Hello again. I now have my own computer so I'm hoping further updates will be a bit quicker now. Real life still very much getting in the way as I haven't found a new job yet but I'll do my best. Decided to post what I've got up to this point so you don't have to wait any longer – hope you enjoy.
And many thanks for all the reviews, love you all to bits.
A Valuable Ally
'It's got to be Malfoy,' Ron announced at breakfast.
'Malfoy. In the Library. With the notes.'
'Sounds like a twisted game of Cluedo,' Hermione muttered.
Ron stared at her blankly. 'Come on Hermione. Who else calls him Potter?'
'All the Slytherins and anyone else who's annoyed at me,' Harry reminded him.
'And sends him little paper birdies? You know what Harry, sometimes I think Malfoy's got a thing for you.'
Harry choked on his omelette and stared at him.
'Well he's bloody well obsessed with you, he follows you around and what normal guy does origami? He's like some obsessive little stalker or something.'
'No, he's my obsessive little stalker, remember,' Harry said, pointing down the table to Colin, who waved back with a big grin. 'And it wasn't Malfoy with the notes.'
'How can you be so sure?'
'Because he wasn't insulting enough. Not one comment on Hermione's blood or your family, no nasty little nicknames – it wasn't Malfoy. Besides he'd be more likely to come out and lord it over us that he'd heard. He'd threaten to tell not ask for a meeting.'
'Could be a trap. He could've run off to Snape and he'll be waiting in the classroom for us. It'll be the Wizards Duel all over again.'
'Yeah, well, we're not little first years anymore. And we won't just go walking into it this time. We'll take the map, and the cloak. And a couple of things from your brothers.'
Ron brightened. 'So who do you reckon it is then?' he asked as they got up and left the table. 'If it isn't Malfoy?'
'It's got to be a Slytherin. We haven't annoyed anyone else so much they wouldn't use our names.'
'At least not yet,' Hermione said with a small smile.
'Yeah, its early days yet mate. There's still time!' Ron grinned and Harry grinned back.
'I think it's likely it's someone in our year,' put in Hermione. 'They sounded too familiar with all of us to not be.'
'The only problem with that Hermione, is that we're pretty well known. Most of the school's pretty familiar with us!'
'I know, but how many Slytherins know us that well? They sounded like they knew us in a day-to-day sense. That means it has to be someone in our year.'
'Well, we've already ruled out Malfoy, and its way too intelligent to be Crabbe or Goyle.'
'So who was it?'
'I think we can rule out Parkinson, she would've been a lot bitchier.'
'Well, she would be.'
So that leaves Zabini, Nott, and those girls who hang around with Parkinson.'
'Davis and Greengrass,' Hermione put in.
'I don't know anything about any of them,' Ron said. 'Though Zabini's been, I dunno, more around lately? Remember the train?'
'Nott's Dad's a Death Eater.' Harry said. 'Or was, I guess.'
'I don't know enough about the girls to guess but they've always seemed happy enough to go along with Parkinson.'
'So in other words we still don't know.'
'But we soon will,' Harry promised, patting the pocket that held the Marauders Map. 'And whoever they are, we've got a few tricks up our sleeves if they're planning anything.'
They slowed as they reached the History of Magic corridor and Harry pulled out the map.
'Zabini,' he announced. 'And Nott. No one else close.'
'Think they're planning anything?'
'Soon find out.' Harry removed the Wandering Eye from his pocket and tapped it with his wand before setting it on the floor. It rolled silently around the doorframe and into the room.
It was a bit disorientating, having your vision move when you were standing still, but at least it showed that the two Slytherins were sat on a desk near the back of the classroom and giving no sign that they were about to spring a trap. The Eye rolled closer and Harry noticed that both of them had their wands close to hand.
'Ron, the Ears,' he whispered.
Ron took out a pair of Extendable Ears and listened intently for a moment. 'I think they're talking about Arithmancy,' he said, sounding slightly disappointed.
'Alright, everyone under the cloak,' said Harry as he shook it out. Making sure they were all covered they stared to sidle into the room.
Nott and Zabini were in fact, discussing Arithmancy. Harry couldn't understand a word they were saying.
'So do you really think the Gryffindors will show?' Nott asked suddenly.
'We are talking about Potter and his friends, Theo. They'll show.'
Nott grunted and Zabini checked his watch.
'In fact, they should be here any moment. Weasley must've had enough time to finish his breakfast by now.'
'Do you really think they're going to listen?'
'Oh they'll listen,' Zabini drawled. 'Whether or not they'll believe me is another matter.'
Harry decided they'd heard enough and whipped off the cloak, startling Nott, who swore viciously. Zabini simply raised an eyebrow at them.
'Ah, you made it,' he said urbanely. 'Please, take a seat.' He waived a languid hand at the desks in front of him. Hermione put out a hand to stop them and cast a quick charm over the area.
'No spells,' she announced.
Zabini gave her an almost respectful nod. 'Been reading ahead in Enchantment, Granger?'
She gave him a sharp look, reminiscent of Professor McGonagall. 'Yes. And so must you if you recognised it.'
'Indeed,' he smiled. 'Now do sit down, you too Theo, they're not going to bite.'
They lowered themselves onto the desks warily.
'So which of you sent the notes,' Hermione asked.
'That would be me,' Zabini replied.
'I wanted to get your attention.'
'Well, you've got it. So what do you want?'
'Ah Gryffindors, 'Zabini smiled at Nott. 'So wonderfully blunt.'
Harry held his impatience in check.
'Theo, the doors.'
Three wands were instantly trained on him.
Zabini, still sat on his desk, heaved a deep sigh. 'I would really rather not have this conversation become common knowledge. If you don't trust Theo to do it, perhaps Granger could shut the door and cast a Silencing Spell?'
She looked at Harry, who nodded, and made her way over to the doors. Nott sat back down and Harry and Ron both lowered their wands. Zabini waited until Hermione had rejoined them before he spoke.
'I have a proposition for you. I,' he glanced at Nott, who scowled but nodded slightly. Zabini smiled. 'We would like to join this little Defence Club of yours.'
'You what?' Ron exclaimed.
'You went to all this trouble just to ask that?' Hermione questioned.
Harry gave them an insincere smile. 'Your own Head of House has banned us from running that little Defence Club. Besides, we only started it because Umbridge was such a crap teacher – we shouldn't need it now, should we? Or are you saying Snape's not up to the job?'
'Oh, I'm not saying that Snape can't teach. What I'm saying is that if you disobeyed a High Inquisitor then I don't see why you'd hesitate over a mere Head of House.'
'And why would we trust you not to run off and tell Snape?'
'I wouldn't expect 'trust' Potter. I'd expect you to take precautions. Maybe Granger can charm you another parchment?'
'So sorry Zabini, we just don't have any openings for you.'
Zabini raised his hands and applauded sarcastically. 'Oh Bravo, Potter, that practically dripped insincerity.'
'We're leaving,' Harry snapped, pushing up from the desk.
'I told you he wouldn't listen,' Nott growled. 'Let the Dark Lord kill him for all I care. We don't need him.'
The Gryffindors paused on their way to the door and span around. Ron raised his wand but it flew from his hands. The Slytherins were on their feet, wands trained on the Gryffindors. Harry and Hermione raised their wands in return.
'I told you it was some sort of trap,' grumbled Ron, rubbing at his wand hand.
All traces of the languid and relaxed Zabini were gone, replaced by a steely-eyed glare.
'It's not a trap, Weasley,' he snapped out. 'We're not planning on ratting you out to Snape, selling our story to the tabloids or whispering it in the Dark Lords ear. We're not here to spy, or spread rumours, or capture you and deliver you to the Death Eaters. We're not here to do any of what you're probably imagining. '
'Then why are you here,' Hermione demanded hotly. 'If you wanted a Defence Club so badly you could start your own. Why the DA? You must want something out of it!'
Zabinis eyes never left Harrys. 'You're right. We don't just want the DA...'
'I told you,' Ron began.
'We're offering an Alliance.'
'Explain,' Harry rapped out.
'You're going to continue the DA one way or another, Potter, everyone in the school knows that. You're going to go up against the Dark Lord again too, everyone in the Wizarding World knows that. We want in.'
'You're planning to follow Harry?' Ron said in disbelief.
'No bloody way,' spat Nott. 'We don't follow.'
Zabini's eyes still hadn't left Harry's.
'We don't follow anyone Potter. Not you, not Dumbledore and not the Dark Lord. But we are offering to help.'
'At wand point,' Hermione said tartly.
'Well you weren't exactly listening when we were being reasonable now were you?'
'And why would we want your help? You were in the Inquisitorial Squad! And his Dad's a Death Eater!'
'Was,' Nott ground out. 'Was a Death Eater. You've met him Potter, I know you have. You think he was great father material? Think I want to hurt you because my darling daddy's croaked? Think again. He was a bastard, Potter. And I'm glad he's dead.'
Hermione gasped and Ron and Harry gaped at him.
'Ever wondered what it's like living with a Death Eater, Potter? It's hell. And I spent 17 years of my life in it. You want the Death Eaters dead? Fine by me. The Dark Lord dead? Great. But if you think you're going to get it with a couple of hexes and an Expelliarmus then you're the one who's going to end up dead.'
'It's really very simple,' Zabini said. 'We can help you defeat the Dark Lord or you can walk away. Your choice.'
Harry didn't know why but as he stared into Zabini's eyes his annoyance slowly faded. He lowered his wand slightly.
'All right, he said grudgingly. 'I'm listening.'
The five of them warily lowered themselves back into their seats.
'Potter, no offence meant but its sheer luck that's gotten you this far against the Dark Lord. You're a Gryffindor, all the people you actually listen to are Gryffindors – the Dark Lord isn't.'
'Your point being?'
'The Dark Lord is a Slytherin, Potter. He thinks like a Slytherin - you don't. You need someone who understands the way his mind works, and you're not going to find that in a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff.'
'That's not an answer.'
Zabini sighed. 'Slytherins are demonised enough in this school, Potter. What do you thinks going to happen when you defeat someone who goes around calling himself the 'Heir of Slytherin,' especially with someone like Fudge in charge?'
Nott grunted. 'It's already started. You've seen the legislation on Werewolves and Vampires. Next there'll be a Slytherin Registry. Branded dangers to public security at 11.'
Hermione looked concerned. 'He has a point Harry. I mean, everyone always says it's the Slytherins that go dark. '
The Slytherins in question snorted.
'We're not the only ones who go Dark, Granger. We're just better publicised.'
'So you're what, joining us to prove that Slytherins can be light too?' Ron said scornfully.
Nott bared his teeth in something a little too fierce to be called a smile. 'Oh we're not Light, Weasley, not by a long shot.'
The tension level in the room rose and Harry's hand tightened on his wand. Zabini laid a hand on Notts arm in warning.
'Would you say that Professor Lupin is evil? Or Hagrid?'
'Of course not!'
'So you trust them then? Despite the fact that they're both Dark Creatures?'
The Gryffindors fell silent.
'Maybe you should trust Fudge instead. Or Umbridge. They're not Dark Creatures. They aren't even Slytherins. Surely they must be light enough for you? No? Siding with the Light doesn't make you a good person, Potter, and Dark isn't necessarily evil.'
'We're Dark, and that isn't going to change. But why not take advantage of it?'
'What do you mean?'
Zabini leant forward. 'We can go where you can't, hear what you can't, get what you can't. We have the contacts, and the skills, and the knowledge that you don't. You may have brains and bravery and loyalty on your side but you don't have subtlety and you don't have cunning. And you're going to need them.'
Nott sneered at them. 'We're not trying to turn you to the Dark so don't try to turn us light and we'll get along...fine.'
'There's still the matter of trust,' Hermione said primly.
Zabini switched his attention to her. 'Look at it this way, Granger. I want in but it's up to you how far. If you don't trust me then don't tell me your secrets, it's that simple. If you don't let us in then we can't help you and none of us have gained anything out of this little meeting. If you let me in, keep your secrets and it turns out I'm not to be trusted then what have you lost? Nothing, but you'll still have had everything I can teach you so you'll at least have gotten something out of the deal. And if I can be trusted,' he paused. 'Well, you'll have a very valuable alliance on top of everything else. So what have you got to lose?'
It was Harrys turn to lean forward and catch the Slytherins attention. He hadn't grown up having to endure Uncle Vernon's long-winded tales of his triumphs in the world of drills to not notice what hadn't been said.
'So what's in it for you? Personally? What do you get out of it?'
Zabini smirked slightly. 'Well that really depends on whether or not you win this war, doesn't it? I'm hoping for a dead Dark Lord, recognition that all Slytherins are not inherently evil, power, the usual sort of things.'
'Revenge,' put in Nott, and Zabini nodded in agreement.
'Against who?' asked Ron.
'The Death Eaters, the Dark Lord...'
'For someone who claims to be Dark you've sure got it in for them.'
'They're not Dark,' spat Nott, fists clenching.
'You've fallen into the same trap most of the Wizarding World is in. The Ministry's too quick to label anything they don't agree with Dark. And if it's dark then it must be Evil, but the world just isn't that black and white. The Dark Lord? Definitely Evil. Death Eaters? Fairly Evil, most of them. Some of them are just stupid. The Dark Arts? They're just Dark.'
There was an uncomfortable silence.
'You mentioned power. What sort of power?'
'You win this Potter, and everyone who stood by you is going to be famous. And there is power in that. Power to make a few changes to the Wizarding World. I want that chance.'
Zabinis voice was fervent. Harry slowly nodded.
'Alright,' he said hesitantly. 'We'll give you a chance. There's a DA meeting tonight, you can come to that.'
'When and where?'
'Nine, in the Chamber of Secrets.'
Ron exploded almost as soon as they left the room. 'Are you mad, Harry? What were you thinking?'
Harry waved him to silence until they were well clear of the room where the two Slytherins remained. Ron glowered.
'Hermione, there's no spells on us? Or any chance they're listening?'
She shook her head.
'Zabinis got a point Ron, we're not Slytherins and we don't think like Slytherins. And maybe if I hadn't been such a Gryffindor then Sirius wouldn't be dead.'
It was the first time since it happened that Harry had voluntarily brought up his godfathers name to them.
'Oh Harry,' Hermione said sympathetically. 'It wasn't your fault – you can't blame yourself.'
'If I hadn't decided to be all noble and protect Sirius I'd've opened his present. He told me I could contact him with it but I thought it was too dangerous so I never even opened it. Just threw it inside my trunk and forgot about it. It was a 2-way mirror, Hermione! I could've used it instead of the fire, then I'd've known he was ok, that the vision was wrong. And what did he think when I didn't use it? The last months of his life and I ignored him. He was stuck in that bloody place and I never...' his voice broke.
Hermione hugged him hard.
'Harry, mate, you don't know that,' Ron said gently, freckled face unusually serious. 'You spoke to him in the fire, he knew you cared. And you've forgotten about Kreacher. If he was smart enough to injure Buckbeak to get Sirius out of the way don't you reckon he'd've done something with the mirror? He must've known about it, he was always there, sneaking and listening. And if you'd used the mirror and it was broken or he didn't answer what would you've done?'
Harry had never really thought about it like that before.
'I'd've rushed off to the Ministry again,' he said slowly.
Hermione hugged him even harder. 'You can't second-guess the past Harry.'
'But it was still the wrong choice! If I'd known it was just a trick then I'd never've gone!'
'And Voldemort would have the Prophecy.'
'It had both your names on it Harry. He appeared in the Ministry himself, he could have just walked in and taken it. If we hadn't been there to fight them would anyone even have noticed?'
'They'd still be calling you a nutcase, mate. Fudge'd still be in Malfoys pocket, no one would believe Voldemort was back, or about who the Death Eaters are. You'd still be that crazy, attention-seeking show-off with the scar and the Ministry'd still be out to get you.'
'Dumbledore would still be in trouble for supporting you, Umbridge might still be Headmistress – we might even have been expelled by now!'
'You don't know that.'
Ron took him by the shoulders and shook him gently. 'And neither do you mate. No one knows what would've happened, not for sure. But it could've happened.'
They continued walking down the corridor.
'And Merlin knows what was in that Prophecy but he wanted it pretty badly.'
'It must have been important considering the risks he was taking to get it. It's just a shame we didn't save it. It might have helped.'
'Well, we'll never know now.'
Ron and Hermione turned to look at Harry, who had stopped dead. It was time, he decided, past time really. He should've told them before but it was just too raw, too much to even think about.
'Harry?' Hermione asked as she walked back to him.
He sighed. 'Um, well,' he ducked his head and coughed nervously. 'That's not...well,' he paused a moment, remembering the seemingly deserted library, and raised his wand.
'What was that?' Hermione asked. 'I've never even heard of that spell.'
'It's, uh, to stop people eavesdropping. It's in the Marauder book.' Harry had to admit that despite all the work they'd done together over the summer he had rather jealously guarded that particular gift.
'Cool.' Ron sounded impressed. 'Can you teach me?'
'Of course I will, but that's not the point.'
'Then what is?'
'The Prophecy. It, well, it wasn't exactly lost.'
'What do you mean? You saw it smash. It was too noisy to hear it.'
Harry sighed deeply, steeling himself, and let out a shuddering breath. 'Trelawney made the prophecy...'
'And she made it to Dumbledore.'
'So the Headmaster...' Hermione almost whispered.
'Knows what the prophecy said,' Ron finished softly.
'And so do I.'
'But when – why?' Hermione spluttered.
'What does it say,' Ron demanded.
'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. ..the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.'
He watched the shock spread over his friends faces as comprehension sank in.
'Oh, Harry,' Hermione murmured, stricken.
Ron's face looked far older than his 16 years as he met his best friends' eyes. 'It's always you isn't it mate. So, is this the reason, with Zabini?'
'Part of it,' Harry admitted. 'Voldemort's going to keep coming until one of us is dead and I'm going to need every advantage I can get if it's not going to be me.'
'Well you've got us,' said Ron.
'And we'll be with you every step of the way,' Hermione added.
'It's going to be dangerous,' Harry warned.
'Since when has that ever stopped us,' Hermione said softly.
Ron struck a dramatic pose in the middle of the corridor.
'Danger? Ha! Danger is my middle name!'
'It's just so unfortunate you're first name's 'In,'' Hermione sighed.
Harry laughed. He'd been dreading telling them he was destined to either kill or be killed, dreading how they would react. The burden just didn't seem quite so heavy know that it was out.
'So, any other secrets you've been keeping from us? Anything else you just 'forgot' to mention,' Ron joked.
'Ah, well, now that you mention it...'
They turned wide eyes on him, visibly bracing themselves for whatever it was.
'Did I tell you Sirius gave me his motorbike?'
Would have continued but that seemed like a good place to stop & I didn't want to leave you waiting any longer. Let me know what you thought. Next chapter has the actual DA meeting.
Oh, and thanks to those reviewers who advised ways to make the fic better & easier to read. You may have noticed I took some of that advice. You know who you are. :)