Ashes of Chaos Chapter 28
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin.
Chapter 11: Consequences of Confrontations
September 12, 1992
The Quidditch Pitch
Harry stood among a large crowd of students who would be trying out for the seeker position this year. Part of him was surprised by the vast numbers, seeing as Slytherin House greatly prided itself on self-preservation, and the seeker was by far the riskiest position in the game. On the other hand, Harry was entirely unsurprised. As Calypso had so elegantly explained, Slytherin House was one founded on ambition, and the position of seeker was by far the most prestigious.
Most of the players standing around Harry were ones he doubted would serve as much of a challenge, even with his limited experience. He was pretty sure that most of them had little to no flying ability. If Harry was even half as talented as Cassius had claimed, he would embarrass the majority without issue.
There were a few opponents who were intriguing. Among the many bodies around Harry, David Makehey stood stone still and ready. He had been the replacement seeker last year after Higgs had met his horrific end at the jaws of the three-headed monstrosity used to guard the Philosopher’s Stone. His showing in the following matches hadn’t exactly been exceptional, but he had not embarrassed himself, by any means. Harry thought that if nothing else, he had obviously been chosen for the role for a reason. Clearly, he had some talent for the position. Evidently, it was simply less than that of the starting seekers for each of the other three houses.
To Harry’s intense amusement, Andrew Macnair was one of the students gathered for seeker tryouts. Harry had no idea as to his ability on a broom, but Macnair did not exactly have what Cassius called a “seeker’s build”. Harry sincerely hoped he embarrassed Macnair, simply to remind the bastard how terribly everything had blown up in his face the previous year.
The most interesting, by far, was Draco Malfoy. He stood directly beside Harry and there was an unmistakable air of tension between the two of them. Neither of them had spoken to the other since Malfoy’s failed attempt at ruining Harry near the end of their first year at Hogwarts.
Well, that had been the case up until today, at least.
Twenty-five minutes earlier, in the Slytherin changing rooms…
All of the prospective hopefuls for Slytherin’s house team had been instructed to meet in the changing rooms at 3:00 PM sharp. Impressively, at least in Harry’s estimation, it appeared as if everyone had actually shown up on time. Just as the tension in the room grew hard to bear as all of the students set to try out continued to size themselves up against their competition, the door to the changing rooms banged open, and in strode the Slytherin Quidditch team, led by its new captain, Miles Bletchley.
There had been some surprise when Bletchley was announced as captain. Cassius was older than him, as were both of the beaters, Derrick and Bole. But it had come down to a vote among the Slytherin players from the previous year, so nobody could exactly complain in regards to the appointment.
To Bletchley’s credit, he ignored everyone’s stares as he took to the center of the floor and gave a fairly rousing speech about the prospects of the team and the honour it was to join it. Afterwards, he laid out exactly how this tryout would be held.
Each position would be tested one after another. They would start with beaters, followed by keepers, then seekers and finally, the chasers. At this, Harry could have groaned aloud. He was irrationally nervous about this whole thing, despite the rather stellar Cleansweep 10 in his hands. It wasn’t a Nimbus 2000, but it was probably the next best thing. Of course, the Nimbus 2001 was apparently out this year, according to Cassius, but none gathered in the room seemed to be clutching one of those.
Harry, Calypso and Cassius had discussed why Harry should get onto the Slytherin team in great detail. One thing that had never come up was what would happen if he didn’t make the team at all. Perhaps Cassius was just that confident in Harry’s ability, but he unfortunately could not say the same of himself. Truthfully, he wasn’t sure why he was so nervous about this in the first place, but having to wait until very near the end of tryouts for his resolution was going to make it just that much worse. If that wasn’t bad enough, apparently, if you were eliminated from one position, you could opt to try out for a different one. This would inevitably mean that the field of potential seekers would be excessively vast.
Finally, Bletchley finished his speech and told everybody to change into whatever they would be training in. Cassius had actually lent Harry a pair of training robes after Calypso had resized them to fit. In the stall next to Harry, Draco Malfoy pulled on his own set of robes, shooting not-so-covert glances in the Potter Heir’s general direction every few seconds.
“Something wrong, Malfoy?” Harry asked coolly, speaking to the blonde for the first time since the fiasco last May.
Though the cubicle separated the two of them, Harry could still practically see the sneer on Malfoy’s face. “Just worried for you, Potter, that’s all.” Malfoy hissed in barely more than a whisper.
Harry would have crooked a brow, but Draco would have been unable to see it. “Just worry about yourself, Malfoy. It’s you who’s going to need the worry, not me.”
Malfoy scoffed. “Come off it, Potter. You never even touched a broom until last year. You’ve been in this world for barely that long. You’re barely even a wizard. I’ve been playing Quidditch five times longer than you’ve known about magic.”
Harry felt his pulse quicken at the reminder, but he ignored it. “Be careful, Malfoy.” Harry warned silkily. “The last time you talked this big of a game, both of us know exactly what happened.”
Malfoy flushed, though Harry could not tell. “This time, Potter, you won’t be able to do anything sneaky to get lucky! This time, it’s out in the open, man against man, wizard against wizard!”
“Does the hypocrisy leave an aftertaste?” Harry asked, borrowing one of his favourite quips frequently used by Daphne. “I’ll remind you, Malfoy, that it was you who had to ambush me with the help of older students. You have no bodyguards in the air, Malfoy. No gorillas, no older students. It’s just you and your talent against me and mine. May the best wizard win.”
Back in the present…
Harry chanced a glance to his left. Malfoy was looking at the ground, meeting the eyes of nobody as he took deep, steadying breaths. Either he really was as good as he claimed and this was some form of advanced preparation, or he was absolutely bricking it right about now. Personally, Harry suspected the latter.
As for himself, he was certainly nervous. Unlike Malfoy, he was utilizing Occlumency to the best of his abilities. He couldn’t suppress the nerves, but by keeping a clear mind, it prevented those nervous thoughts from popping up in the first place. He thought it was a rather more effective way of staying calm and focused. It also had the added benefit of not instantly alerting everybody around as to how you were feeling.
While in this state, Harry also completely ignored Daphne, Tracey, Blaise, Laine, Charlotte, Calypso and the Carrows, who were among the multitude of Slytherin students who had opted to venture out onto the grounds and watch the new hopefuls test their metal for what would hopefully manifest itself into a role on the team this upcoming year.
Harry only realized just how lost in his Occlumency he really was when he noticed that the keepers were taking off. Technically, they weren’t really playing for a position on the team. Not a starting one, at least. Whoever won this round would be serving as the reserve keeper in case of injury. Usually, each team had a single reserve player. They would play either chaser, beater or sometimes even seeker if needed. Keeping was a rather different game to the other three though, and Bletchley, obviously being privy to the fact as a keeper himself, had elected to try out a reserve in his place, just in case.
It was also not uncommon to have a specific reserve for the seeker position for similar reasons. That had been the case last year. Montague had been a reserve player on the Slytherin team, but Makehey had been the reserve seeker, specifically.
By the end of that round of tryouts, most were left praying that Bletchley never got hurt. A seventh year Slytherin named Matthew Archer was slotted into the role, but it was very clear that he would be of no real help in a live game scenario. Finally, Bletchley gestured, and Harry, Malfoy and the other prospective seekers all stepped forward.
“This is going to be one of the simpler rounds of tryouts.” Bletchley explained. “First, I’m going to have you lot fly some laps at top speed around the stadium. Ten or so, maybe. This isn’t really a test, as much as it’s a way to eliminate anybody who’s completely useless.” Out of the corner of his eye, Harry spotted a few students pale and he had to withhold a smirk. Whether Cassius was right about his talents or not, this was one drill Harry would be having no trouble with whatsoever.
“After that,” Bletchley continued, “the team and I are going to set up a little obstacle course for you. As a seeker, maneuverability is extremely important. We’ll take the top eight times and then the final eight of you will match up in a bracket. The higher you finish, the more favourable your matchup in the first round. The final bracket will be one on ones to see who can win a best of three. Your goal will be to catch the snitch while the rest of us play a mock game. Be warned, the beaters will be targeting you lot specifically. If you win the time trial, you get to fly against the eighth fastest. Second against seventh, third against sixth, and fourth against fifth. Any questions?”
Nobody raised their hand.
“Good,” Bletchley said, seeming to be satisfied, “now, up in the air, all of you!”
As expected, Harry breezed through the first round of the tryouts. To his slight surprise and great amusement, Bletchley had been right to start with something simple. There were several crashes, and even some who avoided outright disaster were very clearly inept in the air. By the end of the round, almost half the field had been eliminated and when Bletchley blew his whistle to gain the hopeful’s attention, it was a much smaller group that glided over towards where he and the other members of the Quidditch team had set up an obstacle course for them.
It was a rather tight course. There was a long straight to begin, but then, the players would have to take a sharp turn that would have them flying back the way they had come. But this time, they would have to weave through cleverly placed obstacles, set up to force tight, sketchy turns. They would have to repeat this process back the other way before making another sharp turn and flying down the back straight back to the beginning.
Harry figured that if what Cassius said about his maneuverability was true, he would breeze through this round with little issue. Truthfully, it was the actual catching of the golden snitch that he was worried about. Suddenly, he realized just how overconfident Cassius and Calypso must have been. They hadn’t even taken him out to try and catch a snitch!
Harry did not have much time to think about it, for he was one of the first ones called forward. In spite of this, by the end of the round, his time still held up as the fastest, and he would be flying against a tall, lanky fourth year boy in the first of the final rounds. Annoyingly, Malfoy had actually posted the second-fastest time coming out of qualifying, with Makehey at third. Less annoyingly, Macnair, who had regretfully not crashed his broom during the laps of the pitch, did not come anywhere close to advancing to the final set of rounds.
It did take Harry a while to get into the flow of the game once the first of the final rounds began. Fortunately, he picked up on it in good enough time, and after a near-miss by his opponent, he managed to nab the first snitch from right under his nose. The second served as much less of a challenge, and just like that, he would go onto the semi-finals. Malfoy and Makehey both advanced, too, but they would have to face one another. As the fastest qualifier, Harry was granted the easiest path to the finals. As a result, he disposed of his fifth year counterpart without much drama in the penultimate round.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Malfoy and Makehey put on a rather impressive duel. Makehey caught the first snitch quite quickly, which obviously had Draco flustered. Up to that point, he had yet to miss a snitch. This lapse in concentration nearly cost him several times, but in what Harry considered to be a rather lucky turn of events that saw the snitch veer away from Makehey and towards Malfoy, he ended up tying their battle at one snitch apiece.
The final round was by far the most intense, but it was actually much shorter than the second. With a sigh, Harry watched along with the rest as Malfoy outmanoeuvred his counterpart and caught the snitch, setting up what Harry considered to be a rather poetic final battle for the position of seeker as he and Draco both mounted their brooms at center field, staring daggers at one another as they waited for Bletchley’s call to begin the mock game.
“This is it, Potter.” Malfoy hissed from the corner of his mouth. “I’m going to embarrass you in front of the whole house. This is your last chance to back out.”
Harry just smirked, feigning as much confidence as he could muster. “I’m getting flashbacks, Malfoy. It’s almost like you’ve said something like that before.” Faster than the blonde could retort, the whistle had blown and both of them kicked off, hard, shooting skyward as fast as their brooms would carry them.
As it turned out, Draco’s broom carried him upward faster than Harry’s. Draco was riding a Comet 260. While the Cleansweep was the far superior model in terms of handling, Draco would have a distinct advantage if it came down to a sprint finish.
Immediately, Harry flew high, high above the game, trying to search the pitch for any speck of gold. In the past, he had wondered whether or not the vampire’s ritual had actually made his eyesight better than normal as opposed to simply fixing it. He was by now fairly sure, at least, that he had night vision superior to most people. He had a brief instance of time in the air in which he prayed that would somehow carry over to spotting the snitch.
As it turned out, neither seeker spotted anything for about fifteen minutes. Then, Harry saw it and threw caution to the wind as he went into a rather steep dive. Draco had seen it as well, and he was hot on Harry’s tail. In fact, he was gaining on Harry, but Harry would surely still get it first… Until the snitch took a turn towards Draco, who actually took the time to smirk at Harry while he turned his body into a better position to get the snitch.
Out of instinct, Harry reached up and took hold of Draco’s broom handle. This not only negated Draco’s counter-steering and actually dragged him marginally off course, but it gave Harry, who was desperate not to go down one catch so early an opportunity. As Draco reached to bat Harry’s hands away, since nobody was paying them enough mind to call the foul, Harry pulled himself upwards with Draco’s broom, doing so just as he spurred on his own model. In a second, Harry had propelled himself forward and was now in front of Draco, in a perfect position to catch the snitch and an equally perfect one to block his opponent from doing likewise.
An instant later, Harry held up the golden ball and the whistle blew, signifying the end of the opening round. Draco flew over to Bletchley without hesitation and began to protest rather loudly that Harry had cheated. In response, Bletchley just scowled and told him that if Harry had managed to cheat and get away with it, good for him; it was exactly what may serve as the difference between a win and a loss. If Draco wasn’t skilled enough to deal with that, it was his problem, not Bletchley’s.
Naturally, it was a mildly flustered Draco Malfoy that started off the next round. Fortunately for Harry, this made him less likely to catch the snitch. Unfortunately, Draco was a spiteful bastard, and Harry was soon bruised quite noticeably from the handful of collisions the blond boy had forced. By now, it was obvious that Draco played with a blocking, defensive style. Harry was sure there were tactics to negate said style, but none that he was aware of. He would just have to outfly Draco; it would have to be good enough.
As Harry pulled up short, just managing to avoid a collision, Draco dove and Harry cursed. By braking, he had completely stalled his momentum and allowed Draco to take an insurmountable lead in his dive towards what Harry noticed to be the golden snitch. He did follow after him but by that point, it was a formality. Several seconds later, the whistle blew once more, but this time it was to signify that Draco had made the catch.
This meant that it was one all as the two of them lined up facing one another at center field.
“You’re finished, Potter.” Draco sneered. “No more underestimating you. I’ve got you all figured out.”
Harry chose not to respond. Instead, he was running various methods of how to turn Draco’s block first style against him through his own mind. By the time they were airborne once more, he did have the beginnings of a plan taking shape in his mind. The tricky part would be the timing. Harry was going to have to distract Draco until he saw the snitch. At that point, he would have to prevent Draco from seeing it and then set his plan into motion. It was probably a bit convoluted for a game of Quidditch, but as long as it worked, Harry doubted anybody would be pointing that fact out.
With this in mind, the round took a sudden turn that the blonde did not expect. Instead of using his maneuverability to try and dodge Draco, Harry was suddenly using it to be a pest. He would swoop in with a sharp elbow whenever none of the other team members were watching. He would swerve in front of Draco whenever the blonde made to make a move. He would even fly tight, fast circles around the boy to distract him. Needless to say, ten minutes into the deciding round, Draco was fuming. After Harry got in one too many sharp elbows, he lost his composure.
Wheeling around in mid-air, Draco shot straight towards Harry like a javelin. This wasn’t exactly what Harry had planned, but if, for once in his life, he was exceedingly lucky, it could work. At the last second, Harry inverted, allowing Draco to fly above him, causing his hair to blow in the breeze he created. Then, Harry did an obvious double-take and dove. To Draco and all others watching, it appeared obvious that Harry had spotted the snitch. In actuality, Harry had done no such thing at all. He was simply trying to lead Draco into a trap and hope the snitch saw the moment after as an opportune time to present itself.
Harry had already observed that Draco was a block first, defensively sound seeker. So naturally, he would tail Harry no matter where he went. Given the fact that Harry was on the more maneuverable broom, this was something he could easily use to his advantage.
Something he was doing at that precise moment, as a matter of fact.
Harry dove straight into the center of the game, drawing Malfoy after him. The greater speed Malfoy could generate thanks to his specific broom model was allowing him to catch up. This was all fine for Harry, who tore through the opposing chaser line like a speeding bullet. Then, Harry signaled to his beater, Bole, to hit a bludger.
The odd thing was, he directed the boy to hit it straight at him.
Initially, Bole hesitated. When Harry insistently and urgently continued his gestures, the older boy shrugged and gave the bludger a generous whack in Harry’s direction.
Using his body the best he could, Harry tried to shield Draco’s field of view, preventing him from seeing the bludger coming as he did his best to mime the body language one might expect from a seeker who was about to catch the snitch. Judging by Draco’s constant stream of cursing behind him, Harry assumed that it was working. Then, at the last second, Harry leaned forward, as if to reach for the snitch and then did a barrel roll in the air, allowing the bludger to sail straight through the space his head had occupied not a second earlier.
And fly straight into the face of Draco Malfoy.
With a sickening crack, the boy’s nose fractured on impact and he was suddenly too busy rearing back to even notice that Harry had dove for the snitch.
It appeared that, for once in his life, luck was on Harry’s side. And as hesitant as he had been to even try out, when he rose triumphantly into the air with the snitch held high and a victorious grin showing openly across his face, Harry had to admit that may have been the most fun he had ever had in all of his life.
An hour and a half later, back in the Slytherin changing rooms…
“Alright, everybody,” Bletchley said, gesturing for the gathered crowd to move in towards him, “gather round.” The crowd all did so, many of them holding their collective breath, clearly unsure as to where they stood. Some did not look bothered. They knew all too well that they had not performed well enough to make the team. Harry was the exception in the room. Currently, he was doing all he could to not grin like a child on Christmas morning. The elation had yet to wear off, and unlike those contesting for the positions of chaser and beater, he already knew that his place on the team had been secured.
“We’ve made our decision.” Bletchley said, and Harry’s eyes narrowed. The captain’s eyes had flicked between Malfoy and the three chasers standing near him. To the git’s credit, he had actually picked himself up after a well-cast healing charm from Bletchley and entered into the chaser drills. Granted, he had not been outstanding, but he had flown well. Certainly not as well as Cassius, Pucey or Montague, but well nonetheless.
“The beaters don’t change.” Bletchley started, eliciting groans from the prospective beaters gathered around the room. The still Slytherin beaters, Derrick and Bole, high fived one another with wide grins still on their faces. “Obviously,” Bletchley continued, “the keeper’s not changing either. Archer, you’re reserve. You’ll come to practices with the team, but you won’t see the pitch in-game this year unless something goes terribly wrong for me.” The seventh year nodded, obviously happy with the position, if not completely satisfied.
“The biggest change is the seeker.” Bletchley said, and his rather impressed, somewhat surprised looking eyes fell on Harry. “Potter, you’re it. Starting seeker for Slytherin House; the youngest in years.” Harry bowed his head modestly, stepping forward to take his place among the rest of the team. The grin on Cassius’s face could only be described as euphoric. The two of them were separated by Bletchley, who stood in between, but Warrington gave Harry a thumbs up, which he returned with a smile.
“The final change,” Bletchley said, surprising everybody in the room, “is that we have a new chaser.” Mumbling rumbled throughout the room at that proclamation. Montague, Cassius and Pucey had very obviously outflown the rest. “Montague,” Bletchley said, “you’ve played well for Slytherin and I’m sorry to say this, but you’re keeping your reserve spot on the team.”
The look on Montague’s face was positively terrifying. It was equal parts stricken and vengeful.
“The new starting chaser in his place,” Bletchley announced, “is Draco Malfoy.”
Immediately, the room was in a proverbial uproar. It took several blasts from the wands of Cassius, Derrick and Bole to silence the crowd. “My decision is final!” Bletchley declared. “I’ve been made captain for a reason. I think I know how to decide who fits best on a team. To the rest of you, thanks for coming out and we hope to see you all next year.” As he said this, he blatantly contradicted his words by glaring forcefully at all of them. “And if anything about who did and didn’t make the team leaks to the other houses, I’ll have all of your heads hung on my wall.”
Several minutes later, after the dejected would-be members of the team had left, Montague rounded on Bletchley. “What the fuck, Bletchley!” he cursed. “Do you honestly think the little shit is better than me? I outflew him in every drill! That spot should be mine! I demand a retrial; a fair one!”
To Bletchley’s credit, he did not give the larger boy an inch. “Did you not hear me, Montague? My decision’s final. If you’re so hung up about it, quit the team altogether. I have no problem bringing back Makehey as a reserve.” Montague scowled and stormed from the room. Harry noticed that he had not actually declared any intention to leave the team, but his message was clear.
“A bit touchy, isn’t he?” Malfoy asked in a terribly superior voice.
“I don’t want to hear it, Malfoy.” Bletchley snapped, and Draco suddenly looked very taken aback, if not indignant. “He was right, you know. He outflew you in every damn drill, and most of them weren’t that close. The only reason you’re on the team is because Flint was nice enough to tell me about your father’s promise of new brooms if you made it. I wasn’t going to give you seeker if you didn’t earn it, since that’s way too damn important. But by Merlin, Cassius and Adrian will carry you through the games if it means we get those damn brooms.”
Draco was blushing now, obviously outraged but obviously not willing to say anything that might make Bletchley go back on his decision.
“Wait a minute.” Cassius asked with narrowed eyes. “Brooms?”
“Nimbus 2001s.” Draco said importantly, clearly seeing the opportunity to get back some of his shine as he managed to smile broadly in spite of the negative events of the day. “One for each of us!”
September 14, 1992
An Abandoned Classroom
To the relief of both Laine and Charlotte, Ginny was fairly punctual for their arranged meeting. Granted, she was a few minutes later than the agreed time of 7:30, but not enough for the other two to be justifiably upset. Charlotte doubted she had been taught much about punctuality at home.
She had nothing in particular against the Weasley family, but she had seen the way they always seemed to arrive at King’s Cross station with mere minutes to spare before the departing of the Hogwarts Express. Upon Ginny’s arrival in Slytherin, Charlotte had also written home about the Weasley family. In response, she had been sent a copy of their file. Many high class, overtly wealthy pureblood families had “files” made up of known information and patterns for people and families. In the file, it talked about how Arthur Weasley, Ginny’s father, was a fairly reliable member of the Ministry’s Misuse of Muggle Artifacts division. It also cited, however, that the man was not known for his abilities in regards to organization.
All of that was what prompted Charlotte’s first words, harsh as they were. She wasn’t particularly bothered by Ginny being a few minutes late, but she knew plenty who would be. Better to drill the message in early than leave the habit out to fester.
“First lesson,” she said, “punctuality. Be on time, Weasley. Always be on time if you’re not the more powerful party in the meeting. If you can be early without making yourself look needy or desperate, then even do that. When dealing with serious people or problems, being late is hardly how you want to start off.”
Ginny flushed and looked as if she might bite back at Charlotte, but she faltered. Charlotte smiled. “See? You’re learning already. That temper doesn’t get you anywhere in Slytherin. Not unless it’s used correctly, of course.”
“Used correctly?” Ginny asked, narrowing her eyes.
“Most things can be used, Weasley. It’s just finding out how to use them that’s usually the hard part.”
Ginny looked mildly affronted, but clearly had no idea how to respond in a suitable manner. Charlotte and Laine actually exchanged a smile. She was at least trying to use her head. “Your trunk.” Charlotte told her, reaching into a pocket of her robes and taking out the miniature trunk, holding it out to Ginny. “Just tap it with your wand later and it will resize itself. Right now, the password is Slytherin, but I’d change it to something harder to guess if I were you.”
Ginny seemed to hesitate. “What’s the catch?” she asked suspiciously.
Charlotte rolled her eyes. “How about you listen to what we have to say and as long as you at least try to put it to use, we’ll call it even.” Ginny seemed suspicious but slowly, she reached out and removed the miniature trunk from the palm of Charlotte’s hand, placing it into a pocket of her robes.
“Um… thanks.” she said, looking down. Charlotte had picked up on this already, but the Weasley’s well-documented financial struggles were clearly one thing that Ginny was not at all comfortable talking about. She found herself forcefully resisting the urge to Legilimize the youngest Weasley. It would certainly make this conversation much, much easier. But even without actively doing so, she would naturally pick up on her mood shifts and emotions. It was a useful perk of being a Natural Legilimens.
“Don’t mention it.” Charlotte said, glancing at Laine to start this conversation. Ginny seemed to be less wary of Laine than she was of her.
“Right,” Laine started, “so there are some things that anyone in Slytherin needs to know if they want to avoid getting eaten alive before all is said and done.” Charlotte could sense the anxiety rising in Ginny and she tried to assure her with a smile. It seemed to work marginally. “The number one thing is house unity.” Laine said. “When we said that last week, you sounded confused. Do you have any idea what we mean?”
Ginny shook her head.
“Slytherin doesn’t have the greatest reputation.” Charlotte jumped in. “I’m sure you know that better than most people.” Ginny winced almost imperceptibly at that comment. Laine shot Charlotte a subtle glare for the off-handed comment, but Charlotte shrugged. What was the old adage? Treat others how you wanted to be treated? Charlotte would rather people be upfront with her if they were letting her in on facets that could make her life exponentially less difficult for the next seven years.
“Because of that,” Charlotte pressed on, “we get treated miserably by a lot of the school. I’m sure you know how Gryffindors treat us, but they’re not the only ones. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw usually stay out of it, but if they have to choose, at least the Hufflepuffs will always pick against Slytherin. Ravenclaw can sometimes side with us, but that’s rare. Since we have all three of the other houses against us, and some of the staff, who are apparently pretty happy to hand out Slytherin detentions, we work on a house unity system. Basically, no matter what you think of the people in Slytherin, outside the dungeons we’re all best friends. In public, we always support each other, no matter what.”
“So we’re not allowed to argue?” Ginny asked, incredulously. “Ever? We just… have to get along with everyone?”
“Merlin, no.” Laine said with a laugh. “You just can’t be seen arguing by the other houses. In the common room — go nuts. If it’s midday and none of us are in the dorms — go nuts, just don’t keep us up with it at night.”
Ginny nodded slowly. “That… actually makes a lot of sense, once you think of it.”
“It wouldn’t be in play if it didn’t.” Laine said with a small smile. “Whatever you think of Slytherin, it’s a logical house, if nothing else.”
‘For the most part.’ Charlotte added internally before jumping back into the verbal discussion. “Next rule,” she said, “etiquette and customs.” she paused. “I… don’t exactly know how to say this without being offensive, so please don’t take this personally. But, your family has never really been one for following customs or etiquette.”
“My parents always said it had no use.” Ginny said, sounding more intrigued than offended.
“In your social circles, probably not.” Laine said. “Your family’s circles, I mean.” she specified. “But… when you deal with old purebloods, which is kind of just naturally going to happen in Slytherin, it’s a big deal. Not introducing yourself right can be a major issue for some families. As much as your family might not like it, a lot of those families are the ones that run the magical world. So even when you’re out of Hogwarts, if you want to make it far in the Ministry, or any other career, really, it’s useful to know.”
Ginny flushed. “If-if I admit something to you two, do you… do you promise not to laugh? Or make fun of me for it? Or go running off to gossip?”
“You don’t know most of the etiquette.” Charlotte said, already knowing what was coming next. She had not actually tried to read Ginny’s thoughts, but she had practically been screaming them out loud. Even if she hadn’t, her body language very well may have given her away.
“But yes,” Laine interjected hurriedly, “we promise we won’t go and spread it around, or make fun of you for it. It’s not your fault that your family… doesn’t follow the traditions.” Charlotte thought Laine may have been about to say something very different, but she applauded her friend on the save.
Ginny looked a bit apprehensive. “So, it’s… really important that I learn all of that stuff?”
“Extremely.” Laine affirmed.
Ginny sighed. “How would I go about doing that? Are there books in the library?”
the two blondes exchanged looks. “Maybe,” Laine said, “but they might not be the best.” Charlotte knew where this was going already. If the Weasleys had such books, which she was sure they probably did, they would not be sending them to Ginny without some encouragement that she was unwilling to provide. Additionally, her family, and by extension, herself, was in no position to go out and buy books on etiquette.
“My family has a very good book.” Charlotte put in, sparing Ginny from making that embarrassing admission. Obviously, the smaller girl appreciated it, because she actually smiled gratefully, if briefly. “It wasn’t all that long ago we migrated to Britain. My grandfather had to learn all of the etiquette, so he made sure that the material he got was the best. I’m sure I could convince my parents to send me the book, as long as you promise to be extremely careful with it.”
Ginny nodded swiftly, looking once more abashed at how easily Charlotte could lend her something that her family couldn’t or wouldn’t provide.
“Well then,” Charlotte said, “that’s almost it for the major stuff. After that, we just need to go over some of the… smaller things you might have missed.” She was referring to things like the seating arrangements, hierarchy and other such things.
“But one more major thing to go over.” she said, looking intensely down her nose at the red-head in front of her. “From now on, speak and act with some confidence, will you?” When Ginny looked confused, Charlotte rolled her eyes. “You’re from one of the biggest families of Gryffindors we have in the country, I know that courage is there. It’s like what I said the other night about making yourself a target. If you act all scared and small, you’re going to be a target. Act with confidence and people will leave you alone, for the most part.” Charlotte smiled thinly. “It might even help you make some new friends, who knows?”
Tentatively, Ginny smiled back at her, and Charlotte noticed that her posture straightened and her chin tilted up, if marginally.
If nothing else, it was progress.
Some time later, when Ginny left the room, Laine turned curiously towards Charlotte. “What is it you see in her, exactly?”
Charlotte raised an eyebrow. “I have no idea what you mean.”
Laine sniffed. “Sure you don’t, Missus I’m so good at reading people.” Charlotte frowned but Laine did not relent. “You’re really going out of your way to help her. Suggesting all that in the first place, buying her a trunk, offering to send her what’s probably an ancient book on etiquette. I just don’t see what’s in it for you.”
Charlotte tilted her head. “I wasn’t lying, you know? This small and shy act is nothing more than that — an act. She’s confused and was put into a situation she wasn’t anywhere near prepared for.”
Laine sniffed again, amused this time. “Clearly.”
“Yes, yes,” Charlotte said with a wave of her hand, “but like I said, it’s an act. As you said,” she continued, putting on the most smug air of self-superiorityshe could muster, “I am excellent at reading people. I can tell you one thing. I actually think I might like the real Ginny Weasley. If nothing else, she has tons of potential.”
September 17, 1992
Severus Snape’s Office
It was after dinner on Thursday that Harry and Cassius walked together down to Snape’s office. They had, along with the rest of the Slytherin Quidditch team, received notes that day from Snape ordering them all to his office at a quarter to eight that night. None of them knew exactly what it was about, but Harry had a hunch, one he had not yet shared with his older friend for the simple fact that he could tell the suspense was getting to Cassius and Harry found the fact rather amusing.
Just in the nick of time, the two of them knocked on Snape’s door and were admitted entrance. All of the other players were already present. Even Montague, though he still looked quite sour to be anywhere near Miles Bletchley, let alone Draco Malfoy.
“This is all of you?” Snape asked sharply. When they all nodded, he did likewise, quickly waving his wand and summoning seven long, fancily wrapped packages that actually elicited gasps from several of the team members. For his part, Harry did manage not to gasp, though he would be lying if his eyes did not hungrily follow each package until one found its way into his hands.
“These are a most generous donation from Lord Lucius Malfoy.” Snape informed them, and Harry could practically see Draco puff out his chest with a deluded sense of self-importance. “He has most graciously purchased each of you the very best tool that I hope you will all competently wield this year. Last season was quite an embarrassment, one that I do not wish to see repeated after so many years of success.”
All of the players nodded grimly, astutely aware of exactly how spiteful their Head of House could be. “To assure that you all are well accustomed to these new tools by the time the first match of the season draws near, I have granted you access to the pitch on the early mornings of Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, starting this weekend. It would be… unfortunate if we conceded our advantage by allowing the other houses to realize we had one at all. Potter!” Snape suddenly exclaimed, rounding on Harry. “Why exactly have I chosen such early hours for you all to practice?”
“Because you want the brooms kept a secret, sir. If we practice so early that nobody else will see them, it will naturally be easier to keep that secret.”
Snape nodded curtly. “Precisely. See that you do not negate this advantage by flaunting them around like some overblown trophy. If, for some reason, they are discovered, find other ways to work the situation in your favour.” All of the Slytherins nodded. “Very well. You are dismissed. Potter, Malfoy, stay behind.” Harry exchanged a brief look with Cassius before the latter left him alone in the room with Malfoy and Snape.
“I am well aware of the tension between the two of you.” Snape said silkily. “I expect that this tension will cause no problems in any way related to the Slytherin Quidditch team.” Both boys shook their heads to indicate it wouldn’t. “I will hold the both of you to that agreement rather… forcefully. I care not for what you do off of the pitch. I do not expect a friendship, but I expect a cohesive team that can return the plaque to my office that I have become so accustomed to seeing on my wall.” This time, both boys nodded.
“Very well,” Snape said, “you are both dismissed.” Malfoy was halfway to the door by the time Harry even moved. Only when the former had left the room and Harry himself neared the door did Snape speak once more.
He turned, raising a single eyebrow in question.
Snape hesitated and when he spoke, he sounded very much like somebody who had just swallowed a particularly sour lemon. “Your father was… an admirable Quidditch player in his day. Your brother, as inept as he may be at most things, is also annoyingly competent on a broom. I expect that you will not only match them, Potter, but surpass both of them.”
Harry nodded stiffly. “Yes, sir.”
September 19, 1992
The Quidditch Pitch
Harry had been quite nervous that Cassius may well not get out of bed at all for Slytherin’s first Quidditch practice of the year. The earliness of the hour was no problem for Harry. He was often out of the common room practicing magic or reading up on theory in the dungeon classroom long before they were scheduled to practice. Cassius, on the other hand, almost always slept in past 9:00 on weekends. Oftentimes, he struggled to make it to breakfast in time.
The rare acceptions, like when Harry had coincidentally ran into him on the Quidditch pitch, often took place when he had issues sleeping. It did not happen often, but it was known to happen every now and again. This morning was not one of those. Apparently, it had taken a monumental effort from Cassius’s year and dormmates, Derrick and Bole, to wake him at all. In spite of that, as Harry and the rest of the team strode silently towards the Quidditch pitch, brand new Nimbus 2001s thrown casually over their shoulder, Cassius was thankfully among them.
As the team neared the pitch, it became apparent that something was off. It was too loud for this hour of the day. Then, as they drew nearer still, Harry cursed aloud, drawing curious looks from those around them. He really did wonder if that damn ritual had sharpened his eyes. “We’ve got company.” he said dryly, and a few seconds later, Draco too noticed the scarlet-clad figures streaking around the pitch. At this distance, they were little more than blurs, but still, they could not be mistaken.
Only one house flew in crimson robes, after all.
“I’ll have their heads for this!” Bletchley snarled. “Snape booked us the pitch! They’re not supposed to be here! And we’re about to lose the advantages of our brooms!”
“We could turn around.” Cassius suggested. “It doesn’t seem like they’ve noticed us yet, and we could keep the advantage.”
“No,” Draco said haughtily, “if they do see us walking away, we’ll never live it down.”
“He does have a point.” Derrick said grudgingly. “And who cares about the advantage? So what? They know we have the brooms. It doesn’t mean they can actually do anything about it.”
“We don’t lose an advantage at all.” Harry said quietly, though everybody still heard him. “We just switch out which advantage we have.”
“How so?” Cassius asked, obviously the most willing to hear the younger boy’s perspective on the matter.
“We lose the element of surprise, but we gain something else.” He looked pointedly at each of them in turn. “What would you think if your team, minus the seeker, was riding on a bunch of average brooms and your biggest rivals showed up carrying the best racing brooms that money can buy?”
“I’d be bricking it.” Derrick said, nodding along thoughtfully.
“Brilliant!” Cassius said, smirking. “They’ll fill their trousers when they see these. Especially since last year, we were handing them their arses before Gryffindor Potter got the snitch. Imagine what we’ll do to them this year on Nimbus 2001s!”
All of the players readily agreed, so the team continued its march towards the Quidditch stadium. Harry only saw two downsides to his plan.
One, he would have to be in range of his brother again, which had not exactly been a pleasant experience since the conclusion of their first year. And two, he was really getting sick of that self-superior smile on Malfoy’s face anytime that the brooms were discussed. Did he really think himself so superior just by being conceived? What, because he existed, he was better? Because those before him just happened to have money? Harry allowed a small frown to edge onto his face. Cassius peered at him curiously, but Harry shook his head, indicating that it was nothing. He would never be fond of muggles, but the idea of blood supremacy was positively idiotic.
He did not have much more time to think on the matter. It was at that exact moment that the team of silver and green-clad figures stepped out onto the pitch.
And it was approximately thirty seconds later when a rather outraged looking team of Gryffindors began hurtling down towards them.
Wood was the first to land, followed by Charlus and the Weasley twins. Bletchley, Derrick, Bole and Cassius stepped forward, unknowingly casting Harry, Draco and Pucey in their shadow. Harry smirked; this could be a positively perfect moment to give his brother a rather nasty surprise if he had not yet noticed him.
“Flint-“ but then Wood trailed off. “Hang on! Bletchley? Where the hell is Flint?” At that moment, Harry’s pride at being a Slytherin was reaffirmed. It was a testament to the House at large that the secret of Flint’s resignation as Captain had not left the walls of the Slytherin common room.
“Haven’t you heard, Oli?” Bletchley asked, sounding affronted. “Blimey, I’d thought for sure somebody would’ve got the news to you. Flint’s off the team. I’m the Captain now.” Charlus actually snorted. “Something funny to you, Potter?”
“Kind of.” Charlus admitted. “A fourth year keeper who’s played what… two years? That’s the Slytherin Captain?” The Weasley twins too were smirking, though Wood looked deadly serious.
“Who’s your new chaser, then?” one of the twins asked.
“That would be me, of course.” Draco drawled, stepping out from behind the lead four team members and out of the shadow cast by the stadium. Harry had to admit, it was a nice image. Draco’s braggadocious smirk was perfectly done, and the way the early morning sunlight sparkled off his platinum blonde hair only added to the hollier than thou image he was obviously going for.
Unfortunately, this did not quite have the desired effect on Charlus. He burst out laughing at once, which caused Malfoy to ruin the perfect, nearly ethereal image he’d set up by scowling annoyedly. “You’re the new chaser?” Charlus asked. “Oh, this is too rich! Is Slytherin actually that desperate for players?”
“If you want to talk about rich comments, Potter, how about the fact you’re accusing somebody of an easy ride when you were given your spot on the team because you’re The-Boy-Who-Got-Lucky and all that?”
Now, it was Charlus’s turn to scowl. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Malfoy glance back at him and suddenly, with a fair bit of surprise, Harry realized Malfoy was setting him up perfectly.
Sometimes, he really did underestimate the power of house unity.
“You must’ve hit your head, Malfoy.” Charlus snarked. “The reason I got on the team was because I embarrassed you, remember?”
“If you say so, Potter.” Draco responded. “I only wish I was the seeker. It would be so much fun to show you what would really happen in a fair match.”
Charlus scowled. “I bet you paid not to be seeker, Malfoy. What, afraid to play me?”
“Not at all.” Malfoy purred with a gleam in his eyes. “There just happened to be somebody… better suited to beat you.” And then, recognizing his cue, Harry too stepped out from behind the lead four players and into the sunlight, smiling as innocently at Charlus as he could. To his great amusement, Charlus looked as if he had just been struck by a bolt of lightning.
“Good morning, little brother!” Harry said with mock cheerfulness, drawing snickers from several of the Slytherin players and a fit of sputtering from Charlus, who seemed completely unequipped to respond to the situation.
“Enough of the drama!” Wood snapped. “We’re here for Quidditch! We’ve got the pitch booked, so you lot can bugger off!”
“On the contrary, Oli,” Bletchley said, matching the levels of chipperness that Harry had exuded just moments earlier, “I think you’ll find it’s us who have the pitch booked.” With a flourish, Bletchley removed the note from Snape and handed it over to Wood with a shit-eating grin.
When Wood read the note, his face flushed. “I, Professor Severus Snape,” he read aloud, “hereby grant the Slytherin Quidditch team full access to the pitch from 7:30-9:00 on every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings on account of a need to train their new talent and adjust to their new brooms.” Then, Wood looked up sharply. “New brooms?”
“Oh, you haven’t noticed.” Draco drawled, his smirk returning in full force. “Just a gift from my father, you know?” On cue, each of the Slytherins held their brand new Nimbus 2001s up to the sunlight, marveling at how the rays of sunshine seemed to dance across the polished golden lettering like some sort of ethereal glitter.
The reaction from the gathered Gryffindors was priceless. Wood’s face paled at once. Charlus actually took a step back as his eyes practically bugged out of his head. For once, even the infamous Weasley twins were left speechless, as both of them stood, rooted to the spot like some horrifically lifelike statues.
Things only got more interesting when the chasers landed. Initially, they tried to portray the same air of bravado that the rest of the team had carried just minutes earlier. Then, about ten seconds after landing, they took note of the prominently displayed broomsticks, and their reactions pretty much mirrored that of their companions with picture-perfect synchrony.
“If you can hold that pose for another two minutes, Terrors,” said Derrick with some amusement, “I’ll give you both a galleon.”
“If they hold out for ten,” Bletchley picked up, “I’ll give them five each. If they save up and sell those antiques of theirs, I reckon they might be able to afford one of our handles.” Most of the Slytherin Quidditch team laughed uproariously. Harry forced his lips upwards into a seemingly amused smile. He didn’t really laugh in front of people as it was, and personally, he had a hard time laughing at people for financial struggles after ten years of having absolutely nothing at his disposal.
“Charlus, what’s going on?” came a rather high, bossy voice as Charlus’s two best friends, Ron Weasley and the speaker, Hermione Granger, made their way onto the pitch.
“Oh,” Ron said sourly, glaring at Harry and Draco, “it’s you twats.”
“Come to sucker punch me again, Weasley?” Harry quipped. “Or have you come to give me my turn? I’ll gladly cash in, if you don’t mind.”
Weasley snarled. “I’m not afraid of you, Potter.”
“Funny. Not something I’d say if I didn’t give the person a chance to defend themselves, but you do you, I guess. Oh and Weasley, for the record, I might let your sister have a go tonight in the common room. I kind of want to see if she hits harder than you. Blaise and I have ten galleons on it, actually.” Weasley flushed a shade of puce that Vernon would have been proud of as the Slytherin team howled with laughter. Of course, that had all been a lie by Harry, but he thought it a rather good quip for being put on the spot.
“Or,” Draco said after recovering from his hysteria, “have you come to admire our new brooms, Weasley?”
“New… brooms?” Then, he caught side of the labels and reacted almost the exact same way as his elder brothers.
“Nice, aren’t they?” Bole asked with a vicious grin. “Draco’s dad got ‘em for us. If you ask him nicely, maybe he’ll fix that shack of a house of yours. I’m sure it would cost him a lot less.”
Against all logic, Ron looked as if he might leap at Bole, who was several years older than him and twice his size. Thankfully for Weasley, Granger took a firm grip on his arm and glowered at each of the Slytherin players in turn. Harry had to briefly resist the urge to Legilimize her again, just to prevent whatever tirade was to come.
“At least none of the Gryffindor players had to buy their way onto the team.” she snarked. “They all got on because of their talent, and talent alone.”
This time, it was the Gryffindor’s turn to react with hysterics and Draco’s turn to flush crimson. Then, the next words out of his mouth went off like an atomic bomb.
“Shut your mouth, you filthy little mudblood!”
And just like that, all hell broke loose.
Harry stiffened at the use of the word. It had always infuriated him for reasons he could not entirely articulate. He reckoned it had to do with a number of things. His own blood status, his mother’s, his distaste in regards to the propaganda put forth by blood purists and all the rest. His hesitation almost got him cursed though. Instantly, several members of the Gryffindor team had their wands in hand and Harry had to lunge to the side to avoid being cursed. Before the Slytherins could retaliate, the youngest present Weasley’s bellow drew the attention of all present.
“You’ll pay for that, Malfoy!” Then, hilariously, his wand, which was held comically together by what appeared to be spellotape, backfired, sending him toppling back and resulting in the amusing sight of Ron Weasley vomiting up slugs. This was too much for the Slytherin team, Harry included this time. All of them promptly burst into hysterics, and that was the end of the confrontation, as Weasley was led from the pitch by Granger and Charlus. Embarrassed and now without their seeker, the Gryffindors vacated the stadium, allowing the Slytherins free reign over it as they had always planned.
All in all, the morning had been quite successful.
Two hours later, in the Slytherin changing rooms…
Despite it being the first practice of the new school year and including two newcomers, one of whom was a complete novice by definition, the Slytherin practice that morning went exceedingly well. Harry figured that the sky-high mood that most of the players found themselves in likely contributed greatly to the practice. For Harry, it was a mixed bag. On one hand, it had been fun terrorizing the Gryffindors. On another, the fact that the word “mudblood” had drawn such a positive reaction from many of his teammates disgusted him.
As a matter of fact, the only other member of the team who had not outright laughed had been Cassius.
It was with this in mind that Harry did everything in his power to assure that he was one of the last to leave the Slytherin changing rooms. Only when his ring informed him that only one other person was present in the changing room did he step out of his cubicle. Malfoy was out of his Quidditch robes and about halfway dressed. After tryouts, Harry had observed how long it took Malfoy to do anything. After that, he had assumed it would be a safe bet that the two of them might end up alone in the changing rooms together.
Quick as a shot, Harry had drawn his wand. Malfoy, who had his back turned to Harry as he changed had never even seen him coming. The spell caught him in the back and threw him towards the wall. Luckily for the Malfoy Heir, he managed to invert partially in the air so that his head did not collide with the wall. Less fortunately, the rest of him still slammed into the wall, hard, and slumped to the floor in a gasping heap.
To say that Harry had overpowered that spell would have been an understatement. Not only had he very clearly knocked the wind out of Malfoy, but he was also certain that he had at least bruised a few ribs.
Completely unbothered by the fact, Harry strode forward emotionlessly, his face blank as he quickly made his way over to Malfoy and knelt down, placing his knee on the blonde’s chest and his wand against the boy’s throat.
“I thought I made myself clear last year, Malfoy.” Harry hissed in little more than a whisper. “I thought when you woke up with boils all over your body you’d get the hint. Never. Say. That. Word in front of me!” To emphasize the point, Harry shoved his wand a bit harder against Malfoy’s throat. “I don’t care what your father taught you to believe, Malfoy. This whole blood supremacy crap is nothing more than that.
“You call Granger a mudblood yet she beats you in every important area for a witch or wizard. You think you’re better than me but every time you’ve tried to prove it, I’ve handed you your ass on a silver platter, even when you got your older group of pureblood prats to help you.” Malfoy’s eyes were wide now, desperate even and there was more than a healthy dose of fear within them.
“I am going to tell you this one more time, Draco.” Harry said dangerously. “I’m done making threats. The next time you go and spout off the word mudblood in front of me, I’ll make all of this look like kindness.”
Then, Harry stood, dusted off his robes and strode straight out the door, pausing only to retrieve his broomstick on the way out.
Thank you all for 3,000 followers!! That is a crazy number for certain. What’s even crazier is that we literally hit in on the six month anniversary of this story to the day!
Seriously, you can’t write this stuff.
These chapters keep turning out WAY LONGER than I expected. This one was actually 14k+, but I pushed quite a bit of it back to the next chapter.
I have finally put together a rather detailed timeline of events for the chapters I still need to write this year and I must say — year 2 is going to be way longer than I thought. To put into perspective, I’m somewhere just north of 100k words ahead in terms of what’s pre-written and I’m not even at Yule. Needless to say, I am not making changes to the pacing (though it does speed up in October) and I hope you’re all in it for the long haul.
But for those of you worried about pacing, it does pick up greatly in a few chapters from now.
Oh, and Dumbledore’s quote from the last chapter was a reference to the character Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Shoutout to all of you who picked up on that reference.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, August 29th, 2020 at approximately 3:00 PM EST.
Thank you to my lovely Discord editors who contributed with corrections this week:
Asmodeus Stahl, Dave R, HansC, Jcaeser, and rawmeat898
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