TRUTH IS IN THE BLOOD
"Hermione," Neville said after entering the Room of Requirement and taking a seat on the couch next to Ginny, "Why are we here?"
A surprised expression came onto her face, "Why are you asking me? I didn't plan this meeting."
"Luna? Ginny?" Harry asked looking at each girl in question. They both shook their heads. "Well, I know I didn't ask for everyone to meet and I'm guessing that Neville didn't either since he just asked Hermione why we were here," Harry said, causing Neville to nod his head, "so, that must mean-"
"Me." Ron said, as he entered the magical room.
"Ron?" they all questioned together.
"Yeah, well, I spent most of the weekend thinking about the situation with the Snakes and-"
"Ron, they're not-"
"Just listen. Please," he pleaded, causing Harry to nod in reluctant agreement. "Good," Ron said with a decisive nod. "Snape said that if you already had plans for lunch or were with someone when the Slytherins asked again, it would be okay to ask if that person could join you," Ron stated in triumphant, looking eagerly at Harry and the others.
"Yeah," Harry said when his best friend fell silent and looked at him as if waiting for a response. "And?" he continued, dragging the word out when Ron still remained silent.
"Don't you see? That's the plan."
"What plan?" Hermione asked. "All you did was reiterate what Professor Snape told Harry."
Ron sighed as he paced, "Don't you get it? All we have to do is make sure that a) either Harry has plans with people for lunch every day or b) that he's never alone long enough for a Slytherin to ask him to join them."
"Now, obviously, you'll need a bit more planning than just 'joining the Gryffindors for lunch'," he announced as he continued to pace around the room. "So it'll have to be definite lunch plans like with a girl or something. I'm sure Luna would help us out there. Ginny and Hermione are out of the question though."
"Hey!" the two girls protested.
"Well, really now," Ron began to explain as he turned to look at them, "How could Harry have a lunch date with my or Neville's girlfriends? Maybe we can ask some of the other girls from the DA to help. Girls that are good with their wand," he continued, "Because let's face it, even if the Slytherins decide not to poison you, they will definitely hex you."
"As for being alone, well, it won't have to be an all the time type of thing," he said, not looking at Harry. "We know how much that bothered you last year. But at least walking with someone to the Great Hall for lunch and perhaps to classes, though we pretty much do that anyways. Last time they asked you when you entered the Great Hall alone for lunch, so I suspect that that would be what they would do again. An-"
"Ron, no." Harry finally rushed out. "I promise that I'll be on my guard when I do eat there, but I won't involve anyone else in some false romance so they can pose as my body guard. It's not fair to them or me. Especially if the Prophet or Voldemort finds out about it."
"Which?" Ron asked, "The romance or the fact that it's fake?"
Harry rolled his eyes, "Does it matter? Either way it doesn't add up to a good situation. As a romance, she'll be hunted by both Voldemort and Skeeter, and if used by me as a body guard," Harry stopped to shudder, "I can just imagine Skeeter's take on that."
"Voldemort or Skeeter can't do much if we used a bunch of different girls for you to 'date'."
"Ron, no." Harry repeated. "First, Skeeter would announce me as 'the boy-who-played- the-field' or some such rubbish, and Voldemort would just have more targets. Plus there's what you just said. Use. I will not use anyone like that, especially if they don't know the truth."
"Well then, you can use Lun-"
"Ron, stop," Hermione interrupted, noticing that Harry was now clenching his fists. "Harry's right. First, he doesn't need the protection; Second, it's not fair to anyone; and third, he doesn't want to do it. I'm sure he's thankful that you are thinking of ways to protect and help him, but-"
"But what? He doesn't need it?" Ron snapped.
"He doesn't." Luna said, "And more importantly, he doesn't want it. Oh, he wants your help and friendship, but he doesn't want any help that would use others or make him feel like he's caged in. And I don't blame him for that."
"I'm just trying to make sure he's safe," Ron argued.
"He's in the room," Harry said before anyone else could reply to Ron's comment. "And I appreciate the fact that you want me to be safe, but again, I don't see the danger in having lunch with the Slytherins at least once. They're not exactly subtle," Harry said with a grin, "So I can't imagine them trying to pull something with Dumbledore or Snape present.
"And I really don't want to use anybody like that, whether they know the truth or not, okay?"
"Fine," Ron reluctantly agreed, "but how about the second half of the plan?" he asked. "You know, where you don't walk to the Great Hall alone?"
Harry sighed, "Fine, considering we usually all leave class together and walk to the Great Hall anyways, we can do that," he stated, making Ron happy. "But if something happens and no one is with me, I will walk on my own. I'm not going to spend time looking for someone to walk me into the Great Hall."
"Fine, fine," Ron said in a pleased tone. "After all," he continued with a shrug of his shoulders, "what could happen?"
"HA!" Ron shouted in glee two days later when the six met in the Room of Requirement to practice various defense strategies. "Those slimy snakes are nothing but cowards! They didn't dare approach you when we were with you."
"Maybe they just didn't want to ask him to join them for lunch today or yesterday," Ginny said sweetly.
Ron thought about that for a moment before shaking his head. "Nah, they were just intimidated by me and my plan."
Harry just laughed at Ron and shook his head. "Well, in a way, I can't blame them."
"What?" Hermione said in shock.
"Oh, I don't think they were intimidated by Ron or his plan, but they probably knew that if they asked at the time, I would ask if you guys could join me and I sincerely doubt they would have enough room for all six of us. They definitely wouldn't have enough food," he said with a laugh. "Not with Crabbe, Goyle, and Ron at the same table."
"HEY!" Ron shouted, while the others laughed.
"Seriously, though," Harry said after they all calmed down, "I hope they're not too intimidated. I would like to join them for lunch, I think."
"What? Why?" Ron shouted.
"To give them a chance. I doubt that all Slytherins are like Malfoy."
Hermione nodded in agreement, "I'm sure that that is true."
"You too?" Ron muttered. "Why would you bother giving them a chance? Merlin knows they never gave you one."
"Oh, so you want me to be like them?" Hermione snapped. "Bigoted and prejudiced against them because of how one member of their house acts? Do you want everyone to judge you based on what they know about the twins or perhaps Percy?"
"Guys, stop," Harry interrupted, not wanting his best friends to get in a fight because of something he said. "I don't know why we're talking about this anyway. For all we know, they might not ask again."
"Harry?" Hermione said, as she approached the quiet brunette sitting alone in the common room later that night. "Do you really think that they might not ask again?"
"No, they'll ask," Harry replied firmly. "I'm not sure what their motives for having me join them are, but either way, they won't give up or give in. They'll find some way to get me alone and ask me."
Hermione nodded as the two fell silent for a moment. "Did you mean what you said, about wanting to join them?"
Harry shrugged, "Yeah."
"Why?" She asked, "And don't just say to give them a chance."
Harry looked at her briefly before turning back to stare at the wall. "I guess to show Snape that I'm not how he thought I was. That I'm not biased against Slytherins. After all, if any other house had made that offer, I would've taken it without second thought."
"Oh, Harry," Hermione said, her voice filled with understanding.
"Potter, stay," Snape called after dismissing the class Wednesday morning.
Harry watched as Hermione gathered her book bag and nodded her head towards the door to indicate that she could wait for him if she wanted. With a shake of his head, she nodded and left with the rest of their classmates.
"You wanted to see me, sir?" Harry asked after everyone left and Snape remained silent.
"I noticed that you have not joined the Slytherins for lunch yet."
"They haven't asked again," Harry replied defensively.
Severus raised an eyebrow, "And why would they ask when you constantly surround yourself with Weasley and other Gryffindors?"
"Luna's a Ravenclaw."
Severus just stared at his son.
"Fine. I know," Harry muttered, "But Ron's convinced that they will poison me or attack me, and while I don't agree with him, you do have to admit that their motives are somewhat suspect. It could be something as innocent as trying to get on your good side or wanting me to interpret a conversation with someone's pet snake, but either way, it's not just due to the goodness of their hearts. Not that they're not good or don't have hearts," Harry rushed to explain when Snape scowled.
"Any way, it's not like my friends and I are doing anything that much different than we normally do. We usually walk to classes and to the Great Hall together."
"Really now," Severus said skeptically, before falling silent and looking at Harry.
"Okay, so maybe we don't walk as close as we have been," Harry admitted, "But at least this is better than Ron's other plan."
"Should have known it was a plan of Weasley's," Severus snorted. "And what was his other plan?"
"You don't want to know," Harry commented, continuing when Snape just stared at him, "Trust me, it involves something you don't want to discuss with me," Harry said somewhat honestly, "And even more importantly, I don't want to tell you."
"Very well," Snape said, dropping the subject.
"Hermione!" Ron said, as his girlfriend sat down next to him, his voice filled with concern, "Where's Harry?"
"Professor Snape asked him to stay after potions class," she replied, as she started to place food on her plate.
"You left him alone," he angrily hissed.
"He's a big boy," she replied, "I'm sure he can take care of himself."
"This is just the type of moment the Slytherins have been probably been waiting for," Ron speculated, "Harry alone, all by himself."
"That's usually what alone means," Ginny added in amusement.
Ron glared at her before continuing, "And since there were Slytherins in class with you, they are probably waiting for Harry, ready to pounce like a lion would on its prey."
"They're Slytherins, not Gryffindors," Ginny noted.
"Thank you," Ron said gleefully, "That's my point!"
His sister shook her head at him in disbelief, "I meant that Gryffindors, lions, pounce. Slytherins are snakes, not really known for pouncing."
"Maybe," Luna said, waving around a piece of celery, "he was referring to the leonessa. "It's a rare type of snake that roars and pounces, much like a lion."
"Whatever," Ron said, dismissing both Ginny's and Luna's words, "Either way, he will probably walk in any moment now and will be forced to eat with the Slytherins, since you," he paused a moment to glare at his girlfriend, "didn't stick with the plan and they," he glanced over towards the table of snakes, "took advantage of it. Any minute now," he repeated, causing the five friends to turn and look at the door
"Or," Ginny said with a smirk, "This was all planned. After all, Snape, Professor Snape," she corrected when Hermione opened her mouth, "is a Slytherin as well."
"Oh, Hermione, why did you leave him alone?" Ron muttered as he lowered his face into his hands.
"Honestly, Ron, it's not the end of the world. Besides," she said with a smile, "Maybe he'll just stay and have lunch with Professor Snape."
"And that would be a good thing?" Ron asked. "At least if he was in the Great Hall we could keep an eye on him, but alone? In the dungeons with just Snape?"
Ginny smiled and laughed at her brother as she joked, "And apparently we do need to work on the definition of alone."
"Potter," Millicent said as Harry approached the Great Hall, a couple of Slytherins behind her.
"Millicent, Blaise, Daphne," Harry replied in turn, waiting for the invitation he knew was coming.
"Perhaps you could join us for lunch tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow?" Harry repeated in surprise.
"Yes, you know, the day after today."
Harry scowled, "I know what tomorrow is," he snapped.
"Then I'll assume you also know what lunch is," Millicent replied with a grin.
"The midday meal-" Blaise began with a smirk when Harry remained silent.
"Yes, I know, thank you," Harry interrupted.
"Well, then? Will you join us?"
"Yes, of course," Harry said as they approached the Great Hall doors.
"Good," the three Slytherins said in unison.
"We'll meet you right here tomorrow, then." Millicent stated before the three friends headed to their table.
"Harry!" Ron shouted in glee when Harry sat down next to him. "You're here!"
"Hi, Ron, good to see you to," the black-haired boy said in bewilderment.
Neville snickered, "He was afraid that the Slytherins would corner you and drag you to their lair."
"Den," Luna corrected. "Snakes have dens, not lairs. though it is sometimes called a nest as well," she added.
"Actually," Ginny smirked, "I think he was more afraid that you were going to stay and eat with Snape. You should have heard him yell at Hermione when he found out that she didn't wait for you."
"And apparently it was all for nothing," Hermione commented, with a glare at her boyfriend, "Since you are with us, I'm going to assume that they didn't corner you," she added.
"Not quite," Harry admitted.
"What!" Ron hissed. "What did they do?" he demanded to know, before turning to Hermione. "I knew you shouldn't have left him, Hermione. All you had to do was follow the plan. But nooooo,-"
"Ron, enough," Harry interrupted the red-heads rant. "I told Hermione not to stay, since I wasn't sure what Snape wanted and how long it would take. I also knew there was a possibility that Millicent and her friends would use that opportunity to ask me to lunch, and I was fine with that."
"Well," Ron smirked, "I suppose it doesn't matter since they didn't ask. But next time-"
"Ron, they asked."
"I…you…" Ron stumbled over his tongue, before smiling, "But you're here, so you turned them down," he finally said. "Glad to see that you are finally listening to reason."
"They asked me to join them for lunch tomorrow."
"Tomorrow!" Ron repeated in distress. "That gives them 24 whole hours to plan how to kill you and make it look like an accident."
"Oh, Ronald," Luna said, "Don't be silly. No doubt they would have started to plan such a thing ages ago."
"True," Ginny agreed, laughing at the look of horror on her brothers face. "After all, it's usually Gryffindors who go flying blindly into situations. Slytherins are a bit more cunning."
Ron ignored the two girls and turned towards his best friend, "You said no, right? I mean, you can't seriously be thinking of agreeing, it would be….well, bad."
Harry shrugged, "I don't think it will be bad, maybe a bit uncomfortable is all. Nor do I think that they'll poison or kill me, and I said yes. I'm meeting them tomorrow outside the doors to the Great Hall."
Ron sighed, "I suppose it's too much to ask that you mentioned that you had something planned and asked if one of us could join you?
"No, I didn't think so," he continued in resignation when Harry shook his head. "Just be careful, okay?"
"Yes, dad," Harry teased.
"Hey now!" Ron shouted, "I'm just trying to makes sure you're safe. No need to insult me and confuse me with that grea- OW! Hermione, what'd you do that for?" a bewildered Ron asked while the rest of the Ministry Six glared at him.
"You sure you don't want a puking pastille? Or a fainting fancy?" Ron asked. "Being sick would be a legitimate reason not to show up. I mean, even Slytherins couldn't hold that against you."
"Ron, for the hundredth time, no," Harry said firmly.
"Here," Ron said, passing a handful of candies to Harry anyway. "If you feel uncomfortable or think that something's about to happen, just take one of these candies, say you feel sick, and leave the Great Hall."
"If they did poison you, then making yourself throw up will also get rid of anything that they might have put in your system," Ron explained.
Harry sighed, "I promise you, everything will be fine. Now, just go into the Hall for lunch with the others. I don't need you to wait with me or watch over me."
"Hmph," Ron snorted in disagreement. "Fine. I won't wait out here with you or watch you from here, but you can't keep me from keeping an eye on them when I'm in the Great Hall."
"Just do what you have to do," Harry finally stated, "Now, go."
"Ha!" Daphne laughed triumphantly, "I told you he would be here. A Gryffindor wouldn't go back on his word."
"You never know," Blaise said, "he might have eaten something earlier that disagreed with him, causing him to miss lunch." Harry snorted, causing Blaise to look at him before continuing, "If he didn't want to meet us, he could have gotten out of it."
"Yes, I could have, and I'm actually looking forward to this," Harry said speaking for the first time. "Now, are we ready to enter the Great Hall and shock everyone present?"
"I like how you think, Potter," Daphne said with a smile.
"Harry," said boy requested. "That goes for all of you," he added, looking between the three Slytherins.
They looked at each other before nodding.
"Daphne," they each said in turn, Daphne quickly adding "Forget shock, using first names will most likely put everyone into a comatose state," which caused the four students to laugh as they entered the doors of the Great Hall. "While most students might miss the entrance since it's still early, everyone will hear us refer to each other by our first names."
"Don't worry," Harry said, as he walked sandwiched between Millie and Daphne, "Even the ones who miss our entrance will hear about it soon enough."
Blaise snickered, "No doubt some of the retellings will involve us holding you at wand point or levitating you to our table."
"No, no, no" Harry corrected, "No one would believe that none of the professors didn't notice that or do something to stop it. Most likely, you used the Imperious curse or some mind-controlling potion."
"That would be more subtle," Daphne said in agreement.
"I don't know," Millie said, "I think some Gryffindors will use Blaise's story…no offense, Harry," she added looking at him. "I'm just sure that your house will say whatever makes us looks the worse."
"No offense taken," Harry said, "Just like Slytherins seem to think the worse of Gryffindor, so does Gryffindor think the worse of Slytherin. Of course, I doubt either house has a true depiction of the other.
"And if we're talking about what would put Slytherin in the worse light, again, I would have to say the imperious curse or a potion."
"Or perhaps we're blackmailing you into doing our bidding?" Daphne suggested.
"And the best you three could come up with was lunch at the Slytherin table?" Harry said with a shake of his head. "What is Slytherin coming to?"
"Hey!" Daphne mocked shouted, "That's not at all what we would come up with…it's just what the simpletons of the other houses would come up with."
"Ah, I see," Harry said with a laugh.
Their conversation led them to the Slytherin table and the other students in the Great Hall fell silent as they watched Harry and Millicent walk up side of the table and Blaise and Daphne up the other. Gasps could be heard as Harry lowered himself onto the bench besides Millie.
"Told you it would shock them," Harry said quietly after a quick look at the students.
"We didn't disagree, Harry," Daphne said, emphasizing his name.
"No faintings, though," Millie added sadly.
"Or loud cries of disbelief," said Blaise.
"It'll take something more than lunch with a Slytherin to cause one of those reactions," Daphne commented. "Something more intimate."
"Yes, well," Harry said, trying not to blush. "We'll have to settle for trying to get them comatose," he continued with a small smile. "Hey, Blaise, can you pass the chicken?"
"Of course, Harry. Pumpkin juice?"
Within a few minutes the Great Hall was filled. Most students who entered didn't notice that Harry was sitting at the Slytherin table until someone else pointed it out.
Many Slytherins noticed, especially those who usually sat near Blaise, Millie or Daphne, yet none of them made an issue out of it, most likely, Harry thought, waiting until the privacy of their common room to address the subject-out of sight of both the professors and other houses. If nothing else, Harry grudgingly admitted, Slytherin presented a united front to the rest of the school.
Of course, this didn't mean that Harry was ignored. Tracy Davis had noticed the Gryffindor and sat down next to him. "Lost, Potter?"
Harry smiled, "Nope. Haven't gotten lost in this school since McGonagall threatened to turn me into a map my first year," Harry commented, eliciting a few snickers from the students around them.
"An unusual tactic for a Gryffindor to use," Tracy commented. "Threatening to transfigure a student."
"Hmm," Harry stated, swallowing his food. "Of course, it wasn't until my fourth year that I heard her say that they didn't use transfiguration to punish students. By that time, I pretty much had the layout of the castle figured out."
"No doubt due to your midnight wanderings," Blaise commented. Every student had heard various tales of Harry being out after hours, sometimes because of the punishments involved or due to the gossiping of others.
"Hey, why do you think I was out wandering all the time? It was all done in self-defense," he argued. "I had to learn the castle somehow if I didn't want to be transfigured into a map."
"And I'm sure that McGonagall bought that excuse too, when it was offered," came the dry response.
"Damn," Harry sighed, "I never gave that as a reason for my late-night wanderings. Who knows, maybe it would've saved me a detention or two or some points."
"Too late now," Tracy commented with another snicker.
"Yeah, I know," Harry said, before falling silent as he and everyone else continued to eat.
While they were talking, Malfoy entered the Great Hall sat down on the other side of the table, a few spots away from Daphne and Blaise, but hadn't said a word to Harry or about him sitting at the table.
Harry looked at him in surprise, he really expected the blonde to offer some protest about Harry 'corrupting' his table. Perhaps Malfoy, like the other Slytherins would address it in the privacy of the common room. With a quick shrug of his shoulders, Harry continued to eat, occasionally taking part in the conversations around him.
"Potter," Draco hissed a few moments later as he noticed who was sitting at the table between Tracy and Millicent, "What are you doing here?"
Inwardly, Harry laughed. After all, lunch was more than half-way through and he just noticed that a Gryffindor was at his table.
Harry looked at the blonde Slytherin as he internally debated how to respond. He finally decided to go with the obvious, "Eating," he replied, earning a few amused snickers and disbelieving looks from some of the other Slytherins.
"But-but at this table?" Malfoy commented.
Harry shrugged, "Thought I'd see what the weather was like on this side of the Great Hall."
"The same as it is over there!" Draco shouted as he waved a hand towards the Gryffindor table.
"So it appears," Harry commented in agreement, with a nod of his head.
"Well now that your curiosity has been satisfied, leave," Draco ordered.
"But that would be rude," Harry returned, giving the blonde a small frown. "I'd hate to have any of you think that I didn't learn any manners."
"You probably didn't," Draco snapped, "After all you were raised by muggles after your adoptive parents died, since even your blood traitor father didn't want you."
The shocked gasps as well as the eyes flying between Harry, Snape, and Malfoy made it obvious to everyone in the Great Hall that something had just happened at the Slytherin table.
"Hmm," Harry hummed as he continued to eat. "At least now I know I could do almost anything and my manners would still be better than yours."
"Why you-" Draco flustered.
"Harry," Millicent interrupted, "I apologize for Malfoy. We didn't inform anyone that we invited you to join us or that you accepted."
"You invited him," Draco yelled.
"Blood traitor," Draco hissed.
"Is our Head of House," Millicent answered Draco before trying to turn away to try to talk to Harry.
"Too embarrassed about consorting with a Gryffindor, Bulstrode?" Draco smirked, "Especially if they said no?"
"No," Milli honestly replied, her eyes meeting Draco's and flashing in anger, "didn't want anyone to know and be able to plan a way to try and sabotage it."
"Hmph," Draco snorted as he looked away, "As if I would waste my time on a peasant half-blood bastard."
"It is okay, Millicent," Harry interrupted before wands were drawn and hexes cast.
"But he-" she began in protest.
"It's Malfoy," Harry smirked, "Nobody really listens to what he says," he explained, causing a few people to snicker at his comment, "Especially since he seems to have forgotten that I'm not really a half-blood since Lily Evans-Potter was my adoptive mother and not my birth mother." Inwardly Harry smiled, he wasn't about to reveal to everyone that Snape was a half-blood.
Almost every one nodded their heads as they realized that this was true. Only Malfoy refused to join in the conversation that followed. Instead, he tightly gripped his wand and quietly whispered to himself, "Someday, somehow, Potter, I will get you."
"So, how was it?" Ron asked as Harry met up with his friends at their next class. "Did the food taste funny? There might have been a slow acting poison in it. Perhaps you should go see Madam Pomphrey, just in case," he suggested. "Or use one of the puking pastilles to get whatever they used out of your system.
"You look pale," he stated before Harry could comment. Looking at his fellow Gryffindors he asked, "doesn't he look pale to you? I think he's pale. Hmm, probably feverish too," he added as he went to move a hand to Harry's forehead to check.
"Ron, stop," Harry said, laughing and moving away, "I take back what I said about you acting like a father,"
"Good," Ron interrupted.
"You sound way too much like your mum," Harry continued with a smirk.
Ginny snickered, "Mum wouldn't suggest one of the twins candies," she murmured to Neville.
"I do not!" the red-head boy yelled, "And don't try to change the subject. You could be poisoned. You really should go to the hospital wing. Mada-"
"Definitely like your mum," Harry snickered. "And lunch was fine. No one poisoned the food or tried to hex me."
Hermione raised an eyebrow in doubt, "I wouldn't say that everything went smoothly."
Harry shrugged, "Malfoy's a git."
"Tell us something we don't know," Ron huffed.
"Perhaps what happened at lunch?" Hermione suggested dryly.
Harry chuckled and spent the next few minutes before the professor entered telling them about his adventures at the Slytherin table.
"Potter, stay behind," Snape ordered after dismissing the rest of the potions students after class on Friday.
Harry nodded, a grim look on his face. As far as he knew he hadn't broken any rules.
"I noticed that you survived your lunch with the Slytherins yesterday," Snape smirked.
"Yeah, it wasn't too bad," Harry admitted.
Snape simply raised an eyebrow.
Reluctantly Harry added, "If it wasn't for Malfoy, I might've even called it enjoyable. Millicent was nice, Blaise is funny, Daphne," Harry paused and gave a shrug, "She seemed nice, a bit hard to tell because she was pretty quiet. Tracy talked to me for a bit, but everyone else in my year mostly ignored me…Well, except Malfoy."
"So the slimy snakes aren't as evil as you thought," Snape commented, sounding angry.
"I never said they were evil," Harry snapped back, "at least not all of them, just Malfoy."
"No, you just believed it when others told you," his professor dryly retorted.
"I was eleven!" Harry yelled in defense. "I was just told that my parents were murdered and that the person who murdered my parents was a Slytherin. I had no knowledge of the wizarding world even existing, let alone information about the Hogwarts' Houses. I had no reason not to believe them at the time, they were involved in the wizarding world on a daily basis, and to me everything was new. All I knew was what they told me."
"What about later?" Severus questioned, his tone a bit calmer, "What about after you were exposed to the wizarding world and learned about it…from unbiased sources, perhaps" he added dryly.
Harry shrugged, "I admit for a while I thought that they were evil, especially since I believed that they chose to be in that house."
"They didn't choose it," Snape angrily began.
"Can I finish?" Harry hissed, just as upset as his father. "I figured that most of them knew the reputation Slytherin had. Bloody hell, Malfoy seemed to enjoy it, he certainly promoted it often enough," Harry jeered, "So I figured that they were exactly what everyone always said Slytherin was, especially since they let the hat place them there."
"I'm not finished yet," Harry snapped. "I was able to ask the hat to place me in any house other than Slytherin, so I figured why couldn't they do the same? I then realized that they probably could have, if they wanted to. Add to that, Dumbledore telling me that it is our choices that determine who we are, and I concluded that Slytherins were evil because they chose to be, because they chose Slytherin."
Snape stared at Harry. His face red from anger and his mouth hung open in shock after hearing what his child had to say. "That's preposterous," he finally hissed. He knew he should have just ignored the boy, son or not. Well, it was never too late to throw the boy out, Severus realized. How anyone could be so biased, so judgmental, he couldn't understand.
"Well, yeah, I know that now," Harry said with a grin, "Again, I was eleven. It made sense to me then."
Severus took a deep breath to calm himself down. Maybe there was hope for the boy after all. "And what else do you know now?" he finally asked.
"That not everything is black or white," he shrugged, "Nor can everything be labeled in neat, tidy, organized piles, especially at eleven years of age. I'll probably never like or trust Malfoy," he admitted, "But I have no real reason to hate everyone in that house."
"Hmph," Snape huffed before waving his wand and once again having a plate of sandwiches and a pitcher of juice appear. "Tell me exactly what happened during lunch," he finally said.
Taking a sandwich, Harry began to do just that.
"Where were you?" Ron demanded to know as soon as Harry entered the classroom. "You weren't in the Great Hall for lunch," he added. "You went to see Madam Pomfrey, didn't you?" he added suspiciously. "I knew those snakes poisoned you. You probably started to feel dizzy and nauseous, right? No wonder you headed straight to the infirmary. Though I am a bit surprised Madam Pomfrey let you out s-"
"Ron, stop," Harry said holding up a hand to interrupt his friend. "I'm fine. I wasn't dizzy or nauseous or anything else. Nor was I in the infirmary."
"Then where were you?"
"With Snape," Harry responded, causing Ron to stare at him.
"Did you eat?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah, Snape got some sandwiches for us," Harry said before turning back to his other best friend, who had turned pale. "Ron? Are you okay?"
Ron shook his head, "The snakes and Snape," he said with a frown. "Probably some kind of conspiracy," he continued, mostly to himself. "Two separate potions in your food. They will interact with each other to kill you. Or," he said tapping his lip with a finger, "They are trying to pull you away from us. Get you alone so that it will be easier to attack you."
"Ron, that's ridiculous," Hermione began.
"No it isn't," Ron argued. "It makes perfect sense. It's the perfect plan."
"Which one?" Harry sarcastically asked.
"Both!" Ron snapped. "They used potions that would interact with each other to kill you, but couldn't be traced individually, so all of them would get away with murder. And separating us…well, everyone knows that where Harry is, we aren't far behind. It's natural for Voldemort or someone to try to take that away. Not that that could happen," Ron said. "We said we would stand by you and we will...I will," he stressed.
Harry raised an eyebrow, "Even if I consort with Slytherins?"
Ron shuddered before reluctantly nodding, "Even then…but just because I'll stand by you that doesn't mean I'll stand by them or stay quiet about it."
"Well," Harry said with a grin, "I guess you can't have everything."
"Harry," Millicent said as she approached the trio on the grounds Saturday afternoon, nodding to Hermione and Ron when they looked towards her.
"Hi, Milli," He replied, his friends giving a return nod as they passed.
"Gryffindors and Slytherins exchanging friendly words without a professor present," Hermione said after a look around. "I didn't think I would ever see that."
"Probably just wants to be around when the poison kicks in," Ron muttered from behind Harry and Hermione, earning a glare from Harry and a slap on his arm from his girlfriend. After Millicent walked past them he had turned around to continue to watch her until she turned a corner and was no longer in sight. "She didn't stay to watch," he said in shock.
"How many times do we have to tell you?" Hermione sighed, "Harry wasn't poisoned and they aren't up to anything."
"Well, their not friends," Ron replied. "He's had one meal at their table and maybe one conversation other the ones that took place about or at that meal in the last six years."
"One meal so far," Harry corrected, "And they might not be friends yet, but maybe they will be, given time. It has to be better than being enemies."
Hermione nodded, "They're just honoring the truce that they initiated."
"Yeah, well, how long do you really expect it to last? Something will happen that will no doubt start the fighting again," Ron replied.
"Not if I can help it," Harry retorted, "I'm enjoying this mostly peaceful year so far."
"It hasn't even been three weeks," Hermione commented dryly, "And you can't say that the summer was peaceful."
Harry shrugged, "Still, I think it might be a new record."
"Nah," Ron disagreed, "We'll have to wait until Halloween to know for sure, that's when most things start to happen," he said with a snicker, before faking a cough, that couldn't disguise the word troll that he was muttering.
"For the last time, I wasn't poisoned," Harry told Ron angrily, as they finished breakfast and left the Great Hall on Monday. "I've told you this at least 100 times this weekend. Am I going to have to carve it into my tombstone when I die at the age of 200 before you believe it?"
"No," Ron replied, "Just until Halloween. And you mean you weren't poisoned that time," Ron continued, with a snort, "Or at least not with a fast acting potion," he added, continuing before Harry's groan turned into another comment. "But you said that they said that they would ask again."
"Yeah, so?" Harry asked. "I told you it wasn't that bad. In fact, it was kind of enjoyable."
"Yeah, yeah, except for Malfoy," Ron said.
"Actually," Harry said with a laugh, "Even that wasn't too bad."
Harry shrugged, "Look at it this way, I was sitting at his table, with his housemates, making comments that had them laughing at him. And the angrier he got, the worse he looked, both to the entire student body, including his house, and to the professors."
"Hmm," Ron hummed nodding his head as he thought about what Harry just described, "I see what you mean, but that doesn't mean that he or someone else won't try to poison your food next time. I mean, think about it…they're Slytherins. They're probably just waiting for you and the professors to let your guard down, than WHAM! They strike and poison your food.
"They couldn't have just invited you out of the goodness of their hearts. They had to have some motive. What else would it be if they aren't trying to kill you?"
"Gee, I don't know," Harry remarked sarcastically, "Maybe to get to know me? To become friends? To breakdown the barrier between houses?"
Ron shook his head in doubt before answering, "Nah, that's not it."
"Ron! They aren't trying to kill me. And to prove it, maybe I'll sit with them again for lunch today."
"Fine," Ron grunted, "But don't yell at me when you're dead from some poison they put in your food!"
"Hey, Luna," Harry called as he saw her approach the Great Hall for lunch that afternoon.
"Yes, Harry?" Luna said as she stopped and waited for him to catch up to her.
"Er, can I eat lunch with you today? At your table?" he asked quietly.
She cocked her head to the side in thought before asking, "Why?"
"Er, I just realized that we, I never sat with you at your table before," he stammered, "You always joined me, us at Gryffindor. I figured it was time to change that. To sit with you at Ravenclaw, I mean. Not for you to stop sitting at Gryffindor, you are always welcome there," he finished awkwardly.
"Hmm," Luna replied as she thought about what he said. "It's not a very romantic place for a first date," she finally commented.
Luna laughed, "It's okay, Harry. I was kidding. Well, about this being a date, first or otherwise," she explained, stopping him from stumbling over his words and causing Harry much relief. "I was serious about the Great Hall at lunchtime not being a very romantic venue for a date…again, first or otherwise."
Harry snorted, "I don't know," he teased as he thought about it for a moment, "I think it would probably be better than Madam Puddifoot's. Couldn't be worse, and would probably be more comfortable," he added.
"I wouldn't know," Luna replied, "I've never been in there."
"Trust me," Harry said with a shiver. "Lace and curtains and pink and-"
Luna frowned, "It doesn't sound that bad."
"Oh, er, well," he said, forgetting that most girls like that stuff. Of course, he never really thought that Luna was like 'most girls'.
"So why did you really want to eat lunch with me at my table today?" she said, rescuing him from himself. "I'm assuming that you didn't mean it as a date date."
"Er, no, I didn't," Harry said, "Just one friend eating with another. A chance to talk over food."
"Still sounds like a date," Luna said with a smile and a laugh.
Luna cocked her head to the side, becoming serious for a moment, "Is it that you want to eat at the Ravenclaw table or that you don't want to eat at your table?"
"The latter," Harry sheepishly admitted, "And the fact that you give very good advice."
"Come on," Luna said, dragging him towards her house table. "You can explain everything while we eat."
"So Ron is still giving you a hard time about Slytherin," Luna commented after Harry finished his story.
"Yes!" Harry hissed. "I finally get him to stop making comments about Snape, or at least to stop when I'm there," Harry corrected himself, "but now he's questioning my judgment regarding my friends."
"Are they? Your friends, I mean?"
"Well, they're not my enemies," Harry snapped. "Not all of them, not yet at least."
"And perhaps none of them will be."
"Is spoiled," Luna completed. "Some might even say spoiled rotten. Only time will tell. You yourself told us how your father, James Potter, acted in school. He wasn't the nicest kid, especially when someone was in a different house. But he, like Malfoy, was a kid. Your father grew into a decent adult, there is still hope for Draco Malfoy."
"He's not my father," Harry corrected quietly.
"Malfoy? I know. It would be kind of difficult for him to be your father. It would have to involve all kinds of spells and rituals or time turners or perh-"
"I meant James Potter," Harry interrupted, a slight smile on his face from Luna's comments. "Severus Snape is my father."
"True," Luna said softly, "After all, that is what started this whole situation with Ron, right? Still, look at Professor Snape. Regardless of whose father he is, not many people would call him nice or caring, but he is. He just hides it better than others. He was willing to help you when you needed it, not just last week when you wanted advice, but during the last five years of school. In fact, he helped you when you needed it, not when you wanted it. That seems to me someone who cares a lot."
Harry frowned as he absently scratched his head. It wasn't that he disagreed with Luna, it was more that he forgot the original topic of conversation. As if reading his mind, Luna asked.
"So after you got mad at Ron and said that you might sit with them today after all, you instead come to me and ask to sit here. Why? Why didn't you go to the Slytherin table?"
"I will never say no to your company," Luna said softly, "To do so would deny our friendship. But I am curious as to why you didn't go to the Slytherin table. Was it because deep down you think Ron is right? Oh, maybe not about them poisoning you," she rushed out when Harry went to interrupt. "But maybe you wonder if they do have another motive. Maybe Harry doesn't want to be rejected. Maybe you think that they only care about Snape's son or The-Boy-Who-Lived and not you. That may be true or it may not be," Luna continued, steadfastly meeting his gaze, "But you'll never know if you hide out at the Ravenclaw table.
"Now, can you pass the pudding? It looks delicious."
"Luna? Harry?" Ginny asked that night when the six friends were studying in the Room of Requirement. "What was going on at lunch today?"
Luna frowned. "I didn't notice anything unusual. Don't tell me Skezix infested Professor Dumbledore's beard again. I told him what he had to do to keep them away."
"Er, no," Ginny responded. "I was referring to you and Harry having lunch together."
Before Harry could comment, Luna replied, "If you knew we had lunch together, then why are you asking what happened at lunch?"
This time it was Ginny's turn to frown, while Harry tried to hide a smile. "I meant why did you two have lunch together?"
"We've had lunch together before," Harry answered.
"That's true," Luna said in agreement.
Ginny turned her frown to Harry before shushing him and motioning for him to remain quiet. "Yes, but never alone at the Ravenclaw table. Usually Luna joins us at our table."
"I've only done that a couple of times this year," Luna commented distantly.
"Alone, Ravenclaw," Ginny reminded her. "Is there something you two would like to share?"
"About you and Harry," Neville injected as Luna opened her mouth, "Not about heliopaths or the ministry or anything like that. About you and Harry."
"Sure," Luna finally said once she finished pouting.
"Well," The four friends asked impatiently, the other two girls eagerly leaning forward.
"Well, to start with, we seem to have different opinions on Madame Puddifoot's."
"Oh?" Ginny and Hermione sang, as they exchanged glances.
"Yes," Luna said with a nod. "Of course, I've never been there so I can't really form an opinion based on experience, just on hearsay," she finished.
"I…that's it?" Ginny asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Luna said with a nod, "I don't know if anything else we discussed would interest you."
"But how did Madame Puddifoot's come into the conversation?" Hermione asked.
Luna shrugged, "Harry said that the Ravenclaw table in the Great Hall during lunch might be more romantic and would definitely be more comfortable for a first date than Madame Puddifoot's."
"First date!" Ginny and Hermione screamed.
Luna frowned at them, "That's what I said. Was there a reason why you two had to repeat it so loudly? Oh, I know," she said with a smile, "You must've been attacked by Eartes."
"No, we weren't" Ginny said emphatically, "We were just so excited to hear that you and Harry finally had a first date."
"You did?" Neville and Ron exclaimed, while Harry paled as he looked at Luna.
"We didn't," Luna corrected their friends.
"But you said-"
"That Harry said that the Ravenclaw table in the Great Hall during lunch was more romantic and comfortable as a first date than Madame Puddifoot's. The difference of opinion was that I didn't think Madame Puddifoot's seemed that bad," Luna said. "Nothing was said that we went on a date, first or otherwise," Luna completed to the disappointment of four of ther friends.
"Hey, Luna, wait up," Harry called the next day as she approached the Great Hall for lunch.
"Hi, Harry, hiding from Ron again?"
"Er, no," Harry began.
"Ah, then you must be trying to confuse the usebies," she said knowingly.
"Er…actually, I wanted to thank you for yesterday."
"Yeah, er, you know, our talk at lunch," Harry reminded her. "You really made me think about things."
"Okay," Luna said dismissively, "But are you sure it was me and not Xipkeys? Usually they are responsible for making people think."
"Right," Harry said with a smile, "But this time it was you. In fact, I decided to give the Slytherins a chance, you know, get to know them better."
Luna nodded, "That's great. One never knows where one might find friends."
"Yeah," Harry said in agreement, after all, he became friends with Hermione after a fight with a troll in a girl's bathroom. "Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks. Now, I better find Millicent, Blaise or Daphne and make sure it's okay I join them for lunch."
"I'm sure it will be," Luna said, patting his arm comfortingly before pointing out two of the Slytherins in question.
"Thanks," Harry repeated before walking towards Blaise and Daphne.
"Bulstrode," Malfoy snapped at the girl seated at the table next to him as two Slytherins and one Gryffindor approached his table, "Don't tell me you invited him again. I still have indigestion from the last time he sat with us."
"I didn't," Milli informed the blond, looking at the approaching trio curiously.
"Good," Malfoy smirked, looking forward to humiliating the Golden Boy and turning him away. "Glad you're finally learning something."
Millicent glared before coolly stating, "However, I will soon rectify that and invite Harry to join us, after all, he walked all this way, it would be rude not to ask him to join us."
"All this way!" Malfoy hissed, "It's just across the room," he continued, only to fall silent when Milli cast a charm on him.
"Harry," Millicent greeted as her friends and the lone Gryffindor reached them. "Please, sit down."
"Thanks," Harry said as he did as she asked.
"So what brings you back over this way?" She teased, moving her wand under the table to release the silencing spell from the blond next to her, "I thought you said you had the castle layout down pat?"
"He requested if he could join us today," Daphne commented, creating looks to fly between the Slytherins and rumors at the other tables.
"Probably needs help with a homework assignment," Draco muttered
Harry raised an eyebrow, "I hope you bet on that idea," Harry stated, causing some confusion from the students around him, "and that the forfeit was embarrassing, because you would lose. My homework is all done, except for what we received today and I don't foresee any problems with it."
"Oh, so now you're a seer," Malfoy snapped.
"Not bloody likely," Harry laughed, "There haven't been any seers in either of my parents families. And if I was a seer, I wouldn't use it on such mundane things like homework…or Slytherin-Gryffindor Quidditch matches," he completed with a smirk.
"Why you!" Draco began, only to have his wand pulled from his hand by Milli.
"Calm down, Malfoy, you did kind of ask for that," Milli stated, as Draco glared at her. Rolling her eyes, she turned to Harry, "So, not that you're not welcome or anything-,"
"He's not," Draco interrupted.
"Do you need a silencing spell on you?" Daphne asked the blond, as she cast the spell.
Harry smirked, apparently casting that spell was something all Slytherins did to someone who interrupted and annoyed them.
"So, why did you ask to join us?" Milli finally completed. "I doubt it was to obtain another weather report."
"Nah," Harry answered, "I figure we were close enough now that if I wanted to know the weather I could ask you guys and that you would give me the truth," Harry teased back, not sure why all the Slytherins in hearing ranged suddenly inhaled before they started to whisper to their neighbor.
Draco glared at Harry and motioned to Blaise to release the spell. "I can understand you wanting to get away from Gryffindors, but perhaps next time you could sit somewhere else? Perhaps check out the weather at the Hufflepuff table? I mean, you haven't eaten there yet this year. Or maybe the kitchens? Is that where you've been on the days you haven't been in the Great Hall for lunch? Are the house-elves trying to show you a way to earn your keep after you graduate?"
"Why Malfoy," Harry drawled, "I had no idea you paid so much attention to my activities."
"Whatever," Malfoy growled, "Just don't get comfortable here, you're not welcome."
Harry just shrugged, "If it makes you feel better I won't invite myself over to your table any more; I'll wait for an invitation."
"It'll be a long wait," Malfoy remarked, glaring at everyone around as if daring them to protest.
"It is our table as well," Millicent spoke up firmly, "If we want to invite friends from other houses to join us, we will."
"We?" Malfoy repeated, "So far, you are the only one doing such a thing."
"Someone has to lead," Millicent commented with a shrug, causing other Slytherins to gasp in shock and look down at their plates. She then turned to Harry, "So once again, remember that you are welcome, but why are you here today?"
Harry shrugged, "What better way to get to know you guys better? Unlike the other houses, we don't interact much in between classes or during the weekends. I mean, unless we are attacking each other, we pretty much pretend our rival house doesn't exist. Meal time, with the professors present, is pretty much the only way we can get to know one another, without someone feeling threatened."
"It doesn't have to be that way," Tracy stated, causing another round of gasps.
"No, it doesn't," Harry agreed, meeting her eyes, "And maybe someday it won't," he continued, before adding, "If you thought it was shocking to others when I sat here for lunch last week, can you imagine what it would be like if Slytherins and Gryffindors interacted in the hallways of Hogwarts?" Harry asked with a smirk, before quickly adding, "Friendly interaction, not hexes or ambushes or insults."
"I can't believe they asked again," Ron muttered as they sat in Charms class after lunch, "And Harry accepted!"
"He said he probably would," Hermione reminded her boyfriend, not looking up from her essay, after all, this conversation would be the same as the one they had partaken in during lunch.
"I mean," Ron continued to rant, not listening to Hermione, "the first time, sure, why not. After all, a Gryffindor will try almost anything once. As for the Slytherin's, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained," Ron muttered to himself with a self-explanatory shrug. "But to ask again, just a week later," he paused to shake his head is disbelief.
"Actually it's been less than a week since he first ate with them," Hermione corrected absently, "And less two weeks since the first time they asked."
"And for Harry to accept, again" Ron continued, again not listening to Hermione. "Against all reason and my advice, that's the worse part."
"Then you'll be glad to know that I didn't accept," Harry said dryly as he took his seat on the other side of Ron.
"Harry!" Hermione shouted, startled by his appearance.
"Harry," Ron said seriously, "Do you mean that they forced you? Was it a hex? A curse? Oooh!" He squealed, "I wouldn't put it past those slimy snakes to use an Unforgivable," he announced before looking around and then quietly hissing, "The Imperious Curse."
Harry rolled his eyes, as he thought that he had to share this with Blaise. "I knew which one you meant, and first, I can fight off that curse and second, no, they didn't force me."
Now it was Ron's turn to roll his eyes, "Of course you would believe that," Ron stated patronizingly. "They probably told you to say that. Or they charmed your memory, "He continued with a frown.
"Ron, they didn't force me to accept, in fact, I didn't accept," Harry stated, continuing quickly when Hermione went to speak. "Because I asked if I could join them."
Silence fell between the trio as his friends just looked at him, Ron in shock and Hermione proudly.
"Why would you do that?" A puzzled Ron asked.
"To get to know them," Harry answered. "A wise woman told me that I couldn't get to know them if I didn't interact with them."
"It wasn't me," Hermione defended herself to Ron, her brow frowning. "At least, I don't think it was me."
"It wasn't," Harry confirmed. "But it's still true."
Ron growled, "Don't tell me that you're listening to Slytherins now."
"It would be rude to eat with them and not listen during conversations," Harry remarked with a grin.
"Enough," Hermione injected, glaring at Ron. "Harry, I'm proud that you're willing to spend time with them."
Harry relaxed his shoulders and leaned back in his chair. "They're really not that bad," he commented. "Blaise is kind of funny…so is Millicent, actually she reminds me of you.
"It was kind of weird though," Harry began.
"What?" Ron demanded to know, "Did someone distract you so they could poison your food? I knew it was too-"
"Ron, stop," Hermione commanded, "You're beginning to sound like a broken record," she said, causing Ron to stop as he tried to remember what a record was, "What was weird?" she asked Harry.
The youngest Gryffindor shrugged, "Just the other Slytherins reactions to the conversation. Most of them didn't take part, but there were a couple of times when they all seemed to inhale at the same time or gasp together at something that was said."
"Hmm," Hermione said, "Do you remember what was said to cause that?"
Harry ruffled his hand through his hair as he thought about it, "Not really, er, I think when I agreed with Tracy abo-"
"Tracy!" Ron interrupted, no longer caring what a broken record was. "Tracy who? And why were you agreeing with a Slytherin?"
"Silencio," Hermione commanded as she pointed her wand at her boyfriend, causing Harry to laugh.
"Oh, Ron, you would love this...well, maybe not now," he said with a grin at Hermione, "Daphne silenced Malfoy at lunch when he wouldn't stop complaining about me sitting with them. Snape had threatened to do that to me when I wouldn't shut up when I stayed in his office to talk to him that first time. I started to wonder if it was something all Slytherins do when someone interrupts or annoys them."
"Yes, well," Hermione said, blushing, "Tell me what you remember about lunch."
"Twice in one week, Potter?" Snape drawled the next day after the other students left the classroom.
"Huh?" Harry asked, as he faced his professor.
"I noticed that you had lunch with the Slytherins again. You've now eaten at their table twice in less than a week. That is the most you've eaten at one place, including your own table."
Harry frowned, "No it isn't," he argued.
Severus raised an eyebrow, "Last Tuesday was the last time you ate with your house; Last Wednesday, with me; Last Thursday, at Slytherin; Friday, with me again; The weekend, Merlin only knows what you ate, or where," he said, sounding much like a father would have; Monday, with Miss Lovegood at the Ravenclaw table, yesterday with the Slytherins again."
"For lunch," he admitted, "But I had breakfast and dinner at Gryffindor. "And I've eaten with you as much as I had with them," Harry explained before giving a shrug and adding, "They've invited me more than any other table."
One of Severus's eyebrows rose, "From what I hear, you don't need an invitation."
"Maybe not," Harry said with a frown, wondering exactly what Snape heard and from whom, "But they still invited me more, even if the second time I sat with them I initiated it. And the time I sat at Luna's table was at my initiation as well. You know, technically, I've never been invited to sit at Gryffindor; I have at times felt unwelcome there, though."
"Never sat there, never been invited to sit there, and never asked to sit there," Harry stated calmly, with a shrug of his shoulders. "No real reason to."
"And there is a reason why you are gracing the Slytherins with your presence?" Snape asked curiously.
"To get to know them," Harry offered. "Hufflepuffs I can get to know between classes and on weekends, any where. Ravenclaws usually in the library and my fellow Gryffindors in the common room. It's a bit harder to get to know the Slytherins due to house rivalry."
"Why are you dismissing the house rivalry now?" Snape asked, "Why not your first year before it had taken a hold of most of you?"
Harry shrugged, "I already told you a bit about how I thought my first year," Harry began before pausing and looking around, "Umm," he started hesitantly.
"What is it now, Potter?" Snape asked.
"Well, I was just wondering if you could get us some sandwiches and pumpkin juice again," Harry stated softly. "If we're going to talk during lunch, we might as well eat also."
Snape glared at Harry for a moment, before sending a message with his wand to request some food from the house elves, "Very well, now, as you were saying about why now?"
"Oh, right, well, I guess, one reason is because this is my last year left at school. After we leave Hogwarts, how much do houses really matter? I mean, most likely I'll remember what houses my yearmates were in, and maybe a few students from other years, especially those who were in Gryffindor with me or who might have played on their house Quidditch Team, but otherwise, well, it's not like everyone is going to have their house emblem on their robes or stationery," Harry explained.
"True," Snape stated with a slight nod of his head.
"Another reason is because I highly doubt that most student's are all one house. I'm sure that most of us share traits with the other houses. To be ambitious and to make those ambitions come to be, you have to be hard-working, or smart to find out how to make it happen. You also might have to be brave enough to take chances. I'm sure many other traits that we are sorted by are interconnected and even if they are not, again, I doubt that a person is cunning and just cunning, without a hint of a trait that another founder prized.
"Then there's the fact that we were sorted at the age of eleven. You can't tell me that no one has changed or grown after their sorting. Some people might have gotten braver, some more ambitious, some more loyal or hardworking. Life is about growing and changing.
"Honestly," Harry said, meeting Snape's eyes, "If I were to be sorted today, I really don't know where I would end up. There's a possibility that I might ask to be placed in Gryffindor again, for the most part I've enjoyed my time there and I know that I have made some great friends, but if the sorting hat wanted me in Slytherin my first year, I don't think that his desire would have lessened any due to the events of the last six years."
"Well, I have no doubt that Ravenclaw still wouldn't be in the running," Snape finally commented.
"Hey, I'll have you know that the sorting hat said I had a fine mind," Harry told his father.
"And you most likely wasted it," Snape remarked.
"Oh, I can't be that bad, after all, I've been able to pass your NEWT potion class, so far."
"So far," Snape repeated dryly, as he picked up a sandwich.
"Er, sir?" Harry asked tentatively, "Can I ask you a question?"
"As long as it is not about your love life," Severus agreed.
Harry just rolled his eyes, well aware of Snape's thoughts on that subject, "It's not. It's about lunch yesterday. There were a couple of times when the Slytherins that could hear us all inhaled or gasped at the same time. I'm not sure why, and was hoping you knew?"
"I might," Severus responded dryly, "If I knew what parts they gasped at."
"Oh!" Harry said as he paused to think, "The first time was when Milli asked me why I was sitting with them and if it was just because I wanted to know what the weather was over there. I teased that if I wanted to know the weather, I could now just ask them and trust that they would answer me honestly."
"Ahh," Severus nodded, "I can understand the reaction to that."
"You can? Why? What was it?" Harry eagerly demanded to know.
Snape lifted an eyebrow as if to say 'if you stop talking, I'll answer'. "You might have been teasing, but it is rare, if ever that a student from another house admits that he would trust a Slytherin's answer to be truthful, even if it was about something as simple as the weather."
"What? But..? Harry said, not sure how to continue.
"You are aware of my house's reputation. For a Gryffindor to say that was even more shocking to them."
"Indeed," Severus responded. "The next occurrence?"
"Um, Malfoy made a comment about not liking me at the table and that Milli was the only one who invited me or any student from another house to sit there. Milli said something about how it was their table and that someone had to lead."
Snape snickered, "That was quite the insult to Mr. Malfoy," he explained. "Mr. Malfoy prides himself on being the leader of Slytherin house, the example that everyone should follow, especially now that he is in his last year. For Ms. Bulstrode to not only do what she did, but to state it out loud, she was challenging how and where he was leading the house."
"Oh," Harry muttered in understanding before asking, "um, where?"
"Mr. Malfoy believed that Slytherins had to rely only on themselves. That they couldn't and shouldn't interact with other houses, unless of course, a close family member was in one of those houses. But even then, that contact should be minimal. Your previous comment about trusting their reply to be honest about the weather, may have given Ms. Bulstrode the courage she needed to state her own opinion so publicly."
Harry nodded as if he understood what his comment actually did. "The last time was when Tracy asked me why I sat there. I basically told her what I told you, she commented that it didn't have to be that way, everyone gasped before I said that I agreed with her."
Snape nodded, "Ms. Davis was stating that she was not content with how everything was and, like Ms. Bulstrode was ready to work or lead to change things. You're agreement with her showed others that it just might be possible."
"So, Harry, going to join us for lunch today? It's the last time you can do so this month?" Blaise asked as he, Daphne, and Tracy reached the entrance to the Great Hall and found Harry waiting there.
"I...er," Harry hesitated with a look at the approaching sixth year Ravenclaw.
"Oooohh," Daphne said suspiciously, earning a glare from the two men.
"It's okay, Harry," Luna said when she reached them, "You can eat with me another time."
"But," Harry began only to change his mind about discussing his feelings. "How did you know what they asked? You weren't close enough to hear?"
Luna blinked, "The Yeslech told me, of course."
"Of course," Harry nodded in agreement, after all, she did know, so maybe they did.
Blaise looked between the two before smiling, "That's okay, Luna can join us," he invited.
"You sure?" Harry asked, looking towards the Slytherin table and Malfoy glaring at them. "Malfoy wasn't happy when you invited me, I don't hink he'll be pleased that you invited someone else as well."
Blaise shrugged, "That's Malfoy's problem. He doesn't own us r the table. Besides," he continued ina mock whisper and a grin, "Milli can handle him."
Harry snorted, while Milli hmmph'd in agreement.
"So what do you say?"
"Luna?" Harry asked, leaving the decision to her.
"I've always wanted to see a Nayrb up close."
"That's a yes," Harry interpreted for hte Slytherin's benefit, as they headed towards the Slytherin table.
"What is she doing here?" Malfoy snarled as they approached.
"She had lunch plans with Harry, so we invited her to join us as well."
"Wouldn't it have been better to simply uninvite Boy Wonder here?"
Harry snickered since Snpe referred to him as that as well, must be a Slytherin thing.
"And have Luna think we won't welcome her?" Blaise said tsking and shaking his head, "That would be rude."
Harry grinned at the look on Malfoy's face.
Luna shook her head, "I wouldn't think that you were rude," she commented, tilting her head to the side, causing Draco to grumble that that was even more reason to do that. "I just would've thought that you were attacked by Nacados."
"There's no such thing!" Malfoy yelled.
"How do you know?"
"No body's ever seen one?"
"So that means it doesn't exist," Draco said in a triumphant voice.
"No," Luna contradicted, "That just means that they are good at hiding."
Draco stared at her in shock for a moment. "No one has ever seen any of the creatures you mention," he announced haughtily, "And until I see them with my own eyes, I won't believe that they exist."
Luna looked at him for a moment, "Do you disbelieve the existence of Acromantulas or Threstrals?"
"Have you ever seen either of those?"
"Well, no," Draco reluctantly admitted, "But others have."
"Yes," Luna agreed, "And they told someone who hadn't seen it, who told someone, who told someone who-"
"We get it," Draco interrupted, "But what's your point?"
"People hear about creatures that others have seen and go exploring to prove the existence of such a creature. Very few creatures actually seek out to be seen," Luna said with a frown, "Unfortunately, the only one who does seek out people is the Ealf, very annoying, very fast, and very vicious."
"And very non-existent," Draco added with a smirk.
Harry glared at the blone Slytherin insulting his friend, "Why you-"
"What would you do if I told you I saw an Ydnew?" Luna interrupted, causing Harry to smirk and listen attentively to Draco's reply.
Draco's mouth dropped open before he finally replied, "I would call you a liar. They are very dangerous and even more rare. I wouldn't believe that you saw one, even on one of your expeditions," he snorted.
Luna frowned, her eyes briefly glancing towards Harry, who discretely nodded at her, "And if I said that I saw one on this table," she said causing Harry to give a brief shake of his head, "Or rather, in the dungeons?"
"You can't even remember where you supposedly saw it, and you want me to believe that you did?" Draco snorted, "I'll believe it when I see it."
"And if you do?" Harry asked, "Will you apologize to Luna?"
"Yeah, yeah," Draco agreed dismissively, since he seriously doubted he would see an Ydnew in the dungeons, or anywhere near Hogwarts.
Harry smirked, "I'll hold you to that," he replied, with a smile towards Luna.
END CHAPTER 37
UPCOMING: (titles may change)
CHAPTER 38 LIKE A SNAKE
CHAPTER 39 CRUSHED
8/24/11...yes, it's been a while, I'm alive, well (as is my computer), and not in the witness protection program as one reviewer believed :)
I have still been writing...good news, most of this is finished, just has to be transferred to type from handwritten...had/having a bit of trouble with battle scene, but hopefully it will be ok.
Not beta'd, so please forgive any mistakes.
For those who read other stories, should have a chapt of 4 out of 5 up this month as well. I'm trying to concentrate on these 2 fics for now to complete them (Since I have another dozen in the works)