AN: DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP! I'm sorry for those of you who get excited about this chapter being posted. I am not suddenly going to continue this story. It remains a plot bunny. This chapter was written... like half a year ago. Probably even longer than that. It sat on my HDD all that time without getting posted, and would have stayed that way except for a few recent questions, and an adoption inquiry.
It reminded me that I HAD written another chapter of this story, and maybe I ought to actually post it – especially if there's anyone out there who feels inclined to adopt this little plot bunny.
Severus Snape trudged up the stairs of the Grand Staircase, all the way up to the seventh floor and down the corridor towards the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the headmaster's office.
He was clutching a crumpled up letter in his fist, but was as yet, still not entirely sure he would even bring it up. He knew he certainly didn't want to. It was hardly any concern of his, but he supposed that he could at least pass the information off to Minerva and allow her to deal with it.
He spoke the password to the gargoyle and it quickly jumped aside. It was late and Severus was exhausted. He wanted this night to be over so he could retire to his quarters and his nice, comfortable bed, and maybe indulge in a brandy before allowing sleep to capture him. He was dreading tomorrow morning, but when had he not dreaded the first day of classes?
He knew he was going to be the last one arriving to this little meeting. He, unlike some of his colleagues, actually felt it important to speak with his new first years after the end of the feast and before sending them off to bed. He also had the greatest distance to travel – having to make his way all the way up from the dungeons where the Slytherin common room and dormitories were held, and then all the way up to the seventh floor.
So, needless to say, he was not in the best of moods when he finally got to the top of the rotating spiral staircase and entered the headmaster's office.
As he had expected, Pamona, Filius, Minerva, and Albus were already there, all seated in overly plush armchairs – except for Minerva who had obviously conjured her own hard, stiff-backed chair, just to her liking.
"Ah, Severus! How good of you to join us," Albus said, smiling warmly and making a motion with his hand towards the one remaining plush wing-backed chair. Severus strode over confidently and sank down into the chair, trying not to make it too obvious how relieved he was to finally be sitting down. "We've just begun discussing this years newly sorted first years."
Of course they had. Why wait for Severus? After all, he was merely doing his job, and therefore taking a bit longer to arrive than his counterparts who failed to hold the same high standards of their own performance.
"Yes, I was just telling Minerva how surprised I was that young Ms. MacDougal was sorted into my house," Filius gushed. "As I recall, both of her parents and her aunt were in your house."
Severus made a noncommittal humming sound from his throat, but didn't really care one way or the other. He would have his hands full this year with Nott, Crabbe, Goyle, and Parkinson all in his first year class. Of course, he had fully expected his godson to be in that list, and still didn't know what to make of –
"Yes, Ms. MacDougal is a bit of a surprise, but not nearly so much as young Mr. Malfoy!" Pamona said in an excited rush. "A Malfoy in Gryffindor! Merlin, Minerva, how will you handle it?"
"Well, if the hat put him in my house, then he must belong there," Minerva said in clipped tones and pressing her lips into a thin line.
"I suppose so – " Pamona replied mildly before turning to Severus. "The boy is your godson, isn't he? Do you know him well, Severus?"
"I certainly thought I did," Severus muttered under his breath.
"Surprised by the sorting, then?" Pamona asked with a knowing little grin that made Severus want to sneer at her, but he managed to at least partially refrain.
"So you were expecting the boy to be in your house?" Filius asked, leaning forward on his chair slightly with piqued interest.
"Of course, I was," Severus snapped shortly, feeling entirely too tired and irritated to deal with this meeting. "Draco has always been Lucius' son, through and through. His whole life, his primary goal has been to emulate his father and make the man proud. He's been horribly spoiled and pampered, and yet has also managed to be cunning when necessary. The hat shouldn't have spent more then a fraction of a second on his head before calling out Slytherin." Severus paused and sighed heavily. He did not envy Draco. He couldn't even begin to imagine how Lucius would react to this. "I cannot even fathom how this happened, however I am presently inclined to blame this unexpected turn of events on Harry Potter."
"Potter?" Minerva exclaimed with a slightly incredulous laugh to her voice. "How absurd! How could you possibly blame Lucius Malfoy's son getting sorted into Gryffindor on Harry Potter!?"
Severus grimaced and fished out the crumpled letter from his pocket. "This is a letter that I received from Narcissa Malfoy a few days ago. Apparently at the end of July, while shopping for Draco's school supplies in Diagon Alley, Draco and Mr. Potter met in Madam Malkin's and..." Severus' grimace deepened and twisted into a sneer, "struck up a friendship of sorts. They began to exchange daily letters after that."
Minerva frowned slightly and glanced over at the headmaster, who had remained all but silent since Severus had taken his seat.
"Mrs. Malfoy wrote you just to inform you that her son had been exchanging letters with Mr. Potter?" Filius asked curiously.
"Not exactly," Severus replied curtly. "She wrote me because some of the things that Draco told her that Potter had told him caused her some level of concern."
"Concern? In what way?" Minerva asked, taking on a very strict business tone.
Severus heaved an annoyed sigh and flattened the letter out on his lap. "She said that some of what Potter had said to Draco, and that Draco had then repeated to Narcissa, suggested that Potter has been... abused by his relatives. She believes that they have taken to beating the boy whenever any incidences of accidental magic occurred," Severus drawled in a bored tone. Minerva and Pamona both gasped, but he ignored them and pressed on. "No doubt as an attempt to reduce the frequency of the incidences and thus, the abuse, Potter's outbursts of accidental magic occurred less and less frequently in recent years, however they became more and more substantial in power and damage. This is generally considered a sign of subconscious magic suppression and she wanted to inform me so that we could take appropriate action to make sure it doesn't impede his ability to access and control his magic as he ages."
Severus finished and then leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest and looking entirely put upon for having had to relay such a message. He watched as Minerva's expression went from horrified to pure unadulterated fury as she turned and glared at Dumbledore with the fires of Hades burning in her eyes.
The old man himself was looking far older than Severus had ever seen him look. The twinkle was completely absent from his eyes and his bushy white eyebrows were drawn together, creasing his forehead deeply with worry.
"You said that he was safe!" Minerva hissed, reminding Severus somewhat of her cat animagus form. "You said you had someone watching the boy! That the only place he would be safe was with those awful people!" she ended, her voice raising in pitch at the end.
"No doubt the boy was just exaggerating," Severus drawled and examined his fingernails with boredom. "Boys this age are always looking for some way to impress or gain sympathy from their peers. The boy was probably whining because he was caught causing trouble and got a wallop to his rear and considered it unfair that he have to pay for his misbehavior."
"I would expect that you of all people, Severus Snape, would no better than to disregard the claims of a child in regards to abuse!" Minerva exclaimed angrily. "Especially the suggestion of his magic being suppressed in response to said abuse. As I recall, you came to Hogwarts under much the same ill circumstances!"
"Somehow I seriously doubt that Perfect-Harry-Potter ever had to endure anything even remotely resembling Tobais Snape," Severus spat. "And I hardly see how ancient history is even remotely relevant here."
"Oh, I wouldn't be quite so sure," Minerva said haughtily, turning back to Dumbledore to once again glare. "Those people were the worst sort muggles I'd ever seen and I warned you, Albus! I warned you! And you said that the matter was in hand! If I learn that, that boy has been there, all these years, being abused by those monstrous muggles –"
"Now, now, Minerva. Please, calm yourself," Dumbledore said, raising both his hands in a placating motion, while still looking rather painfully shaken himself.
"You said you had someone watching the boy, yes?"
"That is correct. I enlisted the aid of Arabella Figg. She moved into a house a street down from Harry Potter's family and offered her services to them early on as a free source of childcare. They enlisted her services on a fairly regular occasion. While she didn't believe that young Harry was as loved by his aunt and uncle as their own son perhaps was, she certainly never saw any signs of physical abuse."
"Not as loved?" Minerva repeated incredulously. "What exactly did she say about their treatment?"
Dumbledore heaved a heavy sigh and steepled his hands upon his desk. "You must realize, Minerva, that staying with his aunt and uncle was the only truly safe place for Harry. It was the only place where we could guarantee that Voldemort's forces would never be able to gain access to him and where he could grow up away from the attention from his fame he would have encountered had he grown up aware of the magical world. Keeping him safe was of the utmost importance."
"What – did – she – say?" Minerva asked in harsh, clipped, tones.
Severus watched with a mildly disinterested expression as the two went on to argue for the next twenty minutes about their precious Harry Potter and his theoretical mistreatment at the hands of his muggle relatives.
Initially Severus disregarded the whole thing as irrelevant and nothing more than a waste of his precious time. He could be sleeping, or if nothing else, finalizing preparations for his classes in the morning. But he had to admit that his curiosity was mildly piqued after a while. He found himself rather shocked to learn that, as far as Dumbledore knew, Potter's muggle relatives had not informed him of his history at all. In fact, they had even tried to deny him his Hogwarts letter and it had ended up being Hagrid's duty to retrieve the boy and then inform him about how his parents had died at the hands of the Dark Lord.
Hagrid! How ludicrous?
Still, everything revealed was nothing more than hearsay and conjecture and he wasn't going to put a lot of stock into it until he saw the boy for himself in class. No doubt the brat had somehow contaminated Draco with all sorts of ridiculous ideas. Either that, or Lucius had instructed Draco to take every opportunity he could to get closer to Potter for some underhanded reason and Draco had somehow taken it much further than he should have, and that was why Draco had ended up in Gryffindor. Still... the hat could only be persuaded to a certain point, and it would never accept an underhanded motive for being sorted to an alternate house than it's ideal suggestion.
Severus really didn't know what to think about the whole convoluted mess. It was still entirely bewildering, and he wasn't yet sure how he was going to approach the situation. Heaven forbid he actually have to give points to Gryffindor. And yet, no matter what inexplicable set of events had transpired to result in this outcome, Severus still liked Draco. He was honestly quite fond of his godson, and knew the boy would be good with his potions work seeing as how he had given the child private lessons every summer for the last three years.
The meeting seemed to go on forever, and in the end, it was clear that Minerva was not yet finished with Dumbledore, but that they would be continuing their discussion at a later date, and in a more private setting where Minerva would feel free to yell at the old man all she wanted. In the end, it was decided that they would all watch Potter for signs of above-average difficulty calling forth and controlling his magic, and if it turned out to be the case, he would receive some extra lessons to make up for the damage caused by subconscious suppression of his magic.
It was far from unheard of to be given special lessons of this sort – in fact, Severus had endured them himself back in his first year at Hogwarts. His suppressed magic was one of the reasons he'd gotten into the Dark Arts so early on. His own internal magic had been so tightly bound it was difficult for him to readily access it, but Dark magic worked by absorbing magic energy from external sources and converting it into an energy that you could use to your own whims. His poor performance at many more traditional branches of magic had been one of the things that Potter's father had latched onto when he targeted Severus with his bullying tendencies. Falling back onto the Dark arts to defend himself had been Severus' only real option until the lessons began to pay off and he finally learned to draw his magic out with controlled precision.
The idea of Potter's brat-spawn requiring the same lessons was equal parts amusing as it was disconcerting.
Severus had, often times over the years, assigned these extra lessons to those members of his own house that he managed to identify had suffered under some form of abuse at home. Abused children almost always had more difficulty with their magical control than their peers, and Slytherin house always seemed to get an unfortunately large portion of the abused children that came to Hogwarts. Pamona had the second largest number of students sent to these special lessons, since she tended to get all of the muggleborn who had suffered under fear, confusion, and prejudice from their muggle family.
Finally, Severus simply pushed the whole matter out of his mind. He was tired and needed his rest. He would wait and watch. There really was nothing else he could do at this point.
The quiet yet persistent and irritating, chirp of his alarm spell woke Draco early the following morning. He sat up in bed groggily and blinked owlishly for all of one second before he squinted and cringed against the onslaught of garish reds and gold. It took several seconds longer for his foggy brain to recall the horrifying events of the previous evening clearly enough to figure out why he was where he was. Then he groaned in misery and buried his face in his pillow, taking several long minutes to wallow in self pity and utter misery.
How the hell had he screwed this up, so badly?
How was he supposed to save his family from the Dark Lord if his family disowned him?
Draco finally sat up with a determined expression gracing his sharp but youthful features and pulled himself out from behind the nearly-obscene red hangings. He'd set his alarm unusually early, just so that he would have time in the morning to think and scheme and he wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity he'd given himself. He made a quick run to the bathroom and took one of the quickest showers he'd ever had before running back into his new dorm room. He made sure to be quiet since the other boys were all still asleep, and once he'd sat himself down at his desk, he pulled out his wand and cast a simple sound ward around his immediate work area.
He decided to try and take stock of what all he needed to attend to, first. He still had the little black journal that had once belonged to the Dark Lord. The only real plan he had in regards to it was that he somehow needed to get it to Dumbledore with a note – ideally anonymous – that noted it was something of import to the Dark Lord and it probably needed to be destroyed.
He needed to find a way to tell his parents about his unfortunate sorting that would prevent his father from outright disowning him. Perhaps he could try and spin it as some sort of ingenious scheme? Making himself a snake in the lion's den? Would his father believe that he could have intentionally gotten himself sorted into Gryffindor? Would his father even believe such a thing was possible? From Draco's own experience, the Hat was not one to be easily persuaded to put you where it didn't agree you belonged. He still couldn't believe the damned blasted thing had sent him to Gryffindor. Stupid bloody hat. He was hardly Gryffindor material, he had no idea what the thing was thinking. It really didn't get much more Slytherin than him. Sure, part of his motive for going through all of this time-travel insanity was to save his family from a madman, but the largest motivation was self-preservation. Preservation of his own life as well as his families, and their family name and honor.
It had become blatantly obvious that his family was doomed, had they continued along their current path, and Draco had seen no other paths to take.
Gryffindors were about courage and bravado and doing what's right and what's just and all that nonsense. In what way did any of that fit Draco? It didn't! That ridiculous hat was utterly barmy!
Draco did have to admit that there was one task that him being in Gryffindor might make a little easier, though.
He glanced across Harry's bed to the side where Ron Weasley's bed lay closed off with the garish red hangings, and wondered if he'd be able to snatch Weasley's rat without anyone noticing, or if he should wait. It was still ridiculous and no small amount of disturbing to think that Weasley had carried around an animagus as a pet for three whole years before the disgusting man had been found out. And hadn't one of Weasley's brother's had the thing before that? How thick could you be? Rats don't live for a decade. You'd think that their parents would have at least had the brains to become suspicious when the thing hadn't died by now.
In any case, being Weasley's room mate was a legitimate curse, but at least it gave Draco easy access to Weasley's rat. The question was... what was he going to do about the man?
Merlin save him, because he just didn't know the answers... not to any of his questions. He felt so horribly overwhelmed. He felt utterly alone in a way he hadn't expected to feel. He had somehow convinced himself that once he was down in Slytherin house he could just move forward along the same general path he had traveled before, but not being such a prat and trying to maintain a friendship with Harry.
Now he realized how naive a plan that had been. Even if he'd gone to Slytherin like he'd expected, it wouldn't have really made a difference. The simple reality of the situation was that he had no plan and if he didn't come up with one, he wasn't going to get anything accomplished. But how the heck was he supposed to do that? He just didn't know. He didn't know.
Draco sighed dramatically and pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill and began to pen a letter to his father. He quickly scrunched it up into a ball and incendio'd it before starting fresh with a letter to his mother. But that one wasn't turning out any better. He found himself wishing he could tell her the truth but knew that would explode violently in his face, and that it was a very, very bad idea. He couldn't confide the truth to either of his parents. His mother would tell his father, and his father would want to use Draco's knowledge of the future to try and make the Dark Lord's return more smooth and keep their family in his good graces. He wouldn't take Draco's warnings seriously, and Draco knew that.
No, if he was going to save his family, he would likely have to do it, dragging them, kicking and screaming the whole way. He could never tell them the truth – at least, not until the Dark Lord was long gone for good.
But the desire – no the need – to have someone to confide in and help him was still there, pressing against him.
Who could he tell? Who could he trust?
Severus was out. Draco had never been entirely sure of his godfather's loyalties and wasn't about to take any chances by trusting the man with something as important and delicate as this. He considered Dumbledore, but the idea made him want to wretch. Telling Dumbledore would be a last resort.
Was there no one that Draco could trust?
Then the idea came to him. Harry. He could trust Harry. But would Harry forgive him for this deceit so far? He grinned and laughed wearily to himself. Yes. Harry would. He was fairly sure of that. Harry was one of those insanely forgiving types somehow. Look at all the times Weasley had turned on him and yet Harry had always taken him back.
Draco couldn't help but wonder if he were absolutely out of his mind for considering telling Harry the truth, but he knew that if he was ever going to do it, he'd be best doing it early. The longer the deception went on, the harder time Harry would have forgiving him for not telling him the truth. Harry had had people lying to him his whole life and Draco didn't want to be one more person who just lied and used Harry. He'd come to like the boy too much for that. It felt, wrong to continue to deceive his friend.
Merlin, when did he become such a Hufflepuff? No... a Gryffindor. All honesty and trust and right and wrong... Bloody hell! Stupid effing hat!
Harry stretched languorously in the glorious comfort of his new bed for several minutes, only partially awake and thus, only vaguely aware of the rest of the world's existence outside of his heavy, comfortably warm body. His foggy mind cleared enough for him to become consciously aware of why he was so warm and comfortable – he was at Hogwarts – and this thought brought his awareness to full clarity as he realized that he had classes today!
He sat up, blinking owlishly at the heavy hangings around his bed before pulling them back and climbing out of bed. His panic over potentially being late on his first day subsided considerably as he realized that Weasley, in the bed beside his, was still sound asleep and snoring, and the boy, Neville, who had lost a toad on the train, was only just now digging through his trunk for clothes.
Harry turned to look towards Draco's bed and found it neatly made and his blond friend sitting at his desk already dressed and ready for the day, and frowning deeply at the parchment beneath his hand. A small pile of charred and crumpled balls of parchment littered the corner of his desk and the floor below.
Harry yawned, stretched, and padded his way over to stand behind Draco. "Morning," he said and the blond jumped suddenly before flushing slightly and looking embarrassed.
"Good morning, Harry," Draco said in that rather proper tone he sometimes took on when trying to cover up that he could be normal just like everyone else. Harry grinned. "You'd best be getting ready soon," Draco said then. "I imagine when Finnigan, Thomas, and Weasley wake up, they're going to be fighting over the showers in quite a rush. We'll need to be getting down to the Great Hall soon to get our timetables from McGonagall."
Harry nodded and scratched his side absently. "Yeah, I s'pose you've got a point. What'cha working on, anyway?"
Draco sighed heavily and let his quill drop from his hand and settle on the desk.
"I'm trying to write a letter to my parents," he grumbled and Harry couldn't help but frown in concern at how glum his friend looked.
"Do you really think they'll take it that bad? You being sorted into Gryffindor, I mean?" Harry asked quietly.
Draco glanced up at him over his shoulder and gave a defeated little shrug. "It really depends on how I phrase it, but I'm having trouble lying to them... which is utterly obscene, honestly."
"Huh?" Harry said, trying to make sense of that sentence. Draco chuckled weakly before letting out a long, slow sigh and pushing his chair away from his desk and standing up. Draco motioned Harry over to the other side of his bed that was about as far away from everyone else in the room as you could get.
"Harry..." Draco began hesitantly, glancing around the room to make sure Neville was sufficiently preoccupied and their other roommates were still asleep. "I have something I need to tell you. It's... it's really important."
Harry nodded feeling both eager and anxious. "Alright, what is it?"
"Er... not here. It'll take a while to explain everything and we just don't have the time right now. But it really is important."
"Okay. So when do you want to do this?"
"Er... probably after classes today will be the first real opportunity we have to discuss it. I suppose it'll depend on what our timetables look like. If we have a free period after lunch, we could just skip lunch to talk but then we'd miss lunch."
Harry grimaced and Draco chuckled weakly.
"It's okay Draco – if it's really important, I'll miss lunch," Harry said with a determined nod that made Draco's face soften and his eyes dart to the floor.
"It's important... but it can wait till later. After our last class. We'll have two and a half hours between the end of the last block and the start of dinner."
Harry nodded his agreement and Draco reminded him that he should go get ready so they could make it to breakfast early enough to get the best selection.
Fifteen minutes later Harry was trailing behind Draco and amazed at his friend's ability to not get lost in this crazy, wonderful, magical labyrinth of moving staircases and endless arrays of hallways that looked similar enough that Harry honestly had no idea where he was. After Harry made a comment on his wonder towards that very subject, Draco had suddenly looked nervous and shuffled his feet a bit, refusing to meet Harry's gaze before muttering something about their talk later and quickly pressing on.
As they entered the Great Hall it appeared for a moment that Draco was about to walk to the Slytherin table before he came to a sudden halt, closed his eyes and grumbled something under his breath, turning and going to the Gryffindor table instead.
Harry decided not to comment on it since it was obvious his friend was still having trouble coming to terms with his sorting. Harry did glance over at the Slytherin table and waved at Pansy and Theo who looked between each other for a moment before hesitantly waving back at Harry. Harry and Draco reached the Gryffindor table and sat down. Draco still seemed deeply distracted but Harry's attention was instantly drawn to the buffet of delicious-looking breakfast foods spread out before him. He had thought the quantity of food for the feast last night had probably had something to do with the fact that it was a feast, but given the sheer volume presented before him now, he almost wondered if this was actually normal.
He grinned widely, glorifying in the knowledge that he could eat as much as he damn well pleased and that he wouldn't have to cook food for the muggles again for... well, at least as long as he was at Hogwarts. Hopefully, he'd never have to cook for them again, ever, but he had no idea what his alternatives might be so he wouldn't get his hopes up prematurely.
Harry quickly began to load up his plate and eat, humming in pleasure at how wonderful everything tasted. His obvious enjoyment of his meal apparently drew in Draco's attention and he slowly began to emerge from his funk and started loading up a plate of his own.
It wasn't too much longer before McGonagall appeared and started handing out schedules to those that were already present in the Great Hall. Harry and Draco's schedules were identical, and Draco explained that they'd have the same classes as all of the other first year Gryffindors until third year, when they'd be able to chose from a set of electives.
They looked over their timetables together and Draco went over what Harry could expect from each class, which Harry was extremely grateful for. For Mondays, they had Potions first, then Defense, then lunch. After lunch they had Herbology and then History and then the two and a half hour break until dinner. Four classes a day didn't seem like it should make a full schedule to Harry, but Draco explained that each class was an hour and a half long, and the double classes were two whole hours long, so he figured that would fill the days a bit better.
Neville managed to get down to the Great Hall about twenty minutes after they did, although he had apparently left just after they had, but had gotten lost along the way. It was only fifteen minutes until their first class would be starting when their other three room mates rushed into the hall and raced through their breakfasts. Draco had smirked subtly at them and snickered when Weasley nearly choked on a sausage.
Harry actually asked them all their names again, since he hadn't managed to memorize them all the night before. He new the red-head was 'Weasley', but only because he'd managed to remember that his twin brothers were Fred and George Weasley. The boy extended his hand and said his name, but it came out more as 'Won' because his mouth was stuffed with hash at the time he spoke.
Draco made a disgusted noise and once again reminded the red-head to please swallow before speaking around him, which made the boy scowl angrily and go nearly as red as his hair. The other two boys introduced themselves as Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas.
Seamus said he was a half-blood and explained that his mum was a witch, but his dad was a muggle. Dean was muggleborn; or at least, he assumed as much. The truth was that he'd never known his dad, and Draco pointed out that it was entirely possible that his father could have been a wizard and his mum had simply never known before the man went and disappeared. Draco also noted that the time when Dean's dad went missing, late 1980, was during the height of the wizarding war and a lot of witches and wizards died during that year.
This gave the dark-skinned boy pause with a thoughtful expression. Before they could take the conversation any further, however, it was time to leave and the group of them, along with the first year girls who had still been at the Gryffindor table, began the trek out of the Great Hall and to the dungeons.
The door to the Potions lab was closed when they got there and the Slytherin students were already standing in a few close groups talking quietly. Harry glanced over at Draco and saw his blond friend eyeing the groups with longing in his eyes and a sadness that made something in his chest ache. He hated the thought that Draco was unhappy with the sorting, and was that much more thankful that he'd convinced the hat to send him to Gryffindor, so he could stay with his friend. He could only imagine how much harder this would be for Draco if Harry had gone to Slytherin without him.
Harry saw Theo talking with a dark-skinned boy who he remembered having been last at the sorting because his name started with a 'Z', and standing beside them, but not seeming to actually contribute to the conversation were Greg and Vincent. He glanced back at the Gryffindors and Ron seemed to be involved in a conversation with Dean and Seamus, recounting whispered stories about the Potions professor that his older brothers had told him. Coming to a decision, Harry grabbed Draco's arm by the wrist and dragged him over to the Slytherins.
"Wha–" Draco said in surprise, but cut himself off just as quickly.
"Hey Theo," Harry said brightly, nodding at the blond, stringy boy. "Hey Vincent; Greg," he continued, nodding at each.
"Hey Harry; hey Draco," Theo replied easily although he did look a little surprised. The dark-skinned boy looked very surprised, but seemed to quickly hide it. Crabbe and Goyle just grunted and shot hesitant smiles at Draco. "This is Blaise Zabini," Theo continued, jerking his head to his other companion.
Blaise offered his hand out and Harry easily took it, smiling.
"So how do you lot know each other?" Blaise asked, looking at Theo questioningly.
"Draco introduced us on the train," Theo responded.
At this, Blaise looked over and raised a single questioning eyebrow in Draco's direction. "Draco did?"
"Harry and I met in Diagon Alley at the end of July," Draco replied smoothly, using that slightly haughty tone, he sometimes adopted. "We exchanged letters during the month of August and met up for the journey to Hogwarts."
"Is that so?" Blaise responded with concealed interest.
At that moment the door to the classroom burst open and a frightfully dour man clad entirely in black, stood there, staring down his nose at them all imperiously with a look of obvious disdain gracing his sallow features.
"Inside," he said in a quiet hiss before turning on his heal, robes billowing around his legs, and stalked back into the classroom.
The students quickly filed into the room, Harry and Draco sitting in a desk in the front row, third work-bench from the right, putting them almost dead-center. Harry wasn't sure he really wanted to be front and center with a man as intimidating as this professor appeared, but Draco had already sat down before he had a chance to say anything so he sat down with him.
Blaise and Theo sat at the bench to the left, and the rest of the Slytherins filled up that side of the room while the Gryffindors filled up the right side. No sooner had the castles bells finished ringing, when the professor waved his wand and the door swung shut with a clicking sound that, while not honestly all that loud, echoed loudly in the deathly silent room.
The professor introduced himself as Professor Snape, which Harry had already known since Draco had spoken of the man so often in his letters over the previous month. It was difficult, however, to connect this intimidating man with the godfather that Draco had described with such affection. Not that Draco hadn't warned Harry that Snape could be a frightening personality, but still... this was a bit beyond even what Harry had imagined.
Snape set into what was probably a practiced speech, starting with a warning about no 'foolish wand waving' and concluded with noting that his usual students were little more than worthless dunderheads. He had managed this entire speech in a near-whisper that demanded absolute attention, and managed to come off as more intimidating than Harry's uncle had ever been, even when he bellowed hist most angry and loudest.
Harry had to admit that this man could, at the very least, command a classroom.
Professor Snape then proceeded to take role, pausing at Harry's name and sneering out a comment about him being a celebrity that set Harry to scowling indignantly. It was only the gentle touch of Draco's hand on his forearm that pulled Harry out of his dark mood long enough to notice that Snape had started in on a lecture of some sort.
Almost without any warning at all, Snape suddenly called on Harry, asking him about mixing powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood.
Harry's mind seemed to sputter to a halt in his panicked shock at having been called upon so unexpectedly. He probably would have continued to gape openly if not for the fact that Draco kicked him in the shin and jerked him back to reality.
Harry replayed the question in his mind and realized with some surprise that he actually knew the answer. Or at least, he was vaguely sure he knew it.
"Er, is it the Draught of Living Death, sir?" Harry replied hesitantly.
Snape looked ready to sneer and say something sharp and nasty, but came to a halt with a look of surprise for a brief moment before he simply shifted to looking annoyed.
"Correct," Snape said, shortly, with an especially sour expression on his face. "Mr. Malfoy, can you tell me what the antidote to the swelling solution is?"
"The deflating draught, sir." Malfoy replied confidently.
"Correct," Snape said with a slight up-turn of the corner of his mouth – a distinctly different expression than the one he'd worn a moment prior when he'd said the same thing to Harry. "Mister... Weasley, I can assume. Name one potion armadillo bile is used in."
Harry turned his head to look over his shoulder and saw Ron sitting there with an utterly horrified expression on his face. At the worktable beside his, the bushy-haired Granger girl had her arm extended eagerly into the air and was waving around rather manically.
"I... I don't know," Ron mumbled, ducking his head and looking flushed with embarrassment.
"I don't know," Ron said a bit louder and looking extremely put out for having to repeat himself.
"Couldn't be bothered to pick up and read even the first chapter of your text book? Seeing as how you've had five brothers who have already taken my class before you, I would think you would have had plenty of opportunity to at least glance at the book," Snape drawled condescendingly. "Can anyone else answer the question?" Snape said looking around blandly.
Granger's hand continued to wave in the air, with mad eagerness, but Snape seemed determined to ignore her for some reason. The first hand that went up on the Slytherin side belonged to Blaise and Snape instantly called out 'Yes, Mr. Zabini?'
"The wit-sharpening potion is one," Blaise said.
"Correct, Mr. Zabini. Five points to Slytherin."
The class continued along in a similarly miserable vein, although they did eventually get to actually brewing a potion, which Harry found surprisingly interesting.
Snape seemed to completely ignore he and Draco during the brewing, except for one instance when he stood beside Draco and made a noise of vague approval in his throat before continuing on down the row, belittling every pair of students on the Gryffindor side, as he went.
Harry was deeply relieved when the class was finally over, and eagerly followed Draco to Defense.
That class, however, wasn't much better. Professor Quirrell wasn't the least bit intimidating, but his constant stuttering made it difficult to follow along with what he was saying, not to mention how distracting the unpleasant odor of garlic that pervaded the general classroom was. If that wasn't bad enough, by the time class was out, Harry had a rather unpleasant headache that seemed oddly centered around his scar.
Draco caught him rubbing at it and grimacing slightly and was instantly concerned. He even suggested a visit to the Hospital wing, but Harry almost instantly shrugged off his worries. It was just a headache, after all.
Quirrell had assigned a reading for the first class, but Harry had already read the chapter assigned, back during early August. After eating lunch, he and Draco sat at the Gryffindor table skimming the chapter again and discussing it. It was obvious to Harry that Draco considered it all exceedingly simple and Harry was torn between being grateful that he had someone to help him understand it all, and feeling rather inadequate and behind on everything, due to his unfortunate time secreted away with the muggles.
Ron had, at one point, appeared to make an effort to work his way into their conversation, but when it became horribly obvious that they were talking about classwork, he had huffed slightly and scooted back down the bench to talk with Dean and Seamus some more.
After lunch was Herbology and while Harry felt vaguely comfortable with the subject since he had no small amount of experience digging around in the dirt with plants, he didn't really feel all that enthused by the subject. The next class was probably the worst one so far; and not because the teacher was scary or stuttered, but because he was dead. History of Magic was taught by a ruddy ghost and the man had to be the most dull and horrifyingly boring person to walk the earth, dead or alive.
Harry was exceedingly glad when the days classes were over, and eagerly followed a now distinctly nervous Draco through the castle, up a ridiculous number of stairs, and down a corridor that he was fairly sure was on the seventh floor, but he couldn't really be sure at this point, he was so easily turned around.
He had to marvel at the fact that Draco seemed to know his way around the castle as if he'd been there for ages, despite this being their first day. Finally Draco came to a stop in front of a blank stretch of bare brick wall and began to pace back and forth in front of it. On his third pass a door appeared out of nowhere.
"Whoa!" Harry exclaimed. "How'd you know to do that?"
Draco appeared to pull his lower lip between his teeth and his forehead was creased with worry lines. "I'll um... explain in a bit. Come on," he said, jerking his head towards the door before pulling it open and stepping inside.
Harry followed behind him and found himself entering a simple, comfortable-looking sitting room, not all that unlike the Gryffindor common room, but with lower ceilings and foggy green frosted windows. Draco walked over to one of the gray velvet chairs in front of a large fireplace and sat down with a sigh, holding his eyes closed for several long seconds while the worry lines in his forehead continued despite his apparent relaxed position.
Harry sat down in the chair directly opposite Draco and watched with anxious caution. Draco had been on edge all day long; often appearing to drift off into his own world of secret worries, and Harry wished he had some idea as to what to do to help sooth his friends worries.
Finally Draco let out a long, slow breath, before opening his eyes and sitting up on the edge of his chair.
He propped his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands in front of him, resting his chin atop his knuckles and looking at Harry with hesitant concern.
"Before I start, I need your word that you won't repeat any of this to anyone else... ever." Draco said, still nervously gnawing on his lower lip.
Harry quickly nodded his head. "I promise."
"I'm serious, Harry," Draco said, and Harry could tell from the legitimate fear in the boy's silver-gray eyes that he really was. Draco pulled in another calming breath before pressing on. "Okay... first off, I suppose I need to confess that I haven't been entirely honest with you over the last month. Although, in my defense, what I'm about to confess to you, would get me the Dementor's Kiss if anyone found out, so I couldn't exactly go saying it in any letters."
"Dementor's Kiss?" Harry said, frowning. "Aren't dementors the things that guard the wizard prison you mentioned?"
"That's right. When a Dementor 'Kisses' you, they suck out your soul. It technically leaves your body still alive, but your nothing more than a lifeless husk when they're done. It's tantamount to a death sentence, in the wizarding world."
"And what you've done would get you kissed?!" Harry gaped.
Draco swallowed and lowered his gaze as he nodded his head. "Yes. If the Ministry found out the truth, I'd instantly be given the Kiss."
"What'd you do?" Harry nearly exclaimed, unable to wrap his mind around what his friend could have possibly done to deserve something like that. "You didn't kill someone, did you?"
Draco quickly shook his head. "No – killing someone wouldn't get me the Kiss anyway. They just lock murderers up in Azkaban."
"Are you saying you did something worse than kill someone?" Harry choked.
Draco let out a weak, near-hysterical little laugh and shook his head, still resolutely looking at the floor between his feet. "The Ministry thinks so, I suppose. It's a matter of perspective really."
"Draco... what did you do?" Harry asked in a more serious, yet still quite cautious tone.
Draco sighed heavily and nodded his head, seemingly to himself. "I tampered with time."
"Tampered with time?" Harry echoed in confusion.
"I used a ritual to send my mind, memories, and magic, back in time, into the body of my younger self," Draco clarified.
"Wait... so you traveled back in time?"
"Yes, basically. But physical mass the size of a person can't really travel back in time further than a day, so it wasn't possible to send my whole body back, just my mind, memories and magic. In order for it to work, I had to send myself back in time, and into my own, younger body."
"So... so you're not really eleven?"
Draco shook his head, smiling sadly at Harry.
"How old were you? When you sent yourself back, that is."
"I was sixteen," Draco said."
"Wait, that's all? You're only five years older?" Harry said, sounding a bit surprised.
Draco snorted humorlessly. "Five years was plenty enough time for the world to practically fall apart around me. Honestly, if I'd waited even a month longer, I'm not sure I would have still been alive."
Harry's face suddenly become serious and he leaned forward in his seat.
At first, Draco wasn't even sure where to start, but before he knew it, words were pouring from between his lips and he just couldn't stop. He told Harry what he knew about the Prophecy; which, admittedly wasn't much more then the fact that there was one, and that, supposedly, it said that Harry was the one destined to defeat Voldemort. He told Harry that was why Voldemort had come after him and his family when the green-eyed boy was just a baby, and why Voldemort would continue to come after Harry, time and time again, in the coming years.
He told Harry how at the end of their fourth year, Harry had been abducted, used in a ritual to fully restore the Dark Lord to full power, but that Harry had somehow managed to duel the Dark Lord and escape with his life in tact. He told Harry that his father had been a Death Eater during the first war and after the Dark Lord's return, his father had returned as a faithful servant and offered up his own home as a base of operations.
He told Harry about how awful and frightening it was to have the darkest and most deadly wizard there was, living in his family home. How horrifying it had been to have Azkaban escapees who had clearly lost their minds, living in his childhood home. He told Harry about how disillusioned he had quickly become, when faced with the reality of living in the midst of these people.
He detailed how, growing up, his father had often told him stories that glorified the Dark Lord as a genius, and as the most powerful and awesome wizard imaginable, and how he would bring back the strength of the old ideology and by serving him they would bring honor and power to the Malfoy name. He told Harry about how he had worshiped his father as a child and how he had believed his father could never possibly be wrong.
And yet, when brought face-to-face with the reality that was the Dark Lord, he realized just how stupid and naïve he had been. Perhaps, long ago, during the first war, the Dark Lord might have been a genius and worthy of Draco's father's undying respect and devotion, but the creature that he had turned into was little more than a monstrously insane madman, obsessed and demented. A bitter twisted creature that's only enjoyment in life was watching those around him suffer.
He told Harry about the first time he had seen his father crawl across the dirty stone floor of one of their lower chambers, in order to kiss the hem of Voldemort's robes. And then as he'd watched the Dark Lord raise his bare foot and step on his father's face and push it into the dirty floor while cackling madly as Lucius cowered and did nothing to stand up for his own pride.
He quietly whispered tails of the times he had suffered under the Dark Lord's Cruciatus curse, and how horrible the pain and the fear and the piteous self-loathing had felt. How dirty and disgusting he'd felt when his flesh had born the Dark Lord's mark. How it had seemed to itch underneath his skin, all the time. The only time the itch had let up was when it was burning in pain instead. He spoke of how he'd often stood beneath the scalding water of the shower and scrubbed, mercilessly at the disfiguring mark, wishing upon all hope, that he could wash the awful thing away, even while knowing it was impossible.
Draco had his face buried in his hands, elbows propped up on his knees, and unwilling to meet Harry's eyes for fear of seeing the disgust or loathing that he had felt for himself in those piercing green eyes. The room was deathly silent for many long minutes while Draco simply tried to calm his breathing and Harry processed all that he had heard.
"I can't believe I dumped all that on you," Draco finally whispered. "I'm sorry, Harry... it wasn't right of me to drop all of this on you, out of the blue. You're only eleven... I..." his voice broke off and he just shook his head, not really knowing what to say.
"No... it's okay. I'm glad you told me," Harry said, although his voice sounded a bit hoarse. "So... so what was your plan then?"
Draco slowly raised his head and looked at Harry blankly. "Plan?"
"For making sure none of this stuff happens. I mean, that's why you came back in time, right?"
"I..." Draco began but frowned slightly and shook his head. "I really didn't have a plan," he admitted, chuckling pitifully. "It's rather pathetic, really. I just... I just wanted to make sure my family didn't end up in the same position they did before. I wanted to save them from... from him. But I also hoped that I might be able to do something to help... you. I'm not sure what could possibly be so special about you that would make you capable of defeating that monster... I can't imagine anyone being capable of such a feat, but supposedly you can." Draco paused to swallow and take a deep breath. "I don't know what I can do to help, but I want to do whatever I can. You fought him in our first year and somehow banished him enough that he wasn't able to come back again till our fourth.
"In second year, rumor was that you fought against a giant basilisk and survived. Third year you went up against a hundred dementors and survived. Fourth year you fought a dragon."
"You can't be serious?!" Harry exclaimed in disbelief. "Me? How could I... I mean, I'm just... I'm just Harry. Aside from what you've helped me read up on over the last month, I don't know a single lick of magic. There's nothing fantastic or special about me. Certainly not enough to fight dragons and basilisks!"
Draco smiled softly at Harry and chuckled, shaking his head slightly. "But you are special," he said softly. "I hated it for ages, honestly... but it was mostly because I was jealous, and you'd turned down my offer of friendship."
"I did?" Harry said, looking bewildered and disbelieving.
Draco chuckled humorlessly. "I was a real stupid prat when I was actually eleven, Harry. Remember, I still worshiped the ground my father walked on. All I wanted was to try and be just like him," Draco sighed and shook his head sadly. "I was a pathetic arse. I was full of shite and you saw through me in an instant. Looking back, I certainly can't blame you for turning down my offer of friendship. I was a stupid, arrogant, little brat, and you were..." he sighed wistfully. "Well, just like you are now. But you became someone even greater with each bit of adversity you overcame. Stronger and braver..." Draco paused, looking thoughtful for a moment before a determined look grew on his features.
"If anyone can do it, I believe it's you," Draco said suddenly, looking up at Harry fiercely. "I want to help you Harry. I want to do things right this time. I'll admit that, originally, I came back to save my own hide, and to save my parents from that monster, but it's bigger than just me and mine. You got an awful deal the whole way through, with one ridiculous thing after another and little-to-no decent preparation. Honestly, the most impressive part is that you survived, despite all of the things that were constantly holding you back."
"Draco..." Harry said weakly, shaking his head and feeling seriously overwhelmed. "I really don't think I could possibly ever..." Harry trailed off as his mind called back up some of the horrific things Draco had described Voldemort doing to Draco's family; to Draco himself. At first, it had made it all that much more intimidating and frightening, but another part of him could only think of those stories and feel anger and disgust.
This was the man that had killed Harry's parents. The man that had tried to kill Harry, given him his scar, and who would, according to Draco, come back and try to kill him again and again.
And it was Harry's destiny to put an end to this monster, once and for all. It was prophecized that Harry was the one who was somehow supposed to be able to end Voldemort. If that were true... if it were true then he had to at least try, right? The future Draco had described was horrible, and it would become reality in five short years. That meant Harry only had so much time to prepare. To become this strong person that Draco had described with such passion and... dare he say, reverence. It was seriously overwhelming, and quite a lot of pressure for someone whose life, just over a month prior, had consisted of trying his hardest not to be noticed and avoiding the physical violence of his bullying whale of a cousin.
It wasn't just the world that had suddenly gotten bigger and more incredible, to Harry – it was also what was expected of him. Not just all this boy-who-lived nonsense, where what he had supposedly done was in the past, but now there was something real and important that lay in his future, and if he failed to live up to those expectations, real people would suffer for it. Real people would die and be tortured.
Harry let a shuddering breath escape from between his parched lips and closed his eyes tightly in an attempt to reign in the storm of emotions in his head. It was just so much... Too much... but...
"Okay..." Harry whispered and Draco's head slowly rose so he could look at him again. "So... what do we do?" Harry asked, giving the other boy a weak grin.
A small, nearly hysterical laugh seemed to cough it's way out of Draco's chest and he ended it with a weary shrug. "I have no idea. I guess we just move forward as best as we can."
"I guess so..."
Draco made a frustrated sort of growl and bowed his head again.
"I wish I knew more about what happened to you during those years. Everything I do know was just hearsay and rumor, mixed in with some guessing and observation. I mean, I don't even know how you ended up in some sort of mess with Professor Quirrell at the end of first year, but I'm fairly positive that it had something to do with the Dark Lord."
"Professor Quirrell? Is that why you warned me about him at the feast?"
"That's right. I think... and mind you, I'm really not sure about this, but I think that he's being possessed by the Dark Lord. Or he's carrying him around or maybe he's got him secreted away in his office or quarters or something." Draco leaned back in his squashy chair and groaned. "I hate that I don't have enough useful information to feel like I'm really worth anything here. What's the point of going back in time if you don't even have the necessary information to make effective changes?! I can't believe I came back so unprepared. That damn hat was right, I have acted like a bloody Gryffindor. Impetuous and arrogant. I can't even keep a secret. Here less than three months and I'm already spilling my guts to you. No wonder it wouldn't put me in Slytherin."
He muttered and let his head fall back against the chair and closed his eyes, looking defeated.
Harry was quiet for a moment, not entirely sure how to respond right away. Finally he sat forward a bit and looked down at his hands, clasped in his lap. "Well... I'm glad you came. Even more glad that you're not keeping it secret from me."
Draco lifted his head slowly and looked at Harry with hesitant worry on his features.
"It's a lot to take in," Harry said slowly and let a small chuckle out before he sighed and shook his head. "A lot to take in. But... I think it's important that I know. I mean... before if I goofed off or didn't take my classes all that seriously, I'd really only be worried about how it would effect me, you know? But now I realize... I mean, I can't just waste time trying to have fun, can I? I need to um... get better, I guess. I need to be strong or else all that awful stuff you said, will happen again."
"Hold on... I mean, even I know that's not fair," Draco said suddenly, sitting up again. "I mean... you're only eleven. It'd disgusting that everyone just... expected all of this from you –" Draco's voice trailed off and he groaned as he let his head fall into his hands. "Hell, look at me – hypocrite supreme. I came here hoping that if I befriended you, you would help to save me and my family. I'm such a monstrous arse."
"No, I'm still glad," Harry insisted quickly. "I needed to know this stuff. Besides, it gives me some sort of goal or motivation or whatever. You said that it was like one awful thing after another just happened to me, year and again, right? Well, maybe those things won't be nearly so awful if I just try harder. You've already helped me with loads of things, just through letters and lending me things to read.
"Maybe you don't know all the details that would be needed to prevent or be totally prepared for every little thing that's gonna happen, but that doesn't mean that I can't try to be better prepared just by trying harder, right?"
Draco slowly rose his head from his hands and looked at Harry with tired concern.
"And... and you'll be here with me, right?" Harry said giving Draco a weak little grin. "Having you to stick by my side and help me out... I'm sure that'll make a huge difference on it's own."
"I just hope it doesn't screw something up," Draco said glumly.
"How would it do that?"
Draco sighed and leaned back again. "Before... in my old timeline, you had different friends. I don't think that Weasley ever did anything actually worthwhile, but Granger probably did; I'm sure of that."
"Which one is Granger?" Harry said, frowning.
"The bushy-haired muggleborn girl who was helping Neville find his toad on the train. The one who looked like her hand was gonna shoot off her body all day in classes."
"Oh, her! Wait, really? I was friends with her?" Harry said twisting up his face a little. "She seemed kind of... um..."
"Bossy? An insufferable know-it-all? Yeah, that's Granger," Draco snorted and rolled his eyes. "I think you saved her from... oh! Oh I completely forgot about the troll!"
"Yeah, Quirrell let a troll into the school on Halloween our first year. Merlin, I'd completely forgotten about that! Anyway, I think it was a distraction so he could try to do something... but you ended up saving Granger from that troll."
"I fought a troll? On Halloween? That's less than two months from now! I don't know how to fight a troll! Are you really sure about this?"
Draco chuckled and shrugged. "Pretty sure. I have no idea how you did it, but the next morning you'd gotten a mountain of points for Gryffindor for it. It actually put a bit of a dent in all the points you'd lost just because Severus hated you and took advantage of every chance he had to deduct points from you."
"What's up with that anyway?" Harry said indignantly, scowling. "Why does he hate me so much?"
"He went to school with your parents," Draco said dismissively. "You dad was a bit of a bully or something and he and his friends used to pick on Severus. Now he's the bully and he takes out his childhood misery on his rival's kid, or something. It's really immature, honesty."
"My dad was a bully?" Harry whispered, looking a bit devastated by the mere thought.
"Well... when he was a kid, yeah. That's what I heard anyway. But he apparently grew out of it and everyone says he was a really great man there at the end. He became an Auror and fought against the Dark Lord in the first war on three separate occasions and lived to fight again another day, so that, at least, speaks mountains about his skill."
Harry nodded his head, but was still frowning and looked rather deep in thought.
"Anyway," Draco said, sitting forward again and drawing Harry's attention back to him. "There are a few things I do know about that I know I need to deal with, but I'm just not entirely sure how to move forward on them. I suppose it's one of the reasons I decided I needed to confide in someone. I just... I don't know, I need someone to bounce ideas off of or something. And of course, there's the whole thing about me not really knowing all the details about things."
"Okay, so what are these things you need to deal with?" Harry asked.
"Ron Weasley's rat isn't really a rat," Draco started. He's actually an animagus. He's been hiding out in his animal form for the last ten years because he's actually a Death Eater that people believe are dead."
"His rat?!" Harry exclaimed. "Wait... a man can turn into a rat and stay that way for ten years?"
"Yeah, that's what an animagus is. A wizard who can turn into an animal. They only have one form, and not everyone can do it. Professor McGonagall is an animagus; she can turn into a cat."
"Oh, wow. So Weasley's pet rat is really a wizard... that's kind of... really really creepy."
"Yeah well... it gets worse," Draco said, grimacing.
"How could it get worse?"
"He's not just any Death Eater, he's the one that betrayed your parents to the Dark Lord and basically doomed them to die."
Harry felt something inside him freeze, and a knot form in the center of his chest. He didn't know what to feel; perhaps his mind had shut down as some sort of defense mechanism, not that he had the brain power to realize that.
Harry's face hardened and his lips thinned as he stared at a crack in the stone flooring for a few long seconds. "And he's living in our dorm room," he said coldly.
"And people think he's dead already?"
"Yeah... actually, he was awarded an Order of Merlin because people thought he was killed by the person who betrayed your parents – they didn't realize that he was the one who betrayed them, not the other guy. In fact..." Draco's voice trailed off and he frowned. "You know... okay, now I don't know all the details, but you know about your Godfather that i mentioned through our letters? Sirius Black? He was best friends with your dad and he was the one that was supposed to look after you, not those muggles."
"Right. The one you said never got a trial?"
"That's right. Black is the one who ended up in Azkaban on charges of killing Peter Pettigrew – the rat – and betraying your parents. The rat framed Black for his crimes, turned into his animagus form and ran. Black has been rotting away in Azkaban ever since for something he didn't even do. Now, I don't know how he managed it, but in our third year in my other timeline, Black escaped from Azkaban. I don't know exactly what happened to him after that, but apparently he ended up working against the Dark Lord because he was present at a battle two years later against a bunch of Death Eaters and... and my father. The only reason I really know is because my Aunt Bella – who the Dark Lord had broken out of Azkaban earlier that year – kept boasting about having been the one who killed him."
"Wait, okay so..." Harry started anxiously before pausing and frowning. "so, I have a godfather, who is in prison right now, but he didn't actually do it, Weasley's pet rat did it... does that mean if we catch the rat we can prove he was innocent and get him out?"
Draco shrugged. "I suppose so. No guarantees of course. It depends on who we get to help us, or who we turn the rat over to. I'm really not sure who to go to."
"What about Dumbledore?"
Draco grimaced. "I don't know... I definitely don't trust him, and on top of that, he'd want to know how we found the rat or figured out that Black was really innocent."
"But won't anyone we go to want to know that?" Harry asked skeptically.
"Well, yeah, okay, probably," Draco conceded reluctantly.
"We need to figure out what to do about Weasley's rat before anything else," Harry said with a determined nod.
"Even before we figure out if Quirrell is really being possessed by the Dark Lord?" Draco said incredulously.
"Can you honestly keep sleeping in that room each night, knowing that there's a murderer pretending to be a rat in the next bed over?"
Draco shrugged weakly. "Honestly? I've spent the last few summer surrounded by completely insane murderers who weren't bothering to hide at all, so having the rat sleeping on Weasley's pillow doesn't really mean much to me."
Harry grimaced. "Well, it means something to me. If this is the guy who betrayed my parents to the Dark Lord..." Harry trailed off, scowling deeply.
"Don't call him that," Draco said suddenly and Harry looked up at him with an obviously confused expression. "Call who, what?"
"The Dark Lord."
"Huh? But that's what you call him."
"Yeah, but that's... that's me. That's because that's what my father has always called him."
"Wait, so you want me to use that 'You-Know-Who' rubbish?"
"No, that's not what I meant. I.. you... in my old timeline you were always one of the few people who were... were brave enough to actually say the name. You... you called him V-voldemort." Draco stuttered over the name and had to swallow the welling terror in his chest as soon as he was done.
Draco nodded, looking a bit ill.
Harry shrugged. "Alright. Yeah, I think I prefer that anyway. He's certainly no Lord of mine," he ended in a low growl and a deep scowl.
"Right," Draco said, nodding, but still looking a little uneasy.
After that the two segued into a conversation about their best options for dealing with the rat. It was an odd experience for Draco since the best figures for seeking help were all the people that his father had complained the most loudly about, or been the most insistent about, over the years, that when Draco got older and found himself in a politically powerful position, that he do everything in his power to avoid, or eventually unseat from their positions of power.
But he was grateful in that regard, that his father had bothered to mention any of these people to him, since he wouldn't have any even the faintest idea where to start, otherwise.