Tragyls at Hogwarts: 1984 Chapter Nine: Slytherin Girls
Avery and Martin were quiet friday morning, and didn't look at him, even when he tripped over his own fallen pillow. Ignoring him or avoiding him, then. After last night, Harris preferred it that way. News must have travelled fast, because the few third years sitting in the common room turned away when he passed through. He couldn't tell if they were embarrassed more by him or by what Avery had done. Whichever, it was Harris who'd take the shunning. He reminded himself that he didn't care.

"Harris!" a girl's voice called out as he walked through Hogwart's halls.

Harris froze, and forced a pleasant expression onto his face as he turned around. "Hello, Aurora," he greeted her with a smile that he hoped reached his eyes. Aurora had an uncanny ability of being able to recognize false kindness. Maybe she'd seen too much of it since her family died.

Whether or not she noticed anything amiss in his expression, she had better things to talk about, "Tell me about Evalyn, Madeline, and Candice. What are they like?"

Harris frowned. "Madeline and Candice are alright, I guess. They're probably the nicest people in Slytherin House." Which wasn't saying much. They were more like Mum's relatives, ignoring him quietly and trying not to get noticed. "Evalyn," he continued, filling the name with venom, "is Slytherin to the core. And that's not a compliment." Though Evalyn would likely take as one anyway.

Aurora smirked. "I didn't think it was," she returned drily.

Harris blushed faintly. Of course Aurora wouldn't take that way even if he had meant it as a good thing. "Right," he mumbled. Then, to shift her attention back to the topic at hand without futher embarassment, he asked, "Why do you ask?"

Her mild amusement vanished into a scowl. "I'm trying to figure out what their game is."

Anger and protectiveness filled him. "Have they been bothering you?"

She shook her head, but her scowl deepened. "That's just it. They've been being nice to me." The look she shot him then held no anger, only utter bafflement. "I don't understand. I was hoping you might know what they're after." That they might actually wish to be nice to her out of human friendliness apparently never occured to her. Nor should it, really, come to think of it.

Harris smirked at her. "Hadn't realized they were going through with it."

Aurora caught up the bait eagerly. "What? Going through with what?"

"I guess Evalyn wasn't joking after all," Harris commented idly, letting his friend dangle in her curiosity. It wasn't something she was used to anymore. Nobody toyed with Aurora these days. She was too scary. Even the brave Gryffindors avoided her for the most part.

She flushed angrily. "Harris! You know what's going on! Tell me!"

Ignoring her tone, he leaned toward her as though about to tell her a secret. Her ire slipped away as she unconsciously mimicked his motion conspiratorily. Harris gloated silently. His childhood friend was still in there somewhere. "It started on Monday, I think," he whispered, ready to make the short story long. Aurora nodded eagerly, lapping it up. Harris suddenly understood Valr's glee when he was telling one of his stories. He forced himself not to reveal the storyteller's delight that fired Valr's eyes when he held an audience captive. It tended to make said audience skeptical. Either that or it was just Valr's reputation.

"It was just after Evalyn got her detention for arguing with Avery after Transfiguration," Harris continued, barely noticing that they had entered the Great Hall. Aurora walked down the aisle beside the Gryffindor table, and Harris followed, still talking low, "Candi and Mad told Ev about how the Gryffs had tried to adopt me." He realized with a start he had picked up one of Valr's story telling habits: giving people nicknames. Aurora was smirking at him again, which he took as a good sign, so he decided to continue with the practice.

She took a seat at the Gryffindor table. Engrossed in his story, Harris took the spot next to her. He didn't register the odd looks he was gathering from Charlie and the other Eggmen, and only half-consciously returned their confused 'good morning's, before turning his attention back to Aurora, who made no mention of his misplaced seating. "So then Ev made some comment about there not being enough Slytherins as it was without the Gryffs stealing off one of them. We, being good little Slytherins, decided to seek revenge."

Harris had enough presence of mind to realize his audience size had increased, so he raised his voice just loud enough to include them, though they still had to lean forward to catch all of it. He stifled a grin as he tortured them by taking the time to pull a pancake onto his plate, and pour a generous helping of syrup on it. "For the crime of attempted conversion, Gryffindor's punishment was to be the corruption and subversion of one of their number." He met each of his listener's eyes, to increase the drama of the story and pull them in. "The only question was who."

The Eggmen looked at each other, mock-suspiciously.

"Mad suggested Charlie, determined to take Cousin for Cousin." Eyes drifted to the red haired boy. "Rejected for his Gryffindor family name, Ev opened the floor for other suggestions. As a muggleborn, Candi thought Walrus was put in Gryff by default, and so might fit in Slytherin better than any Gryff pureblood. But then Ev sought my advice."

The Eggmen leaned forward, caught in the story, and curious about Harris' suggestion on which of them was the most Slytherinish. Aurora narrowed her eyes, having enough information to guess the rest of the story. "This is your fault then?" she asked, breaking the spell his quiet voice had woven.

"You said Aurora?" Pam asked, incredulously.

Harris smirked at her. "That is almost exactly how Ev, Candi, and Mad reacted, too."

"I'll kill you," Aurora told him conversationally.

Harris looked quickly back at her, only a trace of his panic visible in his expression. "Figured you would," he remarked, trying to sound casual and unconcerned. This was Aurora. He refused to be publically frightened by her. "That's why I suggested you."

"Oh. So you're suicidal."

Harris shrugged, feigning disinterest. "Actually, I thought homocidal revenge a reasonably Slytherin kind of thing to do."

"Trickster. Now I can't kill you without proving you right."

Harris smirked at her, his fear suddenly gone. She was joking with him. "I am a Slytherin," he pointed out.

"Which point begs the question, why are you sitting here?" a soft, velvety voice asked from behind him.

Harris jumped to his feet quickly enough to send the chair clattering over backwards. "Professor Snape!" he exclaimed, eyes wide as it dawned on him that he was eating breakfast at the Gryffindor table. "I, I, I don't know." Real bright, Harris.

"You. Don't. Know,"Snape repeated, slowly and scathingly. Harris flinched and looked down at his feet. Apparently, whatever goodwill the potions professor had gained for him last night was now gone. "I hope you do know the way to the Slytherin table from here?"

"Yes, sir," Harris whispered, not looking up. Slytherin table was the last place he wanted to be, especially now. He didn't want to know how they'd take to his starting breakfast with the Gryffindors. Whatever kept Avery and Martin quiet this morning might not survive this new offense.

"Why can't he stay here?" Walrus asked suddenly, surprising both Slytherins. The other Eggmen voiced their agreement, too, quickly enough for Harris to suspect that their support was mostly to prevent Walrus from standing out on a limb by himself in front of Snape.

The professor sneered, but did not come up with a reason before Aurora spoke.

"I'd like him to stay, Professor."

Snape looked taken aback, but astonishingly, he only nodded. "Very well then," he sneered. His robes swirled as he stalked away. Harris stared after him, jaw hanging half-open. He was not alone.

"Wow," Charlie breathed. "Thought we'd all get detention."

"Lose points at best," Tommy agreed.

"Sit down, Harris," Aurora instructed. "And close your trap before you catch something." She looked around at the other Gryffindors. "That goes for you, too," she told them with a smirk.

Harris did as she ordered. "Why did he listen to you?"

"I think I scare him," she said, shrugging, as though frightening the intimidating potions teacher was the most normal thing in the world.

The Eggmen's stunned looks shifted from the professor's retreating back to their classmate. Harris could read quite clearly from their expressions that Snape was not alone in that.

Ignoring them, she returned the conversation to its original track. "So, Harris, you're telling me that those Slytherin girls are being nice to me because you said I should be made into a psuedo-Slytherin?"

"That was the plan before it became common belief that these guys succeeded in Gryffindorizing me," Harris jerked a thumb at the Eggmen. "Not sure if or how it changed since then."

"Before I kill you I will give you one chance to explain why me."

"Know thine enemy. Same reason Jansten wants in."

She shook her head, denying the excuse. "You honestly think those three have Dark potential? Or that they'd tell me anything useful, even if they did? They know who I am."

Harris shrugged. "Probably not, though I wouldn't put anything past Evalyn, if she decided it was in her best interest. Madeline's just quiet. I don't know a thing about her beyond the fact that both of her parents came from France. On the other hand, Candice is on our side. Her mum was an Auror, and her dad's a muggle. I think her family is or was friendly with the Hollands. You might be a good contact for her if she finds something out and doesn't want to do anything about it personally."

"Harris, you are not suggesting I go along with this thing, are you?" Aurora asked with a dark glower.

Harris smiled cheerfully at her. "Of course I am. I have a deathwish, remember?"

The glower did not visibly change, but it was somehow less baleful now, with the barest hint of teasing. "So I see," she growled. "And what do you get out of this? Besides death at my hand, that is."

"Well, for the time between when you make them your friends, and the instant the last of my lifeblood drips to the floor, I won't be the only multihouse freak. We will begin the beginning of the revolution. Between us, we can continue the cause that my parents took up thirteen years ago and break down the barriers of interhouse rivalry!"

Aurora rolled her eyes, but Harris could see she was amused. He gave himself a mental grin of triumph. So what if he sounded like a fool? "Has anyone told you that you are insane?"

"Not really. I just didn't sleep well last night. Or the night before. Or the night before that. Or before that. Or -"

"I get the idea. You're running the ragged end of exhaustion and are therefore not responsible for the things that pop out of your mouth. I suppose you expect that to keep me from killing you?"

Harris smiled sweetly at her. "It wouldn't be very sporting to take me out now, you know."

"Slytherins aren't very big on being sporting. And you're trying to get me Slytherinized."

Harris frowned in mock consideration. "Hmm. You've a point there. I suppose you should kill me now."

"But that would just put you out of your misery, and Slytherins aren't supposed to be merciful."

Harris nodded thoughtfully. "True, too true."

"I'll have to torture you first."

"Ah!" Harris exclaimed, as though in discovery, "So that's why we're having so long a conversation!"

Aurora laughed. A short bark of one, but a real laugh none-the-less. "No, that's just self-punishment, Harris."

"Sorry, my mistake."

She looked at him, her eyes twinkling. Harris only barely contained himself from jumping up in glee. Aurora was visibly happy and almost acting like her old self. "So I'm not supposed to be forgiving anymore, right? As a Slytherin wannabe?"

"Depends on the Slytherin and what your goals are."

"My goal is to kill you." Okay, perhaps not quite like her old self yet.

Harris nodded sagely, "Then you'd best not forgive me."

"That's what I thought, too. I think I'm getting the hang of this."

"Now you just need to make nice with Evalyn, Madeline, and Candice."

Her joking air popped, and her expression hardened. "No."

"Why not? Do they scare you that much?" With six younger brothers, he was well experienced in provoking people into doing something they normally wouldn't.

Real anger now. Harris forced himself to stand his ground. Aurora shouldn't be any scarier than his own siblings. "I am not afraid of anyone!" she griped through clenched teeth.

"So you'll talk to them, nicely?"

"No!" Evidently manipulating Aurora would be a bit more difficult than manipulating five year old Menteron.

"Why not?"

She glowered at him again. She was really very good at it. Harris let his stomach quail but not his face. "Why not?" she repeated incredulously, "They're Slytherins!"

Harris flinched. "So am I."

She made a dismissive gesture. "You don't count."

He clamped down on his anger as firmly as he did his fear. "I am Slytherin," he said coolly. "That you happen to like me doesn't change that."

"You don't like them either. Why should I go to the people who you rejected?"

Harris felt like she had just delived a physical blow. "I didn't," he whispered. "They rejected me."

"Even better!" she exclaimed sarcastically. "They won't even accept the only decent one of their own. What chance have I?"

Anger bubbled within him, but he held it in check. "I've been branded traitor. Of course they won't accept me. Harboring traitors is dangerous. But with Evalyn trying to befriend you, you're golden. Not even Avery crosses her."

"As I recall, they fought outside of Tranfigurations on Monday."

"He was going to bully me. Evalyn crossed him, to defend me."

"But she's dropped you now."

Harris nodded, unable speak for fear of his voice cracking.

"What happens to me when she loses interest in her convert then? The Gryffindor girls are already afraid of me. I can't imagine hanging out with Slytherins will improve my image."

"So what's there to lose? Sure, I wouldn't trust Evalyn farther than you could throw her, but I think you could do well with Candice and maybe even Madeline. They're not bad people, 'Rora."

"I don't know. Ev's pretty small. I think I could throw her pretty far."

Harris grinned at the unexpected joke, even though she ignored his main point. "Ok, I wouldn't trust her farther than my sister Tryna could throw her."

Aurora raised her brows. "You finally have a sister?"

"She's two."

Aurora smirked. "That's better, then." Harris was pretty sure she meant that to refer to the amended trusting distance, rather than the addition to his family.

"So you'll give the Slytherins a chance?"

She gave him a long hard look. "I don't see why you care. They're awful to you."

"They're my House. So you'll do it?"

"Once. If I don't like it, I'm out."

Harris smiled at her. "That's all I ask."

She grabbed another muffin, and swept out of the great hall. Harris dropped his head into his hands, relieved and exhausted.

"What was that all about?" Pam asked, giving him little chance for recovery.

Harris took another bite of his pancake, to gain time. "What was what about?" he asked, playing innocent. There were any number of things that the Eggmen might be wondering about.

"Why do you want her Slytherinized? Isn't she scary enough?"

Harris looked at her. She shifted uncomfortably. "Aurora was my best friend for years before her family was killed. Since you Gryffindors won't befriend her, I'll find her friends where I can. Candice's mother was killed by You-Know-Who, too, so she might even help Aurora move on. Merlin knows no one else has."

"What about you?" Charlie asked.

"What about me?"

He made a small gesture to her empty chair. "You're good with each other. Haven't seen that much life in either of you before, really. Why can't you be her friend?"

"I am. But she needs more than one. And her guardians categorically refuse to let us visit each other."


Harris stabbed his last piece of pancake as though it mortally insulted him. "Since Grandfather was sent to Azkaban, they think that we Tragyls are all Death Eaters in the making. Now that I'm Slytherin, they'll feel justified in their beliefs."

Unfortunately, it would be six years before Menteron become a Gryffindor to show them the error of their ways. And as far as Harris was concerned, Jansten and Valr may as well already be Slytherins, and Brent was a lot like himself. Sometimes too much so for comfort. Slytherin or, hopefully, Hufflepuff for him. Menteron was the first sure Gryffindor. Clarence's early Sorting into Ravenclaw wouldn't change anything. He was too young to have been fully indoctrined. A Ravenclaw? At only five? The boy was going to be dangerously cunning when he got older.

"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," Pam declared. Harris felt gratified that the other Eggmen offered their emphatic agreement without hesitation. And they didn't even know his brothers.

Neither Gryffindor nor Slytherin first years had a class directly after breakfast, so the Eggmen went outside to take advantage of the clear, warm weather. The Hufflepuff twins and some others soon approached them asking for a continuation of the freeze tag game. It didn't take long before the game had grown to include most of the Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, and Ravenclaw first years, and even some second years. To no one's surprise, Harris remained the only Slytherin. Aurora never appeared either.

All too soon, the Gryffindors and Harris had to leave for their second flying lesson of the week. The game continued on without them, as they crossed the school grounds to the shed where the brooms were kept. They were mildly surprised to find that only Madam Hooch had beat them to it. Evalyn, Candice, Madeline, and Aurora arrived next. Harris tried to read his friend's expression, but couldn't. She did continue to stand with them, which Harris took as a good sign. Avery and Martin arrived last, just shy of being late.

The lesson went little better than the previous one. Harris continued to be appalled by his classmate's lack of skill, and they continued to endanger themselves and anyone unfortunate enough to be next them. Harris had prudently put himself between Charlie and Brian, both of whom had proven to be decent fliers last time.

Either through miracle, magic, or chance, none of the day's collisions resulted in serious injury or death. When Walrus lost control and flew into the Slytherin line, Harris had hoped accident might claim Avery, but no such luck. Both boys stood up, dusted themselves off, and started arguing.

When class was over, and the brooms put away, Harris tried to single out Aurora, but she had already gone. Evalyn, Madeline, and Candice were also no where to be seen. "Did Aurora leave with the Slytherin girls?" he asked Charlie, as he joined the loitering group of Eggmen.

"Didn't notice. She came in with them, and stood with them during the lesson."

"I saw that," Harris remarked, only barely remembering to curb disdain. Charlie was his friend and cousin, and was therefore entitled to state the obvious without getting sneered at. By Harris anyway.

"Good thing you're here to tell us these things, Weasel. I'd wondered who everybody was staring at," Walrus drawled. "We're mostly used the the Slytherin in our line, so it wasn't Harris this time."

"Leave off, Walrus, nobody was staring at anyone, except maybe you when you ran into Avery."

Walrus looked offeded. "I did not 'run into' him. I crashed into him in a glorious flurry of robes, brooms, arms, and legs. Somehow, I think even fists got mixed in there."

Harris smirked. "I stand corrected."

"Good," Walrus nodded decisively. Then he turned more serious. "People did keep looking at her, though. More discreetely than we did when you sat with us in Potions, of course. We're more scared of Aurora. But there were looks, from both Gryffindors and Slytherins. When she caught me at it, she glared so bad I lost concentration and the broom went wild. Managed to control it enough to hit Avery instead of her." He sounded quite proud of this feat.

"Walrus, don't take this the wrong way, but don't bother even trying out for your Quiddich team."

The muggle-born boy grinned at him. "I don't know. I might confuse the opposing team enough . . ."

Charlie laughed. "Wouldn't make up for how confused you'd be. Not to mention dangerous to the rest of us."

"Already put yourself on the team, eh, Cousin?" Harris was mildly surprised to see Charlie blush at his words. Sure, he teased the other boy about the assumption, but Harris had made the same one two days ago. "Oh, for Merlin's sake, Charlie. You're gonna be on the team, don't worry about it."

He still looked decidedly embarrassed, but was able to return the compliment, "You're a pretty good flier yourself, coz."

Harris shrugged, "Yeah, but Slytherin try-outs might not be exactly unbiased."

Charlie looked surprised. "Oh, yeah. I forgot you weren't a Gryffindor."

Harris stared at him for a very long moment. He wasn't sure if he should feel honored or insulted. On the one hand, his cousin had obviously fully accepted him into his fold of friends. Quite possibly the others had as well. On the opposite side, Harris didn't want to be a Gryffindor. He had thought he had made that perfectly clear. He felt his expression closing, or maybe turning defensive. "I'm not," was all he said, before hurrying away. He thought he heard one of them call his name, but he didn't acknowledge them.

Lunch was a painful affair that day. Well, not physically, like the previous night had been, but definitely unpleasant. "So, Tragyl's decided to join us today after all," Avery remarked loudly to Martin as Harris took his customary seat across from him.

Harris decided that ignoring the comment might make the situation go away. He realized a moment later the foolishness of such a thought. Whether or not it prevented quicker escalation was another matter entirely, but it certainly wouldn't make anything 'go away'.

"I'd hoped he might stay with the Gryffindorks," Avery continued, this time looking at Evalyn.

She shrugged neutrally. "Maybe you didn't hit him hard enough last night to completely drive him away," she commented with enough disapproval and superority to make Harris wonder if it was warning not to try anything of the sort again, or a criticism that the attack wasn't powerful enough. He suspected she'd probably meant it as the former but feared Avery would take as the latter. He only hoped Professor Snape's warning would stay their hands a while yet.

Harris pushed his vegtables around on his plate, not hungry. He stole a look toward Gryffindor's table, where the Eggmen were laughing about something. His stomoch roiled, and he regretted the few bites he had taken. It just wasn't fair. Everyone else in the Hall seemed to enjoy mealtimes. He, on the other hand, could barely get through one without being threatened, insulted, and dangerously close to violently ill.

"Something wrong with your food, Tragyl?" Martin asked with a glint in his eye that Harris did not trust at all. Instead of answering, Harris just contined his vegtable relocation effort. Since he was studying his fork and peas, the rainstorm of pumpkin juice onto his plate took him completely by surprise. "Oh, I'm sorry, Tragyl, my hand slipped," Martin said in a voice that indicated just the opposite. "But maybe it'll taste better this way."

Harris didn't dare look up at him, knowing there'd be yet another fight if he did. So he slowly put down his fork, and stood up, his gaze never leaving his drowned plate. "I need to get my Herbology book," he excused himself, and left the Great Hall. Behind him, he heard Avery and Martin's laughter. It wasn't at all like the carefree joyful laughter the Eggmen enjoyed. Harris suddenly felt no taller than Menteron.

In an effort to distract himself, he focused on the rest of the day's agenda: Herbology directly after lunch followed by Defence Against the Dark Arts, both with Ravenclaw. Herbology shouldn't be bad, as long as Avery and Emily Holland continue to avoid each other. But Charlie said Bill said Defense was as bad as, if not worse than, potions. Professor Wallsby was Head of Slytherin House, whereas Snape was just a Slytherin alumus. Wallsby's class had one redeeming factor, though. Slytherin and Gryffindor weren't sharing the same class period. There would, therefore, be less opportunity to provoke Wallsby by sitting and talking with the Eggmen.

The disadvantage, of course, was that he didn't know who he should sit with now. Make nice with the Ravenclaws or suffer through with the Slytherins? Hmm. Well, that wasn't a difficult choice.

That left the question of which Ravenclaws to befriend. He knew a handful through playing tag. Where 'knowing' is defined as 'being able to match name and face'. Not much of a strong relationship base. A start, though. And tag was a friendly activity. He thought it was enough to justify sitting next to one of them in class.

He was the first to arrive in Greenhouse 1 for Herbology class. Something about skipping out of lunch after only ten minutes had put him ahead of schedule. Even Professor Sprout wasn't there yet. He took a stool and began to read the first chapter of the text to pass the time. He could already tell that Herbology was not going to be one of his favorites. Not quite as dead boring as History of Magic, but quite possibly a close second, unless Sprout made the subject a lot more interesting than the text did.

He was glad when Emily Holland interrupted his reading simply by entering the greenhouse. He smiled at her. "Hello."

She looked at him consideringly. "You're Clarence's brother," she identified him after a moment.

Right. The little firetop had first claim on the loyalty of the Ravenclaws. Hopefully, the kid hadn't said anything too awful about him. "Yeah," he reluctantly agreed to her label of him. He wasn't sure he wanted to be known as 'Clarence's brother'. There was something inherently wrong about being identified as the sibling of someone six years his junior by someone his own age. Clarence should be called Harris's brother, not the other way around. What was the advantage of being oldest, otherwise?

"He's sweet," Emily informed him. Fortunate, that. Harris wouldn't have known if she hadn't told him. His family had a lot of words to describe Clarence, but 'sweet' was rarely one of them. Well, except for Mother, but what could you expect from her? Clarence was obviously her favorite.

"The firetop?"

Emily laughed, a light-hearted sound that was a far cry from either Avery's snickering or the Eggmen's boisterous humor. "Is that his nickname?"

Harris shrugged, uncertain if it was exactly a nickname. Usually his father used it more as an insult. "More or less. Father's called him that since he set a couch on fire three years ago."

She laughed again. "Bet that didn't go over well."

"If it hadn't been accidental magic, at the age of two, it would have been worse. As it was, my parents weren't sure if they should be more stunned, angry, or proud. By that point, not even Jansten had done his first magic yet, and he's five years older than Clarence is." Harris smirked. "Of course, not to be shown up by a two-year-old git, Jansten did his magic about a week later. Quite spectalarly levitated two of my brothers high into the air. Lulli, our house elf, had to use magic to get them down safely again."

"So what's Jansten called now? Flyboy?"

Harris had to smother a snort. "Nah. He's still just Jansten."

"Hmph. That hardly seems fair. What about you? You have a nickname?"

He shrugged. "The Eggmen, well, actually, just Walrus, calls me Snake. Haven't figured out if that's because he's bitter about being called Walrus, of if he's so pleased with it that he thinks everyone should have an animal name."

"Walrus," she repeated softly, her eyes losing focus, then sharpening again. "Gryffindor first year. About yay-high," she held her hand about two inches above her own head, "Brown hair?"

Harris nodded. "Muggle-born wearing muggle high-top sneakers all the time."

She nodded decisively. "Know the one. Heard he's been friendly with a Slytherin." Her eye fell to his Slytherin badge, and she blushed. "No offense."

He shrugged. "I don't mind. I'm the Slytherin he's friendly with. Him and the Eggmen."

"The Eggmen?"

Harris nodded. "That's what a group of first years are calling themselves. I think the group includes all the Gryffindor boys, plus Pam - she's Gryffindor, too - plus me. We're named after some muggle song."

"You're the fake Slytherin, then? I heard -"

"I'm very much a real Slytherin," he interrupted, offended, but curiousity forced him to continue without waiting for a response to that, "What did you hear about me?"

She gave him an odd look. "That you play tag with the other three Houses."

He looked disappointed. That wasn't very juicy gossip. With all the trouble he'd been through, the rumour mill should have at least given him a little scandalous slander to need to refute. Then he realized that this was a good thing and that he shouldn't complain.

Her eyes twinkled in a way that he defintely didn't like. "Oh, and that you're a Death Eater trying to lessen suspicion against himself and you plan to destroy Hogwarts by the end of the year in revenge for the destruction of your Lord."

He narrowed his eyes. "You're making that up."

She looked innocent. "Merlin's honest truth! I heard it from Justin who heard it from Jake who heard it from the Hufflepuff twins who heard it from their prefect who heard it from Professor Sprout who heard it from Dumbledore himself."

"And this rumour named me specifically?"

"You are Clarence's brother, aren't you?'

Harris smirked, suddenly realizing something. "You don't know my name, do you?"

She tried to look insulted, but that quickly turned to a sheepish grin. "Beyond 'Tragyl', I haven't the foggiest. Though if you tell me, I'm sure I'll smack my head and say 'I knew that'."

Wanting to see just that sight, Harris told her, "Harris."

She did indeed smack her forehead and say, "I knew that!"

He hesitated a second before asking, "People don't really think I'm a Death Eater, do they?"

She gave him a sidelong look. "Of course not, silly. I made that up because you looked so upset that the worst I had to say about you was that you play tag."

Harris gave himself a self-directed sneer. "For some Slytherins, that is the greater of the two evils."

She shrugged. "Not you, though. Your mum is a Weasley." As if that had anything to do with his political orientation. He'd never met a Weasley besides Mum until he met Arthur and his twins at Diagon Alley.

He looked away. "And my Grandfather is in Azkaban. I'm sure I know which he'd prefer I was doing."

She looked surprised. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I wouldn't have teased . . . I thought your family was like Candice's; firmly on the right side, even if you are in Slytherin." He thought he should make some kind of defense to that decidedly biased statement, but figured it was close enough to true to not be worth the effort or embarassment.

He shrugged. "Grandfather supported You-Know-Who in all but deed, and was a bit too vocal about it. Grandmother keeps threatening to disown father for his Gryffindor-ish attitudes, though all he does is avoid the subject of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named altogether. Though Mum talks against Him enough for both of them. And Father surely knows supporting Him would be grounds for divorce, if not imprisonment. And that's not something he's going to risk. So my immediate family is fairly firmly placed the 'right' side," he concluded, "but we're the only branch of the Tragyl family that is." And if that bit of news got back to Auror Holland, and his uncle and grandmother got arrested, he wasn't going to feel at all guilty. He didn't particularly care for his Tragyl relatives.

The discussion ended as Professor Sprout entered the greenhouse, followed by a group of Ravenclaws, who took stools on the other side of Emily. The rest of the class soon trickled in, and the lecture began. Harris was impressed that Sprout was able to make the subject as interesting as she did, though it still wasn't going to win any excitment awards. At least, not until some later year when the plants they dealt with would become downright terrifying. Assuming he lived that long. Then the plants would have their turn to threaten his life. Wouldn't that be fun. He tried to remember why he hadn't just gone to muggle school.

Oh, yeah. Muggles killed wizards, burning them at the stake. Which was a lot more embarrassing than wizards killing wizards, but better than plants killing wizards. He'd just have to make sure it was another wizard that killed him and not some overgrown piece of vegetation.

Herbology finished without incident, and the whole class trudged over to the DADA classroom together. Harris manged to sit between Emily another Ravenclaw he knew only as 'Jake'. Wallsby entered, and scowled at the class in general, and him in particular, or so it seemed to Harris. For some reason he couldn't quite understand, he didn't feel the same need to excel in his Head of House's class as he had for Snape's.

They seemed two peas to the pod, so why did one inspire him to defiant acedemic pursuit, and the other only made him indifferent to his subject? He supposed it was because Wallsby had only spoken to him once, and Snape seemed to pop up everywhere. Come to think of it, why had the younger professor been the one to break up the fight in the dormitory, instead of the Head of House? As far as he could tell, Wallsby didn't even know about the previous night's disturbance.

The Slytherin Head of House began his class with a short question and answer session, where he asked Avery, Evalyn, and Martin simple questions and rewarded them with points, and asked Ravenclaws difficult questions (which more often than not they still got right) and awarded no points, or took points away. Towards the end of the session, he fired a medium-difficulty one in Candice's direction.

She froze. Harris looked at her curiously. True, it was the first time a teacher seemed to notice her, but surely she wasn't that shy? He'd believe it of Madeline, possibly, but not Candice. Evalyn, sitting between Candice and Avery, nudged her discreetly. "I, I don't know, sir," she said, though Harris suspected that it was more that she either hadn't heard the question or had forgotten it in her panic at being addressed, rather than that she didn't know.

"Interesting," he murmured, though it sounded more like 'pitiful' to Harris. "I'd have expected better of your mother's daughter," he sneered slightly. Not nearly as badly as he would to a student of another House, but still unpleasantly. Candice paled, then flushed in anger. Wisely, she did not respond to the baiting. The professor turned to Harris next and asked a Ravenclaw level question.

Unlike potions and Herbology, Harris hadn't tried to read the DADA book before class. "I don't know, Professor."

"Hmm," he huffed in disdain. "Exactly what I expected of your mother's son." Harris glared, but dared not defend his mother's name. Or his brothers'. He wasn't sure exactly who was the target of the insult.

Emily wasn't so restrained. "You just haven't met her son Clarence yet," she told him loftily. Harris couldn't stifle a laugh. Kid Genius would have known the answer, too, he was sure.

Wallsby glowered at her for interrupting. "Ten points from Ravenclaw for impudence. And a detention, Miss Holland."

Emily nodded acceptance and understanding of her punishment, but didn't look the least bit sorry for her comment. The class, and day, continued fairly uneventfully from there. Evidently taking Snape's warning to heart, Avery and Martin didn't even look in his direction as they got ready for bed that night.


He stopped, feeling a creepy sense of déjà vu. Same hall, same voice, same time as yesterday. Turning slowly, he forced a friendly smile. "Hi, Aurora."

She caught up with him quickly. "Meet me tonight at midnight at the Transfiguration room." No hello. No 'hi, how are you?' No small talk. It couldn't be a good sign.

Harris frowned. Yesterday, her reason for accosting him here and now was because he'd betrayed her, so to speak, to his female housemates. She had threatened his life then. And now she wants to meet him, in the dead of night, in a deserted classroom?

"Why?" he asked cautiously, not entirely putting a murder scheme past her.

"It's important. Just come."

She turned briskly on her heel and stalked back the way she had come. Watching her go, Harris couldn't help but think that if she only had robes more condusive to billowing, that she'd look like a smaller, lighter-haired version of Snape. Just before she turned a corner and moved out of sight, she looked back at him. "And come alone!"

He shivered, despite the castle's early autumn warmth. Midnight. Alone. In a deserted room well past curfew. With a girl who told him that she wanted him dead. He had only an expired friendship to bolster his assumption that she had been joking. He looked nervously at where she had just been. It's important. Just come.

If Aurora said it was important, it was important. But did he trust her? For all he knew, she considered doing away with him important. He wasn't going to argue the point. His death was important to him, too. He just didn't want it to happen yet.

He briefly considered writing to Jansten to let him know Aurora might kill him tonight, but decided his brother would just take her side. She was Gryffindor, and even more importantly, a Merriweather. If she decided to kill a Slytherin, even (or perhaps especially) a Tragyl, she must have a good reason. Jansten reminded him of Aurora entirely too much sometimes. A violently upset stomach had been all that had separated his next-oldest brother from having been at the Merriweather residence that night. It was the only time Mum had ever been thankful that one of her children was ill.

Harris shook away the depressive thought, and continued his way to Saturday morning breakfast. The meal when about as well as could be hoped. He remembered to sit at the Slytherin table. Avery and Evalyn ignorned him, and Martin only flicked butter at him once. Only his worry about tonight kept him smashing his waffle to mush instead of eating it.

Bill's Quiddich try-out was right after breakfast. The Eggment were there to cheer him on, of course. Charlie was his brother, after all. With the five Gryffidor first years, plus Harris, Bill easily had the largest cheering section of all the candidates. He was also pretty handy with a quaffle. For the two hours that the tryouts took, Harris almost forgot his distress about meeting with Aurora, and he cheered and jeered as loud as any Gryffindor.

As they left the Quiddich pitch, leaving Bill, his competitors, and the team to shower and change, Charlie grinned at them all. "I think he's got a pretty good chance. We'll know tomorrow when they post the results in the Common Room." The Gryffindor Common Room. Harris would need to ask them later since he certainly wasn't going to go in there just to find out if his second cousin made the team.

Assuming, of course, that he lived until tomorrow.

Lunch went as well as breakfast. He even looked up from his plate a few times. Avery and Evalyn were still ignoring him, and were quietly discussing their Charms homework. Madeline, Candice, and Aurora were - to him - conspicously absent. Were the two Slytherin girls in on tonight's murder. Was it Aurora who corrupted them or the other way around? He dared not draw attention to himself by asking Evalyn about it.

The rest of the day until midnight passed excurciatingly slow. The Eggmen wanted to play tag again, a new version called 'team tag', but Harris was too nervous to try learning the rules or doing something so carefree. So he excused himself, pleading potions homework.

The essay about wormroot did nothing to calm him. He wanted it perfect to impress Snape, so, if anything, he got more tense. The three hours spent in the library doing research on the plant did succeed in keeping him away from any Slytherins though. No self-respecting first year Slytherin would spend Saturday afternoon doing homework.

He left dinner early and went directly to his bed. After perfecting his essay, he had gone to McGonagall - the only professor he felt he could truly trust, ironically enough - to ask her about protective wards. By dinnertime, he felt confident enough in his new skill to keep Avery and Martin from attacking him before midnight.

Alone in his dorm, he set wards around his bed to keep anyone from opening his drapes. Feeling safe fro the first time since September first, he began to read ahead in the potions textbook.

He had almost finished chapter three when Avery and Martin arrived. He closed the book after marking his place, and curled up defensively on his pillow, trying to stay silent, and making himself into as small a target as possible, even though they could neither see him nor get to him through the bed's curtains. That knowledge did little to make his heart slow down, though.

"Is he in here?" Avery's voice.

"Curtains closed. I'll check." Martin's footsteps approached, though Harris could bare hear them through the blood pounding in his ears. "They're stuck," Martin said, sounding startled.

"What do you mean, they're stuck? They're cloth."

"You try to open them, then." Sullen.

A pause. "That's weird." Avery must have moved forward silently. "Suppose he's in there?"


"Quiet." Both fell silent. Harris's heart pounded, and he was sure they must hear it. He held his breath, knowing if he tried to breath, it would be ragged. "Tragyl, I know you're in there!"

Harris didn't reply, hoping the words were only a bluff.

"I'm assuming you put this spell on your bed on purpose and you can take it off. I suggest you do that."

Not bloody likely.

"Because if you don't, I'm going to cast incendio on your bed."

Harris's eyes widened. He didn't know if the ward would protect him from that. "I didn't put it on!" he lied, though the desperate fear in the words was completely unfeigned. "I'm stuck in here! McNair did it" The third year probably wouldn't be questioned about it. Harris hoped.

Martin laughed, thankfully believing him. Avery remained silent, which worried him. Then there was the sounds of someone looking through drawers. Then that stopped. "Must be lonely in there, huh, Tragyl?" Avery called. "Maybe Vic can keep you company."

That was all the warning Harris got before the snake was hurled over the curtain rail and dropped into the center of the bed. Harris screamed. Then screamed again and the furious creature lifted its head and prepared to strike. He dropped his spells and all but flew out of the reptile's way.

Right into Martin's waiting arms. Harris screamed again, wondering wildly which snake was more dangerous - the reptile or the humans. He struggled to get free, but Martin was much larger and stronger, and had gained a strong grip before Harris had thought to wriggle.

Knowing he was only delaying the inevitible, Harris stilled, aside from the nervous shaking his body insisted on. Avery came to stand in front of him, holding the snake and absently stroking its head. His eyes were cold. "So it was your spell." Beat. "I don't like being lied to, Tragyl."

Martin's grip tightened threateningly. Harris glared past him to the smaller of his antagonists. "If your thug would stop hugging me, I could . . ." Harris trailed off, his bravado failing to coming up a reasonable lie.

Offended, either at being called a thug or being accused of hugging, Martin propelled Harris into a wall. Harris let himself crumple to the ground, and then rolled over and sat up, facing the others. They both stood over him, blocking his exit. From this angle, even Avery looked tall.

"Where'd you learn that spell, Tragyl?"

Harris glared at them, trying to use anger to hid fear. "McGonagall."

Avery cast a short burst of the bee sting curse he'd used two nights ago. Harris screamed in pain and curled into a tight, protective ball that did nothing to lessen the agony. When it stopped, Harris huddled against the wall, shaking and tear-stained.

"You're not welcome here, Gryffindor."

"I'm not a Gryffindor," he whispered, half-afraid of another dose of the curse.

He was spared the curse, but Martin gave him a swift kick to the side. "Get out of our sight," Avery instructed, evidently not gracing Harris's denial with a response. The two Slytherins stepped aside, and Harris fled. Discretion was the better part of Valor, as Valr often repeated.

He arrived at the Transfiguration room hours before he was expected. But there really wasn't anywhere else he could go. Sitting here, bored, in the dark, waiting for Aurora to kill him, was still infinitely better than staying around Avery and Martin tonight.

It took him almost an hour to stop shaking and bring his breathing and heartrate back to normal. Even then, the occassional shiver shuddered down his frame, whenever he thought about what had just happened too much.

Aurora arrived nearly half an hour before he expected her. She looked surprised to see him, as well. "You're early."

"So are you."

They regarded each other for a moment. "What happened?" she finally asked.

"Doesn't matter," he dismissed the question, not caring to know how she knew to ask. "So are you planning to kill me, too? Or why else did you have me come?"

She stepped forward dangerously. "Someone tried to kill you?" she demanded, either ignoring or not noticing his accusation against her. "That matters, Harris! You should tell someone."

He shook his head. "Nevermind, Aurora. What's up?" Her reaction reassured him that she didn't have designs on his life, anyway. Unless she just wanted to do it herself.

She gave him a hard look that told him the subject, much as he wanted it to be, was not closed. "It was that Death Eater scum's spawn Avery, wasn't it." More statement than question.

He shrugged. "It's not important."

She grabbed the front of his robes and pulled him so only a few inches of air separated their faces. Harris was suddenly even more terrified than he had been in his dorm. Her intense gaze was downright frightening. "I lost my mum, father, sister, brother, and dog to Death Eater scum. I'm not about to loose you, too." Okay. That solved the whether-or-not-Aurora-was-going-to-kill-him question. "Don't you dare tell me it's not important." She released him with a sharp shove backwards.

"It's not exactly that he tried to kill me, precisely," Harris dissembled, silently agreeing with her that his death was important.

"What precisely did exactly happen then?" she asked in a dangerously low and hard voice.

"He just told me to get out of the dorm. Said I wasn't welcome. Implied bad things would happen if I didn't. So I left. Had to meet with you anyway." He wasn't sure why he was protecting Avery and Martin. But Snape had said not to tell anyone about two nights ago, and he suspected tonight was in a similiar catagory. The same curse had be cast at any rate. He wondered if he should tell the Potions Master. Better to keep it in the House and Snape hadn't been pleased with the other two last time.

She regarded him expressionlessly. He wasn't sure if she believed him or not.

"So why did you want to see me?"

She checked her watch. "Give Candi a few more minutes to get here."

Candi? "I take it you're getting along with some Slytherins besides me?"

"Candi's all right. Madeline's quiet, like you said. I trust her as far as I can throw her, but Candi trusts her implicitly, which is why I trust her that far." The little French girl was the smallest of all the Slytherins, and Aurora was both tall and athletic. He suspected 'trusting her as far as I can throw her' was, in this one case, a compliment of Madeline's trustworthiness.

Harris couldn't help smirking at her, feeling smug.

"You were right, you know," she continued seriously, and far too easily for him to be comfortable with. He was going to have an ulcer by the time he was twelve if people didn't stop scaring him like this. Aurora was supposed to sigh and roll her eyes and be bitter and reluctant to admit such a thing. He couldn't gloat in the face of this solemnity. It made him think that it wasn't his 'some Slytherins are good people' point that she was acceeding to, but one of his more paranoid remarks.

"About what?" he asked warily.

"Candice didn't want to do anything herself."

Fear crept into his face and voice. "Do what?"

Aurora sat on one of the Transfiguration desks, and looked at him smugly. "Expose Wallsby." She looked delighted at the prospect.

"Expose him? To what?" Whatever it was she planned, he was sure he wouldn't like it.

"Not to. As. He's a Death Eater," she declared with malicious glee. "We're going to bring him down."

Harris stared at her. Completely bonkers. That's what she was. "We can't do that."

Her eyes narrowed in threat so quickly, Harris had to take an involuntary step back. "Why not?" she asked dangerously.

He felt his shaking start again. Sure sign of impending nervous breakdown, no doubt. "Why not?" he repeated incredulously, only about an octave too high. "Because, because we don't know he is -"

"Candice is sure. She's even pretty sure he's who killed her mother."

"She can't know that," Harris denied, mostly because he didn't want it to be true. The implications were just too horrible if it was. It would mean there was a Death Eater at Hogwarts. It would mean one of You-Know-Whose faithful was placed in a positionn of trust where he could not only cripple young wizards from properly learning Defense against the Dark Arts, but encourage any or all of Slytherin House into the Dark Wizard's way. But worst of all, it meant that Harris would be obligated to do something about it, if he was convinced of the teacher's guilt. "She's just trying to get a rise out of you."

Aurora shook her head. "I believe her."

Harris almost gaped. Aurora? Trusting the word of a Slytherin? One she'd just met? "That's mildly remarkable," he understated, "Why?"

"You'll see when she explains."

"And, and even if he were, we're just first years. He's a Death Eater. I think the scales are a little in his favor."

"We have a couple advantages," Aurora disagreed, her glinting eyes reminding him of a stalking shark more than an eleven-year-old Gryffindor girl. "One. Candice's mother's diary. Two. Emily Holland's parents. Three. He won't be expecting us to do anything. So our first move has to be our last. Four. As long as we're in Hogwarts, he can't physically hurt us. Five. There's more of us than there is of him. Six. Dumbledore. And finally. You."

"Me?" Harris squeaked, his questions about earlier points knocked right out of his mind.

"You're unique, Harris." He stared at her, uncertain if that was a compliment, insult, or her idea of an explaination. She, thankfully, continued, "You're in the position to be friends with every House. Well, except Slytherin. No one will think it unusual if you hang out with Hufflepuffs one day, Ravenclaws the next, and Gryffindors the one after that. And you eat meals and go to class with Slytherins. You're the perfect go between."

"Go between? Just how big a conspiracy are you planning?"

"So far, we've recruited seven besides myself. That includes you." Clearly, 'recruitment' in her dictionary didn't include voluntary agreement. She should have used 'drafted'.


"Candice and Madeline. Emily and Evert Holland. The Hufflepuff twins. You. Me. Evert might try to bring in some of the other prefects. You might bring in the Eggmen."

"And how many of these have you actually spoken with about this yet?"

She had the grace to look mildly embarassed. "Well, Candice and Madeline. We spent most of today coming up with a game plan. Emily agreed to come tonight. She'll bring in her brother. You'll get the Hufflepuff twins."

"I see Evalyn was left out of this?"

"Observant, Harris. I'm proud of you."

He ignored her sarcasm. "How'd you meet with Candice and Madeline without her?"

"Charms homework. She did hers with Avery last night and didn't want to listen to us go over it again."

They fell into a breif silence, which was soon interrupted by the door easing open. Candice stuck her head in, looked a little suprised to see Harris, then stepped inside. "I thought he wasn't coming until midnight," she said by way of greeting.

"You know boys," Aurora said wryly, with a look at Harris to show she didn't completely mean it. "They can't follow simple directions." Harris was still left with the feeling that she did mean it somewhat.

Candice smirked. "So true." The conversation lulled as Candice sat herself on one of the tabletops near where Harris and Aurora were. Why use chairs when you could use tables? "Em'll be here at midnight," she added, setting her bookbag down beside her and pulling out her mother's diary. "I told her then, because I thought we'd introduce the problem to the both of them," she waved a dismissive gesture to include Harris, "at the same time."

"We were going to use the next fifteen minutes to discuss our approach," Aurora added, speaking to him. Harris nodded his thanks for that clarification.

The next fifteen minutes passed slowly and awkwardly with only short bursts of conversation that would include Aurora and Candic or Aurora and Harris. Candice, apparently, didn't want to get in the habit of treating him in a friendly fashion, and so spent a great deal of effort ignoring him.

Emily arrived just before midnight, bringing the House count to three. One Gryffindor, two Slytherins, and a Ravenclaw. Emily noticed and grinned, "Harris, you just attract multi-house gatherings, don't you?"

He shrugged, "Not on purpose."

Aurora interrupted the idle chatter. "Ok, Candi and I called you both here for a reason."

Emily's brows lifted in surprise. "I had assumed this was a Slytherin plot that you got roped into, not a joint Slytherin-Gryffidnor thing."

Aurora shook her head, but deferred to Candice to answer. "It's Candi's story to tell."

Candice drew in a preparatory breath. "It started Sunday, I guess. Evalyn, Madeline, Harris, and I were looking through my mother's diary for any remarks about Harris's grandfather's trial. That got me thinking about the diary again. I've never really read it all the way through. So that night, after lights out, I pulled out my dad's flashlight, charmed by Mrs. Holland to work here, and started reading. Well, skimming really. That's when I found this page." She flipped through the stack of parchment that made up her mother's 'diary' and pulled out a sheet from somewhere near the late middle. She handed it over to Emily. Harris read over her shoulder.

Today the team went to Knockturn. We raided a few shops, but, like most of these trips lately, we were really just seeing who spilled out of the woodwork. Imagine my surprise when my old DADA teacher, Professor Wallsby, came out of one of the more notorious bars. Sure, I could almost expect him to spend some time in Knockturn, but in that bar? It was peculiar, and I don't like peculiar.

My team, Gryffindors that they are, didn't find it odd. To them, all of Knockturn is bad and Dark and Slytherin. A bar is a bar. They see none of the different levels. The Two Knuts, for example, is just a low-class joint, completely on the level and legit. They just sell really cheap, nasty, and watered down brews. The Rotten Hag, on the other hand, the bar Wallsby left, is considered even by my parents to be bad news. When I went to the Alley as a kid, they pointed it out and warned that you don't go in there unless you're ready to die or kill. There was no concievable reason a Hogwarts professor, even a Slytherin DADA one, should be in there.

I tried to explain this to the team, but they thought I was reading too much into it. Wallsby's Slytherin and he teaches DADA, he was probably all right. Dumbledore hired him, after all. They never liked Wallsby, and it doesn't surprise them to see him in the Alley. What they don't realize is that Wallsby was at Hogwarts a year before Dumbledore became Headmaster. I looked that up when we went off-duty.

It's probably paranoia on my part, but this just bothers me. Candi will be going there in a few years.

Emily handed the paper back wordlessly. Harris felt compelled to point out, "That's suspicion, not proof. My Grandfather was probably in that pub, too."

"And your Grandfather now lives in a cell in Azkaban," Candice pointed out acerbically.

Harris glowered at her. "Doesn't change that he was innocent." Sort of.

"He supported Voldemort, that is not innocent," Candice disagreed.

"In words only! He was too drunk all the time to do anything about it!"

"Harris, let it go," Aurora interrupted the argument. "Your Grandfather was a piece of pond scum."

"Not arguing that," Harris grumbled, then more clearly, "I was just saying that just because someone was in that pub, doesn't mean they were really Death Eaters."

Aurora nodded impatiently, "Ok, fine. Granted. Candi, if you would continue?"

Candice took a deep breath, then shuffled down to the bottom page. "I read this one early on, of course. It was the last thing she ever wrote in life. I just hadn't made the connection. I mean, Wallsby isn't really a common name, exactly, but who'd've thought she meant a Hogwarts professor? I reread it just before DADA class, which made that class real fun." She handed the sheet over to Emily.

I got a tip on Wallsby yesterday. I've told you all about how the team thinks I being paranoid about this, so I'm going to check it out alone this evening. Just a quick in and out, to see if anything unusual sticks out. I don't really expect it to, but at this point it's a matter of pride. And you know how Slytherins are about that. I'm gonna nail that bastard, or I'm going to make a fool of myself by proving everyone else right. Either way, I'll be glad of it. I just need to KNOW. I've got a daughter to protect.

Emily looked over at him to be sure he had finished before returning the sheet back to Candice. "She never came home that night," Candice picked up her tail, being obviously careful to keep her voice even. "She was found in Knockturn Alley, dead, face down in an alley. No one was ever convicted, or even arrested. There was a small inquiry into Wallsby's whereabouts, at my father's insistance, but nothing ever came of it. Inconclusive evidence. Worse than Malfoy, really. Everyone knows Malfoy's Death Eater scum. Wallsby's above suspicion. Even Snape actually went to trial."

"He what!" Harris exclaimed, startled out of his sympathetic but unconvinced attitude. Surely she couldn't be talking about Professor Snape. Not after the teacher had helped him two nights ago.

"He went to trial," Emily repeated, as though this were common knowledge. "Dumbledore vouched for him, though."

Harris looked between the two aurors' children, looking for signs that his leg was being pulled. Unfortunately, there were none. "Snape? Potions Master Snape?" he asked, disbelieving.

"You know another one?" Candice asked archly.

He shook his head. "No, but." Knee jerk denial, there was nothing to follow the but. Then he thought of something, not about Snape, but about Wallsby. "But just because she went looking for the Professor doesn't mean it was him who killed him. Circumstantial evidence. Like the Ministry said, inconclusive."

"You sound like your father," Aurora complained.

Harris shrugged, not caring. Being a Ministry Judge, his father would know what he was talking about on the subject. Besides, he was right. "Actually, you don't even have anything as strong as circumstantial evidence. All you've got is possible motive, that's just as likely to be paranoia on an auror's part." Who knew his father's lessons on critical thinking would come in so handy? "You don't have anything remotely like proof."

"So we find proof," Aurora declared, looking more alive and determined that he could remember seeing her in a very long time. He even thought he saw excitement burning in those so-long-dead eyes. And for that alone, Harris was left with only one option. He hated his life. At least it wouldn't last much longer.

"So what's the plan?" he asked in defeat.

All three girls smiled beautifically at him. And people said Voldemort was scary.

Later that night, he went up to Gryffindor Tower with Aurora, and dropped, exhausted, into the green and silver draped bed without waking any of the other first year boys. If he was going to die in the next few days, he didn't want it to happen in his sleep.

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