Friends Who Stick Together
After their night of chases, terror, and panic, Harry and Draco fell into bed completely exhausted. Still scared beyond reason, they were asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows. When Theo shook him awake six hours later, Harry just did not want to get up.
"Harry, none of that," Theo scolded, as Harry tried to roll over and pull the covers over his head. Harry replied with an unintelligible grunt, much like the ones Goyle and Crabbe often made.
Theo stepped back and took stock of the situation. He summoned Crabbe over to assist.
"Grab him," Theo ordered. "Goyle, you grab Draco. We have to get these two awake and to class on time."
Harry vaguely felt powerful hands latch onto his pyjamas. Then the warm covers were pulled away, and cold air shot down his neck. He whimpered and reached for the blankets, trying to get back to the warm, cozy haven that was his bed.
Though he was not aware of it, Crabbe practically dragged him down the hall and into the bathroom where Theo already had the showers running. Theo pointed to the two stalls, indicating for the two boys to put their burdens under the spray of water, and checked his watch, frowning.
Harry came awake with a gasp as water was suddenly cascading on his head. He sucked in a mouthful of it and started choking, spitting it back out into the drain. Blearily, he leaned back and looked out of the stall where Theo stood with his arms crossed, looking at his watch, and tapping his foot impatiently.
"Let's go. You two already missed breakfast. Bathe."
Harry fumbled for the soap and began to wash, only to realize that he was still wearing his pyjamas. He groaned and began unbuttoning them, chucking each sopping piece out onto the tile floor.
Ten minutes later, clean and with his hair freshly washed (although still very wild), Harry stepped out of the stall and took the towel that Theo held out for him. He went to the sink and began brushing his teeth.
"Let's go, Draco," Theo snapped, highly irritated.
"I'm conditioning," Draco's voice came back, drifting out of the stall along with the steam. "My hair is high maintenance."
"Your head is going to need maintenance if you take any longer, because I'm going to have Crabbe put his fist through it. We're going to be late for Potions!"
"Almost done," Draco sighed. Two minutes later the shower was off and Draco reached for his towel.
"C'mon, back to the room, hurry!"
Harry and Draco quick-stepped it back to the dorm and pulled on their uniforms and robes. Despite only having Potions today, they made sure to take their wands. Harry picked up his school bag and the Slytherin boys hurried off to their classroom.
No sooner had Harry sat down next to Tracy than Professor Snape stalked in, an unhappy scowl across his face. "Weasley!" he barked. "Have you figured out where a bezoar can be found yet? You've had all week."
Weasley, who'd been whispering something to Finnigan, jumped and flushed slightly. "No sir, sorry sir."
"Five points from Gryffindor for being grossly unprepared for class," the Potions Master snapped.
The class went on without further incident as they reviewed the steps for properly brewing a Forgetfulness Potion. Harry was bleary throughout the lecture, and despite having missed breakfast, the ingredients list was enough to kill his hunger. Though he was still very tired, Harry and Tracy managed to turn out a respectable potion, and Professor Snape praised both of them, saving a flask of it.
"Next week I want a roll of parchment from each of you detailing the-" Professor Snape broke off what he'd been going to say and stopped in his tracks. He swooped down like a striking hawk and seemed to snatch something up off the floor. He held out his hand to the Gryffindors, the Rememberall glittering in his palm.
"This belongs to you, Longbottom, does it not?"
"Y-y-yessir," Longbottom said, barely able to get the words out.
"Keep better track of your possessions and don't leave them in my classroom. Five points from Gryffindor."
Professor Snape carelessly tossed the Rememberall in Longbottom's general direction, and Parvati Patil, his partner, barely caught it for him. Weasley's face was bright red. He was clearly furious.
Harry was stunned. Longbottom hadn't dropped the ball in the dungeons; he'd lost it in the courtyard during Flying lessons. Professor Snape knew it! Were teachers allowed to lie like that?
His mouth must have been hanging open, because Tracy tapped him under the chin. "Hush up," she whispered. "We'll talk about it later."
Snape assigned their homework and then left the classroom, slamming the door shut behind him, leaving the first year students still in the midst of cleaning up. Most of the Gryffindors finished up quickly. The Slytherin girls hurried off, and Blaise didn't wait for the others.
"I'll see you all later. I want to go send an owl home to mother."
Harry, Draco, and Theo were filing out of the room when Harry felt a shove from behind that propelled him into the wall.
"Hey!" he said, turning around. There stood Weasley and Finnigan. They looked like they were itching for a fight.
"Longbottom didn't lose his Rememberall in this dungeon, Potter," Weasley spat. "You told me yesterday that you didn't have it, you liar."
"And he was telling the truth, Weasley," Draco drawled, reaching casually for his wand.
Harry's fatigue had evaporated. "You didn't believe me anyway, Weasley," he said, his pulse increasing. He could feel the adrenaline rush come on him as his body prepared itself for fight or flight.
"Why should I believe a lying, sneaking Slytherin?" Weasley sneered at him.
Harry felt his own temper start to rise. If there was one thing Harry had hated about living at Privet Drive (above all the things he had hated), it was being called a liar whenever he told the Dursleys that he didn't know how strange things kept happening around him. Whether it was how the glass at the zoo had disappeared or his hair's insistence that it didn't want to be cut, Harry's protestations had always been met with cries of "Liar!" To hear Weasley echoing that false accusation was maddening.
"Shut up, Weasley," Theo snapped. "They kept their word last night. You never showed."
"Quite right," Draco continued. "You could have found out just how honourable Slytherins are if you hadn't chickened out of the duel. You obviously don't know the first thing about wizardly honour. Tell me truly: Did you go tattling to Filch right after dinner or did you tell that rule-spouting wanker of a brother?"
Weasley went red again and went for his wand, but found one in his face before he could get his hand halfway there. Weasley froze. Harry had him dead center. Theo kept a close guard on Finnigan, who was looking very nervous.
Draco leaned in close. "Now let's get one thing clear, Weasley: you are inferior. You're almost as inferior as the Muggles your family loves so much. I don't know why you're here and not in some public school. Do you know that Muggles can go to school for free, Weasley? Books belong to the school and are loaned out to the students. Wouldn't that be nice, Weasley? Your parents could have sent all, what, twenty of you? Could have sent all of their grubby little spawn to Muggle school.
"I know you were afraid to duel me last night. That's why you tattled to Filch. Well we don't like tattlers, do we lads?"
"No," Harry and Theo said firmly.
"That's not how it was!" Finnigan protested.
"We got caught by McGonagall!" Weasley echoed.
"And you were so scared you spilled everything to her?" Theo sneered. "Is that the famed Gryffindor courage?"
Draco smiled nastily. "I don't believe you," he said, throwing Weasley's words back in his face. "So, as payback for snitching, you're going to get all the hexes you would have gotten last night, but this time, you don't even get the dignity of fighting back."
As if on cue, Crabbe and Goyle, who'd been cleaning up the last of their spilled potion, came out of the classroom and grabbed Weasley and Finnigan from behind.
"In the classroom," Draco directed. The two Gryffindors were dragged inside. The Slytherins filed in orderly.
"Lock the door," Draco ordered.
"Aromohola!" Theo said firmly, sending a jet of black light into the lock. He pulled on it twice, but it stayed shut.
"You can't do this, Malfoy!" Weasley shouted angrily, struggling against Crabbe's iron grip.
"You should have kept your word, Weasley. Now not only do you have to suffer, but your friend does as well."
"Now wait just a second here," Finnigan protested.
Draco pointed his wand and cast his favourite hex, "Furunculus!"
Harry was fuming with anger. Weasley had called Harry a liar, insulted his House, and set him up to get in trouble. Dudley Dursley was no longer the person Harry hated most; that honour was reserved now for Ronald Weasley. He was aching to cast some hexes of his own at Weasley, but Draco was casting for all he was worth. It would be enough.
The next few minutes were not pleasant for Weasley and Finnigan. Held firmly by Crabbe and Goyle, they couldn't fight back or even dodge the hexes and jinxes that Draco cast at them. Their cries of pain, which they'd made an effort to hold back at first, echoed loudly off the stone walls.
Draco hit Finnigan with about a half-dozen hexes. Weasley took a full dozen before another Boils Hex fizzled out before reaching him. Draco's next two spells also failed to materialize. Breathing heavy, sweat glistening off his brow, his usually neatly combed hair nearly as untidy as Harry's normally was, Draco staggered and nearly fell. Weasley and Finnigan were allowed to collapse on the floor, crying.
"Next time you should keep your word, Weasley," Draco said in gasps, spitting on the boy. He turned back to his friends. "Let's get out of here. I'm knackered."
He led the way out through the open door where they came to a sudden halt. Professor Snape was standing in the corridor, arms crossed, and looking very imposing.
"S-sir," Draco stammered.
Snape said nothing, keeping the pressure on. They continued to sweat. Harry was panicking inside, sure that this meant detention, or even expulsion.
"All in all a neat bit of work, Mister Malfoy," Snape finally said, "but you might want to pick a different room next time. I'll deal with those two. You lot get out of here."
He swept past them into the classroom and slammed the door shut.
The boys looked at each other. With one mind, they dashed back to the common room and began to laugh.
"I-I-I," Harry said, trying to control himself. "I thought we were dead for sure."
"What happened?" Tracy looked very concerned.
"Weasley tried to start trouble," Draco began, "and failed utterly at it." He couldn't keep talking for his laughter.
Theo picked up the tale. "We dragged him and Finnigan back into the Potions classroom, and Draco gave them all the hexes they deserved."
Theo laughed so hard he fell out of his chair and onto the floor, kicking his feet weakly. Tracy began laughing at him.
Harry chimed in. "It didn't take more than a few minutes, but when we left, Snape was watching us."
"Oh boy," Millie said. "Did you get in any trouble?"
"Not a whit," he replied. "I thought it would be detention and lots of points for sure."
"Preposterous," Tracy said, still shaking with glee. "Professor Snape would never betray his own like that. You know he despises Gryffindors as an axiom."
"Say that again," Draco wheezed. "In plain English this time."
Between their relief at knowing that Professor Snape was truly looking out for them and Tracy's continued usage of grown-up words, even in the current situation, the Slytherins couldn't control themselves. It was a clear incident of mass hysteria.
When they had all recovered from their manic laughter, they put their books away and hurried up to the Great Hall for lunch. Harry remembered that he had some interesting news to share, but it was not the sort of thing that should be discussed in the open. He was impatient throughout lunch, quickly eating his fill and then waiting for everyone else to finish.
Back in the common room, he cleared his throat, and all eyes turned to him.
"There's something extremely valuable being kept here in Hogwarts," he began. "Whatever used to be kept in vault seven-thirteen at Gringotts is now here at school and there's a three-headed dog guarding it."
"We accidentally hid in the forbidden third-floor corridor last night while running from Filch," Draco contributed. "Huge monstrous beast, it was, straight out of Greek myth."
"I'm sure that it was Hagrid who emptied that vault at Gringotts. He took me there before we went to my vault. It was this little thing, about five or six centimeters long, wrapped in brown paper. He told me I shouldn't mention it to anyone, that it was secret Hogwarts business."
"Hagrid did seem very evasive when we asked him about the article from the Daily Prophet," Millie said, her voice curious.
"And he said that the only place safer than Gringotts was Hogwarts itself. The presence of that dog only confirms it. We've got something extremely valuable here." Harry was pleased that he'd made such a brilliant argument.
"Or it could be dangerous," Draco pointed out. "One never knows about these things."
"It could be anything," Theo said, stifling a yawn. "I imagine there's any number of magic rings in the world."
"But how can a simple magic ring justify a great, slobbering, giant dog?" Draco pressed.
"I don't know," Theo admitted, "but I do know that we could speculate for weeks and still not come up with the answer."
"We need more clues," Harry decided.
"And just how are you going to get them?" Pansy asked derisively. "They're not going to just go telling students what it's all about, especially not first year students like us."
"We'll go hunting around," Harry said. "Aside from being scared half to death, that three-headed dog was quite an adventure."
"Adventure," Daphne said, sniffing. "Nearly getting killed doesn't qualify as fun in my book."
"It was rather over the top," Draco admitted. "I could do with a little less deadly of an adventure next time, though."
Any further discussion was cut off as Marcus Flint, a sixth year student and captain of the house Quidditch team, came up and sat down. Marcus was not a handsome boy, and that was being polite. He looked as though his grandmother had dallied with a troll. He had a high, sloping forehead, beady little eyes, and crooked teeth.
"Sorry to burst in," he said cheerfully, "but Professor Snape's just told me about Harry's little broom adventure. So you want to try out for the team, do you Harry?"
"Yes, quite," Harry said, dreams of Quidditch glory filling his mind.
"Well you look to have the right build for a Seeker," Flint said, still cheerful. "We're doing trials next weekend, so get yourself a top-notch broom. You certainly can't do it with a school stick."
"I will," Harry promised.
"Good! Glad we had this little chat. Do carry on. Cheerio," Flint said, getting to his feet and ambling off.
"Congratulations, Harry!" Millie said, shaking his hand enthusiastically.
"You're going to get on the team," Pansy said, sing-songing her voice. "And we're going to destroy the other houses."
Harry grinned. "I just want to fly again."
Everyone nodded, understanding the lure of the open sky.
"Bugger, we've got to get to the courtyard!" Millie exclaimed. "We've got Flying lessons!"
There was a general stampede for the door.
After lessons (lor it had felt good to be in the air again), Harry went up to the Owlery with Draco. He had to get his order off to the Nimbus Racing Broom Company so that he could have the broom for the trials next week. Draco was being kind enough to loan him Arlette for the posting. Harry was quickly coming to see the advantages of owning one's own owl.
When the order had been sent on its way, there was nothing else to do until dinner. Harry didn't feel like studying, nor did he want to play games with the others. Excusing himself, he went to get his cloak for a walk out on the battlements. Some fresh air would do him plenty of good, and it'd been several days since he'd seen the sun properly. (In the morning while trying to dress and prepare for class didn't count.)
When he got into the hall, though, someone was waiting for him.
"You shouldn't go wandering by yourself, you know," Tracy told him, gesturing for him to walk next to her.
"Why's that?" he said, falling into step with her.
"Alone, you make an easy target."
That statement was rather profound, and they walked in silence.
Tracy was an interesting person, no doubt about it. She didn't feel the need to fill the silence with random conversation. Instead she was content to merely spend time with someone.
"Why'd you follow me, Tracy?" he asked curiously.
"Because you're my friend," she said with sincerity. "When someone wants to go off and be by himself, it usually means there's something wrong."
There was certainly truth to that.
"Friends are good for talking to about stuff like that. We listen, we care, we want to help. So if you want to talk, Harry, I'm here to listen and help if I can."
Harry didn't answer immediately. The words he wanted to say were tricky. He couldn't think of exactly the right phrasing.
"I guess I'm just a little overwhelmed by everything," he said finally. "I've been doing real well with magic, thanks to my friends helping me," he added, "and that takes some getting used to. Yesterday I found out that I've got a gift for flying, and now I get to try out for the house team, which other people don't get to do. Everybody knows my name, but I'm being judged for simple things like the house I'm in. I've never had friends before, and you're all so wonderful. I'm scared that I'm going to wake up and it'll all have been just a glorious dream."
They stopped walking and Tracy looked deep into his face. Then she hugged him. Startled, Harry was about to protest. Then he realized that it felt nice. Hugging wasn't something he ever did. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon certainly didn't inspire hugs. Dudley would rather pound on him.
Hesitantly, he hugged Tracy back. He tried not to squeeze too hard; he didn't want to hurt her. She kept her arms locked tight around him, holding on as if for dear life. Finally she released him.
"There, now did that feel like a dream?" she asked.
He grinned. "No, it felt very real. Thank you."
"Welcome. Anytime you want a hug, you just let me know."
Harry kept smiling. "I will."
"I know this has been arduous for you," she said, continuing down the hall. "You've told us a bit, but I still can't imagine what it must have been like to live with Muggles, waking up to their stupid hatred every morning. It's remarkable that you're as normal as you are."
"I'm certain they're not all bad," Harry said. "Out of the billions of them, there's got to be a few who aren't stupid and cruel like the Dursleys and those awful children I knew at school."
Tracy nodded. "Not all wizards are wonderful either, but we've got a darned sight better ratio than Muggles do."
"I never met a nice Muggle," Harry mused, "but that doesn't mean there aren't any. Just because Muggles have been mean to me doesn't mean it's right to be cruel to others."
"You're talking about Granger, right?"
Harry nodded. "And all the rest of the Muggleborns and the Muggle-lovers too."
"Pretty titanic issue to deal with, isn't it?"
He nodded again, silently.
"I know it must seem that we speak without thinking, that we hate without understanding why, but that's just not the way it is. Muggleborn wizards almost caused our entire culture to be destroyed hundreds of years ago. There was a war going on, and these Muggleborns got involved because they had kin who were fighting. They started using magic, Muggles saw them, and the panic was nearly the end of us all. Memory Charms hadn't been invented yet, so there was nothing for it. Those wizards were assassinated, and eventually enough people were killed in battle that those who survived were considered insane. It was a very scary time, so the stories say. Muggleborns cannot be trusted."
"Surely they've evolved since then," Harry protested.
Tracy smiled sadly at him. "Ever pick up and read a Muggle newspaper, Harry? It's full of murder, rape, and other atrocities. On any given day, a Muggle newspaper is a testament of man's inhumanity to man."
"You know my mother was Muggleborn," Harry said, a little desperate for some ground to stand on.
She shrugged. "I'm not saying that all of them are bad, but almost every one is more or less just like Granger. Harry, answer me this question: How does Granger act? Be honest, now."
The Slytherins shared History of Magic with the Hufflepuffs, so Harry saw Granger firsthand. He thought hard, sifting through his memories. "She's such a know-it-all," he sighed, realizing that he was losing this debate.
Tracy nodded. "She's also bossy and uncouth. She doesn't understand that there's more to magic than just saying funny words. All that she will ever know is magic by rote, by memorization, by the book. She'll never understand that magic is an Art. A pure-blooded wizard, one who understands his magic, can take his wand, wave it around, and make whatever he can envision come to pass."
They had slowed to a halt during this conversation, and now they began to walk again. "It's good that you're not just agreeing with what the people around you believe. I think it's really sweet that you're ready to believe the best about people, but before too much longer that innocence will fade. I wish it could be different, but sooner or later you'll see that we're right. And until it happens, you need to know that we're not going to stop being your friends. Just because you don't agree one hundred per cent with our opinions doesn't mean we don't like you."
"Friends can disagree?" Harry's tone was hopeful. He liked his friends and was very scared to lose them. He never wanted to go back to being an outcast again.
Tracy laughed lightly. "Of course! Theo and Pansy fight constantly, but they'll stand together against anyone. All of us will, no matter what. We've all been good friends since we were old enough to understand what the word meant.
"There are others we know who were part of the girls' etiquette lessons, like Mandy Brocklehurst and the Patil twins. We played quite a lot with Terry Boot but weren't as close to him. Mandy and Padma absolutely belong in Ravenclaw, but it was just the whim of the Hat that put Parvati in Gryffindor, which I would never have expected. Terry? It was probably family destiny that put him in Ravenclaw."
"That's what you said at the Sorting," Harry replied.
She nodded. "All of his family have been Ravenclaws, all the way back to the Founders.
"Crabbe and Goyle didn't share our tutors, so Draco's the only one who was really good friends with them before Hogwarts. It was good fortune that put Daphne and Blaise with us, and double good fortune that we met you as well. You're one of us now, just as surely as if you'd known us these ten years past."
"It feels good to belong," Harry smiled as he opened the door out onto the battlements, holding it open for Tracy. She smiled back at him and stepped outside.
"Thank you, Harry. You have wonderful manners."
He shrugged and smiled winsomely.
The view from the battlements was breathtaking. The sun was perched above the horizon, almost ready to begin setting. The sky was filled with fiery oranges, reds, and purples. A few bright stars could be seen twinkling in the dusk. A flowing breeze lifted their robes and sent the fabric flapping around.
"So are you feeling better?" Tracy asked him.
Harry nodded. "Yes, very much. I've been so scared to speak up because I thought you wouldn't want to be friends with me if I disagreed with you so severely."
"Friendship isn't that fragile, Harry. True friendships can last a lifetime and can survive anything."
He mused on that as they watched the sunset together.
"You know, you don't sound like any eleven year old I've ever met." It wasn't just the big words she used; Tracy sounded far too mature for her age.
She laughed. "You're not the first to say that. Jamie always tells me that I think too much. She's just mad because every time we get into a debate, she loses."
When at last there was no light left in the sky, they went back inside the castle and made for the Great Hall.
"I'm so hungry," Harry said, feeling his stomach rumble.
"Oh, you boys are all alike," she laughed. "Always hungry. Has anyone told you about the time when Draco ate six blueberry pies?"
Weasley and Finnigan were conspicuous by their absence at dinner. It wasn't until Terry Boot had come over to the Slytherin table to join them for afters that they knew why. Terry told them that Mandy Brocklehurst had heard from Padma Patil who had heard from her twin sister Parvati who had said that Weasley and Finnigan had been caught dueling in the Potions classroom by Professor Snape and given detention.
"After all," Terry said gleefully, "they were covered with hex marks. Snape said that they'd had some sort of disagreement during class and had obviously decided to settle it in their own way."
Draco had been laughing since he'd first heard the word detention. As word spread down the table, laughter ranging from chuckles to muffled shrieks to gut-laughs erupted. A few heads turned to look over at their table, obviously wondering if the Slytherins were all insane. By contrast, the Gryffindor table was somewhat subdued; smoldering anger at just about everything was almost palpable.
Harry sat silently, not really certain how he felt about this latest development. He looked over at Tracy, who was giggling. All of his friends were laughing.
Weasley had started things off by going out of his way to insult Slytherins, a little voice in the back of his mind told him. He'd never even spoken to Harry before he'd begun his bashing. Just that Harry was in Slytherin was enough for Weasley to dislike him. Slytherins didn't like Muggleborns and Muggle-lovers, but they didn't try to say that Muggles were evil, just cruel and stupid. Tracy had given some very logical, very well-reasoned arguments, whereas all Weasley could do was insult them. When it came down to it, who was the more prejudiced?
Weasley had called him a liar, the little voice continued. He had no proof, but had called Harry a liar anyway and was completely unwilling to listen to the truth. That hurt a lot. Though he was used to the Dursleys calling him a liar (and lots of other horrible names!) this was a boy his own age, a boy he could have been friends with if he'd given Harry a chance. If Weasley wanted to be a right bastard, then let him reap what he had sown.
So Harry laughed, allowed himself to find amusement in the misfortunes of someone who had made himself into Harry's enemy. Tracy raised an eyebrow in his direction, but then smiled and continued giggling.
All of the Slytherins were in a good mood as the Great Hall cleared of students. Harry saw Elan speaking with Percy Weasley, one of Gryffindor's prefects. Though Harry couldn't hear what was being said, Elan was clearly taking a jab at Percy through his younger brother's actions. Percy grew stony-faced and snapped something back before sweeping past Elan in a pompous manner.
It was Friday night, with no classes for the morning, so Harry stayed up late with his friends. They played Exploding Snap in the common room, talked about Quidditch, and avoided all discussion of magic or classes. Crabbe told several funny jokes, which amazed Harry since the larger boy seemed to be pretty slow. Draco amused everyone by depicting a probable scene when Weasley and Finnigan had been found by Professor Snape. Tracy passed out home-baked cookies sent up by her Mum. It felt good to just relax and enjoy the company of his friends.
When they finally did seek their beds, Harry was yawning every two seconds and could barely see his way. Draco had hold of one arm, Theo the other, and the three were staggering like drunkards for their dorm.
He was almost instantly asleep. Extremely tired, his mind conjured up fearful spectres to haunt his dreams. He was chasing a man made up of shadows, who was in turn chasing a glowing point of red light. There was a desperate fear filling him, a fear of the dark man catching the light, and Harry came awake with a frightened gasp.
He lay still, or tried to. His whole body was shaking, trembling with fear. He couldn't recall what had frightened him so badly, try though he might. All that he could dredge up was a sensation of darkness creeping over him, a feeling of dread. Frustrated at not remembering, he threw himself back into his pillow. Sleep would not come back to him tonight. He reached up and pulled open his curtains, turned on his side, and lay watching the moon rise above the tree-line through their big window. When the sun began to bleed the sky of darkness, Harry was still awake, still trying to remember his dream.