Chapter 33 - A Meeting in Hogsmeade
Hello all. This chapter is the first of this fic that is actually written by me (BekkaJane). What you have been reading up until now was written by the original author, Raining Ink. She has decided to leave fanfiction and chase her dream of being a published author and I wish her the best of luck. I am simply continuing her story and I hope I can do it justice.
Short side note: This chapter starts just after the first DA lesson in the last chapter. I know Raining Ink went on a little after that scene, but just bear with me. It will all be back to chronological order by the end of the chapter. I just really wanted a scene where the Slytherins discuss the DA.
Draco was lounging on the couch closest to the fire, flipping through the required reading for Snape's next DADA class, when his fellow dark wizards returned from Potter's little defence club. He noted, with no small amount of satisfaction, that neither Daphne nor Astoria looked too impressed with whatever it was they had spent the last two hours doing. For some unfathomable reason, Zabini looked fairly pleased. But then again, Draco thought, knowing Blaise, he probably avoided most of the activities for fear of breaking a nail.
"Let me guess." He drawled. "Someone just spent their evenings listening to Gryffindor diatribe about evil death eaters doing nasty dark magic and how we all have the ability to stop them." He placed a hand over his heart and his eyes went comically wide. "All we have to do is work together and we can accomplish anything"
Astoria rolled her eyes while Daphne and Blaise sat themselves adjacent to Malfoy's sprawled out form.
"I liked it." Blaise noted, catching his reflection in the window and adjusting his hair.
"Blaise was the centre of attention." Daphne explained. "We covered various unbinding charms and his tales of his mother's various customers getting stuck in their corsets were a hit."
Astoria laughed lightly as she swiped at Draco's propped up feet, making him shift around and allow her room to sit. "I think he even almost won over Weasley."
Draco raised an eyebrow and smirked. "What an honour. Unbinding charms?"
Astoria grimaced. "Potter did say we'd get on to better topics later. Dueling and Patroni and whatnot." Draco was still clearly unimpressed. "I think he started with that because the younger years are learning them in Defence at the moment. Besides, they come in handy." Astoria couldn't quite figure out exactly why she seemed to be defending Harry Potter of all people, but she couldn't think of any reason to be hostile towards the Gryffindor who, for some reason, had been nothing but friendly to her as of late. "Have any of you noticed something different about Potter this year?" She asked.
Draco and Blaise didn't answer but Daphne's lips tilted into a slight frown; a sign Astoria recognised as what she liked to call her sister's thinking face.
"He doesn't seem as prejudiced against Sytherins as he usually is, but he's still Potter." She said.
"Of course he is." Draco said, forcing himself not to think of his birthday present lying wrapped up in a spare set of robes in his trunk. Damn, he thought. I forgot to give him one back. "People like Potter don't change. Once a prat, always a prat."
Blaise shrugged and Daphne spoke up again.
"I don't see what it matters." She told her sister. "We'll hang out once a week with the DA and then go about our lives. Nothing's changed."
Astoria let the topic slide, but she knew something had indeed changed in Harry Potter. What she couldn't figure out was why.
A couple of days later found Harry seated in a corner table of the library an hour before curfew with Ron and Hermione, surrounded by several piles of thick Defence Against the Dark Arts texts. Hermione and Harry were going though the various books looking for pointers on the next few DA lessons while Ron frantically jotted down the last of his Transfiguration essay. It was due tomorrow.
"So thats the patronus, the defensive strategy, and the advanced hexes lesson plans sorted." Hermione said as she slammed one of the massive tomes shut, sending a small puff of dust into the air. "What about the dueling session?"
"Actually," Harry spoke up, "I've been thinking we should do something different."
Hermione looked up in curiosity.
"Ever since the massacre at that dueling competition people have been completely freaked out. If world renowned dueling champions can be slaughtered by a group of third rate Death Eaters, what chance does a bunch of school kids stand?"
"That's the spirit, Harry." Ron piped up.
"I'm serious." Harry said. "We're no where near as good as we've lead ourselves to believe. Everything we did in the DA last year was to pass exams, but there's a hell of a lot more at stake now. Learning how to trade school-grade hexes with only one opponent isn't going to help us if we're surrounded by Death Eaters."
"Are you suggesting we teach spells not covered in the Hogwarts curriculum?" Hermione said. "We'd have to get approval from the teachers."
"Different spells is one thing, different fighting techniques is another. I think we should find some way to practise dueling in a battle-like situation. Taking on more than one opponent, learning strategies to help us if we're out numbered, those kind of things."
Ron looked up from his essay and Hermione's eyebrows furrowed in thought.
"How do we do that?" Ron asked.
"I haven't thought that far ahead." Harry admitted. "I was hoping you guys might have something in mind."
Hermione jotted down a few notes in the margins of her already filled piece of parchment. "I might be able to come up with something. It would take a bit more research though. I don't think we have time tonight." She looked at her watch and then at Madame Pince who had been continuously glancing at them all night, ever suspicious that someone might harm one of her precious books. Harry thought the fact that she suspected Hermione Granger would ever deface a book fully highlighted the extent of the woman's paranoia.
"We still have plenty of time to figure something out." Harry told her. "I think we've done enough for tonight."
Harry started stuffing his notes in his bag as Ron finished scribbling down the last of his essay and rolled up his parchment, looking pleased that the library session was finally over. Hermione sighed and followed Harry's lead, packing up their night's work. As the trio headed out of the library, smiling pleasantly at a scowling Madame Pince, Harry turned the corner and almost slammed into the huge figure coming the other way.
"Oh, Harry. I didn't see you there" Slughorn beamed. "Cutting it a little close with curfew, aren't you?"
"We were just on our way back to the common room, professor." Hermione assured him.
Slughorn chuckled. "Of course you were, Miss Granger. Actually, I'm rather glad I caught you both." He said, completely ignoring Ron. "I wanted to invite you two to dinner with me and a couple of other students. Just a little get together I put on every once in a while. I mentioned it to you a little while ago, didn't I Harry? An old student of mine once dubbed it the 'Slug Club'." He chortled to himself. "Rather clever don't you think?"
Harry glanced at Ron out of the corner of his eye. His friend didn't exactly look all that chuffed at being completely blown off by the professor.
"That sounds great, Professor, but I..."
"Excellent! It's in a month's time in the dungeons. You'll get an official invite soon with all the details. You too, Miss Granger. You'll attend as well?"
Hermione looked uncomfortable. "Oh... well.."
"Fantastic. I look forward to it. I'd better not keep you any longer. Have a good night."
With a glowing smile and a pat on Harry's shoulder, Slughorn took off down the corridor and around the corner. Harry looked after him before turning to Ron and Hermione dubiously.
"Did either of us actually agree to that?" He asked.
"I don't think so." Hermione said.
Ron still looked a little irritated at the man's blatant disregard of him so Harry decided to pacify his mood.
"Well I can always say I let my homework go undone for too long and have to catch up, but I don't think that will work with you, Hermione. You're going to have to pull a sickie."
"Yeah, I can get some puking pastilles from Fred and George if you like." Ron grinned.
Hermione grimaced. "I'm sure I can think of something."
The next two weeks passed quickly for Harry, who had finally managed to get a tentative routine in order that allowed him time for homework, friends, quidditch practice, and the occasional trip to the room of requirement under his invisibility cloak for some much needed privacy to conduct some of the rituals he had become accustomed to over the summer. The Ritual of Clarity had become a godsend with all the homework being piled on top of them this year and the seclusion gave him the opportunity to write back Zate and Draco without the fear of curious eyes peeking over his shoulder. He had sent Zate a letter thanking him for sending the library card and promising to return it whenever the apothecary asked. He'd also penned a reply to Draco, expanding his creative writing skills by detailing fanciful stories of his travels. He avoided any Death Eater related topics, having realised that Draco was not willing to discuss such matters in a letter. He did however accept the invitation to meet up with him at Hogsmeade, hoping to breach the topic then. He would have to think of an excuse to get out of going with Ron. Perhaps the redhead's puking pastilles idea could come in handy... or maybe a fever fudge. Less mess.
When Friday came along Harry was in relatively good spirits; a condition that lasted right up until the afternoon Defence Against the Dark Arts class. While Harry hadn't expected Snape to provide enjoyable lessons, he hadn't quite been prepared for the increased animosity the man sent his way. He couldn't figure out if it was because of the mind protection potion keeping the potions master safely out of his head or the fact that his attempt to intimidate the class with high expectations and difficult spells fell flat as Harry had already covered them in the DA that week. The only students who got stuck on the advanced sensory deprivation hex and it's counter curse were non DA members. Ron found great humour in the fact that most of them were Slytherins.
"The old bat has no one to humiliate but his own snakes." He hissed in Harry's ear. Harry too found the sight of Snape almost boiling with frustration at Crabbe's inability to even pronounce the incantation correctly quite funny. Unfortunately for him, Snape seemed to pick up on this and decided that Harry's two-second hesitation when asked a question warranted a detention for not paying attention.
Nonetheless, as the class ended and Harry filed out of the room with the other students, the familiar sense of freedom that came with the end of Friday classes washed over him. Ron convinced him to skip dinner and head out to the pitch with him for some practice exercises. The first game of the year, Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, was in a fortnight and both boys were determined to crush the other house. Harry found that the time with Ron was a welcome break from the busy routine he had established. After a quick shower in the change rooms they took off to the kitchens for a late dinner, talking quidditch all the way. Harry welcomed the sense of normalcy that came with discussing the Cannon's chances in the World Cup instead of worrying about whether or not the concealer and charms on his face were still hiding the blue mark on his cheek and how much longer he had until Snape's mind protection potion wore off. Dobby fussed over the two boys incessantly the whole time while the other house elves bustled around the massive kitchen putting together a small feast for them. In the end not even Ron could finish the huge meals and they packed up the left overs and took them to go, assuring the house elves that the food would not go to waste.
The time spent with his friend had Harry looking quite forward to spending the next day with another. The first Hogsmeade weekend had finally arrived and Harry had, somewhat guiltily, purchased some fever fudge from Fred and George the day before. When morning came Harry blearily insisted to a worried Ron to go to Hogsmeade without him. Ron, after a moment's hesitation, consented and told Harry he would bring back something from Honeydukes for him. Once Ron, Neville, Dean, and Seamus finally cleared the room, Harry donned his invisibility cloak and raced down to the school's front gates. He passed by Filch easily and walked strategically close behind a large group of students so that his footprints - appearing in the snow with seemingly no one making them - went unnoticed.
When he arrived in the little wizarding village Harry made the transformation into Hephaestus Peverell and made his way to the Hog's Head, where he had agreed to meet Draco. The other wizard was already there, seated at a corner booth with a steaming cup of butterbeer.
"Hephaestus!" Draco beamed as he spotted his friend entering the pub. "It's so good to see you."
Harry greeted the blonde and ordered a butterbeer for himself.
"I hope you don't mind my choosing this pub over The Three Broomsticks." Draco told him. "It's not as nice but it's much quieter and it's been a while since we talked. I thought it might be nice if we could actually hear what each other is saying."
"It's great." Harry assured him. "How are your classes?"
Draco scoffed. "Pathetic, as usual. Hogwarts' standards have really gone down since my father attended. Some aren't that bad though. I'm doing quite well in Transfiguration and Arithmancy, and Defence Against the Dark Arts is so much more interesting now that Severus is teaching it."
"Snape is teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts?" Harry feigned surprise. "Who doesn't love irony?"
"A lot of the Gryffindors share your opinion. But at least we're learning useful material now."
Against his will, Harry silently agreed. When it came to competence, Snape was a far cry better than many of their previous defence professors. Now if only he would stop scaring the majority of students away from his class.
Their conversation continued in the same fashion, with both boys swapping stories - Harry's, completely fabricated - of how they had spent the last month. Harry kept looking for opportunities to bring up the topic of Draco's new role at the beck and call of a bald, red-eyed psychopath, but Draco purposefully kept the conversation strictly casual. After their third butterbeer Draco offered to show Harry around Hogsmeade for the first time. Remembering that Hephaestus Peverell had never been to Hogsmeade, Harry politely accepted and the two made their way out into the cold weather.
Harry had to hide his humour as the Slytherin took him all around the small village, through Zonko's and Honeydukes and Spintwitches - the local sporting goods store. The blonde seemed rather excited to have someone to show around. As they made their way past The Three Broomsticks Harry noticed Ron, Hermione, Luna, and Neville exit the crowded pub and make their way in the direction of Honeydukes.
"It would be a bit mean to get him cockroach clusters as a joke, right?" Ron was asking Neville. "I mean, the poor bloke's sick on a Hogsmeade weekend."
"What about some sugar quills... or chocolate cauldrons?" Neville suggested.
Ron looked up as Harry and Draco passed and Draco sent a sneer his way. Ron returned the gesture, but thankfully neither boy seemed in the mood to make a scene. Hermione noticed Harry and only just stopped her eyes from bugging out. Harry grimaced internally. He had forgot to tell her of his plans for today. Ron would have told her he was ill. He broke eye-contact with her. Luna, skipping behind the small group, looked up as they passed as well. She sent a small wave to Harry, almost making him stop dead in his tracks. Could the younger girl somehow recognise him as Harry Potter? He ran a hand over his forehead to make sure the curse scar wasn't there. It wasn't. He was still Hephaestus Peverell. Then why had Luna waved at someone she had never met?
He and Draco kept walking as his friends passed by and Harry felt his initial burst of paranoia pass. Luna was a friendly person. She would be the type to wave at strangers. And even if there was another reason for the show of recognition, Luna had not said anything to blow his cover. He was safe for now. Draco was insisting on taking Harry to see the Shrieking Shack, explaining some of the local history of the supposedly haunted house when he stopped suddenly.
"One moment." He said as he moved toward a quirky little shop filled with various trinkets and nicnacs. "This place sometimes has good stuff."
Harry, slightly stunned at the random change of conversation, followed the blonde into the shop. The shopkeeper, a tall, thin, balding fellow with sunken cheeks and dull eyes came out from the back room and stepped behind the till, watching both boys carefully. Harry thought it was a little unnerving how the man's eyes never left them, but Draco seemed unconcerned. As he followed his friend up and down the isles of junk he couldn't imagine what the Slytherin boy was looking to buy in a shop like this.
"What are you looking for?" Harry asked. Maybe he could help Draco find it and they could get away from the creepy shop-keeper. Since obtaining a second identity and spending several months of relative anonymity in the Wizarding World, Harry had found it more and more disconcerting when people stared at him, particularly when he had no scar to stare at. He couldn't help but briefly check his reflection in the mirror to make sure that the scar was indeed not there.
Draco didn't answer him straight away, but when he came to the last isle without finding what he wanted, he sighed. "I need to buy a belated birthday present."
Harry looked doubtfully at the shelves of rubbish. "I'm guessing you're not too fond of the person you're buying it for."
"I'm not." Draco snorted. "But this place used to have some acceptable stuff."
"Why not just get them something from Honeydukes?"
The look Draco gave him made Harry realise he has somehow managed to offend the boy.
"Sweets?" Draco exclaimed. He lowered his voice and continued. "The bastard got me a freaking Hand of Glory for my birthday, I can't just give him sweets! It's got to be something good." He turned to look at the items displayed in the window. "Something he wouldn't expect... at least not from me."
Harry almost choked trying to hold back his laughter. So Draco was trying to find a birthday present for him? Well, he was right when he said belated. Harry's birthday had been three months ago. The blonde heard his failed attempt at stifling a laugh and glared at him.
"What?" he demanded.
"Nothing." Harry insisted. "It's just that..." he paused, trying to think how to word his statement. "You're so competitive."
"You are." Harry laughed. "If you don't like each other, then he's probably not expecting you to get him anything anyway." In truth, Harry knew that if Malfoy went to the trouble of buying him a present, it would be rude not to thank him, and he didn't want to thank Malfoy for anything he bought from this shop. He looked around again with distaste.
"Seriously Draco, just get him some licorice wands or pepper imps or something."
"What about something from Zonko's?"
Draco seemed to consider it for the briefest of moments, but then shook his head. "He might use it on me."
Harry couldn't help but shake with laughter, and when he realised how much it was annoying the other boy, he laughed harder.
"What?" Draco almost whined. Harry was about to poke a bit more fun at him, but Draco spotted another display case close to the counter and wandered over, but nothing there interested him either. "Don't you have anything good here?" He snapped at the man behind the counter. Apparently Harry had made him grumpy. To his credit, the shopkeeper didn't seem to take offense.
"What is it you're looking for?" He asked with a slight welsh accent.
"Something for a cocky, antagonising, sentimental, Gryffindor prat." Draco grumbled. Harry stopped smirking. Cocky and antagonising? Pot, meet kettle, he thought.
The shopkeeper's eyes burrowed in thought. "Sentimental, you say?"
Draco shrugged. "He seems the touchy-feely type."
Harry gave an inaudible huff. Prat.
The shopkeeper ducked below the counter and pulled out a small, black pouch. "It's a little plain in appearance," he admitted. "But it could come in handy in times like these."
Curiosity brought Harry up beside Draco and he watched as the man untied the drawstrings and let a small, silver pocket watch fall out.
"It's good quality, I assure you." The shopkeeper insisted.
"It's a watch." Harry said dumbly,
Draco picked it up and pried it open, peering at it's face. "It's a watch without numbers." He didn't seem too impressed either.
Harry looked closer and realised that Draco was right. The watch face had a thin silver line running vertically down the middle. The area to the left looked to be made of white marble and the right, some kind of black stone, but there were no numbers around the edge. A closer inspection showed that the watch had four hands instead of 3.
"It's a keeper's clock." The shopkeeper explained. Harry had no idea what that meant, but 'keeper' made him think of quidditch and if it was anything to do with quidditch he'd probably like it, ven if it was only for keepers, though he couldn't think of any good it would do on the pitch. So not a quidditch thing then. The man continued. "You can charm it to connect to four different people and it will chime when one of them is in peril." He pointed to the four hands. "When one is in danger, their respective hand will be in the black area. The closer their hand is to the three o'clock position, the more danger they are in."
That made more sense than quidditch. Harry was reminded of the clock hanging on the living room wall of the Burrow, with a hand for each Weasley. His mind drifted back to the attack on the Granger's house, and then further back to last year when he had insisted that Sirius was in danger, only to lead the man into danger himself. He could have used something like this back then. He stopped that thought before it could gain too much traction.
"Does that mean the closer their hand is to the 9 o'clock position, the safer they are?" Harry asked.
The shop-keeper was right. It would be a very handy thing to have.
The two boys exited the shop with slight smiles on their faces. Draco was feeling just a little bit smug to have found a birthday gift for Potter that he was sure the Gryffindor would like just as much as Draco liked the Hand of Glory, and Harry was pleasantly surprised that Malfoy had actually gone to an effort to get him something thoughtful... and not exactly cheap. They continued on to the Shrieking Shack in light conversation and parted ways once they were finished, Draco heading towards Hogwarts and Harry towards the deserted back alley where he could change back to his usual appearance. It was only when Harry was back in the castle - finally warm again and surrounded by sugar quills and chocolate cauldrons, insisting to Ron that he felt fine and it must have been all the homework catching up with him - that that he realised he had forgotten to grill Draco on his Death Eater activities.