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The Art of Being Slytherin

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“You should leave the house more, Draco,” his mother said, while he sat in a chair facing his window, looking out at the gloom of the countryside.

“I don’t feel like it,” Draco said, tiring of this lecture.

He was a grown man. He didn’t need his mummy to take care of him anymore.

“That’s why you need someone to motivate you,” Narcissa said, coming over to place a hand on his shoulder.

Draco sighed.

“Are you going to tell me to get a girlfriend?” Draco said, turning towards his mother with disappointment.

“No. But it’s not healthy to spend all your time here. Look at what it’s done to your father,” Narcissa said.

Draco scoffed and stood up.

“You and I both know that him staying here all the time is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself,” Draco said, starting to walk away but turning around to add, “Actually, father is the problem.”

Narcissa frowned. She obviously knew Draco was right but even with everything that had happened she would never admit it. Things had been funny in the years since the war. Draco’s father had become reclusive. Angrier. Bitter that he made the right decisions. He never spoke of the Dark Lord anymore. He didn’t talk about any of it. But Draco knew. His father resented that he chose the right side and still lost everything. He chose family but Draco thought a part of him wished he had made the other choice.

But that would’ve been pointless. He’d be in Azkaban again and the Dark Lord would still be dead.

“You should move out, Draco,” Narcissa said.

Draco stared at his mother’s blue eyes. She looked like she might cry, embarrassing him.

“Are you kicking me out?” Draco asked.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I would never do that. I ask not for myself but for you. You aren’t happy here. You should get a flat in London. Lots of your school friends live there,” Narcissa said.

Draco huffed and walked away.

“I don’t have any friends,” Draco said, realising that he was about to walk out of his own room.

“Then you should make some,” Narcissa said with a sigh.

“Maybe later. I’m headed out,” Draco said, storming down the hall.

He heard the click of his mother’s heels coming after him.

“Where are you going?” Narcissa asked.

“That’s not any of your concern,” Draco replied sharply, immediately regretting his tone.

“Draco,” Narcissa said, a little wounded.

Draco stopped in place and said, “Diagon Alley,” purely because it was the first place that came to mind.

Once he was there he still didn’t know what he was doing. He hated being in public these days. He could see the way people looked at him. Whether sympathizers of the Dark Lord or people who thought he was still a Death Eater, no one liked him anymore. He grew up knowing that the name Malfoy meant something. It meant he was great. Special. Extraordinary. It meant that everyone knew those things were true. But now the name meant something else. It was a worse tattoo than the Dark Mark.

In a panic, he entered Flourish and Blotts. Draco had become an avid reader in the last few years. Though the sort of books he had come to prefer he wouldn’t be caught dead buying in public. He had those special ordered.

Draco pretended to look at books, hoping maybe he would accidentally stumble upon something interesting worth buying. After several minutes of perusing the shelves, his curiosity got the better of him. He looked around, seeing no one he recognised in the shop then drifted over to the romance novels. He pulled one out entitled In the Muggle’s Dungeon, about a wizard who is trapped by a Muggle woman and convinced to all manner of sexual things with her. He glanced around again then leafed through the pages, his eyes catching tantalising passages.

“Hey, Draco,” a distantly familiar woman’s voice said, causing him to drop the book.

He scowled as he bent to pick it up, glancing behind him to see that Weasley girl standing there.

“What do you want?” Draco asked.

“Um. Nothing. Was just trying to be friendly. My mistake,” Ginny said, starting to walk away.

Draco remembered his actual lack of friends and said, “Wait. I’m sorry. You just startled me is all.”

She turned around, not looking impressed. Ginny Weasley was a very pretty girl. The only reasonably attractive member of the Weasley clan as far as Draco was concerned. He preferred dark hair but there was a charm to her fire-red hair and freckles. And she was a short thing, wasn’t she?

“Well, I’m sorry. I suppose. Anyhow… how have you been?” Ginny asked.

“I’m fine,” Draco said.

“That’s not what people say. They say you’re becoming a recluse like your father,” Ginny said.

“Don’t you compare me to him,” Draco said, glaring at her.

“That’s funny. While we were kids it was always I’m going to tell my father this or I’m going to tell my father that,” Ginny said in a mocking tone.

“I thought you wanted to be friendly. Don’t be stupid. We both know what happened,” Draco said.

“I guess we do. Look, I’m sorry I bothered you. Maybe we do come from very different worlds. But with everything I’ve heard… I thought you could use a friend,” Ginny said.

Draco struggled to find words but a thought occupied his mind.

“Are you still seeing Potter?” Draco asked.

“Yeah. We live together. If you’re wondering if he holds a grudge or still hates you, don’t worry. Harry is very forgiving. He likes seeing the best in people,” Ginny said.

That wasn’t at all what he was worried about. Draco had been wrestling with an unsettling attraction to Harry Potter for several years now. He hadn’t quite made his peace with it yet. He had a sudden thought that maybe if he spent some time with Harry that would help. He would see how utterly unappealing he really was and get over it.

“That’s good to know. Though after what we’ve been through, you’ll forgive me for having doubts,” Draco said, laying out a challenge that he hoped Ginny would take him up on.

“Oh? Well, let’s see. How would you like to have dinner with us on say… Friday?” Ginny asked.

“Are you sure?” Draco said, pleased with himself.

“Yes. Don’t worry, Harry won’t protest,” Ginny said.

“All right then. I’ll see you then,” Draco said, wondering if his mother would be proud.


 

Astoria Greengrass sighed as she walked alone on a London sidewalk, a late summer breeze fluttering her long, dark hair in the wind. Life in Muggle London wasn’t going the way she dreamt. Maybe her parents were right. She should’ve stayed at home.

She could have moved in with friends but she didn’t have any friends, did she? Everyone tended to befriend people they attended Hogwarts with and mostly from their own house. Too many of her fellow Slytherins were either children of Voldemort supporters or still a bit too bigoted for her taste.

That’s why she turned towards Muggles after school. She got a boring Muggle job and a boring Muggle life. She thought maybe she would even get a cute Muggle girlfriend or boyfriend and have a cozy life, free of the terrible things that happen in their world.

But what she was learning, day after day, is that Muggles were every bit as good and bad as wizards were. That should’ve been obvious.

Astoria reached her destination, a bookstore called Black Books. She liked Muggle books. She had gone into another store last week and picked up these books about a red-headed girl who had to pretend to be a boy in order to become a knight. She had really enjoyed them. The magic in them was a bit laughable but she didn’t mind. She liked that the heroine’s magic manifested in the color purple. She really liked purple.

Astoria entered the store and saw a familiar-looking girl arguing with a man over a book. He was an unpleasant, smoking Irishman with messy dark brown hair. She tried to ignore their argument as she tried to place a name on the girl. She was tall and very pretty in an intense sort of way. Her big, dark eyes looked fearless as she told off the man behind the counter. Her black hair was even longer and more smooth than Astoria’s.

Her looks were memorable but it was definitely the voice that gave it away: Romilda Vane. That was her name. She had been a Gryffindor in her year. She was that girl who tried to give Harry Potter a love potion. Astoria hoped she had grown out of that by now.

Eventually, another man with long, unkempt hair and a beard came up and sorted the matter out and Romilda bought the book, a fact which seemed to make the other man who was apparently the owner very unhappy for some reason. Astoria followed her out, curiosity getting the better of her.

“Hey! What was that all about?” Astoria called after her.

Romilda turned around, the book still in her hand.

“Oh. Yeah. I asked him if this copy of Wuthering Heights was a first edition. He said it was. I asked him if he was sure. He said he wasn’t and that I shouldn’t buy it. I asked him how much it was and he said it was twenty pounds. I thought that was too low even if it wasn’t a first edition so I offered him a hundred pounds. He got angry and said it wasn’t for sale,” Romilda said, still sounding annoyed.

Romilda was looking Astoria up and down but she wasn’t sure if she was trying to remember her or just checking her out. She hadn’t heard anything about Romilda liking girls. That sort of information passes around when you’re a teenage bisexual witch.

“So, then his assistant, or boyfriend or whatever, came up and said they’d take the hundred pounds. The owner said I was banned from the store. Muggles are so bloody ridiculous,” Romilda said, laughing.

“What an unusual man,” Astoria said then looked back in the shop.

The man was seated at the front desk and smoking several cigarettes while looking very upset about something.

“Yeah. Real arsehole,” Romilda said, looking down at her feet.

“So… I don’t know if you recognise me but-“ Astoria started but Romilda raised her hand.

“Astoria Greengrass. I know about you. There was gossip about you,” Romilda said, starting to walk away from the shop, forcing Astoria to follow.

“Oh? That’s strange. I kept to myself at Hogwarts. I was never involved in any drama,” Astoria said, trying to remember if she had somehow gotten caught up in something on accident.

“There was a rumour that you were a lesbian,” Romilda said, turning to Astoria and smirking.

“Why should that be anyone’s business?” Astoria said, haughtily.

“So, you are a lesbian?” Romilda asked, sounding satisfied.

“No, I’m not. Not that it’s your business,” Astoria said.

“That’s funny. Kirsty Allaway said you were. And she was one too,” Romilda said.

“I’m bi. Also, Kirsty told people I was gay? Why would she do that?” Astoria asked.

“Some girls kiss and tell. I wouldn’t worry. Do you want to come with me to the pub?” Romilda asked.

“What pub? When?” Astoria asked, feeling confused.

“The next one we come upon and presently,” Romilda said.

“All right,” Astoria said, deciding to just go along for the ride.

The next pub came quickly and they both sat down with a couple of beers. Romilda had put the book in her bag, never having explained where her interest in Muggle literature came from. She wasn’t a Muggleborn. Funny how Astoria knew that and also a bit sad. That sort of information passed around if you were a Slytherin.

“So, when did you find out?” Romilda asked.

“Find out what?” Astoria replied, attempting to take a sip of her beer, embarrassed by the face she made.

“That you fancy girls, obviously,” Romilda said.

“Oh. Kirsty was the first. The first girl I ever loved. The first anyone I ever loved,” Astoria said.

“That’s cute. Shame she broke your heart. Her loss,” Romilda said, her eyes piercing as she drank her beer, making Astoria gulp, getting that odd fluttery feeling in her belly.

“It’s fine. It was stupid. I’m over it. I like your sweater, by the way,” Astoria said, pointing at the very comfortable purple sweater Romilda was wearing.

“Cheers. Matches your lips,” Romilda said.

“Oh. Right,” Astoria said, touching her mouth, having forgotten about her purple lipstick.

Romilda smirked and drank more of her beer.

“So, you’re out and about around Muggles just like me. Any reason why?” Astoria asked.

“There’s a lot of that going around these days. We’re all still licking our wounds, aren’t we? Things with the Muggles seems less complicated. All that shit happened to us and they just keep going like it’s any old Wednesday,” Romilda said, laughing.

“Yeah. It’s so boring,” Astoria said glumly, thinking she was either starting to like the beer or like how warm it was making her feel.

“Boring? Eh, I like you. Let’s be friends,” Romilda said.

“Why would you want to be friends with me?” Astoria said.

“I know your type. Keeps to herself but the second trouble comes along she dives headfirst into danger,” Romilda said.

“I wouldn’t know. I’ve always avoided trouble,” Astoria said.

“Hmm. I’ll have to see if I can find you some danger. I have an idea but it’s kind of mad. I don’t think you’ll be up for it,” Romilda said, rolling her eyes and looking away.

“That’s not fair. Tell me what it is,” Astoria said, a little offended.

“I’ve been invited to spend the weekend with Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini in Cornwall. You could come along as my guest,” Romilda said.

“Your guest? How is that trouble? Beyond that, I doubt very much either of them like me much. My parents weren’t so keen on You Know Who,” Astoria said.

“They aren’t Death Eaters. They never were. I met Pansy through my parents. She’s all right. But no, it’s not that. I think… No, you know what. Never mind. It’s too much for you,” Romilda said, laughing and waving her hand dismissively before she guzzled a bunch more beer.

Astoria looked at her beer. It was only a third empty while Romilda’s was about two-thirds empty.

“Is it some sort of sex thing? I’m definitely not going to have sex with them,” Astoria said.

“No! I mean, yes but not like that. I think they are planning on seducing me. If I bring you along that will muck things up for them. Don’t worry we’ll just spend the weekend eating like rich people and enjoying the coast,” Romilda said.

“Let me think about it. Ask me after the beer is out of my system,” Astoria said.

“All right,” Romilda said and changed the subject.

They talked about school for a while. Well, Romilda did. Astoria didn’t have many stories to tell. They both avoided talking about the war. Which was fine as far as she was concerned. She hadn’t had anything to do with it. Her mother had nearly pulled her and her sister out of school entirely. She wanted to drag them all off to Japan to hideaway where she grew up but her father wouldn’t have it.

Astoria didn’t touch any more of her beer and began to look forward to being back in her flat with a warm cup of tea and a good book. With disappointment, she realised that thanks to being distracted by Romilda she had never got around to picking a new one up. That was all right. She still had an unread pile at home.

“I think I’m headed home. You’re welcome to walk with me to my flat, I suppose,” Astoria said, finding she did like her company.

“Sure,” Romilda said, following her along the sidewalk.

“Oh, I was meaning to ask about the book. Wuthering Heights,” Astoria said.

“What about it?” Romilda said.

“Seems an odd choice for a witch. Especially paying one hundred pounds for it,” Astoria said.

“I haven’t fully got the hang of Muggle money, I admit. But I appreciate literature. And… I picked it up for a friend,” Romilda said with a chuckle.

Once they got to Astoria’s building she found that she still didn’t want to send Romilda away.

“So. Would you like a cup of tea before you head home?” Astoria asked.

“Yeah. I wouldn’t mind a sip,” Romilda said, winking at Astoria.

“This is your flat? I don’t mean to be rude but you’d think with all that Greengrass money you’d be living nicer than this,” Romilda said, plopping down on Astoria’s old, brown sofa after they went inside.

“I just wanted to be normal. I got as much as I could get on my own. I’ve got cable if you want to watch Muggle telly,” Astoria said, gesturing at the television.

“I think I would just be annoyed,” Romilda said, pulling off her purple sweater to reveal a pretty black blouse underneath with short sleeves and a tiny row of buttons on the chest.

Astoria made them both tea wondering if this was what having friends was like. She hoped so.

“Cheers,” Romilda said as Astoria placed tea in front of her.

“My pleasure,” Astoria said, sitting down next to her.

She considered Romilda’s challenge from earlier again now that she was confident alcohol wasn’t clouding her judgment. It did sound like an adventure, though she grew up eating like rich people so that part was less exciting.

“I’ll do it,” Astoria said.

“I’m happy to hear it. Do what exactly?” Romilda replied.

“I’ll be your guest for Blaise and Pansy,” Astoria said and sipped some tea.

Romilda smiled.

“Thank you,” Romilda said, and Astoria strangely couldn’t wait.


 

Draco knocked. Every part of him knew this was a bad idea. Possibly a catastrophically bad one. The door quickly swung open, Ginny Weasley standing there smiling. She was wearing a Muggle tee-shirt and jeans. Not exactly what you’d expect the girlfriend of one of the most famous wizards of all time to be wearing. But Draco supposed Harry had been raised by Muggles. He must be rubbing off on her.

“Come in,” Ginny said, gesturing inside.

Draco nodded and entered the flat. Something definitely smelled good. He set aside his coat and sat down on their sofa.

“Harry’s still cooking. You can wait at the dining table if you’d like,” Ginny said.

Draco shrugged and followed her to the table. It was set up in a way that looked like what someone like Ginny who grew up poor probably thought was nice. Draco knew better but resolved himself to be polite tonight. Tonight was all about getting over his little problem.

Potter was at the stove placing some sort of meat on plates. Once he finally set down a plate in front of Draco he found he was a little surprised at what he saw.

“Bangers and mash?” Draco asked.

“Can’t beat a classic. Besides, Ginny loves it,” Harry said.

They certainly weren’t trying to impress him. Perhaps that was the point. Draco waited for both Harry and Ginny to be seated before he began to dig in. At the very least, it tasted good. Harry’s sausage was delicious.

“How is it?” Harry asked.

“It’s good,” Draco said.

“Really?” Harry asked.

Draco looked up, his eyes meeting Harry’s green ones, transfixed.

“Really. Do you think I’m in the business of not saying what I’m thinking?” Draco asked.

Harry snorted.

“Maybe not. Still, I can recall at least one instance where you didn’t tell the truth. Probably saved my life,” Harry said.

Draco didn’t want to talk about that.

“I’m envious, Ginny. You get to enjoy this cooking all the time,” Draco said, quickly changing the subject.

“Uh oh, Harry. I think I have competition,” Ginny said, winking at her boyfriend.

“I think we’ve both got a fair bit of competition any given moment,” Harry said.

“What do you mean?” Draco asked.

“Oh. Umm…” Ginny said, looking at Harry as if searching for guidance.

Harry looked back and forth between Ginny and Draco and shrugged.

“Ginny and I are poly,” Harry said.

“Poly-what? Polysyllabic? Polynomial?” Draco asked.

“Polyamorous. We have multiple partners,” Ginny said.

Draco was starting to get a picture but he still wanted them to spell it out.

“What? For Quidditch?” Draco said.

“Don’t be daft. Romantic partners, Draco,” Ginny said.

Draco’s mind raced. Such a possibility had never occurred to him before. He needed to know more.

“Ah. With anyone I know?” Draco said, laughing.

“Luna and Neville,” Harry said.

“Oh, so Luna with Harry and Neville with you,” Draco said, gesturing at Ginny.

Ginny laughed and shook her head.

“The other way around. Well… I suppose me with Neville a bit too. Harry’s never… with Luna,” Ginny said, perhaps thinking she was revealing too much to a former enemy.

“You and Longbottom?” Draco asked, looking straight at Harry, feeling something strange in his chest.

“Yep,” Harry said, his full, dark lips making a curious smile.

Draco felt a little lightheaded, anxious even. What was going on?

“You OK, Draco?” Ginny asked.

“Yes. I’m fine,” Draco said with determination.

“So, which part is bothering you? The part where we aren’t straight or that we sleep with other people? Or both?” Harry asked, sounding irritated.

“None of it. Just trying to eat,” Draco said, not wanting to get challenged for a position he wasn’t taking.

Luckily they both dropped it and they instead talked about Quidditch, the only thing the three of them had in common. Draco was forced to admit that Ginny was a damn fine player and that he had attended and enjoyed some Holyhead Harpies games.

The truth was he had a great many questions about polyamory but he didn’t think any of them were appropriate. Even once the meal was over and Harry was cleaning the dishes, Draco just tried to push it out of his mind. Oh, but he was tempted. He wondered if he confessed to Harry would he have a shot. Maybe it would be enough. If they fucked maybe that would get Harry out of his system. Yes, he would love that. He would even fuck the Weasley girl if he had to in order to get to Harry and he definitely had no interest in her.

He had to take a deep breath. He was getting ahead of himself. Harry had never shown the slightest interest in him or vice versa. In fact, they hated each other. No amount of bangers and mash could change that.

“I am curious about the polyamory. Um… I don’t mean your relationships. But in general. It’s not something I’ve ever thought about,” Draco said.

“It’s not for everyone,” Harry said.

Ginny was leaning against him as they stood there in the kitchen. She mentioned earlier how little time they were able to get together with their schedules. Draco wondered what they would be up to after he left. No, that was none of his business. He had to push it from his mind.

“I haven’t really done a lot of dating, to tell the truth. Just Pansy and… that didn’t work out,” Draco said.

“I heard about her marrying Blaise,” Harry said, sounding diplomatic even though Draco knew Harry didn’t like Pansy.

“Yeah. It was fine. I’m happy for them,” Draco said, only half being truthful.

Draco didn’t want to be with Pansy anymore but at the same time, she was the only person besides his mother who ever truly seemed to love him.

“What do you get up to these days?” Harry asked, all of them heading into the living room, sitting down on the sofa, Ginny seated between him and Harry.

“I do a lot of reading,” Draco said.

“Yeah. Ginny told me she ran into you at Flourish and Blotts,” Harry said.

“Yeah. Just picking a little something up,” Draco said, suddenly wondering if Ginny had seen the title of what he was looking at.

She had almost certainly noticed he was in the romance section. He would die if she had told Potter.

“That’s good,” Harry said.

Merlin, this was awkward, Draco thought. Though at least it wasn’t a catastrophe. Maybe this was too soon. It was only a few years ago that they were at each other’s throats. Still. He was jealous of how normal they seemed. Aside from the polyamory at least. That was different.

“I should probably go. I’m sure you both have things to do,” Draco said, standing up and grabbing his coat.

“We don’t but I’m sure we can find something. You don’t have to go, though,” Ginny said.

It was so strange that she was trying to so hard. Draco glanced at her with momentary confusion before heading to the door.

“It’s fine. We should do it again. Maybe I’ll invite you to Malfoy Manor sometime,” Draco said.

“I’ve been there. Didn’t go well. I lost a friend,” Harry said, sounding pained at that last word.

“I remember,” Draco said and left.

It was definitely too soon.