(i) The characters and world of Harry Potter are the property of the fabulous J.K. Rowling. I make no money from this.

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Minerva McGonagall was not known for being stupid. Blind, well, yes, she supposed that that fault could be allowed, but stupid, no, definitely not. But she felt far more than stupid as she backed away hastily from the conversation she had inadvertently almost walked in on.

Her first reaction on seeing them had been to scold the young men. What were they doing in the deserted Transfiguration classroom this late in the evening? But their conversation was too filled with righteous indignation for her to dismiss it as a prank of some sort. And the chance to listen in to the scions of two illustrious houses known to have Death Eater sympathies was too good to miss.

The two youngsters were sat on the window ledge of the classroom, almost hidden by the thick drapes. Malfoy had pulled up his knees to lean against the one side of the alcove. It was a casual pose she'd never imagined the blond capable of. Nott was turned to look out of the window, one knee bent under him to make himself fit better in the fairly tight space.

Draco Malfoy was examining his nails. His tone was too complex for Minerva to fully understand. But she could see that the two were deep in conversation and had no idea that they were being observed.

"Father said that Dumbles was trying to get Granger to seduce uncle Severus, thereby, I suppose ensuring his true cooperation, but I wouldn't have thought it was possible."

Theodore Nott snorted. "Granger has the subtlety of a meat cleaver. There's no chance she'd succeed with him. At least Patil's got a chance."

Draco chuckled. "Father said that Uncle Severus had assured him that the choice of Patil was because she was seen as neutral by old Dumbles. Although, her sister is a Gryf. We'll have to make sure he's not being played. Uncle Severus is smart, I'll give you that, but a pretty face might turn him."

"Just don't let him catch you at it," said Theo. "You know how possessive he is."

Draco laughed. "No fear. I will be careful. I'm practising Occlumency most days anyway after old Dumbles tried a mind probe when he thought I wasn't being attentive. How dare he? Even if I was not in two minds about my loyalties, no matter what Father's lectures are about the Dark Lord and his power, I'd still follow him if old Dumbles is the alternative. Can you imagine the cheek? How does he expect to win people like me over if he's illegally doing inept mind-probes? Doesn't he know that pureblood children like us know how to tell when someone is trying to go fishing? Granger and her sort might be blind to his tampering, but surely, he doesn't think we are all that dim?"

Theo sneered. "He thinks he's the Lord of the Light. He has had no one to challenge him since his lover Grindlewalt was defeated. Of course he thinks everyone is a moron compared to him."

Draco nodded. "Father told me to make sure I build bridges this year. Father is suspicious of Uncle Severus' true loyalties, but it is so hard to decide who really owns his allegiance. We can't tip our hand if he is truly for the Dark Lord. Imagine if we were wrong in our supposition? Mother is sure that Godfather would never, ever betray us but Father is more cautious. It is imperative that we make our own connections, pave the way for our own survival. We can't expect Uncle Severus to do it for us. But it is so hard."

Draco sighed aloud and turned to look out of the window, too. "The Mudblood has no manners. She just doesn't seem to want to learn etiquette. How are we to give ourselves some options if the bloody Gryf's don't even understand that I'm trying to extend the hand of friendship? Potter hated me from the first, I tried making friends with him both on the train and at Madam Malkins while we were being fitted for our school robes."

Theo sighed softly. "I'm trying to talk to the Puffs. At least most of them have some manners and the pureblood families do understand loyalty."

Draco nodded. "But the Puffs are treated like morons by the Gryfs. We need to make connections with them, not the other houses. We've got enough long-standing relationships with the Puffs and Ravens to make things at least cordial."

"Do you think the Dark Lord will fail?" asked Theo tentatively.

"Father sure hopes so," said Draco.

Minerva nearly swallowed her tongue at that statement. What? What in Merlin's name was going on?

"You know I can't talk about any of this with Vince and Greg. They aren't able to do subtle. But well... after the latest run in with Dumbles and Potter's bloody arrogance and Weasley's conviction that we are all already Death Eaters sometimes I feel that there's no point even trying to find some kind of middle ground with them. They are convinced we are evil, and so that is what we forced to become."

Theo nodded. "Apparently Potter's saintly father and Godfather tormented and nearly killed Professor Snape while at school and Dumbles told Professor Snape that he could never talk about it to anyone. And then Potter and Black were given a week's detention. That's the value Dumbles placed on the life of a Slytherin student. One week's detention. No wonder then Professor Snape joined the Dark Lord as soon as he could. How could he ever believe a word that Dumbles spoke of love and fairness. He'd bloody showed that he thought his Gryfs could do no wrong, that they were more important than the life of a Slytherin student."

"How do you know?" asked Draco. His voice was whisper quiet in shock.

Theo sighed. "Do you remember the time that I was sent to the Headmaster's office to receive that parcel I got from my granduncle Matteo?"

Draco nodded.

"It contained a dark spell book, which Dumbles wanted to talk to me about before releasing it to me. The school's wards had detected it coming in the post. It wasn't really dangerous. Just a primer, but you know how anal Dumbles is. Anything that gives you control is bad, purely because it is supposedly Dark. Nutter. As if the hexes we learn for healing can't be used to kill creatively."

Draco chuckled. "Short sighted, arrogant, so sure he knows everything about Dark, instinctive magic that he dismisses it all as evil. It's what we were before logic and reason, it isn't Dark, it is so much more."

"Yes," agreed Theo. "But the Muggle-lovers have never understood our stance. Gryfs have always assumed our need to defend Dark Magic, I mean, it was them who coined the bloody term, we just used to call it Old Magic, is because we are evil. No, we aren't evil. We understand that to wield strong magic, magic that Merlin himself used in the Dark Ages, requires knowing oneself, of having control and never, ever overstepping ones assumptions that Magic is something controllable. We are controlled by it – we are creatures ruled by it."

Draco nodded. "Not teaching it, that's the reason Father says people like the Dark Lord were so seduced into it. He thought that wielding it made him powerful. It does, of course it does, but it bleeds away his humanity, makes him less than what a true Wizard should be, not more so."

Theo sighed again. "Anyway, let me get back to what I was saying. Old Dumbles was called away, some emergency, and so I sat in his office. I wanted my parcel. And then I saw the sorting hat and ended up talking to it. The hat offered to show me something interesting if I promised I'd use the information wisely. So I put it on, and it showed me memories of the conversation between Dumbles and Professor Snape."

"Wow," said Draco.

"Yes," Theo breathed. "I've never figured out how I'm supposed to use the information, but since then I've not, well, joined the rest in hexing and teasing the Gryfs. I've started observing them instead and kind of making friends with some of the Puffs and Claws."

Minerva was stunned. This was the last thing in the world she'd ever thought she'd hear. Malfoy and Nott unsure of their allegiance? Malfoy Senior wanting his son to make friends with Potter and his allies? Could it possibly be true.

But Minerva knew it couldn't be a false conversation. It was before curfew, sure, but this part of the castle was generally deserted at this time of the evening. She had been feeling restless and had wondered back towards the Transfiguration classroom to see if there was anything she had left undone. Her faint but accurate sense of foreboding had insisted that she come this way. Now she knew why. She was meant to hear this conversation. If the boys had thought that the classrooms were a safe place to meet, to discuss and given that they'd spread some books on the desks in front of them, possibly even work, she could not fault them.

She sighed silently. She knew she was being lead to believe certain things by Dumbledore. But she'd always assumed that Malfoy and the Slytherins were who they pretended to be. To think they wanted a way out explained so much about Severus' and his joining the Light. She wondered if Dumbledore knew. She couldn't imagine him not knowing. But then, if he felt as she did, he had not told her. But to think that Dumbledore knew and was not reaching out was ghastly. It meant that the man she had trusted and looked up to for so long wanted the war. She knew he wanted to see an end to Dark Magic. She knew he despised the title of Dark Lord. But this, this conversation meant that Dumbledore was wilfully allowing the confrontation to take place in the hope that Harry would defeat the Dark Lord. Didn't Dumbledore realise that there would always be someone to take on the mantle of Dark Lord?

A/N: Love it or hate it, please let me know what you think.