Chapter One: Daphne's Decision
It almost didn't happen. In fact, in quite a few universes it didn't happen at all. Daphne Greengrass never got intrigued by the strange goings-on of Granger and her pals, never had asked around and eventually convinced Bones to tell her what was happening and didn't even wander down to the Hog's Head to see what was going on. In one particularly bizarre universe, Daphne might have even married Goyle.
Those could all still happen, she didn't have to go inside. The thought of everything that could happen, might yet happen and hopefully never would happen — especially Goyle — whirled around Daphne's head like the inside of a well-mixed potion. The Daphne in a million other universes would never have gotten this far, so why not take another step?
Unlike the rest of Hogsmeade, the Hog's Head was anything but inviting. If there was one word that leaped readily to Daphne's mind it was dingy. Instead of the roaring trade of the Three Broomsticks, this pub was practically empty. There were a few patrons who you could tell were regulars by the fact they were starting to become the same entity as the chairs they occupied.
Down the far end though was a crowd of students. Some Daphne recognised. Patil. Bones. Abbott. Others were faces she had just seen in passing, like the Weasley twins. Then there was the boy in the glasses, talking with more presence than he probably realised he had. Harry Potter. Thanks to nobody realising she was there, Daphne was afforded a glimpse at the Boy Who Lived for the first time without wariness. She reckoned this was the first time she had properly seen him where he wasn't scowling at Draco.
Taking a seat slightly away from the group, Daphne listened and watched as this little band of misfits talked. Mostly it was Potter, their soon-to-be teacher nonetheless. Well, if everything he said was true he would be the man for the job. Even if it wasn't, you didn't get through the Triwizard Tournament on luck.
Eventually, there was the talk of what should happen next; where these classes would be, when they would be and so on. Without an idea as such, it was agreed that they would think about it, but that a list of members, of a sort, should be created. When a particularly odious boy, Zacharius Smith, was done mithering over whether to sign his name, the form was passed back to Granger and the little group began to disperse.
Daphne knew better than to walk up to an entire gang of people who might hate her on sight. That said, even when most of the crowd had gone Chang was dawdling with her bag - her friend glaring at her to leave. A sentiment Daphne shared in equal measure as Granger spotted her. The look wasn't so much disdain as more confusion, and then the frown of recognition.
"Can we help you?" The tone was friendly enough, but unlike the two boys Granger had a calm head on her shoulders. Plus, she took almost every elective Daphne had so the two had formed a type of bond. In so far as they didn't hate each other without speaking.
"That really rather depends on if I can join this little club of yours? Is it a club or a class? I wasn't really sure. I mean, it sounds great, whatever it is you end up calling it." Daphne could feel her heart pounding as she spoke, words tumbling out of her mouth. Her mother had always said she talked too much, or not enough. There was no pleasing that woman. Unless your name wasn't Astoria anyway. "I'd like to sign up."
"And you are?" It was nice to see the insults Draco made about Weasley's brain weren't entirely false.
"Interested in joining?" The joke was about as successful as Longbottom in Potions. "And my name is Daphne."
From the other side of the pub, Daphne could see Chang's dawdling had turned into outright staring as she watched the exchange unfold. Much to her friend's ire. Daphne could feel her skin turning pink and fought the urge to look around. It was obvious what Chang was doing and Daphne couldn't but find it a little desperate and rather… well, sad.
"Greengrass," Granger finished for Weasley who still looked nonplussed. Potter on the other hand just looked at her confused, like he knew the name and he couldn't place her. Hardly surprising whenever they shared a class together Draco stole whatever limelight he could, it was like he fed off upsetting Potter who was usually more than happy to rise to the occasion.
"She's a Slytherin."
Only then did both boys' expressions change. Weasley's went, perhaps unsurprisingly, straight through confusion and hit anger in less than a second flat. Potter, well there was a flicker of something, before a barrier of distrust went up around him. It was like she was diseased.
If she was a Hufflepuff she'd never have this issue. She had heard it all before, only evil wizards come from Slytherin, they can't be trusted, and so on. Since when were ambition and resourceful dirty words? That's what they stood for. Never mind the amount of Ministers who had come from Slytherin, or healers and great professionals. No, everyone just looked at the nutjobs and tarred her with the same murdery brush. Over the years it had grown more than a little annoying to say the least.
"Can't help where you're sorted," Daphne said, trying to smile. "Still, I'd like to actually be taught something this year, not sit reading. No offense, Granger."
There was almost the hint of a smile as Granger nodded gravely.
"But you're a Slytherin," Weasley said slowly, like he was just learning how to speak.
"Yes, and you're a Gryffindor. You have Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws too, last time I checked being in Slytherin isn't a crime. We're not all evil witches and wizards, you know." Daphne bit back, a little more sourly than she had intended. "I don't mean — look, all I'm asking for is a chance to show we don't all want to kill everyone. I'm sure there have been rubbish people from all the houses."
"Yeah, but —"
"Does Malfoy know about this?" Potter asked, speaking for the first time.
"Do you think if he did Umbridge wouldn't be down here right now? Though, let's be honest, she could've found out. Or probably will. Here, really? Not to tell you how to be secretive, but I wouldn't think a bunch of students in the Hogs aren't going to go unnoticed."
"Where would you have done it then?" Ron snapped, aggression hiding what no doubt genuine curiosity.
"The Three Broomsticks wouldn't have been a bad idea. They've got a private room upstairs and let's face it students are in there all the time. No one would've batted an eyelid. But that's not really the point, is it? She's going to find out one way or the other. People talk. How do you think I heard about it? Unless…" the piece of parchment Granger had stuffed into her bag coming back to the forefront of Daphne's mind. The two shared a look. Daphne smiled. Clever girl. She had wondered why Granger made them all sign it.
"I'll sign whatever you want me to sign, okay? I'm not going to tell anyone as much as you aren't. Do you really think you're the only ones who are going to judge me for doing this? As soon as Draco and his little friends find out, well, let's just say they won't be too pleased."
"Then why do it at all?"
"Because I'd like to pass my exams, Potter and you're the only way I'm going to."
"What about him?" Daphne asked, suppressing a shiver. She bloody hated that it did that to her, even now, but people just didn't say it. Muggleborns might get away with it but Potter. Well, he was raised by muggles, but still. She'd have thought he'd be the first to avoid it. "I'm not a little Death Eater in training if that's what you're asking."
"So you think he's back, then?"
"Does it really matter?" Daphne asked simply. You only had to look into his eyes to know that it was true, Potter had changed and crucially so had Draco. Lucius Malfoy always had been one of Voldemort's most trusted men and if what Potter had said was true, well, there was no way Malfoy senior hadn't been there.
The thing was, Daphne knew better than to tell them everything too early. Getting them to trust her was one thing, and she might well believe Potter but she wasn't about to pin her colours to his mast either. Something was coming, something big. If the school weren't going to teach her how to defend herself, then she would go to the next best thing. But that was it.
"If you want to join, yeah. I think it does. I'm not going to waste my time on people who think the Prophet's telling the truth about me."
"I don't think you're an attention-seeking prat, if that's what you mean," Daphne said coolly. "Anyone with a brain can see they're just trying to discredit you."
"So you believe me?"
"I didn't say that, did I? I just don't believe everything they say because they say it. I like to think for myself, Potter. It's why I'm here and not bitching about you behind your back like Draco or lying to you and telling you I'm happy to believe that our world might be ending."
Before Potter could open his mouth to object, Daphne spoke again, the bottled-up rage caused by the way Weasley was looking at her starting to spill out.
"Can't we just stop all this rubbish? Houses, rivalries, it's all nonsense and it doesn't matter. When we're out of here, who's going to care where we were sorted, or what lessons we did? We're just people and I just want a chance. That's all. Same as everyone else. I mess it up, or I blab, or whatever, kick me out. Fine. And if you don't want me. Well, I guess that's fine too."
She paused for a minute to let that sink in. Granger was nodding, Weasley still looked outraged but when did he not when talking to anyone wearing green? Potter was more interesting, it was the look of understanding.
"Yeah, right." Weasley scoffed. "Like we'd let you —"
"You're right," said Granger primly, "we shouldn't perpetuate any of this. You've got just as much a right to join up as anybody else."
"But she's a — we're not — she doesn't even believe, Harry!"
"She doesn't believe the Prophet either," Potter pointed out quietly. He surveyed her curiously, like he was really seeing her for the first time and not her badge. Oddly the Sorting Hat's song from the start of term chose that moment to stir in her mind. Unity. Hogwarts had always been divided, long before Daphne had entered its halls. Was this a step towards fixing that? Potter had always hated Slytherins on sight and Weasley, judging by the dirty look he was shooting her way still did. Granger though, she at least had the decency to consider Daphne may not be totally evil. Which, Daphne supposed, was some form of compliment.
"So what's it to be?" Daphne asked, in a bid to attempt to get some form of resolution from this conversation.
"How do we know she's not just going to turn us in?" Weasley asked the others, but not taking his eyes off Daphne as he glowered at her.
"I reckon that little bit of parchment Granger got you all to sign might help," said Daphne helpfully. "Let me guess, it lets you know who snitched should we tell someone who could get us in trouble like Umbridge somehow?"
"Something like that," conceded Granger. The boys goggled at her. Chang, who had been dawdling with her friend was staring at her in disbelief, and her friend looked horrified.
"You did what?" yelled Chang's tagalong, gawking.
"Well I couldn't just take everyone on their word, could I?" Granger asked hotly. "It's not dangerous," she added hastily, seeing the look on the two girls' faces. "Just lets us know that we've been compromised, that's all and who said something."
"I don't want to be part of this, you weasley little —"
"Who are you calling weasel?" Weasley snapped hotly, springing to Granger's defence. Daphne wasn't sure if it was who this girl was attacking that got him so wound up, whether it was left over resentment from Daphne asking to join or even the use of the word 'weasel' that got Weasley so upset. Whatever it was his ears had gone a very bright shade of red and his fists were clenched, one around the handle of his wand.
"Ron, it's fine, I'm sorry Marietta but you've signed —"
"I wouldn't have done if you'd told us what we were signing!" the girl, Marietta, shouted back angrily. "I told you we should never have come here. But no, you had to come see what Potter was doing and now we're cursed, or hexed, or whatever that," she glared at Granger with more hatred than Daphne had seen come from anyone who wasn't her mother in a long time, "bitch has done to us."
"No-one forced you to sign it," said Harry, his voice quiet as if he was trying desperately to keep it under control. "And no-one's forcing you to come."
"I want my name taken off that thing!"
Daphne couldn't stop the snort that followed Marietta's words. The girl rounded on her, going a nasty shade of purple as her glare met Daphne's calm gaze. "Something funny, Greengrass?"
"Nothing. I just thought Ravenclaws were meant to be clever. You really think they're going to take your name off there now you've said all this? The first thing you'll do is go to Umbridge and get this little gang shut down. And then whatever Granger did to that parchment happens and I can't imagine it'll be very nice," Marietta looked like she wanted to explode but Daphne spoke quickly, interrupting another tirade. "But trust me, whatever she's done is nothing compared to what I could do."
The blood that had readily rushed to Marietta's face drained as she looked at Daphne. Sometimes, Daphne hated being in Slytherin but at times like these it came in useful. People invented stories about dark witches and wizards coming from the house of snakes, how they had their own curses and hexes and would do terrible things if you crossed them. Coupled with Malfoy's insistent bullying of anyone came close to insulting the house and well, you had the look Marietta was giving her.
"You… you wouldn't."
"In case you haven't been paying attention I want to join this little group and I am not in the business of putting myself at risk. So, say anything to anyone and you'll be wishing it was just Granger you had to deal with. Do you understand me?"
The room suddenly fell silent as Marietta stared in horror at Daphne. She wasn't the only one, Chang too looked petrified of the young girl. Weasley looked as if he had no idea what had just happened, his fists were still clenched but his mouth hung open. Marietta looked as if she had been petrified then, after a long moment, she turned on her heel and stormed out of the pub. Chang flashed a concerned look at Potter, and then a reproachful one at Daphne before following her friend into the cold air outside. That left Potter, Granger, Daphne and Weasley.
Weasley was the first to break the silence, a grin spreading across his face. Potter was still looking after Chang, a forlorn look on his face that told Daphne Chang hadn't been the only one longing for the other's attention.
"That was bloody brilliant. What are you going to do to her?"
"Haven't the foggiest, people like to think we Slytherins are worse than we are. Dark witches and wizards, remember?" A sheepish look crossed Weasley's face. "Now, where were we? Ah yes, signing your little bit of hexed parchment. Given that I, unlike everyone else, knows what I'm signing up for I think that's enough proof that I'm not going to say anything. Wouldn't you?"
When her question met no objections she gave a half smile. "Excellent." She held out a hand to Granger who silently passed her the roll of parchment and the same quill the others had used to sign it. With a quick flourish Daphne signed her name and passed it back to her.
"You didn't have to do that," Potter said as Daphne walked towards the door.
"No, but I don't like bullies or cowards, Potter. Quia et te ipsum mundo sequentur. Know yourself and the world will follow. It's our family motto. I'm a Greengrass, like it or not, we stand up for what we believe in, even when it might not always be the easy choice." She smiled and turned to go before pausing and looking back at Gryffindor's most famous trio. "Oh and Potter, you can do better than Chang. Let me know when you've decided the meeting is. See you there."
And with that she left the pub quickly, so that none of them could see her face. Her heart was racing. The Daphne they had seen was part of her, but not one she especially liked. It had been her mother in her and she despised it, but it had worked. Make an impression, don't back down. Those lessons had been drilled into her since birth. Hate it all she liked, Daphne knew it had been what she had to do to get what she wanted. Get their trust, get them onside. A show of force was always good, and showing you were willing to pin your colours to the flag, well that was always a sure fire way to spin the wheel of fortune in your direction.
Are you proud now, mum? Daphne found herself wondering as she trudged back towards Hogwarts. No, probably not. But for the first time in her life Daphne had taken that lesson on board, she was doing what she wanted to do and she'd be damned if anyone was going to get in her way.