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The Cursed Laurel

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The most noble and ancient house of Greengrass was among the highest renowned wizarding pedigree in the world, a marriage of generational wealth and political excellence in one finely polished package. The family’s manor house had been built in Ottery St Catchpole during the 17th century, in an attempt to isolate themselves from lowly muggles. The huge gothic stone structure shrouded in ivy and intricate carving details, was buried within an expanse of garden and dwarfed the neighbouring Burrow. Regarded as the grandest estate and family for miles, its current tenants took great pride in reflecting its grandeur in all that they did.

Patriarch, George Greengrass was round bellied and high browed. A pureblood supremacist from birth, cunning political thinker and prolific socialiser of the likewise rich and powerful. He taught his children to excel in all things they touched, to impress or at least fool others into thinking you were impressive. To be nice but powerful people, to look for advances and connections. His wife, Aquila taught her daughters to be demur ladylike beacons of class. To appear kind and approachable but always have the families agenda on their mind. She had them walk around the ballroom with books on their heads instead of their hands and took them through the garden showing them how to curate bouquets whilst fitted out in bespoke robes. She was short and thin, with dark hair and brilliant blue eyes that would read them romance novels before bed. For their eldest child; Daphne, her childhood was everything she supposed it ought to be, if not too overly traditional. But that was the way of ancient pureblood royalty - traditional to a tee.

Daphne slid down the grand staircase railing, her dress picking up behind her.

“Come on Astoriaaaaaa. Last lessons.” She grinned, walking through the French salon doors.

Inside the parlour, Daphne’s mother sat drinking lavender and beetle leaf tea. Her needlework was stitching itself close by and fell back into its basket when she turned to greet her children,

“Oh hello pumpkin.” She startled, looking over at a clock on the mantlepiece, “You’re never on time.”

“Last one before I’m at Hogwarts, a real school.” Daphne took her seat on the opposite lounge, looking around she tried to assess what todays lessons in being a lady would entail. “Sometimes it’s like we’re living in 1891 not 1991.”

“We’re going to walk up the hill today for some watercolours.” Her mother grinned, seeing this as a real treat.

“But I’m hopeless at art.” Daphne sighed, “I better get my boots...”

“Are we going out?!” Astoria hurried around the corner holding a pumpkin pasty that one of their house-elves’ Queenie had made.

“We’re going to practice our painting up on Stoatshead Hill.”

“Oh ill have Nei Nei make some sandwiches.”

“No I’ve already got Queenie making some Astoria, go and get your paints and boots. And hurry honey, we want optimal light.”

Soon they were off down the garden path towards the back of the estate. They passed a fountain carved to depict one of their ancestors and her mother’s poisonous garden before they were out from the hedged walls and into an open hilly expanse of green. Daphne watched as her mother carried paints, and levitated a chair. Queenie and Sidd (their two house elves) were hurriedly trotting along behind holding easels, folding chairs and a picnic basket of fine china for their afternoon tea. Daphne wondered if they would be offended if she just carried the box of sandwiches herself, she didn’t want them to fall and go hungry. Astoria was charging up the tiny country path, claiming she was on the lookout for gnomes but no doubt secretly searching for fairies. They were up at the top of the hill within the hour, Daphne puffed as she paused to take in the view. Her eyes darted immediately to the home of her best friend; Ron Weasley. The patchwork of brick, chimney and thatched roof sat on a lean that distanced itself further than what was a fifteen minute walk from the Greengrass’s front gates. From the top of the hill Ottery St Catchpole was cast in a midday glow; over in the far distance was the Lovegood house, home of the mentally unstable and freightingly senile Editor of The Quibbler. The Fawcetts in their tiny cottage sat due east.

Daphne’s mother was using her magic to paint and admire the view, as she studied each line of the horizon her brush would commit it to canvas. Astoria was sketching first, building up the forest through which they had to come. Daphne hoped that she could bide her time and read a book behind her mother’s back, but as she rummaged through the baskets she realised she never handed one for Sidd to pack. The house-elf sensed her disappointment and offered to go back to the house, but it would’ve been too obvious and so Daphne declined and picked up her pencil.

After sketching and re-sketching the outline of the horizon Daphne felt her resolve fading. The truth was that she was in no way artistically gifted like her mother or Astoria. Her trees looked like squiggles and she had all her proportions wrong. When she was not naturally good at something, Daphne tended to give up fairly quickly. Perhaps it was a side affect of having gotten almost everything she ever wanted up until now. She set down her sketch pad and rolled up her sleeve, rubbing the small blue marble which she had weaved into a bracelet. It glowed slightly. Now all she had to do was wait.

“Is that the Weasley boys?” Daphne’s mother focused in on the tree line where three bright orange haired figures whizzed around the canopy. As she focused her gaze, her brush added them to her landscape. “Oh shoot.” She looked back down and grabbed for a cloth to dab the paint away.

“Do you think they’ve come for sandwiches?” Astoria stood up to watch them emerge from the forest and race towards them.

“They’re a lewd bunch, I told Molly that if she was not careful their reputations would slide into the mud their house seems to be built upon. If they were not pureblood’s, and your father had not once worked with Arthur I would have disinvited them from all our galas a long time ago.” Daphne’s mother successfully dabbed the three red heads from her painting.

“DAPH!” Ron’s voice squeaked as he and his brothers started to try and slow their ratty broomsticks.

“Master they might be’s crashing into us!” Sidd began to panic and guard the easels.

“Slow down!” Daphne jumped from her chair and waved her hands to signal them,

“Ron you bloody idiot, slow down.” Fred called out as he jumped from his broom further down the hill.

Ron collided with a mound of dirt on the edge of the hill, spilling over the top of his broom and onto the grass. He rolled over and rubbed his head. Daphne laughed as she ran towards him, Astoria close behind.

“You’re such an idiot.” She watched him shake the dirt from his hair,

“Language” Daphne’s mother sung out. “Pureblood ladies do not swear like common folk”

“Sorry for the interruption Mrs Greengrass.” George sheepishly carried his broom up the rest of the hill beside his twin brother.

“Would you like a sandwich Fred, or, George, or well would any of you like a sandwich?” Daphne’s mother offered from a tray which Queenie carried.

“Oh.” Fred and George stopped in their tracks “Nah.” They agreed in unison.

“I’ll have one, if they’re going…” Ron sprung to his feet and hurried over to the tray. Queenie diligently ran towards him. He took a large bite from an egg and mayo, towering over the tiny house elf despite only being eleven. “Fanks.” He mumbled through bites.

“Thanks for coming.” Daphne looked back at her families elaborate picnic set up, “Sick of painting.”

“Come on Lady Daphne, let’s see your work.” Fred walked up to her easel and flicked open the book,

“No give it back” Daphne hurried over and snatched it back,

“Proportions were all off, no way our house is that tall.” George referred to her recent landscape,

“She’s really bad at drawing, look at mine!” Astoria held up her work for the twins to see.

“I reckon we could draw something cooler than that.” Fred challenged.

“Um hey mum, Ron says that he needs me to um…” Daphne tried to think of a lie, looking back towards Ron for support.

“My trunks, I haven’t packed yet!” Ron jumped in,

“Yeah and he needs my help, packing his trunks.”

“Ronald, you leave tomorrow for Hogwarts. Has your mother not prepared you adequately?” Aquila Greengrass lifted a carefully manicured dark brown brow,

“Lots of us Weasleys Mrs Greengrass, and I um was busy.”

“Busy losing a Quidditch match.” Fred quipped.

“Which you interrupted.” George looked down at Daphne’s marble bracelet. A similar one was on Ron’s wrist.

“Yes so can I go, if I’m back for dinner?” Daphne clasped her hands together to beg,

“Fine. But you’re to be home before the dinner bell.” Her mother smiled warmly at the boys “say hello to your mother from me.”

“Well mum and I will eat all the jam tarts alone then.” Astoria stuck her nose up and sulked back to her chair.

“Can Astoria come then?” Daphne asked on her behalf,

“No no its ok, I want to finish my painting before sunset when all the shadows change. Right mum?” She sat down triumphantly, her mother clearly very proud of her dedication as she looked over with adoration.

“Alright goody goody.” Daphne threw her sketchbook back into the basket and turned to get on George’s broom,

“hey don’t you trust me?” Ron picked up his broom from the ground and grabbed another sandwich from Queenie.

“No.” Daphne mounted the broom and George pushed off from the ground,

“Smart choice.” Fred laughed at his brother as he mounted his broom as well.

The four of them took off down towards the Burrow. Daphne looked back at her sister and mother who happily chatted, no doubt passing judgement on the three poorly dressed ginger boys who ducked and weaved through the trees. Her family only liked associating with the best, if the Weasley's were not pure bloods or even neighbours her friendship with them would have never been allowed. In all eleven years of her life she couldn't think of a time where she had not been told how uncivilised the Weasley’s were for abandoning their Pureblood ideals in the war. Pureblood magic was better than any other and surely that would only be exemplified as they studied at Hogwarts, perhaps Ron would finally learn to embrace his natural gifts and her parents would accept him as her friend. Daphne pitted the muggle borns that would be getting on the Hogwarts Express tomorrow, how would they be able to compete with all the powerful purebloods like her? People who had grown up surrounded by magic their entire lives.

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Daphne liked being liked. She needed to make good impressions on people, for others to love and validate her. It was one of the reasons she had first started hanging out with the Weasley’s – they had been nice her, they liked her. Daphne knew that a truly confident person didn’t care what others thought, Fred and George never cared what people said. But she wasn’t confident or brave like them. Her father had always told her that she should be treated like royalty by others, and at all the Pureblood Society dinners they all acted just like that. All the families addressed each other formally, arranged marriages between their children – alliances of sorts, they hosted elaborate balls and weekends hunts, they sipped expensive champagne while discussing how they pitied the weaker mudbloods or supported the concept of magical purism. The Weasley’s hadn’t attended one in fifteen years apparently.

It was because she liked being liked, that Daphne offered to clear the spider webs out of the broom shed as they entered the warped back door of the Burrow and greeted Molly Weasley. She was busy making tea, having been watching the clock and seen a ‘guest’ approaching. Every time she saw the Weasleys she wondered how they all looked the same, wild bright red hair and faces full of freckles. She didn’t look too much like her parents at all, in fact she still had auburn hair from the time she drank a colour changing potion the twins had made that was supposed to make he look like them. It hadn’t.

“Oh no dearie no need to clean that, ill have Fred and George do that when you all get back.”

“No you wont” Fred mumbled, hurrying away before he was clipped around the ears.

“Here, have a cup of tea.” Molly plopped down four mismatched mugs, Daphne picked up the bright pink one with flowers.

“You’re such a girl.” Ron rolled his eyes as he gulped back the hot water. The mug looked small in his large hands.

“Yeah in case you hadn’t noticed.” Daphne took a sip, “Are you sure I can’t help with something?” she turned back to Molly.

“Be careful or she’ll have us muck out the pond.” George and Fred began to slink upstairs to their room. Explosions shortly followed.

“Are you excited for tomorrow?” Molly bushed her floury hands on a crochet apron, “I’ve been preparing a farewell breakfast for the boys. A little way to show them that ill miss them.” She looked over at Ron with a tinge of sadness.

“Dad says some of his best years were at Hogwarts. But I can’t embarrass the family, so I can’t have too much fun he says. I got my wand the other day, Ollivander said it was perfect, had laurel wood and everything.”

“I’m using Charlies wand of course.” Ron huffed, “C’mon lets go upstairs.”

“Nice to see you Mrs Weasley.” Daphne called as she climbed the rickety stairs.

 ***

Rons room was a violent bright orange. All signs of wallpaper had been replaced with Chudley Cannons posters he had ripped out of magazines. Ron threw himself on his bed and ripped off his shoes. Daphne picked up the pile of clothes on his chair and put them on the floor so she could sit.

“We’re not gonna be in the same house are we?” Ron stared at the floor.

“Well I guess we don’t know, you could be in Slytherin?” Daphne hoped.

There was nowhere else for a child of a member of the Pureblood Society to go than Slytherin house. One of the Sacred 28 families, and a pillar of the Pureblood community the Greengrass’s had a long history at Hogwarts wearing the silver and green. Being part of Slytherin meant that you were among your own people, people who would one day be leaders within the ministry.

“Not bloody likely. I better not be in Slytherin either, they’re all snot nosed posh people. It’s like the home of dark wizards Daph.”

“Hey! That’s my families house! Seven generations running actually. It’s produced the most number of Ministers of magic than all the others.”

“I’m not wrong though am I ?” Ron rolled his eyes, “I’ve got a legacy to uphold too. Would be embarrassing if I wasn’t in Gryffindor.”

“Well then, I guess we wont be in the same house.” Daphne crossed her legs.

The two had known this would be the case. The moment they got their letters the reality of their friendship hit them. They had been neighbours, playmates all the years where they had to be home schooled. After all, even the Greengrasses realised their children needed more than just one sister to play with. Although they would often call upon Pansy Parkinson for the job, she and her family were often travelling for long periods of time. In the end the proximity and number of the Weasley’s could never be denied. But the families differences had always been apparent. Where the Weasleys were homely and cosy, the Greengrass’s were uptight and proper. Where the Weasley's struggled for money, the Greengrasses dripped in it.

“Maybe you’ll defy the odds.” Ron yelled over the sounds of the attic ghoul shaking pipes,

“We can still hang out at lunch and dinner and maybe we’ll have classes together?” Daphne yelled back.

“Yeah.” Ron nodded, “You’re too nice for ‘em Daph, Fred and George reckon you’ll have to toughen up.”

“I’ll have Pansy, and I know Draco and Millicent from some galas and stuff. They should be Slytherin, although Millicent isn’t that sharp.”

“Oh yeah, what a great set of mates.” Ron laughed at the idea. “I’d off myself if I had to hang around a Malfoy.”

“That’s it.” Daphne was tired of trying to defend herself before the term had even begun, she picked up a Chudley Cannons figurine “I’ll snap this unless you take back what you said about Slytherin.”

“No no no.” Ron launched forward making a grab for the animated chaser figurine, he grabbed at her hands to pry it free.

“Say sorry!!” Daphne ordered as she twisted from his grip.

Eventually Ron ceased and the figurine was placed back on his desk. He glared at her for a moment but the pair went back to joking and actually packing his trunk for the train. They piled all his second hand robes and the frayed textbooks inside haphazardly, neither of them had much skill at organising a suitcase. Daphne always had hers packed for her, and Ron couldn’t care less about keeping things neat. Daphne felt sorry for him as she looked at his possessions. When they had gone to Diagon Alley and she got all her shiny new things it seemed like everyone else was getting the same. She felt guilty for a moment, that her father had bought her a magical red fox-kneazle hybrid while Ron’s fat brown rat sat squeaking in its cage in the corner. She grimaced at the idea of having a pet rat, it seemed so unclean.

***

Later at dinner, Daphne listened to her parents reminisce about their time at Hogwarts school.

“You must make us proud.” Her mother had instructed, “people must come to understand that you are a Pureblood heiress, worthy of everyone’s admiration. The reputation you set follows you beyond your school years.”

Daphne felt the pressure mount. She had to be near perfect.

“You’ll have fun of course.” Her father assured, “but you just need to fall in with the right people, the kind of people who’ll be big ups in the Ministry one day. People with money and class like us, that’s how I got to where I am. Strengthening our reputation is just as important as you developing your magic.”

When they had kissed her goodnight and she walked into her room for the last time, Astoria crept in. She blushed as she asked to sleep in Daphne’s bed. The two used to sleep over in each other’s rooms all the time, but now that they were older they rarely did. Astoria refused to admit she was upset about Daphne leaving but as they fell asleep she made her promise to write each week. Daphne assured her that she still had Ginny at home, and Jenny Fawcett or Luna Lovegood. Astoria shook her head and said neither measured up, although Daphne sensed it was more dramatics than the truth. The two sisters pulled the duvet between them for the rest of the night.

what if they all liked Pansy and not her? What if they looked down on her and Rons friendship like she knew her father did? What if she really was sorted into another house? What if Ron was right about Slytherin? What if she was bad at magic? Would her parents disown her as heir? She let her thoughts twist and fester in her mind.

She felt herself on the precipice of a life altering change. Her fate decided in less than twenty four hours.

Chapter Text

Lady Daphne Greengrass had everything her heart desired. But no matter how much she tried, she would never satisfy her parents ambitions. She could be sorted into Slytherin, be top of all her classes, wow all her teachers and make friends with every family who had ministry connections but it would never be enough. She would always be a girl, and not the shining male pureblood heir that they would have preferred. She believed she would always blush when she met new people, always be shy and awkward in some way. She knew she had a temper too and had picked up the habit of judging everyone all the time. As she walked to the platform she couldn’t help but hope that her parents would be proud when she returned.

The platform was filled with energetic students and upset parents. Daphne’s mother held her close as they strode through the crowd, pushing her trolley and nodding greetings at every second parent they recognised. Daphne’s father was stopped shortly by Narcissa Malfoy, who stretched out her long bone like hand for him to kiss. She gave Daphne a thin lipped smile, a perfect match to both her bright white-blonde husband and son. Daphne had always known Narcissa and her sister Bellatrix were the most fearsome and beloved of all the sacred purebloods, but it was Narcissa that had the true influence. Her father had once told her that while people would always obey Bellatrix, they were loyal to Narcissa. That was the difference. Her son looked just as self-assured and stern.

“How are you George?” Lucius shook her father’s hand with a stiff but warm welcome.

“Sad day Lucius is it not?” he looked back at Daphne and clapped his hand on her shoulder. “I must admit I don’t like letting them go. Not my little girl.”

“Neither.” Narcissa shook her head and held onto her son dearly as she had been before “To send them to a place filled with mudbloods and half-bloods” she shrivelled her nose in disgust “away from home at only eleven.”

“I’ve been telling Cornelius he needs to make changes, but the man is slow to the cause.” Lucius explained, tapping his long sleek cane against the floor.

Daphne and Draco exchanged nervous glances, acknowledging each other for the first time as fellow students. The pair had met before of course, their families were often at galas and dinners together, moving in similar circles. But the Malfoy’s were far more serious about who they associated with. While her family was careful and highly judgemental of blood status, they fell in with whoever benefited them most. The Malfoys and Blacks did none of the sort; they clung to power, retreating into their pureblood brilliance.

“I’m so glad your son is starting alongside Daphne, I’m sure they’ll be good friends soon enough.” Daphne’s mother looked down at the pair, “perhaps you can sit in the carriages together?” she suggested.

Draco looked less than pleased with the prospect of spending time with a girl. He had always avoided her and Pansy at any event they both attended, in favour of Crabbe and Goyle who were both dim witted and violent. Daphne had to admit she didn’t love the idea either, he looked just as proud, judgemental and condescending as his parents. His robes practically glistened and hand stitched green detailing ran up the sides.

“Mother?” Daphne put on her polite socialising voice “Can Astoria and I go and find Pansy?”

“Oh yes, but come back here before the whistle so we can say goodbye.”

Daphne excused herself and took Astoria’s hand, who giggled as they ran up the platform. The platform was filled with steam and anticipation. Seventh years were sobbing about the prospect of leaving and first years scrambled to check they had everything. In the chaos, a slender girl with golden hued skin and a thick black bob emerged from the train’s smoke. The girl was staring at her new tawny owl, as her mother forced her to straighten her back and spoke about how manners were of the highest importance at her own alma mater of Mahoutokoro.

“Pansy!” Astoria yelled to catch the girls attention,

Pansy Parkinson abandoned her parents in an instant and ran up to the sisters, wrapping Daphne in a hug and then Astoria. She had shiny shoes and her dark brown eyes sparkled to match.

“Merlin, I’ve been alone with them for weeks. That train couldn’t leave sooner.”

“Our parents are talking with the Malfoy's, Draco looks even more snot nosed than I remember.” Daphne giggled, looking back.

“Mum and dad will wanna talk to them, Dad’s going for a new position in the ministry and needs votes so now we’re on a campaign.” She rolled her eyes, “But they’ll want me to befriend him you know. Mr Malfoy's a generous donor.”

“You can’t, he’s so coddled and creepy.”

“very creepy.” Astoria nodded to confirm.

“I don’t really have a choice.” She looked back at her parents who readied themselves to approach the group of adults. “Not after what my brother did…”

The silence hung in the air for a moment.

“We missed you at Daphne’s going away dinner.” Astoria swayed on her feet “Nie Nie made some lemon and raspberry tarts”

“Millicent ate half of them.” Daphne shrugged as they turned to walk back into the vicinity of their parents.

“Hope she gets sorted into Hufflepuff, cant stand her.” Pansy snarled.

“You’re just scared of her.”

“No I’m not. But she is twice my size.”

“Darling!” Daphne’s mother called out as the train whistle blew, she approached her daughter and wrapped her in a tight hug. “Oh darling I’m going to miss you. I love you. I’ll write every day…”

“I’ll be fine mum.” Daphne was aware that Pansy and Draco were watching in the distance “Love you too.”

Her father joined in on the hug, giving her a wet kiss on her head. He stood back and looked at her with seriousness;

“Make sure you’re nice to that Malfoy boy, and those dim wits Goyle and Crabbe. Because what’s our motto?”

“Keep them all close but remember who you value the most.” Daphne rattled off.

“Family, Daphne. It’s all that endures and this is the time to cement our reputation to the new generation. Especially since your mother and i only have you two girls.”

“And we think it may be best if you don’t go and try to find Ron on the train darling.” Her mother jumped in “He’ll want to make friends that might be in his own house.”

Daphne understood what she meant. Pretend you don’t know him and be a good little Slytherin student, make friends with better people. She waved goodbye after hugging Astoria and picking up Ellery’s cage. The fox-kneazle hybrid purred as the train began to pull away from the station. This was it.

***

Pansy was already trying to engage Draco in a conversation around how much money they had for the Honeydukes express. He was sullen and sat with his arms crossed in their carriage. His mother had held her hand to the window until she couldn’t, and his cheeks had been flushed with embarrassment. Soon Gregory Golye and Vincent Crabbe were flanking his side, a pair of pimple faced henchmen. They punched each other for fun, seeing who would flinch or cry first. The longer Daphne watched them, the more she was convinced of their idiocy. Perhaps Millicent wasn’t so bad after all. She did have a knack for knowing what people were thinking.

They were all un surprisingly sorted into Slytherin upon their arrival at Hogwarts. Daphne had felt immense euphoria at being sorted into the right house, even as Draco began whining about the infamous Harry Potter, her mood never sullied. It looked as if Ron was already talking to him over on the Gryffindor table. Daphne had known he would be sorted there, but as she had watched the haggard old hat linger over his head she wondered if maybe she would be that lucky? No. What if all the other Slytherins thought she was weird like Millicent? She never had to worry about that with Ron, she knew she was better than him at a lot of things. She knew he didn’t mind that, as long as she didn’t embarrass him in front of his brothers. Which she still sometimes did. She hoped that he wasn't too enamoured with the school sensation that was proving to be Harry Potter. Then there would be no room for her as his most impressive and elite friend. She pushed the thought away, Draco was right - what would Potter want with her lanky ginger friend?

Chapter Text

The castle was everything she had imagined it to be. The ceiling of the great hall cast in stars and candles, the staircases great stone structures that moved with ease from floor to floor. She could have stood on them all night and watched as they swung back and forth, listening to the portraits that flooded the walls talking and singing. But Pansy had her in a lock, arms welded together as they skipped down the steps after their house’s head boy. He pointed down a few stone passageways and arched corridors, throwing away remarks about where they lead. Daphne couldn’t remember anything he said. She just looked around, absorbing all that was Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A dozen generations of Greengrasses had gone here. The weight of this history sat on her chest, she would not let them down. Eventually the Head boy lead them through into the common room.

The Slytherin common room was cast in a warm green colour, light which perforated through the great lake was let in by seven large arched windows against the back wall. The windows switched from being eerily clear to stained glass which depicted underwater scenes. Mer creatures waved at the new first years. The room itself was large with black stoned floor, bundles of floating lanterns and a huge silver crackling serpentine fireplace. It was furnished similarly to her own home with old traditional clunky furniture; thick green leather lounges and high backed arm chairs scattered across woven carpet. Their Head boy pointed to a noticeboard where the current password was displayed; ‘Fiddlesticks’ alongside a few signup sheets, before their Head Girl swooped in and pointed to two stone archways either side of the room. One lead to the boys dorms and the other the girls.

“Boys don’t even think of trying to pass under that archway, you’ll find yourself doused in a dragon dung extract and thrown back across the room.”

“What about if girls try to come into our dorm?” Draco cautiously eyed the girls dorm arch.

“Nothing.” The head girl stepped under the boys arch and then back out. “There’s wizards chess and some privately donated bookshelves laying around for public use, every afternoon a house elf comes by with some tea for us that’s placed over here…”

“I hope they make good food like your elves.” Pansy whispered “mine’s shit.”

Their dorms were just as grand. Four four-poster beds flanked the room, large green curtains with a forest pattern gave them some privacy. Their trunks were already piled up and their clothes unpacked into large wardrobes. A private bathroom was in the corner and a large silver mirror on the back of the door helped reflect more light. Daphne rushed over to let Ellery from her cage, the ball of flaming orange hair sprung out and darted around the room sniffing everything. Millicent had also been assigned to the room and let her black cat, Salem, out so that he could slink up onto the top of her bed.

Millicent Bulstrode was tall and stocky for her age, she loomed over most of the other first years. Her brunette hair was contained in a braid, although wisps escaped and stuck up around her face. She looked scary and intimidating at first, but her round face and plumpness gave her a warmth that meant she wasn't entirely unapproachable.

Pansy threw herself onto the mattress next to Daphne’s, wriggling around in the duvet.

“Oh this is so cute!” A short mousy blonde girl with a button nose burst forth into the dorm. She looked around as if the whole place was completely foreign. “Hi, I’m Tracey…Davis.” She walked up and hugged Daphne.

Not sure what to do, Daphne hugged her back as if they were more than acquaintances. Tracy was a very cute looking girl, the kind that appeared on Christmas cards or in the pages of Witch Weekly as inspiration. Her hair shone, skin glowed and teeth sparkled. Daphne watched as she wrapped Pansy in a very reluctant embrace and then Millicent, who was taking care not to crush the tiny girl. Tracey was the first person she had seen who might have been prettier than Pansy, and she knew her friend sensed a threat.

“Davis? I don’t think I’ve heard that name.” Pansy lifted a brow and kicked off her shoes.

“Oh um I’m not really from here” Tracey propped her owl up on a small stand. “My parents are normal and well I didn’t really know this all was a thing. Felt crazy when I got the letter, I thought It was a joke.”

“Why would it be a joke?” Millicent asked.

“Wait so you’re a mudblood?” Pansy sat up in horror, her nose pinched.

“Oh yeah um I think that’s the word, or is it muggle? Professor Snape was trying to fill me in but its a lot.” Tracey was oblivious to the insult.

“That’s… interesting.” Daphne searched for the words.

There were plenty of half-blood Slytherins, but muggle born was almost unheard of. Many people guessed that the sorting hat simply shoved all the mudbloods in whatever house they suited outside of Slytherin. This girl had to be either the most cunning, resourceful, determined person to exist or the hat had finally gone crazy. By the looks of her pink sparkly trunks and big round eyes, Daphne was convinced the hat had fucked up. She almost felt bad for the girl but her dads voice rang in the back of her mind; make friends with the right people. Mudbloods were not the right people, they had no connections and substandard magic.

***

The first day of classes was utterly daunting. They mostly covered theory; how transfiguration worked, wand movements and the beginnings of how the magical community came to be. Daphne was constantly looking at her map to get to each class, running down the corridors so as not to be late. She had already read most of their textbooks, and had annotated the sides with questions. Thankfully this meant that she wasn’t too overwhelmed by all the classes. But Tracey and Millicent were stern faced and focused every second, furiously scribbling notes and looking puzzled. In Potions they were with the Gryffindor’s again. Ron walked in chatting away to Harry, whose knobby knees and round glasses managed to make Ron look slightly more grown up and less comical himself. Daphne smiled at him as he sat down next to the boy who lived and some girl with wild busy hair and buck teeth. They looked like a very odd trio. Pansy giggled at them from her desk,

“Merlin, look at the freaks congregating.” She made sure Draco heard her.

Draco, the sunken eyed blonde had stared down the spiky haired Potter and relished in Pansy’s joke. She glowed with pride having made him laugh. Daphne flushed with embarrassment. That was her friend. That was Ron they called a freak.

“Hey that was mean Pans.” Daphne whispered as Snape marched towards the chalk board and began to introduce himself.

“Oh come on, Weasley's about as tall as Millie but as thin as a stick. Not to mention the hair and the freckles…”

“I have freckles.” Daphne held her hands up to her nose and cheeks.

“Yeah but you’re not a Weasley.” Pansy smiled, “You’re a Greengrass.”

“What so as a Greengrass I’m allowed to have freckles?”

“You’re allowed to do what you want because your family has money.” Pansy looked up at the board and began taking notes. “Even Draco said your family was respectable and his mother is a Black.”

“You’re freakishly obsessed with him.” Daphne looked over to Draco as he leant back in his chair and smugly took in the class.

“What’s a moonstone?” Tracey flicked through her book, looking to Millicent for help. Millie shrugged,

“I know I’m a pureblood and stuff but I don’t really know anything about this.”

“But you took all those notes in charms…”

“I just write down what they’re saying so they don’t ask me questions.” Millie dipped her quill in ink and continued her messy scribbles.

“And why are we using quills? Do you not have pens?” Tracey tried to write clearly frustrated.

“It’s tradition Davis. And tradition is everything.” Pansy sounded like Daphne’s mother.

“Its dumb.” Tracey whined.

***

After class Daphne lingered back so she could speak to Ron. He fumbled around trying to gather his books, Harry stood beside him waiting diligently. She looked around to check the girls and Draco had gone so she could race up and say hello. But they had eyed her off as she approached.

“Hiya Daph.” Ron smiled as he tucked his books under his arm.

“Hi.” Daphne looked Harry up and down, lingering on the lightning shaped scar that sat on his forehead.

She wondered how many wizards had not been so lucky. She knew her parents had been involved in that war, that if they hadn’t played both sides they might have met a far worse fate. Perhaps she’d be the orphan of the pair if things had been different.

“This is harry.” Ron nodded at his friend, “and this is Daphne.”

“Daphne Greengrass.” She introduced herself more formally, “nice to meet you Harry Potter.”

Harry shook her hand awkwardly. He had thin hands, his nails were dirty and chipped. Daphne knew she was trying to look like an adult, but it felt a little contrived. She wanted him to like her, even though she was not sure she liked him. He and Ron seemed close. But he was widely famous and rich and from a long Pureblood line, so she knew she needed to reign in her distrust and judgement. At least to his face. Behind his back...

“Snape’s a right git ey? Hate to have him as my head of house.” Ron looked around slightly nervous.

“He’s not that bad but yeah a bit moody looking. But um I wanted to ask about how you’re gonna find me.” Daphne held up her marble bracelet,

“Oh yeah, where’s your common room?”

“Kind of out of the way, yours isn’t that far from the hall is it? Or maybe the hall should be our spot actually?”

“Oh that sounds smart.” Ron nodded.

“Why do you need a spot?” Harry asked, his interest peaked.

“Oh our um” Ron held up his matching bracelet “You rub the marble and then the other one lights up. That’s how we knew when we needed help or wanted to hang out.”

“Oh that’s so cool.” Harry inspected the thin black band around Ron’s thin wrist and the deep blue marble in the middle. “Wondered why you wore a bracelet.”

“It’s not a bracelet.” Ron huffed, “It’s a communication device.”

“Concealed in a very cute bracelet." Daphne smiled "I wanted the strings to be pink but Ron said no. Of course I had to change mine to a little silver chain after my mother found out.” She held out hers to show him. She would stake her claim on her friend.

“Cool.” Harry nodded before looking back at Ron.

“We better go.” Ron started walking towards the door. “But you better be careful hanging around snot nosed Malfoy. The lot of them are mad.”

“Oh what and that frizzy haired know it all who was almost dislocating her arm to answer Professor Snape’s questions is perfectly sane?”

“Hermione?” Harry guessed

“We’re not friends with her!” Ron looked offended, walking with a brisker pace down the corridor.

“Yeah ok. But say hello to.. Hermen-y for me when you see her later.”

“It’s Hermione.” Harry corrected.

“Oh ok well you get my point.” Daphne waved it off, “I’ll see you tomorrow in class then.”

Chapter Text

Charms with Flitwick was quickly becoming Daphne’s favourite subject. The tiny professor had a paint brush moustache that he curled at the ends with a sweet smelling gel. Head of Ravenclaw house, he was undoubtedly kind and one of the smartest people Daphne had ever met. She was glad to be learning from the best despite his unfortunate goblin heritage. Unfortunately for Daphne, the bushy haired and buck toothed Hermione Granger was proving a fitting rival in all classes, including charms. During their first practical lesson she managed to get her feather to float using a locomotion charm before everyone else. Daphne shortly followed, but the victory felt hollow. She had expected herself to naturally excel as a pureblood and being beaten by Ron’s little mudblood friend was more than humbling. She hated Hermione Granger every lesson after. Her pride now damaged. In transfiguration, Hermione beat her to reciting Gamps Law, and so in Herbology Daphne retaliated by making sure she recited all the properties of the Mandrake root before Hermione could open her mouth. They sussed each other out from across the room each lesson.

It was in Defence Against the Dark Arts where they were both at a loss. For the first time, another student stepped forth and stole the academic limelight. Quirrell was a strange teacher, Daphne thought he seemed a little weak to be teaching such an important subject. He babbled and looked like a strong wind might blow him over. When he asked about the effectiveness of using the knock-back jinx against a vampire, a fluffy haired brunette raised his hand. He wore Slytherin robes, yet Daphne couldn’t remember ever seeing him. His eyes burnt an emerald green, his skin taught across his high cheekbones. He looked gentrified but strange, lanky in build and as if he had only just revealed himself to the world. He answered the question in so much detail that even Professor Quirrell looked surprised.

“...And that Lockhart book, Voyages with Vampires. It's highly inaccurate in terms of the habits and defences against vampire kind. As you know professor, the living dead are certainly not hiding proclivities to befriend wizards.”

“Lockhart wouldn’t make that up.” Pansy shook her head “He’s far to respected to have a book of supposed lies published.”

“Who is that?” Daphne turned around to the desk behind her were Draco sat, her interest in the boy peaked.

“Theodore.” Draco looked surprised the boy even spoke. “He’s in my dorm but he just keeps to himself, didn’t even seem to care when I mentioned my father so I assumed he was completely oblivious to the world.”

“Right.” Daphne turned back and watched as Theodore hunched over his desk again, it looked like he was reading a fourth year defence against the dark arts textbook. “Bit of a show off isn't he?”

“At least it’s not buck tooth.” Pansy looked over to Hermione and giggled.

“Now let us consider the possibilities of the vampires which live in the forbidden forest…” Quirrell moved on.

***

The great hall was filled with students scoffing down dinner as Daphne walked up to their table. Draco had a mountain of chicken and mash on his plate and Tracey picked at a few green beans as she chatted away to Millie, who helped herself to seconds. Pansy grabbed a chicken leg from her plate and took a bite.

“There’s the vampire boy.” Pansy nodded down the table to where Theodore sat, book in hand.

“Why’s he stuck his collar up like that?” Tracey tilted her head and stared.

“Is he just shy or?” Daphne asked Draco, who looked up from his plate unhappy having now been flanked by girls and distracted from his meal. Crabbe and Goyle were already in detention having taken the fall for Draco's constant snickering and chatter in class.

“Just weird I think.” he ate a mouthful of mash.

“You’re not a little interested, I mean like who is that?

“Nobody important if I haven’t already met him.” Draco snipped “Why waste my time on inferior sorts? Just because he knew some things about vampires.”

“Are we sure they’re actually real? You know vampires.” Tracey looked around nervously.

“You’re such a mudblood it hurts.” Pansy recoiled, but Tracey didn’t notice.

“Yes they’re real dimwit.” Draco snapped “My father says one of my ancestors fought them in Romania.”

“How brave.” Pansy cooed, stroking the boys ego.

“Look I just think it’s strange that we don’t know him.” Daphne returned to the subject of Theodore. “You’re sharing a room with him and you’re not interested in how he knows all this stuff about the Dark Arts?”

“Crabbe and Goyle are enough.” Draco sighed as if they were a burden.

“You clearly don’t yearn for compelling conversation then.” Daphne noted sarcastically.

“You girls are too… girly.” Draco intended the comment as in insult “mind your own business.” He turned his focus back to his food.

"Says you. Saw you trying to work out what Granger was doing all lesson." Daphne quipped before dropping the subject.

Pansy quickly took advantage of the conversation shifting to something more up Draco’ alley; Harry Potter and the Gryffindor freaks. The pair prattled on about how he and Weasley were a disgrace to pureblood lineage. Draco seemed far too invested, while Pansy was making sure to do what she had to so that he would be her friend. Daphne said nothing about them bad mouthing Ron. Her parents voice rang in her mind. Befriend the right people. People like Malfoy. Pansy was practically stoking the fire of Draco’s dislike, she mentioned how the Hermione girl was an ugly know it all almost five times. She also revealed the horror that was her blood status.

“To be born from a couple of thick headed muggles, I mean it’s an embarrassment. She makes us look bad. She has to work that hard you know, otherwise she wouldn’t be able to so much as conjure a couple green sparks. They just don’t have the gift like we do…”

“Mudbloods.” Draco scowled.

At the mention of blood status Tracey seemed to go quiet in her conversation with Millie. Slowly she stood up and excused herself. Her footsteps getting faster as she rushed away from the table. Daphne realised she had finally caught on to what they called her.

“Well that’s right, buck tooth’s no better than that Davis girl. You know I found out her parents are bankers. Like goblins.” Pansy grimaced at the notion of such lowly creatures.

“Ew.” Daphne laughed “But maybe we shouldn’t call her a mudblood to her face? I think she’s upset now and thats going to be such a hassle come bed time.” She looked over at where Tracey had ran off too.

“I think her parents are muggle bankers, not goblins.” Millicent corrected absentmindedly.

“I guess she’s too normal looking to be half goblin.” Pansy shot a look at Millie “But either way she’s a freak.”

Daphne looked back down at Theodore. She needed to know more. Should she just go and talk to him? No. He looked like he didn’t want to be spoken too. He looked solemn and introspective, as if he didn’t need anyone. Did anyone know who he was?

“He sits next to Zambini in most classes.” Millie looked at Daphne. “Maybe ask him about the weird Vampire boy?”

“Oh yeah… I will.”

When they got back to their dorm Tracey’s curtains were drawn shut. After they turned out their lights for bed, Daphne could hear that her breathe was heavy as if she had been crying. She felt a bit sorry for her, Tracey had no control over her inferior birth and she seemed nice enough. But they hadn’t said anything that everyone else wasn’t already thinking. If Tracey was going to survive seven years in this house, she had to find out what that word meant sooner or later. Perhaps it was better coming from them Daphne pondered or perhaps as her roommates they should have just kept quiet and let somebody else insult her to her face, even if everything they said was the truth..

Chapter Text

All the warmth had been sucked from the world when his mother died. All that was once sunny, cast into eternal darkness. All that was once loving, now endless torture.

He stood over him, a face full of thunder and hate. The phial sat on the table, its dark brown contents pungent in his nose. It smelt like her burning flesh. Its fizzing sounded like her muffled screams. He let the tears well up and chocked back the cry in his throat. His eyes were trained on the floor so his father would not see. He would not show how much he suffered, it would only bring more suffering.

“The House of Nott is that of legend my boy. We were Ministers of Magic, Chief Warlocks of the Wizengamot. We were law makers and society centred around us only.” His voice was old but fearsome, the pride of his family flashed across his face. “We were all that mattered.”

Leviathan Nott was much older than most fathers of the children in Theo’s year. He had been ten years older than Theo’s mother, who herself struggled to have Theo until she was in her thirties. He was a callous shut away who saw the whole world as beneath him, who raised his son in isolation. Theodore had never felt like he needed friends. He had his mother then. She would make paper cranes fly over the breakfast table and litter his bedroom in orbs of light that looked like stars for them to gaze at. She was everything to him, but what else did he have?

“You are my only blood heir. The last of the line. You must be stronger than this boy. You will not plunge this name into ruin through your pathetic weakness…” his father demanded.

He tried to think of time when his father had not been distant. He had been convinced that his father loved his mother, he thought that's what love had looked like. Until his flames took her, until they strangled the life from her veins and left him here alone. Was that love?

“I am doing this for you.” His father picked up the phial of potion and forced it in his eight year old sons hands “I will make you worthy of me.” He pushed the potion towards his sons lips.

Theodore did as he was told. He always did what he was bloody told. He drank the potion and let it rot his insides. The pain was immeasurable. It tore his throat open so he could not scream despite trying. It set all his skin alight, making him want to peel it off. His father held his hands down to stop him, watching as Theo writhed underneath him. The potion blurred his brain, or perhaps that was just the pain. But he would keep drinking the potion every time his father called him for his ‘training’. He’d suffer because there was no saying no to Leviathan Nott, and for a brief moment in all the pain he would see her.

His mother had his eyes. Her face was rich and plump, her jet black hair so long that it swept across her back when she used to ride in the gardens. He could picture her as if she was still here. The way the little wrinkles around her eyes creased when she laughed, and the way she was soft to cuddle at night when he thought he’d heard a noise.

So he endured the pain.

“One day you’ll thank me boy.” Leviathan smiled, “One day when you’re indestructible and our line is flourishing under the dark lord.”

***

Theodore awoke in a sweat. He rubbed the marks on his skin, trying to remind himself he wasn’t in pain. He was first to the Great Hall to eat, light still dawned outside and the castle was almost quiet. The Bloody Baron bellowed a greeting as he breezed past. Theodore smiled back through a mouthful of scrambled eggs he had doused in tomato sauce. He liked being alone, it reminded him of home.

“Morning freak.” Blaise rolled his shoulders back, still in his night robe and shameless about wandering around the castle in it.

Blaise was the only person who had taken up a conversation with Theo since arriving. The pair had bumped into each other on the train. Theodore had come to the platform with the Nott family house elf and quickly tried to hide away in a carriage at the front of the train. Blaise had come with his mother and new step-father, he waved to them from the window of the carriage. Theodore had watched. Blaise looked scarily like his mother, both had unblemished brown skin and dark honey eyes. Both had a wickedly endearing smile and short hair. Theo could tell immediately they were mother and son before Blaise had even waved back. He had sat down and introduced himself, told Theo that his new step-father had bought him the stack of Quidditch magazines in an attempt to bond with him but that he didn’t like Quidditch at all. He hadn't had the heart to throw them out.

“Morning.” Theo smiled back.

Blaise slopped a ladle of porridge on his plate.

“It’s far too cold here. We used to live on the Amalfi coast you know.” He sighed, reminiscing.

“Must have been nice..” Theo ate another forkful of egg,

“It was. I wanted to stay. My mother still owns it but she wanted me to go here, so we moved back. Guess I’ll have to wait until summer holidays... Devastating.” she sighed forlorn.

“Pardon me if I’m not utterly devastated by your summer house in Italy.” Theo shook his head.

“Alright well I’m in like six layers of clothes everyday. So be devastated about that.”

“Alright I’m devastated for you.” Theo conceded.

Blaise made him feel normal. He was finally learning to hold conversations with somebody and to be sarcastic without fear of being hit. He still stared at Blaise every time he made a remark to check if he had taken it well, but he always did.

***

Theo was often bored in classes. He knew almost everything they covered already, having read all the books in Nott library and been trained by his father to illegally practice magic here and there. He enjoyed being able to freely cast spells and truly push the limits of his magic but all the theoretical bored him to tears. To remedy his disinterest he had taken to observing the other students. He liked to watch people watching Harry Potter, the way people would stare at him like a caged tiger; so interesting and slightly confronting. He watched Padma Patil from Ravenclaw intently engaged in every lesson, the way she’d scrunch her face when solving a question. He watched his roommate Draco make jokes and check people’s reactions like he did, except Draco was checking to see if people had laughed so he could feed off their praise. He guessed the boy must have been adored at home. He watched Pansy Parkinson find any way to make herself endearing to the teachers or other Slytherins, he guessed she had a burning desire to be the centre of the attention at all times. Whenever there was a lull in learning, Pansy would be chatting the ear off another student. She had become the one of the most popular girls in the year, the squeaky wheel that got the oil.

In Astronomy he would have to be more sneaky with his observations, as his attention was supposed to be trained towards the sky. But he still managed to find a way to catch the eye of another Slytherin first year. The girl quickly looked back into her telescope having been caught staring, he held his gaze and watched her cheeks go slightly red. He had seen her before. She had hair that looked dark, but turned almost gingery auburn in light. Her skin was pale like the moon and she only wore silver jewellery. He guessed she must have been a pureblood, she oozed that sort of breeding, but also maybe afraid of werewolves or highly dedicated to her house. At dinner she sat straight and pushed the peas onto the back of her fork, unlike any normal eleven year old would do unless they had been conditioned by pureblood parents. He had heard Pansy call her Daphne, and the teachers sometimes called her Miss Greengrass, confirming his pureblood guess. Years of his father forcing him to memorise the Pureblood Directory had finally come in handy. He decided not to make her uncomfortable by staring any longer and returned to filling in his chart.

***

The next morning Theo awoke again in terror. He gasped for air and grabbed at his bedside table for a glass of water. He had dreamt he was drinking the potion again, feeling its fire and sickening sludge spread through out his organs. During the night he had scratched at his arms, large red slashes remained. Without a silencing spell he knew he would have woken up the whole dorm. It had felt so real and raw. For the first time in his life he gathered the courage to speak, just to know that he could. To know he hadn’t drunk anything, that he was just dreaming and that here he was safe. In the silence of dawn he whispered into his curtains;

“Fuck you Father.”

Chapter Text

November brought a layer of frost over the Hogwarts grounds. Blaise had been extremely unhappy with this change and began wearing thermals under his robes. The chaos of the Halloween feast was still on the tip of every students tongue, a troll having been let loose through the castle. Rumours were abound, perpetuated mostly by Draco and Pansy. Theodore had overheard them talking as he completed his essay on the maintenance and usage of Venomous Tentacula in the common room;

“It’s obviously a stunt by Potter to make sure we all know he’s a star.” Draco spat, “he knows that it’ll boost his reputation moving into the Quidditch match.”

“What if he got that groundskeeper to bring it in? They had tea with him the other day. They're all such freaks.” Pansy had looked to Daphne for support but she simply continued her own homework.

Theodore thought the theories were ludicrous. There was no way an apparently muggle raised boy had brought in a troll to fight in the privacy of a girls bathroom, even if he was the ‘insufferable’ Harry Potter. Theo had thought about how much of a thrill it might have been to fight one. His own father joined werewolf hunts and troll captures occasionally, an enduring pureblood social event.

***

The scent of spice and wet grass wafted from the potions classroom, a group of third years were filled out as Theo and Blaise arrived.

“No way I’ll be able to sit in those Quidditch stands, have no interest in it either. Who cares who wins? It’s just a bunch of boys in matching clothes whizzing around on sticks.” Blaise pulled off his beanie as they entered their potions class.

“Come on, show some house pride.” Theo sat down at the back of the class and flicked open his book to the uses of dragons blood. “Everyone’s been talking about it all month.”

“Well my mother sent me some homemade caldron cakes, perhaps I’ll eat those and enjoy having the room to myself.”

“You have to come, its expected. What if we win and you’re not there? Flint and Pucey will come back and have you for it.”

“They can have me.” Blaise tutted, “I’ll be camping out by a warm heater”

Snape cleared his throat to call the classes attention. He instructed them all to turn to page fifty where they would find the brewing instructions for the Sleeping Draught.

“You will be placed in a group for this brew, working with your two classmates over the next few lessons to create a sufficient brew. For a skilled potioner this would only take an hour or so…”

“Can we choose our partners?” Pansy called out.

“No miss Parkinson, five points from Slytherin for interrupting me.” He spoke with a long drawl. “You will be placed in groups of my design. Weasley you will be with Granger and Davis, Potter with Goyle and Mr Thomas… Draco Malfoy you will be with Miss Greengrass and Mr Nott.”

Theodore’s heart lurched slightly. It was not a terrible pairing in theory, but Blaise was now being ushered away from him to join Parvarti and Pansy on the other side of the room. Theo knew he relied on Blaise in social settings, the boys never ending charm overshadowed his own tendency towards silence. Theo walked over to his new brewing partners, who loitered around Draco’s caldron looking down at their books. Be confident, be the heir of the house of Nott, be the strong and commanding man father wants me to be, but be normal.

“Hi.” He smiled and turned to introduce himself to Daphne properly “I’m Theodore Nott.”

“Nice to meet you.” Daphne’s cheeks flushed slightly, “Um so it says to crush the wormwood. I’m guessing we do that using the mortar and pestle?”

Theo didn’t want to tell them that he had brewed this many times before. The draught was excellent for night terrors, although could not be used so liberally.

“I can juice the Flobberworm, it can be quite tricky and I’ve done it before.” Theo took the hefty creature in his hands, picking it up from their tray of ingredients, and beginning to massage its soft body.

“I don’t get why we can’t just use it from a bottle. This school is so cheap sometimes.” Draco complained as he watched the pair working "they wouldn't do this at Durmstrang.".

“Ok I’ve added the wormwood.” Daphne stirred the ladle of the caldron “the instructions say we’ll need to slowly turn up the heat after we add the valerian.”

Theo reached over and turned the dial on the burner without consulting.

“Turn it up now and add the valerian, it gives it more time to incorporate.”

“But that’s not the instructions..” Daphne’s eyebrows folded in confusion, she looked at Theo to explain himself.

“Trust me, I’ve brewed this before.”

“Whatever, that sounds like it’ll be faster so lets do that.” Draco pointed for Daphne to add the valerian she had chopped. She reluctantly obeyed, handing it over and sighing with disproval.

“Well thats not what the instruction say. But if you want to go off course then you can stir Draco.” She pushed the ladle towards him and looked back at her book in a slight huff.

Their brew was moving much faster than any of their peers, but when Snape came over to check the colour of the potion he made no negative comments. This had eased Daphne’s apprehensions slightly. She sat and swung her legs, measuring out the powdered asphodel petals and engaging in some form of small talk with Draco surrounding the upcoming match.

“I’m going to try out next year. If Potter can make it this year, I could have. Just thought I should dedicate myself to my studies first year.”

“Yeah it’s been an adjustment from home. I’m excited to go back for Christmas, my family decorates the whole house and we have the biggest dinner with my cousins.”

“We have dinner with the Blacks on Christmas.” Draco stuck out his chest,

“What about you Theodore?”

“I have dinner with my father.” He answered blankly.

The thought of returning home for Christmas was more frightening than exciting. He had hoped that perhaps he could stay over the break, but his father had written back to demand his presence for some ‘pureblood event’. It was highly unusual that they would attend a social function, even one for a cause his father supported. The whole premise had unnerved him even more.

"Do you have any friends at home?" Daphne prodded, leaning in to hear his answer.

"It's just me and my father. We live in the country."

"Thats a shame. I've got a few people my age around me so I'm not stuck with my parents all holidays."

“You don’t mean Weasley do you?” Draco laughed, “Daphne you’re embarrassing yourself being associated with him.”

Daphne sat up straight and stared back at him sternly. She weighed up what to say but chose silence. Theo wondered what hold the Malfoy's had over them all, why they seemed to give into Draco.

“Nott... did you say you’re last name was Nott?” Daphne changed the subject “I think I’ve heard of that name… are you a pureblood too? What do your parents do again?”

“My father collects magical artefacts of sorts and yes um… one of my ancestors wrote the pureblood directory. Thats what people tend to recognise us from.”

"Well that settles it. You have to have lunch with us, you and Blaise." Daphne smiled, "Right Draco? Us purebloods have to stick together."

"Yeah whatever."

“Shut off you’re burners.” Snape commanded from the front of the class “We will resume brewing tomorrow, leave all your caldrons to the side here.”

***

Theodore had lured Blaise to the match using a thermos of hot chocolate he stole from breakfast and some heat enchanted gloves his mother had made him when he was seven. Luckily, she had used ever-growing yarn so that the gloves still fit now. Blaise had complained all the way down to the pitch, the shouts and chants of both houses echoing across the grounds. Seas of red and green pulsated across the stands as the players took to the pitch. Hooch blew the whistle and the match was underway. Theodore never saw where the golden snitch had blazed too, instead he watched as Pucey and Flint elegantly weaved through the Gryffindor team tossing the Quaffle as they moved. They had both been a part of last year’s dominant team and their skill on the pitch was clear; faking out their flying patterns and ducking the Weasley twins. Just as Pucey extended his arm back to shoot at the keeper, a girl called Angelina Johnson swooped down and intercepted. The commentator was beyond excitement as Angelina scored.

Theodore watched as Pucey scored another ten points, the quaffle slipping away from the reach of the keeper Oliver Wood. The rest of the game was a back and forth, for every point Slytherin got – Gryffindor followed. Until Harry Potter tripped and fell and somehow swallowed the snitch. The whole Slytherin house couldn’t believe it. The outrage was palpable, sixth and seventh years took to the pitch to try and reason with Hooch that it wasn’t technically a catch. Draco sulked all afternoon in their dorm, he whined about how now when they went home for Christmas he would have to tell his father of the houses failure.

Suddenly, Theo was struck by dread of the holidays. The fear of going back home to him and suffering under his reign of terror. It was as if now that he had been liberated of his father tyranny, he had finally registered its weight. He didn’t want to go home ever again.

Chapter Text

“We have to get back at them. Teach them a lesson.” Pansy urged.

The group walked solemnly from class to class, festering in the embarrassment of losing the Gryffindor vs Slytherin Qudditch match. Daphne noticed that the whole house was sulking, the common room was full of Gryffindor scarves and beanies that other students had forcefully commandeered and Flint was on the war path for anyone who so much as looked at him funny. This foul mood was not helped by the Gryffindors, never gracious in their success they chanted praise for Potter and stuck their tongue out at anyone dressed in green.

“Look at them.”

Draco watched as Oliver Wood, tall and lanky, walked down the hallways flocked by fans. He bashfully accepted the attention of some sixth years girls as he past.

“This cant stand. We’ll look like idiots.”

“So we have to get revenge, that’s what I’ve been saying!”

“Seems a bit childish…” Daphne took her arm out from being intertwined with Pansy as they entered potions.

“Not childish, cunning and wickedly funny.” She corrected.

“So what, make fun of them some more?” Draco sat next to Theo, ready for the second brewing of their sleeping draught.

“No. Like a prank.” Pansy clapped her hands,

“Well what do you have in mind then?” Daphne joined her group as Pansy stayed by their table to discuss her idea.

“We throw dungbombs at them. Sort of like the girls archway in the common room would do”

“Alright.” Draco finally seemed to take an interest “I could get mother to send some.”

“Brilliant!”

“Pansy Parkinson. Sit down.” Snape instructed.

The class resumed the second attempt at brewing the sleeping draught. Theo had already chopped up and prepped most of the ingredients. Daphne wondered if he had come earlier from lunch to do so, but that seemed like an odd use of his time. Although it was clear that Theo was proficient in potion making he was reserved in his talents, a unique trait among many of the people she knew. How he had gotten so good at only eleven years old? Well that was just one of the many questions she still harboured about Theodore Nott.

“It’s a little bit predictable.” Theo spoke out of the blue, slowing stirring the ladle.

“Pardon?” Daphne looked back from Snape’s notes on the blackboard.

“The dung bombs. You’ll be caught right away.”

“No we wont.” Draco stopped as he was about to reach over to poke Crabbe in the back. “And Professor Snape knows my father, so he cant put me in detention.”

“Silence Malfoy.” The professor called from across the room “And you Weasley, can you not tell a lavender sprig from an asphodel petal you fool?....”

Snape's attention drawn elsewhere, Theo resumed. He kept his eyes down but spoke directly to them both.

“I’m guessing the best way to prank someone would be to let them know you did it, but for them to not be able to actually prove you did it. So they couldn’t get you in trouble.”

“Go on Nott..” Draco leant over on the table, “what do you suggest then?”

Draco had paid more attention to Theo since learning of his parentage and extensive pureblood family line. Suddenly he had called him over to sit closer during some classes, Blaise never far behind his friend. They seemed to talk occasionally on their way out of their dorms. Pansy too had subsequently become acutely aware of the shift, and began to try and listen in to what the ‘vampire boy’ and Malfoy would say.

“Well what ‘message’ do you want to send? What lesson?”

“That our house is better than theirs, obviously.”

“So maybe ruin something to do with their house, and replace it with something to do with ours.” Theo suggested.

Daphne had been eavesdropping but feigning disinterest, noting on her parchment all the colour changes of the potion as it brewed. Now she felt compelled to join in. They were hatching a plan, one that at least involved Theo and Draco and Pansy. It was the opportunity to bind the sort of friendship she had been waiting for - something she could hold onto and use to befriend them for all their Hogwarts years. She just needed a clever idea. What was iconically Gryffindor?

“So like put snakes on their table?” Draco began conjuring up ideas. “But I don’t know how to summon a snake yet. I’ll learn that…”

Theo slowly poured an essence of nettle into the caldron. It hissed for a moment before going silent again. Daphne was sure it wasn’t supposed to do that. Looking around the class, she tried to see if anyone else’s potion as bubbling as little as theirs. She surveyed the groups, all in some form of conversation either stale or animated. Ron was letting Granger brew the whole thing by herself. He was hunched over the table awkwardly as he listened to Tracey chatter about how she had never watched a Qudditch match before. Daphne noticed his bright red house jumper.

“We could turn all their red things green?” Daphne threw out the idea casually, despite thinking it was a stroke of genius “I mean Gryffindor is red right? Their clothes, their banners, their common room too probably.”

“I mean I like the idea of the snake..” Draco protested,

“We’ve already leant the colour change charm so it would be easier.” Theo’s support of Daphne’s idea surprised her. She smiled, satisfied that somebody had recognised the genius of her simplicity.

“Exactly!” she nodded in agreement.

***

Draco eventually conceded that the colour change idea was the most practical idea they had so far, although he promised them that the snake summoning would eventuate. Pansy was all for the idea, taking full credit for coming up with the grassroots concept.

“We should do the whole common room.” She had licked her lips in anticipation of it. “Just have to figure out how to get in and out.”

“We won’t get in. Its password protected and they’ll see us coming a mile away in our green robes. Plus with our illustrious reputations, they’ll recognise us. You know it’s hard to ignore this.” Draco ran his hand over his gelled back platinum blonde hair.

“So go we go at night when they won’t see?” Daphne ignored him and leant back on the common room lounge, fire crackling by her feet. “We sneak out?”

“Yes, and you get us the password from Ron so we can get in.” Pansy added casually “and we make sure to go when the prefects are in bed.”

Get the password from Ron? It made sense, but would he just give it up? What reason would she give if he was suspicious? And he’d know. He’d know that she had done it. Maybe he would see the humour in it? Surely he wouldn't turn them in?

“It has to be before the Christmas break. Strike while the iron is hot.”

“Next week then!” Draco had a wicked grin reminiscent of Pansy’s, both relishing the chance to be rebellious. “You in Theo?”

“If you get the password then Blaise and I might come.”

Theo had been seated by the fire, within earshot of the conversation but more occupied with a book that he had removed the cover sleeve from. Daphne had been trying to work out what it was for some time. It had a small font.

“Then after the break, the snakes!” Draco jumped up from the lounge, ready to retire for the night. “Come on Crabbe, Goyle, lets go.”

“Oh Daphne you’re a genius.” Pansy slid over and tucked her body into hers for warmth. “I knew you couldn’t be this smart for nothing.”

“Glad all my parents private lessons have meant that I can help you potentially prank some people.” Daphne laughed “I’ll include it in my next letter to them.”

“I tell you what you can put in it. That you’re making the kind of friends they lectured you about on the platform, and its only first term of first year. Image who we’ll be by seventh year!”

“I can’t even guess what we’ll be like then.”

“I can.” Pansy focused on the wall as if conjuring a vision “We’ve both got really good looking boyfriends, mine better looking than yours obviously.” They both laughed “You’ve finished top of the year, Granger is distraught. I’ve got a really nice house, bigger than my families, and on the lawn is my own personal dragon which I have domesticated.”

“That doesn’t sound bad. Shame you don’t know how to domesticate a dragon though Pans.”

“Not yet.”

“You two are mad.” Theo stood up and snapped his book shut.

“What you reading?” Daphne tried to ask nonchalantly as he walked away.

“None of your business. Goodnight.” He smiled before disappearing behind the arch.

Chapter Text

Daphne had been trying to catch Ron all week. Most of the time He, Harry and Hermione looked to be in constant conversation about something serious. Daphne was determined never to be seen speaking with a mudblood and so as long as Granger followed the pair around like a lost puppy, she had stayed away. It was bad enough she had to exchange niceties with Tracey, who had thankfully been keeping her distance since October, but the weight of her reputation was unshakable. Greengrasses did not associate with the lesser sort.

“We are who we're connected to” her father would say “If we are seen with inferior wizards, then that is what they expect of us.”

When she did talk with Ron it was squeezed into their walk between classes or home or family. It never felt like the right time. It had be for some important reason, he wasn’t thick enough to turn over the password for nothing. After all, Ron was no half-hearted Gryffindor supporter, even wearing the house jumpers and scarves on the weekends. Daphne considered that this may have been because he had no other clothes, but she knew he at least had a Chudley Cannons knit which she had given him the previous Christmas.

It was in Charms that the idea struck her. They were all using the fire-making charm to practice lighting candles when she finally looked down at the blue marble bracelet on her wrist. It had lived there for so long now she almost forgot she wore it sometimes. It was perfect, they would be alone. But why? Why would she need his help? For a moment she considered playing some kind of damsel in distress narrative, but that just wasn’t her style. It needed to be good.

In Defence Against the Dark Arts while Theo was casting a smokescreen spell, the next part of the plan fell into place. She would trick him. Well, obscure the truth. She knew she could outsmart him.

“Look at her.” Pansy had snarled at the dinner table.

Tracey was talking with Blaise and Theo further down the long wooden benches. She flicked her hair back or twisted it in her fingers, giggling at what Blaise was saying while Theo continued reading his book.

“She’s a disgrace to the house, some filthy mudblood trying to cut in on our associations.”

“Well she’s not going to make any headway with the ancestor of the man who wrote a pureblood directory.” Daphne laughed at how futile Tracey’s attempts would be. “But Zambini’s flippant with who he befriends, even saw him trying to talk to Potter in the library.”

“He’s just after the galleons, like his mother.” Pansy pushed around her mashed potato. “Cant blame him..” her voice became forlorn.

“What does that mean?” Daphne turned back to her friend in concern. “You’re a Parkinson…”

“My mother wrote to me last week.” She pulled a crumbled letter from her robe and handed it over.

Dear Pansy,
As you know, your fathers seat on The International Confederation of Wizards is coming up for re-election again in May next year. Our campaigning efforts have been expensive, but many still favour the mudblood candidate. Darling, invitations to dinner with the Malfoys or the Bulstrodes would be critical. You must make sure that they trust and love our family enough to open their cheque books and support our cause. I stress this to you as I have received news from your brother that the MACUSA have threatened to take legal action for his purchase of an ‘illegally’ bred Hippogriff. The money which we lent him has been lost, and I fear more will have to be sent to clear him of the charges. They are very serious over there around this sort of thing.
You must do us proud. We’re counting on you my dear.

“Oh Pans this sucks.” She handed back the letter, “But I’m sure you have the money. It’s probably just in another vault at Gringotts..”

“No Daph.” She cut her off, “There is no more money. That’s the problem.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Generational wealth Daph, if you spend more than you make for long enough the vaults run dry. After the war, dads reputation took a big hit...”

Pansy’s face was stiff, she spoke through clenched lips. Behind her eyes Pansy was broken. There was no mischievous fire and biting sass, no lavish insatiable desire for fun. For the first time there was doubt, there was real stomach twisting worry folding on her brow.

“What are we without our money Daph?” she whispered. “Nobody will want to be friends with me, my family, we’ll have to sell our estate and our assets and… I’ll never get my domesticated dragon” she tried to joke.

“Stop stop.” Daphne looked around to see if they had attracted attention.

“We’ll do this prank, you’ll take the credit and they’ll want to hear your ideas for more. Draco likes you, Crabbe and Goyle definitely have a crush on you and Millie, well all you have to do is make a bit more of an effort..”

“But she’s and idiot that dresses like a toddler.” The old Pansy reared her head, Daphne grinned with her return.

“I’ll get the password from Ron tonight, and we’ll make you the most popular girl in this school.” Daphne promised. “Are you not Pansy bloody Parkinson? Do you not live in a mansion, dress in bespoke clothes and have the prettiest face in the year?”

“The year?” Pansy tutted “The whole school.”

“I was thinking about Angelina Johnson but you’re right.”

“She is very pretty for a Gryffindor....”

***

Daphne loitered outside the hall waiting for Ron. The prefects would soon be trying to usher them on. Watching the clock she willed her friend to hurry up. Soon the lanky ginger turned the corner with a jovial smile, accompanied by the knobby kneed Potter. Why was he here? Could Ron not do anything alone these days?

“Hey Daph.” Ron stopped dead in front of her.

“Why is Potter here?” she looked past him to Harry who awkwardly hung back.

“Oh well we fancied a walk about the castle.”

“Hi.” Harry waved.

Ignoring him Daphne rolled her eyes and tried to re-work her plan.

“Mum wrote to me the other day and said she was worried about your mum missing you.”

“Oh.” Ron frowned. “Yeah I suppose since I’m staying here for Christmas we’re gonna be apart longer.”

“Exactly.” Daphne started to walk back the way Ron had come, “So I was wondering if we should do something nice for her, before they leave on their trip.”

“Oh yeah.” Ron began to lead the way, his legs taking longer strides. Harry had fallen into step.

“Are your brothers in your common room? We should talk to them about it too, I don’t have to be back to my dorm for another half an hour.”

The three walked back through the castle. Harry stopped at the portrait of the fat lady, he looked suspiciously at Daphne and over to Ron. She walked up close to him and stood expectant to enter. The two boys exchanged an awkward confused glance but eventually Harry whispered;

“Pig Snout.”

Daphne grinned with pride at the success of her plan as the portrait opened and the three entered into the Gryffindor common room. Nobody paid much attention to her, which she had to admit insulted her slightly. When she walked about during the day most people at least acknowledged that she was one of the wealthiest well-bred girls in the school. The common room was loud and boisterous, students were wrestling on the lounge. Ron raced upstairs to find his brothers. Harry stood by her in silence as they waited. She didn’t dignify him with small talk, she sensed he was not enthused by the idea either.

“I have lots of study to do you know..” Percy flounced down the stairs,

“Studying to be a prat are you Perce?” Fred nudged him down the last step.

“Why’s she in the common room, you should have waited outside.”

“Nice to see you too Percy. Great to see the prefects are so welcoming inter house relations.” She dismissed him “I’m here to make sure your mother doesn’t sulk over missing you.”

“So what are you thinkin' Daph?” George leant against one of the tapestries.

“Well when my mother travels she likes to put her lipstick in a little silver case, we can get her that.”

“With what money? We’re not all million galleon Greengrasses.” Fred joked. Ron flushed with embarrassment, aware Harry was still nearby.

Eventually they agreed on borrowing a book from the Hogwarts library and sending it to her for the trip. They would return it when she mailed it back. Daphne stood to leave and hugged Ron goodbye, as she did so she surveyed the layout of the room. He saw her out and thanked her for the good idea, he had been in hot water after his mother discovered he’d gone in search of the troll at Halloween with Harry.

***

“Were going tonight.” Daphne ran up to Pansy and Draco who were playing exploding snap on the common room table. “I’ve got the password.”

“I’ll get Theo and Blaise.” Draco jumped up and ran to his dorm, grinning like a child.

“Thanks Daph.”

Pansy smiled, her eyes wide with relief that their plan to salvage her family might just work bit by bit. Even if it was half-baked at best.

Chapter Text

“Come on or we’ll be caught.” Pansy lead them up a long flight of stairs. They moved further and further from the dungeons.

Theo had been apprehensive about sneaking out, but the prank could not have come at a better time. All he was seeing was her face. Every time he closed his eyes it was her, her motherly smile and the smell of her sharp citrusy perfume. He awoke most nights in terror, expecting his father to come and drag him back home. His eyes had begun to play tricks; he saw his father’s hand reaching through his curtains, his shadow circling him like a shark. Theo hated the dark, he hated small spaces. He didn’t want to wake up tomorrow and have to go home.

“Shhh” Daphne turned around and grabbed the packet of crystallised pineapple from Blaise’s hands.

“Hey! Five house points from Slytherin for that.” Blaise reached to get them back,

“You get them back when we’re done.”

“This the fat lady?” Draco looked at one of the portraits.

“No that’s just a lady you tosser.” Daphne stress was palpable.

Theo couldn’t help but watch Daphne as they had made their way through the castle. She wore bright red silk pyjamas and a long matching robe which flowed behind her as she crept down the hall. She looked so regal, even in her night wear. He found pleasure in watching her eyes dart about looking for teachers or prefects, the growing grin on her face as they successfully got closer. Usually when she walked anywhere her head was held high, as if the whole school was hers. It was nice to see the change. It reminded him that everyone had more than one side to them.

“This is it!” Pansy darted ahead and towards the tower. “Pig Snout.” she whispered.

To Theo’s complete surprise, the portrait opened up and Pansy slipped inside. The rest of them had to run to catch her, bundling in quickly before the portrait protested. Theo stepped into the common room and soaked it in. He was slightly ashamed to admit that the room was nice, comforting almost.

“Colovaria” Draco pointed his wand at the lounge, wasting no time.

The bright red fabric suddenly faded into a muddy green, then slowly it grew in vibrancy again until it was the that Slytherin emerald.

“Muffliato” Theo cast the spell across the whole room to obscure their noise.

“How do you know how to do that?” Daphne whipped around from turning a tapestry green with Pansy.

“He’s a genius.” Blaise boasted, taking a seat on the bright green lounge.

“I use it at home.” Theo gave the briefest of explanations. Perhaps if somebody else had asked he would have been more defensive, but something about Daphne just made him say it.

“That’s…impressive.”

“Colovaria” Pansy pointed at the carpet.

Between them the common room was emerald green in no time. Blaise had struggled slightly, but had successfully turned all the curtains a sort of khaki before they decided to leave. They couldn’t help but cackle as they ran back down towards the dungeons. The whole castle was theirs. Portraits called out for them to go to bed but their shadowy silhouettes remained cast up upon the walls, jumping and dancing on the high of a job well done. The whole encounter must have lasted ten minutes, but the rush was immeasurable. Theo hadn’t worried about a thing, he hadn’t thought about going home for Christmas or imagined drinking the potion or…

He froze.

Blaise was with him immediately. The mark on Theo’s back burnt, his shoulders rolled back in pain. He gritted his teeth to stop from crying out.

“Are you ok mate?” Blaise was ducking down to try and look into his eyes.

The mark forced the memory upon him. His mind completely out of his control. He was in a small space, unable to move his legs. His face was pressed up against the top of some kind of wooden box, its splinters massaging their way into his cheek. It smelt stale, like varnish and dust. He needed to cough. His father voice called out; “And you’ll stay down there boy until you learn how to behave!” He slammed his foot down on the board above Theo’s face.

“Theo? Theo?” Blaise was shaking him.

He remembered how hours had past. Hours of trying to calm his breathe, his heart beating out of his chest.

“You’ll get us caught” Daphne pleaded, “Why’s he just standing there grimacing?”

“Move!” Pansy began to push him and Blaise down the stairs towards the common room entrance.

The memory began to fade. He felt his senses coming back to him, his control over his mind returning. Blaise had taken his arm to stop him from falling as they stumbled into the common room. He was still so groggy that he didn’t realise who was waiting for them.

“Detention for the first three weeks of next term.” Snape’s deep menacing voice caught his attention.

Theo looked up. Blaise had begun removing his dark purple robe from his shoulders to wrap around Theo when they both registered their head of house’s presence. The group gasped in surprise. But most curiously of all, a small girl was sitting by the fire watching them all with a smile. After seeing her mousy blonde curls and round face, he knew it was Tracey Davis. She seemed very pleased with the shocked reaction Pansy gave her. Theo couldn't help but be impressed by her betrayal.

***

The next day as everyone prepared to go home for the holidays the school was ablaze with a rumour somebody had vandalised the Gryffindor common room. When they heard what colour every piece of furniture was turned into, they knew which house to credit. Marcus Flint had bellowed with laughter at breakfast when he heard and Pucey declared the vandal the new Quidditch Captain. The rest of the house seemed to regain their pride too, talking about how skilful their Slytherin peers were.

Theo wanted to reveal himself as one of the masterminds, he wanted the praise and the attention. But he didn’t. He wasn’t ready just yet. But something had changed in him. Despite receiving detention with the others, he had never felt such unadulterated joy in his life as he had running rampant down those corridors with them. Clearly he wasn’t the only one who yearned to recapture that feeling of adrenaline and rebellion; Draco, Pansy and Daphne had joined him and Blaise at breakfast the next morning. They each exchanged smug looks between bites of toast.

“We’re doing this again.” Pansy declared “And we get back at mudblood Davis.”

Chapter Text

Second term had felt drawn out beyond belief. Daphne had been torn between studying to beat Hermione Granger in classes, helping Pansy generate school wide popularity, waiting for Ron to forgive her and working out why Theodore Nott had changed so much.

Theo had returned from Christmas break wearing glasses, and suddenly become almost as loud and outspoken as Blaise. The dramatic change had surged her, and everyone else’s interest in the boy. Last term she could barely get a few words out of him, now he sat with them every lunchtime nuzzled between Draco and Blaise. Now he spoke up in class? He was laughing and disturbing the class almost every lesson? He was even talking to her and joking around, unprovoked. It was driving her insane. Who was this? What happened to Theodore Nott? There was just something about him that called for further investigation.

After Christmas, Pansy had become hell bent on her quest for her and her families popularity. She was a natural attention hoarder but never before had she summoned reach on this scale. She ruthlessly taunted the Gryffindors to make herself the unofficial hero of the house, of highest praise in the older years books. The prank had worked so well that she roped in the others to throw dungbombs, transfigure ink pots into frogs and drop taste twisting potions on other students food all during the term. It seemed she was going to keep getting the boys to push boundaries in the name of Slytherin Supremacy.

Theodore seemed to thrive off every adrenaline packed moment, and Blaise a natural trouble maker was more than happy to oblige. The two of them were constantly distracting the class with wild schemes and general tom foolery. For Daphne, the antics were growing old. She didn’t want to be in detentions or be scolded, she wanted to be beloved by her professors. This new Theodore didn’t seem to care, he still answered a few questions (almost always correctly) but now he was audibly laughing at the back of the class… laughing. Theodore Greengrass who had once been as silent as the grave. But worst of all, he had begun to drag her into it; distracting her with Blaise’s impersonations, levitating notes to hit the back of her head, almost tackling her in the hallway as if that was the height of hilarity. She had fallen behind, and Granger now turned in better results than her. Daphne was enraged. Not only was Ron’s new replacement muggle friend appearing smarter than her but it was all Theo’s fault.

“Hey Greengrass.” Theo strode out from the boys dorms with Blaise and Vincent Crabbe by his side,

“Oh hi.” She looked up with an annoyed grin, Pansy had forced her to work on the decorations for her next exclusive tea party all afternoon and she still needed to finish her charms work before class tomorrow.

Pansy’s gang had grown bit by bit until even Daphne was struggling to sit next to her in classes. Of course their friendship hadn’t wavered. Pansy was ruthless when it can to teasing Harry, Ron and Hermione, vowing that’s what people got for icing out her best friend. Ron had been refusing to forgive Daphne since she stole his common room password. She would never admit that his distance all term and over the holidays had really stung. He was lucky to even be her friend, who did he think he was? He needed to get over it. It was just a silly little prank after all.

“Got the invite to Pansy’s tea party.” He held up a little envelope, “Sounds kind of girly though.”

“I mean if there’s cakes I might go…” Crabbe pondered out loud.

“Well you don’t have to come.” Daphne snarkily pointed out “but they’ve become quite exclusive now so you should consider yourself lucky.”

“Oh then we’ll just have to come.” He playfully elbowed Blaise as they sat down on the lounges. “You can wear your shiny purple shirt.”

“Ah you’re so right Theo, purple silk it is!”

“Wait so you’re coming?” Daphne looked up from her work again. It was so like this new Theo to be distracting her like this.

“Well Blaise has this new shirt his mother sent and Vincent never turns down free cake.”

“And you?”

“The pleasure of your company is enough to tempt me.” He joked.

“Don’t you have work to do? I swear all term you lot have just been goofing off.”

“Goofing off?” Theo feigned horror at such an accusation “I’m hurt Greengrass.”

“Deeply hurt.” Blaise clutched his chest and fell back on the lounge convulsing,

“Why are you so different this term huh?” Daphne felt the stress of the past month collapsing on her. She had been losing sleep to study, filling her days with Pansy related worry and stressing over the lack of care Ron seemed to show. “And for the last time, why do you have glasses now!?”

“I told you, they’re a fashion statement.” Blaise jumped in, “Makes him look more sophisticated.”

“Says you Greengrass, last week I saw you actually singing along to one of Tracey’s muggle records.” Theo cheekily snapped back.

“No I wasn’t. I don’t like Tracey” Daphne started

Pansy doesn’t like Tracey.” Theo corrected “You just think your better than her because you’re a pureblood, but you don’t hate her. I mean we all think we’re better than her, but we don’t hate her because of it.”

“I feel bad really, not her fault she has lowly muggle parents.” Blaise nodded along.

“Oh what and you’re suddenly an expert on my behaviour and feelings are you Theodore? Besides I said didn’t like her, not hate her.”

“Theodore's so formal.” He scrunched up his nose, “Blaise didn’t you say everyone should just call me Theo?”

“Yes I did, and as his head of PR I’m going to have to insist that Lady Daphne amend her language when addressing young Theo.”

“I’m going back to my dorm.” Daphne sighed, standing up with her charms work in hand and departing.

“See you Saturday!”

***

Pansy’s exclusive tea parties were a ploy she had come up with over the break to make the honour of her friendship and family seem more alluring. The professors must have thought it a little laugh, a twelve year old hosting a tea in the grounds on Sundays, but the competition for invites was fierce. The first had been for her birthday in February, and by now even second and third years were vying for spots. The truth was, there was nothing so special about the lunch. It was tea and biscuits and cakes all taken from the kitchens. But when you label something exclusive and look and act like Pansy Parkinson, people will pay attention and want to know more. That was the thing about Pansy, it didn’t matter how rude she was to people, they would still want her to like them and Daphne could never work out why. It went against everything her mother taught her about being polite to everyone’s face. What also struck her was how little time they spent alone together now. Pansy was always schmoozing with someone or another, she had begun floating around the it girl of Slytherin house; Emmeline Avery, just to improve her associations. Daphne had practically become set decoration for Pansy's one woman show. She willed herself to say nothing, that Pansy needed this after all, but she could feel the resentment and jealousy bubbling.

“Oh sorry Daph I promised Millie and Charlotte Montague they could sit by me today.” Pansy was getting Crabbe and Goyle to string up some banners and lights for her party by the lake. “Charlottes been far to friendly with Tracey, we have to make sure she doesn’t fall in with the wrong sort. She’s going to wish she never messed with us.”

“I think we’ve tortured her enough, she's started hanging out with the Gryffindors now.” Daphne took a calming breathe as she organised the cakes into a neat circle, using her wand. “But Vincent if you so much as look at these cakes before the others arrive...”

“Have you written to your sister yet?” Millie asked absentmindedly, it was as if she knew Daphne had just begun to think about the letter in her pocket she had gotten that morning.

“Not yet, I’ve been so busy getting that charms work done. There’s just so many layers to it you know? Once you do the extended reading they note that wand movements might actually be bigger distinguishers than we would initially suspect.” Daphne sensed Millie had no real interest in extended reading, “have you found your cat yet?”

“No. I think he’s scared of Ellery.” Millie looked over at Daphne’s half-kneazle which stalked something in the grass. “She’s just so big you know, and he’s so little.”

Daphne guessed that Millie’s cat wasn’t actually scared of large things, otherwise it would never return home to her at all.

“Well I can help you look on Sunday? Would be good to get away from all this.” she gestured to the gathering group of students from which Pansy was hand picking the 'most useful'. If they weren't already popular in their houses, wealthy or in some way connected to fame - Pansy didn't want them. "Would be good to get some study done too, my father's asking where i rank in each class."

“Exams aren’t until next term, You can beat Hermione then. Just have fun, that’s what Theo says..” Millie urged.

“Well who cares what Theodore says. Frankly I don’t know why people are so obsessed with him now. Last term I was the only one asking questions and you all thought I was crazy.”

Guests gathered, and soon bubbles were being cast up in the sky and students were devouring a dozen gold platters of cakes. Theodore, Draco and Blaise had stumbled down late, eaten a handful of sandwiches and then set up a game of snap for themselves. Daphne rolled her eyes at the whole affair, even Gregory Goyle had attempted conversation. Pansy held court on her picnic blanket, recounting one of the galas her family had attended to raise money for St Mungo’s. She and Daphne hadn't talked since the start of the picnic.

“Hey Greengrass.” Theo elbowed her as she finished a game of ring toss with a few of the other girls in attendance. “Hey girls.” He looked up and briefly addressed them all before turning back to her.

“What is it now Theodore? Looking to steal all the Gryffindor's book bags and fill them with fertiliser again? Because I’m not really interested.” Daphne rolled her eyes.

“Was going to ask about that pound of red fur Draco says is yours.” He pointed at Ellery who lay in her arms, “But if we're still doing this hostile hate thing you’ve had going all term, the I’ll go talk to someone else. Just cant win some people over I guess.” He grinned, shrugging his shoulders as he walked off.

“Are you friends with him?” Padma Patil pipped up.

“Yeah are you? He’s really funny” Charlotte Montague echoed.

“Theodore? No.” Daphne denied “Funny looking is all he is. I mean look at those glasses and gangly legs.” she giggled with the others as they watched him stride over to Blaise and snatch a sandwich out of Goyle’s hand.

Daphne would notice that the questions about Theo would only grow as the months progressed; both her own and others. There was just something about the new Theodore Nott that made people turn their heads, he was completely unrecognisable from that reclusive introverted vampire boy from September and as much as she denied it, Daphne was desperate to unriddle him.

But her thoughts were immediately de-railed when she felt a slight pulse on her wrist, sliding up her sleeve she saw the small blue marble begin to glow. It was Ron.

Chapter Text

There was something about Daphne Greengrass that made Theo excited to see her when he returned from Christmas break. Although he would always first and foremost, be excited to see Blaise. Blaise had waited patiently on the platform with his mother for Theo to arrive, she was a famous playwright and thespian who had become a real patron of the arts as her wealth accumulated. She looked dramatic, her honey eyes captivating and closely shaven head extenuating her high cheekbones. It still shocked Theo how much she looked like Blaise. He hoped nobody thought he looked like his father. His horrible, evil father. The pair had boarded the train with a sponge cake she had given them and Blaise was the first to ask about why he had turned up in a pair of thick rimmed glasses.

“Oh sorry was reading on the way here.” Theo took them off his face.

“Oh, but you didn’t read with them last year did you? I think I would have noticed that.” Blaise tried to think back “Nope you definitely did NOT have glasses.”

“My dad um....” Theo had squirmed in his seat. Was he really going to tell someone about this? Should he? What if Blaise thought he was weird, what if he stopped being his friend? He only had him. He probably should try to make more friends actually.

“He make you get the lamest pair they had did he?” Blaise laughed at his own joke and took a bite of cake. “C’mon just tell me.”

“He doesn’t like me reading, says I look too weak and have tiny arms and legs. I guess he thought this was easier than locking the library up.” Theo sheepishly shoved the glasses in his pocket.

Blaise hadn’t pushed him. He had filled in the blanks rather quickly for somebody Theo sensed had faced no real hardship in his life. Throughout the first week of term when everyone would ask him, Blaise would brush them off on his behalf. He claimed it was fashionable in Sweden, or told them Theo’s cuticle was clawed by a rouge dragon. Whatever he came up with at the time so they left it alone. It was the first time Theo knew Blaise really was his friend, that he would do this for him without asking any questions. He would just let Theo breathe, and that’s what he wanted to do most. Leave the worries and fears at home, and just be free at Hogwarts.

The holidays had been brutal. His father was back to forcing him to drink the potion for his ‘mental fortitude’ and locking him in his room at night. But he had also started to force Theo to go for horseback rides around the decaying gardens, to start boxing to build muscle but only let him eat bone broth and red meat. It was as if his father suddenly realised that he cared about how Theo looked now that he was interacting with people. Before, what had it mattered that he was scrawny? Nobody saw him.

Now that he was back at Hogwarts he felt free, free to push the boundaries and do what he pleased. Free to actually have fun, free to be stupid and careless without retribution. He was out from under his father’s foot and wanted to relish every moment of it. So he started to act more like Blaise. One night the pair of them had been taunting Peeves, throwing wads of parchment at the poltergeist to see how angry they could make him. As they fled the enraged spirit they hid in one of the classrooms.

“You know what I don’t get. If your dad wants you to be less of a nerd, why give you the worlds nerdiest glasses?” Blaise picked them off Theo’s face and examined them. “You look a bit like Potter.”

“Don’t say that.” Theo tried to get his glasses back, having left them on after class.

“I mean you’re a lot taller and more gentrified, and thank merlin these frames aren’t circular, but you get my point.” Blaise held them just out of reach.

“C’mon give them back.”

“I’ll give these back young Theo when you tell me why you’re suddenly going along with my ridiculous ideas to taunt the poltergeist and expand our circle. I saw you actually approach Draco the other day and make him laugh.” Blaise wasn’t accusatory, more inquisitive. He seemed to notice the shift far sooner than others and wanted to confirm his suspicions.

“You know why.” Theo took his frames back, “My father doesn’t let me have fun. I didn’t know what fun was until we pulled that prank on the Gryffindors. To feel alive and like you can do the things you want to do, to not be worried for every second of the day. We got detention but they never told my father.”

“Don’t tell anyone I did this.” Blaise said before giving Theo a quick and awkward hug. “and if you’re honest with me I’ll be honest with you.”

“Oh yeah?” Theo took the chance “Did you really accidentally shave that slit in your eyebrow or did you mean to?”

“Ok I did it on purpose!” Blaise confessed “Thought it would look high fashion.”

“I don’t know anything about high fashion…”

“That’s exactly why you have me.” Blaise opened the door and checked to see if the halls were clear. “To make you fashionable and charming. Starting with getting rid of those glasses as soon as we can.”

“I don’t know how to reverse the spell.” Theo admitted,

“We’ll work it out.”

“Thanks Blaise.” Theo patted him on the back.

“Oh and by the way, you need to stop staring at that Daphne girl. I think you’re bugging her out. She came over to talk to me about you like four times last term, but now she's radio silent.”

“I’m not staring at her.” Theo flushed pink, “You said yourself that she kept persistently asking after me.”

“four times in like three months is not persistently asking after you”

“Well whatever, I just want to know why she was so interested. Could use another friend..”

"And what the hell am I?!!" Blaise looked offended.

"Shut up Zabini."

Nobody but Blaise and Daphne had shown any interest in Theo all first term. This didn’t bother him, he didn’t need to be noticed. But after being alone again, he realised how nice it was to have somebody care about you enough to ask after you. He knew Daphne’s interest was probably only in passing, she seemed studious and he guessed his knowledge in potions and DADA had spiked a small amount of attention. But she just had this thing about her that made him want her attention all the time now. He wanted her to care about him enough to keep asking questions. He wanted more people to care about him too, but Daphne was one of the first and for that he was loyal.

***

His plan to have fun and get Daphne’s attention by playing up in class ultimately backfired. While Theo could admit the plan was deeply flawed to begin with, he had hoped that Blaise’s advice about ‘everyone liking a funny man’ would have at least partially rung true for her. Instead it only garnered the attention of Draco and his henchmen to whom he then became attached, as well as a few other boys like Ernie Macmillan and Michael Corner who started acknowledging his existence. So when it came to Pansy’s tea party, Theodore knew this might be a real in. It was a way to show her the old him was still in there under this new Blaise influenced bravado.

He strode down late, Blaise having been insistent on making an entrance in his purple silk shirt. When they arrived Pansy was swamped with girls trying to talk to her about this or that;

“I think half of them actually hate her.” Blaise observed “they just want to be with the little in crowd she’s created. All she had to do was get Charlotte Montague and despite her unfortunate looks Millie’s god father is still the Minister for Magic so that friendship had to be valuable.”

“You should write for the Prophet.”

“More like Witch Weekly.” Draco walked up behind them, Blaise nearly jumping out of his skin.

“You read Witch Weekly?” Blaise was overjoyed at uncovering a secret.

“No I don’t.” Draco snapped, “Goyle does.”

“Goyle doesn’t read.” Theo sat down with the boys further up on the hill. “Tried to tell him about A Christmas Carol and he thought I was talking about the muggle movie.”

“My mother was scrooge one year in her theatre company...”

Theo had built up the courage to try and talk with Daphne, to try and get her to see he hadn’t turned into a complete rouge but she had been in a temper. Something that was becoming more and more common. Or maybe she had always been a bit of grump? Whatever the reason she always seemed to bicker with him and so he threw up his hands and retreated back to the boys.

“Bad luck mate.” Blaise pat his back “Maybe a terms worth of interest isn’t worth another terms worth of pining.”

“Whose pining?” Draco finally looked up from his chess set.

“Draco!” Pansy ran up to them with Charlotte and Millie in tow. “Look they’ve published and article about the most prominent girls in Hogwarts.” She handed it to him “I’m sixth, which is exceptional for a first year.” She read the article over his begrudging shoulder “First is Emmeline Avery in fourth year, her family invented Enchantress beauty serum so they’re very rich and of course she’s rather pretty and a pureblood. Poppy Coffe, her dads the editor for the daily prophet, Ruby Rosier a seventh year… Angelina Johnson…”

“Must be for her looks” Charlotte assured a disgruntled Pansy,

“or having already been pegged for the Hollyhead Harpies after school” Theo suggested.

“Who cares?” Draco whined.

“And then fifth….” Pansy looked at the magazine intently “Daphne!” she stuck her head up for the first time to try and spot the auburn haired girl among the group.

Theo leant over to see the picture of Daphne they had included, it must have been taken from a gala of sorts. She had long sapphire robes on that brought out her icy eyes. Next to it they had a little blurb;

Daphne Cordelia Greengrass is the most influential new addition to Hogwarts school. While older students previously mentioned in this article are far more established and influential now, we urge readers to be on the lookout for the young Greengrass. Daphne is the daughter of the esteemed George Greengrass, former Supreme Mugwump and current head of the Department of Mysteries. The Greengrass family have been a staple of Ministry dinners and befriended almost every prominent wizard in the united kingdom. Having thus already attended many elite social events, Daphne’s entrance into public life at Hogwarts is sure to be of interest.

“They should make a list for us boys.” Blaise lamented “That’s equality.”

“That’s not really equality.” Millie had made tenth on the list on the condition that she ‘looked homely’ according to the author. “But they probably will.”

“I’m eighth. This list is rubbish.” Charlotte huffed. “Who even is Gwendoline Hedgeflower?”

“I think she was at one of my father’s galas..” Draco only wondered for a moment before dropping the magazine and going back to his game of chess against Crabbe.

“Where is Daph?” Pansy was looking around almost frantic, “She must have gone for more cakes, I told you two to stop eating them.” She pointed at a guilty looking Crabbe and Goyle. “Go and find her Millie.”

“I’ll go.” Theo surprised himself by offering, “have to stop by the library anyway..” he lied.

“yeah that book on blood sucking slugs right?” Blaise embellished the tale,

“Yeah, really interesting.” Theo nodded along.

“Sounds dangerous, I’d love to know your thoughts Theo.” Charlotte shyly suggested “once you’ve read it of course.”

“Sure.” Theo gave Blaise a glare for the ill-fated lie and then left for the castle.

"Good luck four eyes."

"Im not even wearing my glasses!" Theo protested as he left.

As he walked he was resolute. He would find Daphne and tell her to sort herself out. She couldn’t be dealing with anything near his own struggles, and he still managed to be nice. He had made a real effort to be a functioning member of this school, he had pushed himself so far out of his comfort zone that he could no longer see land. He was changing. He wasn’t going to be like his father, he wasn’t going to let him destroy his life. He was going to have some bloody fun and she was just a suffocating kill-joy. But a kill-joy he still wanted as a friend, because Theo wasn't used to friendship, but if Blaise was anything to go by then getting a hundred more wouldn't hurt.

His quest to end their term long bickering started with one question – If he were the fifth most influential girl at Hogwarts, where would he have gone?

Chapter Text

Ron paced outside the hall as Daphne approached. He wore a jumper with a large R on it, riddled with holes. Harry wore a similar one that looked more well-kept.

“Why’s he here?” Daphne looked over at the knobby kneed boy.

“He’s my friend…” Ron justified

“I know all about your new friends Ron.” She cut him off “The stunt with the troll made sure of that.”

“Look Daph.” He struggled to get the words out “We need your help. And it wasn’t a stunt! Why does everyone keep saying that?”

“You send me no letters at Christmas and then ignore me all term and now you want my help? Well there’s no way. Say what you want about my ‘snot nosed mates’ but they don’t ignore me…”

“Well I didn’t want to ask for your help actually, it was him who made me.” Ron jabbed a finger at Harry. “So we’ll just go then.”

“It’s about Snape.” Harry spoke sternly “He’s trying to steal something from Dumbledore.”

“No he’s not Potter” Daphne jumped to her head of houses defence.

Ron looked around them and whispered “He’s trying to steal the Philosophers Stone Daph.”

“Hold on hold on.” Was this boy serious? “This isn’t funny Ron, I know it wasn’t nice of me to trick you but if you think I’m stupid enough to fall for this. I mean the Sorcerer’s stone? You’re kidding right?”

“Have you seen him leaving your common rooms a lot at night? Has he said anything?” Harry pressed.

“You two are insane.” Daphne started to back away, “He’s a normal head of house, he’ll patrol with the prefects some nights but he’s not trying to steal anything. And I doubt they’d hide something as powerful as the Philosophers stone in our school.”

“Third floor corridor, Hagrid’s got this three headed dog called fluffy. Its guarding the stone! You can check for yourself!”

Harry elbowed Ron hard in the ribs for giving out so much information. Ron winced in pain.

“Ronald if you’re sending me to the third floor corridor, where we we’re expressly forbidden to go, just to get me into trouble it’s not going to happen” Daphne shook her head. “Fred and George would have at least come up with a better ruse.”

“No look.” Ron looked quite exhausted with the conversation “We just need you to keep an eye on Snape. If he’s as innocent as you say he is, then you should have no problem telling us where he goes and when he leaves after curfew. That’s all we want.”

“And what will you two do for me if I do this for you?”

“I’ll forgive you for tricking me. But you don’t really have a choice.” Ron looked down and scuffed his shoes, “You still owe me for saving you from your mothers last sketching picnic.”

Daphne softened slightly. Ron was clearly unhappy to ask for her help but had swallowed his pride for one reason or another. He had come to her with a hap hazard olive branch and she knew she had to accept it. He was too stubborn to hand out another any time soon and if she really looked back on it, she had been a little harsh manipulating him. Plus, it seemed like an easy enough task.

“Alright.” She sighed “You’re on thin ice though.”

“Thanks Daph,” Ron perked up “maybe now you’ll see what a git Snape is.”

“I mean it’s obvious why somebody would want the stone but why on earth do you think Snape’s after it? Why do you think it’s in the school?”

“Wait how do you know about the stone?” Harry looked puzzled “Hermione had to search in the library…”

“Buck tooth’s a mudblood. Pureblood families make sure their children know about magical history before we even step foot in this school, its why your friend Granger has to study so hard.”

“Hey don’t call her that.” Ron weakly defended Hermione. “anyway, we just know the stone’s here. Trust us.”

“Well I definitely wont be relying on your biting intuition.” Daphne gave a half smile at her own joke which Ron returned. “And now I know bucktooth’s in on this...”

“Her names Hermione. And I you’re just as smart as her.” Ron had cut her off,

“I know.”

“So where you going now? If it’s on the way you can walk with us.”

“I probably have to go back to Pansy’s tea party.” Daphne sighed “I don’t see why though, it’s exhausting trying to get her attention now days. She’s always got five girls around her at least.”

“Weren’t you encouraging that? I saw her in the Daily Prophet the other day, well her dad but”

“I know we were so excited. Millie told her parents Pansy had invited her to the tea parties and so they met up with the Parkinson’s for lunch. I didn’t think the plan would work but well I guess it did a bit.”

“Uh huh.” Ron mumbled as they walked.

***

As Daphne turned through the hall, Millie’s words rang in her ears again, she decided to open the letter her mother had sent that morning. The paper always smelt of her citrusy perfume, Daphne instinctively held it to her nose before reading;

Daphne Darling, Please do not be alarmed but Astoria has suffered a terrible bout of sickness this week. Your father is having a specialist brought in to stay with us for a while, we have taken your sister to St Mungo’s in the meantime but she will return home shortly. Your father and I have a lot to tell you. You are not permitted to inform your friends of your sisters illness in any way, nobody must know. Your Mother, Aqualia Greengrass.

There’s something about unexpected bad news that flattens everything. She didn’t feel anything for a moment, reading the letter back over to determine how she should feel. There was so much to process, and yet so little information.

She put one foot in front of another but walked aimlessly for a few moments. Astoria was sick, but she has to be ok… It said she was going home so that must be good. But what did they need to tell her? It had to be bad to not put in a letter? But it couldn’t be something bad about Astoria or surely she’d be going home?

As her thoughts began to spiral, her body collided with another presence. Both were sent to the floor.

Theo rolled onto his back laughing, he felt around for his glasses as Daphne instinctively sprang back up as if nothing had happened. Still torn between emotions she shrugged off the collision, instead looking around to see if anyone had seen them. Thankfully, the hall was almost empty.

“Well this isn’t my glasses.” Theo held up a parchment letter, handing it back to her.

“Give that!” Daphne pried it from his hands, “You’re such an idiot Theodore! Just leave me alone!”

Theo’s light demeanour shifted, his smile faded and he got to his feet.

“What’s your problem with me Greengrass? Last term you were prodding me for information and this term when I try and talk to you your just annoyed all the time. You’re no fun.”

“I am fun. I just, its been.” Daphne began to hyperventilate as she spoke.

She wasn’t used to so much emotion. When she had been home schooled there was nothing to trouble her outside from being forced to sing and paint or the occasional ministry gala. While there had always been pressure to be perfect, there had never been such close competition. Hundreds of years of Greengrass history lingered in these halls and Daphne knew she just wasn’t stacking up. The feeling had been creeping in for weeks, and finally her resolve was fading. The heir to the House of Greengrass was falling flat on her face; not popular like Pansy, not smart like Granger, not confident like Draco or charming like Blaise. She’d never be as carefree as Theodore, as illuminating as he seemed to have become. Why had she not turned into that?. But more than anything else she had this sense deep in her gut that Astoria was really sick. Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’ve finally gone mad like Great Aunt Geraldine

So Daphne just cried. Standing in front of Theo she just let a tears roll down, frozen in place. But feelings were never made to trickle, soon they poured from her with an uncontrollable force.

“Hey hey hey.” Theo was clearly uncomfortable with this turn of events “I didn’t really mean it. I mean you turned Seamus’ hair green when he made fun of Draco that one time… that was funny”

“It’s not that” Daphne wailed, she was trying to force the tears back in her face by burying her head in her hands.

“Ok well what is it then?” Theo proceeded with caution “actually wait don’t tell me. I’m really no good with emotions. Let’s just go to the common room huh?”

Daphne tried desperately to compose herself as she walked. This was humiliating . As if she weren’t feeling bad enough now she was weeping in front of Theodore Nott. Thankfully she had made up with Ron, that was one less burden on her back. But just as one had been alleviated, now there was something so much worse.

“If it helps there was this article in Witch… Magazine? Witch…”

“Weekly.” She sniffled. “Honestly it’s like you’ve been living in a cave..”

“Witch Weekly yes, there was an article about the most influential girls here and you got fifth. That’s nice isn’t it? I mean you care about that stuff don’t you?”

“Well… yes. That is nice actually.” She gave a weak smile. She almost asked where Pansy was ranked to see if she had beaten her but then decided that it didn’t matter. In fact she really wanted Pansy here right now. She might know what to say, but she had been so absent lately…. More sniffles followed “I was beginning to feel entirely invisible.” She confessed.

“Greengrass you are anything but invisible.” Theo gave her a light pat on the head that she guess passed for comforting in his eyes.

When they entered the common room Tracey sprung up and waved a hello to Theo. Daphne had decided not to be such an outward bitch to Tracey on the advice of her mother, who told her that messing with a roommate, even a mudblood, was not very smart. She had to agree. Since the detention ploy Tracey had been avoiding them all like the plague, barring them from using her shiny record player.

“Hiya Theo.” Tracey grinned stupidly,

“Hey Trace. Greengrass is a bit upset.” He motioned at Daphne awkwardly.

“Oh no, here let me take her to our dorm.” Tracey held out her hand and batted her long lashes. He tone of voice so contrived that it almost made Daphne let out a giggle.

***

That night as she lay in bed, Daphne was finally thinking about how she felt. All her life she just muscled through her emotions. She had never had real adversity, or had to maintain friendships daily, or do real academic based schoolwork. She had just existed in a little Ottery St Catchpole bubble that Pansy would occasionally float into for the summer.

If only she had known then that her life was about to spiral out of control. So far beyond these silly little troubles that one day she would look back and laugh at how hard done by she had felt during that second term.

Chapter Text

Daphne would always look back on her holiday before third term as the worst of her life. Evidently there would be much harder years and trials to come, but this had marked the first time that Daphne had ever truly and deeply been wounded by the world.

“It’s a blood malediction.” Aquila Greengrass delivered the bad news with a stone face.

She and her husband had taken their eldest daughters hands and lead her into the Blue Parlour. There they had sat her down and agreed to confess all their secrets and lies, which had so crushingly caught up with them over the past weeks. Their youngest had fallen ill, as so many children do, but she would never truly recover. There was no worse fate for a parent than to know that their child’s pain could never be cured, and to know that it was them to have cursed her with it made it unbearable.

“There’s multiple forms of malediction you see, some cases mean that those inflicted will be forced to morph into other bodies like those of animals, until eventually they cannot change back anymore. But your sister has one that’s nothing like that. Instead, it’s one passed down through familial lines.”

“One of my ancestors.” George Greengrass’s eyes were bloodshot, but he stood by the window in stoic solemnity, “they were cursed. My father told me it was over an ancient magical artefact but we don’t know anything to be true. Its a secret we've kept for decades.”

“It means she’ll suffer extreme bouts of sickness, from what we understand it’ll only get worse...” Aquila’s stiff face broke in one quick movement, she sucked in air to prevent herself from crying.

Daphne’s mind failed to compute all she was hearing. Only moments ago she had stepped off the train and bid farewell to her friends, ready for a week of afternoon teas at the Burrow and playing with a surely heathy Astoria.

“My great grandfather kept a journal of his own symptoms, preserved it for the next person who should happen to… suffer.” George walked over from the window to place a loving hand on his wife’s shoulder. “He wrote that the illness would come and go, that there would be periods of sickness displaced between periods of health. The length between grew shorter over time. But it means Astoria will be able to live a relatively normal public life.”

“But mum…” Daphne began “why would someone curse us?”

“Not us darling, your fathers ancestors.” She corrected “We’re just victims of, of a predestined fate.”

“If we knew who or how, believe me Daphne I would have hunted them down and killed them for this.” Her father’s voice carried nothing but pure certainty that he meant every word of what he said “Your sister’s life is going to be very hard. We have to be strong for her, we have to make sure this will not change people’s opinion of her or her life. Astoria should have every opportunity you have. We will make sure she is taken care of, the best care anyone can receive.”

“What can I do? What should I do? I want to go see her…” Daphne appeared calm. For all her parents could tell, she appeared to be taking the news well. But the truth of situation had not yet settled.

“Yes yes, darling you can go see her as soon as were finished.” Her mother assured her “but we need to make sure that Astoria doesn’t get tarnished with this, the curse, it’ll attract media attention and if people knew they’d cast her out or treat her poorly. People don’t understand these types of afflictions, they think only evil people would be cursed like this.”

Evil people? Astoria Greengrass was NOT evil. She was the sweetest, most whole hearted person Daphne knew. Her little sister was nothing short of a treasure….

“So you cannot tell anyone.” George Greengrass adopted his stately businesses men like tone of voice. “Not a soul outside this house knows of her affliction, and it must stay that way.”

“Yes. Yes, ok, I promise I’ll tell nobody.” Daphne nodded. She just wanted to see her sister.

 

***

Astoria had been born with the roundest cheeks of any baby they knew, at least that’s what her father would say. She got them from me! he would tell Rita Skeeter when she came to write an article on the newest Greengrasses birth. Even now Astoria still had that round-cheeked childlike nature.

“Hey Tori.” Daphne slowly pushed open her bedroom door.

Astoria sat up in bed and forced herself out of her sheets. She was still in her nightgown, presumably having been confined to her bed all day.

“No stay in bed..”

But she didn’t listen and gingerly walked over to wrap Daphne in a eye-watering hug. Daphne could feel Astoria’s body release a slight tension, feel her sink into her as if she had been waiting an eternity for this hug. It was then when Daphne burst into tears. They poured down her face and came out in coughing spluttering sounds.

“You alright?”

“Yes I um, I just missed you.” It was only half a lie.

“It’s been boring without you.” Astoria let her go and quickly sat on the floor, “look, I’ve had to start making up hobbies for myself…” She reached under her bed for a pile of chocolate frog cards, “Mum gets Queenie to get them when she goes shopping.”

Astoria revealed that she had also been playing an enormous amount of cards, completing dozens of paintings and religiously reading Witch Weekly or The Daily Prophet.

“Heard you’re the fifth most influential student at Hogwarts.” Astoria giggled, “Mum and dad were so pleased about it when I showed them, it’s the only reason they let me keep buying these.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t write more.” Daphne suddenly let the apology tumble from her, the guilt had become too much. “It was wrong, I promised you I would write you almost every day and I didn’t, I just got caught up in my own life and I’m sorry, Its no excuse.”

“Well make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Astoria gave a light warning, too tired to put up a fight.

“Never.”

***

A week before Daphne left for school Astoria turned ten. As one of her presents their parents had allowed Astoria to invite over the Weasley’s for a luncheon in the garden, their mother was still insistent that the company would ruin her home if allowed inside.

“Haven’t seen you all week.”

Ron and Daphne watched as the others were running through the ever-changing maze in the Greeengrass’s garden. It had shortened hedges that allowed them to spot the top of Fred or George’s head as they tried to find the middle.

“I’ve been with Astoria.”

The pair of sisters had been inseparable, back to being five and six years old again. They had been writing a play in between trips around the garden, dressing up poor Ellery or baking with Queenie in the kitchen. Their mother had practically been letting them get away with anything.

“Yeah, mum said Ginny hadn’t been allowed to see her the past month.” He mentioned it casually, but she could sense the question behind it.

“How’s Charlie? Still in Romania?” she changed the subject, remembering her promise to never tell a soul of her families suffering.

“Yeah, sent him a letter last term and he said he was having heaps of fun. Probably a lot more fun than dad does in his job.”

“Yeah father’s been up to his eyes in paperwork but of course I never know what it’s about. They’re always enchanted to be un-readable and Aurors deliver them in these locked boxs.”

“So are you going to be locked up here all holidays then?”

“Think so.” She answered almost honestly “sorry.”

“Guess it can’t be helped. Your parents hate us do they?”

“They don’t hate you” Daphne tried to sound honest “They just think they’re better than you, but they don’t hate you that.” For a brief moment she remembered that she was quoting someone else’s words; Theodore Nott’s words.

***

Astoria was doubled over in pain the night before Daphne left for third term. She had expended all her energy looking healthy for the Weasley visit, and now she had become undone. Daphne has been forced to listen to her coughing each night through the walls, she watched as the healer drew blood and poked and prodded her baby sister to try and find what was wrong. He never came up with anything useful besides some potions to reduce her pain or phlegm. To watch Astoria suffer felt worse than suffering herself. It was in these moments Daphne understood her parents increasingly odd moods; why her father locked himself away in his study more and more and why her mother had not given one of her incessant lectures on ladylike behaviours despite her return home.

She had to do something.

It wasn’t enough to try and distract Astoria with fun and play, it wasn’t enough to dab the sweat from her brow or have Sidd bring her lunch in bed. Nothing Daphne did these holidays had been enough, nothing she did would ever be enough - unless she cured her. Unless she alleviated this pain.

“Tori, I’m going to find the cure.” Daphne declared when it was just them lying in Daphne's bed “I’ll research these blood maledictions, work out what one you have and then we’ll get the cure. We have the money, and I am pretty smart.”

“That would be nice. I don’t think the healer knows what he’s doing.” Astoria winced just from the memory of her last examination.

“Exactly. I won’t see you suffer Astoria, not if I can do something about it.”

“Thanks Daph.” Astoria wound her up in another tender hug.

This time it was as if all the tension in her shoulders was back again, she was almost stiff to hold.

“I’ll see you next holidays.” she whispered her goodbye.

***

“What’s wrong Daph?” Pansy leant over her in the train carriage back Hogwarts. “You’re upset I can tell.”

“I’m just going to miss them.” She half lied. "My family."

“But you have us?” Pansy put her arm around her and drew her in close. “Surely that’s something.”

“Here.” Millie held out a chocolate frog box.

Daphne took it with a smile, grateful for the gesture. Opening it up she ignored the chocolate in favour of the card, recognising it was not one that Astoria had in her collection.

“Oh thanks Mills, I can send this to Astoria when we get to Hogwarts. She’s finally started collecting them.”

“You’re welcome.” Millie shrugged, "Its nice to see you again."

“Don’t worry Daph, I promise this term I won’t be so busy with the afternoon teas. We can do another big prank? Not that little foolish stuff the boys did last last term.”

“Did somebody say prank?” Draco threw open the carriage door “The boys are in.”

Chapter Text

“Why are you tallying when Snape leaves?” Theo intruded into Daphne’s space, keen to see what she was doing.

He had been observing her for the past three hours while they did their homework on the common room table. He always liked observing people, at first it was because he didn’t understand them but now it just seemed ingrained. There had been so much scope for error; unlike books or house elves, what if he said the wrong thing? What if he embarrassed himself? Maybe it was better to just stay quiet and focus on school? But Blaise had disrupted that. Theo had somehow managed to befriend one of the most outgoing boys in the year, and now he was having to be social whether he liked it or not.

Draco and Blaise were launching balls of parchment into the fire, claiming to practice their levitation charms for their upcoming end of year exams. Blaise called out the points of the game each round, annoying most of the people in the common room. But he didn’t care;

“That’s forty- nil Malfoy!”

“No its not, you’re giving yourself extra points!” Draco whined. “Theo! Tell him to stop cheating!” but Theo ignored him.

“its none of your business Theodore.” Daphne tried to cover up her chart, referring back to his earlier question.

“C’mon tell me.”

“No.”

“I’ll give you my chocolate frog. Saw you mailing them to your sister the other day.” He held up his half melted chocolate,

“Hmm what’s the card?” Daphne ignored the mushy confectionary,

“Oh its Bridgit Wenlock, so you can’t have her. Been trying to build up my collection and I haven’t gotten her until now.” Theo held up his shiny card, having never been allowed to eat or collect chocolate frogs back home.

“Then it’s still a no.”

The pair had fallen into a comfortable tit for tat pattern that half resembled a friendship after he had tried to console her last term. Since then Daphne seemed to ease to him, although if he didn’t know better he would guess her troubles had not gone away. If she wasn’t talking with Pansy and Millie than she was in discussion with Ron, and when she wasn’t with Ron she was in the library. He knew nothing about girls, so perhaps that was just what they did, but she seemed constantly pre-occupied.

“Pansy whys she doing this?” he decided to turn his question to the girl who knew Daphne best.

“She made up with Weasel” Pansy examined her cuticles. “Best guess is that it’s about him. Especially since she’s been ‘too busy’ to steal Tracey’s notes with me before our exams. I think it'd be the perfect way to send a message...”

“So why does Weasley want details on Snape?” Theo ignored that latter half of Pansy’s statement and turned back to Daphne.

“Bet it’s for Potter.” The mention of any three of ‘the band of freaks’ was a sure fire way to get Draco’s attention. As Draco had turned his head, the ball of paper he had been levitating launched at Millie’s feet. She had been loving brushing out her cats fur and now startled, quickly booted the small parchment ball back at Draco’s chest.

“What’s your problem.” Blaise got up and walked over to the table,

“Draco almost hit him.” Millicent shook her head in disapproval “and then when you didn’t you wished you had!”

Draco was temporarily taken aback by her insight. Theo guessed that was exactly what he had wished for.

“So why are you tracking our head of house?” Theo snatched the paper away. There was a drawn up timetable and dashes for when he left and when he came back. It looked like he was out a lot, which lined up with how much they were left to their own devices.

“Curiosity.” Daphne reached for it.

“Didn’t that kill the cat?” Blaise mused. Hearing this, Millie gasped and covered her cats ears.

“I think it did.” Draco tucked his wand in his pocket.

“You should read a book instead, be more useful.” Theo held the paper out of reach.

“I think that’s why you need glasses now to read.” Draco poised his theory for the hundredth time “You’ve read so much that now your eyes have gone stiff. That’s why Crabbe, Goyle and I go to the kitchens instead.”

“Yes he’s a nerd. A nerd with nerdy glasses.” Blaise sighed dramatically, “but that didn’t stop Charlotte Montague and Tracey Davis from asking after blood sucking leeches yesterday.”

“Blood sucking leeches?” Daphne looked to Pansy for an explanation that never came.

“Where?”

Vincent had wandered out from the boys dorms with a box of Bertie Bott’s and begun looking around frightened. He lumbered over.

“Greengrass’s been tracking Snape.” Theo flashed the chart,

“Oh this is perfect.” Draco’s face lit up “Now we know when he’s gone so we won’t be caught when we sneak out for our next prank. Pans was planning it on the train.”

“Exactly.” Daphne gave a little prideful grin as Theo handed the parchment back.

“You’ve got a mark at nine every Thursday.” Crabbe pointed out before suddenly retching from what must have been a bad flavoured jelly bean.

Blaise reached into the open bag to take a gamble himself.

“Wait he’s actually right.” Pansy didn’t contain her shock. “If we sneak out then we have an hour before we’re caught.”

“So what’s the plan?” Blaise looked up at Theo as he sucked on a Bertie Botts. “if he’s not here and not in the potions class nearby, at least according to Greengrass’s chart, then we could use that right?”

“To make a potion..?” Draco was struggling to follow, "Im not good at potions.."

“What potion are you thinking? Something that’ll knock them all out?” Vincent’s voice was weak from the strain of the foul jelly bean he’d eaten, but he’d somehow struck a potentially golden idea.

“No. It can’t be violent!” Daphne insisted, turning on him “only funny. I know you three will take it way to far and Rons only just started acting normal again.” She looked back at Blaise and Draco.

“Hey Crabbe suggested the knocking out thing, not us!” Theo jumped to his own defence.

“Well whatever" Pansy interrupted "we need something playful and fun, I'm so bored around here. All Daph does is study, all Millie does is dote on that cat and the other girls in this house have been driving me crazy about my next afternoon tea.” Pansy sighed as if her life was filled with struggles.

“Fine, a potion that’s playful and fun then.” Theo nodded his head. He could do that right? He was good at potions, best in the class. .

***

“Come onnn Theo!” Blaise hissed from the other end of the Quidditch stand. He was on high alert for any passing teachers.

Theo had climbed underneath the stands to dutifully tie small bundles of coloured powder to the underside of the Gryffindor house’s seats. Draco was beside him, holding the last remaining bundles of their homemade mild explosives.

“This is brilliant!” he laughed to himself as he peeked out into their stand, hundreds of Gryffindors were cheering on their team against Hufflepuff. “Can I set them off now?”

“Yeah just give me a minute..”

But Draco had stopped listening. The first cloth covered bundle of power burst open upon Draco’s ignition. It flew out from under the seats and onto the legs of the spectators before raining down on the people underneath them. Bright pinks and yellows and greens and purples all began to burst up from under the wooden boards.

“Shit Malfoy.” Theo covered his eyes to not be hit by the nearest powder packet,

“Run!”

Draco grabbed Theo’s arm and yanked him towards Blaise who watched the pair scramble through the support beams under the stands. He was red with laughter watching them run wildly towards him.

“You idiots!” he cackled as they launched themselves upon him,

“Don’t stop!” Draco kept running, urging the others to follow, “The professors will be be here any minute.”

That was all the persuasion they needed, the trio were off and down through the rest of the stands, ducking low beams and other support pillars, looking behind them to spot any teachers. They heard McGonagall’s voice and Sprout’s insistence that the her house also stay calm.

“Where are we going?” Theo wasn’t exactly keen to get caught.

He knew they probably wouldn’t write to his dad about this, that he’d just receive detention. But maybe…. And the thought made him run faster.

“Over here!” Pansy was holding open the canvas flaps that covered the stands, using her wand she lit up the way.

The boys tumbled out of the stands, half covered in the powder they had set off. Vincent and Gregory were either side of Pansy on look out, they thumped Theo on the back as he emerged.

“Where’s the others?” Blaise finally asked as they all tried to re-join the now more calmed down crowd.

“Look.” Pansy pointed over to where Daphne and Millicent were in animated conversation with professor Snape. “You set them off to early” Pansy gave Draco a disapproving shove “so they’re on damage control.”

“Really professor I think it was a Ravenclaw… I mean who could have thought this up?” he heard Daphne try and explain as if she hadn’t been the one to make half of the powder packets.

The Gryffindor stand looked like a hallucination of colours. All the students were looking for the culprits and trying to shake the powder from their hair and clothes. Then, while watching his work unfold and the other houses in hysterics, Theo experienced that blissful feeling again. It was rebellion, it was happiness, It was flying in the face of what he should do with what he wanted to do, what he could do. He could be.. for lack of a better word, bad. He could do mischievous things and his father couldn’t punish him for it. He was too far away. He was safe.

“Nice one.” Draco had moved on from Pansy’s displeasure and wrapped his arms around Theo and Blaise’s necks, reaching up to do so. “You two are alright.”

“We’ve been hanging out since last term…” Theo couldn’t hide his confusion at how only now he had received Draco’s seal of approval. He looked at Blaise hoping he’d clarify but he looked equally puzzled.

“My father told me to hang out with you two, back in the Christmas holidays. But now I see you might be worth more than a couple measly connections and family fortunes.”

“Gee thanks mate.” Blaise laughed off the backhanded compliment.

***

When he dreamt, Theo returned home to the hallowed halls of Nott Manor. The knotted muscles in his legs reminded him of the relentless exercise his father had instructed he do each day over the break, the slashes on his back and torso (still red) reminded him of what happened when he didn’t do as he was told. He had become mute once more, sneaking around the house to avoid running into his father. Each day had only been brightened by the promise of a letter from Blaise.

“Thanks for all those letters by the way.” Theo whispered during one of their History of Magic lessons.

Professor Binns was droning on, sending most of the class to sleep. It had become one of Blaise’s favourite lessons for the sheer amount of talking he could get away with doing.

“How bad was it?” Blaise checked his left where Draco was pre-occupied with landing wads of parchment in Hermione’s bushy hair. “Be honest.”

Theo could tell he’d wanted to ask for weeks.

“Pretty bad.” Theo mumbled, he looked around to see that the rest of the class were chatting away under their breathes “He’s got me running around the grounds for two hours a day. Has this little letter opener he’s enchanted to… poke me…. if I stop.”

Blaise didn’t hide the horror behind his eyes. “Why?”

“Says I’m too gangly, that I need muscle. That I need to look like a respectable pureblood, can’t give people the idea the Nott line will die out you know?”

“I see the cuts on your back when you got changed. I’m going to Madame Pomfrey.” Blaise revealed.

Of course Blaise had known for weeks. Why was it he couldn’t hide anything from him even when he tried?

“Don’t.” he was deathly serious, the last thing he needed was this kind of attention. His father would only be worse.

“I’ll go for myself.” Blaise took his quill and jabbed it into his arm, dragging it up so he drew blood.

“Stop stop.” Theo raised his voice and grabbed the quill from him “What’d you do that for?”

“So I can go to Pomfrey.” He looked at him nonchalantly, “Professor Binns? Professor Binns? I’ve cut myself can Theo and I go to hospital wing?” he waved his bloodied arm around.

“Yes boys, go on now.” The professors dull voice answered before continuing his prattle about the goblin rebellions.

***

When Theo walked back into the common room after school his body was covered in a herbal balm that Madame Pomfrey had made Blaise. It smelt like the greenhouse but had eased all the irritation and swelling around his cuts.

“Hey I um took these notes for you.” Daphne walked up and handed him a small stack of parchment.

As he took the notes he spotted a copy of Ancient Curses in the Modern World under her arm. He had read the book at home over the holidays in secret, having forced their house elf to steal back his glasses for the hour so he could do so. His father had taken them from him the minute he arrived home and shut himself away in his study all week. At dinner he had mentioned a few ‘important’ matters that ‘acquired his full devotion’ but Theo had forgone caring what is father did.

“What’s this for?” he poked at the book.

“Nothing!” Daphne insisted “Some extra reading. Like you suggested”

“I was thinking more Pride and Prejudice, but I suppose that would work.”

“Pride and Prejudice?” Daphne laughed “What’s that? An emotional behaviour spell book?”

“No. It’s a muggle book.”

Her face went cold. She stood still, trying to contemplate what he had said.

“Why do you know about muggle books, people like us aren’t allowed to read those.”

“Well technically not but they have a muggle section in the library. And we don’t have many good fictional magical authors, at least none that write the way Jane Austen does.”

“I… I don’t get you.” Daphne shook her head, looking almost like this was an endearing thing. “But you should stop that. No muggle book could be good enough to have you labelled a blood traitor. Read some of Lockhart’s stuff instead.”

“That is as good as fiction but.. you should read it.” He dared her, emboldened by their somewhat civil conversation.

“No. I don’t associate with muggle filth and its absurd that somebody like you should either! Absolutely Not Theodore.”

“Actually its Theodore Nott, but…”

“Oh ok I see what you did there.” Daphne shook her head half in annoyance and the other half concealing a smile “but I’m not reading it.”

“Ok well you read it and I’ll give you all my notes on Vampires and Werewolves. I know you want to beat Granger at the end of term”

“…I’ll think about it.” She answered unsure, turning away from him.

“Bye.” He half whispered.

“What did I say about that crush of yours? It’s getting pathetic Theo.” Blaise leant in the archway, arms folded.

“Shut up. She’s a friend.”

“Yeah right. Somebody should tell her that” He scoffed before dropping the subject.

Chapter Text

“They’re driving me crazy Daph.” Pansy buried her head in her hands, leaning over her Transfiguration desk to do so.

“Who?”

Daphne didn’t really need to ask. Pansy had run an almost year long campaign to befriend the most powerful people in the school, and while some (like their friend Millicent Bulstrode and Charlotte Montague) were easy to persuade with a couple of exclusive invites, the ones from older years were much harder to crack. Despite Pansy now being resigned to only being popular within the year, she had been complaining all day long about Charlottes incessant conversation and Padma Patil’s proclivity to gossip.

But Daphne hadn’t been interested in Pansy’s social life, or pranks they had been pulling or what the hell Theodore was doing still wearing glasses, or why Ron thought the Philosophers stone was hidden in their school. She really couldn’t bother caring anymore. Last term she had cared so much. Last term they had all turned their backs on her, their attention otherwise claimed - Now it was time for her to devote attention elsewhere, to something that really mattered; Astoria.

In everyone else’s eyes she had been doubling down on her schoolwork but in truth she’d poured through dozens of books looking for her sisters cure, unfortunately running into bucktooth Granger in the library most days. Ancient curses in the Modern World, Curses and Counter-Curses by Professor Vindictus Viridian – it didn’t matter. They had nothing about Astoria’s blood curse. It was driving her insane being here, being away from her. All Astoria’s letters were cheery and light hearted, and while Daphne, Pansy and Millie would send her back any chocolate frog cards they could get, Daphne knew the truth.

she’ll suffer extreme bouts of sickness, from what we understand it’ll only get worse

The words had haunted her all term. Every class, even charms, was tainted by that knowledge. None of this really mattered. It was hard to get excited about things as trivial as a tea party or watching Lavender Brown wail about her jumper being ruined by their coloured powder explosions. And her friends had noticed.

“What the hell is up with you?” Pansy suddenly grabbed her arm and forced her to turn back from McGonagall’s teaching. “I’ve let it go all term. I told myself you were just jealous about the others following me around, that i wasn't giving you enough attention - but you’re not yourself.”

Pansy’s nature was not to be nurturing. She could be kind of course, and fiercely protective, but she didn’t tip toe around things. If there was something fragile, better to have it break and clean up the mess than ignore it.

“It’s nothing.” Daphne turned back to the chalkboard where the beetle to button spell was being explained again.

She had been jealous, that was true. But this was so much more than just insecurities now.

“Don’t. Lie.” Pansy insisted.

“I said leave it.”

“No!” Pansy almost shouted, attracting Millie’s attention beside them.

“Leave her Pans, it’s not our place.”

“See Mills gets it.” Daphne continued dictating McGonagall’s notes,

“No she doesn’t, you two might be all buddy buddy now but I’ve known you for years Daphne and this is what you do when you’re inside your head.”

But Daphne had heard enough, she rounded on her; “How about you just go and tell Charlotte and the others some more about how great your fathers ideas are on muggle reform or go and terrorise Tracey some more, blood hell go and kiss Draco’s ass for all I care!”

“Miss Greengrass!” McGonagall's voice was shrill now.

Despite whisper-shouting the whole affair the rest of the class had taken note. Tracey sat beside the Patil twins and Lavender Brown, the four looked pleased with themselves and whispered some more. Hermione’s knuckles were white around her quill, she would’ve been furious at the lesson being interrupted this close to exams. But Ron looked concerned, he mouthed an ‘are you ok?’ from beside his curly haired best friend.

No That was the answer. But yes, that was what she was going to have to get used to telling people.

‘yes’ she mouthed back to him before resuming her work.

Pansy had brushed off the heated exchange by the next class, she sat beside Daphne again much to her insistence that she wanted to be left alone.

“You’re never getting rid of me.” Pansy warned her as she pulled out her Herbology textbook, “So keep being stroppy and miserable, but I won’t stop asking.”

“You can tell us when you’re ready.” Millie tried to play it nice, timidly perched at the end of the workbench.

***

“So how are we rounding out our first year at Hogwarts? We have to have something planned.” Draco was hunched over his morning poached eggs, cutting them up neatly.

“We can’t push it with another prank.” Theo voiced reason, “They’ll write to our parents if they catch us, they’ll work out we did the powder bomb one too.”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you may be right. Dad’s vote is the first week of holidays and they might not want a senator who can’t even control his daughter.” Pansy poked at a crispy slice of bacon.

“But you’ve been keen all year.” Draco protested “What’s changed?”

“Can’t be risky anymore, not this close. The Bulstrode’s have already donated, and your father, and even Theo’s father.”

Theo looked up surprised at the mention of his father. A flash of confusion and terror crossed his face.

“Mum’s been beside herself with my efforts, so if we get caught and they splash this on the pages of Witch Weekly…”

Daphne had seen similar gossip pieces in last weeks addition, one had been dedicated to the Mr Parkinson’s’ opposition being ‘stingy’ when tipping a waiter at a restaurant. She doubted they wouldn't stoop so low as to humiliate a twelve year old girl for a similar headline.

“So what then?” Blaise raised his brow “What are we going to do if not a prank?”

“I think… now that we’re all twelve and grown up.” Theo started,

“Daph’s still eleven, she’s born late June.” Pansy corrected,

“Oh you’re the baby!” Blaise poked her arm with his fork in a mocking tender expression, Daphne batted it away with a sheepish grin.

“Well anyway. Now were almost all twelve, and far too grown up for our age at that… we need a grown up thing.”

“Something that’s just ours.” Millie imagined

“You girls are so sentimental.” Draco scrunched up his nose before taking another bite of his breakfast

“Daph, any ideas? You’re the one whose been in constant thought these past weeks.” Theo mused, trying not to sound so inquisitive. "You're worse than me when it comes to having your head in a book."

“I just want to get away.” She revealed, having accidently thought the words out loud.

“How ominous.”

“Very.” Blaise nodded in agreement.

The bell chimed for morning classes, drawing their attention away from end of year plans and towards present day exams.

***

The exams had been surprisingly easy. Ron stopped her in the hallway almost daily to check in; mourning over his ‘surely failed’ Herbology and Transfiguration tests or thanking her for Snape’s schedule. Finally he walked over to confess to how stupid he had been last term for thinking the Philosophers stone was in the castle;

“Yeah think I went a bit mad there, you ‘know how I get…” he lied,

“Stop listening to Potter, it was all his idea anyway.” Daphne patted him on the back “You’re smart enough on your own. You know they’d never hide something that valuable here.”

“Yeah of course.” He gave a fake laugh, digging his hands in his robe pockets. “Anyway, good luck in there.” He nodded at the potions classroom where they would all be taking their exams.

“You too. Did my notes help?”

“Urgh didn’t actually get time to read them.” He confessed, “but Hermione ran me through most things, she’s wicked clever… like you, you’re clever too!”

“Yeah nice save Ronald.” She rolled her eyes.

Snape was rough, a stern professor and harsh examiner. Thankfully he diverted his attentions elsewhere. Daphne watched as Theo breezed through the work, casually dashing things into his caldron. Blaise looked over at him, mirroring him perfectly in some obviously pre-arranged plan and whistling as he went. Cheaters

But nothing was going to curb her end of year enthusiasm. A few more days and she’d be back with Astoria, back trying to fix their problem. She didn’t have any answers, but being with her had to be better than being without her.

***

“Just tell me what it is.” Pansy insisted as they made their way down toward the lake, a note had come in from Blaise and Theo with strict instructions.

The afternoon was bright, the best the Scottish highlands could offer. The castle grounds were a rich dark green, and the light breeze which blew over the lake rippled in the long grass.

“I’m fine Pans, seriously leave me alone. Don’t you have like seven different social calls to attend to these holidays? Get some photo ops for the Prophet.”

“Yeah but nothing I’m not used to now… I’ll still be there for your birthday.”

“There you are!” Blaise waded in the shallow water, trousers rolled up above his knees.

“Get in.” Theo was holding a small row boat steady in the lake, “the others are already there.”

Pansy raced Daphne down the rest of the hill and the pair clambered into the boat. With a flick of his wand Theo was propelling their small boat forward, out amongst the great expanse of lake.

“I wonder if the squid will come and grab us.” Blaise peered over the edge, “I swear it always come closer to the window when I’m in the common room.”

“You’re lying.” But Pansy nudged in closer to Daphne, the pair holding each’s others hands and screaming when the boat rocked suddenly.

“Sorry.” Theo laughed, “just had to.” He lifted his hand from the side of the boat he’s purposefully shaken.

“Didn’t your parents teach you any manors!” Daphne calmed herself,

Theo didn’t say anything, just kept sending them towards one of the small islands in the middle of the lake.

“Welcome to Bowtruckle Island!” Gregory bellowed from across the water as the boat approached.

They spent hours on the small grass covered island; done with exams and the stress of their first ever year at Hogwarts. Three large twisted trunk trees shaded them as they searched for Bowtruckles to no avail. Pansy and Millie stacked up their books to make a tall tower while Daphne continued reading her copy of 'Magical Remedies; The Antidotes of Life' which she soon needed to return to the library. Eventually that too was confiscated to help make the tower taller.

“This is… really nice.” Daphne lay back on the soft grass next to Pansy. They watched the tower of books sway slightly.

“It’s a bit boring now I’ve played six games of snap and rummy.” Draco flicked a card up in the air, using his wand to set it alight.

The rest of the boys took to his lead, until they were grabbing handfuls of cards and throwing them in the air to disintegrate. After the pack was done and Gregory and Crabbe had finished the last of the food, the group made their way back to reality. Back to Hogwarts for one last time that school year. Millie helped Daphne out of the boat, making sure she didn’t saturate her robes as they jumped back onto land. Up at the top of the hill, away from the boathouse, Ron stood waving his long arms. His ginger hair caught the light like a small beacon.

“DAPHNE!” he yelled “Dumbledore wants to speak to you, and Malfoy!”

***

Ron had been incredibly vague on the details of why he had been talking with Dumbledore in the first place or why he had a large gash on his forehead supposedly sustained from ‘playing chess’. But he made it clear that the headmaster had an important message.

The headmasters office was concealed behind a Gargoyle statue. Inside the room itself was beautiful, circular in shape with hundreds of objects and décor pieces that marvelled the eye. Portraits of other headmasters waved and faint whistling sounds came from all corners. Dumbledore sat behind his enormous dark wooden desk, he had a permanent aura of serenity and wisdom. Daphne felt her heart quicken to be in the presence of one of the greatest wizards of all time. She curtsied to him and glared at Ron when he let out a chuckle just watching her.

“Thank you Mr Weasley. You may go back to your friend Mr Potter now.” His voice was low and benign. “Take a seat Miss Greengrass, as you know Mr Malfoy will be joining me later. Some of what I have to say concerns you both.”

Daphne was struck mute, she did as she was told and sank down into a comfy high backed hair in front of the headmaster. Why was somebody like Dumbledore bothering to talk to her?

“Your father is a very well respected man.” He began “He follows where his interests guide him, but he is firm with principal and familial duty.”

“Yes, my father... is the best.” Daphne felt the need to fill his silence, nervous in his presence.

“I tell you this so you know that I do not think he may have trespassed into any concern. But the ministry will raid your own and Mr Malfoy’s homes in late June, they are approving these actions as we speak. Your father must know this so he has time to prepare.”

Daphne tried to reign in her confusion, not wanting to appear so in front of such a powerful and formidable wizard. Why would the ministry raid their home? Late June – that was her birthday. What were the ministry looking for? Was her father going to lose his job? No. Surely they couldn't do this.

“I see you have many questions.” Dumbledore drew her from her thoughts “But you must go home and be with your family, give them time to prepare..”

“And the Malfoy's?”

“I will tell young Mr Malfoy what I have told you before you depart on the train tomorrow.” He had answers for everything “But you must know that the threat your father has suspected is here again. If you wish to keep your family safe it would be wise to take this warning and heed its purpose.”

Why was he telling her this? Were her family in grave danger? Dumbledore was wise beyond his years but… He couldn’t possibly know anything out of the ordinary about them, could he?

“Yes headmaster, I’ll tell my father the moment I get home. He’s coming to meet me at the platform with my mother.”

“Good.” He stood up and using wordless magic re opened the door for her, “and well done this year Miss Greengrass, I think you are a more than befitting rival for that Miss Granger. Professor Snape has often complimented your diligence and good behaviour.”

“Thank you headmaster. Thank you so much, for letting us know… I’m sure my father will be very grateful.”

“Let us hope you have nothing to hide.” his words were rather ominous.

But she did have something to hide. Her whole family did. Nobody knew about Astoria, nobody knew about what her parents did during the first war....

Chapter Text

Astoria crept into Daphne’s bedroom as the sun started to spill out onto the gardens of Greengrass Manor. She tip toed over the creaky floorboards and white shag rug. The room’s wood old panelled walls were covered in album covers from Daphne’s favourite bands; from The Weird Sisters to Haunt, Miranda Fairchild to The Hobgoblins.

“Happy birthday Daff” Astoria lead way for two small house elves dressed in sunny yellow shawls,

Queenie was proudly holding a stack of crepes aloft on a silver tray, she wore a freshly cut flower in the crook of her pointy ear. Sidd followed her with a hot cup of tea in fine china, careful not to stir a still sleeping Ellery in the corner. The half fox- kneezle snored loudly at the end of Daphne’s bed.

“Happy birthdays master Daphne!” he sung out to her from the door.

“Queenie be making you a cake for lunch!” Queenie placed the tray on her lap as Astoria joined her in the king sized bed.

“Thank you Queenie, thank you Sidd.” Daphne, voice still groggy, took the tray gladly. “Oh you remembered I like raspberries and cream!”

“Thanks nie nie, thanks Sid.” Astoria turned to her sister “I’m determined to make today better than yesterday.”

It had been horrible. The Ministry had arrived at six o’clock on the dot, thundering on the door and waking the household from its otherwise peaceful sleep. They marched in, wands at the ready and headed right for her father’s office. Daphne and Astoria had stood at the door behind their mother, watching as the Aurors cast searching spells. They upturned everything, furniture and books and rugs. They opened hidden passageways that even the family didn’t use anymore. And when they found nothing, they took to interrogating her parents. The head Auror was the most frightening, a man they called Moody. He looked dishevelled, hair wild and a whizzing prosthetic eye was strapped to his head. He had a low gruff voice that barked orders at the others to find the ‘incriminating files’. Her mother had been unfazed by the man, matching his orders with her own about respecting the antiquities and not scratching her hardwood floors. Daphne had been thankful for her courage as she herself had felt smaller than ever.

The Ministry hadn’t found anything. Daphne had watched her father lock up most of his work documents and send them with Department security days earlier, thanks to Dumbledore’s warning. He worked quickly, the men jumped through the private floo network, back and forth until he was happy all their most confidential information was gone. Another man had been there, a much older man who shuffled slightly as he walked. He had taken a bundle of letters and files in a thick wooden chest. Daphne had asked after the items, but her father reminded her that this was confidential business, so she just watched the man walk over the hill and apparate.

Daphne spent the morning in bed with Astoria and Ellery; eating the stack of crepes and listening to Haunt’s new punk pop album on the large radio Daphne had in the corner of her room. Finally they made their way downstairs where Daphne’s mother had rushed over from her writing desk to kiss her head and summon a frog choir to sing her happy birthday.

“Your fathers gone to fetch some of his papers back, he was questioned again this morning by the ministry - but now they’ve lost their warrant after failing to find anything. He’ll be home in time for your dinner.”

Daphne still didn’t know what documents they had been hiding, but her father’s work was so top secret that she assumed it must have been all Department of Mystery related. Her father said Fudge had been desperate to gain more control of the department, this must have been his latest attempt. Maybe that’s why Dumbledore had told her. But it didn’t explain the Malfoys. It didn’t explain the other man and the family artefacts.

***

Malfoy Manor was lit up to its highest grandeur. The shrubbery that lined the gravel drive was dusted in fairies, Narcissa had taken every liberty in preparing her home for The Pureblood Society. The Greengrass’s carriage pulled up to the door, they emerged dressed in the formal robes Daphne’s mother had commissioned from Twilfitt and Tattings. Astoria had been left at home much to her frustration, having longingly watched her sister and mother get dressed and covered in jewels. It was Daphne’s first time at a formal meeting, and highly unusual for somebody as young as her to be invited. But what Narcissa Black said, was to be obeyed.

Inside Malfoy Manor was an equal spectacle. Candles floated above as they entered the ballroom, mirroring the Great Hall at Hogwarts. House elves carrying silver trays of horderves circled dozens of witches and wizards who exchanged serious conversation. They were all dressed formally for the inaugural ball.

“Oh Daph.” Daphne’s father stopped her at the door and waved his wand. A chaplet of ivy and dark thorns appeared on Daphne’s head.

“I think this is a bit much.” Daphne reached up to take it off,

“It’s a debutant wreath. All the new members must wear them, so they know you are to join the society tonight.” Aqualia removed her coat and handed it off to a small house elf with bat like ears and bulging green eyes.

“Malfoy!” her father spotted Lucius and greeted him with open arms.

“Welcome George, this must be your daughter. Draco mentioned the two of them have become good friends.”

So Draco had said they were friends. And Good friends at that. Interesting... and flattering. Daphne thought.

Daphne shuffled forward and straightened her back to appear taller and more grown up.

“This is my Daphne.” Her father wrapped an arm around her, “She is the newest Greengrass to be sorted into Slytherin, and has also told me of your delightful son.”

“Narcissa dear, where’s Draco?”

Lucius had a tall leering presence about him that unnerved Daphne. She knew he bankrolled most of the high up’s in The Ministry. The Daily Prophet often featured images of him and the Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge, together. He had power and influence that rivalled their own, but above that they had connections to the Black family and an older lineage. That made them one of the Greengrass’s few social superiors. But the Malfoy's needed families like hers and the Blustrodes or the Goyles. Without them their influence shrank.

“Draco’s by the levitating punch bowl, perhaps your daughter should go and join them?” Narcissa looked down at the Greengrass’s with indifference but feigned the amiable role of hostess.

Daphne hurried over to her group friends. Millicent was covered in gaudy purple frills, she watched on as Crabbe and Goyle tried to snatch up all the house elves’ horderves before they could circle the room. The poor creatures seemed very frightened of the two pudgy greasy handed boys that chased them about. Pansy adjusted her caplet as she rushed over, having spotted her best friend for the first time all holidays.

“Happy late birthday!!” she gushed, “Hope my present got there on time, Dad had us going to the opening of this new Japanese Wizarding exchange – you know he’s obsessed with tapping into mums connections. Did you see me on the front page of the Daily Prophet?”

“Yeah, Mum wrapped up some of my sandwiches in it to give to the Weasleys when I went over. She doesn’t trust them with the glassware… anyway, Congrats on your fathers election!” Daphne hugged her back, thankful for some normality again.

“Thanks.” Pansy sighed in relief, reciprocating Daphne’s affection until she straightened back up again.

Theodore turned around from his conversation with Draco to see her and smiled shyly when they made eye contact.

“Hey Greengrass.” He nodded.

“Hi Theo, hi Draco.” She didn’t go to hug them, it would have been too awkward.

“mhhhm.” Goyle mumbled through a full mouth. She guessed that was another hello.

The group clung together as Narcissa and Lucius opened the gala with a speech welcoming their guests; “As you know, we are here to welcome our newest members, and discuss a topic of the highest importance to this society.”

“Where is your mate Blaise?” Crabbe shovelled Foie gras and pickle into his mouth.

“Not invited. Not sure why.” Theo looked around the room at all the society members.

“His mother is about to be tried for killing his old step-father to absorb his estate.” Draco laughed “Hasn’t made the papers yet but that’s what mother said, she’d be too much attention for the society. This is all highly secretive after all.”

“That’s not true!” Theodore snapped, his jaw clenched and eyes narrowed.

“It is.” Draco insisted.

Narcissa held her wand to her neck, her voice boomed across the hall. The music silenced, all heads turned to face her. She spoke in her husband’s stead, if she had not been a Black they would have called her domineering - they might have pushed her off the stage. But she was as good as royalty, so they listened despite her sex;
“Today we welcome our sons and daughters into the Pureblood Society. This society is of the strictest confidence, formed by our ancestors to ensure the sanctity of magic be upheld. Today there are more mudbloods than ever, magic is being threatened and weakened by their presence. Once again it is left to us, and us alone to halt this crime in its tracks and remain dedicated to blood purism, as our ancestors were. Tonight, we watch as the next generation of pureblood's become part of this noble and honourable society. We know we can entrust our legacy in them as the world soon changes in our image.”

The crowd applauded. Daphne’s father approached her, leaning down to whisper;

“You’ll have to do an initiation but don’t be frightened pumpkin, we’ve all had to do it.”

Daphne wondered why they had not told her earlier, why they left all these traditions to secrecy. It all seemed absurd, but that was the life she was used to living. There were hundreds of traditions both strange and mundane that she was always forced to observe.

Lucius stepped out into the centre of the ballroom. Wand in hand he summoned a large golden caldron filled with a thick black liquid; “Myself and my wife, Lady Narcissa, present our son Draco Lucius Malfoy before the society.”

Draco hurried towards his parents, dress shoes tapping the parquetry floor. He stood in between them and stuck out his skinny arm over the caldron. Lucius sliced open a cut on Draco’s hand, the boy winced and looked at his mother for re-assurance.

“Do you Draco Lucius Malfoy promise to uphold the sacred traditions and values of the society, no matter the cost?”

“Y-yes.” Draco nodded, eyes still on his mother.

Narcissa took her sons arm and plunged it into the thick sludge. He squirmed in pain slightly before pulling it out.

When Daphne was called she shook out her hand and approached her parents, who waited for her by the caldron. Her mother kissed her forehead gently before guiding her hand towards the thick sludge.

“Lord and Lady Greengrass, presenting our daughter Daphne Cordelia Greengrass” her father addressed the room, pulling out his wand he held her arm gently and counted down until he sliced a small cut into her palm with a severing spell.

“Do you Daphne Cordelia Greengrass promise to uphold the sacred traditions and values of the society, no matter the cost?” Lucius asked.

“I do.” Daphne sunk her hand into the bubbling black tar and felt the cut sting. Her arm was suctioned in, compressed by liquid it squeezed out some of her blood until finally it relinquished.

Her mother opened her palm to check the cut had been healed, ignoring the small silver initiation pin she smoothed it over with her fingers. Satisfied Daphne was not injured, she wrapped her in a brief hug.

Daphne couldn’t help but feel like one of the them. Truthfully, she had always been and acted like the high born pureblood she was, but something about the pride in her parents now made her feel as if she had only now just been accepted. That before she was boasting a name and an image, but now she would be called on for the real thing. What this meant she didn’t know, but by the sounds of Narcissa’s speech there was an important reason for the society to exist, a cause that was emerging in strength again. But this was still a mystery.

Pansy, Millicent, Crabbe and Goyle all completed their initiation with similar ease. Pansy’s parents had been intent on making an impression, her father slashing her whole hand open to ‘prove his dedication’. Millicent’s parents looked terrifyingly serious, almost more so than the Malfoys had been, while Crabbe’s looked like they were just happy to be there. Goyle’s mother was the only one present and she dotingly stroked her sons hair the entire time. His uncles were in attendance and gave a thunderous applause when he was done. But when Theodore’s name was called there was a moment of silence.

Theo slowly stepped out from the shadows with a tall older man beside him, his hand on Theo’s shoulder as if pushing him down into the ground. The winkles on his father’s face gave away his age. The violent musky smell of him as he passed told Daphne to step closer to her own father for protection. She was sure she’d never seen him, yet he looked familiar.

“Lord Leviathan Nott, presenting my son Theodore Leviathan Nott” the older man’s voice was bristled.

Theo stuck his arm out, his father flippantly slashing it open. Theo didn’t wince, it was like he was used to the pain. He pushed his hand in the caldron without a moment’s thought, swearing to uphold the societies standards as he did so. And then the ceremony was over.

“As members of this society the proceedings you observed here tonight are to be kept a strict secret, as with all other meetings of this nature.” Lucius warned them “You have bound yourself to the societies honour code. You have made a solemn vow here tonight. If all goes to plan this year, our next inaugural ball will be in a new world.”

“Theo’s dad’s creepy isn’t he?” Daphne whispered to Pansy as Lucius spoke. Pansy nodded in agreement.

“…This past week my own and Lord Greengrass’s homes were raided by the Ministry.” A gasp echoed across the ballroom. “Had we not been warned, they may have uncovered our society’s dealings. Ladies and Gentleman, I fear the ministry knows that we grow stronger and of our plan to infiltrate Hogwarts. We must stay the course, await instruction. He grows stronger in his absence, ready to reform the world in our image once more. We must ready for his return.”

“Who is it they’re talking about?” Daphne asked her mother, who shushed her into silence once more. “Infiltrate Hogwarts?”

“But enough of this, tonight we dance and raise a glass to the newsiest members of The Pureblood Society!” Lucius held up his silver goblet. The crowd of society members applauded. “and to a year of remoulding the world in our image!”

It was only when Theo’s father came over and shook her own fathers hand that Daphne realised. He had been the man who had taken some of the families possessions before the raid.

“Do we know Lord Nott?” Daphne asked her mother as they left, having not been able to get her attention all night. “and what did Draco’s father mean by infiltrate Hogwarts?”

“Lord Nott’s a society member, of the highest order just under the Malfoy’s. We do as he says, but that man is not our friend. He’s far to dangerous.” she answered.

“But Theo..”

“Will stay at an appropriate distance. You can be friends with the boy, he’s rich and powerful and equal to our stature but he’s dangerous too. We have to make sure he cannot take us down with him should something go awry.”

“And you know Lucius has a flare for the dramatic." her father assured "he probably meant you as the younger generation would be spreading the society into Hogwarts when he said that.”

It sounded so serious, as if they were preparing for something. And yet, despite being in the Pureblood Society now, Daphne felt there was a lot more they weren’t ready to tell her yet. A small sense of dread in her stomach also told her that her father might be lying.

Chapter Text

The Burrow was baking in the summer heat when Daphne was re united with Harry Potter. The moment she and Astoria entered the small kitchen, Fred and George recounted the story of having pried the bars from Harry’s bedroom window and flown the Ford Anglia home using the patchwork chairs and trinkets that lined the fireplace to set the scene. This had been a source of hilarity for the Greengrass sisters, until Molly emerged from the pokey stairs with a look of immense displeasure still plastered on her face. Harry had been sitting in the corner with Ron watching the twins animated retelling, having been at the Burrow for weeks now. He gave a little smile as Molly introduced them,

“Harry dear I’m sure you know Daphne?” Harry nodded “and this is her younger sister Astoria, she’ll be starting next year after Ginny.”

Astoria waved her hand politely as she was being pulled away by Ginny. Daphne stalked the two up the stairs, watching Astoria to see if she was ok. The past two weeks she had been struggling to suppress her coughing. But now she seemed ok.

“Look.” Daphne stepped forwards toward the twins, “It’s a powder packet we used last term, thought you might want it.”

“Don’t do that, they’ll only throw it back at you.” Ron shook his head at the stupidity of her offer,

“No they won’t, will you?” she lifted a brow back at George, who in her opinion appealed to the most reason.

“Urgh” he started…

“Sorry Daph, we only serve chaos- and so that would be a promise we couldn’t keep. Especially since you insist on hanging around Malfoy and his band of snout nosed mongrels.”

“Snout nose mongrels?” George mused with a grin, Fred just shrugged.

“Hey I don’t say anything about that mouthy commentator you guys hang around do I? Or tease you for the way you gawk at Angelina Johnson” Daphne shook her head “but fine, just take it anyway. I can’t be caught with it at school or I’ll get discovered and I can’t leave it at home because I know Sidd will set it off in my room.”

Fred shoved the packet in his pocket and the pair were soon preoccupied elsewhere.

“How were your holidays then?” Daphne finally addressed Harry.

She didn’t particularly like Potter that much. It wasn’t because of Malfoy’s bruised pride or Pansy’s insistence that his father was a blood traitor, or even the fact that he was such a show off – it was because there was something about him that irked her. That, and he had firmly usurped her as Ron’s best friend. While at school she had other friends, people who didn’t sneer that she was a Slytherin and people whom her parents approved off. But at home, Ron was meant to be her friend. And he was still, but now she had to share time and attention with Harry. Harry Potter who already had so much attention. Harry who snatched the house cup out from underneath them last year, and lauded over the fact he became the youngest seeker his house had ever had.

“Ergh good thanks.” Harry lied, “even with the bars..” he referenced the twins tale of escape.

“You coming to Diagon today?” Ron was munching on a crumpet, letting the crumbs fall down onto his Chudley Cannon’s T-shirt.

“Yeah, Astoria’s got to go back but my mother gave me permission, as long as Sidd came.”

“Sidd?” Harry asked, craning his head around to spot the man she was talking about.

“Oh Sidd’s one of my family’s house elves.”

“Ah, like Dobby.”

Daphne knew Dobby had served the Malfoys for many years, at least since Draco’s infancy. Sometimes he would talk about him in passing, how terrible he was at ironing out robes or how useless he was at other things. But how did Harry know that?. She tilted her head in a confused expression, hoping he’d elaborate on his own. But Harry held his tongue. She guessed that perhaps slanderous rumours had been thrown at Draco (maybe by Ron even) involving the little elf that had so dutifully taken their cloaks at the Pureblood Ball at the start of the holidays.

***

They made their way there by Floo, but Harry had shouted something incomprehensible and had gotten lost. Molly fretted over the fate of the so called ‘chosen one’ as the group made their way out of the Leaky Caldron. Diagon Alley was a feast for the eyes; ablaze with activity, colour and life. First years like Ginny were leaping with excitement at buying caldrons and telescopes, while Daphne simply had to get all her new books. They shoved their way through the crowd looking for Harry.

“Mum what if he’s gotten stuck?” Ron jumped up to look over the heads of other witches and wizards.

“The department of transportation is adept at accounting for these things..” Percy added in his two cents, as he often did. He had been looking for Penelope Clearwater from the moment they arrived.

“Well Sidd has to go to Gringott’s with me, so I can go look for Harry down there and meet you back at Flourish and Blotts?” Daphne suggested, she wasn't offering to help Harry but more so to slip away from Molly.

“Yeah ok, is that alright mum?” Ron turned and go approval from Molly, who had her own hands full with first year Ginny.

Daphne waved him goodbye and she and Sidd began to peel off from the crowds. Draco had sent her a letter three days prior telling her that he was being sent on ‘Society Orders’ too Borgin and Burkes, mentioning that it was where his father had hidden many objects that he did not wish the ministry to acquire when they were raided over the summer as well. Daphne had never been in Knockturn Alley; It wasn’t the place for nice young ladies, and the Weasley's were banned from going near. It had been the first wizarding high street, built before even Diagon Alley. As such it was dark and twisted around on itself, having been built up organically, housing shops dedicated to the old and Dark Arts. Daphne stood at the end that joined the light and airy Diagon Alley, staring down into the darkness. She took a deep breathe, if her watch was correct Draco should be there now. All she had to do was meet him and she might find out what the files her father hid were.

“Master Daphne I don’t think Sidd should be taking you down here, down here is looking bad.” Sidd fidgeted with his hands, fighting the urge to obey.

“Come on.” Daphne stepped forward and began to walk away from the light “My father will want these files…” she lied.

So Sidd obeyed, as house elves are forced to do. He followed her past the damp brick walls that leant over them, he held the skirts of her robe when they passed by some men with unshaven faces and wonky teeth. He clicked his fingers and summoned a towel when a drunk witch leaving a grimy pub had sloshed her drink on Daphne’s arm by The Coffin House. And so when they made it to the small antiques shop, Sidd threw open the door in a hurry to keep his mistress out of trouble.

“Miss Greengrass.” Lucius voice was like ice running down her back. Daphne turned to face the tall leering man who looked so eerily like an older Draco; both sophisticated and hardened, a man with soft manicured hands but a savage political mind.

“Hello Sir.” She smiled, effortlessly shifting into her society demeanour. “Hi Draco.”

“Hi..” Draco stared at her in disbelief, visibly questioning why she had come. He had been bragging in the letter about his Society task, not inviting her to join.

But she needed to find these files, see if maybe they had something to do with the families blood curse. Her father had hinted at there being old family documents related to the malediction; a diary somebody had kept and a couple of medical documents from St Mugos. If she could read them, then maybe she’d have a better chance at understanding. So she stood in the small dusty and dingy shop, out of her depth but trying. If the Malfoy's had hidden things here before the raid, surely her father had as well.

“I’ve come for some of my father’s things.” She forced herself to sound confident, “Sidd escorted me.”

“Where is your father?” Lucius looked back at the shop teller to see if her story was legitimate. She wondered why he was so concerned by her presence.

“Work.” She was at least telling the truth there.

“Hmmm, well come now Draco. We have to meet your mother in a minute.”

“I’ll see you on the platform then.” Draco still looked puzzled by her, “are you sure we can’t wait father? Shouldn’t we escort her back…”

“No, no, its alright. Sidd has served our family for decades, he’s as reliable as they come. My father trusts him to take care of me.” The small house elf puffed out his chest.

“Ok then.” Draco looked outside the dirt caked windows, “If you’re sure. There’s lots of shady sorts out there.”

Daphne approach the counter with her head high after they left. It was all about appearance, all about confidence. The teller was old and hunched, he fiddled with his glasses as she placed her hands on the counter, a bag of coin visible so he knew she meant business.

“I’d like to collect the belongings George Greengrass stored here in June.”

“Wand please.” He held out his hand for some identification, “and badge.”

Daphne reluctantly pulled her beautifully ornate wand from her robe and placed it in the old man’s hands. He turned it over and listened to it, waiting for it to tell him its owner. She also pulled out her Pureblood Society badge, a gift they had all been given after pledging at the inaugural ball. He bit down on it, and happy that it was genuine, handed it back with a bit of saliva still on it.

“I’ll have to tell him you collected this, but he gave no strict instructions not to hand it over to anyone like yourself.”

“I am his daughter, he sent me.”

“Yes I know!” the old man cut her off “I wouldn’t hand this out to just anyone with a badge and a wand.”

He clicked his fingers and the box that Lord Nott had taken re-appeared. She reached out and picked it up, thanking him with a galleon tip before turning to leave. As she exited the shop, the door flung open behind her and an ash covered boy raced up to her. Daphne pulled out her wand and went to hex the assailant until she head Harry’s squeaky voice.

“Daphne! I got um, the Floo, it spat me out here.”

“I was, did you?” she looked back at the shop.

“Ducked when I saw Malfoy. Didn’t want any trouble.” he answered,

“Oh alright.” Daphne started to walk back towards Diagon Alley, ready to get away from the dingy dark street. Harry followed happily.

“What is this place?”

How was the so called ‘chosen one’ , Mr I defeated a troll and became Gryffindor seeker, so clueless when it came to basic magical knowledge?

“Knockturn Alley. You’re filthy by the way, don’t you know any cleaning spells?”

“No. Can’t really practice away from school…”

Sidd snapped his fingers and the dust and grime on Harrys clothes and glasses vanished. Harry jumped with shock, turning to look at his reflection in a shop window filled with bones. He muttered a thank you and looked down at his hands as they continued walking. Magic still impressed him. Finally they were getting closer to the sounds of school children begging for money for Fortescue’s ice cream parlour.

Ron and the rest of the Weasley's were already gathering up books in Flourish and Blott’s when Daphne and Harry arrived. Molly clamped the boy in hug, joyous that he was alright. Daphne glanced down at her own list, and divided it up between herself and Sidd. The pair began to walk around the shop and collect almost the entire works of Gilderoy Lockhart (as requested) and a number of other second additions. Daphne also managed to grab a few books from the Dark Arts section, all of which had comprehensive curse-based chapters. She knew they didn’t have these copies in the Hogwarts library, having been labelled ‘too experimental’ or ‘not accurate/ educational enough in nature.’. But she was desperate, any information on blood maledictions was a start. As she paid for her items, she spotted Draco again. He was already confronting Harry and Ron by the shops entrance, he had that annoying proud-mean look on his face that he only got when they were around. She thought to go and try to smooth things over, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. Side with one and she’d only piss the other one off. Soon Lucius and Arthur were butting heads, which only re-confirmed her decision to stay back and watch as Gilderoy Lockhart wooed over some of the mothers in the shop, shmoozing them into buying more copies of his autobiography.

“Lets go Daph.” Ron called out as Draco left, having given her another nod goodbye.

She handed the books over to Sidd, who was already carting around her father’s box, eventually making their way back to the Leaky Caldron and heading home.

Chapter Text

Theo returned to Hogwarts with a busted lip and bruised ribs. The night before boarding the Hogwarts Express his father had bound his hands in wire to a thick leather chair, ready to force him into submission one last time.

It was a game the pair played, a twisted cat and mouse. Theo the small powerless one, desperate for free will. His father the man who would not give him a moment of respite or escape. To distract himself from his misery Theo would read, or try to make food in the kitchens, try to keep pets (snails and bugs found in the garden) or make up games- anything to occupy his idle mind. He tried to make a life for himself within the confines of his father’s tyranny, but these things were all abhorrent to Leviathan Nott. To have fun was to wander, to stray from the path of The Dark Lord into futile and frivolous pass times. It made you weak to be so unfocused and childlike. So he would punish his son, in any sick and twisted way he could think of.

His father had pulled out the potion again, which was almost akin to Theo now. It festered in his stomach when swallowed. The burning in his oesophagus on its way down was all too familiar. But when he drank the potion his blurred vision, the result of a curse his father had cast upon him, was gone. The blotches of colour and light turned to a clear picture. The blinding pain ironically letting him see;

His mother sat in her reading nook, her own dainty glasses perched on the edge of her nose. A twisted thought arose; What if he had done that to her on purpose? Like he had done to him? To keep her from knowledge, to keep her from questioning, to keep her from being able to leave The light created a halo around her head. He wished she was there to congratulate him on his first year results, to tell him not to worry about how others perceived him, maybe even ease his father’s mad persistence that the Dark Lord was returning. He wished she was here so he could tell her about how Blaise had helped him out of his shell last year, how he had made friends. He would tell her about how Draco was a veritable card shark with pearly white teeth and platinum hair or Goyle was as dim witted as he was jolly. She’d have liked them.

***

Blaise was the first to ask about the lip, but Theo shrugged and told him he’d accidentally run at the wrong platform pillar at King Cross station. It was an obvious lie, so Blaise understood that he wasn’t ready to say. But there as this unspoken rule between them, that the other had to wait for the truth to out. Theo hadn’t pushed about how Blaise was taking the news of his mothers inquiry. No doubt he was crushed, but you couldn’t tell based on his attitude now. By all accounts he had been the same jovial boy from the end of last year.

Crabbe and Goyle hadn’t even inquired about Theo’s gash either, accepting that Theo wasn’t exactly a big talker and least of all to them. Instead when the pair had entered the train carriage of the Hogwarts Express both had resumed throwing Draco’s Quaffle (part of a bespoke Quidditch set) between them.

“Oi Pans!” Blaise called out to the lithe well dress girl who walked past, “Saw you in the Daily Prophet. Didn’t realise id been associating with ‘a darling of Ministry society’”

Pansy stood in the open carriage doors and surveyed the boys. She always looked a little scary; stern and snobbish, which The Prophet had captured well in its recent editions. But this had also been the same girl so desperate to smite the Gryffindor’s that she’d transfigured ten ink pots into frogs during one Transfiguration lesson. Theo didn’t know exactly what to make of her, but there was more to Pansy Parkinson than that polished façade.

“Hi Pans.” Draco threw his traveling cloak at Crabbe as he strode up to the carriage with Daphne. Pansy instantly flashed a smile and returned the pleasantries, that cold façade melting slightly.

Daphne’s auburn hair was lighter than it he’d seen it before, more gingery. Her porcelain face had some more freckles, the result of some summer sun, and her burgundy dress swayed as she twirled looking for a seat.

“How’d the task go?” Pansy folded her skirt underneath her as she sat down opposite Draco, shoving Theo in the process.

“My father’s been secretive about it, but we picked up this book that he said was integral to The Society’s plans.” Draco had slammed the doors shut and glanced around to see if anyone else was listening outside. Theo held up his wand and after a nod from Draco, utilised a locking charm.

“What was the book?” Theo asked, Maybe he might know it? He had read a lot of his father archive’s before his ocular curse

“Not sure.” Draco admitted “But the man at Borgin and Burkes required lots of identification and permissions to retrieve it, even though he certainly knew who my father was. I mean everyone know who my father is…”

Millie appeared at the door as the train began to move, she yanked at the unyielding handles. While Draco seemed happy to leave her outside, Daphne pulled out her wand and instantly unlocked the compartment for her.

“Hey Mills, we were just bitching about you.” She joked,

“Here.” Goyle plonked himself down on the floor so Millie could take his seat.

The boys exchanged a quick glance around, since when was Gregory Goyle so chivalrous?

“What’s up with your lip?” Daphne’s eyes had locked on Theo, who had been trying to slink down in the corner.

He knew she probably meant to be nice, that she was only asking. But everyone else had managed to let it go, even Crabbe and Goyle had the decorum to respect his privacy. He didn’t want to talk about it. He would not be the freak of the group, the poor little boy with the bad dad. It was bad enough he had to endure it, he didn’t need to be reminded of it.

So he lost his temper.

“Just shut up Greengrass.” He blurted in a low gruff tone,

Daphne’s head snapped back, her friendly smile faded into shock.

He almost felt bad, he did like Daphne - at least a little. She had been nice to him in first year, and he had tried to be loyal to her for that. She was pretty and…. but what had he really gotten back from her? Nothing. He had practically offered his friendship to her on a platter and she’d been so wrapped up in Pansy and schoolwork. So maybe it was time he treated her with the same indifference. Maybe his time was better spent on people who gave a shit, he was so tired of trying to care for people who treated him poorly.

The carriage was silent, tense in the knowledge he had certainly offended her.

“Ten ways to know if your boyfriends cheating on you…” Millie slowly read out the title article of her copy of Witch Weekly,

“Number one, he’s got lipstick on his collar and smells like cheap perfume?” Blaise guessed, brandishing the tension with his charm.

“Something you’re not telling us Blaise?” Draco laughed.

***

Back in his dorm Theo felt at ease. He threw off his shirt, looking in the bathroom mirror at the scaring that creased his skin. Instinctively he ran his hands along the lines, feeling the rise of his skin where once a gash had been. Now a pale scar remained. Maybe it was where the letter opener would cut when he stopped his exercise, maybe it was where his father would jab him with the back of his sharp cane or maybe it had been one of the many places the severing charm had struck when Theo would dare question Leviathan Nott. The most pressing question of which had been why his father was so obsessed with a man who had already lost the first wizarding war and been defeated. He pulled a jam jar from his bag, inside he had brewed a healing balm using some ingredients Blaise had got from the apothecary before term. He rubbed it over the slowly healing wounds, and doused the one on his lip. As he touched it again, he relived the pain.

“Goodbye father.” He had stood at the door of his study.

“Come here.” His father’s voice was hoarse,

Theo had obeyed and stood across the other side of his desk. His father had been forcing him to help repair some of the dark artefacts he collected over the summer. Leviathan slowly slid over an advanced probity probe the pair had enhanced, he gestured for Theo to take it.

“The Dark Lord will call on you. If all goes well you might be required this year, finally called to greatness.”

Theo took the probe, feeling its pulsating magic in his hands. He shifted uneasily. His father spoke of The Dark Lord as if he was still alive, as if he had not been defeated years ago. But Theo never claimed to understand his father’s twisted mind, he considered it a delusion of an ageing man who had fought belong side Voldemort and lost. A man who still treated his role in the ostracised Pureblood Society as tantamount to the preservation of his familial line.

“What do you mean… The Dark Lord is dead…” Theo mistakenly thought aloud (a terrible habit he had developed).

His father almost leapt to his feet, grabbing his wand he slashing across Theo's chest; back and forth like a conductor. Theo recoiled in pain but he didn’t stop.

“You stupid boy, how many times must I tell you of his strength!”

As he drew his wand back he clipped Theo’s lip in a work of sloppy violent magic. He never usually hurt Theo visibly this close to the start of a term, that would arose suspicion. He only targeted places that were hidden so that his son would suffer in silence.

Theo was sick of pretending when he didn’t have to. If he had to hide his father’s abuse, hide his involvement in the Pureblood Society, hide his father’s work… than he wouldn’t be hiding how he felt. He wouldn’t let anyone else push him around this year - That was a promise he’d made himself when he left.

Theo applied the balm generously before closing the lid again and going back out into the dorm room. Draco was sitting on the floor dealing cards for a game of Chase the Troll before bed. Blaise spotted the sheen of the balm on Theo’s lip and gave him a friendly shove, the pair sitting down to join in the game.

“Now you want to get rid of the Troll card, not keep it.” Draco directed the instruction towards Vincent Crabbe who was inept when it came to following rules.

“Alright I’m wagering the chocolate frog card I got on the train.” He threw it into the circle of goodies for the winner.

Chapter Text

There’s something about feeling freedom after weeks in the dark that changes a person. To feel freedom and be deliberately robbed of it hurts more than simply being held captive all your life. Theo understand this now. He had borne his struggle well up until he started at Hogwarts, but now the resentment of his poor treatment at home had festered beyond control over the summer break.

Theo had become good at compartmentalising his life; at home he was meek and insular, too frightened to push the boundaries of his confines beyond recruiting his house elf to steal back his reading glasses. But at school he was somewhat social - he had made friends and found himself surrounded by others. People liked him, treated him well. So here he could be different. Here he could push boundaries and have fun, because he had people to do it with and fall back on. Here he didn’t have to hide or take any shit from anyone.

“He’s an idiot.” Theo watched as Professor Lockhart strode up through the classroom, flashing his prize winning smile.

“Witch Weekly says he’s the greatest wizard since Dumbledore.” Millie sighed as he turned on his heel and flared his long cape-like robes.

“They make it sound like Dumbledore’s dead.” Pansy sneered, “probably written by a friend of that nit wit Rita Skeeter, she’s constantly on my families back now days.”

The class was a nightmare. The new defence against the dark arts teacher was all talk and no action. The newly missing Quirrell had at least displayed a comprehensive text-book knowledge, but Lockhart was all about re-telling his own personal accounts of victory. He took them through a blow for blow of an encounter he had with a hag that even Theo could tell was riddled with inaccuracies.

“And these are some more deceptively frightening beasts, I ask you not to scream for you may provoke them!” Lockhart flounced towards a rattling cage on his desk. The class held its breath as he whipped off the covers “freshly caught Cornish pixies!”

Blaise and Draco erupted in laughter the moment he said it.

“Cornish pixies!” Draco wailed, “god he’s just as stupid as you said Theo.”

Theo knew he’d been right about the professor. Ever since he’d read his abysmal works he’d known the man was some type of fraud.

“I think even I could take them right now.” Blaise threw a ball of parchment towards them,

“These are frighteningly mischievous creatures..” the professor continued,

“Dare you to open the cage. I know you can do it.” Blaise leant over to him, a glimmer of mischief in his eye.

Theo felt his hairs stand up slightly. His father couldn’t reach him here. And he really hated this Lockhart prick, it would be good to prove his claims in front of everyone else. He wrapped his hand around the shaft of his wand, feeling it ready itself.

“Alohomora” he whispered.

The cage door flung open, it had been a direct hit. The pixies burst out like a firework, exploding across the room. They were everywhere within an instant, shrieking and zipping around the students heads. They grabbed books, ink pots, quills and display items and threw them with force at the students.

“Oh merlin!” Blaise cursed as he ducked under their desk “I thought it’d be funny!” he reasoned, now realising his mistake.

“Blasted idiot.” Theo laughed as a pixie yanked at his robe. He pulled it back quickly and steadied himself again.

The rest of the students were in equal measures of panic, darting towards the door or ducking for cover. Ron and Harry were swinging their books to bat the creatures away while Crabbe and Goyle were long gone, apparently smart enough to dip at the first sight of trouble. Draco kept laughing at the chaos until one of the pixies yanked his silver signet ring from his pinkie and began to make a break for the window. That sobered the boy up enough to try and fanatically chase after it.

“Stupefy!” Daphne shouted from under her desk beside Pansy, her hair the most dishevelled Theo had seen.

A collective of pixies froze and fell to the floor. The rest became more enraged.

“Stupefy!” Pansy cast the spell again to render more pixies unconscious.

“HELP!” a pudgy boy was being lifted up by his jumper by some of the pixies, they left him strung up on one of the high rafters

“Arresto Momentum!” Daphne slowed all the pixies down so they were easier to avoid. She and Pansy crawled towards the door.

“Immobulus” Hermione Granger jumped up and froze the pixies before they could pull down the Gryffindor boys trousers, she grinned with pride at the success of her spell. Theo could tell her smuggness must have annoyed the girls.

“Hold on Neville we’ll get you down.” Ron called out to the boy,

“Oh its Longbottom. Thought he looked familiar.” Blaise looked up at him, “Anyway, nice one Theo.”

“Thanks.” Theo brushed the debris off his shoulder from where one the pixies had smashed a display jar of preserved manticore egg.

“You stink.” Draco scrunched up his nose as he slid the signet ring back on his finger.

“Theodore!” Daphne yelled across the now quieted classroom, brushing her hair back from her face. “Why do you have to be such a nuisance?!” she complained “If Lockhart wouldn’t deduct points from our house, I’d dob you in right now.”

“Good thing we’re your mates right?” Blaise stepped forward wearily,

“Oh mates huh? Last time I checked you have to like your mates.” She looked Theo right in the eyes as she spoke, “Mates don’t drive down their friends chances at learning important spells by constantly disrupting the class!”

“Let go.” Pansy whisked her wand and summoned their belongings, which came flying across the room like missiles.

The pair of girls walked out of the class room arm in arm. Millie trotted along after them.

“What’s up with her?” Blaise shook his head,

“Our fathers have just been inspected by the ministry, whole teams of Auror’s threatening them.” Draco rubbed the back of his head and looked down, as if not wanting to fully side with her “It’s been rough.”

“Still.” Theo pushed his wand in his back pocket “She was miserable the end of last year too, what’s your excuse for that?”

Draco didn’t have an answer.

***

Daphne made it very clear she wanted to be five feet away from Theo at all times the last couple of weeks. He didn’t blame her, he knew he’d been a prick on the train but she hadn’t been exactly friendly in Defence against the dark arts the other day either. He’d thought they were friends last year, and they were civil at the Pureblood Ball, but over the breakTheo had realised that she was only really putting up with him. She never went out of her way to talk to him. Her parents had probably told her to be nice to him, and that was about as far as her interest went. And something about that hurt.

“You get your father’s stuff?” Draco turned to Daphne at the dinner table. The two had become a lot closer after their respective parents had been questioned by The Ministry.

“Yes.” Daphne gave a prideful grin as she scooped up some mashed potatoes.

The Slytherin table was lined with glazed ham and roast beef, mountains of sprouts and beans sat between piles of Yorkshire puddings.

“Wait you actually did it? How did you father react?” Pansy lifted a brow “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” she asked in a businessman like tone.

“React?” Theo questioned “Were you not supposed to collect his stuff?”

Daphne stared at him for a moment. He could tell she was calculating whether or not to answer him.

“It was my fathers and I know that he’d want it back but.. no he didn’t exactly ask me to go.”

“Oh you little rebel” Blaise seemed to be getting a kick out of her antics “about time you came back to the dark side. The other day in class id thought we’d lost you, I mean you strayed end of last term…”

Pansy reached over the table and smacked Blaise on the side of the head. Blaise was rarely shocked, but even he looked at her in disbelief for a moment,

“Ow.” He rubbed his head.

Daphne frowned a little, her mood soured by Blaise’s comment.

“So why’d you do it?” Theo had to admit his curiosity was spiked. He may not have been getting along with her but this was compelling. Maybe other people had secrets too?

“Well its none of your business Theodore.” She snapped,

“Sorry for asking.” He mumbled back, giving her a sharp look of disapproval.

“Oh come on.” Draco nudged her. “I still want to know.”

“I just wanted to see what it was ok?” she looked around “everyone satisfied?”

“You’re just curious.” Millie repeated what Daphne had said as if she was reading it off a page, “You think he’s hiding something.”

Daphne stared at Millie for a moment. The others resumed their meal, as a mousy blonde Slytherin boy scuttled up to the table.

“Are you Pansy Parkinson?” the boy asked Pansy.

“Yes.” She replied flatly, looking at him with suspicion.

“Can I get a picture?” he held up his camera,

“Picture?” Theo almost spat out his pumpkin juice “why the bloody hell do you want a picture of her?”

“For The Prophet.” He explained “I’m in their junior recruitment team.”

The boy was from fifth year, Theo recognised him as being friends with Charlotte Montagues older brother. He was short and wide with ink blotches on his fingers, which hovered over the camera’s trigger.

“Sure.” Pansy smoothed her hair in the reflection of her silver goblet, “Any press for my dad I suppose.”

The boy snapped a picture of Pansy standing by a Slytherin banner. She looked so rehearsed at posing for photos now.

“Great, and can the rest of you get in the next one? You can stay seated.” He signalled for them to bunch up.

“Of course!” Blaise grinned, pulling Theo into the frame “Get my good side huh?” he instructed the boy,

“I don’t know…” Millie fiddled with her hair,

“Alright, three…two…”

Millie yelped as Daphne yanked her into the shot at the last moment. Theo wasn’t sure he wanted to be in it either. The others were used to attention, especially Blaise, but he wasn’t. What if this actually got put in the Daily Prophet?

“One!” the flash went off.

A couple of the other students had turned to see what the fuss and photos were about, they watched the group as they settled back into their normal seats.

“Thanks, I’ll send these to Rita. You guys can have the negatives when I’m done” the boy tucked his camera away “Oh and here.” He threw his business card on the table “I’m Miles Bletchley by the way.”

“You’re our Quidditch teams keeper?” Theo hadn’t expected that. Usually photographer types stayed to the sidelines.

“I’m a man of many talents.” Miles gave a toothy grin before walking back to his place further down the table.

“Did he say Rita as in Rita Skeeter?” Daphne looked at Pansy with concern “You hate her.”

“I do, but my fathers a public figure now and he still needs our family name out there. He’s trying to put through this international werewolf registry that needs traction” She sounded so much more grown up than she was.

***

The picture would appear on the sixth page of the paper on Thursday, above their faces the title read;

The Power and Privilege bred within Hogwarts School

It seemed a continuation of the Witch Weekly piece from last year, but entirely devoted to their group. The journalist covered their families histories and made guesses at their net worth. It came across as both a flattering depiction and one riddled with resentment and speculation. But as Theo finished reading the article, the last line unsettled him;

‘For all this generational wealth and class, these Slytherin students hide a seedy undertone of mystery’

they wrote

‘if word from inside the Aurors office is to be believed many a student in this above photograph is concealing dangerous if not deadly secrets.’

Where they talking about Blaise’s mother? Where they talking about the raids? Or worst of all was there something they knew that he didn’t?

Theo ripped out the image before burning the rest of the paper in the common room's fireplace.

Chapter Text

When Blaise stormed the breakfast table holding several copies of The Daily Prophet in his hands, Daphne had not expected to see herself in it. But there she was taking up half of page six. What fascinated her most however was not the article, but how well the image had managed to capture the groups dynamic;

Draco and Pansy were at the forefront, both had their eyes trained on the camera lens and sitting up straight. Draco embodying their groups typical old money charm with a handsome face and slicked back hair, Pansy the picture of good posture and breeding; she wore a freshly pressed uniform that complimented her round face and high cheekbones. If they hadn’t been her mates Daphne would have thought they looked too daunting to approach. The camera caught Blaise giving a suggestive wink, a wide smile plastered on his face that indicated his sense of relentless good humour. Next to him was Theo who was half a head taller than everyone else. His curly brown hair was loose around his face and his emerald eyes glinted in the light of the flash. Then Crabbe and Goyle who had been pushed to the back, both leaning in over the table to be seen - they exchanged a bemused look between them. Then back around next to Pansy, was her and Millie. The image had captured her arm coiling around Millie as a bright sunny smile flared up at the sides of her mouth.

Gosh there’s a lot of us. she thought to herself, No wonder I rarely get the chance to be alone Daphne wondered if they’d all have been friends without their families reputations and names. Those factors had been what drew them together in first year, that and a dislike for the show off Gryffindor’s. Now Daphne let herself believe it was something much more special.

***

Daphne had been attempting to open her father's shiny wooden chest since the start of term when she had smuggled it into Hogwarts. Her parents had been furious, threatening to send howlers if she did not explain herself. It seemed the shopkeeper at Borgin and Burke’s had not been bluffing about informing her father, stupidly she believed that as his heir she might have been afforded the privilege of being discrete.

We’re very disappointed in you Daphne, you disobeyed your father and have put one of our ancestral antiquities at risk by taking it with you too school. Any teacher or students could access your fathers ministry files…

The letter was a clear lie. Daphne knew there couldn’t be ministry files in there, the department Aurors would have taken them before the raid. Theo’s father had taken these ones, these had to be something different.

“Alohomora.” She tried for the seventh hundred time. The spell fizzled, and the box stayed sealed. “Fuck.” She muttered.

Pansy was lying across Daphne’s dark green silk bed sheets, watching her work. Ellery was beside them pawing at the dorms window, looking out at the black lakes murky waters and trying to make out shapes.

“What if you blow it up? Maybe we can use a repairing spell on the objects inside?” Pansy suggested,

“I can’t risk it, my parents are enraged enough already, I can’t destroy a family heirloom. And what if there's something inside i cant fix?”

“I mean our kinds of families have thousands of heirlooms, what makes this one special?”

“I don’t know, I think it’s an enchanted box, or some kind of curse. You know those ones where you need to work out the spell to unlock it?”

Pansy ran her hand along the dark polished oak of the box, tracing the patterns which had been carved into it; snakes, foxes and green wreathes, the Greengrass family crest at prime of place in the middle.

“Let’s just go to class?” she slid off the bed, already dressed in her uniform “Its charms first.”

Professor Flitwick was in good form, always jovial and upbeat as he walked the class through the Skurge charm. Daphne diligently watched the way he moved his wand and spoke the incantation. The charm didn’t seem immensely practical for her yet, but Flitwick assured them it was both a precursor to the more versatile Scouring Charm and useful in scaring of Peeves.

The next class was Herbology with Professor Sprout. She ranted about the cries of the Mandrake being fatal and its uses in many potions. It was far more interesting than their previous classes on Abyssinian Shrivelfigs, which featured in many of the meals they ate at Hogwarts including a fig and goat’s cheese tart that Daphne was partial too but Theo and Draco turned their nose up at.

In each lesson Theodore Nott had actually been paying attention. Daphne had been keeping an eye on him since the Cornish pixie debacle, and still angry at his dismissal on the train and his secrecy. She’d never been able to crack him during their first term, and it niggled at her sense of intelligence. But there were far more important things to preoccupy herself with. She had promised Astoria a cure, and every day she made no progress grated on her. Another reminder of her failure.

There was no way to open her father’s chest unless she took it to someone with acute knowledge of ancient magical artefacts. But 1. She didn’t know anyone personally with that knowledge, perhaps the man at Borgin and Burkes – but that would out her as having acquired the chest without permission. 2. She would have to explain why she wanted to open it, and she couldn’t tell anyone that, and 3. It would have to be somebody that wouldn’t contact her parents and send it back to them - i.e. why she couldn't tell the man at Borgin and Burkes...

Come end of term she he’d have to leave the family chest at Hogwarts and feign forgetfulness. She’d feel the full force of her parents wrath, something she rarely provoked. The thought scared her, but not as much as letting down Astoria.

**

“Happy Halloween.” Millie threw open each of their bed curtains, letting the light flood in.

She was in her Holyhead Harpies pyjamas and in her hands she held a bundle of caldron cakes. At the foot of each of their beds was a miniature pumpkin that she had enchanted with the dancing feet charm, which they had practiced in class the other day. On Tracey’s record player she had put on a muggle song called The Monster Mash.

“God Mills.” Daphne groaned, waking from her deep and much welcomed sleep. Daphne was not an early riser.

“I didn’t say you could use my record player.” Tracey grumbled as she turned down the dial “but thanks.”

Millicent was the only person from their group who paid Tracey Davis any attention. The pair actually got along quite nicely from the few times Daphne had caught them together. Tracey mostly hung around Gryffindor’s now; they seemed more her speed anyways. But Daphne knew that Millie had a heart of gold, unlike the others she couldn’t just freeze somebody out for being a mudblood.

Pansy reached to grab the little dancing pumpkin, ready to launch it across the room for interrupting her own beauty sleep. As she grabbed it the pumpkin burst open, splashing its gooey insides on her satin nightgown. Pansy yelped and set her eyes on Millicent, she was looking for blood. Millie flushed pink;

“Tracey suggested I try out the spell, I didn’t think…..” she babbled trying to save her skin.

Tracey grinned in the corner, already walking over to beat Pansy into the dorms only bathroom. She spent ten minutes inside, emerging claiming that they had run out of soap. Pansy was murderous the whole day up until the feast.

“Well Thanks Mills.” Daphne avoided her little dancing pumpkin and searched for her tie, “This is really thoughtful.”

The annual Halloween feast at the end of the day was sumptuous and in excess, as always. It was close to the kind of fanfare that Daphne was used to at home. Bats flew above head and the house ghosts decided to dance for the students before dinner. The Bloody Baron, a usually grumpy old ghost, was whizzing around and springing up out of the several large pies that lined the table. As they sat down Draco charmed Crabbe and Goyle’s utensils to stick to the table, much to the amusement of the others who spent the night bent over in hysterics as they watched them try and eat with their hands. Daphne was still laughing as they walked back to their common room;

“The way he tried to scoop up the gravy by cupping his hands!” she wheezed. Her stomach was almost sore from the sheer amount of laughter the night had afforded.

“I didn’t even enchant the ladle, you could have just used the ladle!” Draco was almost in tears as he gawked at the two boys, who walked with their heads down.

“Thank heavens Bletchley didn’t take a picture of that!” Theo ruffled Goyle’s spiky brown hair “Your mother would’ve sent a howler.”

“Oh Merlin.” Goyle went red just thinking about it.

As they turned the corner to go back to their dorms they spotted Harry and Ron stood in the middle of the corridor. The pair were dumb struck, staring at a wall.

“Ron!” Daphne jogged down towards them still laughing, but when Ron turned his face it was ghostly pale.

“Fuck.” Theo gasped, looking at the wall.

A message had been painted across the wall in blood. The letters were already sagging as the blood had started dripping down. The whole tone of the group changed, gone was the laughter and in its place both confusion and horror.

The chamber of secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir beware.

“The cat!” Millie shrieked as she pointed at a strung up Mrs Norris.

Daphne instinctively reached out and held the now crying Millie who had an adoration for cats in particular. Turning her head back she addressed Ron;

“What is this?” He voice was weak.

“I don’t know.” He admitted, “Harry heard, and then we…” he gestured his hands around widely at the wall.

“It’s the chamber of secrets… its real. He we telling the truth…” Theo was in a state of shock, he stared and stared at the wall as if trying to comprehend.

“It can’t be.” Draco turned to Theo, running his hand through his hair.

“It is.” Theo's voice cracked,

His words had unnerved them all. How did Theo know what this was?

“What the bloody hell is the chamber of secrets?” Blaise asked, pulling Theo back from the wall and towards their dorms.

“We have to tell Snape we found these two near it.” Draco whipped around to accuse Ron and Harry. "This is dangerous."

“Why?” Daphne asked the speechless Ron again.

“Excuse me.” Snape’s drawling low voice was impossible not to recognise. He approached them with pace “What is happening here?” he stopped dead at the sight of the wall, black robes trailing the floor.

“We found these two.” Draco started.

“Thank you Mr Malfoy. I’ll be taking Mr Potter and Mr Weasley to see their own head of house. You are all to go straight to your dorms.”

As he dismissed them a number of other students leaving the feast came upon the scene. Their eyes lit up with terror and confusion at the display. The rumours would be spreading like wildfire now. Daphne helped Millie back to their room, thankfully her cat was waiting there for them. Feeling shaken, she reached for the purring Ellery who had thankfully returned home as well. She held her pet close that night, stroking lovingly at her soft red fur and letting the fox nuzzle her nose under her chin. There was a dreadful feeling in the air that something was about to change.

Chapter Text

The Quidditch stands were freezing at that time of year, but the whole group including the Quidditch-hating Blaise had turned up in full Slytherin regalia to support the houses new seeker; Draco Malfoy.

He’d been so ecstatic to make the team. The moment Flint told him, Crabbe and Goyle had hoisted him up on their shoulders and marched around the grounds cheering. Lucius had been so proud that he sent new Nimbus 2001’s to each member of the team, which not only greatly improved the houses moral (which had inevitably been down across the whole school after the bloodied message on the wall) but also Draco’s popularity with the older years had tripled. Draco had been surprisingly diligent with his training, up at the crack of dawn and down at the pitch ready to fly. Theo had declared that he was just happy to finally have somebody wake up at the same time as him, which was far too early for Daphne’s liking.

“Do you want some hot chocolate?” Theo motioned his thermos towards Daphne, whose legs had been shaking from the cold. It had probably not been a smart idea to wear thick tights and a skirt instead of long comfy pants.

Blaise had clearly elbowed him into it by muttering something about being a gentleman, Theo’s indifferent tone of voice gave no indication it had been his idea.

“No thanks.” Daphne stared longingly and the warm drink, burying her hands in her emerald coat. She was determined to keep up their petty feud.

“You look like you're freezing.” Pansy pulled off her own scarf and wrapped it around her, bundling her up like a mother would. “I told you to wear thermals if you were going to wear that lousy jumper and a coat.”

Daphne had deliberately purchased the bright blue jumper a couple sizes larger, it was usually warm and cosy when she wore it around the castle. But now with the wind so high up in the stands, even having a coat on top of it seemed insufficient. Theo offered the same hot chocolate more willingly to Pansy, who accepted it on the condition that she was able to transfigure the plastic mug into a fine china teacup. As she did, the Slytherin team emerged and the whole stand jumped up to shouting praises for Draco and the team. He looked nervously- Daphne could tell by the way his eyes darted around looking for them, it was the same look he had had when she met him in Borgin and Burkes during the summer. He found them in the crowd and gave a pearly white chortle at the lot of them being so over the top; Theo had cast some adaptation of the smokescreen spell so that it looked like a wriggling snake above their heads, and Daphne had forced Blaise to hold a sign that said ‘I love Quidditch’.

As the game got underway, the bludger seemed more and more erratic. It hurdled around the pitch at break neck speed. Daphne kept an eye on George and Fred who were struggling to bat it out of the way of their players. As it steamed towards Harry Potter, Fred threw himself in its path and batted it right at the Slytherin stands. It came sailing over towards the group. Daphne watched helplessly as it got closer and closer within an instant, she held up her hands instinctively and tried to duck - but the bludger seemed so wide. At the last moment she was yanked to the side, in the process sent tumbling down to the floor. In her peripheral she watched as Millie grabbed something and flung it at the bludger, sending it back and away from the rest of Slytherin house.

“Are you alright!” Pansy hunched over Daphne, trying to pull her back up whilst looking around to check it was safe,

“Yeah agh.” Daphne put her hands down to push herself up but found her legs jumbled with somebody else’s,

“Ouch!” Theo shoved Daphne’s hand off his chest, which she had been pushing down on to steady herself.

Daphne flung herself forward to get off Theo, who was now looking very sorry he even bothered to help as he rose to his feet.

“Mills what the fuck was that?” Blaise stood over Theo looking at Millie with amazement.

Other students were clapping Millie on the back in congratulations. She had Blaise's half broken 'I love Quidditch' sign in her hands and her eyes were wide.

“I just thought I should hit it out of the way…”

“Hit it? You bloody smacked it into next week!”

Millie blushed a deep crimson as more people started adding on to the compliments; cheers of ‘wow what a hit’ and ‘thank god for you’ rung out around them as Daphne and Theo dusted themselves off.

“Why didn’t you duck? And you call me the idiot!” Theo picked up his now empty thermos, hot chocolate pooling on the floor.

“It came flying at me for Christ’s sake I didn’t have time.” Daphne shot back at him, angered by his pointed tone, “you weren’t in its path.”

“Yeah well lucky because otherwise you’d be dead.”

“No I wouldn’t, I was protecting my head.” she sulked,

“Yeah like that thing was going to be cushioned with your tiny mitten covered hands.” He snickered, pointing at her fluffy white mittens.

“Enough you two.” Pansy clicked her fingers to get their attention “The games ending and we’re ahead. Looks like Potter’s been taken out.” She pointed at the pitch where some teachers had gathered.

“So does that mean we win?” Blaise guessed,

“Slytherin wins by default.” The commentator announced. The house cheered and applauded at their success as the players began a victory lap.

Back in the common room morale was high. Snape had allowed them to blast the new The Weird Sisters album, interspersed with some muggle records the half-bloods put on. Marcus Flint was up on one of the coffee tables, holding a bottle of firewhisky aloft as he drew Draco under his arm;

“Our new seeker!” he slurred.

The rest of the team patted Draco on the back as he clambered down,

“Here have a drink.” Adrian Pucey, their star chaser, held out a little glass of punch to him “Don’t worry it’s not as strong as Flint’s, I’m not that irresponsible – only in fourth year myself. Just has a little champagne in it.”

Draco looked back at Daphne before taking it, the others were all huddled around the record player.

“Your friend want some?” Adrian looked down at Daphne,

“Yes please.” Daphne felt herself answering, reaching out to take the glass, cheeks a little pinker. “thank you.”

“About time we got some more decent players in this team. Tired of carrying them on my back.” Adrian laughed as he was pulled away by some other fourth years.

Daphne had watched students in the older years sneaking out of the common room together or making out in the corridors between classes, but she had never had any inclination to participate. It was all still gross to her. But she couldn’t deny that she liked some of the boys at the school, that she was nervous around them. But not anyone she was friends with; all those boys were frankly disgusting and up to no good.

“You’re drinking?” Theo scoffed, looking down at her.

“None of your business. Besides, so’s Draco.”

“Thanks Daph.” He furrowed his brow at being thrown under the bus, lowering his punch glass.

“Sorry.” She giggled, “I’ll get you some cheese and biscuits to make up for it?”

“No need, just didn’t peg Greengrass as the type.” Theo looked at her quizzically as she sipped on the sweet punch,

“And what does that mean?”

“You know, somebody who actually likes to have fun.”

She was fun. She did fun things. She had a quicker wit than him, alright maybe they were even. But still, why was he so rude all of a sudden?

“Give it a rest you two.” Draco rolled his eyes and pushed through them, “save the bickering for stuff that matters.”

“I can show you how fun I can be!” Daphne put her glass down, and marched out of the common room. Theo reluctantly following.

“What are you doing?” he called out,

“I’m going to vandalise the Gryffindor portrait!” she pulled her wand from out of her pocket and held it aloft as she marched up the dungeon stairs “and then you’ll see how fun I am.” She shouted,

“Yeah I’d like to see you try.” Theo called her bluff “Unless it’s a book in the library you’re not interested these days. Unless it’s about you…”

“Says you.” Daphne turned her head to shout at him as she walked down the candle lit corridor. “you’re the one whose got his head in a book every afternoon.”

“Yeah for fun, not that advanced curse breaker shit you read. You’re so obsessed with beating Granger and impressing Ron you’re missing out on doing stuff with your actual friends.”

If only he knew why at the end of last year she’d missed all their escapades. Then he’d eat his words. But she’d never tell him – him off all people. She’d never tell a soul but least of all Theodore Nott.

“That’s why you get mad when I have fun in class isn’t it, you want to impress Weasel some more? Well I’m allowed to have fun Greengrass, I’m allowed to break the rules here!”

“No your not!” she spat, “you know its people like you who lose us the house cup..”

Daphne’s foot smacked against something hard as she rounded the corner. Her toe throbbed in pain as she looked down to see what she had run into.

It was Tracey Davis.

She was frozen like a statue, as if her her skin was set in marble. Her mouth was open as if she had gone to scream, her eyes wide like they’d seem something terrible. Her whole body was recoiled, arms lifted to protect herself. Who had done this? What had happened to her?

“That’s not fair.” Theo shouted back as he ran up the back of her.

The moment he saw Tracey he stopped, all the anger left his body. The pair exchanged a panicked glance.

“We need to get her to Madame Pompfrey.” Daphne bent down beside the girl, and placed her hand on her cold arm. The instruction had been directed at Theo, her voice now stern and commanding.

“I’ll go get her.” Theo staggered back and ran towards the hospital wing as fast as he could.

Chapter Text

“Come here son.” His father’s voice rattled through the damp and poorly lit house. “You have been called on.”

Theo didn’t understand what his father was saying. But he knew the price of disobedience. He only had a week until he was back at Hogwarts, and was determined to see it through with minimal damage.

His father was by the door, dressed in a dark travel cloak and holding his boney cane to steady himself on his feet. In silence he called again for Theo to follow him outside. Leviathan Nott didn’t go outside, unless he was apperating somewhere. He grabbed onto Theo’s arm the moment they were far enough away from the house, and Theo felt his whole body revert in on itself. His mind was fuzzy and he tasted static, suddenly his feet found purchase again on the ground.

They were outside Malfoy Manor, Theo recognised it from the Pureblood Ball. He walked up slowly, even slower than his infirmed father, unsure of why they had come.

“Father, why?” he began,

“Enough!” his father barked “Be patient.”

Inside, a small chattery house elf took their coats and showed them into the red room. The furniture was a dark crimson and the walls black, a portrait of the family was hung over the fireplace; their eyes followed Theo as he shook hands with the real Malfoy's.

“What’s happening.” He whispered to Draco as they exchanged pleasantries.

“I don’t know. But my father’s wearing his formal suit and robe.”

“Boys.” Lucius cleared his throat and drew his wand “The Dark Lord has called upon us to aid him in a most noble task.”

The air became tight in Theo's lungs, he felt his heart pounding in his chest. Draco had an equal look of horror splashed across his pale face.

“But father what do you mean? He’s dead.”

That’s what I thought too Theo nodded.

“The Dark Lord cannot be defeated. He lives in… many forms.” Narcissa stepped forward, her voice both soft yet prickly. “And we must return him to the one that is strongest.”

The boys looked at each other again, still no wiser.

“He has opened the chamber.” Leviathan’s voice boomed with dramatics, “And he has asked that you find him, and deliver Harry Potter to him.”

WHAT

Theo didn’t like Harry. In fact he thought he was a bit too big for his boots, and high up on his horse. But this was a death wish. They were asking them to hand up their twelve year old classmate to one of the darkest and most powerful wizards in the known universe.

“But…” Theo let the words flow from him “Harry’s.. he’s in our year, why does he want Harry?”

His father withdrew his wand and without hesitation slashed the side of Theo’s neck that was poking out from his jumper. The blood began to pool at his collar. Draco reached out to grab him, to pull him back. But Theo stepped away, if he accepted his help now he’d only pay for it later. His father would consider it another act of disobedience, another act of weakness.

“We do not question The Dark Lord.” Narcissa stepped in front of their fathers “We do as he bids, so that we may live in a better world.”

“Mother, I’m not sure..”

“Hush now Draco!” Lucius’ voice was cold “Do as your mother commands.”

“You boys have been blessed, he will reward us when he comes again.” Theo’s father croaked, his eyes were glazed over imagining the world of which Narcissa spoke.

Theo knew instantly that he was out of his depth. There was something far greater than him at play here.

For the rest of the holidays Theo’s father sent him to work. There was not a day in which he slept in or missed his exercises, not a day that past in which he didn’t sit in his father’s office and listen to tales of the chamber or run through ways that he could find it. At dinner Leviathan would tell him of the first war, of Voldemort’s power. It was the most animated he had ever seen his father, a usually dreary solemn man.

***

Tracey Davis was still petrified when they returned from the Christmas holidays. Within the first week back, another Hufflepuff and Gryffindor student were also sent to the hospital wing in the same condition. Hogwarts school promptly descended into paranoia.

“The dorms so eerily quiet without her and Pansy bickering.” Daphne lamented as they walked down the corridor. “I mean I don’t like her but it’s scary. Mills is really upset too.”

At the beginning of the new term Dumbledore announced that all the students were required to commute between classes in groups, which had resulted in Daphne’s presence as Theo, Blaise and Draco walked to Potions.

“It’s weird seeing Millie cry, it’s like watching a bear cry or something.” Blaise fiddled with a new silver earring his mother had purchased him for Christmas.

“I don’t know why we have to wait for these mandrakes to mature for something to be done.” Draco watched as a group of Ravenclaws eyed them suspiciously “Everyone thinks that we’ve done it. It’s that blasted article that came out in The Daily Prophet.”

“I’m just glad they think they’ve solved what our secret is. At least that way they’ll stop digging in.”

“What do you mean?” Theo couldn’t hide his concern at what Blaise had said, “Whose been digging into you?”

“Just Seamus’s lot… and surprisingly Michael Corner’s.” Blaise held his business as usual tone, but his eyes gave the smallest glimmer of trepidation. “same people who think Draco opened the chamber. I think Michael just likes a mystery...”

“Yeah um, you know Emmeline Avery? That girl in fourth year?” Daphne placed her arm on Blaise’s shoulder,

“Yeah I think I’m aware of the hottest girl in our house, the one Adrian Pucey’s going out with right?”

“Well yes.” Daphne’s tone was quiet “Well she heard that your step-father’s death is um, under investigation and she asked Pansy and I about it - we told her we didn’t know anything and that your mother would never do that. I just thought you needed to know that some people know. You know?”

“Yeah thanks Daph.”

“I’ll tell them not to say anything. Pansy and I will make it go away.” She nodded resolute “Emmeline likes us now, says Adrian likes Draco and so you know… she might listen. She doesn’t think we opened the chamber either.”

To Blaise’s credit he kept his charming and joyful composure all throughout the day. In Potions Blaise let him take the lead as always while he and Draco argued again over the merits (or lack thereof) of Quidditch, in Herbology he set a bag of bouncing bulbs loose in pursuit of a laugh and that night in Astronomy he cracked at least four Uranus jokes that had the class in stitches. But Theo watched as he wrote to his mother that night, and he saw the way it irritated him when Seamus Finnigan and Lavender Brown whispered or when Michael Corner pointed at them.

“Do you think Emmeline’s told everyone?” Blaise threw open Theo’s bed curtains and took a seat,

“It doesn’t matter what they say, what does your mother say?”

“She’s… vague. But she said she didn’t kill him.”

Theo cast a muffling spell around them, they didn’t need Crabbe and Goyle blabbing.

“So then let people talk.” Theo shrugged his shoulders, “We all know the truth. Everyone that matters at least.”

“I cant.” Blaise fiddled with the sheets, knotting them up in his hands “I’m trying but can’t I help it, it’s in my nature. People just like me, I’m not used to not being liked. I think Draco believes it you know.”

“Don’t be stupid Draco’s just been preoccupied with Quidditch and everyone’s suspicions about him being the heir who opened the chamber.”

Although, Theo did remember the not so kind words that Draco had said about Blaise’s mother during the summer. But he had probably just been repeating his mothers words, Draco modelled everything after his parents.

“I’m not from some ancient pureblood line, I’m new money..” Blaise almost sounded ashamed “These guys, you all fit in so well like that. If they don’t like me, I’ll be out. Being likeable is all I’ve got.”

Theo thought about it for a moment. It was undeniable that the thread which had pulled them all together had been the prestige of their names. The Malfoys and Greengrasses, Parkinsons and Bulstrodes, Crabbes and Goyles. They had all been in each other’s orbit for a while although never properly meeting until last year. They had that kinship, the knowledge that each other’s families would approve and that these were their people. Theo had been more of an outsider, The Nott house may have been one of the old pureblood lines, but his father had locked him away ever since his the end of the First Wizarding War. If it was not for Blaise he would have stayed in the corners, relegated himself to the shadows for an eternity.

“I know what you mean.” Theo reconciled “But the Crabbe’s are new, they made their money in the magical beast black market.” He whispered, “Draco told me the only reason he was allowed to be friends with Vincent is because the family lived nearby and sold the old Minister for Magic; Millicent Bagnold a Swedish short snout. She let them make a fortune before Fudge got in. ” Theo tried to look at him as earnestly as possible “If this whole school turns on you, you’ll still have me.”

“Alright.” Blaise grumbled “Ill shut up now.” He gave a sideways smile and left Theo to sleep.

That night Theo visited his mother in his dreams. He asked her for guidance - asked her what his father had meant, what he was supposed to be doing. Theo's father and Lucius said that instructions surrounding their quest for the chamber would follow in due course. Now all he had to do was wait.

Chapter Text

“Oi” Seamus Finnegan yelled across the snowy courtyard, “Snakes!”

Daphne stopped short of the classroom door, turning to see all the eyes of the students in their year looking at her. Pansy kept her cold icy glare, Draco his uptilted head and Theo looked entirely disinterested in what Seamus was about to say. But their cool demeanour would soon be broken.

“What?” Draco scoffed, rising to the bait.

“Yeah, what do you want leprechaun?” Crabbe growled in solidarity.

“I want to know how you opened it.” Seamus was a mouthy boy, tough looking and stout. “The chamber that is.” he specified,

None of them dignified him with an answer. But as Daphne turned back to walk inside the classroom she found Ron’s body blocking the entrance. Dean Thomas was towering beside him. The pair had their arms crossed, determined looks on their faces.

“Ron.” She rolled her eyes to push past, but Ron stood his ground.

“Close it Malfoy or we’ll have to close it for you.” Ron threatened. “People are getting hurt. Neville’s in the hospital wing. ”

“It has to be you.” Michael Corner stepped forward as the voice of reason, surrounded by the other Ravenclaws who nodded in silent agreement “Padma says she saw you snooping around the dungeons the other night.”

“That’s where our common room is you dipshit.” Daphne rolled her eyes, her anger flaring at the sight of Ron still blocking the door. Why was he doing this? And look at Hermione over there standing with them gloating, look at Lavender Brown and Pavarti giggling like this was all a big joke.

The boys looked taken aback by her temper, But Pansy and Millicent continued to stand their ground unfazed as the other students huddled around - they'd seen her get woken up in the mornings and knew she had a temper. This felt like some kind of intervention, a gang up outside the History of Magic classroom.

“Keep your filthily little mouth shut, or my father will hear about this.” Draco flicked his scarf back around his neck,

He and Seamus stood toe to toe, and for a moment she thought they’d start fighting.

“Come any closer and I swear.” Theo pushed Seamus back from Draco with one long arm. The boy charged back at them ready to fight. Crabbe and Goyle shifted nervously in place as Dean and Ron stared them down.

“Just tell us Malfoy.” Harry swooped in like the leader of the pack, “tell us and we’ll leave you alone.” Harry loved this knight in shining armour game he played. The self appointed defender of the Gryffindors.

“Oh you’d like that wouldn’t you Potter.” Draco ran his hand over his slicked platinum hair “But I’ve got no problems with this thing, not if it’s getting rid of scum like you.”

Daphne winced when he’d said the words. Why couldn’t he have just told them all the truth, that he wasn’t the heir? Why couldn’t he have just swallowed his damn pride and resentments? Boys she cursed.

Now they all came charging forward, Theo threw his books down and drew his wand. Harry pulled his wand from his robes and Daphne considered it before weighing the pros and cons of being caught. But Ron was the first to cast a spell, hitting Goyle with a hex which swelled up his fingers so that he struggled to hold his own wand any longer. Harry followed with another, attempting to disarm Draco.

“Come on then Malfoy.” Potter taunted,

Draco cast a jinx that tripped Harry as he approached them. Laughing, Draco shot another pimple jinx at Hermione who had rushed to his aid. Big red blotches rose up on her skin as she hauled Harry to his feet.

“Think that’s funny Malfoy?” Ron sneered, looking back from where Harry limped on his ankle “Flipendo”

The knock-back jinx sent Draco tumbling as he failed to block it in time. As Ron turned to the praise of Seamus and Dean, Theo's stern voice shouted a command “Locomotor Wibbly” and he was sent to the floor a victim of the Jelly-legs jinx.

“Enough!” Hermione whined, still holding her blotched red face “you’re going to get caught.”

But Seamus and Harry ignored her, instead they pointed their wands and continued firing spells, commanding that they all confess to opening the chamber. Blaise was entirely uninterested in the conflict, withdrawing himself to the side lines beside the Ravenclaws. He seemed to be chatting away happily to Michael, no doubt trying to make amends. Daphne reached out to pull Pansy aside and join him, Pansy obeyed – always one to pick her battles. She didn’t need this making the gossip column of The Daily Prophet or Witch Weekly.

Suddenly as Theo deflected a curse, Millie who had also stepped back with Daphne, yelped in pain. Her nose was morphing into a beak, and her shoulders began to sprout bright yellow feathers that burst up out of her uniform. Daphne lost her composure completely, watching Millie wither in pain. Her parents voice inside her head that told her to control her anger faulted. She was mad at Ron, mad at everyone, mad she was still unable to open that damn bloody family chest. She was not to be tested.

“Levicorpus” she yelled, violently hoisting Seamus off the ground by his ankles and moving her wand carefully to guide the boy over the courtyard fountain (which was near frozen at this time of year) “Apologise to her or ill drop you in! Apologise for daring to disrespect us.” She taunted haughtily.

Seamus twisted and resisted her jinx. But somehow she had channelled her frustration well. The textbooks would say it was an improper and inefficient casting, that it came from the wrong place – but it was holding despite her never having used the spell before.

“Alright alright I’m sorry.” Seamus cried “Put me down.”

“Put him down Daphne.” Harry had stopped duelling with Draco but held his wand steady at him. They were all in a stalemate. Daphne felt the spell weaken, Seamus slipped down a fraction. With all her might she threw him back and released him before he went into the fountain.

“We didn’t open it.” She puffed.

But nobody believed her. The Gryffindors slunk away, having finally attracted Professor Binn’s attention from inside the classroom. As the others moved on with their day Pansy and Daphne spent the afternoon in the hospital wing with Millie as she coughed up canary feathers.

***

They had been practicing constellations all afternoon attempting to prepare for their midnight class. Astronomy wasn't anyones favourite subject, and the purpose it served in relation to strengthening their magical capabilities had never been clear to any of them. They usually used the class time to play word games and riddles, or watch as Theo and Blaise imitated Professor Sinistra's wild mannerisms. But nevertheless, Daphne, Draco, Pansy and Goyle lay down on the floor of the great hall observing the enchanted night sky, guessing constellations;

“That’s, Cassiopeia?” Pansy pointed up at a cluster of stars,

“Ergh yeah.” Goyle was looking at his textbook and trying to match the star chart.

“You said that was Cetus.” Draco protested,

“Oh yeah.” Goyle scratched his head, flicking through the book again, “I think its both?”

“It can’t be both, their totally different constellations.” Daphne laughed,

As they huddled around the book trying to match the charts up to the one Pansy had seen, the evening mail arrived. Dozens of owls filtered in through the door and began dropping letters and small packages. Daphne scrambled to her feet to spot her families jet black owl, who was no doubt dropping off another letter from Astoria. As she jumped up to accept the letters she spotted a scruffy brown owl landing beside Theo. He seemed equally surprised, having rarely received mail the past two years.

Hi Daph,
I’m feeling better now. Mum and Dad are still furious about you not returning that family chest, they’ve been thinking of contacting Dumbledore but I know they’re not going to. Your right about their paranoia though, not sure what could be so important.
That story about Theodore paying for a singing dwarf to follow Draco Malfoy round all day on Valentine’s was priceless, and of course Pansy received a stack of cards. I would have sent you a card if I remembered. Also, Queenie and Sidd say hello and Jenny Fawcett too. Nothing new to report here except that Mr Lovegood blew up some of his orchard the other day, but that’s the kind of thing we expect of him. His daughter Luna has been hanging out with Jenny more when I’m not around so she tells me about them. Hope this letter found you well, I’ve enclosed a bundle of rose petals for you to put in your wardrobe so your clothes smell nice. I’ve been making some for all around the house. I have a lot of time on my hands.
Regards and kisses, Astoria

“That from Astoria?” Pansy looked over Daphne’s shoulder

“Yeah, here.” She handed Pansy the small bag of rose petals and herbs to smell. “Valentine’s day cards finally arrive Theodore?” she asked cheekily, looking over at him as he read his letter.

“Can’t be, Tracey’s still in the hospital wing.” Blaise nudged Theo’s shoulder,

“Funny actually, I didn’t see you get any cards this year.” Theo feigned as if this was a new revelation opposed to a sarcastic counter attack directed at her, stuffing the letter in his pocket as he did so.

Daphne kept her fake cheery grin “Oh you know me, I hate public displays of affection. All my suitors sent me a thousand galleons directly, I’d be happy to donate some to the charity that gives you those clothes.”

They had changed out of their uniforms, Theodore was wearing a dark black turtleneck jumper with little doxie chewed holes and dark washed jeans.

“Oh don’t worry about me, wouldn’t want to take from your Enchantress beauty serum fund.”

“Been spying on my packages have you?” Daphne took back the bag of rose petals from Pansy,

“I..” Theo started,

“am sick of this back and forth.” Pansy finished his sentence for him “Where’s Mills?” she looked around the great hall “don’t tell me she’s lost that stupid cat again.”

“Has anyone seen my cat?” Millie stormed through the doors and hurried over to the Slytherin table, hair wild and falling down around her gaudy purple jumper. “I think Seamus took him.”

***

The afternoons were slowly getting warmer. Daphne found herself surviving without her scarf as she ventured between classes, a brittle wind whistled down the stone halls and students turned their heads to watch her pass in suspicion. Her and Ron’s communication bracelet has begun to glow, and Daphne couldn’t help but grin that he’d come back around again. They hadn’t spoken properly in a while, and things were still hostile after the face off before history.

Ron was leaning against the wall, ignoring the ramblings of one of the schools portraits. He was alone this time, no Harry or Seamus or Dean or Hermione. His face looked paler than normal and his eyes slightly glossy. He smiled sheepishly as she sauntered up and smacked his arm.

“That’s for the stunt you pulled the other day.” She scolded him half heartedly before striking him again “and that’s for not apologising sooner.”

“I’m sorry!” He chuckled, rubbing his now sore arm. “I know I should have just asked you if Malfoy opened it but…”

“You should have. If it wasn’t your birthday next week I’d still be holding a grudge.”

“That’s the problem with you and me, were both too stubborn.”

“I know you weren’t attacking me personally with what you did, but Ron it’s just so childish. Seamus lured Millicent’s cat into a broom closet and left it there for two days. She was worried sick.”

“Dean must’ve helped, there’s no way Seamus’ did that on his own.” Ron chuckled to himself again. “But yeah, I know I know. That’s why I sent you the bloody signal” he shook his wrist, the raggedy leather bracelet jangling as he did so.

It had become an unspoken apology between them. The pair lingered in the hall, slowly making their way to their next Charms class where they would peel away to their respective groups.

“What are you doing for your birthday then?” Daphne changed tact. She’d already purchased him another Chudley Cannons figurine which was due by post any day. Thankfully for her, Ron’s favourite team had very inexpensive merchandise.

“Nothin’ much.” He rocked on his feet. “We’re going to go to Hagrid’s maybe.”

“You, the chosen one and buck tooth” Daphne couldn’t help but jibe as she filled in the mental image.

“You know Harrys like the most popular boy in the whole house, maybe the whole school.” He defended his friend,

“Steady on.” Daphne warned.

“And Hermione’s brilliant, McGonagall reckons she could be the Minster of Magic one of these days.”

What a sickening thought. Daphne grimaced to herself. That would drive the Pureblood Society mad just thinking about it.

“So what are you then? If you’re all this bunch of special students.” Daphne asked. Ron’s face seemed to drop as if he’d been asking himself the same question, “The Pureblood wizard who actually knows stuff about the magical world?” she guessed, remembering when Harry had been amazed by Sidd’s simple cleaning spell in Diagon Alley.

Ron almost blushed, taking the compliment for what it was. “No, I’m just. Good at chess.”

“That’s not really a skill set.” Daphne laughed as they walked up the stairs, school shoes tapping against the stone.

Ron nodded a hello to Dean and Seamus as they all waited outside for the last class to finish before they could enter. Theo glared at her as they approached before turning back to his conversation with Draco and Blaise. Just because her and Ron were speaking now didn't mean the house hatred had simmered. The Slytherins and Gryffindors stood far apart, two sides at ever increasing odds.

“Don’t happen to know anything about enchanted boxes do you?” she asked Ron quietly, knowing they'd soon have to seperate.

“Urgh I think Mum’s got one up in the attic. It’s a Prewitt heirloom but Fred and George were always messing with it.”

“Messing with it?”

“Yeah, when you tried to open it if you didn’t rub the top right hand corner before popping the lock it would shock you. Made your hair stick up and all sorts.”

“Yeah I read about that, the patterns to unlock it but I thought they were always switches and latches and stuff?”

“This one was just a little sparrow that you just had to rub. No switch or anything. Anyway I better find Harry…”

Daphne wasn’t paying attention anymore, she visualised all the carvings on the Greengrass chest. Maybe she just had to rub one of the patterns? There was a crest in the middle, surely that was it right? Maybe all this time she'd been looking for key holes and buttons, shed been looking for the wrong things.

Chapter Text

Theodore Nott,
By commission of the Pureblood Society, you have been entrusted to locate the Chamber of Secrets. This commission requires you to bring the named ‘chosen one’ Harry Potter to the chamber so that he may meet with the Pureblood Society's leader. Should you fail to meet these requirements by the end of the year, your families place within the society will be revoked permanently.
This letter will disappear one minute after opening.

The letter had been delivered in a matching set of sleek black parchment and envelope. Pressed into the silver wax had been a crest; a skull wrapped in a serpent. It was undeniably a connection to The Dark Lord, one that greatly unnerved him.

Theo had tossed and turned all night, rising at the crack of dawn both exhausted yet unable to rest. He wrapped himself in a thick robe and pulled on his slippers to walk through the castle. The stones were bitterly cold, the school still in the grip of Scottish winter at this time of the morning despite progressing quickly towards March. He had memorised the letter quickly, scribbling down notes in the margin of his book to make sure he didn’t forget.

Your families place within the society will be revoked permanently.

Did that mean what he thought it meant?

The library was warm and inviting at this time of day. The sunrise filled every window, the isles between bookshelves were empty of students and Madam Pince strode through fixing up sagging shelves or replacing returned items. It was quiet, the perfect place to think and study. Theo smiled cheerily at the librarian who unlike for other students, didn’t sneer as he entered. He progressed towards the history section, pulling out a volume of Hogwarts a History. Taking a seat in one of the bay window tables, he slapped down the map which he had been given in first year and tried to cross reference it with the rough description from around the same year of the schools foundation. There had to be some gaps, but this was the best way he could think to locate the chamber. This had become his typical morning routine since the beginning of term.

***

Draco had received the same letter only a day after Theo. The pair of them had subsequently taken to walking around the castle looking for passageways and secret rooms. It had become another ritual for them after dinner, searching for the chambers entryway, trying to imagine what the castle would have looked like back then.

All of the northern builds had been done later, secret rooms added and passageways carved out. The boathouse was done under the third headmaster, the hall as it is now was renovated under the fifth, the owlery under the tenth. It had to be somewhere in the oldest parts, and it had to be somewhere obscured – most likely closer to the dungeons where the Slytherin common room was since that location was also of Salazar’s choice. But they never found a passageway that lead further down, and had to return back to the common room before nine o’clock curfew. Theo's Probity Probe wasn't picking up anything as they walked, it had become practically useless.

“This isn’t helping the rumours you know.” Draco tapped the stone wall with his wand half heartily searching for a hidden door, “us wandering around looking for the chamber when people think we opened it.”

“We huh? I thought it was a you problem.”

“Well used to be just me but now people have seen us searching around together. Pansy keeps asking what we’re up too.”

“Have you told her?” Theo’s brow furrowed, he didn’t want any of them to know.

“No.” Draco's wand made a scratching sound against the stone. “But I might..”

“Don’t. If the society found out then they might, well I don’t know but surely it wouldn’t be good.”

“The note never said we couldn’t tell other society members, so not Blaise but Pansy and Daphne and Gregory..”

The pair descended the tightly bound spiral staircase that lead them back towards their common room. The clock had just struck nine, they were late again.

“Six or so heads are better than two.” Draco finished his sentence as they ran into Gwendoline Hedgeflower patrolling as a Hufflepuff prefect.

Gwendoline stopped short upon seeing them, the two other prefects she was with followed her line of sight. The two boys exchanged a tentative look.

“You two are a bit late aren’t you?” Gwendoline called down from the other end of the hall, her voice high pitched and dainty.

The two boys wasted no time turning tail and running. One of the prefects cast an illuminating spell to try and distinguish who they were but Gwendoline's high pitched tune told them not to bother. It seemed they weren’t interested in catching them, but Theo still yanked Draco around the corner where they camped out until the coast was clear again. They both knew that getting more house deductions would only spell trouble, they’d been pushing their luck recently and if Snape found out there would be hell to pay. They'd also cop and earful from Daphne for losing them points.

“What are we doing Theo?” Draco asked him earnestly as they peeked around the corner. “I mean we’ve made no progress and my father keeps writing me, asking. I wont be able to hack it when I'm home for the easter holidays with no explanation.”

“My father never writes to me but this past month, he’s been more attentive than ever.” Theo commiserated, “but I can do this, we can do this.”

“I’m not sure. Not alone.”

But that’s all I’ve ever been; Alone. I’m used to it. Theo thought to himself as they finally circled back to the dark stone wall which concealed the door to the Slytherin dorms.

“Hallows” Draco whispered the password, prompting the stones to slide away, grinding against one another in muffled silence.

A wide dark polished door appeared and the two stepped through it in silence. They'd avoided a lecture from Daphne who had been waiting for them to return, dutifully copying her notes for Millie and Blaise.

***

Blaise was always talking. There was no way to shut him up; rain or shine, night or day. It was a balance to the silence that Theo often tended towards. A comfortable distraction from that which oft ailed him at home. And as he talked, Blaise was reluctantly dragging Theo to Pansy’s latest luncheon, set up inside the greenhouses.

As they arrived the air was slightly tense, less people had arrived than usual. They all knew why. It was a mostly Slytherin affair; Pansy and Daphne were playing Millicent and Charlotte Montague at magical quoits; where the spike apparated anywhere within the small sectioned off zone at regular intervals, making it much harder to land the rings. Crabbe and Goyle were playing their own game against Adrian Pucey and Miles Bletchley off to the side, who were no doubt flogging the two very poorly coordinated younger boys.

“Hey let me join then.” Draco rushed over and grabbed a ring from Crabbe, ready to beat his teammates.

“Finally a challenge.” Adrian rolled back his shouldered readying himself.

Millicent threw one of her own rings just as the spike disappeared; “Theo” she sighed “You want to sub me out.”

Theo wandered forward and took the rings from Millie, having just been considering weaselling his way into the match. As he eyed off the changing ring Blaise began to chat the ear off Emmeline Avery and her gaggle of girls. Blaise had the beloved Miss Avery laughing within moments, and soon he had been enveloped into the group of girls. It was almost fearless the way he approached them, brazen and determined to endear himself. Millie shyly joined them, his opposite when it came to socialisation.

“You’re going to regret that.” Daphne sledged as Theo lined up to take his first shot, a near miss.

“Still got two shots.” He reminded her as he eyed the peg, he needed to be fast or it would move. When he threw it, it sailed over and rung itself around the stake. “Hah! See that Greengrass!” he gloated before cockily tossing the other and missing. That was humbling.

“One more point for us!” Charlotte Montague clapped her hands giddily, “You're up Daph.”

Daphne rolled back her shoulders like Adrian and stretched her neck.

“Warming up are we Greengrass? Doesn’t matter, you’ll miss…”

“Shut up.” She silenced him, crouching slightly and eyeing the peg before throwing the ring.

It landed, prompting Pansy to clap in congratulations of her best friend. Daphne swung around and gave a smug grin that Theo had an undeniable urge to wipe it off her face. He watched as she thankfully missed the next two, the peg moving just as she had almost landed one. He breathed a sigh of relief, stepping up for his next turn.

"Alright time for the pro..."

“Oi.” Came a thunderous call from down the school grounds, “I think I’ve spotted some snakes in the grass!”

Seamus was barrelling down the grounds in a hideous red and brown jumper, flanked on either side was the more reserved Harry Potter and Ron Weasley and another unrecognisable boy on the other side.

“Is that Cormac McLaggen?” Miles craned his neck to spot the source of the following noise.

“I’d recognise that burly golden haired figure anywhere. Got a temper like nothing I’ve seen, almost ripped the ear off Higgs last match.” Adrian grumbled “but not too hard to get a goal past.”

McLaggen was definitely a few years above, all muscle and hormones. He made Miles look tiny for a Keeper. The Gryffindors walked down towards them, two clearly looking for a fight in the name of avenging the school of the chamber of secrets. The other two, Ron and Harry, looked like they wanted answers. Ron waved to Daphne as they arrived, she waved back politely.

“Great.” Pansy sighed and put her hands on her hips, “I didn’t invite you here Finnegan.” She called to him as they approached, “and its invitation only.”

“Oh we don’t need and invitation.” Cormac growled “Thanks to you our best chasers petrified.”

“Angelina.” Theo thought he heard Pansy gasp.

“Angelina Johnson's out of the tournament?” Adrian shook his head, “That’s tough luck, she’s really good.”

“Not just out of the tournament! In hospital!” Harry has his knight in shining armour voice on, “The Mandrake's still haven't matured and word is Pomfrey’s getting anxious.”

Seamus puffed out his chest; “we’re drawing the line.” But Harry and Ron looked a little less sure of the bravado.

Theo didn’t know what to do. On one hand, he wanted to shake if all off and tell them they were idiots. He'd actually been having a nice time. On the other hand, he wanted to shut them up and get them off his back. The pressure had been building, now that this term was coming towards an end and no progress had been made on behalf of The Pureblood Society.

“How was your birthday?” he heard Daphne ask Ron,

“Not bad.” He answered back as Seamus drew his wand and cast a jinx directed at an unarmed Draco.

“Enough.” Theo threw the quoits rings down and picked up his wand from where it had been left on the table,

Draco had blue sticky liquid pouring from his nose, Pansy was already grabbing the tablecloth to try and contain the spillage. She didn't want it on the carpet she'd put down.

“Rictusempra” Theo felt the determination take over and sent Seamus flying back doubled over in fits of hysterics. The tickling charm had worked and the boy struggled to mutter another incantation. “Rictusempra.” He pivoted to Cormac who blocked the first one well but not the second. He too then collapsed in high pitched giggles.

Just leave me alone Theo wished to himself as Harry stared him down, wand in his hand but not drawn. The others were beginning to giggle from the contagious laughter of the two boys.

“I didn’t come here to duel.” Harry said rather level headedly “Ron says you didn’t open the chamber but, we found Moaning Myrtle crying in the bathroom the other day. She said a student threw a book at her last night and only you two have been wandering around the castle at night after all these attacks.”

Theo watched as the others sized him and Draco up, who still had blue goo coming from his nose. The accusation was launched squarely at them. Theo felt himself shift in his place, he couldn’t tell them why they had been sneaking around the castle and so he couldn’t clear his name. What could he tell them? That he was just setting up a prank? That he just didn’t do it? They wouldn’t believe him.

The whole group stood in silent tension. Even Emmeline and Adrian were looking for an answer.

“Doesn’t Moaning Myrtle stay in the second floor girls bathroom?” Daphne tilted her head in confusion, recovering from her giggles.

“Why were you in the girls bathroom?” Pansy finished the question, she leant away from Draco to avoid the goo getting on her expensive loafers.

Harry and Ron exchanged a glance but didn’t answer.

“All the prefects were still out” Theo pushed his wand in his back pocket, “Why couldn’t one of them have done it?”

“Yeah s’pose so.” Ron shrugged his shoulders, “Just… thought we’d ask.”

“Hey Theo, you might want to un-hex these poor buggers.” Blaise pointed to the two hysterical Gryffindor boys, “I think Cormac’s about to piss himself.”

Theo promptly followed instruction and the boys started to puff from being out of breath laughing. The group was still in a stalemate. Half the people were ready to get back to playing quoits and the other half still accusatory. But as Harry slowly slunk away at the insistence of Ron, Seamus and Cormac followed.

“I don’t know why I still bother throwing these events anymore.” Pansy turned to Daphne, who looked very apologetic for what had happened.

"I thought it was very entertaining actually." Emmeline Avery smiled,

"Entertaining is one word for it." Draco sniffled.

This had to end. Theo felt time slipping away, pressure mounting. It wasn't only the Gryffindor's who were asking him for answers. His father had sent him another letter urging a third use of the probe, he too was growing desperate. And Harry. What was he going to do about Harry?

Could he really live with himself if he sent Harry to the chamber alone? If he sent a boy his age to face the darkest wizard alive? But what choice did he have?

Your families place within the society will be revoked permanently.

Chapter Text

The rest of the girls had gone to bed when Daphne slowly peeled back her sheets and pulled her families antique chest out from under her bed. The carpet helped minimise the noise and she sat down in front of it, once again studying each carving. She hated not being able to solve this puzzle, it threatened her intelligence. Daphne has always wanted to be perceived as intelligent, that was where she might be able to stand alone. Pansy was beautiful and fierce, Millicent was kind and loyal, Draco was polished and proud. It was Theo who seemed to rival her for the groups highest intellect, which only made her both respect and loathe him even more.

“Lumos.” She whispered, lighting up the small area around her and the unopened chest.

The moment Ron had told her about the Prewitt Box she had come back and tried rubbing the top corner, tapping the crest, tracing the vine carvings and poking at the faces of the animals that were depicted. She alternated the order and tried to listen to see if the hinge was loosening.

Now, she ran her fingers along the latch and resumed her thoughts about what pattern would make sense. She tried tapping it to the tune of Ott-er-y-St-Catch-pole, but to no avail. Out of ideas she began trying to sliding the crest up, jamming her thumb under the pointed base of the raised carving. She was desperate, she’d need to return this by the holidays or face her mothers wrath, she pushed so hard she thought she might snap the symbol off. Pain shot through the padding of her thumb and as she pulled her hand away she noticed that in her frustration she had sliced her skin, Ouch! A tiny droplet of blood had risen to the surface.

“Bloody stupid thing.” She muttered, slamming her hand down on the chest in frustration before quickly checking she hadn’t awoken her two remaining roommates.

Suddenly, a faint clicking sound. The lid of the box started moving, the vines slithered away from around the crest and formed hinges. The latch at the front popped. The blood from her thumb had seeped into the crest and unlocked it.

NO WAY! NO WAY! NO WAY! Daphne flung it open, riffling around the stack of papers inside. Ha I knew i was smart . The chest was enchanted to hold more than what appeared but when she reached down there was less than a forearms worth of paper and news clippings. As she fanned out the documents on the floor she noticed it was all about their family history; birth and death notices from The Prophet, wand accreditations, graduation certificates and marriage certificates. But there were a handful of doctors papers that peaked her interest;

Location: St Mungo’s Hosipital, Fourth Floor, Ward 45. Date: 10/12/1979
Patient: Caecilius ‘Cecil’ George Greengrass
Patient is proving continually unresponsive to at home treatments (Grade nine healing potions and sedative charms) as suspected at such a late stage of development. Family members have requested second full blood transfusion be postponed until after 06/1980 where patient will be administered treatment at home as before.

The document had a stamp that marked it as ‘Approved’ slashed across the status bar. Daphne ran her hands along the ink; ‘postponed until after 06/1980’.

That was her birthday.

And Cecil Greengrass, that was her grandfather.

Blood transfusions and medications, it could be referring to one thing; The malediction. He must have had the blood curse just like Astoria. This must have been how her father knew about the curse and its symptoms.

“Daphne.” Pansy whined, rolling over in her neighbouring bed “turn off that light, I need at least eight hours of beauty sleep.”

“Alright.” Daphne mumbled, “Nox” as she whispered the counter spell so that the small lantern of light coming from the tip of her freshly polished wand dimmed into total darkness again.

***

Daphne sat herself beside Emmeline Avery who was the picture of beauty; dark skin, rich brown eyes and curly voluminous hair. It was no wonder half the Slytherin boys were in love with her. But it was intimidating to be around her, and humbling to know that nobody was paying you any attention when she was around. Daphne held no illusions as to her beauty; she knew she was plain when compared to many.

“Hi Emm.” Daphne entered the room,

Emmeline Avery and her group always congregated in an allocated fifth floor study room which overlooked the grounds down towards the Quidditch pitch. It had become their own private territory which nobody entered unless granted permission. Daphne and Pansy had been invited the week after the Daily Prophet article was released, a buzz had surrounded them - people had started noticing Daphne; smiling as she past, coming up and asking about the portraits of her ancestors in the castle. But when the chamber opened, that popularity had lulled. They all looked with a little more suspicion now, and Emmeline’s invitations had become less frequent.

“What do you think of these?” Emmeline held up a Twilfitt and Tattings catalogue filled with new dresses, robes, shoes and hats. It was open to the ‘Wild Witches Collection’ page.

“Oh I love that black dress.” Daphne opened her Transfiguration book, ready to begin her short essay on the porcupine to pin cushion spell. “Not suited for the weather just yet though, unless you wore thick tights.”

“I told her the gold would complement her complexion more.” Pansy had already arrived, perpetually early to almost everything that would boost her social standing. She broke her deep discussion on formal footwear with Poppy Coffe to address them.

Poppy was also in fourth year with Emmeline and the pair were inseparable. While she was pureblood and her father was the editor of The Daily Prophet, Poppy was surprisingly sympathetic towards mudbloods. Daphne had guessed it was because she did not come from a long pureblood line, her grandfather apparently being actually been a muggle. Before Tracey was sent to the hospital wing she and Poppy were close, both shared a fondness for the same muggle musicians and love of the colour pink. She still visited Tracey every afternoon with Millie. All this 'weakness in character' Pansy forgave her for the sake of the Witch Weekly article from last year which that had named her as more influential than the pair of them, and the fact that Mr Coffe printed hundreds of articles on her fathers work.

“Yes I think you’re right…” Emmeline bit down on her thumbnail in contemplation of the dress “I need to send an owl tomorrow morning if it’s going to come in time for date with Adrian.”

“He’s taking her to Madame Puddifoot's this weekend” Poppy cooed to the rest of them.

Emmeline flushed, flicking back through the catalogue as Daphne twirled her quill in her hands, She attempted to look casual before mounting her calculated strike.

“Did you hear that Harry Potter can speak in parseltongue?”

The girls whipped their heads around to look at her.

Gildery Lockhart had started a duelling club as part of his woeful Defence Against the Dark Arts curriculum. During their last lesson of the day, Daphne had been paired up with Pansy to practice the disarming charm. Eventually it came time for Lockhart to call upon two students to face off against one another. Theodore had been talking up his duelling skills and Defence Against the Dark Arts talents all last year and had thus been pressured by the group into volunteering. They shoved him forwards almost immediately and he had dawdled up to centre of the room slightly sheepish before brandishing his wand with a flare that reflected Blaise’s dramatic influence. Hermione too had been eager to show off her own proficiency at spells, and her hand shot up. Lockhart obliged and the pair stood face to face; Hermione cast a precise knock back jinx that sent Theo stumbling slightly. Daphne delighted in seeing him bested, if only for a moment. From there the pair began as series of back and forth; one casting a spell that the other blocked until finally Theo took Draco’s advice from the sideline and managed to summon a snake. Daphne had applauded the spectacle, it was a piece of magic Draco had worked on for a year now and a complicated spell. For all the times Theo had annoyed her, it was still rather impressive. She guessed the pair had practiced it together.

“and as the snake approached Hermione to strike… Harry stepped out. He started whispering, something with heavy S’s that nobody could understand.” Daphne recalled the moment that had occurred hours ago “but Draco recognised it.”

“Parseltongue?” Emmeline gasped, “So, so he could be?”

“The heir.” Daphne whispered it, despite making sure the other girls could hear.

“Harry Potter the heir of Slytherin?” Poppy poked her head into their conversation,

“The Potter line is ancient.” Pansy informed her “And its understood that the heir is required to speak parseltongue, which only Harry seems to be able to do.”

“Merlin!” the cogs behind Poppy’s eyes were turning, “we have to tell people, make sure they stay safe. Stay away from him.”

As the rumour spread, Daphne came to understand the power she could wield with gossip. It swelled her ego to watch as people stopped their whispers surrounding Blaise’s mother and Draco being the heir. Talk of the chamber was still dominant and the Gryffindor’s still held strong that it was most likely a Slytherin who opened it, but the air had shifted. Suspicion was spread across all years and all houses; the Ravenclaws would be smart enough, the Hufflepuffs loyal enough. When they walked the corridors people no longer studied them in suspicion and Emmeline had increased their invitations to the fifth floor study room.

Take that Theo, now whose the smartest one of the group!

***

Marcus Flint’s deep voice echoed out of one of the train compartments as Daphne passed. Inside she spotted Flint debriefing the last Qudditch match with Adrian Pucey, Miles Bletchley and Draco. Slytherin had defeated Ravenclaw house, and yet it looked as if he had been lecturing them on flight patterns for ten minutes, his crooked teeth chattering away.

When she entered their own train compartment, she saw that Pansy had put her nimble fingers to work braiding Millie’s hair.

“I gave Tracey a little bracelet I made before we left.” Millie fiddled with her own necklace; a string of bright coloured beads that changed with her mood. As she spoke they turned a deep purple.

“She landed us all in detention, she’s far more underhanded and sneaky than you think she is.” Pansy condemned her, but her tone was less severe than normal. It had dawned on them all how long she’d been petrified for, the dorm had felt empty and quiet all term. "Her friendship with Poppy is proof enough that she's able to weasel her way into the lives of actually important people."

“She’s not sneaky, I can tell.” Millie assured them,

“How?” Daphne swallowed a bite of the pumpkin pasty she’d gone to get from the trolley “I mean you’re good at reading people but we don’t know her very well. She turned us over to Snape and threw ink on me that one time… and now she's been petrified for months.”

Millicent was uncanny at knowing what you were thinking; She’d answer questions before any of them had asked. While Pansy swore emotional intelligence was Millie’s one and only skill, Daphne could see that unlike the others who came from ridged traditional pureblood homes, Millicent was fearlessly free spirited. Millie said anything on her mind; from commenting on the ‘unusual hue of the grass’ when they walked to flying lessons to the way she collected oddballs like Tracey as her other friends. As for Pansy’s own personal triumphs, those were her ability to intimidate others with a single scathing glance, transfigure anything into a shiny fine bone china teacup and expertly hide all the very best parts of herself to those she didn’t deem worthy.

“Tracey's just putting on a front. She’s proud and stubborn, ambitious in out doing you both...” Millie considered.

“What’s an eight letter word starting with F that’s also a transformative plant?” Blaise was sitting on the floor doing a crossword but had been asking Theodore for every answer. He once again interrupted their conversation for clues.

Theodore drummed his fingers on his book. It was some muggle novel that Draco had taunted him for reading, but Theo had considered it all an act of rebellion against his father. Daphne peaked at the cover, Who was, Emma? Was he reading a girls book?

“Fluxweed?” Daphne and Theo guessed the answer at the same time,

“Oh that works.” Blaise scribbled it in with his quill. “Now a five letter word for a waxing worm….?”

“I hope Adrian becomes captain next year when Flint finishes.” Draco tutted as he closed the compartment door behind him, his eyes were trained downwards as if he was still mulling something over.

If Flint finishes. I heard Ruby say he’s not likely to get a single N.E.W.T. at this rate.” Pansy tied off the end of one of Millie’s braids.

“What’s that about Theodore?” Millie’s doe eyes looked up at Draco quizzically,

“What? Huh, nothing.” Draco recoiled his head in confusion before sitting down, “I didn’t say anything, not yet. But well actually um.”

“Spit it out Draco.” Daphne took another bite of her pastry, it wasn't like Draco to stumble on his words, “you can tell us anything.”

“Maybe you could even tell us a five letter word for a waxing worm?” Blaise held up his crossword before Theo batted it away and told him to listen.

“Go ahead.” Theo nodded at Draco, the two had shared a knowing glance, one of confirmation. “Blaise too.” He held firm,

“He’s not in the society…” Draco wearily eyed the boy who was still sporting a manicured eyebrow slit from first year.

“The Pureblood Society?” Blaise met his eyes, “I know of it.”

“Ok I told him, but you can’t keep anything from him, he just gets it out of you.” Theo stumbled trying to justify.

Draco didn’t seem as bothered as Pansy, who smacked Theo on the arm and cursed him for breaking the code of silence.

“But people who tell of the society… You should have the black cut running along your hand.” Daphne looked at Theo’s pristine palm, a mark of his betrayal should have been on it.

“Told him before initiation.” Theo smiled to himself, feeling like a genius for spotting the loophole. “I just call it the PBS and that doesn’t seem to trigger anything.”

“Well Theodore and I have been commissioned by the...PBS.” Draco's voice was forlorn, “We’ve been tasked with bringing Potter to the chamber.”

Daphne was dumbstruck. A task? A direct Pureblood Society order? What did they want Potter for, and why in the chamber? As she opened her mouth to ask, Theo cut her off, answering her question;

“We don’t know why, we don’t even know where the chamber is. My father gave me a probity probe that we altered all summer and we’ve still never found it.” He pulled out a long golden antenna from his overhead luggage, throwing it at Blaise for him to inspect.

“That’s what all the walks were for, that’s why you’ve been paying attention in History.” Daphne was putting the pieces together, thinking on all the things she’d neglected to focus on while desperately trying to opening her families chest. The chest that now sat under her seat ready to be returned home.

“So what happens if you don’t find the chamber?” Pansy asked,

“They get revoked from the society, permanently.” Blaise answered for them,

“But nobody leaves the society, only when they’re dead…” Millie took a sharp intake of breathe as the rest of the compartment came to the same conclusion which must have been weighing over the boys heads for months.

“Alright well.” Daphne tucked her hair behind her ears and bit her lip slightly. She was thinking. “Tell us everything you’ve been working on.” She demanded.

Draco obliged, unburdening himself for the rest of the trip to Kings Cross. As the train pulled into the station Daphne hugged Draco for the first time. She held him tight for a moment before quickly relinquishing him awkwardly. The pair had shared some low moments before now, but Daphne could only guess what it would be like to have your family home raided and then be ordered to complete the most impossible of tasks.

When she watched Theodore walk down the platform with his dishevelled house elf, she recalled again the frightening presence of his father at the society’s summer ball. He too must be terrified of failing to meet the demands, although he seemed to hold his nerve better. If only i could get inside his head. she wished. But nobody truly understood how Theodore Nott's mind worked. He was another riddle which she could never solve, a puzzle which plagued her Maybe he's my next test of intellect.

Chapter Text

In the days which past within their brief break, Theo thought only of Hogwarts. His father had been unrelenting, insisting that he was a failure and punishing him accordingly. The moment he had arrived home Leviathan’s frail frame seemed to stiffen into one that loomed, a force of violent persuasion that gripped him by the collar and dragged him to the dining room they never used. With the flick of his wand Theodore watched as his father banished the dust covered table and peeled back the floor boards underneath. The familiarity of this scene dawned on him. Before he could struggle his father’s wand hit the base of his spine and Theo fell down into the open floor, lying face down among the joists he felt the boards close back around him.

“You’ll stay there boy until you no longer disappoint me.” His father barked. “We will not disappoint the dark lord!”

Encased inside the dining room floor, he spent the next hours thinking of every victim who had been petrified over the school year;

Tracey Davis had been found by him and Daphne, she had been carrying nothing but a shiny cup of punch from the Quidditch celebrations. Nobody knew why she had left but Poppy Coffe claimed she’d been feeling left out and fled for solace.

Neville Longbottom, a boy who so unfortunately fit his name. He had been found in a pool of water, his robes wet from fleeing the torrential rain which had fallen that day. He had apparently been on his way to the greenhouses. What made his case strange was his status as a pureblood. This had been what troubled the professors most, who was safe?

Angelina Johnson, the brilliant chaser that Theo heard Emmeline Avery envying at Pansy’s last luncheon. She had been found inside the second floor girls bathroom after not returning from her dorms, apparently having left to see Marcus Flint.

There was little which tied them together; two mud bloods and one pureblood, two Gryffindor’s and one Slytherin, all found in different areas, all found with shocked expressions. What as the link? Was there even a pattern? If he could understand the attacks maybe he could understand the reason Voldemort needed Harry Potter, maybe he could understand what he was being asked to do.

By the time he had packed his bags again, Theo only reached only one solid conclusion; He didn’t have the heart to turn Harry over so easily. He’d accompany the boy into the chamber, he’d speak to the dark lord maybe – see what was happening. If Harry was going to die it wasn’t going to be on his soul, or by his hands. If there was one thing Theo might fear more than his father, it was Azkaban. He had read of the prison, of the dementors. They would take the only happy memories he had, and those where what kept him standing even when his father knocked him down. When he was encased under the floorboards for his father to step on, when he was forced to run around the decaying gardens until he he vomited or when his father slashed his torso open at the instance he critiqued the lineage of pureblood propaganda he was forced to read. He held onto those memories like an invaluable currency, they fed his reason to keep going. It was the only part of his mother that remained. The dementors would not take that from him. Nobody would.

 

***

When they returned to Hogwarts nobody had expected that Hermione Granger would go missing.

She was a mudblood, and therefore perfect bait for the creature within the chamber, but to go missing completely was new.

The day after in Charms professor Flitwick had been in low spirits. He liked the boisterous know it all Hermione, no doubt because she should have been sorted into Ravenclaw and was a relentless teachers pet. He issued out piles of shattered clay pieces that the class was instructed to reassemble using the mending charm. It was one of the more advanced charms they were able to practice, and so Theo and Blaise leant back in their chairs and pushed around the jagged shards of pottery as they mulled over their own failures on the night in question;

“I shouldn’t have eaten so much raspberry jelly for lunch.” Blaise held his stomach in slight pain, shifting in his seat “I think I even ate more than Crabbe.”

“Impossible.” Theo used the levitation charm to pick up a couple of the pieces, still neglecting to actually mend them. “Crabbe’s a bottomless pit, last night on our search he ate like a hundred pieces of Millie’s shortbread.”

The boys had gone looking for the chamber again only to come up empty. He, Blaise, Draco, Crabbe and Goyle had been trying to see if there were outside passages that might have lead down, ones only accessible from the rocks which the castle was raised on or the huge plumbing pipes.

“I still can’t work out if he’s down there or if it really is just a creature.” Theo whispered, “He can’t be powerful enough to petrify people, not if he doesn’t have a physical form…”

“It has to be some kind of monster, something we haven’t learnt about.” Blaise groaned as his stomach was clearly bloated, “But if I hear Draco say it’s a snake one more time… well I’m going to snap his precious Nimbus 2001 and dance around its burning corpse.”

“If you did I’d personally write into Pansy’s beloved Witch Weekly and tell them you’ve had fake teeth put in. They’d believe me too, I mean nobody has teeth that naturally white.” Draco leant over from his adjacent desk, apparently the boys weren’t as discrete as they had thought.

“All in good fun hey Malfoy.” Blaise tutted looking slightly scared. He knew Draco would actually do it.

“Why’s Greengrass been so obsessed with him.” Theo changed the conversation, nodding his head over at Daphne who was somewhat consoling Ron.

The pair was slowly restoring the clay pieces back into something that looked like a pitcher. Daphne was doing most of the magic but the pair were speaking in concerned tones, she was clearly trying to assure him as she worked.

“Probably because he had a thing for the bucktooth.” Blaise guessed, “I mean why else would he and Potter hang around her, she’s frightfully noisy and won’t ever shut up.”

“Sounds like you.” Theo couldn’t help but point out.

“Good point Blaise, Only Weasel would stoop so low as to like a brainy know it all mudblood.” Draco scoffed and started repairing his own vase, Goyle had made a mess of it already.

“You shouldn’t say that you know, she’s probably dead.” Goyle was so blunt about the reality of their situation that it shocked the three of them.

“Well now I feel like a bit of a prick.” Blaise sat up straight for the first time to look at the charms work,

“Me too.” Theo muttered, “We have to work this out, and soon. If Goyle’s right…”

He didn’t want to think about if Goyle was right. He didn’t like Hermione, but again, he didn’t want anyone to die. He wasn’t heartless, no matter how it may appear

 

***

Theo kept his probity probe at the ready, holding it out to the walls in search of a clue. He willed a passageway to open itself, but to no avail. A part of him still wanted his original plan to work.

The castle was creepy at night. Torches lit ancient stone corridors, casting shadows on the statuettes’ which jumped out from the walls. The Bloody Baron’s rattling chains echoed in the near distance;

“Why do we have the creepiest house ghost?” Daphne complained, her eyes darting around to try and spot him.

“I don’t know I think the Grey Lady’s got something about her that’s so disturbing, she’s so quiet..” Blaise shuddered,

“Only you would think silence was terrifying.” Daphne cracked a smile, eyes finally relaxing ahead of them as they walked down the hall.

The group was far too large to all be out at night but no one wanted to miss out, and everyone thought they could help. Draco lead the way beside Crabbe and Goyle who held lanterns aloft in case they needed light. The rest of them lingered slightly behind, all huddled together and scanning for teachers and prefects as they tried to minimise the sound of their shuffling shoes.

“This is serious Zabini, no time for your ill-fitting jokes.” Pansy scolded him, “If Daphne and Theo’s plan doesn’t work than we’re all as good as dead.”

Theo hadn’t wanted to ask them for help, it was Draco’s idea in the first place. For all his pride Theo could concede that Malfoy was also somewhat pragmatic; they’d never had sought help if it wasn’t from their own friends, people they knew would understand and aid, and if it wasn’t for the looming deadline. But telling Daphne that he’d yet to devise a viable plan was difficult. He’d knew she’d scoff at him for being so stupid, she’d probably discover something that was so obvious but he’d missed. It annoyed him how smart she was sometimes.

They’d spent the last week formulating an approach but eventually after discussing and vetoing a hundred different ideas over numerous lunches and dinners in the Great Hall, they’d come up with a plan. Thankfully (in a way) her plan ended up being something that only she could help them pull off.

“Potter better be able to open it.” Theo stirred on the vague plan of entry, “But I still don’t think he’ll do it. Not for us of all people, he hates us.”

“I’ll get him to do it, he wants to. Hermione’s down there, and well Ron promised.”

That was one of the first time she hadn’t called her bucktooth

“What are we going to do about what might actually be inside?” Daphne looked up at him and asked the question the others hadn’t been brave enough to broach yet,

“I don’t know Greengrass, we have to actually find the chamber before we consider what’s inside it.” He huffed, not wanting to admit he didn’t really know exactly.

“The beast.” Crabbe gulped thinking about it, “I think it’s like a big snake, Salazar loved those for some bloody reason. There’s about a hundred in the common room.” his voice quivered thinking of the many tapestry’s and decorations of their house.

“Thought about that, but snakes don’t petrify people. Serpents maybe but...” Theo watched as Draco peered around the corner to check the Baron was not lingering before proceeding. “it can’t be that big or somebody would have spotted it, I mean this thing is moving around the castle at night, it has to be discrete”

“Unless its invisible.. or it’s in the walls” Gregory Goyle had been listening to too many of Miles’ and Draco’s wild conspiracies.

The probe throbbed evenly as Theo continued to hold it up to suits of armour or paving’s.

“This whole thing is ridiculous.” Draco ran his hand through his hair, pulling up the usually gelled down strands. “who sends two kids to find a chamber thats been hidden for like seventy years to resurrect the dark lord?”

The silence was palpable. They all knew that was The Society’s intentions. After all, Voldemort had been placed as the Head of the Society before the First war, and it had stayed that way. He decided what they did, and he wanted to live again.

“If this is…. You-know-who, my father said that he was insane, that he was blood mongering and hell bent on purging the wizarding world. He took the society’s code too far.” Millicent toyed with the sleeve of her Holyhead Harpies pyjama’s.

“He’s weak, they’re trying to bring him back to his form, like before the end of the war.” Draco didn’t bother looking back at Millie, “We’ll be fine.”

“And are we…” Theo watched as Daphne tried to find her courage again, “Are we all really?”

“trying to help bring him back?” Theo finished her question, “Well we don’t have a choice. We have to do as the society says. What the Dark Lord says.”

“Just checking.” Daphne struggled to reason, her eyes cast on the tiles. She’d known the answer for some time before this.

“Our parents and grandparents made unbreakable vows to carry out his orders - Mr Malfoy, Mr Goyle, Millicent’s grandfather and uncles. They all have to enact what he wants or else.”

The air was stagnant. Millie looked as if she wanted to cry.

“My father regrets it now.” Draco’s voice was small, “but before the war, he was a different person. He wouldn’t do it now, he’d have steered clear like your father Daph.”

“My father only avoided it because he went into hiding but my uncles…” Millie was teary eyed now, “I don’t want it to be him. He can’t come back.” She muffled a cry.

The week before Theo and Daphne had been left alone in the library, Draco had been providing a good middle ground until he was called away for Quidditch practice. The pair sat in an awkward silence which Daphne tried to fill, apparently Pansy and Millicent were helping Poppy Coffe make a singing card for Tracey down in the hospital. Eventually the air went still and the sound of flicking pages and dipped quills was all that filled the space between them.

“My parents say.” Daphne started hesitantly, “that if The Dark Lord was to come back, back to his form. That it would be the end of life as we know it. That we’d have a second war.”

Theo had thought about this too, although not discussed it aloud.

“You know the others know it too but I just don’t want to scare them.” She referred to the rest of the group, “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to do what I’ve been instructed to do Greengrass. Let the whole world go to war if they wish, but I’m not standing up to the darkest most dangerous wizard in living memory. I’m thirteen.” He surveyed her face, looking for the disappointment he expected. She’d probably hoped he’d have the courage to defy the orders, but he couldn’t even defy his own father to his face. He wanted to be brave for her, but wishing something didn’t make it so.

“We’ll all be with you.” She whispered, still hunched over a book on exotic beasts they had been researching. “I’ve been practicing my wand work.” She gave a little reassuring smile before the silence swallowed their conversation once more.

Chapter Text

Ron met them by the great hall, called away after hours from his common room by his glowing bracelet. A signal that it was time to enact Daphne and Theo's plan. Beside him was Harry, who pensively bit his lip and fiddled with his wand. He looked resolved at what they had to do, so grown up for a twelve year old boy.

“He’s been hearing the voices for months but until you suggested it we never thought it could be a calling.”

Daphne threaded her arm through Ron’s, he was still upset about Hermione’s disappearance. It had been almost a day and yet nobody seemed to have any answers. Dumbledore was nowhere to be seen. He and Harry were desperate for any resolution, even if that meant unknowingly helping out their mortal enemies. Draco was keeping his distance from the boys, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle who were very unhappy with Potter’s presence. The two boys grunted at each other, noting their mutual distain for both the boys who had now joined them, they were still seething from when Harry and Ron had spiked their pumpkin juice with giggle water at the end of last term. It had been a form of revenge for their treatment of McLaggen and Seamus.

“Why do you actually want to find the chamber?” Ron asked Daphne as they walked, “You were so vague.”

“We need to amend the Slytherin name for one, and you know what Dumbledore said about closing the school.”

“Yes but…”

“It’s getting stronger.” Harry noted as they moved along the second floor.

Theo looked the most concerned. He watched Harry intently, studying his every move. The pair engaged in some small talk surrounding what they believed to be in the chamber, both suspicious of the other, both trying to work out what they were thinking. But knew he Theo needed him to complete his task. She hadn’t explained her real plan to anyone though, but she too knew she needed Harry Potter in that chamber for any of it to work.

“I’m scared.” Millie whispered as they followed Harry towards the girls bathroom, “I don’t know if I want to go.”

“You can keep watch.” Daphne suggested, “You don’t have to go, in fact we’ll probably need you here in case anything happens.” Blaise shot her a frightened look at what she could be alluding too “if anything happens that is. But it won’t.”

“Very motivational Daph.” Pansy was holding her nerve as everyone else’s was fast fading, “But she’s right, we don’t need dead weight. That goes for you two idiots too” she swatted at Crabbe and Goyle, both too scared to argue back.

***

Daphne had told her parents about Draco and Theo’s task the moment she arrived back in Greengrass Manor. It had proved not only a great distraction from the wrath she would face for failing to return the families chest until then, but also a point in which she needed advice on. They would know what to do. When she told them over dinner their faces stiffened and they exchanged a coded glance. Even Astoria had grasped the severity of the situation and slowed her chewing, she sensed her and her sisters plans to spend the holidays looking for fairies in the garden was at risk.

“We have to tell you some things, things that we hoped to spare you from.” Aquila Greengrass delicately placed her fork down and turned towards her daughters.

“You know how we say to keep those important close but remember who you value the most?” her father recited the creed he often taught them “Just before the war, the Dark Lord was the most influential and important figure in the wizarding world. When he was in school he charmed his way into the good graces of many important families. He embellished his pureblood Gaunt lineage, and was the best student in the year by miles, the propensity for magic that he held was unrivalled by even that of Dumbledore at his age.”

“That’s how he became bound to Orion and Cygnus Black, the three were inseparable at school.” her mother added,

“Cygnus Black as in Draco’s grandfather? How do you know this?” Daphne was trying to process all the information,

“My own mother went to school with them. She joined the Dark Lord almost immediately after she left Hogwarts, he promised her everything. She didn’t want to get married, instead she wanted to work as an Auror, but the Ministry and her parents wouldn’t let her. So he persuaded her, he promised her the world and more and eventually he convinced everyone else too. His power with words rivals that of his magic. He’s a dangerous man. That’s how he convinced Orion to sign over his position as Head of The Pureblood Society to him.”

“Thankfully your grandmother swore her allegiance before any true oaths were made, but those who followed, those later in the war when he was growing desperate and fanatic, he made them take unbreakable vows and sealed their fate with dark marks.” Her father instinctively covered his arm despite never bearing the mark, “But us Greengrasses remembered that we value only ourselves most. We went into hiding, I left my junior post at the Ministry and we fled to an unplottable chateau in France.”

“You and grandpa and grandma, everyone fled?” Astoria’s voice bubbled with trepidation. Her father was not one to cower, and the idea that he had impressed upon them both how dangerous Voldemort had been. Would be. Astoria put down her fork gingerly.

“So what do I do? Draco and Theodore, I know they’re going to find the chamber, they’re going to help or else their families… what do I do?” Daphne’s voice was getting faster and faster, the anxiety that pulsed through her body made it hard to think. “I said I’d help too, I didn’t realise.”

“You mustn’t.” her father voice was stern and frightening “We cannot allow the Dark Lord to return, we did all we could to please him and keep our distance all those years ago but it was costly, near impossible.” her father had become the most serious she'd ever seen him.

“How can she stop this George? She’s twelve.” Her mother swooped in to defend her panic stricken child, laying a protective hand on her shoulder “She cannot defy the Dark Lord. If those boys go down into the chamber and he is restored to his body, and he knows we tried to stop them - We wouldn’t stand a chance.”

The debate had raged on all holidays. While Daphne and Astoria had sought refuge in the Weasley household most afternoons for tea and board games, they would return to solemn reflection and deep contemplation. Her parents were trying to help her, trying to save all of their skins. A guilt arose deeply inside Daphne that she had promised to help her friends so flippantly, and that she would have to rescind that offer. She didn’t want to disappoint them all, or lose them. Draco and Theodore needed help, their lives were at stake. And selfishly Daphne loved her snobby little group; she loved the way she, Pansy and Millie could saunter in and out of the boys jokes and games, she liked that she and Draco now occasionally exchanged letters (something that started after their families homes were raided) and she liked how it all just worked. She got the best of everything; connections to wealth that pleased her family and friendship that warmed her heart. She didn't want to let them all down. But family came first.

It was the night before she had to board the Hogwarts express again when her parents called her into the Yellow Parlour. Sidd handed her some hot chocolate before taking his leave, she sipped it slowly as her parents spoke;

“We have a solution. One that suits both your friends and our family.” Her father seemed optimistic about the genius of their proposal,

“You will go to the chamber with the boys, show the dark lord that we are faithful. But you must make sure Harry defeats him.”

Oh that’ll be easy. What the hell are they thinking? They must have gone mad staying cooped up here plotting the whole fortnight.

"So you're saying you want me to go inside the chamber of secrets?" Daphne took a long sip of her drink. Sidd made excellent hot chocolate.

"Yes." Her father gave a blunt nod, "But wear your society pin so he knows you are to trusted. And leave as soon as he's seen you."

***

Harry took them inside the girls bathroom much to Draco’s protest. To Daphne’s surprise Moaning Myrtle was nowhere in sight, Daphne often avoided this bathroom just to escape the ghosts whinny high pitched voice. Pansy had very frequently thrown wads of wet tissue through Myrtle and so she too was glad the girl was gone. Harry stood over the taps and soon the sinks which occupied the middle of the room began to rotate. Draco instinctively pulled her and Pansy away, whilst Daphne reached out to do the same for Ron.

This is it.” Theo gawked at the large cavity down into the ground that now lay before them, his arms crossed at his chest “All we had to do was use a tap in one of the girls bathrooms.” He and Draco exchanged an angered but defeated look. All those nights of searching for Harry to find it in under an hour. Daphne was sure it irked Theo deeply to be bested by Potter, maybe now he'd understand how she felt about Hermione in class.

“Weasel take your shoe off” Pansy instructed, holding out her manicured hand expectantly.

“What? I’m not taking my shoe off, you take your shoe off!”

“The lady asked for your shoe Weasley, its only polite to oblige.” Theo flicked his wand and undid Ron’s laces.

“It’s like these Gryffindor’s have never been to etiquette school.” Blaise acted shocked as Ron untied his shoe and handed it to Pansy, who promptly threw the worn down shoe into the large hole in the ground which had now been formed. Ron’s mouth dropped open but as he went to protest Daphne covered it, they listened for when it hit the ground. It wasn't too long of a fall.

“We’ll go first.” Harry resolved after hearing the thud, “c’mon Ron.”

“First?” Ron was reluctantly pulled over by Harry’s side,

“Well you’ve got to get your shoe back.” Harry yelled as he jumped down the black hole, Ron following soon after.

Millie hugged Daphne goodbye, crushing her in the embrace. As Daphne prepared to jump Millie pulled off her colourful beaded necklace, "Here take this, it'll be good luck." Millie put it around her neck.

Daphne became the last to join them down at the bottom, they had all landed on a pile of rodent bones and wet moss. Daphne winced at the foul smell and surroundings as Pansy helped her to her feet, her usual sleek bob now slightly ruffled. The pair held hands as they walked forward into one of the pipes and towards a rocky cave like passage. Daphne could feel Pansy’s heartbeat through her hand, both gripped their wands tightly in the other. As they walked Daphne examined the group; Harry and Ron were ahead following the voices while Theo, Draco and Blaise kept their eyes on them – each trying to figure out what the other knew that they didn’t. Were they all walking into this blind? The absurdity of it all hit her, what were seven tweens doing walking towards the chamber of secrets with nothing but their wands and house jumpers?

Harry stood by what had to be the door; a huge iron vault embedded in the wall. Along it were dozens of iron snakes. At a tug it would not open.

“Wait.” She demanded. The others turned to face her, before slowly walking back to regroup “we need a plan.”

“Good idea.” Ron nodded as they formed a kind of broken circle,

“Any ideas?” Blaise looked around un-expectantly,

“I can open the door with Parseltongue, I know it.” Harry eyed the vault “I can feel it, you know?”

“I think she means when we’re inside.” Theo had his wand out as well, ready to face something fearsome. “We need to stick together.”

“Agreed.” Draco eyed up Harry and Ron, “Otherwise bucktooth doesn’t stand a chance.”

“Agreed, Malfoy.” Harry sneered,

“We do need to divide into two groups though.” Daphne explained, “just in case, so that if the ones at the front are ambushed the others behind can help, I read about this battle strategy…”

“Battle strategy?” Pansy let the reality sink in,

“You, Ron and Blaise stand here.” She pointed away from the vault door, to which the three of them followed obediently,

“You and I go together…” Pansy started, walking back towards her

“I’m sorry.” Daphne looked Pansy directly in the eyes and pushed her back before lifting her wand to the rocky ceiling and casting an explosive charm.

The charm brought down a wall of rocks between the two groups, sealing the others off from the entrance.

“Blaise are you ok?” Theo shoved Daphne aside and tried to pull down the rock barrier,

“We’re ok, a little dusty thanks to Miss Rockslide over there.” Blaise called back through a cough,

“What the bloody hell was that Daph?!” Ron yelled

“I’m sorry.” Daphne cried back, “I couldn’t live with myself if you guys were hurt.”

Theo stared at her, green eyes ablaze with thought and consideration, “So you don’t give a shit about us three then huh?” he cracked a cheeky grin “Thanks Greengrass, your kind words will live in my heart forever.” He held his chest in exaggeration.

“Go on Potter, open the door.” Draco instructed, “Weasel can get to work pulling down this barrier when were gone.”

For once Harry didn’t argue, he whispered in a language foreign and unsettling to Daphne’s ears until the iron snakes gave way and the vault creaked open.

Daphne dreaded it, every fibre of her being told her to leave. Every molecule in her body was on overdrive and every hair up on end. She faltered as Harry walked through the newly opened passage. She recognised the same look of terror in Draco's eyes.

“You coming Greengrass?” Theo looked back as he followed Harry,

“Yep.” Daphne voice was weak, she gripped her wand so tightly that her knuckles were white,

“ladies first.” Draco signalled for her to go before him,

Here I go. One foot in front of the other, ready to meet the most deadly wizard of all time.

Chapter Text

Hermione lay utterly still on the on the cold stone floor of the chamber. Large pillars held up a domed ceiling, and curling its way around the dome was a large beast like snake. At the front of the chamber was a carving in the likeness of Salazar Slytherin. The room was large, long and chilling to the bone, Theo watched as his breathe turned to smoke as it left his lips.

Harry threw himself down beside Hermione who in her hand held a sleek black diary. She lay sprawled, hair more wild than normal and face sunken in on itself. Even Daphne instinctively rushed to try and aid her as he and Draco kept their wits about them. They knew who might be here. This was the culmination of all their years stress and work.

“That’s my fathers.” Draco whispered to him, looking over at the diary “we picked it up from Borgin and Burke’s at the beginning of the school year…”

“Are you sure.” He asked, “It looks like a normal diary.”

“I’m sure, my father said it was important but I just didn’t understand, I thought he might have told me..”

“Well done boys.”

An older boy appeared from behind one of the great stone pillars. He sauntered towards them in a Slytherin uniform, a head boy badge catching what light there was. He was handsome; the kind of boy that would have given Adrian Pucey a run for his money and win Emmeline Avery’s approval for a date at Madam Puddifoot’s. But there was something sinister about him almost instantly. The way his smile curdled at the side of his face, the way he so casually stood over Hermione’s dying body.

“I didn’t think you’d be able to do it. I’ve waited so long you see, and to put such faith in such young and foolish boys – let’s just say I had made other arrangements in case this didn’t work out. It seems Lucius was trustworthy.”

“Who are you?” Harry demanded, “My friend Hermione, we have to get her back to the hospital wing.”

“You should know me dear boy. I’m Tom Riddle.”

Theo watched as Riddle bowed his head. He held himself as if the world was curated just for his likening.

“I’m the boy whose diary you so dutifully kept until your friend here stole it. A curious thing she is. A mudblood.” he spat the word out like the slur it was, but it never sounded more foul coming than when from his mouth.

“My Lord.” Draco nodded a polite greeting, “We’ve done what you asked… our families.” he stammered.

“Will be spared.” Riddle didn’t look away from Harry when he answered, he looked at the boy like a lion poised above a gazelle.

Daphne hadn’t been able to draw her stare from Tom, Theo could see the cogs turning behind her eyes as she too placed a face to the name they had often heard. He noticed for the first time the shiny pureblood society pin on her jumper. His stomach lurched for a moment, Did she really want the Dark Lord to be returned to power? She couldn't..

“But you Harry Potter, you’re the one I have been looking forward to seeing. You see your friend here is about to die, and then I shall be reborn thanks to that little diary you kept safe.” He began to monologue to Harry about the dairy, about how he left a piece of himself behind.

Draco stiffened beside him. Both of their eyes locked on Hermione’s paling face, they were watching her slip away. If he was braver, he might have done something. He could feel that Draco was thinking the same, he had shifted his weight onto his front foot as if he was going to take up by her side, but he stayed still. They watched as Daphne took hold of Hermione’s arm and shook it, willing a response. But she lay paralysed.

“Don’t be stupid girl, she’s moments away from meeting her maker.” Tom cackled, “Get up Potter, get up so I can kill you. I, Lord Voldemort.”

Hearing Riddle speak, being in the presence of the Dark Lord, it made him cower. There was something about his aura so frighteningly intense, both charming and dangerous. Finding anything within him Theo mustered up a little bit of courage to reach for Daphne, he locked onto her upper arm and pulled her off the ground and away from Harry. She let him, eyes trained still on Voldemort. Harry looked at them for help but as he did Riddle began to mutter in Parseltongue and Salazar’s statue opened it gigantic stone mouth. It was the monster Theo held his wand up in front of him like the others,

“I Lord Voldemort have returned Harry, returned to purge this world of its weaknesses, its vices. You boy, you are brave – but you will die.” Tom Riddle’s maniacal voice echoed around the room as a basilisk burst forth from the stone wall and down into the pool of water before the statue.

“A basilisk.” Theo kicked himself for not thinking of it before letting his fear regain control over his body,

It was horrifying. The creature was bigger than anything Theo had seen, its body rattling the whole chamber as it moved on the wet floors. Its fangs were the size of daggers and its stench reminded him of something mouldy.

“Don’t look, it’ll blind you!” Daphne screamed, she grabbed Theo and Draco’s heads to force them down at the ground. Theo held onto his glasses so they didn’t fall and shatter as they moved.

Harry must have heard Daphne’s cry as Riddle began to jeer him for crawling away. Theo secured his glasses before reaching out to find both Draco and Daphne, he gripped onto them as they tried to blindly walk away. What about Harry? How would Harry escape? He could tell it was Daphne who thought the same and stopped, her flowery scent became weaker, his grip on her soft Slytherin jumper struggling to pull her away anymore.

“Your Parseltongue wont help you foolish boy, it obeys me only, and I have asked it only of one thing. To kill Harry Potter!” as he shouted Theo could hear the basilisk lunge after Harry. He wondered why he didn’t hear the sound of defensive spells, Where was Harry’s wand?

“Harry?” Daphne called out, “where are you?”

“Shhhhh!” Theo urged her, eyes still covered with his now free hand. Was she trying to actually defy the Dark Lord?

The basilisk must have instinctively turned to look at Daphne when she called out. As its body twisted the ground moved with it.

“Diffindo!” Daphne shouted, Theo shuddered at hearing the spell and listening to the great cry which rang out. The basilisk must have been injured. He knew that pain.

“You traitor.” Tom Riddle’s voice seethed, and he heard Daphne yelp as she fell back and smacked into the floor.

Another cry echoed through the chamber,

Theo removed his glasses temporarily to let his vision go fuzzy in an attempt to not make eye contact with the creature but still look around the room; he saw Daphne laid on the stone, her head was slightly bloodied from where something must have forced her down.

“What the hell is that.” Draco had caught sight of a bold red bird above them in the reflection of a puddle. It talons were bloodied, and in its mouth was a mangy old hat which it let fall to the floor. “is that…”

“The great Dumbledore sends only a hat and a bird to blind my creature?” Riddle laughed, turning to his blinded basilisk which withered in pain on the stone “finish the job. My basilisk can kill even without its vision.” He demanded.

The basilisk reared its enormous green scaled body. It darted over towards them, now blind it could not tell whom its master wanted dead. Theo stumbled back as Draco cast a smokescreen spell that gave them time to duck behind a pillar and confuse the creatures senses. He did not see where Daphne went, although peered around in pursuit of her. As he did, he watched Harry attempting to hide as well. The knobby kneed boy clambered up the statue of Salazar Slytherin, attempting to conceal himself behind Slytherin’s elaborate stone robes.

“I can’t move.” Draco’s voice was frail, he had his back pressed to the column and eyes wired shut in fear of being seen by the basilisk despite it now being blinded. “I can’t do this.”

Theo scuttled over to Draco and gripped his shoulders; “It’s ok, we’re gonna run back to the door and the others will have cleared the rubble. Ok? You can open your eyes.”

Theo hurled Draco to his feet and the pair ran back towards the door. Now out from behind the columns he could see Tom Riddle hunched back over Hermione’s body, her sallow skin in contrast to the dark damp stone. Shit. Was he going to leave her there to die? Where was Daphne? Where was the basilisk? As he looked around Harry ran out from one of the large exposed pipes, he tumbled down towards Hermione and the old hat, trying to drag her away after them. Theo stumbled forward to help, but the serpents grotesque body flew out of the pipe shortly after Harry - its senses must have been keen, it had heard him splash through some of the water as he went. The basilisk lifted up its head and recoiled ready to strike, as it did Daphne cast a spell which careered into the side of the serpents head, knocking its strike off course. The monsters body thundered into the ground. In the seconds of confusion Harry dug into the mangy hat that lay beside him, pulling from it a long thin silver blade. A sword.

Draco was beside the chamber door, ready to leave. He called for Theo and Daphne to follow, urging them to safety. But Theo watched as Harry clambered to his feet and attempted to plunge the sword into the creatures scales, it made a clanging sound as it was repelled – the scales too thick to penetrate. Daphne was creeping over slightly, trying to go unnoticed by Riddle as she moved away and back toward the centre of the room. She reached out for Theo blindly as she kept her eyes forward on Harry and the beast. The pair soon gripped onto one another in solace and terror watching as the basilisk reared again for a fatal blow. It bore down on Harry, lunging with speed, its mouth agape to swallow him whole. Daphne buried her head inside Theo’s chest, she couldn’t watch. I should do something. I should do something. Something like Daphne did. he willed himself to no avail. Harry’s arm reached up into the basilisks fanged mouth, his hand gripping the small sword. The screech of pain he had heard before boomed though the chamber, Tom Riddle stumbled back aghast. Theo felt his body instinctually shudder at the sound of pain. The top of the silver sword protruded from the basilisks head, it had been skewered from the inside. The creature flung about wildly in pain, throwing Harry to the side it yelped and called. Harry’s head collided with the floor and he lay as still as Hermione. But the basilisk fell, never to rise again.

Riddle’s face resumed its cold stare, he discarded the giant green scaled creature and hovered back over Hermione. Theo could tell that he was willing her to die faster, he was growing stronger despite Hermione’s soul putting up a fight to survive. Daphne turned away from Theo’s chest and saw Harry laid on the floor, she quickly ran to check on him. Daphne rolled him on his back and he gurgled in stifled pain as the gash on his right arm bled out. She sharply pulled a large thick fang from Harry’s arm, allowing black liquid to pour from it alongside the boys blood. She began to press down upon it as harry gripped the discarded fang in half triumph and defeat.

“Basilisk venom is fatal.” A menacing smile grew across Riddle’s face, he watched as Harry struggled to sit up – reaching out again towards Hermione with fang in hand. “Thanks to my diary and your mudblood friend, I will be restored in seconds. And you Harry Potter, will die.”

Theo watched as this news struck Harry unfazed, instead he continued to crawl away from Daphne towards Hermione. Daphne shuffled near him, insisting that he bandage his arm but weary of not disobeying Riddle. Tom Riddle looked more youthful and vibrant than he had when they first entered, his cheeks were less gaunt and his hair fuller on his head. The magic he had called upon, some sacrificial magic it seemed, was working.

“The dairy. You preserved yourself inside the dairy for your return?” Theo asked, head bowed to try and show Riddle he was obedient as harry continued his shuffle “My father spoke of your talents…” he covered his question with a compliment,

“Yes boy, and the time is now.” Riddle leant into his eccentricity, he balled his hands as if mustering up his newly gained youth.

Whereas Harry was fading, he looked more and more like Hermione as the seconds past. Theo eyed the weakening boy who stared back momentarily, with one look he signalled at the dairy which lay beside Hermione. He watched as Harry realised what Theo had hinted at. With the little strength Harry had left he drove the fang down into the dairy Draco’s father had collected from Borgin and Burkes. Riddle stumbled as if he had been struck by a curse. He didn’t shriek like the basilisk, he just stood stone faced.

He’s killed him. Harry’s killed him. A flood of relief and euphoria washed over Theo as he saw Riddle begin to wither and fade. The Dark Lord fell to his knees, staring Harry in the face as he drove the fang down into the diary again. He broke into pieces, fragments of his image vanished until only half his face and hand remained. With what body he had left, he turned to glare at Theo. Did he see me signal to Harry? Does he know I don’t want him back? Is he going to kill me? Theo panicked and moved away. But then Riddle vanished into the bitterly chilled air as if he had never been in the first place.

***

Silence reigned across the chamber until the phoenix signalled its return with a screech.

“The phoenix tears, they’ll heal you.” Daphne watched as the bright red and gold bird had swooped down to land beside Harry and inched closer towards the boys open wound. She took Harrys arm and held it out for the bird to cry into. Harry shook his arm as the wound began to seal over.

Hermione too began to look like herself again, colour filled her cheeks as Theo helped her to her feet. She was still weak as she hobbled towards Harry trying to understand what had happened. She tried to explain that she'd been curious about the book, and trying to deduce how its magic worked when it had consumed her. Riddle had possessed her entirely.

“I told you it was a snake.” Draco called over from where he stood beside the fallen basilisk, he seemed to examine the creature with great curiosity, running his hand precariously along its scales.

“Not the time for making a point mate.” Theo shook his head and held out a hand to Harry, who ignored it and stood on his own. He wobbled on his feet.

When Theo looked over at Daphne she was already looking at him, a smile consumed her face. Her head was still slightly bloodied and it tangled with her hair, her clothes were muddy from the dirt of the stones and she had punctured a hole in her jumper’s sleeve. But she was smiling. And so he let himself smile too. He probably looked just as dishevelled.

“We did it.” She sighed,

“Harry did it.” Hermione corrected as she broke her hug from Harry, "You were brilliant."

“It wasn’t just me.” Harry looked at the floor as the pair began to walk away, “and I think I got pretty lucky with this.” He picked up the shiny silver sword.

“the sword of Gryffindor.” Hermione informed them just before it vanished, “it goes to those who need help, who are worthy of help.”

“Dumbledore sent it.” Harry said so assured of this conclusion,

“What I don’t understand,” Theo cut the two off mid conversation “is why if Dumbledore knew we were down here, he didn’t come and help?”

“He mustn’t have been able to. He was called away by the Ministry after the attacks.” Harry defended their headmaster.

“Theo's got a point.” Draco walked back towards them, “that old man’s lost merit in my books.”

“What a scathing insult, to loose merit in Draco Malfoy's books, well, I’d rather not go on living.” Daphne replied sarcastically, walking back with him towards the exit. It seemed to diffuse the tension of what had just occurred.

“You’ll have to find a way to thank us Granger.” Draco continued as the group shuffled away.

“Over my dead body.” Hermione muttered,

“It almost was.” Theo reminded her.

***

When Tracey Davis was dismissed from her hospital bed all of Slytherin house formed a guard of honour outside the common room. Pansy stood in line but left her hands down beside her as Snape lead Tracey back into the common room for the first time since the Quidditch celebrations. Poppy Coffe had cried and Millie too dabbed back tears as Tracey was able to begin packing up her bags to go back to her family for the first time in many months.

“Welcome back.” Daphne hugged her briefly, the two’s estranged history clear despite being roommates.

“Thanks for the card.” Tracey spoke in a half sweet half snarky tone, “Use my record player much?”

“No.” Daphne lied, “Didn’t feel right.”

“Sure.” Tracey smiled and closed the lid of her open record player, “So what happened when I was... out?”

“Not much.” Pansy cracked a smile,

“Everyone’s obsessed with you now.” Millie helped Tracey gather up all the plants the girls had accumulated in the dorm, a dozen of them were flowers that had been gifts for the infirm Tracey. “Emmeline and Poppy wrote to your family and Charlotte Montague bought you a box of ice mice when you first arrived at the hospital wing but then after the first week Blaise decided we better eat them before they went bad. But even our head girl visited you almost every fortnight and a couple others organised a roster for people to pet your owl so she didn’t get lonely.”

“Wow. All that for a mudblood.” Tracey pulled down a fake floral garland she had hung up over her bed frame,

“Wonders never cease.” Pansy muttered under her breathe. She had never been keen on all the attention Tracey had garnered.

Daphne started to prepare Ellery’s cage for the trip home, Ellery despised being trapped away against her will - despite actually being fond of small spaces. To make it more bearable Daphne had neatly folded Ellery’s blanket and added one of her hanging toys for her to claw at. Millie shouldered Daphne as she did so, urging her to keep the promise she had made to her last term to try and be nice. After seeing how close Hermione had come to death, a twang of guilt had arisen in Daphne. Guilt that Hermione had been so easily disposable just for being a mudblood. All people were disposable to Voldemort, but he had made it more than clear that her life was very little to him based on her blood alone. She still believed pureblood's had the greater propensity for magic, and that they were more socially astute and valuable. But that didn’t mean Hermione and Tracey were worthless, no matter how annoying each of them were.

“It’s good to have you back Tracey.” Daphne stopped at the door and “I hope we can start again, I apologise for calling you those names and being unfriendly. I hope you forgive me?”

Tracey blinked at Millie, knowing that she must have had something to do with it.

“Ok.” Tracey accepted slowly, still suspicious.

“Would you like to sit with us at the feast tonight?”

Pansy whipped around disgruntled at Daphne making such an offer. The pair were already in a little tiff about Daphne stopping her from entering in the chamber.

“I’ll be sitting with Emmeline and Poppy and Charlotte.” Tracey grinned “but thank you.”

Daphne nodded and rubbed Ellery’s tufts of deep orange hair, she purred like a cat.

“Now we’re all going to have so much fun next year!” Millie clapped loudly, frightening Ellery as she bounced back over to her side of the room.

***

Piles of food weighed down the four long oak house tables inside the Great Hall. The ceiling’s midnight sky shone brilliantly, and Theo found a new appreciation for the beauty of the magic of which it was made. Crabbe and Goyle's eyes were wide with longing to eat everything within arm’s reach, they struggled to wait for Dumbledore to stop speaking before tucking in. Using their bare hands they both ripped into a chicken drumstick and hippogriff pie simultaneously.

“Disgusting.” Blaise scrunched up his nose, “It’s like we’re surrounded by savages.”

Theo watched as Harry and Hermione sat back beside Ron, the trio laughing and celebrating another Gryffindor house win. How biased could Dumbledore be? He watched as Marcus Flint took in his last moments at Hogwarts, surrounded by Adrian Pucey and Miles Bletchley and the rest of the team. He watched as Blaise and Draco used their spoons to launch peas into the punch bowl down the table, and Pansy had her head rested on Daphne’s shoulder as she told her and Millie of how her brother was due to visit soon. Pansy was convinced that he would get her a pet dragon in future. Millie gulped down some buttered potatoes while trying to hold back laughter at Pansy who had insisted that she ‘simply wouldn’t let’ the dragon attack her when Daphne pointed the obvious flaw in her plan. Theo guessed all had been forgiven between them, the pair never stayed mad at each other for too long.

“Where are you spending the holidays?” Theo asked Blaise “Amalfi coast again, or has your step father purchased that manor in Bulgaria yet?”

“It’s looking like Bulgaria I’m afraid.” Blaise shook his head,

“You can come stay with me for a week if you get bored.” Draco offered, readjusting his shirt. “You too Theodore.”

Theo wanted to jump at the offer. Anywhere but the prospect of home was a delight. Maybe now he had achieved his task his father would let him.

“We all have to catch up and out our class applications for next year anyway. Their due in August.” Daphne pointed out, “Maybe we can meet at Florian’s in Diagon Alley? I’ll have to go shopping for all Astoria’s school supplies then anyway.”

“Sounds good.” Draco nodded on behalf of himself and his two food crazed goons; Crabbe and Goyle.

“You have to make sure Astoria gets an appropriate companion pet, knowing her she’ll want a toad or something absurd.” Pansy stole a carrot from Daphne’s plate.

“Hey! I have a toad.” Goyle sulked between a mouthful of pastry,

“Exactly.” Daphne backed her up with a giggle, the others joining her in laughter.

“To another year of madness.” Blaise stood up confidently, lifting his glass “Fights and fun, literal death threats, petrification and prolific school gossip...” he climbed up on his chair beside Theo,

“Get down!” Pansy hissed as Blaise purposely drew attention to himself.

“To us so called snakes!” he shouted loud enough for everyone to hear “Should we always be wealthy, good looking and better than everyone else!” He slyly tipped his cup over at the Gryffindor table,

The rest of the house cheered wildly, clapping his ridiculous speech even in the face of coming third in the house cup that year (their only reconciliation being their victory in the Quidditch tournament). But Theo knew who he was really speaking too, Blaise had kept his eyes only on his friends. As he hopped down he clattered his glass into Theo’s, all of them took a ceremonious sip of pumpkin juice.

“I’ll tell you what the biggest victory was.” Blaise whispered to him as the others resumed their raucous laughter and joking,

“What?” Theo watched as Millie and Daphne were now fighting back, launching peas at Draco with a fury. He had tried to go it alone without Blaise and was now being ambushed with vegetables.

“I saw the way you two walked out of that dreaded chamber.” Blaise recalled how Theo and Daphne had been talking to each other earnestly of what they had endured, walking side by side the whole way back to the dorms.

“Don’t worry, I still annoy the hell out of her.” Theo sighed, that very morning he and Draco had bumped into her while throwing around a quaffle; it had knocked all the books from her hands and shattered her ink pot on the floor. She cursed them out for fifteen minutes.

“Maybe. But at least now she likes you.” Blaise always acted like he knew everything, but this time Theo was inclined to believe him. If only because he wanted it to be true.

Maybe this year hadn't been so bad. Theo grabbed a spoonful of mash and lobbed it at Crabbe, joining in the fight. And the best thing was? He'd get to do it all again in a couple of months.

Chapter Text

Greengrass Manor hosted a plethora of social events throughout the year. While Daphne was away at school her mother would put on luncheons by the lake, needlework parties in the Orangery or grand dinners for Ministry officials in the dining room. Members of The Pureblood Society were almost always the main attendees, but others like; Minister Cornelius Fudge, Ludo Bagman, Griselda Marchbanks and other Wizengamot members, The Diggory’s or the new Head of Law Enforcement Amelia Bone’s and her wife Beatrice would all attend gladly. Daphne’s parents were beloved among socialites and professionals alike.

She found herself fiddling with the high ruffled collar of her long black dress during one of her mother’s long music nights, watching as the adults around her made small talk. Her mother had commissioned a performance by the famous Portuguese opera singer; Antônia de Queirós. She used her voice as a form of magic, making objects rise with her high octave range and then enchanting them to dance as she moved her way through the song. It had been an impressive sight to watch the soprano stand large and proud at the front of the ballroom dressed in a flaming orange robes surrounded by dancing puppets. Her and Astoria had to block their ears when she reached her crescendo. Astoria too had been dressed up in custom robes, the sisters stood side by side examining the party;

“Why does he always wear the most horrendous clothes.” Daphne nodded over at the plump rosy skinned Ludo Bagman who wore bright yellow robes, “and why does dad always invite him?”

“It’s the Quidditch world cup next year, I suppose he’s buttering him up for better seats.” Astoria giggled, “heard him and Mr Crouch talking about it when I got some more punch from Queenie.”

“Oh.” Daphne nodded, “Since when did you get so crafty?”

“Since I’ve been stuck here two years while you’ve been away at Hogwarts with nothing to do but hang out with Jenny and Luna. I never have much to tell you in all my letters. Well besides pandering to your every question surrounding my health.” she groaned,

“True, but I don’t actually read them anyway, they make good litter for Ellery.”

“that’s not funny.” Astoria slapped her arm, spilling a bit of punch from her glass.

“Girls.” Their father walked over, brushing down his sleek black suit robes as he kissed them each on the cheek, “You better be on your best behaviour for your mother, you know how she gets when you two start playing up. Did you like Miss de Queirós? Thought she was a bit scream-y myself”

Daphne and Astoria laughed, their father always made them laugh with his cut throat honesty when it came to other people.

“Orange was definitely a bold choice or robe.” Daphne jibed, looking over at the singer who was now surrounded by cooing witches and wizards.

“Dad, can we go now?” Astoria asked, “Mum didn’t invite any of our friends.”

“She invited the Blustrodes, and the Parkinsons?” Their father looked around the room at the collective of adults, it had been a rather private and elusive invite for Ministry members only.

“But not Millie or Pansy.” Daphne sighed, she had already begged her mother to no avail. “The only reason we’re even here was to make a polite appearance, watch the show and leave.”

“Well let me introduce you to somebody first and then you can go get some dessert from Queenie huh?” their father clapped his hands on each of their shoulders and began steering them through the crowd.

George Greengrass was a popular man. As they walked through the parlour people parted ways and dipped their heads in respectful hello’s. He was Head of the Department of Mysteries, one which Fudge had no control over, but more than that he was a prime socialite. His contacts list consumed three books and his face regularly appeared somewhere in the pages of The Daily Prophet. What aided this popularity was his wife, she too was the topic of many magazine and newspaper articles for her charity work, fashion choices and private life. The culmination of their marriage was one very powerful and influential couple, and two beloved daughters.

“Fudge!” her father re-joined the group of officials with Daphne and Astoria in tow, “I want you to meet my daughters, I’ve talked so much of them that I guessed you want to put two beautiful faces to the names. This is my eldest, Daphne and my youngest Astoria.”

Cornelius Fudge had been Minister for Magic for years. He was a portly man with wiry grey hair and tiny glasses that perched on his round nose. He didn’t look like a powerful man to Daphne, but she supposed it was his intellect that got him the job and not his appearance. Fudge and her father engaged in a push and pull type relationship; it angered Fudge that he had no control over George’s Department but he also needed his support and collaboration. Daphne could understand the frustration by the lack of knowledge of what her father actually did, it infuriated her sometimes too.

“A pleasure.” Fudge gave a quick nod down towards them,

“Astoria will be starting at Hogwarts soon. I’ve been meaning to speak with Dumbledore come to think of it, just around some security measures. You two are quite close are you not?”

“Why yes, but Hogwarts is the most secure place in the wizarding world, apart from Gringotts that is…”

“Yes of course but a father does worry, do you know where he is at the moment?”

Daphne watched her father seamlessly angle himself into the question, Why did he want to know? Was he talking about something to do with looking after Astoria? Astoria seemed to catch on to what Daphne was suspecting, her face was flushed slightly in embarrassment.

“Dumbledore’s been visiting a friend. He should be back soon I’d suppose.” Fudge informed them,

“Ah of course, been so busy at the office I’ve completely missed out on everyone’s whereabouts. You’d know about that one ay Scrimgeour.” He nodded over at a shaggy haired wizard, “Almost missed Daphne's birthday the other day, but a father cant not be there for his daughters thirteenth birthday can he?”

Daphne gave another polite smile as the Ministry officials wished her a late happy birthday before a photographer tumbled out of the floo network of the parlours fireplace, catching everyones attention.

“Oh goodness.” Daphne's mother rolled her eyes and excused herself from the group of ladies, “Are you Miles Bletchley? Did Rita send you?” she stood over the slightly soot covered boy and lifted a sharp brow,

“Yes mam’” Miles jumped up to his feet and dusted off his comically large camera blub and lens, he handed her his Daily Prophet card and a note from Rita which her mother casually castoff to the side.

“I apologise Aquila, had I known she’d send a child and a late one at that, I would’ve advised against it.” A tall man strode forward, he had a bright pink cravat and was balding on the back of his head. He took out a handkerchief and pushed it into Miles’s hands. His huge blonde moustache twitched on his face.

“Thank you Mr Coffe.” Miles wiped his face and neck, trying to get out the soot. “Miss Skeeter only informed me of the assignment before dinner, sent an owl to my mother…” Mr Coffe held up his hand to silence the boy.

“How many pictures does she want?” Daphne’s mother asked the boy politely, she no doubt sensed he was incredibly nervous to be interrogated by the Editor of the paper he so longed to work for.

“She would like at least three, preferably one of you and Mr Greengrass with the minister.”

“The headline?” her mother turned to Mr Coffe,

“Positive relations between the Minister and Department of Mysteries.” Mr Coffe answered, "and Rita will no longer be writing it."

“Come with me then.” Daphne watched as her mother signalled for Miles to follow her, she walked over towards them smiling and shaking her head at the scenario which had unfolded. When she reached them by the window, George leant down to give her a gentle kiss;

“Well done.” He chuckled, “Not often a soot covered teenager tumbles into a Ministry party.”

“You’re lucky you have me.” Aquila patted her hand on his chest and stood by his side ready for the photo.

“Hi.” Daphne sheepishly smiled at Miles, who for the first time looked away from her dazzling mother.

“Daphne!” Miles scratched his head in surprise, “Nice to see you again.” He nodded, “You hear Adrian made Captain?”

“Oh really? I mean it makes sense he is the best player, I mean not that you’re not good!” She retracted,

“Oh no no, he's the best.” Miles was fiddling with his camera as he spoke, “Do you want to be in the shot?” he suggested,

“What a great idea.” Daphne’s father gripped her shoulder again and positioned her between himself and her mother, “Astoria dear go and stand by your mother."

Astoria skipped over and wrapped her arm around her mother, reaching up to do so. “And put the punch glass down.” Their mother added before fixing Astoria’s hair.

“And Minister, you can stand by me.” George nodded for him to get into the frame, Fudge obeyed and shuffled in.

“That’s perfect.” Miles encouraged as he held the camera up to his eye, “I’ll take two just in case, send you the negatives…” he started as the camera flashed, temporarily blinding Daphne in the process. “Thank you so much Minister, Lord and Lady Greengrass.” He reached out to shake their hands.

“Daphne dear, how about you go around with Mr Bletchley while he takes three more photographs and then get him some punch before he leaves?” her mother suggested,

“Ergh sure.” Daphne nodded awkwardly, walking over to Miles with a half smile.

She stood by as Miles photographed Mr Coffe and his wife with Amelia Bones and her partner Beatrice in front of one of the grand portraits of Greengrass Manor. It was painted in the 18th century, something she informed him of when he had asked. Miles looked around the room in slight awe; its high coffered ceiling, rich red rug, huge crystal chandelier and gold accents. The wallpaper was hand painted, a design made to mirror the gardens in summer to which the parlour overlooked at the back of the house.

“Nice house.” He looked down from the ceiling and over at the people who sat on the French lounges. “Who are they?”

“They’re from my father’s Department. You probably can’t take of a picture of them though, I think some might be Department Aurors ”

“Oh right ok, what about them?” he looked over at the Blustrodes and Parkinsons, they were talking with Mr Crouch and a few others.

“They should be fine.” Daphne approached the group with Miles, Mrs Parkinson catching her eye as she did,

“Daphne. How are you? Pansy insisted that I pass on a hello and…” she turned to pick up her purse and riffled through it, pulling out a letter “here.”

Daphne took the letter and introduced Miles. Mr Parkinson was delighted at the idea of making it into The Prophet, he eagerly huddled the group together. The Bulstrodes, naturally stocker, found themselves awkwardly posed as Miles took the picture. He thanked them and handed Mr Parkinson his card; “Call me anytime you’d like a photo.”

“I’ll see you back at school.” Miles nodded,

“Yeah, I’ll see you then.” Daphne smiled, “oh wait. Punch, did you want punch? Its pineapple and berry.”

“Oh no, I’m only fifteen.”

“Oh it doesn’t have alcohol, well the adults one does but Astoria and I have our own. Queenie our house elf makes it, it’s really good.”

“Oh well, I still better be going. Have to give this roll to Miss Skeeter.” He looked down at his camera, fiddling with the latch “I um, I have one photo left on the roll and if you don’t mind.” He tilted it and shrugged his shoulders, “Can I just take one of you? Don’t want it to go to waste is all..”

Daphne blushed, “Oh um, ok.” She nodded “Do you want somebody else in it too? I can get Astoria? I think she’s gone upstairs but…”

“Oh no, not if it’s a hassle, I just want to use up all the film.”

Daphne stepped back to the side of the fireplace, straightening her back and trying to think of how to pose. She didn’t like taking pictures of just herself, she didn’t know how to stand or how to smile or where to put her hands. She almost always hated the end result when she saw it.

“You can just let your hands hang, ill only shoot you from the chest up.” He instructed, “like a portrait.” The camera flashed the blinked to signify the end of the roll. Miles let it hang around his neck again, “I’ll send it to you.” he promised as he grabbed a handful of Floo powder off Sidd, and stepped into the fireplace. Daphne stepped back so as not to be hit by the smoke as he vanished.

***

Astoria didn’t look like Daphne. Where Daphne’s hair was auburn, Astoria’s was of a rich chestnut like their mother. Where Daphne tended towards being short, Astoria was almost equalling her in height despite being two years younger. The pair were either exactly the same or complete opposites when it came to taste; If Daphne only liked vanilla then Astoria only liked chocolate but they both hated pistachio. This division of taste was never clearer than when looking at Astoria’s closest friends; Jenny Fawcett and Luna Lovegood.

“Jenny’s already got her things.” Astoria said as the sisters sat in the garden eating lunch (a tray full of savoury tarts and a jug of homemade lemonade). “They got it all last year when the sales were on, Jenny says that its cheaper if you buy school supplies when everyone at school already because nobody else is.”

The Fawcett’s were not wealthy, perhaps only when compared with the Weasley's. They lived in a small slanted cottage by the river only a short minute walk away from the manors front gates. Mr and Mrs Fawcett worked in the obliviater’s office and had three children including Jenny, all of which shared their mothers reddish-brown skin and dark thick hair.

“She said that her cousins don’t have to do that though, you know Padma and Parvati in your year? They shop when everyone else does. So she had to go by herself with her mum.” Astoria bit down on her the tarts gooey pumpkin and cheese interior.

“Well is Luna going to be there?” Daphne pondered briefly, If none of Astoria’s friends came shopping with them then there would be no way Daphne could go hang out with hers. Her mother was already sceptical about leaving Daphne alone while she joined Mrs Malfoy and Ms Zabini for tea.

“Yeah, her dad said she could come as long as she wore Hibbiesprout repellent, apparently their these little spider like things that stalk you if you smell funny.”

Daphne laughed, that was the type of garbage the Lovegoods wrote so much about in their paper; The Quibbler. Theo had actually ordered a subscription just as a joke, he loved the go through and point out the absurdity of some of its theories. But Blaise was inclined to believe them, “never say never” he would say at the idea of Fudge being a quarter Veela “he does have an aura about him you know” he had chuckled.

“Well are you ok with me meeting up with my friends then?” Daphne asked again, she didn’t like letting Astoria down.

“I’m fine. I’m feeling much better too, I think it was just that opera singers high notes that gave me that headache.”

Astoria had fallen ill again. This time it was thankfully brief but she had wailed in pain of a headache which felt as if her brain was bursting from her skull. It was short but intense and Daphne had gotten little sleep over those two days. Astoria always put on a brave face in the weeks after a bout of sickness, it was like she too wanted to forget it ever happened. As she had laid bedridden in recovery Daphne had told her about the chamber. She told her of the basilisk and Harry’s triumph, she explained what she had been thinking hitting it with another explosive spell and how she had to guess where it was looking to try and blind it. Astoria had been both in awe of the tale and incredibly mad that Daphne had done it in the first place. She made her promise not to take any more chances like that again without telling her first. Even Astoria knew how much of risk Daphne had just taken in potentially displeasing Voldemort.

“I have something to show you though.” Daphne looked back into the house, “Mums having lunch with the Goyle's right?”

Astoria nodded as Daphne reached down and pulled a stack of papers from the bag she’d brought down. It had sparked Astoria’s curiosity before she had been distracted by the food Sidd brought out. But now Daphne plopped the pile in front of her little sister,

“Its what was inside our family chest. It’s all medical documents and official certificates and newspaper articles, but look.” Daphne pointed to the St Mungo’s report pertaining to their grandfather, “I think he had the malediction too.”

Astoria didn’t say anything as she read the document, then she flicked to the other medical files that Daphne had copied about Cecil Greengrass’s condition. “high pain levels, resistance to sleeping drafts, bloodletting…” Astoria read out loud, she looked a little pale.

“I didn’t know if I should show you, should I have? I just thought you’d want to know.” Daphne tried to read her face.

“Yeah.. I do, so grandpa had it? And my treatment, it could look like this?”

“If he had it that means they know how to deal with it.” Daphne assured, “and he lived a long life too, enough to see me be born..”

“But not me.” Astoria reminded her.

“You can keep them if you want, I made two copies so you could.”

“Thanks Daph.” Astoria gave a little smile, “I don’t really want to read anymore though. Want to go swimming or something?”

“Um ok, I’ll get my costume.” Daphne picked up the files and headed upstairs to get changed.

Maybe this will sooth her concerns. She seemed to take it well, to get where I was coming from. There wasn’t one moment where Daphne didn’t have some sort of anxiety around how Astoria was feeling, one moment where she didn’t worry that she’d fall to the ground in another fit or somebody would find out about their families secret. The world was unkind to a maledictus in any form.

“Do you think Grandpa was happy?” Astoria asked out of the blue as they floated in the clear cool lake.

“Yes.” Daphne said immediately. “In every document the staff note that he’s in a polite and friendly demeanour.” She assured, knowing the her little sisters question went deeper.

“Ok then.” Astoria continued looking up at the sky, using her arms to move her floating body away from Daphne. “Want to do tumble turns? I’m really good, way better than you – watch!”

And so they splashed about in the family lake all afternoon until both their cheeks had burnt in the sun.

Chapter Text

“Why did you pick that owl?” Daphne examined the pet which Astoria had chosen to take to Hogwarts with her.

Inside Eeylops Owl Emporium was noisy and fanatic. Hundreds of owls were hung in cages across three large rooms, the shop tellers were overwhelmed by the customers that were flooding in ready to get new owls for their own school aged children. Apparently many other parents had the same idea to get their shopping at Diagon Alley done earlier. Astoria knew she wanted an owl, the one she had been using to send letters was the family’s and she had decided that she needed her own now that she was all grown up. They had looked right away at the ‘Premium’ range, plump and fit owls with wide wingspans and polished beaks, their father urging her to just pick whichever one ‘called to her’. But what ‘called to her’ was not a premium owl but a runt. The owl was tiny and missing most of its feathers, the shop teller who was assisting them said it needed a growth potion just to stand a chance at flying long distances. It had been in the shop for three years waiting on an owner. But Astoria wanted it, and so she got it.

“He’s cute.” She insisted, “Hi Pauley.” She cooed at the ugly owl,

“Ellery would eat him alive.” Daphne thought about her own kneazle-fox hybrid’s enjoyment of poached chicken. She had had to leave her at home while they were out shopping.

“She’s not going to touch him.” Astoria warned “Or I’ll turn her into a hat.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I would!”

Astoria had already gotten her wand; Cypress wood with a unicorn hair core, and they had put in an order at Flourish and Blotts for all the books both girls needed (it would arrive much closer to September when the Hogwarts express left.)

“We’ll get your robes fitted at Twilfitt and Tattings and pick up your potions things at the apothecary last so your dad doesn’t have to carry around a caldron all day.” Their mother lead the way down the high street,

“Good thinking honey.” Their father noted as he peeked into Quality Quidditch Supplies. “I’ve got to go to Gringott’s as well before I pop back to the office, we’ve got some things there that need to be moved.”

“We as in us? Or we as in work?” Daphne asked,

“Work darling, always work.” He sighed, “Oh but look, there we are in the paper.” He pointed over to a newsstand, “Front page too.”

The family stopped at the stand, and looked at the cover of the Prophet; ‘MINISTRY UNITED: FUDGE AND GREENGRASS PUT ASSIDE DIFFERENCES AT OPERA CONCERT. Written By Ulrich Bletchley, photograph by Miles Bletchley’ Daphne cringed at the way her face bunched up when she smiled, she watched as the image moved over and over again replaying how she had looked up at her father before back at the camera and grinned. Was her skin really that pale or was that the flash? And why did her lips shrink to nothing when she grinned, urgh I hope nobody sees this. At least my dress looks nice.

“Two please.” Her mother handed the man a couple sickles and picked up the paper, “hide these in your briefcase honey so nobody sees we actually bought them. Would be embarrassingly tacky.” She handed them to her husband who did as he was told.

“Oh but I look awful.” Daphne whined,

“No you don’t.” Her mother insisted “You're adorable, just look.” She pointed again at the stand as other witches and wizards came to purchase the daily paper. They looked at the cover and then back at her family as they did so.

“Nice picture.” Draco remarked as he appeared behind them. As Daphne turned she saw his familiar pointed face, white-blonde hair and permanently smug look. Beside him was a taller hazelnut haired boy who adjusted his glasses to get a look at the cover. His intense emerald eyes scanned the page before he tilted his head and sharpened jawline;

“Since when did the Minister wear a Nogtail broach?” Theo asked,

“Since he joined me and Draco’s father on a hunt the other day, the man actually managed to beat us to the blasted creature. I think he must have chugged a bottle of Felix felicis beforehand, only way he could’ve done it.” Daphne’s dad shook his head at the memory of his defeat “Wore it just to irk me.”

“Hello Draco, lovely to see you again. And who is your friend?” Daphne’s mother asked, looking over at Theo.

“Mrs Greengrass this is Theodore Nott, his father is high up in the society- you no doubt know of him and his family.”

“Oh yes.” Aquila registered the boy’s face, remembering how she told Daphne to keep her distance, “Nice to see you.”

Theo nodded a polite response. He wasn’t good with adults. But Draco was, “We have plans to meet Daphne at Florian’s so we can choose our electives for this year. Is that ok with you Mr and Mrs Greengrass?”

“Oh yes.” Daphne’s father looked down at his watch, before back up at his wife “You two better go to the fitting or you’ll miss the appointment, and honey I’ll walk Daph there. We’ll meet back at the apothecary.”

“you don’t have to walk me…” Daphne flushed embarrassed, she wasn’t a baby. But her father did anyway.

It felt like forever before they got to Florian’s Ice cream parlour, as they walked Draco and her father made small talk about what he had done over the holidays so far. Theo had come to stay at Malfoy Manor but now his father was insisting he come home, Crabbe and Goyle had also there for a while too. The boys had played Quidditch, which apparently Theo was awful at. As they spoke it struck Daphne that Theo looked almost… healthier than normal. His weedy arms had rounded out slightly and his posture was slowly becoming less hunched. He almost looked…no. She didn’t even want to think it.

“Daph!” Pansy had waved at her from one of the tables outside the ice creamery. She had somehow found a tablecloth to throw over the sticky surface and a cushion to sit on. Millie and Blaise were already seated.

“Ok well do you have any money?” her father asked before Daphne rushed over,

“Yes, thank you.” Daphne hugged her father goodbye and kissed his cheek “I’ll be home with mum.”

Crabbe and Goyle emerged with the largest sundae Daphne had ever seen, it had scoops of every flavour and drizzled in every sauce. It was so huge that Pansy banished them to their own table so the others had enough room to fill in their class forms.

It transpired that Pansy had gone to visit her cousins in Japan, while Blaise too had been out of the country; his mother on tour for her latest opera. Millie had been away at her families country estate also hunting Nogtails, and so she gave off the distinct impression that she’d have rather been touring with artists or even climbing Mt Fuji than stay there any longer.

“Crabbe, Goyle and I are doing Divination and Care of Magical creatures.” Draco took a spoonful of Theo’s double hazelnut and marshmallow ice cream.

“Hey.” Theo frowned and moved his ice cream further away from Draco,

“Come on let me have a taste too.” Daphne reached over and dug her spoon into the ice cream and stole a bite. Offering him only a smile in return,

“I’ll do Care of Magical creatures but no way are you getting me to do Divination, it’s a bunch of illogical voodoo stuff.” Theo looked at the list of electives, “I’ll do Runes or something, I’d suggest muggle studies but we all know my father would kill me.” Only Blaise didn’t laugh.

“Wait that means you two will be stuck in classes together.” Millie pointed to Daphne’s pre filled sheet, “I’d do Runes with you too but I’m dead awful at languages and stuff. I think I’d have a better chance with the mythical things. I’ve always felt I understood nonsense better than logic.”

“Ok no way you’re not doing Divination.” Pansy grabbed a Quill from her designer bag and went to change Daphne’s sheet, thankfully she snatched it away in time.

“Sorry Pans I was dead serious in my letter. I was thinking about taking up three but my mother said it was too much work.”

“Who even does Arithmancy?” Blaise looked at the sheet “numbers and calculation, I mean are people insane?”

As Daphne folded her elective application back up, Theo leant over and stole a huge spoonful of Daphne’s white chocolate and macadamia; “Greengrass. This is the kind of flavour old ladies order.” He licked the last bit off his spoon.

“Well good thing I ordered it, so you don’t have it eat it.” She pulled her glass bowl away from him.

Just as he tried to make some smart remark back, Draco reached for another scoop of Theo’s ice cream. The two ensued in a playful fight as Theo attempted to protect his dessert.

Blaise slid Theo’s form over and copied it exactly into his own; “Well I’ll see you in Ancient Runes Daphne dear.” He signed off his name and gave a playful wink, “Can’t leave that loser alone for too long.”

“I feel like my teeth are rotting just sipping this.” Pansy poked at the whipped cream onto of her milkshake. “You want it?” she offered it to Millie who took it gladly. “Oh and Daph your picture in the Prophet…”

“Was awful I know.” Daphne groaned, “I should’ve just ducked away but it was Miles taking the picture. Did you know Rita has him go out and do events and things?”

“Oh shut up, it looked amazing.” Pansy almost squealed in excitement, “My parents made the second page, they came back from Japan just for the day to attend, but how cool is it that you’re on the cover!”

“I wish I looked as gorgeous as you looked in that dress Daph.” Millie he fiddled with her newly returned beaded necklace as she piled on the compliments. Its glowed green.

“Even I will admit the pictures good.” Blaise pouted his lips, “but my mother hates that singer you brought in. She almost stole her role in the opera she’s doing. I’m sure she’ll be informing your own mother all about it over tea.” He drummed his silver ringed fingers on the table,

“Alright well lets send the forms off now then.” Draco sulked back, a divot in his cone.

“At least we all have one subject in common.” Millie grinned as they got up to walk to the post office.

***

They appeared without notice or warning. Six members of the society set off protection alarms as they forced their way through the gates of Greengrass Manor and hammered on the door. Sidd, the Greengrasses house elf, tentatively opened the huge black doors and asked after who they had come to see;

“Daphne Cordelia Greengrass.” Lucius almost growled her name as he forced his way inside the foyer and threw off his traveling cloak.

Daphne had been upstairs, her and Astoria were listening to The Weird Sisters and discussing which Weird Sister was the best. Daphne argued in favour of bass player; Donaghan Tremlett who had long shaggy black hair and wore thick eyeliner. Astoria instead praised the so called ‘good boy’ of the band; a young Italian drummer named Orsino Thruston. The sound of clattering and voices echoed down the eastern wing where the families rooms were, and Daphne opened her door just in time for Queenie to run up and tell her to get dressed in formal clothes. Confused and worried, Daphne threw on her emerald robes and pinned back her unwashed hair, Astoria and Queenie escorted her down to the dining room.

The table had been set up like a courtroom. Daphne was sat on one side, alone. Opposite her was a line of adults; Mr and Mrs Malfoy, Mr Nott, two other snarly and dangerous looking men and a well-dressed old lady who scowled the entire time. They formed the ‘Pureblood Council’ and had come to scare Daphne into giving answers. The moment she had entered Narcissa had bound her hands in shackles, they dug into her tender skin. A man who smelt of dirty laundry forced her down into a chair, he must have been the muscle of the operation in case her parents had refused. But Daphne could see her parents had no such choice, they too were confined to the end of the table, just out of reach.

“Why is it that The Society’s plan failed that night in the chamber of secrets?” Narcissa Malfoy put the question straight to her,

“Harry. He killed the basilisk and then he stabbed the diary.” Daphne recalled, “Draco and Theodore, they’d say the same if you asked.” Had they asked them? Had they said something?

“And you did nothing to stop Potter? You ensured the failure of The Society’s plans.” Mr Nott was terrifying, his face was lined in hard folds and his lips curled in a menacing and cold stare. He barked his questions at the young girl. How could this be Theo’s father?

“No…” Daphne looked over at her father who was standing down at the end of the table, “but I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what the plan was – none of us did. Or how to help, we just brought Harry and tried to make sure the basilisk didn’t mistake us for him..” she started to ramble, spilling her thoughts as she went.

“But you did not help The Dark Lord.” Mr Nott insisted, “Do you not wish for his return?”

“Do you wish for mudbloods to rule the wizarding world? Run it into the ground they would!” one of the men with crooked teeth and a musty smell snarled.

“Enough you two.” The old lady lifted a frail hand, her large purple hat hung over her face slightly obscuring her right eye. “The girl is telling the truth.”

“Thank you grandmother.” Daphne’s mother uttered, she was holding her pearls close to her chest, and had her arm wrapped around her supportive husband.

Grandmother? Daphne stared at the old lady who she guessed had to be her great-grandmother. Her skin hung from her frail frame, a silver walking stick was leant beside her that matched the woman’s silver wisps of hair. She was dressed as if it was 1910 in a purple corseted dress to match her hat, she looked the picture of aristocracy. Why have I not met you before? she looked to her mother for answers.

“You’re bias Eudoxia.” The other crooked toothed man spoke. He was better dressed than his companion, a large raven broach was embroidered across the chest on his jacket. “Is this not your great granddaughter?”

“Of who I have never met.” The old lady replied, “And it would do you well to call me Dowager Rosier young man.” She cut him down to size using her strong French sounding accent. “Council you know my families estranged history with the Selwyn’s. When my daughter married that man she was as good as dead to me. I do not consider her of my blood, and thus you shall take my word as unbiased truth.”

Daphne looked back at her mother again, was this why she had only even heard of her father side of the family? Why her maternal grandparents were all but unknown to her? Why only her father’s side came for Christmas?

Leviathan Nott seemed to give way to the Dowager’s authority, something that shocked Daphne. The council sat in silence. They eventually asked her some basic questions before she was excused; they asked how the dairy was ruined, how the basilisk was killed, If Riddle mentioned anything, any alternate plans.

“The Dark Lord will be greatly displeased, The Society will now be called upon to soon to amend what went wrong inside the chamber.” Lucius Malfoy threw back his seat as he stood,

“We expect another message any day now.” Narcissa rose beside her husband and using her wand, unshackled Daphne’s hands.

As the Malfoy's and Leviathan Nott left with the two other men, Daphne watched her mother gingerly step forward and approach the Dowager Rosier.

“Dowager?” she folded her hands neatly in front of her, “Thank you.”

“It was not for you dear, or my daughter rest her soul. She was a fool your mother, a fool after galleons and glamour. You remind me of her.” The old lady looked her up and down, “But I don’t stand for bullying young children. This society has gone to ruin without the Black family.” She shook her head and began to walk away. “That man will be the death of us.”

How ominous. Daphne thought, Perhaps her family weren’t the only pureblood supremacists who weren't entirely loyal to Voldemort. But at least they were clever enough not to say it so boldly.

“Let me call you a carriage to take you to the gates.” Daphne’s father let her go so that he could go and ready one for the old lady,

“No need.” The Dowager dismissed him and began to walk down the gravel drive, “You don’t live to my age by sitting around.”

Daphne and Astoria asked after their great-grandmother endlessly, until their mother forbade any more questions; “Some things are not for children to know.” She snapped, “My mother married for love and not for family, and now she and my father are dead. That’s what disloyalty gets you girls! A short life with nothing to show for it!” and she had stormed into the western wing.

***

Weeks later, Daphne found herself cooped up in Ron’s violently orange room on an unusually hot August day. She wiped the sweat from her brow and looked at the clock, they’d been lying in silence for half an hour. Ron suckled on a stick of frozen orange juice Molly had made, the noise getting on Daphne’s nerves. The heat made her angrier.

“That’s it.” She rolled over onto her stomach, the floor slightly cooler to the touch. “Where’s Fred and George? Surely they have some invention to beat this heat.”

“Doubt it. Mum’s been confiscating all their stuff since their results came back. They have their O.W.L’s this year and neither made prefect of course. But they’re so insanely popular I guess they don’t really care. I wouldn’t.”

“Well you’re always flaunting around with Golden Boy Harry. You know that copy of the Prophet my family was on? It had a whole article dedicated to his ‘heroic survival’ , I mean it’s been like twelve years and they’re still publishing. That must make you pretty popular.”

“Not really.” Ron shrugged, “Sometimes they push right past me to talk to him. Seamus and Dean that is. Neville’s alright but he’s so boring sometimes.”

“Neville, boring? Gee I would never has guessed.” Daphne laughed, Ron also spluttering into a heartily chuckle, orange juice dribbling down his chin.

“Harry wrote me though. Asked me about you. Something about your stance on half bloods and such.”

“Shut up.” Daphne lobbed a crumpled pillow at him, “Let’s go find Fred and George.”

“I’m being serious.” Ron followed Daphne down the rickety stairs towards the twins room. They could already hear popping coming from inside. “Asked if I’d seen you. Did something happen in the chamber?”

“Let us in we’re boiling!” Daphne knocked on the twins door. A scramble of feet and rustling noises followed before Fred let the door creep open;

“Hey Daph. Ron.”

“How come your rooms so cool?” Daphne had felt the breeze as the door parted,

“George is really into feng shui.” Fred grinned the stupid grin he made when he lied,

“Super into it.” George called out after him, "cools the room right down."

“Come on please, I won’t tell a soul.” Daphne begged, “I’ll give you a sickle each.”

“Make it a bag of exploding bon bons and we’ll talk.” Fred started to close the door but Daphne jammed her foot in.

“Deal.” She pushed the door open and stepped into the cool room. Ron followed her.

George was standing by an old muggle slow cooker pot, the lid was removed and from it blew a steady stream of wind. The cool air rose up and swirled around the room, cooling it down.

“How?” Ron barged over and leant his face directly over the airflow. His hair and skin blew back. “You can’t use magic!”

“Shut up Ronald.” George pushed him back from their invention,

“That’s… impressive.” Daphne studied the simplicity of their portable air machine, “is it a wind charm?”

Fred nodded smugly; “made it at the start of the holidays.”

“But you two only got acceptable’s in your prelim marks last year.” Ron frowned,

“Our interests are not academic.” Fred shrugged, “what do I care if I can make a pineapple peel itself or not?”

“What are you losers doing?” Ginny burst into the room, Ron having left the door ajar. “Oh nice.” She examined the slow cooker with them.

“Great Ginevra. If Percy hears he’ll tell mum.” Fred slammed the door. “he’s such a twat.”

“A twat that’s Head Boy now.” Ginny reminded them smugly. It almost reminded Daphne of the way Harry looked sometimes.

“Ron!” Molly yelled out from downstairs in her slightly shrill voice, “Your father’s back. He’s going to get Harry!”

Ron flung open the door and insisted that his father wait for him, the twins closed the lid on their contraption and funnelled everyone from their room.

“We’re coming too!” George yelled as he grabbed a bag and hurried out,

Daphne found herself in a stamped as the Weasley’s rushed downstairs. She ducked off to the side as Fred and George pestered their mother for permission to go. Molly was not openly receptive of the concept, sensing a plan afoot.

“I’ve hooked up the Floo to the Dursley’s chimney. We'll pop in and get him before dinner I reckon.” Arthur Weasley dropped his worn out briefcase on the floor. “Hi Daphne.” He nodded before taking a freshly baked biscuit from a plate on the table. Ron did the same, shortly followed by the rest of his siblings.

“Here.” George handed Daphne one. She smiled and thanked him before taking a bite of the gooey chocolate chip.

“We’ll see you on the train tomorrow then dearie. I know your mother has a book club meeting tomorrow and keeps you close before your departure…. Of course you’re welcome anytime but I don’t think Aquila would be pleased.” Molly scooped up the rest of the biscuits and put them in a tin.

“I promised Astoria i'd hang out with her anyway.” Daphne walked out the front door, “Bye!” she called as she left.

“Bye! Goodbye! Oh see you later Daph!” they sung back a disjointed jumble of farewells.

The Weasley's house was so different from her own. With them it was as if all her cares faded into the background.

Chapter Text

Watching Astoria be sorted in Slytherin reminded Daphne of how she’d grown and changed so much in the past two years at Hogwarts. She remembered it was not long ago that she had gazed starry eyed at the ceiling of the Great Hall, she too had squirmed on the stool as the sorting hat was placed on her head. Daphne remembered how the hat had given Harry the sword of Gryffindor at the end of last term, she now looked at it in a different light when it had sung its welcome back song;

“Will you be in Gryffindor with the true and brave? Or will intellect and creativity be that to which you slave? In this case it is Ravenclaw in which you shall be placed, for the sorting hat knows and makes decisions with haste! Slytherin is where the most cunning and resourceful dwell, their leadership in times difficult does them well. Hufflepuff oh Hufflepuff, never has there been such loyal and kind, in each of them; the broadest of mind! Come now children, do not fret, for we shall see where I will put you yet!”

The sorting ceremony ended for her the moment Astoria had joined the end of the Slytherin table. Daphne could not have bared to be parted from her, not now that it was up to her to see her sister well and safe. Before, Astoria had been in their mothers care. Now they had entrusted Daphne look after her. It was job she did not take lightly, the thought of finding a cure was more on her mind than ever.

“Astoria’s lucky to have been sorted in a year our house made a decent feature in that hats little song.” Pansy had clapped Daphne’s sister equally proud, “I still haven’t forgotten how last year he called Slytherin ‘those of green and deed, whose cunning is their strongest seed’ I mean what a perpetulant little pin cushion.” She scoffed,

Astoria had waved back proudly as she and Jenny were taken by new prefects; Emmeline Avery and Adrian Pucey for their introductory tour after dinner. Astoria’s other friend; Luna, had been sorted into Ravenclaw. Her sorting had sent Pansy into a fit of giggles – neither she nor Daphne viewed Luna as a very brainy character. Daphne felt protective as Astoria vanished off into the castle, the rest of the school still in the throes of dessert.

When the feast was over the group dawdled back to their common room, as Daphne shoved Blaise for being so foul mouthed in his description of his mother’s new ‘conquest’ (who apparently played her on stage love interest in her current opera) – Ron’s voice called out.

“Daph!” his mouth was still covered in sausage grease, he wiped it with the back of his hand. “Congrats about Astoria. Tell her I said so.”

“Thanks, my parents will be overjoyed.” Daphne imagined the relief her parents must have been feeling, there was no other place other than Slytherin for a Greengrass.

“You get in for care of magical creatures?”

“Yeah I’ll see you there.” Daphne felt herself be pulled away by Pansy, the boys had charged on ahead talking of Blaise’s back stage antics.

When they had arrived back they piled onto one of the corner seats in the common room, savouring the last moments before classes started the next day. They had been playing wink murder; where Daphne attempted to guess who the culprit was after Millie had been the first to ‘die’. Millie was dramatically sprawled on the floor when Blaise gave out a loud gurgling sound and began an elaborate death scene. He pulled out his wand and let off red sparks. Only Blaise could be so endearingly over the top.

“Its Theo!” Daphne pointed at the boy who innocently pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. She had caught a glimpse of his reflection.

“How do you know! You cheated.” He protested, turning a little red. “You looked in the reflection of the window!”

Daphne knew she had cheated, but wouldn’t admit it; “Just accept your loss with grace Theodore, nobody likes a cry baby.”

“If we’re just going to cheat…” Theo mused, “I’ll just get Miles to tell me who winks.” He pointed over at the boy who was steadily developing some film a few tables over, by his side Adrian was throwing a quaffle back and forth.

“Miles wouldn’t do that.” Daphne dismissed him. “You're just sorry I’m smarter than you Theodore.”

“Miles wouldn’t do what?” Adrian caught word,

“Help me cheat.” Theo answered, “because it seems Greengrass here is a bad sport.”

Daphne blushed. She didn’t want the coolest boy in the house thinking she was a cheater. Adrian was a stickler for the rules when it came to any game or competition. He had once snapped a chess board in rage when he discovered that Miles had made up the 'rook for king' rule which he often played.

“Surely not.” Miles looked up from his film, putting his wand down. “When I tumbled out of her chimney she helped me out getting those pictures.” He recalled, “that doesn’t seem un-sportsmanlike.”

“Well it’s got nothing to do with sport though does it.” Blaise flopped down next to Millie, sensing another round was not imminent.

“Well it’s about the principal I guess.” Miles shrugged and grabbed a canister of film, “here’s the images by the way.” He leant over and handed Daphne the roll.

“Thanks.” She tucked it in her pocket, “See Theodore, I don’t cheat.”

“You do!” Theo’s frustration was rising.

“Maybe she didn’t cheat, I mean you did just kill off Blaise. That’s a very Theo move.” Draco looked over at Miles, nodding along.

“She does cheat.” A little voice piped up. Over the other side of the room Astoria had been playing wizards chess with Jenny. The pair giggled.

“Shut up first year.” Daphne gruffly sat down beside Pansy, who was already filing her nails out of boredom. The conversation no longer served her.

“Well anyway.” Miles rocked on his feet, now stood up from his table. “I was meaning to ask you Daphne. Witch Weekly asked me if I had any images of you and I was wondering if I could send them the one I took of you before I left the other night?”

Pansy’s eyes shot up from her nail beds; “Yes, send it to them. She agrees.” Daphne gave Pansy a quizzical look, “What? You know it’s going to be something good, and we need a bit of pep in this group. Between that thing with the chamber and the heir and Blaise’s mother… I can’t keep associating with problematic people”

“Problematic people?” Blaise looked horrified, “Didn’t you bully Tracey into leaving the party that night she was petrified? You’re stocks down Parkinson.”

“My families trip to Japan made it into the Politics section of last week’s Daily Prophet. Was some excellent international diplomacy. I think your mothers opera made one column of the Quibbler did it not? My stocks are just fine.”

“Bitch.” Blaise muttered.

“Bitch.” Pansy snipped back, not one to be bested in a verbal face off.

“So is that a yes?” Miles turned to Daphne,

“Um if you’d like.” Daphne’s cheeks were flushed, shamelessly she enjoyed having the attention usually reserved for Pansy.

“Amazing!” Miles clapped his hands together and started collecting his things, “I’ll let you know if they end up using it.”

***

Daphne leant over her desk as they were attempting to brew the confusing concoction, ironically she was trying to recall its instructions. They had done most of the theory last year in potions but now the class was required to try a preliminary brew. Theo of course, was casually throwing in scurvy grass and managing to juice a sneezewart without a second glance at his copy of ‘Magical Drafts and Potions’. Potions just made sense to him. It was the one thing he consistently outperformed Daphne in, and it got on her nerves.

“What even is Sneezewart?” Pansy rubbed it in between her finger and thumb. “Sniff it Mills.” She held It up and Millie diligently sniffed the plant before violently sneezing.

“How did I fall for that?!” Millie spluttered as Crabbe and Goyle roared with laughter. Pansy smirked, satisfied with her trickery as she placed the plant in their caldron.

“Miss Greengrass, it seems this potion is proving difficult for you.” Snape appeared and looked down in her caldron, “Perhaps you should take notes from your friend Mr Nott over there.”

No way. Daphne would never admit when Theo was better at something. She imagined his smug look. She couldn’t put her finger on why but she just hated being bested by him, more than anyone else she’d ever met in her life. She’d rather take advice from Hermione.

In Transfiguration they started learning about about Animagi. Daphne watched as McGonagall expertly shifted between witch and tabby cat. There was no one better from which to learn;

“An Animagi must go through an extensive process to be able to safely and correctly transform into their animal form. Most forgo such long and difficult training unless for the purpose of concealment, this is why many wizards only began to learn the art of becoming an Animagus during the war. Prior to that time the skill was considered rather obscure.”

Daphne added McGonagall's comments to her notes, she wondered if any of the Pureblood Society members were Animagi. Was Voldemort himself one?

Blaise shot his hand up; “Do you get to pick which animal you become?”

“No. The animal form which you take is said to derive from your inner soul, for example its often thought that those who are bold or open minded become a bird or those who are cunning and intelligent would become something resembling a fox.”

“Bet I’d be something cool like a… horse.” Draco thought aloud,

Daphne let out a laugh; “A horse?” she tried to keep her voice down as McGonagall proceeded with the class. Why did he want to be bloody horse? Sometimes Draco just bewildered her.

“Or a panther I guess, but a horse seems a bit more practical. I mean next time we went on a hunt id just have to transform back and forth.”

“Yeah, ok…” Daphne gave an amused look to Pansy beside her, who seemed to have already accepted and moved on from Draco’s idiosyncrasies. She did however give a huff of mild distain that he had said something so absurd.

In the last class of the day they headed down into the grounds for their first practical Care of Magical Creatures lesson. After Professor Kettleburn had lost his last arm, Hagrid the groundskeeper had been brought in. Hagrid was part giant, a mammoth man with a thick black bristled beard and strong rural accent. As they entered the woodland area they saw a huge beast the size and build of a horse but covered in feathers, it had two broad wings and a beak.

“What the hell is that?” Millie slowed her pace as the rest of the class approached,

“Say ‘ello to Buckbeak. He’z a hippogriff, proud creatures that be ‘alf griffin ‘alf horse.” Hagrid held the animal by a rope, it didn’t seem pleased at the cluster of children which now pointed and chatted around it. “Stay back now. Hippogriffs aren't to be tested, look at these talons, and look at'this sharp beak.”

“This is ridiculous.” Draco snorted,

“I agree. Why’ve we got the groundskeeper showing us a…” Pansy looked inside her book “grade XXX beast with only a rope for security?”

“We have Peeves, and last year a basilisk lived under our common room.” Theo pointed out, “I’m not that surprised.”

The group laughed, startling the hippogriff enough to rise up on his hind legs;

“Didn’t you hear Hagrid?” Hermione whisper-shouted “Hippogriff’s require the utmost respect, if you don’t approach them with caution and show proper etiquette then you’ll be seriously hurt.” Her tone always condescending, she turned back to face the creature.

“Oh yeah Granger? When did a muggle born become such an expert?” Draco sneered, “maybe you have to bow and scrape to convince that thing your trustworthy but I bet it senses my magic.”

“Come off it Malfoy.” Ron turned away from Hagrid’s display; he had begun feeding the hippogriff a dead ferret. Daphne didn’t want to watch it either. “If you walk up to that thing it’ll claw your eyes out.”

“I wish somebody would, then I wouldn’t have to look at Granger any longer.” Draco grinned at his own come back.

“Go on then.” Harry nodded his head at the beast, “If you’re so pure of blood.” He spat.

Draco looked to Theo and Blaise who stood either side, their face said it all; Well you’re the idiot who started this mess . He then looked over at Daphne, she could see that glint of fear in his eye that she recognised from the chamber. She shook her head, silently urging him not too. The beast's talons were longer than a basilisk fang when they needed to be. But one more glance at the cocky Harry Potter and Draco was pushing past Crabbe and Goyle to get closer to Buckbeak.

“Draco boy you gotta bow…” Hagrid tried to explain as Draco strode forward.

“Let me pat this thing.” Draco reached up towards the beasts head, it trotted back and made a low growling noise. He pursued it still, giving a quick glance back at the class. As he did the creature lifted up on its hind legs again, flapping its wings and slashing its front claws. They tore through the left side of Draco’s body. He dropped to the floor screaming in pain.

Theo wasted no time in running over. Hagrid was attempting to distract the now disgruntled Buckbeak with more ferret, while the rest of the class was in chaos – they shouted and retreated away from the scene. Daphne too followed Theo, she watched as he ducked the creatures huge wingspan and began to pull Draco away. She and Blaise reached out to help Draco on his feet. His whole left side was covered in blood. Pansy and Millie shrieked as he was finally turned around to face the rest of the class.

They had carried him up to the castle. Mostly Crabbe and Goyle shouldered the heavy lifting, but Pansy was on the war path. The moment they entered the hospital wing Pansy furiously divulged the ‘savagery’ of what had occurred to Pomfrey as she worked on him. The medical witch forced them all out and to fetch Snape. They weren’t allowed to see their friend until after dinner.

***

The hospital wing was sterile, modelled almost identically like those in muggle wartime. White metal bed frames lined each side of the room topped with a feather mattress, pale blue curtain partitions divided up some of the space, but all was still visible to Madam Pomfrey who sat at a desk at the front of the room and kept an eye on her patients. Draco was in the bed furthest away, apparently Pomfrey had complained of his whining despite admitting he had extensive injuries. The group filed in and with the healers permission went to go sit with their infirm friend. Draco and long scars running up his left side, the outlines of which were indicated by where the bandages were blood stained.

“Merlin.” Pansy gasped when she saw him sat up, she reached out and turned his head so she could examine the end of the scar that had clipped his jaw and lower cheek. “It could’ve slashed your neck!”

“He’s fine.” Theo dismissed, setting himself on the neighbouring bed. Daphne rolled her eyes at his insensitivity.

“Tracey and I made you this.” Millie put a card down at the foot of his bed. It had an animated picture of a frog on the cover. Draco smiled but winced as he did so, he held his stomach down.

“How long’s it gonna take to clean you up?” Blaise started examining the huge gift basket Narcissa had brought when she was able to visit her son that afternoon. “Slytherin Qudditch try outs are soon aren’t they? Just before the first weekend at Hogsmeade.”

"Why do you even know that, don't you hate Quidditch?" Millie looked up form her animated frog leaping around the card,

"Just thought i'd heard someone mention it." Blaise shrugged.

“Pomfrey says she’s cleaned up most of it, we’re just waiting for all the exterior scaring to seal over. If I keep drinking the stuff which tastes like cat piss I should be fine. Don’t know how well ill fair on a broom though.” Draco wondered.

“Am I hearing Draco Malfoy doubt himself?” Daphne didn’t contain her surprise, “the boy who just charged at an XXX rated beast?”

Draco went to laugh but thought better of it, again holding his bandages; “I’ll tell you one thing though, Snape said he’d brew me a strong Pepperup potion if I wasn’t up to flying. I think he’s actually keen for us to retain the cup this year.”

“You should rest.” Pansy put her hands on her hips, “We’ll come back before breakfast. We'll need our star seeker if we want to win.”

"Trying to get our stocks up again?" Blaise tutted,

"Somebody has to. Especially when Heir Zabini still sports an eyebrow slit and wears obscene amounts of purple velvet to class." Pansy retorted. "I wouldn't be surprised if you started sporting heavy eyeliner just to draw up more attention."

"Ah a good idea for once Princess Parkinson!"

Chapter Text

Draco almost threw up his breakfast the day of Quidditch tryouts. He’d made the team last year but there was no guarantees, especially with Adrian Pucey at the helm. Adrian cared far less about getting the latest broomsticks than their last captain; Marcus Flint had. Instead, Adrian was all about skill; it was speed and accuracy and complete memorisations of all the game plays that made him such a brilliant chaser – and he demanded nothing less from his potential team. House expectations were also high, coming off a cup win there was an assumption of good of results and Draco felt every bit of that pressure.

It didn’t help that Draco’s mind was wandering to other things. His parents had been enraged when he told them of Riddle’s defeat last year at school. They spoke about how if they failed the Dark Lord again there would be dire consequences. His father had shattered a glass in anger when he learned that the diary too was destroyed and confiscated by Dumbledore; “We’ll pay for this, I know we will.” It was in the last weeks of the summer holidays when Theo had gone home that Draco saw his father hunched over in the library, gripping his left forearm, paying for his mistakes. Draco had run to his father’s aid, trying to call for the house elf Dobby. He watched as the dark mark on his father’s arm bled out onto the floor, Voldemort was retracing it into his skin over and over, slicing the flesh and drawing from it a pool of blood that stained the library carpet. His mother shrieked when she was brought to the room. Her husband was paying for the failure of the plan in blood and tears. Draco wondered if the same thing had happened to Mr Nott, but he didn’t ask Theo. Theo wouldn’t have cared. Draco loved his father where Theo did not.

His hippogriff wounds also brought him no comfort, they itched and ached constantly having only just been sealed over. Now thin red lines traced up his torso and it looked like he had a permanent cut on his chin. The bright red of the marks were only made more noticeable by being set against his ghostly skin and hair. He looked as awful as Hermione had when they had found her in the chamber.

“Your potion Mr Malfoy.” Snape’s low and drawled voice called his attention, his head of house stood next to him and held out a small bottle of Pepperup potion. “Should get you through the next two hours.”

“Thank you professor.” Draco took the bottle and headed back to his dorm to get changed.

He had half an hour before the try outs to ready himself. To calm his nerves and clear his head, Draco took a walk in the grounds. He knew he had to be down at the pitch soon anyway and wandering aimlessly around the lawns was somehow soothing. He remembered watching his father writhe in pain again, he remembered when the council had come to his house and demanded to know why the Dark Lord was not restored, he remembered Riddle collapsing and how he had known Draco didn’t help. What if Voldemort wants to kill us? he thought of his mother and father. As he began to spiral, a huge ball of ginger fur with a squashed face appeared from the bushes. It had clumps of hair and dirt on its coat as it walked towards him.

“Urgh hello.” Draco greeted it with confusion, What the hell was this? It looked like a cat on growth serum that had crawled out of a garbage bin .

The cat just stopped and stared at him, until it suddenly started meowing and moving closer. Draco felt himself compelled to pet the small area on its head where there was no grime. The poor thing was probably a stray,

“Looks like we’re both trying to work things out over here.” The cat let him pet it for a moment until it turned to walk back into the forest. “Did I just talk to a cat?” Draco found himself embarrassed and humoured by his own actions, “and now I’m talking to myself…”

“Yes you are.” Theo called out from over by the path. Draco was thankful he was the only one to witness his madness. “Come to get you, Millie’s got some announcement.”

Millie had surprised them all by announcing she would also be trying out for the Quidditch team in a beater position. Girls rarely made the Slytherin team but Adrian had witnessed her work with batting away the rouge bludger and asked her to come along. Draco nursed his Nimbus 2001 in his hands as they walked down towards the pitch. He had swigged back the Pepperup potion which was ensuring the pain subsided with each step. The nerves in his stomach however were only increased threefold by the energy which now flowed through his body.

“You’ll be fine.” Pansy whispered in his ear when nobody was looking. “I’ll try and tamper with that lanky boys broom if you like?” Draco pushed her away with a grin and headed out onto the pitch behind Millie.

Adrian had them all complete a number of flying, batting and catching drills. By the end he had devised a mock game to test each person’s ability to respond to actual gameplay. Draco leant down close to the hilt of his broom to slice more efficiently through the air. He briefly caught the sound of Goyle chanting his name from the other side of the pitch. Draco had seen the snitch dart across towards the northern stands and now caught up with it. Reaching out he over extended himself and began to plummet. As he fell he reached out for the broom and caught on just before hitting the ground. Unceremoniously swinging his leg up and re mounting the broom he searched for the snitch again. He needed to find it, he needed to show Adrian he was worthy of a place among the Slytherin players. He needed to prove to himself he was good at something. Millie was placed on his team and had been smashing the bludger all around the pitch, directing it back even at the oppositions keeper; Miles Bletchley. She was frightfully good and made Draco want to be better. Eventually Draco's eyes caught the flash of gold once more and this time he balanced himself before reaching out. He wrapped his fist around the snitch and yanked it back. When he looked to the stands even Blaise was up on his feet cheering.

Draco had made the team as seeker with Millie and Goyle as beaters. Crabbe took the news rather hard and decided to eat his feelings even more than usual that night.

“Why do they even have girls on the team?” Crabbe whined, stuffing his face with a chocolate frog.

“I’ll take that.” Theo grabbed the chocolate card out of Crabbe’s hand. His collection was now expanding.

“She’s not built like a girl though is she, she’s got a beaters build.” Draco threw his robes on his bed and examined his scars again, they were fading fast on his chest.

“It’s looking better. Put some more of Theo’s salve on it, it helps.” Blaise pointed at the jam jar full of Theo’s home brewed potion.

“We need another prank.” Theo said out of the blue as he slid the chocolate frog card into the collectable binder Draco had bought him for Christmas last year.

“Agreed.” Blaise jumped on it right away, “I’m thinking we get Cormac to eat a bunch of doxie eggs so he’s out of the Gryffindor team.”

“What if we set fire to the stands while they trained?” Crabbe suggested,

“No you sicko, that’ll actually hurt people.” Theo sat up in his bed, “We just need to target Seamus and Cormac for all the trouble they've been giving us.”

Draco remembered how Theo had taken over in their potions class the other day while brewing the confusing concoction; “You were pretty good in potions the other day, we could put some potion in their food?” he suggested.

Draco had come to think of Theo as the brains of the boys group. He was something of an awkward book nerd, thick glasses included. All holidays he’d worked his way through the Malfoy library like he couldn’t get enough. Theo even read muggle books, something Draco thought was deplorable and insane, but dismissed when Theo assured him it was just a personal act of rebellion against his father. Draco felt himself stretch taller just standing next to him. What consoled him when thinking of Theo’s brains and height was his own un nerving self-belief. He knew it must have been years of his parents telling him he was the figurative sun to their solar system, but Draco truly believed he could do whatever her wanted. At least he had, until he saw the way his father had been marked by Voldemort. He’d never processed just how tight of a grip the wizard had on his family.

“I need the distraction.” Draco admitted as he rubbed the salve on his scars.

***

Theo had spent the weekend before Halloween brewing a small fleet of potions. Draco would wake up each morning to colourful fumes and strange smells as Theo left them to brew in the dorm. Seeking refuge from the potion making Draco pulled on his jumper and coat, departing for another walk around the grounds. Sure enough as he walked the forest line the ginger ball of fur emerged, it hacked up something slimy.

“You’re disgusting.” Draco turned up his nose at the cat which had was clearly showing off the ‘present’ it thought it had delivered him. The cat meowed. “I don’t even really like cats..” Draco awkwardly bent down and touched the cats grimy fur again, “You just caught me at a bad time the other day. My father wrote me yesterday about pleasing Snape and he was angry about the Hippogriff thing. He might try to kill the beast just for my ….mistake”

Draco didn’t like Buckbeak, Merlin knows he didn’t think it was appropriate that such a savage animal lived at the school. He and Pansy were both agreed on that. But he blamed Hagrid for his scars more than the animal. What was the groundskeeper doing teaching? What qualifications did he have, didn't he get expelled? Why did he just let the animal maul him? An anger rose up again inside him. The cat purred.

“Do you have parents? Bet they don’t tell you anything either..” he found himself saying out of the blue before realising he was talking to a cat… again. “Bloody hell!” he stood up and stepped away from the squished faced feline, “I've become so mad that I’m talking to a ball of dirt and fluff!”

“Hi Draco.” A soft slightly high pitched voice called out from afar.

Draco whipped around and saw Daphne’s younger sister with a girl who had long straggly blonde hair that was almost brushing the dirt path; “Hi.” He nodded back,

“You coming back up for breakfast?” Astoria asked politely, “We just went to drop off some letters at the owlery.”

Draco turned back to look at the cat but it was gone, leaving behind only a slimy hairball.

“Care to join?” the girl with blonde hair and almost invisible eyebrows asked,

“Sure…” Draco joined them on the path walking back up towards the castle.

“This is Luna.” Astoria introduced the girl to whom he realised wore a matching bracelet to her.

“Keeps away the Dustlebugs and unkind thoughts.” Luna had a vacant look and whimsical sing song-y voice, she must have seen him looking at the odd ribbon and bead jewellery.

“I know some people who could use that.” Draco was beginning to seriously question Astoria’s choice in company. How is this Daphne’s so beloved sister? The one she wouldn’t shut up about, the one that was in like every story she told? They really were very different. He listened as Astoria chattered about the opera singer which she had seen over the summer. Well she at least spoke like Daphne. They both overdid it on the hand gestures when telling a story.

He hoped she didn't tell Daphne about the cat incident. Daphne and he had an understanding; it wasn't as close a friendship like he had with the boys (fostered around nights in their shared dorm), and it wasn't the mothering protective kind he had with Pansy. It wasn't even the sympathetic distant one he had with Millie, where both just acknowledged they ran in close circles. She had understood what it was like to watch Auror's turn through your childhood home, how violated he had felt, how for the first time he had an inkling they were not untouchable. She had also helped him with Herbology essays, joined in on some of their pranks and helped stop the rumours around him being the fearsome heir of Slytherin. He knew that he cared what Daphne thought of him, and news of him talking to a cat would probably not be received favourably.

***

When Draco arrived at breakfast and sat down at the Slytherin table, Theo withdrew three small empty bottles from his jacket pocket; “Already put them in the scrambled eggs, the bacon and the pumpkin juice. Made sure to do it around where Seamus and Cormac sit.”

Draco felt excitement bubble in his stomach. He decided to take a small leap of faith,

“Before the others get here.” He looked at the relatively empty table. Astoria had gone to sit with Luna. “About the interrogation we had?” He watched as Theo’s smile faded, he too had endured criticism for the failure of Voldemort’s plan. “After, when they left, well a couple days later my fathers… mark. It started to get re carved in his skin or something, something painful enough to reduce him to tears. He was begging my mother too….” Draco let himself recall the event, Theo was the only one who might understand. “he was begging for her to chop his arm off he was in that much pain.”

Theo held his expression before softening into something that looked like pity. Draco started to recoil. He didn’t want pity.

“I think it happened to my father too. Truth is…” Theo shut his book and drummed its cover, “he’s gone.”

“Gone?”

“He was there for a couple weeks when i got home but just before the start of term I saw him leave. Didn’t tell me anything. But I did hear a few voices in his study the days after the interrogations. I think they went to Daphne’s house as well. She hasn’t said but I accidentally told my father she was there too.” Theo touched his upper arm as if recalling the moment. "He was angry."

Draco had witnessed the way Theo’s father treated him. It had taken him that night they were given the orders to put the pieces together; why Theo didn’t remove his shirt in front of them (he thought he had just been a prude), why he had so much healing salve, why he hated his father. He never complained about his scars to Theo. He guessed that they were both marked the same. Perhaps Theo even worse. But he did need somebody to confide in; he couldn’t keep talking to a feral cat. People would think he was crazy. He thought he was crazy too.

“I told my father as well.” Draco admitted, “She sent me a letter over the holidays but she didn’t say. I didn’t ask though.”

“I’m worried I’ve gotten her in trouble. Dragged her into this mess.”

“Since when do you care?” Draco looked at the door hoping their prank targets would come in soon,

“You know what she did. She helped Harry.” He whispered, “If they find out, and if Riddle's caught on…”

Draco felt a jolt of guilt, he’d been so consumed by other things that he hadn't even considered Daphne; Why she did what she did or how she would be affected.

“What do you think your father’s doing? Trying to find Riddle to tell him?”

“I don’t know.” Theo admitted as more people filed into the hall. “But I don’t trust him. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for the Dark Lord.”

“You put the stuff in?” Blaise sauntered up to the table, “told a Gryffindor most of their food was gone and the house elves were on strike so they’d hurry up.”

“House elves?” Millie gave a dopey smile as she and Daphne arrived, she reached over and took a blueberry muffin.

“They’re on strike.” Blaise lied,

“Oh why?” Millie fell for the lie.

“Look, look!” Theo pointed at the door, his mouth twisted in a cheeky grin. Seamus and Cormac had bumbled in with Ron and Harry. They took their seats and slapped down piles of food on their plates.

“Show time.” Draco laughed as they began to tuck into their meal.

Seamus’s ear was the first one to blow up to a comically large size. Then Harry started belching loudly, surprising even himself. Soon Cormac’s already huge hands were weighing him down and he looked around confused.

“Did you put it in Ron’s food too?” Daphne gasped as Ron tripped over his now clown shaped feet and asked people what day it was, completely bewildered.

“Had to spike the whole dish, not my fault he ate it.” Theo snapped back,

“This is you isn’t it?” Pansy appeared behind Draco, he jumped having not heard her designer shoes tapping the stone like they usually did.

“Yes.” He admitted through a laugh, the scene had them all in hysterics.

"Nice one." she grinned, taking a seat.

“Its Wednesday Weasel!” Blaise yelled out an answer to Ron's continued questioning.

“Its Saturday..” Millie looked confused too,

“He’s just starting shit. Confusing Ron.” Daphne huffed, getting up to go see if Ron was alright. Hermione had just started tending to him.

“Don’t think you’re needed anymore Greengrass!” Theo called after her.

Draco was hunched over in hysterics as he watched the chaos unfold. All four boys were bumbling around the hall, and other Gryffindors were spitting out their food in fear of suffering their embarrassing fate. Professor Flitwick hurried between them trying to settle the eruption of noise and giggles. It was the first time in a while that Draco hadn't thought about his family or Voldemort or The Pureblood Society or Quidditch. He just laughed through the dull pain of his old injuries until he had to wipe tears from his eyes using Blaise's purple handkerchief.

Chapter Text

When the first Hogsmeade weekend arrived, Theo had managed to forge his father's signature on the form well enough to convince Professor Snape to let him go. Snape had tried to contact Leviathan to check the permission was truely granted, but had failed to reach him. This didn’t surprise Theo, his father had a one track mind that was never concerned with parenting his son.

Theo hadn’t been sleeping. Each night his mind would draw up from the well of horrible memories he had garnered and force him to relive them. One night it had been the feeling of the elixir burning up his oesophagus which brought him from his sleep gasping for air and water. Another night it had been the look that Voldemort had given him down in the chamber, the cold icy death stare which haunted him, he dreamt the Dark Lord was coming to kill him for what he did. The night before the Hogsmeade weekend it had been his mother. His poor helpless mother crying out from among the flames. Her flesh began to melt from her body, her hair now smoke. He watched his mother become ash which blew away in the wind. When he awoke, tears had been streaming down his face. Thankful for casting the muffliato charm around his bed, Theo let himself sob until he started to dry wretch. The pain of breathless crying was only intensified by his longing for his mother. He wanted her to hold him, to help him back to sleep, he wanted to feel her warmth again and know that the world was safe.

The others were all ecstatic to be able to go down into the small chocolate box looking village. Theo too was ready for something new but the lack of sleep and lingering concern for he’s failure to truly aid Voldemort’s return were weighing down on him as they gathered outside he clock tower.

“I can’t believe boring Binn’s gave us a short essay on medieval witch hunts across the Hogsmeade weekend.” Pansy whined. She had treated the expedition like a fashion show, bundled up in a dramatic fur coat and matching hat which had apparently come straight off the Paris runway. Theo thought she looked ridiculous but Charlotte Montague and the other girls had fawned over the set and her matching white snow boots. They wanted to know how she got it.

“We can all submit the same essay and slip him a couple galleons.” Draco mused regarding the essay as they climbed into the carriages.

Theo was painfully aware nobody else could see them. The thestrals were always unsettling to the eye; their skeletal horse like frame and leathery black skin taut over the bone. But it was why he could see him that haunted him, why he was able to stare into their blank white eyes. As the carriage jolted forwards he watched as the thestrals moved, he could track the placement of each bone under their skin. They were like featherless hippogriff carcasses, pulling them onwards to the small magical village. The others didn't even know they were there.

“What are you looking at?” Daphne ducked her head to try and catch his attention,

“Nothing.” Theo shook his head and adjusted his glasses,

Daphne watched him the entire carriage ride down to Hogsmeade. When they arrived Draco forced them into Honeydukes, he spent a small fortune on sweets just to spite Ron who had been eying off a bag of peppermint imps. They left carrying bags of merchandise and reluctantly followed him into the sporting shop next door. The boys stared at the new Comet 5000 broom until Draco decided his was still better, and they were finally allowed to depart.

“That’s it we need drinks.” Blaise was lugging a bag of Honeydukes products for Draco and had grown tried,

“But Zonko’s…” Theo faltered and looked at the only shop he had really wanted to enter,

“We’ll go after we eat!” Goyle was already salivating as they headed towards the Three Broomsticks Inn.

The pub felt like every old British pub Theo had ever entered, which he had to admit was very little. There was a number of mismatched wooden tables and chairs which filled the distinct areas of the pub, the space must have originally been closed off rooms that now had great arches which joined the pub together. The landlady and barmaid stood behind a long oak counter, barrels of Meade and butterbeer were mounted on the wall behind her and stacked up to reach the ceiling were bottles of gigglewater, firewhiskey and berry wines. Theo followed Draco as he carved through the crowd. The people in the pub were not just witches and wizards, out of the corner of his eye Theo thought he saw a hag huddled over a plate of rotten meat.

“I’m getting us some drinks.” Blaise raised his voice to be heard over the noise and palmed off his heavy shopping bags on Theo.

“Theo!” he heard Daphne’s voice shout from across the pub, “Draco!”

Daphne sat at a table with Pansy, Charlotte Montague, Emmeline Avery and a few other girls. They were sipping on Butterbeer and sharing some squirming walnuts. Daphne’s hair caught the overhead candlelight and she had shed her thick woollen jumper to reveal a sleek black turtleneck. She looked almost grown up. As he got closer he heard their conversation;

“I’m just saying, Tracey's got friends in every house. Your power still lyes in Slytherin Pans.” Emmeline held up her hands,

“But she's muggleborn” Pansy was clearly getting annoyed, “and she's as boring as sin.”

Draco slid into the seat, clearly unpleased that outsiders had been invited onto the table. He ignored Charlotte like she was nobody of note.

“Buy the whole shop?” Daphne looked down at the bags the boys had carried in, Theo shed his own coat.

“Draco did, just to piss off your boyfriend Weasel.”

Daphne’s didn’t even react to the snarky undertone of his comments anymore, instead she turned away back to Emmeline who was discussing her latest rendezvous with Adrian. The pair had been caught snogging on the back stairwell of the clock tower and were now in detention for violating their prefect duties.

“Did you see Poppy’s new bag? I know its designer but how hideous!” Emmeline changed subject, “I shouldn’t say that and if that’s her taste then that’s all that matters but…”

Blaise would surely provide a much needed topic change when he walked back with butterbeers. As he did, he noted that he had lost Crabbe and Goyle to a gobstone match a table over.

“Here you go.” Blaise dished out the drinks and slid next to Theo, “also, guess who just threatened to kill me by the bar?” he joked,

“Who?” Draco indulged him.

“Seamus and Cromac of course, Dean Thomas looked mostly reluctant but I’d say he was in on it too. Ron and Harry laughed but I don’t think they wanted blood like the others. They’re still mad about that thing by the greenhouses and well, the fact we spiked their food.”

“Want one?” Daphne reached over and offered Theo a walnut. He declined, but Draco took a handful.

They drank their butterbeers listening to the rest of the girls gossip, something that Blaise actually seemed very interested in; “So has Tracey got her claws in Lavender Brown and Parvati yet? You know i saw her the other day cuddled up to whats his name from the Hufflepuff team.”

“Like i care what she does!” Pansy snorted,

“Emmeline? Where's Poppy, you two are never apart?” Charlotte wiped the butterbeer off her lip, having poised an interesting question,

“We’ve just had a fight.” Emmeline huffed, “not my fault she’s jealous of me being in love.”

“You’re so grown up.” Daphne admired, “I wish I could just jump forward to fifth year.”

“No you don’t, I’ve got O.W.Ls in June.” She mourned the upcoming exams already.

“Hey babe.” Adrian appeared at their table, he leant over and kissed Emmeline.

“That’s it, I’m going to Zonko’s!” Theo excused himself having become very bored by all the girls talk, “Draco? Blaise?”

“Sorry this gossip’s too good. You know I much prefer when I’m the one spreading it opposed to the person its about.” Blaise turned back to the girls,

“Was hoping we could talk flying patterns, I just past Millicent…” Adrian urged Draco to stay.

Theo exited the pub alone. He wrapped himself up to keep warm as he reached the door of Zonko’s, suddenly he stopped short; Inside he saw Harry, Hermione, Ron and his brothers looking at dungbombs. Maybe I’ll just go for a walk. I cant handle the possible confrontation. Usually he would have stayed in the warm pub and amused himself with observing the patrons, but his eyes had been nagging him. The curse his father had placed on his vision was beginning to take its true toll. He stumbled down towards the shrieking shack hoping for some peace, somewhere to close his eyes and let them heal. The air was crisp and harsh on his lungs. The snowfall off the highstreet was deep enough that he had to trudge through it with considerable effort.

“Nott!” a thick Irish accent yelled from behind him. Theo knew instantly who it was.

Seamus, Dean and Cormac barrelled down towards him with their wands drawn. Theo scrambled in his own pocket to draw his, but it was quickly expelled from his hand by Dean. Shit. Theo cursed, He was about to have the shit kicked out of him. They must have followed him out of the pub. Dean was the best at magic of all of them, Seamus was after blood and Cormac… well he had big fists and arm muscles

As he had guessed, Cormac was the one to physically throw him down the ground. Seamus began to cast the tickling charm which Theo had used on him last year. Theo felt himself overcome with giggles and laughter, struggling to suppress the invisible tickling force. He began to feel breathless, so busy laughing that he was actually choking unable to breathe. He spluttered for help, shuffling to get back his wand.

“Theo!” Daphne puffed from further up the hill, “What’s going on?” she began to stumble down through the snow, boots picking up the white powder. Drawing her wand after seeing that Seamus was casting some sort of spell, she quickly disarmed him.

“Hey Daphne” Seamus addressed her with a pleasant greeting, as if he had been doing nothing out of the ordinary, “How’s it going?”

“What the hell is going on?” she started to walk towards Theo but was beaten by Cormac.

Theo felt himself be turned over, his face lifted up out of the powdery snow as he gasped to regain his breathe. It was Cormac who had turned him over on his back. Theo watched as he raised his thick fist and punched him squarely in the face. He heard Daphne scream as his nose cracked.

“That’s for humiliating us.” Cormac growled as he ripped the glasses off Theo’s face, having clipped his fist on the frames, in frustration he snapped them in his hands, “and that’s for last year by the greenhouse's!”

“Tell your boy Blaise to be less mouthy around us or you’ll get more of this.” Seamus instructed.

As he reached up to stop the blood gushing down his face, Theo regretted bragging about his victory over the boys last year. He regretted brewing all those potions and adding them to their food. It was the first time he felt the downside of his trickery. He guessed they must have copped too much shit for it in the Gryffindor tower, and so now he was finally paying the price.

Daphne must have watched in horror as the three boys walked away cockily, heading back up to the highstreet. Theo began to taste the blood in his mouth. He couldn’t see anything, the world had become a blur - It was like looking through a fogged up window. Suddenly he could make out the shape of Daphne’s face and felt her soft hands grab his own as she helped him sit up.

“Are you ok?” her voice was so tender and sweet that Theo felt himself wanting to truly answer her,

“No.” he muffled a cry,

Tears began to pour from his eyes as he reached out and felt the broken glasses. It wasn’t the pain that made him upset, he was used to that. Instead he had held his broken lens’s up to his eye, only to realise he couldn’t see clearly out of them anymore. How was he ever going to see again? It was his father who had cursed him and made these glasses. Now even if he wanted the help Theo knew he couldn’t reach his father. But truthfully he also knew that his father wouldn’t even care, he’d just laugh at him for being beaten up by a half blood. So he let himself cry for the first time in a long time.

Daphne watched as the tears rolled down his cheeks steadily. Perhaps if Theo could’ve seen clearly he would have hidden his face away to spare Daphne from her own look of horror and sympathy. She had never seen him like this, nobody had. Theo felt her arms slowly wrap around him, bringing him in tighter and tighter until she was cradling him. Her hand found itself wrapped around Theo’s as they tried to compress the blood that emptied from his nose. He knew that he’d wake up tomorrow embarrassed, but for now he just needed somebody who cared about him. I just want somebody to care. I want somebody to know. I want somebody to understand.

“I’ll get the others. Draco and Blaise. We can go back to Pomfrey and she’ll heal it over, and I’ll tell Snape and he’ll make those boys pay for what they did.” She promised him,

“No. I doesn’t even hurt much..” he sniffled, moving away from her embrace. “I’m fine.”

“No you’re not, you have blood pouring from your nose.” Daphne began to stand up, her pants now covered in snow and her gloves covered in blood. Theo reached out and grabbed her wrist to stop her, she fell back down next to him.

“Don’t.” he demanded.

“Then why..”

“Am I crying?” he finished her question, trying desperately to pull himself together and decide what he wanted to say. Do I just play it cool? Can I bother? Do I have the strength anymore? “I can’t see.” He felt himself confessing.

“What?” Daphne peered at him, trying to gauge if this was a prank. “What do you mean?”

“I mean my glasses.” He held up the snapped pair, “without them I can’t see.”

“We’ll just get you new ones.”

“You cant.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean..” Theo took a deep breathe. He wasn’t sure why he trusted her, maybe he was just tried of pretending. “My father. He…blurred… my eyesight and these are the only glasses he enchanted to work for me.”

“Your father blinded you?” Daphne gasped, her blurry figure looked down at the glasses in his hands. “But why? How? I don’t understand.”

“Well I mean even you always thought I read too much.” He inappropriately joked,

“We have to tell Snape, or Dumbledore, they’ll help.” Daphne stood back up again newly resolved, “We’ll get you back in a carriage and we’ll go right there. They’ll be able to reverse the spell easily.” She guided him to his feet and started to walk away before realising he was slow to follow. “Oh, ill um. I’ll just..”

Theo felt her hand intertwine with his, her other hand then rested on his upper arm so that she could guide him. They walked up the snowy path and back onto the highstreet where he heard some whispers and chatter as they passed. Daphne had started narrating what was around them; the fallen branch now covered in snow a few steps ahead, the couples who were shuffling out of Madam Puddifoot’s and the bag of Fizzing Whizzbees which a student had spilt all over the ground. He drank in the sound of her voice as a comfort in a world which he could no longer see.

They sat in silence the entire carriage ride back. When Theo found himself in Snape’s office (much to Daphne’s insistence), answering questions about his father’s ocular curse he wished he was holding hands with Daphne again. His newly repaired nose could smell her light florally perfume even now that she had left the room.

“I’m going to enter your mind Mr Nott, it’s the only way I can understand what kind of spell was used on you.” Snape explained.

“Please no.” Theo begged. He’d rather stay blind.

“Think of the night your father placed the spell and I will try not to trespass any further.” Snape’s voice was less seething than normal. He sounded as if he wished to help, but Theo was unreceptive. His memories were dark and disdainful, all but a few.

But Theo didn’t see much of a choice. He tried to bring back the memory. As he did, he felt his mind lurch, his thinking became clouded and he had the strange feeling that somebody was listening. Memories of pain began to flash across his subconscious, times where he had been beaten with a log from the fireplace for asking a stupid question, times where his father had put his cigar out on his upper arm to test if he would flinch, times where he had drunk the poison which his father claimed made their familial line stronger. Snape must have seen it all by the time he felt his mind go to ease again. He was exhausted just trying to hold back the worst of his fathers torture.

“It’ll take me a while.” Snape explained. He did not say anything about what he had seen.

“So what should I do?”

“Wear these.” Snape waved his wand over the broken glasses which fused together again. He watched as the professor worked his wand gently over the frames, whispering incantations. He turned to the wall of potions which sat behind his desk and handed one to Theo for him drink. “This will help you get by, but a cure will take some time.”

When Theo emerged with his newly repaired glasses and slightly restored vision, he only thought of how he would be able to talk to her again. How could he and Daphne act normally around one another now that she knew, and now that they had been so… close?

Theo dreamt of her that night. He felt as if he was finally seeing for the first time, really seeing , despite still having to wear glasses until Snape devised the counter curse. But he also felt ashamed he hadn’t just asked for help earlier. For two years he had walked around wearing glasses and going blind when at home. It was freeing to finally tell someone. She had asked me all first year too. She had insisted I tell her and I didn’t, afraid of what she’d do or say. Perhaps he didn’t have to shoulder all his problems alone. Perhaps that was what friends were for.

Chapter Text

Daphne hated him. She hated Leviathan Nott for what he had done. Her feelings about Theo were erratic and unable to settle in her mind; she liked the way he joked around, she liked the way he made everyone in their group laugh and she liked the way he was passionate about learning the things he was interested in. He was deathly quiet, although you wouldn’t know it when he was in the right mood around his friends. But that smug look Theo had when he knew he had said something witty, the way he distracted them in Herbology or History, the way he’d try and out do her, the way he teased her and made her question herself – that annoyed her to no end. But when it came to Leviathan Nott, her feelings were crystal clear. From the moment she met him she had wanted to stay away, and now she was resolved. Given the chance, Daphne would strike him across the face if she saw him again. She hoped she never saw him again.

So she had devised a plan. When Daphne didn’t like something, she tried to change it. She’d realised last year how powerful the art of persuasion was, and how good she could be at it. She’d managed to squash rumours about Draco and Blaise, managed to help Pansy become the most popular girl in their house year. You just had to prompt the right ideas in people’s minds.

“Thank merlin for the Christmas holidays.” Millie whispered as they walked into Defence Against the Dark Arts.

“Do you know what everyone’s doing over the holidays?” Daphne started laying out her last minute plan.

Their teacher was a man named Professor Lupin. He looked both young but aged, his face lined with stress marks and wrinkles. His clothes were ill fitted, bony ankles always on display as his tall frame seemed to be difficult to dress. He would have looked an unimposing friendly man if not for the few scars which ran down his face. Ron and Harry had especially taken a likening to him, apparently he was a friend of the Weasley’s. When Daphne had spoken to Ron during their class on Grindylow’s, he had glowed over the professors knowledge and skill.

“Today we will be tapping into your greatest fears!” the professor interrupted, “we will be facing a non-being, a shapeshifting form of your worst fears that turns that weakness against you. Many grown witches and wizards pray to never encounter one of these. But today you all will as part of your first assignment.”

Daphne instantly turned to watch Theo’s face drop. He loved Defence against the Dark Arts, he even liked Professor Lupin (although anyone would be an improvement from Lockhart, who had been fired for incompetence). But he didn’t need other people knowing about his father. Daphne could only imagine the kind of man who blinded his only son, she had asked her self again and again What else has he been doing to Theo?

“Do we all have to do this?” Parvati wrung her hands nervously,

“Yes.” Lupin clapped his own together and began to wheel out a small antique wardrobe.

“Do you have a fear of ugly furniture professor?” Blaise joked,

“Line up.” He instructed them, “and when I open these doors the creature will emerge. But before I do… does anyone remember the incantation to which the boggart is effectively defeated?”

“Riddikulus.” Theo answered without a second thought,

“A boggart can only be repelled by which is its strongest opposition, laughter. You must think of something funny to change the boggarts form into something less menacing.”

“Thank you Mt Nott and Miss Granger.” Lupin smiled at the bushy bucktoothed girl and dragged Ron forward to face the creature first.

Daphne knew it would be a spider. He always had a fear of them, back at the Burrow he would have her kill them for him. When Hermione stepped up it was a failed test, when Millie did it the boggart was a mirror, when Blaise did it there appeared only an empty room. Daphne tried not to read into them, she knew what it was like to be insecure or lonely or scared of failure. These were normal fears. Seamus feared vampires and Lavender Brown werewolves. Crabbe feared heights while Goyle simply feared starvation. Pansy’s was complicated, it started to form into what looked like a homeless man before she quickly cast the incantation to cover it.

“I fear unwashed people.” She explained when Daphne gave her a confused look. The rest of the class laughed as the boggart turned into a ball of slippery sudds.

Yes, these are all normal. Mine will be normal too. Theo’s will be normal too.

Daphne watched Theo step up, wand at the ready. Pansy’s changed boggart started to morph as it took in Theo’s presence. She watched as Theo thought hard about what he was going to see, she braced herself to see his face. The man of whom she now despised. A human figure started to form, but as it became clearer there was only the image of a beautiful woman; She had a rich and plump face, her hair was several shades darker than Theo’s and long enough that it swept across her back. She started staring at him, wrinkling her nose in disgust and muttering about how much she hated him. The moment she opened her mouth to say something else foul, Theo cast the spell and she became a deflated balloon which whizzed about the room. In the excitement, he walked to the back to join Blaise and stay out of sight.

Then it was Daphne’s turn, and although she wasn’t sure she knew what she might see. She knew her weaknesses; her quick temper, her need to be liked and perceived as intelligent. The boggart wasted no time before the whizzing balloon turned to a crumpled heap which fell to the floor. It too was a person, a little girl who started to convulse and vomit. She had Astoria’s voice as she cried out in pain, wishing for death. Daphne felt her wand arm drop and tried to reach out and grab her sister who had started to bleed from her ears and mouth. Lupin stepped forth, changing the boggart to that of a silver orb and pushing it back in the wardrobe. Daphne realised the rest of the class had hidden their faces in shock by the gore they had witnessed.

“That’s enough for today.” Lupin smiled as if they had not seen the darkest fears of their minds, “You may stay behind if you wish to talk with me.”

“How come you always get out of shit like this.” Theo mumbled to Draco as they left for Charms.

“Getting mauled by a giant bird gives you some sympathy points sometimes.” Draco pulled down his robe collar to show off his remaining bandages, “even if the professor doesn’t like you.”

Theo shook his head and bid them farewell as he headed over to talk with Professor Lupin. He undoubtedly had a number of questions he wished to discuss, always the nerd for anything related to the Dark Arts.

“Hey Draco.” Daphne hurried up to the other boy’s conversation, “I was talking to Mills about the Christmas holiday. What are you and Theo doing?”

“I’ll be having dinner with my parents and the rest of my family” he looked at her as if the answer was obvious. “And I don’t know about Theo, his dad’s gone away so he’ll probably be alone…” the realisation hit him as he told her.

“His dad’s gone?” Blaise and Daphne repeated in unison. Daphne noticed that Blaise seemed delighted as well.

“Theo!” Draco ignored them and called out to him across the room to where Theo was waiting for the professor. “Do you want to come spend Christmas at mine? I’ll be so bored, everyone there’s going to be ancient.”

“Ergh yeah sure.” Theo shrugged, still pale from his encounter with the boggart. “thanks mate.”

“Consider this my present to you, because I may have forgotten to get you something this year.”

Theo cracked a smile and waved them off as they headed down to Charms. Daphne let herself fall back from the boys. Her plan had been executed to near perfection. Leviathan Nott wouldn’t be laying a hand on Theo for as long as she could devise otherwise. She felt Pansy’s arm reach out and tap hers;

“Save me.” She whispered as she was swept up in a group of gaggling girls.

Charlotte Montague and Tracey Davis, Lavender Brown and the Patil twins all rotated around Pansy most of the day. The girls were still trying to endear themselves to her after she had announced she would be giving out enchanted charms to her closest friends that Christmas. They were also dying to borrow the designer fur coat which she had worn to Hogsmeade, or some of her Chanel loafers and Hermes bags. Daphne wondered how she had continued to afford such luxuries when Pansy’s pursuit of popularity had so firmly been rooted in the need for her dad to get a promotion. It seemed the Parkinson purse was healing quite well.

“I don’t get it.” Millie shook her head as she watched the spectacle unfold,

“She wears the latest designer clothes, she’s drop dead gorgeous, she’s wealthy, she’s in the papers and she’s both mean and honest enough to make you want her to like you.” Daphne explained, she had been observing Pansy in action at Hogwarts for three years now.

Pansy just has an indescribable aura that made people want to be her friend. She was the Emmeline Avery of their year, except maybe more cut throat.

“I guess that means its just you and me in Charms today." Millie smiled, linking her arm in with Daphne's.

***

“Come on slow poke!” Ron reached down to grab Daphne’s gloved hand. He, the twins and Ginny had come to rescue her and Astoria from a day of posture correction and decoration hanging with their mother. The Greengrass Christmas dinner was fast approaching.

Daphne jumped up and onto the broom as Ron swooped it low to the ground outside the Manor’s iron gates. Ginny stopped hers, swinging around like a professional and letting Astoria mount it properly.

“Watch it Ginny or mum’ll work out you’ve been pinching our brooms to practice on.” Fred warned as he sped away down the path.

Daphne wrapped her arms around Ron and held on tight as they whizzed after him. Ron leant back, slightly afraid of the speed at which they were going. Daphne nudged him forward on the broom to make sure she didn’t lose her head coming off the back, she screamed as they whipped around a hedged corner. As they raced ahead low to the ground they picked up a flurry of snow. Ginny too had turned the flight back to The Burrow into a race. Astoria laughed hysterically as Ginny flew her broom above Ron and Daphne, letting Astoria’s legs dangle near her sisters head. Their scarves forming banners behind them.

“We win.” Fred and George turned back as they spun towards the orchard, both dressed in matching jumpers and beanies.

Daphne watched as Fred collided with an bare boned apple tree, and George was sent into a pile of snow. Both had taken their eyes off their path to gloat and steered into one another.

“We win!” Astoria cheered as Ginny flew past her older brothers and came to a sharp and firm stop at the door. She leapt off the broom and waited to high-five Ginny as she put the broom away.

Inside the Burrow was warm and cosy. They dusted off their jackets and coats, discarding them on a dancing clothes wrack and sat around the fire. Fred and George stripped down and threw their wet clothes by the fire, running upstairs to get changed. As they disappeared, Harry came out from the kitchen. His hair was permanently spiked up and his round glasses were fogged from the tray of hot chocolate’s Molly had made them.

“Game of snap?” Daphne suggested, trying to skate over the awkwardness of the group to which Ron seemed oblivious.

“Sure.” Harry nodded as he handed her a mug.

Arthur was sat in the corner of the room reading a muggle newspaper whose pictures didn’t move. He studied the pages which Harry had brought for him while Molly had spotted the sopping clothes by the fire and gone to lecture the twins. This left the group to their own devices. Daphne dealt out the cards.

“Are you here for the whole break?” Daphne asked Harry,

“Yeah.” He asserted, “Mrs Weasley sorted it out with McGonagall.”

“Snap!” Ginny slammed her hand down and all the cards popped, turning into a bright yellow powder before remoulding into a new pile of cards in her other hand.

Astoria kicked off the next round, flipping the cards over. They all honed in to each flip of the card and draw of the deck, becoming more and more competitive.

“Snap!” Ron pre-emptively thumped his big hands down on the small pile of cards. The cards burst so violently that they repelled his hand back, he had accidentally snapped down on a mis matched pair.

“Ha! You have to!” Daphne insisted, knowing the price they paid when they messed up.

“No…” Ron groaned, turning to lock eyes with her as he readied himself.

“What’s going’ on?” Harry asked confused,

“It’s this stupid thing they do when one of them loses to the other.” Ginny explained,

“Ronald Billus Weasley, feel my wrath.” Daphne laughed and reached out to pinched his side hard. Ron winced before yelping and retreating.

“Alright next round.” Astoria called their attention back to the game.

Ginny won the game by a landslide, her reflexes were outstanding. By the time they were done any remaining hot chocolate had grown cold, resulting in Daphne collecting up the mugs and taking them into the kitchen. She wished they had a house elf to do this, but she liked being perceived as helpful. Ron called out that he was getting something from his room as Daphne returned to the small living area. It was just her and Harry and Arthur who had fallen asleep on the lounge.

“I wanted to talk to you.” Harry started, his voice determined. “About what happened in the chamber. I know you helped me, but I don’t know why.”

“I didn’t really help you per say. I mean we were all in danger.” Daphne justified, although she knew it was a lie at its core.

“But you pulled the fang out of my arm, you stopped the basilisk from swallowing me whole before the sword revealed itself.” He paced towards her. She could see behind his eyes that he was trying to work her out.

“Look Potter.” She pursed her lips as she considered her words, “We share a best friend. So maybe that’s enough of a reason to not want you dead. Doesn’t mean I helped you in the chamber, doesn’t mean we’re friends who owe each other anything.”

“I told Dumbledore...”

“Look what I found!” Ron bounded down the stairs, jumping the last four and landing hard on his feet. He held up a tattered scrapbook. “I’m showing Harry a picture from that year before you discovered beautifying serum.”

“No!” Daphne shrieked, waking Arthur with a jolt.

“Did we hear you found pictures from the Spot Faced Daph era?” Fred stuck his head out from his bedroom door.

Daphne had taken after him with a determination. Ron did a lap of the dining room table, chuckling as he waved the photo album above his head. Daphne pursued him right out the back door and into the snow, both barefooted. Ron leapt about trying to get back in the house but Daphne stood guard of the door,

“Freeze or hand them over!” she demanded,

“Here Ron, throw it!” Harry urged, readying to catch the album.

Daphne reached up to block the throw but felt her body jerk back. Fred had seized her up in his arms and was dragging her back into the house, Daphne tried kicking his shins but he seemed gangly enough to avoid her. Ron threw the book at Harry who held it tightly.

“Some help here Georgie.” He called as Daphne tried to claw at him, desperate to get the embarrassing photos.

“Ready Freddy.” George threw a soft ball of wool at Daphne’s chest which she then felt bind around her. She had been trapped inside an itchy woollen jumper that acted as a straitjacket.

“What’s that?” Harry watched as Fred was able to jump up and leave her wriggling to get free.

“New invention, itchy jumper trap.” Fred answered, taking the photo album from his hands and flicking through the pages. “Oh look how cute I was.” He pointed at one of the pictures,

“That’s me.” George rolled his eyes,

“Ah here it is!” Fred showed Harry the photo, who grinned stupidly at the image.

It had been taken two years before they started at Hogwarts. Daphne had contracted a mild form of Dragon Pox while visiting her cousins which left her skin with patches of a green rash and big red blotches across her face and body. The number of blotches had dropped significantly with each day but had unfortunately not fully subsided by the time she was cleared to go to Ron’s birthday party that year. In the middle of the photo was Ron who smiled as he blew out the nine candles on his birthday cake, she had been leaning over his right shoulder wearing a paper party hat.

Ron pulled a kitchen knife to cut her out of the twins contraption, giving an insincere apology for outing the picture.

“It’s humiliating” Daphne huffed as she threw the tattered jumper back at George. “You two are so dead.” She warned the twins, “when we get back to school and I can use magic…”

“I’m just glad you’re actually human. I swear the way Ron talks about you..” Harry chucked the album back to her, Daphne flicked through to take the picture out and destroy it.

“What do you think you’re doing Miss Greengrass.” Arthur shook his head and indicated for her to hand the album back intact, “Molly won’t want you messing with her albums.”

"But..." She looked down at the image, "fine, sorry." she handed the album back.

“Don’t worry, we won’t send it into the Prophet.” George teased.

***

Come Christmas, her mother had laden the table with every possible festive treat. Queenie and Sidd had outdone themselves; there was a giant glazed ham, a pile of sliced roast beef, two pitchers of gravy, mountains of carrots and peas and beans and roast potatoes. Crystal glasses held berried wine for each guest, whose seat was indicted by a calligraphy card. Between the food and drink were garlands of holly and pine, interspaced with them were silver candelabras that housed tall red wax candles that helped light the room.

Daphne waited patiently in her slightly sparkled red Christmas dress for her cousins to arrive. Her father had one sister, Gertrude Yang (being her married name). She was much older than him and as a result, Daphne’s cousins were all grown up. One was an alchemist who studied back in Korea where their father had grown up, another was high up in the Improper Use Of Magic Office at the ministry and the third was working under her father in the Department of Mysteries as an Auror. The third cousin was her favourite, Leto looked more like her father than her mother, she had a strong presence about her. She had Pansy’s sleek thick black hair but hers was much longer, and always contained in an appropriate bun. She wore bright colours that complimented the saffron hue of her skin with dramatic eye makeup and accessories. She was so different from the rest of them that Daphne greatly admired her spirit. When they arrived, Daphne politely greeted them all and gave Leto an excitable hug.

“How’ve you been honey?” Leto smiled at her as they waited for the other guests. She clutched a bag fashioned to resemble a Puffskein.

“Great, our house won the last Quidditch game against Ravenclaw. We’re going to obliterate Hufflepuff next term”

“How dare you slander my alma mater.” Leto grinned as she took a seat on a French chaise lounge, “How about you Astoria? Feeling well?”

“Yes thanks.” Astoria nodded, “I love your bag.”

“Well then, you have to have it.” Leto turned the bag over and dumped her belongings on the floor before handing it over the table. Astoria slowly accepted the gift, slightly weary it was a joke. “Where’s that cute friend of yours you told me about? Are they coming tonight?”

“Yes!” Astoria grinned, letting her new bag sit in her lap, “Luna, that’s her name. The Lovegood’s don’t celebrate Yule so mum decided it would be charitable to invite them.”

“See, I told you she was the favourite.” Daphne was never allowed to invite friends to any Yuletide event.

Luna and Xenophillius Lovegood stood out like sore thumbs when seated at the Greengrasses dining room table. Luna wore bright yellow robes that were decorated with embroidered Nogtails, which she was actively against hunting despite the species being a registered pest (She would have hated the Bulstrode’s). Her father had a similar gaudy outfit which included both frills and stripes. Daphne had watched her mother try to search for a compliment when greeting the pair, now at the table she invited questions about Mr Lovegood’s alternative magazine. As they divided up the ham and beef, Leto demanded that Luna make her a pair of the radish earrings she sported. Aunt Gertrude seems appalled by the idea that her daughter would wear such things to work in the Ministry, but she didn’t approve of much which Leto did anyway.

“Do you know anything about a man called Leviathan Nott?” Daphne asked her cousin between a bite of mash,

Leto seemed struck by the mention of the man’s name, “Why do you ask?”

“He’s been hurting somebody I care about. But you can’t say anything, he wouldn’t want people to know.”

Leto nodded, accepting the terms of the conversation. The adults down the other end of the table erupted in laughter as her uncle was recalling a story from his days in the Korean Ministry.

“I know something but I fear I can’t tell you. I believe you about Leviathan hurting people, I’ve come to know of his character of late. But if your friend is connected to him then…” she paused trying to think of what to say, “he’s in trouble.”

Leto wouldn’t tell her anymore no matter how much she pressed. She had told her that Leviathan was dangerous but he was going to be stopped, which inferred Ministry action. But a man as powerful as Leviathan would easily bribe his was out of a minor charge or investigation just as Mrs Zabini had last year. This had to be big.

The rest of the night was enjoyable. Luna and her father were an interesting change, they seemed to fascinate her uncle and cousin Allister with tales of made up animals and absurd conspiracy. Her father too enjoyed the oddity of it all, but he mostly doted on his wife of whom he had promised a night free from any work commitments. When Astoria bid Luna farewell and Daphne gave Leto one last hug, she whispered something in her ear:

“From what I hear there’ll be a trial soon. Then your friend will know what he did.”

Later that night as Daphne played charades with her family, she thought only of what Leviathan could have done. She guessed it would be on behalf of the Pureblood Society to which he seemed enslaved, they had mentioned during her interrogation that Voldemort was as determined as ever to succeed in his return now that they had failed him. But she knew nothing of the man, she barely knew much about his son.

Chapter Text

Theo liked staying with the Malfoy's. Draco had written to his mother to gain permission for him to stay and thankfully Narcissa didn’t refuse. His presence however, seemed to unnerve the Malfoy's in a way it hadn’t in the summer. Lucius and Narcissa were always home; Lucius in his study or out hunting with Ministry officials, Narcissa writing letters or meeting important people for tea. In most regards, Narcissa was the last of the royal Black family line. She carried herself witch such importance that even Draco had to make an appointment to see her during the day. The Black family had established the Pureblood Society hundreds of years ago, its leadership had been passed down to its heir until Orion and Cygnus had agreed to sign it over to Tom Riddle. But both men were dead now. Their heir’s too were either dead or disowned or jailed. Sirius Black (the next heir) was in Azkaban with cousin Bellatrix, Andromeda was disowned for marrying a muggle and Regulus too had died in the first war with his father. Narcissa was all that was left standing, saved from public scrutiny by her husband’s name yet respected and beloved among purebloods as a Black heir.

“Master Draco, your mother is wanting for you in her study.” A small bug eyed house elf had hurried up to Draco and Theo as they had been building a snowman in the Malfoy’s gardens. The poor creature looked freezing, having only been wearing a sack for clothing.

Draco pushed the elf aside as he strode back to the house. Theo followed, watching as Draco moved with urgency, never wanting to keep his mother waiting.

“Draco darling.” Narcissa called, she had come to meet the boys out in the hallway, “Come here.” She stared at Theo a moment as he started to leave them be, “You too Theodore.”

His breathe caught itself in his lungs. The way she had looked at him was troubling, she had only just made up her mind to include him in to the conversation that was about to be had.

“I thought you better hear this from me Theodore. I’ve just received an owl from Lestrange that your father has been caught and taken to Azkaban.” Narcissa spoke bluntly, she watched as he processed the information.

He didn’t know what to think. He didn’t like his father but, what would this mean? Was he an orphan now? Would he have to live with a distant relative? And why? Why was his father in Azkaban? He was mean enough and vile enough and cruel enough to be sure, but what had he actually been doing? What had he done?

“Is this to do with the society?” Draco asked, he knew his mother was the unofficial leader.

“Yes. He was sent on a task at the Dark Lord’s request.” She would not tell them what it was,

“This will be in the Evening Prophet.” She stressed, “and so Theodore will no longer be allowed to stay with us past this Yule. I have written to Snape so he can address the matter of his care come next holidays.”

A sharp jolt of disappointment and hurt rang out through Theo’s body. He had enjoyed his time here, his days with Draco playing cards and chess and chatting over cups of hot tea. All they did over the holidays was talk about how much they hated Seamus and Cormac and Harry and Ron, they swapped stories about Adrian and Miles or what they thought Marcus Flint was up to. They had even occasionally talked about girls like Emmeline or Angelina Johnson;

“Pansy would rip my tongue out for saying it but I’ll admit Angelina’s good looking. I think it’s because she’s good at Quidditch but there’s no way, I mean she’s a Gryffindor for one and a half blood for two.” Draco had scoffed,

“I’d date her just for the half-blood thing, to see the look on my father’s face.” Theo had imagined.

Now he wondered if he’d ever see him again, did this mean he was completely free to be his own man?

“I’m sorry Theodore. Your father was an excellent council member and completely dedicated to the Dark Lord’s cause, we are weaker without him.”

“Is there a trial?” Draco asked, looking over at Theo’s downturned face. Theo watched his shoes as he tried to think and process. He wasn’t very good at serious things.

“There will be, but from what Lestrange says they were caught unaware and will most likely be found guilty. Bernard Crabbe tried to apperate from the scene and was splinched, he’ll be treated in St Mungo’s before his trial too. But it’ll most likely be a closed court. ”

“I don’t understand…” Theo felt Narcissa looking at him for any final questions before the conversation was terminated,

“Theodore, you and Draco tried and failed to aid in bringing the Dark Lord back last year. The Society failed. And so we’ve had to make alternate plans which required far more risk. Your father knew of the risk when he was assigned the task and he’s failed. I am sorry for you but from what I understand this is not much of a loss either.”

Well she wasn’t wrong.

***

The Evening Prophet came out the night before the Hogwarts Express returned them to Hogwarts. Narcissa had asked him to wait by the barrier and enter the platform after them so as not to dirty their reputation by his association. It was just another painful twist of the knife, a reminder that Theo was alone again. The moment Theo stepped on the platform he considered throwing himself in front of the train, or simply going on the run. Every head turned to look, they whispered blatantly, pointing and poking their friends to watch too. He was like an animal in the zoo to be gawked at.

“This is from my mother.” Seamus spat at Theo as he loaded his bags up into the train.

“How can you even show your face?” Dean shook his head in disappointment, gently pulling the angered Seamus away by the arm.

As he wiped the ball of spit from his shirt, Blaise emerged and batted Seamus over the head with his thick leather bag.

“Oh dear, mind yourself Finnegan.” He feigned apology as he strutted forward down the isle of the train.

Theo just let them all stare and mutter obscenities. ‘Did you hear what his father did?’ ‘Those poor people’ ‘He must be like his father, I’d watch myself around him now’ ‘Pure evil, the entire Nott family’ ‘Did you hear about his mother too?’.

“He’s always been trouble, about time everyone else knows what Harry and I have been saying from the start.” He heard Ron Weasley’s voice coming from down the train, “Daph he’s dangerous. With a father like that, how can you trust him?”

“You don’t know what he’s been through, he hates his father!” Daphne snapped back,

“Ron’s got a point. He assaults Seamus and Cormac, tries to poison Ron and I’s breakfasts, knows all about the Dark Arts. I reckon even Lupin’s suspicious of him.” Harry Potter elaborated on Ron’s point as Daphne marched out of the compartment,

“Theo!” she looked startled to see him, a copy of the Prophet was in her hands. He could see an image of his father splashed across the front page.

“Hi Greengrass.” He nodded before trudging along, Blaise quick to follow.

“They’ll see you’re not like him Theo and then they’ll come around.” She tried to assure him to no avail,

“You’ll have us mate.” Blaise reminded him, arm now slung around his neck.

“Theo!” Millie jumped up from her seat the moment they entered the train compartment, she wrapped him in a bone crushing hug. The pair weren’t even close friends, but he let her hug him anyway. Millie was sweet like that.

“Now look, let’s not talk about it huh?” Draco suggested to the carriage, who nodded in agreement. They knew what he was referring too.

“Ok good, now we’ve moved on from that have you seen the pins Granger is trying to sell?” Pansy laughed, “two sickles for some cheap plastic that has the word SPEW on it.”

“It’s her club.” Millie explained, “something about protecting house elves. I signed up just so she’d leave me alone.” She held up a big red badge.

“I told her I’d rather choke on my own so called spew, than pay to wear an ugly accessory and be forced to sit with her through lunch. Its these mudbloods, they walk into our world and try and change it like the muggle one’s any better.”

Classic Pansy Theo actually smiled for the first time in a couple days as the train jolted back and began to roll out of the station. In this distance he heard Hermione’s shrill voice try and reason with a boy who thought house elves weren’t in need of wages.

***

Theo had never been more ashamed to be himself in his life, barely able to stomach looking the mirror. He retreated completely from the moment the Christmas holidays ended. In class he refused to answer any questions, even Professor Lupin could not tempt him with an argument over the merits of the bubble charm when wading in Kappa infested waters. He found himself rarely speaking at all, scared that anything he would say would attract the negative attention that plagued him now. There was nothing Theo did that wasn’t met with stares or mean words or threats. And the worst thing was, that Theo knew he deserved all of them. What Seamus and Dean had said wasn’t wrong, he was the product of a vile killer. How could he called himself a victim? Not when there were two ministry members now dead.

So he spent all his time in the library. He poured through books on more obscure magic and dark arts which were usually not allowed to be read by third years. The librarian, Madam Pince had uncharacteristically granted him permission into the restricted section after he spent his ninth consecutive lunch, dinner and afternoon in the nook by the Biography section. She still demanded that any crease or damage would see these privileges revoked forever. He read about potions which drove the drinker insane, curses which distorted one’s perception of good, hexes that paralysed an opponent for days and the art of necromancy. It was this last form of magic which intrigued him the most, he guessed The Pureblood Society had been trying to use these practices to resurrect the Dark Lord. He also couldn’t help but wonder Would this bring my mother back… But he quashed the thought the moment he discovered what an inferius was. He would not disturb his mother, or turn her into one of those hideous things, not when she had been so beautiful. Not even now when he really needed her.

He tried to shake any thought of his father from his mind, but it ate away at him slowly. The papers were still printing theories and new bits of information, but there had been Ministry confirmations. Leviathan Nott had been arrested and not so coincidently the death of two ministry workers had also been released. Theo could believe his father was a killer, he had tortured him to the brink of death many times. He’d made Theo question whether he was really even living. But what he didn’t understand was why. His father was calculating, always bruising him where people wouldn’t see, It wasn’t like him to be rash and careless when doing something like this, he was only erratic when he was scared or pressured. So why was he scared? Who was pressuring him? Voldemort? Narcissa? What power did they have over him What Theo also hadn’t expected was that both murdered ministry workers were from the department of magical games and sports. What could Voldemort want from the sports department? He could not shake these questions.

Snape sat him in his small dark office for their weekly eye treatments, using his wand to scan over Theo and his glasses. The head of house had still not fully reversed the curse, only wearing away at it slowly and combatting it with glasses. Snape had told him it was dark magic, like what he had been reading in the library, only this was a rare combination and something of Leviathan’s own making.

“How’s your vision?” Snape asked matter of factly. “Any improvements?”

“I can see the board now without having to strain.”

“Mr Nott, if you didn’t sit at the back of the classroom this would not have been an issue for this long.” Snape scolded, “Just like your father, disobedient.”

Theo tried hard to suppress his anger. Was he really comparing me to him, to the man who he knows did this to me?

“But you have the potential to be cleverer.” Snape continued, forcing Theo’s eyes shut and vigorously rubbing a salve on his eyelids that made them water. “I’ve spoken to Professor Vector and put you into Arithmancy.”

“But sir, I don’t want to…” Theo felt the professor’s cold hands leave his sore eyes and heard him thud back to his desk, no doubt retrieving his wand to come back and bind the potion. He kept his eyes closed.

“No talk back Mr Nott or it’ll be detention. You are taking the class. I don’t see you walking around with your friends anymore so I know you have the time.”

Theo left the professor’s office with strict instructions not to read for the next two hours. Thankfully for the sake of his sanity, he had some loose plans to watch Slytherin play Hufflepuff in Quidditch. He couldn’t be left alone with his thoughts for too long.

Theo waited until the game had started before arriving at the stands. He had promised Draco that he would attend, but hid away at the back of the stands with Blaise. Blaise had devised a ‘disguise’ which consisted of beanies, thick scarves that covered the bottom half of their face and sunglasses. They looked slightly strange, but attracted little attention as they joined the crowd. Theo watched as the Hufflepuff captain, Cedric Diggory, darted in and around Millie and Goyle’s bludgers with ease. He morphed into nothing but a blaze of yellow as he flew up into the air in pursuit of the snitch, Draco hot on his tail. Meanwhile Adrian had been on fire all match, he scored goal after goal, consistently slipping right past the Hufflepuff keeper. After two hours it was a whopping 130 to 0. That was until Cedric caught the snitch. The roar from Hufflepuff was frightening. All last year they had lost and now in the first two terms they had beaten Gryffindor and Slytherin, the two dominant house teams. While the margin in each game was small, Cedric Diggory had risen to a god like status among Hogwarts for carrying his team to victory time and time again. This status was no doubt added by his looks and charm.

“Well at least they beat Gryffindor too.” Blaise consoled an angry Draco as they marched back up to the castle.

Theo watched from behind them all as Emmeline Avery and Poppy Coffe both tried to calm down the devastated Adrian Pucey. He was already talking to Snape about a re-match, trying to claim that one of the chasers had unfairly pulled him from his broom. Snape marched ahead apathetically.

“This’ll mean double the training’s we usually have.” He heard Miles Bletchley groan,

“Cedric was amazing, I mean I don’t know how he kept swerving all my bludgers, it was like I couldn’t even read where he was about to go.” Millie was still in awe, removing her beaters helmet and letting her frizzy hair free.

“I’m going for a walk.” Draco huffed,

“We’ll come?” Blaise looked back at Theo who had distanced himself from the others,

“He wants to be alone.” Pansy jumped over a muddy patch of grass to avoid soiling her shoes as Draco took off down towards the forest. “He always wants to be alone when he’s angry.”

“Where’s Daph?” Millie looked about,

“Here!” Daphne called from behind them, running up the hill right through the muddy patch Pansy had avoided. “Sorry, just had to congratulate Ced.”

“Ced?” Theo repeated sceptically, why did she have a nickname for him? Did she know him?

“He lives near me.” She smiled, “oh but Theo, I was wondering if we could meet up to go over hieroglyphs for ancient runes? I’ve um, well I’ve lost my textbook.” She blushed slightly embarrassed.

“Erh sure.” He nodded, slightly pleased that she would want to spend time with him.

“Amazing.”

“Don’t mind me.” Blaise interjected with sarcasm, “I’ll just do the homework on my own then. Not like I’m in your class or anything.”

***

As Theo walked into the Hogwarts library he greeted Madam Pince, who gave a stern nod back. He clutched his books and parchment, looking for her slightly curled auburn hair among the hundreds of other students who were completing their homework for tomorrow’s lessons. O.W.L students like Emmeline and Cedric were at the long front tables, they whispered and panicked about memorising certain charms and transfiguration theory. As Theo moved through the space he felt eyes dart up at him, people’s whispers got quieter and their stares burnt through the back of his head. When are they going to stop? Will it ever stop? Where was Daphne?

Daphne was waiting for him at one of the dark wooden tables by the Biography section, bathed in the light of one of the stain glass windows. She was already bent over a book and transcribing something. A little further down the table he noticed Hermione Granger, whose wild bushy hair was left unchecked as some of the ends found themselves dipped into an ink pot while she read. He was used to seeing her here, but not near Daphne.

“What’re you doing?” Theo put his books down across the table from Daphne and took a seat. He usually liked having his back to the window too, but he supposed he’d make an exception.

“Oh um nothing.” She slammed a copy of ‘Dark Curses: The Renaissance.’ Shut and stuffed her used parchment back into her bag, “Where’s Blaise?”

“Back in our dorm. He’s expecting me to give him the homework when we get back.”

“And you’re going to do that?”

Theo shrugged, “yeah. For him, I don’t mind.”

“That’s not a good deal. You know you don’t owe him anything just for being your friend.”

But he did. He couldn’t even express how much he owed Blaise. Without him, Theo would never have been confident enough to even talk to the rest of them. He would have stayed alone and buried in a book. Without him, first year would have been miserable and lonely. So he resolved that if Blaise was the social beloved half and he was the intellectual helpful half, then that was a fair trade.

“What so every friendship is a deal to you?” Theo cut back at Daphne, she sat up slightly as he opened up his copy of ‘Magical Hieroglyphs and Logograms’ to the page they were doing in class. Sliding it into the middle as he poised his question.

Daphne looked at the page Professor Babbling gave them to translate, “it sounds harsh when you say it like that.”

“Well you and Pansy can be so fickle. I’m not surprised.”

Theo let his anger start to bubble, he had heard their comments of each of their friends ‘social stock’ and seen their desire to befriend the ever popular Emmeline Avery, both girls were materialistic when it came to friends. And Theo knew that (while it had never been high) his proverbial ‘social stock’ was well and truly down. It’s only a matter of time before they ditch me he had realised soon after term began Nobody wants to be associated with the boy whose father’s a murderer. But who could blame them?

Daphne’s head shot up from her parchment where she had been trying to translate the first word in the short passage. She stared at him in shock, wondering why he had said what he had just said; “Excuse me?”

“Pansy and her quest for popularity knows no bounds, she practically alienated and ridiculed Tracey up until her petrification because she was threatened by her, last week I saw her tell Lavender she looked like a toad all because she mentioned that her father’s picture in the Prophet looked silly, and last year after the rumours around Mrs Zabini she practically ostracised Blaise.”

“That’s not fair, her fathers a politician, their reputations everything and she knows what she’s doing keeping them on their toes..”

“Honestly Greengrass. Don’t try and tell me now that my father’s going to be sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban, that you two aren’t going to start ignoring me.”

He watched as it clicked for Daphne. Why he had been avoiding everyone, even his friends.

“My parents taught me to view relationships critically.” Daphne explained “I think all pureblood parents do. They know that life’s all about who you know more than what you know. They know that what people’s perceptions of you are come partly from your friends, and these are valuable and important. It’s not fickle, its practical, its…” Daphne searched for the words, what she really meant.

“I think that’s actually a Y instead of an E.” Theo interjected, tapping her paper with the back of his quill. She looked back at the paper and made the change, scribbling down the new word.

"Shhhhh" Hermione hissed from down the other end of the table.

They sat in silence transcribing the small section the professor had given them. Theo completed his and looked over at Hermione who had her own copy of the textbook out. As he watched Hermione intently focused, Daphne slammed the book shut and gathered her things.

“Why is it you don’t seem to like me? I mean we got off on the wrong foot, then it felt like we were fine and then in the chamber it was like we were friends and even up until the holidays. And taking shots at Pansy, that’s just low.” She mustered up the words, eyeing him directly so that he was uneasy. “And I’m nice. I stood up for you, I organised for you to stay with Draco…”

“You what?”

“Well..” Daphne looked caught out, “not organised but.. planted the idea in his mind.”

Theo huffed, taking his textbook back; “So you’re telling me you’re going to be my friend through all this?” he shook his head in disbelief, “You’re actually going to talk to me in class, in front of everyone. Going to row out to Bowtruckle island and play cards and then cheat at wink murder again?” he started getting up to leave,

“Yes.” The words tumbled out of her mouth, she looked just as shocked as him as she said it. “I look at relationships critically but I’m also loyal. It might be years of Ron’s influence paired with Pansy’s determination but it’s true. So don’t just write me off and assume what I’m doing.” She seemed annoyed. “That’s the problem with you, you always cut yourself off from people, people who can help. Its why you're still wearing glasses."

Why was she right? Theo watched her as she walked back out of the library and wondered if he'd ever be able to bring himself to trust her fully. He felt himself wanting to, he had opened the door last term but how far could he let her in?

Chapter Text

Daphne felt a thud on the back of her head. As she turned, Draco and Blaise were both grinning stupidly, they held up another wad of wet toilet paper and aimed. As Draco lobbed the ball, Daphne directed her wand forward to counteract the attack;

“Glacius.” She cast the charm they had been revising in the previous class. The water hardened as it froze over in moments and now much heavier than before, the ball dropped short at her feet.

Pansy was quick to snatch the hardened ball of ice up in her hand and nodded over to Hermione, Harry and Ron as they walked by.

“Dare me?” she looked back at Daphne and the girls, provoking them to answer with a yes. It was Charlotte Montague who took the bait.

“There’s no way she’ll do it.” She giggled to Padma and Pavarti,

But Pansy did. The ball clocked Ron in the arm hard and he turned to see who had thrown it.

“Morning Weasel.” Pansy smiled sweetly,

“Shove off Parkinson.” He shot back, directing Harry to just keep moving.

“I’m telling the prefects.” Hermione insisted, marching over to Cedric Diggory as he talked with Gwendoline Hedgeflower and the other Hufflepuffs, “Pansy’s just thrown a ball of ice at Ronald.” She informed him.

Cedric blinked at her, wondering what this short frizzy girl was expecting from him; “And you’d like me to take away some of her house points?” he guessed with a confused smile.

“You ought to. He’ll have a bruise on his arm soon.”

“Enough Granger.” Draco butt into the conversation, “Diggory didn’t see anything, he can’t take away points just because you asked. I mean honestly, I thought you were a stickler for the rules? Shouldn’t you know that already?”

Hermione went red, realising she might be wrong but unwilling to admit so. Draco of course smiled smugly over at Granger and then Pansy. Blaise proudly patting him on the back as he hid the other wad of paper they had planned to throw behind his robes.

“I’m afraid he’s right.” Cedric furrowed his brows, “But if it happens again I’ll be more inclined to believe her Parkinson” he warned Pansy before spotting Daphne next to her “No exceptions for you either Daph, even though we're neighbours.” He added.

“Hey Cedric, great match the other day.” Charlotte cooed,

“Yeah brilliant.” Padma nodded in agreement.

“Alright, if that’s all then. You all have to get to class.” Cedric cocked his head towards the end of the corridor where they should’ve been heading.

They started walking towards the grounds for their next Care of Magical Creatures lesson where Hagrid had promised to bring in a fire breathing salamander. The boys were still laughing over their wet toilet paper missiles.

“Miss Greengrass!” Snape’s voice rang out down the hall, he moved with purpose towards her and Daphne felt herself starting to wonder what she had done wrong, “Your sister is in the infirmary.”

She didn’t hear anything else, she just started to run. Where was the hospital wing from here? Would going down the main moving stairs be faster? What If one moved the wrong way, no she should take the ones that wound down to the hall, then cut across..

“Miss Greengrass.” Snape hurried behind her to keep up. Pansy too was in pursuit of her alongside the head of house.

Daphne crashed through the doors, startling even Madam Pomfrey who was leaning over Astoria with a bloodied bandage. Headmaster Dumbledore stood beside the healer, watching as she worked. He studied Daphne as she ran up to her sister with watery eyes;

“What happened? Is it her head? Astoria! Is she alright?”

“You have to step back dear. I’ve just given her the calming draught to stop the fits.”

“Fits?” Daphne looked between the three members of staff panicked,

“She’ll be ok Daph” Pansy looked absolutely sure of what she had said, “Probably a bad flu.” She reached out to pull Daphne back as Pomfrey had asked. But what did she know? She knew nothing..

Daphne would not move. She looked at Astoria’s bright red face, as if she was burning up from the inside. What was happening? She saw the way her arms were limp, her mouth open as if she was trying to cry out in pain. Just to look at her was awful.

“I wonder Miss Greengrass if it would be of comfort to alert your parents?” Dumbledore voice was soft and calming, a direct contrast from the storm of emotions that raged in Daphne’s mind.

“Yes.” She snapped back into thinking logically, they would need to know. “I’ll go write a letter, Pansy you can send it for me?” Pansy nodded.

“Let me take you to my office so we can contact them directly, much faster this way.” Dumbledore moved slowly towards her, reaching out his hand to turn her back towards the door. “Professor Snape will let the other professors know you will not be in classes for the rest of the day.”

“I’ll get Blaise to collect your work.” Pansy added as the Headmaster guided her away,

But Daphne could not will her feet to move. She would not turn her head away from Astoria, even when her feet betrayed her as the Headmaster walked her towards the door;

“Wait, wait, is she ok?” she continued to stare at Astoria on the small hospital bed.

“Madam Pomfrey is the greatest healer we’ve had at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore assured as they exited the wing. “she will stay with her until you can come back.”

Inside the Headmasters office was still unfamiliar and daunting. Upon entering Daphne felt herself completely overwhelmed, her breathe was short and she kept her eyes on the Headmaster for direction and assurance. He was a calming presence, somebody who you trusted without question because you knew how wise he was. The great Albus Dumbledore.

“Fawkes here will deliver the message.” Dumbledore stroked a bright fiery red and orange feathered phoenix, it leant its head into his hand. With one flick of his other hand he summoned a quill and began to dictate a note, “Mrs and Mrs Greengrass. Your daughter Astoria has taken ill. Madam Pomfrey has tended to her with excellent skill and she will be transferred to St Mungo’s at your request when she is fit to do so. I have arranged for you to visit the school when needed.”

Daphne took a seat in one of the sunken leather chairs by the Headmasters desk. She remembered sitting here at the end of her first year when she had been warned about the Ministry raid. What progress had she made on the curse since then? She’d read and read and researched to no avail. She was an idiot, a fool to think she was smart enough to solve anything, it had taken her terms just to open an enchanted box. If she was really so intelligent she'd have been able to spare Astoria from this. She wanted her parents.

“Do the healers at St Mungo’s know of the malediction?” Dumbledore sent Fawkes on his way before taking a seat on the opposite side of the desk.

What did he just say? He knew, How did he know?

“No.” Daphne was unnerved by Dumbledore’s bluntness, the way in which he had so flippantly revealed he knew of her most closely held secret.

“You’re wondering how I know.” He popped a candied lemon drop in his wiry mouth, shrouded by silver beard before offering her one as well. “I once knew a boy who should have been horrible. You would consider him spoilt and indulged… but when I met him here at Hogwarts, he was timid and kind hearted. I met him when I visited my old friend Elphias Doge in the hospital wing during first year, he had a terrible case of Dragon Pox, the two boys had never met before and yet he’d come to give Elphias a box of jellybeans. His name was Caecilius Greengrass.”

Daphne could see that Dumbledore was reliving the memory as he spoke, his eyes almost glossy behind his half-moon shaped spectacles. She recognised her grandfather’s name, the documents which she had taken from her families chest had told her that he had suffered from the same blood malediction as her sister. She fiddled with the lemon drop in her hand.

“I wouldn’t know until fifth year why Cecil had such an empathy for the sick. He hid it well, but I admit that I was oft preoccupied with my own intellectual pursuits to stop and notice it then.” Dumbledore gave a smile as acknowledged his own shortcomings, something that made him feel human to Daphne for the first time. “This is to say that I know why Astoria suffers, and I can help.”

Daphne felt a rush of euphoric relief. For years she had failed to make real progress. For years she had watched her sister live a half-life; contained in their home, limited from strenuous exercise and forced to lie about all the days she spent sick. With Dumbledore’s help she could fulfil the promise she had made to cure Astoria. He was the greatest wizard of all time.

“Thank you, thank you so much Headmaster, I’ve been trying but I… my parents will be so pleased.”

“Harry told me of your efforts in the chamber.” He said nonchalantly, causing Daphne’s head to snap back into seriousness, “It takes a brave girl to defy the Dark Lord.”

What was she supposed to say? Surely he knew her family was at least associated with pureblood supremacy? Judging by how well he seemed to know her grandfather he also must have known they were part of the society? They sat in silence as Dumbledore waited for her to speak.

“He was going to kill Harry.”

“He was. Why did you save him?”

“I didn’t, not really, I just delayed the basilisk’s attack. It was Harry who killed it, Harry who the sword chose.”

“Harry had already defeated Voldemort, at the end of his first year.”

Daphne couldn’t believe what she had heard. Voldemort had been attempting to return for three years now? And he had failed twice?

“You see, Harry will need all the help he can be given. Your friend Ron and young Hermione have been testament to his ability to accept it, but this only goes so far.”

“He doesn’t want help?” Daphne clarified,

“No. But I would advise you to provide it. You have proven a valuable asset to not only this school but also your sister. I believe we can help one another Miss Greengrass.” He smiled,

“Anything sir.” Daphne didn’t hesitate, “If you’re saying you can help my sister than of course.”

“Harry must not know of this.” Dumbledore folded his hands, “But I am greatly pleased, you are a formidable witch for your age.”

Daphne blushed at such a compliment from someone as famous and powerful as Dumbledore. She left his office elated and lighter, cutting through the groups of students to get back to the hospital wing and see Astoria. She couldn’t wait to tell her the news. As she entered she was met by her parents. Her father was in his three piece suit, his hair and beard thinning with specks of grey. He had his arm on Daphne’s mothers shoulder. Her mother had clearly been in tears, her liner slightly smeared around her red eyes. She was gripping Astoria’s hand. There were others in the room; two people who looked like Department of Mystery Aurors, recognisable with their long dark purple double breasted coats. Another healer was with Madam Pomfrey wearing the St Mungo’s pale blue uniform.

“Daphne.” Leto turned and scooped her up in a hug, “She’ll be alright, we came here as soon as your father heard.” Leto’s heavy dark purple eyeshadow and high cheekbones made her look even more serious. She was no doubt there to make sure nobody else was getting near Astoria or her father.

“Thanks.” Daphne muttered back,

“We’re organising to take her to St Mungo’s, she’ll be here the next two nights when she’s hopefully strong enough to be moved.” Her mother stepped in and hugged Daphne, “You have to stay by her.”

“I will.”

“Her fevers levelled out and her fits have stopped.” Her father informed her, his eyes still looking at his youngest.

“What do I tell them?” Daphne whispered,

“She’s had a fever that’s triggered The Wizards Sweat.” Her father had obviously already been thinking ahead. Daphne nodded, it sounded believable. She threw herself into his arms, desperate for comfort and assurance. He wrapped his own arms around her, his heart thumped loudly in his chest.

There was something about seeing her parents unsettled that truly scared her each time Astoria was ill. Aquila and George Greengrass were both polished figures that showed no cracks, level headed and composed. But seeing the streaks of tears down her mother’s powdered cheeks and the ruffled un-slicked hair of her father was enough to reinforce just how dangerous the malediction was. Whatever Dumbledore needed she would do. She would cross any line, defend Harry Potter to the death if it meant she never had to witness another scene like this.

***

Daphne felt a cold hand wrap around her arm as she lay sleeping in the bed beside her sister. A shock ran up her spine as she threw back her sheets to sit bolt upright, reaching immediately for her wand.

“Lumos Maximus.” She cried out. A large ball of light exploded across the room, pure white rays swallowed everything in their path.

“Merlins…!” a figure stumbled back, holding up their hands to shield their eyes. “It’s me… it’s me…” they insisted,

“What’s going on?” Astoria groaned with laboured breathe, still laid down on her back.

“It’s Theo.” He yelled as the light started to fade, revealing his hunched over body and now blinkered look. “Merlins beard Greengrass you nearly blinded me.” He laughed, “just as they’re starting to heal too.”

“I’m so sorry.” Daphne sprung up from her hospital bed and reached out to examine him. She felt horrible now meeting his now sore dark green eyes. “Wait, no I’m not. What are you doing? Nobody’s allowed in. How’d you get in?” she tried to work out a way of entry.

“unlocking charm.” He shrugged digging around in his pockets, “I um, I wanted to your sister this.” He pulled out a worn down chocolate frog card and handed it over to Astoria sheepishly.

“Oh thank you. You know Daph used to send me these when she first started.” Astoria reached out and took the small smoothed edge card from him, “I have a collection.”

“Yeah, I remember that’s why... But um, sorry there’s no chocolate, it’s a bit old. I, well it’s a card that I thought you might like, I have a collection going too and I know this ones rare.”

“Brigit Wenlock. She’s really rare isn’t she Daph?”

“Yes.” Daphne nodded “I always wanted to find one…”

Daphne looked at the card, its frayed edge and the flash of Bridgit Wenlock’s face before she vanished. She remembered when Theo had gotten one in first year and offered a trade, she’d had to refuse… This couldn’t be… this couldn’t be it? Could it?

“Well, I better get back. I just thought I’d come to see how you were, I don’t really sleep much. Besides, the whole castle’s talking. Pansy told us that you said it was the wizards sweat?”

“Yes, that’s why no one was allowed in.” Daphne looked at the previously barricaded door, “But thank you for coming, and for the card.” She smiled, How had he remembered that she’d wanted that card? And how did he somehow know that she’d be happy to see it added to Astoria’s collection?

“Stay a bit.” Astoria’s eyes were closed as she spoke, “I’m so bored and you’ll never be allowed back in once they find out.”

“Oh.” Theo looked to Daphne for confirmation before slowly pulling a chair from beside her bed to sit on. “Actually, there’s something my mother used to do for me when I was sick, I think I can remember the spell.”

He reached over and took the napkin from beside Astoria’s bed. It was slightly stained from the cupcake which had sat on top of it hours earlier (a gift from Millie) but he placed it on his lap. Drawing his wand from his nightrobe he muttered a charm which started to fold the napkin over like origami until it was a crane. Astoria propped her head up to see as he held it out to her in his palm,

“Locomotor volare.” He tapped the head of the crane with his dark polished wand,

The crane started to move its wings, beating them back and forth like Buckbeak might have. It’s head looked up at Astoria and suddenly it took to the air. It flew around just above their heads. Theodore steered it back and forth, around in figure eights and to Astoria’s insistence; a backwards loop. Daphne watched his face as he directed the crane, his mouth was open wide in a combination of a smile and concentration. She loved to hear Astoria giggle, to call out for new movements and watch as Theo performed them to the best of his ability.

“Your magic. Its… it’s wonderful, you might actually be quite talented. Of course, you didn’t hear that from me.” She watched as the crane slowly drifted back down towards them like a feather,

“It’s my mother’s magic. I think it’s just ingrained in me, in my wand. She used to do it all the time when I was little. I remember it so vividly.”

Astoria scooped up the crane as it settled on her chest and turned over in her bed, ready to fall asleep again.

“I’ll um, ill go.” Theo watched as Astoria started to wriggle and get comfortable again, he stood up quickly, nervous to not be in the way.

“Let me walk you out.”

Daphne slid off her bed and felt her feet hit the cold floor, the pair walked back towards the doors using their wands for light. She had not noticed anything about Theo’s wand before; not its dark stained wood or its thick twisted grip. But the light that came from its end was strong, he must have used the Lumos spell frequently.

“Thank you.” Daphne hugged him before she could dwell on the decision. She felt his body tense at her touch before relaxing. He patted her on the back and let her pull away first. “Thank you so much.” He couldn’t have known what it meant to see Astoria giggle and smile and act normally after the episode she had just suffered. It gave her faith that she would recover soon.

“Anytime.” He shrugged nonchalantly, before starting to walk away.

“Why um. Why do you think your mothers magic works so well with your wand? Was it hers?” she whisper-shouted down the corridor, finding the courage to ask. Now that she had received answers to why he had started wearing glasses (a question that had burned her from first year), she was determined to source more. What’s the harm in asking?

“I can’t go telling you all my secrets Greengrass, not when I don’t know any in return.” He smiled before hurrying off.

***

Daphne could hear the whispers. The way people glared as she past, the way they had started to question her about him. She knew what they were going to ask before she was even approached, but she had to stand by him. Theodore’s father was a brute, a horrible twisted man who brought nothing but misery. He was a man who blinded his own son, a man who so willingly served the Dark Lord.

“He’s father’s a murderer.” Poppy’s voice was tinged with fright,

Emmeline had summoned them to the study room that looked down to the Quidditch pitch. There the girls were supposed to be helping Emmeline brainstorm a way to cheer up her boyfriend Adrian, over his loss to Hufflepuff. But instead, they had turned to the most recent gossip which was consuming the school.

“Their ridiculous.” Daphne groaned to Pansy quiet enough so the others couldn’t hear,

“Well yes, but they’re not wrong.” Pansy was blunt, “My mother’s written me with express instructions to avoid him, so we’ll have to sit somewhere else at dinner.”

Daphne remembered what Theo had said before, about how fickle their friendship was. She hated that his intuition was proving correct for Pansy. But Pansy was still under pressure. Pressure to be the darling daughter of Mr and Mrs Parkinson, international diplomats representing all of the UK’s wizarding world. She consistently lived up to the expectations, even to Daphne’s surprise. She felt that if Pansy wanted something all she had to do was put her mind to it. She could so easily have been just another bully, a rude snobby girl who kept to her elite group of friends. But she had taken her parents pressure in stride. Yet this was the price, disloyalty when things were tough.

“No.” Daphne was firm,

“What?” Pansy’s shock had attracted the rest of the table,

“What’s going on?” Gwendoline Hedgeflower looked back from Emmeline, having caught the conversation.

“I know Theo.” Daphne started, noticing all eyes were now on her, “And he’s nothing like his father. He hates him, in fact he’s told me things that he’s fathers done to him… and trust me, he despised him long before this all happened.”

“Does his father…?” Poppy’s investigative side emerged and she inferred what Daphne had intended to convey,

“How do you know this?” Pansy was ignoring the others, appalled that she had not shared this information with her sooner.

“I can’t say what.” Daphne blurted, wondering if she had already said too much, “But Pans, you know him. He’s too awkward to even think anything mean.”

“I heard he hurt Seamus..” Gwendoline recalled,

“He used a tickle charm after they started threatening him.” Emmeline admitted, having been there as witness. Gwendoline nodded, taking her word for fact as most people did.

“See. He’s never done anything really bad, and he rarely even spoke to his father. I know mine is always at work, and now we’re at Hogwarts I barely see him at all. Theo’s the same.” Daphne was really trying to sway them, pulling on every piece of logic she could think.

“Daph you have a soft spot for him.” Pansy sighed, “You always have, even first year you felt bad that he was sitting alone and this is just a continuation of that. You have to accept the truth. I love you but you’re too soft, too kind”

“Look.” Daphne felt the girls allegiance slipping away, “Have you ever seen that scar that runs up his neck, the one just above his shirt collar?”

“No…” Emmeline was really looking her up and down now,

“Well look for it. Look for the pale white lines that run across his forearms or his hands or just on the cupids bow of his lip.”

“Do you have a crush on him? Is that it?” Poppy gasped,

“No!” Daphne went red, humiliated and undermined “If you look you’ll see all the proof you need of how much Theo hates his father. Count the scars.”

The girls went quiet in contemplation for a moment before Emmeline brought them back to the topic of her boyfriend. But as they left and went back to the common room she noticed they were looking for him, looking for the proof which she had so offhandedly provided. Watch him and you’ll see what I see. She thought back to last night; the way he had remembered the card, the way he had gone out of his way to cheer Astoria up. How could they all think he was horrible? How could she let him be slandered for something he wasn't? She knew the truth and she wanted to help.

Chapter Text

Leviathan Nott to stand trial at the end of the month for ministry murders
Potential key witness; Bernard Crabbe, still being held in St Mungos having sustained life threatening injuries.
Amelia Bones’s Department of Magical Law enforcement under scrutiny for security breach

The headlines had been rolling in steadily since the start of term. There wasn’t a single mail day in which Theo found himself not confronted by his father’s crimes. He held the latest copy of the Prophet in his hands as he walked towards Snape’s office;

Frank Apara remembered in solemn funeral service.

The article spoke about one of the wizards his father had killed; Ludo Bagman’s assistant. His widow appeared on the page, distraught and cradling their young son. The picture made him sick. He clutched at the paper so tightly that it wrinkled, creasing the young boys face. That was him. He too was a boy who had lost a parent to tragedy. And now his father had inflicted that pain which still stung him, on another innocent person.

“Come in Mr Nott. No need to loiter.” Snape’s low voice oozed out from his office, hanging onto the r sound.

Theo folded up the paper and shoved it in his bag. Snape’s office was always cold, dark and slightly damp - situated close to the Slytherin common rooms and potions classrooms. Its domed roof gave the impression of space which was in reality was slightly lacking. It was made up of shelves filled with potions and ingredients, a desk and a single sad chair for students, in which Theo now sat.

“Your father will most likely be charged over the coming Easter period.” Snape was always blunt, “and as your mother is dead, and other close family lacking it gives us no choice but to seek Ministry youth housing while you are away from Hogwarts.”

“What does that mean?” Theo shifted in the small sad uncomfortable chair,

“It means Mr Nott that while you are in our care here at Hogwarts your life will remain the same. But during the holidays, particularly during the long summer periods, you cannot remain here in the castle. You have to be with a guardian. And if you cannot be with a guardian, then you are turned over into the care of the Ministry until you turn eighteen.”

“Eighteen?” It seemed forever away to him, “Don’t I have any distant aunts or uncles, are there really no more Nott’s? Or maybe my mother’s side?” he tried to think of any other family his father could have mentioned.

Snape spread out an image of a tree before him. He saw his name in cursive down the bottom, above him his father and mother, above them some names he did not recognise.

“Your family tree.” Snape ran his finger across the lineage, “dead, dead, missing, dead.” He listed off the fates of those parallel to his father.

“I knew I was the last of the Nott line, that’s why my father was always so harsh on me but, I suppose I thought there was at least someone.” He looked at the greyed out names. “What about my mother?”

“The Ministry contacted us with the explicit message that there were no living relatives and that they had taken on your case.”

So he was totally and utterly alone.

“At the end of the term, just before your fathers trial you’ll be sent to a Ministry Home. Its funded by some big families; the Crouch’s and Bones, even the Malfoys. It has the facilities you need.”

Theo couldn’t get over the shame of it. The shame of having a murderer for a father, the shame of now having to live in a home that was funded by the family of his peers. He had never wanted to go home, and yet in a sick twist of fate that was where he now longed to be more than anything. The moment he left Snape’s office he sought out Blaise.

Blaise was laden across a bench in the enclosed first floor courtyard. He had his head in Pansy’s lap, she looked both annoyed but resigned to the role as she spoke to Millie. Draco was crouched by a bush beside them, trying to lure a ball of scraggly ginger fur out into the daylight.

“You look put out.” Blaise called to Theo as he shuffled towards them, trying not to be noticed. He had already been death glared on the way there by several students.

“I am.” Theo sighed, not sure how to lure Blaise away from people. Blaise was a people person.

“We’ve got Ancient Runes next.”

“What are you guys doing here anyway? Don’t you want lunch?”

“Draco’s obsessed with this pudgy little cat that trawls the castle, he’s been trying to feed him some ham for ten minutes.”

“Draco this is absurd. The things practically feral.” Pansy nibbled some of a sandwich she had taken from the hall, "I've given up talking with Emmeline and Poppy for this."

“Don’t just sit there Millie. You have a cat right? Get over here.” Draco instructed, getting annoyed at the cats insistence at hiding. Millie sprung up and started purring at the animal lovingly. It didn't work.

“You two look ridiculous.” Theo huffed, “The Malfoy heir and daughter of the Vice to Minister Fudge, both purring at a bush.”

“C’mon lets go, bet Daph’s already waiting in the classroom for us.” Blaise sat up and grabbed his bag, wrapping his arm around Theo as they walked away.

“They’re sending me to a children’s home these holidays.” Theo whispered as Seamus pinched his nose as they walked past,

“Who charmed the garbage to walk!” Seamus shouted at them to the hilarity of Cormac and a group of nearby students.

“No they’re not.” Blaise shook his head in disbelief. “They can’t send you there, you have a house and money and well you could stay with one of us, right?”

“The Malfoy's don’t want me, well Draco said he would but you know how he bows to his mother. And apparently I don’t have any family”

“Well maybe not blood, but what about us? We’re your family too. I can ask my mum, Crabbe and Goyle they’ve got big houses...”

“The Ministry’s involved. They’re not really giving me an option.” Theo caught his breathe as he felt his emotions slipping, “come Easter I’m being checked in.”

Inside the classroom the few students who took up Ancient Runes sat talking. Michael Corner and Dean Thomas were sat atop a table with their backs to the wall, Hannah Abbot and Padma Patil were atop the other. All four were laughing hysterically as Tracey Davis told an animated story about her younger brother. Beside Hannah was Daphne, who also giggled along at the tale.

“Our friends have ministry connections, we could ask Millie to ask her father…” Blaise suggested as the professor entered the classroom behind them,

“All-righty students.” Professor Babbling waved around her arms wildly as she spoke, “today we’ll be continuing our work on Nordic Runology.”

“Hey Daphne, come join us.” Padma patted the seat beside her,

Daphne looked down towards Theo and Blaise, “I’ve got to check some of my translations with Theo, but you can come sit here with us?”

Padma thought about it for a moment, exchanging a glace with the other two girls before slidding her books down the row towards them, Hannah following suit. Tracey frowned and reluctantly followed. With the other girls now close by, all conversation of Theos fate was temporarily haltered. He was thankful, it was exhausting worrying all day. The same questions and thoughts Blaise had, were already in his mind. He’d thought about asking favours - but what little pride he had got the better of him. He had resolved to let people in after Daphne helped him with his glasses, to ask for help if he needed it, but it was easy to say and harder to do. For the next hour all he had to do was focus on Runes, and there was something soothing about that.

***

“I want pudding.” Crabbe whinged during their potions lesson.

“Today we will be learning about the Wideye Potion. It’s a sleep preventative and if brewed potently, an effective way to combat the draught of living death.” Snape wrote on the chalkboard, back turned to the class.

“Will this come up in our end of year exams?” Hermione Granger asked to the professors annoyance.

“How are you always hungry? Is there ever a minute where you’re not hungry?” Draco snapped at Crabbe who held his stomach and frowned.

“I get hungry when I’m stressed.” Crabbe pouted, “Mother said my uncles got to have another operation.”

“At least he’s not in prison.” Theo sighed, letting the thoughts which plagued his mind slip out of his mouth “I don’t know how you’ve managed to avoid all the stares and insults.”

"Its poor taste to ridicule a boy whose uncles on deaths door." Draco answered bluntly, much to Crabbe's shock.

As Theo had entered the classroom more students had held their noses, proclaiming garbage had entered the room. It wasn’t witty or particularly biting but it was enough to remind Theo of his deep set and justified unpopularity. He and his friends now sat on opposite sides of the spectrum; them beloved for their wealth and class and elitism, and him hated. In the Prophet the past weekend the headline had been about his father being the key suspect in the biggest criminal trial within the Wizengamot since Bellatrix’s capture. Two pages later was an image of Mr Parkinson at a rally, and the arts section was almost entirely dedicated to an interview with Mrs Zabini (featuring a picture of her and Blaise taken over Christmas). This irony was not lost on him.

“Now who can tell me why wolfsbane is a key ingredient in the Wideye potion?” Snape cornered Harry Potter with the question,

Theo was ahead in potions by a couple years. It was something that came naturally to him, and something he had ample practice in. Snape knew that he would already know the answer. Would he be able to brew potions at the Ministry home? They wouldn’t have his father extensive collection to steal from As Theo drummed his hand over his textbook, a little paper crane wafted over to rest by his pinkie. He looked at where it had come from; Daphne slipped her wand back in her pocket and smiled. Theo felt himself return the grin and slowly unfold the paper as Potter stumbled over an answer that Granger was desperate to give. The message was in Nordic Runes, coded so no-one could read it.

A deals a deal. Meet me in the common room at 9, for a late night snake. Don’t tell the others or they’ll want to join

“Passing notes now huh?” Blaise looked at the paper, “damn I wish I paid more attention in class.” He tried to translate the note in his head.

Draco scoffed as Theo blushed slightly – claiming the note was just a way to revise for exams. “This is why I’m not friends with girls. That cutesy note stuff is repulsive”

“You’re literally friends with three of them.” Theo reminded him,

“You write Daph during the holidays, you and Pansy are like the male and female versions of each other and have this weird bond…” Blaise continued Theo’s thoughts,

“It is freaky.” Goyle added in. Crabbe nodding along too.

“And you and Mills now hang out every second afternoon for Quidditch training.” Blaise finished,

“Well I don’t pass little secret notes.” Draco huffed, playing with the feathered end of his quill. “That’s girly.”

"Right, you just baby talk to feral cats. Thats definitely not girly at all." Theo quipped,

***

Theo waited for her in the common room. He sat there until Adrian Pucey made him promise to go to bed soon, having just snogged Emmeline Avery for the last twenty minutes before mandatory curfew. He was prefect and should have been the last one to leave, but he had allowed Theo to stay up a tiny bit later under the guise of completing fifteen lines for McGonagall (who was ruthless when you didn’t do the work). At five past nine a little shuffle came from the girls dorm passageway and out scurried Daphne in her red silk robe. He remembered when they had gone to vandalise the Gryffindor common room and she had worn the very same set of pyjamas. Her wand was illuminated and she wasted no time heading for the door with him in tow. They didn’t speak a word until they were walking down the corridor.

“Did you mean to write late night snake?” he asked as they turned the corner of the dark castle passageway,

Daphne laughed before cupping her mouth to silence herself, looking around to see if she had exposed them. “No.” she chuckled, “I meant snack, like food.”

“Right.” Theo had guessed as much, “And Greengrass; How exactly are we going to get a snack at ten pm?” he asked,

“The kitchens.” They turned down a hallway that felt warmer than the others, less dungeon-y and more homely. “Cedric told me about this, he came to visit me and Astoria the day after the.” She let the silence fill in the rest. Astoria had now been transported to St Mungo’s for her health. Daphne had only just returned to classes after her departure, having stayed locked up in the hospital wing for three days with her before being cleared. Pansy had dutifully dropped off her work and handed it in for her all the while. “He thought it’d cheer me up. Being neighbourly and all.” She blushed.

Theo watched as she scratched the base of a fruit bowl portrait on the wall. As she did so a knob revealed itself, allowing her to open a previously concealed door. She gasped as the trick worked and they found themselves stepping into a kitchen the size of the great hall. Four matching house tables ran down the middle, against the walls were huge fireplaces and cookers. Herbs hung from the ceiling like they were growing down towards them and barrels of produce were scattered around. Food was already laid down on the four tables, covered in cloches. Theo removed one of the cloches to find a small pile of pancakes that was no doubt for the Gryffindor students breakfast.

“Brilliant.” He smiled, taking one for himself.

“Now you know one of my secrets.” Daphne jumped up and sat on the table, “so I get to ask you a question.”

“No way Greengrass.” He shook his head adamantly, he knew what she was going to ask before she did “This doesn’t count, a wand’s something personal. You just showed me a hidden room that even Cedric knew about.”

“Mines laurel wood, for my name.” she abruptly handed over her wand to him,

He slowly took it from her hands, unsure of why she had offered it for him to hold. She picked up a pancake and began to rip off bite sized pieces as she talked;

“You know the story of Apollo and Daphne? That Apollo taunted Eros the god of love, who then made him pay by making him fall in love with a naiad named Daphne who was determined never to love a man?” She pointed at the carvings “see how the laurel wreathes carvings kinda look like ripples, I like to think its because a naiad dwells in rivers. But anyway, when Daphne couldn’t outrun Apollo any longer she begged her powerful father to turn her into a tree, she wouldn’t ever give in - not even for a God who promised her eternal love and devotion. And so Apollo took the laurel leaves as a sign of victory, of her triumph over him. That’s why Olympians would wear those wreathes of laurel.”

Theo knew the myth, after all he was an avid reader. But he loved the way she told it. The way she interpreted it. The way she made it her own.

“I know wands are personal.” She concluded, “they tell you about people and who they think they are, and who they want to be. I don’t know how exactly, but I’m not Mr Ollivander so.” She smiled and shrugged, “now you owe me an answer.”

Theo slowly chewed on his pancake as he considered the proposal. What was she doing? Why did she want to know this about him? Why was he here? Why was it he found it hard to say no to her? He handed her back her wand.

“It’s dark polished willow.” He pulled his own from his back pocket “with um, thestral core.”

He watched the confusion and slight bewilderment wash over her face. Thestral core was rare, Ollivander told him so the moment the wand found him. They kept very little in stock. He had known from that moment that it was his mother, still within him. Thestrals just reminded him of her, having only appeared once she died.

“That’s so… different.” She stared at the wand in his hand, “They’re the ones that you only see when you see death? The boney ones Hagrid mentioned?” And then she asked the natural question he knew would follow “Can you see them?”

“Yes.” He tucked his wand away and looked at the floor. He didn’t talk about his mother often. He didn’t want to share her with anyone. Somehow speaking about her ripped open the wound again, fresh and painful as the days following her death.

“I’m sorry.” She sympathised,

They chewed their pancake in silence. The large fireplace crackling in the background. He guessed that she didn’t know what to say, and he didn’t know what to do either. But he knew she’d want some answers, and maybe it was ok to share a tiny bit? She’d stuck by him the past term, proved she was loyal. She made him feel normal.

“It was my mother. Before I started school.” He explained in as many words he could muster, “she died. That’s why I can see them. I saw it.”

“Theo. That’s horrible.”

“The paper. The latest Prophet. That boy was me, expect perhaps I would have been glad if it was my father who had died.” He stared at the floor in contemplation and awkwardness. "I wish I knew why he is the way he is."

“Theo I have an idea.” She blurted out, he looked up to see she was biting her lip in contemplation, “what if we go to St Mungo’s and ask Mr Crabbe about the task, see why he did it you know? Or go to the trial?”

“You’re insane Greengrass.” He shut her down, there was no way he’d get an answers.

“No really. I mean, don’t you want to know? Bernard Crabbe will know, and Vincent will be able to tell us where he was being held.”

He did want to know. His father was a violent evil man, so perhaps there was no reason. But it dogged his mind in a way; why would sacrifice his pride of place in The Pureblood Society and his freedom, only to murder a couple ministry workers? He didn’t know his father well, but he knew him well enough to know he never struck where blame would fall back on him. He hit you were others couldn’t see, and made you hide the scars he inflicted. He wasn’t a rash man. So why? Why did he do it? and maybe in the why Theo would discover how he could avoid being the same.

“If I go, then people will think I’m supporting him.” Theo placed the cloche back over the pancakes, now slightly full. “and we’d never be able to pull it off anyway.”

“Why are you so sure we couldn’t pull it off? Are you not top of the class in potions?” Daphne taunted him light-heartedly,

“Of course.” He jumped to his own defence, “but how does that help us break into the most secure place in the wizarding world?”

“You can make sure we look the part, look like the kind of people who would pay Bernard Crabbe a visit. No questions asked.”

“They’re not going to let in some thirteen year old’s, no matter what they look like.”

“You’re right. That’s why we’re not going to look like ourselves. I checked out ‘Moste Potente Potions’ after you. Saw you had tabbed a certain page, Madam Pince wrote a little remark in the library card”

It dawned on him what she was saying. This girl was mad. She’s got to be clinically insane. That would however, explain why she persisted in being his friend.

“Unless you have something better to do these holidays?” she shrugged, opening the kitchen door so they could go back to their dorms.

“Why do you want to do this though?” he needed to know her intentions,

“The hospitals restricted me from seeing Astoria while she’s there. This way I can see her too." she wrapped her robe tightly around her waist to cut out the colder air "But also, why did you come to see Astoria and I after she was sick?”

“Well… I dunno, I was up.” Theo lied,

“Oh come on, just say it. Say it.” She taunted him as they walked closer to the common room entrance, “We’ve fought a basilisk together, we've almost cured your eyes - despite all the snipes and how much you annoy me we can’t deny it…”

Theo flushed pink, quickly shaking out his shoulders to compose himself and looking towards the end of the hallway to not give himself away.

“We’re friends you and I.” she finished, “as much as we both pretend we’re not.”

“And it’ll just be you and me?” he asked tentatively changing the subject, unsure of what he wanted the answer to be.

“Well Pansy’s parents would kill her if she’s caught, Mills is too smart to agree to go, Draco will be under his mother watchful eye all break and Blaise…” she laughed to herself “is probably more trouble than he’s worth.”

“Hey.” Theo reprimanded her for the comment, “he’ll be helpful! He's very charismatic. Everyone likes him, even now when he's walking round next to the garbage pile I'm being referred to as.”

“Fine. You drive a hard bargain Nott.” She sighed,

“Tally-ho” he whispered the password into the stone, prompting it to fold back and reveal an arched door.

“Yes, tally-ho indeed.” She whispered as she waved to him and departed for her dorm,

“Goodnight Greengrass.”

“Goodnight Theodore.”

He watched her leave with a smile on his face. We’re friends you and I he replayed the words in his mind, unable to comprehend why she would do something like this for him.

Chapter Text

There was something dark and heavy in the air at Hogwarts. Something was about to happen and nobody knew what. To corrupt the mood further – Theo and Daphne only had one month to work out how to break into St Mungo’s Hospital.

Blaise had accidentally told the others that Theo was being sent to a ministry home for displaced youth during the holidays. It was all Blaise had been thinking about, and eventually he'd let it slip. In the following years Theo would be able to apply to stay at the school across Easter and Christmas, but as it happened he had missed the application deadline and now had no parent to authorise the stay. It had infuriated all of them that Snape simply wrote off the task as ‘too little too late’ but Theo didn’t want to draw any attention to himself, as per usual.

“It’s not fair.” Millie lamented the situation, “He’s sweet, quiet and bookish if not a little sarcastic. He doesn’t deserve it.”

“Oh look.” Pansy’s mood switched. She was staring down Tracey Davis as she leant over Theo and Blaise’s desk, chatting and twirling her hair. “the goblin.” She snickered.

The whole castle had been following Leviathan Nott’s trial. It had remained the hottest topic of conversation even when Harry Potter had made a game saving catch of the snitch during the Gryffindor vs Ravenclaw Quidditch match and Gwendoline Hedgeflower had broken up with her seventh year boyfriend all in one week. Clouds rolled over from the highlands, despite the year having moved into spring, throwing the castle against a grey landscape. People were feeling uneasy. Minister Fudge had promised that security would be doubled to prevent any other attacks, but that seemed only to worry people further. What was going on? Why would there be more attacks?

“Tracey.” Millie smiled and joined their dorm mate over by Theo’s desk. “I was looking for you this morning, it’s not like you to get up so early.”

“Oh I’m just trying to be more productive.” She shrugged, “you’re a morning person right Theo?”

“Um yeah.” Theo nodded, surprised she was even speaking to him. Nobody spoke to him outside their group, not with all the trial drama that had been tacked onto him.

“What’s that smell?” Seamus called out from the other side of the room as McGonagall entered, looking over at Theo. The taunts against him were endless.

“Did you do finally do that late homework you had Seamus?” Daphne shot back, prompting McGonagall to ask the same question. Seamus glowed bright red, a mix of anger at her and fear of having disobeyed his head of house.

“He’s fathers a murder Daph, surely even you don’t condone that.” Ron had walked in behind her, “he’s almost orphaned a nine year old boy.”

Daphne watched as Harry shifted uncomfortably on his feet. Ron placed a supportive hand on Harry’s shoulder, he knew that these words struck a very a personal place. Thinking of her promise to Dumbledore, Daphne didn’t say anything back, pleased enough that Seamus was now getting a stern talking too. Her promise to the headmaster meant she needed to be in Potter's relatively good graces.

“Now.” McGonagall called for order which swiftly followed, “today we will be practicing the teapot to tortoise spell”

“Oh great, something really useful then.” Blaise groaned as they took their seats,

“You’re just bitter you can’t do it.” Pansy quipped back as she twirled her wand. She was one of the best students in the class.

“Alright calm down you two, its only second period.” Daphne called for a truce.

***

Every afternoon the girls followed the same routine; It was homework with Emmeline and the other popular girls, then dinner, then games in the common room with the boys and then close to curfew they retreated into their dorm. From there it was the same; Daphne and Tracey showered at night while the others did in the morning, after that they’d all be changed into their pyjamas (if they weren’t already) and huddle around the sink to brush their teeth. Most often Tracey was elbowed out to sit on the edge of the small bathtub while Millie’s wide shoulders and Pansy commandeered the sink. Daphne liked their little routine. It was far more relaxed than in first year when they had all been at each other’s throats, it felt like Tracey’s petrification last year had actually softened them all.

“You know, I see the scars you pointed out.” Pansy was laid out across her dorm bed, routine complete and ready for bed. “Theo’s faded them with some serum but since you pointed out the white lines..” Pansy swallowed, uncomfortable “I know he’s not like his father. I never believed that though, I like him, I really do. But my loyalty for my family is stronger. You remember what my mother said about our finances in first year before dad was elected? You know I can’t take big public risks.”

She looked over to check that Tracey still had her headphones in. They could hear the faint sounds of muggle music. She wouldn't be listening.

“I know.” Daphne huffed from her own bed, tired of hearing the same argument again and again like Pansy didn’t constantly take ‘public risks’ by causing trouble for the Gryffindor students like Ron. Only earlier that day Pansy had transfigured Harry, Ron and Hermione’s quills into worms.

She knew that the Parkinson’s generational wealth had depleted from generations of mis-management. None of them had actually worked for near to a century before her father, living off the rent of their farms. They were some of the last landed gentry still standing. But she also knew this was Mr and Mrs Parkinson talking through their daughter, rather than her own feelings. Despite their financial situation Pansy wore neatly polished designer shoes and her school robes were specifically fitted to her exact specifications; her whole image was curated to impress upon other people. Daphne realised she had watched Pansy get so used to being this way to impress everyone at Hogwarts, that she didn’t know how to act like herself anymore (except when it came time to prank the Gryffindors).

“My families all about loyalty too.” Daphne argued “It’s fine to be a friend as long as it’s with the right people. It’s fine to not be the best at everything as long as you always look like you are. The Greengrass heir doesn’t fail. The Greengrass heir doesn’t tarnish the family name her ancestors spent their lifetimes’ forging.” She rattled off all the lessons that had been ingrained in her mind with vigour. She too came from a traditional ‘no failure’ household. What was worse, was the she would be heir (potentially sole heir - but that thought was too confronting to ever be tackled head on in her mind). That came with pressures that felt insurmountable at times.

“But why shouldn’t the same go for friends? I mean, what if you found out something about me that made me unpopular, or found something about my family that made us look bad to people? Would you just cut me out?” Daphne felt the sharpness in her own voice. It was a loaded question for a late night gossip.

“You’re making this personal.” Pansy stopped her, “and it’s not personal. Its Theo.”

Daphne knew she didn’t get it. She wouldn’t. Pansy didn’t know it but Daphne had a secret that once revealed, would taint how people saw her and her family. People with maledictions were ostracised, they were ‘dirty’ and considered to be ‘being punished for a unforgivable crime in their past’. No known maledictus had ever held down a respectable job, let alone come from a respectable family. It was the reason no-one knew about Astoria, or any of her ancestors. They would lose all their status in a heartbeat should people discover. It was why Astoria was in a highly guarded room at St Mungo's that barred even her sister from entry. Only a select few healers were allowed to attend to her, and all had signed wavers that kept them silent.

“Whatever.” Daphne dropped the topic, knowing pushing it would not be fruitful and that her mind was racing with sad thoughts of her sister.

“I’d stay your friend no matter what.” Millie answered from the end of her own bed, which sat on the opposite side of the room next to Tracey’s, “and I’d hope you’d do the same, if it came to that.”

“Thanks mills.” Daphne blew her a light-hearted kiss from her bed. Millie could always be trusted to say the sweetest things at the right moments. It was that tenderness against her strong appearance that made her completely fascinating.

“And so would Pansy. I know it.” Millie stared Pansy down, “she just doesn’t like to make promises.”

“I mean, like I say its Theo not you we’re talking about.”

***

The grey clouds still hadn’t gone away by the time Daphne found herself sitting beside Ron heading down to Hogsmeade in the self-drawing carriages. Harry and Hermione were not so pleased with the setup, eyeing her off with suspicion the whole ride down. Both were still rightly put out by the quill to worm incident. Pansy had begrudgingly agreed to come along with Daphne and looked Hermione up and down ruthlessly;

“Nice badge.” She scoffed at the round ‘S.P.E.W’ button on Hermione’s shirt.

“Thanks.” Hermione kept her eyes focused down the read to the cute chocolate box village that housed rows of old Tudor style shops.

“Have you joined the club then?” Daphne asked Ron,

“Yeah.” He sighed with as much resentment as Pansy would have had, “even though I think they don’t really want to be ‘liberated’”

“I think Dobby did.” Harry chimed in, “he seemed pretty pleased.”

“Dobby? Dobby’s not working for the Malfoys anymore?” Daphne looked at Pansy for assurance that this was a lie. Pansy said nothing, her face neutral.

“Harry freed him at the end of last year.” Hermione boasted, “that’s why Draco’s been on our case more than usual.” Something rare resembling doubt flashed across her face, “isn't it? Didn't you know that?”

“No.” Daphne grumbled, not wanting to appear out of ‘the know’. Draco seemed just as displeased with the trio as he always was. But, he had been very gloomy ever since they were interrogated by the Pureblood Council. Daphne had guessed it would fade with time just like after the raids, but he still seemed unlike himself. What this had to do with Dobby though, she couldn't say.

“Interesting. I thought you were all friends. Guess the Malfoy’s are smart enough to know when to jump ship.” Tracey Davis was sat beside Hermione, having jumped onto the carriage late to try and arrive at the village at the same time as Emmeline in the carriage ahead of them.

“Shut up Tracey.” Pansy sighed, uninterested in her presence.

“Jump ship?” Daphne took the bait,

“Oh you know, Emmeline and Poppy and Gwendoline – they’ve all been saying the same. Even Adrian, Miles, Michael, the whole year really. Theodore Nott’s never going to get a respectable job in the wizarding world once his fathers in Azkaban. He’s as good as useless as far as connections go now. And isn’t that the only thing you lot care about?” she gave a little grin, smug at having worked them out.

Ok so maybe the smoothness of their dorm situation had really been Tracey Davis biding her time and collecting their secrets? Daphne wondered.

“That cant be true Trace.” Ron smiled back, “Otherwise she wouldn’t be my friend either. I think Malfoy put it best when he said I was a ‘ginger hand-me-down wearing blood traitor.’”

Harry and Hermione laughed. Daphne omitting a slight giggle herself.

She said goodbye to Ron down in Hogsmeade Village, the pair parting to join their respective groups inside The Three Broomsticks. The pub was quaint and cosy, a respite from the grey-ness of outside. Draco had booked them a room in the back, just for themselves. He had said it was to keep people from glaring at Theo, but Daphne wondered if it was also to keep them all from being seen with him. She preceded past the flocks of students to get back into a small room with a low beamed ceiling where the others were waiting. Millie was in debate with Goyle over the best flying patterns and Draco was chatting away to Crabbe beside them holding a butterbeer.

“Where’s Theo?” Draco looked up at the girls puzzled, “he said he had to go early to come down with you?”

Daphne shook her head, equally confused; “I thought he was with you, he’s always with you.”

“No he’s always with Blaise.” Pansy corrected, taking the butterbeer from Draco’s hands and sipping it delicately.

“So where’s Blaise?” Crabbe asked the obvious questions.

“Probably with Theo.” Daphne laughed and rolled her eyes at the idea of those two, always in each other’s pockets.

“So.” Pansy tucked her legs by her side like a member of the royal family would. “excited for the end of term match?” she patted Draco’s tense shoulders. He nodded, clearly stressed about the coming days.

“Sorry we’re late. Actually no we’re not, had some business to attend too.” Blaise barrelled into the room with a pint of butterbeer in hand. Theo followed him in holding a thick brown paper bag labelled ‘Abbotts Apothecary’ and hiding himself under a hat and scarf. She hoped his brewing of the Polyjuice potion was going well. They needed it to be perfect to stay on the very tight schedule they had found themselves operating against.

“So what did you gather us here for?” Draco asked him as he sat down in one of the old cracked leather seats.

“Well we’ve got some news and we thought it might be better to tell you away from the school.” Theo tucked the bag of potions ingredients away, avoiding eye contact. Daphne could tell he was nervous to even relay their absurd plan.

“We’re breaking into Bernard Crabbe’s hospital room to figure out why Theo’s dad did what he did.” Daphne said it for him.

The room was silent. Even loud mouth Blaise, who already knew the news, was quiet. Vincent shifted in his seat looking wildly uncomfortable, after all this was his uncle they were talking about.

“I’m sorry Crabbe, I just, I need to know and I’d ask my dad personally but he’s… well he’s in Azkaban already.” Theo started,

“And we need you all to be able to pull it off.” Daphne drew them back to reason for the meeting, “snakes for life and all that.” She tried to pull on their shared loyalty. Something she had hoped they had all developed beyond what their families would consider to be reasonable.

“First I’m going to say that I don’t think any plan you have will work.” Pansy started “then I’ll tell you about how bad this will look for you, the school, your family. I’ll also include all the ways you could be punished; expulsion or even a trial of your own.” She paused and looked into Daphne’s eyes before taking in a breathe and making her decision, “and then I’ll ask what you need me to do. Because you know I’ll stay your friend no matter what.”

Daphne couldn’t help but tear up slightly. She tried to not look so soppy, but everyone knew she and Millie were the emotional ones. Daphne realised now she knew what Pansy had meant when she said ‘it’s not personal. It’s Theo’. To Pansy, Daphne was personal. And she was worth taking ‘big public risks’ for. That’s the Pansy she knew. That’s the Pansy she had been starting to fear was lost to her parents pressures and the Daily Prophets political column.

***

When they arrived back at the castle, the mail had been delivered. The school was in a flurry and the moment Daphne stepped down out of the carriage, arm in arm with Pansy – she was inundated with questions;

“I love your dress, where’d you get it?” one younger girl asked, “I love the one in the picture too.”

“Nice article. Beats all this murder trial stuff.” A boy commented as he past them, holding a magazine.

“How’s Astoria? That’s your sister right? I heard she’s in hospital now.” A fifth year inquired as they walked past all the carriages.

“What the hell is going on?” Draco tried to slink away from all the people who were crowding around them. “Theo’s not with us.” He yelled to them all, thinking that was the source of conversation (as it had been for a month now).

“Daphne this is insane.” Millie was flushed with the over-stimulation of the small crowd. It amazed her still how Millie, who played Quidditch in front of stand of people each term, was so overwhelmed by attention.

“Hey! Daph!” Cedric Diggory was wearing a big navy button up that he’d tucked into some jeans, he carved through the crowd with ease. People respected him enough to part when he got near, they stepped aside and watched him go. Daphne felt a little flutter in her stomach when he stopped in front of her, “Come on, let’s give you some space hey?”

Daphne simply nodded and followed as he continued to carve a path back out of the small crowd and escort them all up towards the Great Hall,

“What’s going on?” Pansy asked him,

“You didn’t know?” Cedric furrowed his brows. “Witch Weekly’s published an article about you Daph. It’s this whole profile on your life and family.” He pulled a rolled up magazine out of his pocket and handed it to her “This's Gwen’s copy.” He clarified, “can’t say I read Witch Weekly much.”

Daphne unfurled the glossy cover. Framed by the magazines iconic pale blue boarder was the image Miles Bletchley had taken of her beside her families fireplace during the summer. He had captured the edge of the marble in the bottom right hand corner and the mirror above catching the reflection of the ornate roof Miles had been admiring the night he visited. But, the moment she saw her face, Daphne hated the cover; her eyes were all scrunched up from smiling, her teeth slightly yellowy and her face was too round. She tried not to let the disappointment show, but her face must have given something away because Cedric quickly complimented the image;

“Miles has a real talent. You look great.” He nodded, trying to convince her it was the truth.

“Thanks.” Daphne gave a weak smile as she read the headline;

Who is the Greengrass heiress?

Daphne felt her throat tighten. Why would The Prophet want to write about her? What could they possibly have found? Maybe they knew. Knew that it wasn’t the wizards sweat that had made Astoria ill. she felt her face go hot as she flicked open to the two pages which were dedicated to her story.

The author was Ruby Rosier; she had had been Head Girl when Daphne had just arrived and now that Daphne had discovered the Dowager Rosier was her grandmother – Ruby was also probably a distant relative of hers. Ruby had written about how the Greengrass’ were one of the first registered wizarding families under the first ministry, she covered the purchase and building of Greengrass manor (using some of the images Miles had taken as references) and even touched on Cecil Greengrass having been friends with Headmaster Dumbledore in reference to the families connections. Ruby didn't mention her own distant connection to her, but it might have been the reason the publishers had her write the article in the first place. Daphne couldn’t help but skip every second line looking for what she feared the article could be about – was this an expose on her families blood malediction? But it never came. Instead a ‘close friend’ had informed her of Daphne’s ‘quick temper’ and warned that her perpetual ‘goody-goody’ façade would fall away soon enough. These comments stung, but were soothed by the absence of anything but a small line that referenced Astoria being ill.

“Daphne’s youngest sibling; Miss Astoria Eleanor Greengrass, has recently been taken ill with the Wizards Sweat and placed in the private wing of St Mungo’s hospital. This will no doubt crack the carefully curated façade that my source indicated will soon shatter.
With death in the ministry so imminent, investigating who the new Greengrass heir shall be in the event of Minister George Greengrass’s death or assignation, prompted me to one underlying question; Who is Daphne Greengrass?"

“It’s a little brutal.” Cedric admitted as she read it, “but you know, I guess you are pretty influential?”

“Very influential.” Pansy pointedly corrected him, “they’re right to be interested.”

“Why would they write a whole article about you?” Draco couldn’t wrap his head around it, and neither could Daphne.

“I don’t mean to be a downer, but the stakes just got higher for if you get caught trying to pull of this new plan of yours.” Pansy whispered as she read the article herself.

Shit. Daphne thought. She could see the headline now;

Greengrass Heir disgraced

she could visualise her parents disappointed looks and hear their scathing words, telling her what a failure to the family she was – what a pathetic heir she turned out to be, just as everyone had predicted. Girls weren’t supposed to be the family heir in the first place, and Daphne would be proving them right.

The plan had to go off without a hitch, and everyone needed to play their roles to perfection.

Chapter Text

Theo had spent every night carefully brewing the Polyjuice potion that would allow them to take up the likeness of anyone who they had the hair (or any body part) of. It was crucial that he got it right, without it they had no way of getting around the guards at St Mungos and all his questions would go unanswered. Bernard Crabbe was facing trial after Theo’s father, and so with each day that past he was acutely aware his chances got slimmer and slimmer.

Their plan was half baked at best. They still needed hair from people that would be able to trespass the hospital guards and visit Bernard Crabbe without suspicion. They also needed to theoretically kidnap Theo by having him bypass the ministry workers who would be waiting on the platform to take him to the ministry home. Daphne too had to come up with a reason why she wouldn’t be home for the duration of their mission. The visit would theoretically only take a day to complete, but the Polyjuice potion wouldn’t be ready until one week into the holidays.

“We need to pass as three powerful and credible people.” Theo furrowed his brows in contemplation, “maybe one of the healers?”

“Not just any healer can get in though, for Mr Crabbe or my sister.” Daphne pointed out, “We need people who can traverse both.”

Theo didn’t want to admit that Daphne’s side quest to see her sister was complicating the plan even more, but its addition posed a real threat to their discovery. He wouldn’t say it because this was all her idea in the first place, and really her plan too - But he needed these questions answered, he needed to know. He could feel that this was something much deeper and bigger than two murders. He just didn’t know what it was.

“I’ve been thinking and maybe we can go as my cousin and my dad?”

Daphne explained she had sent a letter to her cousin Leto about ‘following up on the lead’ she had given her at Christmas and that since they worked for the Department of Mysteries, the Ministry couldn’t interfere. It sounded like a reasonable solution, and was also the only one they had. So Theo nodded,

“Perfect. Don’t suppose you happen to have a handful of your dads hair lying around?” he joked.

“Well.” Daphne started, “I asked Leto to send me some of hers and dads. So we’ll see.”

“Alright…” Blaise moved the conversation along, “who am I going to be then?”

“Hey Daph.” Miles Bletchley cautiously approached the table, “sorry, am I interrupting?”

“No!” they all answered rather suspiciously,

“Right.” He looked at them all for a moment before continuing. “I just wanted to say how thankful I am to you for letting me take that picture. Now I’ll have an image that made a cover.” He beamed,

Yay good for you, now leave us alone Miles. Theo thought to himself. They were wasting precious planning time.

“Oh no worries.” He watched as Daphne accepted the thanks shyly before Miles left to go help Adrian with his O.W.L’s work.

The article had meant that more people were paying attention to Daphne. It was both a blessing and a curse. Less people cared about him and the commotion around the trial, caught up instead on how a student at their school had a cover story about them. But it also meant he had found himself biding for her attention against an even bigger pool of people. This mission was important, he needed to know and he needed it to go well. Why did it have to be now that the article came out? In fact, why did Miss Rosier even write about her at all?

“I might have an idea for Blaise’s disguise.” Theo pulled himself from his thoughts as he watched Miles Bletchley walk away. Using a quick glance between them he signalled his intentions, “I mean he’s a reporter, right?”

“He’s only two years above us.” Blaise shook his head, “they’ll never let Miles in.”

“He’ll be press. They don’t have to let him in, you just need to have a reason to loiter around the place.” He reminded Blaise, smiling at the subtle genius of his own idea.

“Fine.” Blaise sighed, “But I don’t have to dress like him do I? I mean, the boys got no taste. He’s all jumpers and jeans and t-shirts.” Blaise mourned, “that is firmly not my style.”

“One down and two to go.” Daphne bit her lip, “I’m sure Leto will say yes.” She feigned confidence in her answer.

***

“Leto said no.” Daphne rushed up to Theo as he was finishing his Defence Against the Dark Arts homework in the library.

“Shit.” He and Blaise responded in unison.

“Well she didn’t say no exactly, she said she’d meet us at the Leaky Caldron and help.”

“Can we steal some of her hair then?” Blaise asked cheekily,

“No!” Daphne shot him down, “that’s my cousin you freak, we’re not stealing her hair and pretending to be her against her own will.”

“Alright, ok, just a thought.” Blaise threw up his hands and leant back in his chair.

“So who are we going to be then?” Theo tried to think of an answer himself. He tried to see if maybe he could guess what staff were allowed in the private wing, Was there a head of the Hospital he could steal a fingernail clipping from?

“What’s our backup plan if Leto doesn’t come through at the Leaky Caldron?” Daphne bit her lip again, she’d clearly been thinking a lot because they were slightly chapped.

***

By the time the Hogwarts Express started rolling back into Kings Cross station there was still no backup plan. The term had flown by; between working on the Polyjuice potion, avoiding the questions about his father, listening to Snape tell him about what his life would be like in the ministry home and simply doing schoolwork – Theo hadn’t had time to devise a solution.

Blaise had prepped the group on the train ride back to England. He bolstered up an impassioned speech about how they would always rise above the challenges the world would throw at them; “they’ve called us snakes, they’ve called us garbage. But the only thing that stinks here – is friendship!” he had hoisted up a bag of ice mice he’d purchased from the trolley and been met with eye rolls and raucous laughter. Blaise always kept things light and fun, lapping up the attention and stealing the spotlight. It was why it made no sense that he’d been entrusted to go with Theo as they snuck off down the platform and made a dash for the muggle bus that would drop them off close to the Leaky Caldron. But the train rolled in and Theo found himself beside Blaise, hidden behind Goyle and Draco and all their suitcases, ready to make a dash.

The train doors slid open and Draco muttered under his breath as he started unloading his case;

“ten o’clock. There’s a woman with a cardboard sign for Mr Nott.”

Theo didn’t even look her way, too scared he’d blow the plan. Crabbe faked tripping over the case Draco had just unloaded and threw down bright powder bombs that cast the surrounding area in a green haze. It was the same recipe they had used to sabotage the Gryffindor Quidditch match and Theo watched as Draco coughed dramatically but smiled smugly at the success of the plan so far. He gave them a quick wave goodbye.

Theo thundered down the platform, practically barrelling past people as he went before flying through the stone wall passageway. They waited there, hidden behind a big advertisement for toothpaste and sitting on their small hand held trunks before Daphne and Pansy arrived – both looking around cluelessly for the two boys they were supposed to meet.

“Over here.” Theo hissed, alerting the girls to their not so covert location.

“Did it go well?” Blaise asked, high on adrenaline.

“Draco and Goyle’s powder bomb caused the stir we thought it would and Goyle bumped into Mr and Mrs Crabbe and knocked them to the ground.” Daphne looked frazzled, as if she was waiting for the whole ruse to fall apart at any moment.

“I got Crabbe’s fathers signet ring.” Pansy held up a thick golden ring, “Helped him up from the fall and had my hands lathered with some Sleekeazy I added perfume too. Told him it was a new lotion.” She grinned, staring at the ring as if it was her most prized possession now. "It slipped right off his finger."

“Your house elf will be waiting for you.” Daphne took the ring from Pansy and hugged her tightly. The two girls stood there in an embrace before Pansy drew back and wished them well. She blew a frivolous kiss at Blaise as she ran back through the barrier, leaving behind only a sharp scent of citrus.

The three of them walked aimlessly out of the station. They had done their best to dress more like muggles, which Tracey said told Theo meant less ruffles, embroidery and pointy hats, and more t-shirts and jeans. Blaise had been to London many times with his mother, even having lived there briefly with stepfather number two, and so he directed them towards the bus that would drop them at the entrance to Diagon Alley. Theo had never been to the city before, he gazed at all the people and old buildings and all the newer shinier office blocks. He imagined briefly what it would be like to be a muggle like those they sat next to on the bus. He had only managed to get his hands on muggle classics; Emma by Jane Austen, Othello by Shakespeare and The Count of Monte Cristo – as for anything related to contemporary muggles? He was clueless. Daphne too had never sat on a bus before, she looked around at the buttons people would press to get off at a stop and cast sideways glances at the older lady on the seat beside her who was peeling a mandarin in her lap. The pair of them were having some much fun simply observing that they almost missed their stop, until Blaise yanked them up out of their seats and jumped off the bus.

“The Leaky Caldron should be somewhere on this street.” Daphne tried to recall the location but had only visited once from the outside, as opposed to just using the Floo.

“There?” Blaise pointed at an old run down pub whose door had been shattered and the insides boarded up. A small tilted sign read ‘The Leaky Caldron’ in faded yellow paint.

Theo looked at the bookshop beside the pub. It was small with mismatched shelving and a warm glow that looked in sharp contrast to the decrepit pub. He wished he had taken out more money from his vault at Gringotts before it was sealed so that he could go in and maybe find a contemporary book that would help them blend in more. But he knew that the Polyjuice potion in his trunk needed immediate attention or else it might not brew as it should.

“You better know what you’re doing Greengrass.” Theo warned Daphne as they approached the dodgy looking pub and pushed open the creaking door.

“Shut up.” She snapped, still frazzled by the stress of breaking away from the platform.

The moment they entered the pub, it appeared complexly normal. Unlike its outside had suggested, the inside of the Leaky Caldron was moderately tidy and even housed a couple of guests. A group of old ladies who he suspected were hags, gaggled in the corner. A troll occupied a whole cut out corner of the pub, sipping from a glass which it made look small. Theo suddenly felt glad he had taken care of magical creatures where he saw something that looked like a mound of moss with snails eyes sliding across the bar. This place was home to some unusual suspects.

“Go up and book a room.” Daphne nudged Blaise forward,

“Why me?” he sulked. Both were looking at the barman who had a prominent hunch, snaggle-tooth and odd demeanour. He hissed at a wizard who had ordered a pint of mead and dared to complain of the eyeball he had found floating inside of the glass.

“I’ll do it.” Theo gulped and stepped forward, catching the barman’s eye as he waved for his attention. The barman came over and looked them up and down, as if asking what they wanted. “Can we book a room please?”

“How old ar’ you?” the barman asked,

“Sixteen.” Theo lied. He’ll see right through us. Where do we go if not here?

But the barman didn’t ask any more questions once Blaise slapped down a couple more galleons and asked for a ‘premium suite’. Judging by the look of the dark and sparsely decorated pub they stood in, the idea of comfortable accommodation seemed unlikely but the three followed the barman as he shuffled up a fairly handsome wooden staircase towards their room. Theo held his trunk close to his chest as they walked down a winding corridor on the third floor before entering a room named the ‘Merlin Suite’. The suite was surprisingly nice. Theo put down his case on a small letter writing desk and bid the barman farewell. It felt warm and safe.

“Well we didn’t really think this through.” Daphne dropped her case by the double bed, “I guess someone can take the lounge under the window?”

Whoops. Was it fair to relegate Daphne to the lounge and have he and Blaise share? Maybe he could take the lounge. It looked lumpy though. Well, he never really slept much anyway...

“How’s the potion?” Blaise peered into Theo's trunk as he reached his arms down into it and pulled his caldron from its enchanted depths.

“Good.” Theo assured himself as he checked the colouring and felt the temperature of his brass caldron. “It should be ready on time.”

“I better get to forging that letter.” Blaise took the Leaky Caldron branded paper the suite had provided and sat down at the table; “it’s just pretending to give your father access isn’t it?” he checked with Daphne,

“Assuming we get some of his hair.” Her voice was faint with a heavy tinge of doubt, “I don’t know if Leto will do it, I mean she said she’d help but...”

“I still think we should just steal her hair or something, I mean Pansy stole the signet ring we’re going to use to seal this right? So clearly we’re not above a little thievery.”

“We’re borrowing it.” Daphne corrected, “We’re giving it back to Crabbe when we get back to Hogwarts and see Vincent.”

“Whatever. I have to focus.” Blaise rolled his shoulders before poising himself to ‘get into character’ and forge the letter. It would be that extra addition of credibility that they hoped would allow them to get inside Bernard Crabbe’s hospital room without fuss.

That night they ate dinner in their rooms, Daphne had been paranoid somebody would recognise them and tell her father. Theo had ordered the ‘soup of the day’ which turned out to be a pumpkin stew with chucks of some meat he didn’t recognise. After dinner they all withdrew to their own entrainment. Daphne was already writing to Millie to thank her for covering for her (the two were supposed to be holidaying together with Millie’s family in the alps). While Theo found himself obsessively hovering around the potion, willing that it turned out successful. He intermittently looked up from his book and ended up re-reading the same page twice. They had no plan B.

“So what are we doing for beds?” Daphne stood up from the desk where she had been writing and stretched out her arms, turning over to survey the situation. “oh.”

Theo followed her gaze and saw Blaise crashed out on the lounge. The moonlight rested on his skin and highlighted the slit he still maintained in his eyebrow. He must have been wiped out after eating a huge lamb shank to himself.

What were they supposed to do now? Theo just muttered, he didn’t know what to say; “I guess I can sleep on the floor?”

“No um, that’s not fair.” Daphne shook her head, “Can we split the bed?”

They couldn’t, underage wizards were forbidden from using magic away from Hogwarts.

“Well when Astoria and I used to share a bed we’d sometimes build a little wall with the pillows so nobody rolled over onto the other persons side? When she was little she was always trying to creep over and take up all the space. It drove me insane.” Daphne smiled as she started re-arranging the pillows.

“I don’t sleep much.” Theo felt compelled to add,

“So you say. Would explain the bags under your eyes.”

“Watch it Greengrass. Pansy’s already recommended three different creams I have to use to get rid of these.” He wiped his tired eyes and removed his glasses, which he now only needed for reading.

“I’m going to put on my pyjamas.” Daphne shyly rustled through her trunk and balled up her clothes before heading to the bathroom. Theo resolved to do the same.

The room smelt like musk and lavender and the bed sheets were surprisingly soft when Theo slid between the covers on his side of the pillow wall. Daphne had emerged and was using a small wriggling mirror to braid her hair before timidly approaching the bed.

“Night then.” She whispered as she flicked out the small faded chandelier and took up her side of the pillow wall.

“Night Greengrass.” He replied to her in the darkness.

“Do you think you’ll sleep?”

“Probably not.”

“Nervous?” she waited for him to answer but Theo took too long making up his mind on a response, so she continued; “I am.”

“I thought you were insane.” He cracked a smile, “was the only reason I could think of to explain you.”

“Explain me? Like I’m some Ancient Germanic Rune?”

“No. Like you’re exactly what I think the Greengrass heiress would be, traditional and appearance orientated and polite.”

“you make me sound like my mother.”

“But then you’re my friend after my dad’s…” he didn’t want to say it. So he didn’t. “and you sneak me into the kitchens and pitch that we break into St Mungo’s. Who does that?”

“When you say it like that it does sound insane. But, I just want to see my sister and you want to get answers. It was a mutual deal.”

Theo rolled on his side to face the pillow wall which obscured Daphne’s face from him. He could see her ear and a curl of auburn hair which had fallen from her braid, he focused on it as he spoke to her;

“Greengrass?” he asked, “Do you think my fathers involved in something bigger?”

There was a moment of silence before a hand curled around the pillow in front of him and pulled it down. Daphne’s head poked up over the top of the wall. Theo felt himself roll backward, trying not to look like he’d moved into her space.

“Maybe.” She answered, “Narcissa mentioned that the Pureblood Society would be taking further steps and, well, after my interrogation I got the feeling your father was highly involved. But I don’t know anything. Its none of my business.”

“But you’ll make it your business.” Theo sighed. This girl needed to learn to keep her head down sometimes. They were messing in things far beyond their control and miles past their talents. But he'd also have to take responsibility for his part in their shared insanity. “Curiosity killed the cat you know.” He laughed,

“But satisfaction brought it back.” She finished with a grin,

“You just always have to be right.” Theo chuckled,

“No that’s you. I’m just smarter.”

“Who’s the one brewing Polyjuice potion so that we can actually break in? Oh I think that’s me.” Theo pulled away the pillow so he could see her clearly as he made his point, leaning in closer as he smugly validated his superiority.

“Who came up with the idea? Oh I think that was…? Me!” Daphne took it in her stride and leant in to meet him. She laughed at the idea he might have tried to best her.

“I’m better at defence against the dark arts too, and transfiguration and runeology.” He rattled off, desperate to prove his point.

“Herbology, charms, care of magical creatures, astrology..” she counted on her fingers,

“Are you just listing subjects?” Theo laughed, “surely you don’t think you’re better than me in those?”

“Shut up.” Daphne picked up another pillow from the wall and smashed it into his face, pushing him back.

Theo couldn’t help but free himself and then retaliate. He swung the pillow he had been holding around to clock her in the side of the head. Was that too hard? he panicked for a moment before Daphne laughed and did the same. The pillow wall fell down quickly as they armed themselves and started wildly swinging at each other.

“Hey.” Blaise groaned from over on the lounge. He rolled over and slowly sat up, “can I have a pillow?” he wiped his sleepy eyes. “You two are so loud.”

Theo looked over to Daphne before making the call. He whipped the pillow over at Blaise with such speed that the sleepy Blaise didn’t have time to catch it and instead ended up eating a mouthful of feathers. He fell back on the lounge and now awake, struggled to his feet.

“That’s it. You’re done Theodore Nott.” He marched towards him with vengeance in his eyes and started to take up arms with Daphne.

Theo had found himself outnumbered and fought for as long as he could until his whole body was tired. Daphne and Blaise had been relentless. That night he slept soundly for the first time in a long time.

Chapter Text

Leto entered the Leaky Caldron early in the morning, greeting Tom at the bar before heading on up towards the Merlin Suite. She was light on her feet despite wearing Ministry approved Auror boots, passing the cleaning witch she knocked on the oak door and readied herself for whatever may have been behind it. Her younger cousin; Daphne, had made a bold and highly unusual request that had been weighing on her mind ever since receiving her letter. She hadn't be able to refuse, despite all her better judgement.

“Leto Yang?” A young boy with smooth dark skin and high cheekbones answered the door in a puffy purple shirt,

When Daphne heard Blaise answer the door she bolted to greet their guest. Leto had her thick wand drawn by her side and hair slicked back so that it shone even in the dim morning light. Daphne hurried her cousin inside the room careful to not be seen by other guests.

“How long have you been here?” Leto asked her, looking around the suite at the clothes sprinkled across the floor and empty plates waiting to be collected by the cleaning service.

“A week.” Theo answered in Daphne’s place, he fiddled with the now finished Polyjuice potion, praying that it didn’t spoil.

“We’ve mostly been camping out here so nobody sees us, but Blaise and I put on some dubious disguises and headed into Diagon Alley to get some stuff for the mission.” Daphne informed her cousin.

“the mission?” Leto laughed, sitting on the single lounge which one of the boys had been sleeping on.

“I wasn’t allowed to go. Draco said the ministry workers were searching the platform for me for hours.” Theo finally looked up from his potion, “Cant risk not getting the answers.”

“We need to get into Bernard Crabbe’s room.” Daphne stressed, “I know you told me about the trial with the intention that I should try and go, but Theo can’t be seen to support his father and he needs answers.”

“I never suggested you break in anywhere. I simply suggested you try and get information from the ministry trial, information that would be filtered and eventually released to the public.” Leto clarified, “what kind of older cousin do you think I am?” she cocked a feathered eyebrow, “what kind of Ministry Auror do you think I am?”

“Please?” Daphne begged, “He needs to know. And I have to see Astoria, she’s miserable there. They won’t let her see anyone, and she’s sick, really sick. The Wizards sweat...”

“I figured that played a role in this.” Leto dug in the inside pocket of her coat and pulled out a glass test tube filled with a few strands of hair, “It’s the only thing that made me come around to your request.”

Daphne shuffled herself forward to make sure it was what she thought it was. She held out her hand expectantly,

“Before I give it to you, you have to promise me three things.” Leto kept hold of the tube and eyed off the three teenagers in front of her, “One; That you only spend five minutes inside the hospital room no matter how effective the potion is or how talkative Mr Crabbe is - or more likely, how non-talkative he is.”

“Deal.” Daphne answered immediately despite the hesitation on Theo’s face beside her.

“The second is that you must not be seen by many people, even in disguise. You will not take the potion until we have arrived at the hospital. And three; if he reveals it, you have to take back his Pureblood Society pin.”

“How do you know about that?” Theo's posture straightened. It was the cardinal rule that nobody besides those in the society knew of the society.

“Can’t tell you.” Leto shook her head, “But he’ll have it under a concealment charm. So, is that a deal then?”

Daphne reached out her hand to shake on it, ignoring the curious part of herself that also wanted to know how her cousin had found out. Leto handed over the tube;

“This is your fathers. And this…” she pulled out another tube with thick black hair strands and handed it to Daphne, “is mine.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be you.” Daphne assured her,

“Well yes I was going to say…” Leto laughed. “I’ll be accompanying you to make sure you don’t use my bosses likeness to do anything beyond we discussed. Now, its seven am so we better hurry if we want to pull this off.”

“Right.” Daphne nodded, “How long does the potion give us?”

“An hour?” Theo guessed, “Maybe half? It’s my first brew and well, it was never going to be as potent.”

Daphne noted the nerves in his voice.

“So we need to go to St Mungo’s without being seen by the ministry workers currently looking for you, take the potion, see if it works, get dressed and try to interview Crabbe before the effects ware off. Then I’ll be able to see my sister.” Daphne listed.

“No time like the present.” Blaise pulled out a small bag in which they had collected some of Miles Bletchley’s hair from his Quidditch robes (curtsey of Millie).

Theo lined up the flasks which Blaise and Daphne had purchased in Diagon Alley. He slopped the gooey potion into each, distributing it evenly. Daphne almost gaged watching its lumpy texture and breathing in its poignant smell. Theo took Mile’s hair and sprinkled it in the end flask, put Daphne’s fathers in the next, then Leto’s. They tucked them all in Blaise’s bag.

***

St Mungos was located inside a busy department store just off Oxford street. The building as finished in an art-deco style, but inside modern muggle shops were selling everything from neon coloured jackets to bucket hats. Daphne eyed off all the display windows as they moved through the shoppers, eventually heading right through all the noise and into a fire escape labelled ‘no entry’. As the door shut behind them, Leto opened a cupboard that was labelled as storage for a firehose;

“Is this the guest entrance? The one before the Floo was put in?” Daphne asked,

“Yes, this is more inconspicuous. The Floo networks are monitored.”

“I didn’t know that.” Blaise seemed shocked by the revelation, “did you?” he asked Theo,

Theo shook his head. He looked over at Leto for their next instruction, swaying back and forth on his feet. Daphne could tell he was nervous again, more so than ever before.

“We’ll go in staggered. First myself and Blaise, then you two.”

“How?” Blaise started to ask, noting he had only retrieved three flasks of potion from his bag.

“Take the potion and see if it works.” Leto cut him off, she had switched into a serious matter-of-fact mode.

They obeyed. Daphne held her nose as she chugged back the thick liquid. It was bitter and sharp to taste, all three of them began to cough and splutter.

“What have you fed us!?” Blaise gagged, “Theo you nitwit, you’ve gone and poisoned us.”

Daphne felt her skin ripple, it ran from her fingers down her back. A hot tingly sensation in her shoes and hair follicles distracted her from the potions foul taste. She watched her skin change shade right before her eyes, she felt her spine stretch taller, her hair become heavier. When she looked up she met the wise grey eyes of her father, and she nearly fainted.

“Merlin, fuck!” Daphne was staring right back at her dad.

He had that both aged and youthful look about him. The thick fingers that used to tie up her shoelaces, the rounded belly that she had laid on to sleep whilst protesting she was still awake. But it wasn’t him. He looked unsure, he looked… strange. Daphne could see the remnants of Theo all around him, the hunched posture and the smile. It disturbed her to see them melded as one. She felt sick almost.

“This is weird.” Blaise aptly noted, now in the exact appearance of Miles Bletchley. “I’ve never looked so hideous.”

“You can’t even see yourself.” Theo quipped back, tucking the empty flask into his pocket.

“I feel it.” Blaise pulled out the clothes they he had purchased at a nearby muggle shop, a sharp suit for Theo and a pair of jeans and a button up for him. “These are just awful.” He lamented, pulling off his own shirt to change.

Daphne whipped around out of respect. Leto joined by her side;

“Here.” She handed her some of her own clothes, “I’ve put cast a concealment spell so they can’t see us.”

After they had changed, the reality of the situation gripped Daphne with force. Was she really doing this? She was an idiot. She didn’t need to see Astoria this much right? Well.. what if they were doing those blood transfusions her grandfather had been having? What if she was in pain? Who was going to be there to comfort her when the healers left? Why wasn't she getting better? . She watched as Leto cast an unlocking charm which caused the brickwork to drop away and form an arched entrance.

“But you two look the same, how will you….?” Blaise started asking as Leto arched her back and morphed into a small blue bird.

Daphne let out a gasp as the tiny blue bird chirruped and jumped back and forth; “since when were you an animagus?”

But the bird didn’t answer for lack of a speaking voice. Instead, it jumped up onto Blaise’s shoulder and then shuffled into his shirt pocket. It looked lumpy and strange but Blaise repositioned himself so as to try and make it look like there were only tissues stuffed inside like a handkerchief.

“I’ll see you on the other side then.” Blaise pulled the camera out of his bag before stepping through the doorway and presumably into the hospitals foyer.

“I’m nervous.” Theo admitted, having remained silent during their journey to the hospital.

“Me too.” Daphne reached out and gabbed his hand, squeezing it to assure them both.

They practically marched up to the front desk where the Welcome Witch was sat; she had a scowl on her face and flicked through one of the many old magazines which they had stacked around the waiting room.

“We’re looking for the private floor?” Daphne asked for directions which the Welcome Witch seemed less than pleased to provide;

“Just up the stairs.” She droned back without looking up. A wizard with grey steam coming from his mouth and nose sat a few chairs away, waiting to be attended too.

The pair followed her instruction, walking up each flight and taking note of the signage and the many healers who bustled around in lime green uniforms. They walked through the Dai Llewellyn Ward for creature induced injuries, seeing a man with a witch with chunk taken from her leg and then the positioning department which smelt ashy and bitter. Finally they reached the fourth floor; home to the the Janus Thickey Ward for long term spell damaged patients and the ‘Private Patients Ward’ which they has been seeking. As they walked down the corridor and passed the many rooms of spell damaged patients, they noticed a small sitting area that both wards seemed to share; an elderly woman sat by the window, stirring an empty tea cup with a broken wand. Blaise had sat on the other side of the sitting room in a deep high backed sofa, holding his camera awkwardly. He jumped up to take a picture as Theo approached. The healer who sat at the Private Wards entrance instantly asked after Daphne and Theo’s presence;

“Are you here to see your daughter again Mr Greengrass?” the young healer asked, his long pale shaggy hair pulled in a low ponytail.

“I’m here to see Bernard Crabbe.” Theo tried to deepen his voice, but it sounded nothing like her father.

“Oh.” The healer’s eyes widened, “well the guards will take your paperwork then sir. Can you both please sign in here?” He pointed to a sign in sheet on the table.

Theo picked up the quill and began to write, but his own name started to appear on the parchment. Unable to change the lettering to that of George Greengrass, he scribbled over it to cover his tracks having realised it was an enchanted quill.

“I’ve hurt my hand.” Theo said abruptly, “its spasming you see.” He gestured to the scribble of a signature, “you know who I am don’t you? Can you fill this out for me and I'll sign on the way out?”

The healer looked as if he wanted to protest, but lingered; “of course sir.”

“Same for my assistant here.”

“Auror. Department Auror.” Daphne corrected with a smile, "here for his safety."

“Yes my Auror, we are on Ministry business… tight deadline.” Theo stumbled as he pushed open the double doors to the Private Patients Ward.

“Yes we must make haste, don’t want any more of those reporters taking any more pictures than needed.” Daphne added as she followed him in, Blaise snapping a photo for good measure as the door slammed.

They exchanged a quick glance of relief as they walked down the short corridor of the ward. Theo scanned the doors for Crabbe’s name and Daphne for her sisters.

“He’s here.” Theo stopped at a dark green door,

They stood in silence for a moment.

“Are you going to go in?” she asked, pushing him towards the handle

“Right, yes. Yes. Answers. And the pin, if he reveals it.” Theo reminded himself.

“Five minutes.” Daphne added as they knocked on the door.

A man with one eye and a rough looking face revealed himself on the other side of the door. From the moment Daphne saw the whizzing prosthetic eye and the chunk taken from his nose she knew who she was dealing with. The man her father had called ‘Mad-Eye’ and her mother had called ‘Mr Moody’. The fierce semi-retired Auror was responsible for imprisoning many Death Eaters in the war, and one of Ron's personal heroes. She remembered the night he had stormed into her house, his face whipping around each corner and dissecting her home. The way he had so bluntly and gruffly cast her aside and interrogated her father with harsh demanding words. He was a blood hound, desperate to send her father to Azkaban.

“Mr Greengrass.” He growled looking Theo up and down, “Do you have permission to be here?”

“Yes.” Theo pulled out their forged note (finished with the Crabbe seal Pansy had stolen at Kings Cross station) and nudged Daphne to pull out the badge which Leto had given them. “You know who I am no doubt.”

Moody eyed him up and down, “Yes, Mr Greengrass. We both know we are well acquainted.”

Theo swayed on his feet. “Yes. Not often one raids another’s home and then forgets who they are.” Daphne cut in to try and smooth over suspicion. “Now would you please give us the room. We’re here on Department of Mysteries business. Totally confidential.”

Moody didn’t like the request. She could tell by the way he threw back the forged note; “And your badge Mr Greengrass, where would that be?”

“Have we not already established you know who I am?” Theo retorted, “time is of the essence here good fellow.”

Good fellow? – Her dad would never have called anyone a good fellow. Mad-Eye seemed to provide the same slightly puzzled expression at the comment before it quickly faded back to a gruff stare. Its done. Its over… she’d have to tell Astoria she tried. Daphne looked back at the other doors to try and see her sisters name.

“Five minutes.” Mad-Eye grunted, hobbling aside.

Bernard Crabbe had been a stand-up member of society before his involvement with Leviathan Nott. The Prophet had tried to devise reasons for his slip in character, but society remained baffled. The Crabbes had been tried for their involvement in the war under Voldemort, but nothing had come of it. Bernard Crabbe seemed a pleasant man from what Daphne had seen at the Pureblood Society ball, supporting his nephew when he made his pledge and conversing with the Malfoy’s all night. She had never met him properly of course, but the man who she saw slumped in his chair was certainly not the man that she remembered. His body was riddled with large red patches, skin which had split and pealed back to reveal the raw burnt flesh underneath. Daphne forced herself to hold back the compulsion to vomit at the sight, the flesh exposed was bubbled and raw. It was the worst case of splinching she’d ever seen, the papers hadn't done the extent of his injuries justice.

“Mr Crabbe?” Theo approached him. The man looked up vacantly as he was addressed, “We’re here on society orders. Do you know what that means?”

Crabbe opened his mouth, dull and mute, as if expecting to swallow a potion. When nobody moved he shut his mouth again and mumbled.

“What was your mission? Bernard? Your mission from the society?” Theo tried again,

Silence. Theo tried for another minute to get any sense of the situation. He asked him question after question on everything from what he did for a living, to what food he liked at the hospital. He tired to start small and build from there. But it didn't work.

“Is Mad-Eye keeping you silent?” Theo’s voice was more and more demanding, his patience wearing thin.

“As he said, we’re here on society orders.” Daphne tried to coax an answer from him, “The council may revoke your families membership if you do not comply with us now. Leviathan has already provided most of the detail.” She lied.

That seemed to spark the man attention. For the first time he mumbled in a higher pitched voice; “Not my fault.”

“Yes we know..” Daphne lied again. She felt guilt in coercing this poor weak man but found herself pressing on.

“Why did the society send you to the Department of Magical games and Sports?” Theo pressed,

“Cup.” Bernard muttered,

Daphne picked up the small plastic cup of juice which sat on the table and handed it to him. He sipped it slowly, part of his spliched gash ran across the edge of his mouth, making it hard for him to drink.

“The men you killed, were they collateral or the intended victims?”

“No guards. There were no guards as he said. But then, them.”

“They got in the way?” Theo guessed,

Bernard nodded ever so slightly, the plastic cup shaking in his hand. Daphne looked at the clock. Time was running out.

“Your pin sir, we need it.” She demanded,

“No.” Theo cut her off, “Bernard, who struck the killing blows? Was it my dad? I mean, Leviathan?” he hurried his words,

“He did. His task. He the senior member. His plan.” Bernard recited as if he had told this story before, “If we didn’t, we’d be punished. Don’t take my pin.” Bernard pleaded in his weak feeble voice.

“We won’t, we won’t if you tell us why…” Daphne tried to soothe him a softer voice,

"Who gave the orders? The plan was his?" Theo leant over Bernard, physically pressuring him to speak,

"The Dark Lord." Bernard's eyes widened and his body stiffened. Theo immediately recoiled and looked about the room in a panic, as if Voldemort himself could see them.

The door flung open. Mad-Eye stood consuming its frame; “Time’s up Mr Greengrass.”

Daphne practically ran from the room conscious of the potions time limits, she looked down along all the name tags for her sisters. Daphne knew the longer they stayed the higher their chances of being caught, Mad-Eye watched them intently as she knocked on the door labelled ‘Astoria Greengrass’. There was no answer. Daphne knocked again, this time more desperate. Theo loitered nearby, eyeing off the end of the corridor where the front desk healer had just entered. He had heard Blaise’s voice calling for the healer beyond the door.

“Daphne.” He whispered as she stated to call her sisters name, “we have to go.”

Daphne started turning the knob of the door, hoping it would open. It stayed shut.

“The healer Daphne, we didn’t sign our names…” Theo urged her to see the seriousness of the situation.

Daphne started to shove at the door, willing it open. It would not move; “Where’s Astoria?” she called out to the healer who approached them, “where have you put her?” she demanded,

“Mr Greengrass, I’ve just been in contact with your office…you and Ms Yang...”

Theo didn’t wait for him to spell it out. With one swift movement he grasped Daphne’s arm and began marching them both towards the door.

“Where’s Astoria?” Daphne asked the man again, trying to pull herself from Theo's grasp.

“She’s in the Alchemy room. Miss Greengrass is there every morning for her potion Ms Yang.” The healer looked puzzled as to why this was such a pressing matter, “this brings me to my question..”

“No you may not have an autograph I’m afraid, very busy ministry business you see…” Theo was talking out of his ass, the pair thundering down the hall desperate to heed the warning Blaise had signalled to them.

Theo still her gripped by her upper arm when they walked out to the sitting area where Blaise was pacing about. The healer was frantically trying to explain the need for their signature, trying to get them to stop without using his magic.

“We have to go to the Alchemy room.” Daphne whispered to Theo as they collided with Blaise, still in the likeness of Miles Bletchley.

“He's onto us.” Blaise whispered to them, nodding at the healer who followed.

“No pictures!” Theo shouted at Blaise as they hurried down through the Janus Thickey Ward. Blaise let off another flash of the camera to try and stun the poor healer who was hot on their heels.

“Sir.” Blaise hurried back towards him, “finally some assistance, that old lady there she seems to have this… yellow pus.. yes pus, seeping through her – eyes! Yes very bad and shes in pain so, come with me then.” Blaise was trying to turn his charm on, the healer paused and looked back at where the elderly woman had been sat;

“Mrs Hubert?” he asked,

“That’s the one.” Blaise nodded and started to pull him back towards her, “now I have to go but you really should be taking better care of these patients, I mean I should tell my editor Mr Coffe about such things but…”

Daphne didn’t hear the rest, they were tumbling down the stairs and brushing past other guests who were visiting the hospital.

“Is that a bird?” A healer stopped herself beside them on the stairs and looked up,

Daphne saw the small blue winged bird as it came swooping down towards her, resting on her shoulder and tweeting in her ear.

“We have to get out of here.” Theo demanded, pushing her past the sign for the Alchemy room.

“No she’s in there..” Daphne had been distracted by Leto’s tweeting, she turned to take the stairs again before the bird bit down hard on her ear. “Leto!” she whined in pain, “she’s in there!”

“Are you alright miss?” the healer who had spotted the bird asked,

“She’s fine. Just. She’s fine.” Theo assured the healer as he gasped her other arm and physically steered her away.

The Welcome Witch said nothing as Theo dragged Daphne from the hospital. The moment they were back in the department store fire escape, Leto transformed into herself again and withdrew her wand and to cast a calming spell over Daphne. Daphne felt her heart slow and her muscles relax.

“I’m sorry Daph. The healer was going to demand your signatures and you would have been caught once you signed the wrong names.” She smoothed down the hair on Daphne’s head. It must have been strange for her to be talking back to one’s self, the potion was still in effect. “you had to leave or we would have been caught.”

“But I did all this…” Daphne tried to protest again, to explain that this had been to see Astoria more than about finding answers for Theo.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out.” Leto sympathised, “you know I wanted you to see her.” She stepped away as Blaise rushed into the stairwell;

“Thank goodness mother drags me around the theatre, I just put on the show of a lifetime!” he grinned, “now get me out of these ugly clothes.”

The group began to walk back through the department store, Leto once again morphing into a bird until she and Daphne no longer looked alike. They arrived back at the Leaky Caldron in silence, the potion finally having worn off. Daphne almost disliked looking like herself again. It had been nice to embody such beauty, to be so womanly. As they had walked back through London a few men had eyed her off as Leto, and she couldn't help but wonder how long she'd have to wait to be beautiful. Perhaps that time would never come. But it was nice to see Theo looking like himself again, opposed to the weird version of her father he had been. It was even nice to see Blaise in his eccentric clothes again as he left to go get them all a ‘victory lunch’ from a sushi place they had seen on the walk back to the Leaky Caldron.

“Thank you.” Theo pulled her aside once Leto had left for work and Blaise was hunting down something called a 'California roll', “Thank you for sacrificing your time with her so I could get answers.”

Daphne had been selfishly regretting that decision from the moment they left the hospital. The entire walk back she had cursed herself for undertaking such a stupid mission and failing so miserably. Her and Theo now stood opposite one another, Daphne’s eyes cast to the floor as to not give away how disappointing the whole adventure had been.

“That’s ok.” She lied,

Suddenly she felt Theo’s arms awkwardly wrap around her, he pulled her in close to his chest in an almost tender hug. Daphne lifted her own arms up to hold his chest out of instinct, his chin sat atop her head. It was nice.

“You don’t have to lie. I know you’re disappointed.” He paused for a moment, “Maybe we’re not as smart as we think.” He laughed,

“Maybe.” She conceded, “but I’m still smarter than you.”

“No you’re not.” Theo protested with as much vigour as he always did, but cracked a smile.

“Yes I am.” She fought back, still wrapped in his arms.

“You’ll see her again soon.” He pulled away, the two stood facing one another not knowing how to end their interaction.

Daphne couldn't tell how long they had stood like that, staring at each other as if trying to decide what this thing was between them. It couldn't be a crush, crushes were for boys like the Michael Corner and Adrian Pucey - even Fred and George Weasley. Crushes weren't for annoying broody know it all's with long gangly limbs and practically gaunt cheeks. Merlin save the girl who would swoon over Theodore Nott...

“Ok so I may have just used the rest of our funds to purchase this whole platter…” Blaise opened the suite door and sauntered inside, “but in fairness, I don’t know how much muggle money is worth. Is three hundred pounds too much for sushi?”

Chapter Text

The Dark Lord

Bernard Crabbe’s bone chilling confession played over and over again in Theo's head all throughout his detentions. The Ministry had not been happy with his decision to evade them on the platform and hide away across Easter. After having written to Dumbledore himself they settled on allowing Snape to punish Theo for the rest of the school term. This meant each morning he was up before breakfast to scrub out caldrons for the first year potions classes, then at lunch he was back in Snape’s office to help organise the potion stores (labelling and drying herbs), before returning after classes were he was forced to study in silence under his housemasters supervision.

It was in these periods of punishment that Snape would occasionally ask after his slowly healing eyesight. His father’s indefinite imprisonment had insured that he would never provide the outright cure, but Professor Snape for all his faults was handy with healing potions and temporary cures. Theo could now see clearly without his glasses regarding almost everything outside reading and writing, but since he did so for most of the day, there was rarely a time in which he didn’t still keep them on. The group still liked to chide him with ‘four eyes’ comments but all in jest, everyone else who sought to belittle him had far greater ammunition than his wearing a pair of thick rimmed spectacles.

“Blood sadist.” An older boy muttered as Theo sat down in front of their exam hall,

“Sod off tossers.” Draco hissed at the lot of students who were staring them down as they left their O.W.L exams.

“Hey Daph.” Cedric was among the crowd, keeping to himself and scratching at his feathery hazelnut hair as if doubting his performance in the exam,

Theo watched Daphne’s rosy face light up, she flashed her teeth in a bright smile at the sight of the older boy acknowledging her presence. Pansy rolled her eyes but kept quiet beside her.

“Hi Cedric! How was it?” she gestured at the exam room,

“Alright, I think I could’ve done better during the theory portion. Ran out of time at the end of my essay on the intricacies of the colour changing charm.”

“Did you cover the counter charm? I’m sure you did better than you think, the other day in the library you got every question I asked right.”

“What’s that?” Theo turned to Draco and cocked his head over at the pair,

“Who cares, as long as he fumbles the snitch at our match Monday. Last one of the house competition and we have to win by a landslide to beat Gryffindor. They dominated their match against Ravenclaw.” He muttered displeased,

“Yeah right, but are they, you know?” Theo tried to not sound too interested, flicking through his Transfiguration notes as if invested in last minute study.

“Saw them in the library the past couple of weeks.” Millie leant over from where she had been blocking her ears to focus on remembering all the steps needed to become an Animagus. “He asked her to help memorise some Herbology terminology and then some History of Magic dates.”

Theo felt his throat close up slightly. He thought about how he and Daphne had stood in the middle of the Merlin Suite after their St Mungo’s visit, staring into each other’s eyes for the shortest of eternities. He recalled how both vulnerable and assured he had felt. It was a complete paradox of a feeling which had carried into the term, the pair now closer than ever and often in each other’s company. Ancient Runes had become his favourite subject, allowing him undivided time with Daphne which they both spent in either mutual focus or endless conversation.

“Bad luck mate.” Blaise whispered, not attempting any last ditch revision as he fiddled with his quill awaiting the exam.

“With the bouquet spell…” Draco started to question,

“Nott?” Daphne had walked over from the other side of the corridor and now crouched down to face him. Theo snapped out of his internal monologue. “Can’t be harder than evading a shaggy haired healer can it?” she joked,

“Yeah.” He gave a breathy laugh back as he got to his feet. She rose with him, leaning back to create more distance between then now that they were made much closer.

“Is Dumbledore himself polishing each exam quill?” Pansy snapped, peering into the hall to see how much longer they would be waiting.

“Good luck.” Daphne reached out and quickly squeezed Theo's upper arm, almost like she had before the entered the hospital,

“Yeah good luck guys.” Theo took a deep breathe, One exam couldn’t be worse than being the most hated boy in the whole school.

***

The Prophet had covered every inch of the trial; from the emotional testimonies to the outfits of the court scribe wore. Theo’s father had been present for each of the seven days of the ongoing proceedings, images of him restrained in a chair in the caged areas of the court room were plastered on every page of the paper. The reports had been factual at first, “The last spell retrieved from Leviathan’s wand was that of the killing curse; Avada Kedavra. A spell which only one wizard in history has managed to survive.” But then the widow of one of the victims was invited to speak and Theo found himself hiding from the world so as not to have food hurled at him during dinner (which had happened the night her story was originally published).

Harry Potter had, oddly enough, been receiving positive traction from the case. As Blaise had stated; “sympathy for orphans seem to be an all-time high, even though I suppose that kid still has his mother.” Harry had also apparently played brilliantly during the Gryffindor vs Ravenclaw match and so he, Ron and Hermione were in too good a spirit to bother berating Theodore with the rest of their house. This meant Pansy and Draco had instead been forced to take out the built stress of their examinations, on Seamus Finnegan;

“Missing something Finnegan?” Draco had poised, forcing back his laugher as he used a vanishing spell on the back of Seamus’s robes.

“For shame Finnegan!” Pansy had smirked, “modesty is a ladies greatest virtue.”

“Enough.” Professor Flitwick had reversed the spell quickly, allowing a very scarlet cheeked Seamus scurry off without too much damage.

Both Pansy and Draco promptly landed themselves in the final weekend detention of the year, which they served alongside the permanently punished Theo, enduring two hours of silent study and reflection. As they left Snape’s office, they were greeted by Daphne and Blaise who had waited patiently in the corridor. The pair were dressed in their own clothes opposed to a uniform; Blaise dawning a lightweight printed jacket which was more style than function and Daphne in a flowy forest green dress which looked elevated with her loose auburn curls. Both were concentrating intently as they played a game of gobstones.

“Where’s Mills?” Pansy cast a glance downwards at the pair who sat on the floor, manoeuvring around their gobstones to try and set up the best angles,

“Prepare to taste my wrath Zabini.” Daphne flicked her gobstone over with force, but it only clipped the edge of Blaise’s and both shot off in different directions.

“I guess I’m just an illusion, a figment of all your overactive imaginations then? That, and only that, is the possible reason why neither of them have answered my question.” Pansy pulled off her tie, having been required to turn up to detention in her uniform.

“Sorry Pans.” Daphne shuffled around to get a look at where Blaise was aiming, he took a long draw back, “She’s training. Adrian’s got the team doing a session each afternoon. Emmeline says she's near sick of him now.”

“Training?” Draco looked at his wrist watch, “Bugger, better be off then.” He sighed, “drink a pint of Butterbeer for me?”

“Of course.” Theo nodded as Draco took off for the common room, “Don’t stop to pet that feral cat like you always do, you have a match to win soon!”

“Come on, let’s go down to Hogsmeade.” Pansy demanded.

“You’re not changing?” Blaise held his chin in his thumb and forefinger, surveying his next move against Daphne.

“Daph?” Pansy held out her hand and Daphne pulled out a set of clothes from her bag,

“Got you some too Theo.” She pulled out another wad of clothes, this time a men’s shirt and jeans.

“I don’t know whether to feel violated you went into our dorm and stole my clothes, or thank you.” Theo unravelled the shirt, a light blue baggy pinstripe button up his house elf had ordered for him before his return to school. It wasn’t much to his taste, but he didn’t really have a taste either. He’d always look plain next to Blaise anyway.

The Three Broomsticks was filled wall to wall with patrons. All the Hogwarts students were taking advantage of the last weekend out and the end of most examinations. Outside on the high street some fourth year muggle-borns had set up a game of football and further away a group of sixth years were drinking Firewhiskey from a brown paper bag and singing merry tunes. Theo watched them from their table in the pub, which was now littered with butterbeer glasses and small bowls of roasted nuts and pretzels. He would have forgone a public appearance of the account of being the most deeply hated boy at the school, but Daphne and Blaise had been insisting on his presence for weeks and he couldn't say no to either of them. Daphne returned with a plate full of pumpkin pasties, landing in the chair beside him.

“Pansy got caught up with Emmeline and Poppy” She raised her voice to he heard over all the noise of the busy pub, “apparently their all going to Gilderoy Lockhart’s new book reading during the summer.”

“What a wanker.” Theo shook his head and took a pastry from Daphne’s plate. As he bit into it, he realised just how fresh and therefore hot they still were. He quickly sat up and began to channel his breathes to cool down his mouth. Daphne just giggled at him and offered one to Blaise, who accepted but let it cool in front of him.

“I can’t get over how hard that translation was for runes, I mean who mixes Nordic and Germanic like that?”

“I’ve definitely failed.” Blaise half joked, “What’s the Germanic-Nordic rune for ‘I’m fucked’?”

“I think that’d be a sort of lopsided U with three dashes and then a squiggly line.” Theo replied sarcastically, now recovered from the pastry incident.

“Alright smart ass, what’s the rune for something gangly and reclusive?” Blaise tutted, never one to be bested in a tit for tat, “Wait, just tell me how I’d spell your name. They're the same thing after all.”

“Gangly and reclusive sounds like a good descriptor of a snake though doesn’t it?” Daphne added, devouring a chunk of the pumpkin filling, “he really is one of us.”

“What’s the Nordic rune for snake then? I’ll have to have it sewn on all his clothes next time he’s in a sulk about being the outcast” Blaise noted to himself.

Theo glanced over at Daphne to see she had done the same,

“Remember when I wrote snake instead of snack on my note to you?” she recalled laughing, “Godric, I hope I didn’t do that again in the exam.” She bit her bottom lip slightly.

“Surely you’ve learnt your lesson, I mean how many snakes must a girl eat before she learns?” Theo joked.

As the three of them sat finishing their food and laughing, Pansy briskly approached the table. Her dark eyes were focused, serious and piercing. She locked onto Theo the moment he looked her way;

“We have a problem.” She informed him bluntly, “Poppy says your fathers trial reached a verdict today. They’ll be an edition of the Evening Prophet.”

Theo felt his whole attitude shift, where he once had been leaning back, he now sat up straight - his face once stretched into a smile now contracted to reflect the reality of the situation. Daphne and Blaise’s jovial giggles also ceased, Theo let his panic show as he exchanged a glance with Blaise opposite him.

“You need to go back to the castle and stay in your dorm through dinner, Blaise will bring you some food when we return.” Pansy outlined the plan bluntly, “nobody will notice you’re gone.”

Theo simply nodded. The return to the Castle was bitterly awkward. He wished for anything other than this. They (everyone but Pansy who had elected to stay with the other Slytherin girls at the pub) were all trying to subtly read his reactions, looking at him when they thought he couldn’t see. But he could feel. He could feel every stare even when it wasn’t there, one of the sadistic gifts his father had imprinted on him. He could feel the pity and the anxiety and the uncertainty they all felt. He knew that when he got back Draco too would assure him it would all ‘blow over’ no matter what the article read, but know he was lying. Millie wouldn’t lie to his face, not when she sensed he knew the truth, but that made her silence on the subject just as futile an attempt to cheer him.

***

Theo liked stars, but he didn’t like to study them. Everyone knew he chose to spend his Astronomy lessons honing his impression of their professor; Aurora Sinstra instead of reading the charts. But he had never told them why. Theodore Nott believed that people were never meant to understand the intricacies and true meanings of all that made up the cosmos. There needed to be some beauty that remained un-dissected and over analysed. Some beauty was made only to admired. The stars were placed in the sky to inspire complete uniqueness and awe. They were there to reflect back whatever it was you wished to see, as all beautiful things do. In some stars he saw himself and the boys racing around their dorm in a mad game of chase (which they did when enough energy had pent up), in others he saw the sparkle he had always believed to be in his mother’s eyes. Unlike reality, the stars could be anything he so desired. And when he stared at the stars they never stared back.

Theo’s last night at Hogwarts was spent eating dinner in his room again. He placed a half-finished plate down on the copy of the Evening Prophet which had come out after the last Hogsmeade weekend;

Leviathan Nott sentenced to lifetime imprisonment in Azkaban high security prison for duel murder of Ministry employees

The only words which Mr Nott spoke during the weeks long trial was the simple phrase; ‘”You will see” which he used in response to each question asked during the prosecutions cross examination. When asked for a statement after his sentence was delivered, Mr Nott took to the pulpit to bequeath his estate and ‘mission’ to his son; Theodore Leviathan Nott, a fourteen year old boy currently attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry and sole inheritor of the ancient Nott estate.

So Theo had retreated from the world once again, slipping back into the isolation he was so painfully familiar with. Blaise had been the constant supply of food the past couple of days as all Hogwarts students finished their last classes and seventh years took their finals N.E.W.T’s. Draco and Goyle had supplied him with a detailed description of the Hufflepuff vs Slytherin match which had played out on Monday evening after having been delayed from earlier in the term. Draco had caught the snitch in what he considered a ‘move of mastery’. As Draco told it; Cedric had spotted the snitch first but he had outwitted him by suddenly darting in another direction to throw off his opponents line of sight. Millie had of course, skilfully directed a bludger to further steer Cedric from the snitch and bide enough time for Draco to get his hands upon it. She had remained far more humble in her triumph than the rest of the Slytherin Quidditch Team. Theo wished he had been there, if only to have chided Blaise for his hatred of the sport. He wished he could celebrate with his house, he wished they no longer pretended not to see him as they packed their trunks for end of term.

“He represents all the worst things associated with our house.” Poppy Coffe had told Pansy, who of course had re-laid it to him so as to provide consensus on whether he should continue to isolate in his room. “He is the reason the others hate us, they think we’re all murderers sons like him.”

A murders son. That was what Theo had been reduced too; A despised, practically homeless orphan with not a single living relative to show him any care It was during those days alone, facing the reality of living in the Ministry Youth Home all summer banned from the Malfoy’s house that Theo turned to the stars for comfort. While the boys would sleep soundly, dreaming of their Quidditch victories or seeing their parents again he would look to the stars and search for her. His mother would be there, revealing herself in the threads of light which were strung across the Scottish night sky. She would tell him all was well, she would bring him stillness and for a brief moment; wipe from his mind the reality in which he faced. Or he would dream of how different life would be if she had not met his father; he’d have never existed at all, and perhaps that would have been for the best. Maybe three lives would have been spared if he stayed up there in the stars instead of down here on earth.

“What are you thinking about?” Blaise had whispered from his bed that night,

“The stars.” Theo admitted, eyes still cast upwards.

“How poetic.” Blaise’s voice was half asleep, his head craned slightly above his sheets to check that Theo was alright.

“How unlike me you mean?”

“Well, you hate Astronomy.” Blaise rightfully pointed out.

“I do.” Theo admitted, “but I hate a lot of things.”

Fuck you father, fuck you for doing this to me. For bringing me to earth and making me suffer.

“No you don’t. Theo, you don’t have a single malicious bone in your scrawny body.” Blaise assured him.

***

"You know i always had a premonition about you. In first year. I knew that we'd either be great friends or hate each other." Daphne told him as they waited,

"So what is it then?" he dared ask,

"Jury's out on that."

"Oh please, no court jokes." Theo chuckled at his own dark joke as the train whistle blew.

Daphne gripped his hand and hurried them down through the train. She had a devilish grin which made his heart thump in his chest. They had been the last to board at Hogsmeade station at Theo’s insistence, he wanted to part the school without any more animosity and Daphne had refused to leave his side. The others had scouted a compartment and scurried them inside before Cormac or Seamus got any ideas.

Millie was sat up against the door, she had the latest copy of Quidditch Today in her hands and gushed over the new beater for the Hollyhead Harpies. As Daphne and Theo entered she battered their legs so that the poster inside was not crinkled by their clumsy entrance. Crabbe was in high spirits, he fiddled with his father’s signet ring which Blaise had returned to him at the beginning of term and pondered about what he should purchase from the trolley, constantly hungry. Goyle sat at the window with Draco, the pair had a travel set of wizards chess between them and took turns to move the pieces. Goyle had seemingly refined his skills and artfully took Draco’s knight in a move that he hadn’t see coming;

“What the hell was that?” Draco was floored with surprise, “remind me not to buy you a travel set of snap or I might have a problem stealing chocolate frog cards from you in future too.”

Theo took a place beside Blaise, squishing himself in the seat and tucking his carry on bag underneath. Daphne stood on her tip toes to push her own leather bag onto the overhead racks;

“Where’s Pans?” she asked, looking around the packed compartment.

“Dunno.” Crabbe replied rather unhelpfully.

As Daphne turned to stick her head out of the compartment Pansy threw the doors open and sent Millie flying back onto the floor, having been previously using the closed doors as a back rest. Millie gripped her head and winced, Daphne suppressed a giggle as she reached down to help her up. Pansy simply stepped Millie, shaking out her fist and taking a seat opposite Blaise.

“What did you do?” Daphne’s tone was stern, her eyes locked in on her best friend as she checked the back of Millie's head.

Pansy was looking out the window, refusing to meet Daphne’s stare. She cradled her right fist in her left hand and crossed her legs as if she was at high tea.

“Tell us.” Draco sat between Pansy and the window and began to block her view.

“No.” Pansy flicked her sleek black hair back and turned her gaze to the floor,

“We know that look.” Daphne took the seat next to her, applying the pressure, “That’s the Pansy Parkinson I did something I shouldn’t have look.”

“The notion that you could dissect my actions from a mere look is ludicrous.” Pansy dismissed, “Now. Anyone have a copy of Witch Weekly?”

“Diversion.” Theo noted,

“Thats a diversion indeed.” Draco nodded as Goyle took one of his pawns, “Parkinson, you owe us an explanation.”

When Charlotte Montague threw open their compartment door and sent Millie back onto the floor again, the group hadn’t known what to say.

“Did you really hit him?” her eyes were wild with excitement as she eagerly looked to Pansy for answers.

“Hit who exactly?” Theo couldn’t help but ask, despite thus drawing attention to himself.

“Ron Weasley.” Charlotte answered as if she was surprised they didn’t know. “Whole compartments talking about it.”

“Why’d you hit Ron!” Daphne was torn between hearing her out and scorning her for her behaviour, her affinity for Ron was always on display when he arose in conversation.

“Leave us.” Pansy snapped at an obedient Charlotte, “He and Finnegan thought Theo ought not to return to Hogwarts next year.” She kept her eyes on the carpeted floor.

Theo didn’t know how to feel. He was used to hearing people say bad things about him, worse things too. It wasn’t that which shocked him, it was Pansy Parkinson who had truly and utterly stunned him. Pansy had defended him. Pansy Parkinson who never so much as paid him a kind word. Pansy who he thought fickle. Perhaps Daphne bore more influence than he had realised, or perhaps he had read her wrong entirely.

“Well, well, well. The ice queen has melted.” Blaise slow clapped her, “I think this calls for a speech.”

“Please dear lord no.” Pansy and Draco groaned in unison.

But Blaise was on his feet, “Here’s to friends who would knock flat any fool who tried to hurt us.” He started “To the ice queen who melted, to the blondie who made us stalk a feral cat for months” he looked at Draco, “the idiots who eat all our Honeyduke’s stashes.” He pointed at Crabbe and Goyle, “Slytherin houses’ best beater and secret keeper.” He winked at Millie, who blushed a bright pink, “the heiress who made the cover and devised a plan so brazen that even I questioned its logic.” Daphne laughed heartily, “to me, the greatest of all the snakes and best dressed in every room..”

“Boo.” Theo taunted as Blaise began to rattle off his never ending list of virtues,

“Oh fine, and to you.” Blaise looked down at him, “who was dealt a losing hand and played it off better than any of us could have dared.”

No matter how well Theo thought he knew Blaise, he always had a way of surprising him.

“To the family we find along the way, for they are far more important than anything else!”

They couldn’t all but help feel a sense of, what Theo could only describe as true camaraderie. Family would always be first to pureblood’s, but this, whatever this friendship they had was, it was what Theo had always looked up to the stars to find. It was a vague answer. It was a promise of another year at Hogwarts, the promise of more adventure, the promise that after a summer spent with strangers he’d have people to come back to, people who loved him. And if that was not family, than Theo supposed he’d never find anything closer.

“To family.” Daphne returned, looking over at Theo with a wide toothy grin.

“To family.” Theo found that short eternity again looking back at her. Yet, just as quickly as it came, so it was gone.

“Get down from there nitwit.” Pansy demanded, looking up at Blaise who remained standing on the train seats.

“And the ice queen has returned.” Millie mused from her spot on the floor, much to everyone (including Pansy's) amusement.

Chapter Text

Daphne had imagined what it would be like to kiss Cedric Diggory more than she cared to admit. The problem was that there were plenty of other people who had probably dreamt the same. Cedric was one of those boys that everyone liked, he had an aura about him, a magnetic energy that Daphne couldn’t explain. He wasn’t a traditionally devastatingly handsome crush like Adrian Pucey or Michael Corner, or the strong silent type like Dean Thomas. Cedric wasn’t even the kind of crush that reduced you to fits of laughter like the Weasley twins, or dare she say it, their younger brother Ron. Cedric Diggory was above all, kind. He had always made everyone around him feel at ease, free to become their truest of selves. Cedric didn’t judge; he listened when people spoke and remembered your name even if you had only met once. That was what defined Cedric Diggory, his kind eyes and lively smile.

The Diggory’s had lived in Ottery St Catchpole for as long as the rest of them. The Diggory home was an old sandstone manor house which sat right by the Fawcett’s and a small running river. It was by the river that Daphne and Ron had first seen Cedric after his mother died. Before Mrs Diggory’s death, the family had often dined at the Greengrass estate, Aquila considering them the only company of decent breeding in the entire area. It was at these dinners or teas that Daphne first came to know Cedric as a young plump faced boy who loved catching frogs and always held his own in conversations with the adults (everyone no matter their age, loved Cedric). Even then he had a keen wit and passion for learning. But after Mrs Diggory caught the wizards sweat, Cedric’s father; Amos had all but resigned from the social world. He and his son became incredibly close, fishing in the small running river by their home most afternoons. Ron and Daphne had wandered over to the river on a fabricated quest, the pair picking up rocks and sticks on the way for no other reason than to fight off impending boredom. When they saw Amos and Cedric with their net and fishing wire, Daphne had insisted they hide;

“It’s rude to impose. They don’t want to see people.”

“But he’s just gone to Hogwarts, don’t you want to hear what the Hufflepuff common room looks like?” Ron had protested, walking closer to the two men.

“Leave him alone Ronald, or ill hurl all your rocks into the river.”

“You wouldn’t.” Ron protected his pockets,

“I would.” she had insisted.

After that Daphne had given Cedric space for many years, hopelessly admiring him from afar. She watched as he grew taller, his shoulders wider, his hair longer and then cut back. When she started Hogwarts, the pair had picked up their acquaintance again. By then Cedric had grown into one of the most popular boys within his house and then within the school. Now Quidditch captain, prefect and favourite of many of the girls in his year, he was far beyond her reach.

When he asked Daphne to help with his revision for exams, she found herself giddily relaying the request to Pansy and wondering why he had paid her any attention in the first place. Pansy had told her that she needed to reel in her emotions, that boys like Cedric never stirred that kind of excitement in her. But when Daphne arrived in the library she had sprayed on extra perfume and let her hair down. She giggled at his jokes, diligently read through his notes and scribbled penmanship. When he’d reach out and take the book back from her hands to study its pages, tongue pressed to the roof of his mouth, she watched and imagined the bright future that laid ahead of him. A boy that brilliant was going places.

When Cedric emerged from the Quidditch change rooms after his houses defeat, he didn’t look angry but resigned. Daphne had timidly approached him to commend him for his effort. “Win some lose some hey?” he shrugged, “have fun at your common room party.”

Daphne didn’t delude herself into thinking anything would come of a crush like hers. She was aware she was no beauty like Angelina Johnson or Emmeline Avery. Yet, from time to time she’d foolishly image once again what it would be like to kiss someone as kind and smart and magnetic as Cedric Diggory.

***

Astoria arrived home from St Mungo’s towards the start of the summer. She waddled in feebly on the arm of her father, a big smile plastered on her face. She told Daphne about all the potions she’d had to trial during her month long stay at the hospital. They’d tried targeting her muscles, her brain, her blood. None of them provided the cure. They had poked and prodded her as Daphne had feared, extracting blood and bone marrow using painful magic to try and source the root of the agony in which she often found herself.

“I got all your letters though.” Astoria had pulled the thick wad of letters from her bag, “Madam Tulle loved hearing about Blaise and Pansy’s constant bickering.”

“You shared them?” Daphne let Astoria go from the crushing hug she had wrapped her in,

“Yes. Tulle was also convinced you had a crush on Cedric.” Astoria smiled as if she too had reached that conclusion. Daphne blushed. “For a while I thought you might have been pining over Theo.”

“Eww.” Daphne shut down the concept, blushing harder. “Um. Molly sent you these by the way.” She pointed to a bouquet of wildflowers.

“The whole house has been covered in flowers since you were admitted.” Their mother explained, Queenie the house elf nodding in cooperation beside her. “The Malfoys, Minister Fudge, Amelia and Beatrice Bones, The Goyle’s, The Parkinson’s, The Fawcett’s and the Diggory’s” she pointed to the other bunches scattered around the houses grand foyer.

“Wow.” Astoria gave a weak smile, “news travels fast.”

“They all believed our cover.” Her father assured her, still holding her upright as if she would faint at any moment.

“Well, can we have some sandwiches, the ones I like?” Astoria changed the subject, never wanting to dwell on her sickness.

“Of course darling.” Aquila smiled and instructed Queenie to start making them.

The next day felt abnormally normal to Daphne. She found herself sitting in her families rose garden at the request of her mother, sketching the statues which lined the gravel path back to the house. The proportion of her sketch was all wrong, the statues arms being longer than its legs and the trees off to the side far too small. Thinking back a few years Daphne would have used her marble bracelet to call for Ron’s rescue, desperate to escape the domestic bliss which her mother so strictly maintained. Yet Daphne enjoyed the dullness of it all. She sat in the warm still summer air and let it hit her paled skin. Sidd scurried about serving them cheese and biscuits, which Daphne scoffed down to the vehement dislike of her mother;

“Manners Daphne! A pureblood heiress does not inhale food like that.” Her mother called Sidd away with the platter, even taking the quince paste from it so Daphne could no longer slather it across the cheese.

“If she’s a pureblood heiress than shouldn’t she be allowed to do as she pleases?” Astoria’s sketch was near picture perfect as she began shading.

“You always say we’re better than the blood traitors and mudbloods, by that logic why should we care what they think?” Daphne threw down her pencil having given up improving her woeful work,

“Appearance magnifies power.” Their mother had often stressed this message, “Ask yourself, why bother buying expensive clothes? Why host elaborate events? Why build such a grand house as ours? It’s not good enough to simply have power, one must signal it subtly. When others recognise the power you wield it becomes a greater weapon. People do not question the value of a man with such things as we have.”

Daphne thought on this premise. She could see how intimidating they might seem to others, perhaps that’s also why all her friends had flocked together in the first year. She couldn’t build up the courage to speak to Cedric Diggory for knowledge of his likability and popularity. That seemed similar in a way. Her mother always had a way of bringing her around to her logic, she saw things more clearly. She knew pureblood society better than most, and read people well.

“I’m home!” her father had emerged from the house to wave to his wife and daughters,

“Come and join us darling.” Aquila beckoned and her husband obeyed, sitting down for afternoon tea in the fragrant air.

“What do you think?” Daphne showed her half finished sketch,

“Very. Interesting.” Her father lifted his thick eyebrows in jest and took a biscuit from Sidd,

“Oh sod it.” Daphne laughed at his reaction, folding up her sketch pad.

“Language young lady.” Her mother scolded through a suppressed smile of her own.

The next day Astoria and Daphne laid in her bed and listened to The Weird Sisters until lunch. Astoria had brought her little scraggly owl; Pauley to try and ‘play’ with Daphne’s kneazle Ellery. The pair were not entertaining the idea, staying on opposite sides of the room. Ellery, much plumper now than last year, rolled about on the carpet while Pauley stayed perched in the bay window. Daphne felt oddly nostalgic of all the years which they had spent in her room before she left for Hogwarts and before Astoria had ever truely been ill.

“Remember when mother made us take all those dance lessons with the tutor?” Astoria had reminded her as Pauley whimpered for more affection, “Remember how she’d make us strap a board to our backs to keep them straight!”

“Merlin.” Daphne’s spine stiffened out of habit upon hearing it, “The Viennese waltz, the polka, foxtrot, quickstep..” so much of her youth had been spent mastering those steps in preparation for Pureblood balls and formal ministry events and yet Daphne could only recall a handful of times when she was able to use them, being too young to take to the floor at most parties she attended. “what a waste.”

“And the piano forte, I’d thought I’d die each time I was called for a lesson, but they had a small one in the hospital so I started playing again to keep me busy between yours and Luna's letters.”

“No wonder you’re mothers favourite.”

“She has good taste.” Astoria grinned back, “have you heard much from Theo?” she changed the subject, looking out Daphne's window to the gardens where their Mother was entertaining some of their Ministry friends.

“No.” Daphne admitted with a slight disappointment in her voice, “had one from Draco, three from Pansy and four from Millie. Blaise sent a postcard from Bulgaria, apparently his new step father’s covering the pre world cup excitement from there.”

“New step father?”

“His other Quidditch loving one had an accident at one of his matches, left him with a big scar on his head and no more sponsorships, so Mrs Zabini left him.” Astoria gasped at the bluntness of Daphne’s confession. “At least that’s what Draco says.”

“What a gossip.” Astoria tried to recall her few conversations with Malfoy, “didn’t pick him for one, but I suppose people surprise you.”

***

Ron was practically jumping out of his skin to attend the Quidditch World Cup. Daphne’s father had managed to secure The Weasley's tickets as a Christmas gift last year. George Greengrass was a keen Quidditch fan, having been a Keeper for Slytherin in his youth, and so every four years when the World Cup was held he would purchase a private box with the Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports; Ludovic Bagman. This time had been no exception, and now that Ron was invited he counted down the days.

“I can’t believe we’re going, and that Harry and Hermione get to come too.” He shook his head in disbelief,

Molly was buzzing around the Burrow in a cleaning frenzy; the house had been at full capacity with Harry Potter and Hermione Granger there and they still had all their bags and gear to pack for the days of camping which preceded the match. Daphne and Astoria had come over to have breakfast with the family before heading off together to the campgrounds, Harry had arrived before they did and Hermione had joined them as they started setting up for breakfast.

Daphne lifted her feet up as an enchanted mop started cleaning underneath the Weasley’s dining room table. Astoria cradled the bundles of cups which she and Ginny carried out to the garden table (the only one big enough to feed them all). As the girls passed, Molly shot a litany of spoons and forks after them.

“How come we all get to come with you now?” Ginny Weasley followed up her brothers statement as they took their seats, her red hair flowing in a light breeze that came across the orchid. It appeared the summer sun had given all the Weasley’s more freckles. “Is it because of Harry?” she questioned.

Ron’s face dropped as he dumped a plateful of toast down in front of them. He hadn’t questioned why his family had only now been invited to join the Greengrass’s in their private box despite having been friends with Daphne since infancy. Harry’s face flushed crimson and he fiddled with his spoon.

“No, no.” Daphne didn’t want to admit that this was probably a contributing factor, her parents knew that image was everything and Harry Potter was a very, very popular and famous wizard. “It’s because some people from our father's department can’t come this year, our cousin Leto’s away. Plus, he knows you support the Irish!”

“We like the Scottish too, and they played last time. Match went on for five days, that’s why mum said we had to go to Diagon Alley early this year.” Ginny spoke freely, much to Ron’s embarrassment,

“Alright, alright.” He cut her off, “Where’s Fred and George? Are they joining us for breakfast?”

“Can’t stand the sight of them at the moment!” Molly shrieked as she ladled up portions of porridge with cinnamon and apple.

“They didn’t get as many O.W.L’s as mum would have liked, said they wanted to open a joke shop – Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes they’ve called it.” Ginny whispered to Astoria, loud enough so the table could hear but her mother could not from back inside the kitchen.

“Mum found a list of some of their potential products along with that air cooling pot they made last summer. Fred gave Harry’s cousin some sweet that made him grow a tail.” Ron and Harry suppressed a chuckle as he retold the story, “she got so mad they fled to visit Cedric.”

“Cedric Diggory. The Hufflepuff prefect in sixth year?” Hermione asked, her hair splayed out in tight curls which she was slowly working into a braid. They were all preparing to start venturing over to the portkey.

“Yes.” Astoria answered Hermione’s question, eyeing her sister off as she did so, “he came to our house yesterday for dinner. His father wanted to thank us for the seats, he’ll be joining us in the private box.”

“Perce isn’t coming down, said he hasn’t got time for breakfast with all his ministry whizz.” Charlie Weasley called to his mother as he turned to fit through the frame of their backdoor, his shoulders so wide he would’ve struggled to make it otherwise. Charlie was covered in burns, most smoothed over leaving patches of tender white skin. He was hardly ever back from Romania now, but box tickets to a Quidditch World Cup called for a visit.

Bill too was temporarily home from his curse breaker training, he and Arthur meandered out of the Weasley’s shed after tinkering with their tent for a couple of hours in preparation;

“Alright Weasley’s and co, it’ll be a quick breakfast before we set out. Promised we’d meet Mrs Greengrass and Amos before eleven.”

“But it’s only seven?” Hermione looked at her small wristwatch, “where are we meeting them?”

“Over Stoatshead Hill and through the woodlands there.” Ron answered her in his fathers place, “there’s a portkey.”

Hermione pondered the merit of their method of transportation, but surprisingly didn’t ask any more questions. It seemed Hermione Granger cared a great deal what the Weasleys thought of her, enough to change her highly type A ridged behaviour and go with the flow for the day. It almost made her bearable company.

Daphne’s father had already sent their house elf Sidd ahead to the campsite to set up the families tent, he’d join them after closing a deal with Minister Fudge. Daphne picked up her small leather backpack and slung it over her shoulder as they left the Burrow. The bag had an undetectable extension charm which allowed it to hold all of her belongings for however many days the match would last. Astoria carried the matching pair as she and Ginny forged on ahead with Mr Weasley. Ron was in his usual jovial sprit despite he and Hermione bickering the entire walk about whether Ludovic Bagman was a suitable Head of Department; Hermione was of a strong opinion that he was not. Now, Charlie had been pulled into the conversation as an objective party, although he’d only wanted to discuss his work with dragons. Harry was clearly used to such back and forth and ignored them to ask Daphne many questions about what the cup was like.

“Sorry for all the questions, I’ve just never been.” He confessed after five minutes of passionate chatter on all things Quidditch.

“It constantly shocks me that you’re the sole heir of the Potter bloodline.” Daphne examined the boy, still knobby kneed and spiky haired he looked older but not much wiser than when they had first met.

She still couldn’t shake her dislike for him, the way he had almost usurped her friendship with Ron but she was conditioned to respect pureblood lineage (despite his mother’s unfortunate birth the Potter line was still strong) and she had to admit he was far more humble than one would expect of a wizard of that infamy. Harry too couldn't make out whether he liked or disliked Daphne, having been both tormented by her friends but also aided by her in the chamber of secrets.

“Arthur.” A polite voice called out ahead.

Daphne looked to where she saw her mother standing under a large oak tree; she was dressed in a long lavender coloured day dress, her hair pinned back neatly. Beside her was Queenie whose arms were laden with bags and then Amos Diggory. Amos was tall and portly with a wiry beard and spectacles similar to Harry’s (something Ron pointed out to him instantly).

“Aquila, Amos. Sorry for being late, seemed Ron couldn’t get enough of the new sausages Molly cooked up. Breakfast ran over.”

“I told you to stop stuffing your mouth.” Daphne heard Hermione criticise.

“Ah.” Daphne’s mother nodded, “Shame Molly couldn’t join us, girls did you give her the flowers?”

“Yes.” Daphne walked around the bunched up Weasley party to join her mother, “she said thank you.”

“I’m glad to be free of her a while.” Fred’s voice sounded out behind her, Daphne whipped around instinctively - remembering when they had wrapped her up in their scratchy straight jacket jumper last summer. “Woah don’t worry Daph, mums taken all our good stuff.”

“But not all of it huh?”

“Give us some credit, we wouldn’t hide them all together.” George added.

The twins flanked either side of Cedric, the three of them approaching from just off in the woodland area.

“Hi Daph.” Cedric smiled, “Hi everyone.” He turned to the rest of the group who had waved a greeting back,

“No time to waste, we must press on if we are to make it to the portkey in time.” Arthur surged on ahead, walking with pace using two hiking sticks he had collected from a muggle shop.

“How’d your O.W.L’s go? Did you do better than you thought?” Daphne loitered behind her mother to try and catch a word with Cedric. Thankfully Aquila seemed to pick up her conversation with Amos as they walked.

“We did horribly thanks for asking.” Fred answered,

“Just not the academic sort like Perce or Bill, great disappointments to the family really.” George seemed slightly more fazed by this than his brother but coated his words in humour.

“Ced did alright though, Mum would adopt him first chance.” Fred and George both carried big hiking bags on their backs like the others, except they had already taken the liberty of painting them in the Irish colours.

Daphne turned to Cedric to see if he might tell her what results he’d gotten, or that he might speak to her at all;

“Managed to get a few Outstanding’s.” He smiled to himself, proud of his achievement but not forthcoming with his success.

“Oh that’s brilliant, Transfiguration I presume?” Daphne smiled back, equally proud to hear of his triumph.

“Yes.” Cedric laughed heartedly, surprised that she’d remember, “How’d you know?”

“Don’t act like I didn’t help you revise, I know you’re good. You just won’t admit it.”

“Well if you two are going to talk academics all the way to the portkey, we’ll join Potter.” Fred marched on ahead to the wide eyed Harry Potter who’d found himself stuck in Ron and Hermione’s resumed debate.

“Should I tell them I think Bulgaria will win?” Cedric nodded over towards the Weasleys,

“Definitely not.” Daphne laughed, stomach in slight knots trying to make sure the conversation never slowed. She wanted him to think she was effortless and fun to be around, “Is that who you’re supporting then?” she asked.

“They’ve got Krum, how can they lose? He’ll catch the snitch. I’m sure.”

“Alright, care to bet on it?” she wagered,

Cedric cocked his head back in slight surprise at the bold offer, but thinking on it he reached out his hand to shake hers, “A galleon.”

“A galleon.” Daphne agreed and awkwardly grasped his hand, shaking it lightly but wanting to linger as she pulled away. When she looked ahead she saw that Astoria was watching them giggling almost uncontrollably.

***

The campground was covered in witches and wizards for across the world. Rows of tents were stretched over the horizon, all different colours and sizes and shapes. The large fields which the ministry had sourced were now a patchwork of people and movement. The Weasley’s had purchased a plot in zone A to set up their tent, closest to the entrance and furthest from the stadium which meant they were the group’s first stop after travelling through the portkey.

Arthur, Bill and Charlie began to pitch the small canvas tent while the others forged a game plan to go and gather up materials. Hermione insisted on delegating jobs.

“Where’s our new meet up zone?” Daphne pulled Ron aside and held up her wrist with the blue marble bracelet,

“Erghhh.” Ron looked around, his head already above most of the other wizards on account of his ridiculous height (he’d sprung up even more over the summer). “What about near that banner for the Necromancy Nightingales?” he pointed at a large black tent and banner decorated with bones. Many of the plots had been purchased by international clubs and vendors who aimed to attract the crowd, they were dispersed among the regular witches and wizards who were all setting up for the night.

“I suppose Seamus is in the Irish section, I think I just heard somebody call it the shamrock village?” Harry tried to spot the area in question as Hermione consulted the map for the closest tap,

“And on that note.” Daphne turned to her mother, “we better get going and find our own plot.”

The Greengrass's tent was a rather large one located in zone K, which was shaded by the large hill which hid the stadium. At last night’s dinner Daphne’s mother had offered the Diggory’s a room each in the families tent after Amos admitted he hadn’t been able to fix the leak in his own. The moment they arrived Sidd came rushing out, thankful for their presence as he often hated being alone. He had been boiling the kettle all afternoon so that the party could have tea on arrival. Inside the tent were eight rooms all branching off the main lounge area which also played host to a pool table and a magical chess set. Daphne showed the Diggory’s to their rooms, playing the amiable hostess at her mothers request. Cedric seemed slightly overwhelmed by the set up and sheepishly put his belongings down before coming out to help serve up the scones. Queenie didn’t appreciate the gesture like Daphne had as she liked to do it all herself and was deeply appalled when Cedric used the same knife to spread both his jam and cream. She quickly ran away to fetch a new one.

Later that evening when the sun began to set, Cedric returned back from visiting some of his friends; Gwendoline Hedgeflower’s family were apparently also set up in zone K and Ernest Macmillan not too much farther. Daphne had been sitting by a small campfire, flicking through her copy of Macbeth which Theo had recommended to her last term when she watched Cedric stride back up towards her, the sunset illuminated behind him as if he were in some kind of cheesy muggle movie Tracey Davis would watch. He smiled that kind smile and took a seat next to her. They were alone (apart from the tentfulls of people either side of them, including a family which were playing a game of charades) and Daphne felt her heart quicken.

“I hope you don’t think it’s too much but I got you and your sister these.” Cedric brushed back his hazelnut hair and handed over two pairs of Omnioculars, “I thought you might want a commemorative badge as well so um, yeah I got that too in case you fancy it.” He looked down at the ground as he spoke, almost shy in handing the gifts over to her.

Daphne took the Omnioculars and the small badge emblazoned with a golden snitch, in the centre the words ‘1994 Quidditch World Cup – Bulgaria vs Ireland’ framed the boarder. “Thank you, you really shouldn’t have. It’s nice to have you here. I think Queenie nearly fainted when you used the same knife for the scones but even she’d agree you’re no trouble to have.” The words tumbled from her mouth,

“Yes well It’s been a while since our families were together.” Cedric acknowledged, thinking back to the occasional dinners they’d have before his mother died nearly eight years ago. “You’ve changed a lot.” He looked her up and down as if reconciling this fact in his mind.

“So have you.” Daphne closed her book carefully and placed it down next to the omnioculars, "You used to love catching frogs from our pond, I'm guessing you don't do that anymore." she joked,

“You remember that?” Cedric grinned, “that’s embarrassing. Well, do you still collect chocolate frog cards? I remember you were obsessed with finding Bridget Wenlock...”

The mention of the card made Daphne wonder where Theo was, when he and Blaise would be arriving. She wondered again why he hadn't written, how he was doing; were people still harassing him for his fathers trial?

“I've given up collecting them, Astoria's got all my cards now.” Daphne answered Cedric, looking around at all the people as they moved through the tent city which had sprung up over the course of the day. She wanted to avoid meeting his eyes and giving away her nervousness.

“Daphne? Daphne?” her mother emerged from the tent, “oh good, you’re fathers about to arrive with Ludo, come help me hide all the breakables. That man is like a bull in a china shop.” She complained,

Daphne gathered up her things and stood up from her seat, "I better go help my mother.." she explained, not wanting to leave.

"I can come help too, if you want?" Cedric offered, getting to his feet and standing close to her.

In that moment Daphne realised how hard it was going to be, not only to have a crush on a boy so far out of her reach but to have to share a tent with him for the next however many days alongside her family. She looked up at him and nodded, accepting his offer.

Chapter Text

The Ministry Youth Home was a dull and lifeless place. The building was just as strange as the many residents who filled it; an old freestanding terrace house dropped in the middle of farmland just outside a small village called Godric’s Hollow. Theo had practically been dragged by the scruff of his neck into the Knight bus from Kings Cross platform which he supposed served him right for ditching the workers last time. The housekeeper had introduced herself only as matron and wore a thick brown woollen tunic with a gold pocket watch which she used to keep all the residents to time. Matron explained that the home was for witches and wizards ranging from thirteen to twenty one. There were very few of them, Theo had counted five total that had joined him on the bus, none of which he recognised.

Dinner had been at six o’clock leading Matron to send Theo to his room with a tray of soup. Theo nervously counted down the hours from inside his shoe boxed size room with only enough space for an old hospital bed and chest of drawers. He had never been fond of returning home, but now Theo desperately missed his own room. He missed his lush feathered bed, the eggs his house elf made, the Nott library, his mother’s old drawing room where he’d hide away from his father most days. He had never longed for the Hallowed halls of Nott Manor more in his life.

Thanks to Matron, Theo’s days had become repetitive and tedious; eat breakfast, go for a walk (always taking the same route under Matron’s supervision), then lunch, free time (where almost all activity was monitored) and dinner. The other residents kept their distance from Theo as he went about his day, copies of the old Prophet papers were still being used to kindle the downstairs fire and thus their disdain for him was still fresh in their minds. There was one thing which kept him going, through all the bland and insufferable days; he would be attending the Quidditch World Cup. Blaise had secured his tickets with his own family and they had been given permission to pick up Theo and check him out of the Youth Home until fourth year began. So Theo spent his days reading, getting ahead on fourth year work and waiting for the Zabini’s to come and save him.

As he began to read about the habitats and qualities of kneazle’s in his Care of Magical Creature’s book, he felt a pang of guilt for not having written to Daphne. He had promised her updates, as he had all his friends, but living in the ministry home was bleak and boring. He doubted they’d wish to hear of his boredom and wanted none of their inevitable pity. They’d send him treats to make him feel better, but it’d only make him feel worse, more of a charity case than he already was. They’d offer for him to come and stay with them perhaps, but he’d never be able to accept it - or worse their parents would refuse. He had decided in those first few days that it was far better to be out of their sights and out of their minds until they all returned to school and things resumed as normal. He didn’t want Daphne to view him differently, he wanted their relationship to remain the same having finally managed to get on more than civil terms. Sometimes he’d find himself seeing a certain flower, or reading a passage and want to tell her, to give in and write a letter. But then he’d have to write another, and another and well it’d ruin everything. So he didn’t. He stored up all his correspondence for when he would see her in person at the Quidditch World Cup.

***

It was the loud thud which awoke him. Theo stirred in his bed, sure that what he had heard was no more than another resident falling down the stairs. A hand clapped over his mouth, cold and bony. He started to scream but his lungs felt suppressed, as if they were collapsing in on themselves. He flailed around, desperate to break free. This must be revenge, some orphan which lived in the home coming to make him pay for what his father did. It was a reality he had prepared himself for each night at dinner when the other orphans and guardian-less children stared him down. Theo battered his body against the large presence which loomed over him, dragging him from his bed. He kicked and protested with what little breathe he still had, fighting so that he might make it to the World Cup and see his friends again. But the wizard was tall and wide like a fully grown man, unlike any resident of the house. Theo felt a wand press to his temple and a gruff razored voice commanded a spell which he didn’t recognise. The world went cold and still, his eyes glazed over and head fell back unable to support itself. Theo accepted he had reached the end.

Theo found himself at the entrance of a damp and derelict building, the man who had abducted him now revealed his face; he had crooked teeth and a musty smell, his hair was long and greasy but he was dressed sharply in well made clothing as if he had once been a man of style and money. The man dragged Theo through the houses entrance and hauled him up the stairs, Theo tried using his own feet to hold himself up to no avail, he felt his legs be dragged across the glass of the houses broken windows. The moment he caught his breathe Theo asked where he was, desperate to try and work out what was happening. His whole body was in shock and he sweat through his pyjamas as the man threw him down in front of a fire.

“My Lord.” The mans razored voice broke the silence, he bowed towards a chair which sat near the fire, “I have brought you Leviathan’s son; the one whom he entrusted to carry out the rest of his mission.”

Theo rolled off his back to support himself on all fours, he tried to stand but settled for sitting up. A dark shadowy figure consumed the chair which his abductor had addressed, a chilling and icy air was released as the figure started to speak;

“Now Bartemius, this is not how we treat those who devotedly serve. We do not treat this boy as we treated those filthy muggles.” The figure was obscured by darkness, small in stature but commanding a menacing aura as his weak icy voice consumed the room, “Theodore Nott. Do you promise to serve in your fathers place, a devoted and loyal subject of myself?”

The sound of his name shocked Theo, he looked about the room to try and understand. Serve? Loyal subject? What were they speaking of? What mission had his father…. the realisation knocked the voice out of his body, he couldn’t answer for fear, realising who he now sat at the feet of. He remembered what Bernard Crabbe had said, that he and his father had been on mission of service for the Dark Lord. His father was a death eater, he had served Voldemort loyally, this figure, this presence which he sat before; it was Lord Voldemort.

“I…I…” Theo stuttered, They were going to kill him. He had already failed in the chamber, even helping Harry escape to an extent, leaving Voldemort to die.

“Speak boy.” Voldemort hissed, “Or Nagini will have you for supper.” A huge snake coiled itself out from underneath Voldemort’s chair,it hissed as if responding to the Dark Lord.

“I don’t understand.” He managed, “What do you want? What do you wish?”

“The Dark Lord shall return to his former glory.” A man with unkept patches of hair and a hunched posture shuffled forth from the darkness behind Voldemort, his skin was coarse and he had somewhat of a rat-like appearance. “Your father swore to aid in the execution of our plans, he swore that you should take his place should he fail.”

“What do I need to do? Please don’t kill me.” Theo felt himself starting to beg, he wanted to live. He wanted to see his friends.

The rat-like man and Bartemius laughed, “Enough Wormtail.” Voldemort hissed to cut them off, “make him take the vow.”

Theo remembered the Dark mark which his father had brandished with pride all those years ago. He tried to distance himself between the ever impending Wormtail. he couldn’t take the mark, he couldn’t become a Death Eater, all his future would be lost, all his friends would turn on him. He’d be a killer, living in fear for when Voldemort decided to murder him himself. Or he’d end up in Azkaban like his father. the horror overwhelmed him, he’d lose all his memories of his mother and all his freedoms which he had come to enjoy at Hogwarts. He was tired of living in confinement.

Wormtail gripped his arm with his long claw like hands, he dragged him over towards Bartemius.

“Please no, I don’t want the mark, they’ll see it and they’ll throw me in Azkaban, they’ll know its fresh!”

“The mark?” Bartemius cackled, “boy you don’t deserve such an honour. You think just because your father was one of us that you’re in?” he taunted, “you earn the mark.” He grabbed Theo's right hand, crushing it under his grip.

Wormtail raised his wand and a thin whisped white line started to coil around Bartemius’s arm towards Theo’s; “Will you, Theodore Leviathan Nott, carry out the commands of Bartemius Crouch Junior until the Dark Lords will is completed?”

Theo let the name ring in his mind, particularly the surname. The Crouch’s had been highly regarded, Bartemius Crouch Senior having risen almost to the top of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and besting Amelia Bones… that was until his son was sentenced as a death eater. Suddenly the name made sense, and the pieces fell into place. But there was nothing to be done. Theo couldn’t leave, they’d kill him without a seconds thought. He couldn’t question either, not after his fathers and his own failures to serve. He was a mere pawn in a much bigger game he did not yet know they were playing. He held his silence for as long as he could before Bartemius drew his own wand and pointed it to Theo’s temple;

“Say the words boy.” He demanded,

“I will.” Theo accepted the first part of the vow,

“Will you promise to serve him loyalty as he carries out the Dark Lord’s plan? Doing all what matter of tasks he requires?”

“I do.” Theo answered, feeling the power within the wand pressed to his head, remembering how quickly Bartemius had struck him down back in the Youth Ministry home.

“And do you promise not to tell anyone of the vow which you have made today?”

“I promise.” The spell was like a burning hot string which grew tighter and tighter around both of their hands, searing itself into him before fading into nothingness. Bartemius dropped Theo’s sweaty hand before rising to his feet again.

“How should I serve you?” Theo looked down at his hand, aware of the tremendous deal he had been forced to make,

“I’ll call on you when needed.” Bartemius dismissed, “reveal myself to you in writing. For now you must simply go back to Hogwarts as if nothing is amiss.” He raised his wand back to Theo’s chest and muttered the foreign incantation again. The world went cold and still, Theo felt his eyes glaze over again and head fall back unable to support itself, he accepted his fate and slipped into darkness.

***

The nearest portkey to the Youth Ministry home was a single sock by the village outskirts. Mrs Zabini showed her son and Theo how to use it, touching the portkey before they all felt forcefully sucked into the air and dragged through the atmosphere. They landed in a small muddy field, Theo and Blaise on the floor while Mrs Zabini elegantly stood on her feet.

The Zabini’s tent was styled to resemble all the others in zone J, as close to muggle tents as possible so as not to arouse suspicion. Ministry workers trudged up and down rows of witches and wizards to prevent the obvious use of magic, Theo watched as a few honed in on a wizard who was using his wand to conjure up dancing zmey in support of the Bulgarians. As they did some of the wizards next to him recognised his face from the papers and began to whisper. Theo ducked his head down and crouched over his plate, trying to focus on his own area. Mrs Zabini didn’t pretend to enjoy tyring preparing her own breakfast, she poked their overcooked eggs with a fork as they began to burn – unaware of their judgemental neighbours.

“You didn’t write.” Blaise finally addressed the lingering question as he scooped up some of his mother’s burnt eggs and proceeded to drown them in tomato sauce, offering it to Theo to do the same.

“They didn’t like me sending mail.” Theo lied as he copied Blaise and doused his eggs in sauce. He didn’t dare attempt a bite of the beans which Mrs Zabini had left brewing in the pot.

“Ridiculous honestly, that they should keep us from using magic here. Why not simply make sure no muggles were around? I can’t cook like this.” Mrs Zabini was wearing a silk feathered robe, sat on an muggle camping chair. She hardly had the stomach to even try her own food. “I should go find Arnold Peasegood, he’s an excellent obliviator, he could see to this.”

“I think the Malfoy’s tent is in the next zone over, what if we paid them a visit before the match? Our seats are nearby aren’t they?” Blaise suggested,

“Hmm.” Mrs Zabini was no longer paying attention, having stood up to try and spot if any more ministry workers were around. She quickly brandished her wand and shot a few green sparks at the campfire, soon a reasonably sized buffet had taken its place, “this should do us for the next couple of days.” She concluded.

The Malfoys had their own village set up in zone K, flanked by the Crabbes, Goyles, Bulstodes and Parkinson’s . Their tents were dark green and connected through a series of enclosed tunnels. Flags with the pureblood union crest flew at the entrance. Draco was by the edge of their tent; he, Crabbe, Goyle and Millie were all throwing around a Quaffle in a ‘muggle friendly’ version of Qudditch. Millie was wielding her bat, smacking the ball back at the boys as it sailed through the air, she laughed as it collided with Gregory Goyle’s turned head. They all wore merchandise in support of Bulgaria, red jersey’s and large hats shaped like a dragon which were enchanted to blow fire. Except Millie had also incorporated an Irish rosette into her outfit.

“And nobody’s going to announce us upon entry?” Blaise shouted out to them as they approached,

“Empress Blaise has arrived! All hail our mighty sovereign” Draco shouted back, rolling his eyes.

“All hail!” Crabbe and Goyle replied in unison, as they greeted the boys.

“Good to see you.” Draco patted Theo's shoulder, directing him over to where they had marked out a field. “How’s the Youth home?”

“Good.” Theo lied, looking around for Daphne, “they’re all pretty nice, considering.”

“Oh good.” Draco nodded slowly, trying to work out if he believed him, “You didn’t write any of us, and I know your pureblood breeding’s trained you better.”

“They didn’t like the mail.” He lied again, “when’s the match due to start, everyone seems to be walking towards the hill.”

“There you are Parkinson.” Blaise called for the prim and properly dressed Pansy as she approached the tents,

“Come on you lot, the lanterns have been lit.” She snapped, pointing at hundreds of floating gold lanterns which carved out a path towards the woods and hill.

Theo consulted his ticket as they entered the newly build stadium; Greengrass Box, Level 109, Row 3. The group began to ascend the skyscraper of stairs up towards the box, Crabbe confessed to Theo that he had three galleons on Ireland scoring the first point as they took the left set of stair and moved with the ebbing crowd.

“Draco.” A woman with pale blonde hair and fierce looking grey eyes called out to her son, her voice was both pleasant and jarring - It had to be Narcissa Malfoy. Theo would recognise her motherly and intimidating presence anywhere. “We’ll be sitting in the Ministers box, come away now. Bring Millie with you too, her parents are with us.”

Draco looked back at the others, all dressed up in their merchandise. With a slightly resigned nod, he dispersed with the crowd which now moved away from the main staircase and towards his mother. Millie gripped Pansy in a quick hug and raced after him, promising to catch up with them all later. Now reduced in size, the party found themselves almost out of breathe when they spotted Astoria and Luna in gigantic matching shamrock shaped hats. They waved them over to the correct box, escorting them past the ministry guards. The box was carpeted in a rich purple with three rows of plush seats evenly dispersed, as Theo looked out onto the golden shimmery stadium ahead a house elf offered him a bubbling drink that smelt sweet and tangy. A group of adults recognisable as Mr and Mrs Greengrass, Amelia and Beatrice Bones and Ludovic Bagman conversed with some others (one of which he guessed to be Arthur Weasley based on his red hair and gaggle of similar looking children). Theo spotted Harry, Ron and Hermione down by the railings at the front of the box, they watched as the scoreboard advertised a range of magical slippers - Blaise and h both exchanged a confused look as they followed Pansy. A few other red headed siblings floated about as well, one wide and burly and another slim faced with spectacles who fawned over Mr Greengrass.

“Theo!” Daphne shouted excitedly, having spotted him approaching. She wrapped her arms around him, “how are you? How’s the home? Are you ok?” she asked, still hanging in his arms.

Theo laughed at the onslaught of questions; “It’s alright Greengrass. They don’t like me sending mail but..”

“Hi.” Cedric Diggory’s warm and deep voice cut him short, Theo watched as the older boy confidently strode over and held out a hand, “I’m Cedric.”

What was he doing here? And why did Daphne fall out of his arms to introduce the pair? Theo eyed the other boy, Blaise too didn’t know what to make of the addition, although he’d later go on to praise his incredibly good looks.

“Ced’s staying in our tent, we live in the same village. One day you’ll have to come over, I’m slowly wearing mum down to have a big birthday party next year.”

“Yeah right.” Theo nodded, putting down his drink and turning his attention to the grand field which stretched out underneath them.

“Oh here, use these.” Daphne handed him a pair of binoculars with funny dials and switches. “Ced and I can share his pair, right?.”

Cedric nodded back, turning from his conversation with Fred and George Weasley. Pansy would quickly explain to him how to use the omnioculars as the Irish mascots took to the field in a dazzling display of rainbows and shower of golden coins. The players darted from each corner of the stadium to thunderous applause, most of all the hooked nosed and swallowed skin Viktor Krum – famed seeker for the Bulgarian side. Theo held the omnioculars to his eyes as the referee released the wooden crate of balls but even their slow down function couldn’t catch sight of the snitch as is darted off around the grounds. A hundred thousand witches and wizards hollered and cheered in a dozen different languages as the Irish chasers moved elegantly in and out of form, scoring copious amounts of goals soon tallying up to over a hundred. The moral within the box was not dampened by the Bulgarians limited scores, in fact most people cheered when Ireland scored in the spirit of a good game.

“They’re going for the snitch!” Harry yelled, pointing to where the Irish seeker and Viktor Krum started tail spinning towards the grass.

Theo didn’t see the Irish keeper collide with the floor, nor did he see when the medi witches rushed out to revive him. Theo had instead spotted Cedric and Daphne saddled up close to one another at the edge of the box, one eye each peering through the omnioculars at the scenes below. They laughed and clapped as the Irish seeker rose to his feet and took to the broom again. Theo felt his heart lurch without knowing what it meant, he tried to focus on the match but his interest was gone. The advertisements for Twilfitt and Tattings posted around the stadium had become just as interesting as Krum slicing through the air like a comet and seizing the snitch. As the crowd roared and the party exchanged glances and gasps, Theo simply took a seat towards the back of the box and watched them all enjoy the winning ceremony over in the ministers box (where Ludo Bagman had run off to for the handing over of the cup to the winning Irish team). Theo didn’t even notice at first when a sharp suited man with a toothbrush moustache and combed hair entered the box and approached Mr Greengrass, tapping his shoulder and whispering something in his ear before relaying that same message to Amelia Bones; the head of the Department for magical law enforcement. Theo watched the three of them leave in a hurry, as they passed Theo heard mention of ‘hostages.’ But decided his mind was playing tricks.

“Was that Mr Crouch?” the thin faced Weasley asked,

“Dunno.” Theo shrugged.

“That was amazing. I mean, the feint at the end and how Krum caught the snitch but they still lost!” Blaise rushed all his words into one,

“Is Blaise Zabini actually getting excited about Quidditch?” Pansy laughed,

“Why shouldn’t he? I’ve never seen a match like it!” Ron Weasley exclaimed, his arm up on the back of his head as if he needed help processing what had just happened,

“Blaise hates Quidditch.” Theo answered bluntly, “almost as much as he hates early mornings.”

“I told you!” Ron’s attention was drawn to Daphne as she joined the small circle which had formed, “I told you Krum’s a master of the air!”

“Yeah ok.” Daphne conceded, “it was a brilliant move.”

“bloody brilliant.” Ron corrected her, “Harry, we’ve gotta try that out.”

“Try all you want but Slytherin will still beat you on any field of play.” Pansy shut down his enthusiasm.

“It’s not right these house elves should be cleaning up after us.” Hermione interjected, watching as Sidd collected the many empty glasses and bags of trodden on popcorn which had been spilled in the excitement of the match,

“Give it a rest mudblood.” Pansy held up her hand to silence her. Harry went red in the face and Ron started to open his mouth, “Enough of your so called S.P.E.W. – as aptly named as it is, you’re lack of knowledge on anything to do with proper traditional wizardry is really showing.”

“They deserve rights just as any!” Hermione spat back,

“If you ever cared to speak with one you’d know that they like to serve their families.”

“We better get back to the campgrounds, it’s just gone past nine and I think Mrs Greengrass mentioned needing to see the Minster.” Cedric looked down at his watch,

“Yeah.” Daphne nodded, “Let’s all come back to ours, right Astoria?”

The younger Greengrass turned from where she and the ghostly haired Luna Lovegood had been watching the leprechauns dance through the sky like fireworks.

“Queenie? Do you think you could make us some hot coca?” Astoria asked one of the house elves Hermione had been watching all night,

“Yes master Astoria, I is happy to make coca and biscuits and all sorts of treats for masters guests.” The house elves buttoned nose and huge bug eyes blinked excitedly,

“Poor oppressed Queenie.” Pansy sighed sarcastically, “I should hate to be treated so well by one of the most respectable families in the United Kingdom.”

Hermione glowered but bit her tongue as Mrs Greengrass approached to usher them from the box, Arthur Weasley excitedly discussing the game with his elder sons.

Chaos perpetuated everything in sight as Theo stepped out of the stadium. They’d mistaken the screams for those of celebration as they descended the stairs and were now confronted by the scene. Theo wished he could draw his wand for protection Sod the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery - he needed to get out of here. He knew the danger which lurked under the surface. An image of the cold shadowy figure of Voldemort flashed across his mind as he looked up at two suspended figures. They hung like marionette’s unattached from their strings, still and lifeless. A bright green light was in the sky illuminating the victims, it coiled itself into the image of a serpent protruding from the mouth of a skull; The Dark Mark. Its hideous sheen exposing the two men’s gaped fearful expressions now frozen in time.

“Mother!” he heard Daphne scream in terror, “It’s Mr Boade! ”

“They’re dead.” Blaise muttered in disbelief, “the blood, its dripping down, its hitting the canvas of those tents…”

“We have to go.” Arthur Weasley demanded, “boys, take Ginny back to the tent.”

“Children come with me!” Mrs Greengrass clasped her two daughters close and began hurrying over towards the woods and away from the levitating bodies.

“Who would kill…” Theo tried to think aloud, but he knew the answer. His own father had killed two ministry workers the year prior. He knew they were out there – Bartemius and Wormtail. How many more might there be? Lurking in the shadows, growing bolder now that their Dark Lord was soon returning.

They took off after Mrs Greengrass, following her into the thicker woodland areas with the rest of the crowd as they tried to distance themselves from Voldemort’s followers. Nobody knew what to do; ministry workers were descending, shouting orders and apperating around the camp site while parents desperately called out for their children or friends who had been separated in the scramble.

“That was my old stepfather. Kofi.” Blaise shuddered as he ran beside Theo. “I’m sure, the scar on his leg, it, it was from the accident he got in. The reason mum left him…” the confession tumbled from his breathless mouth.

“We’ll find her.” Theo shouted as he ran, pace quickening “we can go back to our tent. Your mother be waiting for us, we can make sure she’s safe too.”

“But the others.” Blaise looked ahead to where the girls were running; Luna looking slightly bewildered and Pansy dead faced and stoic.

“We’ll meet up with them after. We need to find your mother.”

Blaise nodded, and the two of them took a hard left back towards the campgrounds. Tents were sporadically burning, filling the sky with dark smoke that obscured any apperating fugitives. Theo knew what it was like to lose a mother; he would never let Blaise suffer the same fate if he could help it. Mrs Zabini had saved him from spending weeks in the Youth Home, she’d taken him without questions or judgement despite everyone hating him at every turn. They’d find her, they’d tell her that Kofi was dead and they’d take her home.

***

ASSASSINATIONS AT QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP AS IRELAND CELEBRATE VICTORY OVER BULGARIA

The Ministry have not yet released an official statement on the events of last night’s skirmish at the Quidditch World Cup. What is known is that two men were found dead at the scene; one believed to be an Unspeakable (employee of the Department of Mysteries) named ‘Boade’ and the other ex-star Senegalese National Quidditch team seeker; Kofi Mbaye. Kofi had just endured a public separation from stage star and socialite; Celine Zabini whom is still believed to be executor of his estate. A coincidence? This author remembers not so long ago when Mrs Zabini caught herself up in a very similar scandal.
- Excerpt from The Daily Prophet, Article written by Rita Skeeter

Mrs Zabini had wrapped her arm around her son tenderly as they made their way back to their designated portkey. Theo carried a duffle bag filled with their remaining belongings, he kept his eyes on the flow of people which lead from the once thriving campground, looking for a head of auburn hair.

“Theo! Blaise!” Millie had spotted them moving through the crowd. She began to push through the people and rush towards them, throwing her arms around Theo before quickly drawing back with a sheepish smile; “I’m so glad you’re all ok. Ms Bones notified the Minster immediately and so we were held back in the box. We couldn’t warn you.”

“That’s ok.” Theo nodded, “you’re family alright?”

“Yeah, one of my brother’s is an Auror so Crouch said he could stay with us and Fudge.” She explained, “Draco was with us too, he’s already gone back home. How’s Pansy and Daph? Crabbe? Goyle?”

“Good.” Theo nodded, they kept moving with the evacuation.

“I think Greengrass knew one of the guys who, who was...” he looked at Blaise “So did they.”

Millie inhaled, trying not to show her shock. She nodded solemnly as Blaise and his mother had walked on ahead – in no mood to talk.

“I’ll see you at school.” Millie looked back to her own family as they started to walk in the direction of the nearest village, “take care of them ok, Blaise doesn’t know how to feel. He doesn’t do serious.” She reminded him as she left.

Blaise didn’t say anything, and neither did Theo. Theo knew he couldn’t demand to know the truth, to ask Blaise to spill his inner most dialogue when he could never do the same. Theo felt the weight of his vow bare down on him as the days leading up to Hogwarts start of year drew nearer. How would he get through the year inadvertently aiding the Dark Lord? How could he keep this secret? But Theo knew if he didn’t, he’d end up dead.

Chapter Text

Daphne found herself piggy backing Ron onto the shiny red steam train that would take them back to Hogwarts for their fourth year;

“You’re dropping me.” She squealed, clambering her arms around his neck to keep herself up,

“I’m not a troll Daph, how strong do you think I am?!” he whined back, letting her fall.

That morning Daphne’s mother had kissed her farewell, still shaken from the events of the Quidditch World Cup and longing to keep both her children close. Her father was already at the Ministry; working with Fudge and the Head of the Department of magical law enforcement; Amelia Bones on damage control. The Prophet had been printing hundreds of theories surrounding why both men had been targeted; one theory simply stated it was a matter of opportunity while Emmeline Avery’s father had claimed both the men’s pureblood status and old connections to the Dark Lord were no coincidence. Either way Daphne had promised to write to her mother at the first sign of trouble and take care of her little sister as she did each year.

“Have fun this year, I wish they’d have reinstated it while I was at Hogwarts.” Bill spoke to the twins as they barrelled down the platform riding the back of their trolley’s.

“Reinstated what?” Fred asked, stopping his trolley short near a group of second years.

“Nothing, well it’s not nothing – but you’ll find out soon enough. Ministry’s been working on It a while now. ” Charlie added.

“Come on dearies, onto the train now.” Mrs Weasley laid a kiss on Ginny’s cheek and pushed her up the stairs of the train.

Daphne stepped away from Ron as his mother crushed him in a hug. Daphne scooped up Ellery from her travel cage as her and Astoria also began their goodbyes to the Weasley's. The sisters boarded the train, dragging their trunks behind them as they checked each compartment for their friends. Ron trudged along too looking for Harry and Hermione, his own trunk under his arm.

“I dunno why Bill and Charlie won’t say what’s going on.” He complained, “they usually tell me what’s happening in the ministry even when dad wont. They even mentioned stuff about the Cup murders, but they won’t say this.”

Daphne shuddered, the memory of the men’s suspended bodies so lifeless and bloodied became fozen in her mind. She had remembered Mr Boade from some of the families galas, and the opera night her mother had hosted. He was a reserved figure who had been mute from birth, but her father had always said he was as sharp as a tack and perfectly suited to his job in the Department which would now need replacing.

“It’s horrible. I’m glad we’ll be at Hogwarts where things are safe, mother said it wasn’t a coincidence that the men were purebloods. She says it retaliation for those muggle murders at the start of the summer.” Astoria spoke softly as she looked for her friends in each carriage.

“I don’t think pureblood’s should be the ones who are scared.” Hermione huffed as she opened the compartment door Astoria had been looking in, “two muggle murders this summer, the muggleborn and half-blood last year at the ministry. All done by…” She looked Daphne up and down defiantly but didn’t suggest any more.

“Come on Astoria. I think I see Jenny Fawcett down here.” Daphne didn’t say goodbye to Ron, instead she just found her compartment and joined her friends as Astoria did the same.

“Hey Greengrass.” Theo had briefly cocked his head up to greet her, having been enthralled by a game of exploding snap he and Draco were playing.

“Hi.” She managed a smile back before sliding in next to Pansy,

“How are you?” Pansy looked over towards Daphne’s muted expression with concern.

“Not great. Dad’s been working all the time, but I suppose not much has changed there.” Daphne looked out the window as rain began to patter on the glass, “mum’s convinced this is the start of something, a bad omen. She thinks she saw the Grimm in my tea cup yesterday.”

“Since when does Aquila read tea leaves?” Pansy joked, “she’s probably just been listening to much to my own mother, she sent me off with a Daruma doll this morning hoping she’d be able to fill in the other eye when I go back home. Wished for my safety and all that.”

“Right.” Daphne nodded, “I guess I’m just being silly, Hogwarts is the safest place to be this year.”

“Dumbledore is a loon but he’s a genius too” Pansy distractedly watched as Luna Lovegood tried to hand out copies of her father’s paper; The Quibbler to passing students.

Astoria and Jenny had already been recruited to hold other piles of the bright pink coloured paper but exchanged conversation between themselves. As Cedric moved through the train's passage way with Gwendoline Hedgeflower and Ernie Macmillan, he politely took a copy and waved to Daphne inside the compartment after Astoria pointed her out to him. Daphne waved back nervously, catching Astoria’s attention as she did so who had began to whisper and giggle with Jenny.

“You know how years ago you mentioned you always wanted a sister like Astoria?” Daphne turned back to Pansy,

“Hmm.” Pansy nodded, still quizzically examining the wide eyed and long blonde haired Lovegood.

“You can have her.” Daphne flipped Astoria off from inside her carriage as the girls started to move on down the train. "we can trade."

"You don't want my brother, he's still squandering all our money in America trying to breed those stupid pigmy dragons." she muttered under her breathe.

The rest of the journey to Hogwarts was quaint. Theo didn’t say much about the ministry home and Daphne didn’t have the heart to push, she set aside her burning curiosity and instead tried to help Blaise with his crossword;

“A six letter word, clue is; I’m veiled with meanings double, starting with R and stirring up trouble.” He read out, tapping his quill to the paper in contemplation.

“Veiled meaning..” Daphne pondered as she and Pansy played chopsticks.

“A puzzle?” Millie guessed, “oh wait no, it has to start with R.”

“Riddle.” Theo looked out of the window, his voice melancholy.

***

Mad Eye Moody burst forth into the Great Hall to the sounds of thunder and a crack of lightning which shot across the enchanted ceiling. The school had been listening to the Headmasters introductory speech, just having sat through the sorting ceremony. Students shrieked as Moody thumped down passed them. Daphne recognised Mad-Eye immediately and kicked Theo’s shin under the table to draw his attention back to the real world where students whispered and talked as Moody was announced the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Theo almost spat out his pumpkin juice upon seeing the man again and the pair exchanged worried looks, would he managed to recognise them from their break in at St Mungos?

Dumbledore continued with his speech, reminding them all of the rules and customs of Hogwarts which they’d have to obey;

“And finally, it gives me great pleasure to announce that in a joint effort between the Department of Magical Games and sports and the Department of International Magical Co-operation, the Triwizard Tournament will be held here in Hogwarts for the first time in a century.” The hall filled with noise and commotion, every house table lifted in conversation and excitement.

“But they cancelled it because so many people died!” Millie recalled, “why on earth would they bring it back?”

“Who cares? Challenges, glory, infamy – that’s worth the risk for some people.” Draco looked excited beyond words, “we have to sign up!” he turned to a reluctant looking Crabbe and Goyle.

“The fine students of Durmstrang and Beauxbatons will be joining us this Halloween where three victors will represent each school. A new rule has also been added to assure the safety of those participating which stipulates that all victors must be at least seventeen years of age.”

A disapproving grumble made its way through the hall, and Draco appeared rather crestfallen by the news; “Bloody Dumbledore.” He muttered.

***

Slytherin house remained restless all the way through September and October, waiting for the other schools to arrive and the Tournament to begin. Miles Bletchley had started a wager over what the tasks might be, and people pestered Poppy Coffe for any news her father might be about to print in the Prophet.

An icy wind sliced over the grounds, blowing Daphne’s hair across her face as they made their way to Care of Magical Creatures. Every teacher had become incredibly stern about their impending O.W.L examinations and the start of each lesson was often met with a lecture about ‘stepping up’ and ‘setting good study habits’. This mostly fell on deaf ears, even Daphne who so wished to live up to her parents expectation of genius felt herself get sucked into the craze around what the other schools were like and what Hogwarts student would be their champion.

“Do you think it’ll be a boy or a girl?” Millie asked absentmindedly as Hagrid lectured them on merepeople, gathering the class by the Black Lake. “The champion.”

“Better be a girl if we’re in with a chance.” Pansy bundled herself into Daphne and Millie for warmth.

“The tasks will require strength, perseverance, crazy bravery.” Draco shook his head, “it’ll have to be a boy.”

“Careful Draco, your ignorance is showing.” Daphne rolled her eyes alongside the girls,

“It’s a test of magic more than anything.” Blaise noted, he had taken a seat on the grass and begun to pluck up its blades.

“You’re lucky we’re too young to enter or I might have a mind to put my name up for it just to prove you wrong.” Pansy sniped at Draco, “how about you go find that feral cat you love so much, doesn’t it usually dwell around here?”

“I think we’re actually supposed to be listening to the class.” Theo added, his textbook open to a diagram of a selkie. “Or have you not heard we have to take O.W.L’s next year?”

“Alright, alright.” Daphne sat down defeated and rummaged for her quill so she could annotate her book with some of the wild and obscure facts the groundskeeper was now throwing at them,

“Can’t believe he’s still teaching this class after what happened to Draco.” Goyle muttered, thinking back to last year and the scars Draco still had on his body.

During dinner the speculation continued, this time however Daphne’s thoughts were fixed on a different topic entirely. Professor Moody was a rather odd teacher; their first lesson he had gone over the effects of the cruciatus curse in excruciating detail, even demonstrating the spell on a spider which had been spinning a web from the rafters of the classroom. Nobody dared say anything, believing that this must be the reason everyone called him ‘Mad’. Even Theo had become put off by the class, and his once favourite subject became a period in which they all had to suffer through horrific stories of curses and dark magic. Hermione had informed McGonagall right away, but it seemed nothing could dissuade Moody from his unconventional teaching. Now the professor sat gruffly shovelling his lunch as if he had not eaten good food in years, his magic prosthetic eye spun wildly in his head and his greasy hair hung over his face.

“Don’t look at him, you’ll draw suspicion. His eye can sense things.” Pansy sharply disciplined Daphne, gripping her chin and snapping her head back towards the others.

Daphne had of course told Pansy what had happened at St Mungo’s as soon as she had gotten back to school, including Moody’s presence and interrogation.

“He just seems off.” Daphne protested, “I can’t say why, I just…” her thoughts trailed off, she had been too scared to go near him for fear he might recognise her smell or give herself away.

“He’s as loony as that Lovegood girl and seven times as dangerous, he shouldn’t even be a teacher here after what he did to Daph’s and my families.” Draco stabbed his fork into his lunch.

“Forget him.” Blaise shrugged his shoulders, “I’ve got three more lines left of my charms homework.” He drummed his fingers thinking of what else to write. Theo rummaged in his bag and slid his own over for Blaise to copy.

“Tell me you charge for your work.” Daphne shouldered Theo beside her.

He snapped back momentarily from the daze he had been stuck in for months; “huh?”

“Sorry are we boring you Theodore?” Pansy’s sarcasm shortly followed his confused expression,

“Earth to Theodore Nott.” Daphne waved her hand in front of his eyes, “are you ok?” she asked quietly, “are your eyes alright? You don’t have your glasses on.”

Theo rubbed his eyes and focused in; “No yeah, I um.” He dug in his pockets for his glasses, “I think I…”

Daphne reached over and pulled his glasses out of the breast pocket of his school jumper before handing them back for him to put on. When Theo fixed his glasses back on his face, Daphne came into clearer vision and he awkwardly cleared his throat to re-join the conversation. He reminded himself he couldn’t tell her about the vow, no matter how much it plagued him. To tell her would be to break it, and to break it would mean he died.

“thanks.” He muttered as Millie started telling an anecdote from her families last nogtail hunt.

***

“They’re here!” Astoria burst into the Slytherin common room where Daphne and her friends had been playing wink murder; Goyle the hopeless murderer had just winked directly at Draco who had been the detective and given himself away.

“Who?” Theo sat up from playing murder victim,

“The Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students!” she shouted, alerting the whole common room who had been in the midst of preparing for the Halloween feast that night.

Tracey Davis and Charlotte Montague had been hanging up vampire garlands and floating pumpkins before quickly dropping their piles of decorations to race after Astoria. Tracey had been particularly keen to meet the other students, having been unaware of their existence entirely before the tournament was announced.

“This is so exciting!” she squealed as they reached the entrance hall and began to move to the outside courtyard where other students were shouting and gathering, “Isn’t it Gregory?”

Goyle spun around bewildered by her conversation with him, he nodded dumbstruck. Daphne leant over the rail and watched as a huge pirate ships mast protruded from the black lake’s surface where they had been learning about merepeople only weeks ago. It grew bigger and bigger until a whole ship burst forth, showering the shoreline in huge waves and sea spray. Some students who had gathered by it became soaked and shrieked.

“That’s Durmstrang.” Goyle informed Tracey, whose beauty had only grown greater over the summer break (much to Pany’s shagreen).

A great swooshing noise then signalled the arrival of the Beauxbatons, turning all the students heads up towards the sky where a golden chariot glistered in the setting sun. The chariot was pulled by a dozen winged horses who reminded Daphne of of Buckbeak, they whinnied and started heading for a large marked out landing pad by the lake.

“Move to the hall!” Snape’s voice was low but carried out across the courtyard, “All students proceed to the hall.” He used his wand to magnify his voice and ring in the students ears.

The Halloween feast was laden out across the tables already. The house elves had clearly been working hard; pumpkin caldron cakes the size of carriage wheels and pies that could fit a first year were interspersed between black wax candles and bats which flew above head. All the Hogwarts students took their seats and eagerly watched the door for the other schools to proceed into the hall. The Durmstrang students wore thick woollen coats and dark burgundy colours. Each student had a certain assuredness to themselves as they marched down towards the end of the Slytherin table (where they had requested to sit), the girls hair braided and the boys slicked back. Draco elbowed Crabbe and Goyle excitedly as Viktor Krum appeared beside their Headmaster Karkaroff. Blaise needed reminding of who exactly the famous seeker was.

“Krum! Krum!” she heard the Weasley twins shout from their table.

The Beauxbatons students swept into the hall with all the grace Daphne’s mother had wished her daughter possessed. They wore uniforms of pale periwinkle silk with silver stitching, Pansy commented that such garments would sell for a small fortune at Twilfitt and Tattings. They held their heads high and sat politely by the Hufflepuff students. Daphne turned to see all the boys eyeing of the girls from Beauxbatons excitedly and smacked Theo in the arm to draw his attention away. She didn’t know why she did it, or why it had gotten on her nerves specifically when it came to Theo. Daphne felt herself mumble something about respect, but perhaps deep down she knew that now - not only was she measured against the likes of Emmeline Avery and Tracey Davis but also a new set of students too. The Hogwarts choir lead by Professor Flitwick stood to perform the school song, which seemed rather ridiculous to the other two schools as they watched on.

“Now that we have welcomed our students from both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, we will allow each student who meets the new age restrictions to enter their name in the goblet of fire.”

“Goblet of fire?” Daphne heard Theo ask, looking around.

As he did so, Dumbledore lifted his wand and drew up the energy of the burning torches which lit the walls of the hall. The fire swirled overhead, enchanted bats flying frantically out of the way as it congregated in front of the Headmasters lectern at the front of the hall. Students watched in awe as a stone goblet materialised and a blue age ring guarded it from any young students wishing to try and enter.

“Oh that goblet.” Theo quietly answered his own question as Dumbledore invited students from all schools to come forward.

Adrian Pucey was the first to get up and enter his name on a scrap of parchment, standing up the moment Dumbledore let the students begin their dinner. After him, students from all other Hogwarts houses flooded in, Daphne watched as Gwendoline Hedgeflower and Cedric Diggory walked up and entered their names to great applause from the Hufflepuff table before returning to their food. She waved helplessly at him as he looked over with a grin and waved back. Durmstrang had a number of students march up together, led by Krum who seemed less composed and agile on the ground. The Beauxbatons students waited for a girl with platinum blonde hair, sharp cheekbones and pointed nose to go and put in her name before they all did the same. Perhaps she was the brightest student in the school and had earned the right to go first.

“Champions from each house will be drawn tomorrow morning, giving those more reserved a chance to mull over their decision. It should be mentioned that these trials will be extremely dangerous and challenge even the brightest of wizards.” Dumbledore ran his eyes across all the students, “You must also know that with each Triwizard Tournament comes the Yule Ball, a dance to allow the further cooperation and socialisation between respective schools.”

Dumbledore lost the crowd completely after this last revelation. Talk had turned from the potential champions to dress robes and dates and makeup and dancing skills. The boys instantly scrunched up their noses at such ‘materialistic’ concepts but Daphne heard Draco mention he’d have to write to his mother for his good cufflinks.

“Do we have to get asked?” Millie flushed a bright pink and traced circles on the surface of the table, “what if we just went together?” she turned to Pansy and Daphne.

“No way.” Pansy shut her down, “I mean of course we’ll all go together but I can’t turn up without a date. That would be mortifying.”

“Would it?” Millie questioned nervously,

“I’ll take you Mills.” Blaise picked at the chunks of his pie, looking up only to give her a devilish wink.

“Wait what?” Draco’s eyes darted back from the goblet, “we’re taking dates?”

“Yeah well the girls are.” Goyle whined.

“Don’t you want to keep your options open?” Crabbe whispered to Blaise across the table,

“Not really. She needs a date and I know I can convince her to wear purple with me.” Blaise replied nonchalantly, “right Mills?” Millie looked up and nodded in response, a big smile on her face for having been the first to secure a date.

“Great.” Daphne sighed, poking her peas with her fork, “I guess my dance lessons will come in handy at least. If i get asked to dance that is.”

“I suppose you’ll be looking to go with golden boy Diggory.” Theo tried to tease her, but he seemed genuinely intrigued.

“Knock it off.” Daphne kept her eyes down on her plate, “and I suppose you’ll take Tracey Davis then huh?”

“Tracey Davis?” Theo looked over at the girl who sat at the far end of the table, she had grown much prettier over the summer to be sure but he didn't quite grasp what Daphne meant.

“She’s had a crush on you forever.” Daphne rolled her eyes, playing this off as well understood gossip. “Emmeline and Poppy teased her for it all second year and then into third before your dad" Daphne stopped herself before quickly pivoting "Why do you think she always wanted to come to Pansy’s lunches?”

“A crush on me!?” Theo went slightly pink, his voice squeaky.

“You can’t bring a mudblood.” Pansy voiced her disgust. The mere thought of Tracey Davis being near her was enough to make her blood boil.

“He can bring who he likes.” Blaise shot back, “Plus, now his father’s not here - who can stop him? In fact it'd be a cracking form of revenge.”

“Right.” Theo nodded, processing the revelation. Daphne watched as he thought about what to do with this information, or if he would do anything at all.

“So? Are you going to ask Tracey?” she felt herself pry, desperate to know who she would have to see him with.

“Come on Greengrass, we have month to work that out. But what we don’t have months to do is our potions essay.” He changed course,

“Oh Godric, when’s that due?” she tried to think to their class earlier in the day, What had Snape said?

“End of next week, do you want to spend tomorrow afternoon on it in the library?”

“That’d be great.” Daphne looked over at the others, “you guys in?”

“I suppose it won’t write itself.” Draco shrugged.

“Mine does.” Blaise pat Theo on the back and laughed. “Kidding, kidding. I’ll be there.”

***

Theo twiddled his quill in hands, splashing ink all over his parchment and fingers as he did so. The potions essay Snape had set was on the importance of newt spleen in a wit sharpening potion, something that even Theo couldn’t answer off the top of his head. He, Daphne, Blaise and Draco had their books spread open searching for answers in the library.

“This says the spleen produces a lot of liquid compared to other areas of the newt.” Draco read with disgust, “Merlin, who drinks this stuff just to up a few IQ points? Suppose that’s how Grangers so good, she must just eat newts for dinner.” he laughed to himself. “god help any poor creature that goes near those gnashing buckteeth.”

“Have you seen that Fleur girl?” Blaise turned to look at the platinum blonde with sharp cheekbones and a pronounced nose, “she’s got impeccable style. I mean look at that neck scarf and those shoes.”

“She’s gorgeous.” Draco followed Blaise’s line of sight, “The older boys are all drooling over her, I mean id drool over her too if I was less well mannered. Finally there's someone prettier Angelina Johnson. It always annoyed me she was a Gryffindor.”

Theo looked up from his notes on newt spleen to admire the Beauxbaton beauty himself. She was swamped by other pale periwinkle dressed Beauxbaton students; a group of similarly well-groomed boys and girls who didn’t seem to grasp the attention they were receiving. It was like looking at the French cover of Witch Weekly. Theo had heard every third boy in the year praise the girls good looks. He saw what they all meant, she had a pristine sheen and smelt like lilies when she walked by. She smelt almost like Daphne, he wondered if they used the same perfume, expect Daphne had a more subtle lavender undertone.

“I wonder who gets to take her.” Draco said rather enviously, “probably Krum. Even after he blew the world cup he'll be picked as the champion for sure.”

“Dare you to go up and ask her” Theo nodded over at the table, staring Draco down. “or shut up about her entirely and tell me more about newt spleen.” he grinned,

“Come off it!” Draco blushed and buried his head back down in his potions text book, “as if I’d actually ask her. No I’ll ask someone else…”

“Who?” Blaise innocently questioned as he admired some Durmstrang boys who were arm wrestling on the table over much to Madame Pince’s disgust. Each boy claimed not to speak English as the librarian began to hiss at them to leave.

“Found it!” Daphne plonked down her textbook and pointed to a small passage about newts spleen in the ingredients directory section, “it’s a binding agent and contains properties that encourage brain functionality.”

Of course Greengrass had found it while they’d all been distracted by this Fleur Delacour girl Theo couldn’t help but wish she didn’t look so smug at having found the answer before him, it was infuriating.

“What?” Blaise looked back over from the Durmstrang boys slightly dazed,

“The spleen as an ingredient, its why it’s in the potion.” Daphne looked over to where he had been staring.

Theo copied down the passage to re word later, the library’s small bell clock had just signalled dinner and that meant the drawing of the champions from the Goblet of Fire. There was no time to waste as he stuffed all his work into his bag and rushed with the rest of the students straight to the Great Hall. The school banners were flying overhead and hundreds of students form all three schools poured onto the four large dining tables. Headmaster Dumbledore stood with Ludovic Bagman (Head of the Department for Magical Games and Sports) up at the front, both admired the large stone goblet with a jovial grins. Soon, the ever jolly Bagman announced they would draw the names.

“The first champion from the Beauxbaton’s Academy of Magic is…” Dumbledore drew out his announcement, leaving the whole school waiting for an answer “Fleur Delacour!”

“No way.” Pansy murmured as the Beauxbaton’s students leapt to their feet, cheering for their champion as she sauntered up towards the front of the hall and blew her Headmistress an excitable kiss.

“Now from Durmstrang we have…” Dumbldore consulted the parchment which had violently launched from the goblet, “Tatiana Fedorova!”

“Another girl?” Draco’s jaw dropped, “and from Durmstrang! I can’t believe it’s not Krum…Is this Goblet stupid? Two girls?”

The Durmstrang students seemed less pleased with their choice of champion, as many had already been wearing Krum badges before the champion selection ceremony had begun. Tatiana slowly rose from her seat to mild applause from the other schools, she marched up to the front of the hall straight backed and head high. She had short dark hair braided in two and her fur lined coat picked up behind her almost like a cape as she turned on her heel to take her place beside the much daintier looking Fleur.

“Now’s the good part. It’ll have to choose Adrian.” Theo stared at the goblet intently as it began to spit out the name of the Hogwarts champion.

All of Slytherin house knew that the best way to prove their superiority would be to have a student from their house win the Triwizard Tournament, and Adrian Pucey was the favourite. If it was a Gryffindor student, they’d all become even more insufferable. If it was a Ravenclaw they’d have a chance at the riddles but fail at the much needed backstabbing, and if it was Hufflepuff they’d give it a good crack but there’s no way Hogwarts would win. It had to be Slytherin.

“Cedric Diggory!” Dumbledore grinned.

“Oh my!” Theo heard Daphne shriek beside him as she jumped up to applaud the boy from over on the Hufflepuff table.

Cedric stood up bashfully, accepting hundreds of back pats and crushing hugs from all his house mates. The other tables were up too, clapping and cheering for the already very popular boy. At least now he won’t ask Daphne to the Yule ball Theo selfishly thought as he watched Cedric take his place beside the two other champions.

“And now this concludes the drawing of this Tournaments champions.” As Dumbldore began to speak the goblet glowed a deep red as it had before each piece of parchment was ejected, he paused his congratulations as another name spit forth from the cup and began to waft down towards the headmaster;

“Harry Potter.” He read aloud, his voice echoing across hall and washing over the confused students. “Harry Potter?” he called for the boy again.

“What’s happening?” Millie watched as the awkward knobby kneed Harry stumbled over his seat, Hermione pushing him towards the front of the hall.

“I have no idea.” Theo answered, almost dumb stuck.

This couldn’t be an accident. Theo didn’t even want to think it, the reality was too farfetched and wild, it was too… This couldn’t be him could it? This couldn't be why his father had been at the Department of Magical Games right? Theo’s eyes darted around the hall, he craned his neck to try and get a look at everyone who might be watching on; somehow expecting to see that chilling shadowy figure sitting at one of the tables, laughing at the genius of his plan. Whatever this plan was! Theo wasn’t certain, but he had to wonder if the timing of the vow he had been forced to make and his return to school was all part of this? From what he had heard, The Goblet of Fire did not merely spit out names at will. And by the look on Mr Bagman’s face, this was not at all part of the plan. In second year Voldemort had tried to get him to aid in the killing of Harry in the chamber, was he perhaps trying again?

Theo knew he had to tell someone of the vow he had made; his gut had dropped and his intuition was telling him something wasn't right. But he hadn't yet worked out how. If he said the wrong thing he might break the vow and kill himself. If he said nothing, Harry might die in the tournament.

Chapter Text

When Theo was little he used to love playing tricks on the guests who visited the family at Nott Manor.

Nott Manor was naturally unnerving, built as an old fortress for the first members of the ancient family it would then evolve into an overly eccentric and eerie home made more as a show of power than familial living. No more were simple stone fortifications, instead there was ornate wooden panelling with figures carved to look as if they were emerging from the walls, huge stone sculptures of past family members were interspaced between over a centuries worth of magical artefacts; haunted mirrors, purring rugs and walking antique clocks.

Theo would often hide in the houses great hall behind the tapestry and make ghoulish cries to try and frighten the adults who dined there. His father would punish him for it the next day, but his mother used to laugh – and so he kept finding new ways to tournament. When he was six he took a set of cursed biting tea cups and let them loose in the drawing room whilst the Pureblood Society was holding its yearly Nogtail hunt. All the ladies had jumped up onto the furniture and those whom had their wands close began to disintegrate the fine china into a light powder. His mother had curled up on the mantle of the fireplace, out of the way and searched the room for where her son might be hiding, she spotted him behind the door and having thought he was caught Theo flushed a bright pink and widened his eyes. But his mother just shook her head and smiled, mouthing to him to go to his room where she would later bring him biscuits. That night as the guests were sleeping, Theo’s father broke down the door of his room. The trick had been the talk of the evening meal, and through the beatings his father had yelled of the ‘humiliation’ which he had brought upon the family name. He told him that the Black family heiress, Narcissa, had been displeased with his antics and boasted of her own young sons proclivity for more intellectual pursuits. Leviathan brought down the iron poker on Theo’s shins and made sure he understood that her approval was what kept him on his beloved Pureblood Council, and kept their family in the service of the most powerful Dark Lord (who had promised to return and liberate the wizarding world once more). Theo never pulled another prank again.

It was only when he had started at Hogwarts that Theo had reclaimed his past enjoyment of chaos and laughter, joining his soon to be friends in terrorising the Gryffindors. It had felt so freeing to be away from his tyrannical and abusive father, as if he could once again be who he was always supposed to be. But Theo still battled between the two Theo’s that lived within his mind. The first Theo; lively and funny and youthful, whilst the second Theo was reserved, withdrawn and introverted. He felt himself jump between the two constantly; one side of him a young and boisterous student at Hogwarts and the other a servant of the Dark Lord now bound by an unbreakable vow. They both lived inside his head, vying for superiority.

***

In the late hours of the night Theo's mind possessed him with every miserable and mundane thought it could muster; he wondered if his father was sleeping on a stone slab floor in Azkaban? He wondered why he cared. He recalled the days when he had been stabbed by an enchanted letter opener whilst running himself into an exhaustion and felt the burning of his throat thinking of the potion he had been made to drink in the name of strengthening the Nott line. And when his thoughts got so bleak he tried to think of something happier; how Goyle had embarrassed himself in front of Tracey Davis trying to show off the use of the disarming charm on a far more skilled Beauxbatons boy or how Draco had spent a whole evening making ‘Potter stinks’ badges to hand out to all the Slytherins and Hufflepuffs who saw right through Harry’s stunt to join the Triwizard Tournament. And sometimes after he thought of those happier memories he might sleep, but most nights he would not. Theo was used to operating on little sleep, his mind constantly torn between these two sides of his life.

Of all the issues that pervaded his mind, that of an unbreakable vow he had made to Bartemius Crouch Jnr resinated the most deeply. Each time he closed his eyes he felt the man’s grasp, reliving his abduction over and over. He felt Crouch looming in the shadows although he was never able to see him.

“He’s done it himself. I know it.” Theo heard Pansy declare as they walked into their Charms class the next day,

Flitwick stood on a lectern so that his small stature could survey the lesson. A mix of Beauxbaton’s and Durmstrang students had joined the Hogwarts class, now they all filed in wildly – looking for seats and filling up the modestly sized room.

“Harry’s not put his name in the goblet, no matter what you and Draco say” Daphne almost laughed at the idea, “Dumbledore wouldn’t have let him pass the age line.”

“Dumbledore’s in on it, you know how much he dotes on Potter – would let him get away with murder. How else do you think it got in there?” Pansy reasoned, “that age line was rigged.”

“Knock it off Parkinson, I thought well-bred ladies didn’t gossip.” Ron Weasley sat behind them, scorning her negative claims regarding his best friend.

“Well, who would have guessed you’d stick up for Potter?” Pansy turned to Ron sarcastically, “You might have Daph fooled but I know you lot are always hunting down the promise of glory no matter what. Must help that Dumbledore’s and old Gryffindor too. Can’t let any of us other houses have anything.”

Harry was often not in classes now, instead he was allowed absence to ready himself for the upcoming task and was pushed in and out of press conferences. Thankfully for him, Hermione took incredibly detailed notes, having already completed half a page as Flitwick went back over the summoning charm they had learnt last year. Theo turned back to the professor as he re modelled the proper grip one should use on their wand when casting the charm, going back to basics as if the other schools had probably not also covered wand technique in first year.

Theo didn’t pay attention to the rest of the class, instead he unfolded the paper in which he had transcribed from memory the promises he had made during the vow (using a combination of runes he had devised so that no one could work out what it was saying).

Carry out the commands of Bartemius Crouch Junior …. Serve him… do a matter of tasks …. Not tell anyone of the vow? Or was it Of the night?

It was that last crucial bit which he needed to draw up from the recesses of his mind. If he couldn’t tell anyone of the vow, then he could tell them of his abduction and maybe he could try and fill in the blanks somehow? But if he couldn’t tell them of any of the night - then that would break it instantly. Theo mulled his thoughts over all the way through their next class, History of Magic and then the next; Transfiguration – where much to McGonagall’s distress he took no notes on the theorem behind the vanishing spell.

“Theo?” Daphne’s voice was soft and nurturing as she leant over the lunch table, “Theo?” he heard her ask again,

“Huh?” he looked up from his food, “What did you say?” His lack of sleep showing.

“Blaise said you haven’t been sleeping.” She filled him in on the conversation,

“Yeah, I just need to get some stuff for a sleeping draught.” Theo dismissed, “why, are the bags under my eyes that dark?” he jested,

“Well, yeah.” Daphne said matter-of-factly, “You’re not going to be able to get a date looking all gloomy like you did in first year.” She smiled,

“He won’t get a date at all, everyone still hates him.” Daphne elbowed Pansy hard after she spoke, “What? I mean I know that’s harsh but it’s the truth, you should stop putting pressure on him.”

“For once I actually agree.” Theo felt himself nod along to Pansy’s sentiments,

“The ice queen departs a rare pearl of wisdom.” Blaise remarked, earning him an elbow to the ribs as well.

“Since when did you two become so violent?” Draco addressed the girls with a raised blonde brow,

“Since they started hanging out with you lot.” Millie had been quietly decorating her ‘Potter stinks’ badge at the end of the table, now holding it up for the others to admire “You think it needs more glitter?”

“Definitely not.” Draco instructed, protective over his handiwork now being customised.

***

Defence Against the Dark Arts was the only lesson that Theo consciously tried to monitor his behaviour in, trying not to appear so deep in contemplation for fear that Mad-Eye Moody would take an interest. The professor however, seemed completely enamoured by Potter whenever he attended. He began to discuss the killing curse in terrifyingly vivid detail, recalling when he had caught a Death Eater named Travers and cast it upon him. Theo’s spine jolted, thinking of how his own father would have cast the very same spell on those two innocent ministry workers. He wondered if that evil power lay dormant inside him, perhaps Voldemort had seen it and that was why he had come and found him. Theo didn’t dare touch him wand all afternoon.

As he walked back from their final class, Theo felt Daphne loop her arm into his which had been dug into his cloak pockets.

“Let’s go for a walk.” Daphne didn’t really ask, guiding him away from the others who were all debating whether Krum would ask Fleur or a Hogwarts girl to the Yule Ball;

“He’ll ask Fleur, I mean even I’d ask her.” Blaise protested vehemently,

“What’s that’s supposed to mean?” Draco quizzed, “Of course you’d ask her – she’s the hottest girl in the school now.”

“And I’m standing right here.” Pansy feigned offence but resumed her conversation with Millie almost instantly.

“Well, I um, I’ve already got a date. That’s what I mean.” Blaise suddenly clapped his hands, “whose down to raid the kitchens for an afternoon snack?”

“Yes!” Crabbe and Goyle answered in unison.

Theo looked down at where Daphne had sidled up beside him, her arm loosely hanging around his bent elbow. She made it look so casual, so meaningless. But Theo felt his senses sharpen, he tuned into their surroundings for the first time all day. Hannah Abbot (wearing her Potter stinks badge) was kissing a Durmstrang student over on a bench in the courtyard, a tall Beauxbatons boy flirtatiously leant over a giggling Poppy Coffe and next to them Dean Thomas chatted to his friend. Theo was suddenly stuck with the realisation that everyone in the school was in the throes of hormonal teenage crushes. He pulled his hand out of his pocket, letting Daphne’s arm fall as they walked down the steps and onto the grassy moor. Daphne didn’t seem to care, she continued talking about her pet; Ellery and the Christmas jumper she would try to get her to wear this year.

Theo knew he felt something deep for Daphne, but he didn’t know what exactly. He’d realised it the moment he returned to school after their St Mungo’s break in, and he’d thought about it almost all summer – but his feelings had come on slowly, growing from a small appreciation to a loyalty and then to friendship. It wasn’t so simple with her as it was other girls; with Pansy it was a platonic love-hate, and Millie was more Daphne’s friend than his. Girls like Tracey Davis and Fleur Delacor stayed in relative peripheral, he knew they were pretty – he wasn’t clueless, but he just let them stay their distance and admire from afar. Daphne was so close, and he was starting to realise he wanted her too close . When they were together it felt magnetic; as if they’d always be this close forever if they kept going as they were. There was something comforting about that conviction, something that made him feel like he could trust her. But it made Theo frightened to wish for more than what they were, to fall into the romantic haze that Hogwarts was under. He would not lose her, he would not put what they had in danger and undermine the few stabilities in his life.

The pair kept walking for some time, the sun starting to dip as they covered every topic of conversation from the last Triwizard Tournament to the scathing article Witch Weekly had written about Tatiana Fedrova. Theo felt himself staring at Daphne’s loose auburn curls as the cold wind picked them up and threw the strands back and forth. He stood close to her as they traversed a small gravel path atop a tall rolling hill which looked back at the castle and as he started to walk back down its slope, leaning into Daphne to naturally steer her along with him, he felt Daphne’s hand wrap around his upper arm. Theo turned back slightly to face her, his longer legs having taken him further down the hill.

“Is it your mother?” Daphne asked rather bluntly, “Spending time with Blaise and Ms Zabini this summer, I thought it might have made you sad. You can tell me. I swear I won’t tell a soul, I figured maybe you couldn’t confide in Blaise and I could be like a backup?”

Theo saw the genuine concern in her eyes, and just like that day in Hogsmeade when his vision had been lost – he felt himself compelled to confess. Daphne felt like drinking a powerful and intoxicating veritaserum.

“You won’t even tell Pansy?” Theo smiled, drawing out a challenge and trying to play coy.

“Promise.” She smiled, her cheeks scrunching up under her eyes as she did so.

“Or Astoria.”

“Well damn” Daphne put her other hand on her hip, “you know me better than I thought. But ok, I promise I won’t tell her. Cross my heart, eat a troll and vomit it whole.”

“What?!” Theo burst out laughing, “eat a troll and vomit it whole?” he cackled.

“It’s a saying!” Daphne defended herself though an equally large smile, smacking his arm in jest, “I thought you were supposed to be a pureblood!”

“It’s not that. Why I’ve been feeling off.” Theo let his smile fade slowly, “I mean, that was a little difficult but I’ve seen you all hug your mothers the moment you get off the train every year.. I’m used to missing her.” Theo felt his chest tighten, “I just um, I can’t sleep because I keep thinking about something I can’t tell you.”

Daphne took a long pause, “Why can’t you tell me?”

“I made a promise, one I can’t… reveal” Theo thought carefully about his choice of words, trying not to say ‘break’ in case that came too close to mentioning an ‘unbreakable curse’. He forced his mind to try and recall the night.

“Who did you promise?”

“Nobody you know.” Theo started to regret revealing part of his secret, Daphne was just too curious about things. “I can’t say anything else, I want to – really I want to but I cant. Blaise has been asking too and I just, I cant.” He broke their eye contact and headed back down the hill.

“I don’t know what to say.” Daphne started walking down the hill with Theo, the light slipping further down the sky signalled it was almost dinner. “I wish you could say, but...” she let the silence sit there.

Theo couldn’t look at her. He needed to keep his conviction of secrecy until he remembered exactly what he had vowed.

“My father wrote to me yesterday.” She tried to get him talking again. “He said that Mr Boade and Mr Mbaye were once affiliated as Death Eaters. That he helped them both remove their dark marks before they were caught.” Theo didn’t know what to say but he turned to face her and comprehend her words, so Daphne continued; “I don’t know how that relates to their death exactly, but I suppose it makes me wonder if the Pureblood Society is making more drastic moves. And it makes me wonder if it was a good idea for us to have gone and seen Bernard Crabbe. What if they knew we were there? What if Professor Moody knows?”

“I don't know.” Theo muttered, seeing that Daphne was examine his reaction. "I guess we'll have to see."

“Right.” Daphne slowly resumed walking back to the castle, “pinkie promise you won’t tell?” she quickly stuck out her pinkie, which Theo took in his own and shook. He held her there for a moment longer than he should have before pulling back.

Theo wondered if he should just tell her, tell her about the vow and let come what may. But he didn’t. They walked back to dinner side by side, folded over in laughter as they watched Fleur snub an incorrigible Cormac McLaggen in the hallway.

***

Theo had awoke the next morning to see a note with jagged calligraphy taped to the inside of his trunk as he dug around for a fresh pair of socks. Sensing a practical joke, Theo took the envelope and ripped it open standing in the bathtub, ready for it to spill troll snot or morph into a howler. But as he peered inside, a single note sat inside;

Poly Juice potion required, brewed and ready for use. Leave inside the chest in the third floor corridor by the statue of Salazar Slytherin. Remember your vow.

Theo burst through the bathroom door, looking around for the notes owner as if they would have somehow stayed behind.

“You all good?” Blaise rolled over under his duvet, voice still sleepy.

“Yeah, just forgot my socks.” Theo lied.

“Godric, don’t tell us about going into the bathroom with a sock while we’re all trying to sleep in.” Blaise buried himself further in his blankets.

“No, no, Merlin, not that..” Theo blushed.

“You’re foul Nott.” Draco called out from his bed, all the curtains still drawn.

Theo trudged back to the bathroom, shutting the door to get changed.

“Say hi to Fleur for us!” Draco teased from back inside their room.

Theo buried his head in his hands. If only it was Fleur he was thinking of. Theo now realised Crouch Jnr was somewhere in Hogwarts already with access to the drop off chest, that with this potion he could be disguised as anyone from all three magical schools and he could be up to anything. He walked among them a lingering and unknown threat, the rest of the students too preoccupied with the Tournament to notice any changes he might be making.

***

Theo pulled his Slytherin jumper tighter around his body as he shuffled through a long winding corridor. The portraits on the wall muttered and hissed for him to dim the light of his wand, but Theo persisted. In his hand he held the key to Snape’s potion room, which he had swiped from the head of house whilst visiting him to check on his still ever healing eyes. Snape had brewed drops that made it so Theo could see long distances clearly, and yet he peered through his thick glasses trying to identify the right door as he continued down the hallway.

The potions door creaked open, and Theo quickly slammed it shut behind him upon hearing the rattling of the Bloody Baron’s chains down the hall. He pulled out a slip of paper with all the ingredients he’d need and began to scan the overflowing shelves. Fluxweed was hidden behind salamander spleen and once acquired, Theo scooped out a rough measure of Lacewing flies from a large glass jar which sat on the floor of the room, his wand gripped in his mouth to provide use of his hands. Dashing back to his dorm; Theo deposited the key on the floor of the common room for Snape to find in the morning before dumping the piles of ingredients on his bed.

“What the hell are you doing?” Draco’s voice was quiet but stern,

Theo drew the curtains of his bed shut but Draco marched over and pried them open again.

“What the devil…” Draco started to proclaim as Theo cast the muffling charm so as to not wake their dorm mates. “What are you doing? What is all that?”

“Ingredients, for a sleeping draught.” Theo lied,

“So what are the lacewing flies for?” Draco shot back. Theo cursed Draco's surprising knowledge of the potion, having been convinced he paid little attention in class.

“Taste.” Theo lied again, although less convincingly.

“You’re lying.” Draco folded his arms. “Why?”

“I can’t tell you what I’m doing or I might bloody die for it.” Theo sighed, exhausted of explaining why he was being so weird and keeping secrets. But unlike the others Draco physically sprung up, back straight and eyes wide in horror as he listened to what Theo had said. Perhaps he knows Theo surveyed the response.

“My mother said something about a second coming of the Dark Lord this summer, that your father was integral to the plans before his arrest, that it’d been a big blow.” Draco ran his hand through his platinum white hair, his greyish eyes darting around as he tried to piece together a clear picture “the honour code of the Society, it makes the heir take up the unfinished vows of the father. I was worried I'd be called on myself in leu of your father and since they seem so desperate but.. ” he gasped.

Draco was a lot smarter than Theo'd ever given him credit for, although he supposed as heir to the last Black family witch and thus honorary Head of the Pureblood Society – Draco should know more about this world than anyone. He had the best chance of putting together the pieces. They were both knee deep in their families allegiances.

“Of course I can’t confirm any of this.” Theo quickly added, panicked that the ache in his arm from carrying the ingredients was actually now a curse coming on.

“Fuck.” Draco muttered, staring with both confusion and shock, “so this is..” he looked at the bed full of potions ingredients,

“A sleeping draft.” Theo finished,

“Right, a sleeping draught with lacewing flies that I can’t ask about or you’ll die.” Draco clarified.

Theo nodded and began to clear out a place at the bottom of his wardrobe for the potion to brew in secret. Draco sat on his bed and watched, unsure of what to do or say, too full of dread to sleep but not wanting to test the limits of Theo’s vow and help. Theo began the first stage of brewing, thankful he’d found somebody who understood. But now both boys were aware (to varying degrees) that someone inside Hogwarts was not who they appeared to be, and they were most likely working to aid in the return of Lord Voldemort.

Chapter Text

Luna Lovegood would often drag her best (and only) friend Astoria Greengrass around the castle in search of all kinds of magical creatures which her father had told her of in his letters. When Daphne found her little sister, both girls were knee deep in snow searching for something called ‘ice maggots’ - the latest creature to grace the cover of The Quibbler. Poor Jenny Fawcett stood to the side as a shivering observer.

“The house elves put them in our pumpkin juice to make sure it says cold.” Luna was wearing long tie-dye thermals with a baggy denim dress, an insane looking hat shaped like a puffskein adorned the top of her long golden locks of hair.

“That’s disgusting.” Pansy grimaced in her sleek black winter jumpsuit, “that has to be a joke.”

“No, I sampled some vials of the juice in my dorm in first year.” Luna’s voice was mellow and cheery despite a large gush of freezing wind sweeping across the grounds.

“Astoria, mother’s written to have some evening dresses made for the Yule Ball. She wants you to choose some fabrics in case you’re asked.” Daphne had been trying to get her sisters attention as she mined for maggots alongside Luna.

“I don’t want to go anyway, I wouldn’t say yes.” Astoria picked up a clump of ice in her mittens and began to chip away at it with a small pick,

“Well you can write to mum and tell her then, I’ve already gotten an earful about having to attend with a respectable pureblood boy.” Daphne leant into the pile of snow to see what her little sister was carving away at, slightly intrigued by Luna’s tale of ice maggots. “You know they’d both kill me for not at least mentioning you probably shouldn’t be standing in a pile of snow during the dead of winter right? Are those the enchanted hand warming mittens?”

“Yes, yes, I know.” Astoria didn’t seem to care, she was perpetually tired of being babied by her family. “Is this one?” she showed Luna a small cloudy area of ice,

“No.” Luna shook her head and began to hum as she sifted through more snow.

“Wait so about these maggots in my pumpkin juice..” Pansy started again, wading into the snow to try and capture Luna’s fickle attention.

“I put three poppy seeds in each cup I want to drink, scares the maggots away.” Luna advised,

“Where do you get poppy seeds?”

“I feed them to my baby Augurey, I can give you some.”

“Ok, wait, you have a baby augurey in your dorm? My brother tried to breed those once but the mother flew away when he unlocked the cage.”

“Melpomene would never fly away from me. Your brother doesn’t know how to breed them properly.”

“Well that’s what I’ve been trying to tell my father for years.” Pansy rolled her eyes, “and yet that fool still gets the family inheritance.”

Daphne hauled Astoria out of the snow pile. “Have you already sent in sketches of what you want your dress to look like?” Astoria asked,

“No, you know how bad I am at sketching - that’s your talent. All I know is that I want a forest green to match our family’s livery or a midnight blue to bring out the colour of my eyes. Both will make the red in my hair stand out, but I like that.” Daphne smiled imagining a gorgeous evening gown. Her mother had been in her head about having to compete with all the other rich pureblood girls, in her parents eyes Daphne was now a representative of the family on the world stage. There was insurmountable pressure to get it right; the dancing, the gown, the hair, the date....

“You should do a sketch in both colours so you can see what it’d look like.” Astoria suggested as Daphne wrapped her little sisters scarf closer around her neck (the cold got to her more than most others).

“Well, you could design me a dress? You can sketch it and then I can pick?” Daphne suggested, knowing that Astoria might enjoy that idea.

“Really?” her little sister looked up in surprise, “I would if you’d let me.”

“Then sure. Pansy?”

Pansy was staring bewildered at Luna as she hummed and went about her search. She looked up upon hearing her name, “What? Oh yeah, that’s a nice idea.” Pansy started to back away from the snow pile, prying her gaze from Lovegood, “I’ve already ordered my dress from a designer in Paris. She works illumining glow worm silk into her fabrics.”

“Getting a dress would be the only reason I’d want to go.” Astoria smiled, ideas formulating in her mind regarding her sisters evening dress. “How over the top can I go?”

“Not over the top at all.” Daphne instructed, “I need to look great, not stupid. Mother has to also approve of it.”

“So no gaudy ruffled collar or lime green’s, got it.” Astoria turned back to her ice maggot search.

“Goodbye!” Luna sang out as Daphne and Pansy headed down to the greenhouse for Herbology.

“She’s very strange, I mean quite pretty, but very strange.” Pansy looked back at Luna as they walked.

“I guess she looks a bit angelic-y with the pale hair and skin and eyes.” Daphne nodded absentmindedly, “Did you do the work on the difference between Devils Snare and Flutterbloom?”

“No.” Pansy groaned, “Lend me yours to copy?”

“You owe me.” Daphne rolled her eyes and started to dig around in her bag for the parchment as Pansy kissed her cheek.

***

Hogwarts was filled with hormonal angst and excitement. The Tournament was at the forefront of all conversation, and dates to the Yule ball were starting to materialise. It seemed that everyone in fourth year had become incredibly aware of their relationship status, or lack thereof. Down every corridor gaggles of girls giggled as they walked by hoards of boys trying to show off.

“He’s as thick as the castle walls.” Daphne rolled her eyes as she shuffled around awkwardly in her skates.

A group of Durmstrang boys had invited the group to skate on the newly frozen over Black Lake with them, the Durmstrang institutes ghostly ship encased in the ice nearby. Pansy had been ‘flirting’ with one of the boys, Ander Landvik at the insistence of her mother. Ander’s family had connections to the Norwegian royals and his icy blue eyes made him a popular choice of date among the other girls. Mrs Parkinson’s plan may have worked, after all Pansy was not short of admirers - she had what Witch Weekly’s ‘Top dates for the Yule Ball’ article described as “regal cheekbones, classic upper class dress sense and small intense dark eyes which must make men fearful of what to say in her presence.”, but Pansy Parkinson was no flirt. She didn’t bat her eyes or giggle at bad jokes, she didn’t blush when boys leant towards her and she rejected any sort of physical advance.

“I’m over this lady-like waiting game, if he doesn’t ask me to the Yule ball in the next five minutes I’m setting my sites elsewhere.” Pansy complained and she turned elegantly on the ice, “My mother already favours my brother anyway. I could withstand the disappointment.”

Pansy skated away effortlessly whilst Daphne struggled to even stay on her feet. Skating was not one of the accomplishments her mother had thought to teach her. Pansy made it look so easy.

“Vhat is vrong with zat friend of yours?” Viktor Krum seemed to take to the ice like he did the broom, racing over towards Daphne as she watched Pansy skate into the distance.

“What do you mean?” Daphne looked up, having been concentrating so hard on not falling over that she had not been paying attention to her surroundings.

“Ze’ve all been trying to get her attentions to aszk her, does she not still need a date to ze Yule Ball?” Krum looked back over to where the others were skating. Pansy held her hands behind her back leaning to glide on one foot over the ice as Ander attempted the same, to far less elegant results. She didn’t laugh along with him, instead she told him his posture was woeful.

“Wait. He asked her?” Daphne almost slipped as she tried to stand up properly,

“Three people have.” Blaise came to a hockey stop beside them, throwing icy powder against her and Krum’s legs. He leant on the famed Bulgarian seeker very casually as he continued his conversation, “Michael Corner almost asked her before he turned his sites to Fleur and she agreed. Seems nobody can trap our Ice Queen.” He admired,

“Ze boy’z are at me nonstop, asking this and zat. They think that I know vhat girls are thinking zince I have those girls following me. I told them forget her, ask someone else.” Krum hadn’t seemed surprised at Blaise’s friendly manor and let the boy lean into the fur of his large winter coat some more.

“Well, I suppose so. I um, Theo?” she called out to the tall lanky boy who was tussling with Draco, both trying to knock each other over.

“Hmm?” he grunted as his knee hit the hard surface of the lake in a play to save himself from falling.

“Have three people already asked Pansy to the ball?”

“What of it Greengrass?” Theo skirted his leg around to take out one of Draco’s.

“Nothing.” Daphne tried not to seem upset that Pansy hadn't told her, and tried not to feel stupid for having not seen it. The boys had been teasing her over her popularity with the Durmstrang students, but Daphne had thought it was an ineffective jab more than an knowing taunt.

She’s pitying me, pitying me for not being asked. Daphne thought, She thinks nobody will ask me so she’s not taking a date to make me feel better. How embarrassing. Daphne looked over at the bank of the lake where Cedric was swamped by people. Rumours were swirling that he'd asked his best friend, Gwendoline Hedgeflower already or that maybe he'd ask Padma Patil in their year, one of the most beautiful girls in all of Ravenclaw. I need to get someone to ask me. Daphne decided. She needed to please her mother and not appear the loser they all must think she is.

“Don’t get upset about it Greengrass.” She heard Theo skate up behind her, Blaise and Krum now deep in some other conversation.

“Upset about what?” Daphne huffed, pivoting in her dug in skates.

“About the date thing. Now Cedric’s going with Gwen. I don’t have a date, you don’t see me sulking about it.” He said dismissivly,

“Well you sulk about everything else so…” Daphne quipped as she tried to skate away, but whilst her feet moved forward - her body began to tumble back. She reached out to grab onto the closest thing to her.

Daphne felt one hand clasp around her waist, the other brace her neck. Theo leant over her, holding up her body weight to prevent her slamming into the rock hard lake. Both took quick sharp breathes, smoke escaping in the freezing air and mingling in the small space between their lips. Daphne felt herself suck in, there was something vulnerable about their breathe mixing. For the first time she felt nervous around him, about being this close to…. to Theo. If he leant in any further, they might…. When the realisation of her thoughts hit her, Daphne began to scramble to get back on her feet. She had temporarily gone mad.

“Thanks.” She finally let go of his arms once she was upright. “I um, I’ve never been good at skating. Pansy’s a natural, she’s always been better at…” Daphne started to trail off, feeling herself talking to supress the chaos of what she had just been thinking. The insane romantic notions which had been filling her head.

“getting dates to the Yule Ball as well it seems.” Theo tried to joke, but it landed flat with Daphne.

So everyone seems to think I’m a dateless loser huh? Daphne felt her cheeks burn hot and her temper run short It was bad enough that Cedric’s going with someone else, bad enough that Pansy was taking it upon herself to save me the humiliation but now it seemed everyone – including Theo (who i've just imagined in a very non friend like way for some impossible reason) – views me in that same pitiful pathetic light. Well fuck that, and fuck you for thinking that Theodore Nott.

“You just wait.” Daphne snapped, “By the time I get back to the common room tonight I’ll have a date and you won’t.” she could feel herself being cruel but she didn't care, they couldn't always expect her to be some selfless sunshiny friend.

Theo rolled his shoulders back and cocked his head, “Oh really?” he laughed, “Because I’m so sulky now is it? I can’t possibly get a date before you?”

“Yeah, that’s right. You’re whole mopey secretive act is wearing a little thin actually. What are you hiding that’s so important you can’t tell me? I got my cousin to steal my father’s hair and give up her own so we could break into where your fathers murdering accomplice was staying just to get you answers…” she spat, angry she had given him so much and he had given her so little.

“Don’t act like you didn’t just do that to see your sister.” Theo spoke over her as she continued,

“In first year I told everyone to give you a chance, I stood up for you during the trial, I defended you in the chamber… you owe me loyalty and honestly at the very least!”

Theo just stood there a moment, his smile gone and face grown cold. It almost scared her how fast it shifted, “I didn’t realise I owed you so much.” His words were seething, “So how about this, you don’t have to keep doing me all these favours then. I was just fine on my own before you, I’ll be just as fine without you. Actually no, I’d be better off without someone whose been tallying up the bloody ‘value’ of my so called friendship. You're just like the rest of them.”

“You know I’m right.” Daphne shook her head as Theo began to leave, “I'll find a date and you'll still be lonely and shutting people out because thats what you do.”

“Leave me alone Greengrass.” And with that Theo skated to the edge of the lake, ripping off his skates and heading off back into the castle.

***

Daphne’s fight with Theo had put her in a foul mood, she no longer had the heart to twirl her hair and giggle at prospective dates – instead she made a break for the shoreline soon after Theo, excusing herself on the grounds of needing to send a letter regarding her Yule Ball gown. Pansy had tried to convince her to stay but her mind was made up, and temper flared. She had seen red and said awful things, but what was worse is that she meant most of it.

As soon as Daphne entered the castle, Ron Weasley and his best friend the scruffy haired ‘chosen one’; Harry Potter descended upon her in a rush. Both the boys cheeks were flushed and they exchanged a quick glance;

“Headmaster Dumbledore asked us to take you to his office.” Ron explained,

“Why?” Daphne huffed, anger still pulsing through her veins as she followed the two boys down the corridor.

“Dumbledore called me to his office too, we don’t know what he wants but it must be important.” Harry added, fixing his glasses as Ginny Weasley gave him all a polite wave.

Harry had a serious look on his face as they approached the headmasters tower and he whispered the password. Daphne wondered why the headmaster had trusted him with such a highly guarded password, but she also read the papers and knew that everyone and their grandmother adored Potter. He was the poster boy for the wizarding world’s regrowth after the war, a shining beacon of hope that Voldemort was not undefeatable. His defeat of the Dark Lord had also made him the prime example of successful mudblood offspring, which provided one of many reasons that Draco and Pansy hated him.

Daphne wondered if people still believed the narrative of good triumphing over evil now that Boade and Blaise’s ex-stepfather were murdered. If only the public knew of The Pureblood Society; a force of immeasurable power under Voldemort’s control. If Minister Fudge or Mr Coffe from the Daily Prophet knew what might happen should the society’s long running plan to resurrect the dark wizard be fruitful, they’d cease all the columns dedicated to Harry Potter’s legacy. No boy hero could overshadow that grim fate, especially the knobby kneed and scruffy haired Harry Potter.

“Penny for your thoughts Miss Greengrass?”

Dumbledore’s whimsical voice brought Daphne back into the room. The Headmasters office hadn’t changed since she last saw it. The shelves were still covered in spinning globes and odd trinkets that made whistling noises. Harry fell into one of the two seats which faced the desk as if this visit was a casual occurrence for him. Ron dropped into the other, leaving Daphne standing in the middle of the room in limbo.

“Pardon me headmaster, Ron said you were looking for me?”

“Yes.” Dumbledore lowered his half-moon spectacles, “I’m afraid it pertains to a rather serious and grave matter.”

Daphne edged closer to the desk, standing now behind Ron’s chair. What grave matter would require all three of them?

“Harry’s name did not end up in the Goblet by mistake. It’s my belief that your name Harry, was placed in the Goblet to put you in harm’s way.”

“Whose trying to harm him?” Ron asked naively, unlike Daphne he was still adjusting to the idea of the Dark Lord as a real threat backed by a powerful secret Society.

“I can’t be sure. But perhaps Miss Greengrass might?”

Daphne froze, her feet bolted to the ground and her head fuzzy with thoughts; Was this an accusation? Had the society advanced on their failed plans of second year and she just hadn’t been informed? Did Dumbledore know something she didn't? Well, probably, but was it to do with the society she had joined? Nothing was beyond the realm of possibility.

“I don’t, I don’t know anything.” She blurted out quickly, “I promise. I can’t know anything. We don’t, my family isn’t like that.”

“Your friends Malfoy and Nott might know.” Harry turned to her, staring through her for an answer which never came.

“She said she didn’t know.” Ron turned to Harry and then back to the headmaster for him to resume,

“Harry. I will have to ask you a favour you will not wish to fulfil. I ask you to not participate in this years Triwizard Tournament.”

“What?” all three of them didn’t hold back their shock,

“What do you mean? Why not? I can’t not compete, the Goblet, it’s a vow I cannot break, a legally binding contract. Professor McGonagall spoke with Mr Bagman about it at length, she tried to argue for me.” Harry explained,

“And Bagman is correct, it is a legally binding contract which we must meet. However, I pose that we simply have you be seen to compete. We shall have another take up your appearance. Professor Snape tells me you are all familiar with the Polyjuice potion in some respect, he accuses you all of having taken from his stores.”

“Somebody will compete as Harry so he does not get hurt?” Ron had been mulling over the proposal, “Who?”

Dumbledore simply looked at her. Daphne felt the headmaster's warm and paralysing gaze strike her and understood immediately what the inference was. He’s mad. He can’t mean it. Can he?

“Why?” she struggled to ask the question outright, torn between her need to be polite to the most famous and powerful wizard in the world and thinking he was insane. “Why would I, why would you want me?”

“Miss Greengrass I think you are a very capable witch whom may be more protected as an asset should the culprit discover this rouse. And I think you have more of a reason to say yes.” Astoria. He meant Astoria “Take a look in the cabinet here.” Dumbledore flicked his hand, opening a creaky cabinet which housed hundreds of small glass bottles filled with glowing memory strands. Daphne recognised the pensive which sat in the middle, her father had taken her to see the one in the Department of Mysteries when she was little. “For each task you complete for Harry, I will answer one of the many questions I know you have for me by showing you the memories I have collected from your grandfather and decades of disciplined study. Any memory that you wish, I will share.”

Daphne wandered over to the pensive, scanning the many bottles and each label. Most where Dumbledore’s own memories from his years of study, all dated to keep them in order. As Daphne reached the back she spotted dates from his Hogwarts years; 1892, 1894 and up to 1899. The dates extended to further study, to further life experience (including ‘America 1906’ or ‘Christmas 1980’).

“And they have the answers to my problem?” she examined the glowing strands with a newfound fascination, perhaps her grandfather might have revealed some of his secrets to the headmaster. Perhaps these were the missing pieces, the things the old box of family files could never spell out? It had to be worth the risk.

Daphne thought to herself; Dumbledore would never let me actually die, he’d never ask me if he thought me incapable. He would be a judge on the panel, no doubt he designed some of the tasks. He would make sure I was ok.

“I’ll have to consume Polyjuice and complete the tasks for him?” Daphne clarified as she kept her eyes trained on the many bottles of potentially priceless memories.

“No, she cant.” Ron stood up furious, “It’s too dangerous, and if she’s found out Harry will still be in trouble. Hermione's been working on trying to study past tournaments, we'll make sure Harry can do it.”

“I want to do it professor.” Harry too had stood up from the leather bound chairs, “I can’t have people make sacrifices for me, die for me.”

“Who said anything about dying?” Daphne quipped as she turned back to face them;

Dumbledore hadn’t looked at the boys once since revealing his plan, he had kept his eyes trained on Daphne all the while. Daphne saw within Dumbledore’s gaze, something of a challenge, as if – should she succeed – he would respect her enough to give her the reward which she desired most; answers.

He was the greatest wizard alive, his knowledge alone was more than a centuries worth of study and practice. To have it bottled up and at her fingertips, to step back in time and get answers? She would learn more from that than any of their classes this year.

Daphne had always wished to be more intelligent. To be intelligent meant she was one step closer to finding a cure for her family. Many of her ancestors had tried to break the malediction, Daphne knew if she stood any chance of success she needed to somehow be smarter than they had been. She needed access to the memories they had never had the chance to access. Only then would Astoria live in peace. Only then would the Greengrass family get to take a breath from the lie they lived.

“You have a deal.” Daphne nodded, looking between the two equally horrified boys.

“Professor, this isn’t right.” Harry protested, not keen to let the deal proceed.

“I think it might be best if Potter and I talk alone.” Dumbledore motioned for Daphne and Ron to leave. He had already gotten his answer from her.

As they stepped outside Dumbledore's office, Daphne and Ron were left alone. Daphne caught a glimpse of Cedric Diggory walking down the corridor beside Gwendoline Hedgeflower and her her heat sunk. She thought of another boy she wished to see, a boy she had fought with only minutes ago, a boy she had almost....

Perhaps, in a twisted way, these tasks would provide the perfect distraction from Daphne’s own romantic inadequacy. She’d rather face a dozen blazing wands than the vain reality of being undesirable, the reality of disappointing her parents, or even worse, the reality that she might like Theodore Nott. Theodore Nott who she’d made a stupid bet with to get a date before returning to the common room. Godric that stupid bet!

“Daph…” Ron’s eyebrows parted as he silently begged with her to change her mind about the tournament.

“You’ll help me won’t you?” Daphne asked, “before the tasks, you’ll help me work out what they are?”

“Of course, I’m your friend Daph, I’d do anything to help you.” He assured, “But this is stupid. Harry can do it, he fought the basilisk, he survived the killing curse.”

“He’s not invincible Ron and you know it.”

“What do you need those memories for anyway? You’re smart enough on your own, as smart as Hermione! I suppose you might be curious about your grandfather but really, there’s much better ways to find out.” He reasoned,

“Dumbledore, the greatest wizard since Merlin, just requested a favour of me. I know you’d have said yes too.” Daphne held her gaze, “and it’ll probably be easier than getting a dammed date to this ball.” She readied herself to have to walk back into the common room and watch Theo gloat her failure, effectively winning their argument. It was infuriating.

“You can’t get a date?” Ron looked sceptical, “I mean I can’t, everyone’s asking me about Harry. But you had that article published about you, and Hermione’s always complaining all the other girls in our year copy you and Pansy.”

“Yeah well that hasn’t secured me a date unfortunately. Cedric asked Gwen even after...at the world cup I thought.. well you know I’ve liked him for years. And then Pansy’s turned down dates to not make me feel bad about him not taking me and I got angry and bet Theo I’d get a date before I came back this afternoon and now I’ve just gone and agreed to do that.” Daphne gestured back to the headmasters office,

“Well I can’t help you with Princess Parkinson turning down dates, and I can’t help you with the Cedric thing, but come with me to the Yule ball. As friends.” Ron shrugged his shoulders, “if you don’t have anyone else lined up.”

“Is Harry taking Hermione then?” Daphne couldn’t help but pry a little,

“Hermione’s being weird, she keeps saying she already got a date but it must be a lie.” Ron looked sympathetic, “sad really, Harry or I would’ve taken her.”

“Well, that’d be great!” Daphne grinned at the prospect of having fulfilled one goal on her list, “I can’t wait to tell Theo, see the smug look wiped off his face.” She reached out and wrapped her arms around Ron’s chest,

Ron wrapped his arms around her neck, pretending to smother her in his knitted jumper; “What are childhood best friends for? But for the record, I think the tournaments a stupid idea.”

“You don’t know how long I’ve waited for the answers he’s promised to give me.” Daphne spoke into the chunky fabric before pulling away, “Promise not to tell Astoria?”

“Promise.” Ron nodded. "But i still think its stupid, and she would too."

Chapter Text

His fingers had grazed the smooth thick fabric of her coat, the curve of her back across his palm. Theo replayed the moment Daphne’s eyes widened as he leant down to catch her, the way he could smell her floral perfume, the way her lips parted as if inviting him too….

“I’m back, miss me?” Blaise sauntered into the dorm as Theo slammed his cupboard shut to hide the bubbling Polyjuice potion which he had been brewing inside.

“Always.” Theo rolled his eyes and moved back toward the door, "Where've you been anyway?"

"Doesn't matter, how you feeling after the whole, you know." Blaise referenced the big fight he and Daphne had gotten into.

It haunted Theo that in the space of maybe thirty seconds he had gone from almost kissing her to being more hurt by her than he could’ve imagined. It reaffirmed just why they could never be as close as he desperately wanted them to be, why they could never go there . He’d only lose her, and somehow despite how hurt he was he still didn’t want to let it get to that. He couldn’t bear it.

Everything was uncertain; what he was having to do for Crouch, who Crouch even was and where he was, what Voldemort wanted from him, how long he’d need to serve in his father’s place? He wasn’t even sure what promises he’d made in his unbreakable vow. Daphne and the others, they needed to be certainties. He would not let this derail them, that feeling he had at the end of last year?

He needed that.

“Jeez, she’s really pissed you off.” Draco noted as he put down the book he had been pretending to read when Blaise entered. Draco was now aware of the potion and privy to its brew.

“Do you think I should ask Charlotte to the ball?” Gregory Goyle had plodded into the room on the hunt for more sweets, totally uninterested in the whole conflict which had raged on.

“Sure.” Draco shrugged “The Montague’s are pureblood so your mother will be happy. She's a bit plain looking though, and yet, so are you.”

“Of course Malfoy’s thinking of his mother’s approval.” Blaise shook his head, “my mother wouldn’t care if I took a garden gnome as long as they wore something fashionable”

“And so you asked Millicent? Her wardrobes from last century, all the Bulstrodes dress like its 1883.” Draco sounded like Pansy as she threw the casual insult,

“You ask anyone yet?” Theo looked over at Draco who shook his head,

“My mother sent me a list of girls for me to ask but they’re all so…” he tried to conjure up the words “they move in packs and they talk about dresses and flowers. I’m thinking about just taking Pansy and calling it a day.”

“Shit.” Theo muttered, “Daphne bet me I couldn’t get a date by the time she got back to the common room with one of her own.” He admitted, “she’ll have the smuggest most annoying look on her face if she beats me to it.”

Blaise rolled his eyes, “If it wasn’t enough to watch you two compete in every subject, now we have this. Oh the joy.”

“Wait you’re not going together? You and Daph?” Goyle asked puzzled.

“Why would I go with her?” Theo rebutted defensively, “So I can listen to her coo over Cedric all night? No thanks.”

“They did look cute at the world cup.” Blaise noted just to annoy him. Theo whipped his head around to tell him to cut it out.

“Forget that. We need to get Nott a date.” Draco refocused the group, “we can’t have the girls thinking we’re losers.” The boys nodded in agreement, “then Pans would never go with me either.”

“So who?”

“We need to scope out the options.” Draco reopened their dorm door and headed out towards the common room, lulling them away from the bubbling polyjuice potion.

Theo sat down beside Draco on the lounges that were pressed up against the glass windows observing the frozen lake. They watched as groups of girls moved in and out the common space. Emmeline and Adrian were kissing by the roaring fireplace much to their disgust when Millie re-entered the common room alone and joined the boys in discerning the Slytherin students who came and went.

“What about Hannah Abbot? We talk to her in ancient runes.” Blaise suggested, having been trying to think outside just their house.

“She has a date.” Millie shook her head, stroking her black cat lovingly.

“Padma Patil?” Draco suggested,

Theo was growing a little desperate. The longer he stirred on this stupid bet the more he wanted a date that would piss off Greengrass. As he wondered how to maneuverer his dateless-ness as a deliberate choice against her bet, Tracey Davis entered the room with Charlotte Montague. She’d be perfect Theo realised.

“Does Tracey have a date?” he asked the others. Each of them seemed not to know.

“Fuck it.” Theo stood up and took a quick breathe for courage. Ironically considering his life, this was the scariest thing he’d ever done. He marched up to Tracey as she started pouring herself a tea from the afternoon tea tray. “Hey Tracey.” He smiled,

In any other house Tracey Davis would have been a shiny new Emmeline Avery type that everyone would have been fighting to take to the Yule Ball. But Slytherin valued blood status, and Tracey was a mudblood in a house filled Pureblood Society families. Half-bloods were tolerable but mudbloods? Theo could feel Draco judging him with every step he had taken towards her. He hoped that none of the other boys in the other houses had already asked her.

“Hi Theo.” She smiled back, putting down the tea pot and reaching for some sugar cubes,

“Who are you two going to the Yule Ball with?” he forced the words out. If she says no then at least I tried, right?.

“Cormac…” before Charlotte could finish, Tracy had spilt some hot tea on her friend’s shoes. Charlotte yelped and reached for some napkins.

“We’re still mulling over some options. Why?” Tracy tossed back her straight blonde hair as she re-filled her cup, she gestured to pour one for Theo. He nodded.

“Well, if you’re looking, for dates that is, Goyle and I will go with you both.” He took the cup of tea from her hand and held it awkwardly as he waited for an answer.

“That’d be lovely.” Tracey sipped her tea, “wouldn’t it Charlotte?”

“Oh I was um. No, yeah that’d be lovely.” Charlotte conceded, holding a ball of dirtied napkins which she’d used to clean herself up with.

“Great.” Theo couldn’t believe how easy it was. Did she forget I’m the son of a murder? “You sure?” he checked.

“I’ve been waiting for you to ask, Millie kind of hinted at it.” Tracey stirred her tea with a spoon before handing it to Charlotte to put back, “I’ll be wearing light pink and orange and I bought a matching tie for whoever I took. I’ll give it to you tomorrow. See you then?”

“Oh cool.” Theo nodded, still dumbstruck he actually managed to secure a date.

Take that Greengrass he thought smugly as he walked back to the others.

“She’s back.” Millie waved at the opening common room door as Daphne and Pansy stepped through mid-serious conversation.

Just in time. Theo thanked his luck.

“Got a date Greengrass?” he put Daphne on the spot almost immediately after she was in earshot.

“I do.” Daphne proclaimed proudly, “You?” she poised the integration right back at him,

“Tracey Davis.” He smiled as her lips tightened upon hearing the name.

“Merlin Theo, tell me you’re kidding.” Pansy put her hands on her hips, “You can’t sit at our table if you bring her, she’s so…”

“I’ll sit on another table then.” Theo shrugged as if this didn’t bother him, but he had been looking forward to a night of partying with his friends ever since they announced the ball.

“No you won’t.” Draco acted as if his word was final but sought back up after Pansy stared him down, “right Blaise?”

“Right.” Blaise backed him up instantly, but he too seemed less sure once Pansy’s dark intense eyes caught him. “Theo has to sit on our table. It’s us.” He reasoned.

***

In the couple days following Daphne and Theo’s argument, Hogwarts itself seemed to manifest the pairs icy attitudes. As Christmas approached, Hagrid and Filch had begun decorating the castle; Long ivy garlands draped the stonework, sparkly glass baubles floated around the grand staircase, fake snow fell in the Great Hall as they ate and the smell of fresh pine from the magnificent Christmas trees which filled open courtyards radiated around the school. A thick white layer of snow blanketed everything and the house elves had begun serving up a range of warm puddings for every meal.

Despite the infectious festivities both Daphne and Theo held their silent stand-off, both angry at each other for different reasons. Theo felt bad for keeping secrets, but he had no choice. It was either be honest and potentially die or displease Greengrass and live. What seemed like a very easy decision had left him with a surprising degree of distress;

Mealtimes were now divided. Theo had the boys and Daphne had the girls. Blaise, Goyle, Crabbe and Draco created a decent barrier through which all death glares were obscured by food missiles or towers of stacked up cups which they built to knock down. Millicent and Pansy constantly flanked Daphne’s side, the three of them whispered and giggled creating games of their own.

Daphne had also started hanging out with their arch nemesis’; Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Theo knew of course that Daphne had always liked Ron, but she had steered clear of bucktooth and the ‘chosen one’ for years – trading insults towards them as casually as the rest of them. Draco became convinced it was some form of revenge, probably Pansy’s twisted idea just to spite them.

“Hey Bucktooth.” Draco had called out as they left the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom where Professor Moody had made them practice a skin peeling curse on spiders.

The dark voluminous curls on Hermione’s head were always barely contained in their hair ties. As Hermione turned to address Draco, one of the bands snapped and her tightly curled hair sprung free. Theo and the boys instantly descended into laughter at the timing. Harry had been held back by Moody again and Ron had fallen into conversation with Daphne, leaving Hermione an open target for ridicule.

“I suppose you won’t be at the dance will you, who’d ask a mudblood?” He snickered.

“Isn’t Theodore taking Tracey Davis?” Hermione shot back at Draco’s snide comment. Draco’s lips curled as he sized her up.

“You might want to invest in industrial strength hair ties honey.” Blaise kicked the broken plastic band across the floor back towards her, Hermione leant down to snatch it up and marched forward to catch up with Ron.

“Oi Weasel” Draco had decided to pursue the argument and speed up behind Hermione as she re-joined her friend. “We still hate you, you know.” He spat as Ron looked back.

“Shove off Malfoy, you’re just upset you look like a malnourished peasant boy.”

Theo watched as Daphne cupped her hand over her mouth to hide her laughter at the comment. He had to admit that he too was surprised at the tenacity of Weasley’s come backs, it must've been years fending for himself among his siblings.

“Well see about that.” Draco drew his wand, “I don’t think I got enough practice on that skin peeling curse we just went over.”

“See, this is what happens when boys don’t have Quidditch to take out their aggression on.” Pansy rolled her eyes,

“Knock it off Draco.” Daphne gave him a look that made him slowly lower his wand, a reminder it was in no-ones interest for him to miss the first task or the ball as the result of a detention.

“Well this is all your fault anyway.” He snapped at her,

Daphne furrowed her brow.

“You know what you did, and now the whole groups dynamics off. Right Theo? I mean, you're just fraternising with them to piss us off. They laugh in the face of blood purism.” Draco’s displeasure was evident.

Theo looked Daphne in the eye for the first time since their fight, saying nothing and yet reminding her of what she had said. How hurt he had been. Daphne’s eyes shot to the floor.

“Ron said he’d sit at our table.” She mumbled, “so we can all be together.”

“Oh yeah right, like we’d want that.” Draco shook his head, “so we can watch Bucktooth sit there sad and alone while a bunch of losers vie for Potter’s autograph?”

“If I go with you Draco, we’ll have enough space for all of us.” Pansy noted diplomatically,

Draco pursed his lips some more in thought, looking between the boys for a form of consensus that he would decide upon. Seeing that they all had been rather miserable apart, he said no more and strutted away.

***

Theo opened his cupboard and delicately began to ladle his caldrons contents into a few of the bottles the ingredients had come in. The Polyjuice was ready and Theo had been on edge waiting for Crouch to come back into his dorm and slaughter him for not being fast enough. He knew he was good at potions, just last week he had brewed a calming draught in nearly half the recommended time, but the stakes were higher here. He needed to get it right, or else Crouch would let him know he had failed. He had come so close to killing him the night he was abducted that the thought would easily cross Crouch's mind.

Since receiving the note, every time Theo passed someone in the corridors he tried to discern if they were Crouch Jnr. For a few weeks he and Draco had been eyeing up Seamus as a potential Crouch disguise, but his erratic behaviour was more to do with impressing Dean Thomas and the other boys than a sign he was an escapee from Azkaban trapped in the body of a stocky Irish boy. Theo was sure it had to be one of the international students, perhaps he was the Durmstrang champion Tatianna Fedrova? Or maybe famous seeker Viktor Krum? Blood purists did have an affiliation for Durmstrang. But Crouch continued to allude him, until now. Theo had a plan; he’d go and deposit the Polyjuice in the chest in the third floor corridor and wait for Crouch to come and collect it.

Theo’s wand illuminated the moving staircase as he used it to move up through the castle, the prefects were in bed allowing him to walk with confidence through the winding stone halls. The portraits made vague mumbles of disturbed sleep, except one whom recognised him and mumbled about his family being murders. Theo looked at the painting to see the name; Sebastian Selwyn in its description, the man was dressed in Elizabethan era style clothing and stood among piles of books. He glared as Theo as he walked, and Theo wondered how even he seemed to know about his father’s disgrace.

The third floor corridor was dimly lit and Theo quickly realised after he put the Polyjuice potion inside the chest that there was nowhere to hide besides right behind the statue of Salazar Slytherin. Theo contorted his body behind the stone carving, wishing his shoulders hadn’t gotten wider over the last summer. He waited for an hour before needing to step out from behind the statue and stretch his legs. Another hour passed and he felt the cold stone which pressed against his back, begin to cool down his whole body. He was freezing, having left only in his pyjamas and a large jumper. Another hour and Theo's resolve was starting to waver, How did he even know Crouch was coming? He hadn’t been able to actually signal to the Death Eater that the potion was complete, he had only been assuming that Crouch would come and check the chest each night. But he wasn’t coming, and Theo felt himself growing more tried and cold as his body started to ache from being squished in the small gap behind the statue. As he checked his watch the clock struck three in the morning, and Theo knew if he stayed out longer Snape would be awake and ready to hand out detentions. He too didn't want to miss the first task of the tournament which was set for a few weeks time.

As Theo crawled back into bed, accepting his failed plan, he noticed Draco awake and sitting up in his own bed.

“Hi Nott.” He whispered, “get any answers?”

“No.” Theo whispered back, now under his covers.

“Bugger.” Draco sighed as he lay back down.

***

Daphne needed to get her act together. All thoughts of her argument with Theo had to fade into the peripheral as the first task was due to take place just before Christmas; the task that she had now signed herself up to do in Harry’s place. Bagman and Crouch Snr had decided to postpone the first task in the wake of Harry Potters name being drawn, a controversy that had spawned its own hearing to judge how legally binding the goblet really was and how his name might have been placed inside it. Now that it was clear Harry would have to take part, Daphne needed to ready herself. She had no idea what the task might be, and no way of preparing herself for that unknown. Her magic would be at fourth year level while the challenges had been designed for those in their final years.

Daphne found herself trudging through the snow laden grounds past Hagrid’s Hut with Pansy, Millicent and the Gryffindor Trio the next morning. Ron had used their marble bracelets to summon her, and said nothing of note as he, Hermione and Harry marched out of the castle and down through the grounds. The group of them had been infrequently meeting over the past couple of days to try and ready Daphne for the task. Hermione seemed less than pleased about the arrangement, but for Harry’s sake decided she didn’t want to see his stand-in be killed in his place.

“Charlie's been writing mum you see, wrote to tell her he was coming back with a shipment.” Ron kicked a fallen pinecone along the path through the Forbidden Forrest, looking around apprehensively for those who might spot them.

“We shouldn’t be in here.” Millicent reminded them the forest was out of bounds, “Its creepy and we're missing breakfast.”

“Potter, shine some light on what your dim witted ginger friend is trying to imply.” Pansy returned to the conversation around why they had followed them out into the cold.

“Wait, Charlie? He works with Dragons…” Daphne’s voice grew meek as she realised,

“Yes, but um, its actually worse than that.” Harry folded his brow in concern as they neared the top of a small hill which looked down at a clearing.

Worse than dragons??

Before Daphne could process Harry’s words a burst of flame rose up from behind a mound of dirt which blocked the view down. Daphne ran forward to see four large iron cages each containing a creature which she did not immediately recognise. The creatures had the body of a lion covered in spikes, but from it grew two large dragon like wings and a scorpions tail. Its mane obscured what gnashing teeth it presently roared with as a dozen grown men tried to mauve the cages.

“Charlie said the shipment was from Iran, and judging by the lion type body and scorpions tail it has to be a manticore, although we’ve never gotten close enough to see its face. They have human faces.” Hermione spoke with a sense of disgust at her last description, “its barbaric.”

“And I have to fight that?” Daphne couldn’t manage anything above a whisper; scared to be caught and scared to reveal how terrified she was.

“No.” Pansy shook her head vehemently, “The minute you told me about this I said this was stupid, I said you shouldn’t do it and this is only proving my point.”

“You can’t hurt that thing Daph, you couldn’t even cast that skin peeling curse Moody set for us in class.” Millie added, her eyes wide as she watched the four maticore’s stalk about their cages. A muffling charm had been cast around them so that they could not hear their cries.

“I have too though.” Daphne felt her whole body go into a sort of shock, as if for the first time she realised just how absurd this was – just how insane she was for saying yes. I need to talk to Dumbledore, tell him I can’t do it. The deal is off.

“Let Potter die, not you.” Pansy stepped in front of her, desperate for reason.

“Thanks.” Harry mumbled off to the side, “But for the record I don’t like this plan any more than you do. I can fight my own battles.”

“Harry these are Dumbledore’s orders. He must know something we don’t, something he can’t tell us.” Hermione argued.

“That’s bullshit, he just wants to protect his precious little Potter.” Pansy started dragging her away from the Manticore’s and out of the forest, “you have to go talk with him, tell Snape to come with you if you like. You didn’t make an unbreakable vow Daph, you can still get out of this.”

Daphne considered this, she didn’t exactly have to compete. She had promised, shook the headmasters hand on it – but promises could be broken. Pansy’s right, she had to get out of this

As Daphne, Pansy and Millie walked down to Snape’s office to request a meeting with their headmaster, he emerged from the potions classroom;

“Miss Greengrass.” He raised an eyebrow at the timing, “I was just about to send for you. You’re sisters been in the infirmary all day and I need you to make sure she still completes all her potions work. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that she’s so ill right before a paper for my class is due.” He noted sceptically.

The moment she saw Astoria clutching her head in the hospital bed, it was a jarring reminder of exactly why she had agreed to take place in the tournament. But Dumbledore needed to prove himself to her, she needed to be sure that if she was risking her life that it was going to help. Pansy and Millie had a point.

“I’ll see Dumbledore alone.” Daphne assured them both as they left her with her sister, “I’ll talk to him first thing.”

Astoria writhed in pain, she cried that her head felt like it was being crushed, like all the blood was static inside it. Pomfrey had been putting her in and out of consciousness all day, using sleeping draughts and pain numbing potions. The healer had guessed that this was some lingering symptom of the Wizards Sweat which Astoria had just recovered from. Research of post-sweat symptoms was rare and varied.

“Make it go away.” Astoria had pleaded in her half asleep state. Daphne sat beside her, gripping her hand.

“I will.” She promised, “I swear that I will. I made you a promise and I'm going to keep it.”

***

Dumbledore greeted her as if he had been expecting her. Daphne had neglected to bring her head of house as Pansy suggested, instead she walked in alone and ready for a different kind of conversation.

“Headmaster, Astoria’s in the infirmary. She’s got a headache that’s far more serious than most, and I need something to give her. Promfrey’s trying but she’s working with half-truths and not enough information to help her. She’ll get suspicious and nobody can know.”

Dumbledore nodded, glancing down at some of his papers as he listened to her speak.

“You want me to prove that I can aid you.” Dumbledore deciphered her immediately, and Daphne felt slightly embarrassed he had called her bluff so quickly.

“Please, I don’t mean to be demanding or difficult but I’ve realised how dangerous what I’m doing is and I have to be sure.”

“So what is it you want?” he poised,

“I don’t want a memory.” She looked over at the pensive, “not yet anyway. I need a temporary fix for Astoria’s headache.”

Dumbledore looked up from his papers for the first time, as if now he was truly engaged in the conversation; “What makes you think I can conjure such a cure?”

“You’re the greatest wizard of all time.” Daphne wasn’t above flattery, or at least seeing if it might work. But It had little effect. “And for some reason you don’t want Harry in the tournament and I’m the one you need in his place to keep him safe.” She tried a slyer more calculated approach.

“Dragons blood.” He said slowly, “It was the subject of my first published works. I spent nearly all my senior years here at Hogwarts experimenting with its properties, and I once tried to see if it might be cure for certain ailments.” Dumbledore walked over to his pensive and used wandless magic to summon one of the memory phials into his hands, “Your grandfather asked me if perhaps blood might be the cure for what he knew to be his own blood malediction. After many trials, we found something which elongated the distance between attacks.”

Daphne encroached closer to the memory phial, tempted to reach out and take it from his hand; “Will you show me?”

“I will make a draft for you, have it sent to young Miss Greengrass in the infirmary. Should you then see her improve, I trust that you will wait the appropriate time for when I will share this memory with you. I must warn you that if I showed you now it would be of no use, as you would not be able to complete the brew.”

“Alright, yes ok.” Daphne nodded, sensing she had made progress – that she had achieved what she had come to his office to do.

“Meanwhile, you will ready yourself for the upcoming task.” Dumbledore enclosed the bottle of glowing memory strands back in his fist and sent it back into the locked pensive cupboard, "As it is only a week away now."

“I was also wondering, how it is that I might get about using my own wand during the tasks?” Daphne reached into her pocket and pulled out her recognisable elegantly carved wand, “If I use Harry’s, It won’t trust me.”

“Leave that to me Miss Greengrass, but rest assured that you will be able to use your own wand when competing as Harry. But i hope you've brushed up on your spell work.”

The Headmaster went back behind his desk and resumed glancing at his papers, signalling to Daphne that she had asked enough questions for the day. As she walked back out of the room, she felt resolved in her choice to compete. Dumbledore would help cure Astoria, ease her aches and attacks so that she may go about her school life as normal. Though Daphne wondered how she’d ever convince the others that she was truly brave enough to want to enter in Harry’s place. She knew they’d think she was mad but she could never tell them why. She would sooner die than reveal her families secret.

Chapter Text

“You have to tell the others.” Millie whispered, afraid to be caught talking during Snape’s potions class.

Professor Snape took the class through the brewing process of the Wiggenweld Potion. The professor spoke of the concoctions extensive healing properties, drawing from the salamanders blood to boost the drinkers own blood cells. As Charlotte Montague leant over to get a closer look her elbow pushed a small bottle of unicorn horn powder closer to the edge of the table, Snape immediately scalded her for potentially wasting such expensive ingredients. As he yelled, Daphne mulled over how she would go about telling the boys.

She stared at the cursive writing on her parchment, wondering if maybe she had to be the one to ask for forgiveness first. She had regretted the words later, regretted being so harsh and brash and bad tempered. She wasn’t used to not getting what she wanted from Theo. One of the many perks of being the child of a powerful wizarding family was that she never had to forgo the material things; her clothes were well-tailored, her books were new, her allowance enough to buy out Honeydukes each Hogsmeade weekend. Since she was a baby her room had been filled with magical plants and games and trinkets, even her pet kneezle-fox hybrid; Ellery was more expensive than the sum total of some of the other students entire possessions. But people, people didn’t always give you want you wanted. Theo didn’t disclose his secrets, Pansy didn’t always tell her what she was up too, Cedric didn’t like her back, her mother didn’t ever let her standards slip, her father was barely ever around, Astoria never admitted to needing help and Dumbledore didn’t tell her why exactly he had chosen her to compete for Harry.

“Do it tonight.” Pansy instructed as she aimlessly traced the outline of their textbook, watching as Snape lectured them on each of the ingredients care instructions.

“I will.” Daphne relented,

“We need to work out what you’re doing about that maticore.” Millie bit her lip, “I wish Hagrid had gone over them with us already. Maybe Ron can ask him? Maybe professor Moody knows?”

Daphne listened as she watched Theo ignore Snape’s ramblings and flick through a book instead. Tracey Davis was sitting behind him, watching him as he read. Out of everyone he had to pick her .

After class, Daphne walked with Pansy and Millie through the school. A group of second years were throwing around a fizzy firework, squealing and making noise. As Daphne looked over at them she saw Astoria grab hold of the ball of light and lob it back over at Jenny Fawcett. The ball popped in her hand, singeing her eyebrows and baby hairs. Daphne slowed down to watch Astoria, perfectly healthy and in fits of laughter. Her dark hair up in a ponytail, her blue eyes twinkling with mischievousness and her skin rosy. It must have been Dumbledore’s potion, the dragons blood. He could actually heal her. He had done as he promised.

“We should buy some more fizzers when we go back to Hogsmeade.” Millie smiled at Daphne as she ushered her on, “now come on, you said you’d tell them.”

Daphne begrudgingly followed the girls down the hallway, they neared closer and closer to the common room. As they entered, they ducked around Adrian Pucey and Miles Bletchley who were in an intense argument over who would win the Triwizard Tournament;

“No way its Fedrova, she’s too stocky, too heavy on her feet. As for Fleur, well she can’t flirt her way out of a duel can she?” Adrian shook his head, “It’ll be Ced. Has to be, he’s our true champion.”

“Fleur’s the brightest witch at Beauxbatons, I watched her turn Cormac’s tie into a snake with the smallest flick of her wand after he made a comment about her ass.” Miles marvelled, “She’ll win.”

“Good to see no one has faith in Harry.” Daphne whispered to the girls, “makes my job a little easier.”

“Look.” Draco rushed up to them, “I changed the badges so that they’ll blow a smelly gas at Harry if he passes us while wearing them. We’re going to go find him and test it out.” He showed the enamel pinned to his cloak.

“Daphne needs to talk to you all.” Millie stopped him, looking at Daphne for assurance.

Daphne watched as Theo closed his book, stood up and walked back to the boys dorms. He was never going to concede. “On Bowtruckle island.” Daphne blurted. He’d have to come if she asked them there, he wouldn’t want to miss out. Then he’d find out without her having to apologise. “We can walk there now the ice is frozen over.”

“Daph that’s pointless, I mean an island you can walk to is no fun at all.” Blaise crossed his legs, reclining on the lounge.

“You’ll want to hear it Zabini. Trust me.” Pansy raised her brow, knowing he was a sucker for gossip. “plus, I’m not giving you the choice.”

The air was frigid as Daphne paced back and forth on the frozen ground of Bowtruckle Island. They had skated over, making sure to cast a freezing spell on the final section of lake which had not been fully solid. She saw Draco’s platinum white blonde hair get closer and Theo’s tall frame get even taller as he reached the island. Blaise was dressed in three layers of coats as he too joined the party. Pansy had started a small kindling-less flame which gave off some heat, the group slowly surrounded it.

“Ok Greengrass, you have two minutes before Blaise’s fingers fall off.” Theo grumbled.

Daphne’s cheeks burned as she resisted the urge to snipe back. She hadn’t really prepared herself for him giving her attitude, until now it had been silence.

“Go on.” Millie smiled at her.

“Dumbledore’s asked me a favour.” She started, trying to remember the small speech she had rehearsed in her head. “He needs me to compete in the Triwizard Tournament.”

Their heads shot up from their individual inspection of the flame.

“This is a joke right?” Draco asked. The silence answered his question as he looked over at Pansy, who simply nodded. Then over at Millie who also nodded a confirmation.

“Oh fuck.” Blaise shifted on his feet, “wait why?”

“yeah why?” Draco echoed,

“Harry’s in danger. I don’t know why or how exactly but Dumbledore thinks the goblet was rigged to put Harry at risk and for some reason he needs Harry out of harms way.”

“Wait this is for Potter?” Draco was seething now, he shook his head furiously, “Why are you doing this? Why’s his safety more important than yours huh? Why does he always need protecting, why’s he so valuable?”

“I don’t know.” Daphne admitted, “Dumbledore mentioned it’d be safer for me to compete anyway.”

“Why the hell would you compete though Daph?” Blaise was still puzzled, “I mean why’d you say yes?”

“He promised me he’d take care of me and that he’d mentor me. He’s the greatest warlock of all time, with his tutelage I’d get any job I wanted, know anything I want to know. I’d become a great witch, a witch worthy of the Greengrass heirdom.”

They were silent.

“The first task is something to do with a Manticore.” Daphne muttered, “I think I’ll need to fight it.”

“Merlin.” Draco sighed, turning to look back over the lake.

But Daphne kept her eyes on Theo. He hadn’t said a word, his face gave away nothing. Wasn’t he concerned for her? Wasn’t he going to ask questions too? She wanted to ask him, force a response. But where would that go? She’d lose her temper again and he’d hate her even more.

“We have to go.” Theo finally said. “Dinner.”

“This discussion isn’t over.” Draco commanded them all.

***

Theo buried his head in his hands, curled up in the dorms bathroom he sobbed and sobbed. He missed dinner, too red eyed and distraught to attend.

He was going to kill Daphne. His actions with Crouch Jnr had put Harry at threat and now she’d have to pay. Why’d she say yes? Now he’d have to aid in her murder, or die himself revealing the very threat she was protecting Harry from.

Crouch Jnr’s plan had become clear to him the moment Daphne confirmed that Dumbledore feared for Harry’s safety. Voldemort was trying to murder Potter again, just as he had failed to do in the chamber. Crouch was in disguise, no doubt biding his time until he could throw a task or strike an injured Potter. Daphne hadn’t revealed the details of the plan, but either way she’d be the one Crouch would target. Potters murder had to involve the tournament somehow.

The urgency to discern who Crouch was had increased threefold, and the moment Theo could compose himself he rushed to the third floor corridor to check the chest. He lifted the lid to see the potion was gone, and nobody was in sight. Damn! He slammed the lid shut in frustration. How did one uncover the true identity of a person in complete disguise?

***

Hermione was ruthless in her pursuit of answers. Daphne had known this from years of going toe to toe each exam season, and often coming off second best. Hermione had summoned them all to a corner in the library where she had pulled every book which referenced a manticore and laid them spread out over the table.

“Harry will read through these ones, I’ll do these ones, Ron will do those, Pansy those, Millicent the ones in Latin since she knows how to read them and Daphne you’re looking through these ones from the restricted section.”

“Godric Hermione, this is a lifetimes worth of reading.” Ron huffed as he threw open one of the books titled; Green Mythological Creatures by Heldon Hiccup .

“This is an afternoons worth for her though.” Daphne heard Harry joke to Ron.

“Well I’m giving half of mine to Draco.” Pansy started to divide up her section.

“Draco?” Hermione grimaced,

“You told Malfoy?” Harry too crinkled his nose.

“Someone call?” Draco sauntered around the corner with Blaise, and upon seeing Potter and Granger he stood still looking rather unimpressed. “What are you doing here?” he asked accusatorially.

“Helping Daphne.” Harry defended himself, “you?”

“You think I just come here for a bit of fun? No of course not. It’s us whose helping Daph. You lot can shove off, we don’t need inferior mudblood assistance” he glared at Hermione.

“Don’t call her that Malfoy.” Ron’s voice lowered,

“It’s you lot that have put her in this position, precious Potter needs us purebloods to step up and protect him.”

Harrys face burned red, he stood up from his seat. Hermione reached out to hold him back, although she looked as if she wished to strike Draco across the face as well. Daphne opened her book, ignoring the tensions to focus on the task at hand. Blaise too said nothing as he took a seat.

“Obey the mudblood Potter.” Draco walked over to sit beside Millie, furthest away from them as he could get “Now. Maticore’s huh?” his tone was less smug now and more serious as he looked at Daphne, head down in her book.

“Bucktooth’s…” Daphne realised her slip of tongue and stopped herself a little too late. She watched Hermione’s face stiffen. “sorry, um, Hermione’s gone and pulled all the resources she can find. We have to go through them. We suspect I’ll have to fight it somehow, potentially kill it.”

“You can’t kill it. I mean only like a hundred wizards have been recorded to actually encounter a manticore and only four survived an attack.” Draco flicked open his first book as Daphne met his eyes with a look of surprise and scepticism. “What? I’ve been looking into all the most highly classified beasts after that foul hippogriff attacked me.” He explained, “Hagrid’s a rubbish teacher and my parents don’t expect my marks to suffer for it.”

“Manticore skin repels almost all known charms and its sting causes instant death.” Hermione cut him off and read aloud, “So that means no defensive charms are going to work.”

“How can you defend yourself against something that repels spells?” Ron asked the obvious.

“Maybe if we work out how it repels the spell we can work around it?” Millie proposed,

“Perhaps instead of charms you have to transfigure it into something else?” Pansy dog eared a page in the book she was reading, “let me find some stuff on more advanced transfiguration.”

Daphne let the weight of the task sit on her for a moment. What the fuck was she doing?

***

It was the day before the task and all the champions had been pulled from lessons besides Daphne. She was beginning to realise that one of the key disadvantages of being the hidden champion was that she received none of the glory, admiration or special treatment the others received. As she sat in her Transfiguration lesson with McGonagall, Daphne tried to discern if their work on switching spells could be of any use in the task. Transfiguration was one of her weaker subjects, but they had been working on cross species switching for some time.

“Is it possible to simply cross switch one feature of an animal to another?” Daphne asked the professor.

“Yes, although quite often this effect is brought on by accident and not intentional. Last year one of my O.W.L students transfigured a rabbits foot into a rats tail opposed to transfiguring the entire rabbit into a rat.” She explained, her Scottish accent slightly thicker as she finished the sentence.

Daphne scribbled down the idea as Professor Snape entered the back of the classroom;

“I need Miss Greengrass.” He instructed McGonagall, who nodded a sharp approval before aiding Goyle with his woeful wand work.

Daphne gathered her things and hurried to catch Snape, who had already started walking towards the main castle buildings. He said nothing as they pulled out a confused Miles Bletchley from his Arithmancy class and handed him his camera. The three of them continued in confused silence all the way to another classroom, where Snape used his wand to unlock the door and usher them in;

Dumbledore and Ludo Bagman stood at the front of the classroom exchanging pleasant conversation as Daily Prophet reporter; Rita Skeeter loomed in the corner with her quill at the ready - dressed in bright lime green and fuchsia robes. Madame Maxime, Headmistress of Beauxbatons was towering over Fleur and whispering some fierce words of encouragement to the blonde who held her head high as she watched Daphne enter. Headmaster Karkaroff from Durmstrang sat back in his seat beside a straight backed Tatiana Fedrova, both frowned about the room as if they didn’t wish to kept be waiting. Cedric however, casually leant against a table drumming his hand against it as he talked with Harry. The pair throwing a judgemental glance the way of the journalist in bejewelled spectacles.

“Ah Severus.” Dumbledore smiled as they entered, “Come on in, the briefings just about to begin.”

“Vhat are zey doing here?” Karkaroff jabbed his finger at Daphne and Miles. Daphne felt her stomach knot. The headmasters face was stern, a look that suggested he would throw curses about with ease.

“This is Miles, he’s our photographer for Miss Skeeter.” Snape explained in his low voice “And Miss Greengrass is here as our Hogwarts Student Representative.”

What Hogwarts Student Representative? But Daphne didn’t dwell on the excuse, instead she followed Miles over toward the corner beside Skeeter. Cedric and Harry both smiled as she went.

“Good to see you Miss Greengrass.” Ludo held out his plump hand to shake hers as she walked by, “Say hello to your father for me. Haven’t seen him since that cracker of a cup we had” Daphne smiled politely and refrained from mentioning the two murders which had taken place the very same night as that ‘cracking cup’.

“Now Champions.” Dumbledore called their attention, “This first task requires the highest level of duelling, problem solving and critical thinking skills. It will test both your physical prowess and quick thinking. Mr Bagman here will run you through the rules of the task before Rita will take a few pictures and a small quote for the paper.”

“All spells beside the forbidden Dark Arts are allowed. You must not bring anything besides your wand into the arena, and should you wish to finish the task early you need to send up red sparks from your wand. Anyone who fails to complete the task will obviously not be allowed to advance into the second task, and that’d be a real shame.”

Daphne had expected all these rules before but listened intently as Dumbledore started to run through the schedule of the day,

“Hogwarts Student Representative is it?” a sickly sweet voice sounded from behind her. Daphne turned to see Rita leaning in towards her, “you’re George Greengrass’s daughter are you not?”

“Yes.” Daphne answered, trying to listen to what came after the preliminary champions health checks.

“You’re quite the illusive thing you lot. Just the other day your father denied me an interview regarding that poor Mr Boade. He worked for your father in nearly the highest capacity.”

Daphne felt Rita’s eyes studying her for a reaction, but she refused to look back. Dumbledore finished speaking and both him and Bagman called the other Headmasters into a more private conversation. Rita jumped into action, pushing past Daphne and rounding up the champions for a group photograph. Her articles published on each of the champions had already gone to print, and Daphne had to admit that she read them all with the rest of the school the moment they landed in the Great Hall. Fleur was a “French beauty who would lull spectators into a sense of raw fascination as she cast delicate magic” while Tatiana was the “Rough edged girl who had a penchant for the dark side of magical study” . The Hogwarts champions were similarly pitted against each other, Harry the “poor tragic stricken young boy desperate to prove himself worthy of surviving the killing curse which claimed his parents” and Cedric the “Rather handsome and well beloved ladies’ man with a quiet disposition.. Daphne had giggled at the casting of Cedric as a ‘ladies’ man’ as she read, she wondered what lies Rita would have made up about her had she actually been chosen as a champion.

“If I knew the tournament would involve so much press I don’t think I would have entered my name.” Cedric walked up to Daphne after having his photo taken. “At least she doesn’t write about me like she writes about Harry. My mother’s death doesn’t seem to be as interesting.”

“She’d be proud of you.” Daphne made the bold claim, “I am. Its very daunting.”

“It is actually.” Cedric smiled, “So um, I’m sorry we haven’t been able to talk as much lately. I’ve just had my mind on this and not much else. Besides Gwen and the guys in my dorm I barely really talk to anyone lately. Well, I see Madame Pince all the time in the library but I’m not sure that counts.”

“It’s alright, a lots changed, after the cup I mean.”

“About that.” Cedric fiddled with his wand, “I wanted to say that…”

Daphne suddenly realised that Cedric would be facing the manticore too. That he might not know about it either. She had been so focused on him as a person and not a fellow champion that she’d never bothered to let him know. A surge of guilt pulsed through her.

“It’s a manticore.” She whispered, looking around to see if the other champions might hear. “the task involves a manticore.”

Cedric furrowed his brows, taking in the information and then opening his mouth to inquire.

“How do you two know each other then?” Rita butted in. Her quill copying down her question.

“We live in the same village.” Daphne answered, trying to act normal and watching as the quill dictated her words too.

“So you’ve known each other since you were babies?”

“Sort of, but not really.” Cedric explained, still staring at Daphne and considering the revelation just presented to him.

“How delightful. I suppose that’s why you’re actually here Miss Greengrass, Daphne was it? I’d never heard of student representative in Hogwarts before.” Rita smiled haughtily. Daphne started to panic, her cheeks flushing red. “Miles. Picture.” Skeeter barked.

A flash went off as Miles aimed the camera at Cedric and Daphne.

When the morning of the task arrived, the Daily Prophet landed on all the tables in the Great Hall. Inside the first pages was a small article titled;

Young Love; Greengrass heir besotted with Hogwarts Champion as he faces first dangerous Triwizard Trial.

If Daphne had not been so sick with fear she might have worried about the pathetic picture it seemed to paint of her. But she wasn’t in the hall eating breakfast, and neither where her friends.

***

She’d hardly slept or eaten. Daphne had accepted that they’d found no real solution to help her during her task. She didn’t know where Harry had been whisked off too after the champions briefing but he had missed last night’s task preparation in the library which had exacted no more answers than before; Draco had spent the entire night at odds with Hermione over the merits of transfiguring the manticore. She didn’t know how her wand would be concealed or how she’d sneak into the champions tent - so Daphne paced the floor of her dorm all morning, and then once Pansy has coaxed her out she paced the patch of grass behind the huge temporary wooden arena that the school had built for the first task.

“I can’t do this.” She muttered under her breath. “But I have to do this.”

“Let me get Astoria.” Millie argued, “she’ll cheer you up.”

Daphne had explicitly told them all not to tell Astoria what she was doing. She’d never approve her taking on this risk to help her. Astoria liked to fight her own battles, she’d never concede that she might need help. But when Millie suggested it, Daphne nodded. She needed her sister like her sister needed her.

“Where’s Theo?” Pansy asked Draco as he kept lookout for Dumbledore. “He’s been no help. I mean you’d think he’d put this silly thing behind him to fucking help her.”

Pansy had taken on all of Daphne’s anger towards Theo as they has prepared her for the task. Not once had he arrived for the study session in which they poured through all the books on manticores Hermione had pulled and all the information available on past tournaments and spell work. He had stayed away, moody and sunken eyed as usual - the pair were more at odds than ever.

“Miss Greengrass.” A low voice called out from the pillars of the wooden arena. Snape emerged from the shadows and ushered for her to come over, Pansy on her tails. “Miss Parkinson you must leave her here. There’s an entrance to the tent over this way” he gestured as he pulled out a bottle “You’ll drink this now, before you enter.”

“Can I have a minute?” Daphne asked, “My sister. I haven’t told her anything and she won’t know but I just want to say hello before the task. So she doesn’t look for me in the crowd.”

Snape shoved the potion in her hands and nodded curtly as he heard Draco call out a hello. He walked back through the canvas flap into what she guessed was an entrance to the champions tent.

Astoria looked up at the arena as she joined them; “I’m so excited, I hope Ced will be alright.” She smiled. “Jenny, Luna and I bought these hats.” But Daphne walked over and gave her a hug before she could show them off. Astoria wrapped her arms around her sister, rubbing her back and feeling her heart beating quickly. She sensed something was wrong, and she knew what it was. “You’re scared for Ced too.” She acknowledged, “but he’ll be fine, he’s smarter than he thinks.”

Daphne pretended the words were for her. She let Astoria go and grinned, “you’re right.”

“Now let’s go in, get the good seats.” Astoria walked back towards the arena’s entrance,

“We’ll catch up. We’re waiting for Blaise.” Pansy lied. Astoria waited for Daphne’s signal before she left with a wave and a excited squeal.

The moment she was out of sight Daphne downed the Polyjuice potion. Just as it had been when she drunk it at St Mungo’s, her skin rippled and changed shade, her legs had growing pains and all her hair follicles tingled. She felt her body morph, and instead of her beautiful cousin she felt herself become a knobby kneed teenage boy. The feeling was wildly uncomfortable, and Pansy, Millie and Draco all gawked as she turned around. Daphne shrugged off the large winter coat which had been concealing her champions uniform and stuffed her wand in her pocket.

“This is horrifying. My best friend looking like one of my sworn enemies.” Pansy lowered her hand from her face, “Good luck.” She hugged her.

“Remember, it’s the spikes that repel the charms so the tail should be fine. Forget Hermione, she’s wrong.” Draco bestowed some partying wisdom as he gave her an awkward hug.

“We’ll be in the crowd cheering for you.” Millie called out as they left, “Well not for you exactly and not for Harry but…”

Daphne gave a small resigned laugh before marching through the tent flap Snape and gone through. She entered a hallway where Ludo Bagman almost bowled her over;

“This way Potter, come on now son.” Ludo dragged her through to the next tent section where the other champions stood with their housemasters.

The champions tent was silent as the order was drawn; Fleur, Cedric, Harry then Tatiana. The task was simple, retrieve a small golden box from inside the arena. Daphne watched as Fleur rolled back her shoulders, fixed her hair and shiny blue uniform before following Bagman out of the tent and towards the roars of the crowd which had gathered. A loud voice called out her name and then, silence. Daphne felt her legs turn weak, she sat herself down on one of the seats as Dumbledore took her wand from her hand. As she waited for the headmaster to enact his plan she didn’t say anything to Cedric, too preoccupied by the thought of imminent death and being discovered. Suddenly Snape entered the tent and called for him. Cedric took one sharp breathe before slowly walking out of the tent and towards the wild Hogwarts crowd. Daphne hoped he come out of it unscathed.

“I am veeling ill.” Tatiana had also taken a seat on the small lounges, she had her wand gripped tightly in one hand and a cup of something Karkaroff had given her in the other. She sipped it slowly.

“Harry Potter.” Snape’s voice called from the front of the tent. Daphne sat up, her stomach dropped and her heart raced faster than it should as she forced herself up onto her feet. As she walked towards the tent exit, Dumbledore stood waiting, holding a wand which looked unlike her own. Daphne took it unsure before feeling the familiar pulse of magic and recognised it as her own.

The light was blinding, the noise filling her eardrums and the scent of blood was light on her nostrils. She stood stunned for a moment, poised at the entrance to the arena which was modelled like a large rock quarry. It was as if she had been placed in a gladiators den, stone structures offered slight coverage but the crowds had full view of her and the huge beast which now caught her eye. The manticore sat panting atop one of the boulders, its head down and shrouded by thick matted fur. Daphne scanned the area for the golden chest, she slowly walked around the perimeter away from the creature. She didn’t wish to disturb it, stealth was her first tactic. As she moved, she saw the long black spikes which protruded from the manticores fur and the creatures heavy breathing. To her horror she spotted the small shiny golden chest right by its stomach. She’d have to lure it away and climb up that huge levelled rock pillar

“Bombarda” Daphne pointed her wand at a patch of rock on the other side of the arena, the spell hit the rock and caused it to explode. The manticore raised its head and leapt down towards the source of the noise.

Daphne hurried over the uneven rubble towards the box. She wanted the challenge to be over, to grab it and run. As she made her way towards the boulder a loud growl sounded from her right. The manticore had returned, and now it began to slowly stalk her, walking around her to sense her threat level. its face shrouded by fur. Daphne didn’t hesitate, scared it would pounce and use its scorpions tail to strike a lethal blow she sucked in a deep breath and prayed her plan would work;

“cauda leonem” she pointed her wand at the raised scorpions tail as the manticore encroached on her. Suddenly the tail writhed back and forth, causing the manticore to turn back and watch as it morphed into a lions tail. Daphne smiled at her successful casting, now having eliminated the imminent threat of death. But the creature was now more angered and began to run towards her. “Glacius” she shouted, directing the spell at the creatures feet and forcing them to become bound in ice. But the manticore kept running, although now slowed as it slid around.

Daphne turned and jumped up to try and climb up towards the golden chest, scrambling against the rock she looked back to see the creature had now reached the bottom. It tried to jump but its frozen paws were unable to grip the rock. She pointed her wand back at it and cast a trip jinx, but it rebounded off the creatures spiked body and knocked her off her own feet. Daphne hit the ground just above where the manticore was pawing, and quickly tried to regain ground. The freezing spell would now be wearing off, she heard the ice shatter as she rolled on top of the boulder and grabbed the box.

Daphne looked for the exit. A flag was being waived by an entrance on the opposite side of the arena to the one she had entered in from. Daphne tucked the chest under her arm and started to jump down as the manticores paw slammed into her side and threw her off the large rock. Daphne felt her shoulder pop as she hit the ground hard, both her hands had been occupied with her wand and the chest so her shoulder had taken the brunt of the large fall. The pain surged through her body, snatching away her ability to breathe for a moment.

She heard the crowd scream as the manticore leapt off the rock and at her feet. Daphne rolled on her back and scuffled away terrified. Now for the first time was able to see the creatures face, and the moment she recognised it, she paused. It was her face, Astoria’s face. But it wasn’t her, she had huge teeth and a sinister growl. But it looked like her sister, it looked like…. The creature rose up on its hind legs. Daphne just watched as it readied to strike, stunned by seeing her sisters face and reluctant to hit it with a deadly spell.

It looks like her, but its not her, but how is her face? It’s not her. It can’t be. I’ve got to hit it with something, it’s going to strike. But if the face can repel jinxes it’ll hit me. It can’t be something too powerful in case it hits me, it can’t be something too weak or it’ll rip my stomach open anyway. Daphne's moment of confusion had allowed the beast to exact its large talons which quickly swiped and tore through the back of her shirt as she rolled out of the way.

Daphne tried to think; “Fumos” she commanded.

Smoke poured from her wand right as at the creature lunged down at her again. Daphne rolled away once more over her injured arm, the smoke continuing to spill out and starting to mask her location as she reached out to try and find the chest. Grabbing the box Daphne heard the creature roar and began to beat its wings to clear the smoke and find her. She knew she couldn't face hitting her own sisters likeness with a curse, so she ran, carelessly jumping down over rocks and tumbling towards exit. No matter what happened, she would not stop running. The manticores roar grew closer, the man beside the exit yelled for her to move faster. Daphne turned to see her sister face as the creature lunged, she jumped desperate to reach safety. Daphne landed just before the creature could tear off her leg, she cradled the golden chest; heart in her mouth and sweat down her brow.

I did it. I fucking did it! Daphne watched as the man sealed off the exit from the manticore, who clawed desperate to still try and get to her.

Chapter Text

Theo hadn’t built up the courage to speak with Daphne since she had told him about the Triwizard Tournament. He knew he’d no doubt be playing some role that would hurt her, and the guilt was almost unbearable. He cared about Daphne no matter what’s she thought of him and the idea that he’d potentially be helping a Death Eater try and fatally wound her as she pretended to be Harry? It haunted him each night.

Draco and Millie had invited him to all the task preparation sessions Hermione had set up before the first task. But he never went. He didn’t know why he couldn’t get himself to just join them, force himself to confront her and talk about everything – he was a coward. So instead he’d send Blaise with notes he’d created and Blaise would play them off as his own. Theo had tried to brew Daphne some deviation of the Wiggenweld potion they had been making in class which he thought might help her, but then when the day of the task arrived he received another note from Crouch that kept him from attending;

Meet here 12pm. Bring society pin.

A map of Hogwarts was attached to the note, with a small marking for a space in the Forbidden Forest. Theo noted that the time of the meeting would perfectly coincide with the first task, but he had to know who Crouch Jnr was and this was his chance.

Theo made his way quickly across the grounds and into the forest, using the map for guidance. The trees were capped in snow and the ground filled with sludge that left footprint marks as he went. The silence was eerie, although occasional cheers from the arena would echo over. Theo tried to discern where the map marking might be indicating, before settling on a small clearing by a pond. This had to be the location. His stomach twisted, and he wrung his hands together to distract himself as he waited for anything.

“Do you Theodore Leviathan Nott promise to uphold the sacred traditions and values of the society, no matter the cost?.” A croaky and cold voice called from behind him.

Theo swung around, drawing his wand and pointing it at the man who stood before him as if he had apparated out of thin air. It took him a moment to recognise him. Rabastan Lestrange stood in a dishevelled purple suit, scuffed leather boots and his long greasy black hair obscured his face. He was a member of the council which had interrogated Theo after the chamber incident, a man who had been particularly vocal about supporting Theo’s father. Rabastan had been tried as a Death Eater in the wizengamot after the fall of Voldemort, but was acquitted. His brother and his sister-in-law had not been so lucky. Now he lived in France most of the time, avoiding people who knew of his past.

“I do.” Theo answered the vow, the same vow he had made upon entering the society. He held up his society pin for proof.

Rabastan nodded and walked directly into the pond beside them; “Heard from Crouch?” he asked in an accent that melded both English and French.

“A note, I brewed him Polyjuice.” Theo answered,

Lestrange stuck his arm down into the freezing murky water and fished around for something. He was a short man, a man who without the old clothes, greasy hair and dirty fingers might have looked gentlemanly.

“Leviathan said he had taught you well, that potions 'ere your thing.”

Theo nodded in reply as Lestrange pulled out a goblet from the water and walked back over to place it on the ground between them. He cast a silent spell over the goblet before grabbing Theo’s hand and gripping the object. Theo instantly felt a strong sense of vertigo as the world sucked in around him, pulling him through the atmosphere until he finally touched down on cobblestones instead of the sludge of the forest. He had travelled by port-key, although he did not know where. It seemed a small village of no significance, but then he saw the local pub and recognised they had arrived at Godric’s Hollow just near his Ministry Youth Home. It was quiet for the middle of the day.

Theo followed as Lestrange walked down the salted cobblestones towards one of the houses. He prepared himself to meet Voldemort again, presuming that this was the reason he had been brought to the village. Rabastan unlocked the door with his wand and shoved Theo inside the house. Light streamed through the open windows, illuminating the tidy family home which they had entered. Theo looked around as Rabastan cast the sound muffling spell. This is just the kind of house I’d like to live in one day. Theo thought as he looked at the kettle on the stove and the pictures which moved on the wall; the family on holiday or by the Christmas tree. He wondered what they were doing in such a nice place as Lestrange cocked his head up the stairs, signalling for Theo to follow.

Theo didn’t realise what was happening until it had happened. Lestrange had drawn his wand as he forcefully kicked down the home’s bedroom door. Inside, a man was still in bed reading the morning paper. He startled, reaching over to grab his wand which sat by his bedside. But Lestrange was quick, and with one sharp movement the man’s arm sliced clean off his body. The man screamed in pain as Theo stood paralysed in shock, watching as the man bled profusely. Lestrange descended on him without sympathy;

“You work for Bagman yes?” he asked as he pinned the man down by his neck. The man nodded, trying to speak but crying from the pain of having his arm severed. The blood gushed out over the clean linen sheets and then down onto the carpet. “When do they move the cup?” Lestrange asked forcefully,

“I don’t know what you..” the man choked out.

But Lestrange cut him off; “Crucio.” He cast the torture curse upon the man who then began to scream and struggle.

Theo blocked his ears as the man cried out for help, as he begged for relief. He’d never seen the cruciatus curse be used on a human, Professor Moody had showed them in one of the classes but demonstrated it on a small insect instead. Even seeing that had been terrible, Crabbe had almost fainted. Theo could never have prepared himself for the sight, for the bone chilling sound of the screams or the feeling of intense burning magic that permeated the air.

Lestrange asked him again; “When does Bagman move the cup?”

The man started to whisper something that Theo couldn’t hear from his place outside the bedroom door. Where was this man's family? Did the neighbours hear these screams? Was Lestrange going to kill him? Was he going to have to hurt him? Lestrange cast the curse again, and the man’s voice grew even fainter and weak as he tried to answer the next question,

“Crouch, by himself. Bones instruction.” Theo heard the man mutter, almost breathless from the pain which enraptured him.

Lestrange released his grip and stepped back from the blood soaked bed; “Obliviate.” He cast the spell at the man, who laid on his back on the brink of death and slipping out of consciousness.

Rabastan said nothing, he simply walked past Theo down and out of the house. It was brazen and violent and ruthless. Theo realised that he had just found himself the accomplice in a murder. He ran after Lestrange, out onto the street as they walked away from the village.

“Who was that?” Theo managed to ask, looking around to see if they had been noticed.

“The Dark Lord thought you needed to see what your father enacted. The extent that we will go.” Lestrange was eerily calm as they walked out of the village and into farmland.

“Wont the ministry come looking? They’ll catch us.” Theo worried.

“Leave that to the others, you and I just do the ground work for now.” He marched through the snowy field but his boots left no tracks. Theo suddenly realised his footprints would be the only traceable ones, and yet underage magic laws prohibited him from using his wand to cover them up.

“See that blue fence paling?” Rabastan pointed, “It’s another portkey, only going to take you back to Hogsmeade, you’ll walk from there.”

“I don’t understand.” Theo tried to grasp what had happened.

“Touch the fence and you’ll go back to Hogsmeade, ‘onestly your father said you were intelligent.” Lestrange turned and walked across the field away from the portkey, “You’ll be back before the end of the task.”

***

Theo could see the streams of students coming from the arena, he stood and waited for the others to come down. Draco, Blaise, Millie and Pansy were all moving with the crowd. Theo tried to discern if the task had gone well as he ran up towards them.

“Fleur’s going to be a problem, I mean the way she conjured that huge ball of yarn to entangle the manticore?” Draco’s voice tinged with admiration.

“Is she ok?” Theo asked as he reached the group, who all seemed in good spirits.

“More than ok, she killed it, I mean she almost had her guts ripped out but she got the chest and Harrys coming third in the rankings now.” Blaise filled him in as he waved a 'Go Cedric' flag.

“No thanks to you.” Pansy’s voice was frigid, she fixed Theo in a disapproving stare.

“I made her this.” Theo pulled out the bottle of Wiggenweld potion he had meant to give her before, “It’ll help speed up any healing, I find it works a lot better than the stuff Pomfrey will give her.” Pansy took the bottle but said nothing.

“Fleur’s in the lead, she was the fastest. Cedric’s second, then Harry and then Tatiana. The manticore mauled her arm after one of her spells rebounded and knocked her out, it slowed her down a lot when casting so took she ages to get the chest.” Millie recounted the events of the task to him,

“Where’ve you been?” Blaise looked less pleased with Theo’s sudden re-appearance, having been told by Theo that he’d meet him hours ago.

“I couldn’t come. Ancient Rune’s homework.” He lied.

“At least come up with a better excuse for next time.” Blaise sighed, clearly disappointed in the answer.

“I wish, I wish I could but I...”

"Cant tell me, yes i know." Blaise rolled his eyes.

Blaise had noticed Theo’s strange behaviour since the start of the year, but especially after his and Daphne’s fight. He had naturally inquired, but Theo had always shut him down. Blaise seemed to understand there was some things he could not press, so he let Theo keep his secrets. He assumed watching Daphne put her life at risk was too much for Theo to watch, but that didn’t seem enough of a reason to keep away entirely. Blaise knew if it was somebody he loved facing such danger, he’d never miss a moment with them. But he and Theo were so different in many ways. Blaise never claimed to understand the duality and complexity of his friend, he could live with riddles and secrecy - after all, he had a secret of his own which he was hiding.

***

Daphne sat back in the champions tent, her shoulder had been popped back into place by Pomfrey and now bound in a sling. The rest of her injury’s had been treated but her whole body still throbbed with a slight pain. She still looked like Harry, although she didn’t know how much longer that would last.

Cedric had his head wrapped up and an icepack rested on his knee. He’d told her he had taken a bad fall. Daphne had recounted her own fall from the large rock formation. Tatiana looked the worst, although she had shed no tears; Her whole arm was wrapped up in a cast and Pomfrey had her consuming lots of skele-gro. Fleur looked mostly fine, a few scrapes and bruises here and there - she seemed to have avoided much trouble.

It was odd to talk to Cedric as Harry, Daphne didn’t know what to say – desperate to not blow her cover.

“ ‘ave you asked your friend to ze Yule ball yet? I see zis article here in ze Prophet.” Fleur asked Cedric as they all waited for Bagman and the headmasters to come back and dismiss them all.

Daphne tensed up when she saw the article which Fleur had pointed at. The photo of her and Cedric danced across the page.

“Oh. No.” Cedric stared at the paper, “I asked my other friend Gwen. It was so much pressure and i had this to think about.”

“I hate thiz dance.” Tatiana complained. “We will be like cattle on display. I entered for glory, for infamy."

"So who is zis heiress then?" Fleur pointed back to the paper, "Rita Skeeter does not lie."

"My friend from back home, but i don't want to talk about that." Cedric shook his head and then winced at having moved it, "who are you taking Harry?"

Daphne didn't realise she was being asked at first, too caught up with trying to decode what Cedric had said. She quickly panicked as she realised she did not know the real answer; "Its a surprise." she bluffed,

"Zis competition is mad.” Tatiana sat up as if her arm was not in a dire state, she seemed almost immune to any pain. “Karkaroff is almost obzezzed wiv’ it.”

“Madame Maxime is ‘ery enthusiastic too.” Fleur looked over into one of the mirrors and fixed her hair, Daphne just felt herself staring at her as she pulled out a compact powder and started to apply it to her cuts and bruises which then began to fade instantly.

“Did you even have to go to the medical tent?” Daphne asked,

Fleur shook her head, “Non.”

It was one thing to complete the tasks, but to try and beat these people? It was going to be impossible. Until now Daphne had never considered trying to actually win, but Fleur made it look so easy and a part of Daphne just wished to best her in something. It was the same competitive feeling she had with Theo or Hermione. Fleur would always be more beautiful, she’d always be more charismatic, but maybe not as quick thinking? Maybe not as tactical or advanced? Despite wanting to beat her, Daphne was in still in awe of her. She wanted to be her. Fleur Delacour was no brainless beauty, and Daphne would not let any of the boys in her year continue to dismiss her as such.

When Bagman dismissed the champions, Dumbledore took Daphne aside.

“Walk back to the castle, the potion will hold for a while longer. You’ll go right to my office and sit there until the effects ware off. Harry will be there, he’ll leave when he sees you enter.”

“My arm.” Daphne gestured to the sling.

“Should be healed by tomorrow morning. Until then I’ll have harry wear a matching one.”

Daphne nodded and left the arena as she had been told. More than anything she just wanted to go back to her dorm and sleep or to eat something. The task had drained all her energy, and the idea she’d have to go back to classes on Monday crushed the elation of having survived a Triwizard Tournament task.

***

Theo awoke in a miserable mood. It was the anniversary of his mother’s death.

Christmas was always tinged with his memories of her; waking up Christmas morning and going into her room to eat crepes in bed with her. It was a little tradition they had had. Theo wondered if they would have kept it up now he was fifteen, if now he would have shrugged it off as childish. As he sat up in his own bed, the memories felt so clear. He didn’t have the heart to leave until all the other boys had filed out.

“Hey Theo?” Blaise turned to him after the others left, “You can always go to Pomfrey and say you’re sick.”

Blaise knew it was the anniversary. He also knew that Theo wouldn’t want the others to know.

“I’m fine.” Theo shrugged,

“You’re not.” Blaise disagreed softly, “and that’s ok.”

“I am.” Theo jumped out of his bed, “I’m just gonna go for a walk.”

“I’ll bring you some toast.” Blaise nodded and left the room.

As Theo sat in History of Magic he munched on the toast Blaise had brought him. Professor Binn’s droned on about Troll reforms as Theo tried to ignore the ache in his heart.

In Transfiguration, Theo couldn’t turn the hedgehog into a pin cushion. Then in charms he ignored three of Flitwick’s questions as he stared out the window down towards the forest, causing the professor to send him off to Snape’s office. Theo left the classroom but didn’t go in search of Snape. He didn’t feel like the punishment. Instead, he walked down the corridor aimlessly – looking for a distraction. He didn’t notice the student who had followed him out.

Theo stood on the grand staircase as it moved back and forth, and back and forth. He didn’t know what way he wanted to go. Instead of deciding, he watched as the thousands of shiny glass baubles floated around in the space between the stairs, moving out of the way and catching the light. They were a new Christmas decoration for the school, no doubt a sign of what was to come for the ball. A rage built up inside him as he watched the delicate ornaments duck and weave the large hard marble stairs. He wanted one of them to smash, for the charade to break for just one moment. Compelled by this thought, Theo raised his wand;

“Confringo” as he spoke the words one of the baubles shattered, raining small shards of green glass down on the lower stairs. It sounded like breaking a bottle. “Confringo” he said again, shattering a pink one. “Confringo, Confringo” he fired off in quick succession; hitting a red and then a blue one.

“Confringo” an orange glittery bauble exploded from lower down the staircase, “We might stir Peeves if we keep going with this.”

Theo recognised her voice instantly, although he had not heard it directed at him for some time. He turned to see Daphne standing at the bottom of the staircase.

“Thanks for the potion.” She took one unsure step up towards him, he could see she’d left her bag back in the classroom and that her shoulder was completely healed. Theo didn’t reply. “I wanted to talk to you?” Daphne confessed,

Theo could see the doubt creep in as he stayed quiet to her question. Her face faded from hopeful to hesitant and he felt himself relent,

“What do you want?” he asked.

“I want you to call me Greengrass again, call me anything really.” Daphne looked him in the eye as she ascended the stairs between them, “I want you to pass me notes in Germanic runes in class under the guise of revision like we used too, I want you to talk to me again, I want to compete with you in class. I want to earn your trust back.”

Theo didn’t know what to say, although he loved everything he heard. He had been waiting for this amongst all the pain and confusion of the past couple of weeks.

“I’m sorry. I felt entitled to your trust and I got mad, and I said some terrible things to try and make you hurt the way you hurt me by hiding stuff. But I have to respect that some people have secrets.” Daphne stopped at the step below him,

“Greengrass. I want to tell you.” He joined her on the step, “I wish I could. I always find myself telling you things that I never tell anyone else, besides Blaise.”

“Oh don’t worry, I always knew my place.” Daphne joked.

“I’m sorry I didn’t help you with the task. I sent Blaise with some notes but I should’ve been there.”

“It’s ok.” Daphne replied as the staircase began to move.

“It’s not, but I’m glad were ok now. If I’m honest I don’t think I could’ve gone much longer, Christmas is always so bleak anyway.”

“Christmas is bleak?” Daphne was shocked, she gestured to the surrounding decorations “Is that why you were smashing those poor defenceless baubles?”

“Yeah. My mother died just before Christmas.”

He didn't know why he simply came out as said it, it had just been weighing on his mind. He had wondered now if the man Lestrange had tortured was alive, if now christmas would forever be tinged with sadness for his family too. Daphne’s amused look faded to concern, she reached out and wrapped him in a hug. Theo rested his chin on top of her head, he marvelled at the way they fit so perfectly together. It felt nice. It filled a sense of longing that had only been dramatically heightened by it being the anniversary of his mother’s death.

“I’m sorry Theo.” He heard her whisper, “I’m sorry about everything.”

“We should probably leave the staircase.” He suggested, breaking the hug and giving and awkward smile, “I think I’m supposed to go get a detention.”

“You cant. Not today, that seems unfair.”

“If I put it off I might miss the Yule Ball this weekend.” Theo explained to her, “better to get it done. Sulking won’t bring my mother back, won’t make me miss the crepes she made Christmas morning any less.”

“That’s nice. The crepe thing. My mother does this big formal dinner, but yours sounds nicer.” Daphne imagined the tradition. A smile returned to her face.

“I’ll see you in the common room. You better get back to class.” He waved as he walked up the changing staircase.

Theo felt a weight lifted as he knocked on Snape’s door and accepted his detention that afternoon. He could push away all thoughts of his mother and the poor man Lestrange had tortured by dusting classroom cornices and scrubbing caldrons. Death seemed to plague him no matter where he went, and its continued presence in his life was not welcome. At least now he and Daphne were back to normal. Thank Godric for some returned consistencies.

Chapter Text

When Daphne was little her parents would only need to say that she had ‘disappointed’ them for her to feel an intense remorse. Daphne didn’t like letting people down, she couldn’t stand people thinking poorly of her, above all she yearned for acceptance and approval.

Daphne never spent much time with her parents, in truth she knew little about them. Her father was always working; glued to his offices and constantly stalked by his owl which was constantly laden with letters. Her mother worked in a different way, she kept the family socially relevant by attending a slew of dinners and musical performances and charity events. Daphne and Astoria were often left at home, taken care of by Sidd and Queenie and spoilt rotten. On the occasion of one of their outings, Aquila had brought her daughters to a reading of Mr Flint’s newly published pureblood manifesto; The Better Half of Wizardry . As Daphne had listened to Mr Flint, consuming his work diligently, she had heard her mother mention how beautiful Pansy Parkinson was as she too had sat listening to Mr Flint’s work. In all the years that followed, Aquila often mentioned Pansy’s great beauty, and each time Daphne couldn’t help hear the lack of praise directed at herself.

As Daphne had progressed through school she had watched the girls around her change. Girls like Pansy grew into their natural beauty while others like her had to begin buying makeup and beautifying potions to keep up. Suddenly Daphne realised why Emmeline Avery had cut out all toast and caldron cakes for the month leading up to the ball, or why Poppy Coffe had waited each morning for her shipment of ‘Talbot’s Tooth Shining Serum’ to arrive. One look at Witch Weekly or Fleur Delacour, one conversation with her mother – and she was beginning to understand.

As the Yule Ball drew near, Aquila had bombarded her eldest with letters which concerned all the things from her appearance to her appeal for a date. Aquila wanted her daughter on the arm of a royal like Ander Landvik, a celebrity like Viktor Krum, a respectable pureblood like Draco Malfoy or a champion like Cedric Diggory. Daphne had lied to keep her disapproval and disappointment at bay. She knew what she looked like even if her mother couldn’t see it – she knew that none of those boys gave her a second glance in that way. Daphne could not face the reality of falling short of her mother’s expectations, and so began to dread the night of the ball and what Rita Skeeter might write the next day.

***

“Wake up!”

Daphne awoke Christmas morning to Millie shaking her in her bed; Millie was in her Holyhead Harpies pyjamas, her frizzy hair plaited in her trademark matching braids. Daphne rolled out of bed, reaching for some socks to keep her feet warm. At the foot of each of their beds sat a pile of presents, wrapped in a range of coloured wrapping paper. Ellery sniffed the bundles of goodies, pawing at one which no doubt contained some sweets. A sharp knock on their door drew Tracey from her bed, Astoria and Jenny Fawcett stood holding their own bundle of presents;

“Can we join you?” Astoria looked over at Daphne, who instantly ushered her over to sit on her bed. Jenny followed.

Pansy had given them all (excluding Tracy and Jenny) a shiny lipstick and a box of Droobles best blowing gum, something she always had on her. Millie had purchased them all individual gifts; for Daphne she had wrapped some new ornate silver quills, a live flutterbloom bush and a handmade friendship bracelet. Daphne slid the band of colourful beads on her wrist right away and hoped that her simple gift of Bertie Botts Beans, butterfly hair clips and a cat toy (for Millie’s cat; Mr Snuggles) were enough to repay Millie for her kindness. Tracey too slipped on her friendship bracelet as she opened some new records from her parents. Molly Weasley had sent Daphne and Astoria a new jumper each, and as they opened their gift from their parents a howler flew out;

“MERRY CHRISTMAS GIRLS” it shouted, “We miss you both so dearly and wish you were here with us instead of at school.” Their mothers voice came through, sweet and slightly melancholy “but stay studying and make sure that this Triwizard Tournament doesn’t distract you from your work, although I’d love to see it – they never had it in my day, said it was too dangerous so I’m not sure what Ludo and Crouch were thinking but anyway..” their father trailed off “And Daphne dear, make sure you look your best at tonight’s ball, your father is meeting with some of the French ministers for lunch next month and has a new project he is pitching to Amos Diggory.” Her mother chimed in; “I made sure the earrings I got you matched your gown – oh dear, I didn’t mean to tell you what I got you before you opened them.” The howler replayed their parents laughter at each other before exploding like a small firework.

Daphne opened the small jewellery box to see a set of dangly silver earrings that held a dark square cut sapphire. She marvelled at it as Astoria put her new gold chain necklace around her neck. As Daphne looked in the mirror she hoped that this would be enough, that she would be enough.

When Daphne left her dorm after a morning of gossip and games, she used her wand to levitate a plate of crepes into the boys room and place it at the end of Theo’s bed as he had been in the shower. A small card written in Nordic runes lay next to it;

Some traditions are worth saving. Merry Yuletide, Nott.

***

Daphne felt the bracelet on her wrist begin to pulse lightly, the blue marble glowing as she leant over her vanity and applied her mascara; it meant Ron was already outside the hall waiting for her to arrive.

The girls dorm had become a mess; clothes and shoes were strewn over the floor, the scent of hair gels and sprays and a strange mix off all their perfumes filled the room and makeup was covering nearly every surface that was by a mirror. Millie wore a long flowy pale lavender gown and a small Bulstrode family tiara. Pansy was in all black, her sleek long sleeved dress cut with a low scoop neckline. Her hair was straight down her back and dark eyeshadow and liner made her look more fiercely beautiful than ever. Daphne had once again wished to be as beautiful as her best friend.

“Stay still.” Pansy instructed a squirming Millicent.

Pansy had insisted on putting Sleekeazy through Millie’s hair so that it would stay neat in the bun atop her head and now used a comb to make final adjustments as they were set to leave. Daphne nervously observed herself in the mirror. Astoria had designed her a gown that flowed like water, changing colour slightly under the light as a lake would. It moved from rich dark greens to velvety blues, small silk-like sparkles caught the light as she moved. The bodice was tight – Daphne had forced so, lying about her true measurements to the seamstress. The dresses v neckline and thin straps didn’t account for the thick layers of snow outside, but when Daphne had showed her sister the finished product, Astoria clapped her hands in excitement and the look on her face was enough to bear the cold (with the aid of body heating charms and the sheer flowy cape she had made from the same fabric).

“Let’s go, Ron’s waiting for me.” Daphne shook her wrist where the marble still glowed and slipped on her shoes.

The moment Daphne spotted Ron she knew he was in for a rough night, and that her mother would faint at the sight of him as her date. Ron leant against the wall, hunched over to obscure the faded pink ruffled shirt which hid underneath his brown dress robes. Upon spotting her, he opened his arms to let her see the full extent of the hand-me-downs Molly had sent. Fred and George stood either side, grinning like Cheshire cats.

“It’s definitely something.” Daphne held back a giggle as she approached the brothers,

“My great aunt had impeccable taste.” Ron sighed as he showed her the frayed ends of his shirt “there were more ruffles.” He explained, “cut ‘em off.”

“Same with the bottom too?” Daphne noted the fraying once again, “How come you get nice robes?” she turned to the twins,

“Thankfully for us, Great Aunt Bess had a much stockier and wide shouldered build.” Fred pulled a loose thread from Ron’s ruffled collar,

“You look ghastly.” Pansy grimaced as she took in the sight of Daphne’s date,

“Now Ronald, do you honestly expect us not to make fun of you all night for this crime against humanity?” Blaise had walked up beside Pansy in his dark purple dress robes, a black opal broach was pinned at his neck in place of a tie.

“And what, you’ve stolen your mothers broach for this occasion?” Ron huffed,

“Actually yes Ronald, some of our mothers gave us nice things to wear tonight.”

Ron sheepishly looked back to Daphne; “Well, Harry’s gone to get ready for the procession and Hermione’s gone missing so” he held out his hand, “should we go in?”

Daphne took his arm and walked inside the Great Hall which had been turned into a winter wonderland. Snowflakes floated down from the enchanted night sky, ice sculptures of swans and reindeer were enchanted to bow and move and the floor was covered in a thin layer of pure white smoke which resembled the snow outside. Huge round tables were covered in fairy filled floral arrangements of holly and ivy, a thousand candles provided all the light needed to take in the beauty of the scene. As they took their seats, the Bloody Baron tipped his hat whilst walking through their table rattling his chains.

Hermione Granger surprised them all when she joined the table with her date; Viktor Krum. The Champions procession began and Daphne looked on with jealousy, she deserved some of that glory, she deserved to dance with Cedric or look like Fleur. She deserved a magical night that would make her family proud. Daphne envied Tatiana as she danced with Ander Landvik, Hermione who giggled at the famous seeker at their table or Harry who awkwardly spun around the gorgeous Cho Chang. She loved Ron as a friend, but they were not a couple who would make the morning papers as her mother desired.

Dinner passed without much incident; Tracey Davis was dressed in a silky fuchsia slip dress which hugged her body enough to capture the attention of most of the boys as they ate their slow roasted lamb shoulder and peas. Blaise engaged Krum in a game of ‘best dressed’ which he didn’t seem too enthused about, Pansy and Millie both chuckled at Goyle as he tried to flirt with Charlotte Montague and Daphne and Ron discussed Charlies return to Romania. As they spoke, Daphne noticed Ron and Harry were both casting glares between Hermione and her date, trying to work out how exactly this had happened. When dinner was finished, Dumbledore lead Madame Maxime to the floor to begin the formal dances. The school orchestra headed by Professor Flitwick began to play a waltz;

“Let’s dance.” Daphne elbowed Ron as she watched Emmeline Avery coax Adrian Pucey onto the floor. Dozens of other couples followed.

“No way, I dunno this dance.” Ron stayed in his seat as Pansy dragged Draco to the floor. Krum and Hermione shortly followed. “Harry and I aren’t bothered.”

Daphne dropped back in her chair disappointed; “You’d have two left feet anyway.” She mumbled.

She watched as couples moved around the floor. When the next piece started, a quickstep, Theo stood up in his well-tailored black and white dress robes and danced with Tracey. Daphne watched as Tracey laid her hand of his arm, laughing as she tried to get the steps. She couldn’t help but wonder why the sight bothered her so much. Why was he with a mudblood? Thankfully Ron also seemed to look at the couples in displeasure.

“I’m getting a drink.” Daphne got up and moved over to one of the swan sculptures which dispensed punch from its mouth as it beat its icy wings. A group of Hufflepuffs including Hannah Abbot and Ernie Macmillan stood sharing a flask between them. Daphne accepted Hannah’s offer of a nip of their firewiskey which she added to her punch before walking by the dance floor. She watched as Rita Skeeter pushed around Miles to snap pictures of Ander Landvik and Pansy or Cedric and Gwen as they danced.

“Thanks for the crepes.” Theo joined her side, a drink of his own in hand. “You look uh, you look really good. Cedric’s loss really.”

Daphne conceded a laugh; “My mother won’t think so, she’s expecting me to appear in Witch Weekly tomorrow on his arm. She saw that article Skeeter wrote and my father’s pitching something to Amos Diggory and somehow I’m supposed to help him by making a good impression. Gotta spread the Greengrass name as well of course. They always said our name is everything.”

“We could make that happen.” Theo suggested, “I’ve been meaning to stir up some trouble, get back to my old no good self.”

“It’s ok, they’ll have to get used to me being their failure heir. We can’t all be Pansy’s and Draco’s.” but Daphne’s voice was tinged with a pain. She wanted to do everything she had been trained to do, she wanted to live up to their expectations .

“Greengrass. If you want something I’ll get it for you. If you need something I’ll make it happen.” Theo looked at her intently “This’ll be my Christmas gift to you.”

Daphne watched as Theo disappeared over towards Draco who had been glaring at Hermione as she danced with his favourite seeker; Krum. The pair exchanged some words before collecting Blaise and Millie, and walking out of the hall.

“Dance?” Ron gave a half smile as a Bulgarian folk song started up.

The dance was done in four; Harry, herself, Ron and Cho all took their places and began to skip about the floor in time with the music. They jumped and clapped, following some of the Durmstrang students who knew all the steps. Daphne found herself twirled around madly as the music sped; her dress was finally able to shine under the candles as the skirt fanned out underneath her. Ron was flushed and desperately trying to keep up as he handed Daphne off to the next person in line, Daphne collided with another student as the dance finished up. Cedric caught her by the waist after Ron had sloppily twirled her away to catch Padma Patel. Cedric’s grip was firm and Daphne felt his hand move down the bodice of her dress. She blushed as Cedric stepped back and smiled down at his feet;

“Sorry. Thought you might spin off into Tatiana Fedrova if I didn’t.” He apologised,

“Should’ve let me take out your competition for you.” Daphne joked and Cedric laughed,

“Would you like to dance this next one with me?” he asked. Daphne nodded and she waited self-consciously for Flitwick to start the music again.

Daphne felt the camera flash as Cedric Diggory took her hand and lead her through a polka which all the students had learnt leading up to the ball. These first few dances were for the dignitaries to observe; Ludo Bagman, Amelia Bones and Bartemius Crouch Snr sat with the headmasters of each school judging the proceedings. Daphne began to over analyse her movements, Was she gripping his hand too tightly? Was her hand sweaty? What if she tripped? What if they collided with another pair? Should she look him in the eyes, or would that freak him out? Daphne relished each touch and quick glance as Miles Bletchley flashed the camera again. She hoped that these pictures might make the papers.

As Cedric started to lead her through another dance, a crash sounded by the door; A dozen sets of castle armour started running through the hall and towards the cleared floor. The suits began to reach out and collect up other students, dragging them into position as they started to perform a Viennese waltz. Cedric pulled Daphne out of the way of an embarrassed Gwendoline Hedgeflower as she was wrapped up in the knights arms and whisked about the room. Michael Corner and Seamus Finnegan had also found themselves being led by the dancing suits of armour, both struggled to retake the male counterpart steps. The scene was that of beautifully orchestrated chaos, even the students who were now forcefully dancing the waltz seemed enthused by it.

“This is crazy.” Cedric laughed with his belly, waving at Gwen as she buried her head in her hand in good spirits. “Is this your lot?” he looked over at Fred and George who were making the most of the situation by speeding up the music.

“I think so.” Daphne had looked over at Theo in the crowd instantly. He, Draco and Blaise were stood atop their chairs watching the chaos and holding their wands discreetly in their hands. A sense of pride rushed over her as she watched their handiwork unfold. “Look, Bagman’s on it now.”

They watched as Ludo Bagman wrestled one of the knights armour off Michael Corner, fighting desperately to not be swept up in the young boys place. Pansy took the opportunity to trip the armour dancing with Seamus, sending them both to the ground while Cormac McLaggen tried to gallantly step in and save Tracey to little success. Daphne felt a sense of spontaneity overtake her, or perhaps it was the kick of firewhiskey;

“Should we join them?” she asked Cedric. He paused a moment, watching the spectacle;

“I wish, but I shouldn’t. They’ve said I have to be on my best behaviour as champion, and I’m prefect. They’ll assume I was in on the joke if I join. But, I could get you more punch?”

Daphne nodded. As he left she hurried over to Theo and yanked him down from the table.

“Dance with me?” she asked, but did not await an answer.
She marched out into the middle of the floor, suits of armour surrounding them. The Viennese waltz was one of the hardest from Daphne’s memory of her lessons. She directed Theo’s hand to her back and took up the proper position,

“Do you know the dance?” she asked,

Theo nodded, looking around to judge the speed before he launched into a natural turn and they began to move along with the other partners and knights armour. Daphne felt her breathe snatched as he so quickly and elegantly moved them as one, their chests pressed against each other and hands grasped. He was a bit tall to be her partner, and he had always looked so lanky and uncoordinated when he moved but Daphne felt the eyes of the students fall on them as they danced. As Theo dipped her, Daphne instantly thought back to the moment before their argument where Theo had caught her on the ice. Their eyes locked, and bodies close together. The memory was wholly was unnerving and caused her to break proper posture to look down at her dress; it flowed like water around his pants legs as they twirled about the floor. It was ecstasy and dread; in the space of one dance she had gone from being smitten by Cedric to now feeling more than she dared for Theodore Nott. It was dangerous thought, one which could never lead anywhere and yet, Daphne feared when the music stopped that she’d never experience a more romantic sensation in her life. But the music did stop, and the armour clattered to the floor as the applause rose from the crowd. Daphne felt cold as her body parted from Theo’s and they walked off the floor.

“You two looked gorgeous.” Millie praised as she tucked her wand back into her dress. Daphne thanked her.

“Here.” Cedric handed Daphne a cup of punch as he approached the trio, “I didn’t know you could dance like that Nott.”

“Pureblood tradition I’m afraid, we’ve all got to learn and I’ve got the scars to prove it.” Theo joked, instinctively stroking his hand over his stomach. “Do you know where Blaise’s gone?” Theo looked around the room to change the subject,

“Probably trying not to get caught. Draco’s just gone off to network with Ander and Pansy at the headmasters table.” Millie pointed out the doors, “but I think he went that way.”

“I might go try and find him.” Theo excused himself.

Daphne watched him leave as Flitwick concluded the formal portion of the dance and announced that The Weird Sisters were finally taking the stage. The whole school went wild, running into the dance floor and creating a sort of mosh pit which enclosed around her. Ron and his brothers were quick to join them as Donaghan Tremlett (the bands bassist) began to shred the opening chords. Daphne wished Astoria was there to enjoy it with her as she, Cedric and Millie jumped with the crowd. Soon Pansy would find them among the ‘sweaty heathens’ she had to carve her way through, and they would all scream the words of the Weird Sister’s newest song.

***

Theo hadn’t known what to expect from the Yule Ball, but he confessed to himself that it had gone far better than he had imagined it;

His date; Tracey Davis, had been far more interesting than the others would ever concede. Her parents were bankers and all through dinner she had explained to him how muggles exchanged money in a similar fashion to how they did at Gringott’s. He had found himself amazed by all the muggle ways of life he had never been taught of; Tracey said they studied things like Mathematics and Geography at school, that none of their pictures moved and they thought unicorns and dragons were completely made up. He had read of such muggles in books, but dinner flew by as he learned more of them. Tracey was however, quickly occupied the moment dancing began as every boy seemed to clamber for her attention.

Theo had been in an invincibly good mood ever since Daphne levitated a plate of crepes into his room that Christmas morning. As a way of thanking her he had convinced Draco, Blaise and Millie to enchant the castle armour to whisk Gwendoline Hedgeflower out of action and allow Daphne her dance with Cedric, even though part of his wished not to see it. Pansy had already bribed Miles Bletchley to make sure he got the picture. It hadn’t all gone to plan, but then he’d gotten to dance with her – and it had been perfect. Now he looked for Blaise to continue his wondrously fun night; he wanted to tell him of their dance and drag him back to see the wild outfits of each of the Weird Sisters.

Theo tried to imagine where Blaise might have gone. He was no longer in the hall, which lead Theo out into the cold night air of the courtyard. A number of carriages which had taken the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons up to the castle were parked around the enclosed stone courtyard, obscuring his view. Theo walked down and through them, quickly darting away as he saw Professor Moody in an intense discussion with Harry Potter and then again as he saw a couple making out further to the right. He felt extremely out of place as he looked for Blaise, surely he wasn’t here making out with some girl? Theo convinced himself as he reached the other side.

Just as Theo went to turn back he spotted the familiar dark purple velvet fabric of Blaise’s dress robes behind one of the pillars. A puff of smoke billowed out from behind the column and as Theo got close, the sound of muttering grew louder.

“Hey Blaise.” Theo called out.

Blaise’s head shot round the side of the sandstone, he threw a cigarette to the ground and stamped on it as he tried to readjust his ruffled up robes. Theo smirked as he realised what he had caught his friend doing;

“Godric- sorry, I didn’t realise. I’ll leave you two alone.” He raised his eyebrows at Blaise as he began to blush slightly, “who’s the girl?” Theo mouthed as he backed away slowly.

Blaise didn’t say anything, his face grew slightly redder and he bit his lip as he looked back at the figure who stood out of Theo’s sight.

“Viktor!” Hermione Granger’s voice rung out as she approached them from the other end of the open courtyard. “You shouldn’t be out here you know, it’s not allowed past nine.”

Theo watched as Viktor Krum emerged from behind the column where Blaise had been standing. Viktor quickly smiled at both of them and walked over to his date. Blaise looked down at the floor and picked up the cigarette butt he had stamped out.

“You two as well.” Hermione scolded both of them, “that’ll be fifty points from Slytherin if Snape sees you.”

Theo didn’t say anything. Blaise didn’t say anything either. They both stood trying to work out what exactly had happened. Theo had a feeling the pair weren't just smoking.

“Let’s talk about this later.” Blaise hadn’t built up the courage to look at him yet, he cracked a jovial smile that seemed slightly forced “I’m out of cigarettes.”

The pair began to walk back through the lines of dark lacquered carriages, snow underfoot. Theo wondered how long Blaise had been smoking, it couldn't be more than a few months - he knew him well enough to know that at least.

“I won’t say anything if you don’t want me too.” Theo had been trying to decipher exactly what to say and what to think, “Just, talk to me when you’re ready ok?”

Blaise stopped short of the hall when he heard his words. He looked back and nodded sincerely as Millie ran up and took his hand,

“Come on, we’ve all been waiting for you.” She ushered them both back inside towards the music, "You missed Draco downing a flask full of Adrian's giggle water on a dare."

***

Daphne watched as Theo and Blaise re-joined them in the crowded dance floor. She and Ron had been back at the table eating a stack of caldron cakes which the house elves had cooked for dessert. The pair had just spent an hour or so mulling over how to unlock the golden chest which contained the clue for the second task. The chest had been placed in Harry’s care after Daphne met him in Dumbledore’s office and Ron now told her that once they had opened it the chest only admitted a horrible screeching noise.

As the clock struck midnight the Weird Sisters finished their set and disappearated before they could be swarmed for autographs, a large gramophone took their place as couples began to peel off back to their dorms. Ron waddled off to bed with Harry and Hermione, promising to strike up another Triwizard Tournament preparation session soon. Cedric waved her goodbye as he followed the rest of Hufflepuff house onwards to what later turned out to be a Hufflepuff only party in the schools kitchens. Daphne found herself among the stragglers still admiring the guild of the Great Hall. She held her shoes in her hand and twirled her dress to part the smoke which still hung above the floor.

“I don’t want this night to end.” She confessed to Pansy, who massaged her ankle whilst refusing to take off her heels.

“We need to start throwing more parties.” Draco nodded, “Ander and Krum said at Durmstrang they have Russian wand roulette nights in the boys dorms. My parents won’t like it, but screw them.”

“Oh yay, roulette night.” Pansy rolled her eyes,

“Screw Mr and Mrs Malfoy you say?” Blaise raised a flirtatious eyebrow, “if you insist.” He joked. Draco shoved him hard in retaliation.

“Just take off your heels Pans, I know they’re killing you.” Millie insisted, reaching down to take them off her.

“I’d sooner die than walk barefoot around these dirty halls, I mean really, do you think Filtch actually cleans them effectively? He’s a squib.”

“Come on, we better get to bed before Pansy breaks an ankle or Draco clocks himself in the head with a bad spell.” Theo threw his arm around Blaise’s shoulder as he rubbed his now sore side. “Merry Christmas everyone.” he grinned.

“It’s not technically Christmas anymore mate.” Draco noted as he picked up his long cast aside bow tie, "and i think id be pretty good at Russian roulette."

“Merry Christmas.” Daphne smiled, looping her arm through Theo’s spare and walking with them towards the door.

Chapter Text

Daphne loitered outside Dumbledore’s office waiting for the headmaster to return. She had held out patiently to sample some of the wisdom the great wizard had promised to share, and now that she had completed the first task she had come to take him up on his offer. Professor Moody hobbled past her on his prosthetic leg as she finally entered the office, Daphne instinctively avoided eye contact. The ex-auror had captured many Pureblood Society members and also guarded the door to Bernard Crabbe’s room when she and Theo had broken in, she was terrified of him and was glad when he left.

“Miss Greengrass.” Dumbledore’s voice was soft, tender almost in his address. Daphne smiled back at him as she closed the door behind her. “I believe you are here for my teachings?”

“Yes. The tonic you made, it stopped the headaches my sister had within days. The entire time she was at St Mungo’s they never found something similar.”

Dumbledore slowly walked back to his desk and took a seat. He ran his frail hand over the polished wood and then looked up, “I cannot give you every answer right away.”

Daphne faltered, wondering what he could mean. Dumbledore sensed this and continued;

“Blood is tricky, it is fickle and ever changing, it is so individual and yet indistinguishable. Curses too are delicate and can be crafted so powerfully by certain wizards. This sickness that haunts your family is a combination of both blood and curse; a malediction. Most maledictuses morph into animals over time, unable to halt the change. It wears away at their body slowly until they don’t have the strength to return to human form. But some rarer maledictions wear the body down in different ways.”

“My sister doesn’t transform into an animal.” Daphne clarified, “that’s why we think this kind might be able to be healed.”

“You see Miss Greengrass, knowledge starts at the foundations. You have to first understand the curse to cure it, and I believe you have tried very hard to find answers.”

“We have a chest of family files, I read them but they just contained a litany of failed experiments and short term blood transfusion solutions. My grandfather Cecil, he died just before Astoria was born so I was never able to ask him.”

“I attended your grandfather’s funereal.” Dumbledore extended a tray of sherbet lemons to her, Daphne took one and put it in her mouth. “He was a great man, a man who wanted to do as you want to do.”

“Dad mentioned he had some diaries. But I never found them. I thought they might have contained some answers, something like your tonic.” Daphne wanted to tell him everything, that way he’d be able to really help her. She sucked on the lemon sherbet as it became sweeter. “I need to learn how to brew what helped Astoria, for next time.”

“Does a child learn to run first, or walk?” Dumbledore asked cryptically,

“Walk.” Daphne answered unsure,

“Knowledge is built over time.” He explained, “If you wish for my tutelage I’m afraid I live by this approach to learning. It is why we add more subjects over many years of your schooling here at Hogwarts. We build the foundation and go from there. Learning about this malediction and curing it will be the same.”

“Years?” Daphne repeated disheartened. Astoria didn't exactly have many years.

“Perhaps. It is up to you.”

“So what do we start with?” Daphne looked around the room.

“A memory.” Dumbledore drew the pensive from its place with the flick of his wrist. His wandless magic was a wonder to watch. As the silver disk floated next to Daphne, the headmaster drew a vile from the pocket of his robes. “This is your grandfathers.” He poured the long silver glowing strand into the floating pool of water. The silver strands fanned out and the water inside the pensive grew murky. Dumbledore nodded for her to submerge her head.

Daphne found herself transported to the front gardens of Greengrass Manor. She looked down the gravel drive towards the gilded gates as a young woman approached her family's house. The gardens looked different, the hedges which lined the pathway were shorter as if they had just been planted and the gravel was shiner as if it has just been re-laid. It was home, but altered. The woman who approached wore a blue and black pinstriped dress with large mutton sleeves. She looked like she had come from the late 1800’s, and as she grew closer she looked a lot younger than Daphne had originally guessed – still of school age. The woman walked right through Daphne as if she was one of the schools ghosts, and the reality of her watching the memory through a pensive hit her. She had never actually used one before.

An man rushed out from the grand oak door of the manor and swept the young woman up in his arms; “Eudoxia!” he exclaimed before stepping back and bowing to her as was proper.

The woman curtsied, “Lord Greengrass.” She kept her wit as she took his hand and followed him inside the house. Daphne followed.

The pair began to exchange pleasantries; he handed her a small box with a silver pendant shaped as a fox which he explained was for her sixteenth birthday and after she thanked him and put it on, she asked him what it was like to be freshly graduated from Hogwarts. Daphne looked around her house, the foyers bones were the same but the carpet was different and some of the portraits were missing – probably not yet commissioned. Daphne became so intrigued by the house that she neglected to notice that the pair had sat down in the parlour. Upon catching up, Daphne heard the two speaking;

“I don’t understand Cecil.” The young woman had placed her hands in his and seemed slightly distraught. A house elf scurried in with a tray of tea that Daphne’s mother still used.

“It’s lavender and beetle leaf, your favourite.” The man gestured to the tea pot which began to pour on its own.

Daphne had now realised that this man was her grandfather – Cecil Greengrass. But she struggled to understand who the woman was, Maybe it’s my grandmother? The pair looked as if they doted on each other. But her grandparents had not married until much later, having been older than most when her father was born.

“I don’t want tea, I want you to explain.” The woman demanded as the teacup drifted away from her.

“One of my ancestors was cursed, it was centuries ago and almost all the written records are gone but we know they were cursed.” Cecil furrowed his brow as he tried to compose his words. Daphne saw remnants of her father in him; the face they made when they thought and the firm but tenderness in the way they explained difficult things; “the curse affects our blood, it’s like a disease with no cure which slowly drains the body. My uncle had it, they said he became less and less as the years went on until he faded from existence.”

The woman gasped and put her head down as if unable to take anymore. But Cecil pushed on;

“He died just before I was born so I wasn’t able to ask him anything about it. But Eudoxia darling, I think it goes directly down our bloodline to the heirs. My children, they’ll get the curse and I myself have already suffered more and more greatly over the years. I’ve tried to find a cure, and I’m continuing to do so I swear…”

“I don’t understand, I thought you just had the wizards sweat when you were younger- that’s what you told me this was, all the fits, you were going to get better.” Eudoxia protested, she refused to believe the mortality of the man she loved.

“I needed to let you know before…finding a cure is unlikely.” Cecil’s thumb ran over the woman’s hand, to Daphne’s astonishment her own mother’s engagement ring was on the woman’s finger. He lingered as if doubting the words which followed; “So I release you from our engagement.”

Daphne watched as Eudoxia descended into tears, she took the handkerchief Cecil handed her and began to wipe her eyes as she continued to cry. She asked him not to break off the engagement, she promised they’d work together to find a cure. Daphne watched as her grandfather clutched her close, Eudoxia’s face was buried in his chest and her sobs stained his waistcoat. Daphne saw her grandfather’s youthful face contort in pain as he insisted that she deserved better. The picture began to muddle, her vision becoming blurrier until she only saw the murky water of the pensive again.

Daphne pulled her head out of the pensive and turned to Dumbledore, who was sat at his desk reading; “Why did you show me this?” she asked, feeling the pain of her grandfather and the poor woman he had once loved.

“We must start at the foundation.” He replied simply.

“Who was that?” Daphne asked after the woman, looking back down into the pensive.

“Dowager Rosier.” Dumbledore smiled, “I believe you met her once.”

***

Theo sat down by the lake, examining the slowly thawing surface as the grip of winter began to relent slightly. He tried to think of ways that Crouch might be trying to hurt Harry/Daphne during the task. Maybe he knew what the tasks were? Or maybe he was here just to relay any news to the Dark Lord? But Theo put that happier thought to bed. He remembered the way Rabastan Lestrange had tortured the poor man at Godric’s Hollow, the Death Eaters were back out in force and ready to take lives if need be. Suddenly Theo felt more assured in the theory that the two men murdered at the Quidditch World Cup were victims of The Pureblood Society, or more aptly; Letstrange and Crouch. Why? He still didn’t know, but his gut was warning him that they were dangerous.

Theo looked back from the lake as professor Flitwick called for the class to stop practicing the windy charm they had left the classroom to study. The gushes of air coming from each of their wands ceased and the tiny professor started to explain how the charm could easily be mistakenly cast in place of a charm which mended buttons. He always delved into extreme detail, linking all the charms to a dozen others of similar wand movement or incantation or purpose.

“What if we just dipped?” Theo whispered to Blaise who was sat beside him away from the class, twirling his wand between his slender fingers.

“How?” Blaise raised his slit eyebrow as they eyed the professor.

“We just walk back behind that wall.” Theo pointed to a part of the castle which jutted out towards the lake before cutting back in. Blaise nodded and they slowly made their way towards the hide out.

“Fizzing Whizzbee?”

After they ducked out of the charms professor’s sight, Theo pulled an old pinstriped packet from inside his robes breast pockets, the sweets had been contained in there since Christmas (a present from Crabbe). Theo pulled out one of the pink sherbet lollies and flicked it over to Blaise. They popped the sweets in their mouths and bit down on its hard sugary exterior so that the sherbet flooded from it. As the sweet sherbet touched their tongues, Theo felt himself lift from his seat on the grass. They were both suspended a few inches from the ground, weightless to gravity as they enjoyed their lollies. Taking his chance, Blaise waved his hand underneath the suspended Theo before quickly tipping him over. Theo landed back on the grass, the effect of the lolly now gone – he quickly ate another.

“Listen.” Blaise defended himself from a counter attack as Theo levitated above the ground again. “About what you saw at Christmas.”

Theo felt himself hit the ground, his concentration now completely engaged in the conversation.

“Krum’s not exactly open to sharing, and well its not just my business you know?” Blaise fiddled with his wand again, “I’ve always known, but some other people take time and I don’t want to rush him. He’s this huge Quidditch star and it won’t be good for his image.”

“Did he tell you not to tell us?” Theo tried not to interrupt but felt Blaise calculating each word,

“No. Nobody gets to own my coming out but me. I just didn’t know, you’ve all been raised so traditionally and you more than anyone might have been preconditioned against people like me. I just thought it was easier to push this part of myself aside to keep everything as it is. I knew you had your secrets too and so I thought you’d eventually forgive me for not telling you… but I’m still myself and I don’t have a crush on you or anything - I don’t think of you or any of those boys in that way. I promise sharing the dorm won’t be weird.”

“Why would you sharing our dorm be weird?”

“Well since I like boys I thought you might think…” Blaise rolled his hand to infer the rest, “I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, or for you to kick me out.”

“Why would we kick you out Blaise? That’s absurd. Nothings changed.”

Blaise let out a deep sigh of relief, “You don’t think it’s strange, me and Krum i mean?”

“Oh it’s definitely strange.” Theo laughed “I mean, not the you liking boys part.” He quickly retracted, face stricken with the panic of having inferred the wrong thing, “I just meant since he’s a Quidditch star and you hate Quidditch. What do you even talk about?”

“We don’t really talk that much.” Blaise smirked,

“Oh Merlin.” Theo rolled his eyes, “Ok, I get it Casanova.”

“Wait so you really don’t mind? You promise?”

“I know you, you’re my best friend. You were there for me when frankly I wasn’t very fun to be friends with; closed and quiet and uninterested. Loyalty deserves loyalty. I won’t ever stop being your friend. Thats a promise.”

“What if I told everyone you had a shrine dedicated to McGonagall in our dorm? Or what if I killed someone?” Blaise joked,

“Then I’d bury the body.” Theo cracked a smile back, offering him another Fizzing Whizzbee as they looked out over the glittering surface of the lake. Professor Flitwick’s voice was still droning on about cross charm magic as they evaded the rest of the class.

***

Daphne,
I saw the article about you in the paper. It was a lovely photo of you and Cedric Diggory, our Astoria has a wonderful eye for fabrics and design. I have invited his father Amos over for tea this afternoon, as the recently appointed Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, he is a good re-addition to our circle. Darling you have really pleased your father and I. Yesterday we had a society meeting and Narcissa herself complimented the decorum you displayed in the image which had featured in Witch Weekly. It is important that people recognise that pureblood is better blood, and we have to display that in all we do. I have also included some pamphlets that Narcissa has passed for you and the other younger members of the society to read after our meeting.
Hope you are having fun and keeping your marks up, O.W.L’s are next year and you'll want good results if you wish to achieve our desired N.E.W.T's.

Daphne put down the letter from her mother and shoved the pamphlet on ‘The Threat of mixed-blood Marriage: Issue 49’ into her bag as the clock called them to their classes,

“Hey Daph?” Draco slowed down as he strode away to his Divination class, the others forging on ahead.

“You get the newest pamphlet?” Daphne flashed the small folded paper. Draco held up a matching pamphlet of the dark society paper and silver wax seal which could only be opened by members.

“I need to talk to you.” Draco looked ahead as they walked up the marble staircase.

“Oh actually me too. I was wondering if you knew anything about Eudoxia Rosier?” Daphne jumped in, her conversation with Dumbledore fresh in her mind.

“She’s a member of the Pureblood Council with my parents, she was a member before the Dark Lord even became the Head of the Society.” Draco spoke in hushed tones,

“I know but, anything personal?” Daphne asked,

“Not really, I don’t hang around all the old people who come to the house, they're not worth my time. That’s my parents job. Why do you want to know? Are you in trouble?” his tone hinted concern, “Do they know about you helping Harry?” panic flashed behind his eyes.

“No, No, I haven’t told my parents or Astoria, they don’t know. I just, she’s my maternal grandmother.” Daphne revealed.

“Oh shit yeah, I think I knew that, mother made me memorise all the pureblood family trees when I was younger. No wonder you got off that interrogation after second year so easily.”

“Says you, your mothers the last true Black heir, she’s head of the council.”

“Not really, not for much longer.” Draco’s voice went quiet as they walked towards his Divination class and away from Daphne’s Ancient Runes. “Look, I’ve been meaning to say.” He stopped in the hall and looked around to see if they had some privacy; “I think Voldemort’s back, or at least almost back.”

Daphne bit her lower lip, she tried to think of all this meant.

“My mother’s been hosting Rabastan Lestrange all year and he only ever leaves his residence in France for big Society events, and the Summer ball happened months ago. So unless he’s started attending all the sewing circles where they read ancient blood purist literature I’m not sure what he’s doing.”

“So you think they might be enacting another plan like the one in the chamber? A plan to bring you-know-who to his full form again?”

Draco nodded and grabbed his pocket, “I mean they’ve sent us these pamphlets my father writes since first year but now they’re all filled with explicitly pro-Voldemort sentiment opposed to just Pureblood ideals. I mean last month the whole thing was campaigning to reintroduce The Knights of Walpurgis to Hogwarts. Thats just some club you-know-who started as a feeder for the society in the 40s.”

Daphne hadn’t actually read the pamphlet, she had simply cracked the seal so that if Narcissa had bewitched it, it would appear as if she had read it. Then she’d burnt it with all the others as was one of their little traditions (the Society required them to burn them after reading regardless).

“They want us all to support the Dark Lord again as we did before the war. What you’re doing for Dumbledore…” Draco pulled her aside as Seamus and Dean Thomas barrelled down the hall. “You’re probably helping the other side.”

“So they’re after Harry.” Daphne tried to piece all the information together,

“Maybe.” Draco shrugged, “I don’t know really, they don’t tell me anything to keep me safe. All I know is that with Rabatsan in the country and all these Dark Lord supremacy papers it’s starting to look like Voldemort’s got real power again and we know he used to want Harry dead. I don’t know how you impersonating him works into this, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”

“Neither.” Daphne bit down on her lip harder, she was late for class.

“You need to tell Dumbledore you can’t help them anymore.” Draco insisted, “I know he promised you things but this is way bigger than jobs and intellect and heirdom. This could be life or death if the Dark Lord finds out.”

“I cant.” Daphne was resolute, “I made a promise.”

Draco’s eyebrows unknitted in surprise; “He made you take a vow as well?”

What did that mean? She hadn’t made a vow, but had Draco?

“I have to get to class.” Daphne excused herself as she headed off to Ancient Runes, her mind completely muddled with information overload. “Thanks for telling me though.” She smiled back at him,

“Figured I owed you for second year when the ministry raided my house.” He smiled back as he entered his classroom, "oh and on the account of you being my friend of course."

***

The library had become a place of congregation, a figurative no man’s land between the feuding friendship groups where they could help Harry and Daphne complete the next task. As they gathered Theo prepared for the truce to be broken, he waited for the tension to boil over as Harry and Ron streamed through the book aisles towards him. He and his friends had all gathered early at their study table to watch the show.

The dark cloud of his father’s crime would constantly follow Theo around, but it seemed to have been lifted slightly as the world all but moved on from the Department of Magical Games murders. Now when Theo read the morning paper, images of Blaise’s mother dawning the stage in Germany were next to articles which hypothesised the World Cup murders instead. The rest of the stories covered everything from the Tournament or the house elf disciplinary board Mr Parkinson was pushing for in the senate to ads for a new berry ale which promised it was “better than butterbeer”. Theo was finally able to walk the halls and not be sneered at (expect by the Gryffindor boys who had always sneered) and he relished the opportunity to be normal again.

They had all devised a plan to resume their old first year selves; during care of magical creatures Draco had stolen an ashwinder which Hagrid had made them watch lay a few boiling hot eggs. The creature only had an hour left to live, and so they had bundled it in a bag of ice taken from the kitchens and carted it off to their next potions class. As they took their seats Blaise's bag begin to smoke and Pansy quickly hit it with a rudimentary concealment charm. Theo then nodded to Goyle to enact phase two of the plan, and when Goyle was too stupid to get the sign Theo kicked him in the shins to refresh his memory. Goyle had then gotten up and knocked over a large jar of larvae which began to squirm around the floor; the Gryffindor girls and Tracey Davis jumped up onto their seats and squealed. As Snape walked over to get them down, Theo used his wand to levitate the ashwinder slowly over towards Harry Potter’s caldron on the table beside theirs. Harry had joined the professor in sweeping up all the larvae, unable to resist his urge to help the girls in his year. As the ashwinder landed in the caldron unnoticed, Daphne uncorked a bottle of leech juice and tipped it in before scooting back across the table to Pansy. As Harry returned to his seat and the class settled, the contents of caldron exploded; Leech juice flew up violently and soaked all the Gryffindor students on the table. When Harry peered into the caldron he saw nothing but a clump of grey goo. He looked back at Draco instantly, his face red and spiky hair now smelling of leeches. Hermione Granger began to complain to Snape to do something, asking fifty points be taken from Slytherin;

“Enough Miss Granger, I cannot deduct points from Mr Malfoy and Mr Nott for Potter’s mistake. Learn to clean your caldron properly and this won’t happen.” He scorned before resuming the class.

Now as Harry and Ron approached him in the library, Theo felt they all might pay for the well-executed charade;

“That’s it Malfoy, I know you did something to my caldron. Showed it to Moody and he said it had been tampered with.” Harry shoved Draco up against the bookshelf which jolted behind their combined weight,

“Not the books!” Hermione and Theo yelled in unison.

Harry pushed his wand up against Draco’s chest, a powerful hex brewing in his mind to teach the boy a lesson.

“It wasn’t funny. Tell em’ Daph.” Ron grumbled, his own fists clenched ready to punch Theo hard in the jaw. “You ruined my last pair of good socks.”

“Did you bring the chest?” Daphne held out her hand to Harry, unbothered by the boys drama.

Hermione fished in her bag and produced the tiny golden chest from the first task alongside a dozen of books she needed to return. Granger placed the chest in the centre of the table and cast a muffling spell around the tense group. Theo watched as Draco shrugged off Harry and re-took his seat at the head of the table, reclining back as he watched Hermione working on the charm.

“Listen.” Ron reached over and flicked the small latch which opened the chest;

The moment the chest flung open a high pitched screech blasted Theo’s eardrums. They all covered their ears to block the noise as it continued to wail and shriek. Pansy reached over and snapped it shut before re adjusting her freshly cut bangs (apparently she had obtained a permission slip to get them done in Diagon Alley the weekend before the ball).

“Well we can’t decipher a clue from a scream.” Daphne picked up the box and began to look at the decorative elements that covered it.

“It can’t be the scream, it has to be something else.” Theo leant over to get a better look at the chest as Daphne inspected it herself. He could smell the buttery Skower’s Shower Potion she used to wash her hair.

“There’s a couple of these knot symbols on here, perhaps they're some type of runes?” Daphne ran her hands over the image of an three spiralled shape. “The ribbon of these symbols, the dashes and the spikes and the swirly lines which run across it. They have to mean something too.” Daphne guessed.

“I’ve gone through all our notes on Germanic, Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Nordic runes and the knot isn’t one of them, but it does look familiar in the sense that it might be a Gaelic one. It wasn’t in the guide to Gaelic Runology that I read but there’s a few more books I could consult.” Hermione began to rant about her readings, scribbling down a few notes as she went.

“I said the squiggly lines looked like waves, so maybe the task has something to do with water?” Ron deduced,

“Professor Moody did give me a book on underwater spells.” Harry reached down into his bag and pulled out a tattered copy of the book in question, “said it might help.”

“So its underwater.” Daphne put the chest down and began to take notes herself. Theo watched as she scribbled;

Gaelic runes + wave carvings = underwater, breathing?

“Well how would Moody know anything? We can’t go off the assumption it’ll be underwater based on a couple of squiggly lines and a book he gave Potter on a subject he’s currently teaching.” Pansy reasoned as she too watched Daphne note down the possibility,

“He might just want Potter to brush up on his duelling skills since he’s all mouth and no action.” Draco teased. "i could take Potter in a duel any day."

“We need to work out the screaming ok?” Daphne refocused them as Harry looked to start a fight. If Theo was a betting man he probably would’ve put his money on the young spiky haired boy by the looks he was giving.

“we have to get the chest to stop screaming when we open it or work out why it does. Theo, Blaise and I will work on the Gaelic runes. The rest of you can try and work on the assumption it’ll have something to do with water, we need to know what options for a water task there are. Is it swimming? Or is it more figurate like only using water based elemental magic?”

Hermione noted down a list of everyone’s duties and added it to her extensive pile of parchment. Theo gave back Harry the golden chest as he and Ron rushed to meet the other Gryffindors for a friendly Quidditch, he was thankful to have avoided an unneeded conflict after their prank that day. As Theo watched Harry leave he was all too aware of the danger the boy was potentially in, the danger he posed to Daphne by default as well. He had not heard from Crouch Jnr in a while, but the Death Eater was inside the castle walls biding his time. Theo reflected on all the death he had seen and prayed he would work out who Crouch was and exactly what he was doing before any more tragic fates befell them.

“We should probably do the History of Magic essay on the evolution of the Medieval Assembly of European Wizards to the current International Confederation of Wizards.” Millie finally spoke up once the Gryffindor trio had left. “I’ve done a section on the current day layout but I can’t work out how all the seats translate.”

“Get Pansy to do it, her father’s got a British seat on the modern day confederation.” Blaise dismissed, “My contribution to this group is my frighteningly good looks and social mastery. Academics? Not my thing.”

“Oh sure, and Pansy’s contribution is her intellect? Come off it.” Draco scoffed,

“Pansy can be the beauty with Blaise or maybe the leadership and logic of the group?” Millie suggested instead, “I think Daphne should have the academic intellect.”

“Daphne?” Theo rolled his eyes, “as if.”

“Oh you think you’re the brains of the operation?” Daphne laughed at him, “I don’t recall you devising the plan to get us into St Mungo’s or outwitting a manticore.”

“I don’t recall you mastering the brewing of Polyjuice at only thirteen years old.”

“You can both share intellect.” Millie silenced their bickering before turning to Draco, “You’ll be our ego and pride.”

Theo laughed with the rest of them as Draco tried to rebut the title but realised it was no use. The boy had a head bigger than anyone else. Their amusement attracted the attention of Madame Pince who loudly shushed them from five bookshelves away, but they struggled to suppress their laughter.

“Millie can be our heart.” Daphne wiped a tear from her eye as she tried to stop laughing, “and maybe our humour too.”

“No. Humour must be shared equally.” Theo debated, “but Greengrass and I can’t have the same role.”

“It’s obvious, Daphne’s the sprit and Theo’s the sulk.” Pansy teased,

“Daphne’s the goody-goody Greengrass and Theo’s the caldron destroyer.” Blaise joined in.

“Alright enough, I get it.” Theo held up his hands before reaching for his copy of A History of Magic to help Millie with their homework.

“We should’ve stolen Bucktooth's essay.” Draco lamented, “bet she’s written four whole scrolls already. Show off. ”

Chapter Text

Draco considered himself a man of very strong principals. Like his mother and father; Draco knew what was right and what was wrong, and he fought to make everyone else see the world through his eyes. So when he saw Hermione Granger enter the Yule Ball looking like that , his eyes must have been playing tricks.

Hermione was a mudblood, the lowest class of witch that could exist. He had constantly gone out of his way to make sure she understood that she was a freak of nature, a stain on the reputation of the magical community that undermined the selectiveness of wizarding society. If any random muggle could give birth to a magical child than magic wasn’t as sacred as he had been raised to believe, his own pure blood not as powerful as he knew it was. Magic was a gift given only to the most worthy, and Hermione Granger had not been born worthy. But when he had watched her rich brown skin glow under the candlelight of the Great Hall, when he watched her hazelnut eyes catch his as she turned in the arms of Viktor Krum – Draco felt his body yearn with desire. It was unnatural, his feelings were skewed and his principals completely challenged. Draco had felt his body betray him; it had finally awoken to Hermione Granger’s beauty and left him completely disarmed.

“Come on Granger, admit I was right about the manticore.” He had bragged as he and Hermione were walking to Defence Against the Dark Arts after another study session with the others.

“All the literature said its body was impregnable, you simply got lucky.” Hermione frowned, never wanting to admit she was wrong, “a face is part of a body, if a spell hit it, then it should have rebounded as the books said.”

They had separated the moment they entered the classroom; Hermione joining Harry and Ron while Draco headed for his own friends. Blaise raised a brow but the others said nothing, they figured if Draco was talking to a mudblood he was probably just informing them of how inferior they were. Professor Moody was reclined in his seat, his heavy prosthetic leg stretched in front of him;

“Malfoy boy, what did your old professor have you do on days like this?”

Draco thought back to Lockhart or Lupins classes; “they liked to make sure we had duelling practice. Lockhart knew I was one of the best.” He grinned,

“Alright then, pair off.” Moody grunted as he flicked open a flask and chugged its contents. His interest in teaching had dramatically declined as the year had progressed, but he remained just as frightening as ever.

Draco slid back out of his seat, drawing his wand and looking back at the boys. Daphne, Millie and Pansy were already standing up to half-heartedly throw spells at one another as they used the class time to chat; apparently Poppy Coffe’s father had promised an interview with renowned vampire Sergei Huntington would be in the next copy of the Prophet.

“Surely this means a free.” Blaise suggested, leaning back in seat like the professor. “He doesn’t care. I mean, he's asked you for advice.”

“You’re just saying that because you don’t stand a chance against me.” Draco scoffed, “Come on Theo.”

Theo raised his eyebrows; “I’m more of a lover than a fighter.” He joked.

Draco groaned, turning back to see that Harry and Ron had paired off together and Hermione was lingering nearby. “Come on Granger.” He had called out, “You and me.”

Hermione looked at him as if he was mad. She took notice of the others all paired off and walked towards him hesitantly; “Only because I don’t want to fall behind.”

She stood in the proper duelling stance that one was supposed to take up, waiting for Draco to resume the same.

“Expelliarmus” he cast the first spell, which she swiftly blocked.

“Expelliarmus” she fired the same back as they parried back and forth,

The pair were shooting spells and blocking them in a strange rhythm that seemed to leave neither a clear victor. He blocked a twitchy-ear hex, dancing jinx and body bind in quick succession. Before Draco realised, they had traversed the course of the room shouting spells louder and louder until the rest of the class had started to stare at the spectacle. Then as Draco readied to cast a painful pinching jinx, he felt himself be outdone. Draco’s fingers started to swell until they resembled sausages which struggled to grip his wand, Hermione Granger had bested and him not for the first or last time. She smiled with delight as he dropped his wand and looked at his hands in disappointment, they had been hit with some jinx.

“Ha! Not bad for a muggle born.” She bragged,

“I was right about the manticore though.” He reminded her again,

“Fine, ok, but I win!”

“For now..” he smiled, enjoying just being able to speak to her. He’d give anything for more moments of conversation with her.

“Come on Draco.” Pansy called as Moody waved them all off, Daphne was already picking up his wand from down beside him.

“We better get you to Pomfrey.” Daphne looked at his inflated hands, “Nice one Bucktooth, I mean – Oh Merlin sorry, I promise I won’t say that anymore. Especially now that um, you know.” She pointed at Hermione’s improved teeth (One of the major changes Draco noticed at the Yule ball) before hurrying over to Pansy in slight embarrassment.

Draco looked to Hermione who seemed unfazed by the comment. He felt slightly ashamed that she was so used to such names, names he had called her.

“Sorry about that, the teeth thing.” He couldn’t muster his voice above a slight whisper,

Draco Malfoy never apologised for much in his life, he was almost always in the right anyway. So admitting a lapse of character was hard enough, let alone apologising to someone like Hermione. But shamelessly, now he cared what she thought about him and so he choked out the words. Hermione looked totally shocked by what she heard and tilted her head,

“Well, you’ll have to stop actually saying it for that apology to mean anything, but thank you I suppose. That was actually the first time you’ve called me Granger, you know when you asked me to duel with you. ” She backed away from him in confusion but pleasantly surprised, “see you in the next Tournament study session then.”

“See you then Granger.” Draco nodded curtly as he started walking towards the medical wing.

***

Each time Draco now found himself in Hermione’s company, he tried to suppress the hormonal thoughts that riddled his head. He kept re-living the moment he had seen her enter the ball; the way her dress had clung to the heavy curves of her body, the way her hair was piled neatly up on top of her head and sparkled with some cherry scented spray she had used. He saw the way her mouth crooked and eyes darted when she thought, he re-envisioned the way she had thrown back her head when she laughed at Theo’s jokes or the way she had passionately debated with Pansy over the house-elves in the kitchen. He had never been so jealous as he had been when he watched Krum holding her waist and leading her across the dance floor.

They had all gathered for another Tournament study session to go back over the golden chest which supposedly held the clue for the next task. At first Draco had attended these sessions out of pure loyalty to Daphne, knowing that he had to help in any way he could. Now he eagerly awaiting any chance to speak with Hermione, good or bad. He had still worn his ‘Potter Stinks’ badge just to irk Harry, and as he approached their designated study table he handed out some back up badges to Theo, Blaise, Goyle and Crabbe who all followed instruction and pinned them on. Daphne and Millie were already seated and had been playing a game of exploding snap as they waited for the others, now they collected up the cards and greeted the boys;

“Did you guys make any progress?” he asked Daphne,

She picked up her wand and summoned a copy of Flint’s guide to Gaelic Runology from her bag. Daphne had started trying to practice all kinds of magic any time should could, convinced she had almost lost her life to the manticore from the first task due to her lack of practice. The book opened itself to a page where the symbol on the chest was drawn, underneath it a small passage gave the symbols its various meanings.

“It’s not a rune per say, the symbol we were looking at is a Triskelion. It’s a Gaelic symbol that when drawn anti-clockwise like this represents the manipulation of nature. So we think that means the chest can be manipulated by the elements. But here in the middle of it is a rune, it’s the sixteenth letter in the Ogham alphabet called ailm.”

“The letter is a sign of strength and endurance, which we think could relate to the task. We couldn’t work out the symbols on the ribbon bits along the lid though.” Theo jumped in to clarify,

“Ok so, back to the chest.” Millie tried to get her head around it, “we can get the clue from it by subjecting it an element, but what element? It can’t be air, and it can’t be land because we’ve inadvertently tried that.”

“So it’s either fire or water.” Hermione approached the table weighted down by the dozen books that she carted around with her everywhere. Draco felt his heart quicken slightly and then cursed the fact his body had even done so.

Ron and Harry flanked either side of Hermione, both slumped down into their seats and then glared at Draco as he flexed the badge on his robes with a smirk. They no longer attempted to rip the badges off them now that Draco had added the spray of putrid Hodag secretion which was triggered by Harry’s close presence.

“So let’s try and burn it.” Ron suggested with enthusiasm as Harry plonked the golden chest on the table,

“Wait a moment, that makes so much sense.” Pansy looked up from her copy of Witch Weekly at the chest, leaning in closer as she ran her eyes over the ribbon of rune-like text the others hadn’t managed to de-code. “that’s mermish.” She pointed to the dashes and squiggles.

“Mermish?” Harry asked clueless,

“The language of merpeople. Keep up Potter.” Draco rolled his eyes as he waited for Pansy to continue,

“My older brother works with magical creatures and he was in the being division for a while at the ministry, I can’t read it but I’m sure that’s mermish.”

“So the task is underwater, and the clue – It must be opened by submerging it in water or something. That’s why it has the mermish and the symbol of elemental manipulation” Daphne realised, jumping up from her seat and looking around the library, “we have to go dunk it in the water, now!”

“Harry Potter!” A shrill voice called out.

Draco turned to see Daily Prophet reporter; Rita Skeeter standing in the Hogwarts library. She pulled out her quill and notepad in a hurry. Beside her Poppy Coffe (whose father was the editor of the Daily Prophet) stood smiling at the rest of her fellow Slytherins before casting confused glances between their odd grouping with the Gryffindor trio.

“Don’t even ask. We’re being forced.” Pansy cut her off before she could articulate the question.

“Poppy told me you might be hidden away in here, Dumbledore’s given our paper another visitors pass.” Rita Skeeter grinned,

“I’m not doing another interview.” Harry grumbled,

“Oh alas I’m not here for that exactly, although what was going through your mind during that first task? Have you managed to crack that little clue?”

Draco reached out and slowly dragged the golden chest away from the centre of the table, hoping Rita hadn’t seen it. He didn’t want her potentially leaking his involvement with helping Harry in any capacity. If it got back to The Society, they’d all be in real trouble.

“He’s solved it.” Ron lied, “easy really. Now, we’ll be off. Got a Herbology assignment due.”

“Miss Greengrass, I’d like a moment.” Rita’s head whipped around as Ron began to pull Harry away from the scene, saving him from another fake article pertaining to his orphaned cry for attention.

Draco watched as Daphne became caught in the cross fire. He remembered that Rita had written a small article dedicated to Daphne’s and Cedric’s so called ‘relationship’ (a complete lie considering the pair hadn’t even kissed – at least not as far as he was aware). Draco figured the whole thing as a PR stunt run up by her parents. His mother had always told him that the Greengrass’s were experts in manipulating their image; having aligned themselves to Voldemort during the war but kept their hands relatively clean to the point at which they were never even considered for prosecution after the Dark Lord’s fall. Draco’s own parents had sat through a long trial before being acquitted, but the Greengrasses? They got away with it all thanks to their skilfully curated image.

Rita encroached on Daphne and began to ask her about her father’s hobbies; Did he meet with Fudge often? Did he support Mr Parkinson’s house elf disciplinary board?

“C’mon Theo lets go.” Blaise had nudged him and stood up,

“Theo? Theodore Nott?” Rita questioned, now jumping up in pursuit of the pair as they walked from the table, “How do you feel about your fathers imprisonment?”

“Shove off, and a piece of advice? Those yellow claws you have there. Ugly.” Blaise jumped in to intervene and shoo the reporter away as they hightailed it down the library.

Daphne followed, starting to try and distract Rita from harassing Theo. But Draco forced himself to stay seated, the golden chest still exposed in his lap but firmly out of the prying reporters eyes.

“Hey Pansy?” Poppy turned back to the few remaining, “Emmeline and I were going to go and watch Adrian and the other boys play Quidditch with Ander Landvik and Krum. Wanna come?” she asked,

Pansy closed her copy of Witch Weekly and drummed her nails on the table. Draco watched her weigh up what she wanted to do verses what she knew she had to do; “Sure.” She sighed. “Millie will come with us too.”

Pansy would never disgruntle Poppy Coffe or Emmeline Avery; both were pureblood, both had powerful families, both were from in the year above and extremely popular (probably for those first two reasons). She had worked hard to obtain their friendship in their first years after her parents forced her adopt Mr Parkinson’s campaign into her social life. With both Mr Coffe’s and Mr Avery’s support, Mr Parkinson had managed to secure his seat and avoid the debtors at Gringott's seising the families assets.

As the girls left, Draco found himself alone with Hermione for the first time. The pair sat at opposite sides of the long wooden table which had once housed all ten of them. Draco shifted in the silence, torn between his natural instinct to make a sneering comment to break the tension and his new desire to marvel at her plump rounded mouth. Hermione began to pack away all the work she had laid out with the intention to move her study elsewhere. Draco put the golden chest back on the table and ran his fingers along the mermish carvings,

“We have merpeople in the Big Lake at Malfoy Manor.” He felt himself tell her, “My father forbade me to swim in it in-case they dragged me down to the bottom.”

“Merpeople aren’t always dangerous, Hagrid says they’re highly advanced. They have music and sub cultures and dwellings and have even domesticated other creatures.” Hermione lectured,

“Yeah, and they use lobalug’s as weapons against wizards.” Draco rolled his eyes, he didn’t know why he expected her to understand.

“That’s simply evidence of intellect.” Hermione explained, “something you clearly lack.”

“Listen Granger, I’ve lived in this world my entire life and you’ve been here four years. I think I know a bit more about it than you.”

“I’ve read almost every book related to the matter, traversing your traditional backwards teachings to the modern evidences. You and your sources are prejudice.”

“You listen to Hagrid, a half-giant that got expelled from this very school because he killed another student. His teachings are the reason I’ve got permanent scars. I almost couldn't fly because of him.”

Draco got up from his seat with the express intent to put some distance back between him and Hermione. He didn’t know what he was thinking, he had gone mad – perhaps the same insanity that propelled Daphne to participate in this Tournament had spread to him? But Hermione followed, her short stubby legs in hot pursuit;

“Where are you taking the chest? Give it me, I’ll return it to Harry.” she demanded.

“Potter doesn’t deserve it, Daphne’s the one taking all the risk, she’s the one actually competing while he hides in the headmasters office. We’ll work out the clue by ourselves now we know how to open it.”

“How do you even know submerging it underwater will reveal the clue? We haven’t tried it yet.”

She had a point. Draco felt his curiosity start to set in as he held the chest within his hands. All he had to do was go and stick it in some body of water and he’d get to start deciphering the clue. The sooner they worked it out, the less he’d have to keep coming back to be tempted by Hermione.

“I’ll go test our theory then.” Draco informed her as he walked by Madam Pince, “See you round Granger.”

“Oh no you don’t, you’re not going to get to hear the clue without me.” Hermione refused, hurrying alongside him out of the library.

“Well you’re not allowed in the Slytherin common room and where else do you suggest I find a body of water big enough to stick my head and the chest in?”

“Your head? Why can’t we just submerge it in a bathroom sink?” Hermione tried to reason, desperate that he not take the chest and even worse; hear the clue before her, Harry and Ron.

“And how do you propose I hear the clue if it’s under the water and I’m not?” Draco shook his head, “Your supposed to be the brightest witch of our year.” He sarcastically noted.

Hermione’s ears turned red and she quickly drew her wand; “Brachiabindo” she pointed her wand at his feet and they became bound by invisible wire, preventing him from walking back down towards the dungeons. “Give me that chest Malfoy.” She stuck out her hands,

“Locomotor Wibbly” Draco pulled his own wand from his robe and hopped around to strike Hermione in the torso as she advanced to take back the golden chest.

She fell to the ground as her legs gave out underneath her, a loud thud of books followed. Draco used the reverse jinx to free himself as Hermione instantly did the same. As Hermione sprung up off the floor, they stood in a stalemate.

“I could do this all day Malfoy.” Hermione warned, “you’re not working out that clue without me.”

“Tell you what Granger, you tell me where we can both stick our heads and the chest under a body of decently warm water and ill let you come with me. I don’t fancy a dip in the black lake at the minute.”

“How gracious.” Hermione rolled her eyes, “but I do have an idea.”

***

Draco found himself standing beside a statue of Boris the Bewildered on the fifth floor of Hogwarts Castle just half an hour later. He had hunted down Adrian Pucey to secure the password to the prefects bathroom, and now whispered; ‘Treacle Fudge’ at the wall.

“He shouldn’t have told you the password, its meant to be for prefects and captains only.” Hermione grumbled as if she had not suggested the bathroom as the perfect destination to trial their theory,

“Sure Granger, let’s pretend this was my idea,” he indulged her,

The worn stone of the ancient castle walls warped itself into the shape of a door and both Draco and Hermione walked through it into the newly revealed bathroom. Draco marvelled at the huge white marble room which he had found himself inside; an enormous swimming pool sized hole was in the middle of the room, adorned with a wall of a hundred golden taps. As the door sealed behind them, Hermione turned the shiny taps, causing each golden pipe to spout water that smelt of roses and was packed with bubbles. Only as the huge bathtub began to fill did Draco realise that he didn’t have his swimmers on, and began to take off his shoes and robe.

“What are you doing?” Hermione screeched as she turned back from dipping her arm in the rising warm water,

“Getting in.” Draco explained the obvious,

Draco was now just down to his dress pants and white school shirt. He was too sheepish to shed any more layers, conscious that it would reveal his pinkened scars from last year and newly hairy legs. He also wasn’t sure how he felt about Hermione seeing him in that way , although he’d had a dream about seeing her scantily clad a few nights ago. It was one of the first times Draco’s body had betrayed his mind; he wasn’t supposed to think of a mudblood like this, especially her. Hermione blushed but turned away before Draco could notice. She shed her own robe but left all her clothes on; she would just stick her head under as they had agreed. Draco stepped down into the hot water and slowly descended the marble steps until he was swimming in the fragrant bath. He looked back at Hermione for some sign as she was kneeling beside the edge;

“If you splash me Draco, I will hex you.” She warned as he waded a little closer to where she was,

“Three, two, one.” Draco counted them down and then dunked his whole body in the water, feeling it saturate his shirt and hair. He snapped open the golden chest as they had the first day in the library and suddenly the screaming un-jumbled into perfect English;

You must seek us where our voices sound for your challenge will be above and below the ground. Over an hour or so you may miss, come find your trunk and brew over this.

You must endure the ice water and heat, to leave the ground under your feet. When one door opens another may close, this challenge shall truly test you against your foes.

Draco pushed off from the bottom of the marble floor when he felt his chest tighten for lack of air, as he emerged he slammed the screaming golden chest shut and shook his platinum white hair out of his eyes. Hermione had water dripping from her face as she demanded they listen to it a few more times.

When they emerged from the warm bubbly water again, Draco swum over to lean on the