It's Good To Be In Slytherin
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 doorframe and put on a tragic face. "The world is going to end!" she cried.
"What?" all the boys echoed.
Tracy raised one hand and pressed the back against her forehead. She tilted her head. "Armageddon is upon us! We sit our exams in only eight weeks, and I haven't yet begun to revise!"
Draco laughed loudly. "You're such a drama queen, Tracy."
"But it's tragic!" she insisted. "We're all going to have to draw up study schedules. We need to pass these exams to come back next year."
"Relax," Theo told her in a bored voice. "We made up schedules two days ago. I keep track of things like this."
She made a rude gesture in his direction. "Tragic," she said again.
Tracy was quite right to say that it was an urgent thing that exams were only eight weeks away. Harry was inclined to agree with her, as the teachers seemed to think the students needed to study hard as well and relentlessly piled on the work. He studied fervently, trying to complete all his homework the night it was assigned and seldom succeeding.
With such work piled high on their desks, the Easter holidays weren't nearly as enjoyable as Christmas time. The only real break in their schoolwork came on the last Sunday of the holiday when the school choir had their first performance.
Harry tugged nervously at the collar of his shirt. For this performance the students wore only the uniform shirts and trousers that they customarily wore under their robes. There were no House crests visible, and even the neckties in the House colours were absent. They were merely the Hogwarts School Choir.
The tables were pushed up against the rear wall of the Great Hall, and all the benches were lined up facing the steps that led up to the High Table where the staff sat for meals. The Choir waited in two lines up against each side wall. The Sorting Hat waited at the front on its stool.
The bell tolled the hour, and a silence settled over the audience. The lights dimmed. Those at the back of the line touched their wands to the candles they held and ignited a flame. That flame was passed from candle to candle, wick to wick, up the line. When all the candles were lit, the choir took the stage. Without preamble, they launched into their first song, accompanied by a spooky piano that no one could see.
"'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.'"
Oh, charming Mollee, you my butler shall be,
To draw the red wine for yourself and for me!
I'll make you a lady so high in degree,
If you will but love me, my charming Mollee!
The opening was strong and loud, the boys' deeper voices carrying powerfully through the air. They sounded better than they had ever sounded in practice. It was the presence of the audience, Harry knew, and the pressure was on them to be great.
I'll give you fine ribbons, I'll give you fine rings,
I'll give you fine jewels, and many fine things;
I'll give you a petticoat flounced to the knee,
If you will but love me, my charming Mollee!
I'll have none of your ribbons, and none of your rings,
None of your jewels, and other fine things;
And I've got a petticoat suits my degree,
And I'll ne'er love a married man till his wife dee.
Harry felt good about what he was doing. The choir was not merely some collection of those who it just so happened could sing. The various components; the different voice parts, the different age groups, the different Houses, had all come together. They were into the song with feeling now, singing with heart and enthusiasm.
Oh, charming Mollee, lend me then your penknife,
And I will go home, and I'll kill my own wife;
I'll kill my own wife, and my bairnies three,
If you will but love me, my charming Mollee!
Oh, noble Sir Arthur, it must not be so,
Go home to your wife, and let nobody know;
For seven long years I will wait upon thee,
But I'll ne'er love a married man till his wife dee.
The male voices alternated with the female voices. Back and forth, they weaved together the tale of a love that was true, but could not be fulfilled. It was a good story, and by singing it, they gave it a haunting quality all its own.
Now seven long years are gone and are past,
The old woman went to her long home at last;
The old woman died, and Sir Arthur was free,
And he soon came a-courting to charming Mollee.
Now charming Mollee in her carriage doth ride,
With her hounds at her feet, and her lord by her side:
Now all ye fair maids take a warning by me,
And ne'er love a married man till his wife dee.
As the first song drew to a close, Harry could see Weasley at the back of the Hall with a dark scowl on his face. He hadn't enjoyed the music, to judge from his expression. He was probably still hacked off that the choir had sung a song with his parents' names in it. He turned away from the performance and stalked out of the Hall. The air rang with their last note. Then the audience burst into thunderous applause. The Sorting Hat turned and bowed to them all.
"Thank you, thank you," it said in a satisfied tone of voice. "That was Sir Arthur and Charming Mollee, a traditional aria from Northumbria. The Sir Arthur referred to is no less a personage than Sir Arthur Haslerigg, the Governor of Tynemouth Castle during the Protectorate of Cromwell." The audience was silent, not having expected a history lesson. "This next song is called Blow Away The Morning Dew."
There was a knight both young and fair,
Came riding o'er the hill
As he rode out one May morning
To see what he could kill.
Blow away the morning dew
Dew and the dew
Blow away the morning dew.
He look-ed high, he look-ed low,
He cast another look
And then he spied a pretty maid
A-bathing in the brook.
Blow away the morning dew
Dew and the dew
Blow away the morning dew.
As they launched into the second tune, a lot of Harry's nervousness had drained away. Their audience was enjoying the show, and that made it easier to perform well. The last five verses of the song came effortlessly, even the repetition of the chorus where the soprano soloists' voices went soaring above the rest in a lilting coloratura.
This song also was very well-received, and the applause bounced off the walls. Harry found himself grinning. The choir was turning out to be a smash hit. The Hat turned to bow, but did not speak. It turned back, and they launched into the next song.
This is my Father's world,
And to my list'ning ears,
All nature sings,
And round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world,
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees,
Of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.
Harry had never been particularly religious. The Dursleys had paid lip service to the Church, attending services on Christmas, Easter, and certain other holidays. Harry had been locked in his cupboard during those times, so he did not have any clear theology. The song held little meaning for him.
The applause for the semi-religious tune was fairly enthusiastic. The Hat bowed deeply. "This Is My Father's World, one of my favourite songs. It's an old traditional aria with roots in the Church, composed by Maltbie D. Babcocks. Our last selection for you is one that everyone may know, but I must ask you not to join in. The song is called Jerusalem, but you may know it as England's Mountains Green."
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills.
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O Clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
This last song was amazingly popular, and the applause went on and on. The Hat turned, and they all bowed. People in the audience began to stand up, still applauding.
Millie was grinning broadly. As people began to mix and mingle, Harry went up to her and gave her a hug. "We did it!" he cheered.
"Our choir is a success," she said. Her cheeks were rosy and bright. "What a show it was."
"We sounded good," Daphne said, joining in the conversation.
"Damn right we did," Pansy agreed. "It was fun too!"
"Too right," Draco chimed in. "Did you see Weasley storm out during our first song?"
"He looked fit to be tied, that git," Theo laughed.
"Were you aware of his parents' names when you suggested the song in our first meeting?" Tracy inquired. "You appear to be deriving too much pleasure from this to have been ignorant."
"I knew," Theo said proudly. "It was a simple matter, really. I just owled home and asked Father. I knew I'd be able to put the information to good use at some point."
Slytherin flattened Hufflepuff in the Quidditch match some weeks later. The score was completely ridiculous: 300-30. Harry flew circles around the Hufflepuff Seeker, and catching the Snitch seemed like the easiest thing in the world. As he flew his victory circuit of the pitch, he thumbed his nose at Weasley, for that third victory had clinched the Quidditch Cup for Slytherin.
The party in Slytherin House that night was wild. Once again, there was a table set up for the team members. Once again, nothing was too good for them. Once again, they had every want and desire catered to. Once again, the best bits of food were served up to them on silver platters.
Captain Flint had Bridget Sawyer, a fifth year, and Heather Duke, a sixth year, giving him all kinds of personal attention. They held his fork and knife, feeding him as though he were a king.
Harry enjoyed the festivities. Though he wouldn't let anyone feed him, Tracy kept his goblet filled, and Daphne kept his plate piled with food. People all around him drank, ate, and laughed a lot; good friends had a very good time.
The weather was bright and sunny the next morning, so Daphne suggested going for a picnic. They could get out of the castle and get some fresh air. Apparently it had been a plot on her part, because several baskets were delivered right at lunchtime. They each contained enough food to feed a small army, or maybe just Crabbe and Goyle.
The first years tromped outside the huge castle doors and stopped to just soak it all in. They walked to the grass right in the spot before the hill began to slope. Draco stomped his foot a couple of times and pronounced it adequate.
Theo drew his wand and cast an incantation Harry had never heard before. "Arefacio!" There was no change to the ground that Harry could see. He threw Theo a questioning look.
"Drying Charm," his bookish friend said. "Very practical, very useful. Works on just about anything, and it's not dangerous."
They spread out their blankets. Daphne opened the basket and started pulling out plates and containers, and within a few minutes, there was nearly as much food as on the table in the Great Hall.
"Shall I be Mother?" Tracy asked, picking up the teapot. No one objected, so she began pouring.
"This was a good idea," Harry said, laying on his back to stare up into the sky.
"Too right," agreed Theo. "We've been cooped up inside so long, I'd forgotten what the outdoors smells like."
"Why not look it up in the library?" Pansy asked him, not bothering to sneer. She seemed half-hearted, as though her cutting remark were through force of habit. Theo growled at her, but didn't rise to her bait. The day was too nice for arguing, even for that pair.
They talked of small things, avoiding all talk of classes. Harry was just listening to Millie tell about the time she'd managed to catch a muddy pig during a rainstorm when Draco stood up and called out to someone. "Oi, Terry!"
Terry Boot, their friend in Ravenclaw, had also stepped outside for a breath of air. He had very large brown eyes, a round face, and close-cropped light brown hair. Harry had only spoken to him a handful of times, but had found him to be a pleasant sort of fellow.
He was accompanied by Mandy Brocklehurst and Padma Patil. Mandy was a short, but pretty girl with big black pigtails. Padma had extremely tan skin. She wasn't dark, per se, but Harry had grown up in an isolated area and was fascinated. He liked her dark hair, which she wore back in a long braid.
"Looks like quite the little party," Terry said, sitting down next to Tracy. "Where'd you lot steal all this from then?"
"My Mum sent it up," Daphne told him. Mandy joined her on the blanket while Padma sat next to Harry.
"Brilliant idea, I must say," Mandy complimented Daphne. "That castle gets so damp and dreary sometimes."
"Everyone knows Padma, right?" Terry asked. Everyone except Harry nodded.
"We haven't formally met," he spoke up. He stuck out his hand. "Harry Potter."
Padma's eyes grew wide momentarily, but she controlled herself well. "Padma Patil," she replied in a clear voice. "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Harry grinned at her.
"Where were you three off to?" Draco inquired.
"Just out and about," Mandy answered. "I was tired of looking at my notes, so I decided to go stretch my legs and asked if anyone wanted to go with me. These two are just tagging along."
"A Ravenclaw got tired of studying?" Daphne observed slyly. "That's like a Slytherin growing weary of purity."
Padma made a face at her. "Oh, we're still thinking about academics," she retorted, "but we're just not chewing quills at the same time."
Everyone laughed easily at that. The Slytherins shared some of their food, and about three different conversations started up. They talked about the professors and about their fellow students. Harry was pleased to learn from Padma that Weasley acted like a prat in his other classes as well. The Ravenclaws shared History of Magic with Gryffindor, and she told him that Weasley was always running his mouth before, after, and even sometimes during class.
The rest of the picnic was enjoyable. Daphne had had a wonderful idea. Harry was glad for the opportunity to spend some time with his other classmates. They only shared the one class, and Herbology was always very busy.
When the air grew colder, they packed up their basket and hastened indoors. The break in the day had been wonderful, but as Mandy pointed out, there was studying to be done. When most of his work was completed, Harry put it aside.
Theo was scribbling furiously on an essay for History of Magic, so he asked Elan to instruct him in some of the finer points of wizard chess. Elan quickly showed his superiority to Draco, and even Theo, as he trounced Harry in a handful of moves through half a dozen contests.
Then Elan began teaching Harry tactics, and he paid careful attention. The game of strategy held a fascinating appeal. His pieces, while still not completely sure of his abilities as a general, had at least stopped shouting insults at him by the time Harry and Elan were done.
Almost before he knew it, Draco and Theo were ushering him off to bed. "You can play chess tomorrow," Theo said firmly. "I'll play you myself."
"You need sleep, Harry," Draco agreed. "Classes are bright and early tomorrow."
The boys said goodnight to the girls, and retired to their dormitory. Goyle yawned hugely, causing Crabbe, Theo, Draco, and then Harry himself to yawn in progression. He kicked off his shoes, changed into his pyjamas, and went to bed.
The pace of the next week was exhausting, as it was clear that the teachers were gearing up for end of the year examinations. Harry and his friends stumbled out of the dungeons on Friday, completely worn out by the work Professor Snape had set them to. They emerged from the dungeons alone; all of the Gryffindors had been ordered to remain behind.
They had planned to use the free afternoon for studying, but Harry had other ideas. After Christmas, he and Millie had never resumed their Friday afternoon tea with Hagrid. Now knowing what they did about the Stone, they thought they had little need to visit the man. Further attempts to gather clues from studying the two suspect professors had yielded no results. Maybe it was time to go back to the well.
Harry knocked on the door of Hagrid's hut. "Coming!" he called out over Fang's barking. After a couple of minutes, the big man opened the door. "Oh, 'allo there. I 'aven't seen you lot 'round 'ere in awhile. What've yeh been up to? Stayin' outta trouble, I hope."
"Of course!" Harry said instantly.
"Well, don't jest stand out there. Come in."
They sat down at Hagrid's table, and the big man poured tea. He passed around a plate of cookies that Harry had mistaken for rocks. Fang, of course, went right to Millie for some petting.
"'Aven't seen yeh since Christmas," Hagrid said. "How were the holidays, 'Arry?"
"Very pleasant," Harry replied. "All my friends sent me Christmas gifts, and I'd never gotten anything before."
"Those bastard Dursleys," Hagrid growled. "I've a mind teh go back and give that fat little cousin of yours a matching set of ears fer 'is tail."
"You're not supposed to do things like that," Harry admonished him. "You could get into trouble."
The big man sipped from a pocket flask and said nothing. An uncomfortable silence settled over the table. Finally Millie spoke. "Hagrid, we know about the Stone," she said plainly.
Hagrid's face grew dark and mean for a second. Then he sighed and rested his elbows on the table, putting his face in his hands.
"So how'd yeh find out?" Hagrid asked them. His deep voice was muffled slightly because of his hands.
"I knew I remembered Flamel's name from somewhere, but I just couldn't think of where," Harry told him. "Then I opened up a Chocolate Frog and got Dumbledore on the card." He held it out to show the big man. "'...and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicholas Flamel.'"
Hagrid peered at the card. "A'right, so yeh found out who he is. 'At don't mean nothin'."
"We found a book in the library under the alchemy section," Millie informed him. "It was easy to find once we knew what we were looking for. The book told us all about Flamel and the Philosopher's Stone."
Hagrid's face grew dark. "I hope yeh dinae go tellin' tales all aroun' the school. Students aren't supposed teh know about the Stone. It's here 'cause someone tried teh steal it outta Gringotts, as yeh've probably figured out."
"We didn't tell anyone," Harry assured him.
"But we have our suspicions about who's trying to steal it," Millie told him. "It's either Professor Snape or Professor Quirrell."
"'At's a bin full o' rubbish," Hagrid scoffed. "Those two 'elped teh guard the Stone. They're not apt teh go stealin' it, now are they?"
"There are other defences aside from Fluffy?" Harry asked. "Can you tell us what they are?"
Hagrid frowned at him. "O' course I can't," he said, surprised that they had even asked. "First off, I don't know meself. Secondly, yeh already know far too much, so I wouldn't tell yeh anyway. That Stone be here fer a good reason. It's dangerous in the wrong hands, and those wrong hands are trying teh steal it."
"Can you at least tell us who else Dumbledore trusted enough to help guard the Stone?" Millie asked, and Harry was inwardly cheering at her genius. Hagrid revered Dumbledore, and reminding him of the Headmaster's trust in him was a wonderful way to flatter the big man.
Hagrid's chest swelled up a bit, and Harry knew Millie's quick thinking had won the day. "Well, there's Professor Flitwick, Professor Sprout, Professor McGonagall, very nice lady, Professor Dumbledore himself done something, then Professor Quirrell and Professor Snape."
"That's so nutty that one of those two would help to guard that Stone." Harry shook his head. He didn't know which was the guilty party, but whomever he was, he had Dumbledore fooled completely. There was a clear and present danger to Hogwarts.
"T'only sounds nutty because there ain't no plot ter be stealin' the Stone," Hagrid admonished them. "Now I want yeh to ferget about this business. Yeh oughta be worried about yer studies."
"We're keeping up, Hagrid," Harry said a bit defensively. "I'm earning top marks in Potions, I'll have you know."
"Well, Professor Snape is known teh favour 'is own," Hagrid muttered darkly, sipping at his flask again.
Millie stood up, shoving Fang's head out of her lap. "We need to go, Harry," she said with a distinct chill in her voice. "Good day, Hagrid."
Harry also rose and placed his cup on the table. Wordlessly, he followed Millie out of the hut. As they set off back to the castle, he could plainly see that she was fuming.
"How dare he," she seethed. "Of all the rude things to say, saying such disrespectful things about our Head of House."
Back in the common room, the other first years grew very angry when told what Hagrid had said. Draco was perhaps the most eloquent.
"Didn't I tell you it would be like this, Harry?" he stormed. "Everyone's jealous of us. They think we can't get ahead fairly. They think we cheat." Draco scowled fiercely. "We're the best, and they just can't accept it, so they tell lies about us. That giant oaf," he said scornfully. "We ought to give him a good hexing, is what we ought to do."
"That could be fun," Theo said thoughtfully. "We've got the perfect defence too. We could hardly be expected to tolerate someone insulting Professor Snape. Next week you can go down as usual, get inside, and hex him a bit. Then just say that Hagrid was being insulting, and you got angry."
"You say that like you're not planning to go," Tracy laughed at him. "Surely you'll be able to spin that tale properly when we're questioned about it."
Theo frowned. "I'm not going to be there. Only Harry and Millie have a legitimate, pre-established reason for being there. Lots of people have seen them leaving the castle at tea time. Everyone knows where they're going. If the rest of us tag along, it'll look planned, and that would make us look like liars if we try to tell that story."
"Just us?" Millie asked. "Goodie, we get him all to ourselves."
"That's bloody unfair," Pansy pouted. "Smelly beast, I'd hit him with a Bubble Bath Charm."
"Surely one more person could go along," Draco reasoned. "I'll make sure to give him a hex for each of you."
"Who says you get to go?" Daphne demanded. "Selfish prat, always thinking of yourself first. All of us have the right to go, and it's not going to automatically be you just because your name is Malfoy."
"We'll draw stones for it," Tracy decided, and she magicked up a green velvet pouch and a set of stones, seven black, one red. "Whoever draws the red stone gets to go with Harry and Millie to hex Hagrid."
That seemed the fairest method, and they all gave assent. As a neutral party, Harry held the bag as each of his friends pulled out a stone. When they all opened their hands, it was Daphne who had the lucky red stone. Draco pouted.
"I'll do requests," Daphne promised. "Any hex you want me to cast, I'll cast it."
They spent the rest of the time before dinner discussing what hexes to cast. Dinner came and went quickly, and then they spent the hours before curfew in a secondary Potions classroom practicing their spells. They would have stayed longer, for they had no fear of wandering the dungeons at night, but their beds were calling to them.
Harry felt better after practicing his spells, as he always did. Each spell was a reminder to him that he was a wizard, he was special. He would never have to put up with Dudley's hitting again, or Uncle Vernon's shouting, or Aunt Petunia's orders, because the Dursleys hated and feared magic. All too soon, the summer holiday would be here, and Harry would be able to pay the Muggles back for some of the hell he'd endured. He couldn't actually cast spells, but giving them a good scare would be almost as fun. It was with those pleasant thoughts in his mind that Harry fell asleep.