They Shook Hands - Year 1

Settling In

Morning came very quickly for the tired first years, but the anticipation of attending their first classes quickly burned away any sleepiness. Elan came into their room first thing and awoke them all.

"Orientation meeting in fifteen minutes," he said.

They quickly rose and pulled on slippers and dressing gowns before filing into the common room where Elan and the other prefects were waiting.

Harry sat down in one of the beanbag chairs near the fireplace because he was slightly cold. He was quickly joined by Tracy, Draco, Pansy, and Theo. Millicent pulled over a high-backed chair, which he could now see was amply padded. Crabbe and Goyle leaned against the wall, trying hard not to yawn. Blaise Zabini and Daphne Greengrass, not quite as well acquainted with their little group, stood slightly apart from everyone else.

"Most of you know me, but for those who don't, my name is Elan Octavio Malfoy. I'm a fifth year prefect, and this is our orientation meeting. I'd like to introduce Abraham Montague, one of our sixth year prefects. Abraham?"

A dark-haired boy stood up from the group seated at the table. "Good morning. I must apologize for making you all get out of bed at such an ungodly hour, but you were so tired last night, we decided to postpone until this morning.

"There are certain things you all need to know if you're going to succeed here in Slytherin House. It's our job as prefects to make sure you know those things. Now then, since the sixth years don't have OWLs or NEWTs to study for, we are the ones who are put in charge of you first years, making sure that you don't get lost, hurt, or otherwise in trouble. Basically we have to look out for you."

"We?" Tracy asked.

Abraham smiled at her. "I was just about to introduce my counterpart, the lovely Jessica Conejo. Jess, stand up."

A pretty Spanish girl with mounds of curly black ringlets rose gracefully to her feet. "Good morning. Even though it's we sixth years who are in charge of you, you can come to any of us prefects with questions or concerns.

"This is Peter von Erickson," she said, pointing to a tall, well-muscled boy, "and Molly Archer, the seventh years." A pretty blonde girl who was wearing too much make-up smiled and waved at them. "Elan, of course," the elder Malfoy rose to his feet and took a deep bow, "and Jamie Davis, whom most of you already know, representing the fifth years." Tracy's older sister, a short girl with very chic blonde hair also stood up, though she dropped a graceful curtsy rather than bowing.

Abraham cleared his throat. "The most important thing I can say to you is that Slytherins stick together. We can show the outside world no crack in our armour, no gap in our defences. We must have complete solidarity. This means that you support your fellow Slytherins, no matter what. Take up your personal problems in private, preferably here in the Lair, where no unfriendly ears can overhear."

Jessica continued that line of thought. "Solidarity is our best defence. The other houses, most notably Gryffindor, hate us. We have a half-ally in Ravenclaw House, but we can truly depend only on ourselves."

"Now then, here are the ground rules of Slytherin House," said Abraham. "One: Never take the blame for anything.

"Two: To avoid taking blame, never get caught.

"Three: If you do get caught, deny everything and blame someone else.

"Four: No member of Slytherin House is to maltreat another in any way at all if there's anybody from another house watching.

"Five: Blood does matter. Ability matters more.

"Six: There is no- Rule Six.

"Seven: Slytherin does not mean junior Death Eater.

"Now then-"

"You left out Rule Eight: Loyalty is not just for Hufflepuffs," Jessica interrupted him.

"Oops," Abraham said, slightly embarrassed. "You're going to do fine, I know it," he assured them. "If you have problems with classwork, you can come see your prefects, preferably us sixth years, though if we're not around, any of the others will gladly help you out."

Jessica grinned at them. "If you have problems with other students, as is bound to happen, we'll be glad to help you out. We won't fight your battles for you, so you're going to have to take care of the problem yourself, but we'll give you all the advice you could want." Harry noticed that Jessica had a very nice smile.

"Don't worry about getting lost during your first week. We," said Abraham, indicating himself and Jessica, "will be here in the common room every morning to provide directions, and to top it all, we'll actually take you to your first lesson of each class."

"I think that covers the basics, doesn't it Peter?" asked Jessica, turning to face the other prefects at their table.

"It does," Peter replied, nodding his head. "It's getting time for breakfast. Why don't you all have a shower and be back here in thirty minutes? We'll guide you back up to the Great Hall."

Feeling very reassured about everything, Harry went to get his bath things. So far, being in Slytherin was pretty great.

"Nice to know they're looking out for us," he commented to Theo as they trudged down the hall to the bathroom.

"Solidarity, Harry, solidarity. It's what makes our house strong. A house divided cannot stand."

"That's pretty profound for oh-seven-thirty," Draco snickered.

"I'll oh-seven-thirty my foot on your bum," Theo threatened.

Draco clapped his hands to his cheeks and made a quavering, wibbling sound. "Oh no, anything but that!" he mocked.

"Guys, not before breakfast," Harry sighed, pushing the bathroom door open. He stopped in his tracks.

"Wow," he breathed.

The bathroom was an impressive sight. The floor was tiled with a pattern of silver and green, the Slytherin House colours. The long row of sinks mounted on the near wall had bright silver handles. The shower stalls that lined the far wall had highly decorated curtains with beautiful mythological scenes. A door immediately ahead read 'WC' on it.

"Pretty impressive," said Draco, looking around.

Crabbe grunted and shuffled towards the showers.

The water was instantly warm, just the temperature Harry liked. He concluded it must have a spell on it, and he said as much to his friends.

"Some parents made a big investment about three years ago," Draco told him, raising his voice to be heard above the noise of the showers, "protesting that it wasn't fair for us to have such miserable dungeon conditions. So we get the nicest bathroom, aside from the prefects' bathroom, of course, with very specific charms on each shower to adjust the water to the proper temperature. The shampoo and conditioner never run out. I believe there's also a way to turn the shower stall into a proper bathtub."

"Neat," Harry said, echoed by Theo.

With towels wrapped around their waists and pyjamas in hand, the boys straggled back to their room at their own pace. Pulling on a brand new uniform and robes, Harry felt excitement starting to build again.

Back in the common room, they were joined by Millicent, Tracy, and Daphne, and they once again relaxed in the beanbag chairs while they all waited for Pansy to come out. Theo couldn't relax and kept popping up to pace nervously.

"I'm hungry!" he finally burst out.

"So what else is new?" called Pansy's mocking voice. She stepped out of the girls' corridor and smirked at Theo.

"Your smart mouth, girl-"

"Enough," Jessica said sternly. "We're about to go out and face the rest of the school. The time for bickering is over. Now we are all united."

She led them back through the maze of dungeon tunnels. Harry was awake enough now to understand that they were walking in a very big almost-circle. He chose not to say anything, though, as it seemed to be the shortest route.

Finally they came up the stone steps and into the castle proper. Then up some marble stairs and they were back in the Great Hall. There were already many students eating, and the Slytherin first years wasted no time in finding seats and filling their plates.

Harry helped himself to perhaps the best cooked breakfast he'd ever enjoyed. The little fried tomatoes were scrumptious. He piled on the eggs while everyone dug deep into the serving platters.

"Breakfast," Elan said around a mouthful of food, "is the most important meal of the day."

"Jess, has Professor Snape given you the schedules yet?" Abraham asked, between forkfuls.

She nodded. "I'll take care of the first years if you want to get the others."

"Sounds good."

Jessica handed Harry his schedule, and he stopped eating to study it. It was written in a very neat script, something Harry had yet to master with the quill.

"Herbology first thing with Ravenclaw," Theo said.

Pansy swallowed a bite of toast. "Aww, Ickle Teddikins can see his girlfriend Mandy," she teased.

Theo growled at her. "I'm going to throw you off the top of the Astronomy Tower," he promised.

She fluttered her eyelashes. "Ooh, you want to take me up to the Astronomy Tower?" They'd heard last night from some second years that older students sometimes had romantic escapades up at the top of the Astronomy Tower, under the stars.

Theo concentrated on eating his eggs and toast, obviously giving up on trying to get the last word in for this argument.

"After Herbology we have History of Magic with Hufflepuff," Draco said, looking closely at the schedule. He grimaced. "There's Mudbloods in Hufflepuff. After lunch is Charms, then Transfiguration. Blimey, they lay it on thick the first day."

Harry finished his breakfast and drank the last of his milk. Everyone else was finishing as well.

"Herbology is very easy to get to," Abraham said. "Follow me."

Jessica brought up the rear as Abraham led them out of the Great Hall and through the corridors to a large set of double doors. They stepped out into the open light and saw a number of large greenhouses.

"You're in Greenhouse One, which is just ahead there. We'll be along to escort you to History of Magic. Have fun and do the house proud."

Herbology, taught by a dumpy little witch called Professor Sprout, was a very interesting class. Harry had done his best to remember things from One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi as it was relevant to two subjects, so he understood most of the Professor's lecture. The greenhouse made for an interesting classroom since it was filled with live specimens.

Abraham and Jessica met them at the double doors which led back into the castle. "Well my lads and ladies, what did you think?" he asked them. "Did you like Herbology?"

"It was interesting," said Harry.

"Boring," yawned Crabbe.

"Yeah," yawned Goyle.

"Nah, it was pretty cool," disagreed Theo.

"Not too bad," said Millicent.

"I'm going to hate it," said Tracy. "I quite abhor dirt."

"'Abhor'? What did you have for breakfast, a dictionary?" Draco asked her.

"Shut up, Malfoy."

"I'm going to poison Theo as soon as Professor Sprout shows us which plant is nightshade," Pansy said cheerfully.

"I'm going to throw Pansy off the top of the Astronomy Tower after our lesson," he replied just as cheerfully.

"Ah, the love. You can cut it with a knife," Jessica smiled.

"This way to History of Magic," Abraham said as he led the way.

Harry's excitement after reading the text over the summer was dashed. History of Magic was the most boring class alive. Except that it wasn't alive; in fact, it was quite dead. Professor Binns was a ghost. He had been very old indeed when he had fallen asleep in front of the staff room fire and got up the next morning to teach, leaving his body behind him. Binns droned on and on while they scribbled down names and dates, and got Emeric the Evil and Uric the Oddball mixed up. Crabbe and Goyle took the opportunity to go back to sleep.

Harry struggled to keep his eyes open. This was certainly not what he'd had in mind when Hagrid had told him he was a wizard. The only person who was taking an active interest in the lecture was Hermione Granger. Everyone else was slouched back in their chairs, barely awake, but the Muggleborn witch was perched at the edge of her seat, scratching her quill furiously, seemingly determined not to miss a single thing.

She appeared to be hard at work, just like a good Hufflepuff. Draco caught Harry's attention and tipped his head in Granger's direction while rolling his eyes and making a funny face. Harry smothered a snort of laughter and wrote down 'Lester the Unlikely' in his notes.

Abraham and Jessica met them outside the classroom and didn't bother to ask how the lesson had gone. Apparently their tired faces were testament enough. As he followed along back towards the Great Hall, Harry was looking forward to lunch. Some food would be just the thing to perk him back up.

That was when he noticed the whispers. Harry's presence was being noted by the other students. They stared at him; they stared at his scar. They gawked at him, not caring if he saw them or not. Even if he made eye contact with them, they still seemed in awe. It was unnerving and really hard to cope with. He made certain to take a seat facing the wall when they went to lunch.

After lunch, Jessica led them to the Charms corridor. Professor Flitwick turned out to be a tiny little wizard who had to stand on a pile of books to see over his desk. At the start of class he took the roll call, and when he reached Harry's name he gave an excited squeak and toppled out of sight. They spent the class learning the proper way to hold a wand for charmwork.

Professor McGonagall was again different. Harry had been quite right to think she wasn't a teacher to cross. Strict and clever, she gave them a talking-to the moment they sat down in her first class.

"Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts," she said. "Anyone caught fooling around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned."

Then she changed her desk into a pig and back again. They were all very impressed and couldn't wait to get started, but soon realized that they weren't going to be changing the furniture into animals for a long time. After taking a lot of complicated notes, they were each given a match and started trying to turn it into a needle. By the end of the lesson, Millicent had managed to get the end of her match to become pointy, and Theo had managed to turn it into silver, but none of the rest had any luck.

After their last class, the first year Slytherins all returned to the Serpents' Lair to drop off their belongings. It was only half past four though, and dinner was two hours away. Harry had decided he was going to do some more reading, but quickly changed his mind when Draco invited him to play Exploding Snap.

The game was simple enough, but the risk of getting burned lent it a rather keen edge. Crabbe and Goyle, both of them being clumsy and awkward, took far more than their fair share of burns. Millicent was the only one who escaped injury, and Harry was nursing sore fingers on the way upstairs to the Great Hall.

The girls had made a detour to the lavatory, so the boys were on their own as they came out from the stone walls of the dungeon into the marble-lined magnificence that was the front entryway. Four first year Gryffindor boys were coming down the marble stairs at the same time. Remembering how nice the woman on the platform had been, Harry waved.

"Hi, Weasley."

The red-haired boy stopped and gave him a cold look. His eyes briefly snapped up to the scar on Harry's forehead.

"What do you want, Slytherin?" he asked in a nasty tone.

"Nothing," Harry said, startled by the rebuff. "I just wanted to say hi."

Weasley didn't say anything else, but the sneer on his face said more than enough. He turned and went to catch up with the others Gryffindors.

"Do you know him, Harry?" asked Draco.

"No, not really. I saw him outside the platform. His mother was the lady I asked how to get through the barrier. I just thought I'd say hi, but I didn't expect him to be such a tosser."

"What's his name?" Theo asked.

"Ron Weasley," Harry replied.

"Weasley." Theo let the word roll around in his mouth. He managed to make it sound quite distasteful.

"I know the name," Draco said shortly. "Hey, Weasel!" he sneered in Ron's direction.

Weasley stopped again and looked back over his shoulder. This time Longbottom and the other two boys stopped to wait for him.

"That's right. I'm talking to you, Weasel," Draco drawled insultingly.

"Who are you? What do you want?"

Draco stepped closer, and Crabbe and Goyle moved up to flank him, standing a short distance behind. They looked like bodyguards, with seriously unfriendly expressions on their faces.

"I'm Malfoy, Draco Malfoy," Draco said, drawling his words once more. "This is Crabbe," he said gesturing left with his head, "and this is Goyle," he continued, gesturing right, flipping his hair around.

"Draco Malfoy?" Weasley asked, trying to suppress a snigger.

"Think my name's funny, do you? Note that I had no need to ask your name. My father told me that the Weasley family has red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford," he sneered.

Weasley's face was turning red. "Shut up, Malfoy! You've got a lot of nerve to talk to me that way."

"You've got a lot of nerve to be rude to Harry the way you just were. I think you owe him an apology."

"Get stuffed. I don't apologize to Slytherins."

"I don't think I like your attitude."

"Isn't that a shame?"

"You'd better watch yourself, Weasley. Nasty things happen to those who don't respect their betters."

"When they come along, I'll make sure to take notice."

"You've got an answer for everything, don't you, Weasel? I bet-" Draco broke off, staring at Ron's feet. "You're wearing Muggle trainers and then not even getting robes that cover them up? You are a poor excuse for a wizard."

Weasley was obviously sizing up Crabbe and Goyle. His eyes flicked back to Harry briefly, then flicked to Theo, and back to Draco. He threw a quick look back over his shoulder at Thomas and Finnigan. He glanced sideways at Longbottom. Harry knew he was trying to decide if they could beat the odds.

Weasley took a deep breath. "Any time you want to find out how much of a wizard I am is fine with me, Malfoy."

He turned his back and walked into the Great Hall, trailed by his friends.

"What was that all about?" Harry asked.

"Some wizarding families are better than others, Harry. Weasleys actually like Muggles. They like all the atrocious things that Muggles do to each other. They forget the awful things the Muggles have done to us. Well we don't forget." His tone was sombre. "Fascinated with their primitive culture and their primitive science. Turned their backs on the wizarding world, they have. It's a wonder their blood hasn't been diluted to nothing by now."

"You sound rather elitist," Harry said. He'd been taught in Muggle school that people were equal.

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Of course we are. Even the Muggles still have their royals around. Royalty is the most stable form of rule, the form that best serves the people. With one person to issue orders, things get done, and there's no silly obstacles like politicking, or running for re-election. There's plenty of that codswallop every time the Minister of Magic is up for office."

"But look at what happened to most Muggle Royalties," Harry said. "Revolutions!"

"Further proof," Draco crowed, "that Muggles are uncivilized. Muggle Royals often took only the privileges of their rank and station, but not the responsibilities. Their children grew up spoiled brats. That's why they were overthrown. A child, properly raised and taught responsibility and common decency, can grow up to be a wise and benevolent ruler."

"He's not telling you that our Royal theory also includes elected officials to a Parliament which reflects the will of the people," Theo interjected.

"You have a whole theory about this?" Harry was amused.

"It was a project my father assigned us," Theo answered. "Myself, Draco, Pansy, Millie, and Tracy."

"He was your tutor, right?" Harry remembered that from Draco's letters.

"Yes. He taught us all about magical theory and philosophy," Draco said. "Sometimes he would bring guests to speak with us. He didn't want us to be limited to one viewpoint. Our parents wanted us to be able to think, not to just follow blindly."

"Yeah, well stop pontificating and blindly follow yourself into that Hall. You're in the way," Tracy said, as she led the girls up the stairs. Pansy elbowed Theo out of the way, even though he really wasn't in it.

"Stop what?" Draco asked, confused.

"Pontificating. It means 'Malfoy is a stuck-up git'," she smirked at him.

"Hey!"

"Come on. Dinner is waiting," Pansy said as she shoved Theo towards the doors.

Dinner was a sumptuous affair, though not quite with the grandeur of the Welcoming Feast. Some of Harry's favourite foods were on the menu, and he was hungry.

As Draco began relating the Weasley Incident, as he called it, to Tracy and Millicent (Pansy and Theo were bickering again), Harry thought about his day.

With four classes behind him, Harry thought that Transfiguration seemed to be the most difficult. He was feeling pretty uneasy about it, for Professor McGonagall seemed a very demanding taskmistress and wasn't likely inclined to mercy.

Professor Flitwick, on the other hand, rather seemed to like him, and Harry figured he would do quite well in Charms. It had certainly been embarrassing when the diminutive professor tumbled off his stack of books, but the class was interesting.

Just as interesting, in its own way, was Herbology. He'd already learned that wolfsbane was also called monkshood. Professor Sprout had mentioned, as he'd remembered from his reading, that it was a deadly poison.

History of Magic seemed to be the worst of the lot. It appeared to be good for nothing other than forty winks. How he was supposed to stay awake through the monotony of it, he didn't know. At least he wasn't alone in that feeling.

"Binnsy'll bore you to tears," Abraham was saying at dinner. "He's never going to learn your names, so don't get offended. He might also call you by your father's name. You get used to him."

"But the material!" Tracy despaired. "It's so bloody boring."

"That's why you sleep in class and read your book later. You also do other reading, to get the real picture. If you can make it more than just one endless 'and then', History of Magic is pretty interesting."

"How can you lie to them like that, Abraham?" Jessica asked. "You are the only person in this school who enjoys History."

"I like studying history. History is interesting."

"I prefer to make history," she said, tossing her head, sending her dark curls flipping back over her shoulder.

"Anyways," Abraham continued, "if you apply yourself and don't let it become 'that dreadfully boring history stuff,' then you can bear through it easily. You might even learn a thing or two."

"So Harry, what was your first day like?" Jessica asked him curiously.

"It was all wonderful," he said, meaning it. Even the boring parts of his day had been worlds better than the best day on Privet Drive.

"I can't believe I've missed out on so much. I can't even imagine going back to living like a Muggle."

"His blood is singing to him," Draco said proudly.

"Well I'm glad you're back among wizards, Harry, where you truly belong." Jessica smiled at him.

Dessert was served, and Harry stuffed himself on treacle tart. He was still revelling that there was no Dudley around to take it away from him.

"You know what we should do after dinner?" Draco said to Theo.

"What's that?"

"Hexes."

Theo grinned. "And curses?"

"Of course. We haven't had any free time yet. We really ought to be prepared for our first Defence lesson tomorrow, wouldn't you say?"

"It would be extremely imprudent to be unprepared."

"My thoughts exactly."

"Did anyone bring their Defence book along today?"

"I did," Tracy said.

"Good work, Tracy," said Draco.

"Where shall we go?" Theo asked. "I'm sure there are plenty of empty rooms in the dungeons."

Tracy responded, "I found a suitable place this afternoon. It's right next to the History of Magic classroom."

"Excellent. We'll go now, shall we?"

Harry, Draco, Theo, Pansy, Tracy, and Millie got up from the table.

"Where are you all going?" Blaise Zabini asked.

"We're going to work on some hexes and jinxes," Draco replied.

"Yeah? Sounds like fun."

Draco cocked his head in consideration. "Would you like to come along?"

"All right."

Harry looked at Daphne Greengrass. "How about you?"

Daphne jumped slightly. "Me? I'd love to. Thanks."

Draco glanced at Crabbe and Goyle. "You two may as well come too."

"Thanks, Draco," they said.

The empty room appeared to be a normal classroom. There were desks stacked all on one wall, and a few boxes were perched here and there.

"Excellent find, Tracy," Theo congratulated her.

"I think this is some kind of storage room, except with nothing stored in it."

"It's perfect for us," Pansy said, agreeing, for once, with Theo. "Until we find more places, that is. We'll have to thoroughly explore the dungeons. Now we can all practice together."

"Crabbe, you'll be our first test victim," Draco declared.

Crabbe looked uneasy. "I dunno, Draco. I don't think I want to."

Draco's jaw dropped. "Am I going mad, or did the word 'think' just escape your lips?"

Crabbe had no answer, so he nodded vaguely.

"Get up there and stand still," Draco ordered. "There's not much we can do to permanently damage you anyway."

Crabbe, still looking mighty nervous, stepped about five metres away and turned around. "You do know all the counters, right?"

"Not really, no," Draco said breezily, as he pointed his wand. "Furnunculus!" he said.

Red sparks spat from the end of his wand, just like when he had tried to hex Hermione Granger on the train.

"Bloody hell," he cursed. "I am saying it right, aren't I?"

"Furunculus," Pansy said, sounding it out phonetically.

"Furnunculus!"

"You're adding an extra 'n'," Millicent said, frowning as she listened to him. "Fur-un, not Fur-nun."

Daphne giggled. "Fur-nun sounds like something weird having to do with the C of E."

"Furunculus!" A jet of red light with a white core flashed from the tip of Draco's wand, striking Crabbe in the chest.

"Ah!" he yelled. "That hurts!"

Harry clapped his hands a few times, impressed. Draco looked up the counterhex and cast it, giving Crabbe relief from the pain.

"Your turn, Harry," Draco invited him, gesturing with a sweeping arm.

Well, here it was, his first attempt to do an actual spell. Harry was quite nervous, but it was with his friends. Draco had gone first and failed; Harry didn't need to worry. He could do this, and even if he couldn't, his friends would still be his friends.

"Furunculus!" He wasn't sure why he picked the same hex, but it worked fabulously. A jet of that red-white light shot out from his wand, striking Crabbe in the face.

"Ah!" he shouted, clutching at his face. "Pick something else, will you?"

"Way to go, Harry!" Tracy congratulated him. "Told you, you're a natural."

"The counter?" Millicent said, looking at the suffering Crabbe.

Harry pointed his wand and spoke the counterhex, causing the boils to fade from Crabbe's face. The bigger boy was whimpering slightly.

"My turn!" Tracy said, jumping to the front.

"What about me?" Theo asked.

"Idiot boys get to go last," Pansy said, sticking out her tongue at him.

"I'll go last, but only if I get to hex you," he said, looking at her in a challenging manner.

She scoffed at him. "Since I know you're too stupid to actually cast the hex, I agree, but only if I get to hex you back."

Theo's voice went very high and prissy. "Oh, she wants a proper duel does she? Well, we must all bend our knee to the crown," he mocked her.

"I'm looking for the nightshade," she reminded him.

"You wouldn't know the difference between nightshade and a night watchman," he scoffed back at her.

"Do it now," begged Crabbe. "No more hexes at me!"

"Shut up, Crabbe," Pansy snapped.

"Shut it, fathead!" Theo snapped at the same time.

"Hey!" Crabbe protested. "My head's not fat!"

"Furunculus!" Tracy said, ignoring the squabbling pair, sending the hex flying at Crabbe, who shrieked like a four year-old girl with a skinned knee.

Millicent took pity on him though, sending her hex at Goyle, who was a bundle of nerves from watching Crabbe.

Pansy and Theo had squared off, wands at the ready. "One, two, three," Draco drawled, clearly bored by their antics.

"Furunculus!" Theo shouted, sending the jet of light towards her.

She threw herself to the floor, dodging the hex. With the elasticity of youth, she bounced right back up.

"Furunculus!" she cried, but her aim was off, and the hex sailed over his shoulder.

"Rictusempra!" he yelled, sending a jet of silver light at her, striking her in the chest.

Pansy began to shriek with giggles, and she dropped her wand, clutching her sides.

"Not! Fair!" she managed to say between giggles.

"Nice Tickling Charm," Millicent said admiringly.

"I picked it up at Malfoy Manor this summer."

"Father said it was a harmless spell that could be put to very effective use by a creative mind." Draco was proud.

"I think I win this round," Theo said, holding up Pansy's wand.

"You're really evil, you know," Tracy told him. "You know how ticklish she is."

Theo bowed mockingly to her. "Why do you think I used that specific charm? Strategy, Tracy, strategy."

"You should do the counter."

"I didn't learn the counter," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "Draco, you know the counter for the Tickling Charm?"

"Nope."

"You mean we just have to wait for it to wear off?" Millicent was astounded.

"Unless she can look it up and cast it herself." Theo was unapologetic.

"Theo!" Millicent was obviously trying hard not to laugh. Daphne was failing miserably at that task for her part.

Tracy was leafing through the book. "Here it is," she said, and spoke the words. Pansy collapsed into an exhausted heap, still giggling, having quite lost control of herself. Slowly, her giggles began to fade away.

"All right," Draco said. "Daphne? Blaise? Your turn to show off."

Blaise gestured for Daphne to go first. She pointed her wand at Crabbe.

"Furunculus!"

Harry was really starting to feel sorry for Crabbe as boils broke out over his face again. He supposed someone had to be the target. If they just cast at a stone wall, they wouldn't know if the spells were done properly.

They continued to practice their hexes and curses until just before curfew. Then they gathered up their things, took the last curses off of Goyle and Crabbe, and hustled for the safety of the dungeons.

Harry was feeling very satisfied. With a little work, he'd managed to cast all but two of the spells he'd tried. He'd done better than Daphne, who had only managed two spells. Poor Blaise Zabini couldn't do more than shoot sparks, no matter how many times he tried. Harry was very excited about Defence Against the Dark Arts and wondered how he was going to get any sleep.

They got inside their common room just as the bell tolled curfew. Now, only prefects and teachers were allowed to be outside of the dormitories. That didn't count the ghosts, of course. The ghosts still unnerved Harry. Watching them float right through walls was enough to make his bones shiver.

Harry was very tired and sought his bed. The others agreed with him. By the time he had changed into his pyjamas and laid down, his eyelids were very heavy indeed. He struggled to stay awake and participate in the conversation that Draco and Theo were having, but when the first thing he said was interrupted by a huge yawn, he gave it up and was asleep before he could hear the others wish him pleasant dreams.


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