Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals 22

Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Three.
Or, "Aspie Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

Note: I do not own this. J. K. Rowling does. This is just fan fiction. No money is being made.

Note 2: There may be a few bits and pieces lifted word-for-word from the canon material. I tried to do that as little as possible, though.

Note 3: Sorry for the wait. Been having writer's block with this one on top of other issues. As you'll be able to see, I defeated this writer's block by doing something a bit different this time and changing the point-of-view away from Harry for a while.

Chapter Seven: Prelude to Catching a Rat

Their first week back from the holidays, and already Antigone, Angela, and Danzia were annoyed. Draco, who had gotten more withdrawn since getting back, had been spending so much time with them that Antigone and Angela had almost no time together alone. What was more, they weren't sure whether or not Draco realized the two of them were together. He was even getting on Danzia's nerves, but of course he was Harry's friend and he wasn't doing anything wrong as such. They felt for him, they did, but he couldn't spend the rest of his Hogwarts career like this. For one thing, the three girls were all in fifth year, and would be graduating Hogwarts in Draco's fifth year. For another, he was driving them spare.

Of course, they had tried to introduce him to Willem, but the two boys didn't really click. Willem was... well, he was probably in the wrong House, to be honest. Hufflepuff would have been a better fit, probably, because he had a strong sense of justice and was very outspoken in favor of Muggles, muggleborns, and others, as well as being a lot of fun to be around when he was in good spirits, but he was rubbish at Defense magic, and he tended to get very moody. But where most moody boys they knew about tended to switch between happiness and annoyance or anger, Willem tended to cry a lot instead. So he ended up getting on Draco's nerves just as much as Draco got on the girls' nerves, or would have, except Willem didn't seem to like Draco any more than Draco liked him.

The only other person in Slytherin they could potentially foist Draco off on was Qintar, the first-year black girl with red hair and freckles, who was also a Muslim. Except she and Willem had hit it off, and she was nearly as prone to crying jags as Willem was, despite normally being very silly and gregarious. Also, as a first-year, Draco didn't really want to spend a lot of time with her because he was at that stage where she was too young for him to really want to spend much time around. And yet he didn't see how three fifth-year girls might feel the same way about a third-year boy.

On the first Friday night back, the three girls were hanging out in their dorm together and talking about the issue. Their other dorm-mate was somewhere else, probably studying.

“So what are we going to do?” Antigone asked when they'd finished outlining the problem.

Danzia, who was sucking on a blood-flavored lollipop, took it out of her mouth to speak. “Dunno. I like Draco, he's gotten more interesting than he was before, but honestly, he needs some friends his own age, and not just Harry, Ron, and Hermione.”

“Exactly,” Antigone said. “He's the kind of personality who needs to be popular, and he's not doing well being so unpopular. He's a leader, not a follower. He needs to find his confidence again. Honestly, he's scared of Crabbe and Goyle, when he could hex them into oblivion faster than they could crack their knuckles. It's pathetic. I don't know how he stands being that way, it's so unnatural for him.”

“What can we do about it, though?” Angela asked.

“No idea. But something needs to be done. If he can get back his confidence, and some of his cockiness, I'm sure he'll be alright and won't annoy us so much. He could bring the more neutral Slytherins in line. Hell, he could probably even sway some of the not-so-neutral people.”

“Like who?”

“Well,” Antigone said, thinking, “the Greengrasses would be easy. And Pansy still won't shut up about him. Sure she's a bit miffed that he's gone over to Harry's side, but she genuinely likes Draco, and I'm certain she'll be fawning over him again if he finds himself. And with that kind of devotion, he could sway her.”

Danzia popped the lollipop out of her mouth again. “Yeah, and then there's Tracy Davis, she'd be relatively easy for him to collect. A bit more difficult would be Zabini.”

“Yeah. So, ideas? Danzia?”

“Hmm... the problem, as I see it, is he thinks he can avoid Crabbe and Goyle forever. He also doesn't see that his position is eroding. I think he might be convinced his position is gone already. I don't think he realizes the truth of the situation, or how much potential there is for him. Plus... he could easily couch things in terms of who's stronger.”

“Pardon? I don't understand.”

“Well, Angie, what I mean is that right now, people think the side of the Death Eaters who avoided Azkaban is the stronger side, politically. I think most of them believe the Dark Lord is gone forever, and even the ones who don't think that way still don't have any real loyalty to him, or they would have gone to Azkaban for him. They're the sort that go wherever the strongest wind is blowing. If someone like Draco could convince people that Harry is the way the wind is blowing, that could sway them.”

“But it's more complicated that that,” Antigone countered. “There's blood bigotry in the mix, too. The former Death Eaters have power because they're in line with that.”

“Yes, but I think most of that bigotry is based out of fear. They're afraid of Muggles because Muggles outnumber witches and wizards by such a huge margin.”

“If they had any idea what Muggles were really capable of, how clever they are and how far science has progressed, they might be even more scared.”

“And yet,” Danzia said, “Draco has some inkling of that, and didn't go deeper into his bigotry. Why?”

“Um... I don't know. Why?”

“I think, whether he realizes it or not, that at some level he's realized that Muggle knowledge could be useful to expand wizard powers. Think of it; done right, Muggle knowledge could not only be used to make wizardkind more secure against the Muggles, thus alleviating some of that fear, but also it could lead to a solution to the problem of wizardkind dying out. We know being a witch or wizard is hereditary, and may sometimes be a mutation. If we could discover the Wizard Gene and how that all works, we could make sure every child born into the wizarding world would be magical. No more squibs! It might even be possible to take in Muggle orphans and make them magical. Muggle knowledge could turn things around and maybe even reverse our fortunes.”

“Holy crap! That'd be amazing if it turned out to be true. The trouble is, it's just conjecture. What if we found out the opposite? That the magical world was dying and nothing could be done about it? Then we'd be selling people on false hope.”

“Well at the very least, there's enough solid Muggle science to show that inbreeding is a massively stupid idea. It's a wonder people like Draco aren't horribly hideous with debilitating genetic diseases and deformities.”

“Yeah but it's like Hagrid said, most wizards and witches are half-blood, even if they claim otherwise.”

“True enough, Tig, but--”

Antigone banished a large pillow right into Danzia's face. “Don't call me Tig!”

Danzia laughed. “Fine, fine. Anyway, I'm bored now. We should make a project of Draco and write down ideas as they come to us, check in every now and then to see what we have.”

“Ooh, can I name the project?” Angela asked.

“Sure, my angel,” Antigone said, kissing her on the lips.

“Alright then, I want to call it Project Ladon.”

“Danzia, your thoughts?”

Danzia had the lollipop in her mouth, and so just gave Antigone a thumbs-up.

“Project Ladon it is, then,” she said, writing it down.

~

Harry was in the library when Luna came in and sat next to him on Saturday the 29th. They'd met a bunch of times since the term had begun again already, but Harry was fully in the swing of thinking about his Sirius problem. He'd had several anti-dementor lessons with Lupin since his first one, but he still hadn't told Lupin about Sirius. He kept losing his nerve, fearing Lupin wouldn't listen and would go straight to Dumbledore, and Sirius would end up back in Azkaban.

Luna was just studying next to him as she sometimes did, but this time he had a brainwave as he looked at her. He couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it before!

“Luna?”

She set her book down and looked at him with a serene smile on her face. “Yes, Harry?”

“If I told you something really secret, you'd keep the secret for me, right?”

She paused a moment, thinking. “As long as the secret wasn't hurting anyone, then yes.”

He paused too at this point. That wasn't a very helpful response for what he was thinking of doing. He reminded himself that she was nothing if not open-minded. He tried to think how to proceed.

“Well, nobody's been hurt so far, and I can't imagine that's likely to change anytime soon. In fact, what we'd be doing would help keep someone from getting hurt.”

Luna looked intrigued. “What do you mean, Harry?”

“How do you feel about going for a walk on the grounds? We can discuss it more privately there.”

“Well, okay. Just let me drop my things off at my dorm, and see if I can find my outdoor clothing.”

“Okay. Meet me at the front entrance in 15 minutes?”

“Better make it 20. My things have a tendency to be difficult to locate.”

“Er, okay. See you soon!”

Luna gathered her things. Harry gathered his. Then they left the library and went to their respective dorms to get their things ready for the outdoors. In twenty minutes, Harry was waiting at the front door of the castle for Luna, who arrived fully 10 minutes late.

“Sorry for being late, Harry. I had a harder time finding my boots than I had anticipated.”

“Ah okay. Well come on, let's go.”

She followed him out onto the grounds, both of them bundled in heavy winter cloaks. Luna had on a very colorful sweater under her cloak, that he could just see part of. They both also had scarves on. Harry used a spell to clear the way ahead of them and he lead her out far enough away from the castle to be sure they wouldn't be overheard, and so that he could see anyone coming with enough warning to stop talking before they could be within earshot. Only when he was certain they were far enough away did he start to talk.

“So, er... you remember Shadow, right?”

“The stray dog that you feed sometimes? Yes, he's adorable. I couldn't forget such a cute dog. What about him, Harry?”

“What if I told you there was more to Shadow than meets the eye?”

“Ooh, is he a talking dog? I've heard that can happen sometimes. They stand up on their hind legs and speak in full English.”

“Er... well, in a manner of speaking, that's true. He's... an animagus.”

“An animagus? Your dog? You mean like Professor McGonagall?”

“Yes. Only he's unregistered.”

“Hmm... Harry, I don't know about this. He could be part of the Rotfang Conspiracy. I've heard the Rotfang Conspirators sometimes use animagi to scout out potential double agents. You're famous enough that could be useful to them.”

“Er... no. He's my godfather.”

“Oh? You have a godfather?”

“Yes. Well... don't freak out, but he's Sirius Black.”

“Oh, is that all? You had me worried there for a moment, Harry.”

“Wait, what? You're not freaking out? Why not?”

“Well I've known Sirius Black is innocent for years. A friend of Daddy's has been working on an article for the Quibbler, doing research to prove Sirius Black is really Stubby Boardman, lead singer of the Hobgoblins. So he's an animagus, is he? Interesting.”

Harry's brain ground to a halt as he tried to process where this conversation had gone.

Finally, he found his words again.

“Er, I don't know if he's ever been a singer; I haven't asked him. But uh... does this mean you'd be willing to help me figure out how to clear his name?”

“Of course, Harry. And if it's not too bold, how did you come to the conclusion he's innocent?”

He sighed, and proceeded to tell her all about how long he'd been spending time around Shadow, and how Sirius had revealed himself during the Christmas holidays, as well as the full story from Sirius's side. She listened quietly, nodding and asking questions now and then.

“So that's everything,” he finally finished. “And now I have to figure out how to get the truth out in a way that doesn't put him in more danger, and doesn't tip off Pettigrew.”

Luna continued to walk alongside him, both of them lost in thought.

“Well Harry,” she said after many minutes, “tell Lupin. If you need support, I can be there with you when you do it. I think you can do it if you try, and I don't think Professor Lupin will rush to judgment. From what you told me, it seems like Professor Lupin already knows that Shadow is an animagus, and hasn't told Dumbledore yet for some reason. Hmm... I think maybe he's feeling guilty that they violated Dumbledore's trust, and is trying to convince himself that Shadow's animagus powers have nothing to do with his escape. And it's also possible part of him doesn't really believe Shadow is guilty.”

“So you think that will be enough to keep him from freaking out and going to Dumbledore?”

“I believe so. And with two of us there, we might be able to slow him down if I'm wrong.”

Harry nodded. Okay. The anti-dementor classes are in his classroom at 8 pm on Thursdays.”

“I'll be there for the next one, Harry.”

“Oh, er... okay. But the next one is on February third, not next week.”

“Okay then, I'll be there for that one.”

“Thanks.”

“You're welcome, Harry.”

He smiled, as did she, and they continued their walk, hand in hand.

~

Not caring if Filch caught him, Draco was running through the corridor, escaping Crabbe and Goyle once more. He was in a bind, though, because Crabbe was around one corner, and Goyle was flanking him from another. He kept going back and forth, looking for a place to hide. Finally, he found a door he hadn't noticed before, and went into it, closing it and locking the door behind him.

As he panted, catching his breath in what looked like a cupboard for cleaning supplies, he felt himself feeling very angry. He was the scion of house Malfoy, for Merlin's sake! And here he was running from two morons that used to be his goons. What was he doing? Why was he letting himself be cowed like this?

Oh, right; he'd gone over to Harry's side, and lost his position in Slytherin. He sighed, annoyed now.

A few minutes later, he heard the two buffoons give up and leave. He waited a few more minutes before coming out of the cupboard and making his careful way back to the library, the one place he knew they wouldn't go looking for him.

He was wandering the stacks when he overheard a conversation composed of familiar voices whispering. It was Antigone, Angela, and Danzia. He was about to get out to greet them when the conversation turned to him, prompting him to continue eavesdropping.

“So Antigone, anything new to add to Project Ladon?” Danzia asked.

“Maybe. I've been giving it some thought, and I decided we should use the Network to make a couple clandestine deals for people to talk about Draco where he can hear them, saying things like 'a disgrace to the name Malfoy' or 'pathetic' to goad him into getting angry enough to come back to himself.”

“Yeah, that might work. Or it might backfire. We don't know how far gone he is. He's convinced he's lost his position, isn't he? He might hear those things and believe them. He may already believe those things about himself. After all, he's been acting kinda pathetic.”

“So I'm not the only one to worry that. Damn. And here I thought it was such a good plan.”

“Yeah, well, we need to find some way to do recon, find out what he really thinks. We can't keep going with guesses and half-baked theories. Like, does he think he's completely lost his position in Slytherin, or does he realize there's still hope? Does he realize that if he shaped up, he could bring the neutral Slytherins over to Harry's side along with him?”

Draco was shocked, but kept stock still, listening. There was more. These girls seemed to think he could bring a whole bunch of other Slytherins over to Harry's side with his natural leadership abilities if he could just get his confidence back. Little did he know, they were rehashing everything they'd already discussed in their dorm weeks ago, so he heard far more than he could have even guessed.

He was still standing there when they got bored of talking about him again and moved on to talking about homework. With nothing more to listen to, he sneaked away and left the library to do some thinking.

“Is he gone now?” Antigone asked.

Danzia stood up and checked. When she returned, she said, “Yeah, he's gone now.”

“Do you think it'll work?”

“I hope so. Otherwise we spent weeks of planning on nothing.”

“He won't suspect that was staged, will he?”

“Merlin, I hope not. Otherwise it won't work.”

Draco was sitting in the MAC classroom to think. So that's what they really thought of him, was it? Acting pathetic, but really having forgotten himself and his strength and confidence. They really thought he could turn many of the other Slytherins, did they? He grinned at this knowledge.

Crabbe and Goyle wouldn't be as easy to convert as they seemed to think, in his opinion. They were following Smith now. Slytherins following a Hufflepuff? Now that was shameful. He'd have a job convincing them of that, and convincing them to follow him again. But a good start would be standing up to them in Slytherin common room and giving them what-for. A verbal dressing-down wouldn't suffice, though. Hexing them would be seen as unfair. He'd have to get right up in their faces, fearless, daring them to do their worst. As much as they'd been threatening him, they'd be hesitant to actually attack him, since that would risk private Slytherin problems being exposed to the rest of the school. In a sense it already was; who knew how many people knew he'd been avoiding—no, running away from—them already. But they still wouldn't want to risk attacking a fellow Slytherin, it would be bad form, and even those two gorillas knew as much.

He grinned, writing down ideas. So much to plan, oh so much to plan indeed.

~

Danzia, Antigone, and Angela were all in the Slytherin common room the following evening when it happened. Draco came into the room with all his old confidence back, and sat right down in the middle of the room. The previously relaxed atmosphere suddenly changed, getting tense. Crabbe and Goyle, who had been sitting across the room struggling with their homework, felt the change and turned to see the source. When they saw Draco, they glared at him. He didn't respond, just got out a book and started to read.

Not taking this attitude lightly, Crabbe and Goyle got up and went over to stand menacingly over Draco. The blond boy looked up with a sneer on his face.

“Would you two move? You're in my light,” he said, every bit of his old arrogance poured into the words.

Crabbe and Goyle, for their part, blinked in confusion. He wasn't acting like they'd expected him to. But they recovered, probably deciding it was bravado, and cracked their knuckles menacingly.

“Are you two deaf as well as stupid? I said move!”

“Make us!”

Faster than the eye could track, Draco was standing with his wand out.

“I'd be glad to make you move, if you need the motivation. You've seen the sort of spells my father has taught me. I wonder which one I should use?”

The two large boys started to look nervous, even with their own wands out. They were no match for him where it came to magic. Not where legal magic was concerned, anyway.

“Let's see,” Draco said, appearing to be thinking. “Which spell would do the most damage, without being too much for Madam Pomfrey to fix? Decisions, decisions.”

As he mulled it over, Crabbe and Goyle looked nervously at each other.

“Bluff and bluster!” called Zabini, who was standing now too.

Draco lazily turned to consider the black boy.

“This is between Crabbe and Goyle and me, Zabini.”

“I can see what this is about, Draco,” Zabini said, sneering. “You've been a coward for months, and now suddenly you've grown a spine? You really expect us to believe it?”

“I admit, I forgot myself for a while. But I'm back now.”

“Oh, so you're done kissing Potter's arse and you're back to being the good little pureblood, is that what we're to believe?”

“Not exactly. I still think Potter is right. 'Pureblood' is just another word for 'inbred.' If we keep going the way we've been going, where we're going to go is extinct. As distasteful as it may seem, it's either breed with Muggles or die out forever. Or worse, become insane and powerless from inbreeding. I hope it hasn't escaped your notice that one of the most powerful wizards alive today, Dumbledore, is a half-blood? I don't know how I feel about Dumbledore, but I do know he's more powerful even than the Dark Lord was at his height. That much is undeniable.

“Then, too, look at Granger. Muggle-born, she and Potter – another half-blood – are the top of our class in everything. That's proof right there that purity of blood doesn't mean a damned thing.”

“You dare to say these things so brazenly, in Slytherin? What would Salazar Slytherin say?”

“Who cares? He lived a thousand years ago. In his time, his feelings were perfectly justified. But we've been dying out slowly ever since then. And if you hadn't noticed, we've been able to keep ourselves secret for centuries.”

“You're only saying this because you've been going to those Muggle lover meetings,” Zabini said hotly.

“I've been learning about Muggles, yes. True things, not just the idiotic drivel our parents have taught us. Muggles aren't stupid, they're just as smart as wizards are. And probably more clever, because they have to be, not having magic to do everything for them. It would be stupid to deny it, if for no other reason than 'know thy enemy.' Did you know they have bombs that can destroy entire cities in a flash of light? They do. And maybe your grandparents have told you about the bombs that fell during Grindelwald's war, that came from his German allies? They have poison gases, too. All that and more, without magic. They could kill us all overnight if they wanted to, but they don't even know we exist.

“There's even more. The things they know, if we knew those things too, we could expand our powers. Did you know they discovered the secrets of heredity? If we knew what they knew, we could find what makes someone a wizard, and use that knowledge to make sure there would never be squibs ever again, by turning squibs into wizards and witches. Think of that, no more squibs! We could potentially increase our numbers to match those of the Muggles.”

“Rubbish!”

“How would you know? Have you ever met a Muggle? Have you ever read any of their writings? Any of their science books? Besides which, you already use Muggle technology. Phonograph players are Muggle technology. The Hogwarts Express is magically modified Muggle steam engine technology. Wizarding Wireless was inspired by Muggle radio technology. And there's so much more there to explore. They can send moving pictures and sound across the world in real time. They can send letters and other communications around the globe in the blink of an eye. They're even making mechanical automatons to do difficult work for them! Not to mention, if we knew the secrets of their science of physics, we could make huge strides in alchemy.”

Crabbe and Goyle had had enough, it seemed. They grunted, and turned as one to clobber Draco, but he turned his wand on them and hit them with some sort of hex that had them both on the ground, moaning.

“The Dark Lord was brought down by the sacrifice of a Muggle-born witch for her half-blood child. He was arrogant and foolish. He slaughtered anyone who disagreed with him. In a time when we should be doing our best to preserve every wizarding life and working on a way to prevent our world's extinction, he murdered people by the scores and threatened to bring our whole world crashing down in flaming ruins.

“You're scared of the Muggles. I don't blame you. I'm scared, too. But pretending that we can go out and subjugate them when they outnumber us twenty to one or more is a fool's errand. What we need to do is embrace all wizardkind, or at least stop trying to kill or oppress one another, and use the knowledge of the Muggles and Muggle-borns to save our civilization from extinction. And if that means we align ourselves with Potter and Dumbledore, then that's what we do. You don't have to like them; Merlin knows I don't know if I like Dumbledore or not.”

He paused a moment, as if gathering strength for something, before continuing again.

“Voldemort is dead,” he said, waiting for the horrified gasps to stop before continuing. “Or at least near-dead and powerless. And even if he weren't, he was insane, arrogant, and power-mad. He used a blood purity stance to manipulate people into following him, but in the end his power came from fear. Fear of dying, or fear of loved ones dying, or worse things. But he would have brought us to extinction even faster than we were already going, if he hadn't been stopped. So will blood purity madness, if we let it.”

With a final sneer, Draco put his wand back and sat down, going back to his reading. It was a testament to the power of his speech that nobody spoke, not even Zabini, who quietly undid the hexes Draco had cast on Crabbe and Goyle before returning to his dorm room.

Antigone and Angela blinked, and shared looks with one another and with Danzia. They hadn't been expecting anything like that. They'd have to tell Harry and the others about it later.

~

“Malfoy did what?” Ron asked, dumbfounded, the following Monday afternoon when Antigone found the three of them at lunch to tell them about it.

“Yeah, great big amazing speech, right out of nowhere. You should've seen it. And I think it might have had an impact. Not sure how much of one, but I know Pansy Parkinson was giving Draco interesting looks the rest of the night and into the morning, almost like she wanted to fawn over him, but was hesitating, maybe wondering if it was too soon.”

“So he's not running from Crabbe and Goyle anymore?”

“Nope. They're avoiding him now. I don't know if or when those three will get back together again, but at least he's earned their grudging respect for now. And the respect of the rest of Slytherin House.”

“Even Zabini?”

“Even Zabini. A lot of them still think he's mad for associating with you, and even madder for saying You-Know-Who's name, but respect is respect.”

“It could be useful if he does manage to sway more people in Slytherin,” Harry said between bites. “That's not why I became friends with him, but it would certainly be a plus.”

Hermione finished her food then and said goodbye quickly before running off for the library.

“What's she in such a hurry for?” Antigone asked.

“We've been researching cases of animals charged with being too dangerous to let live, trying to find cases where they won their case, for Hagrid.”

“Oh damn, I should help with that, too.”

“You lot are in fifth year, aren't you? O.W.L. year. You need all the time to study.”

“Oh yeah, good point, Harry. It's just I wish I could do something for Hagrid.”

“I understand that.”

“So Harry,” Ron said, “you made any progress on finding out how Hermione is being in two places at once?”

“Nope. What about you?”

“Nope.”

“Ah, Hermione is in multiple places at once, is she?” Antigone asked with a smirk.

“What, do you know something about that?”

“If I did, I couldn't say anything.”

“Whadda ya mean? You're our friend, aren't you?”

“And so is Hermione.”

“Yeah, but she's a stickler for rules.”

“Well this is one rule I'm not going to break, Ron. You two are going to have to either figure it out yourselves, or live forever in suspense.”

“I suppose you're taking multiple classes at the same time too, are you?”

“Nope. But I know someone who did, once. It was too much for her. She had to reduce her workload.”

“From what I've seen of Hermione,” Harry said, “she should do the same thing. Maybe you can talk to her about it.”

“I'm not even supposed to know about it myself, and the person I know it from isn't in school anymore.”

“What, and that stops you from talking to her about it?”

“Well... maybe, maybe not. I'll think about it. Anyway, wouldn't it be more fun to work it out for yourself?”

“I've had fun, and that's not it,” Ron said.

“Whatever. Anyway, I'm gonna go find Angela now. You two have fun with your little side project.”

“See ya!”

“You too, Harry.”

~

They had a MAC meeting on Wednesday after dinner, but not many people were there. The fifth years were studying more, two of the Quidditch teams were practicing a lot in preparation for an upcoming match, and it was after dinner in the middle of the week. But Draco was there, as were Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They tried talking with Draco about his little speech, but he wasn't cooperating.

“I'm very annoyed that Antigone and her friends told you about that,” he said. “What happens in Slytherin is supposed to stay in Slytherin.”

“So you weren't going to tell us?”

Draco looked put out, and didn't respond.

“I think he wanted to be the one to tell us, actually,” guessed Hermione.

“Astute as ever, Hermione,” Draco said. “Yes, that's the real reason I'm miffed. But there's an element of truth in what I said before, too. She really shouldn't have told anyone outside of the House.”

“She only told us. It's not like she blabbed to the whole school. I don't think most people know, to be honest. They know something went down, because you're back to something resembling your old cocky self, but I don't think they know any specifics.”

“Good, that's how it should be.”

“You don't want others to know you're on my side? And how much so?”

“I go to MAC meetings. If that hasn't told the rest of the school where I stand, nothing will.”

“Fair point.”

“So, what are we doing tonight, with so few of us?”

“Not a lot. Maybe a little literature talk. Have you read any of the books I gave you for Christmas?” Harry asked Draco.

“Yes. I finished '1984' a couple days ago. I hope You-Know-Who never reads it, it might give him some nasty ideas.”

“What, you're not gonna say his name again?” Ron asked.

“I said his name once, for effect. I don't like saying it, though, so I'm going to continue to refer to him either as You-Know-Who or the Dark Lord.”

“You could call him Tom. That's his proper name, after all. Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

“There's a lot of Toms.”

“Yes. That's kind of the point of calling him Tom. Makes him more human. Makes him common. He doesn't like being common, or human.”

“I'll think about it. But most people won't know who I mean when I say Tom.”

“Good point.”

They went back to talking about Muggle literature then, spending a couple hours discussing “1984” before it was time to start getting going.

Harry whispered something into Draco's ear quickly as Ron and Hermione got ready to go.

“We'll just make sure we haven't left a mess, okay? See you in a few minutes.”

“What? Oh okay. But if you and Draco want to discuss something privately, Harry, you can just tell us, we won't mind.”

“Speak for yourself, 'Mione. What're you gonna talk about with him but not with us?”

“Black,” he said.

“Oh god, not that again. Fine, have your little discussion. Cummon, 'Mione.”

But she was already gone.

“Oy, did she vanish again or just leave?”

“No idea.”

“What are you two on about?”

“Hermione has some way of being in two places at once,” Ron said. “Antigone knows how she's doing it, but won't tell. And we haven't had any luck figuring it out, even with doing experiments to help.”

“Yeah, all we know so far is she remains solid in every class we have with her.”

“Interesting. Can I help you with that?”

“Sure. I'll catch you up on it after we have our other chat.”

“If that was a hint, don't worry, I got it. See ya, mate.”

“See you, Ron.”

Ron left the room and closed the door behind him. Harry cast privacy spells just in case anyone was eavesdropping.

Is this about Black?” Draco asked at last.

“Yes, in fact it is. What if I told you I had evidence that Sirius Black was innocent?”

“I'd be curious what kind of evidence you thought you had.”

“He and I have met, and talked, on several occasions.”

Draco's eyes went wide. “And he didn't kill you?”

“Didn't even threaten me. And he could have killed me any number of times without my even knowing there was a threat. But he didn't.”

“Well, that's certainly interesting. I don't know if it counts as evidence, per se. He could have some reason to keep you alive, still. Like trying to get information out of you.”

“What kind of information?”

“Like the Dark Lord's whereabouts.”

“Voldemort's barely come up in any of our conversations. Mostly we've talked about how to prove his innocence. He came here to Hogwarts because one of the people he went to prison for killing is still alive. Faked his own death, in fact, and framed Sirius for the deaths of those Muggles.”

“You'd better start from the beginning, Harry.”

Harry sighed, and once more recounted the whole tale from the start.

“You told Lovegood before me?” Draco said when he was done, sounding offended.

“She and I have been friends longer than you and I have.”

“Well, I suppose that's true. But you haven't even told Ron and Hermione.”

“Yeah, well, they both think he's guilty. Luna is open-minded, and you're open to the possibility of him being innocent.”

“Yes, I suppose that makes sense. So, he and this Pettigrew were both animagi? Or 'are,' I guess I should say.”

“Yes.”

“And Professor Lupin is a werewolf? And Dumbledore knows?”

“The whole staff do. Lupin was bitten as a small child, only got to go to Hogwarts at all thanks to Dumbledore.”

Draco's face was contorted in disgust and fear. When he saw Harry's face, he forced his face to look normal.

“Sorry, Harry. It's just... a werewolf? As a teacher? If too many students find out, that won't go well for him. How many know?”

“No idea. I know, and Hermione and Ron know. Now you, too. But I don't know if anyone else knows. I haven't even asked Antigone and the others.”

“What? Why not? Honestly, it was a dangerous risk telling me. I still have a lot of powerful prejudices against werewolves, I'm not sure how I'm going to manage in Lupin's classes now, to be honest. I'll try very hard to act normally, but I can't guarantee anything. Antigone and her friends probably wouldn't have been a risk, why haven't you told them yet?”

“I... I don't know. I mean, I only told you because I wanted your help clearing Sirius's name, if you're up to it.”

“And I am. I'm curious about this; if he's innocent, I want to know how. I want proof. And if he's guilty after all, you really should have backup, so it works either way. But you really should tell Antigone and the other girls about Lupin, too. They may already know, as you pointed out. And you told Ron and Hermione. Come to that, I'm surprised Ron didn't freak out in class. Werewolf fear is one of those nearly universal things in the wizarding world.”

“Yeah, well, I think Lupin was fighting against Voldemort with Dumbledore and the Weasleys, so I think they knew him already, which would help.”

“I suppose so. Anyway, I don't know what I can do to help with this Black conundrum, but I'll think about it. I suppose you've considered Dumbledore?”

“Yeah. I can't be sure he'll listen.”

Draco scoffed. Literally scoffed. “Are you kidding me? Dumbledore is a trusting soul, even I know that much. Black was unhinged when he was arrested, and didn't get a trial, either. He probably didn't get a chance to tell his side of the story. Not that he would have been believed, either. Veritaserum was highly experimental at best back then. I'm not sure when it came into common use at the Ministry, but he'd likely been in Azkaban years before then.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Anyway, go to Dumbledore. He's got a soft spot for you. He'll believe you.”

“I guess so. But I'm going to tell Lupin first, tomorrow. Then maybe he and I can go together to Dumbledore. I only worry that Pettigrew will run for it.”

“I doubt that. Where was he earlier today?”

“Ron left him in our dorm.”

“Well unless he left the dorm room and overheard this conversation, which is unlikely given the privacy spells you used, he shouldn't have any reason to be worried. And even if he does do a runner, Dumbledore can always use veritaserum to get the truth out of all of you. If you believe the truth of Black's innocence, it should at least give Dumbledore reason to use veritaserum on Black, too.”

“Okay, that sounds reasonable. Thank you for this talk, Draco.”

“You're welcome, Harry.”

~

At dinner on Thursday evening, Harry stopped by the Slytherin table to talk with Antigone and set up a time to talk Friday with her, Angela, and Danzia, because he intended to at least try to figure out if they knew about Lupin already. Antigone told him that as soon as she found where Danzia had wandered off to, she would tell her.

After dinner, Luna met Harry outside the DADA classroom to be there for him in his talk with Lupin. Harry took out the Marauder's Map after saying hi to Luna, so he could look for Pettigrew. Since Ron had decided to take Scabbers with him to dinner tonight, he was relatively easy to find, being right in the same spot as Ron on the map.

Harry put the Map in his pocket without wiping it first, and knocked.

“Come in, Harry.”

Harry opened the door and went in, Luna following behind.

“Ah, Miss Lovegood, did you want something too?”

“I'm here to help Harry with something. But if you'd be willing, I wouldn't mind learning the Patronus Charm either.”

“I suppose I could take on one other student. But what is it you're here to help Harry with?”

Harry looked at Luna for support. She smiled at him and nodded. He nodded back, and took out the Marauder's Map, setting it on the desk and pointing at Pettigrew.

“What do you make of this, Professor?”

Lupin's eyes went wide.

“How did you get this map, Harry? It's very--- wait, what?” he snatched the map up and stared at it in disbelief. “What? How? What?”

“I thought Peter Pettigrew died, Professor,” Harry said. “But according to this map, he's---”

“Harry,” Lupin said, interrupting, “does your friend Ron Weasley happen to own a pet rat?”

“Yes, but it appears that the rat is in fact an Animagus,” Harry said.

Lupin looked up at Harry in surprise. “How did you---no nevermind, I don't even know what to ask at this point. Or rather, where to begin asking. Wait, no... on second thought, how did you know Peter is supposed to be dead?”

“Well I don't wish to say how I got the map, because it might incriminate friends of mine. And as to the story of Peter, Draco Malfoy told me.”

Lupin's eyes scanned the rest of the Map, and then stopped suddenly. Harry guessed by the look in his eyes that he had found Sirius on the Map.

“Did you find Sirius on the Map, too, then?”

“You knew Sirius was on the school grounds?”

“Er, yes. I might as well tell you everything.”

“That can wait. We need to go to the Headmaster at once. Damn, he's in the Great Hall. As is Peter. If Peter's alive, it means he faked his death, and I can't think of any good reason why he would do that, so I don't know how to get Dumbledore's attention without attracting Peter's attention as well.”

“What about Netty?” Luna asked. “She and Harry are friends, and she's one of the Hogwarts elves. She might know a way to get Dumbledore's attention covertly.”

“Good thinking, Luna. What do you think, Professor?”

“Hmm... yes, go ahead, Harry.”

Harry nodded, and said firmly, “Netty?”

With a loud crack, Netty appeared in front of the three of them.

“Mister Harry Potter is wanting Netty for something, sir?”

“Yes. We need to get Professor Dumbledore's attention without drawing too much attention to the rest of the people in the Great Hall to the fact he's got a message. Do you know of any way to do that, Netty?”

“Hmm...” Netty said as she stood there thinking. “Well, there is being one way, sirs and miss. If a professor is to be making a fire-call to Dumbledore's office, he is being told magically of the incoming call, and will come to investigate.”

“Thank you, Netty. You've been a big help.”

“You is most welcome, Mister Harry Potter, sir. Is you needing anything else?”

“Not right now, Netty. You may go back to whatever you were doing.”

Netty smiled and bowed, then with a crack she disapparated.

“This way, into my office,” Lupin said.

They followed him to his office. As soon as they got in, he took a pinch of Floo powder from a pot and tossed it into the fire, then got down on his hands and knees to fire-call Dumbledore's office. He continued to wait there for nearly 10 minutes before they heard him talking again.

“Professor Lupin? What is it you need, that you couldn't come into the Great Hall to find me?”

“May we come through, Professor? I'd rather not discuss this over an open Floo connection.”

“'We'?” Dumbledore asked. “Who else is with you?”

“Mister Potter and Miss Lovegood are with me, sir.”

“Well do come on through, then, all three of you.”

One by one, they walked through the green flames, keeping the connection from closing by grabbing the cloak of the person ahead of them.

Once they were through and the fire returned to normal, Lupin started the discussion with Dumbledore.

“Professor Dumbledore, sir, there's something I have to tell you that is rather complex, but very important.”

“Well everyone, sit down, and you can begin the tale.”

Once they all took their seats, Lupin said, “Back when I was in school, Professor, my friends and I produced a rather clever magical artifact we called The Marauder's Map. It is a map that shows the inside and grounds of the castle, and everyone within it.”

He set it down on Dumbledore's desk. Dumbledore picked it up and examined it.

“Ingenious! How ever did you manage to make this?”

“It's a very long and involved process, and I'd rather get to the point first, Professor, if that's okay by you?”

“Of course, of course,” Dumbledore said, handing the Map back.

Harry, not knowing why Dumbledore hadn't noticed Pettigrew, looked over at the Map, and saw that Ron wasn't in the Great Hall anymore.

“Suffice it to say that among other things, the Map is tied into the school wards, and so always knows who everyone really is, and displays their true name.”

Dumbledore's blue eyes twinkled. “Ah, that sounds the sort of thing the Marauders would have done, breaking into the ward room to make this remarkable Map possible.”

“Yes. Now let's see... where'd he go? Ah, here, in that corridor. Look, Headmaster.”

Dumbledore looked where on the Map Lupin had pointed. It was clear when Dumbledore saw Peter on the Map, because his eyes went wider than Harry had ever seen Dumbledore's eyes go before.

“Peter Pettigrew? But how?”

“That's what I'd like to know, too. But that has to be him, unless there's another rat animagus with the same name who happens to be hiding out as a rat in the school.”

“Peter Pettigrew, an animagus? What do you mean, Remus?”

Lupin sighed, and began – hesitantly, his face full of shame – to tell Dumbledore the whole story of how his friends had become unregistered animagi during school, and how he had violated Dumbledore's trust and gone running on the grounds with only a stag, a large dog, and a rat to keep him in check.

When that was done, Harry added in how he'd met Sirius Black, how they'd discussed all this, and were looking for a way to clear Sirius's name and imprison Pettigrew as the real traitor. Dumbledore even got Luna to talk, adding that she'd been around Shadow as well and despite having not met him as a human yet, still believed Harry and say that she was able to vouch for Sirius having had plenty of opportunity to hurt Harry without doing so.

“You were quite right that we need proof. The best proof will, of course, be to capture Pettigrew so he may be interrogated. And I think I know just how to begin.”

Without explaining first, Dumbledore cast a Patronus shaped like a phoenix, which immediately flew off out of the office. A few minutes later, Professor McGonagall came into the room.

“You called me, Headmaster?”

“Yes, Minerva. Sit down, this could take some time.”

~

Danzia was late to dinner that night, and barely got enough to eat before it was time to leave. She got up and left the Great Hall, almost running into Professor Trelawney.

“Oh sorry Professor,” she said.

“It's quite alright dear, you didn't hurt me. Are you okay?”

“Yes, Professor. Actually I'm a little glad I ran into you. I had some questions about the last lesson I was hoping you could help me with.”

“Of course, my dear. Come, follow me. My inner eye tells me I shall need my books to answer your questions fully, and they are in the classroom, of course.”

“Of course,” Danzia said.

She followed the peculiar woman all the way up to the seventh-floor corridor and up the ladder into her weird classroom. Once there, they sat on poufs by one of the table as Trelawney perused the books to answer Danzia's questions.

When her questions were finished, she stood up to say good-bye and leave, but then a loud, harsh voice came from Trelawney.

“It will happen tonight.”

“What?” Danzia asked, astonished.

But Professor Trelawney didn’t seem to hear her. Her eyes started to roll. Danzia stood there in a panic. Trelawney looked as though she was about to have some sort of seizure. Danzia hesitated, thinking of running to the hospital wing — and then Professor Trelawney spoke again, in the same harsh voice, quite unlike her own:

“The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Tonight, before midnight … the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant’s aid, greater and more terrible than ever he was. Tonight … before midnight … the servant … will set out … to rejoin … his master. …”

Professor Trelawney’s head fell forward onto her chest. She made a grunting sort of noise. Danzia stood there, staring at her. Then, quite suddenly, Professor Trelawney’s head snapped up again.

“Oh so sorry, my dear girl. The heat of the fireplace, you know. Must've dozed off.”

Danzia just kept staring at her.

“Is something the matter, dear?”

“You — you just told me that the — the Dark Lord’s going to rise again … that his servant’s going to go back to him!”

Professor Trelawney looked thoroughly startled.

“The Dark Lord? He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? My dear girl, that’s hardly something to joke about. … Rise again, indeed —”

“But you just said it! You said the Dark Lord —”

“I think you must have dozed off too, dear!” said Professor Trelawney. “I would certainly not presume to predict anything quite as far-fetched as that! Now run along before curfew is up.”

Danzia reluctantly left, wondering if she'd just heard a real prophecy or not. She decided she should tell the Headmaster or Professor Snape just in case. She thought about it, and decided it was better to tell Dumbledore. Snape wouldn't believe Trelawney making a real prophecy, she was sure of that. So Danzia went as fast as she dared down to Professor Dumbledore's office.

She didn't make it. Instead, she turned a corner and saw Crabbe and Goyle standing there, blocking her path.

“You!” Goyle shouted, pointing a finger at her. “You and your blood-traitor friends did it!”

“Did what, gorilla-boy?”

“Malfoy. He became a blood traitor because of you and Potter and your friends!”

“That's right,” Crabbe agreed, cracking his knuckles.

“I don't have time for this, it's almost curfew. Besides, Slytherins don't air our dirty laundry in public, remember?”

“I don't care right now. At least if we hold you up, you get in trouble, and that's better than nuffin'!”

“Seriously, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, are you really going to pick a fight now? I was actually on my way to the headmaster's office.”

“You ain't goin nowhere!”

Danzia pulled her wand out. “You two are third-years with the collective intelligence of limp lettuce, and I'm an exceptional fifth-year student who's been on massive scary adventures with Harry Potter twice, and lived to tell the tale. You don't scare me.”

The two boys, despite being dumb and huge, were surprisingly fast. They rushed her before she could get a spell off and soon the fight was on. Her wand rolled away out of reach, but she had older male cousins that hung out at her house so much that most of their neighbors thought she had half a dozen older brothers, and so she was no slouch when it came to brawling, either. Also, she didn't hesitate to fight dirty. Crabbe and Goyle were only using their fists, but Danzia was also biting, poking eyes, pulling hair, and anything else she could think of to disable her attackers.

In the end, though, she fell to a well-placed punch to the face, her world going black.

Endnote 1: I'm stopping the chapter here because I have a lot planned for the next bit, which would make it a VERY long chapter if I included that in this chapter, and you've all waited too long for this chapter already. I'll get on doing the next chapter and try to publish that one in a week or two.

Endnote 2: Sorry about the repeat of the letter in the last chapter. Didn't notice that until I was re-reading the last two chapters. Ugh. I've gotten so keen on my Many Face of Harry Potter fic that I've lost a lot of enthusiasm for this one. I'll try to work on that, balance the two out a bit more in my schedule. But chronic depression and a memory like a rusty sieve also contributes to the flaws and slow updating of this fic. Sorry about that. Maybe I'll counteract that by re-reading the entire fic (the 3rd year part anyway) before writing each chapter. It shouldn't slow things down any more than they're already going.



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