Series: Minor Arcana. Sequel to "Declaro" (rating R). You really need to read that first, I think. Find it through the author link.

Rating: This chapter PG-13 (probably less). Rating will go up.

Category: Drama/Romance

Pairings: This chapter – elements of SS/DM, HP/DM, SS/HP, HG/RW.

Summary: In Harry's 7th year a wizarding tradition is being revived. It seems to have trapped Snape, Draco and Harry in a strange triangle, but that's only part of the problem. This was initially inspired by Diana Williams' "The Courtship of Harry Potter".

Notes: I think this chapter is rather dull, myself, but people were asking for more plot clarification, so I've given it a go. After I get some plot movement next chapter you'll have to let me know if this one seemed worth it. The next one might take a few days – work looms.

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling.

Archiving: Only where I've agreed.

Feedback/Reviews: Definitely – especially to tell me what works and what doesn't.

Pervinco I: The Rules

Harry stayed in his bed for some time after he awoke, listening to the others gathering in the common room. Eventually, Ron called out to him, and Harry mumbled something about the shower. When the last of them had clomped out of hearing on the stairs, Harry dragged himself to the window. He wasn't surprised that Thetis was there, flicking her head in his direction.

"Come on in, then, I'll get you something." She leapt to the sill, but didn't enter.

"I suppose you're not allowed to be nice to anyone are you?" The bird swung its head away and back to him, almost speculatively.

Harry retrieved some of Hedwig's owl treats, and put them on the sill while he got writing materials. "Here. Eat them or don't eat them. It won't mean you like me."

//Dear Professor Snape// He smiled when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Thetis cautiously select a treat.

//I was very surprised to receive your declaration. I am sincerely flattered, and keenly aware of how much you might have to offer me.

I will of course give this very serious consideration over the forthcoming weeks.//

There you go – I can do ambiguous as well. 'Trying to impress him, Harry?' some little voice asked, and he made a face at it.

How did one sign off to imply 'yes I want it to be you, but you really are a mean bastard and I probably should pick someone else so why am I not going to'?

//Sincerely Yours, Harry Potter//

He fixed the note to the small owl's leg, and was just letting her out as Ron burst into the room, panting. He looked at the bird, who dove out with a flutter of wings, and then at Harry's self-conscious expression. "So it's true then," he said in a shocked tone.

* * *

Harry entered the Great Hall to – not quite silence, but careful observation accompanied by whispering. He crossed to the 7th year end of Gryffindor, and people – didn't quite leave as he arrived, but drew together and avoided meeting his eyes. Ron came in beside him but walked off without a word to Hermione. She clearly made to head his way, but Ron intercepted her and, after a minute or so, she gave Harry a startled look.

Seamus and Dean were stagily engaged in a conversation about Quidditch, and not looking his way. Neville was sitting next to them with a copy of the Prophet and, after a moment's struggle, he looked up, gave Harry a small smile, and passed him the open magazine. Harry noted the other copies along the table, all open at the same page; multiple small Harry Potters turning a startled smile to multiple readers.

//From Draco Malfoy (Hogwarts), Hilary Malkin (London), Severus Snape (Professor, Hogwarts), Genevieve Weasley (Hogwarts), to Harry Potter (Hogwarts).//

Which made it sound almost simple. Photo-Harry smiled his surprised smile next to the headline: //Harry Potter Rite Controversy//. He glanced up, and multiple looks glanced away. He might have read the article, he might have walked away, he might have done something else, he wasn't sure what, but Headmaster Dumbledore cleared his throat.

Harry carefully didn't look anywhere, including the staff table, except at the Headmaster.

"I would like the 7th year students to stay behind this morning for a separate assembly. Other students may go to their first period classes. Have a good morning, all of you." The lower year students moved off, looking around for a clue as to the special event. Harry caught sight of Draco, leaning against the head table's platform near to Slytherin but quite alone. He moved that way, and first the Gryffindors, then the Hufflepuffs, then the Ravenclaws and finally the Slytherins observed him, occasionally catching his eye or saying hello, as if from a distance or as if they hadn't seen him for years. It was painful, and Harry looked at Dumbledore instead, who gave him one of those warm knowing smiles. When he got to the platform, Draco was gone, and before Harry could look elsewhere Hermione practically bowled him over with a hug.

* * *

MILLICENT

"So we were all ushered into the staff common-room, which is very nice by the way," I'm telling Syria Throstle-Morton and her friends, and it's nice to have them so eager to crowd around me – they aren't usually as I'm not Draco's particular friend. Well, not that anyone's quite game to be Draco's particular friend at the moment, until we have a better idea what he's doing and what it will mean. But they're hanging on my words tonight.

"What's it like?" Daphne Clearwater asks.

"No, tell us what Dumbledore said," Syria says, and then they're bickering about what they want to know first, which is quite fun for me.

I clear my throat, and they hush and re-arrange themselves around the 3rd year Slytherin dorm, all expectant.

"It was about the Rite, of course," I say, and they gather in a little closer. To the lower year Slytherin girls the whole thing seems so romantic, all handsome wizards and glamorous witches finding their destiny in battles of wit, power, beauty and wealth. Of course, for us it's not quite like that. Personally, I'm choosing between an internship in International Wizarding Relations and a proposal from Antony Hopwood, who I didn't like when we were ten, and I don't like much more now he can apparate and shave. "Well, the 7th year curriculum is being changed to accommodate it, which means a lot of different things for us in comparison to all of you."

Daphne sighs. "I can't wait to be in 7th year now." They all agree, though Syria's a bit smarter and I think she already sees that it might be more complicated than it seems.

She's the one who asks me directly, sick of the gushing – "So, what's happening?"

"Well, Dumbledore was giving us advice about how we shouldn't forget about the N.E.W.T.s just because of the Rite, and to remember that there were many other ways to find your path in the world. All of that. He also said that Hogwarts will require we have at least two witnesses for our negotiations." They roll their eyes, groan, or flop impatiently about on beds or the floor. They think Dumbledore is such an old fuddy-duddy. Children.

"But parents are keen, and students are interested, so there's nothing they can do except accept it, I expect." They actually giggle at that, and maybe I would rather be talking to Pansy and the others, but she's in such a funk about Draco, and the 7th year girls' dorm is really not a good place to be right now.

"So McGonagall has been made Convenor of the Rite at Hogwarts," I continue. They all pull faces because all Slytherin girls hate McGonagall. "And she gave us the list of changes to our curriculum, and information on parts of the Rite being done here."

"Can you tell us?"

"Yes." They're squealing with delight, and it's foolish, but in a nice way. "Some of it," I lie, because it never does to have them think you're not holding something back.

"We have an extra period on Wednesdays and Thursdays, a special version of DADA, and another on Fridays for a whole new subject called 'Wizarding Society', and which we even have in the staff rooms." I was pretty impressed myself. Andromeda Monk says her cousin at Durmstrang has a special Rite class as well, called Wizarding Bloodlines. They all groan at that, both because Andromeda never shuts up about her cousin at Durmstrang, and because Wizarding Society sounds so much better. How much have we all heard about 'bloodlines' anyway – take my mother. . .

We're past the Declarations and into the stage of gifts, meetings and demonstrations. First, until the Autumn Equinox, we're supposed to reject the people – they're called supplicants (and I swear I think Daphne nearly wet herself at that) – whose declarations we definitely don't want to consider. And the others we accept, but that just means that we go through the gifts and formal meetings part and can't get rid of their declarations till Mid-Winter. It's all about the sun that part, apparently. I've never liked Astronomy. And although Hermione Granger claims she'd never seen any such thing in any book about the Rite, at Halloween there's a festival in London, with magical trials and a big party. Anyway, that's what's set out by the Preservation of Wizarding Culture people, who know more than Hermione Granger about such things I'm sure. But of course McGonagall just smiled at her like she's so clever.

I don't know about the demonstrations, I tell Syria when she asks, but no one seems to, and I tell her that too. Miss I'm So Sophisticated For My Age gives me a look, and I'd love to find a way to remind her that Draco is Gay, and Living in Gryffindor Tower With a Werewolf. Instead, because I'm not a Bulstrode daughter for nothing, I distract them all with the story about the Hufflepuff girls' objection to the Rite and their request not to participate. Granger supported them and said she'd go too, but she's such a hypocrite because she's got three declarations of her own – and even one from a Professor. Syria suggests maybe a Weasley doesn't count, and we all laugh. McGonagall was very understanding, of course, but she actually said it had to be all 7th years, no exceptions.

They're all thanking me. Then Syria starts going on about Granger and Weasley getting caught half undressed in the Astronomy Tower, which I don't believe for a minute because Granger's the most frigid girl in the whole school, so I have to pull out my ace – the blue robes. These are for when you've finished accepting and rejecting, and they're to say I'm available and those of you left are the only ones in the running. This is pretty big news and I spin it out until they're perfectly primed for Pansy's picture. The witch in the photograph spins all the way around and draws her wand to her hip, looking over one shoulder. The robes are really dark blue silk – I think it's silk – with buttons that run diagonally from the shoulder across the chest and then fasten at the waist. They're jostling to see and I tell them Pansy says they're so close-fitting, all over she says, that she doesn't think you'd be able to wear ordinary clothes underneath. There's a collective gasp of excitement, and I have to tell that part several more times.

* * *

HARRY:

Ron's not not talking to me. He's just not talking to me. Sometimes he's kind of quiet, like he's avoiding me even though we're together. Other times he's acting quite normally, just as if he's kind of confused. He hasn't mentioned Snape's declaration, and I'm reluctant to bring it up. Hermione's watching Ron's reaction, and the rest of the house is following his lead in confusion and cautious avoidance. It's making me crazy.

It's Tuesday night, and we're all in the common room early because Quidditch practice was canceled due to rain. It's been raining on and off for days and we're all tired of it. Lavender says she thinks it's an omen, and sneaks a glance at me, but Lavender is hopeless at sneaky so I see it, as does everyone else.

"That's enough!" Hermione's Potions notes topple from my lap onto the floor. "Just stop it, all of you." Everyone looks at me, Hermione looks upset, and Ron looks kind of grim.

"What do you mean, Harry?" Dean says after a pause that's too long to be convincing.

"Snape sent me a declaration. He sent one to Hermione too." Of course I know what the big deal is, but I can't let it go on like this even if it means things are worse.

There's an audible snicker to my left and I know it's Seamus, but I don't want to pick personal fights. Everyone waits for Ron to say something. I'm not sure how he got elected Gryffindor spokesman, exactly, but it's been that way for a while, especially on the subject of Harry Potter. I can feel Hermione's tension too, but it's not like she's been very supportive the last couple of days – she just told me I didn't seem shocked and, when I couldn't think of what to say to that, she remembered an Arithmancy project she should be working on.

"Harry," Ron says eventually, "everyone knows why Snape would ask Hermione to be his apprentice."

"He didn't ask me to be his apprentice," I reply, because although I know where this is going it has to go there.

"So what did he ask you for then?"

There's a wholly tense silence, and I can think of ways to fill it that won't leave me an outsider here. Sorry, leave me looking like more of an outsider here than I always am.

"Hermione?" I turn to her, because she'll want to cut this down to the least possible boy-related stupidity. "What did I do that was so embarrassing at Draco's party?"

She doesn't want to say, I know it, and Ron doesn't want her to say, clearly, but everyone else is dying to know. "Nothing," she says, and I'm surprised she doesn't have the courage. "At least, not at the party." Ron is blushing and looking at the floor. "But after," Hermione looks at her hands, "you were. . . talking about what Professor Snape smelt like." The collective breathing in probably includes me. "And, when we were trying to get you to bed," Ron turns an even deeper red, "you said you'd pay to kiss him – Snape I mean," a titter runs around the room, "just to know what it was like."

"Ah." I say. Everyone waits on me now. "Well, it's a little more juvenile than I'd hoped."

"And that's what he wants from you?" Ron exclaims. I think he's decided there's something to defend me from, which certainly seems to feed the mood in the room. Seamus is already scowling.

"No." God, this is harder than you'd think. These are my friends, and this is what I always knew the story would have to be. I know I'm blushing, and I don't much care because my hands are sweating too and I feel cold and hot at once. "I'm only saying I am interested in him. That way." They don't gasp or titter; they just sit there. On a lightening fast scan I think only Neville and the girls are looking at me. "I promised I wouldn't talk about his declaration," I say in a rush, "because he's very private – and I'm sure he said the same to Hermione," I add, on faith that Snape is as paranoid as I think he is. She nods, which is actually a bit disappointing. "But he hasn't said he's interested in me. I think," knowing this probably breaks my promise not to talk about it, "he's trying to protect me."

It's Ron that immediately says, "From Malfoy, I'll bet."

Suddenly the room is broken up into a buzz over new plots against Harry or over the-boy-who-is-gay or over whatever else is now just as interesting once that's cleared up. Hermione and Ron are clearly expecting something more, and are both looking at me, Ron's head on her knee, her hand in his hair.

I slip out upstairs and figure they'll follow if they really want to talk about it.

* * *

At 4.10pm, the 7th year students begin to file into the new 1st floor DADA rooms, to be met by Professor Lupin. They greet him enthusiastically – even the Slytherins who hate the idea of another Gryffindor on staff find Lupin the Werewolf interesting.

The room is bare polished boards with large windows down one long side and bars along the opposite wall – a platform at one short end and rows of cages at the other. Kind of like ballet studio for sado-masochists, Pansy whispers from behind Hermione, who coughs in a choking sort of way. Pansy laughs and walks over to Zabini.

"As I'll be running the normal Defense against the Dark Arts classes downstairs as well as these extra classes," Lupin continues after the welcomes, "so I've been given an assistant for the rest of the year. You all know Draco, of course."

There is shuffling and murmuring as Draco moves forward and opens a red lacquered cupboard, carefully removing stacks of paper. As Lupin talks about adapting Defense principles for senior students, Draco moves quietly through the class.

Harry hasn't spoken to Draco since dinner with Remus, which can only be because that's what Draco wants. He's partly sure Draco is jealous, though not positive whether that's jealous of Harry or of Snape. The rest of him is kind of. . . worried. Draco looks even paler than usual, and it's very noticeable how the Slytherins are avoiding him. Also, there always seems to be a Professor with him – one happens to pass by after class and walk with him to the next one, or has an urgent message that Draco can carry in the breaks.

He's heard the rumors too. Rumor 1, Draco no longer lives in the dormitories, but in a room of his own off Lupin's quarters. Rumor 2, Draco and Lupin have been lovers since the summer and that's the reason for his rift from his father. Rumor 3, Lucius Malfoy has ordered the death of Lupin and return of his son to Malfoy Manor for a huge reward and Dumbledore is hiding them. Rumor 4, Malfoy has ordered the death of both Lupin and Draco. Rumor 5, Lupin has become a Death Eater and Draco is training him as his father trained him. Feeling marginal to the gossip in his house right now, mostly because so much of it is about him, Harry isn't sure where he stands between 1 and 3, or if he's missed something.

Draco passes him a folio of paper and Harry tried to catch his eye but, without obviously looking away, Draco avoids it. Remus explains that several elements of the Rite involve magical skills and special ways of presenting them, such as the trial planned for Halloween this year. The folios explain how magical skills are part of the Rite, and what kinds of demonstrations and duels – "Duels!" "Yes, Dean, duels." – have been listed by the Ministry in this year's revised protocols.

After a few minutes, Hermione raises her hand.

"Why exactly are there duels and demonstrations? This seems to talk about the history but not about why we would be doing this now."

Padma adds, "Yes, I mean, isn't it a bit primitive, really?" Hermione gices her an appreciative smile. "There are other wizarding talents – like say divination – that can't be displayed in a duel." Hermione withdraws her smile and raises a disdainful eyebrow.

"I think you'll find that's covered in other demonstrations, Padma."

"Oh," she says happily, with a smile at Lavender. "Ok."

* * *

In the second special DADA tutorial, instructions about dueling for the Rite were explained by Remus and modeled by Draco. Draco seemed to be producing the class's written materials as well, because Harry had, to his shame, compared the script in the last folio to a mean note in one of his Potions journals.

He was intrigued by this reticent Draco, who used none of the Charm and the Wit, but all of the Malfoy Cool, to function almost without speaking to anyone in every situation. Draco slid by in his green robes, adjusting wand positions to conform to the Rite's regulations. Seamus muttered something about how stupid it was to only be able to use your wand from this height to that height. Goyle made a suggestive comment about Malfoy's arse as he passed by. Malfoy didn't acknowledge it at all, but Harry noted that Goyle still had his wand completely out-of-line once Draco had passed by.

Harry wanted Draco to talk to him; wanted to know what was happening with his father, and with Remus, without having to go to Remus for the answers. But he would, if he had to. Hadn't they formed some kind of allegiance? Had that all been somehow, obscurely, about Snape? Did Draco know Snape wasn't allowed to declare an interest in him? Did Harry care that he was certain Snape would have preferred Draco to himself?

Probably. Don't know. Yes.

The first practice duel, mainly to ensure they all understood the formalities and style, was between Lupin and Draco. Harry felt oddly nervous as they lined up against one another, and a kind of internal flutter at how coolly Draco positioned himself in the correct manner, wand at a 60 degree angle from just above his right upper thigh, left hand extended. It was. . . he looked great, while everyone else looked ridiculous trying to do the stance. He supposed Remus looked ok too.

At the magical bell, both of them moved, and Draco swiveled and dipped to let a jellylegs curse pass him by as he cast a sleeping curse at Lupin. The werewolf ducked, but it glanced just off his shoulder and he fell. Draco was quickly at his side, and called for water. Students looked around and someone mentioned Madame Pomfrey, but Draco had flourished his wand before anyone actually did anything.

As Draco offered Professor Lupin the water, Snape's voice floated across the large room from the doorway. "Actually, Draco, you could have used Excieo," he said, walking towards them. "Or perhaps Expergefacio," he added with a smile, "if your intentions are a little more precise." Draco gave a small laugh, and a few students blushed or whispered while most, including Harry, just looked on blankly. "You can't rely on water being nearby," Snape finished.

"Of course, but. . ." he looked around, and Harry felt strangely like he had no idea what other things Draco might have been looking at from that position, "this is Hogwarts."

"It is," Snape replied.

* * *

Under his invisibility cloak, carefully pressed to the non-Slytherin-dormitory side of the corridor, Harry watched Pansy Parkinson close Snape's office door, look carefully about her, and very quietly burst into tears. For about thirty seconds. By the time she'd passed Harry she'd stopped, whispered what was probably a cleaning or drying or calming spell – maybe a combination – and turned up the stairs towards the dormitory.

Harry thought he'd never look at her the same way again, and it didn't exactly help him do what he needed to do.

He'd been happy – yes, happy – to see Blaise go up and speak with Draco after the tutorial. He'd wanted to as well, but it clearly wouldn't be welcome. But then, when the other students had filed out, he had stood in the door and watched Snape and Draco speak quietly, as if they were friends and, moreover, equals. It was unreasonably chilling; he was entirely jealous.

He stepped up to the door and waited a moment, listening to the corridors and stairs. No one. He knocked.

As Severus opened the door, he pulled off the cloak.

The Professor's face was impassive. "What do you want, Mr Potter," he said crisply.

"I need to talk to you."

"I specifically said you should not come to my rooms."

"It's important."

Snape opened the door – just. "You have five minutes."

Less than a minute later Harry was furious. ". . .what's going on with Draco?"

"Perhaps you should talk to Mr Malfoy."

"He doesn't want to talk to me, apparently."

"And yet you want me to discuss his personal affairs with you."

"Why is Draco living with Remus? For his protection? Don't you think I need to know?"

"Actually, I can't think of any reason why you need to know."

Harry leant against the door. Against this door, he remembered, and he tried to catch Snape looking away, or any other sign that. . . "You asked me to keep an eye on Draco."

"A suggestion, rather, that you used to your own ends."

"Well, I. . . care what's going on with him," he met Snape's eyes, "I'm sure you know that I do." Snape didn't confirm or deny, which in Snape-ese seemed to mean he had no objection to the statement. "And I just want to know. . ."

"I will not discuss confidences with you that are none of your concern," Snape said sternly, walking towards the door. He kept a significant distance between them, Harry realised. "However, as he has strategically unlearned discretion, undoubtedly the Headmaster will inform you further of his plans regarding Draco's situation at the next meeting of the Order." Snape pointedly opened the door. "Goodnight Mr Potter."

Furious as he was, Harry felt he had no choice but to leave. He stormed, fuming, back towards the tower. He didn't see Millicent Bulstrode coming down for cocoa from Slytherin, but she watched him mutter past with some interest.

* * *

The Friday edition of the Daily Prophet included in the social pages a small story about the appointment of Draco, son of Lucius, Malfoy as assistant at Hogwarts to the Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts, Remus Lupin.

In a smaller sidebar it offered an apology for the omission from the last list of declarations of an offer from Remus Lupin to Draco Malfoy, which had for an unknown reason not been retrieved from the Hall of Record along with the other declarations on the final day. Harry reread that small box two or three times.

As usual, since Tuesday, Draco sat on his own at the furthest end of the Slytherin table – although today Harry saw Blaise pass him Draco rolls without being asked and Pansy offer her copy of the Prophet. As he neared the table Draco clearly stood to leave.

"Malfoy," he said. "Can we talk?"

Goyle chortled, spraying crumbs. "No, he's not talking to you, Potter. Draco's miffed his lover's been stolen away by the boor-who-lived."

Pansy made a hushing noise and Blaise whispered at him to shut the fuck up, but Crabbe laughed and added, loudly, "Yeah and who is Malfoy without his pederasts anyway?"

Draco had been two or three paces away from the table, but he was very quickly leaning over Crabbe's shoulder. "You know," he said in a low pleasant tone, "I suggest you don't let that comment be passed on to either Snape or my father. It might not do you a lot of good." Crabbe paled a little, although Goyle made a derisory noise. "Also, whoever helped you out with the word – because pederast really isn't in your vocabulary – they're making a fool of you Vincent. It's inaccurate, as I'm of age, but it's also not something you should ever be heard saying about a Malfoy. Be a bit more careful, Vincent – I'd hate for people to think Slytherins were idiots."

Crabbe looked at his plate, as if thinking that through, but Goyle laughed loudly.

"You think you're so smart," he said in cheerful nasty voice, "but you won't be able to weasel out of things forever, Dra-co. You're father's coming to see you."

Everyone at the table paused for Draco's response, but he rode out the silence with a thin smile. "Really?" he said. "You shock me. His letter this morning informing me of his visit never would have given it away."

While the Slytherins processed, reprocessed, or gaped at this, Draco walked off towards the outer door, giving Harry only a casual glance. Blaise and Pansy said goodbye. Harry set out to find Remus.