Continued in Geas of Gryffindor.
"I still can't quite wrap my mind around it," Dean said. "Draco Malfoy – Saviour of the Wizarding World."
Harry shrugged uncomfortably, perched at the edge of the Gryffindor Table, waiting for supper to begin. "Neither can I," he said.
"It must be strange," Hermione said, sympathy shining in her brown eyes as she leaned forward to get a better look at Harry. "You were the Boy Who Lived."
"Yeah, everybody just knew it was going to be you, Harry," Seamus commented in his familiar brogue. "Including you, I reckon."
Neville shrugged, looking almost as uncomfortable as Harry. "Look, Seamus, Harry hasn't changed. Does it matter who's the Saviour of the Wizarding World?"
"Hear, hear," Ron declared, thumping his fork against the wood of the table. "So long as Voldemort's pushing up the daisies, what d'you care?"
There was a moment of shocked silence after the dreaded name, then a spate of self-deprecating laughter as it sank in that it couldn't matter anymore.
Harry, for his part, found his eyes swinging up to where Draco Malfoy sat, nearly directly across from him at the Slytherin table. The blond boy was animatedly explaining his role in the final battle – most likely greatly exaggerated – to a bevy of admiring girls and younger boys. Dean couldn't wrap his mind around it...? And what did Hermione mean, he had been the Boy Who Lived?
Harry heard Draco's voice in his mind: your name will always have power. He doubted it. He hadn't managed to kill Voldemort; Draco had. In the minds of witches and wizards everywhere, he must seem like an enormous let-down. People were probably wondering why they'd ever made such a big fuss over him.
Draco, on the other hand... Draco's name would go down in history as the Boy Who Killed Voldemort. The Slytherin had been wrong all along – their positions were reversed. It was the Malfoy name which would have power. Harry suspected that the Prophet would paint Draco as the struggling rebel of his family, always cast out and misunderstood by family and classmates –
Much the way they painted you, he realized. Some of his humour abruptly returned. He wouldn't mind leaving a great deal of it behind: the threat of death hanging about his head, the way people sensationalized his every move, the adoration of people he'd never met. Let Draco deal with that, along with the rest; he could do without it, both the good and the bad.
He just didn't know how.
He'd had two lives, now: one where he lived at the Dursley's, hated and feared – another as part of the Wizarding World, revered as the Boy Who Lived. Now a third life was beginning, and that was a bit frightening.
Harry re-focussed when Draco's own eyes sought him out. Green met grey; Harry gave a sarcastic half-wave as he scanned Draco's many admirers. Draco gave a weak grin and a shrug that replied without answering.
Dudley wandered in and sat across from Harry, temporarily blocking his view to Draco.
"Hey," Harry said.
"Hi," Dudley replied. He fiddled with his hands, briefly, then worried his lower lip between his teeth, as though he wanted to say something. "Uhm... look. I'm sorry for teasing you about – this. Once mum and dad found out about my – uhm... well, they chucked me out pretty quick. Mum didn't want to at first. She thought it might be catching and it might be curable. But Dad was firm. 'Let him go and be with his own kind, Petunia,' he said."
"Sorry," Harry replied automatically. "What happened, anyway?"
Dudley flushed bright pink. "If you must know, my entire room filled with chocolate cake."
"W-what?" Ron goggled, and Hermione leaned closer to listen.
"Well, you know how mum and dad were with the diet," Dudley said to Harry, eyeing Ron and Hermione a bit anxiously before continuing. "We had a screaming fight about it, because the school nurse said I was dropping weight too quick. Mum and Dad wouldn't believe me." He coughed nervously, still that ruddy colour. "Dad followed me up the stairs, screaming, and I opened my bedroom door, sort of thinking about that cake you got on your birthday, and..." He spread his hands wide in a gesture of helplessness. "It came flooding out the door, slammed into dad and tossed him down the stairs onto his back."
Harry's jaw dropped further.
"Oh! Well... he wasn't hurt," Dudley reassured him. "The cake... sort of – cushioned..." Seeing the stricken expression on Harry's face, he paused. "What?"
Harry, Ron, Neville and Hermione burst into helpless laughter.
"Oh, Sweet Merlin!" exclaimed Ron. "Your dad... covered in cake... bellowing..."
Harry remembered that Ron had met Uncle Vernon, and shared a grin with him.
Dudley barked a startled laugh as though he were recalling the embarrassing memory in an entirely different light. "Yeah, well. I guess it was pretty funny. But dad didn't think so..."
"I'm sure he didn't," Harry solemnly replied. "Now – d'you understand that the thing about the snake was a mistake?"
Dudley frowned. "I guess. But you must've been pretty brassed off to do it."
"What's this about a snake?" Hermione inquired.
Harry flushed. "Er... nothing."
Somewhat luckily for Harry, Dumbledore walked through the doors and took his place at the head of the Staff Table. He cleared his throat and immediately dozens of voices hushed and moving children stilled.
"Hello," Dumbledore said pleasantly, looking out over them all, his features benevolent. "I hope you are all well on this most splendid of days."
There was a murmur of assent, far more cheerful than usual. Ever since it had become clear that Voldemort was dead and was most certainly not coming back, a pervasive joy had settled over Hogwarts's students and staff.
"Since all are present and accounted for for the first time since the battle, I have decided that it is time to award points. Ahem."
Hundreds of students leaned forward in their seats.
"First of all, to Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, and Yolande Zabini, a hundred points apiece to their respective Houses – for their intellect and leadership in difficult times."
Hermione and Yolande beamed at one another from across the House lines.
"Second, to Draco Malfoy – five hundred and twenty-five points, not only for ridding the world of an evil menace, but for having the courage to die for a friend."
Draco, rather than preen as Harry thought he would, flushed a brilliant scarlet. He obviously hadn't been expecting the second half of Dumbledore's praise.
"Third, to Mister Harry Potter – on whom all of our hopes have rested these many years..." he said while Harry felt his own face heat. "...for his negotiations with Tom Riddle, for enduring torture so that others might escape, for commanding the respect and securing the loyalty of his fellow students, and finally, for understanding the folly of pride, for knowing when it is time to obey an order to save a life... five hundred points."
Harry's fists clenched under the table as he thought of calling Voldemort 'Master'. But he had done it to save Draco from becoming a toy of Bellatrix LeStrange's... he hadn't known how things would end, then. He had let go of that pride because he'd had to. It wasn't anything to win points for.
"To Ginny Weasley, for knowing when to ignore an order... two-hundred points. Without her swift mind and rapid organization, the day would not have been won."
Ginny practically glowed; Harry was certain it was the highest number of points any Weasley had gleaned at one go.
Poppy Pomfrey leaned over and whispered into Dumbledore's ear.
"And for curing Severus Snape of his afflictions," Dumbledore continued, with a hint of humour, "twenty points apiece for Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter."
Snape tsked and rolled his eyes.
"To all who participated in the battle, ten points apiece; that took a great deal of courage." Dumbledore paused, then cleared his throat, looking out over the Great Hall; his eyes were shining, and when he continued it was in a very different voice from his usual cheerful obliviousness. "Not to mention loyalty, intellect and strategy," he added while the rubies of various Houses practically whirred behind him. "You have all – all of you – made us proud to call Hogwarts our home." His eyes twinkled.
"You may be interested to know that, starting next term, the Houses will be combined. There comes a time when we must often eat our words – or our Sorting Hat. I have seen, this year, what the Houses, working together, can accomplish, and I intend to make certain that each class and dormitory has an even sprinkling of all the Houses whenever possible."
Hermione whooped enthusiastically; she was joined by the rest of the Unsorted House, including Harry and Yolande. Dudley looked confused, and he wasn't alone; two-thirds of the school appeared to be rather startled by this decision, and seemed unsure what to think about it.
"Well, that'll be... interesting," Dean said.
"Interesting?" Seamus demanded. "We could end up with a bunch of Slytherins, you know!"
"Or Ravenclaws," Dean countered his friend. "Maybe some Ravenclaw girls will end up in the Gryffindor dormitories..."
"Ravenclaw girls are awfully cute," Ron contributed unexpectedly, shoveling potatoes onto his plate. "Especially the ones who don't know they are."
"Hufflepuff girls are sweet; don't you think?" Neville inquired.
Seamus nodded. "Yeah, they sure can be." His eyes trailed to the Hufflepuff table. "And willing, if you know what I mean."
"Seamus!" Hermione exclaimed, swatting him. "That's rude!"
"Rude but true, Hermione," Ron interjected.
She huffed. "If I knew that improving inter-House relations would just make you all want to jump each other, well, I wouldn't've bothered, now, would I?"
Harry smiled, and only grinned wider when Hermione glared at him.
The witch softened under his warm expression, a smile widening her own features. "I'm going to go chat up Yolande; maybe we can arrange to have the same room next year!"
Harry's eyes widened and he opened his mouth to stop or warn her, but he wasn't exactly certain what he would say, or even if he ought to say anything. Before he could so much as decide, she was gone.
Ron, Dean, and Seamus were now arguing the merits of the girls from all four Houses, with Neville occasionally tossing in a comment or two. They were deciding that Gryffindor girls were best – probably out of loyalty as much as anything else – when Harry interjected.
"I don't know," he said. "There's something about Slytherin girls..."
The four other boys turned on Harry immediately, protesting, but Harry grinned. Maybe it was all right being 'just Harry' after all.
Slytherin won the House Cup that year, and, considering Draco's recent contributions to the Wizarding World, no one was particularly surprised. Nor were they displeased; House Slytherin invited the school as a whole to an enormous celebration, both rowdier and with a darker atmosphere than most Gryffindor parties Harry had attended. Some idiot had the temerity to dress as a Death Eater; Professor Snape scooted the offending Slytherin out immediately, with a whap to the back of the head for his trouble.
The party was in and around the Slytherin dormitories, where it had started before spilling out. Eerie, throbbing music hung in the air from some unknown source; it didn't appear to become softer or louder no matter where Harry stood. If he strained, he could make out words, but it was obviously meant to be background. The decorations around the dungeons were silver and green: silver candles flickered against the stone walls on the lower floors of the castle, and there were sprigs of evergreen artfully arranged at various spots throughout the party.
There was food and drink of course, both of high quality and in copious quantity. Harry was pretty certain that the green punch was spiked to the nines, so he took a couple of sips for show before tossing the rest into one of the vases of evergreens; the decorative sprigs hissed and withered, and briefly Harry entertained the notion that the party was merely the Slytherin's rather overblown and creative way of ridding themselves of the rest of the Houses once and for all.
"Enjoying yourself, Potter?"
Harry turned to find Draco in some elaborate costume he could not immediately identify, making his way through the press of giggling and chatting students. "Who are you supposed to be?"
Draco shrugged. "Morning Brother, of course. Although I've been telling everybody else that I'm Apollo." He lifted the edge of his pale cloak and swung it around. "An excuse for dressing up, really. I have no idea who I'm supposed to be." He reached out to offer Harry a glass. "Punch?"
"Er... no, thanks, I've just finished mine," Harry lied smoothly. "So, how does it feel to be the Saviour of the Wizarding World?"
"I'm beginning to understand why you developed paranoid tendencies," Draco replied stiffly. "Everyone wants to talk at me and no one will talk to me. Except–" He paused, his eyes swinging to Hermione, who had dressed as an archetypical witch, from the tip of her black hat down to her spiderwebby stockings and black buckle-shoes. The bushy-haired girl was chatting amicably with Ron, in Muggle garb. "And my cousin, of course."
Harry sighed. "Yes, well. It has its ups and downs."
"I mostly came here to give you the sorrowful news that we're losing two of our best teachers at the end of term," Draco replied, "including my head of House."
"That is a good summary of the general Slytherin reaction," Draco went on, patting his hair into place with exaggerated care.
Not like it needs it, Harry thought with a pang of jealousy. "Why?"
"Put two and two together, Potter," Draco snapped. "He's been ousted. What use is he now?"
Harry gaped, then nodded. Draco wasn't stating his opinion, he was describing the situation from Snape's point of view. "And the other teacher – Lupin?"
Draco sighed eloquently. "They're exuding identical airs of martyrdom. I figured, if anyone could change their minds, it would be you. You are the expert on martyrdom, aren't you?"
Harry snorted. "Along with all my other titles, I think that one's yours too." At Draco's gobsmacked expression, he smirked. "After all, who's the one who said–"
Draco immediately leaned in to slap his hand over Harry's mouth, muffling the rest of the dark-haired boy's sentence. "You don't have permission to quote me," he asserted haughtily, his voice wrought with agitation and repressed humour. His eyes scanned Harry's; after assessing the other boy for a moment as if to make certain he wouldn't finish speaking, he leaned back and removed his hand, wiping it on his cloak. "Eww," he dramatically intoned. "Harry germs.
"Listen," he said. "I don't want to think he might be leaving because of me, but he might. Tell him I'm not a threat. Tell him you believe in me – something."
"All right," Harry said. He grinned. "This party's a total bore, anyway."
Ignoring Draco's very real shocked offense, Harry slipped out the door and made his way to Snape's quarters.
The older man was standing in the middle of his sitting room, taking books from shelves – and from the toppling piles throughout the room and on the floor – and moving them towards an open case that seemed to have no bottom.
"Professor!" Harry exclaimed. He'd had no idea that the other man was leaving so soon; but, he supposed, if it hadn't been urgent, Draco wouldn't have told him in the middle of the party.
"Mister Potter," Snape greeted, his tones measured and aloof.
"You're going?" Harry inquired, stepping inside, despite the fact that he had not been invited. He sat down on Snape's couch, flushed at the memory of having fallen asleep there.
Snape eyed his new position and tsked. "As it should be obvious to anybody with eyes, yes, I am going." His eyebrow raised. "Still in full regalia, are we? You obviously knew I was departing, or you would not have bothered to make a short visit during the Slytherin party." He paused. "Come to gloat?"
Harry reared back at the implied insult. "Very nice. Gloating was exactly what I had in mind," he murmured sarcastically.
"Well, you've only wanted me out of Hogwarts since you were but so high," Snape returned, tone every bit as acid as Harry's and more. "Now I'm out. Care to throw another party? I'm certain the Gryffindors would all agree one is in order. Now begone. I am busy." And he returned to coaxing his enormous library off the shelves and into the floating suitcase.
Harry paused. He didn't want to give the impression that once he was finished speaking, he was going to leave, so he propped his feet up on the long, low table that sat before the couch.
"Get your feet off, you impertinent child!" Snape ordered.
"Hmm?" Harry looked up as if he was startled to hear Snape's words. "But it's not your table anymore, right?"
Snape muttered something incomprehensible, then slammed one of his elder volumes into the suitcase with a bit more force than was strictly necessary.
"Why are you leaving, anyway?" Harry wanted to know.
Snape blinked at him as though he'd demanded to know why the sky was blue or the grass was green; the books halted in mid-air, as though confused or startled, themselves. "I should think that would be obvious," he snarled, and the items swung back into motion.
"Well, I'm a Gryffindor, you know," Harry replied, because Draco had taught him to use the stereotype of his House to good advantage. "We're dumb as posts, as a whole. Have to be led to everything." He kept his expression bland.
"There is no reason for me to remain," Snape said, impatience lacing every word. The volumes around him fluttered gently down and came to rest at various spots on Snape's rug, which Harry noted was woven into a complicated design of phoenixes and blooming weeds – most likely obscure potions ingredients, he decided.
"Yes, Potter, for Merlin's sake. Professor Lupin said it himself: my job as a spy is done. Voldemort is dead, thanks to Mister Malfoy, yourself – and a seemingly unlimited number of foolish do-gooders, including those from my own House," he tacked on with a sneer. "Do you honestly think," he added, "that my skills as a Professor are required?"
"Yes," Harry replied, honestly and automatically.
"Well then, you are more of a fool than I ever credited," Snape bit off. The volumes scattered across the floor twitched, then were quiescent.
Harry considered this to be a good sign. "What will Dumbledore do?" he wondered aloud. "Two Professors gone in one year... he can scarcely find a warm body to fill that Defense position; you know that. There aren't enough witches and wizards in the country to make for a good pool of teachers to pick and choose from. You really ought to stay."
"And deprive you of your own chance?" Snape snorted. "Whatever fools the Headmaster dredges up won't last long. Miss Granger and yourself are top candidates for the two positions Lupin and I will be vacating, and you both only have a year of school remaining."
"I hadn't thought of that."
"Well." The volumes lifted and swung towards Snape's suitcase.
"Still," Harry said, panicking, "I'm sure Miss Granger and myself would rather have you."
Harry had never heard a more derisive sound in his life, so he tacked on, in utter desperation, "you're the best teacher I've ever had!"
The books halted short of their destination and crashed to the floor.
Harry's feet moved automatically to the ground, and he half-stood, watching Snape's shoulders shake. He was wondering if the other man was having some sort of fit, when he heard a sound that made his heart leap.
"Oh, Sweet Merlin!" Snape laughed.
Harry hadn't been certain Snape could laugh like that, with his head thrown back, and now he saw it, it was sort of... frightening.
"Poor Harry," Snape added, regaining mastery of himself; when he looked up at the Gryffindor, his face had relaxed into the now-familiar lines of a subtle, wry humor. "If I am the yardstick to which you measure your educational experiences, I do pity you," he tacked on. "Still. What a ridiculous thing for you to say. So incredibly Gryffindor. And yet a lie so large it's worthy only of Slytherin. Now I think I finally understand why the Hat had such a difficult time." Snape sobered, coming out the other side of humor looking somber indeed. "Still," he added again, apropos of nothing. The remaining books slid into his suitcase, upon which he closed and locked it.
"It's not a lie," Harry said, jaw jutting out in his stubbornness. "Professor Lupin is a better teacher than you are – but you taught me more."
"A contradiction in terms."
"Without you, I'd be dead, or starkers," Harry said. "A dozen times over on both counts, I should think."
"How many times ought I to tell you, Mister Potter, that I am no longer needed–"
"Needed?" Harry shouted. "I think that maybe you have a being-needed thing, has anyone ever told you that? You're so focussed on what other people need, that I think you've failed to notice that you need other people!"
Professor Snape drew himself up to his full height, and glared. "First of all, that sentence was so garbled that I am not even certain it makes sense. And second, I am not certain where you came by the impression that I would tolerate such barefaced impudence. Twenty points from Gryffindor for mouthing off to a teacher!"
"Taking back what I got for saving your life?" Harry shot back.
Snape deflated, shoulders slumping at the same time Harry's did.
"Sorry," Harry muttered. "I didn't mean it to all come out that way. But it's true. I don't want you to go, and I'm sure part of the reason Professor Lupin is leaving is because you are. And you shouldn't just leave because your job isn't as mysterious as it used to be." He offered the older man a wry grin. "Besides, there's still plenty to do. I'm certain we didn't root out all the Death Eaters in England. And as someone once told me, 'there will always be a Dark Wizard. There will also always be homework, and rooms to Evanesco, and normal, everyday relationships that need to be maintained.' Life goes on, you know, in between catastrophes."
"Are you certain?" Snape inquired, running a hand through his dark hair and quirking a smile.
"Maybe you ought to stick around and see," Harry told him.
Snape stared at Harry, examining him as though Harry's arguments were written in his features, as if the answers could be discerned by close scrutiny. The older man barked a sudden laugh then shook his head, staring at Harry almost suspiciously.
Harry glared right back.
Professor Snape then moved to his suitcase, flipped open the latch, and stared at the volumes within; after a moment, he withdrew his own sixth-year Potions text and regarded it pensively, turning it over in his hands, sliding one pale finger against the battered spine. Then he moved to the shelves that lined the back wall of his quarters and purposefully slid the volume onto the highest shelf, where it dislodged a scant, ancient layer of dust. The motes danced and lit around the Potions Master as he glided back to his suitcase and gripped the edges, his dark eyes swallowing the dim illumination of the room.
A hefty, cloth-bound volume caught Harry's eye. "What's that one?" Harry inquired, rising off of the couch to take it from the confines of the case, turning it over to view the title. "I don't think I've seen it before."
Snape straightened, eyeing him curiously. "You fool, that's Most Potente Potions. You've only paged through it a dozen times."
"Oh, that's right," Harry agreed, liking the rough weave of the cover under his fingertips. He strode over to the empty bookshelf and slid it carefully into its proper place, dead center, second shelf from the bottom. "Here?"
Harry stayed until every book had been moved to its correct spot on the shelves, until he was absolutely certain they, and their owner, would remain. The man was Slytherin, after all.
When Harry reached the Common Room, Hermione, Ginny, Neville and Ron were awake, chatting. Hermione sprang to her feet from her stuffed chair immediately. "You won't guess what!" she proclaimed.
"Me, Ginny and Hermione convinced Professor Lupin to stay," Ron filled in.
"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed, deflating. "Whose story is it, mine or yours?"
"Ours, I should think," Ginny broke in. "It was brilliant, anyway, Harry."
"That's good news. I've got more. I convinced Professor Snape to stay, too."
Neville gaped, and Ron's features fell. "Really? Why?"
Hermione swatted him.
"I might not like him, but he does know his stuff," Ginny said slowly. "Imagine getting someone as helpless at Potions as most of the new Defense teachers are at Defense!"
"Explosions everywhere," Neville offered, looking startled.
Ron scratched his head. "Yeah, you do have a point, there, Gin."
"Besides, Harry likes him, don't you, Harry?" Neville inquired.
Harry made a small, inarticulate noise. "Er... yeah, sort of."
"Well, of course you do; you wouldn't let me kill him at the beginning of term, when he burned your assignments," Hermione filled in.
"You're very scary sometimes," Ron interjected solemnly.
"Don't you wish some of the other teachers would want to leave, other than the brilliant ones?" Ginny inquired idly, swinging one, freckled leg that was hooked around the arm of her favorite overstuffed chair.
"Yeah, like Trelawney," Harry said. "'Neither can live while the other survives'. Right."
Hermione's brows climbed into her hair. "But that was right, Harry. She made that prophesy? Really?"
"Just because one of us died–" Harry began.
"No, it had to be one or the other," Ron said. "Because Draco had to pick one of you, didn't he?"
Harry blinked. "What?"
"He's right, Harry," Hermione confirmed. "If Draco had picked Voldemort, he would've murdered you there in the Great Hall, at Voldemort's order. But since he chose you, he ended up murdering Voldemort instead. Only one of you could have survived in that situation."
"O-oh," Harry stammered.
"Cheer up, mate," Ron said, slapping him on the back with a thump. "He's still dead because of you, isn't he?"
"I guess he is," Harry said. Without knowing quite why, he felt immeasurably better. "Maybe I was feeling a bit of an idiot because I bought into all that prophesy stuff about myself, and it seems like I should've known better."
"What matters is that he's gone," Hermione said wisely.
"And that we're here!" Ginny exclaimed with glee. "D'you know where Draco's gone and hidden those Muggle clothes, Harry? Because I have it on good authority that certain Gryffindor girls would pay gold to see a fashion show, and we're not talking leprechaun gold, either..."
Harry laughed, trying to stave her off, knowing it wouldn't do any good. Maybe he'd join in; there was no reason to be so serious, he realized with a slight tingle of shock. Not much to be serious about. Maybe he'd try out being a real Gryffindor, setting off dungbombs in the corridors and doing Quidditch and playing in the pond with the Giant Squid
The future, for the first time, was a blank – an exciting, terrifying, blessed blank, with no fighting or protecting or hiding or saving-people imminent.
Grinning, Harry leaned back and began to plan the ambush of Draco Malfoy.
.The End. - Continued in Geas of Gryffindor, Book Two of Kindred Powers
Well, now, you lurkers. Time to weigh in. Did you like this fic? Being specific about what parts worked for you and what parts didn't is very helpful.
There is now a sequel to this fic in the works, called Geas of Gryffindor. As of now, there are already several chapters up on fanfic-dot-net.
To those of you who received an update on a long-since-completed story, I apologize - I made some sort of error and the Epilogue disappeared. I had to cut-&-paste from Potions and Snitches. I'm just grateful it was archived somewhere else!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed!