A Chance Encounter
Chapter Seventeen: Success and Setbacks
"Harry, my boy, this is very disappointing."
Harry stifled the urge to groan or roll his eyes when he looked up to see a pouting Professor Lockhart pace in front of his desk. Harry was in the middle of his 'reward' for getting one of the worst grades on Lockhart's stupid quiz. After their Monday Dark Arts class had ended, Harry and Theodore were called to stay behind to discuss their quiz results. Harry had the unfortunate of task of having to go the meeting first. However, a discussion usually meant more than one participator. So far Harry hadn't spoken, having to endure what felt like a never ending monologue from Lockhart.
"You must understand that I take no pleasure in giving these quizzes."
Yeah right, Harry mused to himself. The second year Slytherin had a hard time believing the egocentric professor had taken no pleasure in handing out a quiz that had every question centered on him.
"These quizzes are vital to your learning experience," he lectured. "If you're unprepared for these quizzes; how do you think you'll manage when you're facing true danger?"
Harry doubted that his ineffectiveness to face future danger would be because he didn't know Lockhart's favorite shampoo brand, or how many times he liked to brush his hair before bed. Those were just two of the many questions that he'd gotten wrong on this quiz.
"Now, Harry," Lockhart paused in his pacing, crouching down so that he could become eye level with him. "I know what you're thinking," he patted him on the shoulder in what he believed to be a friendly gesture but Harry saw it more as condescending.
"You think that as a minor celebrity that you don't need to get good grades and that you can coast on this marginal boy-who-lived trite story." The Professor let out a disappointed tsk, shaking his head, before surveying Harry with a sense of pity and fake humility. Harry would have found it comical if not for the situation it was being presented in.
"But people will forget about what you did or didn't do, all those years ago," Lockhart added, with a frivolous wave of his hand, as if to emphasize his point.
"What would you have me do, professor?" asked Harry, pushing out every word through gritted teeth.
Lockhart must not have noticed Harry's terse tone, since he looked jubilant at being asked this question. "It would be wise Harry, if you came to my class better prepared and better informed on the source material."
"I'll do better," Harry agreed, more out of his desire of never wanting to have to experience one of these discussions again. He resisted the urge to point out that 'source material' was a very loose way to describe a handful of Lockhart's adventures, that seemed more appropriate for elderly witches who had too much time on their hand, and not in a classroom.
"I'm happy to hear that, Harry." He smiled, laying a hand on the back of his chair. "I know I can be intimidating, Harry, because of everything I've achieved, but I want you to know, that I'm available if you need a little tutoring."
"Thank you, sir."
Satisfied, and looking pleased with himself, Lockhart stood back up, "I can even help you in your other classes. All you have to do is ask."
Fat chance, of that happening, Harry snorted, careful to make sure he didn't say that out loud, since he couldn't think of any example that would have him be desperate enough to seek Lockhart out to talk about Charms or Transfiguration homework. He instead plastered on a smile, hoping it didn't look too fake as he bobbed his head up and down to signal that he was grateful and understood. It seemed to work since Lockhart walked over to his desk, looking very pleased with himself.
Harry was sure, Lockhart was probably congratulating himself, and it wasn't for being delusional. His mental sniping was interrupted when the words he'd been long hoping to hear since he entered this meeting were said.
"I think that will be all, Harry."
Finally, thought a very relieved Harry. Trying not to show too much enthusiasm when he pushed himself out of his chair. He was careful not to leap out of it, and sprint to the door. He made it to the door, opening it and stepping out of Lockhart's office before the teacher could call him back. He closed the door behind him, sighing as he leaned against it. He was very thankful to be out of there. He wasn't sure how much more of that meeting he could've taken…
"Was it that bad?"
Harry look down to see his friend and fellow Slytherin, Theodore Nott, he was sitting and waiting in one of the empty desks in the classroom.
"Yeah," Harry answered, not bothering to lie to him, walking down the stairs that led up to Lockhart's office.
"Great," Theo replied sarcastically, packing up his parchment and quill.
"Don't worry," Harry said, "He does most of the talking."
Theodore groaned. "That's what I was afraid of."
"Yeah, I know," Harry said with resignation, reaching his friend, just after he finished packing up his stuff.
"I managed to finish half my Charms essay, waiting for you," Theodore pointed out, sensing Harry's curious glance.
Harry wasn't surprised. He looked at the clock over the door, to see that he was in there with Lockhart for more than a half an hour. That's thirty minutes, I'd like to have back, he noted dryly. Harry took his seat beside Theo, pulling out his own bag and books. Deciding that he wasn't going to waste time, while he waited for his friend to finish his meeting, afterwards the two friends would be meeting up with the others at the library to study and finish homework before dinner.
Theo slung his bag over his shoulder, casting a hesitant glance at Lockhart's office at the top of the stairs. He then turned back to Harry. "Maybe, he's forgotten I'm supposed to meet him."
"No way," Harry shook his head, not letting his friend slip out of the meeting that easily. "If I had to do it, you have to do it."
Theodore sighed. "Yeah, I know." He slumped his shoulders, dropping his head, while he made his way to the stairs, before climbing them.
"See ya, afterwards," Harry called to his friend.
"If I survive," Theo called over his shoulder. He paused when he reached the door. He turned back to Harry, who smiled at his reluctance before giving him a friendly wave. Theo only glowered in response before opening the door. Lockhart's voice could be heard.
"Ah, Theodore, my boy, come on in." The door closing behind the second year Slytherin, Harry pulled out his Potions essay, knowing that he'd have plenty of time to work on it, waiting for his friend to finish with his meeting.
"You two look awful."
Neither Slytherin was in the mood to reply to Daphne's greeting, when the two of them joined the others at their usual table. Harry hadn't thought the meetings could've been possibly worse, but Lockhart proved him wrong. Once Theodore finished his meeting with Lockhart, he'd practically bolted down the stairs, but he wasn't fast enough and luck was not on their sides. The Professor came out of his office and when he realized Harry was still there, he took it upon himself to hold another meeting between the three of them.
It was as awful as it sounded. Lockhart regaled them with stories of his time at Hogwarts. They were not the least bit surprised, when he told them how popular he'd been, and he then began listing all of his feats and accomplishments that he did while he was in school. It was another brutal fifteen minutes before they told him as bluntly but as politely as they could, that they were going to be late. He said, he'd understood and talked for another five minutes before Harry and Theodore just slipped out of the classroom. The two boys on their way over to the library wondered how long into Lockhart's monologue would their professor realize that they left. It was Theodore who pointed out, that knowing Lockhart that still wouldn't stop him from talking.
"Was it that bad?" asked a sympathetic Neville.
Harry only grunted, unsure there were words that could accurately describe his state of suffering. He took his vacant seat between Tracey and Daphne. Theodore took the seat across from him, between Hermione and Neville.
"What do you think?" grumbled Theo, putting his backpack on the table, so that he could pull out his homework.
"It's your own fault," Tracey put in.
Hermione nodded, "that's right. If you two had only studied and read his books."
"My fault?" repeated an offended Theodore, "it's my fault, that I didn't know Lockhart's favorite candy bar!"
"Its chocolate coconut crunch," answered Hermione and Tracey in unison, the two girls trading smiles at being able to answer the question so easily.
Theodore rolled his eyes, "unbelievable."
"Is he going to allow you to retake it?" asked Neville, who shared Harry and Theo's viewpoint on Lockhart, but the second year Gryffindor was better at not voicing his dislike of their DADA professor in the company of Tracey and Hermione.
"No," answered Harry, seeing that Theodore was in no mood to talk about Lockhart. "We're instead supposed to write an essay on a book of our choice."
"You two are lucky," Hermione pointed out, "that, he's allowing you guys a chance to get those points back."
"Yeah, that's the word I'd use, lucky," Theodore grumbled, "A foot of parchment on one of his bogus books due by Friday." He turned to Harry and then to Neville, "can one of you pinch me, to make sure this isn't some sort of wonderful dream!"
Harry couldn't help but laugh, while Neville sniggered at the joke and slight at their professor's expense. They were the only ones who saw the amusement in Theo's joke. Tracey and Hermione looked scandalized, crossing their arms and fixing the three boys with an unfriendly stare.
"You'll have plenty of time, to work on it, Harry," Neville said.
Harry turned to his Gryffindor friend, unsure of where he was getting that from. "What do you mean?"
"You don't remember?" Neville asked, looking at him, with confusion. "I thought we were going to meet here instead of going down to the Halloween feast."
Now, I remember, Harry mused, remembering that he and the others had talked about doing that last week. It was true that he didn't really have any desire to want to go down to celebrate the Halloween feast because of his parent's dying on that day. He, Tracey, Daphne, and Neville had done it last year, and Harry did prefer the intimate setting of the library instead of the rambunctiousness of the Great Hall.
That didn't stop him from being annoyed at himself for forgetting, since that was when he, Theodore, and Daphne had decided to initiate their prank against Malfoy. He turned to Theo first, and then Daphne noticing that they too seemed too had forgotten about that pre-arranged agreement.
"Is something wrong, Harry?" asked Hermione.
"No," Harry answered, quickly. "I'm fine," he said, running his hand through his messy black hair. "I just forgot that's all, been busy with homework and such."
"That's understandable," Tracey said sympathetically.
"So we're still doing it?" asked a hopeful Neville.
Harry smiled, "Yeah, we're still doing it." He went back to work, knowing that he was going to need to rethink their prank with Malfoy for the Halloween feast. It was not like he, Daphne, and Theodore could be in two places at once…
"What about the prank?" Daphne asked, not bothering to hide her annoyance. It was the next morning at the Slytherin table. Tracey had yet to make an appearance, allowing the three friends a small window of time to discuss their delicate situation.
"I've been thinking about that," answered Harry, trying not to sound defensive.
"Forgive me," Daphne replied, sarcastically. "You fooled me, when you decided to meet up with the others when we're supposed to be in the Great Hall." She was careful to remain vague, in case some of the Slytherins further down the table were listening in on their conversation. It didn't seem likely or possible, but you could never underestimate your fellow snakes.
"We could still do it," Theodore pointed out, "maybe breakfast or lunch instead."
"No," Daphne answered, sharply. "It must be during the feast, while the entire school is watching."
Harry sighed, knowing she made a valid point. Part of the reason, they settled on the Halloween feast was because they had wanted the chance to humiliate Malfoy in front of the school. If they did the breakfast or lunch, there was no guarantee how large their audience would be. Harry wanted the entire school to see Malfoy run out of the hall for all the school to see that the Soiled Slytherin struck again.
Distracted by his thoughts, his eyes drifted throughout the Great Hall, before falling on the Gryffindor table, where they settled on a pair of red heads. Harry immediately perked from his slouching position, unable to stop the smile from spreading across his lips as he realized he may have found the perfect solution.
"Why are you smiling?" asked a suspicious Daphne.
Harry's attention remained on the Weasley twins, "because I think I just realized that this will actually turn out to be our advantage."
"How is that?" asked Theo, looking up from buttering his toast.
"Think of it as a way of embracing our Slytherin side," he answered, vaguely, referring to working in the shadows and allowing others to do the grunt work. He looked up to see neither of them were following him, so he continued, "this action could be in the spirit and support of house cooperation."
He noticed they were still looking at him strangely as if expecting him to start making sense any moment, his smile intact as he began cutting up his breakfast sausages. "Let's just say, I may have found two experts, who will help insure this prank of ours will go off without a hitch."
He couldn't say anymore on the matter since an oblivious Tracey joined them, taking her seat next to Daphne and piling sausages and pancakes onto her plate. Harry's attention remaining on the Weasley twins, he was confident they'd be interested in helping him pull of this prank, all he had to was find a way to talk to them without arousing suspicion.
Easier said than done, Harry mused, knowing that they couldn't tip off Tracey, Hermione, or Neville, and couldn't be seen with the Weasley twins, since the school usually took notice when Slytherins and Gryffindors became chummy with one another.
It was with those difficulties did Harry realize that he might need a miracle for that to happen.
Harry got his miracle that lunch. They hadn't had class with the Gryffindors before lunch, since they had their Astronomy lecture, so they wouldn't be meeting up with Neville and Hermione, who at this time were probably already sitting down at their table. Tracey meanwhile had gone back to the Slytherin common room right after Astronomy to get her afternoon books, which she'd forgotten that morning, and insisted on meeting Harry, Theodore, and Daphne at their house table.
On their way down to the Great Hall, Harry's luck continued when he spotted the Weasley twins. The popular Gryffindors were usually surrounded by a crowd of admirers, but this time they were alone. For what reason, Harry could only guess-if he cared. It was in that instance of seeing them did he realize that the spirits of the Founders must be with him, to ensure that his prank of Malfoy would go off without a hitch. With that confidence, he called for their attention, much to Theodore and Daphne's confusion.
The twins turned, clearly confused at being called at what they suspected to be a deserted corridor, but their confusion was quickly replaced with smirks when they spotted Harry.
"Mister Potter," they called, approaching the trio.
"What a pleasure it is to see you, once again."
"Quite right," added the first.
Harry couldn't help but smile, it was always difficult to get use to the twins' antics and their general mirthful attitude and jovial atmosphere they tried to enforce wherever they went. It didn't help Harry, that he couldn't remember which one was Fred and which one was George.
"Ah, what a treat," said the second, turning his attention to Theodore and Daphne, "More little Slytherins!"
"Yes, indeed," replied the first, nodding his head, he stepped forward, offering them a dramatic bow, "it's a pleasure to meet more snakes, you may call me Gred."
Daphne didn't seem impressed, crossing her arms over her chest. "You have to be kidding me."
"When it comes to introductions, I'd never," admonished the second, "and you may call me Forge." He then frowned, turning to his brother, "or are we Fred and George?"
His brother shrugged, "you know, I never can remember."
"This is why mum should sew our names into our trousers."
Daphne turned to Harry, "These are your two experts?"
That had gotten Fred and George's attention. They traded smiles, before turning back to Harry, "what sort of experts are we?"
Harry gestured to a nearby classroom, "I have an opportunity that I don't think you want to pass on, gentlemen."
They turned to one another, and Harry was sure they were engaging in some sort of silent conversation, and after a few seconds, they nodded, following Harry, Daphne, and Theo into the room, he closed the door behind them.
"So what's all this, Harry?" Fred asked, or who Harry thought was Fred.
"How would you feel about pranking a certain Slytherin?" Harry asked, taking their smiles as a good sign, but before either could reply, it was Daphne.
"Wait, Harry," Daphne interrupted, looking at the Weasley twins warily. "You want to trust this delicate task to Ron Weasley's brothers?"
Fred let out a dramatic huff, putting his hand to his forehead as if pretending to faint, while George clutched his chest, dramatically.
"No need to remind us," Fred said.
"Yeah," George added, "that we're ickle Ronniekins' older brothers."
"We try to forget."
"We tried to trade him, when we were younger, but no luck."
"Trade him for what?" asked Harry, unsure if the Twins were just joking or if they were serious. Knowing them, it was probable a little bit of both.
"Well, one lady offered us a knut, but we thought she was over-paying," George teased.
"Too bad, mum found out," Fred said with a sigh.
George nodded, "but now we have our little brother to test our experiments."
"Experiments?" repeated Daphne, curiously.
"Yes, Ronniekins has been a great reliable source for us in testing certain delicate procedures," George answered, remaining vague of the nature of their 'experiments.'
Harry chuckled, the more he talked and listen to Fred and George, the more he knew he was right to seek their services. He also knew with the creative minds of the Weasley Twins, that he may as well leave the prank up to their very creative imaginations. He knew that if it came to the pranking the Slytherins, the Twins wouldn't disappoint.
He looked over to see that Daphne and Theodore didn't look reluctant anymore at trusting this task to them. They too seemed to realize that their prank would be in capable hands with the Weasley Twins.
"So you want us to prank a certain ickle snake do ya?"asked Fred.
"Actually," Daphne cut in, "we wouldn't hold a grudge if you decided to prank more than one."
Harry wasn't the only one, who was adapting of their original plan of simply slipping something into Draco's drink. Daphne, too realizing that it may be better suited for them to not hinder the Twins with their idea, and trust in their vaunted experiences of pranking.
"Oh?"asked George turning to his brother, "Who's your exact target Miss Slytherin?"
Daphne looked annoyed at being called Miss Slytherin, but she still answered him, "we were thinking of our fellow second year, Draco Malfoy."
Fred pretended to gag, before turning to his brother, "he does seem quite full of himself as of late."
"That's true," George agreed, "it would be our civic duty as fellow Hogwarts students to approach him and try to make him see reason."
"Indeed," Fred smirked, "and it would only be fair if we gave him company."
George rubbed his hands together. It seemed the twins were putting the pieces in place for how they want to go about pranking Malfoy and the fellow Slytherins.
"How could we refuse, such a treat?"
"Wait, a second," George said, holding up a finger, to his brother before turning back to them, "why us and not you?"
Harry had been suspecting this. He decided to give them the truth. "Because, we want to do it on Halloween at the feast, but I have plans I can't break."
Fred and George traded looks, "we're honored you came to us."
"Yes, it seems our reputation precedes us."
"Will you do it?" asked Theodore, speaking for the first time, something that didn't go unnoticed by the twins.
George jumped back, "he speaks!"
Theodore snorted in amusement, before rolling his eyes, "yes, quite well, in fact."
"My, my, these Slytherins are just full of surprises," Fred said, "Aren't they brother?"
"Indeed, wanting us to prank fellow Slytherins," George added, "Isn't that against your precious rules?"
"It is," answered Harry smoothly, "But I see this as a chance to broaden our Hogwarts experience by interacting with the other three houses."
Fred smiled, "I like that."
George waved his fingers over his eyes, as if trying to stop himself from crying, "Very poignant, little Potter."
"Since you two seem to love the sound of your voice," Daphne cut in, before the twins could go on another tangent of jokes, "How about you use it, to give us an answer."
"Yes," they answered, in unison. "Pranking Slytherins is always our pleasure."
Harry smiled, thankful that they agreed to help them. "That's great!"
"And the prank itself?" asked George.
"We leave it up to your expertise," answered Harry, knowing that with their limited experience in pranking, it was better to trust the judgment and experience that the Weasley twins offered.
Fred put his hand to his chest, "we're touched."
George followed his brother's sentiment, "indeed, and don't worry, we never disappoint."
Harry smiled at their antics, knowing that George was right. He had a feeling, that when it came to what their prank on Malfoy would be, it would be nothing less than spectacular.
"Well, if you excuse us," Fred said, gesturing to himself and then his brother, "we must take our leave, we have pranks to discuss and snakes to target." The two brothers gave the Slytherin trio another dramatic bow, all the while still smiling before they left them in the classroom, whispering to one another before closing the door.
"That was exhausting," she said, dramatically. "I didn't think they'd ever stop talking."
"Yeah," Theodore agreed, "I think I finally met someone who loves the sound of their voice, more than you do, Greengrass."
"Hah-Hah, Nott," Daphne drawled, "that's very funny."
Theodore only smiled, before turning back to Harry, "So what do you think they're going to do to them?"
Harry shrugged, going over to the door, "I don't know, but I'm glad that they're on our side."
"Did you finish the Charms essay?" asked Neville.
"Almost, Neville," Tracey answered, she and him were sitting side by side, their Charms textbooks and their class notes out, working on their essays.
"Okay, because I'm having problem with the last part of the question," explained Neville.
"You're not the only one," she grumbled.
It was Halloween, the six friends found themselves in the library during the feast as planned. Harry, who was working on his Lockhart essay, couldn't help but smile, knowing that as they worked and studied, the Twins were carrying out what was sure to be a very effective prank against Malfoy and his other supporting Slytherins. While the Twins executed their prank, it allowed Harry and the others to remain in the library for the entirety of the feast. It was the perfect plan.
He looked up to see Theodore too was smiling, and he knew his friend wasn't smiling because of the Lockhart essay, that he was writing. He gave Harry a slight nod, before turning his attention back to his essay. Daphne was next, she was working on her Potions essay, and like Theodore and Harry, the corners of her lips tugged upwards when she met Harry's stare, she then provided him a wink, before going back to her essay.
"You see, Theo?" Hermione said, looking and sounding delighted, sitting next to him, she was able to look over his essay, but that wasn't why she said, what she said, she said it, because she noticed him smiling. "All you had to do was give Lockhart a chance, and I knew you'd enjoy his writing style."
"You have no idea, Hermione," Theodore replied.
It took all of Harry's discipline to stop himself from bursting out laughing right there. He noticed Daphne was having similar problems. Not wanting to get noticed by Hermione, Harry lowered his head in concentration in trying to finish up his Lockhart essay.
Harry would've thought he'd be more disappointed in not seeing the feat of Draco, his cronies, and the other Slytherins being the target of a prank. It was an opportunity for him to see the school body mocking and laughing at the Slytherins whom he disliked the most. Yet, looking around his table of friends, Harry couldn't deny he liked where he was. This was where he wanted to be. This was where he belonged, with his friends.
He may not always agree with them. But that would never change the gratefulness he felt for having them as friends. These were friendships he cherished.
"I can't believe you missed it, Harry," proclaimed a stunned Susan.
The Hufflepuff and Slytherin were working on their Astronomy homework together that night after the Halloween feast. This was the usual time and day, that they had agreed to meet and work on their homework, most notably Astronomy. Harry just had the luck of this particular meeting taking place after the Halloween feast. This allowed him to be filled in at once by the particular prank that the Twins decided to use on Malfoy and the other snakes, and its overall effectiveness it had.
"I know," Harry agreed, feigning confusion and obliviousness at his fellow snakes being pranked. He looked up to see Susan was still smiling, she had giggled and laughed throughout her retelling of the scene that Draco and his cronies made when they were pranked. She left no detail forgotten, filling Harry in on the immediate reaction by the other houses-laughter.
Harry had to stop himself from smiling, feeling very pleased with himself at finding out that the prank went off without a hitch. He was right to trust the Twins. He was right to seek them out. They had performed their task admirably, and Harry was sure that this would be a prank that would be talked about for the remainder of the term.
"Do you know who did it?" asked Harry, innocently.
She looked up from her parchment, "I heard a rumor."
"A rumor?" asked Harry, very curious with what this rumor consisted of and who it pointed to.
"Yeah," she answered, "there's talk it came from the Gryffindors."
"Really?" Harry asked, using his discipline to stop himself from smiling, at realizing that there was no trace back to him, Theodore, and Daphne. It was just as he and the others had wanted. They orchestrated the prank while passing off the actually work to implement it to someone else.
She nodded, "it seems the house rivalry is intensifying with their first Quidditch match approaching."
"Yeah, it does," he agreed.
"I'm glad you're a Slytherin, Harry."
Confused, Harry looked up to see he was the target of Susan's smile. She looked amused at his reaction. "Yes, Harry, you're the only Slytherin I know who tries to interact with the other houses."
"I just think it's silly," he admitted. "Not liking or talking to people because of their house affiliation."
"Me too," she agreed, "you might be the catalyst that Slytherins need."
"Yeah, I know," Harry said, knowing that if the perception of Slytherin house was going to change, that he needed to take an active role in trying to reshape it. He was being met with heavy resistance. Yet, he believed that the change was slowly coming.
"It must be frustrating, at times," Susan observed, sensing what he was thinking. "To be the only one trying to change your house's reputation, while fighting the resistance from your own housemates."
"I'm not the only one," he corrected her, "I have Tracey, Daphne and Theodore."
Susan frowned, showing that she didn't seem to believe or agree with him. It was a curious response, and had Harry wondering what his trio of Slytherins perception was with the other houses to prompt a reaction from the kind and always friendly Susan Bones.
"Is something wrong, Susan?"
She shook her head, auburn curls falling around her face as she did. "No, it's just that Theodore doesn't have the best reputation."
It was Harry's turn to frown. "What do you mean?"
"Harry, I don't want to get in an argument," she said back-pedaling.
"I know, Susan," he said, trying to soothe her anxiety. "I just want to know what they've been saying about my friends."
That seemed to convince Susan. No doubt, the loyalty that Hufflepuffs championed in their house was drawn to Harry's own desire to defend and protect his own friends.
"I know that you're not privy to the history of our world," Susan began delicately, referring to his muggle upbringing. "So you might not know about Theodore's father-"
"I know what he was," Harry interrupted, "I know Mr. Nott was a Death Eater."
Susan didn't bother to hide her surprise at him knowing that. She was clearly not expecting him to know, causing her to wonder why he'd be friends with the son of a supposed known Death Eater.
"Yeah," Harry said, trying to sound casual, even when the topic they were talking about was anything but.
"Then…then why?" she asked.
"Am I friends with Theodore?" he guessed, seeing her nod, he continued, "Because Theodore isn't his father."
"Harry," Susan said softly, "His father was one of the worst Death Eaters."
"That doesn't mean Theodore will become one," Harry argued, biting down the annoyance that was threatening to seep into his tone.
Susan favored him with a sad look. "It doesn't help him, either, Harry."
"Theodore won't turn into his father," Harry said adamantly. It was taking all of his strength to keep his growing anger in check to defend his best friend. He appreciated Susan's honesty and forthwith in sharing with him Theodore's perception with the rest of the houses.
"How do you know that?" she asked, "The Notts are a notorious dark family, Harry. How can you be certain that he isn't like the rest of his family?"
Harry liked Susan. He enjoyed their handful of meetings together. He respected her sincerity and honesty and her ability to show kindness to everyone she came across, but her insisting that Theodore would turn into his father was threatening to crack the foundation of their growing friendship. He wouldn't allow anyone to question Theo's loyalty after what he'd gone through last year to help Harry stop Voldemort.
Harry had seen the heart of his best friend, when he showed him the Mirror of Erised. It wasn't power that he had coveted. His friend only cherished the love and acceptance of his father and the yearning of a mother who died upon giving birth to him. A mother he never knew. It was a sad similarity that the two Slytherins were able to share, the absence of a loving mother as they grew up.
"I know, my best friend, Susan," Harry said, aware that his tone took an edge.
Susan sensed it too. "I'm sorry, Harry, I know this can't be easy to listen to."
"No, it isn't," Harry said, looking down at the table to see his hands had clenched into fists, instinctively.
Susan brushed some of her red curls out from her face, nervously twirling some of the strands of her hair between her fingers.
"Is this how the rest of your house sees my friends?" Harry asked, stomping out any frustration or annoyance from slipping into his tone or expression. He looked down at his clenched fists, knowing he was radiating hostility, he took a calming breath, before opening up his fists and bringing his hands to rest on his lap-out of sight.
Susan gave him a sympathetic look, which spoke more than any words could, but nonetheless, she still answered, "They do, Harry."
Harry shook his head in frustration. He'd thought he was making a difference. He thought he and his friends were changing perceptions and the identity of their house, but he was only fooling himself. How could they change the image of their house, when those of the other houses looked at his friends with doubt and suspicion?
"They're wrong," he said stubbornly. "You're all wrong."
Susan lowered her head, her attention on her piece of parchment, "I'm sorry, Harry, but my aunt and my parents have told me about his dad." She looked up, almost pleading. "They're stories you just can't forget."
"They're of his father!" Harry hissed, unsure why anyone would hold a grudge on the children for a deed the parents had done. Then again, he shouldn't be that surprised, his own Aunt, held Harry responsible for his mother's actions when the two were children and then adults.
It was easier to simply group families into good or evil, hold a group to the same prejudices without trying to know the individual. Harry's own interactions with other students supported this viewpoint. He remembered Daphne sharing similar sentiments about Theodore when they first met. Even now, Harry knew that she was still holding a seed of mistrust of the Nott Scion. If Daphne, a fellow Slytherin could be suspicious of Theodore, why was Harry surprised that the rest of the school perceived his friend the same way.
Harry sighed, running his hands through his messy hair. He looked to see that Susan was watching him, she didn't bother to hide her surprise at the adamant defense he was giving to Theodore. He knew that if she and others knew Theodore and the others that they wouldn't be so quick to judge. And then Harry got an idea.
"What are you doing for the Slytherin-Gryffindor match?"
"I was going to watch it with my friends, Hannah and Sally-Anne," she answered, not following what he was referring to. If anything she looked more confused at the sudden change of topic.
"Watch it with us," he invited.
"What?" she asked.
Harry was nodding, it was all making perfect sense in his head. "Yeah, watch it with me, Daphne, Tracey, Hermione, Neville, and Theodore." He emphasized the last name he listed.
"Yeah," Harry answered, "you can bring Hannah and Sally-Anne with you." He encouraged.
Susan was chewing on her lower lip, looking to be mulling over his invitation, he could see she was still hesitant.
"Wouldn't you rather know the truth, than just accept the gossip," Harry challenged. "Proof that my friends aren't Death Eaters in training."
Susan winced at that, before nodding. "You're right, Harry." She admitted.
"So you'll sit with us?" asked a hopeful Harry, who had been meaning to get Susan to interact more with the others.
She must have noticed his hopeful tone, since she smiled at him, "Yeah, I'll be happy to sit with you and your friends."
Harry couldn't help but return her smile, pleased to know that she did not only trust him, but she was willing to reject labels and gossip and try to discover the truth. He was confident that within interacting with Theodore and the others, she would no longer see him as his father's son, but as simply Theodore Nott.
Harry was hopeful that this Quidditch match could not only be another opportunity for Malfoy to be humiliated but a chance to change people's perceptions of not his house, but his friends. It was a small, but very significant step for Harry Potter.
The prank had been an overwhelming success in humiliating Malfoy and his cronies, all of them receiving laughter and mock applause when they walked into the Great Hall the next and his Slytherin friends were sitting at the end of their house table at breakfast, all of whom watching Malfoy and the others take their seat at the table.
However, instead of being bullied and mocked by his fellow Slytherins, Draco was welcomed by them,who looked to be trying to protect Draco. It was in that moment did Harry realize that he and the others may have made a grave miscalculation in their attempt at trying to fracture Malfoy's support with their prank. He turned to his two fellow Slytherins to see they were coming to similar conclusions. Daphne looked more aloof and icy than usual as she sipped her morning juice while Theodore was continuing to scowl as he cut up his eggs.
Tracey shook her head, "I knew it would never work."
Daphne turned to her best friend, "what do you mean?"
"A prank," she answered, "it was never going to work the way you guys wanted it to."
"What makes you say that?" challenged Daphne.
Tracey put down her fork and knife, "because pranking Malfoy would be perceived as an outside attack."
"An outside attack?" repeated Theodore, who remained dour.
"Yes," Tracey answered, "the other Slytherins wouldn't be fractured but united, because they'd see it as an outside threat to a fellow snake and more importantly their seeker."
"Not everything has to do with Quidditch you know," Daphne said, a bit too sharply.
"Look around, Daph," Tracey replied, "and say that I'm wrong."
Daphne still frowning, did just that, looking further up their table to see in fact the entire Quidditch team was sitting with Draco. They looked to be serving as his escort and guard duty, all of them were looking around the Great Hall as if trying to perceive other threats to their house seeker.
That was all Harry needed to see to see that he and the others had made a mistake. He sighed, realizing that if they wanted to unseat Malfoy they may need a more direct approach to accomplish it.
"Instead of making Malfoy a joke, he's now a victim of Gryffindor abuse, and now has the support of the upper Slytherins," Tracey said sadly, "his support is now stronger and more united than before."
"That's why you didn't want us to prank him?" guessed Harry, remembering his friend was adamant in her defense in letting fate play out, instead of making a first strike.
"Yeah," she answered, "because if he just lost one or two matches by Quidditch he'd begin to lose support very fast, but now he could probably lose all his games and still remain popular with the others."
"Then we'll just have to adapt," Harry said, turning to Theo and then Daphne to see them both nodding in approval. "We'll have to find another method of trying to overthrow Malfoy."
Harry didn't voice them to his friends, but he was already thinking of two such ways, that could go about uprooting his support system. Both of them would have to have Harry taking a more active role in displaying his individual talents. Both of these ideas stemmed from his friends.
His parseltongue ability, something Daphne had broached and supported before they decided to prank Malfoy. The second was challenging Malfoy to a race to try to out-fly him. It was a suggestion which Tracey had been adamant in supporting since the beginning of the year.
As he finished his breakfast, Harry looked back on the prank, realizing in some ways the prank excelled past his hopes in being lauded as a great success with the other three houses. But even with that success it was clear to Harry that it gave him and the others a difficult setback in trying to apply change to their house. The Slytherins were more galvanized under Malfoy than ever before, and it was thanks to their prank.
Harry wasn't discouraged, he planned to learn from this, and make sure not to repeat this mistake a second time.