Better Be Slytherin! – Chapter 51
Warnings for language.
Previously on Better Be Slytherin:
"I will, however, accompany you during those two weeks."
"You'll . . . what?"
"I will spend that two weeks with you, in the Dursley household, taking advantage of their, I'm sure, quite genial hospitality . . ." Severus trailed off, then bit out, "Why are you laughing?"
At the banquet, Harry tried really hard to be pleasant and upbeat amongst his friends, while they chatted about final grades which were due any day now, the end of the year and going home.
But Harry wasn't going home. Hogwarts was home, to him, the first place in his memory he felt he belonged. Here he had friends and mentors and people who looked out for him. He had Quidditch and spells, and he wasn't a freak. Well, not the freak he was to the Dursleys anyway. Even knowing he only had to spend two weeks at the Dursleys didn't make him feel much better about the end of the year. He didn't want to leave Hogwarts at all.
The Bloody Baron floated up through the table amongst the First Year Slytherins, and gave Harry a secret wink when the other Firsties screamed and clutched at their dinner plates so as to keep from getting his dripping blood/ectoplasm all over their food.
Harry tried hard not to laugh. "You sure know how to liven up the place. Thanks."
"It is my pleasure, Harry Potter. I am glad to see you at last, and decently recovered."
"Yeah, er, me, too. Good to see you, I mean."
The Baron inclined his head slightly. "I understood your meaning. Are you well? I did not intend to leave your body when I did. The ordeal must have been very trying."
It had been awful, it was true, and Harry knew that no one else could hear the Baron speak, so the Baron could say such things in front of them, and no one would be the wiser. But the other First Years could hear his side of the conversation, so he had to be careful in his response. "I'm fine now. Really."
The ghost narrowed his merciless eyes. "It is unlike you to engage in such blatant falsehoods, my young friend."
With a frown of his own, Harry replied, "I will be fine. How about that?"
"That shall have to suffice," the Baron intoned. "Perhaps I will see you this evening in the dungeons and we can discuss it further. I fear my presence is putting your Housemates off their feed."
Harry glanced around at the nearby tables stuffed with students, some of whom were pale and even trembling a little in proximity to Slytherin House's terrible ghost. Even younger Slytherins did not like to be too close to him, from the cold bleakness that rolled off him to the horrible gleaming "blood" pouring from the stab wound in his chest. Even those students apparently unaffected by the Bloody Baron's presence kept sending him wary glances and drawing their dinner plates closer.
"I see what you mean. Til' later," Harry promised, and turned back to his own dinner as the Baron sank through the table.
"I really wish he wouldn't do that," Millie complained when the Baron had gone. She was on Harry's left and was busy scraping something up with a spoon.
"Scared of a widdle ghost, Bulstrode?" Zabini mocked from across the table.
"Uh, no." Millie held up the spoon, which was heaped with glowing, off-gray ooze. "I just hate it when he slimes my mashed potatoes. Why?" she asked innocently as she flicked the glob at Zabini. "Do you like it?"
The spoonful of gray ooze splattered the front of Zabini's robe. His face drained of color to match the shade of the splotch. "You miserable little--"
"Watch it, Zabini," Teddy said, from Harry's right. "Keep it down in front of the other Houses, if you don't mind. Besides, no one wants to hear your vulgar little mouth, least of all, our Head." He crooked a thumb to aim at Professor Snape at the High Table, only a couple paces from where the Firsties' seats were clustered. It was more than possible that he could hear them. And, Harry noted with a quick glance, Snape was watching them right now. As was the Headmaster.
"Fine," Zabini spat. "We'll sort this out later, Bullstrode." He snatched up his wand and pointed it at his robe. With a muttered "Evanesco," the mess was gone.
"Looking forward to it," Millie sang back at him, absolutely unconcerned. Then, deliberately turning her face away from Zabini, she said to Harry, "You'll come to visit over the summer hols, won't you? Mum said to say she'd love to have you."
Taken off guard, Harry stared. "What? Why?" Barring the invitation at Christmas, which he'd assumed was for pity's sake, since otherwise he was stuck at the castle, he had never been asked over to anyone's house before. This . . . this was . . . well, he didn't know how to describe it.
While he was trying to figure out what to say, Millie's face had grown a frown. "'Cause you're my friend, and friends visit, right? You are my friend, aren't you, Harry?"
"I . . . yeah . . . I mean, I never . . ." Harry bit his lip, and Millie's expression softened.
"It's okay," she said. "You can send me an owl or something."
"Yeah, okay," Harry agreed, relieved that Millie hadn't made him explain. Even after a whole school year of having friends, he could still be blindsided by new expectations. "I'll send you an owl."
As Millie turned to talk with the girls on her other side, Teddy nudged Harry with an elbow. "Cozying up with Millicent over the holidays, eh?" He grinned. "Didn't know she was your type."
"Ted!" Harry squawked. A quick glance showed Millie had not heard.
Just past Teddy was Draco Malfoy, who laughed at Harry's expression. "You're blind as a bat, Potter, if you can't see where she's headed with that. First it's visits, then snogging, then a ring to seal you, and babi--"
"Shut it!" Harry hissed.
"Harry and Millie, sitting in a tree--"
"I swear, Draco, I'll--"
Draco smiled innocently. With his fair hair and bright white shirt, he could pass for an angel. Almost. Then he batted his eyes mockingly. "You'll do what? Snog me, too?"
About to yell again, Harry hesitated. What was he doing? He never got worked up like this over Dudley's taunts. He was losing his cool, and he had mere seconds to get it back or he'd be a laughingstock. So instead of being led by a head of steam, he gave Draco a slow, sly smile. Then he winked broadly and pursed his lips, making kissy noises. "I bet you'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Draco sputtered around a mouthful of pumpkin juice, getting half of it on himself. Everyone at that end of the table laughed, and the contest was over. Draco smiled ruefully and nodded at Harry, and Harry nodded back, calmer now, but with a whoosh of butterflies in his stomach, the way he felt when anyone said anything -- even jokingly -- about snogging. He'd gotten that weird feeling ever since he'd been stalked by Gaius Avery. There had only been a couple of incidents with the other boy, but they were enough to make even the idea of snogging repellant to Harry.
Thankfully, no one noticed the change in his mood as dinner finished up, and he was able to eat in peace.
As the dinner dishes disappeared, Professor Dumbledore stood up from the Head Table and the Great Hall silenced immediately.
*"Another year gone!" Dumbledore said cheerfully. "And I must trouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious dessert. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were... you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next year starts....
"Now, as I understand it, the house cup here needs awarding, and the points stand thus: In fourth place, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and twelve points; in third, Ravenclaw, with three hundred and eighty-two; Slytherin has four hundred and twenty-two and Gryffindor, four hundred and seventy- two."
A storm of cheering and stamping broke out from the Gryffindor table. Harry could see Ron Weasley and his brothers banging their goblet on the table. He was disappointed, but that's what came from losing their last Quidditch game.
"Yes, yes, well done, Gryffindor," said Dumbledore. "However, recent events must be taken into account."
The room went very still. The Gryffindors' smiles faded a little.
"Ahem," said Dumbledore. "I have a few last-minute points to dish out. Let me see. Yes... First -- to Mr. Harry Potter..."
Harry gulped a deep breath. He was getting points awarded? For what?
The room was deadly quiet.
"--for pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Slytherin House fifty points."
The din was deafening at Slytherin table. Those who could add up while yelling themselves hoarse knew that Slytherin now had four hundred and seventy-two points -- exactly the same as Gryffindor. They had tied for the house cup -- if only Dumbledore had given Harry just one more point.
Dumbledore raised his hand. The room gradually fell silent.
"There are all kinds of courage," said Dumbledore, smiling. "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr. Theodore Nott."
Someone standing outside the Great Hall might well have thought some sort of explosion had taken place, so loud was the noise that erupted from the Slytherin table. Harry stared at his friend, knowing now that it was Teddy who had gone to Snape and told him Harry had gone after the Stone, but it was okay, really, and seeing as how he had lived because of it, it was more than okay. He clapped Teddy on the back, and yelled, "We won!"
Millie, Draco, and even Blaise Zabini stood up to yell and cheer as Teddy gave them all a sardonic smile and a small bow.
Harry, still cheering, looked over at the Gryffindor table to see the students there almost white with shock at the unexpected loss.
"Which means," Dumbledore called over the storm of applause, "we need a little change of decoration." He clapped his hands. In an instant, the scarlet hangings became green and the gold became silver; the towering Gryffindor lion vanished and the huge Slytherin serpent took its place. Snape was shaking Professor McGonagall's hand, and she had a horrible, forced smile. When Snape caught Harry's eye, he almost caught the sense that Snape wasn't any happier about Slytherin winning than McGonagall was.
He would have to ask Snape about that. But later. For now, it was the best evening of Harry's life, better than winning at Quidditch, or Christmas, or knocking out mountain trolls... he would never, ever forget tonight.
Harry had almost forgotten that the exam results were still to come, but come they did. To his great pleasure, Harry had passed with good marks; Hermione, of course, had the best grades of all the first years. Even Neville Longbottom scraped through, his good Herbology mark making up for his abysmal Potions one. With some help from Draco and Teddy, even Greg Goyle had passed, and Millie was so pleased she'd passed all her classes that she shared out her last box of biscuits from home with her whole study group.
The last couple days before they were due to leave, Harry spent his time hanging out with his friends, eating sweets from Millie, and poring over a book of photographs that Hagrid had given him while he was in the hospital wing. Hagrid had explained that he had sent away to old friends of Harry's parents and asked for pictures they had of the couple, and there were even a few pictures that had Harry in the photo as well. They were wizarding pictures, so they moved about on the page, seeming to wave right at him. It was one of the best gifts he had ever been given.
At that time, he'd also needed to reassure Hagrid that the big man was not to blame for Harry almost getting killed while going after the Stone, even if he had provided the clue about Fluffy. Harry did not want Hagrid to bear any of the blame, when he knew it was all his own doing.
Snape had another story about that. The night after the banquet, he called Harry to his office, and said, "Well, what do you think?"
"About what, sir?"
"About what?" Snape sighed, as if Harry were a simpleton, even though he'd gotten his grades by then, including high marks in Potions. "About why Slytherin won the House Cup this year."
"Because we deserved it?" Harry said, but he knew immediately that it was the wrong thing to say.
"Ludicrous! Slytherin has won the cup for seven years in a row, it is true. But this year it was in the bag for Gryffindor, thanks to the last Quidditch game issue, not to mention that you should have lost points for being out of your room after hours and for going against my direct orders to stay away from that bloody Stone!"
Harry took a step backwards, his hands balled into fists. He should have known better than to think anything had changed! Snape still hated him, and wanted to punish him, and--
"Stop!" Snape brought his hands to his face and rubbed at his forehead. "Please, Harry. Look, I did not mean to yell at you. I am angry at that old coot."
Confused now, Harry stopped sidling towards the door and frowned. "Why?"
Snape sighed again, but his dark eyes met Harry's, and there was true, almost frantic, grief there. Worry. "Because he is egging you on! By awarding you points for that suicidal adventure, he is encouraging you to act in like fashion in the future. But I'll have none of it. I have promised to watch over you, Harry Potter, and to make sure you stay safe and sane through your years at Hogwarts. I will not let that meddling codger send you on more fools' errands where you're more likely to die than not. Is that understood?"
So Snape was angry that Harry had been rewarded for nearly getting himself killed; that made sense. And he didn't want Harry to make a habit of it, due to expecting rewards in the future. And he would rather have lost the House Cup than Harry be hurt again. He really did care about Harry.
Harry smiled. "I understand."
The Professor let out a tense breath. "Good. No go on with you and let me get back to my work. I shall see you in a few days."
Still smiling, Harry left him to his empty desk. The Professor was due to arrive at the Dursleys the same night Harry returned from Hogwarts. As long as he could manage a few hours of their company, he would be fine.
*And suddenly, their wardrobes were empty, their trunks were packed; notes were handed out to all students, warning them not to use magic over the holidays ("I always hope they'll forget to give us these," said Fred Weasley sadly); Hagrid was there to take them down to the fleet of boats that sailed across the lake; they were boarding the Hogwarts Express; talking and laughing as the countryside became greener and tidier; eating Bettie Bott's Every Flavor Beans as they sped past Muggle towns; pulling off their wizard robes and putting on jackets and coats; pulling into platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross Station.
It took quite a while for them all to get off the platform. A wizened old guard was up by the ticket barrier, letting them go through the gate in twos and threes so they didn't attract attention by all bursting out of a solid wall at once and alarming the Muggles.
People jostled them as they moved forward toward the gateway back to the Muggle world. Some of them called:
"See you, Potter!"
"Still famous," said Teddy, grinning at him.
"Not where I'm going, I promise you," said Harry.
He, Teddy, and Millicent passed through the gateway together.
"There he is, Mom, there he is, look!" It was Ginny Weasley, Ron's younger sister, but she wasn't pointing at Ron, who had not come through yet. "Harry Potter!" she squealed. "Look, Mom! I can see--"
"Be quiet, Ginny, and it's rude to point." Mrs. Weasley smiled down at them, then noticed Ron coming through the barrier with Hermione and Neville, and moved to greet her son.
Teddy gestured toward a man standing alone, and said it was his father. "See you, Harry. Stay outta trouble."
"I'll try, Ted," Harry called after him.
"Ready, are you?" It was Uncle Vernon, still purple-faced, still mustached, still looking furious at the nerve of Harry, carrying an owl in a cage in a station full of ordinary people. Behind him stood Aunt Petunia and Dudley, looking terrified at the very sight of Harry.
"You must be Harry's family!" said Millicent.
"In a manner of speaking," said Uncle Vernon. "Hurry up, boy, we haven't got all day." He walked away.
Harry hung back for a last word with Millie. "See you over the summer, then. Maybe." If Snape would let him. He hadn't said "no" when Harry had asked, but, "We'll see."
"Hope you have -- er -- a good holiday," said Millie, looking uncertainly after Uncle Vernon, as if shocked that anyone could be so unpleasant.
"Oh, I will," said Harry, and a grin spread over his face. His friends didn't know about Snape coming to stay, or that their Potions Professor would be taking him away from the Dursleys after two weeks, but he had already imagined all sorts of pranks he could play on Dudley. "They don't know we're not allowed to use magic at home. I'm going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer...."
A/N: And that's it for "Better Be Slytherin!: Year One". Celebratory peppermint frappachinos for everyone! I'm gonna be working on "Before the Dawn" and some of my other tales for a wee bit, and then will start on Year Two. Like JKR, I'll put the summer session at the beginning of each "year." Anyone with title ideas for Year Two, please let me know.
*These scenes were snitched almost whole cloth from the original, with minor changes to fit the Alternate Universeness of my story.