Harry Potter and the School for Pureblood Wizards
Summary: Five years before Harry Potter ever heard the word "wizard," Voldemort took over Britain and much of western Europe. Perhaps as a cruel joke, Harry still received a letter from Hogwarts, and now must survive school under the thumb of the "prince" of the wizarding world.
Chapter rating: K, I think there's a tiny bit of malexmale attraction if you squint, and there is reference to a malexmale couple, so rated for slightly controversial themes
Pairing: DMxHP with minor SBxRL
Warning: slash, fluff, lemon, power differentials (this story will contain homosexual relationships, so if you don't understand the implications, please refrain from reading).
Type: AU, romance, drama
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, Raincoast Books and others.
Chapter 5, Part A: The Problem with Quidditch
Harry had pinned the card of Albus Dumbledore to the inside of his lower bunk bed. Ron and his roommates had laughed at him, but it was a good-natured sort of ribbing, which made him flush and grin instead of grit his teeth. For that first week, as Draco Malfoy plagued his steps and taunted in his ear, pressing closer than necessary, Harry retreated at night to stare at the moving photograph in the card. It wasn't so bad, he told himself, nobody had touched him once at Hogwarts, and all his bruises had begun to heal.
In fact, if he was honest, he smiled when he thought of a few of his comebacks against Malfoy as well. After the first few days, he'd quickly lost the fear of physical retaliation. The unexpectedness of Malfoy's appearances and antics still frightened him, but it was a slow-building nervousness rather than the initial stark terror. Whatever else the Slytherines did or said, none of them had yet to resort to excessive violence.
Still, Harry had never believed he would meet a boy he hated more than Dudley, but Draco Malfoy, the prat, was climbing remarkably high in his ire. A different kind of hatred, perhaps. But still.
Classes were quickly divided into those shared with Slytherin and those shared with the rest of the school, and despite teachers like Lupin, sharing a class with Malfoy still set Harry's teeth on edge. He found out during the weekend that flying lessons would start Thursday, and that they would be sharing lessons with Slytherins.
"Another class with them. I don't need to give Malfoy more ammunition," Harry grumbled. "He'd never let me live it down if I fall."
"I'd rather," Hermione said. She shook her head. "If I have to hear the word 'mudblood' one more time, I might scream."
"Cheer up," Ron said sympathetically. "Flying's fantastic and you don't know that you'll fall. Malfoy brags about how good he is at Quidditch, but I'll bet that's all talk. Say," he paused, "have I ever told you about the hang-glider I crashed into on my old broom?"
"Only about nine times, Ron," Hermione sighed. "If only you were half so enthusiastic about homework."
The only one who seemed as nervous about flying was Neville, who'd never been on a broom before because of a paranoid grandmother. As Neville had even more accidents than Harry, perhaps this was a sound decision.
Hermione was terrified for a single day, hidden at the back of the library reading through every book she could find, but soon shook off the nerves. Bullying, and Hermione received a lot of bullying, perhaps more than Harry did, gave Hermione a stony complacency which bothered Harry. She readily agreed with Slytherin insults, meeting their eyes with mouth set in a hard line. She dealt with the idea of flying in much the same way. "I'll just practice," she said matter-of-factly. "I'll practice more."
The lesson itself, taught by the strict Madam Hooch, started without fanfare. She had bound her gray hair back tightly enough to give her a perpetually grim expression. "The brooms some of you brought with you have been laid out on the field. We understand that not all of you have the means or channels to acquire a broom. If you did not provide the school with a broom of your own, you'll be given one by the school. You may use this broom for the duration of your school year. You may choose to purchase your brooms at a fair price after the year if you wish, or you may be assigned another next year."
However, when students were instructed to take their pre-assigned places, Harry looked down at his hand and realized he stood next to a wet mop, and a puddle reached out to catch his feet.
"What - " Harry jumped back and glared at Malfoy from across the rows of students.
Malfoy winked and called back, "Brings out the texture of your hair, Potter."
"That little..." Ron growled.
"Ron, don't," Hermione said sharply, but her face was pale. In place of her broomstick, was a mud-stained dishrag.
"What's going on?" Madam Hooch demanded, weaving through the crowd of students towards them.
Malfoy slung his broom over his shoulders, which Harry noticed was a sleek silver thing with jet-black bristles, and approached as well. "I wonder," he said. "Seems as though we've run out of school brooms. Don't worry though, Madam, Potter and I can share." He grinned and dragged out the last word. "I wouldn't mind at all."
"In your dreams, Malfoy," Harry muttered. The older boy flinched, eyes leaving Harry's face for Madam Hooch's.
Madam Hooch was looking at the dishrag at Hermione's feet. Harry thought perhaps she was angry. "Miss Granger, is it? Just so I understand the situation, you're not a pureblood?"
"No," Hermione said, voice adopting that hard edge Harry was beginning to hate.
Without a word, Madam Hooch thrust her own broom at Hermione. "Use this one, Miss Granger. Mr. Potter, come with me."
There were, in fact, other school brooms in the shed. Harry picked one which looked slightly less old, and the twigs did not stick out so prominently.
They arrived back at the field in time to see Neville shoot straight into the sky, goaded on by the whooping calls of the Slytherins. Madam Hooch gave a shout, but it was too late, as Neville slid sideways off his broom and fell.
Harry felt himself gasp, and the broom in his hands vibrated. Before he knew, he was mounted like he'd seen in Hermione's books and Ron's posters over the broom handle.
He'd darted forwards through the crowds, dodging the tail ends of student robes, and was halfway across the field by the time Neville hit the ground. Harry skidded to a halt, panting and heart beating. He looked back at the trail his broom left in the grass, and then back at Neville, who whimpered and cradled his arm. Even the Slytherins were quiet.
Neville's broomstick, still lazily swaying in the clouds above, began to drift towards the forbidden forest.
Madam Hooch was bending over the fallen boy, face white and strained. She tugged at the boy with surprising gentleness. "Fractured wrist," she muttered. "Alright, boy, Mr. Longbottom. Were you provoked?"
The Slytherins nearby howled indignantly, but Madam Hooch silenced them with a look. "Just so we're perfectly clear. I don't care what you students do outside of flying or Quidditch, but I'll tolerate no bullying on my field. It's too dangerous here, and you are all too young to know what you're doing, to have blood on your hands. Leave your bullying before you enter the change rooms. I'm not afraid to suspend anyone." Her yellow hawk eyes went to Malfoy, who simply looked angry. "Anyone."
Parvati Patil, a fellow Griffindor, spoke up slowly in the following silence. "Madam Hooch," she said. "This time, the Slytherins were only laughing among themselves and Neville spooked. At least this time, they didn't do anything."
"This true?" Madam Hooch asked.
Neville, white-faced, nodded.
Madam Hooch deflated. "Then I'm sorry. I overreacted. I've seen... too many... incidents on my field in my lifetime. Five points to Slytherin as an apology. Thank you, Miss Patil, for explaining. Mr. Potter? Help me take the boy to the hospital. The rest of you, put your brooms away for the day. We will reschedule for, perhaps Saturday."
Still clenching the broom, Harry nodded, heartbeat slowing slightly. They supported Neville between them, and entered in through the castle doors again. As soon as they entered, Madam Hooch pointed her wand at Neville and levitated him. Harry glanced between the floating boy, still whimpering, at the flying instructor.
"There is a matter to be discussed," Madam Hooch said.
Up the side steps and around the shifting corridors towards the infirmary. As soon as they were situated inside the sanitary white of the infirmary, Madam Hooch briefly vanished.
"Thanks Harry," Neville said as he was eased into the bed.
"For what?" Harry asked.
"That was an incredible dash. I saw you, even as I was screaming and falling and stuff. I thought you'd actually catch up. But you'd never been on a broom before, right? How did you - "
"That's enough talking, Longbottom." Madam Hooch had apparently fetched Professor McGonagall. "The nurse will see you in a moment and Rolanda, Madam Hooch, will stay with you. Follow me, Potter."
And then Harry was even more confused. Perhaps there was some sort of mistake. Perhaps he'd finally overstepped in his responses to Malfoy and was about to be kicked out. Just as he rode down the adrenalin from observing a friend fall from at least thirty-feet up, he could feel his heart quicken again. He followed the woman through the halls, up another flight of stairs towards a corridor of classrooms. Professor McGonagall stopped before one and rapped smartly on the door.
"Excuse me, Professor Quirrell, I'll need Wood for a moment."
"We're in the middle of class, see. I can hardly..." But even as Professor Quirrell, a man with short cropped hair and overly thin fingers, spoke, his voice trembled. He stopped when he saw Harry. His eyes lingered just slightly too long before he remembered what he wanted to say.
By that time, Wood had already left his seat and was headed for the door. He was a thickly built fifth-year student, who stepped out into the hall with an interestingly mixed expression on his face. He opened his mouth to speak, but Professor McGonagall closed the classroom door and interrupted.
"You asked Madam Hooch to find you another Seeker."
"I... yes, Professor." Wood looked down at his feet.
Professor McGonagall ran a hand through her thick hair, sighing heavily. "She found you someone. Potter, this is Oliver Wood, Captain of the Griffindor Quidditch team."
Harry shook hands with Wood, who squeezed a little too tightly. Harry wasn't sure he could follow the conversation. Wood looked Harry up and down. "He's the build for a Seeker. Small, speedy. He can use What did Madam Hooch say about him?" He paused. "Sorry, Professor, I just..." when he looked up, there was a hard, rough edge to his voice, "I want to beat them. No, I want to flatten them. I want to show them that at least here, they can't always win. I need a full team to do that."
Professor McGonagall closed her eyes slowly and nodded. When she spoke again, her voice was kind, "I understand. Go back to class and I'll speak to Potter about it."
Oliver Wood shook Harry's hand one more time. "I'm asking for a lot," he said. "Please, consider it."
When the fifth-year vanished inside the room, Harry spoke up, "Professor, I don't understand. What did I do?"
"Apparently, Madam Hooch hadn't seen that amount of natural talent in a little while. First time on a broomstick, as we can safely assume, and you darted through a dense crowd in a matter of a split second, didn't even think about it. She thinks you can qualify for the Seeker position on our House Team." Professor McGonagall did not look at Harry through this.
"Oh," Harry said faintly. "Why do you need a new Seeker?"
"Geoffrey Hooper disappeared." Professor McGonagall turned around then, peering sternly over her glasses. "When I say this, I want you to understand my full meaning, Potter. We did well last year, almost beat Slytherin for the cup, and Hooper was good. He disappeared over this last summer and he hasn't been found. His parents were devastated. Here, we protect our students, but as soon as you leave these grounds..." Her voice trailed off.
"We've had our share of threats and letters and harassment. But nothing like this had happened before, and the team was shaken. You're under a lot of fire here, being who you are. I understand if you don't want to take the risk."
"I'll do it." Harry breathed out. "I mean, if I try and I'm good enough. I want to."
Professor McGonagall shook her head. Her expression was unreadable. "I was afraid of that." She smiled then. "Your father would have been proud," she said. "He was... I suppose I'm allowed to tell you this... he was an excellent Quidditch player himself."
If Harry thought he could return to the Griffindor common room without incident, he was wrong. He nearly tripped over Malfoy and down the stairs as soon as he departed from Professor McGonagall.
Malfoy steadied Harry with a hand that squeezed almost too tightly. He didn't let go. "Erm..." Harry swallowed, thrown a little off guard by the fact that Malfoy seemed to be alone. "What are you doing?"
"Not about to be expelled now, are we, Potter?" Malfoy drawled.
"No, not that it's any of your business." Harry pulled his arm back viciously and tried to push past. Malfoy, though, was bigger, and moved to block Harry's path. Standing on the step below, they were eye-to-eye and to Harry's dismay, much too close. Harry backed up a step so he could breathe more easily. "Move, Malfoy."
"Was that an order, Harry?" Malfoy actually laughed. It wasn't the ugly, sneering sound he used when laughing at Neville or Hermione. This one, at least, didn't turn Harry's stomach. Still, Malfoy wasn't good for Harry's digestion. Harry didn't understand the unease in his gut, the chills, or his quickened pulse, whenever Malfoy spoke to him. It wasn't like running away from Dudley, terrified and trying not to cry, but it was the only thing Harry could compare it to.
"Alright, I'll play." Malfoy stepped up, once again moving into Harry's personal space. He leaned in and his voice was low and tense, "make me."
It took every bit of self control Harry had not to shove the older boy down the stairs. "That would make me as horrible as you," Harry spat.
Harry would not forget the expression on Draco Malfoy's face then. There was surprise there, and something Harry quickly dismissed because Malfoy didn't do hurt. The expression was gone so quickly Harry's head reeled. Anger replaced it, as dark as any Uncle Vernon had ever displayed, and Harry reacted instinctively to it, scurrying back several steps. Malfoy's elegant face wore the expression better, almost gracefully, and that scared Harry as much as Uncle Vernon's fist. Static crackled around Malfoy. For the first time, past the pampered princeling impression and the pettiness, Harry could clearly see why Malfoy was called the Dark Lord's heir.
In a move that would haunt him for days, Harry abandoned his Griffindor courage. With the memory of Uncle Vernon fresh in his mind, and every bruise he'd ever gotten aching anew, Harry fled.
Draco Malfoy didn't chase him.
Later on in their warm corner of the common room, Ron and Hermione perfectly represented how Harry felt: conflicted. Except Harry also felt guilt.
"That's so bloody brilliant!" Ron gushed. "Rules have changed a bit, but they still don't let many first years on the team."
"I'm not on the team yet," Harry was hasty to amend. "That's just... they haven't actually seen me fly, and I've not really flown. It's just to try it out. I'm sure if you asked, you could try out for them as well."
"Harry," Hermione tugged at his arm urgently. She hissed, "Hooper's missing. You're not taking this seriously enough. You don't need another bull's eye on your back. Ron too. I know you want to retaliate, but it's not worth your life or your education."
"If I've already got one painted on me, I don't care," Harry shot back. "I'm worried too, Hermione, but you should've seen Oliver Wood. He was so guilty, but he wanted to beat them so badly I could feel it. And I feel the same. I don't want to let them win." He winced. And Harry wanted to be more like Oliver Wood. "I don't want to see you just accept all those insults like that."
Hermione laughed. "Oh come on, Harry. Schoolyard bullying happens in every school. It hardly matters."
"It matters to me!" Harry said. His words were bitter in his mouth. He'd run from Draco Malfoy, a boy half Dudley's size. And it wasn't because he was outnumbered or because Malfoy had even done anything. Harry fled because he was used to it.
Hermione was about to reply, but Ron cut her off.
"I'd do it too," Ron said angrily. "I'll try out, like Harry says. You haven't heard your voice lately, Hermione. It's downright scary. I hate it. You and all the others who aren't purebloods. Being your friend, both of you, and I can't do anything. I can't say anything. Did you know our family was nearly broke before the Dark Lord took over? Mum and Dad would've never been able buy us all brooms, and we wouldn't have our own rooms and stuff. When I was little I used to think it was great, because I remember being poor, but even then I was guilty. I knew where the money was coming from. Sometimes, I worry that I'm just like the rest of them and I..."
Ron took a deep breath. "So er... tryouts are next week, and I'm going to try. Harry'll be there too, and so you should come watch us."
Hermione looked taken aback. She looked away for a moment before grabbing both their hands. "Thanks," she said softly. She continued, uncharacteristically hesitant. "I mean... just... there's more than one kind of courage, right? Being able to look past these things is a sign of maturity, so I thought I could, but I don't think I can anymore. You're right. Did you know? The tactics around Quidditch is quite complex, really. I've been looking over all the old games and I'm impressed."
Harry bit his lips. Ron and Hermione could make him braver. "Would you two like to come pick up Hooper's old broomstick with me? They said I can use that one if I make Seeker, and they're pretty sure I might."
"That," Professor McGonagall stared, "was not Geoffrey Hooper's broomstick."
"Well," Professor Black pretended to consider, "it is. At least I think it is." In his hands, he held a half-unravelled package.
Next to him, Harry could practically feel Ron vibrate with excitement. Even though he knew nothing about broomsticks (though quite a bit about vacuum cleaners, since Aunt Petunia had made him do housework for years), Harry thought the broom looked a notch above most of the brooms outside in the field. Slender and compact, with a sweeping tail of dark twigs flared out at the tips ("For better banking," Ron whispered heatedly). The handle was dark mahogany and the edge of golden-plated words could be seen at the side disappearing into the wrapping.
"It's wrapped," Professor McGonagall said stiffly. "And new."
"It's a customized Nimbus Two Thousand," Professor Black gloated. "A Nighthawk. I'll bet it's a match for anything that Malfoy brat, not to say anything bad against family, of course, can get his grubby paws on."
"Customized," Professor McGonagall repeated. "Black, can I speak to you in private?"
"Minerva," Black said, eyebrows arched pointedly. "It's fine. Here, Harry. Take this and get back before curfew. I'm off to get spanked by the head professor here. She's not my type, but what can I say, she outranks me."
Professor McGonagall flushed deep to her roots. "Black, you incorrigible little - "
Which left Harry with a half-unravelled broom in hand and Ron and Hermione exchanging looks of confusion. Hermione's though, were perhaps a touch more thoughtful than Ron's.
Chapter 5, Part B: Hedwig and Apollo
Every morning, owls rained through the great hall, spewing feathers and letters. During this, Harry would look down at his bowl. Harry had never, in his days at Hogwarts, received a letter: a fact Ron quickly noticed and attempted to remedy by sharing the treats he received from home.
Hermione received letters too, though these were brought by a confused post owl who circled the halls several times because they could not read the muggle postal addresses. They were long expansive letters in neat handwriting, and Hermione, unlike any other first-year Harry knew, wrote back responses which were equally long and often made trips up to the Owlery. That is, until Malfoy tripped her and she sprained her ankle.
Neville's owl was found outside the Owlery one day leashed to a pile of bushes, feathers ragged from pulling at the leash.
Malfoy kept his eagle owl with him, and it often brought him sweets and expensive-looking trinkets, which he gloated over his table. Ron never failed to cast a condescending eye over to the Slytherin table and mutter "git" under his breath.
Twice, a snowy owl dropped into the hall, scattering others around it, and landed by Malfoy. This owl didn't deliver sweets or trinkets, but always a single letter sealed in plain envelope. What struck Harry most about this owl was not that it was white or that it delivered to Malfoy, but the myriad of red cuts and patches along its underside, and the way Malfoy's eagle owl always eyed the newcomer.
Since the encounter at the stairs, Harry hadn't actually run into Malfoy for weeks, but he was still intensely aware of Malfoy's heated gaze on him. It was easier to ignore in classes, distracted as he was by the lectures. At breakfast, Harry couldn't put it out of his mind. And he was sure Malfoy noticed he never got any letters as well.
That day, Harry received his first letter. A small and generically brown postal owl. He didn't recognize the return address or the handwriting, though admittedly he didn't know very many people's handwriting.
At Ron's and Hermione's prompts, Harry slipped it open and promptly felt his eyes water.
The letter was from Molly Weasley.
I hope you remember me from Diagon Alley. I heard you made the Quidditch team as a first year. Ron wouldn't stop boasting about you, though he flunked terribly at his own tryouts, and I'm so proud. And so happy Ron has a friend like you. You're a great influence.
If there's anything you need at all, dear, you'll let us know, won't you? I can't help worrying, things being how they are. At least the teachers are proper. I've included a new batch of banana muffins, and you'll try them or I'll have Ron tell me.
I hope for the best for you, Harry, and please owl me some time.
Harry looked up at Ron, who shrugged and gestured across the table. "Was Hermione's idea, since you'd met mum and all. And she wanted to owl you all along, but wasn't sure if it'd be appropriate. She's so enthused my little sister's affected too. Ginny's talking like she'd met you too."
"Thanks," Harry breathed. "Thanks Hermione."
"I didn't do anything," Hermione smiled, and then frowned. "Malfoy's got the white owl again. Have you noticed how tense he gets after it? He doesn't brag about that second letter like the prat he usually is."
And sure enough, the snowy owl dropped through the air towards Malfoy. Harry noticed its right wing was bloody, and it flapped more frantically.
"Everyone knows Malfoys are cruel," Ron said darkly. "The way they treat their house elves and birds. I feel sorry for that owl."
Harry wanted to point out that Malfoy's eagle owl was the most magnificent bird in the hall and knew it, and that Malfoy doted on the thing. So Malfoy obviously showed favorism. But at that moment, Malfoy dismissed himself from the table and strode angrily through the halls and back out the doors on the other side. The great doors slammed shut.
"What's got his knickers in a knot?" Ron wondered.
"I don't know," Harry said.
Ron snickered. "Think his folks found his stash of boobie magazines?"
"Ron!" Hermione hissed. "You're downright foul!"
Harry dismissed himself early from the meal in order to write a quick response to Mrs. Weasley. He waved off Ron and Hermione's offer to follow, a little self-conscious about the whole affair. He climbed the steep stairs up to the west tower, shivering when the air got steadily colder. They were well into November then, and Harry had begun to wear both sets of his shabby robes at the same time to ward off the chill. His shoes weren't quite adequate for the early snow either. It'd never been so cold at Privet drive, and Harry wasn't sure who he could ask. This, he was pretty sure neither Ron and Hermione had noticed yet.
Perhaps over the winter, during break, he could simply stay in the common room and not venture outside. Sandwiches and refreshments were often brought, so Harry was sure he wouldn't starve.
He stopped when he noticed the door to the Owlery was open. White morning light came in through the long windows beyond.
He heard the high-pitched screaming then. Inhuman, but sharp and desperate. Harry took the remainder of the stairs two at a time, crashing into the doorway.
Malfoy's eagle owl had the injured white owl pinned to the ground, talons tangled and feathers broadly puffed out. Down floated everywhere. The surrounding owls screeched as well.
Malfoy stood next to the door, a thick envelope also in hand. Harry whirled on him, teeth gritted.
"Stop it!" Harry shouted. "Stop it, you git!"
Malfoy looked at Harry, momentarily startled before his expression hardened. "Make me."
Instead, Harry launched himself between the birds. The eagle owl immediately lifted off, talons tightly clutched against its underside. The snowy owl, though, panicked, clawed at Harry through his robes. Harry yelped and released the bird when the talon cut his cheek. The white owl collapsed on the floor of the Owlery a little ways away, still howling.
Malfoy was pale and his fists were clenched. "You think I'm horrible, do you?"
"Aren't you?" Harry countered. He stood, red-faced and angry. "Treating Hermione and the others like that? All the jeers and insults and humiliation. You pushed her down the stairs here. You let your family or whatever hurt that bird. You think you're prince of this school, but people like Ron or Hermione or Seamus or Dean or Parvatti or Oliver Wood, they're better than you! Thinking about it, you are horrible! You've just gotten worse since school started. I hate you more than I've hated anyone, even Dudley!"
"Dudley," Malfoy said. He advanced. This time, Harry held his ground, though it was still a near thing. However, Harry knew he shook visibly and felt a flush of humiliation. Malfoy reached out for the cut on his chin and Harry struck the offending hand down. "And do your little mudblood friends know? How you sissy away like this? Do they know about Dudley?"
"Shut up!" Harry yelled hoarsely. "Shut up! Stop staring at me all the time! Just leave me alone!"
"Stop yelling!" Malfoy finally raised his voice. "You'd think I was trying to kill you!"
"Harry? Draco? I heard raised voices. Are both of you alright?"
They looked up at the concerned face of Professor Lupin. The man stepped into the Owlery and for a moment, just stared at the wounded owl and the tension he could cut with a knife. Malfoy narrowed his eyes, scowling and hiding the envelope in his hands. "It's none of your business, Lupin."
Professor Lupin's eyes snapped to Malfoy for a moment, but his voice remained mild when he spoke. "Draco, Professor Lupin please."
"Harry, are you hurt?" He asked, turning to Harry. Harry shook his head. The professor whispered something low and quiet with a flick of his wand. Behind Harry, the white owl stilled, sleeping. "Why don't you take the bird to Hagrid for me? She can't carry anything in her state. Also, visit the infirmary afterwards so Poppy can take a look at you. I'll check in with you there."
She. Harry hadn't known the owl was female. He nodded numbly and retrieved the owl's limp, heavy body from the damp ground. The blood soaked into his sleeve edges, but whatever spell the professor had used, the cuts were already healing. Harry swayed a little at the top of the stairs. Professor Lupin watched him go, opened his mouth to speak, but decided against it. He sighed when Harry's form disappeared down the stairs.
"You're not going to follow the injured boy," Malfoy sneered. "Is there something I should know about Hogwarts?"
"You ran out of breakfast after the owl and I wondered. Are you alright, Draco?" Professor Lupin looked around at the owls and shuddered at a sudden chill in the tower. He worked his hands into his robe pockets.
"In case you're confused, the head of my house is Professor Snape. I'm none of your business. Now get out of here."
"That was the Dark Lord's owl, wasn't it, Draco? I won't suggest that it's not an important matter, or that you should be disobedient, but there's nothing you can't let your teachers know about. We would keep your secrets, and at least while you are here, your safety."
"What are you suggesting?"
"I'm worried that perhaps the Dark Lord has strict expectations of you, and that you may not know how to balance them. There are different kinds of wizards, Draco, and though I am loathed to admit it, even among those known as dark lords this is so. Gellert Grindelwald was known as a close second to Voldemort, and he was an entirely different sort. "
Malfoy gave a grin that was full of teeth. "Grindelwald is imprisoned. He won't be doing anything for a while."
"Is he," Professor Lupin said mildly. "I suppose it is a mark of our times that I do not know whether that is a good or bad thing. In either case, even as his heir, you do not need to be his clone. You just need to pretend until you are strong enough to make your stand."
"Watch your mouth, Lupin," Malfoy snarled. "You're coming incredibly close to heresy and treachery. We could give you a death curse for this."
If Professor Lupin was moved by the threat, he did not show it. He leaned against an open window of the Owlery and let the snow gather in his old robes. "Whatever I say or do, Draco, the fact that I teach at Hogwarts should tell everyone where my allegiances lie. What I wonder is... what that says about you."
Malfow scowled fiercely and looked as if he wanted to speak but couldn't. Finally, he whirled around to face the wall. "Bloody owl wouldn't be able to carry a letter anyway." He kicked a pile of straw. "And I won't send my own. I'll bloody use a school owl. Now will you get out and let me just bloody owl already?"
"It's a beautiful bird. Healthy and proud. What did you call it that day you threatened to inform your father of your detention? Apollo?"
Malfoy ground his heels into the ground and vehemently decided that Lupin was by far his least favorite teacher at the school.
"You shouldn't have done it, Padfoot."
"Harry deserves something."
"Harry deserves everything, but you know the circumstances right now! You're risking Albus, yourself, and Harry too!"
"And you, Moony."
"Are you as angry as you seem?"
"What gave you that idea?"
"I took precautions, you know? They won't trace it back to me. I've made sure. Bloody Hell, now I'm getting angry. I'd never do that to Albus or you and especially not Harry. I wouldn't put them at risk like that. They'll think that Geoffrey Hooper boy had a Nighthawk all along."
"I opened a fake account anyway, just in case they investigate. And besides - "
"I said fine."
"Are you still angry?"
"I'm... Padfoot! Don't you dare! That's cowardly and unfair and... I am so not chasing you! Come back here! Snuffles! "
"What are you doing here, Black?"
"What did Voldemort want?"
"Get out! This is my wing of the Slytherin dorm! How dare you!"
"Professor Lupin told me what happened. Did Voldemort always owl you so frequently?"
"Professor Lupin, is it? I'd be careful if I were you. You and your sweetheart should be glad his kind joined the right side, or he'd be collared and chained in a cage and sold off to the highest bidder. And you, the way you acted after the war you don't have the means to be the highest bidder. Make me angry, that can change."
"Threaten me again and I'll throw you out the window. Cut the bull. What did Voldemort want?"
"He asked about Potter. Whether he was receiving special treatment."
"You were real quick to owl him back."
"I had to tell the truth about Potter's fancy new broom, didn't I?"
"You jealous little snake! That was Geoffrey Hooper's old broom! How could that be considered special treatment?"
"Is it an old broom? Well then, isn't it lucky I have an eye for brooms and told him the same thing? Nicely polished up though, isn't it? Think they can win just by giving an old broom a shiny new coat of paint?"
"Let me get this straight. You, Malfoy, little sneaky git produced of a much bigger git, told Voldemort it was an old broom but repainted?"
"I complained about it. I'm not an idiot, Black. I don't know what kind of game the staff here and the Dark Lord are playing, but I've been playing the same sort all my life. I really don't feel like being pulled into this new one. Whatever you're doing, leave me out of it."
"Then... I'm glad you feel that way. I'll see myself out."
"Finally. Oh, Black? Why do you have dirt under your nails?"
"Ah this? This you'll find out when you're a bit older, I suppose. Good night, cousin."
It's been more than five years and I've no amount of apologies. I can say though that I've learned a lot, traveled, grown, in the meantime and I've hopefully improved as a writer. For all the wonderful people I've kept waiting, I'm sorry and thank you so much for all the support and interest. I hope someone out there is still interested in reading, because though I cannot say when or in what form, I do intend to finish my stories.
... *Will refrain from a rant about my procrastinating tendencies.