Title: Declaro

Author: Isolde

Rating: R (overall)

Category: Drama/Romance

Summary: In Harry's 7th year a wizarding tradition is being revived. Why will it change Snape's life, what will Harry do about his strange new feelings, and what does Draco want? This is initially inspired by Diana Williams' "The Courtship of Harry Potter". At least implies SS/DM, HP/DM & SS/HP. Includes HG/RW (het) as well.

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling.

Declaro I: rites of spring

The new year had been uneventful, except for the usual events. Harry had met Hermione and Ron, and the rest of the Weasley clan on the platform at Waterloo. Ginny had blushed, Hermione had rolled her eyes. On the Hogwarts Express, Harry had bought too many sweets, Ron had eaten too many chocolate frogs, Draco moved through the train being an arse with his stooges in tow, Neville lost something, and in the Gryffindor 7th carriage they'd giggled like ten year olds over Seamus' new tattoo. Well, perhaps that wasn't a usual event, but at sixteen it seemed acting like you were ten or eleven was, at least, familiar. More familiar than being sixteen anyway.

In the Great Hall, however, as everyone was being seated, and the new 1st years - looking smaller again this year - were coming through, some things seemed different. There was a kind of whispering and looking that was, not more subtle, but trying to be subtle. Checking each other out after summer - who was taller, better looking, better dressed, happier or quieter or smoother - was never subtle. He heard about Draco's new robes from somewhere down the table; Harry hadn't noticed. Someone mentioned Cho Chang's very new and even experimental broom, some Hufflepuff boy apparently had the latest hair, and, strangest of all, Dean Thomas had come with a whole set of the new Beauchamp's Encyclopedia of Magical Charms supposedly with an aim to be top of his year. Harry couldn't decide what was weirder - Dean competing at schoolwork or Neville's concerned interest. He would have asked what the hell was going on if now hadn't been the time for Sorting.

A few more chairs were filled as Harry looked down the upper year ends of the house tables. He barely noticed a red-haired girl who smiled gleefully at Ron and giggled at Ginny, registering a new Weasley cousin or some such. The 7th years at every table were. polished, or something like it. Carefully dressed, poised, and eyeing each other. He was watching Crabbe brush his very expensive looking robes while trying to ensure nobody noticed with some confusion when he noticed Professor Dumbledore was already most of the way through his forbidden forest cursed floor kitchens out of bounds curfew and Filch speech. But before the food arrived there was another something new.

"Many of you will have followed the debate about the Rite of Engagement over the summer." Which meant nothing to Harry but plenty of people seemed interested - he was going to have to work out a way to get the Prophet delivered in the holidays. Although, of course, this was the last year, and by this time next year he'd be somewhere else, though who knew where. It at least seemed likely he'd live through school - there'd been no sign of Voldemort since the last Spring Showdown (as he liked to think of them, now, or at least, when he had no major injuries and not evidently about to die).

"I'm aware that many of your families will have strong views on the matter, and want to reassure you, as I have done your parents, that Hogwarts will be taking no part in this latest Revival movement." Harry realised he must have missed something, but Hermione would obviously fill him in later. She looked a bit concerned, but she mostly did. Ron looked like he was about to either laugh or throw up, which was also pretty usual.

"Here at Hogwarts we respect the cultural allegiances and traditions of many groups. I know you will understand that participating 7th years should conduct negotiations at home. Special leave may be arranged when absolutely necessary, but I must insist that the Rite not be allowed to intrude on your studies, or on the school's spirit of collegiality." The last thing on anyone's mind, Harry thought, as they were once more divided up into houses and set against one another, in the nicest possible way of course, was collegiality. He eyed the Slytherins and fantasised some ritualised duels as the food appeared.

* * *

Apparently the Rites of Engagement were part boring politics and part trashy romance novel. Harry was pretty disappointed.

Ron said, "I heard Dad talking about it because there's a fight at the Ministry I think. Some old wizarding custom no one uses any more."

"Yeah there was something in the Prophet," Dean added, "cause I remember there was duelling. Not to the death or anything. Mostly arranging marriages and such, I think."

Seamus laughed. "Nah it's more job offers and apprenticeships. My Dad's pretty keen and I'm going to get this guide on how to say you you're prepared to compete. I think it sounds wicked."

"Well I've never heard of it." Hermione said in an irritated tone. "When was this supposed to be 'traditional'?"

Hermione was always a dampener on the boys in the Gryffindor common room. All the other girls had some other life, really, where they did things in other places and sometimes wandered through, or flirted, or heaped scorn with a glance. Except Hermione. And there was always something for her to dampen, too. Harry felt ill with a kind of loss. Their last year: exams, goodbyes, and then what? Insert possible Voldemort death clause.

As usual, when Hermione was disparaging something, Seamus felt required to defend it. "My Dad said his grandfather did it. There are like competitions, magical duels and such, and you get points for good grades, Hermione, you should like that. And some families only deal with other families, I think. But anyway, it's really about what you'll do after school. And other people compete to have you work with them, because they think you're great, or you might be and. they bargain with your family for like the best deal and all."

"Seamus Finnegan I don't think you have a clue what you're talking about."

Harry thought she was probably right. But, it didn't sound so bad. A kind of game, a bit like the Tournament but with no one getting hurt and, at the end, a job to go to. "When you get the guide thing Seamus," he said "you'll tell us all about it, right?"

"And Hermione can tell us how it's exploitation of minors or something." Ron never got that Herm would never get jokes about how serious she was.

"Ronald Weasley you are such a child." Hermione twirled off with a not as offended as you might think kind of face, and Ginny followed her with a very similar twirl. Cute.

"Yeah, Ron-ald." Dean sang, "You're such a child."

* * *


Potions first up, first day. And again, first up on the third day. Maybe they're toughening us up or something. But it makes the meal seem extra delicious and way too short. Over the eggs there's a kind of flutter of whispers. Two tables down it seems to be a Slytherin noise. A bit to my right Seamus says "Draco". And there he is. Wearing. something.

"Merlin, look at him!" someone called from down the table. "What is that supposed to be?"

"I reckon it's the Rite costume. Should have known the Malfoys would be all over it. Proper wizarding family stuff." Dean Thomas stuck a sausage in his mouth. "What?"

"Dean?" Lavender asked, "Want to fill us in?"

Only Dean can inhale a sausage like that. "Well. of course I haven't got the book yet or anything."

"Oh," she exclaimed, "I'm waiting for it too. Are they old ones, do you think, or are they making."

"Does anybody actually know anything?" Hermione asked in a long-suffering voice. Padma self-consciously raised her hand. "Draco's robes are part of the Rite?"

"I think so." Everyone looked then.

Draco moved calmly through the Slytherins, who seemed to all need to speak to him, even touching the new robes, though even I could tell he wasn't keen on that. Maybe because he's first again, leading in something. You have to give Draco credit for leadership. I guess. When it's not evil leadership.

The robes are black, but closely fitted in the shoulders, chest. The sleeves are full at the end, flared and then below the hips. I just noticed Malfoy's arse, may my eyes be washed out with soap. Thin green or gold stripes run down the robe and, yeah, he looks pretty. whatever, ok, or good. It's a good outfit, way better than school robes, if kind of showy. But this is Malfoy after all.


Nothing for me, but it's not sad that no one much would write to me here, at least no one I know - and Hermione long ago worked out how to divert the Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World mail to a room in the dungeons somewhere. My friends are here. There's Sirius, when he can. But the first week's mail, full of family things, always makes me ache a little. I look at Dumbledore - who's sort of family here - and find him looking at Malfoy. Can't help an internal snort. He doesn't look that good. Now that's a disgusting thought. Right now he's just a pretty good-looking guy receiving his owls.

"Wow," Seamus and Dean gasp in unison.

* * *

Hermione Granger heard from Karen Hughes of Ravenclaw, in her loud whisper at Hermione's elbow in the library that is so very irritating, that Draco Malfoy is, do you know, the very first, or at least equal to the very first because no one could have been before today which is the very first day - Karen! - to receive an offer under the rites of engagement since the 19th century.

It was no surprise to anyone that Hermione came to the Tower well informed about said rites and equipped with references, "which she said I had to return by Friday because people will be wanting them. And, Ron Weasley, how come you never mentioned any of this. I know I owled you often enough, and I hear all about Quidditch teams and nothing about reviving some major wizarding social order?" There was the barest pause in which Ron could fail to respond. "Ron?"

"I. well, no one," Ron looked around vaguely for support. "It didn't seem important." Hermione's what-were-you-thinking scowl is impossible to ignore. "I know Dad an' Percy said it wouldn't come to anything."

Neville tossed himself into an armchair across the hearth and offered Ron a supportive smile. "There was an article in the Daily Prophet at the beginning of the holidays. I read it to my grandmother. And then lots of letters, and a couple more articles. She was really interested so I read them all. Some people in the Ministry thought reviving this rite where students finishing school had agreements about what they were going to do would, you know, give us security in these trying times. Something like that. Cause we never seem to know if you-know-who is coming back or not." Several concerned faces looked at Harry. "Sorry Harry," Neville added.

The-boy-who-kept-having-to-worry-about-it shrugged and smiled. "It's ok," he said. It really was. "So it's about jobs or apprenticeships, like Seamus said? Why the special dress robes, then? Why the white owls with ribbons?"

"That's not what it sounds like in here," Hermione interjected, pulling one book out from the others in front of her. "Although, there do seem to be contradictions. I think it may have changed a fair bit, but at least the ancient history version is about marriage proposals, or. well. proposals."

"Malfoy's getting married?" Seamus cried. "I think that bit's not used anymore," she replied. "Percy said," Ron struggled to find some certain information that would appease Hermione, "no hang on that was about something else, about Fudge I think."

In the general laughter and confusion, Hermione was clearly both cross and embarrassed, which has never a good sign. "It's clearly meant to be about sex." Which shut everyone up. "Well, as an ancient practice. I mean - like here, see, with the robes and everything."

An engraving of a boy in a more revealing version of Malfoy's outfit, long slits showing his arms and legs. And ribbons in his hair. Ron wasn't the only one to snicker. "Pity he missed the ribbons."

"I've skimmed," she said, and Harry and Ron exchanged amused glances. "It's, well it was, a kind of year long competition for the best, you know, mate, and it starts and ends with a . well. a fertility rite. I haven't read them all, but when it died out I think it was maybe mostly about having a job lined up after school. And your family arranged it for you. I don't think they had the clothes for that version."

Some time later the common room was still talking about Rites of Engagement. Seamus and Ron were happily inventing scenarios for Malfoy's humiliation as his father married him off to Voldemort. Lavender Brown had arrived with the Patil twins, who had been specially fitted for the new robes in Diagon Alley the day before school. They were full of new information about the rites as a coming-of-age ritual, how the robes were your expression of interest but maybe you didn't have to wear them, how they had no idea about the owls with ribbons but they were really neat, and how you could get married or engaged-to-be-married by the end of the year if that's what your parents negotiated for you and. The rest descended into friendly chaos as Hermione railed against arranged marriages, Padma almost surreptitiously showed Lavender pictures of the different robes as she found them, and the boys teased each other about virgin sacrifices and being promised as Fudge's office flunky for the rest of your life.

* * *


In the corridor outside Transfiguration at the end of the first week there is Malfoy holding court with his 7th year Slytherins. I could avoid it, and Ron's pulling me in the direction of the classroom, but there's no way not to be curious.

"Malfoy. Nice dress." Perhaps I should be curious without Ron, though.

"Very mature, Weasley," Draco scoffs. The girls laugh and the guys try on versions of the Draco smirk without pulling it off at all. Maybe Zabini. But it was a stupid thing to say. A Ron and Malfoy thing to say.

"Yeah, well, at least I don't need Daddy's help to get a girl or a job. How's the dress working out for you? Maybe you should try the ribbons, or is your hair actually stuck to your head?"

"Ron. . ." I begin, but he's not listening.

Draco didn't even bristle. "I don't expect you to get it Weasley. I guess your father's trained you to bark at any mention of wizard culture or traditions, and unlike him you're not really an independent thinker, are you?" And did he just compliment Mr Weasley?

I can't stop myself - "Has to be odd being the only one, though."

There was almost a flicker of something at that. "What, Potter?"

"I suppose you'll just insult me if I try to ask who sent you offers." He gives me one arched eyebrow. "I'm just curious."

"I guess there'd be a whole flock of offers for the hero of the wizarding world. You probably won't have to declare your interest anyway, but. . ."

"There's no way Harry's interested in that any of that,' Ron sneers on my behalf. "He doesn't need it."

"Do shut up, Weasley," Blaise laughs. "No one's talking to you."

"Fuck off Zabini." Ron has hold of my arm and it's easier to go, though I really am curious. "C'mon Harry. Transfiguration, remember?"

"Yeah, coming." Half way to the door I can hear Pansy Parkinson sliding up to Malfoy.

"So there's no one you really want yet Draco, is there?" she purrs - or she wants it to be a purr anyway, but I find it strangely annoying. "Cause you know I've been talking to my father. I'm sure you'll be interested in one of tomorrow's owls."

From the door I catch Draco's eye and there's something in his look which isn't just boredom and contempt, and not just the wry amusement he then sends back to Parkinson. "Pansy," he says smoothly, "you know I'm always interested." Something I can't place.

While trying to make Ron taller, and having hardly heard the warnings about how dangerous physical alteration spells can be, I get a flash of Dean's expression of panic as Neville raises his wand nervously and it hits me. Panic.

Ron hits the floor, one leg clearly longer than the other. "God, sorry Ron." Mrs McGonagall was already on her way.

"Mr Potter, concentrate. What did I say?"


"Transfiguration is not an illusion. Even the slightest change to another's body. . ."

Draco was scared. At least nervous. Things are definitely getting interesting.