Chapter Eight: Malfoy Manor
Snape bent down, and scooped him off the floor quite roughly, beating the ash and soot off his robes. "Alright there?"
Harry coughed weakly, and opened his mouth to complain, before his eyes caught sight of just where he was. His cough melted into a gasp.
It was like a palace - no, more than a palace. Somebody greater than any king or emperor or politician lived here, surely. He was blinded for several long moments by the silver winking at him from every single direction, before he looked past it. The walls were dark green, made of some soft material that shimmered like water but shone like metal, and the wooden floorboards under foot were in such an intricate pattern that Harry couldn't follow it at all. Over head, a glittering chandelier of emeralds, diamond and silver was shining so brightly, it looked as though it had been made from stars. It was easily the most expensive and beautiful place Harry had been, in his whole life, even though there were traces of abandonment here and there - a thick layer of dust on all the wooden surfaces, and even a tea tray on the side, everything still laid out, the morning coffee half-drunk, the newspaper open and going brown with age.
"Draco lives here?" Harry gasped, looking around at the magnificent room in wonder.
"Lived," Snape drawled. "Lucius took great pleasure in informing me constantly that his family have lived here since before the founding of Hogwarts. I believe that the true Malfoy blood line follows through eldest sons only - all other children are forgotten. The house belonged to the eldest son of the eldest son, and so forth."
Harry's eyes were fixed on a huge painting above the marble fireplace at the far end of the room. The icy glare of Lucius Malfoy met his gaze with fierce pride and arrogance, his pale hand curling tighter on the shoulder of the young blonde boy at his side. Draco was only eight, at the very most, but the similarities between father and son were already striking. They had the same eyes, same pointed face, same pale skin, same hair colour. As Harry watched, Draco took the silver snake cane from his father's hands, and started to play with it, running his fingers over the serpent's fangs with innocent curiosity. Lucius smiled proudly at his son.
"Draco never resembled his mother much," said Snape, idly, surveying the painting over Harry's shoulder. "He truly is Lucius's son. Even at half a year old, his eyes were exactly like those of his father."
"How do you know what Draco looked like at half a year old?" Harry asked, curiously.
"Most godfathers are required to know what their godchildren look like," said Snape, raising one thin black eyebrow.
"You're Draco's godfather!?" said Harry, looking shocked.
"Are you really that surprised?"
Harry thought about this. "No, not really."
Snape turned towards the door, drawing out his wand and lighting it with a murmur of, "Lumos..." He glanced over his shoulder at Harry. "Come, Potter. We have an entire magical manor to search, and all we know at the moment is that he's not in the drawing room."
"This is the Malfoy's drawing room?" said Harry, pausing.
"Then I don't think we'll have to search much." Harry glanced around, and spotting a long poker lying by the fire place, he picked it up. "I think I know where he is. And I know how to get there very quickly too."
Snape watched him suspiciously, though said nothing.
"We need to get rid of this floor," said Harry. "But every inch of the Malfoy house is probably guarded by magic, right? So no amount of spells will open up a hole. Therefore, if a room hasn't got a door or a window, it's the perfect hiding place... but the Malfoys don't realise just how much damage a mudblood with a poker can do." And he smashed a hole straight through the ancient wooden floor boards.
"Potter!" Snape seized the poker from him, and hissed, "What EXACTLY do you think you're doing?! This is no time to discover the vandal within!"
"Who's there?" shouted a voice, echoing up from the hole Harry had made. "I'm warning you, I've got my wand!"
Snape's change of expression was quite amazing. Harry had never seen anger melt into shock so smoothly before in his life. Snape stared from the hole, to Harry, and then said, amazed, "How in the name of Salazar Slytherin did you know - "
"Professor Snape?" Draco called from the secret chamber under the Malfoys' drawing room.
"Malfoy!" Snape crouched down, and grasped some of the carpet, pulling it back and gripping the poker in his other hand. "Stand back!" He punctured another hole in the floor boards, and with a great deal of force and perseverance, he managed to widen the hole enough for him and Harry to slip down into the hidden room.
Comparing to the usual glamour and splendour of the Malfoy family, Harry was quite surprised. The floor and walls were just cold, hard stone without any carpet or decorations, and the only decent light came from the hole ruptured by Harry and Snape. There was very little furniture, in fact, only a pile of old trunks in varying sizes and shapes. Some were open, and had been sorted through, their contents muddled and restacked rather haphazardly, but there were some sealed tightly shut. In the middle of the boxes sat Draco, cross-legged on the floor, and glaring up at both of them.
"How did you know I was here?" he asked, suspiciously.
Snape turned to Harry, with a raised eyebrow, and a slight sneer on his face. "I was wondering that myself..."
Harry looked from Draco to Snape and back, and he realised that explaining just how he knew would not only reveal that he'd been stealing from Snape, but that he and Ron had duped Draco with polyjuice potion in their second year. "Someday," he said, wisely, "when I'm somewhere far, far out of your cursing range, ask me again, and then we'll talk."
Snape was wearing his I-am-not-satisfied-by-this-answer face, but Draco luckily changed the subject, by opening the lid of the next trunk and starting to move things around inside. "You can both go back to Grimmauld Place if you wish. I won't be long."
"What are you doing?" Harry asked, moving over to him.
"Claiming my rightful inheritance," Draco sniffed. He picked up what looked like a dragon egg made of solid silver, encrusted with emeralds, and he added it to the trunk open before him. In there already were some robes, folded very neatly, most of them green, silver or black; a few books; a wooden box stamped with "The Artistic Wizard's Complete Kit"; and an amazing amount of gold, easily taking up three-quarters of the space. "The ministry might have taken the official Malfoy inheritance," said Draco, in a very cold voice, adding yet more coins into every available slot. "But my father would never leave his heir penniless. Far from it. He never trusted Gringotts, and so he put my "official" inheritance in there. A fake one. Not even enough to buy property. He knew that if my family was ever suspected, they would search the Malfoy vaults, and they did. But he left my true inheritance here, everything of value to the family. They can destroy the house - it's all meaningless to me. I can buy another house. But these treasures are mine, and no ministry member will ever lay their hands on them. Never."
"But... if they took the house and all contents," said Harry, tentatively. "Doesn't that include all this? Isn't it technically theft?"
Draco's eyes narrowed dangerously. "The ministry did not control my family in life, Potter. They will not control us in death."
"There are three types of people in the world," said Snape, wisely, making his way over all the boxes strewn across the floor. "There is good... there is evil... and then there is Malfoy. Lucius was a man with such a character that he surpassed any label people dared to administer to him. Even at Death Eater meetings, he gave the impression he was there by his own choice and we should be grateful for his presence. Malfoys walk to the beat of their own drum."
"But if Mr Weasley finds out you've - " Harry began.
Draco interrupted him with a sharp hiss. "Excuse me? The only way that Mr Weasley will learn of this if somebody tells him. And nobody is going to tell him. Are they?" His eyes flashed dangerously as they glared right at Harry, just like Hermione if she had found he had cheated on an exam.
Harry glanced into the trunk. Draco had nothing, really. No gold, no decent clothes, no things that were actually his own. He had far less than the Weasleys, who Harry had always thought were the poorest people he knew.
Harry shook his head. "No, he won't. Don't worry. How are you planning to get the trunk back to Grimmauld Place without anybody seeing?"
However, they were interrupted at that moment by the sound of footsteps coming towards them over head. Harry and Draco froze on the spot. Snape whipped around, and hissed, "Occulto!" The hole in the ceiling instantly grew over, as though the wood itself was healing, and they were plunged into darkness. "Ponere quisnam," murmured Snape.
A few wisps of white smoked puffed out of the end of his wand, and Harry watched as they started to dance, separating into three separate shapes. He wondered what they were sculpting themselves into, before he realised. Three faces hovered in the air before Snape, Draco and Harry. Two he recognised - the greasy, hard-faced Rookwood. Harry never really knew what Rookwood could be compared to, for he didn't quite look like a rat, or a shrew, but there was definitely some sort of nasty rodent out there that Rookwood looked just like.
There was also a woman's face, very pale and black-widow-beautiful. Isabis was Rookwood's wife, with long black hair the colour of a raven, and smoky silver eyes. However beautiful she was, she came with a terrible price. Adultery in a wizarding marriage was a punishable offence, as Professor Snape had found out last year - even worse, Isabis had then betrayed Snape and joined her husband once more.
The third one Harry did not recognise, though just at a glance, he knew one thing about this person. He was a Malfoy, evidently from Lucius's side of the family. He had short white-blond hair, with streaks of black, a pale pointed face, and the familiar silvery Malfoy eyes.
"Kane..." Draco hissed next to Harry.
"Who's Kane?" Harry asked, quietly as he could.
"My cousin," muttered Draco. "The son of father's youngest sister, Vatusia. He's eighteen, I think."
"Why didn't he go to Hogwarts?"
"Durmstrang," whispered Draco. He frowned. "Trust him to be here... after my inheritance, is he? I'd like to see him try..."
"Silence," Snape hissed, suddenly, bringing an end to their conversation. "How did you get into this room, Draco? We need a way out..."
"The trapdoor under the rug," muttered Draco, with a brief shrug of his shoulders. He pointed to the corner of the darkened vault. "And floo powder from there, into the alley outside Grimmauld Place. The same fireplace that Mr Weasley uses everyday to take to work."
Snape sighed, rubbing his forehead, frowning. "This is not going the way I planned."
"Is it my fault you had to follow?" said Draco, coolly.
Snape frowned at him darkly, and beckoned to both boys to follow and stay quiet. Harry had his wand tight in his hand. Despite the slight worry settling in his chest, he felt an odd sort of prickling excitement. Snape turned to both boys when they were under the trapdoor, and he muttered, very very quietly, "Try to capture them, if you can, though do not endanger yourselves. They may be wanted by the ministry, but your safety comes first. When the door is open, I shall go first... once I am up, both of you follow. Draco, you have most experience with Kane, concentrate on him. I shall take Rookwood. Potter - "
" - gets to beat up a girl," Draco finished, smirking from ear to ear.
"Shut up," Harry hissed. "At least I can. One look at her legs and you'd just let her kill you."
Draco gave Harry a mutinous look, but ignored the comment, and gave Snape a nod to say that he was ready. Snape glanced at Harry, and then curled his hand around the strap of the trapdoor. Harry held his breath.
Then Snape flung the trapdoor open, and practically flew up from the secret room in a volley of sparks. Harry heard the surprised cries of the three intruders, before Draco heaved him up into the drawing room and shouted, "GO!"
Harry didn't need telling twice. He leapt up, and caught a split second's view of Rookwood sprinting from the room with Snape on his tail, before Draco's cousin had leapt forward to grab him. Harry struck out through instinct and hit the boy hard on the side of the head, before he aimed his wand, and cried, "Stupefy!"
The boy swished his wand quickly, and the spell reflected off him, hitting a book case and blowing a hole right through. Draco was now out of the secret chamber and was attacking mercilessly, his wand moving so fast it was a blur. The two Malfoys were duelling so fiercely that Harry stopped and stared, before he remembered that he was supposed to be taking on Isabis. He looked around quickly, and even though she was gone, his ears picked up the clacking noise of plastic heels on a marble floor, and he rushed away through a door by the fireplace after her.
There she was, just at the end of a long corridor hung with paintings of blonde, pale children, though Harry didn't have time to study them. He raced after Isabis, his shoes beating out a rhythm as he ran, aiming his wand. "Stupefy!" he shouted.
She screamed and swerved through a door just in time. The spell hit an expensive looking vase, and it toppled to the floor with an almighty crash. Harry picked up the pace of his sprinting, and pointing his wand at himself, he panted, "Celox!" Instantly, he felt his feet starting to move faster, energy rushing into his arms and legs, as the charm took effect.
Now faster, he bolted through the door Isabis had taken, and found himself in the middle of some kind of library. There were books stacked from floor to ceiling, all around the walls and in shelves here and there. Harry saw Isabis winding her way quickly through a far section, and sped after her. She was evidently slowing, and couldn't run in high heels or turn as fast as Harry could. Harry couldn't fight a grim smile - how ironic that her best feature, beauty, was also her downfall.
A spell shot from the end of her wand, but it missed Harry completely. She gave a muffled shriek and turned to try and run again, but Harry bellowed, "Stupefy!", the spell struck her in the arm, and instantly, eyes rolled back into her head. She keeled over to the floor, and landed in a heap. Flushed with his victory, Harry rushed over.
She lay on the floor in a sprawled heap, her cloak and robes spread around her like angel wings. One of the heels had broken off her shoes, and the strap had gone on the other. No wonder she hadn't been able to run so well. Harry bent down, and tugged her wand from her slim fingertips, tucking it into his belt for safe-keeping. He was just starting to feel rather proud of his first capture, and wonder whether this would look good on his application to be an auror, when he noticed something which made him feel very, very unsporting indeed.
She was heavily pregnant. Harry didn't have any experience with this sort of thing at all, though she looked as though it was due very soon, by the size of her swollen stomach. Harry covered his eyes with his hands, imagining the headlines. HARRY POTTER BEATS UP PREGNANT WOMAN. Still, she was a Death Eater, pregnant or not. It didn't make her any less evil. Just a bit more... vulnerable and defenceless.
Harry currently thought that things couldn't get any worse, but they did a few moments later, as there were footsteps. Draco came into the room, dragging what Harry first thought was a huge caterpillar, until he realised it was Draco's cousin, wrapped up in strong, silky threads. Draco groaned, and said, wiping his brow, "Took me ages to get him up here... you don't know where Professor-?" He spotted Isabis on the floor, and his face fell into shock. "Potter!"
"Don't say it," Harry groaned.
"I know," said Harry, sighing. "Not only did I beat up a woman, but she's pregnant. You don't need to tell me again."
"Not that," said Draco, vaguely, dumping his cousin and rushing over. "Even though that was very unmanly of you, and I'll be getting at you for it later. There's something more important. She's about eight months I'd say... maybe more, and - "
"She's not going to give birth now, is she?!" Harry half-squawked. "Spells don't encourage labour or anything, do they?"
"No, no," said Draco, dismissively. "It's not that. Potter, think about it. Eight months ago, we know that she was involved with Professor Snape. Which means there's a chance that..."
Draco didn't need to finish his sentence. Harry looked from Draco to Isabis with wide eyes. "How do we find out?" he said, quietly.
"I think the smart thing to do would be to not find out at all," said Draco. "Professor Snape probably wouldn't want to know, even if... well... he'd be angry, Potter. And it would put a whole lot of stress on him that he doesn't need or want."
"But if it's going to be his baby..." said Harry, desperately. "He'll want to know, won't he? If he's going to be a father."
"Professor Snape's hardly the fatherly type," said Draco, raising an eyebrow.
"He'd still want to know," replied Harry. He dithered for a moment, still staring at Isabis's stomach. The idea that she might be carrying around a little miniature Severus Snape was quite alarming really. Harry sighed. "I think we should at least tell him."
"How on earth do you plan to tell him?" said Draco, staring at Harry. "It's Professor Snape's business, isn't it? He'll be furious if he doesn't want to know, Potter."
Harry didn't quite know what to say to this. Losing Isabis to Rookwood in the first place had nearly unhinged Snape, and when she'd betrayed him again, he'd been crushed. Harry didn't want to even think about what Snape's reaction would be if he found out she was carrying his child. But then again, what if Snape discovered years and years and years into the future that he was a father? All that lost time...
"I still think we should tell him," said Harry, quietly. "Or we should find out whether it is his baby first. He'll kill us if we tell him she's pregnant with his child, then it turns out to not be his."
Draco rose an eyebrow delicately. "Well, I don't know about you Potter, but we haven't covered how-to-find-out-the-father-of-an-unborn-baby charms yet in my class, so I'm rather stuck at helping you."
Harry rubbed his eyes. This was definitely not the way he wanted his first mission for the Order to go. With a sigh, he opened his eyes again to suggest a new plan of action - before he stopped dead, staring over Draco's shoulder. Draco wheeled around.
Rookwood stood in the door, panting, with a few cuts here and there, but looking as alive and dangerous as ever. He had his wand out, and pointed at Draco. "So," he said, breathily, his eyes flashing. "Hiding here, are you, boys?"
"Where's Snape?" said Harry, his grip subconsciously tightening on his wand.
"He's a little... busy at the moment," Rookwood replied, flashing his yellowed teeth in a horrible smile.
Harry felt a flush of anger. "What have you done to him?"
"Oh, you'll find him..." whispered Rookwood. As an after thought, he added, "Eventually... but you... I don't want anybody to find you, Harry Potter. Do you know what a hassle you are? How much stress you cause me, day to day?"
Harry said nothing, but kept his grip on his wand, the tip trained on Rookwood. It was shaking slightly. Harry was ready to forgive some of the Death Eaters, if they were ready to renounce the Dark Lord and his ways, just as Draco and Snape had. But Rookwood, Harry knew, he would never forgive.
"How convenient you're both here where I want you," said Rookwood, quietly, taking a step forward. Harry stood his ground. Rookwood swished his wand, and both boys flinched. He laughed, a horrible noise that was a cackle and a snort at the same time. "So where are all your little friends today, Potter? Who's here to save you now?"
"I don't need anybody here to save me now," Harry growled. "I'm not scared of you. You're just a psychopath."
"Psychopath, huh?" laughed Rookwood. "Is that what you think it is? Is that what Dumbledore teaches his little soldiers? That it's okay to kill a Death Eater, because they won't know... they can't think properly... is that it, Harry? Or does he not even teach you to kill? Tells you to just sit and be a good boy... after all... that's what you did when I saw you... just sat tied to your precious Severus, and didn't fight... be a good boy now, Harry. And close your eyes so I can kill you with no guilt."
He raised his wand. Harry tensed, and got ready to duck, or counter-curse, or shield, but Rookwood never even started his incantation. There were suddenly hurried footsteps from the far door, Rookwood whipped around, caught off guard, and Harry leapt forwards.
"Affligossis!" he cried, whipping his wand over his head at Rookwood. A beam of bright blue light streamed from his wand and hit Rookwood in the back of the knee, sending him crashing to the floor with a yell of pain. There was a series of rather horrible snapping noise, and Rookwood shrieked, grabbing his leg in agony, as Harry's bone-breaking curse did a perfect job. "Stupefy!" Harry shouted, and Rookwood's eyes rolled back into his head, as he slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Snape strolled calmly into the room. There was an odd green cut across his neck, and his robes were torn at the chest, but apart from that, he was his usual calm self. He raised an eyebrow at the three people on the ground, and said, "How efficiently done. Well done, boys."
Harry beamed. "Draco took out Kane, and I chased Isabis all the way here, then stunned her."
"Hardly able to run fast though, was she?" said Draco, sleekly, inspecting his nails.
Harry shot him a very angry look, but Snape said calmly, "Mm... she still has a skill for curses. I thought she would put up a better fight, then again, motherhood affects the body in odd ways."
"You knew?" said Harry, staring at him.
Snape nodded coldly. "I also had to endure a great deal of fights about my "lack of concern and understanding" for her."
"But... well, Professor, what if the baby...?"
"It isn't," said Snape, simply. He idly drew his wand, and spelled tight ropes over each of the three prisoners, binding them fast together. "No baby can be created through wizarding adultery. It is completely and utterly impossible."
"But... what about - " Harry began, frowning. Draco, who was standing behind him at the time, jabbed Harry in the back with his knuckles and hissed at him to be quiet. Snape didn't seem to notice, as he levitated the three prisoners into the air, and made them start to drift away out of the door. He beckoned to Harry and Draco, then swept from the room.
Draco went to leave, but Harry caught him by the shoulder. Draco turned around to glare at him. "No."
"Well? Tell me."
"Tell you what?" Draco hissed, trying to get away and follow Snape.
"Your grandfather had an affair with a veela to create your father," said Harry. "Your father was born because of wizarding adultery. With that veela bar-maid, or whatever. Explain."
"No," snarled Draco. He whipped his robes out of Harry's grasp, and followed after Snape, though Harry stayed at his side.
"You're not a veela after all, are you? You were lying," said Harry, hurrying to keep up.
Draco rolled his eyes, and stopped in his tracks. Harry turned to face him, about to accuse him again, when suddenly something clogged the words in his throat. How could he accuse Draco of lying? Rotten thing to do, really. Draco was brilliant, after all, and he could never lie. Though if he did, it didn't matter, because Draco was amazing.
The feeling washed away in a sudden wave. Harry shook his head to rid himself of the last fleeting thoughts about how marvellous Draco was. He blinked, confused. "What did...?"
"I can persuade you to do anything," said Draco, quietly. "Anybody, anything. Just watch, and then you tell me that I'm not a veela." He glanced around, and then spotting Snape waiting for them at the end of the corridor, he called, "Professor!" Harry, watching closely, saw Draco's eyes give an odd little flash.
"Yes, Draco?" said Snape, in a rather affectionate tone.
"Carry me..." Draco purred. He smiled sweetly. "I don't want to hurt my feet."
"Very well," said Snape, and to Harry's eternal surprise, Snape just left the three unconscious Death Eaters floating in mid-air to go to Draco, bend down, and pick him up bridal-style.
Draco smiled sweetly as he was hoisted into the air, and tickling Snape under the chin, he cooed, "Good... now, I'm cold. Give me your shirt. I'll have the trousers too, actually."
"No!" Harry yelped. "No, no... it's okay, I'm convinced. Make him put you down."
Draco chuckled. "As you wish... Sevvie, dear, put me down now. Gently, please." Snape put Draco down obediently, and Harry saw another little flash in Draco's eyes. Snape blinked, shaking his head a little, and glancing around.
"Mm... I blacked out for a moment," he said, coldly. "Rookwood's hex might have been a better hit than I first thought. We need to return to Grimmauld Place soon, and alert the ministry of our capture, so that - " He stopped dead.
Harry glanced up at the top of the corridor, at the doors where Snape had left the three Death Eaters - but they were gone. There was only a sticky, tangled mess of white threads that had once bound Kane, and nothing else. Draco instinctively took a step closer to Snape and Harry, glancing about the corridor worriedly. "They're gone," he squeaked.
"Well observed," Snape muttered.
"But... where did they go?"
"They must have apparated somehow..." said Snape, distractedly. "Or a portkey. It is of little importance - we did not come all the way here to catch Death Eaters. We should head back to Grimmauld Place, quickly..."
"But what about my inheritance?" said Draco, quite angrily.
"Hush," was Snape's waspish reply. "We'll have time to pick it up, though if you prefer, I could leave you here as easy prey to Rookwood, Kane and Isabis."
Draco frowned a little, though said nothing. Snape placed a hand on one shoulder of each boy, and lead them out of the corridor, back towards the drawing room. Harry couldn't help but notice that Snape kept glancing to each side, and whenever there was movement nearby, his grip tightened on Harry's shoulder.
When they had arrived home, Draco had managed to sneak the trunk upstairs and hide it under his bed before anybody noticed, even though Hermione looked suspicious as she asked him what all the noise coming from upstairs was about. He told her it was a rat, but she wasn't convinced. As she was saying goodbye, she gave him a rather doubtful look, but hugged him all the same, causing Ron to turn slightly red on the back of his neck. Perhaps noticing this, Hermione gave Ron a much more affectionate hug and even a small kiss.
Once everybody was gone, it was very late. Mrs Weasley gave Harry, Ron, Draco and Ginny last mugs of cocoa, then sent them all upstairs to bed. Draco barricaded himself in the bathroom as always, while Ron sat on his bed and started reading through a Quidditch magazine he'd borrowed from Neville. Harry didn't feel like staying awake at all. He flopped straight into bed, exhausted from his whole, horrible day. Khepri's face clouded his mind, and then Isabis, Rookwood, Draco's cousin Kane... it didn't seem to make sense in his numb brain anymore, just a scatter of events all squashed together in two days. He only had about a week to go before Hogwarts now, and as horrible as it sounded, he couldn't wait. It wasn't that he didn't want to stay at Grimmauld Place, it was just that he felt oddly frustrated trapped in the house around the clock, only let out when there was a special need for it.
Lying in his bed, half under the covers and half out, he found himself remembering the day he had gone hawking with Professor Alrister. Roaming out over the fields and the mountains and the valleys beyond, with no set route to take, and as much time in the world as they wanted. He also remembered, with a slight pang, all the walks he had taken with Kainda. He sincerely hoped that the Daily Prophet reporters wouldn't be at Hogwarts trying to get news stories about his love life. That was another thing he missed about Hogwarts - how private it was. When he had been a first year, people all stared at him, only because he was the famous Harry Potter, and they had all heard stories about him. Now, in his seventh year, people accepted that Harry Potter was at Hogwarts, and it wasn't a big deal. Though in the wizarding world, there were always people who made him feel awkward, as though they had big expectations of him, and he had to meet those standards.
He yawned slightly, feeling sleep ebbing at his mind. He didn't really care whether Khepri visited him during his dreams or not. He was just too tired.
There was suddenly a knock of the door, jolting him from his warm and calm thoughts. Ron got up from his bed, and opened the door. Professor Lupin stood in the doorway, holding a letter, and wearing a smile. "More letters from Hogwarts," he said, smiling mildly. "Ginny's OWL results just arrived, your parents are with her downstairs... and Hermione has been chosen as head girl. She just contacted us through the candles."
"Who's head boy?" said Draco, trying to sound as though he wasn't overly bothered.
"Ernie Macmillan," said Lupin, mildly. "Hermione told us."
"But - " said Ron, with wide eyes.
"Why isn't - " said Draco, looking equally offended.
"The headmaster will have his reasons," said Lupin, calmly. "Now, Ginny could do with some advice about her NEWT subjects... and I'm sure you're all very happy for her and want to know her results." He raised an eyebrow.
"I am," said Harry, getting out of bed. "Is she happy? Did she get what she want?"
He followed Lupin out of the room, heading downstairs, where the kitchen light was on and Mrs Weasley's happy voice could be heard. Ron and Draco followed Harry, both looking rather shocked. Harry recognised the feeling a little as the same one he got when he'd found out he wasn't a prefect in fifth year.
"I never did anything wrong," said Draco, blankly. "Eight OWLs is damn good, and I have a good record. I caught Blaise Zabini last year!"
"I helped save the Philosopher's Stone," said Ron, sounding pained. "And I was in the Chamber of Secrets, and I was in the Shrieking Shack, and I was at the Department of Mysteries last year. What have I ever done wrong?"
"How many OWLs did you get?" said Draco, rounding on him.
"Uh... six," said Ron.
"That'll explain you then," was Draco's slightly contemptuous reply. "But what about me? Alastor Moody thinks most highly of me. I won half a million points for Slytherin last year. Wait! It's bias towards the Slytherins! That's what it is... Dumbledore has always favoured Gryffindors."
"Then why am I not head boy?" Ron demanded. "Why Ernie Macmillan? He's a Hufflepuff!"
"How many OWLs did he get?" said Draco, quickly, glancing from Harry to Ron. "One of you must know."
"He said he revised for about eight hours a day," said Ron. "He must have got really high marks. But still, he's not exactly successful, is he?"
"Will you two complaining?" said Harry. "Come on, you should be happy for Hermione, not selfish because you didn't get the head boy spot. It's only a stupid badge."
"But - "
"Ron!" Ginny squealed, as they opened the kitchen door, and she flew towards them with a bit of paper clutched in her hand. "I got eight OWLs! I got a P in Potions, but eight passes! And I got Outstanding in Care of Magical Creatures!"
"Hey, great!" said Ron, cracking on a rather false smile and hugging her. "Charlie'll be pleased."
"I got Es in Herbology, and Muggle Studies," Ginny continued, brightly, flashing the piece of paper in their faces. "And As for everything else. What were your marks?"
"Uh..." Ron thought about this, and then said, "I got D in Potions, D in History of Magic, D in Divination... I got an E in Care of Magical Creatures, and As for everything else."
Draco gave a little snort. "You got three Ds? No wonder you're not head boy."
"What do you get then, smart alec?" said Ron, angrily.
"Outstanding in Runes, Astronomy, Potions and Defence Against The Dark Arts," said Draco, sleekly. "E in Charms, and Transfiguration, then Acceptable in Care of Magical Creatures and History of Magic."
"What did you get for Herbology?" asked Harry.
Draco was quiet for a moment, and then he said, "The examiner gave me a rather weedy plant to work upon, and this affected my grade."
"Yeah, yeah, but what was it?" Ron pestered.
"P," sniffed Draco.
Ron chuckled. "I got better than you in Herbology. I'll have to get that in writing, and frame it on the wall sometime. What did you say you got in Astronomy? Outstanding? You don't want to tell Hermione that." He grimaced. "She got all Os apart from one E, in Astronomy. She beats herself up about it constantly, and goes all weird if she's outside at night. Starts talking about moon positions and how unreliable school telescopes are."
"When have you been outside at night with Hermione?" said Mrs Weasley, suspiciously.
"Uh..." said Ron.
Harry, who would soon be adopting the subject-change as his trademark, said, "So, Ginny, what are you taking for your NEWTs? Where's your form? We can all fill it in to help you..."
Ginny took out her form, and they all gathered around the table to excitedly talk about her future and what subjects she wanted to take. When everything was over, and the three boys were heading back upstairs to bed, Draco muttered to Ron, "So, when have you been outside at night with Granger?"
"None of your business," Ron snapped. "At least I'm not magnetised towards walking skirts."
Draco fumed at this, and Harry laughed, as they all got back into bed. Ron was asleep fairly soon, and both Harry and Draco sat awake for a while, listening to him sleep talking, something about telling the opsittops to stop repeating a kissing sound, before both of them drifted off to sleep.
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