I require secrecy," he replied smoothly. "I simply will not sacrifice Ari's position."
Ron glared more, but his wand fell to his side. "Fine then. I'll keep a secret." Draco raised na eyebrow; he didn't expect the Weasley to accept his terms.
"I was sent to recover something belonging to the twins," Draco replied honestly. "Ari wants a copy of a particular enchantment. It is called the Marauder's Map, and would be returned tomorrow, if all goes to plan."
Ron raised an eyebrow. "Alright."
Draco seemed incredulous, but Ron ignored his surprise, instead marching up the stairs and returning with the desired item. "Bring it back tomorrow," he hissed, "or else my brothers will kill me. And don't you dare tell anyone I let you get away with this."
Draco nodded. "Of course. I suppose I'll be back tomorrow." With that, Draco quickly fled the scene, still in slight shock.
Ron watched Draco leave. That was, strangely, the most honest Draco had ever been. He was terribly confused, but he knew two facts; Ari Durst was Harry, and Harry needed Draco for something. So, for Harry, he would humour Draco's whims.
Seeing Harry at the feast was strange, but watching him with magic was stranger. There was nothing for it; Harry just had to be Ari. Raking a hand through his hair, he went back downstairs to grab his Hogsmeade slip.
"This is the prisoner?"
"Perfect. Finally, we've got enough proof for investigation…"
Draco sighed in relief when he caught sight of Ari's familiar mop of hair. He'd been hiding the Marauder's Map in his dorm, and was worried that the twins of terror would find out sooner rather than later.
Ari walked up to the bar of the Hog's Head and quickly ordered a Butterbeer. Grabbing his drink, he slid into a seat next to Draco and nursed his bubbling drink in silence for a few minutes, relaxing in the ambient sounds of the Hog's Head.
"Was it a success?" Ari inquired at last.
"Yeah," Draco confirmed. "Ronald Weasley found out, but I got him to keep quiet."
Ari raised an eyebrow, but did not ask further. "So. Did you enjoy the prank?"
"I'm just curious how you managed to fool Dumbledore with that Harry Potter clone," Draco admitted. "I was completely fooled."
Ari chuckled. "Who says he's fake?"
Ari shrugged. "I studied with him over the summer."
"You went to that special training thing he's taking?" Draco gaped.
"Why did you think I went to Gringotts every weekend?" Ari replied cheekily. "More seriously - I didn't just translate books all the time, Draco. There's a small group of students getting tutored at Gringotts - I'm one of the few people outside of the goblin community they approved. I'm afraid I can't say more than that."
"Right," Draco nodded.
"Well," Ari rose. "Want to help with the potions? I'm going to copy over the MM."
"Sure," Draco agreed, rising himself.
Remus felt his inner werewolf scrabble at mental walls. If he didn't have a better grip on himself, he would be tearing this student to shreds.
It was well-known among the Order and the DMLE that all Death Eaters had some form of Dark Mark. Voldemort's inner circle had an intricate design on their forearm; other members had smaller, less intricate and less magical ones. He stared at the mark on the student's shoulder, which was being surrounded by the small, red, magical snake.
"You will follow me," Remus growled. "Any sudden moves, and your life is forfeit. Choose wisely." The boy gulped. He was a Gryffindor on his way back. This would devastate the lion house.
He dragged the youth all the way to the Headmaster's office.
McGonagall stood up as Remus walked in, tugging a student along by the elbow. Never had she seen him behave in such a violent way with anyone. This was serious.
"What is it, Lupin?" She demanded.
"This boy," Remus ripped off the sleeve, showing the black mark on the child's arm - A death eater?! - "is a junior Death Eater. Dumbledore refuses to have any action taken against him, even in the face of irrefutable proof. I swear to Merlin, if you deny the truth of his guilt, I will take him to Madame Bones herself!"
"Is he one of the Red Snake-?" She inquired.
"Yes," Remus growled.
"I will have the other teachers collect the marked students. We'll take them to the spare dungeons," McGonagall replied grimly.
Harry offered Sirius a bag of chips which was thoroughly inspected while Harry manipulated the magical camera he had set up. Moving it through Hogwarts, he quickly attached it to Flitwick, his partner-in-crime.
Including Flitwick had been a dubious, but ultimately good, decision. He was aware that Ari was the same as Phoenix Galldaxe, and had been informed of his plans for a third option. He was to help lead Ari to the dungeon where the marked students were kept. Flitwick was to drop a teleportation stone - keyword 'Three' - which would give Ari access to the students. From there, he could determine everyone's loyalties and debind those willing to take his mark - proof of their refusal to follow the ways of either side - and he would have the first members of the Crow's Wing.
He had the potions he needed, courtesy of the goblins. All he had to do for now was park future members with some ink, and it would perform some basic duties. Prevent control via the Dark Mark; defend against basic jinxes and curses; prevent legilimency without eye contact… the list went on. It was an incredibly complicated - and eternally worth it - potion.
Flitwick dropped the rock and gave the signal - a short twist of his wrist - before leaving.
"Sirius, stay here," Harry requested. "I've got a mission to complete." Harry snatched up some veritaserum from a shelf, threw on a large, black cloak which covered him completely, and his portkey. He quickly altered his appearance into that of an unremarkable student. Taking a deep breath, he hissed, "Three."
The world swirled and snapped back into place. The Death Eaters leaped away, and a few even reached for wands that weren't there.
"Who's there?" One hissed. "Show yourself!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Scott's here, and no. I'm here to investigate. If you wish to evade Azkaban, then you will allow me to dose you with this." He held up the veritaserum.
The students glanced at each other, in silent conversation. Eventually, the same one replied, "Alright. One of us at a time. No sudden moves, or we attack."
"Of course." Harry shrugged. "Take your pick of who first."
She glanced around. "Alright. Him, two people to the right. We can't move beyond these bloody chains, so you'll have to step forward, 'Scott'." Harry nodded understandingly and walked calmly up to the student, who obediently took a drop of Veritaserum.
"Denver." he replied, gulping. This seemed to send shivers through the remainder of the death eaters; they'd obviously figured out it was Veritaserum.
"Do you believe Voldemort's cause?" Harry inquired. The room fell silent.
"..no," he breathed fearfully.
"KNEW HE WAS A TRAITOR!" The original girl hissed. "GE-"
She glared at Harry relentlessly while he continued. "Why did you take the dark mark?"
"Dad would have killed me if I didn't, and Dumbledore would have tried something." he hissed. "Why are you asking these questions?"
"You'll know eventually." Harry replied. "Next."
He gathered confessions. Most, unfortunately, were loyal to Ol' Voldy; there were around four, however, who weren't. He whispered his question into their ears to defend them from any repercussions they might face from the others; every one said yes, and was marked by the potion.
"I'll be back for you four," he announced. "To the rest of you - I can only hope you'll survive." With that, he left. It would take at least three days for the DMLE to respond, considering Dumbledore's attempts to defend against it, so he had time.
Draco took the Marauder's Map into his hands. "I'll get it back where it belongs," he promised, placing it gently in his cloak pocket. Ari gave him a bright smile and nodded.
"Everything's nearly ready," Ari breathed. "I just need one more spell."
"You never actually told me what you plan to do with that map," Draco commented. "Am I allowed to know?"
He sighed. "I've been meaning to ask about that… but no, I'll ask when I've got everyone together."
"Everyone?" Draco inquired.
"You, Callum, Carla and the twins," Ari replied. "I have a… suggestion to make. It's a big undertaking. I'll do it on my own if you refuse, but… it would mean a lot to me."
He returned to the map he was still editing. He was only taking magic from it at the moment, but Draco anticipated that he would add to it soon.
"You could ask us now," he suggested hopefully. "I can get everyone together."
Ari nodded slowly. "I guess… you're right. I have nothing to lose by doing it here and now." He rose from his chair. "Lead everyone to my dorm room. I'll wait there."
"Right," Draco nodded, wondering silently what he was agreeing to.
A/N: I have risen from the dead!
My god, I'm sorry there's been no updates. School got ahead of me, and if you've seen A Collection, you'll know I've been writing tons of other things too. It's rather frustrating trying to keep everything up to date.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter - next one is being written during the week.
A few sidenotes;
I have a personal hatred for Ronald Weasley. I try my best, but I frequently write bad Weasley family (outside of the twins) due to this. I wish I could love him more, but he's a living contradiction - he's willing to sacrifice himself for Harry, and simultaneously finds it easy to turn his back time and time again. Indecisive characters like that frustrate me a lot, and Ron is a perfect example.
So, in an effort to write a Ron that people can enjoy in this story, he is very different. His behaviours and abilities will be mapped out as the story continues, but he will inevitably have some OOC moments or unexplained motives. If this happens, please forgive me - but I believe a lovable Ron is more important than a correct one.
Another thing I've got to put out there - I've been toying with an idea. I never went into express detail about what Harry did over the summer with the goblins. I've been writing a sort of 'example' so people can get perspective, but I'm not sure how to post it. We will be visiting Gringotts later to see just what's going on behind the scenes, but some details will inevitably slip through the cracks. So - should I post a side-story showing what Harry did during that time? Or should I wait until the chapter where they visit?
Well, that's all for now. As always - tell me what you think, hope you enjoyed! Til next time!