They Shook Hands : Year Two

An alternate (but realistic!) universe Harry Potter fic
by Dethryl

Chapter Beta - Missing Scenes from Year Two

"Elan?" Draco asked, knocking on his brother's door. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure," came the reply from within. "The door is open."

Elan appeared hard at work on his summer assignments, but he laid down his quill immediately to give Draco his full attention.

"I'm worried about Harry," the younger Malfoy brother stated. "He hasn't written me back all summer. I've invited him up to play Quidditch three times now, but he won't respond."

"Won't?" Elan asked shrewdly. "Or can't?"

"Can't?" Draco felt a sudden stab of alarm. "What do you mean?"

"Use your brain," Elan told him. "Harry lives with Muggles, right?"

"Right. So?"

"So, maybe they won't let him write back. He's always saying how much they hate him, and his magic. They might have taken Regal away from him so he wouldn't be able to send any letters. They might have broken his hand so he couldn't write at all."

"What?" Draco couldn't fathom it.

"Muggles are cruel, Draco. They inflict pain wantonly and needlessly."

"They'd better not be mistreating him," Draco growled. "Elan, we've got to make sure."

"Go talk to Father. He can look into it more easily than we can."

"But that will take time! I'm really worried now. Harry might not have that time!"

"So what would you have us do?"

"Let's take a flight to Surrey tonight. We'll drop in on Privet Drive, scare the Muggles a bit, whisk Harry away to the Manor, and live happily ever after."

"I wouldn't mind a bit of fun," Elan admitted. "But flying all the way to Surrey just for a lark seems a bit excessive."

"Elan, don't you care about Harry at all? He might be locked back up in that awful cupboard under the stairs for all we know, and all you want to do is write essays!"

"That's not fair!"

"Then let's go!" Draco urged.

Elan stood up. "You're right. Harry could be in trouble. As his friends and fellow Slytherins, it is our obligation to make sure of his well-being. Go put on a black robe. I've got to gather several things."

"Dursley, what the bloody hell is going on here?" Mr. Mason thundered. "Who was that boy? Why are masked fellows showing up at your door? Are you involved with some sort of cult?"

Vernon Dursley was not having a good night. He'd been entertaining the Masons, hoping to secure a large order of drills from the very rich builder, and he'd been right in the middle of his hilariously funny Japanese golfer joke when - he felt the vein in his forehead start to throb - that boy!

It truly wasn't Harry Potter's fault, you must understand. He hadn't asked the masked wizard to come rescue him, hadn't asked him to scare the dickens out of the Dursleys either, but Vernon was too narrow-minded to tell the difference.

Though he'd taken every precaution to keep the freakish boy from contacting his freakish friends, obviously he hadn't been careful enough. The boy had called, his friends had answered, and now there was no end of trouble.

"My nephew," he answered Mr. Mason with a wheeze. "He's very disturbed. Meeting strangers upsets him, which is why we kept him upstairs.

"Who was that masked man?"

"I don't know," Vernon gasped, trying to get his breathing under control. "The boy's a degenerate!"

"Damn it, get ahold of yourself, man! This is a kidnapping, don't you see? You must call the police immediately!"

"No!" Petunia was recovering her composure after being scared out of her wits by the masked wizard. "No police!"

Mr. Mason may have been old, but he was no fool. "There's something funny going on here," he declared. "Mark my words, Dursley, I'll never buy a Grunnings drill - ever! Come, darling, we'll be leaving now."

"No one will be going anywhere quite yet," said a mild-looking man with brown hair. Where he had come from, Vernon didn't know, but he was blocking the doorway now. The vein throbbed even harder; the man was wearing dark blue robes and had a wooden stick in his hand.

"Who the devil are you?" Mr. Mason asked in an astonished voice.

"Nobody in particular. I must ask that you take a seat."

"I'll do no such thing," Mr. Mason declared. "Out of my way, sir."

The wizard, for by now Vernon had determined he was a wizard, raised his wooden stick. "I'm very sorry to have to do this, but Obliviate!"

"Ah, Lucius, do come in, do come in." Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge was sweating, though the climate in the Ministry was magically controlled.

"Cornelius, a pleasure as always." It was never a pleasure to deal with the snivelling little worm, but the man was Minister. Lucius did respect the office, if not the wizard who filled the post at the moment.

"Strange you should call at this moment. I've just been discussing your son."

"With whom?"

"With me, Lucius."

"Dumbledore." This was not good. The Headmaster of Hogwarts was discussing Elan with the Minister? "What brings you to the Ministry?"

"Elan is in quite a bit of trouble, Lucius. It's a high crime to impersonate a Death Eater."

Lucius fought down a flare of anger. "My son is no Death Eater, Dumbledore. He is a hero who helped to rescue a fellow wizard from abuse and mistreatment at the hands of Muggles. A mistreatment, I might add, that you proscribed for the Boy Who Lived."

"There are very important reasons why Harry lives with his aunt and uncle, Lucius, reasons that don't concern you. We are here to talk about why Elan should not be dragged before the Wizengamot."

"You wouldn't dare!"

"I have a witness who will testify that Elan was dressed in Death Eater garb on the night he kidnapped Harry. Black robes and a blank white mask are what the Death Eaters wore, if memory serves me."

"If wearing black robes is a crime now, then I guess we had best arrest the entire student body," Lucius spat with fury. "Bring forth your witness! I will interrogate him and learn the truth of the matter."

"Gentlemen, please!" Fudge cried out. "I'm sure we can resolve this without such drastic measures. Dumbledore, I will not bring charges on the word of one witness. Lucius, it's the kidnapping that concerns me. Like it or not, these Dursleys are Harry Potter's legal guardians, and he was forcibly taken from his residence."

Lucius took a breath. God, how he hated that old man. Soft, namby-pamby Muggle-lover. If you weren't so bleeding powerful, I'd tear you limb from limb and hang your carcass on a Tree of Woe.

"Quite correct, Cornelius," Dumbledore agreed. "The facts are self-evident. I will not tolerate criminal behaviour at Hogwarts, and Elan is hereby expelled."

"You dare-!" Lucius choked. The Headmaster had that power, damn him to the lowest realm of the underworld. A Malfoy expelled from Hogwarts! He very much wanted to kill something.

"Is that necessary, Dumbledore?" Fudge asked.

"I believe it is."

"Lucius, I find it to be a suitable punishment. If you send Elan abroad for his last two years of school, get him out of the country, then I'll let the matter drop. Does that sound fair?"

Lucius ground his teeth. It was about as fair as he was likely to get. "I must accept," he said coldly.

"Good!" Fudge exclaimed, mopping at his forehead. "Then it's all settled."

"Thank you for your time, Cornelius." Dumbledore stood up and placed his tea cup on the silver service. "Lucius, good day."

Lucius ushered his guest to the finest chair. After ensuring that the wizard did not require a footstool, cushion, snack, or drink, he finally took his own seat behind his desk.

"Avery, old friend, I have a plan to purge Hogwarts of the unworthy."

"Indeed?" he asked, eyes glittering.

"Our departed master was a wizard of great magical gifts. He created a diary, encapsulating his essence at a younger age. This diary is capable of bringing him back."

The other wizard sat up straight. "How?"

"It absorbs the lifeforce of the person who writes in it and will drain his soul dry. It will takes months of writing to reach that point, but until that finally happens, our master will be capable of influencing the writer. As he did once before, he will be able to open the Chamber of Secrets and release the Beast within."

"The Chamber of Secrets!"

"Yes," Lucius drew the word out. "Muggleborn students will be hunted down and exterminated, and our master will be reborn."

Avery folded his hands. "You realize what you are proposing? He will be returned, and we will be under his heel again."

Lucius smiled. "I've thought of that. He won't know us. He will be young. He will need us to advise him. We can influence him. We can control him. He will be as he was before the madness took him. He will lead us properly, and we can claim back our world."

"And you are quite certain that pureblooded students will be safe from the beast?"

"Our own precious babes shall be as secure as in their mothers' arms. Only inferior ones need fear the danger."

Avery smiled wickedly. "Grave danger?"

"Is there any other kind?"

Draco knocked on the door of his father's private study. He was never allowed inside unless Father was with him. There were many things inside that could be dangerous unless handled in precisely the proper manner. Elan still told the tale of the Solomon's Ring he'd nearly lost fingers to many years ago.

"Father? May I come in?"

"Enter," came Father's voice through the wood.

"Are you busy?"

"Nothing that can't wait," Father declared, moving a stack of parchment to one side. "What is on your mind?"

Draco took two quick steps around the desk and wrapped his arms around his father. "I'm so sorry," he apologized. "I muffed things up, and I put the family at risk. I never meant for that to happen. I just wanted to help my friend."

Father squeezed him tightly. "I know, son. Such devotion speaks highly of your character. Everything will work out, I promise. Malfoys always survive."

"I love you, Father."

"I love you too, Draco."

As the sickening spin of Floo travel began to slow, Elan felt a stab of apprehension in his gut. Up until now, this talk of Durmstrang had been so abstract. He'd barely been able to believe it was real and not some horrible nightmare. Now he was on the final leg of his trip, and reality was starting to sink in.

He stepped out of the fireplace and pulled his trunk to the side. Father would be right behind him, that he knew. Elan ground his teeth in frustration. Bad enough to be packed off to another country and a strange school, but to be personally escorted by his father was just too embarassing. It was certainly not how he wanted to make his first impression on his new classmates.

"Lucius!" A wizard with sleek, silvered hair stood there to greet them. He was tall and thin, and his goatee finished with a flourishing curl. His smile revealed yellow teeth, and his eyes were shrewd. His voice was rather unctuous.

"Karkaroff, my old friend!"

Durmstrang's Headmaster turned his attention to Elan. "You must be Elan. Your father has told me so much about you."

There was never a good reply to that statement. He inclined his head. "Professor Karkaroff, it's a pleasure to be here."

"Yes, of course."

"Karkaroff, I want you to keep a close eye on my eldest here. He's got a fine penchant for getting into mischief at times. And also, while he's here, I want him to improve his language skills."

"That is no problem, Lucius. All lessons are conducted in High German, and the homework the same. Elan, you are forbidden from using a Translation Charm. Sprechen Sie Deutsches?"

"Ja, mein Lehrer."

The Headmaster raised an eyebrow. "This is good. Perhaps you will not have such a difficult time as all that."

"Karkaroff, before I go, I must speak with you privately."

As the two older men walked away, conversing in low tones, Elan became aware that he was being studied by several of the students. One of the boys, flanked by two of his friends, walked right up to him, his jaw thrust out pugnaciously.

"Ich werde Pietro von Schlieffen angerufen. Wer sind Sie?"

"Ich werde Elan Octavio von Malfoy angerufen. Mein Vater ist Lucius von Malfoy, und er ist gute Freunde mit dem Rektor."

"Your accent is horrible," Pietro told him, switching to English.

"Maybe you could help me with that," Elan said cooly. "You seem a decent fellow."

Pietro laughed sharply. "You're very perceptive. For an Englishman. Come, I'll show you around the castle."

"Ah, Mister Malfoy, do come in. Sit down. Can I get you anything?"

"No, Mister Conner, I am quite comfortable. Thank you."

"What may I do for you this afternoon?"

"I have come to ask for your support on a bit of legislation I plan on placing before the Wizengamot. You are aware that Harry Potter has been abused and neglected by his Muggle guardians?"

"Monstrous," Mr. Conner declared. "It was a horrid mistake to exile him."

"It was Dumbledore who did that," Lucius said with a tightening of his lips. "My bill would make it illegal for any witch or wizard to be raised by Muggles."

"Any?" Conner asked shrewdly. "What about the Muggleborns?"

"Them as well," Lucius replied without missing a beat. "Once identified, any Muggleborn child will be relocated to a proper magical family."

"That's very bold, Lucius."

"Bold action is needed to protect the children. Harry was mistreated for ten years, and nobody knew about it. What else don't we know?"

"Muggles torturing wizards gets my Irish up," Conner admitted. "I don't really support the other view, though. Taking their kids away would probably break a lot of those Muggles."

"So that they will not suffer in abundance, the Muggles will be Memory Charmed to believe that there were complications during birth. Perhaps there will be a slight increase in the numbers of sudden infant deaths. But the children will be brought up with magic, so they will not pose a threat to the Statute of Secrecy."

"I wish the Muggles weren't so primitive!" Conner complained. "It's their barbarism that really makes these sorts of laws necessary. It's not right, you know."

Lucius concealed a smile. He had his answer. "It's for the greater good of our world, Mister Conner. We will protect the children, keep ourselves even more secret from the Muggles, and preserve our culture and heritage. I thank you for your support."

"Ah, Dumbledore, do come in. Please sit down. May i get you anything?"

"Thank you, but no, Mister Conner. Thank you for seeing me."

"One does not turn away the Chief Mugwump without at least hearing what he has to say first."

"I'll go directly to my point, as I know you are a busy man. I've come to seek your support in blocking a Ministry bill that would lead us down a path of evil and self-destruction. Lucius Malfoy wants to rip Muggleborn witches and wizards from their parents at birth and warehouse them in shoddy orphanages."

Mr. Conner was listening to him with an impassive expression on his face. "The children will not be housed like livestock. My wife plans to get herself involved with the project, just to make sure they are well-cared for and have positive influence."

"But it's more than just that! He wants to alter the parents' memories and lie to the children, telling them their parents were witches and wizards. He wants to destroy families simply because he hates Muggles and can't stand the idea of them raising a magical child. Do you want our society to be party to such horrendous abuse?"

"Do you care so deeply for the children, Dumbledore?"

"I would not see them harmed, either physically or emotionally."

Mr. Conner now frowned at the old wizard. "Weren't you responsible for Harry Potter living with the bad sort of Muggles? He got plenty of abuse and neglect there, I've heard. Where were your protective instincts then?"

Dumbledore could not answer. He had failed Harry so absolutely by leaving him with his mother's sister's family that there was no making amends. He had been warned and had done it anyway. It had been for the greater good, but it was small comfort. Nor could he explain to this righteously angry citizen why he had done what he did.

"Even I am not perfect, Mister Conner. Though there are those who would inflate my legend to such stature, I have made more mistakes than I can count. They keep me up at night, sometimes, so persistently do I hear them nagging at the back of my mind. It is not possible to meddle with time to such a degree as to fix them, and so I have learned to live with them. From my bad judgments, I have gained experience. Experience is the root of good judgment, and I judge this bill to be reprehensible."

"As do I, Dumbledore," Mr. Conner said coolly, "but it is also necessary. And as it is necessary, it has my support. Good day."

Arthur Weasley's knees were shaking as he waited outside the Minister's office. All day long, various officials had been called up, and they had all returned to their desks, packed up their things, and been escorted from the building. Now the head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office awaited his own grim news.

"Come in, Arthur!"

Taking a deep breath, Arthur opened the door and stepped through with a smile fixed in place. "Minister Fudge, how are you today?"

"Fine, fine. Do sit down."

"Don't say it," Arthur said with a sigh of resignation. "I'm sacked, aren't I?"

"No!" Fudge denied in a surprised voice. "Not at all! Why would you say that? Your performance here at the Ministry has been admirable."

"I'm not sacked?" Arthur perked up just a bit. He hardly dared hope - a promotion?

"As I'm sure you know, there is a new budget. Many departments are being reorganized, and several offices are being eliminated. I'm sorry to inform you that there will no longer be a Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office."

"But the Ministry needs my office!" Arthur protested. "Who will deal with the bewitched teapots? And the flying carpets? And-"

"The Accidental Magic Reversal Squad will take over the duties associated with your office. I've reviewed your case load over the past three years, and I'm afraid I just cannot justify it."

Arthur sighed. "So what's to become of me? Where am I being transfered to?"

Fudge gave him a sympathetic look. "You'll be working in the Centaur Liason Office starting on Monday."

"The Centaur Liason Office?" Arthur choked. "I am being sacked!"

"No, Arthur, you're actually being transfered. Merkin has accepted retirement; he was very old indeed. You'll be taking his place."

His knees were twitching with suppressed humiliation and shame. "Minister, please don't do this to me. Give me a few weeks; let me quit. Leave me my dignity."

"I'm sorry, Arthur. Truly, I am. But someone needs to manage that office, and you're not suited to any other position here in the Ministry. Not that there are any openings in any case."

Arthur hung his head.

"There's more, I'm afraid," the Minister continued. "You're not going to have any actual work to do, so we expect you to spend your time reading and learning all there is to know about centaurs. In the event that we need to deal with them, you'll be the man we call on, but it happens very rarely. There's a substantial pay cut involved."

They were slashing his already pathetic salary? "Minister!"

Fudge held up a hand. "Protest all you like, Weasley, it will do no good. This shuffle is about trimming the fat, and that's what we have to do. At least you still have a job here at the Ministry. One other thing."

Oh no, what could it possibly be? "Sir?"

"You will retain all of your benefits," Fudge said kindly. "I was able to preserve that for you, at least."

Relief washed over Arthur like a cool ocean wave. Of all that he'd been worried about, his benefits had concerned him most. They could get by with less pay if they had to, but his family was most important.

When Percy had dragged Draco Malfoy down to the dungeons to turn him over to Professor Snape for his insufferable mouthing off, he'd not been thinking clearly. The horrific insults the bastard had heaped on him still rang in his ears, and he'd pushed right on into Snape's office without consideration. Only when Snape's death glare had turned his insides to water did he realize his mistake - he'd interrupted Snape while he was brewing. Stammering an apology, he'd meant to run away as fast as he could when Draco spoke up.

"Professor, this prefect seems to think I've been a bad, bad boy."

"Weasley, explain yourself."

Speaking very rapidly, nearly tripping over his words, Percy gave his testimony and stood bathed in a cold sweat.

Snape gazed coldly at him for a few silent seconds. "I shall deal with the matter, Weasley. Dismissed."

When the prefect had left the room, Snape turned to Draco. "How much of that was true?" he asked.

"Almost all of it," Draco said impudently.

Snape sighed and rubbed at his temple. "By almost you mean all," he said. "What were you thinking?" He held up his hand as Draco started to reply. "No, that was rhetorical. It may amuse you, but should any teacher happen to become involved, you will not be doing the house proud. You don't have to fill your brother's shoes, you know."

"He was yelling at first years," Draco defended. "I wasn't about to just walk on by."

"I recommend a healthy injection of diplomacy," Snape said wryly. "In any case, referring to the Gryffindor team Beaters as 'batshits' is not conducive to a healthy existence. Try to be a little more prudent when picking an argument. Your essay on moonglow is due one class earlier. Dismissed."

"Sodding, slimy Slytherins and meddlesome, malicious Malfoys!" Fred spat with venomous alliteration.

"We can't stand for this!" Ron declared.

"What should we do?" George asked. "We're not a part of the Ministry. We have no say over anything."

"I hate them!" Ron snarled. "Slytherins, Malfoys, and most of all Potter! Potter the great hero! Wizarding elite! Rich, powerful, snobby, stuck-up, evil bastards!"

"So why not get even?" Ginny suggested slyly.

"Get even? How?" Fred sounded puzzled. "We can't get Mister Malfoy sacked."

"Okay, so not even," Ginny clarified. "But we can get a little revenge."

"How?" the three brothers demanded.

"Let's find Draco Malfoy and teach him a lesson about consequences."

Elan Octavio Malfoy was munching on a large pile of toast, as he usually did for breakfast. The cook at Durmstrang was not very good, so it was safest to stick with foods that were very difficult to mess up. There was endless variety with toast; one could top it with butter, jam, jelly, or even peanut butter.

The post arrived at that moment, and Elan was pleased to see that he had a letter from home. Eager for an update of things back in Britain, Elan broke the seal of the letter and unfolded it. Seconds later (he was a fast reader) he was swearing sulphurously.

"Sprache!" Professor von Mierker admonished him.

"Elan? Was ist falsch?"

"Pietro. My little brother has been attacked!"

"At school? By what?"

"Weasleys! Blood traitors!"

"At school? Absurd!"

"Father says they ambushed him. He's in the hospital wing." Elan burned with fury. He wanted to go to his brother's bedside, wanted to encourage him to heal up - wanted to exact some very personal revenge on the entire Weasley clan.

"Will he recover?"

"Madam Pomfrey is one of the best," Elan told his friend, trying to gather his wits. "I should be there! They never would have dared to lay a finger on him if I'd been there! Damn Dumbledore!"

Pietro picked up the letter. "Your Vater says here that it was a Weasley who saved him. Percy Weasley?"

Elan's face blanched as he fought off an urge to vomit. "My cousin," he said shortly. "Embarassing as it is. I've treated him like scum for years."

"Maybe he's not a traitor afterall," Pietro suggested. "He turned his own siblings in."

Elan nearly choked as he admitted, "He was there when I was not. By Merlin, I owe him."

"And here comes the outstanding Gryffindor team!" Lee Jordan crowed. "Bell, Frobisher, Johnson, Panning, Sharpp, Spinnet, and Wood! I'm sure Gryffindor's new Beaters are more than up to today's task! And, to thank for the loss of two of Gryffindor's heroes, sitting pretty with the Slytherins, I give you the traitorous Percy Weasley!"

Professor McGonagall immediately clapped one hand over his megaphone. "Jordan!" Her eyes were wide with fury, and her lips were pale.

"Sorry, professor," he said flippantly, as he always did when his opinions got the better of him.

"Sorry doesn't cut it this time," she hissed. "One more comment praising the actions of those two criminals, and I'll turn you over to Malfoy's father to answer."

Now it was Lee's turn to go pale.

Fred and George enjoyed their bad reputation. They hadn't done all the mischief they had been accused of, but it was good for the character to have a bit of notoriety. Of course, this status was less than useful when something terrible happened and they really were innocent and facing possible expulsion. McGonnagal had sworn to skin them personally if there was a hint that they were involved.

As they walked back to the dorms, shaking slightly, they realized how close the family had come to real tragedy. Their brother could have died tonight and they didn't realize till now how miserable that made them. The twins had been down to the hospital wing and seen their unconscious brother, lying there helplessly. He was black and blue, and his ankles had been broken. No one deserved to be treated that way, especially a Weasley.

Sadly, their roommate didn't see it that way.

"Great job on that traitor," Lee Jordan said, slapping them on the back. "How did you manage to convince McG you didn't do it?"

"Because we didn't!" Fred snapped angrily. "We were serving detention with Filch when it happened."

Thank Merlin for alibis.

"If not you, then who? I'd like to shake their hands. That traitor is sure to leave the school now," Jordan gloated. "Come on, you must have had some hand in it."

Percy had been attacked and people wanted him dead. This was going too far.

"Just get out," George hissed, pointing his wand at him. "And shut the door." They needed to talk.

"All right," Jordan said softly, moving out of the dorm with a concerned expression. "You should be proud of what you did!"

Fred hexed the door shut. "Proud would have been enchanting his glasses to make fart sounds. They went too far this time. What if they hadn't bothered with the rope?" Percy might have survived the fall, but a night injured in the Scottish cold would have finished him off. "They really wanted him dead."

"I never thought it would get this far," George snapped. "Mess with him a little, make him miserable so he'd apologize. We aren't responsible for this." He didn't sound very convinced.

"No, we just made sure the whole house declared open season on him. What he did was traitorous, but even he doesn't' deserve to die. He's a fussy swot, but he's still the one who cleaned the whole house that time we brought pixies into the house, since he didn't want to burden Mum." He wasn't a worthless brother.

"Yeah. He has his good points." George sighed and buried his head in his hands. "Wood may have gotten a little bit too enthusiastic." Their mother would be even more enthusiastic to skin them both alive when she found out what happened. She would never believe they were innocent. And he knew that they were partially responsible.

Fred laughed bitterly. "He takes his Quidditch very seriously, Wood." If they were better brothers, they would have told on Wood, gotten revenge for their brother. They wanted Percy punished, but they didn't want him dead. Still, they would keep silent because they knew they couldn't turn traitor as well. Their brother would have to understand. "It hasn't worked out for him like it did for us."

George nodded. "I haven't minded the extra time, to be fair. We've made reams of progress on The Operation. All we need is some capital." He tried to sound enthusiastic but he was miserable. Seeing haughty Percy lying on the bed, bandaged and helpless was a terrible feeling. Percy was like Mum, annoying but always there when trouble was around. "So things have worked out, even if the detention bit was no fun."

Fred shrugged. "Surely it wasn't, but we're in a much better position than we otherwise would be. We've got two years left with which to acquire further skills and make the needed connections. Percy didn't deserve this. Should we talk to him?"

"I doubt Pomfrey will let us near him and I doubt he wants to see us. He must think we're behind it." George bit his lip. "We went too far," he said softly. "I think we need to tell Wood and everyone else to back off. Next time, they might expel us first and ask questions later." Fred knew his brother well enough to know what he really meant.

Next time, Percy might actually not survive the encounter and that was something they couldn't bear. "No, we need to talk to him. when he comes back to the house, we'll make sure he knows we don't hate him."

Megan Jones was Hermione's best friend in the world. She didn't get on well with most girls, but the dormmates had discovered a shared love of reading. Granted, Hermione tended towards non-fiction while Meg had loved fantasy stories before coming to Hogwarts, but any bibliophile was a-okay in Hermione's book. They'd made fast friends with Justin Finch-Fletchley, the three Muggleborns understanding each other very well because of similar life experiences with growing up magical in a non-magical world. They jointly agreed that getting their Hogwarts letters had been the best thing to ever happen to them.

So it was with particular concern that they wondered who the Heir of Slytherin was and why he or she would want to frighten all the Squibs and Muggle-borns out of Hogwarts. Muggle-borns were thought to have dirty blood. Just because they didn't have magical parents didn't make them any less witches or wizards, but try convincing this incredibly backwards society of that!

"Who can it be, though?" Megan said in a quiet voice.

"Let's think," said Justin in mock puzzlement. "Who do we know who thinks Muggle-borns are scum?"

He looked at Megan. Megan looked back, unconvinced.

"Potter and his little gang are behind this, I just know it," Hermione declared.

"The trouble is proving it," Justin replied. "All the accusations and suspicion do us no good without evidence. Justin had been slated to go to Eton. His parents had hopes that he would one day inherit the family law firm. He was always analyzing situations with a legal bent of mind.

"I know the proof is out there. We just need to find it. I know we can do it." Hermione had the courage of her convictions. She had been raised to believe that she could do anything she set her mind to. If she decided to unmask Slytherin's Heir, then by God, she would do it!


"The Slytherins all know," she said with certainty. "Bunch of snooty purebloods that they are, they know who the Heir is. They're all just playing dumb."

"Is it Potter or Malfoy, do you think?" he asked.

"It could be Malfoy," Hermione said. "The whole lot of his family have been in Slytherin; he's always boasting about it. They could easily be Slytherin's descendants. His father's definitely evil enough."

"They could've had the key to the Chamber of Secrets for centuries!" said Justin. "Handing it down, father to son."

"Well," said Megan cautiously, "I suppose it's possible."

"But how do we prove it?" said Justin darkly.

"We have to trick one of them in to admitting it," said Megan. "I don't find that idea implausible at all. Because there's nothing easier than tricking a Slytherin.

"Meg, you need to find your optimism. Where would we be today if the Allies hadn't driven on despite their doubts? We'd all be speaking German, that's what."

"Okay, Hermione, how do you propose we trick the Slytherins?"

"They'd never admit it to anyone who wasn't also a Slytherin. So we need to find a way in to the dungeons. We need to disguise ourselves as Slytherins. Then we just talk to Potter, Malfoy, or any of his little Death Eater friends and worm the truth out of them."

"Simplicity," Justin declared. "And how do we do that?"

"There might be a way," said Hermione slowly. "Of course, it would be difficult. And dangerous, very dangerous. We'd be breaking about fifty school rules, I expect. If we get caught, we'll probably be expelled."

"This is not starting out good," Megan observed.

"What we'd need to do is to get inside the Slytherin common room and ask Malfoy a few questions without him realizing it's us."

"But that's impossible," Megan said.

"No, it's not," said Hermione. "All we'd need would be some Polyjuice Potion."

"What's that?" said Justin and Megan together.

"Snape mentioned it in class a few weeks ago -"

"D'you think we've got nothing better to do in Potions than listen to Snape?" muttered Justin. "That man needs therapy. 'The softly shimmering cauldron'. He's sick, he is."

"It transforms you into somebody else. Think about it! We could change into three of the Slytherins. No one would know it was us. Malfoy would probably tell us anything. He's probably boasting about it in the Slytherin common room right now, if only we could hear him."

"This Polyjuice stuff sounds a bit dodgy to me," said Justin, frowning. "What if we were stuck looking like three of the Slytherins forever?"

"It wears off after a while," said Hermione, waving her hand impatiently. "But getting hold of the recipe will be very difficult. Snape said it was in a book called Moste Potente Potions, and it's bound to be in the Restricted Section of the library." There was only one way to get out a book from the Restricted Section: You needed a signed note of permission from a teacher.

"Hard to see why we'd want the book, really," said Justin, "if we weren't going to try and make one of the potions.

"I think," said Hermione, "that if we made it sound as though we were just interested in the theory, we might stand a chance."

"Oh, come on, no teacher's going to fall for that," said Justin. "They'd have to be really thick."

Hermione stirred the potion one final time. It was coming along splendidly. In two more days, it would be ready to take, and then she could discover the identity of the Heir of Slytherin. She knew in her heart that Potter was guilty, but she needed proof if she was going to unmask him. She would get that proof by taking Polyjuice Potion, transforming into a Slytherin, infiltrating the dungeon dormitory, and worming a confession right from Potter's own mouth.

There wasn't anything else she could do right then, so Hermione started putting her things back into her bag. She was just taking one last look at the bubbling cauldron when she heard the bathroom door open. She froze with guilt.

She was brewing a restricted potion; she had come to the book, Moste Potente Potions, through deception; she could very easily be expelled if she were caught here. Hermione closed her eyes and prayed to escape this pickle.

The sounds she heard, though, made her eyes snap right open again. There was a sibilant hissing noise, and she recognized it immediately: Parseltongue! It was the same thing she had heard Potter speaking at the Duelling Club!

She had him now! With only slightly shaking hands, she drew her wand. Now was the time! She could catch Potter in the act! She would take him by surprise and use the Full Body Bind. She would be a hero!

"Hold it right there, Potter!" she cried as she burst from the stall with brandished wand.

But it wasn't Potter at all! A first year girl with long red hair stood with her back to Hermione. She didn't even seem to have heard Hermione's outburst.

Hermione lowered her wand in confusion. She'd been certain that she had heard Parseltongue. She stepped towards the girl, intending to get some answers.

Yellow. Two great yellow eyes came from out of nowhere. Hermione's wand dropped as the power of the eyes entranced her. How long she stood there, she could not have said. A hypnotic spiral pulled her deeper and deeper.

Ten thousand knives were stabbing into her! All of her bones were fracturing into a thousand pieces! Pain without description flooded her every nerve ending! She writhed like an insect that flies too close to the light.

Then there was no feeling, no pain, no agony. She was floating, up and up, towards a great white light...

Lucius Malfoy didn't bother to knock on Dumbledore's office door. The loud crash that announced him startled the old wizard, to judge from the wide eyes that glanced up from behind the desk. Lucius was acting in an official capacity now, as a governor of the school. Dumbledore didn't know it yet, but Lucius held all the cards.

"Lucius, what is the meaning of this intrusion?"

He allowed a self-satisfied smirk to cross his face. After all the insults the insufferable old bastard had thrown at the Malfoy family, he was finally going to get what was coming to him.

"I wanted to give you the news myself, Dumbledore. And dreadful news it is. The school governors feel that it's time for you to step aside. I have here," he took out a long roll of parchment, "an Order of Suspension. You'll find all twelve signatures on it. I'm afraid we feel you're losing your touch. How many attacks have there been now? And a student dead? No, the time has come for you to go."

For a long minute, Dumbledore's blue eyes were hard, staring at him, trying to get a glimpse into his soul. Then a weariness came over him, and he rubbed at his eyes with one wrinkled hand.

"If the governors desire my removal, Lucius, I shall of course step aside."

Lucius felt joy rise in him like a wellspring. "I'm pleased you can see reason."

"However, you will find that I will have truly left this school only when none here are loyal to me."

"You have failed to stop these attacks. While we shall all miss your highly - individual - way of running things, I can only hope that your successor will manage to prevent any more killings."

Professor Snape's Potions lecture was interrupted when the door slammed open with a bang. All of the students turned their eyes to the back of the room where Jamie Zabini slumped against the door frame. Her hair was mussed, her face was red, and her breath heaved in her chest.

"Professor!" she gasped. "Maddy needs help! Lockhart says she's the Heir of Slytherin!"

Snape's eyes became very dangerous indeed. "Where is she?"


"Take over here."

Snape strode purposefully from the classroom, his black robes flowing like the wings of some avenging bird of prey. There was a gleam in his eyes and a set to his jaw. He slipped his wand out of his sleeve.

I have finally had enough of that simpering dandy and his foolishness. His antics end today. How dare he accuse without proof? Madeline Fitzjean was a sweet-natured, gentle girl. Her parents had been tangled up with You-Know-Who, but after they'd been sent to Azkaban, the girl had been raised by her little, old grandmother. She didn't have a nasty bone in her body.

In a matter of seconds, it seemed, Snape was striding across the lawns to the greenhouses. Ahead, he could see Lockhart holding Madeline by the arm. He quickened his pace.

"You'll darken this school no more with your evil ways!" Lockhart was saying. "You'll join your parents in Azkaban!"

"Expelliarmus!" Snape cast, causing Lockhart to lose his grip on Madeline's arm.

"Professor Snape! Good! I have very serious charges to bring against Ms-"

"Silencio!" Lockhart's lips continued moving, but no sound came out.

Snape cast three curses in a row, and Lockhart doubled over with pain and fell to the ground. Snape immobilized him and turned to his student.

"Miss Fitzjean, are you unhurt?"

Madeline had tears rolling down her cheeks. "Lockhart, he said- he said-" she hiccupped "he said I was the Heir of Slytherin! He started blabbing on about my mum and dad. They're dead! They died in Azk-"

Snape's mouth hardened. He beckoned to Lawrence Derrick, who had crept out of his Herbology lesson. "Take her back to the dorm and keep an eye on her. Make sure she gets some restful sleep."

"Yes, sir."

When they had gone, Snape leaned down to whisper in Lockhart's ear. "Now, my dear Gildy, I am going to teach you a new definition of pain and suffering. And we're going to go around behind the greenhouses where nobody can see or hear us."

Even though he was immobilized, there was still a great deal of fear in Lockhart's eyes.

"Minerva, we must talk." Professor Snape had left the Weasley clan in his office, and now he cast a Messenger Spell to summon the Deputy Headmistress.

"I agree, Severus. I am right here," she said as she rounded the corner.

In short, succinct sentences, Snape related the story that Harry had told him. Then he made a few marked changes. "When the basilisk lunged at him, Harry kept his cool. He cast a spell to bring down the ceiling of the Chamber on the beast's head, killing it instantly. As the blood covered the floor, he went to where Ginny Weasley lay on the floor. He took the diary that Riddle had made and pierced it with one of the basilisk's fangs. The magic of the diary was undone, and Riddle was no more. Ginny recovered instantly, Harry led her from the Chamber and sealed it, and the four of them showed up in my office as dirty as could be."

Professor McGonagall had listened to the whole fantastic tale with amazement. It was madness for three second year students to have broached the Chamber of Secrets, descended to the depths, and done battle with a basilisk. Yet they had survived, and rescued one of her own from Lord Voldemort himself.

"I'm stunned, Severus, simply stunned."

"They've done this school a service which can never be repaid. For years, headmasters have searched for the Chamber of Secrets. Now the beast within is dead, and the entrance sealed for all time."

"I will see that all three receive special awards. This is all most excellent news. I must inform the rest of the faculty. Rejoice, Severus! Hogwarts endures!"

After the three boys had showered off the grime of the Chamber of Secrets, Harry fell into an exhausted sleep. Tim could hardly blame him; he'd done all the fighting and the heroics. Tim and Draco had just cooled their heels directly outside during the most momentous event ever.

"So I've been thinking," he said to Draco. "Harry saved a witch's life tonight. She owes him a debt, wouldn't you say?"

"Of course."

"And what was it Harry said about Percy? That he'd offered to give his own life for Ginny's?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"That's interesting."

"I agree. Do you think he knows what sorts of claims that gives Harry?"

"He might. But the real question is does Harry know. Could he be aware that Percy's life is his for the asking?"

"I'm sure he's not. What do we do about it?"

"Well, Percy is most likely to be named Head Boy next year, right?"

"Since Elan isn't here, yes." Draco was still sore that Elan would not be Head Boy. Having his older brother in such a powerful position would give them nearly unlimited freedom in the school.

"The Head Boy will owe Harry his life. Use your imagination. Think of the possibilities."

Draco smiled beatifically. "How do we take advantage of it?"

"We have to get him to swear loyalty. It has to be soon; sooner the better. It must happen while he's still feeling very emotional about everything. No sixth year would let some second years manipulate him like this if he were thinking clearly."

"Magical law is on Harry's side," Draco pointed out.

"But Harry won't claim it," Tim said. "He needs us to make him see what he's got."

"And imagine what'll happen in the future. Percy's got enough ambition for three Slytherins. He wants to make something of himself."

"And if he owes Harry his loyalty," Tim speculated. "Draco, I like the way you think."

"You're fairly bright yourself."

"Shall we wake up Harry and run it by him?"

Draco's reply was pre-empted by a knock at the door. It turned out to be Percy himself.

"Hullo, Draco. Is Harry awake? I'd like to thank him for what he did tonight."

"He's asleep at the moment. Hold on, let me shake him up for you."

Ginny choked back a scream as she woke from yet another nightmare. Her sheets were soaked in cold sweat; her thin pyjamas were sticky against her clammy skin. Her eyes darted fearfully around the room, but there were no giant snakes, no evil wizard. There was only the watching eyes of her roommates.

"What's wrong with you?" Susan Robillard asked in a scathing voice. "Some of us would like to sleep, you know."

Ginny, her head still clouded with the night terrors, drew her knees into her chest and did her best to keep from sobbing.

"If you're going to cry like a baby, go do it someplace where they care."

"Leave the freak alone, Nan. Just go to bed."

"I can't, Nessa. I can't sleep when she's twitching and panting like something out of The Exorcist."

The Muggleborn Nancy Dix was referencing a movie about a girl who had been possessed by the Devil. Ginny knew from hearing Nancy chattering with Vanessa Dipippo. If only they knew the truth.

But they didn't know, nor was Ginny going to share it. Her brothers and parents knew, of course, and Professors McGonagall and Snape. Those Slytherin boys knew too. Actually, entirely too many people knew what had happened to her because of Tom Riddle's diary. Ginny wished nobody knew.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I had a nightmare."

"You're always having nightmares," Brooke Gagnon scorned. "Get some therapy."

Ginny sniffled and pulled the covers up over her head. As she silently sobbed her fear and frustration into the pillow, a bleak sense of hopelessness came over her. She could never tell the girls what was truly wrong, nor could she continue like this. She needed help.

The next morning, Ginny left the dorm before any of her roommates. On slippered feet, she padded down the stairs and across the balcony to the fourth year boys' room. She lifted the latch quietly and pushed open the door. The only fourth years were the twins and their friend Lee. Ginny ignored the snoring black boy and went to shake George's shoulder.

"George, wake up. I need to talk to you."

"I'm not George, I'm Fred," the red-haired boy mumbled in his sleep.

"Bollocks," she declared. "George, get up."

After about five minutes of shaking and swearing, Ginny was finally able to get George to some semblence of consciousness. Together they managed to wake up Fred too. Only then did Ginny explain why she needed help.

"They don't want anything to do with me," she concluded about her roommates.

Fred yawned wide enough to drive a Muggle lorry through. "I'm sure you're exaggerating, Gin. Give 'em some time."

"Time for what?"

"You just got unpossessed last week. Your nightmares will fade soon enough, and you'll all be the best of friends before you know it."

"Susan told me if I wake her up again, she's going to tie me to the bed and gag me!"

"I'm sure she was just illustrating her point," George said unhelpfully. "Don't get yourself worked up over nothing."

"Over nothing!"

"And now," Fred announced. "I'm going back to sleep."