No Need To Get Dramatic
The Quidditch match between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw was decidedly less interesting than Harry's own match against Gryffindor. He dutifully studied what the Ravenclaw Seeker did, but even he, with his minimal knowledge of Seeker tactics, was unimpressed.
Marcus Flint, Captain of the House team, had joined the first years to give running commentary on Andrew Calcari's rather lackluster performance for Ravenclaw. Harry, Flint assured him, was a better Seeker than Calcari with one hand tied behind his back. That gave Harry high hopes for their own match against Ravenclaw next month.
Flint's presence also had the added advantage of keeping Weasley from bothering them. The sixth year boy was very imposing when he wanted to be, and Harry thought that one scowl would be enough to send any small Gryffindors running for cover. While Harry knew that he and his friends could handle anything that Weasley chose to say or do, it was easier to not have to deal with him at all.
Ravenclaw won the match, which dragged long into the day, 220-100. Though the Seekers were competent, if uninspired, the Chasers and Keepers made the game exciting. There were dozens of brilliant plays on both sides, and that kept the score neck and neck for hours.
When the match finally finished, almost more by accident than deliberate effort by Calcari, the young Slytherins were diverted from going to the library by the necessity of having lunch. They ate as fast as polite manners would allow, even Crabbe, who normally liked to linger over his cup of milk. Then they all made a beeline for the alchemy section of the library.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that there was only the one bookcase. Theo quickly set them each to looking through a single shelf. With everyone looking, surely they would have some answers by tonight.
It was Daphne who called to the others in an excited voice, and they all gathered around a table in the back, eager to see what she'd found. Daphne dropped a thick, old book onto the table with a thud. Harry stared at it in amazement. The book was enormous, and it smelled kind of musty. At least it didn't kick up a cloud of dust. Someone must have taken it out recently.
Daphne flipped it open and turned to a page towards the center. "Here it is!" she whispered excitedly.
"'One obscure branch of the ancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Philosopher's Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal.
There have been many reports of Philosopher's Stones over the centuries, but the only Stone currently in existence belongs to Mister Nicholas Flamel, the noted alchemist and opera lover. Mister Flamel, who recently celebrated his six hundred sixty-fifth birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenelle (six hundred fifty-eight)."
When Daphne had finished reading, everyone was quiet. Theo's eyes flashed in triumph. "Well, there's our answer," he crowed. "Fluffy is guarding Flamel's Philosopher's Stone. He must have found out that someone was after it, so he asked Dumbledore to keep it safe for him."
"And no surprise why someone wants to steal it," Draco observed. "Immortality and unlimited wealth? I wouldn't mind that at all."
"Neither would a lot of people," Theo said.
"I wouldn't," Pansy said. "I'd never have to worry about spending too much money on clothes ever again."
"I know," Tracy said with a sigh. "Can you imagine? I would buy hundreds of shoes."
"We should try to find it before Quirrell does," Pansy suggested.
"I still think Professor Snape is after it," Theo said.
"It wasn't Snape, you moron," Pansy lashed out at him. "I saw Quirrell casting, and he wasn't blinking."
"But why would Quirrell try to kill Harry?" Tracy asked. "That would be inconceivable."
"Why would Snape try to kill Harry?" Millie demanded. "It makes no sense at all."
"Yeah," agreed Draco. "I just can't believe that Professor Snape, the Head of our House, would be trying to kill one of the students placed under his protection. Besides, consider this: Quirrell was wandering around the corridors the night Harry found that Mirror. I bet he was looking for the Stone."
"Quirrell teaches Defence Against the Dark Arts," Theo said. "He has every reason to patrol the corridors. Didn't Harry overhear Filch saying that Snape had asked him to let him know if anyone was roaming the halls at night? What business is it of Snape's?"
That made the faction which condemned Quirrell quiet down.
Daphne cleared her throat. "There's valid arguments on both sides," she said, "and my considered opinion is that we just don't know for sure."
"It might not matter," Harry said softly, "but I felt like Snape hated me when he first saw me."
Everyone drew in close around him. "At the Feast, he looked right at me, and I got this hot pain in my scar. I don't know why it would have done that. It's never hurt me before then."
Those who suspected Quirrell looked at each other doubtfully.
"Daphne's right," Theo said. "There are good points both for and against. The only thing we can do right now is watch them both very carefully to see if we can find more clues."
"Maybe we should try to find out some more about them both," Tracy mused, biting her lower lip. "That might help us figure it all out."
"Maybe," said Draco, "but I tell you right now, it's not going to be Professor Snape."
They put the book back on the shelf and left the library to return to their common room. Right outside the library they met Longbottom, who stumbled in nervousness or fear when he saw the Slytherins.
"Well, well, well," said Draco, letting his voice fall into his bored drawl. "Longbottom, how perfectly dreadful to see you."
"M-M-Malfoy," Longbottom stuttered.
"Listen to you, you sound like Professor Quirrell," Theo said, laughing.
"I'd l-like to get by," Longbottom said quietly, staring wistfully into the safety zone of the library.
"And I'd like to be on the Quidditch team in my first year," Millie snarled. "We don't always get what we want, now, do we?"
"P-Please let me by," Longbottom said. Harry could see his knees quivering.
Draco drew his wand. "Locomotor Mortis!" he cast, pointing his wand at the chubby boy.
Longbottom's legs snapped together. His arms waving wildly, his bag fell to the floor, and he crashed down on top of his books with a surprised cry. The Slytherins all laughed.
"Thanks, Longbottom. I've been looking for someone to try that out on. You can go study now. Why not look up the counter-jinx?" Draco laughed again, and sauntered off down the corridor. The others followed.
Harry hung back as his friends walked away. What Draco had done wasn't right. Longbottom wasn't a Muggleborn, and nothing in the Slytherin Rules said that it was okay to randomly assault fellow students. He drew his own wand and pointed it; the Gryffindor cringed away, looking like he was about to cry. Harry quickly spoke the counter-jinx and ran, missing the astounded expression on the other boy's face.
Back in the common room, Harry grabbed ahold of Draco's robes before the blond boy could sit and pulled his friend towards their dorm room. When Draco opened his mouth to protest the rough treatment, Harry slapped his hand over it, forestalling the words. People took one look at Harry's furious face and backed away.
Harry yanked the door to their room open and shoved Draco through. He stalked in after his friend, slamming the door. "What the hell's your bloody problem?" Draco demanded angrily.
"Why did you hex Longbottom?" Harry asked in an outraged tone of voice. He folded his arms across his chest. "He's not got anything to do with Muggles."
"You can't be serious," Draco scoffed. "Longbottom? You're sticking up for Longbottom?"
"He's never said so much as a word to you since the train," Harry said, feeling his face start to heat up.
Draco rolled his eyes. "He's clumsy enough with magic that he might as well be from a Muggle family. The great lump is practically a Squib."
"Longbottom isn't a Squib," Harry said disgustedly. "How could a Squib get an invitation to this school?"
"Longbottom is a complete dunderhead," Draco said, waving his hand as if the question didn't concern him. "You know that. He needs some encouragement if he's ever going to get better."
"Who appointed you? Headmaster Dumbledore?" Harry demanded. "Neville's just a regular chap trying to get by. If he wants to leave us alone, I think we should leave him alone as well."
"Oh." Draco sat down on his bed and looked up at Harry. "You're being a real drag about this. Come on, then."
"Why are you so ready to just lay into him? He's never tried to cause a problem with us. You can hex Weasley all you like. That's fine; I'll gladly help, but there's a difference between hexing someone for payback and hexing someone out of a cruel sense of fun. Longbottom doesn't deserve this; he's done nothing to us."
"He's a bloody Gryffindor," Draco said flatly. "That should be all the reason I need."
"Just him being a Gryffindor is enough for you to hate him?" Harry speculated incredulously. "That's ignorant. That's acting just like Weasley, saying that because of their House, they're worthy of our contempt."
"Don't say I'm like Weasley," Draco said angrily. "That's more insulting than you can know."
"Well stop acting like him then," Harry shouted back. "God, it's bad enough having a prejudiced prat like him as my enemy; do I have to have one as my best friend, too?"
Draco cast a hurt glare towards Harry. "I'm not a prat," he said defensively.
Harry ignored Draco's protestation; he was in a frenzy. "What if I'd been sorted to a different House? Would you have treated me just like you're treating Longbottom? You know my blood is pure, but would that matter if I were in Gryffindor?"
"Harry, don't be absurd-" he started to say.
"Remember House Rule Five: 'Blood does matter'," Harry said, poking a finger into Draco's chest. "I think that means that until Longbottom crosses us, he should get the same respect we give to Terry Boot."
Draco frowned. "We grew up with Terry; we know his worth."
Harry scowled ferociously at his best mate.
"Fine. If it'll make you happy, I'll leave the chubby wanker alone. He isn't worth my time anyway, but don't think for a moment you're going to stop me from hexing Granger."
"Why not?" Harry continued, not letting up for a second. "We got our revenge! She's in Hufflepuff with the rest of the duffers, right?"
"Harry, why are you being like this?" Draco sounded puzzled. "Back during our first Flying lesson you were all about playing around with Longbottom's stupid glass ball."
"That was different," Harry snapped. "That wasn't to antagonize Longbottom; he wasn't even there. I was doing it to irritate Weasley. If Longbottom's Rememberall had gotten broken, I would have bought him another. I've got no problem with him, and there's no sense in going out of our way to get people hacked off at us," Harry continued in a more reasoned tone. "If people try to cause problems with us, then we should deal with those problems with our best spells, but why go looking for trouble?"
Any answer Draco might have given was cut off as Theo knocked on the door and opened it immediately. "What in Merlin's name is going on?" he asked. "Harry, why'd you drag Draco off like that? Don't you know he hates to have his clothes mussed?"
That made Harry crack a smile, even in his foul mood. "We had something to discuss. I think you ought to hear it too, actually."
"Harry feels that we should leave Longbottom alone, Theo," Draco told his friend. "In fact, he wants us to leave all purebloods in the other Houses alone, since he's interpreting House Rule Five as meaning that they should all get the same respect we give Terry."
Theo frowned. "We grew up with Terry."
"That's what I told him." Draco sighed, "but I think maybe he's got a point. The Rule does seem pretty clear."
"So no more random hexings of purebloods?" Theo asked, his voice incredulous. "Not even Weasley?"
"Stuff Weasley," Harry said cheerfully. "He's gone out of his way to cross us, so he gets what he deserves and deserves what he gets. Others, like Longbottom, we leave alone. He's such a chicken I can't help but wonder why he's in Gryffindor in the first place."
Theo rubbed his jaw thoughtfully with one index finger. "You could be right. Okay then, from now on, we only hex those who earn it. I guess we'd better tell everyone else."
"Pansy's not going to like this," Draco warned.
"Who cares what she likes?" Theo replied nonchalantly.
Now that they weren't methodically hexing any Gryffindor they caught by him- or herself, the Slytherins' lives settled into a fairly predictable routine. Choir practice went on, and they were even starting to sound pretty good. Their private practices at casting hexes and curses had them far ahead of Quirrell's lesson plans. Night-time Astronomy lessons resumed, to Professor Sinistra's great delight. Whenever one of them chanced to pass the forbidden corridor on the third floor, Fluffy's growls and snarls could still be heard if one pressed an ear up against the door. The Stone was, to all appearances, still safe.
Professor Snape continued to act like Professor Snape. He occassionally made appearances in the common room to offer tutelage, he abused the Gryffindors in Potions class, and he maintained a very proper attitude through it all.
Professor Quirrell continued to be Professor Quirrell. He stuttered his way through his lectures, he jumped at unexpected sounds, and he never told them about "the good stuff". His behavior gave the first year Slytherins no clues, but neither did Professor Snape's.
They were all frustrated at their lack of progress, none more than Harry. He wanted to know who had tried to kill him and why. He wanted answers; he felt more than entitled. He hadn't felt his scar hurting in quite awhile, so his possible clue hadn't amounted to much.
Almost before Harry realized it, it was the middle of February, and St. Valentine's Day was upon them. Red, white, and pink decorations were all over the castle, and everyone was exchanging cards. Some cards would sing, others would rhyme, and lots of things were exploding with confetti.
After Draco had warned him that girls expected certain things for this rather silly holiday, Harry had gotten creative and Charmed up his own valentines for the first year girls, each with a little poem on it (stolen from a book, to be sure, but appropriately cited and sourced). He also gave one to Jessica, who blushed prettily and kissed his cheek, one to Molly Archer, and one to Jamie Davis.
To his intense surprise, he received a pile of valentines, and not just from girls in his year. Jessica gave him a card, as did Molly and Jamie. Samantha Warrington, Erika Chabré, Veronica Sawyer, and Joy duMonde, all second years, each gave him cards. Mandy Brocklehurst, his friends' friend in Ravenclaw, also sent him a card, and he barely knew her.
Theo, Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle all got numerous valentines as well. Draco acted nonchalant about it all, but Theo was pleased, and Crabbe and Goyle were just as astounded as Harry.
The girls got more emotional about their valentines, but that was only natural. Tracy kept hugging Harry all day, much more than she hugged Draco, Theo, Crabbe, or Goyle. She also spent several long occasions gazing wistfully at Elan, whose eloquence had quite overwhelmed her.
Theo had given Pansy a bunch of dead flowers and a valentine made from black parchment with a poem written in silver ink citing ten ways he'd like to see her die. It was as close as Theo ever got to expressing affection for her. He had borrowed Harry's bottle of silver ink for the inscription, and Harry had laughed as Theo read each stanza aloud.
In contrast to the festive mood inside the castle, the weather that whole week was rainy, cold, and miserable. Harry was not looking forward to playing the weekend's Quidditch match in these conditions. At least the clouds were not weeping when the teams took to the skies.
It was Slytherin versus Ravenclaw, and Slytherin had a commanding point lead over the other Houses, so Harry could catch the Snitch as quickly as he pleased. He hoped that he would be able to catch it soon and get back to the dungeons where he could be warm. The Self-Warming Charm didn't work very well when playing Quidditch.
The first years were all concerned that the teacher who had jinxed Harry's broom in his last match would try again. Theo and Tracy looked worried when they saw Professor Snape sitting in the faculty section. They had both brought binoculars to watch for any foul play. Millie, Draco, and Pansy looked quite pleased to see their Head of House, and likewise had binoculars, to watch Professor Quirrell. Daphne said that after having failed once, the guilty party wouldn't try the same stunt again, especially with Professor Dumbledore sitting right there in the staff section. Goyle and Crabbe left the thinking to the clever ones. If Goyle was needed for action, he would be ready.
Perhaps it was just bad luck that had them sitting near Weasley and his Gryffin-friends. Draco preferred to think of it as an opportunity. He poked Weasley in the back of the head.
"Ow! What's the big- Malfoy, I might have known. What do you want?" Weasley's voice was cold, and he resisted rubbing the back of his head where Draco had poked him.
"Sorry, Weasley, didn't see you there. I thought it was an ugly house elf." Draco snickered.
"How long's Potter going to stay on his broom this time?" Weasley asked in a nasty tone of voice.
"Why, Weasley, did you want to make a bet? Does your Mommy allow you to gamble?" Draco's drawling sneer was in full force.
Weasley's face got red. "Don't you have a go at my Mum," he threatened, shaking a finger in Draco's face.
"L-L-Leave him a-alone, Malf-foy," Longbottom stuttered, turning around to face the Slytherins. From the look on his face, he'd rather be anywhere else, even up in the sky on a broom playing target for the Beaters like Ravenclaw's Keeper was currently doing.
"Back off, Longbottom," Theo barked, making Longbottom jump thirty centimeters easily. "Keep your nonexistent brain focused on your own business."
"He gives good advice, Longbottom," Draco drawled, "and he speaks truly about your brains."
"Shut up, Malfoy," Weasley interjected.
Longbottom turned bright red. "I'm w-worth t-t-twelve of y-you, Malfoy," he blustered.
"Just like I told you, Neville. Good man," Weasley said in an encouraging tone of voice.
That statement set the Slytherins bursting with laughter. The Gryffindor continued flushing red. Draco regained his breath first. "Longbottom, if brains were gold, you'd be poorer than Weasley, and that's just pathetic."
"I told you to shut up, Malfoy!" Weasley said, rising to his feet. He looked like he was ready to start hitting people.
Draco looked through his binoculars and hummed a little tune to himself. Without realizing it, Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas were soon humming along with him. Crabbe and Goyle came in humming the harmony, and Theo began to sing a bit.
"'As noble Sir Arthur one morning did ride,
With his hounds at his feet, and his sword by his side,
He saw a fair maid sitting under a tree,
He asked her name, and she said 'twas Mollee.'"
"Stop that!" Weasley ordered his Housemates. "No singing with Slytherins!" He was red in the face. "Wait! What song is that?"
"Sir Arthur and Charming Mollee," Thomas answered. "It's one of the songs we're singing in choir."
"Arthur and Molly?" Weasley half-shouted, completely enraged. "Arthur and Molly! Those are the names of my Mum and Dad! You slimy bastards, you set this all up to have a go at them."
"Weasley, calm down," Theo pleaded. He waited until Weasley took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "The truth is, I knew both of your parents' names and requested that we sing this song solely because I knew it would hack you off." Theo's voice was so absolutely serious that they all cracked up laughing.
Weasley got red in the face and dove at Theo without another word. They fell to the floor, kicking and punching at each other. The Gryffindors all watched with semi-interest. The Slytherins' eyes remained glued to the skies. Up in the air, Harry swooped past Madam Hooch to grab the Snitch, and the match was over, 210 to 40.
The cheering was deafening from the throats of the youths in green and silver trim. The Slytherin team landed gracefully on the pitch where Bole and Derrick lifted Harry up onto their shoulders. His friends all hurried towards the stairs to go congratulate him. Crabbe and Goyle separated Weasley from Theo, who had Weasley in a headlock, but was getting punched in the gut repeatedly.
"That's enough," Crabbe said gruffly as he grabbed Weasley by his shirt collar and dragged him off.
"Theo, you okay?" Goyle asked, offering a hand up.
"Thanks," Theo replied. "Where were you two?"
"We figured you could handle him for a few seconds," Goyle teased him. "If it had gone on a bit longer we would have grabbed his neck for you or something."
There was a small party in the Slytherin common room that evening. Several of the older students nipped down to the kitchen and had the house elves send up a whole smorgasbord along with pumpkin juice, milk, and tea. Harry spied some other of the older students drinking out of metal flasks, but didn't inquire of it.
Harry was man of the hour. Everyone wanted to shake his hand. Many of the girls gave him belated valentines. All in all, it was rather embarrassing to be made so much of along with Flint and the rest of the team. None of the team members were allowed to do anything for themselves. Everything was fetched to them, poured for them, and the choicest morsels were theirs for the consuming. At the head of the table, reserved for the Captain, Flint wasn't even feeding himself; Elizabeth Archer, one of the choir's star sopranos, was sitting on his lap and holding his fork for him.
The party was a loud, boisterous affair, made more so in that it was Saturday, and there were no classes the next day. The celebrating went long into the night. Harry was toasted again and again.
It went on the next afternoon, as well, with everyone standing when Harry or another team member arrived at the table. People raised their goblets in salute. Harry thought his cheeks might well fall off from blushing so hard.
Harry was very happy though. He'd done something that he could be proud of. Nobody could say he was lucky anymore, or just a famous name. Harry had caught that Snitch with some very skillful flying, and he'd done it all by himself.
Things had calmed down by the time classes started on Monday, and soon everyone was back to the same old routine. Choir practice went on with only a short time before Easter and their first performance. The first years continued their private practices at casting hexes and curses. They spent long hours every night reading their books, pouring over their notes, and practicing their Charms and Transfiguration.
The month of March slipped by. Gryffindor lost their Quidditch match to Hufflepuff, leaving them in dead last for both the Quidditch Cup and House Cup. Gryffindors continued to provide the Slytherins with entertainment during Potions lecture.
The weather began to occasionally get warmer, and the snow slowly dwindled. Now and then, the sun would come out to visit. Finally, one did not have to don one's heaviest sweater just to survive through the school day. Then, on the first day of April, Tracy came rushing into the boys' dorm room after classes. They all looked up in surprise as she collapsed against the door frame and put on a tragic face. "The world is going to end!" she cried.