Harry capped a two small silver tins and handed one to Snape, slipping the other in his pocket.
"That was finished just in time," Harry commented. "School starts in another week."
"Yes, well, for you anyway," Severus said, fingering the tin. "Are you sure you do not want to stay at Grimmauld place and ride in with your friends?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't mind going early." In truth, he couldn't imagine how bad he would feel if Snape was called while he wasn't there. But Harry would never admit that to Severus. "So does it look like it's going to work?"Severus gave a half shrug. "I do not see how we can know other than to wait and see."
"So we're just waiting for him to have another meeting, then," Harry commented. "That's odd."
"I suppose it is better than dreading another meeting," Severus said. "If it works, we may have to make more. It filled smaller tins than I expected."
Harry nodded. "It condensed as it solidified."
Severus gave him a sideways look. "Yes." He paused. "I never really considered asking, but how did you do in Potions at Durmstrang?"
Harry grinned. "Everyone thought I was a prodigy or something," he said. "I just said I had a good teacher."
Severus straightened with something that could very well have been pride. "And I suppose they had a good Potions program?"
"Very," Harry assured him. "But not as tough as yours."
"Hm," Severus said concomitantly. "Well, we would not want them to be anywhere close, would we? Best widen the gap."
Harry's eyes grew wide.
Severus sneered. "After all, this is OWL prep year."
"But you don't have to make it harder! You're doing just fine, I'm barely able to keep up," Harry assured him hastily.
After their return to Grimmauld Place, Mrs. Weasley immediately set Harry to work cleaning with his friends. It seemed she had abandoned the attic idea, but the parlor room was fair game.
"This sucks," Ron commented, scrubbing the floor with a brush. Harry and Hermione were helping him while Draco...supervised. "Honestly, we've been cleaning all summer and the house looks the same. Can't she give it a rest?"
"It's the last week she has guaranteed labor," Hermione pointed out.
"More like 'forced'," Harry muttered. He glanced up at Draco, leaning against the doorframe inspecting his nails. Harry scowled at him. "What are you doing, Draco? Not going to help?"
"I'm taking a break," he replied with a sly grin.
"Awful long break," Ron commented.
"The last time I helped, that stuff turned my nails yellow," he said defensively.
Harry squinted at Draco's hands. "And they aren't yellow now, so the last time you helped was...how long ago?"
Draco smirked. Harry tossed his soapy brush at Draco. It hit him in the chest.
"Hey!" Draco said indignantly, bending to pick up the brush, probably to throw it back.
"How's it going in here, kids?" Mrs. Weasley said, gliding into the room. "Harry, where's your brush?"
"Oh, Harry's just taking a break," Draco said smoothly, suddenly on his knees with Harry's brush.
Harry glared at him. Mrs. Wesley looked Draco over. "Oh, you're all covered with soap, dear. Why don't you go off and get cleaned up?"
Draco left, shooting the others a wide grin. They stared after him, appalled.
"Can we go get cleaned up?" Ron asked hopefully.
Mrs. Weasley looked around. "When you're finished. Dinner is in a half hour."
She left and Harry, Hermione and Ron let out a joint groan.
"That little sneak," Ron muttered. "How's he always get out of stuff?"
Hermione shrugged. "He wasn't sorted into Slytherin for nothing."
Harry grinned. "You know what we have to do, then?"
"Get him right back," Harry said smugly.
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "Not horribly, right?"
"Nah," Harry said, sharing a look with Ron. He matched Harry's grin.
At dinner, Draco was more than smug. The teenagers sat at one end of the table while the adults conversed at the other. Hermione had come up with her idea of a good joke just moments before Draco arrived and now she let her hair down as the signal for Harry to begin.
"Hey, you guys want to hear a joke?" Harry asked.
The twins answered together, "Sure!"
Everyone else nodded.
"Two hags walked into a bar," Harry said dramatically, smiling widely as if he were trying to hold in a laugh. "And the bartender asked, 'What'll it be'? The first one said, 'Firewhiskey' and the second one said," Harry paused for a laugh, "'Gillywater'!"
As planned, Hermione and Ron broke into laughter. Draco glanced at them in confusion, then started laughing himself, far over-exaggerated. Fred and George just stared at Harry.
"I don't get it," Fred said.
Through watery eyes, Harry gasped, "Neither do I!"
"Then what...?" George began.
"It was a fake joke to trick Draco into laughing," Hermione explained with a grin, seeming proud of herself.
Fred and George shared a look.
"You guys are mental," Ginny spoke up.
"Not to mention lame," Fred put in.
"Agreed," Draco added, looking annoyed.
Harry rolled his eyes. "It was Hermione's idea."
"Surprise, surprise," George said. "Fred, I don't think we should hire her to work in our shop," he said.
"Definitely not," Fred agreed.
"Good, I wouldn't want to work there, anyway," Hermione said, crossing her arms. "But I might let it slip to your mum."
"You wouldn't," they said in horror.
Hermione raised a brow.
"We love you, Hermione, you know that," Fred said with a winning smile.
She rolled her eyes as a pecking sound drifted over from the window. Hermione stood up. "Those must be our Hogwarts letters."
Hermione pushed open the window and untied the letters from the bird's leg before releasing it back into the sky. She sorted through them, handing each to its respective recipient.
"Thanks," Harry said, taking his. He ripped it open and found the familiar letter with the list of books that he would have to purchase. Some of them seemed pretty dry, such as Defense Against the Dark Arts: A Practical Handbook.
Across the table, Mrs. Weasley began clearing dishes and the other adults got up to help or to simply wander off. Severus came over to their side of the table, seeing all of the papers laying around. He glanced over Harry's shoulder.
"Is this it?" he asked, taking the paper when Harry handed it over.
"Yes," Harry replied, brow furrowing. What else would there be?
"Hm. We ought to go to Diagon Alley tomorrow, then," Severus said.
Harry nodded and glanced over at Hermione who was staring at her letter in shock.
"Er, are you okay, Hermione?" Harry asked.
"I...I'm Prefect!" she exclaimed with a very un-Hermione-ish squeal. She glanced at Harry's letter. "Are-"
"No, I don't think so."
"I am," Draco spoke up, pride obvious in his voice. He shot Hermione a smile. Hermione was almost exuding happiness, but Harry felt his spirits sinking. He couldn't help but wonder why he wasn't chosen. After all, he was just as qualified, if not more than Draco. And he hadn't been dabbling in the Dark Arts at Durmstrang. He frowned, then caught himself and forced a smile. "Congratulations, guys."
Hermione shot him a sympathetic smile.
Ron said, "Yeah, congratulations. Thank goodness I'm not a prefect. That'd suck the fun right out of Hogwarts, huh, Harry?"
"You bet it would," Harry replied.
"Regardless, who in their right mind would make you a prefect, Ron?" Ginny asked teasingly. "It's not like you have a total regard for school rules."
"Hey, are you saying we wouldn't make good prefects either, then?" Fred demanded, pointing with a thumb at George.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying. Besides, you both wouldn't be able to be prefects; it's only one girl and one boy from each house."
"We both managed to be Quidditch captain last year, George pointed out.
"Because Sirius was in charge," Ginny protested.
"Like we couldn't charm Dumbledore the same way?" Fred asked with mock insult.
Ginny looked at him flatly. "You can't."
"Well, then, George could pass for a girl," Fred said, assessing his twin. "I mean, it almost worked for Percy a few years ago."
"Why me?" George demanded. "Why not you?"
"Because I'm more handsome and manly," Fred said firmly.
George replied, "We're identical!"Fred clapped him on the shoulder. "Whatever you have to tell yourself, Georgina."
"I'm done with you two," Ginny said, stalking off.
As the twins continued their argument, Harry twisted in his seat to look up at Snape. "Where's Sirius? I wanted to talk to him about something."
"He said he was going upstairs to do some reading," Severus said. "So it is a safe bet that he is doing anything but reading."
Harry nodded. "Okay. I'll be back later."
Severus nodded as Harry left. He went upstairs to Sirius's room and knocked on the door. To be honest, he didn't really have a reason for coming up here; Harry just wanted a bit of conversation.
"Come in," Sirius's muffled voice came.
Harry opened the door and found Sirius, feet propped up on his desk, reading a book. Harry froze dramatically.
"Ar-are you feeling okay?" he sputtered.
Sirius gave him a dark look. "Fine, thanks."
Harry grinned and closed the door, sitting down on Sirius's bed. "So what'cha reading?"
Sirius raised it so that Harry could see the spine. "Belgar's Book of Business? That sound's boring."
"It is, trust me," Sirius replied, closing it with a sigh. "But I figured that I should at least a bit about business before I start working with the twins."
"You're taking this seriously."
"I am generally unable to take things as anything but Sirius," he replied with a grin.
Harry rolled his eyes. "See? You can't yell at us about the name puns if you do it just as much!"
Sirius grinned. "Fair enough. So what's up?"
"What?" Harry demanded.
"I was a teenager once, too, you know," Sirius said admonishingly. "Uh oh's never good."
"Were you a prefect?" Harry blurted.
Sirius laughed heartily. "Merlin, no!" He smiled and shook his head. "Remus was the prefect of our little group."
"Really?" Harry asked. "Not my dad?"Sirius gave him a look. "James? No way. He broke every rule in the book. He was the head of the Marauders, who would make him a prefect?"
Harry tilted his head. "Lupin was a marauder and a prefect," he pointed out.
Sirius twisted his lips. "Yes, well, they had hoped he'd be able to exercise a bit of restraint over us."
"Did it work?"
"Harry, we refused to acknowledge that there was a word 'restraint'. Or 'prefect' for that matter," Sirius said with a grin. "Why? Are you a prefect?"
"No," Harry said with a twinge of sadness. "Draco and Hermione are."
Sirius's brow furrowed. "And you are...sad about this?" he asked as if unable to comprehend.
Harry looked at him in confusion. "I guess. I mean, it'd be nice to be picked..."
Sirius's brows shot up. "And have your fun ruined? Have to watch out for other people breaking the rules? Not break the rules yourself? Are you really James's son?"
Harry shrugged. "Anyway, you don't miss much, not being a prefect?"
"Not at all. I think it's better, actually," Sirius said comfortingly.
"But why didn't they pick me?" Harry asked, half to himself. "That's more important than the fact that they didn't."
Sirius shrugged. "Maybe you've got enough influence already, you don't need a badge. If you saw someone breaking the rules and told them to stop, I'll bet you they would because you're the Great Harry Potter."
Harry gave him a dark look. "Well, thanks for this enlightening conversation. I think I'll go see if Severus has anything to add."
"See you," Sirius said cheerily as Harry left.
"I'm going to go write to my parents," Hermione said brightly a few minutes after Harry went upstairs. Draco moved to follow her, but Snape called him back.
"Draco," Severus said. "May I speak with you?"
Draco shrugged. "Sure."
Severus drew him over to the corner. "Just a quick question, if you do not mind. Do you think that your mother would be at all interested in joining the Order?"
Draco considered this for a few moments. "Would they actually let her join? I mean, with my father and all..."
"I think they could be persuaded, provided she doesn't believe in the same things as he, obviously," Severus said.
Draco nodded. "Then she could probably be convinced."
"Could we perhaps stop by and speak to her in person tomorrow after Diagon Alley?"
"I'll write her and tell her we're coming," Draco agreed.
In the end, it was Snape who found Harry, rather than the other way around. Harry was in his room, sorting through some of the old things in his trunk when Severus walked in.
"Are you alright?" he asked without prelude.
"Because I'm not a prefect?" Harry asked, looking up. He shrugged. "I think so. Sirius helped a bit."
"By saying what?" Severus asked, seeming skeptical.
"That if I was a prefect, I wouldn't be able to get in as much trouble as I'm used to and it wouldn't be as much fun," Harry said with a hint of a grin. "Or something like that."
"Hm," Severus said. "I may have to have a chat with him."
"Don't bother," Harry said. "You won't get anywhere."
"Probably not," Severus admitted.
There was a temporary silence before Harry asked the question currently rattling around in his mind. "Were you a prefect?"
Severus shook his head. "No. I suppose I seemed Dark even then."
"Did you want to be?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Severus admitted. "I wanted the prestige and the power that came with the badge, certainly. I wanted to be chosen. And I wanted a chance to become closer to your mother," he said in a rare show of candor.
"Harry, know that I will not think any less of you because you are not a prefect. Not at all," Severus assured him. "In all honesty, I believe this is to your benefit. You have a lot on your mind at the moment, an added responsibility would not help you."
Harry nodded again.
"I will be in my room, should you need me," Severus said, standing up. "Or if you would like to talk."
Harry watched Severus leave, realizing that he was in an oddly good mood for whatever reason. Alone now, Harry thought back to what Sirius had said. Are you really James's son? He frowned. Harry was beginning to think that in everything but biology, he was not James's, but Severus's. And the thought didn't bother him as much as he might have expected.