A/N: I recently found this chapter in a half-written on my laptop and decided to start updating this story again (though further chapters will probably come once I've got some more of Sex, Drugs and Existential Crises written and posted). As far as HP canon goes, this fic should be considered partially AU as of the end of DH. I am going to incorporate as much DH canon as I can into the story, but as it was started just after HBP, I'm not going to rewrite the bits that contradict DH (such as Draco getting hit by the articulated lorry and Fred still being alive).

-0-0-0-0-

By the last day of Freshers' Week Ronald Weasley had decided that he liked being a student very much. Granted, he hadn't actually done any actual studying yet. However, from what he had gathered from talking to the other new students this was apparently a somewhat peripheral activity that occasionally occurred when one wasn't drinking, sleeping or having surreal conversation with one's fellow students. Doubtless Hermione would have something to say about this absence of academic devotion; but it was Ron who was here at the University of Tadfield, while she was out in the world doing whatever it was that celibate elf rights activists did. So her presumed opinions on the subject really shouldn't matter. Alas however, for some extremely peculiar reason they did; a fact that disturbed him somewhat. Not that he had any intention of changing his approach to student life, of course. It was more the case that, in a strange and somewhat worrying kind of way, he missed being the target of her near-constant exasperation at the lack of scholastic interest amongst her peers.

He missed Harry and his occasionally infuriating hero complex too. And Neville and his plant fixation, and Luna with her bizarre conspiracy theories and…. Oh bugger, he was dwelling on things again. He'd thought he'd managed to stop doing that. But the gut churning pang of regret he felt when he thought about his estrangement from his family and friends was as sharp as ever it had been.

Still, his new flatmates, despite having just met him for the first time a few days ago, had proved themselves to be a good lot. True, Adam was a tad disconcerting at times and Wensleydale seemed to have a distinctly Hermioneish habit of taking things rather too seriously, but they both seemed eager to him feel welcomed. And Pepper and Brian were both a good laugh. Even if he did find himself involuntarily doing a hippogriff in the airplane lights impersonation every time Pepper mentioned third world debt or feeling tad nauseous when Brian launched into a descriptive spiel on the evils of meat every time he saw Ron eating anything that might contain a hint of animal product.

Getting up from his unmade bed, Ron rummaged around the debris that had accreted around the sleeping area over the last few days, until he found the list of things he was supposed to take with him to the following day's course induction. He had thus far neglected to do any sort of academic preparation for the coming week (after all, he was doing media studies not advanced potions). However, he supposed that he should probably make some sort of cursory effort. A glance at the crumple sheet of light green A4 he'd been given when he'd enrolled revealed that he might be lacking in a few item, such as pens, pencils, highlighters, writing paper and the courses two core textbooks, but then it was only going to be his first day so he didn't really expect to be doing anything other that sitting there pretending to pay attention while the tutors waffled on about how glad everybody was to be here. Not that he'd ever witness a media studies course induction first hand before, but he liked to think that television and third hand accounts of workmate's sister's friend's first year at university, had given him the basics.

He therefore dutifully stuffed his wallet, enrolment certification and still untouched course handbook into the battered rucksack Brian had given him after discovering that he was lacking in this area, before congratulating himself on his organisational skills and deciding that he deserved the rest of the night off.

Alas, while the preceding evenings had been filled with university-sponsored entertainments (most of which had involved the consumption of vast quantities of alcohol), there had been nothing organised for that evening. The powers that be clearly hoping that the new students would take the cue and use the Sunday before the start of the term proper as a day of rest. Ron though had got plenty of rest that morning: it having taken him until 2:00pm to sleep off his hangover, and was thus now feeling somewhat restless (though this probably had more to do with the four cans of red bull he'd consumed in an effort to shrug off the afternoon's grogginess). He therefore found himself walking out of his room and into the corridor in search of somebody to talk to.

Pepper's door was closed, indicating that she was either out or didn't want to be disturbed. Wensleydale's was ajar, but Wensley himself appeared to be diligently tapping away at his laptop, ostensibly involved in some kind of studious pursuit. The loud music and acrid smell emanating from Brian's room suggested that its occupant was chilling out and might welcome a visitor. However, enjoyable as he might otherwise find Brian's eccentric company, he found himself experiencing pangs of intense anxiety in the presence of the man's pet snake. He wasn't quite sure why such a small, pathetic seeming creature should induce such unease, but he really hated the way the thing had seemed to glare at him the last time Brian had invited him in to sample the Muggle equivalent to centaur herb. Call it paranoia, but he'd felt almost as if it had been sizing him up.

He glanced at Adam's door. It was cracked open a few inches, indicating that it was currently occupied, but Ron felt uncomfortable at the thought of approaching the young man for the purpose of idle conversation. Though he'd been friendly and welcoming enough since Ron's first night in the flat, he had never told him exactly how he knew Ron was a wizard. This on its own Ron might have put down to him having magical relatives and an extremely perceptive nature. However, that wouldn't explain the way the fair haired young man just seem to know things about him. Things that Ron was certain he'd never mentioned to any of his new flatmates. It had happened several times over the last few days. They'd be talking and Adam would casually make reassuring comments that Ron would only later realise contained bits of information that the young man shouldn't possibly have known unless he was on speaking terms with a good portion of the Weasley family.

As if on cue, the door opened and a head poked around the door.

"Hi Ron," said Adam, with a small smile.

"Alright mate," replied Ron, unable to shake the eerie, but utterly unfounded, feeling that Adam knew exactly what he'd been thinking.

"Do you want to go for a walk?" the young man asked.

Ron's brow furrowed. "A walk?"

Adam nodded. "You know, around the grounds."

He gave an uneasy shrug. It wasn't that he thought that Adam would do anything to harm him. More that there was a good chance that Ron would come away from the interaction with the thoroughly distressing sense that there wasn't an aspect of his life that his flatmate wasn't privy to.

Seeming to sense his unease Adam frowned. "You don't have to," he said, sounding slightly guilty. "It's just that I thought that we could talk about things. I mean, I know you're probably wondering how I know so much about you."

"Yeah, the thought had crossed my mind," said Ron, weakly, now even more disconcerted by his new flatmate, yet strangely loath to do or say anything that might hurt his feelings. "I suppose I could come out for a bit."

Adam smiled.

Ron experienced a sudden and inexplicable wave of reassurance.

-0-0-0-

As the sun set over Jasmine Cottage, Aziraphale gave a small sigh and walked back in from the quiet of the garden to the noise of Newton Pulsifer-Device doing battle with the upstairs lighting.

Like Ron, Aziraphale was also experiencing a little guilty ambivalence towards his new housemates.

He adored Anathema, Newt and little Bentley with all his angelic heart. He really did. However, after a week of feeling obligated to eat Anathema's organic, vegetarian, sugar-free, wheat-free, lactose free-meals and bear witness to Newt's efforts at 'home improvement', he found himself feeling just a tad claustrophobic.

When he'd mentioned this to Crowley two days earlier, the demon had rolled his eyes and told him to move somewhere else. However, he really couldn't stand to hurt their feelings, by declaring his intention to leave so soon. They were both being so kind.

And there was little Bentley, of course. A thoroughly charming little boy who, despite inheriting his father's level of non-affinity with all things digital and electrical, already seemed to be developing a great interest in books. The angel felt duty bound to help supervise the youngsters introduction to the written word and steer him away from the perilous path of marking one's place in a novel by shudder folding the page.

He just wished that Anathema hadn't looked so disapproving when he'd mentioned his great love of 'dining out'. He knew that most restaurants were a hotbed of capitalism and ingredients of ecologically dubious origin, but he really didn't think that frequenting the more upmarket ones was worthy of that expression.

-0-0-0-

"...and then I decided that I couldn't go around messing people around. I had to just leave things be. Well, apart from small things like Brian's exam results, but that's different."

As Adam finished telling the tale of how he came to be, he turned to his companion

Ron stared. "You're the Antichrist?"

Adam nodded, wondering if now would be the point at which his flatmate either ran away or started making accusations of insanity.

Ron however merely regarded him with mild startlement. "I always thought that you were a Muggle myth."

He shook his head. "Afraid not."

For several seconds Ron regarded him in silence.

Adam braced himself.

The response he was expecting never came.

"Funny old world," said Ron. "I never thought I'd meet two Chosen Ones in a lifetime."

"You're not scared of me or anything?" asked Adam, unable to keep the hope from his voice. Out of respect for Ron's privacy he was doing his best not to pry into the other young man's thoughts or emotions, but there didn't seem to be any blind terror on his face.

Ron shook his head. "I am a Gryffindor, you know," he said. "Besides, I don't reckon that there's any point being scared of you. I mean, if you wanted to do anything to me or blow up the world or anything, you'd have already done it."

Adam almost sagged with relief.

"What I don't get though," Ron continued, "is why you haven't told your mates yet. I mean, they must suspect that something's a bit odd about you."

He gave a sigh, not quite sure how to explain it. "If they remembered everything then they'd all want me to do things."

Ron gave a snort. "So I suppose that asking for a few sports channels on my telly set is out then."

Adam gave a weak smile. "I wasn't talking about that kind of thing. That I can do. It's more justice and world peace and saving the rainforest I can't do... Well, I could but—"

"Yeah, 'messing around', you told me."

He nodded. "I don't think that Brian and Pepper would understand."

"You fancy her, don't you?" said Ron.

His eyes widened. "How did you—?"

"It's obvious. The way you look at her. You should ask her out. Leave it too long and by the time you both manage to get together she might be be too fixated on House Elf rights for it to work."

Adam looked at Ron.

Ron looked at Adam.

As both young men burst out laughing, some of the tension each had been bearing seemed to dissipate.

"I'm going to check out the Student' Union," said Ron, glancing at his watch. "Haven't been there yet. I don't suppose that you fancy a pint."

"No thanks," said Adam. "I think I had enough last night."

"Suit yourself," said Ron. "But think about what I said, yeah. Ask her out. I'd give you my book on Failsafe Ways to Charm Witches, but, well, that one didn't work out too well for me in the end."

"I'll think about it," said Adam, as he turned to head back to the flat. "See you later, Ron."

"Yeah, later, Adam."

A few seconds later he paused in his tracks, as a thought hit him.

"Ron," he called out, to his rapidly retreating flatmate.

Ron turned to look at him quizzically.

"You might get a bit of a shock at the pub," he said. "But try not to worry about it too much. I wouldn't let anybody hurt a friend of mine."

-0-0-0-

As the drunken Muggle girl who'd been attempting to grope him all evening was finally escorted from the pub by two friends, Draco heaved a sigh of relief.

"We're running low on vodka," Nagini said, surveying the contents of the stock cupboard. "And I think we need to get in more Aftershock too. That 'buy four get three free' promotion we ran yesterday seems to have been really popular."

She seemed pleased that, despite the fact that she was watering down the majority of alcoholic substances in the bar, the students of Tadfield University were demonstrating an aptitude for binge drinking that was prodigious by even British standards: a talent that she felt diabolically obliged to encourage.

Though perfectly capable of materialising more of what the student populace was clamouring for, with just the blink of an eye, she had been insistent about actually exchanging money for the beverages, on the grounds that ordinary, not particularly observant humans had a horrible habit of noticing trivial, insignificant things, such as self-refilling vodka bottles, when it was least convenient. And when this happened it usually led to unpleasant things such as auditing. Auditors, Nagini insisted, were a breed apart from normal human and abnormally resistant to either infernal or divine suggestion.

Unlike Crowley, Aziraphale and Ron, Draco had not had a good week. In fact, if he wanted to be melodramatic about things - which he frequently was - he'd have declared it to be the worst week he'd had since being returned to earth. Given that there had only been five of these thus far, this was perhaps not saying a great deal; but his bout of self-pitying anguish being what they were, such objective observations were of little consequence.

His initial stab of all-out panic at the Dark Lord's disappearance had been replaced by a generalised feeling of anxiety about the whole thing. Nagini's 'wait and see if he turns up' policy on the matter struck him as a very bad idea, but he was at a complete loss as to what to suggest they should be doing instead. Worse than this constant sense of foreboding however was his job itself. The fact that he was being forced to wait on a bunch of drunken Muggles under threat of losing a roof over his head was bad enough, but it was the way that they treated him like… like he wasn't the heir to one of the magical worlds most infamous pure blooded families that really got to him.

The quest to have his rightful powers restored wasn't going too well either. During the time in which he hadn't been waiting on the Muggles, sleeping or bemoaning his fate, he had diligently sought out Crowley and attempted, from a distance, to acquire evidence of behaviour unbefitting of a demon on a Muggle camera. Unfortunately, he had not succeeded in observing a single act that would qualify as such. It seemed almost as if Crowley was sadistically timing his undemonic activities to coincide with Draco's shifts at the bar.

Draco really didn't see how things could get any worse.

Then the door opened and Any Worse walked straight through.

"MALFOY!"

Draco gaped with an expression of utter horror at his old nemesis's sidekick. Of all the people who, in his deepest nightmares, he'd imagined might show up at the University of Tadfield, Ronald Weasley hadn't even been a consideration. Yet there he was; bright ginger hair clashing horribly with a dark red t-shirt, gaping back at him.

For what seemed like half an age they stared at each other. Neither wanting to believe that the other was currently inhabiting the same small student pub in the wilds of middle England as they were.

"Weasley, what the hell are you doing here," he eventually demanded, deciding that in this instance accusation was the best form of defence.

Ron, clearly even more stunned than Draco seemed to take a few moments to organise his thoughts into something resembling coherency. "I'm a student," he said eventually. "But I could ask what you're doing here. After all you're the one who's… who's supposed to be dead. We saw them scrape your body off the road"

Draco weighed his options; he could either try to come up with a witty comeback, attempt to maintain a dignified silence while sticking his metaphoric finger in his equally metaphoric ears and pretending that Weasley didn't exist, or tell him the truth. His natural inclination was to select the first option, but given that, when it really came down to it, his ability to produce elegant retorts at a moment's notice didn't actually tally with his desire for said ability, he decided against it. The second option, while tempting, held the possible risk that the people around them might get the impression that they were engaged in some sort of lovers tiff and Draco was giving Ron 'the silent treatment'. It was an outcome that even under the direst threat he could not allow to have a chance of occurring. There was therefore only one thing he could do.

"Yes Weasley, I was dead, but I got better."

"What?"

"You heard me."

Ron's expression had gone from shock to horrified perplexity. A fact that gave Draco some satisfaction. "But…but how could that…?"

"Wouldn't you like to know, Weasley?" he said, deciding to firmly grasp the other hand. Said grasp however began to feel slightly tenuous when Nagini, who until a few seconds ago had been behind the bar telling one, now highly disgruntled, lecturer from the Physics Department exactly how much more per annum her colleagues were earning than her, appeared beside him; a beaming smile on her face. Unable to bear the thought of Ronald Weasley finding out that the only reason he was currently stalking the earth, was because hell had deemed him to be a borderline case, he gestured to his infernal overseer. "This is Nagini, the Dark Lord's p…." As his mouth began to form the word 'pet' the smile on the demon's face went from beaming to downright dangerous. "I mean, er, former companion."

This slightly botched revelation failed to have the intended effect on Ron, who, instead of backing away in terror, was now looking at him as if he'd gone completely mad. "Don't be an idiot Malfoy, I saw Neville kill that bloody snake. He used Gryffindor's sword."

"Tell me about it," said Nagini cheerfully. "Stung like anything. I've still got the scar, you know. It's a new body and everything, but the mark just won't go away. I can show you if you like."

Ron wordlessly nodded in the fashion of somebody who's reached the conclusion that the entire world's gone completely insane.

Nagini ginned, lifted her top and proceeded to give the entire bar what could only be described as 'an eyeful'.

Draco sighed.

Several young men and a few young women stared in blatant lust.

Ron's jaw dropped.

"Bloody hell."

"You can tell that the thing had a nasty edge, can't you?" she said conversationally.

While his time in the pit had served to acclimatise him to things such as topless ex-succubae, Draco nevertheless found himself overwhelmed by a sudden urge to hide his face and vigorously deny any acquaintanceship.

-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Aziraphale closed the paperback edition of the Hobbit from which he'd just been reading aloud and looked meaningfully at the living room clock. "I do believe young sir that it's past your bedtime."

Bentley immediately adopted the most calculatedly sad face it was possible for a seven year old to effect. "Just another chapter," he said with a beseeching whine.

Aziraphale, not particularly skilled at persuading young children to do things they didn't want to do, looked helplessly at Anathema, who'd been watching the storytelling with a mixture of amusement and maternal fondness.

"Time for bed," she said, getting up from her slightly battered looking easy chair.

"Muuuum," Bentley wailed.

Anathema, clearly a follower of the no nonsense school of parenting, merely sighed and picked her son up. Bentley, realising that resistance was futile and bedtime imminent, didn't bother to struggle.

"Say good night to your uncle Aziraphale, Bentley."

"Night, night Uncle Azrifell," said Bentley, in the mournful tones of one sentenced to a terrible and hopeless fate.

"Good night Bentley."

As Anathema turned into the hallway a muffled yet triumphant voice sounded out from somewhere above their heads. "I think I've done it, Anathema."

And with that the lights went out.

There was a muted thud followed by a loud crash.

"Er, Anathema, I don't suppose that you could bring a torch up here."

Aziraphale, for whom the dark was no obstacle to sight, could see the resigned expression on Anathema's face. "I'll be there in a second. Sorry, Aziraphale I don't suppose you could look after Bentley for a few minutes."

"Of course, dear girl," he said warmly, wondering whether righting the fault himself would be polite or not. After all, Newt had seemed a bit downcast when the angel had 'fixed' the kettle two days ago.

"Mummy," said Bentley quietly. "The police aren't going to arrest daddy under the Terrorism Act again, are they?"

-0-0-

When the power in the bar went out, Nagini – at whom Ron was still staring at open mouthed – immediately took the step of banishing the patrons back out into the darkened Wilds of campus.

"You wouldn't believe how much lust gets generated by the average night time black out," she said conversationally as Draco continued to glare at Ronald Weasley's outline.

"So… so you're the… the thing bit my dad," said Ron, finally overcoming the shock of being flashed by a succubus and taking upon himself to loyally take up the small but vexing matter of his father receiving a venomous bite courtesy of the being who'd just been introduced to him.

"You're dad was Arthur Weasley, wasn't he?" Complete and utter darkness being no obstacle to those of a diabolical persuasion, she walked back behind the bar and proceeded to pour herself a nice neat drink of vodka.

"Took him ages to recover. The wound wouldn't stop bleeding."

"Yeah, anti-coagulants were all the rage back then. Of course, I'm going for neurotoxins at the moment."

Ron made a face. "What?"

"Yes I know what you're thinking, anything that acts on the brains cholinergic system has to be a bit old fashioned, but you have to admit that it's better than just squeezing your prey to death."

Thrown off balance once more Ron attempted to cling to the point of his dutiful outrage. "Look, I'm a bit… no, I'm a lot, angry about what you did to my dad and Harry."

"Yes, but your friend Neville did horribly discorporate me so I think that makes us about even."

"What about my dad?" he demanded.

Nagini gave a small exasperated hiss. "Would it make you feel any better to know that shortly after that incident Riddle made me eat Peter Pettigrew?"

In the dark of the bar both Draco and Ron blanched.

"I meant eat in a more literal sense. Had to regurgitate him alive, of course, which was a relief as I don't think I could have digested him. Don't think I've ever felt quite so nauseous. Although, if we're talking about perversions then Draco's aunt Bellatrix and her-"

"I don't think that he wants or needs to hear about Aunt Bellatrix," snapped Draco, abruptly cutting her off.

"I don't mind," said Ron, a note of eagerness suddenly entering his voice. "Really."

-0-0-

Adam had decided to forgo the blackout. As much as he usually liked to get into the spirit of things there were other issues that he needed to deal with.

Feeling a pang of embarrassment he took a deep breath and looked once more into the mirror.

"Hi Pepper, I was wondering if you wanted to go and watch Revenge of the Living Dead we me at the cinema you know as a sort of date kind of thing."

He shook his head. No that one definitely wasn't going to work. For one thing the only place Revenge of the Living Dead was playing within reasonable distance was the multiplex on the other side of Upper Tadfield and Pepper had been boycotting it ever since they'd decided to let the Newtrition Corporation provide the popcorn. The merest suggestion of patronising the areas only eight screen cinema was likely to send her into a diatribe on subject of the company's infamous decision to sell low-calory baby milk in several famine ridden areas of the globe.

"Hello Pep, I don't suppose that you want to go for a drink later. You know just me and you."

Ugh, definitely not that one either. It sounded, well, ever so slightly sleazy. You might as well go and add a lecherous wink. Besides, the fact that he and Pepper had gone for drinks alone together three times in the previous week, made it rather redundant anyway.

"PepperIthinkIlikeyouasmorethanafriendwillyougooutwithme."

Hmmm. Not too bad. A little cheesy perhaps. A little high school. But direct and honest nonetheless. The thing was that he seriously doubted that he could bring himself to get the words out in front of her, much less speak them in a measured and coherent fashion.

-0-0-

"I think I've got it," Newt shouted in a voice that contained far more confidence than previous experience warranted. "Just a fuse blown, er, I think."

Aziraphale suspected that 'just a blown fuse' could possibly make it onto the Understatement of the Year shortlist. Despite his angelic ability to see the unseeable, he couldn't quite fathom exactly how Newt had managed to short circuit the portion of the national grid supplying the Tadfield area while doing nothing more than attempting to install an extractor fan in the bathroom. It was really no wonder that MI5 had been sniffing around. One rather suspected that Newton Pulsifer's proficiency, or absence therefore, when it came to mundane technical tasks had its own special subsection in the Ineffable Plan.

"There that should…."

Aziraphale made a slightly clumsy-looking hand gesture.

The lights blinked back on

For several moments there was dumbfounded silence.

"…do it." The delight and wonderment that resounded in the last two words were enough to allay any guilt the angel might have had about lending a spot of divine assistance.

"Well done," he heard Anathema say. She'd know, of course, but Aziraphale was certain that she wouldn't spoil Newt's moment of triumph, however erroneously based.

"You can make the people from the electricity company go away, can't you Uncle Azzrifell?" said Bentley, a small note of worry in his voice.

Aziraphale gave the boy a comforting smile. "I'm sure I could persuade them to find something more suitable to do with their time." This was very true. If the entreaties to be more charitable and understand failed and projecting an aura of peace and well being failed. He knew that inviting them in and launching into an enthusiastic spiel about how having the Lord's presence in one's existence could really make a difference to one's outlook, would be sure to have them making their hasty excuses and beating a hasty retreat back to the company car.

It was a rather relieved Anathema who re-entered the sitting room.

Thank you, she mouthed at Aziraphale, before turning her attention back to her son.

"Come on Bentley, no more stalling, you've got a busy day tomorrow."

-0-0-

By the time the dim lights of the Tadfield campus bar came back on Ron found himself sitting on a wobbly bar stool, while Draco stood in a corner, ostensibly sulking, and the evil father biting snake woman with a penchant for indecent exposure drank neat vodka from the bottle and talked about the more amusing predilections of the late Lord Voldemort's former followers. He was certain however that the one about Professor Snape and the dyslexic incubus had to have been an exaggeration.

"…and then Duke Hastur, you know the tall, repulsive one with the holy relic dust snorting problem…."

"I thought that Duke Ligur?" said Ron, who was having difficulty keeping up with the names of hell's most infamous.

"No he's the short, repulsive one who got doused in holy water by the job stealing bastard. Anyway, Duke Hastur just told me that it was my task to make sure Draco stays off the straight and narrow and on the twisted and depraved, so here we both are."

"So let me get this straight. He's here because he isn't quite evil enough for hell as he is and needs to be corrupted a bit more." At the thought of this Ron couldn't help but give a small snigger.

Draco, clearly annoyed by the presence of the second youngest Weasley, scowled. "Hah, if you believe that you'll believe anything. Nagini and I are really here to- Ouch." The reanimated Malfoy heir suddenly clutched his head and started to whimper.

"Yes, s'about it," said Nagini, voice finally starting to take on a hint of drunken slur. "Anyway, I've told you why we're here. What I want to know is what Harry Potter's best friend's doing at a Muggle university."

"Er…studying." Ron knew as soon as the word left his mouth that nobody was going to buy it. There are some lies that are too big to ever sound convincing.

"You haven't settled down with that self-righteous girl with the frizzy hair then?"

"What, Hermione, how…how d'you know about me and her?"

Nagini gave a smile that radiated smug pride. "I always keep my ears open. Well, figuratively, of course, I don't actually have any to speak of when I'm in snake form. Besides, two of Riddle's followers were running a betting pool on whether you or Harry'd be the first to 'get into the bushy-haired Mudblood's knickers'."

Ron could almost feel his skin crawl at the thought of Voldemort's filthy lackeys placing wagers on something so… so personal. "How were they planning to find out?" he asked, not quite sure that he wanted to know the answer.

She shrugged. "Kidnap her and dose her with Veritaserum, I suppose. Though the whole thing got disbanded after Goyle overheard the Carrows planning ways to get the three of you under the Imperius curse and rig the contest.

He shook his head. "That's sick. That's really, really sick."

"Well, it was an evil organisation. Wouldn't have been sent to whisper in Riddle's ear if they hadn't been. Not that whispering in Riddle's ear did any good of course. Dismissed every diabolic and strategically sensible idea I had, the bastard. I mean, if you'd been him, would you have insisted on waiting until the end of the Triwizard Tournament to give Harry the portkey, because I certainly wouldn't. As for the pre-kill gloating, what kind of idiot does that?"

"But he was-"

"Pathologically incompetent, I know."

"I was going to say deranged."

"Yes, but when it comes to Dark Lords that's practically one of the job requirements. Most sane people don't tend to massacre hundreds of relatively innocent people for the sake of petty revenge."

Ron had to agree on that point. Still, the fact that she could talk about the whole thing in much the same blasé manner a Hogwarts student might bemoan a really gruelling potions class bothered him. "It doesn't bother you, what you did, does it?" he said, realising as soon as the words left his mouth that saying things like that to an aeons old creature of the pit was possibly a bit stupid.

Nagini shrugged. "I'm a demon, it was my job. Personally I would have rather been back in the Seventh Circle. It was difficult to keep up with things while I was slithering around and trying to convince Riddle that the path to world domination didn't lie in placing bits of his soul in the most obvious objects available."

"You're really bitter about that, aren't you," observed Ron, in tones that were rather more sarcastic than were probably sensible when conversing with creatures of the Netherworld.

"Don't get her started, Weasley," muttered Draco, his tones so baleful that Ron was almost tempted to feel sorry for him. Almost. "I've been listening to that rant since I got killed."

Much to his own disgust, Ron's 'almost sympathy' transformed into 'outright pity'.