…t to cry.

“ What’s going on, Harry?” Lavender asked, “ I tried to owl you but Mina kept coming back with my letters unopened. People…people are saying…really terrible things.”

“ People are saying that Hermione is dead.” Parvati whimpered.

The words wrenched Ron off autopilot. He came violently to life.

He went berserk,“ SHUT UP!”

The girls recoiled in owl-eyed shock.


“ RON!” Ginny grabbed his arm, shaking him, “ STOP IT!”

The boy glared at the two stunned girls, his face twisted and his chest heaving before he subsided, turning away from them.

“ Hermione’s not dead.” Harry said adamantly.

He hadn’t spoken to Dumbledore in days. But Dumbledore would have told him…if something happened. Right?

“ Where is everyone? We need to talk.”

“ There’s not going to be enough room on the train, Harry.” Ginny said gently, “ Not for all the Gryffindors and you and Ron have to go to your meeting.”

“ Oh for Merlin’s sake, just tell us!” Lavender cried out angrily, “Is it true? Was she kidnapped?”

Harry nodded slowly. He’d forgotten that some of them really had no clue as to what was going on.

“ Draco Malfoy kidnapped her.” Ginny confirmed.

Parvati’s hand flew to her mouth. Lavender’s mouth twisted and she gave a quick nod, her eyes sparking with anger, surprising Harry. But all she said was, “ Come on, everyone’s in front.”

The entire train was unusually quiet, people speaking in whispers and darting between cars while wary-eyed security guards stalked up and down the aisles. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the Houses had segregated themselves off as some sort of automatic defense mechanism. The Gryffindors had gathered together in the front cars. The Slytherins had gathered towards the back and were ignoring everyone else. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws seemed to want nothing to do with this new inter-House disaster and huddled together nervously in their respective groups, completely withdrawing from the other two Houses.

“ Is it really this bad?” Ginny asked, blinking as two Ravenclaws darted past her with averted eyes, “ Is it because a Gryffindor and a Slytherin are missing or is it because of who they are, because its Hermione and Malfoy?”

Ron and Harry dropped Ginny off with the other Gryffindors after making Lavender and the others promise to watch over her, much to Ginny’s annoyance. They were about to leave when Colin Creevey struggled through the crowd of bodies to stop them.

“ Harry! Harry!” the excitable boy came dashing over and Harry wanted to bash his own head into the wall when he saw the Prefects badge on the boy’s shirt.

Of course. He’d forgotten that Hermione was getting a replacement because of her promotion to Head Girl. And who better to fill the position then his own personal stalker.

“ This is the best they could do to replace Hermione?” Ron hissed in outrage, “ What’s he going to do if someone’s breaking rules? Take a picture?”

“ Hello Colin.” Harry murmured miserably.

“ Harry, how are you holding up, Harry? I’m so sorry about Hermione! I…”

“ Colin!” He interrupted quickly, feeling the beginnings of a headache, “ Lets not talk about it here. We’ll talk about it when we get to Hogwarts.”

“ Right, right. Are we going to our prefects meeting now? I mean, not just prefects cuz you’re going to be there too and you’re Head Boy. Congratulations on that by the way…”

Harry and Ron walked away without waiting for him to finish, tuning out the chatter as the shorter boy followed them through the train like an eager puppy.

The Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw prefects were already waiting when they arrived. Harry recognized the Hufflepuffs: Iona Wattiker, a seventh year, and Bastian Brahms, a sixth year. Iona bit her lip nervously and gave Harry a small nod but Bastian merely looked at him. Harry paused, taken aback by such a cold reception from two people he considered friends.

The two Ravenclaw girls stared at him with eerily similar green eyes.

“ Hi,” Harry stuck out his hand, “ I don’t know you two. I’m Harry, I’m the Head Boy. These are the Gryffindor prefects, Ron and Colin.”

“ Hi.” Ron muttered gruffly while Colin gave a more enthusiastic greeting.

“ I’m Darryl and this is my sister Farris.” The older of the girls said, releasing Harry’s hand to shake Ron’s, “She’s fifth year, I’m seventh.”

“ Nice to meet you.” Harry sat down at the head of the table with Ron to his right, suddenly feeling self-conscious.

The Head Girl seat was glaringly empty, as were the two Slytherin prefect seats.

“ Does anyone know who the…who is going to sit in for Hermione?”

Iona and Bastian exchanged a look but said nothing.

“ We don’t know.” Darryl admitted.

Ron shifted restlessly, “ Shouldn’t we just get started. Forget them, they can catch up. Not like we need them anyway.”

“ What did I tell you, they’re already trying to get rid of us,” A familiar voice drawled and Harry went stiff as the door swung open.

Pansy Parkinson gave him a blinding smile from where she stood, poised like a model in the doorway with a hand on her hip, batting her eyelashes at him. Behind her stood Millicent and a boy Harry didn’t recognize.

There were three of them, Harry thought numbly, that meant…

“ No…” he breathed.

Pansy’s smile broadened, “ Oh yes.” She sauntered in, “ Its so nice to see you, Potter. How was your summer? Not good, huh? I hear your girlfriend ran off with a Slytherin.”

Harry and Ron were on their feet.

Ron was grinning, snarling, “ You’re stupider than I thought to show your face where Harry and I can get a hold of you.”

“ I’d like to see you try!”

“ Everyone calm down!” Iona said sharply, jerking up and between the two groups, “ We can’t fight. We’re the…”

Millicent stepped forward and shoved the Hufflepuff back into her seat with a startled ‘oof’. Iona sputtered in outrage, glaring impotently at her attacker.

“ You’ll speak when spoken to, Hufflepuff.” Pansy snapped, sparing the girl a derisive glance.

“ Don’t touch her!” Harry was shouting at Millicent at the same time Ron was yelling, “ Who do you think you are, Parkinson?”

“ Moi?” She pointed to something on the front of her robe, “ I’m Head Girl.”

Everyone went still. Colin gasped loudly. The Ravenclaws only watched with silent interest. Harry’s mouth dried up as he stared at the shiny, new badge pinned delicately to his enemy’s breast, her smile sweet and satisfied.

“ Dumbledore’s gone out of his gourd!” Ron breathed finally, “Its…its an insult to Hermione!”

“ Maybe she’s faking it. Do you think she’s faking it, Harry?” Colin asked.

Harry still couldn’t move. Horror and betrayal were battling for dominance in his head and the little blond girl in front of him was staring almost dreamily into his eyes, greedily drinking in his reaction.

“ I was a little surprised myself.” she said conversationally, “But it makes sense if you think about it.”

What could Dumbledore be thinking? Why…why would he make Draco Malfoy’s girlfriend Head Girl? Why was he granting her more power and authority? Why couldn’t it have been anyone, anyone else!

“ If there’s one good thing about this whole mess its that Little Miss Bad-Hair-Day isn’t here to nerd everything up. I guess the Gryffindors won’t be running the school this year after all, will they Potter. Only one thing could make this any better..” She stepped close to him, smiling that mean little smile, and whispered, for his ears alone, “…us arranging a little accident for you and getting a Slytherin elected to Head Boy.”

Harry wasn’t sure where it came from but his lips twisted up into a nasty smile of his own and he had the satisfaction of seeing Pansy’s eyes widen minutely before he made a grab for her throat.

Ron was suddenly grabbing him, struggling with him. Holding him back, he realized in outrage. He turned to slam his best friend into the wall and then he saw the man in the doorway.

“ What is going on here?” demanded the short, stocky intruder.

Harry went still, but the man was glaring at Pansy, “ I told you three to wait. That I’d accompany you to the meeting.” He nearly shouted, his fat face red and sweaty, his breath puffing, “ I’m not going to chase you all over this accursed train.”

Pansy glowered, looking sulky and petulant.

“ Go sit down, all of you!” his beady eyes swept over the rest of them and they hastened to obey.

Harry held his ground, ire already up from Pansy’s provocation, “ Excuse me, but you are…?”

The man had thick little teeth that were too pale to be yellow but too close to ivory to be white and Harry couldn’t tell if he was snarling or smiling, “ Train security, I’ve been ordered to oversee this meeting. Just in case it turns into a brawl.”

His eyes glittered with amusement and Harry realized the man had seen his attempted assault on Pansy after all.

“ So much for the entertainment portion of the trip.” Darryl drawled softly and received a death glare from both Pansy and Iona. Colin laughed, high and nervous.

“ Sit down, boy, and get this over with, I have other things to do.” The man spat but not without a measure of kindness.

“ Right.” Harry muttered moved towards his seat only to momentarily freeze when his eyes met the frosty, winter skies of Pansy’s suddenly viperous baby blues.

He slipped past her delicately, trying not to touch her or her chair as if she were deadly contagious and sidled into his seat. She hissed something at him, or maybe just hissed, but he ignored her, clearing his throat.

“ I suppose introductions are in order.” He started.

They went around introducing themselves and he learned that the young Slytherin boy with the soft curtain of dark blond hair with hinted rose and cherry highlights was Icarus Cinder, a fifth year. Harry knew the boy’s older brother Idane Cinder, a sixth year with designs on Draco’s position as the Slytherin King. Idane often left Harry and his clique alone merely to spite Draco, and the Head Boy now wondered if the younger Cinder brother would prove useful as well.

The meeting continued with the feel of a vacuum, a highly pressurized calm, everything said with a razors edge of control, because the tension was so thick it was like a wire strung taut across the room and winding tighter every second. Harry found himself rushing through the announcements as if he had to finish before that wire snapped.

Everything remained calm until they began discussing matters they were supposed to decide as a group such as the dates for the Hogsmead weekends, patrol times and area divisions, and extra duty assignments. Many of these things he had already discussed at length with Hermione and they had set a tentative schedule that Harry would have had the group approve or improve upon.

Pansy rose to the occasion. She found a problem with every single date he had set, every single solution he proposed and every single assignment he had allocated.

He knew from the get-go that she was baiting him, that there was nothing at all wrong with his schedules, he tried compromising anyway, but nothing he said would shut her up.

“ What’s wrong with this date?” he snarled, slamming the paper down, so frustrated he could just strangle her, “ You’ve had a problem with every other date, what’s wrong with this one.”

She looked him dead in the eye, “ I’ll be doing my hair that day.”

“ Damn it, Parkinson, STOP WASTING OUR TIME!” Ron roared.

“ Yes, we should have been done by now.” Bastian snapped.

“ Hey, its my job to make sure the student body gets what it deserves.” The Slytherin Queen yelled back, “And that us Slytherins are represented.”

“ And the rest of us shouldn’t be represented?” Iona cried indignantly.

Pansy gave her a dry look, “You’re a Hufflepuff, that’s like being a cow. We don’t represent cows, we eat them.”

Iona looked scandalized.

“ That’s it.” Harry stood up, “ We’re going with the original plans me and Hermione set. All of them. If the Hufflepuffs or Ravenclaws have something to say about it, we’ll compromise. You three can just deal with it. This meeting is adjourned.”

“ Finally!” Bastian whooped.

“ That wasn’t very smart, Potter.” Parkinson growled, her cheeks crimson, “ I’ll be sure everyone in Slytherin hears about this.”

“ Good.” Harry spat and stormed away.

The strangeness of the whole day had only increased by the time they reached the castle, dampening any enjoyment Harry might have felt at being back where he belonged. The students filed into the Great Hall with all the cheer of inmates setting in for lockdown, the only noise their shuffling feet and scattered mummers. To Harry’s embarrassment, he found himself walking at the head of the Gryffindors. They had automatically gathered behind him as if he were a general leading them to war.

The first years, when they arrived, looked positively terrified. They cluttered together loosely in scattered clumps. Privy to the commotion but not yet sorted, they didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves. They couldn’t exactly divide themselves into Houses when they had no idea where their own lot would fall.

The Sorting Hat sang, a note of ragged desperation in its voice. The song followed the same lines as always and Harry found himself ignoring most of it, too busy staring at the Slytherin table where Pansy was holding a mini conference with Crabbe and Goyle. At the end of the song came another mournful warning, the same warning that had come every year now since fifth year.

Unite? Harry thought bitterly, Slytherin and Gryffindor friends? Not likely. The sad truth was probably that Gryffindor believed they were friends until Slytherin stabbed him in the back.

Pansy caught his eye and winked.

McGonagall stepped forward, parchment in hand, pointedly ignoring the awkward silence that had followed the Hat’s song, and called for her first victim.

The first child, Phillip Morek, a pudgy boy with freckles across his nose moved mechanically to the hot seat like a doomed man, looking as if he were about to vomit.

There was that awful moment of infinite possibilities and then…

“ Hufflepuff!” the Hat cried and little Phillip practically melted in relief amidst a smatter of cautious applause.

Some of the children seemed, aside from general anxiety, not to care where the Hat put them and Harry figured these were the kids from Muggle homes. Many of the other children acted as if the matter were life and death.

The commotion came when Samuel Gage became a Gryffindor. The boy’s eyes flew wide in horror and there was an infuriated cry from someone in Slytherin.

The boy freaked, “ Its wrong! Its wrong! Let me try again!” he grabbed futilely for the hat as McGonagall plucked it from his head, “ Let me try again!”

“ I’m sorry, dear,” McGonagall said, looking at a loss and tried to explain to the boy that there were no second chances and firmly began to lead him to the Gryffindor table.

“ Let him try again!” someone yelled.

Samuel looked terrified as McGonagall set him down with the other first years. His eyes swept the table and when they met Harry’s the boy cowered like a whipped puppy.

Harry realized angrily that he was once again going to be perceived as some monster to be feared. This was ridiculous. First they thought he was attacking muggle-borns and then they thought he was insane and now he was a kidnapper and attacker of Slytherins. From one extreme to the next it seemed.

Fine. Whatever.

Harry only closed his eyes when Amber Brown became a Slytherin and the girl burst into hysterical tears.

“ Harry, do something!” Lavender whimpered.

Harry looked at her in astonishment. What did she expect him to do? Whip out his badge and demand a recount?

Dumbledore rose as the Sorting ended, Amber’s soft sobbing still audible in the silent Hall. The old man looked tired, his skin almost a ghastly gray, but his eyes were sharp as they swept over the students and his aura was as strong and peaceful as ever.

“ Most of you are already aware that two very important members of your class are not here today. It has been over a week since Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy vanished. I know that many of you cared for them dearly and that the pain of not knowing what has become of your friends has made you suspicious and angry towards some of your other classmates. I urge you now, all of you, not to place undue blame for this unfortunate incident on your classmates. No one knows the truth of this matter yet. No one yet knows who or what is the cause of our friend’s disappearance. It would be a great tragedy to place blame and guilt and even hatred upon those who may very well be blameless. All of us here hope for a happy ending. May Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger be safe, wherever they are.” And he raised his cup.

Every cup in the Hall raised in answer.

Harry sped through dinner, not tasting a morsel of his delicious meal, wanting to get to Gryffindor House as fast as possible. He left the table after making sure Colin would lead the first years up.

As Head Boy he now had his own quarters as sort of a mark of his responsibility towards all the Houses instead of just his own. Many people aspired to this, their own room after sharing for six years, but Harry wasn’t one of them. He figured he’d arrange his things there but he’d sleep in the Gryffindor boys dorm as always. He doubted anyone would actually come check to see if he was sleeping in the Head Boy quarters.

In less than half an hour the entire Gryffindor House was settled in the Common room and Harry and Ron were explaining everything that had happened. They were still discussing the matter when McGonagall entered some time after nine o’ clock and tried to chase them all to bed. Ten minutes later they were back downstairs and arguing over ways to find Hermione and wondering if the Slytherins planned on kidnapping anyone else.

It was nearly midnight when there was a knock at the portrait.

“ I can’t see who they are.” Said the Fat Lady, uneasily, “ They’re all wearing robes.”

Wands came out like pistols in an old west saloon.

Dean answered, opening the portrait a small crack, wand aimed. After a few whispers, he swung the portrait all the way open and a procession of hooded figures slipped inside. The first figure pulled her hood off as Dean shut the portrait.

“ Luna!” Harry exclaimed in genuine pleasure.

The girl hugged him, “ We need to talk, Harry.” She whispered, “Get rid of the anyone who might blab about this.”

“ Right.” He thought for a moment, “ First years through third years should head off to bed now. Anyone else who wants to can stay.”

There were grumbles and whines from the younger students as Colin and Ron filed them off to bed and then, as an afterthought, placed locking charms on the doors and spelled them against listening charms.

The hoods came off and Harry was astonished.

There were nine of them. Iona, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Ernie Macmillan and Susan Bones from Hufflepuff. Terry Boot, Lisa Turpin and Luna from Ravenclaw. And, shockingly, two boys Harry knew were in Slytherin.

“ What are they doing here?” Parvati asked angrily, pointing to the Slytherins.

“ They’re my friends.” Iona challenged,“ You trust me, right Harry?”

Harry nodded slowly.

“ Then listen to what we have to say. Everyone is talking about Hermione and Draco’s disappearance. The Gryffindors are saying Draco kidnapped Hermione…”

“ He did!” Harry interrupted furiously, “ We were there!”

“ Just listen! The Slytherins are saying you and Hermione kidnapped Draco, and you can bet anyone who wasn’t there that day believes them. Everyone else is trying to figure out who to believe. People are choosing sides and those that aren’t are afraid to choose because they think the consequences will spill over into their House.”

“ Why are you here, Iona?”

“ We’re sort or representatives of those who believe you and support Gryffindor. We’re the ones everyone sort of expects to be on your side, so its okay that we’re here. Except for these two, of course,” she acknowledged the Slytherins, “ Harry if Pansy finds out they were here, you don’t want to know what she’ll have done to them.”

“ I understand.” Harry said guardedly, and his eyes swept over the others, a silent warning to keep this secret,“She won’t hear it, I’ll make sure.”

The taller of the Slytherin boys had light brown skin and snapping black eyes. His hair was a mass of floppy black curls shaved in a Mohawk. He had an earring in one ear, “I don’t think you realize just how serious Pansy is about making you into public enemy number one. I just think you should hear what went on tonight. My name’s Ignacio.”

Harry shook his hand, “ I’ve seen you around.”

“ Well then you know I’m no friend of Malfoy’s.”

The shorter boy introduced himself as Roldan. He was skinny with a buzzed haircut and thick glasses, “I’ve been to all the meetings tonight.” He told Harry.

“ All what meetings?”

It seemed a similar meeting to the one Harry held had happened in every House. On a normal year the other Houses would have held meetings anyway. Hufflepuffs would have welcomed their first years by playing games to learn each others names, Ravenclaws would have shown off their IQs and awards to show their newest what their House had to offer and their champion would then vow to top Hermione Granger’s scores, the Slytherins would have met under their King to lay down the law, but there would have been no such meeting in Gryffindor.

Gryffindors were a lot more casual about their first years. If you were a Gryffindor then you were where you belonged, no need for introductions or showing off, just come on in and make yourself at home. What else was there to say?

“ The main consensus in Ravenclaw, “ Roldan reported, “ is to keep out of the fight in case they get dragged into it. There were a handful of Ravenclaws at the Slytherin meeting. You don’t have much support from Ravenclaw, Potter.”

Harry nodded slowly. The Ravenclaws had always been more aloof towards Gryffindor then the friendly Hufflepuffs.

Ignacio snorted, “ You’ll be pleased to know that the head of Ravenclaw has officially cancelled all competitions to beat Hermione’s scores for the year. Out of respect, of course.”

“ Not that any one of them could even get close.” Ron snapped.

“There were only two Hufflepuffs at the meeting. The Hufflepuffs are going crazy. Most want to choose sides. Loyalty and all that, you know. The divide is in your favor. Most of them support Gryffindor. As for the Slytherins, well, just listen.”


Pansy stalked through the hollowed halls of Hogwarts with half her House at her back. She had waited until Potter and his cronies were out the door and then called anyone who wished to follow her. She was surprised but gratified when her Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw friends publicly supported her by leaving their tables to follow.

Black robes swooshed out from a side corridor and Pansy bit back a little peep of surprise as Snape appeared in front of them like the angel of death, lips curved down in his customary scowl.

She knew by now not to take it personally.

“ Professor?”

“ Miss Parkinson.” He turned so that he was striding along beside her, and said quietly, “ I don’t think I need to remind you to keep your House reined in. I do not need a Slytherin revolt on my hands that will get me fired and the rest of you expelled.”
“ I’ve already had this conversation with Lucius, Professor.”

Snape visibly flinched, “ Don’t mention that name where others may hear.” He warned in a low growl.

Pansy studied him with interest, “Are you afraid of him, Professor?”

Snape’s scowl deepened, “ I’m cautious of anyone who doesn’t have a bleeding conscience.” He muttered, and Pansy was tickled to have heard her stiff Professor use the word ‘bleeding’.

With that, Snape swept away.

Pansy always wished there was a balcony in the common room so that she could ‘address the masses from on high’ like a queen instead of standing on the little stone step next to the fire place, a full foot shorter than anyone but the youngest.

The Slytherins slipped into their favorite spots or into new spots they inherited from their elders. Pansy stood in front of the flames, the warmest place in the dungeon and the place where the sofas and armchairs were, the place of privilege. Beside her were Blaise and Millicent. Crabbe, Goyle and Sky sat nearby as well.

This was familiar and normal for her. She and Draco had taken over Slytherin towards the middle of fifth year. It was nearly unprecedented for fifth years to be able to dominate and subdue both the sixth and seventh years. But the seventh years had been few in number that year and the sixth years had no real leaders. The younger years had grown restless under poor ruling and Draco, seeing his chance, began offering them protection from the sixth and seventh years in exchange for their support. Thirty sixth and seventh years could do nothing against nearly one hundred and twenty younger classmates.

“ Alright people, listen up.” Pansy faced her subjects, hawk-eyed, “ Everything is not all right. Everything is not normal or pleasant or well. I’m telling you right now that it is as bad as you think and they are out to get you. But I refuse, I refuse to give them any satisfaction by starting this year off any different from any other year. In that vein, I start this meeting by welcoming our first years. Bring them up here.”

There was some general shuffling and eleven kids were pushed up near the fireplace where everyone could see them.

Pansy marched to stand in front of them, eyeing them appraisingly, “ Slytherin is not the easiest House to live in. Normally the first lesson a Slytherin learns is how to take care of himself. Normally I would assign the second years to show you the ropes and then set you loose to see what you make of yourselves. Normally you would fight your own battles and gain status through them. This year is going to be a bit different.” She faced the room.

“ Last week, Draco Malfoy was kidnapped by Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore. We don’t even know if he’s still alive. Dumbledore hates Slytherins and Potter is out to get us. No one is going to help us. So this year, we help ourselves. These are our first years, and it is your job, all of you, to protect them. This year you protect anyone younger than you. This is the first of several new emergency rules. Rule number 2: This year all Power plays and grudges with your fellow Slytherins are null and void. Rule number 3: First through third years are hereby ordered to never go anywhere on Hogwarts grounds alone. Go in groups. I’m not going to forbid fourth year and up to never go anywhere alone but I strongly suggest you always let someone know where you are. If someone goes missing don’t wait to see if they come back, raise the alarm. Rule number 4: fifth and sixth year are now drafted. You work for me. I’ll have special instructions, operations and assignments for you.”

“ What if we don’t want to be drafted.” Someone drawled from the crowd and all eyes turned to a knot of Slytherins towards the back.

Pansy didn’t have to look to know who it was, Idane Cinder. She closed her eyes and prayed for patience, “Dane, do you understand what’s going on?” she asked sweetly, not turning to look at the sixth year.

“ You’re giving out all these rules, Parkinson, but you can’t hold Slytherin without Draco. You can forbid us from taking over all you want but that won’t stop us from actually doing it.”

Pansy turned slowly and froze the boy with a murderous glare. He had slipped forward as he talked, his cronies behind him. The other Slytherins watched silently, they would stay neutral until someone fell and then they would be on them like rabid dogs.

Idane was not handsome. He did have nice hair, that wave of golden brown with strawberry highlights, just like his younger brother. His face, though, was entirely too square and his nose too strong. But what he lacked in looks he made up for in sheer driven personality.

Pansy noted this absently while taking in the fact that he had at least two new recruits in his little band. Time to nip this in the bud.

“ I can’t hold Slytherin?” she gave him a long, slow smile, her million-dollar smile, as Millicent, Blaise, Crabbe, Goyle and Sky came to stand beside her, “ Its true Draco isn’t here, for now, but his enforcers still follow me and everyone who follows them follows me and everyone who follows my enforcers follows me. I don’t think you want to take us all on, Dane.”

Idane’s face remained neutral but Pansy could see the shadow of surprise and a little disappointment in his eyes. He had not expected Crabbe and Goyle to back her up, she realized. He had believed Draco’s followers would abandon her now that their King was gone. If it had been just her, Blaise and Millicent, he might have tried to take her down.

“ Got it?” she asked coolly, “ I’ll overlook this little incident just once because I have plans for you and yours. We need you right now because Harry Potter has told everyone in school that Draco kidnapped that muggle-born freak Granger. The whole school is going to turn against us in defense of the Golden Boy. Do you understand? Everyone hates us. People we don’t even know are gunning for us now. It doesn’t overly concern me because I know I can take care of myself, but our first and second years are just cannon fodder. I don’t want to have to worry about them. I want to be able to focus completely on finding Draco.”

“ You’re going to find Draco? When the Ministry can’t? How?” Idane wanted to know.

“ That’s not for you to worry about.” She snapped, “ I’m not going to talk about my plans here where everyone can hear them. That’s another thing. If I find out anyone is discussing Slytherin matters with anyone outside Slytherin there will be hell to pay. I want this place locked down tight, nothing goes beyond our walls. And that goes triply for our password, anyone who leaks our password will wish he had never been born. I’ll see to it.” She glared around at them for emphasis.

“Now, first years, I think you should know which people you can trust. Snape is probably the best. Don’t ever be afraid to tell Snape anything, no matter what you’ve done or how badly he screams at you, because he’ll always help you out. Steer clear of McGonagall, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Lupin and if you see Mad-Eye Moody, run for it. All Gryffindors are off limits. I don’t care how nice Harry Potter seems to be or how pretty Lavender Brown is, keep the hell away from them.”

She looked around at them, “ Are there any questions?” the first years stared at her like baby birds watching a snake, “ No? Then there’s one more order of business. We need someone to stand in for Draco. I want all the boys to get together and choose someone. I reserve the right to overturn your decision but I really doubt I’ll have to. You have until sundown tomorrow…

“ We don’t need to.” Idane cut in impatiently.

“ Now what?” Pansy snarled, practically stamping her foot.

“ We don’t need to vote. I’m standing in for Draco.”

She stared at him, wondering when this had happened and why the hell she hadn’t known about it. He stared right back, jaw set mulishly.

“ Does anyone want to challenge Idane?” she asked, carefully, scanning the crowd.

Stillness, silence.

“ Who’s behind me?” Idane called, loudly.

Hands went up around the room. Pansy counted at least three-fourths of the boys. Idane sneered at her.

“ Who would support me should I choose to overturn this decision.” Pansy countered.

Ninety-percent of the entire room raised their hands. Idane’s snarky grin faded.

“ I won’t overturn this decision.” Pansy said lowly, “But you remember the outcome of this vote the next time you get cocky.”

Idane said nothing, his face was red with embarrassment.

She deeply disliked this turn of events though she’d known from the beginning that it was a possibility. She dismissed him, turning away.

“ Alright then, first year through fourth year are dismissed fifth through seventh and everyone I’ve previously spoken to are to come up to the seventh year dorm.”

The younger ones filed off to bed and Pansy and the others trooped up the stairs to the seventh year girls dorm. When they had settled Pansy stood before them again.

“ Now this is the really important part. We don’t know why Dumbledore took Draco, but it may have been because of what his father is. You all know what his father is, right?”

There were nods.

“ So anyone who happens to have a father well associated with Lucius is now also in danger. And not just them but anyone whom Dumbledore thinks is associated with them. I am now officially ordering anyone whose father is associated with Lucius, and I won’t say all of your names, you know who you are, to never go anywhere alone. You are to check in with me every night before you go to bed, without fail. Fifth years, I want you working on a way to keep anyone not in Slytherin out of our House. I want you regularly checking to make sure there is no one in here who shouldn’t be and I want reports on your progress. Sixth year, I want someone on Potter at all times. I want to know every single move he makes. I don’t care how you do it, just make it happen.”

“ And what will you be doing?” a sixth year asked.

“ The seventh years will be focusing on finding Draco. Which reminds me, none of you will be starting fights with Potter. I don’t want him to think anything is out of the ordinary. When I go after him, I want him completely off guard. If all goes well, we’ll have all the information we need by the end of the week.”


“ And then she sent us out.” Roldan finished.

There was stunned silence.

“ She’s got the younger ones scared out of their minds and the older ones ready to go to war.” Ignacio added, “ You can believe that if any Slytherin catches any Gryffindor alone there’s going to be a fight. If I were you, I’d try to figure out some way to protect the younger ones.”

“ I do not understand this.” Harry breathed, “ Why is she doing this? What’s the point? What does she want?”

“ What have they always wanted.” Ginny murmured rhetorically, “ They want you, Harry. You heard, she’s going to be watching your every move. If they get you alone…”

“ It’ll be a one way trip to You-Know-Who…” Seamus gulped.

“ Shit.” Harry hissed.

“ We’re behind you, Harry.” Luna said and Ginny and Iona echoed her, “ Just tell us what to do.”

Harry’s eyes cut to the two Slytherin boys as he considered, “ I really appreciate this. I don’t know how I can repay you two. But if…if you ask something of me, I’ll try.”

“ No worries.” Roldan waved the offer away.

“ Just protection if Pansy finds out.” Ignacio said.

Harry nodded, “ If something happens, come to me. This is going to sound harsh but I won’t allow you to stay in Gryffindor House. I can’t be absolutely certain that Pansy didn’t send you here tonight. If something happens and you need refuge, I’ll put you in my Head Boy quarters.”

Ignacio looked vaguely pleased, “Don’t worry, Potter, we’re not offended.”

“ Then you won’t be offended if I ask you to leave before we start planning.”

Ignacio smirked.

“ Will they be able to get back without someone realizing where they went?” Ginny asked, “ I mean if Pansy already has someone watching our House…”

“ Don’t worry about us, love.” Roldan said, “ We’ll manage.”

“ As long as you’re sure.” Harry said slowly, “ Thanks.”

He shook hands with the two boys again and watched as they slipped out past the portrait and into the halls.

Harry looked at the rest of them and made a decision, “ Everyone else should go to bed too. Seventh years and Ginny and Luna meet in our dorm.”

Iona stepped towards him, “ Harry, what about me?” she looked hurt, “ I can help you!”

Harry had to fight to keep from groaning. Iona had a habit of taking things like this way too personally. How could he make her understand that this wasn’t some weird rejection thing? Or hell, maybe it was.

He’d never been good with dealing with girls and their need to make everything more complicated then it was.

“ You said it yourself. Some of us are already on the hit list. You’re not on it yet and I want to keep you off of it for as long as possible.”

“ Well, that’s sweet…I guess.” She sounded like she was trying to make herself believe it. Or make him think she was trying to make herself believe it.

He did not need this right now. “ Thanks Iona, I owe you.”

“ Your welcome Harry. Good night.”

“ The rest of you too. Hermione would be happy. She doesn’t realize how many friends she has.”

They said their goodnights and then their visitors slipped away, the younger years going off to bed.

Up in the boy’s dorm there was a long silence as everyone absorbed what they had heard.

“ So what are our priorities?” Harry asked.

“ To keep them away from you.” Ron said immediately.

“ To keep our House safe.” Ginny said, “ I think we should take a page from Pansy’s book on that matter.”

“ I hadn’t planned for anything like this.” Harry cursed, “ I didn’t think Pansy had control of the entire Slytherin House. I thought maybe she and her friends would harass us a bit. I didn’t think she’d turn her entire House against us and drag all the other Gryffindors into our fight.”

More silence.

“ Okay,” Harry said finally, “ First we wait. I want to focus on keeping our House safe while we see if everything Roldan and Ignacio told us is true. Its too bad about Idane Cinder. I’d hoped I could get him to cause some trouble.”

“ I think we should go on the offensive.” Seamus said, “ If they attack us we need to be ready to hit them right back.”

“ I want to know how they plan to spy on us.” Dean said, “ Harry’s our leader, if they know everything he does then they’ll know everything that’s going on in our House.”

“ Then we need to know who all the sixth years are.” Harry suggested, “ Ginny and Luna can work that angle, right?”

“ We’re on it.” Ginny saluted him.

“ Dean, Seamus and Neville, I want the three of you to go around to the other dorms tonight and warn everyone. I need you to organize some sort of protection for the younger ones.”

“ This is stupid!”

Harry’s mouth snapped shut and every person in the room turned in dazed shock to see Neville Longbottom glaring at Harry. Harry stared at him feeling as if reality had just stepped out the side door. He was quite certain he had never seen Neville Longbottom angry before.

“ Neville?”

“ This is bullshit, Harry!”

Harry opened his mouth then shut it, gaping, gold fish style.

“ I understand that we gotta fight You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters. I know we have to fight Lucius Malfoy and even Crabbe and Goyle’s dads and that’s bad enough. I mean, what if it was your dad? How would you feel? We’re going to take their dads from them eventually and maybe they’re moms too. I’ve accepted that…but, but you’re talking about fighting them…you’re talking about fighting kids that…kids that…they’re us, they’re…” he shook his head in frustration, “ I’m not real good with words, Harry. But I know this is wrong. I’m not going to fight other kids in Hogwarts. Merlin, didn’t you listen to Dumbledore? Do you think he was just talking to the Slytherins? Or that he was talking to everyone but us? Didn’t you listen to the Sorting Hat? If we fight Slytherin, we’re fighting Hogwarts!”

“ Neville,” Harry said gently, “ We may not have a choice.”

The boy shook his head, gritting his teeth in frustration as he struggled with the words,“ What are you going to do, Harry?” he spat finally, “ Beat them up? Kill them?”

“ NO! We haven’t even talked about fighting yet. We’re going to focus on keeping our House safe.”

“ But you’re planning on it. You’re angry about Hermione. Merlin, Harry, I am too. I’m so afraid for her. But you hate them. You hate all of them just for being Slytherins.”

“ I don’t hate them…” Harry stammered, genuinely surprised.

“ YOU DO! Even the ones who were here tonight. You look at them and there’s this, this disgust in your eyes. Like they really are snakes or something.”

“ Don’t be an idiot!” Patience was quickly turning to righteous anger, “ Just because I’m trying to keep them from killing us all doesn’t mean I’m some kind of hate-monger! What would you rather do? Oh, I know, lets just hand over all the Muggle-borns, that will make everyone happy. And while we’re at it, I’ll just put a bow around my neck and present myself to Voldemort. Just do me a favor and bury me next to Hermione.”

Neville sputtered, his normal self momentarily peeking through the mask of anger, “ I didn’t…that’s not…” but then he was on his feet, “ Forget it, Harry, you’re not even listening. I’m not going to help you do this! I’m out!”

Harry was there to meet him, “ You traitor! You’re just going to abandon us? You’re going to let them get away with whatever they’ve done to Hermione?”

“ You don’t even know who took her! You don’t know anything for sure! And you’re going to take it out on the entire Slytherin House anyway!” Neville shouted back.

“ They’re Death Eaters, Neville!” Rational thought deserted him and every horrible thing he’d felt since Hermione disappeared just came pouring out of his mouth, “You’re running away, you pathetic coward! You never did have the balls to stand up for yourself. I know what your problem is. You think that if you just leave them alone, they’ll spare your life when the time comes. But that’s bullshit. If you ignore this, if you turn your back on us and play Slytherin sympathizer, then you’re going to end up drooling in an asylum just like your parents!” the second the hateful words were spat from his mouth, he wished with all his might that he could take them back.

There were gasps around the room. Neville went dead white. His mouth twisted as he fought tears.

“ Neville…” Harry stammered, “ I…”

“ Fuck you, Harry.” The words were hoarse with emotion. He whirled and stormed out, kicking Dean’s backpack out of the way as he went and sending books skidding across the floor.

“ Hey man!” Dean cried.

Harry sank down on one of the beds, “ Shit, Neville, I’m sorry…” he said to the closed door as he ran a tired hand over his eyes.

“ Harry…” Ginny began slowly.

“ I didn’t mean it, Gin. I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry.”

“ We know you didn’t mean it.” Luna murmured.

“ I don’t hate them just for being Slytherins. I don’t…” he let his breath out resignedly.

At least I don’t think I do.

He gathered the pieces of his composure up with a deep breath, “ We’re all tired. I think we should go to bed. Just one last thing, Parvati, Lavender, I want you two gathering as much information from other Houses as you can. Any rumors, anything anyone’s seen, I want to hear about it.”

Lavender gave him a watery smile, “ Why Harry, are you telling us to snoop?”

“ Just do what you do best, Brown.” He told her wryly.


By Monday morning, Hogwarts was officially a war zone.

It started small at first. Little skirmishes in the back halls, hit-and-run fights among the younger students that were over before any Professor came wandering through. By the evening meal, five kids from Gryffindor and three from Slytherin had been to Madam Pomfrey with bloody noses, split lips and black eyes.

After Cassidy Ven’s little brother came to him blubbering through a bloody nose, the Gryffindor fifth years voluntarily began patrolling the halls to break up any fights involving younger Gryffindors.

For Harry, classes with the Slytherins became worse every day.

In potions it began with black, murderous silence all around. Snape ignored it, curtly going over a few review sheets, outlining the instructions and then turning them loose with an impatient wave of his hand.

Every single Gryffindor potion was ruined by the end of class.

When Dean’s potion went belly up after Harry, Ron, and Seamus’ did, Harry was surprised for all of a second, because Dean at least usually managed to make a decent potion, before he looked up to see Blaise Zambini dance (literally) around Lavender and Parvati’s table, while the two were over getting equipment for the next step, and then pirouette away. Lavender’s potion immediately began to belch black smoke.

Pansy and Millicent caught Harry’s furious glare and burst into laughter.

At the beginning of their second potion’s class Goyle slammed Seamus into the floor, brutally fell on top of him and then announced that it had been a clumsy accident and ‘helped’ his fellow classmate up off the floor. Seamus had to go to Pomfrey, he’d suffered bruised ribs.

Not ten minutes later, Parvati burst into hysterical tears when Snape announced a pop quiz over review material from the year before. Snape had been disgusted.

“ If you’re going to fail, Miss Patil, at least do so quietly so that the rest of the class can concentrate.” He snarled.

“ It…its not that!” Parvati sobbed, “ Hermione…Hermione would never miss a quiz…” and she dissolved into noisy tears again and was taken to Pomfrey by Lavender.

That day every single potion in the class failed. Snape bawled them out and gave them all detention.

Care of Magical Creatures was similarly a battleground. Twice that week the class’ creatures accidentally escaped from their cages. Many of the Slytherins lost their creatures due to Gryffindors accidentally tripping them or stealing their creatures when they weren’t looking. Goyle was caught with several animals in his backpack, much to his own surprise, and given detention for attempting to ‘steal’ them.

Despite the animosity, the seventh years from both Houses managed to keep clear of each other until Thursday afternoon.

“ Okay, I got it, I got it.” Seamus said, looking down at the assignment for their next potions class as he and Dean headed back towards Gryffindor House.

It was the first time in seven years that they had ever actually read the assignment before going to class. They were determined to find a way to brew their potions without ever leaving any of the ingredients or their cauldrons alone for the Slytherins to spoil.

“ You stir our cauldrons while I boil the Zippy juice and then...”

“It takes two people to make Zippy juice.” Dean interrupted.

“ Okay, we’ll make the Zippy juice first and keep it at our table.”

“ Won’t work. It has to be fresh. The half-life is something like five seconds.”

“ Okay, I’ll just get a tranquilizer gun from my Aunt Rita in Colorado and take out all the Slytherins before they get to class.”

Dean turned his head slowly to stare at Seamus.

“ Er…it’s a Muggle thing.”

Seamus’ was spared suffering Dean’s scathing reply by a shriek of pain from down one of the side halls.

“ Shit, not again.” Seamus groaned.

“ Come on, its down here.”

The two hurried through a long dark passage, past several empty classrooms and a gate to the old gardens in the courtyard.

At the base of a small flight of stairs they found two fifth year Slytherins beating on a screaming fourth year Gryffindor Dean recognized as a kid named Max.

“ Hey you two!”

“ Get away from him!”

The two Slytherins yelped and scrambled back seeing the two large seventh years approaching.

“ Come on, come on!” one of them cried and the two bolted the other direction.

“ Lets get the little bastards!” Seamus demanded, eager to give chase, but Dean was kneeling by the boy.

“ Kid you okay?”

The kid whimpered something as Dean checked the extent of his injuries.

“ Hey you!” yelled one of the fifth years tauntingly from down the hall, they had stopped running once they’d reached a safe distance.

“ You better run, kid, cuz we’re...” Seamus started to holler back but then trailed off with a growl.

The two Slytherins were coming back, practically skipping, with Crabbe and Goyle behind them. The two seventh year Slytherins had apparently just blundered onto the scene.

“ These guys bothering you, Brett?” Crabbe asked.

“ Yeah!” the one called Brett sneered at Seamus.

Dean stood up as the four Slytherins approached.

“ Look at that!” Seamus said drolly, “It’s some kinda miracle. Little bastards suddenly grew backbones. A minute ago they were about to wet their pants.”

“ I’d shut my mouth if I were you.” One of the fifth years warned.

“ Get out of here.” Dean told the blubbering Max grimly, “ Run for it.”

“ That’s right kid, listen to the nigger.” Crowed the other fifth year.

Dean looked at the Slytherin in mild confusion but Seamus roared.

The boy shrieked as Seamus hit him in a flying tackle and started wailing on him. The other fifth year tried to jump on Seamus’ back but Dean was there to throw him off. Crabbe and Goyle lumbered in and Max ran down the hall screaming for help.

The next five minutes were all muddled in Dean’s head. He was fairly certain he’d gotten his brains scrambled by one of Goyle’s meaty fists. But he never stopped swinging and as far as he was concerned, they did pretty well for being outnumbered. Hell, they were practically winning.

Professor Vector and Lupin were the first to arrive, shouting and hauling Crabbe off of Seamus. One of the fifth years was unconscious, having smacked his head on the stone stairs when he was shoved away, the other was huddled in a corner weeping and trying to protect his bruised face, Dean’s nose was broken, blood was pouring from Seamus’ mouth, he’d lost a tooth and had a gash in his face, both Crabbe’s eyes were black, he’d broken a finger and Goyle was sitting on the floor in a daze, recovering from being cold-cocked by Dean.

It was a doozy of a brawl. Privately, Dean thought it was one of the best he’d ever been in.

All of them were hauled to Pomfrey. Parents were called, howlers were sent, all of them received three months of detention and lost all Hogsmead privileges for the entire year and everyone agreed that it was a miracle that no one was expelled.

“ What did that word mean?” Dean asked as he and Seamus lay in the infirmary, “What did that kid call me?”

Seamus flushed, “Don’t worry about it.” he muttered through still-puffy lips, “ Just a really nasty muggle word.”

That was how Harry found them, laid up in the infirmary looking like they’d been steam-rolled.

“ This is all kid stuff, background noise.” Ignacio told Harry cryptically that night, “ Don’t worry about Crabbe and Goyle. Don’t even worry about Millicent. If I were you, I’d keep an eye on Pansy and Blaise. If anyone comes after you, it’ll be them.”

Harry wished he had paid closer attention to Ignacio’s warning, because the next day the Slytherins got serious.

Early Friday evening found Blaise Zambini ambling through the halls of Hogwarts with just a little hitch of clumsiness in her step.

She was still getting used to her new body.

Parvati Patil was skinnier than her, almost stick-like as far as Blaise was concerned, and the rhythm of her normal walk was lost. She couldn’t sashay like she usually did. That was okay though, Parvati didn’t sashay, she pattered along like a duckling.

Blaise had squealed in delight when Pansy pulled a bottle of Polyjuice potion from “Lucius’ box of tricks” and told her she’d get to use it. While Blaise was not a great leader like Pansy, or a great fighter like Millicent, she was an all too eager daredevil. This kind of mission was right up her alley.

All of the Gryffindor seventh years had abandoned their posts. Weasley, Potter and that little bitch Ginny were all down at the Quidditch Pitch. Thomas and Finnigan were serving detention, Longbottom was moping around in the library and Lavender and Parvati had gone to hang out with some Hufflepuff girls against Potter’s commands to stay in for the night.

The absence of the Seventh years had been instantly reported to Pansy as it opened a plethora of possibilities for a waiting Slytherin.

Blaise smiled in what she knew was a dead-on impression of Parvati’s witless grin as she approached the Fat Lady, “ Mitsubishi!” she intoned.

It was one of Potter’s Muggle words. She wasn’t sure what it meant, only that it sounded Eastern.

“ Good evening, dear.” The Fat Lady yawned, swinging open.

She had taken two steps inside when a hard-faced fifth year girl jumped off the couch to stand in front of her, hands on hips.

“ What’s your personal password?” she demanded.

Yeowch. Good little watchdog.

“ Mathew Stanton is a babe.” She replied obediently.

Although it should be ‘Parvati Patil is a slut’.

A second password unique to each person was a very clever idea on the part of the Gryffindors. Pansy had taken quite a risk to get it. They had decided that Parvati was the weakest of the Gryffindor seventh years and the easiest target. It had only taken a few minutes in a dark hall being threatened with disembowelment to make the girl talk.

When they’d gotten what they needed a crony of Idane’s named Rodney performed Obliviate (Blaise shuddered) and all had been forgotten by Parvati Patil.

The watchdog’s face broke into a dreamy grin, “Isn’t he?” she sighed.

Parvati smiled inanely back and walked away, heading up the stairs to the boy’s dorms. Either the watchdog didn’t notice, or supposed Parvati had business up there.

She was walking past the sixth year dorms when the door sprung open almost as if the occupant had been waiting for the sound of ascending footsteps.

“ Parvati!” a skinny, eager-looking boy yelped in surprise, “Hey, what are you doing up here?”

Blaise recognized this boy vaguely.

Collis? Colen? Callen? Who cares, go away annoying little boy.

She probably should have told him it was none of his business but he was a Prefect so she simpered, “Seamus asked me to bring him something from his room.”

“ Oh, would you like me to help you find it?” asked the Prefect oh so helpfully.

“ No, I can get it. Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

The slight bite in her tone didn’t faze the kid a bit, “ Yeah, I’m helping Sarah in the Common Room. See ya later.”

“ Bye.” She waved the tips of her fingers after him and when he was out of sight she rolled her eyes and slipped into the seventh year dorm.

Their lovely sixth year spies had reported that Potter still slept in the Gryffindor dorms, which was very smart of him. It made him harder to catch alone.

Both Potter’s Head Boy quarters and the Gryffindor dorms had seemed impossible to infiltrate at first. Only Potter himself knew the password to his quarters so they’d have to catch him before they could get the code that would allow them to catch him. And that was assuming they could make Potter tell them anything when they caught him. Honestly, she thought it would take more persuasion than she was willing to dish out to get him to tell them anything.

When she relayed this fear to Pansy the girl merely shrugged and told her to let her handle Potter.

Blaise checked her timer (minutes tick tock ticking by) and got to work. There were five beds. She had no idea which one was Potter’s, she was hoping there would be some sort of clues around to help her.

The place was very neat, which was a huge downside, anything she moved and didn’t put back just as it should be might be detected. She suspected the room was so neat only because of the House Elves. Weasley and Finnigan did not strike her as the fastid… Продолжение »
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