Author's Note: This is a sequel to my earlier work, "The Last Second Chance," and uses that canon. I suggest reading it first. Go on, I'll wait. If Draco seems overly knowledgeable, you may have missed the fact that he's a time-traveler – having travelled back in time from just after the final battle at Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Incidentally, the characters all belong to her, as does the setting, but you knew that already). Everything that happened in Deathly Hallows, excepting only the epilogue, happened before Draco's little Peggy Sue action changed the past. His knowledge is only knowledge of canon and limited by his viewpoint. So, with no further gilding the lily and no more ado, here is the next installment of A Slytherin at War: "Advancing to the Rear." - MB
"Retreat? Hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction!"
- Maj. Gen. Oliver Smith, United States Marine Corps
ADVANCING TO THE REAR
Being the second book in the not-quite-critically acclaimed series,
A SLYTHERIN AT WAR
Preceded by THE LAST SECOND CHANCE
Our Reluctant Hero, DRACO MALFOY
His Godfather, SEVERUS SNAPE
ASSORTED OTHER SLYTHERINS
AND EVEN GRYFFINDORS
Chapter 1: Days of Summer
In Which Draco sums up the situation, secures his position with the aid of a few friends, generally plans for the future and is incredibly confused.
"When both sides are convinced that they are about to lose, they are both right."
– Murphy's Laws of Combat
When last we left our intrepid hero – me, though I object to both "intrepid" and "hero" as sheer Gryffindor nonsense – he had been disowned by his father, Lucius Malfoy. Left to my own devices, I washed dishes in the Leaky Cauldron for a couple bowls of soup until not-yet-professor Lupin stumbled on me and managed to put me in contact with my Godfather.
Also, for the uninitiated, I had just completed my first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the second time, after traveling back in time through the good graces of the Room of Requirement just following the disastrous final battle at the end of my seventh year, where everyone I cared about beside my family died. This time, I've vowed, I will win this war my way – a Slytherin's way.
Despite my breaking down near to tears – alright, I'll admit, actually in tears – upon my reunion with my Godfather, I was actually rather content most of the summer. My Godfather – you may know him as Severus Snape, Potions Master at Hogwarts – had an extensive collection of books both magical and Muggle, and despite that blasted Sorting Hat's insistence that I was destined to be a Slytherin now and forever and never a Ravenclaw, I'd picked up some appreciation for book-learning during my NEWT year that I intended to use now.
Severus wasn't exactly the conversational sort, unless addressed, and spent most of the time in the downstairs potions lab, or reading in his comfortable armchair, his tiny Screech Owl, Lily, perched on his invariably-black robes and hooting contentedly. The Screech-owl, that is, not my Godfather. I'd taken to doing much of the same, and between my dog-eared, hand-me-down copy of Advanced Potion-Making (I had a bet with Granger, you see, and I intended to collect – especially as I could no longer afford the 1000 Galleons we'd initiatlly wagered) and a couple Muggle texts, June breezed softly into July.
So I was in my own chair, reading through Dave Macauley's The Way Things Work for the third or fourth time, trying to get a better grasp of Muggle technology, when the floo suddenly went off. This was an odd occurance – the only person who ever called on Severus was Headmaster Dumbledore, and he preferred his Patronus.
"Draco?" the fireplace asked. The voice was a bit hesitant, and thus took me a minute to place.
"Blaise?" I queried back, once I was pretty sure. "Is that you there?" The ember effigy of my housemate, Blaise Zabini, grinned.
"Got it in one, my fellow conspirator," he said. "Mind if I come through?" I gave my assent, and suddenly our living room had another occupant. A head taller than me, Blaise's complexion could best be described as that of toffee, if one were given to describing their male friends that way. Hell, Blaise probably did, given his subscription to Witch Weekly.
"Wotcher, Blaise," I greeted, having picked up the expression from a couple Muggle teens at the bookstore I now frequented. Blaise raised a perfectly-trimmed eyebrow.
"And good afternoon to you as well," he finally said. "Gone native, have you?" I looked down, and shrugged. Old Draco would likely never have been caught in blue jeans, but New Draco preferred not to spill potions ingredients on what few dress slacks he still had, and robes weren't exactly comfortable or inconspicuous in Muggle London's muggy, oppressively hot summer.
"I suppose," I drawled, letting him know I hadn't changed all that much in a month. Really, I hadn't. I mean, last time I'd still been sporting that unfortunate blond helmet through second year, but as has already been noted, that was first against the wall when the revolution came. Or at least it was as soon as I managed to find some paint thinner.
"And you?" I continued. "Keeping busy this summer?" Blaise shrugged, a mirror to my own, then subtly shifted position. My eyes went wide, and my wand was in my hand before I even thought, summoning my sword from across the room as Blaise drew his from a mokeskin pouch. I got my guard up in time, and his overhand blow clanged off my hasty block.
"Birthday present?" I asked, as my friend and erstwhile sparring partner broke into a grin. He nodded.
"Easy to conceal things," he grunted good-naturedly as we circled round the room, our blades in a high guard. He'd started to grow into his; I knew from experience I wouldn't get a growth spurt until just before third year, and still held mine two-handed, like a broadsword. "You, my friend, are out of practice," Blaise chided.
"That's because my house is not a gladatorial arena, Mr. Zabini," my Godfather intoned from the doorway to the basement, his wand held lazily in his hand as he scowled at the two of us. Blaise had the good grace to look abashed, though he kept his guard up.
"Sorry, Professor," he said, parrying a good thrust from me as he spoke. "Might Draco join me at mine, that we might get our sparring match out of your living room?" Blaise feared nothing, apparently. Had we been at school, my Godfather probably would have had him scrubbing cauldron bottoms in detention for his cheek. But we were not in school.
"If that is the best way for me to obtain a little peace and quiet, you may go," he said, waving his wand almost carelessly and levitating Blaise toward the floo. "Château Zabini," he added, as an afterthought, tossing powder across the room with a potions master's practiced precision before tossing my housemate in. "Going, Draco?" he added, the smirk that had recently replaced his customary sneer outright on his face.
"Of course," I grinned, tossing off a salute with my sword. I double-checked the wand at my belt and prepared to go through. Then I had a better idea. I mounted my broom – a Nimbus 2000 – held my sword out like a lance, and gestured for my Godfather to toss in some powder. He obliged me, and I shouted out "Château Zabini!" as I charged through.
Blaise attempted to meet me with an overhead strike, obviously under the impression that I'd be disorientated by the floo travel. The momentum from my broom and the floo, coupled with the cushioning charm we'd added to the practice swords last year to keep us from killing each other, laid my friend flat on his back. I did a little celebratory victory lap before landing next to him.
"Yield?" I asked cheekily, pointing my sword down at him. He groaned.
"Touché," he admitted, attempting to regain his breath. "And yield." He took a few minutes to stand up. "I can't believe you pulled that on me," he griped. I smirked, putting on my best Snape face.
"Says Mr. 'I haven't seen you in a month so I'm going to draw down on you within minutes of exiting your floo'," I snarked. "Besides, I think we've all learned a valuable lesson about floo safety," I added, unable to wipe the grin from my face.
"You are so getting resorted into Hufflepuff," he said, glaring down at me. I shrugged.
"Maybe we're just getting to familiar with each other's styles," I suggested. "We could get Seamus over here, or maybe Theo–" All humor left Blaise's face.
"Trust me, Draco," he said, grabbing my shoulders. "You don't want Theo, or Crabbe or Goyle, facing you armed right now." He dropped his hands to his sides, sighing. "Not as if they'd join us anyway." I wrinkled my nose.
"What do you mean?" I asked, suspecting the answer. Blaise sighed again.
"You got disowned," he said, "And the Notts, Crabbes and Goyles are heavily allied to the Malfoys," he added, unnecessarily. I grimaced. I should probably have expected it.
"And Seamus doesn't care because he's a half-blood and not tied into the politics yet," I finished for him. "So let's get him over here." I paused a minute. "What about Tracey and Daphne?" Blaise looked confused.
"What about them?" he asked. I spelled it out for him.
"The Greengrasses have always stayed neutral as far as these politics go, and Tracey's a half-blood herself," I said. Blaise shook his head.
"That's right, but I didn't think either of them could fight?" he thought. I was struck by a sudden image of a much older Tracey Davis, ironically at Blaise's side, as they followed Professor Slughorn in that desperate charge to reinforce the lines during the Battle of Hogwarts. I remembered watching Daphne take a Killing Curse to the chest, and feeling a momentary wonder how Astoria would react. I shook it all away.
"I bet they could pick it up quick if we gave them a chance," I said, not missing the look of concerned interest in Blaise's eyes. He walked over to the floo, shaking his head, muttering something about Hufflepuff and strange Muggle influences.
"Finnegan House," he called. "Seamus? You busy?" There was a short message from the floo before Blaise stepped back, letting a sandy-haired Irishman stumble through.
"Been living with those all my life, and still they throw me," he brogued. "Afternoon Blaise, Draco," he greeted. His eyes widened at the mess in Blaise's living room. "Did I miss the circus or something?" he asked. I grinned.
"Blaise and I hadn't seen each other in a month, and got a bit carried away," I said, then realized that sounded a little, well, not the direction I wanted to go with it. "We were dueling," I finished flatly. Seamus missed it, but I could see Blaise's eyes briefly cloud over with laughter before he caught control of himself.
We managed to drag Tracey through the floo to visit, but apparently Daphne was holidaying on the continent and unavailable. Still, four of us was better than three, and we managed to find out a little more about each others' strengths. Seamus wielded one of Blaise's spare swords like a cricket bat, and I resolved to find him a hammer or club or something if we continued this at school. Tracey, meanwhile, had a pair of long knives she'd inherited from a great-grandfather, and we were all thankful for the cushioning charm a few times after we realized we were leaving our close guard open.
The day passed beautifully, and I wondered, not for the first time, why I'd never bothered to make friends the first time around. This time, though, we would be not just friends but comrades-in-arms, and I worried already how I could make sure they survived the coming war.
If the summer passed quickly through reading, brewing potions with my Godfather and practicing swordplay with Blaise, Seamus and Tracey, it was clearly a good thing. The only downside was that I'd have to get my supplies sooner or later, and I was dreading the state of my meager savings after my unceremonious blasting from my family tree. Hogwarts was not exactly free to attend, tuition aside, and even though my Godfather sat me down and explained that the cost of my attendance had been paid as the ward of a teacher, I was still going to have to buy books and other things to help me last through the year.
A week before the end of August saw a stately Hogwarts owl soar through my Godfather's window.
"I'm not entirely sure why I can't just give you your letter myself," my Godfather griped, feeding the end of a sausage link to the grateful bird and tossing the cream-colored parchment to me. "It's not as if I work there and spend three quarters of my life in that drafty castle," he added, though he had a fond look in his eyes. I smirked, seeing right through his disguise, as I opened the letter informing me of my continued attendance at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Damn it, I'd forgotten about the Lockhart books. Ridiculous fraud.
"Godfather," I said, "We're going to have to go to Flourish and Blotts this year." I'd been hoping to avoid it, having found a copy of The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 2 on my Godfather's shelf. He raised an eyebrow.
"What could whoever they suckered into the Defense position possibly have assigned that you can't use from my library?" he wondered, gesturing to a shelf teeming with most of the more useful Defense Against the Dark Arts texts from the past thirty years. I sighed.
"The collected works of Gilderoy Lockhart, excepting only his autobiography, Magical Me," I groaned. "Useless prat that the man is, they're all still on the Daily Prophet's best-seller list and thus expensive." My Godfather sneered.
"I'll clear this with Professor Dumbledore," he barely managed to avoid spitting. "There has to be some allowance for alternatives or something. How else would the Weasleys manage to keep sending their infernal spawn to school?" He stepped over to the floo. "Hogwarts, Headmaster's Office!" The green flames leapt to sudden life as if kicked. "Albus," he said, much more quietly. "I'm coming through."
He was gone for only a few minutes before he returned, face paler than usual with barely-suppressed anger.
"Draco," he said. "I'm afraid you'll have to purchase the books." He stomped downstairs, and I could hear him breaking things in his lab. I strongly suspected he'd just found out about Lockhart. I poked my head down the stairwell.
"I'm going now," I said. "Maybe I can find something secondhand." A grunt of acknowledgement greeted my announcement, and I could hear Lily's confused hooting as she tried to calm my Godfather down. I strolled over to the floo, double-checking that I had both wand and money pouch. It would not do to be stranded at the Leaky Cauldron again. "Diagon Alley!" I announced, and stepped into the fire.
After exiting the Leaky Cauldron, I make a quick trek to Gringotts to gather coins from my increasingly-depleted Galleon supply before heading to Flourish and Blotts'. There weren't a lot of people there yet, which suited me fine. I may be forced to buy secondhand books, but I wasn't exactly interested in showcasing that just yet unless I needed to use the poor, abandoned child routine.
I couldn't find any secondhand Lockhart books, but I snuck a set upstairs with the rest of the used books, piled a little dust on them and switched the stickers from a relatively-new looking set of magical encyclopediae. After all, I might have to buy his books, but Salazar Slytherin would wake from his grave before I'd pay full price to that fraud.
I spent a little more time on that than I thought I would, so with a crowd gathering downstairs, I started to dig through some of the other previously-owned items upstairs. I found a much-annotated copy of A History of Magic which actually seemed to break down that subject into useful information, and it was actually affordable, so I added it to my little stack. I grabbed a copy of Goshawk's grade two spell book, since there were quite a few stacked there, and dug further back into the stacks, looking for buried treasure. I even found some.
By the time I came back out into the light, as it were, the store was packed with adoring fans anxious to see the world-class fraud. He was dragging Potter up with him – covered with floo powder though he was; I wondered where he'd come out since the Leaky Cauldron's floo was relatively clean – and I shot the Boy Who Lived a sympathetic grin. Fame was all well and good, but up there, Potter might as well have been a prop, and he looked like he hated it.
"Just these today, please," I said, passing up my by-now quite large stack of books up to a distracted-looking shopgirl. She started ringing them up, paying more attention to Lockhart's announcement that the school would be getting the real 'Magical Me' as a teacher, and I wondered for a moment whether she was still a Hogwarts student. Obviously not a Ravenclaw, though; as I recall, they'd poked holes in Lockhart's legend before even departing the train this year. And a Hufflepuff would put a little more care into her job, since she nearly rang up A History of Magic twice and missed one of the other books entirely.
I caught Molly Weasley looking at me with confusion as I bought the secondhand books, but studiously ignored her. Both our attentions were almost-immediately elsewhere, however, as we caught sight of what was almost – no, not almost, actually was – a full-on brawl between the Weasley patriarch and a tall man with blond hair and an aristocratic nose. I recognized him immediately.
"Arthur! Control yourself!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. "And you, Mr. Malfoy, shame on you as well!" With reluctance, they pulled apart.
"Here, girl, it's the best your father can afford," my father snarled, shoving a cauldron-full of books into the youngest Weasley's hands. He looked past the Weasleys to see me standing there, arms full of secondhand books. "Then again," he drawled, "at least you have a family." Leaving the redheads staring openmouthed, he turned on his heel and stalked away.
"Well, that could have gone better," I muttered. Potter and Granger, who had been standing back with a pair of Muggles who could only be the Grangers senior, joined the Weasleys awkwardly.
"Are you alright, Ginny?" Mrs. Weasley mothered. The youngest nodded, clearly embarrassed over something or other. "And you, dear?" she asked, and it took me a moment to realize she was addressing me. "Why did your father say such dreadful things to you?" she added. I shrugged.
"He disowned me in June," I admitted, to Mrs. Weasley's shocked gasp. "I've been living with my Godfather – you remember Professor Snape?" She nodded, looking unsure.
"Well, that's a comfort, at least," she finally said. "Having a young one around will do that man a world of good, haven't I always said so?" she mused.
"Of course you have, dear," Mr. Weasley agreed. Mrs. Weasley rounded on him as if just remembering he was there.
"And you! Arthur Weasley! Brawling in the street like a common... and in front of the Grangers, no less!" she upbraided him. "What an sterling example you're setting for the children! I know what that man said was horrid, but I thought I married a man with a certain sense of personal dignity! I hadn't realized..."
"Dad's done it now," one of the twins muttered, closer to me than to his mother. The other nodded.
"Let her get into full swing, he has," the other agreed. "Best thing to do?"
"Cut her off at the start," the first continued. "Distract her."
"Always works for us anyway," the other added. "Chin up, Slytherin," he said, clapping me on the back.
"If he's willing to just dump you out like that," the first said, "he's no family of yours anyway." The two twins walked away, gathering their pompous prefect brother and speaking conspiratorially in his ear, likely planning a rescue mission for their still-harried father.
I appreciated them crossing house lines like that; it wasn't often that happened between ours, especially between two families with histories as crossed as ours had. But I had more worries than my sudden lack of last name – I'd come to terms, as best I could, with my abandonment this summer. Occlumency helped. No, I was worried about what Lucius was doing in Flourish and Blotts' the day Hogwarts Letters came. I knew why he was in the Alley in the first place, since doubtless he still had to get rid of those dodgy poisons regardless of any changes I'd made to the timeline, but why the bookstore? And why would my father, who was nothing if not aristocratic, let himself be drawn into a scuffle? I couldn't place it, and it worried me all the way back to Spinner's End.
Author's Note, Continued: In Deathly Hallows, Slughorn and Charlie Weasley lead the charge of all the remaining students' families and friends to reinforce the defenders of Hogwarts. I strongly suspect that, like Slughorn, many of the Slytherins who evacuated would have returned to turn the tide, especially survivors like Blaise or those from neutral families like Tracey or Daphne, who would be much more keen to join the battle once they had a decent chance of winning. Later on in the chapter: So, Harry ends up in Nocturne Alley, since regardless of what Draco's done, Harry's still never used the floo network, and yes, if you haven't yet guessed, Ginny's ended up with the diary again. I don't see where Draco would ever have learned of its existence, since Lucius clearly never told him, and neither Voldemort nor Dumbledore would have wanted the existence and subsequent destruction of a Horcrux to be common knowledge. Thus, there are some trials in store for young Ginevra, for which I might otherwise apologize. I won't, though, since Rowling's made it pretty clear that the ordeal with Tom, despite scarring her for life, made her grow up and stop treating life like a pretty fairytale. I have no room for pre-break Sansa Stark in my fanfic, so diary-bound she goes.